My Failed VBAC: A Story of Healing and Empowerment

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I’ve always been fascinated by birth stories. Especially the jaw droppers where the mama barely makes it to the hospital in time, or ends up having an unexpected, uncomplicated home birth in 20 minutes flat. Throughout my first pregnancy, I’d often fantasize about what my birth experience would be like. Would I have an unbelievable story to share?

It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but I was incredibly ignorant and naïve.  My preparation for birth didn’t extend much beyond reading What to Expect and attending one childbirth education seminar with my husband. I legitimately had no idea that labor and delivery came with a myriad of options and choices. I just assumed I’d show up to the hospital in labor, and the staff would take it from there. And they sure did….

You’re 4cm. I’m doing a cervical sweep to help you progress.
Okay.

Your contractions aren’t strong enough. We’re going to start Pitocin.
Okay.

You need to STOP moving and keep your head DOWN (4th try of trying to get an epidural placed with zero explanation or breaks in between).
Okay.

We’re going to break your water to get things moving.
Okay.

Baby is not in the right position. Your pelvis is probably too small.
Okay.

You’re failing to progress. You need a C-section.
Tears. Okay.

Your husband is going to take the baby to the recovery room while we stitch you up.
Okay.

You’re responsible for keeping track of your pain medication. Page us when you’re due.
Okay.

Your milk hasn’t come in. You’ll need to supplement with formula.                              Okay.

The waves of disgust, disappointment, and heartache didn’t hit me until we transitioned back home. That’s when I slowly started to realize that I wasn’t an active participant in our daughter’s birth. No one asked me. No one explained to me. No one presented options to me. They simply just told me. Dictated to me. And I was too ignorant and overwhelmed to speak up.

As the days, weeks, and months went by, I can honestly tell you that I thought about my  birth every single day. It ate at me. Anger toward my providers eventually turned inward as I felt I had failed, that my body had failed. Within 90 days of having my daughter, I already had a plan in place for my next birth. I was going to rock a VBAC.

21 months later, I was pregnant again and eagerly committed to my new birth goals. I did it all: I switched providers, I switched hospitals, I hired a team of doulas, I practiced mindful birthing techniques, I attended several delivery prep trainings, I exercised, I was adjusted regularly by a Webster certified chiropractor, and I armed myself with ridiculous amounts of birth knowledge. But most importantly, I knew my options, and I had found my voice.

I went into labor naturally at 41 weeks. After laboring at home for 15 hours, I was confident I had progressed and was ready to head to the hospital to finish things out. Imagine my surprise when I arrived and my midwife told me I only seemed to be 1cm dilated. I may have panicked briefly, but my team rallied around me, and we got to work.  

In the next 33 hours we pulled out all the stops to help manage my pain naturally and get baby to descend. The shower, the birthing tub, yoga balls, a TENS machine, massage, nitrous oxide– just to name some. At one point I even had two doulas tag teaming. I swear I felt like I was training for Cirque du Soleil as they they pulled and twisted me into every possible position to get baby readjusted and engaged in my pelvis.

Alas, nothing worked. I wasn’t getting my VBAC. You’d think this would be devastating, right? Sure, me too. I was ready for the waves of disappointment and failure to hit me like a ton of bricks. But guess what? They never came. Instead, I found myself unexpectedly exuding pride, strength, and dignity. 

The difference was in the way my new birthing team made me feel. I was empowered from my very first appointment with my midwife, and it only got better from there. My team supported my goals, they rallied around me, they gave me options, they educated me, they asked for my consent, and they kept me informed every step of the way. They wanted that VBAC just as badly as I did, and I was treated like all mothers should be— with great care and even greater respect. And that’s how you turn a “failure” into a truly healing and empowering experience.

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