A Redemptive and Healing VBAC
Mom’s Name: Flor Cruz (BadAssMotherBirther on Facebook and IG)
Baby’s Name: Valentina Cruz
Weight: 7lbs 10oz
Length: 20.5 inches
Time of Birth: 6:02 PM
Place of Birth: California Hospital in Los Angeles, CA
It had been 10 months after being bullied into a cesarean for my breech baby boy. I was still grieving what could of been, downright mad about it, and still healing emotionally and physically. And I was beyond shocked that I was pregnant again so soon. I cried. I cried out of fear of being bullied into another cesarean because here I was, 10 months out of major abdominal surgery and I was pregnant again. I knew I would have a hard time finding a provider to support me in a VBAC. I also felt so guilty that my son, being so new, would have to share me right away with another baby. I felt terrible, feeling like I would fail to give him what he needed because I would be busy caring for an infant. My husband was excited and happy while I literally cried. His happiness is what got me through to the other end with him. I started to feel good about the pregnancy and I made a personal vow to myself to VBAC this baby, and do it my way. I started thinking about all the providers I had met throughout my doula career. And I wanted to choose someone who would support my choice to VBAC so soon after a cesarean, someone who would respect my choices, and someone who had the skills to assist me in breech vaginal birth if need be. Out of everyone I had met throughout the years, only 1 provider met my criteria. I had met Dr. Emiliano Chavira outside of a hospital in Glendale where we were rallying. We were protesting the hospitals ban on vaginal breech births. They were literally forcing women into cesareans when they had a provider on staff who was knowledgeable on breech vaginal births without any incidences. When I saw Dr. Chavira, out there, alongside families, rallying and protesting, you bet your ass I kept in touch with him. A provider who supports choices, practices evidence based care, believes in birth and is knowledgeable with breech vaginal births is a dream to birth workers to say the least.
I knew he would be the person I needed on my journey to VBAC this baby. I sent him a message letting him know I was pregnant and was wanting a VBAC, breech if need be. He asked me to call him and I did. We spoke about my previous cesarean and my what my heart yearned for for this birth. And I felt so assured by him. He was so kind and supportive. Telling me my VBAC was going to happen and that I was in control. My pregnancy was so smooth and pleasurable. I was healthy and happy. Every visit I grew more and more confident that this was gonna happen for me. My “due date” was approaching and my womb swelled with life. My “due date” came and went. And people around me were asking me “what my doctor was gonna do”. And my doctor wasn’t going to do anything and he had not suggested we do anything but wait for my baby to come on her own time. We were both fine and I didn’t see a need for an unnecessary intervention. People would ask me how dilated I was, and they were shocked to hear that I was past my “due date”, had no cervical checks and had no plan to induce or have a repeat cesarean. My doctor was so lovely and supportive. We just waited patiently. This was the longest pregnancy I had ever had.
At 40 weeks and 4 days, mild labor contractions started in the wee hours of the morning. I immediately knew I was in labour. This was the beginning. I woke my husband up and told him it had started. I couldn’t sleep anymore. I got up and started tidying up my house and making sure everything was in place. The whole day I was having irregular contractions, and I just went on about my day like normal. Playing with the kids, going out, eating, hanging out in my backyard. No one knew I was in labour except for my husband. Once in a while I would go hide in my room to breath through some heavier contractions. Once the night came, everything stopped. I went to bed and I knew I would be back up soon in full blown labor. My body just needed rest and I was sure that my baby had spent the day getting herself into a good position for birth. I wasn’t in a rush. It would happen when she was ready to navigate my pelvis.
I woke up around 2 AM to very strong contractions that were around 5 minutes apart. This time they took my breath away. I was making low moaning sounds and had to work to get through. This was it. I woke my husband up and told him we needed to call the babysitter. I called her and she was on her way. I stood in front of my dresser just holding onto it during contractions. I needed to feel grounded. I would try to walk away from my dresser but as soon as another contraction came, I would find myself running back to my dresser to hold onto it. I used the restroom and saw bloody mucus. My cervix was indeed making some changes. When my babysitter got there, I had a hard time leaving my house. I didn’t want to go and leave my babies behind who were all sleeping so soundly in their beds. On my way out the door another contraction came and I held onto my couch trying to control my breath and loosen my pelvic floor. We got into the truck and pulled out of the driveway. I looked back at my house, knowing I would be back with my baby girl.
