TVL Holiday Special #3 Stephanie with My Essential Birth + Preparing Physically
Manage episode 350161051 series 2500712
For our final holiday special podcast episode, we want to help you feel as physically prepared as possible when going for your VBAC!
Stephanie of My Essential Birth joins Meagan to share her wisdom from her own two VBAC births as well as what she has helped women learn through her many years as a birth worker.
You will hear tips on how to choose and vet providers, three free exercises that might just make all the difference during your labor, and the secret lesson Stephanie has learned that she wants all of our listeners to know.
Stephanie's Website and Course
Pregnancy and Birth Made Easy Podcast
How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents
Full Transcript under Episode Details
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Meagan: Hello, hello you guys. It is the end of the year. This is Meagan with The VBAC Link and I have another holiday edition for you. Today is one that I am so excited about because this is someone that I know personally. She’s a dear friend of mine and we have taken similar journeys through our doula careers, so it’s really fun to be with someone that I already know and that we have the same mindset and goals for all of you out there.
This is Stephanie and she is amazing. So amazing. She is a mom and a doula. She’s had a VBAC and she actually has an amazing course through My Essential Birth. That’s correct, right? My Essential Birth?
Meagan: It’s a course on how to prepare and get ready for birth. She has the same drive, I feel like, and passion as I do to get the information out to all of you and to help you know what is best for you whether it be, again, scheduling a repeat Cesarean or having a VBAC or maybe you’re a first-time mom and you just want to know how to go along the way, seriously, Stephanie is going to be that person for you. So I’m so excited today to have her on. Welcome, Steph.
Stephanie: Thank you. That’s quite an introduction. I love it. Come to my podcast. Do the same thing.
Meagan: No, no seriously. I was going to say, she has a full-on introduction here too. But you are amazing. You are so amazing and I love what you have done with My Essential Birth. You’re busy. You’ve got three kids. You’ve got three kids and something too that is really fun is every single birth has been so different which I think just broadens your knowledge and passion, even more, to do what you do because for me, my births were all so different and I don’t know, I really don’t know if I would be here today if I didn’t have all of those births.
Stephanie: Yeah, 100%. Yes.
Meagan: Don’t you feel like these experiences in our lives have brought us here today and have brought passion to our hearts? But yeah. On top of that, you homeschool. You do so many things. You wear so many hats, so I’m so grateful for you taking the time today to talk to us about all of the amazing things that you do.
But I think one of the really cool things right off the bat is, let’s talk about your VBACs and how you really got started in all of this.
Stephanie: Yeah, I think you really hit the nail on the head because 100%, if I hadn’t had the experiences with the births that I have had, I wouldn’t have not only the passion but the knowledge from seeing things go wrong. It makes me think of when I was 16 and I got my first car and it was a piece of crap and everything broke down on it so I had to learn about things [inaudible].
Stephanie: No, I’m not comparing my body to a car, but I will say that those experiences totally shaped the way that I do what I do today and the passion behind it. My first baby– now, mind you, in my head, this was my goal. I wanted to go unmedicated. It was what I wanted to do. I just wanted to have that experience for myself for no particular reason. That’s just what I wanted to do.
We got around 34-35 weeks and I was reading a birth story online. Mind you, this was 13, 14 years ago, so it was a little bit ago not like what we see today with birth stories and stuff, but I’m at work and bawling because I’m super pregnant.
I’m like, “That’s what I want my birth to be like,” so I researched the classes that kind of went along with this book and I reached out to some local birth educators. It was this 12-week series and I had four or five weeks left to go. There was this one lady that was like, “Okay, I’ll do these intensive courses on the weekend if you could make it.” I’m over like, “My husband works every weekend. We’re super broke.” She was going to do it for this bigger prize. I’m like, “It’s fine. I’ll wing it. It’s going to be fine.”
Fast forward to that birth and missing some red flags, things like my provider telling me when first of all, he didn’t want to have the conversation until 36 weeks about what the birth was going to be like, so I told him early on, “I don’t want to have an epidural. I want to go unmedicated.” He was like, “We don’t talk about that until 36 weeks.” That was a red flag, but I didn’t know any better.
Meagan: Interesting, yeah. Because that’s what they do.
