February 17, 2021

164 Jessica’s VBAC + PROM

Joining us today from Canada is our friend, Jessica. Determined to avoid another brutal Cesarean recovery, Jessica researched extensively and fought for her VBAC rights. When she experienced PROM for the second time, Jessica didn’t allow different opinions from different providers dictate what she knew she deserved. She refused a scheduled Cesarean, reminded providers that their hospital did in fact support VBAC induction, knew when her body needed an epidural, and got the VBAC of her dreams. 

 

Jessica’s preparation made all the difference in her outcome. We want that to be the case for you too!

 

Topics discussed today include:

  • How to know if all providers at a practice have the same views
  • Why you should ask open-ended questions
  • PROM: what it is and what to do if it happens to you

Additional links

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents

The VBAC Link T-Shirt Shop

3 Game-Changing Things to do When Your Water Breaks: The VBAC Link Blog

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 correct grammar and to eliminate false starts and filler words. 

 

Meagan: Hello, hello, and welcome everyone. This is The VBAC Link with Julie and Meagan. We have a guest with you today from Canada. Her name is Jessica. She has an awesome story for you today. We were chitchatting a little bit before the episode began. We found out that she found us in the very beginning. It was right after her Cesarean, which is exciting to us because we want people to be able to find us during their journey of healing before they start preparing as well. So, that was really fun and exciting to hear. She has a fun story today. 

 

A cool highlight of her story is PROM. If you don’t know what PROM means, it means Premature Rupture of Membranes. That’s something that I actually had personally as well. But she was ruptured for quite a while. In fact, I think it was 40-- was it 48 hours? 40 hours?

 

Jessica: I think 72. Yeah. (Inaudible)

 

Meagan: 72! 72. But when-- (inaudible) before you started getting things going. Yeah. So, really cool because a lot of times people think that if their waters are broken for longer than 12 or 18 hours, even 24 hours, that it is need for an immediate Cesarean and it is not. I am excited to hear you share that part of your story. 

 

Review of the Week 

 

Meagan: As always, we have a Review of the Week, so we are going to dive into that review from Julie really quick before we get into this juicy story.

 

Julie: Yeah, I love reviews. I think we say it every episode. I can’t speak enough about the reviews because I want to get a little vulnerable here for a minute. Running a podcast is not always sunshine and butterflies. We absolutely love doing it. We love talking to the people that share their stories with us and we love being able to share their stories with you. But these reviews really, really are the things that keep us going when it gets to be a little bit difficult for us. 

 

So, if you haven’t already, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or Google or Facebook. You just never know when you’re going to make our day with a glowing review.

 

This review is from Apple Podcasts and it’s from futureballad. It’s called “VBAC Support at its Finest.” Just the title makes me smile. She says, “I absolutely love listening to these birth stories and I love how positive Julie and Meagan are! They give facts to go along with each story. They also include birth stories where the VBAC didn’t end up happening. It’s so important to acknowledge it doesn’t always work out. But, a woman of strength is someone who has become empowered by knowledge and uses that knowledge to advocate for herself no matter what the outcome is. I am going to VBAC like a boss in November when I birth our second son. I will be doing it knowing I have the support of The VBAC Link community.”

 

That makes me so happy. Okay, “VBAC like a boss”-- that is a shirt. It’s in our shop at thevbaclink.com/bombfire. That shirt came from our friend, Emily, who shared her story with us a while back. She said-- there is a “TOLAC like a boss” or a “VBAC like a boss”. I love our little bonfire shirts. We have some new designs coming out from some of our most recent previous episodes.

 

Also, I want to tell you about an episode that is coming out in the next two or three weeks. We are actually interviewing a few CBAC moms, so parents who tried for a VBAC but ended up in a repeat Cesarean. We are going to talk to five or six of them. They’re going to share with us their stories about what it is like coming out of a birth that didn’t end up like they wanted to, what it’s like to not to get your VBAC, and what they wish people would know about parents who tried so hard for a VBAC but didn’t get the birth that they wanted.

 

It’s such a powerful episode and we are really excited to put it out to you. That review just reminded me of that. It’s important to us to share that things don’t always go the way you want. While a lot of birth is preparation and education and confidence, some of it is just dang luck.

 

Meagan: Yeah.

 

Julie: I mean, some of it is just the cards you are dealt and knowing how to deal with those things is important to us to share with you, so that’s why we do it.

 

Meagan: Yeah, and I love how she said we even-- like you were just highlighting, we even share those stories. We have gotten a lot of messages and actually, I am trying to think of the word.

 

Julie: How to say it nicely--

 

Meagan: Really angry. I’m going to say really angry that we do share CBAC stories and it makes me sad when we receive these messages. Although we respect everyone’s opinions and feelings, we want to remind everybody that, just like Julie said, it doesn’t always turn out exactly how we wanted to. But guess what? Even sometimes those experiences-- like my second C-section was not what I wanted. I didn’t want to be on that table again, but it was a healing experience for me and a much more positive experience. I felt so much better walking out of that situation.

 

These are learning experiences. They are growing experiences. They are healing experiences and even though-- yes, we do. We promote VBAC and we want you guys to know your options for VBAC. It is not fair for us to forget CBAC. It’s just not and it’s important. So, if you are angry, I want to say we are sorry, but we are not sorry at the same time. We respect your decision not to listen to those episodes, but it’s just so important to learn and hear.

 

A lot of times when we are struggling, I know for me personally when I was struggling, I realized there was still a lot of processing that I needed to do and that’s why I was struggling. So, know that we are here for you and we are sorry if you are one of those angries, but we love you.

 

Julie: One of those angries.

 

Meagan: But we love you.

 

Julie: We love you, no matter if you are angry, or happy, or sad, or excited. We love all of you. If you are looking for stories that are VBAC stories only, you simply have to look at the title. If it says, “So-and-so‘s VBAC”, it’s a VBAC story. If it says “So-and-so‘s CBAC” or “So-and-so’s Uterine Rupture”, then it is a CBAC or a uterine rupture story.

 

And so, that’s an easy way to sift through them if you’re looking for certain advice.

 

Meagan: We respect your decision not to listen to whatever ones.

 

Julie: But we wish you would because it will really help you better prepare.

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. 

Jessica’s story

 

Julie: We should probably stop talking about this. You can tell it’s been a while since we have recorded because we are really super chatty right now.

 

Meagan: We are going to turn the time over to Jessica. Alright, let’s dive in. Ms. Jessica, would you like to start sharing your story and stop listening to us gab?

 

Jessica: I mean, I am enjoying the conversation, but I only have so much time, so I will get started. I got pregnant with my C-section baby when I was 19. I really thought that I was invincible. I know a lot of teenagers have that mindset. You don’t really think that bad things can happen to you. I thought that I was going to have an all-natural, medication-free birth, and was preparing for that, and would tell my friends how excited I was to be planning this med-free birth. 

 

My aunt recommended that I went with midwives, so I found local midwives that I went with. Here in Canada, they are covered by a provincial health insurance, so that’s definitely a perk when you are a young mom being able to plan a home birth. So, that’s what we talked about. I wasn’t opposed to a hospital birth, but they were pushing home birth on me, so that was the plan if everything was going well. We would have a home birth with a baby and then if not, we would go to the hospital. But I didn’t think we would end up at the hospital because I thought everything would go as planned, being young and not understanding how births can be complicated.

 

I was 39 weeks and four days pregnant when my water broke. My first thought was, “Oh, the baby is going to be here in 12 hours now. Everybody goes into labor when their water breaks.” But it didn’t happen. The midwives confirmed the water broke and they said, “Oh, just rest. Sleep it off.” 

 

Labor usually starts anywhere between 48 to 72 hours. Most people within 24 hours, but they said we could wait until Friday. And then, the next day we woke up. I had a new midwife on-call and she said, “Oh well, we should just go in and induce.” I was eager to meet my baby. I was tired of being pregnant and I didn’t know what an induction was or that there were risks with an induction. I just thought, “Okay, I will get some medication, and get it going, and the baby will be here in a couple of hours.” But, that wasn’t the case.

 

I was 4 centimeters dilated when I showed up to the hospital, which they said was great, and that labor would probably be quick, and the baby would be here soon. But 12 hours after starting Pitocin, I was still only 4 centimeters. They suggested that we throw the natural birth plan out the window and get an epidural, but that vaginal birth was still possible. After getting the epidural, my baby started having non-reassuring heart rates and because of the lack of progression, they suggested a cesarean. 

 

I agreed, not knowing that there was anything else we could try to get me to dilate. I had been laying on my back for hours at this point. We didn’t try turning the epidural down. We didn’t even try a peanut ball. We just went straight for the OR. The surgery was three hours after they were concerned about the non-reassuring heart rate. So, looking back I am like, “Was it really that urgent?” They made it seem urgent, but I always question if maybe we could have tried more things. I didn’t know that there were things to try. I thought birth just happened and that you couldn’t really have any power to change that. 

 

My recovery was horrible. My incision didn’t close properly and it took three months before I was healed enough to function normally. I found that recovery really traumatizing and never wanted another surgery like that again.

 

When I got pregnant 15 months later, my goal was VBAC all the way. I really didn’t want to end up on the table again, mostly because of the recovery and my fear of missing out on a summer with my toddler. I planned a home birth again. I was more adamant this time that it was going to be a home birth. I rented a pool this time. I made a whole binder filled with resources from The VBAC Link. I printed out stuff from ACOG and SOCG, which is a Canadian version of ACOG, and had all the documents I could about VBAC. 

 

I would bring it to the midwives because they were more cautious and on the medical side. They said a hospital birth might be a better choice for VBAC, but I was adamant that I wanted to be at home. They supported me with that decision, but then I was 40 weeks and I had been doing everything. Walking every day, The Miles Circuit, bouncing on my ball, drinking all the red raspberry leaf tea, everything I could to get my labor going and then my water broke again.

I was in denial the first day. I didn’t even tell my husband. I kept it to myself. I was like, “This can’t be real.” My water can’t break before labor again because I knew that that wasn’t a good sign for me. Eventually, I did call my midwife and I let her know, but I told her my water had been broken significantly less time than it had because I didn’t want her to push induction. I didn’t want her to push a repeat Cesarean. So, she came. Confirmed that my waters had been broken and we agreed that the next day we would go to the hospital for a non-stress test. 

 

When we went there, we had a consultation with the OB who looked at me and said, “We have to do a C-section. There is no other option. If we do another induction, you are going to fail. Your body couldn’t birth your first baby.” I guess I had an ultrasound at some point in my other trimester and they were estimating that the baby was going to be in the 97th percentile.

 

Meagan: Oh man.

 

Jessica: Yeah. They were like, “This baby is too big. She is not going to--” or, we didn’t know it was a girl. But they said, “The baby is not going to fit. You need a C-section.” I said, “Well, do I have any other options?” They were like, “Well, we can’t force you to have a C-section, so you can go home. And so, we went home.”

 

Meagan: Good for you. Good for you though.

 

Jessica: The OB and the midwife weren’t that happy, but I said, “I will come back for NSTs every day until I go into labor. I’m not opposed to that,” but I didn’t want to agree to a C-section. The next morning, I woke up with a green tinge on the pad that was collecting amniotic fluid and I knew that wasn’t a good sign. So, I called the midwife and let her know. I guess they had been scheduling C-sections for me every day in case I agreed to one, so she was like, “We have an OR ready.”

 

Meagan: Are you serious? They were just doing that behind your back?

 

Jessica: Yeah. They were just preparing.

 

Meagan: Interesting.

 

Jessica: So they said, “You can show up at the hospital at 11:00 a.m. and the baby will be here by 2.” It was the day-- like, when I got pregnant, I was hoping that the baby would come that day. So, I was like, “Okay, I guess at least I got the birthday I wanted.” But in the car, I was crying to my husband saying, “I really don’t want to do surgery and I know that I can’t be pregnant longer with meconium or an infection. It’s not fair to the baby to put my birthing desires ahead of their safety.” 

 

But I said, “I will take tomorrow as the baby’s birthday if that means I can birth this baby vaginally. What happened was, we showed up at the hospital and it was a different OB on-call. He was the one that had done the big baby ultrasound and predicted the size, so I was like, “Oh shoot. He is definitely going to want to do the C-section. There is no getting out of this now.” 

 

We show up and everybody is telling him how my birth was “failure to progress” last time, that the induction didn’t go well, and all of the stuff and the reasons why I should have the C-section. He asked them, “Oh, well how long have the membranes been ruptured?” 

 

They said, “About 48 hours at least at this point.” He said, “Why haven’t we done a Cesarean yet?” They said, “She doesn’t want a C-section.” He was like, “Well, why haven’t they done an induction?” They said, “All of the other OB‘s refuse induction because she can’t give birth essentially.” And so, he asked for my operative report and looked it over. They didn’t list “failure to progress” as the reason for the C-section.

 

Julie: Awesome.

 

Jessica: They only listed the non-reassuring fetal heart tones, so he said, “Okay. Based on that, we will do an ultrasound and see how big this baby is.” But he was like, “I think an induction is a reasonable option here.”

 

Julie: That’s awesome.

 

Jessica: “And even though there is a low success rate, we will go ahead with it if that’s what she wants.” And so, they did an ultrasound. They were guessing that the baby would be around 8 pounds. We went ahead with Pitocin. They did a low dose. It was going really well until I hit transition. I made it to 8 centimeters unmedicated and then I was begging for the epidural. But this was during COVID. I was wearing a mask and it was just me and my husband. My husband wasn’t the greatest support. He was freaking out the whole time. 

 

So, I got the epidural and then within two hours of the epidural, I had a really pain-free, easy pushing and birth. They did take her to the NICU for half an hour just because the membranes had been ruptured so long. They wanted the pediatrician to look her over, but she was totally healthy and only weighed 8 pounds, 9 ounces. So, not 97th percentile at all.

 

Meagan: Go figure. You know what? Sometimes they are spot on. Sometimes they really are. They are really close, right? But it seems like nine times out of 10-- this is my own number, they are not.

 

Jessica: Yeah, they are way off.

 

No failing in birth

 

Meagan: Yeah. That is so awesome. I love how you’re like, “You know, I worked through this. I was working really hard and I found the spot. I needed something different and I got that.” Because I think a lot of people that want to go unmedicated but choose an epidural, in the end, they really can beat themselves up. I loved hearing that you were like, “Yeah. I had a mask on. I was hot. I was 8 centimeters. I have been doing this for a long time, and I need an epidural, and I want an epidural, and I feel good about that.” I love that you pointed that out because it’s not-- you used this word earlier when you were like, “Or if we induced you, you would ‘fail’,” which clearly you didn’t, but that “fail” word.

 

We let that “fail” word creep into the birth world way too often in my opinion. Because if we don’t go unmedicated, we “fail”. If we don’t have a vaginal birth, we “failed”. If we don’t go into spontaneous labor or get induced we “failed”, you know? If we don’t breastfeed our baby, we “failed”. There are so many “fails” out there. I just want to wipe them all the way. Get the biggest bottle of Windex and wipe it all down because there’s no failing in birth. There is no failing in birth. 

 

If you step back and you look at what we as humans are doing, wow. It’s incredible, right? So, I love it. I love that you took charge and you’re like, “I’m going home and I will be back. I know when I need to be back and hey, these are the options,” and I’m glad that he was willing to induce and supported you in that. You deserve that completely.

 

Jessica: Yeah, but it definitely goes to show the luck of the draw because if it had been a different OB, it would have been a different story.

 

Finding supportive providers

 

Meagan: A totally different story. Yeah, no I agree. That is something when we talk about finding providers. I am just going to be talking about a whole bunch of random stuff, Julie.

