Pregnancy & Birth

Lessons learned from trying for VBAC

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This post is part of a blog series, 31 Days of Preparing for VBAC: my story of purposeful pregnancy, beautiful trial of labor after cesarean, and the healing repeat cesarean birth of my second child. To view all of the posts in this series, check out the landing page. To receive all posts in the series by email, subscribe here.

Each week that passes of Little Brother’s life, I’m more grateful. Not just for him, but for Ezra too. And for the cesareans that brought them into the world.

I’ve spent the last 29 posts talking all about this experience of trying for VBAC and everything that went into it for me. I’ve given advice and shared things that can be done to prepare and increases your chances.

But now, let me share some hard-learned lessons I’ve taken away from both of my birth experiences:

1. There’s a lot of horrible VBAC advice on the internet.

Especially about birthing big babies:

“Your body won’t make a baby that’s too big for you to birth.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you are unable to deliver a big baby.”

“‘Failure to progress’ is actually failure to wait…and size has not much to do with lack of descent.”

“Stop worrying about the babies size. It really doesn’t matter.”

“Your body can birth the baby it created, especially if it is allowed to do its thing with as few interventions as possible!”

“Quit listening to doctors… The most important part of achieving your vbac?? Skepticism. Question and look up ANYthing you’re TOLD by any other human. Go to the sources and legitimate references. The hype awaits you to snare you into another c.”

“Your body is not broken and your chances of vbac success are high.”

(These are all actual quotes from ICAN threads on Facebook.)

No. No one can guarantee that you can have a successful VBAC. No one can assure you an intervention-free birth, that your uterus won’t rupture, that your baby won’t be too big, or that your breech baby will turn…if you just “trust birth” and “trust your body” enough.

Women are regularly “encouraged” on VBAC boards, Facebook group, etc, to go against medical advice, go postdates (42 weeks and beyond), VBAC at home, ignore risks, and so much more. VBAC is the goal at all costs, and a repeat cesarean section (or – heaven forbid – an elective repeat cesarean) is pretty much the worst thing ever. Care providers are villainized, and distrust of obstetricians and hospitals abound.

Please, please, please…don’t make medical decisions because of what non-medical professionals and birth bloggers say on the internet. Yes, I have shared information in this series from natural birth bloggers because I have loved learning what uncomplicated vaginal birth looks like and how it functions WHEN it happens naturally. But please know that I do not recommend them fully and completely – especially if and when they recommend going against medical advice or acting without care providers.

Find a care provider you trust and please listen to what they have to say. VBAC isn’t for everyone. There ARE risks. Your chances of VBAC “success” depend on SO many things about your body, your history, your baby, genetics, and more. It is so important to take all of these things into consideration in order to make a SAFE and informed decision for you and your baby.

This process has increased my respect in the medical birth community a lot. I spoke with my midwife at my postpartum checkup about Little Brother’s birth and she told me that he might have ended up in the NICU due to infection had I been allowed to labor for much longer. I’m so appreciative that she and the OB made the hard call when she did and we didn’t have to be separated for NICU stay.

2. Mindfulness during pregnancy doesn’t make birth complications disappear.

Can fear cause pain in childbirth? Absolutely.

Can fear hinder a mom from progressing in labor? Yes.

Can meditating on scripture and affirmations and pursuing positive mindfulness relieve anxiety and help you feel more prepared for birth and more in control during birth? I believe so.

But all the affirmations, guided imagery, and positive visualization in the world won’t keep a cord from prolapsing, a baby from going into distress, or a uterus from rupturing. And they won’t make a 10 pound baby descend into a pelvis that doesn’t have enough room for him.

3. Complications can happen to anyone.

Just because a lot of women have uncomplicated, natural, unmedicated births doesn’t mean that everyone can. Interventions exist for good reason.

4. Cesarean birth saves the lives of moms and babies.

I look in awe and with thankfulness at my two beautiful children. What if I had lived long ago? What if I hadn’t been in a hospital? Would they have survived? Would I?

This isn’t fear-mongering. It’s reality. My babies needed surgery to be born.

lessons learned

5. With realistic expectations and planning, cesarean birth can be beautiful.

Was Ezra’s birth was really as “traumatic” as I made it out to be? At the time, I felt traumatized. Then again, I also had recovery complications, he didn’t breastfeed for three weeks, I had postpartum depression, and my husband was about to leave me for a year in a war zone.

Looking back, though, I think the biggest problem wasn’t getting cut open. It was the fact that my expectations didn’t match up with reality. I didn’t plan for cesarean birth because I thought I was above cesarean birth.

With Little Brother, I prepared for VBAC, but I also had a plan for cesarean. A good plan. I sought out a birth location that didn’t just support VBAC, but would care for me respectfully if it came to a c-section.

And that’s what made the experience so healing.

6. Birth matters. But so does the rest of our lives.

How we birth our children matters. It matters because the experience of birth shapes us as mothers. It affects us on emotional and spiritual levels.

This is why, in my VBAC playlist is the song Matter:

All of the dreams that haven’t come true
And all of the hurt that happened to you
It matters, I hope you know it matters

You felt the pain of a bitter defeat
Where the weight of the grief is more bitter than sweet
It matters, I’m telling you it matters

But a complicated birth, a disappointing birth – even a traumatic birth – is not the sum of who we are as moms and who are babies are or are going to be. We can heal. We can move on.

It is ONE day, ONE experience, one SMALL part of our lives and our babies’ lives.

But life is about so much more.

Please know this…

The best birth is a birth that results in a living, beautiful baby who goes on to be a wonderful person. No “experience” is more important than that.

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  • StephenLizzy Ainsworth

    I was able to have a VBAC, but I had certain perimeters to try within, though I tore badly, got shock from losing a lot of blood, and got an infection, and nearly died, so sometimes it’s not worth it! We had a lot of miracles for the whole birth but I honestly don’t know about next time. As God leads, listening very carefully to Him and doctors. I did look back on the records and discovered that my first baby’s head was 2cm bigger than my 2nd baby’s head and there was no way I was pushing her out.

  • Flick

    Thank you! I had an emergency c-section with my bub and while I don’t feel traumatised I do feel like I need to try for a natural birth again – if only because I feel like it helped me establish breast feeding. I didn’t even know a trial of labour before a second C was a thing. You are so right – the best birth results in a beautiful living baby 🙂

    • Aprille

      I hope that, whenever the time comes, you are able to come to a good decision for both you and your baby. My first did not nurse for the first three weeks, but my second baby took to it right away and we had absolutely no issues other than a strong suck reflex (we ended up giving him a paci as soon as we got home from the hospital and it worked like a charm). I think with 2nd babies, you are just so much more confident in everything!

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