On February 3rd of 2017 I gave birth to my first child, our son Miles, via unplanned cesarean. He weighed 9 lbs 5 oz. I believe his head circumference was in the 97th percentile. During my pregnancy with Miles I received prenatal care from an OB at a large healthcare system. My partner Joe and I trusted her and that particular healthcare system blindly. We never once considered the potential benefits of midwifery or doula care.
Joe and I just figured we would walk into the hospital one day and come out with a baby and everything would be fine and dandy. Well, that definitely wasn’t the case. For one, I violently vomited the entire time. And no one ever explained to me why that was happening. For years I blamed myself for the vomiting because the nurses told me not to eat after I received the epidural….and before the vomiting started I snuck a couple of Cheez-Its…because I was fricking starving. Also, the epidural I received didn’t work the way we expected. Half of my body was numb for most of the time I was in labor. I remember the anesthesiologist giving me options and asking me what I wanted to do about the pain while I was violently vomiting. I really had no idea what plan to agree to because I was so sick, scared and in pain… and I just wanted it all to stop. Long story short, Miles was having a difficult time coming through my vaginal canal. I don’t remember anyone explaining to us what was happening. I basically only remember vomiting….and pain…and chaos. Everything went horribly wrong so fast. Long story short, near the end of the experience I pushed for 4 hours straight and after repeated concerns from hospital staff about my baby’s heartbeat being in distress, I caved in to consistent pressures to have a cesarean. I was devasted that I had to be cut open like that, but I felt like I had to do it or my baby would have died. I remember crying out of fear after telling them something like “Just do it.” I experienced even more confusion and fear during the surgery….violently shaking and not knowing why, arms strapped down, dry heaving….so afraid….so exhausted. And although I had previously dreamt of holding my baby on my chest immediately after his birth, the reality was that I actually refused my first opportunity to hold Miles in that OR room. I was too exhausted…too traumatized from what happened…I just wanted everyone and everything to go away. I hated myself for a long time for not wanting to hold my child at that moment. I still don’t think I have fully forgiven myself for that decision.
Fast forward to May of 2018. We found out we were pregnant again. After Miles’ birth there was a part of me that wanted to look into other providers for future prenatal care but life was crazy as a new mom and I just never made the time to look at other options. So, with another baby already growing inside of me I just decided to stick with the same provider I had for my pregnancy with Miles (an OB at a large healthcare system). I told my OB that I wanted to try for a vaginal birth. I remember she did some type of online VBAC calculator. My chances of success, according to the calculator, were basically 50/50…maybe slightly over fifty percent in favor of VBAC. The calculator results weren’t all that promising but they weren’t horrible so I really didn’t dwell on the number too much. My OB let us know that she would be basing her final recommendations (about whether or not I should do a scheduled cesarean) off of an ultrasound around the 33 week mark. She said if the ultrasound indicated that I was having another “big baby” that she would “discourage” me from TOLAC. I ended up having the ultrasound on December 14th of 2018. Based off of my guess date, I was 33 weeks and 4 days pregnant at that time. The ultrasound indicated that I was going to have another “big baby” with a large head. My OB sat in that patient room with us and told us “If I had to put a G down, I wouldn’t bet on you delivering vaginally successfully.” I was devasted. I asked her to run through the risks of a TOLAC again and she went through all the scary AF things that could happen. She also made sure to tell me, after outlining all the risks of TOLAC, that it was up to me and I could try for a VBAC if that’s what I wanted. So basically, the way we understood it all was that I could rupture my uterus and possibly never have children again or even kill my baby and/or myself in the process of trying to deliver vaginally….but I could do whatever I wanted. Like really? Oh thanks….really?....I can do whatever I want?!! Like who in f*ck is going to raise their hand to volunteer for TOLAC after only getting that side of the story?! Unsurprisingly, before leaving the clinic that day, we had a date scheduled for my repeat cesarean. My OB let us know that I could change my mind about the cesarean so I knew I had a little bit of time to do some serious soul searching about what to do.
After our appointment with the OB, Joe was understandably already sold on the decision to get a repeat cesarean. I don’t blame him for that quick decision. He just wanted me and the baby to be safe and TOLAC was largely presented as unsafe. So, at that point, I was kind of on my own to research VBAC births and speak to people with similar experiences in order to make, what seemed like, an impossible decision.
