Unmedicated VBAC: Anna's Birth
Our baby girl is here! We’ve survived the first week and now I want to write down the details of how she arrived before mommy brain erases them all. We’re so grateful and filled with love for her. Except for her older brother. Who is still working out the changes in family dynamics as he shares us with his new sister.
Here are a couple things to note about Anna’s birth:
Her sex was a surprise at birth. This wasn’t because we didn’t want to know, but rather the ultrasound technician couldn’t determine the sex. Her legs were apparently pasted shut during the ultrasound. They invited us to come again for another ultrasound, but there was no way I was going to make the trip again and wait for over an hour and a half while peeing and frantically chugging water trying to guess when they would call me in.
This was a planned VBAC. I had, what I consider, a traumatic birth with our firstborn that included a long latent labour phase that was completely back labour, unintended drug administration, and ultimately a C-section during which I almost passed out and could feel the needles stitching me up. Fun. I prayed for a vaginal birth.
This was an unmedicated birth. I got all the drugs for my first birth and they didn’t help my confidence, breastfeeding, or labour progression. I knew that if I started down the path of getting the epidural, I would get discouraged and anticipate what happened during my first birth: another C-section.
We were attended by midwives. I had a midwife the first time, but I felt I connected so much better with the midwives I had this time around. I recommend going for midwifery care as long as your pregnancy is healthy and normal. Our appointments were each 45 min - 1 hr and filled with genuine concern, respect, balanced information, and realistic expectations.
I had a doula. I had asked my midwife if I should get a doula since I was very unsure of myself and lacked confidence that I could successfully do a VBAC. I felt I needed more support to not feel lost like I did last time. My midwife told me that if I felt I needed one, I should probably get one. I providentially found an amazing doula who I felt so comfortable with from the start. She stayed by my side and supported me amazingly through every single contraction. If I could make one recommendation, it would be to GET A DOULA.
We gave birth at a birth centre. A beautifully new birth centre with gorgeous, private, spacious rooms, lots of equipment, and useful tools to help facilitate natural labour. It had this hanging bar that really helped when labour got really intense. It was only 5 minutes to the hospital in case of transfer. We chose to go to the birth centre rather than a hospital because of all the negative feelings I had towards my first hospital birth. I knew that just being there would trigger fear in me that things would go differently from what I planned.
My due date was on a Saturday. My first came over a week past the due date. Not only that, with Anna’s pregnancy, they had pulled my due date earlier after the first ultrasound from my calculated date. So, I was semi-confident she’d come past the 40-week mark. So, the Komfi Baby team were planning to risk it and attend a local moms’ gathering/expo ONE DAY before my due date. Call me crazy, but we paid for the booth and planned to take our Komfi Baby gear there to get local exposure. I told myself that baby would probably come late and that all small business entrepreneurs must make sacrifices.
EARLY LABOUR BEGINS
Two days before my due date, Thursday morning, I woke up with mild contractions and back pain. They came and went for 5 hours then stopped when I arrived at my midwife appointment. My midwife asked me if I wanted to have my cervix checked. I refused because I didn’t want to do anything to trigger labour until AFTER my event. So we went home and I prayed that active labour wouldn’t begin until after I had finished my 4 hour event the next day. Also, my sister-in-law was driving over and I wanted her to be there to watch my son.
That evening (Thursday night), I continued having mild contractions as I stayed up preparing for the expo. I was printing product signs and price tags, setting up our mobile payment system, and uploading sale prices. All while praying that active labour would wait. I also arranged for some help in case I had to leave the event early. I went to bed around 11 PM that night. Probably not a good idea. My doula had told me that my labour may not advance until after my event because I wasn’t mentally ready for it and that’s what I was hoping for!
ACTIVE LABOUR BEGINS
At 2 AM, after having a not-too-restful short sleep, I had to get out of bed. My back was hurting with each contractions and being curled up on my side seemed to be the worst position. I stood up and walked around and it helped. Soon, I had to stop, rock my hips, and breath through each contraction. They were coming every 2-3 minutes. I woke my husband. We called my midwife who suggested I get into a relaxing warm bath to see if my labour slowed down or continued. The bath made my contractions longer. We all got ready to go to the birth centre.
