• Episode 302 Emily's CBAC + How Views Can Change

    Emily’s first birth experience was a home birth turned hospital transfer which ended in a C-section and then a birth center VBAC ending in hospital transfer and another C-section with her second. She found herself feeling alone, frustrated, and surrounded by people who just didn't get it as she worked to process the trauma and grief of not one but two back-to-back traumatic births and C-sections. 


    Throughout her journey, Emily took charge of what she could, learned about her options, and made the right decisions even when they were disappointing. Emily has been proactive about physical and emotional healing. She has been open to new perspectives. Emily is grateful to share her story and all that she has learned for other mamas who have found themselves in similar situations. And we are so grateful that we can feel of her strength! 


    The VBAC Link Blog: How to Cope When You Don't Get Your VBAC

    The VBAC Link Blog: Deciding on VBAC vs Repeat Cesarean

    NPR Article

    Spinning Babies: What to Do When...

    Needed Website

    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details 


    05:02 Review of the Week

    09:10 Emily’s first pregnancy and labor

    14:59 First C-section

    17:47 Second pregnancy

    21:16 Moving and switching providers

    33:20 Pushing for 5 hours

    35:45 Transferring

    37:47 C-section

    41:29 Tips for adhesions

    44:20 Hospital births are beautiful

    49:09 All about transferring



    Meagan: Hello, everybody. It is Meagan and we have our friend, Emily, with us from Texas today. Hello, Emily. How are you?


    Emily: I’m good. How are you?


    Meagan: I am wonderful. I am so wonderful. I love recording these stories if you can’t tell. We are producing them a lot because I love recording. I love hearing these stories and sharing these stories. Your story is a CBAC story which I think is so important to share on The VBAC Link Podcast. As technically a CBAC mama myself because I don’t know if anybody knows who is listening, but I had a C-section then I wanted a VBAC and had a Cesarean and then I had a vaginal birth. So all over the place. 


    CBAC is really special to my heart and I think that this is such an important topic to share on the podcast because we know that obviously, so many C-sections are happening, right? I also think it’s important to know that sometimes even when we are preparing for a VBAC, it might end in a Cesarean birth and even more important, I think it’s really important to know that Cesarean births can be healing and are a lot of the times healing. Would you agree with me, Emily? 


    Emily: Yes. I mean, I loved hearing the healing stories. Mine was not and I think that’s what I yearned for to her is that I’m not alone and it’s okay to have a repeat C-section and I hate calling it a failed VBAC, but a repeat C-section that wasn’t wanted and wasn’t healing. I mean, my second birth was much more traumatic than my first. I mean, I hate saying traumatic because I have two beautiful, healthy babies, but I also want listeners to know that just because you have a healthy baby and you didn’t have serious complications you can’t feel what you felt about the trauma of it all. 


    Meagan: Okay, and I love that you point that out too because just as much as Cesarean birth can be healing and can be amazing, it can also have a lot of that trauma. Trauma, I think, is a completely valid word to use. It can be used to be described as traumatic. It can be described as hurtful. I was angry. I was angry when I walked myself down for my second C-section. I didn’t want that. That was not what I wanted. It was not what I planned. 


    Yeah. Also, going into that it doesn’t always happen the way we want to. It can go both ways so that’s why I think sharing CBAC stories on this podcast is so important because we have to learn both sides of things. We have to know that Cesarean birth can be healing and it can be exactly what someone needs and it can also be traumatic and not what someone needs. I think that through these stories and through the journeys, this is how we learn how to try to avoid trauma and anger and hurt along the way. 


    05:02 Review of the Week


    Meagan: Before we get into this story, I do want to read a review. Okay, Emily, so remind me. You had a home birth transfer? 


    Emily: Yes. A home birth transfer C-section and then birth center transfer C-section. 


    Meagan: Birth center transfer C-section, yeah. I also want to talk about transfers at the end. We’re going to talk a little bit about transferring and when it might be a good time to transfer, when it might be starting to give us signs that we might not be in the best place, and then also how to go about what to do after you transfer if you’re transferring because that can also be a big mess too sometimes transferring depending on how the hospital responds to you. 


    We’ll dive in to these stories but I do want to read a Review of the Week. This was from winben18 from Apple Podcasts and it was on May 19, 2023, so a year ago right now. It says, “I had my first baby in 2021 11 pounds at 42 weeks via Cesarean because he wouldn’t descend. I was told I couldn’t birth him because he was too big and my pelvis was too small, but I always knew that wasn’t true. My mother, a very petite woman, birthed me naturally and I was 11 pounds, 9 ounces. In 2023, I had my VBAC with another 11-pound baby. No epidural, 7-hour labor, and I credit that success to The VBAC Link. I started listening to them religiously at 38 weeks when my provider started fearmongering me about birthing a big baby. I needed every little bit of encouragement and The VBAC Link provided that. It’s incredible how your body’s physical capabilities start with your mindset. Thank you ladies for all of your stories. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.” 


    Wow, that was an amazing review and so grateful. Holy cow, winben18, yay for an 11-pound, 8-ounce baby. I agree with what she said that it starts with our mindset. A lot of the time it does. We can also be in the best mindset ever and things might not unfold that way but if we can set our mindset and get going and get the education and the empowerment and the encouragement, you never know. Things can go a really long way. 


    So as always, if you guys have a moment, we would love your reviews. You can leave it on Apple Podcasts. You can leave it on Google even or on Spotify. We would love a 5-star review and if you can, comment. Tell us what you guys think. 


    Emily: I love stories of petite women birthing big babies actually because I’m smaller and I had big babies. I’m like, I know I could do it.


    Meagan: Yes. Yes. She talked about fearmongering. A lot of people do get fearmongered. They start saying, “Oh, I don’t really think you can,” and it’s so hard when we have a lot of people doubting our own bodies and then we start doubting them even though we didn’t have doubt originally. It’s so hard. It can be a tough cycle, but Women of Strength, it is possible. 


    09:10 Emily’s first pregnancy and labor


    Meagan: Okay, Emily. Let’s dive into these stories. I know you mentioned in the beginning that you had a second Cesarean and it wasn’t amazing. It wasn’t amazing, so I would love for you to of course share your stories but also maybe talk about tips you would suggest for someone in your situation maybe looking back where you’re like, Oh, I could have done this, or tips for people in your situation. 


    Emily: Okay, so my first son was born in May 2022. I got pregnant with him in September 2021 and I knew immediately that I wanted midwifery care. I wanted a home birth and to be honest, I had no fear. I was very confident. I was like, I can do this. I’m in shape. I eat healthy. There is no reason why this isn’t going to go perfectly. 


    I mean, I can’t be the only one who has thought that and it was the complete opposite. It was a fine pregnancy. I was very, very sick until about 20 weeks. I lost almost 10 pounds in my first trimester, but it turned out to be a wonderful pregnancy. I love being pregnant. I love it. 


    Anyway, I went into labor at 6:00 AM and I guess active labor really started around noon. We were at home. My husband started filling up the birth pool. My midwife was on the way and she had an assistant midwife with her. So really, we just labored at home. 


    Then I would say probably about early evening, they checked me and I hadn’t made very much progress. I think I was at a 4 or a 5 and I’m trying to remember correctly. I think that’s when they told me that the baby was at a tilt. 


    Meagan: Asynclitic or the whole body? 


    Emily: You know, I really don’t know and I think a lot of it has to do with why I have struggled so much with that birth because I feel like that birth catapulted me into the next C-section, but I feel like they had said anterior tilt, but I don’t think that is correct. 


    They broke my water because I wasn’t progressing and then they were trying to turn him after the fact. I think that’s where things went downhill. They checked me. I wasn’t progressing. They were like, “We can break your water. It will speed things up.” And I agreed. 


    I think that was my first mistake. I think a lot of that has to do with me not preparing as well as I should have and me with the mindset of, I can do this, no problem. That is my first regret from my first birth.


    Anyway, so they broke my water and then after that as everyone knows, contractions were off the wall. They had me laboring in one position on the bed on my left side to try to get him to turn and then they had me on the toilet so I went back and forth between there. Every other contraction, they were in there trying to turn him. 


    So basically, this went on until about 4:00 AM at home. It was my first labor. I was in an extreme amount of pain and I just was exhausted. I felt like it wasn’t going like I planned obviously. 


    So anyway, we transferred to the hospital. That was about a 30-minute drive to the hospital which was not fun at all. It was the wee hours of the morning so we went in through the emergency room, got up to triage, and I think I got my epidural within 45 minutes to an hour and just from what I remember, that was a very intense hour. I just remember thinking, What the heck? This is not how childbirth should be. 


    Anyway, so I got my epidural. I labored with an epidural for a few hours and they started me on Pitocin so epidural, Pitocin– 


    Meagan: The usual. 


    Emily: Yeah. Nothing was really happening. They were doing Spinning Babies with the peanut ball and the bed to try to get him positioned better. 


    Long story short, we got to an 8 and this was probably gosh, almost 48 hours later that I got to an 8. The hospital where I birthed is very home-birth and transfer-friendly. I had midwives on staff there who cared for me. One of the midwives home birthed her babies too so that was cool to have her caring for me and understanding my mindset of wanting to birth at home and then obviously I wasn’t at home anymore. 


    But regardless, they were saying, my water hadn’t broken for over 24 hours. They weren’t concerned about that and I loved the evidence-based care there. I love that. But they did tell me, “You know, the way things are going, you could get to a 10. You could push for a couple of hours and end up in an emergency C-section.” It’s almost like that verbiage right there was enough for me to be like, “This is it. Let’s call it. Let’s get the baby out. We want to meet our baby.” We were being surprised on the gender so we were very excited for this baby to get here. I went to 39+5 with him. 


    14:59 First C-section


    Emily: And so anyway, we called it and we did the C-section. I don’t think– obviously the birth was traumatic for reasons like I explained, but the C-section wasn’t awful. I didn’t feel any tugging. It was a very pleasant Cesarean. They did delayed cord clamping, not traditional delayed clamping, but they waited for it to stop pulsing and cut it. They took him to the table and did all of the hospital things and then wrapped him all up and gave him to me. I was able to do skin-to-skin and nurse while they put me back together. 


    Then they took him off to the nursery. I remember them asking, “Do you want your husband to go with him?” I’m like, “Yes.” I think it was just those little things. Those are the moments and tidbits that I think any mom who has experienced traumatic births thinks back on. I didn’t get to touch him right away and I had all of these dreams. I wanted a water birth and my whole pregnancy, I was like, I’m going to pull this baby right up to my chest and nurse him and it’s going to be beautiful. 


    When you have that dream and then you get the most extreme opposite, I mean not to the fact that I was under general anesthesia and it was horrible, but in my mind, it was the complete opposite of what I wanted and it sucked. 


    Anyway, so then we go back to recovery and I’m nursing him and everyone who has had a C-section listens to this podcast or most of them. You don’t really feel a lot of pain until the second and third day when most everything wears off. It was just hard. It was a hard recovery. It was hard to hold him. He was almost 9 pounds. It was hard holding him. When you nurse a baby, they sit on your belly. It was just hard. 


    I also struggled with vertigo and I got horrible vertigo on my last day at the hospital. I was throwing up which is awful after abdominal surgery and they gave me a pill to stop the vertigo. Then the lactation lady comes in and says, “Oh, that’s a level 3 dry-you-up pill.” 


    So then I’m into supply issues and it was just an awful, awful recovery. I hate saying that. I want to be positive, but it just was not fun then on top of that, I was doing triple feeds. I was nursing, then supplementing, and pumping. My milk really didn’t come in for 3 weeks. I was very blessed. When it came in, it was in and I got over the dry-up. 


    All in all, it wasn’t great. 


    17:47 Second pregnancy


    Emily: Anyway, fast forward, I got pregnant 6 months later. It was not planned. I remember taking a shower and I have unscented face soap and I could smell it. I was like, Oh my gosh, no. I took a test and it was positive. The baby was asleep. He was asleep in his bassinet right by my bed and I went to my husband, “I’m pregnant.” 


    My husband, I want to give a shoutout to husbands who are supportive and there. I could not ask for a better partner during labor, during births, and recoveries. He is right there. He is an amazing man, so I want to give a shoutout to him. But yeah, so then I’m pregnant again with a 6-month-old and I knew immediately I wanted to VBAC. 


    I started to look for supportive providers and we were in Austin which you would think Austin has wonderful doctors. It is very progressive in the medical industry, but I was really struggling to find a provider who would accept me. A lot of midwives turned me away. Birth centers turned me away. 


    Meagan: Was that because of the duration or just because you were a VBAC in general?

     

    Emily: It was the duration. 


    Meagan: Okay. 


    Emily: I should note that. My babies were 15 months apart. Most of the birth centers want you to be 12 months postpartum by the time you get pregnant and then OB offices are a hit-and-miss, I feel like, with any VBAC. 


    But I found, for anyone who is local to central Texas, I found Austin Doulas I think it was what it was called. I called them and they gave me the name of an OB office. They assured me that all of the OBs on staff were very VBAC-friendly. 


    I contacted them. I should note also that when I found out I was pregnant, I called my first midwife. I was like, “Listen.” I love my midwife. We connected on so many levels. I do think there were things done in labor that shouldn’t have happened that catapulted me into the transfer and the C-section, but nonetheless, I loved her. I called her and I was like, “Hey, I would love to do my prenatal care with you and then maybe deliver at the hospital.” This is where my mindset was at the time. 


    She basically told me that yes she could do my prenatal care but I would have to have a planned C-section at 39 weeks. At that point, I was like, Okay. I have learned enough in the little prep I had done in my first birth to know that was not necessary. So I go and she did schedule me for a growth scan because I did not know how far along I was. I ended up being almost 8 weeks pregnant by the time I did the growth scan. 


    Anyway, so then I started my care at the OB office around 12 weeks. They were very supportive. I remember at one of my appointments, they gave me this sheet. It was a VBAC facts sheet and they had you initial every line on every item. It was very much saying that VBAC is safer than a repeat C-section for the right client. 


    I told my husband, “Wow, this is great. I love this.” So we stayed there for a while. I know I shared in my notes I transferred care at 34 weeks. I feel like before I talk about that, I should say that at 6 months pregnant, we moved. 


    21:16 Moving and switching providers


    Emily: For anyone listening, unless you have to, I don’t recommend that especially with a 10-month-old. I think he was 8 or 9 or 10 months at the time. It was a lot of work, but we were living in Austin. Austin is very busy. We didn’t have any family around. Our friends were far. It was a good hour drive from any of our friends so we decided to move back to my husband’s hometown where we had friends and family. It was just like we needed to go. 


    As we know, the real estate market was in a really good position. I know it ebbs and flows but at the time, we were like, Now is a good time. Let’s just do it.


    So anyway, we moved. I was 6 months pregnant when we moved and we continued care at my OB office in Austin. I was driving. I would take the baby to his grandma’s and then I would drive into town, a 2-hour drive for these appointments. 


    At this point, it felt so difficult for me to find care and we live in a small town. Now after the fact, it’s hard to find supportive providers where we are without driving into Houston or Austin. 


    So anyway, around 34 weeks, and this is probably silly on my part, but they stopped calling me a VBAC and started calling me a TOLAC, a trial of labor. 


    Meagan: But they were calling you a VBAC prior. 


    Emily: Yes. Yeah. We got closer and I think also when you’ve had midwifery care and you go to a traditional OB type of care, it’s just worlds different. You get big and big and later and later in your pregnancy and you are hormonal. It was just like, I did not get the warm fuzzies. I was in and out in 5 minutes. I had to ask them to feel the belly to find the baby’s positioning. I had a lot of trauma from the first birth about baby positioning. I worked very hard during this pregnancy to make sure I did everything that I could do to make sure this baby was in a good spot internally. 


    So anyway, the appointments weren’t great. They started calling me a TOLAC. They started telling me things I couldn’t do in labor. They were talking about inductions at a certain time period and scheduled C-sections for X, Y, and Z. I told my husband, “Look, I know this is going to be expensive.” I prayed on it and I was like, I just feel like I need to switch. 


    I should also note that I found this birth center when I was around 30 weeks pregnant and I was always like, Man, I wish I would have found them earlier. But they are extremely VBAC-supportive. For anyone in the Central Texas area, I cannot say more wonderful, amazing things about these women. They are Christian-based, very VBAC supportive, multiple VBAC supportive, wonderful success stories. They do breech births. 


    Meagan: So good to know. 


    Emily: Yeah. In my mind, I’m like, Oh gosh, with my last baby, positioning was hard. I know these women will be able to get this baby out. If the baby flips, I don’t have to stress out about a repeat C-section. Blah, blah, blah. 


    So I switched to them at 34 weeks and like I said, it was the most wonderful care. Everything you would want from a midwifery practice. 


    Meagan: What was their group called again? 


    Emily: They’re called Dulce Birth and Wellness Center and they are in Killeen which if you are familiar with Texas, it’s north of Austin in between Austin and Waco on 35. 


    But yeah. I was driving to that so I was driving an hour and a half to my OB office. I started driving 2 hours to the birth center for appointments. For anyone who is scared to travel in to birth somewhere that you feel fully supported, comfortable, at home, yes it can be difficult, but it is so worth it and even though I didn’t get my VBAC, I would have 1000% done it the same way that I did. 


    27:47 Going into labor


    Emily: So anyway, I’m with them at 34 weeks and I go into labor at literally 40 weeks on the dot at midnight on my due date. I was like, Wow, this baby is punctual. 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Emily: Yeah, so I started contractions around midnight. It wasn’t active labor. I was in contact with the midwives throughout the night. Around 10:00 AM the next morning, my contractions were pretty steadily 10 minutes apart. My doula, I also had a VBAC-specific doula who works with the birth center pretty closely. She was turned to my point. I asked her, “Can you just be my point of contact?” She was like, “Yes.” 


    So around 10:00 AM, my contractions were 10 minutes apart and they were like, “I think y’all should head in.” My husband was at a meeting 45 minutes from the house so he came home. We packed up. We had all of the birth center cooler food prepped. I was going to bring some beers for after the birth. I was ready. I was so excited.


    During this pregnancy, I prepared so much. I had chiropractic care. I had pelvic floor therapy once a week. I was doing the stretching, the exercises. I was doing breathwork. I was on it, on it, on it and I was so excited and I was so ready. I just knew that I could do this. 


    So we drove in. I got adjusted as soon as we got into town because it’s a 2-hour drive. We went to the chiropractor and got adjusted. We got a hotel so we could labor at the hotel for a while before we went in. 


    I was talking to my doula and they were all like, “Go out to lunch. Have a good day in the city.” So we ate lunch, checked into the hotel, laid by the pool, went out to dinner, and that was really when we got to dinner. We walked into a Chinese buffet. I don’t know why I thought that was a good idea. We got seated and I told my husband, “I can’t. They are too intense to eat here.” 


    So we went to a sandwich shop, ate some sandwiches and by the end of dinner, I was like, “Okay, we’ve got to get back to this hotel.” Things were picking up. They were 5 minutes apart at this point. 


    We got to the hotel. Our doula comes over. Probably within 45 minutes, I was at 3 minutes apart. I remember thinking to myself, Oh my gosh, Emily. You’re going to do this. Your labor is picking up. The contractions are how they should be. 


    We packed up our bags. The birth center was 10 minutes away from the hotel and we went to the birth center. I was 3 minutes apart. I walked in and I think they got a new location since then, but regardless, the whole setting was just beautiful. Dimmed lights, we had a big birth suite with the pool, and bathroom. I labored and as soon as I got there, they welcomed me with open arms. They are just the sweetest ladies. 


    Like I said, I would recommend this birth center a million times over to anyone even if you are not trying to VBAC. 


    I labored in the shower for a while. That was nice. I had a birth ball in there. I was doing squats. Like I said, I was in a freaking good mindset. I was ready to have this baby. This baby was a surprise as well so I was excited. A surprise gender I should say. This baby was a surprise all around. 


    So yeah, we labored in the shower for a little while then went back to the birth suite. I was in and out of the pool and the bed just doing whatever felt right which is another big reason that I wanted to switch because if you’re birthing in a hospital, you’re on a bed especially if you are a VBAC, you’re strapped to a monitor. At least that’s how they were going to do me. They weren’t going to do the intermittent monitoring because of the VBAC.


    It was just a wonderful laboring experience. Contractions were picking up. They were starting to become not on top of each other yet, but I would say a minute apart. 


    Meagan: They were a minute apart? Holy cow. That’s on top of each other. 


    Emily: When I tell my stories, my friends are just like, “Oh my gosh. You’re just insane.” I’m like, I can’t be the only one who labors like this who has had these types of births. 


    Like I was sharing with you earlier, I just wanted to find similar stories because it’s the similar stories that help you work through things in my opinion. 


    So anyway, I got onto the toilet and they had the TENS unit on my back. That was okay. I had heard a lot of women. I listened to a natural birth podcast as well during this pregnancy and a lot of women were like, “The TENS unit was awesome.” Personally, it didn’t do anything for me. 


    We went back to the bed. My water broke naturally and that’s when it was like contraction, contraction. It was no break at all. 


    I guess I didn’t know any of this, but they went and got Trevor, my husband and they were like, “The baby is coming. It’s time.” They were like, “Okay, it’s time to push.” I pushed forever. 


    33:20 Pushing for 5 hours


    Emily: I was on the birth stool and I just kept pushing it felt like. I’d be like, you know you’re in labor and you’re unmedicated. You have choice words like, “Where is this baby? What’s going on?” I had chosen not to get cervical checks because the last time, cervical checks just really messed with me mentally with progression and everything. 


    Anyway, I was on the birth stool and I was pushing. It was nice. I was on the birth stool with the hanging thing from the ceiling. 


    Meagan: Yeah, like a rebozo. 


    Emily: Yes. 


    Meagan: Were you having the urge to push? How did they feel like you knew?


    Emily: Yes. 


    Meagan: Okay. 


    Emily: And I’m sorry if my story is sporadic and all. 


    Meagan: No, it’s good. This is good. 


    Emily: But yeah, I had the urge to push and I had really done a lot of practice of breathing. You hear these women, “Oh, I breathed my baby out.” Anyway, I was trying to breathe and finally, they were like, “Okay, I think it’s time to push,” and I was like, “Okay, thank God. I’m ready.” 


    So I pushed and my husband would tell me after the fact, “I mean, I was so excited. We were going to have this baby at a birth center.” He was like, “I could see this much of her head. She was coming.” 


    Meagan: Oh, okay. 


    Emily: Long story short, I pushed for 5 hours. I decided to get checked because I was like, What the heck is going on? I was fully dilated. I was practically crowning at this point, but she checked me and I had a cervical lip. I hadn’t done a lot of research on that. I do know that sometimes they naturally push out of the way, but she had me do some different positions during contractions to get the lip to go away. 


    Then finally, as a last resort, she tried to push it away during contractions and that was just so painful. I just remember it being so painful. I know you’re unmedicated and you can feel everything. At that point, I was like, “Just give me the numbers. What are my chances to get this baby out here?” 


    She was like, “Emily, I’m going to give you a 60/40.” At that point, I was like, “I need to transfer.” They were trying to get me to breathe through contractions and to not push because I was so swollen. It was like I couldn’t. My body was just doing it and I had no control. 


    35:45 Transferring


    Emily: So to speed things up, we transferred to the hospital. It was the same hospital system which I was grateful for. That’s St. David’s in Austin. My first baby was born at Main. This baby was born at the North hospital, the women’s center. They are very holistically minded, as much as you can be at hospitals. 


    That transfer was a 50-minute drive so that was fun. I was like, Here we go again. Let’s do this transfer. We busted into triage, guns hot. They knew I was coming. I got my epidural pretty quickly within 30 minutes. They had me push a couple of times then they checked me and they were like, “You’re an 8.” I was like, Okay. Here we go again. 


    Meagan: Swollen. 


    Emily: Very swollen. I know I had probably regressed on the drive over just with everything going on. I’m trying to speed my story up so I can get to my thoughts and reflections on it, but basically, I labored at the hospital for a very long time. They started Pitocin. I know I keep saying long story short and it’s just a long story, but they came in. The baby’s heart rate wasn’t doing well. They took my temperature. It was 103. Boom. I had an infection. They gave me Tylenol. It brought the fever down, then around 2:00 AM and this was two days later. 


    I don’t know with the timing how to explain it, but they were like, “It’s time.” My midwife and my doula who came with me agreed. It was nice that I had that second opinion. I just was so upset. I was crying. My husband was crying just because he knew. I think he just knew how badly I wanted it and how hard we worked. 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Emily: Anyway, I met the surgeon and he was wonderful. He was like, “What do you want? I want to make sure this is done right.” He gave us everything we wanted. Delayed cord clamping, my doula was in there. She took photos and everything. 


    37:47 C-section


    Emily: The C-section wasn’t great. I’m glad I had my doula in there. She was a VBA3C mama so she knew her stuff. I’m explaining, “I can feel tugging. I can feel this and that.” She was like, “That’s normal.” I didn’t feel that with my first C-section.


    Yeah, they pulled her out. She was a baby girl. She was freaking screaming bloody murder, nothing like my son. My husband had announced both babies. He said, “It’s a girl,” and they let me touch her immediately. I just wanted to touch her and this is probably weird, but I feel like moms understand this. I wanted to touch her fresh out, blood and all. That’s my baby. I was able to do that and they took her away. 


    I had a really bad infection, chorio. They had to flush my uterus and my abdomen. I was on double antibiotics for three days in the hospital. They were having to– I call it stabbing. They stabbed the baby every day to check on her and it was tough. I had in my mind, “When did this infection start?” I didn’t get checked until the very end. I don’t know. 


    Yeah. It was hard. When we were in the C-section, he was like, “Who did your last C-section?” In my mind, I’m like, That’s a great question, why? “What’s wrong?” He was like, “You have really bad adhesions.” He fixed everything up. He came and checked on me the next day. 


    Long story short, I will birth at this hospital again. But it wasn’t a healing Cesarean. It was tough. Again, the nursing, the pain. I feel like both times, I really struggled. I’m not saying I didn’t bond with my babies, but I think the toughest part of my births were the postpartums. It’s such a hard recovery. I feel like people who have never had a C-section before, they don’t really understand. 


    I’m not saying that vaginal births aren’t difficult to recover from, but it’s not full-blown abdominal surgery and then boom, caring for a new life. I couldn’t hold the baby like I wanted to. I couldn’t do the things I wanted that I dreamt so hard of when I was attempting this VBAC. 


    This mentally was hard because it was like, boom. A double C-section. All I’ve ever wanted were hands-off, holistic births. That’s why I struggled so much with the two C-sections. I don’t want to knock anyone. I had very supportive friends and family, but the “at least you have healthy babies”. 


    Yes, I know I am so blessed. I don’t want to downplay that because I know a lot of women who don’t get that, but it doesn’t fix the birth and how awful it was. It was a tough C-section. I had incision issues, but I healed up and I was fine. I started scar work right away. I went to my pelvic floor therapist. She had me doing diaphragmatic breathing. 


    I know I need to wrap up. So to kind of summarize, after my first C-section, I don’t think I took the steps necessary to really heal myself with the scar work. I was petrified to touch my scar. I’m sure other people can relate to that. Then I was pregnant and I was like, Well, what’s the point? It’s stretching out anyway. 


    41:29 Tips for adhesions


    Emily: To any mom who has just had a C-section or is preparing for a VBAC or a birth and you don’t know if you are going to have a C-section, that scar work and that internal breathing, that pelvic floor is huge on your recovery. I learned so much about adhesions. Last time, it was the baby positioning. With this next baby, I’m going to be freaking out about adhesions. 


    But yeah, it was tough. So my midwives, bless their hearts. They do a home visit 3 days post-birth. They drove all the way out to where we were to do a home visit. They brought us dinner and my midwife was saying, “Emily, I could not believe that that baby was not flying out of you. You have a great pelvis. Your contractions were so strong. Your pushes were strong. I just could not believe it.” She was like, “I think it was the adhesions.” 


    I had never even heard about adhesions which is silly. Again, prepping on my part, why did I not know about that? But yeah, so that is what they think held her in. It was a baby girl. I don’t know if I said that. 


    Meagan: Adhesions, really, that’s a really common side effect or I don’t really know the right– it happens after a C-section. Sometimes it can happen more and we have really dense or many adhesions and then sometimes people have lower. 


    That’s why I love pelvic floor therapy and people like Ask Janette on Instagram because they do talk about that care early on and how important it is early on. 


    So many people like you don’t feel comfortable touching their C-section or their scar or they don’t like looking at it or have a negative feeling when thinking about it so processing your birth can also help get to that next step of working through those adhesions. 


    Emily: Yeah. I will say my second birth was much, looking back on my first birth, yeah it was kind of traumatic, but this second birth was tough. I was FaceTiming my friend in the hospital afterward just sobbing about the infection. I don’t want to put this baby on antibiotics. I’m very holistically minded. The epidural and the Pitocin were a huge blow to me personally. I can’t be the only one who feels that way and that has had to have two C-sections. 


    44:20 Hospital births are beautiful


    Emily: In summary, I really want to share this with listeners. From my first positive test in September 2021 to now, my views have changed drastically on the hospital system for the better. I didn’t have an awful hospital experience. I think the trauma came from the extremities of my situation not getting what I wanted. It might seem selfish, but it’s the truth. 


    Anyway, I am very grateful. I am very, very grateful for conventional medicine. I don’t know what would have happened with that first baby. He came out looking like he had been in a cage fight just beat up from whatever was going on in there and then my second baby with the infection and then myself, gosh. What a blessing that I didn’t go septic. 


    I’m very grateful for conventional medicine. I am grateful for that second C-section even though I am still struggling to process. I didn’t want it, but to clean up the adhesions, to clean out the infection and all of that. 


    But yeah, my views have changed drastically. I feel like I should share yes. I attempted a home birth. I don’t want to call it failure. I didn’t get my home birth. I didn’t get my birth center birth. You know, I’m not done having babies. That’s why VBAC is so important to me. Also, just pulling your baby out yourself, how cool. I want that so badly. I think I’ve wanted it from the get-go.


    My plan is I want to birth again at St. David’s, at the women’s center. Yeah, I will travel in to do that. I feel like also, I got to the point in my labors where I couldn’t hold back pushing. I think it’s important to note for any women to weigh your pros and cons of, Do I want to birth in a birth center? For me personally, I don’t think that is a good option again. If I’m getting to the point where I can’t breathe through contractions and I’m swelling, that’s what modern medicine is there for. An epidural can calm you down and maybe get things going back on track. 


    Between that, I told my sister-in-law, “I feel like God is working on my testimony through my births. I feel pulled by Him to share what I have gone through so other people know, yes. You may want a holistic pregnancy, a holistic birth, hands-off, do-it-yourself, midwifery, and that may not be in the cards. That’s okay. Don’t lose hope in the medical system. There are wonderful OBs. There are wonderful midwives who work in conjunction with hospitals and they know their stuff just as much as the holistic midwife does.” I think going in armed and ready and doing your research, not relying 100% on your provider to save the day is huge. 


    But yeah, I just feel like that’s important to note because I know the holistic community, I don’t want to call it toxic, but you hear all these things like, “Oh, hospital births are bad. Epidural and Pitocin are so bad,” but it’s not bad for everyone. I think that’s something that needs to be shifted to where you have holistically minded medicine and conventional medicine working together. I feel like I’m the perfect example of how it didn’t go as planned, but my views have changed on that and I am very grateful even though the births– I’m not trying to downplay it. I still struggle to come to terms with why. Why? It all goes back to that first birth. If I could have avoided that first C-section, what could I have done? But I did the best I could with what I knew at the time and what a blessing that I’ve learned as much as I have since then. I want to share that with other women who want that holistic birth. 


    There’s so much that you can be doing during pregnancy to set yourself up better than I did. Anyway, I’m rambling on and on. 


    Meagan: No, you’re just fine. The prep is really important and to know how to prep and all of the ways to prep and it’s a lot. It’s so much. It’s so much for someone wanting to have a baby in general and then for VBAC moms, there is definitely this extra thing when it comes to preparing mentally, physically, emotionally, and all of the things. 


    49:09 All about transferring


    Meagan: I wanted to touch a little bit on transferring. If you are planning on a home birth or a birth center birth and it comes down to a potential transfer, one, what are some signs that we may need to transfer? For you, it was like, Okay. I just got this percentage. That, to me, was confirmation to transfer. You can have those questions. What are things looking like? Is this going to happen? What can we do? Is there something we can do? Sometimes in that holistic world with home birth and birth center, they may give Benadryl or they may have nitrous to help avoid the urge or whatever. They might have homeopathic stuff, I don’t know what your location has, but there are things you can try and then sometimes you are like,  I don’t know. We’re going to go. 


    Or maybe you want epidural relief or baby has been having some nonreassuring heart tones here and there and that’s enough to make you want to transfer or for someone to want to transfer you. For first-time moms, I think NPR shares a little article and it says, “For first-time moms choosing home birth, up to 37% transfer to a hospital largely because the baby is unable to come out.” There is a lot of the time within this. I hear this and I’m like, why? Why are we not having babies come out? Sometimes I do feel like we push too early or we don’t recognize a positional thing. 


    So a lot of the time when there is a cervical lip, we might have a malpositioned head. I mean, literally ever so slightly that needs some help, but it’s hard to know or there may be scarring or there may be something going on causing that lip to stay. Then, it can. It can swell so when people say, “Oh, you can’t go backward.” Well, yeah. It can swell. You can get swelling which then closes. 


    So transferring and getting an epidural or getting an epidural at that point even if you’re in the hospital is a really great option for a lot of people because they want to avoid that urge to push causing more swelling. 


    You just have to weigh out your pros and cons. They do point out that planned home births end up with fewer Cesareans. 53 births to 1,000 compared to 207 per 1000. This was in 2019. It’s been a little bit. We’ll include this in the show notes if you want to go give it read, but I think it also comes down to find the best location for you and then follow your heart. 


    I love that you pointed out that hospital birth doesn’t have to be bad. It’s so true. There are so many beautiful hospital births. I’ve seen them personally as a doula. They don’t have to be traumatic and they don’t have to be crazy. 


    Do your research. Find out the locations next to you and around you. I love that you mentioned that you traveled. Traveling is worth it if you find the right provider and right location that’s going to help you feel supported and loved and guide you through. 


    I am grateful that you shared both of your Cesarean stories. I am sorry that it didn’t happen exactly how you wanted it to. It’s so hard when you’re like, The why. The why. Why did this happen? What could I have done? It reminds me of Julie’s radical acceptance episode. I don’t know if you’ve heard that, but it’s so hard to not understand the why or take out the what if, but through these experiences, I think we learn and we grow and sometimes we have to let go of the why. 


    I still don’t know some of the why’s that happened in my VBAC. It’s frustrating and sometimes I find myself latching on and feeling very angry or frustrated or confused. It’s so hard to have those feelings, but I think that we grow. We grow as individuals and I can see that you are growing. You also said that you changed perspectives which can be sometimes hard to do so you are. You’re growing in the right directions. I hope that for your next births that whatever you decide to do, vaginal or a Cesarean, that they are a healing experience for you. 


    Emily: Yeah. Well, I mean, like I said, I appreciate coming on so much. I just encourage everyone to listen to y’all even if you haven’t had a C-section. Knowing what you can do to avoid it from the get-go is huge. 


    Also, I feel like I should say that I found an OB close to where we live and I hear a lot of them say, “Well, if you would have just had a C-section because of a breech baby.” It’s the trial of labors that turn people away from the VBA2Cs. “Your two C-sections were–” I already explained them, “and that’s why you’re not a good candidate for VBA2C.” You all have so many stories on here where people have failure to progress, small pelvis, you’re too small, your babies are too big. This, that, or the other I don’t feel are good reasons to just not attempt a VBAC if that’s what you are wanting to do and that’s where I have found myself is I’m trying to figure out what I want to do next because I already know the minute I find out I’m pregnant, people are going to be like, “No. No, no, no.” 


    Meagan: Yeah. That is so hard. That is so hard. We’ll include a blog, How to Process When Things Don’t Go As Planned. We’ll include the blog, Cesarean or VBAC: How to Decide to try and help anyone who is in your same boat and relating to at least have a starting point of how to go and what to do. I just really appreciate you. Congratulations on both of your babies. I am so grateful that you were here today and have a wonderful one. 


    Emily: Thank you. You too.


    Closing


    Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Tell us about your experience at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Meagan’s bio, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.






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    55m - May 22, 2024
  • Episode 301 Janelle's Beautiful VBAC + Signs of PPD + What is Vaginal Cleansing?

    Today’s episode is full of love. Meagan’s doula partner, Christin Carlson, joins as co-host today to hear their client, Janelle, share her beautiful VBAC story.


    Janelle’s first baby was determined to stay frank breech even after two ECV attempts. Her water broke on its own before her scheduled date. In prep for her surgery, Janelle unexpectedly experienced vaginal cleansing. Though the surgery went well, it was not the introduction to motherhood Janelle was hoping for. She was also hit hard with postpartum depression. 


    Janelle shares how she found The VBAC Link and became obsessed with all things VBAC prep. Surrounded by the most loving and empowering team, they helped her stay steady when labor was most intense. Even though it was harder than she imagined it would be, Janelle was able to dig deep and achieve the unmedicated VBAC she desired. 


    Vaginal Cleansing Article

    Postpartum Depression Article

    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details 


    02:40 Janelle’s PPD experience

    07:25 Janelle’s stories

    12:06 Arriving at the hospital

    14:05 Janelle’s C-section

    17:00 VBAC preparation

    19:24 Appendicitis and second pregnancy

    24:22 Going into labor

    27:35 Laboring at the hospital

    30:30 Transition

    34:21 Achieving her VBAC

    38:47 The power of a supportive partner

    43:53 What is vaginal cleansing?

    50:26 Symptoms of postpartum depression


    Meagan: Hello, everybody. You guys, today I have a very special episode to my heart because this is one of our own doula clients here in Utah and another even more special thing is that this is my partner, Kristen who ended up attending her birth, is co-hosting. Hello, Christin and Janelle. 


    Janelle: Hello. 


    Christin: Hi. 


    Meagan: How are you guys today? 


    Janelle: So good, so good. 


    Meagan: Before we started recording, we started talking about time and how fast things are going. You guys, I mean I think you probably know if you are pregnant or have a newborn in your arms how fast time goes, but really, holy cow. We were with Janelle, we just talked about, 8 months ago from the time we are recording which is wild to think about. 


    Janelle: So weird. So weird. It’s crazy. 


    Christin: It seems like it was a couple of weeks ago. 


    Janelle: Yeah, it’s not fair. 


    Meagan: I know. How have things been? How have you been going with postpartum?


    Janelle: Things have been really good and I think that’s one of the things that pushed me to want a VBAC so badly is I was hoping for a better postpartum experience. I had pretty severe postpartum depression with my first baby and I felt like having the VBAC would be some sort of heavenly gateway into not having postpartum depression. In the beginning, that was true, but I ended up still having some of it. Things are good now, though. 


    Meagan: Good. I actually love that you touched on that because I think that sometimes especially after a traumatic Cesarean or a traumatic experience that did lead to postpartum depression or anxiety or anything like that, that can be a big motivator for a different experience. I love that you talked about, “Well, it was a better experience, but I still had this a little bit. I’ve had to work through that.” I’m glad that you’re good now, but even sometimes when we have a different experience, we have similar things. 


    So it’s important to recognize that. I love that you just pointed that out. 


    Janelle: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. 


    Meagan: Before we get going into the episode, do you have any tips on tackling that the second time around too? How were your feelings about things when you were starting to feel it and see it creep in? 


    02:40 Janelle’s PPD experience


    Janelle: Well, with both experiences, it did creep in just like you said, but with my daughter, it felt really dark really fast. She was my first baby and then with my first son, the VBAC, it was kind of a little bit sneaky. I guess just having someone on your support team. For me, it was my husband and I just said, “Look, if you see any of these signs, please say something to me.” 


    It wasn’t like we had a code word or anything. He was just really open in his dialogue with me and said, “Hey, I think something is up with you. You are not your normal self.” As soon as he said that, I was like, “Yeah. You’re right.” 


    It was really hard to admit because you want to be this strong mom and you want to be there for everyone and be everything that everyone need, but sometimes that’s just not how life works. It’s literally a chemical imbalance in your body and in your brain. It has nothing to do with your circumstances. Just having someone on your team and on your side to say, “Hey, I love you. Let’s get help,” was absolutely integral to helping me get on the other side. 


    Christin: I think it may have helped because you had been through it before so you were aware of the warning signs. That’s something I think that we don’t realize because I struggled with postpartum depression too but it didn’t happen until my third baby so I didn’t have any inclination that that was even something that I was going to deal with. 


    I think it’s important. We do all of this work to prepare for our VBACs and to prepare for the arrival of a new baby, but sometimes I don’t think we educate ourselves on what those warning signs of postpartum depression are because they can be very sneaky. It’s not always deep, dark thoughts. Sometimes it’s postpartum rage or postpartum anxiety where just you are either extremely emotional or extremely angry all of the time. To have your husband looking out for you or someone on your support team who is keeping an eye out for those things and noticing a shift in the way that you’re behaving, I think, is super important. I think that’s great that you guys have had this conversation ahead of time. 


    Meagan: Yeah, and we will talk a little bit more about some of those signs and symptoms. Like Christin was saying about how they can differ between rage, anxiety, depression, and the baby blues a little bit more at the end for sure because yeah, I think Christin just nailed it. We focus so heavily, and I think even more sometimes– I don’t want to say this as a fact, but sometimes I feel like more as a VBAC mom, we are so hyper-focused on the end result of a vaginal birth that sometimes I feel like we do forget a lot. That’s like everybody. I think they are so focused on getting baby here, but VBAC sometimes has to fight harder, search harder, read more, and emotionally work through things a little bit more so yeah, we can forget. 


    Then that creeps in or like Janelle said, it was like boom and darkness came over. We want to know how to handle that so we will talk a little bit more about that in the end. 


    07:25 Janelle’s stories


    Meagan: Okay, you guys. I wasn’t there, but in our practice, we have something that is like a live timeline that we have so whoever is at the birth can take notes of the timeline and we like to share that with our parents. We were all just sitting there watching it, checking in, and I just remember feeling this utter excitement inside of me for them as I was looking at the notes and following along with Christin’s updates. 


    I’m excited to now be here with you both and hear it in a different way. I’m going to turn the time over to you. 


    Janelle: Yes. I’m so excited. I was actually telling Meagan before we started that I was actually fangirling out. I don’t know exactly how I got started listening to The VBAC Link, but after I had my daughter, somehow I got onto it and I binged so hard on this podcast. It’s just really surreal to be recording with you. So thank you for allowing me to be here. 


    Christin: You’ve come full circle. 


    Meagan: Full circle. 


    Janelle: I have. 


    Meagan: I love that that happens with The VBAC Link. I love that it’s so often that it’s like, “I listened every day. You were in my ear and now here I am being in someone else’s ear. 


    Janelle: Yeah, yep. So just to all the mamas out there who are preparing, you’ve got this. You can do this. 


    With all VBACs, of course, there is a Cesarean that starts the story, right? We tried to get pregnant with my daughter for 14 months. We finally got pregnant and the pregnancy was super easy. I was going for a HypnoBirth unmedicated birth. I didn’t have a doula. I didn’t really have– I don’t know. You just don’t know what you don’t know and as a first-time mom, you think you know, but you don’t. You just don’t. 


    Meagan: Or we have apps that tell us so we really think we know because the app said so. 


    Janelle: Yes, but then you just don’t know until you’re in it. I gained 60ish pounds which was a lot, but I never had hypertension or a lot of issues with that. I never ended up with gestational diabetes which I was really grateful for and worried about, but in hindsight, it really wouldn’t have been a big deal. 


    At my 36-week appointment, we found out my daughter was breech. Homegirl was freaking stuck. Let me just tell you, she has been stubborn ever since. We tried everything. We decided to do an ECV. We did it at 37 weeks and we just did that. I think a low dose of Fentanyl was the only medication. I was just trying to use my Hypnobirthing to breathe through it. The doctors told me that I was doing really well, but she was just stuck, and that one failed. 


    We tried going to the chiropractor. We tried Spinning Babies. We tried basically everything that I could think of. We did not do acupuncture. That’s the only thing that we didn’t do and I never hired a doula. I could have done those things, but I didn’t. 


    We tried a second ECV at my 38-week appointment. We did that one with a spinal block in the OR because they were like, “Well, sometimes on the second attempt, it can throw you into labor.” So I was like, Okay, well if that happens and we have any problems, they can just do a Cesarean right there. 


    She was very, very stuck in my pelvis and the maternal-fetal medicine doctor actually tried to push her up vaginally and that was unsuccessful and very uncomfortable. Even though I was numb, it was still like, This is weird. I don’t know. I don’t like this. She just was stuck. 


    She was frank breech, so I was like, Okay. We’re just going to go through with the Cesarean. 


    I had 2 more weeks so two days later, I went out to dinner with a friend and then that night when I was sleeping, I got up to pee like you do a million times when you’re pregnant at the end and some water was leaking out as I was walking back from the bathroom and I was like, What the crap? I just peed. How is this happening?


    My water had broken and there was meconium. I knew that it was going to be a little bit of an issue with meconium just because my doctor told me something like they were just worried about meconium with a breech baby. I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s true or evidence-based or not. 


    12:06 Arriving at the hospital


    Janelle: We drove to the hospital and we got there at 5:00. They had to do a COVID test and they cleaned me out. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that. 


    Meagan: Like rectally? 


    Janelle: No, like vaginally. They took some sort of– 


    Meagan: They cleaned you out vaginally?


    Janelle: Yeah, I don’t know if it was because of the meconium, but they took some iodine-something and it felt like a membrane sweep. I never have had one of those, but if I could imagine what that was like, that’s what it felt like. 


    Meagan: Christin, have you ever seen that? 


    Christin: It’s funny that you say that because I had never seen it before until Janelle told me that she had it and I was like, That just sounds so odd, but I actually just saw it at a birth the other day. 


    Meagan: What is it for? I actually don’t know what this is. 


    Christin: I had never seen it previously and I thought it was just an anomaly with your birth, Janelle, but I saw it the other day again. 


    Janelle: Do they have a name for it? 


    Meagan: I’m Googling it right now. 


    Christin: They didn’t name it. They just used iodine swabs and just cleaned her out. 


    Janelle: Was that also for meconium? 


    Christin: Yeah. 


    Janelle: Okay, interesting. 


    Christin: Now that I think back on it, there was mec but I don’t think we knew there was mec until baby was born so I don’t know. 


    Janelle: Oh, interesting. Okay. So yeah, that was the most unpleasant experience ever on top of mid-contraction, I was having the COVID swab up my nose so that was really great because this was early 2021. So yeah. 


    Anyway, we waited for the ORand the nurse came in. I asked her, “Can you check me? I know I’m going back there for surgery, but I’m just curious. I’m having contractions. Can you just see if I’m dilating?” 


    She’s like, “Yeah, you’re at a 4.” So I was like, "Oh, that’s kind of nice. My body’s actually doing the work here.” I was really excited about that. 


    14:05 Janelle’s C-section


    Janelle: Jumping to the surgery, I was so terrified. I don’t know what it was. You’re just going through so many emotions. You have to put so much trust in the nurses and the doctors and the anesthesiologists. You have to put so much trust that these people paid attention in med school that they know what they are doing, that they care about you, they care about your baby, and chances are they totally do and they did pay attention and they got good grades, but I just felt nervous as a first-time mom. 


    They jostled me around and the anesthesiologist was really nice and he was just talking to me and telling me everything that was happening. When she was born, I knew it because I felt them yank her out. They had a clear drape, but I couldn’t see over it so I was really sad that I couldn’t see her. 


    Because of the meconium, they had to take her and they cleaned her up and stuff. I was 16 minutes or something before I got to see her. In hindsight, it’s not that long, but it felt like forever. Then I got to see her sweet little face and oh gosh, it was just the most precious thing ever. 


    My husband snuck a video of it. You’re not supposed to in the OR, but he snuck a video of it and it’s such a treasure for me to look back at the moment that I got to meet her because I didn’t get to be the first one to hold her. Yeah. 


    Christin: I love that he did that though so you have the record of that memory. 


    Janelle: Yeah. I never even asked him to. He just knew that I would want that. He’s the best. 


    One thing I didn’t know about postpartum regardless of if you have a C-section or a vaginal birth, your nurses will push on your abdomen and it hurts like a mother trucker. Let me just tell you. 


    Meagan: Crede-ing. 


    Janelle: It’s what? 


    Meagan: It’s called Crede-ing. They Crede and they are checking where the uterus is, if it’s clamping down, and making sure it’s not getting boggy and filling up. 


    Janelle: Yep, and if you’re bleeding too much or not enough. It sucked. 


    Then I had really bad postpartum depression. This one was not sneaky. This one was almost immediately. I felt like I bonded really well with my daughter, but there was just some darkness that was in my heart and I couldn’t figure out what it was. It took a while. I was actually maybe 6 or 8 weeks at my postpartum appointment and my doctor did the screening. She’s like, “Yeah, your score was really not good. Let’s get you some medication.” I was like, “Okay.” 


    I was very reluctant, but I saw almost an immediate difference. I had it for a while, but it did help. 


    17:00 VBAC preparation


    Janelle: Anyway, so that was my daughter’s birth and ever since then, like I said, I was obsessed with The VBAC Link. I knew right away that I wanted a vaginal birth. Actually, come to think of it, right before we went back to surgery, I was talking to the doctors and I was like, “I really want to have another baby after this. Is there any way you guys could make sure that my scar looks really good and I could have more babies vaginally? That’s really important to me.” 


    They were like, “Yeah. We will make sure you are taken care of.” I was very grateful for that. 


    What I wanted out of this birth, I don’t know if what I told Christin is still what I have on my birth plan that I wrote down, but what I really wanted was a healthy mom, a healthy mindset, and a healthy baby obviously. Those are the minimum, right? Then I wanted baby out of my vagina. I wanted skin-to-skin. I wanted to be the first one to hold baby and I wanted to be fully present and fully included in all of the decisions. 


    I don’t know if it was just, yeah. I don’t know exactly why that was so important to me at the moment, but it just felt like I didn’t want any of this robbed from me. I didn’t want any of the experience to be done to me. Do you know what I’m saying? I wanted as few interventions as possible. Those were what I really wanted out of this birth. Is that what you have, Christin?


    Christin: Yeah, pretty darn close to that. I also have skin-to-skin was super important. 


    Janelle: Yes. 


    Christin: And I think it’s worth noting that you wanted to catch and deliver your own baby. You said I wanted to be the first one to hold her– sorry, hold the baby boy– but you also told me that was super important to you. You actually wanted to deliver your child. 


    Janelle: Yes, okay. With my son, my daughter was maybe 20 months old. It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving and I felt some pain in my side. We had been trying for 6 months and something was just wrong. I didn’t have a big appetite and it was Thanksgiving dinner at my mom’s house and I just didn’t feel good. Something intuitively was just wrong and I knew it. 


    My husband was like, “Well, why don’t you just try taking an antacid?” I was like, “No. I know something is wrong.” 


    19:24 Appendicitis and second pregnancy


    Janelle: We went to the ER and I had appendicitis and I was pregnant. So that was really fun to find out all at the same time. Because I was 3 weeks, 4 days pregnant, I had not even missed my period. I hadn’t taken a test, they said that nothing in the surgery would change because baby was still so small. I was like, Okay. Well, that’s good. 


    I was really nervous for the surgery and that there were going to be complications afterward, but everything was fine. As soon as I started to heal from surgery, I got so nauseous. I was so sick the whole pregnancy until maybe 25 weeks. That’s when it finally started to wean off. 


    Like I said, I lived in VBAC mode. I binged the podcast on the daily. I went on walks. I would listen to it while I was cleaning, driving, naptime, all of the things. I also was very into the Evidence-Based Birth Podcast because I was very curious about water birth and home birth and all of the statistics. 


    My husband actually pulled me aside while I was in crazy VBAC mode as we call it. He was like, “Janelle, I’m just worried if you end up having a C-section, where are you going to be at mentally? Are you going to be okay with this if that ends up being your path?” I was like, “You know what? I really do need to prepare for that too,” because things really can go in any direction with birth. As soon as he said that to me and I started to prepare that way, I just became like, Okay. Whatever happens happens. This is okay. 


    I did have the same VBAC-crazed mindset but I was also okay with things happening. I don’t know if that makes sense. 


    Meagan: Yeah, it totally makes sense. I think a lot of the time as we are preparing for that, it is important to note that things can go and still prepare for the other but prepare, prepare, prepare, and then do all of those things while you are preparing so if it doesn’t happen, then you don’t have to look back and be like, But what if this and what if that? 


    Then you are confident in the way you prepared, but then you know, Well, it could go this way. It’s not what I’m going to plan for, but it could go that way and I’m going to be more content because I’m doing everything within my control. 


    Janelle: Yes. At 20 weeks, my insurance changed and I had to find a new provider. That was a whirlwind. I actually found my midwife through The VBAC Link list of providers. Her name is Kira Waters and she is the best. I love her so much. The first thing that I said to her when I interviewed her was, “How do you feel about VBACs?” She said, “I love VBACs!” I was like, “Oh my gosh, okay. Say no more.”


    Yeah, after we met Kira, then we were on the search for a doula. I came across you guys. I met with Christin and the stars were just aligning like, this is going to work out. This is going to be perfect. I don’t know how to explain it. It wasn’t like an instant connection, but it was this deep trust that I instantly had in her if that makes sense. 


    Meagan: Mhmm, yeah. 


    Janelle: It was almost like I’d known her for a long time, but not like a high-school friend. She’s my long-lost aunt, I guess. She’s full of wisdom. 


    Christin: I’ll take it. 


    Meagan: Well, and there is something about a doula. Don’t you think? Fun fact, Christin and I actually had the same doula, but there was something about our doula– her name is Robin. She is amazing. I didn’t even know her that well. I mean, I knew her through the birth community and stuff but I didn’t know every detail about her, but there was this weird sense of confidence where I was like, It’s going to be fine. Then her partner, Angie, was also somebody who I was like, I know she has to be in my corner. I just knew that those two people had to be on my team and yeah. It wasn’t like I instantly knew them and felt the connection of being childbirth friends, but I was so deeply connected right away and still am to this day to them. 


    Janelle: Mhmm, yep. It’s interesting. I’m kind of a private person and I didn’t want my mother-in-law or my mom in the birth room, but as soon as I met Christin, I’m like, “Yep. Come to the birth.”


    24:22 Going into labor


    Janelle: Let’s see, I think it was my 34th or 36th appointment and I met with the OB because if you are with the midwife, they want you to meet with the OB. He did the VBAC calculator. I think it said 47%. It was 47 or 50% chance. It was a pretty moderate chance of success. He was really nice, but I just was like, Eh, I don’t really want him to deliver my baby. 


    Let’s see. I had gained a similar amount of weight, but again, no hypertension. Everything was pretty much the same to this point other than baby was head down at this time. 


    I was 37 weeks and I went out to dinner with a friend. Fun fact, it was the same restaurant and the same order. That night, I went into labor. 


    Christin: You’re onto something. 


    Janelle: It was Zupas. 


    Meagan: I was going to say, what was it? Zupas? 


    Janelle: It was Zupas. 


    Christin: Now we have to get your order too. 


    Meagan: What was your order? 


    Janelle: I want to say it was the pulled pork sandwich. Maybe one of the soups, like the cheesy soup, the Wisconsin…


    Meagan: The Wisconsin Cauliflower? 


    Janelle: That one, and then the pulled pork sandwich. That’s what I ordered both times. So if you want to go into labor…


    I don’t know if that’s even tried and true, but it was so interesting. 


    Christin: I’m pretty sure it’s not evidence-based. 


    Janelle: No, but for me. 


    Christin: For you it is. 


    Meagan: You’ve got some good stats. 


    Janelle: Yeah. So I went into labor that night and my husband, I didn’t say this before but when I went into labor with my daughter he was like, “No!” because it was so early and he’s a gamer so he was up that night playing games on the computer and he was just really tired. The same reaction was had from him this time too. He was like, “No!” 


    Christin: It was early in the morning. 


    Janelle: He was like, “Dang it!” 


    I wanted to labor at home as long as I could so let’s see. I think we texted you pretty close to that time. Was it at 4:00 or 5:00? 


    Christin: I got a text at 3:06 AM that you thought your water broke. 


    Janelle: Yeah. So I labored at home in the tub for a while. My husband made me the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I ever had in my entire life. I ate a peach. I just hung out in the tub. When I would listen to the podcast before bed, I would listen in the tub and hang out and relax. It was a safe space for me that I was very used to. I hung out there for a long time. It really wasn’t that long, but when you’re in labor, it feels like a long time. 


    I had my mom come over so she was with our daughter. Once my contractions were 4-5 minutes apart, we were like, Okay. Our hospital is 30-45 minutes away. We should probably head in just to be safe. 


    27:35 Laboring at the hospital


    Janelle: I got admitted around 6:00. Is that what you have, Christin? 


    Christin: Yeah. It was around 6:00, a little bit before 6:00. 


    Janelle: I agreed to be checked at that time. I didn’t want a lot of checks because I didn’t want to introduce bacteria by having my water being broken, but I was curious about where I was at. They said I was at a 4. I told the nurse beforehand, I was like, “I don’t want to know,” but she let it slip. She was like, “Oh, you didn’t want to know, huh?” I was like, “No, but that’s okay.” 


    Meagan: Isn’t that where you were with the first one?


    Janelle: Yeah, kinda. I was like, Okay, well at least I got this far before. 


    She said I was 50% effaced and -2 station. At this point, my husband and I were kind of clueless because we only had one meeting with Christin. We hadn’t gone over counterpressures. We hadn’t gone over how he was going to be actively supporting me in birth so we were just like, Okay, now what?


    Christin: I think we had your second prenatal scheduled for the day after you went into labor. Your baby just decided to beat us to the punch. 


    Janelle: He was so excited. He just wanted to be a part of it. 


    We were really clueless and I started feeling the contractions really intensely. I was not as prepared as I thought I was for contractions. I was second-guessing all of my life decisions because I again even wanted to be unmedicated. I even signed a consent form for the epidural at this point. I was like, Okay, just call it. I’m done.


    Christin: Christin joined us I think an hour after I got there around 7:00. The second that she stepped in the room, the energy just shifted. I don’t know how to explain it. She just brought so much excitement like, I’ve got this. I got you. It’s all right. It’s going to be okay.


    I know she wasn’t intending to be my savior, but she kind of was in that moment for energy’s sake. I don’t think I could have done it if she hadn’t walked in with the confidence and the joy that she had, just the excitement for birth, the passion to be there, and it just made such a huge difference in our experience and I just love you so much, Christin. Thank you. 


    Christin: You’re going to make me cry. 


    Meagan: She’s all emotional. 


    Janelle: We’re all just crying here. It’s fine. 


    Christin: It’s really the best job in the world. It’s the best job. 


    Janelle: It’s really a sacred space. Like I said, I didn’t have my mom or my mother-in-law there. I just wanted it to be very intimate and Christin was so good at honoring how intimate it was. 


    30:30 Transition


    Janelle: Let’s see. Let me jump back to the story. Around 10:00, I got a new nurse. This nurse was awesome. Her name was Alisha and she was at St. Mark’s. If you ever get Alisha at St. Mark’s, she is a godsend. She was great. There were multiple times where Christin, Alisha, my midwife Kira, and my husband were all taking turns doing counterpressures on me. They all synced up and were so harmonious. 


    Okay, so at 10:00, I was still 4 centimeters, 100% effaced. I labored in the tub at this point for a while. It really wasn’t that long, but in the moment, it felt like a long time. I loved and hated the tub because I didn’t have anything to brace myself on. Michael, my husband, couldn’t give me any counterpressure in the tub, but the relief afterward in the water was so amazing. I really loved that and then Christin was like, “I’m going to leave you two alone and have a little moment.” 


    I think you had even brought these little tea light, like the electric tea lights. You had set those up in the bathroom and the lights were dimmed. It was such a special, sacred moment with Michael and I. He just was like, “I really get why you hired her. I love her. She is amazing.” I was like, “Yep. This is why.” He was like, “Yeah, we don’t ever want to do birth without her.’ 


    Christin: Have more babies. I’ll be there. 


    Janelle: Yes. Undecided. But we do, absolutely. 


    Christin: Fair enough. Fair enough. 


    Janelle: That was at 10:00. I was at a 4. Then I got in the bath. At 11:15, I was out of the bath by then. I had a cervical check and I was at a 7. I jumped a lot in that time. I was doing a lot of work. I was 100% effaced and I was at 0 station. I was moving all over in positions. We did the throne position. There was one where I was on hands and knees on the birthbed, but I didn’t have the birth ball. 


    At 11:40ish, I was feeling really pushy and I got so emotional. Christin will remember this. I sobbed. It was ugly crying for a good half hour. This is now what we know is transition, but it was rough. I was having Charlie horses and oh, it was just rough. I just was crying a lot. I don’t know exactly what was happening, but I just was preparing, I guess, and releasing emotion for the baby to come out. 


    Around 12:30, I was pushing here and there, and around 12:45ish, I started really pushing. Again, at this point, I was in the lithotomy position which is sitting upright how you picture in movies and stuff how people have babies. I was screaming this baby out. I was the loudest person on that floor of the hospital for sure. 


    Meagan: I think there’s something to it. I think sometimes roaring your baby out is what people need. 


    Christin: Absolutely. 


    Janelle: I was absolutely a screamer. 


    Christin: It’s funny because I don’t remember you being loud. 


    Janelle: Oh my gosh, really? 


    Christin: Yeah, I don’t remember it. 


    Janelle: Oh, praise be. That’s great because I remember at one point– 


    Christin: There’s a good chance you weren’t as loud as you thought you were. That happens a lot of the time. You think you are very loud and you probably aren’t. But I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that. A lot of women roar their babies out and it’s very powerful and very primal and natural to do so. 


    Janelle: Mhmm, yeah. 


    34:21 Achieving her VBAC


    Janelle: I remember at one point, there was a nurse that came in. I could tell she was one of the baby nurses because she had the baby cart and stuff. I was in mid-push and I remember saying, “Get the f- out!” 


    I’m pretty sure that everyone in the room thought I was talking about the baby, but I was talking about the nurse. I was like, “Get out!” 


    Meagan: Like, “I don’t want you here.”


    Janelle: I was like, “I don’t want anyone in here seeing this. It’s ugly.” 


    Meagan: Oh my gosh, that’s funny. 


    Janelle: Anyway, so I finally pushed the baby out at 1:30 so I was pushing for an hour. The moment that I got to push him out, I was very emotional and my midwife handed him to me and helped me finish. She delivered the first part of him and I had a little bit of a cervical lip so she was like, “You’ve got to really push him out,” or maybe it was the shoulder. Was it the shoulder that was stuck? I feel like I’m butchering this last part right now. 


    Christin: No, you didn’t have an official shoulder dystocia. He just needed a little extra strength to get the rest of his body out. 


    Janelle: Okay, yeah. That’s where we were at. She was like, “You really need to push here.” I just remember like you said, roaring him out. She helped me pull him to my chest and having that warm, gooey, slimy baby was just everything that I could have hoped for. I would not change that for the world. That oxytocin hit that you get from smelling that baby that comes out of you is just unreal. I was so happy that I got to be the first one to hold him and see him. I just am really, really grateful that I had the support that I did because I don’t feel like I could have done it without my husband, without Kira our midwife, without that nurse Alisha. 


    Okay, like I said, I am butchering this best part because I forgot to say so many things that I wrote down. 


    Okay, let me back up a little bit. So right around the time that I was crowning, I just felt like my skin was crawling and oxygen was not enough for me. I couldn’t get comfortable. I couldn’t get on top of my breathing. I was asking for an epidural. I had already signed the consent form, but my nurse Alisha was like, “Oh, the anesthesiologist is busy and by the time he comes, it’s going to be too late so sorry.” Sneaky little nurse because she knew what I wanted. 


    I actually asked for a local anesthetic. I was asking for lidocaine or something. I was like, “What do you use to stitch people up? Use that on me because I am struggling here.” My contractions were, Kira told me they were three little ones and then one really, really big one then I would have a 5-minute break. That’s how my contractions were up until the end. 


    Like I said, I couldn’t get on top of my breath. I remember looking at Christin and my husband. I just couldn’t figure it out. There was this moment inside of me that even though I had them there, I had to dig so deep in my own body and in my own soul. I even said a prayer to God and I was like, I have got to have some help here. I cannot push this baby out alone. Can you please send some angels or something to be with me because I can’t do it?


    I got a little bit of a longer break in between contractions and I finally had Christin and Michael help me to get on top of my breathing and that’s when I was able to push the baby out. 


    Meagan: It’s crazy how breath really is so impactful but then we are always told to hold it, so you’ve got to find the breath and find the strength and regrasp. Sometimes, that means taking a step back and rebreathing and finding that regrounding. 


    Christin: Yeah. 


    Janelle: It’s so hard in the moment. 


    Like I said, you think you know but you don’t know until you’re there. 


    38:47 The power of a supportive partner


    Janelle: But I do have to say that the second I pulled him out and he was warm and gooey and on my chest, they were trying to arouse him a little bit because he was a little bit slower to take his first couple of breaths, I was just screaming, “I did it! I did it! I did it!” a million times. My husband just said, “I’m so proud of you. I’m so proud of you.” 


    I actually wanted to say what he told his family. He said, “Today I saw what Janelle was made of and she freaking did it. I’m so proud of her.” The way that he said that about me unprovoked was really sweet. Yeah. So there it is. There’s my story. It’s choppy. 


    Meagan: No, listen. I love that. I love that. And would you have anything to add, Christin, to that?


    Christin: I would just say that Janelle went into this whole thing very prepared. She had educated herself and she was very prepared for whatever came at her. She did her work ahead of time. She found a fantastic provider and she knew what she was doing. She knew everything that she needed to know about a VBAC, but at the same time, she was very welcoming to let birth just unfold how it was going to unfold. 


    There was a time. We talked about this a little bit earlier. You got to the hospital. You had been laboring really well at home and contractions had been coming very quickly. You were progressing really well and then you got to the hospital and everything just stopped. That’s completely normal. We see that happen all the time in birth where just that chance in scenery and the commotion tends to slow things down a little bit, but that didn’t get to you. You just needed to get back into your groove. You got settled back into the hospital and you and Michael had some time together. I don’t think we should ever discount those special moments that you have with just your husband. 


    When I step out to give you time in the bathroom, that’s not me necessarily trying to take a break myself, it’s to give you guys time to help that oxytocin get flowing, to get labor progressing again, and to protect that intimate space. You guys were a phenomenal team. It was incredible to watch the two of you together. Michael was so incredibly supportive. 


    That moment where he leaned down and just said to you, “I’m so proud of you, Janelle,” it was so touching just to watch his love and his pride for you. It was incredible. 


    Janelle: He really is the best. I’m so emotional just thinking about him because I just love him. Obviously, none of my family would be possible without him, but I couldn’t do mom life without him and I couldn’t do the birth without him. He really was everything. So get yourself somebody who loves you and who loves the ugly parts of you too. 


    Christin: You know, I say this too. I don’t think– I mean, moms obviously are going through so much during labor, but I don’t think dads are ever given as much credit as they deserve because they are watching someone they love go through the hardest thing they’ve ever done. While there are things to help mitigate some of that, there is nothing they can do to fix it or take it away and it is emotionally taxing on them. 


    Meagan: I agree. I was just about to say the same thing. As mothers, thinking about your child doing one of the hardest things in their entire life and how they feel. Now, you are not his child, but you are someone he loves probably more than anyone on this earth, and especially at that time, he was feeling those things too and he watched you. He watched you prepare and he even was questioning, “I see how much you want this. How will this affect you if it doesn’t go this way?” He was literally taking into consideration that far before the birth even happened thinking about you that deeply. It just is amazing. 


    I think that’s one of my personal favorite things about being a doula. Of course, seeing babies being born is just incredible. It’s absolutely incredible, but seeing what Christin just described, these two people who love each other more than anything that just brought this human into this life, and seeing them bond and grow and take pride in on another during the support of their baby is just really one of the coolest parts about being a doula. 


    Janelle: When my kids are a little bit older, I think that’s what I want to do, but we’ll see. 


    Meagan: Yes. Listen, I think that’s how a lot of us start. We get inspired by our own births then we find the time in our life when the journey feels right and we take off. I encourage you to. I encourage you to become a doula. Yeah, it’s such an amazing journey. 


    43:53 What is vaginal cleansing?


    Meagan: I definitely want to touch on the postpartum stuff that we wanted to talk about, but I also found a little article thing on the vaginal cleansing. I just wanted to share. 


    Janelle: Oh, okay. 


    Meagan: It’s actually from cochrane.org. This was published in April 2020 4 years ago. We’ll make sure to have the link here in the show notes, but I was just curious more about what it was and in one of the articles, it said “vaginal toileting”. I’m like, What? That’s weird.


    Janelle: Odd. 


    Meagan: Yes, toileting is a really strange vocabulary, but maybe in my head, I’m thinking that maybe they are getting rid of– I’m not going there. It’s called vaginal cleansing with antiseptic solution before Cesarean delivery to reduce infections after surgery. 


    Janelle: Oh. 


    Meagan: Kind of interesting. I’m not going to go through the whole thing because I really want to get to postpartum, but it says, “What evidence did we find? We searched for new evidence in July of 2019 and in this update, we have included 21 randomized controlled studies involving a total of 7,038 women” –which to men kind of sounds small– “undergoing a Cesarean section.” It goes down and it says, “Cleansing the vagina with antiseptic solution immediately before a Cesarean delivery probably reduces the incidence of post-Cesarean infection of the uterus. 20 trials of 6,918 women showed moderate-certainty evidence” –so they are moderately confident– “that the reduction was seen for both iodine-based solution and chlorhexidine-based solutions.” It says, “The risk of postoperative fever and post-operative wound infection was probably reduced by vaginal cleansing both moderately again.” 


    It goes on even more talking about wound complications and infection of the uterus may be lower in women receiving pre-operative vaginal cleansing with solution. So that is interesting because one of the things for me and maybe I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that meconium was sterile. It’s poop, but the reason why they get so worried in the lungs is because it’s really thick and tarry poop. If you think about our lungs and tarry poop, right? That’s what my understanding was. It was more of that versus it was toxic to them but maybe I don’t know. Maybe I need to research my meconium evidence. Do you know, Christin?


    Christin: I don’t. Does that study say that they do it specifically related to meconium or just in prep for a C-section? 


    Meagan: Just in prep for the C-section. When you guys were talking about the relation to meconium, it just made me think because I thought that meconium was okay. It doesn’t really talk about it here at all. It did say that they did not observe any difference between groups of women with ruptured membranes and women with in-tact membranes which to me says– because in-tact membranes mean no meconium, right? 


    Janelle: Right, no. 


    Meagan: Yeah. They wouldn’t know or it wouldn’t be present, so it’s interesting. It’s interesting. 


    Janelle: Yeah, interesting. 


    Christin: It must have just been a coincidence with your C-section and meconium being present. Like I said, the one that I just saw– it might have been a week ago. 


    Meagan: It ended in a Cesarean? 


    Christin: Yeah, it was for a C-section, but I don’t think they knew that meconium was present at the time that they did the cleansing or the vaginal toileting I guess that we are calling it. 


    Janelle: Vaginal toileting. That sounds so gross. 


    Meagan: Vaginal toileting, I know. This article says vaginal cleansing specifically, but yeah. 


    Janelle: I prefer that. 


    Meagan: There was another article that talked about the effects of vaginal douching and another article that talked about the effects of vaginal toileting before a Cesarean. 


    Janelle: I’m not a fan regardless. 


    Meagan: Yeah. It’s so interesting. I honestly have never seen that. I mean, it was 4 years ago so maybe some places are catching up. I mean, I don’t know. Anyway, moderate. It may. It may not. It’s not complete. But anyway, there was that. I just had to throw that in because that was a big question. 


    Janelle: Yes and touching on that, I think maybe it’s okay to decline that and I would have declined that had I known that was what was going to happen to me because it very much happened to me.


    Christin: Yeah. Absolutely. 


    Meagan: Yeah and it wasn’t discussed. You still didn’t even know the reason right now. You were still processing. Those are the types of things that as those things are happening, you can stop and say, “Hey, whoa. What is the evidence on this?” You can ask about that. Or, “Hey, can you tell me the pros and cons here because I don’t know if I want this?” Then again, it’s ultimately up to you to choose if you want that. 


    Now, if you’re not expecting a Cesarean and all of a sudden they are doing this, that might be a red flag to start asking questions because they may be mentally on the other side of the wall preparing you for a Cesarean that you are not aware of. 


    Christin: Yeah, I think this is a good example of just in general how much they don’t let you know how much is actually voluntary. A lot of times, the way they phrase things is, “Okay, I’m doing this to prepare for this or I’m going to do this” without letting you know, “Hey, if you don’t want this, we don’t have to do this.” 


    Janelle: Right. 


    Christin: So I think that happens with a lot of things, especially as a first-time mom, you don’t know. You don’t know what is– 


    Janelle: Protocol. 


    Christin: What you have to consent to and what is protocol and even if it is protocol, you can still decline it. You don’t know a lot of that stuff. 


    Meagan: Yeah. Yeah. Okay, so we’ll be quick and we’ll include this link in there. 


    50:26 Symptoms of postpartum depression


    Meagan: This is from the Mayo Clinic. It talks about the different symptoms of postpartum depression. We talk about baby blues. I’m just going to talk about this really fast. I encourage everyone to go click on it. But baby blues symptoms may include things like mood swings, anxiety, sadness, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, reduced concentration, appetite problems, and even crying. 


    No, postpartum depression symptoms they have listed as depressed mood or severe mood swings, crying too much, difficulty bonding with your baby, withdrawing from family and friends, overall tiredness, hopelessness, feeling worthless, restlessness, super anxiety, and stuff like that. Postpartum psychosis, getting confused and lost. A lot of the time, people with postpartum psychosis will be mid-thought and then they just stop and they literally have no idea what’s going on. They’re very confused. Having obsessive thoughts about your baby. Hallucinating kind of sometimes goes into that feeling very confused. Not sleeping or having too much energy. Almost feeling like you’re so exhausted but you are really, really, really high. Does that make sense on energy? 


    Making attempts to harm yourself or your baby and then there is more. So when to see a doctor— if it goes past 2 weeks after your baby is born, you are noticing it getting worse. Your partner is noticing it getting worse. It is making it harder on you to physically take care of your baby or yourself and things like that. All good things to know and be aware of. 


    Yes, like Janelle said, it is very hard to admit sometimes because we are in it, but get that supportive team. This is also a really great conversation to have prior to having a baby even if you have never had a baby before or never had any of these symptoms before to talk about it and create a plan for if these symptoms are coming in, what to do, what you want to do while you are in a different space. 


    All right, I just ran really quickly through that because I know our time is up, but definitely check that out. Women of strength, know that it is okay to ask for help. It is okay. 


    Janelle: Yes. I agree 100%. 


    Christin: Absolutely. 


    Meagan: Thank you guys so much for joining me today. It was such a pleasure. I loved seeing the emotion, the waterworks, the smiles, the uncontrolled laughter. It just was so much fun and I absolutely adore you both. 


    Janelle: Aw, I love you. Thank you so much for having me. I love you, Christin. I love you, Meagan. 


    Christin: Love you too. 


    Meagan: Love you. 


    Christin: Thank you so much, Megan. 


    Closing


    Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Tell us about your experience at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Meagan’s bio, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.





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    53m - May 20, 2024
  • Episode 300 with Meagan & Julie + Where We Started & Where We Are Now

    We can hardly believe that we have recorded 300 episodes! Meagan brings Julie on the podcast today to take a look back at how The VBAC Link Podcast started, the growth they have both experienced along the way and where they are now. 


    Since 2018, we have shared laughter, tears, heartache, and joy through your stories. Thank you to all of our listeners and guests for your support. Together, we are changing the birth world for the better through all of our ripple effects!


    Meagan promises to continue the journey and bring you more powerful stories. It’s been quite the ride and we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!


    Needed Website

    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details 


    01:11 Review of the Week

    04:05 How the podcast started

    12:09 How the podcast has grown 

    16:40 Changes in birth

    22:11 Celebrating differences within the birth community

    28:45 Challenges bring growth

    35:35 Julie’s photography


    Meagan: Hello, you guys. Today is a very, very exciting– for me at least and I’m sure for Julie– episode because it’s the 300th episode. 300 and Julie is here with me because I couldn’t share this exciting episode without her. 


    Julie: I cannot believe it. I seriously cannot believe it. So wild. 


    Meagan: It’s so crazy. 300 episodes and we’ve had so many other crazy things like special episodes so it might even be more than 300, but it is the 300th on my form and I’m really, really excited. We want to share more about where we are today but also recap a little bit about where The VBAC Link started. I know we have a lot of listeners who have joined us in more recent years. We started in 2018. 2018, is that right? 


    Julie: Yeah. 


    Meagan: So we have a lot of new listeners who maybe don’t know our full story and know what we are and what we’re doing and all of the things. 


    01:11 Review of the Week


    Meagan: So we are going to be talking about that, but we do have a Review of the Week. I’m going to share that. It is from Michelle. She listed this on Google and it says, “Thank you so much for inspiring and informing me through the journeys of VBAC mamas. As I prepare for my VBAC in October after a recent traumatic Cesarean, I feel empowered, motivated, and healed knowing that there are so many women who are out there preparing in the same way that I am. I recommend this podcast to all mamas.” 


    Now, this was about a year ago so I’m assuming Michelle has had her baby. So Michelle, if you are still with us, let us know how it went and as always, if you wouldn’t mind leaving us a review, it helps all of these other Women of Strength find these amazing stories and information as well as our blog and all of the wonderful things I believe that we provide. You can do that on Google. You can do it on Apple Podcasts. You can even send us a message or on Spotify. I mean, really wherever you are listening should have a ranking– Google, Apple, or wherever you are, we would love your review. 


    04:05 How the podcast started


    Meagan: Okay, Julie. 300. 


    Julie: 300. I can’t believe it. Do you know what is wild? It’s so funny because I left. I’m using air quotes right now. I know people can’t see it. I “left”. It’s been 2 years. 3 years, oh my gosh. 3. I left in 2021. 


    Meagan: It has. 2021. You did. 


    Julie: My gosh. Isn’t that wild? When is this episode airing? 


    Meagan: May. 


    Julie: May, so it will almost be 3 years. It’s really funny because life is definitely much easier now and more manageable, but there are parts of me that still feel very strongly connected to The VBAC Link. I appreciate you for including me and having me back on the podcast and things like that but it’s also sometimes so weird when I’m scrolling through Facebook and I see The VBAC Link recommended, sometimes people talk about Meagan and Julie still which is so cool, but also it’s sometimes like Meagan Heaton has The VBAC Link and it’s really amazing and she does a great job. I’m like, “Aww,” but also, it’s weird. 


    It’s this weird little thing because I still believe that I made the right decision. My life has a much better balance and everything I needed it to be by letting go of The VBAC Link. It’s right there where it needs to be, but there’s also part of me that is just kind of like, “Man, that was a big part of my life for so long,” and it still feels weird not being in it. 


    Meagan: I’m sure, absolutely. I miss you. I love you. 


    Julie: I miss you too. 


    Meagan: I’m so glad that you come on and join me here and there or take random phone calls when I call you to vent or something. 


    Yeah, you guys. It’s kind of crazy to think that it’s 2024. It’s even more crazy to me to think that I’ve been solo for that long. Yeah. Just thinking back in 2018, I still will never forget the moment that I saw Julie Francom pop up on my phone out of nowhere, out of absolutely nowhere. We knew each other. We knew we were VBAC passionate. We were doulas. I would say we were kind of really kicking off into the prime doula stages of our careers and it was just so crazy. 


    My personality is sometimes where if someone is calling that I don’t really know this person super, super well, I’ll let it go to voicemail and see what they say. 


    Julie: You’re like, “Why is this weirdo calling me?” 


    Meagan: You’re not a weirdo, but we weren’t the absolute tightest doula friends in the community. We just really knew each other and respected each other through going to ICAN meetings and things like that. I so easily could have not answered. I always wonder if I didn’t answer what would have happened. Would you have texted me and said, “Hey, call me?” 


    Julie: Probably. 


    Meagan: Would you have called me right back? Would you have just said, “She didn’t answer.” I don’t know. 


    Julie: No, it had to be you, my friend. It had to be you. 


    Meagan: I’m so grateful that it happened. You and I personally have grown so much over the years. We also have grown a lot as a partnership. We decided to start this company and it was exciting and if I’m going to be honest, I’m going to say that Julie had more positivity or ambition behind her. I was feeling it. I could feel it inside of me. I was like, “Yes. This is amazing and I want to do this. I really want to be part of this,” but I was reluctant a little bit more. She was like, “Let’s do this. Let’s do this. Let’s do this.” I was like, “Oh, my gosh.” 


    Do you remember the day when you called me? You were like, “So, we’re going to start a podcast and it’s going to be super easy and I’m going to edit it.” Do you remember that day?


    Julie: Yes. I remember. I was in Target. I was walking around in Target. 


    Meagan: I remember where I was. I was in my laundry room. 


    Julie: I was like, “Oh my gosh. We should start a podcast.” I was super confident. In my past life, I worked a lot in the tech field. I had edited a lot of videos and audio and things like that before when I was in the military so I knew the technical side of it would be simple. I thought it would be easy. It’s very simple for me. I knew that we had a lot to say. We’ve never not had a lot to say. I knew that the– I don’t know what the right word is– whole sphere of audio was growing rapidly, like the digestible content of podcasts was a fast-growing entity or whatever. 


    It just seemed like the right thing to do. It just seemed like the right thing to do. I remember I was like, “Oh my gosh. How am I going to convince Meagan to do this?” We were already so busy writing our course and our manual with our doula contents. I think you had 12 births coming up in October that year because you were putting your husband through law school. I was just like, “I don’t know how I’m going to talk Meagan into this.” I feel like you were reluctant but you for some reason just had this hint of, “Okay, let’s just see. Let’s let Julie do this. I’ll get on the phone and talk about it.” 


    Then I was like, “Okay. We’ll do this.” I signed up for a free Podbean account and we did a free conference call on our phones and recorded our phone calls. It didn’t cost anything at first and things are very different now, but it didn’t cost anything at first. I was like, “See?”


    Meagan: “This is great.” I remember some of the days, I was like, “Okay, sure. I’ll jump on and do a podcast, but I’m driving to a prenatal right now. I literally have 35 minutes because my client is 38 minutes away.” We were recording and I remember back in the day when I was in my husband’s car and his trunk sensor was bad and it was dinging, so oh my gosh. If you guys have listened back to those episodes, wow. Thank you for sticking with us. 


    Julie: At the very beginning. Well, we used to take turns hosting like we would just do one at a time. I remember the first OB that we had on our episode. It was in the teens. I was out in my car in my garage in the middle of summer because my kids were inside. It was the middle of the day and it was the only time they could do it. I remember hiding in my closet so that the clothes would absorb the sound of the audio echoing around so it was better acoustics on our free conference call. 


    Meagan: Oh my gosh, yeah. I remember sometimes when I was in the closet literally under the clothes and Jess, she was one of our clients from Russia and I was in the closet for that one. In the husbands’ episode, I was in the closet on that one. It’s just so crazy. We’ve come so far. Yeah. We had a whole bunch of people who were like, “I want to share my story. I want to share my story.” 


    12:09 How the podcast has grown 


    Meagan: We were realizing that this is a serious need. 


    Julie: We had to hunt people down at first. 


    Meagan: Yeah, we did. 


    Julie: We would message people at first. Kelsey, what’s her name? Is it Likowski? Kelsey, super cute. She was Episode 8 or something. We were like, “Oh my gosh. She has 10,000 Instagram followers and she’s so cute and she wants to talk to us.” 


    Meagan: I know. That was so weird to us. We went to this little marketing conference thing and we were watching our Instagram account grow and we were watching our podcast grow. We started getting people like, “Hey, I heard,” and we were like, “Whoa, this is insane.” It was so exciting and so motivating and we really, truly realized that this was such a need. Let me tell you, our heart was there. Our hearts were there so we were so excited to dive in. So we did. We started sharing stories. We tried to get different content-type stories and different types of births. We tried to get OBs. I remember I reached out to this OB and they randomly responded. I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is insane.” We really tried to get the most we could while still doing birth and writing manuals for our VBAC course and– 


    Julie: And wives. And being moms and wives. 


    Meagan: And being moms and wives and friends and humans who were ourselves. 


    Julie: Too much. 


    Meagan: It’s so crazy to look back and think about that time and where we were and all that’s happened. It’s kind of crazy to also think about birth and how we have seen it change and how personally, I think I’ve even seen it change in some good ways and in some bad ways. We talked about this a little bit before we started recording, but COVID. COVID was a really, really difficult time as moms giving birth, as doulas supporting birth, even as podcasters weirdly enough. 


    We had this entire– we went from this really junky set up all over to having an editor and having a podcast studio and in this really amazing space which– shoutout to our favorite editor. I just have to say that he is amazing for all that he has done for us over the years. But we had all these things that were really helping us and really changed our lives for the better as far as podcasters goes and VBAC Link facilitators or whatever. 


    It all changed. It all changed so fast. 


    Julie: Yep. We had to go back to recording at home. We had to– oh my gosh, getting into hospitals was just nuts and wild. 


    Meagan: A nightmare. 


    Julie: There were so many clients of ours having to switch plans and a lot of people shifted to out-of-hospital birth because the hospital policies were so flip-floppy and so strict. They were limiting who could be in your birth space. I actually think that’s a really positive shift. That’s just me. 


    Meagan: Yeah, no. I actually agree. 


    Julie: Out-of-hospital birth is still growing. I think it’s super cool. At least in Utah, it is. I’m not sure of the numbers in any other state, but I know in Utah, it used to be that 1-2% of births were out-of-hospital, but now as of 2024, so far, just under 5% of births in Utah are happening out-of-hospital which is super cool. But not enough. 


    Meagan: It is super cool. Yeah, I would agree that through COVID, that was one of the positive shifts of helping people see the different options. 


    Julie: Forcing people to really, seriously look hard at them. 


    Meagan: Yes, and then also seeing that those options actually are pretty dang safe. But yeah, so COVID. We’ve had even so many people on the podcast sharing their stories through COVID. Man, it was rough. We were seeing induction taking off because they could control who had COVID and who didn’t. 


    16:40 Changes in birth


    Meagan: Then we also went through the ARRIVE trial just before that. 


    Julie: Oh jeez, yeah. 


    Meagan: So there was all of that we saw making changes. You know, birth is constantly changing and evolving and growing. It’s pretty cool, I feel like, to say. I’ve been in the birth world for 10 years now as a doula. It’s pretty cool to say that I’ve been there. I’m here. I don’t know how to say that. I just feel like it’s really cool to be a part of this community and to see these changes. 


    I’ve talked to some people who did birth back in the 80’s and the 90s and it’s kind of crazy to think about how it’s changed. I want to go back and listen to some of those earlier podcasts and see, has birth changed? Are we changing and what can we do to make birth change in a positive way? I think this podcast honestly is one of those ways to help people change their birth experience in a positive way by going in and listening to what is happening. What is happening? What to expect? How to avoid those things? Right? 


    Don’t you think, Julie, that this is a really great place for all moms and all people preparing for birth to come?


    Julie: Well, and here’s the thing. We all have a threshold for what is and is not acceptable to us. Going back to talking about COVID a little bit. COVID and the things that were happening due to COVID didn’t sit right with some people and caused them to question and explore other options. Hearing The VBAC Link Podcast creates realizations for people that could cause them to question the things that they are presented within their own personal life as far as giving birth goes and what their provider is saying and the policies of their hospitals and things like that. 


    I think that is the way that ultimately birth in the United States will change and all over the world really is when people are faced with the things that cause them to feel uncomfortable about their current situation and explore other options and seek out those other things that will resolve whatever their intuition is telling them needs to change and shift. 


    Here’s the thing. We don’t know what things will make us uncomfortable until we have all of the information available to us. You don’t even have to have all of the information, but any information available. That’s been the goal here. It’s been really cool to see things shift and I mean, there’s obviously not a study or research or anything on how much The VBAC Link Podcast is causing a shift or whatever, but I do know that we do hear these stories from people and I do know that it is creating a shift and a change in our birthing culture however small that might be.


    I just think it’s really cool to hear people say that it was this thing that gave them the confidence to stand up to their provider or talk to their husband or their partner or look into other options. 


    Meagan: Mhmm, it really is. It’s just– I don’t even know. I’m almost speechless to get those reviews or to get people saying those things when we are recording a story and they’re like, “It’s just so crazy to me that this is coming to full circle that I’m now sharing my story when all of these other Women of Strength’s stories is literally what changed my life or my path or whatever.” 


