Category Archives: VBAC

Waiting for this moment to arise: A healing VBAC induction

by Ashley Ashbacher, MSW, CD(DONA)

The birth of my first child was not what I expected. A lot of what happened was traumatic for me and several days of labor ended when my daughter was born surgically.  It took me a long time to heal both physically and emotionally following her birth. I knew that when I had another child wanted to have a VBAC and I wanted it to be a waterbirth. I decided to see Dr. Hartung with Hudson Physicians for my prenatal care and was planning on having a water birth. At 30 weeks pregnant I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and because my fasting numbers were consistently high I ended up on insulin. Unfortunately due to changes in policy at the hospital, going on insulin meant I could no longer attempt a waterbirth. I was pretty bummed about that. I had a good cry and then I decided that I wouldn’t let this setback spoil my my plans for a VBAC and more importantly, a positive birth experience.

I had hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) my entire pregnancy. Toward the end of my pregnancy my HG started getting bad again and anything I could eat to and not vomit back up would spike my blood sugar. I was concerned about the risk for baby with my blood sugar running high. At my 39 week appointment my doctor and I had a conversation about my options. We discussed the risks vs. benefits of inducing. This was a surprise for me to even have this option as many VBAC moms would likely be faced with another c-section if the benefits of ending the pregnancy before the onset of spontaneous labor outweighed the risks. We discussed a foley bulb induction but it turns out I was too dilated to even consider that so we talked about doing a light pitocin induction and artificial rupture of membranes. We discussed how that would increase my risk of uterine rupture and it was only a small increase and a risk I was willing to take. I felt (based on our conversation and my own research) that inducing was less of a risk than a repeat c-section for me and less of a risk of low birth sugars for baby if we waited for spontaneous labor. I was very favorable for induction and my doctor said he felt like it would go smoothly but he also didn’t feel that it was necessary and he suggested we wait a week and reevaluate.

That week my HG got really bad and I called my doctor and told him that I was ready to induce. On 6am on Thursday May 30th, we dropped my daughter off at my parents’ house and headed to the hospital. When we got there the first thing that the nurses did was attempt to put in an IV. It took three people and four painful attempts to get an IV in and the only place they were able to get one in was in my right hand, which was the absolute last place I wanted it. It was pretty rough start to my birth experience and I considered just going home. I took some time to think about it and I decided to stay and move past that bad emotional spot I was in. Thankfully that was actually the worst part of my birth experience.

They started me a low dose of pitocin and got the monitors on. When I was first planning for my birth I didn’t want continuous monitoring but because I was a VBAC mom on pitocin and because I knew it would make my interactions with medical staff easier, this was a trade off that I chose to make in order to have a positive birth experience. I don’t advocate making decisions just to please medical staff if you truly don’t want it, but in my case I was fine with it and I felt like it made both sides more comfortable. I settled in with my snacks and pulled out my movies, expecting we had a long day in front of us, and found that there was no DVD player in the room. I’d had plenty of hospital visits during my pregnancies and I’ve doulaed a fair amount of births, and I’d never been at a hospital where there was no DVD player. I was a little bummed (daytime TV is awful) but my awesome nurse snuck into the staff breakroom and stole the DVD player for me. So Tony and I watched Les Mis and snacked while I bounced on the birth ball. My contractions were annoying but not unbearable.

When Dr. Hartung found out I was ready he came to break my water. I was 3cm dilated, close to fully effaced, and my cervix was in good position. He said I was extremely favorable and he felt it would possibly go quickly. Once he broke my water things intensified quickly and I decided to get into the tub. I was doualing myself through my husband and telling him what I needed him to do. Once my water was broken I got really bad back labor. I taught him how to do counterpressure and had him call our doula. It was crazy how fast I went from feeling totally fine to feeling a fair amount of pain and having a difficult time managing it.

Doula note: Instances like that are a good example as to why it is important to call your doula when you feel like you might need them in the next hour or so instead of waiting to call until you really need them and then you’ll have to wait while they travel to you and they also may need to drop their kids off or wait for a babysitter to arrive.

It was really difficult but I was managing with being in the tub and my husband doing counterpressure. Unfortunately right when things got really intense , the batteries on the wireless telemetry unit died and I had to get out of the tub as it wasn’t safe to plug it in when I was sitting in a big pool of water. That was rough for me. I lost all the benefits of the water for pain relief and I started feeling the back labor very intensely. I felt like I was going to break in half. At this point I felt myself losing control (not in the good way, but more in the way that I couldn’t bring myself to a good place and starting tensing and freaking out whenever I had a contraction building. Holding tension is counter productive in birth and it often leads to greater feelings of pain.