I wondered why I wanted a VBAC so badly. Was I being selfish for wanting that experience? Was I putting my baby at unnecessary risk? Was I going to die if I went through with it? I ended up posting on a Facebook group for moms. I pleaded for any type of guidance about this impossible decision. I received so much supportive feedback from so many people, most of them complete strangers. My post eventually caught the attention of my friend Alana. Although we weren’t super close friends, we were close enough friends that we had each other’s phone numbers and I had attended her recent baby shower. Alana saw my FB post and reached out to me to tell me about her recent VBAC journey. She told me how she left the same healthcare system that I was using because they weren’t supportive of her desire to have a VBAC and scared her with some of their birthing policies. Alana encouraged me over the phone to switch to a VBAC supportive provider. Although I didn’t come out and say it to her on the phone, I knew there was no f-ing way I was switching providers that late into my pregnancy. It was too scary of a thought. Too overwhelming. She also encouraged me to consider hiring a doula. One of the doulas she mentioned was Liz Hochman. She told me that she took Liz’s VBAC class and that highly recommended we take it too. She also told me that Liz is “the VBAC expert.”
So, on the evening of December 18th, 2018 I sent a long, and probably rambling, email to Liz. I explained my heart wrenching dilemma and how I was yearning to deliver my baby vaginally, despite my OB’s recommendations. Liz got back to me the same night and we had a phone call the next morning. Liz gave me a crash course in evidence-based birth and I quickly realized that my internal hesitation around the need for a repeat cesarean was actually supported by actual research. Like the fact that there is no evidence to support the recommendation of a repeat cesarean solely because one is expecting a “big baby.” Or the fact that the sweet spot for accuracy in ultrasound sizing is around the 11 week mark and that after that 11 week mark, ultrasound inaccuracy increases the further along you are in your pregnancy. So that OB should have never done an ultrasound that late into my pregnancy and she should definitely not have used the results to recommend a repeat cesarean!
Liz gave me more information about the difference between a VBAC supportive provider versus a VBAC tolerant provider. She also told me that whether or not I decided to hire a doula, it was most important for Joe and me to have a VBAC supportive provider. At the beginning of my call with Liz I had told her there was no way I was switching providers so late in my pregnancy. There was just no way. It wasn’t an option. Switching providers was too anxiety-provoking for me. However, to my complete surprise, by the end of our call that morning I couldn’t wait to switch my prenatal care. I called Willow Midwives that same day and I had my first appointment with one of the midwives on December 28th of 2018. After my first appointment with Willow Midwives, I cancelled all my future appointments with my OB, including the scheduled cesarean.
Joe and I also completed the birthED VBAC Prep Class. Our eyes were wide open after taking her workshop! Why hadn’t our OB told us about VBAC success rates? Why hadn’t we learned any of what we learned with Liz when we attended a birth class when I was pregnant with Miles? After her workshop, Joe and I were completely sold on the decision to move forward with a TOLAC. And after meeting Liz I just knew that I had to have her as our doula. She agreed to be our doula and from then on everything was right in the world. With Liz as our doula and Willow Midwives providing our midwifery care, we had a small, but mighty VBAC army. I knew that even if I had to have a cesarean again that I was in some of the best hands. That feeling meant everything to me.
In the end I got my VBAC! Our daughter, Eloise, was born on February 6th, 2019. She was 8lbs 4oz and 20.5 inches long. She came into this world super fast. So fast that even if I had wanted an epidural this time around (which I didn’t) there was no time to get one! Eloise’s birth was so beautiful and so powerful. This time there was no fear. None. I knew the difference between pain and suffering and I trusted my body to do its thing. And holy sh*t my body totally did its thing! It was so amazing to feel my body do what it was supposed to do. I was surrounded by love as well as people who were fully capable of supporting my birth plan. I am forever grateful that Alana connected me to Liz and forever grateful for everything Liz did, including everyone she connected us to during those last weeks of my pregnancy. A special shout must be made to Jenni Meyer from Willow for safely delivering my beautiful baby and taking such great care of me. Oh, and one last shout out to the power of the old wooden birthing stool at Abbott. Nice call Liz! <3
If you or someone you know is birthing after a previous surgical birth and has questions about Twin Cities Providers, Doulas, and Evidenced-based care please CONTACT US and we will be happy to assist you in your informational search.
If you are interested in our birthED VBAC Prep Class you can read more about it HERE.