 

Julie: I love it. Well, I have some stuff too. So when you are done, I will do my stuff.

 

Meagan: Yes, perfect. So, finding providers right? With VBAC specifically, and I encourage first-time parents to go out there and find a provider in the way that a lot of VBAC parents find a provider if that makes sense. Go out there and ask some of the questions and really from the very beginning, see what this provider’s thoughts are on Cesarean. So, when it comes down to it when you find out like Julie and I did that your provider has a 46% C-section rate--

 

Julie: After the fact--

 

Meagan: Yeah, after the fact that you could know these things before the fact and save yourself a lot of potential heartache in different ways, right? So anyway, I encourage everyone to go out there and find their provider. One of the questions that I feel is super important when you are looking for a provider is, “Will you be at my birth no matter what?” If the answer is, “No,” “Who will be at my birth? Do they have the same views as you?” Honestly, don’t hesitate to say, “I need their names. I want to meet them.” Don’t hesitate to interview them and say, “What are your thoughts on C-section?” Not, “Do you support C-section, yes or no?” “What are your thoughts?” 

 

Or, I mean VBAC.

 

Julie: You mean VBAC.

 

Meagan: I mean VBAC. Even as I am saying, I’m like, “Wait. On VBAC. Do you support VBAC, yes or no?” Those are just easy questions to be like, “Of course I do, yeah. We do them all the time.”

 

Julie: “We can do whatever type of birth you want.”

 

Meagan: Yeah. But like, really. “What are your thoughts on VBAC? What is your experience with VBAC?” Asking them these open-ended questions, but do not hesitate if your provider says, “You know what? It could be me, John, Jack, or Jill.”

 

Julie: Joe.

 

Meagan: Really, it could be any of these people. Don’t hesitate to interview them because like she said, it was the luck of the draw, and luckily she got the good one that was willing to work with her and support her. So, that is my little snippet on--

 

Julie: Meagan was painting condos all day yesterday, so she is a little tired.

 

Meagan: I know. I am so tired. I couldn’t even get my butt up this morning on time to get to the gym. I went to the gym, but not on time.

 

Julie: Oh, right. Wait, can I add something to that really fast?

 

Meagan: Yeah, of course.

 

Julie: And then I will let you go back on your snippets.

 

Meagan: My snip bit?

 

Julie: Snip bit. I had a client yesterday text me. She is going to her 36-week appointment today and at my first prenatal appointment with my clients, I always give them a list of questions to take to their provider. I actually stole Meagan‘s idea. I stole it from Meagan.

 

Meagan: You did? What idea?

 

Julie: Meagan does this too. The one where you’re just like, “Oh, ask your provider about IV access, eating and drinking during labor, induction, due dates, what to do after your water breaks, all of those questions.” I use them too now. So, she texted me and she was like, “Okay. I have my 36-week appointment tomorrow.” We are having our second prenatal tonight actually which is really fun.

 

But she said, “I am having my 36-week prenatal. Are there any specific questions I should ask my provider?” I’m like, “Okay. Well, if you already asked the questions that I gave you at our last visit and you have a different provider today, then ask them the same questions,” because she’s in a practice with three different providers that rotate, three different OBGYNs, which is actually really a small number, which is great because you have less chance of getting some random person you’ve never met.

 

But every provider differs a little bit in how they approach birth or sometimes a lot. Sometimes they differ drastically. Like clearly with Jessica‘s providers, the one was just so anti-VBAC. We’ve got a scheduled Cesarean. The other provider came in and was like, “Well, why haven’t we started inducing her yet?” Those views and opinions are so important. 

 

As many providers’ views you can know ahead of time going into your birth, will help you be able to navigate through those views and opinions as you navigate through your labor. You’ll be able to anticipate, “Oh, so-and-so isn’t really a fan of induction,” or “So-and-so would rather me have a VBAC,” or “So-and-so wishes I would go into labor before 41 weeks,” or whatever it ends up being. But the more providers to talk to and ask questions to, ask the same questions to all of the different providers. Just because one provider answered your question in a way that is satisfactory to you doesn’t mean another provider in the practice will. 

 

Then I also told her, and this is something I started telling all of my clients. Question everything. Everything they suggest or recommend, ask, “Why? Why are we doing this?” Or you can use the BRAIN acronym. “What are the benefits? What are the risks? Are there any alternative options?” And then really I only say, “What happens if we do nothing?” 

 

Just question everything even if you don’t think it’s a bad idea. Question, “Why are we doing it?” because that creates a really positive dialogue between you and your provider and lets your provider know that you are an educated and informed decision maker and participant in your birth. It creates trust between you and your provider. Your provider is going to learn to trust you and your ability to think critically and make decisions surrounding your circumstances. You are going to create more trust in your provider or maybe you’ll find out that you don’t trust your provider and then you’ll have to make a change there. 

 

And so, that was on my mind from my conversation last night with my client. She was like, “What questions do I ask?” Well, ask the same exact questions to a different provider who may be at your birth.

 

What’s your next snippet, Meagan?

 

PROM

 

Meagan: No, I love everything that you said. I wanted to also talk about PROM like I talked about at the beginning of the episode. Because, yeah. 48 hours before labor had started and before anyone was willing to do anything, right? So, PROM. This is something that when it happened to me, I was told it happens to 10% of people. It happened to me three times. I was like, “What? How is that even possible?”

 

Julie: It happened to two out of three of my spontaneous labors as well.

 

Meagan: Yeah, it’s so crazy. We have a study here. It says that it actually only happens in 8% of term pregnancies. It does typically start within 24 to 46 hours of water breaking. But if it doesn’t, what can we do? What are some things that we can do to maybe try and get things going while we are waiting? 

 

Rest. One is rest. As Jessica did, she went home. Where is the best place to rest? At home where are you are comfortable. You are in your space and you can have your bed and everything right there. So rest, rest, rest. It is so important to just rest because when labor does begin, as I am sure Jessica will contest, it is hard work.

 

Julie: You are going to need that energy.

 

Meagan: We need that energy and so, really, really rest. Now, it doesn’t mean you need to be out cold snoring, okay? Although that is great. If you can actually sleep, that is great because as you are sleeping, the oxytocin hormone is kicking in and producing. It is just so great. 

 

But, rest. Just rest your body. Don’t go out and feel like you have to run up the hills trying to get labor going. 

 

The number two suggestion would be, get that baby in a good position. Now, as we have been learning over the 2020 year and even 2019 year, we don’t have to have these babies in any specific spot. It is called balance. We need to find balance for this baby to find the right spot for them. We really always suggest to our own clients and people out there, Miles Circuit, Spinning Babies®, The Three Sisters, going in, resting on each side, doing side-lying, and things like that to really encourage baby is getting in that good position. 

 

Number three is, avoiding routine cervical checks and watch your temperature. As Jessica mentioned in her story when she was going to the hospital, she didn’t want to-- I’m trying to remember, Jessica, the exact words, but you didn’t want to risk the health of your baby based on infection, and meconium, and things like that for the birth that you desired. Something that we can do to watch and make sure that things are going okay and we are not getting into a risky situation is avoiding cervical exams. Now, with Jessica being at home, she was avoiding those cervical exams.

 

A lot of the time, now this is here in Utah, I am not sure what is very standard in other states and countries. But every two hours or so, providers or nurses will suggest a cervical exam because they want to see what progress is being made in those two hours. Sometimes it is a, “I will just listen to your body and see what is going on, and then we will check and see if anything dramatic changes,” but a lot of the times, especially when we are waiting to see what is going on, if labor is going to really be going, and what we are wanting to do, they will encourage it every couple of hours. Avoiding that is the best we can do because we don’t need unnecessary bacteria going into our vaginas, right?

 

Jessica: That is the one thing they did well. They didn’t do a cervical check until we went for the scheduled C-section. So, even at the NST the day before, it was completely hands-off. Yeah, they really waited until we knew that the baby was going to be coming within a reasonable timeframe before anybody did anything to increase the risk of infection.

 

Meagan: So great.

 

Julie: That’s really awesome.

 

Meagan: Yeah. That’s really, really great. It’s okay to say, “I don’t want my cervix checked right now. I’m not feeling anything different or nothing has really changed to the point where I feel that it warrants a cervical exam.”

 

Also, watching your temperature. So, especially if you’re going to labor at home, it’s a good idea if your water breaks to just check your temperature and be mindful of how you’re feeling. We say this because if bacteria starts growing and an infection begins, it is common to get a fever. That is our body‘s natural reaction to fight against infection. Sometimes we can get fevers even in labor because we are laboring really, really hard so our body temperature can go up, but a lot of the times we can get a fever with an infection or the baby’s heart rate can get really high.

 

Julie: A fever can also be a side effect of an epidural. It can be a side effect of an epidural and not be a sign of an infection at all if you do have an epidural. So, that is something to remember.

 

Meagan: Yes, it is. Exactly. Yeah, something to remember. Another sign that infection could be present is the baby’s heart rate is actually high. So, anyway. Taking your temperature and being mindful of how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling great and then all of a sudden you’re feeling really awful like you’re getting the flu, and you have a fever, and you are at home, it may be a good idea to go into wherever you are going. Unless you’re at home, then you would discuss this with your provider. But, go to the hospital or your birthing location and further assess and see what next steps need to be taken.

 

Those are three ideas that you can do when your water breaks to try and help things get going. And obviously, activity and things like that, will all help as well. Pumping, but those are some of our three tops.

 

Julie: I mean, I think I wrote that blog.

 

Meagan: You did write that blog.

 

Julie: I think it might be due for a rewrite because I think it needs to be updated. I was reading through it earlier and I was like, “Well, I write a little differently now.” Did you notice that, Meagan?

 

Meagan: Yes. You guys, we have so many blogs. If you haven’t checked out our blogs, check it out. It’s at vbaclink.com/blog. We have tons of blogs. Yes, we are rewriting blogs. We are writing new blogs. So, give it a look. I mean, seriously. We have them on almost all of the main topics and even then some.

 

Same start, different outcomes

 

Julie: I want to make note that Jessica’s Cesarean birth and her VBAC birth were both induced births. They both started out in a similar way and she still had very different outcomes. A lot of times we, when we are preparing for VBAC, are hung up on mental hurdles, and whenever we get past the point of where a Cesarean happened, we can finally mentally release that, right? 

 

I dilated to a 4 before my Cesarean and so, once I was in active labor, I was riding high. I’m like, “This is great. I am totally going to do this.” I see that with a lot of my clients. Sometimes they get to 10 and pushing before they have their Cesarean, but sometimes they weren’t even given a fair chance at all.

 

When labor starts all the same-- like Meagan, I remember with your third birth, your VBAC after two C-sections baby, your water broke before labor started again, for the third time. I remember you saying how frustrated you were that you felt like it was all happening again.

 

Meagan: Yeah. I was throwing a fit in the driveway, like throwing my arms up in the air, stomping. My neighbor was out and just looking at me. My husband was just like, “Just let her. Just let her.”

 

But, yeah. Well, it was just hard and that’s fine. I had a couple of contractions before, but really nothing. My water broke. I was just like, “Why does it have to happen like this again? Why can’t I just go into labor before this happens?” And just throwing a fit. But, you know, it was great.

 

Julie: It ended up great and you got your vaginal birth. And Jessica, you got your VBAC after your Cesarean. I just want to say that just because your birth starts out similarly to your Cesarean birth does not mean it is going to end the same way. Sometimes we get hung up on that and mental blocks can hang up labor. 

 

So, do your best as you prepare, going into your birth and your VBAC journey, that you are ready to accept all different ways for labor to start whether it’s induced, whether it’s natural, whether you plan on going unmedicated but end up deciding to get the epidural because that’s the best choice for you and your baby. Be prepared for your birth to take a number of different journeys because the more journeys you can imagine and prepare for, the less likely you are to be caught off guard if those things happen during your birth.

 

Jessica: I had the same meltdown when my water broke. I was crying holding my toddler, complaining about how this could happen twice.

 

Meagan: Yes. It was so frustrating. I think that is something that maybe we needed to get out. Maybe we needed to just get all of that emotion out for us to take the next step and the next direction. Even though that wasn’t contractions really going right away, it was a release that needed to happen so when they did start, they could start.

 

Julie: I think you make a really good point too. I am remembering something that I read a while ago. I used to have all my clients do a fear release or something like that if I felt like they were hung up on emotions. But now, I am finding myself more telling them to just do something that makes them cry. Just anything. 

 

Watch The Notebook at the end. My husband laughs at the end of The Notebook, but I am crying every time. Watch your wedding video or birth video. Read a letter that your partner wrote you years ago or something. Anything else to cry, because once those tears start flowing, your body releases whatever emotions it is holding onto through your tears. 

 

And so, who knows? Maybe you guys throwing fits and screaming and getting angry and upset and frustrated about that let your body release what it needed to in order for your labors and your birth to turn out the way they did. Who knows?

 

Meagan: Yeah, exactly.

 

Q&A

 

Julie: Okay, but Jessica. I’m going to ask you these questions now. I want to read the answer that you read for the first one, but you can say whatever you want for the second one.

 

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

 

I absolutely loved how you worded this, so I’m just going to read it word for word.

 

You said, “This is a hard one. I wish I would have known the statistics about complications that arise in birth as a first-time mom and what a doula was. Now that I am in the birth world, everything feels like common sense. But as a young mom, I didn’t even know what Pitocin induction was or that an emergency C-section could happen to anyone.” 

 

I love that because I feel like all of us first-time moms can echo that sentiment of your message. Now that you are in the birth world and you are starting to become a doula and all those things, it feels like common sense, because it really does. Even sometimes when I’m working with clients or especially first-time moms, I have to remind myself that they don’t know what they don’t know. Going into birth as a first-time mom is just a whole different ball game. But, I really loved how you worded that. So, thank you for that.

 

Now the second question is, what is your best tip for someone preparing for a VBAC?

 

Jessica: I think finding the information to be able to make informed decisions or finding a doula or knowledgeable person who can help you make those informed decisions because you would hope that providers act in your best interest, but I know in my birth cases they were telling me-- I had to pull up the documents and show them themselves when they said, “Oh, we don’t induce VBACs,” and I was like, “This is supported right in your policy here.”

 

So, it would be helpful if I didn’t do all that work myself to have somebody who was knowledgeable, like a doula, to be there to provide the information and the knowledge needed to make empowered and informed decisions.

 

Meagan: Oh, so many good messages in this. Thank you so much Jessica again for sharing your story and for being with us today.

 

Jessica: Thank you for having me.

 

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.

They invested so much of their time, energy, money, and hearts into their VBAC preparation. They craved immediate skin-to-skin, fought for their rights, and advocated for themselves. They labored hard, sacrificed for their babies, and felt the heartbreak that comes from an unplanned repeat Cesarean. They found healing, and they found each other.

 

Now, these 7 Women of Strength want to share it all with you. 

 

How does it feel to have a CBAC?

We invite you to sit in this space with us and find out. 

 

Additional links

Advanced VBAC Doula Certification Program

CBAC Support - The VBAC Link Community Facebook Group

Episode sponsor

This episode is sponsored by our very own Advanced VBAC Doula Certification Program. It is the most comprehensive VBAC doula training in the world, perfectly packaged in an online, self-paced video course. Head over to thevbaclink.com to find out more information and sign up today.

 

Sponsorship inquiries

Are you interested in sponsoring 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. 

