With her first baby, Brittany knew she needed a home birth. She took no shortcuts to ensure that her dream would come true. From hiring the most supportive midwife and doula to routine chiropractic care to practicing HypnoBirthing to blowing up the birth tub and hanging birth affirmations, the level of preparation (especially as a first-time mom!) was truly impressive. 

Yet in a matter of hours, Brittany’s years of planning turned from a powerful home birth into a heartbreaking Cesarean and traumatic hospital experience. Brittany shares valuable lessons learned, how she found healing, and her beautifully triumphant HBAC story which was redemptive in every way. 


Today’s topics include:

- How to handle insensitive comments

- Breech presentation

- Relinquishing control

- Postpartum grief and healing

- Gratitude and perspective

- Mother-baby bonding in a Cesarean versus a vaginal birth


Additional links

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents

The VBAC Link Facebook page


Episode sponsor

This episode is sponsored by our signature course, How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents. It is the most comprehensive VBAC preparation course in the world, perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced, video course. Together, Meagan and Julie have helped over 800 parents get the birth that they wanted, and we are ready to help you too. Head over to thevbaclink.com to find out more and sign up today.


Sponsorship inquiries

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Full transcript

Note: All transcripts are edited to eliminate false starts and filler words.

Meagan: Hello, hello. It is The VBAC Link. You are going to be hearing an amazing story today from our friend Brittany. We are so excited to hear from her. She had a C-section and then a VBAC. She is from Florida. She is actually a hairstylist and she does it all day. We were just talking about her bio, how cute it is. She says, “Hairstyle by day and mama by night.” We totally get that because that’s how we roll. We are podcasters by day.


Julie: Podcaster by day. Podcaster by night. Doula by day. Doula by night.


Meagan: Right? Oh my gosh. It’s a crazy life that we all live. But man, we are so excited to hear her story. We do have a Review of the Week. So before we get into it, I want to turn the time over to Julie to read that review, and then we will get right into Brittany’s story.


Review of the Week

Julie: I am super excited. Brittany, I feel like we could be friends, just from the short time that we have been talking to you before we were recording. Meagan, we have a lot of people we need to go visit, I think, from our podcast. The VBAC Link world tour.


Alright, let’s see. Today we have a review from JessieMarie3 from Apple Podcasts and the title is “So Inspirational.” She says, “I don’t even remember how I came across this podcast, but I am so glad I did. The birth of my daughter ended in an unplanned C-section and was very traumatic for me. I’m currently working with a therapist because I think about it every single day and have so many regrets. I asked my doctor about a VBAC almost immediately because I just knew something was missing, if that makes any sense. This podcast makes me feel so empowered and prepared for my VBAC, and I’m not even pregnant again yet. I tear up a little bit with each birth story and hope I can share my VBAC story on your podcast someday, whenever it happens!”


Oh, that makes me so happy. I love it when people find us before they are even pregnant again. After their C-section, they just know they want a VBAC. I love that so much. It gives me major warm and fuzzies. If you haven’t had a chance, we would absolutely love for you to leave a review of the podcast. We show up on Google. You can leave a review on Apple Podcasts and you can always on Facebook. We haven’t gotten Facebook reviews in a little while. It’s been a little while. 


Meagan: It has been. 


Julie: We’ve seen lots from Apple Podcasts and a few from Google.


If you are hanging out with us on Facebook, go ahead and give us a five-star rating over there. It would make our day.

Episode sponsor

Julie: Do you want a VBAC but don’t know where to start? It’s easy to feel like we need to figure it all out on our own. That’s what we used to do, and it was the loneliest and most ineffective thing we have ever done. That’s why Meagan and I created our signature course, How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents, which you can find at thevbaclink.com. It is the most comprehensive VBAC preparation course in the world, perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced, video course. 


Together, Meagan and I have helped over 800 parents get the birth that they wanted, and we are ready to help you too. Head on over to thevbaclink.com to find out more and sign up today. That’s thevbaclink.com. See you there.


Brittany’s story

Meagan: Okay, Ms. Brittany. We are so, so, so excited to hear your story. Like Julie said in the beginning, just chatting with you, I feel like we are friends. Instant friends. I can’t wait to get to dive in and be even more intimate with your amazing story.


Brittany: Well truly, you are my friends. I’m so thankful, thankful, thankful for you guys. There are not enough words to say what having like-minded people can do for you when you are going into something that a lot of people don’t agree with.


With a VBAC specifically, that was huge for me. Huge. I held onto our time together. I would walk-- I have a pier. I live in a little beach town is what we call it. It’s beautiful, but there is this pier that is actually on the river. It’s one long strip of concrete. I would just walk back and forth, on that strip of concrete. I’d drop my son off at school, and just walk and listen to other people, and you guys. I mean, you guys just being the heart of it and encouraging, but also other mamas-- many souls out there that had done this journey already. 


It was so encouraging. It was where I needed to be. It was like a refuel for me because, like I said, I am a hairstylist. I talk to women all day long. We talk in my salon. We friends. They would say to me, “I don’t know. It just makes me nervous.” I wasn’t out to argue, but it was nice to have numbers, facts, and things that I could say, “Well actually,” or, “It’s not quite what you think it is. Did you know?” 


Meagan: You were educating. You were educating out there. Yes.


Brittany: Yes, totally. But I also understand that when you love people, you are concerned for their well-being. People don’t know what they don’t know. 

I think with my first pregnancy, I learned that everyone has their own opinion and that’s okay, but you don’t have to value it all. You do need to find people you align with and let that feed you. This show was so great because it fed me and was able to keep me focused, encouraged, and on track. 

I would go into my appointments and I’d be like, “Alright Angie. I’ve got questions.” I would list them out and they would be from the episodes. She would be like, “I love this.” I went into my labor and delivery like, I trust it all because I know any questions that I have. I wouldn’t have known to even ask them had I not have listened. So, thank you.


Julie: I love that. Do you know what? I am going to make a word image to post on our social media account with something that you said a few sentences back. You said something to the effect of, everyone has their own views on pregnancy and birth. Everybody loves you. They want the best for you, but you have to find people that align with your views and beliefs about birth to support you and keep close. I just really love that effect. That really spoke to my heart. 

Because it’s true. People just want the best for you and they don’t know what they don’t know. They want your health, and your safety, and your happiness, but sometimes they just aren’t up to date on the facts. You need to find people that will either get on the same page as you and support you, or that already are on the same page as you that you can hold closer as you prepare for your birth. So, I’m glad you said that. Thank you so much for that.


Brittany: It’s all good. Okay. Well, my first child is Nash. He is three years old, just turned three. That pregnancy was an easy pregnancy. There really wasn’t anything big that happened. It was everything “normal”, which is a wide array of things. But it was nothing, no big deal.

I wanted to have a home birth for probably six years before I ever got pregnant. My husband and I watched that Ricki Lake documentary, “The Business of Being Born.”


Meagan: I was going to say “The Business of Being Born.”


Brittany: Yep. From that moment on, I was like, “Yup. Oh, that’s for me. That’s totally for me.” I already have my own fear of hospitals and doctors. Honestly, there is a lot of anxiety associated with a hospital to me. So I knew if birth is mental, that’s probably not going to be good for me. 

I started seeing my midwife years before I ever got pregnant for my annuals and things. I had developed such a great relationship with her. My pregnancy with Nash was just the next step of our relationship, which was awesome. She became a sister to me, truly. I describe my relationship with my midwives because there were actually two of them, and my doula, who was amazing. Doulas are super underrated. She was amazing. They all became sisters to me.

Through that, I went into it like, “Alright. I am going to do this home birth.” I never even once considered a C-section. I didn’t even go to the hospital. I knew that if I had to be emergency transferred where I would go, but I had no idea what the hospital even looked like in the labor and delivery unit.

Fast forward to being 40.4 weeks pregnant. I went in for my regular appointment and she’s like, “How are you feeling?” I am like, “Good. Last night I had a big cramp. I thought for sure I was starting labor, but nothing ever happened.” She’s like, “Okay. Anything since?” I’m like, “No.” She’s like, “Okay. Let’s check you.” 

She went in. She did the doppler and then she’s like, “Do you want me to do a membrane sweep since you’re overdue?” I’m like, “Yeah. That would be good. I’m ready.”

She goes in and she’s like, “Let’s pull out the ultrasound machine and just check on how he’s doing.” I had never even seen this little ultrasound machine. I didn’t even know she had it. She pulled it. At this point still, I’m clueless as to what could possibly be happening. I just thought that this was what’s next. She is a very calm, cool, collected person. 

She’s like, “Alright.” She’s got the wand up at the top of my belly. She’s like, “There’s his head.” I’m like, “Hi baby boy.” Like, totally not even paying attention. She’s like, “And here are his feet.” She’s showing me down. I’m like, still. Finally, she looks at me and she’s like, “You have a breech baby. We need to get you in for an ultrasound at the radiology place in town today to see what kind of breech he is.” To be totally honest with you guys, my memory of what she said in the rest of that appointment is like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah.” I fogged out.

It was just like, “Wait, what? What does that mean?” She did sit me down and she called for her office person to make the appointment. At that time, she sat me down and she went over all of the different breech positions and talked about how some of them are safe to do vaginally, and she does feel comfortable doing breech home deliveries. She does it all the time, actually. But, we have to know what kind of breech it is in order to decide whether it’s safe or not. That’s why I had to go get this ultrasound.

I was alone at that appointment. My husband had gone to the other previous months of appointments just because it was getting more serious. This one he had to work, of course, and so at that point it was like I was in a fog. I drove to get the ultrasound. While I was driving there, I’m crying, but also just like, “I don’t even know what to think right now.”

When I got to the ultrasound place, my midwife-- I love her so much. She called me. She’s like, “I just want to sit with you on the phone while you wait. I just want to talk with you. How are you feeling? What’s going on? What’s Vinny doing? Is he going to be able to--” She was a friend. She took her midwife hat off for a minute and was that sister to me. Oh, I could cry. Because it’s the little things in my journey of home birth and midwifery. It means the most. Man.


Julie: That’s amazing. That’s really, really cool.


Brittany: Yeah. So, I went in. I had only had two ultrasounds prior to that. This one was the longest one and the tech just seem to be irritated, I would say. Not with me, but just like, “Ugh.” She couldn’t get the picture.

Finally, she was just like, “I am going to submit this to our radiologist, or our ultrasound whatever-that-doctor-is. I’m going to submit it to him. They will get it back to your midwife probably before the day is over.” Actually when I left her office, originally she was like, “You go there and I am going to call Jen,” who is my chiropractor that I saw throughout my pregnancy, who specialized in pregnancy chiro care, which is so cool. She’s like, “I am going to call her and set up an appointment with her for immediately after your ultrasound, so you can get the Webster technique going in hopes that maybe we can flip this baby.”

I forgot to add this. The night before that appointment, we determined he had flipped because he was head down a week prior. So that feeling of pain, of labor-- that’s when it happened. She’s like, “I don’t know. It’s so late in the game, but he did just flip last night. So maybe he could flip again, you know?” And so, I went straight to the chiro after that.

I called my doula, cried to her, and she was just an ear. Just an empathetic, understanding ear. Got the chiro care, which was great. It’s crazy. I was marching up and down, my knees to chest basically for 90 seconds. She’s like, “This is the hardest part.” Then I’d turn and she would invert me. I’d lay on my back and she put a cold pack on the top of my tummy, and then a warm pack at the bottom. I’d lay there for-- I don’t even know how long. However much time, and then I’d get up and she’d adjust me. Then I’d do the whole thing over again, knees to shoulders. 

She’s like, “You’re going to go home. You’re going to do this in the tub tonight. You’re going to take a warm bath, keep the top of your belly out, and put a cold thing of peas on top of your belly so that hopefully, it will make him want to turn and flip. You’re going to lay inverted. You’re going to come back tomorrow. We’re going to do this again until he flips, basically.” The whole thing was like, “We can do this,” because I had been seeing her the whole pregnancy. I had my team.

I got home that night. Angie called me on the way home. She said, “Call me when you get home with Vinny. I want to talk to both of you.” We got home. We sat around the kitchen table and she’s like, “Here’s the thing. He is frank breech. Your fluid level is a 2 and a healthy level is a 15. The low side would be 10. He has basically no amniotic fluid in there anymore. It’s no longer safe to do a home birth. If you want to do a natural birth, you can try a teaching hospital, which is here and here, which is-- both of them are an hour and a half away.” 

She’s like, “But that’s still not guaranteeing that they’re even going to let you have a natural birth. They will induce you right away. They’re going to watch you like a hawk, basically. If anything goes slightly awry, they’re going to intervene. It’s up to you. Intervening means a C-section. It’s totally up to you. I will be with you whatever you choose to do. But this has to happen tomorrow. You can have a good night’s sleep tonight. Pack your bags. But we have to decide. We have to do this tomorrow.”

I literally felt my world fell apart. It was just like, “What?” Still, I don’t think that at that point I had processed that I was losing my home birth. With my birth affirmations already hung and my birth tub up. I’m packing my hospital bags crying, calling family, who say things like, “Oh, hon. I’m so sorry. But at least you know the baby’s going to be safe.” And the “at least”-- I get it. I understand you want to offer some form of hope, or help, or condolence to someone struggling, but it stung me every time because it was like, “There is no at least. I am losing something. I am losing something huge. None of you understand because none of you would want this and that’s okay, but it’s something that I have dreamt of for years. And I’m losing it in a matter of what felt like a few seconds of time.”


Julie: Well, and the hard thing is with that, when people say, “At least,” it completely discredits everything that you’re feeling right now. It completely discredits it.


Meagan: It weakens, yeah.


Julie: It pushes it aside and it takes the focus off of what you are feeling and going through in the moment.


Brittany: Yeah. Totally. Totally.

Okay, so, I am packed. My husband was-- honestly, God used all of this because it was an area of bonding for us to go through something like this together. He was able to be there for me in a way that I hadn’t really needed him before. I mean, I truly was falling apart. Actually, my midwife was like, “Listen. I think you should have a glass of wine tonight so you sleep well and you can just chill out.” I’m like, “Alright.” So, I did. I had, maybe, a large glass of wine because I was a mess. That night, when I woke up to go to the bathroom, I couldn’t feel him moving. I add the wine in there because I’m pretty sure he was just very sleepy. We jumped up and ran to the hospital, of course.

We called Angie and she was like, “Alright. Let’s go to the hospital. I’ll meet you there.” Now, we chose the hospital 45 minutes away because they have a NICU. So we were driving there, and that whole drive was one of just-- it’s surreal. We were both so in shock of like, “Oh my gosh. We are rushing to the hospital right now out of nowhere and there is nobody on the road.” We are trying to-- well, I say we. My husband. 

I was in prayer and just like, “God please keep my baby safe,” and practicing my deep breaths. He was driving as safely as possible but also pedal to the metal. We’ve got to get there. It was this weird feeling of like-- this is a drive I never wanted to make. Period. But I can’t get there fast enough. Oh, man. So we got there and immediately as we pulled into the parking lot, my son started kicking and moving around. I’m like, “Ugh. You little turkey. This is how it’s going to be.” And it is.

We got up to the L&D and they got him strapped on. Everything was fine. Totally fine, which we could take a sigh of relief, but my midwife got there maybe five minutes later. That’s when they’re asking for paperwork and she really dealt with them. She showed up like our advocate essentially, is what it felt like. 

She called before we came and they were ready for us. They start speaking hospital talk, and honestly-- because like I said, I’m still in the state of shock from the night before, from waking up and him not moving. It’s just like, “What is going on? This is not the world that I dreamed of at all.” And not just that, but I don’t even know what to think because I was fully unprepared for this. I didn’t even let my mind go to the idea of what a C-section would look like.

I begged every single nurse and every single doctor. I say every single because there were at least probably six nurses in and out of my room and three different doctors. Well, the anesthesiologist and his tech or-- I don’t think he’s a tech. I think he’s another doctor. And then the surgeon. I begged them plus the whole staff to please, please, please let my midwife come back in the room with me because I was so stressed out. Not even stressed, it was like a panic attack on the horizon. I was just a bottle of nerves.

All of them said, “It’s up to the doctor. It’s up to the doctor. I don’t care. It’s up to the doctor.” The final person to come in was, of course, the doctor. And he-- I don’t know this guy from Adam. He’s literally just the guy that was on call for the day. So he’s talking to me like I am Jane Doe. There is no connection whatsoever. 

“This is what’s going to happen. Do you have any questions?” I was trying to be the nicest patient, but also please honor this wish of mine. “Please,” I said. “She was the person that was supposed to be there. I have had my whole pregnancy with her and she is my comfort zone. Would you please let her just come? She was a labor and delivery nurse for years.” I said that. This what she did before she was a midwife. He said, “It’s up to you, but you can only have one person back there.” I’m like, “Okay, well obviously it’s my husband. You know?”


Julie: Whoa. Come on. I mean, come on. We see that all the time though. Especially right now with coronavirus. There have been so many things. I’m sorry you didn’t get to have that support. That’s not okay.


Brittany: My husband was also very stressed out. This was not his plan either. Like I said, it all bonds you. We went through it together, but man. It would have been helpful to have her there and to just be able to squeeze her hand and know that she’s got my back. The whole time I felt like, “I can do this. Angie’s got my back.” And then I felt like I was (inaudible).

So I got into the OR and that’s when the panic attack came. First, it was-- I’m practicing my HypnoBirthing, which, I’m so glad I did that during my pregnancy because even though I didn’t use it for labor, it is what got me to the place where I could talk myself off the ledge because I felt like they were going to have to— I had to tell myself, “Brittany, keep it together because they are going to put you under because you are going to lose it.” 

I had that anxiety. It rose up within me. I’m scared and sad and all of the feelings at one time. This is when I am alone in the room and they are doing the spinal because my husband can’t be there, obviously.

The nurses were-- it was so sterile. I say they were insensitive because they weren’t trying to be. They were trying to help, but I’ve got tears running down my face. I’m deep breathing and she’s just like, “Oh, honey. Don’t stress out. This is the easy way out. You don’t even have to do the labor and delivery part.”


Meagan: Oh, heavens.


Julie: Oh no, no, no, no, no. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh!


Brittany: I know. I know. I’m trying to not cry at this point, even though internally I am melting down. I’m nodding my head at her so she will stop and then moments later, the tears start coming. It was after the spinal, so I didn’t really have to necessarily hold it together any longer. Two of them look at each other, acknowledge each other, and they’re like, “Sweetie, we know you’re scared. But this is the quickest way to meet your baby.” I go, “I wanted to have a home birth.” And they’re like, “Oh.”


Julie: I feel like “but” is the same as “at least.” Like, “I know you were scared, but you’re going to have a healthy baby. But at least you’re going to--”


Brittany: Yeah. It’s terrible. It wasn’t better after that because when I said, “Oh, I’m supposed to have a home birth,” they said, “Oh, well, you’re braver than I am.” I’m like, “What the heck? You guys just should stop talking. You are not helping this situation at all. Where is my husband?” 

I was so over the whole OR. Thankfully, I had the best anesthesiologist assistant who sat at my head and was the voice of reason and coaching in my ear. He was like, “If you feel any kind of nausea, you tell me as soon as you feel it. I don’t want you to feel that. I don’t want you to throw up. So just tell me.” I’d be like, “I’m feeling it.” And he’s like, “Okay, push it.” He would talk to his anesthesiologist. I never felt like I had to insert my way from that point forward. I felt heard because at least he was there.

I said to him when I heard the baby, “Is the baby okay?” He’s like, “He’s safe. He’s good.” I didn’t even know to ask for this, but I guess this is part of a gentle Cesarean. Maybe the midwife told me to say this, but I don’t remember because like I said, I never considered a C-section. They picked him up and over the curtain and laid him directly on my chest when he was born. I had that moment of meeting my baby that way. Whew. That’s the coolest thing ever. Even losing my labor and delivery, that moment when you become a mom, nothing tops that. From that point, it was like the OR room stilled. It disappeared. It was me, my husband, and my son.

Thankfully, I was able to get out of that headspace and enjoy that moment, but the rest of the stay at the hospital was like a thorn in my side. They are in your room, every three hours, checking you, checking the baby, waking you up, telling me I can’t sleep with my baby. I’m like, “Um, excuse me? This is my child and he is sleeping on my chest. It’s not even a deep sleep. You’re in here every three hours. You know?” They would walk in and they would be like, “Ma’am, if you are sleeping then he needs to be in the cradle.” I’m like, “I wasn’t. We were nursing.”

I was just like, “Come on. Get off of me. I don’t even want to be here.” That’s all I’m thinking the whole time. I don’t want to be here. Just leave me alone. We are healthy. The baby was-- I think it’s the APGAR test?  He was a 10. Like, leave us alone. That’s how I felt. But, you know, you have to. They are doing their job. Internally, because I am dealing with all of this other stuff, this resentment that I definitely had not dealt with yet from losing my home birth. It was just a bad hospital stay for me. I hated every minute of it. 

Although I also had this beautiful little baby so that’s definitely-- we got through. It was okay. But the nurses were just not super sensitive. The pain of a C-section recovery was horrible for me. I’ve had a lot of people say, “Oh, mine wasn’t bad.” Mine was terrible. I don’t know if part of it was psychological because I was so traumatized from my experience, but it was bad. I couldn’t walk for two weeks. That meant I couldn’t carry my baby. We basically laid like blobs on the couch. Which I know is not, after having a vaginal birth, I get it’s not totally out of reason.

The pain was incredible. I just couldn’t even believe it. I was so beside myself. Actually, I was talking to my husband about it, because I said, “Do you remember that time?” I remember it being so dark for me. I cried a lot for like a month. I thought, well it’s like baby blues. It’s just hormonal. But like, I grieved the loss of my home birth. I was very, very sad about it. He said to me last night, “Yeah, I would have called that depressed. You were depressed for a little while.” I’m like, “Hmm,” because that’s not me. I am a very happy person. 

It definitely took me down a dark road, but I will say in that, down that dark road, my midwife once again-- my post-ops were with her. I never even saw that doctor again because thankfully everything was well and I healed fine. But the appointments were so much more about me. I mean, we would sit for an hour at every appointment, just like every appointment before. She sits with you for a full hour and you talk about how you’re feeling, what’s on your mind and also, labor and delivery, you are prepping for it, but this was, “How are you feeling? How are you doing with this? What’s going on? What have you dealt with this week? How are people?” She wants to know the nitty-gritty of how I am dealing inside because she recognized how valuable that was and how that time could make or break you.

I remember one appointment. It was actually the first time we started, so it must have been my first appointment postpartum. It was me, my husband, and the baby. We were sitting on the couch. She sat across in the chair and she asked, “How are you doing?” It wasn’t like a friendly “How are you doing?” It was like, “How are you doing?” I hadn’t really had to answer that question yet and I just started bawling.

I am like, “I don’t know. I’m just thankful he is here.” She’s like, “Okay, but there is a ‘not’ because you’re crying.” I’m like, “I know, I just--” and I was able to let it all out. My sadness and my sorrow at the loss. She came and sat next to me. She put her hand in mine. She’d hand me a tissue and at one point, I was balled up in her arms and she was hugging me while I’m crying. She let me say it, feel it, and cry it out. My husband sat there I think, thankful because he doesn’t know what to do with this blubbering mess. To him, it’s just all emotion. And although he lost “what he wanted”, it wasn’t for him what it was for me you know? This was something-- it’s not tangible, but it is. And so, I am so thankful that I had her. She was like a therapist to me in that first month to walk me through dealing with what that meant.

Moral of the story, I feel like I got a redemptive birth with my home birth. But I couldn’t have gotten to the redemptive side of it had I not walked through truly dealing with how it made me feel and facing it, talking about it, processing it, and crying when I needed to cry about it. And then, I remember when I first got pregnant the second time around, I had that fear. That brought it up in a whole new way. So then I had to deal with it again. I remember saying to her in my second pregnancy, “Angie, I just wish this wasn’t something that I had to deal with. It’s almost like I am resentful of it.” She was like, “Well, that’s understandable.” She was like, “It does bring up more questions for you to have to ask.” Because I said, “It’s making me more stressed out.”

She’s like, “Well, I get it. It’s bringing up more questions, but at the same time, every pregnancy is different. Every baby is different. Nothing is wrong with your body. This did not happen because there is something wrong with you”. She’s like, “You have to begin anew.” It was so good to have her as the same provider as with him because we had already been on this journey together. She knew where I was coming from when I would have fear and anxiety.

I think that’s it for Nash‘s birth. I really wanted to emphasize the hardship that it was for me, but at the same time, there were so many lessons. I don’t think I did say this. I took away from that birth, the coolest thing I feel like you can take away from this, is that control is an illusion. We don’t have control over anything. We can plan, and prepare, and make choices that we think are going to work, but ultimately, things happen. 

To let go of that in my life, which I would say, maybe that’s a struggle of mine. To be able to see life from that perspective now, and I won’t say it’s gone, but I am able to see that even with the best of control-- me planning, down to my birth affirmations hung and my birth tub blown up. I mean, there was not even a shot that was not going to happen and it didn’t happen.

It allows me to release and just say, “Okay, God. Your plan. You know best for me.” I am thankful that I was able to have a C-section because my baby is here safely and I don’t know what would’ve happened. Really, we don’t know. I’m thankful that was a possibility. I don’t like the way it happened. I don’t like the way the staff treated me. But I, at the end of the day, can say like, “He is here and I am thankful.”


Meagan: I love that. I just posted the other day on our stories just about that. My first C-section baby-- she just turned nine. That is something. I was like, “I am so thankful. I am thankful for my C-section.” It took me a long time to be able to say that. You know? I am grateful for my C-section because it is something that led me to where I am today. It honestly made me stronger. Right? A stronger person, yeah.


Brittany: Yeah. I take that too.


Meagan: Yeah. So, I love that you said that.


Brittany: Yeah. Okay, so, my birth with Rory.

Rory is six months old and that pregnancy was also an easy pregnancy. I will say it was harder. The second time around was harder. I remember complaining to all my friends like, “Was your second time just a little bit more intense?” And they would say, “Yes.” Even my midwife, there was two of them at the time in the beginning and then it ended up only being Angie, but I remember Margot telling me a couple of times like, “Yeah. All of the pregnancy symptoms just get a little bit harder each time.” I’m like, “Oh, that’s wonderful. I definitely didn’t know that.” But yes. It was true. It was a relatively easy pregnancy.

I worked the whole time up until 36 weeks, which is when COVID hit and we were shut down. That was actually a blessing in disguise. I took it when it happened, like, “Man. Time with just my family. My family of three before the baby comes.” I mean, it was hard because my husband is a personal trainer and I am a hairstylist, so we were both shut down. Of course financially, not a great time right before I’m supposed to have a baby and be out for months, but it also was like, “Okay, Lord. Thank you. Thank you for this time because we are never going to get this back and also, I am super pregnant right now. This is kind of nice to not be standing on my feet for 38 hours a week.”

Like I said, that was a pretty good time to be home and experience that time. But, I’m trying to think. I went to 40.4 weeks and I went in for my appointment. Or, it was 40.2 I think I was, and she’s like, “Well?” The appointments already were so different. We would meet in the car. I’d sit in my car and she would come out. We’d both be masked. I’d have to lay my seat back and she would do the ultrasound. She would open the door, and she would do the ultrasound and talk to me outside through the door. 

At that point, after she had done that, everything was healthy and fine. She was like, “Do you want me to do a membrane sweep on you since you are past due?” I was like, “Well, you know, whatever you think. If you think it’s a better chance of me having a baby sooner, but it’s not putting any risk involved.” She’s like-- I remember her telling me a brief summary of numbers. I was just like, “Yeah. Let’s do it.”

She always was like that. She never just answered with a feeling. She would give a statistic or a number to back up whatever it was. At that point I had my membranes swept with Nash and it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t that uncomfortable, so I was like, “Yeah, we’ll do it again.” Well, when she was in there, she was like, “Do you want me to do cervical acupressure?” And I was like, “I don’t know what that is, but does that help a baby come?” She was like, “Yeah it can.” I was like, “Alright, let’s do it.”

I was so ready to meet this baby. Like I had said to many people the last few weeks, “I feel like I am a kid going to Disney World.” But it’s frustrating because it’s like, you’re going to Disney World next week, and you’re four years old and you have no idea when tomorrow is. I just want to get there. 

It was like this excited eagerness that also could easily turn to anxiety. I’m ready to get there. Once she offered that, it was like, “Yes, please.” That night, I had already scheduled a date with a girlfriend. I went over to her house and sat on the ball. We talked pregnancy and birth. She shared her birth story, which I had already heard once, but it was just good to talk about where I was at with a friend that I felt comfortable being myself with.

I remember my doula had sent me, which I should add-- the week leading up, my doula was amazing. She was doing guided meditations with me on a video conferencing a few nights a week for a couple of weeks before my birth.

We were talking. Sometimes we would call and chat. I would tell her how I was feeling or how the appointment went and she would talk me through things. A lot of times she was just like a therapist, honestly. Not like a you-should-do-this therapist, but just somebody to listen, and care, and understand. She also had helpful birth prep stuff that we did. You know, stretching. She even did a video call. This is so cool. She and her husband went in their living space, got their camera out, and me and my husband got ours out, and they showed us different partner support stretching and pressure points for us to do with each other. They would help my husband basically prepare to help me through before she could get there. That was pretty cool.

So anyway, she was awesome. She just definitely helped keep me grounded to where I was ready and I had all the tips. I knew I had all my tools in my tool belt, but they were ready to be used when needed.

Okay, fast forward. Sorry, I had to backtrack because I didn’t want to leave that out. Elizabeth is my doula and she is amazing. I don’t want to shortchange her. 

The morning of, I started feeling— The next day after that cervical acupressure appointment, I started having cramps at 10:00 a.m. They were mild. They basically stayed mild for two to three hours, but they were pretty consistent. I’m like, “Well, this could be something.” I kept her up to date. She basically said, “You know.” 

I had my sister-in-law come and hang out with my son so I could sit on the birth ball and just breathe and focus on what was happening because twice before that week, I felt like I might be starting labor, and then something stressful happened. I swear my body was like, nope. It’s not time. I told my sister-in-law after the second time, I’m like, “This is so frustrating. I just want to go into labor. I feel like life happens, and then suddenly my body just stops,” because I had, like I said, cramping and probably labor beginning.

So this time, she was like,  ‘I’m coming over. I’m going to take care of Nash and you can just do what you’ve got to do.” I got in at my chiropractor at like 12:00 p.m. that day and I told her, “I think I’m in labor, but I’m not really sure. Do what you’ve got to do. Let’s help get these things going.” And so, she did. I left there. I grabbed subs. I went home. We ate the subs and then I felt them come on. I don’t know if this is a thing, but I swear whenever I eat anything during labor or drink anything, including back to the first time, or back to lunchtime, it made contractions worse. It was like, “Whoa.” So after lunch is when I felt like labor kicked in. It was like, “Alright this is happening.”

I called my doula I was like, “Yeah. It’s getting real over here. I definitely think this is happening,” but the timing of it was not consistent yet. She’s like, “Alright. Well, call me back in an hour or I will call you if I don’t hear from you.” An hour flew by because she called me and I was like, “It’s definitely getting stronger and longer and more intense.” She was like, “Okay, well. Let’s just hang out on the phone for a little bit. I’d like to hear you have a few and then we will talk.” 

We did. She was like, “I’m going to get ready and come over. It will be about an hour,” because she lives a little bit away. She’s like, “But I will be there soon.” I was like, “Well, you don’t have to.” I almost felt like, but if this isn’t, I don’t want to psych myself out. She’s like, “Well, it’s up to you, but I think you’re having a baby today.” And it was like, “Oh my gosh. This is happening.” 

That moment, I switched from “I don’t know, is this?” to “Okay, it’s go-time.” I told myself from the very beginning, make every contraction count. Let your body do what you have to do. Don’t fight it. If you feel yourself fighting it, correct it, and release. I really do feel like I did that other than literally maybe two or three contractions. I feel like I just was in it. I was doing that deep lion, not even lion. It’s like a moaning laborer. I don’t know. What do you guys call it? Singing through labor?


Meagan: My husband calls it “mooing like a cow.” That’s what he told me. He’s like, “You were mooing like a cow.” Because I was like, “Ooooh,” you know? But yeah, it’s definitely-- I just call it a rhythm. You find your rhythm.


Brittany: Yes. Yes! I remember my midwife made me practice in the office while I was pregnant and I felt so ridiculous. She’s like, “Okay. Now do it after me.” I was just like, “Oh my gosh.” But it felt so good. You just want to keep doing it because it kept me going. You know? It was like, “Oh, yes. That one worked.” I felt like every single one got a little bit more intense, but with my breathing and my noise, I was able to make it through.

I felt like labor got intense probably around 12:30 p.m. and at 6:30 in the evening, it had obviously progressed and gotten more intense. My midwife, I think she got there at 5:30. So five hours later, and she was like, “How are you doing?” I said, “I feel good. I feel strong.” I just felt like, “Oh, this is not that bad.” I mean, it was hard, and it’s uncomfortable, and it wasn’t easy by any means, but I felt like, I can totally do this. She checked me. 

Elizabeth got there at 3:30, my doula. At that point, I was in the bath. They were routine. I don’t even know the timing of it all, but it was probably two to five minutes apart regularly, but lasting for a minute. My contractions were long for the whole time and they got longer than that. I’m sorry, lasting like two minutes because I know a minute is the norm. It lasted two minutes. 

Anyways, once Angie got there, she checked me. We had talked about how I did not want to know how far along I was. I didn’t want to get in my head about it. I just wanted to know if I was doing better. Since she had checked me the day before, she knew what I was. I was at 3.5. Hindsight being 20/20, 3.5 centimeters dilated, and apparently I was at 1.5 the day before. So I had progressed. But that was at 6:00 p.m. I think, that she checked me. No. I’m sorry. It was 7:00 that she checked me.

Labor was intense to me, so I don’t know. But I guess she thought I had a long time to go. She thought we would have an (inaudible) baby, she said. She lives five minutes away. She was like, “I’m going to go home and feed the kids and put them down for bed. Your doula is here, so I told Elizabeth to keep in touch with me, and I will be back.” She was gone and it went from bad to worse. No, it really wasn’t. It went from okay to oh my gosh, like an out-of-body experience. I really felt like I was floating above myself watching this happen. I felt like my skin was coming out of itself. I’m like, I can’t. There is no other description for it. 

I’m like, “I think I need to go to the bathroom.” I know that that’s a sign, but I really felt like I had to go to the bathroom. I hadn’t gone to the bathroom yet, so she’s like, “Okay, well let’s just go to the toilet.” She had been trying to talk me into the toilet anyway. I was like, “Okay.” So we went there and I definitely had transition on the toilet, hindsight being 2020. But I just thought I was going to the bathroom because that happened simultaneously. I think she did too, but okay.

This is TMI, but we’re talking labor and delivery, and this is what we do,I feel like. Okay, I am not want to go to the bathroom in front of people. I am a very private person like that. But I’m literally holding onto her. She is standing in front of me and I’ve got my arms wrapped around her shoulders. She is supporting me as I am contracting and going to a different zone. It was incredible. The intensity was crazy. She just talked to me through it and said things to me like, because we had talked about it before, “This is that crossing bridge that you are coming to. You have to get over it and then you’ll meet your baby.” At that point, I hadn’t thought that Angie should be there, but she probably should have been there and she wasn’t.

After maybe 30 minutes of that, I was like, “I just feel like I need to go to the bathroom. I want to get in the tub.” We got in the tub and she’s like, “Okay, well Angie told me to let her know,” Oh no, she said that on the toilet. “Angie told me to let her know when you’re feeling pushy.” I said, “Well, I am pushing,” but I thought I was pushing going to the bathroom. She’s like, “Okay, well.” We went to the tub.

I had one contraction in the tub and I was like, “Oh my gosh, I am definitely pushing.” She’s like, “Okay, well do me a favor and reach and see if you feel her. I’m like, “Um, no”. She’s like, “Okay, well reach in there and see if you feel her.” I got one knuckle in and I felt her head. And so, she’s like, “Okay, Vinny, you need to call Angie right now. He called her.

My son is home at this point. He had been taken away for the day and was home. He was freaking out in the bedroom because he could hear mommy. I didn’t know this, but he was going, “What’s wrong with mommy?” My husband runs in the room to be there for him while I am-- I mean, this all happened within a matter of 10 minutes while I am in pushing mode. I only pushed four times. 

And so, she’s stuck at the door. Somebody accidentally locked the door. She’s stuck at the door calling my husband on repeat to let her in. Finally, he does let her in. She was there for a couple of minutes. She walks into the room and I pushed the baby out. It was incredible.


Meagan: Holy cow.


Julie: That’s amazing. That’s the way to do it.


Brittany: She’s like, “You were waiting for me!” I was like-- Honestly though, in my head, she didn’t even have to be there. I was just like, “This baby is coming. She is coming.”


Julie: That’s awesome.


Brittany: Yeah, it was. It was such a cool and uneventful experience which is exactly what I wanted. You know? Everything happened the way that my body was supposed to. Labor is tough and there were things where you were like, “I’ll take away from that too.” Like, man. I really can do anything. It’s just my mind that gets in the way, but my body is capable of almost anything, which is cool to take away from that. But I also feel like it’s the same. I wouldn’t know how valuable that is had I not have had the C-section and realized that my body is also capable of another kind of hard. So, yeah. That’s basically my story.


Julie: I love it. I absolutely love it. There are so many fun things.


Meagan: I do too.


Julie: Meagan, what do you want to talk about?


Meagan: I know. Well, I want to talk about that feeling, right? That “oh crap” feeling, because I sometimes we get it really early and it is so hard and we are not complete, right? It is so hard to fight past it. And then, we get it where you are like, “I really don’t-- I think I just really do need to have a bowel movement,” and then it’s a baby.


Brittany: And it was a baby! 


Meagan: It’s so hard. It’s so hard. It’s so, so hard. But I’m so glad that everyone made it and all is well. But yeah, just like you said. This baby is coming. Following your intuition and knowing that. 

I really want to go back. I know this is maybe just because I just talked about this the other day, but I really want to go back to the C-section, on being grateful for your C-section.


Julie: You are on the same wavelength as me, Meagan. Take it away.


Meagan: Because this is not something that a lot of people say, and when you said that-- I don’t know if you saw my story. Did you see my story the other day? On Instagram?


Brittany: No.


Meagan: So, see? That makes me want to talk about it more because you didn’t even see that. This is something that I want to encourage all of you listeners to do. I want you to step back. And you said it yourself, the C-section recovery-- things were not great. They weren’t easy. It wasn’t an easy journey. It was scary and you were left alone, and your husband was pulled away from you and you were just like, “Oh my gosh,” and you’ve got people saying all of these things that are just-- they are trying to help, but they’re not.

You could look at that situation and say, “That was terrible in so many ways. That was not what I wanted in every way, right? I planned this home birth. I had this awesome team. It was terrible and I was not where I wanted to be.” But, you said, “Yeah, that sucked and it was hard, but I am grateful for it.” 

I want to encourage listeners out there to try and get to that space. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. I’m not saying it’s going to be, you wake up one day or you wake up the next day and you’re like, “Yeah, I’m over it. What happened to me happened and I’m grateful for it.”

And I’m not saying you have to be grateful for what happened. Right? I just want to try and encourage people to be grateful for yourself, and your body, and your baby for getting through that time. Take note and notice where it may have made you strong. Does that make sense? Am I making sense, you guys?


Brittany: Yes.


Julie: No, it makes sense. I love it.


Brittany: The lesson. The lesson in it. What you take from it.


Meagan: What you take from it. Especially, everything that is going on with all the politics, social media, and corona, all of these things. It’s so easy to pull from the negative in every direction in life. It really is. It’s okay that these negative things happen. We understand that. I don’t want to ignore that. But if we step back and we pick out the positive, it really gives that a different perspective. This is not VBAC related at all, but this is something I had to do literally today.

So, as most of you may or may not know, I’m a really big obsessed person. I don’t know what I’m trying to say. I am obsessed with finding a good deal.


Julie: Um, yes. Yes, she is. I can vouch for that statement.


Meagan: Right? I’m obsessed with that. And so, as a lot of you may know, we are remodeling our home. I found this microwave that needed to go in my new pantry and it’s a $1200 microwave. Well, I’m sorry, but that is seriously-- no. I’m not doing that. I’m not paying that. And so, I totally just searched Facebook marketplace and our local classified ad here looking for a specific type of microwave. I found one. It was $250 and I was stoked.


Julie: No. Really?


Brittany: That’s awesome.


Meagan: Yeah. It’s brand new. He’s like, “It’s brand new.” I went and got it and it was in the box, still in the plastic, everything. Right? And he’s like, “Yeah, it’s brand new,” and I was like, “Okay, so it does work, right?” He’s like, “Yeah, I mean it’s brand new.” We pulled it out. We tried it. I’m like, “Okay.” So, we brought it back. I bought it. We brought it back. I plugged it in, turned it on, drawer came out. It seemed great. This was two months ago.

Well now, we just finished-- we are not finished, but we just finished the space so I can bring this microwave in. Well, guess what? It doesn’t work. It doesn’t heat up.


Julie: No. Meagan! Oh my gosh.


Meagan: I know. I am devastated. I am like, “How can I do that? How did I not check that? I don’t understand. Why would I? If it turned on, it turns on, right? Why would I think?” I don’t know. Anyway. But all morning, I’ve been fretting. I told my husband, I’m like, “I’m so mad at myself that I had to get this deal and it doesn’t even work.” 

Now, this guy took $250 cash. I wrote him and he’s like, “Sorry, it’s been too long. I can’t help you,” and blocked me. I’m like, “Oh my gosh. That’s $250! What the heck?” He said it was new. I’m distraught. My husband sends me a text message and says, “I want you to step back and look at our kitchen. Look at how many things went right, and how you crushed it in all the other ways.” I was like, “You know what? You’re right.” 

It’s the same thing with birth. I didn’t want that C-section. That is not what I wanted. It’s the last thing I wanted. But at the same time, I am stepping back and I’m going to pick through. I’m going to look at all the positive amazing things that came out of that outcome that I didn’t desire. I’ll tell you what, Women of Strength, I really do not believe I would be here today with you and Julie if it weren’t for that original C-section.

I would not be an advocate for birth in the way, I’m not saying I wouldn’t be an advocate, but in the way that I am today without that C-section. I don’t know if I would have a connection with my daughter. Now, this is something that a lot of people talk about, right? I don’t feel as connected because I didn’t have this vaginal birth, and it wasn’t this natural baby on my chest. But, I feel like through my daughter, through my healing, and my cesarean, her and I healing together, talking about her birth and processing her birth with her, I have grown closer to her. 

And so, I just want to encourage you today to step back, pick it apart, and look at the positive because there’s so much negative in the world. Pick out that positive. Hold onto it tight and never let go.


Julie: Um, Meagan? I absolutely love how you turned that microwave story around and applied it to birth. That was a spot-on analogy. Like, really though. But secondly, bring me your microwave. Me and Nick will fix the heating element.


Meagan: Seriously, it’s so bad.


Julie: No, really though. Plus you have to come see my new house anyway.


Meagan: I do need to come see your new house.


Julie: Awesome job for Ric for saying all the right things and being a good contributor to the podcast today.


Meagan: Yes. But yeah. So anyway, so that’s my message today. I love your story in so many ways, but man, I held onto that when you said that. I was like, “Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Everyone needs to have that message.” So, that’s my message for you.




Julie: Well, we get to ask questions now.


Meagan: Yes, we do.


Julie: Good message, Meagan. I love that. I was just talking to a couple of people actually on Instagram the other day about the mother-baby connection. When they have their VBAC, they look at the stronger bond they instantly have with their VBAC baby, and then it brings grief and guilt because they didn’t have that immediate strong connection with their Cesarean baby. It’s easy to compare the two when you just have two experiences, right? 

This is what I told both of these mothers that messaged me. I was like, “Listen. I have had four births. One Cesarean and three VBACs. Each of those bonding experiences has gone completely differently. Bonding with your baby is just like any other relationship that you have. It takes work. It takes time. It takes dedication. There’s going to be ups. There’s going to be downs. There’s going to be times where you guys feel like you’re so intimate and close and you love each other. I am talking about the mother and baby connection. And there’s going to be times where you feel like you have no idea what your child is doing or thinking, and how you even wanted kids anyway.” Am I right?

