They invested so much of their time, energy, money, and hearts into their VBAC preparation. They craved immediate skin-to-skin, fought for their rights, and advocated for themselves. They labored hard, sacrificed for their babies, and felt the heartbreak that comes from an unplanned repeat Cesarean. They found healing, and they found each other.
Now, these 7 Women of Strength want to share it all with you.
How does it feel to have a CBAC?
We invite you to sit in this space with us and find out.
This episode is sponsored by our very own Advanced VBAC Doula Certification Program. It is the most comprehensive VBAC doula training in the world, perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced video course. Head over to thevbaclink.com to find out more information and sign up today.
Note: All transcripts are edited to correct grammar and to eliminate false starts and filler words.
Meagan: Alright, alright. Hello, everybody. This is The VBAC Link, and you are with myself, Meagan, and Julie. We have a special treat. You are with a whole bunch of other people today, and we are so excited that you are going to be able to hear from all of them. This episode is going to be powerful. It’s going to be emotional. It might be something that fuels fire and something that you totally relate to.
I want to start the episode off by encouraging you to have an open mind and an open heart as you’re listening to these people’s stories. We are going to be talking about CBAC today. If you didn’t know, I had a CBAC. I wanted a VBAC with my second, and it ended up in a Cesarean. In so many ways, I feel like I can relate to all of these people. I can’t wait to hear their personal journeys, and feelings, and stories.
We do have a special message. We are going to skip over our review of the week, and Julie is going to go over the differences between CBAC, VBAC, and scheduled C-section. Is that what you said?
Julie: You got it.
Meagan: Yes. Alright. So, we are going to get into that, and then we will get into these awesome stories.
Julie: Birth workers, listen up. Do you want to increase your knowledge of birth after a Cesarean? We created our Advanced VBAC Doula Certification Program just for you. It is the most comprehensive VBAC doula training in the world, perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced video course. This course is designed for birth workers who want to take their VBAC education to the next level so you can support parents who have had a Cesarean in the most effective ways. We have created a complete system, a step-by-step road map that shows exactly what you need to know in order to support parents birthing after a Cesarean. Head over to thevbaclink.com to find out more information and sign up today. That’s thevbaclink.com. See you there.
Defining VBAC, CBAC, RCS, and ERCS
Julie: Alright. I just cannot tell you how much I love this group of women that are in this conference right now. I am looking at our little recording screen. Everyone has different colored circles with their first initials in it, and it warms my heart because today-- I am going to share a little bit. Not too many personal details, but we had a Facebook group for all the people that were sharing their stories today just to relay information and make sure everyone is on the same page. So, I filled everyone in earlier this afternoon on the details, and I left to go about doing all my other things.
But when I came back to Facebook Messenger, there were dozens and dozens of messages from these moms talking about what they were going to say on the show, and how their feelings are, and getting really vulnerable with each other, and honestly creating some of the strongest connections. I could literally feel the connections growing and strengthening just in the Facebook conversation. It was so-- I don’t even know the right word.
Meagan: Powerful. It was really cool.
Julie: So endearing. Yes, powerful. I love it. And so, I am looking forward to this episode. These are all moms who attempted a vaginal birth after a Cesarean but ended up with a C-section rather than a VBAC. Before we get into the stories, I want to go over some terminology because the acronyms are pretty nuts, right? You have VBAC, HBAC, CBAC, RCS, VBA2C, HBA2C, and sometimes it can be really confusing.
Generally, VBAC is obviously vaginal birth after cesarean. RCS or ERCS refers to parents who choose to schedule a repeat Cesarean whether they want to have a Cesarean or whether it’s because of medical reasons. They may not want to do it, but they feel like it’s the best thing for them. And then CBAC stands for Cesarean birth after Cesarean, which is defined as parents who attempted a trial of labor, or labored after a Cesarean and ended up with a repeat Cesarean.
We want to go through and identify the unique challenges that these parents face and the different struggles and emotions that they go through, and maybe bring some things up that you might not have considered as you prepare for your own VBAC. We encourage you to listen-- birth worker, parent, anybody, stay tuned because there is going to be some really, really good information here from some really, really strong and powerful women.
Alright. I made Paige go first. Paige transcribes our podcast, so we can read them now.
Julie: Wherever you listen to podcasts, you can also read them too, and she is going to be transcribing this one. We absolutely love Paige. Paige was a member of our VBAC Link Community. Well, she still is. But, she suggested that we create a CBAC group just for parents who were in the community that ended up with a repeat Cesarean so that they could have some support and like-minded people.
Paige is the founder of our CBAC community as well. We are so grateful for her for everything that she does. We are just going to talk about Cesarean and ask questions. Alright. So, Paige.
What is something you wish people would know about your CBAC or just CBAC in general?
Paige: I would say that first off, it wasn’t our fault. The reality is that some birth outcomes are just the luck of the draw in spite of the best prep. I can only speak for myself, but I know that I did everything under the sun and more to set myself up for a successful VBAC after two C-sections. I was going for my second VBAC attempt this time around. This was in June of last year.
Some Cesareans truly are necessary. There’s a trend right now in the birth world to avoid a C-section at all costs, and it can feel really painful to moms that did everything to do just that but didn’t get it. So, it sounds really simple, but sometimes we need a reminder that Cesareans truly can be necessary.
Meagan: That’s so true and not only necessary but a positive experience too, right? They don’t have to be scary and negative. Okay, so question number two is:
What is one of the biggest emotions you are working through or had to work through post-birth?
