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Episode 287 Suzzie's HBAC + A Note From a Childbirth Educator

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Nội dung được cung cấp bởi Meagan Heaton. Tất cả nội dung podcast bao gồm các tập, đồ họa và mô tả podcast đều được Meagan Heaton hoặc đối tác nền tảng podcast của họ tải lên và cung cấp trực tiếp. Nếu bạn cho rằng ai đó đang sử dụng tác phẩm có bản quyền của bạn mà không có sự cho phép của bạn, bạn có thể làm theo quy trình được nêu ở đây https://vi.player.fm/legal.

"She was in my arms while she took her first breath and she was just so calm and beautiful. It feels like time just stops at that moment. It was so, so special to me."

From turning down the opportunity to take a childbirth class during her first pregnancy to now passionately teaching her own classes (She Births Bravely) as a childbirth educator and attending births as a doula, Suzzie shares how birth has changed her.

Located in Seattle, Suzzie talks about how her birth team created a safe place for her to have a peaceful home birth that was still very intense but didn’t feel that way.

Meagan and Suzzie discuss pushing, continuous care, the importance of education, and their best tips on what to do during pregnancy to have an empowering birth experience no matter the outcome.

Suzzie’s Childbirth Class

Suzzie’s Website

What Does Your Birth Plan Say About Your Personality Quiz

Real Food For Pregnancy

Needed Website

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

Full Transcript under Episode Details

02:28 Review of the Week

03:53 Suzzie’s molar pregnancy

06:27 Beginning labor with fear and doubt

09:01 “It has been over 24 hours. It’s time for you to have a C-section.”

10:51 Making friends with a student-midwife

14:41 Suzzie’s second pregnancy and labor

18:50 Baby Hazel’s birth

27:06 OBs attending home births

30:40 Continuous care during home birth

36:23 Birth preparation tips

43:29 Knowing what questions to ask

48:18 Waters being broken for 24 hours

50:31 Checking in if labor stalls

Meagan: Hello, hello Women of Strength. How are you? This is Meagan, your host here at The VBAC Link. I’m excited to talk a little bit today about what can we do before we have our baby or what should we do when we get pregnant to start preparing for birth.

We have our friend, Suzzie, with us today. Hello, Suzzie.

Suzzie: Hi.

Meagan: She is actually a doula and childbirth educator who has a lot of passion in sharing a message of what to do and how to prep and how to navigate through this amazing journey that we call pregnancy and birth and motherhood. She had an unexpected Cesarean just like a lot of us. If we go through most of these stories on the podcast, you’re going to hear that trend of it wasn’t expected. It wasn’t planned. It maybe wasn’t desired. That’s a common thing in our VBAC community. It’s important to know what to do and what to know because most of us just didn’t know what we didn’t know.

02:28 Review of the Week

Meagan: So we are going to dive into a little bit more of how to prepare and a message from our darling Suzzie, but of course, we have a Review of the Week so we are going to get into that before we get into the next part.

This is from kimberlyspair. Thank you, Kimberly. We love her. She says, “Thumbs up from us! Sharing such an essential message with love and compassion.”

That is exactly what we are going to do today, sharing another message with love and compassion. As always, if you have a minute, we would love your review. You can leave it on

Apple Podcasts, Google, message us at info@thevbaclink.com. Remember VBAC is V-B-A-C and let us know what you think about the show.

03:53 Suzzie’s molar pregnancy

Meagan: Okay, cute Suzzie. So we were talking right before we got on the episode. You guys, she had her C-section birth at a hospital local to me here in Utah then went on to have an HBAC. Was your HBAC in Washington? Where was your home birth?

Suzzie: It was. I live in Seattle and it was here in Washington.

Meagan: Okay, cool. So Seattle, Washington mamas, listen up if you are looking for options for a provider. Yeah, so you talked a little bit about how birth taught you how much more capable you really are than you thought. I think that is something that happens a lot with us, right? We walk through this birth journey and we are like, “Dang, we are amazing.” We really, really, really are. Yeah, so Suzzie, tell us about your stories. Share your message with us.

Suzzie: Yeah, yeah. I’d love to. I think that my birth story actually started before my first birth because I had losses and a molar pregnancy before. Molar pregnancy is a very complicated, unviable pregnancy where you ultimately– it took me about a year to be cleared healthwise after that to be able to start trying again.

So I came into birth with a strong sense of knowing things could go wrong and also fear. I also worked in finance and I was very busy. I just didn’t really have a lot of time to prepare. I didn’t have a lot of support at home so when, for example, I had a really great friend that I worked with and he and his wife were having a baby around our same due date and they had hired somebody to teach them private childbirth classes in their home. They invited us to come and join them in that process. I was like, “No, can’t. Too busy.”

That whole thought of, “Okay. I’m going to prepare really mindfully,” was too much for me for where I was at that point of life. I also dabbled a little bit in HypnoBirthing. There was a little bit of pressure to do a natural birth and as I was learning about that, the desire for that was growing and evolving, but the fear of labor and birth also wasn’t necessarily dissolving.

06:27 Beginning labor with fear and doubt

Suzzie: So I feel like when I went into labor, I had a lot of really complex expectations and fears that weren’t really worked through because even though I had done some reading, the true preparation is truly very emotional.

Meagan: It is.

Suzzie: And a lot less fact-driven than it is learning about what we really need and how to speak up for what we need and how to ask the right questions and how to develop strong and open and trusting relationships.

Meagan: And also trust yourself.

Suzzie: Yes. Yes, that’s a really big one because I definitely did not have that factor either.

When I had Zoe, my first, it was just such an overwhelming day for me. My water broke at night and I had called the doctor. I was like, “I’m not having contractions. Can I just stay home?” “Sure.” In the morning by around 8:00, I had been having pretty steady– I was probably making that transition from early labor into active labor where you are close to those 5-1-1 rules when you can go in and you can be admitted. My water was broken so of course, if your water is broken, you can be admitted. They have to admit you. Now, it seems like they encourage you to go in as soon as you can.

Meagan: They do.

Suzzie: Yeah, which has its pros and definitely has its cons.

Meagan: Let’s talk about that later too.

Suzzie: Yes. That’s definitely something to learn about because water breaking happens in about 10% of people before labor starts, about 10% of the time. It’s not crazy common but it’s way more common than at least what I thought before. You know and realize something like that could throw off my whole birth story or my whole birth experience.

When I checked in, the nurse was really upset that I hadn’t come in earlier even though I had cleared that decision with my doctor so there was an initial conflict as I was checking in and signing the waivers. That instilled a lot. What she said to me put a lot of fear into me that I had done something wrong and that I had put my baby in danger and that things might not be okay.

I also had those layers of having gone through a pregnancy that wasn’t viable and a lot of health complications from that so when I heard that, the amount of fear I felt was insane. Then my labor completely stopped. The contractions that had been steady and consistent for hours were gone.

09:01 “It has been over 24 hours. It’s time for you to have a C-section.”

Suzzie: The rest of the day was about using Pitocin and trying to get labor started in other ways. Ultimately, nothing ever worked. Zoe, I guess was having some kind of heart rate dips. At this point, if I could go back to what I know now, I would ask a lot more questions about how big they were or what they looked like, but at the time, I didn’t have enough knowledge to ask good questions or be proactive about movement and things like that that can sometimes help especially in inductions and especially when you are using medicine or Pitocin to push your labor.

By midnight, they had just decided, “Okay, it has been over 24 hours. It’s time for you to have a C-section.” I truly do not know if this is a cascade of interventions story or if there was something wrong. It didn’t sit well with me at the time and it still doesn’t because I still have unanswered questions and that was a really not-great feeling. I feel like it wasn’t a great start to motherhood for me because it was very scary. I was very worried the whole time and then even after she was born by surgery, they had spent at this time more than 12 hours telling me that something could go wrong. They swaddled her up. They let me take a picture of her cheek to cheek with me and then she and her father disappear and are swept off somewhere.

After the surgery, they put me in a recovery room and I was in there for several hours by myself shaking from the medication in the dark because it was night not knowing, “Am I okay? Is my baby okay? What’s normal in this picture? What’s not?” That was just overall not a great experience.

10:51 Making friends with a student-midwife

Suzzie: I had actually kind of written off. I had just thought, “Oh, this birth thing must not be for me. It’s hard. I don’t like it.” All of the stories that you hear, I felt like, “Okay, great. That’s fine. I’ll move on with my life.”

But then I moved and I joined a new moms group where we would go hiking every week. One of the friends that I met there was a student midwife and as our friendship evolved and we would talk, all of these stories revolved around the families that she was working with. I started to see that I had missed out on so much of the journey that I had never learned to ask good questions. I never really did have a great relationship with a care provider. There are care providers that will take more time and help you when you need it and there are some that can’t either from logistics or because they just don’t want to.

That was a big eye-opener to me so when I had Hazel, I had a wealth more of information and experience and exposure to what a really empowered birth would look like. I had actually moved again. I lived in Portland for that one year and then I moved here to Seattle so I couldn’t have my friend as a midwife, but choosing the right care provider became my number one priority and I interviewed so many people. People that worked in the hospital and home birth midwives and I found somebody that I really connected with, Dr. Brandy.

