When I found out I was pregnant again, my initial thought was “I hope I can have a more “normal” birth experience this time.” I knew I wanted to try for a VBAC, it was one of the first things I asked my doctor about.
My second pregnancy was so different to my first. Of course, it went faster because we didn’t have time to spend hours on baby apps looking up what fruit or vegetable the baby resembled each week, waiting days (seven, to be precise), for the next update to appear. Nor did we have time to wonder what parenthood would be like, while having a lazy morning lie in, or during late night TV binging. It wasn’t just because we had a very bright, energetic and all-consuming little girl in our lives now, but due to her early arrival (read more here), I was classified as a “high risk pregnancy” and was potentially looking at bed rest orders, starting in my first trimester.
At my first OB appointment – a new doctor, not the same round of OBs I had the previous time – I asked whether I could try for a VBAC. We never did find out what caused my little girl’s early arrival a year prior, though it didn’t seem to be because of my body’s capability, so my new OB didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t try for a VBAC.
Though the pregnancy was generally pretty smooth, I spent approximately 34 weeks at 50+ OB and specialist appointments – doctors who told me I shouldn’t exercise, go on long walks, or lift even my toddler, just in case this caused early labor. The further along I got in my pregnancy, the more urgent this guidance came, until there was a fear built in me that my baby was going to arrive even earlier. It was terrifying, stressful, and the inability to exercise or even go for leisurely walks was really difficult on both my mental self, and my physical health. The weight piled on and I very quickly saw myself hitting the 200lb mark.
To my OB’s surprise, but to my happiness, I made it to 38 weeks, and a day. During the lead up to this, I found myself extremely nervous about the birth, more so than I was the first time. Two years prior, I didn’t even get to the point in my pregnancy where I really started thinking about what labor would be like. So at 38 weeks, I was definitely anxious about the big moment, not knowing what to expect, and wondering what this time would be like.
The Big Arrival
Following a normal Sunday at home, as I settled into bed, I started to feel a few stomach cramps. I ignored them at first, but they persisted – every five minutes. A few calls to the doctor’s office, an uneventful trip to the hospital, and a few hours later, I was back at home powering through what I now knew to be contractions. As the day went by, they got stronger and more painful. On Monday evening, my little girl stood by my husband, rubbing my back as I breathed through each one. Once we put her to bed, we headed back to the hospital in hopes of the big arrival.
Thankfully, this time, the nurses didn’t send me home for being in too early labor. Instead, I was checked in and once settled, the first thing I asked about was an epidural. I had gone back and forth on this during the baby classes a few years ago. I knew other moms who skipped this, though I could also hear another mom’s voice saying, “don’t be a hero, take the drugs”. For me, I knew if I got the epidural, it could make it possible for me to be awake during the procedure, if I ended up with another C-section. If I didn’t get one, it was likely I’d have to be put under like last time, and while I hoped it didn’t come to that, I really wanted the chance to see this little one born.
Around four hours after checking into the hospital, the nurses broke my waters. I had spent months worrying about my waters breaking early, like last time, so this felt extremely ironic. A few hours later, it was go-time! At this point, my blood pressure had been confirmed to be a little high, but I was given the go-ahead to push. I wrongly assumed that this part wouldn’t be that long. Though a second-time mom, my experience would be more like a first-timer. As the pushing continued, my blood pressure rose again, my heart rate elevated, and I spiked a fever. I was exhausted, and after each push, I felt weaker. After my first birth experience, I had always said I was thankful that I didn’t have to be in labor for hours, and then have a C-section. Now, in this moment, I would’ve been okay if we pivoted to a C-section. I didn’t know if I had the strength to go on.
The room was full – the nurses, the specialists who monitored my heart and temperature, and the NICU team who were on standby in case the baby arrived in distress due to the additional pressure on my body. Thankfully, the last addition to the room was the doctor, and after a final round of pushes, a little boy was out! He was swiftly checked by the NICU team and was thankfully given the a-ok. He was weighed, after which, my husband had the long awaited proud father moment of cutting the umbilical cord. The baby was brought to me and put on my chest, just like how I’d read about, and what we were told in our birthing classes a few years ago. I looked at him in awe and was so thankful to be able to experience this precious moment.
Our little baby boy lay on my chest for an hour. He didn’t cry, he just looked up at me and around the room. He was beautiful and absolutely perfect. I let him lay there and just looked at him. The whole night felt surreal and I realized I’d been in labor for 28 hours – from Sunday night to Tuesday morning. He continued to stare back at me. A part of me just wanted to spend hours looking at him, admiring the amazing human being that we’d created, and I’d grown inside of me. The other part of me just wanted to sleep. I closed my eyes while he continued to look at me in amazement and wonder. I still recall this moment so clearly, the infinite beauty of this little boy who is now nearly three years old.
Looking back, I realize I actually feel extremely lucky to have experienced both types of birth. After my first – the emergency C-section – I had spent two years thinking about all that I had missed during her birth – the big “it’s a girl” reveal, the immediate skin-to-skin, those first few moments of her life. While this is still possible with a planned C-section, it wasn’t something I was able to experience. I never felt any less, though I did feel like I missed out on a part of motherhood. I’m glad to have been able to do it through my second. It was a crazy, exhausting, painful, and truly pure experience, but the bond I have with both kids is just the same. They are my world, I am their mom, and the way they came out of my body doesn’t change any of that!