The thing is, it takes work. All four of my babies’ connections were different. My third birth, which was my second VBAC, was my strongest connection by far. Right now, she is four and a half, and I have no idea what the crap she’s doing. I’m pretty sure she hates me. Like, really. I’m pretty sure she does. 

But the thing is, is that my Cesarean baby, he’s my oldest. He’s seven and a half now. I’m starting to have conversations with him about emotions and feelings and talking about decisions we are making as a family. I think that is strengthening our bond too even deeper. And so, I don’t know. I guess that’s just my two cents to add to your perspective because it just takes work. There are good things in all the parts, even in the worst of parts.


Meagan: Totally.


Julie: Like your gorgeous microwave. I will fix it for you. It is my mission now because I know you’ve been talking about that microwave. I know. I know you. Alright, let’s get to the questions.


Meagan: Okay, so one of the first questions is: 


What is a secret lesson or something no one really talks about that you wish you would have known ahead of time when preparing for your birth?


Brittany: A secret lesson. Yes, I guess with my first one, I wish I would have considered possibly what a different story might look like. That maybe I would have had that perception of, “Okay well, if I do have to have a C-section, I want to know what I’m walking into,” because had I have known what those four walls it looks like, I might not have been so shocked by them. Do you know what I mean? When I got there. 

And, ask all the questions. Because I definitely feel like going to a midwife, she already gives you-- I mean, there are worksheets with ways to prompt you for questioning, and because I was listening to you guys, I had about one million questions. But I know when you’re not dealing with a midwife-- a lot of times I’ve often felt like doctors make me feel silly or almost like, “Why are you asking me that? Don’t you trust me?” Ask anyways. Ask anyways, because you’ll be paying them you want to have those answers. When you are in the throes of labor, you want to feel nothing but confidence.


Meagan: Totally.


Julie: Absolutely.


Meagan: Yeah. In your answer, you said, “Control is an illusion.” I really loved that.


Brittany: Yes, it is. That’s my lesson. That is my lesson from my C-section. It really does apply to so many areas of my life.


Meagan: I love it. Love it, love it. Okay, and I know you are driving, but the last question is:


What is your best up for someone preparing for a VBAC? 


I feel like you just said that. Educate yourself. Ask all the questions. Anything else you would like to add?


Brittany: Okay so, I left this part out. Originally, I was considering maybe we don’t hire the doula this time. We are trying to cut back on finances. My midwife looked at me, she goes, “Do you have confidence in your husband in being a great support system for you at all points during labor?” I was like, “Hmm, I don’t know.” I came home and I asked him. I said, “Do you have confidence in being a great support system?” He was like, “No”. I was like, “Okay.” He was like, “I don’t got this.” He was like, “I don’t know what labor looks like.” He’s like, “I definitely think we should have somebody who is a good support system for you.”


Meagan: Alright Brittany, thank you so much. We just love you. We love hearing your story and all of your tips and advice for all the listeners. We know that it’s going to help them.


Julie: Absolutely. Thank you so much. It was great to have you on.




Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Head over to thevbaclink.com/share and submit your story. For all things VBAC, including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Julie and Meagan’s bios, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.

Happy New Year! We are starting 2021 strong with today’s powerful VBAC story. Hallie is a two-time VBAC mom and birth photographer from New Zealand. This 5’0” tall woman of strength fought through a long, hard labor to deliver a 9 pound, asynclitic, and perfectly beautiful baby girl. Hallie talks about how using water as a coping technique was pivotal to her success. 

Later in this episode, we talk about the biggest barrier doulas face when trying to support VBAC/TOLAC parents. We surveyed over 200 VBAC doulas and almost every single answer was the same. The Birth Wizard herself, Emmy Howard, joins Julie today as her co-host to discuss what that barrier is and how to overcome it.


Additional links

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents
Emmy, Birth Wizard: Website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter
Hallie’s Instagram: @nz_birthstories
The Evidence on: Waterbirth


Episode sponsor

This episode is sponsored by our signature course, How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents. It is the most comprehensive VBAC preparation course in the world, perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced, video course. Together, Meagan and Julie have helped over 800 parents get the birth that they wanted, and we are ready to help you too. Head over to thevbaclink.com to find out more and sign up today.


Full transcript
Note: All transcripts are edited to eliminate false starts and filler words.

Julie: Happy New Year, Women of Strength! Can you believe it? It is January 2021. We are recording this in the past and right now I hope our future selves in January 2021 are living in a lot better world than we are in right now, October 2020, because things are a little nuts right now. Let’s be honest, 2020 hasn’t been the best. I was going to say most exciting, but exciting could also not be a good thing. It’s definitely been a tumultuous year. We could say that.

So hopefully, 2021 brings us good fortune, lots of love, kindness, and health. For our first episode of 2021, I am missing Meagan again. Do you remember a couple of episodes ago when I told you that she was out with some family stuff? Well, this is the last episode where she will be out. But, I really like having our VBAC doulas co-host with us, so you’ll probably have some more VBAC doulas co-host in the future. Our co-host for today is the Birth Wizard herself, Emmy Howard, who lives in Phoenix Arizona, a.k.a., three feet above hell. I can say that because I’ve lived there.

Emmy: It’s the surface of the sun.

Julie: Can I say “hell” on the podcast? I know, right? I lived there for a year. I came to Utah to visit my mom during the summer. It was 90° and I was like, “This is so nice, this temperature.”

Emmy: That’s so funny.

Julie: Anyway, sorry. I digress. But the cool thing about Emmy is, she has lived on three different continents and visited over 20 countries. Emmy, I’ve got to ask you. What was your favorite country that you visited and what three continents have you lived on?

Emmy: I’ve lived in North America, South America, and then Europe. The favorite country is a really rough one to answer because you are essentially asking what part of my life I love the most. So, I essentially tell people I loved them all, just like children, for different reasons.

Julie: Good answer.

Emmy: So, the thing I will say is, I have a special place in my heart for when I lived in Poland, just because I got to travel the most when I was living there.

Julie: That’s awesome. I visited Germany once for Christmas. It was really cool. Germany at Christmastime is a really special place.

Emmy: Did you go to the Christmas markets? Sorry.

Julie: Dude, like three times. Because I went to visit my sister in Heidelberg. They have the Heidelberg castle and in the old castle courtyard, they have a whole bunch of shops. The Christmas markets were just crazy. I would go in and I’d eat like, six bratwursts every time. I’m like, “I am eating bratwursts in Germany at Christmastime.”

Emmy: I love Glüwein. That’s actually something I still do at Christmastime, even though we are not at the Christmas markets anymore, which is hot spiced wine. Let me tell you, that thing warms you up on the inside and feels like a hug from your drunk uncle. It’s great. And then freshly roasted chestnuts while you’re walking around. Man, it’s awesome. 

But you talked about how you moved away from Phoenix because of its heat. I moved to Phoenix for its heat.

Julie: No, I had joined the Army. The Army from Phoenix. I moved to Phoenix for my boyfriend. I got kicked out of the house two weeks after my 18th birthday. That’s a really long story.

Emmy: Oh, well there you go. Yeah, will get into that one later over a glass of wine. Later.

Julie: Much, much later.

Emmy: But I moved here because of the sunshine. I came from a place that had three hours of sunlight, so I was like—

Julie: Alaska?

Emmy: No, Poland. During winter you only get three hours of sunlight. So that’s part of the reason that got me out here.

Julie: No, I could not do that. No, no, no, no. 

Alright, before we get started, we are going to have the Birth Wizard herself, Emmy, read our Review of the Week.


Review of the Week

Emmy: Awesome. From JamJam1987 on Apple Podcasts. They say, “Inspiring. My first C-section was in August 2019. I recently found this podcast and I find these stories so healing and inspirational. I am so pumped up to get pregnant again and try for my VBAC! I hope I can share a successful VBAC story on the show in the future. Thanks for educating the world on VBAC.”

Julie: Aw, I love that. I love that. Do you know what? It’s so fun. I remember when Meagan and I first started the podcast and we would literally— I say we but really, it was just me. I would go stalking VBAC hashtags on Instagram, message people, and be like, “Hey, we just started a podcast. Will you share your VBAC story?” and begging people to record with us. I remember the first time we had somebody who had been listening to the podcast while they were pregnant with their VBAC share their story on the podcast. That was such a special moment for me. And so, I think that’s really cool.

Emmy: No, I totally get that.

Julie: Yeah. All these people that leave reviews, I love it. I want them to submit their story. I want to hear their journey. Sometimes if their name looks like it might look on Facebook, like it’s their real name, I’ll go look them up, see if they are in our community, see if they have had their baby yet, and how it went. Did they get their VBAC? What was their story? Because I like to have the full circle. It feels like coming full circle, right?

Emmy: Yeah. I do the same. I always do the same because I do a thing where people can contact me whenever and I’ll answer your VBAC questions. It’s a half-hour that I do and then if they don’t follow up with me, I just stalk them.

Julie: You’re just like, “What happened to you?” I need answers.

Emmy: Right, with love and care. I just want to make sure that you were okay, and that you got everything you needed and wanted. So, yeah. I completely understand that.

Julie: Alright, we love those reviews.


Episode sponsor

Julie: Do you want a VBAC but don’t know where to start? It’s easy to feel like we need to figure it all out on our own. That’s what we used to do, and it was the loneliest and most ineffective thing we have ever done. That’s why Meagan and I created our signature course, How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents, that you can find at thevbaclink.com. It is the most comprehensive VBAC preparation course in the world, perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced, video course. 
Together, Meagan and I have helped over 800 parents get the birth that they wanted, and we are ready to help you too. Head on over to thevbaclink.com to find out more and sign up today. That’s thevbaclink.com. See you there. 


Hallie’s story

Julie: Alright. Speaking of world travelers, I think this is a great match up with the co-host and our guest because our guest today is Hallie Campbell from New Zealand. Let me tell you. Oh my gosh, I am so excited. I am going to mute myself, and sit here and listen to her talk because I absolutely love New Zealand and Australian accents. In fact, when I was young, I just knew that I was going to grow up and marry somebody from Australia so I could hear him tell me “I love you” in the Australian accent every day. I was 12 and in my little church group, we wrote a letter to our future husband, and then at the very bottom of my letter I wrote, “P.S. I hope you’re from Australia.” Like, no joke. I did that.

So, I don’t want to take too much of Hallie‘s time. Gosh, I should probably look up her information sheet. Honestly, My favorite thing about her is that she is from New Zealand. I don’t know that much about her yet. Let’s see. Mother of three boys and one little girl. She lives in Auckland, New Zealand and she has a birth photography business. Oh my gosh, I think I stalked you on Instagram actually, @nz_birthstories, and that’s your fifth baby. Perfect, I love that. You have such a passion for photographing— how hard is it for me to talk today? Let’s put that on a scale from 1 to 10— and being immersed in the birth world.

Do you know what? I’ve honestly really considered switching from being a birth doula to being a birth photographer just because it feels like it would be less of a work-out maybe but talking to some of my birth photographers here, they’re like, “I don’t know. We are climbing up on couches and doing all sorts of crazy things.”

Hallie: There is a bit of climbing, yeah.

Julie: Yeah. But I’m really excited to hear your story. I know that birth in Australia is a little bit different than it is here in the United States, but there are a lot of similarities, too. I don’t want to take up any more of your time because I like to do that. I like to talk and this is my adult interaction for the day. So Hallie, talk to us. Please, talk to us.

Hallie: Alright. So, my VBAC that I’m going to talk about today was my second VBAC. My first one was a hospital birth. My second one-- I decided to plan a home birth because the first one went really, really well. But this baby decided she did not want to come out. She was very, very naughty. So we got to-- I think it was 41 and 5, and I decided, “Okay, it was probably time to head to the hospital.” I discussed all with my midwife and she was very pro home birth, but obviously very pro my rights. We decided to go in and just see how things were going, possibly break waters, get things started, and head home.

But when I stepped foot in the hospital, I started contracting. It was like she was just waiting for me to show up there. I didn’t actually need any more assistance. I didn’t need to be induced in the end. We went about setting up the hospital room just as if it was a home birth. 

We were thinking to go home, but I then had a call from my mom who was looking after my kids while I was in. She said that the birth ball had been picked up from our house. Well, we had run out of time with it. So, we decided just to set up camp at the hospital. 

I walked about a zillion laps at the hospital, which really, really helped I think. The difference between that and my previous VBAC was-- yeah. I think just keeping active, keeping upright, and moving helped things progress a lot better. So we headed in. That was around 8 in the morning that we headed in there and walked for a good few hours.

Around lunchtime, we decided to jump in the pool. Well, I did. My husband was not very keen. I jumped in the pool and labored in the water for quite a long time. I had decided against continuous monitoring and just asked my midwife to check in on baby quite frequently. She was quite happy to do that. The water was such a relief. It was so, so great as a pain relief. With my previous labors, I had opted for an epidural very early on, but this time I was really hoping to push through that and use other methods of coping with the pain and the water was just amazing.

I spent quite a few hours in the water, but as I got into early evening, things were slowing down, which can be sometimes quite common when people jump in the water. So, we jumped out and I was a 6. Things weren’t progressing too fast, but we weren’t worried.

I spent quite a bit of time with my midwife doing a lot of Spinning Babies® moves. We did lots of hip squeezes. She got my husband in there and he said that really killed his arms doing it over and over again. We did loads of that, loads of hip rotations on the ball and that actually got me through a lot.

I started to feel quite pushy. I think coming into— I think it was around 8 at night, I started to feel like, “Okay, things are starting to feel like they are progressing.” I started to become very vocal. I think I even remember screaming, “Please, help me,” at one point, because my previous labors had been with an epidural, so I had never reached transition in all it’s glory naturally. That was an experience, but it was really great to be able to feel the need to push and to feel my body moving into that next stage of labor.

I did push for a little while and then as I started pushing, my waters broke. They hadn’t broken fully when they popped them the first time. She thought that she had popped them, but there was actually a second bag that ended up breaking. I just always hold a lot of fluid.

Julie: Yeah, there is a forebag and a hindbag. Sometimes, baby’s head can block the rest of the water from coming out. It’s pretty fun when people realize that or have that second gush of fluid come out.

Hallie: It was crazy. I thought, where is this all coming from? I’m a very small person. But anyway, yeah. When that broke, instead of her head coming down into the pelvis, her head shot out of the pelvis. So, yeah. That was just so great. When I was re-checked-- I had previously been checked before I began pushing and I was fully dilated. I was ecstatic to reach that point using other forms of pain relief, but when her head shot back out of the pelvis and I was rechecked, I was then 7 cm. I thought, “No, come on. We have come all this way.” I was stuck in this limbo of transition. We all had a discussion, and I could see some more doctors starting to file into the room. I just thought, “No. I know what’s happening here.”

I opted for an epidural at that point. I thought, “If I’m going to sit in this state of transition for quite a while, then I’m going to need to rest.” And so, I chose to have an epidural. It was the best decision I made. We opted for a bit of passive descent and used-- we call it Syntocinon over here. I think you guys call it Pitocin over there?

Julie: Yeah. Pitocin.

Hallie: We had that cranked up and got those contractions bringing baby back down. That went on for another five hours. So, I was so glad I got that epidural.

Julie: Oh my gosh, you poor thing. That’s a long time.

Hallie: She was a naughty baby. She still is. 

That really did do the trick. She came down and I began pushing at-- this must have been about 2 in the morning by this point. It was a very long labor. And then I still had a good 45 minutes of pushing. I was expecting, you know, fourth baby, one or two. No. About 45 minutes later.

But she was a bit bigger. She was 9 pounds. I am 5 feet and very small. The big baby thing never worried me at all. That never crossed my mind. But I just knew that I was really going to have to work because she had been in a funny position as well the whole time. So, I was really working to get her out. 

I was keeping an eye on these doctors that were in the room. I could see the little whispers and the C-section word getting brought up. As soon as I heard it come up once, I pushed and I’ve never pushed like that in my life. This big, chubby head emerged and I just saw the relief on my husband’s face because he was just as behind this VBAC as I was. We had obviously experienced Cesarean recovery, which was fine, but I had these other kids at home that I really needed to be able to pick up. So, we really-- I really dug deep in the end.

She was asynclitic, so her head did come down on a really weird angle, but then she was born at 3:30 in the morning. It was just so epic and I looked at her and thought, well you look massive.

Julie: I’ve seen 9 and 10-pound babies be born and they look like little sumo wrestlers, or like a toddler. You’re like, “Hey, congratulations. Here’s your two-year-old.”

Hallie: Oh, the head on her. She was just huge. My husband showed me-- he had taken a video. I really wished I had got a birth photographer. I really wish I had because this video is very graphic. But he-- her head is just so big. It’s just so big. But it was just, it was such an amazing birth. It was hard. I wouldn’t say it was the hardest, but it was a very hard, long birth. 

The whole time, I felt like I was in control of the decisions being made. I felt empowered because I had my amazing support team behind me. My midwife was behind me every step of the way. Over here in New Zealand, it’s predominately midwife-led and, yeah. She was just so fantastic. I put a lot of the way I felt after that birth and during the labor, down to just how I was treated and how I was made to feel. Yeah, it was such an awesome, awesome birth.

Julie: That’s awesome. So, your first three, were they-- was it two vaginal and then a Cesarean? Or were they all Cesareans?

Hallie: My first was vaginal. That was a very hands-on induction, very traumatic first birth. My second was an emergency Cesarean, failure to progress at 7 centimeters. And then a VBAC, then Daisy.

Julie: So, first vaginal, then C-section, then two VBACs, right?

Hallie: Yep.

Julie: Right? Okay. Just wanted to make sure that I got that right because all the letters, numbers, and everything gets mixed around. I think that’s really so important though, what you said just a few seconds ago, that choosing your care provider and making sure that they are 100% supportive of the type of birth that you want is one of the biggest things you can do to make sure that-- as you reflect on your birth, that you feel comfortable and confident. Not only with the outcome, but with how you were treated and how you were cared for.

I think it’s really, really important to note that. Find a provider-- if you want a VBAC, you probably don’t want to go to a provider that has a 30 to 40% C-section rate. That provider is probably not doing a lot of VBACs. You want to go to a provider that does a lot of VBACs, that loves VBACs, that loves supporting that, that believes in you, that trusts you, and that you can feel that confidence in you coming from them. And so I think that that’s really important to say. But Emmy, what would you say?

Emmy: I am going to echo basically what you’re stating there. We just heard an incredible story where you did a ton of work, Hallie, and why go to a provider that’s not going to work with you?

Hallie: Exactly, yeah.

Emmy: That’s my big thing with providers is like, yeah. Maybe they are 20 minutes from your house, but I would rather drive six hours to make sure the person I’m working with is willing to work with me. Right? So definitely a huge echo. I think also to throw out there with your story, is knowing your own limits and your own boundaries. You knew you needed rest. You can have really empowering stories with an epidural when the tools are used correctly. So, super awesome.

Hallie: Yes, that’s right. Yeah.

Julie: Well, I love that too. Because a lot of people are like, “Oh, I can’t have a VBAC unless I want to go unmedicated,” or, “Do I have to go unmedicated?” or, “What about an epidural and VBAC? Will it really decrease my chances?” 

I’ve seen sometimes epidurals slow labor down a little bit, but most of the time, I’ve seen epidurals used in birth just like Emmy was saying, as a tool and when they were truly needed. Because a pooped out body is not going to push out a baby. It’s just not going to happen. Your body needs rest and an epidural can be a very effective tool when it’s needed.

It sounds like you made the right call, your birth team made the right call, and everyone let you labor how you chose to. I really wish that the United States would do that-- have midwifery-led care unless you’re a high risk or need to transfer care for some other reason. I really, really wish that could be our model here.

Emmy: Here in the US though, we have about three-- it’s something like 13 OBs to one midwife, so that’s part of the reason we have that going on.

Hallie: Wow.


Water for pain relief

Julie: Well, yeah. That is true. That’s a very good thing to point out. I did not know that statistic, Emmy, and I love statistics. But no, that’s important. 

I could digress and go on a tangent on our maternity system, but I won’t because what I want to talk about is laboring in the water and water birth. I know you didn’t have a water birth, but you had an epidural. It’s really interesting because there’s been a lot of studies out that evaluate whether laboring in the water can be an effective pain relief tool. How effective is it? What are the benefits? Are there any risks to it? All of those types of things. 

And so, I just want to talk a little bit about that because it’s been a while since we’ve talked about water birth, but I also want to talk about laboring in the water even versus getting an epidural. I am going to dig deep into this article on the Evidence Based Birth® homepage or you can go to evidencebasedbirth.com/waterbirth and we will link that in the show notes for you to easily find.

It’s a really lengthy article. That’s one thing I really love about Rebecca Decker is she does such a great job of really digging into the research, the trials, the evidence, and tearing it apart and making it easier to digest. Obviously, I can’t dig into the whole article. You should definitely go and read it yourself. 

Basically overall, it showed that laboring in the water doesn’t show any extra risk for the mother or the baby and it does help relieve pain. It leads to a lesser need for pain medication or less need for pain medication. Does that make sense? “Leading to less use of pain medication.” That’s how she worded it. Another study found that mothers who labored in the water had less anxiety. This is labored in the water, not birth, okay?

“Mothers who labored in the water had less anxiety, better fetal positioning in the pelvis, less use of drugs to speed up labor, and were more satisfied with the privacy and the ability to move around.”

There’s a lot of water birth studies that they review in that Evidence Based Birth article, but I just love it when you talked about laboring in the water. How it just felt good. It felt natural to you. It felt like what you needed to do, but then you knew at the point when you needed more than the water. You knew there was a point.

Hallie: Yep.

Julie: Do you know what? Asynclitic babies are such stinkers. You’re right. She was being very naughty. That’s probably why, when your water broke, if her head was asynclitic, that’s probably why things kind of took a little bit longer to fully progress, because man, those asynclitic babies get nice and wedged in there.

My point is-- laboring in the water. Most hospitals won’t allow you to labor in the water. I think more and more hospitals are allowing that. There’s a couple here that will. Emmy, do you have any hospitals in your area that allow water birth?

Emmy: So they don’t allow birth in water, however, there is a good amount of them that do laboring in the water, which is pretty awesome. But as soon as you get pushy, you get pulled out of the water. However, we also, in our area, have access to about four or five different birth centers that allow you to birth in water. So, we are in a pretty magical area here in Phoenix where we have a lot of choices.

Julie: I’m sorry I said it was 3 feet above hell.

Emmy: You know, that’s not wrong.

Julie: But Phoenix is really— what did you say?

Emmy: You’re not wrong.

Julie: You know, I didn’t mind my time in Phoenix, but it was just super hot. Like, super hot. But then I went to Basic Training and lived in Georgia, which is just a whole different kind of hot. Sweaty hot. So, anyway.

Emmy: Yeah, yeah. I think it’s amazing to have access to water, to have access to an epidural. One of the other ones that I really love to throw out there to my clients to look up is if they would be interested in nitrous, which can also be a really good alternative because it doesn’t stay in your system. It doesn’t pass through the placenta or into baby, but you get that little bit of cutting off the edge of what a true contraction can feel like.

Julie: Yeah. Do most of your hospitals offer that? Or do you have to do it pretty much at a birth center in Phoenix?

Emmy: We have quite a few that also offer nitrous and only one birth center that offers it.

Julie: That’s so interesting because here it’s kind of opposite. One hospital offers it and most of the birth centers do have it in Utah, or at least in my area in Utah. Salt Lake City, Utah County area. So, interesting, yeah. I know that a lot— in England they use nitrous a lot. Australia, what about you, Hallie? Did you have that as an option for you?

Hallie: No. Nitrous?

Julie: Yeah. It’s like laughing gas, like at the dentist’s. I don’t know if it’s something different down there.

Hallie: Yeah, that’s really available to everybody here. Yep. Not everybody, but—

Julie: Good. That’s awesome. I really think that they need to make travel-sized bottles of nitrous and give them out by prescription for moms with anxiety.

Hallie: Totally.

Emmy: So if you want to go in halfsies on that business model, I am down.

Julie: Alright. So I am a student midwife. It’s slow-rolling, but once I get certified, I’ll see about the legalities of that. For sure.



Alright, Hallie. I want to ask you two questions before we go. Emmy, don’t go anywhere. Hallie, your questions. We asked you when you filled out your form, but it’s okay if you don’t remember the answers. You can just make new ones. But we try to ask two questions to our guests now. The first question is: 

What is a secret lesson or something no one really talks about that you wish you would have known ahead of time when preparing for birth?

Hallie: I think preparing for VBAC birth, I didn’t know that having an epidural was an option because of what I had read online. There was no epidural and there was no option of anything else. It had to be natural or C-section. So I was really, really happy to hear that I did have that option. Because it was such a big aid in my birth in the end.

That’s good. Yeah. No, I think you’re right. I think a lot of people just don’t know that it’s possible. There’s a lot of myths out there about VBAC. But, yeah. Cool. Good answer.

Alright, the next question is:

What is your best tip for someone preparing for VBAC?

Hallie: Yeah, it had to come down to your care provider. It’s finding somebody that fully aligns with the birth that you are planning for. To be able to put your best foot forward, you have to have somebody that’s going to be right in your corner. And not just be VBAC supportive, but a real advocate for you as well.

Julie: Yeah. I absolutely love that. I love what you wrote in your response. You said you didn’t realize it until the day you were giving birth, watching your midwife advocate for you over and over, standing at your door like a guard and ushering unnecessary people away. Everybody’s care provider should be like that. She was like a sentinel at your door. Just like, standing there.

Hallie: She was like a guard dog. She was, though. She was just barking orders and telling people to step back. It was just incredible.


Doulas supporting clients with unsupportive providers

Julie: That’s amazing. I wish everyone could have that kind of support. It makes me sad that— I don’t know. Sometimes the stories we share, or witness even, of providers— I am working on an email series for birth workers right now and I asked in our community of VBAC doulas— we have almost 200 VBAC doulas in our community on Facebook now.

Hallie: Wow.

Julie: It’s just mind-blowing to me. Yeah, it’s crazy. I love our community of doulas. They are a really great group of people.

Emmy: Yeah, we are.

Julie: I asked them, what is the biggest barrier that you face— yes, you are. What’s the biggest barrier you face when supporting or trying to support VBAC or TOLAC parents? And almost every single answer, I’m telling you. Almost every single answer was from doulas saying, what to do when your client has a provider that is not supportive, and you know they’re not supportive, and your clients know their provider is not supportive, but they won’t change providers.

It’s really, really hard as a doula-- clearly for many doulas-- to sit there and watch a parent go through a birth experience that could have gone differently had they chosen another provider. It’s really kind of a fine line.

Emmy, maybe you have some opinions on this because I’ve been talking back-and-forth about this with Meagan for some time now, but birth advocacy in the birth room. Ahead of time, obviously, we try to educate our clients as much as we can about what makes a supportive provider and what the red flags are.

Sometimes your clients see the red flags and they choose to stay for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s hard to come to terms with that as a doula, even though you don’t know why that client might be staying with that provider.

Emmy: Yes.

Julie: Who knows? Maybe the universe, or God, or whatever you believe in has a plan and that person has to stay with that provider for whatever reason.

But watching them struggle through a birth with an unsupportive provider that everybody knew was unsupportive beforehand is a big struggle. Where do you advocate? Where is the line as a doula? Because I know that as doulas, there’s this big call right now for doulas to be advocates in the birth space, but I feel like we have to really be careful because you can’t go in there with your hammer and your chains saying, “No! Don’t touch her cervix! Turn that Pitocin down! We’re not going to get an epidural! Blah, blah blah. Fill up that tub!”

Because that type of advocacy— I mean, there’s a time and place for it, and it’s not in the middle of the birth. Like, obviously yes. If your client is saying, “No take your fingers out of my vagina,” while the provider is refusing to stop doing a cervical check, you can jump in. You should jump in, I believe, anyway. And say, “Hey, she said stop.”

There’s a difference between that and trying to navigate through an unsupportive supportive environment. Like, I don’t know. Emmy, what are your thoughts? Where is the balance?

Emmy: How I treat it is just like how you treat your friend who’s in a crappy relationship. You just keep bringing it up. Right? Like, “Oh, how is Joe? I’m sure he is— oh, he did that again? Weird. So, I have a guy that you could talk to.”

Julie: He’s really cute.

Emmy: Or an OB. You could talk to him. The midwife is great. She’s awesome. How about you just do the free meeting? And because they did your well-women’s check does not mean that they should give birth, like, be a part of the birth of your baby, right? And really comparing it. A lot of my clients finally give over once they realize, would you bring your Tesla to a Ford mechanic? No.

Julie: I love that.

Emmy: Because that’s not their purpose. Their purpose is daily check-ups, that kind of thing. Not a car with a battery. So, right now, you’ve got a car with a battery. More specialized. It’s going to be more expensive, probably. Let’s just get real. This is tougher stuff. So, let’s get someone who is prepared for that and actually can be with you through it. 

Of course, I get people who don’t listen. And I have to understand why they feel comfortable in that space. That’s where— I think it’s important on our side not to let our biases come through.

Julie: Yeah.

Emmy: That does happen with me on occasion. I’ve even had it where someone’s like, “Well, I want continuous monitoring and I want movement.” Okay. Those don’t go together.

Julie: I mean, it can if you have-- (inaudible)

Emmy: Right. So the conversation we had, and then she was like, “Well, my provider said it was possible with the wireless monitors.” I was like, “Oh, now I understand why you’ve been set up with this notion.” 

Now I can come off of my own biases and like, alright. We have a different tool that I didn’t realize was in the tool bag. And really, that provider was trying to bring comfort to that person while also skirting the lines. So I think that’s also important on a doula level is, remember that providers are also humans trying to do their best, right?

Julie: Absolutely.

Emmy: Those are the balls you juggle. Treat it like a bad relationship, but also realize maybe they’re also human and they are doing their best to also juggle the balls.

Julie: Oh, I love that advice. Juggle the balls. Juggle all the balls. I think that that’s really good advice. Honestly, most of my VBAC clients now, if they have a provider that I know to be not very supportive of VBAC, I intuitively spent a lot of time prenatally. We go over a lot about what a supportive provider looks like, what evidence says for X, Y, and Z, and send them a lot of information. We talk a lot about their plans, what they want, and then before too long, they realize that their provider is not in line with what they want. And then I am ready right there, like you said, with a list of recommendations for new boyfriends, or new providers, new relationships, new car, whatever you want to call it.

Emmy: Yeah, exactly.

Julie: They end up switching. I can think of so many clients that-- especially VBAC after multiple Cesarean. There is this one provider in the area that everybody recommends and he is not VBAC after multiple Cesareans friendly. He is not. For some reason, everyone refers to him. 

I even had a client he told once, he sighed a little bit and did a little side-eyes and said, “I don’t know why everyone refers to me for VBAC after three C-sections. He told that to my client who was going for a VBAC after three C-sections. She ended up going with a different hospital and having her VBAC after three C-sections at 41 weeks and 5 days. Had she stayed with that provider, she would not have had her VBAC after three C-sections. I can say that with confidence. And so, I don’t know. It’s just this dance.

Emmy: It’s incredible. Incredible.

Julie: It’s just a dance to go on and play around because you have to be respectful of the birth space and the staff because the nurses and the obstetricians-- they’re all just trying to do their job the best that they know how and the best that they can do. Sometimes they’re tired and sometimes they’re having a bad day. But I think-- yeah. I don’t know. It’s just a struggle. I’m going to ask Cristen Pascucci from Birth Monopoly to come on the podcast and talk about advocacy, knowing your rights, and things like that.

Emmy: Well, there you go.

Julie: She’s going to just knock it out of the park. We’re going to all have answers to our questions.

Emmy: But that’s a big thing of mine is-- my purpose is to guide you to know how to be an advocate for yourself, right? I am not here to make decisions for people. So, yeah. That’s the hope, right? That would give them the skill of advocacy? Because that’s going to be important for their baby that just arrived and to make decisions for.

Julie: Yes, absolutely. Alright, Emmy. Well, it’s about time to wrap up. How can people find you if they are in the lovely Phoenix, Arizona?

Emmy: I am Birth Wizard on everything. I am birthwizard.com. I am Birth Wizard on Facebook. I am Birth Wizard on Instagram. I am Birth Wizard on Tumblr, Twitter, and Pinterest. Like literally everywhere .com, I’ve got it. Yeah.

Julie: Awesome.

Emmy: So, just shout out an email. You can summon me and we can talk about VBAC or whatever birth you need to have.

Julie: Summon the Birth Wizard. I love it. Alright. Well Hallie, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. It was great to listen to you and I am so glad that you had the support that you needed for your VBAC.

Hallie: Thank you so much for having me. It was really great.



Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Head over to thevbaclink.com/share and submit your story. For all things VBAC, including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Julie and Meagan’s bios, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.

It’s an ongoing and classic debate-- home birth versus hospital birth. Trying to decide where to have your VBAC is one of the toughest decisions to make. There are LOTS of opinions out there to navigate. Julie and Meagan sit down with you today to share some pros and cons (and some myth busters!) of each based on their personal experiences as doulas, as well as the most current evidence-based research out there. 


This discussion is only the beginning. 


We include tons of resources with even more information about these topics to help you continue your research and get closer to making your informed decision. We hope this episode leaves you feeling empowered and more confident in your birth choices no matter where you end up birthing.


Additional links


How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents

The VBAC Link Community


VBAC Link Blogs: 

Writing a Home Birth Plan

Natural Birth versus Epidural

Home Birth After C-section (HBAC)

Laboring at Home

What to Write in a VBAC Birth Plan

13 Tips to Prepare for an Empowering Birth

Evidence-Based Birth® article: What is Home Birth?

The VBAC Link Shop


Episode sponsor


This episode is sponsored by our signature course, How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents. It is the most comprehensive VBAC preparation course in the world, perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced, video course. Together, Meagan and Julie have helped over 800 parents get the birth that they wanted, and we are ready to help you too. Head over to thevbaclink.com to find out more and sign up today.


Full transcript

Note: All transcripts are edited to eliminate false starts and filler words.


Meagan: Hello, hello. It’s Meagan and Julie with The VBAC Link, and today, you just have us. Lucky you. We’re so excited to be with you today. 


Julie: Woohoo!


Meagan: We’re going to actually be talking on a very, very sensitive topic in a lot of areas because this can be one of those lovely debates out there. We’re talking hospital birth versus home birth. Definitely, something that we know some people are passionate about on both sides. That is great, and we love that, but today we want to talk about all the evidence on both sides, the pros and the cons, and how to determine what’s best for you.


Julie: Absolutely. I’m excited. We actually have a blog about this, I think. I’m looking it up right now.


Meagan: We do. We do. 


Julie: Home birth versus hospital? I know we have one on Natural Birth versus Epidural. We have Writing a Home Birth Plan; we have an HBAC one, Natural Birth versus Epidural. I don’t think we have a hospital versus home birth. We have Laboring at Home.


Meagan: We don’t?!


Julie: We need to write one. 


Meagan: Oh, Laboring at Home. Yeah. 


Julie: Yeah. So basically, during this episode, we’re going to talk about a lot of things that we cover in our blog, so go to our blog right now and search for “home birth.” It’s going to bring up results Laboring at Home, What to Write in a VBAC Birth Plan-- that’s for a hospital or home birth. We have-- let’s see.


Meagan: Home Birth After Cesarean. We’ve got lots of stories on the podcast. 


Julie: Uh-huh. We’ve got Natural Birth versus Epidural, lots of podcast stories, How to Write a Home Birth Plan, all sorts of things. And then, we’re going to tell our content writer who tells us what to do about blogs that we need a home birth versus hospital birth blog. 


Meagan: Yeah, we do. We totally do. 


Review of the Week


Julie: We do. Maybe there will be one there by the time this episode airs. Alright, but should I read a review?


Meagan: You should read a review. 


Julie: Alright. I’ve got one from Google. We haven’t read a Google review in a long time. So, if you didn’t know that, you can review us on Apple Podcasts, you can review us on Google by just searching for The VBAC Link, and you can review us on Facebook. We love reading and having reviews from all three of those platforms. It keeps us going when the times get tough. 


This review from Google is from Anne McLaughlin. She says, “These ladies are an absolute joy to listen to on their podcast! I feel so fortunate to have found them on my journey to what will hopefully be a 2VBAC with twins! When I had my 1st VBAC, I felt educated, as I had read through books and websites. Now, I feel empowered! Thanks to Julie and Meagan, I feel more confident advocating for myself and asking the right questions. I recommend you to all of the mamas I come across in other VBAC groups and often refer to specific episodes I've listened to. Thank you for all that you do, you Women of Strength, you!”


No, thank you, you Woman of Strength, you! Do you know what? I just saw in our Facebook community a twin birth posted.


Meagan: Oh, really? Really, that’s awesome.


Julie: I’m going to go stalk her and see if it was that same one. I’m actually in it right now.


Meagan: Yeah. That would be fun if it was. It would be super fun.


Julie: Anne McLaughlin.


Meagan: We’re stalking you, Anne.


Julie: Let’s see. Nope. She might not be in our community.


Meagan: Speaking of, if you didn’t know, we do have a community, and no, we don’t usually stalk you.


Julie: Only if you leave a review. Don’t put your real name on it.


Meagan: Only if you leave a review. So, it’s on Facebook, and if you search The VBAC Link Community, you will find us. Now, we do have questions that you have to answer, and we are kind of strict on it. So, you have to answer all three or—


Julie: Two. There are only two now.


Meagan: Oh yeah. There are two now. You have to answer both, or you don’t get added in. Sorry. We love you, but we really want to protect our group and keep everyone safe.


So, if you are not with us in that community, definitely check it out on Facebook, The VBAC Link Community. I promise you’re going to love it because these people in this group are just incredible. I am honestly learning from them. Do you find that, Julie? You see a post, and you’re like, “I actually didn’t know that was a thing,” and I go and research it.


Julie: Yes, or I make a statement and then somebody else says, “Actually, blah blah blah,” and I am like, “Do you know who I am? I own this community.” Then I go and research it, and I was like, “Oh crap. I was wrong.”


Meagan: Oh, that’s funny. That’s funny.


Julie: Okay, I found it. Anne McLaughlin in our Facebook group. I am looking at her story. Oh, shoot, wait. Let’s see—growth scans. Oh no, this is on October 26th. Dang, it. September no. Oh well. We will have to see. I’m going to be looking while we are talking, so if I interrupt the episode, you will know. Because she’s new, she should have been due-- or maybe she is still pregnant. I don’t know.


Episode sponsor


Julie: Do you want a VBAC but don’t know where to start? It’s easy to feel like we need to figure it all out on our own. That’s what we used to do, and it was the loneliest and most ineffective thing we have ever done. That’s why Meagan and I created our signature course, How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents, that you can find at thevbaclink.com. It is the most comprehensive VBAC preparation course in the world, perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced, video course. 


Together, Meagan and I have helped over 800 parents get the birth that they wanted, and we are ready to help you too. Head on over to thevbaclink.com to find out more and sign up today. That’s thevbaclink.com. See you there. 


Hospital birth versus home birth


Julie: Anyways, we’re going to be done talking about Ms. Anne right now, and we’re going to talk about hospital birth versus home birth.


Meagan: Let’s do it.


Meagan: This is something as individuals-- we’ve both had a hospital birth and, well, you had a home birth. I had a birth center, which is kind of like a home birth, right?


Julie: Yeah, pretty much.


Meagan: Yeah. I mean, out-of-hospital birth. So I definitely know the difference from my personal perspective on birth, but then I have also attended many births as a doula in hospital. In fact, I would say the majority of my clients deliver in hospital, which is something that a lot of people don’t realize. A lot of people think doulas are only supporters for natural, unmedicated birth, and I’m just going to myth bust that one right there.


Julie: Boom.


Meagan: It’s not. It’s not. And really, I would say, 85 to 90% of our clients are in hospitals. I definitely have seen a lot of hospital birth, and then I’ve definitely seen home birth. I’m excited to talk about the things that I’ve seen and the differences on both.


Julie: I’m excited, too. We both have, I think, things that rub us the wrong way that we see some providers do constantly. I want to preface this before we get into it, that these are just experiences that we’ve seen in the birth room, at-home birth, hospital birth, and birth center birth. It’s not to be replaced by advice from your provider. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your provider’s doing anything wrong if they do things that we see that we don’t necessarily like. Some of us like some things that the other one doesn’t like. It’s going to be a fun conversation.


I actually found Anne‘s post. She had her babies. They were a TOLAC turned elective Cesarean. So she had a repeat Cesarean after an induced TOLAC. It looks like she chose a Cesarean. She hasn’t written up their birth stories yet, but they look beautiful and well and nice, chunky 8 pounds, 7 ounces and 7 pounds, 7 ounces twins.


Meagan: Wow, twins. Those are nice sized babies for twins.


Julie: I know, right? Nice chunky little boys.


Meagan: That’s cool. That’s awesome.


Julie: Well, now, you know.


Meagan: Congrats, Anne. Yes.


Julie: Alright. I don’t know how to get started.


Meagan: Well, first of all, I want to talk about home birth in general.


Julie: Do it.


Meagan: A lot of people are very, very scared of home birth, right? Because of that fear that is placed upon us. I say the word “uterine rupture”-- two words. Uterine rupture. That is a very scary thing to think of. Doing it at home, and the thought of not being right next to an OR can be scary and intimidating. Really, really hard to comprehend. Is it safe? Is home birth safe after all? There is something on our blog, so I’m jumping into home births first versus hospital. I don’t necessarily suggest one or the other, generally. This is very much a personal decision, but I just want to share this.


It says, “Homebirth in general, and especially home birth after Cesarean, also known as HBAC, is growing in popularity. In 2013, 1.4% of U.S. births took place outside of a hospital. Laboring at home is common, but many women also decide to stay home for the birth itself. Surprisingly, 64.4% of these occurred at home.”


64.4. That’s a pretty high number. That is really high. I mean, that was in 2013, so that was years ago. But still, it’s actually more common than you may think, and it’s more safe than you think.


So, okay. I’m going to go backwards. I want to talk about-- how do you know? How do you know what to do or where to go? How to decide? How do you know what to decide to do?


One, I think it’s really important to write a pros and cons list for yourself because everyone is different. Everyone is going to see different pros and different cons. Some peoples’ pros are going to be those other peoples’ cons. So write a pros and cons list. 


Be honest with that pros and cons list. If money is a factor, write it down. Money. Insurance will cover it, right? If fear is a factor or a con, then write it down. Fear. Then, let’s break those down. Okay. What is the fear surrounding? What brings this fear? Then, let’s educate on those topics and see if that fear still stays. If that fear still stays and you were like, “Nope. I still feel very comfortable at the hospital,” stay at the hospital. If you’re like, “Oh, well actually, I didn’t know that it was not like that,” then that may change your mind for a home birth.


This is something that I’ve stuck with for so long. Honestly, ever since Blyss Young with-- I don’t know if you guys know Dr. Stu’s Podcast, but Blyss Young-- she said this, and I just can’t even let go of it. I can’t because it’s too good. 


It’s the analogy of like, okay. For our weddings, we pick out the flowers. We pick out the venue. We go to places. We get comfortable. We pick out the colors. We are picking out the destination, and everything included, right? And then, for some reason, when it comes to birth, which is another very big day of our lives, we let our insurance companies tell us exactly what we’re going to do. I loved that when she said it, I was like, “Whoa. I never even thought of it like that.”


So, yes. Money can be a factor, but don’t let someone tell you who you can deliver with, where you can deliver, and how you can deliver if that’s not something you’re comfortable with. You may be like, “I don’t care really where I go; I just want to have a baby.” And that’s okay, too. But just keep that in mind.


So, writing a pros and cons list, really understanding the facts, and then following your intuition. I know Julie, and I talk about it all the time but follow your intuition. It’s huge. If your intuition says, “I shouldn’t be there,” then don’t go there, wherever “there” is. Right? And it’s hard to differentiate fear versus intuition. But usually, if you are feeling scared, that’s not your intuition. Right, Julie? It’s fear creeping in. So, talk about that.


Julie: Yeah. I want to touch on that. I feel like sometimes we don’t explain enough about what intuition is. I actually made a post yesterday because I wrote about a blog about how to have an empowering birth experience.


