Thursday, June 7, 2012

Q & A - preparing for a VBAC

Last week in my pre-natal classes I discussed two words - determination and doubt. And I posed the question: "do you doubt that you can birth your baby naturally?"

The three students who admitted out loud, without any hesitation, that they were doubtful, are all preparing for a Vaginal Birth After Caesarean (VBAC).

Please note than I always use the term 'caesarean birth' instead of 'caesarean section' or 'c-section'. I think it's really important to acknowledge that it is a birth and not just a medical procedure.

There are two types of women who actively prepare for a VBAC.

1. A woman who had a scheduled caesarean birth and never experienced labour. This may be due to, for example, a breech baby, pre-eclampsia, high-blood pressure, placenta previa or the health of the baby etc
2. A woman who laboured, possibly as far as full dilation, but for a range of possible reasons ( foetal distress, failure to progress, de-flexed head etc) couldn't birth her baby vaginally.

Wrapped up in the doubt of those that had a scheduled caesarean birth is a fear of labour...fear of the unknown, something so common to first-time mums. For those who have laboured and are attempting a VBAC there's a looming hurdle awaiting them. For most women in this situation, that hurdle is daunting. They know, deep within, that in order to achieve a VBAC they need to move past that moment in their first labour where, for one reason or another, it was decided that a caesarean birth was necessary. 

And so, like I say to my students each and every week, it is the mental preparation that is essential. Because the mental challenge of labour is often far greater than the physical challenge.

Here is my advice, in simple dot form:

  • remind yourself that this is a new baby and a new birth experience. 
  • if you are feeling angry, disappointed or traumatised about your first birth experience you may want to consider seeking help from an ante-natal counsellor. Your GP or midwife will be able to refer you. Ultimately, you can only prepare for a second birth once you have made peace with the first.
  • if you feel guilty, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself. Forgive yourself.
  • think about who you want at your birth. Choose people who you wholeheartedly trust. Remember, you will be at your most vulnerable and transparent, you want support from those who have the utmost faith in you and your ability to birth
  • talk to your support people about your fears. Talk to them about your determination to have a VBAC. Tell them what words you want to hear in labour. (If you are a support person and you notice that doubt is creeping in, quietly tell the labouring woman: "you CAN and you ARE doing it)
  • do your research. Find a midwife or obstetrician who wholly supports your journey towards a VBAC. 
  • create a sankalpa (positive affirmation). Yogis believe that a sankalpa that is repeated daily and never shared will always be realised. Use simple language and repeat it to yourself in moments of fear or doubt, or when you are feeling most connected with your baby. An example of a sankalpa could be: "I will carry my baby to full term and birth calmly and confidently."
  • acknowledge your fears and doubts
  • commence a regular yoga practice. The best preparation you can do is regular preparation. I find for those who already have children it's really important to go to a yoga studio for that space - where you can connect and be with your unborn baby without the need to look after your other child(ren). Recognise that it's your time
  • why is prenatal yoga so powerful? Well, within weeks of starting a practice you will notice that you understand your body a bit more. When you become more aware of your body you have more faith in its ability to birth.
  • remind yourself that your body, your breath and your baby are one. 
  • your unborn baby is comforted by your heartbeat, vitalised by your breath
  • as you breathe, mentally repeat 'let' as you inhale and 'go' as you exhale
  • when you begin to doubt, remind yourself that you are determined
  • when you become fearful, remind yourself that you have faith
  • remember all those women that have birthed before you. So much wisdom.
  • remember that you are nature - and nature never ever adheres to a clock
  • labour cannot be controlled, only experienced. You cannot 'do' labour, you just have to 'be' in it
  • don't write a birth plan - nothing in life ever goes according to plan. Instead, create a birth intention
  • know that the very essence of birth is surrender - surrender to where your body and your baby takes you
  • *next week I'll write about sound in birth. Sound, I believe, is the most powerful technique you can use in labour.
If I have learnt one thing after close to five years of teaching prenatal yoga it is this: you just never know where your birth journey will take you. And so, I say to each pregnant woman that crosses my path - surrender and accept. 

So what is it like to experience a VBAC? I'll let Sarah, one of my students, tell you....

