The Greatest Blessing: A VBAC Birth Story

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Part 1: Leadora's Birth

 In 2016, we found out we were pregnant with our first baby! We were thrilled! We tried to prepare my body for labor as much as we knew how. Along with exercising and eating right, we took a child birthing class. Our class had an option for a c-section part the following week, but we figured we didn’t really need to take that part, as there was no reason why we would’ve needed one.

During our pregnancy, we barely ever saw our doctor. We usually saw the nurse practitioner. She was nice, but we didn’t develop much of a relationship. She answered all of our questions. Neither her nor the doctor ever brought up any concerns with my pregnancy. All seemed to be going along fine.

At our 39th week visit, however, she told us that the baby was “all of a sudden” "small" for her gestational age, which my husband and I thought was weird? Why didn’t they see this before, or tell us about it earlier? They sent us to the hospital directly from that visit.

At the hospital, they checked the baby on the ultrasound. They told us to come back in two days for induction, without giving us much of an explanation. They just said it wasn’t safe to keep the baby inside for much longer. We wanted our baby to be safe, so we complied.

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During the induction, they administered cytotec and pitocin. Then we waited. After 24 hours, with no sign of my cervix opening, I thought “What’s wrong with me? Why am I not opening? Am I not able to birth vaginally?” In retrospect, I know it’s because my body wasn't ready.

Inevitably, they sent me in for a c-section. Leadora came out almost 7 lbs. Not small at all, I thought. But what do I know? I remember feeling like I was cheated on an opportunity to birth my daughter on my own, but I just figured the doctors did what was best for me and baby.

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Breastfeeding was extremely difficult. Nice women come into the postpartum room for about two minutes, and told me how to hold baby while breastfeeding. They said that my milk might take a few days to come in. Recovering from a c-section was the hardest thing I had ever done. I felt weak and unable to care for myself. Luckily, I had a lot of help from my husband and family.

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Along with trying to recover from surgery, I developed postpartum depression. I didn’t realize it at first, but I wasn’t eating unless I had been offered something. Aside from the baby shower my family threw me one month postpartum (which I wore sweatpants to), I didn't leave the house until my baby was two months old. At three months postpartum, I started to feel better. I started going to the gym and being proactive about my health.

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Part 2: Ashira's Birth

On Leadora’s first birthday, we found out we were pregnant again! We started to go through the motions with the doctor. At the first appointment, we told the doctor we were going to try for this one naturally. We got a cold "No", with no negotiations.

The doctor explained that it was too soon after my previous c-section, and there were too many risks involved. I was realizing the consequences of that first c-section, and thought I would never be able to birth naturally. I felt trapped, controlled and scared. I thought that I’d have no say my birth plan.

My husband was angry, and so was I. But anger soon turned into research. He researched all the risks and benefits for second c-section vs. VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean section). Of course, it wouldn’t matter because I would still have to do whatever my doctor said... because that is what you're supposed to do right?

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I had so many doubts about how my labor was going to play out. We read about the less than 1% chance of uterine rupture if I attempted a VBAC. There was a small risk, but at that point I just couldn’t picture myself enduring another c-section operation. Most people around us told us to just listen to the doctor, it wasn’t worth the risk.

We had read that a midwife might be able to give us some more information about the matter. Midwives would be more open minded, but I thought for sure that a VBAC would still not be an option. Eventually, someone referred us to Tiffany and the amazing women at Pure Births.

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We toured the birth center and spoke with them about our concerns, fears and hopes. Tiffany was the first person to treat me like a birthing mother that was due to have a baby in a few months, not like some science experiment that was whining about first world problems, or trying to prove something to myself. She treated me like any other birthing woman, despite my previous c-section.

After learning about our options, that less than 1% percent chance of uterine rupture was hardly a thought in my mind. Tiffany told us to just let the baby come. She said "Your baby knows what to do to come into this world, and so does your body." She explained that the first step, and certainly the most important factor leading to a successful VBAC, is “believing you can do it”. This is what my body was made to do, c-section scar or not.

