A VBAC birth story

I was designed and destined to be a mom, and had known from a very early age that that was my purpose in life. In the last eighties (or early nineties) I used to watch an old Access TV program on VBAC births. Who knew I would need to recall that info years later with my second child?

Although it took years (and that's another blog post in itself - see the Journey to Parenthood post here) my first pregnancy was perfect. I had nothing to complain about, and just adored being pregnant and feeling this beautiful life grow within me. I had waited many years for this, and was taking the pregnancy day by day, enjoying each new milestone. I loved being pregnant! 

I wasn’t even upset by the fact that I was well overdue until my niece was born (who was supposed to be born after my child). Holding her, I desperately wanted to be holding my precious baby. Sure enough the next day I went into labour. :) 

No prenatal class, no book, no TV show prepared me for what I was about to go through. I had intense back labour that went on for hours. I finally agreed 38 hours into my labour for an epidural. Five hours after that procedure, having made little progress, the on-call OB thought it best to break my water. She was very concerned when along with the water, came a lot of blood, and lots of clots. I remember her rushing around telling the staff in the room that she was prepping the OR and would see us in there immediately. 

In the NICU, away from his mommy, already cleaned up.

My husband and I were suddenly terrified that we were losing our child, and I tearfully remember telling the neonatologist to please make sure my baby would be okay. Five minutes after being wheeled into the OR, and after 43 exhausting hours of labour, my baby boy was born. It turned out that my placenta had started separating “some time ago” as there was plenty of old, dark blood and clots. The placenta was roughly 90% detached at birth. We very very nearly lost our child. Although the c-section was traumatic, it was also life saving. I am VERY thankful to the staff for saving my baby’s life.

That being said, I missed out on a lot of bonding time in the immediate post-partum as I was in recovery and my newborn was being treated in the NICU. I didn’t get to hold him until he was over two hours old (and only for the fastest three minutes of my life), and he was not brought into my room until he was nearly six hours old. His first bath was done without me. Breastfeeding was a nightmare, but we made it through that.  

I repeat - although I am extremely grateful for his life -  I felt robbed of a great birthing experience and mourned over this. Comments like “Be thankful that he is here, and healthy” only made me feel shame, because I was thankful for all of that but I felt something was missing. Who wouldn't be happy that they were finally holding their baby? So I had a bit to process after that, and vowed the next time (if I was lucky enough for a next time), I would birth differently.

My second pregnancy was actually a bit of a surprise. 

We had been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant with fertility drugs (we started those bad boys again thirteen months after having our first and no luck within the first six rounds of Clomid). We stopped the hormonal nightmare in August and figured this time, we needed more help, so our OB booked us an appointment with the fertility clinic for February (we'd be almost two years of trying for baby #2 by that point). We were not on any drugs when I started feeling different around my son's second birthday. A quick test on Boxing Day shockingly (but very pleasantly happily) confirmed we were pregnant!

Now this pregnancy was vastly different to my first. I was sick and nauseous for the first few months, having a huge aversion to red meat or anything that oozed anything when cut into. I was more tired than with my first (but I was also chasing a two year old), and had the worst sciatica pains. But somehow, through all the ups and downs of the pregnancy, I knew this birth would be different, just as the carrying this child was turning out to be. 


Voracious for information, I read, watched and partook in anything VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean) related. I refused to book my c-section, and actually looked for other OB’s when it was pushed aggressively.

The placental abruption with my first birth had sealed my fate with birthing options – because I had no known risk factors and it was a first birth, my second birth had to be in a hospital, where I would be more closely monitored. I did not argue that, as I had done my research and knew, for baby and I, that was the safest option. If the abruption were to happen again, I would be mere minutes from an OR. There would be no home birth for me. 

My second labour proved to be different in as many ways as the getting pregnant and carrying our second child. For example, we hired a doula and she helped us more than she will ever know. We educated ourselves about everything VBAC related. We knew the risks of a VBAC, we knew the positives and negatives of each and every procedure that could be (and likely would be offered). As the due date approached, we were prepared. 


