Sherry-Ann shares her beautiful VBAC birth story.
I always knew that I wanted to birth my kids the way nature intended – naturally. I had always said that if my mom was able to do it (and my mom has a very low pain tolerance), then I could, too.
When I was pregnant with Joshua, I only had a Plan A: a natural birth; and I made that very clear throughout my appointments with my gynecologist. At my 39-week check up on November 20, 2012, my then-gynecologist told me that my amniotic fluid was very low and I needed to go into hospital to have an non stress test done. This came back all clear and my husband and I went back home. The minute we got home, my gynecologist’s assistant called us back to the hospital saying that the doctor wanted to see us and that we should bring along our bags.
My husband and I were excited and overwhelmed at the same time, and I remember that we hugged and said a little prayer before heading off to the hospital, not knowing what to expect. When we got to the hospital, the doctor then said that I would be admitted and also induced in the early hours of the morning (take note: the NST was clear).
The nurses then came in with a ton of forms that needed to be completed, including a c-section consent form, which I refused to sign because I knew that there was only one way that my baby was to be birthed; but I was forced to sign it somehow.
Fast forward to 3 a.m. the next day – the nurse then came to start the induction. Unfortunately nothing was happening although baby was fine; and 13 hours later the doctor came in and gave us one more hour to see if anything was going to happen. Nothing happened, and so the doctor came in to tell me that I was going to have a c-section. That was the most devastating news I had ever heard in my life. I remember crying like baby in my room while my husband tried to calm me down.
While hubby went to change into his scrubs, the pediatrician walked me to the surgery room; I was crying all the way there. I was then prepped for surgery, and a few minutes later I heard a loud scream. My baby boy was born at 7:52 p.m. on November 21, 2012, weighing 3,26kg. As much I knew I loved him since that very first cry, I also felt like I had already failed him as a mother.
As they were stitching me up, I was so emotional and I felt so helpless that I couldn’t take my crying baby and hold him in my arms immediately to calm him. It took a very long time for me to bond with my baby. I loved him from the first second, but it would take months before I really felt that bond between a mother and a child. The recovery process from a c-section is no fun at all. I couldn’t walk for the first night; and when I started walking the next day, it was the worst feeling ever. I was on pain meds for quite some time because I was in so much pain. Having to nurse a scar and a new baby was no fun at all.
Don’t get me wrong—I thank God for the wisdom that doctors have to perform caesarean sections, but only when it’s really necessary. Had I known better at the time, I would have never gone back to the hospital when the doctor called me; I would’ve waited.
Fast forward to June 25, 2015, when we found out we were expecting our new little bundle. From the word go I knew I was going to have my baby naturally. Soon after Josh was born I started researching VBACs; the pros, the cons, birthing centers and who the best midwives were for the job. That’s when I found out about Sue King: VBAC queen.
I had been following Sue for some time on Facebook and at a stage read that she had plans to emigrate during the month that my baby was due. My heart ached. In the meantime I went to see one of the backup gynecologists at Genesis Clinic, Dr. Maasdorp, and I told him my story. He then asked me who my midwife was, and I told him that I really wanted Sue King but she had plans to leave so I didn’t have one as yet and that I was still looking.
He then picked up his cell phone and made a phone call and asked the person on the other line to take me on. When he was done, he then told me that he had just spoken to Sue, and that she’d take me on. If I could, I would’ve jumped up and down right there and then. I was so happy. From that second, I knew God was in total control and that He was already busy working on my behalf to have this dream come true. Dr. Maasdorp then gave me Sue’s number to get in touch with her; and after explaining all the pros and cons of a VBAC, assured me that I was a good candidate for a VBAC. I left the doctor’s office the happiest girl that day. I then sent Sue a message setting up a time to meet with her.
Wednesday the 5th of August was my first meeting with Sue. I could immediately tell that she had an amazing spirit, and I connected well with her. I shared my story with her, and she reassured me that we were going to do this, and that she wouldn’t do anything without guidance from God. At our next appointment she told my husband the same thing, and he was happy and he supported right through this journey amidst his own concerns.
Fast forward to 12:38 a.m. on the 24th of February. I woke up with some light cramps, and ignored them until they started coming regularly. Luckily I remembered all the breathing techniques that I had been reading up on over the past nine months, and I started practicing them with each contraction. I was still not sure if it was helping though, since I still felt the pain.
After about an hour, I woke my hubby and told him what was happening. We monitored what I thought were contractions for some time, and then I asked him to message Sue. Within no time she replied and advised that the contractions were too close together and irregular, and then said I should get into a bath and take a Panado. She said that this was common after a c-section. I did exactly that, and the contractions started easing up a bit.
They were still coming, but very irregularly. I couldn’t get much sleep at all because I was excited and also in pain. I couldn’t stop thinking that if this was early labor, what the real thing would feel like. I had irregular contractions for most of the day, and then they eventually stopped for a while after 3 p.m. I finally managed to get some rest. I notified Sue and she advised that I rest and that she would see me soon.