 

Meagan: Alright, alright. Hello, everybody. This is The VBAC Link, and you are with myself, Meagan, and Julie. We have a special treat. You are with a whole bunch of other people today, and we are so excited that you are going to be able to hear from all of them. This episode is going to be powerful. It’s going to be emotional. It might be something that fuels fire and something that you totally relate to. 

 

I want to start the episode off by encouraging you to have an open mind and an open heart as you’re listening to these people’s stories. We are going to be talking about CBAC today. If you didn’t know, I had a CBAC. I wanted a VBAC with my second, and it ended up in a Cesarean. In so many ways, I feel like I can relate to all of these people. I can’t wait to hear their personal journeys, and feelings, and stories. 

 

We do have a special message. We are going to skip over our review of the week, and Julie is going to go over the differences between CBAC, VBAC, and scheduled C-section. Is that what you said?

 

Julie: You got it.

 

Meagan: Yes. Alright. So, we are going to get into that, and then we will get into these awesome stories. 

Episode sponsor

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

 

Defining VBAC, CBAC, RCS, and ERCS

 

Julie: Alright. I just cannot tell you how much I love this group of women that are in this conference right now. I am looking at our little recording screen. Everyone has different colored circles with their first initials in it, and it warms my heart because today-- I am going to share a little bit. Not too many personal details, but we had a Facebook group for all the people that were sharing their stories today just to relay information and make sure everyone is on the same page. So, I filled everyone in earlier this afternoon on the details, and I left to go about doing all my other things.

 

But when I came back to Facebook Messenger, there were dozens and dozens of messages from these moms talking about what they were going to say on the show, and how their feelings are, and getting really vulnerable with each other, and honestly creating some of the strongest connections. I could literally feel the connections growing and strengthening just in the Facebook conversation. It was so-- I don’t even know the right word.

 

Meagan: Powerful. It was really cool.

 

Julie: So endearing. Yes, powerful. I love it. And so, I am looking forward to this episode. These are all moms who attempted a vaginal birth after a Cesarean but ended up with a C-section rather than a VBAC. Before we get into the stories, I want to go over some terminology because the acronyms are pretty nuts, right? You have VBAC, HBAC, CBAC, RCS, VBA2C, HBA2C, and sometimes it can be really confusing.

 

Generally, VBAC is obviously vaginal birth after cesarean. RCS or ERCS refers to parents who choose to schedule a repeat Cesarean whether they want to have a Cesarean or whether it’s because of medical reasons. They may not want to do it, but they feel like it’s the best thing for them. And then CBAC stands for Cesarean birth after Cesarean, which is defined as parents who attempted a trial of labor, or labored after a Cesarean and ended up with a repeat Cesarean.

 

We want to go through and identify the unique challenges that these parents face and the different struggles and emotions that they go through, and maybe bring some things up that you might not have considered as you prepare for your own VBAC. We encourage you to listen-- birth worker, parent, anybody, stay tuned because there is going to be some really, really good information here from some really, really strong and powerful women.

 

Paige

 

Alright. I made Paige go first. Paige transcribes our podcast, so we can read them now.

 

Meagan: Yay.

 

Julie: Wherever you listen to podcasts, you can also read them too, and she is going to be transcribing this one. We absolutely love Paige. Paige was a member of our VBAC Link Community. Well, she still is. But, she suggested that we create a CBAC group just for parents who were in the community that ended up with a repeat Cesarean so that they could have some support and like-minded people.

 

Paige is the founder of our CBAC community as well. We are so grateful for her for everything that she does. We are just going to talk about Cesarean and ask questions. Alright. So, Paige.

What is something you wish people would know about your CBAC or just CBAC in general?

 

Paige: I would say that first off, it wasn’t our fault. The reality is that some birth outcomes are just the luck of the draw in spite of the best prep. I can only speak for myself, but I know that I did everything under the sun and more to set myself up for a successful VBAC after two C-sections. I was going for my second VBAC attempt this time around. This was in June of last year.

 

Some Cesareans truly are necessary. There’s a trend right now in the birth world to avoid a C-section at all costs, and it can feel really painful to moms that did everything to do just that but didn’t get it. So, it sounds really simple, but sometimes we need a reminder that Cesareans truly can be necessary.

 

Meagan: That’s so true and not only necessary but a positive experience too, right? They don’t have to be scary and negative. Okay, so question number two is:

 

What is one of the biggest emotions you are working through or had to work through post-birth?

 

Paige: I narrowed it down to two, actually, which are confusion and embarrassment. I was mostly so confused how my intuition told me so strongly this would happen for me, and then it didn’t. Literally, I woke up from general anesthesia after my second birth, so my first CBAC, and I was so empowered from the labor experience. My first words were, “Can I do that again? I want to try that again”. From that moment on, that’s when I started preparing for my VBAC after two C-sections.

 

I felt so good after every prenatal once I got pregnant. Every chiropractic appointment, every pelvic floor, I knew that I was on the right path. I had every reason to be confident it was going to happen. So now, learning to trust that those feelings were real, the journey with something that I needed in spite of the outcome and that my intuition didn’t lead me astray is something that I am still working on.

 

And then, that level of embarrassment. One of the main reasons I was going for a VBAC was because I wanted to be a champion of VBAC. I wanted to be a walking example of empowered birth. With my first pregnancy and birth, I was so afraid of birth in general. I literally did not think I would survive. So, I wanted to be the success story of going from complete fear to complete confidence and then showing women that this was what we were made to do. I feel like I still came a long way in how confident I was, and how much I have grown, and how strong I am now. 

 

But now, with my outcome, it’s tempting to feel like my story makes people afraid to go for a VBAC instead of feeling inspired to do it. But, I still believe in VBAC. I am still so passionate about it. I love it, and I will always long for one.

 

Julie: Yeah. That is some really real stuff. I think it is really important. I think we will probably talk a lot about this during the episode where people get told, “Oh, at least you have a healthy baby,” or, “Aren’t you so grateful for your Cesarean? It saved your life.” 

 

I think it’s really important to recognize that there are so many emotions surrounding this, but also-- also, we are grateful that we have a happy, healthy baby and mom. Sometimes, people don’t consider that mental health comes into play when we talk about the health of baby and mom. Sometimes babies aren’t healthy, and sometimes moms aren’t healthy. I’m glad you talked about that. Thanks. The next thing: 

 

What is something positive or uplifting you have found in your story, or have you even gotten to that point yet?

 

Paige: Julie, you touched on this a little bit, but The VBAC Link CBAC Support Group has been the highlight and the greatest source of healing for me, honestly, this time around. I have found women that I know needed to come into my life during this time, and a few of them are on the episode today. It’s so fun to be able to talk to them and see them on here. I just love you all, and I am so grateful for each of you.

 

Especially during COVID, when it’s very isolating, it’s a very difficult time to be going through postpartum. These women helped me feel like I had a tribe like I was seen and understood. This group-- it wasn’t me. It was a joint effort. Julie and Meagan, you don’t know that. But, I was messaging some other women personally, and we talked about how we felt forgotten. We talked about how we wanted to have a space. I still personally message some of these women just to check in on how they’re doing. It meant everything to me to have these women checking in on me during some really dark and lonely days right after my birth because they were going through it too. And I typically stay away from sharing too much on social media, but this CBAC group is such a safe place.

 

It was also really healing to know that you, Julie and Meagan, were both so supportive of creating this group because throughout my pregnancy, you two were some of my biggest mentors. When I got my CBAC, there was this feeling of, “I let them down,” which I know is not true, and obviously, you had no idea who I even was, but seeing the way that you are champions of not just VBAC, but empowered birth and CBAC included in that, just means everything.

 

Meagan: Aw, thank you.

 

Julie: Aw, well, we are so grateful for you. Honestly, when you brought up the group, I texted it to Meagan and our admin, Sarah, and I am like, “Why have we not done that yet?”

 

Meagan: Yeah.

 

Julie: it was an instant “yes” from everybody. We created it, I think, the exact same day. We are really excited to have a space for you because I don’t even understand what you are going through. I know I have seen it with my clients. I obviously hear stories and we see your conversations in the group, but Meagan can relate a little bit more because she had a second Cesarean after trying for VBAC. But, being able to just be a silent lurker, not to sound creepy or anything, in the group really helps me understand better where CBAC moms are coming from. It helps me understand a little bit better how to approach them. 

 

And so, I just want to thank everybody, not only on this call but in the group for being there and being in that space. It really is such a supportive space, so thanks.

 

Paige: Yeah.

 

Meagan: Yeah, when I didn’t get my VBAC, I was in the group that caused me a lot of issues emotionally at the time

 

Julie: A different group, not our group.

 

Meagan: Not our group, but a different group back in the day. I mean, it’s still around. But, I remember posting in there that I did not get my VBAC and I remember pretty much in a way being told, “I told you so. Why were you so stupid for trying in the first place?” And so, when you said, “We want a place for us. We feel like there’s no place for us,” I remember leaving every VBAC group. Every single one, and unsubscribing to everything VBAC because I couldn’t be in that space. I couldn’t hear it. I couldn’t be there. I was sick of the, “I told you so‘s.”

 

Like Julie said, when this was proposed, it was a no-brainer and a, “Where the heck have we been?” type of a thing. A moment of-- why didn’t we even think of this? So, so, so grateful for you. Last but not least, I know we have got lots of amazing people to share. 

 

Is there anything else that you would like to share or that you feel like people need to know?

 

Paige: I just want to reiterate how strong these women are, how resilient they are. Not by choice, but because they have to be. There is an extra level of courage and deeper strength that we have to tap into to not get the birth outcome that you want not only once, but often multiple times in some cases.

 

But for women who are prepping for their VBAC right now, I want to advise you to not be afraid, especially listening to this episode. We don’t want you to be afraid of a CBAC or a VBAC in general. I want to say, fight for it. Invest your heart in it. Go 100% all-in if that’s what your tuition is telling you to do. Follow that because the chances really are that you will get it. The odds are literally in your favor.

 

And if you don’t get it, if the doctors label you a “failed TOLAC”, we are here. Now that this group is made, we are here for you. We will hold the space for you. We will catch you and you are never a failure to us. You will be okay. You might not feel it and it might take some time, but I promise that you will be okay.

 

Julie: Me and Meagan are over here texting each other about how much we love you.

 

Paige: Oh my gosh. I love you guys. It’s mutual, very much so.

 

Julie: Before we go on to our next person, who is Kristian, I want to touch on something that I actually forgot to mention at the beginning.

 

Most of preparing for birth is getting educated, having the right provider, having the right support team, knowing all your options, etc., etc., etc. But there is a part of it that is just pure, freaking luck. I have seen it myself with my own clients. Sometimes you can do everything and you can work so hard, and you just get dealt a really rough hand and end up in a repeat Cesarean. 

 

But I have also seen clients who-- how do I say this? They don’t work as hard or care as much into putting the effort in, and they get lucky and they have their VBAC. Sometimes that is a really hard thing to process, even as a doula. Even as a doula, I sometimes have a really hard time processing, “Why did this birth go that way but that birth went this way?”

 

I know I have talked to Meagan about this several times and I know some of you are going to talk about this, but it’s really hard when you have worked so hard and get dealt a bad hand, and get that bad luck on your side. I think that what Paige touched on is exactly important, is that sometimes it’s just bad luck. That’s all it is. There is no one to blame and it’s nobody’s fault. It’s just bad luck.

 

Alright, next up, Kristian.

 

Kristian

 

Meagan: Kristian!

 

Kristian: Hi, guys.

 

Julie: Hi, Kristian.

 

Meagan: Hello, hello.

 

Julie: Alright, Meagan, why don’t you start? We can alternate so that we don’t keep asking the same questions.

 

Meagan: Well, the questions are kind of the same.

 

Julie: But no, I mean you ask one and three this time. I’ll ask two and four. Change it up.

 

Meagan: Gotcha, perfect. Okay. 

 

What is something that you wish people would know about your CBAC and CBAC in general?

 

Kristian: Paige touched on it a little bit and you both have touched on it, but I think you can do everything “right”, I use that in quotes, and still end up with a CBAC. I never thought I would have one Cesarean birth, much less two. I literally planned my VBAC in the hospital with my oldest. Both of my babies were footling breech and both times I went into labor the night before my scheduled ECV.

 

In both scenarios, I thought I had done everything right to have the birth outcome that I had hoped for. But yeah, that luck was not on my side either time.

 

Julie: I agree. I think that's a really important thing to note. Okay. 

 

What is one of the biggest emotions you are working through now or had to work through after your birth? 

 

Sorry, I am just going to go off on a little, teeny tangent. I think that processing a birth is an ongoing process, but where are you at in your journey right now? What is the hardest thing you are working through or had to work through?

 

Kristian: Yeah. I think the biggest emotion I have had and I’m still processing is just the frustration of that I spent so much time, energy, money trying to get my son in the right position. Even before I knew he was breech, I thought I was hopefully going to prevent him from ever being breech like my daughter. Ultimately, even after doing all of those things, I ended up with the same results. 

 

And so, unlike my first birth, I don’t have the “what if‘s” of like, “What if I had tried X, Y, or Z?” But I have the frustration of, I tried all of those things. For me, they didn’t work. And so, that I am still working on. I think if I hear one more person tell me about Spinning Babies®, or chiropractic, or any number of things that I tried, I might just scream at them. Everyone is trying to be so helpful and thoughtful, but when you have tried all of those things, and you’ve done all the things that people do to get a VBAC, and it doesn’t end up being that, hearing them one more time is just too much. So, still working through that frustration piece.

 

Julie: It’s definitely understandable. That’s a really hard thing to go through because like you said, even though you know people are well-intentioned, it’s still like, “Yes. Yes, I did that.” 

 

I had that with my breastfeeding journey. Breastfeeding never works for me, ever. All four times and despite all of my-- I tried all the things, literally. I think I can relate to your sentiment when if I hear anyone say, “Did you ever try fenugreek?” I would like, “Alright, let me just punch you in the face right now.” Anyways, I can relate to that.

 

Alright, Meagan, you are up.

 

Meagan: What is something positive or uplifting that you have found in your story, or nothing if you have not gotten to that point, and is there anything you’d like to share on that?

 

Kristian: Even though the physical aspects of my labor and birth were almost identical, like both times footling breech baby, both times going into labor the night before my scheduled ECV, how quickly my labors progressed, and then ultimately having a C-section. Even though the physical aspect of it was so similar each time, the fact that I had a different provider the second time, and that provider was truly amazing, it was such a healing experience that I never thought was possible with a CBAC. 

 

If you would have told me when I got pregnant with my son that I would have a CBAC and I’d feel okay about it because of my provider, I don’t think I would have believed you. I know I wouldn’t have believed you. 

 

In my first birth, I felt really unsupported, sort of like I was that unwanted statistic of a C-section because I was with midwives that deliver at a birth center. With my second provider, he was there the whole time. I think he was as disappointed as I was that I needed to have a C-section. I also knew that if it came to that and I had to have a C-section, it wasn’t for any other reason than that it was medically necessary and he gave me the best shot. He did an ECV while I was in labor. He let me labor as long as possible to see if the baby would flip and he would have delivered a breech baby if my son had been frank breech. 

 

So, all of those things I just felt really, really supported. Afterwards, he was there. He was there to explain what happened, and to talk it through with me, and spend the time, and tell me right away that I could try to have a VBAC if and when I have another baby. The physical aspect was the same, but the mental aspect was so different.

 

Julie: I think that’s important to understand. Meagan, do you want to add anything about your second Cesarean or do we want to just go on?

 

Meagan: For the sake of time and everybody else’s story, we’ll just go on.

 

Julie: Okay, cool. Alright, Kristian. 

