Part 2: Turning Weakness into Strength

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On August 17, 2017, at 10:35am, I gave birth to a healthy baby girl via unmedicated VBAC, and I want to share with my VBAC journey.
by Margareth Reyes-Mendoza
Three Days of Early Labor: Patience is the Key

August 14, 2017 (Monday): It was the official start of my maternity leave but I am set to do a courtesy call with a senator in the morning, and the bio-physical scan ultrasound in the afternoon.

I woke up to a noise at around 1 am, but as I was about to go back to sleep, I felt mild contractions so I tracked it for about an hour. They were consistent contractions but were more than 10 minutes apart and mild, so I decided to just sleep through it.

I woke up at 6 am and saw bloody show on my undies. I told my husband and updated my doulas, Velvet and Pat about it, but continued with my day. The contractions did not go away nor did it progress, with bloody show appearing intermittently.  I still went on to do my courtesy call in the Senate, where my friend who accompanied me almost panicked when I told her I’m already having contractions.

After lunch, I went to have my BPS ultrasound, which showed I still have good amniotic fluid level, and the baby with good movement and heartbeat. That day I tracked my contractions only intermittently just to see if they would progress, but it did not.

August 15, 2017 (Tuesday): I woke up to slightly stronger contractions than the ones I had the previous day. This time they felt like stronger cramps. Again they were consistent but still not close enough as they were still 7-8 minutess apart. As the day before, I continued with my errands and walked around Landmark, Greenbelt and Power Plant mall, in the hopes of making the contractions progress. As in the previous day, they did not progress or become closer in interval.

August 16, 2017 (Wednesday): At 12:30 am, I was awoken by really sharp contractions. Again, they were consistent contractions, but still not close enough, though they were already about 5-7 minutes apart. But unlike in the past 2 days, these contractions kept me awake. I couldn’t sleep through them no matter how hard I tried.

I updated Doulas Velvet and Patricia. I also texted Dr. Menefrida Reyes as I was scheduled to see her that afternoon. Doula Velvet called me that morning to remind me of ways I can be comfortable while I ride-out my contractions. I spent the whole morning in our living room riding-out contractions, alternately doing yoga poses and sitting straddled on a chair with pillow.

At 3pm, we went to see Doc Menie. Upon IE she told me I’m already at 4cm and that I’m ready for admission. She told us to go straight to the Labor Room. But we bought some time first. We ate first and then attended a worship service at our church. We returned to St. Luke’s at around 9 pm and got admitted at high risk pregnancy unit (HRPU) around 10 pm, still at 4 cm dilation. As stated in my birth plan, i was allowed to walk and move around after they did fetal monitoring for a few minutes.


This is the Moment

August 17, 2017 (Thursday): At 12:30am, I was positioning myself in bed at the HRPU while the nurse was hooking me up again to the fetal monitor for another round of monitoring, when I felt my water broke.

Upon IE, I was at 5cm. Contractions are much stronger by that time. But I did not track them anymore at that point. I called Doula Velvet to inform her that I’m at 5cm and that my membrane has ruptured already. Within an hour she arrived at the HRPU and helped me get comfortable so I can get rest in between contractions. I was still hooked at the fetal monitor at that time because the nurses and resident OB told me that since my water bag broke already, they can’t allow me to stand unless Doc Menie herself gives clearance.

A few hours of lying down, I was already beginning to tire from the strong contractions, and their intervals are taking time to progress. I am already sleepy but I can’t sleep from the pain of each contraction. I have lost track of time by then. At one point Doula Velvet asked me to do nipple stimulation as a natural way to intensify the contractions. It didn’t work when I did it. So she asked my husband to do it, and that’s when my contractions started to pick-up and became more intense and closer.




My husband also did a wonderful job of massaging my lower back giving me so much comfort.  After a while, I felt some urge to push. Doula Velvet must have sensed it too from the way I was breathing, so she reminded me not to fight it. After a while, we asked for an IE to check the progress of my dilation. I was already at 7cm.

A few minutes after that, Doc Menie arrived and we asked her if I can stand and  move around. She gave her clearance so the nurses removed the monitor and allowed me to stand and move. As the contractions are much stronger by then, accompanied with some urge to push, it was challenging managing it and standing up. I had to hold on to my bed and bend forward in order to get through a contraction. Doula Velvet guided me to do hip sways while I’m having contractions. It was difficult for me at that time, but it did lessen the pain from each contraction. I could not have done those hip sways alone, so I depended on Doula Velvet’s guidance.