Stephanie: Uh-huh and I was like, “Okay. Sure.” Totally. He was super old school. There were a couple of things and just the way that he talked to me that I should have caught on, but when 36 weeks came and I said, “I really want to go unmedicated,” and whatever and he was talking about, “Well, I actually let my patients get their epidurals much earlier than others. Why be in pain?” And I’m like, “No, it’s really important to me.” And then he continued with, “Well, women with size 5.5 shoes and smaller tend to have Cesarean births.”
Now, mind you, I’m a small person. I’m 5’0”. My shoe size is 5.5 and I’m sitting there just, “You’ve got to be freaking kidding me,” because my grandmother who was 4’10”, and her grandmother. I’m just going down the line like, “Nobody would be here. What are we talking about?” But at the same time, I’m a new mom. It’s my first birth. I’m scared, so I stayed with him, and anyways, the cascade of intervention that happened was my water broke with just a trickle. I didn’t have contractions. The provider ended up telling me once I was at the hospital that I needed to have Pitocin and I say that because I remember asking the nurse, “Did he say that word need?”
She was like, “I’ll come back.” But she was like, “He said need.” So I said, “Okay, well then I must need Pitocin.” So we took Pitocin. That baby did not do well with it. He couldn’t crank up the Pitocin enough to make the contraction strong enough to actually make labor progress because my baby’s heart rate would drop. That was, in my opinion, a medically-caused Cesarean because yes, when I have a baby in distress, then there we are.
So that was my first experience with birth. I didn’t connect with my baby right away. On top of being a new mom and figuring out life, I had just had abdominal surgery. I was a mess of emotions and then the next two births are where I found some redemption and healing and passion and power for women’s bodies and what we can do.
During my second birth, we had moved overseas to Germany and I was meeting with a doctor. I’d met with an OB but it was actually midwives who you give birth with. I had taken a really good birth course and I had been practicing a lot of stuff. I did not understand a ton about positioning though for my baby and so I had two days of prodromal labor which is not that big of a deal.
Two days of prodromal labor, then finally things kicked in and I was in full active labor, but then I had pushing contractions at 4 centimeters, so now, my doula brain goes, “Oh, it’s a positional thing. I have all of these ideas,” but then, I was like, “Oh my gosh. I’m not going to make it.” And then too, the wonderful German nurse there– there was a little bit of a language barrier for sure, but I was like, “I really want to get into the water.” She was like, “Oh, later. And also, I have something, honey, that will take all of that away. You just let me know if you want a little bit. We’ll just stick it in the bum. A little bit of pain meds.” At the time, I was like, “Yeah, that’s a good idea. Let’s try that.”
But I had the pain meds. That ended up being like, I was comfortable before two contractions before my water broke. It took the edge off enough that my body was like, “Let’s get things started,” but then the contractions were right back on. I did end up with an epidural for that birth. My baby did fine with the Pitocin. I pushed that baby out vaginally. I wasn’t forced into another Cesarean or anything and that birth was amazing. I was very, very pleased with the way that that birth went.
And then we were moving from Germany back to the United States, particularly to North Dakota. If you know anything about North Dakota, they don’t even have– my midwife was not a licensed midwife on purpose. You cannot be a licensed midwife and deliver babies outside of a hospital setting. They can get arrested.
Meagan: Yeah. Yeah. It’s illegal.
Stephanie: It’s not the black market, but she’s not licensed. She was a direct-entry midwife. So we were moving back from overseas to North Dakota and I called the hospital first before I met with a home birth midwife. They told me, “Well, we don’t really care that you’ve had a vaginal birth after Cesarean. You had a Cesarean before, so you need to plan for another scheduled Cesarean birth,” so talk about my red flags now.
Meagan: You’re like, “Nope. Nope.”
Stephanie: No way. I’m going to do whatever I have to do. So I did. I reached out to a home birth midwife. I found a doula and all of those things that I probably should have done with baby #1. We planned for me to have an unmedicated experience at home. I was really excited about that up until 35, 36 weeks. I had a breech baby for one and that breech baby, we were able to get him turned, so that part went away, but then it was the mental game of, “Can I actually do this? You’ve never not had an epidural.” All of that self-talk starts happening and it’s not good. My doula was like, “Here’s a list of affirmations. Take what you like. Leave the rest and start saying them out loud several times a day every day.”
