After having my first son in 2009 via c-section after a failed induction, I knew I wanted my next child to be born via VBAC (I actually starting planning this while I was on the operating table). I knew my best chances for that to happen were to be with a care provider I fully trusted and who supported VBACs, and to wait for baby to be ready to come out. Throughout my entire pregnancy I was fully committed and did everything I possibly could to “train” for a VBAC. At the end of this story I listed the things that I think helped me be successful.
Benjamin’s Birth Story
Sunday, May 13 (Mother’s Day)
I had started to give up hope that the baby was ever going to come out. I felt the same as every day and nothing seemed like it was changing. On Sunday we went for a walk and I had a big bowl of spicy chili for supper. Jack (my 2.5 year old) went to bed early and so we were able to have some special time together before we went to sleep around 10:30. I hoped between that, walking, and chili something would start to happen. I laid in bed for about an hour feeling really sick to my stomach and thinking it was the chili. I finally got out of bed to watch TV and around 12:30 started having contractions. These ones felt different from the BH contractions I had been having. They were quite uncomfortable and I had to breathe through some of them. I laid down in the guest room and was able to sleep between them for a while but they kept waking me up. I timed them for a while and they were consistently 5-7 minutes apart but not lasting very long. I didn’t feel like I was in real labor or that anything was going to happen. When Eric got up at 6:30 I told him what was happening and we debated if he should go to work. I went to the bathroom and had lots of bloody show and felt excited that maybe something was happening. Eric decided to stay home since I didn’t feel like I would be able to take care of Jack through the contractions and also so I could try to sleep a little since I was so tired.
Monday, May 14
At 7:30 am I got in the bathtub and ended up falling asleep for a long time. The contractions slowed down quite a bit and I got in bed to sleep for a while. I called the birth center around 10:30 to let them know what was going on and then tried to rest as much as I could. I continued to lose mucus plug throughout the day. At 3:00 pm I went to the chiropractor for an adjustment and also had the special labor-inducing acupuncture. I was still having contractions throughout the day but they were not in a pattern. I went to Target for some last minute things and then got home around 5:30 pm. Between 5:30 and 10:00 pm I continued to have contractions and they were starting to get more organized. Eric went to bed so he could get some sleep. Around 10:00 pm the contractions were 5-6 minutes apart and lasting about a minute. I tried to lay down and sleep between them but anytime I laid down the pain was much more intense. I had to sit in the rocking chair or on the birth ball and rock and breathe and focus through them. I did not sleep at all and finally at 2:00 am I woke Eric up just so he could be with me. He sat with me and we watched TV and listened to Jack cough and cough nonstop in the bedroom. About an hour later Jack appeared in the living room, unable to sleep from all his coughing. We gave him some Benadryl but he never went back to sleep. The contractions continued in the same pattern so around 4:00 am I texted Sandra (midwife) and Sally (doula) to let them know what was happening. Sandra wrote me back that she had just gotten home from a birth and was going to try to sleep for about 4 hours and to let her know if anything changed. I had a previously scheduled appointment at the birth center at 9 am so I was just waiting for that so I could go in and see what was happening. For whatever reason I still didn’t really think I was in labor. I think I had read too many stories about prodromal labor and was thinking that’s what I was having and that the baby still probably wouldn’t come until Friday.
Tuesday, May 15 (41 weeks, 1 day pregnant)
Around 6:00 am I realized that I really needed Jack away from me so I could focus and so Eric could focus on me, so Eric took him over to Kyren’s house. He also called his parents to go ahead and come to town so they could look after Jack. I was nervous to call them because I was still thinking that this could go on for days, but if it did I would definitely need help with Jack. Around 7:00 am I took another bath but the contractions did not slow down very much. Finally it was time to go to the birth center for my appointment. We put our bag in the car just in case we ended up staying there, and on the way to walk out the door I had to run back in the house to throw up for a while. I hoped this meant something was happening. I had two or three contractions in the car on the way to the birth center and it was really painful and uncomfortable to be strapped in the car.
The week before my cervix had only been slightly dilated/effaced and was quite posterior so I was just hoping for some amount of change. Heather checked me and I was shocked/excited when she said I was about 4-5 cm dilated and my cervix was right in front. She decided I was in labor and said she was pretty sure the baby would come today. I think I still couldn’t really believe it. She said we could stay or go home and we decided to just stay. I didn’t want to get back in the car. All the transitions had caused my contractions to slow down pretty significantly, but once we got settled into our room they started to pick up again. Heather called Sally and told her it was time to come to the birth center. I was scheduled to have a BPP to check on baby but when Heather told me that it would take 45 minutes of lying down to do it I decided not to.
