Olivia shares her son Ethan’s birth story – her own triumphant VBAC.
My daughter was born in 2008 via unnecessary cesarean at 40w4d; I never went into labor. I had a very hard time recovering physically and emotionally. I had a hard time bonding with her, and felt guilty for this reason. In the state that I was in, it was only pain. Ever since, I started to read everything I could about VBAC, stories and books, and I found ICAN – the webpage where it was a forum. That’s how I started to educate myself.
Fast forward to October 2015, when we found out we were expecting our second child: a little boy. We were super excited and I was very determined to have a natural, medication-free birth. I found a provider about an hour away from our house. Our local hospital has a VBAC ban; you have to arrive in pushing stage so they won’t make you have a cesarean. But this was a healthy pregnancy; happy mommy-to-be, happy family.
Everything went fine until one point, at 19 weeks, I was late to my doctor’s appointment; when I got there, I was panting and stressed out. For the first time, my blood pressure went high that day: 140/70. It was an isolated event so nobody paid to much attention to it. Then, at 26 weeks, I had another doctor’s appointment; again late, again high blood pressure. I told the nurse to give me a few minutes to calm down, but she took my BP as soon as I walked through that door, and again it was 140/70. And I had some sugar in urine – I had had cake right before I went in.
I was sent to do my 1-hour glucose test, which I failed with bright colors at 160! Automatically they sent me to do the 3-hour test plus the 24-hour urine test. The 3-hour glucose test results came back great, so no gestational diabetes. But I had a high value of protein in my urine: 540. They say over 300 is high, and combined with other symptoms, equals preeclampsia.
My blood pressure never went high again in my entire pregnancy. I previously had protein in my urine (I was a water diver and water polo player for 15 years, had lots of tests, and nobody ever figured out why I had protein in my urine). All other values remained normal, creatinine serum, liver enzymes, BUN value, etc., including my blood pressure. I was already labeled as a potential preeclampsia. I knew I was fine and didn’t have it.
Because of that, they kept a close eye on me, and I was living with constant fear that they would push for a cesarean. I had to have an ultrasound every week from week 36 until I gave birth. I must mention that I REFUSED completely any cervical check the entire pregnancy. We hired an amazing doula, who eventually became our close friend. And finally, the big day came.
I was two days overdue. I always knew somehow that I would go past 40 weeks. That day, I dropped my mother-in-law off at the mall and returned home. I took my daughter and two friends of hers to the pool. The kids were making fun of me, chasing me in the pool so that I would go into labor. They were telling other people that they have to make me swim so my labor will start because I am overdue. It was so much fun. I swam like crazy that day. My husband texted my at some point, telling me that he had a feeling that the baby would come that night.
I got home, took a hot bath, he cooked dinner and we went to bed. It was 10 p.m. At 11:43 p.m. I woke up feeling weird and restless. And I was CRAMPING! I was like, “OMG is this labor?” I couldn’t believe it. It was happening. I was waiting to feel that pain for eight-and-a-half years. Unbelievable. I started to see very light spotting on my underwear. It was my plug (never experienced that before). I texted my doula, and we talked for a while; I had contractions, but they felt like kidney pain or a UTI. I kept asking my doula if it was normal. Boy, I was so silly.
They became regular every 10 minutes, although not too strong. She told me to get some rest. I couldn’t, though, since I was so excited and anxious. She decided to come over. She arrived at 2:30 a.m., brought her kit with her, along with aromatherapy, some stress balls, oils and other stuff. My husband woke up eventually; I was making too much noise walking around, packing and talking on the phone. We sent him back to sleep since this was not going to be that easy and it would take time. My contractions were regular but not strong enough. I started to lose more and more of my plug. I couldn’t sleep at all. My doula took a nap, but I couldn’t. I was thinking that this is not such a big deal (I was so wrong).
The contractions remained constant – every 10 minutes for 45-50 seconds. They were getting more intense. At 10 a.m. I had breakfast and continued to labor on my birthing ball, on the couch, against the kitchen counter, over the sink… everywhere! I didn’t want to go to the hospital too early, because of their time frame regarding births.
At 12 p.m. we decided to go to the hospital, it is a one-hour drive, so we took off. We had a friend picking up our 8-year-old daughter. I had my husband, his mother and my doula with me the whole time.
We got to the hospital and it went very fast with the registration. I got to the triage room and as we waited to get seen by the nurse, my water broke. I was shocked! We were going to have a baby! The nurse came, I refused the cervical check, but she confirmed that my water broke and admitted us. My contractions came every five minutes after that.
We went up to the labor and delivery department. They wanted to start an IV; I refused and told them that I don’t want any intervention, nor anesthesia. I had a hep-lock, for “just in case”.
