Episode 192 Carolyn’s VBAC + Birth Options


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Show notes

“Whenever I see someone that I know who has had a C-section, I’m like, ‘Did you know you don’t have to have another C-section? You can do something else!’”

Mama, you have options! Carolyn shares her Cesarean and VBAC stories with us today about how she explored all the birth options available to her and made informed decisions along the way. Carolyn especially took advantage of optimal fetal positioning resources. She went from pushing for hours with no progress during her first labor to one great push and a successful VBAC with her second. Carolyn’s dream birth experience came true and she cannot stop reliving that sweet moment of catching her baby.

Additional links

The VBAC Link Community

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

Full transcript

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

Julie: Welcome, welcome. You are listening to The VBAC Link podcast. This is Julie. I am here with Meagan and we are so excited to be with you on another Wednesday. It is kind of fun rocking and rolling again with the podcast and hearing all sorts of people's stories. Today, we will have interviewed somebody in each time zone in the United States. I am pretty sure. We are in one and our guest today is from Kansas City. We are really excited.

I love the Midwest. Everyone thinks I’m crazy. Maybe it is because I haven’t been there for any winter, but I really love the Midwest, especially in springtime. It is just perfect to me. I love it. One day, I don’t know. If I ever get to be rich and get to have multiple houses, I might own a house in the Midwest so that I can have a nice springtime there.

But anyway, we are talking with Carolyn who is an incredible woman. She has a three-year-old and a one-year-old and she lives, like I said, in Kansas City. She’s a senior marketing manager and we are so excited to hear from her today. Before we do that, Meagan has a Review of the Week for us. Meagan, do you want to go ahead and share?

Review of the Week

Meagan: Yes, I do. This is from holmclaugh90. It says, “I listen every single day. After a traumatic Cesarean with my first baby five years ago and multiple miscarriages in between, this is a breath of fresh air as I await my chance to have a VBAC this October with my second, I love every story I hear on this podcast and it makes me feel so much stronger in knowing that I can do this.”

And I want you to know that this is, let’s see. She posted this actually last July, so I was going to say, “Yes. You are strong enough,” but holmclaugh90, if you’re still listening, we want to know how things went last October. Please, please follow up with us.

Julie: Yeah. We love hearing updates. I love it when people come around full circle. Oh my gosh, Meagan, this week it is mid-June and I had a Facebook memory show up. Our very first podcast episode was published years ago last week. It was the second week of June and it is so crazy to be at four years. Some people have been listening to our podcast and have had one or two babies after listening to our podcast. It is so crazy to think that we have so many incredible stories coming full circle now and it’s just fun to have been on this journey with you guys for so long. I love it.

Carolyn’s Story

Julie: Okay, we are going to get to Carolyn's story and I just love it. I was just reading through some of her show notes here and I just absolutely love how she talks about asking for what you need. Ask for the tub or the nurse who is more VBAC friendly. The last thing you want is to be surprised in the hospital room.

And yes, ask for everything. I can’t wait to hear all of the incredible things that she asked for that helped her get her VBAC. So Carolyn, do you want to take it over and share your story with us?

Carolyn: Yeah, absolutely. I’m so excited.

Julie: Thanks.

Carolyn: All right well, yeah. So really for me, it seems like forever ago, but in July 2018 when I got pregnant for the first time, luckily I had a very easy time getting pregnant. A really easy pregnancy and actually, my sister-in-law was pregnant at the same time. I will probably reference her a couple of times. That was super helpful to me.

She had previously been pregnant and her pregnancy actually ended up in an unplanned C-section and not her ideal labor, so I feel like I thought I had a lot of lessons from her. Spoiler alert, she ended up getting her VBAC with her second pregnancy. She actually had a home birth. She is super amazing.

So I feel like going into my first pregnancy, I was like, “I’ve got it. I know what to do. I have a leg up even.” And so I did all of the things. I ate the dates. I drank the tea. I did prenatal yoga, all the good stuff and I was interested in doing an unmedicated birth. I wasn’t super anti-epidural, but I hoped. I just wanted it to be normal. You see movies and you see TV shows. That’s what you expect, right?

For me, the day after my due date, my water broke. I think I actually laughed out loud because it just seemed so ridiculous that that would happen. I even made my husband come look at the fluid on the floor which is gross, but I needed to show somebody. I had an OB appointment that day, so we actually just went in. It was at eight in the morning so it was really fast from when that happened. She confirmed that yep, it was amniotic fluid.

