“You know, you can try for a vaginal birth next time. My wife had both a cesarean and then a
VBAC and everything went well.”
I was half listening. After 34 hours of labor with my first baby, I was tired, trying not to cry, and
could not believe I was going to have this baby surgically. Of course, surgery can be necessary and life saving, but my situation didn’t seem to warrant that. My husband was holding my hand, and as the surgical team left so we could process the news, I couldn’t hold back my tears anymore. My baby was stuck, I was so swollen from laying in one position for hours and hours, I
couldn’t feel anything from the epidural, and he just wasn’t coming out the way I had planned.
As I was prepped for surgery, they allowed me to keep my scapular on, which gave me comfort, and I had my first baby via cesarean section. He was a beautiful baby boy - Francis William, 9 lbs. 5 oz. at 41 weeks and 4 days. Recovery was so rough and slow, I had barely any nursing help and struggled, but my little baby was finally in my arms and it was over.
Fast forward to pregnancy number two, I knew I wanted something different. Little did I know that even though I was half listening to the surgical doctor at my first birth, it was the first time I had ever heard the acronym “VBAC”. I researched and researched, wanting that for my second birth. I was ready. I took a Hypnobirthing class, exercised more, ate a little better, and had my mom do the Hypnobirthing class with me so she could be even more of a support person. This
time would be different. But then I went for a growth scan at 40 weeks.
“Do you want to know the weight?”
“Are you sure?"
While I wasn’t thrilled about the ultrasound technician’s bedside manner, this baby was
supposedly measuring at about 12 pounds. Another road block. I tried not to care. Growth scans
are often way off, but I didn’t share my research with my husband and mom enough and
everyone was on edge. I went in the next day for an induction. My doctor was still going to "let"
me try for a VBAC, so I was at the hospital at around 6 a.m. the next day. My doctor wasn’t even there however, and I had a different one - one who wasn’t approving of VBACs or how my doctor did things. He came in to the room and started his speech about shoulder dystocia and uterine
rupture and all of those things that scare people who don’t do enough research - like my
husband and mother.
Of course, I didn’t like what he was saying either, but I was looking at the ceiling, trying to put it in the back of my mind. Nothing he said about VBACs was positive, and there was no correlating discussion of the significant risks of another c-section. I had a phone consult with another doctor in the practice, who had nicer things to say, but still agreed with the first doctor’s conclusion. They claimed to have talked with my doctor, but wouldn’t let me talk to him personally, which also rubbed me the wrong way. Ultimately, we decided on another cesarean.
Olivia Rose was a 9 lbs. 13 oz. beautiful baby girl, so squishy and chubby. She wasn't a small
baby, but not at all 12 pounds either. The doctor told my mom in the waiting room, that I chose right and I wouldn’t have been able to do that vaginally. Recovery was considerably better without labor, but the mental recovery was tough. Since I was determined to do something naturally, I focused all my energy on nursing my baby, and since my anatomy was an issue with my son, I pushed myself through the pain and managed to succeed nursing her for a year. I was proud of myself, but I still wasn’t 100%. I didn’t like how I was treated, my surgical report wasn’t truthful (he actually wrote that VBAC would have posed the least risk, but he never said those words to any of us), and what that doctor said in the waiting room to my mom really upset me.
It took a bit of extra time before I was ready to try again. I felt like I failed - twice - and that it just wasn’t God’s plan for me to have natural births however much I craved it. I prayed for strength and grace to be okay with that fact, but I also kept fighting and wouldn’t give up trying to get what I wanted. I knew I had an even bigger fight ahead of me since VBA2Cs are even less common or encouraged.
The beginning of my third pregnancy in 2020 was tough. I get hyperemesis gravidarum with all my pregnancies but this third was by far the worst. I was laid up on the couch for weeks and weeks. I tried as many natural remedies as I could, then took medications, but nothing seemed to help. At about 20 weeks I finally felt like myself again but I hadn’t found a supportive doctor yet. I was panicking that I would never get in to see someone. The doctor I had with my second baby told me to try for a VBA2C but that he wouldn’t be able to help me since his practice didn’t allow those.
I joined two facebook groups, one which was specific to my area, and ended up asking for any help I could get finding a VBA2C supportive provider. The women in this group did not disappoint,
gave me a small list, and I ended up calling four other doctors. Two wouldn’t call me back, and
while one was tolerant, she still had a lot of caveats that might be impossible for me to accomplish. I stayed at her practice for a couple weeks, but ultimately I decided to call a group
of midwives out of a major hospital an hour away from me, which was the last one on my list. I
chose the midwife my Facebook group was most pleased with, and went in there with a giant list full of my new found research and tons of questions ready. I was geared up for a fight to get what I wanted. I briefly explained my first two births and my current situation, and when I was done she looked at me and said: “We can help you.”
It was like a weight was immediately lifted off of my shoulders. Here I was 25 weeks, worried I’d
never get in anywhere and opposite me was finally someone who was using evidence based
research and explaining to me how good their success rate was with VBACs and VBA2Cs. She
asked if I had any questions and I went down my list. All of her answers and responses were
coinciding with my research, and I left the appointment so thankful that God led me here. I was
coming to terms with the fact that no matter what happens with this birth, at least they will let me try and give me my best chance. I got in the car and called my husband, mom, mother-in-law,
and sister-in-law, and told them how excited I was that I finally found somewhere that gave me
peace of mind.
