GUEST POST: 5 things I wish I’d known about vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC)

vaginal birth after C-section

10 weeks ago I gave birth to a second beautiful birth. Via my vagina. Normal for you maybe, but my first equally beautiful daughter was born via surgery (any references to a sun roof will be met with cyber rage). The crazy thing is that I chose this, I opted for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). It was full of surprises, mostly unpleasant, but here’s what I learnt…

You have a choice

VBAC (vee back) is the sexy acronym for Vaginal Birth After Caesarean section. For me, pregnancy hormones did that thing they do where my normal thought processes go out the window and are replaced with a desire to meditate, not use pain relief and make cheese from my breastmilk. I wanted a natural pain-relief free childbirth with little to no intervention; I have a very active toddler (us mums love this expression, translation: I have a hyperactive midget that I can’t keep up with) who I needed to be well for. We were both struggling with me not being able to carry her or roll around playing Kissy Monster games. My expectation was of a nice calm water birth then home in a couple of hours. The reality was about as far removed from this as possible. I had a complex, painful and managed birth involving a cast of thousands.

But you also don’t really have choices

I am not really one to argue with the medical profession, their years of training and experience will far outweigh what I’ve read on the internet, so I listened to their advice. On the whole this paid off though I wish the pre- and during-midwives had talked to one another a little more and sought agreement on some of the choices I had. During my VBAC conversations pre-birth I was told there was only a 0.5% chance of my scar rupturing so the world was my oyster or whatever the birth equivalent is. You want a water birth? Yep. You don’t want foetal monitoring? You got it. You want a peaceful dark room with as few people as possible? Abso-fucking-lutely. It felt during pregnancy they would agree to anything in exchange for me going for a natural labour…until it came to the actual event.

My dreamy water birth was ruled out as soon as my waters broke. And what actually happened was an on-the-bed-birth in a room so bright I couldn’t open my bleary eyes, with constant foetal monitoring and three midwives and my husband between my legs screaming at me to push (my husband shouted “drive”, it was up there with the six nations for him).  I fully accept that birth plans are rarely worth the paper or iPhone they are written on but I’m certain some things, such as a water birth, were excluded because of my csection rather than the horror that is the birthing process. The important bit though is that Girly no2 arrived safely and I am (mostly) still in one piece.

I now have flappy bits and a ridged tummy

In my blog I have referred to my new post labour vagina as an elephants ear. This goes beautifully with the cliff overhang of my lower stomach (#hotmess). Fortunately I have no aspirations to be a glamour model or sexy fireman so my stripey zebra cliff face tummy hanging over my no longer neat lady parts will be for my lucky husbands eyes only. I think this is a concern for most people considering VBAC and as much as I’d like to say that doesn’t happen, I can’t because that would be a lie! That said, ten weeks on, I am slowly returning to normal and if I could be bothered to lose those last ten pounds then my cliff overhang might disappear. Now where’s that cake…

The recovery sucks

Regardless of how your baby gets here. I opted for a normal delivery for the sake of my first daughter under the misapprehension that my recovery would be quick and painless. I now know this to be complete BS. The unbearable discomfort of your under carriage being sand papered for three weeks post delivery along with the threat of every poo breaking your bumhole apart is as bad as the aching and soreness of being cut open. The recovery is perhaps a week or two shorter in length but not being able to sit on anything but a rubber ring makes for a rather more embarrassing experience. In fact the whole natural delivery approach was shrouded in humiliation from the pushing audience to the ongoing legs akimbo checks at every appointment for the following six weeks. You need to see my bumhole? Sure!

Get ready to take a bow

Following my first csection birth I was delighted with the congratulatory pats on the back and the happy beaming faces of my friends and family. Not normally one to refuse praise (I’m still a needy boffin underneath it all), this was enough for me. I never needed it from medical professionals – they see this shit all the time. Quite literally actually. Turns out not many people go for VBAC, I’m guessing because of the reasons above.  So when you opt for and successfully deliver naturally, every member of hospital staff afterwards comes to congratulate you, some even offering a round of applause. I pause here to ask WTF?! If I knew it were that big a deal I might have gone down the cutting route! Frankly it made me wonder if I was insane and had done something crazy. I certainly wasn’t feeling like a hero for bringing my angry little bundle into the world. But then it’s always nice for someone to treat you like one!

You might not get it from reading this, but I would make the same choice again. Not for the pats on the back from highly educated doctors or deeply compassionate midwives, and not because my whole body is now ruined, but because it’s not major surgery. I could drive. I could care for my baby. And it was 4 weeks until I could roll around with my toddler and be the kissy monster instead of six. Every day counts when it comes to hearing that giggle!

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