I’ve been attending so many amazing VBAC births lately! Here is a “flashback” from 2011, posted by request from the mama who is so proud and excited to share her story with other families:

Your mom had experienced a cesarean birth for medical reasons with big brother Ryvers, but she was eager to experience a natural childbirth for you this time around. She sought out a physician who would support her wishes for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean), and decided a doula would help support her and your dad through the process. (That’s me) They took Prepared Childbirth classes, did their homework, and prepared themselves as the big day approached. We discovered only a few weeks before your due date that Dr. McIntyre was scheduled for hip surgery the week before you were due… we hoped that you’d wait, as it was very important to Shawna that Dr. McIntyre be there… she had been experiencing “warm up” labor all week.

On Monday morning, 8/29/11, around 7:30am, I got a text from Shawna, letting me know she had been contracting all night since about 11:30pm. She had been nauseous, as her system cleaned itself out in preparation for labor. Her contractions were about 7 minutes apart and lasted 45 seconds. They were sending Ryvers off to school and she’d keep in touch. She said they were “yucky”.

I spoke w/ Jeremy around 8:30am and he said the contractions were now about 4 minutes apart/one minute long, and much stronger, and Dr. M had recommended they come in for a check. I had a feeling this was “it” so went ahead and headed down to St Davids Medical Center to await their call. In his office, Dr. M checked Shawna, and found her to already be 3-­4 cm dilated, and 100 % effaced… what a great start! They decided to head on over to labor and delivery and get settled.

9:45am Arrival at the hospital. We had a “shuffle” of nurses initially, it had been a busy night (we even had to wait for our room to get cleaned!) but finally were settled, with Amee supporting us. Shawna’s nausea was behind her, thank goodness. We got her on the monitors – you looked great! Her contractions were 2-­3 minutes apart, and getting stronger and stronger. She was using her breathing and relaxation to get through them. Jeremy and I provided some back massage/pressure to help as well. Shawna rated the pain at a “6” at that time. Amee asked “Can you go to 10?” and she said YES!

Because Shawna had some scar tissue on her cervix, we knew it might not open in a “textbook” format… so I reminded her to just focus on her labor and trust her body knew what to do. She asked me “how long will it be like this­­ contractions so close together?” I told her most likely
until it was time to push­­ and reminded her to not focus on what was ahead, to say present in the here and now. She settled in, doing a beautiful job of managing the contractions. Amee was very patient, allowing Shawna to sign forms and answer questions between the contractions.

By 10:45am, Amee got Shawna’s IV set up and the first dose of antibiotics in place. Shawna reported the contractions “felt different”­­ stronger, lower. I suspected her body had kicked into gear and officially put her into active labor. Jeremy was by her side, softly talking, sharing a laugh.

At 11:15am, we took a walk to the restroom. Shawna was more serious… obviously working hard. “These suck”. Her contractions were 2-­3 minutes apart and 1-­2 minutes long. Her body wasn’t kidding around.

Dr. McIntyre came in around 11:45am, (cane in tow, only a week post op!) and wanted to check on her progress. Shawna was now 5 cm, 100% and 0 station… very encouraging. It was geat to hear all those contractions were doing their job! “Shelley, I am so glad you are here!”

Jeremy checked in with the grandmas, giving them updates. They talked about Ryvers and how surprised he’ll be­­ he was sent off to school this morning, not knowing what was happening! Shawna liked sitting on the ball, leaning over the bed. I massaged her lower back with some lavender and peppermint oil. She continued to use slow breathing and relaxation to manage her contractions.

After a while, Shawna was ready for a change. Standing up was too much work, and made her feel sick, so we tried the rocking chair. That felt good. She dozed a little between the contractions, she was beginning to feel more pressure­ that was a good sign of you moving down. Lots of encouragement, Shawna was doing great.

Jeremy sat in front, rubbing her legs. I encouraged him to line up some lunch for himself, since the grandmas were on their way in anyway. Shawna’s back hurt still, so we wrapped up the rebozo around her hips and let Jeremy pull on them during the contractions. She said it felt really good. Jeremy said “And you look good too!” I told Jeremy he was going to get a good upper body workout today and Shawna thought her workout was going to be better!