Q: Why did you have a caesarean birth with your first child?
A: Finn was posterior facing (spine on spine) with a deflexed presentation (his head was tilted backwards instead of having his chin tucked in). My obstetrician suspected that he would be born via caesarean birth but I was insistent that I go into labour. I was induced (my membranes were ruptured at 41+3 weeks) and I laboured for nine hours with little or no progress. We agreed to go ahead with the caesarean birth.

Q: How did you feel about Finn's birth?
A: I was absolutely devastated. I had put such a lot of effort into preparing for the birth with a Calm Birth course and yoga classes, that when my experience differed so much from my carefully written birthing plan, I was at a complete loss. After the birth I was euphoric, of course. A son! My beautiful baby boy! But later, I found it too hard to even tell people that I hadn't managed the perfect, natural birth that I had wanted. It took me a long time to start appreciating my happy, healthy baby as the end result of my pregnancy, rather that what I saw as a 'failure' to do the one thing that we, as women, are designed to do. 

Q: Did you always want to attempt a VBAC with your second child?
A: Yes! My research started when Finn was only a few weeks old. I spent hours on the internet finding out if such a thing was possible. I had never heard the term VBAC before, but was soon quoting success stories and statistics to anyone who would listen.

Q: What did you do to prepare yourself for a VBAC?
A: My preparation was largely emotional rather than physical. I needed to accept that Finn's birth was just that, a birth, not a disaster. I spent my time thinking in a constructive way about every possible outcome, and decided to face each eventuality with acceptance. I learnt and practiced skills to help cope with the challenges of labour and delivery but I didn't plan. I wrote nothing down. I just decided to let it happen. I thought about what it would mean to me if I needed to have another caesarean birth - I was determined to be happy with my new baby, regardless of how she arrived.

Q: What were your fears and how did you overcome them?
A: My main fear was that my OB would insist I have a caesarean or claim that I wasn't a suitable candidate for VBAC. I spent hours leaning forwards (or on all fours) to avoid a posterior facing bubba! I prepared myself before each meeting with my OB so I could calmly decline his offer to schedule a date for my baby's birth. I booked a course of acupuncture to help labour begin spontaneously and I listen to my friends' VBAC success stories. I was happy for them and hopeful for myself.

Q: How were you feeling when you went into labour?
A: Amazed! I spent a couple of hours being not-quite-awake, then a little while wondering why I was awake, then I realised! Spontaneous labour! Success! Half the battle already won! I kept it to myself for a time, then woke up my husband and told him we were on our way. That was when the feeling of disbelief started.

Q: You had a really supportive midwife with you - how did you affect your experience?
A: My midwife was amazing. She was so calm and welcoming, and completely unconcerned by the fact that I was an "attempted VBAC" - as it said on my admission papers (very encouraging!). She asked us if we had a birthing plan and was beautifully accepting of our straight forward "No!". She was of the view that a woman's body knows how to deliver a baby, so was happy just to observe and support. She could tell I was ready to push before I could, and was happy to let me be without any interference. She didn't mind that I was on all fours on the floor and encouraged me to accept what felt right when it came time to delivering my daughter, even though I had chosen an 'unconventional' position. (My OB was most displeased when he arrived. But hey - he wasn't doing the hard yards!).

Q: How did it feel, to birth Meg in the way you had intended?
A: I was stunned when the moment came to deliver her. I had been expecting the orderly to arrive at any minute and wheel me off to theatre. I can clearly remember the midwife putting on her gown and gloves and my husband asking her what she was doing. "There's going to be a baby born in here in a minute, I'm just getting ready." We looked at each other in disbelief, it was such a surprise! The feeling, when my baby girl was passed to me, was out of this world! (...and hilarious - the cord wasn't long enough so I couldn't hang on to her and had to give her back to the midwife - all very slapstick!). I still couldn't believe what had happened and it felt so good when other midwives came in to congratulate me on a successful VBAC.

Q: What is your advice for women who are planning a VBAC?
A: Don't plan it. Prepare for the fact that it might happen, but prepare equally for the fact that it might not. But do try. Be strong when you are talking to your OB. Listen to advice but decide for yourself. And enjoy your new baby, regardless of how he/she is born. 

I would love for the comments section to become a bit of a discussion board. If you have any specific questions for me, I'm more than happy to answer them. If you have had a VBAC, or are hoping to experience one, I'd love to hear your story. I do ask, however, that all comments are respectful and, if possible, kind.

