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American Women Speak About VBAC

I’m here at the NIH VBAC conference and my brain is swimming!  I want to write a separate article later on the conference itself, but for now I want to share with you a piece I put together for the benefit of the panel who will be writing the Consensus Statement.

I received many requests to share it online, not only from conference attendees but by the women themselves who contributed their stories for this piece.  You can download a PDF copy of this document here.

I’m especially excited that I had the opportunity to share the comments provided by Wendy S. from California, Kristen K. of Nebraska, and Rachel R. of Oregon during the public discussion time which you can view via the Day 2 Webcast.  (You can also view the Day 1 Webcast, download a PDF of the Program and Abstracts, as well as pre-order the consensus statement.  The more people who order the consensus statement, the more powerful the message that people are interested in the option of VBAC.)

While the contributors gave permission for their full names to be used on the  handout I distributed at the NIH, not everyone is comfortable with their name on the internet.

American Women Speak About VBAC

In an effort to bring the consumer perspective to the 2010 NIH VBAC Conference,  Jennifer Kamel, Founder of VBAC Facts, asked women across America, “Why is the option of VBAC important to you?”  This is what they said.

Alabama – To avoid not being able to carry your baby because he’s dead from the placental abruption (or uterine rupture) as a result of those damn previous cesareans. – Amanda M.

Arizona – VBAC is important to me because I don’t want to continue to have increased risks with each major surgery. – Amanda McM.

Arkansas – Personally, VBAC is stellar important to me because I wanted to give birth to my babies, not have them cut out and handed to me.  On a soul-deep level, I believe it was necessary to validate my purpose in existing.  – Jer W.

California – It is important to me because I have the right to experience the complex passage of vaginal birth and the positive cascade of effects for mom and baby.  I want the right to experience VBAC without driving 90 minutes or more with traffic. Successful or not, VBAC empowers women for choice and a chance to fill an emotional void that is unmatched.  The whole “readily available” lawyer talk certainly is not protecting our other high risk patients.  – Wendy S., L&D RN

Because when a woman experiences a VBAC, she reclaims her body and gets to see that she is in fact perfectly capable of giving birth without surgery.  She is no longer broken.  Her body and spirit heal. – Layla M.

To me it is like saying someone should be required to have open heart surgery, even though a laparoscope would be safer, just because doctors/ hospitals/ insurance companies, prefer it that way.  It is so much bigger than our desires to experience a vaginal birth or even to be some kind of hippie earth mother. It is about our right to safe and respectful medical care. Courtney Stange-Tregear

I wanted a VBAC to heal my raw emotions and psychological trauma caused by not having a vaginal birth the first time and because I believe it’s safer. Unfortunately, I had to travel 3 hours to get to the closest facility that allowed VBACs. But having the chance to VBAC was great! – Andrea O.

Because I love women and love babies and have spent 20 years investigating what affords the best possible beginning for them both and that is a vaginal birth. – Joni Nichols BS MS CCE CD(DONA) (CBI)

It is wrong that I have to travel to another county and fight for a normal, safe, healthy birth for my baby.  Hospitals and doctors need to get their priorities straight and practice true informed consent. – Kathleen S.

My VBAC proved to me that I was not as broken as I felt after receiving so many labels [FTP, etc] regarding my cesarean. – Alexandra R.

Colorado - VBAC allowed me to trust in my body and let it do what it needed to do.  My midwife and her assistant viewed my “long labor” as simply a variation of normal.  I was finally able to deliver my 10 lb baby, with a nuchal hand, in an amazing waterbirth.  My body is amazing and strong and did not let me down. Jill K., Ph.D. (Clinical Psychologist and Professor)

Connecticut – Without VBAC, women have no choice and are forced into dangerous births. – Danielle M.

Florida – VBAC matters because it is lifelong; it is forever; it is not short term.  The effects of a VBAC never wear off. – Shannon M.

My VBAC offered me a better recovery without worrying about an incision site. – Meredith S., HBA2C mom

Hawaii – The fact that the possibility of a malpractice suit dictates what most obstetricians offer and results in them pushing the birth option that is more likely to end in a mother’s death is totally incomprehensible to me. Evidence-based care is what our standard should be.  Every single obstetrician should be pushing the safest option for mother and baby, not the safest option for avoiding a lawsuit. – Naomi S.

Idaho – My VBAC was validation of my womanhood. It has made me a better mother and spouse. – Bonnie M.

Indiana - I wanted to have a large family and I think VBAC is the best option instead of repeat c-sections!!  I have had 6 VBACs so far and hope to be able to have as many more! – Stacy G.

Kentucky – Because having my baby cut out of my abdomen was very traumatic for me.  The bonding was more difficult [than my three previous vaginal births] and PPD followed. – Denise H.

