Dear Angie Ferrell of Norwood, Ohio and Jennifer M. of Danvers, Massachusetts,
Thank you for writing letters (published in the July/August issue) about recent Mothering magazine news briefs on Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC). When I first read Jennifer’s letter, I thought she was responding to the piece I wrote in the May/June issue about the National Institutes of Health calling VBAC a reasonable option (see extended online piece here).
Only later did I realize, Jennifer, that what you were mad about was the piece in the previous (March/April) issue about VBAC rates plummeting, which is indeed pretty darn sad. Let’s hope that the NIH report will make some kind of positive difference.
But even though I was playing Carly Simon in my head, so vain as to think your letter was about me, I was also moved by the similarity in our stories, Jennifer. Like your daughter, my son was breech, and though we tried for a vaginal delivery after being transferred from our midwife practice to the rare OB in our area who delivers breech babies, ultimately we ended up with a c-section since the baby’s cord was too short (and around his neck) in order to let him descend.
My hospital experience was probably better than most, and it sounds like better than yours (though I still would not want to go back!). We got to keep our son in our room, sleeping right with us without having to put up a fight. Our doctor let me go home just 46 hours after the surgery (I would have been so deflated to spend another night there!) Like you, Jennifer M., it saddens me that women often don’t know about their options. But some of us have to learn the hard way.
Because of my c-section, I’ve learned a whole lot more about the system and its problems. If I hadn’t had a c-section, I probably never would have attended a meeting of ICAN, the International Cesarean Awareness Network, and I probably wouldn’t have even known about (much less attended) the NIH conference on VBAC.
Angie Ferrell, I’ve heard so many stories like yours at ICAN about “failure to progress,” but it’s been through listening and experiencing my own healing that I’ve learned to have compassion and understanding about these disappointments. I think I needed to be jolted into understanding instead of rushing to judge that women who had c-sections just didn’t work hard enough, which is the righteous attitude I think I used to have.
Same with breastfeeding. We made it to three years, but that first week with no mama’s milk to be seen, my son had to have some formula, which I always thought was a cop-out.
Through challenges we learn to open our hearts and put our activism hats on.
So Jennifer, I know that the “VBACs plummet” piece made you angry, but I hope you and I can both continue to find ways to channel our negative feelings into something positive. I appreciate hearing your story and love knowing that you had a successful homebirth VBAC (or HBAC). I’m hoping to have one sometime in the next few weeks!
And Angie, it’s great to know that you found a baby-friendly hospital and had a drug-free VBAC! It’s even better to hear that it resulted in a renewal of your trust in your body.
Thank you both for sharing your experiences. And, since Angie was indeed referring to my piece on the NIH report when she said “thank you for sharing the latest information,” I get to say a hearty, “You’re welcome!”