It’s hard to believe that Miss Mila Edison is three weeks old. I thought that when maternity leave began, I was going to catch up on blogging ideas I’ve put on the back burner, just waiting for the time to put pen to paper. Or fingers to keys in this case. After a healthy binge on Netflix, flying through all the episodes of “You” and watching both seasons of “The Marvelous Miss Maisel” in less than a week, it was time to get back at it so that I could share my birth story.-
I had the opportunity to experience a “Vaginal Birth After Cesearan” aka a “VBAC” with Mila, so I wanted to share a little bit about my experience to help other moms weighing the pros and cons of having another C-Section vs a VBAC. But first, a bit about Maxwell’s birth…
Maxwell, was breach during my entire first pregnancy. We tried every method in the book to get him to turn, including burning this bizarre root next to my pinky toe (if you don’t believe me, google it, I swear it’s a thing). The kid would not turn, so I had a C-section at 37 weeks.
My biggest fear with the cesarean delivery was being awake for the actual procedure. What if the spinal didn’t work? What if I could feel something? Would I be able to tell when things were happening? What would recovery be like? How big would the scar be? Why can’t they just knock me out?How long until I felt like myself again? All these questions floated around in my head, but at the end of the day we had no choice in the matter so C-section is was.
Toward the end of my pregnancy with Max I developed prenatal hypertension, so when my blood pressure spiked, the decision was made to have an emergency C-Section. I was super nervous about getting my spinal, but it went flawlessly. It is the same general process as getting an epidural but the needle is inserted deeper into the spine. The nurse anesthetist and my husband did a great job distracting me, so much so that I didn’t know they had even started the procedure when they told me they were about to take Maxwell out. For the record, I couldn’t feel a thing during the surgery, my incision was pretty tiny and it ended up healing well.
Success aside, the recovery period for my C-Section took quite a while. For the first few days I was pretty sure I was going split open at any moment. It was probably about 10-14 days until I felt like I could sit down kind of like a normal person without significant discomfort. Following the C-Section we were in the hospital a total of four days. I think its super difficult to get any type of rest with the doctors and nurses coming to check on you and the baby, so it was a became stressful being in the hospital so long. I started going on some long walks about two weeks after I got home, but I wasn’t able to start working out significantly or running for 6 weeks after. I feel like I also continued to have sensitivity near by scar throughout the next year.
After having the cesarean birth, I assumed it was my only option for a second pregnancy, but thanks so my doctors I had other options.
Fast forward three years… I was blessed beyond belief to be pregnant with my second child.
When I was 5 months pregnant a doctor at my practice asked if I had an interest in considering a vaginal birth. Though the thought of having another C-Section frightened me, giving birth vaginally was perhaps more scary to me at the time. I made a joke about it and dismissed the idea immediately. The next month, the doctor who did my C-Section for Max mentioned a VBAC, and again I told him that I already had the scar so I was ready to have C-Section number two. At my next visit, I asked the doctor if it was OK to still run at 8 months pregnant and talked about my crazy 3-year old son. His reply as to the running was, yes, and then went on to explain that if I had a vaginal birth I would be able to start exercising again within a week or two and the recovery period would be much faster – allowing me to run around after Max more easily. I wasn’t sold on the idea, but I took the information home with me and started to consider the VBAC in the event I went into labor before my scheduled C-Section date.
The more I thought about the recovery time, the more I wanted to try a VBAC, so I cancelled my scheduled C-Section date. Many women that I had talked with that attempted a VBAC ultimately had to have a C-Section, so I knew there was a distinct possibility I could labor for hours (or days) and still have surgery… but I wanted to try anyway. I learned that that primary risk with a VBAC is that scarred tissue from the C-Section can rupture and cause severe hemorrhaging and possibly result in a hysterectomy. It was nearly impossible for us to get pregnant in the first place and I’m already 42, so that worst case scenario of a hysterectomy was a risk I was willing to take. Because of the concern with the stress on the existing scar, (1) you are not allowed to go past your due date (bigger baby, bigger stress on the old incision), and (2) you cannot be induced with Pitocin alone, but must be started with a balloon catheter method (which requires that you be at least 1cm dilated to insert the device).
At my 38 week checkup, prenatal hypertension got the best of me once again so the doctors decided it was time for me to have the baby early. I was barely 1cm dilated, but it was enough to insert the catheter to induce, so we left the doctor’s office, I stopped at Max’s daycare to give him a hug and kiss, and we left for the hospital to be induced.
For my first pregnancy I made my husband go with me to nearly every class the hospital offered… baby CPR, birthing classes, daddy boot camp… I think I even went to a class about acclimating your dog to a newborn. With this pregnancy, I knew that even the best laid plans could get washed down the drain, so we had no “birth plan”, took no refresher classes, and just knew that we were (blindly) along for the ride.
Women give birth all the time, right?
