In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month, we are featuring some great birth experiences from moms who ended up having a cesarean for different reasons and moms who have had vaginal births after a cesarean. This particular story is from a mom who had a vaginal birth after 2 cesarean births.
This is the story of the journey I took to have a VBA2C (vaginal birth after two cesareans). Prior to getting pregnant, I read a book entitled Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize. So I know how to stand in faith and have a healthy pregnancy. I am thankful to God that I have such enjoyable pregnancies, without morning sickness or complications. The only other book I remember reading during my first pregnancy, a recommendation from a friend, was Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon. I skipped the chapter on Cesarean Surgery – I definitely wasn’t having one of those.
As it turned out, I did have a c-section. My water broke before labor started, and I only dilated a centimeter or two. Because of recent research, my doctor did not recommend pitocin. After a few hours, the baby showed signs of distress. My doctor’s recommendation was c-section. I didn’t really want to have a c-section, but I didn’t know what to say otherwise. I put all my trust in his knowledge because I didn’t have any of my own. Looking back, there were many things I could have done to help the situation including: changing position, getting off my back, walking around, sitting on a birth ball, showering, nipple stimulation, or simply waiting (we were not in an emergency situation). My lack of knowledge made the whole process seem scary. It wasn’t a good way to start motherhood.
For my second pregnancy, I switched providers and was going to have one of those VBACs. My doctor said she would allow me to attempt a VBAC. When I was at 40 weeks, she scheduled a c-section. I tried to stand up for myself, but I didn’t really know what to do. I decided to have a c-section with my provider, who I had developed a relationship with, on a Friday. If I waited and went into labor over the weekend, I would not see my provider until the next Tuesday. I didn’t want to attempt a VBAC with a provider I just met.
After the second surgery, I was determined to NOT have another c-section. I did LOTS of research between my second and third pregnancy. I met and chatted with a doula. I met and interviewed a VBA2C–friendly provider in another town. I picked up pamphlets at a local Labor Day Rally to Improve Birth. I attended an ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) meeting.
As soon as I was pregnant, I started digging even deeper into the world of childbirth. Educating myself was very empowering. I learned the facts about c-sections and VBACs (vbacfacts.com). I chatted with another VBA2C mom. She gave me several book recommendations including The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer and Silent Knife by Nancy Cohen and Lois Estner. She also introduced me (not personally) to Ina May Gaskin. I devoured Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I enrolled in Shannon Morber’s Birth with Boldness class. In this class I was encouraged, empowered, and emboldened. I found my voice. I learned how to make informed, quality childbirth decisions while becoming aware of the physiological processes of labor and birth. This was very important to me because even though I was on my third pregnancy, I had not actually experienced labor. Another vital part of my success was finding a doula. We clicked immediately, and −bonus− she was a VBAC mom.
Finally the time came for baby #3 to be born. I was in early labor on and off for 4-5 days. I think the hardest part was I didn’t get much sleep during that time because of the discomfort. I finally thought it was “time” so we drove the 1hr, 10 min drive to our provider. It wasn’t “time”. There had not been any change since a doctor’s visit two days prior. This was discouraging because I thought I had started active labor. I decided I did not want to drive back home so we got a hotel room, and I labored through the night. I made tremendous progress during the night. I didn’t sleep. I was under nearly constant pain, stress, and tension. I couldn’t eat. On average, my contractions were two to three minutes long. My body was working very hard, and I got to the place mentally where I was thinking about another c-section. Around 7:30am we left for the hospital. It was a relief to get such good news when I learned that I had dilated 4-5 cm. I knew that I was going to deliver naturally at this point (!). I continued to labor at the hospital that morning. My contractions were still three minutes long. Finding comfort was not always easy. But it was important to me that I receive very little intervention, so I just kept moving around, changing positions and sitting on a birthing ball. The nurses read my birth plan so they knew I wanted to be up and moving. I requested intermittent monitoring. They were very helpful making that happen. Early afternoon, my provider suggested breaking my water. She explained it would speed things up, and baby was doing great. I had labored long enough without sleep or food. I consented to this intervention. It was a good choice. Within 30 minutes, I progressed the rest of the way (2-3 cm) and started feeling the urge to push. The pushing stage lasted about 30-40 minutes. When they placed the baby on my chest it was the sweetest, most satisfying feeling in the world.