I was feeling a lot of fear/stress, I’d tense, and then I’d feel more pain. It would continue to cycle and get worse. I very much wanted a birth that was as low intervention as possible but my number one goal was a vaginal birth. Despite my best efforts and the fantastic support from my husband and doula, I couldn’t pull myself out of that cycle. At this point I started to consider and epidural. My husband and doula talked to me about my preferences and encouraged me to keep working through contractions one at a time. My husband kept pushing back when I said I wanted one and he voiced that he was afraid that I would feel like he let me down if he didn’t prevent me from getting an epidural. I assured him that I wouldn’t be angry with him and that was important was that he was supporting me. I did request to get checked before I got it to make sure that I wasn’t nearing 10 cm. I was at 4-5 cm so I decided to go forward. I know that dilation doesn’t always follow the expected one cm an hour so just because I was around 5 didn’t mean that I had at least 5 hours left but I also knew that since I couldn’t pull myself out of that bad place my labor was likely to go slower or possibly stall, which is not something I wanted when working toward my VBAC.

I got the epidural and holding still for that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The nurse asked to check me once the epidural has taken effect and I consented. I was at 10 cm. One I was finally able to let go of all that fear and tension, my body zoomed through the rest of dilation. I didn’t feel the urge to push so the doctor was fine with letting me labor down for a while. I kept having the anesthesiologist come in to turn down the epidural in hopes that I would feel the urge to push. I took this time to catch up with my doula and photographer who are also my friends and also to eat and drink.

Doula, mama, husband, nurseAround 2 hrs after I was complete, I still had no urge to push and my doctor suggested that even though I didn’t feel it, maybe it was time to try some pushing. So we started doing directed pushing. I was having a really hard time pushing because I couldn’t feel it. I was pushing toward what I thought I should be but it was hard to know exactly what I was doing. I had the anesthesiologist come in several more times to turn down my epidural. After a couple times of having the epidural turned down, I could feel and move my legs but I still felt no urge to push. I was a little worried at the point. I got to 10 with my daughter, I pushed with her, and after pushing for an hour my former OB told me that she wasn’t going to be born vaginally and I ended up going in for a c-section.

Pushing on hands and knees with an epidural.

Pushing on hands and knees with an epidural.

I decided to try some different positions to see if that would help me progress or feel the urge to push. I started doing some lunges in the bed and I scared the daylights out of the nurse who said she’d never seen anyone with an epidural do something like that before.

Tug of war with a bed sheet and squat bar.

Tug of war with a bed sheet and squat bar.

I tried a variety of different positions (lunges, hands and knees, leaning over the top of the bed) and although I was making slow progress I never got the urge to push. Dr. Hartung came in and suggested we try a squat bar (which is awesome to have an OB suggest when you have an epidural) I did some squats with that and some tug o war with a bed sheet.

Using a squat bar for pushing with an epidural.

Using a squat bar for pushing with an epidural.

I continued to make slow progress. My OB was in there for most of it even though I was pushing for several hours. He had a very calming presence. He would take his shoes off when he entered the room to minimize noise, and used a flashlight to watch my progress so he didn’t have to turn any additional lights on. After hours like this, my doctor asked me to remind him of why I had my c-section with my daughter and when I told him he said based on his observations of me pushing, he felt like she likely would have been born vaginally if I had been given more time to push. It was extremely validating to me to have a medical professional say the same thing that I have felt about her birth. When I brought up my feelings that my c-section was unnecessary to my former OB, she very much brushed me off. This affirmation of my feelings was very healing to me.

squat bar epiduralDuring all of this we turned on my ipod to see if music could help me turn off my head a little bit. We started off with some upbeat stuff to see if it would energize me. It didn’t work so much but it did entertain me. Jump (for my love) by the Pointer Sisters came on. It’s the song from Love Actually that Hugh Grant dances to after he tells off the American president. Whenever it comes on, my husband starts doing that dance.

Hubby dancingWe switched the music to my mellow playlist and it was much better in helping me relax and enjoy the experience.

We were getting closer and I really wanted to get out of the bed but I was still hooked to the epidural. I often encourage my clients to try pushing on the toilet when they are struggling to push because it’s an area where we are used to relaxing our bottoms and pushing. That sounded really appealing to me. I told my doctor my thoughts and he suggested we try a birthing stool. So with my epidural, I got out of bed and sat on a birthing stool.

Pushing on a birth stool with an epidural!

Pushing on a birth stool with an epidural!

I started making a lot more progress and it finally got to the point where I could feel everything. I could feel my baby right there but I still had a little bit left to go. By this point though I had totally petered out and I wasn’t pushing effectively. I started to get desperate and I was begging my doctor to try the vacuum or anything to get him out. He told me that based on the baby’s position he wouldn’t be able to do the vacuum; that he could use the forceps, but he didn’t need to. He said I could do this, that I was strong, and to trust in my body. I got to the spot where a couple good pushes could get him out but he wasn’t going anywhere. I felt completely unable to push. I tried and nothing was there. I completely lost it at this point and starting crying that I couldn’t do it and that I was never going to be able to push him out. I felt totally irrational and nothing anyone said seemed to help. My doctor interjected into my moment of doubt and exhaustion. He told me that I could do it but the little pushes I was giving weren’t good enough. I was almost there and I had to try a little harder. I decided to climb back on the bed to try hands and knees. My husband  got right in my face and keep telling me that I could do this and I was almost there and really encouraged me to give it everything.

birth partnersI was right about there and at that point a new song came on and my doctor commented on what a great song it was and how appropriate it was. The song that came on was the cover of Blackbird by the Beatles from the Across the Universe soundtrack.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free.

