Saturday, May 28, 2011

Confessions of a VBAC Mama who Transferred

©Cari Stewart 2011. Cari takes us on a journey of preparing for a VBAC at home (also called HBAC: Homebirth After Cesarean) and shares with us her experience of transferring for another c-section. (Photo heavy at the bottom, might take time to load).

“It's early morning. Why am I awake? I roll over and look at my phone: 6am. Sigh. I roll back over and notice my back has a slight ache. And then I get a light Braxton hick. I find this strange because even though I’ve experienced them 10 minutes apart for weeks, they start at 5pm {on the dot} and end around 11:30pm. I lay there with anticipation. After 10 minutes go by, I get another, and another and another.

At 7am I get out of bed and go to the bathroom. I am about to stand up and feel something come out. Shoot out really. I wipe again and see blood and clear mucus. I panic. This is it. This is really it. Everything I have been preparing for, for years. This is my VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). This is my moment. I cry and ask Eric if he thinks I can really do it. He tells me he has perfect faith in me. He knows I can do this. That's all I need to hear. I pull myself together. It is January 13th. I am 38 weeks.

I call my midwife to let her know things are moving. My contractions are between 7 and 10 minutes apart and getting stronger. I decide to see my chiropractor for a quick adjustment. I have to take a shower first and while I am in there, I am getting hit over and over again by contractions. I feel everything in my upper belly. They are so strong that I am already vocalizing. I start to worry if it is normal or not.

We get in the car to start our 30 minute drive. I’m a bit uncomfortable but I manage to stay relaxed and keep my mouth slack and open. I go in, get adjusted and my amazing chiropractor gives me wonderful encouragement and a big hug. It is exactly what I needed at that moment. She has been adjusting me since about 27 weeks. I am very grateful for her.

After I am adjusted I am rocked by 3 contractions that are 3 minutes apart. I decide that I want to swing by my midwife’s birth center and have her check to see if my waters had broken. I decided not to have her check my dilation as this was an issue in my previous birth. She found that my waters had not broken. We got back into the car and drove to Target to get a few last minute supplies. Once there, my contractions were 5 minutes apart and hard. I was stomping my foot through them and banging my hand rhythmically on the cart.

I think my 3 year old Aaron was a little freaked out! But it was helping me cope. It was now around 12pm. I had one contraction that was stronger than anything I had yet experienced. I told Eric it was time to go, now! We head home, eat lunch, get Aaron down to nap, make some calls and try to rest. But I couldn't lie down. It all just felt worse lying down.

Being a doula myself, I had access to a few doulas for my birth. One was my sister, Jaclyn, who would be traveling over an hour to get to me. The other, Amber, is one of my best friends. Allison was another close friend. She was "head" doula. She had been keeping in touch with me all day. Texting, calls, she was keeping tabs. Around 4pm she came over to time me. I was between 4 - 8 minutes apart and very vocal. They were getting longer, stronger and closer together.

Aaron woke up from a nap and my other sister Niki came over to help out. I needed some space so she took him out to eat and play. Eric started to set up the tub and this is where things get hazy for a bit.
Allison asked if I wanted to get into the regular tub while Eric blew up our birth tub. She made me some chicken noodle soup and I ate a ton of it. She took pictures and I called my mom and Amber, who got there around 6:30. I was very active. I think they were around 3 minutes apart, like waves crashing and taking me out to sea.

Allison called my midwife, Adrian, and her apprentice, K, and told them they need to get here NOW. I didn't know it until much later but Allison and Amber were preparing to catch this baby. It seemed as if I was about to give birth.

I have to say that Eric was the most amazing birth partner. He was my rock and the only thing that got me through the contractions at times. His whispered words of encouragement, his kisses holding my entire body weight through contractions. I am so blessed we had this experience together. I know we are capable of anything as a team. I am very luck to have him.

