Skip to content

Carol’s VBAC of Joanna Noelle

Joanna Noelle’s Birth Story
September 26, 2012
5:51 PM
8lbs, 14oz. 21 ½ Inches, 15 inch head circumference

In May of 2007 I gave birth to my first daughter Melanie Beth via C-section after a failed induction (failure to wait) at 40 weeks 2 days gestation. I was induced at 2 cm and with very unfavorable conditions and after a series of interventions including Pitocin, Epidural, etc. my cervix began to swell shut, therefore making it impossible for her to be born vaginally. Thus necessitating my C-section. After Melanie’s birth I felt robbed of the labor experience and at only 19, felt that my body had been treated like a number to the medical practice in whom I trusted. I just couldn’t understand how the baby I had grown could be “too big” to be born. My daughter was 8lbs., 13 oz. 19 inches long

It was only after finding the women of ICAN Orlando that I soon learned that my story, unfortunately, was very common, and when my husband and I decided to conceive our second child, I knew I wanted, needed, a different birth experience, on my own terms.

My Pregnancy:

In January of 2012 my husband and I discovered we had finally conceived our second child after 9 months of actively trying, and we were both so excited! Having been involved in my ICAN chapter I knew that the next 9 months were all about preparation, and that started with finding the correct pre-natal care that would respect my wishes for a TOLAC (Trial of Labor after C-section). I knew that even though our success rate would be higher if we had decided to have a home birth with a local midwife that financially, we would need to pick an in-network OB through the insurance we had from my husband’s job, and so we did.

Over the next nine months I did everything I could to ensure that my body and mind would be ready to have this baby, my husband and I hired a doula, I began regular chiropractic care, I switched the couch for a birth ball, read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and studied the Hypnobirthing home course. Due to having been diagnosed with gestational diabetes during my prior pregnancy, I was not surprised to find out that I had it again, and so I became even more diligent in making sure my sugar levels remained under control with diet alone, however, my OB nonetheless labeled this pregnancy “high risk”.

As the pregnancy went on, I was able to keep my weight well under control, but do to my “high risk” label my OB scheduled me for many ultrasounds and towards the end of my pregnancy, twice weekly NST’s (non-stress tests) to monitor the babies heart rate, each time they found nothing out of the ordinary, my body was growing a perfectly healthy baby. While these procedures were annoying, I personally felt as if each one was a confirmation that I was doing the right thing by insisting on having my TOLAC.

Labor Day:

On Tuesday, September 25, 2012 I went to my OB’s office for another ultrasound, I was 40 weeks 3 days and my OB wanted to check my fluid levels and estimate baby’s weight. After the ultrasound he took me to his office and began to give me the C-section scare lecture, which caught be by surprise considering up until this point he had always been supportive and confident in my ability to have a VBAC.

Our conversation went something like this:
OB: Well, according to the ultrasound you have a lot of excess fluid and baby is measuring very large   (9lbs, 5 oz.). I really don’t feel comfortable allowing you to continue this pregnancy and would like to schedule you for a C-section tomorrow. But it’s your body, your choice and you know I’ll let you decide whatever.
Me: I respect that, but I will not consent to a C-section and won’t discuss a C-section until 41 weeks.
OB: Alright, well, I’ll note that you’re refusing in your chart.

Then we left his office and headed to the reception area. When we reached the nurses, he said:
OB: Okay, well let’s schedule Carol for an NST on Friday to check up on baby and then schedule her C-section for Saturday afternoon, she’ll be exactly 41 weeks.

At that point I was in such shock that I just stood there as the nurse called and scheduled the OR for Saturday morning and my pre-op appointment for Friday afternoon.

As soon as I left the office I called my doula, Heather, upset by the conversation that just happened. Heather really helped calm me down and pointed out what I already knew, appointments made could easily be cancelled and there was NO reason why I had to show up for that C-section.

Heather told me to go home, relax, drink lots of red raspberry leaf tea, and call her if I needed anything further.

That night, right before dinner, I went to the bathroom and saw the most beautiful sight, bloody show! I called Heather right away and she told me to take it easy, have an early dinner, go to bed early and hopefully my body would begin the labor process soon, most likely while I was sleeping.

That night I slept fitfully, sporadic surges and my own excitement made getting sleep difficult. I was very glad I had told my husband not to go to work (he works graveyard shift) because it was nice having him there, even if he couldn’t do anything for me.

After a night full of ups and downs, I woke up for the day around 5am and got on my birth ball to watch TV. I called Heather around 6:30 am to check in, and she told me to start timing the surges and call her when they became closer together. At this time, I woke my husband to bring our older daughter to my parent’s house.

