Insights from CBAC Moms
The following quotes are about Cesarean Birth After Cesarean.
Most of these quotes are from actual CBAC mothers about their experiences, but a few quotes are from ICAN leaders or others in the birth community who have not had CBACs themselves, but who have witnessed others going through the CBAC grieving process.
These quotes offer insight into the CBAC experience, into how to offer support to a CBAC mother, into the growth that can come from CBACs, and into the lessons that women have found in their CBAC journeys.
You are welcome to utilize a quote from this page, but please be careful to give accurate attribution to the person who said it, and to acknowledge its source by including a link to this page when using the quote.
General CBAC Quotes
- Pregnancy/childbirth is one of the most unfair endeavors I’ve encountered. Realizing that has set me free in a way. If something as commonplace as childbirth has so many variations even despite what is actively chosen/done, then how can anything else in our lives go the way we want if we just. work. hard. enough. Life isn’t fair. Childbirth, the ease for some, the struggle for others, just isn’t fair. And that’s been liberating for me. –L
- Such pain came from my CBACs. Such deep, seemingly insurmountable pain every day of my life. Through my CBACs I was able to access places within my soul that I wasn’t even aware existed. I think CBAC moms share a special bond and a real respect for this. And today…12.5 years after my first CBAC, I can honestly say how much growing and learning came from it and for that I am grateful. –Teresa Stire
- Remember the concept of the wounded healer. One who learns how to heal herself can contribute much to others who find themselves lost and unable to take their first steps in healing. Part of the service involved in helping others is using what experience you have and stepping outside of yourself. –Kim MacKay
- My CBAC made me the compassionate advocate I am today. Had I had the planned HBAC I went for with my second baby, there’s a chance I would have gotten stuck in the rigid mentality that tells women if they just plan a pain med-free birth, or an out-of-hospital birth, or choose midwives, or whatever, they will get the birth they desire. I believe I had exactly the births I was supposed to have in order to become the person I am today. And I don’t regret the outcome of any of them. –Melek S.
- Until that morning of the 6th birthday/anniversary of my CBAC, I was robbed of joy and awe as my child grew. He was robbed of a part of his mother. I fought to not abandon him emotionally even though physically I was present…I steadfastly work to claim him, but sometimes it still [felt] like he may have been birthed by another woman. Though it was his birthday, on that day I was also born different. A part of me was wounded so deeply beyond another cut to my belly, my uterus… When the joy came the morning of the 6th birthday, I was stunned to wake up and bound out of bed. I caught myself and smiled inside and out, larger than I can describe. God had lifted that veil of pain that had still gripped me. The shackles were off my heart. I was finally free to wholly love my son on his birthday. I could share his birthday without force or tears. My heart didn’t break and my scar didn’t ache on that day…[Though] I remember the pain…I am able to feel it and use it for good. I am able to transform it into words that hopefully someone will gain hope from and say, “Me too, my sister.” –Desiree Andrews, Former President of ICAN
- Our [ICAN] group is, first and foremost, a cesarean recovery support group; and in times of CBACs, it’s good to remind everyone of this. –Irene H.
How CBACs are Different Than Primary Cesareans or Elective Repeat Cesareans
- I personally felt screwed by care providers after my 1st CS, but after my 2nd I felt screwed by my body — I truly was broken. –Anonymous
- Validating the anger and sadness and LOSS ─ and [the] difference in the compounding nature of that loss (as opposed to a primary c/s), the nail in the coffin feeling ─ is so important. It really sucks, and having other people just say that to you, and that life isn’t fair, can be helpful in reminding you that it wasn’t your fault. –Caroline Kelley
- What really angers me is being categorized with women who just schedule repeat cesareans for non-medical reasons. I also get really upset when women push the thought that if one does A, B, and C (home birth especially) you will get to birth vaginally. It irks me. I did everything in my power and still ended with three sections! It saddens me. I feel partly like a birth warrior and then the end is so sad to me. Not to mention the added pain to my recoveries because I labored so long before each section. –Pam
- The isolation of CBAC is another aspect that may be relatively unknown. I felt (feel?) very isolated ─ from VB Moms, from ERC Moms, and very much from VBAC moms. This has been very toxic for me. –Rebecca H.
