So, you may have noticed that it’s been ONE YEAR since I last posted! Trust me, my hiatus has not been for lack of wanting to connect and share life with you, in fact it’s quite the opposite. As we enter a new year, I’m entering a new season and invite you in as I share more openly and return to a boldness that it seems I temporarily allowed to dim. No more! Since it has been so long, however, this may be a bit of a lengthy post, as today is the day we celebrate our son’s FIRST BIRTHDAY and the anniversary of our unmedicated VBAC!!! We had his party yesterday, so today I’m reflecting on his birth and the events that led up to it. I wrote the following words when I was 39 weeks pregnant in December 2013 and patiently (sort of) awaiting a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) with our second son.
Morning by morning I wake up to find
The power and comfort of God’s hand in mine
Season by season I watch Him, amazed
In awe of the mystery of His perfect ways
All I have need of, His hand will provide
He’s always been faithful to me
This song by Sara Groves was on repeat in my heart as I opened my journal to write this morning. It’s just one of the myriad on my labor playlist, patiently waiting to fill the space surrounding us as we welcome our newest baby boy into the world. Lyrics speak to my soul and these words resonate so deeply with me during this season of life. I can’t help but stand in awe at how the Lord has faithfully orchestrated every moment of my life in both seasons of drought and seasons of blissful abundance. For all the valleys He’s carried me through and the mountain peaks He’s allowed me to exhale on, it doesn’t escape me that the only constant in life is change. Sometimes we stare so long at our valleys we don’t soak in the beauty and share our joy from the peaks. Well, I want and need to share from this peak, and pray if this finds you in the midst of a valley you will cling securely to the hope of Christ and know He will lift the fog and a new dawn will greet you soon. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).
After surviving a nearly catastrophic birth with our first-born, for me, having a VBAC with our second meant far more than just acquiring a cute acronym or badge of honor. I was pretty “crunchy” when expecting our first little boy and preparing for a unmedicated birth with him. I was not ignorant to labor facts and knew to avoid induction, pitocin, etc., as the vast majority of women wind up with “unnecesareans” because their bodies and babies were not yet ready. So, when my smoothly sailing pregnancy abruptly spiraled out of control, it caught us by utter surprise. My body was physically shutting down and my baby was no longer growing. It was a frightening prospect and constant concern as to whether our baby was okay. Looking back, I was not under the best care as the doctor was really gambling with our lives. I was being monitored daily and the hope was to make it to 37 weeks. Well, at exactly 37 weeks, I began having seizures and nearly died. I was rushed to the hospital and received a true emergency cesarean…not something that happens all too often. I never even experienced a contraction, much less labor. The words “emergency cesarean” are used frequently, but my experience was so traumatic and almost ended our lives, that those words and most stories of labor/delivery gone awry, just don’t sit well with me. I have to say that bluntly because many women are simply unaware of the facts and take their friends, doctors, etc. at face value without doing statistical research. Please know I’m not saying I’m somehow “better” or my birth was more traumatic than others. There’s much more I could write, but this post is ultimately about my journey to VBAC. And as I share my VBAC story, I want to end this paragraph by expressing that ultimately all that matters is my son and I both survived. We were in the hospital seven days and he was tiny at a little over 4 pounds. But, he was STRONG and never even went to the NICU! Things could have turned out much differently and I will never stop praising God that He allowed us to both live and flourish together. In the end, it did not matter how he entered the world, only that he did!!!
Having provided the background story, on the first birthday of our first little guy, we found out we were expecting our second! All God timing…with both of them! Nonetheless, from the moment I knew another heart was beating within me, I told my husband things would be different this time. I was not going to have a cesarean and I was going to have a perfect pregnancy. No doctor or person would tell me differently. I’m a little strong-willed when it’s something I’m passionate about and I desperately wanted a unmedicated birth. At the very least, I wanted to experience labor. In my mind, I felt that nearly dying and having the seizures was so rare that surely this experience would be redemptive and empowering. Even though I knew those things in my heart, my husband needed some convincing. The man I married and chose to do life with said, “I almost lost my wife and my child and I cannot go through that again”… Totally understandable. I get it. But, he agreed to research and read a myriad of articles, including ACOG‘s own, which believes most women CAN have a successful VBAC and ARE good candidates. It’s true ladies…read up for yourself and prepare to be empowered! Ultimately, Husband was completely on board. The only point we differed on was where I would give birth.
I really wanted to have our baby at home, in privacy, without the smells and sounds of a hospital greeting us. NOTE: I’m NOT anti-hospital…my parents and brothers are all physicians, so I’ve been in more than my share of lovely medical establishments around the great state of Texas. Alas, there was ZERO convincing my husband to allow a home birth, and because he is my husband, and I respect him as such, we met in the middle. It made Husband comfortable that in the HIGHLY unlikely event something went wrong, we could receive immediate care and be in the best possible setting. Fine. I would just labor at home until our baby was crowning:). Deal. Given the limited number of truly VBAC friendly providers (there are many involved in bait and switch tactics), we chose to see a group of CNM’s (Cerified Nurse Midwives) who deliver in a hospital…a hospital 40 minutes away…on a good day…without traffic. To give added perspective, we live within 5 miles of two very large and well-respected hospitals.
