We were lucky to hear Meg share her story during one of our childbirth seminars, “VBAC: Women’s Stories and Perspectives”. Meg's First Birth In 2018, Meg gave birth to her first child, Himig. Meg and her husband conceived their child via in vitro fertilization (IVF). Due to his chemotherapy, they were no longer able to conceive the usual way and it actually took several tries before they were able to have a successful pregnancy.
“Noong nagbuntis ako, actually diniscuss ko sa OB ko that I want to give birth naturally,” Meg said. “Pero noong nabasa niya ‘yung medical records ko at nalaman niya ‘yung kuwento ko, sabi niya, ‘No. The baby is too precious to take the risk.’ Lalo noong nalaman niya na si Himig ay 5th try namin na IVF.”
(“When I got pregnant, I actually discussed with my OB that I wanted to give birth naturally,” Meg said. “But when she read my medical records and learned my story, she said, “No, the baby is too precious to take the risk.” Especially when she found out that Himig was our fifth IVF attempt.”)
This came as a disappointment since as a first time parent, Meg had a clear vision of what she wanted her pregnancy and birth to be like. But the health and safety of both her and her child came first, and so they agreed with their doctors and had a scheduled CS birth shortly after New Year’s Day.
“Hindi ganon ‘yung birth na ine-envision ko. Ayoko maranasan uli ‘yung ganon,” said Meg.
(“That was not the birth that I envisioned. I did not want to experience the same thing again.”)
The moment her child was born, they just showed him to her, and said “He’s normal, he’s okay.” No Unang Yakap, no breastfeeding. She was not even able to hold him until 12 hours later. Because of the length of separation, latching and breastfeeding in general became a struggle for both of them. It was a good thing that there was a milk bank at the facility where she gave birth, but it didn’t solve the problem at its core.
Because of this, Meg turned to research and eventually found out about lactation consultants and lactation massages. It was also around this time when she learned about vaginal birth after cesarean or VBAC. Fortunately, she was able to overcome their breastfeeding struggles after she had a lactation massage and moved on to nurse her child until she got pregnant again more than 3 years after. So when she got pregnant again in 2021, she decided to leave nothing to chance.
Planning for a VBAC “I am too decided. Decided talaga ako na ipapanganak ko yung 2nd baby ko naturally,” she shared.
(“I am too decided. I was really decided to give birth to my second baby naturally.”)
So what did she do? Well, the very first step for her was to learn as much as she can from people who have already had similar experiences. She joined gentle birth groups and followed gentle birth providers on Facebook. She followed Doc Bev Ferrer, and in one of Doc Bev’s posts where she lists the criteria for a successful VBAC, she found out that she was an excellent candidate. She read and studied rigorously about VBAC to increase her chances of succeeding. And on top of that, she enrolled in the Birthing with Confidence Childbirth Preparation Class.
But even with all that preparation, it was not without its problems. First of all, she had to convince her husband that it was the best thing for their child and her. Like her first pregnancy, their second child was conceived via IVF. Her whole family, especially since her brother-in-law was also a doctor, seemed to be against it, concerned about their safety.
“Kasi CS ka na e. Bakit mo pa ite-take ‘yung risk ng labor pain and everything para manganak, e andali kung isi-CS ka na?” she said, referring to their objections. “Pero ako mismo nag-decide. Lahat nu’ng mga benefits, prinesent ko kay Hubby kung bakit kailangan naming mag-VBAC.”
(“You’ve already had a CS birth. Why would you take the risks of labor pain and everything to give birth? It would be easier if you had a CS again,” she said, referring to their objections. “But I was the one who decided. All the benefits, I presented to my husband [to convince him] why we had to have a VBAC.”)
Another concern was choosing a healthcare provider and birthing team that would be supportive to her birth plan and would honor her birth wishes. It was the middle of the pandemic, and on top of it, they had already decided to relocate to Iloilo. She was nearing the end of her first trimester by then, and everything had been prepared from their packed things to the house they would live in, up to the plane tickets. That was the moment she realized that she did not have an OBGyne in Iloilo yet.
“Doon ko nalang na-realize na wala akong OB! Paano ako manganganak na masusunod ‘yung gusto kong VBAC? Lalo dito sa province, parang never heard or di talaga napa-practice yung CS sa first then vaginal birth sa second child. Pati nga yung nurse dito sa district hospital namin nagulat sa idea,” she quipped.
(“That was when I realized that I did not have an OB! How can I have the VBAC that I want? Especially in the provinces, it’s never heard of that you have a CS for your first and then vaginal birth for your second child. Even the nurse at the distric hospital was surprised at the idea,” she quipped.)
She messaged Doc Bev and me, but unfortunately, we were not aware of any health providers in Iloilo. But Meg told herself that it would be easier to find a doctor when they were settled in, so that’s what she did. As soon as they were safely relocated, Meg contacted friends, family, and acquaintances to get their recommendations. Finally, she got in touch with a breastfeeding community leader in the area who in turn gave her several options for an OB who would be supportive of her birth plans. And from there, she finally found a health care provider who was willing to support her vision for her second birth. Braving the Odds
Even then, it was difficult for Meg to get all of them on board. But if she is anything, Meg is determined and decided. She was met with a “No” from her OBGyne when she said that she wanted a natural birth, with the same concerns of it being an IVF pregnancy, and on top of that, she was at an advanced maternal age. The risk was too high, according to the doctor.
