Beating the Odds

To fully understand Emmett’s birth, I have to explain Gage’s birth first.

Gage was born March 24, 2012 at 38 weeks 4 days. I had pregnancy induced hypertension and had to be induced early. I went to see Dr. Dickerson on a Wednesday. My blood pressure was high but not high enough for medicine or strict bed rest (I was still allowed to go to work because I had a desk job at the time). Thursday and Friday mornings I woke up not feeling well, so I called into work. Friday, I took my blood pressure and it was really high. I called Dr. Dickerson’s office and was told to get to the office ASAP!

When I got to the office, my blood pressure was a little over 200/100. There were not enough nurses to cover my delivery, so I was told to be back at Woman’s the following morning for an induction. I wanted a natural, drug free birth, but ended up needing high doses of pitocin. I couldn’t handle the pain of the pitocin contractions, wasn’t progressing past 4 cm and started hyperventilating. So, I opted for the epidural. Once I got the epidural, I progressed rather quickly. Around 7 pm, it was time to push!! I pushed for 3.5 hours, but Gage was still not coming out! Dr. Dickerson and Chris could see his head but every time I would stop pushing, he would bungee back up. Gage’s heart rate started going up and I started having a high temperature, so we decided to go for a c-section. Gage was born at 10:19 pm weighing in at 7 pounds 14.9 inches. He was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his arm and neck. He was perfect. Absolutely perfect! All the pain and exhaustion was worth it!

 I tested positive for E. coli in my placenta and had to stay in the hospital for six days on strong antibiotics.  Gage had jaundice and needed to stay under the light.

 We finally were able to go home, but I had to be re-admitted at six weeks postpartum due to mastitis. On top of all of the sickness, Gage had colic and reflux. My incision came open at the end and started draining. Gage developed intolerance to cow’s milk and would vomit any time I had liquid cow’s milk. I developed vaginal atrophy from a lack of estrogen due to breastfeeding. If you do not know what vaginal atrophy is, that is where you vagina closes! CLOSES! I didn’t even know that was possible.

 To say Chris and I did not want another baby is a huge understatement! At my six week postpartum checkup, I cried and begged Dr. Dickerson for a referral for Chris to have a vasectomy! He told me not to make a decision out of emotion and he would tell us who to go to if we felt the same way when Gage was three.   When Gage was 2.5, we went on a family vacation to Disney World right before Christmas. Gage was so wonderful and enjoying all of the sights, Chris was proving that he was even more of an amazing dad, and … you guessed it … I started wanting another baby!

This is where Emmett’s story begins…

Fast forward through some stubborn fertility issues and August 1, 2015, I find out I’m pregnant with Emmett! I immediately know that I need blood work to check hormone levels (blighted ovum miscarriage July 2010, PCOS, and crazy hormone levels in the very beginning with Gage). My blood work was not very promising. I had an ultrasound and more blood work. The ultrasound didn’t show a sac and my blood work was not good. I had to have another ultrasound the next week.  The night before leaving for a vacation, I started spotting.  The on-call OB told me to go to the beach, because if I was going to miscarry it would happen if I went or stayed home. The next week I had another ultrasound. Thankfully, there was a baby!

After the initial scare, my pregnancy was normal, including terrible all-day sickness that was intensified by the progesterone pills. At 16 weeks, my blood pressure started creeping up. I had to keep track of my blood pressure every morning and evening for the rest of my pregnancy. I’m pretty sure every prenatal appointment after this, I cried. I cried because I just knew my chance of a successful, unmedicated VBAC was slim to none. I just knew that my body was going to fail me. AGAIN. Keep in mind, I had already had one miscarriage and then high blood pressure/induction/section with Gage. I didn’t understand why my body didn’t like me. Why couldn’t I have a normal pregnancy? Why? Why were people all around me having perfect pregnancies? I was so angry and scared.

At one appointment, I even told Dr. Dickerson that I just wanted to schedule a repeat c-section so I could at least have control over my body failing me. I vividly remember Dr. Dickerson telling me that it was okay to grieve Gage’s birth and grieve a birth that I want and may not have. He was quick to remind me that I may have my own plans about birth, but it was God’s plan that would ultimately prevail. I needed to pray for peace. He would pray for guidance. But, he didn’t let me schedule another c-section.  I just took my pregnancy appointment by appointment.