Hard & active labour started at 4pm, two weeks ahead of my due date. I'd actually talked to my little dude and 'convinced' him that arriving early would be best. Then I didn't need to fight against the pressure from the OB for a repeat section, which she claimed was happening the day after my due date!) 

The labour was not without work and tears. But I had knowledge on my side, my husband who was ready to advocate for us and a doula who worked her magic on helping ease the pain of back labour. 

As my labour slowed down, likely due to fear, an epidural was suggested by the medical team. It was the middle of the night, and would afford me some rest so I could push my baby into the world. (Bless those nurses who were so encouraging of my VBAC). I agreed, but only if I was far enough along. An early epidural could slow the rate of progression. 
The nurse checked. I was 6 cms, and let me tell you, this was a celebration! In the quiet before the administration of the epidural, I talked to my unborn child and I prayed for peace with my decision. 

A few hours after the numbness took over my lower body, I felt that pop and in fear, summoned the nurse. Fearing a repeat of the placental abruption I had with my first child, the nurse came and checked. My water had broken and it was clear; blood and clot free! She also thought she should check my cervix, and happily announced I was fully dilated. If I could've stood up and danced, I would've. 

That was one of the best moments of my life! 

However, the damn OB was insistent she get her section in. Even though the nurse said I was a full 10 cms, the OB told me she'd need to prep the OR as my baby had not yet engaged and was floating at a -2 station. Thankfully, that amazingly wonderful nurse stood up to the doc and suggested I try a practice push to see if I could get my baby to a 0 station (engaged). 

I did, and probably had the smuggest little smile on my face afterwards. I was going to do it.

Labour was nothing compared to pushing, IMO. But at least I actively doing something rather than just getting through the contractions. I pushed hard for roughly 2 hours, but was worth it when I looked down and saw my posterior son, not yet fully born, looking up at me! (in a 'normal' birth they should be looking towards the backside of their momma's thighs).

My baby boy slid out of me (and into my waiting hands). I got to see him take that first breath and I watched him make those fabulous cries. The OB placed him on my chest and told me the odds were 10% to do what I just did. But I never cared about the odds, however I got my dream birth. I wiped vernix from my baby’s face, I kissed his head, I breathed in his newborn smell and checked over every square inch of him. All the things I'd missed out with my first birth. 


My beautiful VBAC baby, seconds old.
I felt that I had won the war, but without an additional 15cm scar I already bore from the first battle. My beautiful son nursed within 30 minutes of birth and it was pure euphoria in the room.

Looking back upon these two remarkably different births, I have asked myself (and have been asked) if there was anything I would’ve done differently. The short, uncomplicated answer is no. I live with the regret every day of not having been more vocal during my first birth. Maybe had them do more checks, or do a scan to check the placenta. But that's hindsight, right? If I could take the knowledge I have now and apply it to the birth back then, sure, perhaps the journey would've been different. But I can't change it, and it's pointless to wonder. Instead, I treasure the hell out of my two boys, and love them more each passing day. I am forever grateful to be their mom, to laugh with them, to grow with them and to be a part of their every days.   

Knowledge truly is power, and not long about my little dude gifted us with his presence, I went out and became a birth doula, and furthered my education to become a childbirth educator. To help others advocate for themselves, and to help them have a birth that they can look back on with love.

Thanks for reading. 


Dark Skies Viewing Etiquette

Our family loves to star gaze as we've been doing it for years. We're quite knowledgeable in our space sciences information, as are our children. Because we've gone out to dark sky sites, we know the rules or proper etiquette of going to these places. After watching a recent meteor shower, I think most do not. While it's FANTASTIC that so many want to watch in something so spectacular, a little courtesy goes a long, long ways. Trust me on this - I heard many grumblings from the people present about the lack of respect.

It's very disruptive to your vision to finally get it adapted to the dark (as it can take upwards of an hour to truly adapt) only for someone else to drive into the viewing area - headlights shining all over.

Before I begin, here's a fantastic blog on why red lights are preferred over white. It's not to be mean or difficult, there really is a reason why the white lights are harsh.



