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 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 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 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 to find out more and sign up today. That’s 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 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 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 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., 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 Get connected to Better Help and go read Meagan’s blog on her doula business page, 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 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 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: 

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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. 

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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,, 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 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 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 Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.

Jill from Alberta, Canada. She is a homeschooling mother to 3 children, a birth doula, and a recently certified birth support coach through the Birth Coach Method. She is excited to use her newly learned coaching tools to help her clients achieve their desired birth experience even if they cannot have a doula attend their birth. Jill works with pregnant women in their last trimester to coach them around their desires for their birth, their current reality, and circumstances and closes every coaching session with an action assignment designed to reach their goals.
Aside from sharing her incredible VBAC story, we discuss:
-What birth coaching is and how it is different from childbirth education.
-How hiring a birth support coach can help you, even if you can't have a doula attend your birth.
-How birth support coaching places the pregnant parent as an expert on their body and their birth.
Find Jill and learn more about birth coaching on her Instagram page: @jillmcknight_birthdoula

Episode Sponsor:

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Meagan: Happy Wednesday, women of strength! It is Julie and Meagan. We have Jill with us today. She’s in Canada and we cannot wait to hear not only her stories, but we want to dive in a little bit more on birth coaching-- something that she has gone into during her journey. She actually has three kids. She had a C-section and then two VBACs. We can’t wait to hear that story. She is a certified birth coach and a birth doula. 

We’re really excited to hear more about the coaching, what that entails and how we all can learn more because I know as a doula, for me, I think that would be something really fun to add to my offerings and my skills. I can’t wait to hear that. Julie has a review of the week, so we’ll turn the time over to her. 

Review of the week

Julie: I’m Julie and I have a review of the week and I’m also interested in learning about birth coaching. I’m just really excited. I’m not going to start asking questions and things because it’s the very beginning of the episode. But at the end we might just pick your brain a little bit, Jill. 

This review is from Apple Podcasts and the reviewer name is Khuxx. The review’s name is “Success.” Khuxx says, “This podcast helped me in so many ways. I had my VBAC baby in the early morning on Thanksgiving four days past my due date. I was religiously listening to this podcast in those three days leading up to labor as I felt my chances of my perfect labor were being ripped away. Putting my headphones and pushing play on The VBAC Link when I would start to doubt my ability my whole pregnancy was honestly my lifesaver. I told my midwives that this was helping me stay positive and I recommend it to EVERYONE. Thank you SO MUCH for creating the perfect podcast for all pregnant moms, not just moms wanting to VBAC. If I would have known about this with my first, maybe the outcome would have been different.”

Thank you so much, Khuxx, for that review. We were just talking about that before we started recording. We wish this had been around when we were having babies. And Jill, same thing. It always makes me feel really good when we hear that we are helping people and that our stories that we share on the podcast are helping others as well. 

Thank you, Jill, for sharing your story today. And thank you to everybody who has ever shared their story on our podcast and in our Facebook community and in our Instagram stories. We wouldn’t be The VBAC Link without every single one of you. So, thank you. 

Episode sponsor

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Jill’s story

Meagan: Okay, you guys. It’s podcast Wednesday and Jill has an awesome episode for you. Jill, we’re going to turn the time over to you to share your amazing story and then let us pick your brain at the end. 

Jill: Great. Thank you so much, Julie and Meagan. Thanks for having me. I am a VBAC mom. I had my first child in 2009. I didn’t have a doula. I didn’t really have a birth team set up. I went into it to see how it goes, kind of thing. I felt like an absolute goddess being pregnant, I’ll tell you that. But I always felt really deflated every time I left my prenatal appointments with my obstetrician. I felt like it was so run of the mill, going through the motions. I always felt really sad afterwards. I felt like, “Hey, I feel really great. I feel like I’m glowing. I feel amazing.” If I had a doula or if I had someone to talk to and download about it afterwards, that would have felt really nurturing to me. 