A friend convinced me to email René and talk to her about processing my fears over Gage’s birth and what was currently happening. I didn’t think I would get to hire a doula or have a VBAC, so part of me thought I was wasting my time. But, nonetheless, Chris and I scheduled a meeting with René.

I believe that was the first meeting with René truly changed my way of thinking. She just brought peace; the peace that I needed to be okay with my birth, my decision, whatever the outcome. Chris and I knew whether we had another c-section or was able to have a VBAC, we wanted her there with us. Chris felt like she would be able to keep him calm and supportive for me. I was already seeing Dr. Cathy, but René encouraged me to go see Amber Anderson for PT. We knew from Gage’s birth that my pelvic bone is tilted down and my tail bone is tilted up. So, René thought Amber could help me with some birthing positions. By the end of our visit I had an entire list of suggestions. We had to know that I did everything I could possibly do to have my VBAC so I there would be no regrets.

Going to see Amber brought a whole new set of doubts that my body would allow me to have a VBAC. I had an extremely weak pelvic girdle. I had to “homework” from Amber. Each night, I needed to do some pelvic stretches to strengthen my pelvic floor and allow the muscles to stretch and do their job during delivery. I also had stretches to do from the chiropractor.

My pregnancy progressed. My blood pressure stayed elevated but in the same range and I had no protein in my urine. Great! Maybe I will go into labor on my own and progress?! I made it to 40 weeks. I cannot tell you how relieved I was! I made it to my due date! I felt relief after I made it past 38 weeks and 4 days, but to actually make it to my due date was amazing! We started having weekly biophysical feedback tests on the baby. Both he and I were doing great. I just knew I was going to go into labor on my own.

I made the terrible decision to have a cervical check at 40 weeks. That was a big mistake. I had not progressed any since my last check at 35 weeks. I even lied to people and told them I didn’t get checked because I didn’t need any more negative opinions from people. I had enough in my head. I was feeling like here we go again! I finally made it and now my body isn’t going to work!

At my 41 week appointment, we had to talk induction. I didn’t want to even speak about an induction. I just cried. I knew that if I had any form of induction, especially pitocin, that it would start a snowball effect and end up with another section. Chris didn’t want induction either. He wanted me to go straight for a section. He was so scared that we were going to have the same experience as with Gage. We both associated induction with section. I had to be back to see Dr. Dickerson at 41 weeks 5 days to make a game plan for induction.

Both René and Chris accompanied me to that appointment. The decision was made that I would be induced at 42 weeks. We would try to rupture my membranes first and all other natural approaches before starting pitocin. I left that appointment upset but, ultimately, knew the baby needed to come out soon. I would never forgive myself if something terrible happened because I wanted to go past 42 weeks. After my appointment, I went to have lunch and then went to Target. Tracy called me while I was in Target and told me that my induction would be moved to the next day! The hospital had called her and told her that I would be considered post term at 42 weeks and they were less likely to allow adequate time for my natural approaches to labor. I would have to NICU doctors in the room for delivery and other nonsense.

So, the very next morning, Chris and I were at the hospital for 5:00 am to have our baby boy! Immediately after checking into our room I was told to put on a hospital gown. That just infuriated me. I was so angry. I was screaming that I just wanted to go home. I shouldn’t have agreed to come to the hospital. I didn’t want to be there! I was so mad. Chris told me to calm down and just take it easy….

And so our time line begins:

5:30 – Be at the hospital for induction

6:30 – Getting settled into room, René comes, order breast pump. Start pumping for 20 minutes alternating walking the halls while waiting for Dr. Dickerson

7:30-8:00 – Dr. Dickerson comes and does a check. 4.5 cm but Emmett is still too high to break or leak water.  Keep pumping 25 minutes, walking the hall, use birthing ball, hands and knees on the bed and couch, sit on toilet

10:30 – Dr. Dickerson comes back and does another check. I’m 5 cm and Emmett’s head is low enough to break water. Keep doing all other techniques.

2:30-3:00 – Dr. Dickerson comes back for another check and to talk about possibly giving some pitocin to help contractions get stronger. Still 5 cm but contractions are stronger so we all decided to wait and allow my body to progress on its own.

