December 2, 2020

153 Marilys’ VBAC + The untold CBAC and VBAC stories

Calling all listeners! Whether you’re preparing for a VBAC, have already had your VBAC, had a planned or unplanned CBAC, or are a birth worker, this episode is for YOU.


Mari Vega is a powerful force in the birth world. Through her VBAC experience, Mari found her voice. Not only did she find it, but she realized that it is loud, it is confident, and it is beautiful. Mari is now on a mission to help all moms with any birth outcome feel heard, valued, and loved.


To the woman who has faced obstetric mistreatment during any birth, we see you. To the woman who is struggling with finding a VBAC supportive provider, we see you. To the woman who fought so hard for her VBAC and did everything right, yet got an unwanted CBAC, we see you. We see you, women of strength, and we love you. We are proud of you.


Also joining us this episode is one of our VBAC trained doulas, Allie Mennie, who has a true gift with words.


We have a special assignment for all of our listeners at the end of this truly impactfull episode. Tune in to find out what it is. We cannot WAIT to hear from each of you!


Topics today include:

- How to get your VBAC everything is working against you

- The importance of reporting obstetric mistreatment

- Finding the strength to share your CBAC story

- Releasing sorrow from any birth outcome to find greater joy


Additional links

Mari Vega’s website, Instagram, and Facebook pages


Alli Mennie’s website, Instagram, and Facebook pages


Email your letters to 


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 to find out more information and sign up today.

Full transcript

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


Julie: Alright, Women of Strength. It is Women of Strength Wednesday and we are here for you with a podcast with one of our newest, most favorite people in the world. Her name is Mari Vega and she’s doing a lot of really amazing things. 


But before I try and talk about four things at once like I tend to do, I am going to let you guys know that Meagan is out doing some very important things right now. Lots of very important things and she could not make it on the podcast today, unfortunately. But I am very, very lucky because we have one of our VBAC trained doulas with us and her name is Allie Mennie. Is that how you say your last name?


Allie: Yep, Mennie.


Julie: Mennie. Allie Mennie. I love it. Allie Mennie with North Shore Doula in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Now let me tell you, when I first saw that she was North Shore Doula, I was thinking about North Shore Doulas in Louisiana in the United States, where we were supposed to go travel to before the coronavirus turned the world upside down. So, completely other country, completely other end of the continent. Well kind of, not really the end of the continent. You’re midway through the continent I suppose. 


But guess what, Allie is really cool because she used to be an alpaca wrangler at a kids’ petting zoo in Los Angeles when she was in high school. I’ve got to tell you, I was not expecting her to say the most valuable lesson that wrangling alpacas taught her for birth work. So, I want her to share that with you. Allie, tell us about wrangling alpacas and birth work.


Allie: Yeah, I find little things that have helped me all throughout my life. I can attribute everything to something. But specifically, wrangling alpacas as a teenager was very stressful for celebrity kids’ parties in Los Angeles. Before every single event that we would put on, I’d have to walk up and bow to the alpacas, so they understood that there was no power struggle. I would bow down so my head was well under theirs and they would give me this look. I’d be like, “Alright. Don’t take a kid’s finger off today. We are on the same page. Here we go.” 


But I say that it gave me very good insight into working with anesthesiologists. “I understand. You are the king in the room. I will bow to you. There is no power struggle here.”


Julie: Yes. Be submissive. That’s awesome. I grew up training horses. Very opposite-- you have to be the dominant one. You face them directly head-on and then they know that they are not supposed to approach you, because that’s a horse’s nature-- the dominant male in the group. If he stands up straight to you, then you’re not supposed to approach him until he turns his shoulder to the side. 


So that’s what we would do. In part of my training, I would face forward, slowly turn my shoulder towards the horse, then have it come up to me and all of those things. It’s funny how opposite that is. That explains maybe why I have a power struggle sometimes in the birth room. Not a power struggle anyone can see, but an internal one.


Allie: You’re like, “Turn your shoulder.”


Julie: Yes. I’ll be like, “I am standing, facing you. Don’t you dare move.” Oh, just kidding. Okay well, kind of. 


Anyways. I am really excited to talk to Mari Vega. Meagan and her have been working together to pick the perfect topic. I’m really sad that Meagan can’t be here today, but I’m really excited that Allie can.

Review of the week

Julie: Before we get to Mari, we are going to have Allie read a review of the week for us.


Allie: Sure thing. This one comes from Mandym826 from Apple Podcasts reviews. She says, “I am preparing for my VBAC in a few weeks and this podcast has taught me so much! I have had many fears and worries about it and the research and birth stories covered in this podcast have helped me stay focused on my goals. I hope to be contacting you, ladies, with my successful VBAC story one day soon! Thanks for all that you do!”


Julie: Oh, I love that. Okay, now my mind is going into stalker mode. That review was left in January and it is now October. What was the name of the reviewer?


Allie: MandyM826.


