I compiled a list of all the tips I followed to achieve my drug free, super fast vaginal birth after TWO c-sections without the support of my doctors or a doula. If you’re hoping for a VBAC or a VBA2C, these tips are a can’t miss!
Update: since writing this post in 2018 I have had a second VBA2C! I followed the same advice for my second VBA2C and was able to achieve another unmedicated birth without a doula. I highly recommend using the tips in this post to help you prepare for a VBA2C.
A while I ago I started a series featuring my journey to my (hopeful) VBAC. I shared my two c-section stories and the steps I was taking during pregnancy to prepare myself for a vaginal delivery.
And guess what?!
It all paid off!!
In April of 2018 my third baby boy was born via VBA2C (vaginal birth after c-section). My first vaginal delivery (and with no epidural!!! more on that later) and probably my biggest personal victory to date.
A Brief Background
When I shared my stories of my c-sections I talked about how a VBAC was always my goal. Well, let’s be honest, vaginal delivery was always my goal. My first labor ended in an emergency c-section after 34 hours due to baby’s heart rate decreasing rapidly!
When I was pregnant with my second baby my doctor was fully supportive of a VBAC. Until we discovered I had a condition called placenta previa – at which point a c-section became inevitable.
When I found out I was pregnant with number three my first thought was “This will be my VBAC.”
My doctor’s were not exactly thrilled or supportive but I did it anyway because I knew I could.
And I was right! But it took some serious prep work.
The VBAC Story
I had been feeling like labor was close for a few days. Quite frankly I was miserable during most of my pregnancy and was hoping baby boy would be making his appearance before his due date.
So when I started feeling like labor was close I was having a hard time deciding if that was mother’s intuition or wishful thinking.
I remember texting my mom one day telling her I had been having some cramping and I thought labor might be happening soon. It turns out I went into labor 4 days later!
That morning we had gone to church. Of course I had told everyone at church I thought that baby was coming early, so when we showed up everyone had these consoling looks on their faces and people kept saying “Still pregnant, huh?”
Side note: if you’re looking for things NOT to say to a miserably pregnant woman, that tops the charts!
Anyway, after church I finally decided that labor must not have been as close as I
thought hoped. I told myself “This baby will come when he’s ready” and then I proceeded to take a four hour nap!! And it’s a good thing I did because I didn’t get any sleep that night!
After we got the kids to bed my husband and I settled in on the couch to watch some TV and relax. I was laying down while my husband rubbed my head (pretty great hubby, amiright?!) and juuuuuuuuust as I started to drift off into a peaceful sleep I felt a…….
My eyes shot open and I sat straight up….either the baby had just kicked me unbelievably hard or………yup my water broke!
You know how in the movies when a woman’s water breaks it’s this huge gush of fluid? And then people always tell you not to expect the huge gush because that’s just dramatic effect for the movies?
It turns out sometimes you get the huge gush!!
From there we called my parents (who were going to babysit our older boys) and put them on alert. We had read online that often times a woman’s water can break and she won’t start having contractions for hours. So we decided to settle in on the couch and try to rest before labor got going.
I don’t think we had even pressed play on the TV before I had my first contraction.
Now here’s the thing about labor. It’s very deceiving. Those first few contractions, they come and go quick, and they barely feel stronger than menstrual cramps. And they’re so far apart you have plenty of time to rest and think about things like what the baby will look like, how much you love your husband, if you packed your toothbrush, and other ideas that will very quickly become completely irrelevant.
And then labor started to pick up.
Within two hours my contractions had gone from mild and sporadic to strong and regular.
This baby was coming fast!
I called my parents around midnight (2 hours after my water broke) and told them to start heading our way, but not to rush.
Why would I say that? In what world does labor = take your time? I don’t know what I was thinking!
By the time they arrived at our house my contractions were four minutes apart and were
very strong unbelievably intense. Now here’s the part where we all go “you haven’t left for the hospital yet?!”
Yeah, no. We definitely overestimated how long it would take for labor to progress.
As soon as we turned out of our neighborhood I considered telling my husband to go home and call 911. I knew the baby was coming soon!
I did not know if we were going to make it to the hospital in time and I was determined that I was not going to end up on the news talking about how I had my baby in the front seat of our SUV on the side of the road!
Anyway, long story short, we made it to the hospital with about 40 minutes to spare!
