The birth of my second child was shared on your blog several years ago: Long Labor Ends with Beautiful HBAC. With my home birth I really wanted to inspire other women. I wanted to show them that they are capable of having the birth that they want. This time around, I think it’s important to share that sometimes the birth you want ISN’T the birth you get – and that’s okay too. Here’s my story that talks about when VBAC doesn’t happen…
The birth of my sweet Kelsie.
How many times have I heard that sentence? How many times have I said that sentence? I thought that I understood that as well as anybody. My first two children had completely opposite births. My son was born at 36 weeks via emergency C-section and my daughter was born at almost 42 weeks, at home, after 35 hours of drug-free labor. Because of these completely different experiences, I really thought that no matter how Kelsie’s labor and birth went I would be pretty prepared.
My water broke at 4:30am on June 15th, 2015. I was 41+1 weeks pregnant. I woke up to a small gush and quickly ran to the restroom. Broken water – Check. Bloody show – Check. YES!!! It’s baby time! My water has never broken at the start of labor before, but I had dozens of dreams that it would this time around, so I really wasn’t too surprised. I went and woke up Eric and let him know that my water broke and we would be having a baby either that day or the next. I knew that it could be several hours before contractions kicked in, so I kissed my hubby, told him to let his work know that he wouldn’t be in that day and advised him that we should both try and get a bit more rest since we would probably need our energy later that day.
About a half hour later I gave up on sleep and went downstairs to make some coffee. Eric joined me and we had a light breakfast, played some cribbage, and talked about what we thought our labor would be like and how excited we were to finally meet our newest daughter. A couple hours later my two kiddos and my parents (who flew out to stay with the big kids while we were in the hospital) got up and I told everyone that I was officially in early labor. We decided to try and get the contractions started by going to Ikea to eat some breakfast and to walk the entire store. We spent over an hour and a half walking around. We left Ikea and decided to take a drive by the hospital to show my parents how to get there later. We also wanted to show them how close the hospital was to the beach, an awesome park where they could play with the kids if they needed to burn some energy, and most importantly, the closest coffee shop.
We went back to the house after and I decided to rest. A little bit later I decided to try the breast pump to see if I could get contractions going. Afterwards, my hubby and I went to a park and walked close to a mile as quickly as I was able to (which isn’t saying much). My water had now been broken for almost 12 hours. I started to get really emotional and frustrated. I decided that I must have been imagining what had happened that morning. I called my doctor, Dr. C, to give him an update and after going over our options in lengthy detail Eric and I decided to go in to the hospital to get confirmation that my water had broken.
We took our time getting our bags together and made sure to give the big kids extra hugs and kisses. I cried off and on the entire way to the hospital. I told Eric that my two best case outcomes would be that either my water had in fact broken and I wasn’t losing my mind, and even though the contractions I was having weren’t super uncomfortable I would somehow still be dilated to 6cm OR that I had completely misread the situation and my water had NOT broken.
Then we could just go home and come back a few days later to have a baby. We got checked into the hospital and were taken to our room. I got changed into the hospital gown and went and sat on the bed; my husband said I looked so scared and anxious that he decided to build my confidence by dancing for me like Ray Lewis (you can see it here…). My goofy husband was able to make me smile but I was definitely not feeling any more relaxed.
Not long after we arrived it was confirmed that my water had broken. A bit later Dr. C came in and checked me. I was dilated to 2 to 3cm on the bottom, but my cervix was still very posterior and almost cone shaped, meaning it was still closed pretty tight at the top – not at all what I had hoped for. Because I am a VBAC, we were told that we would be staying put, but that we would not be on any clock – meaning that even if my water was broken for over 24 hours as long as the baby and I were doing well we would be able to continue labor as long as we needed to. This was not at all our original plan, as we had hoped to labor at home as long as possible and only go in to the hospital once, in my doctor’s words, there was a “baby coming out of my vagina.” However, I knew there was nothing I could do about that now. Dr. C told me I needed to have a good cry about it and then I needed to get out of bed and see what I could do to get this baby coming.
So I did. I sat there and cried, trying to understand why my body didn’t want to start the process that would bring my baby into my arms. I sent Eric out to the car to grab our bags and tried to focus on the few positive things that came with being at the hospital so early. We had plenty of time to set up our music and oil diffuser and for me to spend a few minutes playing birth photographer for my own labor. I changed into the labor gown that I made and called my parents to bring my kids over for a visit. I really just wanted to hug and kiss them and needed a bit of a distraction. My family showed up soon after and I snuggled my babies and my oldest read me a bed time story.
After they left, we called in my doula. I paced the room back and forth as far as the monitors I was hooked on to would allow. I paced and paced and paced and began to feel increasingly like a caged animal. I was so frustrated having to be attached to those stupid monitors and not feeling like I was really being given a chance to get things going. My wonderful nurse Lisa came in around this time and reminded me that no one could make me do anything that I didn’t want to do. She had to have some record of monitoring, but that if I refused there was nothing they could do. So I did. I said I needed to use the restroom for a long time and removed the monitors so that I could have at least a half hour of freedom to move about the room. I walked some more and spent some time on the birth ball. A little after 10, I got back on the monitors to try and give my poor nurse some more readings. She had been so kind to me and I didn’t want to put her in a bad position.
