When my husband and I found out that we were expecting a third child, we were both happy but also dreaded the idea of a third c-section. Aside from the pain and long recovery time, we were scared of the risks. But, as much as we wanted a vaginal birth for our third baby, it was out of the picture, we thought. Our OB-GYNE (and many others) said that once you birth via a c-section, you have no other choice. That’s why I had a repeat CS back in 2012. And so we accepted it and just prayed for a safe pregnancy and birth.
Come our first prenatal checkup, I asked our OB-GYNE if there is a slight chance we can do a normal birth because I was really worried about a third c-section. It has been five years since my last anyway; perhaps I have had enough time to heal. I received a flat out NO. “Even if you pay me thrice the amount, I wouldn’t do it,” she told me. She also said that after my third c-section, she will tie my tubes already.
The idea of someone making such a big decision for us didn’t sit well with my husband and I. That’s when we started to think about looking for a new OB-GYNE and trying a vaginal birth after two c-sections (VBA2C).
We looked for other VBA2C stories online to get some encouragement, but although there are a lot of VBAC stories, there aren’t a lot of VBA2C stories in the Philippines. I remember finding one that was done in Davao. We seriously considered flying there to meet the doctor who assisted in the birth and even temporarily moving there if we need to.
Thankfully, a friend of mine introduced me to the Gentle Birth in the Philippines group. She said I will find resources and support there for our dream birth. True enough, we did find helpful information that gave us the courage to go for our VBA2C.
We found one highly recommended OB-GYNE who supports VBA2C in Manila through the group. Unfortunately, when I called her clinic, I was told that she was no longer accepting patients for our due date. We also tried going to Shiphrah, but they couldn’t accept us since they can only assist in VBAC–not VBA2C. My heart sank. If we want to achieve our dream birth, we don’t just need to want it, we need to have a supportive and skilled doctor. Otherwise, we might just end up with another c-section.
We continued our search until I remembered a friend who had a water birth just a few years back. I asked about her doctor and she said that her OB-GYNE is a huge supporter of natural birth. Although we can’t find other patients of hers who successfully had a VBA2C, we decided to give her a try.
On our first prenatal checkup with Dra. Karen Ty-Torredes, my husband and I both knew she is the one. When we opened up about our VBA2C plan, she gladly said we can try as long as we’re willing to do the necessary preparations for it. Dra. Torredes explained that if we want our VBA2C, we need to commit to being healthy through exercise and proper diet. She also encouraged us to attend a birthing class so we can prepare for an all-natural birth since she wants us to stay away from pain relievers and induction to lessen the chances of uterine rupture.
After our prenatal checkup, we signed up for the Binhi Childbirth Preparation Class hosted by the Pinay Doulas Collective. If you’re expecting, this class will give you lots of information about pregnancy and birth. You might think you know what to expect already, but you actually don’t–and Binhi Childbirth Preparation will prepare you for those unexpected situations! To be honest, if we took this class when we had our first two kids, I don’t think we would have ended up going under the knife.
We knew that although our dream birth is achievable, it won’t be easy. So after the class, my husband and I also agreed to get the services of Doula Ros Macachor.
A doula is a trained birth attendant who offers both physical and emotional support to a mother and her partner throughout pregnancy, during childbirth, and postpartum. From our experience, having one made a huge difference as she pushed us to achieve our dream birth especially during the most trying times and allowed us to enjoy the whole experience.
Our Dream Birth, Our VBA2C Birth Story
Based on my ultrasound, I was due to give birth on December 29, 2017. I was feeling irregular contractions during the weeks leading to my due date, but they never progressed. I continued to walk and do my prenatal exercises. Come December 29th, there was still no sign of me giving birth. I was scheduled to have a prenatal checkup that day and I remember feeling so anxious. It’s my 40th week if we base the guesstimate on my ultrasound. Will Dra. Torredes induce me? Will she say it’s time for a c-section?
All my worries went away when she said, “Let’s just wait and see.” She never said anything about inducing me or performing a c-section. I knew then that we really chose the right doctor!
31 December 2017, 10:00 PM | We went back to our hotel room after dinner to rest before the fireworks display starts later that evening. I tried to sleep, but was feeling uncomfortable as I felt pain radiating from my back to my abdomen. I decided to time them–6 minutes apart. By 11:45 in the evening, my contractions were 4 minutes apart already. They were still bearable so I didn’t ask to be brought to the hospital yet.
We took the opportunity to hike up the viewing deck to watch the fireworks display. The walk up the steep stairs may help me progress. By the time the fireworks display was over, I felt the contractions intensify. We went back to our hotel room where I did more exercises to cope with the pain and also to help me progress further.
1 January 2018, 2:30 AM | The contractions became more intense and were 2 to 3 minutes apart. We decided to drive to the hospital already. I informed Doula Noelle (our back up doula since Doula Ros was out of the country) and Doc Karen.
1 January 2018, 3:30 AM | We were brought to the High Risk Pregnancy Unit. I was at 1 cm and my water bag is still intact. The doctors and nurses honored our birth plan and did not hook me to an IV. They did occasionally hook me up to a machine that monitors the baby’s heart rate and my contractions, but it was only for 30 minutes at a time. The rest of my stay, they allowed me to move around, do my exercises with Doula Noelle, eat, and drink.
