We have both been so busy with moving, remodeling kitchens, parenting, soccer, gymnastics, being a good wife, (trying to do) self-care, record podcasts, keep up with business, and EVERYTHING that we haven't even been able to catch up with each other. So, we decided to have a fun episode about life and what's been going on with us and the different births we have attended. You will be sure to get to know us a little better and have fun while we shoot the breeze.
Birth topics we discuss:
Overcoming emotions as birth approaches
How we feel as doulas when our clients don't get the birth they prepared for
Inappropriate things we have heard providers/staff say to parents in labor
Video content on our YouTube Channel
Clearing our minds as doulas and for parents as we enter the birth space
Releasing fears and emotions
Our signature course How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents
This episode is brought to you by our very own VBAC Doula Certification program! Find out more about how to support parents who have had a Cesarean in the most effective ways at thevbaclink.com.
Julie: Good morning, women of strength. It is Julie and Meagan here today and we are just going to talk because we have both been so busy moving, remodeling kitchens, doulaing parenting, soccer, gymnastics, trying to be a good wife somewhere in there…
Meagan: And still trying to do self-care.
Julie: And podcasts. We really haven’t even had a chance to catch up with each other and find out what we’ve been doing birth-wise, doula-wise and things like that. So we wanted to have a fun episode where we talk about life, different things that are going on with us, some births we’ve attended and different things like that. Hang along the ride with us. You’ll get to know us a little bit better and brain dead Julie, man. That’s my life right now. But first, before we do that, Meagan has a review of the week.
Review of the week
Meagan: Yes I do. This is actually from Google, so I was excited to see this. We are on Apple Podcasts and that’s probably where we get the most reviews. But this one is from Google and it’s from Hannah Troyer, Doula. Her subject is “5 Million Stars”. She says, “If I could give the VBAC Link 5 million stars, I would. It’s just that good. I have been a doula for three and a half years now and have supported multiple VBAC mamas. The evidence-based information, positive attitude, professionalism, education, encouragement and JOY I have received from Julie and Meagan leave me at a loss for words. I have tried to listen and read other podcasts, blogs, and trainings done by other doulas and most of them have left me with a bad taste in my mouth. As soon as I stumbled into the VBAC Link podcast, I could hear the joy of the doulas who actually LOVE their jobs. This was the first step into grabbing my attention and eventually making me fall in love with you two. Your podcasts are so educational and it brings a smile to my face every time I hear your voices. I could listen to them over and over. I am grateful I found the incredible source of information on VBAC’s. I am sharing it with everyone I know. Thank you, thank you, thank you VBAC Link.”
Julie: Aw, that makes me so happy.
Meagan: Yes. We do love our jobs. We love our lives, even though they’re crazy. And we do love bringing this podcast to you guys. The stories, the people that we meet all over the world. It’s just been so much fun over the last couple of years.
Julie: Oh my gosh. It’s been two and a half years. I can’t even believe it.
Meagan: Crazy, right? We’ve come a long way. Thank you so much, Hannah. We’ll dive right into the episode.
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.
Julie: Alright. It’s been a little while since we’ve had chitter chatter.
Meagan: I know. This is going to be a really random episode for you guys, catching up with what we’re up to.
Julie: Why don’t you tell a little about yourself, Meagan? Then I will share a little about me and we’ll see where we go.
Meagan: A little bit about myself. Crazy, all the time. I for some reason, like to be an energizer bunny with a half-full battery. Even today, recording podcasts, I’ve had to bail four times because I’ve had the paint people here, the countertop people here and the appliance people coming. All the things. I’m always crazy and I love projects. I struggle when my life doesn’t have a project in it.
I have three kids and they keep us pretty busy. They’re all in soccer right now, so Saturdays look like us being at the soccer field all day long, because they’re each an hour plus games and we’re going from back to back to back. Then my daughter’s in gymnastics, and my other daughter is in dance. It’s been so much fun. They’re all out of the house a couple days a week because they’re all in school. That’s been really different for me, but honestly really fun. I get to do self care, work, do podcasts, go do prenatal cares with my clients, things like that. It’s been super fun. That’s kind of what we’re up to. Always crazy and going. My husband has been quite the trooper for supporting me through all of it.
Julie: Don’t forget, Meagan the doula, supported her husband while he was in law school by being a doula. She’s awesome.