And so I did that and within a week or so, I was like, “Oh my gosh.” I went from being scared and nervous to confident and excited. I was like, “I can do this.” So that baby had a week of prodromal labor. It was about 5 or 6 days of prodromal labor and then things get moving and I have some active labor that hit, but my contractions never really got closer than about 6 minutes apart.
They would last a minute to two minutes long, but they were never those super crazy close, consistent. Things kept going off in my head like, “If I was in the hospital, I definitely would have been offered a Cesarean birth.” It wouldn’t have been a question, especially in that hospital. These contractions were coming. My midwife, we finally call her and I’m like, “Look. I’ve been in prodromal labor and now it’s active labor, but they’re not closer than 6 minutes.” She checks me and I’m 6 centimeters. I was like, “My labor is progressing on my own.” It was so cool.
And then it was another 12 hours from that point and I had my baby. But it was incredible. Those contractions and just knowing that my body was doing what it was meant to do. There was a point where I was like, “Oh my gosh. I’m so tired. I need to sleep.” For sure, we went upstairs. I slept for 45 minutes. I had two contractions. It was another moment where I was like, “Yeah.” If I was at the hospital, somebody would say, “Oh, she’s stalling. We’ve got to do something.” Whatever.
But those two contractions and the second one, I woke up and I was like, “Oh my gosh, what is happening? I can’t do this anymore.” Sure enough, I’m thinking, this better be transition. My midwife comes in. She had heard me. She was sleeping downstairs. She comes to the door. She’s like, “Do you want me to check you?” I’m like, “Yes, please. Let’s see where I’m at.” She’s like, “You’re 9.5 with a bouncy lip of cervix. You’re good to go. Let’s get you to go to the bathroom. You can get in the birth tub now.” So we did that and i can laugh about it now, but I went downstairs. I went to the bathroom and after I was done peeing, I had my first pushing contraction.
I remember telling my husband, “I don’t want to give birth on the toilet. I have to get out of here.” 4.5 hours later because of the mental blocks that I had– we can laugh about that now, but at the time, it was very serious. Like, “I’d better get to the birth tub.”
Meagan: Yeah. I’d better get out of here.
Stephanie: Yeah, but it was wonderful. I will tell you the differences. The major differences for me in the spaces that I was in for being able to give birth unmedicated and as a VBAC, my birth team made the biggest difference. When I was at home and feeling like, “Oh my gosh. I can’t do this anymore. Oh my goodness. I’ve been pushing so long. I’m so tired,” everyone was like, “But you are doing it. You’re doing great. Keep it up.” I’m like, “Oh. I can take that in and chill and feel supported.”
So I did. We kind of joke about, first of all, I was making noises that my husband the next day told me, “You sound like the screaming goats.” I was like, “Oh my gosh. I do.”
Meagan: I was called a cow. My husband was like, “You’re a mooing cow in there.” I’m like, “Thank you so much.”
Stephanie: Well, the best part of this story, I actually love this story, the next day, my husband is sitting at the table and showing our little boys the screaming goat video. His mom’s walking down the stairs and goes, “You recorded her?!”
Stephanie: So I’m like, “Okay, yeah. I get it. I get it. I really did sound like that.”
Meagan: You really did sound like that. That is so funny.
Stephanie: But anyways, I’m pushing all this time and I do remember hitting a point even during pushing, I’m like, “Oh my gosh. I can’t do this.” I was scared. I had never pushed a baby out before. Instead of holding my breath and bearing down, I was purposely breathing through my nose and not leaning into that pushing. My husband was finally like or I told him, “You need to make the bed. I need to get out of the tub,” because in my head, all I’m thinking about was, “If I can’t do this, then I’m going to have to go to the hospital. We’re going to have to call an ambulance. The lights are going to be on. There’s going to be people I don’t know.” I had to walk myself through all of those things.
Meagan: You were really deep in that space. Yeah.
Stephanie: Yeah. I was like, “No. This has to happen here because I can’t deal with all of that.” So I told my husband, “Go upstairs. Make the bed.” I was like, “Make sure you get the lining down so we don’t mess up the mattress and all of that.” When he went upstairs, it was the first time that I paused and tuned into myself. I just said a quick prayer and for me, I call God Heavenly Father. “Heavenly Father, please. I can’t do this alone. I’m scared.”
My husband comes down the stairs. I’m just finishing that prayer. He’s ready to lift me out of the water. He was like, “Come on. Let’s go. Let’s go now.” He went to lift me and I’m like, “No. It’s happening.” Two pushes later, that baby was out.
