Jonathan’s birth was going to be an attempted VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). Two and a half years prior at my daughter’s birth I had a really pushy doctor that bullied me into interventions that I didn’t want that resulted in a c-section because my baby was “too big”.
You know those beautiful birth stories that you read about how the mother gently births her baby into the world in a relaxing birthing tub while her husband rubs her back, kisses her forehead, and cries at the miracle before him? Well, this isn’t one of those stories. Mostly because if my husband even breathed in my general direction while I was in labor I would gut him like a fish. Also, I tend to have a tiny flair for the dramatic. Ahem.
I was due on February 05, 2012 and began prodromal labor two days prior. On February 07 I woke up with a lot of discharge after having some hourly painful contractions throughout the night, maybe it was the mucus plug. I went about my day as usual and that evening we went out to eat as a family and went to the mall. At 2:15am I had a painful contraction and I swear that I actually heard something pop. I woke my husband up to tell him I think my water broke and by the time he had turned the light on I was soaked.
After he helped me get cleaned up I had him call the doula right away. She said that we probably had some time and to try to go back to sleep and she would be there as soon as she could in the morning. Throughout my entire pregnancy I had read everything about VBAC that I could get my hands on. I knew there was a risk of uterine rupture, but I also knew that the risk was minimal. During my pregnancy I had no fear or doubts about attempting a VBAC. Until my water broke. And now I was terrified and wanted the doula to be there right that very second because surely my uterus would explode at any moment. My husband was able to go back to sleep. Me, not so much.
As time went by I continued to have contractions stronger and closer together. My baby boy was moving and wiggling inside of me. Concentrating on his sweet baby wiggles knowing that it would be the last time that I would feel them helped calmed my fears.
Early in the morning I woke my husband to tell him that my contractions were 7 minutes apart and that he should call the doula soon, but the contractions got so intense once I woke him that I insisted he call her immediately. Then those tricky little contractions jumped from 7 minutes apart to 1 minute apart. Where did my other 6 minutes go?!
Both of our moms were there by the time my doula arrived at 7:30am and my contractions were right on top of each other. I could hear my daughter waking up in the other room and I started screaming for someone to get her downstairs before she saw me and how much pain I was in.
Ever since my contractions had jumped to 1 minute apart I had forgotten all of my fears about my potentially exploding uterus and concentrated on the pain and the possibility that the baby may fall out of me on the way to the bathroom.
And then it happened. I was standing up when my body started involuntarily pushing without me. The best way that I can explain it is it felt like my vagina was throwing up…dry heaving, more accurately. I wasn’t pushing, my body was pushing.
As much as I would’ve loved to have had a homebirth, it’s not what we had planned and now I wasn’t sure what we should do. Luckily my doula was also a monitrice and a midwife in training, so she checked me for dilation.
I was 10 centimeters! 10! That’s go-time! She said that she was a little surprised that I was so far along judging by how well I was handling the contractions.
So, I just made that up because after my doula read this she said that I was only 8cm (10cm and I would’ve been staying put), so I’m a liar, liar vagina on fire. I blame labor brain. Shut up, it’s a thing.
Do we stay at home and have the baby, do we try to drive to the hospital and risk having the baby in the car? And which hospital do we go to? The hospital that we were supposed to birth at was 40 minutes away, but there was another hospital with completely different doctors that was only 20 minutes away.
We decided to go to the hospital that was closer even though none of my doctors were there and none of them had ever heard of me before. Still in my nightgown, I slipped on tennis shoes, and without socks or coat, I got into the van. My husband drove there as fast as he could and I
screamed moaned the whole way there. My contractions were right on top of each other, my body was still involuntarily pushing, and the bumps and turns from the road made everything so much more painful.
We pulled up in front of the ER and abandoned our van as a nurse came running with a wheelchair. Like a scene out of a movie my husband ran behind us as I was wheeled through the hospital moaning and growling loudly.
I had brought a Pretty Pushers gown, but had left it in the van along with my birth plan. As my husband answered the nurse’s questions I continued moaning while I was being dressed in a hospital gown and hooked up to all manner of things…something I stated that I didn’t want in my birth plan.
The nurse checked me for dilation. In fact she thought it would be a super fun idea to check me for dilation while I was having a contraction. And in case you’ve never experienced that before, it feels like someone is sticking a chainsaw up your hoohaw. Which is just a titch painful.
After that oh-so-pleasant internal exam the nurse announces that I am…
7 centimeters dilated. 7 centimeters. Not 10. 3 less centimeters than 10. Only 7. Not 10. 🙁
…and because I’m only 7 centimeters I can’t push. Don’t push. Stop pushing. Even though I’m not pushing on purpose! So basically try to stop my body from pushing without my permission. Riiiiiiight. Not a problem.
In the meantime someone had fetched my bag and my birth plan and the nurse actually told my husband, “We don’t have time to read that right now…” Yet she made me lay on the bed doing nothing for an hour while waiting for me to dilate to 10 centimeters. But maybe she was too busy to read it because she decided to do more chainsaw checks for dilation approximately every 10 minutes.
After an hour of trying not to push I finally got the blessing from my nurse to begin pushing. She kept insisting that I wear an oxygen mask and if I accidentally moved the fetal monitor slightly she would stop the whole show and tell me, “You can’t let this move. This has to stay right here. Don’t let this move.” But the oxygen mask and fetal monitor made it more difficult to push because it was so hot…and not “It’s a lovely day for swimming” hot, but more like, “SWEET MOSES, WHY IS THIS BED ON FIRE?!” hot. And it was February. In Pennsylvania. I felt like I couldn’t breath. Which, by the way, is an important part of staying conscious. And being conscious is beneficial when trying to push a human being out of your lady-hole.
