What if tiny, subtle movements during labor could give your baby extra centimeters of space in your pelvis? Those centimeters just might make all the difference in getting your VBAC.

 

Brittany Sharpe McCollum is an expert on educating women about pelvic biomechanics. This episode is packed with valuable, mind-blowing information that will put you, the laboring woman, back in control of your labor and ready to have an exhilarating birth.  

 

“It doesn’t matter if somebody is birthing with an epidural or without an epidural. They should come out of their experience feeling like they did something amazing. It doesn’t matter if somebody has a Cesarean or vaginal birth. They should come out of it feeling like they did something awesome rather than feeling like something happened to them.”

 

Today’s topics include: 

- Your pelvis shape and optimal fetal positioning

- Subtle movements during labor

- Closed knee pushing

- 5/4/3 Rule of Movement

Additional links

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents

Brittany Sharpe McCollum’s website: Blossoming Bellies Birth

Blossoming Bellies Birth Instagram

Baby Got VBAC

Free Webinars

The VBAC Link T-Shirt Shop

Episode sponsor

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

 

Sponsorship inquiries

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Full transcript

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

 

Julie: Welcome to The VBAC Link podcast. This is Julie and Megan with you today and we are really thrilled about the guest that we have today. We have Brittany Sharpe McCollum who is a pelvic dynamics specialist. We first learned about Brittany when we were at the Evidence Based Birth® conference. Meagan attended one of her workshops there and instantly fell in love.

 

Meagan: Like, madly in love.

 

Julie: Don’t tell Meagan this, but she is kind of obsessed.

 

We are really excited to have her on today because a lot of Cesareans happen because of big babies, small pelvis. We have all heard it. If we had a quarter for every time we heard that excuse for a Cesarean, we would be rich women. We are going to talk about that. We are going to talk about that today with Brittany. 

 

Brittany is a childbirth educator. She is a doula and a pelvic biomechanics educator. Her work with expectant families centers around supporting people and exploring their options, developing their preferences, and navigating the tools and information necessary to make them a reality. In her trainings for birth professionals, she takes a research-based, multidisciplinary approach to exploring pelvic dynamics in relation to labor and facilitating the understanding of movement as a benefit to medicated and unmedicated labors.

 

Guys, the things that she does can help you whether you have an epidural, whether you are unmedicated, home birth, hospital birth, birth center-- anywhere and everywhere you give birth. We are going to have some really, really awesome tips for you by the end of this episode, so get your pen and paper out. This is going to be one you want to take notes on.

Review of the Week

 

Julie: But before we do that, Meagan has a review of the week for us.

 

Meagan: Yes, I do. This one is going to be one of those episodes that you likely listen to and then have to go relisten to it and relisten to it. You are going to learn things every single time you listen. I am so excited for this review, too. It is from drFL0W and the subject is “Phenomenal.” So, thank you.

 

It says, “Meagan and Julie are amazing! I love the knowledge they share on their podcast and their enthusiasm for helping women have amazing VBACs.”

 

Thank you, drFL0W.

 

Julie: Do you know what? Dr. Flow, Flow Chiropractic.

 

Meagan: Flow Chiropractic!

 

Julie: Steven Roushar. I wonder. I bet.

 

Meagan: Dr. Flow. That makes sense.

 

Julie: I may have kind of made him write this review at a chiropractor appointment. I asked him to and he said he did it on Google and Apple Podcasts.

 

Meagan: Well, then that’s his one. Thank you. Thank you, thank you. We love him.

 

Julie: Thanks, Steven.

 

Meagan: But yeah, seriously, this podcast is going to be filled with tons of knowledge. So, gear up. Buckle in and get ready to roll.

 

Episode sponsor

 

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

 

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

 

Pelvic dynamics with Brittany Sharpe McCollum

 

Julie: Alrighty. I absolutely love what Meagan said before our intro. Buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. But do you know what? It’s the best woman to take a bumpy ride with because Brittany is going to help us get our pelvises ready for the bumpy ride of childbirth. How was that? Was that a little bit too corny?

 

Meagan: There you go. See, and in my head, I am looking at it as we are going to be going full speed and your mind is going to be like, “Whoa!”

 

Julie: Alright. Well, Meagan, you set this up. So, I want to let you drive the car. Is that okay? I am going to pop in with oogly-ness wherever it is appropriate.

 

Meagan: Sure. Well, I just love Brittany. I loved her the second that I technically met her in Lexington. You guys should have seen this room. It was this little conference-type classroom in a hotel. We were shoulder to shoulder. It never would’ve happened during COVID because we were definitely not social distancing. We were packed. Everybody wanted to come and learn what she had to say. We only got one tiny little hour and, of course, she had this big line of people to ask her questions after. As soon as I left, I told Julie, I said, “I need more. I need more.”

 

Julie: Yes, she was. Even now when I am at a birth I’m like, “Hold on. Remind me. Is it knees in or knees out? Is it asymmetrical movement or symmetrical movement for this stage?”

 

Meagan: We are going to learn so much. I was so fortunate even during to COVID to be able to attend one of her workshops live this year in 2020. She just continues to amaze me and when Julie says I am obsessed, I really am obsessed with her. I love her. I can’t get enough of her and I’m so excited that she is here with us today.

 

Pelvis shape and optimal fetal positioning

 

Meagan: First of all, I have this one thing that I would like to talk about because this is something that I personally get stuck on myself, even as a doula. As a doula, I was trained this. So when I learned about this, I was like, what? If you have ever heard that your baby has to be in a LOA position, then you really want to turn the volume up right now because you are going to learn some stuff.

 

Julie: Lightbulb. Lightbulb.

 

Meagan: During my pregnancy with Webster, I did not sit on a couch or a chair other than my actual car literally the entire time. So, all the way up until 40 weeks and 5 days, I did not sit on a chair, a couch, nothing. I sat on the ground. I didn’t even sit on the birthing ball. I sat on the ground and was tipping my pelvis up, and sitting so uncomfortably that it hurt my stomach and my back. I killed myself. And guess what? My baby was OP. He was posterior. I was doing all the things to get this baby in LOA because we had to have this baby in LOA and he was posterior.

 

After taking Brittany‘s course, I realized that’s how he needed to be. Then we worked through labor, worked with my pelvis and him, and got him where he needed to be. So, my first topic of discussion that I would love Brittany to touch on is position of the baby and how yes it matters, but how there is so much that we can work with.

 

Brittany: Thank you so much. That introduction, oh my gosh. I would love for you to introduce me everywhere I go like that.

 

Julie: We will come with you.

 

Meagan: I will totally come with you. If I could be a fly on the wall in your life, that would be a dream come true.

 

Brittany: My goodness. That was crazy. I want you in my back pocket to boost my self-esteem every day.

 

Julie: We’re there. We’re there. Just tell us.

 

Brittany: I am so honored that you feel this way. We have only met in person twice and I am just incredibly honored that you feel that way and that I have had such an impact on your excitement about positioning in the pelvis.

 

Meagan: But not even just me. You have had an impact on my clients' births.

 

Brittany: Well that I think is where the real importance of this information comes into play is that once you have these seeds planted, then we go out and share this information. We use it and we share it with providers. We share it with nurses. We share it with clients and then it spreads, and it starts to infiltrate the entire childbearing reproductive care system and hopefully make some serious change.

 

That’s why, like you were talking about the workshops that I teach-- that’s why I love them so much because even if you have a workshop with 20 or 30 people in it, there’s a potential to impact hundreds of births. I think that’s really amazing.

 

Oh my gosh. That Evidence Based Birth® conference was incredible. That conference was phenomenal. That room, when you said-- we wouldn’t have been able to do that in COVID. Absolutely. We would not have been able to pack in there if it was COVID time. I am happy that we are able to get that workshop in before COVID.

 

Meagan: Me too.

 

Brittany: Yeah, yeah. So, you had mentioned LOA. Let me talk a little bit about that. Maybe I should give a little bit of a background on what I do first. When you introduced me-- I am a pelvic biomechanics educator, a child educator, a birth doula, and when I am talking about pelvic biomechanics, what I am really referring to are the laws that govern the push and pull that occurs within the body to change the bonds of the pelvis and change the space between the bones of the pelvis, particularly during labor and birth. So, that’s what biomechanics are-- these biological laws that govern the effects of movement in the body.

 

Then, I take these ideas and incorporate them into understanding how we can change space for the baby in the pelvis and encourage a baby to continue to descend and rotate. The goal in everything that I do is, of course, to decrease unnecessary intervention because when we have unnecessary intervention, we tend to have a whole lot more risk than benefit. As anyone knows who does childbirth education and works with pregnant people, it is a constant weighing out of benefit and risk with every choice that is made.

 

But anyway, that’s really important to me, is decreasing unnecessary intervention. But another really important part of what I do is restoring the autonomy of the birth process back to the person giving birth. It doesn’t matter how that person is giving birth. It doesn’t matter if it is a medicated birth.

 

Julie: Yeah, absolutely.

 

Brittany: Well that could be a whole other hour-long podcast. But it doesn’t matter if somebody is birthing with an epidural or without an epidural. They should come out of their experience feeling like they did something amazing. It doesn’t matter if somebody has a Cesarean or a vaginal birth. They should come out of it feeling like they did something awesome rather than feeling like something happened to them. 

 

Yeah, so it makes no difference how someone is giving birth. They should feel like they have done something awesome in that experience. And then, I feel like that then translates into how they parent and how confident they feel moving forward through their entire parenting journey. That impacts the relationships that they have within their family dynamic. I mean, we carry our births with us for the rest of our lives. So, if we can help people to feel more empowered in their experience, that’s a really amazing thing.

 

So, that’s my goal. A lot of what I do focuses on really two things: the importance of movement in all births and the importance, the opportunity for informed consent and refusal. To actually answer your question or provide some insight into your question about positioning of the baby, I can offer a little bit of background first.

 

I definitely talk with my clients in pregnancy about the importance of aligning their bodies. So, Meagan, you had mentioned you didn’t sit on the couch your entire pregnancy and for a lot of people, I think particularly people who maybe have had a past certain experience that they want to have differently the next time, they’ll do extreme things like not sit on a couch at all.

 

What I love to do is offer people modifications for their everyday things that can help them to be better aligned when they are preparing for labor rather than giving someone a to-do and not-to-do list. I try really hard to encourage people to be aware of how they are holding their body and how they are balancing the weight of their body and whether they are getting up to move frequently or getting stuck in positions for a long period of time. The things that I talk about with my clients prenatally to encourage alignment are not geared towards getting a baby positioned a specific way, which kind of ties into what you were saying about, “Oh no. What if my baby is not LOA?”

 

What the most current anthropological research tells us is that most people have variations of four basic pelvic shapes. What is so interesting is that according to the research that we have, which we could question this research to an extent because, how good could this research be? But, according to the research that we have, about two of the four pelvic shapes-- again, we are thinking about variations of pelvic shape. But, two of the four pelvic shapes actually favor a baby moving into the pelvis in a right side-lying, posterior position. Meaning that, for those people that have pelvic shapes similar to the pelvises that favor those positions, their babies need to be positioned that way in order for them to start their journey descending and rotating through the pelvis. So, when we encourage babies to be positioned one specific way, we discount a significant number of people‘s pelvises that will not favor a baby being positioned a specific way.

 

Julie: Yes. Well, and I see that so many times where my clients, or maybe they are even looking transverse, but that is just the way that the baby has to enter their specific pelvis shape. And I know that maybe we will touch on this a little bit sooner, but the more we interbreed with each other, the less distinct the pelvis shapes are becoming. So, there are not necessarily four distinct pelvic types anymore, but there are many variations of those.

 

That is why after Meagan came back and told me all the things that she learned from your workshop, I have been focusing more on helping my clients create space in their pelvis, loosening up those pelvic ligaments, their connective tissues, the tuberosacral ligament or is it sacrotuberal? I don’t remember.

 

Brittany: Sacrotuberous.

 

Julie: Yeah, and just creating looseness, and freedom of movement, and flexibility rather than focusing on a specific position for baby to be in. Right?

 

Brittany: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. I am a non-clinical provider. I am a doula and a childbirth educator. I don’t do soft tissue releases or things like that. That is not my wheelhouse. Everything that I do in classes and workshops is all non-clinical information, education-based stuff that then people can continue to share. So all of that stuff, that soft tissue release-- that is amazing stuff also. That is complementary to everything that I do and that is definitely something that people should be exploring and seeking out resources for in pregnancy.

 

A lot of the things that I like to suggest are simple bodily movements or changes in ways that they do everyday things, which I think of more as alignment. I think it is a complement to soft tissue release work, and chiropractic care, and all of that. We want to utilize as many resources available to us as possible so that we can best prepare our bodies to give birth in a way that is healthy, and may be efficient and really positive too.

