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At 9:00am, my midwife walked in and I was eager to see if things had gotten better. They had, but not as much as I had hoped. I was still only about 70% effaced, and in all that time I had only progressed to 4.5cm. My midwife could still feel the bag of water between baby’s head and my cervix, and she had still not engaged any lower in my pelvis. And then she said it:
“Baby is doing really well, but your contractions are becoming more irregular with the pitocin turned up, which tells me your uterus is getting tired, and I’m thinking the baby’s position is keeping things from progressing. I think she is asyncliitic, meaning her head is tilted in your pelvis, which makes it a lot harder for baby to come down. We can go ahead and schedule a c-section now and it wouldn’t be an emergency, or you can keep going. I’m okay with that–your baby is doing fine. Alternatively, there is another mom with a scheduled c-section at 11am, so you could also wait until 1pm and we can check again and decide what to do then, but I would probably recommend a scheduled repeat c-section at that point.”
I was crushed. I had worked so hard preparing for this VBAC and it was looking more and more like it was never going to happen.
When the midwife left, my doula explained that it’s not unusual for water to break early with asynclitic babies, and that this positioning would explain why the midwife could consistently feel my bag of water between the baby’s head and my cervix. It would also explain my super slow progress and irregular contractions.
Now that a c-section had been brought up, I had a choice to make. I could keep going, against the midwife’s recommendation, and risk winding up with an emergency c-section if baby became distressed or if there were signs of an infection. Or I could give myself until 1pm and schedule the c-section at that point if there is no progress.
“Either way,” my doula said, “you’ve worked so hard and have done so well, and you’re going to get to meet your baby today.”
And that’s when it hit me: I had forgotten about the baby part.
I felt ridiculous.
I had spent my entire pregnancy so focused on getting this VBAC that I didn’t really connect with this second baby in utero the way I had with my first. I hadn’t had a chance to get excited about her, but I assumed that was simply the result of her being the second baby. I had done the “new baby” thing before. I basically already knew what to expect, right? When I realized that I had spent the last several days focused so narrowly on my birth, I felt guilty.
But guilt isn’t always a bad thing. It was guilt I needed. The choice I had to make became almost instantly clear: We would schedule the c-section at 1pm.
THE BIRTH I NEEDED
I didn’t want to put myself or my baby at risk, which was slowly becoming more and more of a possibility if I pushed the envelope, forced the issue, and pushed my body to try and have this VBAC. I accepted that progress was unlikely, and at this point I began to actually hope there would be no progress at 1pm just so I wouldn’t be tempted keep going. I got to experience labor, which was something I wanted, and I could rest assured knowing I had done everything in my power to make this VBAC attempt successful. God simply had other plans.
My doula was right: I was going to get to meet my baby, and as soon as she said that it was all I could think about. I was going to meet my little girl today. And that mattered so much more than the kind of birth I wound up having.
1pm rolled around and there was no progress. I was still 4.5cm and 70% effaced. And I was more exhausted than I have ever been in my entire life. I think I had been awake for almost 36 hours at this point, but at some point I lost track.
By the time they wheeled me into the OR, I was so exhausted I was drifting in and out of sleep and shivering uncontrollably from the pain meds. My husband held my hand, and they began.
It was fast. C-sections are usually pretty fast. I didn’t feel the same kind of violent tugging and pulling I felt with my first one–maybe because this one wasn’t breech–and the next thing I knew, I heard a cry. A beautiful, loud, strong cry.
The nurses and OB were so gentle and supportive, and they immediately let me know my baby girl looked good and was doing great. The OB encouraged my doula to get in closer so she could get “a good alien shot” (<– see it here!) of baby coming out, and he talked me through the delayed cord clamping. My doula snapped a photo so I could see how white the cord was, which was reassuring and exactly what I wanted.
Baby girl (who shall henceforth be called “Little Lo”) was whisked away to the scale to be gently wiped down and weighed. Her APGAR scores were 9 and 9 at 1 and 5 minutes respectively, which was excellent.
Baby clocked in at a whopping 9lbs 5oz, in part due to the six liters of IV fluids I had been on for hours and hours prior. It was at this time that we also learned that in addition to her poor positioning in utero, Little Lo had the cord wrapped around her twice (<–see it here!), making it even more unlikely that she would have been able to descend vaginally.
As soon as the OB mentioned how the cord was wrapped around her, I remembered my aunt’s prayer and quietly thanked God for how this experience turned out. It wasn’t the birth I wanted, but it was the birth I needed.
I got to experience labor. I did everything in my power to achieve the birth I wanted. My baby was born beautiful and healthy. And it was perfect.
There were two things I desperately wanted this pregnancy: a successful VBAC and no tongue tie.
I remember thinking about this as they wheeled me to recovery. I was worried that healing from a C-section while chasing after my toddler AND dealing with breastfeeding through a tongue tie was going to be my undoing.
My first daughter’s posterior tongue tie and significant upper lip tie made breastfeeding a massive challenge the first four months of her life: the frustration trying to get her to latch and not understanding why she couldn’t, the nipple shield, the tie revision, the stretches for weeks and weeks, the month of weaning from the nipple shield and relearning how to breastfeed… But at least then my husband was able to be around to help! This time I wasn’t going to have that luxury to nearly the same extent. And not breastfeeding was not an option. So when it came time to initiate breastfeeding in recovery, I was nervous.
When Little Lo latched deeply and easily all on her own, I breathed a massive sigh of relief. I could tell she had a mild lip tie and probably a posterior tie to some degree, but it didn’t look like it was going to affect our nursing journey, and for this I was extremely grateful. After some initial pain that wore off and careful chiropractic adjustment, I’m pleased to report that Little Lo is breastfeeding painlessly and gaining beautifully.
My C-section recovery the first time around was shockingly easy with minimal pain, and this second time around has been even better, which I honestly didn’t think was possible. I’ve been able to get enough sleep at night to be up during the day after just a few days post birth–a great improvement upon the experience I had with my first baby, whose nursing trouble made it difficult to feel rested until about 2 months postpartum. Little Lo is sleeping well herself and has made it through her first growth spurts and her first developmental leap about giving this mommy hardly any trouble whatsoever!
Thank you for reading our birth story! Feel free to drop yours in the comments–I would love to read it!
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