Once we were in the hospital it was a whirlwind. The contractions were unspeakably intense at this point and I honestly don’t think I could have told you my full name if you had asked. But I remembered I wanted a VBAC. I just kept saying “VBAC, VBAC, we’re going to have a VBAC” over and over in my head.
At one point the doctor told me I was going to have to push harder because the baby wasn’t progressing. I freaked out and said “I DON’T WANT A C-SECTION!!” Her response: “Oh honey, you are way past that, no push this baby out!”
And after some screaming, some crying, some begging for pain meds (baby came too fast for an epidural), and about 10 minutes of pushing our baby arrived in all of his glory and I had achieved my goal of a VBA2C.
I had managed to achieve an all-natural VBAC, in under 5 hours!!!
I’m still in awe of what we went through that night and the fact that I was able to have a VBA2C. VBA2C’s are not easy and even less likely to happen after TWO c-sections. Of all the things I’ve worked for and achieved in my life, my VBA2C is one of my favorites.
It was, by far, one of the most empowering moment of my life. And the fact that I was able to do it without any pain meds (even though that’s not how I planned it) just makes it even sweeter.
As my labor and delivery nurse (Miami, like the city) said: “A VBAC without an epidural? You’ve got bragging rights for life.”
Heck yeah I do!
Ok, so how did I do it. How did we get there? I’m going to tell you exactly what happened and how I achieved this goal!
Vaginal Birth Recovery Timeline
My VBAC Plan
From my very first prenatal visit I was very open and honest with the doctors that I intended to have a trial of labor (this is called a TOLAC, trial of labor after cesarean). I was very clear that I knew it was not a guarantee that I would achieve a VBAC but I wanted to try.
And basically the response I got was something along the lines of “well we can’t stop you from laboring, but …….” And even though nobody every officially told me “no”, I always took the lack of support as a polite way of saying “We’d prefer it if you didn’t.”
I knew I wasn’t going to have the full support of my doctor, but I was determined anyway. In some ways, their hesitance drove me to achieve my goal. Every time they hesitated and said “I don’t know about this.” I replied with “Just watch me.”
I considered switching doctors, which was highly recommended in all the research I did, but for many reasons this wasn’t an option for me.
My husband and I interviewed a doula, which was also recommended in my research, but something just didn’t feel right and we never booked her. Now I know it didn’t feel right because she would have never made it to the hospital in time to support me- my labor was less than 5 hours from water break to first cry!!
I knew if I was going to manage a VBAC it was going to be 90% because of the effort I put into achieving a vaginal delivery before that first contraction. The other 10% was up to God and my husband’s support.
When I was 32 weeks pregnant I saw an OB who was supportive of my VBAC and he gave me the best advice. He said “The less we do for you, the better off you’ll be. If you want a VBAC you’re going to do all the work and we’re just here to catch the baby.”
Ah-ha! That was the ticket, come to the hospital ready to push.
Here’s why: in labor and delivery there’s something called the cascade of interventions. Which means one intervention leads to another which leads to another and so on. Many VBAC hopeful women believe that once one intervention is in place you’re more likely to need other interventions. And the more interventions you have the more likely you are to need a c-section.
***note: this absolutely does NOT mean that just because you have one intervention, or even several interventions, that you will for sure need a c-section; but remember that VBAC hopeful women are trying to increase their odds of achieving a vaginal delivery, which often times means avoiding interventions as much as possible***
So the goal is to stay away from interventions. And the best way to do that is to labor at home as long as possible, and then come to the hospital ready to push.
Or very, very close to it. Especially if you don’t have a supportive provider.
I knew if I was going to be able to labor at home my labor would need to be quick.
Like lighting fast!
Research, Research, Research
I have been researching like a mad woman! I’ve been reading everything from official medical advice to anecdotes from women who have had successful VBAC’s. I spend a decent amount of time every day reading anything and everything I can find about VBAC’s.
I firmly believe that knowledge is power and I want to be a powerhouse going into labor!!
Taking Advice from Successful Women
If you do your research right, you can find TONS of stories from women who have completed a successful VBAC. And every time they share exactly what they believe helped them achieve that. And I’ve been doing just about anything they recommend!
This post contains affiliate links, you can read more about that here.