Around 10:00 am I called my mom to tell her what was happening and was able to talk to her for about ten minutes before I had a really painful contraction. I threw the phone at Eric and told him to tell her I had to go but he just hung up on her. After that I tried to look at my phone a few times to see texts/emails but eventually had to just put it away because I really had to use all my mental energy to focus on getting through the contractions. It was really amusing to see all the messages I was getting since I hadn’t been responding in so long, everyone was sure that meant the baby was already here/on the way. For a long time I sat on the birth ball or the rocking chair to get through the contractions. I listened to the Hypnobirthing tracks for a while and that helped a lot. Periodically someone would come in and listen to the baby’s heartbeat with the doppler, but otherwise we were left alone in the dark room. No monitors, no IV, no hospital gown, no lights or beeping or other distractions. Heather made me a special tea to drink and Sandra came in and gave me an awesome foot massage. Everyone spoke to me in a calm, soothing voice and when they checked on the baby it was very discreet.
Sally suggested walking around so we went outside and walked around and around a little trail that goes around a fountain. It was really irritating to me that it was the middle of the day and the sun was so bright. I wanted to be in the dark. The only way I could get through the contractions each time was to stop and hold on to Eric and rock back and forth while Sally squeezed my hips and massaged my back. They were still coming about five minutes apart and this continued for a long time, hours. I started to think that this was taking too long and that nothing was changing. They did start to get more painful and I asked if I could get in the tub but they didn’t want me to yet, so I got in the shower. In the shower I sat on the birth ball and the hot water helped a little. I could hear Eric’s stomach growling and kept telling him to eat but he didn’t want to leave and kept saying he wasn’t hungry. It was making me mad that he wouldn’t eat. At some point Sally got Eric some lunch. He ate it next to me while I was in the shower and the smell of his sandwich was gross so then I was annoyed that he was eating. I asked for some french fries and sprite but when it came I didn’t want anything. I felt queasy and only had sips of water all day. All I wanted to do was lay down but anytime I even tried that for a minute the pain was unbearable so I quit trying.
For the next couple of hours things were the same - contractions five minutes apart, getting more longer and more painful, walking around the trail outside or sitting on the birth ball inside. Everyone was being very encouraging and Sally was really helping by pushing on my back and hips through each contraction. I was very quiet all day and didn’t want to speak at all. I had to just keep thinking and working my way through each contraction. I did ask if I could get in the tub again but Sandra wanted my contractions closer together before I got in. I was really starting to get discouraged from the pain so I asked her to check me and see how dilated I was. She checked me and said I was about 5-6 cm. I felt devastated that it had been hours and hours and I had only progressed 1 or 2 cm. I really started to think that this was not going to happen and we were going to go to the hospital. The contractions were so painful at this point and I started hoping that maybe someone else would suggest going to the hospital. I hadn’t been walking in a while so she suggested I go walk some more. She also suggested I do some walking squats but I did not feel like there was any possible way I could do that so I pretended not to hear her. During this walk I really tried to focus on all the stories I had read of women going from 5-10cm in 30 minutes, and other fast progressing labors. With every contraction I focused as much as I could on telling the baby to move down and on thinking about my cervix opening. I used all the hypnobirthing mantras I could think of to focus and get the baby to move down. While I was out walking this time I did have some contractions that were 3-4 minutes apart and some that had double peaks and they were excruciating. At this point I was really starting to give up and thinking that if someone else would just suggest going to the hospital I would definitely agree. One thing that really motivated me was thinking about all the people who told me there was 1) no way I could VBAC and 2) no way I could do it naturally. And there were A LOT of those people. I really wanted to prove them wrong so that was one thing that kept me going.