    I think I’ve said this before, here we are. We started this podcast randomly as you come up with this idea in Target and you’re like, “I’ve got to convince this girl that we’ve got to do this,” and here we are when really in so many ways, it’s you, Women of Strength, who are changing. 


    Julie: Yeah. 


    Meagan: You. So it’s like, okay. Yes, it’s us at The VBAC Link but then also where is the stat for all of them? All of the listeners and supporters? You guys, it’s been a long time and to say thank you isn’t enough. I don’t know what to say. I feel emotional, but I don’t know how to say thank you enough. Julie is laughing at me because I’m always the crier. 


    Julie: I’m not laughing, well I am laughing. 


    Meagan: I don’t know how to say thank you enough to this community because it’s been absolutely the craziest, sometimes most stressful but most amazing journey and I’m so excited that we can still be on it with you. Like I said, I know these listeners are the people. They are the people. They are the reason. So thank you for making this happen. 


    22:11 Celebrating differences within the birth community


    Meagan: In the midst of meeting all of these incredible people who are sharing their stories, we have also met incredible people throughout our own community who are trying to do the same thing we are trying to do– educate, support, motivate, empower. I mean, all of these words. We have made some amazing connections with people within their own community and I’m just so grateful for that as well. 


    Julie: I agree. I am really proud of all of the people who have chosen to start their own podcasts and their own VBAC education platforms too. There is a home birth after Cesarean podcast. I actually haven’t been as good at keeping up with other VBAC podcasts or whatever, but there are people– and I don’t know whether it’s influenced by us or not but definitely coming after us, there have been other things popping up here and there. I love that and I’m so proud of those people for choosing to pursue their passions as well for VBAC in spaces like this. 


    I think it takes a village. It takes a whole– I don’t know, what’s the saying? A rising tide lifts all boats. I don’t know. It’s something like that where the more people talk about VBAC, the more people are talking about VBAC, so yes. Let’s bring more people into this space. There is room for everybody. There is room for all of us here to grow and educate and inspire and uplift. 


    We might not always see things the same way and that’s okay, right? It’s okay if we don’t see things the same way as everybody else as long as we are all trying our best to create a positive influence in the birth space. We are not the same as anybody else and nobody else is the same as us and that’s cool. That’s okay because if you don’t resonate with us, there are other people who you can resonate with and vice versa. I think it’s really important to say that we welcome everybody here and we want you. We don’t have to be the only thing that you follow. Go follow all of the things. 


    Meagan: Well, I love that you talked about that because back when we were going for our VBAC, for me, it was back in 2015/2016 when I had my son and the resources were more slim. Now we have all of these incredible resources and it makes me so dang happy because that is what this VBAC community needs– more info, more support, more people backing them up, more places or people to go and like you said, I mean, we would love to always be in your circle. We love this community so stinking much, but we also know that not everything we say or not everything we do resonates. 


    I mean, it comes down to this podcast where we share CBAC stories and uterine rupture stories. We share stories that are out of the hospital and we’ve even had free birth stories on this podcast. Not everyone may agree with those types of birth or people advocating for that, right? It’s not even that we are gung-ho about anything specific or not gung-ho about anything specific. It’s that everyone has a space in this community because if we were to completely eliminate a uterine rupture story, no. I’m sorry, that’s just a no for me. 


    Julie: Yeah. 


    Meagan: We want to share those stories and CBAC. The CBAC community is so precious to me and near and dear to my heart. Sometimes, that can be a really hard community to be in. I say that personally. I have been in that CBAC after my two C-sections. I wanted a vaginal birth. I had a Cesarean birth after a Cesarean. It wasn’t what I wanted. I had healing to do. I had a lot to overcome, but I’m so glad that people come on this podcast and are willing to share those stories because our CBAC community deserves that. 


    Like we were saying earlier, not every desired vaginal birth ends in a vaginal birth, so we have to learn through these stories. Like Julie said, everybody has a place here at The VBAC Link and yeah. We support everybody else as well. We love this community so much. 


    Julie: Do you know what? Maybe I’m out of line to say this. Please, you can tell Brian to edit this out if you want, but I just think it’s no surprise to anybody that our world can be pretty hateful right now. Even people doing the most good things can face criticism or cancel culture or the mob or the mafia– not the mafia, the wokeness, or whatever, all of the things. There are so many things coming at you no matter how pure your intentions are or whatever. 


    I just remember one time a few years back, somebody was talking crap. This was my gosh, 4 years ago and they called us “wholesome-looking podcasters from Utah”. Do you remember that?


    Meagan: I don’t remember that. 


    Julie: I will never forget that phrase. Sorry, I’m laughing now. I’m crying. They said something like, “It’s easy to want to trust wholesome-looking podcasters from Utah,” or something like that because it’s fine. There’s going to be people who don’t love us and that’s totally fine. But gosh, when you were saying that, I was like, “Are we wholesome-looking?” 


    Meagan: Are we wholesome-looking? I don’t know. 


    Julie: I don’t know. 


    Meagan: I don’t remember that. 


    Julie: It’s so funny. I’m sure there’s a screenshot of it somewhere, Meagan. My gosh, I can’t even. 


    28:45 Challenges bring growth


    Julie: I want to circle back to you talking before about the struggle. There has been so much struggle. There have been a lot of challenges. Challenges due to our own creation, challenges due to technical difficulties– do you remember the time I changed the URL of the podcast and the whole thing went down? It was the day that the podcast was supposed to go live and we were meeting with Lynn, our first business coach. 


    Oh my gosh, there have been so many things. 


    Meagan: She broke the podcast, you guys. 


    Julie: I broke the podcast. Things where we have definitely butted heads before and had to do a lot of growth in our relationship. 


    Meagan: Yep. I was going to say you and I. 


    Julie: There have been other VBAC groups out there who railroad us completely. There have been other birth people in our local communities and otherwise who are not big fans of The VBAC Link and I think that– I don’t want to get pulling a little bit into saying, sorry. I don’t know what I’m trying to say here. No, I do know what I’m trying here. I’m trying to figure out how to say it the right way. 


    There is opposition in all things, right? I feel like, oh my gosh. I’m going off on six different tangents right now. My therapist told me one time– it always comes back to my therapy. 


    Meagan: I love it. 


    Julie: When you want to strengthen a muscle, if you want stronger arms, you can’t just sit there and be like, “Hey arms, get strong.” You have to put it under tension and stress. It’s lifting the weights. It’s under the tension and strain where that muscle grows. 


    Such is life. Such are relationships. Such it is in business. It is everywhere. Things don’t grow and become stronger in comfortable times. It’s the strain and the tension and the struggle that ultimately causes that strength and that growth. 


    I feel like there have been moments of really beautiful and incredible and empowering moments along this journey for The VBAC Link over the last 7 years now, but there have also been incredible moments of tension and struggle and strain. 


    Meagan: Hardships. 


    Julie: Yeah. Those moments really have the most growth. They are the most identity forming and I don’t know. They are the things where it really solidified what we are doing. Sometimes, in the face of people who should be doing the same things as us and sometimes, it’s from people who just for whatever reason, don’t want to see other people succeed. It’s come from a lot of other different places, but also going back to what you said before, I’m so grateful for the people who are still here, the people who support us, the people who love us, the people who are still here and challenge and question the things that might not be 100% true. Yeah. I don’t know. I love all of that and I don’t know. 


    There is this quote I heard forever ago, probably decades ago because I am old now that said, “Don’t compare your backstage footage to someone else’s highlight reel.” I feel like sometimes it’s really easy to see all of the beautiful things that The VBAC Link puts out and all of these other birth organizations and see the highlight reel and think that everything is sunshine and butterflies, but I know that for us and for everybody else too, everybody else that has any kind of online presence anywhere, there is so much struggle that can go on behind the scenes. Yeah, I just wanted to talk about that. 


    Meagan: It’s intimidating sometimes. It’s intimidating. But this community, I feel like, offers something special and it truly is the most motivating thing for me where I do wake up and I’m like, “I can’t wait to record more podcasts” or “I can’t wait to go and see what people are asking in our Q&A’s” or whatever. I love that you talked about a little bit how sometimes you are going to make decisions or you’re going to do things and some people might not agree with you. I think that applies so much int his community because let me tell you what, when I decided to VBAC after two Cesareans out of the hospital, I had some haters. I had some haters. 


    Julie: Yep. 


    Meagan: Those haters and doubters, some of those were even in my own family. 


    Julie: Sometimes it’s the people who are supposed to love you the most, right? 


    Meagan: And support you the most. Sometimes, they were people in my own circle, so it can be really hard when you’re getting pressure from people who you love and respect or people who you idolize or whatever, right? But it’s up to us to conquer, to have faith, to move forward, to grow, to adapt, and all of those things. 


    I think that as we grow, more people in this community get to experience it. I mean, truly, the community grows through hardships and strengths and podcast-breaking and all of the things.


    Julie: And wholesome-looking.


    Meagan: In a wholesome-looking way apparently. 


    Julie: I don’t know if that’s a compliment or not. Am I wholesome-looking? I guess that’s good. We look wholesome. 


    Meagan: We look whole. 


    Julie: I want to look up the definition of that really fast. What is wholesome? What does it actually mean? 


    Meagan: What does wholesome mean? Yeah, and is that supposed to be not a compliment?


    Julie: I think the intention was that they look good. They look legitimate, but–


    Meagan: They might not be because they represent some birth stories that we don’t support or whatever. 


    Julie: Whatever. “Conducive or suggestive of good health and physical well-being. Conducive to or promoting moral well-being.” Wholesome-looking. 


    Meagan: Interesting. 


    Julie: Hmm, I don’t know. I could not not say that. Oh my gosh, I’m sorry. You can have Brian edit it out if you want. 


    Meagan: No, no. You are good. 


    Julie: You’re the boss. 


    Meagan: No, I love that. Now I’m going to think about myself being wholesome-looking. 


    35:35 Julie’s photography


    Meagan: Okay, we talked a little bit about where we’ve gone, where we’ve started, what we’ve gone through, and all of the things. Now, where are we at today? I just have to gloat a little bit about Julie. 


    She is phenomenal, you guys. If you have not been in our email or if you haven’t been on our social media, I definitely suggest you check it out and go follow her because she has taken a step back from The VBAC Link. We are so grateful that you come on here and there. You have taken a step back from doula work, but you are killing it in the photography world. 


    Julie: Aw, it’s the best. I love it so much. 


    Meagan: You’re doing so good. I’m so impressed. I just love seeing her photos on her Instagram and I love being able to chat with her and even connect more to the story. Sometimes, she will tell me the story that goes with the picture. I’m like, “Oh my gosh.” It’s so amazing. I’m so happy for you. Do you want to talk a little bit about what you are doing now that you are not doing The VBAC Link?


    Julie: Oh my gosh, I have to tell you. I sent you these pictures. I think I texted you. There was this girl. She reached out to me 2 years ago and she was like, “My C-section baby just turned 1. I’m thinking about getting pregnant again.” She wanted to connect with me for doula work. At the time, I was doing doula-tog so I was doing both doula and birth photography. So we talked and we connected. 


    Then I sent her a couple of different local resources to connect to, then a few months later, she reached out and she was pregnant. She was going to hire me for doula-tog then she had a miscarriage, then it was a little while that passed again. She reached out to me again later and she was pregnant again, but by this time, I had phased doula work out completely, so I had referred her to a local doula here that I absolutely love working with. 


    Anyway, super long story short, she ended up hiring this other doula and me as a birth photographer and she switched from hospital birth to a home birth and I just attended this beautiful VBAC birth at home last week. It was so neat to have somebody come full circle and follow their whole journey. She called me and we talked on the phone forever 2 years ago when she was starting on her VBAC journey because she had found The VBAC Link.


    It was just really neat. I know more about her journey. It’s hard sometimes as a birth photographer because I don’t have an initial connection with people as much as I did when I was a doula. Sometimes, the first time I see people is when I walk into their birth space with my camera which is okay. I like it when it is a little more than that beforehand, but it was really neat. Her name was Emmy and I’m sure that one day she will share her story on the podcast because I want her to. 


    It was just a beautiful birth. I got called at midnight. The baby was born at 3:45 in the morning and it was just a really beautiful story with really powerful, empowering photos for this girl. She got to 10 centimeters with her first baby and she pushed for 6 hours. She got the epidural when she was 4 centimeters. She got to pushing. She was flat on her back the whole time, a classic story. She didn’t know. 


    Anyway, it was a really beautiful and very empowering story. I got to document it and I just think that some of the imagery, I cannot wait for her to tell me that I can share these. She wants to see. I respect everybody’s wishes. Some people want me to share everything. Some people don’t me to share anything and I respect all of that. 


    Anyway, it’s just really cool and really neat. I love being able to document that. I tell people, “My gosh, just hire the birth photographer. These moments are fleeting. They change so fast. One of the biggest days of your life, you’re not going to remember what your baby looked like, what their cry sounded like, and the joy on your face as you met them. Just invest. Do whatever you can to be able to invest if that’s what you desired. Don’t let finances get in the way.”


    I personally now offer several financing options I can implement and things like that because I know it’s not super cheap, but I love being able to capture and preserve people’s stories. I also do videos. Videos are my favorite. I love being able to see the motion and hear the sounds of those babies’ first little noises. Oh my gosh, there was this cute little baby making fish faces an hour after it was born the other day. I could not believe it. It was amazing. 


    These people wouldn’t have that. Sure, there are cell phones and things like that you can take pictures on. There are some cell phone cameras that are really good quality now, but you’re going to miss out on so many things because who is going to be taking the picture on your cell phone? Your partner? Your doula? You’re not going to be able to see how your doula supported you. You’re not going to be able to see the beautiful moments your partner and you had because they are the ones holding the camera. 


    You’re not going to be able to see the look on your partner’s face because it’s all going to be baby or you. Plus, most partners are not really that great at taking pictures, let’s be honest. It’s okay. It is okay but it’s such a fulfilling thing. I love being able to go and witness the power that women have in all of the stories. There is so much power in scheduled C-sections, in unplanned Cesareans, in vaginal births, in medicated births, unmedicated births, hospital, out-of-hospital, all of it. All of it takes so much power and strength, all of it. I get to witness that but not only do I get to witness that but I get to document it. I get to come home and I get to witness it again as I’m editing photos and video. 


    I just think it’s a really, really, really cool and really inspiring thing. I love it. I love it. 


    Meagan: I agree. It’s actually one of my biggest regrets not having that. We had some candid– not even candid, some photos that were snapped really quickly, but not being able to see, I really wish it was recorded. So dang it. 


    Julie: Yeah, I feel like that’s the biggest regret I hear from first-time moms too. They will be like, “I didn’t have a birth photographer for my C-section. I wish I would have though. I wish I would have. I wish I would have been like, ‘Well, I’m having an induction now. I was thinking about it, but I really wish I would have had one,’” because there is just so much. Cell phone pictures just don’t do it justice. 


    Meagan: I agree. Well, I love what you are doing. I’m so grateful that you are in that space and I’m so grateful for you letting us use your images that of course are approved. I definitely highly suggest going over to Julie Francom Birth Services, right? That’s your page, right? 


    Julie: Birth Stories. Julie Francom Birth Stories. Well, it’s just Julie Francom Birth on Instagram and on YouTube and on Facebook. 


    Meagan: Go find her, you guys, so you can still follow her journey. Thank you, Julie, for joining me on the 300th episode. I really am so grateful for all that we have done, all that you have done, all the growth that we have seen, and I’m excited to keep going. 


    Julie: Thank you so much. 


    Closing


    Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Tell us about your experience at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Meagan’s bio, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.





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    43m - May 15, 2024
  • Episode 299 Katie's Healing VBAC + Home Birth Transfer

    Katie joins us today to tell us about her two birth experiences in Germany. Although she strongly advocated for herself during her first birth, Katie was extremely mistreated. Her labor and horrible C-section experience left her with intense PTSD straining her relationship with both her baby and her husband. 


    Katie knew that if she wanted to have another baby, she had to plan for an out-of-hospital birth. She continued to advocate for herself by not only learning the evidence but by showing it to providers and defending it. Though she wasn’t able to find a supportive backup hospital, Katie labored beautifully at home with her husband, doula, and midwife until she knew it was time to transfer. 


    When she transferred, Katie was able to go to the hospital she wanted to go to and was finally treated with respect. Her wishes were honored and she felt heard. Though this labor was also over 40 hours and had its own unexpected twists, Katie experienced so much healing from her VBAC. She was able to achieve the glorious feeling she hoped she would have from a home birth even in the hospital.  


    TOLAC in Germany Article

    Evidence-Based Birth Blog: Friedman Curve

    Informed Pregnancy - code: vbaclink424

    Needed Website

    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details 


    04:41 Review of the Week

    07:27 Katie’s stories

    11:14 Start of labor

    16:55 Going to the hospital

    20:22 Interventions

    29:44 Katie’s C-section

    32:06 Preparing for VBAC

    34:34 Second pregnancy

    42:01 Labor begins

    47:11 Getting support from her birth team

    50:12 Transferring to the hospital

    53:32 Feeling intense scar pain

    56:23 Asking for the vacuum

    58:42 Katie’s advice for listeners

    1:01:47 The Friedman Curve

    1:06:16 Trusting your intuition

    1:08:56 Doula support



    Meagan: Hello, Women of Strength! We have a story for you today where a mama gave birth in Germany. So I love, love, love when we have out-of-the-country birth stories because we often get messages from people outside of the country wondering if VBAC is still possible and the answer is YES. 100% it is possible and we have our friend Katie today. Hello, Katie!


    Katie: Hi.


    Meagan: She is going to just be sharing her story showing that it is possible to VBAC. Now, one of the things that I actually really love about Katie’s story is that it shows that things can change, and even when things change it doesn’t have to be bad. I sit in that because I personally wanted to birth out of the hospital and when I was in labor, in my mind, if I had to transfer, I was for a little while telling myself that that was a bad thing. And that it wouldn’t happen, or people would be looking down, or whatever. 


    I was spiraling. I was just going through a moment in labor. But something that stood out to me with Katie’s, is she talks about how after a really long labor at home, planned home birth, her intuition, which we talk about a lot, knew that she needed to make another choice in her labor and that was to go to the hospital. Right, Katie?


    Katie: Exactly. Yep.


    Meagan: And so I love that we can talk about how plans can change and that doesn’t mean it has to be the be-all end-all. Is that how you say it?


    Katie: Yeah.


    Meagan: It doesn’t mean it has to be over or it doesn’t mean your chances of VBAC are done. If you are planning a home birth and you make the choice, or even if it was medically necessary, like sometimes it is, right? That doesn’t mean that it has to be bad. And so I love that part about her story and that she listened to her intuition. 


    And then also another highlight, is that intervention happened, right? And that sometimes in this community we fear the intervention. I understand why we don’t all usually want the intervention, we just want it to be left alone. But sometimes intervention comes into play and sometimes those interventions help us get the birth that we wanted. 


    And so I’m just going to end there because I want Katie to be able to share her story but those were a couple of things that, for me, as I was reading her submission, stood out to me and I thought were really important topics to touch on because plans can change and even when plans change, it’s okay. 


    04:41 Review of the Week


    Meagan: But I do have a Review of the Week so I want to review that and then I’ll turn the time over to you Katie. Okay, so this is from our Google reviews, which we absolutely love. Even our Google reviews help people find the podcast, our blogs, our course, our resources, all the things. If you wouldn’t mind heading over to Google. Google “The VBAC Link,” and leave us a review, we would absolutely love that. 


    So this is from, I think it’s Eimear. Sorry if I am butchering this name. They gave a 5-star review, so thank you so much. But it says that, “This podcast was my constant source of reassurance and inspiring stories throughout my last two pregnancies. I achieved my VBAC in 2021 and was empowered with so much knowledge and mental strength going into this birth because of The VBAC Link. I had my second C-section in 2002 which was not what I wished for but I do plan on having more children and know that VBA2C (vaginal birth after two C-sections) is a possibility for me because of this podcast. I continue to listen to your inspiring stories each time I hop in the car and I’m so grateful for all that you share. I hope to share my own redeeming story with you in time, too.”


    Thank you so much for that review. I love that you said that VBAC after 2 C-sections is possible. We see that a lot in our Q and A’s. “If I’ve had 2 C-sections is it possible?” The answer is yes, absolutely, 100 percent. So if you want to learn more check out the podcast or head on over to thevbaclink.com and search VBA2C and you’ll get to find more about that. 


    07:27 Katie’s stories


    Meagan: Okay, Katie! Welcome again. Thank you for being here. 


    Katie: Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to share my story.


    Meagan: Oh my gosh, me too.  And I know you’ve got your little one by you. So how old is your little baby?


    Katie: My daughter, Scarlett, is just shy of 5 months.


    Meagan: 5 months. Okay, so you’re still pretty in the thick of it. 


    Katie: Yes, still sleepless nights.


    Meagan: Yes, and you’re coming from Germany. I don’t even know what the time zone is there, but hopefully, you’re not up way too early or way too late.


    Katie: It’s like just late afternoon here.


    Meagan: Okay good, I’m so glad. Well I would love to turn the time over to you to share your stories.


    Katie: Okay, great. Well, I’ll just get started with my C-section story. My son, Charlie, is 2. He was born in 2021. I’m originally from the U.S. but as you mentioned, I live in Germany and I had been in Germany for about 5 years when I had him. 


    And then as just some background, I’m actually an intensive care nurse and I worked in the United States as an intensive care nurse and then for a bit here and have since transitioned into the corporate world. I’m not like a labor and delivery nurse, but I have a lot of knowledge about birth from nursing school. 


    I think there is a little bit of a misconception in the U.S. that everything is better in Europe, that they're more natural or that the healthcare is better, blah blah blah. I just want to say that has not necessarily been my experience especially working as a nurse. I can really see that the shortage of trained healthcare workers is significantly worse here. And there’s kind of like, we have our issues in the U.S. too about making sure we’re providing evidenced-based care. We try but it’s hard to keep up and stuff. I would say it’s even harder here and then doctors here are super paternalistic. 


    So when I was pregnant with my son, I had that impression as I was going into it. And also, the way it works here is, you just go to a gynecologist for your pregnancy care and then you just go to the hospital to have your baby. You don’t get to pick your doctor. There’s just staff, so you just get who you get. I didn’t really like that when I was planning my birth for my first pregnancy, but I was kind of like, well what else am I gonna do? That’s the way it is. But I felt at the time really confident about my knowledge and that I’m pretty tough and well-informed, and I’ll manage to get through it. This is just like the way it’s going to be. Didn’t have any thoughts about trying to do a home birth or another out-of-hospital environment, it was just like you go to the hospital and baby and go home. 


    So my pregnancy was pretty good. I had the normal kind of aches and pains. There was some concern with my son’s placenta. It wasn’t functioning great but we didn’t have issues from it, just extra growth scans and there were really no problems. He was due December 27th, so around Christmastime. I think if I had known I would have never gotten pregnant to have a baby around Christmastime because my impression was with the hospital, that they were really short-staffed when I ended up having him. 


    11:14 Start of labor


    Katie: So I ended up going into labor– he was born on the 22nd, so I went into labor on the 20th of December. I woke up around midnight with really bad back pain and I felt like I was going to have diarrhea. That’s probably TMI.


    Meagan: I totally get that. 


    Katie: Yeah I kept going to the toilet thinking I had food poisoning, and nothing would happen. I would go and sit down, and as soon as I would sit down I’d feel like I'd have to go to the toilet again and I would run back there. This kept going on and then eventually after a little while I had some bloody show and my mucus plug came out. And I was like, “Oh! This was the contractions.” I was not expecting it at all. It was just this stabbing pain in my back and I didn’t feel like my uterus was really doing anything so I was kind of surprised. I was like, “I guess I'm in labor,” and it hurt so bad. 


    People always talk about how it starts out kind of light and builds up, and it was really full force. Like I said, I kept going to the couch and trying to sit down and trying to get comfortable and I’d have to keep running to the bathroom. It just kept coming. I was like, “Oh my gosh, is this baby going to be born really fast? This seems pretty intense.” I was like, “No, no I probably have a long time to go so calm down.” I took a shower and got my birth ball out and started trying to work through it. 


    At some point, my husband woke up and I was like, “I think I’m in labor. Go back to bed and I’ll get you if I need you.” I labored throughout the night. But around 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning, I started noticing contractions. They weren’t quite as painful and it was spacing out a little bit and I was like, “Oh, maybe I should try to sleep.” So I laid down on the couch and I was able to kind of sleep in between these contractions. 


    My husband woke me up a few hours later because I had my 39-week doctor's appointment. And I was like oh well we can just go to the doctor and have them check me there and just see how we’re going. 


    We walked to the doctor because I was afraid my water would break in the subway so we just decided to walk. But that didn’t happen and by the time we got to the doctor, they had spread pretty far apart. I had waited in the waiting room for a while and I only had a couple while I was waiting.


    My doctor checked me and she said I wasn’t dilated and then they did put me on the CTG there for just a little bit to just see what was happening and I didn’t have a single contraction while I was hooked up on the CTG. But the second they took it off and I stood up again, it started again. But it was more how people describe early labor. It came every few minutes. It was totally manageable. I just had to take a few deep breaths. 


    We ended up walking home and the rest of the day, that went on. I labored in the afternoon and I thought at some point I should try to take a nap, but every time I tried to lay down it would be really uncomfortable so I got up. Then my husband and I decided, “Well, this baby is probably coming. Let’s go do some grocery shopping, get some snacks, and be prepared.”

     

    Katie: So we went grocery shopping and my parents were visiting. They were staying in a hotel, but they came over. We all had dinner together. I was convinced that it wasn’t labor, and I was like, “This is probably just fake labor,” so I didn’t want to tell them. My mom later told me, “We totally knew you were in labor. You did not fool us for a minute.” We made dinner, we all ate, and they left.


    It was only 7:00 or 8:00 PM and I was like, “Let's sit down and watch some TV and try to relax.” As soon as I sat down, the intensity really picked up and the frequency. I wasn’t timing them, but I really saw that they were coming quite often and it wasn’t comfortable to sit down anymore. I thought, “I’ve been doing this all day, almost 24 hours now. I think I deserve to use some of my coping mechanisms that I’d planned for.” 


    So I had planned to listen to these hypnobirthing tracks and had bought a ton of really nice bath supplies to make nice hot baths. So I got in the bath and was just using this app to do the HypnoBirthing tracks and I found it really helped me and I was doing really well. 


    And then after a while, my husband came in. I think he felt like he should be doing something too. I was like, “You can press start and stop on this app because it’s really annoying to dry my hands off,” so he was like, “Okay.” He was there for 10  minutes and something popped up on the app that was like, “You should go to the hospital now,” and he started panicking. I was like, “I’m fine.” 


    In my mind, compared to the contractions I had the first part of the previous night, my contractions were going to have to be at least like that or worse because I hadn't dialed at all, so I was like really mentally prepared this is going to be so bad. Right now I still feel fine. They were just coming close together, but I had no feeling the baby was coming. I felt fine.


    But he was just like, “Oh my gosh, this app is telling us we should go to the hospital,” and ugh. After a while of him freaking out, I thought, “Okay, let's just go to the hospital and do a check. They’ll reassure him that I’m tops 2 centimeters dilated and he can relax and I can continue to labor in peace at home.” 


    16:55 Going to the hospital


    So we get packed up and drive to the hospital. They put me on the CTG and checked me. I’m 2 centimeters. Then after half an hour, they come in and say, “Well, we don’t have any beds so we’re going to have to send you to a different hospital.” I said, “Whoa, hold the phone.” In my mind, I'm thinking that I have at least 12 more hours of labor to go. I’m a first-time mom. 


    And I was like, “I want to go home and labor. I don’t want to labor in the hospital. I want to go home. Can’t I come back at like 6:00 AM and check me again?” It was about midnight at this time. And they were like, “Oh no, you’re not going to make it to 6:00 AM. Your baby is coming and will be here by morning.” And I was like, “Seriously?”


    Meagan: “It’s midnight, I’ve got some time.”


    Katie: And I was like, “I really don’t believe that.” But they were so insistent that I had to go to the hospital and they were even like, “We called an ambulance to take you to the other hospital.” 


    Meagan: Oh my gosh.


    Katie: I was like, “I don’t need an ambulance. I’m not dying, I’m just having some contractions. This is crazy, guys.” They were like, “Are you sure?” I was like, “No, I don’t want to be separated from my husband and go in an ambulance. Absolutely not.” They were like, “Well, we’re going to send you to this other hospital.” 


    I said, “No. This particular hospital has a really bad reputation.” I said, “No, I don’t want to go there. I want to go to–” my second choice was blah, blah, blah. They were like, “Oh, they’re full.” I was like, “Okay well, my third choice is blah, blah, blah.” “Oh well, they’re full too.” And basically, every other hospital in our city was full. 


    I was just like, “Okay, great.” My husband’s freaking out. I really don’t want to go to this hospital but they’re telling him I need to stay. I was like, “Okay, we’ll go over there and I’ll just get registered and I’ll tell them that I want to go home and labor.” 


    So we drive over and the whole time I’m like, “I don’t really want to go to this hospital, but okay.” And then I told my husband that I had no idea where the labor and delivery ward was at this hospital. I had never been there. So I said, “Okay, let’s park at the emergency room because usually this late at night, hospitals' other entrances aren’t open.” 


    We parked in the emergency room and nobody at the emergency room could tell us where labor and delivery was. And I was like, “What the heck?” I was the one looking at the map on the wall figuring out where it was, having these contractions. We walked there and we finally arrived. I had such a bad feeling there. It was kind of icky and old and gross, this hospital. 


    They also hooked me up to a CTG and checked me. They told me that my cervix was completely closed and so I said, “Okay, great! I’m going to go home.” They started trying to put an IV in. And I was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Why do I need an IV? I want to go home.” They also said, “No, your baby is coming imminently.” I was like, “That doesn’t really make any sense.” In that kind of labor land you’re so easily kind of–


    Meagan: Persuaded and convinced.


    Katie: Persuaded. And I also observed that I didn’t have the support of my husband anymore. He was losing it basically. I thought, “Okay, I guess.” They had a bathtub and I thought, “Well, maybe I can take a bath here for a couple of hours and go home after that.” So we got in the bathtub and I really didn’t like it. I’m not really a big water person so it really wasn’t for me. So after awhile I got out. 


    20:22 Interventions


    Katie: And oh, I forgot to mention. Before that happened, before they brought my husband back, the midwife was like, “Your cervix is like steel and we want you to take some medication to soften it.” She was like, “Don’t worry. It’s homeopathic.” I was like, “I don’t want to take anything homeopathic. That’s fake medicine. I don’t want to take that.” She was super insistent. I was like, “Okay, let me see what this is. I’ll look it up online and tell you if I want to take it or not.” 


    She handed the pill to me and it was Tylenol with codeine. 


    Meagan: What?


    Katie: And I was like, “Excuse me?” I was like, “This is not homeopathic medication. This is a narcotic.” She was like, “No, no. This is homeopathic.” I said, “No no. This is a narcotic.”


    Meagan: Like, “I’m not dumb.”


    Katie: That really shut me down. Also with this labor land, I was like, “Maybe codeine means something else in German?” I got super confused, do you know what I mean? In hindsight, I’ve given patients Tylenol with codeine hundreds of times. I know what Tylenol with codeine is. But in that moment, I got confused about it. I was in this labor land kind of thing. 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Katie: But it totally set off my fight-or-flight reflex because it freaked me out. “Is she lying to me? Or does she just not know? I don’t get this.” I really told my husband that I wanted to leave and he was like, “Where are we going to go? Everywhere else is full.” And I was like, “Well, I’ll just stay in the bath. I don’t know.”


    At some point, I got out of the bath and I had been up basically the entire night before, just trying sleeping in between contractions. I wanted to lay down and rest. She came in and was like, “Oh no, you need to get up and move around.” She made us go for a walk around the hospital. This was probably 4:00 or 5:00 AM. I just felt so uncomfortable, I didn’t want to be walking around the hospital. I wanted to be in my own little cave. 


    So we went back and then she told me, “Well, you haven’t had your baby yet so we’re going to have to discharge you to the antenatal ward.” I was like, “Okay, at midnight when I got here, you said my baby was coming imminently and I had to stay and now you want to discharge me. If you’re going to discharge me, I’m going to go home. I’m not going to go labor on an antenatal ward.” She was like, “Oh, let me talk about it with my staff at our staffing meeting,” blah blah blah. I don’t know whatever came of that but I was so weirded out by it. 


    Meagan: Yeah.


    Katie: And then like at 6:00 or so in the morning, she came in and they were again like, “Your cervix is as hard as steel. You need something to relax it.” Again she said, “I have something homeopathic for you.” It was Demerol.


    I again was like, “This is not homeopathy. These are narcotics.” I got really mad and I even said to her face. I looked her in the eye and I said, “It’s appropriate to give patients narcotics or birthing women narcotics if they want them but you can’t lie about it.” That’s so unethical. That’s not okay. I was so shocked by it. I had thought about it and I didn’t really want to take narcotics. I’m intolerant of them. I’ve had some dental procedures and they make me really confused and I didn’t want them during labor. But I thought at this point, it had been like 30 hours, and I thought, “Well, maybe it’s time to try something.”


    My mom had always said when she had us that she would get a shot of Demerol and dilate to 10 centimeters in an hour from that. “Well, maybe I need that too. Maybe I’m like my mom.” I did consent to it but I felt like pushed into it. I kind of more consented to it because I wanted them to leave me alone. 


    I told her again, “I’m really sensitive to narcotics. They make me confused. Please give me like the lowest dose.” I got my records later and I know now that it was the max dose and she had mixed other things into it so I totally became delirious. I could not cope with the contraction pain anymore because I didn’t have this ability to be like, “Oh, I’m a flower, my cervix. Every contraction brings me one step–.” Being able to work my way through it was gone and it was sheer pain. They don’t help me. 


    It was just downhill from there. I didn’t have the strength anymore to leave. At some point, they tried to make me take another walk. I was so dizzy that I kept falling over. Oh my gosh, if my patient was this dizzy, I wouldn’t let them get out of bed but they were forcing me to go for a walk. They told us to leave the hospital and walk around outside. I remember standing at a red light and totally swaying back and forth clutching onto my husband so I wouldn’t pass out. I was like, “I should not be outside. This is ridiculous.”


    So we went back and I’m not exactly sure what happened all afternoon. I forgot to mention we had a new midwife now. At some point in the afternoon they come in and say, “Well, you haven’t had your baby yet. You’re only a couple of centimeters dilated. We’re going to start you on Pitocin.”


    Katie: And I said, “No, no. I don’t want Pitocin.” They said, “Too bad. We’re giving it to you anyway.” And I again was not in any kind of state to fight or protect myself. They started it and I didn’t have any pain management at all. This was like 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon so it had been like 10 hours since I had that Demerol. My contractions were always that really bad back pain. It was so bad with the Pitocin. 


    I ended up getting an epidural which was such a bad moment for me because I actually had more anxiety about getting an epidural. I have a fear of being paralyzed and I thought, “I absolutely don’t want an epidural.” I ended up getting one and it didn’t really work. They just kept turning the Pitocin up. And I kept telling them, “This isn’t working. Can you get anesthesia here? There are things you can do to fix it.” They wouldn’t do anything.


    They kept telling me, “If it doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work.” I was like, “That’s not true. I know a lot about epidurals and there are a lot of things you can do.”


    At some point, I had realized that I hadn’t peed in 12 hours and tried to go to the bathroom and nothing came out. I asked them in they could put a catheter in so I could pee. This midwife just kept ignoring me. 


    I was like, “I really need a catheter.” I had felt really hot. I was like, “Can you take my temperature? I’m worried I have a fever.”


    Meagan: Oh my gosh. 


    Katie: I also kept asking her if she would help me because I was laying in the bed, halfway falling out of it and I needed some help to reposition myself. I kept pushing the call light and she would come in and yell at me for pressing the call light. And after a few hours of this I finally had a little bit of fight back in me. I remember screaming at my husband, “You need to get me another midwife right now!”


    They must have heard us fighting outside because somebody else came in. I was like, “I need a catheter. I need someone to take my temperature and I need some help moving around.” So she catheterized me and there was like 500 milileters of urine in my bladder. She took my temperature and luckily that was normal. She helped me get up out of bed so I was sitting on a ball. 


    At that point, I realized that the pump for the epidural was sitting right there. I remember turning to look at it and the pump wasn’t even on. I was like, “I’ve been complaining. I have no idea what happened if it had been off the whole time or something, but it was supposed to be a patient-controlled epidural and it wasn’t even on. I was like, “What is this?”


    At this point, it was midnight. I had been going on 48 hours now and only at like 4 centimeters dilated. They just kept telling me, The only way you’re ever going to have this baby is if we keep turning the Pitocin up.” I kept asking them, “Are there positions we can do?”


    I also forgot to mention in the beginning that the people in Germany told me, “You don’t need a doula in Germany because the midwives do all of that kind of stuff.” I never got a single suggestion on how to maybe reposition the baby or if there was anything. I kept asking, “Is he posterior? Is something weird going on?” “No, no. Everything’s fine.” 


    With these Pitocin contractions, I felt this pull in my pelvic floor. It felt like my body was fighting against it. I can’t believe this is working. I can feel my muscle close with that. 


    29:44 Katie’s C-section 


    Katie: They told me that wasn’t a thing, blah blah blah. My cervix had started swelling. And they were kind of like, “The only way you’re going to have this baby is having a C-section,” and you know, that’s just what happened. 


    I ended up consenting to it because I was so afraid that they were going to do something to harm me. There had been like so much–


    Meagan: Weirdness.


    Katie: Weird stuff. I’m not going to die because childbirth is dangerous but because these people don’t know what they’re doing and they’re somehow going to hurt us. And the C-section was just awful. I could remember on the way down, they knocked a bunch of the equipment over that was attached to me. When they started operating, I had a strip on my right side where I could feel everything. I was like, “I can feel what you’re doing there. I was screaming.” The birth of my baby was the worst moment that I could imagine. It not joyful or happy at all. What has happened? What has happened to me? How did this happen to me? I just like couldn’t believe it. 


    Meagan: Yeah.


    Katie: What else could I have done differently? I don’t know. How did everything get out of control? It was just crazy. 


    I ended up having really bad PTSD afterward that I would have nightmares about the surgery. Postpartum was so rough because I had no connection to my baby and I honestly resented him almost in some ways where it was like, “If I hadn’t had you, I wouldn’t have gone through this.” It was just really hard to work through.


    I was also so mad at my husband. I really thought, “How could you? Where were you? You were supposed to be my support. You were supposed to help me.” I don’t think he really got it. I kept telling him how much he was going to have to help me. “I really needed you to be strong in that moment and you just weren’t.” It was a really low point in our relationship, too. 

    32:06 Preparing for VBAC


    Katie: But he promised me that if we ever had any other kids, he would try to make it up to me. “Let’s try to work through this.” And I got some treatment for my PTSD and I ended up taking Zoloft. I obviously listened to the stories on VBAC Link and other podcasts and I realized this is not unique. This is happening to a lot of people. I really knew that I wanted to have a VBAC. I never really thought there was something wrong with me. I thought it was the way I had been mishandled and that they didn’t follow guidelines and that it was really inappropriate care I received. If it had been better, maybe I would have been able to do it. 


    Anyway, I had a lot of anxiety about doctors and I didn’t think, “If I have another baby, I want to go to the hospital. What am I gonna do? If I ever have another baby, should I go back to the United States to do it? Can I review clinical literature from my job?” And just from listening to podcasts and your story, Meagan, and the others, I realized an out-of-hospital birth is probably the best option for me if I ever have another baby to have a VBAC. 


    I found a paper from 2019 about birth in Germany, about VBACs in Germany. And the success rate was like 40% in the hospitals to 60% in the birth center and 80% if you planned a home birth. They said that the outcomes for mom and baby were similar. 


    So I said, “That’s it. We have real literature that we’re going to have a home birth if I ever have another kid.” Before I even got pregnant, I researched home-birth midwives in the city. I started speaking to a doula before I even got pregnant. And I had signed with her and she said that even if she wasn’t available when I got pregnant again, she would help me find someone who was. I actually ended up getting pregnant really fast. We got pregnant on the first try and that was about– my son was 14 months when we got pregnant again. They’re 22 months apart. 

    34:34 Second pregnancy


    Katie: I was like, “I’m going to do this. This is super important to me. I really need to do this.” I listened to VBAC Link stories and other VBAC stories every day. There’s some other podcasts that I listened to. I read all the books like Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and Childbirth as a Rite of Passenger by Rachel Reed and I was just only thinking and talking about birth. That was the only thing I paid attention to in that time.


    I read all the guidelines from every major organization and I read a lot of the literature that they used to come up with the recommendations. I had pretty strong opinions then that I would be okay with. But mostly I just wanted to be left alone. I didn't want any interventions because in my mind, with my sons birth, the intervention is what had ruined it. 


    Katie: I worked out a lot with my first pregnancy, too. But with my VBAC baby, I did the Mamastefit fitness program.


    Meagan: Love Gina.


    Katie: And at the end, there’s a lot of focus on relaxing your pelvic floor. I started seeing an osteopath. We really worked on trying to relax my pelvic floor. I mostly focused on stretching. I kept doing the HypnoBirth stuff. The pregnancy went on. I registered at a hospital just as a backup just in case we needed to transfer. I went to the registration appointment at this hospital. They were supposed to be the best VBAC hospital and they claimed to be the best VBAC hospital in the city, but the doctor there was so anti-VBAC and just talking about, “Oh, you are causing all of this risk if this happens.” 


    I was really kind of shocked by it and at one point, she was like, “Oh, we need to do this ultrasound,” and I was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. What do you want to do this ultrasound for?” She was like, “Well, we need to make sure your baby isn’t too big and that your scar is thick enough.” I said, “Well, I know that those growth scans, you might as well flip a coin so I’m not interested and also, there is not any research supporting the use of ultrasound measurements of the scar with predicting the risk of rupture so no, I decline.” 


    She said, “Well, no you have to do it.” I said, “No, I don’t and I’m not doing it unless you can tell me what evidence you use to come up with these recommendations and what are the cutoffs? How thin is too thin is too thin for the scar? You have to be able to tell me that and you have to tell me what evidence you’ve used to come up with that definition and I will not consent to the ultrasound until you tell me that.” She just couldn’t do it. She kept just going on about like, “Well, you have to. You have to.” 


    I said, “I don’t have to do anything. I don’t consent. If you don’t know the answer, find someone that does.” My doula was with me and she ended up going. This doctor ended up going and getting their boss. She came in and my doula had told them something about how we were just planning this as backup for a home birth. They were like, “You absolutely cannot have a home birth.” I was like, “I absolutely will. That is my choice and you can’t tell me what to do. I’m doing that.” 


    They were just like, “No, no. You can’t do that. You can come here and have the birth.” I said to them, “I know I’m going to need a long time to labor. I was in labor for 48 hours with my son. I need a lot of time. There was nothing medically wrong with my with my son. It was just this pure, bureaucratic nonsense. I was pressured into it because I took too long. I know that and I need support to get through a long labor and it’s safer for me to be at home and it’s safest if there is a midwife at home with me that can check on the baby and make the recommendation when it’s time to transfer. That’s the best course of action.”


    They were like, “No, no. You can only plan to birth here.” I was like, “Well, if that happens, then I’m going to be home alone without anybody there to check on the baby. How is that safe?” They just kept saying, “You can’t do that. You can’t have that here.” 


    Katie: We ended up not having a backup hospital. That was kind of a tough conversation but I was really proud of myself that I had stood my ground so much. Just a lot of women talk about how you always want to be polite and non-confrontational. I was like, “I’m not going to be that way. I’m going to demand answers. I’m not going to do things just to be nice.” I was very proud of myself that although I was basically banned from that hospital, I was proud of myself for sticking up for myself. 


    I really felt and the literature also supported that homebirth was a safe option for me, but we went into it not having a backup hospital. 

    42:01 Labor begins


    Katie: I’ll move on to the actual labor and birth with my VBAC baby. So that also started around midnight. I woke up feeling kind of funny. I went to the bathroom and a little bit of amniotic fluid came out. I was like, “Oh, great.” I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do in that situation so I got on my birth ball and bounced. I listened to an episode from Evidence-Based Birth about the premature rupture of membranes. I listened to that and was like, “No, no. I feel best about waiting for labor to start on its own.” 


    I kept having some mild cramping throughout the night and then around 5:00 AM, I went to the bathroom again and I had some bloody show. Around 9:00, I texted my doula and my midwife just to let them know. My midwife, Julia was like, “Let me come over. I have a lot going on today. Let me just come over and see how you are doing.”


    I was like, “You can, but I’m not really having any contractions. I’m just having some cramps.”


    She came over and we chatted. She offered to do a vaginal exam to see where I was at. I said, “No, I’m not really in labor yet. I don’t want to risk it.” She left and then a few hours later, I started having “contractions”. I was so excited because they were actually contractions, this wave feeling in my uterus because with my son, it had always been this stabbing pain in the back. I’d never felt my uterus doing anything. I was like, “Oh my gosh. Everything I did worked. I’m having real contractions.” I was so excited. 


    We just kept working through them. We made a plan to have my son go over to my sister-in-law. I was convinced that oh, maybe labor won’t really start. I don’t know what I was thinking, but my husband and I made a plan to just have a nice dinner together and send our son off so if I went into labor, he would have somewhere to stay and if not, we would have one more nice evening together before the baby came. 


    But I was in denial. The contractions kept ramping up throughout the day. Finally, at dinnertime, we were eating our dinner and my husband was like, “Do you want me to call Johanna?” Johanna is our doula and I was like, “No, it’s way too soon. It’s only been a few hours.” He was like, “Are you sure?” Then I realized. I took that as a sign that he needed the support. I was like, “Great. Let’s have her come over.” I totally thought she would come over and be like, “Yeah, she’s fine. Let’s go to bed and we’ll take care of this later.”


    She came over and supported me through some contractions and was like, “Hmm, how would you feel about having your midwife come over?” I was like, “it’s way too soon. It’s only been 7 hours. The contractions are too far apart and too short.” She was like, “No, I’ve been timing them and they are over a minute long and three minutes apart.” I was like, “I guess you can call her if you want to.”


    They called her and she listened to me having some contractions on the phone and was like, “Yep, that sounds like active labor. I’m coming over.” She came over and we all labored together. 


    Katie: At some point, I started having back labor again. During the day, it had been this really nice wave feeling, but then the back labor started to come in. Around 11:30ish, my midwife checked me and she told me that my cervix was really posterior and that the baby was actually just pressing on the lower segment of my uterus. I didn’t want to know how much I was dilated, but I knew that it was probably not much based on what she was saying from that.


    Later, after the birth, I found out I hadn’t dilated at all. She actually manually moved the cervix down and held it under the baby’s head and had me do a couple of contractions like that. It was awful. She really recommended that I try to lay down as much as possible during contractions because her theory was that something was pulling my cervix back so if I was moving around too much, it would keep pulling it back. It was so painful to lay down. 


    She ended up leaving to go get some sleep. I kept laboring like that throughout the night. I got super nauseated. I was throwing up. It was just the only way I could get through contractions was to sit on my birthing ball. I had hung a sling up and I would hold onto the sling because I just could not have anything touching my pelvis. It felt like along my SI joints, they were going to just split in two.


    We labored throughout the night like that and they really did a really good job supporting me. They made sure– I had told my husband that his one job was to make sure I was eating or drinking and that after every contraction he should offer me something to drink and he did that to the point of annoyance during labor but he kept doing it and they did a really good job. 


    47:11 Getting support from her birth team


    Katie: Around 7:30, throughout the night, the back pain was getting worse and worse. Around 7:30, we decided to call the midwife and have her come back. This is probably the first moment that I realized, “I think I’m going to need some help here.” 


    I had read so many books talking about how childbirth is a physiological process and everyone can do it. You can do hard things. I really believed that, but it was really that I was starting to realize that, “Yeah, the majority of women are going to get through it fine, but I’m in that minority that really maybe does need some help.” I didn’t say anything at that point. 


    My midwife came over and again, I didn’t know it at the time, but she checked me and I hadn’t progressed at all throughout the night. My cervix had slipped back again into a posterior position. She did that thing where she held it in place again and really had me try to be laying down as much as possible to again with her theory about how my cervix was being pulled back. It was just so painful but it worked.


    I started progressing which was really exciting, but at the same time, I started having this weird contraction. It felt like my body was doing a kegel uncontrollably and involuntarily doing kegels during contractions. I could feel my pelvic floor closing up on itself. I was like, “I thought that was just because the Pitocin was on too high for my first birth, but this is my own natural oxytocin and I’m having this feeling again.”


    I kept laboring throughout the day. They somehow found a TENS machine for my back pain, but anyway, around 11:00 or noon, I said to them, “I think I’m going to need some help. I’m not sure anymore.” 


    I had been so adamant during my entire pregnancy that I absolutely do not want to transfer to the hospital. Only if there is a medical reason and they were like, “No, you are doing so good. Let’s stay home.” They really kept working with me, but by 4:00 or 5:00, I was like, “I think I really just need to accept that I need help.” 


    We did a lot of massage and position changes. We did all of the Spinning Babies stuff. I could not get my pelvic floor to relax. It had been at this point 30 hours and I was like, “I did everything right this time. I feel safe. I set up a beautiful birthing space. I’m not scared. I want to have this baby and it’s just not working. I just need to accept that. I don’t know. I need some help.” 


    50:12 Transferring to the hospital


    Katie: We went to the hospital and I thought I was going to be treated like crap because I was a home birth transfer and I didn’t register ahead of time. We were just so lucky. We got the greatest people and I remember– I’m going to cry. 


    They placed the epidural and I was finally doing some intake paperwork with the midwife that was going to be taking over and I was like, “I know you think I’m crazy, but this is so important to me. I have to do this.” She said, “Of course, you’re going to do it.” It just felt like, I don’t even know. It was just like, “Yeah, I am going to do it.” We talked to my anesthesiologist and I was telling him about what had happened at the last hospital. We talked about how I was really scared about another C-section because I had felt it during my first one and I didn’t want another C-section. We talked about it. 


    I was like, “You know if I need to have another C-section, I want to be put under. I don’t need to experience that again. As much as I want to be awake for meeting my baby, I don’t need that to feel it.” 


    We had an agreement that if it ended up going toward a C-section, he would put me under. I felt like it was such a night and day difference. The staff at this hospital was again, way more modern. The staff was so respectful and always asked my permission to do things. We always talked about the plan and what we were going to do and explained the benefits and risks and all of those things.


    I had to get a Pitocin drip. I understood that with getting the epidural but they were like, “We won’t turn it up too high. We will go slow. We’ll probably have to break your water at some point, but we’re going to wait until as close to the birth as possible.” 


    They really laid out a plan. They checked me 2 hours after I had gotten the epidural and I had progressed to a 7. I just burst into tears. I had just gotten the epidural. At that point, I wasn’t sure if it was the right choice or if I had just basically signed up for a C-section by going to the hospital. I didn’t know at that point, but since I was at a 7, I was like, “Oh my gosh. I am going to make it.” 


    It took another 10 hours, but I made it to 10. Throughout the night, I had the same issues with the epidural not working, but this anesthesiologist worked his butt off. He came in and he tried so many things like repositioning it and trying different medications, trying different types of concentrations. He tried so many things to help me and I could really tell that he felt bad that he couldn’t totally take the pain away. 


    Just that alone was enough. I was like, “It’s okay. As long as my pelvic floor is relaxing, I can get through it.” 


    53:32 Feeling intense scar pain


    Katie: At some point, around 4:00 AM, they gave me a really big bolus because they wanted me to get some sleep but I couldn’t feel anything. I was completely numb. They said, “Okay, why don’t you labor down a little bit? Your baby looks fine on the monitor. Everything is okay.”


    Around 6:00-6:30, I woke up and that bolus had completely worn of. This back pain that I was having was in that moment a thousand times worse because her head was down in the birth canal. I could feel. I remember checking and I could feel. I could only go about a fingertip in and could feel her head. It was so intense. My pelvis felt like it was on fire. I thought I was going to burst into flame. 


    They had me start pushing and she was right there, but she was just not descending anymore. At some point, I remember they had me try to get onto my hands and knees. I was like a wild animal so I can’t really remember everything, but they had me get on hands and knees. I realized, “Oh, I don’t want to be on hands and knees because I can’t brace my scar when I’m pushing,” then I realized, “Oh, my scar is kind of hurting.” 


    Then I was like, “Why is nobody else worried about my scar hurting?” I was like, “Oh, I haven’t said anything to anybody that my scar was hurting.” It was getting more and more painful. I was finally like, “Oh my gosh, my scar, my scar. It hurts so bad.” The midwife got a doctor to come in and they did an ultrasound and the doctor said, “Your scar looks fine.” 


    It just kept hurting and it was hurting more and more. They were cleaning up the ultrasound machine and the pain wasn’t going away in between contractions. Even though they were saying everything was fine, I just felt like things weren’t fine. I almost had an out-of-body experience where I envisioned a future where my uterus ruptured and I got rushed out to the OR and it was really nasty. I was like, “No. I can’t let that happen,” so I started yelling at them. I was like, “A vacuum, I need a vacuum.” They were like, “Are you sure?” 


    I was like, “Yeah, yeah. I really need a vacuum. I need a vacuum right now.” I remember the doctor asking the midwife, “Well, how long has she been pushing?” In my mind, it had been 10 minutes and they were like, “Oh, it’s been over 2 hours.” I was like, “Yes. Yes. Now. I need my baby to be born now, like right now.” 


    56:23 Asking for the vacuum


    Katie: They got a vacuum and pulled her out. I can’t describe it. Although there was so much intervention and stuff, I felt like it was this home birth experience that everyone talks about because I got this crazy flood of oxytocin and I just bawled my eyes out for an hour and I felt like you know when you are a kid and it’s Christmas morning and you’ve been waiting for weeks to get your Christmas present and you finally get to open it and you’re so excited? It was like that feeling times a million. 


    It was just an incredible feeling. She was there. I didn’t know at that point if she was a girl or a boy so I got to look and I was like, “Oh my gosh. It’s a girl.” It was just a really incredible moment. 


    Meagan: Yes. So amazing that you were supported and that they listened to you. 


    Katie: Yeah. I mean, my husband and I have talked about how this is the hospital that I should have had my son at. I don’t know if I would have had a different outcome. I might have still ended up with a C-section there, but I don’t think I would have had the same amount of trauma because the staff was so respectful and they were very capable and competent. It made just such a huge difference. 


    Meagan: Absolutely. It sucks that a lot of the time, it comes to that– where we are and who is in that space. 


    Katie: Exactly, yeah. 


    Meagan: You know, we can’t always control that which is a little nervewracking sometimes. We’ve just got to trust, but I love that you– I mean, honestly even with the first birth, like you said, you got to a point where you weren’t in your brain-brain because you were in labor land, but you were really amazing at advocating for yourself overall. I just want to say congrats on that because that’s really, really hard to do. 


    Katie: Thank you. 


    58:42 Katie’s advice for listeners


    Meagan: I don’t know if you have any advice for listeners to be able to have your voice be heard or find that space inside of your soul that can come out and say what you need when you need it, and how you need it, but that’s a really hard thing to do in labor. 


    Katie: Yeah, I would say that I think it really made a difference that the doula was there. I think it created another layer of protection where she could run interference too and take on some of that burden. I think it was a little bit of her. I was like, “A vacuum, a vacuum, I need a vacuum.” She was the one like, “Yes, yes. She is asking for a vacuum. She wants that baby to come out now.” I didn’t have to carry on the fight anymore because there was a moment in that when they said, “Everything on the CTG looks good.” I could have said, “Well, if they are saying that everything looks fine, maybe I could keep trying,” but I felt so strongly in myself that the baby needed to come out. 


    Since I didn’t have to keep fighting for myself, I verbalized what I needed and she carried the torch basically I would say, it really made a big difference that she was able to keep saying, “Yeah, yeah. She wants the vacuum now. Let’s get it.” 


    I guess preparing for a VBAC, you have to read all of the stuff and know because people will come and tell you things. You really need to be able to come back and say, “Actually, the guidelines don’t support that.” I think it helps too if you have real citations. Do you know what I mean? You can actually say, “There is a paper that is supportive of this or not supportive.” You have to be able to have that knowledge almost and feel really confident that you know it to have those discussions with people as well. 


    Meagan: Yeah, having the evidence is– not only knowing the evidence but having the evidence. That was something​​ that was really important to Julie and I when we were writing the course was not only giving the evidence but sharing the citations for those. Yeah. I mean, going back to the scar thickness and this and that. You were like, “Listen, no and no. I’m not going to do either of these things,” and they really couldn’t come in with the evidence. That was so clear that the evidence wasn’t there. They just wanted to bully you into making the decision that they wanted you to make. 


    Katie: Right. 


    Meagan: So having that knowledge and of course, having the evidence in general, but having those actual sites within links on your phone or in a manual or whatever. 


    Katie: Exactly yeah. 


    Meagan: So then you can be like, “It says this right here. Do you see anything different? Do you have anything new and updated?” 


    Katie: Right. 


    1:01:47 The Friedman Curve


    Meagan: So talking about new and updated within your story, one of the things you mentioned that you wanted to talk about was the outdated and poor quality research that was done by the Friedman curve that is still being used. Do you want to talk about that at all? 


    Katie: Yeah. That was something I came to the conclusion when I read a lot of papers and in my first birth and in my documentation, the diagnosis was “prolonged labor and failure to progress”. I was like, “What does that even mean?” I couldn’t really find a definition in the literature of what prolonged labor was and what I realized was that it’s way more that there are economic reasons to speed up labor, not clinical reasons. That’s why it was so important to me. 


    I was like, “If I need to have my baby by C-section, I will proudly walk into that OR if there is a medical reason or a clinical reason, but not a bad management reason or not because it’s just taking too long.” I just couldn’t find anything really convincing and one of the big criticisms of the research that Friedman did was that it was only a very narrow population at one hospital in the 50s. In the 50s, everyone was getting twilight sleep and all of the babies were being pulled out with forceps. It really can’t be applied to us as modern birthing women. 


    Yeah, there’s an idea of on average, women take so long, this 12-24 hours. That’s about true, but there are corner cases like mine or if I remember correctly from your story. You were also in labor for a long time. 


    Meagan: Mine too, yep. 


    Katie: Just because you’re in labor for a long time doesn’t mean that it’s bad. The question is how is Mom doing? Is she healthy? Is baby healthy? If the answer is yes and also if Mom is up to keep going, because I think there are a lot of stories on The VBAC Link Podcast too of women who decided, “I’m only going to labor for so long and if I’m not dilating, then I’m going to call it.” I also think that’s great that some women make that judgment call of, “I really want a VBAC, but I just don’t want to do it for days and days.” I had the opposite decision for myself where I was like, “I’m going to do this until my baby comes out unless there is a clear medical reason that we need a C-section.” 


    Meagan: Right. 


    Katie: Yeah, I think it’s just important to know that there’s actually not great research for what is normal and just because you are outside of normal doesn’t mean it’s bad or dangerous. 


    Meagan: Yeah. I agree. We’re going to provide the little bit of a risk factor in Germany specifically with the different locations and then Evidence-Based Birth who we love and adore, they actually have a blog on the Friedman’s Curve. They talked about how in 2014– you guys, it’s 2024 so 10 years ago– ACOG came together with the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, so MFM, and they published new guidelines on labor progress. 


    They said their new “normal” of labor is longer than the Friedman definition. There is more room for flexibility such as when an epidural is being used. In addition, new timelines were developed to define when labor progresses abnormally slowly. 


    They are recognizing that sometimes labor does progress abnormally in their minds. That’s abnormal to them. New terms were defined with purpose and they talk about how it’s changed from 4 centimeters to 6 centimeters and things like that. I mean, this is a really wonderful blog. I’m going to drop it in here but I love how you talked about that. Just because it doesn’t go as someone thinks it should go or the lack of really true evidence all around shows it should go doesn’t mean it’s bad. It doesn’t mean something is wrong and it doesn’t always mean you have to do something different. It just means you may need more time. 


    1:06:16 Trusting your intuition


    Meagan: Now, you may want to do something different. You may feel you need to do something different like transfer to the hospital. These are things where we have to tune into that intuition and think, “Okay, what is my body telling me? What am I supposed to be doing?” But long labor, you guys, kind of sucks sometimes to have to keep going and keep going but at the same time, it’s so amazing that your body can do that and is doing that. 


    We have to trust that. We have to trust that process and trust our intuition. 


    Katie: Yeah, and I have to say my first labor was 48 hours and I had the C-section. It’s a trauma and this one was 45 hours and it was super intense the entire time basically for at least 38 hours of it I would say, but I can barely remember it or even connect to it anymore because I was just so happy to have the VBAC. I always had this attitude that it’s just a day for me or a few days that it’s going to be tough, but it’s going to be so great afterward and that’s really the attitude that I had. 


    For me, that’s been true. Postpartum is always hard, but I have so much more resilience this time and I really had that attitude that “I can do it. I can do hard things,” and I can. 


    Meagan: You can. Yes. I love that you pointed that out. Yeah, it’s a few days but it’s a few days that led to this cute little baby that’s joining us today on the podcast. Well, we will make sure to have the links for those two blogs that we mentioned and the study. I just want to say congratulations. Amazing job. 


    Katie: Thank you. 


    Meagan: Really good job of advocating for yourself. To the point of having a doula, even when those doulas aren’t speaking out loud for you, they have this space that they hold that makes you feel like you can and then they support you and rally behind you. I love that you mentioned that because I mean, even with myself with my own birth as a doula at that point, having doulas, I truly felt like that, like I was able to have the extra voice that I wanted to speak. It came out so I’m so happy that you had your doula and I’m so happy for you and congratulations again. 


    1:08:56 Doula support


    Katie: I just wanted to mention too with my doula if she ever hears this, she was with us for 38 hours and just– 


    Meagan: Oof, so long. 


    Katie: We had a contract. There was an exchange of money, but at the same time, I would have understood if she had said, “I’ve been away from my own children for so long. I need to go check on them.” She really stayed with us and helped us that entire time. It has just been the biggest gift that somebody would set aside their own needs to make this difference in our family. I don’t know– I wasn’t very good at expressing that to her. I feel like in the moment, I didn’t have the words for it, but I hope if there are any other doulas listening, the work that you are doing makes such a huge difference. 


    Meagan: I love that. Thank you for sharing. 


    Katie: I also wanted to say thanks to everyone who has ever shared a story about actually having a uterine rupture because listening to those stories, they all always mentioned that they felt that something wasn’t right and having heard those stories really gave me the confidence to say, “Things aren’t right. I need to get my baby out.” I know it’s scary, but if anyone is planning a VBAC, I think it’s important to also hear those stories as well because it really empowered me to get the help that I thought I needed and to stand up and advocate for that. 


    Meagan: Yeah, I love that you touched on that because those stories, even with repeat C-section stories, are really hard to listen to or allow in your space when that’s not what you are wanting, but a lot of those times, if you can find the space to join in on those episodes, they really do bring a lot of education as well. I think if it does end in a C-section or something like this, it can also bring some validation and healing weirdly enough by knowing these episodes. 


    Katie: Yeah, I agree. 


    Meagan: Yeah.


    Closing


    Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Tell us about your experience at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Meagan’s bio, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.





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    1h 11m - May 13, 2024
  • Episode 298 Jenny's VBAC After Baby Was Breech + Intense Travel

    Jenny’s story is one of pure gratitude and joy. She is so grateful to be a mother, for the miracle of her pregnancies, for a breech baby who flipped late in her second pregnancy, for the chance to experience labor, and for a beautiful, successful VBAC. 


    Jenny talks about all of the ways she prepped and how she even had to travel over a mountain pass during a snowstorm while in labor to get to her VBAC-supportive provider. Meagan shares some statistics about breech birth and why we so badly need more providers trained in vaginal breech delivery.


    A long-time listener of The VBAC Link Podcast, Jenny shares her story with so much joy hoping to inspire other Women of Strength just as she was inspired by so many others. 


    PubMed Article: Risk of Vaginal Breech Birth vs. Planned Cesarean

    Heads Up Documentary

    Informed Pregnancy - code: vbaclink424

    Needed Website

    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details 


    02:58 Jenny’s first pregnancy with gestational diabetes

    06:10 Low amniotic fluid, breech presentation, and a C-section

    10:22 Healing in different ways

    14:16 Getting pregnant again and doing all of the VBAC prep

    22:52 Gestational diabetes test

    27:59 Breech at 34 weeks

    32:33 A head-down baby

    35:11 Traveling the mountain pass in a snowstorm

    39:43 Checking into the hospital

    45:42 Fetal ejection reflex

    49:20 Pushing out baby and postpartum blood loss

    57:10 Jenny’s advice for breech mamas

    1:00:22 Statistics on vaginal birth versus planned Cesarean for breech


    Meagan: Hey, hey. You are listening to The VBAC Link Podcast and we have another amazing episode for you today. We have our friend, Jenny. Hello, Jenny. 


    Jenny: Hi. 


    Meagan: How are you today?


    Jenny: I’m good. I’m so excited. This is just– I am reeling actually that this is actually happening today. 


    Meagan: I am so excited that it is. You know, it’s so fun to get submissions in and then when we send them out, people are like, “Wait, what? Really?” 


    Jenny: That is exactly how I felt. I was like, “This is never going to happen, but I’m just going to go for it. I’m just going to submit it.” I mean, The VBAC Link was such a huge part of my whole story and just to be on here and hopefully share something inspirational with somebody else, hopefully it helps somebody. That’s my goal today. 


    Meagan: It will. It’s absolutely going to. The whole podcast, sorry if you guys hear any noise in the background by the way. I’m getting a new furnace today and he’s installing it downstairs literally below me. So sorry if there’s any extra background noise. But this podcast is literally something that I wish so badly that I had when I was going through my VBAC. 


    Obviously, that’s one of the reasons why we were inspired to create it, but every single story, even though they all might have similarities or even be in similar places, they are so different and unique and I love that. I love that almost 300 episodes in, we can prove that every birth is different. 


    It’s true. Every birth is different and you went through a lot with your births. I mean, I’ve got her list right here of things. You guys, this is going to be a jam-packed episode. She’s got gestational diabetes, breech, advanced maternal age, and trusting the process. We’re going to talk about traveling literally over a mountain pass. She drove over a mountain pass to find what she needed so I’m so excited to dive into your episode in just one minute after the intro. 

    02:58 Jenny’s first pregnancy with gestational diabetes


    Meagan: Okay, Jenny. Here we go. You are– are you ready? Are you ready? She is dancing in the background. You can’t see her but she is literally dancing. You can see she is so excited to share this amazing story with you. 


    Jenny: I am so ready. Okay, so let me go back four years to my C-section baby. I can’t believe it’s been that long. Being a mom was never in the cards for me. I’m just going to start out by saying that. My husband and I, we had been married for 15 years. We went on this fabulous cruise and we were just having the time of our lives. We had a conversation that if I was past 30, it just wasn’t going to happen for us and that was okay. 


    So we never planned to have babies and then we had the most wonderful surprise of our whole lives. One day– I don’t even know it had been since I had my period so I was like, “Oh, I’ll just take a test.” He saw it and was like, “What is this?” I said, “I’m 98% positive that it’s going to be negative. I just do this sometimes. It’s fine.” 


    I get out of the bathroom with this blazingly positive test and he’s like, “No way. I don’t believe that.” So I had to go the doctor and prove to him that I was. 


    Anyway, I loved being pregnant. It was so incredible. The miracle of just growing a baby is beyond words. Just that first flutter to knowing that you are creating a human inside of you to the first ultrasound– anyway. I started listening to “The Birth Hour” and I went down the rabbit hole. 


    I love it so much because like you were saying before, it shows you so much about the differences. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so it was just an education in itself. I went down the rabbit hole and I am such a birth nerd now. I had no idea. 


    When I found out I was pregnant, the first thing that came to my mind was, “I have to give birth. I’m so scared,” because of all the fear. We get so much media fear. You see all the people screaming and pushing. It just looked traumatizing then I remembered I had seen The Business of Being Born and I was like, “No.” 


    I have always been this closet hippie. I was like, “No. I’m going to do this and I’m going to do it right.”


    I found myself at 28 weeks. We did a gestational diabetes test and I walked into the doctor’s office and she was like, “You have gestational diabetes.” I was like, “No I don’t. No, I don’t.” She was like, “Yeah, you do.” She was like, “You are going to give birth at 39 weeks here. You are going to be induced. You will give birth on your back. You will do this. You will do this.” The language she used with me was so– I felt so defeated and I was only 28 weeks. I was so disappointed and it was a midwife. It was a midwife practicing under a hospital OB practice. 


    But I live in a really small town, so it was the only midwife I could find really. Home birth wasn’t an option for me. We do have a home birth midwife, but it wasn’t affordable at the time. 


    06:10 Low amniotic fluid, breech presentation, and a C-section


    Jenny: It turns out that I had low amniotic fluid and you know, they send you in for all of these screenings and tests once you know you have gestational diabetes. They were really concerned about it one time when I went in and they were like, “I don’t see any amniotic fluid, like any.” They actually kept me overnight and pumped me full of saline.


    Meagan: A bolus?


    Jenny: I was drinking water. Yeah, it was crazy. They checked the next morning and they said, “Yeah, you still don’t have any amniotic fluid so we’re going to send you to an MFM over the mountains,” which is about an hour and a half away in the city. 


    When I got over, the MFM walked into the room. She didn’t even say hi to me. I was 34 weeks at the time and she was like, “We’re keeping you here. You’re going to have this baby. You’re not going to leave this hospital until you do.” She hadn’t even talked to me. She never said, “Hello.” I mean, she just looked at my chart. She didn’t do any tests on me. I was just blown away by how she talked to me. I was just like, “Are you kidding? Hi. I’m a person.” 


    The did the test right there and then. It turns out the city doctor and their tests are so much better. Based on the total amount of amniotic fluid, they released me that day. As I was walking out the door, she was like, “By the way, I’ll see you back here for your delivery because your baby is breech and you’re not going to have her naturally.” I was just like, “Okay. I’ll show you. I’m going to flip this baby.”


    Anyway, I went down the rabbit hole. I did everything. I even signed up for the ECV. I don’t want to traumatize anybody, but there were three people pushing on my belly trying to get that baby to turn and she didn’t budge. She was there. I did have some lower amniotic fluid.


    Meagan: That can be a sign too if baby really, really, really isn’t budging that’s usually a sign that an ECV– and if it’s extremely painful, sometimes the ECV just isn’t going to be successful and sometimes we have to trust those little babes, right? There is a reason why. 


    Jenny: Mhmm. Mhmm. I totally agree with you too. I even was mourning the loss this whole time because I so badly wanted to give birth just to experience it. I don’t know. It’s an innate woman thing. Men can’t do it. It’s something that I never experienced in my life. What else can we go through in our lives that you have to wait until you’re an adult to feel? It was just this phenomenon. I was so curious about it and I wasn’t even getting the opportunity. 


    I was telling a nurse about it one day when I was getting a test done, “I just want the chance.” She was like, “Oh, honey. You don’t want to ruin your cervix by pushing out a breech baby.” I was like, “Oh, so I would break myself?” I didn’t say anything because at the time, I was this pushover. I was just like, “I’ll do whatever,” but inside, I was dying. I just wanted the chance at everything. 


    So I got to the point where I just walked into the OR with the MFM because she does five of them a day and I trusted her more than I trusted our small-town hospital. 


    Jenny: The C-section was uneventful. It was really easy. We did the labor baby dance before we went in there and then I saw her come out of my belly and I was thinking, “I don’t know this baby.” I felt disconnected but at the same time, I was overjoyed. I cried because they took her right over to the warmer. The anesthesiologist was right by my head and she was like, “Why are you crying? Are you okay? Are you in pain?” I was like, “No, that’s my baby and I can’t hold her and I’m right here.” 


    The didn’t tie me down. Nothing was traumatic. I was very prepared. 


    Meagan: They just didn’t bring her over. 


    Jenny: No, I was separated. They were weighing her and laughing about how she was and I was trying to see her. Anyway, it’s just not natural. I mean, it’s just not how you want to have your baby. 


    They did put her on my chest and everything was great. 


    10:22 Healing in different ways


    Jenny: Fast forward six months, I was done with it. I was like, “Maybe we’ll only have one. Maybe this will be it.” We weren’t planning on having a baby anyway and we were just loving being in that baby nest. COVID started and talk about a crazy time. I definitely suffered a lot from postpartum anxiety. I had a lot of expectations maybe about motherhood and stuff. I really learned a lot. 


    The transformation to motherhood is like a phoenix rising from the ashes as a total personality makeover. You’re just coming out of this, “This is who I was and this is who I’m becoming and this is what I’m learning.” Kids really teach you that, don’t they? They teach you how to fight for yourself and fight for them if you can’t fight for yourself, and I just found that postpartum is harder than it should be. We don’t have the support we have and it really, yeah. It made me go into a deep dive of what was going on with me. 


    I started listening to The VBAC Link actually. I found it one day when I was listening to a “Birth Hour” podcast. It was six months and I was like, “You know, I’m just going to listen.” I was like, “I love this. I enjoy it,” but I couldn’t relate to it anymore. I searched VBAC on Spotify and you were the first person that came up– you and Meagan at the time or, you and Julie. 


    I was like, “This is me.” I could connect to all of the stories because women were sharing the same feelings that I felt and the same things so thank you so much. It was inspirational to feel like, “I can do this. I can do this again.” I remember even talking to the OB when she was stitching me up in the OR. I was like, “I can have a VBAC, right?”


    At the time, I wasn’t really planning it or whatever and she was like, “I’m doing the double stitch, don’t worry. You are a good candidate.” I was like, “Okay, that’s cool.” It was so far out but just listening to the stories and knowing that I could do it, it was like, “I could do this again.” But I needed to listen for a long time to feel like I was ready and stuff. 


    A lot of your episodes talked about working through past trauma so I started doing that. I started EMDR. I did pelvic floor physical therapy and I just want to talk about that for a minute because I cannot believe how ashamed I was to do it I guess maybe. 


    I just want to say that really quick because I have a vaginismus and that’s when your muscles involuntary close into your vagina and it’s because of past trauma. So doing EMDR coupled with the pelvic floor physical therapy was really something that was so useful and I was so ashamed to do it because I’ve had it for years and I remember my GP suggesting it one time and I was like, “Absolutely not. I’m not having anybody touch me.” I just wasn’t ready. 


    Meagan: You’re vulnerable. 


    Jenny: It is. I was so ashamed and I don’t know why. I was talking to my pelvic floor PT about it. It was the first session I had with her. I was like, “I was so ashamed and I’m ready now.” She was like, “I can tell you are ready.” It was so healing to go there and to work through some of that. While it never got better for me, I know how to work with my body now and that kind of comes into play with my vaginal birth because in a way, I was a little bit relieved. 


    Sometimes when I thought about it, I was looking at the silver linings of the C-section. You just walk right in. I was also thinking that I wouldn’t have to deal with this problem that I was really afraid of having. 


    14:16 Getting pregnant again and doing all of the VBAC prep


    Jenny: So anyway, big plug for pelvic floor physical therapy. Since I had gestational diabetes, I read Lily Nichols’ book. I just listened to the episode on her. She is amazing. I can’t believe I didn’t know about her before. I had heard her on another podcast and I just thought, “I need to read this book.” She is amazing. 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Jenny: There are so many amazing birth workers out there– her and Rebecca Dekker from the “Evidence-Based Birth Podcast” and the “Down to Birth Podcast”. All of those people taught me something very unique and special about birth. 


    It’s just this education, right? All of this knowledge and trust that we really have to get. We have to work through some of our things– traumas or whatever it is. Things that culturally have been accepted in our mind about birth and we get to this point where all of a sudden, I was excited. I was like, “Maybe I could do this again.”


    I did all of the things. I started eating eggs, Vitamin D, and magnesium and taking the protein supplement, the collagen powder. I even went non-toxic for my cosmetics and my house care. I started this. I heard this girl’s birth story. Her name is Bae. She is from Australia. She does this whole program– Core and Floor Restore. I loved her birth episode. I listened to her. I went to her website. She has this whole program on how to help your pelvic floor and how to exercise post-birth. 


    The way she talks to women in there, she is like, “Do you. You do you. Don’t push it. Don’t force something that you can’t do. If you can’t do this exercise right now, modify it so that you can.” It was just this education of how to trust your body, how to trust birth, how to–


    Meagan: Trust our minds, our hearts, and our gut. 


    Jenny: Yes, that’s part of it. Yeah, yeah. Anyway, all of this transformation got me to the point where I was like, “I have to be a doula.” It wasn’t in the cards for me to be a birth doula even though I am a huge nerd. I have to have a scheduled life. 


    Meagan: Maybe postpartum?


    Jenny: Yes. Yes. I was like, “I want to be a doula, but I will be a postpartum doula.” I actually really love helping women work through some of these things that were so transformational to me. Just overcoming some things that you didn’t know about yourself but you are forced to face in motherhood, so I became a postpartum doula and it is incredible. I love it so much. 


    Then I decided I was ready. I was ready to have this second baby. I was ready to have my VBAC and I did a deep dive into providers because that was what you told me to do. I needed to know if I could do this and so I went to my hometown hospital and I was like, “Hey. Can I have a VBAC here?” They were like, “Absolutely not. We will schedule you for a C-section at 39 weeks so that you don’t go into spontaneous labor.” I was like, “Okay.” 


    So I went to the midwife and I was like, “Hey, can I have a VBAC here?” She said, “Well, I could support you but I shouldn’t. I don’t have the resources. I would want to support you, but ultimately, I shouldn’t.” So I was like, “Okay. Okay.” I was like, “I’ve already established myself at this big hospital over the mountains. I’m going to ask them.”


    I went to them and they were like, “Yeah, we’ll support you.” They had this outlying hospital in the mountains. It is absolutely beautiful, these giant windows looking out over the Pacific Northwest and I’m telling you, I live in the best part of the country but it’s really bad so don’t move here. That’s for anybody that’s thinking about moving here because we like it being a small town. 


    I had my heart set on this beautiful outlier hospital. I called them. I’m getting ahead of myself. 


    I had a conversation with my husband after I found them. I was like, “Hey, we should have a second.” He was like, “I don’t know. It’s really hard. We’re older now.” I was 35 at the time. He was actually 44. We have a pretty big age gap. We weren’t going to do it in the first place so we had some big conversations. I was like, “Okay. Let’s just try for 6 months and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. It wasn’t meant to be.” We have a really strong faith so we were just like, “Maybe we weren’t meant to have it.” 


    It was really fun actually trying instead of trying to prevent pregnancy. I had never been in that boat oddly enough having a baby and stuff. But it was really hard and I was trying to visualize conception. I was like, “It seems impossible how it all happens.” 


    Meagan: Timing and everything. It’s amazing. It’s amazing. 


    Jenny: It’s incredible just visualizing it all. It’s incredible how it can actually happen. At the time, I was thinking, “Man, it’s not going to happen.” Five months went by and I was doing all of the testing. I was making sure and it was really fun to nerd out on this side of it beyond the total planning side of it. I love that part. Yeah. 


    Finally, one day seven, six days after I ovulated, I felt all of this cramping and I was like, “Maybe this is the implantation.” I think five days after that, I tested and I had the tiniest, faintest line. I was like, “Holy crap.” I did not think it was going to happen. It was just so amazing. I kept it to myself all day. It was my little secret except I went in and told my little one. She was three at the time. I went over and I was like, “Hey, you’re going to be a big sister.” She looked at me and I was like, “But keep it quiet for a day.” 


    Meagan: Don’t tell anybody. 


    Jenny: I wanted to take the test the next day that said you are pregnant because I didn’t want the same reaction from my husband the second time. I was like, “I’m going to give him the test that says, ‘You are pregnant’.” So I did. I did. I gave him the test and he was like, “Oh my goodness!” Actually, I had her give it to him the next day. It was so cool. It was just this sweet little moment. 


    My age really concerned me. I thought I would be so chill because the first pregnancy was like, “Whatever, I didn’t plan this. Whatever happens.” With the second one, I had the fear in me that my age was against me. His age is against me now.


    I spent more time than I wanted and I regret feeling not anxious but just disconnected. I was really afraid to connect to this pregnancy because I know a lot can happen in early pregnancy and I really want to say that to other people who might have the same feelings that you are not alone in feeling that way because it is really scary. I got to my 20-week ultrasound and I was holding my breath the whole time she was doing the test.  


    She was looking and looking. She was being really fast and really efficient. They actually asked us to leave the room and go wait out in the lobby for the doctor to come get you. I was like, “This doesn’t sound good. I don’t think this is right.” I was so anxious and the doctor just walked up to us casually in the lobby and was like, “Everything looks good. See you guys later.” 


    Nothing was wrong. I started bawling and I could not stop sobbing for so long. I’m not really a crier either. It was the confirmation that everything is going to be okay and we did it. I can’t believe it. It’s so hard to get pregnant and then everything is going good and stuff. I was really excited about that. 


    I was also really hyper-aware of her positioning because obviously, I had this past breech. So from 20 weeks on, I was legit obsessed with sitting upright, leaning forward. All the time, I was turning my chairs around. I was never reclining on my couch. Even in my car, I was sitting straight up. I was like, “I’m uncomfortable 100% of the time.” I was trying really hard not to have a breech baby because even at my 20-week ultrasound, they looked and were like, “Yeah, she’s breech but anything can happen.” I was like, “I know, whatever.” 


    22:52 Gestational diabetes test


    Jenny: I was doing all of the things, right? Spinning Babies, I was going to acupuncture. I was going to pelvic floor physical therapy, the chiropractor, all of it. I was chugging along. At 26 weeks, I get my gestational diabetes test. I talk to my midwife about it and she was like, “Yeah, we can just do the two-hour test because we know you had it last time. You might have it again this time.” I was like, “Okay. I think that’s a good idea.” I didn’t mention this before, but with my first test, my midwife wouldn’t even let me retest. She just said, “You have diabetes.” It was just the one-hour screening. It’s not a diagnostic, but I got the diagnosis from it anyway. I was like, “Why wouldn’t you let me retest?” She said, “Your number, I just felt like you have diabetes.” I don’t know. I was pretty upset about that. They wouldn’t even let me try. I know other people who retest all the time and they are negative with the three-hour test. It didn’t make sense to me. 


    So anyway, I went into this one pretty informed. I was like, “Hey, I want the three-hour test. I want to know if I have it,” because if you have it, it’s not a good thing and you really want to control it. My first one was diet-controlled. She ended up being 6 pounds, 9 ounces. 


    Meagan: Little. 


    Jenny: She was tiny and she was 39 and 6 when she was born. I wouldn’t let them take her earlier than that even though they wanted to. I was like, “No.” They were like, “We won’t let you go to 40.” I was like, “Okay. You can have her at 39 and 6 then.” I was so mad at them. Anyway, I digress. 


    Jenny: Okay, so I did the two-hour test. I felt so sick. I was like, “For sure, I have it again.” I had been eating a gestational diabetes diet the whole time. I was like, “I’m just going to take care of my body.” I felt amazing taking care of my body like that so it’s really kind of a blessing in disguise having it. I would not say that having been diagnosed with it the first time. I thought that I was a failure and whatever, but you’re not. 


    Meagan: No. It just happens. 


    Jenny: Yeah, it happens. My mom has diabetes. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I was healthy and I was thinking that it would never happen to me and it did. 


    So anyway, I took the test and it turned out negative. I couldn’t believe it so whatever Lily Nichols did in her book, I did all of the things that she told me to and it worked so I’m just going to give a shoutout to her. Thank you because you helped me have my VBAC and I couldn’t be more grateful for just not having it because then I kind of ate whatever I wanted. It was great. I gained a little weight and it was really fun. It was the opposite of my first pregnancy. I was carefree and I had a lot more flexibility to do things I really wanted. 


    Anyway, that was really cool. But also at my 26-week appointment, my midwife felt my belly and she was like, “You know, your baby is frank breech.” She was like, “I’m just saying that. There is obviously plenty of time for it to turn, but we want to see a head-down baby by 30-32 weeks.” 


    I need to back up just for a second. I wasn’t able to use the midwives that I wanted at that outlier hospital from the city because I chose to do a bloodless program and they don’t support that even in the outlier hospital. It is only the ones in the city. It was an hour and a half drive through city traffic and a mountain pass. I was due in February and our mountain pass is no joke. It closes for multiple days during the winter a lot of times, so going that far was part of our conversation in having a second. I was like, “I’m not having a VBAC here in town. Can you drive me?” He was like, “I’m not scared. Let’s do it.” 


    That comes into play later, but it was a lot. I had to use the bloodless program in the city which meant traffic, snow, ice, all of it. They chose to support me which was great. I found them and I’m grateful that they were but they weren’t the dream team as far as being really supportive. I would say they were tolerant of me being there. 


    Meagan: Tolerant of you going for it but not super on board. 


    Jenny: Yeah, exactly. They were like, “Yeah, this is great.” They weren’t saying, “This is what we need to see.” They weren’t saying, “You need to be in spontaneous labor by 39 weeks.” I was drilling them. I was doing all of the things. I was like, “What do you require of me? Can I go to 42 weeks? I want to know.” I had never felt a contraction before so it was honestly like, I knew I went to 40 with my first so I’m definitely going to go to that with my second at least I thought. 


    I did all of the things to try and flip her obviously when they said that, but at 35 and 6, she was still breech. Actually, it was 34 weeks. I had even gone to acupuncture and felt her physically flip. She did the flip in my belly. I’m not joking. I felt her move the entire way down head down. I woke up in the morning and she was breech again. I was like, “Okay. She can do it. I know this baby can do it.” 


    27:59 Breech at 34 weeks


    Jenny: I kept doing all of the things until 34 weeks which is when most babies are head down. I was like, “You know what? I’ve listened to enough podcasts and stuff to know that I needed to let some things go.” I regretted a lot about my first birth. I hoped until the last minute that I was walking into the OR that she was going to flip and she didn’t. I was like, “You know what? I want to enjoy this pregnancy. I don’t want to feel like I’m doing all of the inversions of my life.” I was doing headstands in my hot tub. I was doing everything and I was like, “I’m going to let this go.” I chose to let this go at 34 weeks and I was like, “I’m going to enjoy this whether I have a C-section or not even though I really want a VBAC.” 


    My faith is a really big part of that because I was just praying, “I believe so much that our bodies are incredible and they were made for this.” And to not have the chance to even try is heartbreaking. It’s sad that we don’t have breech providers because these OBs are professionals. They are professional. They get trained for years in how to do this and that we don’t even have a chance with them boggles my mind a little bit. 


    Meagan: I know. 


    Jenny: Anyway, I’ve heard a lot about just having the chance to experience what women are made to do and just feel. Even if it’s hard and even if it’s painful and whatever, I just wanted the chance. I found this renegade OB in a different city. He was willing to do this ECV on me because I heard he had a good success rate. I was like, “I’m going to do it again. I don’t care. I’m just going to try.” 


    At 35 and 6, I binged on the Evidence-Based Birth Podcast because she has a couple about VBAC and she has a couple of episodes about birth. I wanted all of the stats in my head. I was like, “They are not going to deny me this ECV because I have this scar on my uterus.” I was dead-set. I knew ACOG by this point. I walked in and I was like, “I’m going to do this. Let’s do this.” He was like, “Okay. This girl knows her stuff,” because he was like, “I probably shouldn’t do it because of the C-section.” I was like, “No, ACOG recommends that I am not a risk.” I knew and he was like, “Girl, you know your stuff. All right. You know the risks. Let’s try it.” 


    Meagan: That is so interesting that he was trying to scare you out of it but because you knew the stats, he was willing to do it, but if you didn’t know the stats, what would have happened?


    Jenny: Right? I wonder and I don’t think it’s fair that women have to become experts in the field that’s not our job. Our job is to grow this beautiful baby in bliss and instead, we’ve got to fight for everything, something that we should be able to do. 


    32:33 A head-down baby


    Jenny: I get in there and he puts the ultrasound machine on my belly. As I was driving myself there, I was thinking, “Man, these kicks are weird.” They were fluttering up here and I was like, “That’s so weird.” It was under my rib instead of down below. I thought, “That’s really weird.” He put the ultrasound machine and he was looking right down where my cervix was because that’s where he should see feet and he laughed and he was like, “That’s a head. Your baby is head-down.” 


    I was like, “No, it’s not. I felt her head last night right under my ribs.” He was like, “No, her head has moved.” I poked, poked, poked and I was like, “Are you kidding me?!” I hit him and was like, “You’re kidding me, right?” He was like, “No, girl. You’ve got a head down baby.” I was like, “I’ve never felt this before! I’ve never had a head down baby!”