She just held my hand from the start to the finish. She was a home birth midwife and she was also a doctor of naturopathy.

Meagan: Awesome.

Suzzie: She had a lot of tools for me going through pregnancy that just didn’t exist before. So when we talked about nutrition, she’d talk for an hour and pretty much all of our appointments were an hour long and always because she had things to teach me or to show me or to help me understand the process I was in and where I was going. It was just so helpful.

I also had an amazing doula that helped me process a lot of my trauma and create a vision for myself. I think that whether or not I had ultimately gotten my VBAC, the process and the change that it took for me to go from somebody that was a rule follower and people pleaser– my first birth, I was the type of mom that was like, “Okay, I’m going to bring cookies for all of the nurses because I want them to like me,” versus by my second birth, I was like, “No, wait. These people are doing their job and they are here to show up for me. My job isn’t to make them happy but to work well together. Right? To develop a positive, working relationship.”

That was a really big transformation. And also, if you have had questions that weren’t answered or you go through things and you don’t get support, those unanswered questions linger for a long time and they mean a lot.

Meagan: They do.

Suzzie: Whereas when you go through a situation and you over time have your questions answered, have everything you need to be making decisions that feel grounded and centered and good no matter what those decisions are, it feels a lot better and a lot safer and it makes it a lot easier to relax into the experience.

I feel like when I had Hazel, my HBAC, my second, my perfect birth story that I was so lucky to have, everything lined up for me really well.

14:41 Suzzie’s second pregnancy and labor

Suzzie: I had gone a little over 41 weeks and my midwife offered a membrane sweep which I did. She also said, “Go home and have sex,” which, you know, the prostaglandins.

Meagan: Not fun at nine months pregnant.

Suzzie: No, not fun at nine months pregnant or after a membrane sweep, but I will say that it did work because I had the membrane sweep at 8:00. We did the prostaglandin injection I will call it before bed and when I woke up in the morning, I was in labor.

Meagan: Awesome.

Suzzie: I didn’t have much early labor. I didn’t have a long, drawn-out thing like I did with Zoe. It just kind of– I woke up. I was getting ready for the day and I was like, “Oh my god. That’s a contraction.” Then five minutes later, it was like, “Oh my god. That’s another contraction.” Zoe’s dad was getting ready for work so as he was off out the door, I had him sweep Zoe out to a friend’s house and drop her off then I actually was supposed to have an appointment that day. I called Dr. Brandy and I was like, “Dr. Brandy, I can’t drive.” That was my thought. I expected to have a really long labor and I was like, “I don’t think I can come to you.”

She was like, “I think actually I’ll be coming to you, not the other way around.”

Suzzie: I called my doula. She showed up. I called the girl who was setting up a big labor tub at my house. She came up and set up the tub then by about noon, I was in full, active labor and everybody was there, Brandy, her assistant– I think there might have been a student there too. I can’t remember. And my doula, who was incredible.

By 9:00, I had Hazel. It was just such a simple, I truly don’t remember much about it because it just started and at the first few hours, it was the logistics of getting everyone there then I went for a walk. I remember going for a walk and then I came back. My doula did this cool muscle release thing when I came back and I actually slept through some contractions which was really weird, but it felt great. It was so soothing in the midst of all of this intense pressure work of labor.

Then I got in and out of the tub a couple of times which felt so good and so relieving and then Hazel was actually 10 pounds and she actually came out with her hand next to her head.

Meagan: A nuchal hand.

Suzzie: Yeah, a nuchal hand, and then she had been breech. I did have some back labor, but when my doula did the muscle release things, she must have flipped because she didn’t come out breech. She came out–

Meagan: With her hand up by her head.

Suzzie: Yeah, the regular way with her hand up.

Meagan: Yeah.

Suzzie: I mean, when I look back at the story, I’m like, “Okay, so there were a lot of things that could have been potential problems at so many different stages with the back labor–”

Meagan: Do you mean breech or posterior?

Suzzie: Oh sorry, yes. Thank you for correcting me. Posterior. That is what I meant.

Meagan: Okay. Okay. I was like, “Wait, back labor.” Gotcha, gotcha.

Suzzie: Thank you, thank you, thank you for correcting me. Yeah. Posterior, not breech.

Meagan: You’re just fine.

Suzzie: Yeah. She did the rotation, not the flip.

Meagan: A lot of babies do rotate and we’re going to talk about that in a minute. Especially if you’ve had a posterior baby, listen up at the end because we will talk a little bit about posterior. A lot of them rotate during pushing.

Suzzie: Yeah. It’s actually their job. I didn’t realize this until after I became a doula and I took the training which is so good if you are a birth worker out there. It’s called Optimal Maternal Positioning. I did not know this, but babies actually very, very rarely enter the pelvis with their eyes looking back which is the position most babies are born in. Most babies will rotate to the side or into a posterior position to enter the pelvis and then it’s their job during labor to rotate.

18:50 Baby Hazel’s birth

Suzzie: So a lot of times when we are doing these things like, we are saying, “Okay, you are 10 centimeters. You don’t have an urge to push yet, but let’s tell you to push anyway.” There’s a reason you don’t have an urge. It’s because your baby is still doing their job which is rotating.

Meagan: Yes.

Suzzie: So I don’t know. When I work with moms, I have seen a lot less stress and less pushing and less complications in pushing simply by breathing baby down as long as possible and if a mom does have an epidural to labor down until even with an epidural, most moms get an urge to push at some point, an undeniable urge.

Meagan: They feel pressure. There is an undeniable pressure.

Suzzie: Yes and it happens with an epidural, but you have to wait because that rotating process can slow down. Yeah. I’m so glad you said that.

Hazel was born. I did have to push a really long time. I think I had to push for four hours. I did not know that when I was doing it. I would have said it was 45 minutes.

Meagan: Wow. That’s amazing.

Suzzie: Right. I was in my zone. I was in the birthtub. I was in whatever position I was in and I had music playing in the background. I had Bergamo oil and there was an ice rag that someone would put on my forehead between contractions and I would just go from that intense work of pushing to being completely zoned out.

Meagan: I love that.

Suzzie: Totally in labor land. I totally, one, I didn’t find pushing to be that painful. I found it to be a very productive work and two, it was almost this weird time warp. I guess it did take a long time, but it didn’t feel that way to me.

Hazel was super safe. It was the most amazing moment in the world. I didn’t see Zoe other than that maybe 10 minutes when we did cheek-to-cheek and took a picture with her in the OR for hours. So to be the one that when my midwife helped deliver her part of delivering of Hazel other than monitoring us, she just did this little scoop position thing so Hazel came out. She scooped her into my arms and there we were. She was in my arms while she took her first breath and she was just so calm and beautiful. It feels like time just stops at that moment. It was so, so special to me.

Meagan: I love that.

Suzzie: That’s Hazel.

23:12 Thoughts on pushing

Meagan: Birth can be that way. It’s not always and it doesn’t mean that it’s not beautiful if it’s not that, but birth can just be that special moment and beautiful time. I love that you pointed out that you pushed for four hours. You guys, pushing can last a while especially when you have a baby with a nuchal hand. There are things happening there.

But Women of Strength, pushing for an hour– we have so many providers after an hour sometimes two who are like, “It’s just not happening. It’s not going to happen. Baby’s not going to come down. Baby’s not coming out.” That’s not necessarily true. We just may need to change positions or stop and just like Suzzie was talking about, let our babies come down on their own. Let them rotate and come down on their own, right?

Suzzie: I see that all of the time now that I’m a doula and I attend births. I was with one mom when we were at the hospital. She had an epidural. We were pushing. She pushed a couple of hours and they were like, “Okay. We’ve reached the cut-off. It’s time.” She was exhausted. Pushing especially with an epidural when you are not ready can be– I’d say what she was going through was much more intense than what I had gone through when I was pushing Hazel.

Luckily, this conversation was happening during shift change because she really wanted a break. She needed a break. So when the new nurse came on, I kind of explained to her the situation and she gave me the wink and was like, “Okay, I’ve got you.” She went about her business as slowly as she could as the new nurse coming on in the morning shift. I had taken my client and I helped her get in a comfortable position. Typically, if a mom is pushing and needs a break, I will do lay on the side, knees together, pillows or peanut balls between the ankles so your knees together, ankles out. I’ll just do a muscle release on that top hip and maybe help her rock back and forth a little bit just so she can relax, but we’re getting some movement into this pelvis area.

The doctor came back. They were like, “Okay. We’re going to get you prepped.” They did one last check and they were like, “Oh my goodness. This baby is so low. We can see their head now.”

Meagan: Yay!

Suzzie: They went from being super high to–

Meagan: Ready to come.

Suzzie: Yeah. Yeah. She did, I think, two pushes after that. She had to have these hours where there was supposedly no change. It was probably about a 30-minute break and in that time, her baby was just like, “Oh, I’ll just descend myself. Here I am. I can move through in this new position without as much effort from you.”

