my VBAC story
Honestly I still can hardly wrap my head around it. It feels a little bit like when I did American Idol, did that really happen? Because it’s much more fresh, I can still FEEL what I was thinking, and of course, feel the pressure.
I love this story. I’ve been waiting for a while to write it, because I want to remember it again just like when it happened. I love the memory of delivering Zion into this world. Right before he came out, I spoke to him. I told him that we were ready for him, that we welcome him into this world, and I told my body to release him. And there he was.
If you didn’t already know, Zion was my 4th pregnancy, 3rd delivery, and 1st VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and also first vaginal birth ever after 2 c-sections (cesarean). I desired to have him naturally soooooooo bad. Everyone knew it. I had the gift of surrounding myself with wonderful, like-minded people who spoke truth and life into me. Truth. And Life. That’s important.
To explain why this meant so much to me, let me share a bit with you about the beginning. As many of you know, my husband Kerry and I use the Sympto-Thermal Method for our form of birth control and family planning. It’s also referred to commonly as NFP (natural family planning). No drugs, no harsh chemicals, no barriers, no hormones, NOTHING. Just simply learning the signs and symptoms of your body to know when you ARE or ARE NOT fertile, and the rules to follow as you are determining this in REAL time, aka during each cycle. We’ve used this method for 12 of the 13 years we’ve been married. The first year, we were on hormonal birth-control and it was a nightmare. Despite my consistent questioning to the Doctor if this would cause a miscarriage, I was re-assured that birth-control would not abort the baby if there were to be a pregnancy while taking it. Sadly, that was not true, and should be open information for anyone taking the drug, as should be the case in any circumstance. “Baby” to this person and the majority of the writings in the medical disclosures of birth-control doesn’t mean an Embryo that is rapidly dividing, as each one does at the start of the sperm penetrating the egg. Instead, it means a “viable pregnancy,” which is after the baby has attached to the uterine wall AND has a steady heartbeat (2 separate things). The baby attaches to the uterine wall within 6-10 days after conception (sperm meeting the egg) and has a heartbeat as early as 16 days from conception! As soon as conception occurs, the fertilized egg begins dividing within HOURS. ~ WOW.
SO, when we decided to get pregnant with our first, Rovun, we PLANNED it, and we knew exactly when to try! We had so much faith that everything would go exactly as it should. And perhaps it even did. I had a healthy pregnancy and thank God delivered a very healthy baby at 42 weeks. The idea that I would be a part of the percentage of woman that have a c-section wasn’t something I thought would happen. So you can imagine the (albeit brief) moment of sadness or discouragement I should say after 50 hours of labor when my Doctor told me that my body just wouldn’t do this and that we would have to deliver cesarean. “Failure to progress” is what they termed it. Though no-one every showed or aided my body in the progressing…. Which sometimes our bodies need. When I was little I used to get constipated all of the time and I would have to drink lots of water, warm tea, take an herbal supplement…sometimes our bodies need a little bit of help!
My next pregnancy ended up a lot differently than I had hoped but still with the blessing of an eternal life. We lost Willow at 7 weeks gestation (in utero) when they couldn’t find her heartbeat and my body had already started releasing her. That was one of the worst days of my life. Losing part of yourself is hard. Knowing she is with Jesus, pain free and in FULLNESS is the only thing that brings me peace. I love you Jesus… As a side note, if a baby isn’t a “baby” according to medical terms with determining if birth-control is abortifacient (aborts the baby), than this really “wasn’t a baby” because it was not a “viable pregnancy?” IF that’s so, then why was it so hard emotionally? WHY did my body bleed for weeks on end? WHY did they have to help my body pass the baby? WHY in some cases do they have to do a DNC to remove the “baby?” Good questions. I can answer that for you. Because it’s a baby.
Our third pregnancy, our sweet Ehver Jo, was a scheduled c-section. Not because I wasn’t healthy, or because the baby was in danger or distress, just because that’s what I was told was best….. but was it? I had really desired to have a natural birth with her, but I was 41 weeks and not showing any signs of labor. I was anxious, would I go through the same thing with her as I did with my first? They definitely reminded me of the exhaustion from labor PLUS a major surgery, didn’t seem to be supportive or encouraging of helping me find ways to deliver vaginally although they said I could, and that’s what gave me peace about scheduling her cesarean. Thankfully, she was and still is a healthy baby girl and I recovered just “fine.” Cutting open your body does in-fact cause quite a few long term effects that must be recovered and worked through.
So here we are. My fourth pregnancy, thankfully still very healthy mom and baby. It literally made me laugh when the nurse told me to my face that we were both very healthy and she was confident in a natural delivery, to then read the papers she gave me that said “high-risk pregnancy” just because I am 35!!! HA! Listen, I believe and I SPEAK that I am healthy, that my baby is healthy. Our words have power AND authority. I am extremely thankful to have understood that early on. I am confident it has made a difference.
