Interview: Birth Advocate Rebecca Quintana

In the spirit of celebrating my mama’s right to imperfection, here today is a profile I intended to share *last month.* In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month, I’d like to introduce you to the remarkable Rebecca Quintana.

Rebecca Quintana is an inspirational ICAN birth advocate here in Athens, Georgia, and I think she beautifully embodies the volunteer esprit de corps that energizes the International Cesarean Awareness Network.  She is a DONA-certified birth doula who homeschools her six children (ages 1 to 19). Rebecca also helps her husband operate the family drywall business. All things birthy capture her interest—normal birth advocacy, breastfeeding, gentle parenting—as do yoga, music, time with family and friends, and culinary creativeness.

Here is Rebecca’s inspiring perspective on preparing for birth, especially vaginal birth after Cesarean (VBAC):

Mamahhh: Rebecca, hi! It’s been awhile since I last saw you in prenatal yoga. Since the birth of your most recent dear one, you’ve also birthed a local chapter of ICAN. Congratulations! What’s your role with ICAN of Athens?
Rebecca: As chapter leader, I provide the overall direction for the group, coordinating our activities, directing leadership, and representing the local organization to the public. I make sure that the chapter puts forth its best effort to meet the needs of the women in the community seeking support and information about cesarean prevention, recovery, and promoting VBAC.

Mamahhh: You had six Cesarean births. You tried, wholeheartedly, for a VBAC—researching, educating yourself, seeking support, regular prenatal yoga classes … mama, you were a sweet warrior on the VBAC path! How have, or how are you, making your peace with that?
Rebecca:
Yes, all six of my children were born via Cesarean. I had the same doctors for my first and second births. The first time, I had a failed induction at 38 weeks. The second birth, I planned for a VBAC but had a Cesarean at 40 weeks because I was told I had a “big baby.” The third time, I had a new doctor who told me I couldn’t try for a VBAC, and so the fourth time, with yet another doc, I had a planned Cesarean birth because I didn’t think trying for a VBAC was an option. I switched to a doctor who was supportive of VBACs for my last two births. Although I sometimes feel disappointed that I have not experience a vaginal birth I feel empowered by the level of support and respect from my care provider.  His skillful experience, overall evidence-based approach to birth, and respect for my autonomous decision-making facilitated the safest environment for me to have a trial of labor. He made every attempt to help me succeed.

Mamahhh: That must have inspired you, in part, to create ICAN of Athens.
Rebecca:
When I was expecting my 5th child in 2007 and facing a 5th Cesarean, I found support and information about VBAC through ICAN of Atlanta. They provided current material and research weighing all the risks and benefits of a vaginal birth after multiple Cesareans (VBAmC). They also provided information about VBAC supportive care providers.  I was welcomed into their chapter and had the opportunity to talk with other moms who had VBAmC’ed.  I found support, camaraderie, and a wealth of information.  The only hitch was I had to travel more than an hour outside of my community to get that level of support.  After that experience, I felt that birthing women in Athens—especially those recovering from, facing, or wanting to avoid a medically unnecessary cesarean—would benefit from a local ICAN chapter.

Mamahhh: What advice do you have for women who know they’ll be having a Cesarean section birth?
Rebecca:
Read as much as you can about what to expect during a Cesarean-section surgery and during the several weeks of recovery. ICAN offers good information about Cesarean-section and recovery on their website. Arrange for help immediately after the birth, and consider hiring a postpartum doula to help you at home. Talk with your care provider about making your cesarean more woman/family centered.  Women who feel they have a choice and say in the level of care they receive have an overall higher satisfaction with their birthing experience.  They encounter fewer postpartum obstacles, like postpartum depression (PPD), breastfeeding issues, and difficulty bonding.

