You were told you were a good candidate for a VBAC, so, now what? I have some steps for you that will help get you organized and point you in the right direction! I will just jump right in and tell you straight up that you have to be proactive and you have to be assertive about your birth choices. I would like to tell you that it's easy and that you will be able to walk into the first OB on the insurance list or try out your sisters OB but not all care providers are VBAC friendly. Even though ACOG and the NIH say it's a safe alternative to repeat cesarean some care providers are not on board yet.
The awesome news is that the majority of mothers who plan a VBAC and go for it, succeed! Even if birth goes in a different direction than planned, your satisfaction with the birth will be greater the more you surround yourself with loving and supportive people and with some research, work, self care, and moxie, you will be prepared and confident for whatever birth hands you.
Here are eight steps to get you started on your VBAC journey.
1.) Start a relaxation or meditation practice. Planning a VBAC can be scary especially when you are just starting out. That's ok. It's normal to feel that way! There is a lot of information and new ideas to consider now that you have a uterine scar. How many times did you find yourself tense and stressed today? With a bit of practice you can easily change that. Learning how to relax in the face of stress is important for all aspects of life. Just like breathing through contractions and relaxing your body we must breathe through the stressful moments of life. Take a minute right now and focus on your breath. Inhale peace, exhale confidence. The more you practice the more easily you will be able to relax your body and take deep letting go breaths. Try it for a minute at a time and slowly add more minutes as you get more comfortable incorporating relaxation in your daily life. Now try adding a mantra or affirmation to your breath work. Inhale "My body is capable of growing and pushing out my baby." Exhale, "I choose peace and calm." Choose your own mantras and affirmations or check out these lists of affirmations.
2.) Read, read, read! Knoweledge truly is power! There are so many fabulous books and websites about childbirth, VBACs, Cesareans, birth culture, breastfeeding, parenting, etc. out there to help you on your journey. There is comfort in knowledge. I know that when I know better I will do better. Maybe start with VBACFacts.com. As your knowledge base grows, so will your confidence.
3.) Exercise and eat well. Walking, swimming, yoga, are all great ways to stay in shape and build up stamina for labor and birth. Eat plenty of protein and colorful foods that are nutrient dense. Actively working to stay low risk will give you confidence and better your chances of having a successful VBAC and you will feel good which in turn will lower your stress levels. Yes, you can have pizza and chocolate sometimes but it's really all about balance, variety, and lots of colorful foods.
4.) Take a childbirth education class. The reason I became a Bradley Method chilbirth teacher was because taking this class myself was the key to my successful VBACs. I learned how to be a good consumer, how to eat well and the importance of exercise for pregnancy and how it positively affects birth. My partner learned how to support me during labor and birth and we learned some excellent communication skills that served us as we made decisions about our baby. I loved learning about the amazing things my body was doing during labor and birth. I remember feeling pain yet simultaneously, feeling a sense of awe at how brilliant and beautiful my body is. I felt confident and I wasn't affraid to give birth.
"So much of what we talked about during class either was exactly spot on with our experience or helped us make informed choices when the time came." ~Elizabeth~
5.) Hire a doula!! Whether you have a cesarean, homebirth, VBAC, birth center birth, epidural birth in the hospital, or a combination of those, having someone by your side that believes in you and supports you is so important for both you and your partner. A doula knows birth. She can interpret what medical people are saying and she can remind you of questions to ask when you are presented with options. She will smile at you and wipe your brow with a cool cloth and teach you how to push your baby out after handing your partner a sandwich after a long night. Doulas will celebrate you and cheer you on as you birth your baby and when you are ready to breastfeed your new little squish, she can help you get off to a good start. She will massage your tired body, ease your fears, and give you a tender embrace when you need it. Doulas are an invaluable asset for the birthing mother and her partner.
6.) Hire a supportive care provider. Shop around!! Helping parents to be good consumers is one of my passions! Choosing a care provider that supports your decisions is the most important choice you can make as you plan for the birth of your baby. When you truly trust your care provider you will find more freedom to focus on yourself, your baby, and enjoying your pregnancy. Like I said previously, you have to be proactive and assertive about your birth choices. You are entirely capable of making wise, well thought out decisions for you and your baby. Start by asking other VBAC moms who their midwives and doctors were and then start make some phone calls to set up interview appointments with care providers.
7.) Surround yourself with positive people that believe in you. Sometimes care providers and well meaning family and friends act like your uterus will explode the minute that labor starts. I know that's the kind of stress people would put on me when I was pregnant and planning my VBACs and this is even after I had a couple of successful VBACs already. It's bonkers to live your life like that so I cut some people out for a while and guess what, I felt a weight lifted!
It is ok to distance yourself from family or friends who are not 100% supportive of your decsions. It is your baby, your body, and your birth after all. You make the rules, mama, and if some certain people don't like it, then too bad! They can send flowers and a casserole after the baby is born.
8.) Attend support group meetings and join support groups online. I started the Kitsap Cesarean and VBAC Support Group in the spring of 2015 because I had a childbirth class student who had a cesarean and there were no groups in our area to refer her to. So, I decided to provide that support and since I have had a cesarean and 3 VBACs, I figured it would be good for me to not only give back but to work through my own feelings about my births and how society shaped those expereinces. The sharing of knowledge and about local and online resources is super valuable! I find great fulfillment in holding space for mamas as they work through the healing process of their cesareans. Moms come and tell their stories and we listen. Telling your story to moms who know where you are coming from is incredibly cathartic. Our group is a place of non judgement and compassion and partners and children are welcome.
What did you find helpful when planning for your VBAC? Any questions that you might have?
I'm sending you love and light as you plan for the birth of your baby! xoxo