When you arrive, it's considered proper etiquette to dim all exterior lights on your vehicle. Obviously it's illegal to drive w/o headlights, so it's up to you how you deal with this. However, be considerate to the amount of time you are driving around the area looking for a parking spot - the people who were there before you already had adapted their eyes to the dark. Your headlights disrupt this for them. Some may even be taking night photography, and your headlights flood (and ruin) their pictures many of which are long exposure.

Please disable all interior lights - this is as simple as removing the right fuses. It's quite bothersome to have someone open their vehicle doors/trunk and have those white lights flood the area. We're out in the dark, and the white lights undo the adaptation our eyes have done in the dark. If you are unable to remove the fuses, simply letting people know by saying "white light" allows those to cover their eyes. And please be respectful of the time you have your white light going. ;)

Photo Credit - Haslam Digital Photography

Flashlights are a no-no. Yes, I know you need to see in the dark, but again the white light from the flashlights are hard on the dark adapted eyes. The photographer of the picture was trying to capture the Perseids Metoer Shower, and this is what lights do to the picture. Consider wrapping your light with red fabric and an elastic band. It doesn't take long for your eyes to adapt to the red light and you'll be able to see just fine.

No flash photography. If you've read this far, this should be self-explanatory. ;)

As you depart, give a quick honk (before your start your vehicle)  to allow everyone still remaining to cover their eyes, and/or stop photographing the night sky.

A little courtesy really does go a long ways. Everyone is there to enjoy the beauty of the night sky, so let's not ruin this enjoyment.
Bring a comfortable chair, a blanket and a positive attitude. Star gazing is a wonderful thing to do with everyone in the family.


For further information:
Edmonton RASC (Royal Astronomical Society of Canada)
A list of Alberta Dark-Sky Sites
Telus World of Science Observatory

Painting T-shirts

 Every summer, my boys and I paint on t-shirts. A relatively cheap and fun activity with long-lasting results. Each year seems to have a theme. One year it was minions, then Harry Potter, then Minecraft. This year - no surprise - is pokemon. My kids still wear their shirts from 3 years ago. I blogged about it here.

First, well before summer, I watch Michael's for t-shirt sales (I find they're a very durable shirt and can handle MANY washes). I can usually snag shirts 2 for $7, but sometimes I get lucky and can get them 2 for $6, but that's a rarity. Then I buy fabric paint (again at Micheals) and use the 40% off coupon to apply to a set of paints. I have been known to get coupons and cash and a different paint set to send with my kids through the cashier. ;) Whatever works.

When we have decided what our theme is, I will either print out a coloring book style picture or a regular picture and freehand draw it.
I tape it to a window with the picture underneath the front. This allows me to better see the outline. I trace the outline using a pencil (DO NOT USE A SHARPIE*) This is a bit time consuming, but trust me, it's easier.
I will thinly outline the pencil drawing with black fabric paint - just to make it real easy for my kids to paint. After a couple of drying, I hand over paintbrushes to the kids.
When they are done (and it's dry), I go over it with a thicker black line to make the design pop.
Voila - a unique-ish t-shirt that cost less than $5 (as the fabric paint spreads nicely, and you don't use much).
* I used a sharpie once to save a step and it wrecked the shirt when it went through the wash as the black marker went everywhere, and we needed to start all over. Lesson learned. Pencil washes off nicely.

Materials

  • T-shirt in any color (the darker it is, the harder to see the picture underneath)
  • Picture of whatever you desire on shirt
  • Fabric paints
  • Paintbrushes
  • Pencil
  • Patience and time
Instructions
  • Print out picture
  • Hang on window to see picture underneath front of shirt
  • Pencil trace onto shirt
  • Outline with thin black paint (if desired)
  • Paint - the thicker the paint, the longer it takes to dry
  • Outline in black to make design pop (if desired)

This shirt, we did for a special occasion. Our family is big into watching our friends race at the nearby racetrack. We've made a stock car onto a shirt, but this year my youngest child wanted an IMCA car. There are no colouring sheets for that. Trust me I looked. ;) So I needed to print out a pic we took, and attempt to draw it freehand before doing all the above steps. I think we succeeded. The racer was totally surprised when we showed him, and even autographed the shirt (which I went over in black fabric paint). :) 

Making these shirts is so much fun, and I love doing these with my kids. Always fond memories to look back on.