My VBAC Story by Keshia

Our little boy, Corbin, was born February 13, 2012 via VBAC. Yes!  Here’s some thoughts about my birthing journey from the beginning. My first son was born via cesarean section in September of 2010. I knew enough going into my first pregnancy and birth that I wanted a natural, un-medicated birth with as few interventions as possible. I prepared with the Hypnobabies program, but was still very immature in my understanding of the medical model for maternity care in hospitals and was emotionally unprepared for what to do when things didn’t go as planned. To summarize, during my last month of pregnancy, my doctors were concerned about low amniotic fluid levels. After denying their offers to induce me three times during the week after I was due, they finally told me that it was necessary at 40 weeks and 5 days with 2 cm of fluid left according to the ultrasound.
I went home that morning, saddened that after all my efforts and desires to have a natural birth, I would be going in the be induced that night at 8 pm. I spent the day relaxing and trying to accept the path that this birth was taking. I still held onto my hope of having a natural birth and using the hypnosis I had been practicing. I remember trying to feel brave at the hospital but feeling so out of place and uncomfortable. The unknown was before me. After running the pit all night and seeing distress in the baby and no progression in my cervix, the doctor came in the next morning to tell us that we would need to have a cesarean. I was very unprepared to hear that…I had never thought that I would have a cesarean. That was something that just happened to other people. In all my reading about birth, I had always skipped over the cesarean chapters. I cried some and then used the hypnosis that I had practiced to help me relax and we went in and did the surgery.
My memories include having my husband hold my hand and being comforted by his presence, hearing my baby let out a small cry when he was taken out, a nurse saying that it was exactly 9:00, and then another nurse saying his weight and length a few minutes later. My husband went with the baby and then from then on…nothing.Who knows how long later, I woke up and was throwing up every five minutes for the next while. I vaguely remember my husband trying to hand my son to me to hold which I was very happy about but I couldn’t hold him for long because I had to throw up again. I remember a few people coming to see us that day but not much else. It wasn’t until the next day that I was able to even be aware enough to enjoy my new baby. The recovery from the c-section was long, but I wasn’t too upset about it because I had my baby and that’s all I cared about. The main thing that bothered me was that I was not even given the chance to see my baby until I was too sick from the spinal to be aware and experience it.
Several weeks later, I ran into someone who started talking to me about the grieving process after a cesarean. The way that she referred to it was odd to me and I didn’t consider myself as a grieving mother…what was I to be sad about now…my baby was safe and sound with me? Of course I had wanted it to be different but I didn’t need to worry about the process when I had such a great outcome. I am almost grateful that the Lord allowed me to be so naïve and so that I could enjoy what I did have. It wasn’t until later in my second pregnancy that I realized that I did need to go through the grieving process for that birth because I wanted this one to be so much different…I hadn’t realized before how different it could be. I knew from the time that they told me that I would be having a cesarean that I wanted a VBAC but I hadn’t had much time to read up and prepare for it, as this pregnancy itself was unexpected and I was very busy caring for our one-year-old and finishing my last couple semesters of college.
With about 6 weeks to go till our due date, I finally graduated and felt like I was able to dedicate some more time to birth preparation. Once I was ready, I think the Lord knew that I was too, and one thing after another started coming my way that showed me that he cared about this birthing experience I was about to have. It first started when I was trying to find a new care provider after having recently moved from Rexburg to Blackfoot. I knew that not everyone supported VBACs but I didn’t think it would be as difficult as it was. With VBACs banned completely in Blackfoot, I felt like my only option was a single doctor in Pocatello who ended up not being able to accept my insurance because of quotas. I eventually chose to go back to my provider in Rexburg, which would be an hour drive to appointments and to the hospital once I was in labor. It seemed very ironic to me that we had just moved from Rexburg and now we were going back there to have our baby. I felt guided by the Spirit to make the decision though and I realized that the care I received from the midwives there wouldn’t be found at my other options. Many of our friends and acquaintances and even family members thought that we were crazy to put the effort into driving an hour to go to appointments and risk having to drive an hour to the hospital once in labor. Why not just choose a different doctor that was closer and more convenient? That was my first lesson in coming to understand that in life and in birthing, sometimes the easy thing is not always the right thing.
In the coming weeks before my due date, I was able to come in contact with ICAN member, Laura, a number of times, which I consider to be no coincidence. She told me that from her observance, women who are most likely to be successful at VBACs are women who educate themselves. She played a key role in me starting to do more reading.  At that point, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try to read a few things but since I was so close to my due date, I figured that it was all but too late to make much of a difference. Once I got reading though, both books from the library and online material, I became consumed and that’s all I found myself doing with every spare minute I had. I hadn’t realized how much there was to learn. My whole perspective of birthing was completely transformed. My favorite book was called Birthing From Within by Pam England. From it, I learned that I can face childbirth head on and with confidence that I can do it. It is important for me to get in tune with myself and do whatever comes naturally. On the contrary, with the program I had been studying before, I was focused on following a program, not what my body was telling me. The book has also taught me that giving birth is a continuous event that is connected with the rest of my life, not something completely separate. My attitudes and way of being in my everyday life will and should carry over into how I give birth. I need to have confidence and peace of mind about the way I am and the way I do things and not worry about whether I am doing it the right way or worrying about the judgments of other people. The book helped me to embrace this opportunity and let go of fears that I might have. Obviously I was physically invested in this birth, but now I was also emotionally invested in it. My due date was coming closer. One main theme throughout my birthing experience was learning patience and accepting the will of the Lord. This is what I wrote around the time of my due date:

