Pre-childbirth my experience of caesarean, never mind a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section), was limited to ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’, which I saw when I was about 30 weeks pregnant and it terrified me. One of the women had to be rushed off for an emergency c-section in which she was drugged up to the eye-balls, completely unconnected from the birth and then nearly dies. Following that and lots of hippy books, I knew I didn’t want one. I wanted to experience labour to the max, let my body take over, and all those primeval notions related to giving birth.
However, then I went into labour. On Super Saturday, as I was watching Mo win his second gold medal, I was thinking ‘good for f*cking you, Mo, you dick. I wish I could have a c-section’. Entirely unconnected statements but I hated Mo (sorry Mo, I actually think you’re lush, I just wasn’t myself!) and I wanted that baby OUT. Now I can’t remember the pain just how amazing it was to give birth to my son with Mike by my side (albeit asleep for what felt like most of it… basically until it got interesting!) but I wonder if I would have such fond memories if I had ended up having a c-section?
Of my group of 7 mums-to-be, 2 of them had to have emergency c-sections. They both recovered really well and the discussions I’ve heard since have been that they would both have an elective caesarean next time. I can understand this. They both had extremely traumatic experiences, and particularly the stages at home when it feels like it will never be over, can be close to unbearable… So, what makes some women, even after traumatic first time experiences, choose to have a VBAC?
I’ve been speaking to Emma, who back in November when she was 32 weeks pregnant, left a lovely comment on my blog. I discovered that Emma had to have an emergency c-section with her first baby, Beth, 7 weeks early. Despite this she was still hoping to have a VBAC with her second. Here is her story:
Abigail born 27th January 2013 – a successful VBAC!
I can see why people chose to go elective. It’s all very predictable and you can make plans. I’ve had a lot of friends who’ve had difficult labours ending in a c-section and they decided to have an elective with their second. I guess for me, I was just the opposite. I found the emergency c-section experience horrible, and had a terrible recovery so I wanted to avoid it. I also found there were a lot of emotional issues tied up with not having had any labour first time round. I felt robbed and that my body had not been allowed to do what it is designed to do. I have spoken to plenty of women since who thought I was nuts for feeling that way! However, this time I wanted to experience it. Plus, with a 2½ year old already at home I knew that another c-section would mean 6 weeks of no driving, no lifting, etc!
I was due on the 19th, the following Wednesday I went for a sweep which did’t do much. Midday Thursday I started having contractions, mild as they were, which came and went throughout the night. I had another sweep on the Friday as well as Saturday and Saturday night. Sunday morning I had a good old blub about not wanting another c-section (I should’ve known something was afoot then!) and by midday I was suddenly having contractions every 3 mins. Suddenly things were moving quickly with my parents arriving – my mum was coming with me and my husband to hospital and my dad to look after my daughter. At 4pm we rang the hospital who said come in. At 5.30pm an exam revealed I was 4cm and not going home. I huffed and puffed my way on from there using the tens machine and some acupressure. At 10:30pm another exam showed I was 7cm, with my waters still intact, and the midwife said I had hours left to go so I asked for gas and air at that stage.
Pain relief wise, I knew I wanted to use as little as possible but having not laboured before, I had no idea what to expect. I’d had a few days of contractions (not that that’s what I thought they were as they didn’t feel how I expected!) so maybe I had built up a certain level of tolerance?! As it was, the main reason I asked for anything at all is because the midwife said I had about 4-5 hours, which I didn’t think I could do.However, within half an hour of that examination my waters broke and my body started pushing. The midwife said not to push as I wasn’t dilated and would damage myself – so I tried my best, until the midwife lifted the blanket and in a very surprised tone admitted she could see baby’s head!
With some more huffing and puffing (I’m sure I was much more noisey than that!), me, my husband and my mum welcomed Abigail Elizabeth Ratcliffe into the world at 11:53pm on the 27th weighing 9lb 4ozs!
There you have it – a successful VBAC, avoiding the knife! Not quite a hypnobirthing experience as I certainly felt every ounce of that 9lbs but it was quick, relaxed and just what I hoped for. After my delivery, I had just a few stitches, which caused me no problems and I was back on my feet and in the bath within an hour of delivery – such a very different experience to post c-section!! And, recovering after a natural birth has been so easy in comparison.
Baby Abigail born via successful VBAC with her big sister Beth!
I am so pleased that Emma was able to experience what she had hoped for! And, since reading about Emma’s successful VBAC, I also wanted to see what other people’s experiences were of VBAC. As with everything to do with pregnancy, childbirth and beyond, every story and situation is totally different. I had some amazing comments on the Mum’s Days facebook page. Thank you to everyone who has joined in so far, and please do have a read and join in the conversation.
What I found really interesting about the comments was the number of people who had to have an emergency c-section with their second child, despite a successful vaginal birth with their first. It also seems that emotional issues connected with the suddenness of emergency c-sections and the lack of skin-to-skin can be connected with PND. So, to finish off, what I would like to say is, I’m no medic but I understand that sometimes it isn’t possible for a woman to have a VBAC. If this is the case for you and you are worried about the effects of having an elective caesarean, please read this article, Every bit as magical, that Catherine Adkin shared on the VBAC facebook thread. Maybe you too can have more of a say in your c-section!
Finally to quote my friend who had an emergency c-setion and when asked if she felt like a failure (I KNOW, I can’t believe someone actually asked her that either), she said: “I carried a baby for 9 months, and I now have a beautiful boy. No, I don’t feel like a failure.”
Please do share your thoughts either below in the comments or on the facebook thread.