As I was coming out of my depression, I was trying to find out who my ‘post-trauma self’ was with a 3-year-old and 2-year-old to take care of. Daily exercise had become a part of my healing and I discovered that I handled life better after putting my oldest child in a 3-day a week preschool. We moved cities and found a house less than a mile from my older sister and brother-in-law. Being so near to family really helped to nurture my heart and I was able to shake the loneliness and lack of support that I had suffered while my husband was getting his doctorate. Three years after my second birth, my husband and I both agreed that we would like to have one more child. I felt mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared this time. Both of my children were in preschool a couple days each week and I was older and wiser. Time and experience and nearby family helped me to feel unafraid.
The pregnancy went smoothly. I experienced the same 4 months of morning sickness as I had with the other two pregnancies. I was seeing an OBGYN this time, since no midwives near me would take me as a patient. Even though I had done everything I could to completely heal and recover from my cesarean, I could not help that the single layer uterine suturing my cesarean doctor gave me put me at a greater risk for uterine rupture. The midwives would not take that risk at a homebirth or birth center, and no midwives had hospital privileges in my area. For the first time, I was experiencing the American maternity system. I utilized every prenatal appointment, making sure my doctor understood that I wanted a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). I explained that I had both of my previous births 17 days after my estimated due dates, and encouraged her not to be alarmed if this pregnancy followed suit. She told me everything I wanted to hear and seemed more than willing to help me achieve a successful VBAC.
At 40 weeks, 3 days, I got a call from my OB’s office, informing me that they had scheduled a cesarean for me at 41 weeks. (What?!?) It was a scare tactic that did not work on this well-informed, highly-motivated, and stubborn-as-a-mule patient. When I did not arrive for my surgery at 6 am, they called me to see where I was. I calmly stated that I was not coming in since I was not in labor. I told them I would come into the office so that they could check on the baby’s well-being. My doctor was aggravated, but not yet furious.
I went into labor on my own at 42 weeks. The contractions started every 5 minutes, but they didn’t feel productive. I knew what good, strong contractions were; and these were in my lower back instead of my abdomen. I breathed through a few hours of back labor and decided to reach out to my midwife from my first two pregnancies. She listened to me during a few contractions and (after saying, “You sound so good; I love my clients!) told me that it seemed that my baby was in OP (occiput posterior) position. In this type of presentation, the baby begins labor facing the mother’s front instead of the mother’s back. What this means is that it will take longer for the baby to rotate during labor to get in the right position for birth and the mother will feel a lot of pressure/pain in her back as the force of the contractions pushes the baby’s head on the mother’s lower spine. She suggested some optimal positions for me to help the baby rotate, hands and knees, inverted, cat/cow, curb walks, and side lunges. This help from afar taught me how to be a great doula (give support and information with an encouraging spirit). I asked her to teach my husband how to check for cervical dilation so that I could keep a watch on how I was progressing without going to the hospital. OP babies tend to cause prodromal (prolonged) labors, so I didn’t want to go to the hospital too early. That would be a recipe for repeat cesarean: an end I was very much avoiding.
I labored at home for 2 full days. The contractions picked up in intensity during the day and wore off at night, allowing me to sleep somewhat. My mother-in-law was staying with us and helped immensely in caring for the kids and tending to the cooking and cleaning. I walked around the house in labor land, moaning and breathing and rocking to the pace of the contractions. I’m so thankful my daughters got to see me like that. What an empowering scene for them to witness! On the second day, I went to a chiropractor to have a prenatal adjustment in my lower spine and pelvis, hoping to open up some room for my baby to continue her rotating descent. Thankfully, the adjustment worked successfully.
On the third night, my body fell into a consistent pattern of 1) hard contraction where my husband needed to apply firm, sacral pressure to my lower back, 2) sleep for 15 minutes, and repeat. At 6 am, after 7 hours of this pattern, I knew I was close. My husband checked my cervical dilation and announced that I was 8 centimeters. I looked at him firmly and said, “We’ve got to go to the hospital NOW.” By the time we got ready, gathered our things, kissed the kids good-bye, and made it across town to the hospital, I was feeling pushy. This usually happens around 9 cm for women who have given birth before. I waddled into the lobby and squatted down during contractions. The front desk lady was assisting a much older gentleman who was having a problem with his medication. He was aggravated and the lady was doing her best to be kind and helpful. Meanwhile, 3 feet away, I’m leaning on the wall, squatting and grunting. (I imagine that at this point, my husband is applying sacral pressure and surely smiling because he knows that in birth I am goddess mother and speak strongly for myself.) I stand up, lean over the counter, and tell the lady, “If you don’t let me back there right now, I’m going to have a baby on your floor.”
Next week, I’ll wrap up my Birth Stories series with the conclusion of my final birth.