I think sometimes there is so much fear about things that can go wrong, especially in the hospital where– I think now that I do a lot of home births and a lot of hospital births as well, I truly don’t understand how if you come up through the medical system, that you get enough exposure to women in labor without interventions to know enough about it to feel comfortable and safe in that process, right?

We have a lot of providers that actually have big gaps in education which is not their fault, right? But it is a reality and one that they have to deal with and one that we have to deal with.

27:06 OBs attending home births

Suzzie: I go to the Washington State Obstetrical Association. This year, I went and I was talking to one OB that was like, “Yeah, I did a home birth rotation when I was doing my training.” He was telling me about how it changed his practice so much and I really wish that everybody had that opportunity, but the reality is that most do not. It’s really important to be able to advocate for yourself to know what you want and then ultimately to make really good decisions about your care provider and where you give birth because it shouldn’t be an uphill battle if you have all of the pieces in line.

Meagan: Yeah. I love that you pointed out that it’s not their fault because I think sometimes, at least I’m guilty of this where I get a little sassy and I’m like, “Oh my gosh. This provider that or that provider that” or “This hospital this and that” and it can get to the point where sometimes it maybe looks like I hate hospital birth or I hate hospital providers which is the complete opposite. I do not hate anybody for that matter, but it can get a little frustrating when we keep seeing this as birth workers.

What you were saying, it’s not their fault. It’s not. They are taught this way. They are taught this system, this protocol, and this pattern that birth needs to follow. It just needs to follow this way and if it doesn’t follow this way, they are taught X, Y, Z, and back all the way to A all the way to do things to manage that to control that situation.

Then we have things that unravel like the cascade and then we have trauma. We have fear. We have doubts. We have a lot of things that didn’t necessarily need to happen, but it’s sometimes just how it happens. So if we come in and we’re not prepared to ask questions and advocate for ourselves which is really hard during labor. You guys, it’s really hard to advocate for yourself because just as Suzzie was saying, she was pushing and all in, then she was out. Right? We’re in and then we’re out. That goes through labor all around. There are a lot of things in my labor I remember very well and there are a lot of things I probably don’t remember at all or don’t even know happened. But we have to advocate for ourselves.

If we can walk into our birth knowing that our team is on our side, but also give them a grain of salt and know there is training and know that there is X, Y, and Z that they have to follow, then we can have a better understanding and soften our hearts when things don’t go well also understanding that this really is how it is. It is. Like she said, most providers, I mean, I’m going to just throw a number out there. I’m going to guess that 99.9% of those OBs and midwives in the hospital system have not attended or had a rotation of home birth.

Suzzie: I would agree with that. Yes. I think that is definitely an exception to the rule.

30:40 Continuous care during home birth

Suzzie: Honestly, a lot of providers, when you come in and you catch your first baby as a provider, you might have never seen a woman have a natural labor. That’s not the priority of the medical system as you monitor and you treat which is really important because sometimes things happen and we do need to be treated. I went through a very medical procedure during my molar pregnancy and that saved my life. If I hadn’t had that treatment and that ongoing treatment, there would have been a lot of complications that could have happened which is very scary to think about.

But I think about it too, when I chose a home birth, a lot of people in my circle were very uncomfortable with that. Natural birth, especially from my kids’ dad’s family’s point of view was definitely the way to go. My family was very opposite, very medical, just go in and have your baby. But doing a home birth was kind of out there for everybody. It was a big– everybody had a lot of fear around that decision.

Ultimately for me, the thing that made me feel really safe in that was that out of all of the providers I had talked to, Dr. Brandy was willing to build that open and trustful relationship with me. But more than that, when I gave birth to Zoe, I was in a hospital where my nurse had multiple patients. She was watching on a monitor. She had a lot on her plate. Emergencies can happen. You have a lot of things going on in those cases. My doctor also had a lot going on because they work on call. They were also a part of a busier practice so multiple patients at one time, bouncing back and forth between everybody’s different needs.

The thing that I loved about a home birth was that I had an expert by my side from the moment it started to hours after. Once Dr. Brandy got there, I’m going to assume it was probably around noon although my recollection of the day, everything is very scattered because I was so supported to stay in that labor land. There was a lot of time warp going on.

But anyway, she got there around lunchtime and she didn’t leave. The furthest distance that we were from each other was I would be in my bedroom and if I wanted space, she would go to the living room, or at one point, I went outside and went for a walk. But I had her continual monitoring, her continual– I guess I want to be careful with that word because it wasn’t continuous monitoring with the little machine, but she had her Doppler and she was continually listening as appropriate per guidelines.

Me– she had her assistant there who also gave me space but was one person she was watching, me. And my doula, who also had been to hundreds of births and was focused on me. Right? So if you think about it logistically, which place am I going to get the better care where skilled and caring providers are taking care of multiple people at once or where skilled and caring providers are only focused on me? I think that’s pretty easy to see. Why did I feel so safe? Well, I had the resources.

Suzzie: My degree is in economics so I think about systems a lot. I often think, “How do we scale that so everybody can have that one-on-one attention?” I don’t have the answer to that question, but I do know that as a woman, you can choose which system you want to be a part of when you choose your care provider and when you choose either your midwife or OB. I’ve worked with both that are great. It’s not that you can only choose a midwife or you can only choose an OB, but you do have to build a strong relationship with them.

It does make sense if you are advocating for yourself to make decisions where you will be the priority when you are in labor because as a laboring mom, I think we all deserve that.

Unfortunately, at this time, we still have to opt ourselves into those systems. I know here in Seattle, I just did a comparison of all of our hospitals and their C-section rates for first-time, low-risk moms having head-down babies and the difference is really staggering. There’s one hospital where first-time, low-risk moms– over 35% of moms are having surgeries and that same category literally 20 minutes away, the C-section rate is only 20%.

So if you are thinking about, “Okay, my priority is I want to be safe and in a hospital and avoid a C-section, one of those hospitals is going to be more equipped and have better systems and structures in place to help you with that goal.”

Of course, it’s not a guarantee. There’s always risk that exists in birth. It’s one of those things we have to come to terms with, but we can make choices that help us one way or the other.

Meagan: Yes. I love that you said that. Okay, we want to go to the hospital, but let’s really figure out what place is best for our needs.

36:23 Birth preparation tips

Meagan: So as a childbirth educator, you’ve now gone through an unplanned Cesarean. What do you suggest to do before birth in general? No matter what type of birth you are planning for, what are a couple of tips you have? I think that could probably even be one of them. Find your support team. Find your system. Find the right location.

But yeah, do you have any others that you would say would be a top tip from you?

Suzzie: Yeah. Yeah. I actually have a little pyramid of these are the factors of building a healthy pregnancy that I try to lead by my mom’s theory. I think a lot of times there’s– okay, I’ll say with me for my first birth. The reason I didn’t do a childbirth class, the reason I was opting out was partly because I already experienced trauma and had a lot of emotions that I was avoiding.

But also, because I also had a mindset of “leave it to the experts” which for me, birth really moved me into and really was the thing that made me become aware of what my needs really were.

But now that I teach about birth, yes. Monitoring and treating is a crucial part of a healthy pregnancy and it’s important to get a care provider you care about. We’ve talked about that. Childbirth education– there was a study published in 2020 that talked about, okay. If you’re trying to avoid a C-section, let’s look at moms who took a childbirth class before giving birth and those who didn’t. For the moms that took a class, the C-section rate was about 80% which, I think we can do better and we should expect better than that, but on the flipside, the moms who didn’t take a class was only 58% so that’s not much more than flipping a coin.

Childbirth education makes a difference.

Meagan: Wait, the people who did take the class had a higher Cesarean rate or a lower?

Suzzie: No, no, no, no. The people that did not take a class was 58%. So if you don’t take a class, it’s almost like me. I didn’t take a class. I made that mistake. It’s not that different than flipping a coin.

After that, you really have to nourish yourself. Pregnancy nutrition is a lot different than what most of us were taught. When I learned about nutrition in pregnancy, there was a lot of unlearning and new habits I had to build. There is a really good book, Real Food for Pregnancy, by Lily Nichols. I love that book and her trainings are inside my class and what my class teaches basically.

Meagan: I have it right here in my hand.

Suzzie: Yeah. Yeah. And after that, prepping your body. Movement and exercise have so many benefits for labor. Also doing some body balancing work because one of the things that as a doula when I’m looking at, “Okay, when people are having weird contraction patterns or babies that don’t seem to be doing their little rotation dance or not progressing even though they are having contractions,” the three things we are looking at are your passenger. Is your baby just doing something funny or is there a really short cord? Something completely out of your control. Is it the power? Is it how strong your contractions are or is it your pelvis? A lot of the time, the answer is that it’s your pelvis so we have to come in with movements and muscle releases and you can do the chiropractic care throughout pregnancy and it does make a difference in preventing those not common but when you hear people having three-hour labors, that is often, often, often a pelvis thing.

