It’s taken me a long time to sit down and write this post. I think because then it’ll feel too final. Like this beautiful chapter of my life is over. I don’t feel ready for it to be over, but isn’t that such a blessing? To have experienced so much joy that you want to hang on to that moment?
I never went into labour naturally last time so I had no idea what to expect. Now don’t get me wrong I had researched the signs of labour ad nauseum but somehow I still doubted whether I would truly know, short of my water’s breaking, which I also knew only happened quite far along in the birth process for many women. My doctor advised me that I should come in to hospital the second I realize that I am in labour, because I am a VBAC patient and so he would like me to be monitored. He said that he’d rather I came in and got sent home a few times than leave it too late. So I asked how I’d know if they were real contractions and not Braxton Hicks. He smiled and said, “Oh, you’ll know.” I still wasn’t satisfied and told him that I don’t expect my birth to be painful so, let’s say that there’s no pain. We agreed that I’d come in once I had more than 3 contractions in 10 minutes.
One of my doctor’s conditions for my VBAC was that he would not chemically induce me because that would be too risky because of the scar tissue left by my previous c section. We did however agree to doing a stretch and sweep of the membranes on my due date and then a rupture of my membranes at 41 weeks. Should this not work then I’d have to give up and have a c section.
As agreed I had a stretch and sweep on my baby’s due date. My cervix was still quite posterior but I was 3-4cm dilated (not necessarily a sign of labour – you can be this dilated for weeks before giving birth especially with subsequent births). Anyway I went home nervous about the fact that I only had a week left to go into labour. Also losing hope as I had had so many signs that labour might be close for weeks now.
That evening while bathing with my toddler at about 8pm I felt a contraction as I often did at that time of the evening. Then a few minutes later I felt another. Although very widely spaced apart, they felt regular. I started whatsapping my husband each time I had one. They were 16- 18 minutes apart. I messaged my doula and she said to keep her updated.
They gradually got closer and closer together, but it was this weird two steps forward one step back type of spacing between them but with a definite pattern. We still were not one hundred percent convinced that this was it. I felt no pain and had heard that labour can go on for days. We climbed in bed and tried to sleep. At Midnight they were a lot closer,about 5 minutes apart so I woke hubby and told him to finish packing his hospital bags and to get dressed so that when the time came we could just leave. He didn’t want to get out of bed because he didn’t believe that I was in labour. I threw a frothy and he eventually climbed out of bed and got everything he still needed to ready before stumbling back into bed. At 2am I kicked hubby out of bed saying it’s time to go, I’d had 3 contractions in under 10 minutes. He still didn’t believe me. I should add that this whole evening I had mostly been listening to worship music and the meditation birthing tracks from my doula. I was calm and ready. I fully believed that my birth would be beautiful. Everything until now only helped the bubbling excitement and hope to grow. Perhaps it was my serene mood that threw him. Anyway I convinced him that either which way I was going to the hospital now.
When we arrived at the hospital at 2:30am the midwife on duty asked why we were there as she didn’t believe us when I said I was in labour. She hooked me up to the monitor and did an examination and confirmed that I definitely was in labour. She didn’t seem overly pleased to hear that I was coming in for a VBAC and lectured me about some or other IV line that she insisted I needed which she would be inserting at 8am when her shift ended. I asked her to please call my doctor and she refused saying that she would call him in the morning when I was further progressed.
I remember telling my husband that this midwife was not ‘VBAC friendly’ and that if I was going to have a pain free birth, I needed her to be out of the room as much as possible. My contractions had become a lot more intense and I could no longer talk through them. It was also taking me a lot of concentration to not let them be painful. When this midwife was in the room earlier in my labor I felt the full force of the pain. It’s amazing how negativity can affect you? Luckily for me, the patient next door kept this midwife very busy and we didn’t see her for many more hours and she was around for a very short part of my birthing process. Also I was so excited that I barely had time to think about her. My baby was on his way and everything was looking great for my VBAC.
We then set about putting on some worship music and I changed into my birthing clothes and applied makeup between contractions. Ha don’t laugh at me, I find it calming. My doula floated into the room bringing with her, her sense of calm and she dimmed the lights, set up LED candles and pretty lighting. She then ran me a wonderful bath and helped my husband and I get comfy and ready to enjoy the process.
I felt so calm and empowered. The sheer power of the contractions was quite overwhelming. The power of them also fascinated me. I came close to fearing them but managed to change that fear into awe. This incredible power radiating through my body bringing my baby closer to being born. I can see why so many would fear this power. It’s beyond anything I could ever compare it to. But to me it was bringing me closer to a dream that I had so deeply wished for. A vision I had had in my heart as long as I could remember. I chose trust. My body was doing what it needed to do. I remember asking Charlene and hubby to remind me that I could do this a few times as soon I felt some doubt. Ha, even though I asked them to say it, it still helped hearing those affirmations aloud.
