A woman’s satisfaction with her birth experience is related more to her involvement in decision-making than to the outcome. – Dr. Sarah J. Buckley, “Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering”
My Caesarean Birth
When I gave birth to my eldest child four years ago, I was uninformed of the choices I have. I have this notion that it was the doctors who ultimately control how you give birth because they are the professionals after all.
I allowed myself to be induced at 41 weeks without any sign of labor nor medical emergencies, because my former OB said that I was already “overdue”. At my 41st-week check-up, we were told to go straight to the hospital for admission. I was admitted to the labor room that afternoon and hooked up to an IV drip for Pitocin (artificial oxytocin), while my husband waited outside. He waited 16 long hours as that’s how long I was hooked to the IV for induction. Sixteen hours of no rest and sleep waiting for me to give birth. I couldn’t talk to him and he couldn’t get in to see me as well, as no companions are allowed inside the labor room.
After 16 hours of inducing labor, my cervix dilated only to 1cm, then I was prepped for CS. The only time I saw my husband was when I was already groggy with pre-meds and being wheeled in to the operating room. He was outside the OR and was not allowed to accompany me inside. The last thing i remembered before passing out was being transferred to the operating table, then everything went black.
I woke up at the recovery room numb from the waist down and with no baby by my side. There was this deep sadness in my heart that I summoned all the strength I had that time to call the nurse and ask for my baby because I wanted to exclusively breastfeed him. She just told me that my baby is in the nursery and that I should continue sleeping.
I will never forget how I cried that very moment, not out of happiness that I should be feeling after giving birth, but out of frustration and sadness. I wanted to immediately hold my son, but I felt powerless at that time. When I woke up again, I was already in the hospital room with my husband by my side. He just showed me the picture of our son taken from the nursery window. I kept asking the nurses when will our baby be roomed-in with us because I want to breastfeed. They told me that requests for rooming-in are subject to approval of both the pedia and the OB. As there were no advice yet from both doctors, my child remained in the nursery.
The next day, I was informed by the nursery staff that I can go to the nursery breastfeeding room if I want to breastfeed my baby. (Go figure what they fed my son for the last 24 hours or so). So even with a newly stitched tummy, I got up and requested to be wheeled to the nursery. I did that every 2 hours for the remaining 3 days we were in the hospital. The pedia did not allow us to room-in my son because by 2nd day he was jaundiced and had to undergo phototheraphy.
My determination to get better, so that my son and I will be discharged on time, grew each day we were at that hospital. That’s what allowed me to let go of all the frustrations I am feeling at that time and focus on what needed to be done. I silently swore that I will never return to that hospital ever again. Even being a first time mom who is uninformed of the choices available to me at that time, I knew there were issues with that birthing experience. But then, I learned to let it all go so I can move on and focus on taking care of my newborn son.
Preparation and Positivity
A few months after, I learned about vaginal delivery after ceasarean (VBAC)from my online mom group, [email protected] It gave me hope, as I was also one of those who used to believe in the notion “once a CS, always a CS”; and I was afraid of another CS because of my previous birthing experience. Thus, even if we haven’t planned yet of having another baby, I have started reading about VBAC. That’s when I told myself that if I get pregnant again, I’d definitely want to have VBAC.
December 2016, I found out i’m pregnant again. I was very excited for the new blessing given to us, and hopeful that I would have a BETTER birthing experience this time around. My preparations started almost immediately. As soon as I told my husband that we were expecting again, I also told him I want to have a VBAC for this baby and that I want to change our OB and hospital. I expected to be opposed by him, but I was pleasantly surprised that he was actually open to it and trusted me enough when I told him that it’s possible and safe to have normal birth after CS.
We sought an OB who fully supports VBAC and who’ve had a lot of experience in doing VBACs. We found Dr. Menefrida Reyes of St. Luke’s Medical Center through the recommendations of friends and fellow moms in [email protected] We immediately sought an appointment with her to show her my Operative Report from my previous CS delivery. When she said I am a possible candidate for VBAC, it was my “go signal” to work even harder to achieve my goal.
I also contacted Ms. Velvet and told her that I want her to be my doula. She was one the first persons to whom I shared about my pregnancy. I know we will be needing a lot of help and support for VBAC and Ms. Velvet is someone who I am already comfortable with and who also has the professional knowledge to support and guide me throughout process. The preparations did not stop there. I knew I had a lot more work to do to achieve my goal.
Honestly, my previous birth experience has left me insecure and unsure of my body’s capabilities. As I went on with my 2nd pregnancy, I have always felt that I’m at a disadvantage because of my previous delivery experience. So everything I did during my first pregnancy, I did differently this time around. I was on a strict no-white rice, no-sugar diet during my first pregnancy as per order of my former OB. This time around, I ate everything (yes even sweets!) but all in proper portions. Being on the heavy side already prior to pregnancy, I had to monitor my weight. I stayed active by walking around as much as I can. I walked at least 30 mins everyday, during my office lunch breaks. Daily, I aimed to walk at least 3 kilometers. On my 3rd trimester I added a weekly practice of prenatal yoga, which came in handy during the final stretch of my pregnancy.
Aside from building my body’s strength and endurance, I also built on the strength of mind and will power. I continued to learn more about VBAC and gentle birth by reading more materials. I asked my friend who recently had a successful VBAC herself, to add me to the Gentle Birth in the Philippines Facebook Group, where I would read the inspiring stories of those who had successful VBACs, as well as stories of those who aimed for VBAC but were happy and at peace with a repeated CS. I wanted to be strong in will to aim for VBAC but at the same time, flexible enough to accept challenges that may alter my course.
My husband and I, also attended the Binhi Childbirth Preparation Class of the Pinay Doulas Collective. Even if we were not first time parents, I saw the importance of attending a childbirth preparation class. In fact we’ve learned a lot from that class, things that I should have known when I gave birth the first time.
On my free times, I would read the books on VBAC and gentle birth as recommended by Doula Velvet. Believing that I’m at a disadvantage, I empowered myself by conditioning both my mind and body for a VBAC. My heart already wants VBAC, I had to make my mind and body follow too. But of course all of these efforts would go to waste if God would not allow it. So every effort I exerted was accompanied by a prayer for God to will it too.
Thank God my pregnancy was uneventful. Normal laboratory results, normal ultrasounds, and no medical emergencies or illnesses during pregnancy. Every time Doc Menie confirms that the baby and I are in good condition, I feel closer to my dream of having a VBAC.
August 11, 2017 (Friday), was my 40th week based on LMP. It was also my last day at work before my maternity leave starts. I had a check-up with Doc Menie in the evening and upon IE I was still at 1cm (I’ve been at 1cm since the middle of my 38th week). She asked me to have a bio-physical scan done by the following Monday to assess my amniotic fluid level, placenta grade and fetal activity. She also gave me a prescription to take Evening Primrose for 5 days.