I was only 1 centimeter dilated and she was essentially like, “Go home. Get labor going. Keep me updated." So we went back home and I couldn’t believe this when I was writing this up. I was at home for 10 hours before we even made a move to the hospital. Those contractions were just on and off. We went on a walk. We made cupcakes. We watched a movie.

At some point, I was getting frustrated. My water broke. I didn’t want to be in a situation where it had been a really long time, so actually, I went to my chiropractor who I had been seeing throughout pregnancy. She also does acupuncture, so I went to her during labor which is kind of wild and got that acupuncture which was bizarre. I had never done that before and that was the first time I had ever had it. I sat on the birthing ball in her office with all of the needles and everything and sure enough, I went home and my contractions were consistently five minutes apart, four minutes apart.

Around 10, my doula came over. I should have picked up her vibe. She was very relaxed, very like, “I see what’s going on here,” but I was very antsy to start going to the hospital. Of course, there was a huge thunderstorm right when we left. We live really close to the hospital. We got there and I was only 3 or 4 centimeters dilated, so I was feeling “meh” about that. I wish I would’ve been more, but it is what it is. I labored in the room for pretty much most of the night. I eventually got in the tub and that was amazing. It was really relaxing and continued to help me progress.

I got out at about five in the morning when my OB came in there. I was 9 centimeters and 100% effaced so that was super awesome. She did let me know that I actually had– I didn’t even know this was a thing– a fore bag of waters. Even though my water had broken, there was still more. She asked for my consent to break it. She is amazing, by the way. I will say that a hundred times. I said, “yes”, so she basically broke my water. I think I peed in the hospital bed five times consecutively. I don’t know if that was just the warm water or whatever, so I’m just profusely apologizing to the nurses.

Sure enough, that did the trick and I was at 10 centimeters. I was so excited. I was unmedicated. I was feeling really positive about labor and everything despite painful contractions. She did let me know that he was still pretty high up and wanted to have me breathe through the contractions for another while before I started pushing, so I then spent several hours in all types of positions.

Around noon, I started pushing. I actually did try nitrous oxide which put me in a good mood, but it didn’t really help me that much. I think at around 2:00 p.m., I looked at the clock and I just started saying, “This isn’t right. What is going on? How could this be? I’ve been at 10 centimeters since eight in the morning and it is 2:00 p.m.” I just did not understand.

It’s not that no one was sharing with me information. It was just stalled and I was starting to act a little bit crazy. Each contraction would come and I was bracing the hospital bed saying, “Don’t make me do it,” just kind of getting crazy, so I talked about the epidural. My husband and I had actually made a safe word so that he knew I really meant, “No, this is real. I really want the epidural.” So I did get that and yes, absolutely. It helped me rest. I took a two-hour nap. I was able to also let my husband and doula rest as well.

So now, it’s 4:00 p.m. My doctor came in. I believe I told her, “I could do this for hours. I am renewed. Let’s rock it.” They turned the epidural down and I pushed for another two hours. My doctor is really straightforward but extremely empathetic. She basically said, “He is not coming down.” I think she said that he was barely at +1 and I didn’t fully know what that meant, but I knew in my heart that it was not happening. I asked her about forceps. I said, “What about the vacuum?” All of these things I am just asking her like, “Is there anything left to do?”

She was not pushy at all about a C-section. We started to have that conversation of, “Is this direction we are going to go?” For us, the baby was not in distress. I was not in distress. It was not an emergency, but we talked about it for another little bit and finally decided that this was the right thing to do. It was 8:30 p.m., almost two days after my water broke and as they do, they moved really quickly. One bright star in the C-section process was that the anesthesiologist was super nice. I think that sometimes I hear a lot of stories where people don’t have friendly anesthesiologists, but he was really friendly.

We had to negotiate to have both my husband and the doula in the room. I felt really strongly about that because I wanted someone with me but also someone with the baby, so after the baby came out, my husband went with the baby and my doula stayed up with me holding my hands and everything. Also, the anesthesiologist actually asked me if I wanted any music and played a particular song that I was very into at the moment, and so I always remember that as a good moment.

Once they started the C-section, I was really uncomfortable and really, really not feeling it. I wouldn’t say I was screaming, but I was making noise to the point where my doctor kept asking me, “Are you okay?” And I just said, “I don’t like it. I don’t like this feeling, the tugging, the pressure, and all of it.” I even asked one of the nurses, I was like, “Am I a little out of the norm?” She said, “Yeah. It was a little hard to concentrate.” Oh well.

But my son came out that evening at 9:20. He was healthy. Everything was great with him. I was so anxious and shaky. I knew it wasn’t a good idea to hold him and honestly, I was just mentally feeling so out of it. I actually asked the anesthesiologist to calm me down, fully knowing that it meant to just basically give me a little something in there to make me fall asleep, and I did for about 20 minutes.

