My first experience with childbirth was less than magical...a surprise induction that ended with a very scary emergency c-section of my daughter. And while I'm so grateful everything was fine, my daughter arrived perfectly healthy, I couldn't help but think this was not how I wanted her entrance into the world to be. There was so much fear associated with her birth.
With Scarlett, my first, I was induced and given an epidural at only 1 cm dilated. The nurse told me to lay in bed, go to sleep, and the let drugs get things going. Being first time, uneducated parents, we did what we were told not knowing this is the worst thing you can do.
Six hours later our room was bombarded with a team of nurses putting on surgical gear saying we had to do an emergency c section because Scarlett's heart rate was dropping during contractions and not coming back up. They quickly put my husband and I in scrubs and rushed me down the hallway to the operating room. It was the absolute scariest moment of my life. We had no warning and no idea that her heart rate was dropping until it was too late and there was nothing we could do but sign the consent form and go back to the operating room. No one came in to try and help me move around to get her heart rate up, different positions, oxygen, nothing. I had no idea something was wrong with my baby until it was too late.
Fast forward 11 months, I was pregnant with our second child. The moment I knew I was pregnant, was the moment I began to fight for a birth I wanted. I hired a doula to help in the delivery room, to be an advocate for my choices, and to mentor us during my pregnancy. The most important thing to me was to be supported for my choices by the nurses and my doctor, my doula helped give me my voice, and as long as the baby and I were safe and healthy I wanted to birth naturally.
I began talking to my OB at each appointment, and told her I had wanted to go into labor naturally, and preferably have this baby without drugs.
She was very supportive and agreed that if I wanted to VBAC, drugs, like the ones used for induction, could increase my risk of uterine rupture. So she signed off on my wishes and said she'd let me go as far out as 2 weeks past my due date before she intervened.
My 39 week appointment rolls around, I'm progressing, slowly but surely. I was 50% effaced for about 3 weeks now, 1 cm dilated the week before and a little over 1 cm dilated that day. A little discouraging since I was getting so close to my due date, but the doctor said anything could happen and just to keep trying natural things to get labor to progress.
I went on a TON of walks, and also got acupuncture the next day. Acupuncture uses pressure points to stimulate the uterus to start contractions...usually works withing 24-48 hours only if you body is really and truly ready for labor. My appointment for acupuncture was on May 15th at 2pm...remember that time! A few hours after my appointment I started to get a little bleeding...this was actually a good thing and a sign things were starting! BUT it was short lived and by the next day nothing happened, no good contractions, nothing.
I woke up on the 17th with a dull back ache that wouldn't go away. It was pretty annoying. Later that day we went to a birthday party and around 2 pm (crazy right) I started to get cramps like I was starting my period. They weren't consistent or getting stronger so I knew it was false labor and I just let it happen.
As the evening went on the cramps were still there, I got some sharp pains here and there but thought nothing of it because there was still no consistency! Then between 8:30/9:00 ish I realized that these cramps were coming more often and maybe I should time them. Sure enough they were any where from 10-15 minutes apart lasting 30-45 seconds...still not consistent enough to go into the hospital. So I decided to try and go to sleep. A few hours later around 11:00 I went downstairs to tell my husband I had cramps but they are only 10-15 minutes apart. So we timed them some more, nothing really changed but we decided to try and get some sleep just in case. Within the hour I woke him up saying I can't sleep through these anymore and we needed to time them again because they were close. How close...1-3 minutes apart!!!!!!!! We called my mom and she quickly headed over to stay with Scarlett and we were off to the hospital. We got there shortly after 1 a.m., and our doula was there minutes after us ready to go!
Once we got to the hospital they hooked me up to a monitor and checked me. I was only 2 CM! I was kind of disappointed seeing as how close the contractions were and it was kind of painful (in hindsight that was the easy part) but I was ready to get to work! I have to say the early stages of labor weren't that bad in comparison to what I felt at the end. The hospital was nice enough to give me a big ball to sit on and allow me to move and change positions (VERY helpful). In between contractions I was still able to talk to everyone and even cracked a few jokes, then when a contraction came up my husband and my doula would stand me up and we would rock back and forth doing breathing exercises and my husband would rub my back and do counter pressure. I also purchased these essential oils for each stage of labor. One was to help relax, one was for pain, one was for transition, and one was for energy at the end...they were AWESOME. I think they helped. My husband and my doula would rub them on my neck, shoulders, back, feet, legs, everything to help me stay focused and relaxed.
Then labor started to progress...this is when the talking started to quiet down, I started to get snippy, and I basically froze my husband and my doula. I was so hot during contractions I had the room down to 65 degrees and I was still sweating...but then in between contractions I would shiver so my husband would put a blanket on me and by the time he got the blanket on I was yelling at him to take it off. My poor husband had his jacket and hood on the whole time. I remember telling him to "shut up" a lot and to stop talking...then after that I would apologize.
As the contractions got stronger so did my words...some curse words came out followed by a "I'm sorry I hate the word it just really hurts". Then there came a point where my contractions actually slowed down and I would sleep in between them. Yup. Sleep. It was around this time that my doctor came in to check me. I was at 4 cm, and haven't changed since the nurse checked me a few hours prior. She told me that since nothing has changed and she didn't want to give pitocin to me, we had to think about breaking my water. I was NOT ready for this, I was determined to do this without help. So I asked her for more time, and she agreed to 2 more hours and if there was no progress she would break my water.
