Part 3: My VBAC Quest – Bowing out with my head held high…
Updated: Oct 8, 2019
💙Hugh Pádraig Joyce
On the 1st of January 2018 i welcomed my beautiful son Hugh Pádraig Joyce into the world. After 3 days of spurious labour with non progressive cervix dilation i found myself back in the theatre room and under the knife again…
”No matter what delivery method your child enters the world, you must be so, so proud of yourself. NEVER, ever , ever feel inadequate or that you have failed because your birth plan didn’t go accordingly. We have to recognise that birth is one of the most powerful experiences that we will ever conquer and whether that be vaginally or via C-section, when that precious little human is placed in our arms we have all succeeded. Succeeded in bringing life and hope and wonder into this world”
I admit, i have had to read this paragraph from my first blog (Preparing for birth 2nd time around; a VBAC hopeful!) over and over, and over again. Big, Fat, Red letters F.A.I.L.E.D kept dancing in front of my eyes in the days following the birth of baby Hugh. I kept thinking about part 3 of my blog – how would i write about my birth story when it ended in the way i had planned the last 9 months to avoid?
I guess this is real life. Often we blame ourselves when things don’t go to plan; “I should have done more”, “If only…”, “What if…” When really what we need to do is take a step back, nod in appreciation at the unpredictability of life and recognise we gave it our all. I can honestly say i left no stone unturned in my preparation for VBAC and whilst i tell my story and include feelings of being disappointed, angry and frustrated… please, please understand these feelings have all been completely smothered by the overwhelming love i have for this amazing little man. He is just perfect and i am very very lucky to have a beautiful healthy little boy in my life.
My birth plan
From the moment i found out i was pregnant back in April last year there was never any doubt of what type of birth i wanted. Not only had i been blessed with another little miracle baby, now i had a second chance. A second chance at putting everything that went so disastrously wrong in my first birth right.
I wasn’t naive. I knew there were a lot of factors out of my control, but i also knew there was so much i could do in order to prepare myself both physically and psychologically for a successful VBAC.
Operation Preparation 💪
Education and knowledge
We all know knowledge is power. I launched myself into researching current evidence and guidelines surrounding VBACS. According to the RCOG guidelines, 2015 i was an ideal candidate for a successful VBAC which reported an approx. 75% success rate – pretty good odds if you ask me
Integrating hypnobirthing with medical intervention
Hypnobirthing is great for creating a positive mindset, using visualisation and really casting aside any doubts you may have. It increased my confidence in taking an active role in my birth and ensuring my voice was heard in any decisions being made.
That being said with my previous birth you would probably say i was a “hypnobirthing hippy”. I was so right winged and not open to medical intervention… for gods sake i was breathing the baby out … that was until i went 15 days over and had a 9lb baby 🙈!!
This time i aimed to be more open minded. I still wanted to utilise my hypnobirthing but at the same time if i needed a sweep i would get a bloody sweep. If i wanted pain relief, why the heck not? I wasn’t trying to be a martyr. All I wanted was a safe natural delivery and to know my body could do this.
Maintaining physical activity levels
Ensuring “ME” Time
In the hustle and bustle of the world we live in it is so important to take time out for ourselves. If i thought life was busy with a toddler, how was i going to cope with 2?! I set aside time in the 3rd trimester to attend reflexology appointments, have nice long baths (once i had removed all the rubber ducks and squeaky toys!!) and generally relax. This was probably the hardest component of my prep work as anyone that knows me will know i find it hard to slow down and switch off (Thanks Mum for passing on your traits 😬 #minitornado)
➡️ I really did put every effort into preparing my mind and body for all 4 trimesters. I was so positive and optimistic that i never actually allowed myself to put plan B in place. I felt by putting plan B in place it would allow seeds of doubt to be planted and disrupt my positive mindset. So i was full steam ahead towards my VBAC goal and that impending due date.
Due date comes and goes…
With an estimated due date of the 26th December I was looking forward to birthing day and was relaxed with knowing baby Joyce would likely make a late appearance. I wanted to eliminate the stress of feeling “overdue” and so 2018 was my target! An achievable goal 😉
I had visualised the birth so many times in my mind through hypnobirthing and I was confident that my body would know what to do this time.
I had no fears.
I felt strong.
I was ready….
….Baby Joyce however, was not!!
My labour journey
The contractions started ….and then they stopped… and then they started…and then they stopped…This pattern continued for 3 very long frustrating days!