I prayed and asked SO many questions, did research, read studies, talked to just about every field imaginable related to pregnancy and delivery. I felt confident in my new Doctor, and he was confident of my chances to deliver vaginally. The risk of a uterine rupture with a trial of labor after a cesarean is less than 1% and the increase of risk from first to second cesarean isn’t very great, still under 1.5%. WHILE THE SUCCESS RATE is 71%!! I definitely DID NOT know that nor was I told that information when making our final decision during our 2nd delivery. Thankfully this time my Doc was an incredible and very reputable doctor, and even prayed over me as I was getting anxious of not showing any signs up labor at 39 weeks. Even his secretary was very encouraging! I felt ok with whatever the outcome would be.
BUT GOD sent me a prophetic word from one of my dear sweat friends that I could have what I wanted, which was confirmation of the same word I had received months earlier from another friend. She also shared that he wanted me to release the shame and guilt I was carrying from my first c-section of “not being able to do this, of failing.” Truly, that’s how I felt, like I couldn’t do it. So odd when I am confident in ALL the things a woman’s body CAN do, but for some reason, felt like that decision of my first c-section stole that confidence from me, and I wasn’t sure if I could. I felt it was taken away from me with Rovun. The delivery I felt ashamed for, almost like a failure. What if I fail, again? Releasing that burden, being confident that God had great things ahead for me and my baby, and holding the confidence that He was letting me decide, that I could have what I wanted, was very empowering.
My doctor checked my scar at 22 weeks to confirm the placenta hadn’t attached to it, re-checked it at 36 weeks to measure the thickness to determine if a trial of labor was safe, among all of the other things, cord-blood flow, heart beat, movement, my blood-pressure, etc., and most of all reminded me that no-matter the reason for a prior c-section, a woman has a 60% chance of success at having a VBAC. Again, WOW. He encouraged me that if I wanted to be induced at 41 weeks, I could, but that if I wanted to wait, I could do that as well along with fetal monitoring.
Here’s where it gets good…
My PT (physical therapist). SHE WAS AND IS A ROCKSTAR. She did acupuncture on me 2 days in a row (also encouraged by my doctor). And in the middle of the night I went into labor at 1am. My mucus plug came out and contractions were consistent but varying in time from 6-20 minutes apart. I was able to go back to sleep, and even went to the gym the next morning to try to move things along with a very long and brisk walk. After my shower I took the older 2 kids to my mom’s and called Kerry on the way to tell him my contractions were getting stronger and closer. When he walked in the door back at home, my water broke!!!! That had never happened to me before, I was SO excited to say the least. My PT walked in the door an hour later to come check on me (she’s a dear friend - I’m telling you I have great people around me). When she got there, I went into active labor, and we called my doctor. Before heading out the door to the hospital I called my doula, and my PT offered to join us, we GLADLY accepted. She specializes in pelvic floor therapy and is very familiar with labor positions, spinning babies, and natural birth.
I got to the hospital and realized I have a tilted cervix, that I wasn’t much more dilated than when I was checked in office 2 days ago, and they ALMOST sent me HOME while in triage!!! I asked them, “even though I’m in active labor with contractions 3-4 minutes apart at 1 minute each AND my water already broke AND I have meconium in my discharge from my water????”
“OH YEAH!” the resident doctor said, you can’t go!”
………….everyone makes mistakes, I’m just saying, that we put 100% OF OUR CONFIDENCE in a system full of PEOPLE. Maybe we should rethink that.
So they admitted us to labor and delivery, and the hours began. We walked, we moved lots of times to different positions, got on the ball, we worshiped, I sang, I spoke over myself, I asked others to speak words of affirmations and scriptures over me, I threw-up, we prayed, I had some choice words, you name it. MY PT was phenomenal. She worked on my body the entire time, my contractions were strong, and she was a gift, my doula was awesome too, all the extra hands and kind words and help and knowledge of supporting and progressing labor, such a gift. I had never had that before. I know they both were so supportive to Kerry too. In my heart I had really wanted it to just be me and him, but in the planning I knew we would both need the support and knowledge of a doula, I’m so glad we made that choice to have both the doula and my PT there. I could still be myself with Kerry, and they both spoke things into me as women that I desperately needed to hear. At one time I looked at my PT and said “I don’t want to do this anymore.” She just looked right back at me without missing a beat and said, “you’re almost there, you’ve got this, you can do this.” So matter-of-fact. I needed that. And I needed that from another woman. After being in labor for 24 hrs and only being dilated to a 6, I was seriously ticked. They ALL quickly chimed in that I’m getting there, that my cervix is all the way forward now (apparently that adds to the time of progressing - wish I would’ve known that before), and that my baby would come.
