When I became pregnant with my second child, after delivering my son via emergency C-section, I knew I was going to do everything in my power to have a vaginal delivery. Cut to 38 weeks later and I was holding my massive nine pound two ounce baby against my chest after successfully squeezing her out of my body via 45 minutes of pushing. And yet, despite their very different entrances into the world, I felt a lot of the same feelings during both births. I asked other VBAC moms to share the similarities between C-section and vaginal deliveries, because I feel like we hear a lot about the differences, but not so much about what these two modes of baby-producing have in common.
I'll level with you: most VBAC moms I talked to could not think of a single way in which the two experiences were alike. I think that's kind of fair. For many, a VBAC is a healing, empowered choice after a negative or even traumatic C-section experience. Just like any other pregnancy or birth, there are no two situations that are exactly alike, and even when people experience similar situations, they can (and likely will) experience them in extremely different ways.
Personally, I did not have a traumatic C-section. I didn't even have a negative experience. My desire to go for a VBAC wasn't born of a desire to avoid a C-section so much as it was to experience a vaginal delivery. What I found to be similar about a C-section and a VBAC is that they were both great in their own ways. I feel as if both of my babies came into the world exactly as they were "meant" to (and, in a way, that eerily reflects their personalities, with my son stubbornly refusing to budge and my daughter helpfully easing her way through whatever the world throws at her). And, while in the minority, other moms found a few similarities between these two types of deliveries, too.
"You still bleed, you still require those lovely uterine massages from the nurses, it’s painful to sit comfortably, and the first poop is still painful because you are exerting pressure through your abdomen. Postpartum hormones still suck, [and you still need to use] all the ibuprofen."
"The recoveries are no picnic in any case. You think it's going to be a whole lot better with a VBAC but in some ways it's actually way worse* because they don't give you the serious drugs afterwards, even if you tore, which I did."
*You guys, I feel so seen, because yes, yes. All the yes.
"Honestly? I feel like I'm going to get flamed for this, but they both kind of suck. Yeah, yeah, the babies are worth it and everything, but after my first birth I thought that the 'birth is beautiful' people must have meant 'just vaginal birth.' Then I had a vaginal birth and it's like, 'Nope. Still not beautiful.' They suck differently, but I just feel like there's no fun way to give birth. Either you have to get a big needle in your spine and deal with the fact that you were cut open for weeks afterwards or a massive baby busts through your vag. (Is it OK for me to say "vag?"*)
*Yes. It's a great word.
"There's so much pressure in both instances. Like... so much. During my C-section I had the sensation of something swelling inside of me until my baby popped out. I had an epidural for my VBAC* and it was a similar intense swelling pressure, only inside my vagina. Neither felt especially pleasant, but in the long-run I far preferred my VBAC because at least I felt in control of the swelling via pushing."
*Fun fact: a lot of people believe you can't or shouldn't get an epidural if you have a VBAC but it's absolutely an option available to you.
"I had the same doctor for both my C-section and my VBAC and she was the really wonderful, calm presence that influenced the entire mood of the room. It was really nice to have that kind of continuity and general vibe for both my babies. We have pictures of her holding both of them in the delivery rooms hanging in our hallway: she's an important part of my birth stories."
"The experiences were night and day, but the feeling of them putting a baby in your arms is the same no matter how they got there. I needed therapy and a support group to get over my C-section, but if that's how my daughter had to be born she was worth the trauma and the moment I held her nothing else mattered. The jubilation you feel the first time your hold your baby is the same in any case."
"I feel like the birth haze is kind of the same: there's a whole lot of people poking around your privates. Both my births were sort of an out-of-body experience. A lot of VBAC moms say they felt so much more in control of their vaginal births, but I really didn't. I know I did have more control, because I was the one squeezing him out, but I felt disconnected from myself. It almost felt like a dream."
"You get a baby for your troubles."
Well... yes. Yes that is certainly true.
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.