Wednesday, June 1, 2016

My Natural Hospital VBAC after Placenta Previa

This post contains affiliate links to the books on childbirth I found most helpful in prepping for this labor. If you buy anything through these links, the cost stays the same to you but I get a small commission which I will definitely use to buy diapers.

The moment I found I was pregnant, I knew I wanted a VBAC. Here is the story of my successful hospital VBAC, what I thought of my first unmedicated childbirth, and why I chose a VBAC vs a repeat C-section. #vbac  #birthstories #placentaprevia

From the moment my fifth child was born via C-section due to placenta previa, I knew that if we had a sixth child I wanted to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean.)

But when I Googled "VBAC after placenta previa" I didn't find much. Mostly message boards where someone had asked "Anyone here have a VBAC after placenta previa?" and got crickets in response.

I wanted to put my story out there to let others know that a successful VBAC after complete placenta previa does happen! Here's my story.

The moment I found I was pregnant, I knew I wanted a VBAC. Here is the story of my successful hospital VBAC, what I thought of my first unmedicated childbirth, and why I chose a VBAC vs a repeat C-section. #vbac  #birthstories #placentaprevia

Why I Wanted a VBAC

Comparing my C-section to my four previous vaginal births, the Cesarean was harder and recovery was much worse. I realize some women liked their C-sections, but mine had been very scary and I definitely didn't want to repeat the experience if I didn't have to.

Luckily my midwife practice was supportive of VBACs, and they said I was a good candidate for one. My placenta wasn't in the way this time, I'd birthed babies vaginally before, and the baby was head-down and ready to go by the end of the pregnancy.

They wanted me to come in early and do most of my laboring in the hospital rather than at home, continuously use the fetal monitor, and place an IV port just in case I should need an emergency C-section. But everything looked promising for a VBAC.

Why I Didn't Want an Epidural

I have nothing against using pain meds in labor. In fact, with the births of my first, second, third, and fourth babies, I waddled into labor and delivery yelling at every nurse, resident, and janitor in sight to get me my epidural yesterday.

And I got them, they just never worked well.

After one that barely took the edge off, one that only worked on one side, and one that gave me so much medication I went numb up to my neck and felt completely loopy, I started to believe that my body just didn't like epidurals. For me, they seemed to cause more problems than they solved.

But there was another reason, too.

The biggest risk of VBAC (although it's still small, about 0.5%) is uterine rupture, and with an epidural my body couldn't give us any feedback on how my uterus was holding up during labor. I wouldn't feel it if my uterus did rupture. We'd only have the fetal monitor to tell us, and I knew from personal experience that disconcerting dips and decelerations happen in totally normal labors all the time. I didn't want to be rushed into an emergency C-section because of it.

"I've Put In Your Request With The Fetus"

My mom flew in to stay with us the day before my due date, and I have to admit I was a little bit of a basket case at that point.

What if I developed pre-eclampsia right at the end? What if I didn't go into labor on my own? What if there was a problem in labor? And could I really have a baby without an epidural? I started to doubt myself more every day.

My Natural Hospital VBAC after Placenta Previa -- From the moment my fifth child was born via C-section due to placenta previa, I knew that if we had a sixth child I wanted to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean.) Here's the story of my successful drug-free hospital VBAC.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
I asked my daughter to take this picture and she cut off Phillip's head. Like I keep saying, he's too tall.

Phillip joked before we went to bed on my due date, "I told you that I want a daytime delivery this time, right?"

I laughed, knowing the middle-of-the-night deliveries we always seem to have are rough on him, and said, "Yes, and I've put in your request with The Fetus."

It didn't seem to help, though, because at 2 AM I woke up with Braxton-Hicks that turned out to be the real thing. I waited until about 4:45 to wake Phillip up, though, so at least that was something.

The Opposite of a Fashion Show At the Hospital

I arrived at the hospital at 6 AM wearing the ugliest pajamas you've ever seen. They are also the comfiest and, to be honest, one of the only things that still fit me during the last 2 weeks of being pregnant.

My Natural Hospital VBAC after Placenta Previa -- From the moment my fifth child was born via C-section due to placenta previa, I knew that if we had a sixth child I wanted to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean.) Here's the story of my successful drug-free hospital VBAC.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Sittin' pretty in Labor & Delivery. Gentlemen, please attempt to control your thoughts.

Phillip hates these pants. After it was over and we moved to a postpartum recovery room, Phillip tried to "forget" them in Labor & Delivery so they'd be lost forever.

I made him go back and get them.

At the hospital they hooked me up to the fetal monitor and then tried to insert my precautionary IV port. I say "tried" because they kept blowing my veins, which sounds so gruesome I don't even want to know what that means. My arms looked like they'd been run over by a truck for weeks afterward.