Today I read an address from Dieter F. Utchdorf called “Continue In Patience.” As I read it, I fell in the love with the principle of patience…there is something very sanctifying about it. There are reasons why the Lord has us wait for things. Patience is a godly attribute that cultivates understanding and a willingness to accept God’s will. I hadn’t realized how selfish I was being by trying to make my baby come before the right time. He says in the article, “Sometimes it is in the waiting rather than the receiving that we grow the most.” I have thought about the things that I have gained and experienced in this past week that I wouldn’t have if my baby had come two weeks ago. President Utchdorf said that patience is not merely waiting, it is actively working toward something and enduring well by not getting disappointed when it doesn’t happen when you want it to.

Little did I know, I had a lot more patience to learn. That night after writing about patience, I started having contractions at about 1 a.m. I thought, “Wow, I guess the Lord thinks I learned what I needed to about patience and now its here!” What an ironic thought because, to make a long story short, I had contractions averaging ten minutes apart for the next two and half days. After 42 hours since the first contraction, I went into the hospital with contractions 4-5 minutes apart only to find that I was only dilated 1 cm. My midwife said that apparently I just have a really sensitive uterus. I was devastated…how could I have gone through all those contractions for almost two whole days and only be dilated 1 tiny cm!? I wrote about my whole labor for my own personal records and memory, but I think it will suffice here to say that those three days were a giant roller coaster of ups and downs and learning to endure to the end and try to endure well.

That night we stayed in a hotel in Rexburg because we didn’t want to make the hour drive back home physically or emotionally. The next day when I went in the be checked around noon and was at 5 cm, the only thing I could say was, “Finally!” The excitement returned as we went up to the hospital. After 4 hours and no progression in dilation we choose to have my water broke around 4 pm. Things went quickly from there. I decided after that to try out the Jacuzzi because my back was starting to really hurt and I wanted to get that feeling better before things got really intense. I wasn’t in the tub long before the contractions got stronger and I suddenly realized that I was going into “Laborland”…I was not conscious of the things around me and I felt like I was in a different world. That was when I knew that this was really happening. It was difficult getting out of the bath and back to the room because I did not have much time in between contractions anymore. I had referred pain in my upper thighs, not in my uterus area, which was odd and very uncomfortable. I had Juan on one side and my mom on the other, rubbing on my legs during contractions while I leaned on the side of the bed. This was the one time when I questioned out loud whether or I could do this. I didn’t mean it though. It was a pivotal time because I felt stupid questioning myself because I realized that I knew that I could do it and would do it the whole time. I just didn’t know what to do next. During this time, I found strength in just talking to my baby out loud. I begged him to come out so that I could hold him. I told him I loved him and that I knew that we could do this together. I said please, please, please, come out to me over and over again. This partnership that I built with him was very powerful and instrumental in getting me through.

I finally decided that my legs were very tired and that I should get in the bed and rest for a while. I had been pretty set on not getting in the bed and had wanted to give birth standing up or squatting. I think that refusing to get in the bed was symbolic of me being the one in control. I eventually got in the bed on my own terms though. It was only a few contractions later that I told Rachel that I wanted to push. I knew that when I was time that I would feel the urge to, but I didn’t really feel it, I just wanted to. Rachel said that she would need to check me first to make sure that I was fully dilated, which I resisted but she finally did. She said I was complete and that I could push if I felt the urge to. I was so surprised when she said this and I almost questioned whether or not I should push or not because I didn’t feel a strong urge. I wanted to so badly though so I just tried it and the urge started to come and it felt right. From this point on I was so happy that I was finally pushing and that my baby was going to come to me soon. I continued to talk to my baby throughout. Rachel had said earlier that because I was a first timer that I would probably be pushing for two and a half hours. There is no way I was going to let it go that long and I set out to do otherwise. I never felt so determined in my life! My husband’s encouragement meant the world to me during this part. He told me that he could see our baby’s hair and said, “You’re doing it,” “You’re almost there,” “Good job, Keshia.” I knew that he was proud of me. He has always been supportive me, and had challenged me beforehand as to whether I would really do it or “fold.” (Which didn’t bother me because his way of strengthening me has never been by babying me). He understood that it was up to me to decide that…and now I was doing it! I realized after that even though other people’s belief in me was important, their belief wasn’t that strong and the only real important thing was that I believed in myself. Even though it was hard throughout and there were times when I felt more down than up, I always knew inside of me that I would do it.

