Valerie’s VBAC | An Israeli Birth Story

17 Feb

I met Valerie while I was touring Europe with a band the summer of  2oo2.  She sat across from me at a dinner party and spoke her perfect English with her ever so charming Swiss French accent.  She was so sweet and quirky and funny – I just couldn’t help myself, I loved her.  As fate would have it, Valerie and I became the best of friends. In 2003, Valerie met and married her husband, Youval, where they settled outside of his home town of Tel Aviv, Israel.  In June of 2011, Valerie gave birth to her second daughter and her fourth baby. It was a successful VBAC. I asked Valerie to share her story with us and she’s done a great job telling us about her birth.  Keep in mind as you read this that English is just one of the four languages Valerie speaks.  I’m seriously impressed by this mama (and proud of my friend) and I think you will be too. You’ll read about how she found a new care provider at 42 weeks in her pregnancy who supporter her birth choices, she labored in a birth pool, she pushed for FOUR HOURS and gave birth to a 10-pound-baby. Amazing! Enjoy ~

Valerie, her husband, Youval, and their four children.

First of all, I am so thankful to have four wonderful kids. I must say that I have learned so much about birth through my own experiences, but still feel that I have so much to learn.  I always hope that my next birth experience will be better, but we’ll have to see. :)

I always have babies that are big, more than 9 pounds/4 kilos. My first two births were natural births, but my third birth didn’t go well, and I had a c-section.  At the hospital here (in Israel) there is a “protocol” that if the water has been broken after a certain amount of time and after 2 hours of pushing they don’t give any further chances to the mother and require a c-section. So that’s what happen with my third birth.

Valerie makes one gorgeous pregnant mama!

When I became pregnant for the fourth time, I knew I wanted a VBAC. I prepared by reading a lot about VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean) and I was definitely optimistic that I could succeed with a VBAC!

But things started to be a bit complicated when I passed my due date. The doctors gave me a few days and then would not give me any chance to try for a natural birth once I hit 41 weeks. In fact they said that I would definitely have a c-section! I was so discouraged. So, I started looking for other options! Here in Israel you can’t easily find a midwife who does home births and of those few midwives none will touch a VBAC. But, I found one doctor, the only one that truly supports VBACs in Israel. He and his wife have a birth center and his wife is a doula. At 42 weeks I contacted him. He checked me and said that I could have a natural birth and that the baby wasn’t bigger than any of my other babies.

Valerie, laboring in the pool with her husband's and doula's support.

After meeting my new doctor on Thursday for the first time, that afternoon my husband and I had a date. We took a long romantic walk and had a nice lunch for my birthday (which was the next day – Friday). I remember feeling so big and my baby was sitting so low. That very evening I started having some pressure on my belly. At midnight (which was my birthday) I started having very light contractions. By 4 AM I couldn’t sleep any more as contractions became stronger. My youngest son Elad, 2-and-half-years-old, woke up with me and both of us watched Shrek while I was sitting on my ball doing some exercises. Then my contractions were less regular. So I went for a walk with my older son (he was more exited than ever and was counting how long between the contractions).  At 9 AM contractions started up again. I showered again but I didn’t want to spend too much time in the water during early labor out of concern that it might slow down my labor. I called the doctor to update him on my situation. He told me that my labor had started and to come to his birth center at noon.

My husband and I dropped our three kids off at a friend’s house and started organizing every thing. I was still not really believing I was in labor.  The contractions were so light. At noon we all arrived at the birth center, my husband, my good friend, and me. The doctor checked me and I was about 5 cm. Labor had started! The plan was to labor at the birth center till I was fully dilated and then we would transfer to  the hospital (which was 10 minutes away) where this doctor worked. (Because it was a VBAC we couldn’t birth the baby at the birth center we had to do it at the hospital.) The doctor’s wife, a doula, came.  I hadn’t met her before, because of the short timing, but we had a good connection and I felt happy to have her. She suggested to wait a little then we would labor in the pool.

