My Journey to VBAC
I had a c section with Graham because he was left mentum transverse. This means he put his face into my pelvis first, sideways, with his chin on my left hip and his forehead on the right hip. This is considered a vaginally impossible delivery. I can pretty much attest to that as I had 52 hours of contractions without pain medication of any kind. I was upright and active the entire labor. I didn’t even go to the hospital until my water broke with particulate and thick meonium and even then I was 7cm. Because of all of this, it as very difficult to deliver him once the docs were inside so my uterus was cut a second time. The first cut was the standard bikini incision on the lower segment of the uterus and the second cut was perpendicular to that. It was a vertical cut extended into the contractile portion of the uterus. The result is an inverted T incision style scar on my uterus. This type of cut is reserved for emergency or very difficult deliveries. Only about .4% of c section end in this type cut.
American OBs quote the rate of rupture during a trial of labor in a subsequent pregnancy as 10%, 15% or even higher. It was originally recommended that any future babies were delivered by c section at 36 weeks after an amniocentesis to check for lung maturity. This was very disturbing to me on so many levels. First, I would be purposefully delivering a preterm baby. Graham gestated until 41 weeks and 1 day. By that reasoning, he would have been 5 weeks early. It was also concerning because if the rate of rupture was truly that high then was it even sensible to carry another baby at all?
I started digging around and what I found was the most alarming thing of all. The true rupture rate found by the biggest study ever done on VBACs found a rupture rate of only 1.9%. How could it really be that low? How could I be told something so different previously? Where did the doctors that told me 10 and 15% get their info? I have no clue, I have never been able to find any reference or study reporting that high of a rupture rate. It kind of made me mad and when I get mad I get determined. I started reading everything I could find on this type of scar, why the cut is used, what doctors recommend and then I found that women did VBAC with this scar and they did it under the supervision of doctors and midwives that actually supported the idea. I knew I had to find out all of my options before I could consider getting pregnant again.
I learned through ICAN of Atlanta that there is a doctor in Atlanta that would be VBAC supportive after an inverted t incision. He also support VBAC after multiple cesareans, VBAC after classical incisions, twin VBAC, and does breech vaginal. His name is Dr. Tate. I emailed him and talked to him months ago and he was on board when the time came. He was willing to take me as a patient, meet me at the hospital at the onset of labor, only require a saline lock and fetal monitoring and he would stay as long as it took with no pressure how long it took. He was willing to let my body work and do it’s thing without interference. He, like me, believes that the body is capable of birthing without intervention and time constraints and in a higher risk VBAC it is safer to be as hands off as possible. The level of commitment that he was making touched me and motivated me and I knew that was the answer. I could go back to the States in my third trimester and live at Ft. Benning and go to Dr. Tate in Atlanta. I finally had some peace of mind.
Then I found out I was pregnant on November 4th.
Yep, that’s right for all of you that have been guessing, I am pregnant! Due July 15th. It is still very early, I am only 6 weeks along and I didn’t imagine announcing it so soon but I decided that I wanted to blog this experience and I was anxious to get started in case anyone else was going through something similar. So there it is
Once I found out I was pregnant my brain went in overdrive. I was already planning the move to Georgia in my mind and thinking of all the logistical aspects. I was bummed to have to separate my family for such a long period of time but willing to do it. I had decided that I would pretty much do whatever it took to make this trial of labor, my chance to VBAC happen. For me it is that important. I want my next baby to have a gentle peaceful birth. I want my body to experience labor and delivery the way it was meant to. I want to labor. I want to feel my contractions and my body work and my baby work in sync with it. I know it can do it. I am not afraid of labor, I had a very long labor with Graham, I know that I can labor. I am not afraid to birth. I am surrounded by birth, I attend births, I know that my body can birth. I want that moment of realization that I birthed my baby myself. I want to hold my baby the instant it’s born, preferable pulling it out myself. I have had 19 months to process Graham’s birth but I will always hurt that he didn’t get to be with me for the first three hours of his life. How terrifying and confusing it must have been for him to go to the arms of strangers and bright lights and to be force fed formula rather than nurse. I want to give this baby a more gentle entrance, it deserves that. I deserve that.
All that said, I am no fool. I know that I may have to have another c section. If the safety of my baby or my life is compromised, I get that. I have a lot of perspective and knowledge going into this next birth and I know that if we have another c section it is because it was truly necessary and I can live with that.
As all of this was coming out, my friend Karen, suggested that I talk to Dr. Chung. He is a Korean OB that has a solo practice and as the Korean’s say it he has gone the “natural way.” Women seek him out specifically for natural birth. Korea has a 45-50% c section rate and a 90%+ epidural rate for vaginal births. The “natural way” is small population in Korea. Dr. Chung also attends homebirths and has even attended homebirths on post at Yongsan Army Base. This is how Karen and I knew of him. It never occurred to me to ask him but I wasn’t aware that he attended VBACs. Once Karen told me this, I immediately emailed him. He got back in a couple days and said to come see him as soon as possible that he thought he could help me.