Paige: I narrowed it down to two, actually, which are confusion and embarrassment. I was mostly so confused how my intuition told me so strongly this would happen for me, and then it didn’t. Literally, I woke up from general anesthesia after my second birth, so my first CBAC, and I was so empowered from the labor experience. My first words were, “Can I do that again? I want to try that again”. From that moment on, that’s when I started preparing for my VBAC after two C-sections.
I felt so good after every prenatal once I got pregnant. Every chiropractic appointment, every pelvic floor, I knew that I was on the right path. I had every reason to be confident it was going to happen. So now, learning to trust that those feelings were real, the journey with something that I needed in spite of the outcome and that my intuition didn’t lead me astray is something that I am still working on.
And then, that level of embarrassment. One of the main reasons I was going for a VBAC was because I wanted to be a champion of VBAC. I wanted to be a walking example of empowered birth. With my first pregnancy and birth, I was so afraid of birth in general. I literally did not think I would survive. So, I wanted to be the success story of going from complete fear to complete confidence and then showing women that this was what we were made to do. I feel like I still came a long way in how confident I was, and how much I have grown, and how strong I am now.
But now, with my outcome, it’s tempting to feel like my story makes people afraid to go for a VBAC instead of feeling inspired to do it. But, I still believe in VBAC. I am still so passionate about it. I love it, and I will always long for one.
Julie: Yeah. That is some really real stuff. I think it is really important. I think we will probably talk a lot about this during the episode where people get told, “Oh, at least you have a healthy baby,” or, “Aren’t you so grateful for your Cesarean? It saved your life.”
I think it’s really important to recognize that there are so many emotions surrounding this, but also-- also, we are grateful that we have a happy, healthy baby and mom. Sometimes, people don’t consider that mental health comes into play when we talk about the health of baby and mom. Sometimes babies aren’t healthy, and sometimes moms aren’t healthy. I’m glad you talked about that. Thanks. The next thing:
What is something positive or uplifting you have found in your story, or have you even gotten to that point yet?
Paige: Julie, you touched on this a little bit, but The VBAC Link CBAC Support Group has been the highlight and the greatest source of healing for me, honestly, this time around. I have found women that I know needed to come into my life during this time, and a few of them are on the episode today. It’s so fun to be able to talk to them and see them on here. I just love you all, and I am so grateful for each of you.
Especially during COVID, when it’s very isolating, it’s a very difficult time to be going through postpartum. These women helped me feel like I had a tribe like I was seen and understood. This group-- it wasn’t me. It was a joint effort. Julie and Meagan, you don’t know that. But, I was messaging some other women personally, and we talked about how we felt forgotten. We talked about how we wanted to have a space. I still personally message some of these women just to check in on how they’re doing. It meant everything to me to have these women checking in on me during some really dark and lonely days right after my birth because they were going through it too. And I typically stay away from sharing too much on social media, but this CBAC group is such a safe place.
It was also really healing to know that you, Julie and Meagan, were both so supportive of creating this group because throughout my pregnancy, you two were some of my biggest mentors. When I got my CBAC, there was this feeling of, “I let them down,” which I know is not true, and obviously, you had no idea who I even was, but seeing the way that you are champions of not just VBAC, but empowered birth and CBAC included in that, just means everything.
Meagan: Aw, thank you.
Julie: Aw, well, we are so grateful for you. Honestly, when you brought up the group, I texted it to Meagan and our admin, Sarah, and I am like, “Why have we not done that yet?”
Julie: it was an instant “yes” from everybody. We created it, I think, the exact same day. We are really excited to have a space for you because I don’t even understand what you are going through. I know I have seen it with my clients. I obviously hear stories and we see your conversations in the group, but Meagan can relate a little bit more because she had a second Cesarean after trying for VBAC. But, being able to just be a silent lurker, not to sound creepy or anything, in the group really helps me understand better where CBAC moms are coming from. It helps me understand a little bit better how to approach them.
And so, I just want to thank everybody, not only on this call but in the group for being there and being in that space. It really is such a supportive space, so thanks.
Meagan: Yeah, when I didn’t get my VBAC, I was in the group that caused me a lot of issues emotionally at the time
Julie: A different group, not our group.
Meagan: Not our group, but a different group back in the day. I mean, it’s still around. But, I remember posting in there that I did not get my VBAC and I remember pretty much in a way being told, “I told you so. Why were you so stupid for trying in the first place?” And so, when you said, “We want a place for us. We feel like there’s no place for us,” I remember leaving every VBAC group. Every single one, and unsubscribing to everything VBAC because I couldn’t be in that space. I couldn’t hear it. I couldn’t be there. I was sick of the, “I told you so‘s.”
Like Julie said, when this was proposed, it was a no-brainer and a, “Where the heck have we been?” type of a thing. A moment of-- why didn’t we even think of this? So, so, so grateful for you. Last but not least, I know we have got lots of amazing people to share.
Is there anything else that you would like to share or that you feel like people need to know?
Paige: I just want to reiterate how strong these women are, how resilient they are. Not by choice, but because they have to be. There is an extra level of courage and deeper strength that we have to tap into to not get the birth outcome that you want not only once, but often multiple times in some cases.
But for women who are prepping for their VBAC right now, I want to advise you to not be afraid, especially listening to this episode. We don’t want you to be afraid of a CBAC or a VBAC in general. I want to say, fight for it. Invest your heart in it. Go 100% all-in if that’s what your tuition is telling you to do. Follow that because the chances really are that you will get it. The odds are literally in your favor.
