Written by Jaimie Schrock
When I had a positive pregnancy test six years ago, I knew I couldn’t consent to a fourth c-section. I just couldn’t. My last three babies were delivered by surgery. And this time, peace in my heart for a surgery was not within me unless it became truly necessary. So, because of my great desire for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), I decided to do everything I could to have the birth I wanted. I later learned it wasn’t just the birth I wanted, but the birth I so desperately needed.
Maybe you are in a similar place. Maybe you know some about VBAC, maybe nothing. Here are ten things you’ll want to know as you prepare.
- A supportive provider is everything. Yes, you read that right. If you don’t have a doctor or midwife who shares your views on birth, you have a much less chance of achieving or attempting the birth you want. Often times we continue with a provider because it’s in our comfort zone. It’s who we have gone to most of our childbearing and adult years. This doesn’t qualify this provider to be the one attending our births! We need someone who follows evidence- based research and doesn’t just tolerate of VBAC, but supportive. For more tips to understand this, see: http://www.ican-online.org/omaha/wp-content/uploads/sites/25/2014/12/Untitled-design.pdf Also, you can contact your local ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network), for providers in your area you may consider to speak with.
- Your birth is your responsibility. It’s true! Even when we have a great provider, a great place (home, hospital, or birth center) to have our babies, no one cares more than us! We need to be diligent and invest in our births. As my good friend Kate (and fellow doula) has written, “After supporting dozens of births, witnessing multiple complications and countless variations, I’ve identified what I believe is the most defining quality to a satisfying birth and what brings power to your journey beyond the birth room. And that is simply: personal responsibility.” When you take responsibility for your birth, even if things don’t go as planned, you will be empowered and more satisfied with your experience in the end.
- Make educating yourself a top priority. This will help with point number 2. You will WANT to understand what physiological birth looks like. You will want to know what a normal progression of labor looks like. Some women who have a VBAC have experienced labor, and some have not. But the more you can understand what labor can look like, the better prepared you will be. Maybe you want options for medication during labor. Talk to your provider. Research the benefits and risks. If you read one and only one book, I highly recommend, “The Birth Partner,” by Penny Simkin. And if you’re hungry for more, check out Evidencebasedbirth.com. You can find evidence-based answers to pretty much any questions you have. There is also a newer and promising resource called Birthpedia, where birth professionals provide the answers to your questions.
- Find support. Sometimes friends and family may not understand the path you have chosen to take for your birth. And as much as we would like them to, it is ok! No one has to approve or understand your birth choices. And freedom comes when we realize it’s not OUR business what anyone else thinks about US! So, let that go and then find some good support. It may be meeting up with your local ICAN group or even finding support on Facebook. There are some great VBAC groups out there and also some that aren’t so great. See what works for you. When we have community and support, it can make a huge impact on the course of our journey.
- Hire a doula, and hire her early. ACOG says that having a support person in labor provides benefit! And a 2017 study said, “Women who received continuous labour support may be more likely to give birth ‘spontaneously’, i.e. give birth vaginally with neither ventouse or forceps or caesarean. In addition, women may be less likely to use pain medications or to have a caesarean birth, and may be more likely to be satisfied and have shorter labours.” As a doula, I love encouraging women to find their doula early because then you have emotional and educational support for a good portion of your pregnancy! If you are looking for doula options in your area, check out doulamatch.net .
- Find a Webster Certified Chiropractor. Chiropractic care can have many benefits during pregnancy. Proper pelvic alignment, possibility of decreased labor time and pain, healthier nervous systems for mom and baby and guidance and support (blog.pathwaystofamilywellness.org). Who wouldn’t want this? Having proper alignment can help baby get into the best position for labor. To find someone in your area who specializes in chiropractic care during pregnancy check out: icpa4kids.com
- Process past trauma. Maybe your past birth(s) were difficult, hard or even traumatic. It’s ok to process your birth(s). It’s ok to acknowledge them. In fact, it can be very healthy. BUT THEN, I encourage women to come into the present, realize that this current pregnancy and labor ARE NOT last time’s or the time before. This is NOW. You are a different person now, this is a different pregnancy and you can be expectant and look forward to a different birth.
- Eat well, hydrate and move your body. First off, let’s just realize together that pregnancy can bring a whole lot of cravings and aversions. Anyone who’s been there knows! However sometimes the cravings can signal we are missing some nutrients in our diets. Taking a great prenatal vitamin, eat great nourishing foods and doing some body movement whether that’s walking or something more advanced is so great for mom and baby. And it can only help towards the goal of a VBAC. Hear me when I say, perfection here isn’t required! Because none of us are perfect. Doing the best we can in these areas will help us and our babies not only now, but even after baby is born.
- Release fear. This is something so important. I know for myself, recognizing specific fears and allowing them to be what they were and then releasing them was one of the best things I could do. We must look at the benefits and risks of the choices we make in pregnancy and labor. No birth is risk free. BUT, when we make the choice that is right for us, why not go forward in faith leaving fear behind and choose to trust our bodies and our babies. The VBACLink has fear release activity you can do in the comfort of your own home. Check it out here .
- Believe in yourself and envision the birth that you want. Though this is last on the list, I believe it is the most important. YOU and what you believe about yourself is KEY to achieving the birth you desire. You were created to do amazing things. Some women don’t feel capable of a VBAC. Some of us have tried to have a baby vaginally before and it didn’t work out, for various reasons. I encourage you to get real with yourself, find any doubts you have and choose to be your biggest cheerleader. Read or listen to inspirational birth stories (such as this one from Birthpedia), find positive affirmations and say them out loud. I have heard it said, “we all have imaginations no matter what age we are.” Why not imagine and dream of the beautiful healing birth you desire? It will make a big difference during labor as you are positive and optimistic about the birth you want.
These 10 points are exactly what I used when preparing for my VBA3C (vaginal birth after three c-sections). As you move forward in preparation, I wish you the absolute best. I believe in you and admire you for taking charge of your birth.
For more of my story, check out my book, “Brave Beautiful Birth – Trusting God Through VBAC.”