- Lots of times…[people] talk about someone choosing CBAC…After months preparing and hours laboring, I don’t like being lumped in with women who “choose” a repeat cesarean. Yes, I did make that choice in the end because it was prudent at the time, but it wasn’t something I knew was going to happen going into labor. It’s a sticky point because when you’re dealing with women who already have one scar, choices are more limited. –Kristina R.
Advice on Providing CBAC Support
- Listen. Listen. And don’t contradict. Just listen. Don’t compare. Just listen. And don’t try to make me feel better. Just listen. –Kristina R.
- I think the basics go a long way: listening, supporting, acknowledging…Connecting CBAC moms to other CBAC moms is very important. –Lisa Garcia
- CBAC women need validation. They need encouragement that every birth can be different. Above all, they need to be appreciated for the work they did both before and during the experience, the sacrifices made for their babies, and the special place inside themselves that now carries yet another scar. –Teresa Stire
- Listening is probably the key. Very little can be said that makes it better. Most things that are said make it worse. Each woman will react differently, of course, just as each woman reacts differently to a first c-section. And each day is different. Asking “How are you?” is also a lot better than “What happened?” What happened …makes me feel like I have to justify everything that happened to prove that a c/s was the best option at the time, as if I could ever recreate the scenario for someone to understand. –Kristina R.
- Most helpful: acknowledging the work I did do. Instead of focusing only on the “I’m sorry you didn’t get your VBAC” or whatever, acknowledge the fight I did put in for it…”You fought hard for this mama!” or whatever. –Anonymous
- JUST LISTEN! Sit down with her and let her tell her story from beginning to end. Do not interrupt, do not give feedback, do not ask questions, just LISTEN! –Angela H.
- It was *very* important to me that someone recognize and validate my anger. I was SO FREAKING ANGRY!!!!! And I needed to hear, “You have every right to your anger!” –Jer
- I think there are two kinds of CBAC mamas that need slightly different support — those who had a dream of VBAC but gave it up prior to labor for whatever reason, and those who went in to a VBAC attempt and then ended up cut anyway. There are so many women who get pushed into CBAC if conditions for VBAC aren’t “quite right” in the caretaker’s opinion…For those mamas, once they have made a decision not to VBAC A.M.A., they really do need support for at least making the surgery itself as comfortable as possible and for making choices that match the reasons they wanted to VBAC in the first place…I refused to schedule, and I have to say having my son pick his birthday was very important to me emotionally as well, I believe, to his health…After the fact, for either camp, I think the key is this: Did you make the best choices you could with the information you had at the time? Help the mama not fall into the trap of hindsight being so much clearer than in-the-moment can be. –Dineen Pashoukos Wasylik
- I think that it is really important for women who have never had a CBAC to be very careful of how you talk to moms who DID VBAC. Telling them that they “deserved it” makes the CBAC mom think that she didn’t deserve it, or that the VBACing mom worked so hard that you “knew” that they would VBAC just frankly pisses me off…It makes the CBAC mom think that we were somehow unworthy of the vaginal birth, if only we had done x, y, and z we too could have birthed our babies vaginally, but because of some deficiency we did not. –Angela B.
