Such great tips! Lets get the word out to help educate and empower other mamas!
by Amanda Dodson | staff writer for The Snap Mom
When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I knew right away that I wanted an all-natural birthing home birth. After all, I was born at home and witnessed, from a young age, many babies come into the world at home or in birthing centers. An epidural was totally out of the question and I almost scoffed at people who had c-sections. After all, I came from women with wide hips who were made to birth – or so I thought! After a slight leak and reseal in my membranes on my due date and no progression 12 hours later, my midwife began natural induction. Finally contractions started, but I still wasn’t dilating without being manually stretched. 36 hours later my baby’s heart rate dropped as I was trying to be stretched past 5 cm. I was then taken by ambulance to SMH and put on pitocin. The doctor came in briefly to tell me to keep laboring and he’d be back after his c-section to see how I was doing. An hour later I had dilated 2 cm despite being in a tangle of tubes and not really able to make the most of my contractions. The doctor then told us he wanted to do a c-section because my membranes had been broken so long – it had been 40 hours since the leak and about 8 since they were broken by the midwife. Of course, I fought it. We begged for a little more time. My husband and doctor argued on either side of me as I continued to labor. Finally the head L&D doctor was called in to mediate. Just as things began to cool down, the midwife ran over to me and readjusted the baby monitor down to the right place. Then everyone realized his heart rate had dropped again. Before I knew it, I was flipped onto my hands and knees, had a sheet thrown over my behind, and I was being wheeled down the hall. All the while I was screaming for someone to tell me what was going on! I visually blacked out at that moment and can only remember being moved to the operating table, having a catheter shoved in, and finally someone telling me to take a breath and explained to me that I would be put under and cut open as quickly as possible so baby wouldn’t get the anesthesia. I finally calmed down and accepted my fate and began counting backwards. I woke up in a daze hours later. Fighting to regain consciousness and finally realized there should be a baby somewhere. As I came to, I saw my beautiful son beside my bed and immediately asked my husband to hand him to me. I held him as I slowly came out of the fog. That night as I laid in the pure joy of my son but in pain and disappointment that his birth had taken such a turn, I knew that I would try again one day and I would be wiser and better for it. Almost 4 years later, my daughter gave me a second chance to experience the miracle that is birth without all the pain, fear and stress we had endured the first time. Looking back, I am grateful that I can now look at all mothers with a pure, loving and sympathetic heart and not be judgmental but be an encouragement for those who may not have gotten the birth experience they wanted.
I believe now that no matter what kind of birth you want, it is vital to do your own research and never to depend solely on one caregiver.
After lots and lots of research and a success story of my own, here are some tips to help you PREPARE for your own VBAC!
1. Know where you can birth
Basically there are 2 choices: a hospital birth or a homebirth. Each state has different laws on VBAC births. For example, in the state of Florida you cannot have your first VBAC in a birthing center and are supposed to only be in the hospital, although many midwives will do a homebirth. I’ve also heard that some states will not allow you to have a VBAC in a hospital even if you’ve already had a successful one. So do some research on your state laws so you are prepared under any circumstance.
2. Know the facts
For the highest chance of success, it is recommended to wait a year and a half between babies. Yes, there are many women who have successfully VBACed sooner, but giving your body adequate time to heal is important. Personally, my body didn’t begin to feel normal till 6 months postpartum and only at around a year could I say I was totally healed.
3. Understand your c-section
There are multiple factors in what makes a woman a “good candidate” for a VBAC, but one of the biggest ones is what type of incision and suture you had with your c-section. You can get this information from the delivering hospital, if your midwife or doctor doesn’t have it. It’s also important to know why you had a c-section. Reasons range from preterm labor, to high blood pressure, to failure to progress and on and on. While some cases are unavoidable, many are not, and you can start your preparation goals there.
4. Kick out the negative
My chiropractor actually told me, “You’re PREPARING for a VBAC.” From that moment I stopped saying to myself and others that I was trying for a VBAC, but that I was preparing! Reading encouraging birth stories and writing mantras around the house are other great ways to keep the positivity flowing. Which leads us to…
5. Join your local ICAN Chapter (International Cesarean Awareness Network)
This group of women will not only boost your confidence that YOU can do this, but will be a wealth of information during your mental and physical healing process, as well as during your pregnancy and labor (if you have time for social media during labor!). I learned so much from these women and can’t imagine having the same peace I had without their insight, knowledge, and encouragement.
6. Webster chiropractor
Webster chiropractic care is great for any pregnancy, but especially when trying for a VBAC. Not only does it help the pelvis have good alignment, which is pertinent when birthing, but doing the extra intricate work of Webster’s technique can allow the uterus to align better within the pelvis allowing baby less stress/tension in utero & promoting optimal fetal positioning. My midwife once said, “we are trying to keep any negative check marks off your record” — this is just one more assurance that the doctors won’t have a reason to suggest a c-section.
7. Hire a doula
I didn’t have a doula my first pregnancy, and I tell everyone that I would never have been successful in having a med-free VBAC if not for her! She was also extremely valuable during my pregnancy in helping me prepare my body, teaching me how to belly wrap, and MOST of all, giving me tools and the encouragement I needed to stay positive and focused.