    I was in my second pregnancy, 36 weeks along pretty much and I had never had a head-down baby so I just want to say to all of the breech mamas out there, it can happen and maybe it can’t. I don’t know. I was convinced that I grew breech babies at that point because I was pretty far along there. 


    Anyway, so that was the biggest surprise of my whole pregnancy. At that point, I was like, “I’ve got to find a doula. I’ve got to take a birth class. I’ve got to do all of these things.” I had been holding out for this opportunity to have a chance and now I had it. It was the most incredible, freeing feeling. When I was driving home, I was just like, “I can’t believe it!” I was yelling in the car. I called my sister right away, “I have a head down baby!” She was like, “Okay.” It’s just not a big deal to people. It was just so thrilling to feel like I could get the chance. 


    So anyway, I took this birth class that B does from Core and Floor Restore and she talks a lot about physiological birth in it and how the movements that we make and the sensations that we feel all help in this balancing act of getting our babies out. I was just like, “I’ve got to try. I’ve got to try. I need the chance. I’m getting the chance now and now I’ve got to try.” 


    So I did all of the dates and I did all of the classes. At 39 weeks, I stopped work and I just lived it up. I was just laying around and I was just having a good old time with my baby girl. That was one day that I had and the next day, I put her down for a nap. 


    35:11 Traveling the mountain pass in a snowstorm


    Jenny: I was at 39 and 4. I told my baby as I put my toddler down for a nap, I was like, “You know, I’m ready. I’m ready to see you. I’ve got all my meals in the freezer. I’ve done the work. I feel good.” 


    Meagan: You were prepared. 


    Jenny: I’m a postpartum doula. I had my ducks in a row and then my girl was just starting to sleep and I felt my first contraction. I was like, “No. This cannot be happening. Are you kidding me?” I just laid there super still and I was like, “That was another one. It’s happening.”


    I went to the bathroom and I had a little bit of my mucus plug and bloody show. I texted my doula right away like, “Oh my goodness.” She was like, “Oh, you know. Things are happening. Yeah.” I was like, “I know. I know. I need to go to sleep. I’m just going to go to sleep.” 


    I looked at the pass because that was the biggest factor in what was happening. I looked. It was 2:00 in the afternoon. I looked at the pass and it said it was going to have 7-10 inches that night of snow. I was like, “Okay. Nothing is happening now, but maybe we should.” 


    Our plan was to get over on the other side of the mountains in case it closed on us, we would be on that side. I was going to have this chance for VBAC no matter what. 


    I texted my husband right away and I’m like, “Hey, I had a contraction. I’ve had several. I’ve got some stuff going on. Can you head home from work? He never responded.” 6:00 rolls around. My daughter got up. My contractions slowed just like they do when your toddler is awake. I was like, “Did you get my text?” He was like, “No, what?” I was like, “It’s going to happen today. I’ve been having contractions. I feel it.” 


    He was like, “Okay. I was like, “But the pass is starting to snow already up there and I think we’ve got to go. He was like, “Well, let’s just see.” I was like, “Okay. All right. Let’s do this. When she goes down for sleep, I bet it’s going to pick up.”


    Sure enough, it did. 7:30 rolls around. I put her down and it started again just small contractions, but I felt it. He went to sleep and by midnight, I was having timeable 5-minute contractions trying to lay there. I was like, “I can’t do this anymore. I’ve got to get up.” So I got up and I got in the shower. He came in and he was like, “Are you okay?” I was like, “I am having some pretty intense contractions. I cannot lay here.” He was like, “Okay.” 


    We were just reading each other’s minds at that point. We’ve been married so long and we were both thinking about the pass. What are we going to do? Who was going to come over at this point and see our kid? I was spiraling and I was like, “I’m going to get in the hot tub. I’m just going to get in the hot tub and slow these down. I know this is probably just prodromal so I’m going to get in the hot tub.”


    I get in the hot tub and I’m sitting there and it was the most beautiful night. The stars are out. The moon is out. The sun was not out. It was the middle of the night. It was 2:00 in the morning and I was sitting there. It was this surreal, beautiful moment. Having these contractions and the warm water, it was incredible. At that moment, I was so grateful to have the opportunity at this point. I had never gotten this far. It was so cool just to sit there. That was definitely one of the most beautiful moments of my labor. 


    Jenny: Unfortunately, my contractions sped up in the hot tub instead of slowing down. 


    Meagan: So they were real. 


    Jenny: Which is good, they were real. I was thinking, “Oh gosh, what do we do?” They were 2-3 minutes apart by this point lasting over a minute. We called our midwife on the other side of the mountains and we were like, “Hey, this is happening I think.” She was like, “Do you think you can make it?” I was like, “I don’t know, but we’ve got to try.” She was like, “But you pull over right away.” We knew where the hospitals were along the way. 


    She was like, “If you feel like you are going to start pushing, you pull over right away and you call an ambulance.” I was like, “Okay.” We called somebody and woke them up in the middle of the night to come over and stay with our toddler and we started the trek over the mountains and it was insane. It was so insane, the snow. We were all over the place. There were semis in one lane and my husband was passing them on the other side. 


    Just like I thought it would, my labor slowed down. It was a good thing because I was obviously in fear at that moment. I sat in the back. I sat backward. I put my TENS machine on and I was going to be in the zone. 


    39:43 Checking into the hospital


    Jenny: When we got there, they checked me and unfortunately, I was only 1 centimeter but I was 70% effaced. She was like, “It’s real.” 


    Meagan: Hey, that’s good. 


    Jenny: But it’s prodromal. I was like, “Awesome. We just spent the whole night getting over here.” It was so crazy, but it felt really good to be on that side of the mountains at that point. That hurdle was overcome for us. 


    We went to our relative’s house that was close by. That was part of our plan and we just went to sleep. We just went there and tanked for the morning. I got a couple of hours of sleep. My contractions started to pick up again. She fed me some eggs and I threw them up right away. It was real. It was really happening. It was 2:00 in the afternoon. It started getting really intense. I got in the shower and the whole time, I was trying to stay on all fours. I was trying to lean forward. Part of B’s birth class is getting all of that pressure forward and moving your body. 


    It was so incredible. I lost so much more of my mucus plug that I didn’t know was possible. I started having more and loose bowels and all of that. By the time my contractions were 4 minutes apart, we looked at traffic and it was insane rush-hour traffic, back-to-back. 


    We called the midwife and she was like, “You’d better start making your way in here.” I was like, “Okay.” We got in the car and it took over a half-hour to get to what should have taken 15 minutes in bumper to bumper. It was so insane just sitting in the car. One of my friends who traveled to do her birth too, I asked her what she did in the car because I knew I was going to be in the car. She was like, “I concentrated on something. I found something to concentrate on and it helped me to cope.”


    I was like, “I’m going to time these and I’m going to use my TENS machine at the same time. I’m going to keep my mind distracted.” I also kept my birth affirmation cards in front of me and they were so helpful. I’m not one of those people who needs affirmations, but for some reason, telling my mind in that moment, “You’re okay. You’re safe. It’s okay to do these things.” I had one that was a vortex. I don’t know if that was on this podcast. I think it was where a girl was looking at this vortex and pictured herself opening. Anyway. 


    It was so helpful. I felt like I was dilating. I really felt true movement at those moments. Of course, I was doing really slow, diaphragmatic breaths and trying to breathe through each one and stuff. 


    Jenny: By the time we got to the hospital, my contractions were 2 minutes apart. They checked me and I was 5 centimeters and 100% effaced. 


    Meagan: Yay!


    Jenny: I know. It was so wild. But my midwife wasn’t on shift yet. They only had OBs. Anyway, they stuck me in triage and just left me on the monitor. It was so cool though. They worked with me. I was like, “I’m not sitting. I can’t lay down. I have to keep moving and I have to keep swaying.” She was like, “Good. Let’s put this on you and let’s keep you in that position then.” She was like, “I think I can get a reading.” 


    While they did have to do continuous fetal monitoring, it was okay. It really worked out. I was really worried about that. A lot of people talk about that and think it was one of the biggest hurdles, but it was really doable if you’ve got somebody who’s going to work with you through it. 


    My doula came and it started to become a blur. My husband started to read me my birth affirmations which was really kind of sweet because he is definitely not that way at all. One of them that came from the VBAC podcast was, “My vag is a waterslide.” I loved that one. We had such a good laugh because he was reading it to me. It was a really funny moment. 


    Things were moving, man but we were stuck in that room for over 2 hours. It felt like 10 minutes to me because I was just in the zone. My doula tried to do a hip squeeze on me and I hated it but I couldn’t even tell her because I was so in the zone. I could not verbalize at that moment. My nurse was moving super slowly. I think they were just stalling to get the midwives on staff.


    At 8:00, they finally moved me to my labor and delivery room. As I was walking by, the nurses were like, “Go, Jenny! You can do it!” It was so cool to hear them cheering me on and stuff. It felt like the victory line running towards the goal. It was really cool. 


    I got in my room and it took her over 10 minutes to find her heartbeat. She was just sitting there trying to find it. I was almost like, “Maybe I should be worried,” but I was too in the zone. I was on all fours the whole time trying to move and just work with my body through it all. 


    When she finally did it, she got the wireless monitors on me. I had been saying for 2 hours straight, “I just want the tub. Please give me the tub.” 


    As soon as we got into that room, my doula went in. She drew the bath. She put the candles in there and all of the things. I was sitting on the bed just moving and I was like, “I’ve got to poop. I’ve got to poop. It’s going to happen. I’ve got to go to the bathroom.” They were like, “Okay.” 


    I walked away and I ran into the bathroom real quick. I was sitting on the toilet and I was thinking, “Man, this is insane. I feel like my body is just going to break apart. This is insane, the pressure.” It wasn’t super painful, but it was but it wasn’t. It’s like pain with a purpose. 


    Anyway, I was sitting on the toilet and I was like, “Man, nothing is coming out. This is crazy.” All of a sudden, another huge contraction hit and I jumped onto the floor and sat on all fours looking at the tub. It’s right there. All the water was finally filled. I could get in after this contraction was over and my body started bearing down. 


    45:42 Fetal ejection reflex


    Jenny: It’s like I was throwing up from the back of my body. It was like down and out. It was like a feeling that I’d never felt before. It was so incredible. It was happening, the fetal ejection reflex and there was this new nurse next to me that was like, “You’re pushing, huh.” I was like, “I’m not trying to but I think it’s happening. I’m getting in the tub now.” She was like, “You’re going to come back and get on the bed actually.” I was like, “No!” For 2 hours I had been begging for the tub and now I have to push. I was like, “I’m scared. I can’t do it. I can’t do this. It’s all too much at this moment. I’m not ready.” 


    Meagan: Yes. 


    Jenny: I got on the bed. This new midwife just walks in. I had never seen her before. She locked eyes with me and she was like, “Let’s do this.” I was like, “Okay, I guess we have to.” She checked me one last time. She was like, “You’re 9.5 with a cervical lip, but I think it’s time for you to start pushing.” I was like, “Okay. I can’t help it. I’m pushing anyway.”


    I had this big contraction. I was still on all fours. They were trying to get the saline hep lock on me because they hadn’t even done any of the things. I was GBS positive and they couldn’t even get that in me fast enough. I had a contraction. I looked down and she was in my other arm because that vein had blown in that period of time. I was just like, “What is happening? It is so fast and crazy.” Labor land is such a blur, but at the same time, each time I came out of the contraction, people were like, “What do you want for this? What do you want for that? What’s your preference?” 


    I was like, “I want a physiological birth. That’s all I know. I just want to do this. Let me do this.” Anyway, they had commented later that they don’t normally see that in labor where the mom can verbalize what she wants but I had never met this midwife before and she was like, “I honestly don’t know what your preferences are so I’m asking you now.” It was really nice that she was trying, but she was like, “With this next contraction, push.” I was like, “Okay.” 


    I got on my hands and knees and I faced her which felt wrong and weird. She was like, “Okay, push.” I didn’t because I was like, “I don’t like this. This doesn’t feel right to me.” But I couldn’t say that. So then she was like, “Okay, with this next contraction, I want you to flip over on your back and I want you to push.” In my head, I’m like, “There is no way I’m going to do that. No,” but I couldn’t say that.


    In the moment, I’m such a compliant person. I was like, “Okay, whatever. I’m just going to give her what she wants.” I flipped over on my back. She was like, “I want your knees up to your ears and I want you to bear down super hard.” I was like, “No, I know that’s not right. None of that feels right.” I did and I didn’t push at all. I was letting my body do its thing. 


    I was just lying there for a second. She put her hand inside of me and she was like, “I want you to push here.” I was like, “I don’t like that either.” As soon as I came out of that contraction, each one I was visualizing the wave coming up and cresting and coming back down. It was a really good visualization for me because I love the ocean. 


    I came out of that and I was like, “I didn’t like that. I want to do something different. Can you help me with that?” That’s all I said to her. 


    Meagan: I love that you said that. 


    Jenny: It felt so good because I’m not normally somebody who stands up for myself, but I was like, “I want to do something different.” She was like, “Okay. Flip over on your side and hold your leg up and pop your knee out.” Do this crazy maneuver. Immediately, it felt right. It felt like the key in the hole locked into place. With that contraction, I pushed and she started crowning. 


    49:20 Pushing out baby and postpartum blood loss


    Jenny: All I said with that contraction was, “There’s so much pressure!” I was yelling it and yelling it. The contraction was over and instead of letting go, I held her there and clenched down so she would stay there and not go back up or anything because I could tell she moved right down and was right there. 


    They were like, “Feel your baby’s head!” I was like, “Okay, yeah. Whatever.” I tried to feel it. 


    Meagan: Yeah, okay. Whatever. 


    Jenny: Yeah, yeah. This is happening right now. I touched it and I was like, “Cool, okay. Yeah. There is a lot of pressure. I can’t do this right now. I’m so scared.” At that moment, I was like, “The only way out is through. I have to push. I’ve got to do this.” With the next contraction, I just barely pushed and she just twisted and flew right out. It was insane, that feeling of a baby coming out of you. I just can’t even describe it and I’m so grateful that I can describe it because it’s incredible how we are made. I’m in awe. 


    There are so many things that have to go right to get to that point. I am so grateful it did and I got to experience it. 


    She came out right away and immediately, I was in business mode. I was like, “Is she breathing? Is she okay?” I was rubbing her down. People were kind of just hands off letting me do my thing. She started to crawl right up to my nipple. She did the breast crawl. It was all of the things that I wanted and never got with my first and it was so incredible to see this miracle happening right in front of me. 


    I felt like I didn’t do any of it. It was like it just happened almost. It was so incredible and unfortunately, I had a tear. She was looking at it and she had to go up and scrape some. I was trying to enjoy my baby at that point, but I was like, “Hey, can you just give me a Tylenol or something?” I hadn’t had anything. She started to numb me and I felt all of that. I felt her stitching. I was like, “Can you give me some more of that because this really hurts?” I had an inside tear. 


    After that, my nurse was kind of concerned that I was bleeding a lot, but my midwife wasn’t. It was kind of weird. It almost seemed like nobody new my nurse or liked her. I think she was new. She was really slow so they were just like, “Yeah, it’s fine. No big deal.” They were tracking my blood loss, but I got up to use the bathroom and at one point, she went out to fill my peri bottle and the water just wasn’t getting warm. I was sitting for a long time on the toilet. I felt like a waterfall was just coming out of me. 


    I was thinking, “I’m pretty sure this is normal. I don’t know.” Anyway, she came back a minute later and she helped me go to the bathroom. I got back to bed and I was like, “Oh man, I don’t know if I feel good.” 


    They were like, “Okay, we’re going to move you to your postpartum room.” I got in my wheelchair and I held my baby and I was like, “Hey guys, I think I’m gonna–” and then I passed out. When I woke up, I was having this cool dream and when I woke up, the whole room was filled with people who were all freaking out. My husband was looking at me. He told me later he was like, “I thought you were dying.” 


    It was super traumatizing for him. I was holding the baby and they were trying to help me so they were all diving. He was diving for me with the nurse. 


    Anyway, he was pretty upset having seen that and stuff. It turns out I had lost about half of my blood and they just hadn’t been able to track it properly because they couldn’t tell why I had passed out at first. They were like, “We don’t understand. You didn’t lose that much blood.” But they took the test. It came back. 


    Meagan: Okay, this is interesting. This happened to me. 


    Jenny: I know. I remember your birth story about it. 


    Meagan: We still couldn’t find it. 


    Jenny: Yeah, isn’t that crazy? 


    Meagan: I still to this day don’t know where it went. 


    Jenny: I’m convinced mine was the waterfall in the toilet. I know that sounds so graphic. I’m sorry. 


    Meagan: No, but that is a lot. 


    Jenny: Yeah, it just felt like so much was coming out of me and nobody was there to document it. I was by myself. 


    Meagan: Yeah, they were going to find the bottle. 


    Jenny: Yeah, yeah. 


    Meagan: Mhmm, interesting.


    Jenny: I know. It was crazy. Luckily, I was at a place that would help me with my preferences on blood loss and stuff so they worked with me really well. I’m so happy that there is alternative medicine out there so all of the rest of the people who can’t take blood for whatever reason, it’s available to them too. I’m grateful for that position and stuff. They work hard to help us in ways that maybe we don’t think about. 


    Meagan: I know. In some ways, I had regret that I didn’t take the blood, but then I couldn’t deny that my gut was telling me not to. It was just the weirdest. It was a disconnect. I still today don’t know why. I’ve let it go and it’s fine other than I’d be interested to know why, but we are just so grateful for those abilities to have those options. 


    Jenny: Yeah. I’m really grateful I was where I was too because they were there within seconds to help me. It all turned out okay. I was fine. I was pretty weak and kind of gray for a little while, but I got a couple of iron infusions and that really helped. I was feeling like myself not as soon as I wanted. I was really hoping I felt a little bit better because you have the toddler at home and you want to do all of the things. I felt maybe disappointed in that regard of being so weak. 


    The recovery was harder than I thought just with my tear and stuff too. I was surprised how hard it really was, so I’m really impressed by all those people who say that vaginal birth isn’t that big of a deal. I’ve done both. My husband was like, “I really preferred the C-section honestly. The pass was open​​. We got to walk right in.” I was like, “Yeah, but it’s just not the same.” Those moments.


    Meagan: There is something about it. There is definitely something about it. It’s not to say that C-section can’t be beautiful or amazing or healing even. My second C-section was completely healing, but yeah. There’s something about it. There are no words but then there are so many words to describe it. 


    Jenny: Mhmm, mhmm totally. I could talk about it all day. It’s so exciting. 


    Meagan: Well, oh my gosh. I’m so happy for you. I’m so glad you made it over the pass. I’m so glad that you were able to be there and even just find comfort even though you weren’t super far progressed at first and that you were able to have this beautiful experience. I am sorry that you had these little hangups. It just goes to show that not every VBAC is perfect in every way just like every C-section isn’t perfect in every way, but C-sections can be beautiful and so can VBAC. 


    You just have to ultimately decide what is best for you. For you, you had that feeling and you were called to know what else your body could do. You knew it went through a really tough, tough birth with your first. Then you went through another tough birth, but an amazing one. One where, yeah. You were able to have that experience that you wanted. I’m so happy for you. 


    Jenny: Thank you. Thank you for having us. 


    Meagan: Oh my gosh. Absolutely. I’m so happy that you are here. 


    57:10 Jenny’s advice for breech mamas


    Meagan: I did want to talk a little bit about breech. You said, “My baby turned. Maybe that’s normal. Maybe it’s not.” Yes, it can be normal and what breaks my heart is that so many people are left without an option. They are left without feeling like they could even try because we don’t have those breech providers. They are few and far between. We love Dr. Berlin and the Informed Pregnancy Podcast and Informed Pregnancy Plus and Heads Up documentary and all of the things that they are providing because I feel like they are advocating. And Dr. Stu, they are advocating for breech birth that it is truly just a variation of normal. 


    Anyway, if you have a breech birth, what would you give as advice for someone who’s trying to figure out what to do? Do you have any that you would give?


    Jenny: Yeah, if they’ve tried all of the options because even the providers, I’ve talked to a couple of providers who do support breech birth and even they encourage you to try and get your baby to turn so if you haven’t done all of the things, it’s a good thing to try and do those things first. 


    I mean, acupuncture, I couldn’t believe how amazing that was. She wasn’t moving a ton and then she flipped completely. So yeah, there’s kind of something to that. Even though she didn’t flip again until way later, yeah. I could still feel her moving a lot more during acupuncture than I did with any of the other treatments that I was going to. I was trying to see a Webster chiropractor and all of that too. There’s a lot of things you can do to try and get your baby to turn, but I think trusting too is a huge one. 


    Yeah, because I mean, I learned that a lot with my second birth too just to trust your body and if she’s not turning or they are not turning, maybe there is a reason and to just go with that. Accept it. I am glad I tried to accept it sooner because maybe I relaxed more and she turned. 


    Meagan: Hey, yes. 


    Jenny: I wonder if that was part of it. I let it go. I really did. I just was like, “You know what? I’m going to listen to her. She’s saying she wants to be breech. I’m just going to go with it and I’m not going to care anymore.” Then she turned. I don’t know. 


    Meagan: That’s how my son was. It’s kind of fun that we actually have some similarities here in our birth stories. But yeah, my son too. He kept flipping breech for whatever reason and we would flip him. My midwife would manually flip him and do an ECV, then I would feel those hiccups again up in my ribs. I’m like, “Dang it, he is breech again.” 


    Jenny: That rascal. 


    Meagan: Yes. I found myself very angry and I’m like, “If I have to have a third C-section because this baby is breech,” which I’ve never had a breech baby before, “I’m going to be ticked.” Then finally, my midwife said, “We have to. We have to trust him.” He flipped head down and stayed head down and it was all good. 


    1:00:22 Statistics on vaginal birth versus planned Cesarean for breech


    Meagan: I found a PubMed research paper on maternal and fetal risk of planned vaginal breech delivery versus planned C-section for term breech births. It shows that it was published in 2022 so just a couple of years ago. It goes through. It says, “The meta-analysis included 94,285 births with breech presentation.” Now, that’s actually pretty decent. 94,000 births. It’s also crazy to me to think that there were 95,285 people who had breech babies and it also just says that isn’t that just a variation of normal? These babies are head up. 


    I mean, 94,000 babies. But anyway, it shows the relative risk of perinatal mortality was 5.48 which had a 95% confidence interval. Sorry, 5.48 times higher in the vaginal delivery group compared to 4.12% for birth trauma and then the APGAR results show that the relative risk of 0.30% percent higher than a planned Cesarean group, so in the end which is kind of confusing I’m sure. I’m going to provide this in the show notes. 


    It says, “In the end, the increment of risk of perinatal mortality, birth trauma, and APGAR lower than 7 was identified in a planned vaginal delivery.” We know that breech birth can become complicated. That’s one of the reasons why a lot of these providers out there are just not willing to try. However, it says, “The risk of severe maternal morbidity because of complications of a planned C-section was slightly higher.”


    It’s something to consider here where we are like, “Okay, well there is some birth trauma.” We know that sometimes we can have tissue tearing. We can have pelvic floor issues and trauma. We know that babies can come out a little stunned because of what happens when their body is delivered and their head is inside. And APGARS lower than 7 which is less ideal. 


    However, even with a Cesarean, those rates were even slightly higher. In the end, we need to figure it out but what we need is more providers. We need more providers being trained and offered. They need to go to Dr. Stu’s course. They need to listen to Heads Up. They need to get informed and offer people these options because just like Jenny and I, and even more Jenny than I, there is a lot of stress that goes into having a breech baby, and think about all of the things that you just said. 


    If you had run out of options, meaning that you had done everything in your own power to try and help this baby flip and are now just relying on faith, which let me tell you, faith is amazing and we need to rely on faith all the time, but even then, if we are still at that roadblock, that is so hard. It’s so stressful. 


    I truly believe that we could lower Cesarean rates by a lot. I mean, even looking at these 94,000 people, we can lower that Cesarean by a lot if we just took one little step forward and offered breech birth again and trained providers. 


    Jenny: I totally agree with you. I know. Just listening to all of the things I had to go through to get my VBAC, it could have all been prevented if I just had her, my first, vaginally. All of that stress and all of that, I wouldn’t have had to do any of that. It could have just been normal. Instead, it’s just this huge, stressful event and I can’t say that enough because our lives are already stressful. Why should we stress more? 


    Meagan: Yeah. I mean, it’s 2024 which means that 24 years ago, breech birth started fading. We are really behind and it’s something that breaks my heart to see if it’s going to disappear. We can’t let it disappear. We can’t. 


    Jenny: I agree. 


    Meagan: Also, side note, if you listen to this episode and you know a provider who is willing to do breech, please message us at info@thevbaclink.com so we can get them on our list so we can help Women of Strength all over the world find a provider that may be willing to help with them. 


    Closing


    Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Tell us about your experience at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Meagan’s bio, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.





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    1h 5m - May 8, 2024
  • Episode 297 Macy's Amazing HBA2C + What Does the Evidence Show for VBA2C?

    Macy’s first birth was a scheduled C-section due to breech presentation that required follow-up exploratory surgery due to an unknown cause of internal bleeding. Unfortunately, her surgeon had accidentally nicked an ab muscle. Macy’s recovery was very difficult.


    With her second, doctors were nervous about her chances of VBAC and would only let her try if she showed up in active labor before 39 weeks. Otherwise, she would go in for a scheduled C-section. Macy agreed and her birth ended in another Cesarean. Her birth was beautiful and her recovery was smooth, but it still wasn’t the empowering experience she hoped for. 


    Macy hit the ground running during her third pregnancy. When doctors were not supportive of a VBA2C, she knew home birth was her best option. She found a midwife who was willing to take Macy on as her first VBA2C client! We know you will absolutely love listening to this birth story. 


    Like Meagan said, “It is so beautiful. It is so peaceful. It sounds like one of those births where you close your eyes and you envision birth and how peaceful, beautiful, and calm it really can be.”


    The VBAC Link Blog: VBA2C

     Practice Bulletin - VBAC

    Informed Pregnancy - code: vbaclink424

    Needed Website

    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details 


    03:44 First C-section with internal bleeding and a follow-up exploratory surgery

    09:04 Second pregnancy

    11:37 Scheduled C-section and getting pregnant again shortly after

    18:44 Finding a supportive home birth midwife

    23:24 VBA2C prep during pregnancy

    27:46 Labor begins

    32:42 Breaking her own water and pushing for 17 minutes

    36:47 ACOG’s statement on VBA2C


    Meagan: Hello, hello Women of Strength. We are so excited to be sharing an HBA2C story and if you don’t know yet what HBAC means, that’s home birth after Cesarean and then HBA2C is home birth after two Cesareans. I feel like that’s kind of funny. It’s never really a term I used because I wasn’t at the hospital and I wasn’t at home, but I also kind of feel like I sort of had an HBAC. It was at a birth center. Maybe that’s a term, birth center birth after two Cesareans. I don’t know. 


    But obviously, VBAC after two Cesareans are near and dear to my own heart and today we have our friend Macy from California sharing her HBAC story and just before we started recording, we were talking about how one of her messages that she wants to give is that you can do this. Right, Macy? You’re just like, you can. People can do this. 


    Macy: For sure. 


    Meagan: Yes. Yes. I am excited to hear your story and then I wanted to also just talk a little bit at the end about some evidence on VBAC after two C-sections. So if you’re wondering more about VBA2C, make sure you stick to the very, very end even after the story because we’ll talk a little bit about that. 


    01:24


    Meagan: We do have a Review of the Week and this is from Jenna. It is actually on our How to VBAC: Ultimate VBAC Prep Course. She says, “I just started but have already learned so much. After two C-sections and one where my doctor made me think it was very risky, I was terrified to try again. With this course, not only have I learned the truth about VBAC, but I am excited to attempt mine in August.” That’s coming up. I am so excited for Jenna. Thank you so much for the review and the support, of course, of taking the course. I am so excited that you are getting educated and definitely keep us posted. 


    03:44 First C-section with internal bleeding and a follow-up exploratory surgery


    Meagan: Okay, cute Macy. Welcome to the show. 


    Macy: Thank you for having me. 


    Meagan: Absolutely. I’d love to turn the time over to you and share whatever message you feel is important for our beautiful Women of Strength listeners. 


    Macy: Okay, well like with all VBACs, my story begins of course with my first pregnancy. During my first pregnancy, I was pretty healthy. I didn’t love being pregnant, but I was excited that we were starting our family and I got to– I can’t remember– 34 weeks maybe, 35ish, and baby was still breech. 


    They offered me the ECV procedure, but they told me I would have to do it around 37-38 weeks and I was worried about it being so early before my due date that she would turn again. I was scared. They got me scared. They don’t really present the ECVs as something that should work. 


    Meagan: I know. I know. 


    Macy: My midwife with my third pregnancy was like, “I wish you would have done it,” but they talked me out of it so I decided not to do it. Come 40 weeks, she was still not flipped, but I wasn’t in labor so another thing is I wish I would have just waited to see because maybe she would have flipped in labor. 


    Meagan: Sometimes they do. I actually recently had a client last year in 2023 that did have that. She was scheduled for her version and then she went into spontaneous labor so she actually went in pretty early because she was like, “Oh my gosh. My baby’s breech. I was scheduled the next day for a version,” and they were like, “Baby’s head down.” So it definitely happens. 


    Macy: With my third one, she was sunny-side up. She was posterior, but I could feel her turning and getting into position. But anyway, I’ll get there. I’ll get there. 


    I had my C-section scheduled. My daughter, Alayna was born 10 days before Christmas in 2018. She was perfect. She was 6 pounds, 13 ounces. I was not great. 


    After my surgery, I came out. I was in the PACU and my blood pressure was dropping crazy low and my heart rate was spiking super high. I was ghost-white and they were like, “We don’t know what’s going on.” 


    Long, long, long story short, I was having crazy internal bleeding. 


    Meagan: I was going to say, were you hemorrhaging? Because that sounds like hemorrhaging. 


    Macy: I was hemorrhaging. I was bleeding internally, but it was from having surgery. It was not anything to do with baby or birth. It was just surgery. So what we discovered is they had accidentally nicked an ab muscle and it was bleeding. 


    24 hours after my daughter was born, I had to go back in for an exploratory surgery and I was put under anesthesia completely again. They had to cut back open my layers and start over. Thankfully, they didn’t have to cut into my uterus again, but they did open me back up and stop the bleeding, cauterize it and I mean, my recovery was just horrible. 


    Meagan: Not great, yeah. 


    Macy: I mean, thankfully I only had one baby so it was just her and my husband is amazing. I could not ask for a better partner, but it was just hard. It was hard to accept that, to grieve the birth I had dreamed of my whole life, but it never occurred to me that I couldn’t have a VBAC. My mom had me via C-section and my three subsequent siblings were all VBAC. So when someone said to me at 12 weeks, I recovered. I was back at the gym and someone from the gym was like, “Oh, so you have to have all your babies as C-sections now.”


    I was like, “Wait, that’s a thing still? We’re still doing that?” I was like, “No. I’m going to have a VBAC.” I never even thought about it. I immediately was like, “Oh, so this is going to be a thing.” That’s when I found you guys and I started listening before I was even pregnant with my second one, but when I did get pregnant three years later with baby number two, I probably binge-listened to every single episode. I was like, “I’m doing this.” 


    09:04 Second pregnancy


    Macy: I switched providers just because I didn’t have a great experience so I was like, my postpartum care, I didn’t care for my pediatrician so I just switched everything. But because I was with a new provider, I had a really difficult time locating my surgical notes. My new providers wanted to know if my first C-section was done with a single or double-layer closure. 


    Meagan: Oh, interesting. Okay. 


    Macy: Because of course, if it’s single, it’s going to increase my risk for a rupture. I at this point was already like, the risk of rupture is so low. I am not worried about it. Breech baby is a great candidate for VBAC. 


    Meagan: And the evidence on that is really not solid on which one really is best. There are some that show double may be better, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your rupture rate skyrockets because you have a single layer. So they are focusing on something that didn’t have a ton of evidence. 


    Macy: Right. I was like, “There is just not enough research to justify all of these C-sections.” But because they didn’t understand what had gone wrong and why I had to have a second surgery even though I told them a million times it wasn’t anything to do with my uterus. It wasn’t a me problem. It was a doctor's problem. They were just like, “We just don’t feel comfortable with TOLAC.” And you know, it’s always TOLAC. It’s never just a VBAC. 


    Meagan: I know. 


    Macy: But they didn’t want to do anything. They didn’t want to offer ultrasounds. They just were not willing to take a chance even though it was a really good chance. 


    So basically, they were like, “The only way you are having this second baby VBAC is if you come to the hospital and you are in labor and it’s time to push.” 


    I mean, that’s kind of scary to someone who doesn’t know. I mean, now that I’ve done it I’m like, “That’s what I should have done,” and that’s what I tell my friends. You don’t go to the doctor until your contractions are two minutes apart because they try to scare women out of their VBAC. 


    11:37 Scheduled C-section and getting pregnant again shortly after


    Macy: So I just didn’t really stand up for myself. I just agreed like, “Okay, I guess.” I told myself, “If I go into labor before my scheduled C-section at 39 weeks, then that’s the way God wants it and I will have my VBAC.” Obviously, that never happened and 39 weeks is pretty early now knowing especially when due dates are just guess dates. 


    Meagan: Very important note that you just gave there. 


    Macy: Yeah. I had my baby at 39 weeks. She was perfect. I mean, my recovery was– she was another 6 pounds, 15 ounces so they were almost the same size. That was Reagan. Recovery was a lot better but still, I had a 3-year-old at home. 


    Going from one to two was pretty good for me. I have a big family. That was great. But it was still not the empowering birth that I wanted. I did feel– I don’t want to say I didn’t feel empowered because C-section is badass. It’s hard. 


    Meagan: Yeah. Mhmm, yeah. 


    Macy: It’s not the easy way out ever. There is no easy way out of birth. I do want to preface that and say if that’s what ends up happening and you only have two kids and you only have two C-sections, that’s okay too. I knew we weren’t done having kids. I wanted the birth I wanted. 


    I did not plan to get pregnant with such a short turnaround time. I was almost 8 months postpartum when we found out we were pregnant again. We were a little surprised. I mean, we are grown adults. It shouldn’t be that surprising. 


    Meagan: But still, it can be a little alarming when you weren’t mentally preparing for that. 


    Macy: I had just finished breastfeeding. I was just starting to track and all of these things so I was like, “Oh no.” But that was kind of when my work really started for me because I was like, “Okay. We are doing this again and I’m going to do this the way I want. This is going to be how I want it to go. This is my story and this is going to be an essential component of who I am as a woman and as a mother going forward for the rest of my life. I need this to go the way I want it to go.” I wanted it to go the way God wanted it to go of course, but I was like, “I’m going to take more control.”


    Meagan: Can I add something to that? Sorry to interrupt, but there are so many times that I hear people, I read on social media that people are getting after moms and parents who are like, “I want this birth. This is what I want. This is what I feel I need,” or what you are saying. “I want it to go a certain way.” They are like, “Why do you have to focus on what you want? It’s not what you want. It’s what’s best for the baby.” They are railing on these people. 


    I want to stop and say that what you said is okay. I feel like maybe a little passionate about that too because so many people were naysayers to me. “It does not matter what you want. It’s what’s best for the baby.” It’s like, well guess what? That’s also maybe what’s best for my baby. 


    Macy: Right. 


    Meagan: It’s okay to say, Women of Strength, “I want this birth. This is what I want.” And you deserve that. You deserve to go after what you want. 


    Macy: It is hard and being a mom is hard. 


    Meagan: Yes. 


    Macy: You can start out in a way that you feel empowered. It is life-changing. It really is. 


    Meagan: It is. So sorry for interrupting, but I just wanted to give a little tidbit that it’s okay for people to want what they want. I wanted a white vehicle. I was going to find a white vehicle. It’s okay to get what you want and to put forth energy and to say that out loud, “I want this VBAC. I’m going to get this. I want it.” 


    Macy: You spend almost 10 months thinking about this and praying about it whereas you talk to– I mean, it wasn’t as important to anyone else in my life except for me. That was okay. Especially the doctors and the providers, I’m just another person to them and yes, there are some really great providers out there and they do care, but they are at their job. They are doing their job. Well, my job is to be a mother. That’s my job, so doing what serves me well was birthing my baby the way– 


    Meagan: Having a VBAC. 


    Macy: Having a VBAC. So I really hit the ground running. There were a few girls in my town who had recently had homebirths. They weren’t VBACs, but they were VBACs so I reached out to them– shoutout to my girls Megan and Emily. They were so helpful because they were real people. I reached out to you guys and I just wanted to know, “Hey, what is the research on really close pregnancies?” because I wasn’t going to hit the 18 months. 


    Meagan: The 18 months. Your babies were going to be 17 months apart, right? 


    Macy: 17 months. So that was even annoying too because I was like, “I’m right there. Come on.” You guys were like, “Go join the Facebook Community group.” I was so glad that I did because I was just finding story after story after post after post. Not only were so many women having VBACs after two+ C-sections, but they were close together. Some were like, “Mine were 12 months apart.” I’m like, “Oh, I’m good to go then.”


    It was so nice having that community. I was even able to join a community within the community of everyone who was due at the same time as me so when we got close, we had a group message and everyone was like, “Is it happening today? Is it happening today?” It was so nice not to be alone in that. 


    I also had to find a midwife because I knew my providers were not going to be supportive of VBAC after two. I actually had a hard time finding a midwife which was also annoying because I was met with some medwives who were just really going to stick to that 18 months. 




    18:44 Finding a supportive home birth midwife


    Then I happened to just find a woman who was like, “I’ve never done this before. You are my first VBAC after two,” but she was a midwife who was very knowledgeable. She had done lots of home births. She had done VBACs, but not after two. 


    She was like, “If we don’t start accepting these patients, how are we ever going to change the status quo? How are we ever going to make a change?” 


    Meagan: Boom.


    Macy: Right. 


    Meagan: It’s so true though. 


    Macy: I was like, “Okay. Statistic me, please. I would love to be a statistic for the positive.” The only thing was I was like, “I can’t be one for a hospital birth, but it’s fine.” 


    Meagan: That’s okay. That’s okay. 


    Macy: So I found Sarah. I started my visits with her. I had to travel an hour to my visits. It wasn’t the worst thing ever. 


    Meagan: That’s a commitment though. That’s a commitment. 


    Macy: Towards the end, she came to me a lot more which was so nice. So nice. 


    Meagan: That’s really nice. 


    Macy: Then we did a couple of phone calls, but we also texted all of the time and would FaceTime. It was just so personal. I also received co-care with another third local provider. I did that because my midwife wanted to have me get ultrasounds to check my uterus. She wanted to check for previa and we wanted to check for– what’s the other one? I’m blanking. 


    Meagan: Accreta? 


    Macy: Yes, so she just wanted to be aware. 


    Meagan: Placental issues and make sure the placenta is out of the way and all is doing okay. You’re actually clear to have a VBAC. 


    Macy: Yeah. 


    Meagan: Which is very responsible of her. 


    Macy: I received my co-care. I would go in there. I don’t know. I almost had a chip on my shoulder because I was like, “I don’t really need you guys,” kind of. I didn’t leave those appointments feeling like I wanted to cry like I did with my second pregnancy because I knew that I had something better planned. So it wasn’t as upsetting, but they were pretty rough on me. 


    I had expressed my interest in a VBAC after two and you have to see the series of providers within the office. I had only one who was a little bit younger which was interesting, but he was the only one who was like, “Yeah. I really support this and the birth you want to have. I’m going to give you a referral to UC San Francisco and when we get to the end, I want you to start care there and plan to have your birth there.” 


    He was the only one who was like, “I support the birth you want to have.” Everyone else was pretty awful. They told me, “If you TOLAC and your uterus ruptures, you will die and your baby will die.” 


    I was like, I will never forget getting in my car and texting my midwife and being like, “Can you believe that he just said this to me?” I was just like, “Are you God? Do you know?” How could you say that to someone? “You will die.” Because that’s not the case at all. 


    That was interesting but I knew. Like I said, I knew I had a backup plan in the back of my mind. It was just eye-opening for me more than anything. It wasn’t upsetting. 


    Meagan: Someone that doesn’t necessarily know the evidence of that, it can be terrifying. 


    Macy: Yeah. Yes, totally. And you know what? It’s frustrating because a lot of people just trust their providers. I’m a very skeptical person. I’m very conspiratorial, so I’m always researching things and looking into things, but people who are not prone to that are just going to trust what the doctor says because they went to school and they are smarter than them. It’s so unfortunate that it’s causing a high C-section rate for no reason. 


    23:24 VBA2C prep during pregnancy


    Macy: That was a bummer but anyway, throughout my pregnancy, I did all of the things. I did my VBAC Link course. I loved it. It was great to have that. I did a Lamaze class which was really fun. It was funny because we were the only parents in there with other kids. One other lady was a VBAC, but the rest were all first-time parents. They were like, “What are you doing here?” I’m like, “This is new for me.” Again, shoutout to Modesto Birth and Beyond. They are fantastic. They have a great set of doulas. I’m now on a friendly basis with them. They were great to have and they were really supportive of my whole journey. 


    Let’s see what else. I did a Hypnobirthing class. I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I mean, I walked and I stayed in shape. I kept doing CrossFit. I did CrossFit for all three of my pregnancies so I kept on. I ate healthy. I drank lots of water. I did all of the things. But I knew that when it came down to it, my mind was going to either make or break me.


    Fast forward to 41 weeks and I was getting very, very anxious. 


    Meagan: Were you getting anxious because you were getting ready to have a baby type thing or were people giving you some grief that you were over 40 weeks?


    Macy: By the time I was 40-41 weeks, the grief and the doubt and the naysayers that I got were kind of gone. Most of the people in my life were supportive. I always got that question of, “What if this happens?” I live 5 minutes from the hospital, so I was not too worried about it. I was more anxious of, I was ready to meet this baby. I was the biggest I’d ever been. Third baby, only 17 months apart. My belly was huge. It was hot. I was swelling. I was ready to be done, but I also had never labored before. 


    I had no clue what my body was going to do. Was I just going to go into spontaneous labor at 40 weeks? At 39? I had no idea. So every day that passes, I’m sure you remember that too, every day was a whole week where you wake up in the morning and I would just cry, “I can’t believe I’m still pregnant.” 


    Meagan: I remember going to bed and I was like, “Tonight could be the night,” and then I’d wake up and I was like, “It wasn’t the night,” then that night, I’d be like, “Maybe tonight,” and it just kept happening. 


    Macy: So annoying. I had so much prodromal labor. I had contractions. I could time them and I was like, “Oh, they are 20 minutes apart. They are for sure going to get closer,” then I’d go to sleep, wake up, and be like, “Okay. Here we go again.” 


    Let’s see. So on a Monday, I did acupuncture. Then on a Wednesday morning, I was 41 weeks and I went and got a massage. I got some acupressure. You never know if these are the things that really get things going, but sometimes they do. I got a massage and she gave me some moxibustion so I did that. You light it and do it around– my mom was like, “This is so hokey.” I’m like, “If it works, who cares?” I was trying everything. 


    But I didn’t want to be induced and I hadn’t had my membranes swept yet. That was going to be the first intervention that my midwife and I agreed on because she was like, “Legally in California, you can’t go past 42 weeks and have a home birth.” I was like, “Okay. I’ve got one week. One week and this baby will be here.” 


    27:46 Labor begins


    Macy: That Wednesday morning, I went and got my massage and by 2:00 in the afternoon, I was like, “Okay. Things are starting to pick up.” I started having pretty intense contractions. I was having to– I could still talk. I was still taking care of my two little girls, but I was starting to feel really uncomfortable. My mom went home, then she came back. My husband gets off work at 3:30 and it was 2:30. I was feeding my youngest one a snack and he was like, “Do you want me to come home early?” I was like, “No, I can totally make it until you get home.” 


    I had a contraction where I leaned over my kitchen counter, and then I was like, “Okay. Maybe just come home now.” He came home. I just didn’t feel it. I was starting to feel irritated by my kids and I was like, “I just want to go in my room and watch a show on my laptop. I just want to be alone.” I didn’t necessarily want them to leave yet, but I wanted to be alone and I wanted to know that they were taken care of. 


    He came home and he was taking care of them. He was like, “Do you think this is it? Let’s call my mom.” I was like, “Yeah. I think this is happening and I think it’s going to be soon.” I just didn’t know how long I was going to labor. It was a mystery. 


    My mother-in-law came and picked up my little two daughters. That was kind of sad watching them leave knowing the next time I saw them, we were going to be a different family– a better family, but a different family.


    Yeah. I just labored at home. It was so nice not having to go anywhere. I took a shower. I had some snacks. I wasn’t super hungry, but I definitely started drinking my electrolytes and started preparing to be hydrated. 


    Meagan: Smart. 


    Macy: I was like, “I’m preparing to run a marathon so I need to gear up.” I didn’t nap. I’ve never been a great napper, but I laid around and watched some shows, then I didn’t text my midwife right away because I had been bugging her so much with all of my prodromal labor that I was like, “I’m not going to text her until it’s really happening.” But by 6:00 or 7:00 PM, i texted her and was like, “Just so you know, my contractions are about 10 minutes apart.” 


    As they got closer, she was like, “Okay. I’m going to come now.” 


    Once the sun started setting, it was getting a little bit more intense. We set up my birth space at home. I set up my pool. Well, I didn’t. My husband set up the pool and we laid out all of the sheets on the couch and hung my birth affirmations. Actually, they had been hanging. My birth affirmations had been hanging for a couple of weeks so I started having them memorized, but we turned on the twinkle lights and I started listening to the Christian HypnoBirthing app which was fantastic. 


    I just had such a peaceful labor. I don’t know how else to describe it. My mom came in and then my sister-in-law came over then my other sister-in-law came over. They just talked around me. I could hear them, but I was just in my space. I labored and my water never broke for a very long time. I got in the pool at one point and then I got back out because my husband was like, “I think that being in the pool is slowing down your contractions a little bit. I want you to get out and walk.”


    I got out and started walking down the hall then I got really sick with a contraction. I happened to already be laboring backwards on the toilet and I was like, “Oh my gosh. I’m going to throw up.” I jumped back off the toilet so I could throw up in it then my midwife was like, “Okay. You’re in transition now. You’ve got to be.”


    I hadn’t had any checks at all this whole time either too so I had no clue what I was even dilated at. I was just completely trying to trust my body and just know that when it was time, it would be time. It really was. My body just did what it knew to do. 


    32:42 Breaking her own water and pushing for 17 minutes


    Macy: Like I said earlier, I felt her move into position. I got back in the water and I felt so relaxed in the water. I was drifting off in between contractions. 


    Meagan: Oh, that’s awesome. 


    Macy: It was so calm and I just kept telling myself, “Breathe her down with every contraction,” and just all of the things I had been practicing, I was finally able to put into use. 


    That was really cool, then I had a couple of urges where I was like, “I feel like I can start pushing soon.” I was like, “Do you want to check me now?” As soon as she stuck her finger, I was like, “Oh, no. No. Get your finger out. It’s time. She’s coming.” 


    She was like, “Yeah. She’s ready. She’s right there, but your waters haven’t broken yet.” I was like, “Can I break them myself?” She was like, “Yeah,” so I reached in. I gave it a pinch-twist and in the water, I broke it. 


    Meagan: Oh my gosh, that’s so cool. 


    Macy: I felt the padding around her head, then I just felt her head. I felt her hair. I started pushing when it was time to push and I pushed for 17 minutes. It was perfect. Like I said, I felt her move and get into position. She came out and she was 9 pounds, 12 ounces so she was 3 pounds– 


    Meagan: I was going to say 6lb,15oz, right, was your second and close to your first?


    Macy: 3 pounds heavier than my other two. She came out. She did perfectly. Her heart rate was perfect the whole time. She came out mad, screaming mad. She was so cozy in there. She did not want to come out. She came out but hearing her cry within 20 seconds was so reassuring. She was safe. I didn’t need anybody. I just needed to trust my body and to trust the Lord. My midwife was like, “That was one of the most perfect births I have ever attended.” She was beaming with joy and she was so excited for me. She was just so happy because she was like, “I’ve never done this after two.” She was like, “You changed everything I thought I knew about home birth, about after two C-sections.” She even now has another client which is great who is a VBA2C. I cannot wait for this podcast to come out so I can share it with my midwife and she can share it with her new client. Hopefully, they have a really great birth too. 


    All in all, it was just everything I dreamed of. I was so thankful and I just remember laying there with her on my chest. I was watching the video last night trying to get in the mindset and remind myself and get there. On the video, I can hear myself go, “I’m so freaking proud of myself.” 


    Meagan: You should be!


    Macy: I was beaming with joy. I was like, “That was so hard but so worth it.” So it was great. It was a great experience. I could not be more happy with her birth. She’s a great baby. She’s so happy. She was a little hard at first for 10 weeks which was different for me, but after that 10-week hump, she was a really good baby. Her name is Lucille. 


    Meagan: Cute. 


    Macy: We call her Lucy which means “light” and she is the light of our lives. She is the best and I can’t even believe we had a family without her for a minute there. But that’s my story. 


    36:47 ACOG’s statement on VBA2C


    Meagan: Oh my gosh. It is so beautiful. It is so peaceful. It sounds like one of those births where you really do. You close your eyes and you just envision birth and how peaceful and beautiful and calm it really can be. To me, you just described the birth that you physically did with one that I would imagine. 


    Macy: Yes. It’s how it felt. My sisters-in-law and my other girlfriend who was there taking pictures just kept saying, “You did so good.” I was just like, “I don’t know what that means.” But everyone was proud of how it all went. I think that’s so super revolutionary. I hope my story touches other people’s lives. 


    Meagan: It totally will. I’m so happy that you found your midwife and that your midwife was willing to take you on because a lot of the time, providers can be nervous if they have never done it before. 


    Macy: Which I get. 


    Meagan: Oh yeah. For sure, for sure. I’m just so glad that she was willing. That’s one of the things that gets me sometimes with so many people who just are not, we have to respect them and what they are comfortable with. But really, the evidence does show that VBAC after two Cesareans is reasonable. The overall risk and rate of rupture is approximately 1.4% so it’s still very low. It’s still very, very low. 


    I mean, ACOG themselves, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, they suggest it. They say it’s a completely reasonable option so for so many people to be cut off after one is heartbreaking because there are so many people who could have a vaginal birth all over the world but aren’t given the option. We have a high Cesarean rate. We have so many. 


    There are so many people. Just actually weirdly enough at the gym, a man who is the darndest cutest thing ever, his name is Robin and he will always say hi to me and check in on me and how I’m doing. He knows that I cycle and one of the things he asked the other day was, “How’s that doula thing coming?” I said, “It’s really great.” He said, “I never asked you. What made you want to become a doula?” I just told him my story and he said, “Oh, so you had two C-sections?” His eyes were wide. He said, “But you said you have three kids.” I said, “Yeah.” He goes, “But you only had two C-sections?” I said, “Yeah.” I said, “With my first two girls.” He was like, “Wait.” He literally was stumped there for a minute. 


    Macy: Yeah, people don’t know. 


    Meagan: He said, “You had a normal birth after two C-sections?” I said, “Yes.” I said, “Robin, I had a vaginal birth after two Cesareans.” He looked at me because I said the word vaginal. I said, “That’s what it is.” He said, “I didn’t even know that was a thing.” People just don’t. They just don’t know that and then there are still so many providers all over the world who aren’t supporting it. 


    In the ACOG Practice Bulletin, it says that VBA2C, vaginal birth after two Cesarean, is reasonable to consider for women with two previous low-transverse Cesarean deliveries to be candidates for TOLAC. We mentioned the word TOLAC earlier, a trial of labor after Cesarean. A lot of providers use that. It is a medical turn. We call it VBAC. They call it TOLAC. It’s not a VBAC to them until the baby has passed through the vagina. 


    It says that they are candidates for TOLAC and “to counsel them based on the combination of other factors that affect their probability of achieving a VBAC.” 


    Meagan: Now, just a couple of things to share before we drop off on this episode, if you had a Cesarean before or two Cesareans, it is not necessarily a reason for you to have a third. If you have gestational diabetes, that doesn’t mean that you can’t VBAC either. I’m trying to talk up these other factors, right? If we have preeclampsia, that doesn’t always necessarily mean that we have to schedule a Cesarean. We’ve shared stories in the past. We’ve even had things like babies with medical conditions where still even their provider said, “Just because your baby has this doesn’t mean you can’t have a VBAC.” That doesn’t always necessarily mean you can’t either. 


    If you have a big baby, here we are. A nine-pound baby, right? A nice, squishy little baby. Big baby doesn’t mean you can’t either. A diagnosis of a small pelvis shouldn’t be considered– these factors really are more extreme I feel like so if your provider is giving you some of these, “Oh, well you could have a VBAC after two Cesareans but because your baby didn’t come down the last two times, it’s just probably not going to happen.” 


    You can’t see it. Macy rolls her eyes with me. 


    Macy: The baby is going to come out. It has to come out. 


    Meagan: Baby is going to come out. Believe in yourself. Do the research. We do have a VBAC after two Cesarean blog. We’ll make sure to link it here and kind of spin back to what you said about how you were like, “Let me be a statistic. Let me a statistic to your midwife.” VBA3C– we don’t have a lot of stats on VBA3C and I think a lot of it is because we are not doing them. We are not allowing them yet we have so many VBA3C moms in our community who share or on our podcast who show that it still is possible. 


    I feel like there needs to be more risk assessment there and studies need to be done there. So know that even if you’ve had three Cesareans, that still doesn’t mean that you are eliminated from the chance to go for what you want, fight for what you want, and have that experience not only that you want but that you deserve.

     

    Macy: For sure. 


    Meagan: Yes. Thank you so much for sharing your story and I cannot wait for this to be published for you to send this to your midwife so she can send it on to the next Woman of Strength. 


    Macy: Thank you so much for having me. I have loved being here and talking with you. I hope there are so many lives touched and changed by sharing my story.


    Closing


    Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Tell us about your experience at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Meagan’s bio, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.





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    44m - May 6, 2024
  • Episode 296 Brooke's VBAC with a Subchorionic Hematoma

    “Control what you can control.” 


    Brooke’s birth experiences have not been without challenges. She first had an extremely difficult miscarriage during COVID followed by intense bleeding due to massive subchorionic hemorrhages during her other two pregnancies. Her first delivery was a very traumatic C-section from not being completely anesthetized. After that, Brooke committed to doing everything in her power not to have that experience ever again and to do everything she could to avoid a C-section. 


    Along with another subchorionic hemorrhage, her third pregnancy presented another challenge when she found out her baby had a bowel obstruction and would need surgery along with a NICU stay immediately after birth. Brooke was disheartened learning that she needed a medically necessary induction, but she was still committed to doing everything she could to achieve her VBAC. 


    Her efforts to surround herself with a powerful team paid off. Everyone around her championed her VBAC. Brooke was able to go from the most traumatic birth imaginable to the most beautiful, empowering, and healing birth she literally dreamed about. 


    Brooke’s Website

    Informed Pregnancy - code: vbaclink424

    Needed Website - code: vbac20

    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details 


    04:36 Review of the Week

    07:19 Brooke’s first pregnancy

    11:18 Miscarriage

    15:01 Brooke’s dream

    17:20 Second pregnancy

    21:26 Going into labor and getting admitted

    28:06 An extremely traumatic C-section

    32:53 Third pregnancy

    38:17 Bleeding again

    43:09 Finding a bowel obstruction in baby

    46:57 Switching providers the day before her scheduled induction

    50:57 Progressing to complete dilation

    54:54 Getting an epidural and pushing for three hours

    59:40 15 tips for birth

    1:04:22 Control what you can control



    Meagan: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening– whatever time it is that you are listening to this episode, I hope that you are doing great. We are excited to get into another VBAC story today from our friend. Okay, so I’m trying to think. Remind me. Are you in North Carolina now or are you in New York City now?


    Brooke: No, I’m in North Carolina now, but the story starts in New York City. 


    Meagan: The story starts in New York City. She’s in North Carolina now. Her name is Brooke. Tell me a little bit more. You are an educator. You are helping kids read, right? Is this what I’m getting from your website? 


    Brooke: Yes. 


    Meagan: Okay, so tell us more about what you do. 


    Brooke: I worked in New York City public schools for 10 years. I was a teacher, a literacy coach, and an administrator so I have experience both in the classroom and in school leadership. After we welcomed my daughter and after the pandemic, we moved to be closer to family in the Raleigh, North Carolina area and here I’m an education consultant. 


    Meagan: Education consultant. Awesome. We will make sure to have your website linked for anyone listening. What type of people would want to go to your website? 


    Brooke: I offer a number of services. The first thing that I do is pretty classic consulting in elementary school. I provide literacy support. My expertise is in pre-K through 3rd grade so early reading foundational skills. I help schools with their reading programs. 


    But additionally, there’s a big home school community in the Raleigh area. 


    Meagan: I saw that on your website. 


    Brooke: Yeah, I’ve had a really wonderful experience so far working with families getting set up on their homeschooling journey and supporting parents and caregivers in taking on the teacher role at home. 


    Meagan: Awesome. Awesome. I think home school, especially since COVID has really taken off. I know a lot of people, some of my best friends in fact here in Utah even homeschool. It’s a great resource. 


    In addition to all of the amazing, great things you do, you have a VBAC story to share with us after a Cesarean that was performed pretty early, right?


    Brooke: Yeah, it was a pretty preterm and traumatic C-section. All VBAC stories start with a C-section so that’s part of my journey. I’m so, so, so, so grateful. Thank you so much for welcoming me onto the show today. Putting this story out there, being on this podcast, and sharing my VBAC was part of my birth plan. It was on my vision board. It was a goal that I had set so I am just so, so, so grateful to have this opportunity to share that. 


    Meagan: I’m really excited that you’re going to dive in today. We talk about this a lot of the time with this podcast. Without these stories, without women of strength just like you, we wouldn’t even have a podcast. I mean, probably I could get some content for sure but I think these stories are what makes this podcast. I’m so excited to dive in in just a moment. 


    04:36 Review of the Week


    Meagan: I do have a Review of the Week. This is a review that actually was just given this year in 2024, the current year that we are recording. It’s from a Bailee Atkins. She actually emailed us in a review. If you guys didn’t know, you can email in us a review. It makes our hearts smile so big when we open up our email in the morning and we get these amazing reviews letting us know that everything that we are doing right here is helping, is inspiring, and encouraging, and educating.


    This says, “I just want to start off by saying I am OBSESSED with this podcast. I’m a labor and delivery nurse of four years, currently 29 weeks pregnant with my second baby. I’m praying for a redemptive VBAC this April. I absolutely love this resource for evidence-based information. Being that I am at the bedside as a nurse, I have plenty of knowledge. However, I don’t have the experience of home birth or a birth center birth, so it’s great to get all of the insight. I can’t escape negative birth situations and stories as a pregnant nurse so this podcast is often my escape and positive note for the day. I’ve been listening since 2022 and couldn’t feel more empowered for this VBAC. It is my dream to be on the podcast one day, so be on the lookout.” 


    Okay, I love that. This is being aired probably after her due date. I mean, I don’t know when her due date was, sometime in April, but we are now in May, so Bailee Atkins, if you are still listening, if you haven’t already, email us and let us know how it goes and we would love to have you on the podcast. 


    07:19 Brooke’s first pregnancy


    Meagan: Okay, cute Brooke. I am so excited to hear your stories. You also have a miscarriage story, too. Is that where this all began? 


    Brooke: This is where it all began. I’m glad you brought it up because I did want to just say at first that my story– I just want to put a note out there to any listeners who are kind of sensitive. My story does include loss and a lot of medical trauma so I just want to put that on the listeners’ radar. 


    Meagan: Yeah. I think that’s important. I know some people don’t feel like they need any trigger warnings, but when you’ve gone through loss or medical trauma or things like that and it hasn’t completely been worked through or processed or anything like that, and even if it has, it can be really triggering so we just wanted to make sure to mention that. 


    It also is your story and I think that’s also really important to share. 


    Brooke: Yeah, so thank you for that. It was actually four years ago this week at the time of this recording. This is a really lovely way to kind of just close that chapter. It just is all working out beautifully.


    I’ll set the scene. It’s December of 2019. The world is still turning. Things are great. I’m at a New Year's party in Brooklyn. I’m just thriving. I had just come back from a great backpacking trip with my husband for the summer across Asia. Life was– we were on a high. 


    Meagan: Wow, super exciting things happening. 


    Brooke: Yeah. It was great. It was a great time. We call it the great grand finale. 


    We are at this New Year’s party in Brooklyn and I go to pour myself some champagne and I think, “Maybe I shouldn’t. I think I could be pregnant.” I’m like, “No, no, no. Whatever.” Anyway, I take it easy. We go home early. A couple of weeks later, I’m so ill. I am so sick. I have the worst cough and cold situation I’ve ever had in my life. 


    My boss at the school was like, “You need to go to the doctor. This has been too long.” I go to the doctor and I’m at urgent care. It’s a Saturday morning and they’re like, “Oh, we need to do some x-rays. We think you might have pneumonia. Is there any chance you might be pregnant?” I was like, “Oh my gosh, yeah. I didn’t drink at that New Year’s party. That was two weeks ago. I can’t take this x-ray.” 


    I go to the store. I pick up a pregnancy test. I go home. I take it. It’s positive. I’m over the moon. This is the happiest moment of my life up to this point. My husband gets home. We are jumping up and down. We are so excited. Everything is smooth sailing. Everything is great. I immediately start getting sick and I’m breaking out. I just feel awful. I was complaining. 


    As this pregnancy is progressing, the world is really starting to get a little bit of that pre-COVID hysteria. It’s just starting. 


    Meagan: Yeah. Especially in New York. 


    Brooke: Yeah, right? I’m in New York City at this time. I go to the doctor. My husband is still allowed to come with me and things like that. This is the time before. We see the baby. Everything is normal. We go back again. We see the baby. Everything is normal. My doctor offered the NIPT genetic testing and I was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” 


    We took the blood sample. I think I was about 10 weeks at that point. We got the results 7-10 days later in that window and it was inconclusive. The doctor was like, “It says there’s not enough fetal DNA. We might have just taken it too early. This happens sometimes. Nothing to worry about.”


    I was like, “Okay, nothing to worry about.”


    11:18 Miscarriage


    Brooke: It was maybe week 11 and I had miraculously felt better. I was like, “Phew. I don’t have any more symptoms.” I’m there at the end of the first trimester and everything is fine. I go in. It was March 9th. It was a Monday. I had my nuchal translucency 12-week scan then and I was going to be 13 weeks the following day on Tuesday. It’s Monday. I wake up. I’m getting ready for work and I start bleeding. 


    It’s just spotting. I call my doctor. She’s like, “Spotting can be normal. I wouldn’t stress about it just yet. You have an appointment later today.” I was like, “Okay.” I tried not to worry about it, but as the day went on, the bleeding got really bad. Really bad. 


    I got in a cab and I called my husband who was at his last day of work at the job he was at. I was like, “You need to leave right now and meet me at the doctor’s appointment. I know it’s not until 3:00 but I’m going now.” It was around 1:00. 


    I showed up at the hospital early and went in for my scan. I was like, “I’m bleeding. I can’t wait 3 hours. Can you just take me now?” I was so shaken. 


    Meagan: Yeah, that’s a lot. 


    Brooke: I was so scared. This is March 9th. People are masked. Everybody is a little bit scared of the hospitals because in New York, things had been happening at this point but nothing was closed down yet. 


    I went into the room. A doctor I had never seen before because this was my first MFM visit does the scan and she comes in. She’s like, “The baby isn’t growing.” My husband is there with me and he’s immediately crying. I’m just not computing. I’m like, “Okay, so does that mean he’s going to have delays? What does this mean?”


    She’s like, “No, there’s no heartbeat.” 


    I was like, “Okay, so what can we do about that?” I was just not understanding what she was very delicately trying to explain to me. I was like, “What do you mean he’s not going to grow anymore? What does that mean? Is he going to have defects?”


    She was like, “No. The baby stopped growing 3 weeks ago somewhere between 9 and 10 weeks. You are 13 weeks now. We need to do a D&C.”


    It was like I was in a whirlpool. I had no idea what was going on. I just became a complete zombie. I just moved through the next two days just absolutely devastated like catatonic. It was the worst grief I had ever known. It was just so surprising. She was like, “You had a missed miscarriage” which I had never heard of to that point. I was like, “What does that mean?” 


    Meagan: What does missed miscarriage actually mean? 


    Brooke: Another term for it is a silent miscarriage. It is when the baby’s heart stops when you have a miscarriage, but your body continues to grow. Your body grows. You still have symptoms. Your body doesn’t recognize that the baby is not growing anymore and isn’t viable anymore and doesn’t properly miscarry. 


    It was several weeks later before I started to bleed. It was that day. I didn’t know. 


    In retrospect, it’s like that’s why the NIPT came back the way it did. That’s why my symptoms stopped. Those things on their own, in my first pregnancy, I didn’t understand. 


    15:01 Brooke’s dream


    Brooke: On the 11th, we had the D&C that Wednesday and on Friday, March 13th, New York City shut down. I came out of this procedure just so sad and then was basically locked in my house for a year. My husband and I were grieving in total isolation. It was just a really tough time. 


    Typically, after a procedure like that, you would go in for a follow-up appointment several weeks later and the doctor would make sure everything was okay. But because it was only emergencies in the hospitals at that time, my doctor just emailed. She was like, “Let me know if you have these symptoms and then I’ll see you, but otherwise it’s safer for you not to come in and you can get pregnant now.”


    In retrospect, I think she meant you can, not necessarily that you should but I was like, “Okay. I can get pregnant again.” This is maybe a little too much for some people, but I was crying myself to sleep just so, so, so sad and I was like, “I want my baby. I just need to know that it’s going to be okay.”


    I went to sleep and I had the strangest dream that I watched myself through a snowy window of a nurse handing me a baby girl in a pink blanket and then I didn’t see her, myself in the hospital bed didn’t see her, but through the window, I watched the nurse also take a baby boy and lay him next to me. He was asleep. 


    Meagan: That just gave me the chills. 


    Brooke: Yeah, I’m happy. I’m holding a baby girl. I woke up and I just felt okay. Two weeks later, I found out I was pregnant again. The whole time, I was like, “It’s a girl. It’s a girl. It’s obviously a girl,” and it was. I just knew right from the outset that I was having a baby girl. 


    17:20 Second pregnancy


    Brooke: I tested positive at 4 weeks. At 5 weeks, I started bleeding and this time, I was angry. I was like, “What is wrong? Why am I miscarrying again?” I go to the doctor and my OB who is amazing, my New York City OB took such incredible care of me. She is just really an all-star doctor. She was like, “I don’t know why you are bleeding so much, but the baby is fine. They are still in there.” I went back a week later. The bleeding never stopped. 


    When I say bleeding, I mean I’m passing clots the size of golf balls. 


    Meagan: Whoa. 


    Brooke: At 7 weeks, I went in. At this point, my OB was like, “I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t understand why you are bleeding so much, but the baby seems fine.” 


    Meagan: There’s no placental tear? 


    Brooke: No. 


    Meagan: Subchorionic? Nothing? 


    Brooke: At this point, they didn’t know what it was. They did find out. I got on the table and I was like, “I’m really bleeding a lot.” She was like, “Okay.” She put me on the table and she was like, “Oh my goodness. It literally looks like you’ve been shot. There’s so much blood just everywhere.” I mean, I’m not a doctor obviously, but I was like, I don’t know how I can go on with this much blood loss. It was really extreme. 


    Then the psychological impact of all of that bleeding when I’ve just had loss. The world’s not turning. I’m locked in my house other than going to the hospital. There are field hospitals everywhere. I can see them from the window. It is really just apocalyptic. 


    We go through the next several weeks. I go to the MFM. They diagnose a very, very large subchorionic hemorrhage. It was three times the size of my daughter. They were like, “We don’t know if she’s going to be able to sustain this much blood loss and there’s really nothing we can do to stop it.” They were like, “There’s not a lot of research on this kind of thing. We don’t know how it’s going to go. We’ll just keep seeing you once or twice a week, making sure you’re not losing too much blood and make sure the baby is still okay.” 


    The whole pregnancy, she was totally fine. I bled and I bled and I bled. I was on total bed rest because any walking I did at all just aggravated it and caused more bleeding. I was so scared of that. I was really, totally isolated. 


    It was very tough emotionally and physically, but my doctor took excellent care of me, helped me find mental health resources, and helped me to get a prenatal nutritionist just to really give me well-rounded care throughout the pregnancy. 


    Brooke: By 24 weeks, it went away. Prayers were answered and the hemorrhage went away. 


    Meagan: Halfway through the pregnancy. 


    Brooke: Yep, by 24 weeks, it was gone. I didn’t have any new bleeding although I was still bleeding, but it wasn’t the full hemorrhage bleeding that I had been experiencing up until that point.


    I took it easy until 36 weeks when I was like, “I need to start walking and moving. I’ve been in bed this whole pregnancy. I know that’s not good.” I’m usually a very active person, so I was a little anxious about that. Around 36 weeks, we started taking the daily hot chocolate walk. We would walk to a different spot and we would get a hot chocolate. It’s winter time now. It’s December. It’s Christmas. We were just relaxing and then on January 15th, it was snowing in New York City. I was 38 weeks and 6 days and I went into labor. 


    21:26 Going into labor and getting admitted


    Brooke: I woke up at 3:00 in the morning and I was like, “I’m in labor.” I was so excited. It was happening. I labored at home for 14 hours and then we went into the hospital. The traffic was so bad from the snow that I ended up walking down 5th Avenue for 10 blocks because we were in gridlock. I was like, “I’m in labor!” I was nowhere near ready to go to the hospital but I didn’t know. 


    I went to the hospital way too early. Classic C-section red flag right there, but I didn’t know. I got there and my doctor happened to be on call. I was so excited because she was just incredible. We had such a good relationship after the care she had given me throughout both of these pregnancies and I was just so excited. 


    But then she left. She had me in triage. I was only 2 centimeters. She was like, “I think you should go home.” 


    Meagan: You’re like, “I just walked blocks to get here.” 


    Brooke: I was like, “I can’t.”


    She was like, “It’s probably going to be another 12 hours until you really need to be here.” I was like, “I can’t come back at 3:00 in the morning tomorrow.” I was so anxious. My anxiety from what I had been through, I was like, “There’s no way I’m going home.” She was like, “I’ll push it. We’ll admit you now.” She was catering to my emotional and mental needs to have this baby monitored. I was so scared. 


    Brooke: I get admitted. By the time I get upstairs, my poor husband is not admitted at this point. He’s outside in the snow just walking around Central Park. Not until I’m in my room is he allowed to join me because he had to be tested for COVID and all of that. This is January 2021. Now, mind you, two days before that, I think the 14th was one of the worst days of COVID that we’d had up to that point in New York City. 


    That is what everybody is focused on in the medical world. They’re not like, “This routine birth. This girl is in labor. She’s 39 weeks tomorrow.” Nobody’s stressed. 


    I get the epidural. By that time, I’m 5 centimeters. Two hours later, my water broke. I was at 8 centimeters. It’s 7:00 PM. I’m 8 centimeters. I’m like, “This is happening.” Everything is smooth. I go to sleep. I keep telling everybody that the epidural is not working. I can feel the epidural on the right side of my body. The nurses moved me around, trying to get the medicine to other places, they had me just lying this way, laying that way, but I got up. Never walked around. Didn’t get in any other position other than my back or my side. 


    I went to sleep. I woke up in the morning and was still 8 centimeters. I had stalled out and now, everybody is starting to worry. The doctor who was on call, my doctor, who left after I was in triage, was someone I had never met. I have lots of friends who she delivered their babies and they had great experiences with her, so I’m sure she is absolutely wonderful, but I didn’t know her and I felt really unsafe. She seemed very busy every time she came in and I was very anxious at this point. I was like, “I thought I was going to have this baby yesterday. What is going on?” 


    My angel of a nurse just was so reassuring that whole time, but I kept telling her, “I don’t think this epidural is working.” She was like, “Well, this is the max that you can have. Let’s give you more Pitocin to get those contractions to kick in so we can get you all the way.” More epidural, more Pitocin. More epidural, more Pitocin. 


    The cascade of interventions. This is all for a labor that I went into spontaneously. It’s 39 weeks now. I’m full-term. My nurse goes on lunch break. It’s now Saturday the 16th. My nurse went on lunch break and another nurse came in, someone I didn’t know which is a theme throughout my whole VBAC journey. I really liked to know my provider. 


    Meagan: That’s an important thing, by the way, to know. It doesn’t happen as much anymore, but to know who is going to be with you is very common to want that. It was for me. 


    Brooke: It was not something that I thought I would care about, but at the moment, it was something I really needed. So this nurse I didn’t know came in and took my temperature and was like, “Oh no. You have a fever. This is bad. I’m going to get the doctor. She’s going to operate.” I was like, “What are you talking about I have a fever. What?” 


    The OB comes in. She’s washing her hands. She’s putting on the fresh gloves. She’s doing it. She just came out of C-section. She was like, “You have a fever? You’ve been at 8 centimeters for how long? All right. We’re going to the OR.” 


    I just immediately start hysterically crying. I was terrified. My nurse is back and she was like, “It’s okay. Look. Your baby is perfect. She’s not in distress. Everything is okay. It’s just taking too long. You have this fever. We don’t want the baby to get sick. This is the best thing.” 


    The OB was like, “Why are you crying? Everything is fine.” 


    Meagan: Oh my gosh. 


    Brooke: My husband was like, “You know, she’s been through a lot with the loss and the hemorrhage. We are scared.” The doctor was like, “What hemorrhage? What are you talking about? This wasn’t your first pregnancy?” I felt in that moment like she didn’t know me like she didn’t know my case and I felt really unsafe. She’s a great doctor and she knew what she was doing, but I felt nothing. 


    Meagan: She wasn’t really talking to you. She was telling you what you were going to do, not talking. 


    Brooke: Exactly. In retrospect, I can appreciate that they are in the middle of a pandemic and it was truly unprecedented. I understand now where she was, but it was not good for me. 


    28:06 An extremely traumatic C-section


    Brooke: I go back into the OR and I’m sure all of the listeners are familiar with this moment where you are being prepped for surgery and it’s really overwhelming. I was like, “Oh my gosh. I hope my husband is not in here right now.” I couldn’t see. You’re just staring up at the lights. I was like, “I hope he’s not in here right now seeing this.” 


    They bring him in and I’m prepped for surgery and they are testing where they are about to perform this surgery. I was like, “That really hurts.” They were like, “No, no, no. It’s just pressure.” I was like, “No, it’s pressure on the left side of my body, but it’s pain on the right. I am telling you as I have been telling you since I was 5 centimeters yesterday, that the epidural is not reaching the right half of my body.” 


    They were like, “Okay. Here is some pain medication through your IV, but we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.” 


    Meagan: Oh my gosh. 


    Brooke: I think it was extremely traumatic for my husband also because I was screaming through my whole C-section. I was in extreme agony. I’ll liken it to when you watch a Civil War movie and you’re watching an amputee. I was being operated on and was not fully anesthetized. It was the worst thing I have ever experienced or could really imagine physically. It was excruciating. 


    My daughter was born and they said, “The baby is out.” That was maybe the longest moment of my life because she didn’t cry. The first thing I ever said. The first words my daughter ever heard me say were, “Is she alive?” I was like, the baby is out but she’s not crying. They were like, “Yeah.” She cried. They did the suction and she cried. 


    100% healthy, perfect APGAR scores, everything was fine, but all the while, I’m just screaming. After they checked her, they handed her to my husband and they made him leave. He was down the hall taking the baby to where I would ultimately meet them in postpartum, but he could hear me screaming all the way down. 


    Meagan: Oh, so traumatic for both of you. 


    Brooke: Yeah, it was horrible, to say the least. I hate saying that because it was my daughter’s birth and so amazing for so many other reasons, but my experience was bad. Bad. 


    I was thankfully able to nurse her really well and hold her and everything from then on was just totally smooth sailing. She was perfectly healthy, but I knew immediately that I never wanted to have another C-section. 


    Brooke: The next morning, they were doing their rounds in recovery, and the anesthesiologist who was there, not my anesthesiologist, someone I hadn’t seen before. My husband and I were like, “Will this happen again? If I were to have another baby, would this happen again? What’s wrong with me?” He was like, “Well, I’m not sure, but you probably have a window in your spine and yeah, this would happen with any epidural so I wouldn’t recommend it in the future. We’d have to go a different anesthesia route for a different C-section or you would have to give birth unmedicated.” 


    That was the story in my head moving forward. After that, I was like, “I’m not having another C-section,” so in my head, it was like, “I’m going to have an unmedicated VBAC in the future.” That was day one. 


    To process all of that trauma, I started listening to VBAC podcasts. I just was listening to VBAC stories because that was really the only place where I was hearing C-section stories. I had so many friends who had C-sections before me and I didn’t understand how horrible that recovery can be for some people. 


    Mind you, lots of my friends had great C-section experiences, but I did not and it really took a lot of work to process that. At my postpartum visit, I was back with my doctor and she was like, “You know if you do decide to get pregnant again, we will do an anesthesia consult and really explore that and make sure that that never happens to you again.” 


    Life goes on. I’m raising my daughter. We’re in New York. We decide to move to North Carolina to be with family and to try again for another baby. We’re in our new house and I don’t really know anybody here beyond some family. 


    32:53 Third pregnancy


    Brooke: I found out that I’m expecting again and we are so excited, but there is obviously a lot of anxiety after everything that I went through. I was like, “This time around, I need a doula.” I was like, “We’re in a different time. It’s not New York at the height of a pandemic. I need a team. I know now after 2 years of listening to VBAC stories what I need to do. I’m going to control every single thing I can control so that this will go how I want it to go.” I made a vision board about it. I looked at it on my desk all the time. I was like, “These are the things I need to be doing every day to hit this goal.” 


    Sharing my successful VBAC on a podcast was on that, so I am really excited to be able to do this today. 


    Brooke: The first thing that I did was hire a doula, but I didn’t know any doulas and I knew that I wanted one who would really support a VBAC that had experience with the emotional elements of it. I interviewed several doulas with that in mind, but what I did that I would definitely urge listeners to do if they don’t have a supportive provider is I asked every doula that I interviewed if they knew of or could recommend or had worked with in the past any VBAC-supportive OBs. 


    I knew for me and my anxiety given the complications that I had with the hemorrhage and the loss that I wasn’t going to go the midwife/birth center route. I knew that I would want an obstetrician. I was looking for a hospital provider that would be VBAC-supportive. Every doula I interviewed recommended the same practice and the same hospital. 


    I was like, “That’s where I need to go because if all of the doulas are recommending this practice, that’s where I need to try and get in.” 


    I was relieved to find out that they delivered at WakeMed Raleigh and I say that because it’s important to note that it is one of the lowest C-section rates in the country, that hospital. That alone was really reassuring to me because I was like, “They are not going to do it just because it’s taking too long.” It’s really going to be based on that medical evidence. 


    If I need to have one medically, then that’s what we have to do, but I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t the result of interventions or stalling. I don’t know if I had done things differently if my C-section would have or wouldn’t have happened, but I know that I didn’t set myself up for success. This time around, I was really determined to do it. 


    I got a doula. I got a supportive provider. Through my doula, I did childbirth education classes. They recommended Spinning Babies and yoga. I did that. They recommended a Webster-certified chiropractor and I did that. All things really stemmed from my doula and the doula group that she was with. I cannot recommend that enough. I know getting a doula can sometimes be cost-prohibitive, but there are so many doulas on Instagram that share a lot of this information on social media that just following those recommendations, I tried it all. 


    I really did. I drank the tea. I ate the dates, but early in this pregnancy, I hadn’t even hired a doula yet. 


    38:17 Bleeding again


    Brooke: 6 weeks, I started bleeding again. I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I wasn’t as scared because I had just been through my daughter’s pregnancy and I was like, “This just must be the way that I am.” 


    So I go and I get an appointment with this practice because I knew right away that that was where I wanted to go. They took me even though I was a new patient. They took me right away even though I was 6 weeks because I was bleeding. I don’t think all practices bend the rules that much. Their policy is, “Oh, don’t come in until 9 weeks,” but they took me. I really appreciated that. I loved the staff. They were like, “Yeah, we don’t know why you are bleeding.” I said, “Well, I do. I’m telling you right now that it’s a subchorionic hemorrhage.” 


    They were like, “We don’t say anything.” I was like, “You will.” 


    Pregnancy was pretty routine after that. The bleeding stopped. I didn’t worry too much and then I took my daughter to a museum at 12 weeks, 5 days which if you recall is just about to the day and the time of my loss. It was 12 weeks and 6 weeks when I started bleeding. I had a huge bleed. I mean, bad. I was like, “How could it be that I am miscarrying on the same day?” I was like, “This is crazy.” 


    We went to the ER because it was nighttime and I was like, “I just have to know if there is a heartbeat.” The ER checked and it was incredible too because I could feel that the doctors were nervous for me and then I felt their relief telling me that there was a heartbeat. They were like, “We don’t often get to give good news in the ER and we are just so happy to tell you that your baby is fine and you have a subchorionic hemorrhage.” I was like, “Knew it.”


    I continued to bleed for a few days. They were like, “Do you want to do bloodwork and see if there’s anything else?” I was like, “No. That’s what’s happening. I don’t need to stay for bloodwork. This is what it is. I’ve just got to ride it out and take it easy,” which is tough with a toddler, but I did my best. The bleeding stopped and everything was fine. 


    The rest of my pregnancy was great. I had that second-trimester glow and it’s sunny North Carolina. I’m with my family. I’ve made some friends. Things are going smoothly. Then at my 24-week appointment, I said to one of the OBs there that I was feeling pretty anxious. I was like, “I’m a little bit nervous just because I did hemorrhage this pregnancy. I hemorrhaged all last pregnancy. I don’t feel okay with this being my last ultrasound until delivery. Can we just put  a growth scan on the chart?”


    She was like, “Of course. You need to feel comfortable.” I appreciated that. She didn’t have a medical reason to do it, but she was like, “You’re right. You’ve been high risk. Let’s go ahead.” 


    At 30 weeks, it was the night before my appointment and I had the strangest dream. I had a dream that I had the most amazing birth. My doula was there. I was standing up. I pulled my son from my own body. It was this redemptive, joyous dream. I felt this happiness. Then all of a sudden, it went dark and everything was dark. I was walking around an auditorium, a dimly lit auditorium with a bunch of empty bassinets. I was looking for my baby. 


    I wasn’t scared, but I was a little bit nervous walking around there, then all of a sudden, the nurse handed him to me and they were like, “Here he is.” I was like, “Where has he been all this time?” She was like, “Oh, he’s been with us, but he’s fine. You can go home.” 


    I was like, “Okay.” Then I woke up. I went on with my day and I was like, “That was a weird dream.”


    I went to my 30-week scan and mind you, I had been put on there because of my advocating for myself. I looked at the ultrasound. It was just me and the tech in the room and I said, “What the F is that?” I had seen through weekly ultrasounds my entire pregnancy with my daughter. I’m not a tech, but I have a lot of experience as a mom looking at ultrasounds and I was like, “This is not normal.” His belly looked like sausage links. 


    It was like nothing I’d ever seen before and the tech was like, “I need to go get the doctor.” 


    43:09 Finding a bowel obstruction in baby


    Brooke: She brought in another doctor at the practice. This is a big practice with lots of different OBs, all of whom were wonderful. This doctor who this was my first time meeting was just so sweet as she told me that my baby had a bowel obstruction and that he would need to have surgery and stay in the NICU for a while when he was born and that it was really likely that I was going to have to deliver him prematurely.


    I immediately became hysterical. She was so sweet. She asked if she could hug me. I was like, “Please.” It was just the most incredible practice of doctors. I felt just really supported by them. She sent me to the MFM where I had to get an ultrasound at least once a week. They did the antenatal screening there to check his intestines every few days because they wanted to make sure that they were balancing the risk of letting me go as close to term as possible while not risking his intestines bursting basically. 


    Meagan: Right. 


    Brooke: This was very scary again so I was like, “Oh my gosh. What is going on with me?” I go through with the rest of the pregnancy. I did have polyhydramnios because he is not passing fluid as he’s supposed to be. It’s all getting stuck where this obstruction is. But because it’s a picture of a belly inside a belly and your intestines are so long, you can’t see through ultrasound where the block is. 


    There were five causes that they were going through. They weren’t sure where this block was or if it was part of a larger disease or if this would cause lifelong issues. There were so many questions, but I just was like, “Listen. I had a dream with my daughter that I would have a baby girl in the snow and I did. I just have to trust that this baby is going to be fine too and I’m going to take it home too.”


    I’m going to have that VBAC and at every single appointment, once or twice a week, I ask, “Does this impact my ability to have a VBAC?” He was like, “No. It has nothing to do with pregnancy and delivery. That’s going to be what it is. You make those choices based on your history. It’s just that when the baby is born, you will have to have a huge team out there. The NICU team has to be there. Pediatric surgery needs to be there. You’re going to have to give birth with 15-20 people in the room.” 


    I was like, “There goes my unmedicated, serene vision with no epidural, no medical intervention, beautiful hospital birth in a dimly lit room with the candles. No.” All that planning is out the window. It’s gone. I can’t have that experience. So I’m like, “I have to control what I can control. The MFM is saying I can still do it. I’m still going for it.” 


    So then at just before 37 weeks, they were like, “Okay, it’s time. We need to get him out and get this surgery underway.” They were like, “He’s doing well. You’re doing well. Let’s have an induction.” For a VBAC, being induced, I was like, “Oh no. This feels just like a death sentence to my VBAC plans, but this is what we have to do.” 


    46:57 Switching providers the day before her scheduled induction


    Brooke: I’m meeting with one of the OBs and it’s the day before my scheduled induction. This is on Monday. I like this OB a lot. We’ve worked together in the past. She’s been great and supportive, nothing bad to say about her. But we were talking about my induction which was going to take place and I asked her a question about Pitocin. 


    I just asked a question because I didn’t know. Her response was along the lines of, “With all due respect, you need to let the nurses do their job. You’re not trained in Pitocin and you need to let them do that.” Right then, I was like, “Mm-mm.” Medically, she’s right. Would she have delivered my baby safely? Almost certainly, but I knew right then that was not the energy that I needed in the room. 


    I felt immediately like I shouldn’t have asked the question and I was like, “I can’t feel like that this time.” I didn’t ask any questions at my daughter’s birth. I just went along with it. I was blind and this time, I need to be with a provider that I feel like I can ask anything and that I will get an answer. 


    So I emailed the MFM and said, “Do you think it’s safe if I push the induction a few days? I’m not comfortable with the plans we have right now. I want to give my baby and my body a few more days. What’s the last possible day I can push this to?” He was like, “I’ll let you go 72 more hours, but I really think we’ve got to get this moving.” I messaged the doctor I felt the most comfortable with in the practice and I was like, “Listen. I really want to have my baby with you. I just feel the most comfortable with you. You had mentioned you were going to be on-call that day.”


    I didn’t do it because I wanted to do it sooner so I had scheduled it with a different doctor, but he was like, “Let me see what I can do. I have a full load that day, but let me call the hospital and see what I can do.” He called me back and he was like, “I pulled some strings and I got you in. I’m going to deliver your baby. We’re going to do this induction. You’re going to have your VBAC. I don’t want you to stress at all. We’re going to have your VBAC. Your baby is going to go to the NICU. He’s going to be fine. You’re going to come home happy.”


    I was like, “This is what I need.” I just felt like, “Ahh.” I was like, “Do you think it’s safe to be induced? Is it safe for a VBAC?” He was like, “It is totally safe and I will let you know the moment things become unsafe and we will change the plan. But right now, this plan is safe and I will let you know when I don’t think it is safe anymore and we need to do something different.” I was like, “Okay.” 


    I went in for my induction and it all moved really fast from there. I had a Foley induction on the night before. I went in on Tuesday night and they gave me a Foley, but all that prep work paid off. I was already 2 centimeters dilated when I showed up at the hospital at 37 weeks for my induction. I was like, “Yes.” That baby was in a great position. I was in shape. I had done that Spinning Babies yoga. It was paying off. I had drank the red raspberry leaf tea. I ate the six dates a day and I will never eat one again.


    I was like, “Yes.” They put the Foley in. It fell out around 8:00 AM the following morning so this is on Wednesday now. Wednesday, September 27th. At 8:00 AM, they started Pitocin. By 10:00 AM, I was in back labor. It was mild. It was manageable. I was not stressed at all. My nurse was amazing and she helped me get into a lot of different positions. We got baby to move and back labor subsided. That made all the difference. 


    50:57 Progressing to complete dilation


    Brooke: By noon, just a few hours later, I was 100% effaced and I was 5 centimeters. I really wasn’t feeling anything. I was totally fine. I was able to sleep and I was already 5 centimeters on Pitocin so I was feeling good. I was like, “Oh, I can do this. I do not need an epidural. This is happening.” 


