It’s okay to mourn your birth story

I have had five different birth stories. I tell each one a little bit different. Are some more joyful than others? Yes! Does that make me love any of my children less? Absolutely not! I think there is this idea that birth is birth and it doesn’t matter how your baby gets here, as long as you have a healthy Mom and baby. Sure, that’s always the goal! But what is wrong with desiring a beautiful birth story? What is wrong with being a little bit sad if that beautiful birth story doesn’t happen the way you had hoped?

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I shared a three-part series on cesarean birth last year that was called Still a beautiful birth. I absolutely stand by all births being beautiful in their own way. Each child comes into this world a little bit differently. Unfortunately, these days, women are having their birth stories determined for them by their providers. I read a comment on Facebook recently where a woman said that her only birth plan was to let her provider tell her what to do because her OB had delivered more babies than she had! I was a little bit surprised by this, but why am I really surprised? Are we just letting care providers railroad us into determining our birth stories? Is this part of the reason why 1 in 3 babies are born by cesarean?

Here are three reasons it is okay to mourn your birth story:

  1. It doesn’t make you love your children any less if their birth story wasn’t up to what you thought it would be. 

         There seems to be this idea that you are a bad Mom or don’t love your children if you are unhappy with how they were born. This is ridiculous! Three of my children were born by cesarean, and I was not happy about it. But I love each of those children with every fiber of my being! I don’t look at my five children and say, “Well the first three are okay, but those VBA3C babies, wow they are the best!” No way. I love them all equally. And my birth stories are part of who I am. It shaped me into the childbirth educator and DOULA I am today. I wouldn’t be who I am today without those stories. But you better believe I was sad about it at the time. Would I change my birth stories no? Mourn it a little? Yes.

    2. It’s your story, not ours.

Don’t let someone try to tell you how you should tell your story! Why do you think so many women are struggling with post-partum depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder after their births? Because they are often holding in their true emotions over the birth story and not processing it the way they should. I highly recommend getting involved in some sort of post-birth support group (like ICAN or a post-partum depression group) to sort through those feelings. If you are local to me, I would be happy to point you in the right direction! Sometimes just saying your story out loud and having someone else validate what you are feeling is all you really need. Don’t suffer through your story in silence! Talk about it. Write your story down. Get help if you need it.

     3. Your expectations were obviously let down.

      Maybe you took a class like Birth Boot Camp and prepared for months for this birth, or carefully selected your care provider and did all the right things to have this amazing birth you so longed for. You went to the chiropractor and ate healthy and exercised. You did everything right! But your expectations for this birth came and went. That has to be really hard! I know, I was there. You are not a failure. Your body is not a lemon. Birth can sometimes just be unexpected. It takes turns that we don’t desire. Our birth plans were dashed because of one thing or another. It’s okay to mourn that! You worked hard for this, but you didn’t fail. You still birthed your baby, one way or another. But it’s okay to be sad about the way it happened.

My hope through this post is to start a dialogue about our birth stories. We shouldn’t be ashamed to share our true feelings. As women and mothers, we need to be supporting one another! Let’s share what we truly feel and work through it together.

Overcoming your fears of another cesarean

There is a lot of talk about fears surrounding VBACs, mainly because of the small risk of uterine rupture. But what if you have already decided to have a VBAC and have fears about ending up with another cesarean birth? This post is for you! When I first started my journey to have a VBAC, I knew without a doubt that I wanted (needed) to set myself up completely for success. No regrets, I was jumping in head first!

In order to overcome your current fears of having another cesarean, you need to do a little fact checking:

  1. Have you hired the right provider? There isn’t a right or wrong provider when having a VBAC other than he/she HAS to be 100% supportive. You just can’t compromise on this one. Midwife, OB, birth center, hospital or home, the support of your provider is the most important aspect to success with a VBAC, hands down. I think one of the biggest mistakes you can make is choosing a provider that you think may be supportive and then in the end really isn’t. I call it the bait and switch provider. He/she acts supportive in the beginning but then when it comes down at the end, finds an excuse to change the plans and you end up with a repeat cesarean. It happens too often. It happened to me. With a 100% supportive provider you will know that he/she will have your best interest and your baby’s best interest in mind. Be willing to drive a little (or a lot) to be with the right provider. I promise it will be worth it.
  2. Have you taken a childbirth class? Whether you plan on having a natural birth or epidural, your goal is a vaginal birth. A comprehensive childbirth class will teach you so much more than how to have a natural birth. There is a reason our classes are 10 weeks long. I think VBAC mamas can especially benefit from taking a class. One of the biggest reasons we ended up with a cesarean to begin with is because of medical interventions. In our classes we teach about these interventions and how to be prepared for them. Some interventions may be needed. In class you were learn when it may or may not be appropriate to have these interventions. You will be ready for these interventions and know when it would be appropriate to say yes or no thank you to them. Knowledge is power.
  3. Are you getting regular chiropractic care during your pregnancy? To some of you, this may seem like a foreign concept. Why on earth would I need to see a chiropractor while I’m pregnant? One of the biggest reasons for cesarean births today is the position of the baby. A Webster certified chiropractor adjusts your pelvis to help the baby get into the most optimal position for birth. Regular chiropractic care during your pregnancy opens your pelvis, giving your baby the best opportunity to move into the most optimal position for birth, which can also greatly reduce your labor time.
  4. Have you assembled a supportive birth team? Along with your supportive provider, you need to make sure you have a team of people supporting you in labor. Is your partner supportive of your wishes to birth vaginally this time? One of the best ways to get him on board is to take a class together. During the 10 weeks in class, he will learn how to best help and support you in labor. Have you hired a doula? Some women think that if they are birthing with a midwife, a doula isn’t needed. Some also think a supportive partner is all that is needed. I believe every woman should have a doula! My husband agrees, we couldn’t have done it without the support of our doula! She supports the partner too. It is so important that you find a doula that you click with. My doula and I clicked immediately because we had a shared experience in that she had also had a VBAC after 3 cesareans with the same OB. It isn’t necessary that your doula have had a VBAC, but it was something that immediately bonded us together. Studies have shown that doula attended births reduces the need for a cesarean by about 50%! Go hire a doula! You won’t regret it.
  5. Do you have a birth plan? No, it’s not a contract. It may not go exactly as planned every time. But if you don’t have a plan to begin with, how will you know what decisions to make when it comes down to crunch time? Plan it out with your partner. Decide what is most important to you in your birth. At my last birth, my charge nurse told me that she carefully read through my birth plan and hand-picked the most natural minded nurse for my delivery because she knew that was going to be important to me. That nurse ended up delivering my baby in the end because my baby came so quickly and the OB didn’t make it in time! A birth plan shouldn’t be a list of demands, but it should very clearly state what is most important to you.

Now that we have done a little fact checking, how do you feel moving forward? Are you confident that you have the right support, have a plan and have done everything you can to be successful with a vaginal birth? If the answer is yes, you can find comfort in knowing that IF you do end with another cesarean, it will be because it was necessary for the safety of you and your baby. I truly found comfort in this, because I knew without a doubt that my OB was not going to spring some unnecessary interventions that were going to spiral out of control and lead me to another cesarean. I knew that if I ended up with another one, it would be a needed cesarean.

If you are still struggling with these fears, what are some things you can do?

  1. Talk about it with like-minded people. I am a part of several different online VBAC support groups. I love talking with these women, because they understand what I’m going through! Find your local ICAN group. Go to a meeting, or just join a group online. Talk through your fears. These women get you. I promise. They’ve been through it all! When things come up on your journey that you are not sure about, ask the group. Chances are, someone in the group has experienced the same thing.
  2. Surround yourself with positivity. There will always be those voices around you that say, “Are you sure you want to do this?” Not everyone around you has done the research on VBACs that you have done. They don’t know the true risks of VBAC vs. a repeat cesarean and many people won’t listen to the facts even if you tell try to tell them. Don’t listen to the negative voices. If you have to distance yourself from certain people during your pregnancy, do it. Block out the negativity and surround yourself with positivity. It’s a mind game. Get your head in the game and don’t let that affect you!
  3. Write your thoughts down. One of the things I enjoyed doing during my first VBA3C was blogging about my journey. To me it was not only therapeutic, but it was also motivational for me. I knew that I had people cheering me on which was all the more motivational for me to come out successful in the end! If you enjoy writing, start a blog. If you are more of a private person, journal about your thoughts. Sometimes just writing things down can help you get through your struggles.
  4. Believe in yourself and the process of birth! Women have been doing this thing called birth for many years. My OB once said, “Don’t let your birth experience be stolen because you were afraid.” The process of birth is normal. Your body was made to do this. Yes, sometimes things go wrong, and a cesarean may be needed. Just trust that if you have done everything right, a cesarean will only be needed if absolutely necessary. Cesareans are not needed in 1 out of every 3 births.
  5. If you are still struggling after all of this, you may need to seek professional help. Find a counselor or therapist that specializes in birth trauma. The last thing you want to do going into a trial of labor is to have fears that are not dealt with.

Now that you have dealt with those fears, move forward in confidence! Believe in yourself. You can do this!

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How important is the right provider?