So after she left, I got up off the bed and we got to work! My doula had some herbs for me to take that increase contractions, and sure enough they did! At this point more curse words started flying, F bombs were dropped, apologies stopped, and I did whatever I could as this point to get through the pain. It was like your animal instincts kick in and you make some really strange noises during contractions to try and breathe through the pain.
At one point I was crying asking for it to stop and asking for just "a little" epidural, to which my amazing doula had a little heart to heart with me...a come to Jesus moment. I had to snap out of it, stop thinking about how much it hurt, and focus on getting it done. Each contraction brought me closer and I should welcome them. 2 hours passed and my nurse came in to check me. I was at 7 cm!!!! When she told me that I started crying I was so happy. I remember everyone giving me a hug and telling me congratulations and how awesome this was. The nurse headed out to tell the doctor things were moving and not to worry...the baby and I were doing great!
Things got more and more painful and stronger and this is when things start to get a little hazy. I don't remember much of what anyone else was doing, I had no sense of time, I was so focused and in the zone that I just did whatever I could do to manage. Even if it meant sitting on the toilet...let me tell you, most comfortable thing ever at this point, if I wasn't there I was standing up because it hurt to sit down and there was almost no time between contractions for me to sit and try and get comfortable. Then out of no where comes this feeling like you have to go to the bathroom...I had to push. So my doula grabbed the nurse to get me a birthing bar, they adjusted my bed so I could sit and hold on to the bar while I was pushing.
Pushing was weird, it actually felt good! It's the only thing that got the pain to stop, but again some really weird noises come out of your mouth when you are pushing a baby out. Before I knew it, more nurses started coming in to see where I was, then MORE nurses came in to get the tools ready and the baby's bed warmer ready. My water finally broke and the nurse then told me she could see the baby's head and asked my husband if he wanted to see...poor guy almost fainted but he quickly came back to my side to cheer me on and tell me I was doing great.
The nurses asked if I wanted a mirror and I said "No, just get this baby out!" Pushing then became involuntary and my body just did it as a response to the contraction, I had no control over it and I just went with it. It was SO much work I remember during pushes looking down at my stomach and seeing sweat rolling off of it (still in a 65 degree room)! Before I knew it my nurse announced that the head was coming out but there was NO doctor yet, she was still on her way so they had to get the on call doctor. She actually told me to stop pushing until the doctor got there! Stop pushing?!!? I couldn't control it and the baby's head was already out, it felt like I was being ripped apart (which I later learned I was) and set on fire down there and she wanted me to stop!? GET THIS BABY OUT!
My doula was trying to help me breathe during all this and I couldn't take it so I yelled "SON OF A B**** GET A DOCTOR!" the doctor was literally running in putting on her scrubs and I don't know if she made it to the bed in time or if the nurse caught the baby but she was out and all the pain was INSTANTLY gone...not even kidding it was so weird, it was such a relief! She was born at 1:58 pm (again almost 2 pm, so weird)
They put her on my stomach and they let my husband announce that it was a girl. It was such a beautiful moment, he was crying, I was crying and saying "I did it! I can't believe I did it". Then Lucy pooped in my hand...yup, handful of poop as a way to go gift for mom. So my husband cut the cord and the nurses took her and cleaned all that lovely mess off of me. My OB made it in time to stitch up my lovely 3rd degree tear. Afterwards she congratulated me and said she was so proud of me that I should order a brownie off the menu because I deserved it. I remember thinking afterwards how absolutely insane it was to not get any drugs...so much so that I told my husband I'm done having kids, and if we have more I want 8 epidurals. My labor was about 18 hours and I was crazy enough to take the pain that long. But by the next day I was over it and I can say with confidence that I would do it again without drugs.
It was very rewarding and empowering and I saw the difference between Scarlett and Lucy after they were born. Lucy was so alert and active, she nursed well right away, and she just seemed so happy. The doctors laughed at how she was always awake and looking around at everything. It was night and day between the girls, and night and day between how I felt after each delivery. I felt like I could run a marathon the next day!
My husband and I walked around the maternity ward to which our nurse would say "wow! you're up already?!" Yup! I felt THAT great! I was so happy too, I was proud of myself. It felt pretty cool too when the nurses changed shifts, my new nurse said "oh you're the one that had the natural VBAC? I've heard all about it, congrats!"
Now, I won't say it was easy and its not for everyone... it was definitely the most physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually challenging thing I have ever done, and it definitely doesn't negate the strength needed for a c section birth either, or even a vaginal birth with meds! Women are strong no matter how we birth our babies. But the difference I noticed between the two deliveries is incredible. I hope I can inspire others to believe in themselves enough to try if they want to.
Veronica DeStefano is a WAHM who lives in North Carolina with her husband who she adores, her three kids that she lives for, and a cat she tolerates. Veronica is a writer/blogger, photographer, and certified doula, but her most important and favorite role will always be, mom. In her very limited free time, she enjoys video chatting with her friends and family back in CO, crafting, practicing her hand lettering and calligraphy, reading, and watching ER reruns. You can find her other work on her personal blog, and her photography page.