 

So yeah, all of that stuff is really important. It is so much less about getting the baby positioned a specific way because no one knows what pelvic shape they have unless they have had x-ray pelvimetry, which most people haven’t. Even if they have had x-ray pelvimetry, it is unlikely that they would have looked at anthropological research to compare that to variations of pelvic shape. I have had experience with clients who have had x-ray pelvimetry in the past and still they don’t know what variation of pelvic shape they have. 

 

My goal is to really take information that is more tangible and usable rather than saying, “Theoretically, I think your pelvis might be like this, so your baby should be like this.” No way. I don’t know what pelvic shape someone has. They don’t know what pelvic shape they have. Their provider does not know what pelvic shape they have. So, rather than focus on getting a baby specifically positioned a certain way, I like to give people the tools to allow their body, like you said, to create space as much as possible, so that then their baby can find the most ideal position to move through the pelvis that the baby is working with.

 

Meagan: Exactly. I feel like that is so powerful. To me, anyway. I was like, “What? Wait, whoa. Okay, I love it.”

 

Brittany: Yeah. One thing that is so interesting is that posterior babies get a really bad rap. In the longer workshops that I teach, we go into a lot of the history of this with obstetrical bias and things like that, but I think it’s really important to recognize that as soon as a provider-- and this has to do with really honestly, in my opinion, inadequate training when it comes to understanding bodily mechanics. I’m not saying that for all providers. Many providers seek out this information on their own, but conventional training does not include an anthropological look at pelvic shape or anything. But anyway, I am digressing.

 

My point was that we have all, especially as birth professionals, probably been in the same situation, or maybe someone as a birthing person has been, where a provider comes in and maybe does an internal exam or does a quick palpation of the belly and they say, “Oh. This baby is posterior. Well, we will give it a little more time and see if we can get the baby to turn.” And what happens then? The energy in the room deflates. I think of that as such loaded words. Like, yeah. Sure. The provider is saying they will give it a bit more time. But really, what the provider is saying is that “I already don’t think you can have a vaginal birth.”

 

Meagan: Yes, and something is wrong. They are saying, “Oh. Your baby is posterior.”

 

Julie: And what does that do for hormone levels? Right?

 

Brittany: Totally.

 

Julie: Adrenaline levels rise, oxytocin levels crash, and then what happens? A need for interventions like Pitocin to get contractions stronger and all of those things. Oh my gosh, yes.

 

Brittany: Yep. And then also, that seed is planted in support people that this is not likely to wind up in a vaginal birth and how does that affect the way the support people provide support?

 

Julie: Because then they try and fix it right?

 

Brittany: Say that one more time. I didn’t hear you.

 

Julie: Sorry. Then we try to fix it, so we get our rebozos out and we start doing all these different types of movements that we learn in our doula trainings and everything like that. Our moms are like, “Oh my gosh. I’ve got to do all of this work to get my baby in a better position,” and providers or support people are like, “Okay. Well, something needs to be fixed. Something needs to be fixed,” when it might not necessarily be that something needs to be fixed. It might just be the way that that baby has to move through the pelvis.

 

Brittany: Yeah, and the focus shifts from being physical and emotional support for the laboring process and, just like you said, focuses on, “Now, we have to fix something. Something is wrong.” For other support people like a partner or a family member that is there, now that seed is planted that this is probably or possibly going to end up in a Cesarean. It is now making that support person “okay” with that idea, which then means they may be less likely to advocate for things like more time.

 

So, when we have a provider that does not fully understand how babies rotate and descend, why some babies are posterior, and how that is totally okay, and when we have the tools to work with that then it is awesome. When we have a provider that doesn’t have that knowledge, we potentially impact not only the outcome vaginal or cesarean, but we also potentially impact how someone feels about their birth.

 

We have taken the power away from that laboring person and that is really, I feel like that is really detrimental. I think what we really need to do is continue to restore that power to the laboring person. So, a big part of what I really emphasize is helping people understand not how a baby should or should not be positioned, but instead to understand how they can move their body in a way that works with where their baby is in the pelvis to create space for the baby. Then, trust in that process that the contractions, and the pressure on the pelvic floor, and the movements of the baby are going to work together to help encourage efficient labor progress.

 

So, yeah. It’s a lot of information.

 

Meagan: Yes, but powerful. Powerful information. So good.

 

Julie: Well, and I think if we can change the way we think about birth and think about baby positioning. I think the biggest disrupter of birth is the mindset of the birthing person. If we can just say, “It’s okay. Let’s see how the next couple of hours go because this might just be the way your baby needs to come out.” 

 

If we can set that tone instead of, “Let’s start doing sifting. Shake the apples. This is really fun. It will get you laughing. We can do asymmetrical movements,” although I don’t know if that is good. I still can’t remember which way asymmetrical movements are good for. You know what I mean? If we can step away from fixing things and be like, “Alright, that’s okay. It looks like your baby needs this, this, and that.” If we can change the conversation about that, then it will do so much good for balancing out the hormones that are part of birth.

 

Brittany: Yeah, and I tell people all of the time that the same positions-- me, personally as a doula, the same positions that I’m going to suggest to work through a potential positioning issue are the things that I’m going to suggest to prevent it in the first place. I don’t have these magic tools to pull out in certain situations. My goal is to help us recognize the wide variation of normal in terms of how babies descend and rotate, and to have a toolbox full of ideas for encouraging that continued descent and rotation and progress.

 

It’s not so much like, “Let’s have things just keep moving along. Everything is fine. Oh my god, everything is not fine. Now we have to jump in.” It’s more like, “Let’s incorporate movement throughout the entire laboring process so that we can continue to work with descent and rotation.” One of the things, too, that I think is really important-- a lot of times, I’m thinking of a few clients that I have had where they are really into the idea of movement, but they are also like, “I am going to be really tired.” And so, I try to emphasize that when I’m talking about movement, I am not necessarily referring to walking up and down the stairs sideways 20 times, and then doing a whole bunch of lunges, and then doing curb walking. I am not referring to all of those things, although sometimes I am.

 

Subtle movements during labor

 

Subtle movements can be really impactful as well. Even something as simple as shifting how far apart the legs are from one another, or standing in a staggered leg position instead of with your feet evenly in line with each other, or something as simple as somebody is sitting in a semi-reclined position with the soles of the feet together, and then sitting in a semi-reclined position with the leg draped over the peanut ball. We can take really simple, subtle little movements and make really big opportunities for descent and rotation.

 

So, although I do love really big dramatic movements sometimes, I also recognize that labor is exhausting. My goal is not to make people more tired in labor, but instead for them to realize that simple, tiny movements throughout the whole process are what helps to keep things going.

 

Meagan: Definitely. Just last week, I was at a birth. Second-time mom and starting in a really good position. 3 centimeters, favorable cervix, whatever. She was going in for an induction. The baby was really, really high. She was making progress, but the baby just wasn’t coming down, wasn’t coming down. And so, we started doing these ever so slight movements every five contractions, and seriously, it was dramatic.

 

Brittany: Yay!

 

Meagan: The last two positions, the nurses-- in fact, they pulled out their phones and pulled up your Instagram because I was like, “You have to, yeah.” Because they were like, “Where did you learn that?” I was like, “Oh my gosh. I just have to tell you.” I couldn’t even get into it as deep as I wanted to because I needed to respect the space of the room, because she was in labor. She was 10 centimeters. 

 

But anyway, she was hanging out at 9 centimeters. For a second-time birth, you don’t expect to hang out at 9 centimeters, but sometimes that happens. This baby just wasn’t quite low enough and engaged. Anyways, we ended up moving ever so slightly. We did knees together because baby was getting lower, so we were doing both. Alternating, right? Then the last one, I was like, “If you could, even just for three,” I said. “I just want you to lift your foot up and we are just going to do this little lunge thing,” and she was like, “Okay”.

 

So we did that, and I was like, “Okay. Now I want you to put your knees back together.” She did that and it was two contractions. She was like, “Oh, yeah. He is coming. He is coming!”

 

Julie: Oh my gosh!

 

Meagan: I was like, “Boom. Yeah!”

 

Julie: That’s amazing.

 

Meagan: The nurses were watching this happen and you could see them. There was one nurse in training. She was like, “I need to learn all of that.” I am like, “Yes, you do.” One nurse was like, “So, is this just a Spinning Babies®?” And I was like, “No. You need to come here. Give me your phone. This is it.”

 

Julie: You know that is exactly how it went down because I can see Meagan doing that.

 

Meagan: It is legitimately how it went down. But then they were like, “We can’t let you touch our phone because of COVID.” I’m like, “Okay. Here it is.” I pulled out my phone and I set it aside on the bed as I continued to support. I said, “Go like her right now.” 

 

Seriously, you guys. It was dramatic. Yeah, it took a minute. Because it was seriously like, every five contractions we were changing it up ever so slightly, and then she was like, “Boom. He is coming.” Sure enough, he did. She pushed this cute little baby out so well in such control. Even the doctor was like, “Whoa. This control is incredible.” I think it was just because the baby was set up to come out in the perfect position for that baby.

 

Brittany: Yeah. It sounds like you did a lot of restoring that power back to the person who was laboring, which gives her that confidence to be like, “Yeah. I can totally birth this baby.”

 

Meagan: Yeah. She was questioning. She was like, “I don’t think I can do this anymore.” She got an epidural at 8 centimeters last time and I was like, “No. You are doing this and you can do this. It’s amazing, and you are going to do great.”

 

Julie: That’s awesome.

 

Meagan: She just kept doing that. And I said, “Okay. We are going to take it one at a time. I don’t want you to think about the next one after this.” It was beautiful and I loved it. I was like, “Yeah. That is Brittany for you.” She was with me.

 

Brittany: Aw, that’s awesome.

 

Meagan: I just love you. I love what you were saying. It doesn’t have to be dramatic. It is hard. Labor can be exhausting. Standing up or moving your whole body over to the other side can just seem daunting and so sometimes we are like, “No. I would rather just stay here,” which isn’t bad. It’s not bad.

 

Brittany: Yeah, absolutely. Right. I mean, it can be something like-- let’s say somebody is in a side-lying position. They could be lying with the peanut ball between their knees and then there are five contractions in that position, and then we take the peanut ball out and they straighten out their top leg. That’s a position change. That makes space in the pelvis. It changes space. It’s not always about creating the space where the baby needs it, although the majority of the time that is what I am thinking about, but it is also just about changing the space in general.

 

Movement is more important than any specific position. So again, when I am telling people if there is something to allow to guide your labor, movement is so important. It doesn’t have to be crazy movement. It doesn’t have to be remembering all of the specific positions to do at different points depending on where the baby is. It can be as simple as remembering to move.

 

It doesn’t have to be only in unmedicated births. That is such a myth that is out there. Once someone gets an epidural, they are limited to lying on their back or lying on their side. There are a million things that you can do in the bed. Pretty much any position you can do standing or on the floor, you can modify in some way to do on the bed.

 

Meagan: Really though, yeah.

 

Brittany: It is really important to recognize that movement is an optimal part of all births. The reason I say that is because movement helps to encourage progress in labor. This is all research-based. Movement helps to encourage progress in labor. Movement helps with comfort in labor. That’s mainly people that are birthing unmedicated. But comfort in labor, progress in labor, and then also, it helps with oxygenation of the baby. It helps to keep everybody healthy and happy. That is a really important part of it too.

 

That’s why movement is something that I really feel like clinical providers can, may, should jump on board with because not only is it about progress in labor and comfort, but it’s also about optimizing outcomes for the laboring person and the baby. I think that’s a really important goal for clinical providers is to make sure the process is safe. When we encourage movement, we give the baby more opportunity to make subtle shifts and changes which allows the umbilical cord to move around more freely and helps to oxygenate the baby.

 

I also love to say this too because I think this is often an overlooked part about the importance of movement, but prenatal education about movement and labor can help support people to be more invested in the process. It gives them something to do as support people. It gives them something they can offer and suggest throughout the process, and it helps support people to feel more useful in labor which is important for them feeling positive about the birth experience. When they are more invested and they feel more positive, then it decreases anxiety and allows for that great hormonal release in labor for the laboring person too.

 

It’s about everyone in the laboring room. Movement is just such an important part.

 

Meagan: It really is. When you talk about prenatally too, I feel the familiarity. If they have been in that position before labor has begun, they are more comfortable trying that position in labor.

 

Julie: It will be something that they go to by default, too. It will be something that they naturally go to.

 

Meagan: Birth workers out there, if you teach this in your prenatal courses or your meetings and things like that-- I don’t know if you realize that there is so much power behind that because it is going to help that couple. It is going to help that birthing couple to be okay and comfortable in trying new things.

 

Closed knee pushing

 

Okay, I am going into the “knees all the way back, spread open-wide in your armpits” thing. We have always seen in all the movies. Literally, where are your knees? When you see someone pushing in Friends or a movie-- I’m thinking of Rachel in Friends. Your feet are up in the sky. Your knees are in your armpits. Your head is trying to touch your belly button. Seriously, this is the position, right? And so, when we are like, “Hey, so I actually need you to close your knees.” They’re like, “What? You want me to do what?”

