Wednesday, May 13, 2009

her-story (part 3)

My Journey to VBAC

When I found out I was pregnant with baby #2 I hadn't even considered VBAC. I was under the impression that "once a c-section always a c-section" applied. Luckily I belonged to a message board where, only months earlier, a poster went on her own VBAC journey. Her story inspired me. She wasn't afraid of labor, she embraced it. She was strong. She was empowered, and I wanted to experience that too.

I still toyed with the idea of a repeat c-section. There were a couple of minor benefits: 1) I knew what to expect, and 2) I could schedule the delivery, making it easier to arrange childcare. However, I knew that if I were to have a 2nd c-section that would be it. I would always have my children delivered for me. Was that something I really wanted? Would I regret not even trying to birth?

I started to do some research. I wanted to see what child birth could be like. I looked up birthing videos on youtube. I started to read birth stories. Yes there is pain involved with labor, but once a mother pushes her baby out the pain disappears and a feeling of euphoria emerges. I wanted to experience that. I never had that euphoric feeling with Manny. Did I love my son? Of course. Was I happy to become a mother? Of course, but seeing how happy these women were made me jealous. I wanted to experience what they had experienced. In my 4th month I finally decided that I would birth my baby the way nature had intended.

The last 5 months of my pregnancy consisted of becoming as well versed in the subject of VBAC as humanly possible. I studied rupture rates (less then 1%). I learned what to avoid in order to make my birth a success (prostaglandin induction, artificial rupture of membranes (AROM), pitocin, epidural, purple/directed pushing in the lithotomy position). Unfortunately I couldn't afford any childbirth prep courses, so I bought as many books, on as many subjects as I could. I felt that I was prepared for any and everything.

I had learned that having a doula would increase my chances of success, but unfortunately that wasn't something we could afford either, so I tried to have John read as much as possible. We would do fine...or so I thought.

Unfortunately I was racing the clock. My doctor didn't feel comfortable with me going past 40 weeks. I told her that I wasn't comfortable scheduling my c-section before 42 weeks. We made a compromise, and I would be having a repeat c-section if I didn't go into labor, on my own, before 41 weeks 1 day.

At 40 weeks 2 days I went into early labor. Contractions started that evening. It was Friday night and I was contracting every 10-15 minutes. The contractions continued through the night. They were uncomfortable, but not unmanageable. I slept (restlessly) about 4 hours that evening. By Saturday morning I was contracting every 5 minutes. Again the contractions were uncomfortable, but not unbearable. We called my dad that morning around 8:00 a.m. and told him that he would need to make his way over to our house.

John and I left for the hospital at 12:00 p.m. I was admitted to triage where they hooked me up to a bunch of monitors, and checked my dilation...I was ONLY 2 friggin' centimeters! My worst fear had been realized. I had been up ALL night with contractions, and they weren't doing a damned thing!

Here is where the cards started stacking against me: because I was a VBAC patient I was admitted into the hospital. If I were a regular laboring mother, I most definitely would have been sent home. I was immediately wheeled into a birthing suite, where again, I was monitored for 20 minutes.

Over the course of the following (several) hours I walked, I showered, I bounced on a ball. Contractions were about 3-5 minutes apart, and becoming increasingly painful, so much so that I had to stop everything I was doing to make it through them. John helped me as best he could, but he could definitely see that I was starting to crumble. If I stayed on top of the contractions I was able to handle them, but the moment that I "let loose" I fell apart.

After what seemed like an eternity the nurse came and checked me again. I was still only 2 centimeters! I just about died. I was losing my resolve. I let the fear seep in. If these contractions were this painful, how in the HELL could I handle active labor, or even transition!?! I lasted another hour before I begged for the epidural.

I knew what would happen after I got the epidural. I had read about it in EVERY book that I bought. I was warned about the procedures that would follow, and was told to avoid them at all costs. Unfortunately that epidural sealed my fate.

Two hours after getting the epidural my bag of waters was artificially ruptured. Several hours after that I was given a low dose of pitocin. I told the nurse that I didn't want the pitocin, but she told me that my contractions weren't strong enough, or consistent. I was assured that they'd keep a close eye on the strength and length of the contractions, and if they thought for even a half of a second that something was wrong, they would shut it off. I conceded and the pitocin drip started. Every couple of hours the nurse would come in, and turn the pit drip up. This continued until they were sure that I was in transition. The last number I remember on the pit machine was 12.

I spent the rest of the day in and out of sleep. I was starving, but was refused food. John went down to get some lunch. I had him sneak me some snacks.

Oddly enough I could feel myself hit transition. One moment I was feeling fine. The next I could feel intense pressure in my abdomen, as well as some cramping. Shortly after, I barfed up the croissants that John had brought me.

I was complete at 11:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 22nd. I realized how close I was to midnight and asked if we could wait. My Grandma's birthday is March 23rd, and I thought it would be awesome to have Christian born on her birthday. I was told that I was at -1 station, so we needed to wait a bit anyway. The nurse tilted my bed to a 40 degree angle so that gravity could take over.

I started pushing at 12:15 a.m. I couldn't feel any contractions, so I had to have directed pushing in the dreaded lithotomy position (flat on my back). On counts of ten I held my breath and "bared" down.

Christian was born at 12:45 a.m. March 23rd (Easter Sunday) and I had given birth to him vaginally. I suffered a 2nd degree tear to my perineum, as well as several small tears to my labia.

For several days (possibly weeks) following Christian's birth I was on a high. I was so proud of myself for birthing my baby. It wasn't until I had a moment to catch my breath that I realized Christian's birth didn't go at all how I had planned.

I know exactly where I went wrong: 1) I went into the hospital too early, 2) I got an epidural too early. Had I waited on both of the aforementioned, I know that I wouldn't have had all of the interventions that I did have.

I know exactly what I would do were I in that situation today:
  • hired a doula, this is a biggie. I know hiring a doula would have changed the entire tone of my labor. I think I expected too much from John. I think we, as woman, have a tendency to do that to our husbands/significant others. Childbirth isn't their "realm", and it was unfair for me to put that kind of pressure on his shoulders.
  • stayed at home longer.
  • not gotten an epidural, or wait at least until I was in active labor to get one. I would also request to have the epidural turned off during the pushing phase.
I have come a long way since my first birth. I now know what child birth can be like. I have not experienced my "perfect" birth, and who knows if I ever will, but I know this: Our bodies were designed to create life. We were designed to birth the life that we created. Yes, child birth can be painful, but it is not something to be feared, it is to be celebrated.

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"Women's bodies have near-perfect knowledge of childbirth; it's when their brains get involved that things can go wrong." -- Peggy Vincent

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