I’m literally almost in tears as I write this. I truly didn’t know if I would be able to do this. I worried for months about whether or not it would happen, and as many of you know, I spent hours and hours preparing and researching to have an unmedicated VBAC birth. I’m so delighted to announce that I did it. She’s here, and I delivered my baby 100% pain free. I’ve never felt so wonderful.
My Unmedicated VBAC Birth Story
39 weeks, 3 days
I woke up around 6:30 AM feeling light surges (read: contractions). They didn’t feel like anything major as I’d been having Braxton hicks for a few weeks. My due date was approaching soon, but I was positive it couldn’t be true labor yet, so I went about my day.
I got up and told my husband I’d been feeling light surges but they were super mild so I started breakfast for Grace, then jumped in the shower for my midwife appointment at 9:00 AM. I had secretly hoped this was labor because I really wanted my favorite midwife to deliver baby, and I knew she was on call until the following morning at 7 AM.
The surges were there, but still so faint, so I got out of the shower and did my hair and make-up, then texted my doula to ask if she thought I should go to the midwife appointment. She said if it is truly labor, that I should go to make sure everything is okay with baby. I took Gracie to all of my appointments, so I got her ready to go, and since my husband was home that day he went with us too.
I remember as I was making my coffee before we left, I said to my husband, “hey, you know what’s weird – if this is labor, then I didn’t lose my mucous plug either times!” Then, I literally walked over to the bathroom before leaving for my appointment, and lo and behold… mucous plug, ha!
We arrived at the doctor around 9:00 AM and I was still having inconsistent but recurring surges. The nurse listened to baby with the Doppler, then the midwife came in. I told her I was having steady but light surges and she didn’t seem too phased. I didn’t make faces or really do anything through them at this point, so she just said to rest up and eat tons of protein and carbs to prepare for labor.
After the appointment my husband, Gracie and I went to breakfast at one of our favorite cafes. I didn’t know it then, but I had a feeling… it was our last meal as a family of three. It was a really special time, and although I had (super light) surges all throughout breakfast I tried to just reflect and think about how much I loved Gracie and how crazy it was that next time we went there, we’d have another babe with us.
On the way home we stopped by Target to grab a shower cap and some coconut water (to keep hydrated). I knew I wanted to labor in the shower if this was the big day, and I had forgotten a shower cap for my hospital bag, ha! (Side note: I didn’t end up having time to use it lol). This whole time surges are still getting steadier, but they were pretty short. They honestly just felt like period cramps.
We got home from Target and my doula called me just to check in. I’d been texting her on and off letting her know surges were still happening, but inconsistently. I sounded normal on the phone, so she (like us) wasn’t sure if today was IT or not. I told her I’d check in later on.
Then it was time for Grace to nap. Usually I put her down, but my husband suggested I nap in case I was in labor. He took Grace to her room and I laid down and looked at baby carriers on the buy/sell/trade pages. Ha! I didn’t end up sleeping but I did rest a bit.
Grace woke up from her nap and by this time, I started timing my surges since they had been happening since 6:00 AM that morning. They were exactly ten minutes apart but short, lasting only 15-20 seconds each time. I texted my doula and told her this and she said to get in the bath and drink some water to see if they’d go away or if they persisted (meaning I was in fact in labor!)
My husband was mowing the lawn when she had told me this, and Grace and I were inside, so I waited for him to come back before I could get in the bathtub. While I waited I made myself a giant glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice mixed with coconut water. I took a photo of myself doing this, haha, just in case I was in labor – I wanted to remember that moment for some reason. The fresh OJ helped me feel energized and refreshed, and the electrolytes in the coconut water were a plus!
Justin played outside with Grace while I hopped in the bath and it felt SO good to be in there. I had started breathing through surges so the bath felt amazing as far as relieving the pressure I was feeling. I stayed in there for close to two hours.
I was still in the bath and texted my doula to tell her I was starting to breathe through the surges and really didn’t want to get out of the bath. I also told her they were more regular and about 60-90 seconds long.
By this point I was getting on my hands and knees every time I’d have a surge and would stop talking to my husband to breathe and try to relax my body. Each time I would have a surge, I would just breathe in to a rapid count of 20 and out to a rapid count of 20. This helped get me thorugh a majority of labor. I credit my HypnoBirthing courses for all of these amazing techniques.