By the time Thomas returned home my surges were about 2 mins. apart and 1 ½ minutes long. I had Thomas call Heather and she arrived around 9 am.

From the time Heather got there to the time we left for the hospital, everything became a blur. I labored in several different parts of the house, was able to watch TV or read Facebook during contractions and loved the ability to do what my body needed to do when it needed to do it. Unhampered by IV’s or monitors, I was able to eat, drink, and go to the bathroom as I saw fit.

At one point I was on my hands and knees in my bedroom and with each surge Heather would massage my back while my husband stood watch. At the end of a surge we all heard an audible pop as my bag of waters broke, all over the floor, the pillows I was on and right at Heather. None of us could help but laugh! She told me later she’s never seen so much fluid come from one person, LOL.

After my water broke my body seemed to give me a break, and I was able to take an hour nap on my bedroom floor and it was heavenly. Then my body picked right back up and I can say that this next half was much more intense than the first. Unlike before, where the surges ebbed and flowed and I could kind of catch my breath between them, now it seemed as if they were one on top of the other. Heather offered a lot of words of affirmation to me, reminding me over and over that I could do this; I was strong, to breath for two, etc. When I thought the surge would be stronger than I was, she kept me focus on the overall goal, a healthy baby in my arms. 

When I was nearing transition Heather suggested I get into the bath tub to help relieve some of the pressure I was having, and when I did, BOOM, into transition I went. The shakes were the most difficult part of the labor process for me, because it seemed as if the surges would overtake me, and at this point I knew there was no going back, one way or another my little girl would be born, I had faced all my fears of labor in the face, and now my body was going to take over and do what it was meant to do. The thought of that was both terrifying and awe inspiring.

As I was laying there I became aware that both Heather and my husband Thomas were doing stuff, later I found out they were getting Heather’s van ready to transport me to the hospital to deliver. The last phase of our plan was in motion.

Moving from the tub to the van felt like forever because of how I was working through the rushes, pushing was now completely involuntary, I HAD to push! I got into the van and as we backed out of my driveway Heather said, “I’m going to apologize in advance; this is going to be the worst ride of your life.” Let me just say, she wasn’t kidding; the ride to the hospital was 40 minutes and an eternity all at once. I pushed throughout. Thomas told me later that he really thought I might deliver in the van and he was scared.

I also remember acutely what Heather said as we approached the hospital, “Okay, remember, you’re too far along for drugs.” It’s so funny that she said that because in my head I had been thinking, well, when we get there maybe they can give me something to take the edge off while I push. It’s like she was so in tune with me, I can’t help but laugh now, because obviously she knew what I wasn’t ready to admit, I was 10 centimeters and almost ready to meet my girl.

When we got to the hospital what happened next reminded me of nothing short of a scene from a comedy. Heather rolled me into triage, telling the nurses I was complete and ready to push and it’s like they didn’t even hear her, they asked me to fill out a form and wait in the waiting area. No sooner had I stopped in the waiting area that I started moaning, and I’m assuming loudly, because a nurse came out quick to take me into the back to get checked.

The first time I was checked was in triage at the hospital, and surprise surprise, I was 10 centimeters, with a small anterior lip. They told me to stop pushing (yea RIGHT!) and rushed me up to the last labor room available. We go up to the room and then they ask me to move from the gurney to the labor bed, all the while I’m STILL pushing. The nurses seemed a bit clueless. I did move the labor bed, but the only way that felt comfortable was to flip onto it on all fours, at which point I kept pushing. They then started asking my husband even more questions until the midwife came in and checked me again, this time I was 10 cm + 2. I think this is really when it sunk in that I was having a baby and nothing they were saying or doing was going to make me stop. They urgently asked me to flip over, which I did, and then I just kept pushing.

Suddenly, there she was, my baby girl, being placed on my chest. From the time we got to the hospital to the time she was born was around 10 minute’s total!

Total Labor Time: Approx. 12 hours, came out with a 2nd degree tear

Last Notes:
-The “ring of fire” is real, or at least it was for me, but by the time I hit that fire, it was more of a relief and I just wanted to see my baby.
- My doula was my savior, and every laboring women should have one. When I thought I couldn’t make it, she was there, when I forgot to breath, she was there to remind me. She trusted in my body when I didn’t, and for that I am forever in her debt.
- Knowing I had a network of supportive women and family who were praying for me and sending out good labor vibes really did help me get through each contraction. As a woman preparing for birth, make sure you surround yourself with those who will build you up, not question your decisions.