Leah Marshall originally wanted a vaginal birth for her first baby. But like a lot of first-time mommies, she encountered several problems during delivery that ultimately did lead to an emergency c-section. Her baby turned out to be quite large, weighing nine pounds and six ounces and positioned “sunny side up” causing her cervix to swell up instead of open. Her contractions were also very abnormal with “double peaking,” even after the pitocin arrived. Leah tells me that at the time, doctors were unaware that all of these factors were perhaps caused by her son’s size, his positioning, or a combination of both.
After a successful c-section brought her son into the world, Leah’s doctors suggested that she default c-sections on all future additions to her family. But even though vaginal birth carries some risks following an initial c-section, Leah committed to a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section) to achieve the birth experience that she wanted.
When Leah became pregnant with her second baby, she started to experience many of the uncomfortable symptoms she remembered with her first pregnancy. During both pregnancies, she suffered from severe inflammation and pain in her public symphysis, which was relieved by routine visits to a chiropractor.
“[With my first pregnancy], I was often unable to walk more than from the couch to the bathroom, and I knew that would never do when I had a preschooler to chase as well,” she remembers. “The chiropractor believed that whatever structural abnormalities led to my pain probably impacted my labor.”
Leah describes her general practitioner as “disapproving” of both her choice to attempt a VBAC but also her interest is seeking out midwives for her prenatal care. Her mother-in-law, a labor and delivery nurse for over 20 years, also initially expressed concern, convinced that Leah was unaware of the risks. There was also the assumption from friends and acquaintances that she was “some sort of deluded hippie feminist” for taking an active decision in her birth.
“While I am often deluded, have a few hippie tendencies, and am certainly a feminist, I am also a fairly typical suburban mom,” she says. “Mostly the attitude seemed to be that was I taking a ridiculous risk, and I should just trust that the doctors who wanted me to have a second c-section knew better. And while I was really committed to a trial of labor, I can’t claim that as my due date drew near, I wasn’t terrified that I was making a terrible decision.”