Daniel's birth story actually begins with his big brother Anthony's birth story:
My first pregnancy resulted in a c-section from a failed induction at 41 weeks, 3days in May 2012 (in Virginia). When I was pregnant with Anthony, I attended all of the birth classes provided by the hospital and I thought I knew everything there was to pregnancy and birth (later I would learn that wasn't the case). I had a very easy, low risk pregnancy however at 41weeks I was induced because I was "overdue." Since I didn't know any better I agreed to the induction - no questions asked. I received a foley bulb, pitocin and ultimately epidural. About 12 hours after the induction started I was told it was time to push. I pushed with all of my might for about 2 1/2 hours. Then my OB came in and was saying that I needed to have a c-section. There was no emergency, but she guaranteed me that my baby wasn't coming out vaginally. I didn't think to ask any questions, it seemed like I had no other options so I agreed to the c-section as tears ran down my face. Thankfully, both me and my beautiful baby boy did well and I had an easy recovery. I had heard about women having VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean) but knew nothing about it. So from then on I had it in the back of my mind that I would "try" for a VBAC if I ever became pregnant again
Fast-forward to one year later - I unfortunately had to have emergency abdominal surgery which resulted in severe complications. During my recovery I knew that I could not undergo another abdominal surgery and I knew that when I became pregnant again a VBAC was my only option. I felt the risks associated with a cesarean were greater for me than the risks associated with a VBAC. I also began feeling that I missed out on the birth that I was supposed to have. Was it my body that failed me? Was it the induction and interventions that failed me? I had an easy & normal pregnancy, wasn't I supposed to have a natural birth?
In the spring of 2015 I was so excited to find out I was pregnant again and I would be due December 21, 2015. I was now living in Baton Rouge and on a mission to find out everything about VBACs. That is when I met a friend who introduced me to ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) and a local natural birth group. From there I was able to select a very supportive VBAC doctor and hire a doula. I interviewed many doulas that were great, but when I meet Katy and Corrine from Louisiana Birth, I knew they were the doulas for me. Throughout my pregnancy I did everything I could think of to help prepare for my second birth. I attended ICAN and Exceptional Birth Group meetings, read books, watched videos, took classes, went to the chiropractor, took yoga, saw a physical therapist...I mean if you told me it would help me have a natural VBAC I was doing it!! Even with everything I was doing and seeing the most genuinely kind, evidence based and supportive OB , something inside of me was not happy with the hospital that I was supposed to deliver at. So after much researching, hard conversations, days of worrying and careful consideration, at 30weeks I decided to switch to the midwife practice at Ochsner. They were totally supportive of natural and VBAC birth's as well as pregnancy's that lasted 42weeks - which I was prepared to go that long to give me the best chance of going into labor on my own.
As I entered 41 weeks of being pregnant I finally began to have some sporadic light contractions on the day of my appointment. I was checked for the first time and I was 2cm dilated. My midwife then proceeded to tell me that based on her exam, my pelvic arch was narrow which would probably make a hard labor and delivery because the baby might have a posterior presentation. This was very unsettling news, as I couldn't believe I was being told this so close to being due and without an xray proving it. Although I wasn't happy with the news, I knew that if I went into labor on my own I would be fine and I was prepared to have a hard labor. I was ready for this! My midwife was still supportive of me trying for a VBAC however; I now had to meet with an OB to discuss my options. I have to admit that the thought of having to meet with the OB made me nervous and anxious about the future of my VBAC, but I felt confident she would honor my 2nd due date (I had two) which would allow me to be pregnant a little longer in hopes to go into labor naturally.
Unfortunately, my appointment didn't go as I hoped and the recommendation from the OB was a repeat cesarean if I didn't go into labor by the 42 week mark. I understood her stance on why she didn't want me to be induced, but I couldn't understand why we couldn't base my due date on the second date. I know there are risks involved when going past 42weeks, but a due date is only an estimate and I had a very low risk pregnancy!! I have to admit, I was totally devastated and felt that my chances for a VBAC were slipping away. I was even starting to second guess my decision to switch providers and was desperate to get a second opinion. But now it was the New Year holiday weekend and all doctors were off. My husband had been supportive my whole pregnancy, but when he heard about the risks associated with going past 42 weeks, all he wanted me to do was schedule a c-section at the 42 week mark. Although I had been okay with the possibility of having another c-section if my trial of labor failed, I wasn't prepared for a scheduled repeat c-section due to going past my due date. All I wanted was more time to give me a chance to go into labor. At this point I only had three days to go into labor myself. And believe me, I was trying EVERYTHING you could think of to get labor going but nothing seemed to work. I even got two membrane sweeps one on January 1 and the other on the 2nd and although I had progressed to 4cm, still no signs of contractions.
By the afternoon on Sunday January 3rd I was certain I wouldn't go into labor and my emotions were running high. Monday was 42 weeks and I knew they would be calling to schedule my c-section. After talking to some wonderful supportive ladies from my birth group and my doulas who gave me words of encouragement, I then read my birth affirmations one more time and I had one more (good)ugly cry. Per the advice of my doula, I decided to forget about the situation and go out with my husband that evening.
