Forgive me if this is a bit long winded, but I know that I have really enjoyed looking back at Bella’s birth story over the years and figure I’ll want to do the same this time – especially since it was a totally different (VBAC!) experience.
At my 39 week doctor’s appointment, I was 2-3 cm dilated and very, very soft. Dr. G. spent a long time trying to sweep my membranes, hoping that it would send me into labor. It sort of did, as I had contractions less than 5 minutes apart for the better part of 10 hours. But eventually, when I finally fell asleep around 3 am they spaced out and eventually stopped.
Six days later on May 26th, at 39 weeks and 6 days, I went back to the doctor’s office, this time seeing Dr. K. who had done Bella’s emergency c-section. She excitedly proclaimed that I was a solid 4 cm and 80% effaced and swept my membranes again. She said my cervix felt like that of one that was in active labor, which made sense since I’d been having contractions on and off for a week, even though I wasn’t feeling them that afternoon. We scheduled my induction for June 1st, although she said she’d be very surprised if I made it that long.
While I was hoping for it, I definitely didn’t expect to go into real labor so quickly after this second membrane sweep. Lance had finished work early and accompanied me to the appointment. He left to go pick up Bella and I went home to tidy up and work on getting things ready just in case it did the trick this time. I felt crampy immediately upon leaving the doctor’s office (as I had the week before), and once again, the contractions started within 30 minutes. When Lance and Bella got home, I suggested we all go for a walk. It was almost 90 degrees out so not really what I wanted to do, but I was desperate to keep the contractions going. We walked around half a mile. Bella wanted us to bring her stroller, but wanted to walk, and around halfway, she decided that mommy and daddy should swing her by the arms as we walked. She would say “one, three, one, swing!” over and over again. Her giggles made me smile so big, although the extra energy expenditure was tough!
By the time we got home, the contractions were at a consistent three minutes apart. They were painful, but not unbearable. I told Lance that we needed to hurry up and eat dinner, put her to bed, and then leave as soon as she was down. I coordinated with two of my neighbors to come over as soon as she was down and Lance called his mom to see if they wanted to come tonight or the next morning. Of course, Bella had to make bedtime a challenge that evening, but by 7:30 she was down, our bags were packed, our neighbor had arrived, and we were out the door, praying that this was the real thing.
By the time we got to labor and delivery it was a little after 8. We were taken right into triage and I was hooked up. The nurses’s asked me some questions and hooked me up to the monitor. Unlike last time, when my water had broken and was gushing, this time there was some questions as to whether or not I’d be admitted. I was contracting frequently but the pain was manageable. A med student came in and asked a bajillion questions of which the answers were in my chart, and thankfully, a few minutes later, Dr. H., one of my favorite doctors in the practice (she did my emergency d&c over the summer and over subsequent appointments had said I could email her directly with questions), came in to check me. The question over whether I’d be admitted was answered quickly when she said I was 5-6 cm. Pretty good progress in about 4 hours! By 9 pm I’d been admitted and my penicillin was hooked up for the first dose. Dr. H. said that she wouldn’t be allowed to break my water until I got both doses of penicillin, which would take four hours.
Once the penicillin was in I was moved to my labor and delivery room. I was not expecting this but the penicillin was killing my arm! It hurt so bad. More than the contractions that were continuing every 4 minutes or so. I had an amazing labor and delivery nurse, Amanda, that quickly fixed it by diluting the penicillin. As soon as she did it the pain went away. She said she always dilutes it from the start and I’m wondering why every nurse doesn’t do this! I got on the ball to bounce for about 5 minutes when the anesthesia attending showed up and asked if I was ready for my epidural. Since it was one of the attendings that Lance likes, I decided to just go ahead and get it then since Lance had warned me if I waited to long he’d likely go to sleep and then the resident would be doing it instead. I was super nervous as they got me set up on the bed for the epidural but it wasn’t too bad. Just like the spinal I had with my c-section the nerves and set-up were worse than the actual procedure.
That was around 10 pm. The epidural kicked in pretty fast and soon I was only feeling my contractions in my bottom. The nurse said I was likely just feeling the baby moving down but it was painful! I wasn’t feeling any of the traditional contraction pain I’d been used to and only feeling pressure in my bottom. I also had to labor on my sides because any time they put me on my back, baby had scary decels. At one point, Lance was in a pretty big panic because as he told me after the fact, her heartbeat went all the way down to 50 bpm. So after that I was no longer allowed on my back. At midnight, Dr. H. came back to check me again and I was at 9 cm, 90% effaced, and 0 station. She also realized at this point that baby was sunny side up. So I was given the peanut pillow to put between my legs and nurse Amanda put me on “the rotisserie”, where they’d rotate my position every 20 minutes or so to try and get baby’s head to turn the right way.
Soon after, the anesthesia resident came in to check how I was doing. I was still feeling pretty intense pain in my bottom, and I was worried that this mean that the epidural wasn’t working low enough and that I’d feel everything when it came time to push. She asked if I wanted a bolus, and I said no out of that fear. About 15 minutes later, the pain got worse so we called her back in to do the bolus. That seemed to help.
At 1:30, Dr. H. returned and said that I was complete. Baby still wasn’t low enough, so they wanted me to do some practice pushes to help move her down. Dr. H. stayed in the room for the first few, which I was having trouble with as with my worry – we had done the bolus too close to pushing time. Again, Lance told me after the fact that the resident gave me more than twice the dose that he would have given. He said that the resident was probably worried about under-dosing an attending’s wife since that’d probably be worse than giving me too much. But oh well. So it was tough going pushing for a while. I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere but maybe it was also because I was pushing from my side due to those earlier decels.
Dr. H. left for a little while we worked on getting baby down. I ended up a little too much on my back and she had another decel, so Dr. H. returned and stayed until the birth. They put oxygen on me which ironically made it harder for me to breathe. She finally got to the point where they could see her head, and I finally got the hang of pushing. The way I was crunching on my side was making me feel really sick with every push, and eventually I threw up. After that, things went much quicker.
It took a while with those final pushes, and she seemed to get stuck crowning, but thankfully one last contraction came and out came baby Brynn. Once her head was through I felt this huge relief. They immediately placed her on my chest and left her there while they delivered the placenta. The placenta came out with no issue thankfully. I did have a second degree tear but at that point things were wonderful and calm. The peds nurse came in and worked on Brynn while I was stitched up, and we all just chit chatted through that part. Eventually Brynn was put on my chest skin to skin and it just felt so amazing that we were able to do a successful VBAC relatively easily. I’m so thankful that Dr. H. was on and that she remained so calm through the decels, never trying to scare me into a c-section.
Lance was trying the whole time to have them born at the same time (Brynn was born at 3:35 am and Bella at 3:48 am), but I was glad it didn’t take another 13 minutes.
Just before 7 we were moved into our postpartum room. Our hospital stay was very uneventful. The first day I was in shock at how I couldn’t move around at all. I was having as much trouble getting out of bed as I did post c-section. We think it was from spending so long pushing and also possibly from some scar tissue from the previous c-section. But thankfully that passed after about 24 hours. I’m still a little sore but overall feeling much better now.
On Friday the 29th around 10:30 am we were discharged from the hospital and eagerly returned home to begin life as a family of four!