For many mothers, a caesarean birth marks the beginning of a run of caesarean sections for subsequent children.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. If it’s medically safe and if it’s your choice to have one, a vaginal birth after caesarean, commonly called a VBAC, is a remarkable experience.
Our parenting editor, Alys Gagnon, shares her VBAC birth story.
It was my girlfriend’s pain-free water birth that sparked my curiosity.
My son had been born breech in an operating theatre by a routine elective caesarean section. It was a positive and joyful experience, one I’m glad I had. William stayed resolutely heads up in my womb from about 31 weeks, refusing all the prompting I gave him to turn; hand stands in the pool, lying in bed with my bum propped up underneath every cushion I could find, acupuncture. The acupuncturist swore a 100 per cent success rate, but William defied her.
He’s five years old now, and defies authority on a semi-regular basis so I’m not so surprised he was determined to do things his way.
William was born two days past his due date, but despite that I didn’t even have Braxton-Hicks contractions. I had no frame of reference for labour and delivery at all, save a couple of girlfriends assuring me that it hurt like hell.
So, when my dear friend told me that despite three days of pre-labour, and about 15 hours of active labour before giving birth to her daughter in a bath at a Canberra birth centre she experienced no pain my interest was piqued.
I knew even before falling pregnant that I wanted to have a crack at labour.
What is it really like to give birth? Post continues after video.
When I did eventually fall pregnant with my daughter I floated a natural birth with the staff at my hospital during my first trimester. They told me it was my choice and that they would support me either way.
One of the things you hear when you’re pregnant is that second and subsequent births are often quicker than the first. But what I didn’t realise was that despite the fact that this was my second pregnancy, as far as my body was concerned it was my first.
I woke up on a Tuesday morning to some spotting. That evening I went in to hospital be checked. I was a centimetre dilated. One. Centimetre. It won’t surprise anyone to learn that I spent the night back at home in my own bed.
On Wednesday I went back to the hospital for monitoring – ECG, blood pressure etc.
One of the obstetricians suggested they weren’t comfortable to leave me having irregular contractions for longer than 24 hours or so. She invited me back the next day to have my waters broken.
By this stage I was pretty over the whole thing. I wanted the baby out. I literally high-fived the doctor at the prospect.
By 9am on Thursday I was settled into my delivery suite with a crochet hook up my clacker having my waters broken.
The obstetrician doing the procedure wasn’t able to get a scalp node attached to my daughter’s head at the time – I was still only one centimetre. The staff were keen for the baby to be constantly monitored, so that meant until they could get a scalp node on the baby I had to wear an ECG, and that meant I was pretty well confined to bed, and that meant that while I was having contractions, I wasn’t really in active labour.