When I was pregnant with my first child my husband and I eagerly prepared and anticipated my pregnancy ending with labor and delivery. I read countless books, articles and blogs, and we even attended an extensive labor and delivery class to become knowledgeable. Much to our surprise (and a little disappointment on my part) our 36 week ultrasound revealed that our daughter was in the breech position and the safest delivery option would be a scheduled cesarean section. So, I delivered a beautiful, healthy baby girl via scheduled c-section without ever having a contraction, feeling my water break or going into labor. I was overjoyed to finally meet my baby but felt like I had missed out on something special by not ever going in to labor.
I was always told by other moms that each pregnancy is very different. To my pleasant surprise, the major difference in my pregnancies occurred at the very end…on my delivery day. Fast-forward three years to the recent delivery of my second child. Throughout my pregnancy my nurse practitioner and I briefly discussed the option of a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), but she wasn’t even sure I would be a candidate due to my previous c-section and another minor uterine surgery following my first pregnancy (thats a story for another day). Following an ultrasound of our son at 36 weeks, I met with my OBGYN and was thrilled to learn that not only was he in the optimal position for a vaginal delivery, but that my doctor felt strongly if I could make progress toward and during labor on my own, I would likely achieve a VBAC. She ultimately left the decision up to me, gave me the pros and cons, and gave me a week to think about what my choice would be.
Initially, I was very hesitant to consider a VBAC (fear of the unknown, I guess), worried that I would wait forever to go into labor or labor for too long and then end up with a c-section anyway. My doctor encouraged me to strongly consider a VBAC as it would be better for my long term reproductive health, would be safer if I were to get pregnant again, and would make my recovery following delivery much easier. So after lots of research (some helpful, some not), lots of discussions with other moms and friends, and weighing the best option for our family with my husband, I opted to pursue a VBAC.
At my appointments over the next several weeks, I did indeed make slow, but steady progress toward labor and at 39 weeks 5 days I went into labor all on my own. Still nervous that a c-section may be in my future, we proceeded to the hospital to find that I was in active labor. Nearly 15 hours later, I delivered our son via VBAC, and am so very glad that I did.
I delivered at 4:54 pm and was up out of my hospital bed walking around the room with in the next few hours, very different from the nearly 12 hours I spent in bed following my c-section. I was better able to care for myself and my baby while in the hospital, eat solid food right away, and even got to take a shower early the following morning. I didn’t have the post-surgical gas pains as I did after my c-section, and I was able to better remember my infants first few days as I didn’t require the heavy medication for pain needed by many moms after a c-section. Perhaps, the best thing about having a VBAC over a c-section was my ability to bond instantly with my baby through skin-to-skin contact, something moms don’t have the chance to do when in a sterile operating room.
Now, at two-weeks post-partum, I am happy to report that my decision to have a VBAC was one that I do not regret. Unlike my recovery following my c-section, I have been able to drive for a week now and I have experienced significantly less pain when completing every day tasks. I am able to bend over and lift my baby from his crib and bouncer, I can comfortably get in and out of a car, and I can wear real underwear and pants that tend to be a little uncomfortable when you have a huge incision across your belly. It’s also really great to be able to hold both my infant and 3 year old in my lap without fear of pain or injury to an incision. I’m not nearly as exhausted as I was following surgery, and I have even been able to do a good bit of cleaning and other chores I was physically incapable of doing after my section. And, while I have no scientific research to back up my theory (maybe its my hopeful imagination), my belly also seems to be on the road to normal a lot sooner than with my first pregnancy. Electing to have a VBAC is a choice I would definitely make again!