You've recovered from your c-section and you're ready to welcome your next baby into your family. You've been researching your birth options, and you have decided you want to go for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). Maybe your c-section birth was traumatic or maybe you just don't want to go through another abdominal surgery unless absolutely necessary - it doesn't really matter WHY you chose a VBAC; the question you're facing now is, "What do I do next?"
Well, I'll tell you, and you should listen carefully. This could be the decision that makes or breaks your VBAC. A quick Google search would produce tons of recommendations for activities, birth classes, diets, supplements, chiropractic care and pretty much anything else you could imagine to help you along in your VBAC journey.
As a successful VBAC mom myself, however, I think there is one vital piece of the puzzle that will make all the difference in your VBAC plans -
A Supportive Birth Team.
You can do everything "right" and have the healthiest pregnancy ever, but if you don't have a birth team that supports your VBAC plans, you will have a much harder time following through with those plans.
First on my list were my mom and husband.
Of course, they both said they wanted to support me in whatever I decided, but it was also important to me that they know the research and the reasons behind why I chose to have a VBAC. I knew that when the exhaustion and hard work of labor took over, I would need them to know my wishes and be able to speak for me if I couldn't.
Next, I needed a new OBGYN.
In the state of South Carolina, there are limitations on VBAC moms. It is against the law in this state for a midwife to attend a VBAC birth outside of a hospital. That rules out homebirths or birth center births for moms like me who are uncomfortable with an unassisted birth. Here in Charleston and throughout the lowcountry though, we are fortunate that the majority of our hospitals do allow VBACs. Only a small number of OBGYN practices ban them altogether.
Unfortunately, I discovered that the obstetrician who delivered Bug via c-section was a part of one of the few practices with a VBAC ban. I knew I would have to break up with my doctor if I wanted to move forward with the birth I was planning. I'm not going to pretend it was an easy "Bye Felicia" to leave that practice. Most of the doctors I had experience with there were kind, wonderful people. My decision to leave was solely based on the fact that their practice did not align with my beliefs about my birth and my care. We women sometimes need to be reminded that we are the decision makers in our own births and health care. We have a right to ask questions or seek other opinions or break up with doctors who may not line up with our preferred standard of care.
If you aren't sure what to look for in a VBAC care provider, VBACFacts.com is a great resource and they have a list of questions to ask your care provider.
When I met with the doctor who would eventually care for me throughout my pregnancy with Bubba, I talked to her in depth about her feelings about VBAC and the success rate at the hospital where I would be delivering. She assured me that as long as baby and I were healthy, we would be treated like any other perfectly healthy mom and baby in the practice. She also told me that even if some special circumstance were to arise, they would not automatically push another c-section before exploring other options first.
Finally, I hired a doula.
A doula is someone who is trained to assist a woman and her family in labor. I knew that the hospital where I would be delivering is a large teaching hospital, and I would most likely end up with whatever on-call doctor was available when I happened to go into labor. I wanted to make sure I had someone with me who understands the labor process and would help me advocate for myself in the hospital.
People often tell me they are surprised that my doctor or hospital "allowed" me to labor as long as I did with my VBAC baby. I always tell them that's the value of a supportive care team. Even though I strongly disliked the resident who ended up delivering Bubba, I will say one thing in her favor - she never once tried to bully me into another c-section. By surrounding myself with a strong, supportive birth team, I was able to have a successful VBAC despite my long, exhausting labor.
There's one person I wish I had on my team though...
A birth photographer. I'm not saying that just because I'm a birth photographer either. We saved up in order to hire a doula, and I wish I had found a way to save more - sold stuff I didn't need - whatever I needed to do - in order to hire a birth photographer. I would give anything to have photos of the look on my face when they put that beautiful baby on my chest.
If you need a birth photographer for your "I did it" moment, click here to learn about my birth photography services.
So you’ve had a cesarean and now you’re considering another baby (or maybe already expecting another)… Now you have to decide what route to go for your birth this time around. Do you plan another c-section or do you plan a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean)?
