My VBAC Triumph…

By: Peggy Bernar

Now before I start, let me get this out of the way: What you are about to read is what I have experienced, and me alone. These results, etc. may not be the same for everyone. We all have our own birthing experiences and feelings that come with that. I am not looking down on anyone for having one
birth or another. I am simply sharing my own experiences in hopes that any women experiencing similar things can be helped and given the extra strength they may need.

The doctor asked, “When do you want to schedule your c-section?” I replied, “I’m not,” as I got up to leave. That is the last conversation I had before I walked out the door and never looked back. When this question was asked, I was at my 34 week prenatal appointment. Let me back things up a bit so you can see where I’m coming from……

When we found out we were expecting our third beautiful child, I was over the moon with the news. Not only because there would be a third amazing soul to grace our family, but because there was an opportunity to do things differently. You see, I had 2 medically unnecessary c-sections 12 months apart
from each other. To some, that may sound like no big deal, but to me it was not what I wanted. I know the saying, “Healthy baby, healthy mama, that’s all that matters.” Well, yes and no. Yes the health of mom and baby are crucial to life, of course. But HOW that woman births that baby is important to her
too. Regret after birth is a real thing, and shouldn’t have to be validated by outside people, but oddly enough, people think it’s okay to dismiss your feelings and tell you, “You should be grateful….everything turned out fine!” I wanted more than “fine” for this baby, and I was determined to get the birth I had always dreamed of.

My first Google search went something like this: “VBAC friendly doctors in my area.” Well, as you can imagine, that search yielded few results but nonetheless, the hospital and group I ended up choosing was on there. So I called to make my first appointment. In the meantime, I attempted to arm myself with ALL of the knowledge I could as far as uterine rupture risks, maternal and fetal death risks, etc. And my findings were astounding!!! After having family and previous medical professionals tell me I shouldn’t try for a VBAC because the risk of uterine rupture was so high, I found it was actually
extremely low in comparison to the same risks with having a 3rd c-section. Knowing all of this, I was confident that my appointment at my new OB would go great. And it did. We had a lovely conversation about what I wanted for this birth, how my previous births were medically unnecessary, etc. I told them how my first scheduled c-section was due to my son measuring big on the ultrasound and they advised me to have a c-section because they were afraid he may not fit. He was born at 7lbs. 15oz.
so shows how much they knew. But hey, I was healthy, my son was alive, I should be grateful because everything was fine, right? Let’s not mention the fact that I didn’t get to hold or see him the first 13 hours of his life because he was whisked away at birth and was being monitored because he was, as
they put it, “breathing funny.” He sat in a hospital bassinet for the first 13 hours of his life all by himself, all alone without his mother, the person he had known for comfort, food, nurturing, etc. for the past 9
months. Did this happen because he was born at 39 weeks? I will never know. But the thought always lingered, “Maybe if I just left him alone, to be born on his own that wouldn’t have happened. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken me over 8 months to really bond with my first child. Maybe I wouldn’t have had
PPD. Maybe I would have breastfed him longer than 5 weeks. All of the maybes really burned a hole in my soul.

Fast-forward to my 2nd child, my beautiful daughter. I went into spontaneous labor on my own with her. After being told my entire pregnancy that I was not “allowed” to try for a VBAC due to my c-section
being only 12 months prior, I didn’t think twice about it. These were doctors with medical degrees. Surely they knew more than me. I was just having a baby, I didn’t research these statistics. Of COURSE they had my best interest in mind. After driving to the hospital, the OB confirmed I was in labor. I called
my husband to come because it was the day we were going to welcome our 2nd child into the world. In the operating room, I could hear the music the doctors were playing. I could hear their conversations. I could hear everything going on around me. None of which felt warm. None of which felt like they even gave a shit that I was having a baby. It felt very cold and sterile. I heard her cry. I felt nothing. They brought her to me after they cleaned her off and put a pink hat on her. I remember looking at her for the first time and she was beautiful. I didn’t get to hold her because my arms were strapped down. (Yes they strap your arms down when you’re having a c-section.) My husband got to hold her, we got to take a family picture together. The rest of the time in the OR was spent listening to how the OB would spend
her weekend, and what she will have to eat on her break. I think there may have been a “congratulations” thrown in there at some point, but I was just feeling so empty at that point I don’t even remember. They stitched me up and off to the mother baby floor I went. It was late at night and I was up all day with my 12 month old. I wanted to just go to sleep. It didn’t feel real to me, I didn’t feel like I had just had a baby. I felt like I had a surgery, and there was this little person that just kind of appeared next to me. I tried breastfeeding with her. My nipples were cracked and bleeding. The nurse
told me I was probably holding her wrong. The lactation consultant wasn’t available for some reason. I breastfed her for a total of one week give or take. Again, I felt all of the guilt that came with this.
“Maybe if I had her via VBAC I could have breastfed longer. Maybe I could have felt like her birth was a beautiful celebration instead of feeling like a gutted cow. Maybe I could have held her right away.” All of
the maybes. Again. I found out the hard way that recovering from a c-section while also having a 12 month old is NOT fun. But I did it. And when the PPD hit me again, I really just assumed this was what would happen after any birth I have in the future. I thought that emptiness and regret of my birth
decision was normal. I thought that was all ok. (Well not ok, but just part of being a new-again mom.)

My heart really hurt for MONTHS. I actually didn’t start to even feel like myself again until my daughter
was almost 2 years old! But hey, I should be grateful because everything turned out fine!