Blackbird fly
Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird fly Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Finally, thankfully, that moment I was waiting for came and I was able to push my son’s head out. One more short push and the rest of him came too. The doctor caught him and placed him under me so I could see him.

new familiyIt was the most amazing and crazy thing. I couldn’t believe it actually happened. I remember saying “oh my god” over and over again. He was underneath me and still attached to his cord. I wanted to lay down with him on my chest but I couldn’t figure out how to make it happened with him attached and all of my IV and epidural tubing. My repeated “oh my god” was then followed by “what do I do, what do I do?” They helped me get on my back and hold him then it all really sunk in and I felt such amazing joy, relief, and awe that I was able to do this and I was holding my little boy and I never set foot inside an OR.

healing VBACI needed one stitch and I was able to nurse him right away. I held him for over an hour before I chose to have him be weighed and measured. He was 9 pounds, 1 ounce and had a 15 inch head. He was almost a pound bigger than my daughter.

baby cI made some trade offs in my labor. But being able to VBAC was worth it all. My son’s birth was tremendously healing for me. I felt respected. I felt heard. I felt like everything the happened (with the exception of having to get out of the tub) was my choice. I never felt rushed or like I was on a clock. I actually expressed concern about that during my labor and my doctor said there is no clock and no need to worry about that. My son was born at 9:05 pm. I was complete around 2pm. I was pushed for a c-section after an hour of pushing with my daughter. I pushed for 7 hours with my son and the word c-section or any fragment of doubt that I could do it was never uttered by anyone on my care team. I felt so loved, respected, and honored in this process.

Ashley is a certified birth doula and is completing her master’s degree in social work. She has a 3 year old and a 10 month old.


Filed under Birth story, VBAC

Cesarean Awareness: A Doula’s Humble Reflection

by Erin Stertz-Follett, CLD, LCCE, HBCE


My journey into birth began 10 years ago after the birth of my first nephew, Micah. I wouldn’t fully embrace birth as my calling until many years later, after the birth of my own two girls and the ‘birth’ of the passion inside me to bring services of meaning to pregnant women and their families.
I will never forget that moment. After an induction that lasted more than 24 hours, and “arrest of descent” of the baby during pushing, my sister was told that she would need a cesarean section. I watched as her face turned from determination, to disappointment, to resignation, and to sorrow. As my mom and I left the room while they began the surgical prep, I said to Mom, “That’s not what we wanted.” With tears trickling down her cheeks, she shook her head, “No.” The grief for what Sarah so badly wanted – a vaginal birth with minimal interventions – was palpable.

A few years later, as I was pregnant with my first child and wanting to learn as much as I could to avoid my own surgical birth, Sarah invited me to an ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) meeting. At that time, the group was small and had just begun reforming here in the Twin Cities. I happened to attend on a night when a wise midwife named Gail Tully was on hand to provide information and practice in ‘optimal fetal positioning’ for birth. I didn’t know anything about birth halls or Rebozos, or the side-lying release. I just knew that it felt so good (and kind of funny!) as I was used as the ‘pregnant model’ for Rebozo belly sifting.

Two babies later, both of which included my sister’s attendance and support, I began the true path to birth work as a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educatordoula, and HypnoBirthing Certified Educator. Again, my journey was largely inspired not only by Sarah’s first birth, but also by her successful HBAC (home birth after cesarean) her second time around.

To offer full disclosure, I dreaded as a doula the first time I would need to step into the surgical suite and witness a mama experience a cesarean birth. In some small way, I was traumatized by my sister’s experience. Now with several under my belt, I can say that my perspective has changed. Yes, it is still difficult. But, with my doula hat on, I enter the experience with an open heart and an open mind, with nothing but how I can best support that mama in that moment as my focus. It is at that time that we turn our trust over to the trained surgeon whose job now is to safely bring the baby forth from the mother’s womb. I offer a grounding hand on the forehead, an explanation of what to expect and what is happening, sounds and smells that calm the mother, words of reassurance to the partner, and pictures if mama desires.

I have seen mothers who view their surgical births in many different ways: From full-on acceptance (even requesting one at the end of a long, stalled labor); to complete devastation (offering my doula hands to wipe away tears); to somewhere in the middle (perhaps with resignation and a resolve to process the experience later).  I have seen cesareans that are completely medically necessary, and those that fall in a grey area.