And if you don’t get it, if the doctors label you a “failed TOLAC”, we are here. Now that this group is made, we are here for you. We will hold the space for you. We will catch you and you are never a failure to us. You will be okay. You might not feel it and it might take some time, but I promise that you will be okay.
Julie: Me and Meagan are over here texting each other about how much we love you.
Paige: Oh my gosh. I love you guys. It’s mutual, very much so.
Julie: Before we go on to our next person, who is Kristian, I want to touch on something that I actually forgot to mention at the beginning.
Most of preparing for birth is getting educated, having the right provider, having the right support team, knowing all your options, etc., etc., etc. But there is a part of it that is just pure, freaking luck. I have seen it myself with my own clients. Sometimes you can do everything and you can work so hard, and you just get dealt a really rough hand and end up in a repeat Cesarean.
But I have also seen clients who-- how do I say this? They don’t work as hard or care as much into putting the effort in, and they get lucky and they have their VBAC. Sometimes that is a really hard thing to process, even as a doula. Even as a doula, I sometimes have a really hard time processing, “Why did this birth go that way but that birth went this way?”
I know I have talked to Meagan about this several times and I know some of you are going to talk about this, but it’s really hard when you have worked so hard and get dealt a bad hand, and get that bad luck on your side. I think that what Paige touched on is exactly important, is that sometimes it’s just bad luck. That’s all it is. There is no one to blame and it’s nobody’s fault. It’s just bad luck.
Alright, next up, Kristian.
Kristian: Hi, guys.
Julie: Hi, Kristian.
Meagan: Hello, hello.
Julie: Alright, Meagan, why don’t you start? We can alternate so that we don’t keep asking the same questions.
Meagan: Well, the questions are kind of the same.
Julie: But no, I mean you ask one and three this time. I’ll ask two and four. Change it up.
Meagan: Gotcha, perfect. Okay.
What is something that you wish people would know about your CBAC and CBAC in general?
Kristian: Paige touched on it a little bit and you both have touched on it, but I think you can do everything “right”, I use that in quotes, and still end up with a CBAC. I never thought I would have one Cesarean birth, much less two. I literally planned my VBAC in the hospital with my oldest. Both of my babies were footling breech and both times I went into labor the night before my scheduled ECV.
In both scenarios, I thought I had done everything right to have the birth outcome that I had hoped for. But yeah, that luck was not on my side either time.
Julie: I agree. I think that's a really important thing to note. Okay.
What is one of the biggest emotions you are working through now or had to work through after your birth?
Sorry, I am just going to go off on a little, teeny tangent. I think that processing a birth is an ongoing process, but where are you at in your journey right now? What is the hardest thing you are working through or had to work through?
Kristian: Yeah. I think the biggest emotion I have had and I’m still processing is just the frustration of that I spent so much time, energy, money trying to get my son in the right position. Even before I knew he was breech, I thought I was hopefully going to prevent him from ever being breech like my daughter. Ultimately, even after doing all of those things, I ended up with the same results.
And so, unlike my first birth, I don’t have the “what if‘s” of like, “What if I had tried X, Y, or Z?” But I have the frustration of, I tried all of those things. For me, they didn’t work. And so, that I am still working on. I think if I hear one more person tell me about Spinning Babies®, or chiropractic, or any number of things that I tried, I might just scream at them. Everyone is trying to be so helpful and thoughtful, but when you have tried all of those things, and you’ve done all the things that people do to get a VBAC, and it doesn’t end up being that, hearing them one more time is just too much. So, still working through that frustration piece.
Julie: It’s definitely understandable. That’s a really hard thing to go through because like you said, even though you know people are well-intentioned, it’s still like, “Yes. Yes, I did that.”
I had that with my breastfeeding journey. Breastfeeding never works for me, ever. All four times and despite all of my-- I tried all the things, literally. I think I can relate to your sentiment when if I hear anyone say, “Did you ever try fenugreek?” I would like, “Alright, let me just punch you in the face right now.” Anyways, I can relate to that.
Alright, Meagan, you are up.
Meagan: What is something positive or uplifting that you have found in your story, or nothing if you have not gotten to that point, and is there anything you’d like to share on that?
Kristian: Even though the physical aspects of my labor and birth were almost identical, like both times footling breech baby, both times going into labor the night before my scheduled ECV, how quickly my labors progressed, and then ultimately having a C-section. Even though the physical aspect of it was so similar each time, the fact that I had a different provider the second time, and that provider was truly amazing, it was such a healing experience that I never thought was possible with a CBAC.
If you would have told me when I got pregnant with my son that I would have a CBAC and I’d feel okay about it because of my provider, I don’t think I would have believed you. I know I wouldn’t have believed you.
In my first birth, I felt really unsupported, sort of like I was that unwanted statistic of a C-section because I was with midwives that deliver at a birth center. With my second provider, he was there the whole time. I think he was as disappointed as I was that I needed to have a C-section. I also knew that if it came to that and I had to have a C-section, it wasn’t for any other reason than that it was medically necessary and he gave me the best shot. He did an ECV while I was in labor. He let me labor as long as possible to see if the baby would flip and he would have delivered a breech baby if my son had been frank breech.
So, all of those things I just felt really, really supported. Afterwards, he was there. He was there to explain what happened, and to talk it through with me, and spend the time, and tell me right away that I could try to have a VBAC if and when I have another baby. The physical aspect was the same, but the mental aspect was so different.
