Conflicted: successful VBAC, brain damaged baby

It’s getting harder and harder to parody natural childbirth and homebirth advocates because there is virtually nothing I can write that is more absurd than how they actually behave. No sooner did I finish yesterday’s satire on the Sanctimommy Olympics, joking that a gold medal performance in birth does not require the baby to survive, then someone sent me a link to this thread on Baby Center, posted on 8/3/12:

So I had a successful VBAC 6 weeks ago, yay!

but… my baby went into distress during pushing, and when she was born she had several issues, meconium, trouble breathing, high acid levels, and had to stay in the NICU for 3.5 weeks. She was diagnosed with HIE, so she had a severe lack of oxygen at some point, and an MRI showed brain damage.

So what I’m posting for is to ask if anyone else has has the experience of a sucessful VBAC, but an unhealthy baby, and how to I deal with the conflicting emotions about that??

On the one hand, I’m so happy I was able to experience a drug free labor and push my baby out (with some necessary assistance at the end, but still), that was something I wanted so badly, and I’m proud I was able to handle drug free labor so well.

And on the other hand, my baby couldn’t handle a vaginal birth for some unknown reason and she will probably have to deal with the effects of that for the rest of her life. So I feel like I really shouldn’t be so proud of that VBAC, like I should have just had a RCS instead.

help? 🙁

In response, I’ve promulgated this handy rule of thumb:

It is not a success, and you are not entitled to be proud, if the birth results in a dead or brain-damaged baby.

You know why? Because your birth experience is WORSE THAN MEANINGLESS compared to the health of your baby’s brain or body! No doubt the natural childbirth and homebirth narcissists will be shocked to learn that there is anything that matters more than their personal experiences, but that’s our typical response to behaviors that maim or kill others.

You may love the experience of drag racing and winning, but if the other driver is killed in the process, you have no right to be proud. You might love the experience of giving your unsecured toddler a ride on your motorcycle, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that he died when thrown from the bike. You may hate visiting a hospital, but that won’t excuse you from failing to bring in your deathly ill child.

Lest you think VBAC complications are vanishingly rare, consider that two other women reported uterine ruptures on the same thread:

I am SO sorry you had to go through this. I also had a complete uterine rupture back in March. My story sounds so much like yours. I’m here if you ever need to talk, because I know how hard it is to deal with. Also like pp stated, I have a few uterine rupture support groups you can join when you feel ready. I’m praying that your baby makes a wonderful recovery <3


I’m another rupture mom. We lost our baby in August last year. This is a tough and confusing time and I’m praying for you and you little one. We do have mamas in the rupture support groups mentioned by previous posters who have experience with cooling caps. When you’re ready, get in touch an we can put you on touch. Lots of hugs. Life is so very unfair.

Moreover two additional women on the same message board posted about catastrophic VBAC outcomes within the next 48 hours.

On 8/4/12, a second mother reported:

I went into labor on Wednesday morning at 3:30 am. I labored for 16 hours without an epidural. My water was ruptured when I was 8.5 centimeters dialated and 100% effaced. Two hours later I was 10 and began too push. Immediately, I began to have excruciating breakthrough pain which I now know was me rupturing. I pushed through three contractions before my son had a complete heart decel.

I was rushed in for emergency csection. I had to be given general anesthesia. When I woke up post op I was told my son was essentially brain dead and we should let him die peacefully. Within two hours of being born he began to show brain activity. He began breathing on his own, sucking, his gag reflex was intact. Based on these new developments he became eligible for a treatment known as cold cap that is for newborns with brain injuries. His treatment concludes early next and once it does we will have a better idea of his prognosis.

Mu providers are devastated. They supported a VBAC from the beginning. According to the Doxtors my VBAC was picture perfect until I began to push. In every phase of labor they were aware of my desires and supported them until it became clear there was a problem. I can’t believe I am in the .5%-1.25% that ruptures.

And on 8/5/12, a third mother reported:

Was hoping to vbac but after going into labor, water breaking, etc baby boy’s heartrate dropped to a scary level enough times that were rushed into the operating room. Baby had the cord wrapped around his neck 3 times and lost oxygen for a period of time.

6-7 hours after birth he had a seizure and was transported to a higher level nicu for treatment. He had xool cap therapy to prevent any further damage to his brain and has recovered beautifully. He might have a learning disability in the future due to some damage found on an mri but will not be able to know until he is in school.

This is day 8 in the nicu and all he has to do is nurse consistently and we can go home! Hoping that will be in 2-3 days.

This mother, at least, recognizes that her baby’s health is more important than her experience:

I am not upset I didnt get my vbac but glad baby is doing well. If we end up with another (this was baby #3) I might just go for a rcs.

Attempting a VBAC is a reasonable option in a hospital that is appropriately staffed, IF and ONLY IF a mother understands that death and brain damage will inevitably occur in some babies even if you are low risk, even if your doctor is standing right there, and even if you have immediate surgery.

And keep my handy rule of thumb in mind:

It is not a success, and you are not entitled to be proud, if the VBAC results in a dead or brain-damaged baby.