At the end of the night, I was able to hold my son. I hated missing out on that magic hour right there, but I knew it also wasn’t feeling right for me to take him until I was a little calmer and less shaky, less manic, and all of that. So that was my C-section story.

I was pretty upset about it afterward. I actually even remember watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy three or four days postpartum. There was an episode where someone doesn’t know she is pregnant and gives birth in an emergency– just a vaginal, unmedicated birth. I was so upset. I had to turn off the TV. So I knew right away that I did want to try for a VBAC and luckily, someone had recommended the Facebook group and The VBAC Link podcast. I feel like so many people say this on here, and now I am saying it too. I listened to every single episode on my daily walks. I was just obsessed with VBACs in my second pregnancy.

With that, when I got pregnant again, my doctor again reiterated, “You are a good candidate,” and I actually didn’t change anything. I had my same OB, same doula, and same hospital and I feel like that is pretty uncommon. I feel like a lot of people who don’t have the experience they desire with a C-section, maybe it’s because they didn’t have a supportive doctor. Maybe it’s because they didn’t like the environment. For me, that wasn’t the issue. He was just stuck, so I stayed with all of my providers.

I did make a couple of changes. I still did all the same things– the dates, the yoga, the tea. Probably the biggest change I made, thankfully or unthankfully due to the pandemic, was that I was working from home, so I went on a walk every single day. I was active during my first pregnancy, but I feel like the walks were really intentional for me. They were really a good grounding place for me to be in my pregnancy. When you are working, when you have another child, it’s hard to be like, “Hey, I am pregnant right now.”

Meagan: Yeah. Yeah or even just focus on it. Yeah.

Carolyn: Yeah. Whether I was listening to The VBAC Link, music, or whatever it is, it gave me that little 20 or 30 minutes a day of just, “Yep. This is for me.” Something else that I got tipped off from I think one of your podcast episodes was something super specific within Spinning Babies. I know a lot of people love Spinning Babies but for me, because my son with my C-section was just in such a bad position, I got hyperfocused on that.

One of the things they talk about in Spinning Babies is to rest smart or the flashlight test which sounds kind of weird, but it makes sense when you hear it explained. Basically, your belly button either should be pointing out or down, not ever up. So when you think about sleeping or sitting on the couch or working, I was super obsessed with this. I was watching TV on the ball throughout my whole pregnancy. I was not laying down. I was not leaning back. I wasn’t reclining or anything and as silly as it may seem, who knows if that made a difference or not, but the baby certainly ended up in a good position. So that was one thing that was probably a little abnormal that I hung on to.

Meagan: Well, I will just tell you that you are not alone because I did the same thing with my son. In fact, I didn’t even sit on a couch for nine months.

Carolyn: Oh my god.

Meagan: Like legitimately, I wouldn’t sit on the couch. I sat on the floor cross-legged, pelvis tilted up. That was totally me and driving very properly. That was totally me.

Carolyn: Yep. Yep. Yes, yes. We went on a road trip at one point when I was pregnant and I think I stuffed two or three coats behind me so I was almost leaning forward in the car. I was like, “This is ridiculous, but not if it works.” It’s only weird if it doesn’t work as I say.

Meagan: Oh and if you don’t do it and there is a thing, then you are sitting there questioning, “Well, what if I would’ve done it?” At least that’s where my mind went, anyway.

Carolyn: Oh no I know. No, I’m the same way. At that point, it was not like it was causing me pain. I wasn’t frustrated by it. I was just like, “This is what I do now. This is how I am.”

Meagan: Right. Yeah, yeah.

Carolyn: There was an end in sight, so I didn’t mind it too much. Other things I did towards the end, I did do the curb walking which actually was just sort of funny. In my neighborhood, all of the streets are sloped so there are actually no curbs really, so I had to either drive or walk a pretty solid distance to get somewhere that had real curbs. I always ended up in a parking lot of some office park or somewhere weird where people were like, “What is this really pregnant lady doing walking around?” But I loved the curb walking. I did the forward-leaning inversions.

During the last week of my pregnancy, I was starting to get really anxious. My doctor was not pushy about induction at all. I don’t even think the word came up. She was not concerned about me going over. I was a day late with my first. I didn’t know, obviously, what was going to happen with my second, but I started to get into a bad rabbit hole of negative thoughts. It’s one of the things I actually did– no hate to Facebook and all of the good things that you find in your Facebook groups– but I actually muted or left all of the pregnancy, birth, mom, all of the things that I followed on Facebook and on Instagram. I did stop listening to the podcast for the last week. It was just too much information at that point and I was starting to get so anxious about things not ending the way I wanted.

