VBAC your way
It is common for mothers to feel disenfranchised, unheard, traumatized, even terrified, as they consider the birth of another child after having gone through a cesarean section — especially if that surgical birth was an emergency or deemed necessary during the last days of pregnancy.
Sharon Muza wants to change that.
"I don't want people to have any regrets," she says of her class "VBAC YOUR Way." The class is designed to empower and guide women considering a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC).
"I don't want everyone in my class to have a VBAC; I do want them to have an empowered birth."
Muza, a longtime doula and childbirth educator, has a passion for helping parents make informed choices. She lights up, talking about the differences between the birth stories that families share before and after the class.
Jerrica Kostis, who lives in Greenwood, had her second child this past spring, following a cesarean with her first child.
"Frankly, I was scared to go back to the hospital after the cesarean," says Kostis. In particular, she was frightened of a uterine rupture, a complication that occurs in a small percentage of VBAC births.
In trying to thoroughly inform patients, healthcare providers often overemphasize the risks of complications from VBAC. Muza, on the other hand, presents the risks accurately and in a variety of ways that allow parents to put them in context. She also teaches them to seek out that context while talking with providers about what levels of risk they're comfortable with. For example, one mother may see a one percent chance of hemorrhage as unacceptable, while another sees that as unlikely enough to factor it out of her decision-making.
"She works through all the risks and helps define perception of risk really well so that parents explore their own comfort level and find where their hearts meet the science," says midwife Jodilyn Owen, LM, CPM, owner of Essential Birth and Family Center in Seward Park. Owen says that Muza's VBAC Your Way class is unique in her field of childbirth education.
Ali Lewis, an OB/GYN at Northwest Hospital, agrees that there is a tendency for providers to treat the risks of a VBAC differently from the risks of a repeat cesarean section when discussing options with their patients. She likes that Muza's class helps boost a woman's self-confidence and self-advocacy in gathering facts about different birth options.
"Sharon does a lot of myth-busting, she talks about the actual evidence," Lewis says. "I can trust she's going to give my patients good information."
The class begins with an opportunity for parents to tell their previous birth stories.
Sharing tears, fears, and anger with peers who have had similar experiences in a safe, supportive environment is one of the things that sets this class apart from other birth-preparation instruction, Muza says.
The class also includes a full refresher of birth-preparation information, as well as hands-on activities that attendees say are both informative and fun.
Muza covers a variety of situations, including home birth VBACs and planned and emergency repeat cesareans, helping parents prepare for any eventuality.
Jamie Regis of Edmonds, for example, had an unplanned cesarean with her first child. She and her husband, Jason, had already worked through many of the emotional issues around that by the time they attended Muza's class in preparation for their second birth.
"I was far more informed about my rights, what I could choose to do at the hospital, than I was the first time," Jamie says. Jason Regis echoes his wife, saying that he too was much more confident about outcomes and everyone's role in decision-making after Muza's class.
Though her second birth ended with a cesarean as well, Jamie says it "was a much more empowered birth.
"I had a lot less trauma afterwards and a lot more feeling of success even though we had the same outcome," she says.
As many as 400 families have attended the class since Muza started it in 2008.
"For most women, VBAC is a safe and healthy option – and often is the recommended option," Muza says. But families must make their own decisions.
"I'm not here to convince them of what's right or wrong," Muza says. "I give them the vocabulary and the skills to talk to their provider and advocate for themselves."
Muza's class is offered several times a year. Learn more at www.sharonmuza.com or all 206-465-1052.
Sharon Muza's top tips for a succesful VBAC
Do your research as early as possible (class participants have varied from trying to conceive to being in their last weeks of pregnancy).
Follow your gut when choosing providers: You should feel comfortable with their answers to detailed questions.
Don’t be afraid to change providers even in the last days before the birth.
Keep the acronym BRAIN in mind: benefits, risks, alternatives, intuition, nothing.
Bring a family member or doula who can advocate for you and help you make decisions.
Be rested going into labor, and stay fueled and hydrated.
Be open to how your labor unfolds: “The story’s not written until the baby’s out.”