The reason for a previous cesarean delivery, unfortunately, does not fall into the ‘one only reason’ category. There are so many reasons why a birth ends with cesarean delivery. Now you are faced with your partner’s decision (which may or may not have been equally or decision) to attempt a vaginal birth after a cesarean or VBAC. You are about to take the role of VBAC companion, VBAC coach or VBAC support. Do you know how to do any of those things? Uncertainty is natural for fathers to feel. Couple this uncertainty with the reality that vaginal birth after cesarean delivery (VBAC) is a huge topic of political debate between the medical community and the consumer … or pregnant woman.

Often fathers feel excluded fully from the discussion about a VBAC. Your partner has very emotional reasons why she wants to have a vaginal birth. And if she’s planning a VBAC then she’s all into VBAC preparation. She wants you to have her back and prepare for a VBAC with her.

Often her feelings and emotions seem in conflict with the medical community’s opinion that birth is risky enough much less adding the risk of attempting a vaginal birth after major abdominal surgery. Your partner might find support from other women who have successfully had a VBAC, but rarely will you hear from a father who has had to support this experience. Father-coached childbirth is a general term as is husband-coached childbirth. You won’t hear the phrase father-coached VBAC or husband-coached VBAC. Sometimes you’ll hear the phrase VBAC companion … but that usually refers to hiring a doula. Sometimes you’ll hear the phrase vbac support which is code for … don’t get in the pregnant woman’s way and accept whatever she wants.

Father-coached VBAC … say it loud and strong

You can’t go back and re-do the previous birth but you can do a great deal to have either a successful VBAC or a successful repeat cesarean. Oh goodness, why should this article even include a successful repeat cesarean if the goal is to have a vaginal birth after a cesarean birth?

But as a father-to-be it’s important to go down this path as well. There aren’t really any women who will insist on a vaginal birth when they really know their baby is at risk. Parents will lay their life down for their child and that includes women who desperately want a vaginal birth experience. But as a husband/partner you need to have the right set of skills so you can always participate in the birth of your baby no matter how that birth unfolds. While your pregnant partner may be so focused on the VBAC, you did not get pregnant to have a type of birth but to have a baby! This is good news. You and your birthing partner can have a skilled birth no matter how it unfolds.

With the right birth skills, any birth can be a positive experience. Preparing for birth is something that should happen during pregnancy. In fact, pregnancy and giving birth need to be tied together through learning both birth and coaching skills. Your job is to learn coaching skills. Those coaching skills come from the skills to help your pregnant partner prepare her pregnant body to become a birthing body.

Giving birth is more than making choices

Certainly, you’ll be faced with so many things to think about. And many fathers do not feel particularly consulted. Presently preparing for childbirth is all about: the choices/or lack of choice your partner has, the health issues of both your baby and your partner and your doctors or midwives’ opinions about vaginal birth after a cesarean. But it’s NOT about skills. Consider this. The phrase VBAC focuses on the ‘vaginal’ birth part and just seems to skip the hard work called labor that has to be endured to get to the vaginal part. Choice is so fickle but the skills you can learn can be the foundation for laboring successfully to vaginal birth.

Wrapped around all of the complex VBAC issues is your relationship with the mother of your child. Having a VBAC is an emotional decision for most women. They feel they have missed out on a primal female experience. There’s not much logic often in the decision. This isn’t right or wrong. And you have the right to ask your partner if she wants a VBAC no matter what the outcome. In fact, you get to find out why giving birth to a baby is only perceived as a ‘birth’ if it’s a vaginal one. Does that really make sense? What a burden to put on a child to feel their birth is not equally valued!

You’ll learn that women will say ‘I’ll have a cesarean if I think it’s necessary’. What she wants from you is support to try to have a vaginal birth as long as she and your baby are fine. And this is reasonable.

Your partner will want to make a conventional Birth Plan to tell her obstetrician and midwife what she wants and doesn’t want in her VBAC. You might understand all those details or just scratch your head. But you can understand that a Skills-based Birth Plan might be a great idea by telling your obstetrician or midwife what skills you are bringing into the VBAC. They want to know what your wife/partner and you are going to do to achieve the goal of vaginal birth.

Birth is actually a verb rather than a noun

Your wife/partner is the only person doing the activity of giving birth. Your baby is doing the activity of being born. When you and your partner have the right skills then you can work with your baby’s efforts to be born. But you can’t do the birth for the woman. Your obstetrician or midwife can’t do the birth for the woman. The birthing woman must do the activity moment-by-moment. Can you understand how skills can help her do that activity better? Sure you can.

Birth is a very physical experience of a woman’s body. This body is something that both women and men share in common. We all have the same bones, muscles, can blink, cough and relax when we pay attention to doing that. This means there is a set of coaching skills that fathers can learn and practice during pregnancy that increase confidence, brings you closer to your partner and baby. This is all good. All the skills in Birthing Better are based on our common body language so it’s really easy for men to feel the effect of the skills in their own body.

Bring breathing, relaxation and great communication skills to your birth. Your obstetrician or midwife will love to see you, as a man, use great birth-coaching skills. Birth is the ultimate must-do activity that comes at the end of pregnancy. Your birth-coaching skills are the action that helps your partner accomplish her task. Here are some of the birth-coaching skills such as Directed Breathing, The Pelvic Clock and Deep Touch Relaxation in Birthing Better Childbirth Preparation.  Birth is birth and every birth can be the most enjoyable experience as well as an experience that grows your closeness as a couple and family. No family should be left with shame, blame, and guilt around the birth of their children.

When pregnancy becomes connected to learning how to birth for the woman and how to coach for the father, then birth will become something we do no matter what by working together. When a VBAC has been achieved because of the childbirth preparation you have done during pregnancy, then you realize that there are very specific skills you do need to accomplish the task.

Bottom-line: Father-coached childbirth must absolutely extend to father-coached VBAC

So, as a father supporting a VBAC, get stuck into learning coaching skills from 24 weeks of pregnancy. Every day that you practice together breathing and relaxation, you both feel more confident.

Birthing Better skills were developed by moms and dads in the early 1970s in the US and used by many thousands globally in all types of birth. Birthing Better online VBAC birthing classes are housed in Common Knowledge Trust.