Wednesday, July 15, 2015

VBAC (TOLAC) Tips

Jonathan and I have always wanted a “big family.” We have dreamed of when we are grandparents and all of our kids, their spouses, and our grandkids will gather in our home for celebrations. We can just picture all the laughter and JOY! The Bible says ‘Children are a heritage from the Lord’ and ‘Blessed is the man whose quiver is full.’ We believe God’s Word and know that is true, as Jase has absolutely filled our lives with more love and joy than we could have ever imagined. We knew our love would be multiplied with every new addition to our family, and it has been with Kade’s arrival. Our two boys are our biggest blessings.

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Neither one of us have a set number in mind for how many kids we want, but we want to be faithful and obedient to what the Lord has in store for us, whatever that may be.

When I had an unexpected c-section with Jase, it rocked my world. I really struggled with it for a LONG time. Of course I knew it wasn’t the end of the world, and I knew I needed to be thankful both of us were safe and healthy. (And of course I was truly thankful for that.) But I couldn’t help but feel so disappointed. I felt like a failure. I felt like it was going to limit how many kids we could have, and that broke my heart the most. (The doctors at our practice said they’ve had some women have 4-5 c-sections successfully, but they won’t know how well your body heals until they get in there for the next section. After too many, it can become dangerous.) I am also super passionate about natural childbirth, and it broke my heart a little that my baby didn’t get to come into the world that way.  (I know there are some “all natural mamas” who think they’re just a little bit better than others for having natural childbirth…for me it’s not about that AT ALL. No one is any better than anyone else when it comes to having a baby. It’s just something I really wanted to experience.)  I prayed through it LOTS and begged God to help me “get over it.” There were lots of tears, and Jonathan probably got sick of constantly reassuring me every time I brought it up. And if I can be totally transparent with you guys (no judgment please- we all struggle with our flesh sometimes), I resented when other people had vaginal births. (Of course I was happy for them and their new blessing, but I would secretly and selfishly resent having had a c-section myself. It was more about me not having a vaginal birth than them having one- very selfish though still.) That is so embarrassing to admit & I am ashamed I felt that way. Yes, I know how completely ridiculous it sounds. It sounds even worse when I type it out, and I think it’s the first time I’ve ever admitted feeling that way to anyone other than Jonathan. But I just want to be REAL with y’all because I’m sure someone else has felt that way too. Looking back now, I know the Lord was teaching me some tough lessons and helping me grow in my relationship with him. But it has taken over 2 years to stop feeling that way and truly find my peace with a c-section.

Immediately after having Jase, I knew I wanted to attempt a VBAC with the next one.  (It is now sometimes referred to as TOLAC.) I began researching and talked to the doctor about it at my yearly OB visit. I started seeing the doctor in our practice who I heard was the most supportive of VBACs. Jonathan and I both LOVED him! (We really like all the doctors and midwives, but we have a couple of favorites & started praying early on one of them would be on call.) He was very informative about the risks, but was also very encouraging. He helped walk me through some questions to determine if I’d be a good candidate & decided I would. I knew the Lord planted that seed in my heart and that I’d be able to minister to other moms when it came to pass, so I was believing for successful VBAC from the beginning. I won’t sit here and tell you it was an easy 9 months and that I didn’t struggle with doubt and fear PLENTY of times…but I can tell you that the Lord is faithful. I learned many lessons through this pregnancy and delivery as well, and I definitely feel I’ve grown in my faith and in my relationship with the Lord through this experience. I don’t want to take any credit away from where it’s due because I know 100% the God gets ALL the glory for sweet Kade's birth story. However, I have had a few friends reach out that are hoping to have a successful VBAC, so I wanted to pass along a few tips that I think helped us. (Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor or medical professional, and you should always follow the advice of your caregiver. This is just what worked for me.)

KadeBirth-17111

“In most published studies, 60-80%–roughly 3 to 4 out of 5–women who have previously undergone cesarean birth can successfully give birth vaginally.” {source}

1. Pray. Plain and simple, prayer works. I cannot tell you how fervently both Jonathan and I prayed over every aspect of this pregnancy and birth/delivery. We began praying before we even started trying for baby #2, and we prayed consistently, daily, and specifically throughout the entire pregnancy. We prayed individually and together. We prayed with Jase. Several prayer warrior friends lifted us up as well, particularly as we got closer to Kade’s birthday. I read a book called Supernatural Childbirth that gave us some specific ideas of prayers to pray and it was incredibly encouraging to me. Every time a negative thought would enter my mind, I had to take that thought captive to the Lord through prayer.

2. Make sure you’re a good candidate. Your doctor or midwife can help you on this one. Depending on the reason for your c-section, you may or may not be a good candidate. If I hadn’t been a good candidate, there is no way I would have risked it. Here are a list of questions you can go through with your healthcare provider. Things like

3. Educate yourself. I feel like I put myself through midwifery school with as much as I studied, and I can tell you that for me, education helps eliminate fear. Know the risks. Know what makes your labor more likely to end in c-section. (induction, interventions, etc.) Read, read, and read some more. Talk to other moms who have had successful VBACs and read success stories. Ask your doctor lots of questions and how they handle different scenarios. Get multiple opinions from multiple doctors/midwives if possible. (For example, I really wanted to try natural childbirth and avoid an epidural. Some docs said that was fine; some preferred me have an epidural.)