So I went along and my pregnancy was actually really great. I was healthy. I was strong. I never considered that I would have a C-section. I remember going through the hospital for the tour and the last stop was the operating room to show us expectant moms where it is and things like that. I was like, “Yeah, sure. I’ll look at it. But there’s no way. I’m just not going to have one.” My mother didn’t have one. My grandmother had ten babies and I just thought, “It’s not happening,” so I didn’t have any information about how to prepare for a C-section.

Meagan: A lot of times in these prenatals, there isn’t really any education given on C-sections. First time moms go in to have this baby and they’ve heard about a C-section but they don’t really know what it entails. That’s something that could be added to prenatal care. 

Jill: Yes. I think so for sure. Based on conversations that I’ve had with women throughout the years, it’s the same thing. At least to have had it as part of the prenatal, that would have been helpful for sure. 

I guess I can just skip to the birth. Pretty uneventful pregnancy, it was fine. My baby was late. The first time around when you go over the 40 week mark, it’s like, “Oh my gosh. When is this going to happen, right?” I did end up going into spontaneous labor at 41 weeks. We just had my in-laws arrive from Scotland. They had planned their trip to come for when the baby was born. Since baby was late, they showed up on the day that I started going into labor. So I had a house full of visitors. 

I started in the middle of the night feeling the early signs of labor. I did some of the things that I learned in my prenatal classes-- moving around when I could, trying to lie down when it felt comfortable. I ran a bath. I sat in the bath for a little while and then the contractions started to get a little bit intense. My husband and I decided to go into the hospital, which was just around the corner, so really close. I got checked into triage.

The part that always sticks out in my head was that the nurse that was there didn’t look at me. She had her head down and asked, “Are you having an epidural?” I was like, “Uh, I don’t know.” She was like, “Well, you don’t need one. But if you don’t get one now then the anesthesiologist might be busy so I would suggest that you say yes.”

Julie: Oh my gosh, I hate when they do that.

Meagan: It’s added pressure in a vulnerable moment. Even if you didn’t plan on that, you feel vulnerable and think, “Well, what if I end up wanting one and they’re not here?” I don’t like that. 

Jill: There was another woman that was laboring in the room and it was quite intimidating. I could hear her. She was pretty close, I think, to giving birth. The nurse then said, “So that woman there, that’s not her first baby. You can hear she’s going through some painful contractions. So if she’s feeling pain, what do you think you’re going to feel?” So I was like, “Wow. Okay.” 

Julie: Labor and delivery nurses-- I don’t think they mean ill intent when they say these things. I think they’re really trying to be helpful. But there should be a class about tact in the birth room. Maybe not. But I’ve heard things like that in the birth room. What are you supposed to say as a parent and you’re a first time mom? It’s so frustrating. 

Jill: Yeah. That’s it. All of those things led to me getting an epidural, but I was only at 4 centimeters. Knowing what I know now, that was quite early. But for me, at that stage, it felt really painful. I had never felt anything like that before, so it felt like, “Oh yeah. I want this pain to go away. I want to be more comfortable.” I got that epidural administered and then was hooked up to the IV, the machines, and all the things. I was strapped in and lying down on my back. From there, I continually was progressing and I did dilate. 

I don’t have the notes with me right now, but long story short, eventually, I got to the point where baby was going into distress. They had to insert that fetal scalp electrode. I just felt like a rag doll. At the beginning, when the epidural was administered, it worked really well. For some women it doesn’t work really well and they still feel the contractions. But I felt nothing and I thought, “Oh, this is cool. I’m going to lie here and the baby is going to come. Wow!” 

I just had no idea. Then there were more interventions. There was the fetal monitor, then baby was in distress. They were giving me oxygen, then there were several doctors, students, nurses, and more students coming to observe me. That moment is so clear in my mind when I’m lying in the bed with the oxygen mask and I have what felt like eight people surrounding me. I’m freaking out and my husband’s like, “It’s okay,” but we’re like, “I don’t know what’s going on.” That was quite scary. 

But I did get to the point where I was 10 centimeters and was able to push with directed pushing. I didn’t feel anything, so I was going based on what the labor and delivery nurses were telling me to do as my feet were up in stirrups and still lying on my back. I spent hours doing that. Eventually they were able to lift me up and put me over one of those bars where I was sitting upright to try and get some gravity on my side. 