I also had my HypnoBirthing tracks playing to help me get in the right mindset. It was 4:00 PM, and I was still doing totally fine. Keep in mind…I delivered my baby around 4 hours later! (At 8:50 PM, so it’s crazy how things started to progress quickly after this point.)
I got out of the bath and Grace had been playing “tea party” outside. I took a few photos of her with my nice camera between surges (my husband thought I was nuts). I wanted to remember that moment: the very last hours leading up to me delivering her baby sister. It was surreal to think about. I took several photos and a video and even sat there with her so she could pour me some tea.
I called my sister, as she was the one who would be with Grace while we went to the hospital and let her know that I was indeed in labor, and we needed to have them come over around 7 PM. We still had no idea when I’d leave for the hospital but wanted them there before Gracie’s bedtime. I’d never been away from her overnight, and I was extremely worried. I wanted to be as prepared as possible.
My husband started to ask me if I was timing surges, and I was. They were around five minutes apart and 45-60 seconds long but I was still breathing through them just fine. (Again, I credit my HypnoBirthing preparation and education courses for this, because I TRULY did not feel like labor was unmanageable until right before pushing, which is crazy to me.)
Surges hadn’t really picked up but they were consistently five minutes apart and 1 minute long. After texting with my doula, she mentioned that we should try to go for a walk before I made Gracie’s dinner to see if the surges would pick up.
We put Grace in the stroller and walked around the block. The whole time I’m stopping to breathe through surges, and even started bending over through them. I texted with my doula again and let her know she should probably come over as she lives 45 minutes away from our house.
SUPER ACTIVE LABOR:
After the walk is when things started to get really intense. I finished packing toiletries in my hospital bag, and attempted to make quinoa fried rice for Gracie, but started becoming vocal through surges.
The most comfortable thing for me to do between activities was lean over the kitchen counter or get on my knees and lean over the bed and open my mouth and make sort of an ‘ahhhhhhhhhhhh’ noise while attempting to breathe.
I also tried really hard to practice NFA – a technique you can find in the Birthing From Within book, where you train your brain to think about anything other than the pain. For example, a surge starts, and instead of focusing on how it hurts you try to listen for other sounds (beeping door shutting, etc.) and you say that to yourself. You think, “door shuts” “loud music” “Gracie talking” to yourself (in your head, not out loud) and it really does work in refocusing your attention on something other than the pain you feel.
I think my husband was starting to get freaked out; he knew the plan was to labor at home, but he could tell something had shifted. He asked me to call my sister as it got closer to 7:00 PM and see where she was. Between trying to cut up grape tomatoes as part of Gracie’s dinner and vocalizing through surges, I knew things were starting to get super intense.
I called my sister at 6:55 PM and said, “hey are you guys almost here” in kind of a shakier voice, haha, and immediately she said, “We just pulled up” and honestly it was a HUGE relief for me because I envisioned us having to take Gracie to the hospital with us – that’s how serious things got.
My sister and brother-in-law came in and I texted my doula to let her know we were going to the hospital and to meet us there. I showed my sister the little schedule and list of meals I typed up for Gracie (I’m a kindergarten teacher, what do you expect?!) and breathed through surges every 2-3 minutes.
Things were progressing super rapidly! I’d be fine for a minute or two, then start getting on all fours and going “ahhhhhhh” to get through the surge. My poor brother-in-law was on the couch next to Gracie and I had a surge right next to him, and I’m leaning over the couch, ha!! I think it freaked him out a bit 😉
Right before we left, I said goodbye to Grace and gave her a huge hug. I didn’t expect myself to do this but I got very emotional and was crying on the way out the door. I think just knowing things would be different between us forever kind of messed with me. But I tried to just hug her as tight as I could and not worry about her.
My husband had our bags packed in the trunk already and tried to get me in before the car was on….I told him “You have to start the car and get it all ready, then I’ll hop in right before we pull out” because I knew I COULD NOT handle being in the car longer than I needed to.
We called the midwife on call line (my favorite midwife, yay!) to let her know we were on our way. The car ride was rough, as I wanted to stand up and be on all fours or lean over through surges, but I couldn’t. I think my husband was really nervous. I remember saying to him, “please drive carefully — I’m not going to have the baby right this second, I would tell you” haha!
7:30 PM (ish)
We arrive at the hospital and park. There were people in the front of the hospital and I had to stop to breathe through surges on the way in – I could see them staring at me, but I TOTALLY did not care. It was hilarious to watch them though.