Julie: I think that’s important to understand. Meagan, do you want to add anything about your second Cesarean or do we want to just go on?
Meagan: For the sake of time and everybody else’s story, we’ll just go on.
Julie: Okay, cool. Alright, Kristian.
Is there anything else you want to people to know about your birth specifically or cesarean birth after cesarean in general?
Kristian: Both things have been touched on already. The CBAC Link has been such an amazing community to join. Like Paige, I am not really a social media poster. I don’t really typically do that, but the group has been such an amazing place to process that. So I would say to listeners, if you have had a CBAC or if ultimately you end up in that situation, the community is here and it’s an amazing community to lift you up.
And then I think for people out there that are trying to support CBAC women, I would say just to listen and not add the added advice. I had a lactation consultant after my son was born that said, “Oh, I wish you lived in Canada because you would have had two vaginal births because they don’t do C-sections for breech babies.”
Julie: Whoa. Whoa.
Kristian: First, I don’t live in Canada and I don’t think that that’s necessarily true. So, I would just say, whether it is true or not, it is not helpful in the situation. Just let the CBAC mama have her story and not add to it.
Julie: Thank you. Thank you so much for that. I think that’s really important.
Julie: Okay, let’s see. Next up is Marie. Alright, Marie.
Marie: Hi there.
Julie: Welcome. Marie just moved away from us which makes me sad, but that’s okay. Marie, we still love you.
What is something you wish people would know about your CBAC or just CBAC in general?
Marie: I would say more often than not that we would love to share if you asked. I just wanted to give a little context to share about my CBAC because my CBAC was very traumatic for me. Paige touched on this, but it was necessary because it saved my son and that was part of that trauma.
I had labored naturally because my body doesn’t respond really well from epidurals. That’s what I found out with my first one. Anyway, I labor naturally for 18 hours and then I eventually had to have an epidural placed because right before my transition phase was exceptionally painful and I felt everything. My son was having heart decelerations in between contractions. Then, they were happening so frequently that we realized we just had to get him out as soon as possible.
Again, my body wasn’t responding to the epidural, so I felt a good deal of my surgery and I couldn’t help but be very vocal. Eventually, when they got him out he wasn’t crying, so I had that mentality going on as well. Our son was okay, but he was diagnosed with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy which is brain damage caused by lack of oxygen. He was driven to Primary’s and put on a cooling pad for four days to slow down his brain activity to try and let it heal optimally.
The following week, he had tests for his heart and brain until finally, they let us know he had miraculous results and overall his brain damage was little to none. So, while my CBAC was traumatic, it saved my son. C-sections really are a blessing sometimes. I would want people to know that C-sections are really, really amazing. My first one felt unnecessary because it was failure to progress, so I was left feeling really empowered to get a vaginal birth the second time, but the second time I really needed that C-section.
Meagan: She really has experienced the two opposite ends of like, “Oh, maybe not” and, “Okay, totally necessary.”
What is one of the biggest emotions that you are working through or did work through?
Marie: I would say it’s a mixture of both because I feel like I have worked through it, but then every once in a while it pops up. I would say that’s bitterness. My bitterness comes from skin-to-skin. I had looked forward-- my cousin once told me the most magical feeling in the whole world is having that skin-to-skin right after you deliver your baby. I just could not wait to experience that.
With my daughter, during my first C-section, I didn’t get a hold her for a couple of hours, and then with the second one, as I was preparing for this VBAC, I accepted the small possibility of having a repeat Cesarean because all I really wanted was to be awake and lucid, which I wasn’t with my first, and to get to hold him skin-to-skin immediately after his birth.
So, during his Cesarean, not only did I not get a gentle Cesarean, but I didn’t get to hear him, hold him, or behold his face for four days. When I first held him four days later, I was a ball of emotions trying so hard to just savor the moment, and holding his hand that was all bruised by all the needles, and looking at his face, and his oxygen mask.
I went to bed that night feeling like we had both been cheated out of that moment between mother and son. I was fighting resentment that I had, but I soon discovered that lots of NICU parents feel the complex, dual emotions of being both angry and grateful. As time has passed, I would say that the bitterness is mostly gone. It still pops up from time to time that I didn’t get to be with him the first two weeks of his life, but overall now, I’m left feeling more gratitude than anything.
Meagan: Yeah. And during all of that time, I just have to congratulate you on how amazingly strong you were because I can’t even imagine how hard that was. But you were a rock.
Marie: Well, you are one of my doulas, so you definitely knew that.
Meagan: I know you are a rock, yes. Okay Julie, do you have the other question?
Julie: Alright, Marie.
What is something positive or uplifting you have found in your journey or have you not really gotten to that point yet?
Marie: It’s an astute question because the word “positive” is used. It’s difficult to find joyful, memorable moments when your goals or expectations are not met. So, what you’re left doing is finding gratitude, validation, and positivity in your CBAC story. But first and foremost, I am forever deeply grateful for the miracle of my son. Looking back, I am so grateful I had a provider who helped me go into labor on my own and that I fought for that too, because he did introduce induction options. I really fought for going into labor on my own because I didn’t with my first.
I feel validated that I did everything I could to get a natural, vaginal birth. There’s a lot of things I have found. There’s a lot of positive things I found in my story, you know. I found a family among NICU parents and the CBAC Facebook group. I learned that there are better experiences and there are sacred experiences. It all comes down to what your story is, what your experience is. It belongs to you and it is special to you. It’s nobody else’s. So I guess, there you go.
