Amber's VBAC Story: Podcast Episode #136
Kristin chats with Gold Coast client Amber Shaw about her VBAC birth story and the preparation she had for her birth. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.
Welcome. You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting. Let’s chat!
Kristin: Welcome to today’s episode of Ask the Doulas. I’m Kristin, and I’m joined by my former client, Amber Shaw. Welcome, Amber!
Amber: Thank you. I’m so excited to be here.
Kristin: So you have shared your birth story with Parker with us in the past. So if you could give our listeners a bit of a recap of your first birth journey, and then we’ll get into your most recent birth with Miles.
Amber: Sounds great. So my son Parker is about four and a half years old now. His birth seems like so long ago. But it was kind of a crazy experience. I’ve always been pretty obsessed with birth, all things birth. I love hearing birth stories. I think it’s just fascinating, the human body, what the woman’s body can do and accomplish, and I always knew that I wanted to see what I was capable of. So when I got pregnant with my son, I knew that I wanted to attempt a natural birth. So I brought Gold Coast on right away, started working with doulas; I did HypnoBirthing. I read all the books. I really prepared myself for this physical feat that I was about to embark on. And he was breech, so got that news around maybe 32 weeks, and I became obsessed with flipping him, because that’s just my personality. I did everything I could have to flip him. I did acupuncture. I did chiropractic care. I was doing Spinning Babies. I was doing everything. And he wasn’t budging, and at about 39 weeks, I went in for an ECV, and that wasn’t successful, either. So I still remember this call I had with you. I was having a really hard time processing just the fact that I was going to have a C-section. It’s not what I wanted at all. I had never had a surgery in my life, and then just to imagine, like, having my first child born C-section, I just wasn’t grasping it well, and I wasn’t coping well with it. And you just had such great advice on just allowing what was, and it was still going to be my birth story regardless, and I really just had a breakthrough that night, and I wrote him a letter that I still haven’t opened. It’s actually still sealed in his baby box, but I trusted the process, and I knew that he was like that for a reason, and whatever way he came out was going to be just perfect. And that was really cathartic for me, very emotional for me, and it really helped me process what was going to be my birth. And then that was it. He was born on his due date at 10:13. Like, ten minutes after I went in, he was there, and it was kind of crazy how fast. It’s an interesting experience. I can definitely say it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was still beautiful. I still had birth preferences. You know, we had a playlist going, and we did the passthrough drape, and I watched it all. Kind of bizarre. But, you know, I kind of took back my power in it and realized that I still do have a say in how it happens, no matter how it happens, and I really embraced that, and I have just a beautiful memory of his birth, and it was definitely very impactful no matter how he came. And so that was Parker’s birth, in a nutshell.
Kristin: And tell us about your healing after Parker’s birth and how that went.
Amber: It was pretty straightforward. I mean, obviously, healing from a C-section is hard because your abdominal muscles are cut through, so any time you’re sitting up, any time you’re really doing anything that uses your midsection, there’s a lot of adjustments that needed to be made for me, getting around, sitting up, being mobile. With him, I had the luxury of not having another child, so I seriously was on the couch for, like, two weeks straight and breastfed and I binged watched all the shows, and I really just allowed myself to heal and really took it easy, and it was a pretty straightforward healing process. You know, my scar looks incredible. He did a great job with that. I didn’t really have any points where I felt like I went backwards at all, and it was a pretty good process, really.
Kristin: Good. So now with your preparation for your birth with Miles, tell us a bit about what you did to prepare for a VBAC, vaginal birth after Cesarean, for those listeners who don’t know what a VBAC is. And then a bit about what you did as far as other learning this time around.