Julie: Okay. While Mari is talking, I am going to go look for Mandy M. in our Facebook community, see if she’s in our Facebook community, and I can stalk her to see if she had her birth, because it’s fun. I can’t have these types of things without the closure. You can’t just say you want to share your story on the podcast without me wondering if you had your VBAC, or how your birth went.


Allie: We are coming for you, Mandy.


Julie: I love it.

Episode sponsor

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

Mari’s story

Julie: Well, we are here today and so excited. This has been a long time coming. Mari Vega is an incredible woman. She is on a mission to support women in tapping into their intuition so that they can nurture their entire selves and experience motherhood with confidence. Her personal and professional experiences evoke a deep sense of advocacy to voice the vulnerabilities of womanhood and parenthood. As an author, coach, speaker, and podcaster, Marilys-- is that how you say it?


Mari: You’ve got it so right. Yes, go girl.


Julie: I’m practicing my accent. Marilys gives voice to the raw, vulnerable truths of motherhood and offers coaching and support for breastfeeding and VBAC mamas. Mari has a lot of resources for you on social media. On Instagram, she’s @mari_vega and on Facebook, she is Mari Vega Motherhood.


We’re going to link all of her resources in our show notes. So if you want to find her, just go ahead and scroll to the notes on this podcast episode and click on the links that you find there.


My goodness, we have had such a fun time finding a topic to talk about today on the podcast. I don’t even kind of know what this podcast episode is going to be titled yet. I’m going to name it when we’re done. 


After Mari briefly shares her VBAC story with us, we are going to talk about how we handle VBAC when we feel like everybody’s working against us or everybody’s doubting us, how to cope when we don’t get a VBAC or when we have an unplanned Cesarean and why people kind of shy away from sharing that story. We are going to talk about doulas— being a doula and how to cope when your client doesn’t get her VBAC because we are so emotionally invested and want that VBAC birth for these parents almost as much as they do, and it can be really hard to process through all of those things. So, look forward to all of those things in this episode.


I’m just really excited because these are some things that I don’t necessarily have answers to myself. I’m glad that we’re going to have a discussion about all of these things. So before I keep on rambling-- I’m really hard at making the transition. I feel like I have to have a hard stop and then the other person starts talking, or else I keep on talking because silence is awkward for me. Anyways, Mari, why don’t you go ahead and share with us a little bit about your VBAC birth.


Mari: Yes, so thank you for that wonderful introduction, and Allie, I’m so excited to also get your perspective on this call. Just to quickly add to the introduction, I recently also became certified to be a chapter lead for Northern New Jersey’s ICAN organization. I share that because I’m new to that role and holding space for CBAC mamas has quickly become a big topic for me. So I’m happy that we get to have this conversation today. It feels very timely. 


I guess to set the stage, I had my daughter, my first child, in 2016. I had thought it would take longer to get pregnant, so I don’t think I was emotionally ready. I was 27 years old. I had a lot of friends in their 30’s having trouble getting pregnant and so I thought it would take us a long time. I was in love. I asked my partner, “I want a baby. I don’t want to go through the whole, ‘get engaged to get married, buy a house, have a baby.’ I love you. Are you down for this or not?” And after a few months of thinking, he said, “You know what? I get why you want to try so that we’re not in a position where you’re really upset every month that you don’t get pregnant.”


I wanted it to be a surprise. I remember still being like, “Wow. I didn’t think I’d get pregnant in two months.” That was a big shocker. I don’t know why, but I just went on YouTube or the Internet and I saw a video of one woman having a natural birth and screaming in pain, a video of someone having a Cesarean-- I’ve never had surgery so that looked scary, then I saw a woman look peaceful with medication in a bed, having a baby with an epidural, and I was like, “Well, that looks like a great medium. That’s what I’ll go for.” That was honestly the extent to which I thought through what my labor and delivery could look like. I just assumed that I would have medication to not feel pain and that my baby would flow out of me, and everything would go great.


I get to the day that I’m going to give birth. My water breaks in the middle of the night and I’m having contractions every two minutes. I’m having back labor-- not that I knew any of this vocabulary at the time. I gave birth in New York City, so I was just so happy to go into labor in the middle of the night because traffic jams are just an absolute nightmare in the city. I was like, “Great. We’ll get to the hospital in no time and everything.” 


I get to the hospital. They’re like, “Yeah, you’ve got your water broke. Go ahead. We’re going to admit you.” I’m like, “Give me the epidural. Give me the epidural. Can I get the epidural? I just don’t want to feel pain. I don’t like this pain. It’s too much. It’s too much.”


I get an epidural. I go to sleep. I push for two, two and a half hours and then I’m told I need a Cesarean because my daughter is not coming down, and it will take another eight hours of me pushing for her to come down.


Julie: Oh my gosh. They said that to you?


Mari: Yeah. I was pretty devastated because I had my asthma acting up. I couldn’t even get through-- you know how they ask you to push ten times? I think around breath seven I couldn’t even breathe anymore, so I couldn’t even breathe through my contractions. I was hyperventilating. 


No one offered me oxygen. I look at mom videos sometimes, or their photos and they’re holding the oxygen mask and I’m like, “How is it possible that nobody offered me oxygen in a hospital?”


