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Kari Jo’s VBAC of Drake

I spent nearly all my “active” labor with my first son, Tavin, being as inactive as possible: in bed, hooked up to an IV, continuous EFM, narcotics first—and then an epidural at 9cm.  My bag was ruptured to “help speed things along.”  I pushed for two hours before Dr. L said it was looking like I needed to have a cesarean. Tavin was still at a 2- station and not descending.

Tavin had been occiput posterior, and his head had also been tilted. He was not in a great position to come out.  The first few moments of his life are very clear to me: they pulled him out, put him on the scale to weigh him, and checked him over. I remember them telling me it was a boy, and Nick by my head holding my hand, and joyful tears streaming from the both of us.  I don’t remember much in the next few hours until our parents came to meet their new grandson.

During the next three years, I read. I read constantly.  I read books, blogs, journal articles—in search of the reasons why. Why me? Why did I have a cesarean? I felt bitter and sometimes angry about what happened.  I learned more about positioning, and feel if I had been more confident in my ability to birth, I would have not needed the medications and interventions. I could have been moving around, and helped him turn around where he was supposed to be…maybe.  Was my doctor to blame? Was it me? Those were the constant questions I asked myself when I thought about my son’s birth.   I didn’t have an answer, and I still don’t.  All I knew as that I was going to arm myself with knowledge this time. I was going to do everything I could to avoid having another child born by cesarean.   Not just for my sake, but for my unborn son and (possibly) the children I haven’t even thought about yet.

The best decision came at my 12 week appointment with the OB that delivered Tavin.  After telling her I wanted a VBAC, she told me my chance of succeeding was low, maybe 40%, because I hadn’t had a prior vaginal birth. I asked her about her VBAC success rate. She replied it had more to do with the individual, and not the doctor.  I’m a teacher, and I immediately recoiled.  Saying that was like putting all the blame on a student if they failed.  I felt as though she was telling me I was a failure, and would likely fail again.

I managed to hold it together leaving the office and the trip down the elevator. By the time I got to my car, I was already crying.  It was awhile before I could see clearly enough to drive home. Then I promptly found myself another doctor!  While there are midwives available at the practice I chose, I was saddened they are not allowed to supervise a VBAC.  Dr. V was who I choose then, and I was very relieved I could be so honest with her. She didn’t talk AT me, she talked WITH me.  We agreed that a repeat cesarean would still be a possibility, but I left the office knowing that I had more support than if I had stayed with Dr. L.

I’d had successive sleepless nights from being awake with Braxton Hicks contractions the last month of my pregnancy.  They always woke me up about midnight, and I felt like this time it was no different. I tried everything to make them go away: Tylenol, bath, walking, sitting, laying down…nothing worked.  And then they got worse! My contractions weren’t like this at all with Tavin. Around 4am, I decided waking Nick up would be a good idea!  We let Tavin sleep while we were trying to finish the packing the suitcases I started the week before. I hated packing. It meant I had to pack clothes for two different kinds of births, and reminded me of what I was scared to think about.  We woke Tavin up and Nick raced around asking me where things were so he could pack them.  He was very kind to wait patiently for me to answer between contractions.  At this time, they were about 4 minutes apart.

We showed up at triage just before 6AM, and told me I was dilated 6cm.  I was so happy hearing that! I wasn’t that far along when I went in with Tavin, and I had wanted to labor at home for as long as I could tolerate.  They monitored me for an hour. We called family to have them get Tavin. When they told me they could get me to a room, they informed me continuous EFM was hospital policy.  Boo!  My Dr. V, didn’t want to, but another doctor in the practice told me I could do intermittent.  I was bummed because I already knew he wasn’t on call, but Dr. R instead.  I was able to only get a heparin lock instead of an IV.  This time, they let me drink REAL water!  With Tavin, I was only allowed ice chips—and I was giving birth at the same hospital.  Just before 8AM, I was asked if I wanted an epidural.  By this time, I was dilated 7cm.  The contractions were getting really hard to bear. I was definitely not able to talk through them.  I kept focusing on just breathing really deep and slow; holding my breath only made it worse.  The nurse told me there was a c-section scheduled, so now was the time if I wanted one.   Nick and I had talked many, many times about not wanting pain medication if I could help it.  He reminded me of this, but I knew I did need it even though I’d been handling the contractions so far.   He was still supportive about me changing my mind.

I never would have made it through the next 10 hours if I hadn’t had the epidural! And I don’t say that because I’m a wuss, because I asked for a low dose! The epidural was set to 10cc, and I had a button I could push.  I can count on one hand the number of time I pushed that button! My fear was that when it came time to push, I wouldn’t be able to. With Tavin, I felt paralyzed; too numb. I had no control of my body and couldn’t feel what I was doing.

Our nurse, Jackie, was awesome. She was there with us for her entire shift, and was determined that Drake would be born before she went home.  She called Dr. R periodically and he told her to let me labor so Drake could come down further.  She called him again to ask if he wanted to break my bag of waters.  Meanwhile, I was in bed…again. In the back of mind, I still wondered how the end was going to go.  I napped, and contractions would wake me up as they got stronger.  Dr. R was called again and Jackie said I could start pushing.  I pushed for about 45 minutes, on and off, and he was called to come in.   When he arrived, the bag of waters was still ballooning outside my body, and Jackie was excited about the possibility of Drake being born with the bag intact!  I’d never heard such a thing.  Dr. R broke the bag, and said he was  “right there.”  It was in that moment, that I knew I was getting the VBAC I’d prayed for.  I pushed for only about 5 more minutes, and my son was born.  Heidi held a mirror so I could see…his head, then his arm…another arm…and out! It was the most incredible experience watching my son being born.  I felt stronger than I have ever felt!  That 9 pound, 2 ounces and 21-inch beautiful child came from MY belly!

I think it crosses every pregnant woman’s mind that a c-section could happen. I didn’t dwell on it with my first; I didn’t think I would be one of those women.  I realize now just how important each of my unique birth experiences are to me; how they changed me.   My labor and Drake’s birth was everything I wished I had had with Tavin…at first.  I know now if I hadn’t experienced a cesarean, I wouldn’t be able to appreciate just how amazing my body is and trust myself that I could give birth.   I feel so much gratitude! I have so many people in my life that supported me, especially Nick.

Now, Drake is two weeks old.  He is a healthy, irresistibly cute, 10 pound baby boy. He nurses like a champ, poops all the constantly, and only really cries when he’s hungry.  His big brother just cannot give him enough hugs and kisses.  Those moments I witness in the  day when Tavin is ecstatic Drake grasped his finger, sits beside Drake to read him a board book; or when Nick falls asleep on the couch snuggling both our boys…those are the moments that remind me all of this was worth it.