Here are a few of the books I read (over & over! and over again…):

Image result for natural childbirth the bradley way

I also read a million articles, like this one

and this one and 

this one. 

4. Control your thoughts. I am a huge believer in the power of your thoughts to dictate outcomes in your life. That is why the Word tells us to ‘take every thought captive.’ Every thought is either based out of faith or fear. It is either coming from the Lord, from the enemy, or from the flesh. I had to train myself to recognize when negative thoughts were popping into my mind and choose the replace them with a positive one (especially towards the end of pregnancy as I was “overdue” and they were thinking he was a big baby). From the get-go, I just chose to believe God for a successful VBAC and not waver on that. Sometimes doubt would creep in, but I would go back to Scriptures and pray them.

5. Do your best to have a healthy pregnancy. Take your prenatals daily. Eat healthy & manage your weight. (Gaining too much weight can lead to a bigger baby.) Exercise regularly. Get plenty of rest. Drink lots of water. Avoid high stress if you can help it. Follow all of the normal suggestions for healthy pregnancy to avoid complications.

6. Find a support system. I really think a husband should be the “coach,” but I also recommend having at least one other ‘support person.’ I looked into a doula and prayed about hiring one, but I just never got a peace about it. It was really important to me to find someone who was a believer, and I just couldn’t seem to find anyone I thought I would mesh with. I knew my mom would most likely have Jase and wouldn’t be able to be in there, and sometimes it’s tough for a husband to ask too many questions when they need to be focused solely on helping the laboring wife. (Maybe not as much if you’re not having a natural childbirth.) My friend Erin was the PERFECT person, so I was thrilled when I asked her to be in the room and she said yes! She is a L&D nurse (at the hospital where I delivered) and has a very calm, soothing demeanor. Dana was there too and they were both super encouraging and thought of things Jonathan wouldn’t have thought of. (Peppermint essential oil when I felt nauseas, rewetting a cold rag for my neck/forehead, etc.) I liked that it took the pressure off Jon so he could enjoy the experience more. My other friends and family were also VERY supportive, encouraging, and prayerful. If anyone started to doubt or say anything negative, I would completely tune it out. I did run into a few negative nancies about VBAC along the way, but I just did my best to ignore them.

7. Stretch! Help your body prepare for a vaginal birth by consistently practicing yoga (2-3 times a week) and doing pregnancy stretches. You can find those in the Bradley books, but things like squatting, tailor sitting, pelvic tilts, etc. This helps you learn to breathe the right way, helps open your hips, and keeps your body in alignment. I read somewhere that even doing yoga 6 times before delivery helps, but I believe the more, the better! I just went to a regular class and modified poses that weren’t suitable. The instructors were great about sharing the pregnancy options too.

8. Regularly visit your chiropractor. Speaking of alignment, they can help keep everything in the right place.

9. Choose a doctor or midwife who is an advocate of VBAC and is supportive of your decision. Most everyone at our practice was really on board with it.

KadeBirth-83

10. Wait at least 18 months before getting pregnant. I am personally not an advocate of birth control, but in this case, my doctor wanted it to be at least 2 years between deliveries to give the uterine scar adequate time to heal. I also wanted to nurse for at least a year, so it made sense to use NFP to hold off on getting pregnant until enough time passed.

11. Be committed, yet open minded. I did not bring in a birth plan. I let every doctor know our ultimate goal was a healthy baby and healthy mama and that if a c-section was absolutely medically necessary, I was okay with whatever would get him here safely. I think that made them feel more confident and less pressure because I wasn’t being INSISTENT on having it my way. Still, I let them know I was fully confident that we would have a successful VBAC and we were highly motivated. I also told them WHY we were so motivated, and I think that helped them be more on board. I talked to them about what I was doing to prepare for it and I stayed positive and confident, even towards the end. I didn’t talk to them a whole lot about going natural because I planned to labor at home as long as possible. (I don’t recommend waiting quite as long as I did though. I didn’t know I was quite so far along, but getting to the hospital at 8-9 cm dilated for VBAC is not the best idea since they need to monitor the baby.)

12. Whatever you do, avoid induction (and interventions if possible). Pretty much every doctor said I would need a c-section anyway if I had to be induced for some reason because it increases the risk of uterine rupture. Everything I have read in the Bradley books suggests that interventions lead to more interventions and are more likely to end in the OR. Avoid laboring flat on your back and artificial rupture of membranes. They will need an IV in case of emergency c-section.