 

Is there anything else you want to people to know about your birth specifically or cesarean birth after cesarean in general?

 

Kristian: Both things have been touched on already. The CBAC Link has been such an amazing community to join. Like Paige, I am not really a social media poster. I don’t really typically do that, but the group has been such an amazing place to process that. So I would say to listeners, if you have had a CBAC or if ultimately you end up in that situation, the community is here and it’s an amazing community to lift you up.

 

And then I think for people out there that are trying to support CBAC women, I would say just to listen and not add the added advice. I had a lactation consultant after my son was born that said, “Oh, I wish you lived in Canada because you would have had two vaginal births because they don’t do C-sections for breech babies.”

 

Julie: Whoa. Whoa.

 

Kristian: First, I don’t live in Canada and I don’t think that that’s necessarily true. So, I would just say, whether it is true or not, it is not helpful in the situation. Just let the CBAC mama have her story and not add to it.

 

Julie: Thank you. Thank you so much for that. I think that’s really important.

 

Marie

 

Julie: Okay, let’s see. Next up is Marie. Alright, Marie.

 

Marie: Hi there.

 

Julie: Welcome. Marie just moved away from us which makes me sad, but that’s okay. Marie, we still love you. 

 

What is something you wish people would know about your CBAC or just CBAC in general?

 

Marie: I would say more often than not that we would love to share if you asked. I just wanted to give a little context to share about my CBAC because my CBAC was very traumatic for me. Paige touched on this, but it was necessary because it saved my son and that was part of that trauma. 

 

I had labored naturally because my body doesn’t respond really well from epidurals. That’s what I found out with my first one. Anyway, I labor naturally for 18 hours and then I eventually had to have an epidural placed because right before my transition phase was exceptionally painful and I felt everything. My son was having heart decelerations in between contractions. Then, they were happening so frequently that we realized we just had to get him out as soon as possible.

 

Again, my body wasn’t responding to the epidural, so I felt a good deal of my surgery and I couldn’t help but be very vocal. Eventually, when they got him out he wasn’t crying, so I had that mentality going on as well. Our son was okay, but he was diagnosed with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy which is brain damage caused by lack of oxygen. He was driven to Primary’s and put on a cooling pad for four days to slow down his brain activity to try and let it heal optimally. 

 

The following week, he had tests for his heart and brain until finally, they let us know he had miraculous results and overall his brain damage was little to none. So, while my CBAC was traumatic, it saved my son. C-sections really are a blessing sometimes. I would want people to know that C-sections are really, really amazing. My first one felt unnecessary because it was failure to progress, so I was left feeling really empowered to get a vaginal birth the second time, but the second time I really needed that C-section.

 

Julie: Absolutely.

 

Meagan: She really has experienced the two opposite ends of like, “Oh, maybe not” and, “Okay, totally necessary.” 

 

What is one of the biggest emotions that you are working through or did work through?

 

Marie: I would say it’s a mixture of both because I feel like I have worked through it, but then every once in a while it pops up. I would say that’s bitterness. My bitterness comes from skin-to-skin. I had looked forward-- my cousin once told me the most magical feeling in the whole world is having that skin-to-skin right after you deliver your baby. I just could not wait to experience that. 

 

With my daughter, during my first C-section, I didn’t get a hold her for a couple of hours, and then with the second one, as I was preparing for this VBAC, I accepted the small possibility of having a repeat Cesarean because all I really wanted was to be awake and lucid, which I wasn’t with my first, and to get to hold him skin-to-skin immediately after his birth.

 

So, during his Cesarean, not only did I not get a gentle Cesarean, but I didn’t get to hear him, hold him, or behold his face for four days. When I first held him four days later, I was a ball of emotions trying so hard to just savor the moment, and holding his hand that was all bruised by all the needles, and looking at his face, and his oxygen mask.

 

I went to bed that night feeling like we had both been cheated out of that moment between mother and son. I was fighting resentment that I had, but I soon discovered that lots of NICU parents feel the complex, dual emotions of being both angry and grateful. As time has passed, I would say that the bitterness is mostly gone. It still pops up from time to time that I didn’t get to be with him the first two weeks of his life, but overall now, I’m left feeling more gratitude than anything.

 

Meagan: Yeah. And during all of that time, I just have to congratulate you on how amazingly strong you were because I can’t even imagine how hard that was. But you were a rock.

 

Marie: Well, you are one of my doulas, so you definitely knew that.

 

Meagan: I know you are a rock, yes. Okay Julie, do you have the other question?

 

Julie: Alright, Marie. 

 

What is something positive or uplifting you have found in your journey or have you not really gotten to that point yet?

 

Marie: It’s an astute question because the word “positive” is used. It’s difficult to find joyful, memorable moments when your goals or expectations are not met. So, what you’re left doing is finding gratitude, validation, and positivity in your CBAC story. But first and foremost, I am forever deeply grateful for the miracle of my son. Looking back, I am so grateful I had a provider who helped me go into labor on my own and that I fought for that too, because he did introduce induction options. I really fought for going into labor on my own because I didn’t with my first.

 

I feel validated that I did everything I could to get a natural, vaginal birth. There’s a lot of things I have found. There’s a lot of positive things I found in my story, you know. I found a family among NICU parents and the CBAC Facebook group. I learned that there are better experiences and there are sacred experiences. It all comes down to what your story is, what your experience is. It belongs to you and it is special to you. It’s nobody else’s. So I guess, there you go.

 

Julie: No, I love that. I think you answered that perfectly. Maybe I worded the whole question wrong for everybody. Everybody else, you are free to interpret question number three however you would like.

 

Marie: No, it was great. No, you hit it on the head.

 

Julie: I love it. I love everything you said.

 

Meagan: Is there anything that you would like to add?

 

Marie: I would want people to know, throughout The VBAC Link Podcast, we have been uplifted and inspired by so many women, including wonderful Meagan, who had successful vaginal births after multiple Cesareans and a very high success rate. It’s a great goal.

 

I don’t have any regrets trying for a VBAC. I would do it all over again. But anyways, I would want people to know that there are some CBAC women who might end up choosing or needing to do an elective Cesarean for any subsequent pregnancies. With that being said, I would want people to know, especially coming from a strong VBAC mentality, it’s a very scary and difficult decision to come to. It’s something that I am having to face right now because I do want more kids, but having the VBAC and the Cesarean were both scary. I am really having to juggle with what I’m going to do next. But if I end up wanting to do an elective Cesarean, or if I need to do one, then I would want my VBAC community, my VBAC sisters, to be supportive of me and excited for me and be excited that I am doing elective Cesarean. I would hope that I would have support from that.

 

Meagan: You deserve that, yeah. You deserve that support.

 

Julie: Yeah, I agree.

 

Marie: Thanks.

 

Julie: Well, thank you, Marie. Next up, we have Anne.

 

Anne

 

Meagan: Yes. Anne, we have: 

 

What is something you wish people would know about your CBAC?

 

Anne: You guys, first off, can I just say that I am really fangirling here because I have listened to The VBAC Link, oh my goodness, for as long as I can-- from the get-go, probably.

 

Julie: Thank you so much.

 

Anne: You guys have been there through my first VBAC. I did have a C-section, then a VBAC, and then I got pregnant with twins. That put a rudder in everything. I was going for a 2VBAC, which is difficult in itself with twins. So, I guess that’s one thing I would like to touch on which is different in my story is that with multiples. A vaginal birth is already hard enough to get supportive providers for, but with the twins, it was even harder. I really had to fight tooth and nail to even get the chance to try for my VBAC.

 

For me, it was about facing fear head-on whether you are trying for a VBAC or having that CBAC which I ended up with ultimately. I want people to know that it’s never an easy choice whether you decide to get it or whether it’s an emergency in the end. Having that C-section is not the easy way out like other people can see. That’s what I can say on that.

 

Julie: Absolutely. I agree with you 100% because sometimes you have to choose. Sometimes choosing a repeat Cesarean is just as difficult as going through labor and ending up with a CBAC. So, no. I agree 100%.

 

Anne: Yeah and definitely. I did the TOLAC and everything. We got to that 7 centimeters and we elected to have the CBAC. I cried my heart out. It’s never an easy choice.

 

Julie: Yeah, it never is. Never, along the way. For sure. Alright. 

 

What is one of the biggest emotions you are working through or had to work through post-birth?

 

Anne: I would say mine would be shame, I guess. I don’t know if anybody else feels this way, but I love telling my birth story because it has so many cool and different things that happened along the way. We were induced with a Foley bulb and the labor was just like-- oh my gosh, it was textbook. Like, beautiful labor. I didn’t even feel my contractions before I got the epidural. It was a good experience.

 

But then, when I get to the point where I have to tell people that we stalled out at 7 centimeters and we decided to get a C-section, you just see peoples’ faces turn a little bit. I am still processing that. Not feeling ashamed and being proud of how hard I fought, and how wonderful it was anyways.

 

Julie: Yeah, I think that’s really important. I am glad you brought that up. I think that’s a really hard thing to work through.

 

Meagan: Absolutely. Okay, next question. 

 

What is something positive or uplifting that you found in your story?

 

Anne: Well, it’s like I said, I did have a really good labor to begin with and I felt supported in all my choices. That was something really positive for me because, with my first, which ended up in a C-section, I didn’t feel that support at all. It was healing in that way. I am just happy overall that I got to have that experience and got to give my babies those labor hormones. That was my ultimate goal to have them receive that and go from there. I’m happy overall that I got my number one goal.

 

Julie: Yeah, that’s awesome. Alright. 

 

Is there anything else you want to add or that you wish people would know?

 

Anne: Even if a CBAC wasn’t your first choice-- heck, which obviously if we are going for a VBAC, it probably wasn’t, that having that supportive provider is just as important as having a supportive provider with your VBAC. I feel like my provider definitely made the whole difference for my recovery and how I feel about my whole experience because when push came to shove, and we decided to have the C-section, and I cried, she was there for me. Whatever I asked, she made sure that we would try and get whatever possible to make me feel comfortable.

 

I asked her to go through everything she was doing, to narrate as she was doing it. She said it was an odd request, but she did do it. So, just being heard from a provider and having that support is just-- it is so important. When you’re looking for a provider, not just thinking about how they will support you through a VBAC, but also trying to figure out if they are going to be there if plans don’t go as you planned.

 

Julie: I really love that thought. I think that’s really important. I honestly don’t think I ever thought about it in that perspective before. So, thank you for sharing that.

 

Joleen

 

Julie: Okay, next up we have Joleen.

 

Joleen: Hi there.

 

Julie: Hi Joleen. How are you?

 

Joleen: Doing well.

 

Julie: So good. I am so good just to be surrounded and listening to you ladies. I am smiling the whole way through this. I just love it. Okay, question number one. 

 

What is something you wish people would know about your CBAC or just CBAC in general?

 

Joleen: So, a quick briefing. I had my CBAC in October 2020 following a spontaneous 33-hour labor. My water ruptured naturally at home at 38 weeks and 4 days. I never dilated past 1 centimeter and baby never descended past -2 station even with five hours of a Pitocin induction during that. A hospital birth, so I had no food and pretty much no sleep. So, I did have my CBAC called failure to progress, but it was my choice because of the exhaustion.

 

Overall, I think as a CBAC parent that we all had this goal set and probably had small goals in between and we had to reach those goals. We researched and we prepared and we advocated. We did “all of the things” and in the end, no matter what our outcome was, we all have our experiences and our stories. However we feel about these experiences, I just want people to know that our feelings are valid.

 

It’s okay if you need to mourn your birth experience. It’s okay to love your birth experience too. We just have to find a healthy output for those things.

 

Meagan: Absolutely. And it’s okay to take as much time as you need to mourn that birth experience. Question number two is: 

 

What is one of the biggest emotions that you are working through or have already worked through?

 

Joleen: I would say, being recently postpartum from my CBAC, when I have time to think back at my whole journey, it’s not really an emotion, it’s more of a gnawing, “What if?”

 

I originally wanted a home birth. I wanted the twinkle lights and the affirmations, the HypnoBirthing and the birth tub. I had a hospital birth. I constantly ask myself, “What if I stayed home longer? What if I hadn’t gotten the epidural? What if I had the doula that I wanted?” That’s really the one thing that weighs on me. I think a doula would have changed my outcome. “What if I had gone a few more hours before agreeing to have a surgery?” It gnaws and it eats at me.

 

I will share a quick story. Before they took me back to the OR, I turned to my boyfriend and I said, “Do you remember how I was after our first daughter?” Her name is Elowen. He said, “Yeah.” I said, “You need to prepare for me to be like that again.” He was like, “I know.” I said, “I don’t know how I’m going to be after this. I might be struggling. I just want you to know that. I want you to prepare for that if you have to help me through this.”

 

They took me back to the OR and as they were taking baby out, I had heard my midwife’s voice. I had no idea that she was the attending midwife during my surgery. She said, “You know, I told you that she was going to try to come on my birthday.” I just felt so calm in that moment. I said, “Heather, is that you?” She said, “Yeah, it’s me.” Immediately, the first thing that came out of my mouth was, “Heather, I didn’t get my VBAC.” And I cried. I was bawling. I could feel her emotion behind that blue veil. She said, “I know, hon. I am so sorry.” That was the first time I realized that I didn’t get my VBAC and it really sunk in.

 

Meagan: It’s crazy how that can happen and you are like, “Wow. Alright. And here we go. That just sunk in right there and I am processing this now.”

 

Julie: Yeah. Honestly, I am so invested in this story, I don’t even know what question we are on anymore.

 

Meagan: I think three. What is something positive or uplifting?

 

Julie: Yeah. 

 

Have you found something uplifting or positive in your journey? 

 

If not, that’s okay too.

 

Joleen: Yeah, so a positive thing that I took out of my whole experience and my whole journey was that I found this strength that I never knew that I had. I so often hear the phrase, “Use your voice even if it shakes.” I learned to advocate for myself and thankfully I had two wonderful providers, and OB and a Certified Nurse-Midwife who gave me no pushback. They supported me the entire way from the get-go.

 

Meagan: Okay.

 

Is there anything you would like anyone to know about CBAC?

 

Joleen: Yeah, so it’s like the other ladies have mentioned-- you can prepare all you want. It’s going to be the luck of the draw. That’s even what OB had told me at my two-week postpartum visit. I asked, “Was there anything physically wrong with me inside? Anything wrong with my pelvis?” He said, “You know, it was just the luck of the draw. I have no idea why things went the way they went.” 

 

You can eat all the dates you want. You can go to the pelvic floor therapist. You can go to the chiropractor every single week. You can bounce on your ball. You can walk. You can take the red raspberry leaf. You know, it’s not going to give you the outcome that you want. You’re not always going to get that outcome.

 

Meagan: It doesn’t always happen, yeah.

 

Joleen: Yeah, you have to accept it.

 

Meagan: Mhmm.

 

Joleen: It is a hard pill to swallow, too, if it doesn’t happen the way you want it to. But just know that you are not alone in your struggles.

 

Julie: Absolutely. I think that’s really important. You’re not alone in your struggles. I actually was taking notes while you were talking because I want to make some social media posts from some things you said. Actually, all of you guys, I have been taking notes. But, I think that’s really important to know.

 

Okay, well thank you so much, Joleen, for sharing your story with us. You’re right, I want to chat with everybody so long. But Meagan is like, “Come on. We have got to get back on track.” Okay, okay, okay.

 

Meagan: I want to make sure everyone gets their time.

 

Brett

 

Julie: Alright. Next is Brett.

 

Brett: Hey.