Amber: It was different. You know, I already had the HypnoBirthing under my belt. Of course, I brushed up on it. But I kind of wanted to get some different aspects into my knowledge about this one. So I brushed up on the HypnoBirthing, reviewed a lot of my stuff from the course that I took from Ashley four years prior. Probably one of the most impactful things, I think, was reading Ina Mae’s book, The Guide to Natural Childbirth. That was really mind blowing for me, I think because it just really educated me so much on truly what my body goes through during birth. It tells so many successful VBAC stories and just so many stories about women just persevering, the strength of it all. It educated me so much about interventions and the downsides to them. I just felt so empowered after reading her book. I highly recommend it to anybody that is attempting this. Yeah, she’s incredible. So that definitely helped prepare me really mentally. And then honestly, I did The Becoming Course as well. That was also super helpful because there’s so much that you kind of forget the second time. Obviously, you’re in survival mode a lot with a newborn, and I had a very different birth experience with my first than I was hoping to have with this one, so in a lot of ways, I felt like this was my first time, you know, so I was really just trying to absorb all the stuff. And I think what prepared me physically was doing barre classes. So I’m a member at The Barre Code, and that – I can’t speak highly enough about staying active, and especially staying active in a way that really prepares your body for birth. And I truly feel like the barre classes really do that because of just the micromovements and just really strengthening all parts of me, mentally, physically. That really helped me a lot to prepare, as well. One hurdle that I did come across, which was very unexpected and pretty debilitating for a little bit, was I was diagnosed with SPD, symphysis pubic dysfunction, at about 20 weeks, and I had no idea what it was. I just knew one day I woke up and was having a hard time walking. Unbelievable amount of pain in my pubic bone; literally came out of nowhere. And so once I found out what it was, I started doing a lot of research about it and went and saw Dr. Annie at Rise, and I was a disaster in her office. I was, like, bawling. I didn’t know how I was going to get through the next 20 weeks. I couldn’t even do stairs or, like, walk very well. With wanting to do this natural birth, I wanted to stay as active as possible, so I imagined, you know, doing barre classes, you know.
Kristin: Right, until the very end, yeah. Now, for those of our listeners who don’t know Rise, tell us a bit about how Rise is different from other chiropractic offices.
Amber: Truly, a feel a women-centered office. I know they have male clients, as well, but I just feel like their approach is very female-centered and very, like, pregnancy- and birth-centered. They just have a lot of support in general for pregnant women, but they do a really gentle form of alignment that’s very specific to pregnancy. And I am not kidding you; I thought that there was, like, no way that I was going to have any type of comfort going through the rest of my pregnancy with the way that I felt when I went in there, and she had me working out again within two weeks, which is unbelievable. I could not be a bigger proponent for chiropractic adjustments, and specifically at this office. Annie has been such a huge part of my pregnancy, my birth, and my postpartum story, and I’m just so grateful for the fact that she gave me my comfort back. It’s just unbelievable. So, yeah, I’m in love.
Kristin: And for our listeners who live elsewhere, there are directories of Webster-certified chiropractors across the country so you can find one who specialized in pregnancy and positioning and helping you get movement back. And this practice also happens to do postnatal in-home visits, which is amazing, because they’re pediatric-certified as well. We’ll get into that part later, but I did want to mention how our listeners can find a similar practitioner.
Amber: Yeah. I think chiropractic care is vital through pregnancy. I mean, your body is undergoing so much, and just to care for yourself in that way, keep yourself as aligned as possible, is so important, and you feel such a huge difference once you start doing it.
Kristin: So let’s get into your birth.
Amber: Well, first, I want to remind you, which is so crazy, that this kiddo was breech, as well. That was kind of crazy. So obviously, their positioning really doesn’t matter for a bit. I did find out he was head up at about 27 weeks, and I was kind of nearing, you know, the time when it gets kind of important to be aware of where they’re at. And I’m petite. I’m very petite. I have a very short torso. I don’t feel like a lot of room for my babies to move in there, and so my midwife – you know, we were kind of just chatting, and she’s like, maybe this is just how you carry babies. You know, maybe they have a hard time going head-down for whatever reason, and I already started to feel a little deflated and just – I had time, but I was really starting to feel like just my body was not going to cooperate with me and that I was going to have to have another C-section. And so I really, like, went through this mental back and forth of, do I have faith, you know? Should I just keeping doing what I’m doing, doing all the things to prepare for this natural childbirth while still knowing that a C-section may be imminent, or do I just accept the fact that I am probably going to be having another C-section and just kind of not do all of this work to prepare my body? So I was so torn. Every day was different, I felt like, and I was really talking – you know, I had hired you guys at that point again, and I was talking to Ashley and Audra quite a bit about just where I should put my mental space because I didn’t want to be obsessed with him flipping again if that just wasn’t in the cards. But I did decided that I would be at peace with having another C-section because I knew what to expect. But I also wanted to do as much as I possibly could to try to get him to flip, just knowing at the end of the day if he didn’t, that I tried. I started doing the Miles Circuit stuff, Spinning Babies. I actually purchased their e-book on flipping a breech baby, and it’s a pretty structured program on things that you do every day, kind of leading up until the grand finale of really trying to flip them. And so I stuck to that for a little bit, but he ended up flipping, and it was pretty unbelievable. It was about 35 weeks, and the night before my appointment – they were pretty much doing scans on me, quick scans in the office, every time I was in there just to check his positioning. Right before my appointment with my midwife, I had this insane abdominal pain. It was super uncomfortable; it was really stabby. I was having a hard time even standing and so I went over to the couch and was sitting there for a while and just could not get comfortable, and I felt like he was legit, like, swimming inside of me. Limbs were going wild. What is going on in there? And I was almost thinking about going into triage just to see if he was okay, because at that point, you don’t feel a lot of movement anymore. You do, but not like that. And so it kind of ended up going away. I went to bed early that night, didn’t have any more pain. And I woke up the next day and went into my appointment, and I was not – I was just expecting him to still be head down, and we were talking about scheduling out my C-section, what OB I wanted it with. We were very much talking about the fact that I was going to have another C-section. And she scanned me, and he was head down. He flipped the night before, and we both just started bawling. It was an unbelievable feeling because I just felt like I had been given everything back. Like, I had been given the chance to have the vaginal birth that I wanted. And I just had, like, so much gratitude, and I was just in shock and I didn’t know where to start because I kind of, like, stopped preparing a little bit. So everything got flipped upside down again, and here we were, five weeks out from his due date, like, once again preparing for this vaginal birth. So that was pretty wild.
