When I found out I was pregnant with baby #2 last fall, I had a big decision on my hands:
To VBAC or not to VBAC?
For those of you who aren’t fully immersed in mommy culture (I’m jealous), I’ll save you from Googling: it stands for Vaginal Birth After Cesarean.
Up until pretty recently, once you had one C-section, most providers would insist all subsequent babies are born via C-section. But today, most women are able to decide whether or not they want to attempt birthing ye ol’ fashioned way.
Since my daughter was born via an 8-inch incision, and I was healthy, I got to make this choice. It wasn’t easy, so I made a pros and cons list. Here’s what I considered.
- Potentially an easier recovery. Recovering from a C-section is no joke. Trust me, I already did it once. With a vaginal delivery, I could potentially be walking around [in my mesh undies and giant pad] in no time.
- Might be better for the baby. Some stuff I’ve read on the internet says the trip down the birth canal exposes the baby to bacteria that ultimately makes them less susceptible to allergies, illness, etc. etc., though my doctor said the research is iffy.
- New experience. I’ve never pushed a baby out of my body, so why not give it a go!
- I wouldn’t have to explain why I had another C-section. There are a lot of people who think C-sections are sad, or cheating, or essentially “less-than.” If I went for a VBAC, I wouldn’t feel like I had to defend my choice. I know I don’t have to defend my choices, because this is my life and I am the boss and blah blah blah, but let’s be honest, defending your choices (especially as a mom) is a thing.
- It could potentially be a harder recovery. Hello, 4th degree tearing, anal prolapse, and peeing in your pants for life!
- More “unknowns.” I understand that births can’t ever be planned, and a lot of people think they shouldn’t be. But since I was in the position to look at this objectively, not knowing how long labor would be, or when to have the in-laws come up to take care of our other kid gets filed under the con column.
- Potential for uterine rupture. Though it only happens to 1-2 percent of moms, this could be deadly for me and especially the baby. Is it worth the chance?
- Harder birth. I haven’t had a vaginal birth, so it would likely be a more challenging labor and delivery than most second births.
- Unless things go smoothly, still high likelihood of a C-section. My doctor said that 70 percent of her C-section patients typically have a second one. How bad would it suck to labor for hours, push for more hours, then have a C-section anyway?
- Already know what to expect. I was scared shitless last time, but now that I’ve been through it once, I have a pretty good idea how it’s going to go down.
- Recovery is no joke, but it’s fairly standard. There will be an incision in my belly/uterus and it will hurt for a few weeks. There’s not a chance it will be less painful, and a low likelihood that it will be way worse than I expect.
- Can plan for baby’s arrival. Mother-in-law will know when to book her flight to Minneapolis to watch child numero uno. I can finish up work projects up to the last minute. Pre-hospital, I can take a shower and blow dry my bangs.
- No labor, no pushing, no breaking my vagina. Why ruin your belly and your lady bits?
- Four-day hospital vacation. Some people don’t like the idea of a long hospital stay, but I say bring on the adjustable bed, HGTV marathon, and weird cafeteria mashed potatoes!
- Can have baby at 39 weeks. This second pregnancy was the pits. Between morning sickness, getting creamed on the freeway by an asshat in a Carola, and pelvic girdle pain, I felt like crap the entire time. At this point, the difference between 39 weeks and 41 weeks felt like an eon.
- Don’t plan on having more kids. The more times you have a C-section, the higher risk the procedure becomes. If I was planning on more kids, it’d be advantageous to try to deliver VBAC-style. I’m not, so we’re good.
- Already have the cool scar. They go in at the same place, which is verrrry low on your abdomen. So really nothing new for me.
- It’s a major surgery with a long recovery. Last time, I was absolutely flummoxed at how much a C-section hurt. You feel a magician sawed you in half. Except it wasn’t a magician, it was a surgeon. And it wasn’t slight of hand, it was FOR REAL! Not to mention, I never quite regained my core strength. Then again, I barely tried.