 

Then their provider is like, “No, no, no, no. We don’t want to do that. Why would we do that?” But there is so much to it. And so, if you can, educate them before, and show them, and teach them. Do the dot trick from lovely Gina who we just love from mamastefit. Do the dot trick and show them in their prenatals. “Look at what your pelvis is doing,” and they are like, “Oh, okay.” 

 

So, when you are like, “I want you to put your knees together and your feet out,” they are not thinking we are smoking something. They’re like, “Do you want me to keep my baby in or get my baby out?” You’re like, “Actually, we want you to get your baby out. We are going to help you do that by putting your knees together.”

 

Can we talk a little bit about that too? Maybe segue a little bit into closed knee pushing.

 

Brittany: Yes, that is one of my favorite topics. I actually did a webinar for ICEA for their virtual conference all on closed knee pushing. It was straight up, a half-hour just on closed knee pushing. It was so awesome.

 

Closed knee pushing is when we push with the knees closed. Honestly, it is less about the knees being closed, but more about the internal rotation of the thighs that happens when our knees are closer than our hips. This internal thigh rotation actually pulls out on the hips which opens up space side to side at the bottom of the pelvis, or at the pelvic outlet, which is where the baby is coming out. The way that I love to share this with especially pregnant people is to actually think about late pregnancy.

 

When you are 36, 38, 42 weeks pregnant, you are sitting on your birth ball. Maybe you are sitting on your couch or a chair. You’re sitting with your knees really far apart because that is what feels better. Our bodies are telling us in late pregnancy it feels better to sit with the knees far apart. Internally, what is happening when we sit with our knees far apart is external thigh rotation which opens the top of the pelvis, the inlet of the pelvis, which is what the baby is settling into in the last few weeks, or sometimes the last few days of pregnancy. And so, when we sit in late pregnancy with our knees really wide, not only does it feel better, but also inside, it’s giving the baby space at the top of the pelvis to settle in.

 

Now, if that is working at the end of pregnancy to help the babies settle into the top of the pelvis, why would we do the same position when the baby is at the bottom of the pelvis? It wouldn’t make sense to do the same thing when we are pushing a baby out versus when we are in late pregnancy encouraging baby to descend into the pelvis.

 

So, in late pregnancy, our bodies instinctually get into this wide-legged position. But also what I have found, especially when we have been in situations with really supportive providers, is that instinctually, when people are pushing their babies out, they do bring their knees together or they get into an asymmetrical position. People do not typically-- and this is my experience. People do not typically get into really wide-legged positions when they are pushing their babies out. They bring their needs together. 

 

Think about going to the bathroom. The next time you go to the bathroom, you’re sitting on the toilet. Think about how you’re positioning yourself. Probably knees together, maybe a little bit of asymmetry there. You’re just trying to allow that space for your bowel movement to come out. Same thing is happening.

 

Meagan: It might be the easiest poop you ever took. Just saying.

 

Julie: Alright, who is going to play around with new positioning next time she is sitting on the toilet? I don’t know about you. I totally am.

 

Meagan: I’m telling you.

 

Brittany: It is so important to connect this stuff to everyday life and to what our bodies are instinctually doing because when we do that, it restores that confidence. When we feel more confident then, even though every single image we have ever seen of birth in the movies has the knees far apart, even though a provider is like, “Oh, no. You have got to pull those knees far apart,” what we start to realize is from a biomechanical standpoint, pulling the knees apart actually doesn’t make sense. So, we need to tie this stuff into everyday life and into the end of pregnancy so that we start to see, “Oh. Well actually, our bodies know exactly what to do in labor.” We just have to be willing to tap into that and work with that.

 

Closed knee pushing is pretty awesome. It is something that you can do no matter what position you are in, whether you are in a standing position or side-lying position. You can even do it in a reclined position, all fours, and it is really instinctual. Again, going back to what I said earlier about how movement is more important than any specific position, I don’t think that we should be in one closed knee position for three hours. Then, it loses its benefit. But when we incorporate that into the different positions that we adapt to during the pushing part of labor, when we recognize that bringing the knees closer together and internally rotating the thighs creates space at the outlet, then we can put that into our toolbox of positions for pushing. Yeah, so closed knee pushing is all the rage right now.

 

Meagan: It really is. I really have witnessed it for a recent VBAC client of mine. She was pushing great. She was totally pushing great and baby was making good progress. You know how it is natural for them to come back in a little bit and come back out. He stopped coming out further. He would come out, go back in, come out, but never go that one step further. I love this midwife so much. I felt very, very comfortable saying, “Close your knees. Close your knees.” And that baby-- next push, boom. Way further, and then the next push was out.

 

Julie: Holy cow.

 

Meagan: It is just so cool to see. That was easy for me as a provider with someone that I had a good relationship with. I work with this midwife often and I could be like, “Close your knees.” But in a hospital setting with many providers and nurses who are unfamiliar, or even birth centers, or just in general, when we are with providers who are unfamiliar with this technique and the reason behind it, what would you say is a way-- because I would love for us-- obviously what you’re doing. You’re getting out there. You’re in the community. You’re educating. It is only going to spread. 

 

But how can we as people and as birth workers try to facilitate this even more in a position where the doctor is like, “Nope. Get those knees opened wide. Butt in the air!” What suggestions or advice would you give? Because as birthing people, we have the right to say, “This isn’t working for me. I want to try this.” But many times, we have a provider say, “Well now, if you really want me to be able to support your perineum and avoid tearing, then you need to be on this back. Or you need to be in this position so I can get to your perineum.” Well, but the thing is, guess what? If I close my knees and open my legs, I am pretty sure you could still get to my perineum if you really wanted to, and I don’t think you need to be up in my perineum. I am just saying here. What would you suggest as birth workers?

 

Julie: Wait. Can we just wait a minute? Hold on. I think we need to make a shirt that says, “Don’t be all up in my perineum.” For real.

 

Meagan: I love that.

 

Brittany: I would wear it. I would wear that shirt.

 

There are so many things that I want to touch on with what you said there. First, I will start with what you last said and then I will go back to the beginning. In terms of preserving the perineum, which I think is probably a goal for most people that are birthing vaginally, what we actually know about perineal tearing, and increasing or decreasing the likelihood of tearing, is that when the thighs are internally rotated, it actually can decrease the likelihood of tearing because the skin, the perineal area, is not stretched side to side. Instead, it’s given the opportunity to stretch more front to back. 

 

Although many babies do move into the pelvis posteriorly, most babies do wind up eventually rotating around to come out facing backwards. The crown of their head is right underneath the pubic bone there and they are facing backwards, which means the bigger area of their head is front to back, which means the perineum needs to be able to have more give front to back rather than being stretched side to side.

 

So, when we pull the knees closer together, we actually allow the skin to be stretched less side to side, which gives us the opportunity to stretch more front to back. Closing the knees or internally rotating the thighs helps to decrease the likelihood of tearing as well which is huge for people planning a vaginal birth.

 

Meagan: It really is.

 

Brittany: It really is.

 

Going back to what you said about providers that are maybe not so familiar with the idea or the concept of bringing their knees together for pushing, I think it really comes back to prenatal education. It is not just about educating about the biomechanics, but like you said, it is about educating people about their rights. It’s about educating. If they have a partner or a support person there with them that is not their doula, it’s also important to educate that person because that person is going to become a really big part of the advocacy in the laboring room.

 

So, when people realize they have the right to birth in whatever position that they choose and when they have the information to understand how to create more space within their pelvises--

 

Julie: --and have a supportive partner or doula that will advocate for them because when you are in the pushing stage, you are not always able to speak for yourself.

 

Brittany: Absolutely. If they have somebody else in their court there as well saying, “No, she is comfortable like this,” or, “No, she is not going to get into that position.” That can really help. It also provides a buffer for that laboring person to stay in the zone which is right where they need to be when they are pushing a baby out. I think prenatal education is a really, really important part of that.

 

Also, this might sound really silly but practice the conversation surrounding informed consent and refusal, and advocacy for your rights. Literally, have practice conversations with partners or with friends about what you would do in that moment. What words are you going to use in that moment? As a birthing person, what words are you going to use in that moment to let your provider know that you are not going to be on your back with your legs hiked far apart, or maybe you’ll be on your back with your legs hiked closer together, or whatever.

 

But practice those conversations ahead of time because it’s much easier when you have the language easily available than it is in the moment to try to come up with that. I think a lot of people in the moment wind up being in a situation mentally when they’re pushing their baby out where if they are faced with being encouraged to do something that does not feel right to them, they have to choose where they’re going to put their energy. Are they going to put their energy into pushing their baby out or are they going to put their energy into debating with a provider about what they want to do?

 

Unfortunately, I think that position puts people in a place where they have to focus on pushing their baby out, so they will do what their provider suggests. This is when partner support or friend support, whoever is there in addition to a doula can absolutely step in and be like, “Actually, she has thought a lot about pushing positions and this is how she would like to be.” If a provider is like, “Well, she is going to tear.” “This is how she would like to be.”

 

Julie: Then let her tear. Let her tear.

 

Brittany: Right. Yeah. I think prenatal education, practicing how you’re going to actually word things-- and that is a partner activity too, not just the person who is giving birth-- and really being willing to stand up and speak up. But then, a huge part of it too, and this is a given, is to find a provider that you can have open conversations with prenatally and you can really either help them figure out what your priorities are or maybe you have a provider already that is open to pushing positions that are not the stranded beetle position. But finding a provider that truly is on the same page with you and respectful of your rights as a laboring person is really important.

 

Meagan: Yes. Yeah. In the birth that I was telling you about, the provider was like, “So, I was really trying to get in there to help you support, but if this is the approach you want to take, I mean, I guess we will just sit here and wait.”

 

Julie: Whoa. Oh my gosh.

 

Meagan: That made the birthing parent feel like, “Okay. Am I doing this wrong?” I just looked at her and winked and said, “You’ve got this. Keep on going.” Sure enough, she did. But, it is so hard. We fall in love with these providers, but we need them to be there for us 110% until the very end. The very end meaning you are done, six weeks postpartum, plus. To the very end. 

 

As a birthing professional, I feel like we need to educate prenatally and give questions to these parents so they can find the right provider. Obviously, we can’t go and pick them, but if we can get questions. Don’t be scared as a birthing parent to ask questions and say, “This is how I want to do it. Do you support that?” or “Hey, what have you seen in the past? Have you ever seen this happen?” If they are like, “Oh, no. That would never work.” Well then, maybe you’ve got a provider that is maybe not right for you if that is what you’re wanting to do.

 

Brittany: Right.

 

Julie: It reminds me of the time I had this provider come into the room and we were trying some less traditional methods to get labor to progress on its own. There were flyers up all over the labor and delivery floor. “This provider has delivered 5000 babies.” “5000 babies” all over the floor. You can’t walk outside the door into the bathroom without getting slapped in the face with this celebratory flyer about this provider delivering 5000 babies.

 

She walks in the room and she’s like, “I have delivered 5000 babies and I’ve never seen this work before. I’ve never seen this happen,” and I’m like, “Well.” That was my birth trauma provider and the first literal birth obstetric violence I’ve seen. That was that birth. I’m like, “Well, have you ever seen anyone try this before?” and she’s like, “This is ridiculous. This is not going to work.” I am like, “But 5000 babies, huh?” That’s all I could think in my mind.

 

I feel like it’s easy for providers to get set in their ways and a routine. Ideally, we would like providers to be open and understand that parents can have their intuition and that they can adjust as needed, and they can try different things, but a lot of providers see birth one way and one way only. Whenever anything deviates from that way, it feels uncomfortable for them.

 

I can relate to that. I have really bad anxiety. Ask Meagan. Anytime we try and do something different than we normally do, I’m like, “No, no, no, no, no. We can’t do it that way because we’ve always done it this way,” and Meagan is like, “Well, let’s just go with the flow on this one.” I’m like, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no.” But, you know what? I can see a provider kind of reacting like that too. And so, figuring out how to overcome those things, like you said, prenatally is really, really important especially when we have providers that have been doing things their way for a really, really long time.

 

Brittany: Yeah, and I think exactly like you said, providers have been doing something and seen some things work the majority of the time for potentially a really long time. The training that providers are getting is somewhat limited in terms of the different alternatives that are explored. It’s really easy to very, very strongly believe in the way that you were trained and the way that you have practiced for many years. But, I also think there’s a lot of opportunity to plant little seeds.

 

As a doula, I love to say things like, “Actually, I learned this new technique. Do you think we could give it a try just for maybe a couple of contractions?” And in my experience--

 

Julie: How does that go?

 

Brittany: Yeah, a couple of contractions-- actually, Meagan was hinting towards this, the five contraction thing. A couple of contractions is usually all that you need in one position. I developed this rule that I call the Blossoming Bellies 5/4/3 Rule and it is literally like a guideline for movement. Change position every five contractions. Choose one of four basic positions and change them up in three different ways.