Kristin: Yes! So you were open to possibilities, but also did a lot of work. That’s a great example of just realizing that you’re only in control of so much and releasing and sometimes when you release, things happen.
Amber: Yes. That is the truth. I definitely have a tendency with my personality to just want to know how things are going to go, and if it’s one lesson that I’m learning from pregnancy, birth, and parenthood, you really got to flow. You have to be open to what’s going to happen because holding on to an expectation of something is just dangerous.
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Kristin: As you’re leading up to – again, you had a scheduled birth the first time. What was it like for you to have sensations of labor and feel the surges or contractions, as some people call them, and so on?
Amber: It was such a different experience. You know, I never experienced any of that with Parker because he wasn’t head down. He wasn’t engaged. So I never had any Braxton Hicks. I never had any, like, sensation down there. Like, it was just very – like, he kind of just came out. So it was really exciting, like, starting to feel my body getting ready for this, you know, really paying attention to every single sensation and wondering what that was and what that meant. I just very much remember, like, being in the excitement of that. Probably around, like, 37 weeks, I started just to feel my body gearing up. You know, I started to feel the Braxton Hicks, kind of some tightening and then loosening. And from reading and doing so much preparation, I did understand that those were not surges. They were not, like, labor. So I was really feeling into all of these little practices that your body gives you to kind of give you a little idea of what it’s going to be like.
Kristin: So you practiced your breathing? And it’s wonderful; those warm-ups are a great way to get into it.
Amber: They are. And just – they immediately make you in tune with your body and present. That’s one of my favorite things, honestly, about, like, the end of birth and birth in general is, like, there’s nothing else in our lives that makes us so attuned to our body. It’s just an unbelievable thing to be that connected to yourself, and I don’t think anything else gives that to us. So yeah, I was feeling some stuff, and then at about 39 weeks, I started to experience some early labor. And, you know, at first, you don’t know what’s what. You’re like, is this just more intense Braxton Hicks? You know, what is this? But I was to a point at 39 weeks where I was waking up every single night and laboring by myself out in the living room. You know, I was bouncing on my ball; I was doing, like, cats and cows. And it was really an interesting thing because I was getting excited, because that’s of course what you do once you start feeling like something is actually different than Braxton Hicks, because they were different. And so, you know, I’d wake my husband up after, like, a couple hours, and he’d be like, I don’t know, this might be it. And then we’d feel it out for a little bit, and then it would eventually just taper off. That happened for a while, and it was exciting at first, and then it started to get exhausting and frustrating, and I was starting to just feel depleted. You know, I wasn’t sleeping. I literally was up in the middle of the night for a week for all hours, and I was just miserable.
Kristin: And then you’re also caring for Parker, so again, this is a different experience.
Amber: Yeah. Be up entertaining my very energetic four-year-old the next day, and I was just like a zombie. And I started to get nervous because I’m like, how am I going to go into birth feeling so exhausted? I’m like, I can’t do this. So on my due date, I had an appointment, and I wanted – first of all, I wanted to know if I was dilated at all, because I’m like, I know something is happening. Need to know something is happening and it’s not in my mind. And so I was at a 2, which really doesn’t mean anything. You can walk around at a 2 for, like, ever. And I do know not to get attached to the numbers because, you know, it’s just your body getting ready. The numbers don’t mean much. But something was happening. But, you know, I’m pretty natural, but at that point, I was miserable, and I wasn’t sleeping. So I did decide to start taking a medication to help me sleep a little bit at night because it was either that or I was going to be just up all night long doing this over and over again, waiting for birth. And so that was really helpful – very helpful, honestly. So for the next couple nights – so this was on my due date, so this was July 2nd. So I started taking that medication and got a couple nights of decent sleep. They were still waking me up, but I was able to kind of go back to sleep without getting out of bed. So that was awesome. But it was still very much going on.
