At just over 2 weeks postpartum, I feel like I’m ready to share the story of the birth of my second child. This post will be unlike the other posts I’ve made – it’s personal and from a very sensitive place for me. I hope you all can appreciate my journey and take away some lessons from how things went down!
With the birth of my daughter being a cesarean, I was going to be attempting a VBAC with this child and was pretty darn excited to do so. I took my doula training shortly after my first baby was born and after attending many labours as an Edmonton birth doula, I felt pretty well prepared. However, being an Edmonton doula I am very much aware of the unpredictability of childbirth, and I was reminded of this in what seemed like a hard lesson on not being able to control birth outcomes… no matter how hard you try.
My labour started out in the most perfect way I could have imagined – at 40 weeks and 6 days, I spontaneously went into labour on my own. This was HUGE for me, seeing as one of my fears (yes, Edmonton birth doulas have fears too) was having to be induced after undergoing a painful induction with my last. So while most people would prefer to not be woken up at 1am with contractions, I was thrilled! Things continued just as I expected from here – contractions got to 7min apart, lasting 45 secs and not unmanageable. They started to space out as the sun rose but grew in strength and length and I was coping pretty well. I was talking to my doula regularly, called my midwife to give her the heads up and both encouraged sleep at this point which I was actually able to do in about 10 min increments. I even thought that there was a chance that things could still peter out… until around noon when BAM! My contractions got super intense and 4-5 min apart lasting over a minute. Tears were shed, a couple of phone calls were made by my hubby and before I knew it, we were on our way to the hospital. This was it!
That car ride SUCKED. As most do when driving on bumpy Edmonton roads through tense contractions. I even remember saying to my partner “no more babies, this is our last one!” (To which he replied “let’s revisit this in about 6 months time”, haha). We got to the Royal Alex and met my doula Vanessa (Full Circle Birth Collective) and midwife Heather (Beginnings Midwifery) and got assigned a nice, big room. I was so excited to get my cervix checked at this point, I kept thinking that based on my contraction pattern I must be well into active labour and nearing the final stretch. The news was a bit disheartening – while I was at 4 to 5cm, very soft and thin, baby was still quite high. However, I saw the positives in the check and took these numbers with a grain of salt, as us Edmonton birth doulas know that these numbers can change quite rapidly. I got in the tub, laboured away and drove my doula and hubby crazy while in what I like to call “cranky labour mode” (that point you get to in labour where you don’t want to do anything but complain and say no to stuff… rightfully so, your about to pass a human!) I started to feel immense pressure, to the point where I felt the urge to push and sometimes couldn’t even stop myself. I kept thinking “this is it!” and my midwife decided to check me again. I was at 7cm, but to my disbelief baby was still super high. At this point my midwife mentioned that she thought baby’s head was asynclitic, which no one who works in the birth industry wants to hear. Asynclitic heads are tilted, and this little guy seemed to be stuck in a transverse (facing one of my hips) and asynclitic spot to the point where he just couldn’t engage into my pelvis. This started to sound oh so familiar, as the birth of my daughter was complicated due to her not being able to engage. Thank GOD for the fact that I had my doula and midwife with me, who both didn’t lose hope at this point and encouraged me to work some positions that might help baby drop.
The next few hours went by and I was definitely pondering ALL of the drugs. Contractions were quite intense and I found myself patiently waiting for my endorphins to kick in. Finally I decided on some nitrous oxide and a snack from my lovely partner and that really seemed to give me a boost to keep going. However, my baby and my pelvis had a different idea. While on the hospital bed on my hands and knees I let out a pretty large push that made my birth team all think that I could be nearing the pushing phase, so I got checked. Absolutely no change. It was gut wrenching. I decided to make an amendment to my ideal birth and opt in for an epidural. I hoped that maybe this all would start to progress if I could relax my pelvic floor (which I was desperately trying to do but n it doing a good job of with the strength my contractions reached). I felt so much support from my entire birth team with this decision, which I am so grateful for as it’s not what I originally wanted – I wanted to take a much more natural route. After the epidural, we decided to rupture my membranes and see if this combo would finally bring baby down. After my water broke I rested for an hour, hopeful that things were going to rapidly change.
My midwife was able to check me during a contraction, and unfortunately she informed me that I actually might not have been as dilated as she thought, as my cervix was much easier to feel with a bit of pressure from baby’s head. She called in an OBGYN for a consultation to see if they had any suggestions to get this baby out vaginally. While he was quite nice and calm, he said baby was still at -4 station (just barely past my pelvic inlet) and my contractions were strong enough that trying a pitocin drip wouldn’t make much difference. This was the moment where we ran out of options, and I consented to my second cesarean birth.
The birth itself went as expected. My midwife and partner were by my side which meant a lot and I was even allowed both arms free to hold my little guy after he came out. The procedure wasn’t the smoothest – baby really got nestled into an odd position meaning the medical team had to dig him out and cause bruising and swelling on my abdomen in the process. But he came out healthy as a horse, and much larger than I anticipated!
I had a few days in which I can only describe as slight grief. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, as I was I incredibly supported and educated throughout the whole birth and my little guy is alive and well, which is the most important thing. However I had a vision of how my birth was going to go, how I was going to announce to the world that I got my natural VBAC water birth and I was going to share my successful strategies with clients in future years. I was going to lead by example, but that was not how things turned out. Instead I quite possibly may never experience that beautiful moment of my baby being placed on my chest after working so hard to bring him earthside, experiencing that natural rush of oxytocin and feeling so incredibly proud and accomplished. This was the hardest pill for me to swallow, and no words were able to fully help heal that. I’m still emotional thinking about it.
However, there are so many important lessons to be taken from this birth, and I can see these now very clearly:
1. Regardless of how prepared you feel, how educated you are and how much you want things to go a specific way, you CANNOT control the outcome of your birth.
2. Regardless of the outcome of your birth, feeling supported and being able to make your own decisions and being respected for those decisions will help you avoid birth trauma. Consent is everything.
3. You birth team will make or break your experience. Husbands are incredible resources when they have good direction from someone. Doulas don’t just enhance your experience, they enhance your partner’s as well. And when your care provider lets you lead the way, you can feel in control of the most out-of-control situations.
4. The only things that are important in preparing for your birth are being well educated and developing a trust in your body. No amount of stretches, breathing exercises or pretty photos will amount to the importance of believing in yourself and understanding what’s going on in your body.
Im sure I could list off so many other things that I’ve taken away from this experience, but I will leave off by saying that this will most definitely make me a stronger Edmonton doula and and better instructor in my Edmonton prenatal classes. In many ways (possibly from the premature urge to push or the piggybacking contractions that resembled transition) I felt as though I got to experience a normal vaginally delivery. Only recovering from surgery rather than vaginal birth. I have many new memories from this birth that I wasn’t able to experience with my last, which I can’t wait to take to new clients in hopes of doing for them what was done for me this time around. I still believe that all births are beautiful. And I am forever grateful for the people who allowed me to have even a portion of the birth that I wanted. I can’t wait to pay it forward in the quest to make all births empowering. Thank you all for reading this and for being a part of my healing journey ❤️