 

When I say to a provider, “I learned this really cool thing. Do you think we could try it just for a couple of contractions?” Usually, they’re like, “Okay, fine. We will give it a try.” And really, all I want is a couple of contractions because then I would want someone to get into a different position anyway. So, I think planting that seed of change for a provider, and then when they see it work-- that’s when now they are going to put it into the next birth that they go to. But if we don’t stand up, and if we don’t offer, and if we don’t suggest and ask, then we lose that opportunity to plant a seed. Even if that provider is not on board with it in that birth, maybe the next time they hear that they’ll be like, “Oh, this is now the second time I am hearing this. Maybe we should just give it a try.”

 

I have seen that happen with doula colleagues of mine. I have seen things happen where I have suggested something at a birth and there was a hard “no” from the provider and then actually-- a friend of mine who is a doula. We were talking about this birth and she had the same provider there, and that provider suggested that they do the thing that I just suggested a week before that she was like, “No. Absolutely not.”

 

I am not going to take the credit for that, but I do like to think that maybe a little seed was planted. I think there is opportunity for change especially with providers that are really interested in again helping to restore that power back to the laboring person. When we remind providers how beautiful of a thing that can be for someone to come out of their birth just feeling amazing about it, we can help providers to become excited about what they are doing rather than just feel like they are tired, and that they are exhausted, and they’re on call, which is all true, but they’re also really lucky to be part of such an amazing experience like birth.

 

Meagan: Absolutely. I love it. Oh, you give me chills. You make me so happy. You make me happy.

 

Julie: I have a lot of questions, but I’m just going to ask one since we are kind of running short on time. Going back to closed knee pushing, is it closed knee, ankles out? Or does it matter where the ankles are?

 

Brittany: In order for the thighs to internally rotate, generally the ankles have to come out. The knees come closer than the hips and the ankles come wider than the hips. But, there are different degrees of variation. I would even encourage everybody to experiment with this on themselves. You could just sit in a chair, bring your knees together and get a sense as to where your ankles are, then bring your ankles farther apart and you’ll get a sense of how even more deeply internally rotated the thighs are.

 

But, you could also have your feet hip-distance apart, your ankles hip-distance apart, and bring your knees together, and we get internal rotation. So, the knees come in closer than the hips and closer than the ankles, and that is what causes that internal thigh rotation. That’s what pulls on the hips and allows for more space side to side at the outlet of the pelvis.

 

Julie: That’s what I was figuring. I just wanted to double-check because-- and well, now that I am sitting here on my chair-- if you can hear my creaky chair in the background, that’s why. If you move forward and sit on your sitz bones, sitting on the edge, you can feel that even more. Your sitz bones moving around and your pelvis opening and closing as you move your ankles and knees. We can’t really widen your hips on purpose, but you can do those things. You can feel the adjustment just by sitting on your sitz bones. It’s really cool.

 

Brittany: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a couple of centimeters of space change, but when you’re pushing out a baby’s head, you want every bit of space that you can get.

 

Julie: Yes. You need it. I had a midwife tell me once at a home birth-- I am like, “What station is baby at?” Because we know that what we need to do with the pelvis depends on where the baby is and I was like, “Is she zero or plus one?” The midwife was like, “Well, it is really only a 1-centimeter difference.” And I’m like, “Okay, so we are generally mid pelvis, right?” She was like, “Yeah, I would say mid pelvis.” I’m like, “Well, centimeters matter.” 

 

Oh my gosh, we should make another shirt. “Centimeters matter.” “Get all up out of my perineum.” But really though, even the smallest amount. That’s why I-- sorry, I am just connecting all the dots right now in my mind.

 

When you’re talking about-- it doesn’t matter what kind of movement, just move. That movement creates those little shifts that help the baby move because the baby is working with your body, and as your body and baby work together, those little minute spaces of movement can make the biggest difference in how the baby descends.

 

Brittany: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Generally, we think of it as pelvic inlet, mid pelvis, and pelvic outlet. Providers can’t always tell exactly what centimeter station the baby is at, but I think it is really important also, especially like you were mentioning in a home birth, that as birth support people, we are able to watch someone laboring, observe someone laboring and recognize where they might be. When you even just said that you said to the midwife, “Is the baby at a zero, or a plus one?” you already knew that baby was at mid pelvis, probably by what you were seeing. Then, we can use that information from an internal exam to further hone in on what positions we may suggest.

 

I hate to overwhelm people too with all these specific positions that are great at certain points. I don’t like to set people up to think that they could do anything “wrong” in labor. I always like to tell people the first level is just recognizing that movement is really important. The next level would be getting comfortable and familiar with different movements that help when the baby is at different stations.

 

But really again, even if that feels like way too much to remember, especially as a partner, or a friend, or something supporting someone labor, just remember movement because even the process of getting out of one position and into another-- it’s just like you said. Creating these incremental space changes that give the baby more wiggle room.

 

Meagan: Absolutely.

 

Julie: We don’t have to over-complicate it, just like you said, because I am the one that would get overwhelmed. Like Meagan said earlier, she did not sit down at all during her pregnancy. I feel like that in some sense was a certain type of overwhelm, right? And so, if you just say, “Hey, just move, and if you are pushing and it’s not going well, try putting your knees together.” Tada! That’s all you’ve got to remember. I feel like those two things alone can make big shifts in a labor that is not progressing as you normally would like to see it progress.

 

Brittany: Yeah, definitely. And remember not to stay in any position for too long. I think that’s another thing. I think too, just along the lines like you were saying, getting overwhelmed with things. Sometimes we also get so set on specific things, like how great the all-fours position is, and the all-fours position is great, but not if you’re in it for three hours.

 

Meagan: Exactly.

 

Brittany: It is so much about remembering that we don’t want to get hung up on one thing. Labor requires so many different variations, and different suggestions, and a lot of intuitive listening to what the body needs if that is possible-- particularly, like again, an unmedicated birth. But then, if somebody is birthing medicated, we can take those same principles or concepts and apply them to medicated birth too. Again, it doesn’t have to be something that is just for unmedicated labors.

 

Meagan: Absolutely. We talked about it a little bit earlier, with an epidural. I have actually had a mom squat her baby, deliver squatting with an epidural. We put a rebozo underneath her thighs to hold her up and give her some support and then gave her a squatting bar. Remember, if you are birthing with an epidural, you really, really are not limited to just side, side, back. You are really not. It might take some effort from your support people, but it is okay. You can do it.

 

Brittany: Yeah. On the other end of the spectrum too, if somebody is birthing without an epidural, side-lying positions can be really awesome for them too, just like they could be for someone with an epidural. I wouldn’t want people to think like, “Well, if I am committed to giving birth without an epidural, I also have to be committed to being upright and in a million different positions.” Upright positions are awesome. I am a big fan of upright positions. But also, sometimes at the end of labor, people need to rest in between pushing contractions.

 

Meagan: Yes.

 

Brittany: We can take some of the things that we do with people who have epidurals and also apply that to people who are birthing without epidurals, but remembering the dynamics piece of it, which is how we allow the body to shift and move so that we can create the space where the baby needs it.

 

5/4/3 Rule of Movement

 

Meagan: Definitely. So, I know we are running out of time. I have a really quick question for you. I was at a birth one time and the birthing parent kept going to her hands and knees all the time. Her knees were bruised. She would not get off her hands and knees no matter what. Anything we did-- I was like, “Let’s do this. Let’s do that.” She would not get off her hands and knees. 

 

The midwife was like, “I don’t know what it is,” and she is a first-time mom. “I don’t know what it is with first-time moms.” She was like, “But I see this pattern.” She was like, “I see that everyone always goes to their hands and knees.” 

 

Do you think because this is instinctually what our bodies are telling us to do and our babies are speaking to us and saying, “Hey, mom. You need to get on your hands and knees position to help me come down,” or do you think this is something-- because again, it’s more like the movies where you see people laboring on their hands and knees. Do you feel like hands and knees during the entire course of labor is effective? Even slight movement with hip to hip-- do you feel like it should be more? I don’t know. What do you think about hands and knees all the time?

 

Brittany: That’s a really good question. The first part of your question was, why do I think people tend to assume that position? I think that position, first of all, from an emotional standpoint, you’re focusing on just what is directly in front of you, so it gets rid of all that stimulation that is happening around you. I think it can help people stay in the zone. I also think that it tends to take some pressure off the low back, which most people, even if the baby is not posterior, or there are not tight uterosacral ligaments, people still tend to feel some pressure in their back with contractions. So, that can decrease that pressure.

 

Also, it may, because it is not a direct upright position, it may decrease the intensity of pelvic floor sensation too. So, I think it can be a little bit of a protective position, but it is also a really great position for progress because it still allows for a little bit of gravity. It still opens up space in the pelvis. Although it may be a protective position in terms of allowing someone to manage sensations more easily, I think it’s also a really great progressive position too.

 

But, I think you’ll know my answer to the second part which is, what about people staying in that position the whole time they’re in labor? I would say no.

 

Meagan: Move, yeah. No.

 

Brittany: Move. But here’s the thing. So, let’s say someone loves that position. Well, if they’re getting up to go to the bathroom once every hour, then there is a movement. That’s great. Then they can go back into their all-fours position. But also, if we remember-- and you hinted at this with the swing of the hips. If we remember that there’s a million different positions within that all fours position, that’s really important.

 

For example, when I was talking about the 5/4/3 rule with the four basic positions that I use as my starting points-- there is standing, seated, all fours, and reclined. The three variations that we suggest for those for basic positions are thigh rotation and how we rock the lower back, whether we do sacral nutation or counternutation, iliac nutation or counternutation-- basically like pelvic tilts-- and then also whether we are creating asymmetry.

 

So, if we have this all-fours position, and we cycle through different degrees of variation within those three things-- the thigh rotation, the pelvic tilt in the asymmetry-- we can still stay in all fours, and changeup that position every five contractions, and do a modification of all fours, and then remember to get up once every hour and go to the bathroom. 

 

And then, if that’s the position the person wants to stay in, great. But they are not staying in a stagnant all fours the entire time. They are still changing it up, staggering their legs, bringing their knees farther apart, bringing them closer together, elevating one leg up on a yoga block, elevating one leg up more dramatically on a peanut ball, putting your upper body at a 45-degree angle then doing a flat tabletop back, rocking the lower back to do some pelvic tilts. We’ve done all those things for five contractions. It’s definitely time to get up and use the bathroom now, and then you can come back in that position and do it all again.

 

Don’t forget to pee!

 

Meagan: Yes, and the bathroom. While we were chatting, I was like, “Oh. The ‘use the bathroom’ thing.” It just gets me. It is such a perfect thing because one, it is good to empty our bladder and we sometimes forget about it. Two, it changes things up, really gets our pelvis moving and changing. It opens with gravity as we are sitting on the toilet, which, I like to sit on the toilet backwards when I’m in the bathroom even though people think that is kind of crazy, but it is really good.

 

But, yes. Don’t forget to go to the bathroom and I love the “every hour.” Just try. Yeah, you may not have been drinking a lot, but you may have had IV fluids or your body is making urine. So, don’t forget to pee.

 

Brittany: That needs to be a T-shirt too. “Your body is making urine. Don’t forget to pee.”

 

Julie: A doula shirt! “Don’t forget to pee.” There are so many benefits though because an empty bladder helps baby descend properly too because the bladder is underneath the baby’s head. I tell my clients that every time a nurse asks if they can check your cervix, then just ask if you can go pee first because then it gets you up and moving. It gets you on the toilet which helps open up the pelvis. It empties your bladder and it gives you a little more time, right? Just a little more time. But, still. I am going to make a shirt. Oh my gosh, I have got to make a list.

 

“Do you have to pee? Don’t forget to pee!”

 

Meagan: I keep referencing back to this awesome birth because it was literally a week ago, but that was something that happened. She hadn’t peed in forever. I had been with her for 4.5 hours at this point and she had not peed. We are looking at this 9 centimeters thing, right? We are sitting here at 9 centimeters. We are working on things. I had her pee, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t pee because the baby was blocking things a little bit. Then the providers were like, “She doesn’t need anything. She hasn’t even gotten that many fluids.” I’m like, “Yeah, but she has been drinking.” Anyway, she was like, “I don’t really feel like I have to pee.” I’m like, “That doesn’t mean you don’t have to.” 

 

So, anyway. We talked about straight cath. She was unmedicated, and so that can be sometimes uncomfortable, but you should have seen the amount of pee that came out of this straight rubber red cath. I do think that had a lot to do with helping as well because it created space for the baby in there in a different way.

 

That is an option if you can’t pee and you haven’t peed for a while and you are unmedicated, because usually if you are medicated, you’ve got a catheter and it’s easy peasy. But, it’s okay. I asked her, “So, how was that?” She was like, “That was nothing. That was nothing.”