One woman said to me as she walked by, “you’re doing great, and I promise what’s on the other side of this is so worth it.” Ha. I knew that since this wasn’t my first baby, but it was encouraging. Another man offered to get me a wheelchair but I quickly refused. For some reason I wanted to keep walking.
We arrived inside the lobby and told the women we needed to go up to triage. They phoned us in and we went on the elevator. At this point, between surges, I was still able to talk and laugh and feel normal, which is odd because I was really far along at this point.
The nurses ask us a few questions when we get in but she could quickly see that I was having regular surges. I couldn’t talk through them and had my eyes closed pretty much the entire time. Still we had to go to triage and let them “make sure” I was in labor. This was the worst part of the whole thing, and if it weren’t for what happened in the following 20 minutes, I would truly say that it was the most positive and seamless experience.
We get into triage (the room where they check to see if you’re really in labor) and as we walked in, I saw a woman on the other side of the curtain right next to our spot sitting there with her husband being monitored. She obviously wasn’t as far along as I was in the labor because she was smiling and seemed to have tons of energy. It sounded like they were waiting for something, or weren’t really sure if she was in labor. (I mention this because it’s an important piece of my story – you’ll see why.)
The nurse immediately offers me the hospital gown, which I declined, as I wanted to wear my own clothes. The nurse also insisted that I sit on the bed so she could strap me to the monitor for 20 minutes and I told her that wasn’t happening. I couldn’t sit flat on my back through surges; I wasn’t in early or even active labor at that point. I was farther along – I was breathing and vocalizing a TON through each one and so I just stood up, leaned over the bed, instead of sitting (like I said it wasn’t happening) and let her do what she needed to do to me.
She asked us a series of questions and my husband did most of the answering. The same went for all of the people that came to see us during that 20-minute period – a hospitalist, an obstetrician (who had to check in because he oversaw the midwife), and everyone else. We were asked THREE OR FOUR times “what was your reason for c-section” every time we told them I was VBAC-ing, and twice “…and you are getting the epidural?” (almost as an assumption).
One of the doctors actually said to me, after I declined the epidural (she was VERY surprised and appeared almost annoyed) “well you know if you don’t get the epidural and you have a repeat cesarean you will need to be put to sleep.” Here’s why that bothered me: we weren’t told this by the midwives or OB’s during my prenatal care, and also it wasn’t okay for her to try to “scare” me into the pain medication when she could clearly see I was trying to manage it on my own. Maybe it’s just her job to tell me that, but the tone she used was very condescending and almost judgmental. Oh well, but it did bother both my husband and I.
The nurse checked me, and while I actually hadn’t wanted to be checked at all during labor, she didn’t really give me an option, and I knew I was far enough along that I wouldn’t be frustrated by being checked. I laid down for her to feel my cervix (quickly) and she said, “I’d say you’re a 7.” I knew I was far along… but I was pretty encouraged to hear that I had literally labored at home until I dilated to 7 centimeters. I already felt like a rock star.
This whole time we were in triage (which was only about 20-30 minutes at most), the lady next to us was talking quietly and calmly with her husband, then some people came to see her, and they sounded very jolly. I remember listening to them talk, between vocalizing through surges, and I could hear the woman who came to visit the lady in labor say several times after I would (loudly) have a surge, “yeah, there’s no way I could ever give birth without the epidural” and, “there’s no need to be a saint, I mean why would you do it without one?” and, “it’s just not my style” (that’s my favorite one — ha!) I felt like I was in a movie. Seriously. I kept looking at my husband through surges (permanently leaning over the triage bed), “Whyyyyy, why can’t we go to our own room, I can’t listen to them talk anymore.”
(Side note: I’m not against women who get epidurals at all, many of my friends have gotten them, and I actually got one during labor with Gracie. BUT what’s so crappy is that they knew I obviously was trying to labor without one – they had heard me explain the doctors that I wanted an unmedicated VBAC, so it was really unnecessary for them to go on and on about it while I’m in the next room visibly in super active labor, right?!)
8:15 PM (ish…time is pretty fuzzy at this point!)
The triage nurse finally comes to tell us our room is ready. She wants to wheel me to the room, but I decline the wheelchair and tell her I can walk. I’m still feeling the urge to go to the bathroom too. As I’m walking to our labor room I start to feel really pushy. It was an odd feeling. This was almost to the point where I wanted everything to stop – I was done, ha! I remember leaning against the side rail on the way to our room and trying to breathe through a surge, and almost starting to cry. The tears were coming. It was just really painful and I was so angry from listening to those women go on and on.