The contractions started up again in the early evening and by 11 p.m. I told my husband that we should go to Genesis. I had a shower, with a few contractions in between, dressed, greeted Josh and my mum, and off we went. Sue arranged for one of the midwives to check that baby and I were okay. We got to Genesis just after 11 p.m., and met up with Elrika, the sweetest midwife ever. As soon as I got onto the bed for her to check baby and me, my water broke; just like that. She then tested to make sure that it was amniotic fluid, and lo and behold, it was. I wasn’t going anywhere else but my private room at Genesis. This baby was on her way.
My husband and I then went to our room, and Elrika gave me a light sedative so that I could get some rest. The sedative made me drowsy but I could hardly sleep as the contractions were still coming. I closed my eyes anyway, and made sure I rested in between each contraction.
Morning came, and I was so happy to see Sue. She checked me and I was only 1 cm dilated; she did a stretch and sweep while she checked, too. Even though I was 1 cm, I wasn’t disheartened because I knew my body would do what it needed to do when it needed to. Sue also gave me some homeopathic medication that would bring my contractions on much stronger, and she also arranged for me to see a reflexologist.
After lunch I still hadn’t progressed much. Sue then went to the room next door to do another birth; and as she left, she reassured me that I was going to have this baby naturally. I loved the boldness that she had when she made that statement. God was in control.
Sue then came back a few hours later and told my husband and I that she had a chat with Dr. Maasdorp. She explained to him that I was in labor but my contractions weren’t strong enough. She then asked him if she could give me something to help kick-start the contractions, and he obliged. I have to mention that with a VBAC you’re not allowed to be induced and you’re not allowed any pain medication. But God was in control.
Sue waited for the nightshift staff at Genesis to come to start the drip. While waiting, my husband and I prayed; we were excited for what was to come. Sue and Elrika put me on a drip just before 8 p.m. Sue also told us that there was a doula, Tertia, who was there, and that she was going to assist us with the birth as well. Tertia came in and turned the lights down in our room and there was an immediate sense of serenity. They had also set up the birthing pool and we were good to go.
The medication then kicked in, and I started feeling those contractions on a whole new level. I thought I was in pain before until I started feeling those strong contractions. They started getting closer, and at times I forgot to breathe.
It was then time to get into the pool, and I felt an immediate relief. The water was warm and it felt so good. But that feeling was very short-lived. Contractions were coming with hardly any time for me to even breathe. Sue then checked and I was about 4 or 5 cm dilated. She then left the room for a while. Tertia was a gem. She rubbed my back and made sure I was breathing through every contraction. There was a time that she briefly left the room too, and I told my husband that I couldn’t do it anymore. I felt like crying because I was exhausted and in pain. He then gently spoke to me and managed to calm me down for a bit.
When Tertia came back I told her I was in pain and couldn’t do it. She also spoke to me and calmed me down. I don’t recall what happened next but I do remember Sue coming in and giving me something for pain in my drip. I felt a burning sensation in my chest and she told me it was from the meds. I immediately felt so relaxed. I laid back in the pool and I was focused again. I breathed through every contraction and I felt like I could do this. That was very short-lived too, but at least I managed to rest and save up some energy.
The meds wore off and I started feeling those contractions on a whole new level again. But after a couple of contractions, I felt an urge to push. I told Tertia and she told me to push whenever I felt that feeling. I did just that and it made the contractions a bit easier to manage knowing that I could do something when they came. Tertia then went to get Sue and when she checked me I was 10 cm dilated. I remember saying, “Thank you, Lord.”
My eyes were closed the entire time as I tried to stay focused on birthing my baby. Sue was checking baby after every push and she remained one happy little girl right through all the pushing. Sue and Tertia coached me through every push but eventually all the breathing techniques went out the window and I started screaming. Tertia and my hubby tried reminding me to breathe all the time but I just couldn’t. I’m sure I scared quite a few moms who were about to birth their babies.
I pushed for about 45 minutes before our beautiful angel arrived at 11:30 p.m. on the 25th of February 2016, on my dad’s birthday, weighing in at 3,9kg. I remember saying, “Thank you, Jesus” the second she was born. She was the most calm baby I had ever seen. She never made a sound but she was wide awake, eyes wide open and blowing little bubbles from her mouth. I looked at her and started crying. I was so emotional and I fell in love with her instantly. I had forgotten about the pain and I just enjoyed my little baby.
My hubby prayed over her and we just sat there staring at her for a few minutes. Sue asked me to push one more time, and my placenta was delivered. My husband then cut the cord, which he wasn’t able to do with Josh, so I was very happy and he was excited too. Abigail was then passed on to him for some skin-to-skin bonding while I got out of the pool.
It was such a good feeling being able to stand up after birth, get out of the pool and walk to the bed. I felt liberated after birthing my baby. I was flooded with happy hormones from the moment she was born. I couldn’t stop smiling and I was so thankful to God, my husband, Sue, Tertia and Elrika. I felt like I conquered a huge mountain that day.
Sue checked and weighed Abigail before handing her over to me to feed. Once Abigail was sleeping, I went to have a shower. I felt so good being able to do it all my own.
To this day I am still in awe of God and how he designed our amazing bodies. Women are strong!
I have learnt the power of prayer and confession through this journey. I’ve learnt that you can block out negativity from others by continuing to speak positively and by making bold declarations all the time.
God restored me that day. I bonded immediately with my baby and I even fell more in love with my son.
God is faithful.