International Cesarean Awareness Network » Education. Support. Advocacy. Wed, 05 Aug 2015 02:00:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 ICAN Names Melissa Mathewson the July 2015 Volunteer of the Month Wed, 22 Jul 2015 23:57:22 +0000 Continue reading →]]> Melissa Matthewson July 2015  Volunteer of the Month

Melissa Matthewson
July 2015
Volunteer of the Month

The International Cesarean Awareness Network is powered by the selfless efforts of our numerous volunteers. We cannot thank our dedicated volunteers enough for their cooperation and service in assisting ICAN with accomplishing its mission.

In an effort to acknowledge some of our amazing volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to offer support, education, and advocacy for the mothers in their area, the International Cesarean Awareness Network is pleased to announce Melissa Mathewson as the July 2015 Volunteer of the Month.

Melissa Mathewson, this month’s honoree, is a chapter leader with ICAN of Jackson, MS. During her time with ICAN of Jackson, Melissa has provided a space for women in her area to find information and support regardless of where they are in their birth journeys.


Get to know our July 2015 Volunteer of the Month:


How long have you been an ICAN member?

I have been a member since 2012.


How did you first find ICAN?

I posted on the La Leche League Facebook page that I ended up with a cesarean after planning a natural birth with my first son. The ICAN leader at that time invited me to the ICAN of Jackson Facebook page and the meeting that next month. It was just what I needed to validate the feelings I was having that nobody else seemed to understand.


What motivates you as a volunteer?

I truly want EVERY woman to know that they have choices in pregnancy and birth. I want to help women find their voice and stand up for their rights. To know that there are truly supportive providers who do actually practice evidence-based care. I also passionately care about supporting women who’ve had a birth experience that was less than desirable or even traumatic. I know so much good can come from a compassionate listening ear.


Do you have a profession or any other passions outside of ICAN?

I am a stay at home mom of two handsome boys. They keep me busy! I love helping moms in their breastfeeding journeys. I hosted the Big Latch On two years ago and am hosting again this year. I participated in the Live Love Latch last year and am a proud tandem nursing mama this year! I hope by being open about my nursing journey and nursing in public when needed, that I will make a small difference in the way moms are treated and the way breastfeeding is viewed in general. My desire is for all nursing moms to feel free to be able to nurse their babies whenever and wherever their babies are hungry or need comfort.


What was your proudest moment as an ICAN volunteer? What about your hardest?

I have many proud moments as an ICAN volunteer, but one of my proudest moments was when a friend talked to me and another friend about the way their provider was talking about her ʺbig babyʺ and the need for another cesarean; we empowered her with information and resources and she switched care providers at 35 weeks and had a wonderful VBAC experience.

My hardest moments are supporting moms following a CBAC. Now that I’ve had one, I know so much better how to listen and what is ok to say. Birth is beautiful and powerful and HARD. It carries with it so many emotions and feelings that are completely normal and need to be validated. I’m so grateful for ICAN. The place where all women can feel safe expressing anything related to birth. A place where the healing journey can begin.


Thank you Melissa for all that you do to support birthing women!

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Why you want ICAN on your VBAC birth team Sun, 19 Jul 2015 14:14:10 +0000 Continue reading →]]> Guest post by Mariah Sixkiller.

ICAN on birth team
There are some moments in life that feel bigger than you can process while they’re underway. Moments you know you’ll remember forever—where you were, what it smelled like, how you felt. There are only so many of these in life, but the moment I realized I could VBAC was one of them. I was in my local yoga studio, attending a “VBAC Basics” workshop hosted by a nearby ICAN coordinator named Barbara. I remember exactly how our circle of women looked in the dim light of that peaceful space, and I remember Barbara’s words: “Let me guess, ladies—Failure to progress? Failure to descend? Macrosomia?” Heads nodded, including mine. She was speaking to me, to us. And she was about to open up a world of possibility, hope and redemption for me.

It all started in November of 2009, when I endured a traumatic cesarean at the hands of a doctor who pushed me on induction, epidural, and ultimately non-emergency surgery. I had gone into the birth headstrong and unprepared—I didn’t think I needed a doula and figured natural birth would flow easily. I over-trusted my provider—a manipulative man who told me in the moments before surgery that I “would not care” how I had my baby once she was in my arms. He could not have been more wrong. As so many cesarean moms have experienced, I felt deeply violated by the experience. I was in pain, traumatized and paralyzed by a foggy haze of depression. I could not change my baby’s diaper, and I felt like a failure.

When I got pregnant a second time, I could not imagine going through it all again. I confessed this concern to my beloved prenatal yoga teacher, who mentioned that the studio was hosting an ICAN “VBAC Basics” workshop the following month—which I immediately signed up for. And so my VBAC journey began that day in September 2011, as ICAN’s Barbara explained how often OBs use “Failure to Descend” or “Failure to Progress” as excuses for a cesarean, even when the baby’s heart rate is perfectly fine and labor is proceeding at its natural—albeit slow—pace.

I remember sitting in that circle of women feeling dumfounded. She was telling my story. She understood what I had experienced. It was obvious others felt this too. The camaraderie and empathy in the room was palpable, and the emotions flowed in this atmosphere of trust and empowerment. Woman after woman told her unique story, though common threads emerged—manipulation by providers, trauma, and a desire to feel hopeful and to heal through VBAC.

