Writing this now feels sluggish. It’s been three months and the euphoria and hormone levels have neutralized; they’ve been replaced with routines. I wish I could have written sooner when I still literally feel high. I was then drafting the exact words over and over again, minutes and hours right after I gave birth. Then the hours became days. The days became weeks. The weeks became months. Now here I am.
So let me dig deep into my shut-off brain the words that I drafted but escaped.
It was mid-spring of 2017 in Australia (October, to be exact) when I got pregnant with our second child. The signs were utterly subtle, and almost none. I remember we went for an out-of-town trip and I felt heavy and different. But I simply dismissed it as the result of the long trip, or the stress from our move to a new house, or the daily tiredness from taking care of the house and our very active toddler.
The following weeks dragged on and I carried on in spite of the heaviness. I had no morning sickness or nausea. Only that my appetite became quite huge than usual and my skin was pale. So after some thoughts, we bought a pregnancy test kit just to be sure. And voila! There it was, clear as the sky, we saw two red lines.
It was very unexpected. And I was surprised and excited! I started planning.
‘Who to call?’
‘What to prepare?’
‘Where is the nearest clinic?’
And then the question that has been hanging in my head since our toddler was born, ‘In my next childbirth, will I do VBAC?’
VBAC stands for Vaginal Birth After Cesarean. In giving birth, VBAC is still uncommon because CS mothers are recommended for another CS in their subsequent births. For mothers who plan to do VBAC, they are closely monitored during labor and delivery for certain risks such as uterine rupture. Uterine Rupture is when the uterus opens at the scar left by your previous CS operation. It could cause brain damage to the baby, and death for both mother and baby.
VBAC sounds scary and it is risky. And it should not be taken lightly. But I believe that VBAC is possible if provided with optimum healthcare. So I immersed myself in VBAC facts and figures. I joined forums. I read articles. I found women online who’ve had successful VBACs and they inspired me. One of the key things I’ve learned from that is that to have a successful VBAC, you must be physically active during pregnancy and during labor, you must experience it naturally as much as possible without interventions.
On our prenatal checkups, the GPs and midwives gave a go to my VBAC plan because my pregnancy is healthy and has no complications. So there began the preparations, apprehensions, and unknowns. As for being physically active, my taking care of our toddler took care of it. As for preparing for labor and delivery, we were left in the unknown.
You can prepare as much as you can. But every woman’s experience is unique and different. We do not know when and where our water will break. We do not know if we labor first before our water break. We do not know how we will get to the hospital if my husband is at work (call emergency, I know). And my biggest worry at that time was who will watch over my toddler when we are at the hospital (the grandparents took care of her in the end).
And in the midst of grandiose preparations, there still remains a lot of unknowns. How painful will it be? Can I do it? I doubted myself so many times. My husband was supportive, but I still felt so alone and scared in my quest for VBAC.
In the end, it simply became a plan, not a goal. Yes, the plan is VBAC. But the goal is a safe, healthy, and happy delivery for our new son, whether it would be VBAC or CS.
But my heart was yearning for a VBAC. So I prayed for it, deeply and fervently. I prayed to St. Joseph. St. Gerard, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. And to Sto. Nino, I confided my full trust in His power, mercy, and generosity in making miracles.
Fast forward to my 38th week of gestation. I woke up one night screaming from an unusual movement from baby. It was one kick, quick and strong. I went back to sleep. In the subsequent days, his movements differ from the usuals. If the pattern of his movements could be a graph, the line would start from week 6 with a slow, ascending line going onwards. Then on the 38th week, it would spike and continue in a slow, steady, descending line. During the next checkup, I told the midwife about it who told me that it is perfectly normal as my baby’s full-term body now have lesser room to move inside the womb. I was reassured for a while. But somehow, my motherly instincts would not let it go. Sometimes, I would not feel him move for hours and when he finally does, my heart becomes content. But I still worried a lot especially because it is about my baby. After all, I am the only communicator between my baby and the outside world. I have to speak up.
On the 39th week checkup, I brought it up again. The male doctor shrugged it off. Instead, he discussed something else. He advised for a CS operation between 40th and 41st week to avoid being overdue. I did not sign the papers. Why? Because my baby will come when he is ready to come. One thing I learn about going for VBAC is to be firm and be informed. Being firm was hard because I am not a firm person naturally. But I was informed. I am properly informed that women can go even 42 weeks pregnant. It simply is the course of nature: the baby will come when he is ready to come.
He gave us a deadline on when to sign the papers: three days! And he scheduled us for a checkup in two days.