So for me, if I have a mom that’s having those contractions 10 or 15 minutes apart and they are not getting closer, I know we’ve got to get in there and do some things to help and usually we can resolve that with movement.

Dealing with stress and anxiety is a part of labor. It’s actually the work of pregnancy. It’s to understand that you have anxiety about this because you should because it is one of the biggest and most important things we have and getting help with that, connecting with others, building your community, and then nourishing your purpose because when I look at my friends and the women I work with, some of us connect very quickly to the idea of being mothers. It’s been in our minds and in our hearts since we were little, and some of us just don’t.

Or some of us get pregnant and we don’t feel that magical connection that we thought we were supposed to have. That’s actually okay. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong. It means that we have an opportunity to start nourishing and developing what it means to us to go through this process and deliver a baby and to raise a human being and what our role is and to build purpose in that which is really important.

I always think that when we are talking about how to build a healthy pregnancy. If you leave any of those out, we are selling ourselves or the people we work with short by not providing resources in all of those different categories.

Meagan: Yeah. I love the pyramid concept. We have to care for ourselves and we have to do these things for ourselves. I think so many times, we push some of those things aside and we deserve to do these things for our bodies, our minds, our mental health, and everything. We deserve to fuel our bodies with good nutrition.

I also love Lily Nichols. We’ve had her on the podcast. I have her books for gestational diabetes and Real Food for Pregnancy. We are big lovers of Needed and we talk about, okay. We know we are busy. We know that nutrition has changed over the years and get the supplements that you need. Do what you need to do to fuel your body as a whole and then also do all of those other steps so we walk in.

Sometimes we may do everything in this pyramid. We may do every single thing and then something doesn’t happen the way we want or we still have an unexpected situation, but we can walk in knowing that our pyramid is strong and then go through the motions.

43:29 Knowing what questions to ask

Meagan: Earlier, we were talking about asking questions and not being scared of that. Ask a childbirth educator, how do you educate on being confident in asking those questions? I feel like as a doula, I’m always talking about, “Ask questions. Ask questions.” If you have a doula there, they can help facilitate this, but sometimes, we don’t have doulas there. So how can we really hone in on making sure that we are in a place to ask questions?

Suzzie: Yeah. Yeah. I think the really hard thing when it comes to birth is when I think about myself as a first-time mom, that I didn’t know enough to know what questions to ask. Right? You get thrown into that impossible situation. I know in my birth class, my birth class is online, but also, every single person who goes through that birth class gets two one-on-one appointments with me to go over their birth plan to talk a really good picture about how they really feel about birth.

It’s okay to want a natural birth and it’s okay to say, “I don’t like pain. I want an epidural as soon as possible.” There are different approaches and there are different conversations you should have with your provider each time. A lot of time, I feel like the induction question is coming up more and more and more often, so a lot of times, that second prenatal ends up being like, “Okay, how do I navigate a conversation about induction because I’m trying to figure out how I feel about it and I’m also trying to figure out how to navigate maybe differences in risk aversion or things like that with a care provider?”

One, I would say talk to somebody who has some knowledge and ask them what questions to ask if you are not sure. You can talk to– there’s no limit to the number of people that you can talk to and everyone will have their opinion and you can take what works for you and throw the rest away.

The other side of that is also journaling and getting really clear on what a healthy birth looks like to you or what your ideal birth looks like because it’s very possible that you and a care provider have different definitions of what that is. If you can communicate what you want really well, I always suggest when people write their birth plan to think about everything that is important to you and summarize it in 1-3 sentences. Put that at the top of your birth plan because the rest of your birth plan is just logistics, but if you can communicate who you are and if you’ve chosen somebody that you trust, the most likely outcome then is that they see your birth plan and then they ask you the right questions and they help you navigate what you would need to know because they know, “Okay. You are a person that really wants to try the most natural thing first” or “Your big worry is about tearing.”

Now they know to filter the conversations that they are having with you through these different priorities that you have. If they don’t know your priorities, they can’t do that. So just setting yourself up so that even if you’re the one who doesn’t know because you are new to birth and you are having your first-time experience, be clear about who you are so that your providers can help fill the gap.

I truly believe that if you have taken the time to find a provider or a location whose values somewhat line up with yours, it doesn’t have to be perfect, then that will be enough for most people. It’s when we can’t communicate who we are or when we are in environments where clearly the priorities are just completely misaligned where I see breakdowns in that, but I think most providers care deeply about what they do and who they serve. But every mom that comes in is different so if they don’t know what makes you special, they can’t treat you special. Right?

Meagan: Right. Yeah. Such a powerful message. Thank you so much for coming and sharing with us. There are so many little nuggets. I feel like we didn’t even have time to talk about fear releases before you walk in. If you get pregnant, do a fear release. If you are entering things, do a fear release. Journal. Find those fears so you can start navigating them and eliminating them along the way.

48:18 Waters being broken for 24 hours

Meagan: I wanted to talk about water breaking for 24 hours. Just because your water has been broken for 24 hours, Women of Strength, that does not mean you have to have a C-section.

Suzzie: Can I actually tell a story about that?

Meagan: Yeah.

Suzzie: I know you are wrapping up, but I’ll just say this really quick. The biggest risk with water infection that you will hear is that it could potentially lead to an infection.

Meagan: Yeah, potentially.

Suzzie: I will tell you that with all of the moms I have worked with, I have only had one mom have an infection and she got it within hours actually. As her water broke, she already had the infection because, by the time she got to the hospital, she already had a fever. So again, monitoring and treating is important. It’s not that it can’t exist.

On the other hand, when I was early in my career as a doula, I got to work with this incredible mom. Her priority was, “I don’t want interventions at all.” Her water broke and we were like, “Okay. How are we going to deal with this?” She went in regularly for non-stress tests and she went almost three days. No infection, nothing. She went into labor and had a super quick, super healthy baby.

These obscure rules say, “Oh, at 24 hours, risk increases.” No, it doesn’t. There are different things that can happen. It’s important to monitor. It’s important to treat an infection. Most moms are safe. If you look at the research, it’s totally fine to go way longer than that for most moms.

Meagan: We have a mom on the podcast. She’s actually one of my clients. She went five days with her water broken and had a VBA2C birth. Beautiful birth.

Suzzie: That’s amazing.

Meagan: No infection, no issues. It’s so hard for me to hear, “Oh, your water’s been broken.” I’ve been there. My water was broken for 12 hours and they were like, “Nope. Water’s been broken for 12 hours. You're not doing well.” I was doing fine. “Your baby’s not progressing or coming down. Your body is not progressing.” It was just that I had a completely unnecessary Cesarean but I didn’t know. I didn’t know to ask the questions.

50:31 Checking in if labor stalls

Meagan: Yeah and remembering to let your baby navigate its way down the pelvis. Let them help you and know that sometimes it is that tension release. Sometimes it is putting knees in versus out or turning on your side. The pelvis really molds and shifts around and rotates and shifts and babies’ heads mold. Together they work and they can come out so if you were told that your pelvis was too small or your baby was too big or you would never get a baby out of your pelvis or if you had a Cesarean for failure to descend or failure to progress, know that that does not mean it’s going to happen the next time.

Learn. Navigate. Learn optimal positioning. Do chiropractic care. Do these things. Find the support because also something I heard in your first story is everything was going, going, going. You walked into a space where you didn’t feel safe and everything stopped.

Suzzie: Exactly.

Meagan: That is what can happen. Our bodies and minds are so powerful that we have the ability to stop labor. Have you ever thought of that? That is incredible. We have the ability to stop our labor.

Suzzie: I know. The body is wild.

Meagan: So sometimes, I also wanted to drop just a little tip on if we are having progression issues, we are having really hard, strong contractions, but our progress isn’t necessarily showing the result that we would think that the pattern and strength would be giving, let’s tune in. Let’s tune into those babies’ rotations and all of those things. The fears, the thoughts, and what’s happening in our minds, or if we are having that failure to progress and all of a sudden, our labor just out of nowhere slows down or even stops, let’s check in. Let’s do a fear release right there. Let’s do a mental health check. Let’s figure out what is going on because a lot of the time it is that we are not feeling safe. We are not feeling supported. We are not feeling heard. We are doubting ourselves for whatever reason. There are so many things.

You walked into a situation where you were made to feel bad for making a choice that felt right.

Suzzie: Right.

Meagan: That is just what is not okay, but that is what could easily stop our labor. So do a little check-in, ladies. If you are in this position or you were in that position, honestly go back and say, “Okay. My labor stopped. What was happening? What was I feeling?” Check into that and journal it. I love that you suggested journaling. Journaling is so amazing. Let’s journal our progress and our process in this journey.

Okay, well obviously we could talk for a long time and maybe we should just do a part two, but I will let you go. Thank you so much for being here and sharing your stories and your knowledge. I’m just going to hold onto this pyramid. I love the pyramid aspect. I really, really love that. I think that is something that is really powerful. Thank you again so much for joining us.

Suzzie: Thank you. All right, bye.

