I was 20 when I got pregnant with my first child.

I made all the typical assumptions back then. I went to my primary doctor for an OB referral having no idea I had options.

I thought that I would go to the OB and he would tell me all I needed to know about birth. I would take the “Lamaze” class at the hospital, and then I’d be on my merry way and have a baby.

They talked about c-sections in that class, but I didn’t really listen because it was never going to happen to me.

The only reading I really did was the obligatory “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and was way more focused on the nursery and what kinds of gadgets I needed for this little human.

I made all the typical first-time parent mistakes, when it came to the birth. Like running to the hospital at the first sign of labor. I was only 2-3 centimeters when I arrived, and instead of heading home–which to be honest I didn’t even know was an option–I was admitted.

Back then, they monitored constantly (in some hospitals they still do) and made me lie ONLY on my left side. I had no idea that I was officially on some sort of clock.

After laboring through the night, the contractions slowed significantly and there was not much change in my dilation. I wasn’t really in labor yet, but I didn’t know that. The doctor came for his morning rounds and said I needed Pitocin.

Well, he’s the doctor. If he says it’s what I need than I must, but little did I know that it was the beginning of the snowball.

Pitocin, Epidural, no change in my cervix, break the waters, baby in distress, fetal monitor on her head, wires and cords everywhere.

Things are changing fast suddenly. The baby is showing signs of distress; we need to do a c-section right now. There’s a lot of people in my room, then running me down a hall to the OR.

OH! Halleluiah! They saved my baby’s life!

“Your baby was just too big to fit”. Or, so they told me afterwards.

“You are lucky you were here. Back in the day, you would have been one of those women who died in childbirth”. Those were the exact words from my doctor.

It would be many years later that I would hear the phrase “pit to distress”. At the time though, I hung on to the idea that they had saved her, that she and I may have died if they hadn’t intervened. I loved the drama of the story I had to tell and oh, did I tell it!

When I got pregnant with my second child, there was no question about whether I would try for a vaginal birth.

I spent my entire pregnancy being told by my doctor that it was risky and I really shouldn’t do it with no real facts to support what he was telling me.

No one around me understood why I wouldn’t just schedule my c-section. But recovering from a cesarean was no joke and I didn’t want to experience that again.

During labor with him, the back labor was horrible. Then to make matters worse, the nurse reminded me on several occasions that no one really ever has a VBAC. “It just doesn’t work.” Why was I putting myself through this? she would ask.

After a few hours of back labor, I decided she and everyone else must be right. Go ahead, there must just be something wrong with my body, cut him out.  And they did.

Another big baby. That must be it. I just can’t birth big babies.

Years later, I would become a doula, and learn the ins and outs of birth. I would suddenly process my births all over again, but this time with the truth about a broken system that bases decisions more on liability and financial concerns than what might be best for mom and baby.

My passion grew like a wildfire. I couldn’t get enough. I wanted everyone to know the truth. “Why aren’t women being told these things?!” “Why aren’t they being given all the information to make decisions?”

The anger would come, the frustration and the desire to save everyone.

Reality comes crashing in at some point. I can’t save them all, no matter how passionate I am. I can only help the ones that seek me out. I couldn’t talk to the random moms in the park about why their c-section may not have been necessary. They didn’t get it, nor did they want to hear it. I realized quickly that they must be ready and have a desire to know.

But on the other hand, like moths to a flame, the VBAC moms started seeking me out. The universe works that way. You attract things and after a while, doctors who supported doulas started referring their VBAC patients to me often.

I became the VBAC queen. I loved helping those families have successful VBACs. I wanted to be that cheerleader telling them they could, knowing they were being bombarded by people who said they couldn’t.  It also helped me heal from my own pain.

After six years of being a doula, I would finally get my chance. I would fix it all. Heal all the pain and disappointment. I would not only have a vaginal birth, but I would do it at home with no drugs.

It had been twelve years since my last child. I had so much knowledge; this would be great!

When my labor finally started, everything seemed to be going great except my back was really hurting.

No matter how much prep work I had done to make sure she was in a good position, she never budged from way back on my right side.

I didn’t care. I was going to do this, back labor or not.

Once active labor began, I didn’t tell anyone about the sharp burning pain in front near my incision sight with every surge. I knew full well that I would be off to the hospital in no time because it was a clear sign that something wasn’t right–but there was no way I was going to the hospital!  Besides, I was progressing well. When my midwife arrived, I was already 6 centimeters, further than either of my other two births.