 

Don’t be scared of that. The providers were like, “We don’t want to put her through that” and she was like, “No. I am glad we did.” So, know that that is an option if you feel like you cannot go to the bathroom because your baby is blocking or too low in that sense. You can do that and it did. It worked and it helped.

 

Baby Got VBAC

 

Meagan: There is something that can’t go untold about you. It’s a really exciting thing. It’s really exciting, and guess what? It is November 30th as of this day. By the time this is being released soon, this is already going to happen. Brittany actually has a chapter-- is it a chapter technically that you have written?-- in a book that is getting released in December. I’m so excited about this. Do you want to talk a little bit about that and maybe tell them where they can find it?

 

Brittany: Yeah, sure. Absolutely. I am really honored to be a part of this book. It is a multi-author book. Each chapter is written by somebody different. The book focuses specifically on VBAC and inspiring stories, confidence-building stories, and also tips, and techniques, and suggestions, and insights from birth professionals to help people feel really empowered in moving forward with a VBAC or also feel empowered by a repeat Cesarean birth.

 

It’s called Baby Got VBAC and I do have a chapter in the book. My chapter is on pelvic dynamics because it is a really important part of labor progress which can help to decrease the need for intervention. My chapter is all about the importance of movement, but also, it is filled with some anecdotal stories that I have gotten permission to share from clients whose births I have attended, and just an insight into my perspective on birth and movement, and birth, and empowering birth experiences. I even get into a little bit of informed consent because that is another really important part of what I do. So, it is really awesome. It is coming out mid-December.

 

It is called Baby Got VBAC. The link to purchase it will be available on my website, which is at blossomingbelliesbirth.com. It will be available on Amazon for only one dollar for the first 30 days or so. It will be a digital download that you can put on your Kindle, or whatever you use to read stuff on your phone, or whatever. So very limited time, it will be available for one dollar and then after that, it will be available on the website at regular price and we will have print additions coming out as well. We are looking at mid-December for that to be released. You’ll be able to find a link to that on my website.

 

I am really excited to share that platform with expectant parents, not expectant parents, although expectant parents can read it, but people who have given birth, parents sharing their stories, which I think is really awesome, but also I think what makes this book really unique is that it incorporates stories from birth professionals too, including clinical providers also. It is a really interesting mix of empowering stories coming from a lot of different areas. It is intended for birth professionals to read. It is intended for expectant parents, and I think also, even people who are maybe done having children may still find the book to be really fun and inspiring. So, yeah. Baby Got VBAC coming out in mid-December.

 

Meagan: Yay!

 

Julie: That is so exciting. By the time this episode airs, it will be-- let me look at my schedule, February. It is live now! Go buy it.

 

Brittany: Thank you.

 

Meagan: I want you to put a pause on this episode right now, but don’t forget to come back and listen. I want you to go to Instagram and go to @blossomingbelliesbirth  and you will see her Instagram. Trust me, you want to go join it. Girl, you do so many things. You do webinars and trainings, and just so much stuff that is so awesome. So, go check her out. Don’t miss what she has got going on, because it’s amazing.

 

Free birth webinars

 

Brittany: Thank you. Just to let people know, that although a lot of the services that I offer are services that people pay for, I do also think it is so important for people to have access to free, usable information. There are also one-hour webinars available on the website that are totally free. Physical and postpartum recovery from both vaginal and Cesarean birth, prenatal nutrition, pregnancy Q&A, pumping and storing human milk-- all sorts of options on there for free, one-hour webinars too. I don’t think people should be limited to having money to get information. I think it should be accessible to everyone.

 

Julie: I’m so glad you said that because we agree, too. That’s why we have this podcast. We have our blogs so people can find a lot of information for free, but we also have our paid course, which is like the deluxe, more in-depth. You don’t have to go searching all of our podcasts and websites for information. It’s all right there in a condensed version for you with lots more, really cool stuff to do. Yes. I love that. I love that you offer that. Meagan, we should do a one-hour webinar on our website.

 

Meagan: You are inspiring us in all the ways.

 

Brittany: Oh good! I am so glad. That is awesome.

 

Meagan: Yes. You know, I haven’t really ever done a webinar, but y’all are doing it. Gina does it too. I am late. Maybe we need to do a webinar.

 

Julie: We have done webinars. It’s just Facebook Live or Zoom.

 

Meagan: Yeah, Facebook Lives. I guess that is true. But Brittany is there anything you would like to add that we-- I mean, I’m sure there is tons of stuff that you could add.

 

Brittany: Oh my gosh, right? Do we have another 10 hours? No, I mean, just maybe in parting, I would encourage people to remember that this is your birth experience and it is something that you carry with you for the rest of your life. Your provider may or may not remember your birth a week from now or a year from now, but you carry that experience with you every day moving forward. 

 

Do the research. Get the education. Get comfortable using your voice. Really expect the same respect that you would in any other aspect of your life in birth. I feel like birth is one of those times where for some reason we may allow ourselves to be treated in a way that we wouldn’t in other aspects of our lives, and recognizing that it is a client and professional relationship. You are paying somebody to be there with you. You have every right to use your voice, and speak up, and make your wishes heard and respected. I think that’s everything.

 

Meagan: Thank you so much. Julie, is there anything you want to say?

 

Julie: Amen. And find our T-shirt shop, thevbaclink.com/bonfire because there will be additions.

 

Meagan: There will be additional T-shirts. She is probably really not kidding because she loves T-shirts.

 

Julie: No, I am not kidding. Creating and designing things and so, when we get inspired, let’s do it.

 

Meagan: Right? We should do another T-shirt that says, “Closed knees, say what?”

 

Julie: Okay, hold on. Hold on. I have got to add it to my list. I really have a list going on. Oh my gosh. Yes, this will be fun.

 

Meagan: Thank you so much, seriously.

 

Brittany: Thank you for having me. This has been super fun and it has been an honor to be here.

 

Meagan: Well, it is an honor to have you here. Like I said, I just adore you and love you, and I am always scrolling your Instagram. I can’t wait to read that book. I can’t wait. I will definitely be picking it up for a dollar, that’s for sure. I would pay more than a dollar too.

 

Julie: Well, thank you so much.

 

Brittany: Thank you very much, guys.

 

Closing

 

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

 

“To the unsupportive OB:”

 

“To that labor and delivery nurse:”

 

“To my partner:”

 

“To the midwife who believed in me:”

 

“To myself:”

 

The long-awaited episode is here. This is the one where YOU have the spotlight. Mari Vega and Allie Mennie are back to join Meagan and Julie as they read your letter submissions. Let your voices be heard. Let your trauma heal. We tell the world everything you weren’t given the chance to say during your birth. 

 

Additional links

The VBAC Link’s Advanced VBAC Doula Certification Program

Allie Mennie’s website

Mari Vega’s website

 

Episode sponsor

 

This episode is sponsored by our Advanced VBAC Doula Certification Program. This course is designed for birth workers who want to take their VBAC education to the next level so you can support parents who have had a Cesarean in the most effective ways. Head over to thevbaclink.com to find out more information and sign up today. 

 

Sponsorship inquiries

 

Interested in sponsoring a The VBAC Link podcast? Find out more information here at advertisecast.com/TheVBACLink or email us at info@thevbaclink.com.

 

Full transcript

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

 

Julie: Happy Wednesday, women of strength. We have a really incredible episode for you today. I can’t even put into words all of the things I am feeling about what we are about to do because it’s big. It’s big, and it’s emotional. Some of us are reading over these for the first time. I think there’s going to be lots of tears and crying. I don’t know. We’re going to try to not get angry and frustrated. 

 

We asked you back in December, or the end of November, maybe it was, to write an anonymous letter to a healthcare worker, your provider, somebody on your hospital staff, or somebody that negatively affected your birth. These are all anonymous letters. We have lots and lots of submissions, and we are excited to read them to you today. 

 

Now, I want you to be advised that some of these letters have some difficult experiences explained in them. But, I think it’s really, really important that we listen to these, we hear them, and we meet these anonymous letter writers where they are because this is the state of maternity care in our country. These things that we are about to read are not uncommon experiences. And this is why we as The VBAC Link, and we as birth doulas and all of us advocate so much for change and education, and all sorts of things. But before I start rambling on more, I don’t want to take too long. We are not going to read a review of the week. We are just going to get right into the letters after the intro.

 

Episode sponsor

 

Julie: Birth workers, listen up. Do you want to increase your knowledge of birth after a Cesarean? We created our Advanced VBAC Doula Certification Program just for you. It is the most comprehensive VBAC doula training in the world, perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced video course. This course is designed for birth workers who want to take their VBAC education to the next level so you can support parents who have had a Cesarean in the most effective ways. We have created a complete system, a step-by-step road map that shows exactly what you need to know to support parents birthing after a Cesarean. Head over to thevbaclink.com to find out more information and sign up today. That’s thevbaclink.com. See you there.

 

Everything Left Unsaid 

 

Julie: Alright, as you know, we have invited Allie Mennie and Marilys back with us to this episode as a follow-up to Marilys’ episode. We are going to take turns reading the letters. You guys, these are really raw and vulnerable. We are going to rotate through and try not to scream, and yell, and hit our computer screens. But also, yeah. That’s it, nothing else.

Mari, do you have the first one?

 

Mari: Our first letter starts with: 

 

“Hello, beautiful doula angels! I just listened to Marilys’ episode and wanted to send you my letter. My letter may actually be the opposite of what you are looking for. It would be a positive one because although I ended up with a Cesarean, my provider made my birth experience amazing. It was the nurses I didn’t care for. 

 

‘To my provider, thank you. Thank you for letting me make my own decisions. Thank you for asking for consent before doing any procedures or taking the next steps. For informing me of all the risks and benefits of any procedure, I had the OPTION for during my pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Thank you for not making me feel guilty or bad about my 60lb pregnancy weight gain. For giving me the option of which hospital I wanted to deliver at. For dealing with my many text messages asking you questions throughout my pregnancy. 

 

Thank you for coming to my birth even though you were not on call. For having me push for four hours before even mentioning a Cesarean. For being quiet and calm while having me and my son in our most vulnerable states-- my body open and my mind full of fear. 

 

Thank you for taking time going over the risks and benefits of a Cesarean as well as a VBAC and reminding me that the best-case scenario for me would be to VBAC. For assuring me that the risk of uterine rupture is extremely low and should not deter me from having a VBAC. Thank you for recommending a pelvic floor therapist when I came to you six months postpartum, still leaking urine and in agonizing pain during intercourse. 

 

Thank you for being the provider that performed my cesarean and the provider I have 110% confidence in to support my VBAC.’

 

I hope this letter can be a reminder that a negative birth experience is not always the result of the provider or their actions. My provider was one of the most positive aspects of my birth and the only time I was fully able to relax was with her in the room. The negative aspects of my birth experience came from the labor and postpartum nurses, as well as my lack of knowledge and education about the whole process. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But because of The VBAC Link, I now know what I didn’t know, and more.”

 

Meagan: Wow.

 

Mari: Whew! Go, VBAC Link. 

 

Julie: I love that. 

 

Mari: What a nice start. 

 

Julie: What a great letter to start this episode off with. Perfect. 


Mari: It’s important. It’s important for people to know that it’s also the journey that matters and not the outcome.

 

Julie: Absolutely. Absolutely. I love it. Alright. Allie, you are up with the next letter. 

 

Allie: Alrighty. They start by saying: 

 

“Thank you for posting the most recent podcast.”

 

This is actually a member of Mari’s ICAN chapter. She says: 

 

“I'm so glad to have seen and heard her on your platform. This is such a good exercise. I'm glad to have had the chance to write out my feelings to MYSELF on my ‘failed’ VBAC.” 

 

So this is a letter that this mother wrote to herself. It says: 

 

“You are a warrior mama to your two beautiful babies. I wish you didn't cast so much self-doubt and ill feelings of your capacity to be a mom simply because you didn't push them out of your vagina. After your first C-section, which we both agree you naively weren't prepared for but still doesn't justify how traumatic it was (even these 30 months later), you did ALL the things in preparation of your next pregnancy-- switched providers, read all the books, listened to podcasts, went to ICAN meetings, hired a doula, found your voice to fight for the birth you knew you wanted and the chance to make that happen. 

 

That morning, four days before your due date when you went into labor, remember those feelings. You were ecstatic to go into labor on your own, something previously robbed of you, it escalated so fast. You got to the hospital two hours later to have your water break as you wobbled in, to find you were already at a ten and fully effaced and ready to push that baby out. 

 

As you started pushing, you had a deep gut feeling that this wasn't going to be a different outcome than last time. That no matter how much you prepared, this baby doesn't seem like he was going to come out on his own or anytime soon. You are brave for being more concerned with the baby's well-being and not wanting to send him into distress than of your own desire to have him exit vaginally. 

 

Your choices and decisions were not based on fear. They were based on what you knew and what you valued most-- a healthy baby and healing birth experience. Your baby being big AND OP had the cards stacked against you. But you know what? Up until being rolled into the OR, you stuck to your guns on what you wanted for this birth-- to go into labor naturally, to break your water on your own, to experience all those feelings, NO pain medication, and to push.

