The birth of my first son resulted in a c-section after my water broke due to his Breech presentation. With this (surprise) baby, I knew I wanted to try for a VBAC birth.
Content warning: unplanned pregnancy, traumatic birth
My husband and I weren’t planning on trying to have another baby for at least another year, but life had other plans for us.
It took me a solid 25 weeks to accept my second (surprise) pregnancy, paired with a lot of therapy, self-talk, and acceptance. You can read more about that journey here.
But this post isn’t about that; it’s about the birth of our sweet second child and how they entered into this world and challenged me every step of the way.
A little bit of backstory
We didn’t find out the sex of our second baby until they were born. It was the most incredible moment of my life – one that I will never forget (and thank goodness we have it all on camera, too).
I prepared for this birth through multiple birthing classes, a few of them centered on having a successful VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). I did acupuncture, chiropractic work, therapy to process my last c-section, and my midwife and doula were fully supportive.
I considered was low-risk and the “perfect candidate” for a VBAC because my body had never experienced labor before. As I mentioned above, I was wheeled into surgery to give birth to my son when we found out my membranes had ruptured.
My husband and I, our son, and our two dogs lived about 20 minutes away from home as we completed a year-long renovation throughout my entire pregnancy.
Considering that this pregnancy was a huge shock to us, we were stressed. Oh, and throw the global pandemic in there, too. Nevertheless, I was committed to exploring my options and doing everything in my power to experience a vaginal birth with my second.
Labor: the early hours
My body stopped and started labor a few times as with my son. I experienced prodromal labor for at least two weeks and was highly frustrated.
After a few visits to L&D after false labor cycles, I took some moments to myself. I did my best to recenter and focus on having the successful VBAC experience I desperately wanted.
My due date was December 3rd, and on November 29th, around 9:30 AM, a midwife from my team swept my membranes, and we waited with bated breath to see what would happen. That sweep was just what my body needed to really begin the labor process.
Around noon my doula arrived. The contractions remained consistent throughout the day and slowly started to gain in intensity after some light nipple stimulation, Vitamin C, curb walking, and bouncing on my birthing ball.
Around 8 PM, we decided it was time to head to the hospital. I was feeling very intense and consistent contractions.
Arriving at the hospital
Once I was admitted to the hospital, we settled into the birthing suite. I was around 5 CM dilated at this point. The room itself was a huge room with a soaking tub, shower, bed, and all of the birth accessories one could desire.
As my contractions continued to progress, I found the TENS Unit and a simple black comb so helpful to breathe through the surges.
After a few hours, a midwife came to check my progress, and I was about 7 CM. We decided to break my waters to help things progress as I didn’t want to exhaust myself. I had been laboring for almost 18 hours at this point.
Once my waters were released, my body kicked into full gear. I steadied myself through each surge with deep breathing, my trusty black comb, the TENS Unit, submerging into the tub, and acupressure. I finally made it to 9.5 CM.
Houston, we have a problem
The hospitalist checked on me (because of my c-section history, this is required by my hospital) and suggested that I try an epidural. I prompted responded, “F*ck no, I’ve come this far!”.
The problem he noticed was that a small part of my cervix was getting stuck and not allowing me to fully dilate to 10 CM.
I quickly felt the urge to push, but my providers were hesitant due to my cervix situation. It kept fluctuating between 9.5 CM and 10 CM.
After some painful attempts, my midwife manipulated my body enough to open up my cervix fully, and I was able to push for an hour, unfortunately, with little progress.
At this point, I’m exhausted. It’s already past noon. It’s been over 24 hours of unmedicated labor. Thankfully, my baby looked consistent and healthy on the screen, handling the surges like an absolute champ.
A decision is made
After consulting with my care team, I decided that it was time for an epidural to – hopefully – help my body relax enough to continue to stay entirely dilated. My cervix was inflamed, and I lost bits of internal tissue from pushing so hard.
One of the scariest parts of my birth experience was sitting completely still at 10 cm dilated while the anesthesiologist administered the epidural. It was a moment I felt an inner strength I never knew I had.
Thankfully, the epidural helped immensely. My body calmed down, and my cervix melted back. I was in the clear to continue pushing.
There were exciting moments when we could see hair, my team cheered, and my husband cried tears of joy.
Sadly, after three hours of this, no progress was made, and we determined that my baby was in an asynclitic position. They physically couldn’t make it through, even after my care team and the hospitalist tried to move and manipulate their position strategically.
Another decision is made
Unfortunately, it became evident that my baby wasn’t handling the manipulations well and was – most likely – exhausted.
I’ll never forget the quiet, shared look between my nurse, midwife, and hospitalist that we had to change direction. I knew what was next: a c-section.
Quickly, my dreams of a VBAC were out the window.
In hindsight, my labor was trending in this direction well before I even stepped into the hospital. With all of the start and stop labor, we determined that baby could not fully engage in the proper birthing position, probably due to something we could not see, like the position of my pelvis or a tilt of my uterus.
As the baby was now stable, the hospitalist and my care team exited the room to give us some space to process for a few minutes. I’d be lying to you if I told you I didn’t cry. I sobbed. I grieved. My husband joined me. We let it all out.
(Side note: as a patient – pending no emergent situations – you can always request some privacy to discuss options presented in front of you with your partner. Even if you want a moment to breathe and process what’s happening around you – ask!).
See, it wasn’t the c-section that scared me. It was the postpartum aftermath.
The re-learning of using my body, the pain, the feelings of a lack of control. I communicated these fears to my doula, husband, and midwife. I made it explicitly clear that I needed more postpartum support this time around; it was the only way I could move forward in my c-section in peace.
A baby is finally born
I was prepped for surgery and wheeled into the room. With the last 36 hours under my belt, I was ready to meet the sweet baby I had fought to bring into this world.
At 3:38 PM on November 30th, our sweet baby girl was born. We named her Nellie Ann.
Learning her sex for the first time in nine months was a moment I will never forget. It’s one of my most cherished memories. She was a ray of light and a beacon of strength from the moment she was born. She still is to this day.
She latched within 30 seconds of the assistant placing her on my chest (it was unbelievable!) and stayed there for a few minutes. Unfortunately, I began to shake so hard that I had to hand her off to my husband for some skin-to-skin time with him.
I’ll never forget the sweet assistant who firmly and lovingly placed his hand on my chest to help ground me and calm my shakes. He kept repeating how strong I was and what a beautiful moment and birth he had just witnessed.
A powerful postpartum healing experience
To say I was bracing for impact after my second c-section would be an understatement. With a two-year-old at home, I was nervous about what my postpartum recovery would look like. I wasn’t even allowed to lift him for the first six weeks. That was tough.
Thankfully, I was explicitly clear with my husband and doula that I would need more support this time around. And I asked for it every time I needed it.
I said No.
I focused on healing.
I didn’t leave the bed for entire days.
I had help, and, more importantly, I accepted it.
In the end, our second baby taught me that birth, postpartum, and motherhood look different with each baby brought into this world.
She taught me that I am stronger than I ever knew and that sometimes, the best things in life, we can’t plan on happening. We have to be open to experiencing life’s surprises to understand how sweet they are.
Love you, baby girl.
Other stories you may enjoy
- The Powerful Homebirth of Billie Iona
- An Unexpected Traumatic Birth and Triumphant Recovery
- How Infertility and PPD Changed My Life
Founded by new mom and self-care author Carley Schweet, Hello Postpartum aims to help fill in the gaps in postpartum care and support. At Hello Postpartum, we aim to create an accessible community where everyone can access postpartum education, research-backed articles, and support tools.