Adrian and K get to my home around 8:30. I know most of what I'm about to tell you from my birth record. Once they got there I was in the tub. They checked the baby's heart rate, perfect 140's, and did the usual stuff. My contractions spaced out to around 7-8 minutes. My sister Jaclyn arrived. I zone out in the tub for an hour or two. They ask me to get out. I sit in the rocking chair. Things get heavy. Really heavy. I cling to Eric. I loudly vocalize through every contraction. Searing pain that I can only pound my fist to rhythmically to cope. I look up at Adrian and say, "I don't want to do this." She grabs my previous birth records and writes on the back "I CAN do this!" She puts it next to me to read. I am shaking and hot and cold. They tell me this is transition.

I tell them I want to get into bed with Eric. I am tired. Its 12:30am. I get back in the tub and the contractions space out. They gave me a few spoonfuls of honey and some coconut water. Adrian asks me if K can check me. I agree. Lets see how much longer we have. I have a killer contraction and jump out of the tub, waddle to my bed and am hit with another. I lay down and she checks me to see that I’m at 9cm, -2 station, bag of waters bulging.

 I begin to cry. "I'm not broken! My body can do this! I can do this!" I get back into the tub and wait. And wait. And wait. They give me toast. They change my positions. Contractions continue to space out. It's now 3:30 am. I'm in bed with Eric again. They ask me to try pushing a little to see what happens. I get up on my knees and push. I have a large gush of fluids. I am scared but thrilled this is almost over.

Nothing else happens. I get back in the tub. I fall asleep, wake at the top of a contraction, and then fall back asleep. My midwife asks if she can check me to see whats going on in there. Its now 4:38am. What she finds is more devastating than I have words for at the time. I am only 4-5cm. Baby high at -4 station. Waters are not broken. I cry. I am heartbroken.

My contractions space out to 10-11 minutes apart. My midwives leave to get some rest. I am angry. I am scared. My sister asks me if I can take anything to help me sleep. Eric calls Adrian at 7am and she agrees. I sleep until she calls back 2:38pm. I feel rested. I am still contracting every 10 minutes. I take another sleeping pill and sleep until 5:30pm when Allison calls and says she will bring us dinner. I ask for a cheeseburger.

She had gone home as well earlier, got called to another birth, and then came back to me. Doulas are amazing! I go back to bed and send her home to get some sleep. Eric and I have long talks about what is happening. I feel we should make plans in case of a transfer. We fill the birth tub with fresh hot water, have a glass of wine and wait for something to happen. I am exhausted to tears.

We call Adrian back around 9:30pm to tell her the contractions are picking up again. I am excited. I tell her not to come yet but that I wanted her to know they were finally 5-8 minutes again. They space back out again. I tell Eric I am done. I cannot do this anymore. It's 4am. I want to transfer. We decide to transfer to the hospital close to Adrian's birth center and stop in to see her first and maybe have her check me. She finds I am 5-6cm and we are all encouraged. I am making progress, even if it is slow.

She asks me if I want to rest in the tub and let Eric get some sleep. I do and while I am in the tub she comes in to talk. She tells me how she became a midwife and tells me stories. She sits quietly while I breathe through contractions and rubs my belly when they end. Midwives are beautiful people. I wish everyone had access to Adrian for her births. She did a rebozo on me and we order breakfast.

After I eat, contractions get started again. They get as close as 2-3 minutes. My chiropractor comes over to adjust me again. We talk about my fears and I feel better. Contractions space out again. I slowly feel my VBAC slipping away. I take herbs. I do nipple stimulation. I squat. I do everything and anything. Nothing works. At 7pm we decide to have her check me. I am still 5-6cm. I decide to transfer. I cry harder than I can ever remember. I still feel a lump in my throat now as I write this. I know that I have lost my VBAC. I feel failure like I have never known.

Adrian talks to me about where I want to transfer. I can go to the hospital down the street, but she doesn't know the OB on call and she doesn't know how we, a VBAC home birth transfer, will be treated. She tells us about a hospital that is an hour away. They are amazing, she says. She knows the OB's there. They will give us the things that we feel are important during a c-section. I look outside and see it's snowing. I find it ironic that I had been telling our son Aaron my entire pregnancy that it would be snowing when his brother or sister was born.

