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Joy Szabo: Don’t Roll Over and Take it

By now you’ve probably heard that Joy Szabo had her baby by VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). You can read about her fight for VBAC here. She graciously agreed to answer a few questions for us about her experience. Congratulations, Joy!

ICAN Blog: You received a fair amount of media attention for your fight to VBAC. How did that affect you as you prepared to give birth?

Joy Szabo: I am very grateful for the media attention. When the story was picked up, dozens of people came out in support of what I was fighting for. I got to make contact with the birth community in Phoenix, which referred me to VBAC supportive providers ( and best of all Sally Stevens). This, in turn, provided me with a safe place to give birth, with husband and doula supporting me. The whole experience has inspired me to establish a supportive birth community here in Northern AZ.

Blog: In order to VBAC, you had to move to be near a hospital hundreds of miles from your home. How did that go? What challenges were there for you and your family?

Joy: It was very tough on my family to leave them in Page. My husband had a difficult time juggling the running of the business and taking care of the children day to day. They came down to Phoenix for Thanksgiving break and decided to stay until I delivered the baby. For me, I had a hard time getting comfortable in someone else’s home, and I found it very stressful. Probably the part that will hurt the most is the financial burden it put on us. We calculated that these endeavors have cost about $1500 so far in gas, food, and paying for coverage at the business.

Blog:  Tell us a little bit about your birth. How did it go?
Joy: I went in on Sat Dec 5th for an induction after trying many other things to kick into labor. I was 2 weeks past my due date, and I was worried that baby’s placenta might be aging in there, (like my last baby). About 4 in the afternoon, contractions started getting useful and I set about moving around to get baby into the pelvis. Later on, I think about 7:30 or 8pm, I got in the shower and could barely feel the contractions. I stayed here in Laborland until the nurse coaxed me out of the shower to get heart readings, and shortly thereafter, when I as begging for mercy, I had that overwhelming urge to push, and felt baby’s head hit against my tailbone. I waddled over to the bed and pushed. He came out in that first push, quick as lightning. I immediately held him while the cord was pulsing, then when it was cut, I let the nurse have him for 30 seconds to wrap him in a blanket. Then he took right to nursing. Very quick labor, even quicker delivery. I don’t regret a bit of it.

Blog: What advice do you have for other women who are facing VBAC bans or restrictions?

Joy:

1. Don’t roll over and take it. You are the patient. You have to make the choice, and once you have made it, you have to stand behind it.
2. Most people have been trained to be a good patient, and will give you a hard time.
3. Find a provider and hospital that is willing to work with you, and who believes in birth.
4. Take a doula.
5. Draw attention to the problem, and make the ban publicly known.

16 Comments

  1. Stephanie says:

    Beautiful!!! CONGRATULATIONS, JOY!!!!! I hope for a VBAC someday!

  2. Eva says:

    Congratulations Joy! I can’t imagine the pressure you might have felt with all of us waiting to hear the news and CNN going to post your outcome on it’s homepage!! I’m so proud of you for fighting the way your did.

  3. Trebor Sutler says:

    Way to go Joy..a wonderful story. I remember fighting for my VBA2C. Your story will help so many women.

  4. Congratulations to Joy. I know what it’s like to VBAC against the odds, and it is a triumph that will stay with me for the rest of my life. But, I did not have to experience anywhere near the same volume of online negativity and hate that you had to deal with in the comments section on the CNN stories (and elsewhere) and I hope you won’t let any of the ignorant masses get to you. You taught many intelligent people a great lesson. You have one-less uterine scar, despite that hospital’s best efforts to inflict one on you, and I know that is the best feeling in the world.

  5. Susie says:

    Frankly, all hospitals are underqualified to provide a safe place to give birth. I’m glad my local hospitals’ banned VBAC’s. This made my decision to homebirth much easier. I am a forth VBAC mom and two time HBAC mom. Blessings to you, your husband, and your new sweet baby.

  6. Wendy says:

    Congratulations, Joy! Thank you for sharing your story, and for standing up for what you knew was best for your family. Thank you for being willing to deal with the publicity your story has brought, so that other women may have a better chance of having the best birth for their circumstances. I’m sorry you and your family had to go through so much, but I’m so glad you succeeded in having your VBAC! Best wishes.