The rest of the day went by pretty slowly. I progressed from 1 cm to 3 cm, but that was it. Dra. Torredes remained patient as she waited for our baby’s perfect timing.
1 January 2018, 10:00 PM | I progressed to 5 cm and contractions were intense. I tried to rest smart in between the contractions, but as they became closer to each other, I had no chance to rest at all. My husband supported me by massaging my back and being my anchor as I go through wave after wave of contractions.
Doula Ros was with us now. She made me do different labor exercises to help baby position himself and engage.
2 January 2018, 4:00 AM | I was awake for two days straight already. My contractions were hitting the high numbers and were one on top of another. I was in tears and at the verge of giving up already. I remember screaming in pain and begging my husband to make it stop already. Not one of our labor positions to ease pain seemed to work by then.
My doula reminded us that pain is good; pain is progress. Yet, I felt disheartened because despite the tremendous pain I was enduring, I was still at 5 cm and my cervix was still 70% effaced. The doctors and nurses were suggesting an epidural at this point, but my husband refused to have one inserted without discussing it with our OB-GYNE and doula.
2 January 2018, 6:00 AM | My husband called Dra. Torredes to ask for advice. I would have been able to handle the wave of contractions if I had enough energy, but having no sleep for two days already, the pain became unbearable. She said the decision is still up to us.
2 January 2018, 8:00 AM | We finally called for an epidural after discussing it again with our doula, Dra. Torredes, and the anesthesiologist on duty. We had them explain the whole process and how the epidural will affect the progress of my labor. We wanted to make sure it won’t hinder progress in fear of another c-section.
Although we wanted an all-natural birth, my husband and I decided to get the epidural already because I was exhausted and might not be able to push if not given time to rest.
Not long after, I was wheeled to another room where they inserted the epidural. I remember feeling relieved as soon as the medicine kicked in and falling asleep right after. I woke up four hours later and feeling much better.
The good thing about the epidural is that it didn’t totally remove the pain, but just managed it–and so I continued to progress. This time, though, I regained my energy and ready to finish my birth marathon.
2 January 2018, 4:00 PM | I was still at 5 cm and 70% effaced. Dra. Torredes visited me again and suggested that we do nipple stimulation to encourage more contractions and get labor moving faster. It worked, but progress was still slow. She later on suggested an induction, although at the minimum dose possible. We were willing to do anything to help baby come out by this time. We agreed to the induction.
2 January 2018, 8:00 PM | I was at 9 cm at this point and my water bag broke on its own. I was nearing the finish line! Dra. Torredes had me wheeled to the delivery room and asked my husband and Doula Ros to get prepped as well. Inside the delivery room, she had me do practice pushes. She said baby’s head is small, but she wasn’t sure why the baby wasn’t going down. We continued doing pushes.
The contractions became more intense and I was really feeling the urge to push. I lost track of time and everything else around me. In my mind I imagined waves, each one bringing my baby closer to shore.
I remember feeling a strong contraction coming, taking in a deep breath, and pushing as hard as I can. I would then take another deep breath and push again; after which I would be given some time to rest before the next contraction. I pushed with every wave that passed. Two doctors helped me by pushing down on my stomach as well.
It was painful, it was tiring, but I knew I was almost there. I took deep breaths and visualized my baby descending with every exhale. It helped that my husband was beside me holding my hand and cheering me on. Doula Ros was also there whispering words of encouragement, reminding me of all the hard work we did to prepare for this birth.
Dra. Torredes told me to give it my all. I pushed as hard as I can while two doctors pressed on my tummy. I felt my baby coming out. I didn’t feel pain anymore, just an urge to let go. Everyone cheered me on. “One more push!” they said and I pushed again. I felt a sense of relief after that last big push then I heard our baby cry.
On January 2, 2018 at 10:15 PM, I gave birth to Charlie.
“It’s a boy, Kim!” I heard Dra. Torredes say. “You did it, mommy. Ang galing mo,” my husband told me. I started to cry tears of joy–I was overwhelmed, I was overjoyed. I can’t believe we did it!
Charlie had his cord wrapped around his neck twice. I was surprised that I was able to deliver him through a vaginal birth (because I’ve heard cases like this that ended up with c-section) and that Dra. Torredes didn’t have to do an episiotomy. Dra. Torredes said that my boy and I were both fighters throughout. I did my job during labor and birth; he did not show any signs of distress throughout the process despite the length and difficulty of the birth.
I cried as they placed little Charlie on my chest. After our long wait, after all we’ve been through in the last nine months… he is finally in my arms!
Charlie’s birth is a healing and empowering experience. Healing–because it brought a closure to my two previous c-sections that I felt could have been prevented if only our birth wishes were honored. Empowering–because what I endured throughout pregnancy and birth revealed how strong I am if I just put my mind into something and surround myself with people who will support me.
But the best thing about Charlie’s birth is that it brought our family even closer together. It wasn’t just me who gave birth–my husband and our two older kids were all involved. I wasn’t the only one who gave birth; somehow they did too.
We will forever hold the beautiful memories this birth gave our family in our hearts. This will serve as a reminder that as long as we have each other, we can achieve big things.
My Birth Team:
Hospital: St. Luke’s Medical Center – Global City
OB-GYNE: Dra. Karen Ty-Torredes
Doula: Ros Padua-Macachor and Noelle Polack
…and of course, my husband, Arjay.