I yelled, “I need to go to the bathroom” and the nurse acted like I had started a fire. She yelled for the other staff to bring a wheelchair so they could wheel me into my room quickly. I didn’t decline at this point – I just wanted to pee (or poop) ha.
LABOR AND DELIVERY ROOM:
We got to our room and my eyes were closed. I remember it being very bright, and hearing people there, and hearing my midwife’s voice (which was seriously the most encouraging/reassuring thing.) She said to me, “I just saw you this morning!” I kind of grinned through the surge to acknowledge her. There were so many people in there. It didn’t feel too urgent but I could tell they knew I was going to have the baby soon. They wanted to lay me down and get a saline lock in me and put the monitor on again. I tried to sit still but it wasn’t happening.
I was standing at the edge of the hospital bed leaning over again, vocalizing through contractions super loudly, “ahhhhhhhhhhhhh” and the midwife put a birthing ball on the edge of the bed and told me to lean over on that and put my arm out so I could get the heplock/saline lock put in. I was pretty exhausted at this point, and had no clue who was in the room with me. There were people in and out and saying random things like “she’s pretty far dilated, she might have the baby soon” etc, but it was all fuzzy. Between surges all I did was lay my head down on the ball and try to fall asleep (which I failed at).
I do remember saying to my husband “get the birth plan!” it was his job once we got to the hospital to give it to the nurses, even though the midwives had one on file too. I also kept asking for the shower over and over, but my midwife broke the news to me that there wouldn’t be any time for that!
8:33 PM (PUSHING)
I started to feel like I couldn’t hold the baby in anymore. It wasn’t happening. I started to literally ROAR through surges. Ha, that’s the only way I can describe it. Later on my husband said “I’ve never heard you (or any other human) make the noises you made during the pushing phase.” Ha!
My husband was at my head holding my hand through each surge. I remember being so thankful for him being there. I almost had him stay with Grace during the delivery but at that moment, I felt SO glad to have him there to support me. In the photo, it looks like I’m kissing his hand, but I’m totally not – I actually bit down on his hand through some of my pushing, ha!
My midwife told me to lie down so she could check me, but I could NOT lay on my back. Instead she said I could get on all fours on the bed. My hands and elbows were at the top part and my knees were towards the edge. She checked me and told me I was fully effaced and at a 9.5 or 10 and said I could pushed whenever I had the urge.
A few moments later, I noticed a feeling like I had to have a bowel movement, and it actually was a giant relief to push. With each surge, I would push as hard as I could. I remembered my HypnoBirthing breathing technique that taught me to “breathe the baby down” and balloon up my stomach at an inhale, and then exhale while visualizing the J formation of baby coming out of the birth canal.
All I can say is that it worked – I pushed a few times and they kept telling me she was so close, and although it didn’t feel like it, I knew I needed to keep going. It did feel super good to push – the pain I felt through each surge was purposeful now… I had to get baby out! I wanted to meet her.
We changed my pushing position a few times, first all fours, then sideways on bed, while I pushed off of my husband’s hands, then they had me get on my back and hold my legs, which is how she ultimately came out.
It seemed like an eternity, but 17 minutes after pushing, our baby’s head had appeared. The next push/surge, her body came out, and it was over. I DID IT. I got my unmedicated VBAC. I’d never felt so amazing. My husband looked so completely overjoyed. He looked over at me afterward and exclaimed, “You did it!” My midwife said, “You did it! You’re a goddess!” Those words were ones I’d dreamt of over and over as I prepared for this night.
All of my hard work, hours of research, and constant preparation had paid off. Baby went straight to my chest. She cried a bit, but was ultimately soothed and immediately started sucking on her hands – she wanted to nurse so badly.
She latched almost instantly, and it was this wonderfully sweet hour where my husband and I just stared at her. We chatted with my doula about the experience, and just talked about how wonderful it had all been despite feeling somewhat rushed near the end… like I said, everything happened so fast near the end – I’d dilated from a 7 to a 10 in less than a half hour.
My husband and I still talk about it, almost two weeks later. We’re completely over the moon. It’s a much different experience than our first birth, and one we will absolutely never forget.
If you or someone you know is trying to attempt an unmedicated VBAC, please share this birth story with them. It’s so essential that women hear and read positive birth experiences. Especially if they’re attempting something as “taboo” as a VBAC.
Thank you so much for reading!
*Photos by Rebecca Turrigiano Photography