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So I got an epidural for my VBAC. Get over it.

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Guest post by Andrea Owen


I love passionate people. I love when people take whatever makes them want to shout out from a mountain the thing that makes them sound like a preacher at a Baptist church.  They can rant, or write about it and people shout out, “AMEN!!” 

What I also love is VBAC. I love hearing about VBAC, reading about VBAC, telling my VBAC story, educating people about VBAC and anything that has to do with VBAC.

In 2009, after I had my daughter via VBAC, The Unnecesarean was nice enough to post my birth story to her Facebook page. In efforts to give people hope that a hospital VBAC is possible, even at hospitals with higher than normal cesarean rates (the hospital I had my daughter in had a 41% cesarean rate in 2008). As the comments came in, most were warm, supportive and comforting.

And then came the not-so-supportive.

While I can’t remember the exact words, but a couple of women commented on the fact that I had opted for an epidural (gasp!). Yes, the “E” word. I do remember one saying, “I don’t like how she was told when to push” and mostly how I, at 7 centimeters dilated, had opted for pain relief. I very much remember walking away from the computer feeling one very distinct thought:


I had done it ALL WRONG.


Forget the fact that I had fought tooth and nail against my OB to have a repeat cesarean. Forget the fact that I had spent time meditating and listening to my body and maternal instincts telling me, my body and baby were healthy enough to have a successful VBAC.  Forget the fact that I had to trust myself enough to go against my OB’s “recommendation” when he had 25+ years of experience.  I had chosen to get the epidural and


I had done it ALL WRONG.

Or so I was made to feel. Now, I get that the way I felt was all my own shit, and that no one can make me feel any sort of way unless I let them. But, here’s where I get to the meat (yep, that was just potatoes, y’all).

In the past couple of years since I’ve become passionate about birth, VBAC and women’s choices in birth and parenting, what I’ve come to realize is the radical thinking and opinions of many mothers when it comes to VBAC. And yes, I know who I’m writing for; The Unnecesearean is a blog dedicated to the education and support of VBAC and ending unnecessary and unwanted cesareans.  Every post on here is opinionated and in my opinion, serving the greater good. What gets my panties in a bunch are the mothers who think that natural birth is the only way. And again, I get it. I own a copy of “The Business of Being Born” and even got a little star struck when I met Ricki Lake and took a picture with her like a giddy little girl.  I believe natural birth is what we were made for.

But, you guys, we have SO FAR to go when it comes to VBAC. Just last week I was having dinner with some girlfriends and two of them didn’t know that a vaginal birth after cesarean was even allowed. So, my big, meaty point is can we please just support each other in VBAC no matter what? So few women are “allowed” a trial of labor that the preparation for both a natural birth as well as trying to prepare for the possibility of another cesarean can be so overwhelming. If a VBAC mother opts for the epidural, my God, she had a freakin’ VBAC!

I think it’s fine to educate those who want a VBAC and give credible resources on epidural during VBAC. But, at the end of the day, I’d much rather see a woman who got her vaginal birth with an epidural than one who was so afraid of going natural that opted for an unwanted repeat c-section.

As women, we are still fighting for so much. There is so much pressure on us to be so many things and to do all of it perfectly. (Don’t even get me started on how we’re supposed to “get our bodies back”). When it comes to VBAC, can we all just get along and agree that a VBAC is a VBAC? Like I said before, I think it’s great that women are passionate about things like birth, natural birth and attachment parenting, but let’s leave the ferocity for unnecessary cesareans or hospital VBAC bans.

And while we’re at it, how about we start with the assumption that women are fully capable of making autonomous decisions about their own bodies and medical care? Especially when it comes to VBAC, let’s assume women are educated about birth and the decision to have a vaginal birth after cesarean. Being hostile or judgmental about a VBAC’er getting an epidural is like complaining about a piece of trash you might find on the ground at the Sistine Chapel.

Let’s put the guns down and stop fighting each other in terms of natural birth and VBAC. Support VBAC no matter if the mother gets the epidural or not. 



Andrea Owen is a speaker and Certified Life Coach. She is passionate about helping women empower themselves to live their own kick-ass life. You can read more about her at www.yourkickasslife.com and find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/yourkickasslife.






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Reader Comments (96)

Thank you. I think we forget that what we are fighting for is choice and education. You should be able to choose whatever feels right to you once you have been educated, period.