Barbara armed us with information: cesarean and VBAC rates in local hospitals, risks related to not just VBAC but also repeat cesareans, how to identify signs of physician backsliding on VBAC commitments, and more. The simplest and most important tool I carried out of the workshop that day—and one I tell all friends seeking to VBAC now—is to ask your provider what their VBAC success rate is. If they cannot tell you, either it’s bad or they don’t take it seriously enough to know. Either way, it is a sign that you need a different birth team—one that will stand with you in your VBAC journey as a true collaborator who respects your choices. With Barbara’s words echoing in my head, I asked my provider that very question at my next pre-natal. When he said he didn’t know, I knew it was time to make the leap to a birth team whose VBAC success record spoke for itself. I made the transition to the amazing George Washington University Hospital midwives team at 20 weeks pregnant. And I set out with complete commitment and focus on achieving my VBAC.

It was Tuesday, February 7, 2012 that my contractions began. I was five days overdue, and it was a watershed moment for me. I had never experienced natural contractions and was elated once the rhythmic churns set in. I had prepared and was ready. The next four days were the hardest of my life but I remained focused, positive, and committed to the natural process throughout—thanks to the steady support of my determined husband, powerhouse doula, and patient midwives. In the early hours of Saturday, February 11, it was finally time to push, and I headed to the hospital. Two hours later, my sweet 7 lb. 11 oz. baby boy, Samuel, was finally in my arms. The birth was the greatest feeling of my life—a beautiful, euphoric moment of total redemption and pure joy. It was everything I had imagined birth could be. I felt so proud, so happy, and so strong.

My elation was so extreme that I shouted just moments after the birth: “I have to do that AGAIN!” And so I did. On June 12, 2014, after 18 hours of labor, I had a second VBAC with the amazing GWU Hospital midwives, who let me pull my 8 lb. 15 oz. son William out of my body and welcome him to this world with my own hands. Much like the first VBAC, I felt deep relief, pride, strength, and elation after the birth. But unique to this birth, I relished the confidence I felt in my body. I could tell my body knew what to do. It all just felt so natural, so right, so peaceful. As it should be.

The journey from my deeply traumatic November 2009 cesarean to the incredibly empowered June 2014 2VBAC was a long one. There were many people who helped me get there, and one of them is ICAN and the local coordinator who ran that August 2011 workshop. ICAN helped me understand that anger can be channeled to hope. ICAN helped me understand that trauma can be healed. ICAN helped me understand that acts of true bravery often require acceptance of vulnerability. I will be forever grateful to ICAN for being part of my birth team.

ICAN on birth team

Mariah Sixkiller lives in Washington, DC with her husband Casey, her daughter Anna and her sons Sam and Will.

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Sharing our birth stories with our children: Katy’s CBA2C Mon, 29 Jun 2015 18:04:31 +0000 Continue reading →]]> Guest post birth story by Katy Rank Lev for Brain, Child Magazine.

I joined my local ICAN chapter after my first son was delivered via cesarean. Over the next five years, I became a leader of ICAN of Southwestern PA and the organization supported me through my next pregnancy and VBAC attempt… then they supported me through my physical and emotional recovery from my CBAC. When I became pregnant with my third son, I stepped down as a leader because I knew I would need my ICAN family to support me as a pregnant mama attempting a vaginal birth after 2 cesareans. Here is the story of my third son’s arrival.

CBAC story

“Will Mommy be the next person in our family to die?” my five-year-old asked my husband as I lay on the sofa, drugged up on Vicodin. My grandmother had died a few weeks earlier and we’d just brought our third son home from the hospital. The birth had frightened my husband and me—a crash cesarean, blue baby, initial Apgar score of 4.

We’d done pretty well preparing the older kids for labor, we thought. We explained the essentials of a baby’s arrival, told them I’d be making some sounds at home as my muscles squeezed and we’d drive off to the hospital, where I hoped to push the baby out of my vagina. Late in my pregnancy, this concept caused my sons to barge in on me in the bathroom and beg, “Let me see up in there,” thinking they could catch a glimpse of their new brother while I peed.

I told my boys there was another way babies entered the world. “Sometimes, if things seem unsafe, a doctor has to cut the baby out from Mommy’s belly,” I told them. “That’s what happened with you and your brother.”

There’s nothing like a new pregnancy to spur young children to ask about their own entry into the world, and since my boys each arrived after long labors with nurse-midwives and doulas, followed by heart decelerations and hurried cesareans, I found these questions the hardest to answer.

Was I born the wrong way? Was I sick when I was born? Did I hurt you when I came out the slice in your stomach?

I’ve been wading through my own sadness, my own lasting fear at hearing my babies’ heart rates slow until the inevitable distress surgery. I hadn’t considered how it would feel to share these birth stories with my actual babies. I can’t seem to find a way to explain without upsetting them.

After my new baby was stable, my mother left me at the hospital to pick the big boys up from daycare. My oldest and most sensitive son immediately asked, “Did they have to cut the baby out?”

He sighed deeply upon hearing they had. “Oh. Just like us.”

Our older boys came to the hospital to visit, and they felt uneasy seeing me in bed, a tangle of tubes and wheezing compression cuffs. They wanted to hug me, but couldn’t figure out a way to get up close. They walked around to my least-encumbered arm for a squeeze and a smile. As the doctor came in to check on me, my oldest asked to see his scalpel.