Meagan: Oh, that just gave me major chills.
Stephanie: It was the most spiritual experience of my life. I love everything about it. Yes, it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done physically. Mentally, how it pushes you to your limits, and then you feel like you are the strongest woman alive. You can do anything. You’re a good mother. You’re all of the things. It was that feeling and looking at what I had done through having good support that I was like, “No. We’re lying to women. You know what? If I could do this, anyone can. So now I’m going to become a birth educator and now I”m going to work with women one-on-one. I know that you can do this.”
So that’s where the passion came from. Those were my birth stories.
Meagan: I love it. I love it. Oh, that just gave me such chills. You know what’s interesting is I don’t think I’ve ever even heard all of your birth stories like that.
Stephanie: Oh really?
Meagan: I don’t think I have. We have some similarities. We have some similarities.
Stephanie: I know. I’ve read through some of yours too. I love it. Yeah.
Meagan: Even more. I don’t think I realized. Yeah, maybe I have and it was a long time ago and I forgot, but there are a lot of similarities. I love it. You’ve had these VBACs. You found this passion and here you are today. So in past episodes, we’ve talked about mentally preparing and mentally getting into that space. You just did that. You just talked about that which is so important.
It is so crucial to be in that space because when we’re out here, we can’t dive into birth. I feel like I did the same thing. I wish that it was recorded so I could really show people how big of a tantrum I was throwing, but I was legitimately throwing a tantrum in my driveway pacing back and forth saying, “If my water wouldn’t have just broken, this would be totally different. This is happening all over again.” I was really spiraling and everyone just sat there. My neighbor was seeing me. She was like, “Oh!” I’m like, “I’m in labor.” She stopped and was like, “Is she okay?” Rick was like, “She’s just gonked or something right now.”
I had her watching me. My mom was watching me. The kids were like, “Mom!” I’m throwing my hands and voicing everything that was in my head out loud getting it out there but I needed to do that. I needed to do that but as soon as I could get that out, I remember the drive. We were getting in the car to go to the birth center and meet my midwife. I had my baby later that night, but it was the morning before I had my baby and he was just like, “So, how did that feel?” I was like, “So good.” I just remember labor coming on so much stronger. You have to get in that head space.
We know there is the headspace, but what about the physical? I feel like there is so much goodness that you talk about. The physical aspect of preparing for birth and not even just preparing to actually give birth, but preparing and creating that team and creating that environment.
One of the first things is knowing your stuff. How can our listeners know their stuff? Right now, they are listening to this, so this is what you can do to know your stuff. But yeah. When you say ‘know your stuff’, what would that all entail? What would you suggest?
Stephanie: Yeah, this is kind of the tricky thing that I’m always weighing one thing against the other where it’s knowing what you want for your birth and how to get there and then making sure that you’re vetting your provider. They really do go hand in hand but it’s really tricky because just depending on what order you take, you may have to change up one or the other. But when it comes to understanding what you need in order to have the birth that you desire, one of the things that I tell moms to do is, “Take a meditative moment. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Picture yourself from that very first contraction through to when you give birth. What does that look like? Where are you? Who is around you? What are the lights like? What do you smell? What do you see?”
That will help you decide. It gives you some idea of how to get there or what you’re going to need in order to get there. I’ll do this exercise with moms and moms that were planning to give birth at a hospital but never make it there in their minds. They’re at home. They don’t ever get in the car to go to the hospital. They’ve had their baby at home. So I think really understanding what you are looking for. And even for a mom that has that experience, she’s planning to give birth at a hospital, but she has this really calm, relaxing thing at home, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she needs to be giving birth at home although it could, maybe it’s more of, “So I need to have control over my body, control over the situation. I need to be in my own clothes,” and those sorts of things.
Meagan: Oh, I love that you just said that.
Stephanie: And really understanding what is creating that image in your mind. But of course, I’m going to talk about taking a good birth course because not only is that what I did that was so life-changing for me but that is what I help moms do today just like you have a birth course where you talk about preparing for VBAC. A good birth course is going to include all of those things like how to stay healthy and low-risk with nutrition, and good exercise that you can do not just moving your body and keeping your heart rate, but what are things positionally that you can do for yourself and your baby? How are you going to stretch the perineal area or use the specific muscles that are going to be used for birthing and labor time?