Then they started talking C-section at that point because I was pushing for about two hours and because he was in distress. I kept asking for more time. I asked for another hour and then after that third hour, they could see his head. I remember them bringing a mirror and you could see the head, but he wasn’t far enough down that they could use a vacuum or forceps. That led to that moment where I had to sign off for surgery. I still feel quite emotional just remembering.

Meagan: That was a hard moment. 

Jill: Yeah. Then wheeled into surgery. As C-section moms, we all know that feeling. It feels really cold when you go into that operating room and everything is very quiet, very eerie. Everybody’s in their full scrubs and it’s a scary place. I was shaking at that point. I think there was something about the drugs they administer to you and they have to strap your arms down. I remember shaking and I felt very nauseous. When they did the surgery, it was quite a weird feeling. Because my son was descending down the birth canal, they actually had to pull him out. So his head came out in that cone kind of way.

Julie: You kind of had to recover from a vaginal birth and a Cesarean at that point.

Jill: It was almost that way, right? He was very large. He was 9 pounds, 4 ounces. Knowing what I know now, birthing a 9 pound, 4 ounce baby on your back, for 18 hours…

Meagan: It doesn’t leave a lot of room for baby to get down in the right spot. 

Jill: I didn’t know much about birth until after that moment and I did my research. I was like, “What was that? Why did that happen?” I blamed myself a lot and I went through a lot of really negative emotions. I felt very disappointed. I felt ashamed. I felt really ashamed. I didn’t expect that I would have a C-section and I didn’t like that I felt ashamed to tell people that. It was really confusing. 

It was a crazy start to motherhood. I absolutely adored my son. Thankfully we bonded well with breastfeeding and skin to skin, but I remember those nights that I stayed in the hospital. It was really quite traumatic. There are lots of other details, but I think that’s mainly the gist of it. 

After that, it really drove me to research and find out why. I got a hold of my records of my birth to find out what actually happened, what led to it. 

Megan: Which is such a good idea to do. It’s really important to get those records. We encourage all of our personal clients to do that.

Jill: Yeah, I found it really helpful. Then you can research and you can find out what all these terms mean. In the moment, you’re not really absorbing all the terminology that they’re throwing at you. You’re just scared. There’s the shock that takes over and you can’t absorb anything. Even in a straightforward labor, you’re not taking in information. 

I did a lot of work with the resources that were available at the time. It was 2009. I ended up stumbling into home birth which wasn’t anything I would ever have thought I would get into. I didn’t know anybody who had home births. I was actually quite intimidated by the thought of a home birth. But my research led me there. I started to really get into that world, which is quite an interesting place to be and a lot to learn there. 

I guess that’s what led me to want to be a doula because I’m reading all of these amazing books written by midwives and I thought, “I would love to be able to support somebody in a way that…”

Meagan: The way you wish you had been able to be supported?

Jill: Exactly, because I know exactly what I would have done for myself back then. That was part of my healing too. Like I said earlier, I really beat myself up a lot. It’s so common for moms who have unplanned C-sections or planned C-sections as well. As I did my research and I learned more, I started to forgive myself. I thought, “I did the best I could with what I had.” I didn’t know anything about epidural other than that it takes the pain of labor so I’m like, “That can’t be bad.” 

After I learned what I did in my doula training, I’m like, “Oh, so maybe 4 centimeters was a bit early.” If I had somebody there to support me for a few more hours to get to seven or eight centimeters,  maybe the epidural would have been a great thing for me. So I was able to slowly heal from some of that negativity that I was holding onto and that shame and that disappointment. I could see my C-section as the catalyst for change in my life that helped to guide me towards birth work. I’m thankful for it in that way. 

Meagan: I feel you. It’s kind of the same. I had two C-sections before I landed into the birth world but even though they were not my desired birth or my desired choice, I would not have changed anything because it led me to where I am today. 

Julie: Me too.

