This birth story, in honor of Cesarean Awareness Month (CAM), comes from Sarah Jacobs. She writes, “ ICAN helped to make my birth experience phenomenal! I probably could have had the VBAC that I had wanted for 5 years, but because of ICAN and the numerous resources it provided me, my experience was even more blissful than I imagined!”
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On the night you were born…
Emily Ann Jacobs 08-03-10, 8:08 pm, 8 lbs
Our first daughter was born on Memorial Day, 1 week after her due date via c-section. I was induced with Pitocin and only after laboring 6 hours did the doctor suggest a c-section. My husband and I agreed, because we didn’t know any better. Call it ignorance and fear, but either way, we were blessed with a 10 lb healthy baby girl. I felt miserable after the surgery. Miserable in many ways. During the middle of that first night, this beautiful baby girl looked up at me, and although I loved her very much, at that moment I couldn’t help but feel broken inside. I was confused at how this birth experience could be so backwards from the way I imagined it would be. After I came home from the hospital, I got an infection in the area of my incision. I had a hole in my stomach that I had to stuff with medicated gauze until the day our daughter was 8 months old. The pain was excruciating. I never forgot those feelings, and every day I felt “deprived” of the childbirth that I wanted. I felt like I was being punished for something I didn’t do.
I knew we would have more children, and I vowed to give birth naturally. When we became pregnant with our second, I saw other ob’s but little did I know they were all with the Mayo health system. So they all agreed with my first ob and suggested a repeat c-section. I was devastated. I wasn’t ready to try a home birth, or a midwife, so we elected for the repeat c-section. The experience was much better than our first. And for the most part, the doctors and nurses tried to follow our wishes, in that I would be the first to hold my baby and would be able to nurse immediately. But again, I never got to witness my son’s first bath, or weighing. They didn’t strap my arms to the table this time, so I was able to wipe my own tears away when they brought him to my face in the OR. The bonding part of childbirth after he was born was a little better this time. Our 9 lb baby boy was healthy – what more could I have asked for?! All the while, I couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like if I could have given birth my way. Was it too much to ask for me to be in control of my birth? I joined the ICAN network, and did 11 months of research on VBACs. I almost felt obsessed! Most importantly, I felt knowledgeable in VBACS! I felt like I knew what I was doing, despite what other doctors said.
One week before my son’s first birthday, I found out I was pregnant again. I immediately told Ben that I was going to have this baby vaginally, or this baby wasn’t coming out! He agreed, but I could see he was scared about the journey we were about to take. The search for an OB started. I spent hours and hours on the phone, made more than 10 visits to various OB’s and even interviewed 2 midwives. But I didn’t feel a connection between the 2 midwives and myself. The doctors I met with said “yes, you can probably have a VBAC here”, but then upon agreeing to be under their care, they gave me numerous stipulations or said no – a VBAC shouldn’t be part of my plan. I was too high risk. After all, I gave birth to 9 and 10 pound babies previously. The fact that I had 2 prior c-sections didn’t help anything either. I was referred to a phenomenal doula, Sarah, that vowed to help me create and follow through with the birth plan that that I wanted. She was truly amazing. Ben and I really wanted to deliver in a hospital, because we live in a remote area and the nearest hospital with an OR is 35 miles away. My biggest fear was a uterine rupture; God forbid that happen, I wanted to be in a hospital. My husband was certainly supportive but I don’t think he would have been as supportive if we didn’t agree on a hospital delivery. Sarah referred us to on ob in Wisconsin (we live in MN). This OB had a very “midwivery” way of delivering babies. He would even deliver them vaginally if they were breach. I had to talk with this doctor! Upon meeting him, he was so calm and acted like having a VBAC wasn’t really a big deal. He delivers VBAC babies all the time and he said there was absolutely no reason I shouldn’t try. He never even gave me stipulations (like no eating during labor, or that I must dilate 1 cm per hour). Hired! I didn’t care that he was just over 2 hours away from our home. He and his amazing nurses were well worth the drive!