I have been asked if I'm going to write about preparing for a caesarean birth - yes, most definitely. 

Now is also a good time to remind you that I am not a midwife, medical practitioner or birth educator. I'm a yoga teacher, mother and journalist. My stories are informed by my own experience, research and the blessing that has been the meeting, teaching and learning from my pre-natal students. 


  1. Having just had my 5th baby and my first caesarian birth I found this very interesting and enlightening. The idea of having a birth so far out of my control was just horrendous and I have to say that I didn't enjoy the experience much. But I am now the mother of another beautiful little guy and I guess that's what counts at the end of the day.
    But if I hadn't had my other birth experiences I think I'd feel highly ripped off and maybe guilty or angry.

    I love the way you emphasise FORGIVE YOURSELF. And your love quote at the top. And birth INTENTIOn rather than plan. Nicely written. I loved it.
    Thank you!

  2. I had two very different VBACs (so three equally varied births). My third child (2nd VBAC) was by far more successful because of support and research, I had some minor opposition from a midwife who was surprised that I was classed as low risk, being able to provide her with my research on safety of VBAC and a list of what interventions I preferred not to have along with under which circumstances I would allow intervention helped get everyone on the same page. In the end she turned out to be an amazing support, because she knew how important this was to me and how determined i was. Having the list and strong support in my husband was the difference, I believe, between our water birth for this baby and the high interventionVBAC I had with my second. Learning to trust my body was difficult but the amazing high that getting through labour and birthing Eve in the bath provided has changed the way I see myself, it's the outcome I wish every VBAC could have.

  3. A really clear and helpful post Jodi and Sarah, well done! Sharing birth stories, can be so healing and empowering. I count my blessings immensely to have had two natural, very straight forward labours and births of my sons. I agree with Jodi and Sarah about the importance of mental and emotional preparation, I listened to a hypnobirthing CD daily in the last months of both pregnancies. Re: birth plans/intentions, I like the words 'committed detachment' - have a vision of how you want to birth that you are committed to, but you are detached not rigid to a plan. With my second baby, my 'plan' was to birth at a birthing centre, life's plan was an unplanned homebirth. When I realised what was happening I made a very conscious decision to surrender and trust what was happening, the flipside of that was to panic I knew that wouldn't help so I took a deep breath and replaced fear with FAITH. My son was born within two hours of my first contraction in my girlfriend's bathroom, me on my hands and knees like you Sarah, with my husband and girlfriend as 'midwives'. It was an incredible -unexpected- experience. I realise my story is not about VBAC but hopefully it is still helpful for readers! To all pregnant mamas surround yourself with the support you need, seek it out it is out there. Again, great post ladies.

  4. This is beautifully written. And I love the "birthing intention" vs. plan advice! My encouragement to other women preparing for a VBAC is to be realistic about the risks involved and find a team that you trust who is skilled. Be it midwives or obstetricians, the professionals we use to help us through a VBAC are key, these women (and men!) have seen many many circumstances and know what to look for in this very unique situation. When you have a team of people who you trust and who trust you, you can do anything!
    My attempt at a VBAC failed when my uterus catastrophically ruptured after 10 hours of labor. I was incredibly lucky that my talented doctor trusted me when I told her something was wrong and knew to look for very subtle signs and rushed me to the OR...only to open me up and see my son's hand sticking out of the exit he was making for himself! Initially, I was heartbroken that all my planning and all my prenantal yoga and classes were for nothing, but my doctor was incredible, she said: "Without your connection to your body I would not have know to look for anything. You did the part of the job you were supposed to: LISTENING to your body!" It was so healing to hear that.
    My son and I are healthy and happy and miraculously, I am still able to have children and needed only a few days in the hospital! I credit my wonderful doctor and the caring hospital staff that treated us so perfectly!

    1. For anyone attempting a VBAC, uterine rupture is our worst fear. Up until reading this comment I was feeling so hopeful about the possibility of a VBAC. I'm glad things ended up well for you, but please be cautious in sharing your story with VBAC hopefuls that are only wanting to surround themselves with positive stories. The chance of uterine rupture with a VBAC is so small, but when I hear of times that it's happened it's difficult to move forward with the idea of a VBAC.