13. Communicate with your nurses and let them know your goals. Goodie bags are a good idea too. They work hard and are a huge part of helping you, so they deserve a little treat.

photo (15)

14. Find what works for you in labor. Do you like squatting? Sitting on a ball? Laboring in the tub? Massage? Heating pad? Pelvic tilts? Slow dancing? Laying on your side? Try to keep the room dark and quiet. Walking & nipple stimulation can speed labor, and squatting helps open the pelvis.  I liked having praise music playing in the background, and a diffuser with essential oils was helpful too. I also labored at home for the majority of the time which meant I was able to stay hydrated and eat some light snacks. It’s important to keep your body lightly fueled.  Try to stay rest. Learn to use deep, abdominal breathing. Practice going somewhere else mentally ahead of time. (This is where some Bradley stuff really comes in handy.)

15. Keep your attitude in check. One of my prayers throughout pregnancy is that I would glorify Christ IN labor. I wanted the entire staff that was working with me to see something different and for GOD to be able to get all the glory. Also, staying positive is crucial.

These are some of the verses that were especially encouraging throughout pregnancy/labor & delivery:

Psalm 37:4

Matthew 21:22

Proverbs 3:5-6

Philippians 4:6-7

Jeremiah 29:11

Isaiah 26:3

Romans 8:28.

Matthew 11:24

Proverbs 4:23

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had the same feelings of failure and resentment following my emergency c/s. I hemorrhaged after 23 hours of labor and 3 hours of pushing. I live in the rural Midwest and the nearest facility that would do VBAC was a 45 min drive. I did not feel comfortable being so far from the facility that would deliver me especially since it would not be with my doctor. I had a repeat c/s with my second. While I'll always be disappointed, it's gotten easier to swallow, but it's still painful to know I'll likely never have a natural childbirth. It's taken a lot of prayer just to cope because not even 1 year after my repeat, MY hospital started allowing VBAC. I know He is greater than my failure and defeat. I will probably live the rest of my life wondering if I could have done it but I pray the heartache eases over time. I truly am thankful and blessed for my childrens safety and my safety during deliveries. Congrats on your success!

By the way, I'm so glad you are helping educate! Even though I didn't have the deliveries I had hoped for, I will not stop EDUCATING other mothers to help prevent c/s to begin with! I felt very naive with my first and followed the doctors orders without questioning too much. I know better now and we need to make sure these mommas know THEY HAVE A CHOICE! Doctors are wonderful and I'm thankful for them, but it's ok to disagree and make your own choices!!

Amber Kasper said...

This is wonderful! I'm definitely struggling with having a c-section and feel guilty that it could have been my decision to be induced that led to it. (We made the decision based on the information given by the doctor) if we have another child, many years from now, we pray for a vbac. Tha k you for the wonderful information!!

Kelly Ford said...

I'm so glad you were able to experience natural childbirth the way you wanted!!!
And no, you are not alone in your feelings of resentment and failure... i feel the same way about breast feeding. I could write a novel about not making enough milk and babies getting jaundice and REQUIRING supplements which lead to them not wanting the breast anymore... ugh. After 3 failed attempts, I'm still a little bitter because i WANTED to experience it SO badly. And ashamedly, I get irritated with peoples fb posts sometimes of how much they LOVE it and how its so precious and the best relationship and blah blah blah. ;-). But its only b/c i want to share all of that as well w/ my babies.
Its tough when you want something so badly that you just cant make happen. Praying for perspective and seeing how God provides is crucial. As our pastor says about church, our message is sacred, our methods are not... well that applies to parenting as well. Our values and goals are sacred... the methods may change. How we birth our babies, feed our babies, sleep train our babies... whatever... we cant get SO wrapped up in the method that we miss the joys of enjoying our experiences, whatever they may be
Love you, friend.
Kelly

Dana D said...

You rock and God is so good! ❤️

Amanda Palmer said...

Hi! Thanks for the post. I had to have an emergency c-section with my first baby, and was told I didn't have a choice the second time around, so I have had 2 c-sections (18 months apart.) My youngest is now 19 months old. My husband and I also desire to have a big family. We actually have talked about trying when our baby turns 2 (in 5 months.) I would love to try and have a VBAC as well, but I keep getting told Georgia doesn't allow them. Do you know where I could go to find out information about whether or not that is true. And if it isn't, how I could find a doctor who is experienced with VBACs?

Gillian said...

I love to hear a good birth story and a VBAC is even better, in some ways! Just to encourage you - my first was a c-section ... everyone said I was doomed to have all sections because 1) my mom had three sections and no natural births, and 2) I am petite.

BUT I was blessed to find a doctor for the second baby that would let me 'try' for a natural birth. Everything went as smoothly as possible (minus the vacuum!!) and now, I have had six babies - one section at the beginning and five natural births (two at home), AND we are due to have our 7th baby in December. God is good! I am grateful that I found an alternative to section after section or else I would have never had my beautiful six (soon, seven) children.

Enjoy those babies!

brit h. said...

I am so encouraged by this post! Felt everything you have felt, thank you for putting it into words. And thank you for all the tips, books, and scriptures! I feel like we would be bffs if we knew one another. Lord willing I will give birth via vbac in sept.
Love, a fellow sister in Christ- Brittany