My Unplanned VBAC Birth Story: When Baby Arrives in a Hurry

My Unplanned VBAC Birth Story: When Baby Arrives in a Hurry

My first birth was an emergency c-section and my second was an unplanned VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). The best-laid plans, right? Birth plans gone awry are the quintessential example of one of life’s favorite maxims; control is an illusion.

I spent hours during my second pregnancy debating whether to opt for a repeat c-section or a VBAC. All of that hemming and hawing only to find out I ultimately had no choice in the matter. My second child decided to make the journey through my birth canal and out my vagina before I could get on an operating table. 

Should I Have a Repeat C Section or a VBAC?

When choosing between a repeat c-section and a VBAC during my second pregnancy, I opted for a repeat cesarean. While unplanned, my first c-section ended up going great and I had a smooth recovery. So I was on board with having another c-section with my second baby.

Obstetricians Weigh In

Since I was not planning on any more children after this second child, my obstetrician explained that a repeat c-section was the safest route. She informed me that strained labor during a VBAC could potentially cause the uterus to rupture at the previous cesarean incision site. This could cause serious problems for both me and baby. I’m no risk taker, so I scheduled a c-section for a week before my due date. 

Even after scheduling a c-section, I still questioned whether I was making the right choice. I considered changing my mind. 

While my assigned obstetrician strongly recommended a repeat cesarean, other OBs I saw for prenatal appointments repeatedly brought up the topic of a VBAC. They explained that since I had no health issues contraindicating a VBAC, there was no reason I couldn’t try for one.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of a VBAC

Was a VBAC the better choice? Perhaps VBACs were more common and less risky than I thought. Plus, c-sections like any surgery, carry their own risks.

The CDC states that VBAC births have been increasing since 2016 for women in their 20s and 30s. Additionally, Cleveland Clinic sites studies showing that VBAC birth success rates are between 60 and 80%. Still though, these statistics were not very reassuring to me.

What if I ended up needing an emergency caesarean anyway, after going through hours of unsuccessful labor? Why not just go straight to the operating table knowing that the baby would arrive 5 minutes later? 

A Positive First C-Section Experience

The thought of having a natural birth had always terrified me. I simply could not fathom a small watermelon-sized baby emerging from my vagina. So when my labor was not progressing after pushing for several hours with my first baby, I was relieved when the doctor told me I needed a c-section.

Up until that point, I had been telling myself that I needed to have a natural birth. I felt like I had something to prove. I believed that I would only be considered a tough warrior mama if I went through the birth process of a vaginal delivery. A natural birth was supposed to be my initiation into motherhood.

After going through a c-section with my first baby though, I felt like the true initiation into motherhood happened over a long time; over many sleepy nights and busy days taking care of a small human. So for me, I did not feel emotionally attached to the idea of having a VBAC.

Making the Decision to Have a Repeat C-Section

With all this in mind, I ultimately decided that having another c-section seemed like the right choice for me.

After making that choice, it never occurred to me that I would end up having a surprise VBAC. Even if I went into labor before my schedule c-section, I figured I would just head to the hospital and they would prep me for a c-section as planned.

My Baby Made Her Own Plans: My Unplanned VBAC Birth

Coincidentally, I went into spontaneous labor in the wee hours of the morning, just a few hours before my scheduled repeat c-section. So I guess you could say I was somewhat mentally prepared for the arrival of my baby that morning. I was just not prepared for her to arrive via VBAC. And definitely not an unmedicated VBAC.

Going into Labor

My first contraction hit me at 2:31 am. I was used to waking up in the middle of the night with aches and pains though, so I did not think too much of it. I got up to pee for the millionth time like any other night and then went back to bed. Then another strong contraction hit at 2:40, and another at 2:47. I still wasn’t sure if they were true labor contractions though, because I had been experiencing frequent braxton hicks since my second trimester. I pulled out my phone and started timing the contractions, just in case.

The contractions seemed a bit stronger than my normal braxton hicks, so I woke my husband up. I still did not believe it was the real deal, but I needed some moral support anyway. My husband saw that something was different though, and called labor and delivery to let them know we were coming.

I almost considered making us wait, since I was scheduled to be at the hospital at 5 am anyway to start prepping for a c-section. We decided better safe than sorry. With my first pregnancy, my water had broken and was slowly leaking for an entire night before we went to the hospital. Which in retrospect seems silly. So this time, we were on it. And it’s a good thing we were. 

When I started to get dressed and found that I could barely pull on my sweatpants as I was paralyzed with pain, I realized I was in active labor. Regular contractions started every 4 minutes or so.

Heading to the Hospital

We grabbed my hospital bag, woke up our toddler, and jumped in the car.

I started feeling intense pressure in my tailbone. I felt like I was going to fly out of the car seat when those contractions picked up. We arrived at the hospital at about 3:30 am. 

