Continued from My VBAC Story (Part 1)
They scheduled for me to come back in on Tuesday and told me to be prepared to stay. Cowgirl was getting evicted one way or another. I was nervous and excited. I was still hopeful that I would go into labor over the weekend, but I didn’t get that lucky. This girl was not coming out unless we forced her out.
That weekend, a friend of mine went into early labor. She wasn’t due for another 4 weeks. I complained at first about how everyone else was going into labor except me (another friend had her baby the week before), but then I heard that her baby hadn’t made it. I was heartbroken for her and scared for my little Cowgirl. Because she was large and overdue, it was possible that the placenta could detach and she could be born dead. More stress and worry filled my mind.
Tuesday was probably one of the most frustrating days of my life. I had to have another stress test and ultrasound, but I ended up having to wait hours for the ultrasound. In the meantime, I was stuck waiting. They weren’t doing anything to try to progress my labor and I was still stuck at 4 cm dilated. I had to stay in bed because they had me and the baby hooked to heart monitors. At one point, the midwife on shift came in to explain our options. They couldn’t give me pitocin because it would double my chances of needing a repeat c-section, but they did have some ways to try to induce me naturally. Stripping my membranes wasn’t working, we had tried that a few times during my office visits. It sounded like our best option was going to be a balloon catheter, which is placed in the cervix, then filled with saline to stretch and thin the cervix. Once contractions had actually started, they’d be able to start me on pitocin to speed up and regulate them. I’d also be able to get an epidural. Since this was actually my first time delivering vaginally, it was probably going to take as long as a first time delivery.
Once I finally had my ultrasound, they decided to proceed with the balloon catheter. Cowgirl was big, but not showing any immediate distress. Of course, they were worried about the risk of complications if she stayed in there too much longer, and we were all worried about the possibility of her getting stuck. After all, large heads run in my family. Thursday would be a full 2 weeks overdue and it was already late on Tuesday. They weren’t going to let me go past 42 weeks. I was finally moved to a labor and delivery room and the balloon catheter was inserted around 1 am. I got some much needed sleep.
When I woke up that morning, I could tell that something was definitely happening. The midwife checked me and decided to take the catheter out. Now, here’s one thing they don’t tell you about the balloon catheter: when they blow it up, they blow it up to roughly the size of a baby’s head. It feels fine when it’s in, maybe just some pressure and discomfort. When they take it out, that sucker HURTS. The good news is that there was no doubt if I was in labor, the contractions came on fast and strong. The midwife confirmed that I was 7 cm dilated. We went ahead and ordered pitocin and an epidural.
The epidural didn’t completely numb the contractions, I could still tell when they were happening and some of them were quite strong. I can’t even imagine feeling them full force. Cowgirl proved her stubborn nature as the nurses kept trying to shift my position to keep her heart rate up. Ultimately, there was only one position that she liked and I was stuck in that position for the duration of the labor.
My water broke on it’s own around 5:30 pm. That was one of those strong contractions that I could feel, which ended with a big pop, then I felt like I had wet my pants…if I had been wearing pants. I let the nurse know, and she went to change my pads, but something was wrong. The amniotic fluid, which should be clear, had a brownish yellow color to it. She explained to me that the baby had pooped in utero. The color wasn’t too dark, so it probably hadn’t been very much, but it could be an issue if she inhaled that fluid. I was told that it was probably because she was 2 weeks overdue. The NICU staff was informed and my midwife explained that they would be in the room when I delivered as a precaution. If Cowgirl came out crying, breathing and with good color, then they would just pack up and leave as if nothing had happened. They were just going to be there to make sure they weren’t needed. I was just thankful they were there in case they were needed.
The contractions kept increasing in intensity, and it didn’t seem to matter how many times I pushed the button on my epidural pump. I thought that surely she would come soon, but this labor seemed to drag on forever. It was around 9 pm before I was finally told to start pushing. I still had the fear that she would get stuck in the back of my mind, so I decided I was going to get her through that birth canal as quickly as possible. My midwife said it usually takes an hour or more of pushing, I was going to do it in an hour.
The problem with pushing while on an epidural was that I couldn’t feel my muscles working. My midwife talked me through what to do and helped me visualize how to push, but mostly I felt like it was all make believe. I strained and strained and strained, but I couldn’t actually feel anything happening. I basically had to pretend that I was pooping in order to use the correct muscles, but then I had all of these self-conscious fears that I was going to actually poop on the table. It’s funny the things we worry about when there are much bigger issues at stake.
