This is the birth story of a successful VBA2C and surrogacy journey, told by Marcy Gordon.
Photographs by Vannessa Brown Photography
It all began on Sunday May 23. I started having BH ctx and had them all day long, through the night and into the next morning. I admittedly was feeling very exhausted. The Monday, my 3yo was a handful. She got into black eyeshadow, peed on my bed (while I was cleaning up the eyeshadow mess) and then ate the tops off 4 cinnamon rolls while I was cleaning up my bed...I was done. The reality of being so pregnant, with constant contractions was hitting me a bit extra that day.
I had my 37w midwife appointment on Tuesday May 25 and spoke to her about what had happened. Because I was a VBA2C I knew that induction with castor oil was not encouraged and I had spoken to her previously about my preference to not use it. So when I walked into her office and explained I was done by saying "I'm to the point of wanting castor oil" she knew where my head & heart were at. Instead, she offered a vaginal exam and if my body was preparing she would do a stretch & sweep if I wanted. I jumped at the chance.
It was discovered that my internal cervix was at 4cm, while my external was at 1.5cm. Indeed, my body was prepping! We agreed to meet up that Friday and try to induce if things didn't happen by then.
She did another exam and said that she thought it would be successful based on my cervix, and if it was successful, I'd come back in and she would break my water and we'd be off to the races. She inserted the foley bulb and sent me home to wait for it to fall out. I was home all of 2 min and the damn thing burst, it had only been in for 30 min! Apparently it rarely happens. I guess I have to be the odd one. Haha. She asked me to come back in 2 hours to reinsert the foley bulb and try again. During that 2 hours, my body began contracting. Regularly.
Hubby and I began arranging child care, he arranged coverage at work...just in case. And at 4pm on May 26, we went back to her office & I was already in labor. The foley bulb, while only in for 30 min had apparently done its job. I was 4cm dilated and contracting every 3 min. She decided it was time to stay at the birth center & have a baby!! WOOHOO!! We moved to a labor room and got settled in. I called the Doula, the daddies, the photographer & let my childcare know it was go time!
Everyone showed up within an hour. After all, it wasn't full active labor yet, but was moving along. My GBS test results had not yet come back, so my midwife suggested doing antibiotics as a precaution. I agreed, it was safest for baby. She got the IV going and the abx were in right at 5pm. I begged for her to break my water, but she felt more comfortable waiting for the 2nd round of antibiotics to be on board, which had to be 4 hours after the first round. I compromised and asked to revisit that topic in 2 hours instead of 4. She agreed.
Shortly after 5pm, the IF's and my husband went out to pick up dinner for everyone. Most everyone sat around the table at the birth center and spent time visiting & joking with each other. I was instructed to walk and do stairs to help things move along. I did so many stairs. I can't even explain to you how many flights of stairs I did. Yet, nothing picked up. In fact, everything slowed down. I was frustrated.
Around 7pm I spoke to my midwife in private and we had a discussion about breaking my water right then. I was so tired from days of not sleeping. Walking & doing stairs. I just wanted to chill out. We agreed I could stop trying to get things moving since the plan was to break my water at 9pm instead, after the 2nd round of antibiotics, which she truly felt was important. I could use this time instead, to chill out & visit and just relax. Which I did. I had such good conversation with everyone and it was so relaxed & comfortable. No awkwardness amongst anyone. It was truly amazing and something I had wanted for so long - a peaceful, relaxed birth!
At about 8pm I decided to hit the shower. The birth center has an unlimited hot water system...so who am I to turn that down? I stayed in there for 40 min. It was heavenly. But with water, comes tape removal. My IV tape was coming off and my IV itself was starting to come out. The midwife was able to push it back in, with what we thought was no issue. However, she hooked up the 2nd round of antibiotics at 8:45 and my hand was stinging!! Unfortunately, the IV had to come out as the antibiotics were going into my hand and not my vein. She inserted another IV into the opposite hand and we were off the races again.