Kristin: Yeah, that therapeutic rest is important for prodromal labor that just starts and stops and doesn’t give you time to, you know, get in any sort of rhythm.
Amber: Yeah. It was always in the middle of the night. Like, it never really came during the day. I would have sensations during the day, more Braxton Hicks stuff, but the second everybody went to bed in the house is when they started. But retrospect, right? So at the time, it was hard, but having retrospect of it now, it was such a blessing for a lot of reasons. It made me so much more in tune with my body than I already was because I knew what those felt like, and once they started feeling different, that could be labor. But I understand now why women go into triage at the start of that kind of stuff because it did feel like labor. It was labor. It just wasn’t timeable, and it wasn’t consistent, and it just ended up going away.
Kristin: And so then they get sent home, and they’re frustrated and exhausted. Yes.
Amber: I get it. I was uncomfortable through some of those nights where I felt like I was laboring. But I was paying such close attention that it just wasn’t – there wasn’t consistency to it yet, and that’s how I knew that it wasn’t real. So, you know, at this point, I think with the prodromal labor, and then also just, like, being that close to my due date, that is such a weird time because I feel like you’re, like, just in this weird dream state of, like, you don’t know when it’s going to happen, so you don’t want to do too much, but you want to keep your mind busy, and you’re kind of just, like, waking up and waiting for it. And that was interesting for me because I didn’t experience that with my first one because I knew when he was going to be born. But with all of this back and forth, I just – every day, I was like, is this going to be the day? Is this going to be the day? Is this going to be the day? So it really felt like I needed to start distracting myself. So Ashton, my husband, took the week off before my due date just to kind of, you know, enjoy the last little bit of our family of three time. And I wasn’t sleeping, so he was helping out with Parker during the day so I could get some rest, which was really nice. So we did the zoo one day. We were trying to just do some stuff as a family just to stay busy, stay active. You know, the 4th of July, you know, I woke up, and I was like, you know, I’m two days overdue, but let’s go out to the cabin. So we went out to my cabin that day, which is, like, 45 minutes away, and enjoyed some time in the water, which that’s the only place you want to be when you’re over 40 weeks is in the water. So really enjoyed that and got some really great pictures of me just massive in a bikini, and you can barely see the bikini over my belly, and I just treasure those pictures so much because we were just waiting for him, and he was so close.
Kristin: It’s that in-between time. It is such a special time if you look at it that way.
Amber: It really is. It’s hard when you’re in it because you’re so anxious, but that is such a special time. So, yeah, we really enjoyed – or, no, this was the 3rd of July. We were out there the 3rd of July. I’m sorry. But there was, like, obviously, you know how people celebrate 4th of July. It’s like a week and a half long.
Kristin: Of course. Yes.
Amber: So the 4th of July, I woke up. We came home that night. I woke up, and I just felt different, and it’s a hard thing to put your finger on, but I just felt like that was the day that he was going to be born. I felt like I had more pressure down there, and I also was feeling sensations a little bit earlier, but I decided not to say anything to anybody. I was so sick of, like, telling Ashton every time I had a surge. I was just, like, sick of it, you know what I mean?
Kristin: Or telling your doulas, like, I’m not sure if this is it… Yeah.
