Preparing for VBAC When Planning Birth

  Sep 24, 2020  |  #Baby

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When I shared Hannah’s birth story, I had many C-section mammas messaging and emailing me saying that my story inspired them. As a C-section mamma myself (read Camryn’s birth story here), I totally relate. 

I couldn’t listen to or read enough successful VBAC (vaginal birth after C Section) birth stories during my pregnancy. I felt so motivated and encouraged after hearing so many different women share their preparation and success stories.

So, I wanted to share mine, too!

mom kissing newborn baby in bed

How I Knew I Wanted to Have a VBAC

When I think about my first birth experience, I don’t know how else to describe it other than I felt “jipped” from the true experience. 

I went into labor naturally and labored until I was 10 cm and ready to push. I pushed, on and off for 3+ hours. Honestly, I wasn’t as educated as I was for my second birth, so I didn’t know about Spinning Babies or different positions for pushing. 

Looking back, I really wish I had had someone who could have coached me through it or said “try this.” In the end, when the doctor said my pelvis was too small and I wasn’t progressing, I didn’t know any better to tell them I wanted to “labor down” and wait for the sensation to push naturally.

I didn’t know I could have switched positions. 

wife and husband in hospital before heading to OR
This was right before heading to the OR for my C Section with Camryn’s birth

There was no medical reason for my C Section, and that’s what frustrates me. And I know this “failure to progress” happens to so many women. So, I really wanted a fresh slate, and to try what my body was naturally meant to do this time around. 

Deep down, I think I knew I could have a successful VBAC (I’m thankful that I had a safe, healthy pregnancy), but there was still so much fear I had to acknowledge along the way.

I wasn’t scared of a VBAC itself, but moreso, I was scared of failing.

I thought that writing it all out in a blog post would be helpful for women who were in my position to read, and hopefully give them more hope moving forward. 

Preparing For VBAC

Many of the resources I’ve listed below were instrumental, I feel, in my preparation for a VBAC. 

Affirmations on bedroom wall for homebirth vbac

What I found most helpful was:

  • Finding a supportive provider
  • Journaling any fears I had about vaginal births (this was a good way to do so)
  • Having a doula
  • Chiropractic care
  • Spinning Babies exercises (The “Daily Essentials” video was wonderful!)
  • Cat Cows and other stretches
  • Practicing breathing
  • Affirmation cards!
  • Natural birth courses
  • Vbac stories (I listed my favorite podcasts below)

Let’s talk more about finding a supportive provider. I wrote about how I switched care at 36 weeks during Hannah’s birth story and our home VBAC experience. While this was very scary for me, it was the best thing I could have done to set myself up for the birth outcome I really wanted. 

While I was really nervous to switch providers at 36 weeks, I thought it was the right choice for me and what I wanted with my birth.

midwife weighing baby

My first visit with the midwives was a completely different experience even compared to meeting with midwives at the OB/GYN office. The visit lasted 75 minutes, and they gave me a chance to ask any questions I had.

I didn’t feel rushed and I really feel like they were getting to know me. When the midwife started checking for the baby, she actually let me touch for the baby’s head, which I had never even thought to ask.

It was just really cool and Ed was able to feel it too. This is also the first appointment that Ed was able to go to due to the COVID restrictions, so it was just a really eye-opening experience for both of us.

I knew that this was more intuitive with the birth that I wanted.

woman in labor leaning over birth pool

While I did know that it was going to be hard and take work, at the same time, knowing I had a support system and positive people to support me versus being in a scary hospital atmosphere was just providing me so much comfort. 

I truly think having that peace of mind with your supportive provider is the bottom line!

How To Find a Supportive Provider

I tend to rely on word-of-mouth or referrals. If your current OB-GYN or provider is not “VBAC supportive” or does not perform VBACS, you can always ask if they know anyone that does.

Other ways to find a supportive VBAC provider:

  • Try calling the hospital you want to deliver at and see what they say.
  • Ask other moms in Facebook groups, exercise groups/classes, mom groups, etc.
  • Ask your chiropractor (Webster certified chiropractors are knowledgable about birth and pregnancy and may have some referrals)
  • Get recommendations from a pelvic floor physical therapist
  • Join the VBAC Link (more on that group below) Facebook group and you can ask many of the thousands of members for recommendations in your area. 
  • You also always search, “vbac doctors near me,” and see who comes up in your area.

The best thing you can do is ask people and be persistent! Don’t give up because the first or second, or even third, provider you tried is not VBAC supportive. 

girl wearing hat and sunglasses walking a dog

Unmedicated VBAC Success Factors

There’s no denying that I took this pregnancy so much more seriously.

As a first time pregnant mom with Cam, I didn’t really know what I was doing or what to expect. I didn’t think twice about delivery or postpartum.

This time around, I focused ALOT on birth and delivery. I was preparing daily because this birth was so important to me. I wanted to have a completely different experience than last time. 

The preparation that I discussed above was paramount for my success. 

woman in labor leaning over birth pool

I’ll also add that learning more about birth (the physiology) through the Bradley method was very very helpful. We took a virtual Bradley method class and I really respect that natural view on childbirth.

It helped break down birth from being something scary to something that is “normal.” Rather than seeing contractions are something painful and fearful, I tried to envision them as waves that brought me closer to my baby. 

I wrote many of these out on my affirmation cards too! I devoted mental space to thinking about having an unmedicated VBAC every single day. 