Your intuition doesn’t have to be a warm and fuzzy, feel-like-you-get-wrapped-in-a-big-hug, and be 100% confident in your decision. Intuition can look a lot of ways. The decisions that you make because of your intuition or the things that your intuition is telling you can cause a fear in you. In that case, that would be an indication that you need to do some processing and make sure that you enter into whatever decision you made with confidence as much as you can.


But sometimes, depending on yourself, acting on your intuition can look like asking questions when something doesn’t feel right to you. It can look like taking a look at the big picture rather than what’s happening at this exact moment. Or checking in with what you’re saying to yourself.


Your self-talk, sometimes self-talk, we confuse with intuition. Let’s check-in. Do you say things to yourself like, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to have such a hard time finding a provider.” Well, how can we turn that into a more productive statement? Like, “Alright. I know that I can find the right provider for my birth. I know that I can do the work necessary.” Things like that. Asking for reassurance from others sometimes.


I know for me-- oh my gosh, Meagan can attest to this, but I need reassurance big time. If I am making decisions, and I’m trusting my gut, and I’m taking a leap; I need people to tell me that it’s the right choice. Even if they think that I am completely off my rocker, right?


Meagan: Yeah, no. Totally, yeah.


Julie: I need it. Words of affirmation is my love language. Reassurance is a big thing. Reassurance that I’m trusting myself and that I’m making the right decision based on the things that I know and feel. Not second-guessing yourself. If it was the right decision when you made it, can I keep trusting that that’s the right decision? Also, trust that if changes need to be made, then you will know when and if they do need to be made.


Forgiving yourself can be part of trusting your intuition because sometimes we have to forgive ourselves for not knowing what we didn’t know or making decisions that we didn’t know we could’ve made differently when they happened. 


And allowing yourself to feel negative emotions. Oh my gosh, please, please, please, can we say that again? Allowing yourself to feel negative emotion. Sometimes people think, “Oh, only positive vibes. Good vibes only when I’m preparing for my birth.” But if you do not allow yourself to feel and process those emotions and then send them off to their own little wherever-negative-emotions-go land, then you’re going to be doing yourself a great disservice because they can come up and appear while you’re in labor and birth. It can negatively impact the physiologic process of your birth. 


Then, just being kind and loving to yourself. Sometimes that is simply what your intuition needs you to do. Just stop and slow down. Take a break and be kind to yourself.


But, yeah. I like that. I think that it’s important to clarify that intuition doesn’t just look like a still voice while you’re in a quiet and dark room.


Meagan: Right, right. And not allowing all of the outside static to impact it. Because I feel like it kind of just jumbles around, and you’re like, “Wait, what? Now, what am I feeling? Is that intuition? Is that opinion? Is that fair? I don’t know? Oh, what is it?” Do you know what I mean? There is so much. So, yeah. I love that. Perfect.


Let’s talk about hospital birth. What are the pros of hospital birth? Let’s talk about them. Pros and cons.


Julie: Well, I think the biggest pro of hospital birth is probably the biggest pro of home birth too, is making sure that it’s a space you’re comfortable in. Because some people just don’t feel comfortable, and they never will feel comfortable giving birth at home, right? If you’re not comfortable, then what happens? Everything locks up, and your physiologic process is destroyed. The obvious pros of hospital birth really are if you have an emergency that needs immediate attention, then your baby can be out of your body in 1-2 minutes with a crash Cesarean. I think that immediate access to emergency resources and care is probably the biggest pro about hospital birth.


Meagan: Yeah, just having access to that care. Comfortability. Also, I don’t know. I think in some ways there is a pro of having more-- now this could be the pro and a con in both ways, but more resources. Does that make sense? So, say you’re going. You’re 9 centimeters, and there is this lip or whatever. There are other things you can do at home, but sometimes a drop of Pitocin really does help. Or, say you are pushing for hours and hours, and you have a provider that is right there that can help assist with vacuum or forceps. Does that make sense? So, those are little pros that we wouldn’t really think that they are pros because they are not something we want to think of a pro, but it’s there. If we are home and we’ve been pushing for a long time, we have to get in the car and transfer. Or get in an ambulance and transfer. Sorry, I’m getting deep into the not super--


Julie: I know. I feel like we’re kind of all over the place. I don’t know; I just think that with home birth and hospital birth, a pro to one person could be a con to another person.


Meagan: Exactly. That’s what I’m saying. It’s so hard.


Julie: I think you hit it right exactly on the head when you said, “You’ve got to make your own pro and con list.” I’ve been looking-- if you can hear my mouse clicks in the background-- I’ve been looking for the home birth studies that have been recent. The Canadian home birth study. It’s really interesting. 


I’m going to go and talk about a couple of different resources about home birth, actually. Evidence-Based Birth® wrote an article about home birth safety. Here we go. Sorry. I’m just clicking back and forth really fast. So, here’s the thing. The Evidence Based® article was written in 2012. There have been studies that have come out in 2015 and 2017 that haven’t been updated in the study yet. But she has a couple of good references and information in here that I think is important to talk about, just about home birth generally, because she sums it up in a way that would take me 30 minutes to say because you know how long-winded I am.


Now, I want to say before I go into it that ACOG does not recommend home birth for a VBAC. With that being said, me and Meagan have both had out-of-hospital births with VBAC. The reason ACOG doesn’t recommend it is because there’s not enough data on the safety of home birth for women with a prior Cesarean. There’s just no evidence to prove whether it’s safe or not, and so ACOG considers it an absolute contraindication, just having a VBAC. 


However, all these studies support that if a woman is low-risk, she could be a good candidate for a home birth. Being a low-risk includes that you are pregnant with a single baby, and you’ve made an informed choice to birth at home, baby is head-down at term-- although, I would kind of disagree with that one. Breech home birth can be done safely with a provider that is trained and experienced in breech birth. And if you have a back-up plan in place. That’s actually one of the things. 


At birth, as long as the baby isn’t born before the 37-week mark, the mom has no serious medical conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, blood clotting disorders, type 1 diabetes, gestational diabetes managed with insulin, preeclampsia or excessive bleeding, no placenta previa obviously, and as long as parent goes into spontaneous labor-- although I think that’s also a gray area because there are certain things you can do to nudge and encourage labor to begin that aren’t medical things.


What I think the biggest thing is, is that people think that having a home birth midwife, which-- we don’t advocate for unassisted home birth, especially for VBAC. We think it’s important for everybody to have a provider that they can trust, and that is an expert in their type of birth. However, we realize that in some areas of the country and even the world, that’s not an option for you. I’m just going to leave that right there. We can go back to referencing your intuition and the pros and cons list for that. 


Homebirth midwives are actually highly educated people that have gone through extensive trainings and attended hundreds of births. I know I am a midwife student right now. I am a student midwife and-- oh my gosh, the number of requirements, courses, educational pieces and information you have to learn, and hands-on experience you have to have. You have to have a mentor that will guide you, help teach you, and educate you. It is an exhaustive process to become a practicing midwife. 


Midwives have lots of supplies on hand and bring lots of things to home birth. I’m just going to go over the list because sometimes people don’t think about these things. They have a handheld Doppler to monitor the baby, sterile instruments for cutting the cord, vitamin K and eye ointment for the baby, suction devices like the squeegee-little-bulb-thing to remove mucus from the infant’s nose or mouth. Oxygen tanks too-- they are required by law to have two oxygen tanks with them and adult and infant resuscitation equipment. They are required to be trained in neonatal resuscitation and CPR. There are so many things in the birth kit. 


Midwives can do interventions at birth, as well. The interventions they can do is obviously monitor baby with her Doppler, monitor a woman’s progress of labor, perform cervical exams, provide physical and emotional support during labor-- although we absolutely recommend having a doula with you because the midwife can’t do both jobs at once-- being a midwife and a doula. They can perform all the newborn exams required by the state that your OB/GYNs and nurses do in the hospital. They can suture any tears after birth; they can recognize complications and transfer a patient to the hospital if they need to. Most of the time, complications are recognized earlier than they would be in a hospital just because you have a midwife there with you 100% of the time, and they can transfer you before the situation becomes emergent. They can also administer oxygen and emergency medications. Some certified midwives can carry Pitocin, Methergine, and other things like that to help in case of an emergency or hemorrhage.


Meagan: They have a lot of holistic things too.


Julie: Yes. Yeah, a lot of herbal things.


Meagan: They have a lot of herbal and holistic things that can help you avoid having those medications--


Julie: --that decrease your chances for having those things. Yep. They can also start IVs and administer IV fluids. Like I said, it depends if you are a Certified Midwife, or a Direct-Entry Midwife, or what your accreditation is. Each state varies by law on whether or not midwives can carry certain medications. But I think another reason people are kind of hesitant about home birth is not wanting to clean up the mess. That’s what my husband said.


Meagan: Yes, it’s dirty. Yes. Dirty. yes, yes, yes.


Julie: But midwives do such a really good job cleaning up the mess. In fact, my house was cleaner after my midwives left than before I went into labor on my three home births. Isn’t that funny? I’m like, “You guys should come back.”


Meagan: I believe it, though. I know that team. I know that team. They clean very well. Yeah.


Julie: “Are you going to clean at my newborn exam? The two-day postpartum visit?” Yeah. They do all the newborn checks and screenings things as if you were at a hospital. So those are some common myths about home birth.


Meagan: Yeah. Definitely myths there for sure. I love that you were talking about-- these midwives are not just some random people off of the street. They are trained. They’re qualified. And, I also want to encourage, when you are interviewing these midwives, ask them their credentials. Ask them their experience.


Julie: And their training.


Meagan: And other training. That’s going to help you. Also, I would say one of the pros of home birth versus hospital is the type of care. Now, I don’t want to say that hospital staff gives less care, or poor care, or anything like that. It’s not what I’m saying. It’s the quality of time that is put into the care. It’s not because these providers in the hospital don’t want to. It’s because they can’t. They can’t. It’s very rare, and there are people out there, but it’s very rare for a provider to be able to sit down and spend one hour with you, and answer your questions, talk about your pregnancy, talk about how you’re doing, talk about your plans and where you’re at in this journey. It’s just unlikely for them to be able to do that. 


So, that is something that is huge, that was huge for me and my decision to deliver out of the hospital. Because I loved that I could go in and ask my doctor a couple of questions in my prenatal, it felt good to have a list, take it in, ask questions, and then leave and come up with more questions. But I can’t tell you how many times it was like, “Oh, well, this doctor is downstairs at birth, so you’ll have to keep your questions until next time.” Or, I’d ask a question, and he’d look at me like, “What?”


Julie: Yeah, or they’re like, “Well, the doctor is just five minutes away, so we can call him in whenever you’re ready, or you have a question.” And then they’re like, “Well, let me go check with what your doctor has to say about that,” and it’s just harder.


Meagan: Or like, you call him. You call into the office, “Hey, I have this question.” And like you said, “Oh, let me get a hold of your doctor.” And then the nurse calls you back, not your provider. But guess what? I had a question. I sent my midwife a text message. She texted me right back. She called me. “Let’s talk about this. Hey, okay. This is what I want you to do.” 


Every single time I would go into a visit, she would sit down, and we would just kickback. It was like two friends at a coffee shop; only we didn’t have a table and coffee. Do you know what I mean? It was just natural. 


That’s a pro that I could say. You can’t just text your doctor. You can’t just call your doctor, and rarely if you call your doctor, you get your doctor. So that was a really big pro for me is that established, individualized care. And then, guess what? I knew exactly who was going to help me get this baby here the day that I went into labor. One of the cons in the hospital is, you just don’t know these days. Usually, providers work in a group of 5+, right? You just get who you get. You may love them, and you may not have a great relationship, or you may have never met them. For me, and especially for VBAC, I feel it is so powerful to have had that relationship with the provider the entire time.


Julie: I think with that relationship too is, you learn to have trust in your provider more, and your provider learns to have trust in you more.


Meagan: Totally.


Julie: They know your specific needs more.


Meagan: Yes.


Julie: We need to wrap it up, but I feel like this episode might be more like clearing up myths about home birth rather than the pros and cons of hospital birth.


Meagan: Yeah, maybe. Yeah.


Julie: This is the thing about hospital birth. I want to just say; we are both 100% for you choosing your birth location with confidence and a provider that you are comfortable with. At hospital birth, you are just going to have to keep your eye out for more interventions being offered to you and know what those interventions are and when or when they may or may not be necessary. That’s really, really important. 


But then again, there are some homebirth midwives that are really heavy on the interventions, like with herbs and oils, and things like that. I would ask, no matter where you are, what interventions are standard when they would decide something as an emergency, and for home birth, what their transfer plan looks like, what their transfer rate is. 


With that being said, a high transfer rate doesn’t necessarily mean that a midwife isn’t a good midwife; it means that they are confident in their abilities with what they can and cannot handle. They are, I would say, overly cautious and would rather transfer before things become an emergency and be in the midst of an emergency, have to transfer, and possibly endanger the health and life of mom or baby. So, yeah. Pros and cons.


Meagan: Definitely. Yeah. I would say, maybe pros and cons. That’s what this episode is more pros and cons, and just the differences.


Julie: I’ve seen really, really awesome hospital births and hospital birth providers, and I’ve seen providers with their fingers in moms’ vaginas for two hours while they push. All I want to do is scream, “Get your hands out of the mom’s vagina!” They’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s a great push. That’s another great push. That’s another great push.” And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, if they’re great pushes, then why are we still just keeping our hands in vaginas?”


Meagan: And what are we doing to the pelvic floors?


Julie: Yes. What are we doing to the pelvic floor? Then there’s other times when having some fingers in to see how and where mom is pushing can be beneficial. But homebirth midwives can do that too.


Meagan: I think it’s more guidance. Because I’ve seen it at home birth, too, I think it’s more guidance for the parent, right? So like, “Hey, do you feel this right here? “I want you to focus all your individual strength right here. And then they’re out.


Julie: Yeah. Yeah. But you don’t have to keep them in for two hours. That kills me. It kills me every time. I think I’ve got to do some processing for that.


Alright. Well, we encourage you to look at the pros and cons of both hospital birth and home birth. You can find them on our blog like we mentioned at the beginning of this episode. Also, we go way in-depth about hospital birth, home birth, and other birthing locations and providers in our prep course for parents, which you can find at thevbaclink.com/shop. So, go ahead. We highly encourage you to take our course. It’s going to make you feel more empowered and more confident in your birth choices, no matter where you end up birthing.




Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Head over to thevbaclink.com/share and submit your story. For all things VBAC, including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Julie and Meagan’s bios, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.


Brigette, who is also one of Julie’s very own clients, shares her inspiring VBAC story of how she went from being only 1 centimeter dilated upon arrival to the hospital to 10 centimeters dilated, pushing, and a beautiful baby boy in only five hours. 


In Julie’s words, Brigette’s “VBAC rocked my world. It’s one of those things where in your mind you know certain things work, line up, then the magic happens. But then, when you actually are there witnessing it and doing it, it is magical. I don’t know what other way to describe it. It’s super cool, super empowering. I left that birth all smiles, really, really excited for Brigette.”


Also, joining us today as Julie’s co-host is Tara Van Dyke, one of our VBAC Link Certified Doulas. Together, Julie and Tara discuss how to best prepare the cervix for labor, as well as some information about the cervix that most people overlook.  


Additional links

Spinning Babies Abdominal Lift

With U Parenting

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents


Episode sponsor

This episode is sponsored by our signature course, How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents. It is the most comprehensive VBAC preparation course in the world, perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced, video course. Together, Meagan and Julie have helped over 800 parents get the birth that they wanted, and we are ready to help you too. Head over to thevbaclink.com to find out more and sign up today.


Full transcript


Note: All transcripts are edited to eliminate false starts and filler words.


Julie: Welcome to The VBAC Link Podcast. This is Julie today. I am missing Meagan with all my heart, but don’t worry, because I have two wonderful people with me here today-- one of our VBAC doulas to co-host and one of my own clients sharing her VBAC story that I’m so excited to hear. I’m going to introduce both of them in just a second, but Meagan-- this is going to be really funny, the way it plays out in the schedule because this episode is coming out in the middle of our three recordings. This is technically the second one that you’re hearing with Meagan absent, but it’s three weeks after the first one that posted, and then there’s another one in two weeks that’s not going to have Meagan on it either. 


So, just bear with me. I’m missing my security blanket, Meagan. But luckily I have one of our VBAC doulas and one of my clients here to fill in that warm and snuggly that Meagan always helps me with when we’re recording. 


First, I’m going to introduce our co-host, Tara Van Dyke. She is in Chicago, Illinois. The only thing I know about Chicago is that the airport is really big. I had to run from one end of the terminals clear to the other ones and wait for the little tram thing to come. This was when I was in the military. It was between Basic Training and AIT I think. I had this rucksack, or not rucksack, duffel bag on my back and combat boots just hoofing it. I was in way better shape. No way I would have made it now. But like, back then. It was quite the sprint. 


But Tara, her business is With U Parenting. A really fun fact about her is that she goes skydiving on all of her milestone birthdays and she takes her kid's skydiving on their 18th birthday. I think that’s the cool mom. You’re definitely the cool mom, Tara. 


Tara: Thank you. I do it because I love it. 


Julie: I went skydiving once when I lived in Hawaii. It was 10 years ago and it was super fun. But I’m really excited. What a fun thing to do. So, milestone birthday. What is that, like every five years?


Tara: Well, it started on my 30th. There have been a few since then, just to give you a hint. 


Julie: A few?


Tara: A few, yeah. 


Julie: 31 and 32. 


Tara: My kids were little then and I didn’t know the side effect of them all watching me do it was that they would all be crazy about doing it, too. So, it’s been a big family tradition that I take them on their 18th birthday. All four of them have reached that milestone now, so I need to find another reason to keep going. 


Julie: I’ll pretend like I’m turning 18 again, and then I’ll come to Chicago and we can go together. And Meagan, too. And maybe Brigette, later on down the road.


Tara: Totally. Yeah.


Brigette: Yes.


Julie: It will be fun. Okay, skydiving. Oh my gosh. This story is just about as exciting as the time I went skydiving. Maybe even a little bit more so. My very, very own client, Brigette. I say my favorite client, but I call all my clients my favorite client. Sooner or later they’re going to start calling me out and be like, “I’m pretty sure you called her your favorite client.”


But I really do love my clients so much. They really do get to be like my family and friends. Tara, I’m sure you can relate. It really just makes my heart happy whenever one of my clients wants to share their story.


Review of the Week


Julie: Before we get into Brigette’s story, I’m going to have Tara, the master skydiving, best mom ever, read a Review of the Week for us.


Tara: Okay, I’ve got it. There is a review from koalababy21 on Apple Podcasts and she says, “Amazing. I am so happy I found this podcast! I had a scheduled C-section with my first daughter because she was measuring large. I wish I had found this podcast before I agreed to it! Next baby, I’m definitely trying for a VBAC. This podcast has made me feel so empowered and informed. Thank you, ladies!”


I love when people are planning their VBAC before they’re pregnant.


Julie: I know. Me too. We’ve had— in fact, I think it was our very first or our very second course when we were doing in-person courses before the coronavirus. She wasn’t even pregnant yet. Her C-section baby was four months old and she came to our in-person course because she wanted to be that prepared ahead of time. And I’m like, “You rock. You rock.”


That’s definitely awesome. Yes, thank you so much for the review. We love reviews, as you know. We love hearing how we are helping you. It really keeps us going and keeps this podcast rocking and rolling for you.


Episode sponsor


Julie: Do you want a VBAC but don’t know where to start? It’s easy to feel like we need to figure it all out on our own. That’s what we used to do, and it was the loneliest and most ineffective thing we have ever done. That’s why Meagan and I created our signature course, How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents, that you can find at thevbaclink.com. It is the most comprehensive VBAC preparation course in the world, perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced, video course. 


Together, Meagan and I have helped over 800 parents get the birth that they wanted, and we are ready to help you too. Head on over to thevbaclink.com to find out more and sign up today. That’s thevbaclink.com. See you there. 


Brigette’s story


Julie: Brigette, I had no idea. How did I not know that you met your husband in Belgium?


Brigette: Yes, technically the Netherlands, but it was on our mission. We both served a mission up there and that’s how it happened.


Julie: Oh, okay.


Brigette: Yeah. I like to get that little hook out there, you know?


Julie: Yeah, the Netherlands, and Belgium. That’s really cool. You love to travel. I love to travel too, but you know what puts a damper on that? Children.


Brigette: COVID? COVID and children.


Julie: One day. Maybe that’s what will make me the cool mom, is on their 18th birthday, I’ll take them to whatever country they want. That would be so cool, right? Actually, that would be really expensive.


Tara: It does get more expensive.


Julie: Maybe I’d better find something else. I’ve got 11 years to figure it out, so I think I’m good. But she is the wife of a former Marine and she loves cooking, baking, and taking care of her babies. She loves being outside. She has two boys-- two years old and three weeks old. 


And, you guys. Her VBAC rocked my world. It’s one of those things where in your mind you know certain things work, line up, then the magic happens, but then, when you actually are there witnessing it and doing it, it is magical. I don’t know what other way to describe it. It’s just super cool, super empowering. I left that birth all smiles, really, really excited for Brigette. But before I start telling her story for her, I will turn the time over to her.


Brigette: Thank you. It’s so crazy to hear you say what you said about it. I was just excited to have you as my doula. It’s cool to be here on the podcast, and then have you talking about it like that. It’s fun being on this other side having already had the birth and I can just reflect on it now.


I have to just say, I was totally that person that before I got pregnant, I was researching all the things. After I had my first C-section, I didn’t really know what a VBAC was actually, to be honest. I didn’t know that it was a thing. I just thought I was going to have to have a C-section with all the rest of my kids and just super bummed about it, but I actually searched VBAC something, I can’t remember, on-- I think it was on Instagram, and you guys popped up. I was like, “Oh, wow. This has a lot of information.” So I just delved into it and read everything on your guys’ blog posts, and listened to all of your podcasts to and from all of my appointments, at home, on walks, and everything. So, really cool.


But anyways, to start off. I had my first C-section in 2018. It was with my first son that was born in August 2018. I had a really healthy pregnancy. I want to say that I did plan for my birth, but in all reality, I didn’t really seriously plan for it. I just kind of looked up videos and Googled things and stuff, and thought I was prepared for it. 


And thought I was prepared for the hospital experience I guess I should say because no one really prepares you for that. No one tells you what it’s going to be like with doctors and nurses, and just finding a doctor that’s going to be the type of doctor that you want to help you get the birth that you want.


I totally just was-- I just went to a clinic that was in my small little town that we lived in Arizona that was close by because we were kind of far away from the big city. So I was like,” Oh sure. I’ll just go there.” They were great. They were really good. But, I think I kind of just settled with that location-wise and it turned out to be just a little bit of a bummer.


Fast forward to actually having the baby. I was 40 weeks and 1 day. I thought that I was having contractions one night. I just thought that they were building up to contractions, I should say. They were Braxton Hicks. They weren’t painful or anything, but they were kind of tight and getting a little bit intense. I laid down and they went away. I was able to sleep through the night and then the next morning my husband was like, “Let’s go on a walk. Let’s see if we can get anything going.”


So we went on a walk and walked the curb. I thought that I felt a little bit of water-- fluid coming out. I didn’t feel a gush or anything, but I was like, “Oh, I wonder if that was my water. I’ve heard that it can trickle out.” So we were like, “Okay. Let’s go home and see if more comes out.” 


A little bit later, nothing happened. But I had tested positive for GBS in this pregnancy, so they were like, “As soon as you think your water broke, make sure you come to the hospital so that we can get you started on the antibiotics.” So I called the hospital and they were like, “Yeah, might as well just come in and get checked.” And so that’s what we did. We kind of took our time to get there. They checked me. I was also 2 centimeters dilated before, at my last appointment.


When I got there, they checked me. While we were waiting for the results-- we were just in triage-- all of a sudden, a ton of beeping happened and the baby’s heart rate went down. It decelerated to like 60 bpm. Everyone comes rushing in and puts oxygen on me, flipping me over, like, five times to try to get his heart rate found, or just trying to get it back to see if it went back to normal and it did after a minute or so. it went back to normal. 


They permitted me and they told me that I was going to be induced that night. I was like, “Okay, sure. I am all for it. I want this baby out of me.” I didn’t really know much about the cascade of interventions.


So that was like around 3:00 p.m., and around 11:00 is when I actually got Cervidil inserted into my cervix by the doctor that was on-call. I hadn’t even met her once, to be honest. That was kind of-- yeah. She was great, but yeah. I didn’t really know her, because my other doctor wasn’t there. So as soon as she-- I just remember, as soon as she inserted the Cervidil, I swelled up down there in my lady bits. It was like golf-ball-sized swelling.


Julie: Miserable. Miserable.


Brigette: It was so painful. Yes. I couldn’t sit upright because I couldn’t sit on that, and so the birth ball was out of the picture. I couldn’t really walk around much because it hurt to walk around. So I was really just stuck on the bed, which is not ideal at all when it comes to this. You know, you want to be walking around and able to be bouncing or doing a side-lying position and I wasn’t really able to do anything to help baby come down. 


Then, they put me on Pitocin, and contractions started happening. They were like, “Well, if the contractions are very intense right at the front, then we will take the Cervidil out,” and they were. It was insane. All night I was up contracting, so they eventually took the Cervidil out and I-- every single time they checked me, it was super painful and I didn’t realize why. It was just because he was super high up. Nobody really told me that.


Anyways, I just wish I would have known that. But I got checked again by a new nurse that came in and she was super gentle. It didn’t hurt when she checked me, which was strange, but I was only 3 centimeters at this point. I opted for the epidural because I think that the contractions were a minute apart and they were insane still, even though they took out the Cervidil. I was trying to breathe through them, like low and controlled breaths, but I wasn’t able to do it any longer. I was only 3 centimeters and I got an epidural.


I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t have anyone else there to help me now. I rested the rest of the day and I took a small little nap. That night they upped my Pitocin a little bit more. Eventually, the epidural wore off and I was up the next night again, all night.


Oh, I forgot to say. Before I got the epidural, I had eaten the breakfast that they brought in. Before I got the epidural, my nurse was like, “Did you eat breakfast? Okay good, because this is the last thing you’re going to eat until after you have this baby.” I was like, “Oh my gosh.” “Yeah, also, you can’t really drink any water.” And I was like, “Okay.” I took her word for it and she was great. I really liked this nurse, but I just thought that’s how it was.


I got the Pitocin later that night, or, they upped it. I can’t remember to how much. I labored all night again and then the next morning I finally got dilated to a 10, but he was still very high up. I don’t remember what station he was at or anything. But the doctor-- they had switched shifts so there was a new doctor on shift and before she had to even come in, she heard what was happening. She hadn’t even come in to talk to me or anything and the nurses came back and they were like, “Dr. So-and-so wants you to have a C-section. She heard what was happening and she wants you to just have a C-section. She thinks it would be best.” And I was like, “Are you serious? I got this far…”


Julie: Without even coming to talk to you or see you. That’s what really bugs me. Sorry, I’m going to interrupt you for a minute. That’s one thing that really bugs me about our modern obstetric care is, we rely more on what we can see on a monitor than what a person’s body is telling us or by getting a feel for the situation by actually being present. You know? Anyways, rant over. Go on.


Brigette: No, totally. It really made me frustrated because-- just the fact that she didn’t even take the time to come in and talk to me and see how I was feeling. She was just like, “You need to have a C-section.” I told the nurses, I was like, “No. I’m going to try to have this baby vaginally. I’m going to try as long as I can. I want to push to see if I can get him to come down.” They were like, “Good. Yeah, I think that’s what you should do.”


I pushed for like an hour, and he did come down a little bit. He budged just a little bit. They could see his hair. They could see his head and stuff. My husband was able to see his head and see how much hair he had. But then the doctor came in and she was-- this part’s really annoying and frustrating too. She was standing over in the corner just kind of watching, and just looking. Not supportive whatsoever. Not even there helping me push or anything. She was just standing over there watching and she’s like, “Yeah, it looks like he’s like having some head trauma. His head looks a little red and stuff. I don’t know if you want to put him through this much longer.” And I was of course like, “I don’t want to hurt my baby.”


Of course, I don’t know if that would have been bad for him, but babies’ heads can shift I’ve learned. The plates can move around for them to come out vaginally. I just didn’t want to put him in any danger, or pain, or trauma. I prayed about it and I opted for the C-section.


The C-section was fine. I was shaking a ton, which sounds like it is pretty normal. I healed really well-- good, I guess. I don’t know. I had a good recovery with my C-section, but I still-- just the emotional aspect of it was hard for me. Every time I had a friend who had a vaginal birth-- this is probably selfish of me. But I was just like, “Why couldn’t I have had that? Why couldn’t my body have done what it was supposed to do to have this baby come out of me this way?” It was just hard. I would cry every time I thought about it for at least five months after.


Eventually, I kind of got over it and I was just like, “Okay, I’m going to have a VBAC with my next baby.” Which is what I did. But anyways...


Julie: Boom. That’s what you did. That’s right.


Brigette: So, I just kind of took notes on my phone. Everything I learned about VBACs, and prep for it and everything before I was even pregnant like I said. We moved from Arizona to Utah. We thought we were going to live here just for a little bit before we go to California for military things, but that got changed because of COVID. I was in the process of trying to find a doula and a midwife over in this area in California where we were going to move, and I wasn’t able to find anyone that was VBAC experienced or anything. That scared me, so I was really happy that we stayed here in Utah because then I got Julie. Was so great.


Julie: You had a really good doula.


Brigette: It’s funny because I had actually— what’s that?


Julie: I said, “You had a really good doula.”


Brigette: I had a really good doula, yes. I’m so glad.


Julie: Just kidding. No, but really though. I think we were a great fit.


Brigette: Yes, for sure. That’s the thing. You want to find someone who’s a great fit for you, and you were.


Actually, I messaged you guys about finding a midwife because I was-- I just didn’t even know where to start and I wanted to find a midwife. I wanted to go with a midwife this time because I had heard really good things about midwives. You guys had referred me to a midwife in Salt Lake. Am I allowed to say her name?


Julie: Yeah, you totally can. We just don’t like to bad-mouth providers, but since we really love her and I know you’re not going to say anything negative about her, then definitely. Definitely.


Brigette: Well, we love her, yes. Her name is Kira Waters. It sounds like Julie has had actually a few births with her before mine. She actually didn’t even end up being at my birth, but she was still great to be able to ask all my questions to you and then I was able to hire Julie as my doula, which I was so excited for. I keep saying that. 


I really was, just because it was cool to be listening to your podcast and every time I’d listen, I’d be like, “She’s going to my birth!” Not everyone will get to have you. People are all around the world, or around the country, and I’m sure that they have great doulas too, but I was lucky to have you. 


Anyway, so, fast forward to this birth, I had a good pregnancy and I had actually tested positive for GPS as well with this one, which I was really worried about, but ended up being just fine. It wasn’t that big of a deal besides that I had to be on antibiotics because my plan was just to labor as long as I could at home.


I was 38 weeks and 3 days. I had just put my son down for a nap and was taking a nap myself. I woke up to a really strong contraction right at 4:00 p.m. I was like, “Oh, I wonder if that’s just my bladder telling me I need to go to the bathroom,” because sometimes that would happen with Braxton Hicks. So, I went to the bathroom and I actually had a little bit of bloody show— may be TMI.


But, the day before, I also thought that I had lost my mucus plug and so, once I saw the bloody show, I literally looked at myself in the mirror and I was like, “My body knows what it’s doing. This is happening. I’m going to go into labor on my own,” which is what I wanted the whole time. I’m sure everyone wants that, or most people, you know?


Tara: That’s the best moment. Isn’t it? That’s awesome. It did it on its own.


Brigette: Yes. Yes, for sure. Because then you’re not-- yeah. It’s just good. So I was like, “Okay. Well, let’s just see if I have any more contractions.” I was already laying down, so I-- I don’t remember what I did after this. But anyways, I had another contraction 15 minutes later, and then it was 6 minutes later, then it was 10 minutes, and then it eventually just got more normal, like 5 minutes apart, 5 minutes apart. Then it was 4, and then 3. 


Then it was 2 minutes apart and they were starting to get to where I couldn’t really talk through them. I had to stop and breathe through them. My husband had just gotten home from work and my son had woken up from his nap. We were kind of just chaos-- didn’t really know what we were doing. I was cleaning the kitchen. I had chicken on the table that was dripping off to the floor that was raw chicken because I was going to make freezer meals. I wasn’t planning on going into labor, and so I had to clean that up through all of these contractions.


So, I texted my midwife and she was like, “It sounds like it’s labor. You can go in. I would go in once you feel like you need support and help with labor.” I texted Julie and was just keeping her filled in. She was like, “Okay, I’m going to take a nap so that I am charged up to go at your birth.”  I was like, “Okay, I’m not going to bug her. I’m just going to labor.” That’s what I did. Then, she texted me and she was like, “How’s it going?” I was like, “We are on our way to the hospital. I didn’t want to call you and wake you up because I knew that you were sleeping.”


She was like, “How are your contractions? Do you feel like you are having to vocalize through them?” I was like, “No, not really, but I’m definitely breathing through them really hard. Or, I don’t know. Just trying to have the controlled breathing.” You were like, “Okay. Well, I guess just let me know what you want me to do,” because-- I think you said that you could stay at your in-laws’ up there or something.


Julie: Yep.


Brigette: I just said, “Okay. I’ll let you know how it goes after the drive there,” because we had a 40-minute drive to the hospital. I was laboring in the back seat. It’s funny because right after I hung up the phone with you, all of a sudden I was like, “Okay, I can’t be quiet anymore. This is what she means. This is what vocalizing is.” My husband was like, “Okay.”


I remember at one point he was driving through that crappy Lehi traffic or whatever it’s called--


Julie: It’s awful.


Brigette: Yes. It’s so bad. It was 60, I think, that you had to go, and I was like, “I need you to go at least 70.” I looked at him in the rearview mirror and he was like, “Okay.” I was like, “You need to go faster,” just because it was going to be a long drive there.


I finally got there, and I told Julie to come to the hospital because I was like, “This is getting really, really hard. I want you to be there.” They checked me in, and I was 1, maybe 1.5 centimeters, and I was crushed. I was like, “Oh my gosh, are you kidding me? It feels like I should be at least like a 4 or a 5 right now because these contractions are on top of each other.: They were only lasting 30 seconds, but they were very strong contractions that were about 1.5 to 2 minutes apart I think.


Julie got there, and she was-- as soon as I saw her, I was relieved because it wasn’t just me and my husband in that room with the nurses knowing that I was only dilated to a 1 or whatever.


She was like, “This is what we can do. We can do abdominal lifts or we can do Walcher’s.” She explained to me what they were and abdominal lifts— I don’t know if you want to explain what they are, Julie, because you are the expert here.


Julie: Yeah. I remember I just pulled in the parking lot to the hospital when you texted me, or your husband, that you were at 1 and I was like, “She’s a 1? Like, how?” You had been working so hard and so soon as I got in, I’m like, “Alright. It’s time to get to work because something is preventing this baby from engaging,” just knowing how hard you were working.


Abdominal lifts are a Spinning Babies® technique and so, before you attempt to do them, definitely lookup on their website, spinningbabies.com, so that you can learn the proper techniques. Your pelvis has to be tucked a certain way. You have to pull a certain way. If you do it wrong, it could-- I mean I guess it could just not do anything, but it also could cause some issues if baby’s head is wonky or something like that.


But basically, you get behind the laboring person and you lift right at the very bottom of their belly. You lift upwards and then slightly backwards toward their spine. The pregnant person has their pelvis tilted in a posterior pelvic tilt, so their back is flat. That helps the baby engage, and get into the pelvis, and the cervix open, and all of those good things.


But they really suck. They’re hard.


Brigette: They were hard, but after we-- because we did 10 of them in a row, during 10 contractions I should say, but after-- I was like, “These contractions are painful anyways. I want to do something to help get him in a better position.” It was totally worth it because I got checked again, like 30 minutes later and I was 3 or 4 centimeters. We were all just like, “Yeah! This is going. Okay. Let’s do it!”


Julie: That was a great moment. Boo-yah. High-fives all around.


Brigette: Yes, for sure. Yeah. At this point, I was not able to relax at all between these contractions because they were so close together still. They were like, “Well, this is what you can do. You can get a dose of Fentanyl” or, I think that was my only option really. I was like, “Okay. I just kind of want anything at this point.” They were like, “Oh, it’s going to make you feel a little bit high, but won’t really drown out your pain at all, or very much.” Which is exactly what happened. I felt super loopy and on the bed, but I could still feel the exact pain from every contraction, so I don’t know if I would suggest that. It was a little bit of a distraction for me, so maybe that helped. I don’t know.


I was on the bed and she had me doing a side-lying position-- like where you’re laying on your side with one knee up to try to get baby in a better position, which sounds maybe comfortable, but it wasn’t at all because-- it just wasn’t my choice position for contractions. But that helped too, because then-- I can’t remember how much later it was. Not much later, probably 45 minutes I think, maybe? I was 6 or 7 centimeters dilated.


Then I was like, “Okay. I would like to get the epidural so that I can rest, so that baby doesn’t get super high heart rates or whatever.” I just needed the rest. That was my thought going into my VBAC was, I wasn’t against getting an epidural, but I wasn’t against going unmedicated. I just wanted to get my VBAC, however, that really needed to happen. If I felt like I needed to get my body rest so that it could progress more quickly, then I would opt for the epidural. That’s what I did.


I should say, my midwife wasn’t there. She was actually out of town. None of us expected me to go into labor this early, at 38 weeks and 3 days. So another midwife was there, and she was awesome. Her name was Marnae. She was just as supportive as Kira was, and wanted me to have my VBAC, and didn’t rush me to anything. She came in and brought my waters. That really helped baby come down because I could feel the pressure of his head coming down, which was cool to be able to feel that, even with the epidural.


Eventually, I got to complete. I pushed for 30 minutes and out came this beautiful baby boy. I did tear a little bit. I got a second-degree tear, but recovery has been fine. A little bit painful, but manageable for sure. I did a ton of daily birth prep from 34 to 35 weeks. Every single day, I went through my list and I think that really helped me. I don’t know if it really helped me or if I was just lucky to go into labor this soon, but yeah. That’s my story.


Tara: Yay, that’s amazing.


Brigette: I don’t know if I missed anything.


Julie: Do you know what I think is just so funny? Reflecting back on that day, it was a little bit of a crazy day for me, but I didn’t want to tell you that. I never tell clients. Even if I am really struggling with something huge, which I wasn’t that day. It was just a difficult day. But I’ll turn on heavy metal music and scream on my way to the hospital. Then, I’ll ground myself, breathe it out, and leave everything in the car, so that I can come into the birth space with a clear mind and no negative energy. 


But when you were in the parking lot, I had just finished my clearing routine and I was like, “I’m okay. I’m ready to go in,” and then I got the text that you were 1 cm, I was like, “Dang it. I need to do a little more clearing.”


Brigette: More hard rock music.


Tara: What was the timeline then, from the time you got admitted until the time the baby was born?


Julie: Yeah, do you have the notes?


Brigette: It was 9:00 when I got there. It was 9, like straight up 9. He was born at 2:45-ish in the morning.


Julie: Yeah, not long at all. Girl, you dilated 10 centimeters in less than five hours.


Tara: That’s incredible.


Brigette: My first contraction was at 4:00 p.m. that day.


Tara: Yeah, but that’s when a 1 is not really a 1. You were doing good work. Your body was doing a lot more than you thought.


Julie: Yeah. Absolutely. I’m just looking back at our text messages that day because I told my husband-- huh? What was that?


Brigette: Oh, I was just saying that you had told me to do the Miles Circuit. I think that helped too during labor.


Julie: Yeah. It’s so fun. You said you had lost your mucus plug and I’m like, “Woohoo! Your body is getting ready. In my mind, I had another client and her due date was four days before you had your baby. She didn’t give birth until eight days later. It was so weird. In my mind, I am like, “There is an order to things. She’s losing her mucus plug. That’s great.” I lost my mucus plug for three weeks with my third baby.


Brigette: Your body’s getting ready. You told me that a couple of times and I was like, “Okay.”


Julie: I’m like, “Your body is getting ready. That’s really good.” Because in my mind, I’m like, “This poor mama who’s four days past her due date is definitely going to go because you’re a VBAC and your first baby didn’t come until after 40 weeks.” I was so sure, but then you said you were starting to have bloody show and contractions. I’m like, “Hey, cervical changes.” 


Then you’re like, “Are you moving today?” Because that was when I moved and we had just gotten done. It was right before we moved. Yeah. So anyways, it was just so fun going through all of that. But she did. She had her baby two weeks early. It’s just so funny because you just never know when these babies are going to come. Tara, am I right?


I think my first back to back birth was with clients that were due 13 days apart and I went straight from one birth to another. It’s nuts. Tara, I just called you Tara again.


Tara: That’s okay. Yeah, that’s okay. Definitely. I’ve had clients due more than a month apart who have given birth close to the same day and vice versa. You never know. But that’s so nice when it goes earlier than you expect. That’s amazing.


Preparing your cervix for birth


Julie: Yeah. I love it. We are running out of time, but we want to talk about cervixes a little bit. Your cervix did some really cool things— or some really, I don’t know. It probably was not cool when it swelled up like a balloon in your first pregnancy.


But, cervixes are pretty cool. They are pretty amazing organs. I think we don’t give them enough credit for what they do. Why don’t you tell everyone-- I just want, straight from your mouth, what did you do? Because I know you had done some certain things to get your cervix ready so that you could have your best chances of having a vaginal birth.


Brigette: Yeah. One thing that I did-- well, I did a lot of things, but something that I definitely suggest doing is going to see a chiropractor to make sure everything‘s aligned and stuff. I really think that that helped. I was seeing a chiropractor once a week starting at 36 weeks. I know some people go more often than that. That’s what I chose to do and then I also started drinking red raspberry leaf tea. I was eating 6 to 10 dates a day. I was drinking as much water as I could. I actually was eating pineapple and the center of it. I can’t remember what it’s called. It’s like the hard part, you know? I guess it has bromelain in it or something that is supposed to help your uterus. I don’t really know. I did it.


Julie: Bromelain. I didn’t know that it helped your uterus. I think it improves digestion. I’m not quite sure actually. Never mind.


Brigette: I don’t know what it does. Yeah. I don’t know, but I was like, “Okay. Well, I’m going to try it. It’s not going to hurt me. It’s just pineapple.” And then I did the Miles Circuit every day starting at 36 weeks. Almost every day. It wasn’t every single day. I did most of these every single day. 


I would do the Forward-leaning Inversion on the couch. I’d have my husband help me. Julie came over and showed me how to do it and showed him how to come up out of it. We would do that before we would go on walks at night. I would do the Forward-leaning Inversion and then make sure baby was in a good position so that when I was walking, it was helping him come down better. So we would go on walks, at least a mile, almost every day. 


Then also, on my birth ball, I would sit on my birth ball for everything. Folding laundry, watching a show. Just playing with my son, my toddler, I was doing hip circles on it, and the pelvic tilts, like forward and back, and figure eights. I would do that a lot. That’s pretty much what I did. We didn’t-- this is maybe also TMI. I was not down for having sex very often, so I don’t think that was a big player of it.


Tara: I don’t think there’s any TMI on this show.


Julie: Yeah, seriously. There’s not TMI.


Brigette: True. That’s true. This is all about birth. But, yeah. Some people like, “I think I had good success with that,” but I, no. That wasn’t really on my list.


Tara: Pineapple core all the way.


Julie: Yeah. Do you know what? Sometimes, I’ve seen with my clients and Tara, maybe you can relate too, and then I’m going to have you share a little bit in just a second. Sometimes you can’t say whether it’s that certain thing that made the difference, or whether the act of just having something to do put your mind at ease or put your mind towards like, “Hey, I’m doing something that will help,” that actually gets your mind psychologically ready.


Maybe it’s both. I mean, I’m sure it’s both. There have been lots of benefits shown with the dates and the sex— obviously, semen is a prostaglandin— and the pineapple core, and all of those things. Yeah, bromelain, I think that’s the pineapple. I think that’s an ingredient in pineapple, right Tara?


Tara: Yeah, an enzyme. Yeah.


Julie: So anyways. Tara, go ahead. Your last two cents. Anything about the cervix. You can say anything about the cervix and then for anyone who is in Chicago, let them know how they can contact you because you are an awesome VBAC doula.