After some time of doing hip sways, doc Menie returned to do an IE. I was almost fully dilated. Doc Menie and Doula Velvet instructed me to do more hip sways while kneeling in bed and holding on the reclined part of it. I did that for a few more contractions. At almost 8 am, my husband and Doula Velvet were given their scrubs to prepare for delivery. Doc Menie and Doula Velvet held my hand as we walked from the HRPU to the Delivery Room.


At the delivery room, I did more hip sways standing at the side of the bed before finally getting on it. Everything was a blur from the moment I started pushing, but I tried to listen only to three voices. On my right, I hear Doula Velvet coaching me on my breathing and giving me sips of water in between pushes. On my left I hear my husband cheering me on whenever I push. And in the middle was Doc Menie coaching me where to direct my push and affirming my efforts whenever I give a good push.

We repeated that process for about 2 hours or so. My energy was almost drained, but I knew I can’t quit at that moment because we’re already near the finish line. During the final moments of pushing, Doc Menie asked me if she can nip a little on my perineum and I gave her my consent. A few more pushes after that, at 10:35 am, our daughter came out to the world. She was immediately put on top of my chest while being wiped and checked by the pedia residents. After allowing the cord to finish pulsating, Doc Menie clamped the cord, and my husband cut it. Our daughter immediately latched on my breast and started feeding. It was a surreal moment!


Finally, I was able to “experience” (fully conscious and awake) the Unang Yakap Protocol. I can’t even describe with words how much that moment meant to me. Despite the lack of sleep for more than 24 hours, and the exhausting 2 hours of pushing, I felt new energy surge through me from that moment on. It made all the hard work and labor pains worth it.





My Heartfelt Gratitude

No words can express how grateful I am to the people who helped, supported and guided us on this pregnancy and birth.

St. Luke’s Medical Center, for being a hospital that really follows the protocols of a mother-baby friendly hospital and for having well-trained medical staff who are well informed and know what they’re doing.

Dr. Menefrida Reyes, for being the dedicated VBAC advocate doctor that she is, and having so much patience and care for her patients.

Doula Velvet Roxas and the Pinay Doulas Collective, for being dedicated and determined to help and guide more mothers achieve their dream births. I would have not endured the tiring and painful long labor and pushing if i did not have Doula Velvet by my side. I felt that I would have given up on VBAC at 7cm if I did not have a doula.

I felt blessed and fortunate for having found the right people who are dedicated to help mothers have the best birthing experience, VBAC or not. It really felt good to be given the choice and be respected on your decisions.



Pain but Not Suffering

Aiming for a VBAC was no easy task. You cant just sit around and wait for it to happen. You have to be proactive and do your part. It will be painful, especially if you will opt to do it unmedicated. But as the experts on the subject of Gentle Birth often say, birthing naturally is painful, but you do not have to suffer through it.

I can see now the contrast between my previous CS delivery and my VBAC delivery. My CS delivery was not painful at all, but i felt that I suffered back then. I was stressed because I was completely unconscious and sedated during the procedure, including the Unang Yakap, so I can’t really say I “experienced” it. I was stressed by the fact that I woke up without a child by my side and that I was not allowed to room-in my son, thus I always have this nagging suspicion that he was fed with formula in the nursery despite my efforts to go there every 2 hours to breastfeed him. Because of stress, I struggled with breastfeeding once we got home from the hospital as my milk did not come in right away.

With my VBAC birth, I did feel all the pain, but I  never felt that I suffered through any of it. It was a pleasant and happy experience. I was more confident now breastfeeding my daughter because she was never taken away from me from the time I delivered her. I saw every procedure done to her. As a result of being able to have her latch on me immediately and being able to just bond with her for several hours after birth, my milk came in almost immediately. Having a pleasant or happy birthing experience does make a lot of difference.


Two Aspects of VBAC Preparation

For those who are aiming for VBAC, you can view the preparations as having two aspects.

First, is the preparation from within yourself. This involves all preparations pertaining to your mind, body and soul. This is where you need to empower your physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Second, is the preparation from the outside. This involves your choice of hospital, health care provider and outside support system. Choosing the right doctor, hospital and opting to get additional birth support from a doula, could make a difference.

I believe that if you come prepared in these two aspects, whether you end up with a VBAC or not, chances are high that you would still have your satisfying and happy birthing experience. Turn your weaknesses into strengths. Turn your disadvantages into advantages.

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