When we got home at about 6:00pm or so I began having small cramp-like contractions. They continued for an hour, and then another hour and then I realized I was having steady contractions. I went to bed that night and woke up around 3:00am to stronger contractions about 10-15min apart but they were completely manageable as I was able to doze off & on until about 5:00am. Then at 6:30am I called my doula to let her know I was having steady contractions and would keep her updated. She suggested I rest some more. I also texted my midwife to let her know. I tried to rest for another hour or so, but I couldn't because I felt like I had a lot to do since this could be it and I had an appointment at 11:00am with my midwife at the Hospital for my 42week check up. As the morning went on my contractions seemed to get further apart and more sporadic, so I didn't know what was going on. Before I left for my appointment, I received a call from the hospital to schedule my c-section for the next day. I told them I didn't think I needed it! But ultimately one was scheduled for the next day, just in case.
I got to the hospital at about 11:30am with my bag , pump and birthing ball "just in case" I was going to be admitted. When my midwife checked me I was 5cm, 60 or 80% effaced (I forget which) and Station -1, which was great! She stripped my membranes and monitored the baby and contractions. Contractions began to get back to 10min apart, but were not strong at all, my pain level was like a 3. My midwife said that she wasn't going to admit me since the contractions were still far apart and I was only in early labor . She came back about 5min later and was excited to announce that she had talked to the OB( who I had met the week before) and she would be willing to admit me and give me pitocin(since I came in active labor) if I wanted to get my contractions going. At first I was excited about this news because the week prior the OB was unwilling to induce me at all and now she was offering a way to get labor going. This sounded great - but then I had time to think about it and then became uncertain about receiving pitocin. Initially, I was against all interventions but since I was running out of time to have the baby my thought processes was changing. So, I asked the midwife 100 questions and discussed 100 different situations with my husband & my doula and finally I decided NOT to get pitocin. I wanted the natural birth I had been planning for. So at about 2:00pm I was discharged to go home. On the car ride home the contractions seemed to be getting closer and slightly stronger. I joked that maybe we should go back to the hospital, but we were so hungry and I really I wasn't sure how strong the contractions were. Once I got home and began to eat lunch the contractions were getting a lot closer and stronger - Strong enough where I had to stop eating, get up, lean over the back of my chair and sway. I hardly got to eat my lunch and decided I needed to go call my doula and have her come to the house. I also felt like I was going to get sick, but didn't. As soon as I called her I had a contraction which I couldn't talk through and she helped me relax over the phone. I hung up with her and had another intense contraction, I looked at the clock and thought, "we have to go to the hospital now because if we leave any later we will get stuck in traffic." So I told my husband that I just needed to go to the hospital and have the doula meet us there. We got in the car and left at about 3:35pm. So normally it takes 20min to get to the hospital from our house without any traffic, but of course we got behind the slowest cars, hit all the lights and had a little bit of traffic. I'm not sure how long it took, but it felt like forever AND my contractions were very strong in the car. I had to moan to control them and told my husband to say relaxing words and phrases to me so I could concentrate on relaxing. I thought to myself, "this would be too funny if I was transitioning in the car."
Katy, my doula was waiting for us as we pulled up to the hospital. When I saw her and opened the door to get out I just lost it. I started crying, I was in a lot of pain and I had a lot of pressure in my bottom. My doula got the wheelchair and all I could say was" I have to poop really bad!" In my mind I thought if I went to the bathroom then I would feel enough relief to be able to have the baby. I got to the room, I tried to go to the bathroom to empty my bladder and the nurse said "don't have the baby on the toilet" and I reassured her I wasn't. I was in so much pain and had so much pressure in my bottom I didn't know what to do. I just kind of left my mind. The midwife checked me and I was complete and ready to push. I had no idea what I was doing, things were happening so fast and the nurse was trying to get the monitor on me and an IV started.
As I said I had to leave my mind to deal with the intensity of what was going on and I was trying to fight the contractions and the urge to push instead of giving into it. I think I was doing this because it got a little scary as baby's heart rate was dropping, to the point they called the OB to come in to be there just in case and they had an OR waiting for me. The midwife asked if she could break my water so they could put a monitor on baby's head so they could get a more accurate read, I said yes. I pushed in different positions, but baby didn't like that as his heart rate would drop even more. I was told to lay on my back. Baby liked that position the best, but in my mind I thought it was the WORST position to push in for my narrow pelvis...what's the point! I didn't think I was able to do it and I was thinking I just wanted them to take me back for a c-section because how could a person with a narrow pelvis push on their back and have success!?! But everyone was telling me to push and breath and encouraging me so I tried as hard as I could to focus. I screamed sooooo loud during each push because I didn't know what else to do. I didn't think anything was happening, but When I heard my husband say "there's hair and the head" I was shocked and I knew I needed to keep going , baby was actually coming out!!! The midwife said "this is the ring of fire" but honestly it didn't hurt at all...it felt good, relief from all of the pressure! At 4:41pm (just under 20min of pushing) my baby boy was born. He came out perfectly and I was able to have immediate skin to skin, something I didn't experience with my first. Both my husband and I were in complete shock, we literally couldn't believe that my VBAC had happened!! We were so happy, proud and in love with our baby boy. Daniel waited until he last minute to come, but when he did it was FAST!
As I reflect back on my whole experience there was a lot of fear and anxiety of the unknown, but also determination and empowerment to learn as much as I could about natural birth, VBACs and cesareans. I may have driven myself, husband and a few friends crazy during the processes because it was very emotional and psychological for me, but in the end it was all worth it. The biggest thing I took away is to trust your mama instincts! No matter how much uncertainty there was, in the moments when I trusted my gut, those were the times I made the bests decisions. I still can't believe it happened!