We were so happy to birth at Pure Births. By the time our baby was near due, I was sure we were making the right decision. I was completely confident and knew I had the power to birth this baby. When it came time, I labored on and off for a few days, which is perfectly normal for women birthing naturally, as long as the waters stay intact. Finally, at 41.6 weeks, labor picked up. Baby was on the way!

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As I trembled from the restless chore of labor, and fought to keep myself awake, I thought to myself, "I can’t wait to stick it to everyone that thought I was stupid for trying or “hippie-ish”". It was exhausting, long, and painful, but I was grateful to just have a fair trial of labor. Baby Ashira was finally here, weighing in at almost 9 lbs! When she came out, she latched on right away. It was the best feeling ever. She was healthy, happy and perfect.

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We knew we had made the right decision. When I labored naturally, I wasn’t scared. I was aware that everything was ok, and I just focused on getting my baby out and nothing else around me. The midwives played a big part in that. I got the chance to labor in the water! And in any way I liked! It was the greatest blessing that we had put all our faith into.

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A few months postpartum, I looked into becoming a birth doula. I wanted to help prevent other people from being put in the same situation that we were put in during our first birth, uninformed, scared, and unable to make decisions for ourselves. The thought of people being bullied by the medical system really pissed me off.

Inspired by my own story, I learned what a doula was, and knew was called to do it. I took my doula training, and I'm now a working doula, doing what I love! I get to help others bring their babies into this world, feeling loved and supported.

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Preparing for a Natural Birth

Any mama will tell you that along with pregnancy comes some big emotional, hormonal and physical changes. As a baby grows, a pregnant woman also grows, sometimes wildly. She finds herself sharing her hopes and dreams with her little one, imagining how her pregnancy will progress, how her birth will go, and who her baby will be. It's really amazing. The whole experience is profound. During this exciting time, an expecting mama can also be hit with a lot of anxiety. But with the right planning, support and preparation, her anxieties will ease. She will learn to trust her body and her baby. Then pregnancy, labor and birth will be given space to be the sacred journey that they are.

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From the very beginning of time, birth has been a natural process. Most women used to give birth at home with the assistance of midwives, and still do in many countries today. In the US, giving birth in hospitals was once only necessary for women with complications, but quickly became the norm. In recent decades, birth has become a highly medicalised. profitable business, especially in the US. We are grateful for modern medicine and intervention when it is necessary, but for most healthy, pregnant women, it is not.

Now a days, expecting mamas are finding that they have many more options available to them then women of the past. Women today are taking back their power, knowing that they don't want all the unnecessary interventions they might face during a standard hospital birth. These women opt for birth center and home births with the assistance of loving and experienced midwives.

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The birth outcomes for healthy mamas who desire natural, un-medicated births are most often better at home or a birth center. Women report feeling much more in control and supported when they are allowed to birth their own way. They also feel more supported during the postpartum period with adjusting, healing and breastfeeding. So how do you prepare for a natural birth at home or a birth center? Glad you asked! Here are the top ten things we recommend:

1. Find a trusted midwife early in your pregnancy.

 2. Eat a healthy, balanced diet and keep exercising.

 3. Meditate regularly, and visualize your birth. Prenatal yoga is great too!

 4. Attend your prenatal appointments.

 5. Do your own research to feel comfortable consenting to any testing your midwife recommends to ensure a healthy, safe birth. Always ask questions and be sure to share any concerns.

 6. Surround yourself with positive people that support your birthing choices. Read positive birth stories and books.

 7. Find your village and take a natural childbirth class.

 8. Find a birth doula, and consider a postpartum doula. This support is essential.

 9. Write a birth plan.

 10. Prepare your space. Purchase a birth kit and anything else you might need for your birth.

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Natural birth is normal. It is healthy and it is powerful. More women today accept these facts and have beautiful birth experiences. Understand that birth doesn't always go as planned, but if you have done the right preparation, you'll have faith in your support team, your body and your baby. Relax and let this magical process take place. You can do this!

By Christine Rapsys, Writer and Pure Births Mama

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