Amber: I’m going internal. I’m going internal on this one. I am just going to, like, really just be so in tune with myself today and not talk about it. And so, you know, I woke up, and I went to Target because, you know, what other way to waste a couple hours and be on your feet? So I’m at Target for a while walking around, buying a bunch of stuff I don’t need, because that’s what you do there, and I got a cayenne kombucha, because that was, like, spicy, good. So got my kombucha, and I was kind of, you know, walking around. I was feeling some stuff. I was feeling different, but I still was just being quiet about it. And then I went over to my sister’s house, because I was borrowing a Bluetooth speaker from her for labor, so I went over there and I was hanging out on her porch for a while, and I started to leak a little bit, and I felt like it was water because it’s just different, you know? You have all kinds of fluids and sensations, but I just felt like this was, once again, different. So I called my midwife, and I was like, I think I’m leaking a little bit. Nothing substantial. It’s not like it broke, but, you know – and she’s like, well, put a pantiliner in. Pay attention to it because if it’s water, it’s not going to stop. So I did that, and I continued to hang at my sister’s house for a while. And I was, like, telling her a little bit about how I was feeling but still being kind of, you know, mum about it. And I decided to call my friend Sarah on my way home because that’s who we were going to be leaving Parker with when we went to the hospital, and she was having a little get-together that night for the 4th of July that we’d planned on going to, and I was kind of talking to her, and I was like, girlfriend, I feel like today is the day. She was, like, the first one that I was like, I think this is it. And she’s like, well, why don’t you just bring Parker’s stuff over tonight, and you can leave him here just in case, and you know, if you don’t go into labor tonight, then worst case scenario, it’s just a sleepover. So, you know, I got home, and I was like – that’s the first Ashton had heard that I was just, like, feeling something. I was like, hey, you know, I’ve been experiencing some stuff today. I think we should leave Parker at Sarah’s tonight. And he was, like, apprehensive about it because he just didn’t want to, like, take advantage of her before we were actually going into labor. He kind of wanted to save that card, but I was like, let’s play that card. So we packed his stuff up. We went over to her house for a little bit, and I got right into her pool, and I did not leave there for a couple hours. And it was the best thing ever. Like, gravity didn’t exist; my surges didn’t exist. Nothing existed besides just kind of me hanging out, acting like everything was normal. I almost kind of like forgot what was going on until I got out of the pool and literally, like, all the weight plus some came back. And I was like, we should probably leave soon, and this was at about, like, 7:00, 7:30. So we kind of packed some stuff up, said goodbye to Parker, and left. And on the way home, you know, Ashton was really doubting me and doubting that it was going to be that night, and he was like, you know, I really feel like we shouldn’t have left Parker over there. This has happened so many times. And I just got upset because I knew how I felt. I have a really good intuition, and I feel very in tune with my body, and I just, like, knew it was going to be that night, and I couldn’t explain that to him because he didn’t see me struggling that day, and I didn’t talk a lot about it. So from his perspective, yeah, he probably didn’t think much was going to happen that night, but in my mind, I’m like, I’m going into labor tonight, and I’m upset with my birth partner, my husband, and I am scared now. So, you know, we get home, and I went back into my bedroom, and I was just like, I’ve got to get in a good frame of mind right now. Like, that’s the only thing I kept thinking about is, like, my frame of mind and that I just needed to be in a good place. So, you know, I drew a card that was really applicable, and, you know, really started to do some deep breathing, and I kind of saged myself, and I was just trying to kind of, like, ground myself, calm myself.
Kristin: Clear the air, yes.
Amber: Yes. And he was like, I’m sorry. Like, I don’t know how you’re feeling. I’m sorry that – if I’m doubting you. You know, let’s try to enjoy tonight. So we talked about, like, putting a movie on and stuff. So literally, like, ten minutes after walking in the door, you know, I go back to the bedroom. I come back out here. I sit on the couch, and my water, like, breaks. And there’s blood in it.
Kristin: And was it the big, like, gush? The popping, or describe this for our listeners.
Amber: It wasn’t a gush, but it was my water. Like, I just knew that – I didn’t soak the couch, but I definitely left a spot there. There was blood in it. So, like, my bloody show was, like, there as well. And pretty much after that initial break, it was leaking a lot more. Like, I definitely had to have a towel between my legs. But it wasn’t, like, a gush-gush. So – but I knew that was it, and I’m like, this is insane. Like, I knew this was going to happen. Ten minutes after walking in the door, my water breaks, and this is happening. And so I called Audra, and I called my midwife, and I was like, this is it. I know this is it. And I imagined laboring at home for, you know, as long as possible, and so, you know, I kind of was preparing to just, like, be there for a little bit. And literally, like, a couple minutes after getting off the phone with Audra, I was like, we have to go. Like, I was already on all fours and coping, which is really crazy to me because that’s just not how I’ve read it goes down, you know what I mean?
Kristin: No. Not typical.
Amber: Not typical. But I knew that I had to go, and we had a half hour drive into the hospital, anyway, so I was just like, we have to go. So I feel – I prepared so much for this moment. You know, I packed all the bags. I did all the stuff. And then when it came down to it, it was mass chaos. Like, it was –
Kristin: Right. Intensity. But your body did all of that prep work before, so I find that with prodromal labor. It can be really quick once it gets going.
Amber: That was absolutely my experience. Like, I had so many more things I wanted to throw in my bag, and at the end of the day, we grabbed our shit and we were like, we are out. So the ride into the hospital was wild. There were fireworks everywhere because it was –
Kristin: Of course.
