Friday, January 20, 2012

my third birth story

When does this story begin? The way a birthing time begins and the point at which a woman says, "that's when it started" seems to vary. With our third baby my birthing time felt both longer and shorter than the approximately thirty hours I experienced with each of our other children before their Cesarean births. This time it was longer because of prodromal labor. One evening I felt mildly uncomfortable pressure waves (contractions) that required my attention, instead of Braxton Hicks. They started ten days before Third Girl was born and seemed to be more noticeable each day from about 5 PM on. Sometimes they were ten minutes apart or closer; then they would space out in the morning. There was no reason to tell anyone that anything was happening, because it was not consistent, I have a history of slow dilation, and we planned to not go to the hospital until pressure waves were three minutes apart. After a couple of days my husband or I did tell a few people that I was having a lot more contractions, but we also told them not to get excited yet. We had plans for the Christmas weekend. As it got closer I hoped I would not still be pregnant then, partly because my sleep was getting interrupted so much.

My mom came to take care of our older girls while we went to our last Hypnobabies class. This was nine days after the pressure waves had become more serious and at least five days after I felt that the baby had dropped lower into my pelvis. I didn't lose my mucus plug or anything, but I was pretty sure that she would be born before the due date. We spent class time pretending that each wife was having pressure waves and she and her husband practiced various techniques and positions to help her through them. The difference was that I really was having pressure waves.

The next morning I took a long shower before the kids woke up, and our four-person family went to my scheduled midwife appointment at 11:20. I hadn't met this midwife before. She was really good. I told her I thought I was in labor because the contractions forced me to stop was I was doing, and for almost the last hour they had been coming every eight minutes. I was able to relax well as she gently checked my cervix. She asked me to guess how far dilated I was, and I said, "Oh, two?" She said, "You're at five, no, I'll say six centimeters." I said, almost crying, "That makes me really happy."

I was also fully effaced and the baby was at a 0 or +1 station! I felt even more confident about having a vaginal birth. We were definitely surprised to hear her say six cm, since I had never been dilated that far before. (With our other two babies I was at two or three cm when we arrived at the hospital, and eventually progressed to four or five. This time, we don't know how long my body took to get six cm dilated, because I chose not to have my cervix checked at previous appointments. That's why this birthing time felt shorter; I didn't have anybody checking on my progress during the first part of it.)

We got ready to leave the clinic and the midwife congratulated me. "I think you're going to have your VBAC. You're going to have your baby today!" She said it was up to us whether to go right to the hospital or to go home first. She thought things could happen fast and recommended that if we go home to get our bags we shouldn't "dilly dally." She called the hospital to tell them we would be coming.

We headed for home since we knew it would be more peaceful and pleasant there. (Plus it takes less than half an hour to drive from our home to the hospital.) In the car I called our doula -- the same one who helped us with our first baby's birth. She was excited to hear the news, and she agreed that we should go home.

My mother-in-law came and got our other children. Without them at home my husband and I felt like we were on a date, even though we weren't always together. At first I didn't need him during pressure waves. He spent a lot of the day watching the news and using his computer. I ate whatever I wanted and made sure to drink a lot of water as well as some Powerade. Throughout the day I listened to several Hypnobabies tracks on my iPod. I put more things in our suitcase to take to the hospital, did some housework, and walked on the treadmill for half an hour. I also took a nap. It was so nice and quiet.

I timed most of the pressure waves, using an app on my husband's phone. They weren't real close together -- usually six to eight minutes apart, I think. During pressure waves I used deep relaxation and other Hypnobabies tools I had practiced each day for five weeks. I'm really glad we took the course because it made a difference. I felt best being vertical and leaning forward. (Lying down was more painful.) Depending on where I was I either straddled the birth ball and rested my arms and head on a stack of pillows on top of our bed, or leaned on a piece of furniture or a wall.