A few minutes later my wonderful doula Crystal arrived. She was quick to offer help in any way that I needed. She rubbed my back and shoulders and feet and prayed for me. She whispered words of encouragement and when I wanted to try and sleep she sat beside me and held that stupid monitor in place since my little lady inside insisted on kicking it off.
Now I know that during the next several hours I had another visit from Dr. C, I cried and felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster going from completely defeated, to motivated, to crushed, to relaxed. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. We were coming up on 22 hours since my water had broken and I had slept less than ten minutes. Around 2:30 in the morning, the nurses moved me and my crew into a different room with wireless monitors. YES! But they didn’t work. NO! So we continued pacing as far as they would allow me and bouncing on the birth ball. And many times I crawled into bed hoping that rest would bring something on. My doula kept offering things that we could try. Some of them I did, others I looked at her like she was crazy.
This pattern continued for the rest of the night and well into the morning. My big fears at this point weren’t only what would happen if my body never went into labor, but also what would happen if it did? I had been awake for going on 30 hours and I could barely put together full sentences. How was I going to push through a labor?
I was anxious for Dr. C to come in for a visit. I really wanted a check to see if anything we had tried throughout the night had helped. He arrived a bit after 9:00am. It had been 15 hours since my last check. I tried so hard to remain hopeful, but as soon as the check started I knew.
Before he even had the chance to say anything I looked at Eric and Crystal, shook my head no and let the tears fall. There was no change.
No. Change. At. All.
My heart broke. Off and on throughout the night I had thought, talked, and prayed about what to do if there was still no change the next day. I didn’t feel like I had it in me to keep going. Dr. C sat down and we started to talk about options. As far as he was concerned I had several. First, everyone looked good so I was free to continue laboring as long as I wanted. Second, we could start to talk about other ways to get this baby out. Third, I could take off the monitors, go to sleep and not decide anything at all. I had already shared with Eric and Crystal what I was thinking. I feel so strongly that babies know how to be born and I know for a fact that my body is strong and capable of birthing a baby – so in my heart I felt that if Kelsie wasn’t coming there was a reason for it. I didn’t want to make this decision based solely on exhaustion or fear so Eric and I asked Dr. C a bunch of questions and then agreed that we would all just take a break before we made any decisions.
Dr. C left, saying that he was hoping that rest was all I needed and he hoped I woke up in active labor. I no longer felt as hopeful. Crystal left shortly after to get some rest and to allow Eric and I some time together. While Eric and I were alone I was able to be completely vulnerable and vent out everything that I was thinking and feeling. I told him that I was leaning towards a gentle cesarean, but I needed to know that he wouldn’t be disappointed in me. He hugged me close, kissed me lots and told me that no matter what choice I made he knew I was making it for the right reasons. He reminded me that I was strong and that I was a wonderful Mom just trying to take care of our baby. He told me that he was proud of me.
He laid down to get a much deserved nap, while I laid in bed, finally free from the dreaded monitors. I tried to sleep, but wasn’t able to. I don’t think I could possibly put into words how much I battled with myself during this time. I tried to rest, but when I wasn’t able to I decided to call my munchkins and make sure that they each knew how much I loved them. Hearing their sweet voices calmed me.
A while later Crystal returned and Eric woke up. I didn’t tell either of them what I had decided. Our nurse walked in to check on me, “What do we think?”
My eyes filled with tears and I looked at her and answered, “I think it’s time to meet my baby.”
Even the nurses knew that Kelsie was in charge.
At this time things started to move pretty fast. Despite the speedy pace though, I felt in control and respected, which is so different then my first cesarean. Everyone was kind and went out of their way to try and keep things as calm as possible. Eric was given his awesome new duds, Kelsie’s blanket and hat were brought into the operating room and I was introduced to the anesthesiologist that would be working with my doctor. I sat on the bed in our hospital room, trying to just remain calm and cling to the small moments of peace that I felt. As I was sitting on the bed, letting Eric put some cozy socks on my feet, I heard my phone vibrate next to me, indicating that a text message had arrived. I had mostly been ignoring all messages since we had kept the news that my water had broken very quiet. But for some reason I decided to read this message before I walked into the operating room. It was from my best friend Lisa:
“I love you so much. You are an amazing mom and will see that sweetie soon! Enjoy as her story happens knowing that God wrote it just for her!”
Wow. The exact words I needed to hear in the exact moment that I needed to hear them. Eric helped me out of the bed, we walked to the operating room and I kissed him and let him know I’d see him soon.
