VBAC Recovery: Better Than I Ever Imagined
I knew I didn’t want to have a repeat cesarean unless absolutely necessary. I wanted to VBAC for so many reasons but I now know that my VBAC is even more important and better than I ever imagined. The difference in recovery from an unplanned (and unwanted) c section is so drastically different on so many levels that I had to write a post about it.
The first most obvious difference is physical. I physically feel so much better. Major abdominal surgery is a much longer recovery than an uncomplicated vaginal birth. I had pain from my c section for over a year. I did have a first degree perineal tear after my VBAC but it wasn’t bleeding so I opted not to have stitches and to instead rest and keep my legs together. The tear took a few days to close, I think about five, but it was only mildly uncomfortable. The worst part of it was that is would sting on occasion if I did too much. Regular cleaning with a peri bottle and limited activity took care of it and it seems to have healed up just fine at two weeks postpartum. Two weeks postpartum after my c section, I could still barely get out of bed unassisted and had to move slowly to avoid pain. It probably didn’t help that I didn’t take the prescribed pain medication but I had a much harder time getting around. I’m really amazed at how good I feel. I knew I’d feel better but the difference is almost indescribable.
Another physical difference is the way my body looks. Part of this is due to the fact that I only gained 30lbs this pregnancy as opposed to the 60lbs I gained when I was pregnant the first time. As of right nowI am only about 10lbs from my pre-pregnancy weight (at two weeks postpartum) and I feel really good about it. My stomach still has the c section flap but I’m strangely ok with it after this pregnancy. A lot of it is a sense of acceptance on my own part. I accept that I’ve had two babies in just over two years. I accept that my first one was a surgical birth and it changed the way I look. After my c section, I felt deformed and disfigured because I developed a flap of fat that now hangs over my underwear. I wouldn’t even let my husband see me completely naked, not once in the more two years that has passed since my c section. After my VBAC I feel like i have given myself permission to stop hating my body. I’m certainly never going to wear a bikini again and I don’t openly walk around naked but I’m done hiding. I don’t feel like I need to any more. My VBAC has given me the confidence to let go and be grateful that I have carried two healthy babies to term and birthed two healthy babies in two very different ways. My body did some pretty amazing things when it birthed Stella and I can’t be so hard on it anymore. I appreciate that it works and I also appreciate the fact that the flap is a result of my son’s birth. Had he not have been born by c section I would not have the same perspective that I now have.
My labor with Graham was long but not nearly as tiresome or as hard as my labor with Stella. It was long though and I didn’t get much sleep leading into the c section. After the c section, I was so shell shocked by the whole experience that I didn’t get much sleep in the following days. I was absolutely and completely exhausted. I was also so disturbed by the experience that I craved normalcy to the point of going home from the hospital and cleaning my house. I didn’t allow myself to rest or recover. I felt the need to constantly do something and I didn’t sleep well. Add to that a baby that wanted to nurse every two hours or less round the clock for the first four months of his life and the results are not that great. Since my VBAC, I have been able to get so much more rest. I attribute a portion of this to my body adjusting more easily to the natural changes that occur after a normal birth. The hormonal processes that normally happen during and after a natural vaginal birth happen to help ease both mother and baby from pregnancy to postpartum. I believe my milk coming in just over two days after the VBAC versus six days after my c section are proof of that. I think that the body generally adjusts better when the normal processes happen. It also makes it more real that the baby in front of me is the baby I birthed rather than having my baby brought to me three hours after being lifted out and having a hard to associating him as the same baby that was in me.
Psychologically it all makes sense to me. I birthed Stella. No one delivered her. My husband caught her and passed her to me and I was the first thing she saw. We were not separated and we had an immediate bond. With Graham, the bonding took more time. I feel bad that he didn’t get what Stella has gotten but I do know that he is ok and we are bonded. He is my first born and very special in a different way but Stella’s birth has given me a sense of empowerment that I never had. After this VBAC, I feel like I can do anything.