I gave birth to my second son, Leo, on Mother’s Day 2007 via VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). In this society, where the c-section rates in hospitals are high and rising, having a VBAC is indeed a big accomplishment. Most of the time when I tell people that I had a VBAC, they look at me with surprise. People do not realize that you can have a vaginal birth after c-section. There is a misconception that there is danger around this. To honor Mother’s Day today, I reflect on my VBAC experience and would like to share a little of my story with you.
During both pregnancies, I carried my babies in the posterior position (face up or “sunny side-up”). In the posterior position, babies are more difficult to birth due to the inability of the cranial bones to cross over as they do in a normal birth with the baby face down, or anterior.
With my first son, his head was also asynclitic, meaning that it was tilted to the side and not in line with the birth canal. I had the cards stacked against me and I ended up with c-section after 52 hours of labor. I made the mistake in all of my birth prep of not reading one thing about c-sections. I am not sure if it would have reduced the grief I had felt afterwards, but maybe I would have been better prepared for it. I was devastated afterwards.
This is how my first labor went: I went 41 hours with no drugs and dilated to 10 cm with a lip. My cervix swelled and went back down to 6 cm. When they prepped me for the c-section, the epidural was so strong it numbed my diaphragm so that I could not breathe. It was probably one of the darkest time of my life. After the birth I was exhausted and my milk didn’t come in for five days. We had to supplement with formula through a tube attached to my breast, which was difficult considering he was also attached to a machine with lights for jaundice. All of the additional tubes were not what I had desired, to say the least.
It wasn’t until my second pregnancy that I could really start working through the grief from the first birth.
During my second pregnancy, you can believe me when I say that I tried everything to get my baby to turn. I swam, sat on birthing balls instead of chairs, did acupuncture & moxibustion (which works incredibly well for breech babies), and even crawled on my hands and knees down the stairs, which is an amazing feat in itself!
During the second pregnancy I joined an online support group called ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network). Being a part of the Yahoo ICAN support group online helped me realize that there were women all over the country being coerced into c-sections when they could have most likely had a healthy vaginal delivery. It was astounding to hear story after story of women in small towns (and big cities) being misinformed and/or scheduled for a c-section due to the doctor’s schedule.
Realizing that my c-section was not forced upon me helped me heal a little. In the end I realized that I had not failed, nor had the labor failed me. It also gave me hope that many women were having VBACs and that it was completely safe for me to try and have a vaginal birth. I worked towards recreating my birth story with the help of Kristen Olberz, nurse and Certified Hypnotherapist, here in Portland, OR.
I am proud to say that in the end, after 17 hours of hard labor, I birthed my baby sunny-side-up. I pushed him out with his face looking right up at me! I do not think that I could have succeeded at my VBAC without the amazing midwife and nurses at Emanuel Hospital here in Portland. They were right there with me the whole time. I was so happy that it was actually happening. When the huge crowd of nurses and doctors walked in, ready to help receive the baby, my husband and I looked at each other like, “It is really happening?!?”- we couldn’t believe it.
In the end the physical recovery was more difficult after the vaginal birth due to the pelvic stretching that had to happen to push out my OP baby. But the psychological recovery was worlds away from the first time with my c-section. I was so happy! I have so many fond memories of my laying-in period with Leo snuggled in the crook of my arm. My milk came in easily and I was able to rest at home soon after the birth.
It took us a week to name our baby and in the end we named him Leonardo Victor. I want him to know when he is older that his mom was strong like a lion when she gave birth to him and that he came into the world victorious!
Contributed by Liz Richards, Acupuncturist and Owner of Blossom Clinic.