    My doctor came in and he was like, “I want to break your water. You have a bulging bag. Let’s break this.” I was like, “Okay,” because I fully trusted him. He was so respectful of my birth plan. I had put on there that I wanted limited cervical checks because in my previous labor, I got the chorio infection and I was like, “I want to limit cervical checks because I don’t want to have that infection again that caused my first C-section.”


    He was like, “I’m not going to check you unless I feel like we really need to and we can talk about it.” He was just so respectful of my wishes and how I wanted my birth to go. He was barely there. My contractions weren’t intense, so at 2:00 PM, my nurse upped my Pitocin to a 10. I’m not really sure what that means as the other OB pointed out. I’m not trained in Pitocin. 


    Meagan: It’s starting to get into the higher does. Usually at 20 is when OBs will cap it off or try to get MFM involved to get more clearance or do an IUPC and stuff like that. 10 is low but still getting there and getting higher. 


    Brooke: Okay. Okay. 


    She put it to 10 and said, “It’s time to get things going. I was just still coping fine and I was starting to get a little bit worried that I wasn’t going to get past 8 centimeters because so far, it had been similar to my previous labor. It was taking a while, but I was feeling fine.


    I texted my doula. This was 2:00 PM. I texted my doula and she was like, “Go get on the toilet. Sit backward. I call it the dilation station. Just go sit there for a little while and I’ll check back in with you at 3:00.” 


    But at 2:10, so 10 minutes of doing that, I texted her that I was at 8 centimeters and I was in so much pain. I was like, “You need to come in right now.” 10 minutes. I was so sick. I thought I was going to throw up. I was screaming. I was not prepared for how bad this was going to hurt. I was not expecting that. It came out of nowhere. 


    She got there at 2:35. I was pacing up and down the room yelling and I was screaming that I really wanted the epidural. My nurse gave me IV pain meds and I kept telling her I would get relief during the contractions but the contractions themselves really hurt. My doula was there applying counterpressure, helping to move me into different positions and she and my nurse were working together to get me from just one contraction at a time. One contraction at a time. 


    I mean, I was just in labor land. I could not see beyond the moment that I was in. I was begging for an epidural. My husband didn’t say anything because he was really supportive of just supporting my wishes, but I was like, “I really want an epidural.” My goal going into the birth was to have a good experience and not necessarily to have an unmedicated birth because the unmedicated part was because I was afraid that the epidural wouldn’t work again. 


    That’s why I didn’t want the epidural. It wasn’t because I wanted the unmedicated birth. It just felt like that was my best option. 


    54:54 Getting an epidural and pushing for three hours


    Brooke: I’m hysterical and I’m like, “I want the epidural. This is not a good experience. This is not on my birth plan.” My doula was like, “I think you’re right.” My nurse checked me. She was like, “You’re complete. You’re complete. You can just push.” I was like, “I am not pushing without an epidural! This is not what I want!”


    An angel of an anesthesiologist came in and gave me that epidural. I was complete and I got that epidural and let me tell you, there is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with my spine. That was the most incredible relief that I have ever felt. I know now it was the right decision. My husband was so against it because he was so scared that I was just giving up and throwing in the towel at the final mile. But he didn’t say anything at the time. 


    The anesthesiologist was amazing. He kept coming in to check on me, making sure I was doing okay. That was around 3:30 that I got the epidural. I stayed on my hands and knees. My doula was giving me peppermint essential oil to help me cope with the nausea. She kept checking on me and I felt that relief around 4:15, then it was calm and joyous. I knew instantly that I had made the best choice for me. 


    The nurse kept trying to get me to do practice pushes and my doula was like, “You don’t really have to do that.” I was like, “I don’t have to practice doing anything. My body is just pushing.” It was involuntary. It was just happening. I pushed for 3 hours. Yeah, 3 hours of pushing. 


    Meagan: All right. All right. That’s some time.


    Brooke: It was a long time. I started pushing around 4:15-4:30 and my baby was born at 7:28 PM. I had no tearing and it was exactly like my dream. His head was out and my doctor was like, “Reach down, Brooke. You can do it.” I reached down and pulled him from his shoulders up onto my chest and I got that completion of that circular motion. Pushing the baby out, completing the circle with putting him on my chest. 


    He was crying and looking up at me. I had that skin-to-skin moment. Mind you, this is happening with 15-20 people in the room. The team rushed over. They took him. They checked him. They laid him back on my chest and they left. They were like, “He’s perfect. We’re good. We’ll see you in an hour.” 


    Meagan: Oh my gosh. Yay. 


    Brooke: Yeah. Yeah. So I got to hold him on my chest and have that golden hour. It was just me, my husband, and my doula. It was the most incredible, healing moment of my life. I was pushing him out and I was like, “I could do this again! This is amazing!” It was just– at one point in pushing, I even asked my OB. I was like, “Oh my gosh. This is taking so long. Do I need to have a C-section?” My doctor was like, “Brooke, I’m touching his head. No. You’re having a VBAC. It’s here. It’s done. You did it. This is it.”


    I was like, “Oh my god.” The baby was never in distress. He did great the whole time. They didn’t feel any need to rush it because medically, he was monitored the whole time. I was monitored. We were both doing great. It just took a while. It was absolutely perfect and then they took him back to the NICU after that hour and he ultimately did need to have bowel surgery and stayed there for almost 6 weeks, but I’m happy to report that he is a 100% normal almost 6-month-old baby now and just absolutely perfect. It was the healing VBAC that I had pursued and I am just over the moon about it. It will remain one of the best experiences of my whole life in spite of all of those challenges that I had with another hemorrhage, an induction, and my baby with this obscure birth defect. 


    Having that VBAC and that VBAC success really just completely changed my outlook on the whole situation. I could drive to and from the hospital to see him. I got to hold him for that hour. It was an amazing, amazing, amazing experience. 


    59:40 15 tips for birth


    Meagan: I am so happy for you and I’m so happy that you felt you were able to advocate for yourself. It is definitely something hard to do. It would be hard to email and be like, “Actually, I’m not going to go with this provider” or even say, “Yeah, okay. Great. I’m 10 centimeters, but this is not the experience that I’m wanting anymore and I’m going to do this.” I think that is something also they tell people a lot. You can’t get an epidural after a certain number of centimeters. That’s not necessarily true. Sometimes it can be heavy and harder to push, but a lot of the time, it is what a mom needs to push. You had 3 more hours. You knew what you needed. That was the most perfect decision that you could have made for you. 


    Brooke: Exactly. Exactly.


    Meagan: You had that amazing full-circle moment of bringing your son up, feeling him, and holy cow, intuitive. Your dreams are on point. I’m just so, so happy for you and I do want to talk a little bit. There is something that you said a couple of times that stood out to me and it’s something that I feel like I just in life in general, not even just in pregnancy and everything that I stick to. You can only control what you can control. 


    That, in birth, is hard so what you did is what you could control. I want to give some of those tips. I’ve got 15 tips and I’m looking down here and I’m like, yeah. You did a lot of them. Learn the facts. Learn what the evidence says. A lot of providers are on the opposite side of your provider where they are like, “No. Pitocin is not safe. It is not acceptable. We cannot do this. You have to go into labor by tomorrow or we have to have a C-section.” Right?


    Brooke: Right, totally. 


    Meagan: That’s not what the evidence states. So you learned the facts. You found the provider. That’s the next one. Find a supportive provider. Hire a VBAC doula if you can. 


    I want to talk a little bit about doulas. Obviously, I am a doula and I have a whole doula program here at The VBAC Link so I advocate for doulas every single second of the day, but I know sometimes it’s not possible and you mentioned that financially. There are avenues. You can go to Be Her Village or instead of a baby shower and getting a whole bunch of extra clothes, you can ask for support for doulas. There are ways around that but then I wanted to also talk about hiring a doula. 


    Just like hiring a provider who is supportive of VBAC, you also want to try to find a doula who is supportive of VBAC as well. We had a story just a while ago that talked about how she had an amazing doula and it sounds like she was honestly amazing, but VBAC was something that made her uncomfortable. She didn’t know that until she was in that space. 


    Brooke: Yeah. I experienced that in my interviews. I did talk to a few doulas who were like, “Well, I’ve never done a VBAC but physiologically, it’s the same as any other birth.” While that is definitely true, I knew that I needed somebody in my corner who understood the emotional impact and what this was going to do for my psyche. 


    Physiologically, man. I have been listening to your podcast. I was like, “These women can do it. I can do it.” A very good friend of mine had a VBAC and the whole time through her pregnancy, I was cheering her on. It was in my head. I was like, “It has already happened. This is done. It’s a done deal. You’re going to have a VBAC.” Then it was my turn and I was like, I had that faith in my friend. I need to have that faith in myself. 


    I can do this. I really can. I got that from listening to your podcast and hearing other women have this success. That was absolutely critical, but knowing that a doula who understood that and who had been there for other VBAC moms was critical for me. 


    Actually, the doula that I ended up having with me that I hired and that was with me in my birth, she was the doula for her sister who had a VBAC so I was like, “She knows. It’s personal to her.” It was perfect. It was perfect. 


    Yeah. It’s another part of your team that supports you and understands. Even if they haven’t had a VBAC themselves, they are supportive of VBAC and really understand again those facts and the evidence surrounding VBAC. 


    1:04:22 Control what you can control


    Meagan: Finding the birth location. You mentioned you knew that this other location may not have been the best idea and this is where you would feel more safe and you chose that. That is so important to choose where you feel comfortable and what resonates with you. 


    Avoiding induction, however, we know induction happens. Here we are. An induction happened and an induction can happen. Avoid an induction that is not necessary, but also know that if induction comes your way, that doesn’t mean that your birth dreams and your birth preferences and everything just go completely out of the window. It’s still possible to VBAC if we didn’t just prove it with this episode and many other episodes before with an induction. 


    Processing past birth experiences, creating a birth plan. I love how you had a vision board and you were like, “This is my vision. I’m going to do these things. These are within my control.” Surround yourself with the people who support you even outside of your birth team. Going to the massage therapist, and chiropractor, doing Spinning Babies. All of these things are really, really going to help you have a better chance of a VBAC, but then also I feel like if a VBAC doesn’t end up happening, you can go back and say, “I did everything I could do in my power and I controlled what I could control.” 


    That message stuck out to me during your story. You said it just a couple of times, but that to me is very powerful. Control what you can control. 


    Brooke: Yeah. I would want anybody listening to really hang on to that and to have faith in yourself. In my second pregnancy, I felt like I just needed to go along with what the doctor said. I had a high-risk pregnancy. I was bleeding like crazy. I didn’t know what was going on. Everything felt really uncertain at that point in the pandemic and where I was living and it was just that I didn’t take any control. 


    I just did not own my birth at all. I will always wonder if I had done things differently. If I wasn’t on bedrest and I was moving and if I drank the tea and if I had a doula which wasn’t an option at that moment in time, but if I had done things differently, would I have had such a traumatic Cesarean birth? Would that experience have happened? I will never know, but I wanted to know going into this one that I did everything that felt right to me. 


    My doula would make suggestions and I did the things that I was like, “Yeah. That’s something I’m going to do.” Then there were suggestions that she made that I was like, “Mmm, that doesn’t sound good to me,” so I just didn’t do it. I followed my gut. I had faith in myself. I was like, “I’m going to do X, Y, and Z. I’m not going to do A, B, and C.” 


    Doing what feels right to you and your body, my provider, and I had the mantras too. My provider was amazing, but I knew going into it that obstetrics is not as old as the wisdom of my body and I need to trust it first. My OB is one man. If there is something wrong, they are there to course correct but I just need to let my body do its thing. My provider was so supportive of that and I think that controlling that was huge. 


    I mean, I literally changed doctors the day before my induction. That is something you can do. In my first birth, it was so obvious that I was just routine. I was in and out of the hospital, just another mom giving birth. Nameless. 


    This is the biggest moment of your life and you have to do what you can do to make it the experience you want it to be. I knew that going in, my son needed an induction and that was the whole pregnancy, I was like, “I won’t be induced. That’s where I draw the line. I’ll go for a repeat C-section before I get induced,” and it was time. They were like, “We need to induce.” I knew that was what I had to do to save my son. 


    I was like, “We’re going to go for it.” My provider made me feel really safe and I’m just really glad that up until that last minute, I was advocating for the birth that I wanted and that was when I got the birth I wanted, but I knew that if it ultimately ended in a C-section because that was what he needed or if something would occur that that was what I needed, that that is what was needed and not just, “Oh, time’s up. Oh, you have an infection.” 


    Control what you can control. 


    Meagan: Yep. That’s the message of the day. Control what you can control. VBAC is possible. You did it. I’m so happy for you and thank you so much for sharing your story with us today.


    Brooke: Thank you so much for having me. 


    Closing


    Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Tell us about your experience at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Meagan’s bio, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.





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    1h 10m - May 1, 2024
  • Episode 295 Dr. Kendra's Empowering HBAC + Tips From a VBAC Doula

    Today’s episode has a wealth of information you won’t want to miss! Dr. Kendra Ohora is a Licensed Clinical Marriage & Family Therapist and also a VBAC mom. From being told she would never have children to currently expecting her third baby boy, Kendra shares how prioritizing her mental health helped her through some really tough years. 


    Kendra’s first birth was a planned breech home birth with an empowering labor. But when baby was not descending after hours of pushing, she felt at peace transferring to the hospital. Unfortunately, Kendra’s hospital experience was traumatic and resulted in a C-section under anesthesia. 


    Through processing and healing, Kendra was able to prepare for and achieve the home birth she hoped for the first time with her second baby who was born only 14 months after her first. 


    Tia, a VBAC doula from the Chicago area, joins Meagan as her cohost today and finishes the episode with the top three pieces of advice that she gives to all of her clients. 


    Kendra's Website

    Tia's Website

    Informed Pregnancy - code: vbaclink424

    Needed Website

    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details 


    03:24 Review of the Week

    06:07 Kendra’s professional background

    09:00 Kendra’s surprise pregnancy

    10:54 First birth

    13:14 Surrendering

    16:15 Surprise baby number two

    21:00 Kendra’s VBAC

    29:30 Processing births

    33:31 Erin’s e-courses

    36:16 Benefits of therapy

    41:39 Short interval between pregnancies

    45:51 Tia’s top three tips

    48:54 Hire a great support team 

    51:38 Prepare your mind



    Meagan: Hello, hello. We have another amazing episode for you guys today and guess what? We did this a couple of weeks ago and I thought it would be fun to do it again. We have a co-host with us today. It’s not Julie, but it is Tia. Hello, Tia. 


    Tia: Hi. Thank you so much for having me. 


    Meagan: Absolutely. Tia is amazing and she is actually one of our VBAC certified doulas. I want to turn the time a little bit over to you and tell us where can people find you. What is your business name? All of that. 


    Tia: Yeah. I am in the Chicagoland area so I serve a wide radius about an hour from my hometown of Mount Prospect. My business is Chicagoland Birth and Baby. Most people can find me on my website. It is Chicagolandbirthandbaby.com or they can email me at chibirthandbaby@gmail.com. Yeah. I would love for people to reach out to me if they are in my area. 


    Meagan: Awesome. We will make sure to have her link and everything also in the show notes. You can easily find her. If you’re in her area looking for a doula, definitely give her a call.


    Okay, you guys. We have a guest today. I mean, you are all special. Every guest is so special, but Dr. Kendra Ohora is with us today. She is a VBAC mom and then she also offers something very special that I think connects or can connect a lot with our audience because we go through a lot of stuff as VBAC moms and C-section moms and all of this. She actually owns a wellness company and she is a mental health and wellness practice in Hartford County. 


    Kendra: Mhmm. 


    Meagan: Awesome, okay, in Maryland. She specializes in couples therapy and perinatal mental health. In her brief years as a mom, she has learned to love and appreciate slowing down which I know we all need to do in life, all things neutral, and lots of time outdoors. Her VBAC journey is one of her most proud moments as a woman and a mom. 


    I am excited for her to come to talk about her VBAC story but then also a little bit more of what she offers because I do. Like I said, I think it applies very well to our community. 


    03:24 Review of the Week


    Meagan: But of course, we have a Review of the Week so I’m going to turn the time back over to Tia really quickly and then we’ll dive right in. 


    Tia: Yeah. I have a review from dmiller21395 from September 18, 2023. The subject is, “Empowering and Motivating.” This is from Apple Podcasts. It says, “I just had my successful VBA2C and would love to thank The VBAC Link Podcast for motivating, educating, and uplifting my spirit to help prepare myself for my VBA2C. I listened to The VBAC Link Podcast on my drives to work and while cleaning around the house. Each birth story brought so many emotions back to me relating to other mamas relating to birth trauma from our prior births and how deeply we dream of a VBAC. I recommend this podcast to anyone who wishes for a VBAC and also to any pregnant moms who just would love to hear birth stories and to educate themselves more on birth facts.” 


    Meagan: Aww, thank you for that review. That was amazing. Once in a while, we will have a review that talks about recommending it to all VBAC moms or clients or anyone wanting to know their options for birth after Cesarean, but I really do love it when people also recognize that this podcast can help those first-time parents too. 


    I mean, our Cesarean rate is astronomically high and it’s an issue. I think one of the ways that we can help here in our small community, but also very big community is to help educate those first-time moms about their options and why Cesareans are happening and what is being done out there and said out there that may be causing the whole root problem of the Cesarean rise. 


    So I love that she pointed that out. 


    06:07 Kendra’s professional background


    Meagan: Okay, cute Kendra. Thank you so much for joining us today. 


    Kendra: Thanks for having me. 


    Meagan: I want to turn the time over to you. I’m excited to hear more about your stories and your journey and what you do every day. I also hope that we can talk a little bit about your e-courses, specifically two of them– the birth trauma and the rebirth. I love that title by the way. 


    Kendra: Perfect, thank you. 


    I feel like my story intertwines with mental health in a really important way because of my business but it also is like every step of my professional journey has just been a couple steps ahead of my personal journey and prepared me in a really beautiful and important way. 


    I’ll probably start there because that’s maybe where it makes the most sense. I got into private practice years ago, maybe 8 or 9 years ago and I actually had quite a few clients who came to me who had infertility as a part of their story. That wasn’t something that was specific to my training in grad school. It was a lot of couples’ work, so I kind of got a crash course on the emotional heaviness and loss associated with an infertility journey. 


    At that point in my story, my husband and I weren’t trying to have kids. It just wasn’t a piece of the puzzle yet. I just worked alongside of them, supported them, and learned a ton from them. I opened my own business and did that for a year or two– that’s Erin. The e-courses are actually done by Erin Newton. She is our expert perinatal mental health specialist and she supervises all of the clinicians at my practice. She is fantastic. 


    When I brought her on, she had a generic skill set but really wanted to specialize in the perinatal realm. This was right when I got my infertility diagnosis. We had been trying for a couple of years. I had learned when to get some medical testing and all of that done. They said, “Essentially with your age and also with a couple other factors, we don’t think likely that you’re going to have children.” 


    It was right at the beginning of COVID in February 2020 and I just remember being taken aback in a way I’ve never experienced before. Complete and total grief over something I didn’t know how to grieve despite my profession, despite my team and all of that. It was weird. It was a weird season of just not even being sure. What do you do with this loss that has not even happened yet? It’s this thing that you can’t reconcile or make sense of.


    I sat with it for a while. My husband and I actually ended up doing some other things professionally to keep ourselves busy if you will, to find new energy and excitement, so we bought a home to renovate, a vacation property to renovate. My husband is in construction. That really took a lot of our time and excitement. 


    09:00 Kendra’s surprise pregnancy


    Kendra: I eventually wrote a blog. I decided, “Okay. I can share my story with the world.” I wrote this blog “13 Truths About Infertility”. It was essentially a quick summary– not quick, a very long blog– a summary of my journey with infertility and seeing it through my husband’s eyes and seeing it firsthand in my own experience. Something in me was like, “This is not the full story yet. There is more to come.” The clients that I had worked with, this connection that I had with Erin, her desire to share the birth trauma recovery with the world, and all of these factors just felt like there was more in this story. 


    Eventually, in January 2021, I found out that I was pregnant with my first son and it was a complete and total surprise. It was just such a faith moment for us that we actually found out at our beach house that we were renovating. It was really serendipitous. I don’t know. It was magical if you will. I have it on video. It was really just super sweet. 


    At the time, I really didn’t know anyone who was doing home births, VBAC wasn’t part of my journey yet, so I just thought, “Man, I never thought I was going to be a mom. I need to do everything I can to make this the most sacred journey possible. The most empowering, and important. I want healthy kids. I want emotionally healthy–” and all of that. 


    I took a lot of care and energy in the pregnancy to read the resources on having a vaginal birth and all of the things that would help me and lead to success in that route as naturally as possible is what I wanted, the least intervention possible. I read all of the stories and listened to the podcast episodes. I just felt on top of the world like, “I’m going to do this. This is it. I can do this. My body can do this. I’ve done hard things. I’ve overcome hard things. I absolutely can do this.” 


    10:54 First labor


    Kendra: Towards the end of my pregnancy, maybe at 26 weeks, I ended up getting COVID and found out my first was breech. 


    Meagan: Were you planning a home birth? 


    Kendra: Yes, in Maryland. Mhmm. My provider– in Maryland, there are different levels or statuses of midwives typical to lots of states. My provider was an LPM, a licensed profession midwife who was comfortable with attending a breech but was not legally allowed to attend a breech. 


    Around maybe 32 weeks enters the whole equation of, what do we do about the fact that this is not legal? In my particular area, there really were not a lot of LNMs, licensed nurse midwives, to oversee my case. She had called a couple of people and they essentially declined. They were like, “It’s too late in the pregnancy. We don’t know much about this case. We’re not willing to attend it. 


    We found somebody out of state who was supportive, explained the whole breech process, and felt very comfortable doing it. My dream of home birth was slightly altered to, “Okay, now I have to labor at a birth center, but I’ll still be able to do it vaginally. I’ll still be able to do all of the things.” That was the most empowering, beautiful birth or labor experience ever. I felt so, “I am woman, hear me roar.” I just felt in my element. I felt power. I felt energy and excitement. I labored so long, for 24 hours. My water broke and all of the things. My sisters were there. I labored all over this birth center– outside, inside, different rooms, and it was just amazing. 


    At the end of the day, I pushed for 3 hours and my little guy just wouldn’t drop. They were like, “He’s engaged. You’re dilated. All good stuff,” but he just wasn’t coming out. There was a surrender for me. There was this– I knew the stats. I knew the most common reason women transfer is exhaustion and I certainly was tired, but my stamina for this, “I have to do this” was so strong. 


    My midwife was great. She just looked at me and was just like, “Kendra, I think you could keep pushing for hours and hours, but I don’t think your baby’s going to come out and I think we need to consider going to the hospital.” 


    13:14 Surrendering


    Kendra: It was a really painful surrender for me, but I just felt at ease too like, “Okay. Yeah. You’re right. He’s not going to come out.” There wasn’t a part of me that thought I could have made it happen if I pushed longer. It just felt like this was what had to happen. 


    The unfortunate part is everything up until that point– the pregnancy, the labor, was perfect. Exactly what I wanted and then we transferred to the hospital and because I was out-of-state and I wasn’t established with a provider at this hospital, their reaction was like, “This is an emergency. This woman needs to go on the table in seconds.” I was just like, “I’ve been laboring for hours. I’ve been doing hip sways. I’ve been working through my contractions. I’m good. I can walk back to the room.” 


    They were like, “No, you need to be in a wheelchair.” Again, long story short, a lot of bad things happened at the hospital. The standard of care was not ideal. Baby made it out safely and everything was okay, but my husband’s experience, the treatment of the baby, and all of that was not ideal and left essentially birth trauma for all of us, but I still felt that empowered energy of the labor that I don’t think it really registered to me right away that there was trauma involved. 


    They declined my birth plan. They declined my desire not to be under general anesthesia. They really insisted that it was an emergency. I was like, “He’s not. I’m fine. He’s fine. All the heart rates and everything are good.” 


    We ended up going through that process and because he was our little miracle baby, we were just still on top of the world. We came home from the hospital. We were new parents and were just soaking it all in. So much to my surprise, a few months later, I found out I was pregnant with my second. I was just like, “Holy smokes. How do you go from infertility diagnosis to two kids back to back? What have I gotten myself into?”


    Kendra: Again, I was just like, “I’ve got to have this home birth. I’ve got to have this redemptive experience, this vaginal birth,” so that’s when I started studying the VBAC piece in particular and learning that lots of women do this, I can do this. That same energy I carried into the first one, I can do this. 


    This go around, I would say, my studying looked different. My surrender looked different. I just felt more ease and peace, but also had this backround fear like, “What if I have to have another C-section? What if I have to land in the hospital again?” I was especially concerned for my husband and what he witnessed as well. 


    You know, we are busy new parents and preparing for another baby and I just would say at the time, it didn’t feel like I had as much attention on the pregnancy as I did the first go around. 


    16:15 Surprise baby number two


    Kendra: So then leading into number two, my baby boy number two and his story, my water broke again which I know is pretty rare to have your water break so the fact that it broke twice is interesting. 


    Meagan: They say it’s 10%. 


    Kendra: Right?


    Meagan: This is what they told me twice at the hospital. My water does the same dang thing. I’m three for three– water breaks first. 


    Kendra: Two for two, yep. 


    Meagan: That’s funny, okay. 


    Kendra: Interesting. 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Kendra: I was kind of surprised myself because I was preparing for something to look different and it really didn’t. It looked similar. It broke early in the morning. My due date was Christmas Day and I very much didn’t want a Christmas baby, so I was actually over. It was New Year’s Eve. It was New Year’s Eve when my water broke. I was like, “I can have a holiday baby. I just don’t want a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day baby.” 


    This labor was much shorter. It was 9 hours in length and at home. It was home and it was so perfect. I had a birth photographer and all of the same people there– my husband, my mom, my mother-in-law came, my sister, and my doula. I mean, it was just really perfect in the setting, in the setup, in the confidence that I felt going into it, but as soon as the active labor hit, I was like, “I don’t know if I can do this,” because all of the fear that the ending wouldn’t be what I wanted was there. 


    Even though everyone could tell you that you have to release the fear because labor can get stalled and all of the things, I don’t think I could. It just felt like I had to work with the fear and work through the fear.


    I remember 10 minutes into active labor saying to my doula, “I don’t know if I can do this,” and in my head also knowing, “You don’t have an option. You’re not going to surrender and go to the hospital and have another C-section. You have to give yourself the chance. You have to fight for it.” 


    It felt like the only way out was through and because I had experienced labor before but never experienced baby dropping or what it felt like to have baby engaged, it just was new. And with each new thing, there was this simultaneous trusting my body and feeling nervous for my body all at once. 


    I labored in a variety of positions. I labored in a birthing tub. I declined all of the checks. In hindsight, given the fact that I was so afraid, I can tell that I also just had this instinctual knowing. “I can do this. It’s going to happen. I know where my body’s at.” My mom, in particular, really loves to know and be in the know. She wanted to support me and be able to give me that encouragement and hope. She was right by my side, “Are you sure you don’t want them to check?” I was like, “No. I know it is happening. I know he is coming.” It just was a matter of how long did I think I could hold on. Did I think I could hold out? 


    My husband and I this go around did a lot of couples’ therapy to process the birth trauma, to process through what he experienced and what he saw in the hospital. I just feel emotional naming that. This time, he was just such a support. He was so present and active. I’m so glad I have it on video because I get to see it now and see his support of my body, his support of the space, filling the birth tub with more hot water, holding my hand, and even right at the end as I was pushing baby out, I was on my bed on all fours and he was just right there waiting for baby. 


    To me, it just was a lot of growth for both of us that he came to the other side too. It wasn’t just my journey. It was our journey. The fact that he could stand there, sit there, and be ready for the baby to come out and trust that process after everything he saw, the fact that he trusted me, that just feels like such a gift because I hear so many of my friends and I’m delicate because of the intersection of the mental health and my own journey. I’m delicate with how much I push or how much I say, but some of my own friends tell me their husbands are not supportive. Their husbands want x, y, and z. It’s really discouraging to think the woman doesn’t have a right to her own body or her own plan. 


    I just felt like he knew I could do it. That felt huge. So huge for me. 


    21:00 Kendra’s VBAC


    Kendra: Yeah, after 9 hours of labor and maybe an hour and a half of pushing if I’m remembering, I did not have, “I am woman, hear me roar” energy. I had a lot of instinctual, fear-based, “I can do it, but I’m scared out of my mind” energy. I think that’s okay. Sometimes that’s what it is. Sometimes it’s not the beautiful thing I wanted right away. Sometimes you just accept what it is, but man, the ending. 


    The ending was everything I needed to heal. It was everything that I had hoped for and prayed for. I pushed so hard. It was so painful, so painful, and in my head, I was just like, I had watched videos of women– this might be TMI in some cases, but I’m so used to it in the mental health world. I watched women who orgasmed during labor and women who enjoyed labor. I was just like, “I just want the ideal, pain-free labor,” and it was not. It was not pain-free, but it was perfect. It was so perfect. 


    The baby did have shoulder dystocia, so the midwife had to come in, intervene, and pull him out. That was scary for 30 seconds, but probably less scary for me because I was just focused on getting baby out and couldn’t see because I was on all fours. I couldn’t see him, but I knew my mom, my mother-in-law, my husband, and my other son were all behind me. They could see baby halfway out essentially, so I think it was probably more alarming for them than it was for me. 


    But yeah, it was pretty crazy at the end. It happened so quickly and then my favorite picture is this one where they hand him to me and you can see it in my face. I’m so overwhelmed with– I did it. I did it and I literally say out loud, “This feels so redemptive.” I knew it was what I needed and what my body needed to heal. 


    Meagan: Those pictures, just the rawness, the rawness, and the face, and the emotions, sometimes there are tears on the face, oh. It just gives me chills thinking about it. I have one of those photos too that my friend was able to snap of me. Oh, they’re just so beautiful. I was ugly crying and I was screaming, “I did it” too, but it tells the whole story right there. It tells everything right there in one image. 


    You mentioned that you were so happy that you had it on video and that was one of my biggest regrets is not having someone there specifically to video it. I wish I could see my VBAC from the other side. 


    Kendra: Yeah, sure. I’ve watched it a handful of times and I don’t get through it without crying. It is so special to me. 


    Meagan: I’m sure. I’m sure. Yeah. It’s just so special to have so hold onto that for sure. 


    24:07 Uniting with your birth partner


    Meagan: There were so many things you had brought up that you said. You grew together and this was your journey. I loved that you pointed that out because I think sometimes as VBAC moms, we’re really hyper-focused on VBAC and this, and sometimes, it can look or even sound like the “me” show. It’s me, me, me, me. It’s all about me and what I want. It’s very, very, very important, but I love that you can say that you grew together. You processed together and that’s so important because my husband too. I didn’t realize until he made the statement that I’m sure everybody has heard before about the zipper. He made a very not-so-nice statement and I was like, “Whoa. You have trauma.” 


    I didn’t even know that until he had said that statement and we had to work through that. He had to trust me also and I love that you said that. He trusted me. There are a lot of people out there who feel so strongly that they should be at home or at a birth center or that they don’t want an epidural or they do want an epidural. 


    There are always things that us moms, Women of Strength, have and then sometimes the husbands aren’t totally on board. We don’t ever want to just tell them that their feelings don’t matter, but I think it’s important to note that that’s when we should talk about the feelings and why those thoughts or why those things that are being said are so negative, right? Why not a home birth or why not a vaginal birth in general? I see it on the forums. People are like, “I want a VBAC so badly, but my husband is not supportive of it.”


    It’s like, wait, wait, what? Wait a second. My husband wasn’t super on board. That’s why he said the thing about the zipper. He was like, “I don’t understand.” I’m like, “I know and you probably won’t ever understand my desire to give birth vaginally, but this is why.” We talked about those things, so have those tough conversations along the way, or if something is pulling you in another direction, don’t fear saying that out loud because someone– it doesn’t even have to be a partner or a husband. It can be a mom or whoever. Someone is saying something and you don’t want them to be mad or you don’t want them to disagree with you so you go the other direction when your heart is pulling you in one direction for a reason. 


    Kendra: Yeah, absolutely. And you do get as a VBAC mom or a home birth mom, you get a lot of facial expressions from people. 


    Meagan: Yeah you do. 


    Kendra: Or comments from people. It can be tough to navigate and to have this appropriate boundary or bubble where you say, “No. This is my story. This is my journey. I’ve got to do what’s good for me and baby.” Yeah. It’s hard. It’s hard to navigate that. I definitely grieve and understand and lament with the moms who don’t have supportive partners. 


    We are actually pregnant with boy number three. 


    Meagan: Oh my gosh, yay!


    Kendra: I know. It’s crazy. It’s been back to back to back. I think in some ways, getting pregnant with number two pushed both of us to say, “We have to heal this fast.” I don’t love that mindset, but we have to address it. If you don’t have a number two or three if you don’t have a quick timeline between them, then it’s reasonable that some people just say, “Well, it’s done. The hospital did what it did or the story didn’t unfold the way I wanted it too. At least it’s over and now I can just focus on my healthy baby” and that kind of mindset that people have. Some people don’t ever come back to what they experienced or how bad it was. 


    That’s why I fold in the mental health piece because if it really wasn’t for Erin and her knowledge, her understanding of birth trauma, her own story– she had three kids before I ever even had one– I don’t think I would have known as intimately how important this work is. Now, the fact that the practice has this whole branch and this whole subset of serving moms and serving families and serving couples, we have packages for women and families and couples to work on while they’re pregnant so they can start to prepare, much like a doula provides childbirth education, a lot of people overlook the importance of as a couple, what does it look like to get on the same page? As a woman, what does it look like to really prepare your heart and your mind and your body for this?


    Tia: Yeah. 


    Kendra: God forbid, it doesn’t unfold the way you want, the fact that there are women out there who have certification and who have training in birth trauma and can help you heal– people like Erin who know intimately the research. They know what healing looks like. It’s so useful and it’s such an important and growing field for women. We get more and more calls where people are excited to do the birth work. They are excited to heal from their trauma and of course, there are the people who have horrific stories where it’s hard. It’s hard, traumatic work, but really important that they heal for themselves and for their children. 


    We see the spectrum, but it’s cool that it’s a field now and that there are books, there are resources, and there are e-courses from people who know what they are doing. 


    29:30 Processing births


    Meagan: Yeah, and to your point, you were forced to process this really fast which was really good, but sometimes if we don’t process, sometimes if we wait as well for the processing, we forget what we needed to process. Does this make sense? We forget those details and then sometimes, not always, but sometimes they creep into our next birth. 


    Kendra: Yeah. 


    Meagan: We may trigger. We may start having thoughts and be like, “Oh my gosh,” because we put it off. It’s easy to do. It’s so easy to put off. “I’ll think about that later. I now have to transition and learn how to feed a baby. I now have to transition and learn how to get out of a car after a C-section, what weight I can hold and what week I am,” and whatever. I want to drop the message out there. You don’t have to wait until you’re pregnant to start processing your past pregnancy and birth. It’s often done. We want to forget sometimes. Sometimes, it’s like, “I don’t want to think about that ever again.” Maybe it was so traumatic, but it can be so important because you never know when it can creep in. 


    Kendra: Yeah. Your body and your cues– it’s not just during the pregnancy and labor that we need to channel that intuitive sense. Even just the other day, I was getting a massage and I had to lay on my side because I’m pregnant. When I was side-lying, I remembered for the first time laboring in that position. It was coming back to my body while I was getting the massage and I was like, “Oh, dang. I forgot how badly that hurt.” I was feeling the feels again and I knew I needed to deal with it. I needed to feel it and heal it in my body in order to feel ready for a new baby. 


    So it’s important that we deal with what shows up, that intuitive semantic sense as it arises and not just save that for pregnancy. We know. It shows up everywhere. It shows up in our sex. It shows up in our connections. These thoughts and these feelings don’t go away just because the labor and delivery are over. Tia, you were speaking to something too, sorry. 


    Tia: I was just saying that’s one of the most challenging aspects of being a VBAC-certified doula. The first education document I send out to my family says, “I highly recommend you work with a person who specializes in perinatal mental health as a standard.” Even if you don’t think you need to process through a past birth, it cannot hurt. It can only help. 


    I have a lot of families who don’t have a lot of time they think they will have time later and they get into their birth experiences and I see these triggers pop up. For every single person I work with, that looks so different that I can never fully prepare as a doula on how to help each and every person, but it is. It can be a position that we decide to labor in or something someone says, or the look on their husband’s face or just so many different things, so yeah. I really resonated with you saying that certain things trigger you and the importance of really working through that trauma especially going into another birth because you may think that you don’t have trauma to work through and then once you are in labor with that next baby, that is a really inopportune time to find out that you suddenly do have triggers. 


    You’re dealing with that component and a lot of my VBAC clients also for whatever reason want to go unmedicated. That’s their goal to try to mitigate any extra potential slowing down labor or risk so they are dealing with that trying to be in a good mental space that is already difficult when you are having an unmedicated birth, but then that added trauma or triggers they didn’t expect to experience that they are. I think I agree that it’s just such an important part of preparing. 


    Meagan: Mhmm, absolutely. 


    33:31 Erin’s e-courses


    Meagan: Kendra, can you tell us a little bit more about the course and kind of when it would be suggested for someone to take if they– or if it would even be suggested to take like what Tia was saying, even if you don’t think you have birth trauma or you don’t think you have a poor experience by all means. Can you talk to us about that? When would you take it? Would you suggest it? All of that. 


    Kendra: Yeah, well first, I would highly recommend having Erin on the podcast. She’s the one who knows all of the ins and outs of this world. 


    Meagan: We need to make that happen. 


    Kendra: She would be happy to be a guest expert. Her first course, Rebirth, really is designed for women to rewrite their stories so she works through that and walks through that through the modules. They are all available online– or I shouldn’t say they are all available. You can get a preview of the e-course to see if it is a good fit. Erin also provides consultations so she would be happy to chat with someone about, is this a good course for me? 


    Ultimately, it is getting at those people who have lost control through their birth and delivery story, and control and loss of control often is a sign that birth trauma could be at play. So when we consider that, if a woman can pause and reflect on her story and see, “Were there times when I wanted X and that right, that choice or that desire was taken away from me?” That could be a good indicator that Erin’s course would be a good fit. 


    However, I am not the one who is an expert in birth trauma. There are nuances to the course that is a lot of good statistics and information so there are some psychoeducational components. There is an interactive video where you get to learn from Erin and then there are a ton of different exercises in journaling, writing prompts, sorting through the emotions, and I believe you write your birth story three times and process it three different ways to get to the other side. 


    Meagan: Yes. 


    Kendra: Then it’s your story. She has a couple of other different things folded in. You can get a mug that you can purchase. You can get a journal. She also has additional support that she can provide so you can purchase the course and some sessions if that feels like you’d rather have that rather than learn at your own pace if you really want that time in front of her. She’s licensed in Pennsylvania and Maryland so she can see people clinically through Telehealth in those states. 


    Meagan: Awesome. Yeah, I just pulled up the website and was reading a little bit more about her and why her and just yeah. I think we are going to have to do a spinoff and talk about those courses more based off of your episode and your journey and your connection because it really is so important. 


    36:16 Benefits of therapy


    Meagan: Then can you also talk to us about, okay. I don’t mean this to sound rude at all, but sometimes, our lovely partners and men specifically– I’m trying not to single them out, but I’m singling them out. They have a hard time with the thought of therapy or counseling especially couples’ therapy. It can just be a hard thing. I think that’s because of what the world has done. 


    But would could be signs that maybe our partners might benefit from some help or some talking or that maybe relationship-wise especially from a birth and like you said, what he went through, what you went through, what are some signs and how could we potentially start there to get some help?


    Kendra: Yeah. Yeah, it’s a good question. The science part is tricky because unsurprisingly my bias is that everyone should benefit from therapy. Everyone could use therapy so I really promote through what I write and speak on through my practice that therapy should be viewed more as a wellness service. It should be viewed as something that we are doing our whole life rather than waiting until something gets bad. It’s a little weird that we have pediatricians who check in on your child’s health wellness-wise and when they are sick all through their young adult years and childhood, but we never consider the benefit of mental health in that. 


    So I think you know your partner best and if you’re with a man and you feel like there are some things that are showing up, then I would trust that first off and I would invite the conversation in the way that you know is best for your partner. 


    Some partners, I think, appeal to the logic of it all. Some are more in the feeling realm. Sometimes, you can appeal to someone when there has been a conflict and that conflict is enough of a situation to say, “This matters.” Sometimes, it can just be more like a supportive conversation. You want this to go well. You want our family to be healthy. I know you care about us. I know you care about me. This is something, I think, that could help. Just like you would pitch, “Let’s have a doula,” you would pitch, “Let’s have a midwife”, you would pitch this, right? You’re pitching the same thing. 


    You know, recently, someone actually said to me, “We really don’t need to feel guilt or shame for having passion in how we pitch.” It’s not something we need to feel negatively about. If you feel passionate about something, it’s okay to pitch it to your partner. I would invite that. Signs could be a disgruntled connection with a child, maybe some energy there that doesn’t seem at ease. It could be anger, it could be shutting down of emotion, but to be honest, these are things we see culturally regardless of whether birth trauma is part of the equation or not. 


    Again, I think Erin would be better suited to answer what are the signs that a man has experienced secondary birth trauma or birth trauma from the experience, but from a couples’ perspective, I mean, I think couples benefit from check-ins all the time so I encourage people to do a yearly check-in with a provider. Sometimes I notice from men, that provides a little bit more of a safety net mentality in their head if they don’t love conflict, if they don’t love processing their emotions, then what’s the bottom line? What do they need to be doing in order to avoid more blowups and avoid more emotional breakdowns? It’s like, well check in on your partnerships. That’s the basic thing. Having a third party helps with that, it creates so much more ease in the conversation and flow in the process. 


    One angle could be presenting it that way of, “Let’s just do a check-in. Let’s let a provider look us over and say, ‘Your marriage looks great. Come back to me in a year mentality,’” or there could be an actual hiccup and that hiccup could be enough of a catalyst to say, “Hey, we experienced something pretty intense together. Would you be willing to consider going?” If we go and they say, “You guys actually seem pretty adaptable. You seem like you are conquering this thing well,” then fine. That’s best-case scenario.


    But if you’re not, wouldn’t we want to be as connected and healthy as a couple as possible? If your partner, your husband is like, “Nope, don’t care. Don’t want to be healthy,” then we have a different beast to conquer and to tackle. I think you spoke to it. Our culture unfortunately is just turning the corner now in its view of mental health. We have a lot of work to do in how we present it and I actually just had a friend tell me recently that her husband listened to a podcast that was all about how therapy is bad. I was like, “Oh man. It’s like one step forward, two steps back.”


    So you know, give and take, right? I’m not going to be able to convince everyone. While in grad school, we do learn techniques or strategies for how to help someone see the benefit of therapy, to be honest, people see what they want to see and if someone sits across from me and they don’t see the value of this space, then I feel that. I know that and all I can do is try to present as calmly as possible why I think a supportive environment would help in their healing, but the rest is a little bit of surrendering to the greater powers if you will, surrendering to God that hopefully that marriage will get the healing and support it needs at some point if not in therapy. 


    41:39 Short interval between pregnancies


    Meagan: Okay, and then also last but not least before we let this amazing episode go, I wanted to touch on something that I noticed you said earlier within talking about your second. That is the short interval. You said that you got pregnant super surprisingly four months after having your first son so that means you had that 14.5 month gap which is a really big thing. Did anyone ever say anything to you about that? How was that aspect of it? 


    ​​So I had mentioned that my provider was an LPM so I knew going into the second one, I wasn’t going to be able to work with her because in Maryland, she doesn’t have a right to do VBACs even though she feels comfortable and she works across state lines with some Amish communities and things like that and does VBACs, I knew that she wouldn’t. 


    She actually ended up getting me an LNM on my case so kind of like a backup midwife if you will who was technically the primary but there in case of an emergency and in that journey, they had actually, some of the midwives in my community caught wind of my story and I think the mental health intersection and my business and wanted me to come advocate. 


    I actually got to write up my story and go to Annapolis and support a bill that didn’t get passed which is still so crazy to me. It has been 10 years in the making. They’ve been trying to get LPMs the right to do VBACs and one of the factors in the legislative effort is that doctors suggest that that short interval is not safe for a woman to continue to have the natural birth. 


    So you know, it was just a headache after having that first pregnancy and having to go across state lines to find a supportive provider for the breech and then another pregnancy where they’re essentially saying, “You don’t get to pick your provider. You don’t get to pick the person you feel safest or most comfortable with. You have to go the route.” In Maryland, there’s actually not a lot of hospitals that will allow you to do vaginal even in the hospital and they’re pushing the C-section from the get-go because of the short interval piece.


    I’m glad we circled back to that because it’s just crazy to speak to legislators, to speak to Annapolis, to share my story, and to be sitting there— I was holding my baby. He was maybe 6 weeks old so I’m baby wearing him and speaking my story and I’m like, “This is actually insane. I’m a woman who actually doesn’t even get to pick my provider.”


    It’s so scary and alarming that in some states, this is the predicament that we are in, but hopefully as women continue to speak and continue to share how important it is that they have rights to their providers, rights to their environment of that, and all of that, we’ll see some movement eventually. 


    Meagan: Yes. I was going to say, speak up. That is what we need is speak up, speak up, speak up. Yes, they’ve got some evidence out there showing that less than 18 months or whatever, even some providers say 24 months is less ideal, but people are doing it. They are doing it safely. Mom and baby are okay so speak up so you can get your provider. Speak up so we can make that movement and see that change. Thank you so much and also, congrats for doing that. That’s a really emotional time— 6 weeks. Holy cow. Thank you for doing that and speaking up. 


    Kendra: That felt healing too. The VBAC felt healing, but it also felt healing to be like, “I need to have a voice in this equation because I want to choose my provider for my next baby and ironically, the bill didn’t get passed and I’m on to the next baby and still had to pick a different provider. I’m in the same predicament.” So yeah, keep speaking up. I agree. Thank you. 


    Meagan: Awesome. I love it. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge, your story, your beautiful story, and your redemptive birth, and I’m definitely going to reach out to Erin to do a spinoff. 


    Kendra: Sure, sure. 


    Meagan: Hopefully she’ll accept the invitation and we’ll have her on in another episode. 


    45:51 Tia’s top three tips


    Meagan: Then I wanted to turn the time over to Tia really quickly before we wrap up because we have talked a lot about, in this whole forum, we talk about how to support VBAC and how to love. She’s a doula and I wanted to know one of the top three ways that she— her advice, her love, what do you provide for your doulas and what do you suggest? 


    Tia: Yeah, absolutely. There are three key things that I think super benefit any mom, really any mom who is embarking on this journey of pregnancy and birth but particularly for my moms who are wanting a VBAC. I always say that the number one thing— I should say to hire a doula but that’s not in my top three because I feel like there are three things that people can really focus on outside of that. 


    The first one is getting a supportive provider. Hands down, if there is nothing else that you do during this process, the most important thing is getting a supportive provider. So we talk a lot about what are red flags. What are green flags? I make it abundantly clear that the best doula in the world cannot save you from a poor provider or an unsupportive provider. There is nothing we can do. 


    We can help you advocate and we can educate, but that’s all to try to hopefully lead you to identify if you are with an unsupportive provider and then how to support you in finding a provider that really jives with you, supports your birth vision that you feel safe with. Feeling safe is so incredibly important in this process especially if you maybe don’t trust your body all the way. 


    I have a lot of VBAC clients who are like, “I want to trust my body. Everyone says that our bodies are made to birth, but the first time, it didn’t happen. I have a hard time trusting my body because I feel like it let me down the first time.” So feeling safe with a provider, feeling heard by a provider, and having someone who is genuinely on your team who loves VBAC, who loves birth, that isn’t going to be a roadblock or an obstacle is so incredibly important. We always tell— I work with a partner. Her name is Lisa. 


    We tell our clients, “We can in the worst case scenario help you advocate and advocate semi on your behalf,” but we never speak for our clients. Do you really want to be fighting on your birth day? Do you want that to be part of your birth story that “I had to spend time fighting or pushing back trying to ask for the basic care or respect that I deserve”? 


    My number one tip is to hire a supportive provider. Being bold in firing a provider that is not for you. You can say, “This relationship is not working for me,” and find someone else. You can focus less on hurting feelings and focus more on what you need during this time, absolutely. 


    48:54 Hire a great support team 


    Tia: My second tip– and this is honestly great for this episode with Kendra is hiring a great support team and that includes doulas, but having that really good, strong adjacent support in addition to a supportive provider is really important so we talk about getting a mental health professional queued up and that’s for any of our moms, second-time moms, first-time moms, VBAC moms. I’m always like, “If you run into a problem, you don’t want to be a new patient. You don’t want to be 6 weeks postpartum feeling like you experienced birth trauma, the world is now crashing down and we are trying to find a provider in this fog when I know” because everyone in my house sees a mental health provider because I feel like it’s a super important wellness thing, but it takes a while to get in. 


    You don’t want to be fighting insurance and finding providers. Maybe the first one is not a good fit and doing all of that when you are carrying the weight of the world because you need help now. I’m like, the worst case scenario is you’ll feel like it was one unnecessary visit post-birth and that you got to process this amazing birth story, and who doesn’t like talking about an amazing birth story? 


    Kendra: So well said. 


    Tia: Yeah. If that’s not the case though, you’re queued up now with someone to be prepared to help you that you’ve built this semi-relationship with. I feel like it’s super important to have mental health, and a good IBCLC if your goal is to breastfeed because again, finding that three days home from the hospital and my baby’s not eating is a difficult time to find an IBCLC who works with your insurance, that has an opening that can come to you in your area. 


    Meagan: That can also affect us even more mentally. 


    Tia: Yes. Yeah, yeah. Be really proactive about having your village or your team queued up and ready to go. We also find this with massage therapists, chiropractors, and pelvic floor PT— I have a whole list. I’m like, “I know it seems like a lot. It seems like I’m asking you to spend so much of your time on this,” but I just want people to have the best pregnancy and a really supported, happy postpartum that they can. I feel like all of these providers, especially my VBAC moms play a key role with scar tissue and baby positioning and your pelvic floor, you are connected with it because it can get off even after a C-section. 


    I hear a lot, “I had a C-section. I didn’t have a vaginal birth. Why do I need pelvic floor therapy?” We’re going to have a whole conversation about this, but that really goes into that. Building an amazing support team and how important that is. 


    51:38 Prepare your mind


    Tia: Lastly, it’s preparing your mind. Everybody thinks that hiring a doula is so helpful for pain relief and encouragement and suggesting positions to you, but when I mean with people for planning their birth in their prenatals, we talk about, “I can suggest all of the positions in the world and you can do lunges every day and be physically strong, but if you do not prep to be mentally prepared to go through birth whether that’s a VBAC, unmedicated delivery, or any type of delivery,” people tend to panic when they feel that intense sensation. It isn’t a sensation that you can prepare for if you haven’t felt it before so if you have not prepared or planned a way to stay mindful and relaxed and grounded and confident and you start to panic, that really ramps up your discomfort and it’s so hard to get out of that cycle once you’re in it. 


    I’m like, yes. Do the lunges. Do the prenatal yoga. Have your body in a good place, but if you only could pick one, I would say to train your mind. Sit down and figure out what makes you feel good emotionally, what makes your body relax, what makes you feel safe and throw yourself into that because that is going to be so valuable to you in labor. 


    Yeah. That is essentially what I talk about with all of my families in a very condensed version of my top three tips. 


    Kendra: Those are great. 


    Meagan: Those are so great. So, so great. When you talk about building your birth team, a provider and a doula really aren’t just those two things. It reminded me when you were saying that when we plan our weddings, we hire caterers and photographers and florists and videographers and whatever. We hire all of the people. We hire the whole team, everything. But then sometimes, not even just sometimes, a lot of the time when we are having these babies, we don’t really put it as a priority like we would at a wedding. We don’t look at that when it is– I don’t want to say weddings aren’t important. They are amazing. This is what starts a lot of the journeys, but this is a really big day. 


    You having your baby is a really big day and you go through a lot mentally and physically. It’s all connected so you deserve to create that powerhouse team, to see a mental therapist and work on your mental health, to do a chiropractor, the pelvic floor therapist, massage, the nutritionist even. Get the good nutrients. Get the good things that you need and be set up and not have to look back and be like, “I wish I did” or “I wish I knew”. It’s so important. Yeah. You might not need every single part of it along the way but you might not know that you need that in the future. It’s there. It’s ready for you and you’re anchored in.


    Kendra: It’s like you don’t know what you don’t know. I added chiropractic care to my second pregnancy because I really wanted to support as much opening in my body as possible so I didn’t have another breech. But this go around, I’ve added the pelvic floor at the recommendation of my midwife and I had this, “Everybody pees a little after they’ve had a couple of babies. It’s fine, right?” but she was like, “No. You can heal that.” 


    So when I went and saw the pelvic floor therapist the first time, she was like, “When did this begin?” I was thinking. I was thinking. I was like, “I was at a Taylor Swift concert and I tried jumping up and down and it all came out.” I was gone. I was gone. I was there last week and doing the exercises and I felt this surge of emotion on the way home. I’m like, “Kendra, you know this. You know that when you work in the pelvic region, when you work in the hip region, there are emotional memories stored in that part of your body.” Pelvic floor therapy isn’t just about enhancing your pelvic floor. It’s that whole list of encompassing care, so I’m so glad you spoke to that Tia. 


    Tia: Yeah. Yeah. I feel like it really clicks for people when I say it’s a mantra. Treat your birth like it’s your wedding. You’re entitled to be a diva, bridezilla, or whatever. In the equation of your birth, you will remember two days in your life or maybe three. Graduating from college, your wedding day, and the day you give birth. They will live in your brain. 


    Because it’s been so medicalized, I feel like we just give birth over. We’re like, “It’s just this thing that happens to us” but you don’t realize the emotion and the memory and the feeling you will carry with you just like your wedding day forever. Be the person who treats it like your wedding. When I say that, they’re like, “Oh my gosh. Of course. Why am I not doing this?”


    Meagan: Yes. Exactly though. Do it. Women of Strength, you deserve it. Put yourself in that line of being first. It’s okay. It’s okay. I love that you’re like the birth-zilla. What do we need to be? I don’t know what we need to be, but you deserve it, and oh my gosh. Great tips. Amazing story. Possible spin-off here. All of the good things happening today here on The VBAC Link Podcast. 


    Closing


    Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Tell us about your experience at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Meagan’s bio, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.



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    57m - Apr 29, 2024
  • Episode 294 Hannah's Induced VBAC due to Preeclampsia + More on the Pelvic Floor with Co-host Rebecca

    Meagan has a new co-host today! Rebecca, a pelvic floor physical therapist and a VBAC Link doula located in Georgia joins Meagan while our friend Hannah from North Carolina shares her birth stories. 


    This episode stresses again the true importance of not just a supportive provider, but of a supportive practice including hospital policies, the team of rotating providers, and the nurses. Hannah shows how her borderline preeclamptic symptoms were treated very differently between her first and second births. Her first practice had many red flags she didn’t notice until her second practice showed green flag after green flag throughout her entire journey. 


    Rebecca also shares her expertise surrounding pelvic floor PT– who needs it and how it can impact birth outcomes. She also debunks myths about small pelvises and talks in depth about scar tissue. 


    Both women share such valuable tips that we know you will love!


    Real Food for Pregnancy by Lily Nichols

    Needed Website

    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details 


    03:11 Review of the Week

    05:13 Hannah’s stories

    08:17 Higher blood pressure readings and induction

    10:26 Induction due to high blood pressure readings

    11:52 Interventions and not being able to move during labor

    16:50 Hannah’s C-section

    19:36 Rebecca’s thoughts about pelvic bone structure

    22:42 Second pregnancy

    29:01 A medically necessary induction

    33:27 Ending the first full day of induction

    38:03 Pushing for 20 minutes

    39:59 Hannah’s advice to listeners - provider support and nutrition

    44:17 Small pelvises and scar tissue

    50:13 Other scar tissue that can affect positioning



    Meagan: Hey, hey Women of Strength. It is Meagan and guess what? We have a cohost today, a new cohost who has never been with us and we are so excited that she is joining us. We have Rebecca Goldberg on our podcast today. Hello, Rebecca. 


    Rebecca: Hello. 


    Meagan: Thank you for taking the time and being with us. 


    Rebecca: Yeah. I really love the resources and the community and I’m just thrilled to be here. 


    Meagan: Well, we are excited and for anyone wondering who Rebecca is, she is an amazing human being. She actually does a lot in pelvic PT and is one of our VBAC-certified doulas. She’s in Georgia. 


    Rebecca: Yep. I’m in Atlanta, the Decatur area. 


    Meagan: Decatur area. Is that where you serve mainly? 


    Rebecca: Yeah. I have people who come to me from all over. Some people are traveling up to an hour or an hour and a half, but I actually can go to people’s homes who are directly in my area. So, people who are post-C-section, I can come to you as early as the day you are discharged. I can work with you deal with pain, make sure you know what needs to happen, and help you do all of the things. That’s where my passion really lies. 


    Meagan: I love that. I love that and for VBAC, how early for pelvic floor and stuff? How early can you start working with them? 


    Rebecca: As soon as they have gotten home. If they are planning on getting pregnant again, we can start building that into what our plans are so that we are starting that process earlier rather than later and you’re more likely to have results that when you are ready to get pregnant, you can just get pregnant. 


    Meagan: Love it. Awesome. Well, thank you, thank you for being here. 


    03:11 Review of the Week


    Meagan: You guys, as usual, we have a Review of the Week. You don’t have to listen to me stumble upon the review. Rebecca will read it. I’m sure she will do a lot better than I normally do. 


    Rebecca: Well, this review is from Apple Podcasts and it’s from semicrunchyyogi. I love that name. The review says, “My personal VBAC journey was actually directly influenced by Meagan Heaton, one of the hosts on this podcast. She was my doula with my second baby, my 10-pound VBAC baby.” Whoa. 


    Meagan: Woo, yeah. 


    Rebecca: “When she started this podcast, I knew it would be something special. I will always be passionate about VBAC and making sure women are given options, respect, and support through their birth journeys. This podcast does just that. This podcast is so needed and addresses important myths about VBAC and birth. Thank you so much, Julie and Meagan, for using your passion to support other women. You two are amazing examples of Women of Strength.” And then there’s a heart. 


    Meagan: Aww, I love that. Thank you semicrunchyyogi


    Rebecca: Yogi, yeah. 


    Meagan: That is awesome. Thank you so much. 


    05:13 Hannah’s stories


    Meagan: Okay, you guys. We have our friend, Hannah, from North Carolina so if you are from North Carolina, listen up. I feel like it’s so important for us to start talking about where all of these Women of Strength are coming from because there are so many of us out there in the world who want to know where these people are because finding a supportive provider we know can be challenging. We have our friend, Hannah, from North Carolina sharing her amazing VBAC story. 


    For anyone wondering a little bit more in relation to her story, she had preeclampsia I think actually with her both. Is that correct? 


    Hannah: Yeah. With my first, they qualified it as gestational hypertension and then my second was preeclampsia. 


    Meagan: So your VBAC was actually preeclamptic. 


    Hannah: Yes.  


    Meagan: Awesome. Okay. That is something that we see a lot in our community. People are wondering if VBAC is possible with preeclampsia. We don’t actually have a lot of stories on the podcast. In fact, you may be one of the first actually sharing in almost 300 episodes which is kind of sad. 


    Hannah: Wow. 


    Meagan: So we are really excited to talk about this, and you did have that CPD diagnosis like so many of us. Yeah. I’m going to welcome you on to share your stories. 


    Hannah: Yeah, well thank you so much for having me. I’ve been listening for a while and I’m so excited to be here. I do live in the Triangle region of North Carolina. I’m just south of Raleigh in a town called Fuquay-Varina. A lot of people probably won’t recognize that name, but if you are in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area, I do have a great recommendation for a supportive provider there. 


    Meagan: Is that more of a rural area? 


    Hannah: It used to be pretty rural and just in the last 10-15 years, it’s exploded. We’re getting a Target and that’s a big deal for us. 


    Meagan: Yay! Every place is better with a Target. 


    Hannah: Yes. Yes. Agreed. 


    Meagan: Awesome. Okay, yeah. Let’s hear about your 6-year-old, the one that you just started listening to the podcast after. 


    Hannah: Yeah. Yeah, just to jump in, I had my first son in July of 2017 and I was a first-time mom. I went to a midwife practice, but they were midwives who delivered at the hospital that was closest to where I lived. I had been seeing them for a few years just for my general well-woman check-up. I liked them. I felt like I had a good rapport with them, so I stuck with that. 


    My pregnancy was good. I was working full-time. I was a traveling salesperson at the time. That got to be a little tricky towards the end. 


    In my third trimester, I started swelling. They were like, “Oh, we just need to keep an eye on this. It could be normal. If it gets coupled with high blood pressure, then it might be concerning.” 


    08:17 Higher blood pressure readings and induction


    Hannah: Around 35 weeks, I did have high blood pressure readings. Just on the side, I have a history of white coat syndrome even as a teenager. My blood pressure would shoot up in the office so that’s always been an issue for me and I was concerned about that for pregnancy because I knew high blood pressure, pregnancy, high risk, and I was hoping for an intervention-free birth in the hospital. 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Hannah: I did all of the things, I thought. I had a doula. I had read Ina May Gaskin. 


    Meagan: Guide to Childbirth. 


    Hannah: Yes. I did HypnoBabies. 


    Meagan: You were very prepared. 


    Hannah: Yes. I felt very prepared but I think I didn’t have the understanding. I just heard midwife and I just thought, “Oh, natural birth.” I didn’t research the hospital too much so I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. 


    At 35 weeks, they diagnosed me with gestational hypertension. They were pretty aggressive in their management of it. They told me, “You are done working. You are not going back to work. You are on bedrest.” Basically, they said, “You can shower, use the bathroom, and make yourself food, but other than that, you should be lying down and we will definitely induce you by your due date at the latest.”


    Meagan: Do you remember what your readings were reflecting at that time? 


    Hannah: Yes. I think in the office, it would be maybe 140/85 or 90 but then at home, I had my own cuff and they were reading normal like 118/70 and stuff like that. 


    Meagan: Interesting. So definitely some white coat syndrome maybe and then they were pushing the induction when overall, your pressures were probably pretty regular. 


    Hannah: Yes. That was just, I don’t know. It was hard to know what was the right thing to do in that situation because I was a first-time mom. I don’t want to put my baby at risk. Eventually, they agreed to induce me. 


    I went in the night before my due date. I had been going in for extra monitoring. I had NSTs and biophysical profiles, so everything was good. They just, because I had that gestational hypertension label, they wanted me to deliver by my due date. 


    I did go into the hospital the night before my due date. I think I was maybe a centimeter dilated, 50% effaced. I did the whole Foley bulb overnight. They thought, “Oh, that’s going to stay in for 12 hours.” They put it in and then within an hour and a half, it comes out and I’m 4 centimeters dilated. 


    Meagan: That’s awesome.


    Hannah: Yeah. It got off to a good note. They were like, “Oh, this is going to go great. You’re going to do great tomorrow.” I’m like, “Oh, okay.” I tried to get sleep. Everyone knows in the hospital even with an ambian, you don’t sleep. 


    My doula came the next morning. I believe they started Pitocin around 7:00 AM. I really was hoping not to get the epidural. I just had this fear of that cascade of interventions. I did know about that and I just felt like, “Okay. I’m going to try to do everything I can to keep that from happening,” because a C-section was something I was very fearful of. I’m an only child. My mom delivered me via C-section. It was a hard delivery and I just had always had a fear of that being my story. 


    11:52 Interventions and not being able to move during labor


    Hannah: Things were going fine on the Pitocin. I was working through the contractions. They were just very odd. They didn’t want me out of the bed. Thankfully, I did have my doula there. She was like, “Just stand next to the bed. Sit on the birth ball,” but they were just treating me like someone with severe preeclampsia would be treated and that just was not my case. 


    Even they didn’t really want me getting up to go to the bathroom a lot. They were telling me I couldn’t walk the halls. I couldn’t use the shower. It was very odd. 


    So around noon, the midwife says, “Hey, I want to break your water.” I said, “I’m really not comfortable with that. I think I’m making a whole lot of progress. I’ve only been on Pitocin for a few hours. I’d really not have my water broken.” She says, “Well, you’re here to be induced for a reason. We need to speed this up, so I would really like to break your water.” 


     Meagan: Oh dear. 


    Hannah: Yeah. That’s really where things started going downhill for me. I didn’t really understand at the time, a doula can’t say, “Hey, she said she doesn’t want that done. She doesn’t want that.” But I also didn’t really get the support I needed I guess in that moment when I was vulnerable. I didn’t really have anyone to say, “Hey, do you want to talk for a minute and come back to this?” So I did agree. I mean, I guess verbally I agreed. I didn’t feel like I was agreeing, but she broke my water and after that, I just remember things intensified so much. I remember by around 3:00 PM being in excruciating pain and that’s when I asked for the epidural. It took two hours for them to bring it. I finally got the epidural and I just immediately fell asleep because we had been there for probably 20 hours at this point.


    Meagan: Were you feeling any specific discomfort in the back? Were there any signs that maybe baby would have been in a poor position after the floodgates opened? 


    Hannah: It’s interesting. That actually will come up once the C-section is performed. We were told at my– I think I had a biophysical profile at 39 weeks and the tech was like, “Oh, your baby is posterior,” but I didn’t really understand what that meant. But when he was delivered, they did say he was in the anterior position, so I just remember contractions being unbearable and I think it was because of the level of Pitocin I was on. They just ramped it up. 


    I even remember at one point, the midwife saying to me– so once I had the epidural, I’m laying down resting, I had asked for a peanut ball, but no one really helped me with it. My doula tried to but I don’t know. The nurse I got that day was not very helpful. 


    Then my poor husband is usually my rock. He is so strong, but he just was like a deer in the headlights because it was his first time going through this and it was just rough. 


    Hannah: So finally, that night at 8:00 PM, the midwife comes and checks. She’s like, “Yeah, you’re still only 4 centimeters dilated. I think the baby is developing a caput.” How do you say it? 


     Meagan: A caput. 


    Which is interesting. At 4 centimeters, do you remember how low your baby was? Because at 4 centimeters, baby getting caput, baby must have been coming low.


    Hannah: And that’s the thing, he wasn’t. He was still at a -2 station. 


    Meagan: Huh. So not even engaged. 


    Hannah: Yeah. So I don’t know. She was like, “You know, I really think you need a C-section. I think your pelvis is too small.” I was like, “Okay. Wow. That was not something I’d ever been told in all of these years of going to this practice.” She was like, “So that would be my recommendation. I could give you one more hour.” I said, “Okay.” I’m crying at this point. I’m like, “In your professional opinion, do you think an hour would make a difference?” She said, “No.” 


    Again, I did ultimately agree to that C-section. I signed off on it, but I was very upset. This isn’t what I want. I was honestly so out of it at this point. It’s hard to remember some of it. Yeah. As soon as I agreed, they came in there. They give you the form. They are wheeling you down the hall. 


    There was never really an issue of my baby being in distress. It just was kind of like, “Oh, you’ve been here for a while. You’re not progressing. Let’s just go ahead and do a C-section,” and then her commenting that my pelvis was too small. 


    16:50 Hannah’s C-section


    Hannah: I go to the operating room. Everything goes pretty standard, but my husband does go to stand up when they are delivering the baby. He was like, “Great. I wanted to see it.” As the doctor goes to pull the baby out, she says, “Oh. I’ve never seen this before.” She’s been in practice for 25 years. It turned out my son had the umbilical cord wrapped around both hands and both feet and then that was together. 


    Meagan: Oh. 


    Hannah: She said, “Oh, your baby is tied.” 


    Meagan: Wow. 


    Hannah: Yeah, so it’s like, “Okay. It does make sense why he wasn’t descending.”


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Hannah: He’s good. I’m good. I did have a hard recovery. They tried to show him to me. I start vomiting on the operating table and then it just gets blurry from there. It was just really hard. I don’t remember holding him for the first time in the recovery room. All of it is very blurry until the next morning. Yeah, but overall, recovery went well. I had a very hard time breastfeeding him. He was a very, very tense baby– tongue tie, lip tie, and all of that, so that was stressful. 


    Meagan: Man, you had a lot. That was a lot. 


    Hannah: Yeah. It was hard. 


    Meagan: Yeah. It’s kind of interesting because knowing that, “Oh, yeah your baby was really wound up in here,” that would make more sense than just diagnosing you with CPD. 


    Hannah: Yes. That’s what I thought. I was like, “Okay.” The midwife was saying that during labor. Maybe she just thought that because I wasn’t progressing, baby wasn’t descending. So then at my six-week checkup, I asked to see the doctor who delivered my son in the surgery. I saw her and I was just debriefing with her. I said, “Do you think that was the reason he couldn’t come out?” She was like, “Yeah, probably.” But then she didn’t even really examine me. I had to ask. I was like, “Are you going to check my C-section scar? Are you going to do an internal? What am I here for?” She was like, “Yeah, fine. I can do that.” She goes, “Oh, no. You have a flat pubic bone. You shouldn’t even try to have a VBAC,” then basically walks out of the room as I’m crying. 


    Meagan: Oh my gosh. I have a question for Rebecca in here and pelvic floor and stuff. Do you see flat pubic bones and is that truly something that causes an issue?


    19:36 Rebecca’s thoughts about pelvic bone structure


    Rebecca: I can’t imagine so. I mean, if you think about the way that the baby comes down, the pubic bones are not super involved. You have the pubic symphysis which is the little cartilage between the pubic bones. That gets soft just like all of our other joints due to relaxin and that makes everything moveable. There are people who even have that separate. The shape of the pubic bones– it just seems a little bit odd to me. 


    Meagan: Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. I mean, I’m thinking that I can put my fingers exactly where I felt when mine did start to separate and I have a wonky pelvis too. My pelvis goes all funky. It’s just so interesting to me to always hear that providers jump right to, “Your bones are not good enough.”


    Hannah: Yeah. Yeah. That was so hard to hear because it was like, “Oh, something is wrong with me. It’s my fault.” Then a midwife who I was closer with there, when I saw her when my baby was about 6 months old for just my annual exam, I asked her about that comment. She said, “Oh, I think what she was saying is you have a narrow pelvic arch.” Okay. 


    Meagan: Okay, all right. 


    22:42 Second pregnancy


    Meagan: Did you go into this next pregnancy feeling doubtful of your pelvis?


    Hannah: Oh absolutely. Yes. Yeah. I definitely was very nervous. I mean, I remember searching through groups on Facebook or the Babysitter App “Flat pubic bone, narrow pelvic arch” to see if anyone else had been diagnosed with that and gone on to successfully have a VBAC. 


    Meagan: Right, yeah. So baby #2. 


    Hannah: Yep. I ended up actually getting pregnant when my first son was about 3 years old. I literally had just been dreaming about having a VBAC since my first son was born. I feel so thankful that I found your podcast, the Facebook community of The VBAC Link and I also found my local ICAN group who just was so helpful in finding my new provider. I switched to that new provider before I even got pregnant just because I knew I was not going back to that first practice ever for anything. 


    Meagan: Yeah. That’s actually something I suggest highly. A lot of the time, we don’t think about finding that provider until we are pregnant, but finding a provider when we’re not pregnant is kind of weird. There is this vulnerability that we don’t have. We have this– it sounds silly– tougher skin when we’re not pregnant. 


    Hannah: No, I totally get that. 


    Meagan: You’re in a different headspace. You’re like, “No, I already know I’m not going back to this person. I’m going to find this new person and go now.” 


    Hannah: Yeah. So thankfully, I did find them. The hospital was a 45-minute drive so it was a big difference from my first where the hospital was only 20 minutes away, but that was so worth it to me. I was pregnant during COVID. I got pregnant in September 2020, so things were weird anyway. Appointments were more spaced out. Some of them were virtual. I feel bad saying this because I know so many people had a hard time with not having their husbands or partners come with them to appointments, but it actually was kind of nice that I didn’t have to go in as much just because of my anxiety with the doctor’s office. 


    But I really did like the midwives that I was seeing at this new practice and the issue about my blood pressure did get brought up. I had a couple of high readings early on in the pregnancy. I think I went to my first appointment around 13 weeks in person and definitely had a high reading. It sounded like they actually believed me this time though. When I told them about the white coat syndrome and my past, they took my word and were like, “We get it. We see it all the time. Have a blood pressure monitor at home and if you could at your next appointment, bring it in. We’ll test your blood pressure on that and on the machine just to make sure it’s accurate.” 


    Just with that, I felt so validated. 


    Rebecca: I was just going to say that’s really wonderful that your providers did that and they just accepted you at your word. That’s really beautiful. 


    Hannah: Yeah. I felt like that was such a difference. People talk about red flags all the time, but I felt like that was a green flag like, “Okay. This is someone who is actually listening to me as a patient.” 


    Things went great. I actually got to a point where my readings in the office were normal. I think just from feeling more relaxed and more supported. I brought up the whole small pelvis thing. I had several midwives say, “I don’t believe that. We hear that all the time. We’re not going to worry about that.” So everything went great up until about 37 weeks when I got COVID. Thank God I did not have a hard time with it at all. It was a sinus infection, but I missed my 37-week appointment then when I went in for my 38-week appointment, my blood pressure was elevated so that was concerning for them given my history. 


    Meagan: That’s interesting. I’m curious if it was correlated at all, or if it was just your history because sometimes we know if we’ve got preeclampsia in the past, we may be more likely to have it in the future, but I’m curious if that’s related at all. 


    Hannah: I know. I know. I’ve wondered that and it’s so hard because I don’t think I’ll ever definitively know, but it seems like, “Oh, you were fine at 36 weeks. You get COVID at 37 weeks and then high blood pressure the next week.” But I was also going through some other stressful things. I had a family member pass away. I had a situation with my dog where he almost passed away and that’s like my first baby. Oh, and then I broke my foot at 36 weeks pregnant. 


    Meagan: Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. 


    Hannah: Yeah. I know. 


    Meagan: Holy cow. 


    Hannah: It sounds insane. It sounds insane, but anyway. 


    Meagan: That’s a lot to endure right before your birth. 


    Hannah: Yeah, so I’m like, it probably wasn’t the COVID, it probably was the stress. Sorry, I’m laughing but that’s just my way of dealing with stress. So I go to that appointment and they go, “Ooh, your blood pressure is high.” They did do an NST on the baby and unfortunately, I feel like this happens to me and other people a lot. This midwife that particular day I had not met yet and she was definitely one of the more strict ones. She was like, “You know, I really think you need to go to the hospital to be monitored.” I was like, “Well, let’s do the NST. Let’s see how that goes.” 


    They had taken my bloodwork. I was like, “Can we just wait and see what the bloodwork comes back as?” She kind of gave me a hard time about that. She was like, “You don’t want to leave here not knowing if your baby is okay.” I’m like, “I feel like my baby is fine.” 


    I remember calling my doula on the way home just hysterical about her saying that and thankfully, my doula was amazing and just like, “Don’t worry about it. They are checking your blood. Everything will be fine.” I did go home. I rested. Thankfully, my older son was with my mother-in-law, but then that evening, I got a call and they were like, “Hannah, you are showing some signs in your labs on the actual bloodwork of borderline preeclampsia,” is what they were saying. 


    29:01 A medically necessary induction


    Hannah: This was a different midwife than I was seeing earlier in the day. She said, “I do think you need to come to the hospital and have a baby tonight.” That was really scary for me in that moment. 


    Meagan: Yeah, it’s hard because you are like, “This is not what I wanted.” It’s hard to mentally go back to the same beginning in a way. 


    Hannah: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I just remember calling my husband. He was still at work and I was just hysterical. I was like, “This is going to end in a C-section again. This is exactly what I was worried about.” He thankfully was so calming and was like, “You can’t think like that. Let’s just go and see what happens.” 


    He comes home. We pack our stuff up and we drive the 45 minutes to the hospital. We get there and I’m just very distressed by having the sweetest midwife who just sat on the bed with me and was holding my hand and was like, “Look, it’s going to be okay. Everything is going to be fine. We’re going to do everything in our power to get you this VBAC. Do not let this make you feel like that’s not happening now.” 


    So that was so comforting and being 38 weeks, I was not dilated at all. I think I was maybe 50% effaced and the baby was at -2 station so we definitely had to do the whole Foley bulb again which for anyone who has had that done–


    Meagan: So you have a Foley placed with a closed cervix. 


    Hannah: Yeah. 


    Meagan: You’re a champ. That is definitely something that is not super comfortable for the listeners to know, but it is possible even though a lot of providers say it’s not. 


    Hannah: Yeah, and I hear that a lot. I guess I just got very fortunate with the midwife who was on call. They definitely did give me some medication to help me relax. 


    Meagan: Fentanyl or something? 


    Hannah: Actually Adavan.


    Meagan: Oh Adavan?


    Hannah: I have very bad anxiety anyway and they gave me that to help me relax which it did. They got that inserted and it was so weird because the time I was expecting the same thing with my first, “Oh, it comes out in an hour and a half.” It didn’t. It was there for the whole 12 hours. 


    The next morning, they started Pitocin. Eventually, I think they just took the Foley bulb out and I think at that point I was maybe 3 centimeters dilated. I was on Pitocin for 5 or 6 hours but it was just so crazy to me because even with it being COVID times, I was allowed to walk around the halls. I had wireless monitoring. They even let me get in the bathtub in the room. It was just so different from the experience that I had at the hospital with my first. I just really loved their process. 


    They, of course, were kind of concerned with the preeclampsia diagnosis, but since my labs were staying stable, my blood pressures weren’t rising, I think they were probably in the 140s/high 80s-low 90s range, they really did let me take it slow since there wasn’t a major concern for me or the baby’s health in regards to the blood pressure. 


    I remember they even turned my Pitocin off for a little bit this afternoon and one of the midwives was like, “Hey, this is something that may not work, but would you be willing to take some Tums? There is research showing that it could possibly reset your oxytocin receptors in your uterus.” I remember her being like, “It sounds kind of woo, but it’s worth a try.”


    Meagan: I have never heard of this. I am fascinated. Tums resetting our oxytocin. 


    Hannah: Yeah. It’s crazy. The research is there if you just Google “Tums, Pitocin”


    Meagan: Oxytocin receptors. Okay, you keep sharing. I’m going to dive into this for a bit because I’ve been a doula for 10 years and I’ve never heard of this and I love it. This is cool. All right, keep going. 


    Hannah: Yeah. I took the Tums. We turned the Pitocin off for a little bit. They were like, “Try to rest. Eat a snack.” That was the other thing. They were so encouraging of me eating and drinking whereas my first birth, they were like, “You can’t have anything but ice chips.” We did turn the Pitocin back on for about 6 hours that evening. 


    33:27 Ending the first full day of induction


    Hannah: I think at the end of that day– so this was the first full day of induction, I was still around 4 centimeters. I had a new nurse come on and a new midwife comes on. They were just so awesome. I definitely had an emotional breakdown at that point. My awesome doula had been with me and my husband all day. She went home for the evening to get some rest. 


    They were like, “What do you want to do? You are looking good. Baby is looking good.” My water was still intact at that point. I was like, “I just want to sleep tonight. I know if I do not sleep tonight, I’m not going to have the energy to finish this birth.” 


    It was amazing because the charge nurse did not want me to stop the Pitocin and my midwife and my nurse basically went to bat for me. They were like, “No. She’s fine. We’re going to give her Benadryl. We’re going to let her sleep. We’re turning the Pitocin off. And that’s what we did. 


    I slept. I actually got to rest that night. They came back at 5:00 AM and rehung the Pit. I did agree to my water being broken at 8:00 AM because at this point, we had been in the hospital for almost 36 hours and baby needed to come out. That just in and of itself, I felt like that was my choice. No one ever pressured me. It was all my choice. I did agree to my water being broken. That was around probably 9:00 AM and I just continued laboring. 


    It was great. I remember I had my bathroom. There are no windows in there and I had my fairy lights and my music playing and my doula had essential oils diffusing and that was my cave. I felt like I could go in there and just shut out being at the hospital and really focus on labor, sitting on the toilet, and eventually, I did get to a point around 1:00 where I started to have a hard time coping. I was like, “You know, I don’t know if I want to do this anymore.” I gave it another hour and I was like, “Okay. I need the epidural.” I did get the epidural around 2:00 that day. 


    It was just amazing because even getting the epidural, the nurses were like, “Hey, let’s put you in throne position. Let’s pull out the stirrups and get one leg up. In 30 minutes, let’s switch to the other leg. Let’s get the peanut ball.” I felt like they were doing all of these things to help me that I had never experienced in my first birth. I felt like they wanted me to have the birth that I was desiring so badly almost as much as I did. 


    Meagan: I love them already. I don’t even know that. 


    Hannah: I know. I know. Can I say who it is? The hospital I was at was actually the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and it was the UNC midwives who was my practice that I delivered with but even the nurses at that hospital are just amazing. They were all literal angels. I love them. 


    Meagan: We will make sure that they are on our provider list. 


    Hannah: Yes. Yes. They are wonderful. So that went on. I think around maybe 6:00 I was checked and I was hanging around 5 centimeters. I got really discouraged at that point. I was like, “You know, maybe I just can’t do it. Maybe my body is just not going to dilate.” But they weren’t worried. They just kept helping me move and then I do remember shift change happened. A new nurse comes on and a new midwife. This was probably the 5th shift change by the time we had been in there and the midwife came in and checked me. She was like, “Oh, you’re 6 centimeters.” 


    I remember so many stories of women being like, “The first 5 are the hardest.” 


    Meagan: Mhmm. 


    Hannah: I was like, “Okay. Maybe that’s true.” Then literally, at 9:40, the midwife came back, checked me, and she was like, “How far dilated do you hope you are?” I’m thinking, “Well, gosh. I hope at least a 7 or 8.” She had a tear and she was like, “You are 10 centimeters.” 


     Meagan: Oh yay! 


    Hannah: Yes. I started bawling and it was so crazy because my first son was born at 9:42 PM and that was right about when I was 10 centimeters. For some reason, I knew if I could make it to 10 centimeters, I knew I could push my baby out. The pushing him out was not the part that I was scared of. It was like, “Oh, is my body going to be able to get to that point?” 


    But yeah. I remember my husband and doula being so excited because they brought in the cart and they brought in a mirror and I started pushing. It’s just so crazy thinking back to that seeing that happening. 


    38:03 Pushing for 20 minutes


    Hannah: I pushed for 20 minutes and both of my boys were a surprise. We didn’t know what gender they would be. 20 minutes later, my second beautiful baby boy was born healthy, screaming, put directly on my chest and it was one of the best moments of my entire life. 


    Meagan: Oh my gosh. I love this story. I love all of the support and all of the love and all of the amp that was just completely surrounded around you and then you had the confidence in your body at that end where you were like, “Okay. I’ve got this.” 20 minutes? 


    Hannah: Yeah. I was like, “Oh, here’s my small pelvis with my flat pubic bone.” 


    Meagan: Yeah. I love that so much. Do you know what? I just was looking at our provider list and guess what? It says that UNC midwives are on our list and it says specifically that they are also VBA2C supportive. 


    Hannah: Yeah. I think that’s the only hospital in our area that generally will support after two Cesareans. 


    Meagan: So awesome. I’m glad that they are on the list. I wanted to make sure because they sound phenomenal. I would love to connect with one of them and just have them on the podcast honestly and say, “Talk to me about your unit and your guys’ way of thinking. This is the way so many people want to birth when they are birthing in the hospital, but we don’t have these options and we don’t have these systems and we don’t have these policies or these beliefs or whatever” because they sound amazing.


    Hannah: They are. I know they are on Instagram just @uncmidwives so they are easy to find. 


    Meagan: Okay. I might be messaging them. 


    Hannah: If anyone is a Tar Heels fan out there, that was a big portion there too. My husband was like, “Our baby was born at Chapel Hill.” That’s a big thing for North Carolina people. 


    Meagan: That is so awesome. Oh my gosh. 


    39:59 Hannah’s advice to listeners - provider support and nutrition


    Meagan: Any advice that you would give to someone who especially is preeclamptic with induction and all of these things? Do you have any advice that you would give to our listeners?


    Hannah: Yeah. I mean, number one, and I feel like you guys really help express this, but a supportive provider. Evidence shows that induction for VBAC can be safe. Of course, do we want an unnecessary induction? No, not ever, but in a situation like mine where preeclampsia is a concern, that shouldn’t exclude you from being able to have a VBAC. 


    Meagan: Mhmm. 


    Hannah: I think asking a provider those questions maybe before you even get pregnant, “Would you induce for VBAC? Under what circumstances? What is your VBAC rate?” That’s what I would tell women who are looking for that. 


    Meagan: I love that and I agree. I would echo that asking those questions and not being scared to ask them because you deserve to know and you deserve to find the provider who is going to connect with you personally and your desires because we know through talking to Dr. Fox and all of these other providers, not every provider is the same and that’s okay. That doesn’t make them a bad provider. They just may not be supportive of your desires. 


    Hannah: Mhmm. 


    Meagan: With your first one, I feel like you had more of that med-wife mentality. 


    Hannah: Yes. I found that word after I had him and I was like, “Oh, that makes sense.” 


    Meagan: Yes. What else were you going to say?


    Hannah: Just going back to preeclampsia, the other thing I would say that I didn’t know a whole lot about with my second or first pregnancy was how much nutrition affects preeclampsia. I believe you’ve had someone on your podcast who has discussed that before just how there are so many things you are told like, “You shouldn’t be eating salt,” and actually, that’s not true. You shouldn’t be eating processed food, but women in pregnancy need salt so I did find there’s the Brewer diet. I think that can be– I’ve heard amazing stories about that from women who have had preeclampsia in the past. 


    There is a nutritionist I follow on Instagram. She is Aloha Nutrition and she is pregnant with twins right now. I think she is almost 40 weeks old. Her blood pressure has been awesome and she attributes it to beetroot. 


    Meagan: Uh-huh. Okay, yes. I’ve had a client who had preeclampsia with her first really, really early, and beets and liver, and these types of things really impact. I mean, that’s why I personally and I’m throwing in a shameless plug here, but that is why I personally love Needed so much because they have really dove in to find out what nutrients you need and help you get it because there are so many of these nutrients that are lacking in our day-to-day foods and it’s overwhelming to learn about them and find them and then find the good resource of where to get them. 


    It really can be impactful just like Aloha Nutrition is showing. It’s very common with twins to get that high blood pressure. 


    Hannah: Yeah, so I think nutrition is huge and I think that’s just one of the really big problems is that we are not being looked at as a whole person when we are pregnant. It’s just that we are being looked at, “Oh, you have preeclampsia. This is what the research shows,” but so much of that research is outdated and they are not focusing on those foundations like nutrition that are so important during pregnancy. 


    Meagan: Absolutely. Yeah. 


    It was Lily Nichols who I had on, but she has more about gestational diabetes. She also has her book for pregnancy in general and I would highly suggest checking that book out. 


    Rebecca: I recommend it to all pregnant moms. It’s on my bookshelf. I love it. 


    Meagan: Same. She really is so incredible. I could talk to her for hours and hours and hours on nutrition and pregnancy and how impactful it is. I mean, yeah. It’s just so hard. We have so much processed stuff going on in our worlds and it’s easy and it’s fast, but yeah. We are lacking a lot so I love that you put that note in. 


    44:17 Small pelvises and scar tissue


    Meagan: And then Rebecca, at the end of this, I wanted to talk a little bit about the pelvic floor and how C-sections can actually impact the pelvic floor health, and then ways to address it, what we can do, and how we can plan for VBAC moving forward. 


    Rebecca: Yeah. I just wanted to back up and touch on this idea of having a small pelvis, that your pelvis, the outlet can grow by 30% which is huge, as you are giving birth as long as your sacrum which is your tailbone and your lower pelvis is able to move which is why being off the bed is the place to be because then everything can move and your body can actually grow and expand. Your bones do. That’s one of the reasons we have relaxin.


    So many people are just like, “Yeah. I was told I have a small pelvis.” I’m like, “Were you on your back?” They are like, “Oh, yes I was.” Then I’m like, “Well, your pelvis was likely closed. It can open. We can make it open.” 


    Meagan: It was actually physically smaller. 


    Rebecca: Yes and the bones could not move to make more space for the baby. It’s just really interesting. A lot of people actually surprisingly believe that a C-section is a way to save your pelvic floor from any sort of injury or trauma when having children and that is not the case. I don’t know if either of you has heard that before. 


    Meagan: Yeah. Okay, so I had a really petite Asian client. She had a C-section. She really wanted a VBAC. I have so many feelings about this birth, but they literally told her that if she wanted to poop herself for the rest of her life, she could have a VBAC and if not, then they would highly suggest a C-section because that would be the only way to avoid her having severe incontinence with her bowels. 