As the pressure waves started to get harder for me I liked to have my husband come over so I could put my arms around his neck and feel his arms around me. We had decided ahead of time that I would just say "wave" to let him know when one was starting. My exhalations turned into louder "ohhh" sounds during the peaks of the pressure waves. At 7:55 PM I told him I felt like we should go to the hospital, and he called our doula to have her meet us there. I just felt a little different, with more pressure (sometimes pain) by my tailbone and a little nausea. Even though the pressure waves weren't really consistent or closer together, they were lasting for a minute or longer.

We arrived at the hospital about 9 PM. I had to have a nurse assess me before admitting me. She told me to put the gown on but I said I would rather wear my own clothes, and she was okay with that. She put a fetal monitor on my belly. It immediately showed decelerations in the baby's heart rate (the same thing happened to our other daughters). At 9:15 the nurse checked me and found that I was dilated six to seven cm.

We went up to a labor and delivery room. We had requested the room with the best tub, but the staff suggested that we be in the room closest to the operating suites. I changed into just a shift (like a full-length slip) with a short-sleeved maternity shirt over it. The nurse put in an IV. There was talk of releasing the bag of waters to help things along. It could let the baby's head move further down the birth canal and also we would be able to place an internal monitor on her head to better track her heart rate, which the staff was pretty nervous about. The attending physician came in and met us at 9:40 and talked with us. This was probably when he said he thought the baby wouldn't be able to handle the labor, which would likely take at least four more hours to dilate fully, and the pushing that would take maybe two hours or more (since I have never pushed a baby out).

There are a lot of details that I don't remember but our doula had written them down. Labs were drawn on me at 9:50 and I felt shaky. My husband and I wanted to wait for the midwife (another one I had never met) to come, but after talking with our doula we decided to release the bag of waters to help the baby move down and encourage dilation.

At 9:55 the doctor released the bag of waters. I do remember that, because it seemed like he was in there for a long time, and it hurt! There was meconium and some light bleeding. Someone had me lie on my right side to try to relieve pressure that might have been on the umbilical cord. I had ear buds in with a relaxation script playing, and our doula provided comfort with massage.

Our midwife arrived at 10:10. Now when the baby's heart rate decelerated it sometimes got as low as the 50s before coming back up to normal. With my doula's help I moved to hands and knees position, again to avoid pressure on the cord. At 10:20 my husband discussed my preferences with our midwife and asked for me to be given every possibility to give birth vaginally, because it seemed that from the moment the doctor arrived he was preparing for a Cesarean birth.

At 10:35 I stood by the bed; I didn't always know how I wanted to be, but I did not want to be on the bed anymore. Now some of the decelerations were happening even when there wasn't a pressure wave, and some dropped into the 40s. My husband offered me sips of water, and I put my arms around his neck during pressure waves, which were coming anywhere from three to thirteen minutes apart. I felt really hot, so my doula and midwife helped me get my shirt over the I.V. cords so I could take it off and wear the shift only. I also put my hair in a ponytail and they turned a fan on.

I sat on the birth ball for a little while. My midwife was in the room when the doctor returned at 11:00 and said he felt "absolutely obligated to do a Cesarean." My husband continued talking with the midwife until 11:20. He also talked things over with our doula and requested time alone with her and me. We agreed that we had done everything we could and the baby needed to be born by C-section. When the midwife had checked my cervix for the last time she had said that the dilation was the same and now the baby was transverse. My sweet husband gave me a wonderful Priesthood blessing. Then the anesthesiologist and other women came into the room to prepare me for the surgery.

At 11:55 they had me sit in a wheelchair to go to the operating room. The midwife came, too. The anesthesiologist was very kind as she gave me the spinal epidural, and I enjoyed the numbness that made it feel comfortable to lie on my back. I think my arms were still shaking, as they did during the other Cesareans, but they were in a more comfortable place. I remember warm blankets over my arms, and I remember feeling more calm and happy compared to the disappointment of my first "failed" VBAC. My husband called my mom to tell her that we would have our baby soon. He put on scrubs and a mask and joined me at 12:05 AM.