My kids came to visit each day in the hospital, and each time a staff member entered the room, my son asked to see the scalpel that had delivered his brother to us. Eventually, one of the midwives sat down with him to explain that the blade from the scalpel is discarded after each operation, that the handle remains in the sterile operating room, and nobody can go to see it.

Not until his question about my dying did we really understand his fear and concern about his brother’s arrival, possibly his own, too. A birth affects everyone in the family, we realized. It’s his story, too.

We saved my placenta to plant under the hydrangeas in the back yard, and when our doula came to the house to visit, she spread it on the dining room table and explained every bit of it to my wide-eyed boys. She showed them the umbilical cord where the baby was attached to me on the inside. She showed them the sac where the baby lived. She showed them the placenta that nourished the baby while he grew. Finally, she showed them the incision that cut straight through the middle of the placenta, where the obstetrician worked so quickly to bring their youngest brother Earthside.

This hands-on experience seemed to bring some closure to everyone. We showed the boys my incision and told them how every day, my body felt a little healthier. We talked about how each of them is healthy now, and how their baby brother was just fine after he got a little extra oxygen.

I tell them it’s ok to feel afraid, because remembering it all makes me feel afraid, too. Not every baby slides into the world peacefully. Thankfully, our family has lots of arms and shoulders to hug when we feel sad about that. As I press their tiny bodies to mine, I feel their hearts pounding in their chests and each day, the stinging fear of their frenzied arrival echoes with less force.

By Katy Rank Lev, for Brain, Child Magazine. This essay originally appeared on Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers
brain child magazine

Katy Rank Lev is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. Her three feral sons inspire her work covering parenting, women’s health, and family matters. 

Photo Credit: Jeni Benz Photography

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ICAN Names Lisa Keyser the June 2015 Volunteer of the Month Sat, 13 Jun 2015 06:43:41 +0000 Continue reading →]]> Lisa Keyser June 2015 Volunteer of the Month

Lisa Keyser
 June 2015 Volunteer of the Month

The International Cesarean Awareness Network is powered by the selfless efforts of our numerous volunteers. We cannot thank our dedicated volunteers enough for their cooperation and service in assisting ICAN with accomplishing its mission.

In an effort to acknowledge some of our amazing volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to offer support, education, and advocacy for the mothers in their area, the International Cesarean Awareness Network is pleased to announce Lisa Keyser as the June 2015 Volunteer of the Month.

Lisa Keyser, this month’s honoree, is a chapter leader with ICAN of Northern Virginia. During her time with ICAN of Northern Virginia, Lisa has helped to expand the reach of her chapter exponentially, helping to fulfill the need for access to support and information on VBAC options in her area.


Get to know our June 2015 Volunteer of the Month:


How long have you been an ICAN member?

I’ve been coming to meetings since 2009, but I don’t think I officially joined until a year or two later.


How did you first find ICAN?

Google was my friend – I found the old, defunct ICAN forums first, which led me to the local support group. I was terrified to attend my first meeting, but I drove over 45 minutes to get there and left feeling like I’d found a safe place. Hearing other women’s stories gave me some perspective and helped me realize that I wasn’t alone in my grief over my cesarean.


What motivates you as a volunteer?

ICAN has done so much for me in helping me heal and grow in the past six years. I truly enjoy paying it forward to other mamas who are experiencing the same feelings that I did, and who are looking for support and answers. We have a great need for more education and VBAC access in our area, and I feel like our chapter has an important role to play in raising awareness and advocating on behalf of pregnant mamas.


Do you have a profession or any other passions outside of ICAN?

I’m self-employed as a website designer and marketing consultant. I also sing with my church choir and swim with my local Masters swimming team. My free time is almost nonexistent, but my favorite idle activity is reading. I’ve been known to pull all-nighters reading a really good book, though it certainly gets harder the older I get!


What was your proudest moment as an ICAN volunteer? What about your hardest?

I’ve really enjoyed watching our chapter grow in the past year since I became co-leader. I created new social media accounts and resurrected old ones, and we’ve seen a great resurgence of mom-to-mom support and resource sharing. Our April CAM meeting was the largest we’ve had in ages, with 8 new mamas in attendance, and it was a really awesome experience to know our reach has expanded. On the flip side, as we grow, it’s getting harder for me to keep up with everything! Large meetings can make it difficult to really dedicate the time that each mama deserves, and it’s really hard when I don’t have answers to questions.


Thank you Lisa for all that you do to support birthing women!

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Postpartum Doulas: support after cesarean Fri, 05 Jun 2015 16:17:20 +0000 Continue reading →]]> Guest post by Debbie Young, DONA.

Birth is unpredictable. There is no straight path to the birth of a precious baby so we follow the path wherever it leads. Sometimes that path leads to a cesarean.

When a mother and baby come home after a cesarean there are a few extra things to think about, that road includes a few twists of its own. A postpartum doula can be very helpful in smoothing out this joyful, stressful, exciting, tiring and healing time for the new family. Postpartum doulas, like birth doulas, provide emotional, informational and physical support. They are not medical professionals, but a source of care and comfort. Postpartum doulas are trained specifically to provide support around recovery, mother-infant bonding, breastfeeding and normal newborn development and behaviors. They assist with meals and other tasks in the home as well as part of their support for recovery and bonding.