  5. My first baby was born by emergency c-section. The c-section was not because he was in the wrong position, or the labour was not progressing, it was because of foetel distress. And it was an emergency, I nearly lost him, my husband nearly lost us. I have never been so scared in my entire life.

    I would have loved to have tried for a VBAC with my second. But that fear is something I will never get over, nor the distress both my son and I endured in the first few months of his life. He was a very unsettled baby, something I believe had a lot to do with his birth.

    I am due to have my third soon. It will be another elective c birth. I am excited, to add another babe to our family. A part of me wishes I had birthed naturally, but the other part is so greatful for my healthy family.

    Good Luck to all those trying for a VBAC. I look forward to reading preparing for an elective c birth. I LOVED my second child's birth, we were prepared, it was AMAZING.


  6. I contemplated a VBAC my entire 2nd pregnancy but booked an elective c-birth (I love that you say birth!) at the final hour. I was even getting mild contractions. Fear got me in the end! I just didn't want to labour for hours and hours and still end up having a ceaserean. Yep such a mental thing! Turned out my uterus was very thin so may have been a good thing in the end. Lovely post: wish I read it 8 months ago ;)

  7. This is a very interesting post. I think that VBACs are traditionally so intimidating for women because until recently all we heard was that they were dangerous and by wanting one you were putting your life and that of your unborn child at risk.

    My first pregnancy ended in an emergency c-section and ultimately the death of my son soon after delivery. Pretty obviously it was a horribly traumatic experience. When I became pregnant the second time around I was both terrified and determined that my birthing experience would be different. But I had realistic expectations and I think that is the key with VBACs. I wanted to have the experience that I had for so long imagined and that I was denied with my first child but I went into it knowing that the most important thing was a healthy baby and a healthy me. I didn't make too much of a "birth plan" but instead kept an open mind and ended up having a beautiful VBAC.

    I think the key things to consider when attempting a VBAC is 1) the importance of working with an experienced and supportive doctor, 2) having an excellent hospital team to care for you should you need help, and 3) keeping the real goal in mind, which is not having a VBAC at all costs but having a delivery that results in a healthy mom/healthy baby.

    Lovely and informative post. Thank you.

    1. Oh Bree, I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm also incredibly grateful that you were courageous enough to share you story here, in this space. I agree with you - a VBAC is a fabulous possibility, but not the ultimate goal. Love to you! x

  8. I do wonder, at times, how I managed to blunder through two pregnancies as I feel now, in hindsight, I was a little blase about it all. Blase probably isn't exactly it, but I think perhaps as my girls are now 5 and 8, perhaps I've just forgotten how I was in the moment.

    I was induced 10 days over for my first daughter, labour was forced along with gel and the drip but she became distressed and I had an emergency csection. I was scared for her, but all was well in the end. I didn't suffer physically from the csection, no issues in that respect at all, but I remember so vividly being on the table alone while the orderlies were mopping the floor - lying there thinking "where's my baby?" and "why am I still here?" In the end I asked them to take me to my baby. It was all fine in the end, but emotionally nothing like I expected it to be. I consoled myself with the fact that Ella was born well and that was the most important thing of all.

    With my second child, Leila, I decided I wanted a natural delivery, but in all honesty I didn't realise that it can be hard for some women to achieve. I didn't even know there was a special term for it! I had to choose a new OB as my first had retired, and on recommendation found one in Melbourne who specialises in VBAC. It was incredible and everything I had imagined birthing would be all those years before. I went into labour 2 weeks early, laboured for 4 hours before delivering, no issues, supported by a wonderful midwife, experienced the loved up feeling after and count birthing Leila as my single most impressive physical achievement. I guess I never really appreciated there was anything to worry about. A woman's body can do amazing things, truly amazing things. I would say to trust in yourself and find a professional to support you who you feel the same way about, whose manner and words you trust. Don't be afraid, trust yourself. Don't worry about the pain, I know everyone's tolerance and experience is different, it's the best pain there is because it delivers you the most wonderful result at the end. If I weren't past that stage of my life, I'd do it again just to deliver!

