After Emmett's birth, I didn't take the time to process how my birth went. I didn't know that I should process the experience or my feelings until much later. My husband left for military duty when our baby was a week old and I spent the next 11+ months learning how to be a parent without him. I am forever thankful for the friends and family that helped me out and supported us through his deployment. I didn't learn until I got pregnant with our second child how much Emmett's birth had affected me. It wasn't until after our second child, Omri, was born that I finally felt closure.
Once you've had a c-section, attempting a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) can be a real challenge. There is a lot to consider when deciding if a VBAC or RCS (repeat c-section) is right for you. It can be a really difficult to sift through all the factors. Your medical history, the reason for your initial c-section, and how many children you intend to have in the future all play into the decision. But even if you've decided to pursue a VBAC, it's not always that simple. In fact, I found that it rarely is.
I struggled to find the support I needed early in pregnancy. Many people in my life followed or believed in the outdated mantra "Once a c-section, always a c-section." It honestly never occurred to me that I WOULDN'T birth my child vaginally. Never once did I doubt my body's ability. It's not uncommon for women who've had a c-section to struggle with feeling like their body failed them. For me, though, I felt like I had failed my body. I didn't do what I needed to to prepare for an unmedicated birth. I thought having my end goal would be enough to get me there. I was wrong, and so I never feared NOT getting my VBAC with my second, I just knew I needed to do a lot of things to stack the cards in my favor.
The first thing I did was research my butt off. I quickly learned that there was a lot for me to learn! I had taken the hospital birth preparation class with my first pregnancy, but it proved to not be enough to teach me the things I needed to know to achieve a natural, unmedicated birth. At the time, I didn't know of Birth Boot Camp (It didn't actually exist when E was born) or that online birth classes were an option, and the class options in my area were very lacking. So I set out on my own to educate myself.
I had a really hard time finding the resources I needed. I spent a lot of time Googling and reading birth related forums. Let me tell you, there is a lot of garbage out there to sift through! But I eventually found a forum of very like minded women who only wanted what I wanted, to be supported in their decision to birth however they felt they needed to. Really that's all it boiled down to. I met some really wonderful women who were complete strangers, yet had my back no matter what. I will forever be bonded to these women through our shared journeys. This is where I give a big ol' shout out to Melek Speros of Birth Blissfully and Black Women Do VBAC. She is such a wealth of birthy knowledge and had I not found her and the resources she lead me to (VBAC Facts. Check it out, seriously. ICAN is an amazing resource, as well.), I don't know where my journey would have taken me.
Through my research, I learned a lot of things. First, I learned that even if I DID have a VBAC, in order for it to be a truly positive and enjoyable experience (yep, you heard it here...birth can be enjoyable!), I needed to be supported. My husband was all in. He knows I don't take decisions like this lightly, and if it's something I wanted, it was for good reason. I really only talked about my pregnancy and birth plans with a handful of people IRL (that's internet speak for "in real life"). The only thing that could be worse than no support, was negativity, and I wasn't willing to risk that or invite others to project their own fears onto me. So we kept our plans pretty quiet.
To compliment my supportive husband, I knew I needed someone with me who truly understood birth and who would have my back, no matter what. So I hired a doula. If you don't know what a doula is, I'll keep it simple. They are a non-medical member of your birth team who is there to support you emotionally and physically. I knew that when the going got tough, I needed someone there to remind me why I was doing what I was doing, and if it came down to it, that I needed someone who could help me over those hurdles, whether they were emotional or physical ones. It turns out that the doula I really clicked with, was my chiropractor!
Which brings me to the next thing I learned. Through my research it became very clear that while my operative report said the reason for my c-section was a "failure to progress" and "failure to descend", the truth is, Emmett was not in a good position when I went into labor. There is no way to know for sure, but my gut tells me that things would have been very different if I would have given him a better chance at optimal positioning. I was induced, my doctor artificially ruptured my membranes, and I labored for hours in bed, on my back, and did nothing to help him get in a better position. I wasn't going to let that happen this time around. So not only did I hire a doula to help me with changing my own positions, but I started seeing a Webster certified chiropractor. Chiropractic care has been shown to help pregnant women with allowing baby the space to move into optimal position, not to mention alleviating those pesky aches and pains. Who better to have by my side during labor, than someone who understands the process and knows the importance of alignment and positioning during labor and birth. It was a win-win, and I am grateful to have found Dr. Sara Cuperus!
Finally, I learned that choosing the right provider and the right birth location would be vital to my success. It seems silly to a lot of people, I'm sure. But let me tell you, having a scarred uterus really can make people edgy. Often times women attempting a VBAC will come up against a number of restriction, either placed by their provider or their place of birth. Some of these restrictions are reasonable and evidence-based, but sometimes they're not. And we call those "red flags".
I could get into all the red flags to watch for, but there are a lot. Some providers won't take you as a patient if you are attempting a VBAC. Some hospitals outright ban them. My hospital and doctor didn't do either, but it didn't take long for me to find red flags, anyway. My OB first told me that I "have a history of large babies" and that my pelvis "might just be too small to birth vaginally". Both pretty classic red flags. I scheduled an appointment with another OB in the practice, who was shocked to hear my doctor agreed to a VBAC. Because, surprise, he's not actually comfortable with them! That was news to me. He also told me when I mentioned hiring a doula, that doulas really aren't that helpful. Well, that about did it for me. Don't get me wrong. He's a wonderful doctor with a great bedside manner, but he was not the doctor I needed for this birth. I knew I needed a provider who could be honestly supportive of me and upfront with their comfort level.
Around the same time that I was deciding I needed a new provider, I had started seeing Dr. Sara and discussing my birth options. Frankly, my appointments turned into counseling sessions in a lot of ways. I mostly talked, she mostly listened. But one day she made a statement that made it all click for me. She said "If you don't think you will be comfortable birthing in the hospital, maybe you just need to take that off the table." And that was it. I went home and asked my husband again if I was crazy for considering a home birth. He said nope, not at all, and I called to schedule a consultation meeting with a local home birth midwife. That meeting went wonderfully. I was able to tell my story, she validated my desires, she took a look at my records, and determined I was a great candidate for a VBAC and that there was no reason I couldn't birth at home. I can't even tell you the weight that was lifted off my shoulders that day. I finally had a plan for my birth and felt so incredibly at peace with it all.
So?! "How did it go!?" you ask...I'll save that for Part 3. ;)