- I think also critical is to ask the question “What do you need most from me at this time?” to a CBAC woman. At times I needed someone to hold me as I cried. At times I needed somebody to listen to my story without saying a word, at times I needed someone to help me “pick apart” my story and see what I could have done differently ─ and these all needed to be done when *I* needed them, on my timetable. –Teresa Stire
- To me, the biggest thing that women, particularly VBAC women, can do to support their CBAC sisters is to be inclusive, to realize that their experiences are just as valuable and needed and worthy of hearing as their VBAC counterparts. I remember after my failed HBA2C attempt how much I needed to share my story, talk about my disappointment and sadness, and process what went wrong. But it seemed as though nobody wanted to hear it. It was almost as if my CBAC might be contagious so I should refrain from talking much about it. –-Teresa Stire
- Listen again and again as no one else in Mom’s life may be willing to hear her. Keep emailing and calling if the CBAC was ugly for some reason…Try to counteract the medical community’s need to blame the mother to the extent that you are able…CBACs with complications that are severe can be a different can of worms. PTSD is so constant and so very hard and has little public understanding or support in the general public with regard to childbirth. Contact with someone who has been through similar things can help remind Moms that it will not always hurt so much. –Rebecca H.
- It is a delicate dance, celebrating the new baby and being present as an ear if mom isn’t happy with how it went, but it is one that Mom should always lead. –Ann Mackowski
- What matters is that you love her, listen to her, and validate her feelings. It is not your job to analyze her birth, especially in a public forum. You have to accept and believe that she did the best that she could at that time on that day. You can’t possibly know all of the things that converge on that individual’s birth day… She may feel like she’s a failure but she’s not. And she needs you to believe that she’s not a failure. –Amanda Finchem
- The single biggest thing that helped me…were those who reflectively listened [debriefing as it were, without judgment] and understood why I chose what I did. In reflectively listening, I was able to look more closely and open-mindedly at the choices I had made and where I need to learn more or relax more or become more in tune to my own body or intuition. –Connie Banack, Former President of ICAN
- Don’t tell my story for me. Don’t paraphrase or summarize or reword or in any other way modify my story to make it fit in to your beliefs about what transpired during my birth. Don’t characterize my birth as “negative” because it was a CBAC, and one you don’t want to hear when preparing for your VBAC. That, in particular, stings, and because any VBAC hopeful mother could become a CBAC mother, you should be particularly sensitive and mindful. CBACs aren’t inherently negative and hearing a CBAC story while you are preparing for a VBAC won’t cause you to have one. CBAC mothers have powerful lessons to teach, if you are willing and able to hear us. –Melek S.
- When it comes to support, OH I had tons when PLANNING the VBAC but once it turned into a CBAC? Everyone disappeared. No one was willing to talk to me about it. No one really had information to GIVE me about a “failed VBAC.” –Sarah Vincent, onestarrynight.com
- CBACs C-SUCK!!!…the crushing sense of FAILURE…And shame ─ lots of shame. Why was I such a failure? Why couldn’t I do one simple thing– something thousands of women do every damned day?…The CBAC played hell with my self esteem, and I didn’t have much to spare!…When the depression receded…I was LIVID…It took me years to climb out of that ugly, horrible place…Did my VBAC fix me? I don’t know… it helped, but I’m crying while I type this, so I don’t know…That’s what CBAC moms need, I think. To be heard. To have their pain witnessed and acknowledged…If I could talk to the Jer who was recovering from that awful time… I would tell her, “Be angry. You have every right in the world. It sucks and it’s not fair. Rage and cry and grieve as much and as long as you need… but know that I’m here and I love you and I hear you. And when you break beyond the rage I’m waiting there too.” –Jer
- As a CBAC mom myself, it helped me emotionally to know that it was okay to not be okay with my CBAC. No matter the reason for it, it is still okay to not be happy about it. –Kari Campbell
- Moving through the anger doesn’t mean being over the grief; it’s just moving on to a different facet of the grieving, which is a part of healing…Give yourself permission to explore the possibilities of what’s beyond the anger and despair…When you get that feeling of being “stuck” it is often time to move on. Not move on from grief, not move on from anger, but perhaps into a new phase of it, or simply to take a break from it for a while. Growth can be uncomfortable but it is growth. You ARE moving and changing still, even when you think you are most trapped. Trust that, in time, you will find your own unique path to healing. –Kmom