  9. What a wonderfully written post! I had an emergency caesarian birth with my first bubby and tried for a VBAC with my second. I can't agree more that it a great possibility but not the ultimate goal. I think my attempted VBAC helped me to make peace (or almost) with my first birth...questions were answered...reasons were confirmed for me. Thank you so much for your inspiring words on birth (here and previous posts). You have provided a beautiful salve to my sometimes still raw wounds and have helped me to "forgive myself, forgive, forgive" and beleive that I birthed my babies in the way safest for all of us. It is time for me to feel proud of what unfolded and that I listened to my body...and my babies...and brought them into this world safely. For others considering a VBAC I wish you only the very best. It is an amazing adventure however it evolves. :) xx

  10. Thankyou for your very timely post Jodi,
    I will be hearing your voice during those mOments when I'm sure I'll need it most, I already do hear you at three in the mornIng when I can't sleep and you remind me to breathe! Faith, courage, love, determination and gratitude for the opportunity, that's my birth 'plan' x

  11. Lovely post, I look forward to your thoughts on sound during birth. Kirtan played a really really important role in the birth of my daughter. Gosh just thinking about it now gives me goosebumps. So divine. I don't think the north shore private hospital where I had her had ever had the sound of mangrove mountain in their birth suite before!

    Becks xx

  12. Hi Jodi, thanks for writing this post! I'm expecting my second child in October and have been mentally preparing for a VBAC. My daughter was born by caesarean at 34 weeks, I'd developed pre eclampsia so my consultants decided to induce me. I was monitored for about 18 hours before the team decided my little one wasn't coping well with the contractions so it was decided to go to theatre. Weighing 3lbs 3oz (1.46 kg) She was whisked straight away to the neo natal unit where she stayed for almost a month to gain weight. We didn't hold her for about 36 hours after birth and not much at all the first week of her life. As I sat looking through the glass at her for those first few weeks all sorts of emotions were in my mind, joy, relief, shock, disappointment that this so wasn't how I'd imagined it to be, and maybe even guilt that my body had somehow let her down. Its taken time to realise that there is no shame in a birth not going to plan and really the most important thing is that you are both ok at the end. A caesarean is a life saving procedure and one which women should be thankful exists, its never something anyone should feel guilt about. My daughter had an unconventional start in life but we have bonded beautifully regardless.

    Having said all that I am thrilled to hopefully have the opportunity to labour naturally and birth the way I was designed to! It would be a privilige to have that experience and hold my baby first, I can't imagine how exciting and special that must be!

    Anna x

  13. i have been looking forward to this post! i met with a doctor and midwife two weeks ago who reviewed my surgical report and were able to give me the good news that i can attempt a vbac instead of just scheduling a repeat surgery. i am 14 weeks pregnant and am so happy to have the next six months to prepare for labor!
    with my daughter i had an amazing group of midwives and attempted to have her at a birth center, not a hospital. after 80 hours of back labor, including 8 hours of hardcore pushing, we determined that she was stuck. her head was two inches away from crowning, but wouldn't come any farther, no matter how hard i pushed. i transferred to a hospital and had surgery. i was really devastated and exhausted for the following few months. i have since made my peace with it.
    despite not having the birth i wanted (vaginal, intervention-free, and out of hospital), i'm really thankful for the experience. i am so much stronger than i ever imagined i was. i remained focused and calm the whole time (thanks to the hypnobirthing affirmations that ran through my head). i have no fear of labor. our bodies are so strong and amazing!
    while i really miss my midwives, i feel like being in a hospital is the best choice for me this time. i have midwives in the hospital too, but they're not like my home birth midwives. sigh...
    lastly, i want to second the recommendation to do a lot of yoga during pregnancy. i did a lot of yoga last time and i think it really helped me get through such a long difficult labor. there's no way i could have pushed for 8 hours otherwise.
    i'm looking forward to your post on sound. i had a wonderful playlist of chanting last time. it was great, but i can't listen to it now without going back to that situation. so i need something new for this next labor.

  14. Thank you Jodi for posting about a topic very close to my heart. Three weeks ago I gave birth to my beautiful rainbow baby naturally. It is an experience I feel so blessed to have gone through.

    My first child, Aiden, was born via cesarean birth due to a congenital kidney abnormality. He was taken to NICU almost immediately after birth and after fighting for 25 hours, he passed away in our arms.

    As soon as I found out we were pregnant with our rainbow baby, I knew that having a vaginal birth was a high priority. I wanted to be able to hold my baby as soon as she was born, I didn't want to loose sight of her at any point. All the things we were unable to have when Aiden was born.