Look, the cesarean rate in this country (32.8%) is too high. There’s no way around that. We can do better. For women, for babies, and for their families. It may feel daunting to tackle this subject on a grander scale and I know many of us birth workers often feel at a loss. But here is what we can do:

  • Approach the subject with mamas (clients, patients, friends, family) with gentleness, understanding, an open heart; and, when needed, the statistics.
  • Remember and value the fact that not all mamas view their cesarean as traumatic or unnecessary. Don’t assume that all mamas do and meet them where they are, especially as they plan a subsequent birth.
  • Educate. Educate. Educate. Knowledge truly is power. Whether it is ways to more optimally position baby for birth, or methods for deep relaxation, or just knowing all options and all places of referral. Education is key. The ability to ask questions and have them honestly answered is tantamount.
  • Refer to birth providers who offer options for mamas in pregnancy and labor; and who understand normal, physiologic birth… Those whose rates of cesarean birth are on the lower end (including out-of-hospital options if the mother desires).
  • Refer mamas who have experienced cesarean birth, especially those that view their births as traumatic, to resources such as ICAN and Homebirth Cesarean groups.
  • When a surgical birth becomes truly medically necessary either before the birth or during the laboring process, we can offer support and guidance for having a more family-centered experience.
  • Put our time, our money, and our voices behind organizations that support mamas in having births with low interventions.

And finally, as doulas and as friends or family, we can hold hands. Wipe tears. Validate fears. Lift them up. Walk down to the lowest lows with them. Remind every mama how strong they are… that they brought their baby into the world; that they can do it again with love.

cesarean awareness

Erin Stertz-Follett owns Flutterby Birth Services, located in Burnsville, MN. In addition to doula services, she offers HypnoBirthing, Lamaze, and Breastfeeding classes as well as other workshops and events. She is the mother to two lovely and lively little girls.

Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on the Flutterby Birth blog. Photos credited to Stephanie Ryan Photography.  All birth stories used with the permission of the mothers. 

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Filed under cesarean, Doula, VBAC

Driving Home From a Birth: A Tale of Triumph, Whimsy, and the St. Paul Police

by Mary Norby, CD(DONA)

As a birth doula, the drive home from a birth is meditative: replaying the birth, most often reliving the joy, sometimes a bit of regret. Driving home from Lori and Paul’s birth was pure joy—distracted joy.

Lori had, in her words, rocked her VBAC. It doesn’t get better than that for a doula. It is so rewarding when a birthing mom understands what a birthing rock star she was, how powerful she is, how forever awesome she will be.

Lori got it. She rocked her VBAC.

I was giddy as I drove home from St. John’s Hospital at 4:30 in the morning. Part of me realized that my euphoria was clouding my driving ability.
For those of us who have seen Bridesmaids, you may recall Annie driving home from Lillian’s shower, bemoaning the loss of her best friend to Helen: Annie’s car swerves all over the road as she chants, “Hi, I’m Helen. I’m Lillie’s new best friend, even though I’ve known her for 10 seconds.”

I believe my car was swerving, not because I’d lost a best friend, but because I just saw a woman do an amazing thing—and she gets it! She knows how amazing she is!

Wouldn’t it be funny if I got pulled over?

Whoa! Those are bright lights in my review mirror. Are those red and blue lights too?

I’m getting pulled over.
I actually smiled–did I have a story for the St. Paul Police.
The lights were so bright I covered my face. Would the officer think I was trying to hide my identity? A doula in the witness protection program, perhaps?

As I readied for the “Good morning, ma’am, a little distracted this morning?” I said a prayer, “Please God, please give me a female officer. Oh, while you’re at it, make her in her “childbearing years.”

“Good morning. A little distracted this morning?”
“Yes, officer. I’m a birth doula, and I’ve been up all night at a birth.”
“Is that why you ran that stop sign back there?”
I did?
“I did? Oh, I’m sorry.”
“License and registration, please.”
This is where I used some Doula Magic. Reaching into my bag, I made sure to send some lavender scent Officer Childbearing’s way. Calming to birthing moms. Calming to ticketing police officers.

She returned to my car a few minutes later, saying, “OK. Drive home safely, and get some sleep.”

“Thank you officer. Don’t you want to know how the birth was?”
A voice was saying, “Quit while you’re ahead.” But really, I was on a roll. “Yes. Is everybody OK?”
“Everybody is awesome! A beautiful baby girl.”
“Great, have a nice night.”
“Thank you, officer.”

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Filed under Doula, VBAC

Birth Story: “I did it! I did it!” – Katie and Carter’s HBAC

by Katie Champ

My journey to Carter’s homebirth after cesarean (HBAC) began when my daughter Kaylee was born on September 1, 2011.  I was induced at 38 weeks for pre-eclampsia with cytotec, pitocin, and an epidural which led to a cesarean section under general anesthesia.  After her birth, I was determined to do things differently the next time.  I needed to be the first person to see and hold my baby.  I joined the Twin Cities chapter of ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) and learned that I was not alone.  That other women had traumatic births as well, but they went on to have beautiful vaginal births after their cesarean.  This is when we decided that when we had another child, they would be born at home.


We spent a lot of time doing our research on natural birth, homebirth, birthing classes, midwives, and more!  On October 31st, 2012, we found out we were expecting our second child.  We went on the hunt for the perfect homebirth midwife, doula, and childbirth class.  We quickly found our midwives and decided to use Hypnobabies for this birth.  We couldn’t attend in person classes due to scheduling conflicts, but we were able to do the home study course.  We went back and forth on hiring a doula.  One thing I really regretted in my daughter’s birth was not hiring a doula.  Even though I had 2 wonderful midwives attending my birth, I didn’t want to have any regrets this time, so we went ahead with finding a doula and are beyond thankful we did.


