Having two children has proven to be a juggling act so far, but I’m finally getting into the swing of things! Nursing a newborn and having a five-year-old to take care of makes the amount of time I have to do anything, really, very limited! I’m so glad to finally be able to share our baby boy Reid’s birth story.
As most of you know, in 2008 I had a c-section birth with our daughter Tatum. I still feel that it was very unnecessary in my case, and not long after I gave birth to her I had planned on having a VBAC with our second child. Once we found out last September that we were expecting again, I dove into my VBAC preparations with all of my heart and soul. A VBAC birth was my ultimate goal, and I knew that I would prepare myself any way possible to be able to have a natural, vaginal birth.
My pregnancy with Reid went very smoothly and I felt great! I prepared my body with daily yoga, red raspberry leaf tea, positive birth affirmations and a healthy, nutritious diet. Even though it had been five years since my last pregnancy, I felt even better this time around because of how much I had listened to my body to give it what it needed to grow a healthy baby and to keep me mentally prepared for my labor. We hired an amazing doula and friend, and through her I was given a lot of information and especially support when I began to doubt myself. For any mom attempting a VBAC — or any expecting mom-to-be — I highly recommend hiring a doula for your birth. Kelly proved to be a great support, reminded us of our wishes and listened to my needs during my entire labor. She allowed David and I to have our space, but when David was starting to tire out she would intervene. A doula can also be a laboring mother and dad-to-be’s advocate. When David and I were exhausted and couldn’t concentrate on much more, Kelly spoke up for us and was our voice when we needed to focus on having our baby. I am so grateful that we had her as our support person.
Reid was due July 5th, but just like his big sister Tatum, he kept us in suspense for a few days! I knew that a due date was just an estimate, and wasn’t worried about going “overdue,” but I was definitely wondering when he would decide to arrive. On July 9th, David and Tatum and I went for a long walk after supper. At about 7pm, while on our way home, I began having contractions, and once we got back and I had been having them consistently for an hour, I knew that it was time! David got Tatum to bed and I did some last-minute tidying up, and even made a batch of carrot muffins to keep my mind busy while I was still in early labor. Around 11pm the contractions started getting stronger and closer together and I was having trouble working through them on my own, so we texted my mom to come and get Tatum. I gave Tatum a big hug and a kiss, and knowing the next time I saw her she would no longer be an only child made me a bit emotional. She hopped into the car with my mom, and it really sunk in that there was a baby on the way. David and I spent some time alone, and around 12am I texted Kelly to come over!
This part of my labor was actually enjoyable for me. It was exactly how I pictured laboring — in the quiet of my own home, with my husband and doula. In between contractions I felt content and relaxed. When I went into labor with Tatum, David and I rushed to the hospital at the first sign of contractions, and we weren’t able to really be in the moment. This time, David and I were so involved and we did it together, which was such an amazing experience. I walked laps around my living room and kitchen, and stopped and leaned on David for support when I needed to breathe and work through the pain. Around 3am (this is where time starts to get a bit fuzzy!) I decided to get in the bathtub. Kelly ran a warm bath, turned off the lights and placed little battery-operated candles around the tub. I remember saying to David “I wish we didn’t have to go to the hospital!” Even though I was uncomfortable, I felt peaceful in my own space. After a while of quietly laboring in the tub (the breathing techniques learned in my prenatal yoga class were ESSENTIAL to being able to work through contractions), I felt a huge POP! and a gush of fluid — my water had broken! I stayed in the tub for a bit longer and then felt a big wave of nausea, and got sick. At this point, we had no idea how dilated I was, and we all decided it would be a good time to head to the hospital because of how things seemed to be progressing.
I have no idea what time it was at this point — 5 am, possibly. We went up to the women’s health unit and I was going to be checked for dilation and to see if it was indeed my water that had broken (I knew it had, but they still check). I was checked by the nurse and was only 1 cm dilated, but because I had a previous c-section and was GBS positive they wanted to admit me, hook me up to an IV, attach fetal monitors and continually monitor me, and I would not be allowed food or drink after that point. I was already beginning to feel miserable about being put into that situation and knew that it wouldn’t lead me anywhere near the kind of birth I wanted, but I was so tired and not in the frame of mind to vocalize this to the nurses. Kelly and David asked the nurse if we could be alone for a few minutes, and they told me that they were concerned about me not having any food or drink, and that being admitted so early would not allow me to labor the way I wanted to. I was afraid to go against the nurses orders, but I knew that for my personal circumstances, it is what needed to happen. David was my voice while I was focusing on myself and my labor, and I couldn’t have done any of it without him. Having a supportive spouse who understands your wishes and is as informed as you are is so vital. He told the nurses that we would be leaving to go home, and while they clearly opposed our decision, we were able to leave and go home where I felt comfortable.
