Reflections on My Successful VBAC

As you may recall, Everest's birth was an unplanned, unwanted c-section. He was posterior and essentially stuck in my pelvis, and after 32 hours of labor and a dropping heart rate, off to the operating room we went. Although I was obviously thrilled to be united with my new baby on the outside, I also went through a bit of a "mourning period" over a birth that had not gone at all how I had hoped. In the end, the most important thing was that everyone was healthy, but it was still difficult knowing that all of the things I had wanted and planned for went out the window. I also felt a bit like a failure, like my body couldn't do what it was supposed to do. While I have worked through those feelings and have come to appreciate the unique experience that brought my beloved Everest into the world, I still set my sights on a vaginal birth for the next go-round.

I took a few steps with this pregnancy to try to increase my likelihood of having a successful VBAC from the get-go. I waited over a year to get pregnant again—Everest was about 21 months old. I exercised regularly throughout the pregnancy to ensure healthy weight gain and a strong body for delivery. Perhaps most importantly, I worked with a midwife who was pro-VBAC and very supportive throughout the entire pregnancy. I definitely think these steps helped me feel more prepared and committed to trying for a VBAC, but they were definitely not foolproof methods for success.

I can't be sure when early labor started because I had been having contractions for several days before Dahlia was born, but I woke up on Saturday around 2:30 in the morning with painful contractions that kept me from going back to sleep. When I determined that I couldn't get comfortable, I decided to get up and try to get some things done. I took a shower, did a load of laundry, and tidied up as I timed contractions, which were coming every 4 minutes or so. Doug woke up around 6, showered, and helped get Everest ready for the babysitters. My contractions increased in intensity, so we headed to the sitters' house and got to the hospital a little after 8 AM. 

I was about 5 cm dilated when we arrived at the hospital and was admitted soon after. I labored for another 3 hours or so, got to 8 cm, and asked for an epidural. I had hoped to sleep, but my brain was buzzing so much that I couldn't drift off. Progress seemed to stall around 8 cm, just like it had with my first delivery, and it was during this time that the nurse informed us the baby was posterior, just as Everest had been. The nurse said that I might need some pitocin, but I was hoping to avoid it, and we opted to try a few different positions first. I wanted to go on my hands and knees, but the nurse had me switch back and forth between my two sides instead. She was extremely supportive of me moving around a little, but seemed a bit hesitant about the hands and knees position (I think due to the epidural). When I wasn't showing the progress we had hoped for, I convinced the nurse to let me turn over and try it my own way. 

Since I didn't have a lot of feeling/strength in my legs at this point, I supported myself with my arms and spent the next 45 minutes or so rocking back and forth and trying to get the baby into a better position. My strategy seemed to work and the baby engaged in a better position and I was fully dilated after my stint on my hands and knees. The next task was getting the baby to move stations—the part of labor that Everest never conquered. I spent the next two hours trying to push with contractions to help move baby down, but she wasn't budging. I asked the nurse to let me try the hands and knees position again, but she seemed to be stalling again. When two hours or so had gone by, I had made some progress but not much. I insisted on getting on my hands and knees again and gave pushing a few tries from that angle. While these pushes didn't immediately yield the results we wanted, as soon as I rolled on my side take a break, I started vomiting and the baby literally started sliding out from the heaving.

The nurse called for the doctor and Dahlia was born a few minutes later with extremely minimal effort. Although I'm sure some of it was just the luck of the draw, I am convinced that the times I spent on my hands and knees helped the baby to get into the positions she needed to successfully make her way out. I wonder if they had let me move around more with Everest whether he still would've been born via c-section. There is no guaranteed formula for a successful VBAC, but I think the preparations I made in advance, combined with some of the actions I took during labor helped to increase my likelihood of getting what I wanted.

I am so thankful that I was able to have the kind of experience that I had been hoping for this time around. While I know that c-sections can be lifesavers, and I am happy they are available when needed, I am glad that I was able to work with a supportive team who helped me achieve the birth that I craved. Welcome to the world, little Dahlia! 

Jenna is a writer, educator, wife, and mama living in Colorado with her husband and two children. She founded American Ingenue as a personal blog in 2008 after losing her mother to breast cancer, using the forum as a reminder to live life to the fullest. Jenna loves cooking, dreaming, and adventuring with her family. She has been inspired to share her experiences with others as she navigates this crazy life and strives to have "it all."