Pregnant ladies need a lot of help. Sometimes they need help getting a seat on public transportation. Sometimes they need a little extra emotional support. Sometimes they need help getting out of their pants because they can't bend that much right now! In other words, every mom-to-be has a unique set of varying needs, but when it comes to moms who are planning for a VBAC, there are nice things you can do that all of them will undoubtably appreciate.
"VBAC" stands for "vaginal birth after cesarean section." While the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend most pregnant women be given the choice as to whether they would like to consider a "trial of labor" and vaginal delivery after a previous C-section, they are nevertheless rare. Part of that is preference, and there are lots of good reasons to opt for a C-section. But part of that, unfortunately, is due to a plethora of misinformation (even from doctors) about the safety and feasibility of VBACs.
As you can imagine, this creates a less than ideal atmosphere for moms planning a VBAC to navigate. Fortunately, when I was planning a vaginal delivery after my C-section, I was surrounded by a lot of support, including my mom, who'd had a VBAC 24 years earlier. Turns out, I'm the kind of person who relishes in telling people what's up.
Still, the birth was not without a lot of explanations, judgment, and assuaging misplaced concerns. And so, with those experiences in mind, here are some of the kindest things you can do for a would-be VBAC mom.
Trust Her Decision
Because of the relative infrequency of VBACs, along with the fact that they used to be far riskier than they are now, many people are understandably skeptical of them. But, seriously — seriously — they're a safe and appropriate choice for most women. Don't take my word for it, though. In fact, "safe and appropriate choice for most women" aren't even my words. They're the words of ACOG. So if your friend is having a VBAC, trust that she has worked with her care provider to ensure that it is a medically sound decision.
Don't Assume Anything About Her Prior Birth Experience Except That She Had A C-Section
Many women choose to have a VBAC after an unpleasant or even traumatic C-section experience. Many others had a totally fine time with their C-section and are aiming for a VBAC for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with trauma or healing. Let her tell you about her motivations, if she chooses to (she doesn't owe you her story). It's frustrating to have people presume your narrative and all the bias and baggage that goes along with it and, unfortunately, VBAC moms are often on the receiving end of that nonsense. They aren't the only ones, but they have their own particular brand of annoying to deal with, so it's amazing when they don't have to deal with other people's assumptions.
Don't Try To Talk Her Out Of It
Unless you are her doctor, you don't have the knowledge or familiarity with her pregnancy or body to have your opinion mean anything significant. And a lot of people, from strangers to family members and friends, are potentially trying to talk her out of a VBAC. Don't be one of those people. You don't even have to be gung-ho VBAC, you just have to be not anti-VBAC. The bar is so very low.
Don't Make Her Prove Her Case
Again, a lot of people are going to be challenging her on this and it will be refreshing for her to be able to be open about the fact that she's having a VBAC without having to immediately go on the defensive and explain why, no really, it's OK.
Don't Tell Her She's Going To Die
Like, literally: this is how low the bar is. People have routinely told other VBAC moms I know that they're selfish and going to leave their babies motherless. Please let me assure everyone (once again) that this is just not true. Yes, there is an increased risk of uterine rupture (the main concern when it comes to most VBACs), but even with increased odds, the chances of it happening are between .2 and 1.5 percent.
Don't Assume She's Judging How You Gave Birth
Because her VBAC has nothing to do with you at all and she doesn't want you to think that it does. Just be cool!
Let Her Talk About It
Planning a VBAC is often a tremendously emotional process. Like, any birth brings up a lot of emotions, of course. But considering many VBACs are following a negative birth experience, the fact that many doctors are VBAC skeptics so finding a doctor who will entertain the idea is in and of itself often rare (again, despite all relevant medical data and recommendations), and the barrage of negativity coming from people with imaginary medical degrees, lots of VBAC moms will be grateful for a sympathetic ear.
Give Her Your Ice Pack Tips
You know... for her postpartum vagina. Because this is new territory for her.
Connect Her With Another VBAC Mom
There's real value in being able to hear from someone who has had a successful VBAC. In fact, mothers sharing their birth stories is a real help for anyone planning a VBAC, in part to prove that, yes, a vaginal birth is possible, even after a C-section. (Even if you intellectually know that's true, psychologically it can be hard to grasp, considering your body has likely never gone through a vaginal delivery.) So if you know another fierce VBAC mama, hook your girl up.
Be Proud Of Her, Whether Or Not Her VBAC Attempt Was Successful
Maybe she'll be OK if she winds up with another C-section. Maybe she'll be devastated. Let her talk about her feelings and assure her that she did a great job bringing a new baby into the world in any case.
Because anyone who pops out an infant, whether that baby comes through the designated exit or busts through the uterine wall like the Kool Aid Man (Oh yeah!), is a champion. Treat them as such.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.