A VBAC Success Story – Elspeth Riddout McCormick

Elspeth tells the story of her second birth which was a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). Elspeth had an unexpected C section with her first birth and was planning her VBAC on her way into the operating room. She did lots of research and found support from a local ICAN group and a doctor who supported VBACs. Her story is a beautiful and empowering birth story that I know all listeners will benefit from hearing but especially those who may be planning for a VBAC.

Resources

Resource links

International Cesarean Awareness Network Birth Without FearOffbeat Home & Life’s Birth StoriesThe Bradley MethodBirthing From WithinRebozo Contraction Support

Transcript Episode 2 – VBAC Success Story, Elspeth McCormick

[Bryn]: I’m Bryn Hunt-Palmer and you’re listening to The Birth Hour. This podcast is designed for women to come together to share their childbirth stories. Stick around to hear informative and empowering birth journeys from women all over the world.

[Bryn]: Today’s guest is Elspeth McCormich and she’s going to share a successful VBAC story. For listeners who don’t know, VBAC stands for Vaginal Birth After Cesarean. Elspeth had an unplanned cesarean with her son and knew right then that she wanted a VBAC for her next birth. Listen to her tell the story of how she planned, prepared, and eventually had the VBAC she’d been dreaming about.

[Bryn]: Hi Elspeth, welcome to The Birth Hour. I’m so excited to have you here today to share your birth story.

[Elspeth]: Thank you. I’m happy to be here.

[B]: Why don’t you tell me about your first birth experience and how that affected your recent pregnancy.

[E]: Well my son was born in April 2012. We went into it knowing that we wanted a natural and intervention free birth. We took Bradley classes, I ate the Bradley diet. We exercised, we walked, we did everything textbook the way that you’re supposed to to go for a natural birth. Of course nothing ever goes exactly as planned. My water broke at about nine o’clock on a Monday evening and we were very excited and our doula came. We went off to the hospital we my contractions were about three minutes apart and we labored for about ten hours without interventions until I stalled at nine centimeters. From there what followed was ten hours of every intervention the doctor could throw at us and still manage a vaginal birth. In the end it just didn’t work out for us and we had a c-section. I knew before they rolled me up to the OR that we would still do everything we could, next pregnancy, to have a vaginal birth. So that really informed the next several years while waiting to get pregnant with our daughter. When we finally did get pregnant with her we already knew what her plans were going to be for her birth.

[B]: Wow I love that you were already planning your VBAC while you were heading into the OR for your c-section.

[E]: And of course the OB was already planning my next c-section.

[B]: So what was that like when you found out you were pregnant with your daughter and trying to find a provider that was supportive of your plans?

[E]: We actually started looking for a new provider about six months after my son’s birth. So when we were thinking about getting pregnant again I felt that I needed to find a practice that would be supportive of the birth that I wanted the next time around. I knew that the OB that we had with our son, at the two week and six week appointment after the c-section both times she said that we would just go ahead and schedule my c-section for 39 weeks the next pregnancy. It was never even up for discussion, so I knew I couldn’t stay there. My husband and I we went and interview several other OBs in the area and we were ok with one of them but we weren’t quite sure he was the way to go. He sort of left everything on the table. He said that he wasn’t going to say no but he wasn’t going to promise anything. We were like ok maybe we’re alright and then we got pregnant with our daughter and decided to move out of that area. So now that OB was 45 minutes away and we live in northern Virginia and 45 minutes away without traffic really turns into an hour and half with traffic. So we weren’t quite sure that that was the best option and who wants to labor in the car for an hour and a half? We then started to look at more places and we talked about having a home birth for a while or going to a birth center, but we both felt more comfortable going to a hospital. In the end we settled with a practice that was just down the street with three OBs. One of which was a cheerleader for VBACs. He was so supportive from the very beginning and we felt that that was where we should go.

[B]: That’s fantastic that you found a that was so supportive. Was it a practice that had several doctors and you had the potential to have a different doctor?

