My Successful VBAC Birth Story
A Little Bit of Background
I adore my husband. He is the most amazing, most kind, most patient person I know. And I love growing our family together. So when we found out we were pregnant with our second little bundle of joy, I realized I needed to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after csection). I pray God blesses us with many children, so having multiple csections would be dangerous both to my babies and me.
My first birth of our beautiful first daughter, Sue, ended up being a csection. I was heartbroken. For the entire pregnancy I dreamt of having a natural birth. I wanted to avoid pitocin, and epidurals, and of course, surgery. But regardless of how she came into this world, God blessed us with the most energetic, fun and sweet girl with the biggest blue eyes! Her birth story is here.
The picture below was taken 12 hours before my labor started, and I had no idea. I still had so many unanswered questions on how my life would change with two little ones.
The First 24 Hours
Thursday at 4:30 am I woke up and as I walked to the rest room about a cup of amniotic fluid was released. I quickly texted my doula, Kelly, and asked her what to do next. She texted back right away that she’ll be over soon.
If all my pregnancy signs were normal, the need for her coming over so quickly would not have been necessary. But I had polyhydramnios, high amniotic fluid. Or in my case double the amount of amniotic fluid than a normal pregnant woman has, at 43 AFI (amniotic fluid index) compared to a AFI of 24. So there were a few cards stacked against me and we wanted to be precautions. The main concern was for cord prolapse (having the umbilical cord slip out before her head and then getting clamped as her head engaged in my pelvis, very scary!)
Regardless of the risks, I was giddy and excited knowing that we will soon meet our second baby girl.
After confirming with Kelly that this is really happening, I rushed to John’s side of the bed and gently woke him up letting him know that little Heidi was on her way. He looked at me with is dreamy, out of focus eyes and I could see him figuring out what I said. A huge smile erupted on his face and he gave me a big kiss. He then grabbed his cell phone and texted his coworkers saying that he won’t be at work today.
He made me a cup of hot tea and we took a warm shower excited for what the day ahead will hold for us. I put on a cute leopard print bra and did my makeup. I wanted to feel pretty for this birth. I knew today will be a long day and I would need all the confidence I can get. And if a leopard print bra and mascara can give me more confidence to get through labor, then wonderful! It’s the little things that make a difference.
I woke up my mom who was spending the week with us in anticipation for the birth. She was taking care of our beautiful and smart 21 month old toddler, Sue. The first thing she told me was that she just knew today was the day, mother’s intuition!
We shared a cup of tea and Kelly arrived. She called Dr. Adams and confirmed that we should not labor at home, but rather go into the hospital to labor there. The risk of cord prolapse was too real.
John put the baby car seat into the car and loaded our hospital bag. I sneaked into Sue’s room and stroked her sweet sleeping face and told her I loved her. Little did I know how much I’ll miss her that day.
We followed Kelly to St. Vincent’s hospital at 6:00 AM and avoided the morning rush of traffic. As we checked into our room we heard the morning prayer being said over the intercom, and instantly I knew I was at the right place to birth my second daughter.
Our room was spacious and equipped with all the necessary items to deliver a little human. Because my birth plan was to have a VBAC, I had to be monitored continuously. So I was hooked up to the fetal heart rate and contraction monitors, two external devices that are placed on my belly.
Carol, the midwife, arrived and checked my dilation. And not much to my surprise, I was at 1 cm. I had just started labor and we were already at the hospital. But we were high risk and this was the place to be in case anything went wrong.
Using Visualization to Get Through Contractions
I started getting slightly painful contractions and John helped me through them wonderfully. I used a lot of imagery to embrace the contraction instead of fighting it. I found this to be much more helpful than trying to avoid the pain and tense up.
I tried a few different scenes during each contraction; waves on the ocean, animals running across a field, or a forest fire, but what ultimately worked the best for me was imagining I was skiing down a slope. During the rest periods I would be on the ski lift going up to the top of the mountain, and during the contraction, I would be skiing. I could see the bottom of the mountain and this gave me encouragement, just as I knew the contraction would end too. Imagining that I’m skiing was a great method for me to envision every contraction because I remember as I skied being achy and uncomfortable and cold but pushing through because it was so worth it to get to the bottom of the mountain.