As I mentioned in my C-Section Recovery Tips post, April is Cesarean Awareness Month. Continuing with that theme, I’m addressing another concern that is unique to c-section moms. Often the choice whether to plan a VBAC or a repeat c-section is an emotional one. For moms who had a long labor leading up to their first c-section, the fear of attempting a vaginal birth only to end up in surgery again often weighs heavy in this decision. For others, avoiding major abdominal surgery is the primary concern.
I could write an entire post about the research that led me to choose a VBAC for my second birth. For example, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends VBAC as a safe option with very low risk for most women with one or two prior cesareans. Also, a c-section is major abdominal surgery, and as such, inherently carries risks - many of which increase in likelihood with multiple surgeries.
However, this post is primarily about my personal experience with these two deliveries. As someone who has experienced both a c-section and a successful VBAC, I can share first-hand experience with the pros and cons of both types of delivery. After all, statistics can only tell you so much.
Every family has to make the choice that’s best for them based on their own experience and needs, but for me, it came down to one major deciding factor.
I knew that recovering from a c-section was difficult and long when I only had to take care of myself and a newborn. With my second, I was going to have myself, a newborn, and a toddler. I didn’t want the then 3-year-old Bug to be upset that I suddenly couldn’t pick her up and take care of her the same way I usually did. I wanted to make our transition into a family of four as easy as possible.
Usually when people hear about Bubba’s VBAC birth story, they either tell me it scares them into not wanting to try for a VBAC or they ask if I regret not scheduling a repeat cesarean instead.
I can see why they would think that. From an outsider’s perspective, my c-section was complication free. As far as surgeries go, it was pretty textbook. I healed well and honestly, my scar is barely even visible now. My vaginal birth was long and exhausting. Medical interventions were needed. I pushed for 3 hours. There was tearing (I’ll spare you the gory details). However, even taking all of that into consideration, I would STILL choose the vaginal birth every time because the RECOVERY experience was like night and day.
With my complication-free c-section, I struggled to walk normally for the first week. Even beyond that first week, if I was ever on my feet for too long, the soreness would creep in and I would often find myself hunched over, shuffling like a little old lady. I continued to take pain medications for at least 6 weeks, and many of my earliest memories of motherhood are foggy as a result. I needed help getting in and out of bed and generally struggled to take care of myself and the baby the way I wanted. Now, over five years later, I still have areas around my incision that are completely numb and certain waistbands on clothing cause discomfort and irritation.
With my “scary” vaginal birth, I’ll admit that first day was rough. I was exhausted and sore and generally felt like I had been beaten with a stick. However, I quickly started feeling better. I was walking around within 24 hours after birth - slowly but upright. The only pain medication I needed was ibuprofen and after the first couple of days, I only took one dose at night before bed to help me sleep. I stopped taking pain relievers completely less than 2 weeks after birth. As a matter of fact, Bubba was only 2.5 weeks old when I first took both kids on a fun outing by myself. I’m not sure I can truly express in words how much better and more capable I felt after my vaginal birth. My VBAC was two years ago, and I have had no long-term effects from the tearing or any other part of my vaginal birth.
All births are different, and, as I said before, all women need to make the decision that’s best for themselves and their family. In some cases, that may be a repeat c-section. No matter what priorities and criteria a woman uses to make this choice, her concerns are valid and she needs the most accurate information available to support her decision-making.
No matter what kind of birth you choose, you’re going to want a birth photographer there to capture the story of meeting your new baby for the first time! You can see some examples of my birth photography here.
If you’re considering a VBAC for your next birth, check back later this week for my last Cesarean Awareness Month post: The #1 Thing You Need For a Successful VBAC.
One of the things I love about being a birth photographer is seeing the babies when the families come back for other portraits as the littles grown up. I had a recent family session with a little one whose birth I photographed.
I have to be honest with you - I am NOT a morning person. I'm the type who will hit snooze as many times as humanly possible and make any excuse to avoid early morning activities. However, when it comes to sunrise sessions, I am a completely different person. I can't quite decide if it's because I just love my job that much or because nothing beats a Charleston sunrise (except maybe a Charleston sunset). Either way, I was up as soon as my alarm went off and happily headed out the door.
