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Vaginal birth after C-section

Published on: October 01, 2006

Cute cutie cute newborn baby boyOne mom's story  

I believe in love at first sight: I felt it the moment my son was born. His birth will forever be fixed in my memory, both as his beginning and my triumph over something I did not believe I could do.

His birthday was the day I had a natural childbirth after giving birth to my daughter by Cesarean section just 26 months prior. Like all birth stories, both of mine are filled with anticipation, love and the joy of welcoming a new baby to our family. But unlike all those stories, my second pregnancy was filled with worry, self-doubt and indecision.

During my first pregnancy, I simply assumed the best. I was young, fit and healthy, and had no reason to think I may have complications in labor.

When the time came to write my birth plan with the midwife, I knew exactly what I wanted. No Pitocin. No episiotomy. No drugs. Only dim lighting, yoga music and meditation for me. The problem with my approach was that it was not realistic. I left no option for the possibility of a surgical birth, complete with fluorescent lights, cold operating room and a very skilled woman with a knife.

So after 10 hours of labor -- four of them spent pushing -- my body simply stopped having contractions. My baby's head was stuck face-up and she had not moved down into the birth canal. My midwife paged the obstetrician on call, and I was rolled into the operating room in a wheelchair. An anesthesiologist gave me a quick shot in the spine, and 15 minutes later, my 8-pound, 12-ounce baby girl was born by C-section.

It was an hour before I held my daughter. I remember feeling exhausted from labor, overwhelmed and in shock that I had just had the very first surgery of my life. After surgery, nurses took me from the operating room back to my hospital room, and my daughter went with the group of family members who had assembled in the waiting area, eager to welcome her to our family.

After a while, my family, husband and new baby came into my room. Whether it was because of the drugs, shock or pure exhaustion, it never occurred to me to ask for my baby until a nurse suggested I try to nurse her. My husband placed her in my arms, and in that moment, I became a mother.

So when my husband and I made the decision to have another baby 18 months later, I no longer had my list of ideals for a birth plan. In fact, I refused to write one. I knew there was a chance I might have another Cesarean, and I no longer had faith in my body that I was capable of natural childbirth. In my heart, I dreamed of a vaginal birth after Cesarean (VBAC). I felt selfish to confide this to my friends and family. After all, most people I know believe the outcome of a healthy baby is all that really matters, not the mother's experience.

For some reason, the experience of natural childbirth was really important to me. I read everything I could get my hands on about VBAC. I called a half a dozen nurse midwives until I found one who could accept me as a patient.

At my first visit to the new midwife, I learned that she could help me attempt a VBAC because she had something called "OB backing." That meant that when I went into labor, not only would my midwife come the hospital, but so would the on-call obstetrician from the group of practitioners who work in the midwife's office. This doctor would not come to my hospital room unless paged by the midwife, but would have to be present in the hospital, just in case I did need a Cesarean.

I agonized about whether to attempt a VBAC for most of my pregnancy. I listened to advice from family, friends and complete strangers. It seemed everyone had an opinion, and most of them were against VBAC. As my pregnancy neared its eighth month, I changed my mind daily. I did feel confident that a skilled obstetrician would be on hand just for me, and I knew from my first birth how quickly she could get the baby out if she had to.

In the end, I came to a decision that I had to change my mindset. I should not think of a Cesarean as "failing," as I had with my first delivery. So when I went into labor the second time, I would try for a VBAC, but would go into it with an open mind that I could have another cesarean, and that would be OK, too.

When the day came, my labor went quickly. I didn't have any time to think about VBACs and Cesareans. My midwife met me at the hospital at 12:30 pm, broke my water at 3 p.m., and my son was born vaginally at 4:55 pm. I had my natural childbirth.

I did face similar obstacles with the second birth. Like my daughter, my son was also face up, and I now know that the shape of my pelvis encourages that position. This time, though, the midwife and I were able to turn the baby. As soon as I got past the point where my body had stopped with my first labor, I knew I could do it.

Once I started believing in myself, I had strength, determination, and a new-found trust in my body I never knew existed. I was unusually calm even though I was in extreme pain. And when the midwife placed my baby on my stomach just after he was born, I was whole.

Katie Amodei is a Puget Sound-based public relations consultant, freelance writer, mother and stepmother.

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