Initially everything commenced beautifully. I was only 2 days past due date when i lost my mucus plug – oh the joy that gooey green substance brought to my day! Then the contractions began. Mild and irregular at first but progressing to more regular intense contractions over a period of a few hours.
Things were happening!!!
My aim was to labour it out at home as long as possible, arrive at the hospital well dilated, progress to second stage in water and allow my little one to swim its way into the world.
That was the dream. That is what i had spent the last 9 months visualising.
Reality was very different.
Over the next 72 hours i had left the hospital twice feeling very dejected. So filled with hope on entering through those hospital doors that baby was on its way to walking out so very disappointed. Disappointed in myself for believing my body was in labour.
Contractions were progressing so why wasn’t my cervix dilating?
I willed my body to respond to the contractions.
By the third day of these on/off contractions i was exhausted. I couldn’t sit, i couldn’t eat, i couldn’t sleep, surely we were approaching the finish-line… or the start line…whatever way you wanted to look at it!!
Nada. My cervix remained at 3cm.
Visions of my first labour were beginning to haunt me… failure to progress.. marathon labour…distressed baby…please God don’t let this be the same 🙏
Medical assistance required
After much discussion it was agreed that augmentation of my waters would be commenced in order to help fully establish labour. After 2 hours of intense contractions, cervix = 3cm…what the *beep* was going on?!! At this stage the consultant arrived into the room to discuss the longevity of the labour and my “failure to progress” ….i knew what they were getting at… but i wasn’t ready to give up… i had worked so hard for this day and i needed to give it my all. I persuaded the consultant to give me another 2 hours… and what a tough 2 hours i put in! With each contraction I just kept thinking “this is it”, “not long to go now”, “Baby is coming”…
Baby was not coming.
In fact, when the consultant rechecked a further 2 hours later, my cervix remained at 3cm.
Its like putting in the toughest day at work and not getting paid for it. Deep down i knew that was it. We didn’t even have to mention the “C” word. I just nodded at the consultant to signal my consent to get the paperwork ready and then i turned to my husband and had a good cry….
I cried because this was the moment that all hope for my VBAC faded away and the devastating realisation that i would not and probably would never get the experience of a normal delivery…i was defeated. My body had defied me.
I wiped away the tears from my eyes, swallowed the lump at the back of my throat and got ready for my next battle- Theatre..
The surgery proved much more complex due to significant adhesions that had formed from my previous surgery. There were signs of my previous uterus scar separating which if labour had progressed to stage 3 may have resulted in a uterine rupture. Uterine ruptures are rare (about 7 in every 1000 births) but can be life threatening to both mum and baby. This is the reason i should be thankful. This was my silver-lining.
Reflecting on my VBAC journey
As a Physiotherapist and Pilates instructor at Mid Ulster Pilates & Physiotherapy (Click here) i work closely with our pre and postnatal population. I love my job. I love being able to impart both my professional knowledge and personal experience in order to educate, empower and prepare all our ladies for a positive birthing experience and a quicker recovery post partum. I wanted to be a successful advocate for VBAC. To be that voice of encouragement. To stand up and say “hey i did it, so can you”.
For me it just wasn’t to be.
Immediately following the birth I felt devastated, but at the same time delighted.
I was exhausted but at the same time relieved.
I failed, but most importantly i now recognise i succeeded. Succeeded in bringing life and hope and wonder into the world.
Ultimately, I am one proud mamma bear to 2 beautiful baby bears 💗💙
One Final thought – Sometimes you just gotta “Let it be” (by The beatles)
I have questioned why so many times… is my pelvis too small? Baby too big? Did the scar adhesions constrict the babys’ passage?
What i have come to realise is that i will never know and like my hairdresser said to me the other day sometimes you just have to “let it be”. If i continue to question why, i could consume myself with feelings of anger, frustration and disappointment and miss out on all those wonderful feelings of love, joy and happiness that this gorgeous boy is bringing me.
Without the fairytale ending i had so often envisaged I am bowing out with my head held high. I put in one hell of an effort over the last 9 months and really did give it my all.
Sometimes your all is just not enough.
I have no regrets… How can i when i have accomplished this 💗💙
And so, I have decided to “let it be” and focus on the next job at hand – the 4th trimester and my Postnatal recovery.
Yours in health,
Recommended antenatal resources in Mid Ulster
Mid Ulster Pilates & Physiotherapy (Click here)
Hypnobirthing with Helen (Click here)
Antenatal yoga with Rosie Kerr (Click here)
Reflexology with Pamela Hamilton (Click here)