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Episode 286 Alexis' Peaceful CBAC

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Treść dostarczona przez Meagan Heaton. Cała zawartość podcastów, w tym odcinki, grafika i opisy podcastów, jest przesyłana i udostępniana bezpośrednio przez Meagan Heaton lub jego partnera na platformie podcastów. Jeśli uważasz, że ktoś wykorzystuje Twoje dzieło chronione prawem autorskim bez Twojej zgody, możesz postępować zgodnie z procedurą opisaną tutaj https://pl.player.fm/legal.

Cesareans can be peaceful, beautiful, and so healing. Though Alexis didn’t have the VBAC she planned for, she still had the euphoric birth she dreamed of.

Alexis unexpectedly experienced PPROM and preeclampsia at 36 weeks with her first baby. Trying to labor and push under the effects of magnesium and all of the other interventions was incredibly exhausting. When baby started having decels, she knew it was time for the Cesarean.

After a rough NICU stay and having to exclusively pump, Alexis knew she needed to be proactive about healing from her birth PTSD. She went to EMDR therapy and found the healing her heart needed.

Alexis shares all of the ways her second birth was different from the first. She went into labor spontaneously. She progressed quickly and felt strong. But when baby flipped breech mid-labor, Alexis knew it was time for another Cesarean. Her team took their time honoring every wish Alexis had and truly gave her the birth of her dreams!

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

Full Transcript under Episode Details

02:05 Review of the Week

05:29 Alexis’ first pregnancy during COVID

09:41 PPROM and preeclampsia

13:27 Pushing turned emergent Cesarean

16:54 NICU stay and exclusive pumping

20:45 EMDR therapy and postpartum healing

22:24 Second pregnancy

26:21 Beginning of labor

29:47 A picture-perfect labor

31:26 Baby flipping breech and going for a C-section

38:03 The game changer

40:56 A euphoric birth

43:45 Ways to have a gentle Cesarean

46:36 Music, skin-to-skin, clear drapes, mirrors, conversation, and maternal-assisted Cesareans

50:32 Vaginal seeding, advocacy, and backward dilation

52:29 Swelling in pregnancy and nutrition

Meagan: Hello, hello everybody. Today’s episode is one that I am actually really excited to hear and share. I think a lot of the time when we are listening to The VBAC Link, we are looking for empowering VBAC stories, positive VBAC stories, and sometimes when we are sharing these stories, it is accompanied by traumatic Cesareans. We know that through all of these stories, I have personal experiences that a lot of these Cesareans are traumatic, and a lot of the time they are traumatic because they are undesired or they are pushed really hard or people feel like they are backed in a corner or so many interventions come into play that they happen in a traumatic manner.

But today’s story is going to talk a little bit about how Cesarean doesn’t have to be traumatic and it can be peaceful. I relate personally to it because my second C-section, I didn’t want actually. I didn’t want it at all. It wasn’t what I planned on, but I still found so much healing through that birth and I think that in a lot of ways, it shifted my mindset of how to view Cesarean.

I also want to recognize that our community doesn’t always want a VBAC, right? We are here learning about the options for birth after Cesarean but that doesn’t mean we only want VBAC so I’m excited to share this story today for everybody, especially for those who are unsure of what to do or want to maybe go the Cesarean route but want to have maybe a better experience than their last Cesarean. We’re going to talk about how to have a peaceful Cesarean.

We have our friend, Alexis, with us today going to be sharing her peaceful journey with you.

02:05 Review of the Week

But of course, we have a Review of the Week, so I want to dive into that and then turn the time over to her. This is from Apple Podcasts and it says lilylalalala. Lots of la la la. It says, “Inspiring and uplifting.” It says, “I first found this podcast in 2020 in the depths of the postpartum after a very traumatic, unplanned Cesarean with my first baby. I listened to every single episode as I struggled to process what had happened to me. I finally gathered up the courage to seek help for postpartum PTSD that I was experiencing.

“This podcast is a treasure trove for inspiring stories which helped me regain confidence in my body to have a beautiful VBAC with my second baby last year. Thank you for being such a huge part of my healing journey.”

I feel like so often, we hear little things like, “Oh, I loved hearing it” or “That was inspirational” or “That helped me learn the knowledge” but I love hearing that it was a part of the healing journey. It healed. That is so amazing. Thank you so much lilylalalala for sharing your review.

If you haven’t yet, you guys, we would love your review on the podcast. You can review our Instagram or our Facebook community. Give us a review of The VBAC Link. You can leave your review at Google. You can just Google “The VBAC Link” and leave a review there. You can leave a review on the Apple Podcasts. I’m pretty sure you can on Google Play. Or guess what? You can even email us at info@thevbaclink.com subject “Review” and leave us your review there.

05:29 Alexis’ first pregnancy during COVID

Meagan: Okay. I am so excited for you to share with us today. Remind me. Okay, so we are going to be talking about preeclampsia, EMDR therapy which I think is something that is super powerful. We are going to be talking about repeat Cesarean and it can be better. Yeah. Anything else that you’re like, “This is what my story is going to touch on?”

Alexis: NICU time also. We had some NICU time. That was a big part of my postpartum experience. Yeah.

Meagan: Okay. Yes. Okay, well without further ado, I would love to turn the time over to you to share your story.

Alexis: Thank you. Yeah. There is a lot that goes into this story, a lot of different factors that made my first experience really hard, but I got to learn so much through it and I’ve been able to help a lot of other friends and family just through my experience so I’m super excited to share my story with everybody.

Meagan: Can you remind us where you are at as well? Where you are located?

Alexis: Yes, Joplin, Missouri.

Meagan: Missouri.

Alexis: Yep, so southwest Missouri. We are originally from Oklahoma City. My husband and I have lived here for six or seven years now and we call it home. Yeah. We got married in 2017 and we were about ready to have a baby around this time the pandemic hit so fun timing there. I’m sure a lot of mamas can relate to that. I think that’s a lot of our story.

We got pregnant at the end of 2020. Things were kind of normalizing but not really medically. I mean, I never saw my OB’s face. We were all wearing masks. My husband couldn’t come to our first appointment because the regulations were still iffy on that. I Facetimed him to hear the heartbeat which was so sad for our first pregnancy.

But as things kind of went on, the rules lessened a little bit, but still, it was COVID.

We got pregnant really easily. We were so blessed for that experience.

For the most part, my pregnancy was really healthy. I did have a lot of nausea and morning sickness. That kind of lasted the whole pregnancy and it probably was the reason that my nutrition was so terrible. Nothing sounded good. All I really wanted was french fries so I could never– the smell of our gas oven made me gag so cooking really wasn’t happening.

Meagan: You’re not alone and that’s one of the reasons why we talk about Needed, our partnership, because there are so many of us who go through this morning sickness and the smell of anything is just barf so we’re not getting those nutrients, right? So we’ve got to try to get them in other ways because we’re not getting them through food because we can’t.

Alexis: We can’t, yeah. That is totally me. So yeah. My diet was terrible and I didn’t know at the time. Of course, everyone says to eat healthier and a lot of protein, but I’m already not a good eater of protein, and certainly not when I am nauseous, so yeah. My diet was a big factor. I had pretty rapid weight gain and I’m a petite person so that was not normal for me. My midwife really kept an eye on that, but I was still doing CrossFit my whole entire pregnancy somehow. I felt good enough to do that, but yeah. I was probably just wearing my body down. I was not eating well and working out really hard.

What’s funny is I was working out because it is proven to decrease your chances of getting preeclampsia and that didn’t happen.

Meagan: Which ended up happening?

Alexis: Yeah. I was like, “I’m going to be so strong. This birth is going to be so easy. I’m just going to squat down on the floor and pop this baby out, no problem.”

Meagan: I love your confidence, though. That is important in any birth. The confidence in your body’s ability is wonderful.

Alexis: For sure. I think that because I was working out so hard, maybe my pelvic floor is tighter. I’ll get into all of that. Anyway, that was the pregnancy. Everything was good and healthy. I didn’t have any other issues.

09:41 PPROM and preeclampsia

But around 30 weeks, I started swelling really badly. It was a summer pregnancy, so no one really thought anything of it. I knew it was unusual for me. It was a lot of swelling. My midwife was keeping an eye on it. I never had high blood pressure and no protein in my urine. There were no markers and technically, I think according to what ACOG says, swelling isn’t a red flag necessarily for preeclampsia. I think they won’t diagnose you unless, of course, it’s blood pressure and protein. No one was worried about it.

Yeah. We were just trucking along. Everything is good, just extremely swollen. My husband travels for work all of the time during the summer so one night, he had gotten back that day and I was about 36 weeks on the dot. He got back that day from California and I woke up in the night to go to the bathroom and sit up in bed and I felt a little bit of a gush. I was like, “That’s weird.”

I get up and go to the bathroom. Toilet paper is a little bit pink, watery-tinged so I kind of knew immediately. It smelled different. I knew something was up. I’m calling for my husband to come in there. He is very confused. At 36 weeks, we did not expect that. The chances of your water breaking are less than 10% or something?

Meagan: They say 10% or less, yeah, especially before labor begins. You had PPROM and then there is PROM so premature rupture of membranes, PROM, and then premature birth.

Alexis: Yeah, so never did I ever think that my water would break and that would be the start of my labor. I knew those facts and I had done a lot of research. I was really well-educated before I had my son. I just– we are all really good birthers and really good parents before we do it. So yeah. My water breaks. I call the midwife. It was my midwife on call which gave me a lot of reassurance too and she just said, “Go ahead and come in since your water broke. It sounds like that’s exactly what happened.”

Looking back now, that was such a God thing because my plan was that I wanted to go unmedicated. I planned on laboring at home for as long as possible, but my water breaking just messed up my mind and shifted all of my plans. That wasn’t a part of my plan, so I was like, “Oh, okay. I’ll go in. Sure.” I didn’t think twice about it.

When we arrived at the hospital, I felt fine. I had no headaches. I had no vision changes. I felt fine. My blood pressure was I think 200/110. It was insanely high. It was so bad. The nurse was like, “Oh, maybe you’re just excited. We’ll retake it.” We retook it. It was still crazy high and really dangerous.

They started the magnesium drip and for any of you girlies who have ever done that, it is a nightmare.

Meagan: Yuck.

Alexis: I felt terrible. It makes you feel like you have the flu. I threw up the whole labor. I just was seeing double so anytime a doctor or nurse would come in, I would have to cover up one eye to be able to look at them because I couldn’t see straight.

I basically could not get out of bed. We had to do an epidural immediately to drop that blood pressure so I was totally bed-bound. The nurses were super helpful with moving me around, so I basically was just side to side on a peanut ball for 20 hours.

I had felt some contractions leading up as we were driving to the hospital, but nothing super strong. After a while, my midwife suggested some Pitocin which wasn’t a part of my plan. Again, I wanted to go unmedicated. I wanted to have a super crunchy, awesome birth and I have now had every medication under the sun.

13:27 Pushing turned emergent Cesarean

Alexis: We start some Pitocin. That gets some contractions going. I didn’t mention this. I arrived, I think at a 3 or a 4 when we got to the hospital so not a bad place to start at 36 weeks especially.

But yeah, we go through laboring in bed, on my back, on my side. Of course, feeling the pains of labor and contractions in addition to magnesium just felt terrible. I didn’t do the research about positions or what I should be doing. I didn’t have a doula so that’s a big part of it too.