Meagan: Bye.

Closing

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Nội dung được cung cấp bởi Meagan Heaton. Tất cả nội dung podcast bao gồm các tập, đồ họa và mô tả podcast đều được Meagan Heaton hoặc đối tác nền tảng podcast của họ tải lên và cung cấp trực tiếp. Nếu bạn cho rằng ai đó đang sử dụng tác phẩm có bản quyền của bạn mà không có sự cho phép của bạn, bạn có thể làm theo quy trình được nêu ở đây https://vi.player.fm/legal.

"She was in my arms while she took her first breath and she was just so calm and beautiful. It feels like time just stops at that moment. It was so, so special to me."

From turning down the opportunity to take a childbirth class during her first pregnancy to now passionately teaching her own classes (She Births Bravely) as a childbirth educator and attending births as a doula, Suzzie shares how birth has changed her.

Located in Seattle, Suzzie talks about how her birth team created a safe place for her to have a peaceful home birth that was still very intense but didn’t feel that way.

Meagan and Suzzie discuss pushing, continuous care, the importance of education, and their best tips on what to do during pregnancy to have an empowering birth experience no matter the outcome.

Suzzie’s Childbirth Class

Suzzie’s Website

What Does Your Birth Plan Say About Your Personality Quiz

Real Food For Pregnancy

Needed Website

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

Full Transcript under Episode Details

02:28 Review of the Week

03:53 Suzzie’s molar pregnancy

06:27 Beginning labor with fear and doubt

09:01 “It has been over 24 hours. It’s time for you to have a C-section.”

10:51 Making friends with a student-midwife

14:41 Suzzie’s second pregnancy and labor

18:50 Baby Hazel’s birth

27:06 OBs attending home births

30:40 Continuous care during home birth

36:23 Birth preparation tips

43:29 Knowing what questions to ask

48:18 Waters being broken for 24 hours

50:31 Checking in if labor stalls

Meagan: Hello, hello Women of Strength. How are you? This is Meagan, your host here at The VBAC Link. I’m excited to talk a little bit today about what can we do before we have our baby or what should we do when we get pregnant to start preparing for birth.

We have our friend, Suzzie, with us today. Hello, Suzzie.

Suzzie: Hi.

Meagan: She is actually a doula and childbirth educator who has a lot of passion in sharing a message of what to do and how to prep and how to navigate through this amazing journey that we call pregnancy and birth and motherhood. She had an unexpected Cesarean just like a lot of us. If we go through most of these stories on the podcast, you’re going to hear that trend of it wasn’t expected. It wasn’t planned. It maybe wasn’t desired. That’s a common thing in our VBAC community. It’s important to know what to do and what to know because most of us just didn’t know what we didn’t know.

02:28 Review of the Week

Meagan: So we are going to dive into a little bit more of how to prepare and a message from our darling Suzzie, but of course, we have a Review of the Week so we are going to get into that before we get into the next part.

This is from kimberlyspair. Thank you, Kimberly. We love her. She says, “Thumbs up from us! Sharing such an essential message with love and compassion.”

That is exactly what we are going to do today, sharing another message with love and compassion. As always, if you have a minute, we would love your review. You can leave it on

Apple Podcasts, Google, message us at info@thevbaclink.com. Remember VBAC is V-B-A-C and let us know what you think about the show.

03:53 Suzzie’s molar pregnancy

Meagan: Okay, cute Suzzie. So we were talking right before we got on the episode. You guys, she had her C-section birth at a hospital local to me here in Utah then went on to have an HBAC. Was your HBAC in Washington? Where was your home birth?

Suzzie: It was. I live in Seattle and it was here in Washington.

Meagan: Okay, cool. So Seattle, Washington mamas, listen up if you are looking for options for a provider. Yeah, so you talked a little bit about how birth taught you how much more capable you really are than you thought. I think that is something that happens a lot with us, right? We walk through this birth journey and we are like, “Dang, we are amazing.” We really, really, really are. Yeah, so Suzzie, tell us about your stories. Share your message with us.

Suzzie: Yeah, yeah. I’d love to. I think that my birth story actually started before my first birth because I had losses and a molar pregnancy before. Molar pregnancy is a very complicated, unviable pregnancy where you ultimately– it took me about a year to be cleared healthwise after that to be able to start trying again.

So I came into birth with a strong sense of knowing things could go wrong and also fear. I also worked in finance and I was very busy. I just didn’t really have a lot of time to prepare. I didn’t have a lot of support at home so when, for example, I had a really great friend that I worked with and he and his wife were having a baby around our same due date and they had hired somebody to teach them private childbirth classes in their home. They invited us to come and join them in that process. I was like, “No, can’t. Too busy.”

That whole thought of, “Okay. I’m going to prepare really mindfully,” was too much for me for where I was at that point of life. I also dabbled a little bit in HypnoBirthing. There was a little bit of pressure to do a natural birth and as I was learning about that, the desire for that was growing and evolving, but the fear of labor and birth also wasn’t necessarily dissolving.

06:27 Beginning labor with fear and doubt

Suzzie: So I feel like when I went into labor, I had a lot of really complex expectations and fears that weren’t really worked through because even though I had done some reading, the true preparation is truly very emotional.

Meagan: It is.

Suzzie: And a lot less fact-driven than it is learning about what we really need and how to speak up for what we need and how to ask the right questions and how to develop strong and open and trusting relationships.

Meagan: And also trust yourself.

Suzzie: Yes. Yes, that’s a really big one because I definitely did not have that factor either.

When I had Zoe, my first, it was just such an overwhelming day for me. My water broke at night and I had called the doctor. I was like, “I’m not having contractions. Can I just stay home?” “Sure.” In the morning by around 8:00, I had been having pretty steady– I was probably making that transition from early labor into active labor where you are close to those 5-1-1 rules when you can go in and you can be admitted. My water was broken so of course, if your water is broken, you can be admitted. They have to admit you. Now, it seems like they encourage you to go in as soon as you can.

Meagan: They do.

Suzzie: Yeah, which has its pros and definitely has its cons.

Meagan: Let’s talk about that later too.

Suzzie: Yes. That’s definitely something to learn about because water breaking happens in about 10% of people before labor starts, about 10% of the time. It’s not crazy common but it’s way more common than at least what I thought before. You know and realize something like that could throw off my whole birth story or my whole birth experience.

When I checked in, the nurse was really upset that I hadn’t come in earlier even though I had cleared that decision with my doctor so there was an initial conflict as I was checking in and signing the waivers. That instilled a lot. What she said to me put a lot of fear into me that I had done something wrong and that I had put my baby in danger and that things might not be okay.

I also had those layers of having gone through a pregnancy that wasn’t viable and a lot of health complications from that so when I heard that, the amount of fear I felt was insane. Then my labor completely stopped. The contractions that had been steady and consistent for hours were gone.

09:01 “It has been over 24 hours. It’s time for you to have a C-section.”

Suzzie: The rest of the day was about using Pitocin and trying to get labor started in other ways. Ultimately, nothing ever worked. Zoe, I guess was having some kind of heart rate dips. At this point, if I could go back to what I know now, I would ask a lot more questions about how big they were or what they looked like, but at the time, I didn’t have enough knowledge to ask good questions or be proactive about movement and things like that that can sometimes help especially in inductions and especially when you are using medicine or Pitocin to push your labor.

By midnight, they had just decided, “Okay, it has been over 24 hours. It’s time for you to have a C-section.” I truly do not know if this is a cascade of interventions story or if there was something wrong. It didn’t sit well with me at the time and it still doesn’t because I still have unanswered questions and that was a really not-great feeling. I feel like it wasn’t a great start to motherhood for me because it was very scary. I was very worried the whole time and then even after she was born by surgery, they had spent at this time more than 12 hours telling me that something could go wrong. They swaddled her up. They let me take a picture of her cheek to cheek with me and then she and her father disappear and are swept off somewhere.

After the surgery, they put me in a recovery room and I was in there for several hours by myself shaking from the medication in the dark because it was night not knowing, “Am I okay? Is my baby okay? What’s normal in this picture? What’s not?” That was just overall not a great experience.

10:51 Making friends with a student-midwife

Suzzie: I had actually kind of written off. I had just thought, “Oh, this birth thing must not be for me. It’s hard. I don’t like it.” All of the stories that you hear, I felt like, “Okay, great. That’s fine. I’ll move on with my life.”

But then I moved and I joined a new moms group where we would go hiking every week. One of the friends that I met there was a student midwife and as our friendship evolved and we would talk, all of these stories revolved around the families that she was working with. I started to see that I had missed out on so much of the journey that I had never learned to ask good questions. I never really did have a great relationship with a care provider. There are care providers that will take more time and help you when you need it and there are some that can’t either from logistics or because they just don’t want to.

That was a big eye-opener to me so when I had Hazel, I had a wealth more of information and experience and exposure to what a really empowered birth would look like. I had actually moved again. I lived in Portland for that one year and then I moved here to Seattle so I couldn’t have my friend as a midwife, but choosing the right care provider became my number one priority and I interviewed so many people. People that worked in the hospital and home birth midwives and I found somebody that I really connected with, Dr. Brandy.

