As the days leading up to my cesarean flew past, I felt an incredible sense of dread and impending doom. Some of it was from the fear of the cesarean, while some it was from the normal changes that occur after a woman has her first child. I could feel that this was a change from which I would never be the same, and I wasn’t yet sure if it was a good or a bad thing.
On the morning that I walked into the hospital for my birth, I was glad that my breech baby would soon be making an entrance in spite of my own trepidations about the procedure. When it was all over, I was so happy to see the baby and nurse her for the first time. All in all, everything was wonderful until the drugs wore off and the recovery process began.
I never fully felt “put back together” after that, and it wasn’t until my second pregnancy 14 months later that I realized that I absolutely could not bear to have to go through another recovery again. My husband had just returned from a 9 month deployment to Iraq when we conceived our second child. I was lucky to have an amazing family practice physician who, although she could not perform the cesarean herself, offered to connect me with an OB who would be able to do a VBAC for me if I so chose. At the time, I declined and decided to just go for the repeat cesarean.
About two months later, some combination of hearing a story in the news about an African American woman who stayed home to deliver a baby unassisted as a VBA4C and seriously dreading my upcoming birth because of the cesarean made me decide to go back to my doctor and request a TOLAC instead of a RCS. I am so lucky that she was so supportive and got me hooked up with an excellent provider.
I knew that if I really wanted to have the highest chances of having a successful VBAC, I would have to do some things a little differently. After a bit of research, I decided that trying to deliver naturally would help to keep me off of the radar as far as interventions went in a typical birth. I researched local doulas and contacted someone who could help me in my journey.
I was also very fortunate to have a friend who loaned me a copy of “The Guide to Childbirth” by Ina May Gaskin, which completely changed my perception of birth. It was almost a rebirth of my personal paradigm surrounding birth. I surrounded myself with positive birth stories and affirmations and tried to limit the negativity that I allowed myself to be exposed to in order to help me focus as much as possible on working with my body to birth my baby. I knew that there was a definite possibility of a negative outcome, but I decided to just go with whatever happened and try to be at peace as much as I could.
I first felt that I was going into labor on exactly my due date. However, after jumping up to clean house and get everything together, the contractions quickly stopped. On the third day after my estimated due date, I decided to go for a walk with the family. The contractions started again, and did not stop this time. They were not intense at all so we went out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant and went looking around a store. By around midnight, the contractions started to pick up and become more of an active labor, and so we decided to go in to the hospital. By that point, I was dilated to 4 cm and was admitted. I was so fortunate to have a nurse who was also supportive of natural labor and birth, and she allowed me to do whatever I needed to be comfortable and work with my body’s contractions. This included doing my cervical checks while I was standing and allowing me to push when my body felt ready to push at 8 cm. During the delivery, I was given the freedom to get in a position that worked best for me, and I believe that led to a speedy 3rd stage of labor.
Looking back, I really feel that birth completely changed my life for the better. I felt so empowered afterwards and cherished the immediate contact and time that I was able to spend with my baby afterward, which was something I didn’t even realize that I had missed with the first since I had nothing with which to compare.
I was on such a birth high and felt so grateful for the experience I had that I decided to become a doula in order to support other moms during their births in an effort to pay it forward. I am still involved in birth work to this day and I am honored to be able to say that, yes, indeed, black women can and do VBAC.