We were blessed with a beautiful, mild spring morning. We started with a few standard family portraits before moving to some mommy-daughter and daddy-daughter photos. We then walked to a different area of our location, and my camera was working the whole time. It's no secret that candid photos are my favorite. It's the best way to capture a little one's personality or the relationship between family members.
Once we made it to the next spot, we took a few more family portraits and some of mom and dad alone. You'd be amazed how often parents haven't had a nice photo as a couple since their wedding day, so I always try to get some photos of just mom and dad.
Enjoy this sneak peek and if you want to know more about my portrait services, click here.
Each April the International Cesarean Awareness Network sponsors Cesarean Awareness Month. According to their website, ICAN is "a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve maternal-child health by reducing preventable cesareans through education, supporting cesarean recovery, and advocating for vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC)."
As a birth photographer and a rockstar c-section mama myself, I know that cesarean births are just as beautiful and powerful and miraculous as any other birth. I also know that c-section moms have a unique struggle in the early postpartum weeks as they try to recover from major abdominal surgery while also adjusting to life with a newborn baby.
I was very fortunate to have a smooth c-section recovery after Bug's birth, and I attribute some of that to a few pieces of great advice from other mothers who had endured this surgery before me. I have compiled the top 3 recovery tips I found most helpful, and whether your c-section is scheduled or unplanned, I hope you find them useful as well.
1. Schedule Your Pain Meds
I am the queen of not taking medicine. I generally hate taking medicine of any kind but especially pain relievers. However, I learned very quickly after my c-section that all of my friends who told me to stay ahead of the pain knew what they were talking about. I still vividly remember one night when Bug was about 5 days old. I woke up in the middle of the night to feed and change her and realized it was time for another dose of my pain relievers. I had left my pill bottle in the kitchen and was feeling okay at the moment, so I decided to go back to sleep instead and take my dose later. It was only a few short hours later that I woke up screaming for my husband to bring me the medicine.
After an informal poll of my fellow c-section mom friends, the general consensus is to set an alarm and take your pain medication on a schedule for at least the first week. After that, you can slowly start stretching out some of the doses and start weaning yourself away from the meds. In my case, it took a full six weeks after Bug's birth before I was able to go a full day without any medication at all.
2. Embrace The Granny Panties
I know. I know. You are a young, amazing, sexy new mama. Granny panties are not your thing. Well, guess what? They're going to be your new best friend. Make sure they're soft and the waist band comes well above your incision site (you don't want to risk them rolling down onto your incision). For the first several days post c-section, I wore the mesh panties you get from the hospital. However, it eventually becomes unreasonable to wear those, but your incision will be tender for quite a while. I honestly can't tell you how long it was before I felt comfortable wearing panties with a lower cut waistband, but it was months. Honestly, even 5 years later, I sometimes find certain types of elastics irritating on my scar after wearing them for a long time. The good news is that high-waisted bikinis are totally in fashion right now, so at least bathing suit season will be one less thing you have to worry about!
3. Give Yourself Grace
Honestly, this one piece of advice could be applied to ALL new moms, but it's particularly important for c-section moms. You are recovering from MAJOR. ABDOMINAL. SURGERY.
You might see Jane NaturalBirth down the street taking her six-day-old baby out for a short walk, but you still can't even stand up straight and need help getting out of bed. That's okay though because...
MAJOR. ABDOMINAL. SURGERY.
It's so important to remember what your body has been through and not try to push yourself to do what you "think" you should be able to do at any point. So you actually have to take people up on those offers to help or clean or cook? That's great! After Bug was born, we had so many friends and family members bring us food that I swear I did not touch my kitchen for a solid month. That meant even more time for me to rest and recuperate and snuggle my perfect new baby girl. My mom usually helped out by cleaning up a little when she came over, and I had friends and cousins who folded loads of laundry while I sat nursing the baby. I give you full permission to pull the "I had major abdominal surgery" card whenever needed - diaper changes, dishes, anything. Honestly, I think we c-section moms should be able to use that card for the full first year - but maybe that's just me.