That’s going to be all the way through understanding each phase of labor, how to work with your birth partner, how they can support you, how relaxation can be so important and meditation, all the way through to birth and postpartum. That includes every situation that can happen on the way. When you walk into your birth space, are you going to have an IV or wear your own clothes? Do you want to have intermittent fetal monitoring or do you want to be on the monitor the whole time? If you’re talking induction, what are your options?
So I think really understanding what your options are, and some of that changes as your birth changes or as other options are provided whether or not you have gestational diabetes or if you’re GBS positive. Those are different decisions you have to play with and make, but if you like listening to podcasts, taking a good birth course, watching birth videos, if you’re gathering all of that information and coming together for yourself deciding what you want for yourself, then you can move into asking the right questions to help that provider because that really is the next step.
You can have this wonderful birth that you have thought of and dreamed of in your mind and if your provider is not on the same page, if they are not supportive, you might not get it at all and it’s not even your fault.
Meagan: I know. That is so hard because sometimes we don’t know what it looks like to have that supportive provider. We don’t know what it looks like because for me, with my first birth, I went to my OB and he was really nice and welcoming, and charming. I was like, “Cool. He’s rad. He’s great,” and then there were the red flags but I didn’t see those red flags.
It's so hard to know how to find that provider and you say to vet your provider. What do you mean by vetting your provider and what tips would you give to start that process and know right away what you really want to look for?
Stephanie: Yeah. I’m glad you asked that. I think probably one of the best things you can do is meet with more than one and different practices.
Meagan: Yes. Yes. Different practices are such a big thing because even the one provider in the same practice, they’re going to have similarities so it is so important to branch out. When I was going that with my VBAC baby, I did. I went to multiple people and I could physically feel the difference without even speaking to anybody.
Stephanie: Yes. 100%. I always said that I didn’t believe I was intuitive at all just as a person, I don’t feel like I am in touch with myself. If that’s you, you’re wrong. Just like you explained right there, we do. You know when you have conversations with other people or you walk into a room. There’s a feeling there and how you’re treated matters.
The problem is, I think and I mean, I’m guilty of it too. I think we put providers on this pedestal and they’re kind of untouchable. They’re above us in some way because they’re gone to school and they’ve got knowledge about things that we don’t. In some ways, maybe that’s true. That’s why we hire them because they have skills that we need that we can’t meet while we are in our vulnerable state.
The other side of that is that they are also a person and how they treat us matters. And so when you are asking questions and meeting with providers, how are you feeling? Were you respected? Were you rushed when you bring up something? Providers will actually eye roll or laugh at some of the things that you say. That’s a red flag.
Meagan: It’s so true. Yes.
Stephanie: I say too, you know what? Go meet with a birth center out-of-hospital provider. You don’t have to plan on giving birth there at all. Pay attention to how you are treated. How does that feel for you? For people that are maybe interested in that and they are like, “Oh, that’s so scary and my husband doesn’t want to or my birth partner really doesn’t want me out of the hospital,” great. Go take him and have a free interview with an out-of-hospital care provider and just see how you feel. If you hate it or it’s not for you, then that’s great but I think that you need to have the contrast. I think you deserve to have the contrast.
It’s the same with doulas. I’m like, “You don’t know if you want a doula? Great. Go meet with one anyways. It’s a free consult and then you can decide.” But vetting a provider, like I said, you have to have some questions going in. VBAC-specific moms, they’re going to want to know things like, “Okay. For a mom like me, I’m healthy and low-risk. It’s my second baby and I’ve only had one Cesarean birth. What does it look like for someone like me in your practice having a vaginal birth after a Cesarean? What are your percentage rates? Do you use the VBAC calculator or how do you decide? Do you induce? What are your reasons for induction and can I say no?” You always can but it’s always fun to ask a provider, “Can I say no?” The answer should always be yes but it might not be. “We’ll talk about it when we get there.”
So you have to have some specific questions that you’re bringing in to decide if this is somebody that you can handle and you are probably maybe not going to match up on every single thing. That’s okay too, but are those big things being met? I think that’s what helps you decide, “Is this going to be a good match for me or not?”
Meagan: Yeah. I love that. And just tuning into your overall feeling. Like you said, providers can eye roll and they can be subtle. They can be subtle, really subtle, right? Even midwives can do that too.
Stephanie: Oh totally, yes.