I progressed to 8cm only two hours later, and the baby was very low. I kept feeling the urge to push. It would come and I would begin to push, but my back, oh my back.

Then this sharp burning pain would shoot through me and I would have to stop pushing. It hurt too much but I did this repeatedly for four hours.

Something wasn’t right and eventually, my surges spread out from two minutes apart to 20 minutes apart.

I told my midwife that something had to change – break my water or something! Out of the water and up the stairs to my bedroom we went so she could monitor the baby while breaking my water.

She didn’t even have to; it broke on its own just as she was going to do the exam. When she did my exam, I knew something was wrong. I was thinking, “Oh, my God, I’m still the same.” To my dismay, it was much worse than that.

My baby had gone back up and my cervix had closed back down to three centimeters.

I’m pretty sure my eyes bulged out of my head. I was so over it! They tried to convince me to stay and rest because I was getting good breaks in between. But I knew I had to tell them about the sharp burning I had been dealing with.

Needless to say, there was no more discussion and I was off to the hospital in no time flat.

I would share all the hassle about what happened after we arrived at the hospital, but it seems pointless. The errors were ridiculous and it took from 9:30 am until 3:30 pm before my daughter was born via cesarean.

I wound up being in surgery for almost two hours because I had so much scar tissue. It was so thick it prevented my baby from moving into a good position and the pulling of the scarring was what caused the burning.

I was devastated. My previous c-sections would come back to haunt me after all. I never imagined this could happen. Here I was the VBAC queen. I had all the knowledge. How could this happen to me? No one doubted for a minute that my homebirth vbac would happen.

My birthy friends all looked on the bright side. Now all that scar tissue is gone, when you have another baby it will be different and only four months later, I would find out I was pregnant again.

I worried. Had enough time passed for my scar to heal? Was I crazy for wanting to try again? Would I hurt myself or my baby?

Everyone supported me and loved me into believing I just had to try again. I wouldn’t just throw in the towel. I would be better prepared for the possibility and the likelihood of another c-section this time. I just had to try.

On my due date, surges started, but I knew it was early and my instinct told me it would still be a couple of days. The next day, the surges were still there, stronger but pretty far apart. That night, though, I knew it was going to be a long one.

I was able to sleep for about an hour, when it became obvious that sleeping was no longer an option. I relaxed with my hypno-babies cd and rocked in a chair for a couple of hours alone in the dark.

The surges were still only ten minutes or so apart but by 3 am, they were rocking my world. Strong, powerful and six minutes apart. It was time to call in the troops.

My husband woke up and called my doula. She lives close by, so she arrived less than 20 minutes later. My husband explained how far apart they were, only to have four surges in the first twelve minutes she was there.

Things were rocking.

The next call went out to my midwives, who would come about an hour later. Everything seemed perfect. I was not having any of the same feelings I had had with my last birth, except my back was beginning to hurt again even though I knew he was in a great position.

I still worried I would only be three centimeters or something crazy like that  but at my request, my midwife checked me right away.

I was almost complete! Just a small lip!

Oh joy! I cried, I was so happy, there were no words. Back in the water I went.

Wait until the urge to push comes”.  But it just didn’t come and my back, my damn back! It was excruciating.

All the feelings from my last birth came crashing in. I felt like I was on this horrible roller coaster ride and couldn’t get off. I was doing the same loop over and over again.

Maybe if I just try and push, Oh God no, that hurts even more.

Let’s check again. My midwife said, “I think I feel scar tissue”.

Seriously? Scar tissue? Wasn’t I the one who just got all this attention for writing an article about scar tissue and the issues it can cause during labor for my clients? Never considering for a moment that I had any myself.

I’m pretty sure my exact words were, “Well, rub the crap out of it then!” She explained that it wouldn’t feel very good and I responded that it couldn’t be worse than what was going on already.

There was some cursing and homeopathic involved and off I went, trying different positions and then eventually off to the water again.

I’m pretty sure from this point forward I used up a good year’s supply of curse words, my favorite being the “F” word. I don’t talk this way normally, but for whatever reason it was the only thing in my vocabulary that seemed strong enough of a word to express myself. It had power.

Lots of whining commenced as well.

“I can’t do this, you guys.”

“Seriously, I can’t.”

I would say this to anyone who would listen to me. I would change people hoping that one of them would take my side but they all just kept saying I could do it and that I needed to stop saying that I couldn’t.

“This is what you wanted”. The “F” I did! I didn’t sign up for this shit!

Then I would change and start chanting during the surge, “I can do this, I can do this”; then about halfway through, I would say, “No, no I can’t.” Please take me to the hospital! It’s not working, just cut him out. Forget it!