After my blood pressure came down substantially, I was admitted to the labor and delivery ward and we got set up in our birthing suite. The hospital just opened a new women’s wing three years ago, so the rooms are very nice and the bathrooms rivaled a luxury hotel. The TV was set up with Netflix, they strapped on two bands to my stomach that measured my contractions and the baby’s heart beat, and we were ready to go!
Unfortunately my cervix was not quite as ready. It took about 10 minutes and a lot of discomfort inserting the catheter. Balloons are filled with water in both ends shove and below the cervix which put pressure on it to help you dilate. Within 12 hours a woman should be about 5cm dilated, sftwe which they can begin the Pitocin to help speed up the process.
The pressure of the balloons intensifies the contractions (or so I was told), so after about 2 hours I called it a day and asked for my epidural early. I wasn’t allowed to eat after the epidural, but it was to the point where I was nauseous with pain and it was difficult to get through each contraction. The epidural went smoothly, after which ice chips, popsicles and a few contraband Skittles were my only food for the next 36 hours.
Yup, 36 hours.
At 12 hours the balloon catheter only dilated my cervix 3-4cm, but the doctor was willing to try the Pitocin, though she advised that a C Section was becoming a greater possibility. At one point Mila’s heart rate started to drop for about an hour so they monitored her closely. The nurse gave me oxygen for about half a hour and Mila’s heart rate went up considerably and tensioned OK for the duration of my labor.
Over the next 12 hours I only dilated another 2 cm, even after breaking my water. (I was told that normally dilation should progress about 1cm a hour at that point, so I was falling way behind expectations.). The doctor explained that a C Section was more likely so I should prepare myself for it, but that so long as Mila remained stable they would increase the Pitocin for two hours for one last ditch effort to get me to 10cm dilated so I could push. (My contractions were occurring often, but they weren’t strong enough on their own.) The nurse cranked up the Pitocin. I became very sick, so much so that I needed nausea medication. I thought I was a total wuss, but at that point I didn’t care about looking like a wuss or having a C Section – I was done.
To everyone’s surprise, I dilated nearly 5cm in those two hours and the doctor excitedly announced that we were having a baby. The nurse explained how to push (silly, but I had no idea), and we were off. I thought that my running during pregnancy and marathon runner endurance would help substantially, but after 3 hours of pushing I had no more energy and turned into of those screaming, crying, sweaty mess stereotype of a woman in labor that you see in the movies (though I don’t remember ever yelling at my husband at any point, but maybe I just blocked that out). During that last hour, the oxygen mask came out, we tried the vacuum device three times, but she was stuck with her head poking out of me. Finally, with a lot of encouragement from 2 nurses, a doctor, my husband, through the utter exhaustion I pushed for one last hour and at 4 hours my baby girl was pulled out and placed on my chest and started crying.
It was surreal, like a dream, but after 36 hours of labor and 4 hours of pushing, at 1:36 am two days after we started, Mila Edison was finally here.
Before leaving the hospital a baby’s bilirubin level is tested. Bilirubin is a bile pigment that is orangey-yellow in color and is excreted in the bile, and can result in jaundice. A number of scary complications can develop in newborns if this is left untreated, including neurological problems or death, but luckily most babies normalize quickly once treated. Mila’s levels were borderline when we were discharged from the hospital, but after visiting her pediatrician and conducting follow up blood work, she had to be readmitted for treatment the day after we had arrived home. So a tired mommy over reacted with lots of tears and drove back to the hospital. Luckily all Mila needed was to be treated under ultraviolet light for 12 hours while I was able to be in the room with her. That being said, after just spending 4 days in the hospital myself with being induced and just having Mila, I was absolutely exhausted and delirious from staying up all night making sure the cover stayed over her eyes. After more repeat blood tests, it was confirmed she was in the clear and we headed home and all is now well. At the time though, I was just so tired and wanted to be home with Max and our new baby girl. So despite the fact that it was pretty minor to treat, the whole process seemed overwhelming at the time. (At least Mila’s sleeping mask provided for lots of fun Bird Box jokes in the midst of my delirium.)
While the aftermath of my C Section was no walk in the park, in the two days after giving birth to Mila (and stiches from 2nd degree tearing), I began to wonder if I had made the right choice. The labor process is pretty brutal, and to those ladies who do it with no epidural, you are magical unicorns to me – I have no idea how I could have done it without drugs. But after that first week of healing at home, I felt better very quickly. At two weeks out I started running again and 3 weeks out, I feel just about 100 percent. Going through the unknowns of labor was stressful (especially when Mila’s heart rate went down) in a way that is more controlled with C Sections, but the upside afterward was worth it. My body has healed so quickly this time, and at 3 weeks out, I feel like I did months after my C-Section, and I’m able chase around after Max just like before.
At the end of the day, I think the VBAC was right for me and I’m glad that I made the decision to try. Frankly, I’m not very brave and find both methods of childbirth to be a little bit scary, but I am super blessed to have had the opportunity to give birth via labor for Miss Mila and I am very grateful that I was able to have that experience in my life.