Meagan: OBs, midwives, it’s so important to really tune into that. I think it’s so important to do that even before becoming pregnant too. Sometimes to find an OB—if you are thinking that you want to become pregnant soon and you have an OB or a midwife, start there. That’s totally fine, but it’s okay to branch out and say, “I’m not expecting yet. I’m preparing. I want to find that provider right from the beginning.” Sometimes that doesn’t happen, but I think it’s good to do if you can. I mean, I wasn’t pregnant and I went to 12 providers.
Stephanie: I love it.
Meagan: 12 providers which were maybe excessive. Maybe, but that’s what I needed. I needed to go and I needed to hear all of their things and feel all of that in those environments. I chose the provider that I thought was totally amazing. He still is. I’m not saying he’s not, but for me, I thought he was perfect. He was exactly what I needed out of everybody and then I still changed at 24 weeks, right?
And so a lot of people are like, “Why would you change? He’s so supportive.” I’m like, “He is so supportive and I still feel all the good, but something is not resonating.” That’s okay too. Even if you do find your provider. Say at your appointment, you find your provider and you’re not feeling it or you’re getting things like Stephanie where it’s like, “Hey, this is what I want to do.” “We don’t talk about that yet.” Those types of things, if they are not willing to hear you and they don’t want to know how they can help you in this birth experience, are red flags.
Don’t feel like you have to stay like both Stephanie and I did because I felt like I had to stay too. I felt like I was cheating on my provider if I left him. He had gone this far with me. He had supported me this far, but at the same time, I truly believe I probably wouldn’t have had that second Cesarean. I really don’t believe that if I would have changed, but it’s okay because it’s my birth story and that’s why I’m here, but it’s okay. It’s okay if you’re feeling off and you want to change. It’s okay to do that.
Stephanie: Yeah. I think you can’t shout that from the rooftops enough because it’s true. You do feel like, “Oh, I’m going to hurt their feelings or something.” No, you’re not and if you do, who cares? You’re never going to see them again. Let it go.
Stephanie: It’s so important for you and your future. It’s such an important moment for you. It doesn’t matter. It should trump that.
Meagan: It should trump that. Someone else’s feelings. That’s the hardest thing. We have so many people out there. If you are a people pleaser, you’re not alone and it’s easy to please your provider. You want to please your provider, but remember, they are working for you. They are there for you. If they’re not pleasing you, it’s okay to leave. It is okay to leave and so yeah. It’s a hard thing to do, but I do encourage people to tune in, follow their hearts, tune into that and do what’s best for them because if they don’t truly vet their provider, it can make or break an experience.
Stephanie: Yeah, it can. A good provider is going to help make it just like you said. My midwife and my doula who were in that third birth, oh my gosh. They are a part of my life forever whether they like it or not. You are bonded with those people forever and you need that kind of support in your life.
Meagan: Right, yes. Yes. Okay, so we’re talking about knowing your stuff and vetting your provider. Now, let’s talk about putting in the work. We’ve got these things. Now, going for it. What things would you suggest?
Stephanie: Yeah as far as putting in the work, I really recommend– and I have it on my website as well and you can tell me if you like these ideas or not, but I recommend these three exercises that you can do every day. First is the forward-leaning inversion. You’re literally—you get up on a low-lying chair or couch probably with support. Put a pillow down in front of you. Get your elbows on the ground with your bum in the air and you hold that for three breaths. You do that once a day. If you’re somebody who has heartburn or something, obviously, you’re maybe going to want to not do that depending on how the heartburn is or there are a couple of people who shouldn’t do that.
Basically, that is really good because it releases certain ligaments. It allows more room for baby. It allows for really good positioning. That’s something that you can do to make sure baby is in a good position.
Meagan: Every day.
Stephanie: Every day. An easier, more comfortable labor. The other thing you’re going to do is pelvic tilts. You can choose to do how many you want, but I like to do them at least when I get up in the morning and before I go to bed. That’s 20-40 tilts. That’s in the hands-and-knees position. You’re tilting your pelvis forward and into a flat back, forward and into a flat back.
Again, that’s strengthening certain areas. It’s helping baby’s position. Those are really, really good for you to be doing.
The third one is the squat. This is a deep-seated squat. It’s not like we are going to grab weights and do a weighted squat or anything like that. This is like how you see people in third-world countries who don’t have chairs or new babies, toddlers when they go down to squat and play with something, look at that squat because that’s the one that you are going for.