Because I was a VBAC mom, the hospital required that I was continuously monitored; so I had a wireless monitor so that I could move around. Everybody gave me space, and let my body do its job. The staff was coming to check if I needed anything, and to make sure we were fine. They were great the entire time. Nobody made any pressure; they respected our wishes and were very respectful and polite.
I was laboring on and on and on and on! I had my stress ball, which helped me through each contraction. I surrendered to the pain, embraced it and remained focused at all times. I had only horrible lower back pain (quite in my rectum area) – I never had front pain throughout the entire labor. It was very weird. We thought that the baby was posterior, but it wasn’t!
I walked, danced and bent any way that I could. My doula was putting pressure against my back, while my mother-in-law was putting cold compresses on my forehead as I leaned over my husband. I was for sure in labor land! My body was there, but my mind was in a trance. I was moaning every once in a while. I had my own breathing pattern, which worked great with the contractions.
At 11 p.m. the doctor insisted that she check me, as she wanted to know where I was at. She really insisted, and I had to pick up which fight to fight. So I agreed. After 24 hours of labor, was 4 centimeters! “Good Lord, what I’m going to go through,” I thought! The contractions got stronger and stronger. At 4 a.m. I was checked again and I was at 7-8 centimeters. That was great, but I didn’t really care too much; I was in pain, and I knew that I would make it!
I was so tired the entire time, but I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat, either; I had food hidden in my bag, but was not into it. I had a great time chewing ice chips. I had horrible heartburn so I asked for the nurse for some Tums. The morning came; my doula never took her hands of me; she talked to me and helped me relax. I would have not made it without her. My husband and his mother took a nap and I was so jealous of them. I was imagining myself sleeping.
Around 8 a.m., things got way too far and my doula called for the nurse, telling her that she thought I was ready. She could tell that by watching me during contractions. My contractions were so close together that actually I thought it was just one long contraction! It was incredibly long and painful. I kept switching positions, and I used the squatting bar too. The nurse, midwife and a bunch of other staff came in. There was a training midwife, too.
I got checked and I was complete and ready to push. I just didn’t want to push; I wanted to wait for the urge to push (which, by the way, never came). So they told me that I had to since I had been in active labor for 34 hours; I had to get it done. The doctor came; she was an ex-military doctor – a very tough woman, which at the beginning scared the soul out of me. (She was nice, but she was looking very intimidating to me at that stage). She respected all my wishes and was very professional, and she made it happen!
Because of that, my contractions stopped! I couldn’t believe it! After 35 hours! With the baby’s head visible! I had to regroup myself and stop being scared.
She said that I needed a little Pitocin for my contractions to pick up. That was the devil to me. I started to yell that I would not be able to manage the Pitocin without the epidural, and I didn’t want that. I was scared that would stress the baby; and then, after 35 hours of labor, to end up with the cesarean. Well, I had to agree because my contractions stopped completely.
So the Pitocin drip started, but my hep-lock was not properly inserted and nothing actually went into my veins (they figured it out after I gave birth). My doula did nipple stimulation. That’s when my contractions came back again, and I got back on track. I was pushing on my back with my chin tucked in, and holding my thighs. That’s the only position that worked for me. I had a mirror, and was able to see everything while it was happening.
Not a single time had I thought about my scar; I never had pain during labor, and I never had been worried. They offered the oxygen mask, which gladly I took. The head was almost out when I heard the doctor saying, “We have a hand!” His left hand was on his head, just a little bit over the left ear. The head came out and the doctor told me to stop; but I just couldn’t and pushed like my life depended on it. That’s when he came out very quickly, giving me a third-degree tear.
I pushed for two hours, and at 10:18 a.m. on June 22, 2016, baby Ethan was born; at 40w4d, after 36 hours of intense pain and a medication-free labor. He was 8 lbs and 11 oz and 21 inches long. He was right on my chest, purple and full of blood, and he started to cry immediately. The cord stopped pulsing and my husband cut it. Right away the placenta came out.
I started to heavily bleed and the doctor was pressing with one hand on my belly, and with the other one she was cleaning me inside. That’s when I started screaming. That pain was horrible; but she had to. I lost more than 500 ml of blood. She gave me a shot of Pitocin and a rectal Cytotec suppository to cramp the uterus and stop the bleeding. In about seven minutes I was fine; the bleeding had stopped and she started to stitch me up.
It was quite scary for them (I always felt that I was fine); the room was filled with staff, including ICU for my son, but things turned out fine and he nursed right away. My family from Romania (that’s where I’m from) watched the last two hours via FaceTime, so they saw my son coming into this world. Altogether, it was the most amazing experience I had. It was hard work and I had an incredible pain tolerance; I had no idea I was capable of something as huge as Ethan’s birth.
I had my VBAC, I had my healing and victorious birth, and I was so proud of myself. Everybody was cheering and my husband was crying like a baby. I could not have done it without my amazing doula. She was my rock, my shoulder and my mind when I lost my own.