Like, what? I also delivered at an educational hospital. I have a lot of friends who are studying to be in the medical field and so I thought, “Well, let me be kind and let me agree that I can have students.” I had millions of students coming in, checking me. I had no idea what I was getting into and I had absolutely no privacy. I was full of fear. I was full of anxiety. 


I couldn’t breathe and I was in excruciating pain because the epidural was off. I was 10 centimeters and pushing, from having had full medication to now no medication. I started crying my eyes out and I signed a waiver of release for a Cesarean and I was rolled into the operating room. I had the joy of listening to the OB teach my Cesarean birth to a bunch of students on the other side of the curtain. 


Julie: Oh my gosh. 


Mari: I remember it was horrific. I just remember thinking, “I’m going to die.” I remember I was-- at this point, I had vomited everything I had before getting my epidural and resting. I had probably not eaten for about almost 24 hours. I’d only had water. I was so exhausted. I was so thirsty. I vividly remember looking at my husband and saying at the time, not even having the energy to articulate to him like, “Will you spit in my mouth?” That is how thirsty I was and how low my energy was, where I generally kept thinking, “I’m not going to make it.”


I was shaking. I was cold and my arms were tied down. I kept having a very chipper, cheery college student in my ear saying, “Honey, your vitals are great. You’re not going to die.”


Fast forward to 2020, and the rate of Cesarean and the maternal mortality rate, how it keeps rising in the US. We’re a First World country and we’re number 52 or 53 in the list of countries for maternal mortality. That is absolutely irresponsible. 


We are a first-world country. Why are women dying as a result of birth or pregnancy-related—or in their first year of being a mother. That’s just unacceptable. Actually, knowing the statistics and looking back at that feeling, no wonder that was so hard for me to let go of the feeling that I was going to lose my life. In that moment, that’s what it felt like.


So I share all that just to say that obstetric violence aside and obstetric bullying aside, I also just generally had that fear that I wasn’t going to make it, and so I know that this can’t be life. This is absolutely not what I want in the future.


This is a small detail that I sometimes skip over, but I think it’s important to note. I was asked in front of my two support family members that I brought-- my stepmom was with me and my husband. I was asked in front of them, “Are you being abused at home?” If that was my only opportunity to get help, they just blew it for me.


Allie: Wow.


Julie: Oh, yeah. You know what? I ended up in the ER in the middle of the night a few nights ago for a really, really horrible migraine. I went and got what they call a “migraine cocktail”. That’s the only thing that could save me at that time, but my husband was there, like two feet away from me, answering all my questions. The doctor looked at me-- you know the admittance questions, and he’s like, “Do you feel safe at home?” And I’m like, “Yeah.”


Even in my painful, migraine state, I could know that “Yeah, nobody’s going to say ‘no’ when their husband is two feet in front of them.” I mean, I do feel safe at home for the record, but I just-- yeah.


Mari: For the record, me too. Exactly. But you know, I encourage you to go back and report that because I did at my six-week post-op. I did report that back to the OB and actually, on the spot, he called the hospital teacher and said, “Immediately pull all the students and tell them what I just heard, and that they better not make that mistake again.”


Julie: Wow.


Mari: It did feel good to know that this kind of feedback is important.


Julie: Because who knows who you saved by having that educational moment.


Mari: Yeah, and there’s something about us getting to give the feedback back to the doctors, which I know is kind of what we were thinking we’ll talk about on this episode. But you know, there’s something about giving our feedback to providers whether it’s positive or constructive. These doctors need to be well-informed of how let down we are with the way that they didn’t hold space for us on our ways to VBACs.


That’s, I think, the big thing for me. I had all this rage during my pregnancy and I truly wonder looking back, how much of it was because all these doctors didn’t believe in me. Nobody wants to feel like that from their medical provider. I almost feel like if we can create a campaign to write a letter to your-- you know how they say to write a letter. You don’t need to mail it. You just release your pain. Write a letter to the OB with what they said to you because maybe they will forget the words, but people never forget the feeling-- the way you made them feel. These doctors, they need to get this feedback, and that’s how they are hopefully going to try to turn it around.


Quickly then, just a highlight of my second birth, I ended up getting pregnant two and a half years later. I had, at that time, researched ICAN. I knew the statistics and had found The VBAC Link and The Birth Hour and listened to all the stories. I knew what to do.


When I went to interview midwives, I really wanted to go with them. Financially, it wasn’t wasn’t going to work out because I have pretty awesome insurance, so it was really hard for me to try and go out of pocket and pay thousands when my insurance was going to cover basically everything. I struggled to find in their in-network providers that were supportive. I ended up going with providers that were near my house-- literally a three-minute drive. I was just like, “You know what? I’ll just stay comfortable. I have to see them so often. I’ll just stay nearby.”


From the get, I was told that I had clearly a small pelvis and that if the baby didn’t descend the first time, that my second baby would probably be bigger and probably also not descend. My first child was 8 lbs. 8 oz. and failure to descend when you’re at stage -2-- it was pretty condescending to say it was due to a small pelvis because baby wasn’t even in the birth canal. Ready to pop out-- I do know that for some women when you say for a fact, it’s because you saw it. You know what I mean?


