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Tale of a Failed VBAC: Ciro’s Birth Story

It’s high time I tell you about the day Ciro was born.

If you aren’t into birth stories, don’t worry, I understand. I’ll give you a moment to exit with your dignity and (hopefully) let me keep mine. Birth stories are not everyone’s jam – believe me, I GET IT. But I can assure you, there is something for everyone in here, so if you choose to stick around, you won’t regret it.

Actually, you might regret it, because I’m going to say things like “vagina” and “dilated” and “What the shit?!” so if those types of things bother you, I’m letting you know from now.

There. You’ve been warned.

And now, I present to you…

Ciro’s Birth Story

This time, I’m happy to report that we did not have a breech situation! No laying upside down on ironing boards or putting bags of frozen vegetables on my stomach trying to get my baby to turn. Nope – this guy was in position and ready to roll.

Well, as far as we knew, that is. What we now know is that he was using his limited neck strength to shake his newborn little head and laugh every time he heard us articulate such nonsense from outside the womb.

I started having contractions two days before I actually went to the hospital, but they weren’t consistent yet so I had to wait it out at home. I didn’t sleep for days because I was so uncomfortable, but also because once the contractions started coming, the pain kept me awake. Even though I was tired, I was already running on adrenaline so I almost didn’t care. This baby was coming! He would be here soon!

Finally, at around 2 in the morning, the contractions became consistent and much more painful. I punched Greg in the face gently whispered “wake up, darling” to Greg and told him it was “go time”, which basically meant that I writhed in pain for the entire ride every time a contraction came while yelling at him to stop going over speed bumps. To which he responded, “What do you want me  to do?!” Which was a fair question, but I still yelled back that he should drive on the sidewalk to avoid the bumps altogether, because everyone knows rationality and active labor go hand-in-hand. (Side note: My sister was already sleeping over to help take care of Miss P, in case you are wondering.)

By the time we got to the hospital it was 4:30 AM and I was already 4 centimeters dilated. They admitted me, and the nurse on duty proceeded to be strange and cold and not at all who you’d want attending to the birth of your child. Which of course she’d be, because why not? This was my luck.

This seems like a good time to share with you an important piece of information: The whole reason I agreed to try a VBAC in the first place (VBAC stands for “vaginal birth after cesarian”, for you non-gestating folk) is because they promised me that I could move around freely during labor and would not have to be in bed the whole time. They told me I would not need to be tied to an IV or monitor because they have these lovely wireless monitors that would allow me to be mobile and change positions at will (you need to be monitored at all times for a VBAC, at least where I was giving birth). They boasted that they were really forward-thinking about the whole thing and that I was a great candidate, so they would allow me to labor normally without much interference. They said I could utilize the bath tub in the room in order to help alleviate pain. They assured me that, because I had a previous c-section, they would not use any drugs to induce me.


Upon getting settled in our room I promptly asked the nurse for one of the magical wireless unicorn monitors so I wouldn’t be bed-bound, and she looked at me like there was a spiralized horn growing out of my head. “Wireless monitors? Oh, we don’t have any functioning ones right now. Now go get in bed so we can hook you up to this IV and have you lay there for the next eighteen hours, before we tell you your vagina is broken and wheel you into surgery, mkay?”

She actually didn’t say that last sentence, but she may as well have because *SPOILER ALERT* that’s kind of what happened. Except for those moments when I shuffled to the bathroom in pain while Greg followed me, holding the IV bag they said I wouldn’t need.

While I was 7 centimeters dilated and breathing my way through a contraction, desperately clutching my bottle of Smart Water, the nurse casually said: “Hm, Smart Water. I used to drink those. That is, until I heard about the E. coli contamination.” I shit you not. (Although, thankfully, there was not shit. You know, in my water.)

The hours crawled by with Nurse Dry As Toast, until it was time for a shift change which (thankfully) brought me a nurse with much more pleasant bedside manner. By 1 PM they told me, “You’re 10 centimeters dilated! You can start pushing now.” So I pushed!

And pushed.

And pushed.

And pushed.

This baby was not moving. By now Greg had texted our families who were on standby believing that this child was going to come out hours ago, but still no baby. And because he was busy with me, doing things like holding my leg up and being yelled at by nurses while trying not to pass out, his texts to them suddenly became limited. This left our moms no choice but to call each other and speculate what was happening. If you are wondering what this was like for our moms, imagine Ray Romano’s mother, multiply her by two, and then put them on the phone with each other.

I pushed for five hours. FIVE. HOURS. What the shit? Where was this kid?! I took a couple of breaks, during which they jacked me up with more pitocin (there goes that promise to not induce), but still no baby. I was given some sweet relief from an epidural at 8 centimeters but by now it had long worn off, and I was so tired and delirious that I was seeing stars.

The doctor finally came in at 10PM while I was still pushing, and his first words were “Oh man this poor girl is so swollen” (nice to see you too, Doctor Encouragement! Care for a sip of shit water?). He told us that I could still keep trying to push (great!), but I had at least 3 more hours of pushing ahead of me, probably more (bitchsaywha?). He also told us that Ciro had no plans on coming out any time soon, because he hadn’t dropped down yet (could someone please explain to me then why the hell I was instructed to push for the last five hours?!), and he strongly recommended another c-section. (Shocker.)

