After the birth of Avery, I had a lot of emotional baggage. It went so differently than I thought and hoped it would go, ending in a c-section under general anesthesia. I felt like a failure, honestly. It took a good year and a half to process everything, and then again fears cropped up throughout this pregnancy. Some people won't understand this at all. That's okay. I don't even know that it was the fact that I had a c-section, but in the way it came about, and how I didn't even get to see her being born, or hold her for the first 2 hours of her life. Surgery is one thing. Having a healthy baby is the goal. But I missed out on some aspects of birth that I had longed for.
I decided long before getting pregnant this time that I would research VBACs, to see if I was comfortable with the idea of them, with the safety of them. I became sold on the idea, and I spent a year or so researching and praying (and 2/3rds of that trying to get pregnant). God blessed us with pregnancy at the end of 2010, finding out on New Year's. It was such a good sign - a new year, a new life, an answer to prayer and a promise of good things to come.
I switched doctors, moving over to a very VBAC friendly midwife/doctor collaborative practice. I signed up for a prenatal yoga class. We started Bradley classes halfway through the pregnancy. I went on a low-sugar diet from the suggestion of my doctor in hopes of having a smaller baby, since my previous doctor said I'd only have large babies and c-sections. I was gently reminded by a friend that no matter what I did to control this, God was in control and this baby would come however it came; essentially - don't make this birth an idol. Good reminder.
And more reminders came that I wasn't in control. I won't linger - this isn't a sob story. Gestational diabetes. A placental bleed and a weekend in the hospital. A month of bedrest. All of these happened within 3 weeks of each other, and the stress of it was really starting to shake my confidence.
Each week passed, and we made it well past the full-term marker...this baby hung on so tightly that I was convinced I'd be seeing the doctor at 42 weeks. I was thankful for the early labor symptoms, which I never experienced with Avery. The last two weeks of pregnancy presented quite a few contraction episodes, though nothing to write home about. At least my body was doing something!
When you're faced with the possibility of having a preemie and a long NICU stay, it becomes even harder to wait for the baby to show up when things start looking up. We were emotionally prepared for a baby weeks before Eleanor actually arrived, and we were so anxious - the waiting was harder this time. Yet, the waiting was worth it, because it meant a healthy baby, a full-term baby, and the chance to labor. Had she come at 33 weeks, I would have had a c-section because she wouldn't have been able to handle the stress of labor when combined with the placental problems.
When I woke up last Thursday, something about the day just felt different to me. When the contractions spread out, I was disappointed. When they picked up again, I was anxious and nervous and excited, because here it was! Everything I had worked towards and prayed for was happening, yet I still didn't know the final outcome.
I know VBACs are scary to a lot of people; it's a liability that a lot of doctors don't want to take, despite the great amount of research and evidence supporting the safety of them, as well as the decreased risks as opposed to a repeat cesarean. I have to say, though, that those risks that do come with VBACs never once crossed my mind once I was in labor. My body was doing what it was designed to do, so I just kept going with the flow. I knew that we would react accordingly if a complication arose, but I honestly forgot about it even being a VBAC. I was simply in labor.
When we got to the hospital, I was reprimanded for not showing up sooner or telling the doctor that this was a VBAC case. Silly me, thinking they check charts on the people who call in. And, it was the same doctor who treated me during our emergency trip to the hospital 2 months ago. I had always been told to labor at home for awhile, and then when it became serious, to head to the hospital. It wasn't serious enough until my water broke, and then labor went into hyperdrive. None of us predicted that I would speed through that quickly at the end, even though we knew labor would be shorter with the second baby. Apparently I transitioned much faster than normal.
Despite being a little upset about my late arrival, the doctor was very calm and hands off. She was in the room the whole time, but she would just glance over occasionally, seeing that I was in the capable hands of my husband and our doula. I just kept going with the flow. Once I reached pushing, she stepped in and worked me through it calmly, while complimenting me and encouraging me. It was great to see everyone grinning and telling me how close I was and how they could see progress with each push. The look on Luke's face as the baby came was priceless. Pride, awe, excitement.
A funny moment - during my last few contractions before pushing stage, Luke panicked that we didn't have the birth plan to give the doctor, so he was going to run out to the car to grab it. She just looked at him and said, "I think we'll just wing it from this point! She's so close to pushing, I don't want you to miss it."
I also apparently had an amazing hip wiggle through the intense contractions, so into them that everything else seemed to fade away. Yet I had moments of complete clarity right around the peak of one contraction, where I was able to groan out my correct birthday because Luke was off by a few days. :)
Early on in labor, I felt so empowered. Towards the end, not so much. I felt crazy for choosing the natural route. Who voluntarily chooses that much pain?! When it was all done, though, everything shifted back to a feeling of joy. When I gave that final push, when they pulled her out and announced, "It's a girl!", when Luke and I both went "What?!" because we were convinced this baby was a boy, when they laid her on my chest, all of these moments will forever be embedded in my mind. I cried and laughed and grinned like a crazy woman on happy drugs, and I spent the next day on this adrenaline rush that just wouldn't fade. I have been unable to stop praising God for this amazing experience, for allowing me the opportunity, for giving our family the blessing of this precious daughter. I am thankful for each and every answered prayer, and there are so many right at this moment. He is who He is, no matter how the situation might have turned out, yet I am so very grateful for this gift.