8. Be ready for adversity
Not everyone experiences it, and I was very lucky to have a family that totally supported my choice to try for a VBAC, but I also kept my mouth shut to a lot of strangers. Everyone has their own opinions and some don’t like to keep them to themselves. I decided to not even leave an open door for any negative comments or feedback during my whole pregnancy. Keep in mind that nurses and doctors will have their opinions too. Go in knowing the facts. When I did my consult with a doctor, a requirement if using a midwife, I went in prepared to just shake my head and nod and not let anything they said discourage me.
9. Have a support team
A strong support team during pregnancy and labor is key. I found support through communities of women who had successful VBACs or were trying like me. However, my biggest support was my family and church. Just having someone to listen to you and pray with you can make such a difference.
10. Belly wrap
My doula taught me to belly wrap. There are many positives to belly wrapping, but supporting my belly was the main one. Many post-cesarean moms have issues with “waterfall belly” in subsequent pregnancies (where baby is kinda hanging out and over). This not only weakens the key muscles for labor, but also puts the uterus in a less than ideal position for labor. Belly wrapping is a great technique to minimize this.
11. Ditch the sofa
By the time i started showing, I stopped lounging around. If I wasn’t on all fours on the ground, I was sitting on my exercise ball, laying on my side, or sitting on a chair backwards. This was probably the hardest part of pregnancy for me, but I was determined to keep baby in the right position since that seemed to be the reason for my c-section. (See: Understanding your c-section)
12. Red raspberry leaf tea and vitamin C
If you haven’t heard of Red Raspberry leaf tea, well now you have! This is an amazing women’s tea that is not only great to drink during pregnancy, but also just before your monthly cycle. RRLT is thought to help strengthen and tone the uterus – just what you need before labor – and to help strengthen that uterine wall right around your scar. I drank this stuff by the gallon the last month of pregnancy. Vitamin C bioflavonoids is also a great supplement that is supposed to help in preventing premature rupture of membranes (your “water”).
13. Take care of your scar
Since one of the biggest concerns with VBACing mamas is the (very small) chance of uterine rupture, I felt it was important to give my scar tissue the best chance. If you haven’t already done scar massage to separate the tissue layers that the scar tissue binds together, then start early in pregnancy before you start getting bigger. There are many great YouTube videos on how to do this massage. I also regularly massaged a mixture of coconut oil, lavender EO, and frankincense EO into my scar to help it heal itself better as it was stretching. Side note: during a pregnancy that I lost just before, I felt lots if pings and pulling on my scar early on. Between the two pregnancies, I did lots of scar massage and began rubbing in the essential oils and I had NO aches in my scar the whole pregnancy, just a little itching.
14. Have 2 birth plans
As much as you don’t want a plan B for your VBAC, it’s vital to account for it in case of an emergency. I wanted to make sure that if I had another c-section, that it was on my terms and not with me screaming for someone to tell me what was happening while being wheeled into the operating room. So I wrote up a gentle c-section plan that went along with my birth plan. This gave me peace and helped me feel in control knowing my plan would be followed to its best if things went differently.
15. Avoid being induced
Inductions are one of the top causes of c-sections. You really want to try and let your body go into labor naturally so you don’t find yourself on a time limit. This proves especially hard for moms trying to VBAC, because many (even VBAC-friendly) doctors schedule a cesarean for 40.5 weeks, “just in case.” This was the biggest stressor for me. Even though I knew I wouldn’t even show up for my pre-op appointment that they set for 40+1 weeks, I’m also a rule follower and it just stressed me out and made me feel rushed.
16. Make peace with yourself
It may not seem important, but this is huge and should not be overlooked. Coming to terms with your cesarean and finding faith in your body again is vital in success. You won’t be able to push through the hard times of pregnancy and especially labor if you are constantly doubting yourself.
17. Connect with your baby
I don’t know about you, but during my long first labor I became very disconnected with my baby. By the time I was transferred to the hospital and a c-section was mentioned, we were not working at all as a team. I felt I was forcing him out. With my daughter, I vowed to connect. We worked together during pregnancy. We talked about what would happen and what she could do. And during labor we stayed connected. I continued to reassure her that it was going to be all right and soon she’d be in my arms. And wouldn’t you know, not only did it help me to focus on something more than the pain but my little girl really helped. In triage, when I wasn’t dilated enough to get admitted (though I could have SWORN I was in transition), she started wiggling and working her way down more… I dilated 2 cm in half an hour! Later, when I was almost to pushing and I felt I couldn’t go on anymore, she literally flipped and I could feel her working her head around to dilate me more! It was AMAZING!!!!!
Overall, remember that your body can do this! With the right preparation and research you can give you and your baby the best shot at a vaginal delivery. You Can Do It!
More VBAC info
About the author:
Amanda is a SAHM who spends her days surrounded by her two beautiful children and beard-loving husband. Amanda has too many passions and spends any of her free time by creating/designing for her business, in the kitchen, or dreaming up ways her family can be a Florida version of Mountain men. Most importantly, Amanda seeks to bring all she does back to the glory of God.