The antibiotics finished around 9:15pm and after that, she tried to break my water. Funny thing...if you're not contracting, there is no counter pressure inside the bag of water to help your care provider rupture the bag. I wasn't contracting. She tried twice and no go. She couldn't break my water. She did say I was 5cm though, so when I did have a contraction, it was doing something! Even so, I felt very frustrated. I just wanted contractions to pick up, on their own and get the party started, but it seemed everything I tried didn't work. I walked around some more. Went for an outdoor walk with my husband. Did more stairs. Nada. My midwife asked if we could try to get some good contractions going and if I could, she'd try to break my water around 11pm.
Multiple times, throughout all the efforts I was trying, both my midwife & doula suggested nipple stimulation. While my husband was more than happy to help, the thought of it was A) embarrassing to me for some reason and B.) repulsive. I did not want anything touching my breasts! While I declined it, in the back of my mind I thought it might help just enough for my midwife to break my water. My midwife told me and my husband to catnap for a bit around 10:45pm. She suggested we try to rest before she would break my water. We rested until close to 11:30pm. I didn't fully sleep, but I did try to relax. I also did some nipple stimulation on myself close to the 11:30 mark, knowing my midwife needed a good contraction to break my water. It worked! I had 3 good contractions and she was able to break my water!! She also told me I was 6cm dilated. I thought FOR SURE this will kick me into labor, it was my guaranteed "you're having a baby today!" sign. She declared me officially in active labor. I was STOKED!
Well. If birth is one thing, its unpredictable. Breaking my water didn't do squat. I had some good contractions for a bit, then they died off and I was right back to square one. I tried another shower, hoping the hot water might help kick it up a notch. Nope. More walking. Nope. Tried sitting on the toilet backwards. That didn't help either. I leaned over a birthing ball on all 4's, that was also useless.
Again, my midwife came in and suggested nipple stimulation. By this time it was around 1 am. I still declined. They offered to try pressure points & a castor oil belly rub. Yup, I was game for those! I sat on a birthing ball while my Doula did pressure points on my ankles & toes. It felt really nice having a leg/ankle/foot rub, but alas, did not spur contractions. Immediately afterward, my midwife came in to do the castor oil belly rub. That also felt lovely. Belly massage was relaxing and she covered me with a warm towel to help absorption and said to stay laying like that for 30 min. We had nothing to lose, right? I had a few contractions, but then nothing again. I decided to hop into the shower again. My happy place. When I came out, I was feeling so very tired. My midwife strongly recommended nipple stimulation again, curb walking or doing lunges. The curb walking & lunges would allow me to avoid nipple stim, but they both the midwife and doula said my absolute best bet was nipple stimulation.
I was to the point of desperation, I agreed to let hubby help me with nipple stimming. Everyone left the room, gave us privacy & my midwife said she'd be back to check on me in 15 min and listen to baby. Perfect.
Let me tell you. Nipple stimulation WORKS. I laid down on my left side, and felt something change ever so slightly and thought nothing of it. Hubby crawled in next to me and before he even got to me, I was slammed with an intense contraction. Cool. Totally thought it was a one-off. We began working on the nipple stimming and like clockwork, every 2-3 min I was getting contractions. Not just any contractions. These ones were intense. I was so uncomfortable, yelling through them, injuring my husbands fingers and wrists.
This was it. We were in the game. Midwife checked on me after 15 min, baby sounded happy as could be, she left us alone again to do our thing, but I instead just laid next to my husband and the contractions continued. My body was taking over and didn't need the nipple stimming anymore, YAY! This was around 3:30am or so.
Before the next 15 min interval was up, my midwife came in and checked on me. My sounds were getting louder. More intense. She knew something was up. She had me get in the tub (which is something I wanted) and everyone came in the room and were very quiet and just hung out, waiting. I, on the other hand, was not quiet. I cursed. I yelled. I argued with people ("You can do this!" "NO I CAN'T!!") The contractions were becoming beyond any intensity I had experienced, and I was hitting my "give me drugs" point. I had my guys leave the room before my midwife did a quick check of my cervix while in the tub and to her credit, did NOT tell me my cervix was back down to 4cm. Without the bag of water, the cervix had closed slightly. Normal, but she knew I would be frustrated as I learned later on. She did say I was looking at potentially another 2 hours of labor though with the caveat that things might go faster, you just never know.
