Last week I shared the first two cesarean birth stories in my three part series of stories. If you missed them, you can read Jessica and Han’s story here and Maggie’s story here. This last story is from BJ and Jason Vercontaire. I met this couple earlier this year when they took my class. I loved getting to know this couple from the very start. I loved seeing them grow in their knowledge during our classes and seeing how well Jason was supporting his wife through the process. This story shows how sometimes birth is just unpredictable. You can plan with the best intentions of your birth going exactly the way you want it to. They did everything right. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way we have planned. Here is Gracie’s birth story:
Our journey to welcome Gracie into this word was nothing like I planned or wanted, but in the end, I am grateful for the amazing love and support we received during our journey. This is our story.
Late Friday night I noticed I had filled up my panty liner. I always wore one because of some discharge, but this time it was different. It felt just like water. I got up several times that night to use the bathroom, and every time I went, I had to change my liner because it was so wet. Around 5:30 on Saturday morning, I had to change my underwear because it was soaked with whatever was coming out. I went to work that Saturday and didn’t think that much of what happened the night before, but I kept having to change my liner throughout the day. My doula happened to be at my workplace so I mentioned it to her and she told me I had to call my midwife. I didn’t want to. I knew that if I called my midwife, things would get serious. I finally called Christy, my midwife, and told her what happened. She suggested I do an amnio test to confirm that I was leaking amniotic fluid. I met Jamie, her student midwife, at their office and as soon as she saw the liquid, she confirmed that it was amniotic fluid. It couldn’t be anything else.
Because my water had ruptured, I was placed on a 48-hour clock starting from the midnight before when I first noticed the leak. I had to be in active labor within 48 hours, or I would “risk out” of a homebirth due to an increased risk of our baby getting an infection. Christy suggested we see an accupuncturist that night to try to get labor going. So at 8:30 PM on Saturday, Jason and I arrived at Pam’s house to begin the process of jumpstarting labor. Pam was super sweet and we felt so welcomed in her home. She had me sit in a chair while she worked on me. After the accupunture treatment, she also did some accupressure. It was painful, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to get labor going. We left her house about two hours later and went home to rest. I knew I needed to rest so I could have energy for labor, but it was very difficult to sleep. I continued to leak fluid, but not as much as the night before.
I had some tightening that night and was really hoping they would turn into real labor, but that didn’t happen. We went to church the next morning (Sunday), and then back to Pam’s for more accupuncture and accupressure. I sat with the needles in for about an hour and then Pam did more accupressure. Again, it was painful, but this time I experienced some contractions during the accupressure session. We were at Pam’s house for 5 hours, going from walking to accupressure, and then walking again. I had some small contractions, but nothing strong enough to call active labor.
We grabbed some spicy Thai food before going home to rest. I tried not to think about the small amount of time I had left to go into active labor. Christy encouraged me to rest so that I could be ready for labor, so we slept for about 2 hours. We got up at 9:00 PM on Sunday and walked around outside, went up and down stairs, and curb walked. We did this for an hour with no result. Not even one small contraction. I was starting to lose hope but kept praying and asking God to grant me the desire of my heart – to have a safe homebirth. After an hour of walking, I sat on my exercise ball and used the breast pump while we watched an episode of The Office. I tried to relax and not think about the time clock. At 10:45, I knew it was time. Christy asked us to be at her house around midnight, and it would take an hour to get there. We began packing our hospital bag, and I got on my knees one last time to beg God for my homebirth. Jason handed me one of the affirmation cards I made. It read “His plan is PERFECT. Not my will, but His.” I didn’t like God’s plan. This is not what I had dreamed of or prepared for. I wanted to give birth without interventions in the comfort of our own home. Throughout my pregnancy, I did as much as I could to make sure my baby and I were healthy. I ate well, got adjusted regularly, read more books and articles than I can count, did my spinning babies exercises, but not of that mattered now. I had risked out of a homebirth and was headed for a hospital birth.
We met Christy at her house just past midnight. I allowed her to check me, even though vaginal checks were not part of my birth plan. She confirmed that I was barely dilated, and she said she felt the amniotic sac. This meant the leaking I had been feeling was coming from the top of the amniotic sac and baby still had lots of fluid. But at more than 48 hours past rupturing, I was no longer a good candidate for a safe homebirth.