Our daughter was born at 12:06 AM, only 11 minutes after I entered the operating room, so he got there just in time! She weighed 5 pounds 13 ounces (1 ounce less than Second Girl) and was 18.5 inches long (1.5 inches shorter than both First Girl and Second Girl) with a 35 cm head circumference. She looked like her sisters did as newborns, except she had a lot of dark hair.

Her Apgar scores were 9 and 9. As I found out later, the cord had been tightly around her neck, twice. Also, she pooped in three diapers within ten minutes. Before I could hold her for the first time, she had to have some help in the nursery for about two hours. She had swallowed meconium and she was retracting as she was breathing. My husband went with her and took some pictures and videos, and he came back to room 8 at 12:48, just before I did. Our doula stayed with me while he returned to be with our cute baby in the nursery.

I would have preferred not to have surgery, to be able to feel our baby come out, to be one of the first to hold her. But, knowing that we were doing what our little girl needed, I actually smiled during the operation. I was grateful for the way everyone treated me before, during, and after the birth. They knew what my preferences were and they were patient and respectful. I had no pitocin, and no drugs until the spinal.

The doctor came in later and kindly explained that he thought the need for a Cesarean may be related to the shape of the inside of my pelvis. We don't know about the shape because we have not had x-rays done, but we do know that our little babies are not "too big" to fit through my pelvis. He said he had put stitches, not staples, in my incision so that we could leave the hospital early to spend Christmas morning at home with all our kids.

At 1:30 my husband called my mom again to tell her about her granddaughter. Soon after that, our baby was able to join us, now that she was breathing much better. She learned how to breastfeed pretty quickly and she has been perfectly healthy. We LOVE having this girl in our family!


(two different cameras)

This was so sweet . . . pure adoration.

"BIG sister" shirts


  1. Looking at the pictures, I would've guessed she was bigger than 5 lbs- she looks happy and healthy. Can't believe all of that dark hair! Adorable. Congratulations. I wish a VBAC would've worked for you, but the most we can hope for is a healthy baby, so we can count our blessings for that! Hope recovery is going well for you.

  2. o my goodness! she is so gorgeous! congrats u guys!

  3. Wow, what a story! So sorry you had to go thru all that labor and then not even be able to do your VBAC. You are seriously one tough woman! Did they find anything out about the shape of your uterus? She is such a pretty little thing! I think she has your eyes. Love the pic of her looking up at you! So tender. Hope you're able to take it easy and get lots of rest.

  4. So lovely to read the whole story. You went through a lot! I'm so glad she's here and healthy. It's so frustrating that your body got so close but you weren't able to do the VBAC because of her distress and then being transverse...but you can be proud that you went through all the contractions without an epidural. You're such a strong woman. Love you and sweet baby C so much!

  5. You are such an amazing mother! You did such a beautiful job and I am so happy that YOU are happy with how things went. You just never know how things will go until you get to labor.

  6. "the most we can hope for is a healthy baby."

    I am one of many women who disagree. I'm thrilled that our baby was born healthy, but it's okay that I hoped for more than that -- to hold my non-drugged baby, and to not feel that there is something wrong with my body.

    Read this blog post:

  7. Hi Manda,
    I followed the link you left on the VBAC facebook page. I'm sorry your VBAC dreams weren't to be, and I wholeheartedly agree with your "healthy baby" comments above. I said the same things when I had my own babies, one of whom was a c-section. I'm also LDS, so I identified with you there. Just wanted to say I read your story and understand on some level.


  9. [from Nana] Again I am so thankful I have you for my daughter and beautiful C for my granddaughter! You went through so much; thankfully it was at least a shorter time and D could be with you again. I know Heavenly Father was watching over you and C as her heart rate went down so low. He trusted you to bring her safely and selflessly into the world for all of us to love. I love you so much, as you love her!


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