AT THE BIRTH CENTRE
We arrived at the birth centre (midwife, student midwife, doula, husband, sister-in-law, toddler son, and myself). My cervix was checked and was about 4-5 cm. This was the first of only 2 times they checked my cervix because I had requested minimal checks. I appreciated that they respected this request. For my last birth, so many people were examining my cervix and checking the baby’s strange position that I felt like my privacy was really invaded.
We got into our room and I laboured standing for most of the active labour. When transition was about to start, I started crying telling them that I couldn’t do it because it was too hard. They wisely refrained from telling me that it would just get more difficult from here, but they told me over and over that baby was coming and that my body was doing its work.
Transition just got more intense. I needed my husband to press on my lower back for every single contraction. His thumbs and hands were sore by the time baby was born. My doula hugged from the front and talked me through each contraction. I was super vocal. Before transition, I was moaning. During transition, I was crying out. I tried to keep my shoulders, arms, and lower jaw relaxed and vocalize to release the intensity. I got into the bath, but I didn’t like how my knees kept sliding apart. I always romanced the idea of a water birth, but the water didn’t agree with me. I felt surprised at how in tune I was with what my body was telling me I needed and what worked for me. I didn’t expect to have any “instincts” or preferences whatever since I was so clueless and drugged the first birth.
I also laboured while leaning on a bar hanging from the ceiling. That was great! All the vertical positions made contractions come more often, but I felt like I was making progress quicker. I kept asking “How much longer?” and “Why can’t I push yet?”. During this phase, my midwife suggested I lay on the bed on my side. I didn’t like it, but I found that in between the waves, I was able to take the shortest naps I’ve never taken in my life. I got some rest for 20 minutes before deciding I needed to stand up and get things moving again.
I stood and leaned on the bar again. I noticed that my midwives were putting their gloves on. I knew things were going to start happening soon. I had never pushed before, so this was all new to me. I started feeling some desire to push. It would come in the last half of a contraction and would be short. My midwife approached me and asked me if I was afraid to push or if there was anything that was holding me back from pushing. I said no and took that as a cue that I should push.
But instead of pushing, I was screaming during each contraction. I wasn’t relaxed anymore and I was sweating. I needed water in between each contraction because my throat was hurting and my voice was becoming hoarse. I was wasting all my energy screaming. The urge to push overwhelmed me. I could feel the head coming down then coming back up. I had read that pushing for first time moms could be between 30 minutes to 3 hours and my midwife had told me I would be pushing like it was my first time. I thought to myself that if I didn’t get serious about pushing, I was going to be here for 3 hours! So, I stopped screaming and held my breath. I shoved my face into the pillows I was leaning on and gripped the bedsheets as I pushed throughout the entire contraction instead of giving a tentative push or two when the urge was the strongest.
I remember the realization that there was nobody who could help me. My husband was amazing as supporting me. My doula was wonderful. My midwives were experienced and I felt safe with them. But nobody was going to birth this baby except me. There was no doctor or operating room nearby. There was no epidural ready. If I wanted this ordeal to end, I had to push her out. There were no other options.
BABY ANNA MAKES HER ENTRANCE (OR IS IT EXIT?)
I felt something burst and assumed that it was my water. The midwife told me to reach down (I was on all fours, leaning on a pile of about 5 pillows) and feel the head. I stuck some fingers inside and felt the hairy head! When the head was out, I was invited to feel it sticking out. Anna was in between worlds. My birth team was cheering and telling me how awesome I was doing. I kept asking when it would come out. I vaguely recall saying “Get it out! Get it out!”. As if they could do anything about it.
My husband told me that the baby’s head came out, then the shoulder, then the entire body slipped out! It was awe-inspiring for him to see it. I wish I could have seen it. Not during the birth though, for experiencing it was intense enough. But I’d love to see it now!
They told me to turn onto my back and take the baby up. I had always been afraid of dropping the baby slippery from being covered in amniotic fluid. Birth is slimy business. But I forgot my fears as I grabbed her and laid her on my chest and started crying.