She just held my hand from the start to the finish. She was a home birth midwife and she was also a doctor of naturopathy.

Meagan: Awesome.

Suzzie: She had a lot of tools for me going through pregnancy that just didn’t exist before. So when we talked about nutrition, she’d talk for an hour and pretty much all of our appointments were an hour long and always because she had things to teach me or to show me or to help me understand the process I was in and where I was going. It was just so helpful.

I also had an amazing doula that helped me process a lot of my trauma and create a vision for myself. I think that whether or not I had ultimately gotten my VBAC, the process and the change that it took for me to go from somebody that was a rule follower and people pleaser– my first birth, I was the type of mom that was like, “Okay, I’m going to bring cookies for all of the nurses because I want them to like me,” versus by my second birth, I was like, “No, wait. These people are doing their job and they are here to show up for me. My job isn’t to make them happy but to work well together. Right? To develop a positive, working relationship.”

That was a really big transformation. And also, if you have had questions that weren’t answered or you go through things and you don’t get support, those unanswered questions linger for a long time and they mean a lot.

Meagan: They do.

Suzzie: Whereas when you go through a situation and you over time have your questions answered, have everything you need to be making decisions that feel grounded and centered and good no matter what those decisions are, it feels a lot better and a lot safer and it makes it a lot easier to relax into the experience.

I feel like when I had Hazel, my HBAC, my second, my perfect birth story that I was so lucky to have, everything lined up for me really well.

14:41 Suzzie’s second pregnancy and labor

Suzzie: I had gone a little over 41 weeks and my midwife offered a membrane sweep which I did. She also said, “Go home and have sex,” which, you know, the prostaglandins.

Meagan: Not fun at nine months pregnant.

Suzzie: No, not fun at nine months pregnant or after a membrane sweep, but I will say that it did work because I had the membrane sweep at 8:00. We did the prostaglandin injection I will call it before bed and when I woke up in the morning, I was in labor.

Meagan: Awesome.

Suzzie: I didn’t have much early labor. I didn’t have a long, drawn-out thing like I did with Zoe. It just kind of– I woke up. I was getting ready for the day and I was like, “Oh my god. That’s a contraction.” Then five minutes later, it was like, “Oh my god. That’s another contraction.” Zoe’s dad was getting ready for work so as he was off out the door, I had him sweep Zoe out to a friend’s house and drop her off then I actually was supposed to have an appointment that day. I called Dr. Brandy and I was like, “Dr. Brandy, I can’t drive.” That was my thought. I expected to have a really long labor and I was like, “I don’t think I can come to you.”

She was like, “I think actually I’ll be coming to you, not the other way around.”

Suzzie: I called my doula. She showed up. I called the girl who was setting up a big labor tub at my house. She came up and set up the tub then by about noon, I was in full, active labor and everybody was there, Brandy, her assistant– I think there might have been a student there too. I can’t remember. And my doula, who was incredible.

By 9:00, I had Hazel. It was just such a simple, I truly don’t remember much about it because it just started and at the first few hours, it was the logistics of getting everyone there then I went for a walk. I remember going for a walk and then I came back. My doula did this cool muscle release thing when I came back and I actually slept through some contractions which was really weird, but it felt great. It was so soothing in the midst of all of this intense pressure work of labor.

Then I got in and out of the tub a couple of times which felt so good and so relieving and then Hazel was actually 10 pounds and she actually came out with her hand next to her head.

Meagan: A nuchal hand.

Suzzie: Yeah, a nuchal hand, and then she had been breech. I did have some back labor, but when my doula did the muscle release things, she must have flipped because she didn’t come out breech. She came out–

Meagan: With her hand up by her head.

Suzzie: Yeah, the regular way with her hand up.

Meagan: Yeah.

Suzzie: I mean, when I look back at the story, I’m like, “Okay, so there were a lot of things that could have been potential problems at so many different stages with the back labor–”

Meagan: Do you mean breech or posterior?

Suzzie: Oh sorry, yes. Thank you for correcting me. Posterior. That is what I meant.

Meagan: Okay. Okay. I was like, “Wait, back labor.” Gotcha, gotcha.

Suzzie: Thank you, thank you, thank you for correcting me. Yeah. Posterior, not breech.

Meagan: You’re just fine.

Suzzie: Yeah. She did the rotation, not the flip.

Meagan: A lot of babies do rotate and we’re going to talk about that in a minute. Especially if you’ve had a posterior baby, listen up at the end because we will talk a little bit about posterior. A lot of them rotate during pushing.

Suzzie: Yeah. It’s actually their job. I didn’t realize this until after I became a doula and I took the training which is so good if you are a birth worker out there. It’s called Optimal Maternal Positioning. I did not know this, but babies actually very, very rarely enter the pelvis with their eyes looking back which is the position most babies are born in. Most babies will rotate to the side or into a posterior position to enter the pelvis and then it’s their job during labor to rotate.

18:50 Baby Hazel’s birth

Suzzie: So a lot of times when we are doing these things like, we are saying, “Okay, you are 10 centimeters. You don’t have an urge to push yet, but let’s tell you to push anyway.” There’s a reason you don’t have an urge. It’s because your baby is still doing their job which is rotating.

Meagan: Yes.

Suzzie: So I don’t know. When I work with moms, I have seen a lot less stress and less pushing and less complications in pushing simply by breathing baby down as long as possible and if a mom does have an epidural to labor down until even with an epidural, most moms get an urge to push at some point, an undeniable urge.

Meagan: They feel pressure. There is an undeniable pressure.

Suzzie: Yes and it happens with an epidural, but you have to wait because that rotating process can slow down. Yeah. I’m so glad you said that.

Hazel was born. I did have to push a really long time. I think I had to push for four hours. I did not know that when I was doing it. I would have said it was 45 minutes.

Meagan: Wow. That’s amazing.

Suzzie: Right. I was in my zone. I was in the birthtub. I was in whatever position I was in and I had music playing in the background. I had Bergamo oil and there was an ice rag that someone would put on my forehead between contractions and I would just go from that intense work of pushing to being completely zoned out.

Meagan: I love that.

Suzzie: Totally in labor land. I totally, one, I didn’t find pushing to be that painful. I found it to be a very productive work and two, it was almost this weird time warp. I guess it did take a long time, but it didn’t feel that way to me.

Hazel was super safe. It was the most amazing moment in the world. I didn’t see Zoe other than that maybe 10 minutes when we did cheek-to-cheek and took a picture with her in the OR for hours. So to be the one that when my midwife helped deliver her part of delivering of Hazel other than monitoring us, she just did this little scoop position thing so Hazel came out. She scooped her into my arms and there we were. She was in my arms while she took her first breath and she was just so calm and beautiful. It feels like time just stops at that moment. It was so, so special to me.

Meagan: I love that.

Suzzie: That’s Hazel.

23:12 Thoughts on pushing

Meagan: Birth can be that way. It’s not always and it doesn’t mean that it’s not beautiful if it’s not that, but birth can just be that special moment and beautiful time. I love that you pointed out that you pushed for four hours. You guys, pushing can last a while especially when you have a baby with a nuchal hand. There are things happening there.

But Women of Strength, pushing for an hour– we have so many providers after an hour sometimes two who are like, “It’s just not happening. It’s not going to happen. Baby’s not going to come down. Baby’s not coming out.” That’s not necessarily true. We just may need to change positions or stop and just like Suzzie was talking about, let our babies come down on their own. Let them rotate and come down on their own, right?

Suzzie: I see that all of the time now that I’m a doula and I attend births. I was with one mom when we were at the hospital. She had an epidural. We were pushing. She pushed a couple of hours and they were like, “Okay. We’ve reached the cut-off. It’s time.” She was exhausted. Pushing especially with an epidural when you are not ready can be– I’d say what she was going through was much more intense than what I had gone through when I was pushing Hazel.

Luckily, this conversation was happening during shift change because she really wanted a break. She needed a break. So when the new nurse came on, I kind of explained to her the situation and she gave me the wink and was like, “Okay, I’ve got you.” She went about her business as slowly as she could as the new nurse coming on in the morning shift. I had taken my client and I helped her get in a comfortable position. Typically, if a mom is pushing and needs a break, I will do lay on the side, knees together, pillows or peanut balls between the ankles so your knees together, ankles out. I’ll just do a muscle release on that top hip and maybe help her rock back and forth a little bit just so she can relax, but we’re getting some movement into this pelvis area.

The doctor came back. They were like, “Okay. We’re going to get you prepped.” They did one last check and they were like, “Oh my goodness. This baby is so low. We can see their head now.”

Meagan: Yay!

Suzzie: They went from being super high to–

Meagan: Ready to come.

Suzzie: Yeah. Yeah. She did, I think, two pushes after that. She had to have these hours where there was supposedly no change. It was probably about a 30-minute break and in that time, her baby was just like, “Oh, I’ll just descend myself. Here I am. I can move through in this new position without as much effort from you.”

