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Emma’s VBAC Birth Story

I get so overwhelmed with the thought of writing this birth story that I’ve started and stopped (in my head, at least) half a dozen times or more. Do I make it funny? Heartfelt? Serious? All of the above? Can I adequately encompass all the emotions I went through on Monday? Have gone through during this pregnancy?


I know that this is a story that must be told. A story that is practically bursting from within me the same way she did.

I also know that this story will be long. I won’t break it into multiple parts. I can’t. Like labor, this post is one continuous story with crescendos and ebbs that culminates in her birth.

So, here goes everything.

This story begins with two surprising pink lines on a Monday morning and ends with a tiny pink bundle delivered on a Monday night. From the moment I knew I was pregnant, no matter how shocked or scared or worried I may have been, I knew I wanted this pregnancy to be different. I knew I wanted to VBAC.

It wasn’t about going med-free or glitter wands or anything crazy.

It was about mending the broken places left in my heart from Joshua’s delivery. It was about growing stronger in those places.

So, at 28 weeks pregnant, frustrated, and tired of feeling like my desires to VBAC this baby were being dismissed, I changed practices and became a patient of Dr. Joseph Tate.

At about 32 weeks pregnant, I started to feel like there was just no way I was making it until my due date. I was scared of so many things: that I wouldn’t realize I was having contractions, that I wouldn’t have contractions at all and would have to be induced, that I’d end up with another c-section. I reminded myself that I’d done the best possible thing in switching care providers and that, no matter what, this labor would end in a way I would feel comfortable with.

Monday morning I woke up to pee and when I laid back down, I noticed a burning, cramping sensation in my lower abdomen that was uncomfortable but not unbearable. Then it went away. 10 minutes later, I felt it again. And again 10 minutes after that.

I grabbed my phone and downloaded an app with a contraction timer and I started to see if what I was feeling had a pattern. And they did. Dan stirred at 4:45 and saw me staring at my phone so I said “I think I’m having contractions.” And then I had another contraction.

Dan put his hand on my stomach and I gently moved his hand away and patted it. I just couldn’t bear being touched. I needed to be in my own space and in my own time. I needed to BE.

He got up and showered to get ready for the day, whatever it would bring, and I stayed in bed timing contractions. They were irregular and didn’t fit any real pattern. They were so irregular and inconsistent I honestly didn’t think that Monday would be the day and I started to dread the thought of having contractions like that for an entire week.

I asked Dan to stay home to help me with Joshua. His three-year well-child check-up was scheduled for Monday morning and I knew that it needed to be done before she got here, but I also knew that I couldn’t do it by myself if I was having contractions. He called in and I got up and took a shower hoping the water would ease the pain of the contractions that were coming every 8 minutes or so at this point.

After my shower, I called the doctor’s office to see what they wanted me to do. I thought they’d either send me to the hospital or they’d have me come in to the office, so once again, I was thankful I’d asked Dan to stay home. The Nurse Practitioner returned my call and asked what I was experiencing, how regular my contractions were, and how intense the pain was.

They were still irregular. The pain was intense, but not so intense I couldn’t handle it. I could talk through the contractions, but I didn’t want to talk through them. I wanted to focus on the fact that I knew they’d be over soon.

She told me to stay home until my contractions were 5 to 7 minutes apart or the pain became so intense I couldn’t bear it and she asked me to call back in an hour or two to check in with her and keep her updated. If my water broke, I was to go straight to the hospital and call her on the way.

We cancelled Joshua’s pediatrician’s appointment and the two of them headed off to run some errands while I stayed home to rest. Since I’d been up so early and had no idea how long I’d be at this, I knew I needed to rest. After they left my contractions stopped. I didn’t have a single contraction the entire time they were gone.

At 10:00 a.m., they’d returned and so had my contractions, just as I’d lain down in the bed. Joshua came in and wanted to climb in the bed with me and all over me and I welcomed him. I wanted him nearby. He, being a 3 year old, came and went as he wanted to, and I was okay with that. I needed to soak up the last of my time with him and having him around brought me comfort.

Joshua asked “What’s happening to Mama?” and we told him Baby Sister was going to come out of my belly soon. Dan took him into the living room to let me rest so I kept timing contractions, dozing between them, and noticed that they were happening at least every 12 minutes. Still, it wasn’t in the 5 to 7 minute range, so I didn’t think anything of it and I forgot to call the doctor’s office back.