Rachel said to me a couple pushes before he was out, “Congratulations! You are going to have a successful VBAC because even if we have problems at this point he is low enough down that we would use the vacuum.” I think she expected me to be pushing for quite a bit longer. And then I heard them start talking about the baby’s heart rate not being good. They put an oxygen mask on me and then Rachel asked someone to go call the Doctor because they were going to need him to use the vacuum to get the baby out. No way was I going to let them vacuum out my baby, and I think I knew intuitively that it wouldn’t happen that way either. I didn’t want them taking away my job of pushing…I knew I had to get this baby out and so on the next few pushes I gave it my all. The doctor never made it with the vacuum. Feeling that “ring of fire” when I was pushing my baby’s head out was the most elated feeling. Although I know that logically it was the worst pain I ever felt in my life, my brain didn’t process it like that. I was just so happy that my baby was coming out to me. One more push and his body was out and then I was holding him on my stomach. I kept talking to him just as I had been for the past two hours and told him how happy I was that he was finally here. Corbin was born at 6:28 p.m., two and half hours after my water was broken. He weighed 6 pounds even, 18.5 inches in length.

Rather than pushing for two and a half hours like Rachel predicted, I only pushed for twenty minutes, and it even felt like less. I had two second-degree tears, one on my perineum and on my labia. Because I had pushed so hard, I also had very severe bruising and swelling. As I thought afterward, I realized that everything that I had read about controlled pushing had never even come to my mind. I definitely did some intense “purple pushing” (although not with the nurse’s or doctor’s direction to do so). I felt bad that I had gotten so hurried about getting him out that I didn’t take time to get in control and then maybe I wouldn’t have been in so much pain afterward and I wouldn’t have torn and bruised so badly. As I thought more about it though, I realized that I did what I felt I needed to do and couldn’t have done it in any other way. If I hadn’t pushed so hard and so fast, my baby may have had complications because of the low heart rate and loss of oxygen that he was experiencing and the vacuum would have most likely been used. Sometimes we question the way that things pan out, but if we take time to ponder and listen to the Spirit, the Lord will teach us that His hand is in all things and that there is a good reason for the things that happen when we trust in His lead.

Some people said, “Oh, this recovery must be so much easier because you didn’t have a cesarean.” Actually, this was comparable…either I had stitches on my stomach or stitches down low. With the cesarean I could at least sit down. But the main difference in recovery was in the first hours and day, where with the cesarean I was almost non-coherent in regards to anything that was going on, this time, I really got to experience my baby and what it was like to give birth. I was actually there and I did it! A cesarean was not easy and neither was a natural vaginal birth, and I am a different person because of both experiences.

Giving birth was amazing…and hard. Very hard. It all caused me to think about why I wanted this birth so bad…and I knew I did, deep inside of me. After that though, I said what they say women always do, “I am never doing that again! No more children!” And I really felt like I meant it. (Even after only a few days that has faded. My aunt said that Heavenly Father has a way of making you forget.) I even had the thought for a split second, “Maybe I should just go for the cesarean again,” which I never thought I would say after all I went through to have a VBAC and am almost ashamed that I thought. That’s the “natural man” though, always looking for the easy way out. Why is natural childbirth so worth it then? Why am I so glad that did it? Why would I put all the effort into doing it again? What do you gain by choosing the hard way rather than the easy way? These are questions that I am still trying to understand. I think that as human beings there is strength to be found in accomplishing hard things, in making choices, and in acting for ourselves. The key principle of our Heavenly Father is that we would have agency and act for ourselves. We learn by having our own experiences, and its usually the hard ones that teach us the most and result in the most joy.

I read somewhere about how it is important for a woman to go up against the biggest wall she has ever come to and conquer it, realizing that she is truly strong. And I do feel strong. I think that Heavenly Father knows that as women we need that…we need that reassurance that we are strong and able. My birthing experience is something that I will be able to look back on during other trials in life when I am wondering if I can really do it. I can. I did.

It took me a long time to be able to get out in words the way that I felt about my birthing experience. I have found that learning comes from pondering and thinking about experiences, not just the experiences themselves. I feel like I still have a lot to learn about it as I continue to ponder and as time progresses. I am grateful for this new little person in my life and new person I am becoming everyday as a result of the hard things that the Lord shows me I can conquer.

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1 Comment

  1. Robyn Reply

    Keshia, I love this quote, ” I think that as human beings there is strength to be found in accomplishing hard things, in making choices, and in acting for ourselves. The key principle of our Heavenly Father is that we would have agency and act for ourselves. We learn by having our own experiences, and its usually the hard ones that teach us the most and result in the most joy.” I am so happy for you and your family!

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