From Csection to VBAC: My Journeys of Transformation
I had been living in Egypt for 5 years when I got pregnant with my first and decided to have him there. At the time I was completely unaware of the power and blessings of birth and followed the mainstream model of care, trusting that the system knew what was best.
I did however know that I did not want a csection. Egypt has an appalling but of course unofficial csection rate. Doctors that I know well have told me in confidence that they believe the rate in the urban areas to be between 80-90%. So I chose the one doctor in all of Cairo that had a reputation for vaginal births. Unfortunately however, the day I went into labor another woman had arrived exactly 30 minutes before me at the doctor’s private hospital and nearly died. For my first 4 hours there I did not see my OB who I had grown very close to and was checked several times by God knows what man with questionable hygiene. :/ When my OB finally got to me, I was 3cm dilated (after approximately 7 hours of labor) but he was a hot mess. He had spent the past 3 hours trying to save the woman’s life, which thank God he did, but had barged into my room with blood all over him saying “she almost died and there was so much blood, i thought i was going to lose her.” (Note, the woman was a friend of mine and I knew even before he told me that she was in the operation room having complications, I was very scared for her). He checked me, said my cervix was very tight and that I should be progressing much faster. He stripped my membranes, applied Cervadil to my cervix and gave me an hour to dilate more. When I hadn’t, he told me I was moving too slowly and that I would likely end up in an emergency csection if I didn’t just prep for one now. Of course, with the panic I had just witnessed in him an hour before about nearly losing a woman and the belief that I was progressing too slowly, my husband and I did not need long to agree to the section. My mother arrived in Egypt from the US exactly 2 hours after my son was born because the doctor told me I did not have time to wait for her. (I have not even touched upon the horror that is Egypt’s medical system… that deserves a whole other field of journalism and research. WHO, where are you?!)
Though I have always felt betrayed by my OB, I do believe that it was my destiny to go into labor on one of his really bad days; had I not come in at that same time as my friend who nearly died I truly believe I would not have ended up in a section with him. He had gone through his own emotional and professional struggles right before he came to me, and the easiest thing for him to do at that point was to be done with his day. Though it was a disempowering experience, my csection was just as much transformative for me as my VBAC. Because it was on that day that I had lost my power as a woman to birth my baby, and it is the reason why I went in search to find my power and reclaim it. Had I not lost this power, would I have ever gone looking for it? Would I have ever known it existed?
Needless to say I had suffered from the baby blues and a mild infection after the csection. I did not feel normal again for many months after the birth of my first child… partly because I was a mother for the first time and partly because of the csection. And till this day I have a scar that some say is the worst csection scar they have ever seen, including the OB who gave it to me.
When I got pregnant with my second I knew instantly that I would have a VBAC. I just didn’t know how. My sister in law, who is French and lives in France also had a VBAC and it was absolutely no big deal to anyone. Not the medical establishment, not the family, not anyone. So for me, having another Csection sounded like a HUGE deal. Why would I? I wanted my power back and I didn’t want major abdominal surgery ever again! Because it is MAJOR SURGERY! I knew there would be no way for a VBAC in Egypt and did not even attempt to find a doctor who supported it, I knew there were none. So I decided to come to LA (my home of 24 years) for my second.
I made a trip in my third month to find a doctor and followed my sister’s footsteps by looking close to my parent’s home at Pomona Valley for OBs. I found one, made an appointment and shared with her that I was having a VBAC. She said yes we can do a trail of labor but you will then be put at risk for a uterine rupture. A uterine rupture, what’s that? The French hadn’t mentioned it. So I went back to Egypt, continued with my prenatals and started to read. I looked at everything I could get a hold of via the internet and I oscillated time and again between repeat csection and VBAC. The OB from Pomona Valley had planted the seed in my head that my uterus would rupture but the more I read the more I realized she was full of shit and already setting me up to be coerced into a csection.
I don’t know if I had a light bulb moment or if it was just a lot of little bits of information and stories that I had come across, but about 3 weeks before I was due to fly into LA to wait for my daughter’s birth I decided I didn’t want to see that OB again. I did a quick google search of “VBAC 91789” (the zipcode where my parents lived) and the first thing that came up was AquaNatal Birth Center in Chino, CA. For the first time in maybe all of my life, I realized that there were still midwives in America! And I just ran with it. The VBAC train had found me and I got on.
It is through them that I found the most evidenced based research on VBACs. I found ICAN and the Unnecesarean and other support networks for VBAC moms. But most importantly I found beautiful stories of VBACs and hundreds upon hundreds of women who had been cut open… that’s right hundreds of women who had major abdominal surgery for NO reason. And they were pissed. And so was i. I also learned that my risks of a rupture would increase with every medical intervention I could potentially have in a hospital. I knew that if I were in a hospital I would be offered drugs and ‘help’ and that my will to resist them may be weakened when in the midst of birth and labor pains. Birthing in a hospital became a risk again for me, a risk I was not willing to take. I decided there was no way I was going to step foot in a hospital unless it was a true emergency and I needed life-saving medical care. I sent a desperate email to AquaNatal telling them “I am already 30 weeks but I am coming from out of the country to have a VBAC and I have no provider, can you please attend my birth?” They said yes and set me up with a tour a few days after I arrived. I met the Head Midwife and her student midwife and knew right away that I was almost there. Their birth package included the take home Hypnobabies Program, which I did religiously until the very last minute. I also bought the Hypnobabies VBAC tracks. When labor started two days before my due date I was ready and excited.
My second birth is the single most spiritual experience I have ever had. In all of my 38 hours of labor, never once did the thought of a uterine rupture come to my mind. Not once did I question my body’s ability or my baby’s well being. I knew and I trusted. I surrendered. I found my power. I birthed my baby girl through my vagina into my husband’s hands while in the birth pool.
i have since then tried to recapture that moment of transcendence, that moment of union with the universe, the moment where all the world falls away and nothing exists– by attending the births of other women as a doula. In that moment (no, not all 38 hours obviously but at some point you go there and you don’t come back until the baby comes), all things cease. There is no reality but The Reality. There is no-thing but God. La illaha Ill Allah/لا إله إلا ألله. The world pulsated with life around me but i was no where. i had surrendered my ‘nafs’, my mind, my ego. ‘i’ had been annihilated. Time stopped. i was kneeling (literally on hands and knees for most of my labor) at the throne of the Divine and the Divine commanded the Universe to push my baby into being, into life. i was simply a part of the Universe not separate from it, allowing the Cosmic Consciousness to Manifest, Live, Breathe, Push through me. And thus, ‘my faith’/Imani was born.