How dare you say something like that, but anyways. He was really VBAC tolerant, not friendly. He was like, “Well, if you go into labor by your due date-- because we can’t induce you. If you go into labor by your due date and if everything goes the way. The best bet for you, I’ll let you push for one hour and then you have to get a C-section.” I was like, “What are you talking about?” So I’m like, “Alright, let me just wish for the best.”


It was Christmas Eve and I was coming for my 22 or 20-week appointment and a new provider-- because they have like, five providers. One of them, she came to me and she’s like, “Well, let’s read through your paperwork.” And so she’s like, “Is this your name?” Yes. “Is this your date of birth?” Yeah. “I see here it says you’ve elected a Cesarean.”


And I flipped out. I’m like, “I’ve literally talked about VBAC—"


Julie: Oh my gosh!


Mari: Yeah. I’m like, “Who wrote that? Did the doctor write that?” And she’s like, “Ma’am, sometimes we make mistakes. That’s the purpose of reviewing the paperwork with you.” And I was like, “Yeah, but I have said VBAC till I’m blue in the face, so for anyone to write the words ‘elective Cesarean’ in my paperwork is just plain disrespectful. I need to leave this practice. Please check my baby and get out of my face. Like I can’t. I can’t. Like I remember—"


Julie: Good for you. You know, one of my friends that’s a fellow doula-- sorry to interrupt.


Mari: Go ahead.


Julie: For her first birth, she was wheeled into the operating room, screaming that she did not want a Cesarean. Her doctor wrote on her op report that it was an elective Cesarean, that she chose it. Does that not just light your fire?


Mari: These are the types of things. These are the kinds of things. We have to go back. We have to go back and advocate for ourselves, even after the fact.


Yeah, so that made me switch providers. I spent all Christmas and New Year’s looking for a new provider. I find a new provider and I switched to that office. They’re like, “Yep. We are super VBAC friendly. We’ve got you. We’ve got you.” And I go, “Okay.”


At my 30 week appointment, they want to book my C-section, “just in case”. I said, “You know, I can understand that. I can understand that, however, I’m not booking it.” A lady still calls me and I said, “Okay, you know what? I’m comfortable with this particular date that’s six days after my due date, just because if I’m going to end up with a Cesarean, then I at least want the date to mean something to me.” That date meant something to me. It was my great grandma‘s birthday. She had passed many years ago. But I was like, “You know what? If I have to have a Cesarean, then give me until—" and it was almost 41 weeks. I was comfortable with this particular date.


Well, she has a vacation. “She’s not going to be around, so I can’t give you that date. We have to go sooner.” I was like, “Okay, sure.” I set up the appointment. I hung up. I went to an ICAN meeting and said, “When you start to assume that you’re just not going to show up to your Cesarean appointment, should I switch doctors?”


They’re like, “Yeah. You really shouldn’t just not show up. That’s a sign that you probably should switch again.” I’m like, “Yeah, but I’m 30 something weeks pregnant. My husband‘s going to think I’m crazy because my husband-- he just lets me do my thing, but his family is very much pro-Cesarean. In fact, on Christmas day, they decided to remind me that I should be selfless and get a Cesarean to not make this about myself. That was really a wonderful Christmas present. Oh gosh, they’re going to hear this and be like, “That’s not what we said.”


But anyway, ultimately at the end of the day, they had a natural birth with their first child and things didn’t go as planned. She has lived a certain life because of that with certain limitations. They’re just saying, “Why would you even risk having something go wrong in the birth canal? A C-section is clearly much easier. You can ensure your baby won’t have any trauma.”


I don’t blame them. People just assume that a baby having to go through the birth canal is traumatic. Meanwhile, that entire time your body is letting them know that something is going to happen. You don’t think it’s traumatic that you’re chilling there and then somebody just rips you out of your warmth?


Julie: Yes, yes!


Mari: You’re in mommy’s belly and you’re like, “What is going on?!”


I mean, it’s also how things are marketed. I think we’re all-- if you’re listening to this and if you’re tuning into the VBAC link if you’re a doula if you’re in the birth world, you know the marketing tactics that have gone into why people think this way. So I can’t even blame them because they have been conditioned to think this way.


Julie: Well, and that’s the thing too that I think sometimes we forget. Our family members, they love us and they want the best for us. They want the best for our babies. They think that they are coming at you from a place of love and concern, and they are. They probably are coming at you from a place of love and concern. They’re just not educated about the things that you are.


Mari: Exactly. This process alone, going for a VBAC is such an amazing process because regardless of VBAC or not, at the end of the day you advocated for yourself. You educated yourself. You did all the things. You left your comfort zone. You fought a doctor. You discussed it with family members.


All these things help you grow and help you become resilient. At the end of the day the process in itself-- I wish I didn’t have to be this way. I think we’re all in our own ways working to change that, but it is a process that did help me grow a lot in my life and it’s probably one of the most resilient stories I could ever tell.