Tara: Well, I have a lot to say about the cervix. But I thought it was very interesting, Brigette, in your first birth, that you said those cervical checks were so painful and that partly was because the baby was high, but also it can be when your cervix is posterior. A lot of people don’t realize that the cervix starts out pointing towards our back and then it moves forward as labor progresses. It moves back and forward during our menstrual cycle too. So if they have to reach up and behind baby’s head essentially to find your cervix, way in the back, that’s super painful.


Brigette: Okay, that makes sense. I remember them telling me that too.


Tara: Yeah. So, one of the reasons that it might have been less painful that third time or whatever was because maybe it had moved forward and it was easier for the nurse to find, although sometimes there are nurses that are just really good at that— being gentle. Yeah. I think that’s really interesting about the cervix.


I love that Julie is talking about the psychology. You know, it’s doing the things, but it’s also what’s in our head about doing the things. I think that is a fascinating mix of the psychology of not trying too hard because I think when we-- when we are trying too hard, we also can work against our body‘s natural rhythms, but it sounds like what you did worked for you.


Also, being all in. You were all in.


Brigette: Yeah, for sure. I was. I was making sure that I wasn’t stressing myself out about it. I enjoy doing these things and so, just the release of oxytocin too probably helped calm my nerves. Yeah. So, anyways. I agree.


Julie: Absolutely. Well, it was so lovely to chat with you ladies today. Tara, throw down your website right now. What is the best way for people to get a hold of you?


Tara: Yes. My website is withuparenting.com and that’s U, just the letter U because it’s all about being together, being with each other. We can’t promise what’s going to happen or promise outcomes, but we can promise you won’t be alone and that you’ll have somebody with you. So, that’s the idea behind my business. My email is withuparenting@gmail.com.


Julie: I love that. That is a great sentiment. I would talk about it for longer, but since we are out of time, Tara, thank you so much for helping me co-host today and Brigette-- I just love your little family. I am so glad you are hanging around in Utah and not in California. I just appreciate both of you so much.


Tara: Thank you. Congratulations, Brigette.


Brigette: Thank you so much.

With her first birth, Alison pushed for five hours. She was nauseous, dehydrated, and exhausted. Her doctors were adamant that she would not be able to birth her baby vaginally. Alison trusted their medical advice and went for a Cesarean. 


An analyst by trade, Alison couldn’t stop analyzing every detail of that birth. She wished she had known more. She wished she had asked more questions. 


When she became pregnant again, Alison knew much more, but she still had concerns and doubts. But she kept moving forward, learning and trusting her intuition. 


Her second birth was fast, furious, and unique in its own way. Ultimately, she did what she knew her body was able to do. 


Did you know that you have rights in the birth space? And that as scary as it sometimes feels, we have the right to ask questions?


We talk about what those rights are, what questions to ask, and how to help you feel more in control of your birth environment.

Additional links

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents

The VBAC Link on Apple Podcasts

Episode sponsor

This episode is sponsored by our signature course, How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents. It is the most comprehensive VBAC preparation course in the world, perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced, video course. Together, Meagan and Julie have helped over 800 parents get the birth that they wanted, and we are ready to help you too. Head over to thevbaclink.com to find out more and sign up today.


Full transcript


Julie: Good morning, Women of Strength. We are so excited today to have our friend Alison with us. Alison is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I’ve been to Philadelphia, actually. But every time I hear the word “Philadelphia,” I don’t know. I want to see if I’m the only one. Whenever I hear the word “Philadelphia,” I want to bust out The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air song. “West Philadelphia born and raised, on the playground was where I spent most of my days, chillin’ out maxin’, relaxin’ all cool…” Right? Am I the only one?


Alison: In case you were wondering, I am actually located in West Philadelphia. I should have specified.


Julie: Fresh Prince. We’ll call you Fresh Princess Alison Grant. But seriously, now that song is going to be stuck in your head all day. You’re welcome. Let me know if you bust out singing that song every time you hear “Philadelphia” or if it’s just me. I might be the weird one.


Alright. So, Alison here from Philadelphia. She’s a mom of two. She works as an analyst, which is probably why she has analyzed everything about her births. Girl, I can totally relate to that. I am super analytical, as well. She has a lot of data around her birth like she can tell you the exact times certain things happened because she went back and looked at all of her phone records, texts, etc. and everything.


That’s really funny because I do that while I’m at births too. As a doula, I text my husband when certain things happen and that helps two things: First of all, I get timestamps, so I can make a timeline of the birth record for everybody. But also, it helps keep my husband updated so that he knows where we are at in the labor process, so he can plan his life taking care of children while I am taking care of a mom having a child.


Alright. Let’s see. We are going to talk about advocating for yourself and standing up for yourself after Alison shares her story with us. But before we do that, I’m going to read the Review of the Week because Meagan is letting a countertop guy into her house right now because we are moms, wives, doulas; we are doing kitchens, buying houses, all sorts of things right now. Life is a little bit crazy. So, I’m going to go ahead and read a review for us, and Meagan will hop on as soon as she is available.


Review of the Week


Julie: The review that I’m going to read is from erind39, and this one’s from Apple Podcasts. The title is “Essential Resource for any Woman Hoping for a VBAC.” 


“I started listening to this podcast during my first trimester, in the very beginning phases of planning my VBAC. I was immediately hooked and binged all of the episodes. These amazing women gave me the confidence to find a supportive provider and reject my local hospital that has a VBAC ban. 


“I felt so prepared for every barrier that I encountered because of Julie and Meagan. I felt empowered by the stories, facts, statistics, and mantras shared. Listening to these empowering stories made me confident in my ability to have the birth I hoped for. I am so happy to say that I was able to have my successful VBAC, and I feel that my ‘car doulas’ (where I always listened) were an integral part of my success. Thank you so much!!”


I’m pretty sure we’ve been called car doulas before. I really actually like that. Do you consider us your car doulas? Let us know. Go find the episode picture on our social media pages today. Let us know two things: First of all, are we your car doulas, and second of all, do you bust out the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song every time you hear the word “Philadelphia” like I do?


Episode sponsor



Julie: Do you want a VBAC but don’t know where to start? It’s easy to feel like we need to figure it all out on our own. That’s what we used to do, and it was the loneliest and most ineffective thing we have ever done. That’s why Meagan and I created our signature course, How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents, that you can find at thevbaclink.com. It is the most comprehensive VBAC preparation course in the world, perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced, video course. 


Together, Meagan and I have helped over 800 parents get the birth that they wanted, and we are ready to help you too. Head on over to thevbaclink.com to find out more and sign up today. That’s thevbaclink.com. See you there. 



Alison’s story

Julie: Alison, I want to turn the time over to you so that you have plenty of time to share your story about “birth in Philadelphia, born and raised. On the playground is where your kids spend most of their days.” I don’t know. I’m just going to stop right now. I am not a rapper. Alright. Go on. Go ahead, Alison.


Alison: Okay, yeah. So, I guess I’ll start out with my first pregnancy and birth. My first pregnancy was a pretty standard pregnancy, nothing really to highlight. I was working with a birth center. One of my biggest concerns with my first birth was that I was going to go past my due date. I knew that was pretty common. My mom went to 42 weeks with both of her kids-- me and my brother. My sister-in-law went to 41 weeks and ended up being induced, which ended up resulting in a C-section. 


So, in my head, it was all about, “If labor can start on its own, I’m in a good position.” I really had a lot of my energy and focus on when labor would start and also not stressing. My assumption was, “I am going to go past 42 weeks,” or, “I’m going to go past 40 weeks,” so I didn’t expect anything to happen before then. 


I really didn’t spend a lot of time and energy thinking about, “Well, once labor happens, what do I need to do? What happens then? How do I keep things moving? Because my whole focus was, “If it starts, I’ll be fine.”


I wasn’t expecting it to start when it did. My labor actually started on its due date. It was 2:00 a.m. on my due date. I woke up, and I just felt a little bit of discomfort, but I didn’t really think too much of it at the time because you’re at the end of your pregnancy. You’re just uncomfortable in general. After a couple of hours, it became clear to me that, “Okay. Maybe I’m actually having some contractions here.” 


I had a prenatal appointment set up for that morning at 8:00 a.m. We pack everything up. We go to the birth center which-- by the way, on the way there, we took a Lyft to get there. The Lyft driver basically told me the story of her birth, which was a complete foreshadow of what my birth would end up being like.


Julie: Oh, my gosh!


Alison: She labored without an epidural for hours and hours and hours, had a sunny-side-up baby, and ended up with a C-section. I didn’t know at the time, but that was exactly what was going to be my birth story. We get to the birth center, and they don’t even take me for my appointment. They take me straight to a room. They checked me. I am 4-5 centimeters, but I am feeling good. I showed up not too early. I’m moving things along. I’m handling things pretty well. I spend some time in the bathtub, and really, contractions were tough. But basically, between every contraction, my husband and I are sitting there laughing and joking, so things are going really well. 


Eventually, I get out of the bathtub. They check me, and I’m 9.5 centimeters. This is about nine, ten hours after I felt my first contraction, so things were moving pretty quickly for me. They offered to me— now things are also feeling a lot tougher because I’m in transition. I’m not in the bathtub anymore. They offered to me, “Do you want us to break your water? We can probably get you to 10 centimeters quicker and get started pushing.” I said, “Yes. Let’s do that.” Again, I didn’t really know what potential consequences there were around that or anything like that. So, I said, “Let’s do it. I just want to get this going.”


They break my water, and about 15 minutes later, come in and check me. I’m 10 centimeters. They said, “Let’s start pushing.” I didn’t know about fetal ejection reflex, or that I should feel an urge to push, or anything. I was just like, “Alright. They’re telling me it’s time. Let’s do it.” I had total faith in my providers to do what needed to be done. I trusted them. 


So, we pull out the birthing stool, and I start trying to push. They’re telling me, “You’re pushing wrong.” Every time they check me, they tell me the baby’s not moving.


I’m severely dehydrated at this point because I haven’t drank a drop of water, basically since labor started at 2:00 a.m. I’m at a birth center, so I’m not hooked up to an IV or anything either. I’m just really dehydrated now because I was really nauseous. I couldn’t drink water. At this point, the nausea was so bad, and the contractions were so intense that I would basically push for three contractions, and then on the fourth one, there would be no pushing. I would just be throwing up.


I was so sick at this point. They gave me an IV. They get me a shot for the nausea. Things are starting to improve, but every time they checked me, they say the baby hasn’t moved at all. Still zero station. Still zero station. I’m just defeated at this point. 


So, when they offered the option to me, “Let’s transfer to hospital and get you an epidural to calm down, to relax a little,” I’m like, “Yeah. Let’s do that. Please give me the epidural.” That’s all I want at this point.


I get to the hospital, and of course, you can’t get the epidural immediately. You have to get registered. The anesthesiologist has to be available, and I’m not urgent or anything. At this point in time, by the time they give me the epidural, I’ve been pushing for four hours. I’m exhausted. I’m still dehydrated, even though I’ve had three bags from the IV at this point. I’m not doing great. But as soon as I get the epidural, I really do relax. My midwife tells my husband, “You know what? Why don’t you step out of the room and get something to eat? She’s doing a lot better.”


This is where things start to get worse because while my husband is out of the room, the doctors decide to come in. There are two doctors because we’re at shift change at this point in time. They checked me, and they basically told me, “Your baby is not coming out. If your baby is going to come out, your baby is going to come out with a banana-shaped head,” which I’ve always known about coneheads—


Julie: Banana? What’s a banana head? Meagan, have you heard of that?


Meagan: Nope. I haven’t heard of a banana. I have heard of a cone-shaped head.


Julie: That’s interesting. I’m going to Google it right now.


Alison: To me, it’s like, “Oh my gosh, a banana-shaped head? That can’t be right. This is like, really not supposed to happen.” There’s apparently no way. If my baby’s going to come out, it’s wrong. That’s the message that I got from that. 


I also heard my midwife and the doctor talking a little bit, and the midwife mentioned to the doctor, actually, that she thought my baby moved posterior at some point during the labor because I had no-- leading up into this, every prenatal appointment, “Your baby’s anterior. Your baby is in a great position.” But at some point during labor, my baby moved posterior, which, of course, now reflecting back, you’re like, “Okay. Well, was that when you broke my water? Did you know before you broke my water? Maybe we shouldn’t have broken my water if my baby wasn’t in a good position.” There’s a lot that I didn’t know at that point in time.


Then the doctor said to her, “Well, the baby is not posterior anymore.” The baby’s now transverse. Again, now I know. I can think back on this and be like, “Oh, my baby was rotating.” Maybe I just needed more time. My baby was on his way to being in the right position to be able to come out if, maybe, we gave it another 30 minutes. But, you have these doctors come to the room, and they’re these authority figures, and you just say, “Okay. They’re telling me this isn’t going to work. It’s not going to work. I guess I need to do a C-section.” And that’s it.


Again, this whole conversation is even happening with my husband out of the room. It just was not a good spot at all. Of course, now, I realize. It’s like-- my baby was fine. His heart rate was fine. I was doing much better. My stress levels decreased now that I had the epidural, but I just didn’t know to say, “Let’s wait,” or, “Let’s see if we can give it another 30 minutes and see what happens,” or, “Is there any other option? Can we try something else?”


I didn’t even know that once I had the epidural, I could be in other positions. I thought I was stuck lying there on my back. I just didn’t know things, so I didn’t know how to advocate for myself and how to get myself a better birth in that situation.


So, I ended up having that C-section. I’m pretty heartbroken after this because having a C-section-- not only was it the difficulty of having a C-section, but it also meant that I could no longer birth with this practice because they don’t do VBACs. I had this amazing prenatal care with these midwives, and I imagined having all of my children with them. Now, my first birth went like this, and I can never have a birth with them. I can never have that birth center birth. It was pretty upsetting for me.


When I got pregnant with my second, I’m sitting here like, “Alright. Well, where am I going to go?” So, I reach out to my local ICAN, and I ask people, “Where should I go for birth?” and they recommend to me this OBGYN/midwife practice where the midwives are supposed to be really great with VBACs, and there is an OBGYN at this practice who is really great if you decide on a repeat Cesarean for getting a family-centered Cesarean.


I’m like, “Alright. This sounds like a good practice.” They’re pretty close to me. I try them out, and I walk out of my first appointment just in tears. It was awful. The midwife basically started the appointment by telling me, “Well, a VBAC is really risky for your baby.” She’s like, “Let me pull out my phone and do the VBAC calculator.” She’s looking at the dating ultrasound and trying to push up my due date by four days, which I am like, “Okay. Wait a second. Four days is in the realm of error on a dating ultrasound.” I am someone who has gone through infertility. 


I had infertility with my first and used a fertility doctor to get pregnant. With my second, I didn’t use the fertility doctor, but we were using basically every tracking method possible, so I was pretty positive about my due date. Four days on a due date maybe isn’t that much, but as you guys know, when you’re a VBAC, they are more likely to push interventions earlier on you, so four days could really matter. I just really wasn’t happy with that and immediately was again like, “Okay. Wait a second. If this is supposed to be the best practice, now where do I go? If they’re not willing to help me, who’s going to be the practice I can go with?”


So, I looked back at my ICAN group, and they did recommend another practice to me that was farther away, so I didn’t really want to go with it at first. But we went to them, and these midwives at this practice were phenomenal. Both my husband and I were like, “You know what? That first appointment was-- the whole point of that first appointment of getting that midwife who really did not treat me well was to get me out of that practice because I wasn’t meant to be there. I was meant to be with this other practice.” 


How awful would it have been if every prenatal appointment was with the great midwives who were there because I’m sure there are plenty of wonderful midwives. There’s a reason that practice is recommended. But, what if I had every appointment with them and was feeling great, and then my birth is with this one? It would not have gone well. So it was meant to be, I feel like, that I had her for that very first appointment to just push me away from that practice and push me towards this other hospital that, while farther away, has really good statistics around C-sections and VBACs-- just really, a VBAC supportive hospital.


Again-- pretty standard pregnancy. Not a ton to note, really, throughout the pregnancy. I did have my focus on some different things. This time, I got a doula. I went to a chiropractor. I took a birthing class that was specific on movement and how to move a baby through your pelvis because I came in now with some prior knowledge. I didn’t have concerns about going into labor. I didn’t have concerns about dilating to 10 centimeters.


My concern was, “How am I going to push out a baby?” Because last time, I pushed for five hours. I tried tons of different positions because I didn’t have an epidural for the first four hours, and I never got the baby out. I had that messaging really in my head. Even my midwife said to me at my postpartum appointment, “You can try for a VBAC, but you couldn’t push out a 6 pound, 15-ounce baby, so you’re not really a good candidate. Because if you couldn’t push out that, what can you do?” was really just the messaging I had in my head.


Meagan: You’re like, “Yeah, but I also had a posterior baby, and there were a lot of other factors in on that. It made it harder. Not impossible, just harder.”


Alison: Exactly. Yes. You know, I was pushing before I even should have. You had me push the second I reached 10 centimeters because I was at 9.5, and 15 minutes later, I was at 10. You had me pushing the second I was at 10 centimeters. There was no time for my body to reach that point that I was ready to push. I think all that, “You’re pushing wrong,” was that my body wasn’t ready to push yet.


So, it just-- it was a lot of mental work. I did to really get myself prepared to believe in myself. But to be honest, I still had doubts coming back to me throughout the whole pregnancy and even while I was in labor. I still had doubts flooding me. When I talked to my doula after, we agreed that it was basically the last 20 minutes of labor when I realized, “Oh wait, I can actually do this.” It took me that long to really get my mind to believe in it because those doubts are there.


Like I said, it was a pretty standard pregnancy again. It was a little tough because this time, I went to 41 weeks. My first time, I literally never thought about going into labor until the moment it happened. There was no stressing about it or anxiety about it. Of course, this time, I am like, “I went earlier than I was expecting last time. Maybe I’ll be even earlier this time.” So now, I’m one of those moms who is every night thinking, “Is tonight the night? Am I going to wake up at 2:00 a.m.? I don’t know what’s happening.” There was a lot of stress around that, and of course though, I went to 41 weeks, so that went on and on.


The night that I did go into labor, same kind of thing. I just woke up to some discomfort. That was at 2:40 in the morning. My husband notices because I’m trying to relax, but nothing is really comfortable. The most comfortable thing for me was just to pace around the room. My husband notices, and I’m like, “Go back to sleep. We’re probably having a baby today, but you should just rest now. I can’t rest, but you might as well get some rest right now.” He just looked at me like I was crazy. Like, “Uh, no. I know this baby is coming. What do you need?”


We call the doula, and we agree, like, “You don’t need to come over yet, but today’s going to be the day. We just wanted to give you a heads up.” Then my husband goes and starts trying to get everything ready for going to the hospital. We did prepare more this time ahead of time, but there were still last-minute things that we had to get together and get everything into the car. 


While he’s away, I call the midwife. This is at 3:30 a.m., so it hasn’t even been an hour since I woke up with discomfort. It wasn’t even timeable contractions, but it was discomfort. I let the midwife know that my contractions are every three minutes. They’re not incredibly strong, but they’re increasing rapidly in strength. They started every three minutes from the moment I woke up. They’ve been lasting a minute from the moment I woke up. My midwife was like, “Alright. You don’t sound like you’re in active labor, but you’ve been through this before. Let me know if you think you should come in.”


I felt like things were moving quickly, but I again trusted the midwife on this. I was like, “Alright. Well, you’re right. I’m not in active labor. Let’s wait a little bit.” Shortly after that, I called my doula back, and I was like, “Alright. Things are really, really getting intense really quickly for me. Can you please come over?”


Around 4:00 a.m., I realize my contractions are now two minutes apart. This is again, just slightly over an hour since I woke up, and they are already two minutes apart, lasting for a minute or more. I text my midwife again, “Things are getting faster.”


I decide to get in the shower, but it was kind of a bad idea because I had this strong desire with every contraction to just pull anything I saw with all my strength. I was really afraid that I was going to yank the spout off the tub, and then all of a sudden, my husband‘s going to be dealing with this water-spraying-everywhere problem in our house instead of getting me to the hospital. So, I’m like, “I’ve got to get out of the shower.”


I text the midwife again at 4:20, and I’m like, “We need to go.” Again, it still hasn’t even been two hours since everything started. My doula shows up at the house, and I ask my doula, “What are you thinking?” Because really in my head at this point in time, it hasn’t even been two hours, and I am losing it. These contractions are so intense at this point, and in my head, it’s like, “It’s only been two hours. I’m just really not handling this well.” 


There was no way in my head that I thought that I could already be in transition at this point because it’s only two hours. I’m just thinking that I’m really not handling it. My doula ends up giving me some instructions about-- if I get the urge to push in the car, and things like that. I’m sitting here thinking, “What are you talking about? There’s no way I’m going to push in the car.” Which, of course, is what ends up happening.


My hospital is generally 45-50 minutes away. If you are in rush hour, like 75 minutes away, but thankfully, we’re going at like 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday, so we were able to get there in 35 minutes. At some point in the car ride, things really took a turn, and I just screamed, “Oh my god.” 


Apparently, at that point in time, my husband stopped listening to me. He stopped hearing me completely, because the next thing I know, I said to him, “Call Nicole,” my doula, because she had said, “If things get tough in the car, let me know. You can call me. I’ll walk you through attractions.” The problem was, I didn’t have my cell phone. My husband had my cell phone, so I couldn’t call her. He stopped hearing me after I said, “Oh my god,” because, in his head, he was like, “Oh my god, what does that mean? Is the head coming out?” He literally heard nothing more that I said. 


Then, I started pushing because this time, I felt the urge to push. I was like, “Oh my gosh. This is what people are talking about. This is what I didn’t feel for five hours of pushing with my first baby. I never felt this, and here I am with my second baby and three hours into labor, I am feeling this urge to push.”


We get to the hospital, and I meet my midwife. The first thing she asks is, “Okay, I want to check your cervix.” My doula immediately stepped in because my doula knew that one of my biggest things was, “I don’t want anyone to check my cervix until I’m ready to push,” because I really strongly felt last time where things went wrong is that idea of my midwife knowing I was at 10 centimeters, now it’s time to start pushing. Even if I’m not encouraged to push or even if I know mentally, “it’s not time to push,” you’re kind of already being put on a clock there. Even though I had good midwives who didn’t say, “You have to be done in two hours,” they weren’t really ready for me to be pushing for 10 hours, and then my current midwives weren’t either. 


I didn’t want anyone to check me until I knew I felt that urge. Since I did, I said, “Alright. Let’s go ahead and check me.” Confirmed 10 centimeters, and then my midwife tells me I am at zero station. That’s where all these doubts come flooding back because that’s where my baby was stuck.


Julie: Oh, no!


Alison: Yeah. This doubt floods over me, and I don’t believe it’s possible. I immediately asked for the epidural because I just can’t handle this, but they kind of talked me out of the epidural. My midwife and my doula got me mentally back on track. At some point, my midwife suggested to me to push on my back, which I remember thinking, “Wait, why are we suggesting for me to be pushing on my back? Aren’t you supposed to know this isn’t a great position?” But I was like, “Alright, let’s try it.” 


I think there was an idea of, because I had that strong urge to pull with my arms, that I could really pull my legs and curl with each push. That’s what we were trying to do, but I remember they asked me if I wanted a mirror. I’m like, “Yes. Yes. Please, bring a mirror. I want to see what’s going on.” They bring me this full-length mirror, and they have it, like, seven feet across the room for me. They were trying to position it, and they asked me, “Can you see? Is this the right spot? The right angle?” I just looked at them like super disappointed, and I’m like, “I’m not wearing my glasses. I can’t see anything.” Everyone in the room just cracked up, and they took the mirror away.


I ended up getting out of that on-my-back position pretty quickly because it just wasn’t working for me. I get back to the same position I had with my first, where I really wanted to be on my knees doing a squat. I remember getting to the point where the pain between the contractions was actually worse than the contractions itself because there was so much pressure on my sacrum and on my tailbone. I know they were telling me, “You’ve got to relax in between contractions,” but I didn’t want to stop pushing because every time I stopped pushing, I just felt all that pain. 


Eventually, my midwife tells me to put my hand down, and I feel my baby’s head. All of a sudden, my energy shifts. That was the moment when I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is going to happen. This is real.” I started shouting to everyone, “I’m going to push a baby out of my vagina! I’m going to push a baby out of my vagina! I’m going to push a baby out of my vagina!” I was on cloud nine all of a sudden. It was great. My midwife looks at me, and she’s like, “Yeah. There’s no going back now. This is happening.”


Julie: I love that.


Alison: My doula later was like, “Yeah, that was your mantra for your birth-- I’m going to push a baby out of my vagina.” I get to a place where it’s really that moment. You’re feeling the ring of fire, and honestly, for me, the ring of fire wasn’t that bad. It was really that tailbone, sacral pain that was the worst for me. 


Finally, they said, “Push.” That push where my baby’s head came out. It was just the most amazing feeling. All the pressure is gone, all this relief, like, “Oh my god, this just happened.” It was amazing. I felt the same way when I pushed out her shoulders-- just all this positive energy, and I felt so, so good. 


My baby was born at 7:49 a.m., so this is basically five hours since I woke up with that discomfort. Basically, half of my labor was just pushing. Everything just happened so fast in the beginning. I’m sitting here thinking, “I am not handling things well. I should be able to handle these early contractions better,” but really, it was just-- everything moved so fast in my labor. 


After my baby was born-- and again, I’m in the squatting position. I’m looking down between my legs, and I see my baby lying there. I don’t know if it was looking at my baby, or just the energy in the room shifted, but immediately knew everything was wrong. It was not right. They quickly cut the cord. They still let my husband do that; they just kind of rushed him a little bit on doing it and then took my baby over to the warmer.


They’re reassuring me. I am asking them, “What’s going on? What’s wrong with my baby? Did I do something wrong?” They’re like, “Your baby is in good hands. Let’s focus on getting your placenta out.” Eventually, a NICU doctor comes in the room and basically says, “We’re taking your baby to the NICU. She’s not breathing. We’ve been trying to give her breaths, but she’s still not breathing on her own.” 


They immediately start taking my baby out of the room. The NICU doctor looks at me, and she’s like, “Wait a second, have you even seen your baby yet?” I’m like, “No, except for that quick little look between my legs before you took her off to the warmer, but I haven’t really seen her.” They actually wheel her back into the room. That made me feel so much better because I was like, “Alright. If you’re not rushing out with my baby, then it can’t be emergent, right?”


They’re taking the time to bring her back in, but it really was serious. Like I said, my baby wasn’t breathing on her own. She ended up going through-- she had what’s called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy or HIE. Basically, she wasn’t breathing on her own at birth. We don’t know how long, if she wasn’t getting oxygen during labor, or if it only really happened really at the very end. We don’t have a lot of information about it. I talked to my midwife a bunch after. Should I have done something differently? Was there something-- should I have just had a repeat C-section? What happened?


My midwife and the nurses all basically said, “Everything was normal in the labor. There was never a point where the fetal heart tones showed that there was a problem. Everything was normal. There just was never any indication.” Everyone in the room was shocked when this happened. It wasn’t anything. There wasn’t anyone in there all ready to take care of a baby because there was no expectation that something was going to go wrong. 


What ended up happening is, my baby ended up getting what’s called a hypothermia treatment, where they basically reduced her temperature so that her body can basically focus on healing; This meant that-- not only with your C-section, where you might not get that golden hour of skin-to-skin, I wasn’t even able to pick up and hold my baby until she was five days old. I wasn’t able to breastfeed my baby until she was eight days old. I wasn’t able to take my baby home from the hospital until she was 15 days old.


It was just this crazy moment of all these dueling emotions because you’re sitting here-- I just did this really amazing thing, and I’m so excited. I’m feeling so empowered, and I did something that I never believed in myself being able to do, and then all of a sudden it’s like, but what happened to my baby? Is she okay? What are all these tests they are going to do going to say? What are the specialists going to say? 


There’s all these things that they are throwing at you that, “Well, we don’t know if she can see. You’re going to have to go see an eye doctor. We don’t know what kind of delays she’s going to have. We are monitoring for seizures. We’re going to have to give her an MRI.” They are throwing all these things that you and it’s like-- I don’t have time to feel my emotions about my birth anymore. 


I remember immediately after, before we knew all this information, we were just waiting to hear back. My doula, my husband, and I are sitting in the labor and delivery room just reliving everything. It was so great. We were talking about all these great moments, and all these funny moments, and then the NICU doctor comes in, and it all went away. There wasn’t any space for those emotions anymore. All I can do now is I have these questions running through my head of like, “Well, did I need to push her faster or harder? Should I not have had a VBAC?” This is one of the concerns of why a VBAC could be risky, right? 


But at the same time, there was literally nothing even in my labor or pregnancy to indicate there was a problem. So, it’s a lot of work that I had to do post my birth to really accept the fact that I did what I could with the information I had in that moment. Obviously, if I knew going into it that-- if you have a C-section, this wouldn’t happen, and if you had a VBAC, this will, I would have obviously chosen a C-section for my child’s sake. But with the information I had, and even to this day, it’s still not something I know. I don’t know if we would’ve had different outcomes with a C-section because we don’t know what caused the issue. There’s just no information in her situation. 


It was a really, really hard time to sit there with like, I want to feel this joy and yet I can’t, because how can I feel joy when your daughter is sitting there on morphine because the cooling treatment is bothering her so much, they have to sedate her so that she’s comfortable? How can you feel happy at that point? It was really hard. It’s been really hard to really feel those emotions of joy and happiness around this amazing birth that I did have. It really was amazing, in my opinion. So, that’s my story.


Meagan: Wow. What a crazy ride. That’s intense. I noticed something. Right after birth, you questioned what you did. You questioned your choice. I had a moment like that, too, because I had some weird blood loss stuff that really was unexplained. We really don’t even know where it went, and I was like, “Would it have been smarter, would I have been in better shape if I just would have scheduled a C-section?” I went through all of those things. I was like, “No. No. I did what I truly felt was right.” 


I followed my intuition. I knew that was a birth that I needed, and yes, some things happened after, but I shouldn’t question. I feel bad because I think as VBAC birthers-- because so many people question us, if anything goes wonky, or different, and isn’t seamless-- which, let me just tell you, birth isn’t seamless. It’s very, very rare that birth happens from start to finish, and everything is perfect. I’ve been a doula for seven years, and I’ve never seen a perfect birth, right? 


So, what makes me sad, though, is that as VBAC parents, we have a lot of people questioning and doubting anyway. If something happens, then it’s like, “Whoa. Whoa. Because I felt like I went through a stage where I didn’t want to tell anyone about my weird blood loss. Because I was like, “Oh, then they’re just going to tell me and be like, ‘yeah, but that wouldn’t have happened if you just would’ve had a C-section.’” You know what I mean? It makes me so frustrated that we have to go through that.


I love what you just said. Like, “Yeah. I did it, and it was okay, and this is what happened, and it was crazy, but I’m grateful, and now we’re here, and it’s awesome.” My message to a lot of people out there is, don’t let that get to you. If something weird happens, don’t put yourself down because things happen in birth.


Advocating for yourself


Meagan: We want to talk a little bit about advocating for ourselves and our rights in the birth space. This is a really touchy topic because there have been-- I mean, Julie and I have talked to tons of people over the years, even before we did this. I’ve had people say, “I feel like my rights were violated.” A long time ago, there was a colleague of ours that described her birth as that she was birth-raped, like, actually said those words. We are like “Whoa.” That is a heavy thing to feel to say that it happened to you.


So, we want to talk about the rights, because a lot of people-- I mean, not even during birth. Even during prenatal care, postpartum, and everything like that, people are having things happen to them. They are like, “Oh, I just assumed that was normal because my provider did that,” or, “I didn’t know what else to say,” or, “I was too scared to say anything,” or, “I didn’t know my place, and so I didn’t say anything,” right? I want to talk about that because really, we have a lot of rights. We really, really do. No one can make you do anything.


A birthing person can refuse any and all medical interventions regardless of the harm, even if that means it’s a life or death situation. Truly. That sounds crazy, but you really can say, “No.” They can say, “Well, you’re going to die,” and you can still say, “No.” Most people won’t say, “No,” maybe, but you literally have the ultimate choice to refuse.


Hospitals cannot force anyone to undergo any procedure or treatment without consent. Again, even if that means life or death. Depending on the stage of pregnancy, the hospital can refuse to treat a person who rejects care, which is hard because we know in the VBAC world, there are a ton of VBAC bans, so people are feeling left unsure of what to do. 


We got a message this weekend saying, “I have no support. I feel like my only option is an unassisted birth,” which makes me just cringe inside. I wish that hospitals, birth centers, states in general, countries were understanding what they are making people feel forced to do. They would honestly rather turn down a parent who is wanting to have a vaginal birth and let them go-- and there are people-- this is not anything bad about unassisted. People who choose unassisted that is okay. That is their choice. We support people in their own choices. But they would rather turn them down and have them feel forced to have an unassisted birth.


Alison: I was just going to say-- now, I wasn’t turned down with my first provider I saw for my VBAC, but the way I walked out of that appointment-- that’s immediately what I was thinking. Do I need to go unassisted? Because this is supposed to be the best support out there, and I’m not feeling supported here.


Meagan: Yeah, and you’re not getting it. Exactly. It makes me cringe inside. It’s so not right.


We also have the right to ask questions about our care and inquire about all alternatives. There have been situations where I’ve seen that people had questions, and they’re like, “The provider literally said there’s no time for questions,” but then there was a half-hour of time before the C-section. It just didn’t even make sense to me. 


We also have the right to get a second opinion and request different nurse care, doctor, or anything at any point. You could literally be pushing your baby out. Your baby’s crowning and something happened, and not be okay with that and say, “We are stopping. I need a new provider. You are excused.” We literally have that right. Consent forms can be signed during prenatal visits or at the hospital. Admissions do not count as ongoing consent to every procedure.


So, we’ve had-- we know people. I know Julie has known people. We’ve had people write us where they’re admitted, and they feel stuck because they’re admitted. But they don’t. They can refuse the right to any procedure done, and they can even leave. 


It’s really important as Women of Strength to know that you have options and to not ever feel like you are trapped because that trapped feeling is never going to benefit you in any way. We had a podcast that she described, she felt like she was confined and in jail, and she actually felt like she was a schoolgirl letting everyone tell her what she could do. I just thought that was such an awesome way to explain it, honestly, because that is how a lot of people feel. Trapped, confined, and being told what to do in a moment where they are most vulnerable. Most vulnerable. We are so vulnerable when we are giving birth.


It’s important to know and stand up for yourself. It’s okay if it’s scary. It’s okay that it feels scary because it can be scary. But, be okay to stand up for yourself because it’s going to affect you and your future for sure. You want to be able to look back and say, “I’m glad I said something,” or, “I’m glad I asked that question.” Even if you decide to do that intervention, you don’t ever want to look back with regret.


Alison: Yeah, and I think that’s one of the big things from my first because I didn’t know to ask questions. I didn’t know to advocate for myself. I just trusted what the providers were saying and what to do. That’s why I am left with all these questions as well. Was that first C-section even necessary? Because now I’m like, my baby could have turned. I didn’t need to have my water broken. We didn’t need to rush things along. I didn’t need to push as soon as I was at 10 centimeters. There were no bad heart tones with me or my baby, nothing going wrong with us that would indicate that we needed to move to a C-section. It was just, “Well, you’ve been doing this for five hours and made no progress.” But there was progress being made. I didn’t know it was, but there was progress. My baby was rotating. That’s progress.


Meagan: Yeah, super big progress. And you know, they could have been like, “Okay, we’re going to turn to this site because your baby’s transverse to this side. Gravity will help the baby turn the rest of the way on this side.” There’s so many things that could be looked at. 


You just don’t know what you don’t know sometimes. That’s where I feel like my message today is, don’t be scared to ask the questions. Even if you don’t know what the question is, be like, “Are there any other alternatives?” Do you know what I mean? You might not know about what alternatives there are specifically to say, “Well, can I try this alternative?” Ask, “What other alternatives are there? I would like to explore them. Can you break them down for me? Do you know?”


Well, thank you so much for sharing your story. We really appreciate it. We’re so glad things went well and that you have your baby to just snuggle with now.


Alison: Yeah, and I guess I didn’t necessarily conclude things for people. Luckily, my baby is doing wonderfully. There’s a lot of things that could have come as a result of this, and she is just proving everyone wrong. Things have turned around immensely, which I think has also been very healing for me.


Julie: Good.


Meagan: So good.


Julie: So glad. Alright. Well, we forgot to ask the questions on the last episode, but I wanted to ask you two questions. Let’s see. Where are we? Here we go. 


What is a secret lesson or something no one really talks about that you wish you would have known ahead of time when preparing for birth?


Alison: You already touched on this a bit, but just that there is no such thing as a perfect birth. Things that sound really wonderful to you about someone else’s birth when they’re telling you their story can really, actually be very traumatic for them. To me, it might sound amazing that “Oh, you didn’t tear at all. You only pushed for 30 minutes,” because I tore, and I pushed for five hours, and then I pushed for 2.5 hours, but that doesn’t mean that their experience isn’t still hard and traumatic and it’s own way. Everyone’s experience is their own experience.


I guess that idea that you can’t really have a perfect birth. It’s really what we’ve already talked about. It’s being able to feel that you were in control as best as you could be in this crazy moment of your life.


Julie: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s great advice. Next question: 

What is your best tip for someone preparing for a VBAC?


Alison: I would say education. A lot of the ways that I had my C-section with the first was because I didn’t know to question anything, or I didn’t know that there could be risks to interventions that we get. So, education before if you can, but even in that moment of asking those questions.


Julie: Awesome. That’s great. Well, thank you so much for sharing your story with us today. We are so excited that your baby is doing well and that everyone is happy and healthy.


Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Head over to thevbaclink.com/share and submit your story. For all things VBAC, including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Julie and Meagan’s bios, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.

Meet Bec from Sydney, Australia! 


Though her first birth was very much dictated to her by hospital policies and unsupportive providers, Bec fought and researched relentlessly to make sure she was involved in every.single.decision. during her next birth. When hospital VBAC policies and outside opinions tried to prevail, Bec stayed steady and determined. 


She built a birth dream team, and at the center of that team was the most important member of all—her baby. 


Bec describes her journey from feeling inferior, inadequate, and controlled to becoming informed, empowered, and respected in every way. Her hard work paid off beautifully and she finally got the birth of her dreams. 


We also discuss the most up-to-date evidence on due dates. Why do so many providers refuse to allow a VBAC past 39 weeks? Why do so many providers refuse to induce for a VBAC?


The most important piece of information that we want you to have during your search for a VBAC supportive provider is this:


There is no evidence to support the hard-stop deadline of giving birth at 39 weeks or 40 weeks for a VBAC.


Do not let an unsupportive provider dictate your birth. Keep fighting for that birth of your dreams, Women of Strength. You can do this!


Additional links

Evidence on: Inducing for Due Dates

VBAC After 40 Weeks: Is it Safe to Go Past Your Due Date?

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents


Episode sponsor

This episode is sponsored by our signature course, How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents. It is the most comprehensive VBAC preparation course in the world, perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced, video course. Together, Meagan and Julie have helped over 800 parents get the birth that they wanted and we are ready to help you too. Head over to thevbaclink.com to find out more and sign up today.


Full transcript

Julie: Good morning, Women of Strength. It is Wednesday, December 9th and it is a very special day for our guest today. It is her VBAC baby’s birthday, which is so exciting because-- I sent it out in an email a little while ago and I think we’ve talked about it a little bit before on the podcast, but Meagan gives me such a hard time. Not a hard time. She just teases me, or giggles, or whatever, because it always seems like whenever we air the podcast, the date has a special meaning.


Meagan: It’s without fail. It has never not happened when you are like, “Your episode will be airing on this day,” and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, it’s my anniversary!” “Oh my gosh, that’s my child’s birthday!”


Julie: “That’s my mother-in-law‘s birthday!”


Meagan: Yeah. It’s so funny how it happens.


Julie: So, Happy Birthday to VBAC baby. We’ll wait and let you decide if you want to share her name or not, but something even more exciting about our guest today is she is from Sydney, Australia. 


We were chatting a little bit before the show and it’s been my dream since I was a kid, ever since I could learn to say the word “Australia”, it’s been my dream to go there. When I was growing up, I always dreamed I’d marry someone from Australia, so I could listen to their dreamy accent all day telling me that they love me. I had this huge fantasy and then I married Nick from Sandy, Utah. Don’t get me wrong. Nick has many, many, many other strengths, but he does not have an Australian accent. 


So, I’m really excited to talk to Bec today. Bec is really, really just an amazing person. She lives in Sydney. She’s married to her husband, Phil. She works in PR for a motoring organization. Wait, what? Motoring?


Bec: Yeah. I think in America, you guys have the AA. It’s sort of the equivalent over here. Not Alcoholics Anonymous, the Automobile Association.


Julie: Oh, the AAA.


Bec: AAA. There we go.


Julie: Lost in translation, clear over my head. Alright. She has a hobby sewing business and makes baby stuff, like bibs and nappy wallets. She loves the beach and beers with her neighbors, “on the front steps of our homes while playing with the kids.” 


And that sounds amazing. Except for me, instead of beer, it would be Red Bull or Pepsi.


Meagan: Yeah, I was going to say, Pepsi.


Review of the week


Julie: We are so excited to hear Bec’s story. But first, Meagan has a review of the week for us.


Meagan: Yes, I do. This is just a short and sweet one, but I love it. It is from Apple Podcasts and it’s from snrrrrr. Her title is, “Obsessed.”


It says, “Thank you for bringing facts to my ears as I prepare for my VBAC. I love hearing all the stories from my fellow women of strength. I feel so inspired and encouraged.”


I just love that. It’s short, sweet, and powerful. These types of reviews, as you all know, Julie and I just love. We love hearing your reviews. We love hearing what you think about it and we would love for you to tell us what you think about it, so head over to Apple Podcasts, Facebook, Google, wherever you listen to your podcast, or wherever find us, which is everywhere, and leave us a review. We would love to read it on the podcast.


Episode sponsor


Julie: Do you want a VBAC but don’t know where to start? It’s easy to feel like we need to figure it all out on our own. That’s what we used to do and it was the loneliest and most ineffective thing we have ever done. That’s why Meagan and I created our signature course, How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents, that you can find at thevbaclink.com. It is the most comprehensive VBAC preparation course in the world, perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced, video course. 


Together, Meagan and I have helped over 800 parents get the birth that they wanted and we are ready to help you too. Head on over to thevbaclink.com to find out more and sign up today. That’s thevbaclink.com. See you there. 


Bec’s story


Julie: Alright. I am so excited for today. Bec deserves a special shout out because she is in Australia and in Utah, where we’re recording, it’s 9:30 in the morning, but in Australia, it’s 2:30 in the morning.


Meagan: We’re nice and fresh.


Julie: She literally woke up at 2:30 in the morning to come and record this session with us. I was just saying, nothing gets me out of bed at 2:30 in the morning, unless I’m getting called to a birth.


Meagan: That’s dedication.


Julie: My kids, no. My husband deals with the kids at 2:30 in the morning. Like, nothing. Earthquake-- I will stay in my house and let the ceiling fall on my head. Nothing gets me out of bed at 2:30 in the morning. So I was saying, she must really love us if she gets up so early to share her story with us.


I’m really, really excited. We’re going to talk after her story about due dates because she went to almost 42 weeks with her VBAC. I know that a lot of people have pressure from their providers to induce even before 40 weeks or to just schedule a Cesarean. We’re going to talk about that a little bit at the end.


But before we do, we are going to have Bec share her incredible story, and just sit here and swoon over her really fun Australian accent.


Meagan: I know. It’s so beautiful.


Bec: The pressure’s on. I feel like I should be a Hemsworth talking to you if you want the sweet nothings.


Julie: No, it’s beautiful. Well, we’ll channel our inner Thor vibes while we’re listening to you, but yes. You’re great.


Bec: Oh, very funny. So I guess I’ll start with my first birth. Jack was a breech baby. I found out he was breech at about 34 weeks. Everything had been quite smooth sailing up until that point. 


I’m somebody who, as soon as I find out something’s going my way, I throw myself into the research. We joked that by the end of this pregnancy, I could have nearly been a breech expert. I could’ve stood up and given a lecture on the breech term trial papers, everything about the system, and why the system wants us to have a Cesarean for breech babies-- which is kind of bitterly ironic because he was a Cesarean. 