 

Julie: Hi Brett. I am so glad you’re with us. You are one of the people whose names I am familiar within the community. Now I’m familiar with all of your names, but Brett, I think I just remembered you from--

 

Brett: I think I was there from the beginning. I was one of the first people.

 

Julie: Yeah, I love it. Let’s get right into it. 

 

What is something you wish people would know about your CBAC or CBAC in general?

 

Brett: I think one of the hardest things for me to deal with after my CBAC was everyone saying, “Well, at least you have a healthy baby,” because yes, I have a healthy baby and that’s amazing. I am thrilled he’s okay and I don’t have to worry about him, but “at least you have a healthy baby” can be absolutely true, but it can also be very unhelpful to women who are going through birth trauma and the pain of losing the birth experience that we fought so hard for.

 

Meagan: Absolutely.

 

Julie: Yeah. I agree 100%.

 

Meagan: It discredits, I feel like.

 

Brett: Yeah, it takes away from all of the hard work that we went through. It takes the mom out of it and it makes it all about the baby. Birth isn’t just about the baby. Birth is also about the mom.

 

Julie: I agree. I feel the same way about the phrase, when everyone in my life tells me, “It will be okay. It will be okay.” I’m like, “It will be okay. I know that. It will be okay, but right now it’s not okay.”

 

Meagan: It doesn’t feel okay.

 

Julie: So, I need help now.

 

Brett: I love the concept of toxic positivity and how being positive is good, but you can be too positive. If you don’t give people the space to talk about their emotions and talk about their trauma, you are not helping. You are just silencing them and shutting them down. I feel like that happens a lot to women who go through traumatic births.

 

Julie: Yeah, totally. Alright, Meagan. Next question.

 

Meagan: What is one of the biggest emotions you are working through or have worked through?

 

Brett: I think for me it was probably the feeling of failure and the guilt that came along with it. I chose to switch to a home birth VBAC around 35 weeks mostly because of COVID, but I was honestly using that as an excuse. I really wanted to try for a home birth VBAC. I paid for the midwife in addition to the OB. I spent all the extra money on all the extra things. You all know what I am talking about.

 

Julie: Yeah.

 

Brett: I still failed to get my VBAC despite having perfect conditions. I was at home with my mom, and my husband, and a midwife who is supportive. I did everything and I still failed to do it. Knowing that in having two C-sections now, I am limiting the number of kids I can most likely have, it hurts. The guilt for all of the effort and money that I put into something that I “failed at”, it is real.

 

Julie: It is real. No, those are very real things. I agree with you guys 100%. Everything you have said has touched me in a whole bunch of different ways. So, thank you for sharing that with us. Okay, my turn. 

 

What is something positive or uplifting you have found in your story or have you not even gotten to that point yet?

 

Brett: Honestly, even though I didn’t get my VBAC, my CBAC birth was super healing for me. My first birth was just hell. 29 hours of induced labor with every medication side effect in the book. The magnesium made me feel like I had the flu. I puked over 40 times during labor. Then, our son came out not breathing and I didn’t get to meet him for five hours. I was a drugged mess and don’t remember pretty much most of it. S

 

With this birth, I went into labor on my own. I had a wonderful labor at home. My husband made burgers in the middle of labor and I devoured a whole burger in two minutes in the middle of labor. Even when we made the decision to transfer, that part was emotionally traumatic, our son came out screaming and I heard his voice right away. I got to hold him right away and we got skin-to-skin, which I didn’t get with Landon. I didn’t get to meet him for the first five hours and it just made a really big difference in healing after the first for me.

 

Julie: I think that’s really important. I just had a chuckle when you said cheeseburgers because I am a big fan of cheeseburgers. I always joke about that. When I tell my clients about eating and drinking during labor, I am like, “I like smoothies and stuff because if you’re going to throw up, they generally come up smoother than a cheeseburger does.” And so, I am always talking about cheeseburgers and birth.

 

Brett: I actually ate a cheeseburger. My husband was making them. My husband is a chef and so we said, “Well, you can make food for the midwife and stuff. It will distract you while I am in labor.” So, he made burgers. They asked if I wanted one and I was like, “You know what? Yes. I would love one.” I literally ate the whole thing before the midwife had even sat down with her plate of food. It was great.

 

Julie: Good for you.

 

Brett: It was awesome. And then because I ended up with a C-section, I didn’t get to eat and I had all the side effects to the medication again, so I didn’t get to eat for 24 hours after that cheeseburger. it was a good thing I had the cheeseburger.

 

Meagan: Yeah, that’s so awesome. Okay so, is there anything uplifting? Look, I am not even looking at the questions now. Yes, something positive or uplifting you have found in your story?

 

Julie: What else do you want people to know?

 

Meagan: I thought it was number three. Oh yeah, duh. She just said that.

 

Brett: That was number three.

 

Meagan: Okay. 

 

What else do you want people to know?

 

Julie: Cheeseburgers. I know we got distracted. Sorry.

 

Brett: That’s alright. I wish that people understood that the emotional healing from a Cesarean is just as important as the physical healing. A Cesarean incision heals over long before the emotional wounds stop hurting, but nobody really thinks about that part. We are kind of just left on our own to try and muddle through that. That’s hard.

 

Meagan: Yes. Yes. I think that is so powerful. I had a provider once tell a client, “Oh, as soon as she feels like she can stand up and walk she will be fine.” I was like, “Uh, OK.”

 

Julie: So nonchalant about it.

 

Brett: Yeah. My incision didn’t heal for three months this time. The first time, it was within a couple of weeks and this time I think it was September before my incision fully healed. Honestly, I think it’s because we went to the beach and I spent three days in the saltwater. I think that’s the only reason it actually finally healed over. I don’t know why it took so long, but even then, the emotional stuff was still there when the incision finally healed.

 

Meagan: Yeah. Well, thank you. Thank you, thank you. I love all of your points.

 

Grace

 

Julie: Alright. Up next, last but not least, or maybe it is the best of all the game. Right? Alright, Grace. Meagan, do you want to ask the first question?

 

Meagan: Yes. Okay, Grace. 

 

What is something that you wish people would know about your CBAC or just CBAC in general?

 

Grace: Hi. So first, I just wanted to say thanks for having me on along with these other warrior women. Something I think I wish people knew was how much we all actually invest in fighting and trying for our VBAC and getting there emotionally, physically, and in some cases, financially. I think like someone had said earlier, I was planning my VBAC while I was still in the hospital after having my daughter. I knew I needed a new provider and a new hospital. I wanted a doula. Right from that day on, it was a journey for me for sure.

 

Julie: That’s amazing. Thank you so much for sharing that. Okay, second question: 

 

What is one of the biggest emotions you are working through now or had to work through after your birth?

 

Grace: My CBAC was definitely emotionally healing in comparison to my first Cesarean. My first Cesarean was from an induced labor, a long labor, my doctor was very impatient. He made me push way before I was ready to. I ended up under general anesthesia, so I really have no positive feelings from my daughter’s birth, unfortunately. This time, I went into labor on my own. I got to labor at home before I went to the hospital. I was pushing. I got everything that I wanted other than literally just pushing a baby out myself. So, that was that.

 

But then I think about, “Well, what if?” All of the what if’s are what I am really struggling with most days is, “What if I got the epidural this time that I really was so strongly against based on my first experience with it? Maybe it would have let me labor a little bit longer,” or, “What if I had just pushed longer instead of making that decision myself to opt for the Cesarean?”

 

My son this time ended up being OP and I knew he was going to be pretty big, so both my midwife and my doula were like, “Well, if it was one or the other maybe we could work through it,” but I think the combination of the two was really stacked against me. At the end of it, they let me make the decision if I wanted to keep trying or to do the Cesarean. I remember my midwife asking me, “Deep down, dig deep. Do you feel it inside if you can push the baby out?” Honestly, I self-reflected and I really didn’t think I could, so that’s why we chose the Cesarean. But then again, what if? What if I would have just stuck with it? What if I would have just pushed a little longer? It kills me.

 

Meagan: Yeah. Yeah, I know. Those “what if‘s”, they can really get to us. It is hard not to ask the “what if‘s”. I feel like we start the “what if‘s” before we even go into labor. Even in the decision to VBAC or to CBAC, “What if I do this? What if I could deliver vaginally? What if I have something bad happen?” You know, there are just those “what if‘s”. It’s personally something so hard to get through.

 

Grace: Yeah. I think at the end of the day, I was like, “I really want this VBAC, but I really want my baby here healthy more.” It’s putting my wants aside for, “Yeah, I would love the VBAC, but I really would love my baby to be here now, healthily instead.”

 

Meagan: Mhmm. Yeah, definitely. Okay, question number two is: 

 

What is one of the biggest emotions you are working through or have worked through post-birth?

 

Grace: I think we just did that.

 

Meagan: See? This is what the thing is. I do the wrong question every time. Nope. It’s number three. It’s: 

 

What is something positive or uplifting you have found in your story?

 

I am just listening to the answer and not knowing what the next question is.

 

Julie: I know, we just get so lost in all of these amazing answers.

 

Meagan: I’m just relating, yes.

 

Grace: My whole journey this pregnancy, leading up to even getting pregnant and then my whole pregnancy, I just felt empowered. I was self-advocating. I researched a ton. With my first pregnancy, I was under the care of doctors and I just naïvely trusted them. They said to do this and I’m like, “Well, they are the experts. Okay.” This time, I really educated myself. I knew what my rights were and what I could get. I switched to a midwife. I hired a doula. I went to a different hospital. I did literally all of the things that I could do and that were there for me. Even though I ended up with a CBAC like I said, it was healing for me and I felt confident that I exhausted all my options. I left no stone unturned so to say in what I could have done. So, I was proud of myself for all of those things.

 

Meagan: You should be.

 

Grace: Thank you.

 

Julie: I think it’s great that you can look back on your birth like that and feel confident in your choices. That’s really important.

 

Grace: Yeah, for sure.

 

Julie: Alright, last question. Anything else you want people to know?

 

Grace: I think the biggest thing is that we can still love our babies unconditionally and yet still yearn for a certain birth story. I think some other women have said, people always say, “Well, at least the baby is healthy.” Yeah, of course. That should just not be not even said. That is number one for everybody. Mom and baby, yes. Number one. That should just be taken off the table. But, vaginal births have been part of women forever and ever. That is what we are “made to do”. I am saying these things with air quotes. So I just feel like, we can love our kids no matter what and we can still love to have a certain birth.

 

Meagan: Absolutely. Absolutely. You guys, so many incredible words and thoughts. I feel like, Julie, if you have been writing these down, we’ve got a lot of amazing Instagram posts.

 

Julie: Oh yes, yes. There were a lot. We want to wrap it up. Unfortunately, we have to go. I really wish we could just sit and talk with you ladies all day. I just love you guys so much. 

 

VBAC and CBAC birth plans 

 

I want to close it off because I want to take it back to something that Anne said. When you interview your provider for your VBAC, don’t just think about how they will support you through a VBAC. Consider how they will support you if things don’t go the way you want and if you end up with a repeat Cesarean. Maybe start asking those questions too, while you are talking about your birth plan and you’re preparing for your VBAC. 

 

Talk about a back-up Cesarean plan with them. What happens if something comes up and a Cesarean becomes necessary? Then how are you going to be supported? You might not like their answers, but you might feel just as supported as you are when they are talking about your VBAC preparation. And so, I just wanted to-- I just really loved that when you said that, Anne.

 

Like I said, I have lots of notes from all you others too. But, I just really want to emphasize that to close this off because sometimes births don’t go the way you planned. In fact, I would say, every birth doesn’t go as planned. Sometimes it’s in really little, teeny ways, but sometimes it’s in really big ways. Having support all along the way, no matter how it goes is very, very important. I encourage you, you listeners right now, to get educated about repeat Cesareans, to know the reasons why they may be necessary, and to have those conversations with your provider along the way.

 

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.

In a VBAC Link podcast first, we are joined by both a parent and her doula to share an inspiring VBAC story with us. Harmony, a VBAC mom, talks about her journey to better health, trusting her intuition to feel confident with an out-of-hospital birth setting, and how crucial it was to have a rock-solid support system. Kimberly, one of our VBAC Certified Doulas, chimes in to share her unique perspective on Harmony’s birth. 

 

Their sweet friendship shows us just how special the bond can become between you and your doula. Kimberly says to Harmony, “Stories like yours are exactly why I am passionate about VBAC. I was honored to get to be a part of your experience.” 

 

Additional links

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents

Advanced VBAC Doula Certification Program

Find a VBAC Link Certified Doula

Kimberly’s Website: Dulce Birthing Services

 

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 correct grammar and to eliminate false starts and filler words. 

 

Meagan: Happy Wednesday, everybody. You are listening to The VBAC Link podcast and as always, we are excited to be with you today. Today, we have something special for you. We have actually never done this before. Today is going to be so fun to hear the stories from both sides. We have both a parent and her doula with you today. They are going to share a VBAC story. 

 

We have Harmony and Kimberly. Harmony is the mom and Kimberly is the doula. She had a VBAC just six weeks ago, so we are so excited to hear her story. As always, we have a Review of the Week before we dive right in. I will turn the time over to Julie.

 

Review of the Week

 

Julie: I am really, really, really excited about the story too. Kimberly has been on our podcast a couple of times. She is on our Doulas Tell All episode, and she shared her VBAC after four C-sections story, so if you want, you can just go back to the search bar, search for Kimberly, and her story will come up as well.

 

I am really excited to have a doula-parent duo on as well. We are so grateful for them. Harmony and Kimberly are from Texas-- just outside of Austin, Texas it looks like.

 

I am going to read a Review of the Week. This review is from angelle.boyd on Apple Podcasts and the title of her review-- it’s really long but it’s cute. She says “Thank you, ladies! Best podcast to help prepare for a VBAC and an amazing birthing experience.”

 

She goes on to say, “First off, just had my successful unmedicated VBAC at the hospital in June all thanks to this podcast and you wonderful ladies. During my TOLAC, I continued to think of all the amazing stories I listened to on this podcast to get me through labor. Shouting out loud during labor, “I am a woman of strength and my body knows what it is doing,” was so empowering! I started listening to this podcast and could not stop. Each episode has something that can contribute and help women during their birth journey. I love how encouraging each episode is and that it goes through all types of scenarios that can happen during birth, regardless of trying for a VBAC. 

 

This can help better prepare any woman for all types of outcomes because let’s face it, giving birth is unpredictable! So thankful for listening to all the suggested tips to having a VBAC. I actually did every single one of them and happily had an amazing VBAC. Can’t thank you, ladies, enough, and hope this continues to help change the way our society sees birth! Yes, to women of strength! We got this!”

 

Boom. I love that review. That was exciting. Congratulations, angelle.boyd on your VBAC. We are so happy for you. Now, without further ado, let’s get to the story because we have a VBAC Trained Doula and a parent who had a VBAC. We are ready to rock and 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.

 

Harmony’s story

 

Meagan: Let’s get into the story. So, so excited. I am excited to see how this flows, and how you guys chime in, and your different perspectives. I am so excited. Let’s turn the time over to you fine ladies.

 

Kimberly: Hi, Harmony.

 

Harmony: Hey, Kim. We haven’t seen each other since the birth, but we are planning to this Friday actually. So, this is kind of cool. Yeah, the same goes for me that if you remember something that I don’t because it was a little blurry at points for me understandably, please, you can chime in whenever.

 

Well, I guess I will just start by saying that I got pregnant with my daughter in 2015. My husband and I had been married for a couple of years. Sometime during that first couple of years, I actually was diagnosed with PCOS by my doctor.

