There are a few brave women out there… How lucky are we that one local mom is willing to share her VBAC Birth story with us? Having the opportunity to have a VBAC and finding the power within yourself to fight for your right to VBAC in NJ is no small feat. With NJ having one of the highest Cesarean rate in the country, I think it’s time we start talking more about uteri, pelvises and a woman’s right to birth. Did you know that 96% of VBAC candidates end up having a repeat Cesarean? What’s wrong with this picture?
Elba hopes that by sharing her story, more pregnant women and their families will find the power that is within them to have the birth they deserve and to make a change where change is needed. We thank Elba from the bottom of our hearts for inviting us into the privacy of her birth and for sharing her story here.
My VBAC Birth
by: Elba L. Rosario Gomez
When we found out we were expecting our second child, we were so excited. We couldn’t wait to bring a sibling into this world for our first child. With this thought also came the excitement of the possibility of having a VBAC, vaginal birth after cesarean.
I was my mother’s first child and she had me via C-section. She was encouraged by her doctor to have my sister, who was born 11 months later, by vaginal birth. My mom was scared but her doctor told her she would thank him later. And she did. She always told us, “If I knew all my future children’s births would be vaginal, I would have had more children.” Her VBAC story was the first I heard. My neighbor then shared hers. My chiropractor’s wife had shared her story as well. She had had a VBAC birth a few short months before I found out I was pregnant. She and her husband encouraged a VBAC, and suggested that I hire a midwife and a doula for the best outcome. I felt truly supported by family and friends in my wish to have a VBAC.
I really liked my OB but I began to have doubts about feeling truly supported by him to have a VBAC. My husband and I were becoming more and more convinced that it was my doctor’s rush to induce me by breaking my water and giving me Pitocin to “speed things along” that may have caused fetal distress for my first baby, which ultimately resulted in an emergency C-section. You see, this OB felt that I hadn’t dilated enough in his given time. I asked my OB for the opportunity to have a VBAC. His response was not promising. He often commented how it would just “stretch” me out and sex would not be the same and it would just be better if he did a C-section. “I don’t care,” I responded. “I want to at least be given an opportunity.” He agreed to allow me to try but only because, according to him, he had done the C-section and he knew he had done it well.
As my pregnancy progressed, and I was getting closer to my due date, this same OB would allude to having a repeat C-section. He asked what I thought about the likelihood of giving birth to a 9 pound baby. I told him that this is what I was designed for and if the baby was 9 pound I still wanted to try. He said if the baby was 9 pounds or over, he would do a C-section. I knew there was no true way of him knowing whether this child was 9 pounds or not. And I was starting to wonder if I could trust him.
The discouraging comments kept coming. I began to worry. When the day comes, would he just come up with any reason as to why I could not attempt to have a VBAC? Would I have the strength to fight for what I really wanted? Would my second experience be a repeat of the first? All these thoughts began running through my head. I wondered if it was just paranoia. My family and friends agreed that he didn’t seem very supportive.
The big day was coming soon! At around 32 weeks pregnant, I started to think about hiring a doula to help me stay strong and focused, both mentally and physically, during my birth. I interviewed two whom I found online. They each had good reviews, had VBAC experience and were regulars at the hospital I would be birthing at. After meeting with each doula and asking them tons of questions, I hired the right doula for me! Hiring a doula made me feel more confident, more prepared, and even more supported but there was still something missing.
The more I thought, the more I wondered: what more I could do to still have the birth I am planning while still having a doctor who was not 100% on board with supporting my right to a VBAC? Lightbulb moment!
The next day, I made an appointment with a midwife who had been recommended to me. She heard my story and even though some practitioners might consider my circumstances unusual, with leaving my doctor so late in my pregnancy and being considered high-risk, and my first birth story all too familiar to her… she took me on as her client. I was ecstatic! I called my OB’s office, cancelled my future appointments and transferred my files to the Midwife’s office. Although these steps were scary for me, when I finally made the changes, I felt EMPOWERED! I was doing what I had to do to have the birth I wanted and was capable of. I put all fear aside.