Julie: No, I love that. I think you answered that perfectly. Maybe I worded the whole question wrong for everybody. Everybody else, you are free to interpret question number three however you would like.
Marie: No, it was great. No, you hit it on the head.
Julie: I love it. I love everything you said.
Meagan: Is there anything that you would like to add?
Marie: I would want people to know, throughout The VBAC Link Podcast, we have been uplifted and inspired by so many women, including wonderful Meagan, who had successful vaginal births after multiple Cesareans and a very high success rate. It’s a great goal.
I don’t have any regrets trying for a VBAC. I would do it all over again. But anyways, I would want people to know that there are some CBAC women who might end up choosing or needing to do an elective Cesarean for any subsequent pregnancies. With that being said, I would want people to know, especially coming from a strong VBAC mentality, it’s a very scary and difficult decision to come to. It’s something that I am having to face right now because I do want more kids, but having the VBAC and the Cesarean were both scary. I am really having to juggle with what I’m going to do next. But if I end up wanting to do an elective Cesarean, or if I need to do one, then I would want my VBAC community, my VBAC sisters, to be supportive of me and excited for me and be excited that I am doing elective Cesarean. I would hope that I would have support from that.
Meagan: You deserve that, yeah. You deserve that support.
Julie: Yeah, I agree.
Julie: Well, thank you, Marie. Next up, we have Anne.
Meagan: Yes. Anne, we have:
What is something you wish people would know about your CBAC?
Anne: You guys, first off, can I just say that I am really fangirling here because I have listened to The VBAC Link, oh my goodness, for as long as I can-- from the get-go, probably.
Julie: Thank you so much.
Anne: You guys have been there through my first VBAC. I did have a C-section, then a VBAC, and then I got pregnant with twins. That put a rudder in everything. I was going for a 2VBAC, which is difficult in itself with twins. So, I guess that’s one thing I would like to touch on which is different in my story is that with multiples. A vaginal birth is already hard enough to get supportive providers for, but with the twins, it was even harder. I really had to fight tooth and nail to even get the chance to try for my VBAC.
For me, it was about facing fear head-on whether you are trying for a VBAC or having that CBAC which I ended up with ultimately. I want people to know that it’s never an easy choice whether you decide to get it or whether it’s an emergency in the end. Having that C-section is not the easy way out like other people can see. That’s what I can say on that.
Julie: Absolutely. I agree with you 100% because sometimes you have to choose. Sometimes choosing a repeat Cesarean is just as difficult as going through labor and ending up with a CBAC. So, no. I agree 100%.
Anne: Yeah and definitely. I did the TOLAC and everything. We got to that 7 centimeters and we elected to have the CBAC. I cried my heart out. It’s never an easy choice.
Julie: Yeah, it never is. Never, along the way. For sure. Alright.
What is one of the biggest emotions you are working through or had to work through post-birth?
Anne: I would say mine would be shame, I guess. I don’t know if anybody else feels this way, but I love telling my birth story because it has so many cool and different things that happened along the way. We were induced with a Foley bulb and the labor was just like-- oh my gosh, it was textbook. Like, beautiful labor. I didn’t even feel my contractions before I got the epidural. It was a good experience.
But then, when I get to the point where I have to tell people that we stalled out at 7 centimeters and we decided to get a C-section, you just see peoples’ faces turn a little bit. I am still processing that. Not feeling ashamed and being proud of how hard I fought, and how wonderful it was anyways.
Julie: Yeah, I think that’s really important. I am glad you brought that up. I think that’s a really hard thing to work through.
Meagan: Absolutely. Okay, next question.
What is something positive or uplifting that you found in your story?
Anne: Well, it’s like I said, I did have a really good labor to begin with and I felt supported in all my choices. That was something really positive for me because, with my first, which ended up in a C-section, I didn’t feel that support at all. It was healing in that way. I am just happy overall that I got to have that experience and got to give my babies those labor hormones. That was my ultimate goal to have them receive that and go from there. I’m happy overall that I got my number one goal.
Julie: Yeah, that’s awesome. Alright.
Is there anything else you want to add or that you wish people would know?
Anne: Even if a CBAC wasn’t your first choice-- heck, which obviously if we are going for a VBAC, it probably wasn’t, that having that supportive provider is just as important as having a supportive provider with your VBAC. I feel like my provider definitely made the whole difference for my recovery and how I feel about my whole experience because when push came to shove, and we decided to have the C-section, and I cried, she was there for me. Whatever I asked, she made sure that we would try and get whatever possible to make me feel comfortable.
I asked her to go through everything she was doing, to narrate as she was doing it. She said it was an odd request, but she did do it. So, just being heard from a provider and having that support is just-- it is so important. When you’re looking for a provider, not just thinking about how they will support you through a VBAC, but also trying to figure out if they are going to be there if plans don’t go as you planned.
Julie: I really love that thought. I think that’s really important. I honestly don’t think I ever thought about it in that perspective before. So, thank you for sharing that.
Julie: Okay, next up we have Joleen.
Joleen: Hi there.
Julie: Hi Joleen. How are you?
Joleen: Doing well.
Julie: So good. I am so good just to be surrounded and listening to you ladies. I am smiling the whole way through this. I just love it. Okay, question number one.
What is something you wish people would know about your CBAC or just CBAC in general?