After moving around the house a bit and trying to do things here and there, I felt like I needed to go rest again. So it was back to the bedroom I went where my contractions slowed to once every 30 minutes or so.. I started reading the second half of Mockingjay knowing that Dan would probably want to take it to the hospital if we were there for a while with nothing to do. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading in bed and timing contractions with Joshua and Dan coming in and out to visit.

Dan came into the room at some point and said that he’d like to go and pick up his new phone that afternoon. He’d take Joshua with him and I could continue to rest in the quiet house. I didn’t see a problem with that because, again, the contractions weren’t coming at regular intervals, or if they were, the intervals were 10 to 12 minutes, sometimes 20. So shortly after Joshua woke up from his nap, they took off. I kept reading and timing.

While they were gone, I noticed that from 2:45 to 4:30, my contractions had been consistently 8 minutes apart, sometimes dropping down to 6. But the pain wasn’t really any worse. I mean, hadn’t I just sat there reading a book the whole time?

I’d been texting with my mother all day, keeping her updated on what was going on, basically saying “Yep. Still pregnant.” At about 4:30, she sent me a text asking how things were going and I told her that I was still contracting and that I thought they were getting more regular. She advised me to walk to ease the pain of the contractions and I realized that during the contraction I was having at that moment, I couldn’t move my legs. They weren’t immobile in a paralyzed sense, just in a “this is how you need to be sitting to get through this” kind of way. So I gave in to that.

Once the contraction passed, I went to the bathroom and when I wiped, there was blood. I knew then that this whole day hadn’t been nothing. I knew then that we’d be meeting Emma soon.

I told my mom that I thought she needed to head our way. That we’d be going to the hospital at some point that night. And then I started getting the rest of our things together so Dan could load them into the car when he got back to the house.

I called the doctor’s office back around 5:00. The contractions had been 8 minutes apart for 2 hours and I wanted to know what they thought we should do. The Nurse Practitioner’s advice based on what I told her was still to wait until they were 5 to 6 minutes apart so that we could try to avoid rush hour traffic. That seemed reasonable to me. Dan and Joshua walked in the door around 5:15 and at that point, the contractions immediately increased in frequency from every 8 minutes to every 2 to 3. And they hurt.

I started giving directions, one of which was “load this shit in the car!” and told Dan that we needed to get to the hospital. That we had to go. I paced my bedroom, still not wanting to leave my “den,” for the duration of each contraction thinking ahead to the moment the contraction would be over.

Finally, at 5:45, the three of us were in the car backing out of the driveway. My mom was already on her way so we sent her a text to tell her to go to the hospital instead of our house and called Dan’s family to let them know where we were headed.

I called the Nurse Practitioner back to tell her we were headed to the hospital so she could call the doctor and let him know what was going on. Since he is Jewish and Monday was Pesach, he had been out of the office and she’d been keeping him updated. She told me that if I felt like I needed to push, or if my water broke, I was to call her back immediately, even if I was sitting at the registration desk at the time. I hung up and gave Joshua my phone so that he could play while we drove.

My contractions were frequent and painful. I was bracing myself on the center console and car door and cursing in my head every time we had to slow down or change lanes. My stomach was small and tight and I kept thinking about how odd it felt.

While driving to the hospital, at the height of each contraction I’d think “We’ll be there soon! I’ll get an epidural! This is going to be okay!” and “I can’t do this! I can’t do this!” Once the contraction waned, I’d think “Epidural? Am I crazy? I’ve got this!” I know now that this was transition labor.

I saw our exit approaching and realized we were nearly there and then I had a contraction and noticed that if I bore down a little bit, I felt better. Immensely better. And then I recognized that as my body telling me it was ready to push. I grabbed the piece of paper with the Nurse Practitioner’s phone number on it and handed it to Dan. I instructed him to call and tell the on-call answering service who I was, where we were, and that I felt like I needed to push with my contractions.

At this point we were off the interstate and two right turns away from the hospital.