I just wanted a break, I just wanted a minute for the pain to stop. So I did some IV pain meds, followed by an epidural, which I didn’t really want to get but kept it as an option. I had gotten one with Rovun, my first, and it worked for an hour and then after that did nothing. Literally I could move around and get on my hands and knees, move my legs, could feel everything. It also caused this (or made me aware of) this incredibly sharp dagger type pain in my right side of my back that never went away and only got worse with the contractions. But again, in the moment this time, I just wanted a break. Ironically after they had already ordered it, my PT had me leaning back on her while I was on the ball, she was holding my chest open and I nearly fell asleep. I was really able to relax through my contractions and meditate, it was amazing. Had I been in that state when the decision was made, maybe I wouldn’t have made it? At this point I still wasn’t convinced this baby would come naturally, I wasn’t sure how long I would have to labor. Would this be similar to my first labor that lasted forever and ended in a cesarean? Looking back, it was incredible how much the support of my PT and doula made on having him vaginally. Them constantly focusing on moving my body so I could focus on my body and mind and baby were HUGE and I believe what made the difference in a shorter labor, and a successful VBAC.
After birth, while talking with my sister who is an anesthesiologist for OB, she mentioned that epidurals are started with a dose of fentanyl, which apparently is why I was able to get comfortable for about 45 minutes….after that, the pain started again, the same side back pain from my first delivery and this time was met with a strong right front hip pain as well. OUCH. The pain wouldn’t stop, so even inbetween contractions, I wasn’t able to relax. That part sucked. My body began to shake, and I couldn’t make it stop. When I realized I could move very easily because I wasn’t actually numb, I got on my hands and knees and started rocking. I felt SOOO much pressure. It was getting very taxing on my mind to meditate and focus during contractions, to breathe. It literally is WILD how your MIND is SO powerful! When I could keep my mind right, it was WAYYYY better than when I was too scattered and focused on the pain.
Something I didn’t mention previously, I meditated A LOT during my pregnancy. I meditate in general, but really focused in during pregnancy. I practiced mindfulness. I spent time imagining what it would be like and what it would FEEL like to deliver my baby how I wanted to. I thanked God, I thanked my body. I spoke words of affirmation over myself and my body. I read books and scriptures of God’s faithfulness and care and provision and protection over His children. I filled my mind with truth and emptied it of fear and lies as much as I could and knew how. I even took a hypnobirthing class which actually ended up being quite different than I would’ve thought and very useful. The breathing techniques were super useful and the confirmation of meditation made so much sense. My doula actually showed me to breathe out while vibrating my lips, almost like a horse sound (which is actually very similar to a vocal warm-up I always did before performances), and that was ironically great too. Who knew?
So at this point I’m feeling all sorts of things I’ve never felt before and I ask them to check me, and there…..I was finally ready. This makes me want to cry. I never got to this point in my first and only trial of labor previously. They called my doctor. I had to wait quite a bit for him to arrive, and I just started naturally swaying my hips back and forth like a dance, I have no idea why I did this. It’s wild that your instincts are real, that they just kick in, and you just do things you have no idea of. To me, it’s beaus we were made with a purpose on purpose and in design of our creator who created ALL things. This knowledge, this knowing of our design is INSIDE of us, because HE made us and said He makes His home among us. My sister (the Dr.) said to me later that it was probably good my Doc didn’t arrive right away, to give the baby time to move through the birth canal.
When my doctor finally did arrive, I was trying my best to worship through the pain. When he came in, I was singing and I know I sounded terribly but I literally couldn’t sing any better than that because of the pain. Now, I want to pause for a moment. I believe that it is 100% possible to have a pain-free child birth. I’ve read about it, I personally know people that have done it. I’m not just talking “everybody handles pain differently,” yes, that’s true too. But I’m talking about rising above. I believe it’s all in what we imagine, believe, and I just wasn’t quite there yet. My believing was a VBAC, and that’s what I got!
My doctor asked if I wanted to push? SURE! I didn’t really know what that was like, but I wanted to try on my hands and knees. I jumped up and flipped over and he said, “didn’t she get an epidural?” LOL, he told me later in the postpartum room he had never seen anyone move that fast before after an epidural. I had so much built up inside of me I didn’t now what else to do but scream. In alllll my years of singing, I have never had that strong and loud and LONG of a voice. Wow. I know what I’m capable of now, maybe I should record a new album. ;)The nurse told me to channel that energy to breathing and pushing. I did, for about 15 minutes until my doctor came back to check on me. He said, “Joanna, if you’re willing to try a different position I think I can help you get this baby out.” YESSSSSSS! What is it? He had me basically with my butt off the bed, me holding my legs and leaning up when I pushed. When Kerry and I watched the birth video together, I was literally laughing so hard. I was praying, crying, singing, speaking in tongues, speaking the F word. HAHA they must have thought I was….I don’t know, crazy at least.
