I hear this question all the time. I asked myself the very same thing. There's so much focus on the positive mindset when it comes to VBAC. (Vaginal birth after caesarean.) Rightly so! With a fresh wound though, how do you negotiate the waves and waves of I DID IT photos and happy endings for others?
There are so many variables, it's impossible to cover every possible scenario. Usually though, we will have a rough idea of what led us down the path of another surgical birth. The three types of caesarean birth come to mind. Planned, unplanned, and emergency. Sometimes your unplanned RCS is a result of systemic failure and a lack of support. Other times it is a result of a combination of complications which result in an emergency situation, requiring surgery.
No matter the reason, every woman hoping for a VBAC will experience a similar range of negative emotions when she's unable to attain this goal.
You may feel:
On the flipside, sometimes the impact is less than we'd imagined it might be. Any and all of the above are normal and ok. So what should you do with these negative feelings, when and if they arise?
It takes time for your wounds to close.
In the early days and weeks after the birth, your sadness will ebb and flow. Photos will trigger you. Be prepared for that. You might like to turn off notifications for any birth related support groups you frequent. Give yourself space to regain your strength. VBAC armour is heavy and takes a while to repair!
It's okay to feel jealous and ripped off.
I did - and still do sometimes. Am I a wretched, awful person now? No. Am I wounded? Yes. Is that okay? Hell yes. Am I ok? Absolutely.
Many women receive backlash when they acknowledge their feelings about the way their birth went. You'd be wise to attempt to shield yourself from this type of (completely unnecessary) criticism. I'm not saying their daggers won't hurt. Now is not a time you need to be defending your choices or justifying your feelings.
Do not engage with unsupportive, unenlightened crazies who try to shame you or blame you. Mentally (or physically, if you're so inclined) flip the bird and disregard that bullshit. You heal faster when you don't expose your wounds to the vultures.
You will grieve.
No matter how much peace you may feel about the circumstances, you're likely to feel grief for the birth you imagined. Grief is not only applicable to loss.... and I feel that's where a lot of the resistance to the idea of birth trauma stems from. Women often experience trauma and grief despite a healthy baby. It's about time society recognizes that.
Allow yourself to be sad. That's all.
You may find you'd like to return to your "village" quite quickly. You may find you never want to return again. There's no right answer. I myself decided I would prefer to stay, but if you decide to leave your support circles- they always understand.
There's no set timeline or magic formula for a quick recovery. You may find yourself reassessing your experiences as time goes on. It might take a long time but peace comes eventually. You may move quickly through your healing and that's equally ok, although sadly less common.
The what ifs and the whys can be exhausting. Depending on the reasons for your CBAC, emotional wellbeing can differ vastly among us. But I can tell you, I learned a few things along my VBAC journey that really helped ease my pain. Although I've been relatively stoic about it all, I'd be lying if I said I didn't suffer at all and I wasn't sad sometimes.
Thing 1 - Nobody plans to VBAC at any cost. Lots of us have to revise our plans on the fly when emergencies arise. (Or when our care providers bully us into it. But that's a whole other thing.) If your VBAC became a CBAC, trust that you made the best decisions you could with the information you had. You are not alone. If you're suffering from birth trauma, there are resources and supporters there for you.
Thing 2 - The focus is not only which hole the baby exits from. Hey, it's a big part of the goal... however oversimplifying a woman's desire to experience normal physiological birth is just not a smart thing to do. It serves only to empower the anti natural birth community. In the end, the way you are treated, or mistreated by your care providers will most likely cement your feelings surrounding the birth. Even though I suffered complications, the reason for it was logical, therefore so much easier to overcome. Perhaps had I had the notion I'd been violated (again), this would be a very different article.
Thing 3 - You have much to be proud of, no matter the final outcome. It takes courage and pizazz to attempt a VBAC in the current obstetric culture. Fear, misinformation and straight up misogyny are RIFE in our communities. You stood in the face of all of that, and gave it your all. You deserve a fucking medal, lady!
Thing 4- VBAC is a journey, not a destination. Although I got the slice 'n' dice special again, I do not feel as though my efforts were wasted. I've gained so much from the knowledge I sought out. I've met awesome, inspiring women. (and men!)
Some people say that if they knew it was going to end in a RCS, they'd go back and just plan one. I'm not so sure I agree. Doing that would mean sacrificing all the amazing experiences I've had over the last several years. I wouldn't have had my beautiful, calm, natural labour. I wouldn't have met my student midwife. I wouldn't be here, writing this for you now.
So, if you find yourself dealing with an unplanned RCS, know this:
You're still awesome. You still did it. 'IT' isn't one single thing. I define 'IT' as being your own advocate. It's making the hard decisions. It's facing your fears and trying again. Seems to me that sometimes the only fear to face is that of fear itself.
Now go and rock the shit out of whatever type of birth you've chosen! Don't worry about things beyond your control. Your sisters will lift you up if you fall.