My first birth was nothing at all like I had planned.
When I hit 40 weeks of pregnancy, my hospital provider threw my birth plan out the window and scheduled me for an induction. A series of events—often referred to in the birth world as the cascade of interventions—led me to an emergency cesarean, leaving me defeated and somewhat traumatized.
Almost immediately after my c-section, I started thinking about VBAC—vaginal birth after cesarean—for future pregnancies. At my six-week check-up, my OB-GYN painted a grim picture.
“You could try,” she said, “but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a smaller baby.”
A little over eight pounds, my firstborn child wasn’t exactly off the charts. But my doctor believed that the baby was just too big for my body to birth naturally. As a first time mom, I didn’t quite believe her, but she was the expert…wasn’t she?
After my roller coaster of a birth, a planned Cesarean did sound appealing. At least I would know what to expect and when to expect it. But I didn’t like the risks of having multiple c-sections if it wasn’t necessary, and I didn’t want to limit my family size so early on. What if we wanted a big family?
A small voice in the back of my head told me that with the right support, I could give birth naturally.
My doctor continued. “If you want to try for a VBAC, you’ll have to deliver at Tampa General. The other hospitals don’t allow it.”
I knew that the cesarean rate in the US was climbing. Shouldn’t the doctors want to encourage VBAC? I didn’t realize how hard it could be to find a provider who was willing and able to allow it. I wondered, was it really that dangerous?
When I got pregnant again, my first baby was about a year old. I began my search for a provider, and I found another option, one that wouldn’t require driving 45 minutes in labor.
In Due Season was a new birth center in Zephyrhills. The midwives attended births at their birth center and at home. And they took my insurance!
I typed a message into their Facebook page: Do you do VBACs?
The response made my heart race: Yes.
I called the office to set up a consultation. I wasn’t committed yet to having a VBAC, much less an unmedicated homebirth VBAC. But I wanted to explore all my options.
At my consultation, the midwives listened to my birth story with compassion. They reassured me that my body was not broken, that my baby was not too big. They walked me through the events of my last birth and explained what they might have done differently.
I started prenatal care with Lucie, the head midwife and VBAC expert. As time went on, and I learned more about VBAC, I grew more confident. I learned that most women who attempt VBAC are successful, and that the actual risks are much smaller than they seem. Lucie was always there to answer my questions and give me advice whenever my pregnancy took a twist or turn.
Near the end of pregnancy, I began seeing a chiropractor. My first baby had not been in an ideal position, and I wanted to make sure my second baby had her best chance (Side note: In Due Season now has their own chiropractor, making this option even more convenient and accessible for moms).
By my last month of pregnancy, I had read enough birth stories to fill an encyclopedia. I felt that VBAC was the best option for me, and I was comfortable knowing all the ways Lucie would keep me safe. I was ready to have a baby!
At long last, 40 weeks came…and went. Then 41 weeks. I had the occasional contraction, but nothing consistent. Was it going to be like my first birth all over again? What if my body really didn’t work? What if my baby really was too big?
Ten days after my due date, I woke up at 5 o’clock in the morning filled with self-doubt. Maybe I should just schedule a C-section after all, I thought. I got back in bed. I had a contraction that felt different from the rest, and…pop! My water broke.
Lucie came over immediately. Almost as soon as she arrived, I started having regular contractions. My husband did hip squeezes and held a warm rice sock to my back. This was really happening!
A few hours later, it was time to get in the birth pool. The warm water immediately helped with the pain…but after a little while, I realized that I wanted to get out. The water was nice, but I couldn’t find a comfortable position in the tub. My body wanted to push, but…where?
I got out. I tried laying in my bed—nope, that didn’t feel right.
Lucie suggested the toilet. “I don’t want my baby to fall in,” I said between contractions. “She won’t,” Lucie assured me.
I sat on the toilet and felt the baby descend. My body was pushing on its own! Despite the pain, and despite going through the most intense part of labor, I was still smiling between contractions, laughing at the absurdity of my birth team gathered around me on the toilet. So much for my Pinterest-perfect water birth!
As the baby’s head descended, we agreed that I should make my way back to my bedroom.
Pushing was the part I had been most worried about. With my first baby, I had pushed on my back, with an epidural, for three hours—and it had ended in surgery.
But when it came time to push out my second, I didn’t have time to worry about it. As I walked to the bed, the pushing intensified. My body was doing it on its own!
I marveled at the wisdom of my own body. Some contractions felt “pushy,” while others didn’t. But I knew that each contraction was doing its job.
Finally, I leaned onto my bed and pushed out that baby like a champ.
I did it!
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to have my moment of celebration right away. I was bleeding a bit more than they would have liked.
Lucie and her assistant administered medication and massaged my stomach. They kept a watchful eye, ready to call an ambulance if necessary.
The bleeding slowed. Finally, I could get back to admiring my new baby, my second beautiful girl.
All I saw was a perfect, squishy baby, but someone finally commented that she was pretty big. I remembered my 8 pound baby, and the doctor who said she was “too big for my body.” Ha! This baby was definitely bigger than her. Lucie put her on the scale.
Ten pounds, ten ounces.
In eight hours, I had gone into labor, rode wave after wave of contraction, and birthed a ten pound baby, unmedicated, in my own home. What a triumph!
I can’t say that every part was fun. The stitches I got afterwards were certainly not what I bargained for. And nobody warned me about the afterpains of labor, those painful contractions that shrink the uterus back to its normal size.
But I had finally done what my body was made to do. I had experienced the power and grace and surrender of childbirth.
I took on the challenge, and I am stronger because of it.
I encourage anyone considering VBAC to reach out to Lucie and the In Due Season team. They will review your medical history and give you their professional opinion, so that you can feel confident about where and how you give birth.
Kristina Pless is a homebirth enthusiast and copy/content writer for In Due Season. She lives in Zephyrhills with her husband and three daughters.