C-Section. It is a procedure that I thought would never happen to me. I always envisioned my labours and deliveries ending something more like they do in the movies: a painful but short-lived struggle ending in happy tears and baby snuggles.
I’m a mom of three beautiful daughters. Two of them were born by cesarean, and my third was a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). Each of my pregnancies and deliveries were different. Each was charged with different emotions, and not one of them ended how I expected.
As a c-section and VBAC mom, here are 5 lessons I learned throughout my pregnancies and deliveries:
1. Get informed about the possibility of a C-section.
When I was pregnant for my first, I had my labour and delivery planned out. We were going to do everything naturally; I had a midwife, a home birth plan, and a birthing pool inflated in my dining room. No meds, minimal medical interference, and the baby was going to be born in 12 hours or less (okay, that part was mostly wishful thinking!). I didn’t even pack a “just-in-case” hospital bag. That’s how set I was with my planned outcome.
I had been given the general information about cesareans at a midwifery appointment, but I truthfully don’t even think I read the page. I was determined to have things go as I had envisioned. This was my error, and in my opinion an oversight on the part of my midwife. I was not properly prepared for the real possibility of my pregnancy ending in a cesarean.
No matter how well you plan your labour, remember: Don’t dismiss a c-section as a real possible outcome.
2. Learn to ask the right questions.
Asking questions is key. The best questions start with “What can I do to…” I started asking these questions with my third pregnancy but wished I had done it sooner. There is so much that moms can do during their pregnancies to help themselves in labour at the end.
My cesareans were for different reasons: the first was a failure to progress after 24 hours combined with late labour fetal distress, and the second was a breach baby. Because I hadn’t done the research on either scenario, I had no idea that both might have been prevented if I had taken some steps earlier on in my pregnancy. For example, my water broke before my labour began with my first. I hadn’t asked the question “What can I do to strengthen my membranes to avoid my water breaking early?” I didn’t know then that taking a vitamin C supplement regularly does just that.
If you are hoping to have a natural birth, asking questions and doing your own research is key. Ask many questions and ask many different sources. Ask your care provider, your mom, your friends, the Internet. It may not prevent a c-section, but it will help you to understand the process and get prepared.
3. Determine your baby’s position, especially during the 3rd trimester.
My second pregnancy ended in cesarean because my baby was in a Frank breach position. Frank breach babies present with their bums first, having their feet up by their heads. This position is particularly tricky to assess in utero, particularly if you (like me) elect to avoid ultrasounds unless absolutely necessary. In this position, the feet are up where they normally are when the baby is head-down. The mother feels movement at the top and sides of the womb, and there is a round mass (the bum) near the cervix that can feel like the head. In my case, my midwife felt the bum of my baby during a cervical exam and mistook it for the head’s suture lines.
Something that I asked my midwife to do during my third pregnancy to make sure that I wasn’t having another breach baby was to use a stethoscope to listen for the heartbeat at the four quadrants of the womb. This is done to determine position naturally, by listening to where the heartbeat is the strongest. This procedure helped to confirm that my third baby was positioned well.
Many people choose ultrasounds to determine their baby’s position. (I personally prefer to avoid ultrasounds, particularly late in the pregnancy, due to potential links to baby health and ear infections.) Whichever method you choose, ensure that you pay attention to the baby’s position beginning late in the 2nd trimester until the end.
4. Get good chiropractic adjustments.
Not only is chiropractic excellent for your optimal health, it is also great to do during pregnancy. It can help you to be much more comfortable, alleviating pain and pressure, but it can also help your baby to be in the optimal position for birth.
My sister-in-law is the best chiropractor that I know. Unfortunately for me, she lives 5 hours away, so we don’t get to see her on a regular basis. However, she was visiting the week that I was officially overdue with my third child. During a very thorough adjustment, she discovered that my pubic bone was twisted and she worked to reposition it. As she was explaining it to me, she said, “The way your pubic bone was does not allow for babies to come out!” She said that my pubic bone seemed to have been that way for a long time, and very well could have been the reason why my other babies were unable to exit the womb naturally.
I credit good chiropractic care as one of the biggest factors in my successful VBAC.
5. If you are a woman of faith, spend time in prayer.
I put this piece of advice last, but really it should be first. I spent so much time in prayer during my third pregnancy. I had been told by more than one medical professional that the risks were too high for me to have babies naturally and that I should elect to have a cesarean rather than attempt a VBAC. This broke my heart, because my c-sections both had so many negative emotions that I had to work through. There was nothing more that I wanted than to finally be able to experience a natural birth, just like I had planned with my first – no meds, at home, and low stress. For my third, I was determined to attempt a VBAC. We compromised and planned to do so at the hospital, as that is what my midwives and OB were the most comfortable with.
As a woman of faith, I believe that there is power in heartfelt prayer. I believe that prayer causes things to happen that wouldn’t happen if we didn’t pray. Throughout my pregnancy I spent much time praying for a smooth delivery, a successful VBAC, and no medical interventions. Throughout my pregnancy, I really felt that I saw my prayers being answered. The baby was always in a perfect position, her heartbeat was strong, and my incision area was examined and proved to be thick and strong as well. It was no coincidence that my chiropractor sister-in-law “just so happened” to be visiting a few days before I would give birth. It was a beautifully arranged appointment that resulted not only in the VBAC I was hoping for, but also a surprise home birth! My third child truly was my miracle birth.
Spend time in prayer. Tell God your deepest desires. Pray that He fills you with an insurmountable amount of peace whatever your labour and delivery outcome.
There is so much preparation that can go into planning a pregnancy, labour and delivery. Prepare as best as you can, but remember: at the end of the day, no matter how much research you do, no matter how many “pre-emptive” steps you take, the most important thing is that you give birth to a healthy baby. Regardless of how that baby is born, he or she is a miracle in the making and a blessing from above.