I guess just to wrap that up, I did go to an ICAN meeting. It happened to be a very popular meeting that day. We had like 10 or 12 women and usually, we only had like 3 or 4. It was all of us in the room. Some of them were on their second VBAC, third baby, fourth baby. It was so empowering. I left and the next day, I called the best provider in the area known for taking women-- allowing them to switch super late in their pregnancies. It was a midwife. Something had changed, where it was later in the year so I had met my deductible and they could take me without charging me more. Everything just worked out.


I let them call the provider and break up with them for me. The provider called me and said, “Oh my gosh, are you leaving us because we scheduled you your Cesarean?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” They’re like, “Well, we can just cancel it.” And I was like, “That’s not the point.”


Allie: That’s not the point. Exactly.


Mari: “You showed your colors. That’s not the point.” Are you serious? They tried to keep me, you guys. How crazy is that?


Julie: People don’t realize that they don’t have to have that conversation with their provider. Their new provider can just call and get the records from them. They don’t even have to talk to them.


Mari: FYI, exactly. All you’ve got to do is sign a release form. They send that release form and it shows right there in black ink, “Send me my forms. I’m breaking up with you.” So that was nice.


I ended up going into labor the same way as my first labor. In the middle of the night, my water broke. I Immediately started having back labor again— back labor meaning, I didn’t have contractions in my belly. It was all in my back as if someone was breaking an ax on my back. But this time I still went in the shower. I was doing goddess pose with the shower hot water on my back. I had essential oils. I had my HypnoBirthing music.


I brought the yoga ball into the shower. Yeah, that was not a good idea, I actually fell off of it. It was very painful. I was bouncing on it, the water shifted, and I bounced down, which, I can’t even believe I did that and survived. I’m in there the whole time. I call my doula. She comes. My husband takes my daughter to someone who is going to watch her for us. I’m begging to go to the hospital because I am like, “I’m not going to make it. I’m going to the epidural. Sorry guys, I’m going to need the epidural. This back labor is crazy. Let’s go to the hospital.”


We go to the hospital around 8:00 a.m. When we get to the hospital, I’m about 4 centimeters and I wanted to be 5. Last time I was 3 centimeters. I was like, “Okay well, at least I know that I am progressing, so I’m proud of myself.”


I know the epidural will take time, so at least I know that the epidural is coming because my contractions are too much right now. I’m in the hospital. It takes two hours to get the epidural. When they come to give me the epidural, I’m 7 centimeters and I’m like, “Oh my god. I am progressing. Thank goodness.”


So I’m 7 centimeters. I take the epidural. Of course, it slows things down, but I’m using a peanut ball. I’m taking a nap and I’m switching-- I am in goddess pose on the bed, and all this stuff.


When it’s time to push, I make a fear-based decision. I want to highlight that fear-based decisions have no place in your birth. You need to leave the fear at the door. You need to process the fear during your pregnancy and face it all, because right when it was time to push and I felt all the pressure, I hit the epidural button. It hit me so much medicine that it paused my birth for three hours. I couldn’t feel anything. I couldn’t feel anything, so I couldn’t push.


They talked to me and we hung out until I got the urge to push and felt something again. Then, for three hours, my son was in my pelvis. While I could touch his hair, I couldn’t push him out. For three hours. Luckily, I learned later on, that when you touch a baby’s head, it calms their heartbeat. It can help keep them calm. So, I was touching his head to motivate myself to push harder, but thank goodness for three hours, he was my little champ. His heart was just perfect. It never decelerated. They were calm letting me keep trying.


I had a full, women staff. It just happened to be that everybody was a woman that day. The woman OB on the clock comes in and she’s like, “I’m giving her 15 minutes, and then she needs to get a Cesarean.” I’ve never met this woman and I’m like, “Oh my god.”


My midwives have been texting the back-up doctor. She’s somewhere else trying to rush over to me because she’s willing to assist me. Because the midwives can’t step in and do-- what they wanted to do to me, was an episiotomy and a vacuum-assist.


People feel very different ways. There are different, varying opinions about that. I was comfortable with the research that I did that if I needed to do that, I’d be comfortable with it. Ultimately, she flew in, literally five minutes before they were going to pull me into the OR. She was like, “Alright mama. Do you consent?”


I want to say this very clearly. She asked for my consent.


I said, “Yes. I consent to an episiotomy and a vacuum-assist.” Five pushes later, my son was here.


When I pulled my son up-- by the way there was meconium. They knew that there might be meconium. But when I pulled my son up-- so many women talk about that moment. I cry every single birth story I listen to. I listened to like, every VBAC Link story and every Birth Hour story. I always cried when they’re like, “I pulled my baby,” and I thought, “To this day, I don’t remember that moment.” I just remember, “I did it. I effing did it. I effing did it. F all those doctors who said I couldn’t do it.” That’s all I was saying in the hospital room. That’s all I was thinking.