I did start feeling pressure a bit so I tried pushing a little. It hurt like hell, but I had to try. I pushed and pushed, nothing seemed to change. I went back to whining and cussing again.

“Let’s go inside and check again. See if the baby has moved down more.” My response is, No! I’m done, this baby is not coming out. I have been pushing with all my might and he is not budging; oh, yeah and it hurts like a motherf-er! 

Up the stairs I went anyway, whining all the way. I was ready to drive myself to the hospital, call a cab, whatever it took to get there.

“Let’s push past this lip, you can do it!” Everyone is chanting, “Come on, Dawn.”

My husband is saying, “Come on, honey, you can do this.” I’m pushing and screaming, because OH MY GOD, it hurts. “Here he comes, you’re doing it!”

No, I’m not! He is not coming! I don’t feel him coming. You are all just saying that! I’m gonna be here for 2 more hours pushing and he won’t come! I’m not gonna do it! (I’m still pushing my guts out while saying all this.) I hear my husband beside me: “Honey, I see his head.”

No you don’t!

“Come on Dawn, push! Why would we lie to you? Look, touch his head.”

I don’t feel it!

Push again! Oh, my God, the pressure suddenly! Ok, maybe he is coming.

“Dawn, he is crowning, feel his head again.”

Holy crap, he really is there! I feel his wrinkly head and WOW, that ring of fire is for real!.

“Come on, Dawn, nice and slow now. Ease your baby out. Slow, slow, slow, now stop.”

The relief of his head coming out was fabulous but now, what about the rest of him? Is he stuck? What’s up with that? Come on, seriously? I just wanted the rest of him to slip out like I’d seen 100 times.

But No, I had to push every inch of this guy out. I should have known he was big.

“Dawn, reach down and pull your baby out.”

It took me a minute. I couldn’t wrap my brain around what they were saying.

“Dawn, get your baby.”

And I did! I reached down and put my hands under his arms and pulled him the rest of the way out, on to my chest with pure disbelief.

Only twenty minutes had passed since I was calling that cab to come get me and here he was, in my arms, on my bed at home. Nearly a full pound larger than any of my other children.

So much for that theory.

After thoughts:

One of the things that frustrates me the most about the high cesarean rate and low VBAC rate is when women are discussing their options, its focused only on the immediate risks of surgery. We don’t tell them about the long-term risks to both them and their babies. They aren’t being told about the significant increased risk for obesity, asthma and gut issues in our children when they are born via cesarean.

We are not being given all the information to make an informed choice and that is an inexcusable shame.

In addition to that, there was not a single hospital that would have “allowed me” and supported my informed decision to attempt a vaginal birth after three cesareans, even though the safest place for me in case of emergency, would have been the hospital.

To those deciding on a VBAC or not. The fear never really leaves you until that baby is in your arms but the more you know, the less scared you are. Information is power. VBACFacts is an incredible resource with handouts and workshops for both families, birth workers and professionals.

I think I made it very clear in my story that this would have never happened without my birth team. It turned out that I was the only one in the room at that moment who didn’t believe I could do it.

Surrounding yourself with the right support team plays a significant part in a successful VBAC. You can read the 10 Steps to Finding a VBAC Supportive Provider to help guide you.

So was I nuts? There are people who would say so, but in the end, my son is by far the healthiest of all my children, now nearly 8 years old. His immune system is robust and I feel deeply connected to him.

VBAC is a deeply personal choice and its certainly not for everyone. Unfortunately for many, it’s not even an option because so many providers don’t even offer it as an option which goes against all major health organizations suggested guidelines.

So please, if you are considering a VBAC, weigh all your options and information and make the best decision for you.


About the Author:

Dawn Thompson is the proud mother of 6 children, having birthed 4 of them. The vaginal birth of her son Luke was so profound and empowering that she went on just a year later to found what is now the most active consumer advocacy group for maternity care in the US, ImprovingBirth.

She believes that when families are fully informed about their birth options, that they will make the best decisions for them and their baby’s. She also believes that providers have the responsibility to understand all the options and educate their patients without being coercive or manipulative and support their decisions making even if it goes against their personal opinion.

You can get more information about Dawn at www.DawnThompson.me

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  1. Kristy says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Have you ever heard of someone having a vbac after their doctor tore their uterus trying to get the baby out? I am DESPERATE for similar stories

  2. Kristy says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Thank you for sharing this. This gives me a lot of hope. I was wondering if you had heard of any women whos surgeon tore the sides of their uterus during their c section getting the baby out. Because of that reason and also that doctor is HUGE on repeat c sections, he advised me not to bother trying. I desperately want a vbac and have been absolutely traumatised by what the doctor told me he did to me and i have scoured the internet searching for similar experiences but can’t find anything.