Now I know you may be struggling with a wide variety of feelings about having a c-section - I know I did - and that's okay! You are allowed to feel however you feel about your birth. I just want to remind you that no matter what happened in the events leading up to your cesarean, you are an amazing mom! You literally laid yourself out on an OR table and allowed yourself to be cut open for the sake of your baby. There's a special kind of beauty and strength in that.
I hope these tips are as helpful in your recovery as they were in mine! If you're a veteran cesarean mama too, share your best recovery tips in the comments!
Here's to the moms on the day before Easter.
Here's to the moms hustling to finish those last minute holiday surprises.
Here's to the moms who are just now dyeing Easter eggs because this week has been crazy and you kind of forgot until today.
Here's to the moms who are putting the final touches on Easter outfits that will probably only be worn for a couple of hours tomorrow.
Here's to the moms who are trying to teach their kids the real story of Easter so it doesn't drown in a sea of colorful plastic eggs.
Here's to the moms who will be stuffing eggs and filling baskets after the kids are in bed.
Here's to the moms who will probably get very little, if any, of the credit for the fun and memories of tomorrow - but you won't really care because the joy on those little faces will be payment enough.
I'm raising my glass to you from here in front of my sewing machine while eggs boil in the kitchen to be dyed later today. Here's to us.
Are you located in the Lowcountry and currently expecting?
Is your due date in either May or June 2018?
Are you interested in having the birth of your new baby artfully photographed to capture the story of this very important day?
If you answered yes to the questions above, I have an amazing, limited-time offer for you! I am in the process of creating some new promotional material, and I'm looking for 2 or 3 Charleston-area moms who would be willing to sign a model release in exchange for a 50% discount on ANY of my birth photography packages.
It does not matter what type of delivery you are planning: hospital birth, planned csection, home birth, birth center, etc. I think birth is beautiful in all of its forms, and want to represent all moms in my work.
I will not offer a discount like this again in the future, so now is your chance! Keep in mind, I'm only choosing a limited number of moms, so contact me now to make sure you don't miss out on this opportunity!
To apply, click here to go to my Contact form. Please enter your name, email, due date, and where you plan to deliver. I will then email you more information about my packages and planning your consultation.
If you have any questions, you can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
It's confession time: I barely touched my camera outside of client sessions this week. I took a couple of iPhone shots of things my kids were doing, but the Life in 52 challenge was far from my mind most of the time. Not only have I been busy editing client sessions, I also found out this week that I'm going to be having surgery after Easter.
Something about the mom of the household having surgery and being out of commission for a little while seems to create a cloud of impending doom. I have an incredibly capable husband who is also a phenomenal dad and we have plenty of family and friends around who are going to help. It's just that there's so much every day minutiae that we moms handle unnoticed by others - can I get an amen?
I've been a flurry of domestic chaos trying to make sure everyone has plenty of clean laundry and planning one big grocery shopping trip to stock up on everyone's favorite snacks for a few weeks. Of course, I've also got to finish making my kids' Easter outfits and preparing their baskets.
Anyway, on Friday, all of my social media newsfeeds were bombarded with photos of everyone's adorable puppies. It seems it was "National Puppy Day." I'm not sure who made that holiday up, but as I glanced over at my snoozing dog, I thought, "Maybe it's time to feature a photo of something other than my children."
So meet Ellie Mae. We adopted her from the Charleston Animal Society in 2011, a little over 6 months after we got married. She's a mutt - most likely a mix of pit bull and some kind of terrier. She has a boisterous, scary-sounding bark, but I can assure you that she is the sweetest and most skittish dog you will ever meet. She had endless energy as a puppy, but now she mostly likes to lay around on this big stuffed giraffe pillow, dozing the day away.
