Laine, your mom had an unplanned cesarean with your brother Issac. Although it was the best thing for him, she really hoped to have a Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) with you– she knew a vaginal birth would be the best for both of you. She started doing her research early– she chose a supportive doctor and midwife, and hired a doula (that’s me). Together, with husband Todd, we were the BIRTH TEAM OF AWESOMENESS. This is your story from my perspective:

Heather had been doing everything she could to maintain a healthy pregnancy– She was seeing Robb Hoffman for acupuncture to keep her blood pressure down, Myra Hoffman for adjustments, she did a Birth Story Processing workshop with midwife Liane to “process” Issac’s story. She read, she researched, she took an Advanced Comfort Strategies class with Todd, all in preparation for a natural VBAC. They took care of a few last minute “home” items– a new car, sewer hookup at the house… finally things felt “ready”.

She informed me Thursday 3/22/12 that she had lost her mucous plug, and she was seeing Liane that day. She also went to Hoffman Health for an adjustment and “was stabbed by Robb” too– trying to get labor going. (she was 39 weeks and ready!) She walked 3 miles, ate lunch at Tacodeli and had a spicy cheesecake known for starting labor… said it was delightful. She worked on her tile project from Liane, had a romantic evening with Todd… all trying to get labor rolling. Friday, still “nothing”… more walking, a massage and pedicure… Reale’s for dinner that night. I told her even if labor didn’t start, it sounded like a great day!

Saturday around dinnertime Heather texted me that she was having “mild back pain” and more mucousy discharge. We agreed it could be very early labor… but not to give it much thought. Rest, hydrate, and relax… if it turned into something, great… By 8:20pm she texted again the contractions had started, but they were very mild and she and Todd were going to bed. (He had been on the roof most of the day putting up gutters, and was exhausted.) I hoped they would get some rest. But I had a feeling– and got my things ready.

By 8:50pm Todd called, and said “Today’s the day”… Heather was having contractions every 7-8 minutes, and they were strong. She was definitely having to work to get through them. We decided we’d wait til they were closer to every 5 minutes apart before heading to the hospital, but that I would join them at home until then. I changed and gathered my things, and was heading out within about 15 minutes, when I got another call… “Shelley, my water broke, Liane said to come right in”… ok, headed straight to the hospital instead!

I arrived at the Women’s Center of Central Texas at North Austin Medical Center around 9:30pm. Heather and Todd pulled up shortly after I arrived… Heather stating immediately– “We had to stop 7 times. Contractions in the car are no fun”. She was her usual smiley and cheerful self- until a contraction came. It was obvious she was really in labor now. I helped her get out of the car while Todd grabbed the essentials. We got her a wheelchair and a helpful daddy to be assisted us in getting up to labor and delivery. I told Todd he could leave the car there for now– best to get Heather settled into a room. Liane met us in the lobby and walked us in… we were escorted to room 2 right away. Liane saw Heather working hard, contractions now coming every 2-4 minutes, and was really glad she had come straight in. Heather just complained about her pants, they were wet, and she could not wait to get them off! I told her that would be no problem, we could not have a baby with pants on anyway!

Liane wanted to do an exam right away– we listened to your heartbeat and you were doing beautifully. “What a good girl”, remarked Liane. Heather was in bed, breathing, with Todd right by her side, telling her she was doing a good job. I reminded her to stay relaxed, although it was getting harder and harder. Heather said “Do not even try to tell me I am still 2.5 cm… Liane, if you have to lie, do it”. Liane promised to “lie through her teeth if she had to” although also said “I doubt I’ll have to!”

Sure enough, around 9:45pm Liane reported Heather to be 6cm, 90% and 0 station… wowza! That was amazing progress in only 1.5 hrs of “labor”. The staff began to scurry, getting things ready for a delivery– we anticipated things would go fast. Cathy, the charge nurse, came in to get Heather’s blood draw and saline lock set up. Sarah was our nurse, and did only the essentials to get Heather admitted– forgoing the routine questions and consent forms. Heather’s back was aching, so Liane got a hot pack… “wonderful”.

Dr. Andrea Campaigne arrived around 10pm, smiling, and in flip flops. “Dr. Bubbles is here”… said Todd– explaining he could never remember her name but it sounded like champagne– “I like it”, she said. It fit her- cheerful and smiley!

