Please let me take my time… a VBAC journey - Divya Hegde
We were expecting our first child in 2013. My pregnancy was a time of beauty and wonder – I was working and was active till the last day. I felt certain that my baby would be born completely naturally. The miracle of a life growing inside me was so thrilling that the nausea was a trivial discomfort. The monthly and weekly (9th month) visits were happy occasions to hear the baby’s heartbeat and all was well. I had a good rapport with my doctor, shared with her my desire for a natural birth and chose to have my baby at the best maternity hospital in Kolkata.
However, when we met the doctor about three days before my EDD, I was told that I will not be allowed to wait beyond 40 weeks and would have to be medically induced for the labour to start. I had no other option but to get myself admitted to the hospital. Soon, I was given enema, shaved and strapped to a fetal monitor, while my family, including my husband, had to wait outside the labour room. A few hours later, I was given the IV drip and about 4 hours later, I was told that my labour wasn’t progressing well. I was told that the baby’s heart rate was plummeting and I needed to sign a paper as consent for an emergency c-section immediately.
I saw my son almost 24 hours later, when the effect of the general anaesthesia wore off. I had a glimpse of him before he was whisked away to the nursery. I learnt to breastfeed him over the next two and half days in hospital while he was in the nursery and was waiting to go home so that he could be with me. Recovery was painful to say the least.
My research on VBAC started soon after when we found out that I was pregnant again almost 2 yrs later. I was determined to have a natural, intervention free birth this time around. Firstly, because I strongly believed that birth is a natural physiological function and that’s the way nature intended for babies to be born and secondly, because that was the only way I would be able to care for both my children by myself. I continued to nurse my son on demand through 6 months of this pregnancy, after which he weaned on his own. I wanted to have a homebirth with a midwife – unfortunately I wasn’t able to find one at the time. Every doctor I visited said that they wouldn’t wait beyond 37 weeks for labor to start on its own – else they would have to schedule a repeat c-section. I was looking for a pro-VBAC doc who would be ready to wait till at least 42 weeks.
This time around, I didn’t mention my EDD to anyone. I extended it by 3 weeks in case anyone asked! I attended Lamaze classes in Delhi and found a supportive doctor. Meanwhile, we had to move cities in my 6th month and the search for a pro-vbac doctor started all over again. We took up hypnobirthing and decided to have a doula with us for the birth. This time, pregnancy was much more tiring, what with running around a toddler and sciatica pain. Yet, I used to listen to the hypnobirthing tracks and color positive birthing affirmations which I would then put up around me in my bedroom. I read a lot of positive birth stories and kept myself away from negative people. I kept active and would talk to my baby often. I wrote up my birth preferences and shared them with my doula and doctor.
I tried natural ways to get labor started after I had crossed 40 weeks - squats, climbed stairs, nipple stimulation, acupressure and homeopathy. 10 days after my due date I lost the mucus plug at night. Excited that I would soon meet my baby I went to sleep and woke up around midnight to throw up my dinner. The next morning I was feeling quite warm to the touch and felt something like an intense pressure building up. I finished up the morning chores and took a warm shower. By now I knew that I was definitely in labor. I used my yoga ball for support through the rushes. I Spoke to my doula to let her know and informed my doctor as well. I felt my water break around noon just before we were about to leave home. The short drive to the hospital felt really uncomfortable. When we reached the clinic the doctor checked me and said that my cervix was tightly closed and it would be a long time before my baby came.
My doula’s support at this time was priceless – she encouraged me to keep walking, climbing stairs and reminded me to breathe through the rushes. She encouraged me to eat whenever I felt like and I also kept sipping on tender coconut water whenever I was thirsty. It took me a lot of intense focus to get through each rush, I imagined that my baby was hugging me each time and was closer to being in my arms. It did not feel painful at all – just a lot of pressure. Around 4 p.m. when the doctor came to check on me, she could almost feel me pushing and I was rushed to the labor room where my daughter was born in about 3 to 4 pushes. The doctor then stitched me up as I had a tear. I remember telling my husband that I felt so euphoric as my daughter was born, almost like a big painless poop, the stitching up after the birth was more painful for me!
I wish birthing moms are not seen as being difficult or silly. Moms to be deserve to be supported with evidence based practises. We need to be treated with more dignity and our choices respected during this most vulnerable yet powerful phase that we go through. Because, yes, the struggle to have a VBAC is indeed real!