'I had my first birth in NYC which ended in emergency c-section after a 24 hr labor, and 5 combined hrs of pushing on epidural. I thought I was fine, but in the years that followed symptoms surfaced showing that there was an emotional and physical toll left (important to note: this was my personal experience, many of my friends who also had emergency c section were completely fine). The experience left me feeling depleted, lower in energy and I was slow to recover. I began the process of mental healing as well as the physical healing related to my scar tissue which allowed me to slowly move on.
So for my second pregnancy, I decided I wanted to make my best attempt at having a VBAC. The first thing I changed from my first pregnancy is that I surrounded myself with the team that believed in my vision. This is why I decided to work with a doula this time around to coach me through the experience and act as one constant and my voice in ever changing hospital environment and fortunately, I met my wonderful doula Denise van Eeden. I also decided to go with the OLVG west team who had been supportive of my plan and I felt a reassuring connection with. Unlike my first pregnancy, I practiced prenatal yoga daily using Kasia Pokrop (Seventh Series) videos and Spinning Babies package. Furthermore, I went to Thamar for pelvis alignment every few weeks to make the path easy for the baby once he was ready to come out. Also I listened to the positive birth stories on podcast: The VBAC link, The Birth Hour etc. Finally, I used a hypnobirthing app regularly called GentleBirth, worked with Kasia from Mamamoon Retreats on hypnobirthing and made sure to take more time off from work prior to birth date to be able to mentally and physically prepare for what was ahead.
My second birthing experience turned out to be completely different from the first. I was relaxed and feeling in tune with my body. It was sending me messages days ahead of the birth. I was starting to lose my mucus plug three days before I went into labor and that continued and transitioned into a bloody show one day before labor began. The Braxton Hicks contractions that began the last few weeks of pregnancy, became more frequent as my labor approached. And the afternoon before the delivery, I was starting to have cramps. I went to bed that night at 10pm as they intensified and I notified my Doula that I wasn’t sure if these were surges. They were 6-8mins apart and 30-60 sec in duration. I was breathing through them using hypnobirthing techniques. Out of all the affirmations that I prepared, the one that I kept using, and the one that worked for me is: "It's not pain, it's power." Every time I said it, it allowed me to embrace the discomfort of surges and see the surges as the power to bring my baby into the world. I was also visualizing my cervix opening like a rosebud.
When the surges first began to intensify, around 11:30pm I called my doula and the hospital as well as our friend to watch our older son. We took our neighbor's car (trying to avoid uber due to corona) and drove the 15 minutes to OLVG west, arriving at around 12:20am. By the time we got to the hospital room, I could tell that surges were getting much closer and were going up quite a bit in intensity. The team checked me and confirmed that I was 8cm dilated. I was ecstatic because last time the progress was much slower and resulted in having to return home after the first trip to the hospital. But then again I was not at all prepared or relaxed during the first experience, which probably didn't help. The other great news when I arrived at the hospital was that the birthing tub was available, which I was really hoping for. Having grown up on a beach in Croatia I loved the possibility of being in the water. So the team got me into the tub right away, which helped with the rest of the dilation.
Within what felt like minutes for me I began having strong urges to push. Everything was happening very quickly. The intensity felt like the power of a giant waterfall rush wanting to get the baby out of my body. I couldn't follow the advice from hypnobirthing to breathe through these and resist the urge to push because my body completely took over and it felt like it wanted to expel the baby out. The noises that came out of me during this time surprised me and sounded very primal. But unfortunately, like the first time around, the baby was making very slow progress in moving down my canal. I was surprised that even with such power of the body, the baby was still not coming out. The wonderful midwife that was on duty that night was very encouraging and asked me to hold my breath and bear down and this was the only thing that seemed to help, but still, the progress was slow.
With each push I made, I gave it my all. It literally felt like I was pulling a truck that was stuck in the mud (when squatting w rebozo), which felt like an impossible feat. And after an hour of seeing no progress, I started getting tired and discouraged. The old fears started sneaking in on me: “Maybe the baby is too big for me? Perhaps my body is not powerful enough to push it out? I should probably just have another c section.” And this is where the encouragement and guidance from the midwife and doula were crucial. They gave me focus and clarity when I needed it the most and helped me overcome my fears and stay positive that I could deliver the baby on my own. The midwife confirmed that the baby was deep down in my pelvis and that it can fit. That I can do this. My doula and I tried different positions to help with the progress, all four turned out to be very effective at different times. And the midwife gave me small doses of oxytocin which gave me a new wave of energy. I was able to push harder and felt a ping pong ball within my body growing in size each time I pushed. She also gave support to my pelvic floor muscles, stretching them a bit to help relax and open up, which hurt like hell, but gave me a point to push towards.
After another hour of giving it my all I felt the baby's head move further in the canal until I could feel it crowning. They could see his long hair and the team was excited. The pain was immense, especially when the little one decided to turn his head once it was out. While waiting for the next surge and for the rest of his body to come out, which felt like an eternity, the midwife guided me through this part in order to avoid the tear. And this guidance helped because in the end I had only one stitch. The rest felt like a blur. All of sudden he was there, floating in the bathtub next to me at 3:11am. Still attached to me through the umbilical cord even until the placenta came out a few minutes later. My husband then cut the cord and I was able to relax a bit in the pool until I was ready to come out. I loved that we were not rushed and were able to soak it all in while connecting with our baby.
I couldn't believe it, we did it. I got the birth I wanted. My body was shattered like a wounded soldier but my spirit was high. I was so thankful for my "yes" team. They helped make my dream a reality and create a happy ending to my healing journey. ❤️'
Dina and her husband joined Mamamoon One Day Retreat in Amsterdam March 6th, 2020