    The preparation for a VBAC I feel is 90% mental. For me, I had experienced labour with Aiden, so I knew what I was in for. I had to trust that my baby was going to be born happy and healthy. The doctor overseeing our pregnancy was very supportive of our decision and never doubted my ability to birth vaginally. We did write up birth options, we had some specific requests with regards to not wanting pain relief and cutting the cord. Again, things we felt we missed out on with our son. Of course our priority was to have a healthy baby and if circumstances arose, we would have done what was needed to ensure her safety.

    I did prenatal yoga from 15 weeks which helped me tune into my body and tune out of my mind, I practiced 'letting go'. I also visited my osteopath and massage therapist regularly to make sure my body was in the best condition for birth.

    Our labour with Nyah was amazing. My body knew what it was doing and I just went with it. Don't get me wrong, I asked myself through a couple of contractions why I wanted this VBAC so bad (transition of course!). Though the moment my little girl was passed through my legs and into my arms reaffirmed why.

    My suggestions to anyone looking at having a VBAC:
    * Research - I felt comfort in the fact that VBAC is the safer option after a cesarean birth.
    * Surround yourself with medical professionals that you trust and are supportive of you decision.
    * Prepare your body physically and arm yourself with techniques to help your labour along. This will also benefit you mentally as it will build the confidence you have in your body.
    * Know that if things do not go as you wanted them to, that it is ok. The priority is that you and your baby are safe.

    Thanks again Jodi for a great post xx

  15. Thank you for this article, the whole thing had me welling up... I'm currently only 6 weeks pregnant but have been thinking about my VBAC since my first baby was born by cesarian for 'failure to progress' 14 months ago. (The doctor told me that baby would've been to big to fit out of my pelvis anyway... but I don't know what to believe!) I want to have faith in my body, and I hear people say that your body won't produce a baby that you can't birth, but then I hear of birth stories where babies get stuck, and so how can I believe that this won't happen to me?
    As you can probably tell, I'm full of fear, and I think it's because I haven't done enough research yet. I really want a home birth VBAC (HBAC) as I think my journey to the birth centre set my body into 'high alert' mode, as every pot hole we bumped over brought on a contraction & tension!

    Thanks for all the birth stories on here too :) xx Bella xx

  16. Thank you for this post Jodi. Like many others, I am planning and thinking about a VBAC well in advance. Hell, I'm not even pregnant yet. But from the moment I birthed my baby girl via emergency c-section I have been thinking about how different things will be next time. After surfacing from quite debilitating post-traumatic stress and battling constant feelings of regret and guilt about decisions I made that led me and my baby down that path, I am finally trying to forgive myself and to heal. I am very interested to hear other's stories so thank you for bringing up this topic and for Sarah's contribution. In an ideal world I would be able to deliver my next child in the water in a birth centre. The "high risk" tag means that is not an option. I would be interested to know other women's reasons for choosing to attempt a vbac in a hospital vs home. I'm not completely sold on either at this point.

  17. I have loved reading this Jodi, thank you so much. I have written down your advice, for me it feels like a better birth 'plan' than when I had Cooper.

    For others reading here, I am now 33weeks with my second little babe. I too had a caesarian birth with my first, due to pre-eclampsia. My placenta wasn't working well enough to sustain my son during any labour, so the safest thing was to head down the surgical path. I never got to labour. Emotionally I was fine with this, although my first intentions were for a completely natural birth, the safety of my son and I always came first. He was born at only 2.2kg, but beautiful and healthy.
    This time around, if all continues on well, I am hoping for a vbac. I am feeling as prepared as I can be, thanks to beautiful people such as Jodi offering me their advice and wisdom. If things change along the way, I will be okay with that. My main outcome is a healthy baby, and while I do hope this baby will be born without the need for surgical intervention, as long as he or she is well, this is all that will matter.

    Jodi, I would love to know, did you have a written birth plan for Che or Poet?
    There is so much advice, books, notes, classes for women, I am wondering how Daniel prepared (if at all)to be your support during the birth?