It is the strangest feeling going from feeling completely normal between contractions to having this unimaginable power surge through your body. This primal side that completely takes over. It helped so much understanding the physiology behind what was happening and envisioning it. Every time I felt a contraction coming on I warned hubby and my doula and then they held me and Charlene did this amazing counter pressure thing. I can’t begin to describe how much it helped. It allowed me to let go of my body, to relax into the wavelike surge trusting that they were holding me safely through it while my body took over and I lost control. It wasn’t painful. I went into my mind and occupied my mind as this wave of power swept up my body and I trusted Charlene and hubby to keep me safe while I couldn’t. I retreated into my mind mentally handing over my control to my body to do its thing. I wouldn’t say this is easy to accomplish because it’s like throwing yourself into a powerful wave in the ocean. One that you have no hope of fighting and trusting that you will come out the other side and resisting every urge to fight it or try swim. Just letting go of your body and letting the ocean throw you around until it churns you out. So much of my ability to do this had come from trusting God and throwing myself into worshipping Him. Into that feeling that you get when you are worshipping Him and you feel His presence so strongly that you are no longer conscious of your body. You are just overwhelmed by God. I had so much trust that God would show up and he did. I also can’t explain how much the birth meditations had helped. I had by this point asked for these to be played and it was essential to have those positive birth affirmations playing in my head. Never until this day have I realized just how powerful positive thinking is and how huge of an impact it has on the body. Truly profound and beautiful!
I should mention at this point that I had banned the word pain form the room. I had told hubby that he was to make sure that it was completely banned from everyone’s vocabulary.
These wavelike surges became more and more powerful until my mind started interfering. I realized that I was fighting the urge to push. I let go and allowed my body to do whatever it pleased and in that moment I felt my baby turn (he had been posterior facing until this moment) and move downwards and a sudden release happened. My water had broken. In that moment I felt even more trust for what my body was doing, I let my body take over and it began gently pushing downwards on my baby.
Charlene asked me if I was comfortable to check whether I could feel baby. If I wasn’t then I knew she would call the midwife. We both knew that I did not want the midwife near me. Everything was going beyond beautifully. I did something I had never thought I would and checked where my baby was. To my surprise I could easily feel his head. A few more pushes and he was a centimeter and a half away from coming out.
At this point the midwife came to check on me and insisted that I get out of the bath. I can’t say I took too kindly to this as I could feel that the water was doing a great deal to comfort me. I responded to her requests with two sentences. Firstly, I ignored what she was saying and demanded my doctor. She said it wasn’t time to call him yet and insisted that I get out of the bath. I told her the baby was in my pelvis I could hardly fathom walking now. If she wanted me out of the pool she’d have to cattle lift me out.
Somehow they got me onto the bed and I asked to be as covered as possible. The warmth helped me feel much more comfortable. I focused on staying as calm as possible. I think that the midwife was rather shocked to see how far I was because another doctor was called in and I was told that they were not able to get hold of mine and that it was time to push. The doctor seemed really nice and by this point I was confident that everything was going well irrespective of who the doctor was. I wasn’t put off by the fact that the one doctor I trusted wasn’t there. I knew my body could do this with or without him by my side. The new doctor was lovely and very respectful in how she treated me. She explained everything as she went along.
The doctor explained that I needed to push with every single bit of power that I could and to hold the push as long as I could. This wasn’t my doctor and purple pushing wasn’t my plan but I was happy, calm and knew that we were so close to the finish line that I decided these changes were ones that I could make peace with. Everything had been so perfect and beyond my wildest expectations. That said if I could change one thing it’d have been this.
I could feel my little boy moving and turning as I pushed. It was the most profound thing, to feel as though I was working with my little one to help him be born. It was joyous. I’m so grateful to have felt that. After what felt like only a few pushes his head was out; another push or two, his shoulders and she said I could grab him from her and pull him onto my chest. As I did I saw these eyes that were as widely open as they could go staring at me intently. I was exhausted and put him down on my tummy and we lay studying each other, enthralled, euphoric. After a few moments he wiggled himself onto my breast and it felt like he pretty much latched himself. He was born at 6:30am.
After his first feed I let daddy have some time bonding with our newborn son and I remember calling my mom sobbing. So overwhelmed with joy at meeting my new son and so glad that I had done it. I had achieved my VBAC.
Not once was my son taken from me without my consent. None of our bonding moments were interrupted. The respect shown for these first precious moments was wonderful. What a different and healing experience.
When they did take him and weigh him it was so beautiful as they were doing his checks on the counter next to the window and the sun was rising through the leaves of the trees behind him. It was truly beautiful. We laughed and made the midwife hold him up like Simba from the Lion King as a joke.
How beautiful to be born as the sun rises on a new day?
This experience will live in my memory with so much peace, healing, joy and love for the rest of my days. There are countless lessons that I learnt along this journey and I will be forever altered for the better. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to my husband for his support, for the strangers who I met along the way and helped me, to my doula (where do I begin to thank you) and to my doctor who takes the path less travelled at cost to himself to allow women the opportunity to make informed decisions about their own bodies.