Joleen: So, a quick briefing. I had my CBAC in October 2020 following a spontaneous 33-hour labor. My water ruptured naturally at home at 38 weeks and 4 days. I never dilated past 1 centimeter and baby never descended past -2 station even with five hours of a Pitocin induction during that. A hospital birth, so I had no food and pretty much no sleep. So, I did have my CBAC called failure to progress, but it was my choice because of the exhaustion.
Overall, I think as a CBAC parent that we all had this goal set and probably had small goals in between and we had to reach those goals. We researched and we prepared and we advocated. We did “all of the things” and in the end, no matter what our outcome was, we all have our experiences and our stories. However we feel about these experiences, I just want people to know that our feelings are valid.
It’s okay if you need to mourn your birth experience. It’s okay to love your birth experience too. We just have to find a healthy output for those things.
Meagan: Absolutely. And it’s okay to take as much time as you need to mourn that birth experience. Question number two is:
What is one of the biggest emotions that you are working through or have already worked through?
Joleen: I would say, being recently postpartum from my CBAC, when I have time to think back at my whole journey, it’s not really an emotion, it’s more of a gnawing, “What if?”
I originally wanted a home birth. I wanted the twinkle lights and the affirmations, the HypnoBirthing and the birth tub. I had a hospital birth. I constantly ask myself, “What if I stayed home longer? What if I hadn’t gotten the epidural? What if I had the doula that I wanted?” That’s really the one thing that weighs on me. I think a doula would have changed my outcome. “What if I had gone a few more hours before agreeing to have a surgery?” It gnaws and it eats at me.
I will share a quick story. Before they took me back to the OR, I turned to my boyfriend and I said, “Do you remember how I was after our first daughter?” Her name is Elowen. He said, “Yeah.” I said, “You need to prepare for me to be like that again.” He was like, “I know.” I said, “I don’t know how I’m going to be after this. I might be struggling. I just want you to know that. I want you to prepare for that if you have to help me through this.”
They took me back to the OR and as they were taking baby out, I had heard my midwife’s voice. I had no idea that she was the attending midwife during my surgery. She said, “You know, I told you that she was going to try to come on my birthday.” I just felt so calm in that moment. I said, “Heather, is that you?” She said, “Yeah, it’s me.” Immediately, the first thing that came out of my mouth was, “Heather, I didn’t get my VBAC.” And I cried. I was bawling. I could feel her emotion behind that blue veil. She said, “I know, hon. I am so sorry.” That was the first time I realized that I didn’t get my VBAC and it really sunk in.
Meagan: It’s crazy how that can happen and you are like, “Wow. Alright. And here we go. That just sunk in right there and I am processing this now.”
Julie: Yeah. Honestly, I am so invested in this story, I don’t even know what question we are on anymore.
Meagan: I think three. What is something positive or uplifting?
Have you found something uplifting or positive in your journey?
If not, that’s okay too.
Joleen: Yeah, so a positive thing that I took out of my whole experience and my whole journey was that I found this strength that I never knew that I had. I so often hear the phrase, “Use your voice even if it shakes.” I learned to advocate for myself and thankfully I had two wonderful providers, and OB and a Certified Nurse-Midwife who gave me no pushback. They supported me the entire way from the get-go.
Is there anything you would like anyone to know about CBAC?
Joleen: Yeah, so it’s like the other ladies have mentioned-- you can prepare all you want. It’s going to be the luck of the draw. That’s even what OB had told me at my two-week postpartum visit. I asked, “Was there anything physically wrong with me inside? Anything wrong with my pelvis?” He said, “You know, it was just the luck of the draw. I have no idea why things went the way they went.”
You can eat all the dates you want. You can go to the pelvic floor therapist. You can go to the chiropractor every single week. You can bounce on your ball. You can walk. You can take the red raspberry leaf. You know, it’s not going to give you the outcome that you want. You’re not always going to get that outcome.
Meagan: It doesn’t always happen, yeah.
Joleen: Yeah, you have to accept it.
Joleen: It is a hard pill to swallow, too, if it doesn’t happen the way you want it to. But just know that you are not alone in your struggles.
Julie: Absolutely. I think that’s really important. You’re not alone in your struggles. I actually was taking notes while you were talking because I want to make some social media posts from some things you said. Actually, all of you guys, I have been taking notes. But, I think that’s really important to know.
Okay, well thank you so much, Joleen, for sharing your story with us. You’re right, I want to chat with everybody so long. But Meagan is like, “Come on. We have got to get back on track.” Okay, okay, okay.
Meagan: I want to make sure everyone gets their time.
Julie: Alright. Next is Brett.
Julie: Hi Brett. I am so glad you’re with us. You are one of the people whose names I am familiar within the community. Now I’m familiar with all of your names, but Brett, I think I just remembered you from--
Brett: I think I was there from the beginning. I was one of the first people.
Julie: Yeah, I love it. Let’s get right into it.
What is something you wish people would know about your CBAC or CBAC in general?
Brett: I think one of the hardest things for me to deal with after my CBAC was everyone saying, “Well, at least you have a healthy baby,” because yes, I have a healthy baby and that’s amazing. I am thrilled he’s okay and I don’t have to worry about him, but “at least you have a healthy baby” can be absolutely true, but it can also be very unhelpful to women who are going through birth trauma and the pain of losing the birth experience that we fought so hard for.
Julie: Yeah. I agree 100%.
Meagan: It discredits, I feel like.
