A Canadian VBAC - A VBAC Interview

How incredible is it that this mom didn't really have to "fight" for her VBAC.  I hope that this is more the case in more places in the near future.  Our care provider and their attitude makes such a difference.

-So, I would love for you to first give a brief rundown of your first birth/s and what you feel like happened and why you had a c-section.
My first baby was a c/section for breech presentation at 39 weeks.  I was 24 years old and didn't know much about birth, except that I wanted natural births and a big family.  I was disappointed that I had a cesarean, but not devastated.  I planned to VBAC from the moment my OB broke the news to me about needing a cesarean.  [note: since then, the breech birth approach has changed in Canada, where I live, and more women are having breech vaginal deliveries]
-What made you desire a VBAC when they seem so hard to come by in the current obstetric climate?

In our obstetric climate in Canada VBACs are not as difficult to come by as they are in the U.S.A.  As a general rule, women are not particularly encouraged to VBAC but if a woman requests one, she can get it, in almost any maternity hospital.
However, most women do not want to VBAC because they believe their bodies are unable to give birth normally after giving birth by cesarean.  My body had not even had the chance to try and birth normally, so I had a deep desire to at least try.  My mother had three vaginal deliveries, two of them natural, and was (and still is) a granola type birth nut, so I learned my positive views on normal birth from her.  Also, all my aunts were hippies who had natural births so it seemed very normal to me.  Labor and delivery seemed like the ultimate womanly initiation or test, or journey to traverse, and I wanted to be a part of that.  I would have felt a part of that even if my attempt at VBAC was unsuccessful, because at least I had laboured and tried to give birth normally.
I also didn't care if my first VBAC was natural or where it took place; my goal was to push that baby out of my vagina.  Period.  I didn't care if I had an epidural, an episiotomy, or was directed to push while standing on my head, so long as I got a vaginal birth.  It turns out I didn't need the epidural, my midwife never did episiotomies, and of course she did not direct me to push in a headstand, so I had an all natural VBAC in the hospital.  It was awesome.
My second VBAC I was more particular, and I wanted a home birth.  I developed insulin dependant Gestational Diabetes, however, and thus delivered in hospital attended by my amazing midwife.  I spent most of that labour in the enormous hospital tub, and loved every minute of it.  That VBAC was very peaceful and beautiful, and even more awesome than my first one because I had already proved to myself that my body could do it, and I knew what it felt like from before.  Knowing what to expect made me feel stronger and more confident.
-How did you find a care provider who would support you?
I interviewed several midwives until I found one who  was a good fit for my personality and had a respectful, collaborative approach to helping women give birth.
-What was labor like for you?
My first VBAC I laboured 8 hours and then pushed for 3 hours, for a 12 hour total.  I used Hypnobirthing to help me relax into each contraction.  I had lots of fear, though.  I feared hospital germs.  I feared failure.  I feared exhaustion.  I feared making too much noise.  I feared pooping.  I feared fear!  I kept thinking, though, "This, too, shall pass," and that I had a wide circle of friends near and far who were praying for and rooting for me, and that was comforting.  I prayed lots, for continued strength.  My mom was there.  My midwives were awesome, and both there.  My husband was there.  They surrounded me with love and encouragement, and although those 3 hours of pushing were VERY discouraging, I managed!  And I even enjoyed giving birth.  I will say that during transition I was in the shower, and the final two or three contractions before pushing were so intense that I was banging my head against the shower stall rhythmically in order to cope.
My second VBAC I laboured 6 hours and then pushed for 1 hour, for a 7 hour total.  It was very peaceful, like I mentioned.  I used Hypnobirthing again, although the first time I used a visual head to toe relaxation tool and it didn't work the second time at ALL!  Instead I found counting backwards from 10 and relaxing twice as much with each number to be much more effective.  Also, that big tub at the hospital.  My midwife was awesome and sat in the bathroom on a stool, listening to my daughter's heartbeat and chatting quietly with me, my mom, and my husband while I laboured.  I got out of the tub to use the toilet and immediately got roaringly pushy!  I moved to the birthing stool and pushed on it for awhile until I got tired and requested to lie on my side in the bed.  My daughter was born just before 2 o'clock in the morning, and I held her uninterrupted for 2 hours before she was weighed, examined, diapered, and returned to me.  I cut my own cord.  It was double awesome.  I seriously enjoyed every minute.  Except maybe the pushing.  I really don't like pushing, it is way too much work.  =P
-What helped you VBAC?
My midwives, Hypnobabies, and my husband.  My second VBAC was hugely helped by my first VBAC experience.
-How did you prepare for your VBAC (was there anything you did differently)?
I read TONS of books on natural birth, including Ina May Gaskin, Sheila Kitzinger, and Dr Sears.  Also, Birthing From Within and Julia Mongan's Hypnobirthing.  I really liked the non focused awareness from BFW, it helped me a lot the second VBAC.

- Has the postpartum experience been different than your other birth/s?  What about it surprised you? 

I had a spinal headache after my cesarean.  That gave me massive, crushing headaches whenever I was upright for 2 weeks after the birth, and vertigo (dizziness) for four months.  It took 3 months to get my energy anywhere near normal, and I still have some numbness around the scar 9 years later.
Recovery after my first VBAC was slow.  My baby was big, and had some shoulder dystocia, and I tore pretty badly.  My tissues were swollen and that took at least 8 to 10 weeks to disappear.  It also took a TON of energy out of me, for weeks and weeks.  It felt like I had run three marathons back to back.  But it was way better than recovering from major surgery.
And (prepare yourself for too much information), I was surprised that sex was WAY better after my VBAC than it had ever been before!  Something about stretch receptors being activated or something.  It is still better.  Like, wow; no one ever talks about that as a possibility.  I would say that although that recovery was long, it was still easier and more natural for my body to cope with, compared to recovering from my cesarean.
Recovery after my second VBAC was about 2 weeks.  I had a small amount of tearing, but nothing substantial.  I had significant afterpains, but otherwise less bleeding than either prior birth, and a far more comfortable a recovery period.  A few days of ice and two weeks of rest and I was back to my old self.
I loved my VBACs.  I'm so grateful I had them, and am grateful for the chance to talk about them!  Thank you!!  =)


Anonymous said…
Yes, the sex thing is so true!! Two friends and I were having a good laugh about that the other day... It's a well-kept secret that should be brought to the forefront. Maybe that will encourage more moms to try to go natural! :) Congratulations on your VBAC!
melissa v. said…
thanks fullmontessori! totally the best kept secret EVER! =)
Beautiful post by a very strong mama and wonderful normal birth advocate! :)
melissa v. said…
Thanks Rachel! xo <3 From one birth nut to another.