Physically, my recovery from my VBAC was difficult. I had a second degree tear that extended both up towards my urethra, and down into my perineum. The bottom tear extended about two-thirds of the way into my vagina. It took a lot of stitches to fix that up. It hurt for a long time, and took several months to heal completely. I don't have any residual effects, though.
Emotionally, I was in a bad place for a long time. You wouldn't think so, right? At least I got my VBAC, right? Yet I felt traumatised by it. But I couldn't pinpoint why I felt traumatised. Really, I was just grieving. I was grieving the loss of my UBAC, the loss of my homebirth, the loss of the calm quiet birth I had planned. I grieved the loss of catching my own baby, of being the first to touch her, of having her wet little body on my chest immediately. Even in my own mind I couldn't understand that these were very real losses. Of course I needed to grieve them.
Once again, I was spending my nights thinking about the birth, replaying it in my head. This time though, they weren't flashbacks, just memories. I cried a lot.
I was also insanely disappointed in myself. Yes, I had gotten my VBAC, but I gave up. I felt like a marathon runner who worked and trained for the race. I ran the first 20 miles and then quit. Someone picked me up in a golf cart and drove me to the finish line. I just had to walk the last five yards across the line. Yet I was being given full credit. It didn't make sense. I failed. I gave up. I deserved to be sitting there recovering from the second scar on my belly.
These feelings were compounded by the fact that not long after Emily's birth, a friend of mine had a very long labor like mine. She fought to the end and ended up with a CBAC anyway. (CBAC-cesarean after trying for a VBAC) I cried for so long when I heard. It just wasn't fair. How dare I give up and everything works out. She deserved it so much more.
I was very hard on myself for a long time. I just couldn't make sense of it. At the ICAN conference, a friend told me something profound, but I couldn't grasp the whole meaning of it then. "You simply got the support you needed at the time you needed it." At the time, it got me started thinking about things differently. But when it came back to me later, it changed my entire outlook.
One night, weeks later, I was thinking about Emily's birth, as I did often. This time, however, I really started thinking about the anesthesiologist. I started thinking about how I needed to find his name, I needed to send him a thank you note and let him know how it had worked out. Those words came back to me. "You simply got support..." Suddenly I realised, for the first time really, that I had changed my mind. I stood up to the OB when she was pushing for a cesarean. I pushed my baby out. I did those things, not the anesthesiologist. He reminded me of what I wanted when I forgot, but it was me who acted on that. I felt again like I had immediately after the birth. I did it! I did it!!
I had noticed that my cesarean had a lot less power over me now. I didn't understand it, but I felt healed. Eventually I figured out that I had the birth I really needed to have. In some ways, it was the birth of my dreams, literally. I realised that I had needed to go back into the place I was so afraid of. I needed to go back to the place (not the exact place, but it sufficed) where I had been brutalized the first time. This time, I stood up for myself. I took my power back. I had a second chance to do things over, and I took it.
I will always be sad about what I lost with Madelynn. My VBAC did not rewrite what happened to me the first time. And I can still be sad about the loss of my planned birth with Emily. But Emily's birth was the final step in my healing from my cesarean. I will always carry the scars, literally and figuratively, but I feel like a whole person again. I feel complete.