After my first daughter’s birth, I wish someone had said to me that a cesarean birth is a birth all the same. It does not mean that you failed. Or that your body is broken. Or that you are not a good mother. Rather, it means you did everything you could to try for the birth you thought was best for your child.
My first daughter was born via cesarean section following an extensive labor. I had my heart set on a natural birth as I used to believe this was the best way to bring a baby into the world. I was confident in my ability to birth my baby naturally, to avoid unnecessary hospital interventions which would undoubtedly lead to surgery. I had read all the books that furthered my perspective that our bodies were made to birth babies. I used to believe that my body failed me in my first child’s birth. That if only I had been given more time, that I would have pushed my baby out.
In that moment my daughter was born, it did not matter to me how she was born; she was perfect and healthy and beautiful. But when she was whisked away to another room and I was left alone while the doctor and nurse chatted away as if I was not there, I felt like I had failed as a mother even before I had really begun. This feeling of failure continued to follow me as I attempted to take care of my newborn as well as recover from surgery.
I was determined that with my next child I would have a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). I had read stories about women who had had similar labors and births as mine and then had gone on to have the coveted VBAC. And they had finally healed, emotionally. I wanted that story to be mine.
My hope was to avoid postpartum depression, those feelings of inadequacy and emotional turmoil. I did not want those feelings to return with my second daughter and so, I planned my VBAC. I hired a doula. I talked through the risks and benefits with my doctor who supported this option, and I remained confident.
My second daughter was born vaginally in the hospital. I was continuously monitored throughout my labor and delivery.
I had a VBAC.
But there were complications. The umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around my daughter’s neck. While the doctors were able to intubate her, it took eight minutes to do so. She died two days later due to these complications from her birth.
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In the beginning, I felt like my choice to try for a VBAC caused my daughter’s death. But I would never have planned a cesarean birth and therefore this line of thinking only served to intensify my pain. I decided to believe that I had done everything I could to try to give my daughter the best chance at life.
If you are hoping for a VBAC with your next child, please remember that this is not the only way to be the best mother or to heal from a previous birth. Labor and delivery can be unpredictable, and no baby’s birth goes exactly as planned. Sometimes there are events that occur that are out of your control, and your perfectly arranged birth may change, and that is ok. Your role as that baby’s mother started long before she was born, and every choice you made during your pregnancy was made with your child’s best interests in mind.
Photo by Sara Schmidt