Spring is just around the corner and for photographers of every kind, that means the business is picking up. I'm so excited for all of the newborns, babies, and families I'll be photographing in the coming months, and I'm sure you're all looking forward to reading about something other than my adventures with my kids! However, I must admit, I do enjoy the slower season that winter brings. I've enjoyed this time of turning my camera towards the beautiful, everyday moments in my own home.
This last week of calm has been so precious to me. I ended up submitting 3 different photos to the Life in 52 lifestyle photography challenge this week.
First, my husband decided to take Bug out for a special daddy-daughter dinner for some one on one time. She was SO EXCITED. She asked me to help her pick out the perfect dress and to style her hair in a bun. My heart could have exploded with love that day.
Later in the week, Bug wanted some arts and crafts time. She received a kit for Christmas to create and decorate stepping stones. She's been begging to make one and we finally had everything we needed to get it done this week. After it dried and we took it out of the mold, Bug got started painting the stone. When Bubba saw her, he came to me with his little, chubby toddler hands out saying, "Mommy, me paint too!"
I poured a few colors of washable paint onto a paper plate and gave him a small paint brush and a piece of paper. The house was blissfully peaceful for a solid half an hour while they created their masterpieces.
I'll admit we don't paint around here often. It's so cumbersome to cover the table and pull out all the supplies and, of course, clean up afterwards. However, every time we do something creative and messy, it brings such happiness and calm that I end up thinking to myself, "We really should do this more often."
Maybe my goal this spring will be to find the time to make more messes.
See more from the Life in 52 challenge here.
I love photos. I mean I know that sounds obvious because I'm a photographer, but I really do! I've hired photographers for many occasions - both big and small - in the past because it's a service that I value.
We've been in our new house for 6 months now, and I'm still struggling to decide what to hang on my living room walls. I have this one big blank wall that would be perfect for a gallery wall. The problem is I'm going through years of photos trying to decide which ones to display.
As I was sifting through photos, I came across a few from a breastfeeding session I had done when Bug was a little chubby baby. They are photos I cherish.
I had to wean Bug almost as soon as she turned 2 years old. She was only nursing once at night before bed by that point, but it was still bittersweet. My husband and I were ready for another baby, but in order to be treated by the fertility specialist and begin medications necessary for me to conceive, I had to stop breastfeeding. I ended that sweet part of my relationship with my precious girl so that we could add another little love to our family.
As I sat fondly looking through these photos, I realized I don't have any nursing photos with Bubba! I have one photo in the hospital from his first latch, but that's it. I really wanted to take a moment to document this time with him too.
He turned two in January, and he really only nurses maybe 3 times a day now. People who say that moms who nurse toddlers are only doing it for themselves have clearly never nursed a toddler. My son likes to point out and name my facial features while he nurses:
Let me tell you... little toddler fingers getting shoved in my eyes and nose are not exactly my idea of a good time.
There are days when I'm so over nursing him, and I just want to be done. There are days that he only wants me, but I'm so touched out, I could scream.
However... I love being the calm in his crazy. I honestly don't know how much longer we'll go on nursing. There's a chance he's my last baby, so I'm not going to rush him. I will sit and snuggle and nurse... and I will count it all joy.
See more of my photos from the Life in 52 photography challenge here.
Being a birth photographer means I get to celebrate birthdays a lot. It's obvious that each new life that enters this world will have a major impact on the family he or she is born into; however, we don't often stop to think about the ripple effect this baby will have on the future. The person he will grow up to be; the career she will one day choose; the friendships and relationships formed.
Today, we're throwing it back to a birth that happened four and a half years before I was even born, but it changed the trajectory of my life forever. This week we celebrated my husband's birthday. When we got married, I started the tradition of baking a cake for him on his birthday every year. Some years, he requested a specific type of cake (German chocolate cake). Other years, I found a recipe I thought he would love (cookies and cream cheesecake).
When my daughter was two years old, she started joining the fun. She has been helping me pick the cake and icing colors ever since.
This year we made a chocolate chip cookie cake with blue icing and heart sprinkles.
In this week's Life in 52 photo, Bug is explaining that she chose heart sprinkles because "hearts mean love" and she loves him so much!