 

Meagan: Which is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

 

Harmony: Yeah. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I remember coming home and telling my husband because I was pretty upset. I really wanted to have a baby. I just was worried about the fertility issues with that. We waited. I think it was in 2015 that we started trying to get pregnant. We had actually moved to Tulsa temporarily-- didn’t know it was temporarily. We are back in Texas now. 

 

We had been there for about a year, year and a half and started trying to get pregnant. I got pregnant right away. That in and of itself was huge for somebody with PCOS. I went through that pregnancy and had some blood pressure and blood sugar issues. The blood pressure issue was why I got induced. My doctor was wonderful. He basically just tried to get me to the very end before he did any type of intervention. I just wanted to say that up front, that I know my experience is a little bit different because my doctor-- his wife actually had a VBAC. He made a point to tell me that his C-section rate was really low. He was well-connected with the midwives in the area and so I knew I was in good hands with my pregnancy and that he wasn’t going to push me to be induced or have a C-section unless that was the option for us.

 

I reached the end of my pregnancy and my blood pressure just kept increasing. He said, “Well, I think what we should probably go ahead and do is induce you,” because he checked me. I had asked him to check me. I should probably say that as well. He didn’t do routine cervical checks. I asked him to check me that Friday and he said, “Okay.” I think I was dilated .5-1 centimeters, so not a ton.

 

He said, “Since your blood pressure is going up, I’d like to go ahead and induce you.” I shared with him that I was concerned about that because I didn’t want to have a C-section if I could help it. He said, “I totally understand that.” He said, “I just want to tell you that there’s nothing wrong with you if you end up in a C-section. I am still going to make sure she is on your chest immediately.” He really tried to encourage me. He said, “I don’t see it going that way, but if it does, I want you to know I will make sure that all of that bonding happens.”

 

I went to the induction feeling like, “Well, this is the option.” I think they used Cervidil. Is that a common thing that is used usually? The night before, they inserted that.

 

Meagan: Yeah, Cervidil. It’s a pill.

 

Harmony: Okay, yeah. That’s what it was, and then I had some cramping. My husband and I had been watching Lost on TV or on Netflix. So, we started watching that. He stayed there with me, but I couldn’t get comfortable. I was feeling crampy and I couldn’t sleep very well. By the next day, I did start to have some contractions after they gave me a little bit of Pitocin. My daughter’s heart rate immediately dropped after having the Pitocin. My doctor was in a delivery and I remember the nurses rushing in, turning me over on my side, putting oxygen on me. It was very scary.

 

Unfortunately, he wasn’t there at the moment, so I didn’t have that reassuring comfort from him that, “You are going to be okay. We are going to figure this out,” but he got there as soon as he could and explained to me what was going on, that she wasn’t really responding very well to the Pitocin. We talked about trying some other interventions and he said, “I can insert a Foley bulb, and take you off of the Pitocin, and see if we can manually get you to dilate that way.” That’s what I decided to do.

 

He was actually right in the middle of checking my cervix when we talked about that. I always tell this because it makes me laugh, looking back. He’s really funny. He said, “Okay. Well, I am going to go have them get the Foley bulb. I am just not going to take my hand out at this point,” because he knew it was really painful for me every time he had to do that. The nurses went to go get the Foley bulb and when they left he said to me, “So, how’s it going?” trying to make it not so awkward because he was literally just sitting there with his hand in my vagina. 

 

But that’s part of what I loved about him, was that it wasn’t-- he really respected me and he was trying to make it as easy as he could for me. So, he inserted the Foley bulb and I think I dilated. I still was having contractions even after they dropped it down for me.

 

This is where it gets a little blurry for me because I don’t remember if I still had a little bit of Pitocin. Her heart rate dropped two more times after that and it was scary for me. That was probably, aside from-- the C-section wasn’t really that scary for me. It was hearing her heart rate slow down that really terrified me. So, after that third time that her heart rate dropped, he came in and sat down on the bed beside me and he said, “Look. I know neither one of us wanted it to go this way, but this is what is happening at this point.” He said, “I don’t really want to rush you in an emergency where we can’t control how she is born and have her there on your chest. So I think at this point, the best thing to do is go ahead and do the C-section.” I said to him, “Yes.” At that point, I was like, “Yes, please. I can’t hear her heart rate drop one more time.”

 

They wheeled me in there and they made sure I was all set up. They were very respectful. I know in the stories that I have heard since my C-section, I realize how fortunate and blessed I was to have the doctor that I had, and have the nurses, and have the anesthesiologist that I had because there are some pretty horrible C-section stories. They got me all set up and pretty soon, he had her out and put her on my chest.

 

It wasn’t what I saw for my birth, but it was our story and I was able to hold her. I was so exhausted at that point from all the medication and just the birth itself. With the hormones, I was shaking and everything like that. I was afraid I was going to drop her. I remember saying to the neonatal nurse, “I want to hold her, but I am afraid I’m going to drop her.” She was like, “You’re not going to drop her. We are right here. You can hold her.” Again, they were really supportive.

 

So, of course, a C-section recovery isn’t fun. I had to basically recover from a major surgery while learning to become a mom for the first time. She ended up having to go to the NICU the next day because she had tachypnea, which is rapid breathing directly caused from the C-section because she didn’t go through my birth canal. That wasn’t fun either because I had to be separated from my baby there in the hospital. 

 

We eventually got home and moved on with life. I knew that-- I remember my doctor coming into the hospital room, I think it was the next day or day after, checking on me, and I immediately knew when I was there in the hospital that I was going to have a VBAC the next time I had a baby. I was already planning it. I said to him, “So, when can I get pregnant again?” I could tell in his face he was just like, “I can’t believe you are asking me that right now after having just had a C-section.” But I was already looking forward to the VBAC because I knew that we had wanted to have more kids.

 

I thought we would get pregnant sooner, but time passed quickly it feels like. My daughter was-- I think she had just turned four and we decided, “Okay, let’s go ahead and start trying for another baby.” We did. I think I got pregnant pretty much in the same amount of time that was with my daughter. I have been very blessed to get pregnant really fast, like I said, especially even with PCOS.

 

Oh sorry-- I should back up and say that the time in between that pregnancy, I really looked at why I had ended up in that C-section. Sometimes, there is not an explanation and sometimes it just happens. For me, I knew that it was my blood pressure that had caused me to have to be induced. I knew that for my own body, when I carry more weight, my blood pressure-- it doesn’t take long before my body goes, “Whoa, whoa. Danger,” and my blood pressure shoots up.

 

My body, I thought, just couldn’t handle that additional weight from the pregnancy. I decided to lose 50 pounds. That was actually my goal. I had already lost the 25 that I gained with my daughter.

 

Meagan: Nice work. That’s awesome.

 

Harmony: Thanks. Yeah, that’s the most weight I have ever lost.  I have a hard time losing it if it is just because I want to look better. It was more like-- it was the biggest motivator I ever had, was having a vaginal birth. I really felt like in my heart that if I could get to a better way that it would just be less pressure on my body. I walked and I actually just tried to let it come off easily. I didn’t do any crash dieting or anything like that. I think it took about a year. I had gone and seen the birth center that I was interested in.

 

So, I was planning all this stuff all along even though I wasn’t even pregnant yet. I wanted it all lined up so that when I got pregnant I would know what my plan was. During that time, I lost that weight and I would walk. While I was walking, I was listening to The VBAC Link podcast, actually, every single day that I would walk. I did that to normalize in my mind the VBAC experience. I wanted to feel like women are having this all the time. In the medical world, it’s talked about as being super risky and scary, but as I looked at the data and the information, I knew that wasn’t true. I tried to normalize all of this in my head and make it not so scary for myself.

 

It turned out that quite a few women in my life-- as I talked about that I was going to try for this VBAC-- had VBACs themselves. It was funny how-- I am a believer and a Christian. It was odd to me how in my life I found that around me there were about four or five women that were sprinkled around me that had VBACs and even more made me feel like, “Yes. This is okay for me. This is safe and women are doing it. It just encouraged me even more.”

 

I visited a birth center after I got pregnant here in Texas-- Central Texas Birth Center in Georgetown. It’s about 35 minutes from me. I went in with my mom originally and when I walked out, I said, “I feel like I’m going to give birth here.” I just felt really strongly. My mom said, “I feel the same way.” Neither one of us have had experience birthing out of the hospital. That feeling was just so strong that I knew in my gut that that was probably where I was going to have my baby. 

 

I went back with my husband and he said, “Yeah.” He said, “I feel like if it were me and I was having this baby, I would do it in a hospital. But I feel like this is right for you and that you are going to be supported here.” He just wanted to know that if anything happened that they had a transfer protocol in place. And they did, but I definitely in my mind was like, “I am not even going to talk about that.” I didn’t want to scare myself or speak something over me that wasn’t going to happen. 

 

But he was very supportive. My whole family has been very supportive. I know that Kim-- I don’t know if you want to talk about that Kim, but she said to me that the support that I had around me was really maybe a little bit unusual because it was my mother-in-law, my mom, and my husband. They were very 100% in with me which was great.

 

Kimberly: From a doula perspective, it was really fantastic to walk into a situation that all of your immediate family was super supportive of your plan because so often we play the go-between of “Mom is too nervous,” or “Dad is too nervous,” and they don’t want the birth plan to go-- They have different ideas of what they think is safe or normal and to see that your whole family was on board with this plan or birthing outside of the hospital with the provider that you had chosen. It made your job easier. It made my job easier and, I think, ultimately led to the best support you could possibly get in your birth. Not just in the pregnancy, but there was no wavering. There was no fear, no wavering of emotion in the moment when you needed everybody to be steadfast for you.

 

Harmony: Yeah, definitely. I know I jumped ahead a little bit with that, but I feel like that was just really important to say that it helped me make my decision to see my husband so calm and confident with it. It was new for me to even consider birthing out of the hospital. But I just felt like-- I had looked at providers through the ICAN Facebook page. I did some investigating and I just did not feel in my heart for me that I was going to be supported the way that I wanted to be for a VBAC. 

 

I didn’t want to be under a time limit at my gestation where I was going to have to be induced. That was my own personal feeling, a decision that I wanted to be in the right place so that I could let my body do what I was going to do. I knew that there would be nothing more worrisome for me than feeling like I was on a deadline. I knew that that was going to make my blood pressure shoot up. I was like, “I’ve got to be able to relax here.”

 

I chose to go with that birth center. They were wonderful-- my midwife and all of the people there. At one of my appointments, I think I was about 10 weeks, I started taking my blood sugar. I started eating more lower carbs to try and head off any blood sugar issues. I also took some supplements to help with my blood pressure. I really went through that pregnancy with no complications this time. I had a lot more energy. I know it was probably taking the pressure off of my body. 

 

I know that there are tons of women who have totally normal and totally healthy pregnancies with extra weight. I just want to be sure and say that too, that if you are plus size, that does not mean that you can’t have a VBAC. I did this for myself because of my own body. I knew that I needed to get some pressure off of my body. It was really important to me to say that because I don’t want anybody to hear that you are limited because you are more plus size or anything like that.

 

Meagan: Totally. Thank you for confirming that.

 

Harmony: Yeah. I didn’t want that to be misunderstood that I feel like you have to lose weight to have a VBAC because you do not, but I felt like my body did. I’m glad that I listened to my own body and did that because it turned out to be right for me. I didn’t have any complications. 

 

I did also-- one of the things that I tried to do to set myself up for success was hire a doula, which is Kim, who you just heard earlier. We met on a Facebook video chat because COVID had just started happening. We had to set up a time and meet together. When I spoke to her, I knew that she had a lot of experience that I wanted. I can’t remember where I had read it, but I knew that you had had your own VBACs. That was important to me because I knew that you understood the mindset of feeling like it would be really easy for a woman that has had a C-section to feel like her body is broken. That, a lot of times gets pushed even further when a provider makes you feel that way.

 

So, I knew that she believed in them because she had them and I also knew that she had some experience in Spinning Babies®. I know we talked about that in our first video call. Spinning Babies®, and I asked her about the rebozo because I had read stories about how that has been helpful. You have a lot of other certifications. I can’t remember what they are in. Oh, I’m sorry. I should also say that I found her through Instagram. She came upon one of the stories for the Instagram on The VBAC Link and it said that she was a VBAC Link Certified Doula.

 

Julie: Yeah, when she first got her certification. We used to post those to our stories. We are not very good at that anymore. We should probably start doing that again, it sounds like.

 

Harmony: No, it was right after she had been certified, I think. I think you were the only one in Texas at the time. Is that right?

 

Kimberly: I was.

 

Harmony: Okay. It just so happened that she was only about 45 minutes away from me. That also worked out great. After I talked to her, I knew that she was somebody I wanted to go with. I wanted to also talk about how you have the added element of being pregnant during COVID during this time, and how I obviously didn’t expect that curveball. It scared me in the beginning because it was so new. We didn’t know anything about it.

 

Kimberly: I think when we-- after you interviewed me and hired me, there was the whole COVID thing and we had to meet over video. But shifting that direction because of COVID and doing the in-home visits was really important. I think it helped us bond better. When I showed up to your house the first time-- well, first of all, you had a different experience in that your Cesarean-- you didn’t necessarily have all of the negative associations that a lot of the women that I work with have with their Cesarean, that they feel like it was unnecessary. 

 

So, it was great to get to walk into a situation where you were like, “That was my birth. It’s okay. I’m okay with that, but this is how my new birth is going to be. This is how this one is going to go.” It was great to get to not have to spend all of our time necessarily working through birth trauma, but really getting to focus on that prep for, “Okay, you had a hospital birth. Now, let’s prep you for an out-of-hospital birth and the differences, and really focus on comfort measures.” I think us being able to do it at your home-- I felt like it was a lot more of a comfortable environment. It really felt like just sitting down and chatting with a friend when we talked.

 

Harmony: Yeah, me too.

 

Kimberly: I couldn’t believe how fast time flew when we were there at your house just chatting, but I loved being able to have that moment and get your husband involved in a space where I knew he would feel more comfortable doing things and being active versus meeting somewhere in public. I think that really worked to our benefit.

 

Harmony: Yeah, I do too. I 100 percent feel the same way. I feel like I made a friend through this. It wasn’t just somebody that I hired to help me through my birth.

 

Kimberly: Absolutely.

 

Harmony: I definitely feel that way, too. I agree with all of that. I guess I will just start talking about the birth now. I wanted to spend some time on the other things because I felt like it was important to show that for me, this birth story started way back. It was all the footwork that I had to do ahead of time to make myself feel more comfortable going into the pregnancy that I wasn’t, hopefully, going to have the same complications. And then if I did, I would just feel like, “Okay. I did everything I could and that’s okay. I’m going to birth my baby the same way I birthed my other one and that’s okay.”

 

My due date was September 30th and I had an odd sensation that happened for me. I looked back, and on about 9/18, my in-laws were coming into town. They were coming in about two weeks ahead of time to try to be there for the birth. As I pulled up, I got out of the car. Around the same time I was pulling up and I got out to meet them, I felt this weird drop in my body. It was uncomfortable.

 

He had been really low. He was on my left side, head-down for most of the pregnancy. But this was painful, where I couldn’t straighten up my body. I was talking to my in-laws and I was like, “Sorry guys, I cannot walk right now. I can’t move.” I don’t know if that was him moving down even further. I’m not really sure. I think I texted both Kim and my midwife, Sally, at that point and said, “Okay, I don’t know what just happened, but I haven’t had this yet.” 

