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  • Writer's pictureBetter Birth Advocacy Network

Lexi's Birth Story

“I’m going to have a VBAC with my next baby.” I stated to my mother as she held my newborn son. “Most people don’t plan their next labour when they’ve just had a baby” my mother remarked. “Most people don’t have a birth experience like mine.” I retorted.

It was true. Pregnant on the first try at 30 years old and with no risk factors I had been seeing my family doctor and everything seemed par for the course up until 34 weeks when I was sent to the hospital for high blood pressure and protein in my urine. Preeclampsia was the diagnosis. After a few weeks of monitoring, the doctor who had taken over my care determined it was time to induce at 38 weeks. The induction was a nightmare. To begin with, cervical checks with this doctor felt like she was trying to push my cervix into my chest cavity while wearing brass knuckles. Secondly, my body was no where near ready to give birth and it had no qualms about making that clear by not responding to the cervadil and oxytocin. To make a long story short it progressed like this - Three days of cervadil cramping followed by two days of oxytocin. I felt so fearful and disrespected by my doctor by then that the nurses suggested refusing care from her and getting a new doctor. I didn’t even know that I had that option. I was given a new doctor that night but by then I was so stressed by the whole experience of what felt like a botched induction. On the fifth day, after the doctor broke my water, I made it to 6 cm before the nurses realized that I was bleeding internally. I was rushed to an understaffed OR with a placental abruption that was then followed by postpartum hemorrhage requiring numerous blood transfusions all while my baby boy was resuscitated. It was truly one of the worst days of my life.

I was set that I was not going to meet my next baby in an operating room. After an early miscarriage, I was pregnant again 12 months after that first traumatizing birth. Right away my pregnancy was totally different. I. Felt. Great. It was truly a unicorn pregnancy. No sickness, maybe a bit tired, but I would later joke to people that if I hadn’t been taking pregnancy tests I wouldn’t have suspected I was pregnant until 20 weeks. I didn’t even have much of a bump until then. By this time, I was well-read in all things VBAC. I had researched the latest medical data and had joined a support group. I was eating healthier than I had ever ate in my life, went for daily walks and drank (what felt like on some days) a swimming pool’s worth of water. I didn’t know it was possible to feel so good and that made me feel very confident that my body could handle a VBAC. My husband was also very supportive of planning a VBAC and so together we decided it would be best if we planned to give birth in a VBAC friendly hospital, even though that meant me and my son spending the last six weeks of my pregnancy seven hours away at my parents home.

My due date of September 30 came and went and I didn’t even care. Part of a successful VBAC meant letting your baby come when it was ready and since I had learned that statistically most babies are born naturally about a week after their due date I didn’t stress or try any of the methods to self-induce labour. Sure enough, just after midnight on October 7 of 2017, in the guest bedroom of my parent’s home, I told my husband, Kendel, that I was in labour. We decided that we should relax and try to get as much sleep as possible. I remember being amazed that I actually slept peacefully until just before 6 a.m. As soon as I got up the contractions grew in strength. I decided to let Kendel sleep and I started getting dressed and doing my hair and make up - to me it was a special occasion and I wanted to feel confident and beautiful. My dad is an early riser and I’ll always remember the look on his face when I told him “today is the day”. He was so excited. The contractions continued to get stronger until I decided that I didn’t want to do them alone anymore. I woke Kendel at 8 am and he called my best friend Annie who lived an hour away and told her she should come. When Annie arrived we decided I should start bouncing on the ball and moving around to keep baby in an optimal position. Honestly, the hours that followed were some of the best of my life. There is something so intimate about labouring with your husband and best friend in a comfortable place. Kendel would slow dance with me through contractions or Annie would massage my hands while I bounced through them. I felt so strong and powerful.

By four in the afternoon I was having trouble tolerating the contractions and I felt like I surely must be up to 6 cm. Sadly, when we got to the hospital we learned that I was only 1 cm dilated. I started to get nervous then, this is not what I had hoped. The nurse told me to get in the tub though and maybe that would help. In the tub it was getting harder to breathe through my contractions. I wasn’t in their long because meanwhile the nurse had read about my previous history with my first birth birth and she told us she preferred that I come and wait for the OB on call. By now the waves were becoming hard to bear and they felt different than they did with my first labour. With each contraction it felt like a piece of rebar was being shoved from my navel to my butt. When I described this to the OB she became quite alarmed, concerned that it may be a sign of the much dreaded uterine rupture. What I will always be thankful for is that she still gave me a choice. I never felt bullied or spoken down to. She said they could give me an epidural - it would help the pain and I might relax enough to start dilating - however, if I did rupture I wouldn’t feel it coming and it might be too late or I could consent to an emergency section. They had given me morphine for the pain by then but it wasn’t even touching it. I cried then because this was exactly the scenario I had been trying to avoid but I felt that the c-section was the best choice in that moment.

In the OR, when the spinal block set in, I remember feeling so elated and peaceful and renewed in spirit. I was ready to meet my baby even if it wasn’t going as planned. Kendel was led to my side and together we heard the angry screams of our second son, Briar, as he voiced his displeasure with the new world he found himself in. I heard the nurses remark that they had never seen a baby come out as clean as him. “Perfectly cooked” I thought jokingly. I was so in love with him at first sight - so different from the feelings of fear with my first when I was begging them to tell me if he was okay. When they placed Briar in my arms I could hardly see him from my position laying flat but I felt so satisfied. Then it started - the familiar feeling from 21 months prior, my vision began to blur and I started to fade in and out of consciousness. The doctor sounded so panicky as I heard her ordering blood. I was haemorrhaging again. Thankfully they were able to get the bleeding under control. Later the OB informed me that uterus was so thin that it was transparent and she believed I had made the right choice in choosing the caesarean. I don’t know if it was the right choice. I still wish I could have had the VBAC I envisioned.However, even though it was not the birth I had envisioned it was a healing experience. I felt healthy and supported through my pregnancy, I felt loved and nurtured through my labour and I felt respected and in control through the birthing of my second son. Even now when I look at Briar I am thankful that the day he was born was actually one of the best days of my life.

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