She insisted, “Doc, hindi, I took Doula Ros’ childbirth preparation classes. I do Lamaze exercises. First few meetings naming ng OB ko, laging ang sagot niya ‘Let’s see’. So every week, mino-monitor. Tapos every 2 weeks around my 37th week, pinapa-scan niya ako, kasi kailangan niyang malaman.” Meg followed everything just so she can convince her doctor that she is serious in her pursuit for a VBAC.
(She insisted, “Doc, no, I took Doula Ros’ childbirth preparation classes. I do Lamaze exercises. On our first few meetings with our OB, she would always say ‘Let’s see.’ So every week, we monitored. Then every two weeks around my 37th week, she would have me scanned because she needed to know.”)
“Actually, at that time, nung hindi siya naggo-go, I told my husband, kailangan kong maghanap ng ibang OB pero that was already [on my] 36th week,” Meg said. “I know in myself that I came fully prepared for this birth. I know in my mind na kaya kong ideliver ito ng naturally.”
(“Actually, at that time, when she did not say Go, I told my husband, I need to find another OB. But that already on my 36th week,” Meg said. “I know in myself that I came fully prepared for this birth. I know in my mind that I can deliver [my child] naturally.”)
To convince her OBGyne even more, Meg decided to show her very detailed birth plan. From what she wanted while she was in labor – the non-restriction of her movements, the food she would eat, who she wanted in the room with her, to the aftercare of her and her baby – she had it all listed down in her birth plan. She met with both her OBGyne and the pediatrician who would be present in the delivery room and had them sign it with their approval. She then gave copies of her birth plan to everyone who would be there – including the nursing staff and the resident doctor. That was when her OBGyne finally learned just how fully prepared, informed and decided Meg was.
“Every time lumalabas yung results ng ultrasound, nire-research ko. So hindi pa man niya nabasa yung results ng ultrasound ko, mayroon na akong notes. Sabi niya, ‘In my 25 years of experience in being an OB, it is my first time to encounter a patient such as yourself na mayroon detailed birth plan,” Meg laughed as she said this. She was even asked if she was such a diligent student when she was in college because of how detailed her birth plan was. She even had a plan for when it was medically necessary to give birth via CS for the safety of her child and herself.
(“Every time the results of the ultrasound came out, I would do my research. So before she even read the results of my ultrasound, I would already have notes. She said, ‘In my 25 years of experience being an OB, it is my first time to encounter a patient such as yourself who has a detailed birth plan,” Meg laughed as she said this.) Giving Birth During a Super-Typhoon As if the mountain isn’t high enough to climb, Meg gave birth in the middle of Super-Typhoon Odette in heavy-hit Iloilo. The moment she entered the ER, it was a total blackout. Power lines, as well as communication lines, were down. When she was already asking for support on pain meds, they couldn’t contact the anesthesiologist because there was no mobile signal as well. But even the worst weather could not hinder a mother who was as immovable as Meg was at that time.
“May mga restrictions, pero nasunod yung birth plan ko all in all. Lahat nung ine-envision ko nung 1st birth ko na hindi ko na-experience, nagawa ko nung 2nd birth ko kay Hiraya. I had freedom of movement and used a birth ball. I was able to eat and drink. I was allowed to listen to music of my choice,” she proudly told us. (“There were restrictions, but my birth plan was followed all in all. All that I envisioned from my first birth that I did not get to experience, I got to do on my second birth with Hiraya,” she proudly told us.)
“Kahit may sinasabi nila na bawal, lagi kong sinasagot na gawin nilang basehan yung birth plan ko na na-approve ng doctor ko.” Even at the end, Meg was in control, “Nag fundal push pa sila nung pushing time kasi ayaw lumabas ni Hiraya, kasi parang wala nako lakas mag push at dahil hindi yata nabasa ng resident yung birth plan ko. Pero sinabihan ko talaga siya na i-stop muna ang fundal pushing, hayaan niyo muna akong magpush na ako lang.”
(“Even if they tell me that there are restrictions, I always ask them to refer to the birth plan which my doctor approved. They even did fundal pushing that time because Hiraya didn’t want to come out, and I was exhausted, and the resident was not able to see my birth plan. But I told them to stop pushing and let me do it myself.”) Meg also notes that the full Unang Yakap was done for her and Hiraya. “One hour siyang naka latch sa akin kahit na nakaidlip ako sa pagod nakahiga lang siya sa dibdib ko at dumedede. Nakabantay lang yung mga nurse sa paligid. Kaya madali lang ang breastfeeding journey namin ni Hiraya compared kay Himig.” When a nurse attempted to get the baby, Meg still advocated for them to check the birth plan as approved by OB and pedia. (“She was latched to me for one hour, even when I as already groggy she was just there on my chest. The nurses were just around to look after us. That’s why the breastfeeding journey is easier with Hiraya compared to Himig.”)
Knowledge, Preparation, and Determination
“I know my rights, I know what to do. I am more involved, my opinions were heard, my birth plan was followed, and I felt empowered. Na-heal ako sa traumatic experience ko with my first birth. This is my birth. My body is designed to give birth and deliver this baby. Pinaghandaan ko ito.”
Needless to say, Meg’s story has a happy ending, with a healthy new baby added to the family. Hers is a story of determination and will, despite the odds. I hope you find inspiration in that, and remember that knowledge, preparation, and determination can do so much for you and the birth you envision for yourself.