I wanted to title this post “My journey to a VBA3C,” but that title might be a little misleading. I did not attain my VBA3C goal. In fact, I had a “failed VBA3C” as I’ve seen it called. I did try. I tried my hardest. However, my plans are not His plans. This is my journey to my now finish line.
I had three unnecessary cesareans. My first was born at 36 week due to advanced preeclampsia. My blood pressure was consistently 190/100ish when we found out. I consider this unnecessary because I had warning signs for several weeks that my doctor ignored while fussing about my weight gain and swelling. He never required a 24-hour urine collection or any additional monitoring. I believe my blood pressure was insane despite not having any protein on my “dipstick” urine check. I believe the whole thing could have been avoided. I ended up delivering my little Ella Joy at 36 weeks the day after Thanksgiving while my doctor was out of town. After delivery, I was fussed at my nurses to keep my blood pressure down. I was told I would be put in ICU and separated from my baby if I couldn’t control it. It was a devastating experience that led to me not being able to hold my precious newborn until 5.5 hours after delivery.
My second cesarean was a repeat. I begged my doctor to let me try for a VBAC. He refused. I asked if I could switch hospitals. He told me no. I left his practice at about 24 weeks and never looked back. I asked my new doctor for a VBAC a few times and he told me no each time. My blood pressure did rise toward the end of my pregnancy. I was closely monitored and put on bed rest to avoid complications. It worked. I was told my preeclampsia was extremely mild. My oldest boy, Britt, was born at 37 weeks. My hands were tied down during surgery, but I did get to hold him in recovery after they brought him to the nursery. I felt great after delivery. I still had baggage from my first birth though, and all this experience left me aching to try a VBAC.
My third cesarean was a repeat. Plain and simple. Nothing noteworthy about the pregnancy. No complications other than the gestational diabetes I had in my first two pregnancies. No preeclampsia. I had preterm labor at some point, but it was easily fixed. My doctor refused VBA2C. I called a group of newly practicing midwives in another city. They refused because they “didn’t know my doctor.” I contacted midwives considering a home birth because I dreaded a cesarean with all of my being. I learned you aren’t allowed to home birth a VBAC in Louisiana. I gave up. I tried but there were only so many “nos” I could hear. I was defeated each time I said no. I gave up. I gave in. I so wish I would not have. I really wish I kept pushing. I was just pregnant and overwhelmed. There was seemingly no hope. Towards the end of my pregnancy they did an NST because I had become so anxious. They discovered I had low fluid and I delivered that day. My second son, Jenkins, was born at 38 weeks. He went to the NICU. I didn’t see him for over six hours after delivery because of a shift change and apparently they were monitoring him. They wouldn’t update me. They would let me give him donor milk. They wouldn’t let me nurse him until day three of life. They wouldn’t let me bottle feed him until day two. They laughed at the little bit of milk and colostrum that I could make to feed him. It was awful. I cried for weeks. I loved my son, but I couldn’t handle the effects of so much pain surrounding my births.
Then came our miracle, our sweet Ark Harrison. We tried and tried to conceive this sweet boy. Fertility treatments didn’t work. Nothing. I surrendered. I simply couldn’t go on. I learned and leaned upon the Lord in a new way entirely during the trials of infertility. I tested on a whim. I was shocked to see the beautiful positive. It’s amazing how quickly you can fall in love just knowing that life is growing. I had made such an effort to get healthy. This was our time. Our last baby was coming. I had interviewed a doctor prior to pregnancy who was completely on board with a trial of labor for a VBA3C. When we finally saw him after we found out we were expecting, he was positive and excited for us. The pregnancy was uneventful. Well, uneventful in that my only medical issue was two rounds of kidney stones. Not too shabby! I was terribly sick with morning sickness and all the aches and pains were in full force more in this pregnancy than the others. However, I was healthy. I managed to gain a healthy amount of weight. No signs of preeclampsia anywhere. No gestational diabetes. Nothing. Normal, healthy pregnancy. Everything was on track until my doctor started getting anxious. He now wanted to schedule a repeat cesarean for 40 weeks. Due to some of his personal issues, this is how he felt he needed to proceed for my safety from another traumatic birth if he could not be there.
I requested a second opinion with another doctor. If she told me “no” or to schedule for 40 weeks like he had, I knew there was no way. Happily my second opinion went well. She checked my pelvis. Said it was ideal for birth. She was willing to be a backup if anything changed. Things changed and she became my doctor at 32 weeks. Things were on track. She did say 41 weeks was my limit. If I had not gone into labor on my own, I would be induced conservatively with a foley catheter and very light pitocin. The weight of what I was about to do crept in. I was miserable the last two weeks of pregnancy. Lots of contractions, unbearable back pain, sleepless nights. Just when I thought I would never go into labor and that my body just “doesn’t work,” it happened.
I woke in a twilight-like sleep simply thinking “I need to use the bathroom.” I was in contraction (like always), and then felt a tiny gush. I still didn’t know what was happening–I thought my bladder can leaked–but I stood up and fluid just poured. My membranes had ruptured. I’d been sleeping in the nursery that night, so I waddled down the hallway in a very un-lady-like posture holding my “nether region.” My husband looked up from his 4AM TV-watching session and shot out of bed white as a sheet.
