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Sudden motion; orderly panic. Bed wheels start whirling, masked oxygen is hissing in, beeping and wires are everywhere. The anesthesiologist is trying to tell me something, but all I can really hear is the nurse – the one that keeps saying, “I can’t find the heartbeat.” And all I can feel is the frantic pressure she is moving around my abdomen trying to find it. The very last thing I hear before I fall into a deep drug sleep is the doctor. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said.
Becoming a mother is supposed to be beautiful, not terrifying. Breathtaking in joy, not fear. Our high hopes for a wonder-filled natural delivery of our first son were promptly dissolved after a long (long, long…) labor that ended in a semi-emergency C-section. Optimistic to have a second chance at experiencing the wonder of a natural birth, we didn’t hesitate to research the option of a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) for our closely-following, surprise second pregnancy. We read articles, talked to numerous doctors and nurses, hired a doula, reviewed the statistics again and again and of course we prayed. God didn’t give me a feeling either way. No sign not to do it. I just knew that I desperately wanted, almost needed to labor and try to push my baby out the way I felt I was supposed to.
The risk was less than 1% – just the tiniest chance that the uterine scar from my previous C-section would rupture, resulting in a life-threatening situation for me and my baby. Even though the use of Pitocin in my situation increased that risk slightly, the gamble felt obsolete; the chance improbable if not impossible… then I felt it. Every space inside of me felt the scar tear. Burning and bubbling, sucking my breath away. The seconds were traded for hours in my mind as I frantically searched for a way to escape the pain.
I knew before anyone else did that the natural delivery we fought so hard to experience after things went so wrong the first time was over. As my birth team attempted to get me through a “really intense contraction,” I screamed for the nurse to bring the doctor in and get the baby out.
This is a picture of my semi-emergency C-section delivery with my first-born. There was no time for pictures with this delivery.
I may never fully recognize the significance or “why?” of this traumatic event in my life this side of heaven, but I do know it is part of my story for a reason. Here’s the thing – everything happened so fast, leaving truly just moments within minutes. I should have been out of my mind terrified during them, but I wasn’t. The only way I can fathom that is possible is because God gave me the faith to stay calm and a peace beyond understanding like He talks about in Philippians chapter 4. I couldn’t hear Him audibly, but I know He was whispering to me… “I’ve got you. My power is greater than this. You and your baby will be okay.”
And we were. I woke up to my husband’s voice. “It’s a boy,” he told me. “It’s Finley and he is okay.” What sweet, sweet words. God’s big power. Reflecting back, it’s still too much for me to take in. He is a miracle baby. 100% normal, 100% fine. Today he is a tiny, yet feisty 2 ½ -year-old. He’s really into sharks and bad guys and can make creative art out of anything!
I do not share our story to instill fear, but to provide a glimpse into the “what if.” We experienced the worst case scenario in a VBAC attempt with the best possible outcome after. Even after what we went through, I still believe that a VBAC is a wonderful option for many women who have an unplanned C-section with their first delivery. There is a ton of information out there comparing the risks of repeat C-sections vs. a VBAC showing that a VBAC is actually the safer option. Of course each pregnancy is unique and you should discuss the risks specific to your situation with your doctor. If you are interested in learning more about VBACs, this is a good place to start!
Now get this – when Finley was about 18 months old, I got pregnant with twins. My uterus, along with that sutured up, jagged and irregular scar from the rupture stretched bigger than it ever had before and held together to carry them to 36 ½ weeks. They were delivered beautifully in a calm, scheduled c-section which I walked willingly and joyfully into on my own two feet, thank you very much!