When the midwife checked me at 6:30 I was shocked to be informed I was 8 cm dilated. My contractions were mostly 5 minutes apart (although some were clustered closer together,) and they definitely didn't hurt that bad yet.

Maybe I could do this, after all.

For the next few hours, I exhaled through contractions while I leaned on a chair and Phillip pushed on my lower back. As they got stronger it also helped to moan and lunge side to side, which I'm aware probably looked pretty silly in my open-backed gown with my rear end pointed straight at the door and whoever happened to walk through it. You just don't really care about that kind of thing when it comes down to brass tacks.

As the contractions intensified and I got more tired, I preferred to sit up in the bed and just lean forward during contractions.

It was a perfectly textbook labor. All my worry had been over nothing. There were no problems, nothing on the fetal monitor that caused us concern.

My midwife told me it was going so great I could eat and drink whatever I wanted (which was good, because I'd been having Phillip sneak me pieces of a granola bar when everyone was out of the room for the last half-hour.)

Let's Have a Baby

My midwife was in the next room delivering another baby, so they pulled in an OB from the practice to catch mine.

Up until now, I'd felt pretty well in control, but when it was time to push I sort of felt like I was drowning. I just couldn't get my bearing and get on top of the contractions in time.

I'd read a lot about giving birth squatting and how it was supposed to open up your pelvis more than any other position. So I wanted to like squatting, I really did.

I asked for the squat bar on the bed, but after one push it was clear that I hated it. I was too tired to support my weight, and by the looks of the fetal monitor, the baby hated it, too.

So I abandoned that plan and delivered the traditional way, with a nurse and Phillip each holding a leg.

Now, I know how to push a baby out. You're supposed to take a deep breath, hold it, and bear down. The thing is, I was no longer in charge. Instead of staying in my lungs like it was supposed to, my breath erupted in a scream longer, louder, and higher than any human has ever made before.

You probably think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. When Phillip later commented on the baby's healthy cry the doctor chuckled to himself and said, "Well, if he has a set of lungs anything like his mother's..." and trailed off. (To be honest, I'm a little embarrassed to see the man again at my 6-week postpartum checkup, but such is life.)

I'm not actually sure what happened, but I know that two pushes and the baby was out, so whatever I did must have worked. At 8:21, we were holding an 8 lb. 10 oz. baby boy.

My Natural Hospital VBAC after Placenta Previa -- From the moment my fifth child was born via C-section due to placenta previa, I knew that if we had a sixth child I wanted to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean.) Here's the story of my successful drug-free hospital VBAC.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

So What Was a Drug-Free Labor Like?

I read a lot in preparation for this birth. The book that was the most helpful was Natural Childbirth: The Bradley Way. I'd also recommend parts of Birthing from Within and Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method. Phillip liked The Birth Partner.

Basically, the message I pulled from all of them was: Relax. You can do this. Don't fight the contractions, just go with the flow. Remember to breathe.

Since I'm not naturally a relaxed person and I really am a baby about physical discomfort, I wasn't sure at all I could do this. I thought I'd lose it, rely completely on Phillip to talk me through it, or break and ask for an epidural.

Instead, I surprised myself with how strong I was. Letting the contractions wash over me with the least possible resistance made labor so much more bearable. I thought it was really hard work, but I don't know that I would describe it as painful.

The funny part is, the four epidural labors I'd had before had definitely been painful. I gritted my teeth and tensed up during contractions and that made them feel like they were going to crush me. Instead of resting between contractions I lay panicking in my hospital bed stressing out about the next contraction and how awful it was going to be and where were they with my epidural already?!

This time, I experienced contractions as an intense cramping that ebbed and flowed, and then a few moments of a lot of pressure toward the end (okay, so that was pretty painful) as the baby descended.

I think the difference was my mindset.

Between contractions I felt calm. I felt strong, like I could do anything. I was in the zone. I never hit that "I can't do it!" wall I expected to (although I did have the thought that I didn't want to.)

The worst part of the whole thing was the afterbirth and repair. That's the part I wished I would've had an epidural for! I had a second-degree tear, and let's just say I mashed the crap out of Phillip's hand while the OB massaged my stomach and numbed me up for stitches. 

The Final Verdict

All in all, I'm 100% happy that I tried for a VBAC. It went better than I could have hoped for, and while I wish I hadn't torn at the end, recovery was still great. Physically, I felt fantastic. Baby was healthy and strong.

My final impression of going drug-free wasn't as black-and-white as I thought it would be. The last ten minutes was quite overwhelming, almost to the point where I could barely focus on the baby right after his birth. Overall, though, I think I'd still do it that way again.

But no matter what, don't these little baby feet make it all worthwhile?

