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VBAC Birth Story

VBAC at BC Woman's Hospital

My first son’s birth was complicated. I didn’t expect any of it. “They” said it would start slowly, that I could relax and take a nap, maybe do a labour activity. None of that happened. I was in LABOUR right away, there were no breaks between the contractions and I didn’t expect the pain (no matter what everyone told me). We went to the hospital what I now suspect was too early. I was 4 cm, gave in and got an epidural and experienced all that it typically entails including a slowing of labour, resultant oxytocin, a deceleration in the fetal heartbeat, failure to progress (I never made it past 4cm) and of course, a C-section.

I was fine with it that day. More than ok with it. I didn’t cry. I was brave and we proudly rolled into the operating room ready to meet our baby. I didn’t have a labour plan except, what I so often hear, that we just wanted baby here safe and sound.

H was born happy and healthy, only for us to learn that our little one was going to lead a different life than most. He has a Congenital Melanocytic Nevus covering a large portion of his face. Most people will never see one, or after they meet H, ever again. The first few months of his life were spent with his parents questioning what had gone wrong, of us mourning our “perfect” baby. I confused postpartum emotions with more confusion, guilt and sadness. It was extraordinarily hard. However, we slowly redefined normal and came to grips with our beautiful, perfect son.

During my pregnancy, H was undergoing his second round of surgeries to remove his Nevus. At this point he had a very large tissue expander in his forehead and we knew that once baby arrived we would be going in for surgery number 5 and 6. This is just part of who we are as a family, but it definitely added an interesting complexity to the anxiety and rhythm of our household.

We wanted two children, but this time I wanted things to be different. This time around, I was NOT ok with a c-section. I was confident in my body and wanted a different experience. This time around we had a midwife and a doula and were planning for an all-natural VBAC at the hospital. I knew that if I wanted my VBAC, I needed to be on time, I needed positive support, I needed to be surrounded by people I was comfortable with and we needed to arrive at our very busy Women’s hospital when the baby was about to drop out.

I did everything I could to get my body ready because I did not want to be overdue. I went to acupuncture, the chiropractor, made spicy cayenne ginger snaps, drank raspberry leaf tea and used EPO. I went into labour two days before my due date.

At midnight the day she was born, I couldn’t sleep and came to “sleep” on the couch, watch TV and check Facebook. The first thing I noticed was that our doula/birth photographer was on her way to another birth, so I knew we were definitely going to be having the baby. Murphy’s Law. I knew something was definitely happening at about 3 am and decided to have my parents come over on the first ferry to watch our son. By 7am my husband was juggling what seemed like a wife in active labour and a curious and confused two year old. He was so loving, but too young to fully grasp my reaction to the power. He could hear me and wanted to be with me.

VBAC Labouring at Home

Raegyn called our doula shortly after 7am and she came while we waited for her backup (her other mama had just gone to hospital). We knew that if I wanted a successful VBAC I needed I stay home as long as possible without intervention. Easier said than done. I was in it. Our Doulas arrived around 8 am and my parents got there around 8:30 and took Henry out for the day after he came to see if Mama was ok and to say buh-bye.

At this point I had our new doula with me. I don’t think I even saw her face. I just bathed in her presence. We were either in the bath or leaning over an exercise ball with the tens machine and lots of positive affirmations coming my way.

Our plan with our midwife was for me to labour at home for as long as possible and to be checked as little as possible. I knew that 4 cm was going to be a mental roadblock and milestone for me. My midwife came mid morning to see how I was doing and to check me. I was in the bath at the time and DID NOT want to move, but they finally got me to the bed. Our midwife checked me, mumbled and my husband, her and our original doula who had joined us (I had TWO DOULAS!!!!!) left the room. Our midwife had given my cervix a good stretch and apparently I was at just over 4, but my husband refused to let them tell me. He knew that I would give up. I was already questioning what I had gotten myself into wanting a natural birth. I BEGGED for an epidural (partly because I wanted to hear them tell me I didn’t need it) and my doula in all her glory used my words against me…“You said you want to feel yourself push” (I did. I’d been told it was so hard to learn how to push with an epidural and I was not going to push for 3 hours)“You said you want to feel your baby enter the world”

So we persevered. They told me I was definitely having the baby that day (in good conscience they couldn’t let me go too long as a VBAC) so they used that concept to keep me going. They set my expectations for going to the hospital close to 7:30 at shift change in order to try and avoid waiting in triage and being admitted immediately.

Bath tub.

Exercise ball.

Bed (leaning over it)

Ottoman (leaning over it)

Doula VBAC at BC Woman's Hospital

Then we went to lay down on the bed… Holy H. That hurt THE WORST. Who knew. I finally got to lay down and I thought, ok. I’m done. But at this point, my amazing husband had told me he’d heard enough and we were doing this, I was not getting an epidural and we were having a baby that day.

Then I started to grunt…The rumblings started about getting to the hospital. Our Doulas weren’t confident we would make it, but our condo was on the market and my husband, this makes me laugh, was not ok with “fluids” all over our white carpets when we had a viewing the next day. So I put on a bathrobe and sweat pants and we walked down the hallway with my hair in god knows what state, a tens machine hanging around my neck, my lips covered in dry skin from licking them all day and our poor neighbour came out, scared out of her mind, to see if I was ok (she thought I was being attacked). Good thing she didn’t catch me checking myself to see if the baby’s head was there. Luckily it was just the bag of water. We piled into the car and (carefully) raced to the hospital. My midwife met us there. As we hit the triage desk, my midwife yelled, “Melanie Hall, fully dilated” as they walked me straight into my birthing room, no waiting, no triage, no curtains.

I peed, got into the bed, they checked me one final time (and 1 of only two times during my whole labour, which was so important to me) and we were off. 17 minutes of pushing later, and the bean arrived.  Man did I push. I could hear rumblings that her heart rate was fluctuating so I just pushed. She was unresponsive when she was born, so I didn’t get to delay chord cutting, but she just need a good rub. Our doulas and midwife encouraged me to use her name (which we didn’t know) and talk to her. Seconds later she was lively and ready to be in our arms.

VBAC at BC Woman's Hospital

VBAC at BC Woman's Hospital

I love both my birth stories, but I adore that we stuck to our guns with our VBAC and did things EXACTLY they way we wanted to. It would have been ok if it hadn’t worked out and I’d had another section, but we tried under our own circumstances and I’m so proud of that and my team. I don’t know if this is a direct result of the VBAC, no epidural or just knowing what to expect, but second time around sure was easier. I was happier and less tired and more willing to be ok.

Newborn at BC Woman's

I hope this encourages another mama to try. It is so worth it. It might not work out, but I really believe you’ll have this incredible sense of accomplishment and peace for giving it a try. And to the mamas that choose a scheduled c-section, I’m so proud of you too! This is all about us doing what is right for us and these babies! The kids are just over 1 and 3 now. What a life. What stories we already have. How grateful we are.

A huge thank you to Gina from Truly Birth Services. She came and helped me when I had been awake for over 24 hours. I love our wonderful birth community here in Vancouver.

If you want to see a post on delayed cord clamping click here! If you want to read another awesome birth story click here or another VBAC birth story here. 

A huge thank you to my clients for sharing their birth stories with the world. It means so much to so many.

Morag Hastings is a Doula and Birth Photographer located in Vancouver, BC Canada. Come check out more of her work on her facebook page at or feel free to email me at I would love to hear from you.

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