Amber: So it was pretty epic. I wish I would have been able to watch them more as I was, like, definitely laboring in the car. And Ashton kept being like, look at over here, look at over there. And I’m like, open my eyes, pedal to the metal, drive. So we get into triage. My midwife met me there. Audra met me there. And they checked me. You know, it was definitely my water that broke. They checked that. And then she checked me for dilation, and I was still at a 2, which I was discouraged for a hot minute, but I was 100% effaced. Crazy. So all of that early labor was my effacement happening. You know, she’s like, this could go really quick. Like, the effacement is a lot of it. She’s like, you’ve done a lot of the work already. So I was just in shock over that. So, yeah, we were hanging in triage for a little bit, and I was pretty surprised at how I was experiencing my surges. You think that it’s going to be in your belly and your stomach because, you know, if you do research and learn about this, you know, it’s your cervix moving up with every surge. And so you expect to have more sensation in your belly, but I was having a lot of discomfort in my hips and back. So I had a lot of, like, back and hip labor, which is not what I expected at all. And it was really painful. I felt like I was having a hard time getting through a surge without counterpressure. I couldn’t without counterpressure. And, you know, Audra quickly realized, like, that’s what I was experiencing, and she taught Ashton, you know, how to do the counterpressure on that specific part that I needed it and because when you’re in labor, it’s a specific part.
Kristin: It is very specific. And everyone’s got a different point. You have to feel around until you find it, and then –
Amber: I know, it’s like – it’s so crazy. The amount of pressure can make a difference, and Ashton thought he was, like, hurting me, but I was like, that’s better. So they got a workout that night, as well. So essentially every surge that I had, I had to have counterpressure on my hips during, which was difficult when I was in different positions because they had to be directly behind me, essentially. So it made a lot of it difficult. But shortly after being in triage, we got up to the room. They saw that I needed to be in a room immediately. So we went up there, and we had a nice view. We could still see the fireworks, which was kind of cool. And we got kind of settled a little bit, and then we decided to get right into the water because I just felt like that’s what I needed in that moment, and I also felt like I was coping okay, and I knew that if I wanted to have that experience of, like, being in the tub with my husband, it was going to be at that point. So we got in the water. It was beautiful. There were some LED candles around the tub. And he got in behind me, and we just worked through it for about an hour. And I really liked that time. It’s probably one of most memorable moments of the birth because I was with him, and it was relaxing for me, and it was just a beautiful thing. I definitely suggest people do that, and they do that early, before you’re really kind of struggling, so you can just really be present with your partner. Yeah, that was just a beautiful, beautiful experience for us. I made this playlist for labor, and it had just all of the best songs on it, so we had our music going.
Kristin: And water is like a natural epidural, so again, if you’re having that discomfort in your back, it’s a great relief, as long as, like you said, your pattern is consistent, so that’s a good time for you to go in.
Amber: Yeah. It was everything, until it wasn’t. Like –
Kristin: Yeah. And then you know you need to try something else. It’s like labor Olympics. Okay, what position’s going to work?
Amber: It really is. I definitely got to that point where I was like, I don’t want to be in here anymore, and it was abrupt. Like, I was happy one minute, and then I wasn’t the next. So we drained the tub, and then I decided to be on the toilet for a little bit, so I was on that, but that was a hard position because I felt like they couldn’t get the right pressure or position on my hips, and that is what was so necessary to me was just having them be able to put the counterpressure where I needed it. So I didn’t spend much time on the toilet. And after that, I spent quite a bit of time on all fours on the bed over a peanut ball. That’s probably the position that I remember spending the most time in. I think that time kind of ceased to exist after I got out of the water. But then everything is quite a blur because, like, nothing matter. Like, nothing matters besides –
Kristin: Yeah, time doesn’t exist when you’re in labor. It is a beautiful blur. But yeah, hands and knees is a great position.
Amber: It felt like I could move myself. I could move my hips. I could do cat cows, and they could also get to me easily. So that was probably my most successful position that I was in or the one that I had the most just comfort in. The way I imagined laboring is not at all how I labored. I imagined being in all of these really just, like, you know, animalistic positions –
Kristin: Right, or slow dancing, yeah.
Amber: Yeah. None of that happened. And looking back on it now, I think because my SPD was so well controlled, it was an out of mind thing that really reared its ugly head during labor. I realized why I couldn’t get in a lot of the squatting positions at the time, but now I do realize it, and it’s because of my pubic bone. Like, it just was not – when he was there and engaged, it was not allowing me to really open my legs as much as I wanted to and needed to. And so that was really a little bit of a blockage during labor was, like, being able to open up enough. And so, you know, was on the peanut ball for a while, and I tried a couple different positions that just did not work for me. I tried the squatting bar on the side of the bed; didn’t work. I just felt like my pubic bone was going to break in half. Like, it was impossible to get in wide positions. And so I ended up being on the bed, and that’s not what I envisioned. It’s just what happened. And once you get to a point where you’re really uncomfortable, moving is really scary because if you can find any sense of comfort, and you just grasp onto that, and then, like, getting up and moving can just create almost more, like, unrest, if you will.