    Rebecca: That is awful. 


    Meagan: It terrified her. 


    Rebecca: That is fearmongering at its worst. 


    Meagan: Yeah. As a doula, sitting there watching it– and I had already watched them preparing the C-section in the hall previously. I had seen the Cesarean coming and I warned them, “They are preparing this. Nothing is showing that we need to do this,” but that was one of the reasons and she was terrified. I just said, “That’s not necessarily true,” but it stuck with her. It impacted her so badly that she said, “Okay. Let’s do it.”


    Rebecca: I’m really sorry that she had that experience. 


    Meagan: Me too. 


    Rebecca: Yeah. People think again this idea that your pelvic floor is spared, but you can still have pelvic floor dysfunction even if you have a C-section. You can still have leaking. You can still have pain with sex. You can still have constipation issues because people forget you spent the last 10 months growing this baby and your pelvic floor was working to support it. It is affected regardless of how you birth which is why every person who births should be getting some sort of assessment by a pelvic PT. 


    I don’t know if you are aware of that, but then if you have scar tissue because you birthed via C-section, the scar tissue can actually impede all sorts of things. The three most common side effects are hip and back pain, pain with sex, and urgency and frequency with urination which doesn’t sound great and nobody really talks about it. 


    Meagan: They normalize it. 


    Rebecca: Yeah, agreed. It’s just, “You had a baby so that’s what you should expect.” We should expect better. We should always expect better. So by addressing that scar tissue, you can actually manage a lot of those things and hit them off long before they become a problem. 


    Meagan: Yeah, it’s interesting. I didn’t know about scar massage or pelvic PT a ton until after my second C-section but then I started doing all of the things and I have a lot of adhesions. She could feel them internally and then we would work on my scar. My back pain would reduce. I did notice a difference during sex and things like that. 


    She was like, “No, let’s work this out for your vaginal birth because you also have trauma in general” which can sometimes be held in the pelvic floor. We have physical trauma and adhesions being created then I had emotional trauma and a lot of that, I carried in my pelvic floor. 


    Rebecca: It’s very common for people to carry that in their pelvic floor because our society says that peeing and pooping and sex is all taboo so maybe you didn’t learn about it. Maybe yes, you are having sex but it’s a shameful thing for you because of your upbringing. There are a lot of reasons that can contribute to this pelvic floor dysfunction. 


    Constipation is actually one of the biggest indications that you may have a long stage one labor just because you may have a tight pelvic floor which means you may have difficulty relaxing it. Let’s be real. You don’t need a strong pelvic floor to birth a baby. You need a relaxed pelvic floor. You need to let the muscles get out of the way so that baby can come out because the pelvic floor is not pushing the baby out. Your uterus is. 


     Meagan: Uterus, yeah. Yeah. 


    50:13 Other scar tissue that can affect positioning


    Meagan: All fascinating. I highly suggest checking out a pelvic floor specialist no matter if you’ve had a vaginal birth but especially if you’ve had a C-section because like she said, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have things to work through and even if we’ve had a C-section too, I want to point out that we can also have scar tissue on the cervix from things like IUPCs being placed or if we have ever had a forceps birth or just in general. Things can happen where we’ve got cervical scarring that needs to be worked through so that for our VBAC, we can progress. 


    I love hearing that Hannah was able to go in and get a Foley with a closed cervix and have this beautiful VBAC, but sometimes, that is definitely hard to get a provider to even do those interventions, and then if we have scar tissue on top of that, that can also cause things to be a little harder. 


    Rebecca: One more point about scar tissue, even if you’ve had your appendix out or you have had a laparoscopic surgery, those sorts of things can actually affect the position of the baby. It can cause breech positioning or can cause you discomfort because the scar tissue is not allowing your body to expand as it needs to. So even those things are some really wonderful things that pelvic PT can help you with even if you didn’t have a C-section. 


    Meagan: Love it. Awesome. Well, if you are in the Georgia area, definitely check out Dr. Rebecca and if you are in the North Carolina area, definitely go check out UNC midwives. Is that right?


    Hannah: Right. That’s them. 


    Meagan: UNC midwives and keep listening here because these stories just like this and information like this are what we want to do. It’s what we want to provide for you. If you have a certain topic or something like that that you are looking forward to, please email us at info@thevbaclink.com because we want to try to make sure we get that on the show. Thank you guys so much for being with us today.


    Rebecca: Thank you. 


    Hannah: Thank you.


    Closing


    Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Tell us about your experience at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Meagan’s bio, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.





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    52m - Apr 24, 2024
  • Episode 293 Heidi's VBAC + Gestational Diabetes, GBS & Advanced Maternal Age

    It can be difficult to find VBAC support with gestational diabetes and most who are supportive of VBAC highly recommend a 39-week induction. Heidi’s first pregnancy/birth included gestational diabetes with daily insulin injections, a 39-week induction, Penicillin during labor for GBS, pushing for five hours, and a C-section for arrest of descent due to OP presentation. 


    Heidi wasn’t sure if she wanted to go through another birth after her first traumatic experience, but she found a very supportive practice that made her feel safe to go for it again. Though many practices would have risked her out of going for a VBAC due to her age and subsequent gestational diabetes diagnosis, her new practice was so reassuring, calm, and supportive of how Heidi wanted to birth. 


    Heidi knew she wanted to go into spontaneous labor and try for an unmedicated VBAC. With the safety and support of her team, she was able to do just that. At just over 40 weeks, Heidi went into labor spontaneously and labored beautifully. Instead of pushing for over five hours, Heidi only pushed for 30 minutes! It was exactly the dreamy birth she hoped it would be. 


    Thrombocytopenia

    Real Food for Gestational Diabetes by Lily Nichols

    Informed Pregnancy Plus 

    Needed Website

    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details 


    05:50 Review of the Week

    08:04 Heidi’s first pregnancy with gestational diabetes

    12:05 Taking insulin

    18:08 39-week induction 

    20:59 Pushing 

    24:29 Arrest of descent and opting for a C-section

    27:06 Researching providers before second pregnancy

    38:04 Discussions around induction

    41:45 NSTs twice a week

    47:10 Testing for preeclampsia

    54:53 Spontaneous labor

    57:43 Going to the hospital

    1:02:03 Laboring in the tub

    1:06:22 Pushing for 30 minutes



    Meagan: Hello, Women of Strength. It is Meagan and we have a friend from New Hampshire. Her name is Heidi. Hello, how are you? 


    Heidi: I’m doing great. How are you?


    Meagan: I am so great. I’m excited to record this story today because there are so many times in The VBAC Link Community on Facebook where we see people commenting about gestational diabetes and for a really long time on the podcast, we didn’t have any stories about gestational diabetes. Just recently, this year really, we’ve had some gestational diabetes stories. I just love it because I think a lot of the time in the system, there is doubt placed with the ability to give birth with gestational diabetes or there is the whole will induce or won’t induce type thing, and with gestational diabetes, you have to have a baby by 39 weeks if they won’t induce you and it just goes. 


    So I love hearing these stories and Heidi’s story today– she actually had gestational diabetes with both so with her C-section and with her VBAC. It was controlled. It was amazing. That’s another thing that I love hearing is that it is possible to control. We love Lily Nichols and the book about gestational diabetes and pregnancy. We will make sure to have it in the link, but it is so good to know that it doesn’t have to be a big, overwhelming thing. It can be controlled and it doesn’t have to be too crazy. Right? Did you find that along the way? 


    Heidi: Yes. Yes, definitely. The first one was pretty scary, but then the second one, you know what you are doing and you can control it and you can keep advocating for yourself. 


    Meagan: Absolutely. And then in addition to gestational diabetes, she had advanced maternal age barely with her second, but that is something that also gets thrown out. A lot of the time, we have providers saying, “We shouldn’t have a vaginal birth. We should have a C-section by this time,” so that’s another thing. If you are an advanced-maternal-age mama, listen up because here is another story for you as well. We don’t have a lot of those on the podcast. We are so excited to welcome Heidi to the show. 


    05:50 Review of the Week


    Meagan: Of course, we are going to do a Review of the Week and then we will dive right in. This was from stephaniet and it says, “Inspiring and Educational.” It says, “As a mother currently in her third trimester preparing for a VBAC, I was so happy to find this podcast. The stories shared are so encouraging and it is so comforting to know that I am not alone in feeling that once a Cesarean, always a Cesarean.” 100%. That is 100% true. You are not alone here. And once a Cesarean is not always a Cesarean. 


    It says, “This does not have to be my story. Thanks, Meagan and Julie, for providing the support and education to women who are fighting for a chance to have a natural childbirth. I would love to encourage anyone wanting to learn more about VBAC to listen to this podcast.” 


    Thank you, stephaniet. This was quite a few years ago, actually. This was in 2019. We still have some reviews in 2019 that weren’t read. It’s 2024, so that’s really awesome and as usual, if you have a moment, we would love your reviews. Your reviews truly are what help more Women of Strength find these stories. We want these stories to be heard so leave us a review if you can on Apple Podcasts and Google. You can email us a review or whatever, but definitely if you listen to the podcast on a platform, leave a review and that would help. 


    08:04 Heidi’s first pregnancy with gestational diabetes


    Meagan: All right, Ms. Heidi. Welcome to the show and thank you for being with us. 


    Heidi: Thanks for having me. This is awesome. 


    Meagan: Well, let’s talk about it. Share your story with us with your C-section. 


    Heidi: Yeah. We were planning for a child and we just decided. We were like, “Okay. Let’s shoot for an April birthdate.” We just thought that we could just have a child, but we got lucky and we did on the first try. 


    Meagan: Amazing. 


    Heidi: We went to our local hospital that was about five minutes away for care and it just seemed good enough. At the time, I thought you just go to the hospital. You get care. You can trust the provider and you don’t really need to do anything other than a hospital birth class for prepping. We just went along that journey. They assured me, “This will be a normal pregnancy. Everything is great.” The pregnancy was uneventful until about 20 weeks when I found out my baby was missing a kidney during a routine ultrasound. That sent us down Google rabbit holes and all kinds of fun things. 


    Meagan: I’m sure, yeah. 


    Heidi: Yeah. So at that point, we were assigned a Maternal-fetal medicine OB. I was offered an amniocentesis if we wanted to check and see what else was wrong and things like that. That was a major curveball. 


    Meagan: Did you end up participating in the amnio? 


    Heidi: No, we didn’t. We had a couple of detailed ultrasounds after that. At first, they didn’t actually tell me what they were looking for. I had three ultrasounds in a row that were not the more detailed ones. 


    Meagan: Oh, okay. 


    Heidi: I was like, “Why am I having all of these ultrasounds? Nobody is saying anything.” I finally got a phone call telling me that my daughter was missing a kidney so that’s what they were looking for. I was like, “Okay. Good to know.” 


    Meagan: Yeah. You would have thought some communication before then would have happened though. 


    Heidi: Yeah. It was pretty scary. So what seemed pretty uneventful–


    Meagan: Got eventful. 


    Heidi: Yeah, it did. So right around 28-30 weeks when they do the gestational diabetes check, I went in for my check and found that I would need to start tracking my blood sugar and diabetes does tend to kind of run in my family even though everybody is very healthy. I was wondering if it would come up and also being older, sometimes they say there is a link but it still took me by surprise because I’m a very active person and I eat really healthy. 


    I felt like a failure basically. 


    Meagan: I’m so sorry 


    Heidi: Yeah. All of a sudden, I’m meeting with a nutritionist. They give me this whole package of a finger pricker. Yeah, exactly. All of a sudden, I’m submitting logs four times a day checking blood sugar, and the fasting numbers for me just weren’t coming down so it was about one week of that, and then all of a sudden, they were saying, “Okay. You probably need insulin.” 


    12:05 Taking insulin


    Heidi: It came on so fast, so strong. 


    Meagan: Wow. 


    Heidi: It was really scary so then I found myself going to the pharmacy. I am a very healthy person so it was just all really weird going to the pharmacy buying insulin and learning all about insulin and learning almost how little the medical field understands about gestational diabetes. That was something bouncing in my head bouncing off the wall trying to understand the plan there. 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Heidi: Yeah, so after that, then I got phone calls from the nurses. They said, “You know, now you are on insulin. Now, you are going to have twice weekly NSTs required at 35 weeks.” I’m thinking, “Well, I’m working full time. How am I going to do all of this?” There is just so much sick time and it was really, really difficult to hear all of that. 


    Meagan: Yeah. How do I have time for all of that? Plus just being pregnant. 


    Heidi: Yeah. Yeah. Insulin and just for anyone that doesn’t know, basically you inject yourself. I was injecting myself every night with an insulin pen and it was all just very weird because you’re also thinking, “Well, I’m pregnant. I’ve never been on this medication. What is it going to do to me? What is it doing to my baby?” Very nervewracking. It’s all normal to feel that way. 


    Meagan: Yeah. I think sometimes when we get these diagnoses, we want to either recluse because it’s so overwhelming, and sometimes then, our numbers can get a little wonky, or we dive in so much that it consumes us and we forget that we are still human and we don’t have to do that. 


    Heidi: Yeah. Now that you say that, I definitely did a little bit of both. 


    Meagan: Did you?


    Heidi: I did a little bit of denial and then I did a little bit of obsessive researching. 


    Meagan: Yeah, because you want to know. You want to be informed and that’s super good, but sometimes it can control us. 


    Heidi: Yes. Absolutely. You’re watching every single thing that goes into your body. I probably didn’t look at food normally until my second pregnancy to be honest with you. 


    Meagan: Really? 


    Heidi: Yeah. 


    Meagan: Yeah. Yeah. So it was working. Things were being managed. 


    Heidi: Yes. I was honestly very grateful for the insulin. Obviously, it took a little while to feel that way, but it was very well-managed. My numbers were right in range. My blood sugars were always normal throughout the day. I never had to do anything during the day. I just checked my blood sugars. 


    Then the other thing that came as an alarm, they told me about the NSTs which are non-stress tests. They also mentioned that I would need an induction in the 39th week because–


    Meagan: 39 to be suggested, I should say. 


    Heidi: Yeah. It wasn’t explained to me that with that provider, it was a choice. It wasn’t a suggestion. It was like, “You have to do this or you might have a stillbirth.” It was really scary. 


    Meagan: Oh. 


    Heidi: I didn’t know I had a choice. Being a first-time mom and not knowing about evidence-based birth, this podcast, or all of it. I had no idea. So I was told I could schedule it anytime after my 36th week and for every appointment that I had as I started getting closer, I felt a lot of pressure from the providers to schedule the induction. They cited the ARRIVE trial. 


    Meagan: Yes. Another thing I roll my eyes at. I don’t hate all things. I just don’t like when people call people old and when they tell people they have to do something because of a trial that really wasn’t that great. But, okay. 


    Heidi: Yep. Yeah. I mean, they didn’t explain the details of it either. They just said, “Oh, it’s the ARRIVE trial,” so I go and Google and try to make sense of it. They just say, “Stillbirth risk increases.” They say, “If you are induced at the 39th week, there is no increase and chance of a C-section,” so I thought, “Oh, okay. Sure.” 


    Meagan: Right. Right, yeah. 


    Heidi: I finally gave in near the end and I scheduled my induction for the 39th week and 6th day. 


    Meagan: Okay, so almost 41. 


    Heidi: Yep. So then I worked right up to the night before my induction. I was admitted to the hospital at 7:00 AM. I was planning for an unmedicated, uncomplicated delivery and an induction using a Cook balloon because my provider had checked me in the office the day before and they found that I was 1 centimeter dilated so they said they could probably get the balloon. 


    I’m thinking, “Oh, it’s going to be a mechanical induction. There’s going to be no IV. It’s going to be really as natural as possible.”


    18:08 39-week induction 


    Heidi: I get into triage and immediately, they start putting an IV in my right arm. I am right-handed. 


    Meagan: Why do they do that? If you are listening and you are getting an IV, don’t hesitate to say, “Hey, that’s my dominant hand. Can we put it in the other one?” Also, don’t hesitate to say, “Don’t put it in my wrist where I’m going to try and be bending and breastfeeding a baby in the end. Put it in the hand or put it up in the arm.” 


    Heidi: That’s really good advice. I didn’t know that the first time. 


    Meagan: I didn’t either. 


    Heidi: I knew enough to say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Put it in my left hand.” They ended up putting it in my forearm. 


    So here I am. I was hooked up to Penicillin. I was GBS positive. I feel like I had all of the things. 


    Meagan: Yes. We’ve got gestational diabetes, GBS, maternal age, and now we’ve got an induction. 


    Heidi: Yeah. Oh yeah. So yeah. They put in Penicillin, Pitocin, and saline, and then they showed me how to move around while wheeling an IV pole. 


    Meagan: Mmm, yeah. Fun.


    Heidi: Yeah. We felt a little gutted at that point. We are in the hospital and sorry, when I say we, it’s my husband and I. Yeah. The midwife had trouble getting the Cook balloon in. We just sat around on Pitocin that first day. The OB finally got it in around 10:00 PM that night. It was her first visit to see us actually. She probably could have gotten it in earlier had she come earlier. It sped up the labor overnight as soon as the Cook balloon went in. It was a bit painful. They stopped the Pitocin the next morning. 


    My water broke on its own. They were talking about coming in to break my water and I think my body probably heard them, so it broke on its own. Yeah. I was just laying in the bed and it happened. Then labor began to pick up, but the contractions were still not regular. Pitocin was increased and then the contractions got really intense, but still irregular until around 4:00 PM that day at which point, I just couldn’t take it. I asked for the epidural. 


    Meagan: That’s a lot. That’s a lot. 


    Heidi: Yeah. It was intense. 


    20:59 Pushing 


    Heidi: The shift changed and a new nurse had a student with her. So I consented to the student being there thinking, “Oh yeah. Come on. Come observe my awesome labor. This is going to be amazing. It’s going to be a vaginal delivery and everything,” so I’m like, “Yeah, sure. Let them learn.”


    I achieved 10 centimeters dilation and full effacement around 9:00 PM that night so it was really exciting. 


    Meagan: That’s actually pretty fast. 10:00 is when the Cook was planned the night before. 9:00 PM, so hey, that’s pretty good. 


    Heidi: Yeah. I was happy about that. I was so excited to push. I couldn’t feel a lot because I was on the epidural, but it really took the pain away and it helped a lot in the moment. 


    So let’s see, I was mostly on my back. I was tired. I was just really tired at this point. There was, the nurse that I had was pretty new. She had been there for I think 6 months and then she was also trying to juggle the student nurse. She didn’t have a lot of knowledge of positioning. I thought going into it that all nurses were trained in Spinning Babies and all nurses had the knowledge of baby positioning and things like that, but I was wrong. 


    Meagan: Yeah, unfortunately, they are not all. I don’t think a lot of them have it actually. Most of them don’t. 


    Heidi: Yeah. I pushed mostly on my back and when the OB came in around 11:00, she noticed my pushing was not effective at 11:00 PM. 


    Meagan: So two hours in. 


    Heidi: Yes. My position needed to be changed. She got me up on the squat bar and then she left again, but she showed me how to push and everything in the meantime. When she came back in, she explained to me that I would probably need a C-section soon. I don’t exactly remember that sequence of events because it is so intense. I felt really defeated. I was like, “I just started. What do you mean I will probably need a C-section?”


    Meagan: So you were still wanting to keep going?


    Heidi: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. She also explained that meconium started to show in the amniotic fluid. The OB explained to me that the baby was probably in distress because of that. That was all that was said. 


    Heidi: I spiked a fever. They gave me Tylenol and then the baby’s heart rate began to slow a little bit, just for a little bit. The OB inserted a monitor on the top of her head. At this point, I felt like I was pushing for my life. I was like, “Oh my gosh. I need to get this baby out. How do I do this?” But I still felt like, “I can do this. I can do this. I know I can do this.” 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Heidi: But there were definitely questions at this point. 


    24:29 Arrest of descent and opting for a C-section


    Heidi: Yeah, so then around 2:30 in the morning, I was told by the OB to get on all fours and try one last position and I could opt for a C-section at that point or I could push until the OB came back in. I was like, “You know what? I’m going to give it all I have. I’m going to work so hard and the baby is going to come out in the next 45 minutes. She’s got to.” 


    So I did. Honestly, I was so grateful that I had that last 45 minutes. I feel like if I didn’t, it would have been stolen from me. I feel I was defeated when she came back in because she was still not out and I was exhausted, but I was ready. The baby was not going to come out any other way at this point for whatever reason. That was going to be dissected months later, years later by me, but in the moment, yeah. She was at station 0. I was told she wasn’t far enough down to do an assisted delivery, so they wheeled me into the OR for the C-section. 


    I requested that the baby have skin-to-skin as well as delayed cord clamping. Unfortunately, none of this happened and I guess I should also note that once they put the monitor on her head, she did great. She still was not in distress. I was doing great too. The C-section was just really for arrest of descent. They just thought it was taking too long because I had been pushing for a little over 5 hours at that point. 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Heidi: Yeah. She was born via C-section at 3:20 in the morning. She weighed 7 pounds, 1 ounce and she was in the OP position. 


    Meagan: I was just going to say, was there a positional issue here? I always wonder when there’s patterns like yours where I’m like, “That sounds like a positional thing.” Okay, so OP. Occiput posterior for anyone who is listening or sunny-side up. Baby just needed rotation. 


    Heidi: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That was that. 


    Meagan: Yeah. So then did you end up when you got pregnant, did you end up staying with this provider? How did that journey begin? 


    27:06 Researching providers before second pregnancy


    Heidi: I went back– let’s see. I’m trying to think. I went back for routine care almost a year later. I had care in between, but I had wanted to see that provider just to have closure. I asked her. At the time, I wasn’t really sure that I wanted another child. My husband and I were just really thinking, “Is that what recovery is always like?” After the C-section, it was really hard. 


    I asked her, “If I were to have another child, what would be my odds of delivering vaginally? Could I have another child that way instead of the C-section?” She said, “You probably would end up with another C-section if you even tried so you probably have about a 40% chance.” It was not based on anything. 


    Meagan: Hmm. So she didn’t even do the calculator, just gave you a percentage. 


    Heidi: No. Just gave me a percentage. 


    Meagan: Oh dear, okay. 


    Heidi: So at the end of that appointment, again, I still had not really educated myself and knew that there were amazing resources out there, so I just said, “Okay. If I have another child, I’ll have to have another C-section.” I went home and told my husband. I said, “If we have another child, we’re going to have to have a C-section.” We were both like, “Okay, maybe we won’t have another child.” 


    Yeah, so then another year passed. We were beginning to get ready and slowly started to research other providers just for routine gynecological care. 


    We ended up finding a hospital that was just about 25 minutes away just thinking, “Well, what if?” I had heard this hospital was well-known for VBACs and I had also started seeing a pelvic floor therapist prior to going to this hospital for care who was working at this hospital. It was kind of on my radar. 


    Heidi: From there, I met the OB. I met the OB and then I was just really shocked at how supportive she was. In the past, you just go into the OB or gynecologist and they will put you in a gown and they do whatever they need to do, a pap smear or whatever. But this one, the nurse had said, “Don’t get undressed. They want to meet you. They want to talk to you first.”


    Meagan: I love that so much. I love that. That’s awesome. 


    Heidi: It was so different. It was in a hospital, but it didn’t feel like a medical office. The rooms were painted blues and greens. You could tell there was a lot of effort being made to make it feel like home. I began my journey. I had just met with her. This OB had talked to me about birth story processing. I had no idea what any of this was. I had no idea that I even had trauma from my last pregnancy at this point until I had just met with her and was talking with her. She said, “There is no pressure if you don’t want to have another child.” I was just there to meet with her and have a check-up. 


    I think I want to say a couple of months passed and actually, that night, I went home to see my husband. I was like, “You know if we do have another child, it’s going to be here.” Yeah, so a couple of months went by and we did decide to have another child. Again, the baby was conceived right away. No complications. This time, we started working with a doula. I began birth story medicine at the same time. I did that for a couple of months in addition to my therapist to process the birth trauma and just everything. 


    I was tested for gestational diabetes early during this pregnancy. I started insulin at 11 weeks and I was just kind of ready this time. It wasn’t as scary honestly the second time. It’s a lot of work. I would say that it was annoying, but it wasn’t scary. 


    Meagan: Well, and you’re like, “I’ve done this before. I did a really good job last time. I learned a lot,” because you did go pretty deep into it, so you’re like, “I can do this. I’ve got this.” Duh, this kind of sucks, but you know. You got it. No problem. 


    Heidi: Right. My first baby was born at a really great weight and there were no complications at all. 


    Meagan: Good. Did they already start talking about induction and things like that from the get-go? Did they talk about extra testing? Because at this point, you for sure have it. Earlier or later, did they talk about that stuff? 


    Heidi: With this provider, I went in and they told me I was old last time, the other provider. I’m really old. They looked at me and were like, “No, you’re not.” 


    Meagan: No, you’re not. 


    Heidi: Yeah. They’re like, “You’re 37. That’s not old.” 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Heidi: I’m like, “What?” 


    Meagan: The other clinic, would they have wanted to do NSTs because of age and gestational diabetes? 


    Heidi: I don’t know. 


    Meagan: Okay. But these guys were like, “No, we’re good. We don’t need to do any extra testing because of an early diagnosis of gestational diabetes and now you’re 37.”


    Heidi: Yeah. They said what they do consider older but it’s still not impossible was, I believe, over 40. 


    Meagan: So you didn’t even have that pressure from the get-go? 


    Heidi: No, no. 


    Meagan: What an amazing way to start. 


    Heidi: Yeah. It was amazing. They also weren’t concerned with the fact that I was on insulin. We did talk about NSTs because I asked because I knew it would come up and they had said, “You can have once a week as long as your sugars are in control, we are comfortable with that.” 


    I felt so relieved. Yeah. It was such a holistic, relaxed approach. They trusted me to manage my body and to know what I needed and that was so empowering, the whole journey whereas before, I felt like I had a really short leash and they were basically managing everything for me as if they knew what was right for me and my body. 


    Meagan: I was just looking. I’m just looking because I’m sure people are like where is this person? Where is this provider? Was it at the CMC? Is that where it was? 


    Heidi: Yes. Yeah, Catholic Medical Center in Manchester. 


    Meagan: Awesome. This is good. These are good vibes here with this provider. 


    Heidi: Totally, yeah. Oh my gosh, yeah. 


    38:04 Discussions around induction


    Heidi: So let’s see. Once I’m diagnosed with gestational diabetes, I have maternal-fetal medicine ultrasounds, but that also was true because my first daughter was born missing a kidney. Again, she’s totally healthy and totally great, but they wanted to make sure that nothing weird was going on, yeah. 


    That was at about 32 weeks. They were also checking the baby’s growth and baby’s size at that point. Baby was measuring very average. She had two kidneys. Little things that we take for granted, we were so grateful for. 


    Yeah. That went really well. The pregnancy was just progressing really well. In my third trimester, I was struggling with all of the extra appointments and the trauma that I was processing though from my last birth because I knew and my gut told me, “You need to work through this because if you don’t, you have to be really strong to have a VBAC. You have to really work through a lot of mental blocks and things that come your way.” 


    So I just started getting really stressed between work and the appointments will all the different therapies so I decided to take a couple of months away from work prior to the delivery in order to process everything and prepare myself. That was a really hard decision but it was probably one of the best decisions that I could make. 


    Meagan: Good for you. 


    Heidi: Yeah. At around 36 weeks, it was suggested to me by my provider that I could consider a 39-week induction, but it was delivered so differently. 


    Meagan: Good. 


    Heidi: Reasoning basically says that ACOG has a suggestion for insulin-controlled gestational diabetes. They basically told me the data. They told me why they are suggesting this, but ultimately it is my choice. It was a discussion that I just found to be so incredible and weird in a really good way. 


    Meagan: Which in my opinion is so sad that these things happen that are good conversations have to feel weird to us because that should just be normal, but it’s not a lot of the time, right? 


    Heidi: Yeah. I was working with my doula at the time and she was a really big proponent of expectant management and letting everything happen naturally and honestly, that’s all I ever wanted. I think that’s what most people want. 


    So I just explained, “I am not interested in induction. I want to do expectant management as long as everything progresses the way that it’s going and it goes well. That’s what I want to do.” They said, “Okay. We can do that.” 


    Meagan: I love that. That’s great. 


    Heidi: It was amazing. It was really empowering. 


    41:45 NSTs twice a week


    Heidi: So let’s see. They suggested that I have a 36-week ultrasound to check my baby’s size again. Actually, no sorry. They suggested it. I was actually able to negotiate my way out of it. I said, “You know, I just had one at 32 weeks. Is it really necessary to have another in 4 weeks?” I talked to the OB and she was like, “You know what? No. You don’t have to do that.” 


    Yeah. 


    Meagan: Things are just getting better and better. 


    Heidi: Oh, so good. Yeah. 


    So right around then, the NSTs began. I’ll just say also, I walk into– so NSTs were really awkward during my first pregnancy. I sat on the hospital bed so uncomfortable and sitting up with all of these things attached to me. At this provider, I go in. There is an NST room and it’s painted blue and it’s really common. There is a reclining chair and for me, it just really felt like they were normalizing the fact that NSTs do happen and it’s okay and it’s normal. Here’s a special space for it. 


    Meagan: Well, and almost like they are setting you up for success in those NSTs because in NSTs, when we are really uncomfortable and tense, overall, that’s not going to be good for us or our babies. That’s going to potentially give us readings that we don’t want but when we are comfortable and we are feeling welcomed and we are like, “Yeah, we’re not happy that we are here taking this test,” or sometimes we are, but when we are comfortable and we are feeling the beautiful colors and the nice, soft recliner, it’s a very different situation to set you up for very different results. 


    Heidi: Yes. Absolutely. Yeah, so then my journey just kept going. My NSTs were beautiful every week. It was really interesting how they set them up because they had the NSTs after the doctor’s appointments because they weren’t expecting. If they can get a good reading, I think the minimum is 20 minutes whereas I had the NSTs before so it was like they were looking for a problem then I had the doctor’s appointment so I ended up being there for 2 hours during my first pregnancy. But these ones, I never sat more than 20 minutes.


    The nurses usually saw what they needed within 5 minutes and they said, “Your baby is doing great. You’re out of here as soon as the time is up.” 


    Meagan: That is amazing. Oh my gosh, 2 hours. That is a long time. 


    Heidi: Yes. Yes. This pregnancy was really odd, but I’ll take it. I stopped needing insulin during the last two weeks. Usually, there is a peak near the end of pregnancy, and then the need for insulin goes down in the last two weeks I want to say. For me, it actually just kept going down, down, down, and then all of a sudden, it was gone. That didn’t happen last time. 


    They were a little nervous about that because it didn’t really happen. I explained to them, “I think it’s honestly probably lack of stress,” because I wasn’t working at my job at the time and I was moving a lot more too, so who knows? 


    Meagan: Really interesting. 


    Heidi: It did make them a little nervous because they said there is very limited data, but sometimes it can indicate an issue with the baby. 


    Meagan: Oh, the placenta. 


    Heidi: Sorry, I’m nervous so I’m forgetting. 


    Meagan: There are times when it can be the placenta being affected. Is that what they were saying?


    Heidi: Yes, thank you. They said, “We could offer an induction at this point,” because I was at 39 weeks when they brought that up. I said, “I don’t think so. I really want to stay the course. I want to do expectant management.” They said, “Okay, would you be open to twice-weekly NSTs?” I said, “Yes. If that lets me keep doing what I’m doing, we can do that and it’s probably not a bad idea, because you never know.”


    47:10 Testing for preeclampsia


    Heidi: I woke up one morning at week 40 and thought my water was trickling out. I texted my doula and she was getting home from another birth and was going to rest, so I worked with my backup doula for that day which was a little scary. I didn’t know what was going to happen from there. 


    Around 6:00 PM that night, my husband and I arranged for my mom to watch our daughter because we needed to get to the hospital to get the amniotic fluid checked. We probably should have gone a little earlier, but the backup doula had suggested it might not be amniotic fluid. It might just be discharge. 


    Meagan: Is there much going on labor-wise? 


    Heidi: Not really. It was pretty quiet. Then I actually had an NST the day before that and there really wasn’t much going on. I felt little Braxton Hicks-type things, but nothing much. We packed our bags, got ready, and got my mom. 


    We arrived in triage. I had slightly elevated blood pressure which was just a routine check, but that basically led to them testing me for preeclampsia and then a urine test. 


    Meagan: Hmm, a slight increase? Oh, man. 


    Heidi: Yeah. It was slightly increased. You know, like a lot of people, hospitals make me nervous. 


    Meagan: Yep. Yeah. They jumped right in and started going the moment you got there. 


    Heidi: Yes. Yeah. It’s different. It’s still in the hospital, but it’s separate. Labor and delivery is separate. They just had a very different mindset at the moment. 


    I was sure that I didn’t have preeclampsia. They asked me all of the questions and I’m like, “I really don’t think that’s what this is.” They were saying, “You’re also post-date with gestational diabetes.” 


    Meagan: Post-date by one? 


    Heidi: Yes. 


    Meagan: Or by 40 weeks. 


    Heidi: Yeah. Yeah, so I would need an induction if I get preeclampsia and all of this. Who let this girl go this long? What the heck kind of thing?


    Meagan: Not helping your blood pressure, that’s for sure. 


    Heidi: I definitely started feeling PTSD. I was just like, “This again? Oh no. I feel like I’m in prison.” That’s the way it felt last time. I knew I needed to get out of there fast. It wasn’t good. The OB came in and lectured me. This was a different OB. She lectured me about preeclampsia and how I should really stay in the hospital. They were going to send for bloodwork even if it came back okay, I should stay the night. 


    They drew the blood and I’m just beside myself at this point. I was like, “Well, when are they going to get the results back?” They said, “Probably about an hour or so.” You know how backed up the lab is. They were like, “Are you really going to drive home and come back?” I was like, “If I have to come back, which I really don’t think I will, then yes, I will.” 


    The blood was taken. The nurse ran back within– I want to say it was 10 minutes. It was really fast. She said, “You guys should really consider staying. Your platelets are low.” I said, “Okay.” 


    Meagan: The labs came back that fast? 


    Heidi: They came back really fast. 


    Meagan: Because you were saying that you were maybe going to go back home? That’s interesting. 


    Heidi: Yeah. I said, “Okay. That’s thrombocytopenia.” My provider had said I had that. We talked about it and I also had it during my last pregnancy. 


    Meagan: Wait, what did you just call that? 


    Heidi: Thrombocytopenia. 


    Meagan: Thrombocytopenia. I’ve heard low platelets. I’ve never heard it called that. 


    Heidi: Thrombocytopenia. I actually listened to a podcast oddly enough with Nr. Nathan Fox. 


    Meagan: We love him. 


    Heidi: Yeah, he’s awesome. He was basically saying that it’s common and it’s generally not a big deal. 


    Meagan: I just Googled it. Yeah, it says it’s a condition where the platelets are low. It can result in bleeding problems. Yeah. Okay, all right. Keep going. 


    Heidi: Yeah. It was interesting because he had said, “Within range,” and I was within that range, but I also talked to my provider about it months before and she said, “Oh yeah. This is common. We are not concerned with your levels.” Luckily, I was like, “Oh my gosh. I know enough.” I was like, “Nope. I know what that is. We are okay and we are going home. They can call us with the results.” So we went home. 


    Meagan: That is amazing. Did they make you sign an AMA or anything like that? Were they just like, “Fine. We were going to have you stay, but you are good to go.”


    Heidi: Yeah. There was no paperwork. 


    Meagan: Okay. Good. 


    Heidi: I was free. Yeah. I was actually amazed at how– I mean, I was very firm with them. I was just like, “We are going home now.”


    Meagan: That is hard. That is really, really hard to do, like really, really hard so good for you for following your gut. 


    Heidi: Yeah. It felt really good. Yeah. We got home. I started to feel some mild, irregular contractions and the same thing I had been feeling. We sent my mom home because she was still at my house. Like, “Go ahead. We’ve probably got another day.” I was like, “I know something is going to be happening soon. I feel it.” 


    So around 10:30 that night, I got the call from the OB– 


    Meagan: Yours? 


    Heidi: Sorry, the one in the hospital that was treating me. She had said, “All right. You don’t have preeclampsia. You don’t have to come back.” I said, “Okay. We did it.” 


    Meagan: Yep. Yep. Yep. Can you imagine having to be there that whole time? 


    Heidi: No. Yeah. I’m sure they would have found something else. Who knows? 


    Meagan: You never know. 


    54:53 Spontaneous labor


    Heidi: Yeah, so when we were home, we unpacked our bags, ate some food and sent my mom home. I bounced on my birth ball. I was pumped. I was so excited. 


    We were like, “Okay. Back on the normal track.” Then around midnight, some contractions started that I figured would stop once I laid down for bed. I didn’t really know. I never really had normal, non-Pitocin-induced contractions before, so I didn’t really know what they would feel like. I was in denial, to be honest. I was like, “There’s no way. I’m not going into labor right now. What are these? These are nothing. It’s just cause I’m nervous or something.” 


    I laid down. My husband was already asleep at this point and they didn’t stop. They just kept getting stronger. I was lying there thinking, “No. I can’t go into labor right now. I don’t want to see that OB. I can’t. I can’t. This is not happening.” I was just willing my body, wishing and willing my body to wait until 6:00 AM or 7:00 AM until the shift change. 


    So then I was like, “Okay. I should probably start timing these because this is no joke.” I found a timer and started timing them. They were spaced at 5 minutes apart lasting a minute each. I was like, “This is early labor. This is it.” I finally woke my husband up and I was like, “Hey. I think we’re going.” 


    Meagan: This is going to happen. 


    Heidi: Yeah. I called my doula. I had been texting her meanwhile the whole time and she was super supportive throughout, then I finally was like, “I need to call her.” She talked me through what I was experiencing because I had no idea. She was like, “You guys should probably leave soon because this is your second baby and it could happen really fast.” 


    I noticed there was pink discharge. 


    Meagan: And you had made it to 10 before. 


    Heidi: Yes, exactly. She was like, “This could happen really fast.” I noticed some discharge and it was pink. Contractions started to be really regular and really painful. She was like, “That’s probably your cervix dilating.”


    I was like, “Why am I dragging my feet? We need to go. We need to go now.” 


    57:43 Going to the hospital


    Heidi: We called my mom to have her come back to our house. I think it was 1:00 in the morning at this point. She didn’t answer immediately probably because she was exhausted. 


    Meagan: Probably asleep, yeah. 


    Heidi: When she did, it was finally 2:00 AM and there was a bit of an ice storm outside, just a little one but just enough to make the roads slippery because she had texted me when she was going back home and she was like, “It’s kind of icy. I just want to let you know.” 


    So then I was like, “Oh no. My mom’s on her way, but it’s going to take her a while to get back to the house.” Then it’s going to take us a while to get to the hospital. 


    It was really getting pretty scary, but we were just like, “Okay. Let’s just pack our bags again,” because we had started unpacking them. My provider had actually said that they were comfortable with me going until at least 41 weeks so I was like, “I could go until 41 weeks and then who knows?” 


    Meagan: Right. 


    Heidi: Anyway, so we put everything back. It was a really good distraction and then every single contraction, we would stop and brace ourselves. My mom got to our house at 3:15. We got to the hospital around 4:00 AM. It was the longest car ride of my life. My doula was like, “The contractions might slow down in the car.” I was secretly praying that they didn’t because so many people that I knew had prodromal labor and I was like, “I want this to come like a freight train. I don’t want it to stop.” It is so painful, then a lot of people say you get nervous when you get in the hospital. Things will slow down. I was just so nervous about all of that. 


    I got to the hospital. My doula arrived soon after. We spent almost two hours in triage even though we were already there filling out paperwork. The contractions didn’t stop or slow down during this. I was beside myself. I was like, “Oh my gosh. My body is ready. We are doing this.” The nurse in triage, at the time, was a different nurse. I think she worked a half shift or something, but she was really skeptical of VBAC. I was not comfortable with her. She said I couldn’t eat. She had obviously outdated info. 


    I asked her, “Why can’t I eat?” She said, “Well, the odds of you needing another C-section are higher.” I’m like, “Well, how do you know that?” It was just really frustrating. I requested a midwife to deliver my midwife because the same OBs were on staff. I was going to a midwife for my care, a midwife, and an OB team. I actually ended up seeing the midwife even more than the OB so I really was comfortable with requesting a midwife to deliver, but the nurse really pushed back. She said, “You’re a VBAC. I don’t think you can have a midwife.” Yeah. She went into the hall, made a phone call with the midwife and the midwife on staff actually said no supposedly because I was a VBAC. 


    Meagan: What? They had never said anything like this in your prenatals. 


    Heidi: No. No. I think again, it’s a little different. They also use other hospital staff at this hospital so you never know who you’re going to get, but my doula is there and that’s what matters. That’s why I had a doula because you don’t know. 


    Meagan: You don’t always know, yeah. 


    1:02:03 Laboring in the tub


    Heidi: They asked to do a cervical check. I was hesitant, but they said, “We have to do this to admit you.” I was like, “I’m not leaving at this point. I’m clearly in labor.” I consented to it and they found I was 4 centimeters dilated so I stayed. I got to my room around 6:30 and actually, I think I was about 80% effaced at this point. 


    I got to my room around 6:30 and I just began setting it up to distract myself. My doula started setting up the bath for me. I was like, “I want to go to the bath.” I got to the tub around 7:00 AM to deal with the contractions because I really wanted a natural birth this time. My water broke 5 minutes after that. 


    Shift changed at 7:00 AM. I feel like my body was like, “Okay, hey. Shift change at 7:00,” and then my water broke. 


    Meagan: You said we were in triage for two hours and I was like, “Your body was waiting for shift change intuitively.” There you go. 


    Heidi: I got in the tub. My water broke. A new nurse came in around 7:15. She had a trainee, but this was a nurse who had a lot of experience and she was just training to be in labor and delivery so it was basically like an extra set of experienced hands. She was also a nurse who had run a training for us a couple of months before and I was like, “I hope I get this nurse. I really, really hope I get this nurse.” In she walked, and I couldn’t believe it. 


    She came down to me at the tub. She started asking me questions right away about my birth plan. It’s like she studied it. It was the most amazing thing. I can’t exactly remember what she was asking, but just clarification and she was like, “Yes. We can do this. We can do this and we will do that.” I was like, “Wow.” The first time, I had a birth plan, but I’m pretty sure they burned it. 


    Meagan: Aww. 


    Heidi: Then she just started talking about how the birth process would go and how I would be feeling mentally more than likely and she also said that she is well-versed in Spinning Babies. 


    Meagan: What you wanted! 


    Heidi: Yeah. Yeah. I was like, “This is heaven.” I also took a short course in it to prep for this labor and I really was trying to do all of the things. I couldn’t do all of the things, but I think there is a lot of science to Spinning Babies, especially having an OP baby the first time. 


    Initially, I was experiencing back labor. She asked me, “Where do you feel your pain?” I said, “In my back.” She said, “Get on all fours. The baby could be OP.” I was just like, “Oh my gosh. I will do anything to not have another OP baby.” She said, “We’re going to spin her.” I stayed on all fours. I just did this. I started using the nitrous. This hospital provided nitrous. 


    Meagan: Nitrous oxide?


    Heidi: Yeah. The other hospital did not have that, but I was so excited for that. It helped me just breathe through my contractions, really get in tune with my body, and gave me a focus. I was able to move around really freely. 


    When I was in the tub, I started to feel the urge to push so we moved out into the bed. I still stayed on all fours. But I was also just, I don’t remember this, but my doula was saying that I really was kind of dancing. I was moving in the ways that my body told me to do. It felt so incredible and obviously painful. 


    1:06:22 Pushing for 30 minutes


    Heidi: Then it was about 9:15 and I was really, really wanting to push at this point. I was told to wait for a cervical check though and I was like, “Why do I need a cervical check? I’m ready.”


    Meagan: My body is saying I’m ready, yeah. 


    Heidi: Yeah. A midwife came in. She introduced herself and she was like, “I’m going to be delivering your baby.” I was like, “Okay.” I couldn’t believe it. It was a different midwife and she was like, “I want to check you because you could have a lip if you’re not fully effaced. Your pushing will be ineffective.” She found that I was 10 centimeters dilated, fully effaced so then we went on and pushed. 


    My daughter came out at 9:46 AM so we pushed for a half hour. 


    Meagan: Oh my gosh! So you got baby in a good position and isn’t there such a difference between pushing? 


    Heidi: Yes. Not having the epidural, I could feel everything. It was so real. She was 7 pounds, 3 ounces. She did have a compound presentation. She was head down, but yeah. She came out with her hand pressed against her head. 


    Meagan: Yes, come out thinking. 


    Heidi: Yeah. I had really no tearing, very, very minimal. I achieved the delayed cord clamping. My husband got to cut the cord. We didn’t have to remind them of our wishes. They just knew. We had a golden hour which I never had before, but I was told I could take as long as I wanted, and yeah. It was just the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced in my life and I just couldn’t believe I did it. 


    Meagan: Yeah, what a journey. I am so happy for you. 


    Heidi: Thank you. 


    Meagan: Congratulations. And now, at this time of recording, how old is your baby? 


    Heidi: She is 8 weeks.


    Meagan: 8 weeks. Brand new! How has the postpartum been? 


    Heidi: Oh my gosh. It’s been amazing. I mean, as amazing as it can be. Let’s be real, but compared to what it was. 


    Meagan: Good. I’m so happy for you. You know, when you finished your first, you were like, “My husband and I didn’t even know if we would ever want another kid.” I can just see this joy on your face right now. Where are you at in that stage now? Are you two and done or are you like, “I could do this again”? 


    Heidi: We are two and done. 


    Meagan: Hey. 


    Heidi: Yeah, I mean it’s funny because the nurse and my OB were like, “You really should have another one.” 


    Meagan: This is what I did. I went out with a bang. You went out with a bang. 


    Heidi: You can’t top this. 


    Meagan: You got the birth you wanted and all the things. You know, you advocated for yourself in the birth room. You left and then still advocated for yourself in the birth room. I mean, how amazing. How amazing. 


    Heidi: Yeah. I ended up with the most supportive team. You do never know what you’re going to get, but the team that came in at 7:00 AM, oh my goodness. They treated me like I was just a normal, vaginal birth. There was no VBAC. There was no jargon. It was beautiful. 


    Meagan: I love hearing that. That is truly how it is supposed to be and it’s so often not. Then yeah, then we learned more about the correct diagnosis or term of low platelets. I totally Googled it really quickly and it just said that gestational thrombocytopenia, how do you say it? 


    Heidi: Thrombocytopenia. 


    Meagan: Thrombocytopenia is a diagnosis of exclusion. The condition is asymptomatic. It usually occurs in the second half of pregnancy in the absence of a history of thrombocytopenia. 


    Heidi: You got it. 


    Meagan: It said, “The pregnancy and the platelet counts spontaneously return to normal within the first two months of postpartum.” We will make sure to have a little bit more reading. It will go back into some things, but one of the things it does say is that it is not necessarily an indication for a Cesarean delivery which is also important to know because I mean, there can be low platelet levels that are more intense like HELLP syndrome and things like that, but this is a really good things to know because that would have easily been something if it hadn’t been for Dr. Nathan Fox and if it hadn’t been for them talking to you about this. It could have scared you like, “Oh, okay. Okay. Let’s stay.” But you were fully educated in the situation and were able to make a good choice for you and advocate for yourself and say, “I feel good about this. You can call me when the preeclampsia levels come back, but I feel good about this decision. We’re moving on.” 


    Then the amazing, miraculous, no insulin need, that’s another really cool thing about your story, but I also wanted to share Lily Nichols. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of her. 


    Heidi: Yes. For my first pregnancy, I read both of her books. She’s amazing. 


    Meagan: She’s amazing. We’ll be sure to link her books and stuff in the show notes as well so you can make sure to check it out. If you were given a diagnosis of gestational diabetes or even actually just in general, her books are amazing. You can read and be really, really well educated. 


    Okay, well thank you so much for sharing your beautiful stories. 


    Heidi: Yeah. Thank you for having me. 


    Closing


    Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Tell us about your experience at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Meagan’s bio, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.





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    1h 12m - Apr 22, 2024
  • Episode 292 Jayne’s Business Birth Story + Becoming a Sleep Consultant

    Today we welcome Jayne Havens, the founder of the Snooze Fest sleep training course and The Center for Pediatric Sleep Management™ sleep consultant certification program. Just like how Meagan’s birth experiences led her to become a doula and VBAC advocate, Jayne talks about how the knowledge she gained by teaching healthy sleep habits to her own children helped her create a passionate career.


    Jayne answers Meagan’s questions about sleep consulting in general, how to help children feel safe in their bedrooms, ways to effectively communicate, developmental milestones in both babies and children that can affect sleep, how to become a sleep consultant, where to find them, and even earning potential from a career as a sleep consultant!


    Jayne's Course - Use code VBACLINK for a discount!

    Becoming a Sleep Consultant Facebook Group

    Becoming a Sleep Consultant Podcast

    Needed Website

    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details 


    02:24 Review of the Week

    05:35 Jayne’s journey to sleep consulting

    13:35 How can a sleep consultant help?

    19:43 What to do when a child feels unsafe in their room

    21:08 The life of a sleep consultant

    25:17 Sleep consultant qualifications

    30:36 Ages covered in Jayne’s course

    36:00 How to find a sleep consultant

    40:59 Cost to hire a sleep consultant and potential earnings as a sleep consultant

    46:57 Where to find “Becoming a Sleep Consultant” 


    Meagan: Hello, Women of Strength. It is Meagan and we have my friend, Jayne Havens on the podcast today. Hello, Jayne. 


    Jayne: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here. 


    Meagan: Thank you. Me too. We actually just met this year, 2024 in January and we met at a business doula retreat. Jayne is actually not a doula. She is a mom and a successful business owner. When we connected, I just felt so much that our stories related in different ways but very much in the same ways and I was like, “I want you on the podcast.” So today, we’re not sharing a VBAC birth story, but we’re sharing a business birth story and some tips on sleep and how to help your babies sleep because we know as mamas with newborn babies, we don’t get a lot of that sometimes and it doesn’t have to be that way. 


    I’m so excited to have Jayne Havens who is a certified sleep consultant and runs her own sleep consulting practice, Snooze Fest by Jayne Havens and you also have a podcast. 


    Jayne: I do. It’s called Becoming a Sleep Consultant. 


    Meagan: Becoming a Sleep Consultant. As a new parent overwhelmed by exhaustion like I just said we all have with a newborn, Jayne found herself reading everything she could find in order to get her own son to sleep through the night. Now, if you are driving, don’t raise your hand because keep your hands on the wheel, but you can nod if you understand that sentence right there. I definitely was that with my son and my daughter and my first. I’ve had three and we have to figure it out and every baby is different. 


    So friends, quickly after she mastered this, started asking her, “Help, please!” She started doing that and helping all of these moms and babies sleep better, feel better, and just live better. Jayne’s children were both fabulous sleepers and they began coming to her for that help because they saw it. 


    We are so excited to have Jayne today. 


    02:24 Review of the Week


    Meagan: I do think that a Review of the Week is needed so I”m going to hurry and share a Review of the Week and then we will dive right into this amazing episode. 


    Okay, so this review is from sarahgb and it says, “Full of knowledge, fun, and strength-filled stories.” It says, “First off, I would like to say that I am 16 years old and a doula in training and lover of anything pregnancy, birth, and baby related. This podcast is literally exactly what I have been looking for and wanting. I have been listening for a long time and cannot stop. I think I’ve listened to four or five episodes in one day.” 


    Wow, that’s definitely some binge-listening. 


    It says, “I love the variety of stories and listening to all of the Women of Strength share in their successes. I also love the few minutes at the end when Julie and Meagan give information, facts, and tips on certain pregnancy and birth topics related to the birth story. I have learned so much from listening to these birth stories and it helps me prepare for things I might come into contact with as a doula. I absolutely cannot wait to have my own kids and we will be listening to this podcast forever especially when I’m pregnant. I could say so much more, but Julie and Meagan, I am thankful for all of your hard work, sacrifice, and spirits as this has made all of this possible. 


    “God has truly blessed y’all. By the way, I am going to take your VBAC course and when I graduate high school, I cannot wait.” 


    I love that. That was a little while ago back when Julie and I were podcasting together, so hopefully, sarahgb, you are graduated and with us today. 


    05:35 Jayne’s journey to sleep consulting


    Meagan: All right, Ms. Jayne, how are you today? 


    Jayne: I’m good. Thank you for having me again. I actually am just getting over sickness from last week so if my voice sounds a little weird, that’s why, but I feel fine and I’m excited to be here. 


    Meagan: Good. Well, you sound great to me and I’m so excited that you are here. I wanted to start right off with your story. I mean, we are storytellers here on this podcast and I think that your story goes obviously so much into why we are here today. 


    Jayne: Sure. So I am a wife and a mother. I live in Baltimore, Maryland with my husband and two kids. They are 7 and 11 now and I got into this journey of becoming a sleep consultant back really when my son was born. Prior to having children, I worked in catering sales. I was an event planner. I planned weddings, corporate holiday parties, and graduate celebrations. I worked nights, weekends, and holidays. I loved it, but it was really hard work. I always knew that it wasn’t going to be a great fit for me when I had kids one day. I wanted to be more present for them. 


    I was raised by a stay-at-home mom so that’s all I ever knew. My life’s dream was to be a mom who is first in line in carpool with the best snacks. That’s the mom that I wanted to be with the station wagon. Remember station wagons? 


    Meagan: Yes. I sure do. Oh my gosh. 


    Jayne: I wanted to drive a station wagon and be first in the carpool line and have the best snacks and take my kids to tennis lessons and that be my life’s work. So I quit my job in catering when my son was born and I had four glorious years as a stay-at-home mom. My son was delightful and delicious and he was just perfect in every single way and then I had my daughter and she was a really tough baby. 


    I can say this with love now because she is 7 and she’s amazing, but it was really, really hard when she was born especially because my son was just such an easy baby and he was so smiley and happy. Everything just worked out as it should. My daughter had a milk, soy, and protein intolerance and was colicky. She just literally cried. She cried and that was it. 


    Meagan: That’s so hard. 


    Jayne: It was so hard. It gave me a run for my money because I thought I was this amazing mom and I would look around at all of these other moms who had babies that were crying and I’m like, “What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you get it together?” Then I had one of my own and I was like, “Oh, now I get it.” 


    It really put me in my place. I really didn’t enjoy motherhood the second time around if I’m being completely honest and transparent. So I was looking for an outlet. I needed something else to fulfill me because that stay-at-home mom life that I thrived on for four years was no longer serving me in the same way. 


    My husband is a lawyer. At the time, he was traveling a lot for work. Everybody had gotten really used to me being the primary caregiver and the one who maintained the children and the house. None of us could really see that changing. 


    Jayne: Going back to work in the traditional sense didn’t even seem like a possibility. I started thinking about, “What could I do from home? What could I do not even to make a ton of money but just to do something to keep me fulfilled and entertained and inspired?” I kept coming back to sleep consulting because I actually was really good at getting my own kids to sleep. 


    I had sleep-trained my son when he was four months old. He took to it beautifully. It was really– as a first-time mom, he cried for 27 minutes and so did I. It was hard at the time, but he really took to it beautifully and it was life-changing. I understood very early on the value of having routine and order and rituals and a set expectation around what sleep could and should look like in my home for both my husband and I and for our children. 


    The same thing with my daughter– as much as she cried during the day, she slept beautifully. The only time she wasn’t crying was when she was sleeping. 


    Meagan: When she was sleeping at night. 


    Jayne: Yeah. She was a beautiful sleeper, but when she was awake, she was crying. So I was really good at getting my own kids to sleep. For years, I was the friend who just helped other friends with their kids’ sleep. I didn’t have a formal process. I wasn’t formally trained. It was just like, I would get onto a call with them and give them advice and text message them some tips and I would help them. I would get them results. It was working. 


    I did that for years. I helped friends, friends of friends, and eventually, I just decided, you know what? I’m going to get certified. It turns out there are courses online where you can get trained to do this and turned my hobby into a business. My intention was really just to dabble. I wasn’t looking to build an empire. I just wanted to be able to help families and if I could bring in a little bit of money to contribute to our family’s income, great. 


    Very quickly, after launching my business, I realized that this wasn’t just going to be a little passion project, that this was going to be a very legitimate career. That was very exciting to me. It was thrilling. 


    Jayne: Really, the timing worked out because as the business grew, my children were growing too. By that time, my son was in school full-day. My daughter was in at least part-time preschool, so I really had time to build my business. Each year, they spent more time in school and I could spend more time on my business. Really, we all grew together which was amazing. 


    Not too long after that, I founded a center for pediatric sleep management which is an online sleep consultant certification course. The reason I decided to create my own is because I just felt like I could do it better and I did. I’m really committing to supporting my students at a really high level and not just teaching them how to sleep-train a baby or how to set boundaries with a three-year-old, but how to launch, grow, and scale a really successful business. I love taking women, and we actually have a tiny handful of men inside of our program too, but it’s largely women. I love taking these women through the entrepreneurial journey and helping them to realize that they are capable of doing things that are outside of their comfort zone and growing something that is entirely theirs that they can be really proud of. I think at this point, that actually even brings me more joy than sleep-training the babies if I’m being truthful. 


    Meagan: Right? Well, to be able to see so many grow and flourish for their families and for themselves, there is something. I mean, as someone who trains doulas and even has doulas in my own group here in Utah, it’s so awesome to see that confidence. I remember back in the day before I started my journey, I didn’t have that confidence. To think about someone like you or my mentor being there for me, it’s priceless. It’s the most amazing thing and it’s really rewarding on the other end on your side to see that happen. 


    Of course, in addition to helping people sleep and do better all around. 


    Jayne: Yeah. Win-win. 


    Meagan: Win-win. 


    13:35 How can a sleep consultant help?


    Meagan: Okay, so let’s talk a little bit more about what a sleep consultant does and looks like because personally, I was that mom who was sitting on the couch listening to my baby upstairs crying. This was my first and my husband was just holding and he was like, “You’ve got this. You’ve got this. Don’t move.” I’m like, “But!” I didn’t move and it worked out and it was great. I still even to this day feel like my kids are pretty good sleepers. It came with a lot of reading and stuff, but I had never even heard of a sleep consultant. 


    My second was also really hard– always crying all the time. She also had milk and dairy and all of these things. It was really tough. So yeah. Can we talk about what that even looks like in general both from a mom’s standpoint and as someone who may be considering becoming a sleep consultant and adding that to their life? 


    Jayne: Yeah, sure. I’ll tell you what it looks like for me to support families as a sleep consultant. I think one of the beautiful things about consulting whether it be sleep consulting or anything else is you actually get to create a business your way. The way I support families and the way my clients are supported by me might look entirely different than what others are doing. I don’t want to speak for anybody else, but what it looks like for me is families hire me because they are struggling in some capacity with their child’s sleep. 


    This could be a four-month-old that’s still being nursed to sleep. It could be a four-year-old who wants a mom or a dad to lie next to them while they fall asleep at bedtime and then they’re up in the middle of the night wanting to come into their parents’ bed. It looks entirely different every single time. It’s the same, but it’s different. 


    So what we do as sleep consultants or at least what I do is support parents through the process of teaching their child how to fall asleep and back to sleep independently. My personal approach, I like to describe as client-led which means I provide all of the age-appropriate options. I have no bias. I have no agenda. I have no dog in this fight other than I want to get my clients results and I feel really strongly that the best way to get my clients results is to support them through methods or techniques that most closely align with their parenting style and that feel safe and comfortable to them. 


    If I were to show up and tell the mom of a four-month-old who is nursing him baby to sleep that they need to implement extinction which is also known as “cry it out” and come back in the morning, she might be really overwhelmed and intimidated by that and not feel like that’s the right way to approach the situation. Therefore, she wouldn’t implement it. She wouldn’t have success and then as a business owner, I also wouldn’t have success. 


    So instead, if I show up and say, “You know what? If it makes you really anxious to just put your baby down and let her get herself to sleep, how about instead of nursing your baby to sleep, why don’t we just try rocking her to sleep and see how that goes? If that goes well, maybe you could have your spouse hold your baby to sleep tonight. Maybe we don’t even do so much rocking. We just hold her. If that goes well, then maybe you could put her down in the crib tonight and see how she does. If she starts fussing, give her some back rubs or belly jiggles and let’s see how that goes.” You can take baby steps. It doesn’t need to be 0 to 100. It can be, but it doesn’t need to be. 


    But really, I pride myself on meeting families where they are and coaching them through methods that feel safe and comfortable to them and that’s how you get results. So that’s what it looks like for me. My clients get a written sleep plan that outlines age-appropriate daytime schedules, feeding and nap schedules, and bedtime routines. For older children, we talk about communication strategies. 


    For a four-year-old who lacks the confidence to fall asleep independently, there should be a family meeting to discuss the changes that are going to be taking place and some role-playing and maybe getting onto a Facetime with their sleep coach– that’s me– and having a coaching session. I love talking to four-year-olds on Facetime. It’s so fun. Sometimes I send them videos. I give them a pep talk. I involve them in the process and get their buy-in and help them to understand that they are capable of this. 


    Yes, it feels hard, but so does pooping on the potty and they learned how to do that and so does riding a scooter and they learned how to do that. Zipping their coat used to feel hard, but now they can zip their coat no problem. Falling asleep independently is just another thing on that list. It’s something that feels hard right now, but it’s not something that is outside of their capabilities so when we show them that they are capable and we empower them to try and then we set what I like to call a loving limit or a respectful boundary and we hold the line, they are really capable of achieving these new skills. 


    I coach the parents through the process. I provide text message support. My role is to get them from point A to point B in a way that looks good for everybody. That’s what it looks like for me. 


    Meagan: I love that. I love that you involve the individual who you are trying to help sleep with their parents. I know with my daughter, she had this weird thing. It was always around 2:00-3:00 AM. She would wake up and she wanted to be in my room. For us, we didn’t really want her in our room. We wanted her in her room. It took a while, but we talked about it with her eventually and she said she didn’t feel safe in her room. She just woke up in the middle of the night not feeling safe, but I was like, “What’s making you wake up?” There was such a journey there. 


    So I love that you are involving the child, talking about change, and normalizing change because change can be really difficult especially for a four-year-old so I love that. I love that you talk about that. 


    19:43 What to do when a child feels unsafe in their room


    Jayne: Sure. Sure. A lot of things that parents do to make their children feel safe– the point that you brought up, a lot of parents, when children express that they don’t feel safe in their room, so then they bring them into the parents’ room, what they are actually doing, they are trying to make their child feel safe, but what they are actually doing is providing an accommodation that then exacerbated their anxiety because their room actually is safe. 


    Meagan: It is. 


    Jayne: There is nothing unsafe about the room, so when a child says, “My room feels scary or unsafe,” and you say, “Okay, come in my room. My room’s safe,” what you are implying is that their room isn’t safe. So really, the way over the hurdle is to hold the boundary because their room is not dangerous. It’s not unsafe. It’s not actually scary so by you showing them, “Actually, I wouldn’t leave you in a situation that is scary or dangerous,” that’s how you show them that the room is okay for them. 


    Meagan: Yeah. We did. We talked about that. There was another situation, not even sleep-related where she connected it. She ws nervous for us to leave her at this place– it was a dance thing. I was like, “Remember, I would never put you somewhere that I didn’t feel was safe for you.” She was like, “Oh yeah.” She went in there and danced. I love that you talk about that. 


    21:08 The life of a sleep consultant


    Meagan: Okay, so now we know what it looks like from a sleep consultant to what we would be getting, but what does it look like to be a sleep consultant and how could a lot of parents who may be going through similar situations like you and I again, like different journeys– sleep consultant and doula/VBAC podcaster– but I really did. I went through a very similar stage when I quit my job. I was a businesswoman. That’s what I did and that was my title. So then when I became “mom”, even though I wanted to be like you and be on the PTA board and all of the things, I had a little bit of a funk that I went through. I needed something and then I became a doula and it wasn’t that my purpose as a mom wasn’t enough, it was that I just wanted something more as well for me. 


    Jayne: I think our society makes it really hard to admit that being a mother doesn’t feel like enough. We have to justify it by saying, “It’s not that being a mom wasn’t enough for me–”


    Meagan: See? Like I just did. 


    Jayne: Yeah, we all do it. I point it out because I think it’s really important for moms to acknowledge that it’s okay to want to have a career and to work and there’s all of this guilt around if you’re not giving 100% of your energy and your thought process and your entire aura and being to your children, that you’re not doing enough. I just really think that’s unfair. Now that I’ve lived on both sides of it, I was a stay-at-home mom for four years and I still consider myself to be a stay-at-home mom, but I’m a working mom, I actually think there are so many benefits to having your children see you work. 


    Meagan: Okay, yes. We have talked about this recently, my husband and I. 


    Jayne: Especially for our daughters, but it’s good for all of them. I think it’s really important. I love that my children see that I’m doing something that fulfills me, that I’m following my passion, that I’m using my brain, that I’m being creative, that I’m being resourceful, and that I’m juggling it all as best as I can. Yes, my son is 11 and he’s in that tween stage. He totally rolls his eyes at me when if he says something to me. He hasn’t said, “Excuse me.” Maybe I’m reading an email on my phone and he starts talking and I don’t hear him and then I realize I didn’t hear him and I say, “Wait, what did you say?” He definitely rolls his eyes like, “Ugh. She’s working. She’s not paying attention to me.” And that’s where the guilt comes from. 


    Meagan: I know. 


    Jayne: That’s where it comes from. He and I have had conversations about it recently. “I understand that you want to be heard all of the time. A simple ‘excuse me’ will help.” And then also, “Remember that me working leads to me being happier and then me being able to care for you better, and also, it affords our family to be able to do things that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to do if I wasn’t earning money and one day, I hope that you’ll make the choices that you think are right for your family.” These are complicated things to think about especially as our kids get older to have these conversations with them. 


    Meagan: They are. 


    Jayne: I think it’s a good, healthy thing for our kids to see us working. 


    Meagan: I do too. Yeah. We also have some of those eye-rolls or things where I don’t hear and we actually just recently talked about timing. “If you see that I’m doing something, or responding to an email, I really am not just on Instagram scrolling. I really am working. Hold your thoughts because I really am so excited to hear it. Hold your thought or say, ‘Excuse me’ or ‘Mom, I have something to tell you.’” Right? I agree, though. I echo your message. 


    25:17 Sleep consultant qualifications


    Meagan: So yeah, okay. Let’s talk about sleep consultants and how this could be born potentially for anybody looking for what we wanted. 


    Jayne: Yeah. I think this is a good fit for somebody who is either really passionate about healthy sleep hygiene in their own home and maybe feels compelled to help others whether you are staying at home with your young kids or maybe you already have a job that you are not passionate about, not that you need to leave your job and be a sleep consultant, but I’ve actually had many people tell me– teachers, nurses, occupational therapists, accountants– I’ve had them tell me that once they took our certification course and they got trained and they started working as a sleep consultant, they actually started hating their other jobs less because all of a sudden they have something that they are working on that they are passionate about and they’re excited about. It’s lighting them up and lifting them up and they can just accept their 9-5 as something that pays the bills and they have health insurance and a safety net. That’s fine. 


    Then they can understand, “Okay. This is what my 9-5 offers me and this is what sleep consulting offers me.” It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, but I tend to think that a good fit is somebody who is either already really passionate about healthy sleep hygiene for their children or it’s somebody who is drowning with their own kids and desperate to learn more and would like to use this as an opportunity to figure out how to reign it in in their own household, then hopefully get it straight and feel empowered to help others. 


    A lot of women have enrolled in our program for that exact reason where they were really struggling with their own children. They came to learn for their own family and then to help others. When that happens, we actually love to pair these people up with graduates from our program so support them as they are sleep consulting. I give them the accountability, the support, but also the education to make the change in their own home and then one day go off and help others. 


    From a perspective of growing a business and entrepreneurship, I think that entrepreneurship is not for everybody, but it is, I’m sure you can relate, so inspiring and exciting and invigorating if you can just trust yourself enough to give it a shot. I just think it’s so fun to grow something. I don’t know. I’m sure you know. It really is. 


    Meagan: It is. 


    Jayne: It’s scary for a lot of people. A lot of women tell me, “I would love to be a sleep consultant. I would love to support families, but it scares me. I don’t know if I want to put myself out there. I wouldn’t know how to do x, y, and z.” All of that stuff, everything is figure-out-able. Fear, I think, can either paralyze you and keep you stuck or it can be those nervous butterflies that really sort of help you soar. 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Jayne: I love those nervous butterflies. I don’t let those feelings paralyze me. I use them to leverage my next big move. 


    Meagan: I know. I mean, when I became a doula, I signed up and took the course. I was like, “Yes.” I started interviewing and so many people said, “Wait, you haven’t had a vaginal birth? How do you feel like you can even support me?” That comment would happen multiple times. That was already an insecurity that I had about becoming a doula, but I still had this fire inside of me that felt right. I easily could  have just been like, “You’re right. I haven’t had a vaginal birth and you’re right. I probably can’t support you. I probably can’t.” 


    I probably could have quit there, but you don’t have to. These things are scary and if it feels scary, if it feels exciting, but it’s just a little too nervewracking, that probably means it’s right. That probably means it’s right. That probably means you should go for it. 


    Jayne: I think so too. 


    Meagan: Right? I’m so happy that I did continue pushing forward. Yes, eventually I had my vaginal birth, but I was very capable of supporting and so are you, Women of Strength. If this is resonating to you, don’t let fear get you because I can’t remember. I was just watching an HGTV show the other day and they were talking about if you don’t go for it, you’re going to miss 100% of the time. 


    Jayne: No, that’s one of my favorite quotes. I think it’s Wayne Gretzky or Michael Jordan. I think the quote is, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” 


    Meagan: That’s it. That’s exactly what they said. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. It’s like, okay. What are you going to have to lose if it doesn’t work out? All right, cool. I did it. I showed myself I tried. Great. Move on to the next thing. But anyway, I love that. I love that quote. I was like, “Yes. Yes.” That resonated so much. 


    30:36 Ages covered in Jayne’s course


    Meagan: Okay, so let’s talk a little bit more about your course and sleep training. What age range does it cover? What age range and who does it really apply to? Because I mean, luckily I have a 12-year-old who sleeps, but would it apply for a 12-year-old or is it more for the younger age?  


    Jayne: Yeah, the course is geared towards infants, toddlers, preschoolers, I say early elementary-aged kiddos. There is really not a hard stopping point because if you think about it, anything you would do with a 4-year-old, why couldn’t you do it with a 5-year-old, and anything you do with a 4-year-old, why couldn’t you do it with a 6-year-old? 


    I will say that the oldest children that I tend to have success with are about 7 or 8. It’s not that 9, 10, and 11-year-olds can’t learn to sleep independently, they can. The problem with working with families that have older children is that if parents haven’t set a boundary around sleep by the time their children are 9, 10, or 11 years old, it’s unlikely that they are going to just because they start working with me. I feel that they feel they are just too far gone and they just feel like this is something that we are never going to be able to change. It is absolutely something that they could change. It just feels, I think, too hard for them. It’s too deeply ingrained in their family culture to change it and that’s okay but it’s not that it can’t be changed. 


    The course covers the science of sleep. We talk about REM cycles and circadian rhythms. The course covers the science of sleep, and safe sleep. We practice safe sleep per the American Academy of Pediatrics safe sleep guidelines. We teach sleep as it relates to different developmental ages and stages. What happens at 3-4 months that can impact sleep negatively? What happens at 8 or 9 months that can impact sleep negatively? What happens at 2.5 that can impact sleep? 


    At all different developmental ages and stages, things happen that can get in the way of sleep and how do we recognize those developmental milestones and make sure that we are keeping sleep on track regardless of those things happening? 


    We teach all the different sleep training techniques as I mentioned. Everything from really gradual and parent-present strategies all the way through extinction and everything in between. We teach toddler, preschooler, and big kid appropriate strategies and communication techniques. We talk about unique circumstances of how to support moms of multiples, how to support moms who are struggling with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and how to support families that have kiddos with special needs. We have an entire section on supporting kids with autism. We have training on how to talk to parents about travel, illness, teething– all the stuff that just comes up. 


    And then we teach you communication strategies so how to talk to moms about crying and how to help ease their fear and anxiety over their children being temporarily frustrated or upset about the changes that you are making. We will teach you how to write a sleep plan so that all of your thoughts and advice are really organized in a way that can be easily received and well-received by really tired parents. 


    And then we teach you how to successfully grow a business. We teach you how to get on a phone call with a tired mom and talk to her in a way that makes her feel comfortable with you. We talk about marketing. We talk about mindset work which I think is so important. So many new entrepreneurs’ minds are not in the proper place for them to thrive and grow as entrepreneurs. We talk a lot about shifting our own mindset so we can position ourselves to thrive just as we help our clients do the same. 


    And then at the end, there is a resource library, a whole bank of articles and studies and evidence and all sorts of good stuff so that when a mom says to you, “I think my baby is teething and that’s why he’s not sleeping,” we actually have some articles with really good studies linked to the fact that teething really isn’t a major disrupter to sleep the way that parents think that it is. 


    So when somebody comes to you and says, “I want to sleep train, but my sister-in-law is telling me that my baby is just going to cry until he is tortured and traumatized and damaged,” we have links to articles and studies that literally prove that that is actually not at all the case. It’s an entirely evidence-based course, science-backed and my goal is for our students to graduate feeling really confident and empowered to support families at the highest level to get them the results that they desire. 


    Meagan: I love that so much. So if you are a parent wanting to take the course, you can take the course. It’s also going to teach you how to be a sleep consultant and then also, at the tail end of it or through the whole thing, get to also learn how and maybe if you’re interested in it. I feel like experience a lot of the time is where we find our passion. Sometimes that goes hand in hand. I think you mentioned that earlier so they can learn how to take off and do their own business. 


    36:00 How to find a sleep consultant


    Meagan: What does it look like to one, find a sleep consultant as a parent and two, as a mom who wants to maybe become a sleep consultant or a doula– we have a lot of doulas on this podcast that listen maybe wanting to add to their services– what does that look like to find this course and find a sleep consultant to help? 


    Jayne: To help each other– I understand what you are asking. Yeah, it’s interesting. It depends on how– some parents are very plugged into what’s going on in parenting and some parents are very unplugged. Either way is fine. I think that there are pros and cons to both, but if you’re hanging out on Instagram and you have a young baby, I bet the algorithm is showing you sleep consultants and how to sleep train your baby or that sleep training is terrible. It’s showing you all of that stuff. If you’re totally unplugged, then maybe you don’t even know that sleep consultants exist. I actually hear that a lot. 


    Sometimes when I am connecting with people who are interested in starting their own business from home and they don’t really know what type of business they would want to start and I just share with them what I do, they will say, “That is so interesting. I have three kids and I’ve never even heard of a sleep consultant. I didn’t know that was a thing.”


    Meagan: That was me. That was me. I didn’t know. I didn’t know I could get help. 


    Jayne. Yeah. Yeah. So I think that it looks different for everybody. As a sleep consultant, I actually just landed my most recent client. It was a referral from a pediatrician. I live in Baltimore, Maryland and a pediatrician in Great Neck, New York, shared my name. 


    Meagan: Whoa. 


    Jayne: Yeah. How exciting is that? Because our businesses are entirely virtual or at least mine is. I work with families all over the country and all over the world and here a pediatrician in Great Neck is recommending me to her patients which is amazing.


    Meagan: I love that. So awesome. 


    Jayne: I think that some pediatricians are recommending sleep consultants which I can totally understand why. Pediatricians have 10 or 15 minutes with you and they are trying to get a full deep-dive into how your child is doing. One of the questions they always ask is, “How is your baby sleeping” or “How is your child sleeping?” If the answer is, “Terribly,” they don’t really have an hour to go into all of the different options for how to help you fix that and they certainly aren’t available to help support you through it. 


    They tend to be very pro-sleep consultants. They will refer out to us because they know that we are helping their patients in a way that they do not have the capacity to support. Pediatricians are a great referral source both for parents and for sleep consultants. I have partnered up with mental health professionals, therapists, and also not just mental health professionals, but occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech/language pathologists. I get referrals from a family photographer, one of those photographers who takes those beautiful little newborn shoots. Mom troops into her studio exhausted complaining about how they were up all night and she says, “Oh, let me give you a business card for my friend who is a sleep consultant.” 


    So I get referrals that way. I think for parents to connect with a sleep consultant, the best way is to ask other parents if they’ve received this type of help and if they have the name of somebody they know. Of course, Facebook groups are a great resource for connecting with others who can help you in some capacity. But really, just talking to people. I think what we do is a service-based business. It’s all based on relationships and personal connections. Most of my business comes to me by way of former clients of mine sharing my name with their circle and their network of friends. 


    Meagan: Word of mouth. 


    Jayne: Yeah, word of mouth so if you are a mom who is struggling, ask your mom friends if they have sought help in this area or if they know anybody who has sought help. Ask your therapist, your pediatrician, or your OB/GYN. A couple of weeks ago, I was out to dinner with my husband’s friend who is an OB/GYN. I was telling him what I do and he was like, “Oh, I could blow up your business in a hot second.” I’m actually really busy so I was like, “Please don’t.” 


    Meagan: You’re like, “Yes. Do that, please.” Oh, you were like, “No.” 


    Jayne:  Yeah, I’m actually pretty busy so I was like, “Actually, please don’t,” but it just goes to show that he didn’t have a sleep consultant that he was referring, so there is so much room for growth for sleep consultants to be connecting with professionals that could blow up our businesses. We just have to get out there and connect with those people. 


    Same with parents. If you don’t know where to seek help, ask a friend. Ask a professional. Ask your postpartum doula and somebody will have the answer for you. 


    Meagan: Yeah. I love that. That’s how doulas work too. It’s word-of-mouth typically, then you’re like, “Oh my gosh, yes.” You find that personal connection. 


    40:59 Cost to hire a sleep consultant and potential earnings as a sleep consultant


    Meagan: What do sleep consultants usually charge for a parent looking and for someone again, I’m going both here. We have such a wide audience from parents to doulas that may want to expand or maybe even parents wanting to add this. What can someone expect to pay and then what can someone expect to make? 


    Jayne: Sure, okay. Fair enough. I’ll speak for myself because I think that there’s a really wide range of services and pricing just like wth anything else. You can go get your hair cut for 19 dollars or you can get your hair cut for $500. 


    Meagan: Yep. Yep.


    Jayne: I will just give you my own numbers because I’m more than happy to share and understand that there’s a wide range of normal on both ends of what I charge and what I earn. I charge– I have two options for services. I do a two-week virtual consultation which is pretty comprehensive. It includes again, a written plan, a phone call to onboard, text message support for two weeks, and then a wrap-up phone call. I charge $750 for that service. I earn about 8 to 10 to $12,000 a month supporting families. So I don’t know. I support 10 or 15 clients a month typically. 


    I used to support way more, but now that I’m more focused on supporting my students, I’ve scaled back on my client support. In addition to supporting families in that two-week consultation, I also offer what I call an “ask me anything” call. It’s just a 30-minute strategy session. It’s an information dump and I charge $145 for that 30-minute call. It’s really intended for troubleshooting. I don’t get on those calls with parents who have literally never sleep-trained their baby. It’s more for a baby who is already doing well, but maybe needs help transitioning from three to two naps or maybe it’s a 2-year-old who is going to bed just fine and sleeping through the night but waking up at 5:00 in the morning and parents need help modifying their schedule. 


    That’s what it looks like for me. We have people in the program who are homeschooling their kids and this is a passion project for them, a side hustle, and maybe they earn $1000-$2000 doing this work. Maybe they are priced more at $500 and they support two or three families a month and then we have other people inside of our program or who have completed the program who have created sort of an agency model of sleep consulting and they are supporting families but then they also have two or three or four people working under them and they earn more than I do monthly or annually doing sleep consulting support. 


    There’s also the option to support families in-home. All of my work is virtual so I can support families who live anywhere and anytime. I don’t have to physically be there to get them results, but a lot of doulas who enroll in my program actually prefer to support families in person just because they are so comfortable with that already. 


    Meagan: Yeah.


    Jayne: Their pricing structure is entirely different. They are charging either a flat fee for a certain amount of time that they are either moving in with a family or maybe they are just doing two or three overnights and then transitioning to virtual support. Maybe they have an hourly rate that they feel comfortable charging while they are there. For most of the doulas who take our program, the one thing I tell them when they complete the course is that they’ve got to raise their hourly rates from what they were charging pre-sleep consultant certification to post-sleep consultant certification because really, this education and this knowledge that they now have, the tools that they have to get families results are so much more valuable. 


    So even if they are not traditionally supporting families as sleep consultants, just the knowledge and expertise that they now have warrants, in my opinion, a higher hourly rate. Some of our doulas don’t even necessarily practice as sleep consultants. They just use the credentials to justify higher income earning potential. 


    Meagan: Their rate, yeah. Well, I mean, you really wouldn’t want a surgeon performing– you wouldn’t pay a surgeon a small amount just because– I’m trying to think of what I’m trying to say. You’re going to hire the professional who has the credentials and you’re not going to look at the pay because they have the credentials. It’s important. I encourage anybody looking to become a doula, a sleep consultant, a postpartum doula, or whatever to get the credentials and seriously charge what you are worth because you need to. 


    Jayne: We have this conversation inside of our center for pediatric sleep community all of the time when our grads are getting started. A lot of the time, they are anxious to set their rates at a number that I think would be worthy of their expertise and they are nervous. I always explain to them, “Okay. Would you rather buy your shoes at Payless or at Bloomingdale's?” They all say, “Bloomingdale's.” It’s like, “Okay. Well, Bloomingdale's shoes are more expensive. They’re also perceived to be better and when you charge a higher hourly rate, sometimes what comes along with that is the idea, whether it’s true or not, that you are highly qualified and you’re better at what you do.” 


    You need to command that authority in your business. You do have that knowledge. You do have the skills. You do have the expertise. Charge accordingly. 


    Meagan: Yeah. You’re way better at explaining that than I am. 


    46:57 Where to find “Becoming a Sleep Consultant” 


    Meagan: Okay, so we’re wrapping up. We talked about what it covers. We talked about what you can make. We talked about how you can be helped as a parent and how you might find extra inspiration through your journey. Okay, so where can people find your course? Where can people find more support? 


    Jayne: Yeah, sure. Sure. So if you’re interested in becoming a sleep consultant, I would say that the two best places to learn more about it would be my Facebook group which is called “Becoming a Sleep Consultant” and my podcast, same name– “Becoming a Sleep Consultant”. The podcast is a really awesome place to get a feel for what it looks like to go through the program and start your own business. You can hear stories of others who have done it– teachers, doulas, stay-at-home moms, engineers, and all sorts of interesting people. I think hearing the stories of others who have been through the program is really inspiring. 


    I would say the Facebook group and the podcast. If you are interested in learning about how you can get support for your child’s sleep, thesnoozefest.com is my website for sleep support. 


    Meagan: Perfect. And then asking around, asking those parents, talking to your community, finding the sleep consultants in your area. 


    Jayne: Of course. Of course. I’m not the right sleep consultant for everybody and I have hundreds of sleep consultants that I’ve trained. You’re always welcome to connect with me and tell me a little bit about what you are looking for and what type of support you feel would be best for your family and I’m happy to match you up with somebody who I think would be the right fit. 


    Meagan: Awesome. We are going to make sure to have the podcast and all of the links for your group and your website and everything all listed right here in the show notes below so definitely go check it out. Yeah. I even think what you said earlier, even if your kid is sleeping pretty well but you are kind of into that transitioning stage, maybe from a crib to a bed or whatever, I just think that everything you offer is so beneficial. I definitely highly suggest checking her out. Thank you so much for being with us today. 


    Jayne: Thank you. 


    Closing


    Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Tell us about your experience at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Meagan’s bio, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.





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    49m - Apr 17, 2024
  • Episode 291 Meg & Julie + What is Cesarean Awareness Month?

    “If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any!”


    April is Cesarean Awareness Month and we hope this month is one of information, empowerment, and love from us here at The VBAC Link to you. Referring to the amazing resources provided by the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN), Meagan and Julie break down the mission of Cesarean Awareness Month. 


    Whether you are a first-time mom, VBAC mom, CBAC, or RCS mom, there is space for all of you! This month is meant to not only reduce Cesarean rates overall. It is also meant to inform everyone about birthing options, hospital rights, and ways to make Cesarean births better. We need all of our experiences to make positive changes in the birthing world for future generations! 


    ICAN's Website

    Cesarean Awareness Month Toolkit

    Infant Mortality Statistics from 2022

    Informed Pregnancy Plus

    Needed Website

    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details 


    07:03 Review of the Week

    09:29 Why we need Cesarean Awareness Month

    13:12 ICAN’s Cesarean Awareness Month toolkit

    16:00 Ways to make Cesarean births better

    21:20 Common reasons for Cesareans

    25:59 Your hospital rights

    32:10 The safety of home birth

    36:52 Lower Cesarean rates = lower infant/maternal mortality rates

    40:38 A message to the CBAC community


    Meagan: Hello, hello everybody. It is Meagan and I have Julie with us today. I always get so happy. 


    Julie: Hello, hello. 


    Meagan: We are going to be talking about International Cesarean Awareness Month. Now, this is sensitive. It’s sensitive. It can be sensitive. It’s a month, a whole 30 days or 29 days. I don’t actually know how long April is. 


    Julie: April is not 29 days you crazy. That’s just February once every four years. 


    Meagan: That’s just February. Maybe 30, maybe 31. I don’t know. 


    Julie: April is 30 days always every year. 


    Meagan: Is it? I don’t know my months apparently. 


    Julie: Apparently. 


    Meagan: It can be a long month for people and we’re going to talk a little bit more about that. But it stands for International Cesarean Awareness Month and it is a month that is truly just brought to create awareness around unnecessary Cesareans, around advocating for vaginal births after Cesarean, improving Cesarean recovery after, and really just spreading the word and getting the information out there because as someone who has been in the VBAC world before, we have been told many times that VBAC isn’t possible and Cesarean is a must. 


    You know, Cesarean isn’t desired by everyone, and a VBAC isn’t desired by everybody, but it’s important to know the options. One of the coolest things is that ICAN which is a nonprofit organization created this mission and I’m just going to read it. Does that sound appropriate? 


    “ICAN is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve maternal/child health by reducing preventable Cesareans through education, supporting Cesarean recovery, and advocating for vaginal birth after Cesarean for VBAC.” 


    We are really grateful for ICAN. They do a lot of amazing things and I know that they were a big part of my journey. I mean, wouldn’t you say yours too, Julie? I think that’s actually where we might have met is an ICAN chapter meeting maybe. 


    Julie: Where did we meet? Now I’m going to think. 


    Meagan: I feel like I can picture you in a living room in a chair up front. You were very involved with the presenter and I was just there. 


    Julie: Wasn’t it at your house? 


    Meagan: No. 


    Julie: Okay. Yeah, I remember that one. 


    Meagan: It was at someone else’s house and anyway, that’s the first day I remember seeing your beautiful face. Crazy, but we love ICAN and we support them. Julie was just looking and they had a t-shirt. One of the things it says is, “You have options.” That is going to be one of the things that we are talking about today. 


    Julie: Yeah. That was last year’s theme but they haven’t posted this year’s theme yet. I mean, we’re recording this in February so they haven’t gotten a lot of the information out yet, but I love last year’s theme. 


    Meagan: I know. You have options. And you do. You have options even though a lot of the time we don’t feel like it. 


    07:03 Review of the Week


    Meagan: Julie, do you want to read a Review of the Week before we get going? 


    Julie: I was going to say, yeah. I feel like we are already getting going. Yes. Let me read a review and then we will do the intro and then we will go. Hold on. Now, I’ve got to get back to it. Perfect. This review is from unhappyggfan so hopefully she’s unhappy about GG and not The VBAC Link. 


    Unhappyggfan. She says, “Truy helped me achieve my VBAC.” She says, “I found and started listening to this podcast a couple of days before my due date.” Oh, that’s cool. “I was walking a ton every day to encourage labor so I just binge-listened to these episodes one after the other. My due date came and went and I got more worried about having a successful VBAC. I kept listening to these episodes while I walked for hours every day. Fast forward to 12 days past my due date,” oh, poor thing “when my water finally broke right at the beginning of a massive storm and flooding in my city. My doula was unable to make it to my labor and delivery due to flooding on her street and the stories from the women on this podcast truly acted as my virtual doula.” 


    Aw, that’s sweet. “As I labored for 16 hours, I thought back to the many stories I had listened to and the words of encouragement and wisdom from the podcast hosts and their guests. I thought of things I had learned and learned as I pushed for an hour and then my son was born. I truly believe that listening to the stories shared on this podcast helped me to have my VBAC. I wish I could thank every guest whose words gave me strength, but I will just say it here. THANK YOU. This podcast truly means so much to me now. A must-listen if you are preparing for a VBAC.” 


