Photo by Catilo Photography
Having a Natural Unmedicated Childbirth After a Cesarean is Possible
My Personal Journey
My Second Pregnancy
A little over a year ago, I found out that I was pregnant with my second baby. It was unexpected but welcomed! My husband and I were so happy that Audrey would now have a sibling to play with and that our family was growing.
My second pregnancy was pretty smooth and easy as compared to the first. The only nuisances that I experienced were nausea and bouts of dizziness during the first trimester (at least no more vomiting this time!), and heartburn and backache that plagued me in my last trimester. My second trimester was the best – I was able to take Pilates classes and travel abroad with my husband and Audrey (both of which were not allowed during my first pregnancy).
During my fifth month of pregnancy, I talked with one of my best friends in the States who had a natural unmedicated birth with her firstborn daughter. I was interested with birthing naturally minus the anesthesia because I really wanted to try it with Audrey but didn’t get the chance – and this time, I had a very good reason to want to try for it again.
Getting an epidural can lower your chances of having a successful VBAC because it can interfere with labor and possibly cause a drop in fetal heart rate (which might lead to another C-section). And in my case, I also wasn’t planning on getting an epidural because I didn’t have a very good experience with anesthesia before. So besides VBAC, birthing without drugs was my goal for this pregnancy. I know it sounds crazy but I wanted to make sure that my next childbirth experience would be a success. Another very important consideration was that unmedicated births are so much better for the baby. Babies born without the use of anesthesia are so much more alert and have less respiratory problems at birth.
I brought up my wish for a drug free birth with my ob upon discussing my birth plan and she said that opting not to have anesthesia was definitely possible. The key is to be focused and determined. This I was willing to do. I know having an epidural would make laboring practically pain free (tempting! though I’ve heard this is not always the case). It does work for most but it was just my personal choice not to get one because I didn’t want to jeopardize my chances for a VBAC. And if it didn’t work out due to unavoidable circumstances such as maternal or fetal distress, then it would be ok. I just kept my mind open in case a repeat C-section will be necessary.So on my sixth month I started reading up on the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth upon my friend Mia's recommendation. And when I researched on it, I instantly felt that it was a good fit for me. I will write about my experience on this approach in detail next time. What I did though was buy two of the highly recommended books on this method by Dr. Robert Bradley and studied it intently in the last two months prior to delivery. I did not take childbirth classes anymore as I already did during my first pregnancy, and I felt that studying the method on my own was enough.
Let’s fast forward to the last weeks of my pregnancy…
My decision to try for a natural birth this time meant that I needed to wait till baby was really ready to come out. And wait I did. Even if it meant that the backache was going to linger and the heartburn would possibly get worse.
I have read and heard from those who gave birth naturally before me that the baby calls the shots. If she isn’t ready yet, she ain’t going out. The baby is supposed to be responsible for releasing the hormone that starts up labor. So unless it is time, it’s not going to happen. Mama will just have to wait.
On my 37th week checkup, my doctor performed the dreaded internal exam. But the discomfort was quickly forgotten when my doctor said that she could already feel my baby's head going lower and my cervix was softening as well. When I asked how I was doing in relation to our VBAC plan, she gave me a smile. It was looking good. I had a big chance of having the kind of birth that I was praying for.
On my 38th week, it was the same and baby was getting into position, except she was kind of facing up. We needed her to face down and have her chin close to her chest so the smallest part of her head would be presenting itself. My husband and I were praying every day for Natalie, our second baby to get into the right position and that all conditions would be perfect for a normal birth…
And on my 39th week she was. Her chin was on her chest, and her head was very low, and I could really feel it pressing down. It was such a different feeling from my first pregnancy. Audrey's head didn't reach that low even while I was in labor. My cervix was also very soft and though I was not dilated at all yet, I started feeling my tummy harden and cramp up already every night. The false contractions were getting my body ready for the real deal.
This time though my prayer was that Natalie won't go past 41 weeks, because that was when my doctor will consider inducing labor already. I really didn’t want to be induced again because I was afraid that it would obstruct labor, make it even more painful because of the stronger contractions and shorter rest intervals in between, and worse, possibly cause uterine rupture and inevitably lead to another C-section.
