Our journey to VBAC started in June 2009 with the emergency C-section birth of our daughter. After our OB told us that an induction due to my high blood pressure was our only option we agreed as it didn’t seem like we had many choices. We went into hospital the night before for a round of gels, then again the next morning and a couple of hours later the OB came in and broke my waters and put me on the drip to get contractions started. Nine or so hours later we had not gotten anywhere and we ended up in theatre with me in tears about having my daughter surgically removed from my belly.
After many tears and a final acknowledgment that I had been seriously traumatised by what had happened on that day, I started researching what had gone wrong. We came to the conclusion that we had not received all the information we required and all our options had not been presented to us so we could make an informed decision. I vowed then and there never to return to the hospital or the OB who delivered Elyssa.
After researching VBACs endlessly on the internet, by December 2010 I was ready to embark on a new pregnancy. It took a few goes, but by April 2011 I was pregnant with an EDD of 6 January, 2012. I spent a bit of time calling around and speaking with midwives at a few places, friends and even some nurses through the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, and finally determined that I’d go to a local private hospital to deliver this time with a female OB who practised in rooms within the hospital. On our first appointment I decided that I liked her a lot and was fairly confident that she was pro-natural birth and she seemed to agree that our first birth was only a failed induction which was done when my body and baby were definitely not ready. She said she preferred not to interfere if there was nothing wrong, so we were off on the right foot straightaway.
At 27 weeks into the pregnancy I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes which was a bit of a shock. On discussion with a diabetes educator, we found there was nothing wrong with my diet and there still should be no impediment to achieving a natural birth providing I behaved myself and ate good foods (hard to do sometimes when pregnant!!). I had a few sizing scans which all indicated towards a normal sized baby possibly weighing 3.4 – 3.5kg at birth. I thought these scans were a bit of overkill considering my blood sugars were well within range, but preferred not to rock the boat and it’s always nice to see that baby is doing well in the belly!
Throughout the pregnancy my blood pressure also behaved itself; I was really happy with this because it just meant there was even more reason to leave things well alone. I was happy with our OB’s reaction, too — she was not at all inclined to push to interfere. I started drinking raspberry leaf tea at 36 weeks (yucky stuff as I hate drinking tea at the best of times!!) and also started acupuncture at 34 weeks. We’d also got a student midwife on board (who had achieved a VBAC herself!) and she provided all sorts of wonderful moral support and information over the course of the pregnancy.
Our due date came and went. I consented to a stretch and sweep at 40 weeks because I figured that it couldn’t do any harm. 41 weeks came, too, and we had another stretch and sweep which provoked a fairly strong reaction from my body – but still no contractions! The day after this stretch and sweep our OB was going to be doing Saturday rounds at the hospital and she asked if we would come in just for a quick visit to see if anything had changed overnight and for a quick listen of baby. Overnight we had progressed to approximately 4cm dilated and she asked if I wanted her to do another sweep to see if we could get it going that day. I agreed.
She had barely started when my waters broke all over the place! My first reaction was to burst into tears because I knew that this put me on the clock to go into labour. My OB patted me, apologised profusely and said this was only the second time that that had ever happened to her. I was told to go home, pack everything we needed and get our daughter off to my parents (who were going to be looking after her) and to relax. If my labour did not get started by the following morning we were to report to the hospital and we would then look at what we were going to do next. We left the hospital a bit before 10.30am.
On the way home I rang our student midwife to let her know what had happened and the time frames we had been given. I didn’t have anything to worry about because — while on the phone with her (just 5 minutes up the road from the hospital) — I got my first contraction and I was a little surprised by how strong it was. They were coming, but very irregularly and they were still very short so I knew we had a fair way to go to get into established labour.
We quickly got ourselves home and my husband dropped our daughter to the grandparents. By the time he got home (after only leaving me for 30 odd minutes), my contractions had gone from six minutes apart to three and a half minutes apart and I was starting to panic that it was all happening too quickly! I tried to get into the shower to relax a bit but that did not really help at all. We rang the hospital to let them know we would be in by about 2.30pm and then let our student midwife know we were making our way there. Getting into the car slowed everything down a bit and I was a bit scared that everything had stopped for a little while, but it did not take long to get back into the swing of things and over the drive from our place to the hospital (which takes about 25 minutes) the contractions got going again and we slowly made our way into the hospital.
On admission, my contractions were still a little irregular but I thought we were doing really well until the midwife suggested an internal and told me I was only 4cm — nothing had changed since my OB had checked me that morning! I was so disappointed and all I wanted to do was cry, but decided that was not going to help. After a lot of fluffing around trying to set up a trace to make sure the baby was alright and a short discussion about pain relief where I was talked out of a shot of pethidine by my lovely support people (who insisted later that all they did was distract me because I’d specifically written in my birth plan that I wanted none of that or an epidural, for that matter), I got up and sat/bounced around on a fit ball sucking back gas and air every time I got a contraction.
What seemed like a very short time later, contractions were getting very intense and I again asked for pain relief – I begged the midwife for pethidine. She said, ‘Sure. Hop up on the bed and we’ll make sure you can have it.’ After a bit of a tantrum from me about having to lie down, I submitted to another internal during which the midwife cheerfully announced, ‘Sorry, no pethidine for you – you’re 9cm dilated it’s too late.’ I had gone from 4cm to almost fully dilated in an hour and a half.
I had always read about transition and how hard it was — on reflection, I think I carried on like an idiot! I protested to my husband that I couldn’t do it, called out for ‘Help!’ a lot, blamed everyone in the room for the fact that I hadn’t gotten pain relief then I asked them for a Caesarean because once again I couldn’t do it… What a stupid thing to ask for!! Lying on my side, I also refused to get up to push because it was too hard and I told them that I needed to rest! My OB made her appearance at this point and asked how I was doing — I informed her that the hospital midwife was bossy, my student midwife wasn’t helping me and my husband was useless. This made for a few laughs later… at my expense.
Five or so mammoth pushes later our baby made its way into the world at 4.56pm.With the cord wrapped around the neck four times, bubs was flipped over a few times and then, slimy and screaming, my baby was placed onto my chest where my husband and I discovered that we had another daughter. As I requested, the cord was not clamped and cut until it had stopped pulsing and then Adam did the honours and separated me from her. She weighed 3.4kg (7lb 8oz) and was 49cm long so she was spot on for the weight that the sizing scan predicted which surprised me a bit! What did not surprise me was the pure elation and sense of achievement that I felt. I was on such a high that I had pushed my baby out. It has fixed so many things in my head including all the doubts that I had had leading up to our baby’s birth about my body being able to do it.
What I would take into another pregnancy (if my husband will agree to run the risk of getting three girls!) is that a detailed birth plan probably gave me a few too many expectations of what I really wanted out of my labour. While I understand that every person, every pregnancy and every labour is different, there was just no time during my labour to follow through with my wishes and my husband was too surprised at how quickly everything happened to act on my wishes. I was not disappointed that we did not achieve many things at all from my birth plan; I actually feel the absolute opposite because everything went very well and I was very happy that my wishes regarding pain relief were respected and achieved.