    I love that. Virtual doulas. 


    Meagan: I love that. Thank you. 


    09:29 Why we need Cesarean Awareness Month


    Meagan: Okay. All right. I know the motor started and we were gently tapping on the gas before we started reading that review, but yeah. Let’s dive into it. So we kind of talked about ICAN and what their mission is, but Julie, when you hear Cesarean Awareness Month, what do you hear or feel? What does it mean to you? 


    Julie: I feel like here at The VBAC Link, it’s always Cesarean Awareness Month. Do you know what I mean? We are always focusing on that. But I feel like I love the collective call to action for the entire birth community and hopefully, even the world to focus on this. I was just thinking about this and ICAN hosts this big month for awareness to rally for donations and pushes for things like increased access to VBAC and lower Cesarean rates and things like that, but I was like, “Okay. What more is it? What more is it?” 


    I wanted to get into maybe a little bit more about why we need awareness about Cesareans. What’s the point? Why are we worried about this? Why are they worried about this? I really love that they have it on their ICAN website. It’s ican-online.org/cesarean-awareness-month-toolkit and I’m sure that will be updated for 2024. I will link it in the show notes, but it has a whole toolkit that you can use with all sorts of things you can do. 


    What I really like about their page is that they talk about why we need awareness for Cesareans in the first place. I love the bullet points that they show. Researchers estimate that almost half of the C-sections performed could be safely prevented. The next one is, “If families don’t know these options don’t exist, they can’t advocate for them.” Obviously, we are huge proponents of that here. If you don’t know about your options, you do not have them. You do not have options if you do not know what they are. 


    The next is, “Cesareans can be more or less family friendly depending on the practices and protocols of the facility and the support level of providers. Preventable Cesareans may be responsible for up to 20,000 major surgical complications a year including sepsis, hemorrhage, and organ injury.” I feel like sometimes we forget that C-sections are major surgery. They are a major surgery that comes with all of the risks that major surgeries come with. 


    The last one is, “The future risks to birthing people and their future pregnancies and children are not even mentioned when we are talking about Cesareans.” What are the future risks to these mothers and their kids and their families? I feel like that’s the big need to protect our women and the children that are being born and to reduce the amount of people suffering from major birth complications. It’s just a medical safety issue. 


    Yes. We probably should put a plug in here that we have literally seen C-sections save the lives of both moms and babies. We have seen it. We are not arguing that. We are not questioning that. What we are questioning is their frequent use, how overused they are, and how quickly they are jumped to for many reasons besides the true risk to life and health of the people they are trying to save. 


    13:12 ICAN’s Cesarean Awareness Month toolkit


    Meagan: Yeah. Yeah. It’s so hard. I feel like there’s this line of– I think I still even have anger about how many unnecessary C-sections happen. I kind of want to talk about, okay. We have a large chunk. We are really high. 32% of Cesareans are happening and I want to know that percentage truly how many of those people didn’t desire it at all. I’m going to guess a large chunk of them didn’t desire it, but I’m also going to guess that a large chunk of those went on to have future Cesareans which again, is fine. But like she was saying, you have options, and a lot of the time, the options aren’t presented so if we don’t know that we have these options, we just keep having Cesareans. They might not be desired. 


    Julie: You’re right. It’s true. I feel like everybody listening right now should go and download this Cesarean Awareness Month Toolkit because I feel like there is so much value here. It gives you so much information even when it’s not Cesarean Awareness Month. Just go download it. They have obviously links to social media graphics that you can share for Cesarean Awareness Month. There’s a t-shirt that you can buy to support the cause. You can become a member of ICAN. It shows you how to donate to the cause. It gives you social media calendars, Facebook groups, and templates for writing a proclamation to your governor or mayor. There is a press release that you can tweet and adjust to send to your local media outlets. There are instructions on how to invite ICAN onto your podcast. We should do that by the way. 


    We’ve had someone on in the past, but it’s been a while. 


    Meagan: We should. 


    Julie: There are webinars that you can follow and listen to. There are ICAN chapters all across the world in 20+ countries. It talks about how to find supportive providers and supportive options. It gives you options. It gives you facts. It outlines things. It tells you how you can have a more peaceful and family-centered Cesareans. It talks about knowing your rights and ICAN and the whole organization there. It talks about how Cesarean can be a lifesaving technique and it’s worth the risks involved when it is a true lifesaving measure. 


    It goes into so much, so much. Go download it now. There is going to be a link to the ICAN website to go and download this but I feel like it is so helpful for all birth workers and families to have. I am just really, really impressed with how thorough this toolkit is. 


    Meagan: Yeah, me too. As I’m looking through it, I’m like, “Wow. This is amazing.”


    16:00 Ways to make Cesarean births better


    Meagan: Let’s talk about– okay. Their mission is to– they say Cesarean recovery and stuff like that. One of the missions here at The VBAC Link is that we want to make Cesarean birth better. So if you are wanting to have another Cesarean, let’s talk about ways that you can make it a better experience. We can make it a better experience by having more people in your OR and having your support people there. 


    Julie: Like your doula and your birth photographer. 


    Meagan: Yep. Yep. Having those people there so when baby is born and birth partner, dad or whoever is there, goes over with baby, you’re not just left alone. I mean, okay. You’re not left alone. You’ve got anesthesia there and stuff like that, but you don’t know that man or woman. 


    Julie: Yeah. You deserve a dedicated support person for you and there’s just not a dedicated support person for you in the OR when your partner has to leave and go with baby. 


    Meagan: Yes. One day in my life, I hope that I can somehow help that policy change because it drives me crazy. 


    Julie: P.S. Layton hospital is working to get doulas in the OR and birth photographers in the OR. It’s a steady thing. You can get into the U with no problem as a doula and as a birth photographer because I’m also a doula. But can we just talk about the whole partner thing though? Do you know how many times when I have been in the OR or as a birth photographer, do you see the partner or the husband when the baby is born and taken to the warmer? This is what happens every time, I swear. The husband looks at the baby and then looks at their wife, then looks at their baby, and then looks at their wife. You can see on their face. They want to go with their baby and they want to stay with their wife or their partner. They are making a decision, then the wife inevitably says or the partner, the birthing person always says, “Go be with baby, every time.” 


    Meagan: Yes, or I was going to say that the mom is saying, “Hey, when this baby is born, I want you to go be with baby,” but Dad is like, “Yeah. I want to be with baby, but I need to be with you. 


    Julie: I also want to be with you. I know that probably having an extra person in the OR is not going to alleviate that sense of obligation to two humans at once, but I do know that I have had partners come back and tell me that they are so glad that I have been there because they know that their partner is being watched over and cared for more so than just what the nursing staff can provide and the OBs obviously. 


    Meagan: Yes. Yes. So yeah, having that extra person, not strapping down our arms, right? That’s something–


    Julie: I feel like that doesn’t happen too much anymore but sometimes. 


    Meagan: Really? I still see it, but I haven’t been in a birth for a minute. 


    Julie: Mm, in the OR. 


    Meagan: I usually see one arm. 


    Julie: That’s weird. 


    Meagan: I know. So yeah, there’s that and then a clear drape if you want, maternal-assisted deliveries are really, really uncommon but I really hope that we can keep advocating for them and make a change to see them happening. They are happening in Australia and they obviously have pretty strict protocols and reasons for how and why and when, but it’s happening. It’s happening and it is up to us to ask the question and say, “Hey.” Maybe if enough of us ask the question in our Cesareans for a maternal-assisted Cesarean delivery, maybe someone is going to be like, “Okay. This is being asked for a lot. This is desired,” and maybe someone out there will start making a change. 


    Julie: Sometimes, the way to make change is to keep asking for it. You might 1 of 1000 to ask for it before the change is made, but then with the next person, there will be change. I know that the next person getting the change and not you sounds like a bummer, do you know what I mean? But also, what if that next person is your daughter or your kid? So let’s help pave the way for future generations too by continuing to ask for these things. 


    Do you know what? Every time I have a client, regardless of whether it’s a doula client or a photography client, I always ask if it ends up that they need to go back to the OR, I always ask. I know what hospitals are going to say yes and I know what hospitals are going to say no. I still ask even the ones that I know are going to say no because you never know why. A few months ago, I got allowed in the OR for a C-section as a photographer in a hospital that I have never been allowed in in the past almost 9 years now and even in the hospital chain. There is a whole chain of hospitals that is notorious for not letting us do that, but they let me in. The doctor and anesthesiologist were on board and it was fine and it was beautiful. I had this image that I took that is one of my favorite images ever. I sent it to the doctor and she is really happy about it. 


    You’ve got to keep asking. Ask every time. You’re going to get a bunch of no’s before you get yes’s, but you’ll get yes’s as you keep working and advocating for it. It takes a lot of us to make change. 


    Meagan: Absolutely. I agree. I agree. 


    21:20 Common reasons for Cesareans


    Meagan: Yeah, that also goes for asking for that extra person, asking for assisted delivery, and asking for music to be played. Always asking. Okay, they might be like, “No,” but if you don’t ask, again, you don’t know you have options unless you know the options you have. Does that make sense? I’m saying that backward. 


    Julie: You are. If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any. 


    Meagan: That’s it. If you don’t ask the question, you might not have the option is what I’m trying to say. 


    Julie: Yes. Yes. Keeping baby, skin-to-skin, doing these things. We can make the Cesarean experience better. That doesn’t mean that a Cesarean is always bad or traumatic if we don’t have these things, but these are things that can help to make things better. 


    Meagan: Yeah, so doing that and then also learning how to avoid unnecessary Cesareans. What types of things lead to Cesareans? We know that we have 4-5 most common ways that Cesareans are suggested or happen. One is breech. If your baby is breech, then you are more likely to have a Cesarean. Now, we do have things like external versions and Spinning Babies and chiropractic care and things that may encourage that baby to rotate. They may just rotate, but a lot of the time, we have providers just scheduling a C-section and that’s it because we are not seeing people having babies vaginally with breech babies much anymore which is heartbreaking. 


    Maybe we are being told, “Well, you’re looking a little bigger and you’re close to 41 weeks so let’s just induce you.” Right? We’ve got due dates. We have breech fetal position. If you’re in labor and your body is not progressing at the timeline that someone wants it to, failure to progress. We have small pelvis. Maybe you’re at 10 centimeters and you’ve been pushing for two hours and your baby is having a harder time rotating, but instead of stepping back and looking at, “Hey, where is this baby’s position?” or “Maybe this baby is really high up and we need to rest and descend,” we’re just saying no. We’re cutting it off and we’re going to have a C-section. 

    25:59 Your hospital rights


    Meagan: Let’s see. What else, Julie? What are some things that you feel like we can learn to avoid Cesarean?


    Julie: I mean, all of those things you said are great, but I just want to pull it in a different direction for some reason. I’m so sorry. 


    Meagan: No, that’s fine. 


    Julie: But knowing your rights. Knowing your rights. 


    Meagan: That’s funny because that’s on this toolkit right now. 


    Julie: I know. I’m staring at it right now, but I love where they say, “Consent forms from the hospital or provider are not contracts.” 


    Meagan: I love that. 


    Julie: They are not a replacement for true, informed consent discussion. They are not a replacement for a true and informed consent discussion. They are not. They are not contracts. You can revoke your consent at any time. No one is going to sue you because you signed the consent form. Do you know what I mean? 


    Meagan: You can change your mind. 


    Julie: Gosh, my mind is reeling right now. I feel like consent forms might be another way of coercion. 


    Meagan: Mhmm. 


    Julie: I really do. They are a way of coercing you into feeling like you are locked into this decision or you are locked into whatever consequences might come from that decision. But also, I feel like hospital policies are the same thing. Hospital policies are not contracts. Hospital policies are not an excuse to not have a discussion and get true, informed decision-making. Hospital policies, a lot of the time, are not set up to help the patient. They are set up to cover the butts of the providers and the hospital. 


    I feel like when you are falling back on a consent form or when you are falling back on hospital policy, then that’s another form of coercion, of getting people of what you want them to do because it’s policy because you signed the consent form. 


    Meagan: Exactly. 


    Julie: Yikes. I can’t stand it sometimes how parents don’t feel like they can change their mind or how they don’t have all of the information and maybe they wouldn’t have made the same choices if they had all of the information or maybe not and it’s not anyone’s place to say what they would or would not have done. I’m not trying to vilify hospitals. I’m not trying to vilify providers or nurses or anybody who sticks to these policies and things like that because it’s not their fault. It’s the fault of the system that they have been born into. It really takes a lot, I think, for a provider and a nurse and an OB and a midwife or whatever to step up and go against the system. 


    “Hospital policy says you have to have an epidural, but you can do just really do whatever you want. I don’t care if you have one.” There is a midwife in our area, a hospital midwife who says that to every VBAC patient. She’s like, “The hospital wants you to have an epidural, but you can totally say no. I don’t care if you have one or not.” I’ve never had a client there who has an epidural placed just because they are a VBAC which is a whole other episode I feel like we are going to talk about at some point. 


    Yeah, anyway. That’s just where my mind was wandering. You have rights. Just because you are in a hospital doesn't mean you are in jail. You are not in jail. You are a human with rights and feelings that should be respected and talked to like an adult and not like a kindergartner who has to follow a strict schedule and go to recess at a scheduled time. Do you know what I mean? Anyway, sorry. I’m getting a little off-topic there. 


    Meagan: No. I think it really goes hand in hand. Here are the reasons why Cesareans happen. I mean, there are other ones too. These are common ones. 


    Okay, you’ve been pushing for 2.5 hours. Your baby is not making a ton of progress, but making slow progress. Your provider says, “All right. We’re cutting this off. it’s time. We’re having a C-section. It’s time. You have to have a C-section.” 


    What are your rights in that situation? If you are like, “I am totally down for that.” Then, okay. But if it’s like, “No, I don’t want that,” but a provider is saying, “You have to. You have to. You have to. It’s time. I won’t do this anymore.” What are your rights in that situation? 

    No one can perform a Cesarean, no one, unless you say, “Okay.” 


    Julie: But they can manipulate and coerce you and tell you that your baby is going to die. You’re not in your logical brain. You’re in labor land so of course you’re going to do a C-section. 

    Meagan: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. There are things like that or there are true emergencies. We don’t want to disregard those where it’s seriously true and to save you and your baby. But you can say no. You also can say, “Thank you so much for your time. I’m going to keep going. Can you get another provider in here? You’re fired.” That sounds crazy, but you can literally let your provider go in the middle of labor and in the middle of pushing. If it’s not working for you, you can let them go. You’re not in jail like she said. You can still make choices. It’s just so important. I love that you brought that up. 


    One, know the reasons why Cesareans are happening, but then really truly know your rights most of all. It’s hard. It’s so hard.


    Julie: Ideally— it is so hard. It is super hard. It is especially hard when you are in that position in the first place for one reason or another. But the best thing you can do to avoid getting put in a position like that where you are pushing and pushing and a provider wants to do a  C-section and now you have to fight for it is first of all, hire a doula, but second of all, don’t be in that position in the first place. Leave the provider. Surely there are red flags. There are things that are telling you that this is not a right fit and a lot of times, we hear people say, “Gosh, I knew I should have switched, but I didn’t.” Listen to that and honor that and honor things ahead of time because odds are by the time you get to that point, you’re just going to do the C-section. 


    32:10 The safety of home birth


    Julie: I hate to say it, but I’m never going to dance around the issue or tell you a lie but if you are there and you’ve been pushing, you can’t be the only one that wants to keep pushing. Yes, legally you can say, “No”, and legally, they have to provide care for you, but it’s going to be a circus. It’s going to be really hard to do that.


    Then what happens to your body? Your body is stressed out because it has to fight then that is not conducive to the natural labor hormones. I don’t know. It’s a hard fight. I feel like going back to I really like that ICAN is highlighting home birth as a safe and reasonable option after Cesarean because one of their graphics from 2023 highlights that there was a 2021 study that found home birth after Cesarean is associated with a 39% decrease in the odds of having a repeat C-section. 39% decrease, you guys. 


    Meagan: Pretty impactful. 


    Julie: I wish that more people would consider home birth as a safe and reasonable option. We were talking about this earlier before we started our episode. I was watching this show last night. You can tell me if you don’t want me to tell you this. 


    Meagan:  You can tell it. 


    Julie: I was watching a show last night about mystery diagnoses where this provider is a doctor. She’s a legitimate doctor and she’s done lots of really cool things. She’s started outsourcing diagnoses for people who have these mysterious medical diseases to social media. She goes through all their medical records and she makes reports and she broadcasts it on a blog and then people send in videos from all over the world about what they think the diagnosis is. It’s really, really cool how she is using social media to help them when they are just baffled. 


    There was this girl who has had 9 years without a diagnosis and it turned out to be this really simple thing that she just had to change her diet for. Anyway, I don’t remember the name of the show but you can message me and I can tell you if you want. 


    The point is that this provider is a doctor so she’s been through all the schooling and everything. She said something that really stuck out to me. She said, “The goal of the hospital is to keep the thing that is trying to kill you from killing you.” I was like, “That is the goal of the hospital to keep the thing that is trying to kill you from killing you.” She said, “If you want solutions outside of that, you have to go outside of the hospital.” It just really hit home for me for birth.


    I know you guys might get sick of hearing me talk about home birth because most women do birth in a hospital, but the hospital’s job is to keep you and baby alive. That is literally their job and it is their main focus. It is what they are going to be focusing on. It’s why we intervene so quickly. It’s why we rush to Cesarens so fast. It’s because it’s the easiest and fastest way to keep you alive. 


    Now, out-of-hospital births also really love alive moms and babies. I’m just going to say that. It’s not different. The goal is similar, but their focus is not on keeping the thing from killing you. Outside of the hospital, the goal is promoting the physiologic birth process and trusting the body to do the thing that it’s made to do. 


    Now, there are circumstances. I feel like we have to say this every time because there are circumstances where out-of-hospital birth is not a safe option for some people. There is a time when labor just needs a transfer to a hospital for additional care. But when the focus on out of the hospital, promoting the physiological birth experience and trusting the body versus the hospital where they are trying to focus on keeping you alive, you’re going to have completely different levels of care. 


    Those levels of care sometimes do more harm than good which is why out of hospital, when you’re going for a birth after Cesarean out of hospital, your chance of having a C-section is significantly lower. I say significantly in the literal way by the study but also in the way we all think of it. 39% decrease in Cesarean is a huge deal. How are we thinking about birth? How are we addressing it in-hospital and how are we addressing it out-of-hospital? 


    Not everyone is eligible for out-of-hospital birth and it’s unfortunate that not everyone has those options, but for women with healthy pregnancies without complications, it is a reasonable option and it’s worth looking into even if you just rule it out. There is my home birth soapbox. 


    36:52 Lower Cesarean rates = lower infant/maternal mortality rates


    Julie: What are we talking about? Cesarean Awareness Month, yeah. 


    Meagan: My home birth soapbox. Home birth can be an amazing option. It can obviously reduce the chances of things like interventions and even Cesareans that are unnecessary and pushing those things on people. Typically, I feel like my clients who are in home births really do feel this sense of– I don’t know if awareness is right. Connection, maybe. They are more connected with their labor, their birth, and their team. 


    I’m not saying people in the hospital aren’t connected with their team or their labor or anything. 


    Julie: It’s so different. 


    Meagan: It’s different. It is. It’s very different and until you’ve experienced or if you’ve experienced it, you know what we are talking about. There is something different and it’s very unique. 


    Julie: One more thing, sorry, and then I promise I will close it off. 


    Meagan: No, you’re just fine. 


    Julie: I really like in here– I think it’s worth pointing out because I’m sure there are going to be a lot of people cringing about what I just said about how the goal is to keep the thing from killing you. It’s pretty well-known now. The United States has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the developed world. The highest in the developed world. Okay? But we have also the highest number of C-sections. One of the highest numbers of C-sections. Okay? 


    I love one of these Cesarean Awareness Month graphics from ICAN states that most places that successfully reduce maternal mortality have a lower Cesarean delivery rate. I’m not just spurting out garbage, you guys. There is information and there is information and statistics and evidence to support that higher Cesarean rates do not equal safer births. Higher intervention rates do not equal safety for mom and baby. It’s all over the place and I really love it since 2020 especially how there has been more information and more research coming out supporting the safety of home birth and home birth after Cesarean. It’s just wild how much the medical system– or not the medical system as much as the people who do these reviews and systemic reviews are getting on board with showing the safety there. I’m not just talking about my anecdotal views as a birth worker. I’m talking about actual evidence for these things. 


    I’m going to read that again. “Most places that successfully reduce maternal mortality have lower Cesarean delivery rates.” It’s science. It’s just science. 


    Meagan: It’s science. 


    Julie: It’s science. Okay, now I’m done. 


    Meagan: Okay, it was back in November 2023 and it says, “Infant mortality in the United States provisional data from 2022 period linked/infant death file.” Now, this is going to be a lot but I’m going to have Paige, our amazing transcriber– 


    Julie: Love Paige. 


    Meagan: –and poster of our podcast put this in the show notes for you guys. If you want to go there and read a little bit about where things have gone, it breaks it down between the methods, the gestational age, the maternal race, infant sex, state of residence, maternal age, leading causes of death, and more. It’s got a lot of studies and things like that and a lot of stats that could maybe be scary actually to find out, but also nice to know the information. We’ll have that in the show notes. 


    40:38 A message to the CBAC community


    Meagan: Then next on the goal of ICAN’s mission is to help advocate for VBAC. I think this is one of the areas that a lot of the times our amazing CBAC community struggles with. I do not mean this in any– I don’t mean to say this rudely, but a lot of moms who have had Cesarean birth after Cesarean dislike April because of this. I feel like I see it every year. It’s a very tender topic and very hard. I mean, I’m going to always– for some reason, the radical acceptance episode that we did relates to so many things, but a lot of the time, we have unprocessed trauma, unprocessed guilt– guilt is a really big one. There is a lot to unpack and a lot of the time, that is not all processed or unpacked, and then April comes around and we’re like, “Ugh. Everybody is advocating for VBAC when I wanted a VBAC too but I didn’t have a VBAC. I didn’t have that option or I didn’t feel like I had that option” or whatever. 


    There are so many things. “My body couldn’t do it. I tried but it didn’t work” or “I couldn’t find the support despite looking for provider after provider.” I mean, there are tons of reasons why people have CBACs. I mean, I am a CBAC mom myself. I don’t know if anybody knows that, but I am. I’ve had two Cesareans and I did want a VBAC. I was going for a VBAC and I ended in a Cesarean. 


    Now, I didn’t want that Cesarean at all, not even close. That was not what I wanted. But I had it and I tried to make the best of it. It was a healing experience. I am grateful for that Cesarean which a lot of people don’t understand how I could possibly be grateful for the birth that I didn’t desire, but that’s something that I truly am. 


    Julie: You had to work for it though. You didn’t just get to be grateful. You had to work for that. 


    Meagan: Really, truly work, and let me tell ya. I was still working pregnant with my third. Really, I was reading my op reports. I was so frustrated. I was bawling. I was like, “Why? Why did this happen? This was not what I wanted. Why didn’t anyone tell me?” There were so many things so I get kind of wanting to feel angry about your unprocessed birth or your undesired outcome. I will promise you that in time– it might take years– it can come. It can. This healing can come and you can see Cesarean Awareness Month as a positive thing but also be an active participant in knowing that not only is it to help promote vaginal birth after Cesarean and lower the Cesarean rate, it’s also to make Cesarean birth better. 


    Julie: And safer. 


    Meagan: And not have traumatic Cesareans as often and to support the CBAC as well. So I don’t know. I feel like I’m talking in circles. I don’t know how to say it, maybe, but my message to you is if you are struggling with Cesarean Awareness Month and if you are hating to see all of the posts and all of the things saying, “Yes, I got my VBAC” and “Yes, vaginal birth is better” or whatever. We see those all in the month of April. It’s mid-April and again, we are recording this in February. I mean, I guarantee you that we’ve seen at least a dozen of these types of posts at this point when this is aired. Try your hardest to step back and also find self-healing within yourself so these months don’t trigger you. 


    April doesn’t have to be a triggering month. It can be an empowering, motivational month to stand up and be like, “Hey. I didn’t want that C-section either. It’s not what I desired, but here I am and I am here to help people know their options for Cesarean and have a better outcome and reduce the Cesarean rate,” because yeah. I didn’t want it either. Okay. I don’t really know. I maybe am just off-base, but I just feel so passionately about our CBAC community too and I know. I see them. I see them struggle through April. If you are listening, I don’t want you to struggle. I want you to hear a different message when you see Cesarean Awareness Month. 


    Julie: I agree. I agree because it’s hard. There is space for all of us here. There is space for all of us. Do you know what? Maybe, in April if you are really triggered with all of the Cesarean Awareness Month things, maybe the best thing you can do for your mental health is mute everything before they are talking about C-sections and VBACs and everything. Maybe you leave the group. Maybe you unfollow the page and then come back when it’s a healthier time for you. Maybe that’s the thing that you can do to love yourself the most if you’re not in the space to confront your triggers head-on. Maybe that’s the best thing for you and that’s okay. It’s okay to create space for yourself to grieve and heal and mourn that loss no matter what form that takes. 


    But when you’re in a more healthy spot, we absolutely want you to come back here and rally for us more. Rally with us, not for us. Rally with us more to improve access to better care options for our pregnant people to make Cesareans safer, to allow other support people in the OR, to increase evidence-based practices in hospitals, and things like that. It’s just more than just about reducing the overall Cesarean rate. It’s about so much more than that. We love you here. I mean, there is space for you here and we have all been there. We’ve all been there. Some of us are still in that journey and that’s okay. We’re all in all different spots of our journey and yeah. There’s space for you and we love you. But if you also have to take a step back for a little while, we still love you and we honor that journey and we honor that part of you. 


    Meagan: Mhmm, absolutely. Okay. We will leave this here and we will let you know right now. We love you. Just like she said, we honor your journey. We support you. Let’s rally together. This month, let’s build each other up and let’s spread the information, and let’s talk about our stories, and let’s talk about how someone else can have a better experience based on learning. Download the toolkit. Check out the links right here in the show notes and Happy Cesarean Awareness Month. 


    Closing


    Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Tell us about your experience at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Meagan’s bio, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.





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    48m - Apr 15, 2024
  • Episode 290 Hayley's Unmedicated VBAC + Epidural and Prolapse Talk

    Hayley joins the show today sharing her breech Cesarean and unmedicated hospital VBAC stories. Meagan and Hayley dive deep into the pros and cons of getting an epidural and why providers tell women so many different things when it comes to epidurals and VBAC!


    While Hayley had the dreamiest birth she could have imagined and everything went according to plan, her postpartum experience with prolapse was not something she was prepared for. Hayley shares her symptoms, what she wished she knew, and what she has done since to recover and feel like herself again. 


    Needed Website

    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details 


    02:47 Just-in-case epidural

    04:16 Dr. McGuire’s insight on epidurals

    08:42 Using an epidural as a tool

    10:44 Hayley’s first pregnancy and birth

    12:00 Doing VBAC research before pregnancy

    13:51 Hayley’s second pregnancy

    18:15 Labor begins

    20:16 Going to the hospital

    24:20 Pushing

    27:05 Hayley’s prolapse experience

    32:01 Symptoms of uterine prolapse

    35:29 Prolapse can happen


    Meagan: Hello, hello Women of Strength. You guys, I am excited about today’s episode. I love talking about VBAC obviously, but specifically, we are going to talk a little bit about unmedicated versus medicated. Our friend, Hayley, from North Carolina has had a beautiful unmedicated hospital VBAC so I want to also talk about the opposite side of that and talk about medicated VBAC. 


    We have so many people in our community that I see type, “I want a VBAC, but I don’t want to go unmedicated and my doctor says I have to. I can’t have an epidural” or the total flipside of that where, “I really want an unmedicated VBAC, but my doctor says I can’t go unmedicated. I have to have the epidural.” Did I just say that correctly, Hayley? 


    Hayley: Yes, yeah. 


    Meagan: It’s either one or the other. We’ve got providers telling people they can’t have an epidural or they have to have an epidural. So I wanted to just talk a little bit today before we get going on those two topics. 


    First of all, let’s talk about unmedicated birth. Hayley and I are living proof today. We are on this episode that unmedicated VBAC is 100% possible, achievable, and safe. A lot of those providers come out and say that they can’t go unmedicated because they say it’s not safe. In the rare chance, we know that uterine rupture happens but it is rare. In the rare chance of a uterine rupture, that is where they say that is not okay. 


    Or they will say things like, “But you wouldn’t want to be knocked out for your birth,” which is scary. I don’t want to be knocked out for my birth and I know people have. A lot of the time, it is not the most pleasant experience. Yeah. Okay, so let’s talk about that. 


    Unmedicated vaginal birth is unmedicated vaginal birth. That’s what it is. I’m just laying it out there. Yes, we have a slight increase in uterine rupture. Yes. What happens if we have a uterine rupture and we are unmediated? 


    A lot of the time, we are noticing that there are signs of uterine rupture. When we get an epidural and a spinal, we go back and have a C-section. Simple as that. 


    Or if it is a true medical emergency, yes, there is that small risk of needing to be put under. Small risk and small risk equal risk of course, but it’s low. 


    02:47 Just-in-case epidural


    Meagan: What about if we have the just-in-case epidural? I seriously sometimes just want to sock someone who says “Just in case”. We don’t need to be placing an epidural just to have it ready to dose because guess what? In the event that it is a true emergency and we really do need to go in for an immediate Cesarean, it’s the same thing. We get knocked out. 


    I know that these words are kind of big and harsh words. We get knocked out, but we get put under general anesthesia if we don’t have anything in our system. 


    Now, let’s talk about an epidural. You actually have an epidural placed. It’s running. It’s dosed and we have a uterine rupture. Guess what? Women of Strength, more than likely, it still has to be dosed further because an epidural is not like a spinal. It’s just not. They have to dose it further. 


    With my first Cesarean, I had an epidural. They had to come in, dose it to a deeper extreme so I wasn’t feeling my surgery and I had to wait. Right? We are still waiting. It’s the same thing. There is always a wait and it takes time. It takes about 15-20 minutes for any epidural to kick in deep enough. 


    04:16 Dr. McGuire’s insight on epidurals


    Meagan: Dr. McGuire wrote for Yale Medicine. She talks about this epidural and is it safe and how are they different. She talks about how they truly are different than they were back in the day because they are dosing them lighter. We know that. We have seen that, but we still have some pretty serious risks as well with epidurals even though again, they are smaller. There are blood clots, spinal infections, spinal headaches, them not working, and things like that, and blood pressure. 


    I’m going to say as a doula, I’ve attended over 350 births. As a doula, I will say a large portion of any client, not just VBAC, who receives an epidural has a blood pressure dip. Even when they have a large amount of fluid because a lot of the time they will cram fluids in to try to help this, but there is some sort of blood pressure dip and baby seems to struggle when that happens. 


    Then it’s the cascade– rolling over, move, move, move, move. Baby doesn’t recover or mom’s blood pressure doesn’t recover and we are off to an OR. 


    One of the biggest questions that I think is a really hot debate in the medical world is does an epidural raise your chances of a Cesarean? Most people out there are going to say, “No, it doesn’t.” The studies are pretty low, though. I think in one study there were 2,000 people or something like that and they showed it didn’t. 


    But I mean, from a doula’s standpoint, I know I don’t see as many births as these OBs, but I definitely see it seems to do that– the blood pressure drop thing. So is it safe? Yes. Do you have to go unmedicated if you have a VBAC? No. Do you have to get an epidural if you have an epidural? No. Do what is best for you. 


    What she says is, “Those studies we know that have a higher concentration of epidural medicine was associated with an increased risk of Cesarean, though lower concentration we now use actually promotes normal, spontaneous vaginal delivery without assistance.” When she says assistance, a lot of the time when we have epidurals, we have vacuum or forceps assistance because we have lack of mobility. 


    That’s what she was saying here. I want to make sure to provide the link and some other links on our blog for epidurals so you can decide what is best for you. But for now, we are going to get into a story of an unmedicated, vaginal birth. 


    08:42 Using an epidural as a tool


    Meagan: Okay, Ms. Hayley. Welcome to the show. 


    Hayley: Thank you for having me. It’s really crazy to be on here sharing so thank you. 


    Meagan: I talk about how it’s crazy to be full-circle where you are listening. You are preparing. All of the people in your ear are motivating and then here you are today sharing your story motivating others in your same space x, y, z months ago. 


    Hayley: Yeah. It’s crazy. It really is a full-circle moment like you mentioned. 


    Meagan: Yeah. Well, I am so honored that you are here. I would love to turn the time over to you. 


    Hayley: Sure. So yeah, I also love what you were saying really quickly on the epidural versus not. Full transparency, when I went into this, I definitely recognized that an epidural is a tool and I knew and wanted to prepare myself. If I am– obviously, birth is not pleasant. It’s not going to be a walk in the park. But I knew there was a difference between being in pain versus suffering. I really wanted to know that for myself. It if turned into that suffering, I wouldn’t have been opposed to helping my body to get my baby. 


    Meagan: To the next point, yeah. 


    Hayley: But there is a difference between being in pain and suffering. 


    Meagan: As a doula, we talk about that a lot where we are like, okay. We are planning to go unmedicated. That is fantastic and then we talk about that pain versus suffering and that transition because when we are suffering, we start having things that come up later. We don’t think about it. We are suffering now, but postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and postpartum trauma. We have these things that are not worth it, so in the end, you have to do what’s best for you and keep you in that positive space and recognize pain versus suffering. 


    Hayley: Yeah. Exactly, so I love that. 


    10:44 Hayley’s first pregnancy and birth


    Hayley: To start this whole story I guess, is back in April 2021, I had my daughter. She was breech. For me, I knew pretty early on that she was breech. She was so active. I knew that, “Oh, you are trying to flip in there.” I did all of the things. I did Spinning Babies and tried all of the things, but it was still COVID time so I just didn’t go to acupuncture. I feel like if it wasn’t COVID times still, I maybe would have tried more things. But with that being said, I felt like she was literally trying to turn because I’m like, “What are you doing? If you’re not flipping, then I’m not sure. Then you can’t.” I just felt in my body that there was a reason. 


    I didn’t try manually flipping her or things like that. To help with peace of mind, I opted for a Cesarean even though that was the last thing I wanted. I’m terrified of surgeries and needles. I was like, “I do not want this. This is the absolute last thing I want,” but at the same time, I was happy that I could mentally prepare for that instead of it being sprung on me. And honestly, I feel like I had a pretty good recovery with that. 


    At the same time, I knew for any future children, I did not want to have another C-section. 


    12:00 Doing VBAC research before pregnancy


    Hayley: So fast forward. We moved across the country when she was about 9 months old. I was definitely not pregnant yet, but we were thinking about expanding our family. I had already started researching providers in the area, joining Facebook pages like the ICAN Facebook group in the area and literally preparing even though I wasn’t pregnant because I just really wanted to make this. 


    Meagan: That is important. 


    Hayley: Yeah. I just did my research. I really, really wanted to be not in a situation where I’m like, “Oh shoot. I’m pregnant and now I need to struggle to find a supportive provider,” because unfortunately, it’s hard to find VBAC-supportive providers. I wish that wasn’t the case, but I feel like that’s unfortunately the majority. 


    Meagan: The reality, it sucks. It’s stupid. I have a lot of words for that, but it is the reality. It is more often that it’s hard to find that true support than it is to find the opposite. 


    Hayley: Yep. I remember I made a couple of appointments just to talk with people to be like, “Hey, how do you feel about this? I’m looking to establish care.” I remember I went to two different places. One was an OB and they did have some midwives there, but yeah. They were like, “Well, you can or you can try that,” and I was like, “Cool. This doesn’t sound like 100%.” 


    I eventually found a group of midwives. I felt was a total 180 with the way that the care felt. Not that you can’t get that with OBs, but they were like, “Yeah. We’re going to do that.” It was just like, “Cool. We’re going to do that.” 


    Meagan: I love that. You’re like, “And great. I was almost not expecting you to say that so fantastic.” 


    Hayley: Exactly. I’m like, “Perfect.”


    13:51 Hayley’s second pregnancy


    Hayley: Fast forward, I then get pregnant with my second. I established care through them. I felt like the whole process was just so chill. Even just with anything, maybe it’s just the difference between your first pregnancy and second pregnancy where you are so nervous about everything with the first, but even the ultrasound that just felt very– with my first, they would really make me feel like they were really making sure, not that you shouldn’t make sure things are okay, but they just really made me feel like everything was so medical and things could go wrong or something. 


    With my second, they were just like, “Yeah, baby is great.” Okay, cool. Perfect. So that was awesome and definitely not what I expected. Again, it’s a different office and a different state. It was a totally different experience and amazing. But I was definitely in my head the whole pregnancy. I did not want this baby to flip. I just kept doing everything I could throughout my whole pregnancy, really working on my mentality and my mindset. 


    I found a doula. I went to a chiropractor towards the end of my pregnancy. I went to pelvic health, physical therapy, and I did all of the things because I’m like, “I want to do everything that I possibly can to make this happen.” That way if I didn’t, I would at least know, “Hey, I did everything and I totally prepared.” So mentally, that’s just what I needed. But yeah. I was definitely so in my head like, “What if this baby decides to be breech again? I would be so sad.” But luckily, that did not happen. 


    I also fell on my tailbone. I hurt my tailbone when I was 4 months before delivery so that was really not great either because one thing that once I would get into labor, I had so much tailbone pain and that was just something that I was not expecting. 


    So the pregnancy definitely had ups and downs. I feel like maybe you can answer if this is your experience too down the line with pregnancies, but I feel like your body just feels everything so much quicker with the second pregnancy. Like, “Oh, I’m already sore and it’s not even the second trimester. What’s happening?” 


    Meagan: I believe that. 


    Hayley: Yeah, so I found that really preparing is my number-one tip of doing your research, listening to podcasts, really get in that space of there was no doubt in my mind that I wasn’t going to be able to have a VBAC and I feel like that really helped me out when labor came because it wasn’t something that I even thought about. I can psyche myself out of I didn’t get worried. 


    Meagan: How amazing is that? I feel like that goes again, it’s like the full circle of, “Okay. I am educated. I have the support. I have the body and the baby ready to do this.” When we have gaps in our circle where it’s like, “Okay, well I’m educated so I feel confident in my ability,” but then we have a provider who is wishy-washy and shutting me down or I have a family member who is like, “Oh, you are really making a bad choice,” or starts questioning us and placing doubt, but then we are confident in our body. We are healthy and all of these things. 


    But when there are gaps, we can’t go into birth with that mentality. That’s something I wish for every single person going in to have a baby no matter what is just feeling confident and having that mentality of stress-free of the doubt. There are always the what-ifs and the wonders and every birth experience is different, but to not doubt ourselves or our ability and it comes with education, support, and all of those things. 


    Hayley: Yeah, exactly. Like reading my books and listening to stories and being like, “Yeah. My body can do this. This is what people have done for all of time.” 


    Meagan: Forever. 


    Hayley: We can do this. Yeah. Definitely, I agree. If you don’t have every single one of those aspects, it just makes things so much harder on yourself and everything. 


    18:15 Labor begins


    Hayley: So fast forward, I never went through labor with my first, so I still felt like a first-time mom in the sense that I was like, “Will I know when I’m in labor? What’s it going to feel like?” 


    It was February last year. I don’t know, whatever day it was. I guess it was the 22nd. I guess I was having cramping. I don’t know. They were really mild so I didn’t really think about it. I was working and taking care of my firstborn. 


    Looking back, I’m like, “Oh, I guess it was maybe early labor.” But I didn’t really think about it. But I had pasta for dinner which I think is hilarious. I just ate pasta because fast forward, I am putting my little one to bed at 7:00 PM and I start getting really bad stomach pains. I’m like, “Is this from my dinner? Is my stomach just upset? I don’t know what’s happening.” 


    I remember I had to have my husband finish putting her to bed. I was really not feeling good. I was like, “Okay. Am I just really not feeling good? Is this labor? I’m not sure what’s happening.” 


    So I get in the shower and I’m like, “All right. Let me just get in the shower and see what’s up.” Then my husband comes back in and I’m like, “Hey, I don’t want to freak you out. I’m not sure if this is labor or not, but maybe it is.”


    It’s getting closer to 8:00 PM or so and things are really starting to ramp up. I’m like, “Okay, this is probably labor.” I do remember having a thought of, “Shoot. If this is how early labor is and I’m already feeling it like this, I’m worried. I don’t know that I can do this.” I had those thoughts. I feel like I quickly got out of that, but it freaked me out. I wasn’t prepared for that. I know you can have those thoughts down the line in active labor, but I was like, “If I’m already feeling this and I don’t even know if I’m in labor yet, shoot. I’m in trouble.” 


    20:16 Going to the hospital


    Hayley: Fast forward, we started timing the contractions around 8:30 or 9:00 at night so only an hour and a half or so after I first had that contraction that I felt. They were already lasting over a minute long and coming 3-6 minutes apart. It got really intense really quickly. 


    I was like, “All right.” We put on Harry Potter. I was like, “Let’s just try to get some sleep. Let me rest here.” Jokes on us. We did not rest. We did not get sleep. I ended up calling our midwives and our doula. They were like, “Okay. You should probably think about coming in.” 


    We left our house at 11:00 PM. We live an hour from the hospital or 40 minutes. I was freaking out because one of the concerns I feel like everyone has is, “I don’t want to have my baby in the car,” but you don’t want to get there too soon. It’s one of those things. I really, truly believe though for me-- people say it’s nice to labor at home because you are comfortable and I do get that but for me, I wanted to get to my place of birth and I feel like that was a huge thing for me and my mindset. 


    Once I got to my place of birth, I was like, “Okay. This is where I’m giving birth. I don’t need to travel.” I relaxed a lot. That was also something I assumed I wanted to be at home longer, but for me, I was like, “No. I need to feel comfortable and in my space.” 


    However, when I got there, I was already 100% effaced, 0 station, and 7 centimeters. 


    Meagan: Nice! 


    Hayley: So I was already pretty far along. 


    Meagan: You pretty much labored at home very well. 


    Hayley: Yeah, exactly. So I was like, “Okay.” But I just really wanted to get to the hospital. I was like, “Get me to my people because I need support.” 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Hayley: So we finally get to the room. They had a bathtub which was great so they filled the tub up. I did have an IV placed but they didn’t have it hooked to anything. They just had it placed. What was annoying about that was they forgot to tape it when I got in the tub so of course, it fell out. So they literally I think, tried to stick me like 10 times. I’m not even exaggerating. It was a whole situation so that was not fun. 


    Yeah. Laboring in the tub was great and on the toilet was great. But it really, yeah. Once I was there and had my people, I just felt like I was in the zone and everything seemed a lot better than when I was at home in my head just being like, “What’s happening?” 


    So yeah. Everything moved really quickly but I wasn’t prepared for tailbone pain. Then I mean, I guess I probably should have. It was kind of in my head that this should be a thing because of when I fell, but man. The back pain and the tailbone pain so even things like the double hip squeeze that I thought, “Oh yeah, that’s going to help me” were like, no. 


    Meagan: And sacrum, oof. Yeah. No wonder the toilet felt really good because you were able to sit without pressure open and release that. 


    Hayley: Yeah, exactly. That was perfect or hands and knees in the tub because yeah. I couldn’t sit. It was a whole thing. 


    I don’t remember honestly from when my labor started at home, I don’t remember honestly peaking and getting any worse. It just honestly felt the same. Intense from the beginning all the way until the end which was also something that I was not prepared for. I think obviously it is different for everybody, but that was something I was like, “Oh.” I was pleasantly surprised in the sense of at least it wasn’t like, “Shoot. I’m totally screwed later,” but also, it was intense very quickly early on and throughout. 


    24:20 Pushing


    Hayley: So fast forward, I feel like now it’s 7:00 AM. We get to the hospital at basically 1:00 AM. At 7:00 AM, I’m at 10 centimeters and I feel the urge to push so we start pushing in different positions. One thing I really wanted for myself was to not push lounging on a bed. However, with my tailbone, I felt like everything hurt so it ended up where we tried so many positions but I was kind of semi-reclined just because I felt like I needed that support. I don’t know. 


    I told myself to be okay with ultimately pushing in the position that I “didn’t want” and being okay with that was something that I was like, “You know what? Listen to what I need in this moment and do what’s best.” So it was one of those moments where it was like, “All right. I need to just let go of what I was assuming and do what’s best for me.” 


    We pushed for a while. It was 60 or so minutes which was– 


    Meagan: That’s actually not bad for a first-time mom. 


    Hayley: Really? I think it was 60, maybe 70 or so. But I do remember pushing being harder than I thought. That was not something that I had prepared for. I feel like for any mamas out there listening, prepare for pushing. 


    Meagan: Yeah. Pushing is hard work. 


    Hayley: It’s hard. I think that tired me out honestly more than the labor. It was pushing and I think it was half because I did not prepare as much for it and because obviously at the end of it, you’re already tired and exhausted. But yeah. I did not prepare for pushing to last as long either. I feel like I did know that, but mentally, I feel like, “Wait. This is still happening,” and it being intense. 


    But then he finally was born and I just literally grabbed him. My husband was helping catch him, but I literally just took him right away. 


    Meagan: Aw, cute. 


    Hayley: It was great. So then I had this huge high of like, “Wow. I did this VBAC unmedicated. This is great,” then fast forward to postpartum, the nurse had kind of mentioned or my midwife had kind of mentioned, “Oh, you have a slight uterine prolapse.” I was just like, “I don’t know what that means. Cool.” They mentioned it as we were in the hospital and it wasn’t until afterward that I still was like, “No one is telling me what any of this means. What is this? I don’t even know what this is.” They were being so casual about it and I wasn’t getting any information. 


    27:05 Hayley’s prolapse experience


    Hayley: That was something that was frustrating because then postpartum, a couple weeks in when I was starting to have some symptoms of prolapse, I was like, “Well, no one is giving me answers. Nobody told me what this is. Now I’m postpartum feeling confused and in the dark.” 


    It was really interesting to go from this high high of, “Wow. I had an amazing birth, successful VBAC, unmedicated” to now questioning, “Well, what did I do?” You question yourself. Did I do something wrong? Could I have done something differently? Why did this happen? Because no one else apparently had this which is actually not true. It’s just not talked about. 


    So that was a very big part of postpartum that I was not at all prepared for. 


    Meagan: Yeah. That’s hard. Let’s talk a little bit about the symptoms that you were receiving. What symptoms did you have? 


    Hayley: Yeah. So at the beginning, I felt like I was like, “I don’t know what this means. I’m not really feeling it. You just said I have a slight uterine prolapse. We’ll check that later.” Then you don’t go to your visit until however many weeks postpartum. So I was like, okay. 


    But then when I was home a couple of weeks later, maybe two or so weeks, I was feeling heaviness or uncomfortable or pain a little bit. This doesn’t feel normal. I felt bulging in the beginning. That emotionally and mentally really got to me. I was like, “Why is my body doing this?” Then I would remember messaging my midwife on the little portal and they were like, “You’re really early postpartum. We will talk when we see you,” and no help. I’m like, “Well, that doesn’t help me now when I’m not feeling great. It doesn’t help me when I’m just like, yeah. 


    They were like, “Most of the time, it will resolve” or whatever. It’s like, okay but I’m not happy right now. I’m not feeling great now. So finally, as soon as I did have my pelvic floor PT from before, I emailed her like, “Hey, is there anything you can recommend because I’m not seeing my midwife for a while? No one is really helping me out.” She was like, “Yeah, you can come in. I can’t really do an exam yet because you are still so early, but I can see you. I can talk to you. I can look at things and see what is happening.” 


    So that was really helpful. What’s interesting is now, I’m however many months postpartum, but even I feel like a month or two when I could go onto my pelvic floor PT, she didn’t see any sort of uterine prolapse, but I think I have a slight bladder cystocele so I’m not sure where the uterine thing happened in the beginning of when I delivered and they had said I had uterine prolapse, but now, it looks like it’s just a slight cystocele. 


    But what’s frustrating about what I’ve noticed with people with prolapse is a) the grades don’t seemingly matter in that you can be a grade 1 prolapse which I think technically I probably am, but if you are having symptoms, then let’s get that figured out because so many times, people would be like, “Well, it’s not bad” or “I don’t even see anything,” but it’s like, “Okay, well I am feeling these symptoms and it is mentally causing me– it’s making me in my head. It’s making me depressed. It’s making me upset about my body so let’s find someone to actually work on that with me instead of dismissing that was huge because yeah. I don’t have a grade 4 prolapse or grade 3 or whatever it is that you consider back, but if it’s making my day-to-day and me not be able to do things, then that’s a problem. 


    Meagan: Yes. I love that you are talking about that. Women of Strength, at least here in the U.S., take way too long to be checked in on after having a baby. Six weeks is mind-boggling to me. A lot happens in six weeks. We have a lot of hormones shifting. We have a lot of recovering. We have a lot of things that may need to be addressed earlier on or that can start helping us with our mental health. There are so many things. 


    I agree. If you are experiencing any type of these symptoms and your heart is like, “This isn’t good or this is affecting me,” reach out to someone. If you’re OB or your midwife's office is like, “We’ll see you at six weeks,” go to that pelvic floor PT. Review with them. 


    32:01 Symptoms of uterine prolapse


    Meagan: I want to talk about some of the symptoms of uterine specifically and what it is. Uterine prolapse occurs when the muscles and tissues in your pelvis are weakened. We know that through childbirth, that happens. We push and sometimes when we push longer hours or whatever, we can weaken that. 


    But most people with uterine prolapse are a little older. They are 50-80 years old but it can happen in childbirth. So here are some of the symptoms. 


    Leaking of urine, inability to completely empty your bladder– so you go to the bathroom, you stand up and you’re like, “Oh, there’s more,” or you start leaking more. That heaviness down there– so I had a cystocele as well. It’s so weird, but I remember wanting to sit on the corner of the couch or on the edge of the couch just to put some counter pressure. Do you know what I mean? 


    Hayley: Yep. Yep. 


    Meagan: That bulging, lower back pain which a lot of the time we are like, “Oh, back pain. We are nursing. We are recovering. We are hunched. Yeah, that’s normal.” Lower back pain is not necessarily normal. Aching or feeling that in your lower abdomen or down in your pelvic area and even severe constipation. We know that after childbirth, especially if we have an epidural or we’ve had a lot of intervention and stuff like that, constipation can happen. A lot of people get iron supplements and stuff like that to have that be lessened, but these are symptoms that truly need to be discussed and not ignored for six weeks because like Hayley was saying, it can start wearing on our mental health. I remember wanting to go out and walk around the block with my kids and just wanting to hold myself down there because it was so bulgy and achy. 


    Hayley: Yes. 


    Meagan: According to a study, it said that around 35% of women who have recently given birth suffer from prolapse. 35%. That’s a lot of us, you guys. A lot of people. The cystocele is when the wall between the bladder and the vaginal wall weakens so we can’t kegel. It’s not tight. It’s weakened so it comes down. 


    Again, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, know that it’s not necessarily something you have to just deal with. And yes, it will probably resolve in time, but you could also probably get some help sooner rather than later and help yourself mentally not worry about that. 


    I have a friend who had a pretty high-grade prolapse. She ended up scheduling which is totally fine. She ended up scheduling C-sections for the rest of her births because she was so terrified of having that issue because she did have bladder and fecal issues. When you are peeing and pooping yourself, that’s not fun. It’s not fun, but you can get the support out there and you deserve the support and you do not need to be pushed off for six weeks. 


    Make sure to follow your heart and get the help you need. 


    35:29 Prolapse can happen


    Hayley: Yeah, exactly. I think another thing that I would have loved to have known, I feel like no one talks about prolapse. When I went through my pregnancy classes or even just with the doctor or with my midwife, no one ever mentioned, “Oh, this could happen. This could be a complication. This could happen after birth.” No one ever mentioned that to me, so I was like, “I don’t even know what this is,” then I felt really alone like, “Why am I the only postpartum person who has this happen?” 


    Meagan: Right or that’s just talking about it. 


    Hayley: In reality, I’m not. 


    Meagan: No, you’re not. Yeah. There are a ton of risk factors, but giving birth is easily the highest risk. Think about the amount of pressure that we are putting on our pelvic floor and our organs when we are pushing out a baby. I think that is another reason. I know you did this. I know you went to pelvic PT beforehand, but especially if you’ve had this in the past or you are thinking about this, talk to your pelvic floor PT and say, “Okay. Can you give me some guidance on pushing? Can we talk about how to try to avoid this?” 


    I actually had another client– my other one was just a friend. I wasn’t her doula, but this was a client. She had some pretty rough PT things and had to go through a lot of PT. That was her thing and they said, “As soon as you feel this, I want you to change positions. I want you to push differently. I want you to breathe differently.” She believes that her work before and her work during and her different style of pushing helped. Baby came out really fast. She actually didn’t have any pelvic issues which was a really grateful thing for her because she had a pretty severe complication. 


    Yeah. It doesn’t always have to be that so that was another message. If you have it, it doesn’t have to be like that next time or it doesn’t mean it’s always going to be like that next time. But know that if you are having that, you’re probably not the only one. 35% of us, that’s a large chunk of people. That’s right up there with the Cesarean rate. It’s quite high. 


    Hayley: That’s true. 


    Meagan: So know that it’s okay to talk about it. It’s okay to open up. You do not have to deal with it. You can get help and you deserve it. 


    Hayley: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. I feel like for a while, I just cried to my husband and he was like, “It’s okay to feel this way.” Stop blaming yourself. Really getting out of your head. You didn’t cause this and yeah. You can absolutely get help. If people are pushing you off, let’s find somebody else then who will talk to you in the meantime because your mental health matters. How you are feeling matters because yeah. Now, here I am getting close to a year postpartum and I’m feeling so much better, but it’s because I’ve been listening to my body and I’ve been working with a PT doing exercises and supporting myself and working on drinking water, not getting constipated like you said and all of these things. 


    Again, were there times in my postpartum journey when I was like, “This is not what I want to be dealing with?” Yes. But you can absolutely– it does get better. If you’re feeling this way, it sucks and you feel like it’s never going to get better. I get it. I was there, but it really does and you’re not the only person. 


    At the same time, I don’t want to scare people. This may not happen to you either for sure. But if it does, listen to yourself and you can get help. 


    Meagan: And that’s the message, right? It’s not going to happen to everybody but it does happen and it’s important to know that you don’t have to ignore it. You don’t have to suffer in silence. You can get help and have a better postpartum. There are tons of things– I think I’ve talked about this– in my postpartum journey where I was like, “I got the birth I wanted, but I’m so frustrated that these things are happening.” You can also have both of those feelings. You can be super happy for your birth but also really frustrated with your postpartum journey or vice versa where you’re like, “I had a really crappy birth, but man, I’m so grateful for this postpartum journey.” You can have those feelings together. You don’t have to be quiet because you had the birth that everyone knew you wanted. 


    Hayley: Right, exactly. It doesn’t diminish how proud I am of having a natural VBAC and doing that even though at times in the beginning, I did question that. 


    Meagan: Oh yeah. Yeah. That’s natural. 


    Hayley: But looking back, I’m like, “That’s amazing.” I’m so proud of myself that I achieved a VBAC and had an unmedicated one. It’s just crazy to me. 


    Meagan: Absolutely. Well, thank you for sharing your story today. 


    Hayley: Thank you for having me. I know I can talk a lot. 


    Meagan: It was wonderful. 


    Closing


    Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Tell us about your experience at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Meagan’s bio, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.





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    41m - Apr 10, 2024
  • Episode 289 Karen's VBAC After Navigating an Unsupportive Provider

    Though Karen did research and took birthing classes before her first baby, she didn’t realize how much advocating for herself could change the course of her birth. She wanted to be the “good” patient and told herself she could do without the things her body told her she needed during labor. Karen ended up pushing for over four hours and consenting to what she was told was an emergency C-section, even though the actual surgery didn’t happen until hours later.


    Karen had some serious postpartum symptoms of swelling and difficulty breathing that were dismissed and even laughed at until things came to a point where she knew something was very wrong. She was diagnosed with postpartum cardiomyopathy, admitted to the ICU, and transferred to cardiac care. 


    Doctors told Karen very different things about her condition. She went from being told not to have any more children to hearing that VBAC was absolutely safe. Karen discusses how her gestational hypertension came into play with the different advice as well. 


    Karen found her voice. She advocated for herself. She knew what her body was saying and what it was capable of. Her labor was so smooth and she WAS able to birth vaginally!


    Informed Pregnancy Plus

    Needed Website

    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details 


    3:46 Review of the Week

    06:27 Karen’s stories

    08:50 First labor

    10:47 Pushing for four hours

    15:11 Karen’s C-section

    17:43 Postpartum swelling and difficulty breathing

    21:03 Fluid in her lungs

    23:52 Moving to Florida and getting answers

    25:13 Getting pregnant again

    29:53 Advocating for a VBAC

    32:14 A spiritual dream

    34:34 Gestational hypertension

    39:36 Signing an AMA

    41:31 Going to the hospital

    45:20 Pushing for 20 minutes

    47:30 White coat syndrome

    51:59 Symptoms of hypertension and preeclampsia

    54:52 Tips for hypertension and preeclampsia 

    56:55 Karen’s final tips


    Meagan: Hello, hello. We are getting into almost our 300th episode, you guys. Every single time I’m recording and I’m looking at these numbers, I am blown away. I cannot believe that we have almost put out 300 episodes. Oh my goodness. I am so glad that you are here. 


    I have this energy this year. I don’t know what it is. You’ll have to let me know if you notice it, but I have this energy every time I’m recording this podcast. 2024 is vibing. I’m vibing with it. I’m really liking it. 


    We have our friend Karen and are you from Florida, Karen? 


    Karen: Yep. I’m in Orlando, Florida. 


    Meagan: Florida. That’s what I was thinking. So if we have Florida mamas looking for providers, this is definitely an episode. I feel like probably weekly we would get 10 messages asking about providers and Florida is huge so Florida is actually one that is really common where we are getting messages for supportive providers. 


    So Karen, along the way, if you feel to name-drop some providers that are supportive, feel free to do so but we are going to get into sharing her story in just one moment because we do have a Review of the Week. 


    3:46 Review of the Week 


    Meagan: This is from louuuhuuuu. So louuuhuuuu, thank you for your review. They say that this is “very inspirational.” It says, “I knew I wanted a VBAC with my third pregnancy, but I wasn’t sure if it was possible. However, I knew I didn’t feel like being flat-out told, ‘No’ at the first appointment. Listening to the podcast was definitely the start of me really researching birth and looking into my options. I ended up with a successful HBA2C and I definitely don’t think I would have had the courage or believed it was possible without this podcast. Thank you, Meagan, for all of the work that you do to provide this information.” 


    I love that review so much. I think that through time in my own research, I was told no. I wasn’t told, “No, no.” I was told, “Sure, probably yeah. You could VBAC,” but I never really got that positive vibe. I feel like this community that we have created with all of the people on the podcast and all of the people in the community on Facebook truly is something that I lacked when I was preparing for my VBAC. I’m so grateful that we have this community for you today. 


    Thank you, louuuuhuuuu, and huge congrats on your HBAC, your home birth after two Cesareans. If you didn’t what HBA2C meant, that’s home birth after two Cesareans. Just like louuuhuuuu, you can too. Make sure to follow us in our Facebook community. You can find it at The VBAC Link Community on Facebook. Answer all of the questions and we will let you in. You can find out as well that it is possible. VBAC is possible. 


    06:27 Karen’s stories


    Meagan: Okay, Karen. Welcome to the show and thank you so much for taking the time to share your story today, well your stories today. 


    Karen: Yeah. Thank you for having me. It’s a little wild actually being on your show. I’ve been thinking about what I was going to say even before you invited me like, “What would I say if I finally get my VBAC? It’s crazy to actually be sharing my story now so I’m really excited to be talking to you today.” 


    Meagan: Well I’m so excited that you are here and sharing your inspirational message. You know, going through your submission, it sounds so similar to so many of us. You went in for a totally planned unmedicated birth that switched to the complete opposite where you had a C-section. There are so many of us. When I was reading that, I was like, “I bet I could probably find hundreds of stories not even just in our own community that start out like that.” 


    Karen: Yes. That’s why I love listening to your podcast so much because for the first time, I didn’t feel alone. But yeah. I can get into my story now if you’d like. 


    Meagan: Yes. I would love it. 


    Karen: Okay. So back in August– or, I’m sorry. My son was due in August 2023. This was our first baby and he was a little bit of a surprise baby, but he was very much welcome and we were excited for him. At the time, we were living in Virginia. My husband had just gotten out of the Navy and he was about to start law school. 


    I did prepare for the birth but I don’t think I prepared enough. I took a Hypnobirthing class and the doula who was leading the class was super supportive. She was just like, “You’re just going to birth beautifully. I can just tell.” The midwives, the nurses at the practice were like, “Oh, you’re going to birth beautifully. I can just tell.” I just kept hearing that over and over again. My ego was a little over-inflated and I was like, “I don’t need to do much. I’ve got this.” 


    I don’t think I was prepared enough. I didn’t know what I was really getting into. 


    08:50 First labor


    Karen: So when I actually started going into labor, I got there way too early. I got to the hospital too early. Like you mentioned, I wanted an unmedicated birth. I got there, I think my contractions were about every seven minutes. Now I know that I definitely should have waited at home longer. But everything seemed to be going well. 


    I arrived. They admitted me. They seemed a little bit hesitant, but they were like, “Oh, well she’s in labor. Let’s just bring her in.” My water broke on its own that afternoon. Things seemed to be going well until the pain really started kicking in. I had a really hard time working through the pain even with everything I learned in HypnoBirthing. I still hadn’t quite found my voice yet, my mama voice. 


    I couldn’t tell people, “Hey, you’re distracting me. I’m trying to do HypnoBirthing.” I felt embarrassed about putting up the sign outside my door saying, “Hey, HypnoBirthing in progress. Please keep quiet.” I just didn’t speak up. I was just trying to be a good girl and just listen to what everyone says. I heard so many times in different episodes being a good girl and just doing what I’ve been told. 


    Meagan: Right. We are people pleasers. I think a lot of us are people pleasers. We don’t want to ruffle feathers. We want to stay in line. We want to follow this path that we are being told we have to stay on. 


    Karen: Yes. I mean, I just didn’t realize it was something I needed to form as a mama to be able to stand up for myself because pretty soon there was going to be a baby that needed me to stand up for them. 


    Like I said, during the birth, there were just so many distractions, people coming in and out, nurses, and visitors. It was too much. I did end up getting an epidural because I just couldn’t hold out any longer. 


    10:47 Pushing for four hours


    Karen: Around 2:00 AM, the labor and delivery nurse told me, “Oh, you need to start pushing.” I was on my back. I pushed for about two hours. I had some breaks but the baby was just stuck. For part of it, we could see that he was crowning but he just would not come out. 


    During this entire time, no one really looked at me. I just had this one labor and delivery nurse. She was so sweet, but the midwife didn’t come by. The OB didn’t come by. No one really came by and I wanted to move into different positions. I felt my body telling me, “Hey, try this. Try this,” and they would tell me, “You can’t move. You have to stay like that.” 


    I pushed for four hours. Baby was in distress. I felt fine but the midwife came in and told me, “You’re going to need a C-section.” This was the first time I had seen her. She told me. 


    Meagan: Wow. 


    Karen: Yeah. So she says, “You need a C-section. He’s not going to come out vaginally.” I didn’t know. I didn’t know what to do. I mean, I felt that was my only option. I got really upset. I started crying. I felt like a failure. I know now that I’m not a failure. That wasn’t it. But that’s how I felt at the moment and my husband was devastated. He was such an amazing birth partner and he felt like he failed me. I was like, “No. You didn’t fail either,” but at that moment, we just felt so let down that one, I had to ask for an epidural, and two that I was going to need a C-section. 


    Karen: They told me. I don’t remember if the word “emergency” was used or not, but they made me feel like it was an emergency and it needed to happen immediately. When I look at the paperwork and all of that stuff, I’m like, “Where was the urgency?” Because the C-section didn’t happen until 10:00 AM. 


    Meagan: Yeah. That’s not an emergency. This is another thing that I’m going to be honest– it irks me because there are so many of us who are told it is an emergency. When we hear “emergency”, what do we think? Panic. Scary. Right? We divert into asking– divert. I don’t know if that’s the right word. We stop asking questions and we say, “Okay. Okay. Okay,” because it’s an emergency and we are told that. 


    Karen: Exactly. 


    Meagan: I think a lot of times, truly that we are told it is an emergency and that offers some sort of– it’s weird, but some sort of validation where it’s like, “But it’s an emergency, so okay.” We just agree and then we are grateful. We look at them in a way because it’s an emergency so they are saving. Does this make sense? I don’t know. 


    Karen: No, it does. To me, when I think about it now, it feels like manipulation. 


    Meagan: Okay, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It can be. Truly, there are real emergent Cesareans. 


    Karen: Agreed. 


    Meagan: We are so grateful for Cesareans that can help us and those are real, true emergent situations, but so many of us are told it’s an emergency and then like you said, it’s 10:00 AM or they come in and they’re like, “We need to shave you,” and it’s like, “Okay, that’s not an emergency.” If they have time to shave you, talk with you, and leave you for four hours, no. It’s not an emergency. 


    Karen: Exactly. So if I had known what I know now, I would have asked for my options, asked to push and change positions. There are so many things I would have done but like you said, I thought it was an emergency. I was treating my baby in danger. I need to do this now even though there was nothing wrong with the baby. There wasn’t. 


    Meagan: Or you. 


    Karen: Mhmm, exactly. His heart was fine. Everything was fine as far as I could see as far as I remember, as far as the paperwork says, so it doesn’t make sense anymore to me. But yeah. 


    15:11 Karen’s C-section


    Karen: My husband was told to dress in scrubs while they prepped me and then I asked the nurse to make sure that no one was in the room when I got back. When we came back to surgery, they wheeled me over to the OR and they were just checking to see that the epidural was still good. I could feel them touching my belly. I told them and that’s the last thing I remember. The next thing I know, I just hear a baby crying in the distance. I was waking up in a different room and there were just these two nurses chatting about their day. 


    To me, it was traumatizing. I couldn’t even process what was going on and what happened. That was just so, so scary. 


    Meagan: I’m so sorry. 


    Karen: Yeah. Sorry. So then they wheeled me out and that’s where my husband and our whole family were waiting. I was so frustrated because I told the nurse I didn’t want anyone here. I knew I would be upset after the C-section and there was everyone in the room waiting. I also found out that my baby got passed around so I didn’t even get to be the first to hold him. That was so extremely upsetting. 


    I told my husband, “I want everyone out.” Everyone left and it was just me and my husband and our baby, Luke. We were there for about 15 minutes before they started to prep me to move the recovery room and I was like, “Wait a minute. I thought I got a golden hour where I would get to be alone with the baby for an hour.” They were like, “Oh yeah, you can do that in the recovery room,” and they just wheeled me over. I get so sad when I look at pictures of that time because my baby is so beautiful. I love him so much, but I felt so drugged up that I couldn’t connect with him. You can see it in the pictures. I just look like I don’t know where I am. I’m in pain. It’s just not what I imagined that experience to be. 


    Meagan: Right. 


    Karen: I definitely felt robbed of an experience. I felt extremely traumatized. That was hard in and of itself, but I was trying to come to terms with what happened. It was just a very rough time in the hospital. We had some family drama as well so that didn’t help. 


    Meagan: No. 


    Karen: I was discharged less than 48 hours later which now I know is way too early considering the symptoms I was feeling. 


    17:43 Postpartum swelling and difficulty breathing


    Karen: My legs were extremely swollen. My whole body was extremely swollen. It didn’t even look like I had given birth because I was just swollen all over. One nurse even made fun of my legs and she was like, “They look like baseball bats.” She was just tapping them.


    Meagan: That’s a warning sign. That’s something to think about. 


    Karen: Well, I didn’t know that. 


    Meagan: Well, of course, you didn’t, but as a professional, she shouldn’t be tapping on your legs. She should be like, “Hmm, was this like this?” 


    Karen: I’ve told other medical professionals that story and they are horrified. They are like, “That was a big warning sign something was wrong,” but they discharged me regardless. I felt so completely unprepared. It was just a very bad experience all around. They didn’t have a lactation consultant working over the weekend so my baby was crying and crying and crying. He wasn’t getting enough to eat when he was breastfeeding. 


    They were just laughing and saying, “Oh, all moms feel like that. He’s getting enough to eat.” Sure enough, my son was jaundiced and his pediatrician was like, “No, he needs formula. He’s not getting enough to eat.” He had a significant tongue tie so he was not getting enough to eat. 


    When I got home, like I said, baby was starving. I’m not getting any sleep. When he does fall asleep, I can’t sleep. I remember explaining to different people like, “I’m having trouble breathing every time I lay down.” Everyone was just like, “Oh yeah. New mom, new baby. Totally normal.” 


    Meagan: What? It is not normal to not feel like you can’t breathe. 


    Karen: You’re going to love this then. At one point, I called the nurse hotline at the hospital because they gave it to me when I was discharged. I told the nurse, “When I lay down, I can’t breathe. It feels like I can’t breathe.” Her response was, “Oh, sometimes new moms don’t know how pain feels like.” 


    I was just like, “Okay, I guess this is just me.” She was like, “Technically, we’re supposed to tell you to come to the hospital if you are having trouble breathing.” 


    Meagan: Technically. 


    Karen: Technically. So I was trying to be the good girl and trying not to ruffle any feathers and I was just like, “Okay. I’ll keep pushing through,” but the moment I realized things were not good, I was extremely depressed. I thought that I was going to die and leave my child alone. I was having horrible thoughts like that. Then I realized, “I’m starting to hallucinate.” So after three days of not sleeping, there was one incident where I heard my baby crying and screaming. I went over to the bassinet to look at him and he’s sleeping peacefully, but I can still hear him crying and screaming clearly. 


    I’m like, “That’s not normal.” 


    21:03 Fluid in her lungs


    Karen: Once he woke up because I was trying to be a good new mom, so once he woke up, I packed myself up and my mom and I went to the ER. I explained to them, “I’m not getting sleep. I can’t sleep. Every time I lay down, I can’t breathe.” They were like, “Okay. Maybe you have a blood clot.” 


    They took me back. They did an MRI scan and when I was lying down for the scan, I started taking these small quick breaths and the nurse was like, “Are you having a panic attack? What’s going on?” I go, “I can’t breathe.” She finally was the one that was just like, “There is something deeply wrong here. This is not normal at all.” 


    I loved her. She really pushed to make sure that I got seen quickly. They determined that I was experiencing congestive heart failure. The way they explained it is my heart was not pumping strong enough I guess. It wasn’t pumping right so that’s why I was having trouble breathing because my lungs were filling up with fluid. 


    They were able to give me medication. It was Lasix to help push out all of the fluid. I was kept at the ICU for two nights then they transferred me to the cardiac wing of the hospital. I was there four nights total because they just wanted to keep an eye on my blood pressure and this obviously wasn’t normal what was happening. My blood pressure was through the roof. 


    That was a really, really difficult time because one, I was away from my new baby and then I had three different doctors tell me, “There is something wrong with your heart. You won’t be able to have more children. Your heart can’t handle it.” That was distressing because my husband and I dreamed of having a big family and we were thinking, “This might be our last child.” 


    But weirdly enough, my OB– the one who performed the C-section– disagreed. I don’t like how he said this, but he was like, “Oh, don’t be dramatic. It was just a little extra fluid. You’re fine.” I was like, “Okay.” He said, “You can have a VBAC. You can have as many children as you want. You’re going to be fine.” 


    I wasn’t a fan of him but that was interesting that he had told me, “You’re going to be a great VBAC candidate.” He kind of put that idea in my head. He said that the only reason my son got stuck was because he was 9 pounds, 15 ounces so basically a 10-pounder. I was like, “Okay.” I didn’t know what I know now, but that’s the reason they gave me. 


    23:52 Moving to Florida and getting answers


    Karen: Eventually, we moved to Florida because I’m from Florida so I felt more comfortable with the medical care there. I just kept finding out different ways that I was failed by the medical system back in Virginia. My primary doctor determined that I had postpartum depression. My son was already two years old when she discovered that. It was just like, “Oh, okay.” Here’s some medication. Now I feel like myself again. 


    It made me realize, “Okay, what else do I need to look into?” I got a cardiologist. She was saying, “There is nothing wrong with your heart.” She can’t definitively say because she wasn’t there, but she was like, “They put too many fluids in your body. You are fine. There is nothing wrong with your heart.” She was just like, “You’re good to go. You can have a VBAC. You can have another C-section. You can do whatever you want. You’re fine. We can keep an eye on you, but you’re okay.” 


    I started seeing an OB and I told her everything that happened and I was just like, “I want a VBAC.” I told her everything the cardiologist said, gave her all of the paperwork and she was like, “Yeah. You can totally have a VBAC.” 


    So with both of their blessings, I was like, “Okay. Let’s try for baby number two. I’m okay. I’m healthy. I’m fine.” 


    25:13 Getting pregnant again


    Karen: So I got pregnant with baby number two and that was very exciting. I thought everything was going well then at 20 weeks, my OB said, “Unfortunately, I can’t be your doctor anymore. This practice cannot deliver you. You are too high of a risk for this office.” 


    Meagan: For the office. 


    Karen: Yes. Yes. They only delivered at these smaller boutique hospitals so they said that I needed to deliver at a high-risk hospital or a hospital that accepts high-risk patients. 


    Meagan: Okay, got you. I got you. 


    Karen: I got a little tongue-tied. They told me I needed to deliver at a different hospital that I didn’t want to deliver at. I was like, “If I’m going to deliver at a big hospital, it’s going to be Winnie Palmer in Orlando.” I’m a huge fan of theirs. So I was just like, “Okay. I can’t deliver with this office even though they’ve been aware of all my situations for a while. I’ll find a different office.” 


    But I was already 20 weeks so it’s really hard to find a provider at 20 weeks. 


    Meagan: It can be, yeah. 


    Karen: The other disappointing thing they told me is, “Oh, by the way, you can’t have any more children. You really shouldn’t because, with everything that is going on with you, your body can’t handle it.” It was just like, I don’t understand where this is coming from. You’ve been telling me I’ve been okay. My cardiologist says I’ve been okay. I didn’t really get what was going on. 


    Karen: I called around and only one clinic would take me when I was that far along with this high-risk label on me. 


    Meagan: I was going to say the label. That’s exactly the word I was going to say. 


    Karen: Yeah. I didn’t feel like it really fit, but that’s what they said I was. I found a big practice that had lots of doctors. It is a very prominent practice here in Orlando and I felt like I just had to settle. The first doctor I met with I was already frustrated because I asked for a female doctor and they gave me a male doctor. I don’t have anything against male doctors, I just feel more comfortable with a female doctor but he was just like, “Oh. You can’t VBAC at all. You had a vertical incision so you have to have a repeat C-section.” 


    I was like, “I don’t– I’ve never heard anyone say that. Where does it say that in my medical records?” He was just like, “I don’t see it in your records, but this other doctor said that you had a vertical incision.” I’m like, “Well, how does she know that?” 


    So I had to go and start pulling all of these records and got the surgical notes for my C-section and everything and finally, I found something that said I did not have a vertical incision so once I showed it to him, he was just like, “Oh, okay. Well, you still can’t VBAC. Your hips are too tiny. You can’t deliver a baby.” 


    Meagan: Oh my goodness, just pulling them all out. Let me just shift this jar around and pull out the next reason. 


    Karen: Yes. I was just like, “Are you serious? Okay.” 


    Meagan: Goodness. 

    29:53 Advocating for a VBAC


    Karen: So me and my husband were like, “No. I want to try. We want to try.” I’m so glad my husband was there because he is always so good at being an advocate for me. He was just like, “No. She wants a VBAC. What can we do to make it happen?” 


    So he said, “Well, your weight is one thing because your baby was so big the first time because you gained a lot of weight. We can help you try but if after two hours of pushing you can’t get that baby out, we’re going to give you a C-section.” 


    It was very frustrating, but I felt like I really had no choice. 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Karen: I hadn’t discovered you yet so I was just like, “Okay. I guess it is what it is. I will try my best to have a VBAC, but this guy’s going to stop me.” So I was very blessed that due to a scheduling issue, I had an appointment with a totally different doctor. She was this young female doctor. She was around my age and I felt like I could relate to her. I just really enjoyed talking to her. I don’t know if this has something to do with it, but my background is I am Japanese and Colombian and she was Asian, so it was just like, “Okay. I have someone else who is a person of color who understands at least the cultural differences.” 


    So I don’t know if that really had anything to do with anything, but it did make me feel more comfortable with her.


    Meagan: Which is important. 


    Karen: Yes. After years of different doctors telling me there was something wrong with me, it was so nice to have her say to me, “Oh. You want a VBAC? Yeah. You are super healthy. You are going to be fine.” It was just like, “Oh my gosh. You think I’m healthy? Every doctor had been telling me that I’m overweight. There’s something wrong with my heart. There’s something wrong,” and she was telling me that I was healthy. That just made me so inspired and I just became a lot more proactive with my health. I didn’t feel like things had to happen to me. I felt like I had a lot more control over my situation. 


    32:14 A spiritual dream


    Karen: There was also one other event that happened and this was around Christmas. I’m a Christian, so we’ve been going to God a lot with prayers and I have been asking for a successful VBAC. So Christmas morning, I woke up to a dream but it didn’t feel like a dream. It felt more like a vision and I was giving birth vaginally to a little girl. In the dream, I had the knowledge that this was going to be my third child. I was like, “Wait a second. But I’m pregnant right now with my second child. How did that birth go?” 


    I just was told by God, “Oh, that birth went well too. You’re going to be fine. You’re going to be happy. You’re going to have many children.” So I woke up so happy that Christmas morning. I told my husband with everything I’ve been battling and all of these negative thoughts, there is no way that this could have been something I produced myself or just dreamed of myself because it was such a positive, happy dream when before that, I had just been having constant nightmares about C-sections.


    It was just this moment of, “Okay. God really is with us and he’s going to make sure everything is okay.” So yeah, between having this great doctor and then having that dream, I just was more motivated to really take control of the situation like, “Okay. I don’t have to let things happen to me. What can I do?” Which actually led me to The VBAC Link. 


    I was already 33 weeks pregnant when I found you guys so it was kind of late in the game, but I’m so glad I did. I listened to The VBAC Link obsessively in the car, when I was walking my dog, all the time and I would just hear these different stories and notate, “Okay. This is what she did. This is how she got results. This is what happened to her.” I started taking all of these notes about how I should respond in different situations and I’m so glad I did because I did use some of that later on. 


    34:34 Gestational hypertension


    Karen: Unfortunately, I did develop gestational hypertension but I’m still not completely convinced that I actually had it. They diagnosed me the week I had to put down my dog and I had her since I was 15 so it was just devastating. I was under a lot of stress and I tried to explain that to them. They were like, “No. This is gestational hypertension.” I’m like, “Okay. Here is another label.” 


    But I kept on top of my blood pressure readings. I never had high readings. I ate well. I tried to do exercise as much as you can when you are in your third trimester. Unfortunately, this practice had a policy that patients with gestational hypertension must deliver by 37 weeks. 


    Meagan: Whoa. 


    Karen: Yes. They said that if you are a VBAC patient, they won’t induce you. So there’s another timeline. I had to deliver by 37 weeks. But yeah, things seemed to be going really well. Once I reached around 36 weeks, I actually started having prodromal labor. I’m like, “Okay, yes. Things are going really well.” Because I had gestational hypertension, I was going 3-4 times a week to the doctor at that point. 


    Meagan: For non-stress tests and stuff? 


    Karen: Yes, exactly. They could see that I was already 3 centimeters dilated so I was like, “Great. Everything is going great.” 


    At the 37-week appointment, there was a scheduling issue and instead of being able to see my regular doctor, they assigned me to a different doctor and that just made me really, really nervous. I was just like, “I don’t want to go. I don’t feel right. Something is going to go wrong. It’s not my doctor. I don’t want to go.” 


    My husband was like, “No. It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay. Let’s go.” He canceled work so he could go with me. He was like, “Everything is going to be okay.” The other thing that happened that morning was my sister who was going to be in the room with us woke up with strep throat. I was like, “This is not a good week. This is not a good day. I don’t want to go in.” 


    So when I went in, my blood pressure was 160/113 which was extremely high. This doctor told me, “You need to get a C-section today.” So I was just like, “Okay. I don’t want to hurt my baby. That’s fine.” I was really, really upset. I was crying and I told her I was scared and she was like, “Why are you scared?” My husband was pretty blunt and was like, “Because the doctors almost killed her last time.”


    She was like, “How did they almost kill her?” He was like, “They put too much fluid in her body and they caused heart failure.” She laughed and she said, “That’s not a thing.” I was like, “Well, my cardiologist said it was a thing. How could you say it’s not a thing?” I went to the hospital. I was really upset but the nurse there was amazing. She was like, “What happened?” I basically told her everything like my life story basically up until that point. 


    She was like, “I checked your blood pressure when you came in. You are fine.” She was like, “This is ridiculous. It just sounds like you are stressed out.” At that point, my blood pressure was–


    Meagan: Reasonably so.


    Karen: She checked my blood pressure and it was 117/83 so it was great. It was so funny because she kept the blood pressure cuff on me and the doctor who was working that day was the same doctor who told me I’d never be able to VBAC and kept coming up with excuses. 


    My nurse was just like, “Look, her blood pressure is fine.” Then she took my blood pressure again in front of him and it went back up. She was like, “Can you step out?” She took it again and then it was fine. She started advocating on my behalf. She was like, “You guys are causing her heart pressure to go up. You guys are stressing her out. She does not have high blood pressure because of herself. It’s you guys.” 


    The doctor was just like, “Oh, well I guess it’s fine, but wouldn’t you rather just have a birthday today?” I’m like, “No. I would not like to just have a C-section for no reason.” He’s like, “I really don’t want to send you home though,” but you really should consider this C-section just in case your blood pressure goes back up. 


    I was like, “Look. I can check it repeatedly and if it goes up, I will come back. I’m not going to be stupid and put my son’s life in danger. I will come back.” He just kept trying to convince me and finally, we were like, “No. We’re leaving.” I told them, “If I’m going to have a C-section, it’s going to be with my regular doctor. I trust her. I’m going to have control over this situation somehow. Even if I have to have a C-section, it’s going to be by someone I trust. It’s not going to be by you.” 


    39:36 Signing an AMA


    Karen: He was not thrilled about hearing that but he said, “Okay fine. You have to fill out this paperwork saying you’re leaving against medical advice, but it will be fine.” I was like, “Okay, fine.” I filled out this paperwork. I was scared like, “They’re probably going to kick me out afterward, but whatever.” I filled it out and I went home. They did make me schedule a C-section for two days later when my regular doctor was on call. I was like, “You know what? If it has to happen that day, it’s fine. I did everything I could. I took control of whatever I could. It’s my doctor.” 


    She made me feel seen and heard and she had my best interest at heart, so we are going to pray and just do what we can. 


    The next two days, I walked 10 miles. I drank raspberry leaf tea. We had sex. We did basically everything you can do to get labor going. I was still having prodromal labor so we would get our hopes up and then it would stop and then get our hopes up and then it would stop. 


    Around midnight the night before I was supposed to get my C-section, I was so upset. I was just like, “It’s not going to happen. I’m just going to have to get a C-section.” I just gave up completely. My husband was just like, “No. God told you this was going to be fine. You’re going to be fine. Let’s just get some rest because it’s already midnight and we have to leave at 3:00 AM so let’s just get a little bit of rest and it will be fine. We will talk to the doctor in the morning.” 


    I was like, “Okay.” So we went to sleep at 1:00. The alarm rang at 3:00 and I was in labor. 


    Meagan: Yay! 


    Karen: I was so excited. 


    41:31 Going to the hospital


    Karen: We went to the hospital. They still prepped me for a C-section. They were like, “Just in case,” but I was having regular contractions. It wasn’t going away. My doctor came in. She checked me and she was like, “Okay. If you want to TOLAC, I’ll send you over.” I was just like, “Oh my gosh, yes. This is my dream!” 


    We were so happy. They wheeled us over and it just felt so surreal. We just kept waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under us and someone came in and was like, “No, you need a C-section now. You’re not allowed to be over here,” or something. We were just waiting. 


    I wanted this to be another unmedicated birth, but our midwife came in and she told me her plan. She said she wanted to try a small bit of Pitocin to see if I could make the contractions a little bit stronger and then she saw my hesitation and told me, “It’s only a small amount to help move things along, but you are not on a time limit. You can take however long you need to labor. It’s just to help move things along. The max is 10. We won’t ever get to that point.” 


    I was just like, “Okay. I’m going to put my trust in you because my doctor trusts you.” She also asked if she could break my water to help move things along and I felt at ease so I was just like, “Okay. That’s fine.” 


    My husband was really surprised I was consenting to the Pitocin and to the water breaking. I told him, “I don’t know. All this time, I’m always fighting against my gut and my gut is telling me I can trust them fine and this is going to be okay.” 


    I listened to her plan and I said, “Yeah, let’s do it.” They also kept a really close eye on my fluid levels– the thing that the other doctor said was not a thing. It felt good to know that they were actually paying attention to me and listening to me. 


    Karen: The other thing that happened was at 10:00 AM, my sister completed 48 hours of antibiotics so she was able to join us and I was like, “Okay. Everything is going to be okay.” My husband and I were finally able to relax. 


    Meagan: Good. 


    Karen: Yeah. Again, I wanted to go unmedicated but I noticed something about my body which was that I could not relax my pelvic floor. I was so tired. I was so exhausted from the last 48 hours, from the walking, from not sleeping, and from everything. I was just like, “I’m trying, but I cannot relax it.” I was just like, “I think I want an epidural. I think that will relax my pelvic floor and just relax in general.” 


    They gave me the epidural so I was finally able to get some rest. Without even having to ask them, the midwife would come in, put me in different positions, and just do different things to help me get the baby down on its own instead of last time where they just left me lying in there with no instructions. 


    Then around 4:00 PM, they told me I was fully dilated and they were like, “Let’s do some practice pushes. Let’s just make sure you know what you’re doing with your body. We can troubleshoot and then when you’re ready, you know what to do already.” I was like, “Yeah. That’s fine.”


    They get everything ready, start doing some practice pushes, and the midwife goes, “Oh, these aren’t practice pushes.” 


    45:20 Pushing for 20 minutes


    Karen: She starts getting suited up and the room starts filling up with people and 20 minutes later, my baby was out. 


    Meagan: 20 minutes! 


    Karen: Yeah, 20 minutes of pushing. He was 9 pounds so he was still a big baby and perfectly healthy and beautiful. It was wonderful. One thing that my husband noticed was that the whole room was all women. It was such a cool girl power moment. They were all cheering and so happy for me getting my VBAC and it was just a total girl power that we were all like, “Yes. We did it. Girl power! The doctor is a woman. The pediatrician is a woman. We did this.” 


    It was such a cool, surreal moment and then they had other nurses coming in and they were like, “We heard your story. That is so cool you got your VBAC.” It was so, so amazing. 


    It was just such a huge difference having this supportive environment. I don’t know. In that moment, it was like an instant feeling of relief because I felt like all of this trauma that I had been carrying with me for so long was just lifted. I felt like I was finally healed and I was able to forgive myself for the C-section and realize, “Okay. You didn’t fail at anything. Things happen. You didn’t know. It’s okay.” 


    Finally, I didn’t have this label that I was defining myself with for so long which was traumatic birth. I finally just got to have the birth I wanted for it to be pretty smooth after the drama of the earlier morning. Everything just went perfectly and it was so, so beautiful. I was crying. We were all crying. The doctor was just like, “Okay, is this pain crying or is this happiness?” I’m like, “This is happiness!” 


    Meagan: Pure joy.


    Karen: That’s my story. 


    47:30 White coat syndrome


    Meagan: That is awesome. I love that you truly got to end that way surrounded with women and somebody that you really like and just having everyone rejoicing and happy and crying together and having that space be such a drastic change in your first birth. That is amazing. Thank you so much. Did you have any blood pressure issues during your labor at all? 


    Karen: No. My blood pressure was fine. They were keeping an eye on it the entire time and I was getting nervous because I thought, maybe if it should up they would wheel me over to a C-section, but no. It was fine the entire time. 


    Meagan: I love that. It’s kind of interesting because there have been times where I’ve had clients where they don’t have any signs of hypertension or preeclampsia or anything like that, but then they go to their visit and then they are like, “Oh my gosh. My blood pressure was just through the roof.” They go home and they are checking it at home and they are like, “It’s fine.” But then they go and it’s through the roof every time they go. 