We pulled into the hospital parking lot and Dan took me to the Emergency entrance. There was no way I was going to be able to walk through the parking garage and to the elevator and then to Labor and Delivery. He ran inside to get a wheelchair and soon he and an attendant returned to wheel me inside while Dan parked the car. He and Joshua would meet me on the Labor and Delivery floor. It was between 6:15 and 6:30. Emma would be here before 7 p.m.

The attendant wheeled me into a triage room in L&D and one of the nurses or nurse techs met us. She started asking the same questions he’d asked: Had my membranes ruptured? Did I feel the need to push? How far along was I? They helped me get undressed and after my next contraction passed, I climbed into the bed.

At first, she couldn’t find Emma’s heart beat on the monitors. She asked another nurse to position the monitors while she checked to see how far along I was. The second nurse was able to find Emma’s heart beat and that was the sweetest sound I’d heard in a while. I heard the first nurse say “she’s complete” to the second and then another contraction hit me. An intake nurse was asking me questions for the paperwork she had to complete and all I could think or say was “I need to push!” I was instructed not to push because my doctor hadn’t arrived at the hospital yet and was still at least 20 minutes out. My brain processed the word “complete” and I thought “holy crap! I’m doing this unmedicated!” and I felt a little giddy with myself, because holy crap, y’all. An unmedicated VBAC?

They wheeled me quickly from triage into an L&D room and one of Dr. Tate’s residents met me in the hallway, explaining who she was and where he was and what they needed from me and telling me that Dr. Tate was on his way.

Once I was in L&D things happened pretty quickly. I asked for a couple of ice chips because my mouth was so dry and the on-call OB gave the okay. I hadn’t been in the mood to eat or drink much all day and I was so parched.

They moved me from the triage bed to the L&D bed and when they got me into a position that was most comfortable for me (on my back leaning slightly to my left side), I could feel something coming out of me. I heard the on-call OB say that my membranes were bulging and relaxed a bit knowing that what I could feel wasn’t Emma yet since my doctor wasn’t there and Dan and Joshua still hadn’t made it to the room.

Between contractions nurses started hooking me up to monitors and blood pressure cuffs and gave me the hep-lock even though it was quite clear they’d have no time to give me much in the way of fluids. Dr. Tate was 10 minutes out. I had more contractions where I couldn’t verbalize how much pain I was in and could only moan and I heard a nurse by my head say “You control this pain! It doesn’t control you!”

The on-call OB and the resident gave me the go-ahead to do what I felt like I needed to do during contractions even though we were still waiting for Dr. Tate. Pushing felt good, so that’s what I did, or tried to do. I was pushing on my own and without much direction from the doctors and nurses at this point. I just did what felt best for me. If I felt the need to cry out, I cried out. If I felt the need to breathe deeply, I breathed.

Dan and Joshua came flying into the room and shortly after, so did Dr. Tate. He suited up and put my foot in his side and then looked for Dan to take the other leg, but Joshua was there and wouldn’t be put down. Dr. Tate said something along the lines of “Your hands are a little full, huh?!” and a nurse stepped in to provide leverage for my other leg.

Joshua asked “What’s happening to Mama?” And Dan replied, “She’s having Baby Sister!” That was a good enough answer for him.

Dr. Tate and the nurse instructed me to wrap my hands around the backs of my legs and pull them toward my chest and to use my abdomen to push and not my legs with my next contraction. So I did. I heard the resident ask for oil to put on her head to help her come out and then I heard her tell Dr. Tate he was going to miss it. Apparently, Emma was crowning.

During my next contraction, I was moaning while pushing and I heard Dr. Tate say “No! You’ve gotta pant! Pant or you’ll tear yourself a new one!” So I switched to panting and in that moment felt my body release Emma’s into the world.

She was out, all of her, with that one push.

It was 6:58 p.m.

I’d done it! I’d VBACed my daughter!

She cried just a little bit while they wiped her down and then she was given straight to me. The nurses placed her on my chest and she and I got acquainted.

Dan took some pictures and Joshua met his baby sister.

We were a family of four.

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I hope and pray that my second child comes into the world exactly like this. I had a c-section with my first child almost two years ago and I feel like if I don’t successfully vbac with my second I might never emotionally recover from it. Thank you so much for sharing. I couldn’t read this fast enough. I was cheering for you through the entire post. Congratulations!

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