I had three unsuccessful ECVs. I did handstands in the pool. I had all the smelly stuff that you’re supposed to do. I did absolutely everything I could possibly do to try to turn him. But he was, and still is-- he’s 3 1/2 now-- very stubborn, and wanted to stay wedged in my pelvis with his bum down.


My labor started pretty much on his due date and I went about a day. I went for a walk. I tried to move through contractions. It was a really uncomfortable day, but it was really manageable. That was on a Monday night. Tuesday was that manageable day. 


By 6:00 p.m. on the Tuesday night, my midwife said, “Okay, I think it’s time to come into hospital. We’re just going to monitor you.” I thought, “Okay, no worries. That’s what you do.” I now know that I should’ve just stayed at home for a bit longer.


As soon as I was strapped to the bed, I felt like that was it. I wasn’t allowed to move. I had a particularly-- I don’t know how to put it politely, but a midwife on shift whose vibe just didn’t work with me. Every time I moved and tried to move through a contraction, she would say, “Get back on the bed. The monitors are going to fall off. What do you think you’re doing?” So, if the monitors did fall off, obviously, then the doctors would come in, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?”


The silly thing was, everything was fine on the monitors. The baby was fine. I was fine. I just needed to move like a woman does in labor through those contractions to get everything going, but I felt like a caged animal. I was just being pushed back and trapped. I couldn’t do all of that. I remember saying to her, “This is just so hard. This is so hard,” after a contraction and she said, “Yeah. Well, you chose to do this.” 


Words like that to a laboring woman who needs to feel very safe-- you know, for that labor to progress. No wonder it wasn’t progressing.


Meagan: Well, and feeling trapped and confined like you were. That is not going to bring a relaxed cervix. Like, a relaxed body to let the cervix open. Comments like that only makes it worse.


Bec: Exactly. I felt like a naughty, little schoolgirl. I felt like it was this flashback to sitting outside the principal’s office.


Julie: That’s so funny.


Bec: All I was trying to do was have my baby my way. My body was trying to do that, but I had these external forces pushing me, telling me, “No, no, no.”

You shouldn’t be doing what my body was trying to do. Which was really unnatural.


That was a long night. I remember my husband sleeping on the floor. I went to turn the music down and then I thought, “Wait, hang on. I am the one in labor here. Why am I turning the music down to make him comfortable?”


By about 4:00 or 5:00 a.m., I said to the midwife, “Look. Can you just give me some guidance or direction? What’s happening here?” And she gave me the most excruciating internal in the middle of a contraction and I thought, “Oh gosh, you cruel woman.” She said, “You’re not even in labor. You’re not even in labor. You’re about 4 centimeters. That’s not labor.”


Julie: Oh my gosh. How defeating. I would feel like Meagan said, “Cervix closed.”


Bec: Exactly. Exactly, and I just felt like I totally failed. I’m like, “Wow. I’ve been through all of this. It’s now been more than 24 hours and you’re telling me I’m not even in labor.” I just felt sort of stupid that I had been there and if that wasn’t labor, what was the labor? But I now know, I was in labor.


By the time the day started and the obstetrician came in-- who is the head of department who I was seeing. I was under the care of the midwives, but if anything sort of falls out of the norm, they bring in one of the obstetricians. This particular obstetrician is a really big vaginal breech birth fan. He even speaks at international conferences. He’s amazing. He’s Mr. Breech Birth, but because he was being given the information from that particular midwife-- and I don’t really know what that information was. I’d love to know. 


I’d love to go back and get her out of the room, but I didn’t know you could say, “I don’t want you.” I felt like it was all being dictated to me, which is really sad looking back. So he came in and said, “Look. I’m going to recommend a Cesarean. How do you feel about that?”


I burst into tears. My husband burst into tears. He knew that my number one fear of anything happening in birth was a Cesarean. I wasn’t scared of dying, but I was scared of Cesarean, which is the gravity of the fear I had for that because I was just so determined that this was not going to be a Cesarean.


I was wheeled into the theater absolutely bawling and when I was lying there, they checked me and they said, the obstetrician said, “Oh wow, good. You’ve made it to about 6 centimeters. Well done, that’s really good.” And so I thought, again, I felt like it was the principal said that I did a good job. It was that whole sort of-- they were telling me how I was going with it, which played on me a little bit later on. 


Anyway, so Jack was born. I specifically said to one of my midwives in an appointment, “I want to find out the gender first,” but nothing was written down. I said that I wanted immediate skin-to-skin, but that wasn’t written down.


When they pulled him out, a random voice said, “Here he comes. It’s a boy!” I thought, “Oh, that’s not my husband‘s voice.” But anyway, then a little baby was sort of-- a crying baby was shown to me and then taken away. I remember lying there feeling like, “Oh my god, all of this is happening to me. There’s a baby in this room. It just is a baby.”


There was no connect that that was my baby. They wiped him down, wrapped him up, and brought him over to me. I remember holding him and shaking so much from all the drugs, which a lot of people do, but just feeling a real disconnect like they just handed me a baby. I didn’t really have that immediate rush, and that bond, and everything that— I think a lot of unplanned Cesarean moms probably feel that way.


Julie: Yeah, I felt like that too. A lot of my clients do. The most important thing is just getting to hold their baby right away, first thing.


Bec: Yeah. But I wanted that slimy skin-to-skin. I wanted my baby on me, with me. As soon as they took him away, wiped him down, and started doing all the weighs and checks and measurements, that was taken away from me. You can never give a woman that back. It’s gone. To some women that’s fine, they don’t really want that, or it doesn’t matter. But for me, it was something that I really yearned for. I told them that. And it was still taken away from me. That was hard for me to get over for the years afterward, always reliving that baby over in the corner of the room.


Anyway, we had a beautiful, very healthy baby boy. Because he was breech, I had to get his hips tested at about six weeks. I took him back to the hospital and actually ran into the supervising obstetrician in a corridor and I said, “Hi. I’ve been thinking, remember in theater, you said I was about 6 centimeters? If you knew that before you gave me the spinal, would you have let me continue to labor?” And he said, “You know, we probably would have.”


Julie: Oh my goodness.


Bec: And I felt like-- yeah. I felt like my world just fell out from under me. He must have seen the look on my face and he said, “But you were very exhausted.” To try and make up for what had happened. So I lived with that for a few more years, trying to understand that, feeling so much resentment and a massive lack of control over what had happened to me.


I was determined to have a VBAC the next time. I did end up bonding very beautifully with Jack. We had a lovely breastfeeding journey. Everything‘s been wonderful.


By the time the second pregnancy came around, I was just so determined. I had started my chiro appointments really early to make sure my pelvis was in great shape, to make sure positioning would be good, to try and avoid having another breech baby if we could.


I practiced all of my HypnoBirthing breathing from the start of the pregnancy. I did a lot of yoga and Spinning Babies® exercises, meditation— I just tried to do everything to get myself in the right position and mindset for a really good, smooth pregnancy and to have a successful VBAC.


I found my hospital’s VBAC policy, staff procedures, and guidelines online. I went through all of this paperwork with a fine-tooth comb. My approach to this birth was that these are the recommendations, and I have the choice to make informed decisions based on these recommendations. I am the customer in the hospital. It’s not something that’s going to be dictated to me this time and I was very, very determined.


In the policy and guidelines for the hospital-- I did hire a doula, and she laughed because I printed it out and I wrote next to almost every single line, “No thanks. No thanks. Not for me.”


I went to the Evidence-Based Birth® website and that was such a good resource for me. I found an answer to almost every one of those guidelines that worked for me. That helped me write out my birth preferences. I took those back to that obstetrician and it took three rounds of edits before he and I were both happy with what was to be the final birth plan. He said to me, “Look, I’m okay with all of this. It’s my hypervigilant colleagues who won’t be, and I don’t know who’s going to be on shift when you come in.”


Julie: Oh my gosh.


Bec: I really respected that. I respected that he was on my side and that he was being honest about the system, but it also made me angry, because why should it take a really bad birth to become so aware, that you have to be so educated to fight the system to get what you deserve? Every woman deserves the birth that is right for them. 


You shouldn’t have to have a bad birth to have a good birth.


Julie: Yes. Exactly. I agree, 100%.


Bec: Yeah. It makes me so sad that there are so many women-- you stand at the playground and every mom in the playground says, “Oh, my birth was this,” or they’ve got negative stories. You might find a very rare mom who says, “My first birth was amazing.” 


It’s because we have to go through the system where it’s dictated to us, and it’s so sad, and it’s so wrong. But it’s why education is so important as well, and things like your podcast, so that we know that these are choices and that we should be making those informed decisions.


So anyway, the pregnancy was quite straightforward. My doula, Erica, who was quite amazing-- she told me the most important tool for me was my mind, and that the best way to achieve this VBAC was to labor for as long as possible at home.


At 20 weeks, I did test positive to GBS. Under the hospital policy, that meant antibiotics through a cannula on admission in labor. After my first experience, I didn’t want any cords and cables. I didn’t want the monitors. I didn’t want to be strapped like a zoo animal again. 


I went and read the most recent Cochran Review, which found that no evidence exists to prove that antibiotics on admission really protects the baby from infection. I discussed that with the hospital and again, the doctor was like, “Yes, that is the most recent research and I agree with it, but hospital policy isn’t yet up-to-date with that research.” Which is, you know. It’s just another little bit of frustration.


Anyway, he took a look at my veins and he said, “Look. You’ve got big veins. They’re pretty easy to find. I think if something happens and we really need to insert a cannula, we can do it at the time.” He signed off on me not having cannulas. But again, it was only because I went and found that research to then present back to the hospital. I’m not a health professional. I am a mom. It’s not my area, whereas they should be the ones saying to me, “Hey, this is the latest research. But they don’t.”


Julie: I agree. Do you know what? I went off the other day. On our Instagram page, it was like, why does the burden of proof lie on the parents? Why is it that when you disagree with your provider that you have to be the one to show the current research and evidence-based practices? Why don’t providers have this information? And why aren’t they the ones looking it up to make sure that they are providing the right level of care? I mean, I’m sure there’s a complex answer to that. But like, it really frustrates me that the burden of proof lies on the birthing person. It’s frustrating.


Bec: Absolutely. And do you think that applies to like-- if you’ve got cancer and you go to your oncologist, you’re not going to be presenting them with the latest research. You’d feel really silly doing that. That’s why I think a lot of women would feel the same in pregnancy. Like, you’re telling the experts how to do their job and it’s a really uncomfortable thing to do. But if they can discuss it with you like this amazing obstetrician--


Anyway, my doula said, “Soak in a bath of diluted apple cider vinegar for a few days and you’ll test negative to GBS,” and I did. So that was good. I got to avoid fighting the system anyway.


Meagan: How much did you put in the bath?


Bec: I put 2 cups, or I think it was 2 cups. Maybe one cup of apple cider vinegar in a bath that was up to my belly button. So, quite diluted.


Meagan: Nice. That’s awesome.


Bec: I have no idea if it was a coincidence but hey, we got the results.


Meagan: It worked!


Bec: Exactly. Through this pregnancy, I did start to feel-- I’ve never had any mental health issues and I did start to feel-- I think the trauma from my first birth was manifesting itself in a lot of anxiety and it was really, an odd thing for me. That made it scary. 


I’d be waiting on the train platform to get the train home from work and I’d have really shocking images of my son on the-- I know it’s a bit brutal. You might want to edit that out. My son wouldn’t even be with me, but I’d see him lying on the train tracks when the train would come, and things like that. It was so graphic and horrible. I would have panic attacks and break down and cry, and have to leave the train station, and think, “Oh my god, how am I going to get home?” 


But things that were never going to happen, because my son wasn’t even with me. I’ve since learned they’re called intrusive thoughts and they’re really, really, really common, especially with moms. I was too scared to-- even when the baby was born, I was too scared to cross the road, because I was certain that cars were going to hit all of us and that the kids would be taken. They were unreasonable because there weren’t even cars on the road when I would be crossing. I think that all of these overwhelming thoughts in my mind and this trauma was manifesting itself in this new form of mental health that I hadn’t dealt with before.


I started seeing a psychologist who specializes in perinatal mental health and it was wonderful. She helped me so much. She gave me so many tools, but it’s something that I’m still-- to this day, I’m learning how to deal with that. 


It’s something that I think is important to talk about because we don’t realize just how common mental health issues are. Again, we don’t talk about it enough, I don’t think. Women think they’re alone and they suffer alone, but really we just need to talk. Talking it out is amazing. Having a cuppo with your neighbors, having a chat with girlfriends can help so much with that. But that was a big part of this pregnancy because it was just unexpected. I’ve never had anything like that happen before.


So probably about 33 weeks, I had an unexpected bleed. I went to the toilet and went, “I’ve got my period.” And then I went, “Oh, hang on. I’m pregnant. I’m not supposed to have my period. Oh, wow.”


Meagan: You’re like, “Wait a second.”


Bec: I rang my midwife and she’s like, “Yeah. You need to come straight in.” I just bawled because I had worked so hard to have this VBAC. My mind was on one path and then all of a sudden, I got thrown this curveball.


We went in the hospital. We monitored. I stayed for a while. I stayed overnight, but they couldn’t find anything. They couldn’t find a cause. I actually think I was burning the candle at both ends. I was stressing myself out a little bit. My head had told my body to chill and I ignored it, so then my body overrode that, and then I just needed to rest. So at 33 weeks, I finished work and I went to the beach every day. It was so lovely.


This was November, December in Sydney. It was just before the bushfires started that you guys would have seen in the news last year. The beach every day was quite spooky. The sky was getting darker.


Julie: Yes. That was scary.


Bec: Yeah, it was. The day after my baby was born, I walked down into the hospital corridor and the whole corridor was like out of a movie. It was like someone had turned a smoke machine on from a party. The whole corridor was just thick smoke. It had come through the hospital air conditioning and everything. We thought that was a scary time to give birth. Little did we know, COVID was to hit a few months later. 


So I would go to the beach every day, and every day I would put a little story up on Instagram. My friends would say, “Oh, you’re still pregnant.” Yep, still pregnant. I got to 37, 38, 39, 40 weeks. Yep, still pregnant. 41 weeks. Yep, still pregnant. I had people say things to me, “But why are they letting you go so long? Why haven’t they induced you yet?”


I’d say, “I don’t want to be. I feel fine. The baby will come when the baby is ready.” 

“But how are they allowing you to do that?” Even my mum would say things like that. My mum would say, “What are the doctors saying? Isn’t this-- the baby’s going to be like a shriveled up little raisin. We can’t have this happen.” And I’m like, “Oh no, Mum. The baby’s fine. The baby doesn’t know the date on the calendar. The baby is okay.” But as much as I was okay with going “late”, it was the pressure around me. As much as you might say, “I’m okay with this,” it’s those little comments every single day.


“Oh, are you sick of it? Oh, that baby must be so big. Are you sure that baby is okay?” I went in for a scan at 41 weeks just to check everything was okay and the sonographer said to me, “You do realize you are seriously increasing your risk of having a stillborn by choosing to go over your dates with this pregnancy.”


Julie: I hate it when they use that. Like the statistics are there, yes. It does increase. But it increases— I mean technically you could say it doubles, but it goes from .02% to .04%, so it’s still a really, really small percent risk. But when you say it like that, “Oh, your risk of stillbirth doubles,” then it’s way scary sounding.


Bec: And also, is that a sonographer’s job? Or is that a midwife’s job to tell me that?


Julie: For real.


Bec: Yeah. I did tell my midwife. I said, “I’d like to complain about a sonographer,” because I’m going in there with all the education. I know the stats because I research everything, but a lot of women don’t. If she’s going and saying things like that to women, they’re probably leaving there petrified that the baby is not okay. It’s totally not her job to do that. To her, that was just a flippant comment and off she goes and has a cup of tea or lunch break. It doesn’t-- you know, there’s no consequences to her. 


People in these jobs have to be so careful with the language that they use. Even like in my first labor, “Oh, you’re not even in labor.” Or, “You chose to do it this way.” All of those little comments can stick with you and keep niggling in your head for years.


Meagan: Oh yeah. Totally. I had that happen with my birth when my doctor was like, “Oh, I’m so glad you didn’t VBAC. You for sure would have ruptured.” So then what happened when I was going to VBAC after my two C-sections? I’m in labor and in my head, I’m hearing that. You know? It’s just, Ugh. Like you said, they say things and they probably never think about it again ever, but it sticks with us.


Bec: It’s something that keeps turning over in your mind. At about 40 weeks-- we already know that I went towards the end, but at about 40 weeks, I did go and have some Chinese foot reflexology. I said, “Could you hit all of the trigger points? I want this baby out.” 

That night, I woke up to contractions and I was like, “This is it.” They were about 8 to 10 minutes apart. They were really full-on. I was listening to my HypnoBirthing tracks. I was trying to rest. I was trying to breathe. I couldn’t-- I thought, “Oh, yep. We are on.”


And then of course, by 9:00 a.m., they were gone. I thought, “What was that?”


Julie: Prodromal labor is the worst.


Bec: I just went into labor and I stopped. What the hell? Another week went past. I knew the pressure was coming from the hospital. Depending on who I saw, some of them were okay with me, but some of them were like, “You know, once you hit 40 weeks-- even though we are signed off on you going to 42, once we hit 40,” And I’m like, “Well, you’re not doing what you just signed off on by saying that are you? You’re putting that pressure on.” 


So I said to my midwife, “Alright. Let’s have a talk about having a sweep,” because it’s the only type of intervention I was comfortable with, especially if that was going to help me avoid more induction pressure closer to 42 weeks. I know if I was going to be induced, then I was going down that slippery path of heading more towards another Cesarean and I was just so scared of touching anything that would go down that path. So we did a sweep, didn’t really do anything. Three days later, we did another one. It didn’t really do anything.


Then on a Saturday afternoon, I had a bit more foot reflexology. I’m like, “Well, it triggered something last time. Let’s give it another go,” and then I went for a sweep. I don’t know which one it was, but in the car on the way home, I started to feel that heavy period pain come back and it was fading in and out.


That was Saturday afternoon. By midnight, I could not sleep anymore. I was timing the contractions. They were about five minutes apart lasting about 50 seconds, so I thought, “Yep. We are on here.”


In the morning, I said to Phil, “Can you take our son to my parents’ house?” He got halfway there and realized he forgot something. He rang me in a panic, “Have you got time? Have I got time? I’ve got to turn around. I’ve got to get his bag that I forgot.” I’m like, “Oh, I think you’ve got time, I guess. I don’t know. Just hurry up and do it.” 


Anyway, we did not know that the day was going to go on and on. We spent all day trying to help me move. The contractions were really paralyzing, so we thought, “We need to get it going.” But, we went for a walk. Every few steps, I’d have to stop and just hold onto a tree, hold onto my husband, hold onto people’s fences. So, this is Sunday afternoon. This has been going on now for about 24 hours.


That night, it just continued and I thought it was ramping up. I got in the shower. We had the TENS machine going. I got in the shower. Our bathroom wall is a shared wall with the neighbors and it’s the side of neighbors that we don’t know very well. I’ll never forget that night at about 10:00 p.m. bellowing like a cow, just roaring. It was a full-on zoo. There was a zoo happening in our house. And thinking, “These poor neighbors next-door must think something really freaky is going on.”


I got out of the shower and I went, “Call Erica. We’ve got to call the doula. And of course, she came over and she made me feel calm and safe.” They sort of subsided a little bit. She came over at midnight on Sunday night. She was still there the next morning. We knew that the midwives clocked on at 7:00 a.m., so we waited until 7 and called the midwives. One of them came and did a home check, and she’s like, “Yeah, you’re about 5 or 6 centimeters,” which is great because I knew I was already still at home at the point that I was lying on the operating theater table a few years earlier.


That was good, but as the day went on, they were still about five minutes apart, but they weren’t getting any closer. So by Monday afternoon, Erica said, “Okay. Let’s call in some other people. Let’s see if we can get maybe some acupuncture or-- what can you think of?” And I went, “My chiro. I remember listening to a VBAC Link podcast where a chiro did an adjustment in labor. Let’s give it a go.”


I texted my chiro. She came over and she didn’t do a lot. She did a little-- a few feels around my hips and adjustments and she said, “I think you should do some side-lying releases, the Spinning Babies® exercise.” So we did that. We laid down, and as soon as I sat up, I went, “Whoa.” This gush. My waters had broken. It was so incredible that just a little bit of feeling around recognized that there was tension in my right hip. Once we released it, labor kickstarted. 


This is still Monday afternoon now and it started on Saturday afternoon. So I had been going for a long time. There was a lot of vomiting. There was a lot of—yeah. Everything else coming out of my body.


I went into hospital, and it was the most excruciating car ride-- like I know everybody says, but we got into hospital and Erica was behind us in the lift. She said she knew it was happening because she said I was just shaking. She said that involuntary shaking means you’re there which was really cool. 


So we got in. My midwife said, “Would you mind? Do you want a check?” All of her language was really good, which was cool. She wasn’t telling me, “I’m going to check you.” She was, “Would you like me to?” And I said, “Yeah. I want to see how far along I am.” And she said, “Wow. You’re a good 8 centimeters.”


I had done all of that on my own at home, which I was really pleased with. So she then put some monitors on. She said, “I know you don’t want these, but we just have to see.” And I had, of course, envisioned this beautiful water birth like everyone wants, but she said, “Look. Baby’s heart rate is decelerating after contractions. If you don’t want to be hooked up to the machines, the wireless monitors are a thing that we can do, but it means you can only get into the shower and not in the bath.” I thought, “You know what? I just need that water. If I can move and if I’ve got this amazing circle of really cool supporters around me, then I don’t really care. I could be in the corridor. I don’t really care where I am. I felt so safe in this circle.” 


Erica had told me, “Every time someone comes in, even in appointments before labor-- if someone comes in and makes you feel like they’ve got the wrong vibe, just stretch. Pretend you’re stretching, but put your hands up and do a circle. That’s your forcefield.” 


It’s so funny because it worked and I imagined that every time. I imagined this little bubble around me and I had those protectors around me and my God, that was so different to the first time. It was so powerful to have these people around me that I loved and trusted. It was my midwife, my favorite student-midwife, my doula, and my husband. It was our team. It was the A-Team and at the center of that team was my baby. We were all there for her, which was really cool.


I was on the floor in the shower and contracting. The baby was crowning and my midwife said, “The registrar-- the doctor on duty wants to come in and make herself known to you.” I’m like, “What? What do you mean?” She said, “You can say no, but if you do, they’re going to be knocking and knocking and knocking. So, up to you.” I went, “Fine. Just let her in. Say hello, but she’s not doing anything to me, and then she can go.”


So, I’ll never forget. I’m on the floor in my zone. I look over and I see this little clicky pair of plastic heels. I look up and there’s this doctor wearing scrubs and she bent down and looked at me and she said, “I need to tell you about the risks of what you’re trying to do. A VBAC is very dangerous.”


And I kind of, I wasn’t laughing because I was in the middle of a contraction probably, but I thought, “You’re so pathetic.” She didn’t even penetrate my little forcefield that I’d visualized around me. She just-- it was like a little fly coming in that we could just shoo off and Phil said, “Not now,” really loud and really firmly. I was so proud of him because he’s not that kind of-- this was all not his zone, so it was really cool that he did that. She just sort of backed off and she went.


Meagan: That’s awesome.


Bec: It was so good. And I, I felt-- I was on the floor and I knew something was happening but I didn’t know what was happening, but I needed to get in the corner. I wanted it to be dark. I didn’t know what was going on, so I said, “Can you lower the bed onto the floor?” My midwife was like, “Okay, why?” What do you think? I don’t know? I needed to be somewhere safe that wasn’t that hard shell floor. We moved over and she’s like, “Yeah. You are ready.”


I pushed for a half an hour. I didn’t want coached pushing but I did want whatever help I could get to not tear. And so the girls would help teach me how to breathe down through each contraction and then to hold off a little bit. It was a little bit funny because every time a song changed, my midwife would say, “This is a good song to be born to.” I go, “Okay,” and the song would change and she’d go, “This is a good song to be born to.” And about the fifth time, I went, “You just say that to every song!” She goes, “Okay, yeah. I do.”


Meagan: You’re like, “Any song is a good song for this baby to be born to!”


Bec: But I knew that when my husband’s favorite songs came on, he’d squeeze my shoulder and say, “This is a good song to be born to.” And I’m like, “Not you, too!”


Anyway, Tilly was-- she did come out. She was born at a quarter to midnight on the eve of 42 weeks. She was fine. She was a beautiful little girl. Her head was out and the midwife said, “Do you want to feel her head?” which was so cool as before the head came out, putting my hand down there and feeling this little, slimy, hairy head was just such an amazing feeling because we had made it. I knew by that point we had made it and we had done it all together. We didn’t need anybody or anything else. It was really hard and it was really tough, and I went for a really long time, but I just trusted that bubble of safe people around me and we did it. 


She came out. I did want to lift her out myself, but she was-- the girls said something about my cord not quite being long enough maybe, so I picked her up but they handed her to me. She was straight on me. I got my skin-to-skin and I got my slimy baby girl that I really wanted. I had requested to wait, to have that golden hour, to have all of that skin-to-skin to wait for my placenta. 


We waited for the cord to stop pulsing and then after a half an hour, my midwife came back in and she said, “Hospital clock says we have to get placenta out. How do you feel about giving it a tug yourself before we give you the injection?”


I was like, “Yes.” It was so cool. So with one hand on my baby, the other hand down between my legs, I gently pulled on the tug and it was like a giant tampon string. I just pulled in and my placenta flopped out. It was so cool and it wasn’t painful. It was just-- I mean a baby had just come out. For me, the placenta was just, and I was scared of-- you know, women say, “Oh, they don’t tell you how painful it is when the placenta comes out.” It wasn’t actually. I think because I had just left it and let my body do its thing and I only just assisted a little bit with a little tug. So that was really cool.


And then I clamped the cord and I cut it myself. That was important to me.


Meagan: Oh my gosh. That’s awesome.


Bec: Yeah. It was so beautiful because to me, it signified the end of our internal connection and the start of our external connection. It was all about her and I doing that together.


We didn’t know we were having a girl. I hoped, of course, that we were having a girl because we had a boy, but she was on me for a little while and then someone said, “What is it? Have a look.” And seeing that it was a girl-- it was just so beautiful. Everything was just so lovely.


So we got there, and we got there without the system dictating it to me. It was so wonderful, but it still makes me so angry that people have to fight the system to get what they deserve.


The notes on my discharge form after Jack’s birth said that the Cesarean was due to a failure to progress. It had nothing to do with his breech positioning, but failure to progress. That labor was half the length of time as the second labor and the notes on the second labor’s discharge form say, “No complications.”


So what does that tell us about hospital clocks? Hospital policies dictating what Mother Nature can take care of herself? If we are educated and determined, then we can get what we deserve. But I know I keep saying, “You shouldn’t have to have a bad birth to get a good birth.” We know that my body just labors for a really long time. Some people are like, “Why did they let you labor for so long? Why did you want that to happen?”


Julie: Oh my gosh. Why did they let you? What do you mean let you? Oh my goodness.


Bec: Who’s they? I said, “There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s my body and that’s the way my body labors. It’s not fun. It’s pretty ordinary, but that’s the way my body does it.”


Failure to progress, for me, is something that infuriates me when women tell me, “Oh, I had to have a Cesarean because ‘failure to progress,’” I just feel sad. And I, yeah. My whole journey was very draining, but it was very much full of growth as well. I’m really passionate about people knowing that they can have that birth, not the birth that a policy or an opinion tells them that they should be having. They should be having the birth that they deserve. 


So yeah, that’s my story. The VBAC rates in Australia-- they’re 12%. I was just looking this up. People use that as a reason for not having a vaginal birth, but I think of those who attempt a VBAC, 87% are successful. So when you say only 12% of women will have a VBAC, that’s not because they’re failing. It’s because it’s dictated to them that they have to. We really need to change that. That success rate of attempt at 87% is really high. That’s a really cool figure. We need to be working with that, not the 12%. So, yeah. I just feel so passionate now after going through that, that we are all so cool, aren’t we? Mother Nature‘s got it. Our bodies have got it.


Julie: Yep. That is so true. The rates are similar here in the United States actually. The VBAC rate is anywhere from 10 to 12% every year, but the studies show that only 60 to 80% of women who attempt a VBAC will be successful at that attempt. But I say that more would be successful if they had a provider that was truly supportive instead of just saying, “Okay well, we’ll have a VBAC as long as you go into labor by 40 weeks and as long as it is spontaneous because we don’t induce VBAC, and as long as—" You know, all of this list of criteria.


So I think we have probably a lot more providers in the United States that are not supportive when women make that choice, but also, just like in Australia their providers just aren’t giving them the option which is why only 10% of women will have a VBAC.


Bec: Exactly.


Evidence on due dates


Julie: So it’s just super frustrating and very can be very confusing to a parent after having a Cesarean. But what I want to do really fast before we get off the phone, is talk about due dates for VBAC.


Now, Evidence-Based Birth®, we love them. They are incredible. You can go onto evidencebasedbirth.com and find anything about anything. They have a really, really lengthy blog about due dates and induction. They talk about the ARRIVE study and several other studies that have come up about induction at 39 weeks versus spontaneous labor or inducing later on in the pregnancy. 


They have a section specifically about people planning a VBAC and I’m just going to go ahead and read what she wrote here. It’s not too long, but I love it because Rebecca Decker, the owner of Evidence-Based Birth®-- her and her research team are so good at digging deeply into the studies and unveiling what the studies really say and what they mean. 


I’m just going to go ahead and read this. We’re going to link to the article in the show notes, so if you are wondering how to find this article, you can just click on our show notes or you can Google “Evidence on Due Dates” and it’s just right there-- the first response to show up in Google.


And so, I’m just going to read this. She says:


“What about people who are planning a VBAC?


“Many people who are planning a vaginal birth after Cesarean (VBAC) are told they must go into labor by 39, 40, or 41 weeks or they will be required to have a repeat Cesarean or induction.


“Research has shown that only about 10% of people who reach term will spontaneously give birth by 39 weeks (Smith, 2001; Jukic et al., 2013). So, if a hospital or physician mandates repeat Cesareans for people who have not gone into labor by 39 weeks, this means that 90% of people planning a VBAC with that hospital or physician will be disqualified from having a spontaneous VBAC. Also, some hospitals and providers will not provide inductions with VBACs, which means some people who reach the required deadline will only have one option– repeat Cesarean.


“There is actually no evidence supporting hard-stop ‘must-give-birth-by-39-weeks’ or ‘give-birth-by-40-weeks’ rules for people planning a VBAC.


“In 2015, researchers looked at 12,676 people who were electively induced at 39 weeks for a VBAC, or had expectant management for a VBAC (Palatnik & Grobman, 2015).”


Expectant management, just a little side note here, means either spontaneous labor or inducing if there is a medical reason, or electively beyond the arbitrary deadline which, in this case, is 39 weeks.


“Elective induction at 39 weeks was associated with a higher chance of VBAC compared to expectant management (73.8% versus 60-62%). But there was also a higher rate of uterine rupture in the elective induction group (1.4% versus 0.4-0.6%).”


So it’s almost three times more likely a uterine rupture at 39 weeks elective induction than the expectant management group.


“For people who chose not to be induced, the risk of uterine rupture was fairly steady at 39 weeks (0.5% uterine rupture rate), to 40 weeks (0.6%), to 41 weeks (0.4%).”


So, right around there. Not a statistically significant difference in the rupture rates no matter how far you go gestationally as far as labor is spontaneous or expectant management.


“The first large meta-analysis to specifically look at the link between weeks of pregnancy and likelihood of VBAC was published in 2019 (Wu et al. 2019).” 


Which is really exciting, because it’s very recent.


“It included 94 observational studies with nearly 240,000 people attempting labor for a VBAC. Interestingly, they found that gestational week at birth was not linked to having a VBAC— whether someone gave birth at 37 weeks, 39 weeks, or 41 weeks—it didn’t make a difference to whether someone had a VBAC or a Cesarean birth after Cesarean.”


Basically, what that is saying is that this huge comprehensive study shows that there’s no change in your chances of having a VBAC related to what week gestation you are, but there’s this other study that shows-- a much smaller study with a lot less people if you compare 240,000 people to 12,676 people. Significantly fewer people. It shows that elective induction at 39 weeks triples your chance of having a uterine rupture. The expectant management of labor in that group showed that there was a higher chance of VBAC success at the 39-week induction group. 


But this much larger study shows that there is no difference. So I would definitely go with the larger study, just because you have 20 times the amount of people in that study, which gives you a more definitive look. It doesn’t talk about the risk of uterine rupture, though, in that larger group. So, we have those two.


Apparently, Meagan is writing a blog right now on this.


Meagan: I am writing a blog. So, by the time this enters, we too will have a blog and it will be titled “The Success Rate After 40 weeks for a VBAC”. Check it out on our blog.


Julie: Meagan, there’s a study right there.


Meagan: I know.


Julie: Go ahead and Google “Evidence on Due Dates” and scroll down. There are several studies linked. Go back and look through our blogs, go back and look on the Evidence-Based Birth® website. But this is the thing that I just want to highlight. Really important— double emphasis, bold, underline, exclamation points:


There is no evidence to support the hard-stop deadline of giving birth at 39 weeks or 40 weeks for a VBAC.


There is no evidence to support that. And, your likelihood of having a successful VBAC at 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, or even 42 weeks does not change. Your odds of having one does not change, no matter what week gestation you give, if you go into this expectant management protocol, which again, is either waiting for spontaneous labor or waiting for a medical need for induction.


So, yeah. Any questions?


Meagan: No.


Julie: We should do a live podcast one day. I wonder how we could do that, or people could just ask questions while we were recording. That would be super fun.


Meagan: That would be amazing. Yeah.


Julie: Alright. Well, Bec. We are so grateful for you and Happy Birthday to Tilly today.


Bec: As I was saying to you guys earlier, the name Matilda means “strength in battle”. So, she is a woman of strength from day one. Happy Birthday to her today.


Julie: Happy Birthday today. Alright well, we are going to let you go and snuggle your sweet little baby of strength. Although, it’s 2:30 in the morning, so you should probably just go back to bed.


Bec: It’s 3:30 now. I’m going back to bed.

Meagan: I was going to say-- it’s 3:30 now.


Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Head over to thevbaclink.com/share and submit your story. For all things VBAC, including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Julie and Meagan’s bios, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.

Calling all listeners! Whether you’re preparing for a VBAC, have already had your VBAC, had a planned or unplanned CBAC, or are a birth worker, this episode is for YOU.


Mari Vega is a powerful force in the birth world. Through her VBAC experience, Mari found her voice. Not only did she find it, but she realized that it is loud, it is confident, and it is beautiful. Mari is now on a mission to help all moms with any birth outcome feel heard, valued, and loved.


To the woman who has faced obstetric mistreatment during any birth, we see you. To the woman who is struggling with finding a VBAC supportive provider, we see you. To the woman who fought so hard for her VBAC and did everything right, yet got an unwanted CBAC, we see you. We see you, women of strength, and we love you. We are proud of you.


Also joining us this episode is one of our VBAC trained doulas, Allie Mennie, who has a true gift with words.


We have a special assignment for all of our listeners at the end of this truly impactfull episode. Tune in to find out what it is. We cannot WAIT to hear from each of you!


Topics today include:

- How to get your VBAC everything is working against you

- The importance of reporting obstetric mistreatment

- Finding the strength to share your CBAC story

- Releasing sorrow from any birth outcome to find greater joy


Additional links

Mari Vega’s website, Instagram, and Facebook pages


Alli Mennie’s website, Instagram, and Facebook pages


Email your letters to info@thevbaclink.com 


Episode sponsor

This episode is sponsored by our very own Advanced VBAC Doula Certification Program. It is the most comprehensive VBAC doula training in the world perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced video course. Head over to thevbaclink.com to find out more information and sign up today.

Full transcript

Note: All transcripts are edited to eliminate false starts and filler words.


Julie: Alright, Women of Strength. It is Women of Strength Wednesday and we are here for you with a podcast with one of our newest, most favorite people in the world. Her name is Mari Vega and she’s doing a lot of really amazing things. 


But before I try and talk about four things at once like I tend to do, I am going to let you guys know that Meagan is out doing some very important things right now. Lots of very important things and she could not make it on the podcast today, unfortunately. But I am very, very lucky because we have one of our VBAC trained doulas with us and her name is Allie Mennie. Is that how you say your last name?


Allie: Yep, Mennie.


Julie: Mennie. Allie Mennie. I love it. Allie Mennie with North Shore Doula in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Now let me tell you, when I first saw that she was North Shore Doula, I was thinking about North Shore Doulas in Louisiana in the United States, where we were supposed to go travel to before the coronavirus turned the world upside down. So, completely other country, completely other end of the continent. Well kind of, not really the end of the continent. You’re midway through the continent I suppose. 


But guess what, Allie is really cool because she used to be an alpaca wrangler at a kids’ petting zoo in Los Angeles when she was in high school. I’ve got to tell you, I was not expecting her to say the most valuable lesson that wrangling alpacas taught her for birth work. So, I want her to share that with you. Allie, tell us about wrangling alpacas and birth work.


Allie: Yeah, I find little things that have helped me all throughout my life. I can attribute everything to something. But specifically, wrangling alpacas as a teenager was very stressful for celebrity kids’ parties in Los Angeles. Before every single event that we would put on, I’d have to walk up and bow to the alpacas, so they understood that there was no power struggle. I would bow down so my head was well under theirs and they would give me this look. I’d be like, “Alright. Don’t take a kid’s finger off today. We are on the same page. Here we go.” 


But I say that it gave me very good insight into working with anesthesiologists. “I understand. You are the king in the room. I will bow to you. There is no power struggle here.”


Julie: Yes. Be submissive. That’s awesome. I grew up training horses. Very opposite-- you have to be the dominant one. You face them directly head-on and then they know that they are not supposed to approach you, because that’s a horse’s nature-- the dominant male in the group. If he stands up straight to you, then you’re not supposed to approach him until he turns his shoulder to the side. 


So that’s what we would do. In part of my training, I would face forward, slowly turn my shoulder towards the horse, then have it come up to me and all of those things. It’s funny how opposite that is. That explains maybe why I have a power struggle sometimes in the birth room. Not a power struggle anyone can see, but an internal one.


Allie: You’re like, “Turn your shoulder.”


Julie: Yes. I’ll be like, “I am standing, facing you. Don’t you dare move.” Oh, just kidding. Okay well, kind of. 


Anyways. I am really excited to talk to Mari Vega. Meagan and her have been working together to pick the perfect topic. I’m really sad that Meagan can’t be here today, but I’m really excited that Allie can.

Review of the week

Julie: Before we get to Mari, we are going to have Allie read a review of the week for us.


Allie: Sure thing. This one comes from Mandym826 from Apple Podcasts reviews. She says, “I am preparing for my VBAC in a few weeks and this podcast has taught me so much! I have had many fears and worries about it and the research and birth stories covered in this podcast have helped me stay focused on my goals. I hope to be contacting you, ladies, with my successful VBAC story one day soon! Thanks for all that you do!”


Julie: Oh, I love that. Okay, now my mind is going into stalker mode. That review was left in January and it is now October. What was the name of the reviewer?


Allie: MandyM826.


Julie: Okay. While Mari is talking, I am going to go look for Mandy M. in our Facebook community, see if she’s in our Facebook community, and I can stalk her to see if she had her birth, because it’s fun. I can’t have these types of things without the closure. You can’t just say you want to share your story on the podcast without me wondering if you had your VBAC, or how your birth went.


Allie: We are coming for you, Mandy.


Julie: I love it.

Episode sponsor

Julie: Birth workers, listen up. Do you want to increase your knowledge of birth after a Cesarean? We created our Advanced VBAC Doula Certification Program just for you. It is the most comprehensive VBAC doula training in the world perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced video course. This course is designed for birth workers who want to take their VBAC education to the next level so you can support parents who have had a Cesarean in the most effective ways. We have created a complete system, a step-by-step road map that shows exactly what you need to know in order to support parents birthing after a Cesarean. Head over to thevbaclink.com to find out more information and sign up today. That’s thevbaclink.com. See you there.

Mari’s story

Julie: Well, we are here today and so excited. This has been a long time coming. Mari Vega is an incredible woman. She is on a mission to support women in tapping into their intuition so that they can nurture their entire selves and experience motherhood with confidence. Her personal and professional experiences evoke a deep sense of advocacy to voice the vulnerabilities of womanhood and parenthood. As an author, coach, speaker, and podcaster, Marilys-- is that how you say it?


Mari: You’ve got it so right. Yes, go girl.


Julie: I’m practicing my accent. Marilys gives voice to the raw, vulnerable truths of motherhood and offers coaching and support for breastfeeding and VBAC mamas. Mari has a lot of resources for you on social media. On Instagram, she’s @mari_vega and on Facebook, she is Mari Vega Motherhood.


We’re going to link all of her resources in our show notes. So if you want to find her, just go ahead and scroll to the notes on this podcast episode and click on the links that you find there.


My goodness, we have had such a fun time finding a topic to talk about today on the podcast. I don’t even kind of know what this podcast episode is going to be titled yet. I’m going to name it when we’re done. 


After Mari briefly shares her VBAC story with us, we are going to talk about how we handle VBAC when we feel like everybody’s working against us or everybody’s doubting us, how to cope when we don’t get a VBAC or when we have an unplanned Cesarean and why people kind of shy away from sharing that story. We are going to talk about doulas— being a doula and how to cope when your client doesn’t get her VBAC because we are so emotionally invested and want that VBAC birth for these parents almost as much as they do, and it can be really hard to process through all of those things. So, look forward to all of those things in this episode.


I’m just really excited because these are some things that I don’t necessarily have answers to myself. I’m glad that we’re going to have a discussion about all of these things. So before I keep on rambling-- I’m really hard at making the transition. I feel like I have to have a hard stop and then the other person starts talking, or else I keep on talking because silence is awkward for me. Anyways, Mari, why don’t you go ahead and share with us a little bit about your VBAC birth.


Mari: Yes, so thank you for that wonderful introduction, and Allie, I’m so excited to also get your perspective on this call. Just to quickly add to the introduction, I recently also became certified to be a chapter lead for Northern New Jersey’s ICAN organization. I share that because I’m new to that role and holding space for CBAC mamas has quickly become a big topic for me. So I’m happy that we get to have this conversation today. It feels very timely. 


I guess to set the stage, I had my daughter, my first child, in 2016. I had thought it would take longer to get pregnant, so I don’t think I was emotionally ready. I was 27 years old. I had a lot of friends in their 30’s having trouble getting pregnant and so I thought it would take us a long time. I was in love. I asked my partner, “I want a baby. I don’t want to go through the whole, ‘get engaged to get married, buy a house, have a baby.’ I love you. Are you down for this or not?” And after a few months of thinking, he said, “You know what? I get why you want to try so that we’re not in a position where you’re really upset every month that you don’t get pregnant.”


I wanted it to be a surprise. I remember still being like, “Wow. I didn’t think I’d get pregnant in two months.” That was a big shocker. I don’t know why, but I just went on YouTube or the Internet and I saw a video of one woman having a natural birth and screaming in pain, a video of someone having a Cesarean-- I’ve never had surgery so that looked scary, then I saw a woman look peaceful with medication in a bed, having a baby with an epidural, and I was like, “Well, that looks like a great medium. That’s what I’ll go for.” That was honestly the extent to which I thought through what my labor and delivery could look like. I just assumed that I would have medication to not feel pain and that my baby would flow out of me, and everything would go great.


I get to the day that I’m going to give birth. My water breaks in the middle of the night and I’m having contractions every two minutes. I’m having back labor-- not that I knew any of this vocabulary at the time. I gave birth in New York City, so I was just so happy to go into labor in the middle of the night because traffic jams are just an absolute nightmare in the city. I was like, “Great. We’ll get to the hospital in no time and everything.” 


I get to the hospital. They’re like, “Yeah, you’ve got your water broke. Go ahead. We’re going to admit you.” I’m like, “Give me the epidural. Give me the epidural. Can I get the epidural? I just don’t want to feel pain. I don’t like this pain. It’s too much. It’s too much.”