A postpartum doula is helpful no matter what path the birth takes, but can offer special help and skills for those that are coming home with a new baby and are recovering from abdominal surgery as well. The doula will take into consideration ways the mother can breastfeed the baby to prevent discomfort. Showing the mother how to breastfeed lying on her side will allow less contact with the incision as well as allowing the mother to get more rest. If she prefers to sit up, the doula can demonstrate the football hold for her comfort.

The doula can also help the mother get enough rest to allow her body to heal. Making sure the baby is in the bedroom so the mother doesn’t have to travel to meet her/his needs is important. The doula can set up a changing station very near the mom’s bed so she only has to reach for a diaper instead of trudging down the hall or upstairs.

Some mothers (and family) need help processing the birth, especially if it didn’t turn out as they expected. The doula has a great listening ear and if things are escalating beyond normal processing, the doula can refer the mother to the appropriate specialist to continue to deal with the events of the birth. At the same time, the doula is a stable presence in the home to help the mother know she is not alone.

The length of time a postpartum doula stays with a family varies based on many factors. For a mother who has a cesarean, the doula may be needed for a bit longer to help with basic home care until the mother is back on her feet. Doulas help teach new skills, give encouragement, integrate the new baby into the family life, take on some of the home care needs and, most of all, offer a steady presence for the new family. Many mothers talk about the help of a postpartum doula as a critical factor in bringing a baby home, for a more peaceful, restful, healing time.

Debbie Young is certified as both a birth and postpartum doula. She is a Past President of DONA International as well as a certified childbirth educator. She has been supporting families as a doula since 1988.

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ICAN Names Julie Herr the May 2015 Volunteer of the Month Wed, 20 May 2015 22:00:04 +0000 Continue reading →]]> Julie Herr May 2015 Volunteer of the Month

Julie Herr
May 2015 Volunteer of the Month

The International Cesarean Awareness Network is powered by the selfless efforts of our numerous volunteers. We cannot thank our dedicated volunteers enough for their cooperation and service in assisting ICAN with accomplishing its mission.

In an effort to acknowledge some of our amazing volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to offer support, education, and advocacy for the mothers in their area, the International Cesarean Awareness Network is pleased to announce Julie Herr as the May 2015 Volunteer of the Month.

Julie Herr, this month’s honoree, is a chapter leader with both ICAN of St. Louis and ICAN of Southwestern Illinois. In addition to volunteering as a chapter leader, Julie is also the Regional Coordinator for the Midlakes Region. During her 10+ years of service to ICAN, she was also one of the organizers responsible for the original VBAC Policy Database.


Get to know our May 2015 Volunteer of the Month:


How long have you been an ICAN member?

I have been an ICAN member and volunteer for a little over 10 years.


How did you first find ICAN?

I found out about ICAN while I was researching my birth options when I was pregnant with my daughter. I was having a hard time finding a provider because of the VBAC ban in my community. I got involved with ICAN after my daughter was born. I knew I wanted mothers in my community to know their options.


What motivates you as a volunteer?

I am motivated when I feel that I can help others make a change for the better in their lives, communities, or organizations.


Do you have a profession or any other passions outside of ICAN?

Currently, I am a professional volunteer helping to organize for the betterment of community youth in areas such as my children’s school library, my daughter’s girl scout troop and scout sponsored First Lego League team. My children are involved with the Belleville Philharmonic Youth Orchestra so I volunteer with this as well. I recently coordinated an area-wide Concerto Competition, almost doubling the number of participants from last year. I also volunteer where I can in my church – at the moment it is with Meals on Wheels. My professional and volunteer life has involved 25 years of working with volunteers in community organizing, and nonprofit program development. I am passionate about making sure that people have a voice in their community and in their lives (including birth). I am also passionate about networking people and organizations together to work towards common goals.


What was your proudest moment as an ICAN volunteer? What about your hardest?

I have two proudest ICAN moments. The first was helping coordinate volunteers to complete the VBAC hospital policy project. I am not necessarily a phone person but when I ran out of volunteers I realized that I was going to have to make a ton of calls myself. My coleader Ruthie and I, as well as many many ICAN volunteers, put a lot of blood, sweat and tears (not to mention phone minutes) into this project. It felt fantastic when as a team we completed the database and had some real results for all our hard work. Plus, the project got mention in a Time Magazine Article.

My next proudest moment was putting together a collaborative team of individuals and organizations to bring the Karen Brody play, Birth, to the St. Louis area. I knew that this event would be so much richer and more successful if we had many people with many different networks invested in this event. The first year was a lot of hard work but by the third year, it was a great success reaching several hundred people and earning several thousand in sponsorships!

Some of the hardest moments as an ICAN volunteer is trying to help mothers in areas where there are no VBAC resources and learning to let go of the outcome. This may mean helping mothers to accept that a repeat cesarean doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience. It can be a family-centered experience that brings some healing and closure to their prior experience.


Thank you Julie for all that you do to support birthing women!

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Click Your Way to the Best Info: finding quality VBAC and Cesarean info online Thu, 30 Apr 2015 14:35:47 +0000 Continue reading →]]> By Sharon Muza, BS, CD(DONA) BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE

While April is recognized as Cesarean Awareness Month in both the United States and many other countries, quality consumer information about how to prevent cesareans (both primary {first} cesareans and subsequent ones) along with information about having a vaginal birth after a cesarean (VBAC) is valuable to families all year long.