But I do progress to 10. Things kind of move along over these 20 hours and we start pushing. I could tell you on that first push, I had the thought, “I need to have a C-section.” I was so exhausted before I really even began pushing just from being awake for 20 hours. That was such an exhausting, long, hard labor. I could not. I had no energy left.

The midwife that was there tried a lot of different pushing positions. We did tug of war. I actually got on my hands and knees. She was really great about helping me with pushing, but I had no gas in the tank. I was so exhausted. I don’t know what my son’s position was either. I don’t know how high he was. No one ever told me what station he was at. I remember thinking, “Is station just a silly thing people say on Instagram and it’s not real?” Because no nurses have mentioned his station. Should I ask? I didn’t want to feel stupid.

Ask all of the questions. It is your birth.

Meagan: 100%.

Alexis: Ask. If you are wondering, ask. It’s your body. I don’t know why I felt afraid to ask what station or what my dilation was all of the time when they would check me. They just didn’t tell me which was really weird.

I pushed for two hours in every position under the sun and eventually, he started to have some heart decels so the OB on call rushed in pretty quickly. He told me it was time to go to a C-section. I, like I said, was kind of ready for it at this point. It was not my plan, but I wasn’t going to put my baby at risk so I was like, “Okay. Let’s do it.”

We go back to a pretty urgent C-section. This was all also, perhaps more traumatic for my husband. I was so out of it with all of the medication and so tired and you are already in labor land anyway, so you don’t remember it all.

He relayed this all to me later and he was way more affected by it and that’s such a big part of our story too is him. He’s left in a room alone. They take me back. He does get to come in. I didn’t have to be put under or anything, but that’s got to be so scary as a spouse. You hear that things are dangerous. They take you out and now you’re just waiting.

Meagan: Yep, having no idea what’s going on.

Alexis: Yeah, he had no idea if I was okay or if the baby was okay. The C-section itself was actually fine. Everything went well. I was just loopy and out of it from everything I had been on so I don’t remember it that well, but when they got my son out, his APGAR was a 2. He was not doing great.

They had to do some resuscitation so that was just scary. As he came out just not really responding, but he did start to cry. His APGAR came up on that second check and everything was fine at that point. We also didn’t find out gender so what a way to find out your gender was that moment. We were so scared. It was like, “That’s great. He’s a boy. We don’t care.” We just wanted him to be okay.

16:54 NICU stay and exclusive pumping

Alexis: Yeah. They get him in a good spot breathing and crying. All is well. I did fine. The C-section was not– that wasn’t the traumatic part for me. I got closed up. I don’t remember honestly anything after this point. I don’t know if I fell asleep. Maybe it was just blocked out of my mind, but we eventually got back to our room.

They take my son to the nursery and I don’t remember anyone asking us about that. My husband doesn’t either. I’m sure I was not in a good place. My blood pressure was still through the roof. It wasn’t a great time for skin-to-skin. I understand that, but looking back, it’s just really sad that I didn’t really see him. I didn’t meet him then for two days after. My blood pressure was so high, I couldn’t get out of bed from the morning after he was born until about 11:00 at night.

Around 6:00 AM, his pediatrician came in and his blood sugar was low so he had to be sent to the NICU. Now we are in separate jails across the hall from each other because he was in the NICU. They wouldn’t let me get out of bed because my blood pressure was just not controlled. It was so bad. So I didn’t meet my son for two days. That’s kind of where–

Meagan: I’m so sorry.

Alexis: –the trauma. Labor was traumatic. The C-section was fine and then postpartum was really traumatic as well. That’s kind of my story. Eventually, my blood pressure starts to respond to medication and I’m able to go meet him, but seeing your baby hooked up to cords and a feeding tube is awful. It’s terrible.

That was really his only issue though. He didn’t have any breathing problems, thank goodness as a 36-weeker. His only issue was blood sugar and feeding. He was just a sleepy guy. He was not taking the bottle. He wasn’t really vigorous at the breast. We had lactation consultants come in, but it wasn’t super helpful when you’re in the tizzy of NICU.

The NICU is not set up for breastfeeding success.

Meagan: It’s not.

Alexis: You’re on a 3-hour schedule. You don’t feed on demand. You need to measure how long and how much they are eating. That is not how breastfeeding works. We feed on demand. We do skin-to-skin. I just didn’t know at the time. I was like, “Oh, every three hours. Okay.”

I’m pumping. I didn’t nurse him a ton in the NICU just because it wore him out so much. It’s a lot of work to breastfeed so we were like, “If you can take a bottle and we can get out of here faster, do it.” So I was pumping.

Eventually, after eight days, we were able to bust out of there. Feeding was the only thing he had to get over. When we went home, I was still pumping. I would offer the breast, but I was so unsure of it and so overwhelmed with it all. I ended up just exclusively pumping because now, looking back, I can see postpartum anxiety 100%. I was afraid if he wasn’t eating enough, they would stick him back in the NICU which would not have happened. They would have done other things before that. It was not emergent, but that is what anxiety tells you.

Meagan: I was going to say that anxiety tells you things that aren’t necessarily true.

Alexis: Exactly.

Meagan: We are in a state where that’s what we believe.

Alexis: Exactly. My husband and I were both so overwhelmed and traumatized from the NICU that it was just easier for us to pump. I remember going back to my six-week appointment and my midwife was like, “How’s breastfeeding going?” I told her, “I’m exclusively pumping.” She was like, “Oh my gosh. That is much harder.”

Meagan: That’s a lot of work.

Alexis: I was like, “No, you don’t get it. It’s not harder.” When your baby won’t latch and they are crying on the breast, it is so stressful. No, no. This is not harder. But it is exhausting. It’s so much work. I did it for a year. I’m very proud of that, pumping is not for the faint of heart.

Yeah, that was kind of his whole experience. It was just really overwhelming is what I would say. We didn’t really know what we were doing and the preeclampsia of it all was so scary. It’s such a serious thing that I wasn’t super duper-educated on what that could look like.

Meagan: Right.

20:45 EMDR therapy and postpartum healing

Alexis: After his birth, I just really tried to dive into therapy, and my husband too. We just wanted to work through that because we knew we wanted more kids. I already knew I wanted a VBAC. Immediately, I was like, “This was never my plan to have a C-section so we are going for a VBAC.” I was a great candidate for it.

We plugged forward. I did EMDR therapy which I cannot recommend enough. It literally retrains your brain to hop off a thought and get on a healthier track of thinking. My main objective with my therapist was my anxiety around blood pressure because, to me, it felt like blood pressure was something I couldn’t necessarily control. You can do things to support your body like diet and supplements and all of these things, but some of us just have chronic high blood pressure or white coat syndrome which was totally me.

So I just wanted to eliminate that piece of it if I could and just calm myself down before appointments, not get stressed about it, and not add more to my plate of trying to be healthy for this next pregnancy. I just wanted to do that work before I even got pregnant.

I went through EMDR therapy surrounding blood pressure and also just working through my birth and kind of getting to a place where even if that same exact birth happened again, I would have more peace about it because you don’t know how it’s going to go. The chances of having preeclampsia again the second time are higher than a first birth for anybody else. It could have gone the same way. You don’t know, but I just wanted to be prepared to have a better experience, a better bonding experience with my baby, and a better birth.

22:24 Second pregnancy

That really got me to a healthy place. Around the time I was wrapping that up, I got pregnant with my daughter about two years later. I had just done this whole time in between kids and listened to as many VBAC Link episodes as I could. I tried to diversify the information that I was taking in too so a lot of the Evidence-Based Birth, also Dr. Fox’s podcast is a really great one for a little bit of a different perspective.

Meagan: Yeah.

Alexis: He’s an MFM. He’s been on this podcast and has a very different perspective. He has seen it all so he’s going to be a little bit more conservative with allowing any patient to VBAC or any type of “complication”. It’s a really good perspective to add to the mix if you are looking for it.

I just filled my brain with as many birth stories and as much research as I could. I did everything I could to avoid preeclampsia this time. I ate as close as I could to the Brewer diet. It’s so hard if you’ve ever tried to eat exactly the Brewer diet. It feels impossible at least for me so I just did my best. I tried to eat a lot of protein and started my day with a lot of protein just trying to diversify my diet because I did not do that the first time.

Also supplements, so any research that I found, I would take the supplement. So low-dose aspirin, I was on that from the beginning. I took magnesium-glycinate every night. Melatonin– I saw a study that shows a direct link between low levels of melatonin in preeclampsia. Vitamin C is to the strength of your bag of water so I took that every night. My water did not break so I don’t know. That worked for me. I also was a little bit anemic during my first pregnancy so I took a grass-fed beef liver supplement and I had no issues with my iron this time either.

Just a lot of different things to support my body so I’m like, “I’m giving you the best opportunity, body, to have a healthy pregnancy and that’s all I can do.” You’ve got to throw your hands up at some point and just say, “I did everything I could.” That’s what I did. I switched hospitals because I felt like going back to the same hospital would be kind of traumatic.

Meagan: It can be triggering.

Alexis: Exactly. I switched OBs. I switched to– a friend of mine had an OB who had a really low C-section rate. I think the lowest in the hospital and then also with her, she pushed for three hours. He really, really fought for her vaginal birth because he knew she did not want to have a C-section.

Meagan: I love that.

Alexis: I thought, “That’s the type of doctor that I want.” So I went with him. He was really supportive the whole time. I hired a doula as soon as I could and that was a really great tool as well. Webster-certified chiropractor and all of the things. I just tried to throw everything at it that I could.

Alexis: Everything was great. Super healthy. I had no issues again this time. My blood pressure was looking really normal, then a little bit toward the end at the end of 27 weeks-ish, I found out she was breech, my daughter. My chiropractor was on top of it. She was like, “I swear. I have a 97% success rate of flipping babies. I won’t say I flip babies, but I give them the space to flip.” Yeah, so I felt confident in that. My doctor had checked. She turned head down later on so everything was good there.

A thing that I’ll say now is my husband and I had prayed my whole entire pregnancy if we were going to have a repeat C-section, let it be because of breech presentation. I’ll get back to that, but that was just something. I’m not against a C-section. I’m against a traumatic birth and everything that we went through. I just don’t want to have that experience. Birth is birth. C-section or vaginal birth. You are having this amazing, incredible experience and C-section is not the enemy. Traumatic birth is the enemy. That is what we were hoping for, but she was head down so we were like, “Okay. This is our sign. We’re going for it. This VBAC is going to work. It’s going to be awesome.”

26:21 Beginning of labor

Alexis: As we got to the end, I was cool with cervical checks. That was something I was just kind of curious about. I wanted to know where I was at because my doctor was pretty anti-induction which is great. I just wanted to know where I was at by the end to see if we could do some sort of natural induction method.

At 36 weeks, I think I was at 1.5 and then at 37 weeks, I was at a 2. I opted for a membrane sweep. My plan was, “I’m accepting. There is a small risk of infection or them breaking your water but it is a small, small risk.” You just have to weigh the pros and cons. For all of us who are VBACing, there is a risk of rupture. There is a risk of all kinds of things. You have to decide what is right for you. The risk of a membrane sweep was so worth it to me because if he wasn’t going to induce me, let’s do something natural that can get things going.

So for me, I was going to do it every week. I had my first membrane sweep at 37 and 6 then I went into labor the next morning. It worked. I didn’t notice anything that day really. I didn’t have any bleeding which they usually tell you you could. I really didn’t feel any cramps or anything after so I was like, “Oh, well. It didn’t work. Whatever.”

I get up for work the next morning and basically, as soon as I was vertical for the day, I was feeling contractions. Everyone says just ignore early labor. Pretend it’s not happening so that’s just what I did. I went to work and had a normal day. Around lunchtime, I was like, “I’m just going to time these and see where we are at.” They were every three minutes really consistently but lasting 30 seconds.

They never changed from that rhythm. It was three minutes all day long and intensified throughout the day. I finished my work day. I picked up my son. I went home. My mom was coming up just for a visit and that ended up working out very well. I got home and things really intensified. I was on the ball just tracking things.

Again, I was like, “Once I go to bed, these are going to go away. I’m 38 weeks on the dot. I’m not having this baby. I’m not that lucky.” But they just kept coming, so they intensified and intensified. They got longer. They were still three minutes apart. That rhythm never changed from start to finish.

Meagan: Wow.

Alexis: Yeah, so around 10:00, I got in the bath because I was like, “I’m going to sleep tonight. I’m going to take a bath and make these things putter out and then I’ll have a peaceful night of sleep and go on for another week.”

Alexis: The bath felt amazing. That really helped me to relax. I listened to some Christian HypnoBirthing tracks and then my husband and I decided we would go to bed. If something pops off, I’ll wake my mom up. She’s got my toddler and we will head to the hospital. But I was sure that things were just going to stop as they often do in early labor. They didn’t.

As I was trying to lay there, I went from around– I think we went to bed around 11:00 up until we went to the hospital at 2:30 AM. By that point, I was breathing through them, really feeling them. This was real. I had been letting my doula know, “This is what’s going on.” A few hours before that, she was like, “Okay, let’s give in an hour. If it doesn’t lessen, then we need to start thinking about going to the hospital.” She was two hours away, so she had quite a drive.

We were really on top of it and around 2:30 that morning, my husband was like, “Okay, no. We’re done. Let’s go.” He did not like seeing me that way. I probably would have gone a little bit longer if it was just me but he was not on board with suffering all night.

29:47 A picture-perfect labor

Alexis: We headed to the hospital and I was stressed. Am I going too soon? You hear so many stories where contractions are so intense and you get there and you are not dilated at all or something. We get to the hospital in triage. They checked me and I’m at a 3. I’m like, “Okay, cool. That’s great.” They hold you for an hour and check you again. If you progress, then they will keep you.” They checked again in an hour and I’m at a 4.

We get checked in and at that exact same time, my doula had arrived from her two-hour drive through the night. Things felt so picture-perfect. What lucky girl would go into labor at 38 weeks? Going past your due date is so very normal. I felt like an anomaly even though I had an early birth the first time. I just never thought I would go into labor or that it would work and that I would have a spontaneous labor and that things would progress so easily. I didn’t need Pitocin or anything. I felt so thrilled that things were going so well.

After having such a birth where everything that could go wrong goes wrong, a birth that is just normal feels like you have won the lottery. That’s how I felt the whole labor. Dealing with contractions, I knew how to breathe through them. I never sat down in the bed. That did not feel good and I knew that wasn’t helpful so I was on my feet. I did a lot of slow dancing and squatting. I would pedal my feet. That felt really good. Things just progressed on their own. It felt magical. This labor is just happening. My blood pressure is perfect even. It just all felt so perfect. I felt euphoric during labor. It was just the most amazing thing to experience going through labor like that.

31:26 Baby flipping breech and going for a C-section

Alexis: I mentioned I was at a 4 when we got to stay. We got checked in at around 3:30 AM. They checked me two or three hours later. I was like, “I’m done. This is terrible. I want the epidural.” I planned on getting the epidural just because my issue the first time with pushing was maternal exhaustion so I was like, “I want to be able to give my body the rest it needs so I am all for the epidural at a certain point once we are sure we are in active labor.”

I was ready for the epidural. I was like, “Forget this. Get the epidural in here. I’m done. I’m tired.” Of course, in labor land, you have no clue what time it is and it had only been two or three hours. If you had told me that, I would have probably changed my plan, but my body knew. It was time. I got the epidural. They checked me once that had kicked in and I was at an 8.5 after two hours. From a 4 to and 8.5 super fast. We were all shocked so we were like, “Cool. We’re about to have this baby.”

My nurse was just like, “Okay. Chill out. Let’s labor down.” We were coming up on a shift change with OBs on call in the next few hours and I had a bulging bag as well. My nurse was like, “We will probably, if you are okay with it, break your water and you will be complete at that point. You are very, very close.” So we were like, “Great. Let’s all take a nap and then we’ll do that and then we’ll have a baby.” So smooth. Everything up to this point had been so perfect. That was the plan. I was good with all of those interventions.

Yeah. My husband, my doula, and I all just conked out for a couple of hours. I also didn’t mention this. I was GBS positive which I think kind of ended up working in my favor because it gave me more time to labor down. I had to finish the antibiotics. They could have rushed in and just broken my water then and there and bada bing, bada boom, tried pushing and maybe I wouldn’t have been quite as ready, but it bought me three or four more hours to finish the antibiotics. They just left me to rest and to labor down. Even that felt like a treat when I was hoping so hard to not have GBS. I had taken the probiotics and everything. It felt like, “Oh no, one thing went wrong,” but for me, it was great. Just another thing that not everything is bad in these situations. It can be positive.

We were able to just labor down. Then around 7:00 or 8:00 AM, I think the next OB on call came in. We broke my water. It was oh my gosh, the biggest gush I have ever heard. It was so much water. We didn’t measure it or anything so I don’t know if it was unusually a lot.

Meagan: Abnormal, mhmm.

Alexis: But it felt like it was a lot. Everyone in the room felt like it was a lot. She went to check me and she was like, “Okay. You’re at a 6 or a 7.” We were all like, “No, what? No. You’re wrong. Try again. That’s not true.” She was like, “This is what I’m feeling. Maybe the nurse had it wrong.” I was like, “No.” I was so sure. I was like, “Absolutely not. No. I’m not a 6 or a 7. What is happening?”

Then she keeps feeling around and she’s like, “I don’t know that I feel the head. I don’t think this is the head.” I knew immediately. There must have been– I don’t know if there has been a story on this podcast of a baby flipping during labor but I have heard it happen before so I knew in my gut. I was like, “She flipped. That stinker.”

They bring in the ultrasound machine and sure enough, she had flipped breech after 8.5 centimeters and was breech. This sweet OB was so great and really, really compassionate. She puts her hand on my leg and is like, “I’m so sorry.” She knew I wanted this VBAC. She was like, “I’m so sorry. We don’t have another option. We have to have the C-section.”

Also, for me personally, I was not comfortable with a breech vaginal delivery. The doctor was not well-versed in it. That did not feel safe to me. Again, my goal was a birth that wasn’t traumatic. My goal was not necessarily a VBAC. While at the same time my goal was a VBAC, number one is, “I don’t want to be traumatized. I don’t want my body to be super messed up and hurting after this like I was the first time. I want my baby to be okay.”

That wasn’t a risk I was willing to take. The C-section felt fine. So back to what I said earlier about if we were going to have a repeat C-section, let it be because of breech presentation. I was like, “Lord,” when she said that.

Meagan: Very validating I’m sure.

Alexis: Totally. I had immediate peace about it. My husband rushes over and he was like, “I’m so sorry. Are you okay?” He knew that it was going to be really triggering for me, but I was like, “No, I’m good. This is awesome. We just went through this amazing labor. I was unmedicated until 8.5 centimeters. I felt amazing. I was controlling my pain with my breath. Everything was perfect. Now we’re just going to go for a C-section. That’s fine.”

I just had such a peace about it. It was slow. We got to really prep for it slowly. I brought all of the nurses in and we had a little meeting about– here’s my birth plan for a repeat C-section. I had prepared that.

Meagan: Good.

Alexis: I think people think that is going to jinx them. Make the plan. Make the plan because I hope you don’t need it.

Meagan: Put it in the bag.

Alexis: Yeah, but if you do need it, it will make your C-section awesome and it did. We went over that repeat C-section plan. The main things were immediate skin-to-skin. I still wanted delayed cord clamping and just the usual stuff but it did not happen with my first C-section so I was like, “Please, please, please can we make skin-to-skin happen? That was my big thing.”

So yeah. It was slow. It wasn’t obviously an emergent situation. She was just breech and hanging out. We prepped and slowly went back. We were just chatting with the nurses. I felt very awake and aware. They bolused up the epidural and it worked so I didn’t have to be put under this time either thankfully. I told the OB, “Can you talk through the whole surgery?” That would maybe freak some people out to hear, “Okay, I’m cutting into your uterus now,” but I wanted to know. I wanted to feel involved in the birth. I didn’t want to feel like it was happening to me like it did the first time.

I got to be a part of that. She took my daughter out. She held her up in front of us for what felt like a really, really long time. It was because she was doing other things and letting the umbilical cord pulse. They actually took out the placenta still attached to her–

Meagan: Awesome.

Alexis: –which is awesome.

Meagan: Yeah, pretty rare.

Alexis: They totally met my wishes of delayed cord clamping. Then my husband got to see the placenta. They brought it over to me to look at. That was something I really wanted too. It was just so peaceful. I felt so a part of it.

38:03 The game-changer

Alexis: Once they checked her out under the warmer for just a second, I got skin-to-skin for what felt like a really long time. It was awesome. It was so awesome. I never ever would have thought. I was so against another C-section like, “I’ve got a toddler at home.” My recovery the first time– I was not okay at 12 weeks postpartum with him. I did not feel good. I was going back to work after 6 weeks this time. I was like, “We cannot have another C-section this time. Not an option.” That was my attitude.

Through all the work I did, by the time it happened, I was like, “This rocks. This labor was awesome.” It was such a silly way to have a C-section, but what a cool birth. What a funny story I will tell her whole life, “You flipped at 8.5 centimeters, girl. What were you doing?”

Meagan: Seriously and the fact that you were able to do the labor, go into spontaneous labor, and see these things, see that your body was doing this and having all of that, that also is validating.

Alexis: Totally.

Meagan: To have everyone come in, sit down, and be like, “How can we make this special for you? How can we make this a good experience?” That is so empowering and exactly what you said. You can change it to be what may or could have been more traumatic– because honestly looking back, I don’t know if you have ever asked yourself this, but if they didn’t ask you any of those questions, if they didn’t give you any of those opportunities, do you think you’d look at it the same way if they were just like, “We have to go right now”?

Alexis: Totally. Yeah. It was a game-changer.

Meagan: Yeah. Everything okay.

Alexis: We’ve got time.

Meagan: Let’s talk about this. How can we make this a good experience for this family? I think that is so important. I think sometimes in the medical system, it’s like, once a decision has been made that a Cesarean is going to take place, it’s boom, bang, boom, boom, boom, baby out and it moves too fast when it doesn’t need to.

Alexis: It’s still birth.

Meagan: Yes, it’s still birth. Have that conversation and say, “Okay. Your plans just changed a lot. Let’s talk about this.” Or if it’s a transfer from a home birth or a birth center. Let’s embrace what they were wanting, the type of birth they wanted, and still try to help them have a good experience so we have less PTSD in the future. We have less negative opinions of interventions and Cesareans and things like that.