  3. Tiara Collins says:

    I am on my 4th pregnancy. My first child i was scared into c section and then because my last two where all two years behind each I was forced into a c sections. I really think my body can have a successful vbac but, i need help to find a team that is similar to yours. How can I go about finding ppl that would help?

    1. improving2 says:

      Tiara, are you still seeking a supportive provider?

  4. carolina necastro says:

    ladies those of you that posted late last year that you were pregnant please tell us, did you have successful VBACs? i hope so

  5. Isabel says:

    Thank you for your story.i just discovered I am pregnant.i have 2 c sections and would really love to try a Vbac I’m worried this option won’t even be made available to me.what should I do?

  6. Amanda says:

    I have had 3 c sections back to back and have been told no more kids as my lining is to thin and can cause complications my kids are nearly 5 , 3 1/2 and 16 months ?

  7. Jessica says:

    I’m on my 4th child and I had 3 previous c sections. I’m freaking out. Is this safe? Am I able to do a natural birth?

  8. Anna says:

    Hi. Ive had 3 c sections. Ive had choleostasis with all 3 pregnancies. My 1st I was induced early due to high blood pressure and because of the choleostasis. I dont think my body was ready. I just didnt progress past 4cm. They kept bugging me about c section and epidural… I kept saying no to both. After 20 hrs or so i gave in to the epidural. A few hrs after that they said babies heart beat went in distress. I had c section.
    Next baby 2 1/2 years later everything was going well up until 36 wks and i developed choleostatsis again. My enzyme levels got very high and apparently i was close to liver failure. They didnt want to induce me due to the dangers of the incision rupturing. I was 37wks. Had another c section. Baby girl was born. 10 months later… Surprise. Im pregnant. They wouldnt even hear of a vbac. Scheduled my c section. I went into labour 4 days before that on my own. Oh how i wish i would have just stayed home longer until it may have been to late for c section. But i was scared due to all they tell you… The risks are so high… And so on… So to the hospital we went. Sure enough i was in labour. They did a c section right away. Earlier this year I had a miscarriage at 18wks. I delivered that baby. The contractions were almost unbearable. And the pain went deeper im sure because i knew i was delivering my baby to soon… He wasnt alive. But im greatful for the experience. I always wanted a vaginal birth. Now i had one. And a baby in heaven. Currently im 12wks pregnant. I have a midwife. But ive already been told a vbac isnt an option. My husband wants to switch to different midwives who support our decision… Im so scared. Can I really do this?? And most likely I’ll ha e choleostasis again… And that increases risk of stillborn. Is it worth it to have my vaginal birth and than mayne end up with a stillborn baby?! The unknown is just so hard… Im a Christian… And i know i should Trust. Gos can do anything…. Sometimes just trusting is so hard!!

  9. Glory says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I had my first and second via c session just a year and seven month interval though i lost the second babythis year,i long to have a virginal birth how long can i stay before geting pregnant i need an urgent answer please thaks

  10. Schola says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Thanks for sharing ur story. I have already planned on having VBAC after my second c-s. My Doctor refuses saying is very risky but my Mid- wife agrees. Now am a most 40 weeks. Pls I need suggestions on how to go about this becos I really want labour to start.

  11. Smith Caleb says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Sound so nice!

    I’ll contribute to this author and his future publications.
    The article is well organized, educated me http://www.rtjournal.org/how-to-write-a-definition-essay/. I see the author has a true knack for this topic.
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  12. Donella says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Hi all, I’m writing this because I am on my 4th pregnancy and want to have a Vbac after 3 cesareans. Like everyone else I feel like I was forced into cesareans and never given a chance to go into labor let alone deliver naturally. I’m older and wiser now and have been doing endless research and feel like pregnant women are lab rats. I’m refusing to go to the hospital until my water breaks this time. Especially during covid-19. I’m praying God give me strength to deliver my baby naturally for the first time ever. It’s very sad this has been taken away from us.