[E]: Yes, this practice had three doctors and the doctor that I saw most of the time – We’ll call him Dr. G – He was the real champion for VBACs. He told inspirational stories of his grandmother who had VBAC after 5 c-sections because she lived on a mountain and that’s just what she did. And all sorts of stories of “Oh I just did a VBAC yesterday” and he was always wonderful. The other two doctors I didn’t always get warm fuzzies from them. It seemed like in the early appointments they would sort of toe the line but they weren’t really cheerleaders for it. Then one of the ICAN meetings I went to one of the women in the group had a second birth with one of the doctors in the practice who wasn’t Dr. G and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Then at my 20 week appointment I went through this whole stressful week in a half where I was crying and second guessing all of our choices. Trying to decide what was best for us and it was really stressful. We talked with some more doctors and midwives, seriously considered the home birth at that point until I had another conversation with Dr. G. He assured me that no everyone was really on board. Then we really just had to make peace with whatever the situation was going to be. We didn’t want to walk into the hospital with our war faces on and we knew that we just had to be comfortable making choices that were well researched and well thought out and just go with them. We couldn’t spend the next twenty weeks just stressing about if this is right, is this not right, are we going to change at 38 weeks to a new practitioner and you know how’s this going to go. We just stuck with our choice and thought that this was going to be best and we would go into the hospital and hope that we got the doctor we wanted. If we didn’t we’d just be happy, we’d be smiling, we’d say please and thank you, we’d bring a bag of chocolates. We’d go into it, hopefully with a good attitude and without worry and or negative thoughts about the other doctors. She was born at 38 weeks and 6 days and a few weeks before that I’d been having a whole lot of Braxton Hix and they really started picking up at 37 weeks. Then at 38 weeks they were so intense that I started to think that “oh is this it? Should I be timing contractions?” So we went to my last I-Can meeting before she was born on the Wednesday. I sat there and heard a whole room full of wonderful VBAC stories and all these women were so supportive. They were all cheering for me and it was so wonderful and I don’t know how I could have done it without that group. They were really wonderful, always providing inspirational stories and saying “You Can Do It” and other empowering kinds of attitudes. They really gave me tremendous confidence. I sat there on that Wednesday night and I just kept on watching the clock on the wall thinking “Ok that one was about… 30 seconds” and then the next one was about five minutes later. Wondering if I needed to excuse myself before the end of this meeting and go home, but I didn’t. I just sat there letting these wonderful stories flow over me and then I went home and the Braxton Hix stopped. The same thing happened the next day, and the next, and continued on. You know I was 38 weeks and I was thinking that this could keep happening for the next three weeks.

{Both Giggle/ Scoff}

[E]: So I started mentally preparing myself to not get too excited, too early and we just continued on with our daily lives. Friday morning I woke up and went to the bathroom and lost my mucus plug. I didn’t remember losing it with my first pregnancy so this was a little startling. “Whoa that must be my mucus plug!” I’m pretty sure it was like the whole thing and I almost sent a picture to my doula, but I didn’t.

[B]: I bet doulas get so many pictures like that.

[E]: Yeah she was like “Oh yeah you should have, I would have loved it!” and I was like “yeah you would have.” So, we kind of took our time getting ready for work in the morning, thinking that we’d be able to call into work that day. But nothing was happening, absolutely nothing. So we get into the car, we take our son to daycare and I tell my husband “you know I think you should try and get out of work early today.” He’s like “Ok” and goes off to work. Nothing was happening so I just kept going about my day and kept sending my husband updates just saying “hey, let’s leave work early today, I just really want to be home.” Each time he’d be like “Ok” in the end he was late to pick my up from work. I said “I told you I wanted to go home early.” We then swung around daycare, picked up our son and I just fell asleep in the car. Now I’m not the fall asleep in the car kind of person and I was really surprised when we got home and I was like “oh I must have slept the whole way” and my husband was like “yeah you did.” I stepped out of the car and as soon as I placed my foot on the pavement the contractions started. I was like “oh wow so we just needed to be home, I told you we needed to be home.” So the contractions continued and I wasn’t really ready to pronounce that this was it so we made dinner and ate it. They my husband went to put my son to bed and I called my parents saying “hey, you know these contractions could be doing something. I’m not ready for you to come over now.” They were like ok well we’re at a dinner party and we’ll check back in later. I then called our doula, who’s a very dear friend of mine who lives about two hours away. She’s like “ok well I’m going to go to sleep and you call me when I need to come.” and so while my husband put our son to bed I labored in the living room, watching TV that I couldn’t really watch. I took a bath and I couldn’t relax taking a bath. I read some birth without fear, VBAC success stories but I couldn’t really focus on anything: a screen, a book, anything. This should have been the point where I called everyone and told them to get over here and eventually I did call my doula because she was a lot farther away than my parents. She was on her way and I did call my parents and they were like “Well we’re at the dinner party, we’ll call you before we leave and then figure out where we need to be.” I really, at this point, I should have said that you know you should just come over now but, you know, you don’t want to take someone away from their plans.