They take my baby and they’re checking him. I asked somebody, probably my doula, “Can I get my phone?” And I decide-- this is 15 minutes after. I’m delivering my placenta and they’re stitching me up. I decide to take a video because I never wanted to forget that moment in my life. I decided to take a video. It’s a 15-second video and it’s basically just me, cursing at the doctors the whole time being like, “I told you, I could I effing do it. I am so effing proud of myself.”


Julie: Did you put that on Instagram in your stories? I am pretty sure we’ve heard it. I have seen that video. Is that how we met?


Mari: That is how we met. So, yes.


Julie: Oh, I love it.


Allie: I love that.


Mari: I think we will definitely share this video.


Julie: Yeah. I’m pretty sure we need to re-post or upload to our IGTV, or your IGTV. It’s probably on yours. Oh gosh, yes.


Mari: Oh my god, I know. It was amazing. A few months postpartum I decided to post just 5 seconds of me cursing instead of 15 seconds of me cursing, but I posted it. It blew up. I got so much support from women all over. January Harshe was in the comments defending me. Women, who are like, “Ew, why she cursing?” She was like, “That’s what you feel like!”


Julie: Exactly!


Mari: I was like, “Oh my gosh! I literally feel so good right now.” She’s a goddess! I was fangirling. You guys were shouting me out. Birth Hour was shouting me out. I was like, “Oh my god, I made it. I made it in the birth world! People know my VBAC story.” To this day, I still get DM‘s from having that full story on The Birth Hour.


That’s my story. Honestly, I think a lot about that moment. I’ve deemed myself a VBAC unicorn, so I created #VBACUnicorns to help us unite as women of strength who got through such a difficult experience. I want to celebrate being the unicorn that the doctors told us we couldn’t be.


Julie: I love it. I love it so much. I love the VBAC unicorn but also, it makes me feel sad. Let me explain though because it’s sad that it has to be such a rare thing. Such a thing that people don’t believe in, and such a thing that you’re looked at like some special creature after you have your VBAC. It’s amazing. It’s such a good feeling. You triumph and you have this victory over these providers, the naysayers, and your family or friends maybe who didn’t support you, and that’s a really powerful feeling, but it’s sad that it has to be that way. I don’t know. I just—does that make sense?

The unheard CBAC mom 

Mari: Oh, absolutely. It makes sense. It’s even sadder when you are advocating and helping women on their way to their VBAC and then when they end up having a Cesarean for one reason or another, it creates this distance between women who were on a journey together and suddenly, “my journey veered right and yours veered left.” There are all of these unsaid feelings and emotions around that.


I want it to be made very clear that if you’re listening to this and you end up having a CBAC or you’re listening to this because you had a CBAC, I want you to know, when you don’t get your VBAC, a Cesarean is not a reflection of how hard you worked, or whether you did the right thing or the wrong thing. You don’t need to have done anything wrong to have a Cesarean. Your body did not fail you. Use your “best friend voice” with yourself. You wouldn’t tell your best friend, “Your body is a failure. You failed.” So don’t use that terminology with yourself.


Julie: I think that’s really important. When I first became a doula, I thought I knew everything. Just like when, with my first pregnancy, going into my first birth. I thought I knew everything. I was so confident and I was like, “Yes. I am here to rule the world. I was made to do this.”


The more births I’ve been to, the more I realize that I am never done learning. Every birth that I go to teaches me something. One thing that I have learned is that a lot of birth is preparation and intuition, but a lot of it is also luck. Sometimes luck is not on your side and something happens. Sometimes it’s easy to see and we have answers. We can say, “Oh my gosh, yes. That’s what happened and that’s why I needed a Cesarean.”


Sometimes there are no answers. Sometimes it’s just bad luck and you have zero control over that. It’s really, really a hard place to be in when you did everything you possibly could or everything you even knew to do, and still end up with a repeat Cesarean.


I really want to segue into all of the things right now, but I’m not quite sure where I want to take this. Let’s talk about the CBAC mom and the unheard CBAC mom. What have you seen with that? I remember you told me a story before we started recording about one of your ICAN parents about after they had their CBAC.


Mari: Yeah. I facilitated a conversation between two CBAC mamas. One mama who-- around 37 weeks pregnant, due to her blood pressure, had to actually just get a C-section right away. She didn’t even get that opportunity to go through labor and she also didn’t get to labor with her first birth.


She cried out all of her feelings and she went for her CBAC and it was what it was, right? But she articulated feeling confident in her decision knowing this time around, having asked all the questions, understanding the benefits, risks, and alternatives. She felt empowered going into her CBAC. The mindset really helps in the process.


Versus another mother who was 42 weeks pregnant and had done all the things, and on her 42nd week, was walking into the hospital to have her Cesarean. She really tried until the bitter end. It was two months postpartum and she still hadn’t told anyone. She hadn’t talked about her birth. Obviously, we knew, because usually, like you were saying before, we start stalking them to see if they had their baby or not.


Julie: Yeah, we need closure.


Mari: We need closure.


Julie: Not to make it about us, because it’s not about us, but we wonder and are concerned.


