When we found out we were expecting again this is the thing that played on my mind the most. To be honest it played on my mind even before we tried for a second baby!
A VBAC for anyone that doesn’t know stands for a vaginal birth after a c-section. Max was born via emergency c- section as he was an undiagnosed breech so I knew after speaking to a few friends and of course my midwife, that I would have the option this time round to have a planned section or to try for a natural delivery.
As Max was such a small baby (another thing that was missed!) I was given extra growth scans during my second pregnancy which I was very relieved about as it would be picked up if this baby was also breech. And she was. At my 28 week scan her head was up which I had suspected due to all the discomfort at the top of my rib cage. So that was it…decision made for me…phew. It was out of my hands… she wouldn’t turn. Max was breech for a long time we later found out so this baby would surely be no different.
Then the day before my next scan at 32 weeks I felt her move. I just knew what that meant…now I had to decide. Clearly it was a discussion for both me and my husband but ultimately it was my body so my decision. The scan confirmed she was no longer breech and everyone I spoke to seemed to be thrilled for me…oh fabulous they all said…you can do it naturally this time.
Yes, fabulous….but was it? I cannot express how scared I was at the thought of giving birth naturally. It was literally all I thought about. I asked everyone’s opinions…what would you do? What do you think I should do? I had gone in to natural labour with Max two days before his due date. I had contractions all day and they were 2-3 minutes apart from the start, but I was coping with just the tens machine as I knew the worse was yet to come. When the midwife checked me and told me I was 5cm I was pretty pleased I had got that far. It was at this point that things changed, my waters went and the sight of meconium spelled something was wrong. A bang of the red button and a rush of doctors and midwives and the next thing I knew I was in theatre, alone, as my husband was getting scrubbed up. By this point I was no longer in pain and I knew the doctors would be doing it all for me now. I have to admit I was a bit relieved the pain was gone and he was born so quickly it’s all a bit of blur, however he was here …safe and sound.
The thing was, I didn’t do it…the bit I was meant to do…I didn’t do. That moment was taken. For hours I was in labour preparing for what was to come and then just like that it was gone. Stay still Helen, try not to push, we’ll take over. I had no time to mentally prepare for what happened and it took many months for me get over it properly. In my mind c-sections were something that happened to other people. It was never something that was going to happen to me.
The loss of control that I felt in the birthing process the first time was something I knew I wanted to regain second time around. The scans helped me to know there would be no surprises over the position of the baby but so many other things could go wrong. There are no guarantees in childbirth…anything can happen!
When we had our meeting with the consultant I was still very unsure what the right thing to do was. She talked us through our options and was of course more in favour of me trying to do things naturally, but was understanding of my concerns. Once I had made the decision – which was to book a date for a section and if I went in to labour early to see how things went naturally – I felt a HUGE relief. Lots of people said how great it was that I knew the date the baby was coming and I could now plan ahead (I do love to plan!) but for me it just took the pressure off the waiting game.
Waiting for contractions to start is incredibly daunting.
This time round I knew what the recovery would be like. Of course if I was to have a straight forward delivery I could be up and on my feet much quicker…but there was no way of knowing if it would be straightforward.
I think the fear of the unknown probably helped me make my decision but if I’m really honest I was scared I wouldn’t be able to do it. I hadn’t managed it before and I was scared my body might fail me again. When you are heavily pregnant you are so full up with so many hormones…so many emotions…that you don’t always think quite rationally. I really doubted my ability to give birth naturally after my first experience. One person even said that I was lazy to opt for a c-section. It was a throw away comment, that person didn’t mean it in that way but it also told me they didn’t understand. I know that not everyone will. It’s such a personal choice that no one can make for you. I was lucky I had the choice this time I suppose! I absolutely salute anyone that has a VBAC.
So the decision was made and in the end I didn’t go in to labour early…even though my c section was only 3 days before my due date and I was terrified I would! The planned section was a totally different experience altogether. It was calm, surreal almost. We were last on the list for that day so had to wait on the ward till the midwife eventually popped her head around the curtain and said…do you want to go and have a baby then? The radio was playing in the theatre, the midwife, the consultant, the anaesthetist all talked us through every step of the process and our baby girl’s arrival was pretty amazing to be honest! I had skin to straight away and wasn’t rushed in recovery either. I was able to do our first breastfeed with support and we could take our time.
Looking back I really can’t say if I would make the same choice again because the recovery was hard ….not least because I had a toddler to look after this time. It’s such a personal decision and one to be made depending on your own individual circumstances. Whatever way my children arrived though, they are here and they are healthy and so I’m incredibly lucky and grateful for that.