 

Remember what your doula told you. You ran 26 miles of that marathon and needed assistance getting past the finish line. AND THAT'S OKAY. Your C-section this time was everything your first was not. You were AWAKE. You got to see the baby come out. Daddy got to cut the cord. You got to hear his cries and snuggle him right away. 

 

Not all VBACs are healing, and not all C-sections are traumatic. You've seen it all, and you are the best mama for your babies! Having a baby come out of your belly doesn't make you less of a mom. You carried those babies lovingly all those months and having them earthside with you; you know it doesn't matter how they got here. They are healthy, thriving, happy, and most importantly, are your whole world. If you have another baby and want to try for a VBA2C, that's still okay too! Your feelings are valid. YOU ARE THE BEST MOM to your kids. You gave it your all, did all the things with all the BEST resources you could, tried to change his position while pushing. You left no stone unturned. There is nothing to feel guilty about!”

 

Julie: Chills.

 

Mari: How beautiful. 

 

Julie: What a lovely letter to herself. I can relate to a lot of those things she said, and I am really proud of her for writing that letter. 

 

Mari: Me too. I can’t wait to see her. 

 

Meagan: I think that’s something we honestly, as birth workers, could encourage our clients to do, is write themselves a letter. 

 

Julie: Yeah. I think so. I think that’s really important to do. Even as birth workers, holy smokes, after some births that are really, really tough.

 

Allie: Absolutely. Putting myself in that position, it would be harder to write a letter to me than to a provider. 

 

Julie: Totally. 

 

Allie: Even if I had angry things to say to a provider, it would be easier sometimes, as a parent, to say angry things to a provider than nice things about myself. I am so proud of this mom for finding those words to be kind to herself, and to be proud of herself, and to know that she is the best mom for her babies. I believe it. I know she is.

 

Julie: Yeah, I agree. I think that’s a really important, brave, and courageous thing to do. Perfect. Alright, let’s move along. Meagan. You are up.

 

Meagan: Alright. It says:

 

“What a coincidence, in just a few days, it will be two years since I brought my son into this world. I have thought about how to begin this letter and could never put in words what I went through, mostly out of fear and not wanting to relive those events again. 

 

Many have told me how lucky I am to have a healthy baby and as I look back now, I can 1000% say that I am extremely grateful that the events after his birth were resolved and that he is a perfectly healthy two-year-old. 

 

However, two years ago, on December 3, 2018, I was in a dark, dark place. The day started out perfectly. I’ll admit, I was nervous, but I had been here before since this was my second baby. I was feeling all of the emotions of leaving my first baby at home and what she would think when she saw her baby brother, but that quickly quieted as I was induced, and this baby would be here before we knew it. Except we took a turn for the unexpected when my nurse told me she could not feel my baby’s head and thought he might not be in position. Cue panic. I had been to my OBGYN’s office just a day prior, and I was told, based off his expertise and ultrasound from a week prior, that my baby was head down and ready to go. 

 

How could this be possible? Clearly, in my mind, she was wrong, but I wanted to hear back from my doctor. She proceeds to call my doctor and send me into an ultrasound at 5 cm dilated. I can remember that there were about four nurses in the room when one abruptly states, “Yup! C-section!”. I immediately broke down. I had no idea what I was in for, and the words stung me to my core, and just as fast as she said it, they left my room, and my world was shattered. 

 

I could think back to a few days before I was induced at my routine appointment when my OB’s nurse was joking that hopefully, I would have a small baby since her husband, who was my doctor, almost led her to get a C-section because her baby was much larger than they ever anticipated. It was almost like she called my fate, to no fault of her own. My baby was big, and not only that, he was laying sideways across my belly, and somehow it was never suspected. I know these things happen. Babies turn at the last minute, but the way I was treated with no explanation and no options was barbaric. But it only gets worse from here. 

 

As I headed into the C-section, I was so afraid but confided in my doctor. He delivered my previous baby without a flinch. I can’t remember much, but I know things got stale for a moment. My husband can remember the nurses panicking and wanting to call in another surgeon. Had I heard this, it may have been worse for me. But moments later, I heard a little cry, and everything was right in the world again. 

 

The C-section didn’t matter anymore. He was here, and I was crying tears of joy. I was placed in recovery where my pain was unbearable, and my baby was taken as I couldn’t hold him. My nurse was stunned that I needed more pain medication and all I could do was cry. 

 

That’s when the pediatric nurse came in and said my son was doing great, but there seemed to be something wrong with his left arm. He needed to be taken to get an X-ray. While all of this was happening, my mom bumped into my doctor in the hallway. She remembers him telling her the issues with the baby’s delivery and how, ‘He doesn’t know what happened, but my baby was in a very bad position, and it was very difficult to pull him out.’ 

 

The next few days were quite possibly the worst I have ever experienced in my life. Advocating for my son and myself when I had no idea how untrustworthy these providers truly were. It took a whole 24 hours for a pediatrician to come assess my son, and that was after I had to make a complaint to the nurse manager. That night, my doctor came by to see me and never once asked how he could help me. He boasted about his new practice he was opening up, and all I felt was rage. How could he be so carefree? Everyone around me was so happy. My son was alive and breathing, yes, but he wasn’t moving his left arm! 

 

On day three, when I was supposed to be released, I began having panic attacks. So, I was held another day due to my mental health. On the fourth day, I was supposed to be released with a psychiatric clearance, and the psychiatrist NEVER showed up. I begged my doctor. I couldn’t stay one more day. I needed to start the process of finding out how to help my son get a diagnosis because all I could hear was “potential nerve damage,” “possibly Erb’s palsy.” 

 

No MRI’s to check his nerves, no neurologists, no one came by to see my son in FIVE days. How is this possible? I ask myself this question all the time now, but the one thing I learned is how to speak up. I learned not to take no for an answer. I advocated for my son while I was in a deep, deep depression where I couldn’t sleep for days on end. I would cry and cry and ask, why me? Why my baby? It is the only thing that kept me going. 

 

After my six-week follow-up, I never heard from my doctor again. If there is one thing I could tell him or ask him is, “Why weren’t you more supportive?” He knew that my son suffered an injury, and yes, at that point, he is only there to treat me, the mother, but as a human being who knows what this process is like for mothers, he failed me in every way. The hospital failed me and my son. The people who we put our very lives and health in their hands just washed them off and continued about their lives as if nothing happened. 

 

What I love about the experience is that when I went to get a second opinion for my son three months down the line with a specialist who works directly with the hospital where I gave birth, she was in utter disbelief. She couldn’t understand how a newborn with suspected nerve damage just flew under the radar. She validated me and my anger. She confirmed the errors that were done that day, and that was when I began to heal. Although it will never fully be erased from my mind and that trust is forever broken, time has been a wonderful ally and has helped me overcome what I went through.”

 

Julie: That was a nice one. A nice, long, thorough explanation. Wow. That’s crazy. 

 

Meagan: That is crazy.

Julie: She never said how her baby is. I want to know.

 

Meagan: I know, and what the final diagnosis was.

 

Julie: Alright, it’s my turn. I absolutely love this one. Short, sweet, and to the point. Kind of just like me, except for maybe I’m not sweet as much very often when I’m to the point. She said:

 

“You told me I couldn't push my 10-pound baby without possibly killing me or him. Jokes on you, I pushed out an 11-pound baby out of my vagina!”

 

Boom. That’s how it is. Just like that. 

 

Mari: It’s very normal. Many women have done that, yes. Big baby does not equal you are powerless. 

 

Julie: Yes, oh my gosh. Love it. Alright, Mari. You are next. 

 

Mari: Alright. 

 

“To my midwife: No. I wish I would have just said no. You failed me by not telling me my choices. You failed me by not explaining to me what all the interventions would do. No, you can't break my water. No, you can’t put an internal monitor on my baby. No, you can't give me an epidural. No, I will not push on my back for three hours. No, I WILL NOT HAVE A C-SECTION. My baby was not stuck. You just didn't try. But yes, I will have my VBAC!”

 

Well, pretty straightforward and to the point. Sometimes we’ve got to practice saying that big N-O.

 

Julie: Yes. No. No. That’s all you have to say. No explanation. Just no, period. Complete sentence. Love it. Alright, Allie. You’re up. 

 

Allie: Alright. 


“I wish you would have informed and educated me of potential outcomes of your choices for me. I wish you would have encouraged me to get up and move when I was scared in early labor. I wish you would have turned me and moved me once I had an epidural. I wish you would have given me more time to labor instead of insisting on the C-section when I had a slow progression for my first baby. I feel my outcome was chosen for me instead of chosen by me. You didn’t think of me as a person, but rather me as just another patient and delivery that you needed to complete on your timetable. My delivery was traumatic due to you.”

 

Mari: I like that she gave that accountability to somebody because sometimes, it’s always the mom that failed. 

 

Julie: Yeah. 

 

Mari: We carry that guilt. 

 

Julie: Well, and the biggest thing is-- we are rewriting parts of our manual right now. I just read through the part about traumatic birth. The biggest part of whether a parent will have PTSD or not about their birth is how they perceive they were cared for. It doesn’t matter how they were actually cared for. It’s how they perceived they were cared for. Providers have a lot more influence on these birth outcomes emotionally than they think they do.

 

Meagan: Okay, this next one. We can’t swear on our podcast. I’m just going to give you a brief intro, and then I will read it. Pretty much, they are saying that they felt fear-mongered, and they felt like it was made to be their fault for their traumatic birth. She encourages her provider to retire. Her words say: 

 

“To my midwife of my second birth: you empowered me, made me feel safe, and made calls for me when I couldn't while keeping in mind what I wanted. Thank you. Because of you, I no longer fear birth. 

 

To my partner: thank you for being my rock through both of the births of our babies. Watching you become a father never ceases to amaze me. Thank you for taking care of me and our babies.”

 

Julie: I love it. I love that she found support through her second birth, and she had a supportive provider and partner. Sometimes, that’s all that is important. I remember we just said it on our podcast not too long ago. You shouldn’t have to have a bad birth in order to have a good birth. But I feel like a lot of times with VBAC parents--

 

Meagan: It’s kind of how it works. 

 

Julie: That’s kind of how it works, right?

 

Meagan: I want to also congratulate her for recognizing fear-mongering because that’s sometimes a really hard thing to ever even look back and see. It’s really awesome that she could look back and recognize that. 

 

Julie: Yeah, absolutely. Alright, this next one really gets me to my core. She says: 

 

“Dear Doctor, 

 

I wish you'd been there. I wish you'd been there to help me get the natural birth that you knew I wanted so desperately. I wish you'd been there to help me stand up for myself, to truly inform me of my choices and options, to let me feel like I was making the decision, rather than having it made for me. 

 

Because you were gone, your colleague rushed me. Because you were gone, she made all the decisions for me. Because you were gone, my all-natural birth turned into an unwanted induction for reasons that didn't warrant an induction yet. And that induction turned into hell, twenty-nine hours of it, with every side effect in the book, and some that aren't. And then my all-natural birth turned into an unnecessary and unwanted C-section, and the birth after that as well. 

 

You were gone, and my son's birth became a traumatic experience that I barely remember. 

 

It's probably better that I don't remember most of it. Because there are truly no happy memories of my son's birth. I wish you'd been there because I think if you were, it would have been different.”

 

That’s just-- I’m all choked up over here, guys. Somebody else talk. 

 

Mari: That one’s the reality, right? Sometimes when you go somewhere, and they tell you that this is the back-up doctor and you don’t feel good about the back-up provider-- it’s a reminder. That matters. 

 

Julie: Yeah, I agree. 

 

Meagan: I think that’s also a good question to ask when you are in care with a provider is, “Is there any chance that you won’t be at my birth?”

 

Julie: Absolutely. We don’t know why this person‘s provider wasn’t there.

 

Meagan: Right, we don’t.

 

Julie: But it is important to know. Alright, Mari. You are up.

 

Mari: Alrighty, well.

 

“I was only 22; I wish I would have asked the medical staff to explain what was happening. A lot was happening TO me, but no one was speaking TO me.”

 

Doesn’t that happen so often?

 

Meagan: Mhmm.

 

Julie: Yeah. Again, going back to perceived care and whether they feel like decisions are being made for them. So hard. Alright, Allie.

 

Allie: This letter has a few different letters in it to different parts of the team and different professionals that this parent worked with. She starts: 

 

“To the hospital birthing team: Why? Why did you care more about helping my epidural work better because it couldn’t be full strength than about me actually progressing to avoid a C-section?? Did you decide I was a lost cause from the beginning because I had severe preeclampsia? Was it all just an act because all of you decided my fate for me? 