I get an epidural. I go to sleep. I push for two, two and a half hours and then I’m told I need a Cesarean because my daughter is not coming down, and it will take another eight hours of me pushing for her to come down.


Julie: Oh my gosh. They said that to you?


Mari: Yeah. I was pretty devastated because I had my asthma acting up. I couldn’t even get through-- you know how they ask you to push ten times? I think around breath seven I couldn’t even breathe anymore, so I couldn’t even breathe through my contractions. I was hyperventilating. 


No one offered me oxygen. I look at mom videos sometimes, or their photos and they’re holding the oxygen mask and I’m like, “How is it possible that nobody offered me oxygen in a hospital?”


Like, what? I also delivered at an educational hospital. I have a lot of friends who are studying to be in the medical field and so I thought, “Well, let me be kind and let me agree that I can have students.” I had millions of students coming in, checking me. I had no idea what I was getting into and I had absolutely no privacy. I was full of fear. I was full of anxiety. 


I couldn’t breathe and I was in excruciating pain because the epidural was off. I was 10 centimeters and pushing, from having had full medication to now no medication. I started crying my eyes out and I signed a waiver of release for a Cesarean and I was rolled into the operating room. I had the joy of listening to the OB teach my Cesarean birth to a bunch of students on the other side of the curtain. 


Julie: Oh my gosh. 


Mari: I remember it was horrific. I just remember thinking, “I’m going to die.” I remember I was-- at this point, I had vomited everything I had before getting my epidural and resting. I had probably not eaten for about almost 24 hours. I’d only had water. I was so exhausted. I was so thirsty. I vividly remember looking at my husband and saying at the time, not even having the energy to articulate to him like, “Will you spit in my mouth?” That is how thirsty I was and how low my energy was, where I generally kept thinking, “I’m not going to make it.”


I was shaking. I was cold and my arms were tied down. I kept having a very chipper, cheery college student in my ear saying, “Honey, your vitals are great. You’re not going to die.”


Fast forward to 2020, and the rate of Cesarean and the maternal mortality rate, how it keeps rising in the US. We’re a First World country and we’re number 52 or 53 in the list of countries for maternal mortality. That is absolutely irresponsible. 


We are a first-world country. Why are women dying as a result of birth or pregnancy-related—or in their first year of being a mother. That’s just unacceptable. Actually, knowing the statistics and looking back at that feeling, no wonder that was so hard for me to let go of the feeling that I was going to lose my life. In that moment, that’s what it felt like.


So I share all that just to say that obstetric violence aside and obstetric bullying aside, I also just generally had that fear that I wasn’t going to make it, and so I know that this can’t be life. This is absolutely not what I want in the future.


This is a small detail that I sometimes skip over, but I think it’s important to note. I was asked in front of my two support family members that I brought-- my stepmom was with me and my husband. I was asked in front of them, “Are you being abused at home?” If that was my only opportunity to get help, they just blew it for me.


Allie: Wow.


Julie: Oh, yeah. You know what? I ended up in the ER in the middle of the night a few nights ago for a really, really horrible migraine. I went and got what they call a “migraine cocktail”. That’s the only thing that could save me at that time, but my husband was there, like two feet away from me, answering all my questions. The doctor looked at me-- you know the admittance questions, and he’s like, “Do you feel safe at home?” And I’m like, “Yeah.”


Even in my painful, migraine state, I could know that “Yeah, nobody’s going to say ‘no’ when their husband is two feet in front of them.” I mean, I do feel safe at home for the record, but I just-- yeah.


Mari: For the record, me too. Exactly. But you know, I encourage you to go back and report that because I did at my six-week post-op. I did report that back to the OB and actually, on the spot, he called the hospital teacher and said, “Immediately pull all the students and tell them what I just heard, and that they better not make that mistake again.”


Julie: Wow.


Mari: It did feel good to know that this kind of feedback is important.


Julie: Because who knows who you saved by having that educational moment.


Mari: Yeah, and there’s something about us getting to give the feedback back to the doctors, which I know is kind of what we were thinking we’ll talk about on this episode. But you know, there’s something about giving our feedback to providers whether it’s positive or constructive. These doctors need to be well-informed of how let down we are with the way that they didn’t hold space for us on our ways to VBACs.


That’s, I think, the big thing for me. I had all this rage during my pregnancy and I truly wonder looking back, how much of it was because all these doctors didn’t believe in me. Nobody wants to feel like that from their medical provider. I almost feel like if we can create a campaign to write a letter to your-- you know how they say to write a letter. You don’t need to mail it. You just release your pain. Write a letter to the OB with what they said to you because maybe they will forget the words, but people never forget the feeling-- the way you made them feel. These doctors, they need to get this feedback, and that’s how they are hopefully going to try to turn it around.


Quickly then, just a highlight of my second birth, I ended up getting pregnant two and a half years later. I had, at that time, researched ICAN. I knew the statistics and had found The VBAC Link and The Birth Hour and listened to all the stories. I knew what to do.


When I went to interview midwives, I really wanted to go with them. Financially, it wasn’t wasn’t going to work out because I have pretty awesome insurance, so it was really hard for me to try and go out of pocket and pay thousands when my insurance was going to cover basically everything. I struggled to find in their in-network providers that were supportive. I ended up going with providers that were near my house-- literally a three-minute drive. I was just like, “You know what? I’ll just stay comfortable. I have to see them so often. I’ll just stay nearby.”


From the get, I was told that I had clearly a small pelvis and that if the baby didn’t descend the first time, that my second baby would probably be bigger and probably also not descend. My first child was 8 lbs. 8 oz. and failure to descend when you’re at stage -2-- it was pretty condescending to say it was due to a small pelvis because baby wasn’t even in the birth canal. Ready to pop out-- I do know that for some women when you say for a fact, it’s because you saw it. You know what I mean?


How dare you say something like that, but anyways. He was really VBAC tolerant, not friendly. He was like, “Well, if you go into labor by your due date-- because we can’t induce you. If you go into labor by your due date and if everything goes the way. The best bet for you, I’ll let you push for one hour and then you have to get a C-section.” I was like, “What are you talking about?” So I’m like, “Alright, let me just wish for the best.”


It was Christmas Eve and I was coming for my 22 or 20-week appointment and a new provider-- because they have like, five providers. One of them, she came to me and she’s like, “Well, let’s read through your paperwork.” And so she’s like, “Is this your name?” Yes. “Is this your date of birth?” Yeah. “I see here it says you’ve elected a Cesarean.”


And I flipped out. I’m like, “I’ve literally talked about VBAC—"


Julie: Oh my gosh!


Mari: Yeah. I’m like, “Who wrote that? Did the doctor write that?” And she’s like, “Ma’am, sometimes we make mistakes. That’s the purpose of reviewing the paperwork with you.” And I was like, “Yeah, but I have said VBAC till I’m blue in the face, so for anyone to write the words ‘elective Cesarean’ in my paperwork is just plain disrespectful. I need to leave this practice. Please check my baby and get out of my face. Like I can’t. I can’t. Like I remember—"


Julie: Good for you. You know, one of my friends that’s a fellow doula-- sorry to interrupt.


Mari: Go ahead.


Julie: For her first birth, she was wheeled into the operating room, screaming that she did not want a Cesarean. Her doctor wrote on her op report that it was an elective Cesarean, that she chose it. Does that not just light your fire?


Mari: These are the types of things. These are the kinds of things. We have to go back. We have to go back and advocate for ourselves, even after the fact.


Yeah, so that made me switch providers. I spent all Christmas and New Year’s looking for a new provider. I find a new provider and I switched to that office. They’re like, “Yep. We are super VBAC friendly. We’ve got you. We’ve got you.” And I go, “Okay.”


At my 30 week appointment, they want to book my C-section, “just in case”. I said, “You know, I can understand that. I can understand that, however, I’m not booking it.” A lady still calls me and I said, “Okay, you know what? I’m comfortable with this particular date that’s six days after my due date, just because if I’m going to end up with a Cesarean, then I at least want the date to mean something to me.” That date meant something to me. It was my great grandma‘s birthday. She had passed many years ago. But I was like, “You know what? If I have to have a Cesarean, then give me until—" and it was almost 41 weeks. I was comfortable with this particular date.


Well, she has a vacation. “She’s not going to be around, so I can’t give you that date. We have to go sooner.” I was like, “Okay, sure.” I set up the appointment. I hung up. I went to an ICAN meeting and said, “When you start to assume that you’re just not going to show up to your Cesarean appointment, should I switch doctors?”


They’re like, “Yeah. You really shouldn’t just not show up. That’s a sign that you probably should switch again.” I’m like, “Yeah, but I’m 30 something weeks pregnant. My husband‘s going to think I’m crazy because my husband-- he just lets me do my thing, but his family is very much pro-Cesarean. In fact, on Christmas day, they decided to remind me that I should be selfless and get a Cesarean to not make this about myself. That was really a wonderful Christmas present. Oh gosh, they’re going to hear this and be like, “That’s not what we said.”


But anyway, ultimately at the end of the day, they had a natural birth with their first child and things didn’t go as planned. She has lived a certain life because of that with certain limitations. They’re just saying, “Why would you even risk having something go wrong in the birth canal? A C-section is clearly much easier. You can ensure your baby won’t have any trauma.”


I don’t blame them. People just assume that a baby having to go through the birth canal is traumatic. Meanwhile, that entire time your body is letting them know that something is going to happen. You don’t think it’s traumatic that you’re chilling there and then somebody just rips you out of your warmth?


Julie: Yes, yes!


Mari: You’re in mommy’s belly and you’re like, “What is going on?!”


I mean, it’s also how things are marketed. I think we’re all-- if you’re listening to this and if you’re tuning into the VBAC link if you’re a doula if you’re in the birth world, you know the marketing tactics that have gone into why people think this way. So I can’t even blame them because they have been conditioned to think this way.


Julie: Well, and that’s the thing too that I think sometimes we forget. Our family members, they love us and they want the best for us. They want the best for our babies. They think that they are coming at you from a place of love and concern, and they are. They probably are coming at you from a place of love and concern. They’re just not educated about the things that you are.


Mari: Exactly. This process alone, going for a VBAC is such an amazing process because regardless of VBAC or not, at the end of the day you advocated for yourself. You educated yourself. You did all the things. You left your comfort zone. You fought a doctor. You discussed it with family members.


All these things help you grow and help you become resilient. At the end of the day the process in itself-- I wish I didn’t have to be this way. I think we’re all in our own ways working to change that, but it is a process that did help me grow a lot in my life and it’s probably one of the most resilient stories I could ever tell.


I guess just to wrap that up, I did go to an ICAN meeting. It happened to be a very popular meeting that day. We had like 10 or 12 women and usually, we only had like 3 or 4. It was all of us in the room. Some of them were on their second VBAC, third baby, fourth baby. It was so empowering. I left and the next day, I called the best provider in the area known for taking women-- allowing them to switch super late in their pregnancies. It was a midwife. Something had changed, where it was later in the year so I had met my deductible and they could take me without charging me more. Everything just worked out.


I let them call the provider and break up with them for me. The provider called me and said, “Oh my gosh, are you leaving us because we scheduled you your Cesarean?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” They’re like, “Well, we can just cancel it.” And I was like, “That’s not the point.”


Allie: That’s not the point. Exactly.


Mari: “You showed your colors. That’s not the point.” Are you serious? They tried to keep me, you guys. How crazy is that?


Julie: People don’t realize that they don’t have to have that conversation with their provider. Their new provider can just call and get the records from them. They don’t even have to talk to them.


Mari: FYI, exactly. All you’ve got to do is sign a release form. They send that release form and it shows right there in black ink, “Send me my forms. I’m breaking up with you.” So that was nice.


I ended up going into labor the same way as my first labor. In the middle of the night, my water broke. I Immediately started having back labor again— back labor meaning, I didn’t have contractions in my belly. It was all in my back as if someone was breaking an ax on my back. But this time I still went in the shower. I was doing goddess pose with the shower hot water on my back. I had essential oils. I had my HypnoBirthing music.


I brought the yoga ball into the shower. Yeah, that was not a good idea, I actually fell off of it. It was very painful. I was bouncing on it, the water shifted, and I bounced down, which, I can’t even believe I did that and survived. I’m in there the whole time. I call my doula. She comes. My husband takes my daughter to someone who is going to watch her for us. I’m begging to go to the hospital because I am like, “I’m not going to make it. I’m going to the epidural. Sorry guys, I’m going to need the epidural. This back labor is crazy. Let’s go to the hospital.”


We go to the hospital around 8:00 a.m. When we get to the hospital, I’m about 4 centimeters and I wanted to be 5. Last time I was 3 centimeters. I was like, “Okay well, at least I know that I am progressing, so I’m proud of myself.”


I know the epidural will take time, so at least I know that the epidural is coming because my contractions are too much right now. I’m in the hospital. It takes two hours to get the epidural. When they come to give me the epidural, I’m 7 centimeters and I’m like, “Oh my god. I am progressing. Thank goodness.”


So I’m 7 centimeters. I take the epidural. Of course, it slows things down, but I’m using a peanut ball. I’m taking a nap and I’m switching-- I am in goddess pose on the bed, and all this stuff.


When it’s time to push, I make a fear-based decision. I want to highlight that fear-based decisions have no place in your birth. You need to leave the fear at the door. You need to process the fear during your pregnancy and face it all, because right when it was time to push and I felt all the pressure, I hit the epidural button. It hit me so much medicine that it paused my birth for three hours. I couldn’t feel anything. I couldn’t feel anything, so I couldn’t push.


They talked to me and we hung out until I got the urge to push and felt something again. Then, for three hours, my son was in my pelvis. While I could touch his hair, I couldn’t push him out. For three hours. Luckily, I learned later on, that when you touch a baby’s head, it calms their heartbeat. It can help keep them calm. So, I was touching his head to motivate myself to push harder, but thank goodness for three hours, he was my little champ. His heart was just perfect. It never decelerated. They were calm letting me keep trying.


I had a full, women staff. It just happened to be that everybody was a woman that day. The woman OB on the clock comes in and she’s like, “I’m giving her 15 minutes, and then she needs to get a Cesarean.” I’ve never met this woman and I’m like, “Oh my god.”


My midwives have been texting the back-up doctor. She’s somewhere else trying to rush over to me because she’s willing to assist me. Because the midwives can’t step in and do-- what they wanted to do to me, was an episiotomy and a vacuum-assist.


People feel very different ways. There are different, varying opinions about that. I was comfortable with the research that I did that if I needed to do that, I’d be comfortable with it. Ultimately, she flew in, literally five minutes before they were going to pull me into the OR. She was like, “Alright mama. Do you consent?”


I want to say this very clearly. She asked for my consent.


I said, “Yes. I consent to an episiotomy and a vacuum-assist.” Five pushes later, my son was here.


When I pulled my son up-- by the way there was meconium. They knew that there might be meconium. But when I pulled my son up-- so many women talk about that moment. I cry every single birth story I listen to. I listened to like, every VBAC Link story and every Birth Hour story. I always cried when they’re like, “I pulled my baby,” and I thought, “To this day, I don’t remember that moment.” I just remember, “I did it. I effing did it. I effing did it. F all those doctors who said I couldn’t do it.” That’s all I was saying in the hospital room. That’s all I was thinking.


They take my baby and they’re checking him. I asked somebody, probably my doula, “Can I get my phone?” And I decide-- this is 15 minutes after. I’m delivering my placenta and they’re stitching me up. I decide to take a video because I never wanted to forget that moment in my life. I decided to take a video. It’s a 15-second video and it’s basically just me, cursing at the doctors the whole time being like, “I told you, I could I effing do it. I am so effing proud of myself.”


Julie: Did you put that on Instagram in your stories? I am pretty sure we’ve heard it. I have seen that video. Is that how we met?


Mari: That is how we met. So, yes.


Julie: Oh, I love it.


Allie: I love that.


Mari: I think we will definitely share this video.


Julie: Yeah. I’m pretty sure we need to re-post or upload to our IGTV, or your IGTV. It’s probably on yours. Oh gosh, yes.


Mari: Oh my god, I know. It was amazing. A few months postpartum I decided to post just 5 seconds of me cursing instead of 15 seconds of me cursing, but I posted it. It blew up. I got so much support from women all over. January Harshe was in the comments defending me. Women, who are like, “Ew, why she cursing?” She was like, “That’s what you feel like!”


Julie: Exactly!


Mari: I was like, “Oh my gosh! I literally feel so good right now.” She’s a goddess! I was fangirling. You guys were shouting me out. Birth Hour was shouting me out. I was like, “Oh my god, I made it. I made it in the birth world! People know my VBAC story.” To this day, I still get DM‘s from having that full story on The Birth Hour.


That’s my story. Honestly, I think a lot about that moment. I’ve deemed myself a VBAC unicorn, so I created #VBACUnicorns to help us unite as women of strength who got through such a difficult experience. I want to celebrate being the unicorn that the doctors told us we couldn’t be.


Julie: I love it. I love it so much. I love the VBAC unicorn but also, it makes me feel sad. Let me explain though because it’s sad that it has to be such a rare thing. Such a thing that people don’t believe in, and such a thing that you’re looked at like some special creature after you have your VBAC. It’s amazing. It’s such a good feeling. You triumph and you have this victory over these providers, the naysayers, and your family or friends maybe who didn’t support you, and that’s a really powerful feeling, but it’s sad that it has to be that way. I don’t know. I just—does that make sense?

The unheard CBAC mom 

Mari: Oh, absolutely. It makes sense. It’s even sadder when you are advocating and helping women on their way to their VBAC and then when they end up having a Cesarean for one reason or another, it creates this distance between women who were on a journey together and suddenly, “my journey veered right and yours veered left.” There are all of these unsaid feelings and emotions around that.


I want it to be made very clear that if you’re listening to this and you end up having a CBAC or you’re listening to this because you had a CBAC, I want you to know, when you don’t get your VBAC, a Cesarean is not a reflection of how hard you worked, or whether you did the right thing or the wrong thing. You don’t need to have done anything wrong to have a Cesarean. Your body did not fail you. Use your “best friend voice” with yourself. You wouldn’t tell your best friend, “Your body is a failure. You failed.” So don’t use that terminology with yourself.


Julie: I think that’s really important. When I first became a doula, I thought I knew everything. Just like when, with my first pregnancy, going into my first birth. I thought I knew everything. I was so confident and I was like, “Yes. I am here to rule the world. I was made to do this.”


The more births I’ve been to, the more I realize that I am never done learning. Every birth that I go to teaches me something. One thing that I have learned is that a lot of birth is preparation and intuition, but a lot of it is also luck. Sometimes luck is not on your side and something happens. Sometimes it’s easy to see and we have answers. We can say, “Oh my gosh, yes. That’s what happened and that’s why I needed a Cesarean.”


Sometimes there are no answers. Sometimes it’s just bad luck and you have zero control over that. It’s really, really a hard place to be in when you did everything you possibly could or everything you even knew to do, and still end up with a repeat Cesarean.


I really want to segue into all of the things right now, but I’m not quite sure where I want to take this. Let’s talk about the CBAC mom and the unheard CBAC mom. What have you seen with that? I remember you told me a story before we started recording about one of your ICAN parents about after they had their CBAC.


Mari: Yeah. I facilitated a conversation between two CBAC mamas. One mama who-- around 37 weeks pregnant, due to her blood pressure, had to actually just get a C-section right away. She didn’t even get that opportunity to go through labor and she also didn’t get to labor with her first birth.


She cried out all of her feelings and she went for her CBAC and it was what it was, right? But she articulated feeling confident in her decision knowing this time around, having asked all the questions, understanding the benefits, risks, and alternatives. She felt empowered going into her CBAC. The mindset really helps in the process.


Versus another mother who was 42 weeks pregnant and had done all the things, and on her 42nd week, was walking into the hospital to have her Cesarean. She really tried until the bitter end. It was two months postpartum and she still hadn’t told anyone. She hadn’t talked about her birth. Obviously, we knew, because usually, like you were saying before, we start stalking them to see if they had their baby or not.


Julie: Yeah, we need closure.


Mari: We need closure.


Julie: Not to make it about us, because it’s not about us, but we wonder and are concerned.


Mari: Not at all about us, but because we want to hold space for them, right? Not so much because we’re like, “Did you get your VBAC? Let’s check the box.” But more so because we want to hold space for them. We know it’s a very delicate time and it’s something that you can’t hide. You know, everything else that happens to you is something you can hide, but a baby is something that is physically, outwardly-- it appears. You have people in your face and you’re also still processing, and you can’t hide anywhere. We all know. Your baby can’t be in there for 12 months, so we know you had your baby.


So I said, “Cara, listen. Are you going to come to the next ICAN meeting? I’m going to make it all about CBAC because I want everybody to be able to also process their CBAC.” A lot of our conversations in ICAN are about VBAC only because we are serving that kind of community and that’s the women coming in the door. It doesn’t mean that we don’t do education and support for a Cesarean birth and talk about birth trauma, but predominantly a lot of VBAC mamas come to our meeting.


And so, she genuinely thought that she wasn’t welcome back because she didn’t have a VBAC. I said, “Of course, you are welcome. We are first and foremost education and support for Cesarean birth. We are not first and foremost only for VBAC.”


But it really got me thinking that if that’s the impression that she got, how many other women who got their CBAC and therefore didn’t return to these spaces that before that were circles of strength for them and support?


We’re still all the same. We’re still mamas just wanting to advocate for our wants and desires for our bodies. But ultimately, every baby makes a decision of how they’re going to enter this Earth. And so, I think that’s what we all wanted to talk about.


Now I’m curious, I know Allie has been an active listener--


Julie: Yeah, I know. I was just going to ask her.

Processing a CBAC as a doula


Mari: Yeah. As a doula, Allie, how have you held space or how do you process throughout that when you’re dealing with your clients who have CBACs?


Allie: I think one of the biggest things that I took out of my VBAC Link training was sort of separating-- even just the acronym, VBAC, is full of outcomes. We are immediately defining outcomes. I think one of the most amazing things I got out of my training through VBAC Link was really breaking it down from that and understanding that there’s empowerment in any birth outcome. Any birth outcome can be a positive birth.


And so, when I’m working with clients and it’s becoming a CBAC, we do a lot of positive affirmations, and a lot of slowing things down, and bringing it all back to, “This isn’t a rush. We have time to process this stuff.”


Julie was saying earlier something about how when you started out as a doula and you had all these thoughts. It was like the same-- when I first started out as a doula, one of the first births I ever attended was a Cesarean. I was so nervous. We had labored for 40 hours and it was this whole thing. When the OB came in to consult with the midwife and with my client, I asked for everybody to clear the room. I turned out the lights and played their worship music, and just left the room and let them have their conversation.


She went for her Cesarean. Her epidural was garbage and they didn’t do a spinal, so she ended up under general. She didn’t see baby for five hours. I was with dad that whole time. She finally came out and I was just like, “This is the worst thing in the world.” And she was like, “This was the most beautiful experience. This was amazing.”


It was really just one of those times where it flipped something in my head to stop obsessing over outcomes and start obsessing over people’s feelings in the moment.


Like you said, you made a fear-based decision. I want to be supporting people in the moment to not be in that place in their mind that they’re going to that kind of decision making. I want to go back to your story though, Mari. One of the things that I really took away was the fact that you said, “I didn’t know anything my first time. I didn’t know anything. I watched these three YouTube videos and tried to compare at all,” but you did!


You knew so much because you knew when you felt like you were dying. And you knew what was not okay when they asked you, “Is there abuse at home?” with family members in the room. You knew so much. We know so much instinctually. And so, I think you need to give yourself some credit there. For sure.


Mari: Oh my god, Allie. You’re going to make me cry. You’re so nice, thank you.


Allie: I loved that part though when you said that, because I feel like as doulas and as birth workers, we don’t know a lot of stuff. I just peruse through The Birth Partner when I’ve got nothing else to do and I’m drinking my coffee in the morning, but there are also things that you can’t read in any book that are just instinctual to us. You had so much of that in your first birth.


Even though you had more, maybe “knowledge” behind you in your second, and you switched providers, and you knew how to advocate for yourself, and kept trying to find the person that was going to work for you, in the first you knew so much. You knew so much to actually take it to the next level and report people. I honestly-- I am in such awe of you. You’re such an inspiration. It was so wonderful to hear your story. Thank you for sharing.

“Everything Left Unsaid” project


Mari: Thank you for having me. This conversation needs to continue. I don’t know how you guys feel about this, because The VBAC Link is your platform, but you know to the mama hearing this and resonating with this story, I think we should all write that letter to either the birth we wished we had, or that letter to the unsaid things that weren’t said to that doctor, or throughout that experience so that we can release all that shame that we carry, and sometimes all that sorrow that comes with the outcome that wasn’t what you desired.


That way, it can allow us to focus on what we did know and what we did experience. I always try to remember, “Sorrow prepares you for joy.” We have to feel the sorrow and release it. I am personally going to write a letter that I’m probably never going to mail. But I’m going to write a letter to all those doctors who said I couldn’t do it. I do encourage women to do that. If we get a bunch of letters, I would love to read them all. It could be so healing.


Julie: We should do an episode where we just read letters that these women write to their doctors, but obviously don’t include their personal information or whatever. Oh my gosh, let’s do it. Let’s get back together.


Allie: I’m literally having a letdown thinking about this right now.


Julie: Obviously, we’re going to have to kick Meagan off the episode because she was not here for the decision. No, we’ll have you back Allie. We’ll have Mari back and we’ll have Meagan. Let’s spread across our platforms. Allie, you too, and Mari. Let’s ask women to email us their letters. They don’t have to include details. They don’t have to go through their personal information. They can even make up their own Gmail address that’s completely anonymous and send it to us. And we can read that letter.


So if you know me at all, then you know I love giving homework to my clients. I am giving homework to every single person listening to this episode right now and your homework is:


Write a letter of the things you wish you would have said, or wish you could say, to your provider’s face about how-- anything about your feelings about how your birth went.


About how the things that they said hurt you, or about how-- Meagan, after her birth, the first words out of her mouth after her VBA2C was, “Screw you, Dr. Blank,” because I’m not going to throw anybody under the bus, even as much as we would want to. She said, “Screw you, Dr. Blank,” who told her, “Good luck out there. Nobody’s going to want you.”


She just said, “Screw you.” Even if it’s just that short, then email it to us at info@thevbaclink.com or you can send it to us on Facebook or Instagram, or Mari-- any of her connections that we are linking down below. Get us the letters and we are going to do an episode where we read these letters. We’ll probably talk a lot about them too, to be honest.


Mari: Absolutely, absolutely. I see that being such a healing process because at the end of the day, everything left unsaid is going to keep festering inside of you. And you know, I just want women to live motherhood with joy, but there are so many things that keep us from our joy, so I love this. Thank you for collaborating with me on it.


Julie: Yes. “Everything Left Unsaid.” That’s all we’re going to call the episode. Not this one. This one is going to be called something else, but our episode where we read all the letters-- it’s going to be called “Everything Left Unsaid.” I’ll write my letter. Mari, you write your letter. Allie, are you a VBAC mom, or do you want to write a letter to anybody? Any provider? Your provider or providers maybe you’ve seen because there are a couple providers of births that I have attended that I would really like to write letters to. Do it.


Allie: Oh, I’ve definitely got ideas.


Julie: Done. Okay. Let’s ready, break. And then we will meet back-- let’s see. I’m trying to plan this out so that everyone listening now can know when this is going to be coming. Let’s see if I can actually block it out right now. It’s kind of far because we are recording, so we don’t have to record anything through the holidays. It would probably be the end of January, like January 20th. I’m putting it in my spreadsheet now.


It is officially known that January 20th, the episode that will air then shall be called “Everything Left Unsaid.” We will read all of the letters. Send them to Mari. Send them to me. Send them to Allie. Send them to Meagan. Get them to us anyway, however ways you want and we are going to hash it out.


Allie: I’ll make a box on my contact on my website and link it in my bio so you don’t even have to put an email address in.


Julie: Perfect. I’m going to figure out some way to do that on our end as well. (Inaudible) does our website right now. I don’t have to do it anymore and it makes me happy, but then I’m like, “Wait, how would I do that now?” Oh, “Everything Left Unsaid.” I love it. Oh my gosh, yes. This is going to be really powerful.


I’ve got a couple of things I’ve got to do to wrap up the episode. First of all, Allie, thank you so much for being my co-host. I’m so glad to have you on here and your insight, and we are going to be welcoming you back. Block it out, January 20th  everybody and then Allie, people in Canada. Vancouver. North Vancouver, right?


Allie: Yep.


Julie: How do they contact you?


Allie: Yes. So, I am on Instagram @nsdoula and nsdoula.com if you want to get in touch with me. Thanks so much for having me on. This was really amazing and Mari, again, thank you so much for sharing your story. It was just so wonderful and beautiful to listen to. I’m not lying when I say I think my bra is soaked. (Inaudible) no, I’m like, “Oxytocin!”


Mari: That’s hilarious. Thank you so much.


Julie: I love it. Again, echoing what Allie said. Mari, you are amazing. Oh my gosh, I am so, so glad that you made that video because that video has brought so many good things to the birth space and it’s even still doing good right now, and on January 20th, and whenever we record in January, and it’s powerful.


You are powerful and I hope that you, and every other person who has given birth by unplanned Cesarean, can look back and see that there is strength and find some strength in their story even if they don’t feel anything but miserable about it right now, because no matter how your babies are brought into this world, you are an incredible woman of strength and you did some really, really amazing work. We are all proud of you for that. So, Mari. How can people find you? Again, we are going to link everything to both of you guys in the show notes.


Mari: Absolutely. Well, thank you both so much for having me and for your kind words, both of you. I could be reached on my website, which is www.marivega.me, or on Instagram @mari_vega. And again, Facebook was Mari Vega Motherhood. Thank you so much for having me.


Julie: Perfect, and thank you. Again, guys, you can find that information in the show notes, and stay tuned. January 20th is the day. Send us your letters to any three of us or email them to info@thevbaclink.com.


Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Head over to thevbaclink.com/share and submit your story. For all things VBAC, including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Julie and Meagan’s bios, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.

Can crying really help solve prodromal labor? Is it possible that an emotional release can suddenly turn manageable contractions into full-blown pushing? YES! 


Listen to our friend, Liz, share her incredible surprise HBAC story that will reinforce your confidence in the power of a woman’s ability to birth. Liz was prepared to birth at the hospital without her husband due to COVID restrictions, but her baby had other plans. 


She says, “I got to have my baby in this completely natural way that I didn’t even realize how much I needed. I went from having a birth where I had literally zero control, zero-knowledge, and everyone else telling me what to do, and then a birth where I caught my own baby, suction bulbed him, and walked out carrying him while he was still attached to me. It’s so incredibly empowering.” 


We also discuss specific ways to find fears within yourself and how to release them. 

There truly is physical power in just letting go.


Additional links

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents

The VBAC Link Blog: How to Turn Prodromal Labor into Active Labor

VBAC Without Fear: Five Minute Fear Release Video

Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds by Cynthia Gabriel


Episode sponsor

This episode is sponsored by our signature course, How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents, that you can find at thevbaclink.com. It is the most comprehensive VBAC preparation course in the world, perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced, video course. 


Together, Meagan and Julie have helped over 800 parents get the birth that they wanted and they are ready to help you too. Head on over to thevbaclink.com to find out more and sign up today. 

Full transcript

Note: All transcripts are edited to eliminate false starts and filler words.


Julie: Happy Wednesday, women of strength. We are really excited for our story today, as usual. I don’t think we’re ever not excited about anything, really. But today we have a really cool story. We just love our friend, Liz. Her story is really, really exciting because it was an unplanned, unassisted home birth after Cesarean and I’m dying to hear all of the details of this story.


Liz is from Houston, Texas and she is the mother of two boys. Her youngest boy’s name is the same as my oldest boy’s name. I thought that was really, really cool. They have a dog and she’s a Montessori teacher. What is that like right now?


Liz: Oh my god, to add more stress to the situation, right? We are still doing it virtually right now and it’s pretty wild because, in Montessori, you’re teaching three different levels. Not only are you teaching three different levels, but then every individual child has their own path that they’re on. And trying to do that via Zoom-- it keeps you on your toes. But thank God I’ve been doing it for a while. It’s a good challenge. It’s keeping me busy.


Review of the week


Julie: Oh my goodness. Well, we can’t wait to hear your story, but before we get into it, I am going to read the review of the week. The review of the week this time is from Jill Dash. It’s actually a Google review. If you didn’t know, you can find us on Google. Just search for The VBAC Link and our business will pop up on the right side. You can click there and leave a review for us if you do not have Apple Podcasts. Or if you do, that would be awesome too.


Jill Dash on Google says, “I started listening to the VBAC Link about four weeks before my due date, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Knowing I couldn't have a doula at my birth or attend in-person birth classes, I was desperate for as much knowledge as I could gain from the internet. I listened to The VBAC Link on my nightly walks as I prepared for my own birth and was so inspired, encouraged, and comforted by hearing everyone's stories. I love how supportive Julie and Meagan are of their guests and of everyone's stories. There is so much to learn from this podcast! Thank you for existing.”


Oh, my gosh. Jill Dash, thank YOU for existing. Thank you so much for writing this Google review. I know we probably say it all the time, but when we get reviews— Monday, we get our podcast reviews, all of them in our inbox. Whenever you leave a review on Google, it pops up at that time you leave it in our notifications. It really does bring a smile to our faces. I know it has turned my day around more than once for sure. It makes the harder things about running a business like this a little bit more bearable when we get those really awesome reviews.


So thanks again Jill Dash and everyone else who has left a review. If you haven’t already, go ahead to Apple Podcasts, Google or even head over on Facebook and leave us a rating. Let us know how The VBAC Link is helping you on your birth journey or as a birth worker.

Episode sponsor

Julie: Do you want a VBAC but don’t know where to start? It’s easy to feel like we need to figure it all out on our own. That’s what we used to do and it was the loneliest and most ineffective thing we have ever done. That’s why Meagan and I created our signature course, How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents, that you can find at thevbaclink.com. It is the most comprehensive VBAC preparation course in the world, perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced, video course. 


Together, Meagan and I have helped over 800 parents get the birth that they wanted and we are ready to help you too. Head on over to thevbaclink.com to find out more and sign up today. That’s thevbaclink.com. See you there. 

Liz’s story

Julie: Alright. Well, you guys. I don’t even know enough details about this story to even start telling the story for her. I guess that’s a good thing, but I’m going to turn it over to Liz to start sharing her story with us. I am going to be sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to hear the details of this really exciting story. So go ahead and take it away.


Liz: Cool. I think it’s important to tell the highlights of the birth of my first son first. My older son is almost exactly two years older than my son who was just born. They’re two years and six days apart. 


With my older son, first, off he was “late”, which, as someone who’s been through pregnancy and birth twice now understanding that that’s no big deal, but when you’re in your first pregnancy, it can seem like the longest amount of time ever. I had an OB who seemed to be pretty pro-natural birth and then throughout the time of my pregnancy, it became more clear that she was not as supportive of that and letting things run its natural course as I was hoping.


I had found a doula who I think was really not much of a doula. She was a wonderful massage therapist but when it came to knowing me, having a relationship with me, giving me advice on anything, I didn’t really have that.


Meagan: This sounds like Julie‘s first doula. 


Liz: Yeah?


Julie: My husband calls her the most expensive foot rub I’ve ever had because she rubbed my feet for an hour in labor. I mean, she was great. She’s a nice person. She’s not a doula anymore. I think I was her last birth so she might have been like, “I’m out of here,” after that. 


Liz: It’s funny that you say that. I feel like this was kind of the end of the run as well. I’ll get more into it as I talk about my experience with my second son, but it’s one of those things that if you don’t have frame of reference, you’re like, “Well, I guess this is how it works,” if you don’t have a lot of other people that you can go and talk to. 


She had a lot of boundaries around being a doula in that I was only to see her one time and if my labor went over a certain amount of time then that would cost exponentially more. There was a lot of stress going on. 


Oh gosh, this was the other thing. It would cost more for her to come to my house first and labor with me at home and then go to the hospital with me as well, which was a pretty weird thing considering the fact that we lived down the street from each other. 


Meagan: I was going to say, was she in another super far away city? What?


Liz: No. We’re literally in the same neighborhood and we live in the medical district.


With that all being said, I didn’t have a lot of guidance. With my first son, I experienced a lot of— what I came to have found out as prodromal labor. Laboring at night, going through the whole process of contractions that feel very legitimate and have patterns, but then waking up in the morning and your body just going, “Well, it’s time to go back to work, right?” and slowing down again. 


That went on for a while until I went into what seemed like full-on labor. I’m texting my doula. She texted me back. We are talking about it and then get to the “five minutes for an hour” situation.


I go to the hospital and I am not even near ready to be even admitted. I don’t even think I was 2 centimeters. They sent me back home and they said, “Don’t even come until you are two minutes apart because you’re so close. You’re going to have lots of time.”


That was really good advice. Hours went by. They got closer. I’ll get into it more when I’m talking about my second birth, but these were totally manageable contractions. Were they contractions? Sure. Was I needing to moan through them or bend over? Not even close. I think that that’s notable.

Meagan: Did your doula give you any advice? Like, “Yeah, I think it’s time to go,” or “Actually, I think it would be beneficial to do this, this, and this and then reassess,” or anything like that?


Liz: No. She was very hard to get a hold of and you’ll understand why in a minute. It was just like, “Okay, we’ll go if you want to.” 


I go back and I am barely a 3 when they admit me. Once I get admitted, I text her and I’m like, “Hey I’m here. Ready for you when you’re ready to come.” And then she decides that now is the time to tell me that she’s in another birth.


Meagan: Okay, so not being totally honest along the way.


Liz: Right. With anyone, I try to consider that they’re coming from a good place, so she was probably trying to not upset me.


Meagan: Yeah, I could see that. But at the same time, being honest is good.


Liz: 100%. So the deal was, if this were to happen because this happens all the time as y’all know as people who work in the birth industry, you’d have backups, right? But instead of a backup doula, she sent one of her massage therapists which was awesome and felt nice, but this person didn’t have a lot of experience when it came to birth stuff.


I am actually backing up and remembering that I went into labor the day that they were going to induce me because I was “late”. We get to the hospital. Of course, all the checking in, everything, labor stalls like it totally does all the time. This is when I found out that my OB was really not on board because she goes, “We were already going to induce you today, so we might as well just start some Pitocin.”


Julie: What?!


Liz: “We might as well start some Pitocin because you’re not in full labor.” She then decides to tell me that she has to leave soon-- you guys are going to love this-- because she had to get her windshield of her car repaired.


Julie: Okay. Do you know what? I guess nothing because I am at a loss for words. I thought I had words, but I just don’t have words. That makes my skin crawl. It just makes all doulas look bad.


Liz: No, this is the OB, not the doula.


Julie: Oh shoot, okay.


Meagan: It’s just unique. This is the frustrating thing. Obviously, doulas and providers are all different, but this just happened the other day with a client of mine. I was going to her birth. She called her provider. Her provider’s phone went right to voicemail and was like, “Here, call this person. I am out of town.”


She was like, “I literally saw this person yesterday and she said nothing about this.” I don’t know why, but that frustrated me so much because as a doula, a provider, and a person on call-- I’ll just say, it’s hard to be on call, but at the same time it’s really important if you’re going to have that profession. It’s important to take it seriously. Be honest and open, not just not show up. Do you know what I mean? It’s just frustrating.


Liz: I think their thing is that when you’ve worked in a profession especially like healthcare for so long, you don’t even realize that it’s the other person‘s first experience with it. So you’re like, “Yeah well, I’m going on vacation because whatever”. Not excusing this, but more just understanding that this happened a lot to me. With nurses, even just the way people would talk about your birth and your experiences. It’s so new, fresh, and terrifying to you in so many ways and you’re not even on their radar.


Meagan: You’re like, “Listen this is my first time. These things are scary. I’ve never done this. It’s all new. Please talk in a gentle way.”


Liz: Right, totally. I did not know and this is not my bad, but just a new experience. I didn’t do all this research on all of these other things because it never occurred to me that they would happen. I never researched Pitocin and what that would do because I was like, “Oh, well I’m just going to have a natural birth with this doula and everything‘s going to be fine.” Which, yeah.


Pitocin kicks in and it’s terrible. The IV popped out of my vein and infiltrated my arm. I had all of the liquid going through my arm instead of into my vein.


Meagan: Were you just puffing up?


Liz: It was terribly painful. It made the contractions look like nothing. Everything goes terribly. I’m done. I’ve been in labor for a good amount of time now, probably 12 to 15 hours or something. Doula finally shows up and I’m at my peak. I’m already on Pitocin. I’ve already had this infiltration. 


Oh, and my OB told me that I only had a 40% chance of giving birth naturally because my son hadn’t dropped yet. There was so much stuff thrown at me. 


Meagan: What?! Because he hadn’t dropped yet? You weren’t even…


Liz: Yeah, it was bad. She got there and I was like, “I’m done. I’m done. I want an epidural. I’ve hit my peak.”


Anyhow, long story short, I had my son in the most common, over-told story like, “Goes into distress because that’s what happens all the time when this set of interventions gets thrown into play” and ended up with an emergency C-section which I never prepared for. I don’t think I was too emotionally broken by it because, at the end of the day, I just wanted everyone to be safe. He was there and it was wonderful, but I didn’t realize how painful a C-section is and I didn’t realize how completely unable I would be to walk and do things.


Notably, my husband was in a cast in his right arm at the time. I just did not have the support that I needed. So that’s that story. Kid was fine. Everything was fine, but it was very “meh” at the end of the day.


Meagan: Man, I am sorry that you had frustrating things like that. That’s just so hard.


Liz: I am grateful that everyone was okay. I’m grateful that— I don’t know. I mean, I could sit here forever and talk about how terrible and horrible it was. And it was. There were traumatic moments of it. And those-- I didn’t even realize I was so upset by it until I got very close to having the birth of my second son.


But what I can say, is that what was more important, is you should research every kind of possible situation that could happen to you and birth because so often, things could go in all of these different ways. I just wasn’t prepared and I didn’t have the support. I didn’t have anyone on my side. My dear husband just wants me to not be in pain, right? So he’s going to do anything I say.


Meagan: Right, yeah. This is something that we talk about on the podcast all the time because we share stories of all types. We share VBAC, CBAC, we share uterine rupture. We really share all types of stories. We have had people write to us and say that it actually upsets them that we share these stories. We talk about it and say that the reason we share these stories is because we want to prepare you in all the ways. So no, you don’t have to listen to this story at all, but it’s important because we also felt like we were there too. We didn’t plan on having a C-section. C-section wasn’t even in the midst of what we were imagining. I’m sure Julie didn’t plan on getting preeclampsia. That wasn’t her plan.


Julie: I was superwoman when I was pregnant until I wasn’t.


Meagan: Right. I also didn’t know the difference between a VBAC supportive versus a VBAC tolerant provider. There are so many things along the way that I think it’s so important that we research because we don’t expect them to happen to us. We hope that these things don’t happen to us, but they can. If we are prepared a little bit mentally-- not like we’re planning on that happening-- but if we’re prepared that it’s a possibility, then it doesn’t hit us like a freight train when it happens if it happens.


Liz: Right. It’s all about informed decision making too. You can 100% end up, not even attempting a VBAC, you can just decide, “Oh I want to have another C-section.” But to be able to go through the process of understanding what that means and what consequences, either negative or positive, come from that, it’s a peaceful way of understanding. I think that I was just like, “Oh, well I am young, I am hip. I am just going to have this baby.” 


There’s so much of motherhood from breastfeeding to discipline to everything. It doesn’t come naturally. You do need to reach out and talk to people and ask for support and learn all of these different ways because that’s how you can make the decision that you can feel okay with and feel at peace with.


Meagan: Exactly. I couldn’t agree with that better.


Liz: Oh, and the baby came. The end. Y’all want to dive into this crazy story?


Meagan: Let’s hear it.


Liz: Cool. I think everything about my second kid has been this exciting surprise. The irony being that probably a week before we got pregnant with him, we had just sat down and had this conversation about how we were going to wait another year and it wasn’t the right time right now. Then surprise! There he is.


So, a surprise pregnancy. I just kind of assumed, “Well, I had a C-section with the first one so I guess this one will be a C-section too. That’s nice because I can schedule it and I know when he’s coming. It’ll make teaching easier because I can say, ‘Oh this is when I’m going to take off and blah blah blah.’” 