Jill: Then for my first VBAC, I waited 18 months because that was the recommended time. I don’t know if there is one recommended time, but for me, it was the 18 month wait after my first C-section to then try and get pregnant with my second child. I did that and then thankfully we got pregnant easily. I set myself up right away with midwives. In Canada, we have a public healthcare system which is great, but also stressful because you have to get your care provider the day you pee on the stick. You cannot mess around. I got myself into a really great midwifery practice right from the beginning. 

I was planning a home birth. I felt that was the best place for me. The midwives at this practice were  supportive and actually really loved working with VBAC moms. I was in really, really good hands. Just the way life goes, my husband got transferred to Melbourne, Australia for work. So when I was six months pregnant with my second child, we moved to Australia. 

Julie: Oh my gosh! I love Australia, but what a horrible time to move to another country. 

Jill: I know. We had actually been there already temporarily before my pregnancy and then we came home for a bit. I knew it was coming so it wasn’t completely out of the blue at the point, but I did have to navigate a completely new healthcare system there in Australia. 

Julie: Australia is completely different for Cesarean, VBAC and birth in general. It’s a completely different mindset even from the United States. Different parts of Australia have different birth cultures as well. It’s something I’ve been interested in learning more about, actually. When Meagan and I upgrade our VBAC van to a VBAC jet-- we’re dreaming really big right now. We’re going to have a VBAC Link jet and then fly to Australia and figure out the Australia birth world, VBAC, Cesareans, all that. And maybe we’ll go doula some people in the Outback. That would be awesome. I’m dreaming big. This is like, 50 years down the road if we’re still kicking around. 

Jill: That’s great to dream big. 

Julie: I’m going to stop talking now. Go on with your story.

Jill: I’ve never lived in the States but I can imagine Australia’s system to be a mixture of the United States and Canada because they do have public healthcare and private. It’s a nice little hybrid which was good for us because we weren’t residents of Australia so public health care, we still had to pay for anyway. We actually went private and I actually hired private midwives because the midwives there at that point weren’t covered under public healthcare like they are in Canada. 

I found some great midwives supporting my VBAC home birth. Everything was great. Totally crazy that we now lived down under. We were in Melbourne. It was a great city and I was in good hands. My husband took a little bit more time to get adjusted to the home birth, but we managed to come to an agreement.

We planned the home birth and there was a concern that I had a front lying placenta early on in the pregnancy, so I just needed to get an ultrasound at about 36 weeks to check on that. I got some more interesting news at that ultrasound which was that my baby was breech. 

Meagan: Not always a fun thing to find out. 

Jill: No. And that’s the thing from my experience with my second child. I went to the ultrasound by myself and my husband was at the pool with my son. It was like, “Oh, you know. It’s all good. You go play with him. I’ll go to the ultrasound and meet you later.” Oh God, could I have used somebody there with me. I obviously did not expect that either. Breech? What? I was a complete hot mess after finding that out. But my midwives were totally cool and they were like, “That’s okay. You’re only 36 weeks. Lots of babies are breech. They do somersaults. They go all around. It’s no big deal.” 

They were able to help me calm down and explore options. Then I was into a whole other level of not just VBAC, I was then looking into breech which is a little bit more frightening when you look on the internet about breech birth. This was in 2011 when breech was considered very high risk and almost always a C-section. I was quite devastated because I was so scared of having another C-section.

So I did all of the things. Spinning Babies-- I was lying down every day with my ironing board propped up on my couch. You lie down on your back with your head down and your feet up. 

Julie: The Breech Tilt, yes! 

Jill: Yep. Lots of hands and knees, doing all of the cat-cow hands and knees positions. I did everything. I did handstands in the pool which got me some pretty weird looks at the public pool. I did chiropractic care specifically for breech. I did Moxibustion, an acupuncture procedure where they put these needles in your pinky toes and then they have this charcoal cigar-lit thing that lights up and heats up the needle in your toes. I did all the things. She was not having it. 

She remained in the breech position. 

Julie: That’s frustrating after you do all that work. 

Jill: I know. The private/public system actually worked in my favor because I ended up getting in with an obstetrician in Melbourne who specializes in high risk. He does breeches, twins, VBAC’s, so he took me on as one of his patients. He was really great. I still had my midwives too but they weren’t able to be my primary care providers in the hospital because of the breech. It was more like she was a doula to me which was really great too. 