3:00-4:00 – We talk with René about having Pitocin and my fears that pitocin will make the contractions unbearable and I will end up having to get the epidural which will eventually lead to another c-section.

That’s the end of what I remember about times…

I try to listen to music and use some essential oils, but I didn’t like that. At some point, Dr. Dickerson comes back and suggests that I get in the tub to help relax. He still feels like I’m progressing and do not need a cervical check or pitocin. I get in the tub and feel better for about 10 minutes or so but start to feel like I’m alone and want out. So, I go back to going between the toilet and birth ball, but then pretty much stay on the toilet. The contractions really start coming hard and my body starts to push some and I start thinking that I may not be able to handle labor.

I’m not sure how much time passes before I get back in the tub, but once I get back in, I do not get back out. I start pushing uncontrollably and start screaming. René was trying to get me from hands and knees to squatting. She was saying to put my feet flat on the bottom of the tub. I couldn’t move. I was saying, "I can’t!",  and "I can’t do this!". I’m vaguely aware of when Dr. Dickerson comes back. He’s sitting on the couch. Chris gets in the tub. René tells me I am doing this when I say I can’t. I’m clawing her arms and feel like I’m being mean to everyone.

I start feeling a burning sensation with each push. I say to them, "Please, someone tell me this is almost over!" Chris has the mirror under me and tries to touch the head and I say, "Please don’t touch!" Dr. Dickerson has the flashlight. Dr. Dickerson tells me don’t push but pant when he tells me to. I pull my knees back and Emmett’s coming! I pray out loud begging the Lord to bring my baby out. I feel like I only have one push and Dr. Dickerson tells me to pant. He pants with me. I remember thinking to myself that it’s funny but hurts too much to laugh. I feel a big pressure and then all pain is gone and Emmett is on my chest.

 I start crying and saying I did it! I did it! I hear Chris crying behind me. Emmett is wrapped in his cord, so Dr. Dickerson is getting it from around his neck and chest. He goes back to my chest and nurses (I have no idea when they come in) bring warm towels. Dr. Dickerson is telling me to keep him warm and his head out of the water. Emmett’s cord stops pulsing and blanches quickly. Chris gets to cut the cord. Emmett is so cheesy! He has white vernix all over. After a few minutes, I hand Emmett to Dr. Dickerson and then he helps me stand up and get to the bed. He delivers the placenta and checks for tears. No tears!  Emmett weighed 8 pounds 12 ounces

I did it! I did it! I had my healing birth. Finally, I had my successful, unmedicated VBAC! My body did not fail me. I have some pretty awesome pictures from René too!

Even now, 4 months later, I still love looking at our pictures. I’m still in shock that I was strong enough, that my body cooperated, that Emmett is really here and he came out of my body! I do often wonder why I didn’t want to use my labor tools. Chris tells me that I didn’t want to get comfortable. I didn’t want to have a distraction. I knew that I needed to get the contractions coming so I wouldn’t need pitocin so I wanted to focus on those contractions. I believe he is right.

I had a lady in an online “support” group tell me that I orchestrated my birth and team, that’s not normal, and others are so lucky. At first, I was really mad with this woman. But, now, you know what lady?! I did. I did orchestrate my birth. I did do everything I possibly could to have the birth that I wanted. Was it the exact situation that I wanted? No, but it still turned out amazing.

I am so thankful for my birth team. The whole crew: René, Courtney (René's backup doula), Dr. Dickerson, Dr. Cathy, Amber, the nurses during my labor and delivery, but most of all, my husband. He really stepped up. He wasn’t sure I would be able to have a VBAC. He was scared I would have another c-section and be devastated. But, the day of our induction, he put away all of his fears because that was what I needed. He was so supportive. He walked the halls with me, sat with me beside the toilet, listened to René's suggestions, andgave me my labor-aid and snacks. He was my rock. I’m so lucky. So blessed.

What would I tell other moms? YOU CAN DO IT! You can have the birth you want. Believe in yourself. Voice your opinions and your fears. Allow someone to help you move past those emotions. Yes, it does hurt. Let’s just be honest. But, no amount of natural delivery pain is as terrible as a c-section recovery. Dr. Dickerson called my birth a miracle. I was not a prime candidate for a VBAC, but I did it!