It never even occurred to me. A few people had mentioned VBAC to me and I was like, “I don’t know.” I feel like I had kind of just given up on that whole idea of having that type of birth because everything just went so wonky with my first kid that it was like, “Well I guess that’s just not in the cards for me.”


But I did switch OB’s. The OB that I switched to was actually the woman who ended up doing my C-section for my other child because, as I mentioned earlier, my OB had to leave. So this other doctor swooped in at the last minute when things were actually going awry. My kid was not doing well and she saved his life. In the hour that I spent with her, I felt more connected to this woman than I had in the nine months that I had with my other OB.


Julie: That’s when you know you’ve met the right one.


Liz: Yeah. She was funny, we were joking around, she was holding my hand and she was just so in tune. I didn’t even know this woman. She randomly just walked in. So I sent her an email. I had to go through an actually kind of silly process to switch OB’s. It wasn’t as simple as saying, “I’d like this one now.” I had to get permission.


Anyhow, so I switched to her. I walked in and it was a totally different experience right away. She was the one who was like, “Do you want to try and go for a VBAC? Because you are a perfect candidate. You should do this.” And I was like, “Really?” She said, “Yeah!”


Well, I hadn’t really thought about that. So I went home, thought about it for a while, talked to some people and I was like, “Okay sure, yeah. Let’s do this. This doctor seems to think it’s a good idea so why not, right?”


I kept going through the pregnancy in a much more calm way thinking, “Okay, at some point I’m going to have to start thinking about this whole VBAC thing.” As we got closer, she started talking about how interventions are to be avoided the best we can to have a successful VBAC and how she wants me to stay on my feet for as long as possible. She wants me to labor at home for as long as possible. She wants me to start working on my squats and all of the stuff and I’m like, “Okay, okay. So no epidural, no Pitocin. That’s good. Okay,” and thinking about it.


I was at home and I stubbed my toe. My sweet husband— I was crying, “Oh, my toe hurts.” And my husband was like, “There, there.” And I go, “Oh my god. I have to hire a doula.” Because I realized that this man was not going to be able to support me enough through unmedicated labor.


Julie: That’s funny. That’s really funny.


Liz: I was like, “Nope. There, there is not going to work for me.” When I call epidural, I’m going to need someone to say, ”No.” So I started researching and then everything started clicking. I was like, “Oh my gosh. I have to have a relationship with this woman. She’s going to see me and my most vulnerable state. I should like her. We should agree on the same things fundamentally.” All these things that just didn’t even occur to me when I was looking for a doula the first time.


Then I met this super awesome chick named Jolie. We talked right away and both of us were like, “Oh, this is going to be great.” She had a lot of success with VBACs and I just loved her. Everything was wonderful. We met I think one time, maybe twice, and in one of those first or second meetings she mentioned, she was like, “Hey we are watching this COVID thing.” I was like, “Oh yeah, that’s a thing.” She was like, “Yeah. I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal especially because you are due in May. No big deal. But just so you know.”


Meagan: Little did she know…


Liz: Little did anyone know!


Meagan: I know, right?


Liz: She was like, “I’m sure this will all be taken care of, but you should know that in some states they are starting to limit hospital visitors. Just be aware of that.” 

So after a long discussion, we decided, as things got worse with COVID and especially in Houston. Actually, we didn’t even really get bad until July, but my husband and I decided that it would be better for him to stay home with our older son because I didn’t want someone else coming into our home and for Jolie to go to the hospital with me because I wasn’t going to be able to have both of them. And I was like, “If someone’s going to be with me while I am in labor, I love my husband, but I think I would rather have my doula.”


That was the plan. I’m trying to think. I was around 39 weeks and then I started having that prodromal labor again. Laboring patterns through the night every ten minutes, sometimes every eight minutes. It got down to five minutes. Wake up in the morning, nothing.


Meagan: Prodromal labor is terrible. We actually wrote a blog about it because a lot of people don’t even know about it. There are things you can do to help, but sometimes it doesn’t even help then. I’m sorry that you’ve had this twice.


Liz: It just makes you feel crazy because you’re like, “Okay, this is it. We should start really thinking about it. It’s going to happen tomorrow.” Then you wake up and nothing. But what ended up really happening is that yes there was some prodromal labor, but what was really happening is, it would seem as if it was stopping during the day, but really my contractions were spreading out so much that I wasn’t taking note of them. So I think really I was in labor a lot longer than I thought I was, which is why everything ended up happening the way it did.


So it would happen, I labor at night, wake up in the morning, and then it was Mother’s Day. It was Sunday. It was Mother’s Day. Over the night, I was having pretty strong contractions. Jolie had finally said, she goes, “Look. Don’t even text me or call me unless you have to moan through these contractions because at this point you’re just going to drive yourself crazy thinking, ‘Oh this is it. Let me text Jolie. Oh, now it’s not it. You’re going to be disappointed. Relax, and let it happen.’”


Oh man, guys. I almost skipped the best part. Whew! That would have been rough. Okay, back up. She came up around Saturday before Mother’s Day and she said, “Can you think of anything emotionally that is keeping you from maybe fully going into labor?” And I was like, “No I think I’m really good. I think I feel really comfortable and confident about all of this.”


She was like, “Why don’t you just take a long bath tonight and maybe find a way to let some emotional release happen? Maybe you watch a movie that always makes you cry or listen to a song or something like that.”


I went into the bath and when I was in the bath, I started talking to the baby. I was like, “Hey kiddo. It’s time. You’re ready, almost 40 weeks. You can come out now.” And through that conversation I told my husband, I said, “It felt like I was reciting a monologue, this memorized monologue of a character that wasn’t even me because it was so tucked away in my feelings that I didn’t even know I felt this way.” 


I started talking about how I didn’t know who this baby was and he was just this stranger who was coming in. I was so sad about losing my alone time with my older son and how we had gotten to a place where everything was so good with him. I had such a strong relationship with him and who’s this new kid who’s going to come in and mess this whole thing up? Is my kid going to be mad at me and resent me for having this other child? We finally figured it all out and now we’re going to start this whole process all over again. I just burst into tears in the bath, just crying, crying, crying, crying about it, and then went to sleep and started having pretty regular contractions.


I woke up the next morning for Mother’s Day and they kept going so my husband, my son and I had a picnic in the front yard while having contractions. I called my doula and said, “I think I am actually in labor now. I think it’s time to come over.” She goes, “Okay, well, I’m going to take my time.” I was like, “Yeah I’m not worried. We’ve still got time. No big deal.”


So she started to head over. I think it took her like an hour, an hour and a half to come over, nothing too big. We were sitting in my son’s playroom and I was building blocks with him and talking with him. I would stop and have a contraction.  I would lean over and I would moan through it and then get back to talking with my son. I go, “Oh Jolie, I have to tell you this story. I have to tell you. I think I figured out the emotional thing that was keeping me from going into labor. I told her the story about how I was just so sad about missing time with my kid and then I started crying to her.


Literally, right after I finished that story and wiped my last tear, I leaned over and went from having a 45-second contraction every four minutes to having a minute and a half long screaming, so intense contraction. My two-year-old came over to me and put his hand on my back and held my back while I was having the contraction. 


Then my water broke. It was like I finally let everything go and I said, “Okay, I think my water broke. It’s time to go to the hospital. These are getting closer.” It was like they were starting to speed up. 


I was like, “Let’s get ready to go. Let’s start packing things.” I tried walking to the bathroom and fell to the ground and was like, “Whoa. Something is different. This is wild.”


I was scared. It went from manageable contractions, not great, but I could deal with them to, “I can’t think straight, this is so painful. So I think I made my way to the bathroom after that next contraction. I reached in to feel what was going on and the baby’s head was right there.


Jolie was like, “We need to go to the hospital now.” I said, “We are not making it to the hospital.” She was like, “Oh, okay.”


So you know, doula. Not a medical professional. She’s like, “We need to call the EMTs. We need to get someone here.” They call them and I had two more contractions and then was crowning after that.


Meagan: Oh my gosh!


Liz: Yeah. My house was built in 1940 and I have this little tiny half-bath underneath the stairs that’s smaller than Harry Potter‘s bedroom. Jolie is somehow standing in there and my husband is off holding my kiddo who’s like, “Why is mommy screaming?”


I start pushing because here’s the thing. This was the labor that I knew existed out there in the world that when you’re ready to push, you have no other choice than to push. You don’t need anyone to tell you, “Hey it’s time to push now.” You know what to do.


My husband started repeatedly telling me that he loved me and I very kindly told him to shut the explicit up.


Julie: That’s when you know you’re getting close when the F-bombs start dropping.


Liz: Yep. I was like, “Don’t you talk to me.” Jolie was rubbing my back. I said, “Get your hands off me. Don’t touch me.”


I was on hands and knees. The EMT came in after my son‘s head was out and in, I think it was three pushes, baby came out. I caught him, then the EMT who— gosh bless them but they had no idea what they were doing. They were just so out of their element. They were like, “We are used to car crashes, ma’am. I don’t know what this is.” Oh, at one point he goes, “Ma’am just push.” I said, “Sir, I know that.”


Meagan: “Leave me alone. I know what I’m doing. You just sit there.”


Liz: “You just be there.” So he takes the baby and I’m like, “Hey can you pass him to me?” He goes, “How?” And I said, “Through my legs.”


I suction bulbed him. I rubbed him and Jolie was like, “Holy moly.” I was like, “I know!”

We are holding this baby and then it’s like, “Oh my gosh what do we do now?” Because I had no plan to give birth at home. I mean, I had Jolie there but no medical professional. I just got this baby. What are we to do now? And placenta is still in, blah blah blah.


So this is where, depending on who you ask-- It is so interesting guys, how many people have opinions on a birth that has nothing to do with them.


Julie: Oh my gosh. Say it again because that is so true. I just can’t even.


Liz: It’s fascinating. There was a picture that my doula put up of me from this birth that kind of went vaguely viral and I would have people talking about how irresponsible it was of me to have a VBAC at home, and that this was clearly planned by me and my evil witch doula. We were just trying to cheat the system, right?


Julie: Oh, girl. I got called a selfish cow on my YouTube video of my home birth.


Liz: Isn’t that nice?


Julie: Yeah. I think the same girl commented on Meagan’s video that court-mandated Cesareans are a good thing. That’s what she said on Meagan’s video.


Meagan: Yeah. She attacked my VBA2C. I swear she told me that I deserved to go to jail because I had my baby at a hospital.


Julie: People are just awful.


Liz: Yeah. It’s wild. It is wild. So we had that and then on the completely other end of the spectrum-- So I ended up going to the hospital after I had the baby because I want to make sure everything‘s okay. It’s a VBAC. I don’t know if everything is cool with me. I don’t know if everything is cool with the baby. The placenta is still in.


I got up and walked myself out of my house carrying my baby still attached to a gurney and that’s where my doula took this picture of me getting on there. I got him breastfeeding. I am lying on this gurney and the sun is bright. It’s Mother’s Day. It’s really cool, right?


Then, on the other end of the spectrum, this other person was commenting so much on this picture about how ridiculous it was that I would go to the hospital and how it was that patriarchy that had made me think that I need medical assistance blah blah blah. The point is, is that you can’t win. I am either irresponsible because I had a home birth or irresponsible because I went to the hospital. You know? It’s interesting.


Julie: Yeah. I feel you on that one, especially right now.


Liz: There’s no good choice.


So I went. Everything was fine and it was good I went because I had some tearage that I needed to get taken care of. But the point is, is that I had this accidental, Mother’s Day, COVID-19 home birth. The cool thing was that I didn’t have to pick between my doula or my husband because everyone was there. I got to keep my kid safe. 


I got to have my baby in this completely natural way that I didn’t even realize how much I needed. I went from having a birth where I had literally zero control and zero-knowledge and everyone else telling me what to do, and then a birth where I caught my own baby, suction bulbed him, and walked out carrying him while he was still attached to me. It’s so incredibly empowering and on Mother’s Day. It was so cool. It was so cool.


Meagan: So special. One that you won’t ever forget. That’s for sure.


Julie: Okay, I have got to ask though. Is that picture the one you attached to your story?


Liz: Yeah.


Julie: Okay. So if you want to see the picture, go to our-- Oh my gosh, I love it. I just opened it. Wow. Okay, if you want to see this picture which, trust me you do, go to our Facebook or Instagram pages. Search for The VBAC Link and look for her episode picture because wow. Like, wow. This is a really impactful picture.


Liz: It’s pretty cool.


Julie: I’m glad you shared it. Meagan, are you looking at it?


Meagan: No, I actually had just closed out of my thing so I’m going back in. As soon as you said that I was like, “I am going to find out.”


Julie: Well, we are just about out of time but before we wrap up and while Meagan‘s looking at the picture...


Meagan: Oh wow!


Julie: There you go. There it is.


Liz: We joke about how we want to frame it.


Meagan: Wow. Wow. I have chills. I have freaking chills. Oh, amazing. Look at your legs and the door, the patio steps. How awesome is that?


Liz: I know.


Julie: Yep. Oh my gosh.


Liz: It’s pretty cool. It’s pretty cool. Yeah, we want to frame it and put it in the bathroom he was born in so we can be like, “This was you.”


Julie: The look on your face-- It’s like the stillness and the peace but then clearly you just had a baby because of how your legs are and the patio steps and everything. There’s so much emotion and power in the picture.


Liz: Yeah, I love it. It is really good. I am so glad she caught it. I wasn’t even thinking about it. She just clipped it on my phone. When I got to the hospital later, I was looking through my phone and there was that picture. I was like, “Holy moly.” It’s a good one.

Emotional release

Julie: Well Meagan, do you want to do a really quick review on emotional fear releases?

Not even necessarily fear releases but just releasing emotions.


Meagan: Yeah. You experienced talking about these things. You said, “It was like I didn’t even know. I said it and it changed everything.” Sometimes we don’t think. Like you said, “No I’m fine. I’m good. I feel good about this.”


But sometimes there are other things. I had an experience with a client of mine who’s actually on the podcast as well. She is a VBA2C mom. She had started a podcast for stories of C-section birth. She’s had two of them. She feels inspired that C-section moms need to be able to share stories as well. 


Anyways, so she’s in labor, her water breaks and nothing happens. The next day, nothing happens. The next day, nothing happens. I mean, she’s contracting on and off, here and there. It’s been three days with her water broken. She’s being monitored very closely by a skilled professional midwife and she even did dual care in a hospital. Everything was going great. 


The weird thing is she would start contracting, start contracting, start contracting, and then it would stop. Then she’d start contracting again, stop. We are like, “What is going on?” The midwife said that she could feel the tension in her cervix. Like, actually feel it. She sent her home and everything and she’s like, “Come over. Just come be with me.” I was like, “Okay.” We go over and she is talking a lot about her podcast. She’s like, “Well if I have a vaginal birth then how can I have a podcast for C-sections?”


I was like, “Whoa whoa whoa. You can absolutely have a podcast for C-sections.” She’s like, “Yeah but then they’ll probably think I’m not really supportive because I chose to have a VBAC.” She started like going over what is in her head. I was like, “Okay. Let’s hold up.” 


I got some paper and we started writing things down. I said, “Write down all your thoughts.” So we wrote them all down and then we solved them. If that makes sense.


We solved each of them. Right after she read them and we solved them, she burned them right there. On hands and knees, she burned them in this pot on her floor. Her, her mom, and I. We were all just gathered around her. 


It was so interesting. After each piece of paper that she burned, her contraction would pick up. And not just happen, like intensity. So after we processed all of this, it really seriously did make a big difference. She went on and she totally rocked her VBA2C after five days of labor but there was a lot that she needed to let go emotionally and physically to allow this baby to come. 


I also had an experience myself. There’s actually a picture of my midwife hugging me and talking to me. She’s like, “You’ve got to get out of your head. You’re going to be okay. Stop doubting yourself.” She kept saying, “Stop doula-ing yourself.” I’m like, “Oh okay.” I got out of that space and things changed. 


You processed this thing that you weren’t super thinking about all the time, but obviously, it was there. Your subconscious was thinking about this and then it changed everything.


I think that the more you can work through things, fear release before you enter birth, the better. But know that it’s okay to work through it during labor too. It’s okay to stop and let labor go if that makes sense. Let it just be and then process what’s going on. Talk about it. That’s another reason why it’s so important to have people in your birth space that you trust, can discuss and talk about because once you discussed this and you said it out loud, to the point where someone was listening, boom. Things went from 0 to 90 it sounds like.


We talk about it in our course and we talk about it with our clients because it’s important. There are tons of ways you can do it. Like I said, you can burn them. Julie has a video on our YouTube, right? It’s on YouTube, not Instagram stories right? Or maybe it’s on both.


Julie: Yeah. Well, I think it’s on Instagram stories or IGTV and on our YouTube Channel, The Smokeless Fear Release. But notice, it’s only smokeless if you are only burning a small amount of paper because one time we did it in a class at my house. There were six people burning their papers and we totally set off my smoke alarms still.


Meagan: Yes. So there’s that, writing it down. In our course, we have a fear release activity that we do where we try to figure out where the stem of the fear is coming from because sometimes there’s a lot of static and it seems like it’s so much more than it really is. If we can break it down and find the stem, or the root I should say after last year, then all the little leaves on the fear tree don’t seem so big. Don’t we have a free download, Julie, on our blog?


Julie: I don’t think we have the fear release worksheet as a free download.


Meagan: Oh, maybe we don’t. Darn it. I was going to say, “We have one to download.”


Julie: It doesn’t have to be anything formal. You can just write down your feelings. Write down all the things that are on your mind. Just write and write and write. It doesn’t have to be perfect writing. It doesn’t have to be punctuated correctly. It doesn’t even have to be legible. Just write it down on paper. Don’t even go back and reread it. Write it down, then burn it or flush it down the toilet or-- probably rip it into small pieces before you do that-- or bury it, throw it into a river, shred it and toss it into the wind, or something to get rid of it. There’s a lot of power in doing that.


Meagan: We have some questions that I would love to ask you. We did go over maybe what some of the answers would be, but the first one is, what is a secret lesson or something that no one really talks about that you wish that you would have known ahead of time? What we just said pretty much covered that. You didn’t know all of these things, but is there anything you’d like to add to that?


Liz: Read the books. It’s a happy medium between making yourself crazy by hearing a bunch of different stories that could go wrong and just understanding the scope and sequence of birth.


Meagan: Right. Totally. The other question is, what is your best tip for someone preparing for a VBAC? We personally love this answer that you wrote down, but I love every single one of them. What would you say?


Liz: Listening to The VBAC Link religiously and I can’t-- Oh, I know how I found you. I had to think about it for a second.


Meagan: Yeah. How did you find us? We love learning how people find us.


Liz: It all just came from a hashtag. I started getting really into it. I got onto Instagram and started looking at VBAC as a hashtag. Y’all are right up there at the top.


Julie: Boom.


Liz: You have all your little tips and I was like, “Who are these people?” I think I started following you and reading the stories. At some point, I saw a picture and it was like, “Listen to so and so‘s birth story.” I hopped on over. It was perfect timing with COVID happening. There was all this time to walk around and listen to podcasts all of a sudden. So that’s how it happened. 


I would say, do that. I would say, find a book that resonates with you. There are lots and lots of different books that give you all kinds of advice. The one that I really loved and worked for me really well was-- I can’t remember who wrote it-- but it was Natural Childbirth in the Hospital or something to that extent. It talked about how to have a birth without medicine in the hospital. It was really cool.


Meagan: I am looking it up right now. Having a natural birth at the hospital does that sound--


Liz: That sounds really really familiar, yeah.


Julie: I think it’s Natural Hospital Birth or something.


Liz: That’s it.


Meagan: Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds by Cynthia Gabriel.


Liz: The coolest thing about it is that it’s a workbook in a lot of areas. It has you do this thing that was so helpful to me. It had you write down your dream birth. Not like your dream reasonable birth, but your dream if space and time didn’t exist. You could do fantasy kind of things. Like, “Oh, well here you are in Arizona during the early birth.” Then when you’re transitioning, you were here. This music’s happening. I got to write down this crazy, ridiculous could never actually happen birth, like my ideal birth. 


Going through that process I was able to find things that I could actually take into real life that would be important for me to experience during birth. I thought that was really cool.


Megan: I love that. I need to read more books. Sometimes I am just like, “Man.” You guys, I swear I just can’t read.


Julie: We all know that you don’t like to read by now, I think, and it’s okay. You don’t have to like to read. That’s what podcasts are for.


Meagan: I know. I know I just can’t do it but you learn such valuable things.


Julie: You know, I used to love to read. I buy books and I intend to read them, but now by the end of the day, kids are in bed, I crash and I’m like, “Reading is too much work.”


Liz: Book on tape, book on tape.


Meagan: Yeah, I do listen. I do listen to that and I cycle. So I sometimes will listen to books that way. It’s kind of nice. But yeah. Oh, another thing you added on that was fitness and good health. I love that. I am a big advocate for that. I’ve seen a big difference in my own births because of that.


Liz: That’s huge. I think that’s one of the amazing things that COVID contributed to because again, I had all this time now. It happened in this beautiful time in Houston where it actually was great weather. It was not hot in March when all this started. I was going on two hour walks every day with my two-year-old all around the park. That was so incredibly important to having a successful VBAC.


Meagan: I love it. Yep. With my first pregnancy, I gained 42 pounds and was really swollen. I was a hot mess. With the next one, I really dialed into nutrition, fitness, and all that stuff. I didn’t have a VBAC with that but I don’t think it was because of anything. I think that my all-around pregnancy and everything was so much better because of where I was at.


Liz: Yeah. I gained 50 pounds with my first so I hear you girl.


Meagan: Yeah. It’s funny. I have people in my neighborhood-- They didn’t know me when I was pregnant with my first. They’ve seen pictures and they’re like, “You’re unrecognizable.” I am like, “Yeah. I know. I was an Oompa Loompa.” But yeah. 


Well, awesome. Thank you so much.


Liz: Thanks guys, it was awesome talking to you.


Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Head over to thevbaclink.com/share and submit your story. For all things VBAC, including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Julie and Meagan’s bios, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.

“A lot of people have the idea that if you’re in therapy or if you’re using extra help, then it’s a weakness and it’s not. It’s a strength. It really is. It’s okay to need support and to need help.”


Gretchen is a licensed professional counselor, a marathon runner, and a mom of two boys from Marietta, Georgia. She also has battled severe anxiety throughout her life. As Gretchen shares her unique obstacles from both of her pregnancies and births, her story is sure to be a message of inspiration and hope. 


Throughout her birth journeys, Gretchen experienced unexpected stressors like infertility, medical complications, and a pandemic that threatened to let her anxiety take over and win. But Gretchen didn’t let it. She chose to strengthen herself and made a plan. Through bi-weekly therapy, education, and a powerful birth team, Gretchen found the support she needed to stay well. She trusted her intuition, found her courage, and had a victorious VBAC, confirming to herself something she already knew-- that she is stronger than her anxiety.


We get very vulnerable in this episode as we talk about the importance of asking for help and how much we all need extra support, especially in the birth space. 


Additional links

Antepartum Depression Blog

Better Help Therapy


Episode sponsor

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Full transcript

Meagan: Hello, hello. It is Wednesday and you’ve got Julie and Meagan with you today. We’re so excited as usual. I don’t feel like we’re ever not excited to be recording. 


Julie: We’re kind of a happy couple of people. 


Meagan: We are, and it’s so fun to get to know all these people from all over the world. Today we have our friend, Gretchen. She is going to share her story. She’s actually from Georgia. Is that correct, Gretchen?


Gretchen: Yes. Marietta, which is a suburb of Atlanta. 


Meagan: Yes. So, she is going to share her story with us today. I want to tell you a little bit about her. She calls herself an “old mom”. I don’t think she’s old. I do not think she’s old. 


Julie: Um, we’re the same age, Gretchen, and I also feel old. 


Meagan: No! You guys are not old. But anyway, she’s got two boys. One is two months and one is two years. She’s actually a licensed professional counselor but has, of course, been wanting to be a mom. She’s been taking some time off. We’re excited to hear her story and if you guys have not seen this amazing picture of her, please go to Instagram right now @thevbaclink and check it out. It is so awesome. It gives me the chills. Go check it out and let us know how it makes you feel. 


The raw photos after birth or right as birth happens are so amazing. A lot of people are like, “Oh, I was so ugly crying.” And when I say that, that was me. I said that. I was like, “I’m such an ugly crier.” But I love it. I love it because it is so true and raw. It gives you the feeling of what that moment felt like. This is definitely one of those images that I just feel it. But Julie has a review of the week of course so we want to pass the time over to her and then we will get into Gretchen’s awesome story. 

Review of the week

Julie: Yeah. We’ve been reading a lot of reviews from Apple Podcasts lately. So I’m going to take it back to Google this week. Most podcast apps don’t allow you to write a review, except for Apple Podcasts. So if you don’t have Apple Podcasts, go and Google The VBAC Link. Our business will pop up right there. You can leave a review on Google for us. That’s pretty awesome because when those reviews come in, it really makes our day. It brings a smile to our face and it helps us push through the screaming children and the hot chocolate all over our counters and the little pieces of cut-up paper on the floor and the parmesan cheese mixed up with cocoa pebbles thrown all over the couch. I mean, hypothetically here. 


Meagan: Yeah, that doesn’t happen at my house. Julie’s kids-- I don’t even know. 


Julie: I don’t know if they’re smart, if they’re super problem solvers and figure out how to get what they want, or if they just want to live on the edge…


Meagan: Every time you send me pictures I’m like, “Holy cow.” Like, whoa. They’re fun. 


Julie: My kids are not well-trained. That’s probably it. Okay, so my oldest, when he was 20 months old, when I was pregnant with my VBAC baby-- he figured out how to move a chair over to the countertop, climb on the chair, climb on the countertop and climb up on top of the fridge to get the Halloween candy down. He wasn’t even two yet. And now my current two-year-old is climbing up on the fridge. Anyways, holy cow, that was a big digression. You guys, it’s been a rough day at my house. Let’s just get on to the warm and fuzzies, shall we? 


Alright, this is from Hayley Killpack on Google. She says, “The VBAC link made a world of difference for me in achieving my successful VBAC!! Because of the VBAC Link, I was able to arm myself and feel completely confident in my choices for MY birth. I was able to determine that my hospital midwife was only VBAC tolerant and made the switch around 28 weeks to a VBAC supportive midwife at a birthing center. I listened to every single episode as I prepared for the birth of my second baby after a very traumatic first hospital birth. With the knowledge, I gained, and the support I felt, I was able to achieve my unmedicated VBAC water birth just over one month ago! Thank you Meagan and Julie for supporting, caring, and providing us the information and tools to have a successful VBAC! I now feel like the woman of strength that I am, and knew I always could be!!”


Yes! I love that so much. Thank you, Hayley Killpack, for giving us some warm and fuzzies to get us through the terrorist childhood days. Mine. Meagan’s are obviously angels. 


Meagan: Mine are definitely not angels, but man. I don’t have cocoa powder all over my house. 


Julie: Yeah, that was awesome. It was a good day. I need to lock the pantry. We have a lock on our pantry and the fridge for these reasons but sometimes we leave them unlocked and it’s like a spidey sense. They just know. They just know when the pantry’s unlocked. 

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Gretchen’s story 

Meagan: Okay, Ms. Gretchen. We are going to turn the time over to you. We don’t want to take any more of your time rambling because we tend to do that. We just have so much fun. Let’s hear your awesome story. 


Julie: Yeah, I’m excited for this one. 


Gretchen: Okay. Well first, thank you for having me. I’m really excited to be here. I drove 40 minutes to my chiropractor throughout my pregnancy and I listened to The VBAC Link every time I went every week. This was an instrumental part in my pregnancy. So I’m really excited to be here. 


I guess I’ll start with my C-section baby, my first baby, and that journey. My husband and I got married in 2013 and in 2015, we decided we wanted to start a family. I stopped the birth control pill and I didn’t get a period. We were kind of puzzled and scratching our heads as to what was going on. After a thorough workup by several doctors-- I was very into athletics at the time. I was running marathons and I was doing fitness competitions. It was concluded that I had something called hypothalamic amenorrhea, which is basically the absence of a menstrual cycle due to an energy imbalance. You know how you hear that gymnasts don’t have their menstrual cycles or things like that? 


Meagan: Runners, gymnasts, yep. 


Gretchen: Right, yep. So, to make a long story short, it was a two-year process to get me to respond to an ovulation induction medication. It also involved the opposite of what you hear from most modern medical advice, which is to lose weight and move more. My treatment was to move less and gain weight which was very interesting and kind of an odd place to be when you’re trying to conceive. You know, you always think, “The more active I am, the healthier I am.” In my case, that was not true. 


My hormones were absolutely a wreck. I had post-menopausal estrogen levels. It was really unhealthy, but I had no clue because I was on the pill for so long. 


We took a good two year period to get my body in a healthy place and responding to an ovulation induction medication. I should also mention, we had also tried an injectable cycle with a reproductive endocrinologist, but it became apparent that until I was really healthy, I wasn’t going to respond to medication and I really wanted to get well before I was pregnant anyway.


That was a really, really painful time. The biggest piece of that that I really want to touch on was, I’ve always battled anxiety and I was always on an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) to manage that anxiety. I decided to stop that when I decided to get pregnant. That was a really challenging time because I didn’t have the therapeutic benefit of medication which had always helped me. Then I had the infertility. So it was a really challenging two years. 


This was kind of a “Hail Mary” pass to try this medicine. On the second cycle, I peed on that stick and there were two lines. We just couldn’t believe it. We were over the moon, thrilled. That was 2017 when we got pregnant. 


Everything was fine with that pregnancy. It was pretty uneventful up until our anatomy scan. At our anatomy scan, it was discovered that my son had a kidney abnormality. If you can imagine going from two years of infertility to everything being fine, to then this gut punch at your anatomy scan that something is wrong. It was really, really scary and really hard. 


We were referred to the high-risk doctor. And my son is fine. So, looking back now, I’m grateful for the care that I got, but it’s terrifying. You’re a first-time mom. Pregnancy is scary in and of itself. I’m anxious as all get-out and now I have this baby with a problem that I don’t know anything about. It was a really hard pregnancy. 


I think I had a total of about nine ultrasounds, which, that’s a lot of ultrasounds. It was, like, hyper-monitoring of this baby. So every time I would go to the doctor, my husband would come to the appointments. It was like, on pins and needles, “Is he okay?” And looking back, I probably was overly concerned, but I also had no basis of reference. It was just really scary. The whole pregnancy was very stressful. 


I got to 39 weeks on the button and my water broke at home. You always imagine your water breaking like the movies. For me, it was not like that. It was a little trickle. I called the OB and they said, “Well, go to the hospital.” I was having no contractions. I felt nothing. 


I should mention, I was supposed to be induced three days later. Due to his kidney, they wanted to induce me. Looking back now, I wish I wouldn’t have agreed to that, but it didn’t matter because my water broke at 39 anyway. I get into triage and they check me in. It was kind of like everything that could have gone wrong went wrong which led to the C-section. 


I had a hospitalist come in and check me. I think I was dilated to a 2. But you know the doctors that are just cold? I don’t even think the man introduced himself before he was giving me a cervical exam. 


Meagan: Just no bedside manner?


Gretchen: None. And I was so scared. I just was so scared anyway. I was so hyper-vigilant. I had no clue what was going on. It was really scary. 


So I get in there and I’m not dilated but they got me on the monitor. Next thing I know, I started to feel lightheaded. I told my husband, I said, “Go get the nurse.” And he said, “Well, I don’t know where she went.” I said, “Go find her.” I started seeing stars. My blood pressure tanked. I had a vasovagal syncope. I think it was a combination of the anxiety, the situation, the broken water because I knew enough to know you’re kind of on a clock when your water breaks. I felt like everyone was really just over-monitoring me anyway, which made me more stressed, which was the last thing I needed. 


My blood pressure got really low and so the monitors went off. Baby’s heart rate got down to 60 or 70, I can’t remember, but enough that the monitors were really going off. Next thing I know, there’s like, four nurses in the room and they’re rolling me to get blood flow back to the placenta. It was really alarming. 


It happened again. My OB was paged so she was able to come in. She said, “What do you want to do? Do you want to do a C-section or do you want to try and labor?” 


At that point, I wasn’t really thinking clearly because I had just had these two episodes of syncope. My dad’s a retired physician and I called him. I was in Florida at the time and he was in California so it was 4:00 a.m. for him. I called and said, “What do I do?” He said, “Get that baby out.” 


I don’t regret that decision because my son’s heart rate was very alarming. I think with everything that had gone on, it was the right decision to have the C-section. But when he was delivered, I couldn’t hold him. There was no skin-to-skin. He was taken right away. It was the most helpless feeling being on that table. It was nothing I had imagined. I was thrilled he was born but I felt really sad and detached in that moment. It was just not the birth I had always envisioned. 


He’s amazing. I have a wonderful, beautiful two-year-old little boy. But it was a really hard two years to get pregnant. It was a really hard nine months being pregnant and it was a really hard delivery. 


That being said, we knew we wanted to have kids kind of close together. The good news was, my menstrual cycle returned after I weaned him which was really cool because my body had finally healed. I had this baby and I was menstruating normally. It was a really great feeling. But my cycles were still irregular, so I used ovulation induction medicine to conceive my VBAC baby but for a different reason. Just because my husband travels and when you’re trying to get pregnant with a partner who’s not here, it’s hard to tag things. 


We had moved to Atlanta. We moved from Tampa, Florida to Atlanta when my son was right around a year. We decided to start trying when he was 13 or 14 months and it took us two cycles. It was pretty quick. Again, in my head, it would take longer because we had such trouble the first time. I’m like, “Oh, we’ll have a good three-year gap.” It wasn’t. It was like, right away. 


And so, we got pregnant. It was really exciting. It was, again, pretty uneventful. But I want to mention too, that I did a lot of work on my anxiety and my birth trauma prior to getting pregnant. I worked with a therapist weekly. Being a clinician myself, I recognize the importance of doing that. I was really diligent about trying to heal before getting pregnant again. I knew when I got pregnant again that I wanted to try to have a vaginal birth, but I was concerned my anxiety would hold me back from that just because it had been such a hindrance on things in the past. 


I got pregnant and I had found a good OB the summer before we conceived. I liked her a lot. I felt like she listened to me. I felt a lot more heard than I ever had at the Florida practice. She was young and I felt she was pretty up to date on things. She was very open to VBAC which surprised me, especially from hearing all of your podcasts about Georgia providers. She was very open to it. She’s like, “Of course,” which really shocked me. 


Julie: I wonder if you had the same one as Grace Allen. Because I’ve only ever heard of one VBAC supportive provider in Atlanta. 


Meagan: Me too. 


Gretchen: Not only was she supportive, but she was encouraging because there had been times I had come in and I’m like, “I don’t know if I want to do this.” And she goes, “No. You’re going to see what your body can do.” She was super encouraging. She was laid back, but in a good way if that makes sense. She was laid back to the point that it made me laid back which helped me not be so terrified all of the time. 


She even said she goes, “Gretchen, when I was in residency, we had women who had two C-sections VBACing. You’re fine.” She was really, so supportive. It was amazing. So, she had put that right away in my chart when I came in that I wanted to VBAC, which I felt really great about because I felt like I really had a good person supporting me.  


I had a pretty uneventful pregnancy up until the pandemic which hit. I’m like, “Really? The first baby, I had this kidney issue and now there’s a pandemic.” But I’m like, “I’ll have a story to tell these boys one day.”


Meagan: If you only knew the times, the things that were happening. 


Gretchen: Right. I remember I went to see my parents in California in February. I remember this coronavirus being all over China in February and thinking, “Oh, well it’s over in China. We’ll be okay.” Then I get home and it was everywhere. It was really alarming. 


I was working with my therapist and at that time, they didn’t have any data on COVID in pregnant women. The data that they did have was very limited. It was only that one China study. I don’t know if you remember back in the spring. It was on, I think, 19 women in China and they had all had C-sections. So it was a really limited amount of data. My therapist, I was still seeing via telehealth from Florida and he was really up to date. He was continuing to provide me research on the data and really trying to put my mind at ease. 


But when COVID hit, I increased my therapy to about twice a week which I think also really helped. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to talk about this was, pregnancy makes my anxiety heightened anyway and then you add a pandemic on top of it. It was a lot of work to manage it. And it is work. Because it is a condition I couldn’t use therapeutic medication for. So I had to do extra talk therapy to keep myself healthy. I did that to the best of my ability.


But it was really alarming and it was really scary because it was so unknown. So we did grocery pickup. We didn’t really go anywhere. My husband worked from home which was lucky we could do that but it was a challenging time because it was just so unknown. At that point, I don’t know if you remember too where I didn’t know if I would have to give birth alone, which, the thought of that was daunting because at that time they were pulling partners out of delivery rooms. Do you remember that back in, I think it was March when it started?


Meagan: Yep. April in New York and things like that. 


Gretchen: I told my husband, I said, “What do we do if I’m by myself?” And he just said, “One foot in front of the other. We’ll figure it out.” 


I did know from the beginning that I did not feel comfortable with a home birth. Not because I didn’t think I could do it but I had thought I was too anxious and for me, I wanted fetal monitoring. I know some women, the monitor makes them feel worse and for me, I said, “If I have any priority to VBAC, I want a monitor,” because it made me feel more secure. 


So I said that a hospital setting, for me, was going to be part of my birth plan. I said, “Well, we’ll just keep going and hope for the best.” I had had a friend that had delivered in April and she had a really good experience at the hospital I had delivered at. At that point, her husband was there and I don’t even think she had to wear a mask. So I was feeling positive about the experience that I could have there because I had heard nothing but good things about this hospital.


Everything was moving along smoothly. Then I talked to a friend of mine from Tampa who was a NICU nurse. I think I was maybe 35 weeks at this point. She had told me how she elected for-- her first baby was breech. She had elected for a repeat C-section and she told me some scary things about uterine rupture and I understand why. It’s her experience but it really scared me. I felt like I should just back out and I should have a C-section because there’s no way I could do this. Not because I didn’t think my body could do it, but because I thought my anxiety would hold me back.


I reached out to Julie and she really helped me through that. I realized it was really that mental hurdle of getting over that because I was just scouring the internet on uterine rupture. Then I listened to your podcast on statistics of uterine rupture which really helped putting it into perspective. I think it was you, Meagan, that gave all the statistics about it, right? And looking at how you’re more likely to date a millionaire than have a rupture. Is that what the statistic was?


Meagan: That’s totally Julie. I probably did read it but that was totally Julie who put that together. 


Gretchen: Okay. Julie, maybe you had read it. 


Meagan: She is the statistic guru. 


Gretchen: Yeah. So that really helped put in perspective what are my true risks. Then also looking at what are the risks of a Cesarean because no one had ever told me the risks of Cesarean. In fact, every doctor I had talked to prior to my current provider...


Meagan: ...only probably talked about the risk of VBAC. 


Gretchen: Well they made Cesarean seem really safe. No one had ever told me that it may not be. 


Julie: Yes. Oh my gosh, yes. They make Cesareans seem really safe. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it said that way before. But no, that’s what they do. They do. 


Gretchen: Yeah. It was baffling to me. Once I got closer to the time of my delivery, I felt this little tug-of-war in my head. Up until that third trimester I was like, “I’m going to VBAC. This is going to be great.” As soon as that third trimester hit, the anxiety really kicked in. Every other day I felt like I was going back and forth. 


My therapist was really advocating for me to VBAC. He put it in perspective. He knew how many children I wanted. He said, “This is your chance. If you want to do this, this is the time to do it,” and really put it in perspective for me which was so helpful. And then I talked to Julie which was so helpful. So it was like I continued to arm myself with people and information to help encourage me to keep going. 


I worked with my husband to come up with a plan of where our two-year-old was going to go when we delivered because our original plan was to have my parents come be with us but they could no longer come because my parents are high risk and couldn’t travel. My mother-in-law ended up getting COVID tested and driving from Pennsylvania to Georgia in one day to come take care of my two-year-old. 


Julie: Aw, bless her heart. 


Gretchen: Yeah, it was pretty wonderful because of everything going on. She was able to come. She kind of stayed the last half of July. I was due July 20th. She came the 15th through the 1st and figured I’d deliver at some point in that time frame. 


So, she came and I honestly thought that I would go into labor before 39 just because I did with my son and I had heard that second babies came sooner, which is not true by the way as I’m sure you guys know.


Julie: I feel you on that one.  


Gretchen: I think I was 39 and 5. My doctor had offered to strip my membranes early, I think at 38 and I said no. Then when I went in at 39 I was dilated to a 3. I think it was a 2 or 3. I can’t remember. At that point, I was okay with it. You know when you’re just so done being pregnant? I didn’t feel good. I was exhausted. It was so much harder than the first time because I was chasing my two-year-old around. I said that it was fine. I was okay with that. I know that’s a controversial intervention but I felt comfortable with her and I said, “That’s fine.”


So she stripped my membranes on Friday. I came back on Monday and on Monday I was dilated to a 4. And I think then she stripped me and I was a 5 when I left there. Or something like that, which was pretty good. I was walking around at a 3 or a 4 for a few weeks, which I was pretty happy with. 


On Wednesday morning, I woke up-- I never had true contractions with my son, so I asked my doctor, “Will I know what these feel like? Will I know it’s a contraction?” She said, “Don’t worry. You won’t miss it. You’ll know.” So I woke up and I knew I was having contractions. But they were very irregular. This was like at 5 in the morning. Then they would go away and come back. I thought I was having prodromal labor because they were so sporadic. 


My mother-in-law and I went for a two-mile walk in the morning. My husband had to go down to his office. So he wasn’t around and we walked. At that point, I started keeping track of them because they were becoming regular. I say regular and I mean every 15 minutes, but they were consistently every 15 minutes. Then I’d have one maybe 20 minutes and then it would bounce back to 15, but they were pretty even. I still thought, “Okay, well they’re even,” but they didn’t really hurt. I was fine and I didn’t think anything of it really.


But then very quickly, things changed. So by 3 or 4:00 p.m., they were about 8 minutes apart pretty consistently. By 5:00 p.m., we were eating dinner and they were 7 minutes apart. We have a 40-minute drive to the hospital. So, 7 minutes apart. I think as dinner was wrapping up, they were about 5 minutes apart. My mother-in-law said, “You should probably at least call your doctor.” I was like, “No, I’m fine. It’s fine,” because I wanted to stay at home as long as possible and I didn’t want intervention. I wanted to avoid it as long as I could.


Finally, she convinced me. So I called the on-call midwife for my doctor. She told me I was in early, active labor but she said to just come in because the hospital was very busy. I took a shower. My husband was a little more anxious than I was to get in, but I’m taking my sweet time and I’m really having to breathe through them. Now they’re getting a little more intense. I’m thinking that this was probably a good idea to head in. 


My mother-in-law was really cute. She put a towel down in the car thinking my water was going to break. I was not concerned about that at all but she was very thoughtful to put a towel down on my seat. 


We drove into the hospital. I delivered at the biggest hospital in the country for labor and delivery. They call it “The Baby Factory” because there’s a whole building dedicated to labor and delivery. 


Meagan: Wow. 


Julie: That’s intense. 


Gretchen: Yeah. It’s humongous. It was a lot. So I get in and I see, literally, nine other women in this waiting room in labor. And I’m like, “Okay,” and I’m a little overwhelmed with that. But I check in and I heard the triage woman make a comment about being out of beds. I thought she meant after me they would be out of beds. I didn’t think she meant they were currently out of beds. 


So I go back to the waiting room and everyone’s in masks. They’re disinfecting everything. I don’t even love being in hospitals, well really at all, but especially in the pandemic. It’s alarming because there’s germs and I didn’t want to be there, but this baby was coming. It was about 8:00 p.m. at that point. I’m thinking, “Oh, I’ll get into my room quickly.” 


Well, 9:00 rolls around, and now these contractions are-- I’m uncomfortable. I’m leaning against this pillar in this waiting room breathing through them and I told my husband, I go, “I’ve got to get in there. What’s going on?” The administration woman that was checking me in, I went up and asked her, “What’s going on?” She goes, “We just don’t have any beds.” And I said, “What do you mean you don’t have any beds? I have to have this baby.” 