The reason for that is because it stretches the perineal area. It strengthens the muscles in your legs. Chances are when it was pushing time, you’re going to be in some kind of squat. Now maybe not, but chances are the majority of us are going to end up there. The other thing about squatting is that it shortens the birth canal, it makes it easier to be able to push baby out and that’s why we end up in that position but if you’re practicing that squat specifically, and this is where my husband was so good. “I’ll tell you what, for every minute you squat for the day, I will give you a minute of massage at the end of the night.” I was like--
Meagan: Oh my gosh. Done. Done, done, done.
Stephanie: An hour a night, I am not joking. So he was so good supporting me that way, but I’ll tell you what, when I started squatting and it was probably later in my pregnancy like 34-35 weeks. When I started squatting, it was 1-2, maybe 3 minutes before my legs were numb, my feet hurt and I had to stand up. Everything was tingling, but a couple of weeks in, I could hold it for 15 minutes comfortably.
So when I was telling you before that I was pushing for 4.5 hours, I was in a birth tub in a squatted position for that amount of time—
Stephanie: --and I remember thinking, “I’m so glad I practiced these squats because I wouldn’t have had the stamina.” As far as physical prep, those are things that you can do every single day.
Meagan: I love that.
Stephanie: Thank you. I know and I’m like, you and I have taken some similar training and stuff. It’s valid. It’s real.
Meagan: It really is.
Stephanie: The other things that you can do are, let’s stay healthy and low-risk. That means you’re eating a high-protein diet. You’re drinking a lot of water. You’re taking your prenatals, well-balanced. That matters because it can keep things like preeclampsia at bay. It’s also going to make you feel better and give you more energy, so there are a lot of benefits to that. But my favorite part of staying healthy and low-risk is that you remain in charge of your birth decisions. That’s why it matters to me so much. It’s not even just for the health of myself and my baby. It also comes down to, “I want to have a say as to how all of this goes.”
So those are some of the physical things. Then we move into the, once I understand how birth works, what are the signs that I’m in labor? What are the signs I’m in active labor? How do I work with my body? Learning things like relaxation and I do that through relaxation practice. Even just a simple one, and you can do this with your birth partner or by yourself, but you set up this stage. So use your senses. You should be leaning back in a chair or in your bed lights dimmed with essential oil or a consistent smell that your body gets used to smell. You just practice breathing deep into your belly. Imagine how you breathe when you wake up in the morning. First thing, pay attention to how you breathe when your eyes first open. It’s really deep belly breaths so try to aim for that.
Do that for 10 minutes. Just go from your head to your toe and be like, “Okay. I’m going to feel the hairs on my head relax, and then my eyebrows, and then my jaw.” All the way down. The thing is, it’s not easy to do when you’re not used to relaxing but when you utilize all of those senses, then it becomes something called muscle memory.
So if I know my body knows because I’ve been doing this for the last several months that every time the lights are dimmed and I smell lavender essential oil and I’m breathing into my belly, then when you do those things during labor, it’s like, “Oh, lights are dimmed and lavender,” then you don’t really have to think about it.
Meagan: It’s intuitive.
Stephanie: Yes. “I’m supposed to relax now.” And then obviously you need to practice relaxation. Once you get good at that, you can practice it with the lights on, with the TV on, with your husband or kids walking through the room because that’s the reality of birth and especially if you’re in a hospital.
Meagan: Yes, yes.
Stephanie: But learning relaxation is really important. And then you move into—there’s a lot more to do with that like meditation and the mental stuff and all of that. Labor rehearsal where you practice with ice and other things. There is plenty that you can do, but I would say relaxation, your three exercises, and staying healthy and low-risk are probably just top of the list things that you can do on a daily basis.
Meagan: Oh my gosh. I love it. So good, so good. I love that you talked about preparing and then it becomes muscle memory. It’s so true. It’s so, so true. I encourage if you’re ever in a moment where you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed to dive into that because there are going to be moments in labor and birth when you might feel stressed and overwhelmed. If you can practice doing that in those moments, oh my gosh. It’s going to be so beneficial.
So I know we’re almost out of time, but I wanted to ask you what is a secret lesson or something no one really talks about that you wish you would have known ahead of time when preparing for time?