Meagan: Yes. Doula life was crazy there for a little bit. But it’s been awesome. It’s been nice to take a little step back. Last month, I only had one client due. It was really nice to be here and take care of the family.
Julie: I think taking breaks is so important as a doula.
Meagan: Yeah. It’s how you avoid burnout.
Julie: Totally. I’m Julie, mom of four. I had four kids in a little less than five years. Not on purpose. I mean, well, you kind of half to do certain things to get pregnant, obviously. But the timing of baby number three-- she wanted to come sooner than we were planning. So, we have them all squished, right together. Currently their ages are seven, five, four, and two and a half, which is much better than when they were four, two, one, and a newborn. That was nuts. That was really nuts. But it all works out. It’s fine. Sometimes you hear kids running around in the background when I’m recording podcasts. That’s just the way it has to be during the digital age of quarantine and coronavirus.
I also have a dog and a husband. My kids do soccer, just my two boys. One of my daughters is enrolled in gymnastics. Then the two and a half year old destroys everything in the house. That’s her hobby. My kids are very creative and problem solvers. I get caught off guard a lot by them-- which is probably a good way to say it.
I am an Army veteran, computer geek, data junkie, very analytical, and I just moved. Same town, really exciting move. I am really excited, actually. We’re getting everything unpacked and unloaded still. I feel like lately my life copies Meagan’s. Whatever Meagan is doing, my life will naturally get there. She was remodeling her kitchen while I was looking at houses and then I kept coming back to this house with an ugly kitchen. An ugly, ugly kitchen. We even called it the “ugly kitchen house”. My seven year old was like, “We’re not moving to the ugly kitchen house, are we?” Then my four year old would say, “It’s a beautiful house!” Then Meagan got me in contact with her kitchen guy. Now we are moved in. We are remodeling the kitchen as well. Meagan’s my hero.
We each have our own doula businesses, too. Let’s do a plug-in. Tiny Blessings Doula Services is Meagan’s doula company and she has a partner that she runs her doula business with. My doula business is called Julie Francom Birth. You can find us both on Instagram and Facebook. We would love the “likes” if you want to “like” us.
Overcoming emotions leading up to birth
Meagan: If you want to follow our personal doula careers, check us out. This month, I have a lot of VBAC’s coming up, actually. So it’s quite exciting. At Tiny Blessings, we do a lot of first time moms, fifth time moms, but it seems like we go in spurts where we’ll have no VBAC’s, then the whole month is VBAC. It’s so fun. But it also brings a busy month because, as a VBAC parent, there’s a lot of stress that comes in the very end. Do you find that, Julie, with your clients?
Julie: Yeah, a lot of emotion.
Meagan: It’s a lot of emotional stress at the end. It can be heavy, but it’s fun. It’s not fun to be stressed for them, but it’s fun to work through it with them because when it comes down to the birth, we’re that much closer with our clients because we’ve been able to work through the nitty-gritty with them.
Julie: I think that with VBAC parents, it’s definitely a little more natural to fall into that more intimate knowledge of them. But I’ve had a really strong connection with a recent first time mom and I had a four-peat client, so a client that’s been with me four times. My last three births, which have actually been in the last four weeks, have been a four-peat client, so her fourth baby with me as her doula, a VBAC, then a VBAC attempt that ended in a repeat Cesarean. It’s really fun because I love connecting with these people.
Even the repeat Cesarean mom, she entered into her Cesarean smiling. She was so happy, laughing and confident. We created a really great environment for her. Her midwife was very supportive. It was night and day difference, she had said, from her first Cesarean to her second-- how she felt more supported and she felt like she was the one making the decisions.
Meagan: Which is a powerful thing.
Julie: It really is. It’s really different to go from an experience where you feel completely out of control and that decisions are being made for you to being an active decision maker in your care and being the final one to say, “Okay, let’s do this.” Even if your provider is offering you all different types of suggestions and things like that, being able to be the one to say, “Okay, let’s do it,” instead of your doctor being the one to say, “Well, we need to do this now.” It’s great and I love it.
That mama was wheeled into that Cesarean with a big smile on her face and wheeled out of it with a great, big smile on her face. It was a totally, completely different experience for her. That makes me happy.