Mari: Not at all about us, but because we want to hold space for them, right? Not so much because we’re like, “Did you get your VBAC? Let’s check the box.” But more so because we want to hold space for them. We know it’s a very delicate time and it’s something that you can’t hide. You know, everything else that happens to you is something you can hide, but a baby is something that is physically, outwardly-- it appears. You have people in your face and you’re also still processing, and you can’t hide anywhere. We all know. Your baby can’t be in there for 12 months, so we know you had your baby.


So I said, “Cara, listen. Are you going to come to the next ICAN meeting? I’m going to make it all about CBAC because I want everybody to be able to also process their CBAC.” A lot of our conversations in ICAN are about VBAC only because we are serving that kind of community and that’s the women coming in the door. It doesn’t mean that we don’t do education and support for a Cesarean birth and talk about birth trauma, but predominantly a lot of VBAC mamas come to our meeting.


And so, she genuinely thought that she wasn’t welcome back because she didn’t have a VBAC. I said, “Of course, you are welcome. We are first and foremost education and support for Cesarean birth. We are not first and foremost only for VBAC.”


But it really got me thinking that if that’s the impression that she got, how many other women who got their CBAC and therefore didn’t return to these spaces that before that were circles of strength for them and support?


We’re still all the same. We’re still mamas just wanting to advocate for our wants and desires for our bodies. But ultimately, every baby makes a decision of how they’re going to enter this Earth. And so, I think that’s what we all wanted to talk about.


Now I’m curious, I know Allie has been an active listener--


Julie: Yeah, I know. I was just going to ask her.

Processing a CBAC as a doula


Mari: Yeah. As a doula, Allie, how have you held space or how do you process throughout that when you’re dealing with your clients who have CBACs?


Allie: I think one of the biggest things that I took out of my VBAC Link training was sort of separating-- even just the acronym, VBAC, is full of outcomes. We are immediately defining outcomes. I think one of the most amazing things I got out of my training through VBAC Link was really breaking it down from that and understanding that there’s empowerment in any birth outcome. Any birth outcome can be a positive birth.


And so, when I’m working with clients and it’s becoming a CBAC, we do a lot of positive affirmations, and a lot of slowing things down, and bringing it all back to, “This isn’t a rush. We have time to process this stuff.”


Julie was saying earlier something about how when you started out as a doula and you had all these thoughts. It was like the same-- when I first started out as a doula, one of the first births I ever attended was a Cesarean. I was so nervous. We had labored for 40 hours and it was this whole thing. When the OB came in to consult with the midwife and with my client, I asked for everybody to clear the room. I turned out the lights and played their worship music, and just left the room and let them have their conversation.


She went for her Cesarean. Her epidural was garbage and they didn’t do a spinal, so she ended up under general. She didn’t see baby for five hours. I was with dad that whole time. She finally came out and I was just like, “This is the worst thing in the world.” And she was like, “This was the most beautiful experience. This was amazing.”


It was really just one of those times where it flipped something in my head to stop obsessing over outcomes and start obsessing over people’s feelings in the moment.


Like you said, you made a fear-based decision. I want to be supporting people in the moment to not be in that place in their mind that they’re going to that kind of decision making. I want to go back to your story though, Mari. One of the things that I really took away was the fact that you said, “I didn’t know anything my first time. I didn’t know anything. I watched these three YouTube videos and tried to compare at all,” but you did!


You knew so much because you knew when you felt like you were dying. And you knew what was not okay when they asked you, “Is there abuse at home?” with family members in the room. You knew so much. We know so much instinctually. And so, I think you need to give yourself some credit there. For sure.


Mari: Oh my god, Allie. You’re going to make me cry. You’re so nice, thank you.


Allie: I loved that part though when you said that, because I feel like as doulas and as birth workers, we don’t know a lot of stuff. I just peruse through The Birth Partner when I’ve got nothing else to do and I’m drinking my coffee in the morning, but there are also things that you can’t read in any book that are just instinctual to us. You had so much of that in your first birth.


Even though you had more, maybe “knowledge” behind you in your second, and you switched providers, and you knew how to advocate for yourself, and kept trying to find the person that was going to work for you, in the first you knew so much. You knew so much to actually take it to the next level and report people. I honestly-- I am in such awe of you. You’re such an inspiration. It was so wonderful to hear your story. Thank you for sharing.

“Everything Left Unsaid” project


Mari: Thank you for having me. This conversation needs to continue. I don’t know how you guys feel about this, because The VBAC Link is your platform, but you know to the mama hearing this and resonating with this story, I think we should all write that letter to either the birth we wished we had, or that letter to the unsaid things that weren’t said to that doctor, or throughout that experience so that we can release all that shame that we carry, and sometimes all that sorrow that comes with the outcome that wasn’t what you desired.


That way, it can allow us to focus on what we did know and what we did experience. I always try to remember, “Sorrow prepares you for joy.” We have to feel the sorrow and release it. I am personally going to write a letter that I’m probably never going to mail. But I’m going to write a letter to all those doctors who said I couldn’t do it. I do encourage women to do that. If we get a bunch of letters, I would love to read them all. It could be so healing.


