VBAC

Every day brings us a little closer to welcoming our newest baby, Elliot. Today, I’m exactly one month out from my due date — it’s getting real!

When I was pregnant with Gracie, everything went wrong, including the birth. Grace was transverse breech, which meant that she was laying sideways in my stomach. She would flip back and forth daily, but her head would always be on the side — never down in the birth canal where it belonged. Really, she was just expressing her uniqueness! She has never been one to follow convention.

Grace would never have been born without the modern miracle of the c-section. So many aspects of modern medicine have impacted her life and kept her alive through the years, and her birth was just the beginning of that. Thanks to a relatively safe surgery, she was born alive and I was kept healthy, other than having to recover from the surgery.

Jackson was born “the traditional way,” as I like to tell the kids. Other than being induced and having an episiotomy, it was all natural and really a beautiful experience. I healed very quickly from Jackson’s birth — within a week or so I was mostly back to normal, and as soon as the cut healed I was fine. That was not my experience with Grace’s c-section, though.

I vividly remember how long the recovery took with Grace. It was weeks before I could make transitions (sit to stand, lay down to anything, etc.) with any semblance of comfort. It was months before I really started to feel like myself again. It was years before my scar didn’t hurt with each menstrual cycle. C-sections are major surgery — the doctor makes a 10 cm (3+ inch) incision through multiple layers of tissue, including abdominal muscle, then stretches it wide enough to pull the baby through head-first. For Grace, because she was transverse, they had to turn her before they could pull her out, which was also very challenging.

Grace also reacted badly to the pain medication I was taking (Percocet). It was nearly impossible to wake her for the first week or so of her life. Finally, my mom suggested that I try to wean off the pain meds to see if that would help her wake up. It did — she was a much more alert baby when I stopped the meds — but it also left me hurting much more than I had been. Ibuprofen alone is not enough to dull the pain of such a major surgery.

I do not want to go through that again. Even though in my head I know that the only important thing is to get the baby out alive and as healthy as possible, I can’t help but remember the long and painful recovery. My biggest hope for this pregnancy is that I can go into labor on my own, stay home for the first stages of labor, then go to the hospital right when the pain gets unmanageable and deliver the baby there. My biggest fear, other than something unmentionable and catastrophic, is having to have another c-section.

On Wednesday, I will find out if I am allowed to consent to a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). I have to meet with the doctor who performed the last c-section (rather than the midwife I’ve been seeing this whole time). I will have another ultrasound to make sure the baby is head down and there aren’t any other problems, and then, if all goes well, I can consent to the VBAC. I am trying to be patient and not worry too much about what will happen Wednesday, but the fear is always there in the back of my mind.

I find myself measuring where Elliot’s hiccups are. Hiccups are generally a function of the upper body (head, chest, and stomach), so if I feel them at the bottom of my uterus, it makes me think he’s in the right position. However, sometimes they are not at the bottom. Sometimes they are on the side or at the top. This makes me panic a little every single time. What if he’s breech? What if Gracie stretched out my uterus so much that he has plenty of swimming room? What if I have to have another surgery? These kinds of thoughts are completely useless, and yet they are exactly the sort of worries that are hardest to assuage.

But time will tell, I suppose. We will find out Wednesday if he’s in the right spot and if everything looks good. And truly, the most important thing is getting him out safely. After all, without a c-section, Grace wouldn’t have been born — she could never have come out on her own. And look at her now. She is a sweet, wonderful, kind, amazing young lady. She was worth every bit of painful recovery. I wouldn’t change any part of her, including her birth story. She is worth all of it, and I know Elliot will be, too, no matter what happens. But still, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a natural birth!

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