After my son's birth I spent many months grieving over my birth experience. When I became pregnant with our second child, I decided that I wanted to attempt a VBAC. I spent my entire pregnancy searching and reading all the pros and cons regarding VBAC versus repeat cesarean section. I always knew what I wanted; I wanted to try. I found a very supportive OB who backed my hopes for VBAC. She came to be a great support in my VBAC journey. I had many factors to overcome for a VBAC birth, one being that I went overdue with my son and was induced. My biggest wish was to go into labor on my own, to know my body worked!
Monday the 11th of August, I had my 41 week OB visit, with an ultrasound/biophysical profile first. When my OB checked my cervix she said it had dilated to 2cms and was almost 50% effaced. WOW! I literally laughed, I hadn't expected that! She said I was in pre-labor and would likely go into active labor on my own in the next few days. If not she was now willing to induce me. So my scheduled c-section was canceled. I grinned from ear to ear the whole time the nurse was on the phone canceling it.
On the drive home from my OB appointment I started having some intense cramping. So much so that I stopped and walked for a few minutes in McDonald's parking lot. They lightened up so I went through drive-thru for an ice-cream. I picked up my son Gregory and went home. When I got in the door I had some very strong contractions and a really strange sensation in my pelvis. A very heavy feeling. I decided I must need to pee worse than I thought. When I went, there was my mucus plug. YUCK! I didn't want to get too excited but part of me thought "this is it!" We decided to have dinner at my parents' house before all this happened, and for some reason, I thought that was probably the best idea. By dinner my contractions were regular, six minutes apart and strong. I said to my husband Allan that we'd better run home quick to get my bag and Gregory's things. On the way home my contractions went to five minutes apart. While Allan loaded the bags I walked like a mad woman around the driveway, all the while staring at the "almost full moon" and laughing. We left my parents house for the hospital around midnight. We got into the hospital at about 1:30 a.m. They checked my cervix, and it hadn't dilated any further but it was very soft and thinned to a definite 50%. They said go home, rest and come in when you are in so much discomfort that the smile you have now goes away. We decided we'd go home, and off we went.
Down the street from the hospital was McDonald's and I was starving so we went through the drive-thru. Allan was ordering and suddenly I got a super strong contraction. Three minutes later, another one. I couldn't stand to sit! So I got out of the truck in the drive-thru lane and started pacing in the parking lot. Security asked me to stop. I snapped at him and said, "I'm in labor, I need to walk." He backed away and said "no problem ma'am." We called my Mom to tell her we weren't coming home after all and headed back to the hospital, this was 2:00 a.m. My cervix was still only 2cms but was now 90% effaced. A shot of nubain in the butt later and we were walking the halls laughing and talking about the McDonald's security guard.
We must have walked for miles. At 6:30 a.m. I bumped into my own OB who was coming on shift. She looked at me in shock and said "Are you REALLY here? YOU ARE KIDDING ME!!" I thought she was going to dance in the hall. She scurried me into the assessment room and checked things out. I was 2 1/2 cms and fully effaced. She said, "Go walk some more." She'd do her rounds and check me in an hour. I didn't see her until 9:00 AM because she got called for an emergency c-section. When she checked me there was no change. She said keep walking and stripped my membranes again. By 11:00 a.m. I was having contractions every two minutes for one minute long, and I was having some trouble coping with them. She heard me breathing in the hall and came running. She told the nurse she was admitting me and I FINALLY got a room. WOOHOO! I was fully effaced and 3cms. We talked about breaking my water, using pitocin etc., and opted to wait a couple more hours to hope for some change on my own. I had only made it to 4cms with Gregory so we wanted to get to that point without any interventions.
Around 1:00 p.m. we decided that since there was still no change, we'd try breaking my water. Boom! I was 4cms less than 30 minutes later. And then nothing changed for hours. Finally I asked for an epidural. I knew full well it could stop or stall my labor but I knew I needed rest and we had a long way to go. The epidural was exactly what I needed. With in two hours of getting it, I was 6cms. But I sat at 6cms for a couple hours. They started a slow rate of pitocin at that point and it wasn't long later, I was 7cms, then 8. Allan kept telling me "you're going to do it, you're really going to do it."
About 10:00 p.m. I started feeling pain rather than pressure. My nurse checked my epidural levels and said things are fine, you're just getting close that's all. About 1/2 hour later the bit of pain I was feeling was A LOT of pain, and only on one side. On my right side I felt every contraction, but my left side was numb. No one believed me. I kept saying I felt so much pain, and they said "no that's pressure, you can't feel pain with an epidural". I was breathing through the contractions but crying too. Going from feeling no pain, to being dumped into transitional labor is a ride no one should have to experience! I started to lose control of my pain around 11:00 p.m. I was crying and telling them it was too much. I could feel everything and by this point, on both sides. The nurse just wouldn't believe me. She kept checking my levels with ice and said you're fine. Sure I couldn't feel the ice as much on my leg as I could on my hand but I could feel it! Finally Allan asked her to get the OB or the resident.
