Lessons learned chasing my VBAC - Helpful for a 1st time mom, from what a 2nd time mama wished she’d known.

Thank you for your interest in reading my blog! Below I’ve gathered all my resources throughout my second pregnancy in hopes that it will help any mom to be, whether it is your first time or you’ve been down this road before, to be empowered, educated, and well equipped to experience non-traumatizing labor and delivery. I'd love to hear what insights you have, or anything you want to share with me too so we can expand this to help all kinds of mamas! I can be reached at hello@marivega.me.

I’ll title this “wise words for a first time mom from what a second-time mama wishes she knew”.

Some type A folks will tell you we try to research and plan all future experiences from vacation planning to efficiently running chores, but nothing prepares you for the emotional journey of trying to get a supportive doctor for a Trial Of Labor After Cesarean (TOLAC). You might think, “but wait, I am not having a Cesarean (C-section), why should I read this?”. Truth is, you do not know if your labor will lead to one as the current statistics show that 1 in 3 are born via C-section, so it is best to be prepared. The best analogy I can think of is comparing this to all the things you study to prepare for your driving test to get a learners permit or license. Some of us won’t actually experience every single thing you can face while driving, but it is good to be prepared. 

My research on how to have a Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) started long before I became pregnant with our second child. With my first child I did not prepare, in any way, for labor. I just figured that women do this all the time and my body would know what to do. After a long, painful, labor that ended in a C-section, I was left in a puddle of raw emotions those weeks following the birth of my daughter. It would be months before I started processing the labor and delivery experience and recovering from the emotional scars that were left along with my physical “bikini cut”. Luckily, not all women feel this way after a C-section, and I am not shaming anyone who chooses to follow that route. I just find that the more unprepared you are for the birth experience, the higher your chances of being let down when it ends in C-section.  

Along the journey I realized how important it was to be empowered through educating myself about the way pregnancy and birth are managed in the United States (US). I can’t recall how I came across it but eventually, I found

The International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) which is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve maternal-child health by reducing preventable cesareans through education, supporting cesarean recovery, and advocating for a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). You can learn more about them here.

ICAN also has support groups on Facebook and in some local cities. Their data and education materials are on point! They have a great article on how to ask the right questions when interviewing doctors and what to ask them about the hospitals they practice in. (Sometimes hospitals have policies that limit providers.) If they don’t have a local chapter that meets in your city then find a virtual community, following social media hashtags like #birthwithoutfear #informedconsent #empoweredbirthproject and #uncensoredbirth is a good start. They will lead you to Facebook groups or moms/providers who can help you locally. 

Podcasts- I personally enjoyed The Birth Hour and The VBAC Link. Listening to a ton of birth stories helped me get a well-rounded understanding of the vocabulary used in a variety of birth experiences, which is really helpful because you don’t know what you don’t know! That is why I appreciated the Birth Hour, it is a variety of stories with a wide range of experiences around the world. The VBAC Link helps you learn all the reasons certain women ended up with a C-section and then helps to hear how they went about it in their journey.

>>Doula - A doula, also known as a birth companion, birth coach or post-birth supporter, is a non-medical companion who supports a birthing woman by providing continuous care before, during, or after childbirth in the form of information, physical support, and emotional support. The first time around I thought, “why would I want a stranger in such a private moment for me and my husband?”. The second time around I was like “how can I afford a doula so I can get additional holistic pain assistance and give my husband a break from worrying to be all things for me during labor?” Here are two small examples of how my doula made 100% difference in my second labor experience: As my contractions increased I lost the ability to stay calm during them and once she arrived and began counter pressure (a simple move of pushing down on my lower back) I was able to feel complete relief of the contraction pains. Later on, I began to get nauseous and vomit and I still needed to make it to the hospital, she solved it by easily rubbing peppermint on a cotton ball and having me sniff it- instant fix! While in the hospital she did the same thing when the vomiting came back, the hospital would have eventually pumped me with medication to help me stop vomiting but why not just use this instant quick fix? That’s the difference when dealing with a well-educated doula. 

>>Chiropractic Care - I did not know that chiropractic care was even an option during pregnancy the first time around. A chiropractic adjustment called the Webster technique is a specific sacral adjustment to help facilitate the mother's pelvic alignment and nerve system function. This, in turn, balances pelvic muscles and ligaments and reduces torsion to the uterus (which can lead to obstructing birth). This may offer a greater potential for optimal fetal positioning. So in short - find a doctor specializing in Webster technique for pelvic alignment, and if you can’t do it via your medical insurance you can find franchises like The Joint Chiropractic, which is a nationwide network of chiropractors delivering quality, affordable, convenient chiropractic to families at a low cost and without involving medical insurance. 

>>Spinning Babies - These certified exercises and moves help get the baby in optimal position before and during labor. Why is that important? Some providers will schedule a C-section if your baby is breech (feet down) by a certain date when through midwifery care you’ll note they do deliver breech babies vaginally. Another reason being that many C-sections happen due to “failure to descend” which means the baby did not go down the birth canal within the allotted time, maybe due to the pelvis positioning, so there are workouts to help with ensuring you're in the best possible conditions. Check out their site to learn about the techniques. Note that you do not have to pay to access the helpful information, I strongly suggest sitting down at a computer to get the best experience viewing all the amazing content the website has.  

>>Find the right medical providers!- Get the RIGHT team in place and don’t rest until you know it’s the right team for your labor and delivery. How do you know if a provider is a right or wrong provider? There are questions that you can continually ask throughout your pregnancy (see paragraph above about ICAN) but also you should feel you trust them. You can gut check their answers against the latest guidelines published by the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecology (ACOG) website, scroll down to “labor, delivery, and postpartum care” section.  I personally never liked my provider during my first pregnancy but did not think I could change providers late in my pregnancy - FALSE! You absolutely can. For my second pregnancy, I changed providers at 20 weeks and again at 30 weeks. The first change was because they were pushing a C-section on me and the second change was because they acted like they would be open to letting me have a natural labor but as the date got closer they started scheduling a C-section “just in case” - red flag!  It’s hard but it is NECESSARY! My cesarean (June 2016) was due to failure to descend so I knew I needed a doctor who would give my baby TIME to get through the birth canal. 

>>Get mentally strong. - Whether it’s meditation, breathing, HypnoBirth, GentleBirth (which is what I did) you’ll need something to mentally go to a place that allows you to face the pain. In some stories I’ve heard women say they summoned all the power of their ancestors and women before them, at one point I did a prayer (I’m not a religious type) and asked for all the women of strength to guide me and then I cried out all the tears possible to release disappointment that things were looking bad at one point, and right after that I delivered my baby in the next 20 minutes! 

>>Study the Vocabulary. - Understand the terminology and ask your provider questions on how they would address different scenarios before the big day. Being informed and in a position to make instant decisions is a plus! The podcasts suggested above exposed me to a lot of the terminology and experiences other women had and I would research them all and talk to my providers about them along the way. 

>>If this is your first VBAC - Put all those fears of tearing/episiotomy aside, you’ll be good! I was told my episiotomy would allow for my baby to finally get through but that there was a chance I would tear into the anus.... can you even imagine how I felt in that moment!?? TMI sorry!  But luckily that didn’t happen and I just had the stitches for the episiotomy, which healed wonderfully. 

Thank you for taking in all my advice! I'd love to hear what insights you have, or anything you want to share with me too so we can expand this to help all kinds of mamas! I can be reached at hello@marivega.me.

Marilys Vega