On a Thursday night, at 39 weeks pregnant, I woke up with those all-too-familiar discomforts. I tried to ignore them but they came every hour on the hour. I followed my doula’s advice and continued on my daily activities. By late Friday morning, the contractions were less often and inconsistent. I was having false labor.
Friday night was déjà vu. The contractions came again every hour. My husband had to photograph a wedding and I insisted he went anyway because we did not know if or when anything would happen. I spent the day with my mom and sister who were running around cooking and preparing the hall for my niece’s first birthday and baptism celebration that weekend. The contractions were coming about every half hour. I continued to help my family and watch over my toddler. I called my doula who gave me some encouraging words, said to continue what I was doing and to keep her informed. I called my Midwife and was told to call her when my contractions were 5 minutes apart. When my niece’s party started, the contractions got closer and more intense. I could barely speak. I could barely stand up.
At about 9 pm, the contractions were 5 minutes apart so I called my midwife who said I could start getting ready to head to the hospital. I called my doula and told her I would let her know when I was close to the hospital so she that could meet me there. I called my husband so he could finish wrapping up what he was doing and start getting ready to join me. A friend who was at the party, drove me home to grab my bag and my birthing ball before she drove me to the hospital.
I had preregistered for the hospital so the admission was fairly quick and easy. My husband had not yet arrived when I got there at 10:30 pm. My doula met me there and wheeled me up to Labor & Delivery. As she wheeled me down the halls, every 2-3 minutes I would ask her to stop so that I could get on my knees and lean on my ball. It was the most comfortable position for me to get through my contractions.
The nurses were asking me questions but I was not thinking clearly and could not answer. Luckily, my doula was able to answer them. As soon as I got changed into Pretty Pushers birthing gown from Bend & Blossom, my husband walked into the room. I was so happy he was able to get there so quickly. I was already 5 cm when I arrived at the hospital. This was much further than I had been with my first child. It gave me hope.
With the help and support of my husband and my doula, I continued to work through my contractions. My doula suggested many different positions to help me manage the discomfort. I distinctly remember at one point I was in the shower and my husband was aiming the showerhead on my back. My doula had left the bathroom to get something and I told my husband that I thought I might want an epidural. I had always kept that option open for myself. But, when my doula came in and she asked how everything was, I had just gotten over a contraction and the epidural thought went away. I didn’t consider it again. I thought to myself, “If I got through this one, I can get through the next one.” And that’s just what I did.
Every time my Midwife asked me if I wanted to be checked to see how much I had dilated, I said, “No, thank you. I’m good.” I didn’t want to be disappointed by a number. I trusted that my body would just do what it knew how to do.
At about 3:30 am, I was feeling a lot of pressure and requested to be checked. I was already 9 cm dilated! Until this point, my water had not yet broken. With a few more contractions, my water broke. I knew I was fully dilated when an unbelievable urge to bear down came over me. My doula suggested I sit on a birthing stool. I was willing to try anything. The nurse brought it to me and I got settled, while my midwife sat on the floor in front of me.
Throughout the evening my husband had been taking video and pictures. I gave a couple of pushes with my doula behind me and then she switched with my husband. After a few minutes of breathing and following my body’s lead to push, my second child was born. Maxwell Alexander Gomez was born on May 19, 2014 at 4:41 am. He was placed immediately in my arms. I had this beautiful, healthy baby boy in my arms.
I was in complete awe as to what had transpired. I did it! I knew I could and I did! With the help of all my supporters and the belief in myself and in my body, I did it!
I would encourage any person who has had a Cesarean Birth to attempt to have a VBAC. If you feel unsupported by your care provider, make a change! You’ll be happy you did. I’m proof that it can be done and there are many others who have done it as well.