I Drove To Another State For A VBAC- An Interview

 So often women ask how far they should be willing to go to get the birth they want.  This mom answers that question and shows you WHY it is worth it.  

-So, I would love for you to first give a brief rundown of your first birth and what you feel like happened and why you had a c-section.
Let me start off by saying that a first time mom who ends up in a c-section doesn't initially think she's gotten there because she was uneducated.  I thought I had researched and knew everything.  I think this is where my biggest mistake was because most of the research out there on popular baby websites pretty much just tells you to "trust your doctor and our medical system."  I think it also goes without saying that we all know c-sections can be life saving miracles and I am so thankful we have the technology to use this surgery when life truly calls for it.

I had an uneventful pregnancy with my first baby in 2009.  At my 38 week appointment, my doctor did a cervical exam and felt my belly externally.  I was 1 cm dilated, about 25% effaced and according to her, I was "all baby."  She said she wanted to induce me that week because she felt I already had a 70% chance of c-section because the baby was so big.  Of course I was tired of being pregnant, so at 38+5 weeks I went in at 5am for a pitocin induction and they also ruptured my bag of waters.  By 11am I was 2-3 cm dilated and the nurses were encouraging me to get my epidural.  After the epidural was placed I couldn't move my legs and was turned from side to side.  
I was checked every hour and not making much progress.  Around 5pm my doctor came to check on me, I was 5cm and 70% effaced and baby was at -1.  The doctor said I wasn't following the "curve of labor" so she wanted to start talking about a c-section.  I asked her for one more hour.  After that time, the nurse checked me and said she thought I was a 6, but when my doctor came in, she said I was still at 5cm so it was time to go to the OR.  I asked her what would happen if I wanted to keep laboring and she told me she would either have to break my pelvis or the baby's shoulder to get him out.  So, of course, off to the OR we went.  The ride through the halls were some of the scariest moments of my life.  My son Clint was born at 7:07pm weighing 8lbs 9oz and was 21.5" long. I was told I had a curved and shallow pelvis and could not birth babies because of it.

-What made you desire a VBAC after your c-section? This is almost unheard of these days.
About 6 months after Clint's birth I started really questioning my birth experience.  I couldn't understand why I was so upset when I'd hear about a successful induction or vaginal delivery with one of my friends.  I tried to take to heart that over-used line of "all that matters is a healthy baby," but I just couldn't seem to get over how robbed I felt of a good birth experience.  I started looking online and learned about the term "VBAC."  This led to me finding the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) website.  
We were about to move from San Antonio, Texas to the Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW) area so I got in touch with the ICAN of North Texas group.  I began talking with women in the group about my birth experience and was humbled to find out I was not alone in my postpartum feelings.  I was so happy to finally have people I could talk to who understood how I felt without trying to put it in to words! I knew after hearing so many of their experiences and learning the scare tactics used during my first birth that when it was time for our next child I wanted to try to have a VBAC.  
-How did you find a care provider who would support you? 

Once it was closer to us trying to get pregnant, I started asking the ICAN women more pointed questions about local care providers.  I found that I felt I really had three options if I wanted a hospital birth.  There was a nurse-midwife group about 30 minutes from me and two different doctors who were about an hour from me.  My husband and I went to the nurse-midwife group first and although we felt fine with them, we weren't over confident it was the right fit.  A couple of weeks after our consult with them, one of the doctors I had considered was speaking at an ICAN meeting.  My husband and I decided to go hear what he had to say and we immediately knew he was our doctor.  I set up a consult, he gave us the green light to try to conceive and we went forward, getting pregnant with our second baby in July 2011.

This is where my story takes a turn.  I had done so much work to set myself up with a good care provider so I could just sit back and enjoy my second pregnancy.  Then suddenly my husband was transferred to Alexandria, Louisiana in October 2011.  I immediately started talking with the women of ICAN of Baton Rouge (about 3 hours away), the only chapter at the time in the state.  They also directed me to Birth Rite Louisiana, a birth group locally located in Alexandria.  
Between the two groups of women I must have called 15 OBGYNs and the couple of midwives located in the state.  No one would give me a consult, let alone let me have a trial of labor.  I was so frustrated!!  I still had a couple of appointments with my doctor in DFW before we moved and he had told me numerous times he would still be my doctor if I needed him to be.  We made the move in December 2011 and I was still trying to find someone closer to us.  Finally, I realized I felt most comfortable just staying with our original doctor and made a call to his office.  They called me back and we set up a modified prenatal visit schedule, since I was healthy and the baby was healthy.  
My brother lives in DFW, so every three or four weeks I would make a 6 hour drive, go to my prenatal appointment, drive another hour south to my brother's house, get up the next morning and drive 6 hours home.  At 38 weeks, my mother in law came from Arkansas to stay at our home with Clint and help fill my role in the household so my husband, Brian, could stay home and work while being available to leave at a moment's notice.  My brother and sister in law were loving enough to open their home to me full time and a good friend drove to Louisiana from Dallas to drive me and my huge pregnant belly back to Texas.  Then, I waited for labor.