When clients don’t get the birth they prepared for
Julie: I’m always sad when somebody doesn’t get their VBAC. It always makes me sad, especially when I’m sitting alone in the empty birth room whenever I’m not allowed in the operating room. You sit there and reflect, “Did I do enough? What could I have done differently?” I put a lot of responsibility on myself. But I know that a lot of these things are not in my control and that I support the best that I can. I’m always sitting there questioning and trying to see what we could have done differently. It’s kind of a lonely time when you’re just waiting. But coming back and seeing them so happy-- baby was so happy, and dad was so happy. It makes my heart more full when I can see that.
Meagan: Any birth workers out there, you may be able to relate. If things don’t go exactly as planned or desired, we sit back there and we take it home. It’s hard not to take it home with us and question, “Could we have done something more?” It’s my absolute favorite when the client says, “Yeah, it didn’t turn out exactly how I wanted it to. However, that was the most healing experience for me and I wouldn’t have changed it.” You know? Because they were in control, or because they felt like they were advocated for, or they were given options and they were able to make the decisions. It’s a powerful thing to be as in control as you can in a birth situation.
Julie: I agree with that. That’s actually a number one indicator about whether someone will have post-traumatic stress related to birth. It’s not necessarily the birth outcome as much as whether they felt like they were listened to, heard, and that they were a decision maker in their care. Even VBAC’s, you can have post-traumatic stress disorder if you feel like you weren’t in control of what was being done to you or what was happening to you, as much as you can be in control with birth. But I mean as far as the decisions go, your care team, and all of those things.
Inappropriate comments said during labor
Julie: I’m going off on a little bit of a tangent, but can we talk about inappropriate things that we have heard providers, nurses, or hospital staff say to parents while they are in labor? Do you want me to start?
Meagan: Yeah, go ahead.
Julie: I actually had a client tell me that somebody had said this to her before, two years ago or so. But this same birth that I was just talking about, the nurse was a little rough around the edges. I think she was just really nervous about VBAC. There were two things she said that didn’t really sit very well with me. I know that she had good intentions. I want to preface it with that. I don’t think that this nurse had any ill intent or anything at all.
But when my client was in labor, before it had been decided that she was going to have a repeat Cesarean, the nurse came in and she was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. I come in here every time the baby falls off the monitor. I just get so nervous with TOLAC moms because I had one TOLAC mom, when her baby fell off the monitor, I came in to check on them and baby was outside of the abdomen and her uterus had ruptured. It was really scary and we had to do a repeat crash Cesarean.”
She said this to my client while my client was laboring with a VBAC. So every time that baby dropped off the monitor, that nurse rushed in there as fast as she could. And now we knew why. I feel like part of that created a subconsciously stressful environment for my client. Every time the nurse would rush in, we would change positions, baby would fall off the monitor, nurse would rush in, and then there was all of a sudden that fear of uterine rupture again coming in with that nurse.
The other thing she said-- I really had to bite my tongue, hard, during this speech she was making. Before my client was wheeled back for her Cesarean, they were getting everything prepped. The anesthesiologist was in there and everything. You know how they do. The nurse put her hand on my client. I really do think she was trying to be nice, kind and supportive. She said, “You know, sometimes things just have to go like this and we don’t know why. But we’re so grateful that we have these life saving measures like Cesarean birth. Because if this would have been 200 years ago, you and your baby would have died. You and your baby would have died if it was a couple hundred years ago. So we’re grateful that we have these Cesareans so that we can save your life and we can save your baby’s life.”
Well, I’m not going to analyze that birth to death because I’ve been analyzing that birth to death in my head. 200 years ago, things would have been very different. I had a client who said a nurse had said that to her before, but hearing it directly come out of her mouth, I was like, “No. Not the right time. Very inappropriate.” Even if it WAS true. EVEN IF it was true. And who knows? Maybe it is true. I don’t know. But not the right time. Bad timing. That was hard.
Meagan: I had a client, it was really hard. She had a different ethnicity. She was a VBAC. She was doing really well, actually. She just needed some more time and more support. They kept telling her that due to her ethnicity, the likelihood of her getting her baby out vaginally was extremely low, but the likelihood of her having rectal incontinence for the rest of her life was extremely high. They encouraged her to really think about if she was willing to poop her pants for the rest of her life for a vaginal birth.
Julie: Oh my gosh!
Meagan: Yeah. I was dying. I was sitting there cringing inside. “Due to her ethnicity.”