Many families scour the internet looking for practical information and best practices, as well as inspirational stories that help them to feel less isolated and alone when they are recovering from a cesarean or planning another birth.

Here are my favorite websites to share with families who have experienced a cesarean or are planning a VBAC. I like these websites because they are easy to read and contain many articles relevant to cesarean and VBAC families. The first seven are great resources for evidenced based information and best practices on the topics of cesareans and VBACs. The last three are simply great inspirational websites where you can find stories of strong people birthing their babies. Everyone needs to celebrate the strength and courage that is demonstrated by birthing families.

best vbac cesarean info online

Evidence Based Birth, while only a couple of years old, has quickly proven to be a valuable resource time and time again. Rebecca L. Dekker, PhD, RN, APRN is the author and she has the wonderful ability to evaluate reams and reams of research and boil it down to important information that consumers can use. Many of her articles are available as a PDF to print and bring with you to a doctor or midwife appointment.  Some of my favorite posts that I think are particularly useful to the VBAC family include big babies, rupture of membranes, and due dates.

Jen Kamel is well known nationally for both her website and her class. Her slogan – “Don’t Freak. Know the Facts.” She maintains a comprehensive list of posts that explain the research on many of the obstacles that face VBAC families – information on different types of incision repair, VBAC after more than one cesarean, induction for VBAC parents and my favorite among many – “Want a VBAC? Ask Your Care Provider These Questions.

Well Rounded Mama

Well Rounded Mama, at first glance, seems like a website for plus or larger sized people, but honestly it is a fantastic website for any person who is having a baby, particularly after a cesarean. Pam Vireday does extensive research and her blog posts often cover issues that face many of us as we try and navigate our care after a cesarean. Her motto is “Because mothers and children come in all shapes and sizes. And because people of all sizes deserve compassionate, gentle, helpful care.”  “The Fat Vagina Theory – Soft Tissue Dystocia” is one of my favorite posts, but I look forward to every post that Pam publishes. Pregnancy & Childbirth

This expansive website is written by Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, author of many pregnancy and childbirth books and current president of Lamaze International. Robin’s blog posts are short and easy to read and full of relevant links where you can get more follow up information. They are always accurate and based on current evidence and chock full of resources and suggestions. I like to search on the topics of VBAC or cesarean to find posts of interest, but really, I enjoy reading everything Robin writes.

Spinning Babies

Gail Tully is the author and creator of and I just love her site. As a midwife, Gail has a unique perspective and I appreciate the breadth of information that packs her site. Since some cesareans are a result of a malpositioned baby, the information found here can help families to progress a labor that may be not moving along due to baby’s position. Additionally, for those facing a cesarean for a breech baby, Gail’s techniques may help to get that baby to turn head down. Lots of pictures and a new look make this site easy to use and refer to, even in labor when ideas and suggestions are especially needed. If you had a cesarean for a malpositioned baby, you will for sure want to be familiar with the information on Spinning Babies as you get ready to birth again.

Midwife Thinking

This blog comes from “down under” and is filled with great information on many topics that apply to cesarean and VBAC families. Midwife Rachel Reed takes on some of the myths that get perpetuated on birth and breaks them down in posts that are well researched and full of current information. Be sure to check out “Amniotic Fluid Volume: Too Much, Too Little or Who Knows?” and “VBAC: Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill” and “In Celebration of the OP Baby,” as well as many others that she has written. I encourage you to check out Rachel’s website and read more of her work.

Giving Birth With Confidence – A Woman’s Guide to VBAC

This consumer friendly website for all pregnant families has a very well written guide for VBAC’ing women, based on the 2010 VBAC Consensus Statement held by the National Institutes of Health. Over 10 different well-written resources make up this comprehensive guide to help people understand the research, make informed decisions and navigate the obstacles that they may face when they are planning to VBAC.

Black Women VBAC

This blog is full of stories of people of color who have had successful VBACs and is a great place for all people who are interested in inspirational birth stories to check out. People of color experience cesareans at a rate that is disproportionate to white people and the impact is significant. Read about the courage and strength that these families demonstrated and get inspired yourself. VBAC Birth Stories

A comprehensive collection of a wide variety of VBAC stories submitted by readers of

Plus Size Pregnancy Birth Stories

Collated by the same person who writes “Well Rounded Mama” (see above), this is an extensive collection of VBAC, VBAMC and Cesarean stories that will be sure to provide tons of inspiration and encouragement to families who have experienced a cesarean or are planning to birth after a cesarean. While the site is a wee bit dated, it is an extremely comprehensive collection.

These are some of my favorite websites for consumers to learn more about cesareans, VBACs, the VBAC climate, and what the current research says about both cesarean and VBAC birth. Families today need to be informed and prepared to navigate the choices and options available to them as they prepare to welcome a baby, in hopes of avoiding an unneeded cesarean and birthing after a previous cesarean.

What are your favorite websites, blogs and research sources for finding information on the topics of cesareans and VBACs? Share them with our readers in the comments section as we celebrate Cesarean Awareness Month.


