My due date came and went, as had my daughter’s, and I struggled emotionally with this as the phone calls rolled in wondering where the baby was and wondering if everything was OK. I had random contractions for days that never turned into labor, always going away in the middle of the night and leaving me tired and disappointed in the morning.
On Jan. 16th, a Saturday night, 10 days past my due date, my contractions finally picked up enough to text my doula, Dianne. She suggested I do the Miles Circuit since they were not in a time-able pattern. Ken and I tried to do it together, but I was really struggling with the pain (already!) and was having a hard time focusing. I called one of my best friends who happens to be a doula and VBAC mama, Abby, and she came right over to help me through it. I’m so glad I did that. She helped me focus and gave me the tough coaching I needed to finish the Miles Circuit and get active labor going. I labored through the night with Abby’s encouragement, and she called Dianne to come over at 4am. Dianne helped us try different positions to get my contractions going stronger and I spent a lot of time laboring on the toilet. One of my best friends, Lisa, came over around this time to pick up Aly. She came in and visited me and I remember wanting to tell her, “I’m doing it! I’m almost there!” Little did I know I had a long way to go. My midwife, Dr. Anne Marie Palzer, and her assistant, Lisette, came over at 8:30am and I was so excited to see them. I knew Dianne wouldn’t call her if I wasn’t close, so I knew I had made some progress in her eyes
Around 11am, I was getting really tired and discouraged with my progress and wondering if something was wrong with the pace of my labor. Anne Marie wanted to do a cervical exam and I was adamantly against it. She had tried to do one before and it was so painful, and I didn’t want to know how dilated I was because I knew it would discourage me. Later I found out I was a 6-7. I started to break down and freak out. I told Dianne I wanted to go to the hospital because it wasn’t working out. She reminded me that that was not what I really wanted at all. For example, we would have to drive there and that would be so hard, and the cervical exams, the pressure for a c-section, etc. I told her I would walk there. I just wanted to be done. Dianne suggested I go outside for a walk with Ken and decide what I wanted to do. This was the turning point for me. Ken told me he was sorry that he kept encouraging me to take the easy road out. Dianne came out and I told her I wanted to have courage to finish this task. She prayed with me and told me to go inside and tell Anne Marie I would do a cervical check to see what was going on and that I was ready to do whatever I needed to get this done.
Throughout this whole process, God was continually calling me to surrender. Before labor, when I invited God into my birth experience, I thought there would be this one moment of surrender, and the baby would be born. For me, every contraction was an opportunity to surrender my desire to give up, to rely on my own strength, to say I couldn’t do it, etc. My labor was an exercise in confession. In between contractions, I confessed to God my fears, my selfish desires, my dreams. I’ve never felt so close to Him. I never knew the connection between God and labor and birth until this time, and it was so special to me. Even though it was the hardest day of my life, I would never trade it for the relief found in pain medication or a repeat c-section. I needed to cling to him, and this is how he wanted me to do it.
Before Anne Marie checked me, Abby read me something. I can’t remember what, but it helped calm me. Abby was my rock during this time. I clung to her because I knew she knew my heart, what I wanted out of this birth, which was to grow closer to God, and I knew she had been through it before with her VBACs. It was such a blessing to have her there. Anne Marie checked me and didn’t tell me, but I was an 8. If she would have told me I would have been disappointed, even though I progressed since that morning, because that’s where I got stuck with Aly, and it would have been a stumbling block for me to continue. I labored on and at 5pm my water broke. This was amazing to me because with Aly my water broke before labor started and I was so thankful to not have that time line working against me. At this point I started pushing but had a tiny lip of cervix and Anne Marie wanted me to go through a couple contractions without pushing, sitting on the birth stool, leaning back against Dianne. This was unbearable for me and I cried a lot. Another step in surrender. After just a few minutes Anne Marie checked, and the lip was gone and I could get to pushing! I cried tears of joy. It was another way I saw God show up in my labor; one more step forward.