[B]: Oh No not for a birth… {Both Laugh}

[E]: So my son was having trouble falling asleep, which isn’t usual because he’s not really a sleeper. He would fall asleep and then my husband would try and leave the room and he’d wake right up. So at one point I went in a laid down with him and it was sort of hard, physically, to deal with the contractions while I was trying to not move a muscle because I didn’t want the baby to wake up. There was something really peaceful about laying with my first baby while I knew that I was getting ready to have his sibling and I’m so glad that it worked out that we had that last sort of moment as an only child. Then everyone showed up about eleven o’clock , after we had dealt with all the phone calls. My mom had some food to put in my freezer and I had some last minute things that I wanted to tell her about how to take care of Owen. I was doing all sorts of putzey things, stopping every three minutes to lean on my doula and have a contraction. My doula was finally like “We gotta go. You can’t do this anymore” I was like “Good point, let’s go.” We handed my still awake son off to my mom and we headed off. The hospital is only about seven minutes away but we got caught by a freight train, which was actually a tidbit that I didn’t remember until I read my husbands account of the birth. I was like “Oh Yeah that’s right!” I don’t remember how long the train was, but it’s funny because my son loves trains and I was like “oh man I wish that Owen was here to see this train.”

[E Continues]: We get to the hospital and my husband runs ahead of us, checking into the nurse’s station. I stopped about three or four times to lean back on my doula, who had a rebozo – which was the most wonderful, supportive thing during those contractions. We finally made it to the nurses desk and they were like “Let’s check you” and then I had a contraction. Then they were like “No, let’s get you to a room.” So we get checked into the room, and apparently my husband forgot to do any of the pre registration so he had to run off and do that. My doula was with us, so we kind of go the room ready by turning down the lights, getting dressed in a gown, put our bags down, sort of preparing for a longish labor. We were in labor for 20 hours before my son was born, so we weren’t expecting anything quick. I hadn’t consented to any cervical checks before getting to the hospital, because I felt that was sort of a problem with my last birth. That everyone always sort of knew where I was at, dilation wise, and it was stressful. They would say things like “oh, you know, you’ve been working really hard but you’re only at five centimeters” and then I would be like “Ohhhhh…” It might have also been controlling what you can control because you know in choosing an OB or a hospital I sort of know there’s certain regulations and things that you can control. So then you latch onto things that you can control, like cervical checks. In the OB appointments I declined checks, and they seemed to be ok with that. Then when we got to the hospital and they said they were going to check me I said “No thank you {Up toned voice}.” They were like “well we’re going to come back in a half hour” and they did and were like “ok we’re going to check you now” and I said “No, Thank You.” In the first birth I think that I wanted to know, I wanted some sort of sense of where I was at and where we were going and how much longer this was going to take. The benefit of doing anything the second time around is that you have a bit more experience.

[B]: Right

[E]: So it’s not so unknown and that really did empower me to make those types of choices. Eventually they did talk me into it and I did consent to it. They were like “oh, you’re about seven centimeters” and I was like “Oh that’s wonderful, that’s great!” So we just kind of continued along, and I had to have continuous monitoring with wires at this hospital. Which had been a real downer for me in the planning of this birth because I knew that sometimes the wire monitoring sometimes inhibits your movement and how you can move around the room and walk. They weren’t willing to let me off the monitor because I had had a c-section so they were obviously very concerned about watching the baby and making sure there were no uterine ruptures. I can appreciate that because nobody wants to have a surprise uterine rupture. I actually didn’t notice the wires, I noticed the band around my belly but the wires themselves didn’t end up being as big of a problem as I thought that they would. In the end I never actually left the bed, I labored on my side for a while – which was wonderful because then my doula was massaging my feet during my contractions, and that was just Amazing. I think that was one of the best things about it and then I sort of l labored over the end of the bed for a while. Then I sort of lost control, the contractions were coming very quickly and I had very little rest in-between. So I would get through one contraction, barely catch my breath, then the next one came, and I sort of lost all ability to relax between contractions like the Bradley Method teaches you. I wasn’t able to control my breath or my voice and I finally said “Ok, I can’t do this any more I want an epidural.” At this point we’d had only been there for, I don’t know, an hour and with the experience of my son’s birth I was really expecting to go for another ten hours. I was like “I can’t manage this for another ten hours, I want an epidural.” and of course I didn’t really want an epidural. So my husband and doula were there and were like “We understand that you’re in pain and blah, blah, blah but we’re going to wait until you ask for an epidural three times before we get your epidural” with which I responded “Epidural, epidural, epidural” in sort of in classic beetle juice fashion.

