So, I’m not the first woman to experience both types of childbirth (obviously).
But after having a successful VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-Section) a few months ago, the question I get asked the most (like actually asked, not like an Instagram influencer saying “a lot of you have been asking about my skincare routine” asked) is: “which is better, Vaginal birth or a C-section?”
So I figured I’d break down my thoughts and experiences for those who are curious.
Here It Goes-
Have you ever played that game “Would You Rather,” where someone gives you two horrendous options and you have to decide which of the two is slightly more bearable?
I’ll give you an example: “Would you rather get a paper cut between your fingers every time you touch paper or bite your tongue every time you eat something?”[Umm. neither, thanks.]
Well, that’s pretty much how I feel when people ask me this question.
“So you’ve got a baby inside of you. Would you rather have us fillet you open and sort through your various skin flaps and organs to get it out, or just have us pull it out like a barbed arrow from your tiny lady hole?”
Yikes, doc they’re both so tempting…[sarcasm] THEY BOTH SUCK.
But here are my initial thoughts:
1. I, for one, am glad that I was able to experience both and now have a reasonable ability in the future, barring complications, to not be tied to always having a C-section. Basically, it’s nice to have options. (If you have had 2 or more c-sections, most doctors consider you ineligible for vaginal birth due to higher risk factors).
2. They both have pros and cons. There’s no “right way” to give birth (I mean, I personally wouldn’t try revenge squatting in that Chili’s booth where you got food poisoning a few weeks earlier… but you do you, girl.)
Honestly, If you’ve brought a child into this world that was once inside of you then you are a QUUUEEEEEN. Like, no matter where you do it, how drugged or not drugged you are, or how long it lasts. CHILDBIRTH IS F’ING HARD.
I mean, it’s a nightmare, lady. 😵😵
Sure, it’s great and magical and full of all the feels too, but let’s not sell ourselves short here. It is probably the only experience you will ever have that is equal parts beautiful and mutilating.
So if you’ve done it, I believe you 100% when you tell me how hard, painful, and never-ending it felt. I’m not going to try to one-up you with my birth stories, because GIRL, YOU HAVE BEEN THROUGH IT.
3. Either way, chances are you are going to be so euphoric and hopped up on adrenaline (and possibly drugs) afterwards that the instant you have that baby in your arms you will forget about any pain or discomfort you might be feeling as excitement and relief take over. And lucky for us, when you look back on your birth experience, you will more than likely have forgotten about at least some of the pain you went through to get that baby here (I mean how else would women convince themselves to have another baby?).
BUT, for those of you sitting there thinking I should stop being so gosh darn pragmatic and just spill the beans already…
HERE’S WHAT I’LL TELL YOU:
Vaginal birth is like a marathon and a C-section is more like a sprint.
Everything leading up to my VBAC was torture, and pain, and all things horrible. [“OHGOD I WANT TO VOMIT JUST THINKING ABOUT IT” torture.]
Whereas with my C-section, all I had to do was show up, get drugged, and poof! Baby was in and out in an hour.
Vaggie Style: 0
However, I remember very little about my first 12-24 hours (see, I can’t even remember how long I was loopy for) post C-section. After our 2nd baby was born (through my vagina) I was SO much more mentally aware of everything that had happened and was happening (which was g r e a t when it came time to nurture and care for my new bundle of joy, less great when it came time to nurture and care for my new bundle of swollen crotch flesh). BUT in all honesty, part of me hates looking back at my first birth and barely being able to remember half of it.
That’s a point for the Vag, for those of you keeping score.
Now physical recovery-wise this is an easy vote in my book. Vaginal birth, even with tearing, is a HELLUVA lot easier.
I mean both take 6 weeks for your body to fully heal, but, as long as things go well, they will have you in and out of the hospital in 24 hours. With a C-section you are usually looking at a minimum stay of 3 days in fluorescent, constipated hell.
Even though your Downtown Brown is gonna be in a world of hurt (and itchiness), I will take sitting on a soft surface and dealing with hemorrhoids any day over barely being able to get out of bed, bend over, or go up and down stairs without feeling like my insides are going to explode. Night feedings were especially hard post C-section; I often didn’t want to wake my husband, but even trying to adjust positions or pick up the baby was difficult and painful on my own.
Post VBAC I was able to get by on just a few occasional doses of ibuprofen. After the C-section, I hadn’t planned on refilling the stronger pain meds my doctor had prescribed post birth, but ended up needing them the first couple of days back at home.
Was it great still having everything “intact” down there. Sure.
Was the difficulty of having major surgery AND a needy newborn enough for me to care about preserving my precious Lady Flower?
I’ll also add that after having my second baby and a toddler at home, I was incredibly relieved not to have just had a C-section as the time my husband could take off from work to stay home and help was limited and I can’t imagine trying to deal with that alone. (Toddler + Newborn + Surgery + The Postpartum Rollercoaster of emotions + Lack of Sleep = a quarter-pounder shit sandwich that I’m so glad I never had to eat)
Lady Luck Style: 2
This is a minor point, and honestly it can go both ways, but after a C-section you have to have an incision check at 2 weeks postpartum. This means that in addition to the regular 6 weeks for a postpartum checkup with your OB/GYN, you will need to make an appointment with your lady doc to make sure everything is healing as it should post-op.