I spent my pregnancy preparing myself for this birth.  I needed to make sure I did not get pre-eclampsia and I needed to stay healthy.  I completely changed my outlook on pregnancy and birth.  I ate healthy, stayed active, went to prenatal yoga, received chiropractic care, bodywork, and massage, did my daily spinning babies, listened to my Hypnobabies tracks and practiced my Hypnobabies techniques, read more birth books, attended ICAN meetings (and joined the board), met more homebirth families, and really took an active roll in preparing for this birth.  I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way of having a successful HBAC!


Fast forward to July 2013.  My guess date was July 13th, 2013.  This day came and went with no baby.  So did 41 weeks and 42 weeks!  I was growing impatient, but my husband kept reassuring me that I would not be pregnant forever and that babies come when they are ready.  Thankfully, my doula had gone to 43 weeks herself and assured me that I would go into labor.  At 42 weeks we started trying all to old wives tales to get labor started.  This little guy must not have been ready, because none of them worked!  At 42 weeks 4 days, we went in for a biophysical profile (BPP).  This showed low fluid, but nothing my back up OB said was urgent.  He encouraged us to keep trying to get labor moving and come back in 2 days for a follow up BPP and we would go from there.  He was pretty confident that labor would happen soon and was not concerned that I was nearing 43 weeks.  We were very lucky to have fabulous, supportive midwives, and a wonderful back up OB!


I cried lots of tears that day wondering when my baby was going to decide to make his appearance, but also accepted that he would come when he was truly ready.  Earlier in the week, we tried some herbs with our midwives, but that did not encourage labor to begin.  We decided to try them again that night and see what would happen.  That night, we had a wonderful dinner and put our daughter to bed before the midwives arrived.  I must have had a gut feeling something was going to happen.  We read extra books and had lots of extra snuggles, hugs, and kisses before bed that night.  I think deep down, I knew this would be our last bedtime as a family of three.


The midwives arrived around 8:00.  I spent the next hour bouncing on my yoga ball, hanging out with our midwives, and trying the herbs.  Around 9:00, I started getting a little crampy and a few waves here and there.  By 10:00, waves had begun to get regular.  I started listening to my Hypnobabies Birthing Day Affirmations while bouncing on my yoga ball. I texted my doula to let her know that labor had possibly begun.  I told her that we may have a baby the next day and that the midwives were still at our house.  I honestly thought I wasn’t in real labor.  I thought the midwives would go home to rest and come back in the morning.  Being almost 43 weeks, I was in complete denial that labor was actually going to happen!


Shortly after texting my doula, our midwives decided to time the waves.  They were already 2 minutes apart.  I kept moving on my yoga ball for awhile, then went to take a shower.  I went upstairs and by the time I got up there, I could barely move through a wave.  I asked my husband, Jon, to come help me.  I leaned on him during the waves while I was trying to move into the shower.  I listened to my Hypnobabies Deepening track and kept going between waves on the toilet and waves leaning on Jon.  I finally got in the shower.  The water felt great but standing was a challenge.  I got out and got on the toilet again.  I started getting vocal through the waves.  Deep moaning helped me make it through them.


I have no idea how far apart they were, but they felt very close.  I told Jon that I needed them to set the pool up because I needed to get in it now.  By this time, my midwives were setting everything up for the birth.  I texted my doula a little before 11:00 to come now.  She asked if the midwives were there and all I said was yes.  She asked if she should let the birth photographer know to come, and I said yes.  That was the last I looked at my phone.


My doula got to our house at about 11:45 and my photographer got there at about 12:00.  I was sitting on my yoga ball in our bedroom while everyone scrambled to get the birth pool set up.  My doula used the relax cue with her hand on my shoulder and said lots of wonderful, positive Hypnobabies birthing affirmations which kept me calm and relaxed.  The midwives and Jon were trying to get the pool filled fast.  The hose was not quick enough!  They brought up pots and pitchers of water from the kitchen to the nursery upstairs where we had the pool set up.  Shortly after, the pool was full and ready for me to get in. I climbed in the pool before another wave hit me.


The water felt amazing!  The only position I was comfortable in was kneeling and leaning over the edge of the pool.  Jon held my hand pretty much the entire time.  He was truly my rock through all of this.  My doula helped me with Hypnobabies affirmations, staying relaxed, and breathing my baby out.  My moaning got louder and deeper and the pressure waves more intense.  I can’t say it wasn’t painful, but I was able to keep my body relaxed and not tense up.  I thank Hypnobabies for being able to keep me calm and my body relaxed through this stage.  I spent awhile on my knees hanging over the edge letting my body push.  I never believed people when they said your body will start pushing when you are ready, but it is absolutely true!  As baby moved down, I needed to move to open my pelvis.  I alternated between one knee down and the other knee up in a lunge and then the same thing on the other side.  It was uncomfortable but its what baby and my body needed.  My midwives also wanted me to sit up so gravity would help bring baby down.  This was incredibly hard to do.  I certainly tried my best to stay upright, but I couldn’t do it every wave.