[B]: Laughs

[E]: Causing everybody to laugh. So my husband says “well why don’t you get checked and then we can go from there.” and I was like “No way, we’ve only been here an hour and I was only at seven centimeters there’s no way we’re very far at all.” I think that he was using it as a stall tactic.

[B]: Right

[E]: I don’t think that he assumed we’d be anywhere at all but, so the nurse came in and we had her check me and I was at a full ten centimeters and I was ready to push. Then I asked them to double check to make sure they were right, because I couldn’t believe it! With my son I only ever dilate to nine centimeters even with all of the interventions, I never made it to a full ten. So I was in complete disbelief that I could be at a full ten and that I was actually going to get my VBAC. They were like “No, yes you’re at a full ten” and they went to get the OB and they broke down the bed. I looked at the doctor saying “I don’t know what to do now. I’ve never done this part before.” He’s like don’t worry, we’ll help you through it. I responded “ok, great.” So I pushed on my side for a while and then I did push on my back, which I didn’t really have any problems pushing on my back. You read all the books about how bad it is to push on your back and I’m sure it probably is for some people but, for us it worked out pretty well. The contractions kind of slowed and stopped so I was able to catch my breath and relax. The pushing felt great and I hadn’t done that before so at one point they said “reach down and you can feel her head” and I’m going to cry just thinking about it- I could Feel her Head! I mean it was incredible the difference between my birth of my son and then being able to know that I was doing it! You know, after three years of hoping, praying, and research I felt her Head and it was absolutely incredible. Her head came out and then in the next push the rest of her body followed. She did do a bit of a flip so I ended up with a third degree tear, but I Birthed My Baby.

[E Continues]: oh I should go back a minute. My water broke during one of my contractions before I was at ten centimeters and there was meconium in the water. So we knew that she wasn’t going to be able to come right to my chest and the she might not cry right away and that the NICU unit was in the room. That they were going to have to whisk her away to the warmer to have her checked out. So that was a little disappointing because, you know, you dream of your perfect birth and pulling that baby up to your chest but, her body came out and they did whisk her away pretty quickly to the warmer. She did make a few little noises but no real cries and then they did have to suction out her lungs which, of course, made her scream. It was wonderful, and my husband was right next to her talking with her the whole time kind of being her little cheerleader “Come on baby be good. Wake up.” Then I delivered the placenta and they brought it over for me to see, because I didn’t get to see the placenta last time during the c-section. So that was pretty awesome to see the disposable organ. Not only did I grow a baby, I grew an organ that was designed to be discarded. It was Great! I saw the side that was attached to me and the side that was attached to the baby so that was wonderful and the next thing I know she was on my chest. I mean she had great Abgar tests after they suctioned her out so there was no real concern for baby. She nursed while they were stitching me up. I think that may have been the worse part, where they stitching up my third degree tear, but once I got my baby my chest I didn’t care what they were doing down there. I was no longer paying any attention, I was holding my sweet little girl and we were nursing. I mean we had Done It! We had spent all this time sort of fighting for what we believed was the best choice for us fulling knowing that it might not actually happen. Being ok with another c-section and here I am lying with a baby that I had just had a vaginal birth with. They finished stitching me up and then everyone left. My doula went home and it was just the three of us and I couldn’t believe it. I got up and walked myself to the bathroom {Said with disbelief} and that was even just as incredible because after my c-section I don’t think I walked for a full 26 hours. After the abdominal surgery the recovery was sooooo slow, this time I just stood up and moved my legs. I felt great, I felt better then great I felt victorious, I felt like I just ran a hundred mile race and won. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how that feels, how special that is that I did with my daughter. Not that there wasn’t anything special with the birth of my son, and I’m always cautious then I talk about my daughter’s birth because I am so proud of myself, my husband, my doula, and my doctor for being there for me but I don’t want other people to think that just because they have a different birth or choose to have a c-section that’s that different. I was very empowered in my birth and by my support team and that’s what I really hope for everyone, that they can have a birth where they feel empowered. Where they make the choices they want to make and not have then chosen for them.