As Heather continued to work through the increasingly tough contractions, Todd stayed close, encouraging her, keeping her relaxed, reassuring her she was doing a wonderful job. Heather began to doubt if she could go on– wondering “how much longer… I don’t think I can do this much longer.” I told her at the rate she was going, she would not be doing this long. A fast labor can feel overwhelming and scary, but she was doing a great job. “Your body rocks!” We helped her get completely relaxed in between the contractions, and to moan and vocalize during them. “Think dying cow”. Todd moaned with her, helping her stay focused. Despite the intense labor, Heather was pretty much her usual self, chatty and laughing in between the contractions. If you didn’t catch her during a contraction, you wouldn’t even know she was in labor! (She even laughed at Liane’s cheesy jokes!)

Within an hour, Heather began to make sounds like she was beginning to push. Liane told her it was ok to push if she wanted… Heather was not sure. So we tried pushing a few times, but Heather said it did not feel right. Dr. Campaigne checked her- it was about 11pm– and said she was about 9cm, the baby was nice and low- but that we should hold off from pushing. I recommended the toilet, thinking she probably needed to pee, and the position would help her finish that last centimeter. Liane propped up a pillow over the back of the toilet, and Heather straddled it. Todd moved right in, touching and soothing Heather through the contractions, while I rubbed and pushed on her back. Within minutes, Heather’s sounds became primal and grunty– I told her she was doing just right, those were all the right sounds. She said incredilously, “THOSE are the right sounds?” I smiled, and assured her, yes, they were.

While Heather got more and more “pushy” Liane and Andrea waited patiently in the room… just listening. It became obvious Heather was actively pushing, so I recommended she get back to the bed so we could have her checked again. She wasn’t happy about moving, but Todd and I helped her.. and we made it back. Andrea did a quick check- cervix was all gone and it was ok to push!

It was about 11:30pm by then– we started pushing in a hands and knees position… Andrea gave good feedback initially. She recommended having Heather roll over so she could really check her progress. She tried to “help” make more room for the baby, but Heather asked she not. After about 45 minutes of great effort on Heather’s part, we still could not see your head. Andrea asked if she could have permission to “help” by making room for the baby to get around the pubic bone. Heather agreed to it. It was really painful, but within a few pushes, we saw instant improvement– we began to get glimpsed of your head!

We continued to try various changes in position to see what worked best. We tried side lying, and then the squatting bar– that seemed to work great, with Heather’s legs “leveraged” by the bar, holding onto the handles– like a rowboat. It didn’t take long at that point before we saw more and more of your head. Even Todd took a quick peek, and got even more excited– really stepping up the “coach” instinct– counting and shouting for Heather to PUSH!

After about 1.5 hrs of pushing, Heather began to really wilt and say she couldn’t go on. She asked about how much longer– and no one could answer for her. We assured her she was doing great, that there was absolute progress, and this type of forward motion, with slipping back was so normal, especially for a first vaginal baby. It didn’t help to hear “It’s normal”. Heather wanted to be DONE. She was exhausted– it was now about 1am, and she felt she had no more to give.

Andrea recommended some juice- to give her some fuel. She sipped cranberry juice and I encouraged her to rest completely between the contractions– to reserve her energy. Todd stepped the coaching up one more notch– probably most of the nurses station could have heard we were pushing! Your head was so close— almost crowning– for what seemed like forever. Heather begged Andrea to “Just take her– pull her out”, but Andrea insisted that wasn’t how this story was supposed to be… she assured Heather she could finish this. By now, Liane, the nurses, Todd and I were all actively coaching Heather to PUSH PUSH PUSH! Andrea was calling to you, “Come on Laine, come on little girl”. She was saying “yes, yes yes” when Heather’s pushes were particularly effective… finally you eased out at 1:19 am on Sunday, March 25th, 2012… Right into your mother’s open arms. Todd was emotional right away- he couldn’t believe you were here! Initially, Heather was just exhausted– but she welcomed you with love and joy. It was obvious both of your parents were thrilled to meet you. You had wonderfully chubby cheeks, and a sweet little face which looked a lot like your daddy.

You were eager and ready to nurse after some quick health check ups… a weigh in said you were 7 lbs 14 oz, and 19 ¾ inches long… you were brought back to your mama, who was so tired– I recommended she lay on her side so you could nurse and she could nap… which you both did. Even Todd snuck in a quick 30 minute nap while I helped keep an eye on you, so she could close her eyes. It had been a fast and furious labor– about 5 hrs start to finish, quite a sprint! And… quite awesome!

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Families report having a postpartum doula improved breastfeeding outcomes, increased their confidence as parents, helped them get better sleep, and improved their emotions, including reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.