  13. Eva Marie Eckles says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I’m 36 wks into my 4th pregnancy and my dr is pro-vbac… My first pregnancy was induced @ 38 wks and ended in an emergency c-section… My next 2 pregnancies were scheduled c-sections and I’m just now learning that vbac is an option for me and my daughter… I’m extremely unsure of which decision to make, but want to make the right decision for us both since this will be my last baby… I’m so grateful to have found your article and would greatly appreciate your opinion… Thank you and God bless…

  14. Aurora Harris says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I am pregnant NOW with my 4th child. I have had all C-sections and at this point I do not want to have another. I want to try a VBA3C … My doctor refuses. I want to just go to all my appointments and then sit around and wait for my water to break on it’s own and deliver naturally at home. (Not really) I would honestly consider a water birth but no one wants to avoid a 4 C-section. I’m stressing over this.

  15. Chastity Fore says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I have had three C-sections. My last c section was 5 years ago. I was never allowed to push. Now I am having another baby. And they’re telling me. I have to have another C-section because of uterine rupture. But I’m reading about all these success stories and I think that I can. But the option is being taken away from me. What can I do?

  16. Chelse says:

    Thank you for posting this! Being so much clarity and hope for my possible 4th birth. Praying to conceive this year and My last 3 babies were all c-sections. My first being almost identical to your first and hence then started the spiral of 2 more scheduled cesareans afterwards. I was so in educated and naive back then but now I want a different outcome and I’m praying since it’s been almost 9 years my 4th pregnancy will end in a vback maybe even a hback. But it’s definitely going to have its challenges.

  17. Rachel gonzales says:

    I have had 4 c sections has anyone had a v back after 4

    1. improving2 says:

      Yes, it does happen on occasion. Send us an email, and we can try to connect you with others who have VBA4C. admin@improvingbirth.org

  18. Rachel gonzales says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Has anyone had a v back after 3 c sections

  19. Angela eastling says:

    I have had 3 csection I’d really like to try to have a natural birth with my next child but I am not sure if I should

  20. Celeuka says:

    This helps a little. I was told I only have a 23 percent chance of a vbac. I have had one C-section and before that 3 years ago I had a laproscopy because of an unknown tubal pregnancy. My doctor’s are forcing another C-SECTION on me. I guess my scar tissue is too much. I want a vaginal but they told me I couldn’t have one unless I spontaneously went into labor or my water broke. Although my husband is excited I’m not necessarily because I’m the one that has to go through hell to have the baby and they told me my baby is already too big. I feel like they take everything from me just because they think they can. They never tried working along with me to have a vaginal birth it’s oh well you already had one C-section so of course you have to have another one no if ands or buts about it.

  21. Hussaina says:

    Thanks 4 sharing your story.it was really a relief for me bcos I had 2 c section and am now pregnant and am told I couldn’t have VBA2csec .D dr schedule d date of d c sec to 2weeks 4rm now and am so scared.am told not to try going into labour cos I may likely try and fail which is worse.what should I do pls?my second baby is now 3yrs6month I thought my scar is healed enough for Virginal birth but d doctors aren’t helping.

    1. improving2 says:

      Where are you located and where are you planning to birth? Please email us if you prefer to keep this information private. admin@improvingbirth.org

  22. Amber Wood says:

    I loved your story. I want to do a hba3v but I am scared. They told me also with my first She was to big. My second they did not even tell me about a vbac and I knew nothing of one. My third was suppose to be a vba2c but I had gestational diabetes and they told me my baby was going to be to big but she came out 6lbs 9oz the smallest of the 3. I also had a window in my uterus. I don’t wanna give up. I want a natural birth just scared. Thank you so much for sharing you story.

  23. Tzila says:

    Dawn, I loved your story – and I almost thought it was my own story since it was so similar to yours- exept that im still waiting for that last part to happen. Im being scheduled for a fourth c-secion , but part of me still believes I can do that vba3c, and I so much want to (my second child was a vbac after only 1 csection, and it was such a wonderful feeling.)
    My doctor scheduled the csection for this coming Tuesday. Im praying for a miracle.

    1. ImprovingBirth says:

      Remember, you have every right to decline and not show up for the scheduled c-section. You are the ultimate decision-maker about your care.

  24. Dawn, thank you for writing this — and for reminding everyone of the sexual-abuse culture — YES — of ACOG OBGYN – the ‘pit to distress’ fraternity cult who thinks every woman should fit into their McBirth protocol. OBGYN is the only ‘science’ that doesn’t allow the physiologic bell curve (though now they’re admitting that maybe they should let labor start on its own, and maybe do fewer episiotomies). Your work and organizing is helping to change this toxic culture — in which, we could say, woman have no civil rights. I hope we can mobilize all the activist and critical thinkers to reform women’s health. Your story is evidence of the woman-centered flexibility we need; thank you for all you’re doing.

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