My 2 birth experiences were completely different from each other, yet I still ended up with the same outcome which was a healthy baby. 4 years ago, when I gave birth to my son Jack, I delivered him by emergency c-section. Recently, with my second baby, Anna, I was able to deliver her by VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). As long as you didn’t have any medical problems or complications with your first pregnancy, most women have the choice to have a VBAC or a repeat c-section for their second birth. It’s a personal choice and both deliveries have their risks. Today I want to share both of my birth experiences with you. You might be someone on the fence about what direction to go in, so hopefully, my experiences with both will help you with your decision.
C-Section Birth Experience
My c-section birth with my son was not planned at all. I had prepared myself for a long painful labor, but I had never thought I’d need a c-section. I was completely unprepared to have one. After a 14 hour labor, 3 of those hours spent pushing, I was informed by the nurse that the baby wasn’t coming out and my doctor wanted to do a c-section. I was so disappointed. I felt defeated. Like I had failed as a mother and as a woman. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I push my baby out?
The actual surgery was not as bad as I had imagined. It seemed to go by fast and I was distracted by the excitement of my son being born. I remember hearing his little cry for the first time behind the curtain and tears rolling down my face. It took some time before I finally got to see him. The nurse brought him to my face so I could kiss him and it was one of my favorite moments in my life. My husband captured it with the picture above.
After the surgery was over, I finally got to hold my baby. I was sad that I wasn’t the first one to hold him. I was looking forward to that skin to skin time together. After the surgery, I felt very out of it from all the pain medicine so I didn’t really feel present and in the moment when I finally got to hold him. Even though I was feeling pain and felt really groggy, I was still on cloud 9 as I held my newborn baby boy. At that moment I was just so happy that it was all over and he was finally in my arms.
VBAC Birth Experience
When I got pregnant the second time around, I knew I wanted to try to have a VBAC, but I also knew that a c-section wasn’t completely out of the question. I prepared myself for both. My fear was to go through labor again and still need a c-section in the end. If I was going to have a c-section I wanted it to be scheduled, that’s why I scheduled a backup c-section for my 39th week. I figured if the baby came on her own before then, I’d go for the VBAC, and if not I was comforted knowing that I had a sure thing with the c-section.
I didn’t end up going into labor naturally like I had hoped to, but since I was already dilated to 4 cm at 38 weeks, my doctor said I could be induced and they could break my water for me to start my labor. That’s what I ended up doing. Once they broke my water, it took about 3 hours for contractions to start, but once they did, my labor seemed to go by super quick. It took less than an hour for me to dilated to 10 cm. By the time I got my epidural, it was already time to push. Pushing was the hardest part again for me. It started to feel like a repeat from my first birth experience. There was a moment where I was starting to regret my decision to go for the VBAC. At that moment a schedule c-section sounded pretty good to me. Finally, my midwife was able to loosen up the baby’s head and bring her down the birth cannel. At that moment everything changed. Everyone in the room started cheering me on and telling me that I could do it. Those last few pushes made me feel empowered and before I knew it my baby was on my chest snuggled up close to me. It was an amazing feeling. Even though I was exhausted and I had a 3rd-degree tear, I didn’t care. After I went to the recovery room, every nurse I had congratulated me on my VBAC. That’s when I realized that this was kind of a big deal that I had a successful VBAC. I honestly couldn’t believe it myself, but I had done it.
I wasn’t expecting such a long and difficult recovery with my c-section. When I came home from the hospital I was still in a lot of pain. I was prescribed some strong medicine to help control the pain, but I didn’t like how groggy I felt when I took it. For the first 2 weeks, I was in so much pain and I felt completely out of it. My discomfort made finding comfortable positions to nurse in hard. As a first time mom, this added to my issues that I was having with breastfeeding for the first time. I also remember feeling very emotional. I was sad that I had to have a c-section, especially with my first baby. I never had a set birth plan, but I didn’t ever think I’d need a c-section. I also was sad that my recovery was taking me away from bonding with my new baby. I felt so overwhelmed with everything. The healing, the breastfeeding, the lack of sleep. It made for a very hard first couple of weeks. The good news is that I did get better. As time went on, those feelings soon faded. I started to feel more confident in my birth and my new role as a mother.
I could not believe how much different my VBAC recovery felt compared to my c-section. Yes, I was still sore after giving birth. I felt like I had just been to the hardest pilates class of my life and then rode a bike across the entire country. All my muscles ached and my lady parts hurt and needed to heal, but I was able to walk and I was able to pick up my baby. The only pain medicine I needed was Ibruprofin, so I didn’t feel groggy and out of it like the c-section. It still took about 2 or 3 weeks until I felt more normal. Knowing about my stitches down below really freaked me out so I was very careful to take it easy once I was home. Going to the bathroom was no fun at first, but it got better. Since I already had a little one at home, being able to be more active after I gave birth was really helpful.
Doctor vs. Midwife
With my first birth, I had a doctor. He was very knowledgable and experienced. I liked him and trusted him, but I also knew that he was not the doctor to go to if I wanted an all-natural birth. For me, I was never looking for a completely natural birth. I was all for an epidural and getting the baby out in a timely manner, so inducing was okay with me too. However, I felt like I didn’t have a lot of choices as a patient with that doctor.
With my second pregnancy, because I had moved, I needed to find a new doctor. I picked a practice that had a mix of both doctors and midwives. I picked the practice based on location, but it ended up being a good fit for me because they were very supportive of VBAC’s. Not all doctors are comfortable with VBAC’s and they find it easier to just do a repeat c-section. I saw a mix of doctors and midwives throughout my pregnancy and I asked each one of them what the safest option would be for both me and my baby. Each one of them told me that a VBAC was the best route to take, however, they did warn me that it wasn’t a sure thing.
With my VBAC, I felt like I had much more support in the delivery room than I did with my first birth. I ended up having a midwife deliver and she was in the room the entire time I was pushing, only occasionally stepping out to talk with the doctor. I also had the nurse and a nursing student helping me along with my husband’s support. The doctor was also in and out to see how I was doing and she was the one who did the stitches after the birth was over. The first time around, my doctor popped in once to check on me, then I didn’t see him until the surgery. During the time I was pushing, I only had the nurse and my husband with me. I will say that having that extra support made a huge difference. Even though I had no true preference beforehand, deciding to go with a midwife instead of a doctor turned out to be a good decision for having a VBAC. I still felt that I had the support from the doctor, but having the midwife gave me more comfort.
In the end, I’m happy about the way my birth experiences turned out. I have no regrets. I have 2 beautiful healthy children now and that’s really the important part. People have a lot of opinions when you are pregnant, and I know that it was hard for me to hear what others had to say sometimes. You have to stick to your gut and go into the direction that you think is best for you and your baby. Know that you are not a failure if you have an unsuccessful VBAC. You are not a failure if you choose to play it safe and have a repeat c-section. Just know that as women, our bodies do some pretty amazing things. No matter how your baby comes into the world, every birth story is special.