    Love Rhi xx

    1. Thanks for sharing your story Rhi.
      Yes, I wrote a birth plan for Che's birth. But it went completely out the window when I realised that the 'calm birth' I had prepared for was not going to come to fruition. I was really shocked by the intensity of labour and found myself 'lifting' out of each contraction, attempting to crawl out of the experience. I ordered an epidural after 31hours (I had been at 3cm for 8 hours). It was 12.30am and I remember Daniel saying to me: "This wasn't what we planned." Too bad. Luckily, the epidural wasn't needed. I lay in the foetal position, stopped trying to be the yoga teacher 'doing' labour, and fully dilated within 40 minutes. Che was born soon after. I found myself quite angry in my labour with Che - because the 'pressure' I had been told about was actually 'excruciating pain' and in a way I felt that the course I did was a big fat lie. In retrospect, it was a necessary experience - because born from it was my beautiful boy, an enormous sense of pride and the inspiration to teach the absolute truth to my students!
      For Poet's birth I did not write one word. My intention was clear: practice gratitude for the opportunity to labour and accept the journey, whatever it may be. Daniel said to me: "just let your body do it because it's going to do it anyway." I knew I had to 'fall into' each contraction and just 'be' in the experience. Daniel grew up with a mum who supported women in labour - he's never been shocked by anything to do with birth and babies. The only thing I said to him before I went into labour was:
      "If I complain about the pain and get all anxious, get cross with me and tell me to snap out of it."
      I showed him how to place pressure on my back and reminded him to remind me to 'go with it.'
      He caught both our children. Such an honour.

      From my experience as a teacher I have never, ever known a birth 'plan' to be realised. I believe a simple, intention, mentally repeated over and over and over again, is a much stronger and more tangible 'plan' x

    2. PS.

      When I'm teaching couples workshops I'm really realistic with the Dads-to-be.

      I tell them that endurance is far more important than fancy technique
      That for as long as she labours, you support
      You can't save her from labour, you just have to be with her
      Listen to her and when she says she can't do it, tell her, with utmost confidence and sometimes force: 'You CAN and you ARE doing it.'
      Above all, remind her that she is SAFE

  18. My story is similar to Sarah's with one big exception.

    I birthed my first child via CS after a 42 hour posterior labour. I was not devastated in the slighted. I know that I gave that birth experience absolutely everything I had and then a whole lot more and that a birth is a birth, regardless. We were overjoyed to meet each other after such a big ordeal.

    I met my daughter after VBAC. I wasn't afraid, I knew that if I could get through 42 hours with my first baby, I could get through anything. I was determined to try VBAC and I was lucky to be successful.

    My third bubba was born via planned CS. She was breech and large and it was the recommended course of action and I was absolutely comfortable with taking medical advice. I just wanted what was safest for my baby. I was sad that the decision for when she would come into the world was taken away from both of us, but that was my only, fleeting concern.

    Three babies. Three very different experience. Three exactly the same outcomes - a healthy, safe baby.

    We all go okay.


  19. I really needed to read this today :)

    I had no idea there was such a thing as ante natal counselling, even working within the field of mental health myself?!

    It's something I want to explore. I haven't made peace with my first birth (mostly, I feel angry). I feel let down by the hospital system. Especially after being told 10 months after my birth by a midwife present on the day that I was likely put on syntocin because my OB had a flight to Paris that evening.

    I almost wish she had not told me.

    My husband & I will be meeting Felicity from Melbourne calm birth soon. And we are considering a home birth for baby number 2. I will not be telling many friends, as being a nurse, a large majority of my friends are colleagues & have very clinical minds, & don't think a lot about home birth.

    I don't want their opinions to instill fear in me :) Much as I do appreciate their friendship :)

    Also, pregnancy yoga is by far the most beautiful thing.

    And I only wish I discovered it with Max.

    Thankyou, as always, for sharing xx

  20. Thanks for writing this post. I have had two "caesarean births" but to now have called them c-sections and doubted, despite having progressed naturally through two labours to full dilation and with the first having pushed and pushed until a code blue was called, if I had given birth at all. Stopping myself from using the term doubting myself and considering myself a fraud if I referred to myself having "given birth" - from this point on I will no longer do that. I have given birth three times ;)
    Two VBACs. The last of which was a successful vaginal birth.
    ...and may I say the vaginal birth was by far the easiest. Easier to experience and live through, easiest to remember, and most importantly the easiest to recover from. Those caesarean births really knock a woman around, stripping her of all her core strength at a time when core strength to lift and care for a new baby is needed most. Caesarean births left me feeling like I'd been run over by a train - physically and emotionally - something that I could only truly appreciate after my vaginal birth. The difference was astounding.