It was 3 am on Saturday morning, and I started having contractions. First it was just one, and then about 20 minutes later there was another. So off and on for the next 2 hours the contractions were lasting about 30 seconds long and anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes apart. By 6 am they were pretty regular at 10 – 15 minutes apart, so I woke up Ben. I saw the excitement in his face, but desperately didn’t want to get his hopes up. I was so afraid that it was a false alarm. So I went for a walk for about 45 minutes. And during the walk I only had 2 contractions. I thought walking was supposed to seed contractions up, but obviously this was not the case for me. So when I got back home, I basically just waited around all day, cleaning, doing laundry and other miscellaneous things. The contractions never really went away and I had at least a couple an hour. I was able to finish packing my hospital bag and bags for the kids to stay with Grandma and Grandpa. It felt good to get so much done, but uncomfortable to be doing it in between contractions. Then, by 5 pm I called Ben in, and said it was time to go. I really hoped it was “time”, and not just a false alarm. The contractions were much stronger now, and closer to 6 minutes apart, and we still had the 2 hour drive to the hospital. By St. Peter (45 minutes from our home), the contractions were lasting about 1 minute long, and were exactly 5 minutes apart. We called our Doula, Sarah, with an update. She thought I was likely still in early labor. What??! But my contractions were so close together! But then, 15 minutes from Hudson, WI the contractions slowed to 15-20 minutes apart again! How frustrating! So we went out for dinner rather than going to the hospital. Dinner was a little awkward- eating, and then stopping to look down, and breathe heavily during contractions, hopefully no one noticed. We decided to get a hotel room and wait it out.
At 11 pm the contractions were getting a little hard to handle, so we decided to go to the hospital. We called Sarah before we left the hotel, and asked her to meet us there. At my dr. appt the day before, I was 50% effaced and 1 cm dilated, so I expected to be at least a 3 by now. However, when the nurse checked me upon admission, I was only at 2 cm. Talk about frustrating!! And then, after getting hooked up to the monitors, my contractions slowed again, to 15 minutes or 20 minutes apart. This was starting to feel unfair! They called our OB, Dr. Hartung and he recommended we either stay in our hotel for the night, or stay in the hospital as it was already 1:30 in the morning; he didn’t want us driving back so late. At that time, Sarah arrived, and we felt so terrible sending her home. We decided to stay in our hotel for the night.
So of course, as my contractions seemed to do the night before, they got stronger and about 5-10 minutes apart when we got back to the hotel. For the second night in a row, it was next to impossible to sleep in between them. I spent about 2.5 hours in the shower that night. The water really seemed to help the pain. At 6 am, again, the contractions slowed back down. We requested a later check out, so I could actually try and sleep after breakfast. We checked out of the hotel and decided to go for a long walk.
We got home in the late afternoon, almost 24 hours after we left for the hospital. I missed our kids, even though we were only gone 1 night. I felt so stupid for coming home empty handed and being sent home from the hospital. For goodness sake, this was my 3rd child; you’d think I would have known that it was false labor! In my defense, I have never gone into labor without being induced, so I didn’t really know what to expect.
So Sunday night into Monday, the contractions went again to 5-10 minutes apart and were much stronger. Then, I lost my mucus plug. Finally – a good sign. The bath seemed to help the contractions, and again at 6 am they slowed back down. So that’s 3 nights with minimal sleep! I sent Ben to work the next morning, and then by 8 am called him back home. I couldn’t deal with the pain of contractions alone. His counter pressure on my lower back felt amazing. But at 9 am, shortly after Ben got back home, the contractions slowed back down. Seriously, this was getting old, and extremely annoying. When was something going to happen, like my water breaking???
It was now Monday. Ben was able to work from home all day and rub my back during contractions. We sent the kids over to grandma and grandpas while we went grocery shopping that evening. Thirty minutes in, and a full cart later, grocery shopping was getting extremely uncomfortable. There came a point where I just said, “we need to go home now, I can’t handle this anymore”. Ben asked if he should put all the groceries back? “Hell no – just go pay, and I’ll be in the bathroom”. It seemed like the toilet was the most comfortable place to be in the past few days. We picked up the kids from his parent’s house and went home. I was sure contractions would pick up that night, as they always seemed to do, but then go away by morning, so I didn’t think it was necessary to leave the kids with the in-laws again.