    We just had a client just the other day. She’s 34 weeks and she went and her blood pressure was pretty high. It really was. It was high. The reading was high and they did a couple of readings. They said things like, “Well, we might have to go to an emergency C-section.” This and that. Anyway, she was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on.” She was like, “I want to go home.” 


    She went home and relaxed and had food. Her blood pressure was fine. White coat syndrome is a real thing and it’s something to take into consideration like, “I never have blood pressure issues. I don’t have any signs. I don’t have protein. I don’t have these things. What may be going on?” I love how your nurse was like, “Hey, can you step out? Go out.” She was very able to relate to that. 


    Then sometimes, we have it and we don’t know why. With your first pregnancy, did you have any high blood pressure at all? 


    Karen: No. It was just a very uneventful pregnancy. Everything was perfect. It was very strange for these blood pressure problems to happen afterward.


    Meagan: Yeah. I think it’s called peripartum so it could happen before or postpartum cardiomyopathy. 


    Karen: Yes. Yes. 


    Meagan: That’s what I was thinking it was going where the heart muscles weaken and can lead to heart failure progressively. The symptoms include fatigue, hard to breathe, and feeling your heart rush. Those are common. 


    Karen: Yeah, so that’s actually what is on my medical records is that I had peripartum cardiomyopathy but my cardiologist was just like, “I don’t believe that for a second. Your heart is fine.” She kept an eye on my heart the entire pregnancy and after the pregnancy. Nothing else happened. 


    Meagan: I almost wonder if your heart was under stress. You talked about fluids. We get an astronomical amount of fluids during a C-section too. I’m just wondering if your body just went under a lot with a Cesarean. There was a lot of shifting and a lot of things happening and then of course a Cesarean. It just made me curious because sometimes if you have hypertension before, it can be a risk factor in that. Interesting. 


    Karen: Yeah. That’s something that the cardiologist said is that sometimes it gets confused with fluid overload. She thinks that’s what happened. Part of the labeling that was happening is throughout my second pregnancy, I kept having to tell people that I did not have blood pressure issues with the first because they kept going, “Oh yeah, well you had blood pressure issues with your first pregnancy,” and I’d be like, “No, I didn’t. Stop assuming that.”


    Meagan: I mean, I am no medical professional by any means, but it makes me wonder if it could have been related to the birth itself. 


    51:59 Symptoms of hypertension and preeclampsia


    Meagan: I’d love to talk about hypertension and preeclampsia and things like that because hypertension is something that happens during pregnancy and it can be associated with lots of different reasons, but sometimes hypertension during pregnancy can lead to preeclampsia or HELLP or things like that. 


    I want to give a little educational tidbit here. Talking about just hypertension. High blood pressure or hypertension does not necessarily make us feel unwell all the time. You can have that and not know. So you walking into your visit and them being like, “You have hypertension.” You’re like, “Oh.” It’s not completely abnormal to just walk in, but sometimes we might have headaches or not feel super great. 


    If you are feeling crummy or especially if you are feeling like you can’t breathe when you lay down or have shortness of breath, do not think that those are all just normal pregnancy symptoms that people who told you, “Oh, yeah. It’s a new mom.” You’re like, “No.” So follow your body. Trust your body. 


    Preeclampsia is a condition that does affect pregnant women and can sometimes come on after that 20-week mark where we are having some of that swelling. We are having the high blood pressure. We have protein in our urine. That’s when it turns into that preeclampsia stage. It’s really hard. It’s still unknown exactly why preeclampsia or hypertension come, but it’s believe to be placenta-related so sometimes our placenta doesn’t attach in the full-on correct manner and our blood vessels are pumping differently so we can get high blood pressure. 


    I want to note that if you are told that you have high blood pressure or if you have preeclampsia, that doesn’t always mean you have to schedule a C-section. It just doesn’t. It doesn’t mean it’s always the best decision to not schedule a C-section if that makes sense, but that doesn’t mean you have to have a C-section because you have hypertension or blood pressure. I feel like time and time again, I do. I see these comments in our community where it’s like, “I really wanted my VBAC, but I just got preeclampsia. The doctor says I have to have a C-section.” That just isn’t necessarily true. They can be induced. I know you mentioned your one hospital was like, “No, we can’t induce because you are a VBAC,” which also isn’t necessarily true. 


    54:52 Tips for hypertension and preeclampsia 


    Meagan: Sometimes we also want to be aware of hypertension or preeclampsia getting worse because labor can be stressful on our body and all of the things. I wanted to just give a couple of little tips. If you have high blood pressure, increase your hydration. Go for walks. Cut out a lot of salts so really eating healthy and then you can get good supplements to help. 


    If you are in labor and you are getting induced or something like that, sometimes you may want to shift gears. Maybe an epidural can be a good thing to reduce stress or a provider may suggest that it’s not abnormal. But know that if you were told you have hypertension or you have preeclampsia, it doesn’t always mean it’s a for sure absolutely have to have a C-section. 


    Even your provider was like, “Oh yeah. We’ve got this high blood pressure stuff. I really wanted to keep you.” You were like, “No.” Then your other doctor was like, “We’ll kick you over here to 38 weeks,” because everything really was looking okay. Yay for that doctor for not making you stay and have a C-section that day. Know that you do have options. 


    Time and time we talk about this. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Ask questions. Can I get a second opinion? Can I go home and relax and take a reading there? Is there something I can take to help with my blood pressure? Those types of things and then following your heart. What does your heart say? That’s just my little tidbit. Do you have anything to add? I know you didn’t have high blood pressure in the first pregnancy and then you kind of did sort of maybe have white coat syndrome or blood pressure with the second but do you have any tips on this situation? You were exactly in that space of they are telling you you have blood pressure. He is telling you he doesn’t want you to go home and that type of thing.


    Do you have any messages to the audience?


    56:55 Karen’s final tips


    Karen: One thing I started doing during this pregnancy was meditation and that helped a lot. Whenever I felt like, “Okay. I’m going to go into a stressful situation,” which was most doctor visits, I would meditate before the doctor came in and that would really help a lot. 


    Meagan: Yes. Exercising, eating, hydrating, meditation, and doing something to bring yourself back down can help. It doesn’t always help. Sometimes we have high blood pressure and we do not understand it. We cannot control it as much as we are trying to. It just doesn’t want to listen to what we are trying to do or receive the things we are trying to do, but all of these things can help. I am just so happy for you that you found good support, that you found the true bubble of love in your hospital room at the very end, and that you were able to have your VBAC. 


    Karen: Thank you. Yeah. I do want to make sure. I’m not trying to send a message of, “Ignore high blood pressure! Do what you want!” It absolutely can be a very scary thing. If you need to have a C-section because of it, totally understandable. It’s just that my big message that I tell new moms is to listen to your body and you are allowed to say no. You are allowed to say no to people and ask for options. But the big one is to listen to your body. Listen to your gut. You know what is really, truly going on with your body. 


    Meagan: Of course, right. And typically, birth is actually the full cure for things like preeclampsia. Getting baby earthside is typically the end of that preeclampsia and the stop. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say, “No, I’m not going to do anything,” but just know that you have options. Induction is still okay typically. Ask those providers about your individual needs. Talk about your individual case but yeah, I would agree. I’m not trying to say, “Don’t listen to your provider.” I’m just saying that you have options and you often will have options if they say one thing or another. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. 


    Karen: Exactly. Exactly. 

    Closing


    Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Tell us about your experience at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Meagan’s bio, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.





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    58m - Apr 8, 2024
  • Episode 288 Jennifer's HBA3C + Getting Pregnant After Tubal Ligation

    Jennifer joins us today sharing her HBA3C story! Each birth was a stepping stone that gave her more education and wisdom which ultimately led to her home birth after three Cesareans. Jennifer’s first Cesarean was due to meconium in the water, slow progress, and heart rate issues. Her other two Cesareans were scheduled, but her third was particularly difficult because in her heart, Jennifer really wanted a VBAC. 


    After regretting her decision to get her tubes tied during her third Cesarean, Jennifer opted for a reversal and it worked! Once pregnant with her fourth, she traveled two hours each way across state lines to find a home birth midwife. When labor began, Jennifer booked an Airbnb, called in her team, and had the beautiful home birth she knew she was capable of.


    Jennifer’s Website

    Needed Website

    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details 


    02:20 Review of the Week

    05:02 First C-section

    06:48 Second C-section

    08:02 Third C-section during COVID

    10:09 Getting her tubes tied and reversal

    13:38 Fourth pregnancy

    16:39 Finding a home birth midwife in another state

    19:02 Going into labor and reserving an Airbnb

    24:04 Complete dilation

    26:37 Pushing and catching her baby

    31:24 You are worth it



    Meagan: Hello, hello everybody. This is Meagan, your host here at The VBAC Link and we have our friend, Jennifer. Hi Jennifer. 


    Jennifer: Hi. 


    Meagan: You guys, her story– we were just talking about this before the episode. It has a lot of surprises like, “Oh, I didn’t expect that. Whoa.” So I’m so excited to– I’ve read a summary of her story and am now excited to hear it in her own words. I also thought it was kind of fun. She was just saying her kids are excited to hear her story because they know The VBAC Link podcast too. 


    Jennifer: Yep. It was part of our preparation for the birth just having them hear stuff and hear how births are because obviously, they’d never had any experience. 


    Meagan: Yes, so how old are your kids? 


    Jennifer: 11. 9, 3 and now newborn. 


    Meagan:  And now newborn. We have very similar-aged kids. 11 and 9 and then I have an 8-year-old this year. And then we jump. That is so exciting. I’m excited to get into your HBAC after three Cesareans and all of the fun things away. 


    02:20 Review of the Week


    Meagan: But I do have a Review of the Week and this review is from mcgrace. I actually think I know who this is. It says, “Must listen for every mom-to-be.” It says, “This podcast is a must-listen not just for the mom preparing for a VBAC but anyone who is giving birth and has given birth or plans to give birth in the U.S. Meagan wonderfully walks through personal stories while preparing helpful advocacy tips and a solid dose of empowerment in each episode. If you want to hear people discussing their path to VBAC, if you’re curious about what giving birth looks like in the U.S., and if you want tips on how to mentally, emotionally, and physically prepare yourself for the best birth, listen to this podcast.” 


    Thank you so much for that review. 


    Jennifer: Totally. I 100% agree. 


    Meagan: That is so sweet. I do agree with her. Yes, VBAC is in the title of this podcast, but it really is for anyone. 


    Jennifer: Totally. 


    Meagan: And everyone wanting to give birth. 


    Jennifer: Definitely. 


    Meagan: I feel like if I had this podcast when I was preparing for my daughter Lainey, that would have changed a lot. 


    Jennifer: Yes. If I had listened before my first birth, I feel like so much would have and could have been different. 


    Meagan: Could have been different. I know. I’m so grateful for all of the Women of Strength who are sharing on this podcast and who are sharing on social media. By the way, we are accepting stories for our social media because we do have a lot of submissions on the podcast and we can’t get to everyone. We would love to still share every story possible, so if you are interested in sharing your story on our social media, email us at info@thevbaclink.com with your subject “Share My Story” and we will get that posted. 


    05:02 First C-section


    Meagan: Okay, girl. Let’s dive into all of these stories. They are all– I don’t know. I feel like each one is the stepping stone to this final birth. 


    Jennifer: Yes. Yes. 


    Meagan: And I’m not saying you are done having babies. 


    Jennifer: Well, yeah. Most recent. 


    Meagan: I don’t want to say final like you are done. But this birth that you are sharing, I feel like each one came with learning and growing and all of the steps it took to get you to this point. 

     

    Jennifer: Yeah. I feel like I was so young with my first and I didn’t have any education at all which is common. 


    Meagan: That’s how I felt. 


    Jennifer: But yeah. It was a slow, long labor which is pretty typical for a first. I went to the hospital right away and I just had in my mind, I didn’t know about physiological birth. I just knew. I was like, “Oh my gosh. This hurts.” I thought I needed to be in the hospital because this hurts and something must be wrong because it hurts. Then I had an epidural and things were slow. 


    He did have meconium. They broke my water and he had meconium. It was that cascade of interventions and it was just kind of one thing after another. It slowed down after the epidural and at 4 centimeters, his heart rate wasn’t looking great and they said, “You need a C-section.” In my mind, it was like it was an emergency. “Oh my gosh, I need a C-section.” 


    So I had the C-section and yeah. That was the first stepping stone like you said. I didn’t know anything. 


    06:48 Second C-section


    Jennifer: Then with my daughter, I wanted a VBAC. I heard about VBAC and was like, “Oh, that’s a thing.” Someone who I look up to told me the dangers and the big risks. They really had good intentions. They really thought it was dangerous so were trying to look out for me, but I was very vulnerable and they really scared me out of it. They were like, “You’ll both die if you rupture within a couple of minutes.” Now, after I’ve learned more, I’m like, “That’s not even true,” but at the time, I was like, “Uh, I just don’t think it’s worth the risk,” so I just scheduled that C-section. 


    I think each recovery was also more difficult. The first one was a fairly easy recovery and then the second one was a little harder and then my third was that bigger age gap. I had educated myself a little more or at least I knew what I wanted. 


    08:02 Third C-section during COVID


    Jennifer: I knew that I wanted a VBAC. I didn’t want to deal with the drugs again postpartum and the numbness and everything. I just didn’t want to deal with it all with a C-section. That was during 2020 COVID year so that was a whole other level of difficulty added in with that year. 


    That was the one where they did a bait and switch on me. I said from the beginning with my OB/GYN, “Would you let me have a VBAC?” They were like, “Yeah. We can definitely do that. We’ll just look at your scar in an ultrasound later on and as long as it looks thick enough, yeah. You can have a VBAC.” 


    Of course, my scar was not thick enough. I’ve since learned and I think on one of your podcasts you talked about it in great detail. But that test is super– I mean, you talk about millimeters on this fuzzy black screen. 


    Meagan: Yeah. Not necessarily something that should be a determining factor for VBAC. We’ve even had a doctor on the podcast that was like, “No. The evidence is just not strong enough to go off of.”


    Jennifer: Yeah. I was still in the mindset then of, “Doctor said no so I can’t,” so I scheduled the C-section and that one was really hard. I think it was because I knew that I wanted a VBAC and I wasn’t getting it. With the other two, I didn’t know I really wanted it so I was like, “Well, this is just how it is.”


    With the third, I was so anxious during the C-section. I remember my doctor down there and she yelled to the anesthesiologist, “You need to give her something to calm her down,” because I was just crying and yeah. 


    Meagan: I’m sorry. 


    Jennifer: Yeah. It was a rough one. 


    10:09 Getting her tubes tied and reversal


    Jennifer: And then this is one of the twists in my story. That’s when I had my tubes tied. 


    Meagan: The big twist. 


    Jennifer: Yeah. I had my tubes tied during that third C-section. 


    Meagan: Did your provider offer that or suggest it or did you say, “We’re done having babies”?


    Jennifer: No. It was suggested multiple times throughout my care. I feel now like it was a little bit of coercion but it was my choice. My husband and I made the final decision as we were driving to get the C-section. Now I’m like, “You don’t decide to get your tubes tied when you are 9 months pregnant.” 


    Meagan: That’s a hard decision. 


    Jennifer: That’s not when you make that decision. Any decision, but definitely not that one because you are so tired of being pregnant at that point.  


    Meagan: You are vulnerable, yes. 


    Jennifer: So I had my tubes tied during that C-section and then the next day, it was instant regret. I was like, “I cannot believe we did this.” My husband felt the same way. We were both just like, “Ugh, what have we done? Why did we do that?” 


    Meagan: Mhmm, yeah. 


    Jennifer: It was really hard to grieve through that. It felt like a loss even though it wasn’t. It felt like I had lost a baby almost because of how intense the grief was knowing that I could never have another baby. 


    Meagan: I understand that so much when my husband got the vasectomy that I didn’t want him to get. I felt like, “I’m grieving a kid I’ve  never had but I’m grieving a kid that I had in my mind.” You know? 


    Jennifer: Yeah, totally. It’s a very real grief. My husband right away suggested reversal, but I dealt with a lot of guilt about that like, “No. We chose this. My insurance paid for this. We can’t go and spend money on getting it reversed. We have to live with this.” I had to work through that guilt and shame and finally, we were blessed to be able to get it reversed two years-ish after. 


    Meagan: How was that? How was the process of that? 


    Jennifer: That was hard. It was like another C-section, the operation itself. It was outpatient but it was a big old C-section scar. The pain and everything was the same and not being able to lift. But emotionally, it was really healing. 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Jennifer: Right away, I remember waking up from being under anesthesia after it and I was just crying. The nurse was like, “It’s really normal to be emotional.” I was like “I’m so thankful.” 


    Meagan: Aww. 


    Jennifer: I was just so glad. At that point, I didn’t even know if it had worked because it was not a guarantee. 


    Meagan: A reversal. 


    Jennifer: A reversal is not a guarantee. There could be scar tissue that blocks the fallopian tubes. 


    Meagan: That makes sense. 


    Jennifer: I think depending on age, they have different success rates but I think it's 80% or something like that. 


    13:38 Fourth pregnancy


    Jennifer: We did not conceive right away which we always did before, so I was not sure if it had been successful. It was almost a year before we finally did conceive, but we did about a year after I had the reversal. 


    Now, I knew I would have the VBAC. I was going to work for it and try for it and it was during the time before I had the reversal actually that I got really passionate about it. I was like, “This may never come to anything for me personally because I may not ever have a baby again,” but I really grew passionate about birth and physiological births. I read a lot and I got to know about rights. I never had to have a C-section even with the last one when he said the scar wasn’t thick enough. I still didn’t have to have a C-section. 


    Meagan: But we feel like that when we have providers who go through a lot more training and school than we do just on our Google searches and our classes and things like that. It feels that way. It feels like we don’t. They know what’s best. We trust them and we should trust our providers. I’m not saying we shouldn’t trust our providers, but we put everything that they say sometimes all in a basket and say, “That’s my fate,” and it doesn’t necessarily have to be. 



    16:39 Finding a home birth midwife in another state


    Jennifer: So this time, this pregnancy was with my fourth. I knew I would work for the VBAC. At first, when I had been reading and researching and learning and everything, I knew I wanted a home birth. I was like, “That’s so what I desire.” It was just a dream for me that that could be a possibility. I knew it would help with the chances of having a VBAC just with what I’d learned about hospital practices and stuff. 


    So I met with some midwives in New Mexico where we live and they said– I met with several and they all said, “Law here doesn’t let us do a home birth after multiple C-sections. We can do it after one but not multiple.” I was just trying to be really open and praying that the birth would be how it was supposed to be. 


    I was like, “Okay. We’ll just do the hospital and I’ll be ready to stand up for myself. I’ll know all of my rights and I’ll know all of my info and I’ll just say, ‘I’m not having a C-section’”. Then I met with my OB and I was expecting to have a big dialogue. I was like, “Would you support a VBAC after I’ve had the three C-sections?” I was expecting this back and forth and he was like, “That’s a hard no.” I was like, “Oh, okay. I guess we’re done.” 


    Meagan: Okay. 


    Jennifer: So I started looking in El Paso, Texas which is just two hours away from us because one of the midwives had said that the laws are different in Texas. We found a really great, experienced midwife there in El Paso. She was very confident and I feel like that’s a really huge part of getting your VBAC is your provider’s confidence. Not just that they are tolerant, but that they are like, “Yeah. You can do this,” which is how she was. 


    Meagan: How it should be. 


    Jennifer: Yeah. 


    19:02 Going into labor and reserving an Airbnb


    Jennifer: We did my prenatal care with her. It was a normal pregnancy. Then I went into labor at midnight a week and a day before Christmas. 


    Meagan: You went there. You had an Airbnb, right? 


    Jennifer: Yes. That’s the other twist and turn. We were doing this home birth, but we don’t live in El Paso obviously, so the plan was to get an Airbnb and birth there. At first, we were going to get it ahead of time, but just planning-wise and money-wise, we decided not to do that. We still could have missed it even if we booked two weeks around the due date. 


    Meagan: Right and that’s a lot of money to spend. 


    Jennifer: Yeah. We ended up just deciding to wait until I went into labor and then we’d book an Airbnb. The backup plan was we could do a hotel suite if we couldn’t find anything. Yes. 


    Meagan: If it wasn’t available. 


    Jennifer: Midnight was the worst time that I could have gone into labor because you check in to an Airbnb at 3:00 in the afternoon and midnight is about as long away as you can get from the afternoon. 


    But it was fine because it did progress really slowly. Even though it was my fourth birth, it was like a first-time labor. 


    Meagan: Yep. The first time you did really– well, I mean you labored. 


    Jennifer: I labored for a little while, but I never got into active labor. 


    Yeah, so it was slow and we had time. We just messaged all of the AirBnbs that would have worked for us and we were like, “Could you let us check in this morning?” They were like, “We have a guest and we have to clean so we can let you check in at 3:00 or 4:00” or whatever. Finally, one was like, “We’re cleaning it now and we can have it ready by 11:00.” We’re like, “We’ll take it.” It was beautiful. It was a great house to give birth in. 


    Meagan: Good. 


    Jennifer: So I labored slowly. It was really slow and then all of a sudden, it seemed like it was picking up. For a minute, I thought people weren’t going to get there. I texted all of my support people and I was like, “You need to come now. You might miss it,” but we had plenty of time. I had a doula and my midwife there and my friend, my sister, and my sister-in-law so a lot of support which I ended up just really needing. 


    I felt so in need of support– touch, prayers, drinks, back rubs, and everything that could be. I’m kind of a reserved person. That’s not my normal personality, but in labor, it was. I was also really bossy. I was like, “Cover me up right now. Okay, take the blanket off. I need the heating pad. Get me a drink.” I told my sister-in-law, I asked her to change because she had strong perfume and I’m really sensitive to smells. I was like, “Could you please change your shirt? I’m so sorry,” but I just got super bossy in labor. 


    My doula was great. She did lots of hip squeezes and counterpressure. That was so helpful. I remember during the hardest, last few hours, I was like, “How has any woman ever done this? How has any woman ever made it through labor?” I just felt like there was no escape and it was just going to go on forever. My midwife got kind of stern with me which was hard, really hard in the moment because I felt like she was being really mean. 


    My doula told me afterward that she was kind of in the middle range. She’s worked with midwives who are really aggressive and with midwives who are really gentle and this was kind of mid-range. I was like, “I guess that’s good.” 


    I realized afterward, it was really good. It helped push me through, but she was like, “You need to get out of your head. You need to stop feeling sorry for yourself and do the work.” I was like, “You’re being so mean.” 


    Meagan: That is hard to hear when you’re going through labor. 


    Jennifer: Yeah, it was. But I think there was a part of me that did feel sorry for myself for going through it. I did need to get the mindset like, “I need to finish this.” 


    Meagan: We’re doing it, mhmm.


    24:04 Complete dilation


    Jennifer: Near the very end, she wanted to check me and I hadn’t wanted any cervical checks. I did end up having three total. I had one in the very beginning just to make sure it was really it and then she had checked me sometime in the afternoon/evening and this is why I didn’t want cervical checks because I was only at 5 and I was sure I must almost be done. I was like, “I must almost be at 9.” I was only at 5 and I was like, “Ah, how am I going to this much longer?” But then at the end, she wanted to check me again and I did not want to be checked again. 


    She said, “If you’re not progressed much from where you were earlier, with the way you are coping, we probably need to go to the hospital and get you an epidural, get you some Pitocin, and move this along.” I found out later that the baby’s heart rate at that time was looking iffy. It had been spiking and going back to normal. 


    I don’t know if they didn’t tell me during the time or if I just don’t remember it because of labor, but that’s why she was really urgent to check me. I was really resistant to it but finally, I was like, “Okay, fine.” When she checked me, she was like, “There’s no cervix. You are ready to push.”


    Meagan: That’s a common thing when babies come down, the cervix opens, and everything is complete. Sometimes babies can do a funky, “Whoa, what’s going on here?” with their heart rate. 


    Jennifer: Okay, that would make sense. But I wasn’t pushing or anything. I expected– I had all of these expectations. I expected to do lots of different positions and then in the moment, I was like, “I just have to survive in whatever position I happen to be in.” 


    I had expected to feel that real urge to push and there really wasn’t. My midwife ended up directing me how to push. She put me on my back propped up on the bed. I didn’t want to be on my back because I knew that was not an optimal position for pushing, but I was so tired. This was around 2:00 in the morning the next morning after I had gone into labor the midnight before so it was a 26-hour labor altogether. I was so tired. 


    26:37 Pushing and catching her baby


    Jennifer: I was on my back and she was telling me to hold my breath and bear down. Pushing was the hardest thing I have ever done. I wanted to blow out and let some of my air out and she was like, “Stop it. Hold your breath.” I could not feel the baby coming down. I felt no ring of fire. I didn’t feel any of it. All I felt was the contractions. They were so intense and trying to bear down and hold my breath and not blow out was so hard but it was effective. It was just a few minutes, just a few contractions that I pushed for and then her head came out. 


    I didn’t feel her head come out and then her body right after. I had wanted to catch her and my midwife guided her out. She was like, “Take your baby, Jennifer.” 


    Meagan: Aww. 


    Jennifer: So I reached down and pulled her up to my chest. It took a little while for it to sink in that I had the VBAC. 


    Meagan: I bet. 


    Jennifer: I was just in that state of, “This is never going to end.” It was so hard. 


    I was in a wanting to give up state of mind also. I was like, “If they could bring the hospital here, I would take the epidural. I would take the C-section,” at the moment, but I couldn’t fathom getting in the car. That was the only thing that stopped me from, “Let’s just go to the hospital.” I could not imagine getting in the car at that point of labor. 


    Meagan: Which says something too, right? It says, “It’s time to have a baby.” 


    Jennifer: Yeah, totally. 


    Yeah. That was it. It was a beautiful time afterward because everyone in the house heard. It was just me, my husband, and my doula for most of the time in the bedroom, but everyone heard me being very loud when I was pushing and heard her cry when she came out so my kids all came in at 2:00 in the morning and my sisters. Yeah. It was just a beautiful time afterward and was so nice to just be in a home even if it wasn’t my home. 


    Meagan: You were in a home. 


    Jennifer: And relaxed and comfortable. We waited to cut the cord until the placenta came out. It was just all relaxed and very beautiful. We named our little daughter Willa which means protection and just signifies how God protected us through this thing that a lot of people think is really scary and really dangerous. I’m very thankful. 


    Meagan: And you did it and there weren’t really any complications. How was your postpartum experience with this one? How was healing and recovery? You had three Cesareans. It started getting harder with each one and it can get harder naturally no matter what type of birth because we have other kids to take care of, but how was your postpartum experience?


    Jennifer: It was really good, much easier than a C-section and really different. There’s still hard stuff. Just the pressure and bulging feeling that you have down there, I was like, “Oh, I’ve never experienced this before. I can’t sit up. I have to lay back or lean to the side or something to be comfortable.” 


    Then I kept instinctively putting my hands on my scar area anytime I’d sneeze or cough because that’s what I’m used to having to do. 


    Meagan: Oh, interesting. 


    Jennifer: Then I’d be like, “Oh, I don’t have to do that.”


    Meagan: That was probably really nice. 


    Jennifer: That was really nice, yeah. Then not having to be on painkillers afterward. That’s a huge thing for me because I feel like it’s always dulled or blurred, those first few weeks. You are kind of out of it and both me and the baby were both more alert than I’ve ever experienced before. 


    Meagan: Absolutely. I would agree. I mean, I was there but it was. It was kind of blurry. 


    Jennifer: Yeah, just a little blurry. 


    Meagan: I was really tired and groggy. You’re already tired and groggy anyway after laboring, especially after surgery, but yeah. 


    Jennifer: Yes, totally. 


    31:24 You are worth it


    Meagan: I am so happy for you. I am so grateful that along the way you were able to learn and grow educationally. Knowing you personally, you were finding out who you were more personally. You were like, “I have more to offer to this experience” by learning and growing and advocating for yourself. Driving two hours is not an easy thing and to think, “I’m renting. I’m paying for a midwife. I’m renting an Airbnb.” There are a lot of puzzle pieces that have to come together and fit and those can be really daunting. Really daunting, but typically it is worth it. 


    Jennifer: Yeah, so worth it. I’ve thought about that along the lines of how eating healthy costs more and is a little harder or sometimes a lot harder. It’s easy to eat fast food and processed food and stuff, but when you put in the work and the money also to have better health, it’s worth it.


    I felt like that with the birth because yeah. We are paying for the Airbnb and we’re paying for the midwife and we’re paying for the doula and it was all worth it 100%. Worth it to pay for that. 


    Meagan: Worth it, right? We talked about this many, many times ago. I think it was Blyss Young who talked about how we put so much money and effort into our weddings and things like that, but then when it comes to birth, we’re like, “Oh, whatever.” Then we just don’t see the value in a lot of these things. 


    So talking about nutrition, eating really good foods, getting the good supplements, even finding the provider, and sometimes we have to pay more out of pocket for that provider or whatever it may be and it’s less ideal but in the grand scheme, when everything is done, I feel like it’s more unlikely for us to go back and be like, “I regret paying for that childbirth education class” or “I regret paying for a doula” or “I regret finding the right provider and giving birth in a home versus the hospital because that was my dream”. 


    Jennifer: Yeah. You’re just not going to. I mean, I don’t. I definitely do not regret any of that. 


    Meagan: I definitely didn’t either. I remember my husband being like, “You’re going to choose the most expensive option.” I was like, “It’s worth it. It’s worth it.” It’s worth it to give back to you. This is a really, really big day. Our wedding day is a big day. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a day that is amazing, but the vulnerability and the experience that sticks with us from birth I feel like is even bigger. 


    Jennifer: It’s just huge, yeah. It really is. 


    Meagan: Yeah. Yeah. 


    Jennifer: It was definitely all worth it to have all of the extras. 


    Meagan: All of the extra, yeah. Not only is it worth it, you are worth it. Women of Strength, you are worth whatever it may be because I promise you in 25 years, you are not going to think about that $5000 that you spend on your midwife or whatever. I don’t know how much midwives are everywhere, but you’re not going to look at that. You’re not going to look at that. You’re going to be like, “That was worth it.” Yeah. Do what’s best for you and know that you are worth it. You are not selfish for wanting to do things differently or spend extra money or get the education. You’re not. It’s worth it. 


    Jennifer: Yeah. I mean, who knows but I have a strong feeling it would have ended in a C-section if I had been in the hospital because we passed that 24-hour mark, and now the baby’s heart rate is looking iffy and I’m utterly exhausted and ready to give up. I just feel like there’s a good chance that it could have ended in a C-section. That’s not what is best. I know that’s not what is best for me at this point. I don’t know if we are done having kids and I know there are more complications with more C-sections. It was definitely worth it to also give myself the location and type of birth and everything that was going to lead more to success. 


    Meagan: Right, yeah. Well, thank you so much for sharing your journey. 


    Jennifer: Yeah. I’m so glad to have been able to. I told you at the beginning that we’ve been listening to The VBAC Link all throughout my pregnancy and yeah, my kids are so excited that I’m going to be on it. 


    Meagan: I can’t wait to hear what they think about it where they are like, “Whoa, that’s your voice, Mom. That’s your voice!”


    Closing


    Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Tell us about your experience at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Meagan’s bio, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.





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    36m - Apr 3, 2024
  • Episode 287 Suzzie's HBAC + A Note From a Childbirth Educator

    "She was in my arms while she took her first breath and she was just so calm and beautiful. It feels like time just stops at that moment. It was so, so special to me."


    From turning down the opportunity to take a childbirth class during her first pregnancy to now passionately teaching her own classes (She Births Bravely) as a childbirth educator and attending births as a doula, Suzzie shares how birth has changed her. 


    Located in Seattle, Suzzie talks about how her birth team created a safe place for her to have a peaceful home birth that was still very intense but didn’t feel that way. 


    Meagan and Suzzie discuss pushing, continuous care, the importance of education, and their best tips on what to do during pregnancy to have an empowering birth experience no matter the outcome. 


    Suzzie’s Childbirth Class

    Suzzie’s Website

    What Does Your Birth Plan Say About Your Personality Quiz

    Real Food For Pregnancy

    Needed Website

    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details


    02:28 Review of the Week

    03:53 Suzzie’s molar pregnancy

    06:27 Beginning labor with fear and doubt

    09:01 “It has been over 24 hours. It’s time for you to have a C-section.”

    10:51 Making friends with a student-midwife

    14:41 Suzzie’s second pregnancy and labor

    18:50 Baby Hazel’s birth

    27:06 OBs attending home births

    30:40 Continuous care during home birth

    36:23 Birth preparation tips

    43:29 Knowing what questions to ask

    48:18 Waters being broken for 24 hours

    50:31 Checking in if labor stalls



    Meagan: Hello, hello Women of Strength. How are you? This is Meagan, your host here at The VBAC Link. I’m excited to talk a little bit today about what can we do before we have our baby or what should we do when we get pregnant to start preparing for birth. 


    We have our friend, Suzzie, with us today. Hello, Suzzie. 


    Suzzie: Hi. 


    Meagan: She is actually a doula and childbirth educator who has a lot of passion in sharing a message of what to do and how to prep and how to navigate through this amazing journey that we call pregnancy and birth and motherhood. She had an unexpected Cesarean just like a lot of us. If we go through most of these stories on the podcast, you’re going to hear that trend of it wasn’t expected. It wasn’t planned. It maybe wasn’t desired. That’s a common thing in our VBAC community. It’s important to know what to do and what to know because most of us just didn’t know what we didn’t know. 


    02:28 Review of the Week


    Meagan: So we are going to dive into a little bit more of how to prepare and a message from our darling Suzzie, but of course, we have a Review of the Week so we are going to get into that before we get into the next part. 


    This is from kimberlyspair. Thank you, Kimberly. We love her. She says, “Thumbs up from us! Sharing such an essential message with love and compassion.” 


    That is exactly what we are going to do today, sharing another message with love and compassion. As always, if you have a minute, we would love your review. You can leave it on 

    Apple Podcasts, Google, message us at info@thevbaclink.com. Remember VBAC is V-B-A-C and let us know what you think about the show. 


    03:53 Suzzie’s molar pregnancy


    Meagan: Okay, cute Suzzie. So we were talking right before we got on the episode. You guys, she had her C-section birth at a hospital local to me here in Utah then went on to have an HBAC. Was your HBAC in Washington? Where was your home birth? 


    Suzzie: It was. I live in Seattle and it was here in Washington. 


    Meagan: Okay, cool. So Seattle, Washington mamas, listen up if you are looking for options for a provider. Yeah, so you talked a little bit about how birth taught you how much more capable you really are than you thought. I think that is something that happens a lot with us, right? We walk through this birth journey and we are like, “Dang, we are amazing.” We really, really, really are. Yeah, so Suzzie, tell us about your stories. Share your message with us. 


    Suzzie: Yeah, yeah. I’d love to. I think that my birth story actually started before my first birth because I had losses and a molar pregnancy before. Molar pregnancy is a very complicated, unviable pregnancy where you ultimately– it took me about a year to be cleared healthwise after that to be able to start trying again. 


    So I came into birth with a strong sense of knowing things could go wrong and also fear. I also worked in finance and I was very busy. I just didn’t really have a lot of time to prepare. I didn’t have a lot of support at home so when, for example, I had a really great friend that I worked with and he and his wife were having a baby around our same due date and they had hired somebody to teach them private childbirth classes in their home. They invited us to come and join them in that process. I was like, “No, can’t. Too busy.” 


    That whole thought of, “Okay. I’m going to prepare really mindfully,” was too much for me for where I was at that point of life. I also dabbled a little bit in HypnoBirthing. There was a little bit of pressure to do a natural birth and as I was learning about that, the desire for that was growing and evolving, but the fear of labor and birth also wasn’t necessarily dissolving. 


    06:27 Beginning labor with fear and doubt


    Suzzie: So I feel like when I went into labor, I had a lot of really complex expectations and fears that weren’t really worked through because even though I had done some reading, the true preparation is truly very emotional. 


    Meagan: It is. 


    Suzzie: And a lot less fact-driven than it is learning about what we really need and how to speak up for what we need and how to ask the right questions and how to develop strong and open and trusting relationships. 


    Meagan: And also trust yourself. 


    Suzzie: Yes. Yes, that’s a really big one because I definitely did not have that factor either. 


    When I had Zoe, my first, it was just such an overwhelming day for me. My water broke at night and I had called the doctor. I was like, “I’m not having contractions. Can I just stay home?” “Sure.” In the morning by around 8:00, I had been having pretty steady– I was probably making that transition from early labor into active labor where you are close to those 5-1-1 rules when you can go in and you can be admitted. My water was broken so of course, if your water is broken, you can be admitted. They have to admit you. Now, it seems like they encourage you to go in as soon as you can. 


    Meagan: They do. 


    Suzzie: Yeah, which has its pros and definitely has its cons. 


    Meagan: Let’s talk about that later too. 


    Suzzie: Yes. That’s definitely something to learn about because water breaking happens in about 10% of people before labor starts, about 10% of the time. It’s not crazy common but it’s way more common than at least what I thought before. You know and realize something like that could throw off my whole birth story or my whole birth experience. 


    When I checked in, the nurse was really upset that I hadn’t come in earlier even though I had cleared that decision with my doctor so there was an initial conflict as I was checking in and signing the waivers. That instilled a lot. What she said to me put a lot of fear into me that I had done something wrong and that I had put my baby in danger and that things might not be okay. 


    I also had those layers of having gone through a pregnancy that wasn’t viable and a lot of health complications from that so when I heard that, the amount of fear I felt was insane. Then my labor completely stopped. The contractions that had been steady and consistent for hours were gone. 


    09:01 “It has been over 24 hours. It’s time for you to have a C-section.”


    Suzzie: The rest of the day was about using Pitocin and trying to get labor started in other ways. Ultimately,  nothing ever worked. Zoe, I guess was having some kind of heart rate dips. At this point, if I could go back to what I know now, I would ask a lot more questions about how big they were or what they looked like, but at the time, I didn’t have enough knowledge to ask good questions or be proactive about movement and things like that that can sometimes help especially in inductions and especially when you are using medicine or Pitocin to push your labor. 


    By midnight, they had just decided, “Okay, it has been over 24 hours. It’s time for you to have a C-section.” I truly do not know if this is a cascade of interventions story or if there was something wrong. It didn’t sit well with me at the time and it still doesn’t because I still have unanswered questions and that was a really not-great feeling. I feel like it wasn’t a great start to motherhood for me because it was very scary. I was very worried the whole time and then even after she was born by surgery, they had spent at this time more than 12 hours telling me that something could go wrong. They swaddled her up. They let me take a picture of her cheek to cheek with me and then she and her father disappear and are swept off somewhere. 


    After the surgery, they put me in a recovery room and I was in there for several hours by myself shaking from the medication in the dark because it was night not knowing, “Am I okay? Is my baby okay? What’s normal in this picture? What’s not?” That was just overall not a great experience. 


    10:51 Making friends with a student-midwife


    Suzzie: I had actually kind of written off. I had just thought, “Oh, this birth thing must not be for me. It’s hard. I don’t like it.” All of the stories that you hear, I felt like, “Okay, great. That’s fine. I’ll move on with my life.” 


    But then I moved and I joined a new moms group where we would go hiking every week. One of the friends that I met there was a student midwife and as our friendship evolved and we would talk, all of these stories revolved around the families that she was working with. I started to see that I had missed out on so much of the journey that I had never learned to ask good questions. I never really did have a great relationship with a care provider. There are care providers that will take more time and help you when you need it and there are some that can’t either from logistics or because they just don’t want to. 


    That was a big eye-opener to me so when I had Hazel, I had a wealth more of information and experience and exposure to what a really empowered birth would look like. I had actually moved again. I lived in Portland for that one year and then I moved here to Seattle so I couldn’t have my friend as a midwife, but choosing the right care provider became my number one priority and I interviewed so many people. People that worked in the hospital and home birth midwives and I found somebody that I really connected with, Dr. Brandy. 


    She just held my hand from the start to the finish. She was a home birth midwife and she was also a doctor of naturopathy. 


    Meagan: Awesome. 


    Suzzie: She had a lot of tools for me going through pregnancy that just didn’t exist before. So when we talked about nutrition, she’d talk for an hour and pretty much all of our appointments were an hour long and always because she had things to teach me or to show me or to help me understand the process I was in and where I was going. It was just so helpful. 


    I also had an amazing doula that helped me process a lot of my trauma and create a vision for myself. I think that whether or not I had ultimately gotten my VBAC, the process and the change that it took for me to go from somebody that was a rule follower and people pleaser– my first birth, I was the type of mom that was like, “Okay, I’m going to bring cookies for all of the nurses because I want them to like me,” versus by my second birth, I was like, “No, wait. These people are doing their job and they are here to show up for me. My job isn’t to make them happy but to work well together. Right? To develop a positive, working relationship.” 


    That was a really big transformation. And also, if you have had questions that weren’t answered or you go through things and you don’t get support, those unanswered questions linger for a long time and they mean a lot. 


    Meagan: They do. 


    Suzzie: Whereas when you go through a situation and you over time have your questions answered, have everything you need to be making decisions that feel grounded and centered and good no matter what those decisions are, it feels a lot better and a lot safer and it makes it a lot easier to relax into the experience. 


    I feel like when I had Hazel, my HBAC, my second, my perfect birth story that I was so lucky to have, everything lined up for me really well. 


    14:41 Suzzie’s second pregnancy and labor


    Suzzie: I had gone a little over 41 weeks and my midwife offered a membrane sweep which I did. She also said, “Go home and have sex,” which, you know, the prostaglandins. 


    Meagan: Not fun at nine months pregnant. 


    Suzzie: No, not fun at nine months pregnant or after a membrane sweep, but I will say that it did work because I had the membrane sweep at 8:00. We did the prostaglandin injection I will call it before bed and when I woke up in the morning, I was in labor. 


    Meagan: Awesome. 


    Suzzie: I didn’t have much early labor. I didn’t have a long, drawn-out thing like I did with Zoe. It just kind of– I woke up. I was getting ready for the day and I was like, “Oh my god. That’s a contraction.” Then five minutes later, it was like, “Oh my god. That’s another contraction.” Zoe’s dad was getting ready for work so as he was off out the door, I had him sweep Zoe out to a friend’s house and drop her off then I actually was supposed to have an appointment that day. I called Dr. Brandy and I was like, “Dr. Brandy, I can’t drive.” That was my thought. I expected to have a really long labor and I was like, “I don’t think I can come to you.” 


    She was like, “I think actually I’ll be coming to you, not the other way around.” 


    Suzzie: I called my doula. She showed up. I called the girl who was setting up a big labor tub at my house. She came up and set up the tub then by about noon, I was in full, active labor and everybody was there, Brandy, her assistant– I think there might have been a student there too. I can’t remember. And my doula, who was incredible. 


    By 9:00, I had Hazel. It was just such a simple, I truly don’t remember much about it because it just started and at the first few hours, it was the logistics of getting everyone there then I went for a walk. I remember going for a walk and then I came back. My doula did this cool muscle release thing when I came back and I actually slept through some contractions which was really weird, but it felt great. It was so soothing in the midst of all of this intense pressure work of labor. 


    Then I got in and out of the tub a couple of times which felt so good and so relieving and then Hazel was actually 10 pounds and she actually came out with her hand next to her head. 


    Meagan: A nuchal hand. 


    Suzzie: Yeah, a nuchal hand, and then she had been breech. I did have some back labor, but when my doula did the muscle release things, she must have flipped because she didn’t come out breech. She came out– 


    Meagan: With her hand up by her head. 


    Suzzie: Yeah, the regular way with her hand up. 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Suzzie: I mean, when I look back at the story, I’m like, “Okay, so there were a lot of things that could have been potential problems at so many different stages with the back labor–” 


    Meagan: Do you mean breech or posterior? 


    Suzzie: Oh sorry, yes. Thank you for correcting me. Posterior. That is what I meant. 


    Meagan: Okay. Okay. I was like, “Wait, back labor.” Gotcha, gotcha. 


    Suzzie: Thank you, thank you, thank you for correcting me. Yeah. Posterior, not breech. 


    Meagan: You’re just fine. 


    Suzzie: Yeah. She did the rotation, not the flip. 


    Meagan: A lot of babies do rotate and we’re going to talk about that in a minute. Especially if you’ve had a posterior baby, listen up at the end because we will talk a little bit about posterior. A lot of them rotate during pushing. 


    Suzzie: Yeah. It’s actually their job. I didn’t realize this until after I became a doula and I took the training which is so good if you are a birth worker out there. It’s called Optimal Maternal Positioning. I did not know this, but babies actually very, very rarely enter the pelvis with their eyes looking back which is the position most babies are born in. Most babies will rotate to the side or into a posterior position to enter the pelvis and then it’s their job during labor to rotate. 


    18:50 Baby Hazel’s birth


    Suzzie: So a lot of times when we are doing these things like, we are saying, “Okay, you are 10 centimeters. You don’t have an urge to push yet, but let’s tell you to push anyway.” There’s a reason you don’t have an urge. It’s because your baby is still doing their job which is rotating. 


    Meagan: Yes. 


    Suzzie: So I don’t know. When I work with moms, I have seen a lot less stress and less pushing and less complications in pushing simply by breathing baby down as long as possible and if a mom does have an epidural to labor down until even with an epidural, most moms get an urge to push at some point, an undeniable urge. 


    Meagan: They feel pressure. There is an undeniable pressure. 


    Suzzie: Yes and it happens with an epidural, but you have to wait because that rotating process can slow down. Yeah. I’m so glad you said that. 


    Hazel was born. I did have to push a really long time. I think I had to push for four hours. I did not know that when I was doing it. I would have said it was 45 minutes. 


    Meagan: Wow. That’s amazing. 


    Suzzie: Right. I was in my zone. I was in the birthtub. I was in whatever position I was in and I had music playing in the background. I had Bergamo oil and there was an ice rag that someone would put on my forehead between contractions and I would just go from that intense work of pushing to being completely zoned out. 


    Meagan: I love that. 


    Suzzie: Totally in labor land. I totally, one, I didn’t find pushing to be that painful. I found it to be a very productive work and two, it was almost this weird time warp. I guess it did take a long time, but it didn’t feel that way to me. 


    Hazel was super safe. It was the most amazing moment in the world. I didn’t see Zoe other than that maybe 10 minutes when we did cheek-to-cheek and took a picture with her in the OR for hours. So to be the one that when my midwife helped deliver her part of delivering of Hazel other than monitoring us, she just did this little scoop position thing so Hazel came out. She scooped her into my arms and there we were. She was in my arms while she took her first breath and she was just so calm and beautiful. It feels like time just stops at that moment. It was so, so special to me. 


    Meagan: I love that. 


    Suzzie: That’s Hazel. 


    23:12 Thoughts on pushing 


    Meagan: Birth can be that way. It’s not always and it doesn’t mean that it’s not beautiful if it’s not that, but birth can just be that special moment and beautiful time. I love that you pointed out that you pushed for four hours. You guys, pushing can last a while especially when you have a baby with a nuchal hand. There are things happening there. 


    But Women of Strength, pushing for an hour– we have so many providers after an hour sometimes two who are like, “It’s just not happening. It’s not going to happen. Baby’s not going to come down. Baby’s not coming out.” That’s not necessarily true. We just may need to change positions or stop and just like Suzzie was talking about, let our babies come down on their own. Let them rotate and come down on their own, right? 


    Suzzie: I see that all of the time now that I’m a doula and I attend births. I was with one mom when we were at the hospital. She had an epidural. We were pushing. She pushed a couple of hours and they were like, “Okay. We’ve reached the cut-off. It’s time.” She was exhausted. Pushing especially with an epidural when you are not ready can be– I’d say what she was going through was much more intense than what I had gone through when I was pushing Hazel. 


    Luckily, this conversation was happening during shift change because she really wanted a break. She needed a break. So when the new nurse came on, I kind of explained to her the situation and she gave me the wink and was like, “Okay, I’ve got you.” She went about her business as slowly as she could as the new nurse coming on in the morning shift. I had taken my client and I helped her get in a comfortable position. Typically, if a mom is pushing and needs a break, I will do lay on the side, knees together, pillows or peanut balls between the ankles so your knees together, ankles out. I’ll just do a muscle release on that top hip and maybe help her rock back and forth a little bit just so she can relax, but we’re getting some movement into this pelvis area. 


    The doctor came back. They were like, “Okay. We’re going to get you prepped.” They did one last check and they were like, “Oh my goodness. This baby is so low. We can see their head now.” 


    Meagan: Yay!


    Suzzie: They went from being super high to– 


    Meagan: Ready to come. 


    Suzzie: Yeah. Yeah. She did, I think, two pushes after that. She had to have these hours where there was supposedly no change. It was probably about a 30-minute break and in that time, her baby was just like, “Oh, I’ll just descend myself. Here I am. I can move through in this new position without as much effort from you.” 


    I think sometimes there is so much fear about things that can go wrong, especially in the hospital where– I think now that I do a lot of home births and a lot of hospital births as well, I truly don’t understand how if you come up through the medical system, that you get enough exposure to women in labor without interventions to know enough about it to feel comfortable and safe in that process, right? 


    We have a lot of providers that actually have big gaps in education which is not their fault, right? But it is a reality and one that they have to deal with and one that we have to deal with. 


    27:06 OBs attending home births


    Suzzie: I go to the Washington State Obstetrical Association. This year, I went and I was talking to one OB that was like, “Yeah, I did a home birth rotation when I was doing my training.” He was telling me about how it changed his practice so much and I really wish that everybody had that opportunity, but the reality is that most do not. It’s really important to be able to advocate for yourself to know what you want and then ultimately to make really good decisions about your care provider and where you give birth because it shouldn’t be an uphill battle if you have all of the pieces in line. 


    Meagan: Yeah. I love that you pointed out that it’s not their fault because I think sometimes, at least I’m guilty of this where I get a little sassy and I’m like, “Oh my gosh. This provider that or that provider that” or “This hospital this and that” and it can get to the point where sometimes it maybe looks like I hate hospital birth or I hate hospital providers which is the complete opposite. I do not hate anybody for that matter, but it can get a little frustrating when we keep seeing this as birth workers. 


    What you were saying, it’s not their fault. It’s not. They are taught this way. They are taught this system, this protocol, and this pattern that birth needs to follow. It just needs to follow this way and if it doesn’t follow this way, they are taught X, Y, Z, and back all the way to A all the way to do things to manage that to control that situation. 


    Then we have things that unravel like the cascade and then we have trauma. We have fear. We have doubts. We have a lot of things that didn’t necessarily need to happen, but it’s sometimes just how it happens. So if we come in and we’re not prepared to ask questions and advocate for ourselves which is really hard during labor. You guys, it’s really hard to advocate for yourself because just as Suzzie was saying, she was pushing and all in, then she was out. Right? We’re in and then we’re out. That goes through labor all around. There are a lot of things in my labor I remember very well and there are a lot of things I probably don’t remember at all or don’t even know happened. But we have to advocate for ourselves. 


    If we can walk into our birth knowing that our team is on our side, but also give them a grain of salt and know there is training and know that there is X, Y, and Z that they have to follow, then we can have a better understanding and soften our hearts when things don’t go well also understanding that this really is how it is. It is. Like she said, most providers, I mean, I’m going to just throw a number out there. I’m going to guess that 99.9% of those OBs and midwives in the hospital system have not attended or had a rotation of home birth. 


    Suzzie: I would agree with that. Yes. I think that is definitely an exception to the rule. 


    30:40 Continuous care during home birth


    Suzzie: Honestly, a lot of providers, when you come in and you catch your first baby as a provider, you might have never seen a woman have a natural labor. That’s not the priority of the medical system as you monitor and you treat which is really important because sometimes things happen and we do need to be treated. I went through a very medical procedure during my molar pregnancy and that saved my life. If I hadn’t had that treatment and that ongoing treatment, there would have been a lot of complications that could have happened which is very scary to think about.


    But I think about it too, when I chose a home birth, a lot of people in my circle were very uncomfortable with that. Natural birth, especially from my kids’ dad’s family’s point of view was definitely the way to go. My family was very opposite, very medical, just go in and have your baby. But doing a home birth was kind of out there for everybody. It was a big– everybody had a lot of fear around that decision. 


    Ultimately for me, the thing that made me feel really safe in that was that out of all of the providers I had talked to, Dr. Brandy was willing to build that open and trustful relationship with me. But more than that, when I gave birth to Zoe, I was in a hospital where my nurse had multiple patients. She was watching on a monitor. She had a lot on her plate. Emergencies can happen. You have a lot of things going on in those cases. My doctor also had a lot going on because they work on call. They were also a part of a busier practice so multiple patients at one time, bouncing back and forth between everybody’s different needs. 


    The thing that I loved about a home birth was that I had an expert by my side from the moment it started to hours after. Once Dr. Brandy got there, I’m going to assume it was probably around noon although my recollection of the day, everything is very scattered because I was so supported to stay in that labor land. There was a lot of time warp going on. 


    But anyway, she got there around lunchtime and she didn’t leave. The furthest distance that we were from each other was I would be in my bedroom and if I wanted space, she would go to the living room, or at one point, I went outside and went for a walk. But I had her continual monitoring, her continual– I guess I want to be careful with that word because it wasn’t continuous monitoring with the little machine, but she had her Doppler and she was continually listening as appropriate per guidelines. 


    Me– she had her assistant there who also gave me space but was one person she was watching, me. And my doula, who also had been to hundreds of births and was focused on me. Right? So if you think about it logistically, which place am I going to get the better care where skilled and caring providers are taking care of multiple people at once or where skilled and caring providers are only focused on me? I think that’s pretty easy to see. Why did I feel so safe? Well, I had the resources. 


    Suzzie: My degree is in economics so I think about systems a lot. I often think, “How do we scale that so everybody can have that one-on-one attention?” I don’t have the answer to that question, but I do know that as a woman, you can choose which system you want to be a part of when you choose your care provider and when you choose either your midwife or OB. I’ve worked with both that are great. It’s not that you can only choose a midwife or you can only choose an OB, but you do have to build a strong relationship with them. 


    It does make sense if you are advocating for yourself to make decisions where you will be the priority when you are in labor because as a laboring mom, I think we all deserve that. 


    Unfortunately, at this time, we still have to opt ourselves into those systems. I know here in Seattle, I just did a comparison of all of our hospitals and their C-section rates for first-time, low-risk moms having head-down babies and the difference is really staggering. There’s one hospital where first-time, low-risk moms– over 35% of moms are having surgeries and that same category literally 20 minutes away, the C-section rate is only 20%. 


    So if you are thinking about, “Okay, my priority is I want to be safe and in a hospital and avoid a C-section, one of those hospitals is going to be more equipped and have better systems and structures in place to help you with that goal.” 


    Of course, it’s not a guarantee. There’s always risk that exists in birth. It’s one of those things we have to come to terms with, but we can make choices that help us one way or the other. 


    Meagan: Yes. I love that you said that. Okay, we want to go to the hospital, but let’s really figure out what place is best for our needs. 


    36:23 Birth preparation tips


    Meagan: So as a childbirth educator, you’ve now gone through an unplanned Cesarean. What do you suggest to do before birth in general? No matter what type of birth you are planning for, what are a couple of tips you have? I think that could probably even be one of them. Find your support team. Find your system. Find the right location. 


    But yeah, do you have any others that you would say would be a top tip from you?


    Suzzie: Yeah. Yeah. I actually have a little pyramid of these are the factors of building a healthy pregnancy that I try to lead by my mom’s theory. I think a lot of times there’s– okay, I’ll say with me for my first birth. The reason I didn’t do a childbirth class, the reason I was opting out was partly because I already experienced trauma and had a lot of emotions that I was avoiding. 


    But also, because I also had a mindset of “leave it to the experts” which for me, birth really moved me into and really was the thing that made me become aware of what my needs really were. 


    But now that I teach about birth, yes. Monitoring and treating is a crucial part of a healthy pregnancy and it’s important to get a care provider you care about. We’ve talked about that. Childbirth education– there was a study published in 2020 that talked about, okay. If you’re trying to avoid a C-section, let’s look at moms who took a childbirth class before giving birth and those who didn’t. For the moms that took a class, the C-section rate was about 80% which, I think we can do better and we should expect better than that, but on the flipside, the moms who didn’t take a class was only 58% so that’s not much more than flipping a coin. 


    Childbirth education makes a difference. 


    Meagan: Wait, the people who did take the class had a higher Cesarean rate or a lower? 


    Suzzie: No, no, no, no. The people that did not take a class was 58%. So if you don’t take a class, it’s almost like me. I didn’t take a class. I made that mistake. It’s not that different than flipping a coin. 


    After that, you really have to nourish yourself. Pregnancy nutrition is a lot different than what most of us were taught. When I learned about nutrition in pregnancy, there was a lot of unlearning and new habits I had to build. There is a really good book, Real Food for Pregnancy, by Lily Nichols. I love that book and her trainings are inside my class and what my class teaches basically. 


    Meagan: I have it right here in my hand. 


    Suzzie: Yeah. Yeah. And after that, prepping your body. Movement and exercise have so many benefits for labor. Also doing some body balancing work because one of the things that as a doula when I’m looking at, “Okay, when people are having weird contraction patterns or babies that don’t seem to be doing their little rotation dance or not progressing even though they are having contractions,” the three things we are looking at are your passenger. Is your baby just doing something funny or is there a really short cord? Something completely out of your control. Is it the power? Is it how strong your contractions are or is it your pelvis? A lot of the time, the answer is that it’s your pelvis so we have to come in with movements and muscle releases and you can do the chiropractic care throughout pregnancy and it does make a difference in preventing those not common but when you hear people having three-hour labors, that is often, often, often a pelvis thing. 


    So for me, if I have a mom that’s having those contractions 10 or 15 minutes apart and they are not getting closer, I know we’ve got to get in there and do some things to help and usually we can resolve that with movement. 


    Dealing with stress and anxiety is a part of labor. It’s actually the work of pregnancy. It’s to understand that you have anxiety about this because you should because it is one of the biggest and most important things we have and getting help with that, connecting with others, building your community, and then nourishing your purpose because when I look at my friends and the women I work with, some of us connect very quickly to the idea of being mothers. It’s been in our minds and in our hearts since we were little, and some of us just don’t. 


    Or some of us get pregnant and we don’t feel that magical connection that we thought we were supposed to have. That’s actually okay. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong. It means that we have an opportunity to start nourishing and developing what it means to us to go through this process and deliver a baby and to raise a human being and what our role is and to build purpose in that which is really important. 


    I always think that when we are talking about how to build a healthy pregnancy. If you leave any of those out, we are selling ourselves or the people we work with short by not providing resources in all of those different categories. 


    Meagan: Yeah. I love the pyramid concept. We have to care for ourselves and we have to do these things for ourselves. I think so many times, we push some of those things aside and we deserve to do these things for our bodies, our minds, our mental health, and everything. We deserve to fuel our bodies with good nutrition. 


    I also love Lily Nichols. We’ve had her on the podcast. I have her books for gestational diabetes and Real Food for Pregnancy. We are big lovers of Needed and we talk about, okay. We know we are busy. We know that nutrition has changed over the years and get the supplements that you need. Do what you need to do to fuel your body as a whole and then also do all of those other steps so we walk in. 


    Sometimes we may do everything in this pyramid. We may do every single thing and then something doesn’t happen the way we want or we still have an unexpected situation, but we can walk in knowing that our pyramid is strong and then go through the motions. 


    43:29 Knowing what questions to ask


    Meagan: Earlier, we were talking about asking questions and not being scared of that. Ask a childbirth educator, how do you educate on being confident in asking those questions? I feel like as a doula, I’m always talking about, “Ask questions. Ask questions.” If you have a doula there, they can help facilitate this, but sometimes, we don’t have doulas there. So how can we really hone in on making sure that we are in a place to ask questions? 


    Suzzie: Yeah. Yeah. I think the really hard thing when it comes to birth is when I think about myself as a first-time mom, that I didn’t know enough to know what questions to ask. Right? You get thrown into that impossible situation. I know in my birth class, my birth class is online, but also, every single person who goes through that birth class gets two one-on-one appointments with me to go over their birth plan to talk a really good picture about how they really feel about birth. 


    It’s okay to want a natural birth and it’s okay to say, “I don’t like pain. I want an epidural as soon as possible.” There are different approaches and there are different conversations you should have with your provider each time. A lot of time, I feel like the induction question is coming up more and more and more often, so a lot of times, that second prenatal ends up being like, “Okay, how do I navigate a conversation about induction because I’m trying to figure out how I feel about it and I’m also trying to figure out how to navigate maybe differences in risk aversion or things like that with a care provider?” 


    One, I would say talk to somebody who has some knowledge and ask them what questions to ask if you are not sure. You can talk to– there’s no limit to the number of people that you can talk to and everyone will have their opinion and you can take what works for you and throw the rest away. 


    The other side of that is also journaling and getting really clear on what a healthy birth looks like to you or what your ideal birth looks like because it’s very possible that you and a care provider have different definitions of what that is. If you can communicate what you want really well, I always suggest when people write their birth plan to think about everything that is important to you and summarize it in 1-3 sentences. Put that at the top of your birth plan because the rest of your birth plan is just logistics, but if you can communicate who you are and if you’ve chosen somebody that you trust, the most likely outcome then is that they see your birth plan and then they ask you the right questions and they help you navigate what you would need to know because they know, “Okay. You are a person that really wants to try the most natural thing first” or “Your big worry is about tearing.” 


    Now they know to filter the conversations that they are having with you through these different priorities that you have. If they don’t know your priorities, they can’t do that. So just setting yourself up so that even if you’re the one who doesn’t know because you are new to birth and you are having your first-time experience, be clear about who you are so that your providers can help fill the gap. 


    I truly believe that if you have taken the time to find a provider or a location whose values somewhat line up with yours, it doesn’t have to be perfect, then that will be enough for most people. It’s when we can’t communicate who we are or when we are in environments where clearly the priorities are just completely misaligned where I see breakdowns in that, but I think most providers care deeply about what they do and who they serve. But every mom that comes in is different so if they don’t know what makes you special, they can’t treat you special. Right?

     

    Meagan: Right. Yeah. Such a powerful message. Thank you so much for coming and sharing with us. There are so many little nuggets. I feel like we didn’t even have time to talk about fear releases before you walk in. If you get pregnant, do a fear release. If you are entering things, do a fear release. Journal. Find those fears so you can start navigating them and eliminating them along the way. 


    48:18 Waters being broken for 24 hours


    Meagan: I wanted to talk about water breaking for 24 hours. Just because your water has been broken for 24 hours, Women of Strength, that does not mean you have to have a C-section. 


    Suzzie: Can I actually tell a story about that? 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Suzzie: I know you are wrapping up, but I’ll just say this really quick. The biggest risk with water infection that you will hear is that it could potentially lead to an infection. 


    Meagan: Yeah, potentially. 


    Suzzie: I will tell you that with all of the moms I have worked with, I have only had one mom have an infection and she got it within hours actually. As her water broke, she already had the infection because, by the time she got to the hospital, she already had a fever. So again, monitoring and treating is important. It’s not that it can’t exist. 


    On the other hand, when I was early in my career as a doula, I got to work with this incredible mom. Her priority was, “I don’t want interventions at all.” Her water broke and we were like, “Okay. How are we going to deal with this?” She went in regularly for non-stress tests and she went almost three days. No infection, nothing. She went into labor and had a super quick, super healthy baby. 


    These obscure rules say, “Oh, at 24 hours, risk increases.” No, it doesn’t. There are different things that can happen. It’s important to monitor. It’s important to treat an infection. Most moms are safe. If you look at the research, it’s totally fine to go way longer than that for most moms. 


    Meagan: We have a mom on the podcast. She’s actually one of my clients. She went five days with her water broken and had a VBA2C birth. Beautiful birth. 


    Suzzie: That’s amazing. 


    Meagan: No infection, no issues. It’s so hard for me to hear, “Oh, your water’s been broken.” I’ve been there. My water was broken for 12 hours and they were like, “Nope. Water’s been broken for 12 hours. You're not doing well.” I was doing fine. “Your baby’s not progressing or coming down. Your body is not progressing.” It was just that I had a completely unnecessary Cesarean but I didn’t know. I didn’t know to ask the questions. 


    50:31 Checking in if labor stalls


    Meagan: Yeah and remembering to let your baby navigate its way down the pelvis. Let them help you and know that sometimes it is that tension release. Sometimes it is putting knees in versus out or turning on your side. The pelvis really molds and shifts around and rotates and shifts and babies’ heads mold. Together they work and they can come out so if you were told that your pelvis was too small or your baby was too big or you would never get a baby out of your pelvis or if you had a Cesarean for failure to descend or failure to progress, know that that does not mean it’s going to happen the next time. 


    Learn. Navigate. Learn optimal positioning. Do chiropractic care. Do these things. Find the support because also something I heard in your first story is everything was going, going, going. You walked into a space where you didn’t feel safe and everything stopped. 


    Suzzie: Exactly. 


    Meagan: That is what can happen. Our bodies and minds are so powerful that we have the ability to stop labor. Have you ever thought of that? That is incredible. We have the ability to stop our labor. 


    Suzzie: I know. The body is wild. 


    Meagan: So sometimes, I also wanted to drop just a little tip on if we are having progression issues, we are having really hard, strong contractions, but our progress isn’t necessarily showing the result that we would think that the pattern and strength would be giving, let’s tune in. Let’s tune into those babies’ rotations and all of those things. The fears, the thoughts, and what’s happening in our minds, or if we are having that failure to progress and all of a sudden, our labor just out of nowhere slows down or even stops, let’s check in. Let’s do a fear release right there. Let’s do a mental health check. Let’s figure out what is going on because a lot of the time it is that we are not feeling safe. We are not feeling supported. We are not feeling heard. We are doubting ourselves for whatever reason. There are so many things. 


    You walked into a situation where you were made to feel bad for making a choice that felt right. 


    Suzzie: Right. 


    Meagan: That is just what is not okay, but that is what could easily stop our labor. So do a little check-in, ladies. If you are in this position or you were in that position, honestly go back and say, “Okay. My labor stopped. What was happening? What was I feeling?” Check into that and journal it. I love that you suggested journaling. Journaling is so amazing. Let’s journal our progress and our process in this journey. 


    Okay, well obviously we could talk for a long time and maybe we should just do a part two, but I will let you go. Thank you so much for being here and sharing your stories and your knowledge. I’m just going to hold onto this pyramid. I love the pyramid aspect. I really, really love that. I think that is something that is really powerful. Thank you again so much for joining us. 


    Suzzie: Thank you. All right, bye. 


    Meagan: Bye. 

    Closing


    Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Tell us about your experience at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Meagan’s bio, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.




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    54m - Apr 1, 2024
  • Episode 286 Alexis' Peaceful CBAC

    Cesareans can be peaceful, beautiful, and so healing. Though Alexis didn’t have the VBAC she planned for, she still had the euphoric birth she dreamed of. 


    Alexis unexpectedly experienced PPROM and preeclampsia at 36 weeks with her first baby. Trying to labor and push under the effects of magnesium and all of the other interventions was incredibly exhausting. When baby started having decels, she knew it was time for the Cesarean. 


    After a rough NICU stay and having to exclusively pump, Alexis knew she needed to be proactive about healing from her birth PTSD. She went to EMDR therapy and found the healing her heart needed. 


    Alexis shares all of the ways her second birth was different from the first. She went into labor spontaneously. She progressed quickly and felt strong. But when baby flipped breech mid-labor, Alexis knew it was time for another Cesarean. Her team took their time honoring every wish Alexis had and truly gave her the birth of her dreams!


    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details 


    02:05 Review of the Week

    05:29 Alexis’ first pregnancy during COVID

    09:41 PPROM and preeclampsia 

    13:27 Pushing turned emergent Cesarean

    16:54 NICU stay and exclusive pumping

    20:45 EMDR therapy and postpartum healing 

    22:24 Second pregnancy

    26:21 Beginning of labor

    29:47 A picture-perfect labor

    31:26 Baby flipping breech and going for a C-section

    38:03 The game changer

    40:56 A euphoric birth

    43:45 Ways to have a gentle Cesarean

    46:36 Music, skin-to-skin, clear drapes, mirrors, conversation, and maternal-assisted Cesareans

    50:32 Vaginal seeding, advocacy, and backward dilation

    52:29 Swelling in pregnancy and nutrition


    Meagan: Hello, hello everybody. Today’s episode is one that I am actually really excited to hear and share. I think a lot of the time when we are listening to The VBAC Link, we are looking for empowering VBAC stories, positive VBAC stories, and sometimes when we are sharing these stories, it is accompanied by traumatic Cesareans. We know that through all of these stories, I have personal experiences that a lot of these Cesareans are traumatic, and a lot of the time they are traumatic because they are undesired or they are pushed really hard or people feel like they are backed in a corner or so many interventions come into play that they happen in a traumatic manner. 


    But today’s story is going to talk a little bit about how Cesarean doesn’t have to be traumatic and it can be peaceful. I relate personally to it because my second C-section, I didn’t want actually. I didn’t want it at all. It wasn’t what I planned on, but I still found so much healing through that birth and I think that in a lot of ways, it shifted my mindset of how to view Cesarean. 


    I also want to recognize that our community doesn’t always want a VBAC, right? We are here learning about the options for birth after Cesarean but that doesn’t mean we only want VBAC so I’m excited to share this story today for everybody, especially for those who are unsure of what to do or want to maybe go the Cesarean route but want to have maybe a better experience than their last Cesarean. We’re going to talk about how to have a peaceful Cesarean. 


    We have our friend, Alexis, with us today going to be sharing her peaceful journey with you. 


    02:05 Review of the Week 


    But of course, we have a Review of the Week, so I want to dive into that and then turn the time over to her. This is from Apple Podcasts and it says lilylalalala. Lots of la la la. It says, “Inspiring and uplifting.” It says, “I first found this podcast in 2020 in the depths of the postpartum after a very traumatic, unplanned Cesarean with my first baby. I listened to every single episode as I struggled to process what had happened to me. I finally gathered up the courage to seek help for postpartum PTSD that I was experiencing. 


    “This podcast is a treasure trove for inspiring stories which helped me regain confidence in my body to have a beautiful VBAC with my second baby last year. Thank you for being such a huge part of my healing journey.” 


    I feel like so often, we hear little things like, “Oh, I loved hearing it” or “That was inspirational” or “That helped me learn the knowledge” but I love hearing that it was a part of the healing journey. It healed. That is so amazing. Thank you so much lilylalalala for sharing your review. 


    If you haven’t yet, you guys, we would love your review on the podcast. You can review our Instagram or our Facebook community. Give us a review of The VBAC Link. You can leave your review at Google. You can just Google “The VBAC Link” and leave a review there. You can leave a review on the Apple Podcasts. I’m pretty sure you can on Google Play. Or guess what? You can even email us at info@thevbaclink.com subject “Review” and leave us your review there. 


    05:29 Alexis’ first pregnancy during COVID


    Meagan: Okay. I am so excited for you to share with us today. Remind me. Okay, so we are going to be talking about preeclampsia, EMDR therapy which I think is something that is super powerful. We are going to be talking about repeat Cesarean and it can be better. Yeah. Anything else that you’re like, “This is what my story is going to touch on?” 


    Alexis: NICU time also. We had some NICU time. That was a big part of my postpartum experience. Yeah. 


    Meagan: Okay. Yes. Okay, well without further ado, I would love to turn the time over to you to share your story. 


    Alexis: Thank you. Yeah. There is a lot that goes into this story, a lot of different factors that made my first experience really hard, but I got to learn so much through it and I’ve been able to help a lot of other friends and family just through my experience so I’m super excited to share my story with everybody. 


    Meagan: Can you remind us where you are at as well? Where you are located? 


    Alexis: Yes, Joplin, Missouri. 


    Meagan: Missouri. 


    Alexis: Yep, so southwest Missouri. We are originally from Oklahoma City. My husband and I have lived here for six or seven years now and we call it home. Yeah. We got married in 2017 and we were about ready to have a baby around this time the pandemic hit so fun timing there. I’m sure a lot of mamas can relate to that. I think that’s a lot of our story. 


    We got pregnant at the end of 2020. Things were kind of normalizing but not really medically. I mean, I never saw my OB’s face. We were all wearing masks. My husband couldn’t come to our first appointment because the regulations were still iffy on that. I Facetimed him to hear the heartbeat which was so sad for our first pregnancy.


    But as things kind of went on, the rules lessened a little bit, but still, it was COVID. 


    We got pregnant really easily. We were so blessed for that experience. 


    For the most part, my pregnancy was really healthy. I did have a lot of nausea and morning sickness. That kind of lasted the whole pregnancy and it probably was the reason that my nutrition was so terrible. Nothing sounded good. All I really wanted was french fries so I could never– the smell of our gas oven made me gag so cooking really wasn’t happening. 


    Meagan: You’re not alone and that’s one of the reasons why we talk about Needed, our partnership, because there are so many of us who go through this morning sickness and the smell of anything is just barf so we’re not getting those nutrients, right? So we’ve got to try to get them in other ways because we’re not getting them through food because we can’t. 


    Alexis: We can’t, yeah. That is totally me. So yeah. My diet was terrible and I didn’t know at the time. Of course, everyone says to eat healthier and a lot of protein, but I’m already not a good eater of protein, and certainly not when I am nauseous, so yeah. My diet was a big factor. I had pretty rapid weight gain and I’m a petite person so that was not normal for me. My midwife really kept an eye on that, but I was still doing CrossFit my whole entire pregnancy somehow. I felt good enough to do that, but yeah. I was probably just wearing my body down. I was not eating well and working out really hard. 


    What’s funny is I was working out because it is proven to decrease your chances of getting preeclampsia and that didn’t happen. 


    Meagan: Which ended up happening? 


    Alexis: Yeah. I was like, “I’m going to be so strong. This birth is going to be so easy. I’m just going to squat down on the floor and pop this baby out, no problem.” 


    Meagan: I love your confidence, though. That is important in any birth. The confidence in your body’s ability is wonderful. 


    Alexis: For sure. I think that because I was working out so hard, maybe my pelvic floor is tighter. I’ll get into all of that. Anyway, that was the pregnancy. Everything was good and healthy. I didn’t have any other issues. 


    09:41 PPROM and preeclampsia 


    But around 30 weeks, I started swelling really badly. It was a summer pregnancy, so no one really thought anything of it. I knew it was unusual for me. It was a lot of swelling. My midwife was keeping an eye on it. I never had high blood pressure and no protein in my urine. There were no markers and technically, I think according to what ACOG says, swelling isn’t a red flag necessarily for preeclampsia. I think they won’t diagnose you unless, of course, it’s blood pressure and protein. No one was worried about it. 


    Yeah. We were just trucking along. Everything is good, just extremely swollen. My husband travels for work all of the time during the summer so one night, he had gotten back that day and I was about 36 weeks on the dot. He got back that day from California and I woke up in the night to go to the bathroom and sit up in bed and I felt a little bit of a gush. I was like, “That’s weird.” 


    I get up and go to the bathroom. Toilet paper is a little bit pink, watery-tinged so I kind of knew immediately. It smelled different. I knew something was up. I’m calling for my husband to come in there. He is very confused. At 36 weeks, we did not expect that. The chances of your water breaking are less than 10% or something? 


    Meagan: They say 10% or less, yeah, especially before labor begins. You had PPROM and then there is PROM so premature rupture of membranes, PROM, and then premature birth. 


    Alexis: Yeah, so never did I ever think that my water would break and that would be the start of my labor. I knew those facts and I had done a lot of research. I was really well-educated before I had my son. I just– we are all really good birthers and really good parents before we do it. So yeah. My water breaks. I call the midwife. It was my midwife on call which gave me a lot of reassurance too and she just said, “Go ahead and come in since your water broke. It sounds like that’s exactly what happened.” 


    Looking back now, that was such a God thing because my plan was that I wanted to go unmedicated. I planned on laboring at home for as long as possible, but my water breaking just messed up my mind and shifted all of my plans. That wasn’t a part of my plan, so I was like, “Oh, okay. I’ll go in. Sure.” I didn’t think twice about it. 


    When we arrived at the hospital, I felt fine. I had no headaches. I had no vision changes. I felt fine. My blood pressure was I think 200/110. It was insanely high. It was so bad. The nurse was like, “Oh, maybe you’re just excited. We’ll retake it.” We retook it. It was still crazy high and really dangerous. 


    They started the magnesium drip and for any of you girlies who have ever done that, it is a nightmare. 


    Meagan: Yuck. 


    Alexis: I felt terrible. It makes you feel like you have the flu. I threw up the whole labor. I just was seeing double so anytime a doctor or nurse would come in, I would have to cover up one eye to be able to look at them because I couldn’t see straight. 


    I basically could not get out of bed. We had to do an epidural immediately to drop that blood pressure so I was totally bed-bound. The nurses were super helpful with moving me around, so I basically was just side to side on a peanut ball for 20 hours. 


    I had felt some contractions leading up as we were driving to the hospital, but nothing super strong. After a while, my midwife suggested some Pitocin which wasn’t a part of my plan. Again, I wanted to go unmedicated. I wanted to have a super crunchy, awesome birth and I have now had every medication under the sun. 


    13:27 Pushing turned emergent Cesarean


    Alexis: We start some Pitocin. That gets some contractions going. I didn’t mention this. I arrived, I think at a 3 or a 4 when we got to the hospital so not a bad place to start at 36 weeks especially. 


    But yeah, we go through laboring in bed, on my back, on my side. Of course, feeling the pains of labor and contractions in addition to magnesium just felt terrible. I didn’t do the research about positions or what I should be doing. I didn’t have a doula so that’s a big part of it too. 


    But I do progress to 10. Things kind of move along over these 20 hours and we start pushing. I could tell you on that first push, I had the thought, “I need to have a C-section.” I was so exhausted before I really even began pushing just from being awake for 20 hours. That was such an exhausting, long, hard labor. I could not. I had no energy left. 


    The midwife that was there tried a lot of different pushing positions. We did tug of war. I actually got on my hands and knees. She was really great about helping me with pushing, but I had no gas in the tank. I was so exhausted. I don’t know what my son’s position was either. I don’t know how high he was. No one ever told me what station he was at. I remember thinking, “Is station just a silly thing people say on Instagram and it’s not real?” Because no nurses have mentioned his station. Should I ask? I didn’t want to feel stupid. 


    Ask all of the questions. It is your birth. 


    Meagan: 100%. 


    Alexis: Ask. If you are wondering, ask. It’s your body. I don’t know why I felt afraid to ask what station or what my dilation was all of the time when they would check me. They just didn’t tell me which was really weird. 


    I pushed for two hours in every position under the sun and eventually, he started to have some heart decels so the OB on call rushed in pretty quickly. He told me it was time to go to a C-section. I, like I said, was kind of ready for it at this point. It was not my plan, but I wasn’t going to put my baby at risk so I was like, “Okay. Let’s do it.” 


    We go back to a pretty urgent C-section. This was all also, perhaps more traumatic for my husband. I was so out of it with all of the medication and so tired and you are already in labor land anyway, so you don’t remember it all. 


    He relayed this all to me later and he was way more affected by it and that’s such a big part of our story too is him. He’s left in a room alone. They take me back. He does get to come in. I didn’t have to be put under or anything, but that’s got to be so scary as a spouse. You hear that things are dangerous. They take you out and now you’re just waiting. 


    Meagan: Yep, having no idea what’s going on. 


    Alexis: Yeah, he had no idea if I was okay or if the baby was okay. The C-section itself was actually fine. Everything went well. I was just loopy and out of it from everything I had been on so I don’t remember it that well, but when they got my son out, his APGAR was a 2. He was not doing great. 


    They had to do some resuscitation so that was just scary. As he came out just not really responding, but he did start to cry. His APGAR came up on that second check and everything was fine at that point. We also didn’t find out gender so what a way to find out your gender was that moment. We were so scared. It was like, “That’s great. He’s a boy. We don’t care.” We just wanted him to be okay. 


    16:54 NICU stay and exclusive pumping


    Alexis: Yeah. They get him in a good spot breathing and crying. All is well. I did fine. The C-section was not– that wasn’t the traumatic part for me. I got closed up. I don’t remember honestly anything after this point. I don’t know if I fell asleep. Maybe it was just blocked out of my mind, but we eventually got back to our room. 


    They take my son to the nursery and I don’t remember anyone asking us about that. My husband doesn’t either. I’m sure I was not in a good place. My blood pressure was still through the roof. It wasn’t a great time for skin-to-skin. I understand that, but looking back, it’s just really sad that I didn’t really see him. I didn’t meet him then for two days after. My blood pressure was so high, I couldn’t get out of bed from the morning after he was born until about 11:00 at night. 


    Around 6:00 AM, his pediatrician came in and his blood sugar was low so he had to be sent to the NICU. Now we are in separate jails across the hall from each other because he was in the NICU. They wouldn’t let me get out of bed because my blood pressure was just not controlled. It was so bad. So I didn’t meet my son for two days. That’s kind of where– 


    Meagan: I’m so sorry. 


    Alexis: –the trauma. Labor was traumatic. The C-section was fine and then postpartum was really traumatic as well. That’s kind of my story. Eventually, my blood pressure starts to respond to medication and I’m able to go meet him, but seeing your baby hooked up to cords and a feeding tube is awful. It’s terrible. 


    That was really his only issue though. He didn’t have any breathing problems, thank goodness as a 36-weeker. His only issue was blood sugar and feeding. He was just a sleepy guy. He was not taking the bottle. He wasn’t really vigorous at the breast. We had lactation consultants come in, but it wasn’t super helpful when you’re in the tizzy of NICU. 


    The NICU is not set up for breastfeeding success. 


    Meagan: It’s not. 


    Alexis: You’re on a 3-hour schedule. You don’t feed on demand. You need to measure how long and how much they are eating. That is not how breastfeeding works. We feed on demand. We do skin-to-skin. I just didn’t know at the time. I was like, “Oh, every three hours. Okay.” 


    I’m pumping. I didn’t nurse him a ton in the NICU just because it wore him out so much. It’s a lot of work to breastfeed so we were like, “If you can take a bottle and we can get out of here faster, do it.” So I was pumping. 


    Eventually, after eight days, we were able to bust out of there. Feeding was the only thing he had to get over. When we went home, I was still pumping. I would offer the breast, but I was so unsure of it and so overwhelmed with it all. I ended up just exclusively pumping because now, looking back, I can see postpartum anxiety 100%. I was afraid if he wasn’t eating enough, they would stick him back in the NICU which would not have happened. They would have done other things before that. It was not emergent, but that is what anxiety tells you. 


    Meagan: I was going to say that anxiety tells you things that aren’t necessarily true. 


    Alexis: Exactly. 


    Meagan: We are in a state where that’s what we believe. 


    Alexis: Exactly. My husband and I were both so overwhelmed and traumatized from the NICU that it was just easier for us to pump. I remember going back to my six-week appointment and my midwife was like, “How’s breastfeeding going?” I told her, “I’m exclusively pumping.” She was like, “Oh my gosh. That is much harder.” 


    Meagan: That’s a lot of work. 


    Alexis: I was like, “No, you don’t get it. It’s not harder.” When your baby won’t latch and they are crying on the breast, it is so stressful. No, no. This is not harder. But it is exhausting. It’s so much work. I did it for a year. I’m very proud of that, pumping is not for the faint of heart.


    Yeah, that was kind of his whole experience. It was just really overwhelming is what I would say. We didn’t really know what we were doing and the preeclampsia of it all was so scary. It’s such a serious thing that I wasn’t super duper-educated on what that could look like. 


    Meagan: Right. 


    20:45 EMDR therapy and postpartum healing 


    Alexis: After his birth, I just really tried to dive into therapy, and my husband too. We just wanted to work through that because we knew we wanted more kids. I already knew I wanted a VBAC. Immediately, I was like, “This was never my plan to have a C-section so we are going for a VBAC.” I was a great candidate for it. 


    We plugged forward. I did EMDR therapy which I cannot recommend enough. It literally retrains your brain to hop off a thought and get on a healthier track of thinking. My main objective with my therapist was my anxiety around blood pressure because, to me, it felt like blood pressure was something I couldn’t necessarily control. You can do things to support your body like diet and supplements and all of these things, but some of us just have chronic high blood pressure or white coat syndrome which was totally me. 


    So I just wanted to eliminate that piece of it if I could and just calm myself down before appointments, not get stressed about it, and not add more to my plate of trying to be healthy for this next pregnancy. I just wanted to do that work before I even got pregnant. 


    I went through EMDR therapy surrounding blood pressure and also just working through my birth and kind of getting to a place where even if that same exact birth happened again, I would have more peace about it because you don’t know how it’s going to go. The chances of having preeclampsia again the second time are higher than a first birth for anybody else. It could have gone the same way. You don’t know, but I just wanted to be prepared to have a better experience, a better bonding experience with my baby, and a better birth. 


    22:24 Second pregnancy


    That really got me to a healthy place. Around the time I was wrapping that up, I got pregnant with my daughter about two years later. I had just done this whole time in between kids and listened to as many VBAC Link episodes as I could. I tried to diversify the information that I was taking in too so a lot of the Evidence-Based Birth, also Dr. Fox’s podcast is a really great one for a little bit of a different perspective. 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Alexis: He’s an MFM. He’s been on this podcast and has a very different perspective. He has seen it all so he’s going to be a little bit more conservative with allowing any patient to VBAC or any type of “complication”. It’s a really good perspective to add to the mix if you are looking for it. 


    I just filled my brain with as many birth stories and as much research as I could. I did everything I could to avoid preeclampsia this time. I ate as close as I could to the Brewer diet. It’s so hard if you’ve ever tried to eat exactly the Brewer diet. It feels impossible at least for me so I just did my best. I tried to eat a lot of protein and started my day with a lot of protein just trying to diversify my diet because I did not do that the first time. 


    Also supplements, so any research that I found, I would take the supplement. So low-dose aspirin, I was on that from the beginning. I took magnesium-glycinate every night. Melatonin– I saw a study that shows a direct link between low levels of melatonin in preeclampsia. Vitamin C is to the strength of your bag of water so I took that every night. My water did not break so I don’t know. That worked for me. I also was a little bit anemic during my first pregnancy so I took a grass-fed beef liver supplement and I had no issues with my iron this time either. 


    Just a lot of different things to support my body so I’m like, “I’m giving you the best opportunity, body, to have a healthy pregnancy and that’s all I can do.” You’ve got to throw your hands up at some point and just say, “I did everything I could.” That’s what I did. I switched hospitals because I felt like going back to the same hospital would be kind of traumatic. 


    Meagan: It can be triggering. 


    Alexis: Exactly. I switched OBs. I switched to– a friend of mine had an OB who had a really low C-section rate. I think the lowest in the hospital and then also with her, she pushed for three hours. He really, really fought for her vaginal birth because he knew she did not want to have a C-section. 


    Meagan: I love that. 


    Alexis: I thought, “That’s the type of doctor that I want.” So I went with him. He was really supportive the whole time. I hired a doula as soon as I could and that was a really great tool as well. Webster-certified chiropractor and all of the things. I just tried to throw everything at it that I could. 


    Alexis: Everything was great. Super healthy. I had no issues again this time. My blood pressure was looking really normal, then a little bit toward the end at the end of 27 weeks-ish, I found out she was breech, my daughter. My chiropractor was on top of it. She was like, “I swear. I have a 97% success rate of flipping babies. I won’t say I flip babies, but I give them the space to flip.” Yeah, so I felt confident in that. My doctor had checked. She turned head down later on so everything was good there. 


    A thing that I’ll say now is my husband and I had prayed my whole entire pregnancy if we were going to have a repeat C-section, let it be because of breech presentation. I’ll get back to that, but that was just something. I’m not against a C-section. I’m against a traumatic birth and everything that we went through. I just don’t want to have that experience. Birth is birth. C-section or vaginal birth. You are having this amazing, incredible experience and C-section is not the enemy. Traumatic birth is the enemy. That is what we were hoping for, but she was head down so we were like, “Okay. This is our sign. We’re going for it. This VBAC is going to work. It’s going to be awesome.” 


    26:21 Beginning of labor


    Alexis: As we got to the end, I was cool with cervical checks. That was something I was just kind of curious about. I wanted to know where I was at because my doctor was pretty anti-induction which is great. I just wanted to know where I was at by the end to see if we could do some sort of natural induction method. 


    At 36 weeks, I think I was at 1.5 and then at 37 weeks, I was at a 2. I opted for a membrane sweep. My plan was, “I’m accepting. There is a small risk of infection or them breaking your water but it is a small, small risk.” You just have to weigh the pros and cons. For all of us who are VBACing, there is a risk of rupture. There is a risk of all kinds of things. You have to decide what is right for you. The risk of a membrane sweep was so worth it to me because if he wasn’t going to induce me, let’s do something natural that can get things going. 