  21. Thank you for posting this Jodi. I birthed my daughter by CS after a long posterior labour that was not progressing. I found the whole experience quite traumatic.

    I am currently pregnant and due in 3 months and have my first VBAC support session at the hospital next week which I'm looking forward to. I think my biggest hurdle is the mental preparation of going through labour again.

    1. First-time mums fear the unknown and second-time mums fear the known. But there really are so many fabulous ways to assist you during labour. Keep an eye out for my post on sound techniques...I swear by them x

  22. I have had 3 baby boys in 3 years, all Cesarean birth. I had them really close together, and didn't know if it was possible to have a VBAC with having my babies 12 months apart.

    But I want to experience natural birth so much! I'm scared, honestly, because my doctor's throw around words like "Uterine rupture" and it terrifies me!

    I appreciated this post very much! We are waiting a while to have our 4th, but I am going to give my entirety when it comes to having a natural birth!

  23. I love the hear people trying for VBACs! I found that reading tons and tons of successful VBAC stories were a source of confidence and inspiration. Also, a lot of Ina May books and birth stories. I trusted my body, talked to my baby, and did a lot of visualizing.

    My VBAC that was meant to be done at a hospital ended on my bathroom floor because I simply did not know I was in labor! I was told VBAC labors are incredibly long because of the mind/body labor was less than 6 hrs. It was the most amazing experience.

    I also have birthed twins since then, due to several medical reasons, we chose to do a "natural cesarean"... it was so redemptive compared to the other two c-sections I had experienced...I wish every woman had the ability to hold her baby skin to skin and breastfeed while surgery is still taking place...

    Jodi, do you have any clients that end up doing this? I believe it started in Australia?

    For those looking for more successful VBAC/Natural Cesarean stories (I just want to be an advocate/help anyone going this route!):
    Natural Cesarean:

    1. Jodi, thank you SO much for sharing your stories here. I'm in awe. Yes, I have had a few students who have experienced a "natural cesarean" but I actually had no idea they were called that. It really depends what obstetrician you have and what hospital you are in. There is a hospital about an hour away from me that has a really great maternity unit. They will deliver VBAC2, breech and twins without epidural. They are also trying a new technique where the OB massages the baby out when delivering via this part of the natural cesarean you experienced? x

    2. Yes, the massaging is part of it, but they also drop the sheet so you can watch the baby be "born"... from the second they lift the baby out, it's placed on your chest, skin to skin, just as in a vaginal birth...not wiped down, cleaned or bathed. I'll do whatever it takes to help women get a better birth experience--feel free to share my story to help other women! :-)

  24. Thankyou so much for writting this! I did not have a Cesaerean birth but I have been left severly trumatised by an induced 42hour posterier birth that ended up with two episitomies and forceps. I had massive tearing and blood loss. It has affected me so much that i fear that i will not beable to birth vaginally without going into shock and I'm afraid i will just opt for an elective cesaerean. Part of me feels like i can do it but the other part is just afraid. I will look into the counselling and yoga, i never thought of doing these, I wish my doctor had suggested them. Regards Chloe xx

  25. Thank you for writing this Jodi. I have bookmarked it to refer back to when I am pregnant next time. I loved everything you wrote in your dot-point list of advice. I am only, now, 12 months after Everly's birth, starting to replace the guilt and blame with acceptance. It is a hard road. I especially liked the comments where others shared their stories - it's nice to know I'm not alone. I look forward to reading your post about sound! x

  26. I am obviously still affected by the cesearean delivery of my baby girl as I cried whilst reading this. Despite having a healthy, beautiful daughter I still feel guilt and sadness that her birth was such a traumatic experience and that the days and weeks following it were a blur of tears and regret.
    However, I am now able to accept that this is what was meant to be for us and that we had no choice but to go to surgery after she was in the wrong position, in distress and had pooed meconium. I have had people question why we had to have it and have doubt myself but I am so thankful that she is well and so am I (at least physically).
    Thanks for sharing and good luck to all those ladies who are going for a VBAC. I hope that one day I am able to do the same.