About Sharon Muza

Sharon Muza headshotSharon Muza, BS, CD(DONA) BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE has been an active childbirth professional since 2004, teaching Lamaze classes, including “VBAC YOUR Way” and providing doula services to many hundreds of couples through her private practice in Seattle, Washington. She is an instructor at the Simkin Center, Bastyr University where she is a birth doula trainer. Sharon is also a trainer with Passion for Birth, a Lamaze-Accredited Childbirth Educator Program. Sharon is a former co-leader of the International Cesarean Awareness Network’s (ICAN) Seattle Chapter, and a former board member of PALS Doulas and Past President of REACHE.  In September 2011, Sharon was admitted as a Fellow to the Academy of Certified Childbirth Educators. Sharon Muza has been the community manager, writer and editor for Science & Sensibility, Lamaze International’s blog for birth professionals, since 2012. Sharon enjoys active online engagement and facilitating discussion around best practice, current research and its practical application to community standards and actions by health care providers, and how that affects families in the childbearing year. Sharon has been a dynamic speaker at international conferences on topics of interest to birth professionals and enjoys collaborating with others to share ideas and information that benefit birth professionals and families. Sharon lives with her family in Seattle, WA. To learn more about Sharon, you are invited to visit her website,

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Birth Story in Africa: a birth without fear Tue, 21 Apr 2015 11:34:54 +0000 Continue reading →]]> Guest post written by Sarah S.

homebirth in Africa

In order to tell the birth story of my firstborn, I have to back up a bit. Actually, I have to back up a lot. For as long as I can remember I have been afraid of pregnancy and childbirth. My mother threw up the entire nine months of all four of her pregnancies. She was even hospitalized for a week while pregnant with my youngest brother because she was so dehydrated from all the vomiting. I was certain that I was doomed to face the same fate if I ever became pregnant.

When I was nine years old I watched a video of a family friend giving birth to her 5th child. Although I remember the mother being radiant and calm and even excited enough to ask to see the placenta after it was delivered, I was horrified by the reality of giving birth. Can you blame me? Every TV show or movie that shows a woman giving birth shows her writhing in pain at the first contraction and eventually screaming at the baby’s father while he stands there like an idiot, completely helpless.

So, by the young age of 10 years old, I decided that pregnancy and childbirth were not for me. I absolutely loved babies, but decided that I would acquire all of my own babies through adoption. I continued to stand firm on that decision until I actually got married. Deep down I knew I would probably feel differently if I ever got married. But, I was still full of fear about pregnancy and birth.

A few days before my 2nd wedding anniversary, my husband, Sam, and I moved to the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa for two years. A few months before our 2nd wedding anniversary we felt strongly that we wanted to start a family. After a lot of [reflection], seeking counsel from older, wiser people and several tears, we decided we were going to stop using birth control. If I became pregnant while living in Congo, then that was what was supposed to happen. We moved to Congo in July and I found out I was pregnant with our first baby in November of that same year.

We were extremely excited and extremely nervous. The Democratic Republic of Congo has one of the worst reputations for healthcare. We lived in a teeny house with no running water and limited electricity. The closest hospital with decent care was about a three hour drive away on horrendous roads and also had no running water and limited electricity. Prenatal care was very basic and attending a childbirth class was not an option. Although most women in Congo labor and deliver at home with a midwife, many mothers and babies die during the birth process because of limited resources in an emergency. There were many things in my situation that had the potential to add to the existing fears I had about childbirth, but Sam and I knew that our only choice was to trust our situation to overcome fear. So we continued to surrender.

It was decided that I would give birth in the neighboring country (Central African Republic) with an American doctor who worked at a hospital with much better resources and more staff than the hospital in our area. Medical resources would still be limited and an epidural would not be available to me. A Congolese doctor friend of ours visited me once a month for prenatal care which really only consisted of weighing me (if there was a scale available), listening to the baby’s heart (with an old-school pinard horn like they use on the TV show Call the Midwife) and measuring my belly. So Sam and I decided to learn everything we possibly could before the birth of our child. A midwife friend of mine suggested I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. I devoured that book in the first few months of my pregnancy and my husband read a few of the chapters as well. We read and worked through a used Bradley Method workbook and managed to get our hands on the book Husband Coached Childbirth by Dr. Robert Bradley a couple of months before my due date. We read and talked about childbirth and practiced relaxation exercises every day. I wanted to know everything I possibly could about managing pain during birth since I would not be able to have an epidural if I wanted one. Sam wanted to know everything he could in order to help me relax and manage pain and be my coach and voice during the labor and delivery. I prepared my body for the “big day” and we both prepared our minds.

A month before the due date we left for Central African Republic and stayed in a guest house and waited for our baby to be born. Dr. Tim, the doctor who would deliver our baby, lived a short walk from the guest house and we met with him several times. He told me I could deliver the baby in the guest house if everything went well and he agreed to everything we wrote in our birth plan. If there were any problems, the hospital was about 200 yards from the guest house and I would quickly be moved there if a cesarean was necessary.