-What was labor like for you? 

Labor was so much harder physically than I anticipated!  I knew it would hurt, but I was not prepared for how long it would hurt.  I was so thankful I had a doula with me to help me make clear decisions during my labor. When my water broke, I felt sure I'd have a baby by the end of the day.  Little did I know I had 23 hours ahead of me!  I remember afterwards being so sore that I told my husband I felt like I had run a marathon!  I also remember thinking while I was pushing that I had never done ANYTHING so physically strenuous in my entire life!

-What helped you do this?

It's hard to answer this question because there are so many things I want to say.  First and foremost, my husband helped me do this.  He wanted this for me and our family as much as I did and supported me every single step of the way.  I had amazing support in my family as well, with my brother and sister in law letting me live with them for a month until I finally went in to labor, my mother in law giving us a month of her time living at our house taking care of our son, my parents cheering me on and sending me congratulatory flowers afterwards because I had accomplished my VBAC, and the numerous other friends and family members who listened to why this was important to me and never made me feel like I should sign up for a repeat c-section.  

The next group of people are the wonderful ladies of ICAN.  I would never have been able to do this without their willingness to educate me on c-sections and VBAC and comfort me when I cried and was angry.  ICAN led me to my amazing doula and has given me some life long friends.  I have a special place in my heart for them and truly believe in the mission of the organization.

Finally, if it wasn't for my doctor telling me over and over that he believed I would have a vaginal delivery because I was so determined, I would have given up when we moved to Louisiana and couldn't find a doctor.  His willingness to keep me as a patient enabled me to have one of the most emotionally healing experiences of my life.  

-How did you prepare for your VBAC?
I asked my doula if I should take a childbirth class, but she said my determination would see me through.  I watched a lot of birth videos, read a lot of stories, and researched VBAC until I was blue in the face.  I thought out and created a birth plan and reviewed it in depth with all members of my support team.  I watched my weight gain, stayed active and talked to my baby.  He was breech through week 28 and after a loving night spent telling him which way to go, he turned.  Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe not. I talked to him throughout the pregnancy, telling him we were a team and could do this together.  I still call him my little partner! :)   I also did some spinning babies techniques throughout my third trimester to ensure optimal positioning of the baby.