TEARS OF HURT
I wasn’t crying with joy or ecstasy as I expected from watching too many birth videos. I was crying because it had been so hard and it was so unfair that I had to go through that. I was hurt and in pain. I was crying because nobody had ever caused me so much pain in my life as birthing this baby. I also continued crying because I thought that once she was out it would all end, but I was still hurting. My bum hurt, my genitals hurt, my uterus hurt, and my back was aching. I waited in vain for the rush of endorphins that I had read about. It actually did creep in slowly over the next couple days. But I was angry that I had to endure the birth. I told my husband that two children were enough. I was not going to go through that again. (Later, I was asking my midwife about how long to wait for a 3rd, but that’s besides the point).
After maybe 15 minutes, I asked if it was a girl or boy. It was a girl!! Everybody had been predicting that I was carrying a girl based on the shape of my belly. They were all correct (I still don’t believe in those gender-guessing tricks). She was on my chest and didn’t make a peep for at least 2 hours. Her eyes were open and alert. She looked around and moved her hands around as I tried to clean her hair. Later, she latched wonderfully at the breast and suckled for a long time. I was relieved as my first baby had caused me so much pain for the first two weeks of breastfeeding due to an improper latch and I was happy to expect a smoother start with Anna.
STILL IN PAIN
I wasn’t done though. I still had to push out the placenta which I was very reluctant to do. So much so that the midwife told me that I would feel better after it was out. It’s like she knew she had to motivate me. I still had to get stitched up because I had a small second degree tear. That involved a very uncomfortable and, at times, painful examination, needles to freeze the area, and stitching. Not fun.
After all that, I had to try to pee. That was painful too. I had to push each time I peed, but I kept trying because I would feel about 30 seconds of relief after each successful pee. Instead of heeding my midwife’s suggestion to sleep (which I couldn’t do because I was in such discomfort), I spent my time at the birth centre walking around and trying to pee like 10 times.
JOY COMES IN THE MORNING
We went home the same day because our son desperately needed sleep and a familiar place. It was after a day or two that I felt the joy, love, adoration, and gratefulness crawl in and fill my heart. I was overjoyed at the fact that I was able to go through with the unmedicated VBAC, just as I prayed for. My cries and desires of my heart were heard and granted to me. This experience was vastly different from the birth of my son. My daughter’s birth gives me a sense of awe and beauty. Pride and joy as well. A sense of accomplishment and self confidence. All which I felt was robbed from me during my first birth.
This is not to say all C-sections are horrible. Or any C-sections. But my first birth experience was incredibly disappointing and hurtful. I felt like a victim where as this time, I felt like a champion (only after a few days though…).
Here are some interesting things about my birth:
I pooped. Yup, during pushing, my husband tells me I pushed out some rabbit-droppings-like poop. At least it wasn’t a big log. I had pooped a few times before going to the birth centre, so I didn’t expect to poop tons.
My water broke into my midwife’s face. My water didn’t break until I was pushing. When it finally did burst, it splashed my midwife in the face and my doula’s leg. Yum.
Orange juice and water hydrated me. I thought I’d feel fine eating (since I love to eat), but I didn’t want to during labour. But I chugged water and orange juice. We actually brought a bottle of orange juice just for the birth so that I could have some energy.
My husband was an incredible help. He pushed my pressure points on my back for almost every single contraction. And he did it so willingly. I would call out, “Back! My back!”, and he would say “Right away! I’m coming!”. During pushing, I mostly heard his words of encouragement amid the other female voices. I tear up thinking of how much he helped me.
Standing made contractions come sooner. I guess gravity really works. contractions came quicker when I stood, but I feel this overwhelming desire to stand and move. I welcomed the more frequent contractions because I felt like it meant progress.
Now, we are just happy to have our Anna who we named the next day. She’s a beauty. And I feel more confident as a mother now that this is my second time around. I hope you enjoyed our birth story of Anna which was my first unmedicated VBAC.
How was(were) your birth(s)? Was it an overall pleasant or unpleasant experience? Do you think it matters how the birth of a baby happens?