Eleanor came into this world just three months ago, but it seems as though she has been a part of our family forever. Her story begins with my journey towards a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) even before she was a twinkle in my eye. After the Bear’s traumatic birth, I knew I wanted something different, something better, for my next child and for myself. I started researching like crazy and reading everything I could about birth. I joined my local ICAN chapter (International Cesarean Awareness Network) and read blogs like Birth Without Fear on a regular basis. You can read more about from my Trying for a VBAC series here to get the whole background story. I found a supportive OB, hired a doula, and wrote my birth plan. I visited a chiropractor, read many books, and practiced my coping techniques. I prepared myself to go past my due date because induction brings unnecessary risk and my previous birth was “late.” I was as ready as I could be. I posted my 39 week update and was sure I’d have to share a 40 week blog post soon. Eleanor had other plans.
Sunday morning came, four days before her “guess date”, and we attended the baptism and celebration of our sweet little friend Grace. We had a fun day and that evening I felt a little off, but chalked it up to a big day. I was already dilated to between 3-4 centimeters and completely effaced, and had real and Braxton Hicks contractions daily for weeks. At 2 am I woke up with real and steady contractions. Because I am the best wife ever, I dealt with them on my own for four hours without waking Jed up. I bounced on my birth ball, used my Spinning Babies positions to relieve the wicked back labor, got in and out of the tub and shower, and reheated my rice sock heating pad over and over. I texted and talked a few times with my doula, Erica. She was such a trooper, having arrived home from a 24 hour birth just a few hours before. She talked me through positions over the phone and helped me decide when it was time to wake up Jed and call our babysitter. I had been throwing up consistently, but that is how I’ve always dealt with pain so it wasn’t that abnormal. At 6 am I woke Jed up and told him he wouldn’t be going to work that day because we were having a baby. I also wished him a happy birthday and was excited and overwhelmed that our daughter would most likely share her daddy’s birthday. We decided it was best to head to the hospital to beat rush hour traffic, because we live in a northern suburb and Baylor Hospital is downtown. Our awesome friend Raychel came over to take care of Bear when he woke up, and we took off for the hospital.
The ride to the hospital was rough, but faster than we’d hoped with early morning traffic. We arrived at the hospital around 7 am. I was checked and still not 4 cm, but was still 100% effaced and at a 0 station. Erica (my doula) arrived at 7:30 am and got straight to work positioning me to relieve the back labor. The pretzel position really helped, with one leg crossed over my body and up as high as I could get it. Dr. Lawson asked that I be monitored for an hour, and if I had not progressed be allowed to leave and walk around. I prayed hard for progress and doubts began to creep in reminding me of my previous birth trauma. I labored in my own clothes which was a powerful way to feel less like a sick patient and more like an individual working towards a healthy birth. I used our DIY heating pad scented with lavender essential oil to help relieve pain and help me relax. Ocean wave sounds played on my phone to help my mind focus.
The nurse checked me at 9:05 am and I had reached 5 cm. Yay for progress! They moved me from the labor and delivery triage over to the real labor and delivery wing. We were able to settle in for a few minutes before my pressure waves really cranked up a notch. At a little past 11, my doula called my chiropractor and asked her to come in and adjust me to help with the back labor. Dr. Denisa Weber arrived at 11:40 and adjusted me which really seemed to help. I was officially in labor land and things got really fuzzy after that. Later I realized it was because I had moved into transition, and was floating through it. There was pain and hard work, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Baylor requires VBAC mamas to be continuously monitored, but most doctors and nurses will allow you a 15 minute break every hour to “go to the bathroom”. For me this was time to get up and move around, try to empty my bladder, and try new positions. My amazing nurse gave me lots of grace with the time limits, and even held the monitors in crazy positions while I moved through contractions.
I labored hanging over the bed, on the toilet, hanging on Jed, pushing on the bed, and on the birth ball. Kneeling backwards over the bed was my favorite. After several adjustments by Dr. Denisa, I felt the baby move down more and felt intense pressure and the sensation of pushing around noon. I continued to labor her down and was checked by a nurse at 12:36 pm who thought I was between 8-9 cm and possibly even complete. Transition happened while being adjusted and I really believe that the chiropractic help made it much easier to deal with. A resident came in and checked me, confirming that I had reached 10 cm at 12:45 pm. At 1 pm my nurse, Julie, confirmed that Eleanor had reached a +1 station. This was HUGE for me because the Bear never got past 0 station. I wept with pure joy and a sense of victory, but the battle was far from over.
Dr. Lawson arrived at 1:10 pm, even though it was her day off. I cry just thinking about how crucial she (and the rest of my birth team) were to the birthing process. She decided to break my bag of waters after a bit of observation, hoping that it would help bring the baby down. After that I worked harder than I’ve ever worked in my life to get my daughter to move down into the birth canal. She was stuck behind my pubic bone, just like my son before his cesarean birth. After and hour and half of hard work, at 2:39 pm we added a squat bar and changed positions multiple times to try and get her to move down. Pushing was the hardest work of my life, but the most rewarding by far. I struggled with self doubt and began to feel that maybe my body was broken, was a lemon, and I couldn’t do this. Dr. Lawson saw the look in my eyes and told me that I could do it, was in fact doing it, and to keep going. Her words pushed me past the pain and helped me to keep going. Erica continued to encourage me and provide counter pressure to my hips and back as she had done throughout the day. She was incredible.
Someone brought the mirror over so I could watch the progress, and it was incredibly motivating. Such a change from my first birth where I wanted no part of the mirror. Jed watched and held my hand as out beautiful daughter came into the world at 3:56 pm after almost 14 hours of all natural labor. She had the cord wrapped around her neck and was a little blue. After greeting her for a few minutes the nurse had to suction her for a while to get her to breathe well. Dr. Lawson stitched my 2nd degree tear, which I hardly noticed. I couldn’t believe my girl was here and my body was able to do what it was designed to do. Ina May Gaskin’s words rang so true in my mind, “Your body is not a lemon!”
Eleanor Pearl weighed in at 7 lbs 15 oz, and was 20 in long with a beautiful head full of hair. We were able to nurse as soon as her little lungs cleared out, and she stayed with us the entire time we were in the hospital. We waited to bathe her until the next day and Jed and I both helped with her first bath. We got so much support from the Baylor Hospital staff with the birth process, breastfeeding, and rooming in. I didn’t have to fight for any part of my birth plan and the whole experience was incredibly healing. I am so thankful to have had a healthy, normal, natural birth. Every piece of the postpartum process was easier because of the VBAC. Healing, recovery, breastfeeding, adjusting to life with a newborn, all of it went so much smoother. My daughter is such a joy and a healthy, happy little girl.
If you have had a cesarean section, I would strongly encourage you to do your research, find your local ICAN chapter, and consider trying for a VBAC. It is worth it. Your body is not a lemon.
My Birth Team:
If you are in the Dallas area and looking for a VBAC supportive OB, I highly recommend Dr. Lawson at Madewell OB/GYN. You can find her here.
If you are in DFW and in search of a doula who will support you through labor, Erica Sosa is your woman. She has personally experienced c-section and VBAC and supported many clients through their births. You can find her here.
My Webster certified chiropractor is Dr. Denisa Weber. She is also an experienced doula and played a critical role in Eleanor’s birth story. I would definitely recommend her services. You can find her here.