Isaac's VBAC Birth Story

Elizabeth Sandoval    Birth Story

My first pregnancy ended as a cesarean and a total nightmare. It was the extreme opposite of what I had wanted: minimal intervention, liberty to move, continued consumption of liquids, and family participation. For my second delivery, therefore, I wanted to do all that was possible to have more control and to be able to enjoy it.

Of my Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC), I never expect to confront such opposition or to be given information that instilled great fear in me, causing me to doubt myself and doubt my ability to deal with the pain. I was told by three obstetricians that a home VBAC was an extremely dangerous move. In fact, they held it was “a stupid idea.” The fear associated with it was such that I was ready to accept having another cesarean.

The various potential complications and dangers of a VBAC were echoing in my head throughout my pregnancy. I figured that if I were to have another cesarean, I would need to be with my family in Michigan. Whether at the hospital or home, I was under the notion that a VBAC was very possible, reason for which I contacted Patrice. Much to my relief, I came to find out that there existed no laws prohibiting Michigan midwives from performing a VBAC home birth. With the full support of my doula, Carmela, who encouraged me to seek the womanly strength within in order to trust myself and believe in my body’s ability to give birth; the support of all my family members; and Patrice’s help, I let go of the doubts and fears I had about an experience I never had, but dearly wanted.

On Monday, June 29, I starting having sensations similar to those you would get right before a period: lower back pain, abdominal cramps, and feeling extremely exhausted. By late afternoon, I noticed a pink color when wiping, and with each wipe, it got closer to red. Realizing this may be a sign of labor, I decided to email and cancel my appointment with Patrice (I had an appointment with her the following day).

By the time I got to bed, it was around 12 a.m., and 30 minutes later I felt a strange sensation of having wet my PJs. I got up went to the bathroom and, again, I felt a good rush of what I believed to be urine. I thought nothing of this until I went back into the bedroom and once more felt another rush but with much more liquid. And so I thought, “Okay, this must definitely be the start of labor.” To the bathroom it was again. I sat, released more liquid and then contractions began at 5 and ½. 40 minutes went by before I decided to call Patrice and ask her opinion. I explained the timing of my contractions and the gush of amniotic fluid; it turned out to be reason enough for her to be on her way to see me.

Barb arrived at about 2 a.m., followed by Patrice at 2:30 a.m., and finally Laurie at 3 a.m. Each were so supportive upon their arrival and did their best to make sure that all was going well. I was coached so caringly through the painful contractions. They gave me water and helped me move to and from the bathroom, the sofa, the bed, and the birthing pool. After 10 hrs of labor, I gave birth to beautiful Isaac.

Given that I experienced painful contractions and excruciating leg and thigh craps, I was disappointed that by 7:30 a.m. I had only dilated to 6 centimeters. I guess I was just so anxious to have Isaac in my arms and be done with such agonizing pain, that I expected labor to progress faster and with greater ease.

Although I was assured that I was making wonderful progress and was doing great with pushing, it was by 9 a.m. that I felt I could do no more. I sensed I had no more energy left to deal with the pain, but the coaching was phenomenal and that made me continue pushing.

The midwives reminded that my body was made to do this, and I was also reminded of how long and far I had gone to that point; surely, I could continue with a bit more, they told me. I will never forget the moment when, about 30 minutes before I had began to feel frustrated and disenchanted, I was told to reach down and feel my baby’s head. All negative thoughts and feeling vanished immediately and I felt a rush of joy and energy. It was an empowering experience! At 10:16 a.m. I finally had Isaac in my arms. As his warm little body was close to mine and he began to nurse, I thought, “So this is a natural birth. Nature at its best. How awesome, and what a blessing to experience it!”

If I could have change any part of my experience, I would have wanted my husband with me. It saddened me not to have his presence and his touch (his job and our economic situation limited our options). He missed out in watching and experiencing a miracle. Also, I would have done my best to focus on resting more: I had not rested well the night before and I probably could have done more to get to bed sooner to allow for rest and sleep.

That said, I owe so much to my mother, who I held on to so tightly during my labor that I probably bruised her. My father, brothers, and sister were also very helpful, setting up the birthing pool, caring for the twins and preparing meals.