Around 12:45pm, the labor intensified. Shawna was beginning to vocalize, softly moaning through the contractions. I assured her she was doing perfect. “As long as I get these breaks, I can do this.” Outside, the unit was busy­­ lots of noise and activity. Inside our room, it was peaceful, with dim lighting. Jeremy offered some music but Shawna was good with the quiet. Amee was checking in on us a little here and there, otherwise has pretty much left us to “do our thing”. Shawna was glad for the quiet, she closed her eyes to rest between contractions­­ it had been a long night and she was beginning to feel the exhaustion. I encouraged her to rest and conserve her energy.

As the contractions progressed, Shawna reported feeling more and more pressure­­- all good signs you were finding your way out. Jeremy commented, “You look so peaceful and relaxed”. Around 1pm, Katie took over for Amee as she needed to tend to another patient. Dr. McIntyre came back around 1:15pm and wanted to do another exam. He reported she was “about the same”­­, but the baby’s head was low, and everything looked good! After the exam, Shawna decided to stay in bed a while, hoping to get some rest. Although the breaks were short, she was managing to doze in

At 1:30, Jeremy’s mom arrived, with lunch, and lots of good energy. Jeremy took a quick break to eat some Chik Fil­A, but was back within minutes back by Shawn’s side. Shawna moved to a sitting position again, as the contractions were really strong in bed. She liked sitting on the stool, while Jeremy massaged and pushed on her back. We tried the instant heat packs , but they never seemed to get very hot. I suggested a shower for her back pain, which Shawna liked. Katie asked that we wait just a bit, to get the second dose of penicillian in, then she was free to take a shower. We tried an ice pack instead, which helped for a bit.

Around 2:50pm, Shawna felt something dribble out of her, and thought maybe her water had broken. We took a restroom break to change clothes and pad­­ there wasn’t a lot of discharge, so we weren’t sure… either way, she was doing amazing. Jeremy’s mom had stepped out, patiently waiting just outside our room, keeping family updated.

Shawna began to worry about what was ahead of her­­ I told her she was doing beautiful, and to just keep doing what she was doing. There was no way to know how long we had ahead of us-­­ it was useless to try to “forecast” things. Just stay in the moment and keep trucking along. Jeremy provided lots of love and support, never doubting her. Shawna was beginning to feel more and more low pressure, and began to ask questions about what it would feel like to go through transition. I admitted it was hard, but usually fast. With that self doubt creeping up, I knew Shawna was moving into late active labor, when most of us wonder “if we can do it”.

Timing couldn’t have been more perfect when Shawna’s mom arrived at 3:30pm­­ she had just flown in, and headed straight here. Shawna’s first comment was “You did this three times?” and her mom laughed and said yes… and it was well worth it. I reminded her there was a prize at the end of all this­­ she said “I think I forgot I was having a baby­­ it’s all I can think about just getting through the pain”. Her mom provided lots of love, support, and good mama energy… just what she needed.

4:00pm. “Shelley, they hurt worse”… luckily, the antibiotics were finally done and Shawna was released to take a shower. Dr. M had said the baby was looking great, so he allowed for intermittent monitoring. While Shawna enjoyed the relaxing effects of the shower, I hung out in the bathroom in case she needed anything. Jeremy took a break, chatting with the grandmas, re-living their birth memories, taking Lamaze classes, forgetting how much it hurt after the baby came! They all agreed, the shower was the best place for Shawna now­­ “At home she uses all the hot water herself”. The grandmas brought a loving and experienced presence to the process, reminding Shawna how many women have done this before her, and how many will do so in the future.

Shawna left the shower and said while it helped her relax between the contractions, they were getting even stronger, something she thought wasn’t even possible… she seriously doubted how much longer she could tolerate things. Dr. M showed up around 5pm to do another check, and said she was a good 6cm now and thought that her water had indeed broke. While Shawna was happy to hear the progress, she was feeling overwhelmed with the labor, and exhausted. We talked about options other than an epidural, and she decided she wanted a little something “just to take the edge off”.

Katie administered a dose of Stadol, an analgesic, around 5:15pm. Dr. M agreed this was probably a good call, as it would allow her to sleep a little between contractions, and help her “care a little less they were there”. I joked around it was like drinking a whole pitcher of margaritas by yourself in 5 minutes. He said that sounded like the voice of experience (with a sly smile).

The Stadol took effect quickly. Shawna was able to really rest between contractions while I massaged her feet and lower legs with lavender oil, to promote relaxation, and used some acupressure points to keep the contractions coming. (Sometimes medicine causes labor to slow down) Jeremy rested by her side, gently rubbing and massaging her back as she continued to breathe through the contractions. “They still hurt, just not as bad”.

