By Erika Munton
My work as a doula started only after I had experienced the birth of my second child Bailey, which was a natural vaginal birth into water. The birth of my first child Karl was by caesarean section after a cascade of interventions in my attempt to have a normal vaginal breech birth. Becoming a busy mother did not afford me much time to stop and think back on whether I was happy with how it all ended! Certainly my peers gave no indication that there was anything wrong with how Karl was born. So I just took it as normal to have birth ‘happen’ that way and suppressed the disempowered feelings that lay dormant inside, until I was pregnant the second time around. Suddenly everything inside me reactivated and I had to have a good look at how I was going to birth differently, and better, this time.
When facing birth after a c-section women may be even more unsure of what normal birth really is and whether they’ve even got the goods to make it happen! On top of that birth memories can manifest into fears and worries that want to hold tight in the body and mind. I for one was unsure. How was I to trust and have confidence in my body when I thought it didn’t work for me last time!
For me, meeting with my midwife and having a debrief about the caesarean birth was so important to my understanding of what happened, how, and why. I asked for my medical records from the hospital and read them over with her. She could help me decipher them. I felt enlightened by my realisation that my body does and can work well. Other birth professionals such as doula’s coaches and councillors can also help with this process.
I also realised that I was also carrying a different baby than last time. It too might have a different effect on labour and birth. This also gave me confidence to approach this next birth positively. Another factor into the equation were my new skills that my mothering experiences gave me. I knew better how to make an informed decision, how to stand up for my rights (and my child’s), and explore other options with curiosity. I could see it was my responsibility to plan for what I wanted to have happen.
Attending a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) support group and information night was also a pivotal point in trusting the natural birth process again. It dispelled the myths around the uterine scar. It outlined the risks and benefits of both caesarean and natural birth and the processes attached to both options. To realise I was not alone in my struggles also heartened me. This gave me the confidence to make up my own mind and move forward with less hesitation.
I could not yet see the medical model’s strong hold in maintaining its way of doing things. But I felt the need to avoid it unless it proved itself necessary. I booked into an independently run birth centre (Women’s Health and Birth Centre in Santa Rosa California). Sadly, for women birthing in Melbourne this model of care is not an option currently available. The next best choices to consider are: to have a homebirth, register in a one-on-one midwifery program, book into a birth centre, use the public hospital system and for all the above, employ an independent midwife or doula to give you continuity of care and support that you may otherwise miss out on.
It was finally in contrast of the two experiences that I could see the difference, and feel the difference. Not just because the second birth was vaginal (although that was a wonderful outcome) but of how I chose to approach my birth preparation the second time around.
Keep in mind a few helpful points (and add your own ideas):
- Obtain prior birth records
- Explore / understand what may have caused your prior caesarean birth.
- Look at how you can increase your confidence, ability and belief in your capacity to birth vaginally.
- Ask – Do you know how the birth process evolved to get to that point? And why?
- Discuss the issues with your care provider, trusted support and other professionals
- Explore what you see as the benefits of a vaginal birth this time?
- Seek out your support options to explore further. Eg peer support group, VBAC workshop, your care provider, independent midwife, experienced doula, birth councillor.
I wish you confidence, courage and creativity in how you take your next steps from here. With each step you do take, the landscape of your options may change and new possibilities seen. So go for it, explore, and discover more about yourself and how you can help shape your next birth to be empowering and fulfilling.