Grab a box of tissues...maybe two. You CANNOT absorb this beautiful VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian) story without feeling it deep, deep down. Just when I got to the end without snotting/losing my dignity in front of my colleagues, I watched the birth story video...aaaaaand the song completely undid me. Cue snot, stifled sobs and a mascara check.
I reached out to Catherine after the VBAC story strung a chord in my heart, having had a scheduled caesarian delivery with my firstborn. Her courage and grace to be able to write and share this story has been a slow journey as she lets the emotions, sensations and processes settle in her mind and heart. We are so grateful Catherine that you are allowing us such an intimate glimpse into your life, by way of your birth story of the beautiful, much-anticipated Georgia Isabella Wigg.
Catherine and her husband Michael live with their two littles William and Georgia in gorgeous Alberta, Canada. For more beautiful images and other motherly goodies, head to Catherine's blog 'Oh Those Baby Feels here.
I asked Catherine a few questions about her VBAC with her second born, her daughter Georgia.
1. How was your second experience with birth?
I don’t know what it is about Georgia’s labour and delivery but I haven’t wanted to write about it. When people ask me about it I don’t really want to talk about it either.
2. From a caesarian section with William to a successful VBAC, how did it compare pain/duration wise?
It wasn’t a particularly bad labour… in fact it was much better than William’s labour was. (You can read about William’s birth story here.) William’s labour was over 27 hours and Georgia’s labour was just over 13 hours long. (And I’m hoping the next one is around 7 hours… and so on)… and I don’t think Georgia’s back labour was any less painful, I was just able to endure the pain a bit better.
3. When you went into labour with Georgia, what were your first thoughts/movements?
I woke up at 2:00am to go to the bathroom and I knew I was in labour… so naturally I took a few “in labour” selfies. When I got back into bed my contractions had started and I timed them for about an hour. They were around the 5 minute mark at this point. Lasting 30 seconds – 1 minute. William was tossing and turning in bed from the minute my contractions started. He just knew.
At about 3:20 I went into the tub. This was such a special moment for me. I lit candles and I was comfortable and welcoming these contractions. I was trying to get into the right mind frame for her drug free, vaginal birth after cesarean. I turned on a YouTube video for positive birth affirmations and I repeated them all in my head. The one that really stuck with me was “The power and intensity of my contraction cannot be stronger than me because it is me.”
I finished my lovely bath and started to do my makeup. These are things I wanted to do when I was in labour with William but the pain was horrific right from the beginning.
4. Who were your support team? Did you have anyone special on hand to help you through your labour at home?
Around 5am I called our birth photographer, Kristina Nichol, to let her know we were in labour and she quickly made her way to us. Michael had woken up by this time… he walked upstairs and gently said “are you in labour?” I giggled and said “yes!” And I just wanted to cry. My feelings were incredibly mixed. I was excited, scared, nervous and happy. But I didn’t know how to say anything. So I just spent a lot of time silently crying to myself… reminding myself that her birth wasn’t going to be like William’s birth. Her birth was her own. It was decided how she was going to arrive and all I could do was my best and be strong for her.
I called my doula, from Seed Holistic Birth, and midwife to let them know I was in labour around 5:30am. My midwife told me to call her when the contractions got a bit harder to handle (she had delivered a baby that morning… and the afternoon before!).
5. Were you scared your labour would again result in an emergency c-section? Did you have doubts at the likelihood of a VBAC this time around?
I remember sitting and bouncing on the exercise ball. Finding peace in the moment I was in, thankful that I could enjoy early labour… knowing this birth WOULD be different. I wasn’t thinking about whether or not I would have to have a c-section at all during this time. It really didn’t cross my mind because it just wasn’t an option. I was scared of the pain but still, I welcomed it. This pain is good. It wasn’t stronger than me…. it was me. (On repeat in my head!).
Catherine's Birth Story
By 7:30 one of my doula’s had shown up and I called my midwife to let her know I thought I was nearly in active labour. This cued a lot of emotions for me. I was scared to get checked. 1. Because I didn’t want to be touched and 2. Because I didn’t want to not be dilated. But I decided to be checked… knowing full well that it was my decision to do this and I didn’t feel pressured into it. And I was 4 cm and 5 during a contraction so I was well on my way to meeting Georgia girl! I wanted to go to the hospital at this point so I could go into the pool I had waiting for me there but my midwife wanted to wait until I was 6cm to go in.
At this point Michael and I went into the shower and he pushed on my back for every contraction. I cried. I squatted. We were excited. I was in pain. The water felt nice. It is so hard to put into words how I felt during my labour… there were so many feelings to feel and I was just trying to keep as calm as possible.
When it came time to see that I was 6cm the transition from home to hospital went quite quickly… faster than I would have liked. All of a sudden we had to go and I just wanted to stay a little longer. I just wasn’t ready to leave yet. I wasn’t as emotional as I thought I would be when it came to leaving William. I didn’t really think this would be the last time that we were a family of 3… but it was. I held him, I loved on him. But I wasn’t as “in the moment” as I wish I would have been… And it is something I regret.