Affirmations on bedroom wall for homebirth vbac

My Top VBAC Success Factors: 

  • Learning statistics about VBACs vs C-Sections
  • Bradley method birth classes or any natural birth course
  • Hiring a doula
  • Strength training/ group classes/ lots of walking
  • Seeing a chiropractor regularly
  • Seeing a Pelvic Floor PT for scar massage and to learn how to relax my pelvic floor 
  • Miles Circuit – I did this nightly starting at 36 weeks. They also say you can do this during labor!
  • Spinning Babies – nightly stretches to ensure baby was in right position 
  • Podcast/Birth Stories
  • Red Raspberry Leaf Tea – There are tons of options but this is the one I ordered. I drank 1-2 cups iced a day after 36 weeks. 

I loved going for walks and listening to natural birth books on Audible, too. Truly, I wanted to soak up every form of education I could and listen to other vbac success stories. 

Also, I understand that not everyone can do all of these things. Finances, time and energy are limited.

I would just say pick one thing that is most important to you, or 1-2 that you can focus on. If insurance covers your chiropractic visits, great! Maybe you can ask to work with a doula on a sliding scale fee.

Mom in bed with two daughters after giving birth

Forming a VBAC Birth Plan

My VBAC birth plan revolved around the confidence I had in my providers and myself.

While I hoped to birth (or at least labor) in a birth pool, with low lighting and soft music and obviously, do everything at home, I was open to interventions that would need to take priority or doing whatever necessary for the safety of the baby and myself. 

I also had some key points for our birth plan in case we had to go to the hospital. 

pregnant woman looking in mirror

C Section Vs VBAC Recovery

I honestly think I had a much easier C Section recovery than many women do. I was up and moving within days, which I do think helped with recovery.

However, having a C Section is a major surgery so you do have to be careful. I would avoid sudden movements (getting in and out of bed became a slow, gentle movement), and I had to avoid stairs for a week or two. I also had some tenderness around my scar area and some on and off pain in my lower abdomen.  

When you leave the hospital after a C Section, they give you pain killers. So, I remember taking them for maybe the first 4-5 days and it definitely helped with the pain. They say the painkillers are safe for breastfeeding but it just didn’t sit well with me, so I stopped them soon after. 

I had some bleeding with the C Section, but it subsided after about a week and it was nowhere near as much as after my vaginal birth. 

I had a great support system (my mom stayed with us for a few weeks), which also made my C Section recovery much easier. 

mom in bed with camryn and hannah

VBAC Postpartum Necessities

While my VBAC recovery was easier, physically, I was in more pain. I had a good amount of swelling from all of the pushing, and since it was my first vaginal birth, it was similar to a first-time mom birth.

I underestimated how sore I’d be after, but luckily Dermoplast, Silhouette Depends, Sitz Baths and the Peri Bottle were my best friends. You can see a list of the products I used here

There was also so much blood. I bled for about 2.5 weeks, so daily pads were a necessity. 

By guidance of my midwives, I did, however, stay in bed for a good 4-5 days to help heal. This was way different from my C Section experience (and maybe counter-intuitive), but it honestly was physically painful to walk around and there was so much blood. 

Can I Have a VBAC at Home?

You can have a vaginal birth after C-section in the place of your choosing – whether it be a hospital, birth center or home. I loved every part of my vbac home birth, so I’m now a bit biased.

swaying with husband during labor

We chose home for many factors, which I explain in Hannah’s birth story, but we were planning on a hospital birth up until 36 weeks. We also looked into our local birth center, and while I loved how beautiful it was, there were some red flags there for me.

So, ultimately, we chose to do it at home. 

And honestly, it all worked out how it was supposed to because I wouldn’t trade anything about my vbac home birth. 

newborn baby in swaddle

VBAC Resources

Here’s a list of websites, books and documentaries that I devoured during my pregnancy. VBAC success stories were so encouraging and empowering for me to hear!

As I mentioned previously, I really tried to read up and be as educated as possible for my VBAC birth experience. I really think arming myself with knowledge played a big role in my success. 

Remember, you can listen to lots of these books on Audible too!

  • The Business of Being Born – Definitely watch this! Even if this is your first birth, this documentary by Rickie Lake is EYE OPENING into understanding how birth is a business. 
  • More Business of Being Born: Part 4: VBACs – This additional episode is all about VBACS.
  • ICAN website (International Cesarean Awareness Network) – They have local meetings, lots of educational information and info about advocacy.
  • Ina May’s Guide of Childbirth – I read this for Camryn’s birth too, but felt so much more in tune with it this time around after knowing I wanted to go all natural. This is one of the best books out there and Ina May is a goddess in the natural birthing world. She is in the 
  • Birthing from Within
  • Give Birth a Chance – This is a VBAC specific childbirth preparation book and there were some helpful journaling prompts in here around fear and preparation. 
  • Birth Without Fear – So many great prompts here, and love that there are prompts for the husband too. 
  • Hypnobirthing – While I didn’t purchase the hypnobirthing program, I did find this book very helpful with my mental game and learning some meditation and relaxation techniques that I used in labor. The glove technique was great, and I liked the rainbow one, too. 
  • Natural Hospital Birth – This was empowering for a backup plan if I had to go to the hospital!
  • The VBAC Link – Great website with helpful blog posts. I also purchased their VBAC course.
  • VBAC facts 

baby smiling with headband

Podcasts

As I mentioned, podcasts were my jam. I listened to them daily, any chance I got. Since I stopped running around 30 weeks, I walked ALOT. And I always had a birth story to accompany me!

I hope this was helpful! I will update this resource as I continue to think of more things. 

Please let me know if you have any questions!

2 responses to “Preparing for VBAC When Planning Birth

  1. It sounds like you did a lot to prepare for your VBAC and knew exactly what you wanted. I’m so happy you got the birth you wanted and Hannah is adorable!

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