After a while of walking I went back inside to use the restroom. Although everything seemed the same to me I guess Sally or Sandra sensed that things were changing and they started filling up the birth pool. I was really glad that I was finally going to get in the warm water. I had always pictured laboring in the tub and thought it would feel so good. I think this was probably around 7 pm. I got in and had a few contractions and honestly was disappointed that they still hurt pretty badly. The water was better, but it wasn’t the miracle pain-relief I had been hoping for. Also, the contractions seemed to start slowing down so at this time I was really starting to feel discouraged. I was in so much pain and it didn’t seem like they were going to get close enough together on their own to get the baby out. I kept telling myself that even if I said I wanted to go to the hospital that it would be a long time, probably 2 hours, before they could get me any pain relief so I just needed to give it more time. I really just had to take it one contraction at a time. I was worried Sandra would tell me to get out of the tub since things were slowing down and I didn’t want to. One thing that was really motivating to me was seeing all the baby footprints on the wall. I knew if I left that my baby’s footprints wouldn’t get to be on the wall and I really wanted them there!
After about 30-45 minutes in the tub I was starting to feel like I was at my breaking point and something had to start happening. The thing that really saved me was the fact that my contractions were still so far apart so even though they were really rough, I had a break. I actually was so tired that I was even falling completely asleep between each contraction. I felt like if I was actually able to fall asleep that I was nowhere near having the baby be born. I asked Sally if she thought I should have my waters broken. I knew that this would make things more painful but I also knew it could speed things up. I didn’t want any interventions but I also didn’t want to spend the next million hours in such intense pain. She suggested that Sandra check me to see how I was progressing. I asked for another check and Sandra said I was at an 8! Immediately my spirits were lifted and I thought that maybe this would happen after all. Sandra continued to check me through a contraction and felt like I was getting to a 9-10 during the contraction. I started to feel like maybe I could do this and it was going to happen soon.
Eric got in the tub behind me and it was wonderful to have him holding me and supporting me. Sally, Heather and Jocelyn were all taking care of me as well - someone was bringing me water, someone was rubbing a cool cloth on my head and shoulders, someone was massaging my head - the whole room was just full of people quietly supporting me and making sure I was as comfortable as I could be. Sandra continued to monitor the baby’s heartbeat frequently and it was encouraging to hear that it was steady and fast. I could also see/hear Heather and Jocelyn getting out pads and papers and rustling in drawers and I wondered why they were getting things ready when it was still going to be forever until the baby came. Also at this point during my labor I probably hadn’t eaten anything in about 24 hours (by my choice, I could have eaten whatever I wanted) and I suddenly felt so hungry and my stomach was actually growling really loudly. Between contractions I actually considered asking for a snack which just seems really funny to me now.
After Sandra checked me she told me if I felt like I wanted to push to go ahead and try it out. I still thought it was way too early for that but said ok. On the very next contraction my whole body just pushed all on its own! I remember saying, “it’s pushing!” and she told me that was great and to go ahead and try to push on the next one. At this point I was excited that I was going to start pushing, but I also thought that most people pushed for a couple of hours so it seemed like the end was still really far away.
On the next contraction I pushed and the pushing was truly a relief from the pain of the contraction. I could feel the baby moving down and when I pushed on the next contraction I felt the gush of my waters breaking, and breaking more on the next push. I heard Sandra tell Heather that the membranes were ruptured. I continued to push with each contraction and I could feel the baby moving down and then slipping back up. The pain was pretty excruciating and I was screaming like a crazy person but I had absolutely no control over it. There were so many soothing voices gently encouraging me and reminding me how to relax and breathe and telling me what a great job I was doing. I vaguely remember Sandra telling me that I was about to push the baby under the pubic bone and that this was the scariest part and that it was okay to be scared or something like that. I remember thinking that I wasn’t scared, I just wanted this baby OUT because this HURT! With every push I was positive that I was just tearing open and that I was going to have to get 100 stitches. I was trying to strike a balance between pushing hard enough to get the baby out and not pushing too hard so that I wouldn’t tear, but finally gave up and just pushed as hard as I could so it would be over!
I think I pushed about three more times and then the baby’s head came out! I couldn’t believe it. One more push and Sandra helped guide him through the water and handed him to me. I had heard Sandra say to Heather “nuchal cord” so I knew the cord was around his neck but I didn’t even have time to worry about it because he came out screaming! They also said he pooped right as he was coming out.
Later they told me I had pushed for about 30 minutes total. Eric had been behind me in the tub the whole time and we both just held the baby close. Heather put a hat on him and the baby was yelling! Immediately I felt like I had no pain at all and thought, “I could totally do that again! That wasn’t that bad!” It was 8:51PM and I had been at the birth center for just about 12 hours.