The day before the due date I started to have a “bloody show” and the Braxton Hicks contractions I had been experiencing for a few weeks were increasing throughout the day even though they weren’t painful. By about 2:30pm I started tracking how often the contractions were coming and they were irregular at that point but coming consistently. That day was Sam’s birthday so we made dinner together and I stopped every 10 minutes or so to breathe through a contraction. After dinner was over we realized the contractions were coming every 5-10 minutes and were getting stronger so Sam went down to Dr. Tim’s house and let him know what was going on. Dr. Tim checked me at about 8pm and I was 70% effaced but hadn’t dilated yet so we had a long night ahead of us. I did feel a bit discouraged at that point because I hadn’t dilated yet and had no idea how long everything would take. We attempted to use Dr. Tim’s phone to call our parents back in the States to let them know labor was starting. The reception was terrible but we managed to chat for a couple of minutes. Dr. Tim, his wife Ann, and Jan (the wife of the other American couple who lived there and a nurse) came down to the house to set up a bunch of medical things in case I did deliver there and then they left us alone for a couple of hours.

We both attempted to sleep and Sam did for about 45 minutes, but my contractions got more intense and I walked around the house a bit and then just laid down to relax and breathe through each contraction. We spent the rest of the night in the bedroom with the lights low, mellow music playing (I had made a “labor and delivery playlist” on iTunes for this exact occasion) and Sam sat at my side next to the bed watching my every move, massaging my legs and back, and applying pressure to my back during the contractions. He coached me through my abdominal breathing and was the most incredible support, even though he was exhausted.

Dr. Tim checked me around 11:30pm and I was already at 5cm, which surprised all of us. He came back around 1AM and just stayed the rest of the night in our living room which allowed Sam and me to labor in the quiet bedroom in privacy, with little interruption. Sam talked me through everything as the pain increased and consistently encouraged me. I didn’t need anything or anyone else in that room to keep me focused and relaxed. Around 3:00AM I was at 7cm and Dr. Tim said we might have a few more hours ahead of us and he wasn’t sure if we would deliver at the hospital or in the guest house.

Starting at about 4:30AM the contractions and pressure in my pelvis became very intense. I was having a hard time breathing and staying relaxed during these big contractions that were coming about every 3 minutes. Sam was particularly amazing during this time to keep me breathing from my abdomen and relaxing my muscles when I felt like I couldn’t control what my body was doing. When my mind began to wander to a fearful place, thinking, “How long will this last? I can’t relax!” he calmly reminded me to breathe from my stomach. I started to lose feeling in my arms, hands, legs, and feet because I was hyperventilating a bit and then my hands began to spasm. This part was the only “scary” moment because I couldn’t make my body relax. Dr. Tim came in again around 5:30AM (I think…things were a bit fuzzy around this time) and with surprise in his voice announced that my bag of waters was about to break and he needed to gather his delivery team. As he got up to leave he said, “If you feel the urge to push… don’t push until I get back!” (By the way…that is the worst thing to say to a woman in labor!)

Within minutes Dr. Tim, Ann, Jan, and Julien, an African maternity nurse, were in the room getting set up to deliver my baby right there in the bedroom. I repositioned and Sam sat on the bed behind me for my main support and I began pushing through the contractions. The adrenaline rush during this time was incredible and a relief. I could finally work with my contractions and it felt amazing! They broke my water and Sam held me up, helped hold my legs and coached me through about 4 more contractions with pushing and then my first daughter, Hannah Margaret, appeared at 6:40AM! I held her right away and Sam was behind me the whole time as we ooed and awed over our beautiful daughter. I felt like Sam and I had both worked to get Hannah here safely and that was one of the most incredible feelings…to know that Sam was just as much a part of the process as I was.

homebirth in Africa

A couple of hours after Hannah was born, I clearly remember telling Sam that I would like to do that again. (Not immediately, of course). My experience of giving birth to a child was nothing like I had feared. It was peaceful, smooth, and while it was intense, it was nothing like the pain I had always seen depicted on TV shows. We truly felt peace overcome fear during the entire process. And because we had learned the specifics of what was going to happen to my body during labor and delivery, we felt empowered during the process and therefore able to focus on keeping my body relaxed.

homebirth in Africa

Hannah is almost three years old and Sam and I still talk about her labor and delivery often. The memory of working together to birth our first child is an incredibly sweet and intimate memory that I imagine we will talk about for the rest of our lives.

Guest post written by Sarah S.

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World Doula Week: a doula at a cesarean? Fri, 27 Mar 2015 20:52:11 +0000 Continue reading →]]> Guest article by Lisa Kehoe IBCLC, CLD, CPD, in honor of World Doula Week (March 22-28).

Your vision of birth probably did not include having surgery. You were thinking of a natural, unmedicated, maybe even home birth, and now you’re having a cesarean. You may feel uneasy about this, but, for whatever reason, it’s the only choice to keep things safe (I won’t go into reasons). Your partner is even more terrified and may not be able to handle seeing you go through this. You may have had a great doula picked out and now you’re thinking, “Well, we should probably tell the doula we no longer need her <<sad face>>.” NO WAY! She can be the key to you and your partner having the greatest outcome possible. Get a fresh start with your cesarean and choose a great doula!

doula for cesarean

First, once you know you’re having a cesarean, find your local ICAN chapter and start attending monthly meetings. At these meetings, you will learn from other moms about how to cope with this news. They share stories, outcomes, and you may be able to connect with a mom that you can call or message regularly just to talk or vent.