Brett: Yeah, it takes away from all of the hard work that we went through. It takes the mom out of it and it makes it all about the baby. Birth isn’t just about the baby. Birth is also about the mom.
Julie: I agree. I feel the same way about the phrase, when everyone in my life tells me, “It will be okay. It will be okay.” I’m like, “It will be okay. I know that. It will be okay, but right now it’s not okay.”
Meagan: It doesn’t feel okay.
Julie: So, I need help now.
Brett: I love the concept of toxic positivity and how being positive is good, but you can be too positive. If you don’t give people the space to talk about their emotions and talk about their trauma, you are not helping. You are just silencing them and shutting them down. I feel like that happens a lot to women who go through traumatic births.
Julie: Yeah, totally. Alright, Meagan. Next question.
Meagan: What is one of the biggest emotions you are working through or have worked through?
Brett: I think for me it was probably the feeling of failure and the guilt that came along with it. I chose to switch to a home birth VBAC around 35 weeks mostly because of COVID, but I was honestly using that as an excuse. I really wanted to try for a home birth VBAC. I paid for the midwife in addition to the OB. I spent all the extra money on all the extra things. You all know what I am talking about.
Brett: I still failed to get my VBAC despite having perfect conditions. I was at home with my mom, and my husband, and a midwife who is supportive. I did everything and I still failed to do it. Knowing that in having two C-sections now, I am limiting the number of kids I can most likely have, it hurts. The guilt for all of the effort and money that I put into something that I “failed at”, it is real.
Julie: It is real. No, those are very real things. I agree with you guys 100%. Everything you have said has touched me in a whole bunch of different ways. So, thank you for sharing that with us. Okay, my turn.
What is something positive or uplifting you have found in your story or have you not even gotten to that point yet?
Brett: Honestly, even though I didn’t get my VBAC, my CBAC birth was super healing for me. My first birth was just hell. 29 hours of induced labor with every medication side effect in the book. The magnesium made me feel like I had the flu. I puked over 40 times during labor. Then, our son came out not breathing and I didn’t get to meet him for five hours. I was a drugged mess and don’t remember pretty much most of it. S
With this birth, I went into labor on my own. I had a wonderful labor at home. My husband made burgers in the middle of labor and I devoured a whole burger in two minutes in the middle of labor. Even when we made the decision to transfer, that part was emotionally traumatic, our son came out screaming and I heard his voice right away. I got to hold him right away and we got skin-to-skin, which I didn’t get with Landon. I didn’t get to meet him for the first five hours and it just made a really big difference in healing after the first for me.
Julie: I think that’s really important. I just had a chuckle when you said cheeseburgers because I am a big fan of cheeseburgers. I always joke about that. When I tell my clients about eating and drinking during labor, I am like, “I like smoothies and stuff because if you’re going to throw up, they generally come up smoother than a cheeseburger does.” And so, I am always talking about cheeseburgers and birth.
Brett: I actually ate a cheeseburger. My husband was making them. My husband is a chef and so we said, “Well, you can make food for the midwife and stuff. It will distract you while I am in labor.” So, he made burgers. They asked if I wanted one and I was like, “You know what? Yes. I would love one.” I literally ate the whole thing before the midwife had even sat down with her plate of food. It was great.
Julie: Good for you.
Brett: It was awesome. And then because I ended up with a C-section, I didn’t get to eat and I had all the side effects to the medication again, so I didn’t get to eat for 24 hours after that cheeseburger. it was a good thing I had the cheeseburger.
Meagan: Yeah, that’s so awesome. Okay so, is there anything uplifting? Look, I am not even looking at the questions now. Yes, something positive or uplifting you have found in your story?
Julie: What else do you want people to know?
Meagan: I thought it was number three. Oh yeah, duh. She just said that.
Brett: That was number three.
What else do you want people to know?
Julie: Cheeseburgers. I know we got distracted. Sorry.
Brett: That’s alright. I wish that people understood that the emotional healing from a Cesarean is just as important as the physical healing. A Cesarean incision heals over long before the emotional wounds stop hurting, but nobody really thinks about that part. We are kind of just left on our own to try and muddle through that. That’s hard.
Meagan: Yes. Yes. I think that is so powerful. I had a provider once tell a client, “Oh, as soon as she feels like she can stand up and walk she will be fine.” I was like, “Uh, OK.”
Julie: So nonchalant about it.
Brett: Yeah. My incision didn’t heal for three months this time. The first time, it was within a couple of weeks and this time I think it was September before my incision fully healed. Honestly, I think it’s because we went to the beach and I spent three days in the saltwater. I think that’s the only reason it actually finally healed over. I don’t know why it took so long, but even then, the emotional stuff was still there when the incision finally healed.
Meagan: Yeah. Well, thank you. Thank you, thank you. I love all of your points.
Julie: Alright. Up next, last but not least, or maybe it is the best of all the game. Right? Alright, Grace. Meagan, do you want to ask the first question?
Meagan: Yes. Okay, Grace.
What is something that you wish people would know about your CBAC or just CBAC in general?
Grace: Hi. So first, I just wanted to say thanks for having me on along with these other warrior women. Something I think I wish people knew was how much we all actually invest in fighting and trying for our VBAC and getting there emotionally, physically, and in some cases, financially. I think like someone had said earlier, I was planning my VBAC while I was still in the hospital after having my daughter. I knew I needed a new provider and a new hospital. I wanted a doula. Right from that day on, it was a journey for me for sure.
