This is a birth story from a doula client of mine turned midwifery client of Charlie's. A big part of my role as a doula prenatally is giving families information and then holding the space for them to make decisions about their care. I can't tell anyone how to give birth, I can only support the way they want to do it. I want all families to feel good about the support they've chosen. I am so happy that this mama didn't give up looking for the care she wanted during this important time. I'm so grateful she decided to share her VBAC after Special Scar (VBASS) story here with all of you. -Mary Catherine
My VBAC baby is 12 weeks old and I finally have my birth story together to share! Here is my HBAC after special scar story...
I had plans to deliver at a hospital in Tarpon Springs with an O.B. and my doula, Mary Catherine. Actually, I planned to drive to Tarpon (from South Tampa) once labor started, check in to the Innisbrook Resort and do most of my laboring there until we decided it was time to get to the hospital. The plan was that my friend would take care of my daughter until my mom arrived from Melbourne and then everyone would stay at Innisbrook while I was at the hospital. I was going to do all of this so I could deliver with the doctor I thought was my best chance for a successful VBAC.
To put it nicely, It turned out he was definitely not the right choice for me after a very unpleasant 38 week appointment. I was scared and very upset after that appointment but my wonderful doula Mary Catherine talked me down and connected me with my soon to be midwife, Charlie Rae. That same day another mama Melissa Goodnow shared her birth story on this site and it made me feel hopeful that I could have a home birth too. It really helped me to hear her story, see her pictures and visualize how this could all work. I never felt comfortable considering a home birth until I felt backed into a corner by my doctor and lack of options. After meeting with Charlie and doing some research, it felt like the best and (surprisingly) safest option for a peaceful VBAC. I had already been declared a safe candidate for vaginal birth after my first Cesarean birth and myomectomy surgery to remove fibroids by my old OB, and it took some convincing to get my husband on board with this idea but we decided I would have our baby at home in our bathtub.
My original "due date" was April 24th but my midwife found out from my medical records that an ultrasound showed a more accurate date of about a week later (had I stayed with the doctor he insisted that I get induced at 41 weeks). We patiently waited and I thought I saw a tiny bit of mucus plug on May 1. The next day I felt like I had a mild flu and was generally achy and yucky feeling. I knew from my birth class that this was a possible sign of labor. My husband worked from home that day to take care of our daughter because I badly felt like I needed to rest. I felt much better the next day and had a normal day at home. I thought I might be having Braxton Hicks all day off and on but I wasn't sure. I just had a vague feeling the baby might be coming very soon. That evening we started keeping track and I realized there was a definite contraction pattern. I fed my daughter dinner and asked my husband to go grocery shopping. When I was reading my daughter bed time stories, we hugged through the contractions and I got her to bed.
The contractions really picked up as soon as she was asleep and my husband got home from the store. I started straightening up the house and I remember walking upstairs at one point and a strong contraction sort of knocked me off my feet. I was on my knees on my staircase and needed to cry for a minute because the realization that this was really happening felt enormous. I did my best to pull it together because I knew I needed to focus my energy on my baby. I got on my birth ball while my husband kept track on an ipad app. We sent a text to Mary Catherine who confirmed that it sounded like labor.
For some reason I kept thinking the contractions could stop at any time and I might not really be in labor. She said I should eat and try to sleep in case this went on all night and to call when I was ready for her to come over. I ended up quickly shoving some hummus and pita in my mouth for dinner because the contractions were getting stronger and I didn't feel I could cook anything. I tried to have a glass of wine to help me relax but I couldn't drink much. I took a shower and then went to my bedroom to rest and watched a silly show that makes me happy (Hart of Dixie!). Then it suddenly bothered me to have wet hair and I decided I had to blow dry it and flat iron it because it was annoying me. This seems so ridiculous to me now since I never do my hair, but there I was, alternately bending over my bathroom counter to breathe through contractions and fixing my hair. I watched a recording of New Orleans Jazz Fest from earlier that day to help distract from the pain (Jazz Fest makes me really happy) and I started pacing my bedroom and bending over my dresser during contractions.