I think sometimes there is so much fear about things that can go wrong, especially in the hospital where– I think now that I do a lot of home births and a lot of hospital births as well, I truly don’t understand how if you come up through the medical system, that you get enough exposure to women in labor without interventions to know enough about it to feel comfortable and safe in that process, right?

We have a lot of providers that actually have big gaps in education which is not their fault, right? But it is a reality and one that they have to deal with and one that we have to deal with.

27:06 OBs attending home births

Suzzie: I go to the Washington State Obstetrical Association. This year, I went and I was talking to one OB that was like, “Yeah, I did a home birth rotation when I was doing my training.” He was telling me about how it changed his practice so much and I really wish that everybody had that opportunity, but the reality is that most do not. It’s really important to be able to advocate for yourself to know what you want and then ultimately to make really good decisions about your care provider and where you give birth because it shouldn’t be an uphill battle if you have all of the pieces in line.

Meagan: Yeah. I love that you pointed out that it’s not their fault because I think sometimes, at least I’m guilty of this where I get a little sassy and I’m like, “Oh my gosh. This provider that or that provider that” or “This hospital this and that” and it can get to the point where sometimes it maybe looks like I hate hospital birth or I hate hospital providers which is the complete opposite. I do not hate anybody for that matter, but it can get a little frustrating when we keep seeing this as birth workers.

What you were saying, it’s not their fault. It’s not. They are taught this way. They are taught this system, this protocol, and this pattern that birth needs to follow. It just needs to follow this way and if it doesn’t follow this way, they are taught X, Y, Z, and back all the way to A all the way to do things to manage that to control that situation.

Then we have things that unravel like the cascade and then we have trauma. We have fear. We have doubts. We have a lot of things that didn’t necessarily need to happen, but it’s sometimes just how it happens. So if we come in and we’re not prepared to ask questions and advocate for ourselves which is really hard during labor. You guys, it’s really hard to advocate for yourself because just as Suzzie was saying, she was pushing and all in, then she was out. Right? We’re in and then we’re out. That goes through labor all around. There are a lot of things in my labor I remember very well and there are a lot of things I probably don’t remember at all or don’t even know happened. But we have to advocate for ourselves.

If we can walk into our birth knowing that our team is on our side, but also give them a grain of salt and know there is training and know that there is X, Y, and Z that they have to follow, then we can have a better understanding and soften our hearts when things don’t go well also understanding that this really is how it is. It is. Like she said, most providers, I mean, I’m going to just throw a number out there. I’m going to guess that 99.9% of those OBs and midwives in the hospital system have not attended or had a rotation of home birth.

Suzzie: I would agree with that. Yes. I think that is definitely an exception to the rule.

30:40 Continuous care during home birth

Suzzie: Honestly, a lot of providers, when you come in and you catch your first baby as a provider, you might have never seen a woman have a natural labor. That’s not the priority of the medical system as you monitor and you treat which is really important because sometimes things happen and we do need to be treated. I went through a very medical procedure during my molar pregnancy and that saved my life. If I hadn’t had that treatment and that ongoing treatment, there would have been a lot of complications that could have happened which is very scary to think about.

But I think about it too, when I chose a home birth, a lot of people in my circle were very uncomfortable with that. Natural birth, especially from my kids’ dad’s family’s point of view was definitely the way to go. My family was very opposite, very medical, just go in and have your baby. But doing a home birth was kind of out there for everybody. It was a big– everybody had a lot of fear around that decision.

Ultimately for me, the thing that made me feel really safe in that was that out of all of the providers I had talked to, Dr. Brandy was willing to build that open and trustful relationship with me. But more than that, when I gave birth to Zoe, I was in a hospital where my nurse had multiple patients. She was watching on a monitor. She had a lot on her plate. Emergencies can happen. You have a lot of things going on in those cases. My doctor also had a lot going on because they work on call. They were also a part of a busier practice so multiple patients at one time, bouncing back and forth between everybody’s different needs.

The thing that I loved about a home birth was that I had an expert by my side from the moment it started to hours after. Once Dr. Brandy got there, I’m going to assume it was probably around noon although my recollection of the day, everything is very scattered because I was so supported to stay in that labor land. There was a lot of time warp going on.

But anyway, she got there around lunchtime and she didn’t leave. The furthest distance that we were from each other was I would be in my bedroom and if I wanted space, she would go to the living room, or at one point, I went outside and went for a walk. But I had her continual monitoring, her continual– I guess I want to be careful with that word because it wasn’t continuous monitoring with the little machine, but she had her Doppler and she was continually listening as appropriate per guidelines.

Me– she had her assistant there who also gave me space but was one person she was watching, me. And my doula, who also had been to hundreds of births and was focused on me. Right? So if you think about it logistically, which place am I going to get the better care where skilled and caring providers are taking care of multiple people at once or where skilled and caring providers are only focused on me? I think that’s pretty easy to see. Why did I feel so safe? Well, I had the resources.

Suzzie: My degree is in economics so I think about systems a lot. I often think, “How do we scale that so everybody can have that one-on-one attention?” I don’t have the answer to that question, but I do know that as a woman, you can choose which system you want to be a part of when you choose your care provider and when you choose either your midwife or OB. I’ve worked with both that are great. It’s not that you can only choose a midwife or you can only choose an OB, but you do have to build a strong relationship with them.

It does make sense if you are advocating for yourself to make decisions where you will be the priority when you are in labor because as a laboring mom, I think we all deserve that.

Unfortunately, at this time, we still have to opt ourselves into those systems. I know here in Seattle, I just did a comparison of all of our hospitals and their C-section rates for first-time, low-risk moms having head-down babies and the difference is really staggering. There’s one hospital where first-time, low-risk moms– over 35% of moms are having surgeries and that same category literally 20 minutes away, the C-section rate is only 20%.

So if you are thinking about, “Okay, my priority is I want to be safe and in a hospital and avoid a C-section, one of those hospitals is going to be more equipped and have better systems and structures in place to help you with that goal.”

Of course, it’s not a guarantee. There’s always risk that exists in birth. It’s one of those things we have to come to terms with, but we can make choices that help us one way or the other.

Meagan: Yes. I love that you said that. Okay, we want to go to the hospital, but let’s really figure out what place is best for our needs.

36:23 Birth preparation tips

Meagan: So as a childbirth educator, you’ve now gone through an unplanned Cesarean. What do you suggest to do before birth in general? No matter what type of birth you are planning for, what are a couple of tips you have? I think that could probably even be one of them. Find your support team. Find your system. Find the right location.

But yeah, do you have any others that you would say would be a top tip from you?

Suzzie: Yeah. Yeah. I actually have a little pyramid of these are the factors of building a healthy pregnancy that I try to lead by my mom’s theory. I think a lot of times there’s– okay, I’ll say with me for my first birth. The reason I didn’t do a childbirth class, the reason I was opting out was partly because I already experienced trauma and had a lot of emotions that I was avoiding.

But also, because I also had a mindset of “leave it to the experts” which for me, birth really moved me into and really was the thing that made me become aware of what my needs really were.

But now that I teach about birth, yes. Monitoring and treating is a crucial part of a healthy pregnancy and it’s important to get a care provider you care about. We’ve talked about that. Childbirth education– there was a study published in 2020 that talked about, okay. If you’re trying to avoid a C-section, let’s look at moms who took a childbirth class before giving birth and those who didn’t. For the moms that took a class, the C-section rate was about 80% which, I think we can do better and we should expect better than that, but on the flipside, the moms who didn’t take a class was only 58% so that’s not much more than flipping a coin.

Childbirth education makes a difference.

Meagan: Wait, the people who did take the class had a higher Cesarean rate or a lower?

Suzzie: No, no, no, no. The people that did not take a class was 58%. So if you don’t take a class, it’s almost like me. I didn’t take a class. I made that mistake. It’s not that different than flipping a coin.

After that, you really have to nourish yourself. Pregnancy nutrition is a lot different than what most of us were taught. When I learned about nutrition in pregnancy, there was a lot of unlearning and new habits I had to build. There is a really good book, Real Food for Pregnancy, by Lily Nichols. I love that book and her trainings are inside my class and what my class teaches basically.

Meagan: I have it right here in my hand.

Suzzie: Yeah. Yeah. And after that, prepping your body. Movement and exercise have so many benefits for labor. Also doing some body balancing work because one of the things that as a doula when I’m looking at, “Okay, when people are having weird contraction patterns or babies that don’t seem to be doing their little rotation dance or not progressing even though they are having contractions,” the three things we are looking at are your passenger. Is your baby just doing something funny or is there a really short cord? Something completely out of your control. Is it the power? Is it how strong your contractions are or is it your pelvis? A lot of the time, the answer is that it’s your pelvis so we have to come in with movements and muscle releases and you can do the chiropractic care throughout pregnancy and it does make a difference in preventing those not common but when you hear people having three-hour labors, that is often, often, often a pelvis thing.