I said many times “this baby needs to come out!”  I was getting close to crowning when they brought my husband an elastic band with handles on it that he wrapped around his body and I held onto the handles to keep myself upright.  This is when the intense pushing began where I really gave it my all.  Shortly after, I remember saying it burned and they said that was good and to take it easy and his head was almost out.  A couple pushes later and his head was out.  His shoulder was a little sticky so my midwife helped loosen his shoulder and shortly after, the rest of his body slid out.  I remember hearing everyone tell me to reach down and pick up my baby.  I reached down and grabbed him into my arms and said “I did it!”.  I think a repeated “I did it” over and over again!  I was the first person to see and hold my baby!  Carter was born at 2:14 am.  He certainly waited until the last minute to be born, but once labor started, he was in a hurry!  His whole labor was about 4 hours long!  He was 9 pounds, 9 ounces and 22.5 inches long.


Carter’s birth was absolutely perfect and everything I dreamed of.  It was the healing birth I needed and it brought our beautiful baby boy into this world!

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Filed under Birth story, cesarean, HBAC, Homebirth, VBAC

“Incredibly healing and an absolute gift”: An HBA2C birth story

by Joyce Geving

My first of three sons was born December 21st, 2004.  We labored for hours and I was given an epidural followed by Pitocin. His cord was wrapped around his forehead, so with each contraction his heart rate would fall. So I was rushed into the operating room. I remember feeling so scared and helpless.  I am not sure if a cesarean could have been avoided with his birth. Afterward, I really mourned not being pregnant any longer, and I think it was the safe feeling of my pregnancy that I missed. I no longer had my baby safe and warm in me but had this scary birth story. I also left feeling like my body had been violated in some way. All of these feelings I shared with others and my doctor but were dismissed or hardly acknowledged so I thought I just needed to get over it and move on.

My second, July 6th, 2007, was a scheduled repeat cesarean. The hospital had a no VBAC policy in place and my doctor convinced me that a cesarean would be the safest option, and I went along with it.  It wasn’t until a couple years later, after watching the “Business of Being Born” that I began questioning the necessity of my cesareans and how I and my babies missed out on the natural experience and all the benefits that happen with that.

When I became pregnant with my third I knew I wanted to give birth, to do what my body was meant to do, even with a scar. I was so happy to hear the nearby hospital was doing VBACs again but was told it was not for me because I had had two previous cesareans and the risk was too high…so now what? I felt defeated.

I contacted the ICAN Minneapolis chapter and was informed of hospitals in the metro that would do VBA2C. I began making appointments and looking into a couple that were within reasonable driving distance. After each appointment I left feeling like they were setting me up for another cesarean, and more interested in adding my birth to their statistics – good or bad.  I began questioning what my birth was going to look like at the hospital with all their policies and protocols. 

Mean while, we had hired a doula because we had read the statistics supporting reduced risk of cesarean when doulas are present. I also knew I would need someone to help us make informed decisions in a hospital. Right from the start, we had a connection with our doula, Ashley; she gave us so much support and information that we needed. 


While doing my research online, home births always came up as an option or in success stories, but my husband and I were both really scared of the idea thinking, “what if something goes wrong” and “what would we do with the dogs and my dad during labor, how are we going to come up with the money?”

Our doula encouraged me to just meet with homebirth midwives to rule it out, if nothing else, and at 30 weeks my husband and I made an appointment to do so. After our first meeting, we knew this was our path and had a sigh of relief. We left feeling excited again and validated, instead of stressed about the birth and our plans. We could really enjoy the pregnancy and the preparing for our birth. 

My prenatal appointments were always at least 45 minutes long, usually longer. We talked about the importance of eating well and drinking water and my tea.  The care I experienced during our appointments was amazing, they always made me feel comfortable and that I could do this.  Nothing like what I experienced in any of my clinic visits.

On January 21st, my contractions began at 10:40 at night. I was so excited, we were up timing contractions all night and called our doula so excited at 4am. She convinced us to get some rest. I slept a couple hours and my water broke at 7:35the next morning. Then I called everyone, because I felt like now’s the real deal, but contractions were still steady and not increasing or getting stronger. I was in constant contact with our doula and midwives. One of the midwives came to check on our progress and things were moving so slow we were urged to get some rest that evening and labor would hopefully pick up after some sleep. Just as soon as I laid down, contractions really began – and we had just told our doula to take her time and come that night when she wanted. One of the midwives came and hurriedly called the other to come now after she said she could see his head and then reassured me that my body was doing what it was supposed to be doing.


That night, in our family room, I gave birth to our third son.  He came out and cried “momma” (sounded like that to me) and nursed like champ all while his cord was still attached to me. My husband was so comforting and amazing while supporting me. It was so calm, comfortable, and full of love and encouragement…it was a beautiful setting for our little guy to enter the world. 