We decided to go to a hospital in Cleburne. They are known for supporting natural birth, and I knew they were my best chance to have as close to a homebirth as I could have at this point. When we arrived at the labor and delivery floor, we were greeted warmly and taken to our room. Our nurse was super sweet and was very supportive. She told us they would do their best to make sure we could have a natural water birth. She even showed me the birth tub and I got excited at the thought of using it.
The initial plan was to use a foley bulb to dilate my cervix. A deflated balloon is inserted into the cervix and then filled up. The purpose is for the balloon to go through the cervix to force it to dilate and jump start labor. The midwife on call inserted the balloon into my cervix (fun stuff) and I rested for a little bit. After a couple of hours, we decided to help the balloon move along, so the nurse tied a 1 liter bag of saline to the cords connecting to the balloon. So I basically had a 4cm balloon in my cervix tied to a 1 liter bag of liquid. The pressure was too much and I immediately started to go black and hear ringing in my ears, so they had to cut off the 1 liter bag. I went back to resting, and some time later, we tried a half liter bag, and that got the balloon out without me passing out. That was a weird sensation! I was glad to have it out and hoped it would start labor, but it didn’t.
Leah, my doula, arrived around 9:30 on Monday morning. I was so glad to have her there and she was able to give Christy a break. Leah massaged my back, brought me food, and encouraged me. She suggested different things to try to help labor going.
The next step was pitocin. Monica, our nurse for the day, started me on a low dose and gradually increased to the max dosage of pitocin. It didn’t do much. If I walked, I would get contractions, but they were mild and easy to get through. I spent most of the day walking with Jason and Leah and doing what I could to get things going. The pitocin wasn’t working, and I was starting to get exhausted. Three sleepless nights were beginning to wear on me.
That evening, the midwife on call suggested we go ahead and break my bag of waters completely, but she wanted to make sure Gracie was in the right position. We were pretty sure Gracie was not in the proper position which was preventing me from going into active labor. She performed a sonogram and we saw that Gracie was Occiput Posterior, meaning her back was against mine and her head tilted back. This meant her face, instead of the top of her head, was pressing into my cervix. Christy and Leah had me do a bunch of different things to get baby to turn. After a while, we did another sonogram and baby had turned! YES! The midwife on call broke my bag of waters and the contractions came immediately. These were real. They hurt, but I was just so thankful for progress.
That night, I worked through the contractions. It felt so good to finally be doing something and moving towards our goal. Our photographer arrived and I started to get excited about meeting our baby girl. We walked the halls and I prayed I could have my water birth. Jason supported and encouraged me through each contraction. I had to really concentrate through each contraction and I felt like I was making good progress. The contractions got stronger and stronger and Christy suggested she check me to see if I was ready to get in the birth tub. I should have said no to this check. I had started feeling back pain and had a feeling baby Grace had gone back to being posterior. I told Christy in advance I didn’t want to hear a number, and she said “we still have some time before you get in the tub,” and I immediately knew I had not made much progress. I later found out I was only dilated to a 5 at this point.
It was late on Monday night/early Tuesday morning and everyone was exhausted. Christy went home to rest, and Jamie (her student midwife) came to relieve everyone. I accepted some Stadol to help me sleep, but it didn’t really work. I still woke up with every contraction and the pain was all on the left side of my back. Sometime early Tuesday morning, I told Jamie I was ready for the epidural and more pitocin. Since my body was contracting all night, the pitocin would really work this time.
I felt defeated as I slumped over for the epidural. I simply had no fight left in me. I had been working for 3 days on no sleep to get this baby out and was beyond exhausted both physically and emotionally. I didn’t want the epidural, but without it, I would have had to deal with intense contractions on no rest and I wouldn’t have any energy left to push. I was finally able to sleep. It wasn’t long before the epidural wore off, and someone came in to give me more. Around 10:30 (I think) on Tuesday morning, Dr. Farzam came in to talk to Leah and Jason. They left the room to talk and I knew they were talking C-section. I was in the room with just my photographer and I felt the longest and strongest contraction, and then immediately felt the urge to push. The nurse came in and I told her I was ready to push. She said she had to check me and when she did she said, “You’re completely dilated! You’re going to get your vaginal birth!”
