It seems many more woman are opting for a VBAC (Vaginal birth after caesar) these days. Even though many doctor’s refuse to perform them it seems there is a rise in VBACS as many woman push for what they feel their bodies can achieve. Of course there are valid risks for some such as ruptured scars which can be fatal to the mother, but it seems more doctors are supporting moms in their request to experience natural birth after previously having undergone a C-section. For some the need to go through natural birth is so strong that they are willing and their stories are amazing to hear. Having gone through both caesar and natural, they really do have insight into what the pros and cons are and more importantly what each experience brought them. This is Shelly’s story.
“I am not your typical earth mother. I didn’t grow up dreaming of the day I’d be a mum, I don’t remember ever playing with dolls, and whilst I like children well enough, I was never the one to be seen ogling the cute new baby in the room. Even throughout my pregnancy I never felt that instant connection, the butterflies whenever the baby moved or the Oh my gosh I have an actual human life forming inside me feeling. So why then was I so very determined to give birth naturally? Yes there was the medical side and the it’s what we were designed to do’ argument, but more selfishly, it was because I didn’t want the scar. My own mum, being diabetic and before they really knew how to deal with such people, was forced into having four C-sections. Her scar was, needless to say, horrendous and I, as a result, grew up thinking, that there is no way I was going to have a scar like that! Yes it is superficial but it was just that simple to me.
When I fell pregnant with my first babe, it was already as clear as day, I would do things the â€˜old fashioned way’ I would not find out the gender of my baby, I would most certainly have a natural delivery and (because I have a â€˜high pain threshold’) I would have as little pain relief as possible. It’s remarkable how we can have all these plans, how little we know. My pregnancy progressed very normally, sure I had the morning sickness for a little longer and perhaps a little more viciously than some, but once this ended I was absolutely fine, in fact I would say I was one of the lucky ones, no insomnia, no backache, no heartburn, I carried pretty small so I didn’t battle with everyday life, zero problems, not even a hint of one:.
Until the day, still working (perhaps a little longer than I should have) I left the office to rush to my 39 week Midwife appointment. After having been stuck in traffic and stressing about not making it, I raced into her consulting rooms. Going through all the usual checks she took my blood pressure and found it to be soaring. I convinced her that it was simply the stress of having to get there in traffic and she agreed that it may be possible, but none the less sent me immediately to the hospital to be re-checked, do not pass go do not collect $200. After hours and hours in the hospital, strapped to monitors and countless tests I was told that I did indeed have high blood pressure, the dreaded pre-eclampsia. Now anyone who has watched Downton Abbey and possibly the most traumatic episode with Sybil Crawley giving birth, will immediately be struck with fear by this news. So that was it, no going home for me, I was immediately admitted to hospital and placed under 24hour monitoring. Still I was determined, it was to be natural delivery all the way and my midwives were very supportive.
After a night in hospital it was decided that they would induce me (now that was an experience, but a story for another time). The induction was done and I proceeded to go into labour, very slowly and thankfully rather gently. 24 hours later still progressing slowly it was decided that they would break my waters. Cue hurdle number 2, there was meconium in my waters. Still I stuck to my guns it had to be natural. The Midwives, a little more wary this time, said they would give me an hour, monitor the baby and I and then proceed to make further decisions. From here things went at lightening speed, but sadly not the way I’d planned. An hour later baby had not moved and it was determined she was in distress, about 8 people rushed into the room, checking my monitors and having a pow wow in the corner, it was decided an emergency c-section had to occur and within 20 minutes of this decision, I had been drugged, prepped, cut and a gorgeous baby girl was handed to me, everything in my plan had been cast aside. Whilst I understood and was grateful for the safety of this precious life, as I began to gain clarity as the drugs left my system I couldn’t help but feel that I had been robbed. Robbed of my dream, robbed of the first few hours of my baby’s life (she had to be whisked away to the NICU for further testing), robbed of mobility and mostly robbed of my womanhood.
Strange as it sounds I felt like less of a women, like there was something I couldn’t do, I hadn’t â€˜really’ given birth, it was all done for me. The scar became far less the issue (incidentally it is tiny, very neat and nothing like the one my mum had) what was an issue was the feeling that I was a less capable woman. Writing this now, it all seems ridiculous to me, but I clearly remember these feelings being very real. It took me a long time to bond with my precious girl, she battled with feeding as my milk came in very late, her breathing was always a bit loud and crackly, all these things I blamed on my C-section.
Of course when I fell pregnant with number two, a VBAC was the planned course of action. I was fortunate that I was living in the UK at the time and VBAC is very much supported, in fact it is encouraged, so it was decided and pursued. This time though I had come to terms with the fact that things don’t always go according to plan, so the VBAC plan was a lose one, yes I was very keen and yes I did still feel a little like a fake woman having not had natural birth, but I prepared myself mentally for another C-section as I was determined to avoid the disappointment I had felt the first time around.
At 39weeks things kicked off again for me, only this time more in the way I had hoped and expected previously. Just before midnight on my birthday, my waters broke, I was extremely surprised, I had so prepared myself for the â€˜inevitable’ that I hadn’t really prepared myself for things to go according to plan.
When we arrived at the hospital I went through the usual tests I was progressing well and very quickly. In my previous labour gas and air had been sufficient in the early stages so as the pain started to get unbearable I started on it, it always amazes me how each birthing experience can be so different, as I put the gas to my mouth it felt like it went straight to my head and I felt awful, I would not be having more of that thank you, so epidural it was, what wonderful, blissful, soothing delight it brought. However from there things slowed down substantially, 7 hours later I hadn’t progressed at all, oh joy back to the same old story. Here I will shamelessly praise my midwives, they knew exactly what I wanted and they were willing to do what it took for me to give birth naturally, they spoke to the consultant on call and convinced him that I should be allowed to go on Syntocinon, this is very rarely done in VBaC as the risk of the scar being aggravated is too high. Syntocinon strengthens contractions and usually speeds the process along. I had one hour to progress or it was another c-section. After the hour nothing had happened the midwives called the consultant again as they began to prep me for surgery, unbelievably by the time the consultant came and checked I had dilated to 10cm, it was a go. What delight!
What followed after turned me into a great advocate for natural delivery, because through all the pain and chaos it felt exactly that, natural. It felt as if it was what I was made to do, and I can honestly say the moment my second baby girl came out was a moment that I will forever remember as the most uplifting moments of my life.
I finally felt like a woman, a real woman.”