Julie: That’s amazing. Thank you so much for sharing that. Okay, second question:
What is one of the biggest emotions you are working through now or had to work through after your birth?
Grace: My CBAC was definitely emotionally healing in comparison to my first Cesarean. My first Cesarean was from an induced labor, a long labor, my doctor was very impatient. He made me push way before I was ready to. I ended up under general anesthesia, so I really have no positive feelings from my daughter’s birth, unfortunately. This time, I went into labor on my own. I got to labor at home before I went to the hospital. I was pushing. I got everything that I wanted other than literally just pushing a baby out myself. So, that was that.
But then I think about, “Well, what if?” All of the what if’s are what I am really struggling with most days is, “What if I got the epidural this time that I really was so strongly against based on my first experience with it? Maybe it would have let me labor a little bit longer,” or, “What if I had just pushed longer instead of making that decision myself to opt for the Cesarean?”
My son this time ended up being OP and I knew he was going to be pretty big, so both my midwife and my doula were like, “Well, if it was one or the other maybe we could work through it,” but I think the combination of the two was really stacked against me. At the end of it, they let me make the decision if I wanted to keep trying or to do the Cesarean. I remember my midwife asking me, “Deep down, dig deep. Do you feel it inside if you can push the baby out?” Honestly, I self-reflected and I really didn’t think I could, so that’s why we chose the Cesarean. But then again, what if? What if I would have just stuck with it? What if I would have just pushed a little longer? It kills me.
Meagan: Yeah. Yeah, I know. Those “what if‘s”, they can really get to us. It is hard not to ask the “what if‘s”. I feel like we start the “what if‘s” before we even go into labor. Even in the decision to VBAC or to CBAC, “What if I do this? What if I could deliver vaginally? What if I have something bad happen?” You know, there are just those “what if‘s”. It’s personally something so hard to get through.
Grace: Yeah. I think at the end of the day, I was like, “I really want this VBAC, but I really want my baby here healthy more.” It’s putting my wants aside for, “Yeah, I would love the VBAC, but I really would love my baby to be here now, healthily instead.”
Meagan: Mhmm. Yeah, definitely. Okay, question number two is:
What is one of the biggest emotions you are working through or have worked through post-birth?
Grace: I think we just did that.
Meagan: See? This is what the thing is. I do the wrong question every time. Nope. It’s number three. It’s:
What is something positive or uplifting you have found in your story?
I am just listening to the answer and not knowing what the next question is.
Julie: I know, we just get so lost in all of these amazing answers.
Meagan: I’m just relating, yes.
Grace: My whole journey this pregnancy, leading up to even getting pregnant and then my whole pregnancy, I just felt empowered. I was self-advocating. I researched a ton. With my first pregnancy, I was under the care of doctors and I just naïvely trusted them. They said to do this and I’m like, “Well, they are the experts. Okay.” This time, I really educated myself. I knew what my rights were and what I could get. I switched to a midwife. I hired a doula. I went to a different hospital. I did literally all of the things that I could do and that were there for me. Even though I ended up with a CBAC like I said, it was healing for me and I felt confident that I exhausted all my options. I left no stone unturned so to say in what I could have done. So, I was proud of myself for all of those things.
Meagan: You should be.
Grace: Thank you.
Julie: I think it’s great that you can look back on your birth like that and feel confident in your choices. That’s really important.
Grace: Yeah, for sure.
Julie: Alright, last question. Anything else you want people to know?
Grace: I think the biggest thing is that we can still love our babies unconditionally and yet still yearn for a certain birth story. I think some other women have said, people always say, “Well, at least the baby is healthy.” Yeah, of course. That should just not be not even said. That is number one for everybody. Mom and baby, yes. Number one. That should just be taken off the table. But, vaginal births have been part of women forever and ever. That is what we are “made to do”. I am saying these things with air quotes. So I just feel like, we can love our kids no matter what and we can still love to have a certain birth.
Meagan: Absolutely. Absolutely. You guys, so many incredible words and thoughts. I feel like, Julie, if you have been writing these down, we’ve got a lot of amazing Instagram posts.
Julie: Oh yes, yes. There were a lot. We want to wrap it up. Unfortunately, we have to go. I really wish we could just sit and talk with you ladies all day. I just love you guys so much.
VBAC and CBAC birth plans
I want to close it off because I want to take it back to something that Anne said. When you interview your provider for your VBAC, don’t just think about how they will support you through a VBAC. Consider how they will support you if things don’t go the way you want and if you end up with a repeat Cesarean. Maybe start asking those questions too, while you are talking about your birth plan and you’re preparing for your VBAC.
Talk about a back-up Cesarean plan with them. What happens if something comes up and a Cesarean becomes necessary? Then how are you going to be supported? You might not like their answers, but you might feel just as supported as you are when they are talking about your VBAC preparation. And so, I just wanted to-- I just really loved that when you said that, Anne.
Like I said, I have lots of notes from all you others too. But, I just really want to emphasize that to close this off because sometimes births don’t go the way you planned. In fact, I would say, every birth doesn’t go as planned. Sometimes it’s in really little, teeny ways, but sometimes it’s in really big ways. Having support all along the way, no matter how it goes is very, very important. I encourage you, you listeners right now, to get educated about repeat Cesareans, to know the reasons why they may be necessary, and to have those conversations with your provider along the way.
Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Head over to thevbaclink.com/share and submit your story. For all things VBAC, including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Julie and Meagan’s bios, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.