When I was in the vehicle to the hospital my contractions really dulled. It was the most enjoyable car ride ever… I could breathe and know that I was safe. I was in labour. And I could do it. I was able to recharge a bit.
The SECOND we parked at the hospital the contractions were fierce. And I wasn’t so welcoming to them anymore because back labour sucks. I walked up 1 flight of stairs and did lunges on my way up (because I wanted a workout… JOKES) so I could hopefully turn her because she was posterior, like her big bro. I feel like I’ve been cursed with the back labour curse. Is that a thing?
Reminder: I had sprained my ankle a week before and I was in a lot of pain… but I somehow forgot all about it when labour started!
I walked into room 10 at the south health hospital. The very same room I trialled labour with William. I had a bit of an excited and emotional moment knowing I couldn’t redo William’s birth but I can do my best to not have the same outcome.
I was put on continuous monitoring right away. I was really happy about this because I wanted to hear that Georgia was okay the whole time. One less thing for me to worry about!
The hospital time was quite a blur for me. I remember how much I needed Michael. He once left to go to the bathroom and I thought I was going to cry (but it’s impossible for me to cry when in active labour because my body won’t let you use energy for useless shit, haha!). Michael and I were in such a better place than when I was in labour with William. We did some counselling with our doulas just before giving birth to Georgia. We were on the same page. We promised each other (again) that we want to be doing life together. That we are in this together… and it strengthened our relationship in so many ways.
My sister went on a wild goose chase getting me food. I asked for ginger ale, candy and food for michael. I ate a bunch of candy to keep my energy up but despite the sugar, I kept passing out during contractions. My eyes would roll into the back of my head and all I wanted was to sleep. I was strong. But I felt weak and exhausted. I just wanted 1 hour to sleep so I could rest… or even just more than a few minutes in between contractions so I could recharge. The pain was intense. When I was 9cm dilated I remember thinking to myself “I wonder if I took a whole bunch of Tylenol if that would help the pain” hahahah. And that was the only time I thought about pain meds. They simply were NOT an option this time around. Last time as soon as intervention started (pitocin to get things moving because I was strep B positive) things went down hill for my likelihood of having a vaginal birth.
At this point I was repeating “I can’t do it.” “I don’t want to do this.” This is when Michael got scared… And this is when my doulas knew I was so close… I was in transition. I didn’t actually think I couldn’t do it. I just meant that I was so exhausted I didn’t know how I would possibly be able to continue without rest. But then you transition and you get a huge burst of energy (or at least I did).
With William, my waters broke immediately when I went into labour. This time my waters hadn’t broken and that was stopping me from progressing to be able to push because there wasn’t enough pressure on my cervix. So I made the conscious decision to have my waters broken… after talking it through with Michael.
Then I was 10cm. Then I was 9.75. Then 10. Then 9.85, etc. I had a “lip” on my cervix that would keep appearing so my midwife had to push it back when I was pushing. To be honest, it felt way better when she would push it back as opposed to when she wouldn’t.
I felt confident in my pushes. They were strong and determined. They would say “you’re doing so well” and I felt good UNTIL they told me they could see the head. I was like are you fucking kidding me! “THAT’S IT?!” I’ve pushed this long and hard and her head is barely there? I asked to see and they wheeled in a huge mirror for me. And that was AMAZING. It was exactly what I needed to see because I could see that every single one of my pushes was making a difference. She was slowly, but surely, coming out vaginally. I was doing it. Then out of all the haze and exhaustion I was able to push her head out. My midwife quickly unwrapped the cord from around her neck, my photographer snapped a few photos. And at 3:15 I was able to push her whole body out. “I did it. I did it. I did it”. X a billion. My mom could hear from outside the room that she was born because I wouldn’t stop saying it! Lol
We did immediate, uninterrupted skin-to-skin for an HOUR. During this time Georgia and I bonded and she latched for the first time while I was getting stitched up from my second degree tear.
I wanted to do expectant management of my placenta but I was gushing blood and before I knew it I was getting oxytocin to stop my postpartum hemorrhage. It was oxytocin or the medical team had to come in and intervene. But my midwife was able to get the bleed under control. I am so thankful for modern medicine when it’s necessary!
The hardest part of the day was when we went to leave the hospital, 2.5 hours post birth. I have never felt so weak in my entire life. I had to show that I could pee before being discharged and getting up to pee and walk and get photos taken was absolutely horrible. I could barely breathe, I was gushing blood… I thought my butt hole was going to fall out. (Too much info? Not sorry. This is real life folks!)
Birth is so hard. It’s something that should be celebrated. Mothers should be praised for their hard work! I’m so thankful that I had a supportive team that really knew what I wanted and what I needed. They respected me. They worshiped me. I was a birthing goddess in their eyes. We should all be thought of in this way!
I spent over 100 hours listening to birthing podcasts. I researched and researched. I went to a pregnancy retreat to heal my traumas from William’s birth. Michael and I had to work on our marriage. I had a supportive team. I was confident in every decision I made. I was informed. I was strong. I was determined. And all of that lead to me being able to have VBAC!!!