A very personal VBAC story (vaginal birth after caesarean)

I’ve started this a million times and a million different ways.  Turns out it’s pretty hard to write about VBAC’s without sounding preachy and pushy (pardon the pun lol).  Essentially, when I was looking into VBAC’s when pregnant with my little girl,  absolutely everything I read seemed to be so Pro VBAC that it felt like I’d be going against society if I didn’t do it.  I wanted to hear stories from people that had lived through it, people that were as terrified as me but that had positive stories to tell.  For why… when you’re up the duff, does everyone decide to tell you the most dreadful stories of the longest or most graphically horrendous labours they have ever heard of??????  Between the horror stories and the rather gushy hippy stories about babies being birthed out onto rainbow pools full of lentils and dolphins it was all just a bit frustrating.

So, here I go trying to write a VBAC story from a normal point of view.  As a normal Mum who actually isn’t anti anything when it comes to birth (though I’d rather not watch you eat your placenta if that’s alright) and isn’t even particularly pro anything when it comes to birth (whatever the heck works I say).  I’m an on the fence, flip flopping, non professional lass who just happens to have a VBAC story to tell.  It’s what I was searching for a couple of years ago… so I hope it helps at least one of you.

Let’s begin at the beginning

SO… like any good VBAC story I have to start with the C in order for the VBA to be necessary.  On Tuesday 29th September 2009 my gorgeous little boy was delivered by emergency C Section.   They made me write a birth plan (despite me insisting I think they are a waste of time seeing I had never been in that situation and there are far too many variables … it’s like asking what my future pet dog I don’t own yet might like to do on Wednesday afternoons) and in that plan it said something about maybe liking the idea of a pool, and the only thing I was sure of was that I wanted my husband with me.

I refuse to turn into the woman with the horror story, so ultimately let’s just say the plan didn’t happen… not even a brief glimpse of a pool!  Though my husband did get to hang around.

My son was unidentified breach.  He also had the cord wrapped quite tightly around his neck so a “natural birth” would never have been possible.  Thankfully at the last moment the breach was identified and we were taken straight to theatre.

At the time I didn’t find it too terrifying. Needs must and all that… Just get him here safely. It wasn’t until a few years later it all hit me a bit.  If that one midwife hadn’t picked up that he was breach (having seen 6 other midwives in my 4 days of conractions) it would all have been a very different story and I could be living a very very different life.  I felt a little bit of a failure that my first proper job as Mummy was to bring that baby safely into the world but I’d failed him.

Ultimately, it just wasn’t what I’d expected. It wasn’t the best day of my life, although it gave me one of the best gifts. It wasn’t something amazing and powerful I went through with his Dad… It was a team of medical professionals doing something TO me, well that’s how it felt.  I should have been offered counselling afterwards, but wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong I immediately fell in love with that kiddo. In fact it just all fell into place. When they put him in my arms and wheeled me out of theatre I looked at him and it was like I’d always known him. I remember just thinking “yes, there you are” my perfect boy.

Post birth anxiety

But, after having him birth became something I feared greatly.  In 2011 I had a miscarriage.  The combination of the traumatic birth and losing a baby created one scared Mummy who was entirely convinced that a smooth going birth was not something she would ever be able to do. And therefore I decided I was done with babies …. Simples.

Off I headed to a car boot sale and sold the majority of our baby equipment…. Little did I know that even as I made those sales my little Princess was materialising!  Fate was taking things into its own hands.

I SO wasn’t ready for the Princess…. And I absolutely wasn’t ready to have to think about birth options.  I was bricking it.  Honestly I have never been more scared of anything in my life.  Thankfully between my two children my darling little cousin had qualified as a midwife and just so happened to work in my local hospital.  From here on out because I get confused as to whether to call her my cousin or the midwife, she will be known as Cuzwife.

At the start of my pregnancy I was absolutely adamant I would be having another C section.  Better the devil you know and all that.  My biggest fear was having to go through the long labour and then wind up with another section.  Just imagine prepping for major abdominal surgery by doing 4 days of constant sit ups… day AND night with no sleep… Mmm Hmm, that’s not gonna help a great deal with recovery is it?!

Birth Options

I went along to the Birth Options meeting they give you when you have had a C section and I sat in that chair, arms crossed, legs crossed, Bitch face in place and was absolutely determined I would come out of there with a date and time to meet my Princess in an operating theatre….  Turns out, they’re pretty prepared for that.  They’re also pretty damned good at their job and can see right through little Sensitive Sues who think they know what they want but ultimately are just bloody terrified.

The midwife I met with was amazing.  She went through all of the notes from my C Section.  She compared their size from scans.  She showed me details of my op, and that there was no reason The Princess would be breach.  She told me that it was entirely my choice and that she could see emotionally I had a lot of reasons to want to go for a C Section.  She offered me late scans to check her position so that I would always know what was going on.  She was fab.  She also offered me counselling, which thanks to Cuzwife I didn’t feel the need for but it was amazing to know it was in place and if I hadn’t had that close personal relationship in place with my cousin I 100% would have accepted this.