When VBAC Doesn’t Ever Happen
- I have four children. They were all born by cesarean section…suffice to say that it was not the way I wanted to bring my children into the world…Although all of them were cesareans, all of them were difficult in different ways. I feel like I need to say this: Yes, I tried everything. And I mean EVERYTHING…I did everything right. I wanted it so badly. It still didn’t happen…I have done my best to accept that this is the way things had to be. I honestly and truly believe that now…I want SO badly to be the kind of person who doesn’t care. I wish that a VBAC hadn’t mattered to me so much. But it did. I wish it still didn’t bother me. It does. I accept how my children were born, but I don’t like it. –Amanda Taplin Milberry, http://familynature.wordpress.com/2009/04/28/hbac-vbac-and-ending-up-with-a-cbac/
- Yes, I wish that my births would have been different…but at the same time I am glad I went through what I went through. It was a journey, MY journey, and changed me for life, for the better, I think and hope. And I wouldn’t change that for anything. –Tracy Lindsay
- Sometimes I think I’m killing myself for constantly beating myself up over the “what ifs.” What if there was some way to get past all the disappointment?…Many of us will never have a vaginal birth but finding some way to heal a little could go a long way. The way I’ve chosen to heal is to focus on the positive aspects of my CBAC…Finding the positive aspects in my CBAC has helped me focus on the happier parts of my last experience no matter how bad it was. My heart feels somewhat lighter now and I can actually feel good about some aspects of my last labour and birth. –Shelley M.
- I came to realize that, although I hope for a vaginal birth this time around, if I have another cesarean, it won’t be the end of the world. I’ve done it before, twice, and I can do it again and live. In my last pregnancy it certainly DID feel as though it would be the end of the world if I had another cesarean, and it rather felt like the end of the world when I actually did…I don’t feel exactly like I don’t even care if I have another c-section…but if it [does] happen, I’ll still be me, I’ll still be a mom, life will go on, I will recover and have a new baby and that will be that. I can picture my life as a person who has never had and will never have a vaginal birth, and it’s not bringing tears to my eyes or shame to my soul…just for today. –C.O.
- There will not be a VBAC in my life. I’m 40 now, and with three kids I now feel “done” with having children…My joy [in my births] has gradually returned. I am learning now to honor my experiences…We are not failures, we are no less brave than the women who accomplish the VBAC goal. I keep reminding myself that I will never climb Mount Everest, either, and will probably not accomplish some of the other things I thought and think I want in my life. Maybe this missed childbirth opportunity is just that ─ another missed opportunity ─ and maybe we can find some other accomplishments/life experiences to compensate. Maybe. –K
- It is a cliché, but it is true. The birth is only a very small part of your baby’s life and it’s really what we do with them throughout our pregnancy and then for all that time once they are born until they are adults themselves that matters (more than the birth). –Rachel Sime
- We CAN move on. I don’t think we’ll ever be ‘over it’; we just learn to manage our grief so that we can actually have a life as well. –Melissa Graham
- You [won’t] always be like this. I don’t know how long it will take but you will heal. You will move on. Yes, there will always be a part of you that pines for that vaginal birth. But it will get easier. And for a long time you won’t notice it, but one day you will wake up and realize that you haven’t thought about it in awhile. And then you will realize that you’ve healed. It will happen. Not now – it’s still fresh. But it will happen. Just hang onto the hope that it will happen and it will. –Sandra
- Your strength and beauty as person/woman/mother are not measured by vaginal births, but by the grace with which you handle all experiences in life. –Caroline Kelley
Lessons Learned From CBACs
- There are no guarantees in life or in birth. Some women are lucky and they have a VBAC. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. And some of us are just plain unlucky. –Amanda Finchem
- Who is to say why things happen. What my CBAC taught me is to be more compassionate and not as judgmental and “one-size-fits-all” in my beliefs about birth. –Anonymous