John and I labored on the floor, sitting Indian style and he rubbed my back and my feet and helped me focus through each contraction. I stood up next to the bed and had a few very strong contractions that almost brought me to vomiting. I was making progress.
A Change of Plans
But as the day progressed my contractions changed. For an hour they would be strong and consistent, and then slowly they started coming further apart and with less intensity. The midwife checked me again and I was not dilated much, so we decided to try a Cook Catheter.
After another few hours of inconsistent contractions, the midwife removed the catheter and I was dilated to 7 cm. My cervix was dilated, but my body was not responding to being at 7 cm dilation. My contractions were inconsistent and varied in strength. It was midnight and I’ve been at the hospital since 6 AM that morning.
Now if it wasn’t for the polyhydramnios, I would not have come into the hospital so soon and would have labored at home for hours. But because I was at a high risk for cord prolapse the best place for me was to be close to a doctors care.
My doula suggested we kick start the contractions a bit with Pitocin. My mind raced and I recalled all the horror stories I’ve read about trying to labor naturally with Pitocin. I asked her if John and I could rest for an hour, think this over, and then see where we are.
So I tried to nap for a bit with John cuddling me. But instead of napping I broke down in tears missing my baby girl Sue and feeling like a failure as my body did not sustain contractions. For those few minutes, laying in John’s arms, I felt waves of emotions wash over me. I wanted to go home, I missed my toddler, I wanted to labor naturally.
But then reason slowly crept in. The very true reality was that if I did not progress within the next day, the chance for infection increased and my risk for having another csection increased as well. So my options were, labor naturally longer but with the very real risks of surgery again, or start Pitocin kick start my contractions.
I accepted the Pitocin plan after a heart to heart in the bathroom with my doula, where she said the wonderful words of “trust me.” I realized I’ve been with this team since the beginning, they are my support and they have the best in mind for me. I need to let go and trust them.
So we started the Pitocin and within 15 minutes the contractions started to become a bit more regular but with a completely different intensity. Instead of slowly rolling and building up into a contraction and then gently rolling out of it, the Pitocin caused the contraction to almost instantly jump to the top, and then a few seconds later, completely disappear. They came on so suddenly and with so much force I had no time to prepare any type of visualization to help me through them. The contractions would spike from 0 to 10 in a second and I would yell for John to come back and put pressure on my lower back as I fought against the pain.
Instead of the patient and kind mother I was with natural contractions, I suddenly felt myself become filled with anger and pain. I cursed and cried through each contraction. Trying to fight an unnatural drug with my natural oxytocin was not working. I did not want my labor with Heidi to be filled with so much anger. So after an hour laboring naturally with Pitocin I asked for an epidural.
Getting Through the Night
It was 2 AM and the epidural removed all the pain from the Pitocin induced contractions. My heart ached as I knew my little baby was working hard against each contraction and I was ‘cheating’ and not feeling the pain with her. The only thought that consoled me was knowing that I was trying my best to preserve a vaginal birth for her. I needed to avoid another csection so that my risk in future pregnancies would be low, so that she receives all the benefits of a vaginal birth and that I recover quicker as I now have two little ones to take care of at home.
I slept and rested until 8 AM. Heidi will have to be born on the 5th of February. As the morning progressed I continued getting regular contractions with the Pitocin. I was checked again and I was still at 7 cm. So we waited for the doctor to arrive to determine if my water should be broken to have baby’s head engage and open up my cervix.
Finally, My Water Breaks and Baby can Engage
We waited the whole morning which allowed me to rest some more. Around 1:50 pm my sister advised me to put a pillow between my legs and lay on my left side for an hour, and then on my right side for an hour to have my pelvis open up. I followed her advice but the nurse had difficulty finding Heidi’s heartbeat due to all the fluid and asked me to turn on my left, then on my right, and back on my left. And as we were turning I felt a small pop. I immedialty looked at my doula and told her that I think my water bag just broke. She jumped to her feet.