I left the room still pretty sure I’d have a C Section but with a much greater understanding of my options, of the processes and actually feeling like I was in control of my choices.

Your midwife, your choice

I know, from bad midwife experiences, that this is not always the case and that I am lucky to have had such a good experience.  What I would like to say if you are facing a bad experience is that it is YOUR CHOICE.  You can go to a different midwife.  You don’t have to stick to the one that’s at your local GP.  If they are making you unhappy or not supporting you then contact your hospital or local birth centres and seek advice on where else you can visit.  Trust in your midwife and medical team will make every difference if you are facing the same situation.

At my next consultant appointment he scanned and confirmed The Princess was in the perfect position for a VBAC.  A growth scan confirmed she was much smaller than my 8lb 14oz chunk of a boy.  A little seedling of “what if I can” was planted.  Once it was planted I realised that actually what I wanted more than anything else was to be able to do it.  My ultimate dream was a VBAC and I hadn’t even known it.  Or perhaps I had known it all along and not been brave enough to admit it.

For me, one of the main reasons for desperately wanting a VBAC was for the shorter recovery time.  I had a small boy in school and needed to be able to get him there and back.  I also didn’t want to have to tell him to be careful of me, or to limit what I was able to do for him.  I wanted his world to be as normal as possible following the arrival of his new sister because that in itself was a big enough adjustment.  I didn’t want to spend too long in hospital away from him.  In fact in general hospitals creep me out so the shorter time I could spend there the better.

My Cuzwife was an incredible support

I got brave enough to tell the Cuzwife what I wanted, and from then on she supported me, reassured me, coached me, reassured me more and was generally absolutely amazing.

So on 28th April, bang on her due date and perfectly timed with the Cuzwife’s shifts (thanks Princesss) my water broke.  As the waters weren’t clear colour wise, it was decided I would be given the hormone drip to get things moving as she had pooed in the waters.    As soon as I heard the word “induction” I was sure it would end in another Section (thanks a bunch google horror stories) and I was tempted to back straight out and just say take me to theatre.  My husband and Cuzwife teamed up to keep me brave though and we went ahead with the drip.

I’m hazy on the rest of the details thank to my best friend – gas and air (honestly I want that stuff on tap at my house just for kicks) but I know it involved lots of leg rocking and ice crunching and asking to take me to theatre. I was given the hormone drip at around 1pm.

At around 5pm the gas and air was being taken away from me and my Cuzwife was calmly but firmly trying to claw me back from my happy place on cloud cuckoo to actually push and meet my Princess.  My body had naturally started to push and she placed my hands on her head to show me how far I had come.

I did it!

Suddenly the seedling of “what if I can” was gone and in its place was a massive fecking pile of “HOLY CRAP I AM DOING IT”.  Out of nowhere I just suddenly knew I could.  My body just knew how.   I listened to the Cuzwife, I focussed, I felt every little thing and it was horrific but bloody amazing too.  FINALLY at 5.59pm, my Princess was on my chest and she was all dark haired, squishy faced perfection, and I was all stiff shouldered, hit by a truck exhausted… but my god I DID IT.

I have never, and probably will never, be more proud of myself in my life.  I faced the fear and I got my ultimate dream.  Every single demon, every single bit of guilt I had put on myself for not being able to bring children into the world properly was just gone in an instant.  I sit and write this now in floods of tears because I don’t even know how to bring to the page the full extent of those feelings.  I didn’t even realise how scared I was until I was head on with it and did it anyway.

I felt like Superwoman

I didn’t require stitches…  Some bruising and grazing, but ultimately very little to recover from.  We did have to spend the night in hospital due to the pooey waters, but she was absolutely fine and we were discharged the next day before my little boy finished school.

On top of just feeling a million dollars comparatively to my C Section, everything went smoothly.  My milk came in faster, she fed like a dream with no pain whatsoever.  I was tired, sure.  I was achy.  I bled of course.  But hormonally I was on cloud nine and so was my gorgeous wee girl.

And there it is.  It’s not very medical or facty (yes I’m even making words up now) and it’s long and I don’t know how to shorten it.  But that is my VBAC story.

The story of the best day of my life.

As an epilogue to that story though what I would like to add is that whilst my VBAC helped me deal with my emotions surrounding the C Section… Both births were incredible.  Both times I came face to face with my creations and knew for sure that life was miraculous.  The C Section recovery was tough, but it was temporary and it was necessary in order to bring that baby into my life safely.  I understand now that it was not my fault.  That I was not cursed not to be able to bring children into the world!  I did not fail either of my children nor the little seedling I lost.

This is life.   It does not go to plan.

But if you dare to admit your dreams and the only barrier in reaching them is your fear then embrace it… because my God you have no idea of the exhilaration and pure joy waiting on the other side.

Me, the Princess and my Cuzwife.

If you’d like to see what that Princess gets up to these days you can find me at https://www.facebook.com/SenseyOne/ where I blog as the Sensey.  Please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions about the VBAC experience too.  I honestly never thought I could do it, but now I have I would love nothing more than to help other people living through that fear.

Lissie Ray