Fathers … and VBAC
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 a 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 faced with having to take a role you probably feel totally unprepared for. That’s a natural feeling for fathers to feel. A vaginal birth after a cesarean delivery (vbac) is still a topic of political debate between the medical community and the consumer … or pregnant woman. Often fathers feel excluded fully from the discussion.
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 vaginal birth, but rarely will you hear from a father who has had to support this experience. Fathers do not lead the way for more vaginal births after a c-section.
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 and skilled 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 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. The only difference between you and your pregnant partner is that she is pregnant and only she can ‘do’ the birth. Her feelings about her birth experience lasts throughout her life.
Most men want their wife/partner to have a good birth experience but if it isn’t few men understand how long, deep and lasting the emotions of a negative birth experience can be. Women feel, experience and live her birth experience again and again. You can hugely help her achieve a successful, empowered and positive VBAC.
Right birth skills
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 prepare her pregnant body to become a birthing body. Right now you haven’t been told this is important and you have no idea what those skills are. Birthing Better families who developed all the skills in the Birthing Better Childbirth Preparation Online Course. These families are your teacher. They will show you the exact skills to help your wife/partner prepare her body to let out a big object.
Birthing Better will also give you the exact and effective birth and birth-coaching skills so together you can work together throughout your baby’s birth journey. Hopefully that birth will be a vaginal birth but you can use skills on the way to hospital, while the woman is being prepped and in the caesarean surgical delivery. All of these are part of the Time it takes to birth a baby. Use birth skills throughout the Time it takes to birth.
Think about it
Certainly you’ll be faced with so many things to think about. And many fathers do not feel particularly consulted. Preparing for childbirth is 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 a vaginal birth after a cesarean. Is anyone consulting you? Do you know the pros and cons of a VBAC? Were you at the previous c/s? Did your wife/partner cope well or seem out of control in her last labor? Did you know how to actually help her stay on top of the birthing experience?
Wrapped around all of these complex issues is your relationship to 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.
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 baby’s birth
If you want to help make this VBAC happen, you must get your head turned in the right direction. It’s important for you as a man to realize that all pregnant women (100%) will give birth one way or another. This is essential to really know. Once you totally ‘get this’, you can take the next step and realize that during pregnancy is the time to learn birth skills (for your partner) and coaching skills for you.
Enjoying preparing for the birth of your baby can take place whether the birth is vaginal or by surgery. Birth is birth. This means as a father, you absolutely must learn a good set of coaching skills. Coaching moves beyond ‘support’. To support a woman in labour is basically a rather passive role. Coaching is not telling women what to do. It means working with the woman at every moment of this dynamic process whether this is one contraction following another or whether it’s during the surgery.
As long as the woman is awake and not unconscious, she still will breathe and her body will be in some position. This means she can always use breathing and internal relaxation skills at every moment of the birth process. You can help her do that and be an equal participant to that process.
Birth is actually a verb rather than a noun
Birth is also a process rather than an outcome. That’s why taking time during the last 16 weeks in pregnancy to learn birth and coaching skills adds a wonderful component to your partnership and your closeness to your child.
Another thing about birth that men have to understand is that it’s a very physical experience to our 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 are 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.
Then you can take a natural leap into ‘The Birth’. There are women who labour and then have a cesarean delivery. There are women who labour and have a vaginal delivery. There are women who have a cesarean delivery without having contractions. But keep in mind, birth is birth and all pregnant women will give birth one way or another.
This means as a man, you can see birth as an equal opportunity experience. You can bring your coaching skills to whatever birth your partner has. By working together with a shared set of birth skills based on our human body means that both of you can have a positive and fulfilling birth experience.
Just remember to bring your coaching skills into whatever birth is happening. Bring breathing, relaxation and great communication skills to your birth. Your doctor or midwife will love to see you, as a man, really helping your partner give birth. Birth is an action and coaching is the action that helps the woman accomplish her task.
Is a vaginal birth after a cesarean possible? Of course it is. This is much easier to accomplish when you have great coaching skills such as Directed Breathing, The Pelvic Clock and Deep Touch Relaxation and have taken the time during pregnancy to learn them. However, your goal must be deeper. Your goal must be to learn coaching skills during pregnancy and use those coaching skills in whatever birth you have.
Empowered birth for everyone
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.
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.