 

So about 9/22, which was four days later or so, I started having consistent contractions as I was laying on the couch watching TV with my husband. I looked at the clock and they were coming about 10 minutes apart, but I didn’t say anything to my husband because I knew he was already kind of nervous about, “Okay, we need to make sure we are at the birth center because I don’t want to have the baby here at the house.” He was really afraid that he was going to have to end up delivering the baby.

 

Kimberly: I think that was his biggest fear the whole time.

 

Harmony: Yeah. Yeah, because we had some friends that told us that she had gone into labor. She was actually seeing my same midwife. She ended up delivering at home accidentally and her husband had to deliver the baby. He texted my husband the next day and my husband was like, “Whoa. that is not happening.” He was very freaked out by that.

 

He just wanted to make sure that we were really paying attention to the contractions. I was looking at the clock and they were coming about 10 minutes apart and I said, “Okay, these are coming 10 minutes apart.” I don’t know if that meant anything because I hadn’t gone into labor with my daughter naturally, so I just didn’t know. I texted-- I don’t know if I texted you or not, Kim. Do you remember?

 

Kimberly: I think you texted me the second day.

 

Harmony: Okay, I think maybe you are right. I know that I texted my midwife and she said, “Okay. That’s great. Go ahead and try to go to sleep and rest through them.” I mostly was able to sleep through them through the night. They would kind of wake me, but I was able to go back to sleep. 

 

The next morning, I texted my midwife and she agreed that maybe this was just warming up to my labor, and I should focus on them and try not to track them. I know I didn’t do a very good job of that because I was very like, “Oh, these are happening. I need to start tracking these.” If I had to do it over again, I would have listened to my midwife. I would have tried to relax and not paid so much attention to them because they actually went on-- let’s see, until about 9/27.

 

I had prodromal labor for several days following this. Yeah, 9/24. It looks like that evening they were starting up again. They were still regular, so I tried to sleep through them, but they were getting stronger with each night. I started to get a dull ache in my lower abdomen, and my pelvis, and my back, and I just couldn’t get comfortable. I couldn’t sleep because they kept waking me up. They were strong enough where I found myself waking up moaning through them, but they were still very irregular.

 

I texted my midwife and she told me to still try to sleep through them. She was just telling me that sleep is so important. “You really need to try to rest,” but it was like I could not do it because they just kept waking me. I was feeling nauseous the next day because I hadn’t had any sleep. I was exhausted. When I would try to take naps and lay down, the contractions would start up again and they would be strong. When I would try to sleep, it was like I’d lay down and that was their cue to, “Okay, you’re going to rest now? Okay, now we are going to do what we need to do to try to get you into labor.”

 

On 9/25, I still had lots of aches, lots of pain in my pelvis. I went on a light walk because I was like, “I think I’m going to try to go on a little walk.” I live on my parents’ land out in the country. So, I walked down the street down their dirt road and back. When I got back, I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. When I went to the bathroom, I noticed that I had a tiny brown-- I don’t know what you would even call it-- like, a piece of matter. I was like, “Well, that’s interesting.” 

 

I texted Kim and my midwife at that point to let them know that I hadn’t seen that before, so I think some things may be starting to happen. After that, I tried to nap for a few more hours and the contractions just kept coming when I would try to go to sleep. The next day, I texted my midwife and said, “I’ve had contractions all night, but they are not coming closer together. They are getting harder as I sleep.”

 

The next day, I texted my midwife because I had had painful contractions through the night and they kept me up again. It was just prodromal labor, which I guess everybody talks about, and then, I didn’t know that was what I was experiencing. But I would have to get on my hands and knees, I would wake up from the contraction, get on my hands and knees to get comfortable. I would walk around the room. I’d have to lean over the bed. I just couldn’t lay down and contract. 

 

I think it was the following day on 9/27 that I was in the bathtub trying to get some relief and I decided to call Kim. I felt bad because I could tell I woke you up. I think it was early that morning and I just--

 

Kimberly: It was early, but I live that life. I expect it.

 

Harmony: I know. I was like, “She’s probably okay.” I was always like, “I hate inconveniencing people,” so I was like, “No. I don’t want to call her, but man these contractions.” I don’t know if this is labor that I am in. If it is time to do something, or you just don’t know.

 

Julie: I think it’s so funny when people say that. They have said that to me too like, “Oh, I am so sorry I had to call you at 3 o’clock in the morning because I was having a baby,” and I’m like, “No. You are literally paying me to wake me up at 3 o’clock in the morning.”

 

Kimberly: This is what you hired me for.

 

Meagan: I tell people if I had a problem with waking up at 3 o’clock in the morning, I clearly chose the wrong career.

 

Julie: I wouldn’t be a doula.

 

Harmony: Yeah, exactly. But when you were in it, you were just like, “Is it just me making this a big deal? Do I really need to call somebody?” I was afraid that I was like, “Okay, I just need to hang in here,” because I was still just trying to rest, but I couldn’t do it and they were getting worse. Kim told me to do some inversions. Maybe you want to talk about that part, that you felt like he was just trying to get in a good position and that’s why I was having them.

 

Kimberly: Yeah, sometimes prodromal labor can be caused just by something minor and baby’s position. Not always the case, but it was worth a shot. The inversion helps dislodge baby just enough so that they can make enough of a rotation with their head or their body and correct themselves. Sometimes that can cause things to pick up once they start again and turn into active labor.

 

Meagan: I was just going to say, and it’s actually stopped labor to allow moms to totally go to sleep because it fixed the baby’s position and helped the baby, right?

 

Kimberly: Absolutely.

 

Harmony: Yeah. From my own perspective, I think that I just could not get comfortable laying down because he was probably in an awkward position. When I would have those contractions, getting up on my hands and knees or walking around the room, that seemed to be the only thing that would give him a little bit of room. 

 

So, I went into the living room and I did some inversions. I called my mom and she came down to support me. At that point, I was in tears because I was just so tired and they were hurting. I wasn’t sure what was happening, but I did a couple of those inversions. I cried through them. But pretty soon, they got more bearable. I didn’t feel the same, like he was large, which was what I kind of felt like. My mom actually did do some belly sifting with the rebozo that Kim had left for me. There were lots of tears. I was tired, but I was feeling like, “Okay, something is starting to happen, I hope. I hope it doesn’t go on like this forever.” I tried to take a nap that day, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t rest. I didn’t go into this with a lot of rest as you’re probably gathering.

 

That night, it was September 27th. I talked to both Kim and my midwife, Sally. Sally really encouraged me, “You really need to rest if you can at all. Why don’t you go ahead and try to take some Benadryl or have a glass of wine and just see if you can go to sleep?” I had some Benadryl on hand so I did take a couple of pills. I got in the recliner because-- I talked to Kim about that too, that I could not lay down and feel comfortable. 

 

I know it’s not preferred to recline, but when we talked, we decided if that was the only way that I could get rest, then that was probably what I should do. My husband and my mom-- my mom came down to be with me from her house. My husband, mom, and I watched TV. They turned the TV on and I decided not to track my contractions because my midwife told me to do that to focus on trying to get rest. My husband said, “Okay. I am going to track them because I want you to rest, but I want to make sure that if we get close enough, that we have enough time to contact Kim to come because she told me to call her when they were about 5 to 6 minutes apart.” I think that was because of his positioning. Right, Kim? That he was head down, and he was low and on my left side.

 

Kimberly: I know we talked about intensity too, and monitoring for changes from what I had been. If something’s shifted from what you have been experiencing, then that was probably things ramping up. Then, I would want to be heading your way.

 

Harmony: Yeah, definitely. I had given my husband my midwife‘s number and Kim’s number just so that he would have it in case I wasn’t able to contact them. I had dozed off and on in the chair, but I kept having the contractions. I didn’t know how far apart they were. They would wake me up. I would look over at my husband and he would time them as I was having them. At one point, he paused the TV show and said, “Okay. These are about 5 to 6 minutes apart. It’s been that way for a little while, so I think we need to call Kim.” 

 

In that moment, I think because I had had so much prodromal labor leading up to that I just was like, “No.” Again, I didn’t want to bother her because I felt like they were going to slow down again. I was like, “I don’t want to have her come all the way over here. She lives about 45 minutes away. I don’t want to have her drive here and them just stop again.”

 

We argued about that for a little while and he’s like, “I’m calling her.” So, he called her. I don’t know if you want to say anything about the phone call or anything, Kim, because I can’t remember the conversation very much at all.

 

Kimberly: Yeah, he made it very clear on the phone. He was like, “So, Harmony didn’t want me to call. But I think things are picking up. I would like for you to head this way.” I was like, “Okay. I’m coming.”

 

Harmony: After he got off the phone, I was like, “No, they are going to slow down.” My mom was like, “Harmony, she made a decision to come. You need to just be okay with that.” I was like, “Okay.” They tried to make it less like I was twisting your arm into coming. This is when I realized that as far as labor goes, time doesn’t exist. When you got there, it felt like it had been five minutes, but you are about 45 minutes away. I remember when you walked in feeling like, “Oh my gosh, she is already here. That was really fast.”

 

You came over and started immediately putting counterpressure on my hips because I was laying on the couch. It was just so good to know that you were there because I didn’t know what to expect. I had never had a natural birth before and I didn’t know when I needed to go. I would say, that’s so helpful to have a doula there really that knows because they have experienced it, and then I could relax, and have my contractions, and trust you to go, “Okay. I think we probably need to start thinking about heading over.”

 

From what I remember, there was a lot of rushing around by my mother-in-law, and my mom, and my husband making sure that we had everything in the bags that we needed. My dad came down to watch my four-year-old daughter, who was asleep when we left at about 1:00 a.m., and started to head over. My husband called my midwife and said, “Okay, we are headed over.” I know that we talked about not leaving too early because I wanted to make sure that I was really in active labor before I got in the car.

 

Kimberly: I think you were in good, active labor. I saw that you were in a good pattern and your husband being nervous-- I didn’t want that to affect you. I know that his worry was having a baby at home, so I didn’t want that nervousness to affect your labor. I felt like for everyone, the situation was better if we just went ahead and went, even though we still had a little bit of time that we could have waited. I think it allowed him the peace of mind so that he could relax and just focus on helping you.

 

Harmony: Yeah, exactly. I do remember you saying that now-- that you were like, “I think it would be a good idea. Let’s go ahead and go.”

 

We got in the car. You followed us in your car. I remember thinking that the contractions were going to stop when I got in the car because we had talked about how that could happen between the house and the birth center. But I didn’t. They kept coming. I remember feeling so encouraged. It was at that point-- and I know that sounds really weird, that it was that far into my labor. I was like, “I am in labor.” It was like it took that much for me to go, “Okay.”

 

Meagan: It clicked.

 

Harmony: I know. It sounds really weird because I had been laboring for a long time, but I think prodromal labor really makes you doubt when you are actually in labor.

 

Meagan: Totally.

 

Julie: Oh, it totally does. It totally does.

 

Harmony: Somehow, I remember saying to you, “Kim, I feel like I’m going to disappoint people”. Do you remember me saying that?

 

Kimberly: I do.

 

Harmony: I remember saying, “I feel like it’s going to slow down again. Here is everybody doing this for me and it’s going to stop.” But when I got in the car and they kept coming, I was like, “Oh my gosh. I’m going to have a baby.”

 

Kimberly: You were worried about that false alarm and I’m like, “Nope, this is what we do. Sometimes it happens and it’s okay, but I don’t think that’s happening.”

 

Harmony: Yeah, exactly. I remember asking you, “Are these going to stop?” when I was laying on the couch. You said, “I don’t think so. I think this is it.”

 

We got to the birth center and I remember having another really big contraction when I got out of the car. My midwife met us there and she did what you would consider a regular check-in. She checked my blood pressure, and took my temperature, and all those things, and then left me to labor which I think is great. That’s exactly what I wanted. And I had Kim there the whole time. We walked around the hallway. I labored on the couch and on the bed.

 

Something I wanted to say was how helpful the counterpressure was for me and that you did that even when I was sitting on the couch. She would push on my knees to create counterpressure. That would help me through those.

 

Kimberly: Your husband did a great job of helping with that too.

 

Harmony: Yeah, he did. He did great. He was very supportive the whole time, trying to be there for me. 

 

So, let’s see. On the next morning-- it actually ended up being into the morning. I labored all night, and then my midwife came in. I was laying down on the bed trying to sleep through some of the contractions. I don’t remember everything word for word, but I remember her saying, “I think we should go ahead and check you,” because I don’t think I looked necessarily like-- and this is where you can tell me, Kim-- I don’t know that I looked like I was as far into labor as I was.

 

Kimberly: You were handling your contractions very well. Your face and your demeanor was very calm the way you were breathing through them, so I’m not sure if maybe she expected that you weren’t going to be as far along as you were, but you were laboring beautifully.

 

Harmony: Yeah, and later I said to her, “Did you think it was too soon?” She said, “I thought that it was a little soon, but it wasn’t. It was totally right.” She’s wonderful too, very supportive. Like I said, the whole birth center-- and I had a wonderful midwife that was very hands-off as far as my labor. 

 

So when she checked me, I remember thinking, “What if I am not as far as I think I am?” But when she checked me, she said, “Well, you’re definitely in labor. You are at a 7.” I couldn’t believe it.

 

I couldn’t believe that I was at a 7 and that I had been laboring active labor that long, and been able to do it without saying, “I can’t do this,” or, “This is too painful,” because my experience with my daughter with the Pitocin was-- those contractions were horrible. They were right on top of each other. There was just no break at all. I think I dilated to maybe a 5 or 6 with her, maybe a 4 or a 5. I’m not positive. But after she checked me and said that I was a 7, I laid there for a little while. My husband was like, “You need to rest. Let’s try to rest for a little bit.” She said, “Yeah. Let’s close the blinds.”

 

It had become light outside and so my midwife said, “Let’s close the blinds and have you try to rest a little bit, then in a little bit, get you up and walking around.” I think we did that and then I got into the tub at one point, which I really wanted to do. I knew that would be very comforting to me. I stayed in there for a little while.

 

Again, I had Kim too. I remember getting in the tub being worried that my contractions were going to slow down, but you were tracking them. You were like, “Nope. They’re still coming. They’re still coming at that regular interval for you.” At that point, my midwife did check me and I was still at 7, but she could feel his head and my waters were intact. She said, “Do you want me to break your waters?” I was not sure what I wanted to do at that point, because I really wanted to not have any type of intervention at all. But Kim and I talked about it, and I talked about it with my husband, and we decided, I was at a seven. It probably was okay to go ahead and do that.

 

We did that and it didn’t take long before the contractions started to feel a little bit more like what I would describe just as-- I don’t know if I can do this. That started to come into my mind. I was like, “This is getting scary for me,” because I felt like-- when you know that you are about to make a decision by breaking your water that you can’t take back, and you can’t escape those contractions at that point, so you just have to go, “Well, this is going to be hard, but I have to see it through.” 

 

I do remember getting out of the tub at one point, because I just felt like, “I can’t be in this tub by myself.” I started to feel like, “I feel really alone in this tub. I can’t be in the tub by myself. I have to get out.” So, everybody helped me out of the tub. At that point, I remember feeling a sharp, searing pain around my hips and abdomen. That scared me because I just didn’t know if that was my incision or not. Although the percentage of that happening-- isn’t it less than 1%? It still scared me.

 

My midwife came in at that point. I remember saying, “I am scared.” She said, “Well, what are you scared of?” I said, “I’m afraid that this is my incision.” I’m afraid that the pain that I’m feeling is my incision. She said, “Okay. Do you think that’s what is happening?” I remember before I could even think about it any further, I had another huge contraction that brought me to my knees. I remember my mom holding me against her and trying to support me. It was really hard for my husband and my mom to see me in so much pain. Although they were really supportive, I know that took a lot out of them as well. So, I remember that. I remember my mom holding me.