So for me, if I have a mom that’s having those contractions 10 or 15 minutes apart and they are not getting closer, I know we’ve got to get in there and do some things to help and usually we can resolve that with movement.

Dealing with stress and anxiety is a part of labor. It’s actually the work of pregnancy. It’s to understand that you have anxiety about this because you should because it is one of the biggest and most important things we have and getting help with that, connecting with others, building your community, and then nourishing your purpose because when I look at my friends and the women I work with, some of us connect very quickly to the idea of being mothers. It’s been in our minds and in our hearts since we were little, and some of us just don’t.

Or some of us get pregnant and we don’t feel that magical connection that we thought we were supposed to have. That’s actually okay. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong. It means that we have an opportunity to start nourishing and developing what it means to us to go through this process and deliver a baby and to raise a human being and what our role is and to build purpose in that which is really important.

I always think that when we are talking about how to build a healthy pregnancy. If you leave any of those out, we are selling ourselves or the people we work with short by not providing resources in all of those different categories.

Meagan: Yeah. I love the pyramid concept. We have to care for ourselves and we have to do these things for ourselves. I think so many times, we push some of those things aside and we deserve to do these things for our bodies, our minds, our mental health, and everything. We deserve to fuel our bodies with good nutrition.

I also love Lily Nichols. We’ve had her on the podcast. I have her books for gestational diabetes and Real Food for Pregnancy. We are big lovers of Needed and we talk about, okay. We know we are busy. We know that nutrition has changed over the years and get the supplements that you need. Do what you need to do to fuel your body as a whole and then also do all of those other steps so we walk in.

Sometimes we may do everything in this pyramid. We may do every single thing and then something doesn’t happen the way we want or we still have an unexpected situation, but we can walk in knowing that our pyramid is strong and then go through the motions.

43:29 Knowing what questions to ask

Meagan: Earlier, we were talking about asking questions and not being scared of that. Ask a childbirth educator, how do you educate on being confident in asking those questions? I feel like as a doula, I’m always talking about, “Ask questions. Ask questions.” If you have a doula there, they can help facilitate this, but sometimes, we don’t have doulas there. So how can we really hone in on making sure that we are in a place to ask questions?

Suzzie: Yeah. Yeah. I think the really hard thing when it comes to birth is when I think about myself as a first-time mom, that I didn’t know enough to know what questions to ask. Right? You get thrown into that impossible situation. I know in my birth class, my birth class is online, but also, every single person who goes through that birth class gets two one-on-one appointments with me to go over their birth plan to talk a really good picture about how they really feel about birth.

It’s okay to want a natural birth and it’s okay to say, “I don’t like pain. I want an epidural as soon as possible.” There are different approaches and there are different conversations you should have with your provider each time. A lot of time, I feel like the induction question is coming up more and more and more often, so a lot of times, that second prenatal ends up being like, “Okay, how do I navigate a conversation about induction because I’m trying to figure out how I feel about it and I’m also trying to figure out how to navigate maybe differences in risk aversion or things like that with a care provider?”

One, I would say talk to somebody who has some knowledge and ask them what questions to ask if you are not sure. You can talk to– there’s no limit to the number of people that you can talk to and everyone will have their opinion and you can take what works for you and throw the rest away.

The other side of that is also journaling and getting really clear on what a healthy birth looks like to you or what your ideal birth looks like because it’s very possible that you and a care provider have different definitions of what that is. If you can communicate what you want really well, I always suggest when people write their birth plan to think about everything that is important to you and summarize it in 1-3 sentences. Put that at the top of your birth plan because the rest of your birth plan is just logistics, but if you can communicate who you are and if you’ve chosen somebody that you trust, the most likely outcome then is that they see your birth plan and then they ask you the right questions and they help you navigate what you would need to know because they know, “Okay. You are a person that really wants to try the most natural thing first” or “Your big worry is about tearing.”

Now they know to filter the conversations that they are having with you through these different priorities that you have. If they don’t know your priorities, they can’t do that. So just setting yourself up so that even if you’re the one who doesn’t know because you are new to birth and you are having your first-time experience, be clear about who you are so that your providers can help fill the gap.

I truly believe that if you have taken the time to find a provider or a location whose values somewhat line up with yours, it doesn’t have to be perfect, then that will be enough for most people. It’s when we can’t communicate who we are or when we are in environments where clearly the priorities are just completely misaligned where I see breakdowns in that, but I think most providers care deeply about what they do and who they serve. But every mom that comes in is different so if they don’t know what makes you special, they can’t treat you special. Right?

Meagan: Right. Yeah. Such a powerful message. Thank you so much for coming and sharing with us. There are so many little nuggets. I feel like we didn’t even have time to talk about fear releases before you walk in. If you get pregnant, do a fear release. If you are entering things, do a fear release. Journal. Find those fears so you can start navigating them and eliminating them along the way.

48:18 Waters being broken for 24 hours

Meagan: I wanted to talk about water breaking for 24 hours. Just because your water has been broken for 24 hours, Women of Strength, that does not mean you have to have a C-section.

Suzzie: Can I actually tell a story about that?

Meagan: Yeah.

Suzzie: I know you are wrapping up, but I’ll just say this really quick. The biggest risk with water infection that you will hear is that it could potentially lead to an infection.

Meagan: Yeah, potentially.

Suzzie: I will tell you that with all of the moms I have worked with, I have only had one mom have an infection and she got it within hours actually. As her water broke, she already had the infection because, by the time she got to the hospital, she already had a fever. So again, monitoring and treating is important. It’s not that it can’t exist.

On the other hand, when I was early in my career as a doula, I got to work with this incredible mom. Her priority was, “I don’t want interventions at all.” Her water broke and we were like, “Okay. How are we going to deal with this?” She went in regularly for non-stress tests and she went almost three days. No infection, nothing. She went into labor and had a super quick, super healthy baby.

These obscure rules say, “Oh, at 24 hours, risk increases.” No, it doesn’t. There are different things that can happen. It’s important to monitor. It’s important to treat an infection. Most moms are safe. If you look at the research, it’s totally fine to go way longer than that for most moms.

Meagan: We have a mom on the podcast. She’s actually one of my clients. She went five days with her water broken and had a VBA2C birth. Beautiful birth.

Suzzie: That’s amazing.

Meagan: No infection, no issues. It’s so hard for me to hear, “Oh, your water’s been broken.” I’ve been there. My water was broken for 12 hours and they were like, “Nope. Water’s been broken for 12 hours. You're not doing well.” I was doing fine. “Your baby’s not progressing or coming down. Your body is not progressing.” It was just that I had a completely unnecessary Cesarean but I didn’t know. I didn’t know to ask the questions.

50:31 Checking in if labor stalls

Meagan: Yeah and remembering to let your baby navigate its way down the pelvis. Let them help you and know that sometimes it is that tension release. Sometimes it is putting knees in versus out or turning on your side. The pelvis really molds and shifts around and rotates and shifts and babies’ heads mold. Together they work and they can come out so if you were told that your pelvis was too small or your baby was too big or you would never get a baby out of your pelvis or if you had a Cesarean for failure to descend or failure to progress, know that that does not mean it’s going to happen the next time.

Learn. Navigate. Learn optimal positioning. Do chiropractic care. Do these things. Find the support because also something I heard in your first story is everything was going, going, going. You walked into a space where you didn’t feel safe and everything stopped.

Suzzie: Exactly.

Meagan: That is what can happen. Our bodies and minds are so powerful that we have the ability to stop labor. Have you ever thought of that? That is incredible. We have the ability to stop our labor.

Suzzie: I know. The body is wild.

Meagan: So sometimes, I also wanted to drop just a little tip on if we are having progression issues, we are having really hard, strong contractions, but our progress isn’t necessarily showing the result that we would think that the pattern and strength would be giving, let’s tune in. Let’s tune into those babies’ rotations and all of those things. The fears, the thoughts, and what’s happening in our minds, or if we are having that failure to progress and all of a sudden, our labor just out of nowhere slows down or even stops, let’s check in. Let’s do a fear release right there. Let’s do a mental health check. Let’s figure out what is going on because a lot of the time it is that we are not feeling safe. We are not feeling supported. We are not feeling heard. We are doubting ourselves for whatever reason. There are so many things.

You walked into a situation where you were made to feel bad for making a choice that felt right.

Suzzie: Right.

Meagan: That is just what is not okay, but that is what could easily stop our labor. So do a little check-in, ladies. If you are in this position or you were in that position, honestly go back and say, “Okay. My labor stopped. What was happening? What was I feeling?” Check into that and journal it. I love that you suggested journaling. Journaling is so amazing. Let’s journal our progress and our process in this journey.

Okay, well obviously we could talk for a long time and maybe we should just do a part two, but I will let you go. Thank you so much for being here and sharing your stories and your knowledge. I’m just going to hold onto this pyramid. I love the pyramid aspect. I really, really love that. I think that is something that is really powerful. Thank you again so much for joining us.

Suzzie: Thank you. All right, bye.

Meagan: Bye.

Closing

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

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