Mamahhh: Say more about the recent awareness around “natural” Cesarean section births that are more woman-centered, family centered. What is that, and how is it helpful for birthing women?
Rebecca:
Several small accommodations can be made before, during, and immediately after a Cesarean   that can increase a woman’s overall satisfaction with her Cesarean. There’s a great video of a family-centered Cesarean section on YouTube.
Mamahhh: I love how it shows the parents being involved in the birth, even though it’s surgical. And the early skin-to-skin contact—beautiful!

Mamahhh: For women who dearly want to birth their babies vaginally, it can be quite a process to accept that they will be birthing via Cesarean section instead. It can take some soul-searching and researching to get to a place of acceptance. And for women whose Cesarean births aren’t planned—that can really feel stunning. What advice do you have for those mamas who don’t get to plan and prepare for surgical birth?
Rebecca:
Incorporate as much help as you can from family, friends, and others in your social circles. Focus on good nutrition, hydration, and REST in the first several weeks after the Cesarean.  Increase your activity slowly.  Remember: You are not only recovering from pregnancy and birth, but also from major abdominal surgery.

Mamahhh: I can only imagine what the emotional rollercoaster might be like after a Cesarean-section birth, as new moms recover from pregnancy, major surgery, and the sense of missing out on vaginal birth.
Rebecca:
A wide range of emotions are normal after a Cesarean.  It’s important to share your feelings with others who understand how you feel, talk about your experience as much as you need, write your birth experience, and to seek support from available resources including breastfeeding, parenting, and Cesarean support groups like ICAN.

Mamahhh: Many women who birth by Cesarean-section may still be able to birth vaginally. What wisdom can you share for mamas who want to try for a VBAC?
Rebecca:
Find a care provider who supports your birth goals. Find someone who believes in VBACs, has a VBAC success rate greater than 75% and a cesarean rate that is lower than the community average, which is currently 32%  (actually, that’s good advice for all moms-to-be).  Become familiar with commonly used interventions—inductions, augmentations, epidural—and how they can affect your labor, what risks they increase, and whether they decrease the VBAC success rate.

Mamahhh: There’s a lot to learn! Which resources are most supportive and least likely to bring on fear?
Rebecca:
I recommend a few good pregnancy and VBAC books: The VBAC Companion by Diana Korte and Open Season by Nancy Wainer Cohen. Moms-to-be, especially those trying for a VBAC, benefit from good nutrition and exercise. Hire a doula/labor assistant/support person. Believe in yourself and the process of birth. Seek help for lingering leftover negative emotions (guilt, disappointment, anger) from previous cesarean birth experiences. Attend VBAC support meetings.

Mamahhh: Rebecca, you’ve said, “Having a VBAC is worth it! You can do it!” without actually having experienced a VBAC yourself. And I think that is divine. I see it as a rare gift—good medicine, really—that you uniquely offer women who prepare for, hope for, and long for a VBAC. To see how you’ve followed the path to acceptance and offered it up as inspiration and wisdom, that is powerful for birthing women to hear.
Rebecca:
Not everything is within our control—however, it is within all of us to prepare ourselves as best we can to maximize the chance of VBAC.

Mamahhh: Yes! Right on! Thank you for sharing your birth wisdom with us.

 

The International Cesarean Network, Inc. (ICAN) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesearean recovery, and promoting vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). For information about local ICAN chapters and events, check the ICAN website.

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Comments

  1. Thanks, Jennifer and Rebecca. I’m in awe of you having six children and the work you’ve put in to inform and educate the public around birthing choices. Well done.

  2. I’m happy to read your story! I only have one child. I had wanted a “natural” birth and waited for it. And waited. And waited. At 42 weeks, both my fabulous doctor and our doula said it was time to nudge things along, so we induced. After 24 hours and little to no dilation, I ended up having a C-section. I heard from several women in similar situations who had terrible experiences. I was fortunate that my C-section was a positive experience. The birth team was great and did everything they could to make it a very personal, unique, and connected experience. While I would’ve liked a vaginal birth, I have no regrets – I have a wonderful son (now 9) and couldn’t possibly be closer to him. More needs to be told about how a C-section can be a positive experience when a natural birth is not possible for one reason or another.

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