- Can’t pick up 2-year-old daughter for a few weeks. This one was major, from a practical (c’mon kid, hurry up, we gotta go!) and emotional standpoint (I’m sorry you think you’ve been replaced with a tiny human and I wish I could cuddle you).
- Potential for long-term numbness, pain at incision site. Last time, my pain lasted a few weeks, and the numbness lasted a few months. But it could last much longer next time.
- Potential for infection. Less likely, but it does happen!
After weighing all my personal pros and cons, I decided to schedule a C-section at 39 weeks. If I went into labor before then, I’d try for a VBAC. I felt 90 percent confident with my choice, but there was a little voice in my head that wouldn’t shut up.
Isn’t a vaginal birth more “natural”?
Isn’t it the way birth is “supposed to be”?
Isn’t it a “rite of passage” or something?
I know a lot of women dream of having a birth without intervention. A C-section is some people’s worst-case scenario; and many who’ve done it feel ashamed, embarrassed, and even traumatized by the experience.
As my due date approached, I came to terms with the fact that a VBAC wasn’t important to me at all. I’d even venture to say that I– gasp!— preferred the C-section. Please feel free to get angry and judgmental in the comments!
So on June 4, 2018, I waddled my fat ass into the hospital, toting my expertly packed bag, clean hair, natural make-up and with a big smile on my face.
You guys won’t believe it, but my second C-section experience was awesome.
I wasn’t too nervous, so I joked around with the nurses. I even cracked jokes in the operating room (in between pukes, because I puked a lot due to the pain medication… but then they gave me something to counteract the meds and I felt much, much better).
I knew exactly what PJs I wanted, brought tons of nice toiletries (see below) including a sheet mask (!), plus posh snacks and drinks. My husband and I even enjoyed a pizza and movie date night. I think at one point, I told my him, “I am having so much fun!” Did I mention there were a lot of drugs involved? There were a lot of drugs involved.
Aside from the part where I got cut open, my hospital stay felt like a vacation. And the fact that I couldn’t sit on a toilet without the help of a nurse (hi Lisa, hi Sarah! I love you!), I guess I’d even call it all-inclusive.
Oh, and get this: we also had a beautiful baby!
Meet Clark Willard Katt!
8lbs, 10oz; 21.5 inches long, and the cutest face ever because guess what: C-section baby heads don’t get smooshed on the way out. All babies are cute*, but in my opinion, these little C-section buddies get a head start. No pun intended!
As for the recovery, it was significantly easier the second time. I underestimated how much I’d learned in the time between baby number one and two. Breastfeeding was easier, caring for the baby was easier, I mean– I just knew what to do.
Physically, everything hurt less.
I’ve heard this from every woman who’s had more than one C-section. I don’t know if it’s due to scar tissue or simply knowing what your up against, but the recovery was much easier. A nurse told me that fear actually increases pain, so maybe just not being as afraid makes the difference.
The only thing that was harder this time was dealing with a toddler. I didn’t pick up Arlene for two weeks (it was supposed to be six, but let’s be honest: that’s not really possible), and constantly feared that she’d jump on my belly… which she did exactly once and it was for sure my recovery rock-bottom. Luckily, we did have lots of help from family and friends for the first six weeks, and it alleviated a lot of the stress.
I’ve heard plenty of positive VBAC stories.
I’ve also heard horror stories, and everything in between. I think if trying for a VBAC important to you and your doctor or midwife is onboard, try it! And if you don’t feel like trying, pack your bags and head to the world’s most expensive and least luxurious all-inclusive hotel.
There’s no shame in not wanting a VBAC. I didn’t. In fact, my hilarious labor and delivery nurse told me, “eh, vaginal births are overrated.” Her words, of course, didn’t matter to me at all…… just kidding! As a person who felt judged for having a C-section in the first place, it was the verbal affirmation I craved. It’s cool, I can admit it.
And guess what? It doesn’t even matter how he escaped from my uterus. All that matters is that I have a healthy, happy baby… and really great skin from sheet masking in the hospital.
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To VBAC or not to VBAC? Share your thoughts in the comments (so long as they’re respectful)!
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