With breeches, the rule for my obstetrician was an eight hour labor or less but if it goes over eight hours then there is probably something going on. 

Julie: Well, that’s not fair. Lots of labors are longer than eight hours.

Jill: Yeah. That was scary and no epidural. There were a bunch of other rules, but eight hours was the limit. She was late too. She was about six days overdue. I started to feel the discomfort in the evening. I went to bed. I woke up sometime in the middle of the night, sometime between midnight and 2:00 am. I thought, “I’m going to get up now. We’re going to move around.” My husband was making oatmeal. We called the midwife to let her know I was starting to feel the early stages of labor. 

By about 3:00 am, I said to my husband, “You have to call the midwife NOW.” She was asking him, “Ask Jill to rate between 1 and 10 the intensity of the contractions.” It was literally, “7. Okay, no 8. Okay, no 9. No, 10.” It came that quickly. I got into the shower. Then interestingly enough, there was meconium coming out of me because my baby was in the breech position so bum down. 

Julie: That way baby doesn’t get aspirated.

Jill: It’s crazy, right? That was freaky. We still had to get to the hospital because I still wasn’t having that home birth. It was very fast. That was 3:00 in the morning, then we had to rush off to the hospital. I was that woman. No seatbelt, I was holding myself up with my hands, my arms fully straight, like, “This baby’s coming!” She was coming. 

When we got into the maternity ward, the nurses welcomed me. I remember them talking to me so sweetly saying, “It’s okay, honey. You’re just having a contraction.” I’m like, “Ugh, yeah. Okay.” When they checked me, the bum and the legs were coming. They were coming. They had to get me to wait until the obstetrician came because she was breech. So they had to wait for him to come. He lived about a five minutes drive away. We had the breathing and the “look deep into my eyes”. I think everybody was a bit panicked. This was a two hour labor. It started at about 3:00, then about 5:15 in the morning, I was directed to push. I really wanted to stand up. That was my urge-- to stand up, but I did have to go on the bed. Everything was moving. Everything was coming anyways. It didn’t really make a difference. But I think for me, with my first birth, I just was like, “I don’t want to lie down.” 

She was born bum first, then legs popping out. Then you see that the body is there and the head is still the last to birth. When she was born and they placed her on my body, she was upside down. It was the feet up at my chest. So that’s the way she was born.

Meagan: That’s awesome. I didn’t realize that your first VBAC was breech.

Jill: Yeah. She was a breech baby. That was that birth. It was a healing birth for me. It was a stressful birth. The lead up to it, with it being a VBAC and with being breech-- but I could see what my body was capable of. That’s what really healed me. I was quite surprised with how quick the labor was, just the two hours, really. 

Julie: That’s super fast for a first time vaginal birth and for a breech baby. That’s super speedy, as my four year old would say. 

Jill: Yeah. But it’s funny because I think the personalities shine through. My daughter now is going to be nine and I’m like, “Of course you were born breech. Of course you were born the complete opposite way than most.” 

Julie: I agree 100 percent with that sentiment, I really do. 

Jill: She’s our cannonball. She bursts into the scene all the time. I’m like, “Well, that’s how you were born.” It makes sense. Then my son, who was the C-section, we have to drag him out everywhere. So I’m like, “Oh yeah, you wanted to stay. You were good. We had to pull you out.”

Meagan: That’s so funny how they all fit their births.

Jill: For sure. Then for my third birth, we stayed in Australia for a couple more years after that, almost three years after my daughter was born. We got transferred back to Canada, but to a completely different part of Canada. As you know, Canada is a huge country. I was then home kind of, but still a four hour plane right from my home. Still quite foreign, but the same healthcare system and things like that. I planned a home birth again for my third birth and had really amazing midwives again and very supportive and really, really loved working with VBAC moms. I think I always shock people when I tell them about my birth story of my second child. They’re like, “Hold on, what? A VBAC and a breech? Okay, wow.” Then they knew about me having a really quick labor for my second child. So they were expecting another quick labor. 