After a few minutes of catching my breath and holding the baby tight and soothing him I picked him up to see if he was a boy or girl. At first I just saw the cord and thought it was a girl, but I moved the cord and he was all boy, just like I had thought all along. Everyone was excited to see if he was a boy or girl and hear his name and welcome him into the world. I couldn’t believe that he was actually born and that everything had gone as planned and he was such a perfect little baby. He was big and he was loud! I wanted to try and nurse him but I couldn’t get into a comfortable position in the tub and wanted to wait until the placenta was delivered.
We waited for the cord to stop pulsing before we cut it. It was really neat to see how the cord was thick and pulsing, and it slowly got thinner and thinner. It seemed like it pulsed for a long time and finally Eric cut it. He got out of the tub to take a quick shower and then took the baby. It had now been maybe 20 minutes since the baby was born and the placenta hadn’t come out yet, so they gave me something under my tongue and I got in some different positions to try and encourage it to come out. I really wanted to get out of the tub and nurse the baby and finally the placenta came. I had been nervous that this might be painful but it basically just fell out all in one piece. Finally I could get out of the tub (which was really gross - I remember asking Jocelyn if the water was supposed to be so black or if something was wrong and she kind of chuckled and told me it was totally normal). They helped me get onto the bed which was covered in pads and then did the fun stomach massage thing. Then they changed the pads out and I was able to sit up and start trying to nurse baby Benjamin.
He didn’t take to nursing immediately like Jack had - he kept latching on, then back off and he was fussing and fussing. I finally got him to really nurse for some period of time and he was content. Oh, and at some point during all of this he was weighed and measured - 9 pounds, 1 ounce and 22 inches long! He also had no vernix. He was definitely ready to be born. After he had nursed then they gave him his vitamin K shot and did his footprints on the wall and in his baby book and all the other check up type things. Heather had made me a delicious smoothie and I drank two giant cups of it. I was so hungry and the smoothie was so good. I cleaned up and they checked to see if I had torn and needed stitches, which I was positive I would - but they said I just had a super tiny tear that didn’t even need stitches. I was really shocked by that. I had an ice pack and that helped immensely. I found my phone and we started letting our families and close friends know that the baby was born, it was a boy, and his name was Benjamin Linus.
One thing that really surprised me afterwards was how easily I was able to walk around and how awesome I felt. I really had a very minimal amount of pain and felt amazing. Also I guess an entire day of not talking caught up with me and I was talking, talking, talking. I literally just felt like I was high - very excited and jubilant. I just could not believe that the baby was here and that I DID IT.
I walked to the restroom by myself several times because I had to use it before I could go home. This took a while but finally worked. I did notice that my chest felt sore and strange and then thought I was having a heart attack. Sandra told me this was from the pushing and would go away (it did).
So after all the stats and paperwork done, I had gone to the restroom, everyone was cleaned up and dressed and we had nursed and cuddled, it was time to go home! Despite the fact that it was the middle of the night, everyone was still so happy and cheerful and just genuinely excited that Ben was here. We left the birth center sometime around 1:00 or 1:30 am, so just 4 -5 hours after Ben was born. It was totally surreal to be getting in the car with a tiny new baby that I had given birth to! I was still in major disbelief that I had done it and it really happened. Actually, as I am typing this part of the story 8 months later it still doesn’t seem real!
What helped me have a successful VBAC:
- Choosing a care provider/birth location who was 100% supportive of VBAC, not one who said we would “try” it
- Staying active through my entire pregnancy
- Staying healthy/low-risk and avoiding getting gestational diabetes (which I had with my first baby)
- Having regular chiropractic care (baby was in optimal positioning and I think this definitely is because my pelvis was lined up properly)
- Having an experienced doula
- Attending ICAN meetings
- Being educated and aware of the benefits/risks of VBAC v. RCS - constantly reading books, articles, forums, medical publications - I truly lived/breathed learning about VBAC/birth in general
- Preparing for a completely natural birth - reading as much as I could on natural birth, practicing strategies I had learned through various natural birth techniques. I had taken Bradley classes with my first baby, and then did hypnobirthing on my own and also took a Yoga for Birthing class. So I felt like I had a lot of tools to use to help get through a natural birth.
- WAITING for baby to come out - this was the hardest part for me. At 41 + 1 I was done!
- Preparing my body for birth - along with staying active, I took evening primrose oil, drank red raspberry tea, took Gentle Birth supplements, lots of sex, walked, did prenatal yoga, anything I could think of to prepare my body and encourage baby to come out!