vbac story

all photos by Nic or Amber, mama to this presh baby girl

Quite a shock to hear people ask how "our sons" are doing. My eyes probably glaze over each time. Sons, a mature sounding word, plural, joyful. Intimidatingly big deal. How did it go from trying for "a baby" to having two sons two years later? I've wondered whether my body could handle it... whether my   psyche could handle it... whether our marriage was strong enough to embrace them into true family?

When Obadiah came, with such strength & vigor, I knew that such high hopes had not been hoped in vain. Our way was prepared for us down to minute details: the time of day & day of the week, the midwives & nurses on duty, the technology available, the person to care for Elijah. Everything his birth needed was provided.

Our hope throughout this very unplanned pregnancy was a drug-free VBAC, which are increasingly rare in our area because so many hospitals & practices worry about liability, require continuous fetal monitoring or simply don't allow women an alternative to second Cesarean birth. So I networked, with  help from my doula & Birth Matters, to switch my prenatal care to a midwifery practice whose overseeing Ob genuinely supports VBAC candidates & to a hospital where the midwives' rapport was clearly established. This facility is also 25 min closer to home than where Elijah was born. His labor went lightning fast, so the switch was a no-brainer.

However jittery I felt carrying almost 3 weeks longer this time, & after several start-&-stop "almosts" with every thunderstorm, disappointment mixed with relief when labor evaporated. I had cried enough to genuinely give up wanting to anticipate/predict the timing of baby's arrival. The whole thing would be a surprise: conception, gender, birth. So Friday morning (April 8) mum, Elijah & I went to the chiro like any other week. Every adjustment makes a difference for me, but this one brought especially restful alertness that really helped me relax. Next was the scheduled midwife appt, with no developments to report, I was still 4-5 cm dilated & completely effaced. Crazy, right? I'd been walking around like that for a week at least, no noticeable contractions except during storms. She sent me home to eat a snack (queso, big mistake) & take a nap, I thought.

Alas, mid-snack at 11am my conversation with mum halted as a minute-long contraction seized my breath, my back, my front, my hips, everything halted. So she kept an eye on the clock: 9 min, another, 7 min, another, 6 min, 5 min, & I had to poo of all things. Biggest.dump.of.my.life. It was no-nonsense now & I needed someone to help me focus; the on-call midwife, Nic & Amber were summoned. Fifteen min later, after 3 or 4 more contractions that required counter-pressure from mum, Nic arrived & we converged at the hospital by noon. Friends, all that queso came up as we settled in L&D. I don't know how long I labored in the room before our amazing nurse rigged a waterproof method of fetal monitoring that let me into the tub. But thank Jesus for that girl, for her having home-birth experience & knowing that this labor needed to be in water. I dilated from 6 to 9 or 10cm while in the tub, encouraging a steady rhythm that let me relax & supporting my weight enough to let me squat & rock side-to-side without too much fatigue. And the baby footprints on the wall were the perfect detail to keep me focused on why this whole process was worth doing without drugs; I wanted to feel every detail of this baby coming. Two contractions in a row, I got LOUD without meaning to, perhaps because I suddenly wanted to bear down but knew not to push in the tub. Announcing I needed to get out because they were "too intense, too close, I want to push too much," they wrapped me in warm towels & helped me onto my hands & knees in bed again.

Bless her soul, my midwife said I could do whatever my body said to do. So I bore down & heard what sounded like a water balloon crashing out of my bottom. "I'm about to meet you, little person," I thought, "who are you, what is your name?" And relief came realizing that sheer exhaustion hadn't overcome me after all. So I pushed, gently at first, trying to figure out what muscles to use, feeling baby move down & taking direction from the midwife as to which pushes were really doing the work. That lasted an hour total, so they say, but most distinct is how it felt when he stayed low between contractions & I wasn't pushing to keep him low. I got to reach down & feel his little head, so close to the part where we get to rest together, an extra surge of wanting this baby crashed over me. So we pushed a little more; his head & left hand came out together which was tricky. It meant his body needed a little jostling to come out quickly enough to let him breathe. I say jostling because that's how it felt, the pain or sensation of stretching never increased, & soon he slid out. All 7lbs 14 oz of him. Almost a pound bigger than Elijah at birth. No wonder I felt huge.

All I wanted in the world was to hold that sweet baby & nurse him as soon as he was willing. Skin to skin now, swaddling can come later. He squeaked, he cried the brand-new "lah, lah, lah" cry I remembered from E. I was probably cooing at him; Nic was crying & trying not to pass out I think. We just held each other as daddy announced he was a boy & waited to cut the cord once it stopped pulsing. Afterbirth felt weird & hugely relieving; my whole body shook & my teeth chattered happily to feel him wiggling & crawling up my belly, now soft & empty. And we rested under warm blankets while the nurses & midwife made sure my bleeding was under control. We waited until his little throat was clear of all fluid before nursing; it didn't seem to matter, he latched right away on both sides, preferring to be held upright rather than cradled. I was probably still cooing to him; mama was so in love with him & so happy to feed little Os (his initials, pronounced Oz).

We impulsively opted to take the placenta home to our freezer, not sure what we'd end up doing with it but wanting to keep the miraculous organ than made our boy so strong inside mama. At the one-week mark, still feeling pretty anemic, I contacted a local lady who encapsulates placentas. This means that she prepares it in our kitchen, dehydrates & makes it into capsules as a medicinal supplement. The capsules are taken like a vitamin to restore mama's postpartum body: the reboot of iron in my blood, the helpful hormones that ward off anxiety & depression, not to mention increasing my milk supply. Yes, please! And it was amazingly healing to watch her prepare it, looking at the umbilical cord again... hearing her say how healthy our placenta was & seeing her point out signs of vitality. So encouraging, especially after my freak-out about having completely missed the first trimester health rituals. It's by far the strangest thing I've ever done, but it feels right.

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