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

Amen! :)

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnisa

Dawn, I agree with you. I also think it's pretty common to hear people dismiss the decision-making process of someone else as indicative of lack of education if it's different than their own.

June 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterJill

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for writing this. I had 2 unsuccessful hospital VBAC attempts. With my last I did everything right. Had a doula, chiropractic care for good baby position, labored at home as long as possible, etc. Being "allowed" to attempt the VBA2C was a battle in itself and a very emotional one at that. In the end, like with my previous VBAC attempt, my 9 lb 15 oz baby just would not descend all the way and I had a repeat cesarean. I wanted to share my story so much, because I was proud of what I tried to do and wanted to give support to other VBAC hopefuls even though it didn't work out for me.

The only thing that stopped me? I had an epidural. I've seen other women attack each other for this online and I knew I could not take the criticism of blaming my epidural for the VBAC not happening. I did the best I could, but I knew that wouldn't matter. Nor would the fact that I continued to change positions and move around after the epidural.

I am passionate about VBAC and VBA2C is especially close to my heart. I hope your article will help to foster an environment of support among VBAC crusaders!

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterqcmomto3

Thank you so much for this. I have to say that with my own birth story, had I gotten the epidural, I probably wouldn't have had to have the c-section. I labored a long time and pushed for many hours, with my daughter getting stuck because she was posterior. Had I had the epidural I could have been confortable enough to try different positions to try to turn her. Instead I ended up with a c-section and post traumatic stress disorder from the immense pain and having that birth "taken" from me. Needless to say, I have healed enough to know that my next will be an attempt at a VBAC, but I WILL be getting the epidural. Women need to realize that every mom's birth is different and everyone feels a different level of pain, mine ended up being very extreme. Women need to learn to be supportive of other mom's, instead of bringing them down for their choices! Makes me so mad! I attempted the all "natural" birth, and it has left me wanting to forget that day. Next time I will be going with my gut and doing what's best for ny baby and myself. Thanks again for this and congratulations on your beautiful VBAC and baby!

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoan

Nail on the head!! I fought for a VBAC, got my wish, my very educated, well-thought out wish, then ended up with a uterine and bladder rupture. I get "beat up" for choosing my VBAC too.

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeatherly

Reminds me of my friend who claimed a cookbook I loaned him wasn't "truly" vegetarian because some of the recipes said that frozen veggies were ok.

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRivka

Thank you Andrea. You are perfectly right. There is no ONE right way to give birth, there is only the right way for YOU to give birth. You deserve credit for going up against the establishment and getting your VBAC. Pain control is a very individual issue and it is simply not fair for someone to jump on you for getting an epidural. I would rather take AROM, Pitocin and an epidural than to have a repeat cesarean. But I would choose cesarean if that was the right decision for me. I'm an educated woman, I should not have to, although I may choose to, explain my reasoning to others. Let's be all be reasonable and understand that just because you didn't have an orgasmic water birth HBAC doesn't mean you didn't accomplish something wonderful and something I wince to even say "rare" in modern America. How about some show of support rather than Monday morning quarterbacking?

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPoppy Daniels

You're right, we need to support VBAC, no matter what. However, most women who follow this blog know that epidurals lead to unnecessary caesarians. When I hear your story, I think, "My goodness, you were lucky that all that fight to get your VBAC didn't blow up in your face when you got your epidural." I think about how I'd go about getting my VBAC and that I wouldn't for the world make a CHOICE that would dramatically increase my chances for a repeat c/s. I feel like I just witnessed a near miss. My anxiety level rose and I want to take you by the shoulders and say, "You made it through, but what were you thinking?!"

You don't need to answer that, but I imagine that is why some of us were up in arms. We were shocked by your decision given your fight to get a VBAC and we were motivated by our own physical response. I think about how it would feel to work so hard to get a VBAC and then fail because of something that is completely my choice. I would be double devastated.

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCindyBrady

Taking the liberty here since I know Andrea to say from the get-go that I don't believe that she is privileging a certain way of giving birth. Looking at this in context and with awareness of how hard it has become to get a vaginal birth, especially a vaginal birth after a previous cesarean, in U.S. hospitals, the fight to give birth in the manner of her choosing is what is being privileged (if anything). Ultimately (or rather, ideally), the unifying factor is receiving patient-centered, preference-sensitive care that allows for autonomous decision-making based on appropriate information on risks and benefits in an environment that supports the woman in choosing how she gives birth.

June 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterJill
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