For my third birth, she completely surprised me and came ten days early. My first was seven days late. My second was six, so I thought she was going to be five days late. I don’t know, I just couldn’t think any other way, but she was ten days early. Completely different scenarios. We have two kids now, almost six and three, planning a home birth so we didn’t have anywhere to go. It was Easter Sunday. We did the Easter egg hunt in the morning. At about 10:00 in the morning I said, “I think, maybe, could you send the kids over to the neighbors to play?”

Because I thought I might like to have the kids there for the birth, but then when I got down to it, I said, “I think I need to just not have to think about that so let’s send them over to the neighbors to have some space.” 

Contractions got pretty intense at about 11:00 in the morning. I was pacing up and down in my bathroom. Again, similar to the first birth, I said, “Contractions are getting pretty intense.” I said to my husband, “You’d better call the midwife.” The midwife was like, “Well, what’s going on?” And literally, as she was on the phone, my body just couldn’t help itself and I went straight into pushing. My husband was there on the phone. 

Meagan: Wow. 

Jill: I know. He had had a shower earlier and left his towels on the floor. Which, we get so upset with our husbands for doing stuff like that, but I’m like, “Oh wow, so you left the towels on the floor,” and that was where our daughter was born, just right on those towels in the bathroom with the midwife on the phone. She was able to hear her first cry. She knew it was good. She didn’t have to call the ambulance or anything like that. She just said, “I’m going to come over as soon as I can.” She was coming from the hospital from another birth just ten minutes away. 

So she came and showed up. She was so cool. She was so calm. She was so like, “Everything is great. Everything’s fine.” She ran my bath for me. I had my daughter with me and my placenta was still attached. I still hadn’t birthed the placenta yet. She got me through that. It was just amazing. It was another very healing experience for me. Very shocking. 

Meagan: It sounds amazing though. Sounds like a lot, but amazing. 

Jill: Yeah. Unplanned, right? Not expecting that. That was a one hour labor from start to finish. 

Meagan: You have an amazing cervix. Your cervix is like, “Listen, I’m ready and when I’m ready, I mean I’m READY.” 

Jill: We’re done now. I said to my husband, “Listen, if we’re going to have another baby, it’s going to be a Walmart baby. Seriously, I won’t even make it home. I don’t want that. We’re good.”

Meagan: That is crazy. And then there’s a cervix like mine that takes days and days and days. I always told my husband that we should have another one because I want to know what my cervix would do now that it’s done it. 

Julie: We are still holding out hope that there will be another Heaton baby. 

Meagan: It’s not looking like it. 

Julie: I know, but I am still hoping. You know my plan for you. 

Meagan: Oh my gosh. So C-section, breech, VBAC, unassisted, unplanned home VBAC for your second VBAC. Holy smokes, what a ride. Well, thank you so much for sharing. 

I know we have a few more minutes. I would love to talk more about the coaching. Tell us more about what you’re learning, how people could find that or how you found that, how people can find you and all of the things. 

Julie: And how that’s different from doula support. 

Jill: I trained with the Birth Coach Method, it’s called. My teacher was called Mary Life Trauma. She was a doula for years and then trained to be a life coach. She’s merged birth support work with life coaching. It’s different from what a doula would provide because it’s not about giving information about birth, although you can if your client requests that, but it’s more about getting to her belief system about what she holds true about birth. 

You’re using coaching tools and asking really strong questions to get to planning your most optimal birth experience. Normally, a doula would offer maybe two or three prenatal visits and one or two postnatal. I’m not sure. There’s a range. 

For coaching, it would be six prenatal visits of one hour long and two postnatal. We’re really getting a full picture of where she is in her pregnancy. Things around relationships, with support systems, nutrition, health. Just getting a full picture of where she’s thriving and where there’s challenges-- ways that we can come up with establishing goals for how she can be at a 10 in a certain area as opposed to a 5. How can we get her feeling empowered? 

Also, there is a component of understanding her reality-- what sort of health conditions she has or if she has any personal issues or anything that’s getting in the way of her reaching her goals. Then you can work on finding different options to reach her goals and then, just like with life coaching, there’s always action steps. There’s always a way forward. The coach is helping the client to stay accountable to their goals. 

