Updated: Dec 29, 2020
In the last post about big babies, we talked about how to decide if induction is the right option for you or not. If you’re like me, you might have come to the conclusion that, no, induction is not the right option. We will wait and watch. But when we do that, we have to have a plan set for how to give our bodies and babies the best possible chance. That means we have to learn how to work with our bodies to get our baby out. Unfortunately the truth is many modern medical practices that are considered commonplace in labor and delivery actually work against the body’s design and can increase the risk of emergency. Knowing, this, with my VBAC baby in 2017 I had made a plan to have a low intervention birth. For me, this meant I would ideally arrive at the hospital around 7-8 centimeters, avoid an epidural, stay upright and moving, listen to my body and have minimal hands touching me.
I made it around 14 hours into labor before going to the hospital where I was checked in at… 5 centimeter. It took me another 14 hours or more to make it to 8 centimeters… My birth plan had been followed to a T. Until it wasn’t. At one point I was so exhausted I asked for IV pain meds. After getting to 8 centimeters and still being exhausted, I was around 33 hours into labor and my OB recommended an intervention for the first time…. A small dose of pitocin. I was upset but knew it was necessary, so I asked for the epidural first because I was too exhausted to face my fear of pitocin contractions without some help. Getting the epidural allowed me to rest my body enough to have energy for pushing. I was grateful my epidural was very light so I could still feel most of what was going on which meant I could listen to my body. I pushed for about 90 minutes and gave birth sitting up with the squat bar. My doctor was shocked to be holding a 9lb 4oz baby in her hands, and was amazed I had just VBACd a “big baby”. Not only was he big, but he also had what we call a compound hand, which means his hand was alongside his head… he basically came out fist first. This was why my labor took so long. I firmly believe after much discussion with my providers, doulas, and mom friends that this birth would have been much harder if I had been medicated throughout the duration of my labor. Because he was in such a tricky physical position, it was hard to consistently dilate my cervix. This meant that my frequent position changes and upright postures were vital for helping him move down the way he needed to. I also am 100% confident in the choices I made to finally get the epidural. At that point, because of my exhaustion, I was fighting labor and no longer working with my body. I needed a break and the epidural gave me that ability. As soon as I was physically and mentally rested, I was able to work with my body again to push him out.
When I became pregnant with my third-born, we joked that if this baby followed the other two in size, she’d be 10lbs 4oz. Never in any of our wildest dreams did we believe this would be true. I labored at home unmedicated with Amelia for 15 hours and had the weirdest contraction pattern. Until I was in transition, I never hit normal labor patterns. My contractions would cluster -- 3 contractions 5 minutes apart then nothing for a half hour… next cluster 5 contractions 3 minutes apart. Then nothing for 20 minutes. Back and forth… weird patterns for hours. Finally, in the evening on February 1, 2019, labor became much more intense and almost felt like contractions were on top of each other. I was struggling to cope anymore, and we were changing position every 3-5 contractions because I could NOT find a position I liked (apparently neither could she). At one point I distinctly remember what felt like her spinning in the womb with her elbow bent and poking out. I could feel it trace right along my cesarean incision site, and next thing I knew I was pushing.
I pushed for about 30 minutes and wanted so badly to be in water, but I couldn’t. My body kept arching up. I had to be upright. But I couldn’t get there. My team lifted me out of the tub somehow, then I pushed for the next 10 minutes or so standing up, using my husband as support, when Amelia's FAT little body finally came sliding out. Ten pounds. Four ounces.
Looking back on her birth I wonder how different this would have played out in a hospital setting. I’m certain my contraction pattern would have warranted a consideration for pitocin, which I think I would have been open to in that setting. I’m a fighter, but when desperate for a baby to be out, I can be swayed sometimes. I think that would have led to me insisting on an epidural again because of my pitocin fear. If I had an epidural I never would have been able to listen to my body the way I did to get her to spin and drop. She was having a hard time spinning (no doubt because of her size in relation to mine… I’m not big y'all) and I firmly believe I needed to be in a completely upright position for her to have enough space to move down and out. I don’t believe I would have gotten there if I had been in a hospital setting. I truly believe that unlike the previous birth, if I had been medicated, I would have had another c-section birth because of her size.
So what is my point with sharing these stories? My point is that big babies can be born vaginally from small people. Big babies can be born vaginally with medication and intervention. And big babies can be born vaginally without medication and intervention. However, being able to work with your body can be VITAL. So what can you do to ensure a positive birth experience with your “suspected big baby”? 1. Learn what it means to work with your body in labor
2. Learn how to mentally work with your body in labor
3. Create a birth plan that helps you learn when certain interventions are a good idea, and when they aren’t , that way you are the one calling the shots
4. Learn how to advocate for yourself effectively
5. Have a partner and provider who respect and support your choices even if they disagree
In the next blog post I will be chatting with some moms who were advised to induce or book a c-section due to their baby’s estimated weight, and how each of those scenarios ultimately turned out. Sharing stories of mothers can be so important because it shows us the wide variations of a situation despite what all the best formed research studies will tell us.
If you have a big baby story you would like to share, regardless of the outcome, please let me know so I can send you a form to submit your story!
Jaimie Zaki is a military wife, mom, former nurse, birth doula, birth photographer, and international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC). Jaimie is dedicated to helping MamaBears birth and breastfeed with confidence. Jaimie offers a variety of self-paced online courses to help expectant mothers prepare for childbirth and breastfeeding including The Birth Plan Workshop, Birthing With Confidence, and Breastfeeding With Confidence. Additionally Jaimie provides virtual one-to-one support to help women prepare for their births and to help women troubleshoot breastfeeding challenges. If you are interested in working with Jaimie, please schedule your free 30 minute video call now!