I was dumbfounded. 2 more hours of these intense contractions? No. F*****g. Way. I wanted to tap out and get all the drugs. My doula, my midwife & hubby were all very positive and encouraging in their words to me. I was not kind in my responses to them. I have NEVER ever felt contractions like those.
Around 4:15am my noises were changing and my midwife wanted to check on me. My contractions weren't letting up, I was feeling constant cervical pain and she was afraid my uterus may have ruptured. I was helped out of the tub, onto the bed and she checked on baby, who was totally happy. When I laid down, my contractions became 1 contraction that just didn't stop. No break. The peak of them, just kept climbing. I was screaming at this point. I couldn't talk. My husband was crying b/c my sounds were actually scaring him - he had never heard me like that. 7 births and this was the most intense by far and he was so worried about my level of pain. My midwife did a quick cervical check at 4:26am. I was 6cm.
I heard 6cm and not the 10cm I was hoping for and was certain I was going to die. There's no way a human can survive this level of pain. It just isn't fathomable. I wasn't feeling pushy. I had no rectal pressure. In my head I was certain baby was never coming out. The one long intense contraction that was still happening suddenly hit a level beyond comprehension. I was writhing from pain, screaming at the top of my lungs and suddenly pushing, involuntarily. It was very strange, but my body took over. My mouth slammed shut, I bore down but didn't have the energy and didn't catch my breath, but couldn't stop pushing. My midwife called for the 2nd midwife who was in the room next door grabbing some shut eye. Before she made it into the labor room, baby was already out. The daddies barely made it back in, they caught a glimpse of her birth as her feet were coming out. She was born at 4:32am.
Oh. My. God. The relief. All the pain, the intensity, everything just stopped. Like a light switch. It felt SO good. It was instantaneous. Baby was placed on my side briefly as I had pushed in a sidelying position. I rolled onto my back, held her snug and invited her daddies (who were standing next to me) to come sit next to me and meet their new daughter. They walked around to the opposite side and snuggled right in so baby's cord wouldn't pull. They were beaming and I was grateful!
As soon as the cord stopped pulsing, they cut her cord and got to snuggle with her in some comfy chairs. I however, wasn't faring as well. My placenta was bleeding a lot. My midwife became concerned quickly. I was given an oxytocin shot in the leg, along with IV oxytocin and she encouraged me strongly, to get my placenta out ASAP. I pushed multiple times, but it wasn't coming out. It took a good 10 min and some traction from her, but eventually all my pushing helped and it came out. As soon as it was out, the bleeding was under control. I lost about a liter of blood total. It was considered a hemorrhage. My first time experiencing that!
My midwife looked over the placenta. To make sure it was fully intact and found out I actually had a placenta with a velamentous cord insertion with the blood vessels actually growing into the membranes. Something that was never discovered on ultrasound. She was amazed. VCI's can be dangerous, but no one knew!
Once the placenta was all oooh'ed and ahhh'ed at, the midwife made us all breakfast. I got a huge apple cinnamon waffle with a mountain of whipped cream and a fruit parfait. It was delectable. I also drank wine straight from the bottle. Wine & Waffles should be a new breakfast combo. That wine tasted like pure heaven on my tongue. The daddies ate their breakfast outside the labor room so that hubby & I could have some time to us and get a bit of rest before leaving to go home. We woke up a couple hours later around 7:30am. I had a shower, which was stopped almost immediately as I was nauseous and faint. Cold cloths were immediately put on my neck & head and my midwife gave me IV gravol. I moved back to the bed and laid down for a bit. She was about to give me IV fluids but somehow, between the time of the IV gravol going in and fluids, my IV had blown and the saline was going into my wrist instead of my vein. She took out the IV and I was instructed to drink water, lots of it and quickly. I felt very waterlogged after that. But after 15 min perked up. The daddies came in to say goodbye. They were about to take their new baby girl home!! I got to hold her and truly enjoy that snuggle...and hand her back. They were smitten and it was heartwarming to see.
After that, my doula helped pack up our stuff, she helped me with the shower and get dressed & we took a cab home. Neither me or hubby were in a wake enough state to drive safely.
It was a memorable birth. I got my unmedicated double VBAC (VBA2C), with an unknown valementous cord insertion & a 1L post birth hemorrhage. But I did it and I feel so content. ️
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