  7. Christy says:

    I am so glad that Joy had a successful VBAC! Welcome to her little one!
    However, I am saddened that it was an induced VBAC. Joy had decided not to “take the risk” of a home birth VBAC, but took the higher risk of rupture with an induction. And furthermore, since this is such a high profile story now, it will only perpetuate the myth that placentas automatically begin to deteriorate once mom goes past 40/41 weeks. It is unfortunate that this couldn’t have been a story of a woman allowing her baby to be birthed naturally, in his own timing, and showing that a woman’s body knows when and how to give birth – even after a cesarean.

    I just wish that women won’t look at this and think that inducing ( esp. an unnecessary induction ) a VBAC is a safe thing to do … but they will. :(

  8. [...] – Do You Suffer From Physician VBAC Hysteria? Quite a ruckus in the blogosphere this week as Joy Szabo’s VBAC battle continues to stir opinions. You may also wish to read this post and comments at [...]

  9. Stacey says:

    Risks of VBAC are REAL!!!! Page Hospital and MANY others are not equipped for these risks! Szabo would have put herself and her child in the path of these unnecessary risks at Page Hospital. Being “forced” to a hospital in Phoenix was the best thing for that poor defenseless baby!

  10. Eileen says:

    First off, congratulations to Joy. I’m sorry you had to fight so hard to have a VBAC, and that your family has had to incur expenses and inconveniences you never should’ve had to deal with. But I’m so glad that you did. Your journey will serve as an inspiration to so many women.

    Secondly, to Stacey: There is risk in everything you do (and don’t do), whether you like to think about it or not. If a hospital isn’t equipped to deal with the risks inherent in a VBAC labor/birth, it isn’t equipped to deal with ANY kind of obstetric emergency and should not be doing births at all.

    Presumably you are concerned about uterine rupture. UR in VBAC is rare, and the incidence is comparable to many other obstetric emergencies. Given a chance, over 99% of VBAC women will birth their babies vaginally and safely– thereby avoiding all the increased risks of major abdominal surgery to them AND their babies.

    If, on the other hand, you were worried about placenta accreta or percreta, or unexplained fetal death in late pregnancy, for instance, those are risks faced by ALL women who have had a previous cesarean. Regardless of whether they have a VBAC or a repeat cesarean in the subsequent pregnancy(or pregnancies), in other words.

    That’s something legitimate to be concerned about, especially with the ever-rising cesarean rate and lack of access to VBAC in the U.S. As is the fact that recent research indicates that more URs are occurring in women with NO previous uterine scar, than in VBAC mothers. (In other words, conventional obstetric practices make birth more dangerous for everyone!)

    Then again, doctors, hospitals and conventional medicine are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., so who’s surprised? Poor defenseless baby, indeed. I’m grateful for the VBAC-friendly hospital in Phoenix that helped Joy Szabo have a vaginal birth. But I still worry about all the defenseless mothers and babies forced to endure the unnecessary risks of mainstream medical “care” in birth.

  11. Kristen says:

    Congratulations, Joy! I have been following your story since it first started receiving attention from ICAN and from the media, and while I think it is downright criminal that you had to fight so hard to birth your baby *safely*, I am truly inspired by your fight. In fact, I think your story will be an inspiration for many other women in similar situations. What’s more, I also hope it helps to change the minds of those who *put* women in similar situations!

    All the best to you and your family.

  12. Thank you Joy! You did a fabulous job. I hope that more women start making waves about VBAC bans.

  13. Alison says:

    “However, I am saddened that it was an induced VBAC. Joy had decided not to “take the risk” of a home birth VBAC, but took the higher risk of rupture with an induction.”

    Truth is Joy lives in Arizona, where it is illegal for licensed midwives to attend VBACs at home. Naturopaths can, but few actually do. HBAC was not really a viable option for Joy.

  14. Shannon says:

    What a beautiful story.

    Congrats to you and your family and I am sorry that you had to fight to get your VBAC. It bothers me to hear about this. I just had my 3rd baby in September and due to her being breech we had to have my first c-section. My first question was will I be able to have a vaginal birth if we decide to have another? And all the doctors I worked with said of course.


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  15. [...] case you missed it, talk show host Rachel Ray featured Joy Szabo’s fight for VBAC on her show yesterday. In a segment called “Going Too Far?” Medical [...]