I ended up calling this midwife back and she said, “Hang out. As soon as a bed opens, we’ll get you in a room.” A nurse came out and she said, “Are you the woman that had the previous C-section?” I said, “Yeah.” They were kind of jumping me to the front of the line because I think in their mind I took priority over previous vaginal births which I thought was nice. 


Meagan: That’s interesting. Probably because they wanted you on a monitor? 


Julie: Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking.  


Meagan: Were you not on a monitor in triage, though?


Gretchen: No, I was literally in a waiting room. So I get into a room and I get on a monitor. I remember feeling really panicky at this point and just scared. I could feel the anxiety creeping back in. This nurse was so wonderful. She came up to me and she put her hand on my wrist and she said, “You’re going to be okay. I’m watching your baby and you’ve got to let us take care of you.” And I just felt like, “Okay. I’m going to be okay. These nurses care.” It felt so different than the first time. I really felt like it was going to be okay. 


I knew I wanted an epidural because I was concerned about having the syncope again which I knew would lead me to C-section again. So for me, I figured if I got the epidural, I wouldn’t have the syncope. The midwife came in and asked me when I wanted it and she said, “If you wait too long, you might not get it.” So I said, “Okay.” 


I’m glad I agreed when I did because it took the anesthesiologist another hour or so to even get to me. I guess-- let me back up. I got into my room at 11:00 p.m. and I got my epidural around 2:00 a.m. At that point, I was really glad for it because I was in a lot of pain. I couldn’t really rest and they were pretty consistently 3 minutes apart-- contractions, at that point. 


The epidural was really nice. I didn’t want so much numbness that I couldn’t feel anything and the anesthesiologist was really receptive to that. I got just enough to not feel pain, but I could still feel pressure if that makes sense, which was nice that I wasn’t so numb. It wasn’t anything like a spinal which was great.  


I ended up taking a little bit of a rest. I couldn’t sleep, but I did rest. At that point, when I had checked in, I was dilated to a 6. They came back and checked me around 4:30 in the morning. The midwife on call checked me and she said I was at a 7. She said, “I have other news for you. This baby is sunny-side up.”


My heart just sank because I knew-- not that you can’t deliver sunny-side up-- but I knew it made things a little bit more challenging. But she told me, “Don’t be discouraged. Sometimes babies flip at the last minute. It’s okay.” But I was pretty discouraged at that point and I just felt like I was destined for C-section again. My husband said, “No, don’t think like that. Just relax and hope that he flips.”


They put me on a peanut ball and they switched me side to side-- it was between my legs-- every 30 to 40 minutes. But I was just laying there praying that he flipped. She had also offered to break my water at 7 centimeters and it didn’t feel right to me. You know that feeling where they’re trying to start pushing interventions? I started to get that vibe a little bit. 


I dug my heels in. I was nice but I kind of didn’t say anything. I just said, “I’m not really comfortable with that.” She goes, “Okay, that’s fine. We’ll wait.” I was glad I did that because I think what had happened was when they gave me the epidural, the monitor fell off my belly, so she thought contractions had stopped. In reality, it just didn’t pick them up. 


When they put the monitor back on, there they were again. I was glad I trusted myself because it was really cool to see my body do what it knew to do without needing to “speed up my labor” which is what she was trying to do.


Julie: That’s awesome. Good for you. 


Gretchen: So I said, “No.” I didn’t want to do that. She came back in, I think it was right before shift change, right before 7:00. She checked me again and I was at an 8 and at this point, she said-- at that point, I was okay. I don’t know why. I just went with my gut. She said, “Can I break your water?” And I said, “Yeah that’s fine.” She did and everything still kept moving along okay.


I continued to take a little bit of a rest. At 9:30, next thing I knew, I felt the urge to go to the bathroom. I felt the urge to poop. I told my husband, I said, “Something’s happening.” At this point, I went from feeling nothing to feeling everything very quickly. I did not expect this with an epidural. I went from feeling peaceful, bliss, resting to, “Something majorly is happening. This baby is coming.” 


I said, “You need to go get somebody,” because they had all left the room. I hadn’t had nurses in there really since that last 7:00 time. He goes, “Well, no one’s out there.” I go, “You’ve got to find somebody. This baby’s coming. Something’s happening.”


He went out and this new midwife had come in. She was really, really nice. I liked her a lot. She had great bedside manner. She checked me. This is probably 9:30-9:40 and she said, “You’re at a 9.5.” And I said, “Okay.” She said, “Let’s try some practice pushes. I want to see how your cervix moves around his head.” I said, “Okay.” She goes, “Oh, this is moving nicely and by the way, he flipped.” I was thrilled. I was so happy he had turned on his own. 


She said, “I’m going to get the room set up but I have to go deliver another baby. I’ll be right back.” I go, “What do you mean? You’re leaving? You can’t leave!” She goes, “Hang on. I’ll be right back.”


She literally left the room. I’m laying there feeling like this baby’s coming out. It was really stressful when she said, “Just hold on.” I go, “Well, how do you ‘hold on’?”  But she left and she popped back in, probably about 20 minutes later which was a very long 20 minutes when I was feeling everything at this point. 


Now I was almost overwhelmed with the pain. It wasn’t the pain itself, it was that it went from 0 to 100 so fast. 


Julie: Yes. 


Gretchen: Yes. It was so overwhelming. I asked for more epidural and they said, “We can get it but it’s probably too late,” because I was too far along and where it was in my back. They just said, “This is what this is.” You know when you get the wind knocked out of you? That was the kind of pain because it went from peaceful to excruciating. 


The midwife asked my husband, “How involved do you want to be? Do you want to be at her head or at her feet?” He said, “A little bit of both.” She said, “Well do you want to see your son’s head?” because he was descending. My husband said, “His head’s right there. I can see it.”


Every contraction I had a nurse up by my head. I had a nurse down by my feet and I had the midwife. They were coaching me through. They were so compassionate and they were so kind. I was in the most pain I’ve ever been in in my life and I didn’t think I could do it. It was so unbelievably painful. This nurse put her hand on me and she said, “I’ve done two of these without an epidural. You can do this. You can do this.” 


I was screaming. I don’t even know what came out of my mouth. It was probably a roar. It was so painful. The nurse got me a mirror and the next thing I knew, I saw his head. And so I just, you know, you just dig down deep and do what you have to do. 


Julie: Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes. 


Gretchen: I pushed for 25 minutes and the next thing I knew, he was out. I was in disbelief that he came out that quickly. It actually seemed quicker than 25 minutes, but he was out and on my chest and it was this moment of bliss. Like, this happened. He was out and I was just sobbing. You know what every woman says when they VBAC, “I did it, I did it, I did it!” 


It was the best moment. Pushing was really hard because I had the mask on and you can’t breathe as well with a mask. My husband would put it down over my mouth to give me ice chips between each contraction because I was so thirsty, so exhausted, and sweating. It’s a lot harder when you can’t breathe freely. 


I had a 2nd-degree tear. Which, that was no walk in the park either. I knew that this would be an easier recovery than a C-section, or I had hoped it would be, but that was really painful. I think I tore as much as I did because I had the fetal ejection reflex. He didn’t come out head, then shoulders. He came out in one contraction. My husband said that the midwife wasn’t ready for him with how fast he flew out. He was 8lb, 3oz. You know, that’s not small. My first son was 7, 4. I asked her how many stitches I needed and she said, “I’m not counting,” which, that was enough said. I said, “Okay, great.”


But it was so worth it. It was a much better recovery than my C-section. I could lift my toddler right away and I could play with him and get down on the floor and do all the things that I probably would not have been able to do with a C-section.


I think the biggest part of all of this was I trusted my gut. I found a really supportive provider and I managed this anxiety condition that I’ve had forever with circumstances that were less than ideal. This isn’t something I want to toot my own horn about, but I was really proud of myself. It was a really challenging time. It was a challenging pregnancy. It was stressful. A VBAC is, in my opinion, a little bit more stressful route than if you haven’t had a previous C-section.


To feel accomplished-- I set my mind to do this and I was able to succeed was really rewarding and empowering. I had the skin-to-skin time with him. It was such a healing moment and I really feel so happy and empowered that it was able to work out the way that it did. 


Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I couldn’t have done it without this podcast, without the information that you guys provided because it was the best moment of my life. It was wonderful.


Julie: You deserve to toot your own horn, girl. Toot that horn! Everyone who has a baby no matter what way-- you deserve it. Because it is a piece of work getting a baby here. 


Gretchen: Yeah. It was hard. 


Meagan: Yeah, well I was just going to say, we’re so grateful that all of the stories have been helping you and that along the way you kept following what you needed to do and it led you to where you are today.


Julie: Yeah. I love that you talked about, “I don’t know why I decided to do this then, but I did and it worked.” That’s your intuition. I think that generally, us moms don’t give ourselves enough credit for the things that we do. Like, “I don’t know why I decided to do that,” but no, it’s because you’re a dang good mom. That’s why you decided to do it. 

Prenatal anxiety

Julie: It doesn’t matter how you birth. It doesn’t matter what you do. But if you’re worried about it, then that makes you a good mom. There’s enough pressure on us to do things a certain way, especially like, we’re going for a VBAC, rigm8 u;up
M ht? So we’re generally going against the grain. You’re right. There is way more anxiety and there’s so much pressure on us.


At least for me, I can totally relate because I have anxiety 100%. I put way more pressure on myself to do things than anybody ever expects of me. I’m like, “I have to do this.” Oh my gosh, I can’t even imagine. 


This is a really big tangent, but I have a friend, it was a guy friend. He met a girl who didn’t like that I was his best friend. He got engaged to her. That was the end of our relationship because she thought we hugged for too long or something. This happened, like, 10 years ago and I’m still not over it because I lost my friend.


Anyways, I was married. We were all over there for dinner one night and I was newly pregnant. She had just had a baby. I was talking about my birth plans because this was my first baby. I was still going to have a hypnobirth and go unmedicated. I had all these plans, right? She was like, “Good luck trying to go unmedicated because I tried with this guy and I just could not take it.” I was like if there’s anything that would have ever pushed me to make it unmedicated, it was that girl who stole my best friend from me telling me that I couldn’t do it. I was like, well, now I’m extra motivated to do it. But I had a C-section, so that gave me a nice slice of humble pie in that regard. 


As far as putting pressure and stuff on yourselves, it’s a big deal. Then you tell people your plans and then you don’t want to look like a turd if you don’t-- you know what I mean. I probably don’t even have to explain. If you have anxiety, you’re probably like, “Yep,” nodding your head. You feel like you have to meet this expectation you have set for yourself or else everybody else will think you’re awful.


Gretchen: Yep. But I think also, recognizing. One of the things that really helped was knowing that I have this anxiety disorder. I’ve had it forever and that’s okay. What tools do I need to help manage it throughout this pregnancy? And knowing that if I need therapy twice a week, that’s okay. If I need to talk to my OB and ask the same question three times, that’s okay too. It’s okay to reach out for help. 


A lot of people have the idea that if you’re in therapy or if you’re using extra help then it’s a weakness and it’s not. It’s a strength. It really is. It’s okay to need support and to need help. That’s what I wanted to really transmit through my story is that anxiety is like any other medical condition. It’s the way your brain’s wired and it’s okay.


Pregnancy is hard enough without that and it’s okay to need extra help. I think having the OB that I found, although she didn’t deliver me, the midwives that worked with her-- they were all so VBAC friendly. I could not have had the birth I had without that group of women because they were so supportive of my desires. 


It was funny because she called my cell phone on the morning I delivered him. I had an appointment in her office and she called me. I had called to cancel it when I was in labor. She called me and I go, “He’s here!” She goes, “Congratulations.” She was so happy for me. It was really neat to talk to her when he was a half an hour old, which was really cool. 


Julie: Aw, that’s awesome. I agree with everything you said there. I have Hashimoto’s. When my Hashimoto’s flares up, I just don’t feel good. My anxiety gets worse when I have a flare-up. But then pregnancy puts me into a remission of sorts because pregnancy suppresses your immune system. Autoimmune diseases are when your immune system is attacking your body and if your immune system is suppressed, it’s kind of like a win-win. You get a baby and you don’t have to have Hashimoto’s for nine months essentially unless you’re the unfortunate one where your entire pregnancy is a flare-up.


During my pregnancies, I would actually feel really good. I felt like I had less anxiety because I wasn’t having these Hashimoto’s attacks. Everything was golden except for my third pregnancy, which was a surprise, and I was really really just ticked off that I was pregnant. I was mad. And I know that some women try forever to get pregnant and it doesn’t work. How could I feel mad about being pregnant? But I was mad. 


I was in the middle of postpartum depression. I was struggling with two kids and why would this happen that I would be pregnant again? I struggled big-time during that pregnancy. One of the darkest moments of my life was during that pregnancy. It was in that moment, well it wasn’t in that moment but it was maybe a couple weeks after that, that I realized that this wasn’t normal, that I needed some help, and that if I didn’t, I was going to suffer greatly and so were my children. 


I went to my provider and I got on an antidepressant, sertraline. SSRIs are generally considered safe during pregnancy. I call it Vitamin Z because the brand name is Zoloft. Still on it four years later because hot chocolate and cocoa powder all over my freaking kitchen right now. 


But it is a normal thing. It’s okay to have that, especially right now. Oh my gosh, being pregnant during a pandemic. We want to end the stigma. A friend of mine that’s pretty dear to my heart just mentioned in passing that she had an appointment with a therapist. I was so excited inside because I have been hoping that she would go see somebody for a long time because she has a pretty complicated life. I was like, “Yes! I’m so excited that you’re finally doing this.” But I didn’t want to say it out loud because I didn’t want to make it weird or awkward. You know what I mean? Again, my anxiety-- overthinking it, right? 


When you realize that moment and the value that it’s going to bring into your life, it’s a really, really big deal. We actually had a sponsor on our podcast, let’s see, a few weeks ago, months ago, maybe? It’s on our resources page on thevbaclink.com/resources. You can find a link there to Better Help. It’s online counseling. You can get connected to a counselor in less than 24 hours. You fill out this questionnaire and they get to know everything about you and match you to a counselor that fits your needs and what’s going on in your life exactly. 


They’re amazing. If you use promo code VBAC, you get 10% off your first month. They’re really reasonably priced. They even have financial aid if you qualify for help paying for that therapy and counseling. Betterhelp.com, promo code VBAC. I think it just helps make it more comfortable. You can text them. You can email them anytime. It’s not like you have to go drive across town for an hour to see your therapist or whatever. So, plug-in for Better Help and all the good that they are doing for really anybody, not just pregnant people. 


A lot of times we think of anxiety and mood disorders and stuff like that for postpartum. It’s postpartum when you feel that, right? Postpartum depression. Postpartum OCD. Postpartum anxiety. We don’t talk enough about that, but we don’t talk near enough about what happens when you’re-- how about when you’re pregnant? I think there’s an even bigger stigma surrounding that. 


Meagan: I had a guest blogger for my doula page, not The VBAC Link, but Tiny Blessings and she wrote all about that. Actually, we should link in this as well. 


Julie: Yeah, link your blog. 


Meagan: She’s very vulnerable, like very vulnerable. 


Julie: I need to go read it. 


Meagan: But it’s amazing. It’s amazing what she talks about and what can happen like you said. It happens perinatal. It happens during the perinatal time as well. 


Julie: Yeah. Hormones are crazy.


Gretchen: For me, it’s kind of like the opposite of your Hashimoto’s. Mine gets very inflamed when I’m pregnant. It tends to come down postpartum, although I was very aware of postpartum potential to be more problematic, but I’ve done pretty well. Again, I still maintain the therapy and all the things I need to do to stay well. 


One thing I forgot to mention was I wanted to hire a doula and I met with a doula the week before COVID hit. Then COVID hit and I wasn’t allowed to have the doula in the hospital. The doula and I did stay in touch a little bit, but I wasn’t able to have her. It all worked out how it was supposed to, but I felt bad because I really would have loved to work with her. 


Julie: Ugh, we’ve been feeling it too over here. Man, that’s crazy. 


Yeah, so if you’re struggling right now, or ever, or have been, or know somebody who is, go check out thevbaclink.com/resources. Get connected to Better Help and go read Meagan’s blog on her doula business page, tinyblessingsdoulaservices.com. She has a blog section there. Because sometimes it just feels good to know that you’re not alone. 

Meagan, do you want to wrap it up with the questions?


Meagan: Yeah. Sorry, can you hear my kids splashing in the bathtub? 


Julie: Oh my gosh, I thought it was mine. It’s bedtime right here and my husband’s like, “I’m sorry, but it’s going to be a little loud for a minute.”


Meagan: Yeah, sorry. Okay, so we have the questions at the end and question number one is: 


What is a secret lesson or something no one really talks about that you wish you would have known ahead of time when preparing for birth? 


Gretchen: Gosh, I don’t remember what I wrote. 


Meagan: Do you want me to read it?


Gretchen: Yes. Why don’t you read what I wrote and then I will expound on it. 


Meagan: You said, “Advocating for yourself is imperative.” Which is funny. We actually just did-- today actually. We just did a whole episode on advocating for yourself and for your clients. It says, “When it comes to birth, it’s important that a mother feels educated and empowered to make decisions that are going to impact her and her baby. My VBAC experience was so much better than my C-section because I felt so prepared for all the possible scenarios.”


Gretchen: Yeah, so I think that in my mind going in, I had a plan for a successful VBAC and I also had a plan for if that didn’t work out and if I had to have a C-section, that was okay too. But also, advocating for every decision along the way to make that VBAC happen. Like the example of wanting to break my water at 7 centimeters. It was okay that I said no. I’m allowed to say no. I don’t have to do that if I don’t want to.


We often think hospital policies are laws. I really did. I didn’t realize you could say no. And it was so nice to say, “I don’t want to do that.” I don’t want an epidural and feel nothing. I was allowed to ask for what I wanted. In my opinion, it’s so important to do that. Otherwise for me, with my C-section, I felt like a victim of the system. Not that anyone was malicious, but it wasn’t a good experience.


Meagan: Right. It is so important to know that you really do not have to just say yes and submit to everything that is being offered or suggested.


The next question was:


What is your best tip for someone preparing for a VBAC?


Gretchen: I think I said, and I hope this is correct what I wrote-- really it’s education. Knowing what’s safe and how to achieve that. And also, really, really great providers. A provider that is on your team, not just VBAC tolerant but VBAC supportive. And then support all around you because I think without the team that I had, I would not have been successful. My husband is such a non-anxious person. He really is able to just support me and push me in that direction without being overwhelming. But he told me, he’s like, “You can do this.”


Meagan: Yeah, that’s exactly what you said. “Educate yourself. Arm yourself with facts. Knowledge is power. And, most importantly, having supportive people around you-- family, friends, and providers.”


I love it. Thank you. Thank you, thank you. And yes. Your story is going to be as inspiring and amazing. I don’t know-- I was going to ask you if you felt comfortable dropping your provider’s name because there are a lot of people in your area that don’t know supportive providers. But if not, it’s okay.


Gretchen: It’s Dr. Rachel Paccione at Comprehensive Women’s OB/GYN. I saw her at the Dunwoody location but she also has an office in Duluth. She’s wonderful. I don’t know if I found a diamond in the rough because she was the only doctor I had when I moved here. I just found her online and then she was off the bat VBAC supportive, so I was under the impression that a lot of Georgia doctors were. Then I listened to your podcast and I’m like, “Oh. Maybe I got lucky.”


Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Head over to thevbaclink.com/share and submit your story. For all things VBAC, including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Julie and Meagan’s bios, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.

With her first baby, Aubria had gestational diabetes that wasn’t diagnosed until she was 37 weeks. She ended up having a Cesarean and birthing an 11 pound, 11 ounce perfectly healthy baby girl. Aubria was determined to have a different birth outcome the second time around. She was proactive with her diet, switched providers at 38 weeks, and stayed as patient as possible even when she was approaching 42 weeks.


After six long days of prodromal labor, Aubria had a beautiful, redemptive HBAC. Aubria talks about how she trusted instincts she didn’t know she had and found healing through postpartum pelvic floor therapy.


We also discuss how imperative it is to find a provider who is an expert in your type of birth. Our discussion is based on this quote by Lauralyn Curtis:

“If there is one thing you can do right now to ensure your best birth experience, it’s this: Choose a care provider who is an expert in the type of birth you are planning...When you find the right care provider, they will understand your birth plan before you even show it to them because it’s what they already do every day.”


Episode Sponsor: 

This episode is brought to you by Nourisher. Whether you are in the prenatal, postnatal, or nursing stage of motherhood, Nourisher bars have your nutrition covered without sacrificing flavor. Their delicious flavors include Blueberry Coconut, Chocolate Banana, Maple Walnut, Papaya Turmeric, Spirulina Ginger, and Strawberry Rosehip. Check them out at thevbaclink.com/go/nourisher.


VBAC Link Courses:

How to VBAC: The Parents’ Course

Advanced VBAC Doula Certification

Additional Links:

3 Things You NEED to Know About Your VBAC Provider

Full Transcript:

Julie: Good morning. This is The VBAC Link podcast. We have me, Julie Francom, and my co-host, Meagan Heaton-- owners of The VBAC Link podcast-- here with you today, and we are so excited because this is our 150th episode. I’m a little excited about that because I am a numbers girl. I just spent a long time updating all of our podcast episode numbers this past weekend so that they would match because we changed how we number episodes about 70 episodes in. I’ve been going through and making everything consistent. 


To have our 150th episode feels so surreal. It feels like yesterday that I was talking to Meagan, and I’m like, “Hey, we should start a podcast. It’s not going to be hard at all. I’m going to do a test recording to try it and see. It’s going to take no time, and it will be so easy.” 

She’s like, “Okay, but I think you’re crazy, and I think you’re underestimating how much time it’s going to take, but I’m totally in.” 

I’m like, “Let’s do this.”


We did a quick test run and uploaded it to a podcast hosting service, and I’m like, “See? That took me less than an hour.” 


Now that we’re doing full-blown episodes, it’s a lot more time-consuming than I had expected it to be, but what a journey. Meagan, what a journey. 150 episodes. Can you believe it?


Meagan: I know. It’s been super fun. I’m excited. 


Julie: I’m excited too. But do you know what I’m even more excited about? 


Meagan: My review of the week? Because it’s a good one.


Julie: No, but that too. I’m excited that we have Aubria with us. We met Aubria at The VBAC Link’s first birthday party over a year ago and her mother-in-law. Her mother-in-law is so awesome. She was there, and she has been doulaing Aubria, all of her children, and children-in-law. She’s just a really incredible person.


Meagan: She really is. 


Julie: Aubria and Lenna are really incredible people. I didn’t even realize that Aubria was going to be our 150th episode until this very moment. I’m really excited. We should do something to celebrate. I don’t know what we should do. I’m going to order cookies. 


Meagan: Okay, you can order cookies.


Julie: I’m going to order cookies to celebrate. 

Review of the Week


Julie: Anyways, the second thing I’m excited about is Meagan reading a super awesome review of the week for us.


Meagan: It’s really sweet. It’s a long one, so we’ll see if I can do it without stuttering. 


Julie: Oh, I have confidence. You can do it pretty well. 


Meagan: I am not that great at reading. It’s like my brain goes ahead of my mind or my eyes or something. This is from Apple Podcasts. If you have Apple Podcasts, please do us an awesome favor. Pause this episode right now. Head over there and leave us a review. We would love it. If you don’t have Apple Podcasts, that’s okay. You can find us on Facebook or Google. We would love to read your reviews on the next podcast.


This one is from erind39. Her topic is “Essential resource for any woman hoping for a VBAC!” She says, “I started listening to this podcast during my first trimester, in the very beginning phases of planning my VBAC. I was immediately hooked and binged all of the episodes. These amazing women gave me the confidence to find a supportive provider and reject my local hospital that has a VBAC ban. I felt so prepared for every barrier that I encountered because of Julie and Meagan. I felt empowered by the stories, facts, statistics, and mantras shared. Listening to these empowering stories made me confident in my ability to have the birth I hoped for. I am so happy to say that I was able to have my successful VBAC, and I feel that my ‘car doulas’ (where I always listened) were an integral part of my success. Thank you so much!!”


Meagan: We’re car doulas, Julie!


Julie: I really like that title. 


Meagan: I love that. Thank you so much, erind39.


Julie: Do you know what? Something else about reviews that people might not know is that when you leave us a review on Apple Podcasts-- or you can “like” and “favorite” us on Spotify. I think Google Podcasts is revamping its system now for reviews.  But when you do that, even if you drop a five-star review and don’t even make any comments on it, it lets Apple Podcasts know that what we’re doing is helpful for people. In turn, it makes it easier for people to find us and for us to help more people as they prepare for their births. 


So, if this has made a very big impact on you as you prepare for your own birth or if it’s helped educate you as a birth worker, then doing something so simple as going to Google, Facebook, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts and can leave a review-- dropping that review helps broaden our reach. As Meagan said, if you can pause the podcast right now, go drop us a quick review. We would appreciate you from the very bottom of our hearts. 

Episode Sponsor

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Not only are these bars delicious and tasty, but they have amazing benefits for both you and your baby in the pre and postnatal stages. They increase your energy. They support tissue repair and brain building. They improve gut health with fiber, probiotics, and healthy fats. They give you a nutritional lift from sprouted grains and seeds that provide essential nutrients. They are packed with superfoods like turmeric, spirulina, and rosehip to support a healthy immune system and reduce inflammation throughout the pregnancy and postpartum stages. Go ahead and give Nourisher a try. You can get right to them by clicking the link in our show notes or going to thevbaclink.com/go/nourisher. Give them a try. You will not regret it.  

Aubria’s story


Julie: Alright, Aubria. We absolutely love her story. We were both little teeny parts of it as her mother-in-law supporting her from far away and updating us. I’m not going to tell her whole story because there are a lot of really, really fun details. Aubria has two boys. She has grown up in Utah and Texas, but currently, she lives pretty close to us. She lives between us, actually. We’re really excited to hear your story. So Aubria, why don’t you go ahead and share your birth stories with us. 


Aubria: Okay, awesome. I’m super excited to be here. Thank you for letting me share my story. My little boy, Calvin, is now one year old, and he is my VBAC baby. I can’t believe it’s been a year already. He’s a year. A few weeks ago, he turned a year. It’s so crazy. 


With his pregnancy, because of the trauma that happened with my C-section, I decided to do a low-carb diet. With my first baby, my little Rory, we had gestational diabetes. It was not discovered until I was 37 weeks and super swollen and big. He was super swollen and big. We thought there was a problem, so that’s why I had my C-section. They thought it was an emergency-- that he had a condition called hydrops-- which could cause heart failure if he goes through the birth canal. He didn’t end up having that, but he did turn out to be really big. He was 11 pounds, 11 ounces when he was born.


Julie: Whoa. That’s a big baby. 


Aubria: Yeah. He was really big. I had gained about 80-90 pounds during his pregnancy. No one caught it. None of the medical professionals went, “Hey, you’re gaining weight.” I had no idea I had it; then, at 37 weeks, they were like, “Oh. We’ve got to check that baby out.” It was pretty traumatic and really last minute. 


I had already done so much work. I had gone to HypnoBirthing classes, talked to my mother-in-law, who is a doula, and my mom, who had seven kids. I was so ready to have a natural birth and have it all amazing. It all went out the window, out the door in five minutes. That was pretty crazy. It was so wild. With Calvin, I was really determined to keep my weight down, his weight down, keep my sugars good, and I was low carb. 


As I did that and was working with that, I heard about all of the negative things about what could happen with a VBAC. I was super getting nervous, and then my mother-in-law found The VBAC Link. I got to meet Julie and Meagan. It was so cool because their course was amazing. It taught her. It taught me. She bought the doula one. I bought the parents. It taught my husband. It helped us gain the confidence to talk to our provider and see if he was actually VBAC friendly and talk to our hospital. These guys really know their stuff. 


As I was asking my doctor these questions about, “Hey, are you VBAC friendly? Will you let me do a VBAC? What’s your VBAC rate?” He was like, “Yeah. I let VBACs happen and all these things.” Then as my pregnancy progressed farther and farther, he started saying, “Well, I don’t know about VBACs. I don’t know if I can support you in this. I really want to.” He’s a really friendly guy, and he’s a really good doctor. I got out of him eventually, with the questions I learned to ask from Julie and Meagan, that he cannot induce me because if something happens if he does that like if I was to have a uterine rupture, he would not be able to be covered by his insurance if something happened to me. 


Julie: What?! That exists still?


Aubria: Yeah. He’s a family doctor and an OBGYN.


Julie: Interesting. Offline I’m going to have to find out who this is. I think I might have an idea, but I just want to confirm. 


Aubria: That’s not exactly what he said. He kind of said that, but he was like, “I won’t be covered if something happened to you.” I was like, “Oh, wow.” So he was like, “I cannot induce you.” But he was willing to let me go to 42 weeks, which was amazing because a lot of doctors don’t do that. So he was willing to let me go to 42 weeks, but he wouldn’t induce me, and my mom takes three days to labor on her own without Pitocin. So I was like, “Well, if I take after her, then I’m doomed.”


It was really last minute. I was 38 weeks, and I called our family-friend midwife. I was like, “Hey, will you do my birth for me?” I would do it at my mother-in-law’s house because that’s where we were living. And she’s like, “Yes. I’d love to!” I was like, “Really?” Because she’s still certified, but she doesn’t practice with many people anymore. The fact that she was doing it for me was a really big deal. 


At 38 weeks, I switched providers. I didn’t tell my doctor because I really liked to keep my options open because I didn’t know what would happen. I didn’t tell him. I just got a midwife and went to both of them for check-ups until I went into labor. If something happened, I would have the hospital for an emergency, and if not, I was going to have my baby at home. 


Then I hit 40 weeks. I was having tightening and cramps. I was like, “Yeah! My body is working. It’s going to happen.” A few weeks later, nothing happened. My due date was August 9th. That came and went with nothing. Then on August 15th-- so I’m 41 weeks at this point-- I wake up at 1:00 a.m., and I actually have really hard, steady contractions that are a few minutes apart. I’m like, “I think this is it. This is awesome.”


I waited until 5:00 a.m., and they didn’t stop. I’m like, “I’ve got to get my whole team together.” My mother-in-law was out of town, and she’s my doula. She was out of town, helping my sister-in-law. So I call my mom because she’s also helped with birth, but she’s not certified. I call my midwife. My husband-- I wake him up. My father-in-law gets his room ready because that’s where I was going to have the baby. They set up the pool, and nothing happens. 


At 9:00 on the dot, my contractions stopped. I was so confused. I had my midwife check me. I was 90% effaced. I was dilated to a 6, but then it stayed there. We tried everything to naturally induce. We tried sex. We tried the membrane sweep. We tried walking, being in different positions, getting the baby into a different position. We tried a few different Spinning Babies moves because we figured he might be twisted a little. We tried blue and black cohosh, which is an herbal medicine, under my tongue. 


We tried mental and emotional fear releases. Julie can vouch for that because I was three days in, and I was like, “Julie, nothing’s happening.” She was like, “Make sure you do this emotional release and fear release. I’m sending good vibes out for you.”


I was living with in-laws at the time, and there felt like there was to be some tension, so we talked to everyone in the house and found out they were really supportive of me. That helped. We tried our birth prep supplement. We tried nipple stimulation. We tried pumping. This was for days. Nothing helped. But every day, at 1:00 a.m., I’d start my contractions, and then they’d stop at 9:00 a.m. every day. I’d have 18-hour rests. I’d be able to sleep in between, which was really nice. 


But other than that, nothing helped. I just had to wait. I was so determined to wait and let my body do what it needed to. It was really hard, but it was good, and most people came to me and were like, “You are the queen of patience. How do you do it?” I’m like, “I am determined to let my body do it. I am not going in for another C-section because I know my body can do it.”


By day three or day four, I was super discouraged. I’m texting Julie, and I’m like, “Hey. Do you know of any people in our area that will induce a mom at 42 weeks?” She actually connected me to a doctor. I got his number, and they gave me an appointment. I didn’t actually have to go in. My appointment was set for my 42-week mark, and the day before that, August 20th, I had my baby. 


It felt pretty much the same as any of the other days. This was my sixth day of prodromal labor. It did feel a little different. My contractions were a little stronger, but they were not much closer together. But my labor kept going after 9:00 a.m., and it was getting more intense. Then it was getting closer and closer together. I got to a 9, and I was so excited. I stayed at a 9 for a few hours. My midwife kept checking me. She realized I had this cervical flap, which is where the baby’s head is trying to open it up all the way, and it can’t quite get there. She had to reach in and help me dilate to a 10 so that the baby could come through. 


I loved being in the birthing tub. It was my favorite. I sat in the tub and breathed in my breathing, and was relaxing. Around 2:00, he was finally in a good position that I could start pushing. I thought because I had labored like my mom, I’d be like my mom. Once she was ready to push, the baby’s head was pretty much out. I was like, “That’s totally going to be me. I’m only going to do one push, and the baby’s going to come out.” That’s not what happened.


I was pretty tight, even though the baby’s head was through. The baby’s head was coming. It was going down and hitting the cervix. It was really hard for me to push. I am sitting in the tub, and my midwife’s trying to tell me to push. At this point, they have my mother-in-law, who is a doula, on a video call, and she’s telling me that I’m doing a good job. I’m breathing. I think I was pushing for about an hour or two, which I know is short for some women. But for me, it was long because there had been six days of labor before that. I was super worried because I was like, “What if he won’t fit? What if he’s big like his brother?” And I had this final panic attack thinking, “Oh no. What if it’s not going to work, and I’m going to have to go to the hospital?”


My midwife-- she instinctively said, “He is in the birth canal, and he can’t stay there for much longer. You need to push harder.” I was like, “I’m going to rip. I know I’m going to tear. I’m going to tear. I’m going to tear. It hurts.” Because I was feeling a pain every time, I would push. I was feeling pain on the sides. I’m like, “I’m going to tear if I push.” She was like, “I know. But you need to push.”


So I was like, “Okay. That’s it. I’m getting this baby out.” I’d push as hard as I can, and he came out. I was so floored that I had done it. 


Sorry. I’m really emotional. I was so floored that I had done it and that my body did it, and that he did it. We did it together. I was sitting there holding him in the tub, and my husband was behind me. He had helped me the whole way. It was so strange because I was holding him and he was covered in vernix. I was almost two weeks late, or two weeks past my due date. I was like, “Wow. Maybe he was early. What if my due date was totally off?” We’re rubbing him down. I’m holding him. Later, my placenta was delivered just fine. My husband kind of freaked out. After the placenta came, a ton of blood came, and he was like, “What?!” But I was fine. I probably lost quite a bit of blood, but it wasn’t very bad. 


I was holding him and rubbing him down. He was this perfect little ball of butter because that’s what the vernix looked like. As my midwife was checking my placenta and checking him, she was like, “No, he actually was late.” He was showing more mature signs of being able to bend in ways that early babies shouldn’t. He had lines on his wrists and hands that he shouldn’t have had if he was early. My placenta started looking pitted. So it was late. He was just covered in lots of protection. I thought that it was pretty cool that my body did that.


He turned out to be 8 pounds and 8 ounces. He was much smaller than my 11,11 baby. When I was born, I was 7,7. I guess I go for the double numbers. Isn’t that funny? After that, I was just holding my baby. I actually got to breastfeed him, which with my first one, I couldn’t. It was very healing for me, all the things that I got to do with my second that I didn’t get to do with my first. I did wind up tearing, but it was just a first-degree tear. 


Meagan: That’s not bad. 


Aubria: Yeah, it wasn’t bad at all. She didn’t have any numbing, though, and she had to stitch me up right then. I was just holding my baby like, “Any pain is fine!” I healed very well, and he grew very well. 


But then I guess I have time to tell this part. As I healed and got better, I learned that just because you had a VBAC doesn’t mean you don’t have healing to do. Even though I only had a first-degree tear, I healed so tightly that I felt I was in more pain than I was before marriage. I couldn’t have intercourse without pain. I was like, “Maybe it’s just too short to tell if I’m really healed or not.” Then six months later, I’m like, “I should be better by now.” I found out eight weeks later; I should have gone and gotten help. Don’t wait six months, like me. 


I contacted Julie and Meagan again, and I was like, “Who was that pelvic floor specialist you guys talked about? I really need to talk to her.” I went to a different OB that was more specialized, and he was like, “I don’t know what to say. Just do all these exercises, and we’ll see what happens.” I’m like, “That doesn’t sound right.” 


So I went to see Valerie Schwalbe. She’s amazing. She has a new physical therapist at her office named Katelyn, and they’re both awesome. They helped me relax and get stretched, and do proper exercises for my body. Now, I’m in no pain at all. So that’s what I did. 


Megan: Amazing. 


Julie: Plug-in for pelvic floor specialists! 


Aubria: It’s so true. They are amazing. She’s helping me figure out things that I’ve had for years, like back problems that I didn’t connect to the pelvic floor. It’s been so cool. She helped me heal and stretch out my scar. 


Overall, I was very empowered, and I learned a lot. I listened to my instincts that I didn’t know I had. My body was able to do it, and I got the VBAC that I wanted. 


Julie: I love it. I love that story so much. 


Meagan: I’m so proud of you. 


Julie: That’s hard to go through so much labor. Whenever someone asks how long my labors were, I’m like,” My first one was a day. My second was 23 hours, but maybe 12 hours. My third was 15 hours. Then my fourth was 24 days.” Because prodromal labor, right? Every night, just like you. 


Every night, after dinner, as the kids were getting settled into bed, I would start contractions. They would be regular. I would get in the tub. They would keep going. I would get out of the tub. I’d go to bed. Then around midnight or so, they would fizzle out. Every night for 24 days. And it wasn’t a positional issue. Usually, prodromal labor is positional, hydration, we’re thinking nutrition-- things like that typically help tone prodromal labor down. I was seeing a chiropractor. I was drinking plenty of water and taking regular magnesium Epsom salt baths. 


Aubria: Oh yeah, and I did chiropractic too. 


Julie: By the time I realized it was really labor, my labor was only four hours long. But if you count the prodromal labor leading up to that, it was maybe 11 hours long. But if you count all of the prodromal labor, then it was 24 days. I just don’t know. 


Aubria: I don’t know how to count it either. I thought it was real labor, but maybe it wasn’t. 


Julie: I don’t know. She’s here, and that’s what matters.

Expert Providers

Julie: I have been writing a very, very, very, very long blog. A very, very, very long blog. It’s actually published right now. It’s actually called VBAC Stories. It’s on our blog. It’s longer summaries of some of our favorite podcast episodes. It’s taken me quite some time to, first of all, choose the episodes and second of all, remember enough details to write them out, then align and link everything, getting all of the images ready-- it’s been very, very time-consuming. 


Along my way, I found this quote that popped into my head while you were telling your story. We’re going to talk about providers that are experts in the type of birth that you want. This quote is actually by Lauralyn Curtis, who is a local HypnoBirthing instructor. She created her own method of HypnoBirthing called The Curtis Method. She’s a pretty powerful force in our community here. I found this quote from her. One day I’m going to make it a social media post or maybe even write a blog about it. It’s very, very inspiring. It speaks exactly to what Meagan and I have said about finding a provider that is good at VBACs, that likes VBACs, and that does VBACs a lot. 


I’m going to go ahead and read the quote because she says it better than Meagan and I have ever said it. This is what the quote is. 


She says, “If there is one thing you can do right now to ensure your best birth experience, it’s this: Choose a care provider who is an expert in the type of birth you are planning. If you’re planning a safe, skilled Cesarean birth, you should hire someone who is an expert at Cesarean sections. You wouldn’t hire a doctor to perform that procedure who said, ‘Well, actually I’m not really comfortable with that type of birth, but I’ll let you do it if you want, I suppose.’ 


“But if you’re planning a safe, natural, unmedicated birth, you should hire someone who is an expert at supporting natural birth. A doctor with a 30% C-section rate is not a natural birth expert. Neither is a doctor who does routine episiotomies or doesn’t understand how to catch a baby unless mom is lying on her back. A doctor who says, ‘Well, most of my patients do end up getting an epidural. But if you want to go natural, you can do that,’ is not an expert in an unmedicated birth. When you find the right care provider, they will understand your birth plan before you even show it to them because it’s what they already do every day.”


Goosebumps, right? I have goosebumps. It’s impactful-- that statement by Lauralyn. This is going to be somewhere on our social media sometimes because of how powerful it is. You could replace the word unmedicated with VBAC or with out-of-hospital birth because, again, as I was writing this long, forever blog, I’ve stumbled across a lot of really cool things. 


One of them was about home birth. A lot of OBGYNs in hospitals don’t support home birth. They don’t know how to support home birth, so they think it’s bad. They think it’s dangerous, and they think it’s not safe. 


So if you want to find out about home birth, don’t talk to an OBGYN who isn’t skilled in home birth. You would talk to a home birth midwife who is trained, skilled, and prepared in home birth and to handle all of the unknowns that come up when you’re in a home birth location. Just like you wouldn’t ask a midwife about how to birth in a hospital or what hospital birth is like. 


It’s really interesting because, on our Instagram page a few days back, Meagan had written a blog about VBACing with an epidural. There was a person who said she was a midwife, still yet to be determined whether that’s accurate or not, but the midwife said that getting an epidural is a selfish decision, and if you cared about your baby, you wouldn’t get an epidural. 


First of all, that statement’s completely false because there are so many other things that go into deciding whether to get an epidural or not. There are risks and benefits to everything. It really made me sad because how would she know? She’s an out-of-hospital midwife. She’s not an expert in epidurals. She doesn’t see them or do them every day. So how can she make a blanket statement like that applying to every single person who has ever had an epidural?


It’s the same thing vice versa with in-hospital providers. What is that saying? “You don’t go to a brickmaker for advice about diamonds” because they don’t know about diamonds. They make bricks. They don’t make diamonds. Well, I guess that would make sense. I mean, I guess you can make diamonds. But, you don’t go to a brickmaker to ask for diamond advice. 


So don’t go to a hospital midwife to ask about home birth advice. Don’t go to a provider that has a high Cesarean rate and ask them about VBAC. You need to find a provider who is an expert in your type of birth. 


It’s the same thing with doulas. It’s really funny. I think Meagan and I may have talked about this at times. I’ve talked about it with a few other doulas. When I have a client that wants an unmedicated VBAC, I already know all of the things that they’re going to want. I already know all of the things that are going to be important to them because that’s the type of clientele that I always support. If you want a natural birth, if you want an unmedicated hospital birth, I know already exactly what your plans are. I know what you’re going to face based on what hospital you choose. If you want a home birth, we already know what your preferences are because they’re very, very similar for people wanting that particular type of birth. Right, Meagan? It’s all pretty much the same. 


Meagan: Yeah. 


Julie: Hire your provider that feels like that, that knows you are going to want that immediate skin-to-skin because it’s so important to you because you lost it last time when your baby was taken from you by Cesarean. We know that you want to breastfeed right away. We know that even if you want a Cesarean, you want things to be different. You want to feel like you’re in control, and you want to make choices. We already know that you want to go as long as possible without getting the epidural if you don’t want to go unmedicated. We already know all of those things because we do and support those things all of the time. 


That’s my tangent about expert providers. As you VBAC, hire a provider that is an expert in VBACs because they do them all of the time. Don’t go to a provider who’s known as “the quilter” because of his expert stitching skill in the operating room. I mean, hypothetically.


Meagan: Hire a provider that you trust wants the same thing that you want for your birth. They want what you want, and they want to help you in every way.


Julie: Agree, 100% obviously. Aubria, it was so fun to listen to you tell the story because while we were communicating in it, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the whole thing. It was really fun. We always love having people that we know on the podcast as well. Your picture is beautiful. 


If you guys want to know more about finding a VBAC supportive provider, head on over to our blog, thevbaclink.com/blog, and in the search bar, type 3 Things You NEED to Know About Your VBAC Provider, and the blog will pop right up for you. If not, you can find it in our show notes. We’ll have a link right there to it.


If you want to know exactly what Aubria is talking about in our parent and doula courses, we’re going to have links to those courses in the show notes as well. You can check them out. They’re also on our page at thevbaclink.com under the tab called “Courses.” Head on over to our Instagram page and our Facebook pages today. Find Aubria’s post and tell us what your favorite part about her story was, and look at this gorgeous picture of her holding her VBAC baby. It’s a really, really cool picture. 


Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Head over to thevbaclink.com/share and submit your story. For all things VBAC, including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Julie and Meagan’s bios, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.

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