There has been a lot of talk in my small little “birthing world” about what is more important: teaching VBAC Mamas to be stronger so they can stand up for themselves in the hospital, or choosing the right provider who will support your VBAC wishes 100%? Hands down, in my opinion, choose the right provider.

Does this mean that VBAC Mamas shouldn’t be strong and shouldn’t be educated? Absolutely not. All of that is important. That is why I think it is so important to take a comprehensive birth education class like Birth Boot Camp! Taking the time week after week to learn about labor techniques and proper exercise and nutrition is such an important thing to do to prepare yourself for birth! But if you go through all that work in preparation and then get down to the wire and don’t have a 100% supportive provider to back up your wishes, you are going to be fighting a constant uphill battle! Any negativity can greatly affect the birth process. That is why I teach my students to surround themselves only with the people who are going to completely support them (whether a VBAC Mama or first time Mama.) The negative people in your life are going to discourage you from the end goal. Why should you have to go into a birth fighting with your provider? How is being strong and educated going to serve you well in the end? I personally would rather be a strong and educated woman, with a supportive team on my side. That team would include my husband, doula, provider and anyone else that I may need along the way during my pregnancy. They all need to be cheering for me! I need their support! I also just heard the question asked recently, “Why is it so hard for VBAC’s to be successful?” This is why: finding the right support is so hard these days!

I am just going to take this moment to talk about how much I absolutely love my OBGYN. I think a lot of people think that the natural birth world is completely against Doctors and hospitals and only encourages women to birth at home or in birthing centers with Midwives. The truth is, there are really awful Doctors out there. But there are also some really awful Midwives out there. Likewise, there are some really amazing Doctors as well as really amazing Midwives! It is so important to know what questions to ask when choosing your provider and also know what you will feel most comfortable with. Some women will only feel comfortable in the hospital because they are afraid of complications arising. If you are most comfortable in the hospital, it is possible to have the birth you desire! You just have to do your research and find the right provider. Some Midwives deliver in hospitals and there truly are some wonderful OBGYN’s out there!

Like my Doctor. I can’t say enough wonderful things about Dr. Cummings. There are not many like him out there. He is one of the most well-known Doctors in our country who supports VBAC’s 100%. I learned recently that for the first time in 30 years of practice, he is cutting back on how many patients he will take on. This means the inevitable, he is working toward retirement. He has been working closely with a couple of his colleagues to pass on the VBAC torch so to speak. Dr. Cummings not only delivers VBAC’s (after as many c-sections as you have had, he will most likely not pass on you) but he is also completely comfortable with twin vaginal and breech vaginal births. He has worked countless hours above and beyond what most Doctors put in, because he knows he needs to be there for these sometimes complicated births. If he isn’t there, who else is going to support these Mamas? Why does he do what he do? Well he says, “I happen to love bringing babies into the world!” I remember sitting in his office when I first consulted with him and hearing him tell me a story about the first time he chose to do a VBAC. He was in his residency and still “learning” so to speak. He was reprimanded for doing the VBAC and even brought before a board to discuss it. He was grilled out about what went into his decision to do the VBAC. Then in the back of the room, the very famous Dr. Pritchard who co-authored “Williams Obstetrics” asked him, “Did you feel this woman presented with the conditions to vaginally birth?” Dr. Cummings said yes. Pritchard then said, “Well then, case closed, move on.” Dr. Cummings told me that it was at that moment that he decided that VBAC was the right choice. He would always give women the opportunity to have a VBAC if they so choose.

One of Dr. Cumming’s most famous lines is this: “I don’t fear lawyers, I fear God.” He lives and breathes this statement. He prays about each decision he makes. I even remember seeing him praying for me in the middle of my delivery! I trust each and every decision he makes, because I know he is trusting God to guide him. After my baby was born, I remember looking up at him with tears in my eyes. I felt such joy and elation that I was finally given the opportunity to birth as I had so desired. This man gave me that opportunity that so many others wouldn’t dare. I thanked him profusely and told him that there was a special place in heaven for him. He just smiled and shrugged and said, “What did I do? You are the one who did it!” He truly is a rare gem.

My hope and prayer is that more Doctors out there will follow his lead. I get that vaginal birth takes more time. VBAC’s even more, because some hospitals place restrictions on the Doctors to stay on the premises at all times while a VBAC Mom is laboring. One of our VBAC supportive Doctors in the area recently had to stop taking VBAC patients because of this stipulation. More hospitals need to start providing evidence based care and stop placing unnecessary restrictions on Doctors and patients.

I am now pregnant with my 5th child and will probably be delivering with Dr. Cummings for the last time next spring before he ends up retiring. I truly can’t thank this man enough for all he has done for me and so many other women in our area.

Dr C