Julie: Can we talk about ethnicity and inappropriate comments? I had a client who was a TOLAC and oh, this nurse. I love labor and delivery nurses. I think that they are undervalued. But I think that some of them don’t understand the impact that they have on the overall birth process. The vibe, the energy, and everything like that.
I had a nurse once who still gives me the creepy crawlies every time that I talk about it. My client was Mexican and her husband was Mexican. They were born in Mexico and they were here working in the United States legally-- work visas, and everything. My client was a VBAC. But every time I would say the word “VBAC”, the nurse would look at me. I think she just had a problem with doulas. She must have had a bad run-in with a doula or something. I don’t know. But she would look at me and be like, “It’s a TOLAC.” And I was like, “Okay, TOLAC. I need to remember to call this a TOLAC.” So I would start trying to remember to say TOLAC instead of VBAC just so that we could get that negative tone out of the room.
My client was very fluent in English and she understood English very well. But that nurse would speak to her like she was a kindergartener, with slow sentences. She said, “You have this. Do you know what that means? Do you understand what that means?” and my skin was crawling. This was probably one of my most educated clients that I have ever had. She was speaking to her like she was completely ignorant just because she had a really heavy Mexican, Hispanic accent. It was really frustrating.
She was an older nurse. She had been around the block a time or two. She wouldn’t use the machine to administer the IV fluids. She preferred to let them drip instead of go through the machine. She thought it went better that way. They didn’t have the Monica Novii monitor, but when the next nurse came in, she said, “Oh, let’s get the Novii monitor out for you to use.” You could tell she was set in her ways, from an older generation. Especially in Utah, where we have a very, very, very high population of white people and not very much diversity, it was really hard to see her treat my client like that. It was hard.
Meagan: It’s hard as a doula to see stuff like that and hear things. But as a doula, we have to stay professional and we have to respect the entire birth room. It can be hard and it can be super easy. It just depends on the staff and everything.
Julie: I think it goes without saying that different personalities don’t vibe well together perfectly. As a doula, it’s very hard to change your personality to match the vibe of the staff’s personality and learn how to interact with them. Sometimes, you just can’t match your personality. But I do a pretty good job. I think that’s one of the only times that I have really not been able to be happy with a nurse. And not only be happy with, but I mean, be fun, and part as friends. You know what I mean? Leave feeling that everybody in the room was supportive and enjoyed the experience together and things like that. That one nurse was particularly hard.
Clearing minds for the birth space
Meagan: I wanted to touch really quickly on a couple of questions. This last week on Instagram, it was my weekend and I asked to have people ask me questions, and one of the really frequent questions that came through was how to prepare mentally and let go of past experiences. I wanted to talk on Julie’s Youtube video up on our channel on YouTube about releasing fear, tension and past experiences and things like that. Because I think it is so valuable and it’s something that you may have to do multiple times, but it’s something that can be very powerful during your preparation.
I encourage you to not even wait until you are pregnant. Do it now and process what is going through your mind now. As more things come up, do those. Same thing with birth workers. We see a lot. We hear a lot. We go through a lot. I think it’s important to notice that for birth workers, there are a lot of things that we need to release because just like providers, we’ve talked about this before, providers see a lot of stuff. They see things that are amazing and things that are so scary. Sometimes they can let those experiences come into other people’s births.
Julie: Yeah, like that nurse who kept coming in when the baby would drop off the monitor.
Meagan: Exactly, and it’s hard. That’s life. It’s human. It’s normal. I have a very relative personality and so I tend to relate from my own experience to relate to people. So it’s so important for us in the birth space to keep other situations and other stories separate from what’s happening then. Now you can take those experiences as learning experiences and use them as a tool to certain points, but it’s so important to not bring either negative feelings or negative situations and things like that that you’ve seen into a new birth that is completely different.
After I saw my friend who did rupture, I was nervous to go to my next VBAC because I was nervous that I was going to overanalyze things. Does that make sense? I didn’t want to make anything that was happening from my friend’s birth go into my mind and think, “Oh my gosh, maybe this client is rupturing too.” I feel very proud of myself. I would give myself a cookie for not carrying that in, but I was nervous that I would. Of course, my education and things like that have helped me not have that situation. Anyway, I just think it’s so important to go and do these fear clearing releases and things like that. So Julie, do you want to tell them where we can find those?
Julie: The fear releasing activity video?
Meagan: Yeah, on YouTube. It’s your video. You did it really well.