Tender and vulnerable moments often happen during a woman's labor. This photo really captures that space of complete trust in labor.

The contractions were 10 minutes apart and very light. I did some exercises and Youval, my husband, was helping me to relax. By this point I had been awake since 4 am and the tiredness was winning. We knew that the secret for a good birth was to not be tired! I relaxed but could not sleep. Tali, the doula, came and we entered the pool at 2 PM. It was a wonderful feeling to be in the warm water. Tali was holding my head and my legs were resting on a foam noodle.  With each contraction I would place my legs over the edge of the pool and my doula would massage my belly with oil. I almost fell a sleep it was so comfortable and it was a nice treat for my birthday. :)

At about 4 PM contractions were stronger but because of the water and the massage, it was amazing and the contractions didn’t hurt. My husband joined me in the water and we held each other and laughed together. I’ve never had such a beautiful time  – having contractions without suffering so much! Usually at this point in labor I am at the hospital not knowing what to do any more in the small delivery room.  Up until 5:30 PM we spent our time in the pool. My water broke and I was fully opened. Tali asked me if I wanted to go out or stay in the pool. I could decide. I was not sure, but I decided to get out of the pool and try to shower. As I left the water I was so surprised by the pain of my contractions. I really regretted not staying longer in the pool. My pain was so strong  –  I was in transition. I couldn’t manage a shower and so we decided to pack every thing up and leave for the hospital.

I will not forget this trip to the hospital. I was on my knees, Tali was massaging my back and we started using our deep breathing voices. That really helped. We all arrived at 6 PM to the delivery room at Laniado Hospital. We were sure it would be quick. I took the ball and sat against the bed. The pain was very strong, but with the massage and the warm water-bottle on my back it helped me cope. I asked Youval to take away the clock in the room, that’s a trick I found helped me psychologically –  to not see how long I am pushing. Tali suggested I get on the bed and try some other positions to turn my baby.

Welcome to the world, Shirel!

I started pushing at about 6:20 PM. After about 2 hours the doctor tells me to not worry that it will be a natural birth but that the baby was still not showing up. I asked to sit on a birth stool. I pushed very strongly, as much as I could, but my strength was so low; drinking coca-cola in between and also the flower remedy helped give me strength. The doctor decided to give me a low amount of pitocin to help strengthen my contractions. With a VBAC it can be very dangerous to have pitocin because it can possibly cause too much stress to the uterus but it was a low amount and it did help quite a bit. At 10 PM the baby was finally starting to descend into the birth canal but she was OP – she was looking at the sky. The doctor used the vacuum to pull her out, but he did not succeed, the baby was stronger. In fact, on his last attempt – the doctor fell on his back. Then he used forceps. I will not forget that feeling. I thought my body was being cut in half. I pushed very strongly and finally my baby arrived! At 11:03 PM our little girl was born – 4.600 kilo 55 cm (10 lbs 1 oz and 21.5 inches long).

A beautiful family welcomes their newest member!

Big brother holding his newest sister.

It was a deliverance. I made it! If I wouldn’t have found my doctor at the last possible minute, I know for sure I would have had another c-section! I pushed for 4 hours, but honestly it felt like 1 hour. After having my baby all the pain was forgotten. But was it worth it? Was it better than a c-section? I think the birth was only hard at the very end. Even though I freaked out in the delivery room for a bit, peace recovered my heart and I knew this was my birth journey. I got strong and I didn’t give up. This is my story of my VBAC birth and not what could have been the story of my second c-section.

With a c-section you don’t have such an easy and quick recovery as a vaginal birth. And for my other 3 loves –  my children, waiting for their mommy at home I needed to have this birth. The recovery was very quick. I’m also glad I didn’t have another c-section because after two c-sections, in Israel, they advise you not to have another pregnancy. Anyway, I am very thankful to God that He gave me strength and led me to the right place.

Valerie with her adorable kids.

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