When you’re working with your client, most likely in the third trimester, you’re giving an action assignment and then you’re checking in with them saying, “How are you doing with XYZ?” It’s just really about empowering and inspiring the client as opposed to teaching or educating. It’s not about giving more information. It’s about pulling back the layers of yourself to see what you hold true within you.

Julie: That’s interesting. Do you attend the birth or not?

Jill: Either way. 

Meagan: Can you extend that option? Can they be like, “Okay, I really want to have you attend my birth?”

Julie: But it’s not necessarily a part of what a birth coach would do unless you’re specifically requested for that, right? Or is that what I’m understanding?

Jill: Yes. That’s it. I think it’s an interesting time right now because of COVID. Some hospitals can have doulas, some can’t. There’s so much confusion, right? So I think it’s a nice alternative at the moment to then get all the support that you need to feel ready even if the doula cannot be there to attend your birth. 

Julie: It sounds like a really valuable toolset to have even as a doula. I’ve heard it said by one of the midwives that have been on our podcast before that two prenatal visits as a doula is not enough. It’s just not enough. I usually end up spending a lot more time with my clients than the two one and a half hour prenatal visits because, especially with VBAC, there’s just so much to do. I’ve been trying really hard to know how to reconcile that. 

Anyways, I’m not going to brain dump right now on you, but it sounds like this could be a way to supplement that and help add value to what you’re bringing to the birth community and your individual clients. Maybe they don’t want a doula at their birth but they do want some help in figuring out what birth looks like and feels like to them and how to gain that confidence. It sounds really cool. 

Jill: Yeah, it is really cool. I think it’s like 20 years ago or whatever when people didn’t really know what a doula was and they’re like, “What’s a doula?” It seems like it’s that kind of way with birth support coaching. People are like, “What is that? I’ve never heard of that.” So we’re just working on trying to get the word out so people know that it’s available. It’s just in the early stages, but I’m really excited. 

Julie: That’s really cool because you could technically take clients all over the world. I just supported, informally, somebody in India last night to have her VBAC because she knew all of the doulas in her area and she didn’t feel comfortable having one of them be her doula. I was on Facebook Messenger helping her feel supported until her team got there. Maybe I’m saying too much information because it’s illegal to have a home birth in the country that she’s birthing in. I think I already said the name of the country. 

So it was a really cool experience to be able to be involved that way even though she is halfway around the world from me. It sounds like something that can be done virtually as well where you don’t necessarily even need to be in person. Is that right? I don’t know if that’s part of the program. I know there’s a specific training. 

Meagan: That’s really cool. Super, super cool. I’ll have to check that out. Awesome. 

Well, thank you so much for sharing all of your amazing stories. 


Julie: Questions! 

Meagan: Oh yes! Guess what. I always forget. We have questions for you. We asked in your submission when you submitted. I don’t know if you remember answering them, but one of them 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?

Jill: For my first birth, it’s definitely the importance of a supportive birth team. Hands down. For sure, that would be my answer. 

Meagan: Awesome. Then the other one is, what is your best tip for someone preparing for a VBAC?

Jill: My best tip is really sitting with and naming your emotions that you have about any emotional scars that you have after your C-section because I think the emotional healing is unexpected. I think it takes time. It takes quite a lot of time. Really pointing out those negative emotions, naming them, really sitting with them and being able to really talk about your birth story-- and be held and validated in all of your feelings, not rushed off by the classic, “Healthy baby. That’s the best outcome.” You know?

Megan: Definitely. I think working through all of those things prior can really help the next birth just in general to go smoother. Because for me, there was actually a lot of stuff I didn’t realize I hadn’t worked through and then I had to work through it right then in labor. It was really hard to have to backpedal a little bit to work through all of that. 

Alright, well thank you, thank you. You are just darling and we are so glad that you were with us today. 

Jill: Thank you so much. It was nice talking with you. Thank you for having me, Julie and Meagan. 


Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Head over to 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 Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.

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