VBAC: Very Beautiful And Courageous

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 115, Autumn 2015.
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Some say birth is a mystery. Many believe it is a miracle. Yet it is the daily work of midwives and doctors around the world. When it happens every day, and when it is fraught with decision-making, hospital policies and legal hoops to jump through, it is easy for those being held responsible for outcomes to forget that for each mother, her birth is a journey that is remembered for a lifetime.

Birth is often a reference point in a woman’s life that becomes a guiding light for the subsequent challenges she meets for the rest of her life. When a woman gives birth from her own power, and when she willingly steps into the journey that will push her past her own sense of limitations and control, and when she does so with a heart that is open to whatever that journey may bring and when she comes to the other side with the baby in her arms, there is a power that rushes through her that is incomparable to any other!

The conflict between the experience of the medical practitioner and the experience of the mother is at the core of the VBAC question.

There was once a time, not so very long ago, when everyone knew that death was a possible outcome of birth. Midwives and doctors were called to help because they were the ones with the knowledge and experience, but they were not blamed if death came knocking. There was sadness. There was grief. But it was integrated in the realm of their spiritual beliefs.

VBAC cannot be discussed without understanding both sides of this experience. “Walk a mile in my shoes” is the expression used to describe the importance of understanding this critical difference.

The practitioner is the person who is expected to know what to do, how to do it, when to do it … and in today’s world, if he (or she) fails to do it right, his entire life can be ruined. The practitioner is expected to “save” every baby and every mother. This is an impossible task! With the advent of more and more technology aimed at saving more and more mothers and babies, and the legal pressure intensifying, practitioners internalize this pressure. The cesarean is the easy escape route for their fears. Almost no one is sued for doing an unnecessary cesarean! Most certainly, however, there have been countless suits for the failure to perform a timely one. There is a silent voice screaming within, “Is the baby still alive?” And so, things get prodded and pushed, interfered with and taken over. The little voice continues, “The natural process cannot be trusted to save every baby. And I have to save every baby!” Is there any wonder why the cesarean rate has risen?

There was once a time, not so long ago, when everyone knew that death was a possible outcome of birth. Midwives and doctors were called to help because they were the ones with the knowledge and experience, but they were not blamed if death came knocking. There was sadness. There was grief. But it was integrated in the realm of their spiritual beliefs.

Today we live in a culture that is spiritually disenfranchised. We live in a culture where statistics and studies inform us of all the poisons, disasters and problems of the entire world. More and more laws have been created to keep us safe. This fascination with safety is actually feeding the fears of people. No one really feels safe. The silent voice within is screaming, “Save me! Save my babies!”

Pregnant women are walking the whole world round looking for someone to save them and their babies. The practitioners are all willing to oblige them. And so, is there any question as to why more and more women are willing to have cesareans?

To trust the process of birth, one must first trust the process of life. Those who find their path through labor and birth usually have already begun to cling to a life that is based on the idea of a spiritual journey. For it is within the safety … of God, of the Universe, of that force that has no name…that we come to trust our bodies, our lives, our babies and our births.

And so, the process of VBAC is a deeply spiritual one. The mother who has already had a cesarean transforms her fear for her safety and that of her baby into a knowing system that will see her through the spiritual journey of birth. The practitioner who is to be fully present and supportive of a VBAC birth transforms internalized pressure to perform into a quietness that honors the woman’s journey.

This is why VBAC is very beautiful and courageous.

About Author: Lynn Baptisti Richards

Lynn Baptisti Richards, BS, Ed, LM, is a performing and visual artist, a midwife and a writer. She primarily served women who had previously experienced traumatic births. She published The Vaginal Birth after Cesarean Experience: Very Beautiful and Courageous, and then went on to speak and teach. She is currently working on a book-ballet entitled Flying From Darkness.

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