This cesarean was so different than my first. The operating room, while busy, was not at all chaotic. Everyone let me know what was going on and what to expect next. I was treated with respect the entire time and even felt comfortable enough to make jokes. For instance, when the nurse asked someone to let Justin know that he’d be able to come in just a few minutes I calmly replied, “Actually if you don’t mind I’d rather Justin just wait outside, but if you see my husband, Eric, he’s welcome to join us.” Prep went quickly and easily and before I knew it the drape was up and Eric was sitting next to me holding my hand and waiting on our girl. Before we knew it the drape was being lowered and the anesthesiologist was lifting my back up a bit so that Eric and I could watch our daughter being born. I cried and cried. She was here. 32+ hours after my water broke – and born at the exact same minute that I was: 12:31 p.m. She was perfect and pink and loud and tiny and COVERED in meconium. I mean head to toe covered in poop. And I had only ever seen anything that beautiful two other times in my life. She was quickly looked over while Dr. C did his best to get her as much cord blood as possible, while still keeping me safe. And less than two minutes later she was in our arms. As requested she hadn’t been bathed or weighed or measured. None of that mattered.
One of the nurses came over and helped pull my pajamas down and slide Kelsie in so that we could lay skin to skin while the surgery was completed. Eric also held her during this time and we all laughed at how much she was rooting. The anesthesiologist mentioned that he had never seen a baby with such an immediate and enthusiastic root instinct. While she was laying on me and trying so hard to find what she was looking for I said, “I’m so sorry baby. You have to wait just a few more minutes.” Her response was the most perfect, most dramatic pouty lip that you can imagine. She had Eric and I and several others in the room laughing. Before I knew it everything was done. Eric held Kelsie while I was moved from the operating table to a bed. Kelsie was again tucked in with me skin to skin and we were rolled back to our room together.
Eric, Kelsie and I were left mostly alone for more than an hour after she was born. Everything else that needed to be done was done with her in my arms. She wasn’t measured or weighed until we requested and when I did decide to have them rinse some of the poop out of her hair, they were quick to honor my request that they only use water.
We stayed in the hospital for two days and were blessed to be taken care of by so many wonderful nurses and one exceptional CNA. I have had a few moments where I have felt sad about the way everything went down – like when I had to sign my consent to have cesarean, because of a “failed trial of labor” (I don’t think that’s the right reason – I never went into labor and I certainly didn’t fail). But the fact is I made the best choice that I could make with the information that I had at that time. I was supported and respected in all of my choices and I felt like I was in control. I never felt bullied or pushed into anything I wasn’t comfortable with. I wanted Kelsie’s birth to be joyful. I prayed for that for the entire 10+ months that I carried her. And when I look back at her birth, I will remember laughing at her silly faces right after birth and joking with my doctor about a dream I had where I had a C-section, but in the dream he had bleached blonde backstreet boy hair and him asking someone to bring him a wig. I will remember the jokes and fun that I had with my husband and doula in the middle of the night when we were all so exhausted that we were borderline giddy.
I will own the choices that I made during this labor and I choose not to regret any of them.
This is Kelsie’s story and I will tell it to her proudly and remember it with joy.
Welcome to the world, Kelsie.
You are loved.
You are wanted.
You are precious.
*** I wrote Kelsie’s birth story the week that she was born. That was over 6 months ago. One thing that I wasn’t prepared for after her birth was how hard it would be to process everything. How much I would doubt my choices. How often I would ask myself, “What if…” Not having a VBAC when you prepare for one and want one so badly is HARD. With my first child’s birth his emergency C-section was out of my hands. It was easy to be frustrated with everyone else, because I had zero control in that situation. But this time around the decision to have a cesarean was mine alone. Processing Kelsie’s birth has been hard. For over four months I obsessed over everything that had happened. What could I have done differently? How much better would it have been if I had just planned a home birth? What if I had just given myself more time? Did I give up too easily?
The self-doubt that comes in can suffocate you and it felt like nobody really understood WHY I was upset. My baby was healthy after all and my recovery had been as easy as it could have been. Yet still, I felt like I had let myself and my daughter down. For months (and sometimes even now) I couldn’t read birth stories without feeling sad, disappointed, and even jealous of these other women achieving their drug-free vaginal births and VBACs. My sweet doula sat me down and told me, “You’re only thinking of this one way. But what about these ‘what ifs?’ What if you HADN’T had a cesarean? What if you HADN’T followed your instinct? You birthed a beautiful baby. Be kind to yourself.”
And you know what? She was right. The decisions made that day were mine alone. I chose the decision I could live with and now, over half a year later, I truly can accept that. Her birth story is unique to her. I did the best I could do and I am so grateful that the choices I made led to a beautiful, healthy, joyful baby girl. I think that I will probably always have moments when I wonder “what if,” but I no longer feel like I failed. Kelsie’s birth story is her own. I hope that other women reading this, possibly in the same situation, will know that they aren’t alone. It’s hard when VBAC doesn’t happen. Those feelings of disappointment, sadness, and anger are real. But in the words of my favorite doula, “You birthed a beautiful baby, be kind to yourself.” ***