I think a lot of the negative thoughts that we have are from the negative Cesareans that happen.

Alexis: Yeah. You’ve got to advocate for yourself to get that and also, like I said, my doula was really helpful in reminding me of what I wanted and getting things going.

40:56 A euphoric birth

Alexis: Another piece that I think is cool to think about is– maybe this is weird to some people, but when do you ever get the opportunity to be awake in a surgery? If you’re not in the medical field, think about it that way. What a cool thing. I’m in a OR. I get to see this thing that who else would get to experience being in a surgery and being awake for a surgery? Maybe that is someone’s worst nightmare, but I was one of those people where I couldn’t touch my C-section scar. It freaked me out afterward. I was truly traumatized by it but through all the work I did, I now am in this mental place where I was like, “This is cool. I am a part of this whole experience that is not a vaginal birth and that is disappointing for sure. I still feel like, “Man, that stinks.”

However, I got this other experience and it went really well because I told them what I wanted. I got what I wanted. Afterward, postpartum was truly euphoric. I was even the person that was like, “I don’t want the shot of Pitocin after my vaginal birth because that might jack with the way my body responds with natural oxytocin.” I was that girl, but it’s not all or nothing. I still have those emotions. My body still did the work with my hormones. I bonded immediately with my daughter. It took months with my son because of the trauma. I just didn’t feel those emotions yet. It was really hard for me to bond with him.

This time, because of this different experience, I was bonded. The skin-to-skin was such a game changer for me. We had a few hours of it. We nursed on and off. Breastfeeding was a breeze this time. I never had a hiccup with it which is so different than my first experience. It was night and day different and I truly don’t feel any sort of regret over not getting my VBAC. I almost feel like I still got it. I got the birth I wanted. I still am so shocked by the story. It’s such a funny thing that happened. Not my plan, but it was an awesome birth. It was so cool.

Meagan: I love that that is how you describe it. I love it so much and I hope, Women of Strength, if you are listening, and your birth turns in a different way that you weren’t expecting or that you weren’t desiring that you have the support that you have and all of these things to have a better experience. I think too, even with mine, I didn’t want it. I didn’t want it and still in some ways, I’m like, “Why? Why did I have that?” But at the same time, I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful for that experience.

43:45 Ways to have a gentle Cesarean

Meagan: Okay, let’s talk about a few things. Ways to have a gentle Cesarean. Skin-to-skin, we talked about that right after. Babies can come out and be placed on your chest. They have those big bands where they put all of the monitors on. Sometimes they are straps, but they also have bands. You can ask for that. You wear a tube top.

Alexis: Oh, that’s cool.

Meagan: Yeah, so you have them up here. Because when you’re in a C-section, a lot of the time your arms are out straight. Sometimes they are strapped down.

Alexis: They did do that. I had asked the anesthesiologist. I was like, “I don’t want these. Don’t strap me down.” He explained, “Here’s why. Sometimes your body responds. You don’t want to do it, but your arms reach out and try to stop what’s happening to you, so we’re going to leave these on. They are not tight.” He talked me through why they were that way and after he said that, I was like, “Oh, okay. That’s fine.” He said, “We’ll get you out of them as soon as she’s born. We’ll just do this for now.” I was like, “Okay, that’s fine. That makes sense.”

Meagan: That’s another cool thing that your anesthesiologist was literally talking to you and breaking it down. But yeah, so a lot of the time our arms are straightforward or even strapped out to the side so they are like, “No, you can’t have skin-to-skin because you’re not going to be able to hold your baby.”

Alexis: Not true.

Meagan: That is not true. Ask for the tube top. Buy your own tube top as a backup. You can wear it then they can literally tuck baby right down in and place baby right there on your chest. So if you’re not feeling the strength or you are feeling nauseous but you really want your baby to be on you, they can be right there and your husband can also help or your birth partner can also help support baby right there.

Skin-to-skin is possible 100%. If for some reason, you are not doing well or you are vomiting or something like that because as a baby comes out, things shift and we can vomit, encourage Dad. Encourage Dad to do skin-to-skin.

Alexis: That was on our birth plan.

Meagan: That can be really comforting and healing to see as well. Those are two of the things. Skin-to-skin. We talked about the cord. Keeping the cord attached. A lot of providers will say, “Nope. We have to cut it. There’s a risk of infection because your body is open so we have to cut it quickly and start the next process.” Not necessarily true. We can wait for it to pulse. If for some reason baby is not doing well or maybe there is bleeding or something is going on, they can milk it. They pinch it and they do a mini blood transfusion. They send any blood that is in the cord at the present time to the baby. They pinch it and milk it.

Alexis: Cool. That’s awesome.

Meagan: That’s a really good option if you can’t have delayed cord clamping.

46:36 Music, skin-to-skin, clear drapes, mirrors, conversation, and maternal-assisted Cesareans

Meagan: Okay, so music. You can ask your nurse or anesthesiologist to play music in the room so it’s not just beep beep.

Alexis: They did that when my daughter was born.

Meagan: You know? So yeah, so have that music.

Alexis: Write it down too. You’re not going to remember these things in the moment. I had all of these things written down.

Meagan: You won’t.

Alexis: If I can’t do skin-to-skin, my husband will. If it’s not written, it might not happen. They’re not going to think you are stupid for having a birth plan. Write it down.

Meagan: Yes, so true. When I went for my first VBAC with my second baby, something I said is, “I just want to see it. I just want to see my baby come out.” That was so important to me so a lot of hospitals these days do have the clear drape, but a lot of them don’t crazy enough. Something I said is if they don’t have the clear drape, I want to see it in a mirror. My husband was like, “What?”

Alexis: That’s a cool idea.

Meagan: So to your point, and actually when we were back there, I did not remember that. All I was seeing was a table I was climbing up on. It just wasn’t in my mind. My husband said, “Hey, is there any way we could get a mirror so she could watch this and participate in the birth?” They were like, “Yeah, no problem.” They brought it over. They made sure before they even started that I could see and that the angle was perfect.

Alexis: That’s so great.

Meagan: Then they started. My doctor said, “Hey, if at any point you realize what you are watching is happening to you and it weirds you out, just let us know. We will flip the mirror or you can close your eyes.” For me, I didn’t get grossed out. I know a lot of people listening would be like, “No, hard pass.” But for me, that was part of my healing watching it happen and watching my baby be brought up earthside.

So I really love that and same with you, I had my provider talk to me. Talk to me about what is happening because, with my first, they were talking about the weather and their vacation and how depressing it was to be back in the snow. I was like, “No, hello. I’m here.”

Alexis: My plans specifically said, “No shop talk. I don’t want anything else talked about.” They acknowledged that. They were like, “Got it. We won’t.”

Meagan: Love. Love that so much. So yeah, talk to them and say, “Talk to me. Tell me what you are seeing. Tell me what is happening to my body,” as long as that’s something you want. I really wanted my husband to watch. I really wanted my husband to take pictures and so many providers are against pictures in the OR. It honestly is just dumb to me because if anything were to go wrong, don’t they want proof that everything was okay and they did it right?

All right, but whatever if they don’t allow it. But it’s something you can ask. “Hey, I want pictures” or “Hey, as soon as my baby is out, I want pictures of my baby.” You can also ask them to bring them up so they can see you and even better like Dr. Natalie who we talked to on the podcast last year in 2023, ask for maternal-assisted. It begins with us.

Women of Strength, if you are having a Cesarean, we have to start advocating for those people who do want a Cesarean or even don’t want a Cesarean but it happens. Let’s get some maternal-assisted happening. Let’s see that shift in 2024 in the U.S. I would love it. It’s happening in Australia here and there. I don’t actually know anywhere else. If you guys know of anywhere, if you are listening and you know of somewhere that does maternal-assisted, let me know.

That’s where they literally drop everything. They have moms with their hands reaching down and grabbing her baby and pulling it up.

Alexis: So awesome.

Meagan: How amazing could that be? Oh my gosh, it would have been amazing.

50:32 Vaginal seeding, advocacy, and backward dilation

Meagan: Yeah, so music. Let’s see what else. Oh, there’s more.

Alexis: I should have pulled up my birth plan.

Meagan: I know. These are just things that stand out to me. Yeah, keeping your baby, letting your baby breastfeed. Vaginal microseeding sometimes. People will say, “Hey, can I swab my vagina before I go into my C-section and then have this?” It’s a gauze. You have to do a sterile gauze. You put it in a sterile bag then baby can literally nurse on this gauze a little bit and wipe it on their eyes.

Alexis: Really cool.

Meagan: Yeah, there are some really cool things. Know that it is possible to advocate for yourself. Advocating for yourself is going to help you. If you have a doula or your husband or a birth partner or a mom, help them know what you want. Help them know what is important to you and like she said, have a backup birth plan and birth preferences. It’s okay to have them because, at that time, you are not in that space.

A couple of other things that I wanted to touch on is you talked about how you were 8.5 centimeters and then they checked you and you were less after your water broke. Sometimes, Women of Strength, this could be a result in this type of situation where the bag is so bulgy that it’s literally stretching like a Foley or a Cook catheter, stretching your cervix, and then it relaxes a little bit. That doesn’t mean it’s not dilated. It means that sometimes it is overstretched, then relaxes, and then it goes forward.

Alexis: And that pressure was gone from her head since she flipped. That was part of it too.

Meagan: Yep, and the pressure was gone. Yep, exactly. There are situations like that, but that doesn’t mean your body is necessarily regressing a ton and we’ve got big problems. It just sometimes means that the situation has changed. A head isn’t applied as well and your bag broke that was bulging.

Okay, and I have all of these little notes here that I was writing. Okay, let’s see.

52:29 Swelling in pregnancy and nutrition

Meagan: Oh, swelling a ton in pregnancy. That’s another thing. I also was like you. I just ballooned. I had people tell me I was unrecognizable but I didn’t have protein.

Alexis: Don’t you love to hear that?

Meagan: Yeah. I was like, “Thanks. I’m so fat. Awesome.”

Alexis: Yeah, you already feel awful about it and people comment. Thank you.

Meagan: Yes. But that is still something to watch for. Sometimes we think we have too much fluid so we back off on water. Don’t back off on water. Stay hydrated. Add some citrus to it.

Alexis: And electrolytes. I took electrolytes every day.

Meagan: Yep. Electrolytes and magnesium baths. Do these types of things to help and then of course, just like you said, it doesn’t matter if you had preeclampsia. Dial in on nutrition. Dial in on those supplements because naturally like you were saying, you don’t get enough protein in your day-to-day life and then you are pregnant and you need more. It’s really hard. That’s why I love the collagen prenatal protein from Needed. I love getting prenatals that have protein supplements is what I’m trying to say and things like this. Get the nutrients that you need and your body deserves.

Then again, let your body take the lead but give it all that it can to do the best it can.

Alexis: Yeah. Do everything you can. That was good for me mentally to just do everything I could to support my body and it’s like, “From here on out, this is on your body.” With my birth, I feel the same way. I did everything I could. I labored textbook how you should and yet, you still flipped. That’s your fault, not mine.

Meagan: Yes. It was out of your control. Do what you can. Control what you can. Trust the process. Get the support. Advocate for yourself and love yourself. Love yourself for all of the work that you have done. Women of Strength, we love you. Alexis, thank you so much for being here with us today and sharing your positive birth story.

Closing

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Episode 286 Alexis' Peaceful CBAC

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Treść dostarczona przez Meagan Heaton. Cała zawartość podcastów, w tym odcinki, grafika i opisy podcastów, jest przesyłana i udostępniana bezpośrednio przez Meagan Heaton lub jego partnera na platformie podcastów. Jeśli uważasz, że ktoś wykorzystuje Twoje dzieło chronione prawem autorskim bez Twojej zgody, możesz postępować zgodnie z procedurą opisaną tutaj https://pl.player.fm/legal.

Cesareans can be peaceful, beautiful, and so healing. Though Alexis didn’t have the VBAC she planned for, she still had the euphoric birth she dreamed of.

Alexis unexpectedly experienced PPROM and preeclampsia at 36 weeks with her first baby. Trying to labor and push under the effects of magnesium and all of the other interventions was incredibly exhausting. When baby started having decels, she knew it was time for the Cesarean.

After a rough NICU stay and having to exclusively pump, Alexis knew she needed to be proactive about healing from her birth PTSD. She went to EMDR therapy and found the healing her heart needed.

Alexis shares all of the ways her second birth was different from the first. She went into labor spontaneously. She progressed quickly and felt strong. But when baby flipped breech mid-labor, Alexis knew it was time for another Cesarean. Her team took their time honoring every wish Alexis had and truly gave her the birth of her dreams!

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

Full Transcript under Episode Details

02:05 Review of the Week

05:29 Alexis’ first pregnancy during COVID

09:41 PPROM and preeclampsia

13:27 Pushing turned emergent Cesarean

16:54 NICU stay and exclusive pumping

20:45 EMDR therapy and postpartum healing

22:24 Second pregnancy

26:21 Beginning of labor

29:47 A picture-perfect labor

31:26 Baby flipping breech and going for a C-section

38:03 The game changer

40:56 A euphoric birth

43:45 Ways to have a gentle Cesarean

46:36 Music, skin-to-skin, clear drapes, mirrors, conversation, and maternal-assisted Cesareans

50:32 Vaginal seeding, advocacy, and backward dilation

52:29 Swelling in pregnancy and nutrition

Meagan: Hello, hello everybody. Today’s episode is one that I am actually really excited to hear and share. I think a lot of the time when we are listening to The VBAC Link, we are looking for empowering VBAC stories, positive VBAC stories, and sometimes when we are sharing these stories, it is accompanied by traumatic Cesareans. We know that through all of these stories, I have personal experiences that a lot of these Cesareans are traumatic, and a lot of the time they are traumatic because they are undesired or they are pushed really hard or people feel like they are backed in a corner or so many interventions come into play that they happen in a traumatic manner.

But today’s story is going to talk a little bit about how Cesarean doesn’t have to be traumatic and it can be peaceful. I relate personally to it because my second C-section, I didn’t want actually. I didn’t want it at all. It wasn’t what I planned on, but I still found so much healing through that birth and I think that in a lot of ways, it shifted my mindset of how to view Cesarean.

I also want to recognize that our community doesn’t always want a VBAC, right? We are here learning about the options for birth after Cesarean but that doesn’t mean we only want VBAC so I’m excited to share this story today for everybody, especially for those who are unsure of what to do or want to maybe go the Cesarean route but want to have maybe a better experience than their last Cesarean. We’re going to talk about how to have a peaceful Cesarean.

We have our friend, Alexis, with us today going to be sharing her peaceful journey with you.

02:05 Review of the Week

But of course, we have a Review of the Week, so I want to dive into that and then turn the time over to her. This is from Apple Podcasts and it says lilylalalala. Lots of la la la. It says, “Inspiring and uplifting.” It says, “I first found this podcast in 2020 in the depths of the postpartum after a very traumatic, unplanned Cesarean with my first baby. I listened to every single episode as I struggled to process what had happened to me. I finally gathered up the courage to seek help for postpartum PTSD that I was experiencing.

“This podcast is a treasure trove for inspiring stories which helped me regain confidence in my body to have a beautiful VBAC with my second baby last year. Thank you for being such a huge part of my healing journey.”

I feel like so often, we hear little things like, “Oh, I loved hearing it” or “That was inspirational” or “That helped me learn the knowledge” but I love hearing that it was a part of the healing journey. It healed. That is so amazing. Thank you so much lilylalalala for sharing your review.

If you haven’t yet, you guys, we would love your review on the podcast. You can review our Instagram or our Facebook community. Give us a review of The VBAC Link. You can leave your review at Google. You can just Google “The VBAC Link” and leave a review there. You can leave a review on the Apple Podcasts. I’m pretty sure you can on Google Play. Or guess what? You can even email us at info@thevbaclink.com subject “Review” and leave us your review there.

05:29 Alexis’ first pregnancy during COVID

Meagan: Okay. I am so excited for you to share with us today. Remind me. Okay, so we are going to be talking about preeclampsia, EMDR therapy which I think is something that is super powerful. We are going to be talking about repeat Cesarean and it can be better. Yeah. Anything else that you’re like, “This is what my story is going to touch on?”

Alexis: NICU time also. We had some NICU time. That was a big part of my postpartum experience. Yeah.

Meagan: Okay. Yes. Okay, well without further ado, I would love to turn the time over to you to share your story.

Alexis: Thank you. Yeah. There is a lot that goes into this story, a lot of different factors that made my first experience really hard, but I got to learn so much through it and I’ve been able to help a lot of other friends and family just through my experience so I’m super excited to share my story with everybody.

Meagan: Can you remind us where you are at as well? Where you are located?

Alexis: Yes, Joplin, Missouri.

Meagan: Missouri.

Alexis: Yep, so southwest Missouri. We are originally from Oklahoma City. My husband and I have lived here for six or seven years now and we call it home. Yeah. We got married in 2017 and we were about ready to have a baby around this time the pandemic hit so fun timing there. I’m sure a lot of mamas can relate to that. I think that’s a lot of our story.

We got pregnant at the end of 2020. Things were kind of normalizing but not really medically. I mean, I never saw my OB’s face. We were all wearing masks. My husband couldn’t come to our first appointment because the regulations were still iffy on that. I Facetimed him to hear the heartbeat which was so sad for our first pregnancy.

But as things kind of went on, the rules lessened a little bit, but still, it was COVID.

We got pregnant really easily. We were so blessed for that experience.

For the most part, my pregnancy was really healthy. I did have a lot of nausea and morning sickness. That kind of lasted the whole pregnancy and it probably was the reason that my nutrition was so terrible. Nothing sounded good. All I really wanted was french fries so I could never– the smell of our gas oven made me gag so cooking really wasn’t happening.

Meagan: You’re not alone and that’s one of the reasons why we talk about Needed, our partnership, because there are so many of us who go through this morning sickness and the smell of anything is just barf so we’re not getting those nutrients, right? So we’ve got to try to get them in other ways because we’re not getting them through food because we can’t.

Alexis: We can’t, yeah. That is totally me. So yeah. My diet was terrible and I didn’t know at the time. Of course, everyone says to eat healthier and a lot of protein, but I’m already not a good eater of protein, and certainly not when I am nauseous, so yeah. My diet was a big factor. I had pretty rapid weight gain and I’m a petite person so that was not normal for me. My midwife really kept an eye on that, but I was still doing CrossFit my whole entire pregnancy somehow. I felt good enough to do that, but yeah. I was probably just wearing my body down. I was not eating well and working out really hard.

What’s funny is I was working out because it is proven to decrease your chances of getting preeclampsia and that didn’t happen.

Meagan: Which ended up happening?

Alexis: Yeah. I was like, “I’m going to be so strong. This birth is going to be so easy. I’m just going to squat down on the floor and pop this baby out, no problem.”

Meagan: I love your confidence, though. That is important in any birth. The confidence in your body’s ability is wonderful.

Alexis: For sure. I think that because I was working out so hard, maybe my pelvic floor is tighter. I’ll get into all of that. Anyway, that was the pregnancy. Everything was good and healthy. I didn’t have any other issues.

09:41 PPROM and preeclampsia

But around 30 weeks, I started swelling really badly. It was a summer pregnancy, so no one really thought anything of it. I knew it was unusual for me. It was a lot of swelling. My midwife was keeping an eye on it. I never had high blood pressure and no protein in my urine. There were no markers and technically, I think according to what ACOG says, swelling isn’t a red flag necessarily for preeclampsia. I think they won’t diagnose you unless, of course, it’s blood pressure and protein. No one was worried about it.

Yeah. We were just trucking along. Everything is good, just extremely swollen. My husband travels for work all of the time during the summer so one night, he had gotten back that day and I was about 36 weeks on the dot. He got back that day from California and I woke up in the night to go to the bathroom and sit up in bed and I felt a little bit of a gush. I was like, “That’s weird.”

I get up and go to the bathroom. Toilet paper is a little bit pink, watery-tinged so I kind of knew immediately. It smelled different. I knew something was up. I’m calling for my husband to come in there. He is very confused. At 36 weeks, we did not expect that. The chances of your water breaking are less than 10% or something?

Meagan: They say 10% or less, yeah, especially before labor begins. You had PPROM and then there is PROM so premature rupture of membranes, PROM, and then premature birth.

Alexis: Yeah, so never did I ever think that my water would break and that would be the start of my labor. I knew those facts and I had done a lot of research. I was really well-educated before I had my son. I just– we are all really good birthers and really good parents before we do it. So yeah. My water breaks. I call the midwife. It was my midwife on call which gave me a lot of reassurance too and she just said, “Go ahead and come in since your water broke. It sounds like that’s exactly what happened.”

Looking back now, that was such a God thing because my plan was that I wanted to go unmedicated. I planned on laboring at home for as long as possible, but my water breaking just messed up my mind and shifted all of my plans. That wasn’t a part of my plan, so I was like, “Oh, okay. I’ll go in. Sure.” I didn’t think twice about it.

When we arrived at the hospital, I felt fine. I had no headaches. I had no vision changes. I felt fine. My blood pressure was I think 200/110. It was insanely high. It was so bad. The nurse was like, “Oh, maybe you’re just excited. We’ll retake it.” We retook it. It was still crazy high and really dangerous.

They started the magnesium drip and for any of you girlies who have ever done that, it is a nightmare.

Meagan: Yuck.

Alexis: I felt terrible. It makes you feel like you have the flu. I threw up the whole labor. I just was seeing double so anytime a doctor or nurse would come in, I would have to cover up one eye to be able to look at them because I couldn’t see straight.

I basically could not get out of bed. We had to do an epidural immediately to drop that blood pressure so I was totally bed-bound. The nurses were super helpful with moving me around, so I basically was just side to side on a peanut ball for 20 hours.

I had felt some contractions leading up as we were driving to the hospital, but nothing super strong. After a while, my midwife suggested some Pitocin which wasn’t a part of my plan. Again, I wanted to go unmedicated. I wanted to have a super crunchy, awesome birth and I have now had every medication under the sun.

13:27 Pushing turned emergent Cesarean

Alexis: We start some Pitocin. That gets some contractions going. I didn’t mention this. I arrived, I think at a 3 or a 4 when we got to the hospital so not a bad place to start at 36 weeks especially.

But yeah, we go through laboring in bed, on my back, on my side. Of course, feeling the pains of labor and contractions in addition to magnesium just felt terrible. I didn’t do the research about positions or what I should be doing. I didn’t have a doula so that’s a big part of it too.