With the next contraction, I got into a squatting position and began to push. The urge to push was so strong and it felt good to push. There was a lot of commotion as more nurses and the midwife on call filed in. I wasn’t making much progress in the squatting position, so the midwife suggested I get on my hands and knees. I pushed on my hands and knees for a while, and could feel my baby moving. I was so tired but so thankful to be pushing. I had to dig deep for every push, and could feel Gracie move down. I remembered one of the verses I wrote down on my affirmation cards: “ ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” I truly believe God granted me strength to push despite my exhaustion.
I ended up sitting on the edge of the bed with my knees pulled up. I hated this position, but I could feel myself making a lot of progress. At some point Christy walked in and I was thankful to have her there, but I didn’t even have the strength to smile at her. I wanted to quit, but I also wanted to get my baby out! I finally felt her near my opening and heard Jason say “Oh wow!” I was so relieved.
But then I heard everyone talking about what they had seen. I heard them mention it may have been fingers, vaginal tissue, my cervix, or my bladder. I was told to stop pushing so they could empty my bladder. They put a catheter in me and the nurses left to find Dr. Farzam. The next contractions were awful. I wasn’t allowed to push, but instead breathe through several contractions. Fighting the urge to push while having strong contractions, and having a catheter inside me 21was more than I could handle. I wish I could say I handled everything with grace, but I didn’t. I whined and complained and begged Christy to take the catheter out. I asked why it was taking so long, and told Jason to go find whoever it was they were looking for. Just then, Dr Farzam walked in and checked me to see what Gracie was doing. He said, “I feel eyes, nose, and mouth.” Gracie was coming out face presentation. Christy leaned over to me and said “You’re going to have a C-section.” At this point, I didn’t care. I just wanted my baby out, and I wanted it all to be over. The risk of injuring my baby was too great. Her head was bent all the way back, with her lips and nose coming out first. I didn’t want my baby to enter this world with any injuries. Dr. Farzam warned us that our baby would be severely bruised since she passed through my pelvic area face first.
They rushed me to the operation room and everyone there was so kind as they prepped me. They lifted a curtain in front of me and Jason came to sit by me. Right before the operation, Dr. Farzam asked Jason to say a prayer. That meant so much to us. I felt at peace with the situation as Jason prayed over the procedure and everyone involved. Jason stood up to watch the operation and I watched his face the whole time. I was told later that Gracie was so far down the birth canal, a nurse had to reach in and push her back towards my uterus, and when she did, Gracie latched on to her finger! I felt tugging and some pressure for a while, and then I felt a weight lifted off my belly. I knew she was here, and she let us know about it with a loud cry! They put her right by my face immediately as her cord pulsed. I loved feeling the warmth of her face as she cried and cried. My baby was here and she was safe.
It’s been difficult to process what happened. I am thankful for our journey, but I also feel disappointed, jealous, guilty, confused, broken, embarrassed, and sorrowful. The midwives and nurses have all told me I did everything I could and worked hard for my baby, but there’s still a part of me that wonders what more I could have done or what I did wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t have slumped in the car so much so she would be in the proper position. Maybe I should have done just one more inversion. I still daydream of the birth I wanted. But I see beauty in our story now. Despite having my water ruptured for so long, the staff at the hospital allowed me to go through the motions of labor. I was able to push and almost had my baby out! Our birth team did what they could to try to give me the birth I wanted, but also made sure Gracie and I were safe. I am so proud of our daughter. Throughout the whole ordeal, she remained strong, her heartbeat never going out of the normal range.
I know the healing process will take a while, but seeing my baby girl makes it all worth it. I am so glad she is safe and that she wasn’t injured during the process. Jason’s love for me has never been so obvious as it was during labor and during this recovery. He is a perfect example of Christ loving the church. It’s not the birth I wanted, but it was beautiful because of the love and support given to Gracie and I by Jason, our midwives, our doula, and the amazing staff at the hospital.
Watch their sweet video “Meeting Gracie” here: