Dedicated to those women who have taught us all so much, especially the women who launched this group.
We – BABS – offer a once-a-month Cesarean/VBAC support group. I am usually the one who facilitates the group. This support group has a two-fold purpose. On the one hand, it is dedicated to women who have experienced cesareans and are processing how they feel about it. On the other hand, it is for women planning the next post-cesarean birth, whether they are looking for support with planning a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) or with planning a repeat cesarean birth. Some participants are clear what they want and need when they walk in the door; others are still struggling to figure out what will be best, given their desires, lives, and medical necessities. Some stay long enough for multiple needs and dreams to be sorted out. These often are the women who come in right after their first surgical birth and come regularly, then go away for a while, and eventually come back to get ready for the next birth.
The group is unified in that everyone who walks in the door has had a cesarean. They come because it feels good to sit in a room and talk with women who share the cesarean experience. These women understand how that affects their reproductive health for the rest of their lives. How they feel about the experience, what they want for future births (if any), all of those things vary wildly. But, since they all start from the same place – that of, to put it bluntly, “I have a scar on my uterus” – that makes for a strong bond. It also makes for some very compassionate listeners.
I started the group years ago. I don’t even remember when. I started it for the same reason we at BABS start most of our groups and classes: there seemed to be a need. We met at someone’s house, on the weekend, I think. When we first started, each of the women told their birth stories; we all listened. As the stories were told or sometimes afterwards, we talked about all the “what ifs” – those decision points that might have changed outcomes (good and bad) and equally important, those decision points that could have shifted how the woman felt about her experience. We worked hard with each other to really listen and give our heart-felt reactions to the stories, and we looked for answers and tried to figure out how to have things be better in the future.
I often say that as a doula, my job is to hold the space for the birthing woman and her family. Holding the space for these women as they told their stories and worked on their feelings stretched me and taught me so much.
My role is to affirm them as women, as women who are good mothers, who made the best decisions they could with the information they had and the pregnancy/labor/birth/baby/life they were handed. If she is happy with how things went, then we are happy with her. If she is angry, then we are angry with her. Whatever she feels, we accept, validate, and listen. When considering the future, the same is true. If she tells us that she wants another cesarean, then we are there for her 100%. We ask, how can you help make it the best experience possible? If she tells us that she wants a VBAC, then we are there for her 100%. We ask, how can you maximize the chances that you will have a vaginal birth?
I learned quickly how wounded and hurt some women were; how confused others were; and how relieved still others felt. Many women felt some of every emotion possible, just in differing amounts. Each woman had her own pile of emotions to unpack and sort through, like so much laundry sitting on the living room couch. The magic of groups like this is how they facilitate healing, how much can happen just with others serving as witnesses to the pain, joy, and struggle of these birth experiences.
What amazing teachers the women in the group have been! I learned so much about the complexities of emotions in these situations: how many factors could influence the feelings of the woman in labor, the woman being induced, the woman being told she needed a cesarean before labor even began. I feel honored to have the opportunity every month just to sit and listen and learn, to answer what questions I can, and to point to resources when needed. These women, together with all of my doula clients and the many women who have come through our doors, have taught me just how hard (and glorious) birth and motherhood can be.
We are not meant to parent in isolation, and the women who come to the Cesarean Birth/VBAC group find validation and healing. Together, in the group, we hold the space for the variety of emotions and experience that each woman brings. If you have had a cesarean or a VBAC or are planning either, please feel free to come join us. You, and your story, will be welcome. We meet at BABS the first Wednesday of every month at 6:30PM.