But I do progress to 10. Things kind of move along over these 20 hours and we start pushing. I could tell you on that first push, I had the thought, “I need to have a C-section.” I was so exhausted before I really even began pushing just from being awake for 20 hours. That was such an exhausting, long, hard labor. I could not. I had no energy left.

The midwife that was there tried a lot of different pushing positions. We did tug of war. I actually got on my hands and knees. She was really great about helping me with pushing, but I had no gas in the tank. I was so exhausted. I don’t know what my son’s position was either. I don’t know how high he was. No one ever told me what station he was at. I remember thinking, “Is station just a silly thing people say on Instagram and it’s not real?” Because no nurses have mentioned his station. Should I ask? I didn’t want to feel stupid.

Ask all of the questions. It is your birth.

Meagan: 100%.

Alexis: Ask. If you are wondering, ask. It’s your body. I don’t know why I felt afraid to ask what station or what my dilation was all of the time when they would check me. They just didn’t tell me which was really weird.

I pushed for two hours in every position under the sun and eventually, he started to have some heart decels so the OB on call rushed in pretty quickly. He told me it was time to go to a C-section. I, like I said, was kind of ready for it at this point. It was not my plan, but I wasn’t going to put my baby at risk so I was like, “Okay. Let’s do it.”

We go back to a pretty urgent C-section. This was all also, perhaps more traumatic for my husband. I was so out of it with all of the medication and so tired and you are already in labor land anyway, so you don’t remember it all.

He relayed this all to me later and he was way more affected by it and that’s such a big part of our story too is him. He’s left in a room alone. They take me back. He does get to come in. I didn’t have to be put under or anything, but that’s got to be so scary as a spouse. You hear that things are dangerous. They take you out and now you’re just waiting.

Meagan: Yep, having no idea what’s going on.

Alexis: Yeah, he had no idea if I was okay or if the baby was okay. The C-section itself was actually fine. Everything went well. I was just loopy and out of it from everything I had been on so I don’t remember it that well, but when they got my son out, his APGAR was a 2. He was not doing great.

They had to do some resuscitation so that was just scary. As he came out just not really responding, but he did start to cry. His APGAR came up on that second check and everything was fine at that point. We also didn’t find out gender so what a way to find out your gender was that moment. We were so scared. It was like, “That’s great. He’s a boy. We don’t care.” We just wanted him to be okay.

16:54 NICU stay and exclusive pumping

Alexis: Yeah. They get him in a good spot breathing and crying. All is well. I did fine. The C-section was not– that wasn’t the traumatic part for me. I got closed up. I don’t remember honestly anything after this point. I don’t know if I fell asleep. Maybe it was just blocked out of my mind, but we eventually got back to our room.

They take my son to the nursery and I don’t remember anyone asking us about that. My husband doesn’t either. I’m sure I was not in a good place. My blood pressure was still through the roof. It wasn’t a great time for skin-to-skin. I understand that, but looking back, it’s just really sad that I didn’t really see him. I didn’t meet him then for two days after. My blood pressure was so high, I couldn’t get out of bed from the morning after he was born until about 11:00 at night.

Around 6:00 AM, his pediatrician came in and his blood sugar was low so he had to be sent to the NICU. Now we are in separate jails across the hall from each other because he was in the NICU. They wouldn’t let me get out of bed because my blood pressure was just not controlled. It was so bad. So I didn’t meet my son for two days. That’s kind of where–

Meagan: I’m so sorry.

Alexis: –the trauma. Labor was traumatic. The C-section was fine and then postpartum was really traumatic as well. That’s kind of my story. Eventually, my blood pressure starts to respond to medication and I’m able to go meet him, but seeing your baby hooked up to cords and a feeding tube is awful. It’s terrible.

That was really his only issue though. He didn’t have any breathing problems, thank goodness as a 36-weeker. His only issue was blood sugar and feeding. He was just a sleepy guy. He was not taking the bottle. He wasn’t really vigorous at the breast. We had lactation consultants come in, but it wasn’t super helpful when you’re in the tizzy of NICU.

The NICU is not set up for breastfeeding success.

Meagan: It’s not.

Alexis: You’re on a 3-hour schedule. You don’t feed on demand. You need to measure how long and how much they are eating. That is not how breastfeeding works. We feed on demand. We do skin-to-skin. I just didn’t know at the time. I was like, “Oh, every three hours. Okay.”

I’m pumping. I didn’t nurse him a ton in the NICU just because it wore him out so much. It’s a lot of work to breastfeed so we were like, “If you can take a bottle and we can get out of here faster, do it.” So I was pumping.

Eventually, after eight days, we were able to bust out of there. Feeding was the only thing he had to get over. When we went home, I was still pumping. I would offer the breast, but I was so unsure of it and so overwhelmed with it all. I ended up just exclusively pumping because now, looking back, I can see postpartum anxiety 100%. I was afraid if he wasn’t eating enough, they would stick him back in the NICU which would not have happened. They would have done other things before that. It was not emergent, but that is what anxiety tells you.

Meagan: I was going to say that anxiety tells you things that aren’t necessarily true.

Alexis: Exactly.

Meagan: We are in a state where that’s what we believe.

Alexis: Exactly. My husband and I were both so overwhelmed and traumatized from the NICU that it was just easier for us to pump. I remember going back to my six-week appointment and my midwife was like, “How’s breastfeeding going?” I told her, “I’m exclusively pumping.” She was like, “Oh my gosh. That is much harder.”

Meagan: That’s a lot of work.

Alexis: I was like, “No, you don’t get it. It’s not harder.” When your baby won’t latch and they are crying on the breast, it is so stressful. No, no. This is not harder. But it is exhausting. It’s so much work. I did it for a year. I’m very proud of that, pumping is not for the faint of heart.

Yeah, that was kind of his whole experience. It was just really overwhelming is what I would say. We didn’t really know what we were doing and the preeclampsia of it all was so scary. It’s such a serious thing that I wasn’t super duper-educated on what that could look like.

Meagan: Right.

20:45 EMDR therapy and postpartum healing

Alexis: After his birth, I just really tried to dive into therapy, and my husband too. We just wanted to work through that because we knew we wanted more kids. I already knew I wanted a VBAC. Immediately, I was like, “This was never my plan to have a C-section so we are going for a VBAC.” I was a great candidate for it.

We plugged forward. I did EMDR therapy which I cannot recommend enough. It literally retrains your brain to hop off a thought and get on a healthier track of thinking. My main objective with my therapist was my anxiety around blood pressure because, to me, it felt like blood pressure was something I couldn’t necessarily control. You can do things to support your body like diet and supplements and all of these things, but some of us just have chronic high blood pressure or white coat syndrome which was totally me.

So I just wanted to eliminate that piece of it if I could and just calm myself down before appointments, not get stressed about it, and not add more to my plate of trying to be healthy for this next pregnancy. I just wanted to do that work before I even got pregnant.

I went through EMDR therapy surrounding blood pressure and also just working through my birth and kind of getting to a place where even if that same exact birth happened again, I would have more peace about it because you don’t know how it’s going to go. The chances of having preeclampsia again the second time are higher than a first birth for anybody else. It could have gone the same way. You don’t know, but I just wanted to be prepared to have a better experience, a better bonding experience with my baby, and a better birth.

22:24 Second pregnancy

That really got me to a healthy place. Around the time I was wrapping that up, I got pregnant with my daughter about two years later. I had just done this whole time in between kids and listened to as many VBAC Link episodes as I could. I tried to diversify the information that I was taking in too so a lot of the Evidence-Based Birth, also Dr. Fox’s podcast is a really great one for a little bit of a different perspective.

Meagan: Yeah.

Alexis: He’s an MFM. He’s been on this podcast and has a very different perspective. He has seen it all so he’s going to be a little bit more conservative with allowing any patient to VBAC or any type of “complication”. It’s a really good perspective to add to the mix if you are looking for it.

I just filled my brain with as many birth stories and as much research as I could. I did everything I could to avoid preeclampsia this time. I ate as close as I could to the Brewer diet. It’s so hard if you’ve ever tried to eat exactly the Brewer diet. It feels impossible at least for me so I just did my best. I tried to eat a lot of protein and started my day with a lot of protein just trying to diversify my diet because I did not do that the first time.

Also supplements, so any research that I found, I would take the supplement. So low-dose aspirin, I was on that from the beginning. I took magnesium-glycinate every night. Melatonin– I saw a study that shows a direct link between low levels of melatonin in preeclampsia. Vitamin C is to the strength of your bag of water so I took that every night. My water did not break so I don’t know. That worked for me. I also was a little bit anemic during my first pregnancy so I took a grass-fed beef liver supplement and I had no issues with my iron this time either.

Just a lot of different things to support my body so I’m like, “I’m giving you the best opportunity, body, to have a healthy pregnancy and that’s all I can do.” You’ve got to throw your hands up at some point and just say, “I did everything I could.” That’s what I did. I switched hospitals because I felt like going back to the same hospital would be kind of traumatic.

Meagan: It can be triggering.

Alexis: Exactly. I switched OBs. I switched to– a friend of mine had an OB who had a really low C-section rate. I think the lowest in the hospital and then also with her, she pushed for three hours. He really, really fought for her vaginal birth because he knew she did not want to have a C-section.

Meagan: I love that.

Alexis: I thought, “That’s the type of doctor that I want.” So I went with him. He was really supportive the whole time. I hired a doula as soon as I could and that was a really great tool as well. Webster-certified chiropractor and all of the things. I just tried to throw everything at it that I could.

Alexis: Everything was great. Super healthy. I had no issues again this time. My blood pressure was looking really normal, then a little bit toward the end at the end of 27 weeks-ish, I found out she was breech, my daughter. My chiropractor was on top of it. She was like, “I swear. I have a 97% success rate of flipping babies. I won’t say I flip babies, but I give them the space to flip.” Yeah, so I felt confident in that. My doctor had checked. She turned head down later on so everything was good there.

A thing that I’ll say now is my husband and I had prayed my whole entire pregnancy if we were going to have a repeat C-section, let it be because of breech presentation. I’ll get back to that, but that was just something. I’m not against a C-section. I’m against a traumatic birth and everything that we went through. I just don’t want to have that experience. Birth is birth. C-section or vaginal birth. You are having this amazing, incredible experience and C-section is not the enemy. Traumatic birth is the enemy. That is what we were hoping for, but she was head down so we were like, “Okay. This is our sign. We’re going for it. This VBAC is going to work. It’s going to be awesome.”

26:21 Beginning of labor

Alexis: As we got to the end, I was cool with cervical checks. That was something I was just kind of curious about. I wanted to know where I was at because my doctor was pretty anti-induction which is great. I just wanted to know where I was at by the end to see if we could do some sort of natural induction method.

At 36 weeks, I think I was at 1.5 and then at 37 weeks, I was at a 2. I opted for a membrane sweep. My plan was, “I’m accepting. There is a small risk of infection or them breaking your water but it is a small, small risk.” You just have to weigh the pros and cons. For all of us who are VBACing, there is a risk of rupture. There is a risk of all kinds of things. You have to decide what is right for you. The risk of a membrane sweep was so worth it to me because if he wasn’t going to induce me, let’s do something natural that can get things going.

So for me, I was going to do it every week. I had my first membrane sweep at 37 and 6 then I went into labor the next morning. It worked. I didn’t notice anything that day really. I didn’t have any bleeding which they usually tell you you could. I really didn’t feel any cramps or anything after so I was like, “Oh, well. It didn’t work. Whatever.”

I get up for work the next morning and basically, as soon as I was vertical for the day, I was feeling contractions. Everyone says just ignore early labor. Pretend it’s not happening so that’s just what I did. I went to work and had a normal day. Around lunchtime, I was like, “I’m just going to time these and see where we are at.” They were every three minutes really consistently but lasting 30 seconds.

They never changed from that rhythm. It was three minutes all day long and intensified throughout the day. I finished my work day. I picked up my son. I went home. My mom was coming up just for a visit and that ended up working out very well. I got home and things really intensified. I was on the ball just tracking things.

Again, I was like, “Once I go to bed, these are going to go away. I’m 38 weeks on the dot. I’m not having this baby. I’m not that lucky.” But they just kept coming, so they intensified and intensified. They got longer. They were still three minutes apart. That rhythm never changed from start to finish.

Meagan: Wow.

Alexis: Yeah, so around 10:00, I got in the bath because I was like, “I’m going to sleep tonight. I’m going to take a bath and make these things putter out and then I’ll have a peaceful night of sleep and go on for another week.”

Alexis: The bath felt amazing. That really helped me to relax. I listened to some Christian HypnoBirthing tracks and then my husband and I decided we would go to bed. If something pops off, I’ll wake my mom up. She’s got my toddler and we will head to the hospital. But I was sure that things were just going to stop as they often do in early labor. They didn’t.

As I was trying to lay there, I went from around– I think we went to bed around 11:00 up until we went to the hospital at 2:30 AM. By that point, I was breathing through them, really feeling them. This was real. I had been letting my doula know, “This is what’s going on.” A few hours before that, she was like, “Okay, let’s give in an hour. If it doesn’t lessen, then we need to start thinking about going to the hospital.” She was two hours away, so she had quite a drive.

We were really on top of it and around 2:30 that morning, my husband was like, “Okay, no. We’re done. Let’s go.” He did not like seeing me that way. I probably would have gone a little bit longer if it was just me but he was not on board with suffering all night.

29:47 A picture-perfect labor

Alexis: We headed to the hospital and I was stressed. Am I going too soon? You hear so many stories where contractions are so intense and you get there and you are not dilated at all or something. We get to the hospital in triage. They checked me and I’m at a 3. I’m like, “Okay, cool. That’s great.” They hold you for an hour and check you again. If you progress, then they will keep you.” They checked again in an hour and I’m at a 4.

We get checked in and at that exact same time, my doula had arrived from her two-hour drive through the night. Things felt so picture-perfect. What lucky girl would go into labor at 38 weeks? Going past your due date is so very normal. I felt like an anomaly even though I had an early birth the first time. I just never thought I would go into labor or that it would work and that I would have a spontaneous labor and that things would progress so easily. I didn’t need Pitocin or anything. I felt so thrilled that things were going so well.

After having such a birth where everything that could go wrong goes wrong, a birth that is just normal feels like you have won the lottery. That’s how I felt the whole labor. Dealing with contractions, I knew how to breathe through them. I never sat down in the bed. That did not feel good and I knew that wasn’t helpful so I was on my feet. I did a lot of slow dancing and squatting. I would pedal my feet. That felt really good. Things just progressed on their own. It felt magical. This labor is just happening. My blood pressure is perfect even. It just all felt so perfect. I felt euphoric during labor. It was just the most amazing thing to experience going through labor like that.

31:26 Baby flipping breech and going for a C-section

Alexis: I mentioned I was at a 4 when we got to stay. We got checked in at around 3:30 AM. They checked me two or three hours later. I was like, “I’m done. This is terrible. I want the epidural.” I planned on getting the epidural just because my issue the first time with pushing was maternal exhaustion so I was like, “I want to be able to give my body the rest it needs so I am all for the epidural at a certain point once we are sure we are in active labor.”

I was ready for the epidural. I was like, “Forget this. Get the epidural in here. I’m done. I’m tired.” Of course, in labor land, you have no clue what time it is and it had only been two or three hours. If you had told me that, I would have probably changed my plan, but my body knew. It was time. I got the epidural. They checked me once that had kicked in and I was at an 8.5 after two hours. From a 4 to and 8.5 super fast. We were all shocked so we were like, “Cool. We’re about to have this baby.”

My nurse was just like, “Okay. Chill out. Let’s labor down.” We were coming up on a shift change with OBs on call in the next few hours and I had a bulging bag as well. My nurse was like, “We will probably, if you are okay with it, break your water and you will be complete at that point. You are very, very close.” So we were like, “Great. Let’s all take a nap and then we’ll do that and then we’ll have a baby.” So smooth. Everything up to this point had been so perfect. That was the plan. I was good with all of those interventions.

Yeah. My husband, my doula, and I all just conked out for a couple of hours. I also didn’t mention this. I was GBS positive which I think kind of ended up working in my favor because it gave me more time to labor down. I had to finish the antibiotics. They could have rushed in and just broken my water then and there and bada bing, bada boom, tried pushing and maybe I wouldn’t have been quite as ready, but it bought me three or four more hours to finish the antibiotics. They just left me to rest and to labor down. Even that felt like a treat when I was hoping so hard to not have GBS. I had taken the probiotics and everything. It felt like, “Oh no, one thing went wrong,” but for me, it was great. Just another thing that not everything is bad in these situations. It can be positive.

We were able to just labor down. Then around 7:00 or 8:00 AM, I think the next OB on call came in. We broke my water. It was oh my gosh, the biggest gush I have ever heard. It was so much water. We didn’t measure it or anything so I don’t know if it was unusually a lot.

Meagan: Abnormal, mhmm.

Alexis: But it felt like it was a lot. Everyone in the room felt like it was a lot. She went to check me and she was like, “Okay. You’re at a 6 or a 7.” We were all like, “No, what? No. You’re wrong. Try again. That’s not true.” She was like, “This is what I’m feeling. Maybe the nurse had it wrong.” I was like, “No.” I was so sure. I was like, “Absolutely not. No. I’m not a 6 or a 7. What is happening?”

Then she keeps feeling around and she’s like, “I don’t know that I feel the head. I don’t think this is the head.” I knew immediately. There must have been– I don’t know if there has been a story on this podcast of a baby flipping during labor but I have heard it happen before so I knew in my gut. I was like, “She flipped. That stinker.”

They bring in the ultrasound machine and sure enough, she had flipped breech after 8.5 centimeters and was breech. This sweet OB was so great and really, really compassionate. She puts her hand on my leg and is like, “I’m so sorry.” She knew I wanted this VBAC. She was like, “I’m so sorry. We don’t have another option. We have to have the C-section.”

Also, for me personally, I was not comfortable with a breech vaginal delivery. The doctor was not well-versed in it. That did not feel safe to me. Again, my goal was a birth that wasn’t traumatic. My goal was not necessarily a VBAC. While at the same time my goal was a VBAC, number one is, “I don’t want to be traumatized. I don’t want my body to be super messed up and hurting after this like I was the first time. I want my baby to be okay.”

That wasn’t a risk I was willing to take. The C-section felt fine. So back to what I said earlier about if we were going to have a repeat C-section, let it be because of breech presentation. I was like, “Lord,” when she said that.

Meagan: Very validating I’m sure.

Alexis: Totally. I had immediate peace about it. My husband rushes over and he was like, “I’m so sorry. Are you okay?” He knew that it was going to be really triggering for me, but I was like, “No, I’m good. This is awesome. We just went through this amazing labor. I was unmedicated until 8.5 centimeters. I felt amazing. I was controlling my pain with my breath. Everything was perfect. Now we’re just going to go for a C-section. That’s fine.”

I just had such a peace about it. It was slow. We got to really prep for it slowly. I brought all of the nurses in and we had a little meeting about– here’s my birth plan for a repeat C-section. I had prepared that.

Meagan: Good.

Alexis: I think people think that is going to jinx them. Make the plan. Make the plan because I hope you don’t need it.

Meagan: Put it in the bag.

Alexis: Yeah, but if you do need it, it will make your C-section awesome and it did. We went over that repeat C-section plan. The main things were immediate skin-to-skin. I still wanted delayed cord clamping and just the usual stuff but it did not happen with my first C-section so I was like, “Please, please, please can we make skin-to-skin happen? That was my big thing.”

So yeah. It was slow. It wasn’t obviously an emergent situation. She was just breech and hanging out. We prepped and slowly went back. We were just chatting with the nurses. I felt very awake and aware. They bolused up the epidural and it worked so I didn’t have to be put under this time either thankfully. I told the OB, “Can you talk through the whole surgery?” That would maybe freak some people out to hear, “Okay, I’m cutting into your uterus now,” but I wanted to know. I wanted to feel involved in the birth. I didn’t want to feel like it was happening to me like it did the first time.

I got to be a part of that. She took my daughter out. She held her up in front of us for what felt like a really, really long time. It was because she was doing other things and letting the umbilical cord pulse. They actually took out the placenta still attached to her–

Meagan: Awesome.

Alexis: –which is awesome.

Meagan: Yeah, pretty rare.

Alexis: They totally met my wishes of delayed cord clamping. Then my husband got to see the placenta. They brought it over to me to look at. That was something I really wanted too. It was just so peaceful. I felt so a part of it.

38:03 The game-changer

Alexis: Once they checked her out under the warmer for just a second, I got skin-to-skin for what felt like a really long time. It was awesome. It was so awesome. I never ever would have thought. I was so against another C-section like, “I’ve got a toddler at home.” My recovery the first time– I was not okay at 12 weeks postpartum with him. I did not feel good. I was going back to work after 6 weeks this time. I was like, “We cannot have another C-section this time. Not an option.” That was my attitude.

Through all the work I did, by the time it happened, I was like, “This rocks. This labor was awesome.” It was such a silly way to have a C-section, but what a cool birth. What a funny story I will tell her whole life, “You flipped at 8.5 centimeters, girl. What were you doing?”

Meagan: Seriously and the fact that you were able to do the labor, go into spontaneous labor, and see these things, see that your body was doing this and having all of that, that also is validating.

Alexis: Totally.

Meagan: To have everyone come in, sit down, and be like, “How can we make this special for you? How can we make this a good experience?” That is so empowering and exactly what you said. You can change it to be what may or could have been more traumatic– because honestly looking back, I don’t know if you have ever asked yourself this, but if they didn’t ask you any of those questions, if they didn’t give you any of those opportunities, do you think you’d look at it the same way if they were just like, “We have to go right now”?

Alexis: Totally. Yeah. It was a game-changer.

Meagan: Yeah. Everything okay.

Alexis: We’ve got time.

Meagan: Let’s talk about this. How can we make this a good experience for this family? I think that is so important. I think sometimes in the medical system, it’s like, once a decision has been made that a Cesarean is going to take place, it’s boom, bang, boom, boom, boom, baby out and it moves too fast when it doesn’t need to.

Alexis: It’s still birth.

Meagan: Yes, it’s still birth. Have that conversation and say, “Okay. Your plans just changed a lot. Let’s talk about this.” Or if it’s a transfer from a home birth or a birth center. Let’s embrace what they were wanting, the type of birth they wanted, and still try to help them have a good experience so we have less PTSD in the future. We have less negative opinions of interventions and Cesareans and things like that.