Massachusetts – When my son was born by (unnecessary) cesarean, I felt like someone had deflated my belly and handed me a baby. He was mine, but a part of me felt like they could have handed me any baby. But when I look at my daughter’s head and stroke it while I am nursing her, I can say I gave birth to that head. I gave birth to that head! This is my baby. And no one can take that away from me. – Catie Ladd

Michigan – There are all sorts of “soft” reasons why VBAC is great but when it really comes down to the bottom line, what keeps me working for ICAN, what brings tears to my eyes, is the fact that women and babies are dying who shouldn’t, because VBAC is no longer a real option for most women in the U.S. – Gretchen Humphries, MS DVM

Mississippi. After my first baby’s labor ended with a cesarean, I felt that I really hadn’t been given a chance.  I felt bullied and pushed into a cesarean I didn’t want because it was more convenient for the doctor than letting me continue at a ‘slower than normal’ dilation rate. – Nancy W.

Nebraska – If VBAC was not an option, my daughter would have been an only child.  I could never willingly conceive knowing my child would be cut out of me via a completely unnecessary surgery. – Kristen K.

New Jersey - VBAC is certainly safe for both mom and baby as long as the original incision in the uterus was a low segment transverse incision. Evidence based medicine reports approximately 75% of women can successfully VBAC. As long as the mom is aware of the risks (minimal) and the benefits (MANY) they should have the right to VBAC. – JoAnn McQueen Yates, CNM

New York - Because I didn’t want to go through surgery if it wasn’t necessary.   Doctors take little stock in the emotional and psychological factors of giving birth – it’s not just about pushing out a baby!! – Carrie Moyer Howe

Ohio - Delivering vaginally for me was a “rite of passage.” I was finally able to cast off the numerous doubts and my sense of failure I experienced. I really was “adequate.” – Ellen B., Nurse Manager & VBAC mom X2

Oregon – After my c-section with my daughter, laughing was extremely painful for weeks.  I would think, how awful that during a time that should be filled with joy, I’m unable to laugh.  - Rachel R., HBAC mom

I think it’s important for the operating room space and staff to be available for a true emergency cesarean, rather than have me taking up their space and time for convenience. – Rebecca C.

Pennsylvania – If I had to plan a pregnancy to end in surgery, I would not have another child, period.  – Judy P., DVM, PhD (molecular biology)

VBAC is important to me because it has the capacity of healing my broken Self. – Monica R., PhD.

South Carolina – VBAC is a natural conclusion to a natural process.  Not to mention, how many babies with true emergencies, would be saved by not having operating rooms tied up with elective cesareans? – Raechel Fredrickson

West Virginia - Aside from the fact that offering VBACs is practicing Evidence Based Medicine and should be offered without question, I would like for other women to experience the joy and self-assurance that comes from working with her body as well as the indescribable feeling of pulling her fresh, warm baby up to her chest as I experienced with my HBA3C. – Teresa S.

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14 comments to American Women Speak About VBAC

  • Dr. L

    Great work, love the comments.

  • Song

    To experience the power and the transformation of self by pushing a baby out of one’s body, rather than having it cut out like an abscess, should be the inalienable right of every woman. And it is even more important for women who have been broken, disappointed, and disillusioned by an unwanted C-Section to at least have the right to make an educated choice should she be brave enough to conceive again.

    My VBAC was the very hardest and the absolute greatest experience of my life. It is outrageous to think that had I been living in a different part of the country, someone else would have had the right to tell me how to deliver my baby! Someone else could have cheated me from ever discovering this stronger, wiser, and more confident woman that emerged from my home-birth.

    Shame to those who take away a woman’s choice for his or her own convenience or peace of mind.

  • In response to Naomi in Hawaii: No kidding. In a sane world, the more harmful path results in more likelihood of litigation!

  • silverlight

    As a mother of 7 children, VBAC is an important family issue. I can not be effective as a mother if I am laid up for weeks with a surgical recovery. It is one thing, to submit to *necessary* surgery. Unnecessary surgery benefits neither my baby, nor my family.

    Megan B., Texas

  • Laura Lind

    A VBAC is so important because our health and the health of our babies are comprimised with cesareans. It is sad that a woman who wants an abortion has more rights than I do and I am trying to protect my baby by giving my baby the best start in life. My VBA2C has been a life changing experience after having had 2 cesareans. My fight for VBAC is not over because I now have to leave my own state to have a baby or take the risk of staying home alone despite just having had a sucessful VBA2C. Idaho state legislation has passed a bill that prevents me from having a midwife after 2 cesareans and no hospital will let me have a VBAC. So unethical.