At this point my labor was going strong, and I was having trouble keeping my focus. I got back in the bath for a while and then tried laying down to rest. Laying down felt terrible to me, so I stayed upright most of the time. I have a very vague memory of being at home the second time. I just remember trying to stay positive about my body and that it was working the way it was supposed to, and looking to David for support and reassurance. I was still getting sick every so often, and David helped out so much during this time. From drying me off while getting in and out of the bath, holding out a bowl for me to get sick in, letting me lean on him during an especially strong contraction, reassuring me that I was doing a great job, and even putting my shoes on for me when we decided to head back to the hospital, he did it all. He was so involved in every aspect of my labor. Around 7:30 am we decided to go back to the hospital, and I was immediately admitted and hooked up to an IV. The nurse we were given the second time was great about following my birth plan, and gave me a heplock so I could move around during my labor. She seemed to really want to help me have the birth that I wanted. David, Kelly and the nurse were very encouraging, telling me how well I was keeping on top of my contractions (even though at times I felt like I wasn’t!) and trying to keep me comfortable.
The obstetrician I had been seeing during my labor and my family doctor came to see me shortly after I was admitted, and I was checked for dilation. I was about 3cm, and the obstetrician already began hinting at a c-section. I was nowhere near ready to consider that choice, and so I said no and continued laboring. The contractions had been coming one after the other for hours, and were very strong. I don’t remember a lot of the details of what went on during this time — I just remember getting in and out of the tub, pacing around the room, leaning over the bed because my back was killing me and sitting/laying on the bed was excruciating (I think Kelly had to ask for the warm blankets we were putting on my back to be restocked quite a few times!), and sitting on a chair draped over the back. David said there were times when I was “there but I wasn’t there.” Labor is a very intense experience, and you really go within yourself. I was in my own space, and don’t remember even forming coherent thoughts — I was focused on my body and trying to let go and do what it needed to do.
The obstetrician came in a few more times to check my progress and I was still at 3cm. I remember David asking for more time whenever he would come in, and I was grateful to have him speaking up for me. During my pregnancy and labor, I hadn’t even thought of a c-section being an option, and I wasn’t about to yet. Having Kelly and David to speak up for me while I was laboring and trying to stay focused on my task at hand was so important for me. I hope that all laboring mothers can experience the support from loved ones that I experienced during my labor. Around 1:30 pm the obstetrician came back in and said that my white blood cell count was fairly high (meaning an infection of some sort), I still hadn’t dilated past 3cm, and that for the past while the baby’s heart hadn’t had any variation. I knew that babies heart rates during labor could vary quite a bit and that it’s normally not an indication of anything other than the baby dealing with the labor, but I also knew that in VBAC mothers, sometimes heart rate issues are an indication of bigger problems. The obstetrician and nurse were highly recommending a c-section because of the few issues we were having, and I remember feeling completely overwhelmed at the decisions I had to make. David and I asked for some time to speak, just the two of us. We weighed our options, and even though I wanted to have a vaginal birth with every fiber of my being, I was also becoming concerned with how Reid and I were handling labor. I could have continued to resist the suggestions of a c-section and labor longer, heck I probably could have gone home again and labored at home until the last minute. Plenty of VBAC moms have labored for long periods of time with no problems, but in my personal circumstances, David and I decided that it was time for Reid to be born. I wanted Reid to be ok, and I wanted for myself to be ok, and after nearly 17 hours of labor, we decided on a c-section.
At 1:55 pm, our baby boy Reid was born! 8lbs and 5 oz, and 21 3/4 inches long. As soon as I heard his cry, I immediately broke down into tears. He was here! He was healthy and pink and crying up a storm! He was handed to David and David immediately put him next to my face. I gave his little cheek as many kisses as I could before they needed to leave the room. David did skin-to-skin with him while I was being stitched up, and it was about ten minutes before I was wheeled into the recovery room. After that it was only about five more minutes before David came in the room with Reid, and we were finally able to meet. It felt SO amazing to have my baby in my arms. With Tatum’s birth, I had an epidural and several other medications during my labor and c-section, so both her and I were very groggy, and my memories of meeting her and bonding with her are very faint. It was also more than an hour before I was able to see her. This time around, I hadn’t had any medication during my labor (I tried the laughing gas, but took about two breaths and decided it wasn’t worth it) and so both Reid and I were alert and awake. As soon as he was handed to me, we did skin-to-skin. Reid took his time to get to know me, and soon he began to breastfeed. He was so bright-eyed, and I was so glad that he was safe with me. Tatum and my mom came into the room soon after, and I was overwhelmed and cried tears of joy. I missed Tatum SO much, and now she was meeting her little brother! I was cleaned up, and then we all went to the room where we would spend the remainder of our stay at the hospital. Finally we were able to bond together as a family. We were complete.
My birth did not go as planned. I still have feelings of regret and guilt about having a repeat c-section. I have a lot of days where I think “If I could go back and change things, I would..” and list the ways I would do things differently. My family is complete, and I have a sweet baby boy now. This labor and birth was much different from the last, because even though both ended up in a c-section, we were much more informed this time around, we fought the whole way for me to labor as long as I did, and we made the decision ourselves to have a c-section. We weren’t bullied into it (we could have been, but we stayed strong), and we weren’t unaware. It was MY choice. For all mothers attempting a VBAC, I still feel it is absolutely a safe and wonderful option. Vaginal birth is normal, and optimal for mom and baby. A c-section is major surgery and not without its risks, and should be avoided. Stay informed, surround yourself with support, and remain confident that your body can birth the way it is meant to, and a VBAC can definitely happen. It just wasn’t in the cards for me.