Pacing my bedroom was the only way I was comfortable at that point. My husband was busy rinsing out our tub and getting stuff ready. Then I threw up what little I ate for dinner and my poor husband was ready with a bucket. We called Mary Catherine to come over then. When she arrived, we chatted a little and then she started helping me with counter pressure and talking me through the contractions. She put some nice smelling oils in the diffuser and we had lit candles and put on spa music and I got in the tub (and my hair was wet again, ha!). Once the contractions were really close together, I started to feel like I couldn't handle it any more. I kept saying I needed more of a break in between. I got to a point where I went inward and just faced the pain but I kept saying "I can't do this". Mary Catherine was saying "But you ARE doing this". I kept thinking of all the things I read in Ina May Gaskin's book, that the pain would be over soon and I should keep my jaw loose so I didn't tense up. My lovely doula helped me remember to do this.
I got out of the tub and labored on the bed for a while and I remember really needing to hold someone's hand trough the contractions. Mary Catherine was able to help me focus on her and count through a strong contraction but I was only able to do that for a quick minute and then I was back in my own head again. It was much better when I was able to get out of my head but it was too hard to do that for long. I remember Charlie Rae got there around this time and I wanted to say hi to her but just couldn't.
They had me get back in the tub and not too long after, I started to feel like pushing. It felt like I was pushing against a wall though, like the baby would not be able to come out. As everyone was encouraging me to push, I kept saying I can't. But then I imagined what would happen if I gave up. I imagined travelling in an ambulance to a hospital soaking wet and pushing and decided that was just not an option. I thought about how good it would feel to get the baby out and be done with contractions, it helped me focus. Charlie suggested a different position using the tub for leverage so I tried that and pushed as hard as I could a couple of times. She said she could see the baby's hair and asked if I wanted to reach down to feel it. I felt like I couldn't reach down because I was gripping the tub handles for dear life and didn't want to let go. They told me to focus all my energy in my bottom so I concentrated on that and kept pushing.
One thing I was certain of beforehand was that I did not want to be screaming and freaking out during labor. Well, I was yelling loudly during those last pushes. I needed to release energy and it felt like it helped (that whole time I was also thinking that I might wake up my daughter with my yelling). I remember the song "Smile" started playing and it helped me relax a bit and get out of my own head again. I've always loved that song...
Finally, my baby came out and I saw her eyes open under the water. There was immediately no more pain and I felt so relieved that she was out and safe. I spent so much of my pregnancy planning my VBAC and worrying and trying not to worry...so it was just one big sense of relief at that moment. The ladies told me she turned partially posterior as I was pushing and she came out with her hand by her face so I'm guessing that's why I felt like I was pushing up against a wall. I ended up with two tears, which was something I was afraid of, but did not feel it at all when it happened. I wish I could say I was all bliss as she was born but I just remember feeling intense relief. That and I was totally amazed at what just happened! I delivered the placenta lying on my bed and then I got stitched up (not fun but not so bad). I even got to see my placenta which I thought was pretty cool. Mary Catherine made me a smoothie with part of it and it was surprisingly good. I held my girl while we waited for the cord to stop pulsing.
Then I laid down with her for a while and Charlie weighed her and did all the newborn stuff they do and I nursed her. Our baby girl arrived close to 5:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 3 after about 10 hours of labor and 20 minutes pushing. Her big sister was born on a Saturday too. They cleaned up and I rinsed off in the shower and went to bed just as big sister was waking up. She slept through everything and our dogs hung out near the room the whole time. I was only able to sleep for an hour, I think because I had so much adrenaline pumping through me. Once I woke up, our daughter got to meet her new baby sister, at home, in our bed.
Thank you so much for the honor of sharing your story here for others, a beautiful reminder to all families that it's almost never too late to seek the support you deserve.