Kristin: And sometimes it’s necessary, but listening to your body is so important.
Amber: So, you know, I feel like pretty soon on, after moving around a little bit, I was starting to really have a hard time coping and questioning whether I could do this. And looking back on it, like, I know this was transition. I knew it in my mind, but at that point, I didn’t know it because it was early to be in transition. I haven’t been up here that long, but I’m having a really hard time coping. And so I was, you know, questioning what my options were. None of them sounded good. It was just – I almost just needed to hear it, maybe just hear that, you know, I had options, and then, you know, we decided with my midwife and all of us were like, let’s get through a couple more surges, and then we’ll reevaluate, and so I did that, and then she checked me, and I was at a 9.
Amber: Crazy, because that happened in literally, like, four hours.
Kristin: So quick to go from 2 to a 9. But, again, your body was doing so much work and preparation before, and it is baby number two, so even though you didn’t go through a vaginal birth the first time, your body still has muscle memory.
Amber: Yeah. I didn’t expect that. I expected to be the norm. You know, have a 24- to 48-hour labor. And all of these things; that’s what I was expecting. And so it was pretty shocking. I think the whole thing was kind of shocking just how quickly it happened when it actually started. You know, being at a 9, I almost didn’t even, like, react to it, because I was just like, oh, my God. I essentially just did a lot of it, you know? And then I just got this, like, inner power. Like, Ashton said he saw it in me. Like, I was just like, let’s do this. And so I really, like – I just got this new sense of just, like, dedication to doing this the way that I wanted to do it, knowing that I was, like, so close to the end, and you know, pretty much right after she told me I was at a 9, I started getting kind of pushy. You know, I would go through a surge, and then at the very end of the surge, I would feel this just need to push a little bit. And she didn’t tell me to stop that. This is what I love about midwives and about my midwives is they were like, whatever you feel like doing, do it. We trust your body. You need to trust your body. And that’s exactly how it went down and how it happened.
Kristin: They’re so great. I love them.
Amber: Started getting a little pushy, and then one of the midwives at Advanced is – I’ve always just had a really close connection to her. I love all of the midwives, but we’re just, like, energetically really similar, really connected, and I always imaging her being at my birth; you know, birthing with her. And she ended up coming in on her day off at 11:00 p.m., leaving a 4th of July party, to deliver, which was unbelievable because I had started to push and I was on the bed, and she just walked in like a little angel off the streets and was just everything that I needed. It was pretty amazing. Like, I remember that moment really vividly. And pretty much after that, it was just kind of crazy. You know, I started pushing, and I tried a couple different things on the bed, a couple different positions on the bed, and what I ultimately ended up doing, which is just crazy to think about the fact that, like, this is physically possible for as long as it was, I was flat on my back, and every surge that I had, I essentially came up into a C-curve and grabbed the bars and pushed. It was so much work.
Kristin: It is a lot of work.
Amber: And I just kept thinking about barre, actually, during that time because you do so many C-curves in barre, and I was like, gosh, this is really paying off right now, so that kind of made me – but it took a while to actually feel how to push. And what I mean by that, like, you know you need to push, so you do it, but there is, like, a specific way to push, and I didn’t quite understand it in the beginning, so I feel like I pushed for a bit without much progress happening. And I remember Breck kept telling me to open my legs wider and open my legs wider, and every time I tried to do it, I was, like, shaking uncontrollably. Like, they just wouldn’t do it. And neither of us knew why, and once again, it was my pubic bone was kind of getting in the way of really opening up as wide as I needed to, so I feel like I pushed harder and longer than I needed to because I just couldn’t open up wide enough. And so, you know, this part’s a blur, too, but I pushed for a while. I pushed for a little over two hours. It was really intense. It was really intense, and, you know, I was pushing and he wasn’t quite coming down, and then Breck started to kind of get her hands up there, started kind of, like, working on my perineum area, and she discovered that I had a forebag of water in the way of him coming down.
Kristin: No wonder.
