You Can Have a VBAC: This Mom of 3 Is Proof

natalie blais with her children

Natalie Blais, a parenting strategist, founder of A Passionate Parent, and a mom of three from Calgary in Alberta, Canada considers herself a natural-born researcher. So it's no wonder that after delivering her eldest daughter via C-section and deciding she wanted to go natural for her second, she hit the books. She made up her mind early on that she would do everything she could to have a vaginal birth after cesarean (also referred to as a VBAC).  

Natalie talked to The Stir about how she came to this decision that's often seen as controversial in the medical community, how she faced her fears about the potential risks, and how she ended up doing it all over again for her third -- at home nonetheless!

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How did your first end up being a C-section? Had you wanted to do a natural birth/what was your birth plan?  
I had taken Bradley Birth classes and had wanted a natural birth, but my first child was frank breech. I am a voracious researcher, so as soon as I found out she was breech -- at 32 weeks -- I read everything I could get my hands on. Some of it was really scary -- about fetal mortality and all of these things -- but I knew it was going to be my experience, and no one was going to push me into anything I didn't want to do. I tried several ways to turn her, but she was stubborn and did not want to go head down. And 14 years ago, breech [natural] deliveries were a no-no. It wasn't even something they'd consider, so I knew going in the chances of me having a cesarean were very high! I labored for 15 hours before we then decided on having a C-section. In the end, I was entirely thrilled with my birth experience even though it ended up with a cesarean. My goal was to bring home a baby who was healthy.

What was recovery like from the C-section?
I felt amazing about my birth experience. The nurses were fantastic, the OB/GYN was amazing and very supportive. She allowed me to make the decisions and helped me to understand the risks and why a C-section was my best option. My recovery was very quick and had no complications. In fact, the day I was released from the hospital, we had to stop and pick up a few things, and I was able to walk around the store, and I felt great.

When you were expecting your second, how did you come to the decision that you wanted to pursue a VBAC?
It was a given I was going to have my second baby as a VBAC, and I made sure that I had tremendous support for my entire pregnancy. We hired a monitrice (like a doula, but she is also an RN) and had a game plan right from the beginning. I wholeheartedly believed I was capable of having a VBAC with my second.

Did you get any "pushback" from your health care provider or anyone else about having a VBAC?
Incredibly, I did not get pushback from my doctor. He was in full support of my decision but was obligated to give me all the details about what could go wrong. I was advised about uterine tears and baby distress. I was also warned that I would labor longer, because my body wouldn't know what to do. In reality, I was in labor less time, by one hour. I personally believe it was because I made sure I had a long labor the first time before we chose the C-section. My mom, being a mom, was worried and concerned. She was like, 'Well, are you sure, because it would just be easier [to have a C-section]?' But in the end, she supported my decision.

How did you prepare for the birth?
I made sure I took very good care of myself by really allowing my husband, mom, and friends to help me out. I had to learn how to accept the help, because I didn't want to be stressed out in a pregnancy. I made sure I was aware of that support offered to me and learning to say yes to it. So I was way more relaxed! When you're tired going into labor, you have to work twice as hard, but if you've dialed it down a bit before, you have a bit more energy. I also talked to a ton of women who had successful VBACs, and I talked to a lot of women who said, 'Yeah, you know, I tried, but it didn't work, and I ended up with a cesarean.' I read Birthing From Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz, which was a really good, empowering book with the message that this is your baby, this is your labor and delivery.

Were you anxious about any possible risks?
That little voice in your head does say to you, 'Are you out of your mind? You don't want to just go with what is easiest?' And I went into that labor with a little bit of fear that I was going to have this crisis in my birth. What if my uterus ruptured, and then the baby's in distress, and then it's my fault if something's wrong with the baby. You run that entire movie through your brain, taking full responsibility of something that's kind of out of your control.

What did the experience end up being like?
I had my second baby at the same hospital as my first. This labor, my water did not break spontaneously, so we had to do a couple of fancy maneuvers to get my water to break. I had a monitrice and a nurse midwife, and I was really fortunate to have all that support that was beside me during the entire labor and delivery process saying, 'Okay, next contraction. Let's make a decision after the next contraction. Can you go one more contraction?' I had that medical support there if I needed it, and I didn't, and it was very successful. We were literally heading home eight or nine hours after the baby was born. If I had had a C-section, the standard hospital stay is two to three days. Recovery was very quick. I think that having such incredible support of a monitrice, doctor support, and family close by, I was better able to rest and recover. I was proud of myself for making the decision and doing everything I possibly could to ensure I had the labor and delivery I wanted.

With your third, how did you come to the decision to do not only a VBAC but a home birth? 
I was finally in a financial position to be able to have the birth experience I wanted right from the beginning. I knew that the best thing for my baby was to have a the experience I wanted to have. The more safe and secure I felt, the better the entire experience would be.

What was that experience like, especially compared to the previous VBAC and C-section? 
Having my last baby at home was incredible. My labor was shorter by almost eight hours. When I felt the first contraction, I called my mom and told her we needed to go grocery shopping! It would keep my mind off the labor and would give me the opportunity to walk around while in labor to speed it up.

What would you recommend to other moms who want to pursue a VBAC but are told the risks are too high or that it's simply out of the question?  
Remember that this is YOUR birth experience. If your doctor doesn't support you, find one that does. Find forums or other moms who have had a successful VBAC and ask their experience and ask for their support. There are so many small things that can make a huge difference and women are happy to share what worked for them. No woman wants to see another woman have a horrible birth experience. And as funny as it sounds, in a woo woo way, believe that you can do it. Believe that you are strong enough, wise enough, and your body knows what to do. Everyone has this idea that having a baby is this HUGE emergency. It's not! It is the ONE thing women have been doing from the beginning of time. Believing in the process is more than half the battle.

More from The Stir: VBACs: How to Have a Successful Vaginal Birth After a C-Section

How do you feel about moms attempting to have a VBAC? 


Image via Natalie Blais

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