My home birth experience was incredibly healing and an absolute gift.

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Filed under cesarean, HBAC, Homebirth, Midwifery, VBAC

3rd Time’s a Charm: The HBAC Waterbirth of Bryce

by Robyn Hustrulid

Before starting this birth story, I feel the need to mention my 1st and 2nd births.  They are the beginning of my journey and very much effected how I gave birth to my 3rd child.  My first came a couple weeks early with my water breaking in the middle of the night.  I went to the hospital before contractions started and after walking around a bit, they started me on Pitocin.  It took the whole day for contractions to get strong, and after 2 hours of strong contractions, an epidural and a cervical check resulting in little progress, the OB recommended a cesarean.  Besides asking if we could wait, I didn’t know enough to fight this recommendation, so my first baby came to me via an unplanned, and what I have come to realize, an unnecessary cesarean.  The reasoning was “failure to progress,” or maybe we could call it “failure to wait.”


The cesarean wasn’t easy for me to accept.  I was happy I had a healthy baby, but not happy with how things went.  Breastfeeding started off rocky and recovering from major abdominal surgery was not what I had planned for.  I knew I wanted something different for my second birth.  I started asking about VBACs (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) at my 6-week postpartum visit.  And then two and a half years later when I got pregnant, I read more books, watched the essential movies, attended some parent topic nights, became a regular at Blooma, switched to a midwife, and hired a doula.  I felt prepared and knew that I could accomplish a safe and rewarding VBAC.  My labor started at 41 weeks, again with my water breaking in the middle of the night.  I stayed home and waited for contractions to get intense, and then went to the hospital.  There were a few hiccups of back labor, stalled progress and an epidural, but eventually I welcomed my 2nd baby into the world via a VBAC!

After that experience, I fell in love with the role of the doula, because I knew my first birth would have been different if a doula had been with me.  I decided becoming a doula was the right path for me and dove in headfirst.  After 2.5 years of witnessing strong mamas welcome their babies into the world, I decided it was time for me to do it again.  But again, from all that I had learned and witnessed, I knew this time would be different.  I decided to have a homebirth.  I hired 2 midwives and 2 doulas.  I focused on eating healthy, working out and doing yoga.  I also went to the chiropractor regularly to make sure my pelvis was balanced and my body was in alignment.  After hearing amazing reviews, I decided to give Hypnobabies a try as well.  I was very committed to doing all of the homework and listening to the tracks daily.  I was a believer but wasn’t sure if it would work for me until my birthing time came.

On Mother’s Day 2013, my guess date, I decided I wanted to have a low-key day and spend some time with my own mom.  I took a nap and listened to the “Come Out Baby” track from Hypnobabies.  Then I went for a walk in the afternoon with my mom and a movie after.  I had been having Braxton hicks daily for weeks, but started to notice some waves (Hypnobabies term) coming more regularly during the movie.  Later I realized this was my early birthing time, but during I dismissed them because they didn’t seem to be getting stronger.  These waves continued on through the night as I ate dinner with my kids, did the dishes (while listening to Birthing Day Affirmations) and then put the kids to bed.  I went to bed thinking nothing was happening, but decided to listen to my “Deepening” track.  I wasn’t able to fall asleep because the waves were getting a bit stronger.  Around 11:30, I felt some fluid leak a couple times and thought I was peeing, so I decided I should go to the bathroom.  When I stood up, I felt a gush between my legs and knew exactly what was happening.  I sat on the toilet and felt a bit stunned, excited, anxious, and in disbelief.  I called to my husband that “my water broke.”  It took him a bit to wake up, but then he got up, and we started getting things together.

I made my phone calls; told my mom to come over to sleep, and I let the midwives and doulas know that it was happening, but I didn’t need them yet.  I could feel the waves but they weren’t very strong, so we decided to get everything ready and then go back to bed.  David set up the birth tub and got me some water.  I got the camera, some snacks, the Hypnobabies scripts and my iPod out.  My mom got to our house around 12:30.  I told her “this one is sure different.”  I had a few waves in the kitchen and leaned over the counter while breathing through them.  They still felt somewhat mild to me or just like pressure.  I was sure there was a lot of time left.


Around 1am, after we felt like things were gathered and set up, I asked David to do the rebozo for a bit.  I was feeling some of the waves in my back so we wanted to encourage baby to get in a good position.  After a couple waves, I got up and sat on the ball and David turned on the “Fear Clearing” track.  The waves started to get a little more intense, so I decided to call my midwife around 1:30am.  She asked how close they were, and we had no idea.  So she asked that we time a few and call her back.  After timing them and seeing that they were 3 minutes apart, I realized that things were moving faster than I thought, but I still felt like it was early in my birthing time.  My midwife decided they should come, so I also called my doulas to come.  My midwife also suggested we do an initial fill of the birth tub, because it would probably take a couple, and we would need time for the water heater to heat more water.