The contractions slowed to about every 3-­4 minutes (previously they had been every 1.5 to 2 minutes!) which was a welcome break. Shawna was able to get a good rest in between, even saying she was actually falling asleep! “I’m enjoying my margarita!”

Around 6pm, Uncle Zach popped in…. everyone else was happy to see him, but Shawna was feeling less than social. Jeremy took a well deserved break to chat with his brother. At 6:30pm, Dr. M wanted to check on things again­­ he said Shawna was already 7 cm, still making good progress! Your head was still about 0 station, but we weren’t worried. I knew things were moving along just fine. The Stadol was beginning to wear off, losing effectiveness. Shawna was working a little harder to get through the contractions, but was still doing beautiful. I encouraged her to continue to rest as much as she could… things could move fast from here.

6:45pm I recommended to the grandmas if they wanted dinner, they might want to head to the cafeteria sooner rather than later… Jeremy declined needing food. He was not wanting to leave Shawna for even a moment. She wondered…”How much longer Shelley”­­ I replied, that’s a good question!

Around 7pm, Shawna reported the first “inkling” of rectal pressure­­ the first sign you were really moving down and things were getting close. I assured her that was a great sign! Jeremy joked he was ready now to go grab some food! We continued to rub her back and encourage her. With each contraction, it seemed that pressure got more and more intense. Finally around 7:30pm I called Katie in to let her know. Dr. M came in to check–­­She was indeed fully dilated and ready to push!

Katie said she needed just a few minutes to arrange for another nurse to care for her other patient, and asked us to “hold off” pushing for a short while. I encouraged Shawna to blow through the contractions, and to relieve that pressure with “little grunts”… but her body was ready and there was no holding it back. Shawna let me know she couldn’t stop pushing… I could see her perineum was bulging with her pushes, which meant you were right behind it! I called Katie again and said we couldn’t wait!

Katie hurried back in and ok’d us to go for it. The grandmas returned from dinner but I asked them to wait outside for a while, knowing Shawna had wanted her privacy during pushing. It was 7:45pm when we “officially” started pushing. Shawna knew she wanted to be upright­­ she had done her homework and knew squatting would make the most room, and shorten pushing time and effort, so we asked for a squat bar. In the meantime, I encouraged her to grab me on one side and Jeremy on the other and we’d support her in a squat until the bar got there. Shawna’s pushing efforts were evident almost immediately as we could now see the top of your head!

The squat bar never made it­­ -Shawna pushed so well we were calling Dr. M in within 15 minutes. The staff got everything ready for delivery as Dr. M got gowned up… Katie removed the end of the bed but allowed Shawna to remain in that upright squat by using the foot rests instead. Dr. M gently encouraged Shawna to continue pushing, and she did so with amazing effort. Suddenly Shawna said “tell my mom and your mom they can come in”. Jeremy stopped­­ “You want them to come in?” And she said yes. Katie went and grabbed them and invited them in. I got them settled quickly over to the side, out of the way of the staff. They were shocked and delighted to be there!

With gently guidance on the part of Dr. M, and amazing control and strength, Shawna pushed you into the world at 8:13pm. As Dr. M held you up, I said “What have you got?” and Shawna said “It’s a boy!” You were placed immediately onto your mother’s belly where she welcomed you with loving arms! She was so glad to be done!

Dr. M waited for the cord to stop pulsing, and then offered for Jeremy to cut the cord. Everyone waited with anticipation­­ you were a surprise and your name was still unreleased… finally Shawna said “You say it, you picked it out”. And Jeremy announced who you were­­ “Welcome, Bryce Cooper.”

I don’t know if I have seen texting grandmas react so fast… your name was published instantly! I helped Shawna get more comfortable (she was still practically hanging off the bed!) so she could just relax and enjoy you. Even Jeremy was a little teary eyed, welcoming his little boy. Shawna was exhausted, and exhilirated at the same time… She had done it!

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How does a doula really make a difference?
Results from different studies have all suggested that having a doula reduces the overall cesarean rate by 50%, Pitocin use by 40% and requests for epidurals by 60%. The use of a doula also showed a major reduction in the length of labor due to fewer stress hormones being produced in the laboring woman’s body.

The Doula Book © 2002; Klaus, Marshall, Klaus and Kennell.