Let me preface this with a little backstory. I had a c-section with my first baby. They classified it as a “failed induction,” due to failure to progress past 8 centimeters after 12 hours. I felt like a lot of my choices were pressured or driven by the doctors, and I ended up having a non-emergency C-section in panic and sadness. My arms were strapped down during surgery, and because I was so anxious, they gave me a sedative that made me forget all the precious first moments with my new baby. My son was healthy and wonderful, and everything went well, but I dealt with some emotional trauma from the experience, so throughout my second pregnancy, I really pondered my options, educated myself about both C-sections and VBACs, and went back and forth between which method I wanted.
We found out early that we were having another boy and were thrilled about it. Unlike our first child, whose name was “Baby Boy” for the first several days of his life, we decided on the name in the first trimester. As soon as we knew a baby was coming to our family, we knew we were waiting for Fredrick. I started seeing a new doctor at about 30 weeks, and at every appointment, she answered a dozen questions on VBACs vs. C-sections. She was totally supportive of whichever option I wanted, and made me feel confident with each one. Still, I struggled to decide. I knew that if I opted for a scheduled Caesarian, almost all of the guesswork would be removed. I’d know when my baby would be born, I could choose the date, I wouldn’t have to spend those last days wondering and aching and waiting. I had already recovered from this surgery once before, so I knew it would be a familiar recovery. On the other hand, it was major surgery. Did I really want to go through that again? What if I was just as panicked and anxiety-ridden as I was last time? I didn’t want my birth experience to be as fear-based as it had been the first time.
After consultations with midwives, doulas, doctors, a VBAC support group, and my family, I ultimately decided to try for a VBAC. I knew it was unlikely that I would go into labor on my own because I never did the first time. I wanted to avoid a medical induction, since my risk of another "failure" was higher the second time, so we discussed alternatives like breaking my water and waiting for labor, using a foley balloon, and certain homeopathic methods. She was cautious and informed me of the risks of going past 40 weeks, and we decided that we’d play it by ear when those last days came.
At my 38 week appointment, the baby had been measured at my last appointment and was an estimated 6.5 pounds, so my doctor and I were optimistic about a VBAC. I started doing various homeopathic methods for natural induction, but none worked. When 40 weeks rolled around and I still hadn’t gone into labor, I started to get frustrated. For the next four days, I woke up each morning and cried because I was still pregnant. I was worried I wouldn’t go into labor. I was worried I would have another failed induction and subsequent traumatic surgery. I was sore and tired and ready to be done.
Finally, at 40 weeks and four days, I called my doctor and told her I was done. I think I used the words "I'm dying," and could she please schedule me in today? She told me she would be on-call at the hospital that night, and I could check in at 7:00. We were going for an induction with a foley balloon and pitocin. That night, we got to the hospital nervous and excited. I got set up in my room with an IV and the foley balloon, and my nurse Diana started a pitocin drip. Very quickly, my contractions became strong. I tried to walk the hallway but was trailing small amounts of blood (which is normal with a foley balloon), so I decided to pace my room and try to watch a movie.
I didn’t even get an hour into my movie when the contractions became overwhelming. The balloon fell out, which meant I was dilated to a four. I tried bouncing on a birth ball, walking, and a bunch of different still positions. Within 20 minutes of the balloon’s exit, I was screaming in pain. There was no rest between contractions, and I still had several hours - maybe all night - to go. Nurse Diana came in to help coach me through a few contractions, but my whole body was seizing with pain, and I started hyperventilating.
Then I did what I worked nine months to avoid. I asked my doctor if I could have a C-section.Because she had known my emotional journey and desire to have a VBAC, I expected her to encourage me to forge through and keep going. Instead, she agreed that it would be much less traumatic to have a C-section by choice. Relief would soon come. I got a spinal tap and was prepped for surgery. Nurse Diana hugged me and wiped my tears until numbness set in. Once I was laying on the table free of pain, I was able to calm down. I was about to have another C-section, but I was about to meet my baby. I had expected to feel full of fear and sadness for having “failed” at birth again. I had expected to be disappointed in myself for choosing “the easy way out.” Instead, I felt calm. I talked and joked with my doctor, the nurses, and the anesthesiologist during the whole surgery. At one point I remember looking at the operating spotlights and thinking,
“This is how you’re supposed to feel when your baby is born. This is the healing experience I had hoped for.”About 20 minutes into the surgery, the doctor reached the baby and said, “Oh my gosh!” In my head, I thought, “Oh no, there’s two of them, isn’t there?” “He’s face up and looking at me!” She began laughing. She explained that most babies are face down (toward mom’s back), and the reason my labor had been so difficult so fast was because he was facing the wrong way, or posterior. When babies are posterior, their forehead pushes forward first instead of the crown of their head. The surface area is much larger, and some mothers tear badly. My doctor congratulated me on making it as far into labor as I did, and told me I had made a smart decision by listening to my body and deciding to have a C-section. She assured me that I had not, in fact, taken the easy way out.
When our beautiful, bald baby boy was lifted out of me, he was the precious, purple alien I knew I had been waiting for. He was wrinkled and scrunchy and a whopping two pounds more than they’d estimated he’d be. Again, the doctor said she was proud of me for listening to my instincts. My labor might have taken all night and resulted in another C-section anyway, or if it had been a vaginal success, an even more difficult recovery than the C-section.
The nurses wrapped him and brought him over to me, and I wept and kissed his puffy face and nose and big, grey hands. I talked to him and welcomed him and invited everyone in the room to come admire him. I was a proud mother. We had two kids! We just had another son! He was perfect and quiet and exactly who I expected. And even better was that I was coherent. I knew I would remember meeting him.
Those first days in the hospital with just him, me, and my husband were a dream. Nursing came easy and taking care of a baby was familiar to us again. We slipped easily back into our roles as new parents, only this time we weren’t scared. We’d had a totally different hospital experience with this sweet boy, and instead of feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and frustrated with the birth experience, we felt joyful, grateful, and ready.