Julie: We should do an episode where we just read letters that these women write to their doctors, but obviously don’t include their personal information or whatever. Oh my gosh, let’s do it. Let’s get back together.


Allie: I’m literally having a letdown thinking about this right now.


Julie: Obviously, we’re going to have to kick Meagan off the episode because she was not here for the decision. No, we’ll have you back Allie. We’ll have Mari back and we’ll have Meagan. Let’s spread across our platforms. Allie, you too, and Mari. Let’s ask women to email us their letters. They don’t have to include details. They don’t have to go through their personal information. They can even make up their own Gmail address that’s completely anonymous and send it to us. And we can read that letter.


So if you know me at all, then you know I love giving homework to my clients. I am giving homework to every single person listening to this episode right now and your homework is:


Write a letter of the things you wish you would have said, or wish you could say, to your provider’s face about how-- anything about your feelings about how your birth went.


About how the things that they said hurt you, or about how-- Meagan, after her birth, the first words out of her mouth after her VBA2C was, “Screw you, Dr. Blank,” because I’m not going to throw anybody under the bus, even as much as we would want to. She said, “Screw you, Dr. Blank,” who told her, “Good luck out there. Nobody’s going to want you.”


She just said, “Screw you.” Even if it’s just that short, then email it to us at or you can send it to us on Facebook or Instagram, or Mari-- any of her connections that we are linking down below. Get us the letters and we are going to do an episode where we read these letters. We’ll probably talk a lot about them too, to be honest.


Mari: Absolutely, absolutely. I see that being such a healing process because at the end of the day, everything left unsaid is going to keep festering inside of you. And you know, I just want women to live motherhood with joy, but there are so many things that keep us from our joy, so I love this. Thank you for collaborating with me on it.


Julie: Yes. “Everything Left Unsaid.” That’s all we’re going to call the episode. Not this one. This one is going to be called something else, but our episode where we read all the letters-- it’s going to be called “Everything Left Unsaid.” I’ll write my letter. Mari, you write your letter. Allie, are you a VBAC mom, or do you want to write a letter to anybody? Any provider? Your provider or providers maybe you’ve seen because there are a couple providers of births that I have attended that I would really like to write letters to. Do it.


Allie: Oh, I’ve definitely got ideas.


Julie: Done. Okay. Let’s ready, break. And then we will meet back-- let’s see. I’m trying to plan this out so that everyone listening now can know when this is going to be coming. Let’s see if I can actually block it out right now. It’s kind of far because we are recording, so we don’t have to record anything through the holidays. It would probably be the end of January, like January 20th. I’m putting it in my spreadsheet now.


It is officially known that January 20th, the episode that will air then shall be called “Everything Left Unsaid.” We will read all of the letters. Send them to Mari. Send them to me. Send them to Allie. Send them to Meagan. Get them to us anyway, however ways you want and we are going to hash it out.


Allie: I’ll make a box on my contact on my website and link it in my bio so you don’t even have to put an email address in.


Julie: Perfect. I’m going to figure out some way to do that on our end as well. (Inaudible) does our website right now. I don’t have to do it anymore and it makes me happy, but then I’m like, “Wait, how would I do that now?” Oh, “Everything Left Unsaid.” I love it. Oh my gosh, yes. This is going to be really powerful.


I’ve got a couple of things I’ve got to do to wrap up the episode. First of all, Allie, thank you so much for being my co-host. I’m so glad to have you on here and your insight, and we are going to be welcoming you back. Block it out, January 20th  everybody and then Allie, people in Canada. Vancouver. North Vancouver, right?


Allie: Yep.


Julie: How do they contact you?


Allie: Yes. So, I am on Instagram @nsdoula and if you want to get in touch with me. Thanks so much for having me on. This was really amazing and Mari, again, thank you so much for sharing your story. It was just so wonderful and beautiful to listen to. I’m not lying when I say I think my bra is soaked. (Inaudible) no, I’m like, “Oxytocin!”


Mari: That’s hilarious. Thank you so much.


Julie: I love it. Again, echoing what Allie said. Mari, you are amazing. Oh my gosh, I am so, so glad that you made that video because that video has brought so many good things to the birth space and it’s even still doing good right now, and on January 20th, and whenever we record in January, and it’s powerful.


You are powerful and I hope that you, and every other person who has given birth by unplanned Cesarean, can look back and see that there is strength and find some strength in their story even if they don’t feel anything but miserable about it right now, because no matter how your babies are brought into this world, you are an incredible woman of strength and you did some really, really amazing work. We are all proud of you for that. So, Mari. How can people find you? Again, we are going to link everything to both of you guys in the show notes.


Mari: Absolutely. Well, thank you both so much for having me and for your kind words, both of you. I could be reached on my website, which is, or on Instagram @mari_vega. And again, Facebook was Mari Vega Motherhood. Thank you so much for having me.


Julie: Perfect, and thank you. Again, guys, you can find that information in the show notes, and stay tuned. January 20th is the day. Send us your letters to any three of us or email them to


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

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