I was hours into pushing and started to get discouraged. Maybe my first baby was too big. Maybe my pelvis is too small. Maybe it wasn’t all of the interventions the first time and I’m going to need a c-section again. I was so focused on pushing that it never occurred to me to ask to change positions and the one time that I tried made the nurse unhappy. My resourceful doula had reminded me of a birthing position that we’d discussed previously called the McRoberts Maneuver. It’s often used in cases of shoulder dystocia (which the baby did not have) to enlarge the pelvic outlet. Basically you lay flat on your back hold your legs up/back and when you push, lift your butt off of the table and as high up in the air as you can get it. It was like freaking Cirque du Soleil. Except I pooped myself. And no one in Cirque du Soleil poops themselves. I hope.
My arms got so weak that I had to hold onto the sides of the bed and have my husband and doula hold my legs up for me. It must’ve worked because eventually the doctor came in to prep for birth. My doula overheard them talking about giving me an episiotomy and knowing that my birth plan (which they hadn’t read) stated that I didn’t want one, she told them to ask for my consent. I declined. #birthadvocatesforthewin
I have no idea how it happened, but sometime between putting on a hospital gown and crowning, I ended up naked. Prior to this experience I just didn’t understand WHY all of the ladies in birthing videos were naked, just…why?! Well…because I felt like I was giving birth on the surface of the sun, being naked was fine by me, even if I can’t remember how I got naked in the first place. Once it was “showtime” about 30 people came into the room and the nurse was all, “Are you okay being uncovered like this?” and I was like, “OMG, SHUT UP! A TINY HUMAN IS TRYING TO RIP APART MY SPECIAL PURPOSE FROM THE INSIDE OUT!”
Of course I didn’t actually say that. I don’t remember what I said but it was so hot and I was in so much pain and I was so close to getting the baby out that I seriously did not care if my 6th grade math teacher had walked in right then, I wasn’t going to stop what I was doing to cover up everything except for my vagina!
(And if you’ve read this post you’ll probably find this illustration hilarious.)
Once it was time to push his head out I started to get afraid again, and not just about uterine rupture, but about potentially ripping my nether regions to shreds. My doula told me to push slowly and breathe the baby out, but at this point my mind was mush and I had no idea what she was talking about. As I pushed out my son’s head I kept screaming, “It hurts! It hurts!” and my doula quietly whispered, “I know.” But I felt like I was having an outer body experience where at that very same moment that idiot me was screaming “It hurts!” the version of me with a fully functioning brain was saying,
“No crap, stupid! Of course it hurts!”
But it didn’t hurt for long. As soon as that beautiful, giant head came out of me I experienced relief unlike I’d ever experienced before. Birthing a head is a million times more comfortable than having it jammed in your pelvis, even if Lady Tenderpuss is still radiating pain from the infamous ring of fire.
With the doctor shining a giant spotlight onto my lady parts I pushed the rest of my son out in a roomful of strangers completely naked. I mean, they were all clothed, but whatever. My son was born Wednesday, February 08, 2012 at 11:59am via unmedicated VBAC after 2.5 hours of pushing (9 hours and 44 minutes after my water broke). I held my son to my chest and we both cried. Once the initial elation had worn off I started to feel like someone should give me an award of some kind. I mean the baby was great and all, but I wouldn’t have refused a big trophy had I been presented with one.
As cliché as it may sound I definitely felt empowered after my VBAC. In fact I felt so empowered that I wanted to push out all of the babies in the hospital. “Look what I can dooooo!”
My son weighed 9 lbs 6 oz was 22 inches long and had a head circumference of 36.5 cm (14.37 inches). He was 1 pound bigger, .5” longer, with a head over an inch bigger than my supposed “too big” c-section baby. I really wanted to go back to my c-section doctor Pretty Woman style and rub it in her face. To this day I’m still curious about whether or not she was the doctor on call that day.
Before I left the delivery room my nurse said that I was the most “fierce pusher” that she’d ever seen. Shortly after birth I would have proof of that fact, because I pushed so hard that I pulled nearly every muscle in my entire body. My legs were weak and wobbly and my arm muscles felt massive. I had broken the blood vessels around my eyes and I couldn’t get my eyes to focus. I felt like they were rolling around in my sockets like Cookie Monster. I even pulled the muscles in my tongue. My tongue. I didn’t even know that was possible! In fact it even swelled up to the point where I was talking funny.
Between the fact that I had pulled all of my muscles, had an almost 3rd degree tear, and OMG the post partum contractions came on fast and strong and felt like my uterus contained Samurai sextuplets…I simply could not make it to the bathroom in time. Every time I had a contraction the pee just came rushing out of me while I sat there in bed. This resulted in a nice case of diaper rash.
I don’t know why so many women have trouble loving their post partum bodies. I was covered in my own urine, but I felt like a Princess.
In fact, post partum I looked just like a Princess. Princess Fiona.
Sure, I looked like an ogre, peed my pants when I blinked, and felt like I was sitting on razor blades for a month, but it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. And I’m kind of in love with the prize that I got to bring home.
***I hope my illustrations don’t give the wrong impression. Birth is painful business, yes, but it was amazing and awesome and I wouldn’t have done it any other way! I recovered nicely and everything was so wildly different from my c-section (which destroyed me emotionally) that it’s hard to compare the two. Birth is amazing and despite the scary pictures I consider this story one of the best days of my life!
What was your birth experience like? Were you naked?
Was your 6th grade math teacher there?
Let me know in the comments!
Read my family blog coolestfamilyontheblock.com where I pretend to be a good mom.