This is a post I have been meaning to write for so long now. Having had an emergency c-section with my first child and a VBAC with my second, I wanted to get down in the blog the differences and how I felt about them both and why.
Now, I have covered both stories in previous posts. Jake was born via an emergency c-section on Christmas Day and you can read all about that birth story here. William was born 8 weeks early and he came naturally and you can read about his birth story here. And, yes I am very aware that it seems that I do not do babies overly well!!
It is a common misconception that having a c-section is the ‘easy way out’ yet for those of us who have experienced one, it is far from it which is why I wanted to highlight what each was like for me and how one compares to the other. So, here is my view on a C-Section Versus VBAC:
To begin with, I want to note that mine was an emergency section which meant that it came as a huge shock to me. I wasn’t mentally prepared for it, I was physically exhausted and the doctors were rushed to get it done. I know of friends who have had elective sections which were easier both mentally and physically as they were fully prepared, they had birth plans in place which included nice touches such as their choices of music, what they wanted to happen during the procedure and so on plus they had a better incision and scar due to the surgeon being able to take their time.
In my case, my section was very difficult in many ways. For starters, I didn’t want one so I felt defeated when they said it was my only option. I was petrified when I was laying on that table not being able to move (I had a spinal block). I felt sick and dizzy. I couldn’t hold my baby once he arrived and I passed out soon after from the sheer exhaustion then when I woke I was shaking uncontrollably– a side effect of the spinal block wearing off. I still couldn’t hold my baby because my hands couldn’t stay still!
When I was up in recovery my symptoms finally began to settle down but I have never felt so drained in my life. Yet then I was suddenly being handed a baby and it was all so surreal. I hadn’t realised at the time, but now that I can compare this birth to my more recent natural one, I can definitely see that I wasn’t quite as connected to him from the off. This purely came down to the fact that the c-section made my brain disconnect from what was going on. I wasn’t in the right place, I was emotionally strained but unfortunately, there’s no time to get your head around it all, there’s no one on hand to counsel you or chat over what just happened. You’re a Mum now and you just have to get on with it.
I was lucky that he breastfed straightaway but then as I had gone into labour naturally, my body was doing what it was meant to do. However, what nobody could prepare me for was the pain. Sitting up, holding my baby, getting out of bed, getting to the toilet, those first few days in hospital were simply exhausting.
Once home, I was told to not even lift a kettle. A kettle? But I have a 7lb 13oz baby I need to lift!! I’d had staples instead of stitches and these were agony. The midwife even had to remove some early because they were turning my skin turn purple where they were too tight. Oh, and if I caught one I definitely knew about it; and I hated, absolutely hated looking at them. To see metal holding your stomach together is pretty scary.
Like most C-Section Mums, I ended up making a little station of everything I needed and spent my days sat on the sofa. To begin with, this is great as you have your other half home to help. When he went back to work I was alone. I still wasn’t recovered, I couldn’t drive so had no escape, I tried walking down the road but the tightness of my wound was too painful, I was left feeling hopeless. It was a full 10 weeks before I felt completely able to drive and even then I took everything very steady.
My scar continued to be itchy, was raised some days, would swell if I did too much and ached at certain times of the day for the best part of that first year. I even had to visit a sports massage therapist to have the scarred tissue worked out.
Mentally, it probably took me over two years to come to terms with how his birth went and it wasn’t until I had a birth reflections meeting when I fell pregnant with William, that I fully discovered why my labour went wrong (he was back to back) and that it had nothing to do with anything I did.
My VBAC was the complete opposite. Ok, let’s take away the fact that it happened 8 weeks too early. I mean, we knew he was going to come early as my waters broke at 30 weeks so I was very aware that labour could begin at any time. I guess this helped me to come to terms with things a little better and as I had already had a C-Section, my mind was open to the fact that anything could happen.
My labour started naturally with William but it was also very, very fast! I had already been through the processes of talking to my consultant to agree on a VBAC but some doctors had told me I’d require a C-Section because he was going to come early and because I’d had one before. Well, I showed them! There was literally no time for anything. He was coming and that was that. I just about managed to get enough gas and air. But my god, the whole experience was amazing!
Yes, it hurt like hell and yes I screamed the hospital down but nothing can prepare you for what you feel as your baby moves down, as he begins to crown and when he finally arrives. Even though it was a daunting time with him only being 32 weeks, it was an exhilarating moment and one I will never forget.
William was placed very briefly on me when he came out and my sister cut his cord. He was then quickly whisked away but the overwhelming feelings I had about the whole experience stuck with me for hours afterwards and were worlds away from what happened with Jake.
In terms of recovery, I was so shocked. I could walk for starters. I could move quite easily, I wasn’t in much discomfort and I felt fit and healthy. This meant that I could be there for him whilst he was in NICU. I could walk down to the unit from my ward, I could drive to and from the hospital once I was discharged and I could easily care for Jake and continue with his routine back at home. I was back to my normal self in no time at all.
The differences between the two births were huge and if I ever had another child I would want a natural birth again. It allowed me to be able to get back to normal life, to carry out everyday tasks and chores, to look after my other child without needing extra help and to get back to fitness and strength far more quickly.
Have you had a C-Section then a VBAC? What are your feelings on it? Which one wins for you?
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