- If I’d had the VBAC, I would have patted myself on the head and congratulated myself on what great choices I made and the hard work I did. I would live with an illusion of control. Having the CBAC gave me the opportunity to serve moms, especially c-section moms, in a different way, if that makes sense. –L
- The lesson I learned from my “failed” VBAC was that it’s not so much about “success” or “failure” but about the willingness to heal and the courage to find a different path. For me, it became more about the journey instead of the destination. –Kmom
- We try to do everything we can to prepare and it always seems like we can find one more thing we could have done differently but the fact is, birth is bigger than us or our doctors and sometimes stuff happens that no one can control. And sometimes we just aren’t the people then we are now. Sometimes someone is at fault, and sometimes someone isn’t. –Gretchen Humphries
- It’s often the case that an unresolved trauma can resurface and bite us in the bum when we encounter a different trauma, later on. Sometimes thinking about the common elements between the two experiences, or asking yourself, “If there was something in common between these two experiences, it would be…” can help. Finding the root and cutting it often offers surprise healing in places we didn’t even know we were hurt. –Hope Nesmith
- I have been to the mountaintop…I had that vaginal birth [after a CBAC]. And it was great not to have to recover from surgery, and it was wonderful to have those few post-birth moments with my daughter…But really, the experience of raising her is no different from that of raising my two cesarean-born children. I’m still the same old me, the same kind of mom, I don’t love her any more or any less, I’m not more or less happy or sad in life in general and neither is my daughter…In my experience the brass-ring vaginal birth really isn’t the kind of life-changing metaphysical thing that it’s sometimes made out to be. If you’ve got…happy children (and even if you don’t because something horribly unfair went wrong), you didn’t fail at birth. Maybe birth failed you, and it was traumatic and awful…I’ve been there too…but you sacrificed yourself for their well-being, and that is heroic, not a failure. –C.O.
- It seems the woman who wouldn’t send back a wrong order at a restaurant was forever changed. Like a light switch my voice was established…Five hours post op and I want my baby…I called my nurse and asked her to bring me my son or take me to the nursery to feed him. She said no to both requests…I noticed the wheelchair by the door, I looked the nurse in the eye…and I said “Fine, you want me to get up and walk across the room to the wheel chair; then you will take me?” She said, “Yes” in a non-believing tone…I called her bluff. I took a deep breath, held my belly, stood up and walked right over to the wheel chair on my own. Needless to say she took me to the nursery to see my son. My voice was completely in full bloom, never to go back…Just like the Grinch whose heart grew in size, I powerfully came into my own as a woman, as a mother and as an advocate. For this and this alone I am tearfully grateful for my CBAC and though much was lost, so very much more was gained. –Desirre Andrews, Former President of ICAN, from her blog at http://prepforbirth.com/2010/04/07/a-womans-voice-birthed-into-fullness/
- A VBAMC (Vaginal Birth After Multiple Cesareans) doesn’t heal the CBAC. They are different entities. –Kristina R.
- Trying to experience a vaginal birth, for those of us who have experienced cesareans, is a triumph that accompanies us for all our lives, whatever the result/success, because we are changed for having tried. The triumph isn’t the vaginal birth but rather the rebirth of ourselves as women, mother and individuals. –Joni Nichols
- I acknowledge your hurt. I say that your hurt is a sign of your deep abiding love for life and all that comes with it. I acknowledge your feelings of failure and believe that this is something you must pass through. I also promise that as you do embrace your pain, your feelings of failure, you will find something strong and fine on the other side. I don’t know what that something will be; I just know it will be there. It’s the cycle of our lives. We come and we go and we come again but we are never exactly the same. –Gretchen Humphries
- Effort does not always equal outcome. Give yourself credit for that effort, and don’t boil it all down to (and don’t let anyone else boil it all down to) the moment of birth alone. –Melek S.
- It seems incredible that the disappointment and hurt caused by a cesarean could be healed by a second cesarean, but that is exactly what happened. I faced head-on the very thing I feared most, and by changing my perceptions and taking control, I had the best birth for my baby and for me. –Catherine Harper