When I was pregnant with my first child I suddenly realized one day that I would have to give birth. It was at that point that I was like a heat-seeking missile in search of women who had just had babies. One of those women I sought out raved about her Bradley Method classes. I did some Googling and was sold that this was the right class for me.
With a blanket and 2 pillows tucked under his arm, my amazing husband took me to a 2-hour class on Sunday nights for 12 weeks where we heard lots of female anatomy terms and watched birth videos . . . during football season. (Yep. I wasn’t just throwing around the term “amazing”.)
Right off the bat, I learned that I had a lot to learn. (As did my husband.) We got through our classes and I dutifully ate well, did my Bradley exercises, saw a chiropractor, hoped and prayed. . . and our little girl remained in a breech position (bottom down, instead of head down) and wouldn’t budge. So we had an uneventful, scheduled c-section and planned for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) with our next baby.
When our firstborn was 14 months old we found out we were expecting that next baby! Just like last time I did my exercises, ate well, even did a VBAC refresher class with my Bradley instructor. My water broke about a week before my due date and 5 hours later, with hard contractions coming every 4 or 5 minutes, my husband and I headed for the hospital. 12 hours later. . . I was still in labor and my heart rate was very high.
My midwife was concerned about my incision from the c-section and recommended an epidural to see if the increased heart rate was just from stress and exhaustion (I went into labor at 4 in the afternoon, so I’d been up all night at this point) rather than my incision rupturing. After weighing the options I decided to get the epidural. My heart rate came down and I got some much-needed rest. I labored down the rest of the day and was finally ready to push around 4 pm. After 3 hours of pushing with little progress, the decision was made to head back for another c-section.
I cried because I was exhausted.
I cried because I was anxious to meet my baby.
And I cried because a little part of me felt like a failure.
My son was born with a black eye from being pushed into my pelvic bone for three hours but was otherwise a healthy and happy baby. And, although I was physically run down from a long labor and then surgery, I recovered pretty well.
But that little part of me that felt like a failure grew and grew.
What was the deal with my body? Why had my labor gone so poorly? What could I have done differently?
Here’s what I learned from that experience.
- Baby’s position matters. Even though this was my second baby, it was my first labor and so my body worked much like a first time mom’s would. And for me, that meant that the extra centimeters gained from a posterior head position were too much to fit through my pelvis while laying in bed with an epidural.
- If you want to move the baby, you have to move the mom. I took Bradley classes (and am now a Bradley instructor) so I’m completely for unmedicated birth. I went to natural birth friendly midwifery practice, had a doula, and the support of my husband. In spite of that, my body was not handling labor very well and I was very, very tired. I think the epidural was the best option at that moment, but it limited my range of motion and may have kept my baby from moving to a better position.
- A VBAC after 2 c-sections is hard to achieve. . . but not impossible. This is another story for another day, but I’ve since gone on to have 2 natural births–one premature and one overdue and more than 10 pounds. Most women are good candidates for VBAC, even if they’ve had more than one c-section. It’s becoming more and more challenging for women to find care providers who can help them as they work toward a non-surgical birth.
I talked to a mom just yesterday who is pregnant with her third baby and determined to have a VBAC. Her insurance will only cover a certain hospital system and some doctors in the practice support her having a vaginal birth and some do not. Some feel she should be induced at 39 weeks and others think she should go into labor on her own. It’s anyone’s guess which doctor will be on call when she goes into labor. Many women are facing this same scenario.
- A c-section is still a birth and it’s not a failure. I did not physically push out my first two children, but I still birthed them. It was not the way I pictured, but my body worked hard to bring them into the world and, after more than 7 years, I am finally giving myself credit for that.
If you are a mama who gave birth via c-section and are struggling with your birth experience, no matter how labor went (or didn’t) or the reason for the c-section or the regrets you have or what you’d do differently now. . . know that you gr
ew and sustained your child and went through an uncomfortable and clinical process to birth your baby. That is amazing and beautiful work and you should be proud.