After only about 50 minutes, the midwife started to see Cowgirl’s head. We were in the homestretch and everything was going perfectly. I really wanted to go the rest of the way and make my self-imposed deadline of less than an hour, but they told me to stop pushing. The room became a flurry of activity as they prepared to receive a new baby. The warmer was turned on and the NICU team came into the room. I’m not even sure how many strangers were there to see my bare bottom. My dad had long since left the room with Farmboy, so I had my mom and Hubby by the bed with me, helping to hold my legs. Seen the video of that squatty potty? That’s basically what labor looks like, except you’re laying on your back.
Then came the moment of truth, time to start pushing again. It only took a few pushes, then I felt a pop like when my water had broken. The baby’s head was out. One more contraction and her body was out too. They quickly wrapped her in a towel and laid her on my chest. She was still sticky, but she was alive and safe. After about a minute, they clamped the umbilical cord. The NICU team didn’t even need to examine her, they were happy to hear her cry and left the room. Mentally, I had felt detached from this pregnancy because of my fear of loss. I was worried that feeling would carry over to the baby, but one look at her and those worries faded away. She was my baby girl and I was her mommy and that’s all that mattered.
They gave her some time to calm down before taking her for a quick exam and measurements. She was 8 lb 14 oz and 21 inches long. See, I told you I wasn’t carrying a 9 lb baby. Everything was done in that room, then she was returned to my chest. Once the placenta was out and everything checked out ok, they left the room and gave me some quiet skin to skin time with the baby. She took to nursing easily, none of the problems I faced with Farmboy (not latching properly and inverted nipples for starters), then she fell asleep on my chest. My dad and Farmboy came in to meet Cowgirl. Farmboy instantly fell in love with his little sister. A little after midnight, we were moved to a recovery room.
Because of the meconium in the amniotic fluid, we had to stay 48 hours for observation. Otherwise, we could have gone home after 24 hours. Tampa General was so different from the hospital where I had Farmboy. There was no nursery, so Cowgirl stayed with me the whole time. All exams were done there in the room. In a lot of respects, I was glad for it. The only downside was that I was exhausted and Cowgirl would only sleep if she was being held. Since my parents had already been in town for 2 weeks waiting for the baby, my mom had to fly out the day after Cowgirl was born so she could get back to work. Hubby couldn’t stay because he had to take care of Farmboy and the animals. And my dad is…well…my dad. I wouldn’t hesitate to ask him to rewire the whole hospital if it needed it, but didn’t feel right asking him to stay up to watch the baby while I caught up on my sleep.
I did bring my ring sling with me, so I was able to wear Cowgirl while I was in the hospital. That was a lifesaver since she wanted to be held close all of the time. Even swaddling only got us so far. The hospital doesn’t do a first bath, so she still had some stuff stuck in her hair. We took care of that when we finally got home. They also didn’t bother us overnight to run tests or check vitals, which was a blessing although I wasn’t getting much sleep anyway. Aside from being tired and wishing there was someone else there to take care of the frequent diaper changes, our two days in the hospital were peaceful. I do wish the bassinet had been lower or even attached to my hospital bed. There was no way to get Cowgirl out safely without me getting out of bed, and I was really tired of getting in and out of that bed. I had had a small perineum tear along with hemorrhoids, so sitting was not a comfortable experience. Thank goodness for witch hazel and this wonderful numbing foam they gave me.
All in all, everything went great. When I had Farmboy, we had to stay for 4 days, then they held us hostage because he had lost too much weight, and they made us force feed him formula. This time around, we were actually packed and waiting for the 48 hour mark so we could leave. The only downside was that I had packed 4 outfits for Cowgirl, but nothing but pajama bottoms and tank tops for myself. It was the middle of January and I was freezing. Thankfully, Hubby had a fleece top that I could borrow to go home in, but I didn’t look nearly as cute for photos as Cowgirl.
VBAC Lessons Learned
If I could impart any advice from this experience, it would be to empower yourself. Do research and have confidence. It is still possible to have a vaginal delivery after your c-section. My midwife told me that it’s even possible for women who have had multiple c-sections. Find a doctor who will agree to perform a VBAC and bring them the operative reports from your prior c-sections. If the process intimidates you or you don’t feel like you have enough support, hire a doula to help you through the process. Many doulas will know which doctors actually perform VBACs and which will only say they do, then force you into a c-section at the 11th hour (it happens). In my experience, it was easier to find a midwife than a doctor who would perform a VBAC. Talk to your care provider about ways to reduce your risk of a repeat c-section, including ways to encourage an on-time delivery. Personally, I wish I had known about and taken evening primrose oil sooner. Don’t give up, and fight for what you want. Granted, things happen, and sometimes a c-section can’t be avoided, that’s one reason why I prefer to give birth in a hospital. But find a hospital that has a low c-section rate and low repeat c-section rate. It will greatly improve your success if the entire staff is working to help you have a successful vaginal delivery. But the better you educate yourself ahead of time, the better you’ll be able to make an informed decision when faced with the choice to have a repeat c-section.