With every wave, I was leaking a lot of fluid, so I decided to get in the shower.  I let the hot water run on my breasts in between the waves and drew peace signs and hearts on the steamed up shower door.  During the waves, I leaned over and let the hot water run on my back.  My mom got me my water bottle, and I put it in the shower with me.  I could hear some of the Hypnobabies in the background, and I was saying, “Open, Open, Open.”  After the waves I would burp, and I smiled as I remembered my midwife telling me that was a sign of active labor.  I loved the shower and the routine/rhythm I had created.  But sadly, because we were also filling the tub, the hot water ran out.  I got out and sat on the toilet around 2:25am. My mom started to boil some water just in case.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but my mom and David started to get a little anxious for the midwives to get there.  My mom asked David if he could deliver the baby if need be.  He just grinned and put his hands out like he was catching a baby.

One of my doulas arrived around 2:30.  She took note that waves were about 2 minutes apart, and I was listening to Birthing Affirmations.  I remember using my peace cue during waves, and feeling like it was really helping.  My doula said relax, and I could feel my shoulders melt and my body soften.  Around 2:45 one of my midwives arrived, so my mom was able to relax.  My doula suggested I eat something, so David went and got me some yogurt and an Emergen-C drink.  The midwife in training arrived shortly after, and then my other doula.  One of my doulas came and put her hands on my shoulders and forehead and told me to relax.

My midwife tried to hear the baby with a fetoscope but wasn’t able to get a good angle while I was on the toilet.  My other midwife arrived and also tried to listen to baby while I was on the toilet, but it wasn’t working, so they asked me to stand up.  I stood up and leaned over my sink.  My doula did some double hip squeezes and massaged my back, which felt wonderful.  My midwife was still unable to find the baby with the fetoscope, so she asked if I wanted to get in the bed or use the Doppler.  I couldn’t imagine lying down, so I said Doppler.  She found my baby’s heartbeat, and it was perfect.  I remember hearing on the Hypnobabies track, “say your baby’s name.”  And I said, “I don’t know your name.”


At 3:24 I asked if I could get in the tub.  It wasn’t ready yet, so one of my doulas went downstairs and helped my mom bring the boiling water up to fill the tub.  David and my other doula were checking to see if the water was warm enough to start filling it with the hose.  Around 3:30, I started to feel like I needed to poop; my doula mind knew what that meant, but I wasn’t ready to admit it out loud yet.  As the pressure built, I asked again if I could get in the tub, but it still wasn’t ready.  One of my doulas suggested I sit on the toilet while I waited.  When my first wave came while on the toilet, I felt my whole body start to push and I couldn’t resist it.  I had about two waves like that, and heard my midwife say, “she is going to have that baby on the toilet.”  I said, “I NEED to get in the tub.”

Around 3:40 I got in the tub, and my mom was still dumping hot water in it.  When the first wave started to build, I got into a froggy squat position.  It felt like the rise of a roller coaster, excitement, nervous, anxious and joy in the anticipation.  I knew once I got to the top there wasn’t anything I could do.  This baby was coming down, and I was just along for the ride.  I felt my whole body start to involuntarily push.  It was such an unusual feeling, and I knew I had no control and needed to surrender.  The “Pushing” track was on, and I remember sending peace down and out in front of my baby’s head.  After the wave, I leaned over the side of the tub, rested my head on the edge and asked for cold washcloths.  David held one on my forehead and someone put one on my neck.  While pushing I could feel the baby’s head moving down and then rocking back up in between waves.  My midwives told me I could reach down and feel the head during the next wave, and it was then that I finally believed I would meet my baby soon.

Just before 4am, one of my doulas asked if I was ready for the kids to come in.  I said I didn’t know and asked if they thought the kids could handle it.  Everyone said yes, so I said ok.  My mom woke up Kyle and Jolie and they came around the corner sleepy eyed and smiling.  They got pillows and blankets and lied in the hallway.  They would sit up and watch as they heard me making grunting and pushing sounds.  Kyle asked my mom, “What’s all the drama?”  Apparently I was making more noise than the women in the movies I had showed them.  In between waves, I asked Kyle if he was ok and he said yes and didn’t look the slightest bit scared.

My midwife suggested I tilt my pelvis during the next wave so the baby could get past my pubic bone.  What a difference that made, I could feel the baby move down even further and stay down.  During the next wave I sat back and thought in my head I’m going to keep pushing even if I feel burning.  I reached down to feel the head coming out, and then the wave stopped.  I asked, “is this ok,” even though I knew it was.  My midwife assured me it was just fine and the baby’s color looked great.  During the next wave, I could feel the shoulder come out and then the rest of the body slide out.  I brought my baby up on my chest and felt the most incredible rush of emotions.  “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, this was awesome!  Everybody should do it!”  And then I heard my son say, “it’s a boy!”  My sweet little man, Bryce David Hustrulid, came into this world in such a beautiful way at 4:04am and changed our lives forever!

Bryce David Hustrulid born May 13, 2013 at 4:04am

8lbs 14oz, 21 inches

cbc birthteam cbc 2doulas

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Filed under Doula, HBAC, Homebirth, Midwifery, VBAC