Out of everything I have read, here is what made sense for me and what I’m doing (most of this started in the third trimester):
- Drinking red raspberry leaf tea every day (this is said to strengthen the uterus)
- Taking a good prenatal vitamin (these are my favorite and the ones I’ve taken during this pregnancy and my previous one as well)
- I stretch every day, several times a day (at the suggestion of my chiropractor) including many stretches to open my hips
- Squat every day (I’ve read that you’re supposed to be doing 300 a day!!! That’s a bit steep for me, but I do what I can)
Things that I have read can be helpful that I have not done:
- Hire a doula– My husband and I debated about this for a while and even went as far as interviewing a doula. She was fantastic and I have no doubt she would have been helpful. But ultimately we decided we prefer privacy so we are preparing to labor with just the two of us.
- Switch doctors– I wanted to switch doctors desperately but I have a large network insurance (it rhymes with shmaiser…hint hint) and I kind of get the feeling that all of their doctors follow the same play book. Also, when I do deliver I will deliver with whatever doctor is on call at the hospital, which might not necessarily be my doctor. So I could go to all this trouble and find an uber supportive VBAC doc, only to deliver my baby with someone else! I did have an appointment with one doc who was very much on board, but he is a high risk OB so I don’t seem him all the time. He said if I come into the hospital in labor and start to feel pushed toward a c-section I can always call him for a second opinion!!
- Watch my diet as much as I should- I have been more cautious about what I’m eating, but the truth is between two kids running around, a very tired mommy, and my nausea (yes, that’s right folks, I still have morning sickness just about every day!!) it’s been hard to find foods that are appealing, let alone nourishing. So I eat what I can when I can, I try to take it easy on the processed sugar, and I take a good prenatal vitamin. I haven’t gained an excessive amount of weight, so I think that will help.
Creating a Birth Plan
I never thought I would create a birth plan because how in the world can you plan a birth?! Those babies just do what they want!! My plan is not really a plan so much as some ideas.
I’m working on putting together a resource that has tips and tricks for us along the way. I’m doing all of this so that when I’m in labor and emotions are running high (read: I’m crying and my husband is tired) we don’t have to think as much. We will be prepared and just in case we forget I have it all typed up on a sheet!
This could be one of those things that is completely forgotten once that first intense contraction hits, but for now it feels good to think through some of these details.
Preparing My Husband
My husband is no stranger to birth, this is our third baby after all. And I did labor with our first baby before I eventually needed an emergency c-section. But this labor is different.
There’s more emotion involved because of my expectations. And from all the research I’ve done everyone (even the VBAC supportive doctors) say to stay at home as long as you can and come to the hospital pushing!! Even the one VBAC supportive doc I’ve seen told me to labor at home as long as I can! He said my best chance at having a successful VBAC is if all the doctors have to do is catch the baby!!
So this labor is different because there is much more at stake. He has to be the one to help me breathe through the pain, change positions, and remind me of my goals. He will be right in the thick of labor with me! . That’s a lot of responsibility to put on someone who is also going to be watching his wife go through an immense amount of pain (probably not gracefully) AND is also anxiously awaiting the birth of his child.
I’m preparing him by just talking to him. I’ve sent him a few articles to read, but mostly we just talk. And it helps.
I trust my husband completely, and I know he’ll be calm, cool, and collected the whole time. But preparing together and getting on the same page will make a world of difference for us.
Keeping a Positive Attitude
I have encountered many nay-sayers on my journey. Some of them were the doctors I met with during my pregnancy! And if I’m honest I’m pretty scared. I’m scared about laboring, laboring at home, and I’m afraid I’ll fail. But I also believe that I am capable of a VBAC.
I believe in my body’s ability to deliver my baby I remind myself of that every day. It hasn’t been easy to believe it. In fact, at the beginning of the pregnancy there was a lot of “fake it ’till you make it” kind of talk. I would tell myself I could do a vaginal birth even though the idea seemed so foreign to me because all I’ve ever known is a c-section.
But I kept telling myself I could and eventually the doubt faded away. And now when I tell myself “I can do this” I really mean it. I feel incredibly confident and prepared, and it all started with a positive attitude!!
This is the quote that has kept me going:
“She believed she could, so she did.”
Man do I love that quote!! I think that’s so applicable to so many areas of our life. What we believe about ourselves will come true. And I believe that I can have a VBAC!!
Every Journey is Different
My path to a VBAC certainly looks different than other women’s and that’s ok! My goal is to safely bring a happy, healthy baby into this world. Ideally that will happen through a vaginal delivery. I hope what I am doing to prepare for my (hopeful) VBAC will help you to prepare for yours!