I wanted to give up. I didn’t want to do this anymore. WILL THIS EVERY HAPPEN? Was the thought that kept coming to mind. In the midst of the pain, I didn’t see the end in sight. When I would visualize the end in sight, it was game face. When I focused on the pain instead of the end goal, I wanted to give up. I looked at my PT with I’m sure what were eyes searching for some sort of hope, or maybe she just intuitively knew what to say as a mother of two, or maybe it was the Holy Spirit speaking through her. She said to me, “he’s almost here, you’ve got this, you can do this, you’re gonna hold your baby.” That was it. The moment. Super short and super simple, but I literally said, “Zion, we are ready for you. We welcome you into this world. Body, you can release him.” Then I started speaking in tongues again. It takes you up higher, it takes your brain to another place scientifically speaking.
I could feel the pressure so strong, I could feel him stretching me, he said he could see the head, and to push on the next contraction, which ironically seemed like it took forever to come! Maybe it’s your body’s way of giving you a mini break before the big push. Kerry said I looked like the Hulk. SO many veins coming out of my body, and I could feel his head come out. ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME. Followed by a bunch of weird other things coming out (the rest of his body) and they handed him to me and I was in complete shock. Praising Jesus and saying thank you to everyone I literally thought (and it still feels like) I was in a dream. The best dream. The best memory I wish I could play and relive over and over and over again. Zion Ray Beasley. 8lbs, 21” born at 5 in the morning. His name means “dwelling place of the Lord.”
SO, one of my favorite things to this day, that I can still FEEL when I close my eyes and kiss our sweet 4-month-old baby (when I wrote this, he’s now 1!), is that when the pain was so great, the epidural wasn’t working, I was feeling so much pressure, I just wanted all of this to stop, I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to have him naturally (WHY didn’t I just do a scheduled C-section again? LOL.), I asked God what I needed to focus on to get me through this. He told me to imagine that I was holding my baby and kissing him. This literally brings me to tears. THAT was SO powerful. THE LOVE AND BOND BETWEEN MOTHER AND BABY. I imagined it and I remember my doula saying, “Wow, I’m amazed at how you’re able to meditate and focus through the pain (they’re watching my contractions on the monitor and seeing them going WAYYY up). It’s almost supernatural.” And, it was. When our baby was born, I brought him close to me, my face against his, and kissed him on his sweet cheeks in the hospital room later that day. As I did, I thought to myself, “I’ve done this before.” Literally, it was JUST as I had imagined it while in labor. EXACTLY THE SAME. I felt alllllllllllllllll the same feelings both emotionally and physically as I kissed him there in the hospital room as I did when I was on my knees, gripping the bed for dear life, doing my best to breathe, going to my secret place with the Lord, and just imagining. IMAGINE.
The rest of the day as each new nurse came into our room, the each looked at my chart, reading it out-loud and said, “Vaginal birth after 2 c-sections. Wow. Way to go mama!” We’ve had many people surprised by this bit of information. In-fact, when we were at Zion’s circumcision appointment, the Dr. was very surprised. When I shared with him the statistics of which he knew and agreed to, he stated that even though these are true, it is very difficult to find a Dr. who would give it a try due to POSSIBLE complications of which he would have to stand before a Board who could “not see why this was tried,” and ultimately cost a lot of money for the hospital. While I very much understand this, doesn’t that mean that there should never be a risk of flying when walking or driving is a possibility? Or motor-vehicles for that point when a horse and carriage were suitable. Why would driving around a race-track be permissible at speeds of which are known to be fatal? I UNDERSTAND this can go many many ways, but I what I’m challenging here is the permission to ask questions. The permission to not assume that your human doctor, who has his or her own set of strengths and weaknesses, is the only one with the right answer. Perhaps there is more than one right answer? Two and two don’t always make four, if you divide it, the answer is one. Since when am I not allowed to use my own brain to do research on something that is valuable to me, and then bring to an expert in that field, and discuss it? Never. So why are we charged not to do so?
Here is what I do know. My story is my own. Each of us have one. And what we’ve believed or what happened to us, whether by choice or not, doesn’t make OUR STORY right OR wrong, it just makes it ours. I’VE SEEN God work ALL things together for my good. Even the stressful, not preferred or extremely challenging situations, turned to good. Did he plan it? Do I plan to hurt my children? NO, absolutely not. But God is gracious and kind. He is with us and doesn’t leave us. James tells us in the Bible to consider it joy when we face hard stuff because then it just gives us a chance to grow - so either way, we’re gonna be good - it’s all good. Our perspectives make a world of difference, literally. I know my perspective, my questions, my persistence, and my desire all played a part in my delivery of Zion. Most importantly, I believe it is by the Grace of God. He made me in HIS image, to be like Him, to be powerful, to create and imagine, to heal and restore. I am an incredible creation, and for that I am very grateful.