Our daughter was delivered by C-section after we were told it was our only option for a healthy baby. While there were several factors which contributed to his recommendation for surgery, one reason my OB/GYN gave was his diagnosis of Cephalopelvic Disproportion (CPD). My pelvis was too small and he implied that maybe all of me was too small with his comment that if I delivered normally I would tear through my vaginal wall and into my rectum. My body was not normal. And so after my normally progressing labor at home and in the hospital, I went into surgery at 9 cm dilated and 6 lb 15 ounce Maia was born.
I have mixed memories about the time after her birth. Of course I was thrilled to be a mother, but post surgery I woke up alone, frightened, and with little memory of my beautiful baby. Postpartum was difficult. While I was grateful for my happy, healthy baby, I was also tearful about the pain and chaos I remembered during her birth. As well I was coping with this new idea that my body had failed, it was “not normal.”
Four years later we had moved to Hood River which, without traffic, is about an hour drive from Portland. I became pregnant again. After much research and soul searching, I decided to at least consider a vaginal birth and was encouraged to do so after my new OB/GYN shared that she did not notice anything unusual about my pelvis; however, after making this decision I learned that there were no hospitals which would support VBAC in my area. At this point I established care with the OHSU nurse midwives in Portland.
During the pregnancy we had to contend with the stress of the long commute, each time wondering what it would be like to do this drive in active labor. As well, I found myself reexamining the psychological effects that my first birthing experience had on me. My labor and delivery had left wounds and scars in my minds and, far more importantly, had left fear. I was still very emotional about it all, anxious and sometimes even angry. To deal with this I connected with the midwifery team and started by sharing my story; I felt truly supported and heard in my experience. I allowed myself to be angry. There was no belittling or minimizing my pain and anger, just honest communication between women about birthing. I began to feel friendlier to my body and more at peace with the idea that the CPD diagnosis could be wrong. During my pregnancy, I whole-heartedly dedicated myself to healing from my surgery.
So I started my total commitment to something that most people considered the dumbest thing on the planet. I was amazed at people’s perception and misunderstanding of a natural/vaginal birth and at the ease with which they would head straight for c-section deliveries. Friends and family thought my decision to even try for a VBAC was crazy. "Why not just go in for a scheduled c-section?" "The drive is nuts- you won’t make it." "This is so dangerous." "It is so unsafe to have a VBAC." "What in the world is a VBAC?" "Do you know how painful it is to deliver a baby? A c-section is much easier." "Your baby could die and so could you." It went on and on. My defense became, "would you drive one hour to avoid major surgery?"
At 11 days past my due date, I decided to see if I could give my body a nudge in the direction of labor. I was so hopeful to avoid an induction and to keep my risk of a repeat c-section as low as possible. My husband and I drove into Portland to stay for a few days, eliminating our stress about the commute in labor. I took a small dose of castor oil and lay down to sleep. Amazingly I slept for over three hours only to be awakened by a muffled scream… my own. My contractions were coming, regular and strong. YES, this is it… it’s time. We got checked in at the hospital. My contractions were close together at this point and the nurse helped me into a hot bath. I felt myself going with the strength and intensity of my body, breathing, holding onto my husband. Ben reminded me not to be afraid of the natural process but to stay connected to it. I trusted everyone there, even myself and my body, to get through this. As the labor became bigger and stronger I chanted ‘open’ as low as I could. We were alone much of the time in the bath, in the dark, quiet except for my own primal voice. Our nurse and midwife were close by and checked on us but allowed for privacy. The waves came quickly, powerfully. Absolutely…totally…awesome. I remember thinking: ‘I am doing it. MY BODY is doing this!’
Then labor got harder, much harder. The rawness of my contractions was almost unimaginable. I told Ben I was ready for an epidural. He gently reminded me that this might be transition and we decided to ask for an exam. I was fully dilated- what a feeling. I could start pushing. I had read that this stage was less painful and I was looking forward to some relief. Nope. Not in my world. My contractions, my waves, were just as strong as before and this process was so gradual with her head moving down during the push and then slipping back slightly between. This was the oddest and most terrifying feeling. I thought, "She’s going the wrong way. Someone do something. I really am too small to give birth. The diagnosis was right." The thoughts were horrifying until my midwife softly talked these thoughts out of my mind. Plus the baby was staying down a little more with each push. I regained my focus. The pain was enormous but somehow felt totally natural and right.
Burning sensation- she was crowning. At this point I was squatting with my arms around Ben’s neck. A little before 8:30 my friend took Ben’s place and he moved to be with our midwife, reached out his hands and caught our baby girl. He was the first to lay eyes on her and then he passed her to me between my legs. I was shaking, there were no more waves, the room was my own. I took her in my arms and took a huge breath. I lay back with the cord pulsating gently, she nuzzled into my breasts her eyes wide open. Eight pound Siva Jade entered the world vaginally after two hours of pushing… we did it! We looked at our beautiful child in awe. I felt admiration in my body. This was such an incredibly different experience than my first, this was a self-actualizing experience. It was spiritual. I challenged what I thought were absolutes and found people who trusted me and trusted in the birthing process. In turn I trusted myself.