In a way it’s nice having an opportunity to have an extra one-on-one chat with your own doctor post-baby to talk about how you’re feeling and what your recovery has been like. Plus, I remember getting easily overwhelmed being home all day with a brand new baby. People generally tried to give us space and time to recover, but really, I was jumping at any chance to see other adults or get out of the house.
On the other hand, it’s another doctor’s appointment and leaving the house with a newborn is hard work. It takes an inexplicably long amount of time, and has to be carefully planned within a 3 hour nursing/feeding window. By 2 weeks you are just starting to get into a groove with this stranger that you love but also barely even know, (I’m talking about your baby, not your new She Shed) so any disruption to that developing routine can feel like a setback.
This one is a TIE.
🎵 Let’s Talk About (Postpartum) Sex, Baby… 🎵
This one is a no-brainer.
(Get it? Because you’ll want none of that brain up in your Ax Wound for A W H I L E if you gave vaginal birth)
Disgusting. I know. But I’m just trying to be real here.
After my VBAC I had some tearing “down there”. Whatever. It’s to be expected, it wasn’t that bad, (I think it was a level two or something), and my doctor had warned me there could be some discomfort the first few times being sexually active after the healing period was over, but what she described as discomfort, I call PAIN. There’s just no other way to describe it. The first time I literally was in tears and vowed to never have sex again until we were ready for another baby. It was like reliving childbirth in reverse except there was no epidural to numb any of the pain.
Maybe I’m an exception and most women don’t experience that kind of pain with postpartum intimacy (personally I can’t fathom how it could not hurt, but whatever, ROBOT).
When I addressed it with my doctor, she said it was mostly like scar tissue buildup that would generally fade with time. Turns out having a baby go Feng Shui on your Lady Loft causes some damage that might take more than a month and a half to get Marie Kondo’d back into shape.
Luckily for me (and my husband) the pain did diminish and eventually stop, but not without some traumatic experiences that will definitely give me pause the next time my 6 weeks of “healing” are up.
In case it was unclear. This point goes to C-sections, where things are generally left unscathed.
That’s leaves us here:
Carpet Bomber: 3
Slice ’em and Dice ’em: 3
Great Whitney, it’s tied. THIS WAS HELPFUL *eye roll*
Don’t worry friends. I’m not finished and I promise you didn’t read this whole post for nothing.
The final tie-breaking factor?
It’s nothing all that special or particularly amusing (if that’s why you’re reading this).
But the thing I think I liked most about giving birth the “natural” way was just how quickly I felt like I could get back to life and start feeling like myself again.
If you’ve gone through a pregnancy and childbirth, you probably can relate to how hard it is to “just enjoy this stage” while you feel like a stranger in your own body.
Maybe it’s because your body is still unrecognizable but without the excitement of it being due to growing human life anymore. Or maybe it’s being in that awkward phase where neither your maternity clothes or your regular clothes fit comfortably. But it’s not just that extra weight you’re still carrying. It’s also that your emotions are all over the place and you question whether or not you are doing everything right with this new baby, whether it is your first baby or fourth. It’s the swelling that still hasn’t gone down in your legs even though you’re two weeks postpartum. It’s the diaper-sized pads (or just diapers in general) that you have to wear for the first few days of bloody aftermath. You have no time for yourself, no time to figure out this new part of your life and what it’s done to your identity. Sure you have a new baby that smells really good and is looking less and less like a 87 year old alien everyday, but there’s also this sense of loss that comes with giving birth. A loss of time, a loss of sleep, a loss of identity, a loss of hair and all kinds of fluids…
Before I go and get all deep on you, suffice it to say that the waiting period to get yourself (or even your new self) back took me a little longer after having a C-section than it did with my VBAC.
AND THAT CAN BE HARD.
If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change having had a C-section, but I’m also so glad that I was able to experience vaginal birth, and, truth be told, that’s the route I’ll choose every time in the future if I have the option.
But really, if experiencing both has taught me anything it’s that childbirth is just that – CHILD.BIRTH.
IT’S AMAZING! (Insane, ridiculous, miraculous, horrifying…)
Whether you go au natural, schedule a date with a scalpel, or end up experiencing both like me, it doesn’t really matter.Though if you are like me and would like to try for a VBAC, be prepared that you might have to fight for it, or find a doctor that supports them. They are considered higher risk and not all doctors/hospitals are willing to perform them.
What matters is that you went through something incredible and difficult and came out the other side (or wait, maybe I’m confusing you with your baby…). Either way you did a hard thing and you deserve major props (annnd probably a new car or something) for it.
Be nice to yourself …and to every woman you know who’s given birth.
Because you, and she, and her…
About the Author
Whitney Hamill is a young mom with two very young babies and frankly, they’re kicking her ass. So much so in fact, that she recently quit her job to be able to spend more time enjoying putting out fires and cleaning a crusty paste she affectionately refers to as “boogurt” as it is equal parts boogers + yogurt. Writing about it seems to be therapeutic and She’d love for her writing to reach other parents that can relate… and if she made money doing it, I guess that’s cool too. *hint hint*. You can find more of her work at https://www.amongotherthingsblog.com.