 

Why were you so dismissive of my thoughts and concerns? Why did you leave me on my back, refusing to help me lay in other positions and never trying a peanut ball? You forced me back to my back if I managed to move myself because “the epidural works by gravity,” so I have to lay mostly flat on my back for it to work since I couldn’t have a normal dose. Why couldn’t you have focused on frequent position changes to help baby move down and me progress to get me through labor faster??

 

My baby turned posterior because of your decision to leave me on my back.  I truly think it made the contractions feel more intense, and that broke my spirit. That is why I gave up and gave in to a C-section.

 

To my OB: Why did you tell me you were going to break my water instead of asking if you could? I didn’t speak up because I was in such shock but, ‘Uh? Okay?’ is NOT consent. You told me that everything seemed fine and I could keep laboring but made me feel like something was wrong and that waiting to have a C-section was the wrong choice, but your only reasoning in my records is failure to progress.

 

Did you truly think something was wrong, or did you want the money from the C-section? My mom heard you arguing with your husband on the phone because you decided to stay late to perform a C-section again. My friends all say you tried to scare them into C-sections during moments their labors slowed, too. It makes me feel so weak that I gave in. You cut my son. He came into this world already scarred. It’s hidden by hair now, but it was a constant reminder of the hurt I feel about my birth for an entire year.

 

To the postpartum nurse who yelled at me and threatened me with calling CPS for crying because I was so exhausted and hadn't truly slept in over 55 hours and struggled to stay awake while nursing my child. Find a new profession. You have ZERO business working with women who just gave birth.” 

 

Julie: Wow. Wow. I felt that way about a couple of nurses as a doula and as a parent, actually. I’m going to run a statistic. Jumping in here, 1 in 12 babies are cut during the Cesarean procedure. That’s the most common complication for babies.

 

Mari: Wow.

 

Meagan: Wild, huh?

 

Julie: Alright, Meagan.

 

Meagan: Okay, so yes. This next one:

 

Dear labor and delivery nurse, 

 

You sat next to me staring at the monitor all afternoon. You only said to me that my labor was stalling because I came to the hospital too soon, and the doctor probably was wrong to admit me. Yet you stayed there all afternoon. Were you worried about something you were seeing? 

 

I ended up after talking with my doctor and going with a C-section. I felt my body failed me, and I gave up having a natural birth. I ended up scheduling a repeat C-section with my second because no one had confidence in me that the same stalling of labor would not happen again. 

 

I ended up having my third daughter vaginally, but she was born at 21 weeks due to multiple fatal fetal anomalies. This labor was fast but intense. I was able to hold her immediately, even though she only lived a few minutes. I finally met a doctor who believes I could have a successful VBAC after two Cesareans. I'm hoping for a VBAC with my fourth, so I can hold my healthy baby right away.”

 

Julie: Goosebumps and chills over here. So many hard things. So many hard things. Alright, we’re going to move on. This next letter says:

 

“To the midwife I saw while in early labor who told me the baby was just moving and making me uncomfortable: 24 hours later, I was getting prepped for an emergency C-section. I often wonder what would have happened if you would've noticed I was in labor? Maybe I could've made it full-term. Maybe my baby would have it a little easier right now. Maybe I wouldn't be terrified to have a second.”

 

Mari: Wow. I hope that mama can process that fear. 

 

Julie: Me too. 

 

Mari: And that trauma. That is so sad to be scared to even give birth again.

 

Julie: Yeah, I agree. 

 

Mari: Okay. I’m up, right?

 

“I needed love and support and a positive environment. You gave me nothing but a cold manner and no hope. Even after it wasn't my fault (crash C-section due to sudden placental abruption after 38 hours of natural labor), you made it seem like it was.”

 

The end. 

 

Julie: I have a really hard time when providers and nurses place blame. Because sometimes, there is no blame. Sometimes things just happen, but we naturally as humans want to find a reason why. I had a client once with a really rough birth, and the nurses were very vocal about their displeasure with the decisions she made and the decisions I made in supporting her. It just adds so much pain, so much unnecessary pain, to what is already a painful experience. 

 

Alright, Allie. You are next.

 

Allie: Okay.

 

“My first birth was 3.5 years ago with my daughter. To this day, I have so much anger and hurt inside due to so many things that happened! My water broke at home. I wasn't feeling contractions, but we went in, and they confirmed that I'd be admitted. At that time, my midwife wasn't on, so the OB doctor that was on came in checked me. He said I was at 1 centimeter. He immediately wanted me to start taking a pill to progress labor and stated before leaving that he saw a C-section in my future. 

 

That alone made me so angry as we had planned and prepared for a completely natural vaginal birth. That night by 7:00 p.m., I wasn't where that same doctor wanted to see me, so he demanded I start Pitocin. I looked at my nurse and (who was amazing) and told her, “No way, my body needed time to do what it was supposed to.” She agreed! 

 

By midnight, they made me start Pitocin. By hour 38, they told me I had to go for a C-section even though baby and I were both stable and I had made slow progress. They had only allowed me clear liquids from the time I was admitted, so I was exhausted and had confined me to a bed after starting medications. I remember crying and my midwife coming in crying, telling me she was so sorry this was happening to me and that we would get a VBAC on the next one. 

 

I remember being on the OR table, hardly being able to talk, trying to tell them I couldn’t breathe when the anesthesiologist finally said, “You’re fine. Your oxygen is perfect,” then reaching over and putting oxygen on me stating it was for the baby, not me! 

 

Finally, my daughter was born. I felt so lifeless and defeated. I remember instantly, and still to this day, feeling like a terrible mom because I didn’t even cry when she was born. I held her with my husband’s help for a couple of minutes. They then took her away and sent me to recovery. My husband went with her and stayed with her.

 

My second birth was a planned HBAC, which also ended in a C-section due to our state not allowing midwives at home to use herbs on patients who have had a previous C-section. Once again, my midwife at the hospital was comfortable augmenting labor, however, the doctors above her said, “Absolutely not. It’s a C-section!” However, this time I refused to let my baby out of my sight. He stayed with me and my husband in recovery and never left the room for tests. Overall, the second birth was much better, besides feeling like the hospital failed me by not trying to help my body. 

 

I am dreading a hospital birth with our third baby, which is due in April. I wish and pray that before this baby is born, I can release some of this anger and sadness I have held for the last 3.5 years so that maybe I can birth open-minded and feel the empowerment I did at home with my son! I want to know that my provider has my back 110% and that I’m not going to be bullied the way I was with my daughter! And I wish I had the chance to tell the doctor who told me he saw a C-section in my future how angry and defeated that made me feel, as I refuse to see that doctor to this day!”

 

Meagan: Wow. Alright, here goes the next one. 

 

Julie: Heavy sighs over here. Alright, Meagan. 

 

Meagan: “Dear nurse,

I’m sure you have long forgotten me, but I will never forget you. And not for a good thing. Two and a half years later, I am still so angry with you for making me not trust my doctor. You had no right to make me distrust her. You were my nurse. You were supposed to advocate for me, support me. 

 

Instead, you made my birth experience about you. I don’t care that you didn’t like my doctor or didn’t agree with everything she’s done in the past. You put so much doubt in me, in my doctor. And then you got to walk out the door at seven that night smugly saying that I wouldn't have my baby that night. Well, f*** you. I had my perfect little girl four hours later. And two and a half years later, I still don't know why I had an emergency C-section. Was it because you stressed me out so much? Was it because my water had broken? I’ll never know because you created so much distrust that I can’t even believe my records. You acted like you had all the answers, but clearly, you had no idea. In a way, I’m glad it was me and not another vulnerable mom who you made feel this way. But I also feel a lot of shame for never saying anything. 

 

I get to make it right. My contractions are seven minutes apart, and even if this isn’t true labor, this baby is coming within a week. I will get my VBAC, and I won’t be leaving the hospital without telling them how you made me feel, so in the case you’re still working there, you can’t make another mom feel the way I did. I can say thank you for one thing. Thank you for creating this rage within me to fight for what I want this time. I get a second chance, and no matter what happens, I am in charge.”

 

Julie: I love that. I think it’s really important to point out that if you have a bad experience with any member of your birth team in the hospital staff, your provider, you can file a formal complaint with the hospital administration. It is your right to do that, and you should do that, because if this is a pattern of behavior that these nurses or providers are doing, then they need a serious talking to in the very least. So, thank you for sharing that with us. All right, next app. This is a hard one.

 

“To the unsupportive OB:

 

I only saw you once, but you immediately made me feel guilty for wanting to have a VBAC less than 18 months after my C-section. When I asked how you felt about unmedicated birth, you told me I wouldn’t be allowed to leave my bed anyway and that not having an epidural was a bad idea. You told me I’d have to come in as soon as labor started and that I couldn’t eat anything once I was checked in. You brought up all the things that could go wrong and told me I was at a much greater risk of rupture since I wouldn’t be meeting the 18-month ‘requirement.’

 

When I said I didn’t want a C-section unless it was truly an emergency, you told me that being put under anesthesia created a bigger risk for my baby. All you talked about that entire appointment was what could and probably would go wrong. But you didn’t scare me. Everything you said did nothing except fuel the fire I already had. I didn’t leave the office that day feeling guilty or afraid or in tears. I left pissed off at you and your ignorance and the fact that you heaped SO much guilt onto me. 

 

I left and found a new office that I felt would support me. At my first appointment, the midwife who I then met for the first time, spent most of the appointment asking me about my concerns and reassuring me. She affirmed all of my feelings and desires for an unmedicated VBAC. She saw no reason why I couldn’t go for it. And about a month later, when my water broke, and I called in, she encouraged me to labor at home as long as possible. She cheered me on as I labored all night with back labor. She encouraged me to eat and keep up my strength. 

 

And when the anesthesiologist came in to consent me for the ‘just in case’ scenario and tried to push an epidural on me, she shooed him away and reminded me what I’d wanted to accomplish- a birth without an epidural. She believed in me. And I freaking did it. I labored so effectively because I moved around as I pleased. I pushed my baby out so easily because I used different positions that worked for me. There was not a moment that I felt me or my baby were in danger. I actually felt strong and capable the entire time. 

 

I had an amazingly beautiful and redemptive birth experience. I think it was so great because you weren’t a part of it. I’m glad I didn’t listen to you. I’m glad I was already informed with facts and found a provider who was as well. I hope that you can be open to learning and growing and seeing that birth is a natural process and that women are capable. In your own fear, selfishness, or misinformation, you’re misleading women. And honestly, you’re missing out on what could be many beautiful, fear-free birth experiences because of it.”

 

I am proud of her. It’s hard to switch providers, and especially after a provider is telling you all of the risks, whether they are true or not, and the things can happen to you. So, good job, anonymous mother. We are all proud of you over here.

 

Mari: And a shout out to that nurse. I love good nurses. They don’t know they are so powerful.

 

Julie: Yeah. Absolutely. I love it. Just having somebody that believes in you just makes such a big difference in your birth. I love it. Alright, Mari, you are up.

 

Mari: Okay. We have a long one here, so I’m going to pick and choose a bit, but the backstory is, we have a mom who moved to the US from China at 26 weeks, and she was pregnant with Mono Di twins, which is monoamniotic, so identical twins that share the same amniotic sac. 

 

As a result, she was hit with all of the different risks to having this type of pregnancy and spent multiple times a week, four to five times a week in a variety of appointments needing to go to maternal fetal medicine appointments, ultrasounds, and NST’s. It filled her with so much fear and so much stress and worry in those waiting rooms. She also had to go ahead and get daily injections of blood thinner because one of the twins had little blood flow. They also misdiagnosed her at one point. 

 

She ended up having extreme pain with preterm labor contractions, which were all ignored leading to her water having been broken and the doctor suggesting she go back home when the nurse didn’t agree. She ends up actually being back into the hospital and having a crash C-section because baby A’s cord was prolapsed and her foot was coming out. 

 

Her doctor was not there when she gave birth. The doctor was not there at the six-week check-up. Her doctor last spoke to her the day before her twins were whisked away into the NICU. This mama shares that she was angry, that she felt like she had to listen to her doctor, that this was the most traumatic and physically painful experience of her entire life, that she’s angry that she put his foolish judgment above everybody else’s, that she didn’t try harder to find a different provider and that she felt so scared and confused. 

 

“It’s been six years, and I can barely speak about how traumatized I was by my experience.”

 

The second time around, she writes a letter to the second doctor. She interviewed six different practices and even started with a midwife group, but at 14 weeks, she felt compelled to find someone else. She finally goes to another doctor, and long story short, she ends up being timed and having to have a C-section 12 hours after her water broke because she was only 4 centimeters. She wasn’t progressing fast enough for her VBAC, so ultimately, she ended up having to have another Cesarean while the doctors were blasting Maroon 5 and chatting with the resident about their upcoming holiday plans. 

 

“During one of the most meaningful moments of my life, giving birth to my son, I shouldn’t feel like I wasn’t allowed to cry or show any emotion for embarrassment of having you and the resident sitting there laughing about stitches tighter and straighter, not feeling like I had any say in wanting the experienced surgeon to do my second C-section because you, as my doctor, had already given your permission to the resident.” 