  • Sophie R

    Having a VBAC was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, after being bullied into an induced (baby was ‘late’) first labor that ended up in a C-section. I was not going to be bullied twice, and I had to fight to obtain this VBAC. I experienced the strangest things: even the healthcare professionals who would admit it was safer than a repeat C-section would still try to discourage me from trying it! I finally found the best health care team to support my decision, who let baby #2 be ‘late’, and the VBAC was everything I imagined and better,
    giving birth the way nature intended, feeling connected to my baby the whole time. At the end of the day, what matters most to me is still that it’s safer for everyone. If only hospitals and healthcare professionals would just stop fearing such a natural, healthy process, and treat womae as the strong, capable beings that they are, things would change.

  • I resonate with what Sophie R said, on not being bullied twice and fighting to get a VBAC. Why being given a chance at a VBAC is important to me:

    1. Based on the research I did after my emergency C-section, as I was looking towards having a VBAC, given that a person is a good candidate for a VBAC, I felt that having a VBAC was a safer option.

    2. I had such a bad, freak out experience with my C-section, and granted it was an emergency C-section after laboring a full day and a half; I still am not ready to entertain major surgery – simply because I’ve had a prior C-section.

    3. To reiterate some of what I said in the previous point, a C-section is major surgery. Unless deemed medically necessary to save the child’s life or the mother’s life, I do not, I repeat, I DO NOT want to have surgery that results in the equivalent of recovering from a hysterectomy.

    4. Feeling what my body does when it goes through the different cycles of labor is, wow, full of wonder (not to be confused for “wonderful;” I certainly wasn’t feeling pleasant or gleeful). Since I nearly didn’t get to the hospital in enough time to deliver my second child, I certainly didn’t have time to opt for pain management. All natural. Felt the sort of contractions that gave my body extremely strong urges to PUSH. Though I wouldn’t have chosen for a natural birth previously, I would pick natural birth over a C-section.

    5. Pregnancy and birth is a beautiful process of welcoming baby (or babies) into the world, not an illness to be treated. I certainly don’t wanted to be treated like I’m some sort of fragile flower, not to be moved or mobilized, for fear that I may break or wilt at any moment.

    6. I want to, whenever possible, deliver the child into the world, not merely have her or him cut out of me, because I have some sort of history (e.g. had a previous C-section) or the hospital’s just covering their backs (and avoiding any potential lawsuits).

    I can keep going with reasons for why a VBAC is important to me, but I’ll stop for fear of belaboring you all.

  • Hey Jen,
    I sent you a statement – did it never get to you? I’m sad not to be included. :(

    • Jen from vbacfacts.com

      Emily,

      I’m sorry. I got so many great quotes, but had limited space, so I could only use a fraction of those submitted. The document could have easily been 5-6 pages long, but I knew that the public health administrators and medical professionals were unlikely to read all of those. It was really, really hard to narrow down the quotes because they were all so great! You can always leave your quote here!

      Warmly,

      Jen

  • [...] take a peek here about how women are speaking out about their right to fight for VBAC and an inspiring local news [...]

  • Melissa VB

    VBAC is important to me because I will not allow anyone to violate my body, to hold me hostage by unwarranted threats that my baby is in danger (as if I wouldn’t cut off my own arm to save my darling from danger!), to decide for me what information I get and what I should do with it. Nobody is going to use my own motherhood against me as blackmail to force me into more medical risks so that they will have fewer legal ones.

    The facts are clear: women’s bodies are made to birth children. We do it best when we’re supported and encouraged, and when interventions that should only be brought out for actual medical emergencies (flashing emergency lights, oh-my-g*d you’re going to DIE unless we do something RIGHT NOW!) are kept out of the way unless needed. Doctors don’t realize the difference in position between an exhausted, mostly naked laboring woman tethered to a bed by monitors and tubes, likely hazy from the meds– and the clusters of gowned and gloved professionals “offering” her their favorite tools with which to manage her labor as they frown over her supposed lack of progress. What we need is encouragement and support…a safe environment while we do the work. I refuse to be treated like the worst-case scenario “what if” patient rather than a healthy woman, doing the most wonderful and natural thing a human body is capable of.

    And I won’t let ANYBODY use fear to blind me to the facts.

    -Melissa VB, Indiana

  • [...] (2010) guidelines retracted this problematic proposal, hopefully VBAC will become a viable option to the many women who desire it (Kamel, [...]

  • J.C.

    I had a crazy doctor who swept my membranes and gave me pitocin without my prior consent and then yelled at me to have a c-section because she had booked the OR and “if we wait it might not be available later.” It was a really traumatic delivery starting with her bursting into the OR and shouting me on the table that I had “made her late for her blind mother’s doctor appt.” and then her slamming my body up and down during the surgery. And finally, saying, “I nearly had to take out the uterus” before walking out of the building without seeing me again.

    I am now with a Dr. who will allow a trial of labour for my 3rd after 2 c-sections (first was breech).