It was dark out on the road and we had to drive about 30 miles away to the hospital. Every single bump on the road was agony. I held onto the handles in the car just hanging on. The freeway was open as it was still very early in the morning. Thank god we weren’t in Los Angeles gridlock traffic! But suddenly the highway patrol pulls onto the freeway and stops the traffic. A stalled car was in the road and they had to move it off. So there I was, stuck on the freeway. I couldn’t bare it anymore and I was becoming anxious. I was just about to roll down my window to tell the officer that I needed to get by because I was in labor but suddenly he opened the road again and we were on our way. As soon as we got into the hospital, I was put into triage. I asked the nurse to check my cervix. My plan was to go back home if things were still early. I did not want to stay and risk unneeded interventions. I was pleased to hear I was 5cm, very stretchy with a bag of waters bulging and a thinned cervix. Laying down was painful so I stood up next to the hospital bed, gripping the side rail while staring at the clock in front of me. I couldn’t close my eyes. I was so alert and aware. Breathing through contractions was hard and I really had to focus to do it.
I text my doctor and let him know I was admitted and this was it. He said he was on his way, that I was doing great and my VBAC was going to happen. I was in triage still and I paced the room, occasionally stopping to hold onto the bed, bracing myself through the pain. An hour went by and I was still in triage laboring. My contractions were becoming unbearable at this point and my faith started to waiver. I wasn’t sure if I had made the right decision. I questioned if I should be choosing to have a repeat cesarean. I thought about rupturing and it scared the shit out of me. Looking back now, I was in transition and my mind was in “fight or flight” response. I asked to be checked again, I was 7cm. I was quickly taken to my birth room. Where things started to get blurry for me. Nothing was helping and my husband was standing in front of me, holding me, telling me to breath through my contractions. He hadn’t left my side and he was so supportive in helping me birth how I wanted. He would remind me often that I could do it. Our baby was coming.
At this point my contractions were unbearable. I felt like I was ripping in half. My hips were in complete agony and I was getting only 1 minute breaks in between contractions. By the time I would catch my breath, another one would hit. I was closing my eyes so tightly now. And time became a blur. Things slowed down now and my cervix stopped progressing and the talk of intervention was given to me by the midwife on staff and I did not want any pitocin to speed things up. And my doctor reminded me that I did not have to agree to anything, I was fine and so was my baby. I refused intervention and chose to just keep laboring. My body was just taking a little break and I trusted in that. Once I relaxed and told myself this was all normal, contractions started back up and I felt a pop. Amniotic fluid gushed all over my thighs. My baby would be here soon. I felt her slide down into my birth canal. Like a flood gate opening, she just came down. I asked to get checked again. I closed my eyes. I didn’t want to hear that there was no progress and that I didn’t feel her drop down. The midwife slipped her fingers inside of me and said “I have your baby’s whole head in my hand right now”. I burst into happy tears. This was it. It was really happening.
I was on the bed in a sitting position, while the midwife sat on the bed next to me. I didn’t want to be in stirrups pushing on my back. Dr. Chavira stood behind her just watching. No one touched me or my baby as I was pushing. My husband was to my right touching my leg with his eyes filling with tears. I pushed once and my baby’s head immediately reached my vulva. I reached down and felt her little head and hair. She was so close. Another push and her head was born up to her nose. The midwife asked if she could gently push my perineum back and off of her nose and mouth. I consented and she did just that and left us to birth on our own again. Another push and she came right out. The midwife caught her and put her right onto my chest. Straight into my arms she came. I couldn’t believe it. It happened. I did it. We did it. I was in complete shock. I looked at my wet, fresh little baby who was on my chest crying. I looked at my husband who just knew how much this meant to me and he was so proud.
I just laid there staring at her and she was looking right back at me. It was the most exhilarating and empowering moment of my life. I did it. I really did it. I gave birth how I wanted. For this moment to have been this fucken magical, I needed to have experienced my cesarean birth. It happened for a reason. There was a bigger plan that I didn’t see at the time. That cesarean, that made me feel like a failure, taught me so much. It pushed me to do so much. I learned that no matter how babies get here, birth is birth. I have come to appreciate the cesarean that taught me invaluable lessons about myself and birth. My cesarean brought me to a level of deep understanding. I’ve birthed 3 different babies, 3 different ways. I can relate to so many of you mothers out there. My first birth was one where I was young and knew nothing but #igavebirth to my first love . My second birth was an unwanted cesarean but #igavebirth to my beautiful breech son. My 3rd birth was full of me advocating for myself and #igavebirth the way I wanted. But no matter how I birthed, I gave birth. Every single one took courage, strength and sacrifice. Life entered the world and I became a mother.
My birth experience taught me that I am so much stronger than I ever knew I was.