The rest of my pregnancy was even more preparation than my second. I ate well, took
supplements, exercised and stretched, did as much Spinning Babies as I could, read Made for
This Birth (highly recommend), read and followed Real Food for Pregnancy (also highly
recommend), made birth affirmations and hung them on my bedroom wall, prayed to every saint
I could that was related to childbirth, listened to podcast after podcast of other women’s VBAC
stories, saw a chiropractor, drank red raspberry leaf tea, included my husband as much as I
could with my research, and hired a doula. My sister-in-law, who was pregnant with her fourth at
the time and was planning a home birth, helped tremendously with even more support, helping
me stick with all of the exercises, food prep, and everything else I was doing.
We went on a big family vacation when I was 37 weeks and went for walks (I actually felt the baby drop on one of the walks, but didn’t really realize this until later), relaxed, and enjoyed my time with all the kids. I was exhausted, but was glad I could go. Four days later I was at my mother-in-law's. I was on day two of eating the recommended six dates a day and shoved them all in my mouth one after the other. Bouncing on a birthing ball I was having Braxton Hicks, but they were a bit more uncomfortable than usual. They were few and far between, but something was different. When I went home that night they were getting more uncomfortable and more consistent. Could this be labor? At 38 weeks and 2 days? All on my own? It was very exciting, but I knew that women could have false starts or even prodromal labor, so I just watched some TV and kept bouncing on the ball.
When I finally went to bed, I knew it was labor. I couldn’t really sleep, and was head first into a pillow, bottom in the air, swaying back and forth every 8-10 minutes. I tried to sleep, but ultimately just rested in between. At 8 a.m., I called my doula and they were about every seven
minutes. I had to put the phone down to get though a surge, but she heard me and was so
positive and encouraging. Since we had an hour drive, I jumped in the shower and my husband
called my mom to come watch the other two kids.
The shower was not helpful - at all. I was shocked, because all of a sudden surges were every four minutes! I got out and panicked for a minute telling my mom, who had gotten to my house, that I wasn’t going to make it. The next one was after five minutes though, and she did some hip squeezes to help me while my almost five year old son was rubbing my back telling me I was doing a good job. It made me smile and both of them calmed me down. My husband meanwhile was getting a hospital bag packed. When we got back from vacation, I didn’t think I only had four days to get ready and was completely unprepared. We never find out the sex of our babies, so he just grabbed some newborn onesies out the basement bins and some clothes for me and we set off on our drive.
I called triage and my doula, while my husband said Rosaries until we got to the hospital. My surges had spaced back out to seven minutes, and the car ride wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I got up to the birthing floor, they checked me, and I was four cm and 80% effaced! I was thrilled. They told me to walk around the hospital for an hour and when I came back a room would be waiting for me. My doula and husband helped me through surges around the hospital, which were getting more and more intense. I finally got to my room and was so impressed with the nurses and staff. They were so quiet, respectful, and encouraging. I got to a room about 1 p.m., and labored for six more hours. I had a playlist going (Simon and Garfunkel, which apparently I was singing out quite loud at certain points of labor!) and was on hands and knees for 90% of the time receiving encouragement from my husband, doula, and everyone around me. It was exactly the support I needed.
At about 5 p.m. they asked if I wanted to try the bathtub, and I said yes. I got in and the wireless monitors couldn’t find the baby because my body wouldn’t stop pushing. For the second time, the water wasn’t very relaxing for me. I jumped out of the tub on my own, to the surprise of everyone, and laid on the bed. I was ready to push, and the baby loved when I did, so even though it wasn’t my plan to push on my back, I didn’t move.
Two hours later I pushed out our beautiful baby girl! I grabbed her myself and pulled her onto my chest. She was posterior, my “star gazer baby” they called her, and we were all shocked because I never had any of the signs that she would have come out face up!
Genevieve Joan was 7lbs. 5oz. of all chub, and her birth was the most healing experience of my life. I did it. By the grace of God, I was able to achieve the birth I had prepared for and I was so thankful.
Recovery was unbelievable compared to the first two and since it was still COVID time, it was just me, my husband, and my baby in the hospital, which was so peaceful and relaxing. Coming home, my older two kids were sick, which was unfortunate, but once they could hold their baby sister they never wanted to give her back. She was such a beautiful addition to our family and I was just enjoying happy hormones for weeks.
As I am currently pregnant with baby number four and am going back through my three previous experiences, my major conclusion from my journey is that God works in mysterious ways. I don’t think I was as prepared as I thought with my second birth, and building on the research I did with her, I was even more ready with my third. God had this plan and He knew what I needed to do to get there. I know a lot of factors contributed, and one of them was definitely God’s grace and plan for my life, but I also know that the more things I did to ready myself for labor, was more helpful and beneficial then if I hadn’t done anything.
Support for me was key - my husband stepped up in a huge way and my doula was amazing. I needed to know I could do it, I *was* doing it, and that my baby and I were working together to give me the healing birth I prayed for. I tell my little Genevieve that while she’s not my favorite child, she is my favorite birth. Now pregnant again, I hope to have the same experience with this and any other births God allows me to have. I’m so thankful for this journey - truly. Without it, I don’t think I would have ever appreciated how beautiful birth could be, and how everything about birth was made for a reason by God in such a meticulous and perfect way. Whether a mom is having a first baby or a fifth baby, I pray they get their chance to birth the way they desire and appreciate the beauty that only motherhood can give.
Aubrey DeMars is a wife of 8 years to her high school sweetheart. She and her husband live in Michigan and are homeschooling their three beautiful children with another due in the spring!