I think a lot of the negative thoughts that we have are from the negative Cesareans that happen.

Alexis: Yeah. You’ve got to advocate for yourself to get that and also, like I said, my doula was really helpful in reminding me of what I wanted and getting things going.

40:56 A euphoric birth

Alexis: Another piece that I think is cool to think about is– maybe this is weird to some people, but when do you ever get the opportunity to be awake in a surgery? If you’re not in the medical field, think about it that way. What a cool thing. I’m in a OR. I get to see this thing that who else would get to experience being in a surgery and being awake for a surgery? Maybe that is someone’s worst nightmare, but I was one of those people where I couldn’t touch my C-section scar. It freaked me out afterward. I was truly traumatized by it but through all the work I did, I now am in this mental place where I was like, “This is cool. I am a part of this whole experience that is not a vaginal birth and that is disappointing for sure. I still feel like, “Man, that stinks.”

However, I got this other experience and it went really well because I told them what I wanted. I got what I wanted. Afterward, postpartum was truly euphoric. I was even the person that was like, “I don’t want the shot of Pitocin after my vaginal birth because that might jack with the way my body responds with natural oxytocin.” I was that girl, but it’s not all or nothing. I still have those emotions. My body still did the work with my hormones. I bonded immediately with my daughter. It took months with my son because of the trauma. I just didn’t feel those emotions yet. It was really hard for me to bond with him.

This time, because of this different experience, I was bonded. The skin-to-skin was such a game changer for me. We had a few hours of it. We nursed on and off. Breastfeeding was a breeze this time. I never had a hiccup with it which is so different than my first experience. It was night and day different and I truly don’t feel any sort of regret over not getting my VBAC. I almost feel like I still got it. I got the birth I wanted. I still am so shocked by the story. It’s such a funny thing that happened. Not my plan, but it was an awesome birth. It was so cool.

Meagan: I love that that is how you describe it. I love it so much and I hope, Women of Strength, if you are listening, and your birth turns in a different way that you weren’t expecting or that you weren’t desiring that you have the support that you have and all of these things to have a better experience. I think too, even with mine, I didn’t want it. I didn’t want it and still in some ways, I’m like, “Why? Why did I have that?” But at the same time, I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful for that experience.

43:45 Ways to have a gentle Cesarean

Meagan: Okay, let’s talk about a few things. Ways to have a gentle Cesarean. Skin-to-skin, we talked about that right after. Babies can come out and be placed on your chest. They have those big bands where they put all of the monitors on. Sometimes they are straps, but they also have bands. You can ask for that. You wear a tube top.

Alexis: Oh, that’s cool.

Meagan: Yeah, so you have them up here. Because when you’re in a C-section, a lot of the time your arms are out straight. Sometimes they are strapped down.

Alexis: They did do that. I had asked the anesthesiologist. I was like, “I don’t want these. Don’t strap me down.” He explained, “Here’s why. Sometimes your body responds. You don’t want to do it, but your arms reach out and try to stop what’s happening to you, so we’re going to leave these on. They are not tight.” He talked me through why they were that way and after he said that, I was like, “Oh, okay. That’s fine.” He said, “We’ll get you out of them as soon as she’s born. We’ll just do this for now.” I was like, “Okay, that’s fine. That makes sense.”

Meagan: That’s another cool thing that your anesthesiologist was literally talking to you and breaking it down. But yeah, so a lot of the time our arms are straightforward or even strapped out to the side so they are like, “No, you can’t have skin-to-skin because you’re not going to be able to hold your baby.”

Alexis: Not true.

Meagan: That is not true. Ask for the tube top. Buy your own tube top as a backup. You can wear it then they can literally tuck baby right down in and place baby right there on your chest. So if you’re not feeling the strength or you are feeling nauseous but you really want your baby to be on you, they can be right there and your husband can also help or your birth partner can also help support baby right there.

Skin-to-skin is possible 100%. If for some reason, you are not doing well or you are vomiting or something like that because as a baby comes out, things shift and we can vomit, encourage Dad. Encourage Dad to do skin-to-skin.

Alexis: That was on our birth plan.

Meagan: That can be really comforting and healing to see as well. Those are two of the things. Skin-to-skin. We talked about the cord. Keeping the cord attached. A lot of providers will say, “Nope. We have to cut it. There’s a risk of infection because your body is open so we have to cut it quickly and start the next process.” Not necessarily true. We can wait for it to pulse. If for some reason baby is not doing well or maybe there is bleeding or something is going on, they can milk it. They pinch it and they do a mini blood transfusion. They send any blood that is in the cord at the present time to the baby. They pinch it and milk it.

Alexis: Cool. That’s awesome.

Meagan: That’s a really good option if you can’t have delayed cord clamping.

46:36 Music, skin-to-skin, clear drapes, mirrors, conversation, and maternal-assisted Cesareans

Meagan: Okay, so music. You can ask your nurse or anesthesiologist to play music in the room so it’s not just beep beep.

Alexis: They did that when my daughter was born.

Meagan: You know? So yeah, so have that music.

Alexis: Write it down too. You’re not going to remember these things in the moment. I had all of these things written down.

Meagan: You won’t.

Alexis: If I can’t do skin-to-skin, my husband will. If it’s not written, it might not happen. They’re not going to think you are stupid for having a birth plan. Write it down.

Meagan: Yes, so true. When I went for my first VBAC with my second baby, something I said is, “I just want to see it. I just want to see my baby come out.” That was so important to me so a lot of hospitals these days do have the clear drape, but a lot of them don’t crazy enough. Something I said is if they don’t have the clear drape, I want to see it in a mirror. My husband was like, “What?”

Alexis: That’s a cool idea.

Meagan: So to your point, and actually when we were back there, I did not remember that. All I was seeing was a table I was climbing up on. It just wasn’t in my mind. My husband said, “Hey, is there any way we could get a mirror so she could watch this and participate in the birth?” They were like, “Yeah, no problem.” They brought it over. They made sure before they even started that I could see and that the angle was perfect.

Alexis: That’s so great.

Meagan: Then they started. My doctor said, “Hey, if at any point you realize what you are watching is happening to you and it weirds you out, just let us know. We will flip the mirror or you can close your eyes.” For me, I didn’t get grossed out. I know a lot of people listening would be like, “No, hard pass.” But for me, that was part of my healing watching it happen and watching my baby be brought up earthside.

So I really love that and same with you, I had my provider talk to me. Talk to me about what is happening because, with my first, they were talking about the weather and their vacation and how depressing it was to be back in the snow. I was like, “No, hello. I’m here.”

Alexis: My plans specifically said, “No shop talk. I don’t want anything else talked about.” They acknowledged that. They were like, “Got it. We won’t.”

Meagan: Love. Love that so much. So yeah, talk to them and say, “Talk to me. Tell me what you are seeing. Tell me what is happening to my body,” as long as that’s something you want. I really wanted my husband to watch. I really wanted my husband to take pictures and so many providers are against pictures in the OR. It honestly is just dumb to me because if anything were to go wrong, don’t they want proof that everything was okay and they did it right?

All right, but whatever if they don’t allow it. But it’s something you can ask. “Hey, I want pictures” or “Hey, as soon as my baby is out, I want pictures of my baby.” You can also ask them to bring them up so they can see you and even better like Dr. Natalie who we talked to on the podcast last year in 2023, ask for maternal-assisted. It begins with us.

Women of Strength, if you are having a Cesarean, we have to start advocating for those people who do want a Cesarean or even don’t want a Cesarean but it happens. Let’s get some maternal-assisted happening. Let’s see that shift in 2024 in the U.S. I would love it. It’s happening in Australia here and there. I don’t actually know anywhere else. If you guys know of anywhere, if you are listening and you know of somewhere that does maternal-assisted, let me know.

That’s where they literally drop everything. They have moms with their hands reaching down and grabbing her baby and pulling it up.

Alexis: So awesome.

Meagan: How amazing could that be? Oh my gosh, it would have been amazing.

50:32 Vaginal seeding, advocacy, and backward dilation

Meagan: Yeah, so music. Let’s see what else. Oh, there’s more.

Alexis: I should have pulled up my birth plan.

Meagan: I know. These are just things that stand out to me. Yeah, keeping your baby, letting your baby breastfeed. Vaginal microseeding sometimes. People will say, “Hey, can I swab my vagina before I go into my C-section and then have this?” It’s a gauze. You have to do a sterile gauze. You put it in a sterile bag then baby can literally nurse on this gauze a little bit and wipe it on their eyes.

Alexis: Really cool.

Meagan: Yeah, there are some really cool things. Know that it is possible to advocate for yourself. Advocating for yourself is going to help you. If you have a doula or your husband or a birth partner or a mom, help them know what you want. Help them know what is important to you and like she said, have a backup birth plan and birth preferences. It’s okay to have them because, at that time, you are not in that space.

A couple of other things that I wanted to touch on is you talked about how you were 8.5 centimeters and then they checked you and you were less after your water broke. Sometimes, Women of Strength, this could be a result in this type of situation where the bag is so bulgy that it’s literally stretching like a Foley or a Cook catheter, stretching your cervix, and then it relaxes a little bit. That doesn’t mean it’s not dilated. It means that sometimes it is overstretched, then relaxes, and then it goes forward.

Alexis: And that pressure was gone from her head since she flipped. That was part of it too.

Meagan: Yep, and the pressure was gone. Yep, exactly. There are situations like that, but that doesn’t mean your body is necessarily regressing a ton and we’ve got big problems. It just sometimes means that the situation has changed. A head isn’t applied as well and your bag broke that was bulging.

Okay, and I have all of these little notes here that I was writing. Okay, let’s see.

52:29 Swelling in pregnancy and nutrition

Meagan: Oh, swelling a ton in pregnancy. That’s another thing. I also was like you. I just ballooned. I had people tell me I was unrecognizable but I didn’t have protein.

Alexis: Don’t you love to hear that?

Meagan: Yeah. I was like, “Thanks. I’m so fat. Awesome.”

Alexis: Yeah, you already feel awful about it and people comment. Thank you.

Meagan: Yes. But that is still something to watch for. Sometimes we think we have too much fluid so we back off on water. Don’t back off on water. Stay hydrated. Add some citrus to it.

Alexis: And electrolytes. I took electrolytes every day.

Meagan: Yep. Electrolytes and magnesium baths. Do these types of things to help and then of course, just like you said, it doesn’t matter if you had preeclampsia. Dial in on nutrition. Dial in on those supplements because naturally like you were saying, you don’t get enough protein in your day-to-day life and then you are pregnant and you need more. It’s really hard. That’s why I love the collagen prenatal protein from Needed. I love getting prenatals that have protein supplements is what I’m trying to say and things like this. Get the nutrients that you need and your body deserves.

Then again, let your body take the lead but give it all that it can to do the best it can.

Alexis: Yeah. Do everything you can. That was good for me mentally to just do everything I could to support my body and it’s like, “From here on out, this is on your body.” With my birth, I feel the same way. I did everything I could. I labored textbook how you should and yet, you still flipped. That’s your fault, not mine.

Meagan: Yes. It was out of your control. Do what you can. Control what you can. Trust the process. Get the support. Advocate for yourself and love yourself. Love yourself for all of the work that you have done. Women of Strength, we love you. Alexis, thank you so much for being here with us today and sharing your positive birth story.

Closing

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


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