 

She never consented to the Cesarean. She is now pregnant with her fourth baby, her third pregnancy because she had twins the first time around, and she is in a better state. The last two pregnancies happened in New Jersey. This state, she has a wonderful doctor who is 100% VBAC supportive, listens to her, addresses every single concern and questions she has with compassion and expertise. She’s only 18 weeks pregnant, but she is so grateful for the resources like The VBAC Link that are teaching her how to prepare and find the right support. 

 

“Thank you for such a wonderful prompt to write down all of the things that have been left unsaid.”

 

Whew, mama. That’s tough, especially when you have a high-risk pregnancy in the US. You’re treated so differently, especially if you come from another place outside the US.

 

Julie: Yeah. 

 

Allie: The theme of OB’s not conducting themselves professionally in the OR continues with us next letter.

 

Julie: Oh my goodness. Yeah.

 

Allie: “To the OB who ‘mistakenly’ scheduled a C-section instead of an ECV and after the unsuccessful ECV said, ‘I'll see you tomorrow for your C-section,’ you should know that your bedside manner is horrible and the only image you are projecting is a money-driven one. 

 

To the OB who I consulted with before I went into labor: 

Thanks for telling me my baby would die if I didn't have a C-section before going into labor.

 

To the OB who performed my C-section: 

Nice to meet you. You never introduced yourself. You never told me what was happening to me or my body because you were too preoccupied talking about your recent trip to Nicaragua. Is your job that mundane that you can't even provide a shred of humanity? Thanks for putting this mama into a full-blown panic attack and causing her to miss out on the birth of her first child. Glad you made your money that day. 

 

To the nurses and hospital staff that day: 

Thanks for treating me like an object void of feelings. 

 

To my family physician who scolded me after the birth of my child for choosing to travel two hours from home the day before she was born and said I would never VBAC my second child and to just ‘accept’ that I would need a C-section: 

I did it ON My OWN. 

 

To every practitioner / ‘professional’ who frowns or looks down upon women having a voice or opinion and advocating for themselves during pregnancy and labor, and really at any other point in life:

I'd ask you, why did you choose this profession? You are stealing the miracle of pregnancy and birth from women on the daily.”

 

Julie: Dang. That’s some serious stuff. I would echo that sentiment. Like why-- I don’t know. I could go on a tangent, but I won’t. Meagan, I love this next one. Well, I don’t love it. It’s short, but it’s really sad. 

 

Meagan: It’s short. They say, “I don't have any positive feelings about the day he was born,” which breaks my heart. 

 

Mari: That’s definitely unsaid. So many mamas go through that.

 

Julie: And yet all we hear is, “Oh my gosh, I’m so glad you have a healthy baby. Aren’t you so glad for being able to have a Cesarean to save your life?” No. No, no, no. I mean, yes. We are grateful.

 

Mari: I just want that mama to know if that mama is tuning in right now-- I just want you to know it’s okay that it wasn’t the best day of your life, and there will be other times that are. And it’s okay to feel that way.

 

Julie: I agree. Every baby, relationship, and parent-child relationship forms and bonds so differently. You are going to have so many really amazing days with your child. I am really proud of you for putting that out there. That is a hard thing to do. 

 

Alright, moving on. This next one says,

 

“I wish I had been more informed before having my son. I wish I had read more books, taken more classes, read more articles, listened to podcasts-- anything to prepare myself for success. I wish I would have done my own research instead of just taking what my provider said as gospel truth. 

 

As a first-time mom, I wanted to trust them. After all, I had no idea what I was doing! I never learned to advocate for myself. I let my fears take over and swallow me, and because of that immense fear, I let my doctors make decisions for me. I thought they knew best. 

 

But now, looking back one year later, I feel betrayed. I feel like they didn't give me all the facts. I feel like they did what was easier for them. I feel like they took advantage of a scared first-time mom with a big baby and pushed the C-section on me. I feel like they stole my birth from me. And that’s something I can never get back. It’s something I have to live with every single day.”

 

That’s hard. That’s some hard stuff. Well, we are running low on time, so why don’t we each-- we only got through half of these, guys. It makes me so sad. But all those who don’t get your stories read today, I want you to know that we have read them. We read them all, and our hearts are with you. We are so proud of you for writing out your experiences, and for being vulnerable, and for tuning in and getting that out. If you haven’t done that already, we encourage you to do the same thing. But I want each of us to go through and pick one more rather short one. 

 

We can read it, and then I’m going to see a couple of things at the end to kind of just round it off. So, who had the last one? I forgot.

 

Meagan: You. You did.

 

Julie: That’s why. I’m like, “Alright, let’s each take one more.” Mari, do you have one?

 

Mari: I just had the next one up, which was pretty long as well. But, I think that I want to highlight some of the things that this mama shared about when you are having a condition during your pregnancy that you have outside of pregnancy as well, and how it’s very important that sometimes there isn’t enough research about that condition during pregnancy. You might be treated in some default fashion. 

 

This mama was facing what’s called Mature Onset Diabetes of the Young II (MODY II). Basically, the doctor treated her as if she was just regular gestational diabetes and that she would have a big baby, and that she needed to go to a lot of maternal fetal appointments.  Unfortunately, this mama ended up having to get that C-section as well and has a lot of thoughts creeping in, but of course, people kept telling her that, “You have a healthy baby, and that’s all that matters.” 

 

She felt robbed as though she had it delivered. She wanted The VBAC Link to know that she is so supportive for this platform because she is pregnant with baby number two. She’s 28 weeks pregnant and found the right doctor, found her voice, knows how to advocate for herself and is pursuing alternative birth options, asks the hard questions, and God-willing will have her VBAC.”

 

So, thank you, Mama, for sharing that.

 

Meagan: Yes, thank you.

 

Julie: Yes, thank you so much.

 

Allie: Okay, I will go.

 

My OB told me before (during a prenatal appointment) that I was strong and fit and should have no problems, but a quick, vaginal delivery. When I had a long labor that ended in a C-section, I felt like a failure because of this belief. That my body failed. I wasn't fit and strong enough. It took so, so much for me to get over these feelings and the feeling that it was my fault that I had a C-section. I had a C-section with my first child. And I am strong. And my body is amazing. 

 

To the MFM who told me that I probably couldn’t deliver a large baby and l had a 60% chance of a successful VBAC: 

I had my VBAC. My baby was 9 lbs 2 oz. Oh, and he was sunny-side up. And the ‘risk’ was worth it. So, there.”

 

Meagan: And a fist pump right there.

 

Julie: I love that. So, there.

 

Meagan: This one says:

 

“I want on-call doctors to understand that we can have VBACs. Please educate and stay up-to-date on current medical journals. I want on-call doctors to not dismiss me and write me off as an immediate repeat C-section, especially by not even seeing me unless agreeing to one. 

Please understand by me not allowing that to happen isn't me being stubborn or a troublemaker, but an informed, educated individual in control of her birth. Please see the person first, not the possibility of a surgery. Do not put us in the room closest to the OR ‘just in case,’ don't push an unwanted epidural ‘just in case.’ Don't say baby or I will die as a scare tactic because you think it's easier. I had a beautiful VBAC despite your negativity and doubt. Thanks to my provider for coming in, but please on-call doctors, advocate for patients!”

 

That gave me the chills.

 

Julie: Me too. I’m sitting here like, goosebumps!

 

I think that’s so important to say. Okay, one last one. I’m going to wrap it up with something short and sweet, kind of on a more uplifting and positive point. But the last one that I’m going to read says:

 

“I felt robbed. I've never told anyone. When the OB tested my skin to see if I could feel the sharp tool, I said, “Yes,” and the anesthesiologist told me that there's no way I could have felt it because it is so sharp, so when they started cutting me I've never screamed so loud or felt so much in my life. They instantly over-medicated me. I woke up puking in my hair. My husband gone. My baby gone. I had no idea if my baby was okay. I never got to hear the first cry. My family saw my baby’s face before I did. I feel robbed.”

 

I think that’s a really hard thing. I know a lot of my personal doula client-- I almost always know their birth plan just almost automatically because one of the most important things for them is immediate skin-to-skin right away because it is so hard to miss those first moments. I know that I missed it with my baby. I didn’t get to see him for two hours, and that was really, really hard for me, and I think, Meagan, you had a similar experience with your first. 

 

How to prevent trauma in the birth room

 

But because we are running low on time-- I am so sad we weren’t able to get through all of these letters, but I want to bring up something that we go over in our doula course. We teach about how to prevent birth trauma, PTSD and how to make it more likely that your clients will have a more positive birth experience. I think that this advice can go for not only doulas, but birth partners, sisters, mothers, whoever is in your support room, and also nursing staff and providers and OB/GYN ‘s. Everyone, listen up because there are three important things that you can do to best prevent trauma in the birth room.

 

Make sure that the three S’s are met. The three S’s are: seen, safe, and soothed.

 

Seen: mirror and observe your client. Repeat back to them what you think they are saying, but without giving your opinion on it and make sure that they are involved in the decision making. Listening makes a big difference here. You can kind of see that looking back on the stories we just read.

 

Safe is the second S. Overall, communication is so important to create a feeling of safety. If you are uncertain if they feel safe, just ask them, “Do you feel safe right now?” Sometimes, that question can open up an avenue in order to actually help them feel safe.

 

And then the third S is soothe. This is doula 101 stuff, but empathize with them. Speak affirming words. Use comfort measures and do all the things that you can to help them feel soothed and supported during labor. Science has shown-- there are actually studies to support this, that when those three S’s are met, parents are less likely to describe their birth as traumatic, less likely to have postpartum mood disorders, and less likely to develop postpartum PTSD. So, as you’re listening to this-- mamas, birth partners, all members of the birth team, make sure that your birthing parents feel seen, safe, and soothed.

 

If you do all three of those, then I think you are on a pretty good track to making sure that you are taking great, great care of them.

 

Closing

 

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

 

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

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

 

Today’s topics include:

- How to handle insensitive comments

- Breech presentation

- Relinquishing control

- Postpartum grief and healing

- Gratitude and perspective

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

 

Additional links

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents

The VBAC Link Facebook page

 

Episode sponsor

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

 

Sponsorship inquiries

Interested in sponsoring a The VBAC Link podcast? Find out more information here at advertisecast.com/TheVBACLink or email us at info@thevbaclink.com

 

 

Full transcript

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Review of the Week

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

 

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

 

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

 

Meagan: It has been. 

 

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

 

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

Episode sponsor

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

 

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

 

Brittany’s story

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Meagan: It weakens, yeah.

 

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

 

Brittany: Yeah. Totally. Totally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Meagan: Oh, heavens.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Brittany: Yeah. I take that too.

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Meagan: Holy cow.

 

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

 

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

 

Julie: That’s awesome.

 

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

 

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

 

Meagan: I do too.

 

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

 

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

 

Brittany: And it was a baby! 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Brittany: No.

 

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

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

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

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

 

Brittany: Yes.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Julie: No. Really?

 

Brittany: That’s awesome.

 

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

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

 

Julie: No. Meagan! Oh my gosh.

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Meagan: Seriously, it’s so bad.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Q&A

 

Julie: Well, we get to ask questions now.

 

Meagan: Yes, we do.

 

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

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

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

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

 

Meagan: Totally.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Meagan: Totally.

 

Julie: Absolutely.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Closing

 

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

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

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

 

Additional links

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

 

Episode sponsor

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

 

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

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

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

Emmy: It’s the surface of the sun.

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

Emmy: That’s so funny.

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

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

Julie: Good answer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julie: Much, much later.

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

Julie: Alaska?

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

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

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

 

Review of the Week

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

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

Emmy: No, I totally get that.

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

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

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

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

Julie: Alright, we love those reviews.

 

Episode sponsor

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

 

Hallie’s story

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

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

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

Hallie: There is a bit of climbing, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julie: Yeah. Pitocin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hallie: Yep.

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

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

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

Hallie: Exactly, yeah.

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

Hallie: Yes, that’s right. Yeah.

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

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

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

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

Hallie: Wow.

 

Water for pain relief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hallie: Yep.

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

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

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

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

Emmy: You know, that’s not wrong.

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

Emmy: You’re not wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

Hallie: No. Nitrous?

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

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

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

Hallie: Totally.

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

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

 

Q&A

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

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

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

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

Alright, the next question is:

What is your best tip for someone preparing for VBAC?

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

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

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

 

Doulas supporting clients with unsupportive providers

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

Hallie: Wow.

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

Emmy: Yeah, we are.

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

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

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

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

Emmy: Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

Julie: He’s really cute.

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

Julie: I love that.

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

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

Julie: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

Julie: Absolutely.

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

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

Emmy: Yeah, exactly.

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

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

Emmy: It’s incredible. Incredible.

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

Emmy: Well, there you go.

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

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

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

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

Julie: Awesome.

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

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

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

 

Closing

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

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