Sally’s Birth Story: Part 2

12 Sep

Within minutes of my C-section with Jane Darby, my doctor made a point to tell me I’d be an excellent candidate for a future VBAC. I guess she wanted me to know right then so I could keep it in the back of my mind and be encouraged. I have always supposed my “excellent candidacy” was because I didn’t labor long at all with Jane Darby, and she never got close to being in my birth canal. For me, laboring a second child would really be like laboring a first.

I never really explored the idea of VBAC with Rose, not because I didn’t want to, but I just didn’t believe it would ever actually happen. The C-section hadn’t seemed all that bad to me, and I never felt like I needed to reclaim what was lost to me by having a baby via caesarean versus vaginally. Also, I think I was scared. What little labor I’d gone through had spiraled out of control very quickly, and VBACs carry some weighty risks. Terrifying, life-threatening, traumatic? Been there, done that, no thanks.

God in His goodness, however, knew that having a VBAC—even though not without pain and challenge—would be a wonderful little surprise that I would be proud of, cherish and use to glorify Him. So I had one, and it was a shock, and it was difficult, and I was totally unprepared!

When Jane Darby came at 34 weeks, I had never actually gotten around to researching labor, or taking any classes. With Rose, since I had convinced myself it would be a second C-section for me, I failed to do my research again. So when with Rose I found myself in a hot-and-heavy baby birthing situation, I had no clue what to do, and later learned I did a lot of things “wrong.”

Also, and this is a big deal to me, I got an epidural with Rose, after much fight I must say. I felt as if my contractions were off the charts painful, but was told again and again by a nurse that they weren’t “real labor contractions,” yet. She was probably technically correct because they weren’t changing my cervix initially, but she made me feel weak and, sort of, crazy to be honest. She threatened to send me to labor at home several times, but I was in so much pain and, because I didn’t know methods for handling it, I was basically out of control. I was tense, didn’t know how to breathe, crying, mad, etc., all before I got cleared for an epidural.

I replayed that portion of Rose’s 19-hour labor several times and tried to accept and internalize that I have a low pain tolerance and am weak. Childbirth just isn’t something I can handle well, I told myself. Through Sally’s birth, the Lord was to show me otherwise.

After finally getting an epidural with Rose, I felt relief for a time. But eventually, my contractions came back. I was confused and in pain. I had heard that epidurals equal no pain. But this was not the case for me. After a while, the contractions with an epidural got stronger than my original contractions. They were strong. And I know strong. (I can say that now. I KNOW STRONG.) I asked for help often, but was often told that epidurals take away the pain of labor but not necessarily the pressure. I never got to see the anesthesiologist again.

photo 1

Holding Rose immediately after birth

When she was finally born, I said over and over that it was one of the worst things I’d ever done from a pain perspective. It was awesome, let me clarify, and I was so relieved and thankful and humbled that I had a baby vaginally who didn’t get rushed away to the NICU. Having a VBAC is a big deal (I often forget.) But it was a wild ride that required a major mental recovery.

Even after having Rose, I questioned many times why my epidural hadn’t worked well, and was again told by several professionals that I probably felt a lot of painful pressure, or lots of back labor, but that the real deal would have been much worse.

photo 4

Jane Darby meeting Rose for the first time

Again, even after many conversations with friends who had epidurals and had absolutely no pain, I was confused, and over the years relegated myself to the fact that I am weak and have a low tolerance to pain. But also, I was agitated by it all. And a little something stirred in me to prove everybody wrong. To prove the nurses wrong, the doctors wrong, Drew wrong, and myself wrong. I wanted to just try to have a baby unmedicated, first of all to do it, and second to compare it to my labor with Rose.

Though I pretty much kept it a secret from friends and family, being prideful and afraid I’d fail, I actually did do a lot of thinking on natural childbirth before I had Sally. Just ask Drew! It’s even in my official “ideal birth plan” that I wrote up and filed with the good folks at the hospital, and that my doctor signed off on. I interviewed a few friends who had gone naturally, and watched some videos here and there. Best of all, Drew and I took a two-hour course on labor coping skills. We learned breathing and relaxation techniques, and the husbands learned how to help and assist. The cost was $5 per person, and boy did we get our money’s worth in the end.

The goal for Drew and me was just to better handle labor as a team, no matter what came our way. I knew that since, evidently, epidurals don’t take well for me, I needed to know how to address pain, and Drew needed to know how to help. I also needed to learn how to help my body do its job, and not inhibit my body by reacting poorly to pain. If I was able to stave off an epidural, great. If not, perhaps the experience would be much better. There was just so much room for improvement, I told myself the whole nine months, and I pressured myself to right it all.

Still, going into Sally’s birth, I was safely thinking about thinking about natural childbirth. I kept the knowledge of that epidural in my back pocket. I told Drew I probably couldn’t do it, but that I would try. Man is the Lord good—He ended up giving me absolutely no choice in the matter! In the end, I’m over-the-moon thankful.

Read Part 3

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