Two days after, the baby’s heartbeat was monitored. The assigned doctor said the heart rate is fine and went on to advise that we go for the CS operation as I am already overdue. She did not give the papers to sign yet but sent me for an ultrasound. And then we had an ultrasound where our baby did not move a lot. It is normal though; it could be him sleeping or being sluggish.
Then I told the doctor what I’ve been saying in my previous checkups: change in fetal movements. She took me seriously. One thing I learned is that they take it seriously. (Well except for the male doctor who shrugged it off, urgh) She would not give us a go-signal for VBAC but she won’t force us with CS either. She doesn’t want to dismiss fetal distress and being 40th week overdue. She highly advised taking the CS route. She told us to take our time to decide since we have been planning for a VBAC since day one.
To say that I felt defeated was an understatement. I tried to hide it. I simply went to the toilet and dropped some tears. My husband and I ate lunch. Then we consented for CS because the priority has always been the safety and health of our baby, and not my VBAC plan. We returned to the doctor who was happy to oblige with our CS decision. ‘If it were a family member of mine, I would definitely recommend it too,’ she said. And then we signed the papers and I was scheduled for a CS operation “first thing tomorrow.” 7am sharp. What was supposed to be a regular checkup turned out to be the day before my CS operation.
We went to our car after spending a whole day at the hospital. I felt heavy and light, both at the same time. Weird, huh. I felt heavy because I felt defeated knowing that my anticipated and prepared-for VBAC won’t happen for sure. And then I too felt light because I was released from the unknown: the pain of labor and delivery, and the where and where and how I will give birth.
Before heading home, we went to Baby Buntings to buy baby bottles. We drive-thru McDo. We went to the library because the husband needed to print something. During going back home, I felt relaxed by the night sky and the hummings of the car engine. I became comfortable with our decision. ‘I can deal with the CS scar. It will be painful but manageable. If this is the will of God, so be it.’
At home, I prepared for a CS operation by reorganizing my hospital bag. Ate dinner. Prepared the toddler for sleep. Washed some laundry. And after finishing a gazillion things, I got ready for sleep. The last thing I did was pray at our altar and faced our Sto. Nino statue. “So this is where it all goes down to. But I trust in Your providence. You would not have made this happen if you have no plan. And whatever Your plans are, I know that You will take care of me and my baby. Just please be with me every step of the way,” I prayed. I resigned. I made peace with my decision. I consented.
Everyone has gone to sleep. The house was quiet and dark. At last, after a long tiring day, I can finally sleep! I went to bed. As my head hit the pillow, I suddenly felt heaviness down below. I went back to the toilet and no more poop could possibly come out as I think I’ve already let it all out before going to bed. I went back to bed. Minutes after, I felt the heaviness again. This time, I am noticing that it approaches like waves. Every time the waves come, I clung my hands on our headboard and tilt my body, trying to find a comfortable position. Honestly, I wished that it would go away because I really wanted to sleep already! For a split second, I was denying that it is contractions. I woke up my husband and told him to monitor the ‘waves’. One minute duration and three minutes apart. Oh my golly, I am having contractions! We called the hospital and were told we must go immediately. And as they say, the rest is history.
So there was God’s plan all along. His plans were revealed to us. Just always trust in Him even when the answer is unclear.
Read the next part: My labor and delivery with Little Lion
If you are also planning for VBAC, here are some resources that truly helped me in my journey and hopefully, these will be helpful to you as well.
- 10 Proven Tips for a Successful VBAC
- How to Labor at Home as Long as Possible
- VBAC Australia Support Group (a Facebook group)
- The Evidence on: Due Dates
- Laboring in different positions while having fetal monitoring
- VBAC: Know the pros and cons
- Risks: VBAC vs repeat CS
- Humanist Mom: my failed VBAC attempt
Here is a novena to St. Gerard for safe delivery. It can be said either for oneself during pregnancy or for any pregnant woman.
O great Saint Gerard, beloved servant of Jesus Christ, perfect imitator of thy meek and humble Savior, and devoted child of the Mother of God, enkindle within my heart one spark of that heavenly fire of charity which glowed in thee and made thee a seraph of love.
O glorious Saint Gerard, because when falsely accused of crime, thou didst bear, like thy Divine Master, without murmur or complaint, the calumnies of wicked men, thou hast been raised up by God as the patron and protector of expectant mothers. Preserve me from danger and from the excessive pains accompanying childbirth, and shield the child which I now carry, that it may see the light of day and receive the lustrial waters of baptism, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Recite Nine Hail Marys.