We get in the car and suddenly it’s a whole new ball game. Contractions are coming every 2 minutes and lasting 2 minutes. I am screaming. I have no coping skills left. I am begging, pleading, for the pain to stop. I'll do anything, please just make it stop. I hate this. I want to throw myself out of the car. I yell at Eric, punch the seats and the ceiling, anything to escape the pain. It is like nothing I have ever felt. It's snowing hard. We are on back, winding roads, in a New Hampshire blizzard. And stuck behind a sanding truck. You can't make this stuff up!

We get to the hospital and I jump out of the car and run. Well, I felt as if I was running; it was more like a fast waddle. I tell Allison to help me. Please help me! I feel something come out of me. I tell her I think my water broke. She feels my legs and says she can't tell. So, in the middle of the parking lot I pull down my pants to check. I don't care. Modesty be damned! Its just a lot of bloody show. Allison tells me to ask to be checked and if I have dilated we will leave and I will push the baby out in the back of my Subaru because this hospital has a VBAC ban.
We get inside and the OB checks me and says I am still only 6cm. I feel more crushing failure. It takes them 5 tries to get an IV going. They finally hold me down and put it in my wrist, at the part where your hand meets your wrist, which is not a good spot. They gave me pain meds, but they did nothing. I am still screaming. I am embarrassed about how loud I screamed. I really didn't care at the time though. My back was on fire. They had to get 2 bags of fluid down before they could do surgery.

At some point I just gave up. I withdrew into my self. I stopped fighting and let the pain wash over me. It was all I could do in the situation. There was no running left in me. I had lost my VBAC and now all I wanted was for the pain to just stop. I was half sitting on the edge of the hospital bed. Allison asked me to have them check me again. My midwife told me to as well. I might be 9cm and could still do this. It will remain one of my biggest regrets that I did not. They could clearly see I was in transition. Because when I stood up to walk to surgery, my waters really did break. It is with a heavy heart that I tell you I walked into the OR after that moment.

My surgery went well, or at least as well they can go. They dropped the curtain for me to see the delivery. They let Eric announce the sex, another BOY! And they let me have my amazing doula Allison be there, too. She held my hand and rubbed my face. She sang Amazing Grace to me to make it a better experience for me. The OB leaned over the sterile drape to tell me that my uterus had torn along the incision line, a 3cm extension and that I will never be able to attempt another vaginal birth. My heart was crushed and I died inside. Avery David was born at 12:16am on January 16th, 2011, weighing 8lbs11oz and 19 inches long.

It still hurts me. Yes, I have a beautiful son. Yes, he is healthy. But that's not all that matters. My experience matters, too. I hope one day I can try for a VBA2C, regardless of what the OB said. I hope one day I will know what it feels like to push my baby out into the world. I want to hear someone say, "Cari, grab your baby" and have my messy baby placed on my chest and know I am the first person who touches my baby. I wish no one ever knew the pain of a failed birth. I hope one day I will feel okay with everything that happened and the choices I made. I hope one day I can say proudly that I am not broken. I know I am a great many years from reaching that point.

I am forever grateful to everyone who supported me through my pregnancy and labor. Without you, I wouldn't learned all I did about myself and my abilities. I know I left out a lot of stuff. Some of it was too personal and close to my heart to share and some I forgot. But this is it. All 67 hours of labor. It may not be the perfect labor but it's mine. And I am proud of it now.”

After 52 hours of labor
At the hospital, preparing for another c-section

C-sections might be necessary in some situations, but they can still be humane.  Mothers can request that the cloth is dropped to view their baby being born.

First touch
While mama is in recovery, daddy can do skin to skin bonding.
Love is everywhere!

1 comment:

  1. I know the feeling of failure very well :( dh couldn't understand why I was so upset days after my section.. Our baby boy was healthy and so was I.. He didn't understand that I was mourning the loss of my vaginal delivery... It took me some time to understand that's what was happening.