My Natural Hospital VBAC after Placenta Previa -- From the moment my fifth child was born via C-section due to placenta previa, I knew that if we had a sixth child I wanted to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean.) Here's the story of my successful drug-free hospital VBAC.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

The moment I found I was pregnant, I knew I wanted a VBAC. Here is the story of my successful hospital VBAC, what I thought of my first unmedicated childbirth, and why I chose a VBAC vs a repeat C-section. #vbac  #birthstories #placentaprevia
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Unremarkable Files


Rosie said...

Ah, I love a good vbac story! Congratulations again 😊😊😊

The Lady Okie said...

Congratulations! I know I've only had one, but I for sure felt like it was painful. Maybe I should have tried to relax more. When the nurse mashed on my stomach after, it was terrible! I tore too, but shockingly I remember thinking it didn't hurt as much I thought it would when they stitched me up. Maybe by that point I was just over it. So glad you were able to have a successful VBAC!

Sarah Jean said...

I had epidurals with both of my kids, and I kind of have to agree. The first one worked TOO well - I couldn't feel anything, which wasn't super helpful when they told me to "push" because I couldn't tell if I was pushing. The second one only half worked, so I could feel the contractions, which was good because it let me know when to push. But I couldn't feel anything else, which was also good. I have to say, though, I don't know if I would be brave enough to go without drugs if I had to do it again!

Michelle said...

Laughing so hard at "gentlemen, please attempt to control your thoughts." I'm SO glad you had such a good experience. The stitching was terrible. I had an epidural and numbing shots, and I swear I could still feel them. All the pictures my mom took right after the birth show me wincing in pain in the background. It's kind of hilarious.

Audrey Louise said...

Dang, girl. I am not pregnant and have never been pregnant but pregnancy stories and birth experience fascinate me. I'm still in the "I could never do that" camp, but each story becomes a little more comfortable for me (except the tearing... that makes me want to pass out). I'm so glad you found the strength and confidence to deliver how you wanted to- that's a huge accomplishment. Congrats again on your little man!

Unknown said...

I wasn't even given the option of having a VBAC for my sixth after my fifth was an emergency c-section. I'm glad yours went so well. My fourth was a completely natural birth and the one I "enjoyed" the most. My midwife had a lot to do with that I'm sure. After trying to push for a bit my husband asked her how much longer she thought it was going to be. She guessed maybe 15 minutes. I thought, "There is no way I'm doing this for another fifteen minutes." On the next push baby came out screaming and sounding just like my two year old when she had a meltdown. My husband and I just looked at each other like, oh great. The midwife explained that could happen if the baby was born faster than she would have preferred. But, hey, I was done pushing! I was shaking so bad i couldn't trust myself to hold her for a few minutes, though. And that child happens to still be the one who will not be rushed. Ha! I'm sure your story will be great for many ladies.

Lyndsay said...

Love your birth story! It made me cry a little. Your labor and delivery sounded a lot like mine. My last baby..Anna..was my first 100% all natural birth (despite the pit they used to move it along��) and one can honestly say you are never the same woman ever again after a natural birth. It is a site to be seen, felt and heard (or so I've been told. ��)
Oh and yes, they really should offer epidurals for after the baby is out. Lol those stitches and 'massage' are one heck of an experience.

So so happy you had a wonderful vbac experience and a fast labor and delivery. It is so hard to focus when it comes time to push. ��

AnneMarie said...

You rock those pajama pants! Haha, the caption is the best :) Thanks for sharing your birth story! God knew that I would need to read this right now (I just had some quite unexpected news at my midwife appointment, that I have high blood pressure-and the midwife didn't seem confident it would lower at all) so I appreciate this reminder to just relax and let God be in control :) I think it's interesting you bring up the squatting thing-I've been wondering if that will happen to me, too. I really want to give birth squatting, but I'm trying to be very realistic with myself and remember that I just may not be able to hold that position to get the baby out! And that as awesome as squatting is, however the baby gets out safely is just fine :)
Have you read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth? That's one of my favorite books that I've read in preparing for birth.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing your birth story, Jenny! I never knew that VBAC was such a big deal (or that it was called VBAC for that matter...), but you rocked it! It's truly amazing what our bodies can do, right? I hear ya on those IVs. My arm looked like it belonged to a zombie after I took my daughter home because they kept blowing my veins--try after try! It was awful! Thanks so much for sharing such an informative and always humorous story with us (those pjs rock...btw! You still own them, right?)!

Jenny Evans said...

With my first baby (which was an epidural labor) my OB said to me casually as the nurse was massaging my stomach, "Now THIS is the part you're glad you had an epidural for!" He was NOT kidding.

Jenny Evans said...

My first epidural was like your second: worked just the right amount. Took away all the pain and there was just enough to know when I was supposed to push and what I was supposed to be doing. I didn't know how good I had it that time!

Jenny Evans said...

Yeah, that was weird. I definitely was numbed (I felt the needle, I know!) but I was still cringing the entire time. Not pleasant.