YouTube video content
Julie: Thanks. I love it. It’s a really fun fear release activity that you can do. It’s on our YouTube channel. You can go and subscribe to our YouTube channel. Our podcasts are also published to YouTube automatically, so if you subscribe to our YouTube channel, you’ll automatically get notified when a new podcast episode comes out there if that’s easier to watch than listen wherever you are listening right now. We also have it on our IGTV, videos on Instagram and I think it’s on Facebook somewhere, but probably the best place to find it would be on YouTube. It’s under the education playlist.
Meagan: I’m going to look right now. I want to figure out exactly what you can type on YouTube. Painless fear release. Actually, you can just search the VBAC Link and it’s on there. It’s number four. VBAC Without Fear: 5 Minute Fear Release. So get on there, check it out. You’ll see cute Julie’s face, pretty much everywhere, because let’s be honest. I have been terrible at making videos and she has been amazing at making them.
Julie: Do you know what else, Meagan, that I have figured out for getting emotions out? The nervous system, our brain and our body, the neurological system and the sympathetic nervous system, is that what it’s called? I don’t know, I’m not a brain junkie. But there are feelings and emotions stored in our body. Sometimes you don’t even know what those feelings and emotions are, but they need to get out.
One of the ways for them to get out is by crying. Sometimes, if I don’t have time to do a full fear release with my client, or they don’t quite know what’s bothering them or what they would even write down, I just tell them, “Go do something that will make you cry.” Watch the Notebook. The Seven Minutes movie with Will Smith in it is the only time I have ever left a movie theater sobbing. Or, I don’t know, slow dance with your partner, or watch your wedding song or your birth video or whatever. Do something that makes you cry. Your body will do the rest. It will turn into this huge cry fest and emotional release for you. You don’t even have to write it down or burn it or do anything because your body will process it once that release starts. Pretty, pretty cool. Just cry. All you’ve got to do is cry about it and then it will be better.
How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents
But yes. The smokeless fire fear release. We have a fear release activity in our course for parents at How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents and you can find that on our website thevbaclink.com. But this is in addition to that.
There is also a supplementary video in our course that you can find on our YouTube channel and it talks about a really cool, smokeless fire fear release. Basically you put Epsom salts and rubbing alcohol in a fire-proof bowl. I usually use a glass bowl. You light it on fire with a lighter. Obviously fire safety is encouraged. Then you shred up your paper that you have written down all of your thoughts on and burn it. It burns without smoke unless you have, like, eight people putting their papers in. Then there’s some smoke and you might set off a fire alarm when you’re doing an in-person class. Hypothetically. But it’s super fun and super easy. When you’re done you just flush it down the toilet. The Epsom salts dissolve in the water and it’s perfect.
Meagan: Awesome. Is there anything else that you want to add for this really quick, random, short episode?
Julie: This is something that is good for doulas and parents. Whenever you leave a birth, write it down on paper. Brain dump everything on your mind. It doesn’t have to be legible. Don’t go back and read it. Write it all out. Don’t proofread. Don’t worry about punctuation or capitalization or anything like that. Write it all down as fast as you can. Off load it from your brain and then destroy the paper. You can burn it using this five minute smokeless fire fear release. You can shred it up and throw it into the wind. You can flush it down the toilet, whatever you want. Just destroy it and then your brain creates this dopamine response. The brain dump, with the dopamine response by destroying it, actually causes your body and brain to process and heal the things that just happened. That would be my last tip.
Meagan: We are going to start doing more of these where we randomly chat with you. We want to answer questions or talk about topics. If you have a topic that you would like us to touch on, send us a message either on Instagram or Facebook. We’ve got some that have come in and we’re going to get them rolling out on episodes here soon, probably towards the end of the year or the beginning of 2021. Holy cow, hopefully by then it’ll be a lot better than 2020. We are excited to keep talking to you about things you want to hear about.
Julie: And as always, we love you and we believe in you. We are proud of you.
Meagan: Do you want to do me a really quick favor? We are needing more reviews to read on the podcast. If you could go over to Google, Facebook, or wherever, leave us a review and let us know what you think of The VBAC Link.
Julie: Do you know what else you could do? If you’ve taken our course, go to our course page on our website, thevbaclink.com and leave a review there. We should start reading some course reviews as a review of the week.
Meagan: Yeah, let’s do it.
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.