    So for me, I was going to do it every week. I had my first membrane sweep at 37 and 6 then I went into labor the next morning. It worked. I didn’t notice anything that day really. I didn’t have any bleeding which they usually tell you you could. I really didn’t feel any cramps or anything after so I was like, “Oh, well. It didn’t work. Whatever.” 


    I get up for work the next morning and basically, as soon as I was vertical for the day, I was feeling contractions. Everyone says just ignore early labor. Pretend it’s not happening so that’s just what I did. I went to work and had a normal day. Around lunchtime, I was like, “I’m just going to time these and see where we are at.” They were every three minutes really consistently but lasting 30 seconds. 


    They never changed from that rhythm. It was three minutes all day long and intensified throughout the day. I finished my work day. I picked up my son. I went home. My mom was coming up just for a visit and that ended up working out very well. I got home and things really intensified. I was on the ball just tracking things.


    Again, I was like, “Once I go to bed, these are going to go away. I’m 38 weeks on the dot. I’m not having this baby. I’m not that lucky.” But they just kept coming, so they intensified and intensified. They got longer. They were still three minutes apart. That rhythm never changed from start to finish. 


    Meagan: Wow. 


    Alexis: Yeah, so around 10:00, I got in the bath because I was like, “I’m going to sleep tonight. I’m going to take a bath and make these things putter out and then I’ll have a peaceful night of sleep and go on for another week.” 


    Alexis: The bath felt amazing. That really helped me to relax. I listened to some Christian HypnoBirthing tracks and then my husband and I decided we would go to bed. If something pops off, I’ll wake my mom up. She’s got my toddler and we will head to the hospital. But I was sure that things were just going to stop as they often do in early labor. They didn’t. 


    As I was trying to lay there, I went from around– I think we went to bed around 11:00 up until we went to the hospital at 2:30 AM. By that point, I was breathing through them, really feeling them. This was real. I had been letting my doula know, “This is what’s going on.” A few hours before that, she was like, “Okay, let’s give in an hour. If it doesn’t lessen, then we need to start thinking about going to the hospital.” She was two hours away, so she had quite a drive. 


    We were really on top of it and around 2:30 that morning, my husband was like, “Okay, no. We’re done. Let’s go.” He did not like seeing me that way. I probably would have gone a little bit longer if it was just me but he was not on board with suffering all night. 


    29:47 A picture-perfect labor


    Alexis: We headed to the hospital and I was stressed. Am I going too soon? You hear so many stories where contractions are so intense and you get there and you are not dilated at all or something. We get to the hospital in triage. They checked me and I’m at a 3. I’m like, “Okay, cool. That’s great.” They hold you for an hour and check you again. If you progress, then they will keep you.” They checked again in an hour and I’m at a 4. 


    We get checked in and at that exact same time, my doula had arrived from her two-hour drive through the night. Things felt so picture-perfect. What lucky girl would go into labor at 38 weeks? Going past your due date is so very normal. I felt like an anomaly even though I had an early birth the first time. I just never thought I would go into labor or that it would work and that I would have a spontaneous labor and that things would progress so easily. I didn’t need Pitocin or anything. I felt so thrilled that things were going so well. 


    After having such a birth where everything that could go wrong goes wrong, a birth that is just normal feels like you have won the lottery. That’s how I felt the whole labor. Dealing with contractions, I knew how to breathe through them. I never sat down in the bed. That did not feel good and I knew that wasn’t helpful so I was on my feet. I did a lot of slow dancing and squatting. I would pedal my feet. That felt really good. Things just progressed on their own. It felt magical. This labor is just happening. My blood pressure is perfect even. It just all felt so perfect. I felt euphoric during labor. It was just the most amazing thing to experience going through labor like that. 


    31:26 Baby flipping breech and going for a C-section


    Alexis: I mentioned I was at a 4 when we got to stay. We got checked in at around 3:30 AM. They checked me two or three hours later. I was like, “I’m done. This is terrible. I want the epidural.” I planned on getting the epidural just because my issue the first time with pushing was maternal exhaustion so I was like, “I want to be able to give my body the rest it needs so I am all for the epidural at a certain point once we are sure we are in active labor.”


    I was ready for the epidural. I was like, “Forget this. Get the epidural in here. I’m done. I’m tired.” Of course, in labor land, you have no clue what time it is and it had only been two or three hours. If you had told me that, I would have probably changed my plan, but my body knew. It was time. I got the epidural. They checked me once that had kicked in and I was at an 8.5 after two hours. From a 4 to and 8.5 super fast. We were all shocked so we were like, “Cool. We’re about to have this baby.” 


    My nurse was just like, “Okay. Chill out. Let’s labor down.” We were coming up on a shift change with OBs on call in the next few hours and I had a bulging bag as well. My nurse was like, “We will probably, if you are okay with it, break your water and you will be complete at that point. You are very, very close.” So we were like, “Great. Let’s all take a nap and then we’ll do that and then we’ll have a baby.” So smooth. Everything up to this point had been so perfect. That was the plan. I was good with all of those interventions. 


    Yeah. My husband, my doula, and I all just conked out for a couple of hours. I also didn’t mention this. I was GBS positive which I think kind of ended up working in my favor because it gave me more time to labor down. I had to finish the antibiotics. They could have rushed in and just broken my water then and there and bada bing, bada boom, tried pushing and maybe I wouldn’t have been quite as ready, but it bought me three or four more hours to finish the antibiotics. They just left me to rest and to labor down. Even that felt like a treat when I was hoping so hard to not have GBS. I had taken the probiotics and everything. It felt like, “Oh no, one thing went wrong,” but for me, it was great. Just another thing that not everything is bad in these situations. It can be positive. 


    We were able to just labor down. Then around 7:00 or 8:00 AM, I think the next OB on call came in. We broke my water. It was oh my gosh, the biggest gush I have ever heard. It was so much water. We didn’t measure it or anything so I don’t know if it was unusually a lot. 


    Meagan: Abnormal, mhmm. 


    Alexis: But it felt like it was a lot. Everyone in the room felt like it was a lot. She went to check me and she was like, “Okay. You’re at a 6 or a 7.” We were all like, “No, what? No. You’re wrong. Try again. That’s not true.” She was like, “This is what I’m feeling. Maybe the nurse had it wrong.” I was like, “No.” I was so sure. I was like, “Absolutely not. No. I’m not a 6 or a 7. What is happening?” 


    Then she keeps feeling around and she’s like, “I don’t know that I feel the head. I don’t think this is the head.” I knew immediately. There must have been– I don’t know if there has been a story on this podcast of a baby flipping during labor but I have heard it happen before so I knew in my gut. I was like, “She flipped. That stinker.” 


    They bring in the ultrasound machine and sure enough, she had flipped breech after 8.5 centimeters and was breech. This sweet OB was so great and really, really compassionate. She puts her hand on my leg and is like, “I’m so sorry.” She knew I wanted this VBAC. She was like, “I’m so sorry. We don’t have another option. We have to have the C-section.”


    Also, for me personally, I was not comfortable with a breech vaginal delivery. The doctor was not well-versed in it. That did not feel safe to me. Again, my goal was a birth that wasn’t traumatic. My goal was not necessarily a VBAC. While at the same time my goal was a VBAC, number one is, “I don’t want to be traumatized. I don’t want my body to be super messed up and hurting after this like I was the first time. I want my baby to be okay.” 


    That wasn’t a risk I was willing to take. The C-section felt fine. So back to what I said earlier about if we were going to have a repeat C-section, let it be because of breech presentation. I was like, “Lord,” when she said that. 


    Meagan: Very validating I’m sure. 


    Alexis: Totally. I had immediate peace about it. My husband rushes over and he was like, “I’m so sorry. Are you okay?” He knew that it was going to be really triggering for me, but I was like, “No, I’m good. This is awesome. We just went through this amazing labor. I was unmedicated until 8.5 centimeters. I felt amazing. I was controlling my pain with my breath. Everything was perfect. Now we’re just going to go for a C-section. That’s fine.” 


    I just had such a peace about it. It was slow. We got to really prep for it slowly. I brought all of the nurses in and we had a little meeting about– here’s my birth plan for a repeat C-section. I had prepared that. 


    Meagan: Good.


    Alexis: I think people think that is going to jinx them. Make the plan. Make the plan because I hope you don’t need it. 


    Meagan: Put it in the bag. 


    Alexis: Yeah, but if you do need it, it will make your C-section awesome and it did. We went over that repeat C-section plan. The main things were immediate skin-to-skin. I still wanted delayed cord clamping and just the usual stuff but it did not happen with my first C-section so I was like, “Please, please, please can we make skin-to-skin happen? That was my big thing.” 


    So yeah. It was slow. It wasn’t obviously an emergent situation. She was just breech and hanging out. We prepped and slowly went back. We were just chatting with the nurses. I felt very awake and aware. They bolused up the epidural and it worked so I didn’t have to be put under this time either thankfully. I told the OB, “Can you talk through the whole surgery?” That would maybe freak some people out to hear, “Okay, I’m cutting into your uterus now,” but I wanted to know. I wanted to feel involved in the birth. I didn’t want to feel like it was happening to me like it did the first time. 


    I got to be a part of that. She took my daughter out. She held her up in front of us for what felt like a really, really long time. It was because she was doing other things and letting the umbilical cord pulse. They actually took out the placenta still attached to her– 


    Meagan: Awesome. 


    Alexis: –which is awesome. 


    Meagan: Yeah, pretty rare. 


    Alexis: They totally met my wishes of delayed cord clamping. Then my husband got to see the placenta. They brought it over to me to look at. That was something I really wanted too. It was just so peaceful. I felt so a part of it. 


    38:03 The game-changer


    Alexis: Once they checked her out under the warmer for just a second, I got skin-to-skin for what felt like a really long time. It was awesome. It was so awesome. I never ever would have thought. I was so against another C-section like, “I’ve got a toddler at home.” My recovery the first time– I was not okay at 12 weeks postpartum with him. I did not feel good. I was going back to work after 6 weeks this time. I was like, “We cannot have another C-section this time. Not an option.” That was my attitude. 


    Through all the work I did, by the time it happened, I was like, “This rocks. This labor was awesome.” It was such a silly way to have a C-section, but what a cool birth. What a funny story I will tell her whole life, “You flipped at 8.5 centimeters, girl. What were you doing?”


    Meagan: Seriously and the fact that you were able to do the labor, go into spontaneous labor, and see these things, see that your body was doing this and having all of that, that also is validating. 


    Alexis: Totally. 


    Meagan: To have everyone come in, sit down, and be like, “How can we make this special for you? How can we make this a good experience?” That is so empowering and exactly what you said. You can change it to be what may or could have been more traumatic– because honestly looking back, I don’t know if you have ever asked yourself this, but if they didn’t ask you any of those questions, if they didn’t give you any of those opportunities, do you think you’d look at it the same way if they were just like, “We have to go right now”? 


    Alexis: Totally. Yeah. It was a game-changer. 


    Meagan: Yeah. Everything okay. 


    Alexis: We’ve got time. 


    Meagan: Let’s talk about this. How can we make this a good experience for this family? I think that is so important. I think sometimes in the medical system, it’s like, once a decision has been made that a Cesarean is going to take place, it’s boom, bang, boom, boom, boom, baby out and it moves too fast when it doesn’t need to. 


    Alexis: It’s still birth. 


    Meagan: Yes, it’s still birth. Have that conversation and say, “Okay. Your plans just changed a lot. Let’s talk about this.” Or if it’s a transfer from a home birth or a birth center. Let’s embrace what they were wanting, the type of birth they wanted, and still try to help them have a good experience so we have less PTSD in the future. We have less negative opinions of interventions and Cesareans and things like that. 


    I think a lot of the negative thoughts that we have are from the negative Cesareans that happen.


    Alexis: Yeah. You’ve got to advocate for yourself to get that and also, like I said, my doula was really helpful in reminding me of what I wanted and getting things going.


    40:56 A euphoric birth


    Alexis: Another piece that I think is cool to think about is– maybe this is weird to some people, but when do you ever get the opportunity to be awake in a surgery? If you’re not in the medical field, think about it that way. What a cool thing. I’m in a OR. I get to see this thing that who else would get to experience being in a surgery and being awake for a surgery? Maybe that is someone’s worst nightmare, but I was one of those people where I couldn’t touch my C-section scar. It freaked me out afterward. I was truly traumatized by it but through all the work I did, I now am in this mental place where I was like, “This is cool. I am a part of this whole experience that is not a vaginal birth and that is disappointing for sure. I still feel like, “Man, that stinks.”


    However, I got this other experience and it went really well because I told them what I wanted. I got what I wanted. Afterward, postpartum was truly euphoric. I was even the person that was like, “I don’t want the shot of Pitocin after my vaginal birth because that might jack with the way my body responds with natural oxytocin.” I was that girl, but it’s not all or nothing. I still have those emotions. My body still did the work with my hormones. I bonded immediately with my daughter. It took months with my son because of the trauma. I just didn’t feel those emotions yet. It was really hard for me to bond with him. 


    This time, because of this different experience, I was bonded. The skin-to-skin was such a game changer for me. We had a few hours of it. We nursed on and off. Breastfeeding was a breeze this time. I never had a hiccup with it which is so different than my first experience. It was night and day different and I truly don’t feel any sort of regret over not getting my VBAC. I almost feel like I still got it. I got the birth I wanted. I still am so shocked by the story. It’s such a funny thing that happened. Not my plan, but it was an awesome birth. It was so cool. 


    Meagan: I love that that is how you describe it. I love it so much and I hope, Women of Strength, if you are listening, and your birth turns in a different way that you weren’t expecting or that you weren’t desiring that you have the support that you have and all of these things to have a better experience. I think too, even with mine, I didn’t want it. I didn’t want it and still in some ways, I’m like, “Why? Why did I have that?” But at the same time, I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful for that experience. 


    43:45 Ways to have a gentle Cesarean


    Meagan: Okay, let’s talk about a few things. Ways to have a gentle Cesarean. Skin-to-skin, we talked about that right after. Babies can come out and be placed on your chest. They have those big bands where they put all of the monitors on. Sometimes they are straps, but they also have bands. You can ask for that. You wear a tube top. 


    Alexis: Oh, that’s cool. 


    Meagan: Yeah, so you have them up here. Because when you’re in a C-section, a lot of the time your arms are out straight. Sometimes they are strapped down. 


    Alexis: They did do that. I had asked the anesthesiologist. I was like, “I don’t want these. Don’t strap me down.” He explained, “Here’s why. Sometimes your body responds. You don’t want to do it, but your arms reach out and try to stop what’s happening to you, so we’re going to leave these on. They are not tight.” He talked me through why they were that way and after he said that, I was like, “Oh, okay. That’s fine.” He said, “We’ll get you out of them as soon as she’s born. We’ll just do this for now.” I was like, “Okay, that’s fine. That makes sense.” 


    Meagan: That’s another cool thing that your anesthesiologist was literally talking to you and breaking it down. But yeah, so a lot of the time our arms are straightforward or even strapped out to the side so they are like, “No, you can’t have skin-to-skin because you’re not going to be able to hold your baby.” 


    Alexis: Not true. 


    Meagan: That is not true. Ask for the tube top. Buy your own tube top as a backup. You can wear it then they can literally tuck baby right down in and place baby right there on your chest. So if you’re not feeling the strength or you are feeling nauseous but you really want your baby to be on you, they can be right there and your husband can also help or your birth partner can also help support baby right there. 


    Skin-to-skin is possible 100%. If for some reason, you are not doing well or you are vomiting or something like that because as a baby comes out, things shift and we can vomit, encourage Dad. Encourage Dad to do skin-to-skin. 


    Alexis: That was on our birth plan. 


    Meagan: That can be really comforting and healing to see as well. Those are two of the things. Skin-to-skin. We talked about the cord. Keeping the cord attached. A lot of providers will say, “Nope. We have to cut it. There’s a risk of infection because your body is open so we have to cut it quickly and start the next process.” Not necessarily true. We can wait for it to pulse. If for some reason baby is not doing well or maybe there is bleeding or something is going on, they can milk it. They pinch it and they do a mini blood transfusion. They send any blood that is in the cord at the present time to the baby. They pinch it and milk it. 


    Alexis: Cool. That’s awesome. 


    Meagan: That’s a really good option if you can’t have delayed cord clamping. 


    46:36 Music, skin-to-skin, clear drapes, mirrors, conversation, and maternal-assisted Cesareans


    Meagan: Okay, so music. You can ask your nurse or anesthesiologist to play music in the room so it’s not just beep beep.


    Alexis: They did that when my daughter was born. 


    Meagan: You know? So yeah, so have that music. 


    Alexis: Write it down too. You’re not going to remember these things in the moment. I had all of these things written down. 


    Meagan: You won’t. 


    Alexis: If I can’t do skin-to-skin, my husband will. If it’s not written, it might not happen. They’re not going to think you are stupid for having a birth plan. Write it down. 


    Meagan: Yes, so true. When I went for my first VBAC with my second baby, something I said is, “I just want to see it. I just want to see my baby come out.” That was so important to me so a lot of hospitals these days do have the clear drape, but a lot of them don’t crazy enough. Something I said is if they don’t have the clear drape, I want to see it in a mirror. My husband was like, “What?” 


    Alexis: That’s a cool idea. 


    Meagan: So to your point, and actually when we were back there, I did not remember that. All I was seeing was a table I was climbing up on. It just wasn’t in my mind. My husband said, “Hey, is there any way we could get a mirror so she could watch this and participate in the birth?” They were like, “Yeah, no problem.” They brought it over. They made sure before they even started that I could see and that the angle was perfect. 


    Alexis: That’s so great. 


    Meagan: Then they started. My doctor said, “Hey, if at any point you realize what you are watching is happening to you and it weirds you out, just let us know. We will flip the mirror or you can close your eyes.” For me, I didn’t get grossed out. I know a lot of people listening would be like, “No, hard pass.” But for me, that was part of my healing watching it happen and watching my baby be brought up earthside. 


    So I really love that and same with you, I had my provider talk to me. Talk to me about what is happening because, with my first, they were talking about the weather and their vacation and how depressing it was to be back in the snow. I was like, “No, hello. I’m here.” 


    Alexis: My plans specifically said, “No shop talk. I don’t want anything else talked about.” They acknowledged that. They were like, “Got it. We won’t.” 


    Meagan: Love. Love that so much. So yeah, talk to them and say, “Talk to me. Tell me what you are seeing. Tell me what is happening to my body,” as long as that’s something you want. I really wanted my husband to watch. I really wanted my husband to take pictures and so many providers are against pictures in the OR. It honestly is just dumb to me because if anything were to go wrong, don’t they want proof that everything was okay and they did it right? 


    All right, but whatever if they don’t allow it. But it’s something you can ask. “Hey, I want pictures” or “Hey, as soon as my baby is out, I want pictures of my baby.” You can also ask them to bring them up so they can see you and even better like Dr. Natalie who we talked to on the podcast last year in 2023, ask for maternal-assisted. It begins with us. 


    Women of Strength, if you are having a Cesarean, we have to start advocating for those people who do want a Cesarean or even don’t want a Cesarean but it happens. Let’s get some maternal-assisted happening. Let’s see that shift in 2024 in the U.S. I would love it. It’s happening in Australia here and there. I don’t actually know anywhere else. If you guys know of anywhere, if you are listening and you know of somewhere that does maternal-assisted, let me know. 


    That’s where they literally drop everything. They have moms with their hands reaching down and grabbing her baby and pulling it up. 


    Alexis: So awesome. 


    Meagan: How amazing could that be? Oh my gosh, it would have been amazing. 


    50:32 Vaginal seeding, advocacy, and backward dilation


    Meagan: Yeah, so music. Let’s see what else. Oh, there’s more. 


    Alexis: I should have pulled up my birth plan. 


    Meagan: I know. These are just things that stand out to me. Yeah, keeping your baby, letting your baby breastfeed. Vaginal microseeding sometimes. People will say, “Hey, can I swab my vagina before I go into my C-section and then have this?” It’s a gauze. You have to do a sterile gauze. You put it in a sterile bag then baby can literally nurse on this gauze a little bit and wipe it on their eyes. 


    Alexis: Really cool.  


    Meagan: Yeah, there are some really cool things. Know that it is possible to advocate for yourself. Advocating for yourself is going to help you. If you have a doula or your husband or a birth partner or a mom, help them know what you want. Help them know what is important to you and like she said, have a backup birth plan and birth preferences. It’s okay to have them because, at that time, you are not in that space. 


    A couple of other things that I wanted to touch on is you talked about how you were 8.5 centimeters and then they checked you and you were less after your water broke. Sometimes, Women of Strength, this could be a result in this type of situation where the bag is so bulgy that it’s literally stretching like a Foley or a Cook catheter, stretching your cervix, and then it relaxes a little bit. That doesn’t mean it’s not dilated. It means that sometimes it is overstretched, then relaxes, and then it goes forward. 


    Alexis: And that pressure was gone from her head since she flipped. That was part of it too. 


    Meagan: Yep, and the pressure was gone. Yep, exactly. There are situations like that, but that doesn’t mean your body is necessarily regressing a ton and we’ve got big problems. It just sometimes means that the situation has changed. A head isn’t applied as well and your bag broke that was bulging. 


    Okay, and I have all of these little notes here that I was writing. Okay, let’s see. 


    52:29 Swelling in pregnancy and nutrition


    Meagan: Oh, swelling a ton in pregnancy. That’s another thing. I also was like you. I just ballooned. I had people tell me I was unrecognizable but I didn’t have protein.


    Alexis: Don’t you love to hear that? 


    Meagan: Yeah. I was like, “Thanks. I’m so fat. Awesome.” 


    Alexis: Yeah, you already feel awful about it and people comment. Thank you. 


    Meagan: Yes. But that is still something to watch for. Sometimes we think we have too much fluid so we back off on water. Don’t back off on water. Stay hydrated. Add some citrus to it. 


    Alexis: And electrolytes. I took electrolytes every day. 


    Meagan: Yep. Electrolytes and magnesium baths. Do these types of things to help and then of course, just like you said, it doesn’t matter if you had preeclampsia. Dial in on nutrition. Dial in on those supplements because naturally like you were saying, you don’t get enough protein in your day-to-day life and then you are pregnant and you need more. It’s really hard. That’s why I love the collagen prenatal protein from Needed. I love getting prenatals that have protein supplements is what I’m trying to say and things like this. Get the nutrients that you need and your body deserves. 


    Then again, let your body take the lead but give it all that it can to do the best it can. 


    Alexis: Yeah. Do everything you can. That was good for me mentally to just do everything I could to support my body and it’s like, “From here on out, this is on your body.” With my birth, I feel the same way. I did everything I could. I labored textbook how you should and yet, you still flipped. That’s your fault, not mine. 


    Meagan: Yes. It was out of your control. Do what you can. Control what you can. Trust the process. Get the support. Advocate for yourself and love yourself. Love yourself for all of the work that you have done. Women of Strength, we love you. Alexis, thank you so much for being here with us today and sharing your positive birth story. 


    Closing


    Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Tell us about your experience at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Meagan’s bio, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.



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    54m - Mar 27, 2024
  • Episode 285 Selah's 48-hour VBA2C + Changing Providers in Late Pregnancy

    During her first pregnancy, Selah’s doctor predicted that her baby would be over 10 pounds. She insisted that it was not safe to deliver vaginally. Selah went right into her first Cesarean. She didn’t even have the chance to try. Her baby went to the NICU shortly after birth due to lung and blood sugar complications.


    When her fluid levels were low with her second pregnancy, Selah consented to another scheduled Cesarean remembering how her first one went pretty smoothly. Unfortunately, a turn of events resulted in an emergent situation, another NICU stay, and once again, Selah was not able to bond with her baby like she thought she would. 


    Selah’s journey to her VBA2C included discovering The VBAC Link, building her supportive community, prenatal chiropractic care, and relentlessly educating herself to make sure she was set up for success. Though her labor was MUCH longer than expected, the spiritual, emotional, and physical transformation she experienced was completely worth it. Selah had a beautiful, empowering VBA2C with no complications. The best part– she got to hold that sweet baby immediately and for as looong as she wanted. 


    Needed Website

    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details 


    01:04 Review of the Week 

    04:08 Selah’s first pregnancy

    07:25 First C-section 

    09:36 NICU

    11:10 Second pregnancy

    13:02 Low fluids

    16:29 Scheduled Cesarean turned emergent

    21:39 Surprise third pregnancy

    27:33 Changing providers

    36:33 Going into labor

    39:20 Going to the hospital

    44:54 Pitocin

    48:35 The final hours

    56:47 A crack in the catheter

    1:00:00 The best feeling


    Meagan: Hello, hello everybody. You are listening to The VBAC Link and this is Meagan, your host. We have our friend, Selah, today. Hi, Selah. 


    Selah: Hi. Hello. 


    Meagan: Thank you so much for being here with us. I feel like there are so many parts of your story that truly are things that people are going to relate to. We’re going to be talking about bigger babies. We’re going to talk a little bit about that. We’re going to talk about changing a provider really late in pregnancy. I actually love this topic because I did it myself and it’s one that is scary sometimes to do. 


    Selah: Yeah. 


    Meagan: It’s intimidating. We’ll talk a little bit about low fluid. She’s got a NICU stay. There are lots of little things. 


    Selah: A little bit of everything. 


    Meagan: You are going to have relations to her story. She is a VBAC after two C-section mama story so if you are a VBAC after two C-sections, listen up. It’s going to be amazing.


    01:04 Review of the Week 


    Meagan: We have a review of the week so we are going to get into that then we are going to turn the time over to you, my love. 


    Selah: Yay. 


    Meagan: This review is– if I can find them. I just lost my reviews. It is from hannahargentina and it was on Apple Podcasts back in 2023 in February so just over a year ago. It says, “I have had a natural birth center birth, then moved out to the country and had a very traumatic C-section. I am now 37 weeks pregnant and back stateside working with an amazing birth team. I am really hoping for a VBAC in a few weeks and I love listening to all of the stories. Hearing different perspectives, and outcomes, and gaining wisdom, I feel so much more confident in my VBAC after listening to this podcast.” 


    Well, it’s been just over a year so hannahargentina, if you are still with us, reach out at info@thevbaclink.com and tell us how it went. 


    Selah: Aww, that’s awesome. 


    Meagan: I know right, and here we are for you and your baby’s birthday is in a couple of days. 


    Selah: I can’t even believe it and I got tears in my eyes listening to that review because that was me. That was me listening to every single podcast, your story, all of the stories, and it helped so tremendously. I can’t even tell you. To be on today is such an honor because I was so helped by you and your podcast and the community. I could not have done it without you so thank you. Thank you for having me. 


    Meagan: Yes. Thank you and I also want to toot the horn of the community. They are so special. If you guys have not checked it out yet or if you are not on Facebook, I would say create a secret Facebook just to be in that community because the Facebook community is amazing or join us on Instagram. These other Women of Strength truly do provide so much power. 


    Selah: So much power and help and resources. I mean, I was on there every day just looking and posting every single worry and concern. Yeah. It’s a lot. It’s a lot to learn and to do. You need that community. You need that support. 


    Meagan: Absolutely. Well, let’s dive into that first story of yours that began this journey to you being here right now. 


    04:08 Selah’s first pregnancy


    Selah: Yes, so the back story is I had my first son in 2018 and he was an IVF baby. We struggled with infertility for four years about, I think. Finally, we did IVF and we were successful on our first try which was great. However, toward the end of my pregnancy, my doctor looked at me and said, “How big are you willing to push out as far as baby goes?” 


    Meagan: Oh. 


    Selah: Yeah. I looked at her and by the way, I considered myself very well-educated. I was not in hindsight. I had read a few birth books but I did not know what I know now thanks to you and the community. I did, by the way, do The VBAC Link Course so I did all of it. 


    Meagan: Oh you did? 


    Selah: Yes. Yes. So I was not educated to the point that I am now, but I thought I was. I looked at her and very confidently said, “12 pounds.” I didn’t even flinch. 


    Meagan: I love that. 


    Selah: Her eyes turned really wide and was like, “No, no, no, no, no. You cannot push out a 12-pound baby.”


    Meagan: Then don’t ask me what I’m willing to do here. 


    Selah: Exactly. I was a personal trainer. I was a group fitness instructor. I consider myself very strong so I thought, “I could do that. No problem.” She said, “No. I will not let you do that. This baby is measuring bigger than 10 pounds.” At that point, I think I was just at my 40-week mark so she was like, “He’s only going to get bigger. You’re not going to be able to deliver this baby vaginally. In fact, I won’t even really let you try.” 


    Meagan: Wow. 


    Selah: I know. 


    Meagan: That took a really fast turn from, “Hey, how big are you willing to? Hey, let’s offer an induction” to “Hey, I’m not even willing to let you try.” 


    Selah: Exactly. And looking back, I’m pretty shocked at that that I wasn’t even offered an induction or anything. In fact, my water– so we scheduled the C-section for three days from then and my water ended up breaking naturally the day before the C-section. I know. I was like, “Oh. I’m going to do this. I can do this. I don’t care how big the baby is.” 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Selah: Even then, they would not let me try because there was meconium in the water. 


    Meagan: Which isn’t a reason for a Cesarean, right? 


    Selah: It is not. Right. Right. That’s what I know now, but back then–


    Meagan: You didn’t know. 


    Selah: I didn’t know and ironically, I had a doula who said, “Oh, you need to go straight to the hospital.” I know. 


    Meagan: Interesting. 


    Selah: Very interesting. That is also a lesson in really interviewing your doulas, understanding birth more really, and also knowing what the doula’s experiences with both C-sections, of course VBACs, and with everything. This doula, looking back, did not have a lot of experience, I don’t think, especially with big babies, but in general. I think also she was older and not that there is anything– listen. I am older. But I think she was from a medical mindset where that would be very scary to her, meconium in the water, where now, the doula that I had for my VBAC was much more like, “No. This just means the baby is ready to come out and it means a lot of things.” 


    07:25 First C-section


    Selah: I rushed to the hospital. They said, “Yes. There is meconium in the water. Yes, you have a very big baby. We’re going straight to the C-section. You don’t even get to try.” I never even felt a contraction. 


    I was pretty devastated. I had all of these plans for a drug-free birth. I had read The Bradley Method. I had done HypnoBabies. My mom– I’m one of eight kids– had pushed every single one of us out naturally without drugs. I knew I could do it. Do you know what I mean? I just was like, “Wow. This is not happening for me and I’m shocked.” I was very shocked. 


    Meagan: Yeah. Yeah. 


    Selah: So we went into the C-section but I also felt like I had no choice at that point. This was definitely–


    Meagan: You were stuck. 


    Selah: Yeah. “You’re going in. That’s it.” Everything was just black and white to the medical team and even to my doula frankly. So we went in and my doctor was lovely. I have to say she was very empathetic and she knew I really wanted a natural birth. She was as lovely and empathetic as you can be. She let me play music and set up the room in a way that felt very loving. She let the nurse and everyone take pictures and videos which they are not always supposed to do. 


    So it was as good as it could be. I got to hold him right away. We had the first 12 hours together. But then because he was so big– 10 pounds, 15 ounces, his blood sugar started dropping, and his lungs, because of the C-section, weren’t fully developed. You know how they get the practice. 


    Meagan: Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes there is fluid left in the baby’s lungs too so they can have a harder time. 


    Selah: Exactly. There was fluid left in the lungs. It’s like that sponge where not all of the sponge is there. 


    Meagan: That’s a really good analogy. Yes. 


    Selah: That’s what they told me which is what happened. When they go through the canal, their lungs get that practice going back and forth. 


    09:36 NICU 


    Selah: So he went to the NICU after about 12 hours with me and that was a terrible experience for lack of a better word. My heart just goes out to every NICU mama who has had that experience. It’s really, really hard. I was only there for five days. I can’t imagine where you have been there for months. There are so many reasons why it is hard but for me, it was hard because I was recovering from a C-section. We were breastfeeding but now he’s hooked up on wires so that was super hard. I all of a sudden found myself having to bottle feed and pump and now I’m engorged because I’m pumping so much. It just was this crazy cycle. 


    Eventually, like I said, he got out after five days and that was fine. I felt like my healing from that C-section was good because I didn’t have any other children to watch. 


    Meagan: Yep. It makes a difference. 


    Selah: It makes a huge difference and I had peace about the C-section. I really did. When he was pulled out of me, my first thought was, “Oh my gosh. He is humongous. He is a giant. He is so chunky. Maybe this was the right thing. Maybe I couldn’t have.” His head was huge. Everything was huge. 


    You know, you do worry about pelvic floor damage and shoulder dystocia, all of that stuff. So I did have peace. I thought maybe this was the right decision and it was good to have that closure and that peace. 


    11:10 Second pregnancy


    Selah: But then flash forward to my second pregnancy which, by the way, was natural. It was not through IVF. I should have known I could get pregnant naturally but I thought it was a fluke after trying so hard. 


    My second pregnancy was in the thick of the pandemic. In fact, at our first prenatal appointment, she was like, “Don’t worry. By the time you give birth in August 2020, this will all be over.” Little did we know. 


    Meagan: Nope. That was really thick right there. It’s not over. It’s trudging. 


    Selah: Yes. Exactly. Going to all of the appointments alone, I was lucky to have my partner in the birthing room and in the OR. Same OB, by the way. Same OB. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I just assumed I would have a VBAC. I told her that at the first appointment. “This time, I’m having a VBAC just so you know.” 


    I didn’t prepare anything though. I didn’t– again, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know about this podcast or the community. I didn’t go to a prenatal chiropractor. I didn’t even have a doula this time because I thought, “Well, she didn’t help me.” 


    Meagan: Honestly, I bet your opinion of that was like, “Meh.” 


    Selah: Yeah.


    Meagan: And rightfully so. You didn’t have the best support there. 


    Selah: Exactly. I did not. I just felt like, “Well, this time, I’m just doing it. I know what to do.” I did the HypnoBabies course for the first time. I didn’t even do it again. I thought I was going to do it. Also, it was the thick of the pandemic. I had a two-year-old at home. It was just chaotic. 


    Meagan: It was a lot. 


    Selah: It was a lot. So I do give myself a little slack in that. 


    Meagan: 100%. Please do. 


    Selah: Right? 


    13:02 Low fluids


    Selah: I go along on this pregnancy and he’s not measuring extra big this time around but around week 38, I go to my appointment in the morning and it’s August, very hot in California. I’m probably dehydrated and a lot of things. I remember going on a big walk the night before. 


    Something my doula now has told me is that in the morning, you’re obviously very dehydrated so if you go to your appointment, they may say your fluids are low. 


    I went to the 38-week appointment and she said, “Your fluids are very low. You need to go see a specialist at MFM, maternal-fetal medicine.” Medicine, thank you. 


    Meagan: Mhmm. Maternal-fetal medicine. 


    Selah: Maternal-fetal medicine to go and check your fluid levels. Side note, I went to the same MFM on my first pregnancy to double-check his weight when they said it was a big baby. So I will say that was smart of me to get a second opinion and the MFM on my first pregnancy got the weight right within an ounce so I respected him and thought, “Yeah. I’ll go back.” 


    Sure enough, my fluids were low. He agreed with her that I should get the baby out that night and said, “You know, you have a history of big babies. This baby is measuring big already.” He was not as spot on with this baby, but he said around 9 pounds and my second turned out to be 8lb 11 oz. But it’s not abnormally big, especially 8lb 11 oz is not that big. 


    Meagan: No, and no talk of induction like, “Oh, your fluids are low. Let’s induce.” 


    Selah: No, and that’s what I don’t understand either. But she did say, I guess I do understand because she did say, “No, I will not induce because of your C-section before. I don’t believe in induction.” 


    Meagan: Mmm. So not evidence-based. 


    Selah: Exactly which again, I have learned since then. 


    Meagan: You didn’t know. 


    Selah: Yeah. I didn’t know. I just said, “Okay.” She just said, “There is way too much risk of uterine rupture.” No numbers, just way too much. “This isn’t a good idea.” 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Selah: And also she said with the fluids being low, it was too emergent of a situation. We need to get baby out. 


    Meagan: Yeah. It can cause baby stress. It can. 


    Selah: It can, but there was no stress. We did the stress monitor and there was nothing. 


    Meagan: NST? 


    Selah: Yes. There was nothing to be afraid of except for the fluids being low. 


    She did give me an option to go get IV fluids in the hospital, but she did it with a caveat of, “It’s probably not going to work.” Again, I felt helpless and stuck. I thought, “Well, I guess this is just my lot. I’m supposed to just have C-sections. I don’t get to try again.”


    Because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know to ask for a low dose of Pitocin. I didn’t know to ask for anything or just to give it another try or even to try the IV or drink a bunch of water and come back. I didn’t know anything. 


    Meagan: Right. 


    Selah: And I did not have a doula to help me or anything like that. I just went along with it. 


    16:29 Scheduled Cesarean turned emergent


    Selah: And in the C-section, this is where everything started to fall– oh, and I also thought, “Well, my previous C-section wasn’t so bad.” I had peace about it. I healed very quickly. I was okay. It’s going to be fine. Maybe this is just the way it’s supposed to be. 


    Sadly, I had so many friends who had two C-sections and people in my life. So I thought, “It’s not so bad. These people did it.” 


    Meagan: Right. 


    Selah: Right. I go into it. I’m lying there. All of a sudden, it turns into an emergent situation. The doctor starts yelling/screaming for extra tools. “I need a knife. I need this.” Everybody is frantic. She starts yelling for more team members. “I need the NICU. I need this staff and this person.” Everybody starts running in. There are more people in the room. I hear my husband’s voice shaking like he’s going to cry saying, “Is everything okay?” Nobody answered for what felt like an eternity. 


    Meagan: I have chills all up and down my body for you right now. So scary.


    Selah: So crazy. So scary. When I heard his voice, I thought, “One of us is not making it out alive. I don’t know what’s happening.” It was so scary. Obviously, I still get emotional thinking about it because I didn’t know what was happening. 


    Finally, I heard him cry and everything was okay, but they whisked him away immediately. My husband said I did put him on my chest for I think it was a minute, but I barely remember that. That’s how traumatic it was. Yes. I do have a picture of me reaching my arms out to him so I know he did land on my chest, but my eyes are filled with tears reaching my arms to him. 


    They whisk him away to the NICU immediately. Same problem with his lungs. He wasn’t breathing. They were worse than my first actually. 


    Later, I found out– my doctor came to visit me and she said, “What happened was when she made the incision, his head had moved,” so she didn’t want to cut through the placenta from what I understand obviously. So she had to make a bigger incision. She needed special tools. 


    Meagan: Special scar. Is it a special scar or just longer? 


    Selah: It’s just longer, yeah. 


    Meagan: Okay, so it’s not up. 


    Selah: Exactly. Thank God because I think that would have made it scarier. 


    Meagan: A little bit more difficult sometimes to VBAC the next time too to get support. 


    Selah: Exactly. To get support, exactly. Yeah. That was good at least that she just made it a little longer. But that was why it became so emergent. Same thing. He was in the NICU the whole five days. I remember saying to my husband in the NICU. I looked at him and I said, “We are done. We are not getting pregnant again. I cannot go through this again.” I didn’t think I’d ever be able to birth naturally first of all, so I cannot have another C-section. This was way too much. 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Selah: And then the healing was awful because I had a two-year-old at home. Everything about this was just not good. I did not want to ever do this again. 


    21:39 Surprise third pregnancy


    Selah: So flash forward to 2022, two years later, I’m still breastfeeding my two-year-old just at night. I had my period back. I should have known, but I was tracking my ovulation cycle. I was not ovulating. I’m 41 years old and I think, “There’s no way. I’m not ovulating. I’m 41. I’m breastfeeding,” but bam. I got pregnant. Surprise, surprise after 20 years of infertility, I’m like, “Why am I fertile Myrtle now?” 


    Meagan: Oh my gosh. 


    Selah: I know. It was crazy. I have a video on my Instagram of my husband’s expression finding out. It was utter disbelief. So yes. We find ourselves pregnant again and I thought, “Oh no. What am I going to do? I can’t in the operating room again. I can’t do it. I will not do it. There has to be another way.” 


    But I crazily called the same provider because I didn’t know who else I was going to go to. 


    Meagan: Right. That’s who you know. 


    Selah: It’s who you know. The receptionist said, “Oh, she’s not delivering anymore.” 


    Meagan: Oh. 


    Selah: I know. I got chills all over my body. I knew this was a sign from God. I just knew it that there had to be another way and that I was going to do something different this time. I was not going to be down that same road of a C-section in the OR and I didn’t have to go through that again. 


    I reached out to one of my friends I knew who had a VBAC. It was actually a home birth VBAC. It was a HBAC. She said, “You have to start listening to The VBAC Link immediately.” 


    Meagan: Oh, tell her thank you. 


    Selah: Yes. These are all of the resources. She knew this MFM in Long Beach. I’m in Los Angeles so it was about an hour away who also delivers and he is very VBAC supportive. In fact, he does all sorts of births. High risk births he is known for. He was an hour away so that wasn’t my top choice, but she sent me a bunch of different ideas for a doula and different doctors. 


    I set about on my journey. I interviewed five different OBs. The first two said, “Absolutely not. We will not do a VBAC after two C-sections and anybody who does is basically a bad doctor. It’s too risky.”


    Meagan: Oh my. That doesn’t make you feel good. 


    Selah: I know. But by then, I had been listening to the podcast so I knew. I’m like, “Mmm, no. These are the reasons. This is the rate of risk for uterine rupture. This is the rate of risk for a third C-section. I am doing this and I’m just going to find someone who is going to let me.” 


    So I then interviewed two more I now know as VBAC tolerant, not as VBAC supportive. They had a list of stipulations that I needed to meet in order to do it. Then the fifth one was a doctor that I had known previously. I was not crazy about him. He just had a weird bedside manner for lack of a better word. I just felt like I didn’t mesh with him. He was very VBAC supportive, another high-risk pregnancy doctor in Los Angeles who is VERY well-known as someone who delivers triplets naturally, delivers twins naturally. He does breech births. I had been in my friend’s breech birth– well, she wasn’t breech when she delivered. He flipped baby before she delivered and I was in the room. This was pre-COVID when he was her doctor so I knew him really well. 


    I just did not mesh with him personality-wise. So I chose the other doctor, one of the VBAC tolerant doctors. He was so kind and so lovely, but he did have a list of what I needed to meet. I was showing this list to the community members on Facebook. Everybody was like, “No. He is not a supportive doctor.” 


    He said, “You’re older. That affects things,” which there is no evidence of that at all. He said, “You have to go into labor by 40 weeks,” which again, there is no evidence of that. All of these stipulations. The worst part was that he made me go see an MFM that he worked with of his choosing by the way. I coudln’t go to that other one that I really respected. I had to go to his MFM and that MFM had to monitor me and look at the uterine wall to see if the wall was okay throughout pregnancy. I know. 


    Meagan: Mmm-mmm. 


    Selah: I had to go to countless appointments. Every week I was in the doctor. I know. That MFM, around 20 weeks said, “Listen. Your uterine wall has a window of I think it was 1 centimeters and 3 millimeters thin. I do not think you are going to be able to do this because there is a window in your uterine wall.” 


    This was at 20 weeks, so I thought, “It’s only going to get worse for me from here.” 


    Meagan: That would make sense for you. That would make sense to think that. 


    Selah: I started thinking of other options because I had a sneaky suspicion that this MFM is not going to clear me which my OB said, “If he doesn’t clear you, I will not do it.” 


    Meagan: “I won’t support it.” 


    Selah: “I won’t support it.” Right. 


    27:33 Changing providers


    Selah: I started getting a little worried now. Pause to say that I had been going to prenatal chiropractor appointments with an amazing Dr. Berlin in Los Angeles. Everybody knows him. 


    Meagan: We love him so much. Yes. We’ve had him on the podcast and I actually just was on his podcast which was amazing. It was just so crazy that it was happening. We love Dr. Berlin. 


    Selah: He’s the best. He is so great. I mean, he was a doula himself and he obviously is such an amazing chiropractor. He was making sure the baby was in the right position, that my body was open, and all that. I was going every week. I mean, he just was so knowledgeable. He said, “Listen. You might want to give that first doctor you didn’t mesh with another consideration. I’ve been in so many births with him. He is so good at high-risk birth. If you really want this VBAC, you might want to go back to him.” 


    I started rethinking. He was in the back of my mind. Meanwhile, I also had this incredible doula this time around named Johanna, Johanna Story. She said the same thing. She said, “Listen.” She had been in 2500 births in Los Angeles. 


    Meagan: Whoa! 


    Selah: Yes. She is also a licensed midwife so she has delivered babies. By the way, I had considered a home birth for a hot second with Johanna, but my husband was not. He was so supportive of the VBAC that I didn’t want to push him. He was the best teammate and not let me, but he was on board with everything I wanted to do. So I just thought, “You know, he’s not crazy about the home birth with our two others running around. I get it.” I said, “Let’s do the hospital birth with Johanna.” 


    The reason I also liked Johanna is she was going to do– oh my gosh, I am blanking on the word– where they monitor you until you are about to– 


    Meagan: Like Monitrice? 


    Selah: Yes Monitrice. So Johanna, because she is a licensed midwife, she could do monitrice. I felt like that was the best of both worlds. Let’s have her monitor me until the last minute then we will go in. As I learned on the podcast, that is the plan. Wait until the last minute so they can’t do anything to you. 


    Meagan: Labor as long as you can at home. 


    Selah: Yes. That was the plan. That was why I had Johanna. She also encouraged me to go back to Dr. Brock. 


    Meagan: I was wondering if it was Dr. Brock. 


    Selah: It was Dr. Brock. He is very quirky, his personality. 


    Meagan: We have had him on the podcast as well. 


    Selah: He is wonderful and he just has a quirky sense of humor so that is what it is. I didn’t know that at first. I kind of thought, “Who is this guy? What is he saying?” But both Dr. Berlin and Johanna encouraged me to go back to him with that frame of mind. He’s just a little quirky. “Just go back and talk to him again.” 


    But I wanted to wait until I went to my last MFM appointment with the MFM that my first OB had. 


    Meagan: The one who said you had a window, that one? 


    Selah: The one I had a window, yes. He said, “This window has only gotten bigger, obviously at 32 weeks. I do not recommend a VBA2C. I cannot recommend it to your OB. Sorry.” I cried in that office thinking maybe there was a miracle and things were going to change. 


    I actually ended up going to see that first MFM who was an hour away for a second opinion. He explained to me, “Yes. There is what you can see a window on an ultrasound.” He said, “First of all, I do not find ultrasounds very accurate. I do not know how big it is and how thick it is. Secondly, even if there is a window, there is absolutely no evidence of a correlation between that and a rupture. There’s no evidence.” 


    Meagan: Yeah. They can’t really do the measuring thing and tell you that you are going to rupture or not. 


    Selah: That’s what he said. He said, “I really think you’re okay to try. You will know in the birth and your doctor should know if something is going wrong and your doula too.” He said, “I really think you should try and you need to try.” Oh, the other cool thing he did– I really love him. Dr. Shivera in Long Beach if anyone is local. He is really wonderful and does a ton of high-risk birth. I just didn’t want to go that far so that was my thing with that. 


    But he said, “I looked at what happened in the operating room with your second C-section, and exactly what you said before, it is not a special scar.” He looked at all of the details. It really made me feel that there was nothing wrong with that birth. 


    Meagan: Or abnormality, yeah. 


    Selah: No abnormality, yeah. He was like, “I really think you are okay to try.” That was really reassuring too. I cried with happiness. I cried everywhere. 


    Meagan: Yeah. Lots of emotions. 


    Selah: Lots of emotion. Then at 32 weeks, I went back to my first OB and he had gotten the results from that MFM and sure enough said, “I cannot support a VBA2C.” There, it was very interesting. I did cry there too but I felt this weird sense of shame like I should not have gotten pregnant. I should not be in this position because they made me feel like you are risking too much. You are risking your baby’s life. You are risking your life. Why do you want this so much? On the other side, I thought, “I can’t go into the operating room. I can’t do it emotionally or psychologically. I just can’t. Put me out then because I won’t be able to be there.” 


    That was where this weird shame came in like, “Why did I even get pregnant?” I even said it out loud to my husband then I even felt shame about that. We had this miracle baby. I couldn’t believe it. 


    But there were all of these weird emotions and things that were associated with that second C-section in particular. 


    I went back to Dr. Berlin. I remember crying in his office too and he was just saying, “Go to Dr. Brock. Go to Dr. Brock,” and Johanna too. Finally, I made an appointment. I think it was at 34 weeks when I saw Dr. Brock. He said, “You’ve never tried to labor. You’ve never felt a contraction. You can do this. I think you can do this and the baby is in the perfect position. He is not measuring big.” I also loved this. He did the fundal measurement. 


    Meagan: Fundal measurement is the whole from the pubic bone-up thing. 


    Selah: It almost felt like a midwife technique to measure the weight and everything, not the ultrasound. I remember being so scared every time I went into the ultrasound, how big is he going to be? Yeah, but he didn’t even want to talk about weight. He said to me, “Well, how big do you think this baby is?” I said, “Uh, 8 pounds. He feels normal to me. I don’t know.” He said, “So then he will be.” 


    He just was very calm and the other huge thing he did which I forgot to mention. The first OB with this MFM changed my due date because they said the baby was measuring early so they changed it to March 17th but according to my cycle, he was due March 31st. 


    Meagan: That’s a difference. 


    Selah: It’s a huge difference. 31st. The last day of the month. 


    Meagan: The last day, uh-huh. 


    Selah: The last day. That is a huge difference. So when I went to Dr. Brock, he said, “No. This baby is due according to your cycle, March 30th or March 31st. You don’t have anything to worry about. You are measuring completely on time. Go on.” 


    Now, in hindsight, he was born at 40 weeks and 3 days. So yeah, I guess it was March 30th. He was born at 40 weeks and 3 days. If it had been according to the first due date, there is no way the OB would have let me keep going. I mean, that was 10 days after. Thank God Dr. Brock changed my due date and was completely relaxed about everything. I never felt stressed. I never felt any anxiety that I felt going to the appointments from the first OB. 


    Meagan: That’s good. 


    Selah: He was quirky, but now I saw him in a completely different light. I saw him as somebody who would support me and let me do my thing. 


    36:33 Going into labor


    Selah: Sure enough, going into the labor, I felt like the night of March 26th, there was bloody show at around 10:00 PM. I texted my doula and she said, “It could be any minute or it could be days still so just hang tight. Relax. Go to bed. Get some sleep.” 


    I went to bed and I woke up with the wetness. It wasn’t a huge gush like the first one. It was just a little bit of wet. 


    Meagan: Trickle? 


    Selah: Trickle, yes. I wasn’t sure. My doula said it could be just a little bit of leakage or it could have been my water breaking. Let’s just wait and see. 


    Sure enough, a couple of hours later, I started feeling contractions and I was so excited. I was just happy. It was so crazy because obviously, most people would be like, “Ow, this hurts,” and I was just like, “Yes.” 


    Meagan: Cheering them on, yes. Well, you had never experienced them before. 


    Selah: Exactly. Exactly. I texted my mom. She was so excited. I just was thinking the whole time, “I can’t believe this is finally happening.” Again, we didn’t know that my water had broken for sure so we just wanted to sort of wait before we told the doctor because he didn’t say, “Oh, there is a 24-hour clock once your water breaks.” He didn’t say that at all, but we were concerned if we told the hospital– whatever. We just wanted to wait and see how labor progressed. 


    The contractions did start progressing. It was about– I don’t know– five or six hours at home and they started getting really fast and strong every four to five minutes. Yeah. I was like, “Oh, this is happening. This is happening fast. I may even have this baby at home,” which is laughable now looking back.


    I went in the shower. She encouraged me to go into the shower and try to rest. I couldn’t because I was so excited then my kids woke up around 6:00 AM. My doula got there around 5:00 AM and the contractions again were coming super strong and hard. She was helping me. She was massaging me, but because they were coming so frequently, they started speeding up to every 2-3 minutes, I thought, “We’ve got to get to the hospital.” I really actually did think, “Maybe this baby is actually going to fly out.” This is crazy. I might have an accidental home birth which is the goal, right? That’s what everybody wants. 


    Meagan: To a lot of people, it’s a dream, yes. 


    Selah: It was. It was actually my dream. “Maybe it will just fly out. It will be fine.” We go. My doula, to give her credit, was like, “I still think you should stay home. You’re just probably really excited.” 


    I was scared too, I think, deep down. I said, “Oh no. I don’t know. We should go to the doctor.” 


    39:20 Going to the hospital


    Selah: We went to the hospital. We had called the doctor. He said, “When did your water break?” I said, “I don’t know. It might have been this morning.” I kind of pushed it a little because I really wasn’t sure. We got to the hospital and at that point, I had labored about 10 hours, but in the triage, a resident checked me and said I was only at a 1 and it had been 10 hours. 


    This is the lesson to everybody. Please try to labor at home longer. I should have stayed at home longer. 


    Meagan: Well and also numbers. We look at 2-3 minutes apart and we’re like, “They’re 2-3 minutes apart. They’re 2-3 numbers apart.” But let’s look at the length and let’s look at that strength. How is coping? Are they so intense that you can’t even focus on what is going on in the space and it takes you a minute to get back into that moment or is it like, “Whoa, this is really, really hard,” and you’re talking through it, but then they’re gone.


    Selah: That’s right. Yes. I should have listened to my doula because I feel like it’s exactly what you just described. I could have labored at home longer as we will see because I ended up laboring. 


    Selah: I’ll tell you the middle of what happened in between but it ended up being 48 hours total of being in labor. It was way too early to go to the hospital. The reason why that was a problem too is because they hooked me up to the monitor because it was a VBAC and because of all of the reasons they do. We insisted on a wireless monitor but they couldn’t get a good connection so I ended up having to walk around with this wire which was not easy and I could only go so far. I feel like if I had labored at home and been able to move and do stretches or whatever more freely, it would have been way better to do that. 


    That was kind of a bummer. 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Selah: But that still wasn’t enough to deter me. I stayed very calm. I listened to worship music for the entire 48 hours and also HypnoBabies. I would say my mantras over and over. I was literally singing and praising God for each contraction. It was crazy. I would feel a contraction come on and I would thank God for it because I knew this was just getting me closer. To be in that state of gratitude and have that openness and open heart and be just thankful for it after all of this time and all of these years and wishes and dreams and desires of my heart to experience this– it was incredible– I mean, incredible to have that feeling. 


    I honestly felt no pain. I know that sounds crazy because it was so long. 


    Meagan: It doesn’t. 


    Selah: It was the most intense spiritual, incredible connection to God I’ve ever felt. I don’t know. It was amazing. 


    Meagan: Amazing, yeah. 


    Selah: The doctor and the nurses were all encouraging me to get a catheter for an epidural to put in and I kept pushing it off. I didn’t want it. I said, “I’m not going to need it. I don’t want it.” This isn’t to say there is any shame at all in having an epidural.


    Meagan: You just didn’t want it. 


    Selah: I didn’t want it. I researched with you and knowing that it could cause more of a chance for a C-section, I just didn’t want it. I said, “I’m not going to do it.” I put it off, put it off, put it off.


    I should say this was very interesting. The contractions were happening all day that Sunday 2-4 minutes apart. They felt very intense like they were building up, but again, it wasn’t super painful and my doula kept having me switch positions. She and my husband were incredible with non-stop massages and encouraging words and putting me in positions to really help me. That is another reason I didn’t feel the pain that maybe another person might. They really, really helped. 


    But it was after certainly bedtime. I think it was after 24 hours and my doctor was like, “Okay.” Oh, I should say the contractions slowed down from being 2-4 minutes apart to happening 5-7, even 10 minutes apart. They really slowed down. At that point, after 24 hours, I was at a– I think, I want to say…actually let me look here really quick. Okay, so day turned into night around 8:00 PM that first day. I had dilated to a 4 and I was fully effaced at 0 station. I really thought I was going to keep dilating and I would meet my baby by the end of that night, that first night but soon, it got into I think about 24 hours of labor and that’s when the contractions started to slow down to 5-7 minutes. 


    The doctor wanted to start me on Pitocin. Yeah, it was the 24-hour mark at 2:00 AM to progress more. I did not want Pitocin because of everything I had learned. I just thought, “There’s no way. This is going to lead to another C-section. I don’t want it.” He promised me. He said, “Let me start you very low. We’re just going to try to get these contractions going a little bit faster.” 


    44:54 Pitocin


    Selah: So we started the very lowest dose. They stayed 5-10 minutes apart, but I did get to a 6 that way. I did not feel any pain on the Pitocin which I was very scared of. I know. 


    So he kept upping it and soon, I was at the max level of Pitocin. I did not feel a difference. My contractions stayed 5-10 minutes apart. The good thing about that was between those long contraction breaks, I would literally fall asleep and everybody in the room was laughing because they were like, “She’s snoring.” There was a running joke in my friend circle and family that I can sleep through anything and I’m a very deep sleeper so this is no surprise to them. My husband was laughing. I mean, I was sound asleep and then I would feel a contraction, wake up, and start singing out loud. It was hilarious. 


    There were various positions that were better for me. Being on the toilet was definitely helpful. Being in almost like a child’s pose position, but the best of all was side-lying with the ball in between. That really seemed to help open me up and it was also great because then after the contraction was over, I would fall asleep from that side-lying. That’s how that kept working with the sleep breaks. 


    Selah: But that being said, the Pitocin did not seem like it was doing anything. That’s why he kept upping it. We are now at about 36 hours of labor. I was at a 6. So I was getting a little worried that he wasn’t going to let me keep going, but he did. He kept letting me go and then the one thing he did insist on though, at about 4:30 on day two was that I get that catheter for the epidural in my back.


    That was the only thing that ended up causing pain. I don’t know if it’s where they placed it. I don’t know what, but all of a sudden, I started vomiting from that area. It was really bad. That catheter hurt so bad and there was nothing they could do. There was no epidural in there. I didn’t want the epidural. I didn’t need it for the contractions. It was just that area. They put some numbing cream on it. That kind of helped, but that is what really hurt. I don’t know if it was where the baby was. 


    As he started dropping more, the pain lessened in that area, but that catheter really hurt. Everybody on the community page said not to get it which is why I pushed hard about not getting it. Now, I feel like they were right because again, I understand why people do get it just in case. My doctor said, “Have your seatbelt on. If you go to a C-section, we need that so you do not have to be put under.” You know what I mean?


    But I should have said in retrospect, “You know what? If go to a C-section, I want to be put under.”


    Meagan: Well, and the thing is that it still has to be dosed and that still takes time so–


    Selah: Right. 


    Meagan: I don’t know. Maybe, I guess it’s a little faster but it still has to be dosed. 


    Selah: It still has to be dosed. In retrospect, I don’t understand why he insisted on that so much, but I really appreciated him so much at that moment and all he had done to support me that I thought, “This is the one thing he is insisting on. I’m going to go with it.” 


    I said yes, but again, I wish I hadn’t. It really, really, really hurt. 


    48:35 The final hours


    Selah: The contractions were still 5-7 minutes apart, but all of a sudden, around 5:30 PM– this is on day two, and remember, everything had started around 2:00 AM the night before. So now, we’re almost to 48 hours. At 5:30 PM on day two during one of my little cat naps, I all of a sudden woke up with this involuntary urge to push. I just kept pushing with each contraction. All sorts of stuff was coming out of my body. It was insane like, “What is happening?” 


    Everyone in the room was like, “Oh my gosh. This baby is coming. This is awesome.” Imagine my surprise when the resident doctor came in and checked me and said I was only at an 8 and station +1. 


    Meagan: What? 


    Selah: I burst into tears. I think that was the moment I got really discouraged. Everyone said on the podcast and in the community that means baby is about to be born. You are getting close. 


    Meagan: When you start doubting like that, yeah. 


    Selah: Exactly. Exactly, but I just thought, “There is no way. How could I only be an 8? I don’t know how much longer I can do this. It’s almost 48 hours.” I heard myself saying this out loud. My doula reminded me. She was like, “These are just estimates. The residents want to estimate on the lower side because they don’t want to fool the doctor and have him come in and be like, ‘Why did you say she was complete?’ It would not be good.” 


    Meagan: That happens. Just to let you know, that really actually does happen. I’ve seen it with my own eyes as a doula. 


    Selah: Right? They err on the side that benefits them essentially. 


    Meagan: They fluff it in the backward way. 


    Selah: Yeah. Yes. 


    Meagan: They fluff it like, “Oh, you’re 9 centimeters,” when you’re really 8. It’s like you are 8 centimeters and they are saying you are 6 centimeters. They do this weird thing and it’s like magical progression. 


    Selah: Exactly. My doula kept reminding me of that even when we first got there and they said I was a 1. She said, “No. I think you are a 3 or a 4.” So yeah. Exactly. But I was so discouraged. I do feel like another side note God gave me the nurses at the right point that I needed. They were progressively more supportive. 


    The first nurse I started off with was super intense. She, by the way, was insisting on a– is it called a UEP? A uterine– 


    Meagan: IUPC. Intrauterine pressure catheter. 


    Selah: Yes. That’s right. IPCP. 


    Meagan: IUPC. Yep. 


    Selah: IUPC. There you go. She kept insisting on that. My doctor wanted that too, but he gave up basically because I said, “Nope. I’m not getting that. No.” I believe there is a small, small chance of rupture from that, right?


    Meagan: Well, it causes infection. It goes up into the body so anytime we do any of that, it can increase the chances of things like Cesarean. 


    Selah: Right, so I thought, “I’ve come this far. I’m not doing that. You’re monitoring me with the monitor. I’m not doing this other catheter.” By the way, I was in labor posting that on the community page and people were like, “Do not do that. This is why.” So again, this community is so helpful. 


    So all that to say, the first nurse was very intense. The second one was fine, but the third one that I had during that moment– her name was Shamika. I will never forget. She said, “You are not giving up now. I have seen you. I have seen you singing. I have heard you singing. I have seen you thanking God during these contractions. I’ve seen you laboring with joy. You are doing this. Do not give up.” I am telling you, I felt like God put her in my labor at that moment because I needed that. 


    My husband and my doula, Johanna, were saying, “You’re not giving up now. You’ve come this far. You’ve got this.” And Johanna reminded me again, “This is just an estimate.” 


    So sure enough, I was there. I really thought, I don’t know, “Is it going to happen in another four hours like, 5:30?” Around 8:30 at night, they checked me again and I was complete. The doctor gets called in and he says, “All right. Time to push.” 


    Johanna had warned me about this. She said, “Dr. Brock really likes women to push out on their back.” I know there’s a lot of stuff about that.


    Meagan: Controversy. 


    Selah: Yeah, controversy. “So I just want to warn you that he’s going to have you on your back. You’re going to be in the stirrups but if it doesn’t work, we can go from there. But let’s start in that position.” I’m so glad she prepped me because I have heard a lot in the VBAC communities that you shouldn’t push on your back and all of that stuff. 


    But for me, I actually did like on my back because he had me hold these bars. I don’t know if that’s normal. 


    Meagan: Yeah. I’ve seen them. Yeah.


    Selah: I’m a workout junkie, so for me, it felt very strong to pull on these bars with my upper body muscles and then push with my legs. It felt doable in other words, but I didn’t realize how much this is true which is the two steps forward, one step back. 


    Meagan: 100%. 


    Selah: That is so frustrating. I didn’t know. I know I had heard it but I didn’t realize how true it was. That was very frustrating to see his head come out and then go back in. But again, that’s his little lungs getting more developed and everything. I did have a mirror which really helped to see and it felt like again, it was like you were going to the bathroom. 


    Meagan: Yeah. Yeah. 


    Selah: I feel like more people need to know that that it really is what it feels like. You just have to push it out. 


    Meagan: The biggest poop you’ll ever take. That’s what I say. 


    Selah: Yes. It’s so true. It really is. I was just pushing and pushing. We are nearing the 48-hour mark. I was pushing for three hours. 


    Meagan: Wow. 


    Selah: Yes. It was close to three hours. Basically, the contractions stayed 5-7 minutes apart. I stayed resting in between. I was on the max dose of Pitocin. Dr. Brock was getting a little frustrated so he said, “Listen. You have less than an inch to go to get this baby out. He is going to come out. Don’t worry. He’s going to come out, but I really would like to use the vacuum to get him out all of the way.”


    I thought that was great because a lot of, I’ve heard, VBAC doctors will not use the vacuum because it’s a little bit risky with cranial damage so I was actually grateful and obviously tired so I was like, “Yes. Do whatever it takes. Get this baby out.” “But,” he said, “I want to fill your catheter with an epidural.”


    At that point, now, I should say I had this prayer list and every single thing had been met from the nurses to not using drugs. I did not want the epidural. By the way, not only did I not want the risk of a C-section with the epidural. The other reason was that I had been so drugged with my other two C-sections that like I said, I barely remember holding the baby on my chest. I was so woozy and out of it. I didn’t want that again. 


    But he said, “I want to put some push epidural in so that you won’t feel the vacuum and that he’ll come out.” I was so tired. My fight was so done that I felt like I had to give in and let him do this the way he wanted to and if that meant having a push epidural, then I’d do it. I’ll do the push epidural. 


    56:47 A crack in the catheter


    Selah: In comes the anesthesiologist. She looks at the catheter that’s in my back and says, “There is a crack in the cap of the catheter.” 


    Meagan: No!


    Selah: “We can’t do it. We can’t put an epidural here. There is a tiny crack. Bacteria could get in, whatever. We can’t do it.” Dr. Brock was like, “Are you serious? This is insane.” I said, “Good because I didn’t want it anyway.” My doula–


    Meagan: You’re like, “Let’s just get this baby out.” 


    Selah: Exactly. I said, “It’s fine. Listen. I’ve come this far. I’m sure it’s not going to hurt that much.” He said, “Are you sure? Because also thought it would be good to do any sewing up after from any tears.” I said, “Yes. Just do it. I don’t need it. It’s fine.”


    By the way, there’s no choice. You can’t put it in. She said no. The anesthesiologist was like, “Nope. I’m out.” 


    So I pushed and he said, “All right. You’re going to feel a little pressure. I’m going to push on your stomach. You’re going to push at the same time. I’m going to vacuum and he’ll come out.” 


    I said, “Okay, let’s do this.” 


    Sure enough, it felt almost like the C-section when they pushed on your uterus. Yeah, a little bit. But it wasn’t painful. It was just pressure. It was just a very weird feeling actually of the vacuum. The sewing up of the tear– I had a second-degree tear which isn’t that bad considering he was 9 pounds. 


    Meagan: Very standard. 


    Selah: Very standard. He was 9 pounds, 5 ounces– big baby. He also had a big head so that was pretty good actually that I only tore that much. It didn’t even hurt when he sewed me up at all. It felt a little weird, but it didn’t hurt and it was amazing. I couldn’t believe it, the feeling that he came out of my body that way! He went right on my chest and he was crying so loud. He was so healthy. 


    The best part of all, I mean, I was just so overwhelmed and so happy. I didn’t even really cry. I was just happy. I was just joyful. The best part of all, though, he didn’t have to go to the NICU at all. 


    Meagan: Yes. 


    Selah: He literally laid down by my side the whole night. We were never separated. I breastfed all night and by the way, you know they come in and they want to make sure he’s in his bassinet. I’m like, “Nope.” I kept him right by me. That might be a little controversial, but I couldn’t let go. I really couldn’t let go because this was so mind-blowing that he could be there and that all of my fears, all of my worries, all of my hard work, all of that was over. All of the appointments, all of the wondering, I felt like, “I did it. God did it. We did it.” 


    Meagan: You did it. 


    Selah: It was incredible. Then bringing him home and knowing that there was no worry about his breathing, about his blood sugar, and that so far, my other two have asthma which is so sad. I don’t know if it’s related to the C-sections because my husband also had asthma so it could not be. 


    Meagan: It can be thought. 


    Selah: It can be, yeah. This one doesn’t have asthma so far. No allergies. The other two have allergies. It’s crazy the things that I’ve seen, but most of all, my healing was night and day. I know that’s not always normal for a VBAC or a vaginal birth. 


    Meagan: Yeah. Yeah. 


    Selah: But I personally was up and about on day two. I mean, night and day, no problems. Of course, I was a little sore. It felt like I had just run a marathon, but nothing. And of course, now, I pee a little when I sneeze. 


    Meagan: So pelvic floor therapy will help. 


    Selah: Pelvic floor which I need to do. And that also happens, by the way, with C-sections. I also had that with my C-sections but I feel like all of it was 1000% worth it. Everybody said it would be and they were right. Everybody who I had read the stories or heard the stories about. It was so worth it. 


    1:00:00 The best feeling


    Selah: The feeling of having him come out that way but also being able to hold him and be with him and not have surgery. I mean, it was just night and day and such an incredible feeling of empowerment and for me, my faith, witnessing God do what I thought was impossible and what I felt like was natural. It was just an incredible experience knowing that everything was okay. The uterine wall window didn’t happen. 


    Meagan: Oh yes. Yes. 


    Selah: None of those fears happened. Everything was okay and he was perfect. So perfect and beautiful and such a surprise baby to happen that way. 


    Meagan: I am so happy for you. 


    Selah: I feel like it was so redemptive. 


    Meagan: Yes and it should have been. I’m so proud of you for going through the motions, doing the research, recognizing what’s right, and what’s not right, making the change, embracing the change, and then also still pushing forward through that whole birth. That’s amazing. Such a long birth. Such a beautiful birth. 


    Selah: Such a long birth. 


    Meagan: I’m so glad you had the support. It was and I’m just so happy for you and that you are sharing this story today. 


    Selah: Thank you. Well, and I will say like you said, the support is so– my doula stayed the entire 48 hours. 


    Meagan: Wow. 


    Selah: She did not eat. She did not sleep. She did not leave. She was amazing. Then, my husband– I feel like if your partner is not 100% on board, that you really need that. He was 1000% on board and he did not sleep, eat, or do anything either. 


    Meagan: Yeah. 


    Selah: I really am thankful for that and thankful for this community and The VBAC Link podcast and everything. It was really what was the driving force. I can’t believe I did it. I really can’t and I love helping other women now too. It’s just such a blessing. 


    Meagan: Full circle. Yes. It’s the full circle. 


    Oh, well thank you again so much. 


    Selah: Thank you for having me. It was such an honor. It really was. 


    Closing


    Would you like to be a guest on the podcast? Tell us about your experience at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Meagan’s bio, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.





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    1h 3m - Mar 25, 2024
  • Episode 284 Kara's VBA2C With Unexpected Twists

    Kara joins us today from the Los Angeles area sharing her VBA2C story! Kara’s first birth was a scary and chaotic emergency Cesarean. Though her second planned Cesarean went smoothly, Kara did not love how her birth felt like such a medical procedure.

     

    After experiencing a miscarriage during her third pregnancy, Kara experienced heartache and grief, but also shares how she gained a deep reverence for her body throughout the process. She just knew that her body was capable of having a vaginal birth. 


    Kara pulled out all of the stops with her VBA2C prep. She built a birth team she felt great about. She prepared physically. She processed past fears and trauma.

     

    Though her birth had some intense twists, Kara was able to achieve the VBA2C she fought so hard for. She took the leap of faith, trusted her body, and saw what it could do.


    Kara’s Website

    Needed Website

    How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

    Full Transcript under Episode Details 


    02:45 Review of the Week 

    05:09 Kara’s first pregnancy 

    08:17 Kara’s second pregnancy and planned Cesarean

    10:57 Miscarriage

    16:45 Fourth pregnancy and VBA2C prep

    22:30 Beginning of labor

    25:08 Thoughts about the hospital system

    28:49 Breaking waters

    32:28 Pushing, hemorrhaging, and the NICU


    Megan: Hello, hello Women of Strength. It is Meagan and we have got a VBAC after two C-sections story. Of course, I love VBA2C stories because I’m a VBAC after two C-sections mama. Her name is Kara and she is amazing. I’m just going to read your bio because you are just amazing. 


    It says, “She is an award-winning creative marketer and mother of three. She is in LA.” If you have been listening for a little bit, she actually was on the show quite a few months ago at this point of being aired with her OB. 


    Kara: Oh yes, with Dr. Brock. Oh my gosh, when I was pregnant. I don’t know why I forgot about that, but we interviewed my practitioner, Dr. Barry Brock, together who is a very VBAC-supportive provider. That was a really fun conversation. I think I was 4 or 5 months pregnant at that point. 


    Meagan: Yeah. We really wanted to ask him some questions about VBAC. He was with you along your journey and he was so gracious to come on and talk with us. So yeah. 


    She has worked on so many amazing things, some of your favorite things I’m sure like Netflix, Stranger Things, which is definitely one of my favorites, Patrone Tequila, and some of your favorite women’s apparel brands at Target which is also my favorite store. 


    She started her own brand consulting agency, Always Friday, in 2019, and after the birth of her first daughter, Hadley, she experienced an emergency C-section with her and then a planned C-section, and then a miscarriage, and then went on to have a VBAC after two C-section story. We are going to hear all of the stories today. Thank you, Kara, for being here. 


    Kara: Yes. I’m so excited to be here. I love this community and I don’t think that I could have gotten to a place where I was having a VBAC without your podcast, without finding The VBAC Link Facebook group and just hearing other women really give me the encouragement to not do a third C-section. I am really happy. I’m just about three months postpartum now, so forgive me if I make no sense. Yeah. I’m just grateful for your guidance, your expertise, and all of the things that you pour your heart into as an expert on all things VBAC. 


    Meagan: Aw. 


    Kara: Thank you for that. 


    Meagan: Well, thank you so much. I’m so excited to hear this story because I haven’t even heard the full story. I just have this little blurb right here on my form, so I’m really excited to dive into it. 


    02:45 Review of the Week 


    Meagan: We do have a review of the week and I put Kara on the spot you guys because she actually took Needed during her pregnancy and first, I’m obsessed with Needed and love and trust Needed. You took it throughout pregnancy and I would just love to hear your review on Needed today. 


    Kara: Yes. I have obviously looked at all of these different types of prenatals and I ended up going with Needed and loved it. I did their prenatal multi and at first, I was like, “This is a little wild.” It’s eight capsules which felt aggressive, but it actually was so much of the nutrients that I needed. I broke it up to four in the morning and four towards the evening. 


    I felt the most energized during this pregnancy. I felt the strongest. I obviously did all of the things, drank all of the tea, had the protein, the dates, and all of that, and my baby was much– I mean, I don’t know if this is correlated or not, but my baby was almost a pound and a half bigger than my previous biggest baby and I felt the strongest, the healthiest that I’ve ever felt during any of my pregnancies. 


    I wish I would have taken it with the other two, but you live and you learn, so yeah. I highly recommend that to all of my friends and I always send people the link for the Needed vitamins whenever I can. 


    Meagan: Yes. I believe it so much too. It’s interesting that you said you have felt the most energy during this pregnancy because I feel like once you have one, two, and three– once we have more kids, during those pregnancies, they are more exhausting because we are not just able to rest and relax. 


    Kara: They are. 


    Meagan: We are being mom, right? So I love hearing that. 


    05:09 Kara’s first pregnancy 


    Meagan: Okay, let’s get into your stories. 


    Kara: Let’s do it. Cool. I’m excited. 


    Meagan: Perfect. Let’s talk about Hadley’s birth. 


    Kara: Yes. I got pregnant pretty easily and had a healthy pregnancy. I think maybe had this false sense of confidence that my delivery would match my pregnancy. I did not do a lot of prep work. I went into maybe how everyone does to some degree, what you don’t know you don’t know kind of thing. 


    I went into labor naturally. I was a little bit overdue and ended up sort of with the classic cascade of interventions. That was challenging. They broke my water and just set off a bunch of other things that then her heart rate went up, sort of the classic stories you hear, and they rushed me into an emergency C-section which was really scary. It felt like a true emergency like Grey’s anatomy style just being rushed down the halls, with no time for really conversation. I finally asked for my operating notes and it was a class 2 which I guess if it’s a class 1, you guys talk about it. If it’s a class 3, you or the baby didn’t make it. 


    It was really scary and honestly, I was terrified after. I think it took three weeks for my shoulders to come down from that C-section. I’ve said this before, but the only way I could describe it was it felt like a car crash and I wasn’t sure if my passenger made it. It was quiet in the room. I didn’t hear a baby crying. Nobody was really talking. I just remember tears streaming down my face while I was on the operating table completely unsure if my baby had made it. 


    Luckily, she’s healthy and fine, but I don’t think that took away from the birth trauma that I experienced with that first baby. 


    Meagan: Yeah. That just gave me the chills when you described it like that. How scary. 


    Kara: It was so scary. I’ve never seen my husband look so afraid before. I’ve never seen him pray out loud before. So yeah. It was just one of those things where I wasn’t mentally prepared for that. I was not up to date on how many women have C-sections and what you can do to prevent it. I guess in this Instagram world that we live in, you see your friends pregnant and they are cradling their bump and then the next square you see in their feed is a baby announcing its name and weight. You never get to hear unless you ask people how you got from point A to point B, right? 


    That was very just this naivety that you go into the hospital and you come out with a baby and you’re fine. I don’t know why I didn’t maybe do a better job researching all of the options. 


    That was baby number one. 


    08:17 Kara’s second pregnancy and planned Cesarean


    Kara: Baby number two– I got pregnant about a year later. Again, quickly and easily thank God and all of that. It was the middle of COVID. It was 2020. I found out I was pregnant in March 2020 so it was sort of the peak of absolute fear and scare tactics to a degree. 


    I kept trying to wrap my head around going into labor again naturally and I just couldn’t get there. I would have borderline panic attacks every time I would think about it. The word birth trauma wasn’t a word or a phrase in my vocabulary so I just thought you kind of toughen up and figure it out. I just really couldn’t get there. 


    COVID every day, a new study came out basically saying that pregnant women are going to die. 


    Meagan: Yeah. Lots of scary stuff was coming out. 


    Kara: I opted for a planned C-section. That just seemed like the logical thing to do at that point. My husband couldn’t come to any of the appointments. I couldn’t have anyone else in the room. I was delivering with a mask on. It was all of these things that just took away from what is a natural birth experience so to speak and all of the things that you need. It eliminated a lot of that and made it this very sterile process that resulted in a great, planned C-section. 


    I can’t describe it any other way than it just felt like surgery. I hate to say that because you get a beautiful baby at the end of it and you created this beautiful baby. I’m not trying to take away anyone’s experience with a planned C-section. But for me, it felt like I scrubbed in for surgery and went into this sterile environment. I was put on a lot of different drugs, laid on the table, cut open, and a baby was handed to me. 


    I have a beautiful three-year-old named Hazel from that experience, but it ultimately left me feeling– I don’t know how to describe it, but not fulfilled in the way I wanted to feel. 


    Meagan: Yeah. I can understand that. I can understand that. Like you said, not everyone is going to experience this, but there is often this disconnect. You went in. You scrubbed in and had a baby. Everyone is sterile and quiet. It’s bright. There is beeping here and there. It just doesn’t feel sometimes like birth. 


    Kara: Right. Yeah. It felt like a surgery. 


    10:57 Miscarriage


    Kara: So then we were going back and forth with if we wanted to have a third and ultimately decided we love being parents. I love being a mom so much. I love my work. I love the branding things I do but nothing compares to the purpose, fulfillment, and joy that I feel raising children and being a mom. 


    I got pregnant again and it felt exciting but it also felt like it was coming at a time during my career that was potentially the busiest. Long story longer, I had a miscarriage with that baby and that pregnancy at almost 12 weeks. That was so surprising to me because once again, so similar to C-sections and all of that, it just was not on my radar. 


    I maybe took a lot of things for granted with my very healthy and easy pregnancies. No issues, truly with the first two. That miscarriage was scary in that I was alone at home with the girls. I put down my children for sleep and then I got in the bathtub and basically delivered the placenta. I saw. It was my first experience and the closest thing I had to delivery so far because I normally have C-sections. I’m seeing a lot of blood. I’m seeing the placenta and I’m seeing what was my unborn child. Sorry to be so graphic. 


    Meagan: It’s hard. 


    Kara: Yeah. Yeah. I felt like– and you have contractions and all of that for anybody who hasn’t ever experienced a miscarriage. It’s not anywhere near the same amount of pain as labor, but it is way above a period cramp or however else anyone might want to describe it at least for me. 


    Weirdly though, I have to say that you would think that experience would make me really sad and it did. The number one thing I took out of it is that I felt incredibly empowered. I felt like my body knew what it was doing. I felt a deep sense of trust in that, “Wow. This was not the right thing to happen and my body was smart enough to get rid of what wasn’t a viable fetus and pregnancy. It knew something was wrong and it got rid of it for me.” It’s like, wow. All of that while I made chicken nuggets. That’s so exciting. 


    I really walked away from it feeling like, “Gosh. The female body is so incredible. It is so strong. It knows what it is doing. It is so powerful. Why wouldn’t I go for having the birth that I want to have which was a vaginal delivery?” 


    So yeah. It was sad but also strengthening in a way. 


    Meagan: Yeah. A really sad situation and unfortunate circumstances, but in the end, it was that healing, empowering thing that happened to get you to this next step. 


    Kara: Yes. There is something about listening to yourself and your own gut and your own body in a way that you really just start to know that you know what’s best. 


    My husband wasn’t there and something took over in me that was like, “Get in the bathtub.” I have no experience. I visualized this pain leaving my body. When I did that and breathed through it, I was able to deliver the unborn baby. It was 12 weeks. 


    Yeah. So for me, it was really incredible. It gave me just the strength to know that I can do it and that our bodies are so, like I said, powerful and women are just so strong. 


    Meagan: Absolutely. Thank you for sharing that. 


    Kara: Yeah. Yeah. 


    16:45 Fourth pregnancy and VBA2C prep


    Kara: So then I got pregnant again and was confident I wanted a VBAC. I took your course and it gave me a sense of confidence and was so intelligently designed to make me think about visualizing fear, letting go of fear, and things that I really wish I would have done almost before I had a baby to be honest with you of just all of the things you don’t realize you are holding inside of you of the unknown, of what could go wrong, what you don’t know, what you want to ask, what you hope for, what you are going to let go of, and just filled with great information. That course was really helpful for me and my husband so for anyone who is looking to achieve a VBAC or do a VBAC, I highly recommend educating yourself with a course like The VBAC Link’s course or just one that can get you to a place where you guys are both really–


    Meagan: Feeling confident too in the decisions you are making. 


    Kara: Yeah. So I did that and honestly, with this pregnancy, I was like, “I’m going to do all of the things.” I think women, if you can, if you have the means to do that, I think you should take care of yourself in a way that is– I wish I could take care of myself when I wasn’t pregnant at the level I took care of myself during this last and final pregnancy. 


    I took the Needed prenatal vitamins pretty religiously. I hired an incredible doula, Lia Berquist at Your Natural Birth who teaches The Bradley Method and is also just such an advocate for VBACs. She actually is a VBAC-certified doula with The VBAC Link. 


    Meagan: Yay. 


    Kara: Yeah. Then I took her course. I read Ina May’s books even though my heart was not dead-set on having a natural delivery which, I think if I had a fourth, I would love to go for that but for me, just getting past the C-sections and being able to have a VBAC was really what I wanted. Like I said, I took your course. I listened to a couple of my friends. My friend, Olga, had a VBAC and she recommended her doctor who I already mentioned, Dr. Barry Brock, who is VBAC supportive, and also her chiropractor, Dr. Berlin who also has a great podcast, The Informed Pregnancy Podcast. It’s great and he is also a great resource and a great person.


    I had all of these people around me. I assembled an all-star team. 


    Meagan: 100%. Holy cow. 


    Kara: I went deep. I read a lot. I took it seriously. I got my head in the game. I did not let fear creep in and I really tried to focus on what I could achieve. I think that you will notice if you are someone who has had two C-sections and you tell people confidently when you are pregnant that you want to have a VBAC, you will get a really, really mixed response even today in 2024. You will get people asking you, “Can you even do that? Is that possible? I thought you couldn’t do that.” It’s not your job to educate them and enlighten them on what you can or cannot do unless you feel like it. 


    Sometimes I was in the mood to tell them, “Yes!” and tell them all of the things I learned, and other times, I was like, “Yes, you can and I will,” and just left it at that and moved the conversation along. But yes. It is important to just not let other people’s fears creep in. 


    Meagan: Absolutely. 


    Kara: I think if you are pregnant in general, people tend to want to tell you their horror stories. 


    Meagan: Yes. Why? I don’t understand. I don’t understand why when you are pregnant, it’s like, “Well, let me tell you how horrible my birth was.” I’m like, “Ahh. Don’t share those things.” 


    Kara: I would actually stop people and be like, “I’m sorry you had that experience. I personally don’t want to hear it.” 


    Meagan: Good for you. 


    Kara: I know that is rude but I had to protect my own space and my own mental sanity. I needed to really do that. 


    Meagan: Protect that. Yeah. 


    Kara: Yeah. I mean, even when I would see people, there are things going on in the world. There are shootings and there are wars. People wanted to tell me that and I really tried to block all of that out, especially in the final months of getting ready to deliver. 


    Meagan: Yeah. Good for you. 


    Kara: Yeah. I was overdue and I went into labor naturally. Basically, contractions picked up. We wanted to wait as long as possible before going to the hospital– another mistake that I definitely made in my first pregnancy of getting to the hospital, getting checked in, and becoming a patient really just too early in the labor process. 


    Meagan: In the labor process, yeah. 


    Kara: What I didn’t know and what I learned through your course, through the Bradley Method course, and through all of the different things that I did to prepare is that your body is not a business and labor is a natural thing that could take as long as it needs to take. Sometimes your contractions stop when the sun comes up. It’s an incredible thing. Sometimes your contractions stop when you get afraid and you go into a space of needing to not– so I learned all of that because my contractions did slow down when the sun came up and my contractions did slow down when I finally did get to the hospital. 


    22:30 Beginning of labor


    Kara: My husband and I went to a hotel actually that was near the hospital because if you have ever been to Los Angeles, the traffic is so scary. Yeah. 


    It gave me peace of mind to be able to labor, be close to the hospital, be in a bathtub, and know that I was going to be okay and that I could also be as loud and visceral as I wanted without my other two children being frightened by my primal-ness so to speak. 


    Meagan: Mhmm. Mhmm. 


    Kara: Yeah. That was a really nice experience. Incredibly painful, but I basically got to the hospital and was able to labor unmedicated until about 7.5 centimeters. 


    Meagan: Nice. 


    Kara: At that point, I started throwing up. I think that’s common. I mean, you would know. 


    Meagan: It is. It’s miserable. 


    Kara: It’s miserable. The other thing I didn’t anticipate is when you throw up as much as I did, you lose that– we’re talking bags and bags to the point where my doula, Lia, was like, “Wow. I didn’t even know you could have that much in you.” We were like, “Whoa.” I felt so weak and so dehydrated and just not ready to run a marathon of pushing and all the things I knew were in front of me.


    At that point, I opted for the epidural. I’m glad I did because I needed to take a rest. I needed the contractions to stop a little bit, to slow down, to be lessened so I could just rest and get a little bit of my strength back before it was time to push. 


    We did that. The contractions slowed down a little bit which was unfortunate because they were so strong for a while, but we did some Pitocin as well which I didn’t want to do because I was trying to have a somewhat unmedicated delivery or birth experience. My wanting of that really was because I felt so helpless during my first delivery where I got an epidural early and then I just couldn’t get up. I couldn’t move and when her heart rate dropped during my first delivery, it just felt like I was at the mercy of the hospital staff and the doctors, and it just, yeah. I didn’t want that. 


    25:08 Thoughts about the hospital system


    Kara: This was a great experience though. It did feel a little bit like I was on someone else’s schedule. Another thing I learned is the hospital is a business. 


    Meagan: It is. Yeah. It’s not a bad place to give birth, right? But there is still a system. There are still policies. There are still things where you come in and you’re not always just looked as an individual coming to give birth and that’s it. 


    Kara: No. 


    Meagan: This is an individual coming in to have a baby and we need to have a baby. 


    Kara: In order to bill. 


    Meagan: Yeah, and move on so we can fill the room with the next person. Yeah. That is the thing. A lot of the time when an epidural comes into play, Pitocin is just in there right in the front saying, “That is the next step ‘naturally’” to them because it can slow labor down. It often does. 


    Kara: Yeah. I really do like my doctor. Dr. Brock is amazing and he is so supportive of VBAC. It’s not his fault. It’s actually just how the system works. He had surgeries planned and he had a schedule to keep so in a way, it felt like my labor was taking too long and it was time to get things rolling. 


    Yeah, that and he recommended pretty strongly breaking the bag so it was just another thing where I mentally, Meagan, was getting to a place where I was like, “Oh my god. I’m going to end up in another C-section.” 


    Meagan: Same situation. Well, and a lot of triggers I’m sure. Even processed births, when things happen, even if you have processed them, they can trigger you very easily. 


    Kara: That is such a good point because even though I feel I processed all of the birth trauma from my first situation, the