[B]: I agree that that’s one the main things to keep in mind. You mentioned the I-Can network, can you talk a little more about that for people who don’t know?

[E]: Yeah. I-Can is the International Cesarean Awareness Network and I don’t really know any of the facts about when they started or anything like that. I can’t keep those facts in my head anymore, but they’ve been around for quite some time and they’re a wonderful resources. There’s chapters all over the United States and you can find one relatively close to you. they strive to bring awareness about c-sections and c-section recovery to women. As well as supporting women who were not happy with their c-section births, and many of them are there to strive for a VBAC or empower women for a VBAC. It was funny, I went to the first meeting not knowing anyone, the co-leader was a woman I went to highschool with and there was one of my old coworkers there. So that was a wonderful way to sort of bring all these ties back together and we were all just very supportive of each other. We talked a lot about birth stories, options, practitioners in the area that were supportive, chiropractors that people have had success with, all those types of things were talked about in the I-Can group.

[B]: Wow that sounds like a great resource that anyone with a c-section or going for a VBAC should check out and I will like to that in the show notes if you’re interested. Are there any books or other resources for a first time birth or someone like you who had a c-section and are going for a VBAC?

[E]: I read Birthing for Within and we did Bradley Method but we did that for my son’s birth. It was the most informative 12 week class ever. Dr. Bradley has also written a book Husband Coached Childbirth both my husband and I read that. I think that was mainly what I read, I was very careful to stay away for books like What to Expect when You’re Expecting because they have a lot of worst case scenario sorts of things. I read a lot of blogs like Birth without Fear that has wonderful birth stories divided up between birth stories and VBAC stories and I think I read every single VBAC story on the blog at least twice. Offbeat Mamas or Offbeat Birth I think they’re called, they have a lot of VBAC stories as well. With my first pregnancy I did a lot of devouring of information so with the second I just focused on VBAC success stories. I really wanted to read the VBAC home births and hospital births, Really filling my senses with success and happy endings.

[B]: I know you mentioned that you had someone tell you a VBAC story that didn’t end so well. I was just wondering if you had a lot of people coming up to you discouraging at all?

[E]: I didn’t really advertise that I was having a VBAC. I kept that fairly personal. Now if someone asked me I had no problem telling them I was going for a VBAC but I didn’t run around, pregnant, screaming “I’m Having a VBAC, I’m Having a VBAC.” I wasn’t ashamed of having a VBAC, obviously, but i didn’t want unsolicited negative stories like “My friend’s blah, blah, blah had a uterine rupture.” Like I didn’t want to hear that, I just wanted to have positive, happy births. I did have a few friends that when they found out my plans were like “uh, wh.. why aren’t you just scheduling your c-section?” So I sort of kept those plan fairly private. I did find that the woman’s story at I-Can had me I hurting for her, I still hurt for her, so I took it as an informative session at 20 weeks. I took it as this is one incident that happened with one woman and that particular doctor and we just need to enjoy these next twenty weeks and hope that something would similarly happen when I went into labor.

[B]: Yeah that’s a really healthy approach to take I think. Thank you Elspeth for being on the show today to share your beautiful VBAC story. I loved hearing it, I was grinning ear to ear, and tearing up a little bit too.

[E]: Thank you, I’m so happy to share it.

Interview Ends –

[Bryn]: If you want to check out some of the resources that Elspeth mentioned throughout her story you can follow the links on the show notes page at TheBirthHour.com/Elspeth and you can connect with me on Instagram and Twitter @TheBirthHour
Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed today’s show head to TheBirthHour.com to sign up for our newsletter and if you really like the show please subscribe and write a review on iTunes. I’m Bryn Hunt-Palmer and thanks for listening to another episode of The Birth Hour. Thanks for listening!