When you meet with your doula, you form a bond that you can feel comfortable with. You can contact her with questions that can arise during the pregnancy. She may attend doctor’s appointments to form a great working bond with them, too. You will go over an extensive plan that will include some different situations that may arise during and right after your surgery so that you will be prepared and not shocked IF/WHEN baby would get transferred to another hospital for medical reasons. A doula will help you deal with your flowing emotions about the surgery in general and will be able to offer reassurance and answers to your partner on what to expect. Your partner may decide that they absolutely do not think they can handle being in the operating room and maybe it would be more comforting that your doula be in there with you to take off any pressure.

A doula can tell you about some options that you have during the cesarean. She can inform you of your rights. Examples include the type of sutures you receive, maybe you would prefer that the staff keep their conversations to a minimum (unless it is about the procedure), or maybe it would calm you down to hear a lot of others talking so you don’t focus on the procedure. A doula can provide evidence based answers to questions you will have on your surgery. You don’t have to go in and succumb to what they say is a normal everyday task and lay there and be uncomfortable.Once baby is out, your doula can stay with you (if allowed by the physician) while your partner takes pictures of baby and stays with baby to monitor the procedures you have agreed to. Your partner may choose to stay with baby if baby needs to go to the NICU at a different facility. Your doula can stay with you while you remain on the operating table.

Once you are back into recovery after your gentle cesarean and baby is fine, your doula will be able to come in and assist you with skin-to-skin and initiating breastfeeding. While in recovery you may still be lying flat and find it near impossible to hold baby and breastfeed on your own so having a professional will be the key to success.

Bottom line on having a doula in your corner for any birth (and especially one that can be potentially disconcerting) is that she works directly for you, not for the facility. You will be given such great care during your prenatal visits that you can feel a lot more reassured that this WILL be okay! Your partner will have someone other than you to complain to (yes, they might) and chat with. You will receive one-on-one care at all times with your doula (unlike busy hospital staff). You, too, will have someone you can complain to (venting is allowed). A doula provides emotional support as well as physical support.

fresh start

Lisa D. Kehoe IBCLC, CLD, CPD serving all clients in the Rockford, Illinois and all surrounding areas. She started Oh Baby Mine in January of 2011 and has served and treated hundreds of parents in the area. She does home, hospital, and birthing center births. As a postpartum doula she loves to serve and educate all parents to care for their new addition. With extensive advanced education in the field of breastfeeding she brings the best support to your birthing experience.She has two children of her own that were born completely natural and unmedicated. Breastfeeding was completely successful also. Those are the main reasons she chose to serve families to acheive as natural a birth experience possible. Lisa is a professional member of ICAN.

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Accreta Awareness Blood Drive Event Mon, 16 Mar 2015 06:25:37 +0000 Continue reading →]]> 10526088_905673386114189_5800171589525061341_n

The International Cesarean Awareness Network is pleased to be participating in this year’s Accreta Awareness Blood Drive occurring nationwide on April 3rd in support of the Hope for Accreta Foundation.

The purpose of this blood drive is to raise awareness of placenta accreta, a condition in which the placenta attaches itself too deeply into the uterus. Placenta accreta is also a risk of repeat cesarean whose treatment often requires emergency blood transfusion after birth.

In July of 2012, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a committee opinion on placenta accreta. It stated that “the incidence of placenta accreta has increased and seems to parallel the increasing cesarean delivery rate.” Additionally, they also stated that “women at greatest risk of placenta accreta are those who have myometrial damage caused by a previous cesarean delivery with either anterior or posterior placenta previa overlying the uterine scar. The authors of one study found that in the presence of a placenta previa, the risk of placenta accreta was 3%, 11%, 40%, 61%, and 67% for the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth or greater repeat cesarean deliveries, respectively.” (1)

In light of this, it is now more important than ever that women be made fully aware of placenta accreta.


Find a blood drive near you!




Dothan, AL

ICAN of the Wiregrass

LifeSouth in Dothan Family First Chiropractic

1816 W. Main St, Dothan, AL 36303

9am to 1pm

Amanda Martin –




San Jose, CA

ICAN of Silicon Valley

Red Cross San Jose Blood Center

2731 N First St. San Jose, CA 95134

7:30-2:30 PM

LaQuitha Glass –




Lutz, FL

ICAN of Tampa Bay

One Blood

108 Myrtle Ridge Rd Lutz, FL 33549

11 – 4 p.m.

Melissa Taylor –


Melbourne, FL

ICAN of Brevard

OneBlood Love Inc.

2774 N Harbor City Blvd, Melbourne, FL 32935


Heather Schweich –




Aurora, IL

ICAN of Kane County

Heartland Blood Centers- Prisco Community Center

150 W Illinois Ave, Aurora, IL 60506

1:30 pm – 5:00 pm

Aleksandra Neeley –




Baltimore, MD

ICAN of Hagerstown and Frederick

Red Cross Hagerstown Blood Donation Center

1131 Conrad Ct, Hagerstown,MD 21740 and at the University of Maryland Medical Center 22 S Greene St, Baltimore, MD 21201

12:00 to 6:30 p.m.

Brandy Firth –




Springfield, MO

ICAN of Springfield, MO

Community Blood Center of the Ozarks

220 W. Plainview Rd. Springfield, MO 65810


Natalie Bechard –




Asotin, WA  

LC Valley American Red Cross, Lewis and Clark Blood Services Region

Asotin Fire Department, Asotin, WA

May 6 2015, 2-6 PM


1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2012, July). Placenta accreta. Committee Opinion No. 529. Obstet Gynecol , 2011. Retrieved from

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