-Describe your VBAC birth story. We would LOVE to hear about it!
My doctor had a trip scheduled out of town the week after my due date.  He knew everything I had gone through to have him be our care provider so with the right intentions, offered an induction at 40+1 weeks.  I declined.  I had two bouts of prodromal labor, one at 40+4 and one at 41+1.  Brian surprised me with a visit on the day I was 41 weeks and I was positive I was in labor that Saturday at 41+1.  When I woke up Sunday, I was so beat down.  I missed my baby boy and I wanted this to be over.  I called my doula and my mom and after talking to everyone, we decided that if I hadn't gone in to labor by the day my doctor was due to come back in town, I would go in for an induction at 41+5 weeks.  
My doula and my mom both said they hoped to hear from me that night that I was in labor and I told them not to get their hopes up.  Wouldn't you know, at 2am at 41+3 weeks pregnant, my water broke.  Brian had decided to just stay in town, start his week vacation and wait for the induction because I needed his emotional support.  Contractions started around 3:30am.  By 4:30am they were starting to be uncomfortable but were still 6-7 minutes apart.  We decided to get up, take showers and get things together.  Then we went and had breakfast together at IHOP!  
I contracted through the meal and on the way back to my brother's house, called my doctor on his cell phone, which he had given me for contact while he was out of town.  He told me to wait until the contractions were about 4 minutes apart then head to the hospital an hour away.  By 7:30am, they were 3:30-3:45 minutes apart and I didn't feel comfortable staying home any more.  We braved rush hour in DFW and it took us 2 hours to get to the hospital.  Things slowed down in the car and when I got checked at 9:30am at the hospital I was only 3 cm, 70% and at -3.  I was bummed!  We went and walked for an hour, got checked and monitored for 20 minutes, no change.  Walked again, got checked monitored for 20 minutes, no change.  
The doctor on call was great and was in contact with my doctor.  By 2pm both doctors wanted to start pitocin because of my water being broken for 12 hours and me not making progress.  Contractions picked up and by 5pm I was 4cm, 80% and at -2.  The pitocin made the contractions unbearable and I was progressing so slowly.  I had a mantra of "relax into the pain" to let the contractions do their work and it wasn't working any more.  I had planned on a natural child birth, but was committed to listening to my body and knew I needed some help.  
At 6pm I received an epidural that felt much lighter than the one I had during Clint's labor because I could move my legs and move around as much as I wanted in bed without help.  I was checked after the epidural was placed and was 6cm, 80% and -2.  By 7pm I was 8cm, 90% and -1.  I knew at that moment I had made the right decision for me because I was enabling my body to relax enough to let the contractions do their work.  By 10pm I was 9.5cm, 100% and at 0 station.  The nurse said she could push the last of my cervix past the baby's head and we should be pushing soon.  
At 11pm my epidural medicine ran out and we decided to leave it off so I could push effectively.  By 11:30pm, the nurse still hadn't returned and I had regained full feeling with a lot of pressure telling me it was time to push.  My doula told me if I needed to push with each contraction, to just do it!  For the next half hour, I pushed on my own and it was such relief.  The nurse finally came in at 12:05am and we got down to business.  My baby kept "turtling" up after I pushed and I was having to work HARD to get him down.  Sometime after 1am, they told me to reach down and feel my baby's head.   I had dreamed of that moment!  I was so tired though and I just wanted someone to tell me how much longer, especially when I got to the famous "ring of fire."  
My doula was so connected to me and must have read my mind because at that moment, she said "Erin, you're going to meet your baby in two minutes."  That gave me the strength I needed and finally, at 1:23am on April 3, 2012, my second SON was born!! (We had kept the gender a surprise, so it was really exciting!!)  They placed my baby RIGHT on my bare chest, covered in "goo" (as I called it) and I just kept crying saying "Oh my God! Oh my God!" After 23 hours of labor and almost 2 hours of pushing and I gave birth to an 8lb 14oz, 21" long VBAC baby boy who we named Bryce.  He was 5oz bigger than Clint!  My body was made to do this despite what any other doctor had ever said!

- Has the postpartum experience been different than your other births? What about it surprised you?
The postpartum experience made every single contraction worth it!  Since my epidural had worn off 2 hours before delivery, I got up and walked to the bathroom right after I gave birth.  It was amazing!  Then later that day a really bad storm came through DFW and had lots of tornadoes.  We had to evacuate in to the hospital hallways and I'll never forget feeling how good it felt to walk in to the hallway carrying my baby.  I have a picture of me in the hallway during the evacuation and there is a c-section mom behind me.  That could have easily been me if I hadn't educated myself on VBAC.

Another amazing thing was that after my c-section, my milk to 6 days to come in and after my VBAC it came in on day number 2!!  By one week postpartum I felt almost normal and at 4 weeks postpartum I went on my first run since finding out I was pregnant.  The recovery made everything I went through so worth it because I was able to be an active mom with my two year old while caring for my newborn and I wasn't in any pain!  Another amazing aspect of the difference in my postpartum was being able to make what turned in to a 7 hour road trip home to Louisiana at 3 days postpartum with my newborn.  Could never have done that after a c-section!

I was surprised how convicted I felt afterwards to bring c-section and VBAC awareness to Central Louisiana.  That conviction led me to start the second ICAN chapter in the state, ICAN of Central Louisiana.  I hope I can bring support to c-section moms and eventually help care providers realize how much safer VBAC is and that it is desperately needed in our part of the country.


Rachael said…
Reading about doctors saying the things your docs told you at your first birth makes me skin crawl. I can't believe how they can misinform women, and scare them by telling them they will have to break their/their babies bones? So unacceptable! I am so glad you got your VBAC!

One question about the wording, I am wondering why the question about VBACs says 'This is almost unheard of these days.' Is this a regional thing? Where I live, VBACs are certainly not unheard of at all.
Tracy said…
I agree with Rachael about the wording of that question. I wouldn't considered a VBAC to be "unheard of," maybe more like "not encouraged or well supported." I'm loving these VBAC interviews though!
Love it!!! I am soooo proud of you!! :-)
jamie said…
I think you are awesome Erin! So proud of you :) it was great to read your birth story!