Meagan: You know what? That’s not a bad thing to unplug. I actually encourage that to my clients. I’m like, “Unplug from social media and from people who may not be providing you support. Just unplug. It’s okay to just be with you, your body, and your baby.

Carolyn: Yeah. So actually it was really helpful and it also let me enjoy the last couple of weeks with my son. It was the last time he was going to be our only baby. Your whole world is going to change when you bring home the second one. So that was really nice. I’m laughing thinking back on that phase because he was just turning. He’s three and a half now almost and a very different child at three and a half than he was at two. At two, he was a little, sweet, big brother. Now he is solid and in the toddler phase.

I did go a week late this time and again, I tried to just tune everything out. What’s funny is that again, with working from home, I didn’t have a reason to really stop working because I wasn’t commuting to work. I wasn’t going to end up in a situation where you are at the office going into labor. I wasn’t home. So every day, I just logged off being like, “Maybe this is the last day.”

On the day that I had the baby, I woke up to a pretty strong contraction. I had been having some, but obviously, none that ever came to anything. This one did feel a little bit different. I did say to my husband, I was like, “I don’t know, but I am feeling this one.” I kept intending that morning to go upstairs to my computer and start my workday. I just kept having that subconscious nesting feeling I guess. I kept, “Oh, I need to tidy this room. I need to do the dishes.” I don’t even know what I was doing and then I would be constantly interrupted by these contractions.

My husband was working from home as well and I didn’t even really notice it at the time, but I had already started to vocalize through my contractions, making a fair amount of noise. He is wrapping up his last meeting of the day. Meanwhile, I am downstairs making scary birthday noises so I apologize to anybody who was on that call. But similarly, actually, I had a scheduled appointment that day but we called to go in sooner. We went into my OB‘s office around 10. I probably scared half of the people in her waiting room because I was fully in labor, pacing around and making noise. I was not a pleasant person to be around.

Even when we left the house, I told my husband, Isaac, “Oh, well you are grabbing the bags?” And he was like, “Yeah. We are grabbing the bags. We’re not coming home. We are having a baby.” I just was in disbelief and when I got to her office, she was joking with me. She was like, “Okay, are we having a baby today?” She checked me and this was actually my first check all pregnancy. Again, this OB is so amazing. She does not push checks.

When I started listening to your podcast, I didn’t even know there were OBs who push for checks that are not necessarily wanted by the patient. I didn’t know that was a thing because my OB never did that. She never even brought it up, so I feel lucky that I never ended up in that situation. Again, if it is something that people want, then you want it. But for me, I don’t want to be checked unless I am being asked to and it is necessary. So she checked me and I was already 7 centimeters dilated. I was in complete shock. I was so happy. And she confirmed, “Okay. You are definitely in active labor. I will meet you at the hospital.” I was like, “Oh. Oh, okay. We are going right now.”

One thing she did was that she called ahead to the hospital so I got to be directly admitted. I got to skip triage which was amazing. At least at this hospital, which is a great hospital with great nurses and staff and everything, their triage situation was so unpleasant for me with my first son. It is a tiny, tiny little room. You are just getting poked and prodded, and it is really unpleasant. So I just got wheeled all the way to my room. I actually got the last room that was available. It was a busy labor day I guess.

Meagan: I was going to say a busy night or a busy day.

Carolyn: Yes. Yeah. I was given the last room and actually when we got there, I realized it was the same room in the hospital where I had my son. I was like, “Okay, I don’t know if that is a bad sign because he ended up in a C-section or a good sign that this is the same room I was in.” I haven’t confirmed this with my doctor actually, but she must have told the nurses when she called in that I was a patient who was wanting an unmedicated VBAC because no one mentioned the word “epidural”, no one mentioned any interventions, any drugs or anything and it was so amazing. I feel like I was really worried about having to fight or having to push back on nurses who don’t know me, but she must have told them because that was just too good to be true.

Something else that was kind of funny about the room– on the whiteboard, the nurses had put up this standard, “Goal number one: healthy baby. Goal number two: healthy mom.” My husband actually erased it and he wrote, “Goal one: healthy baby, healthy mom. Goal two: baby out of vagina.” We died laughing. We took a picture of it. I think I posted in the Facebook group because I was just like, “Yep, mhmm. That is the goal.”

Julie: I love that.