Jenny Evans said...

I do feel fortunate to have found a practice that was supportive of VBACs. Depending on where you live, you might not even have that option.

I'm surprised your midwife would venture to guess like that. Glad it was shorter than she said rather than longer!

Jenny Evans said...

Yeah, what is with the word "massage," anyway? I love massages and let me tell you, that was not pleasant in any way, shape or form!

It was a great experience and I know exactly what you mean. This sounds so hippy-dippy but I really feel like it was a transformative event. So glad I got to experience it.

Jenny Evans said...

I haven't read it, but I hear the title a lot. I should check it out!

Sorry to hear about your BP. How many weeks along are you? I'll pray for you; I know how frustrating it is not to know where God's plan is taking you.

If you want to try squatting I would definitely recommend letting your husband/support people know that they will need to literally prop you up, hold your weight up, and keep you balanced with every push. You will be expending 110% of your concentration on pushing that baby out. It maybe could've worked if I'd communicated that to Phillip ahead of time, but I didn't and there's no way I could've explained what I needed in the moment. I was a little preoccupied!

Jenny Evans said...

Of course I do! I was a little concerned they wouldn't fit after I was no longer hugely pregnant, but good news - I wore them yesterday and they still look as stylish as ever!

PurpleSlob said...

Hey, Phillip got exactly what he petitioned "The Fetus" for, a daytime delivery!
Maybe next time he'll be more specific, and ask for the labor to begin, and END in the daytime! The same day! lol
I'm so happy for your VBAC!!
Natural birth with my first was a pinnacle of my life. C-section w/ #2 was hell on earth for the next 6 weeks.
Yeah, what's up with them calling that torture a "massage"????

jen said...

Mama with a traumatic birth story here and all I'm going to say (because horror stories suck) is that you never know what you are capable of doing until you have no choice but to do it.

jen said...

It is ALL about the pajama pants! I wish I'd had mine in the hospital with me or that I'd had the brains to ask my mom to get some sweat pants and underwear. (Hospital-issued underwear sucks.)

I also totally empathize with your arm looking like you'd been hit by a truck. My arms, stomach, and back looked like I had been beaten with a baseball bat due to the platelet issues (the HELLP Syndrome dropped mine to ~30% of normal) and all the IV's, bloodwork, Lovenox shots in my stomach, and Toradol shots in my hip.

Jenny Evans said...

I had a nurse one time who kept calling the mesh undies Victoria's Secret. And if you squint a little they do kind of look like... no, never mind. Not even then.

Handsfullmom said...

I did one without an epidural on purpose and one without because the dumb thing didn't work, and that ring of fire plus the needles and stitches afterwards are definitely a distraction from the joy of a new baby. :) Guess that's why dad's there. Congratulations on a successful, relaxed birth!

Sarah Hynes said...

I'm due in September with my first and my only real prep is a (probably very naive) dead-set desire to do everything without any drugs at all, and the Bradley method book you mentioned. I'm really relieved to hear that you think relaxing with the contraction actually worked, because the chapter I just finished stressed that over and over! Thanks for sharing your story!!

Kelly said...

Congratulations! My first birth was an epidural and 2nd and 3rd natural. I would not not want another epiduralever again. I would add anything from Ina may gaskin to your book list.

jen said...

I hear good things about the Brewer's diet helping with blood pressure and avoiding pre-e. I developed severe pre-e and had to have the c-section before I knew about it; but one of my pre-e mama friends was able to carry to term while on it.

Melanie A. said...

I just stumbled upon your blog, and just wanted to say you are the first person to give such a similar description of natural birth as what I had! After reading so many blogs describing the delivery experience as if they forgot all the pain as soon as the baby was in their arms, I was severely shocked after my delivery experience! I had my first three babies with amazing epidurals, and with my fourth baby finally made it through without deciding I couldn't do it anymore, and asking for the epidural. Labor was hard, but nothing too mindblowing. The problem came with the crowning of baby's head, and the "ring of fire." THAT pain lasted for probably 30 minutes, before it gradually eased up enough for me to care that there was a new baby in my arms. Right after delivery I said I would never do it again natural, because I did not like not being able to focus on the baby right at delivery. Nearly a year later, I'm still undecided, but time has made me consider trying for a natural, med free delivery long as someone has ice standing by as soon as the baby is out!

Jenny Evans said...

Although I would do it naturally again because of my previous problems with epidurals and the fact that I'm a VBAC so an epidural would make uterine rupture harder to detect and make a repeat C-section more likely... I did not at all expect that I wouldn't be able to focus on the baby. I felt like I'd just crossed the finish line in a marathon and people were shoving a baby in my face yelling, "Look at him! Look at him!" and I really just wanted to wave them all away and say, "Can you just let me BREATHE for a second???" That was weird.