I pushed for hours, in many different positions, which I really liked as opposed to trying to relax through contractions. Finally, I could DO something! I got tired very fast. I started bleeding pretty heavily and then, after pushing, Oak’s heart tones started not recovering as fast as they would have liked ,so they said it was time to transfer to the hospital. Anne Marie put an oxygen mask on me and coached me through breathing deeply to try to get the baby more air. Dianne said there was going to be a lot of commotion and a lot of people coming in my home. I looked at Ken and he looked really terrified. I however, was not. I was done. I knew everything would be OK, one way or another, and that I was about to meet my baby. The EMTs came in my room, and they looked terrified too. Anne Marie was very calm and tried to relay the situation to them, but they were a little flabbergasted. I was told not to push anymore, but by that point I had an uncontrollable desire to push and could not help it. I got up on the gurney and they started wheeling me out of my house. I was wearing nothing but a tiny, black sports bra and asked them for a blanket to cover me as we went outside. They gave me the smallest blanket that did not cover my body and I remember being a little embarrassed. As they put me in the ambulance, I told Ken not to worry, that I had peace from God and everything would be OK. I also yelled for him to grab the birth plan, but then quickly remembered what high ideals of a natural birth it outlined and how I was over that. As we drove away I coached the EMTs on how this was going to go. Upon arriving at the hospital I wanted an immediate c-section with Dr. Guzman and I wasn’t discussing any other options. They looked confused because I was pushing my baby out as I said this. The ambulance ride was quick. The EMTs were busy poking and prodding me and telling me not to push and they all looked pretty concerned.
I was wheeled into the delivery room and there were a lot of people doing a lot of things, and I was yelling that I wanted a c-section. Dianne came over and encouraged me that my baby was almost here. I told her I couldn’t do it like this. I was in too much pain. I was tired and I was flat on my back in a cold, unfamiliar room with strangers and it felt like torture. The hospital doctor came in and did a very painful cervical exam against my consent and that made me just done. I didn’t think I was allowed to have an epidural at 10cm and pushing, but Dianne said I could have one and that made me OK with trying for a vaginal delivery. They got me one and I was immediately relieved of pain and working to push my baby out. After a few minutes, Dr. Guzman came in and said I could have a forceps delivery or a c-section. I looked at Anne Marie for advice and she said she would trust him to do a good job with the forceps. Dr. Guzman said he’d try one time and if he didn’t have a good hold, we were on our way to the operating room. He slipped in the forceps and out popped my baby! His head was just a little bit stuck to the side. It all happened so fast and he was immediately placed on my chest. My very first thought was, “You look just like your sister!” I felt so relieved to meet my baby boy.
Dianne was right by my head and said right away, “You did it, you got your VBAC!” I didn’t really feel like I had. I feel like it now, as I reflect on how hard I worked to get my baby out, but at the time, with the epidural, it all felt a little unreal, which was kind of disappointing.
In recovery I developed a fever and a high heart rate which revealed a uterine infection. They put me on antibiotics and I had to stay three nights until they got my levels stabilized. I also had a complication from the epidural that gave me terrible neck pain. I had a blood patch procedure done to my epidural site that took care of it, but it was pretty traumatic and painful. I also almost had to have a blood transfusion because of the amount of blood I lost during delivery. I suffered a 3rd degree tear and a fractured tailbone which I am still recovering from. Our time in the hospital was overall very good. The nursing staff was fantastic, and Ken and I had a lot of time alone working together, reflecting on the birth and getting a lot of good rest and good food.
Despite all of this, I would not have traded this experience for anything. It was incredible to be in my home with the most amazing birth team supporting me. I experienced God in a way that I never have before in those hard hours. I heard Him calling me to lay down my fear and follow Him into the unknown. He gave me the strength to cling to Him and other people when I wanted to give up. I really never imagined this birth story for me, it was very different than what I expected, and that is a testimony of it being God’s plan, not my own.