OH MY GOODNESS!!! I couldn’t believe it. I may have the option to stay in Korea and do this! I had a question list a mile long. Everything had to be on my terms and my way. I want to do this but it has to be as safely as possible. Here is the list of questions I used…
- Approximately how many VBACs have you attended?
- Of those patients in your practice who wanted a VBAC, how many were successful?
- What do you think my chances are of a VBAC success, given my childbirth history?
- What is your rate of cesarean sections and under what circumstances do you usually advise them?
- Who is your back-up? Is he/she VBAC friendly? Would he/she support my birth plan?
- What hospital(s) do you have privileges at? (Which would you recommend for a VBAC?) (Natural birth?)
- What prenatal tests/procedures do you usually require? Recommend?
- What do you think of Birth Plans/ Preferences?
- How do you usually manage a postdate pregnancy? Or a suspected Cephalopelvic Disproportion (CPD)?
- Do you have a vacation scheduled near my estimated due date?Labor & Delivery
- What’s a reasonable length of time for a VBAC labor if I’m healthy and my baby appears to be healthy?
- Do you know any kind of restriction I should expect from the hospital on a VBAC? (Who do I need to have policy exceptions approved through?)
- How many people can I have with me during the labor and birth?
- How do you feel about doulas?
- What is your usual recommendation for IVs? Pitocin? Confinement to bed?
- What’s your approach if the bag of waters has broken at full term but the mothers feels no contractions?
- In what percentage of your patients do you induce labor?
- Approximately how many of your patients have un-medicated births?
- If my baby is breech will you still consider me for a VBAC? ECV?
- At what point do you arrive at the hospital during labor/delivery?
- What labor positions do you recommend to your patients? Do you encourage movement during labor?
- I do not intend to push on my back. I may stand, kneel, squat or get on my hands and knees. How do you feel about this?
- I would like to push spontaneously and without coaching or counting. I would like help breathing my baby out to reduce tears. Will you do this?
- Do you require continual fetal monitoring for VBAC?
- Do you allow light eating/ drinking during labor?
- Are you OK with No IV – but a Saline Lock?
- I would like a for my labor room to be quiet and undisturbed unless medically necessary. How do you feel about this and can you advocate for me to the hospital staff?
- In the event that I need a c section and there is time, will I be able to have spinal anesthesia rather than general?
The conversation went even further than this list of questions. I spent well over an hour with Dr. Chung yesterday. I was very pleased to learn that he would be willing to show up at the hospital with me at the onset of labor and stay until about two hours after the birth. NO MATTER HOW LONG IT TAKES. There will be no time restrictions. He said that he envisioned his job in my labor and birth as a back up. He said that he felt like he should be there with me and if I need him he will be there. I will be laboring unmedicated so that I can feel any changes to my scar if there are any, and he can respond quickly because he will be in the room with me. He said that he understood the need to labor undisturbed and peacefully so he would be sure to keep staff out of the room unless medically necessary and that he would be an unobtrusive and quiet observer unless medically necessary. He has attended Hypnobirthing training and could certify as a Hypnobirthing practitioner if he wanted and that really got me excited. I am going to be using Hypnobabies and while the programs are different they are similar enough in that the laboring women requires peace and quiet and he totally gets that and is on board. He also said that his job was to let the staff know that my case is a special situation and while we do want little interruption that everyone should be on guard to respond to an emergency at any time. I will be doing this at a very large university hospital in Seoul that is also the most natural birth friendly hospital in the city. There will be pediatrics, NICU, anesthesiology, adequate nursing staff and a back up OB in case I get into trouble. I am also A+ which is great because that blood type is abundant in Korea.
I cannot think of a more perfect scenario given my circumstances.
I would normally be very wary of going to the hospital at the onset of labor and laboring with my doctor present the entire labor but I truly believe that Dr. Chung is going to give me adequate space and time. I don’t believe that his presence will pressure me. I think it will reassure me. Because I know that he isn’t going to put time restraints on me and he will not augment labor in any way, that I can relax. For me, because I have never had a vaginal birth, I need that security of immediate response and there are not many doctors in the world that commit to a patient the way he is committing to me. I know that if I have another c section it will be because it was necessary. I know that he believes that my body can do this and that my body can birth but that if there is trouble he is prepared to repsond accordingly. With that kind of support, I know that I can labor quietly and peacefully and without worry.
So, like my friend Karen said yesterday, I have all the pieces in place, now it is time to switch gears to “I CAN birth my baby” and leave behind the “what if something happens.” She is right. I am ready. I can trust that I am in good hands and in the best case scenario possible for a trial of labor.
For me and my family, this is the best decision and one that I have been working on for a long time. After Dr. Chung and I finished talking yesterday he did an ultrasound and I saw the little tadpole. It finally hit me that I was rally pregnant and not just planning any more