This was crushing, hearing him say this, because right behind the wish for a healthy baby, I truly wanted nothing more than to give birth the natural way. I mean, not in the way of squatting in the middle of a field wearing nothing but a crown of wildflowers, with Dido playing live under a tree and a rabbit and deer holding hands while mixing essential oils for me. But just in the way that maybe didn’t involve scalpels. The last thing I wanted to do was be wheeled into surgery, and I felt totally defeated on every level.

But by this point, I was so worn down that I was starting to feel like the c-section was the best choice. I did not cry. I’d tell you I put on my big girl panties, but let’s face it: I couldn’t find them. (They were probably lost somewhere behind our case of E. coli water.)

I asked the doctor for a minute alone with Greg to discuss things, and I don’t even remember if we exchanged any comprehensible words (I guess that’s what 7 years of marriage will do for you), but together we decided to take the doc’s advice. Done. There was an emergency c-section taking place at the moment, so I would need to wait until they were finished and then go in after that. (Fun fact: even when you are in labor, you still have to wait in line to get into the exclusive clubs where the people serve the good stuff.)

The c-section went great and was uneventful, except for the fact that it was of course one of the biggest events of our lives because our baby was born. Because I am a total hypochondriac, I spent the entire time (45 minutes, maybe?) asking the anesthesiologist “Am I OK? Is the baby OK?” on an endless loop, to the point that if you lifted his face mask you’d probably see him begging sweet Jesus that spinals made people unconscious. (He was actually fantastic and told me I could come back any time and have a c-section with them. I’m not really sure what that meant, but I went with it.)

Greg had one of the assistants take a picture of us meeting Ciro for the first time. The tarp was still up, meaning they were still replacing my insides and stitching me back together, and after 3 straight days of no sleep and a ridiculously long (failed) labor, plus the surgery, I naturally looked like an extra from The Walking Dead. And because Greg wasn’t thinking clearly and doesn’t have good judgement with these things (bless his heart), he group-texted that shit to everyone in our family. My brother held nothing back when he said, “Congrats on Ciro! But man, you looked fucking TERRIBLE!”

“Thanks, I know, it was a really long labor.” I hoped he’d drop it. But on behalf of every brother everywhere that ever lived, he had to keep going:

“Yeah, I bet. But JESUS, you looked like you got knocked out by Tyson! Holy SHIT, woman! I was scared for you! I mean, I’ve never seen you look SO BAD!”

I gritted my teeth through the rest of the conversation and contemplated all the things I could throw at poor Greg who, in his defense, was really just excited to send out a picture of he and his wife meeting their son for the first time.

“Well why don’t you try squeezing a bowling ball out of your willy for hours on end while listening to a nurse talk about E. coli, only to finally have the ball surgically removed from your abdomen?!” was what I wanted to yell, but instead I just smiled and got off the phone. I had other things to spend my energy on, like researching why my incision was bleeding, accidentally placing my slippers in the refrigerator, and trying to feed a human.

My biggest regret is that I didn’t just go with my gut and plan the c-section from the beginning. Penelope’s birth was intense, yes, because a c-section is major surgery and there is a major recovery and a lot running through your mind, but it all felt very controlled. With Ciro, my body basically went through two different types of labors and as a result the recovery was HARD.

While I couldn’t wait to leave the hospital, coming home was no picnic. If each labor and delivery has a “spirit animal”, I decided right then and there that mine was no doubt “The Swollen Ogre”. While I escaped any kind of real swelling throughout my pregnancy, I was so swollen from having fluids pumped into me throughout that ridiculously long labor and inevitable c-section that I couldn’t even cross my legs. My skin was stretched to max capacity. I am not exaggerating; the only thing I could fit into were one pair of Greg’s work out shorts and I could hardly walk. I had giant pock-marks all over my face and neck, because the spinal made me so itchy that I guess I scratched myself incessantly (I don’t even remember). Just as I was staring at the reflection of that Swollen Ogre in the mirror, my body decided to kick me while I was down and my hormones suddenly crashed. The emotional roller-coaster was at full-throttle, and the realization of having to care for a toddler at the same time was pressing down on my head. I broke down and cried into a heap on my bedroom floor.

While I’d hate to say it, it got worse before it got better, but that’s a story for another post. But right now all that matters is that he’s here, he is happy, and we are all good.

Ciro was just six months old. I am slowly beginning to emerge from a fog, which also happened for me around this time with Penelope, and although things are getting better and I try to take it all in with a dose of humor, it was not easy.

But this guy? He makes it all worth it. (E. coli water, and all.)



Alessandra Macaluso is the author of What a Good Eater! , Lucy the Bee and the Healing Honey, and The Real-Deal Bridal Bible. She’s also a Qigong and Tai Chi instructor, and overall wellness advocate. Her work has been featured in several anthologies which can all be found on her Amazon author page, and she has contributed to The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, TODAY Parents, and many other online publications.

Alessandra is a northerner-turned-southerner, enjoying the south with her children, Penelope and Ciro, and her husband, Greg.

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I know exactly how you feel, I took classes to have a natural birth when I had Thomas, they told the group that at least one of us would have a c-section and I thought, NO ME. Well it was me, after a lot let labor time then you went through I had an emergency c-section, only under general anesthsia , that knock me out for the next 4 days, and made me feel like I was run over by a train. So glad you are on the road to recovery, it is all worth it in the end. Love ya, Lydia

I thought the same thing. I skipped all the c-section parts in the baby books, because I wouldn’t be needing one of those! HAHA. Thank you! XO

He is beautiful. God bless you and your lovely family

Thank you!!

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