Throughout my pregnancy I was sent to see a high risk doctor for additional sonograms simply because of the history of seizures. At no point did I have any issues or signs that anything was wrong and everyone was on board (except my doctor family mentioned previously;). When I reached 39 weeks, the doctor who works with the midwife group insisted that since I was a VBAC they needed to assess my Bishop Score. I was given a Bishop Score of a 2 and told it was highly unlikely I would get my VBAC and I needed to schedule a Cesarean. Excuse me?! Ummm, no! I was heartbroken, shocked, in tears, and for just a few moments began to think negatively about my prospects. God, my husband and my doula quickly snapped me back to reality and reminded me that NOTHING tells you when a woman will deliver a baby. You can go from showing no signs of labor to having a baby the same day. That is a FACT. Your cervix, as they say, is “not a magic crystal ball” so stop putting undue pressure on your body and your baby. He/she will come when they are ready.
After receiving several calls from the hospital looking to schedule a c-section, Husband had a very bold conversation with them and they did not call again. My body. My baby. My birth. And repeat. We spoke with the midwife group and agreed to do a BPP at 41 weeks to assess whether our little boy was healthy and everything was well.
By the sweet grace of God, I went into labor at 2:30 AM on January 3rd. At 40 + 5 my sweet boy was finally ready to enter the world. While everyone was sleeping (other than nursing mothers and the City of New York), I woke my husband up and let him know I needed to get in the tub. My first contraction was incredibly long…early labor. Husband called our doula, let her know what was going on and I went back to bed. I never went to sleep, as just when I was ready to doze off another contraction would come. When the sun finally greeted us, we decided to get our older child situated and focus on having our baby. Husband called our friends, who picked him up around noon. It was the first time I’d ever been apart from him for more than a quick trip to Costco. I knew he was in good hands, but I missed him dearly. Around 2 PM I met my doula at the home of a chiropractor. We sat in a beautiful, dimly lit living room with embers crackling in the fireplace and hymns flooding the space surrounding me. I spent two hours receiving acupuncture, acupressure and walking the long road outside. Yes, I was in labor, but my contractions were not progressing very steadily and I wanted to do everything I could to get my body more engaged in the process. For what it’s worth, acupuncture does not hurt…acupressure is more painful than any contraction! But, it works. By the time I returned home my contractions were steadily progressing and I was ready to retreat. I asked everyone, Husband, Mom, doula to leave me alone. I walked into our bedroom and went into hibernation for the rest of the night. On the morning of January 4th, nearly 30 hours after labor began, Husband drove me back to the chiropractor for more torture–ummm, I mean acupressure. We enjoyed the beautiful surroundings and walked that same road more times than I could count. Before we left their home, my water broke. YES…more signs my body was working and my baby was coming! What was that Bishop Score again?
Once we returned home, my contractions were continuing to do their job and getting closer together and more intense by the moment. I finally decided we should call the doula and have her come over. When she arrived we walked the hilly streets in our neighborhood and talked as much as I could, only breaking into silence when another contraction would somehow force my jaw shut. Once back in the house, we agreed to call the midwife let her know I’d been in labor for close to 48 hours and that my water had broken several hours before. Naturally, she told me to come on in to the hospital. Finally, around 5:30 PM, Husband said it was time and we were leaving…this baby was well on his way. We made the 40 minute trek to the hospital.
Once there, I was sent to triage for intake procedures and they quickly moved me to a room. The nurse seemed stunned that yes, my water had indeed broken and I was very much about to have a baby. 42 minutes after walking in those sterile hospital doors, our sweet little guy was born. Hallelujah! The midwife was drawing the tub so I could labor in the water, but there wasn’t enough time for it to fill before shouts of victory erupted from a tiny little mouth. The sweetest sounds you’ll ever hear are those of a child entering the world and announcing everything has changed.
We got our umedicated VBAC and God was most glorified. I never screamed or spoke a word when we were in the room. I prayed silently and had Scripture read aloud. I focused on the Words being spoken and relished in the intimate beauty of birth. I thought of Mary giving birth to Jesus and how so many women had experienced this magnificent moment that I now fully understood. It was incredible. It was redemptive. It was restoration in the fullest sense. I’ve never felt stronger or more in tune with my body than I did January 4, 2014. At 7:02 PM, after nearly 48 hours of labor, our baby was born. Had Husband not insisted we leave our house when we did, my wish for a home birth could very likely have come true. But, the birth was wonderful and every person in the room was meant to be there and share in the experience. My doctor mom, who was so worried over my desires for a VBAC actually said she never knew birth could be so peaceful and it was incredible to witness. My mom has seen many births over the years, but insisted nothing was like what she saw that day and that she was going to tell everyone. It’s a rare moment to watch someone’s entire perspective change in front of you. The peace, the control, the raw beauty of a group of women coming together to gently welcome God’s beautiful addition to the world is indescribable. I will never get over the VBAC birth of our little boy and I want every woman to experience such joy.
I know most people probably did not read this incredibly long post, and that is okay. But, I wanted to document our little one’s birth story and let other women know that you CAN have a VBAC. And, as we all know, every birth is beautiful because every birth is LIFE and every LIFE is formed by God. That is the real miracle!!!