 

That obviously was not what was happening. As far as the incision rupturing, that wasn’t what was happening, but that fear is still there, even though it’s a small percentage. You have to choose to believe that it is okay and that the percentage of that happening is very small, and so that’s probably not going to be what happens.

 

At that point, I got on the bed because my midwife said, “Would you like to start trying to push?” I’m like, “Yes,” because what I had been told up to that point by a lot of women was, “It feels so much better to push because it’s like you were able to do something with that pain.” I was like, “Yes. Yes. I want to get on the bed and do that.” 

 

I got up on the bed and that’s when it got really crazy for me. This is where, Kim, I could probably use some of your perspective because being in transition-- people can tell you how intense it is, but until you are in it, I don’t think you can really understand what that feels like. I remember saying, “I can’t do this.” I said, “I can’t.”

 

Kimberly: I think a lot of your pain too, just from my observation-- it does feel good for a lot of women to push, but if I remember correctly, you had a bit of a cervical lip that they were trying to get you to push past and that can definitely be pretty painful to try to be pushing past a cervical lip. So, I think that’s why yours maybe felt a little different, and of course, is going to give a different sensation that you weren’t expecting.

 

Harmony: Yeah. I know that my hips were in constant pain, which I guess was just them spreading. My midwife would say, “That’s your baby. Your baby is trying to come down,” because I was like, “Oh, my hips. I can’t do this. I need somebody to push on my hips.” I felt like I was out of control. It felt like there was a lot of noise in my head, which I realized was in my head later as I watched some video back. It was pretty quiet and calm, but in my head, it was like everybody was talking. I was screaming. It was like my perspective was off. 

 

When you are in transition, it’s like you are in your own world. That was what was scary for me was when I started going, “I need you guys to take me to the hospital. I can’t do this.” I remember people saying, “No. No, you’ve got this. You can do this. Harmony, he is almost here. His head is right here. You can push him out.” That is so, so important to have a team of people that believe in you.

 

Kimberly: I think your husband reminding you, “Nope. This is what you told me you wanted. You told me if you said you wanted to go to the hospital that you didn’t really mean it.” I think him reminding you of that was really pivotal.

 

Harmony: Yeah, I did. I said to him, “I need you to understand how important this is to me. Right now, I know I can do it, but when I am in labor, I probably won’t feel like I can do it. So, I need you to say to me, ‘No. You can do this and I am going to help you get through this.’” He said exactly that. He said, “I remember saying to you that you may be mad at me right now, but I am just doing what you told me to do, and so, I need you to reach inside you and push him out.”

 

Kimberly: When you first said that you wanted to go to the hospital because you didn’t feel like you could do it anymore, from the other side, we could see his head when you were pushing so we knew how close you were.

 

Harmony: That’s the thing was like, I couldn’t see anything, obviously. One of the midwives actually offered to put a mirror. She said, “Look. Sometimes this helps.” I was like, “No, no. I don’t want to see it,” because I think there was part of me that felt like if I saw the baby’s head coming out-- I was already so overstimulated with what was happening, I was afraid it was going to send me over the edge on what was happening.

 

She was like, “Okay, okay. No problem. You don’t have to look.” I felt bad because I felt like-- maybe I didn’t yell, but I talked very strongly during the labor to some people. I said to her, “No, I don’t want to see it.” She was like, “Okay, no problem. You don’t have to look.” Then, at one point, people were saying, “Push, Harmony. You need to push.” I was like, “Stop telling me to push. I am pushing.” I wouldn’t normally talk to people that way. I said that to Kim. I felt so bad because I was talking to people that I barely knew that way and being very forceful, but you just don’t have it in you to think about your wording or your tone of voice.

 

At one point, they told me to reach down and feel his head because it was coming out. I reached down, but it did not feel like a head. I know that sounds really weird, but it didn’t feel very round, and so I guess that’s because he was trying to come through. The midwife assistant and I laughed about it because she said, “Yeah, you reached down and you went, ‘what is that?’” They were like, “It’s his head. It’s his head. He is trying to come out.” I think there was part of me that felt like he was never going to come out. I kept trying to push, but I was like, “Man. Why is this taking so long?”

 

At one point, my mom had to leave the room because I was in so much pain. She just said, “I had to leave for a second.” She actually got sick in the bathroom because it was so intense. Again, I don’t know what it was like from your perspective, Kim, but that may have just been--

 

Kimberly: Your mom was definitely struggling, but she was fantastic. I had one hip laying on the bed across the bed shoving on one hip and she was in there shoving on the other. You could tell she was ready for it to be over for you and you could tell how strong she was feeling your emotions.

 

Harmony: Yeah. I mean, totally supportive, but just trying to hang in there, I think. It’s just hard to see your child in pain. I even felt my husband at one point while I was pushing, I felt him start to shake. I looked up and he was crying. I thought that was because, “Oh, the baby’s head. He’s crying because the baby’s head is out.” But he told me later that he was crying-- he was like, “No. You were just in so much pain. It was really hard for me to see that.”

 

What’s cool about that too is, I feel like it bonded us even more in our marriage for him to see what I was doing to try to get the baby here. At one point I reached down again. That’s when I started to feel what is described as the ring of fire. I felt sharp, sharp, sharp, sharp pain in my vagina. I reached down and then I felt, “Oh, that is his head for sure. His head is almost out.” 

That was what gave me the strength that I needed to feel that we were almost there. I pushed and I pushed. 

 

Really quickly, I remember somebody saying, “Okay. Get on your hands and knees.” I did that as best I could. I felt a bunch of people help put me over on my hands and knees on the bed. And then, I was told to push some more and then all of a sudden, I felt the pressure go away and I knew. I remember in the video I said, “Is he here? He came out?” and he had. He had come out. I turned around and saw him. 

 

I’m sorry. I am getting emotional. That moment was probably one of the best moments of my life to see him there and know that I had done it, that I had my VBAC, and that first of all, I was out of that pain that felt like I was just in this pain spiral that I couldn’t get out of. But that now, I had actually done it and he was here. That was one of the best moments of my life-- just being able to hold him and know that I had this accomplishment and that he was here, and safe. My husband was very emotional about it. Everybody’s crying in the video.

 

My mother-in-law and my mother were both there and got to witness that. My mom has said to me later, “I never had really seen a baby coming out of a vagina.” That was interesting to be able to know that was a new experience for her too. It was just a really wonderful moment. Afterwards, my daughter got to come in and get in the bed with us and see him. All of that, I have a video. 

 

It was really wonderful to feel like I could have let fear dictate that moment. I could have tried to play it safe, which, for me-- and I am just speaking for me. For me, it would have been playing it safe to choose to birth someplace else because I was scared. But I chose to birth where I birthed because I wanted to have an untouched VBAC that could just allow my body to do it. I didn’t know how hard it was going to be if I’m being honest with you. I did not know that it was going to be as hard as it was. I still can’t believe that I did it, but I did. 

 

I’m really glad that I didn’t just let fear take that away from me, that I got to have that wonderful moment when I pushed him out, and I got to have my daughter there, and see my husband see his baby for the first time on his chest in an environment that wasn’t medical, which-- for me, it was just a different experience than my previous birth, which is okay. Like I said, that was our story. The C-section with my daughter was still wonderful to have her on my chest and everything like that, but that was just a different experience that I got to have with my son.

 

So, yeah. I mean, I guess the number one thing that I would say is how important it is to build a team of people that believe in you and believe in VBAC 100%. That was part of why I was able to go through this pregnancy completely and not be rushed into a deadline going into labor or feeling like it needed to be controlled. It just was. It was what it was. 

 

It was like I hadn’t even had a C-section before in how I was treated if that makes sense. It was just like, “Yeah. We are going to let you go through this pregnancy.” At the birth center, they believed that I could do it and my midwife like I said, was wonderful. I never felt along the way from anybody that they thought that it was going to go south. They all just believed that I could do it. 

 

And when it came time for me to go into transition, and pushing, and I didn’t think I could do it anymore, it was really important that I had the people in that room. Everybody in that room was like, “No. You can do this.” It’s so important because you can’t necessarily see the finish line when you are in a lot of pain and it’s really intense. All you can think about is that and it’s our natural inclination to just be like, “How can I make this stop? I need an epidural,” but that wasn’t an option for me because I was at a birth center and that’s part of why I chose to birth in the birth center because I wanted to try to avoid interventions.

 

So, that’s pretty much my story. I don’t know if Kim wants to say anything else. I was interested to hear what her perspective was when they told me to get on my hands and knees because you could see things, probably, that I couldn’t see in that moment.

 

Kimberly: Yeah, so I was down by your hip pushing and I could see. You had birthed his head and he had a bit of shoulder dystocia. That’s when Sally started to move and I told you to flip over to your hands and knees because I knew that’s what it was going to take to get baby’s shoulder dislodged. And you were great. A lot of moms are like, “What? There is a baby’s head between my legs. How am I supposed to move?” 

 

You did fantastic and that’s exactly what it took. It was quick. Stories like yours are exactly why I am passionate about VBAC. I was honored to get to be a part of your experience and I have a new friend, just simply.

 

Harmony: Thank you. Yeah, me too. I couldn’t have done it without you. I couldn’t have done it without anybody there because I needed that extra push when it came-- no pun intended. But I did need that extra push. I did need that from everybody else to tell me they could see the perspective and go, “No. You’ve got this. His head is almost out. I know that you feel like you can’t, but you can do this.” 

 

I’m just so thankful. I’m so thankful for everybody in the room and so thankful for Kim. I’m so thankful for the birth center and I’m so thankful for my midwife and the assistant. There was another midwife there. And my mom, and my mother-in-law, and my husband, and how they were in it with me. They didn’t say, “Okay, yeah. We probably need to go to the hospital at this point,” because I was in pain. My husband said, “I wanted to do that, but when we would take your blood pressure, it was fine. When we would take his heart rate, he was fine. And so, I was like, this is what she told me to do and so I am just going to keep pushing her through it.”

 

That’s pretty much the story. I’m sorry if it was too long.

 

Julie: No, it was great.

 

Meagan: No, you are awesome. I loved that you two were able to bounce off. Where you couldn’t remember, she-- it was really cool.

 

Julie: Super fun.

 

Harmony: Yeah. I do remember trying to move and feeling like, “Oh, it feels like there’s something really big stuck down there.” And there was.

 

Julie: There was.

 

Meagan: Oh, a baby’s head. No big deal.

 

Harmony: I feel like I can’t move, but I did move. I got over on my hands and knees somehow. Yeah, I didn’t know that his shoulder was stuck. But, they got him out.

 

Julie: That’s awesome.

 

Harmony: He was 8 pounds, 2 ounces, so a full pound heavier than my daughter.

 

Meagan: Isn’t it crazy how that works?

 

Harmony: I know. My mom and I were talking about it and she was like, “Yeah, I don’t know.” With me, she had me vaginally. My brothers too, but with me, it was during the time when-- now, I think they can give you an epidural basically right before you push, but the way it used to be was like-- she was too far along. So when she got to the hospital, they were like, “Sorry. It’s too late.” 

 

She just looked at my dad and said, “I can’t do this.” You know, because she had-- she was like, “I can’t do this. I can’t.” But she had had me vaginally and naturally, and she said, “I don’t remember feeling that pain in my hips, but that’s because you were my last baby.” So, I don’t know if for me it was because it was literally my first vaginal birth and he was pretty big. I think his head was 14.75 inches, and his shoulders were big, and his abdomen was almost as big around as his head, but I don’t know if that’s why I felt so much pain centralized in my hips.

 

Julie: Definitely could be.

 

Meagan: Could have been.

 

Julie: bigger babies, a little more pressure down there.

 

Harmony: Yeah, a little bit more.

 

Julie: Well, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. It was definitely a lot of fun to have both of you on. 

 

If you are interested in becoming a VBAC Doula yourself, then go ahead and check out our courses at thevbaclink.com/shop and if you are interested, we also have a parent’s course that will make you and your doula the perfect powerhouse team-- confident and educated going into the birth space in order for you to have the very best, empowering birth experience that you possibly can.

 

Meagan: And if you are looking for a doula, go to our website, thevbaclink.com/findadoula, and find your state or your country because we have doulas in lots of other countries as well. Check it out and see if there is a doula near you. I promise you, these guys are amazing. These doulas are absolutely phenomenal.

 

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.

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

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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.

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

 

This discussion is only the beginning. 

 

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

 

Additional links

 

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents

The VBAC Link Community

 

VBAC Link Blogs: 

Writing a Home Birth Plan

Natural Birth versus Epidural

Home Birth After C-section (HBAC)

Laboring at Home

What to Write in a VBAC Birth Plan

13 Tips to Prepare for an Empowering Birth

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

The VBAC Link Shop

 

Episode sponsor

 

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

 

Full transcript

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

 

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

 

Julie: Woohoo!

 

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

 

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

 

Meagan: We do. We do. 

 

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

 

Meagan: We don’t?!

 

Julie: We need to write one. 

 

Meagan: Oh, Laboring at Home. Yeah. 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Meagan: Yeah, we do. We totally do. 

 

Review of the Week

 

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

 

Meagan: You should read a review. 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Julie: Anne McLaughlin.

 

Meagan: We’re stalking you, Anne.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Julie: Two. There are only two now.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Episode sponsor

 

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

 

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

 

Hospital birth versus home birth

 

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

 

Meagan: Let’s do it.

 

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

 

Julie: Yeah, pretty much.

 

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

 

Julie: Boom.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Meagan: That’s cool. That’s awesome.

 

Julie: Well, now, you know.

 

Meagan: Congrats, Anne. Yes.

 

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

 

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

 

Julie: Do it.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Meagan: Yeah, no. Totally, yeah.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Meagan: They have a lot of holistic things too.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Julie: And their training.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Meagan: Totally.

 

Julie: They know your specific needs more.

 

Meagan: Yes.

 

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

 

Meagan: Yeah, maybe. Yeah.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Additional links

Spinning Babies Abdominal Lift

With U Parenting

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents

 

Episode sponsor

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

 

Full transcript

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Julie: A few?

 

Tara: A few, yeah. 

 

Julie: 31 and 32. 

 

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

 

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

 

Tara: Totally. Yeah.

 

Brigette: Yes.

 

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

 

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

 

Review of the Week

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Episode sponsor

 

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

 

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

 

Brigette’s story

 

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

 

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

 

Julie: Oh, okay.

 

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

 

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

 

Brigette: COVID? COVID and children.

 

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

 

Tara: It does get more expensive.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Julie: Miserable. Miserable.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Julie: You had a really good doula.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Julie: Yep.

 

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

 

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

 

Julie: It’s awful.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

But they really suck. They’re hard.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Tara: Yay, that’s amazing.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Brigette: More hard rock music.

 

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

 

Julie: Yeah, do you have the notes?

 

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

 

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

 

Tara: That’s incredible.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Preparing your cervix for birth

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Tara: Pineapple core all the way.

 

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

 

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

 

Tara: Yeah, an enzyme. Yeah.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Also, being all in. You were all in.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Tara: Thank you. Congratulations, Brigette.

 

Brigette: Thank you so much.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Additional links

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Preparation Course for Parents

The VBAC Link on Apple Podcasts

Episode sponsor

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

 

Full transcript

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Review of the Week

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Episode sponsor

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

Alison’s story

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Julie: Oh, my gosh!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Julie: Oh, no!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Julie: I love that.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Advocating for yourself

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Julie: Good.

 

Meagan: So good.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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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