I made it to the toilet and let it finish draining for a few seconds. i assumed the baby would “cork” the flow after I’d been upright long enough and sure enough, that’s what happened. I called my sweet doula Karen, and she headed our way. I called my parents to head over to watch the kids. This was it. We would meet our baby today. I just knew it.
I took my time. I put on makeup. Daniel took a shower. I knew we’d have at least an hour until my parents came. I juiced a fresh juice. I calmly walked around completing mundane tasks. I was having contractions, but they were so light. We timed them and they were about 45 seconds to a minute long and about three minutes apart. When Karen got to the house we took a walk around the neighborhood. Sure enough, though incredibly mild, I was still contracting every three minutes or so. We got back to the house and decided to head across the Causeway in case things picked up quickly.
We got to the hospital around six. I was put into triage. They confirmed that my water had broken and they gave me an exam. I was only one centimeter dilated and 40% effaced. I was so disappointed. I was admitted. I put into a room closest to the ER in case complications came our way. I had the foley bulb put in. It took a while, but when it fell out I was five centimeters. I had pitocen put on a 2. Then a 4 and that’s where it stayed. I clearly didn’t need any more than that. Things were happening. Contractions were really uncomfortable once the foley catheter was in and even once it was out. It was the real deal. I was in active labor. It didn’t feel good, but it was doable. I was ready. I had to make it a point to empty my bladder because a full bladder made things pretty awful. On one of those trips I sat down, and it was like I flipped a switch. My mercy. . . things had changed.
I was examined. I was only close to seven centimeters. The pain was so intense. Everything in my body was aware of what was happening. Fighting it was pointless. I started shaking and I couldn’t stop. I thought I was going to be sick. I kept burping. I started crying. If my husband and doula hadn’t been there, I never would have made it. I stayed this way for hours. I believe this was transition. It went on for five or six hours. I knew this wasn’t normal, but I was in so much pain I didn’t care. I just tried to make it through the next one. I’ve never felt so bad in my life. I could have taken an hour. Hour upon hour? Not so much. I kept thinking I’d never make it. So much pressure and change. It was very, very hard. I had almost completely lost my voice from the extreme breathing it took to make it through each contraction.
They checked me at I was still only 7 centimeters, 70% effaced. Baby was still at -2. This wasn’t right. I didn’t know why my body wasn’t working. A resident came in and said they needed an internal monitor of the baby and my contractions. I’d need an epidural to do this. Things weren’t moving. It was after 9:30PM. They needed to make sure baby was okay since getting a clear strip of baby’s decels and overall heart rate were hard. Baby was moving all over it seemed! I cannot lie, things became very unpleasant here. I asked to have a moment with my husband to make sure I understood what was being said because I was having trouble concentrating through all the pain. I agreed to extensive internal monitoring once I had a second to process everything. That came with an epidural. I weighed my options and considered this my best route. Baby looked perfect. The epidural didn’t stop labor. It didn’t slow things down. Our baby was just ready.
Our doctor showed up at around 10:30 or so. She told me later I was at nine centimeters. The baby was in the birth canal. She told me she was very pleased. She was going to let me keep trying. She thought I could do it. Right before she left the room, she looked back up at the monitor and there it was. Distress. Our baby was not handling something well. She pushed the baby back up the birth canal. They started prepping me for a cesarean. This got ugly for me. I was in a bad place. I was weeping. I couldn’t stop crying. I felt like a failure. I was a mess. I felt so low and disgusted in myself. I thought it was my fault. They upped my epidural to numb me completely. My plan from the beginning was “get the baby out” if something came up. This was part of my plan, but it was still so sad to me.
They started the procedure at 11:46. I asked my husband to announce the sex since we didn’t know. They allowed my birth photographer to capture the moment. At 11:55 our precious baby boy was born and we found out the problem. He had a nuchal cord wrapped tightly twice around his neck. That isn’t so remarkable I suppose. What is remarkable is that his cord was so incredibly short. The doctor had not seen a cord that short and still wrapped around the neck this way from what I overheard her say to the other doctors and nurses in the OR. I have a print of my placenta from it being encapsulated. Sure enough, there was only about four inches of cord to play with. The doctor said we could have had placental abruption on our hands had we continued. Scary, but so thankful our Lord is merciful.
All of this brings me to where I am today. I guess I did have a “failed VBA3C.” I didn’t, though. I labored like a “normal” woman. I labored fiercely and it was worth every ounce of pride I can muster. I work hard. Really hard. I hear my options and I consented. I did that. The Lord led us the entire way. My body did not fail me. My sweet, precious, squishy, and perfect baby boy’s cord was too short. It could have ended terribly. Glory to God that it did not. There is redemption in the trial. There is healing in the cesarean. I find that so odd, but there it is. A medically necessary cesarean is nothing to be sad about. I’m proud of it. I’m proud that my heart was soft to the idea of intervention if we needed it from the beginning. We needed it. I labored like a beast. I made good decisions. I’d do it over and over again.