So, at 11 pm on Monday night, I retreated to the bath tub – only this time the relief it used to provide me was absent. It must have been only 30 minutes later that my crying and painful gasps woke Ben up. He came in trying to be supportive, but quickly noticed that these contractions were must stronger than the previous contractions. He immediately said “I’m calling my mom”. I was quick to tell him no, and reminded him that for the past 3 nights, around this same time my contractions always got worse. I thought they would become less frequent by morning. After the third time of him telling me that he was calling his mom, I agreed. She arrived around midnight, and we left for Hudson (again) about 10 minutes later. We called the hospital on the way, to let them know that we were coming. The cd of birthing music really distracted me while allowing me to regain my focus during contractions. We made it to the hospital around 3 am. Of course hospital policy is to check your cervix and monitor the baby upon arrival, so when they checked me, I was only at a 3. I thought for sure I would have been further along than that! They called Dr. Hartung, and he asked the nurses to tell me that I was not leaving the hospital without a baby! This was reassuring. When the nurse checked me almost 2 hours later, I was at a 4 – meaning active labor was starting.
Sarah arrived at 6 am, despite the fact that she was getting over the flu. She brought calming music, aromatherapy oils and made sure I ate all day long. She brought me toast for breakfast, a turkey sandwich for lunch and plenty of snacks throughout the day. She even kept hour by hour notes for me to reflect upon, after the birth. We went for numerous walks,I labored in the shower, on the birthing ball, laying down and taking naps in between contractions. All day long, the contractions were anywhere from 10-20 minutes apart. My favorite pastime was probably the lunges Sarah had me doing. That’s right…lunges! They were my favorite because I was on my feet working with gravity. I’m not going to lie, they were a lot of work, but I could actually feel my babies head moving lower into my pelvis!
Around 2 pm I mentioned to Sarah that I was afraid of pushing, but by 5 my body was starting to push on its own. I was not going to help it along. But by 6 pm, my body was pushing even harder, and I had no choice but to push with it. When was my water going to break!? During a contraction I pushed on the birthing stool, while the nurse checked me one last time…I was at 10. Even though I labored all day long, napping in between contractions, I still didn’t feel like I was ready to push. I don’t know if it was nerves or fear or what. We tried various positions while pushing (the birthing stool, sitting upright, ect). Eventually I was lying on my side, and pushing in that position. My feet were so relieved from standing on them all day. Dr. Hartung came in and the full-on pushing started. I couldn’t wait to meet my little guy! I was certain the baby was a boy, although we chose not to find out the sex. Dr. Hartung asked Ben to put some gloves on. At that moment, the baby’s head came out, in the “caul” or amniotic sac. Dr. Hartung tore the bag, and Ben helped him pull our baby out. Wow, what an amazing site! At 8:08 pm, I pushed once more, and the rest of our baby was out! The very first words out of my mouth were…. “I DID IT”!!!!! They immediately placed the baby on my chest, and said “it’s a GIRL!!” What?!?! A girl? I absolutely couldn’t believe it. She was wide awake and alert and more beautiful than I could have imagined. They waited to cut the cord until it stopped pulsing and our new little one got all of her cord blood. Everyone was so respectful of our birth plan. Our nurse, Theresa was a home birth mid-wife from Kentucky before becoming a traveling nurse, and she was by far our favorite. Immediately after the birth of our daughter, she had me get in the bath, with our new baby girl, and we were able to bathe together. She weighed in at 8 lbs and was 20 inches long. I actually had a small baby – well small to me anyway, when our other children were 10 and 9 lbs.
I did it! I had my VBAC they way I wanted to, when all the other doctors doubted me. Through all of the emotions, the ups and downs, and comments from people who thought I was making a risky mistake – I knew that I could do it if I trusted in my body – and I did it! A completely natural childbirth, exactly as I had hoped. I couldn’t have done it without my faith, my husband, our wonderful doula, Sarah, ICAN, and the fabulous birth team at the hospital. I especially couldn’t have done this without Dr. Hartung, he calmed my fears, and truly believed in me that I could do this, and in his words, that “I had every chance as anyone to make this VBAC successful”.