Throughout those 34 weeks, being pregnant with my third child, I had gone to my prenatal visits like clockwork, and at some point during each visit, the subject was touched on-I was going to try for a VBA2C! I wanted to feel what it was like, emotionally, physically, spiritually to birth a baby in a different
way than I had before. I wanted to see if I was just destined to have PPD after each birth of a baby, or if the WAY I birthed played a role in this. I watched all of the documentaries. I read all of the articles. I was part of any VBAC group I could find on Facebook. I read other women’s stories. Their triumphs. Their
hardships. I was ready for this VBA2C. I was going to rock the shit out of this birth and no one was going to stop me. Fast-forward to this specific exam that I mentioned earlier. A doctor that was part of the medical group I
was seeing came in. She was new to me, I had never met her. She was talking with me and non-chalantly brought up the idea of a c-section. I shot it down immediately. That’s not what I wanted, and unless she
gave me a reasonable explanation as to why I should even consider it, I was not going to be convinced.
Then she dropped the bomb: Risk of uterine rupture. When I argued with her and said that the actual risk of uterine rupture with a VBA2C was LOWER than the same risk with a 3rd c-section, she got quiet.
She then told me it was a risk for her medical group. I guess I wasn’t understanding what “risk” she was talking about. In hindsight, I now see that she was trying to say without saying this was a risk her medical group didn’t WANT to take. I would have appreciated the honesty upfront, but it never
happened. Her last sentence to me was, “When do you want to schedule your c-section?” I guess my previous answers of “no I’m not looking to schedule a c-section,” and other polite answers I gave her were not clear. So this time, I replied, “I’m not,” as I grabbed my things, got up, and walked right out of
that exam room. I never looked back. And oddly enough, they never called me back either. When I got home, I was so angry and upset. How could a group of doctors DO THIS to me?!?!? I TRUSTED THEM!!
My insurance paid for my visits for the past 34 weeks!!!! That is almost my entire pregnancy!!! I was 34 weeks along, who would take me on as a patient this late in the game?!?! In the same token, who could I find so quickly that I would entrust the care of myself and my soon-to-be newborn?!
I immediately turned to a local ICAN group on Facebook. Thank GOD for those amazing women. They weren’t surprised of the “bait and switch” these doctors pulled on me, AND they pointed me in the direction of some midwife groups I should call. I called the first two. One group said they were full for
the month of July. Another group said they couldn’t take me on so late in my pregnancy. Time was ticking and I was sweating. Then, finally, the 3rd time was truly a charm. I will never forget my very first conversation with this midwife named Penny. She was a Godsend. I told her what I had been through with the previous medical group. I told her my worries, I told her everything. I told her I was 34.5 weeks pregnant. She told me, “Can’t wait to meet you.” I cried after I got off of the phone with her. I was so
relieved and thankful that she treated the birth I was going to have as any other birth. There was nothing high-risk or acute about it. It was just having a 3rd baby vaginally after having 2 c-sections. No big deal. When I had my first appointment there, I was checked to find my pelvis WASN’T too small as was previously said to me when I was pregnant with my firstborn. There were no underlying health issues, no issues onset from pregnancy, it was an overall “normal” pregnancy and I was given the confirmation
that I would indeed go for a VBA2C when baby was ready to make her debut. I cried driving home from that first appointment because I was so relieved. Someone finally listened to me. Someone finally said,
“This is going to be the birth of YOUR child, so do as you wish, there’s nothing physically holding you back.”
At 40 weeks and 5 days, it was time to have a baby! The amount of excitement and fear that came over me is indescribable. I had heard countless times, “This is your third, you know what you’re doing by
now,” but I didn’t. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea what your body does during labor. The transitions. The fatigue. The fear. The pains. The strength. The emotions. The relief. The beauty. The
love. I had no idea about any of those things first-hand. It was a relief to hear the midwives come in and out to check on me and say, “You may be here for a few days,” because that told me I wasn’t on a clock. I was there to have my baby, and clocks didn’t matter. She would come when she’d come. The pressure was off. Another midwife named Charity came in and said, “Your body was made for this, you WILL do this,” and that gave me the extra push I needed at that moment. The overwhelming support that came while being in labor for 27 hours was just amazing. THIS is what I was missing. The feeling that people were there to genuinely help you. It was SO important to me to be given the chance to have a baby this way, and having people share that feeling with me was astonishing. I tear up even as I write this because what I had to go through in order to get the end result I had hoped for was the ultimate test. A test of strength, a test of my will, a test of questioning everything that was told to me. I had to remember that no one would TELL me how I was going to be doing anything.

My third child’s birth was such an empowering and healing experience, I don’t think any words can really convey the relief and magic that was felt after labor and she was in my arms. I felt triumphant. I
beat the odds, I beat the statistics. I listened to my intuition, I was guided to the right people. My wonderful husband was supportive of my decision from the first time I uttered the words, “I won’t be getting cut open for no reason again.” And I felt back to normal MUCH quicker than I did with my first
two children. I did not have any PPD. I am still currently breastfeeding my 22 month old. I bonded with her immediately. I had zero regret and zero emptiness with this birthing experience. I am beyond thankful for the team of people that believed I could, therefore, I did. Because of these experiences, I will always advocate for women. I will always speak up for them. I will
always help them to see the inner-strength they already have. I will always guide them into advocating for themselves. I will always remind them they have a voice, and they should keep speaking until they are heard. I will always agree with questioning things until they are doing what they know in their heart is right. I will do all of these things, happily, until the day I die, because as soon as I showed myself how, I was not a force to be reckoned with.

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