As a quick refresher, my delivery with Adelaide was a c-section because she was breech (very breech!). You can read her birth story here. Since the only reason for my c-section was the baby’s position, I was a prime candidate, with this pregnancy, for a vaginal birth after cesarian, or VBAC.
The risk present during a VBAC delivery (and not for a normal vaginal delivery) is uterine rupture at the incision site for the previous c-section. This occurs in approximately 0.2% – 1.5% of VBAC deliveries. Even with this risk, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists still reports that VBAC deliveries carry fewer risks than a repeat c-section. In general, VBACs have an 80% success rate, and I was determined to be part of that 80%.
There are a ton of reasons I wanted to have a VBAC, and I’d be happy to discuss those at length if anyone is interested, but the important thing to know is that I was motivated and determined to have my VBAC.
A super common question from doctors and friends has been, “when did labor start?” which has proved to be a difficult question to answer.
On Thanksgiving, around noon, I started having mild contractions that were 30 minutes apart and lasted all day. I kept waiting for them to get closer together or more intense, but it never happened. Before we went to bed that night, we called our babysitters and let them know what was going on, just in case things picked up. But morning came, and I had a relatively restful night with only a few noticeable contractions.
Over Friday and Saturday I continued to have contractions at 20-30 minute intervals but they never increased in intensity, duration or consistency. So we were just waiting. I made lots of trips to the store and the park to try and stay active and kick labor into high gear. It would work for a while, but as soon as I would rest, the contractions would slow back down again.
Sunday was the same story—contractions every 30 minutes for most of the day. In the late afternoon they started coming every 20 minutes, and then every 15. Still not very intense though. They felt like Braxton-Hicks because of the whole-tummy-tightening, but they were accompanied by cramp-like feelings and were coming at consistent intervals, so I knew they were more meaningful than Braxton-Hicks.
At 5:19 I called in a take-out order for thai food, walked out of the kitchen and felt the undeniable sensation of my water breaking. Matt was sitting in the living room and saw me pause awkwardly, so I said, “That was my water breaking!”. Then I quickly waddled to the bathroom.
After that, contractions picked up immediately, coming every 10 minutes, and they had the distinct intensity of real labor. We called our babysitter, Anna, and totally disrupted her life (she was on her way to a concert!) but she’s amazing and made it to our place, with bags packed, in record time!
I sent Matt to pick up the thai food because I wanted to make sure he had one last good meal before, what was going to inevitably be, a long night. I gathered up the last of the items for our hospital bag and spent a solid 30 minutes laying on our bed relaxing through contractions, while Adelaide played on the iPad and we waited for Anna to arrive.
My midwife’s policy when it came to membrane rupture (water breaking) was that after it happened, I had a 12 hour window to get to the hospital to be checked. Once the membranes rupture there is no longer a protective barrier between the baby and the world, so the risk of infection increases. In a lot of cases, membranes rupturing isn’t always followed by labor contractions…but in my case, they were! By 7PM my contractions were 5 minutes apart, (which is the other “rule” for when to go to the hospital) and they were VERY intense, so we headed out the door!
At the hospital
After I checked in, the nurse started monitoring me, my contractions and our baby. Since I was a VBAC candidate, I was also required to have an IV inserted (as a precaution) but since I was ridiculously swollen from water retention, it took three people OVER AN HOUR to finally get an IV all set up. By the end of that hour I was done. Contractions were coming every 2 minutes, were lasting about a minute and had multiple peaks. What made matters more discouraging was that when my cervix was checked, I was only 2 cm dilated. I asked for an epidural, and luckily the anesthesiologist was already on his way to my room (another VBAC requirement was that I had to have an anesthesiologist on call during my delivery).
Once the epidural was up and running I was a suuuuper happy mama-to-be. The epidural was perfect—I could still feel and move my legs and I could still feel the tightening from my contractions (but very little of the discomfort!). At 9:30 my midwife checked my cervix again and I was already 5cm dilated.
I was super cold, so Matt kept bringing me warm blankets!
Since I was so wonderfully comfortable, I dozed and updated Facebook for a few more hours. We were pretty sure we’d be there until the wee hours of the morning, so we were super surprised when I started feeling the urge to push only two hours later. The midwife came back at 11:30 and checked my cervix and found that not only was I fully dilated, but our little girl had already made her way down to a +3 position (+4 is crowning).
By midnight I was pushing and at 12:11 our baby girl was born!
It was such an amazing experience. The epidural was perfect—I could feel enough to know what was going on but not enough to frighten or discourage me. The coolest part was getting to “catch” my own baby! Once her head was out, my midwife asked if I wanted to grab my baby and I didn’t hesitate! I just pulled her up on to my chest! It was incredible!!
To go from my first birth experience where all I could do was stare at my newborn baby from across the room and then wait two hours before I finally got to hold her, to being the person to, quite literally, delivery her into this world…seriously, it was indescribably amazing.
I wound up with one second degree tear and two first degree tears, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that the discomfort and healing time from these tears PALES in comparison to c-section recovery. They can’t even be compared. Within HOURS after delivery, I was up and walking around. By day four I was running errands, driving a car and doing chores around the house. With my c-section, it took me three WEEKS to be back to “normal”. There is no comparison…c-sections are rough and I don’t recommend them to anyone who doesn’t absolutely have to have one.
Cadence and I stayed in the hospital until Tuesday morning. It has been wonderful to be home! We’re all adjusting to life with our newest family member, but things are going great. I’ll get more pictures of our girls posted soon. Hope you enjoyed the story of Cadence’s arrival!
5:30 – Water broke
7:00 – Went to the hospital
7:30 – 2 cm dilated
9:00 – Got an epidural
9:30 – 5 cm dilated
11:30 – Fully dilated and Cadence was almost crowning
12:11 – Cadence was born!