Stephanie: That would be that you can say ‘no’ to anything. I feel like I teach this all day long and I talk about it a lot. I don’t know how often moms let that register because they will know that and then you’ll get with their provider and they’re doing non-stress tests or whatever and it’s like, all of a sudden, oh crap. I need this and this and this. No. You can actually say ‘no’ to literally anything.
Meagan: Anything, yeah.
Stephanie: Anything, yeah. They can’t do anything. The best that they can do is make you sign, what is it?
Meagan: An AMA.
Stephanie: A medical release, yeah. AMA, against medical advice.
Meagan: Against medical advice.
Stephanie: Sign it. Sign it. It’s your body. You get to choose. And then kind of like I talked about, when I talk about health and nutrition, I think a lot of times, moms don’t register. “Okay, yeah. I get it. I’m supposed to be healthy.” But it’s so you can be low-risk and in charge of your birth. I think that’s a really important part of that.
Meagan: Yes. I think so too. It’s so hard. It’s so hard to be in that moment and be like, “Uh, okay.” When you’re like, “I really wanted to say no. I had a prenatal last night with a client and they were like, “One of the biggest things that we don’t want to do is go in and just say yes to everything. That’s one of their biggest goals is not to just say yes to everything. They’re not saying, “We want to refuse everything,” they’re just saying, “We want to be educated and we want to know what we’re saying yes to.”
It's so important to know. If you are saying yes, know why you are saying yes. And if not, it’s okay to say no or “One moment. Let me think about it.” It’s okay because there are times where things are going to be thrown at you and it is hard to say, “No” or actually, “I want more time” or “I’m not sure about that right now” but you can. You can. You have the right to say no. You have the right. So it’s so important to know. I love that. Any last final tips for someone preparing for VBAC that you would like to give to our listeners?
Stephanie: I think we’ve kind of touched on this before. It just really matters who you pick for your provider. I know we kind of talked about some things that warrant a red flag or time to interview somebody else or something, but really, if you’ve got that education and you’ve got that provider piece, you’re setting yourself up for success. It should be somebody that supports you, not tolerates the opportunity to try for a VBAC, but somebody who believes in the natural process of birth and that having a vaginal birth after a Cesarean is more healthy and safer for mom and baby than having another abdominal surgery. I think that matters that you’ve got somebody that believes that way.
Meagan: Totally. I love that. Oh, well thank you so much for being here with us today. I want you listeners to know that she has the three free, that’s what you say, right?
Stephanie: Yes, three free exercises.
Meagan: Three free exercises. I’m having a hard time lately with tongue twisters. Three free exercises, so we are going to be providing that in our email. If you’re not subscribed to our email, please check it out because we are going to be providing so many new things and some really exciting upcoming things with The VBAC Link are going to be happening.
We are going to be providing that and then will you tell everybody where they can find you? Because everyone needs to know where you’re at and follow you.
Stephanie: Thank you, yes. So I too have a podcast. It is called Pregnancy and Birth Made Easy. Pregnancy and Birth Made Easy is the podcast so anywhere you listen to podcasts, you can take that in. I’m also on Instagram @myessentialbirth, Facebook, TikTok, all the things, and then if you are looking for information on the birth course or anything else in regards to where some of the podcast show notes and some of that live, it’s myessentialbirth.com.
Meagan: Yes and all of these will be listed in our show notes today so if you want to go follow her which I promise you that you do, go click that and give her a follow because her content is amazing. Her podcast is amazing and it’s been such an honor to have you here today.
Stephanie: Thank you, Meagan. I love what you do too and I love that we get to do this together.
Meagan: Me too. Yeah, so before we let everyone go, I didn’t really give a full, “Hey, we know each other,” but we actually were in the same doula course. We became doulas together which seems like forever ago, but it was so fun to be there and to learn. You had already had your VBACs, hadn’t you?
Stephanie: I did.
Meagan: Yes and I hadn’t yet. I had only had my two Cesareans and so I just remember you being so inspirational to me and motivating me. I was like, “Okay. She could do it. She’s here. She is doing this too. We have the same interests,” and I just connected to you so much.
Stephanie: Same, yeah. Well then, and now look at you with The VBAC Link. You just took off. I love it.
Meagan: I love being here and I love being here with all of our listeners, so again, listeners, thank you so much for being here with us today, and thanks again, Steph.
Stephanie: Thank you.
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