Editor’s note: We believe that all birth stories and all birth experiences matter. This post is part of our ongoing series of birth stories featuring a diverse range of women and their birth experiences.
Jessica’s baby girl arrived in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite this, she still got the VBAC she wanted with her husband at her side. Visit Jessica on Instagram at @workathomechaos.
If you would like to share your own birth story, visit this post to learn how.
“She’s still breech.”
These were the only words I heard the morning of my scheduled external cephalic version or ECV. “You’ve experienced this before, you know what to expect,” I told myself. And I did which was sort of the terrifying part. My second son just 22 months prior was also breech, and after a failed and extremely painful ECV, I was sent home with a scheduled c-section for two weeks later.
I prayed this would go differently because I so badly wanted a vaginal birth after cesarean or VBAC this time around. I spent the weeks heading into this appointment visualizing a positive outcome, which meant my little girl would flip and I would be sent home to wait for her big day to arrive.
What felt like forever and a day later, a lot of pressure and some extremely long deep breaths, I felt tears streaming down my face. I felt the flip, it worked. “Oh my God, it worked!” I looked at my doctor in disbelief with so much gratitude. I almost couldn’t believe it, but I was grateful and determined to stay positive and to keep my girl head down until her day came.
As thrilled as I was, another concern swirled around in my mind. I knew my OB wasn’t comfortable inducing after my due date which was quickly approaching and with baby girl just flipping head down, I feared she wouldn’t have enough time to do her thing and make things happen. If this happened to be the case, I’d end up getting hyped up for nothing and end up in a c-section anyway.
After a week and a half of little progress, two membrane sweeps and no labor, my OB felt comfortable inducing me at 39 +2 because my cervix was “favorable” and I had had a successful vaginal birth just three years prior.
I was over the moon. I had a date set and knew my girl would be here within a few days if all went well. I was a little nervous as I did have a previous c-section and here I was being induced, something that I had read many horror stories about and I knew many doctors will not do. Thankfully my OB was amazing and helped ease my fears, letting me know that we would start slow and that if anything started to seem off, they’d be ready to bring me into the OR for a c-section.
Our big day arrived. I was so excited and anxious all at the same time. Was I doing the right thing? Should I have waited for her to come on her own time? Would she come on her own if I gave her until my due date? These were all questions I couldn’t answer so I prayed hard and was hopeful that this was the way things were meant to be and that everything would go as I had hoped. I reminded myself that things might not go as I wanted and that I had to be okay with that too.
At 7:00 am on May 20th, my husband and I arrived at Labor and Delivery after dropping our one and two year old boys off with my parents. We were stocked up on extra clothes, snacks and our masks. At this point during the coronavirus pandemic, our hospital was allowing one support person who was unable to leave and return so we knew we wouldn’t be leaving for at least 24 hours, possibly more.
The most challenging part about giving birth during a pandemic for me was not seeing the smiles of my doctors and nurses. Thankfully the labor and delivery nurses at my hospital were phenomenal and make up for their hidden smiles in personality but it made things feel just a little bit strange. Just several days prior I had tested negative for COVID-19, a new protocol my hospital was following, so they were able to do without the extra protective gear which I felt would likely have made things feel even less personal.
It was go time…
We started around 8:00 am with a low dose of Pitocin at about 3 centimeters dilated. I knew I’d likely be getting an epidural once the contractions were unbearable, but I wanted to make it as far as I could without one so that I could move around and help things move along.
I spent the next several hours swaying around my room and moving around as much as possible on a peanut ball. I had never used a peanut ball before but it was great for keeping me comfortable and allowing me to move in different ways. My body was starting to get tired so I finally decided to relax on the bed as upright as possible in hopes that gravity would do its thing – it’s amazing how much you can manipulate the position of hospital beds.
By 12:00 pm my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and uncomfortable, but not nearly what I remembered from laboring with my first. At this point my OB decided it was time to break my water. The Pitocin has been increased every 20 minutes or so and was doing its work but not quite as effectively as hoped. He let me know once my water was broken that things would likely pick up quickly and that I could ask for the epidural whenever I felt I needed it. Then he began the quick process of breaking my water.
“You’ll feel a lot of pressure,” he said. My husband’s face went white as he saw the massive needle get pushed up toward my amniotic sac. “Wow!” I couldn’t hold back as an impressive amount of water came gushing out of me. It seemed like it had all come out at once which I soon found out wasn’t even almost the case. He left us in our room to wait until my contractions got stronger and closer together.
My next contraction was STRONG. It was strong like the labor contractions I remembered and my husband immediately suggested I ask for the epidural. My husband has never done well with seeing me in pain so one real contraction was almost all he could handle. Within the next 15 minutes or so, my contractions got much closer together and much more intense. I tried to wait, but I couldn’t bear it any longer. Kudos to the mamas that go med free all the way!
The process of getting an epidural was more painful than I remembered. I think I waited just a minute too long to ask for it and between the excruciating contractions and trying to keep still on top of my water being broken and my spilling all over the place, I was just a mess. My poor nurse was covered in fluid as I gushed and squeezed the life out of her hands with each contraction. The epidural was finally placed by 1:15 pm and the pain of the contractions started to diminish as I started to feel heavy in my legs and up through to my stomach.
My nurse reminded me that I soon would feel very little in my bottom half, and I asked her how I would know when it was time to push. She said it would likely be awhile and that I should call for her if I experienced any rectal pressure so that I could be checked to see how dilated I was.
The next hour or so was a breeze. My husband and I watched movies as I chewed on ice chips, my one pregnancy obsession.
Suddenly and completely out of nowhere I told my husband I thought I was feeling rectal pressure and asked him to grab the call bell. I shouted as I realized it was definitely time and I felt like my baby girl was about to come out. By the time the nurses arrived, in less than a minute, I told them she was coming out! My nurse did a quick check and called out for another nurse to grab my OB. “It’s time,” she said. “Don’t push yet.”
My OB arrived and my legs were quickly in stirrups. Tears began to roll. I knew I was about to meet my girl and the emotions came rushing in. My team was ready, my husband standing at my shoulders and masked nurses all around me. “Take a deep breath with the next contraction and let’s go for three counts of ten,” I was told. Pushing with an epidural is strange. You can feel, but you can’t. You’re fully exposed, and you’re almost sure you’re about to “go” on the table.
“Reach down and touch her head,” my OB suggested. I imagine the look on my face did not at all reflect how I felt about meeting my baby girl as I slowly reached around, quickly pulled back and told them I was ready to keep going. Finally, I felt a snip and with a push her head was out. We proceeded with her shoulders with counts of three and in just a few pushes, my beautiful girl was screaming and on my chest.
As I hugged and kissed my girl, I felt tears, I felt myself trembling. This pregnancy was different from my others. Various concerns came up throughout my pregnancy that required extra monitoring and testing to ensure she was healthy and strong. My third trimester was filled with unknowns as coronavirus swept over the world and I spent the last ten weeks fearing the worst and simply praying for the moment I’d get to hold my girl safely in my arms and that moment was finally here.
From start to finish on May 20, 2020, my induction began at 8:00 am and my baby girl, Leila Grace, was born at 3:06 pm at 7 lbs 12 oz and 20 inches long. She was perfect, she was mine and we couldn’t wait to get her home to meet her big brothers.