They both arrived and the OB on call checked my cervix, I was nearly 9cms, but not close enough to push. I was literally sobbing through every contraction, and begging for them to do something. They called anesthesiology to check my epidural. They finally showed at about midnight. He checked my levels, and with a sarcastic comment said "I'll give you a bolus but that's the last you're getting." He went to the epidural bag and stammered a quiet "Its empty, how long has it been empty?" I was having contractions 1 minute long and 1 minute apart and sobbing through every second of them begging for them to get the baby out, begging for someone to take the pain away. Finally I stopped crying and I said " I can't take this any more. Get this baby out, I don't care how, just get her out. I'm not meant to deliver her like this."
About 10 seconds later Katie's heart rate started to drop with each contraction. The OB rushed in and said "We're stopping this, we're doing a c-section, are you OK with that?" I cried, "Just get my baby safely out." and signed the form. They wheeled me into the operating room and left Allan waiting outside in his scrubs until I was prepped. They told me I had to sit still through my contractions to get a spinal since my epidural had failed, or they'd have to put me under general. While they prepared the spinal my pain became more intense. I also had a burning sensation down my hip on my right side. I gathered every ounce of strength I had and they got the spinal in. Two seconds later I was frozen to my mouth and I could not tell I was breathing. I started to panic, and I mean PANIC. They pushed an oxygen mask into my face and I really lost it. I'm severely claustrophobic. I thought I was dying. I was fighting my natural instinct to breathe because I thought I wasn't breathing. Finally I gave in. I had a huge calm come over me, and I thought either I was going to die, or I wasn't and stopped fighting. A few seconds later I realized the oxygen mask was fogging up, so I believed I was breathing.
What I didn't know was going on at the time was when my spinal failed and went too high, my little girl's heart nearly stopped. They had her out of me in 30 seconds and thank God she is fine. She was born at 1:19 a.m. on August 13th. She weighed 7 lbs. 9 oz. and was 20 inches long. They kept telling me "You have a beautiful little girl." over and over and OVER again. I had tunnel vision so I couldn't see much except the anesthesiologist standing over me saying "Shari, you're OK, you have a beautiful little girl" over and over again.
Something happened then and my tunnel vision went away. I could feel my mouth again and I said, "Is she OK?" He told me she was beautiful and that they'd let me see her in a few seconds. The nurse brought her to me about two minutes later. I could move my hand by that point. I touched her face, kissed her and the nurse held her to me for about two minutes. Then they took her to my husband who was waiting for us in recovery. About 45 minutes later I was in recovery and got to hold my little girl. About 15 minutes later I nursed her and I cried. I never got to even see Gregory in recovery let alone nurse him. She was so beautiful and perfect and she was safe!!
The OB that did the c-section came to talk to us shortly afterwards. She told us that my spinal reacted strangely, they didn't know why, but I was only supposed to be frozen to my chest. She explained that my baby distressed to an emergency when the spinal failed so they only had time to cut and get her out rather than drape me, etc. She had a small cut on her back because they had to rush to get her out. She apologized for having me "exposed" in the operating room and talked about the surgery. She told me that I should never try a VBAC again and my own OB would talk to me about everything the next day or so. I didn't really catch what she was saying at the time, I was too happy that we were both safe and sound. I was busy rejoicing in my daughter's birth. That's all that mattered. That's all that still matters.
On Friday, before we went home, my OB came to talk to me. I didn't expect what she was about to tell me. My daughter's heart had nearly stopped when the spinal failed. If they hadn't gotten her out as fast as they did, we might have lost her. Thankfully they did. She breathed right away when they got her out, her apgars were 8 and 9! Then the real shockers came. The burning sensation I had felt on my right hip was caused by my old incision starting to tear. It was very thin on my right side (where I had felt the burning sensation). They didn't know until they cut through it and that's why they cut Katie's back. She has a small shallow cut on her back, but it could have been worse. Then she sat down and told me about my spinal. She said they don't know why, but it went higher that it was supposed to and they nearly lost me because of it. I was literally crashing while I was fighting my instinct to breathe. When I gave in, my blood pressure dropped severely low. Everyone telling me I had a beautiful little girl brought me out of it.
It's not an easy thing to hear that you nearly died, and that your daughter nearly died. I have times now and then that I stop and think about it for a second and I start to cry. But I know that both Katie and I are fine, and we're both safe. God was looking out for both of us that night. My epidural failed for a reason. Had I delivered vaginally, I would have likely ruptured and I might not be holding this precious angel.
I didn't get my VBAC, but I got everything I wanted to get besides. I labored on my own, and I progressed. I was in control of my experience and involved in every decision making process. I nearly delivered naturally. It was MY birth experience. What happened was meant to be. My beautiful little girl is here, and I have finally gotten over the intense feeling of emptiness I had felt since my son was born. It wasn't a picture perfect birth, but it turned out the way it was meant to and I am at peace with it all. I have a beautiful little girl and life is good.