Carolyn: My doula came in. This is now at 11:00 a.m. This time, I got to use their wireless monitor which was super cool and much less uncomfortable than the other type. The same kind of deal, my doula drew the bath for me. It was really relaxing for me. But these contractions I could tell were getting stronger faster. It was just progressing much more quickly and at about 1:00 p.m., that wireless monitor was being a little iffy. They also wanted me to get out to pee, so I got out at 1:07. They checked me and there were like, “Okay. You are pretty much fully dilated,” but my water was in the way because this time my water hadn’t broken.

So again, my OB asked if it was okay to break my water. She did and I gave them a warning. I said, “Okay, warning. There might be a lot of fluid just based on how I was last time,” and sure enough, the same thing. An absurd amount of fluid came out. The nurse was calling for more towels and I peed both on the bed and on the ground. I am just a pee machine, I don’t know. So after that, she confirmed, “Yep. You are fully dilated.” I tried to go to the actual bathroom to go pee, but as soon as I sat down on the toilet, I was like, “This is what that feels like, that fetal ejection reflex. This is it.”

And the panic on the nurses’ faces when I said, “Yeah. I am not trying to push but I am pushing.” They were like, “Get out of the bathroom right now!” I was relieved to feel that because I never really got to that point with my son. This whole time, I kept wanting to say to my OB, “Can you just tell me there’s no going back now and I am getting a VBAC?” But I was too scared to jinx it. And like I said before, she was really straightforward so I didn’t want to put her in a situation to have to tell me, “No. It’s not looking good actually.”

So I came out of the bathroom and started pushing. I tried a couple of different positions and eventually switched to a sitting-up-throne position. I don’t know if that is really what it was called. It was a lot more comfortable for me. They had all of these handlebars and little props for my feet to go in. To me, I felt like it was taking a long time, but I could tell from the reactions of the nurses and my doctor that things were progressing in a good way. The reactions were really excited and everyone was encouraging me. I was nervous, but I was so excited.

From what it sounded like, I was pretty much holding my breath while I was pushing. I could see them getting oxygen ready. That freaked me out because that was not something I went through with my first labor. I feel like actually maybe from listening to my podcast, I know that in some cases, that is something that they do when the baby is in distress, so when she came with the oxygen, I was like, “Oh my gosh. Is the baby okay?” And they were like, “No, no, no. You just literally need oxygen.”

I’m telling you before I knew it, everyone was screaming, “Grab her!” And I’m like, “What do you mean, ‘Grab her?!’”

Sure enough, there she was. I pulled her out and up onto my chest and I was in absolute disbelief. We have a video and I’m saying “I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it.” I just really pictured it being a lot slower of just one push, and then another push, and then another push but really it was– at least to me, it felt like one big push and she was perfectly healthy. I held her almost for an hour before they even took her to go give her the full check-up.

I did have some pretty severe tearing which was not ideal, but I will take it. I feel like I had nurses and other people be like, “Oh my gosh. I am so sorry about the tear,” and I was like, “Literally, what are you talking about? I do not care about that. I got my VBAC. My baby is perfect. Everything is great as it should be.” That night, I did not even sleep a wink. Not because of the baby, but I was just so happy. I just kept reliving the day. I mean truly, it was everything I wanted it to be and it just made me so happy.

I feel like it made me become a VBAC spokesperson because whenever I see someone that I know who has had a C-section, I’m like, “Did you know you don’t have to have another C-section? You can do something else!”

Meagan: You have options!

Carolyn: Yes, I know. I’m like, “I need little cards to pass out.” But yeah, that is the whole thing. Yeah. So grateful to the podcast, and to the Facebook group, and friends and family, and my husband, and doula, and OB, and everybody, but just an amazing experience and something, obviously, that I will never forget.

Meagan: Yeah, absolutely. Well, you know it is funny because one of the other episodes that we were just talking about, I am like, yeah this is Sili texting, like talking about it and you just said the word against you but I’m like it is so crazy how some of these babies just come out like that.

Carolyn: Yes.

Meagan: Other moms, they push for hours and hours. It’s just so crazy how different our bodies and pelvises are, but they all still usually come out. That’s what we want in the end– a baby.

Yes. But huge congrats though. Seriously, so awesome. So happy for you and we are so grateful that you were with us today.

Carolyn: Yeah, thank you so much.

Julie: Absolutely. Thank you so much for sharing.


Interested in sharing your VBAC story on the podcast? Submit your story at thevbaclink.com/share. For more information on all things VBAC including online and in-person VBAC classes, The VBAC Link blog, and Julie and Meagan’s bios, head over to thevbaclink.com. Congratulations on starting your journey of learning and discovery with The VBAC Link.

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