Amber: It’s crazy. I guess it’s, like, not that common, but I had one, so he was bumping against that for the first little bit that I was pushing. So she was like, so I’m going to rupture this, and then it’s going to get really intense really quick, and it did. I remember she ruptured it, and it felt like just this sea of fluid in between my legs, and it was crazy. I was having a hard time even getting traction on the bed with my feet because I was just so wet under there. But that’s when stuff really started to happen. It’s when he started to kind of come down more into the birth canal. You know, my pushes were getting more substantial, and they were doing more work. And yeah, that’s kind of when it really started to happen. So I definitely – this was at about 4:30 in the morning. I was just losing a lot of steam. It was such a fast and furious labor, and I was losing energy, and I was pushing, but I was having a hard time really putting as much into it as I knew that I needed to. I was just kind of in this lull of, like, I’m doing it because I know I need to, but I am really struggling right now physically to get through this. And I remember thinking, I’m like, God, I just looked around, then I, like, realized, nobody can do this but you. Like, you are the only one that can push this baby out. You have total control over how hard you push right now. And I just realized I didn’t want to be doing this that much longer. And so there’s just this thing in me that, like, it was like a second wind. I just got this, like, deep desire for it to be over as quickly as possible, and I really started to bear down, and I really started to put, like, everything into it. And Breck and Julie, the midwives really realized that, and they were giving me so much encouragement. And he was born about 15 minutes later. So it was insane. I mean –
Kristin: What a birth story. You are amazing. What a rock star. You had an unmedicated VBAC, defied odds with a breech baby the second time around. You flipped him.
Amber: Yeah, I think the moment that he was born was, like, very different than I expected it to be because instead of, like, pulling him on me and just – of course, I did that, but my arms were so tired from pulling myself up for two hours that, like –
Kristin: Oh, yeah, all the hands and knees. They had to be tired.
Amber: I was shaking uncontrollably. I felt like I was going to drop him. I was in shock. I was, like, bawling because I was so proud of myself, and also, like, what the hell just happened. It was not this, like, you know – it was, of course, a beautiful and insane experience, but I was – I feel like I experienced shock more than anything, and I didn’t expect that. You know, but I think after a couple minutes of just realizing he’s here, you’re okay, you’re alive, he’s alive, everybody’s okay. I kind of started to settle in a little bit. Obviously, birthed the placenta, which I got encapsulated again this time. But it was interesting birthing it. I remember, like, the thud that it made on the wet blankets, and Ashton was like, oh, my God. Just this organ comes out.
Kristin: It’s shocking to partners, for sure.
Amber: But it’s such an afterthought. Like, obviously. It’s, like, afterbirth. It’s an afterthought. You don’t even realize you’re doing it. It’s funny. And then –
Kristin: Did you see your placenta after? Sorry to interrupt.
Amber: And I wanted to. I didn’t see it because I – you know, I was getting stitched. I had quite a bit of tearing. It was just a whirlwind, obviously. So, you know, I was getting stitched. I was trying to have him latch. I was still shaking. It was just, like, a very strange time.
Kristin: I bet. They’re so beautiful. It is like a tree of life. They’re gorgeous.
Amber: I saw a picture of it the first time. The woman took a picture, and it was just unbelievable how beautiful they are, and actually this time, I had Ginger Blossom do it, and I was so surprised, first of all, the turnaround. She did a great job, and I got them, like, the next morning. But she made me a little keepsake with his umbilical cord, and she dehydrated it into a heart, which is just adorable and amazing. So that was great. But yeah, he was born, and then, you know, all of the preparing I did was for birth because I was like, you know, I already have a kid. I’ve got everything under control from here on out, like, I know that, you know, vaginal births, from what I’ve read and heard from people, you can heal a lot faster from them than a C-section. So I kind of just expected to, like, get up and go to the bathroom and – you know, obviously, I knew –
Kristin: Let’s actually cut this off here, and we’ll do a second episode with your postpartum experience so this doesn’t get too lengthy.
Amber: I have to go get my son anyway, so, yeah.
Kristin: So why don’t you give us one final tip for any other women who are seeking a VBAC of any type, and then we will resume our conversation in another podcast episode.
Amber: That sounds great. So my advice is to just envision your birth and what you want it to be and, you know, really embody that because, you know, no matter what position they’re in, what is happening, like you never know what’s going to happen at the last minute, and I think as much as you can focus on what you want, you know, the greater chance it is that you’re going to have that and just know that you can do it. Take it one surge at a time. Take it one moment at a time, and truly surrender into it. Don’t fight it. Just surrender into it and know that you are capable.
Kristin: Beautiful. So perfect. Thank you very much, Amber, for sharing your story, and I look forward to hearing about your journey after having Miles.
Amber: Yeah. Thank you.
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