And right then my doctor walked in, perfect timing! She checked my dilation and felt that the bag was broken. She slowly removed the bag, which turned out to be the forebag to the amnionic sac. And as the forebag came out everyone exclaimed. They have never seen such a big forebag, it was almost the size of a Ziploc sandwich bag. Kelly was ecstatic and told me this is a story she can’t wait to share with her doula friends.
As the doctor removed the forebag baby’s head was ready to decend into my pelvis. But little Heidi’s hands were above her head, and as the doctor put it, she was styling her hair getting ready for her entrance into the world. The doctor gently moved her hands out of the way so that they would not fall first into the pelvis, and then slowly let her head fall into the pelvis and engage the cervix.
This all happened around 2:15 pm and the team was getting excited that we would meet little Heidi soon.
Birthing my Daughter
Her head pressed against my cervix and slowly opened it up. Around 5:15 pm I let Kelly and my doctor know that I was starting to feel a little bit of pressure. The doctor checked my cervix again and asked me to give a good push on the next contraction. And with that I moved little Heidi down two stations.
The doctor’s face lit up and she told me, this is it, keep doing what you’re doing and we will push little Heidi out!
John grabbed my left leg, which did not get enough epidural and felt all the pain. And Kelly grabbed my right leg. I pushed against them and Dr. Adams gently guided Heidi’s head down the birth canal. She ever so gently helped guide her as I pushed as controlled and with as much force as I could.
Her slow counting helped me focus on moving my baby out. The mirror behind doctors’ back allowed me to see my progress and was a great motivator! I am so thankful I was not too embarrassed to ask for it. Even though it did show me all the blood that was involved in birth too!
I could see in John’s face the amount of blood worried him too, but our goal of delivering our baby girl was paramount. Slowly I could see her head become more and more revealed as the doctor gently open the birth canal.
And after 26 minutes of pushing, I gave the final push and our little Heidi Anne Whitford was born. I heard a gush of water fall on the floor. This was the third waterfall of amniotic fluid that came from me.
Meeting Heidi Anne
John and the doctor, and I think my hand too, lifted Heidi up and placed her on my chest. She was calm and sweet and smelled like beef jerky. She grabbed our fingers and layed with her wet little body between my breasts. Until finally I rubbed her bottom a bit and she gave a little cry. I needed to hear her beautiful voice.
This was such a different experience for me as my first daughter, Sue, who was a csection, came out crying! She was also quickly cleaned up and brought to me 30 minutes after the birth. I was not able to hold her immediately or smell her and breastfeed her right away.
But with little Heidi, I got the full experience. I felt the pain and force of pushing a baby through my birth canal, I felt the pressure of knowing that I need to do this, that my baby depended on me. During the pushing I was so focused and determined that my eyes never welled up with tears as I thought they would. John was crying and saying the sweetest things. I, on the other hand, was filled with concentration and determination. And when little Heidi was finally placed on my chest I felt a deep sense of joy, but not all my pain just magically washed away. I still very much felt the pressure and pulling from the doctor putting in stiches.
I was elated. My team helped me get my VBAC. My little baby girl was beautiful and healthy and nursing well! Thank you to my amazing husband, my extremely supportive doula and my talented doctor. I thank God for my great birth team!
Here is little Heidi Anne Whitford
Born February 5 2016 at 5:50 PM
St. Vincents South Side
7 lbs 8 oz
14.5 head circumference
I am so thankful for my VBAC. Even though my ideal dream of laboring at home, listening to beautiful music and sitting in the bathtub did not happen, I am extremely at peace of how Heidi’s birth happened.
To all those mommas who labor naturally, you are amazing. To those mammas who need drugs to get through the process, you’re wonderful too. And to those mammas who have to have surgery to help baby come into the world, you are strong! However your little baby was delivered required a lot of sacrifice from you, the mom.
Want to blog?
On a side note, if you would like to start a blog too, I’d love to help you! It’s been a lot of fun sharing my stories with my friends and family and keeping them all up to date. It also serves as a great diary for my little girls to read one day.