Although certain medical professionals subscribe to the medical mantra of “once a caesarean, always a caesarean”, having a previous caesarean section (C-section) doesn’t mean that you have to choose a caesarean birth for your next child. Vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC) is definitely possible.
In this interview, Ferrinn Wong, who delivered her five-month-old son Iezekiel naturally even though she had a previous C-section when she gave birth to her three-year-old daughter Ever, shares her experience with Mummyfique and why she would encourage other mummies who are considering the VBAC route to go for it.
Mummyfique: Can you share why you opted for c-section with your first child?
As my husband often travels for work, I was fearful of going into labour alone. Many of my friends also had unsuccessful vaginal deliveries that resulted in emergency C-sections, so I was not confident of having a smooth vaginal delivery. As I had so much fear and doubt, I thought having an elective c-section would be the best option for me. I could pick a date that my husband would be in Singapore and, after that, all I needed to was to head to the doctors with my husband, lie and be cut open, and out will come my baby.
What made you decide to explore VBAC then?
It turned out that a C-section was not at all what I thought it would be like. I had assumed that my husband could be by my side throughout the entire procedure but I was alone most of the time as I trembled with fear in the cold operating theatre. It was only after repeated requests that my husband was allowed in just before they took our daughter out of my womb. However, he was only allowed to stay for five minutes before he was ushered out, together with our baby.
I clearly remember lying there mortified and feeling completely disconnected from my baby. I had been eagerly anticipating meeting my baby during the nine months of pregnancy, yet this was all there was to the birth experience, and it was a horrible one at that. As if to add salt to an already open wound, my recovery process from the C-section was terribly long and painful. I ended up spending the bulk of my confinement in pain, bedridden and stressed out by everything. It took me a long time to get over the ordeal that was my first delivery, and I promised myself that should I be lucky enough to get pregnant again, I was definitely going for VBAC.
What did your doctor say when he heard of your VBAC plan?
The gynaecologist I had for my first baby was not supportive of VBAC, so I actually had to look for another gynaecologist. We settled upon Professor Chong Yap Seng from the National University Hospital who was recommended by my husband’s friends. Other than feeling comfortable with him and his philosophies on delivery, it helped that he had recently done a successful VBAC when I met him. He also assured me that since there was a two-and-a-half-year gap between my first and second delivery, my chances of success would be higher.
Even after I learnt about the risks associated with VBAC, such as the possible rupturing of the wound, I felt that the benefits outweighed the risks, and I was determined to try to get the beautiful birth experience I was deprived of with my first baby.
What was the delivery experience via VBAC like?
As I had scheduled my first delivery, I had never gone into labour before, so it was akin to delivering for the first time as I had no idea what to expect. Hence, even after my contractions started to set in, I was still going about my daily routine. Only after some 20 hours and upon my mum’s insistence did I go to the hospital. I was surprised that I was already 4cm dilated when I was admitted.
Unlike the cold surgical surroundings of my first pregnancy, the atmosphere in the delivery room was reassuring and both my husband and I were calm and at ease throughout the entire delivery process — a far cry from our first experience. We laughed and chatted throughout and even managed two naps during my labour process. When I was 6cm dilated, I requested an epidural. However, before it was administered, my water bag broke and the pain intensified immediately. I could feel my baby’s head pushing down on my cervix and the pain was no joke. Despite the pain, I was actually very excited and grateful to have this experience. My labour progressed really quickly after I was given the epidural and soon it was time to push. My doctor and the midwife were extremely patient and motivating, and my husband was so supportive. They were truly my dream team.
When our baby slid out, it was a magical moment. It’s impossible to describe how spectacular the feeling was. And knowing how beautiful the entire experience can be, I would choose a vaginal birth again in a heartbeat.
Do you have advice for other mummies considering VBAC?
Definitely give it a go. I’m a living testament that having a vaginal birth after a C-section is possible. The key is to find a doctor who is supportive of your decision, so don’t be afraid to change doctors if you have to. The costs are not too prohibitive either. My total medical bill was around S$9,000, inclusive of antenatal visits, doctor’s delivery fees and single bedroom charges. And my costs were higher than if you choose to take a package — I paid for each item a la carte since I had switched doctors midway.
Go with the flow and listen to your heart and your body. If you don’t even try or explore you won’t know if it’s possible. Personally, I’m glad I took the plunge.