Since we had our 3-year-old in the car, my husband dropped me off at the entrance of the labor and delivery department. We said goodbye and my husband said he would return as soon as the babysitter arrived to watch our son. Due to ongoing Covid regulations, young kids were still not allowed in the labor and delivery wing of the hospital.

The sitter was scheduled to arrive at our house at 5am, so it still seemed reasonable that our original plan would work. We figured we still had plenty of time before the c-section, even with my contractions kicking off. After all, most women I knew had labors that lasted for hours and hours. 

Did My Water Just Break?

By the time I finished signing admission papers, however, I could barely walk and wanted to cry. A nurse handed me a cup to pee in and pointed to the bathroom. I did my very best to pee in that little cup, but I could hardly sit on the toilet. The pressure and pain searing through my pelvis was overwhelming. I managed a few drops of pee, and when I looked in the cup I saw that it was tinged pink. Then I felt a small gush of liquid run down my leg. Did I just pee my pants? Did my water just break? I could hardly think or move.

I hobbled out of the bathroom and told the nurses that I thought my water had broken. A nurse shuffled me over to a bed to check my cervix. Somehow I made it up onto the bed and after a quick check, the nurse yelled out, “There’s nothing left!”. Meaning it was go time.

Baby is On Her Way!

I started spontaneously pushing as the nurse quickly wheeled me to a delivery room. Someone told me to call my husband and tell him to come back because the baby was coming. The front desk would watch my toddler. Now I was really starting to get scared. I also started making some surprising squeals and screams as it was clear my baby was wiggling her way on through my birth canal.

What about my cesarean birth? And what about pain medication per my birth plan? The hospital staff just kept saying that the baby was on her way. There wasn’t enough time and a VBAC seemed to be the only option. 

Once in the labor room, the on-call obstetrician started coaching me to push. And I pushed as hard as I could. At moments, I did not think I was going to be able to keep going. Those nurses really know how to keep a mama focused though and I was so grateful for their encouraging words.

At one point when I had my face buried in my hands and felt like I was on the verge of breaking, I heard the nurse say something about my baby’s heart rate. She said she needed out and that I needed to push with the next contraction.

Feeling like my baby was in danger was all I needed to pull myself together. So after a few more minutes of hellish pushing, my beautiful healthy baby girl emerged. I do not know if I have ever felt so relieved. She arrived exactly 11 minutes before I was scheduled to start prepping for a c-section. 

Holding My Precious Baby

As my doctor stitched up a second-degree tear, I lay with my baby in my arms looking down at her for the first time. I never want to forget that moment. This tiny warrior clinging to my chest was simultaneously ferocious and incredibly vulnerable.

During what had been a miserable pregnancy, I sometimes wondered if I was going to love the seemingly vicious baby growing inside me. I somehow pictured her coming out ready to continue torturing me. As I looked at her now though, I felt nothing but love. She looked so small and innocent and perfect. I thought about how the birth process must have been even harder for her than it was for me.

Postpartum Recovery After a VBAC

Initially, I was pleasantly surprised that I was not in a great amount of pain after delivery. There must have still been adrenaline and other pain-numbing hormones surging through my body.

Aches and Pains

Once everything quieted down after the birth though, I started to feel a strong ache in my lower back and bum. Everything felt tender and swollen. I wasn’t particularly alarmed though, and assumed that in a couple of hours, the pain would ease up as my body rested. After all, everyone told me that recovery after a VBAC was much easier than after a c-section. 

Long story short, it was a long and arduous postpartum recovery. Much harder than after my c-section. I felt delicate and achy for months and felt like my pelvis was going to crack at any given moment. I often questioned how I would have been feeling had I ended up with a C-section. 

Most of the time, I wish I had been able to have a repeat cesarean. Maybe I would have avoided some of the pitfalls that come with a strained vaginal delivery… hemorrhoids, postpartum anal fissures, and all the other aches and pains that my body was struggling with.

As the aches and pains have become less and less as time has gone by though, I look back on my VBAC with appreciation. It was both humbling, empowering, terrifying, and exhilarating all at once.

In the end, all that mattered was that my little girl arrived in this world healthy and happy.

healthy vbac baby

The Beauty of Our Birth Stories

I am still healing and my body is forever changed; but, I admire the strength and beauty of the female body and the birth process. The major upheaval we go through as women to bring our children into the world. The wonder of growing humans inside our bodies and then releasing them into the world.  

Although my unplanned albeit successful VBAC was a trying experience, I love that I will get to tell my daughter her birth story one day. About how she came into this world on her own terms. How she was so excited to greet the world that she entered in the most unexpected way. What a way to start a life. My beautiful baby girl.

When to Allow Visitors After Birth
Recovery from Anal Fissures Postpartum
Breastfeeding Nipple Pain in the Early Days
Packing Your C-Section Hospital Bag

Do you have a birth story to share? Feel free to say hi and share in the comments below!

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