My doctor though was calm and relaxed even on my 39th week. She said the baby can come anytime, even when you least expect it – whether you’re dilated now or not. A lot can happen in a week.Two days before my 40th week, I had what would be my last checkup with my ob. Natalie was doing well in the tummy and she was just about ready. I was only 1.5 cms dilated then and prayed that she would come out very soon. I tried my best not to worry. I know the Lord will see me through and that He is faithful. He’s going to make this happen just as He designed it – I am going to have this natural birth.
The day before my expected due date, I started feeling more consistent contractions in the early morning so I started plotting it out by 7am. It seemed as if I was in the early phase of labor and I tested it out by changing my position and activities all throughout the day. No matter what I did, the contractions were consistent.
I kept asking Anne, a good friend of mine if it looked like this was it because I wasn’t so sure - it was as if I was giving birth for the first time. I didn't have a chance to experience this with my first child because labor didn't start naturally. And now that real labor seemed to have begun, I felt a mixture of excitement and anxiety.
I took advantage of this time to finish all of my work deadlines, even having a meeting in my house in the morning wherein I briefly stepped out every time a contraction would come. I just had to breathe a little and relax during that moment. Thank God there are breaks in between!
I also prepared last minute stuff that I didn't pack in my hospital bag yet, and of course spent time with Audrey as soon as work was done. I also had to prepare the rest of her things as we have arranged for her to spend the night at her cousins' place if I would be giving birth already. My mom came over and kept telling me to go to the hospital whenever she would see that I would breathe deeply and stay quiet when the contractions came. But I knew my body had a long way to go. This was not quite IT yet. It's only been a couple of hours and my contractions were strong but not strong enough for me to stop whatever it was that I was doing at that moment. I could still talk and smile and move easily.
|Even though I was excited to give birth, I also felt a bit sad. I have never left my little angel Audrey for more than a day. I've spent every night with her ever since she was born. And now she's a big girl - a big sister.|
By 7pm that evening I felt the contractions getting stronger and coming closer together. I knew I was progressing. I ate dinner and relaxed afterwards. It's just a matter of time before I would be able to tell when to leave for the hospital. The Bradley Method helps you figure out which part of labor you are in through emotional signposts that you exhibit and it amazed me that it was quite accurate.
At 9pm I started getting really serious about laboring. I stayed in bed, closed my eyes with each contraction, breathed deeply and still plotted the time duration in my notebook. I hardly talked, preferred a quiet environment and asked my husband to get ready to assist me during labor. The Bradley Method is also known as husband coached childbirth and now all the reading and practicing was put to the test.
I had planned to spend most of my laboring hours at home so I could be more relaxed and move around as I pleased. I knew that going to the hospital too early would be more stressful since there will be more pressure to progress - not to mention getting hooked up to a fetal monitor and asked to stay in bed in a lying down position. I would much rather rest in my own bed and be free to try different positions that would help me through labor. During the peak of the contractions I would try to be on all fours and bury my head in my oh so soft pillow! (Apparently, this position was really helpful when the contractions came because the pressure was off my back).
It’s just unfortunate that hospitals here don’t have enough facilities to help pregnant women manage labor pains better. And their approach to helping women who choose to labor naturally and therefore look like they are in anguish is to offer epidural anesthesia. Tsk tsk!
By 10:30pm, I felt the urge to pee and as I stood up afterwards, a gush of water came out enough to soak my clothes. Uh oh, my water broke! I decided it was really time to get moving - I took a shower and got ready. I checked my bags once again and asked my husband to prepare as well. We made sure Audrey was in deep sleep and I labored with much more painful contractions while all this was going on. In my mind I thought this pain can't possibly get any worse. But it actually did. But more pain only meant that I was approaching my goal. I would finally get to see my baby soon... :)
This brings us to the last and most important part of my birth story - Natalie's delivery. I will be back with Part 4 soon...
References and Links:
About VBAC and Epidurals: