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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.
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Episode 296 Brooke's VBAC with a Subchorionic Hematoma

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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.

“Control what you can control.”

Brooke’s birth experiences have not been without challenges. She first had an extremely difficult miscarriage during COVID followed by intense bleeding due to massive subchorionic hemorrhages during her other two pregnancies. Her first delivery was a very traumatic C-section from not being completely anesthetized. After that, Brooke committed to doing everything in her power not to have that experience ever again and to do everything she could to avoid a C-section.

Along with another subchorionic hemorrhage, her third pregnancy presented another challenge when she found out her baby had a bowel obstruction and would need surgery along with a NICU stay immediately after birth. Brooke was disheartened learning that she needed a medically necessary induction, but she was still committed to doing everything she could to achieve her VBAC.

Her efforts to surround herself with a powerful team paid off. Everyone around her championed her VBAC. Brooke was able to go from the most traumatic birth imaginable to the most beautiful, empowering, and healing birth she literally dreamed about.

Brooke’s Website

Informed Pregnancy - code: vbaclink424

Needed Website - code: vbac20

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

Full Transcript under Episode Details

04:36 Review of the Week

07:19 Brooke’s first pregnancy

11:18 Miscarriage

15:01 Brooke’s dream

17:20 Second pregnancy

21:26 Going into labor and getting admitted

28:06 An extremely traumatic C-section

32:53 Third pregnancy

38:17 Bleeding again

43:09 Finding a bowel obstruction in baby

46:57 Switching providers the day before her scheduled induction

50:57 Progressing to complete dilation

54:54 Getting an epidural and pushing for three hours

59:40 15 tips for birth

1:04:22 Control what you can control

Meagan: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening– whatever time it is that you are listening to this episode, I hope that you are doing great. We are excited to get into another VBAC story today from our friend. Okay, so I’m trying to think. Remind me. Are you in North Carolina now or are you in New York City now?

Brooke: No, I’m in North Carolina now, but the story starts in New York City.

Meagan: The story starts in New York City. She’s in North Carolina now. Her name is Brooke. Tell me a little bit more. You are an educator. You are helping kids read, right? Is this what I’m getting from your website?

Brooke: Yes.

Meagan: Okay, so tell us more about what you do.

Brooke: I worked in New York City public schools for 10 years. I was a teacher, a literacy coach, and an administrator so I have experience both in the classroom and in school leadership. After we welcomed my daughter and after the pandemic, we moved to be closer to family in the Raleigh, North Carolina area and here I’m an education consultant.

Meagan: Education consultant. Awesome. We will make sure to have your website linked for anyone listening. What type of people would want to go to your website?

Brooke: I offer a number of services. The first thing that I do is pretty classic consulting in elementary school. I provide literacy support. My expertise is in pre-K through 3rd grade so early reading foundational skills. I help schools with their reading programs.

But additionally, there’s a big home school community in the Raleigh area.

Meagan: I saw that on your website.

Brooke: Yeah, I’ve had a really wonderful experience so far working with families getting set up on their homeschooling journey and supporting parents and caregivers in taking on the teacher role at home.

Meagan: Awesome. Awesome. I think home school, especially since COVID has really taken off. I know a lot of people, some of my best friends in fact here in Utah even homeschool. It’s a great resource.

In addition to all of the amazing, great things you do, you have a VBAC story to share with us after a Cesarean that was performed pretty early, right?

Brooke: Yeah, it was a pretty preterm and traumatic C-section. All VBAC stories start with a C-section so that’s part of my journey. I’m so, so, so, so grateful. Thank you so much for welcoming me onto the show today. Putting this story out there, being on this podcast, and sharing my VBAC was part of my birth plan. It was on my vision board. It was a goal that I had set so I am just so, so, so grateful to have this opportunity to share that.

Meagan: I’m really excited that you’re going to dive in today. We talk about this a lot of the time with this podcast. Without these stories, without women of strength just like you, we wouldn’t even have a podcast. I mean, probably I could get some content for sure but I think these stories are what makes this podcast. I’m so excited to dive in in just a moment.

04:36 Review of the Week

Meagan: I do have a Review of the Week. This is a review that actually was just given this year in 2024, the current year that we are recording. It’s from a Bailee Atkins. She actually emailed us in a review. If you guys didn’t know, you can email in us a review. It makes our hearts smile so big when we open up our email in the morning and we get these amazing reviews letting us know that everything that we are doing right here is helping, is inspiring, and encouraging, and educating.

This says, “I just want to start off by saying I am OBSESSED with this podcast. I’m a labor and delivery nurse of four years, currently 29 weeks pregnant with my second baby. I’m praying for a redemptive VBAC this April. I absolutely love this resource for evidence-based information. Being that I am at the bedside as a nurse, I have plenty of knowledge. However, I don’t have the experience of home birth or a birth center birth, so it’s great to get all of the insight. I can’t escape negative birth situations and stories as a pregnant nurse so this podcast is often my escape and positive note for the day. I’ve been listening since 2022 and couldn’t feel more empowered for this VBAC. It is my dream to be on the podcast one day, so be on the lookout.”

Okay, I love that. This is being aired probably after her due date. I mean, I don’t know when her due date was, sometime in April, but we are now in May, so Bailee Atkins, if you are still listening, if you haven’t already, email us and let us know how it goes and we would love to have you on the podcast.

07:19 Brooke’s first pregnancy

Meagan: Okay, cute Brooke. I am so excited to hear your stories. You also have a miscarriage story, too. Is that where this all began?

Brooke: This is where it all began. I’m glad you brought it up because I did want to just say at first that my story– I just want to put a note out there to any listeners who are kind of sensitive. My story does include loss and a lot of medical trauma so I just want to put that on the listeners’ radar.

Meagan: Yeah. I think that’s important. I know some people don’t feel like they need any trigger warnings, but when you’ve gone through loss or medical trauma or things like that and it hasn’t completely been worked through or processed or anything like that, and even if it has, it can be really triggering so we just wanted to make sure to mention that.

It also is your story and I think that’s also really important to share.

Brooke: Yeah, so thank you for that. It was actually four years ago this week at the time of this recording. This is a really lovely way to kind of just close that chapter. It just is all working out beautifully.

I’ll set the scene. It’s December of 2019. The world is still turning. Things are great. I’m at a New Year's party in Brooklyn. I’m just thriving. I had just come back from a great backpacking trip with my husband for the summer across Asia. Life was– we were on a high.

Meagan: Wow, super exciting things happening.

Brooke: Yeah. It was great. It was a great time. We call it the great grand finale.

We are at this New Year’s party in Brooklyn and I go to pour myself some champagne and I think, “Maybe I shouldn’t. I think I could be pregnant.” I’m like, “No, no, no. Whatever.” Anyway, I take it easy. We go home early. A couple of weeks later, I’m so ill. I am so sick. I have the worst cough and cold situation I’ve ever had in my life.

My boss at the school was like, “You need to go to the doctor. This has been too long.” I go to the doctor and I’m at urgent care. It’s a Saturday morning and they’re like, “Oh, we need to do some x-rays. We think you might have pneumonia. Is there any chance you might be pregnant?” I was like, “Oh my gosh, yeah. I didn’t drink at that New Year’s party. That was two weeks ago. I can’t take this x-ray.”

I go to the store. I pick up a pregnancy test. I go home. I take it. It’s positive. I’m over the moon. This is the happiest moment of my life up to this point. My husband gets home. We are jumping up and down. We are so excited. Everything is smooth sailing. Everything is great. I immediately start getting sick and I’m breaking out. I just feel awful. I was complaining.

As this pregnancy is progressing, the world is really starting to get a little bit of that pre-COVID hysteria. It’s just starting.

Meagan: Yeah. Especially in New York.

Brooke: Yeah, right? I’m in New York City at this time. I go to the doctor. My husband is still allowed to come with me and things like that. This is the time before. We see the baby. Everything is normal. We go back again. We see the baby. Everything is normal. My doctor offered the NIPT genetic testing and I was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.”

We took the blood sample. I think I was about 10 weeks at that point. We got the results 7-10 days later in that window and it was inconclusive. The doctor was like, “It says there’s not enough fetal DNA. We might have just taken it too early. This happens sometimes. Nothing to worry about.”

I was like, “Okay, nothing to worry about.”

11:18 Miscarriage

Brooke: It was maybe week 11 and I had miraculously felt better. I was like, “Phew. I don’t have any more symptoms.” I’m there at the end of the first trimester and everything is fine. I go in. It was March 9th. It was a Monday. I had my nuchal translucency 12-week scan then and I was going to be 13 weeks the following day on Tuesday. It’s Monday. I wake up. I’m getting ready for work and I start bleeding.

It’s just spotting. I call my doctor. She’s like, “Spotting can be normal. I wouldn’t stress about it just yet. You have an appointment later today.” I was like, “Okay.” I tried not to worry about it, but as the day went on, the bleeding got really bad. Really bad.

I got in a cab and I called my husband who was at his last day of work at the job he was at. I was like, “You need to leave right now and meet me at the doctor’s appointment. I know it’s not until 3:00 but I’m going now.” It was around 1:00.

I showed up at the hospital early and went in for my scan. I was like, “I’m bleeding. I can’t wait 3 hours. Can you just take me now?” I was so shaken.

Meagan: Yeah, that’s a lot.

Brooke: I was so scared. This is March 9th. People are masked. Everybody is a little bit scared of the hospitals because in New York, things had been happening at this point but nothing was closed down yet.

I went into the room. A doctor I had never seen before because this was my first MFM visit does the scan and she comes in. She’s like, “The baby isn’t growing.” My husband is there with me and he’s immediately crying. I’m just not computing. I’m like, “Okay, so does that mean he’s going to have delays? What does this mean?”

She’s like, “No, there’s no heartbeat.”

I was like, “Okay, so what can we do about that?” I was just not understanding what she was very delicately trying to explain to me. I was like, “What do you mean he’s not going to grow anymore? What does that mean? Is he going to have defects?”

She was like, “No. The baby stopped growing 3 weeks ago somewhere between 9 and 10 weeks. You are 13 weeks now. We need to do a D&C.”

It was like I was in a whirlpool. I had no idea what was going on. I just became a complete zombie. I just moved through the next two days just absolutely devastated like catatonic. It was the worst grief I had ever known. It was just so surprising. She was like, “You had a missed miscarriage” which I had never heard of to that point. I was like, “What does that mean?”

Meagan: What does missed miscarriage actually mean?

Brooke: Another term for it is a silent miscarriage. It is when the baby’s heart stops when you have a miscarriage, but your body continues to grow. Your body grows. You still have symptoms. Your body doesn’t recognize that the baby is not growing anymore and isn’t viable anymore and doesn’t properly miscarry.

It was several weeks later before I started to bleed. It was that day. I didn’t know.

In retrospect, it’s like that’s why the NIPT came back the way it did. That’s why my symptoms stopped. Those things on their own, in my first pregnancy, I didn’t understand.

15:01 Brooke’s dream

Brooke: On the 11th, we had the D&C that Wednesday and on Friday, March 13th, New York City shut down. I came out of this procedure just so sad and then was basically locked in my house for a year. My husband and I were grieving in total isolation. It was just a really tough time.

Typically, after a procedure like that, you would go in for a follow-up appointment several weeks later and the doctor would make sure everything was okay. But because it was only emergencies in the hospitals at that time, my doctor just emailed. She was like, “Let me know if you have these symptoms and then I’ll see you, but otherwise it’s safer for you not to come in and you can get pregnant now.”

In retrospect, I think she meant you can, not necessarily that you should but I was like, “Okay. I can get pregnant again.” This is maybe a little too much for some people, but I was crying myself to sleep just so, so, so sad and I was like, “I want my baby. I just need to know that it’s going to be okay.”

I went to sleep and I had the strangest dream that I watched myself through a snowy window of a nurse handing me a baby girl in a pink blanket and then I didn’t see her, myself in the hospital bed didn’t see her, but through the window, I watched the nurse also take a baby boy and lay him next to me. He was asleep.

Meagan: That just gave me the chills.

Brooke: Yeah, I’m happy. I’m holding a baby girl. I woke up and I just felt okay. Two weeks later, I found out I was pregnant again. The whole time, I was like, “It’s a girl. It’s a girl. It’s obviously a girl,” and it was. I just knew right from the outset that I was having a baby girl.

17:20 Second pregnancy

Brooke: I tested positive at 4 weeks. At 5 weeks, I started bleeding and this time, I was angry. I was like, “What is wrong? Why am I miscarrying again?” I go to the doctor and my OB who is amazing, my New York City OB took such incredible care of me. She is just really an all-star doctor. She was like, “I don’t know why you are bleeding so much, but the baby is fine. They are still in there.” I went back a week later. The bleeding never stopped.

When I say bleeding, I mean I’m passing clots the size of golf balls.

Meagan: Whoa.

Brooke: At 7 weeks, I went in. At this point, my OB was like, “I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t understand why you are bleeding so much, but the baby seems fine.”

Meagan: There’s no placental tear?

Brooke: No.

Meagan: Subchorionic? Nothing?

Brooke: At this point, they didn’t know what it was. They did find out. I got on the table and I was like, “I’m really bleeding a lot.” She was like, “Okay.” She put me on the table and she was like, “Oh my goodness. It literally looks like you’ve been shot. There’s so much blood just everywhere.” I mean, I’m not a doctor obviously, but I was like, I don’t know how I can go on with this much blood loss. It was really extreme.

Then the psychological impact of all of that bleeding when I’ve just had loss. The world’s not turning. I’m locked in my house other than going to the hospital. There are field hospitals everywhere. I can see them from the window. It is really just apocalyptic.

We go through the next several weeks. I go to the MFM. They diagnose a very, very large subchorionic hemorrhage. It was three times the size of my daughter. They were like, “We don’t know if she’s going to be able to sustain this much blood loss and there’s really nothing we can do to stop it.” They were like, “There’s not a lot of research on this kind of thing. We don’t know how it’s going to go. We’ll just keep seeing you once or twice a week, making sure you’re not losing too much blood and make sure the baby is still okay.”

The whole pregnancy, she was totally fine. I bled and I bled and I bled. I was on total bed rest because any walking I did at all just aggravated it and caused more bleeding. I was so scared of that. I was really, totally isolated.

It was very tough emotionally and physically, but my doctor took excellent care of me, helped me find mental health resources, and helped me to get a prenatal nutritionist just to really give me well-rounded care throughout the pregnancy.

Brooke: By 24 weeks, it went away. Prayers were answered and the hemorrhage went away.

Meagan: Halfway through the pregnancy.

Brooke: Yep, by 24 weeks, it was gone. I didn’t have any new bleeding although I was still bleeding, but it wasn’t the full hemorrhage bleeding that I had been experiencing up until that point.

I took it easy until 36 weeks when I was like, “I need to start walking and moving. I’ve been in bed this whole pregnancy. I know that’s not good.” I’m usually a very active person, so I was a little anxious about that. Around 36 weeks, we started taking the daily hot chocolate walk. We would walk to a different spot and we would get a hot chocolate. It’s winter time now. It’s December. It’s Christmas. We were just relaxing and then on January 15th, it was snowing in New York City. I was 38 weeks and 6 days and I went into labor.

21:26 Going into labor and getting admitted

Brooke: I woke up at 3:00 in the morning and I was like, “I’m in labor.” I was so excited. It was happening. I labored at home for 14 hours and then we went into the hospital. The traffic was so bad from the snow that I ended up walking down 5th Avenue for 10 blocks because we were in gridlock. I was like, “I’m in labor!” I was nowhere near ready to go to the hospital but I didn’t know.

I went to the hospital way too early. Classic C-section red flag right there, but I didn’t know. I got there and my doctor happened to be on call. I was so excited because she was just incredible. We had such a good relationship after the care she had given me throughout both of these pregnancies and I was just so excited.

But then she left. She had me in triage. I was only 2 centimeters. She was like, “I think you should go home.”

Meagan: You’re like, “I just walked blocks to get here.”

Brooke: I was like, “I can’t.”

She was like, “It’s probably going to be another 12 hours until you really need to be here.” I was like, “I can’t come back at 3:00 in the morning tomorrow.” I was so anxious. My anxiety from what I had been through, I was like, “There’s no way I’m going home.” She was like, “I’ll push it. We’ll admit you now.” She was catering to my emotional and mental needs to have this baby monitored. I was so scared.

Brooke: I get admitted. By the time I get upstairs, my poor husband is not admitted at this point. He’s outside in the snow just walking around Central Park. Not until I’m in my room is he allowed to join me because he had to be tested for COVID and all of that. This is January 2021. Now, mind you, two days before that, I think the 14th was one of the worst days of COVID that we’d had up to that point in New York City.

That is what everybody is focused on in the medical world. They’re not like, “This routine birth. This girl is in labor. She’s 39 weeks tomorrow.” Nobody’s stressed.

I get the epidural. By that time, I’m 5 centimeters. Two hours later, my water broke. I was at 8 centimeters. It’s 7:00 PM. I’m 8 centimeters. I’m like, “This is happening.” Everything is smooth. I go to sleep. I keep telling everybody that the epidural is not working. I can feel the epidural on the right side of my body. The nurses moved me around, trying to get the medicine to other places, they had me just lying this way, laying that way, but I got up. Never walked around. Didn’t get in any other position other than my back or my side.

I went to sleep. I woke up in the morning and was still 8 centimeters. I had stalled out and now, everybody is starting to worry. The doctor who was on call, my doctor, who left after I was in triage, was someone I had never met. I have lots of friends who she delivered their babies and they had great experiences with her, so I’m sure she is absolutely wonderful, but I didn’t know her and I felt really unsafe. She seemed very busy every time she came in and I was very anxious at this point. I was like, “I thought I was going to have this baby yesterday. What is going on?”

My angel of a nurse just was so reassuring that whole time, but I kept telling her, “I don’t think this epidural is working.” She was like, “Well, this is the max that you can have. Let’s give you more Pitocin to get those contractions to kick in so we can get you all the way.” More epidural, more Pitocin. More epidural, more Pitocin.

The cascade of interventions. This is all for a labor that I went into spontaneously. It’s 39 weeks now. I’m full-term. My nurse goes on lunch break. It’s now Saturday the 16th. My nurse went on lunch break and another nurse came in, someone I didn’t know which is a theme throughout my whole VBAC journey. I really liked to know my provider.

Meagan: That’s an important thing, by the way, to know. It doesn’t happen as much anymore, but to know who is going to be with you is very common to want that. It was for me.

Brooke: It was not something that I thought I would care about, but at the moment, it was something I really needed. So this nurse I didn’t know came in and took my temperature and was like, “Oh no. You have a fever. This is bad. I’m going to get the doctor. She’s going to operate.” I was like, “What are you talking about I have a fever. What?”

The OB comes in. She’s washing her hands. She’s putting on the fresh gloves. She’s doing it. She just came out of C-section. She was like, “You have a fever? You’ve been at 8 centimeters for how long? All right. We’re going to the OR.”

I just immediately start hysterically crying. I was terrified. My nurse is back and she was like, “It’s okay. Look. Your baby is perfect. She’s not in distress. Everything is okay. It’s just taking too long. You have this fever. We don’t want the baby to get sick. This is the best thing.”

The OB was like, “Why are you crying? Everything is fine.”

Meagan: Oh my gosh.

Brooke: My husband was like, “You know, she’s been through a lot with the loss and the hemorrhage. We are scared.” The doctor was like, “What hemorrhage? What are you talking about? This wasn’t your first pregnancy?” I felt in that moment like she didn’t know me like she didn’t know my case and I felt really unsafe. She’s a great doctor and she knew what she was doing, but I felt nothing.

Meagan: She wasn’t really talking to you. She was telling you what you were going to do, not talking.

Brooke: Exactly. In retrospect, I can appreciate that they are in the middle of a pandemic and it was truly unprecedented. I understand now where she was, but it was not good for me.

28:06 An extremely traumatic C-section

Brooke: I go back into the OR and I’m sure all of the listeners are familiar with this moment where you are being prepped for surgery and it’s really overwhelming. I was like, “Oh my gosh. I hope my husband is not in here right now.” I couldn’t see. You’re just staring up at the lights. I was like, “I hope he’s not in here right now seeing this.”

They bring him in and I’m prepped for surgery and they are testing where they are about to perform this surgery. I was like, “That really hurts.” They were like, “No, no, no. It’s just pressure.” I was like, “No, it’s pressure on the left side of my body, but it’s pain on the right. I am telling you as I have been telling you since I was 5 centimeters yesterday, that the epidural is not reaching the right half of my body.”

They were like, “Okay. Here is some pain medication through your IV, but we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.”

Meagan: Oh my gosh.

Brooke: I think it was extremely traumatic for my husband also because I was screaming through my whole C-section. I was in extreme agony. I’ll liken it to when you watch a Civil War movie and you’re watching an amputee. I was being operated on and was not fully anesthetized. It was the worst thing I have ever experienced or could really imagine physically. It was excruciating.

My daughter was born and they said, “The baby is out.” That was maybe the longest moment of my life because she didn’t cry. The first thing I ever said. The first words my daughter ever heard me say were, “Is she alive?” I was like, the baby is out but she’s not crying. They were like, “Yeah.” She cried. They did the suction and she cried.

100% healthy, perfect APGAR scores, everything was fine, but all the while, I’m just screaming. After they checked her, they handed her to my husband and they made him leave. He was down the hall taking the baby to where I would ultimately meet them in postpartum, but he could hear me screaming all the way down.

Meagan: Oh, so traumatic for both of you.

Brooke: Yeah, it was horrible, to say the least. I hate saying that because it was my daughter’s birth and so amazing for so many other reasons, but my experience was bad. Bad.

I was thankfully able to nurse her really well and hold her and everything from then on was just totally smooth sailing. She was perfectly healthy, but I knew immediately that I never wanted to have another C-section.

Brooke: The next morning, they were doing their rounds in recovery, and the anesthesiologist who was there, not my anesthesiologist, someone I hadn’t seen before. My husband and I were like, “Will this happen again? If I were to have another baby, would this happen again? What’s wrong with me?” He was like, “Well, I’m not sure, but you probably have a window in your spine and yeah, this would happen with any epidural so I wouldn’t recommend it in the future. We’d have to go a different anesthesia route for a different C-section or you would have to give birth unmedicated.”

That was the story in my head moving forward. After that, I was like, “I’m not having another C-section,” so in my head, it was like, “I’m going to have an unmedicated VBAC in the future.” That was day one.

To process all of that trauma, I started listening to VBAC podcasts. I just was listening to VBAC stories because that was really the only place where I was hearing C-section stories. I had so many friends who had C-sections before me and I didn’t understand how horrible that recovery can be for some people.

Mind you, lots of my friends had great C-section experiences, but I did not and it really took a lot of work to process that. At my postpartum visit, I was back with my doctor and she was like, “You know if you do decide to get pregnant again, we will do an anesthesia consult and really explore that and make sure that that never happens to you again.”

Life goes on. I’m raising my daughter. We’re in New York. We decide to move to North Carolina to be with family and to try again for another baby. We’re in our new house and I don’t really know anybody here beyond some family.

32:53 Third pregnancy

Brooke: I found out that I’m expecting again and we are so excited, but there is obviously a lot of anxiety after everything that I went through. I was like, “This time around, I need a doula.” I was like, “We’re in a different time. It’s not New York at the height of a pandemic. I need a team. I know now after 2 years of listening to VBAC stories what I need to do. I’m going to control every single thing I can control so that this will go how I want it to go.” I made a vision board about it. I looked at it on my desk all the time. I was like, “These are the things I need to be doing every day to hit this goal.”

Sharing my successful VBAC on a podcast was on that, so I am really excited to be able to do this today.

Brooke: The first thing that I did was hire a doula, but I didn’t know any doulas and I knew that I wanted one who would really support a VBAC that had experience with the emotional elements of it. I interviewed several doulas with that in mind, but what I did that I would definitely urge listeners to do if they don’t have a supportive provider is I asked every doula that I interviewed if they knew of or could recommend or had worked with in the past any VBAC-supportive OBs.

I knew for me and my anxiety given the complications that I had with the hemorrhage and the loss that I wasn’t going to go the midwife/birth center route. I knew that I would want an obstetrician. I was looking for a hospital provider that would be VBAC-supportive. Every doula I interviewed recommended the same practice and the same hospital.

I was like, “That’s where I need to go because if all of the doulas are recommending this practice, that’s where I need to try and get in.”

I was relieved to find out that they delivered at WakeMed Raleigh and I say that because it’s important to note that it is one of the lowest C-section rates in the country, that hospital. That alone was really reassuring to me because I was like, “They are not going to do it just because it’s taking too long.” It’s really going to be based on that medical evidence.

If I need to have one medically, then that’s what we have to do, but I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t the result of interventions or stalling. I don’t know if I had done things differently if my C-section would have or wouldn’t have happened, but I know that I didn’t set myself up for success. This time around, I was really determined to do it.

I got a doula. I got a supportive provider. Through my doula, I did childbirth education classes. They recommended Spinning Babies and yoga. I did that. They recommended a Webster-certified chiropractor and I did that. All things really stemmed from my doula and the doula group that she was with. I cannot recommend that enough. I know getting a doula can sometimes be cost-prohibitive, but there are so many doulas on Instagram that share a lot of this information on social media that just following those recommendations, I tried it all.

I really did. I drank the tea. I ate the dates, but early in this pregnancy, I hadn’t even hired a doula yet.

38:17 Bleeding again

Brooke: 6 weeks, I started bleeding again. I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I wasn’t as scared because I had just been through my daughter’s pregnancy and I was like, “This just must be the way that I am.”

So I go and I get an appointment with this practice because I knew right away that that was where I wanted to go. They took me even though I was a new patient. They took me right away even though I was 6 weeks because I was bleeding. I don’t think all practices bend the rules that much. Their policy is, “Oh, don’t come in until 9 weeks,” but they took me. I really appreciated that. I loved the staff. They were like, “Yeah, we don’t know why you are bleeding.” I said, “Well, I do. I’m telling you right now that it’s a subchorionic hemorrhage.”

They were like, “We don’t say anything.” I was like, “You will.”

Pregnancy was pretty routine after that. The bleeding stopped. I didn’t worry too much and then I took my daughter to a museum at 12 weeks, 5 days which if you recall is just about to the day and the time of my loss. It was 12 weeks and 6 weeks when I started bleeding. I had a huge bleed. I mean, bad. I was like, “How could it be that I am miscarrying on the same day?” I was like, “This is crazy.”

We went to the ER because it was nighttime and I was like, “I just have to know if there is a heartbeat.” The ER checked and it was incredible too because I could feel that the doctors were nervous for me and then I felt their relief telling me that there was a heartbeat. They were like, “We don’t often get to give good news in the ER and we are just so happy to tell you that your baby is fine and you have a subchorionic hemorrhage.” I was like, “Knew it.”

I continued to bleed for a few days. They were like, “Do you want to do bloodwork and see if there’s anything else?” I was like, “No. That’s what’s happening. I don’t need to stay for bloodwork. This is what it is. I’ve just got to ride it out and take it easy,” which is tough with a toddler, but I did my best. The bleeding stopped and everything was fine.

The rest of my pregnancy was great. I had that second-trimester glow and it’s sunny North Carolina. I’m with my family. I’ve made some friends. Things are going smoothly. Then at my 24-week appointment, I said to one of the OBs there that I was feeling pretty anxious. I was like, “I’m a little bit nervous just because I did hemorrhage this pregnancy. I hemorrhaged all last pregnancy. I don’t feel okay with this being my last ultrasound until delivery. Can we just put a growth scan on the chart?”

She was like, “Of course. You need to feel comfortable.” I appreciated that. She didn’t have a medical reason to do it, but she was like, “You’re right. You’ve been high risk. Let’s go ahead.”

At 30 weeks, it was the night before my appointment and I had the strangest dream. I had a dream that I had the most amazing birth. My doula was there. I was standing up. I pulled my son from my own body. It was this redemptive, joyous dream. I felt this happiness. Then all of a sudden, it went dark and everything was dark. I was walking around an auditorium, a dimly lit auditorium with a bunch of empty bassinets. I was looking for my baby.

I wasn’t scared, but I was a little bit nervous walking around there, then all of a sudden, the nurse handed him to me and they were like, “Here he is.” I was like, “Where has he been all this time?” She was like, “Oh, he’s been with us, but he’s fine. You can go home.”

I was like, “Okay.” Then I woke up. I went on with my day and I was like, “That was a weird dream.”

I went to my 30-week scan and mind you, I had been put on there because of my advocating for myself. I looked at the ultrasound. It was just me and the tech in the room and I said, “What the F is that?” I had seen through weekly ultrasounds my entire pregnancy with my daughter. I’m not a tech, but I have a lot of experience as a mom looking at ultrasounds and I was like, “This is not normal.” His belly looked like sausage links.

It was like nothing I’d ever seen before and the tech was like, “I need to go get the doctor.”

43:09 Finding a bowel obstruction in baby

Brooke: She brought in another doctor at the practice. This is a big practice with lots of different OBs, all of whom were wonderful. This doctor who this was my first time meeting was just so sweet as she told me that my baby had a bowel obstruction and that he would need to have surgery and stay in the NICU for a while when he was born and that it was really likely that I was going to have to deliver him prematurely.

I immediately became hysterical. She was so sweet. She asked if she could hug me. I was like, “Please.” It was just the most incredible practice of doctors. I felt just really supported by them. She sent me to the MFM where I had to get an ultrasound at least once a week. They did the antenatal screening there to check his intestines every few days because they wanted to make sure that they were balancing the risk of letting me go as close to term as possible while not risking his intestines bursting basically.

Meagan: Right.

Brooke: This was very scary again so I was like, “Oh my gosh. What is going on with me?” I go through with the rest of the pregnancy. I did have polyhydramnios because he is not passing fluid as he’s supposed to be. It’s all getting stuck where this obstruction is. But because it’s a picture of a belly inside a belly and your intestines are so long, you can’t see through ultrasound where the block is.

There were five causes that they were going through. They weren’t sure where this block was or if it was part of a larger disease or if this would cause lifelong issues. There were so many questions, but I just was like, “Listen. I had a dream with my daughter that I would have a baby girl in the snow and I did. I just have to trust that this baby is going to be fine too and I’m going to take it home too.”

I’m going to have that VBAC and at every single appointment, once or twice a week, I ask, “Does this impact my ability to have a VBAC?” He was like, “No. It has nothing to do with pregnancy and delivery. That’s going to be what it is. You make those choices based on your history. It’s just that when the baby is born, you will have to have a huge team out there. The NICU team has to be there. Pediatric surgery needs to be there. You’re going to have to give birth with 15-20 people in the room.”

I was like, “There goes my unmedicated, serene vision with no epidural, no medical intervention, beautiful hospital birth in a dimly lit room with the candles. No.” All that planning is out the window. It’s gone. I can’t have that experience. So I’m like, “I have to control what I can control. The MFM is saying I can still do it. I’m still going for it.”

So then at just before 37 weeks, they were like, “Okay, it’s time. We need to get him out and get this surgery underway.” They were like, “He’s doing well. You’re doing well. Let’s have an induction.” For a VBAC, being induced, I was like, “Oh no. This feels just like a death sentence to my VBAC plans, but this is what we have to do.”

46:57 Switching providers the day before her scheduled induction

Brooke: I’m meeting with one of the OBs and it’s the day before my scheduled induction. This is on Monday. I like this OB a lot. We’ve worked together in the past. She’s been great and supportive, nothing bad to say about her. But we were talking about my induction which was going to take place and I asked her a question about Pitocin.

I just asked a question because I didn’t know. Her response was along the lines of, “With all due respect, you need to let the nurses do their job. You’re not trained in Pitocin and you need to let them do that.” Right then, I was like, “Mm-mm.” Medically, she’s right. Would she have delivered my baby safely? Almost certainly, but I knew right then that was not the energy that I needed in the room.

I felt immediately like I shouldn’t have asked the question and I was like, “I can’t feel like that this time.” I didn’t ask any questions at my daughter’s birth. I just went along with it. I was blind and this time, I need to be with a provider that I feel like I can ask anything and that I will get an answer.

So I emailed the MFM and said, “Do you think it’s safe if I push the induction a few days? I’m not comfortable with the plans we have right now. I want to give my baby and my body a few more days. What’s the last possible day I can push this to?” He was like, “I’ll let you go 72 more hours, but I really think we’ve got to get this moving.” I messaged the doctor I felt the most comfortable with in the practice and I was like, “Listen. I really want to have my baby with you. I just feel the most comfortable with you. You had mentioned you were going to be on-call that day.”

I didn’t do it because I wanted to do it sooner so I had scheduled it with a different doctor, but he was like, “Let me see what I can do. I have a full load that day, but let me call the hospital and see what I can do.” He called me back and he was like, “I pulled some strings and I got you in. I’m going to deliver your baby. We’re going to do this induction. You’re going to have your VBAC. I don’t want you to stress at all. We’re going to have your VBAC. Your baby is going to go to the NICU. He’s going to be fine. You’re going to come home happy.”

I was like, “This is what I need.” I just felt like, “Ahh.” I was like, “Do you think it’s safe to be induced? Is it safe for a VBAC?” He was like, “It is totally safe and I will let you know the moment things become unsafe and we will change the plan. But right now, this plan is safe and I will let you know when I don’t think it is safe anymore and we need to do something different.” I was like, “Okay.”

I went in for my induction and it all moved really fast from there. I had a Foley induction on the night before. I went in on Tuesday night and they gave me a Foley, but all that prep work paid off. I was already 2 centimeters dilated when I showed up at the hospital at 37 weeks for my induction. I was like, “Yes.” That baby was in a great position. I was in shape. I had done that Spinning Babies yoga. It was paying off. I had drank the red raspberry leaf tea. I ate the six dates a day and I will never eat one again.

I was like, “Yes.” They put the Foley in. It fell out around 8:00 AM the following morning so this is on Wednesday now. Wednesday, September 27th. At 8:00 AM, they started Pitocin. By 10:00 AM, I was in back labor. It was mild. It was manageable. I was not stressed at all. My nurse was amazing and she helped me get into a lot of different positions. We got baby to move and back labor subsided. That made all the difference.

50:57 Progressing to complete dilation

Brooke: By noon, just a few hours later, I was 100% effaced and I was 5 centimeters. I really wasn’t feeling anything. I was totally fine. I was able to sleep and I was already 5 centimeters on Pitocin so I was feeling good. I was like, “Oh, I can do this. I do not need an epidural. This is happening.”

My doctor came in and he was like, “I want to break your water. You have a bulging bag. Let’s break this.” I was like, “Okay,” because I fully trusted him. He was so respectful of my birth plan. I had put on there that I wanted limited cervical checks because in my previous labor, I got the chorio infection and I was like, “I want to limit cervical checks because I don’t want to have that infection again that caused my first C-section.”

He was like, “I’m not going to check you unless I feel like we really need to and we can talk about it.” He was just so respectful of my wishes and how I wanted my birth to go. He was barely there. My contractions weren’t intense, so at 2:00 PM, my nurse upped my Pitocin to a 10. I’m not really sure what that means as the other OB pointed out. I’m not trained in Pitocin.

Meagan: It’s starting to get into the higher does. Usually at 20 is when OBs will cap it off or try to get MFM involved to get more clearance or do an IUPC and stuff like that. 10 is low but still getting there and getting higher.

Brooke: Okay. Okay.

She put it to 10 and said, “It’s time to get things going. I was just still coping fine and I was starting to get a little bit worried that I wasn’t going to get past 8 centimeters because so far, it had been similar to my previous labor. It was taking a while, but I was feeling fine.

I texted my doula. This was 2:00 PM. I texted my doula and she was like, “Go get on the toilet. Sit backward. I call it the dilation station. Just go sit there for a little while and I’ll check back in with you at 3:00.”

But at 2:10, so 10 minutes of doing that, I texted her that I was at 8 centimeters and I was in so much pain. I was like, “You need to come in right now.” 10 minutes. I was so sick. I thought I was going to throw up. I was screaming. I was not prepared for how bad this was going to hurt. I was not expecting that. It came out of nowhere.

She got there at 2:35. I was pacing up and down the room yelling and I was screaming that I really wanted the epidural. My nurse gave me IV pain meds and I kept telling her I would get relief during the contractions but the contractions themselves really hurt. My doula was there applying counterpressure, helping to move me into different positions and she and my nurse were working together to get me from just one contraction at a time. One contraction at a time.

I mean, I was just in labor land. I could not see beyond the moment that I was in. I was begging for an epidural. My husband didn’t say anything because he was really supportive of just supporting my wishes, but I was like, “I really want an epidural.” My goal going into the birth was to have a good experience and not necessarily to have an unmedicated birth because the unmedicated part was because I was afraid that the epidural wouldn’t work again.

That’s why I didn’t want the epidural. It wasn’t because I wanted the unmedicated birth. It just felt like that was my best option.

54:54 Getting an epidural and pushing for three hours

Brooke: I’m hysterical and I’m like, “I want the epidural. This is not a good experience. This is not on my birth plan.” My doula was like, “I think you’re right.” My nurse checked me. She was like, “You’re complete. You’re complete. You can just push.” I was like, “I am not pushing without an epidural! This is not what I want!”

An angel of an anesthesiologist came in and gave me that epidural. I was complete and I got that epidural and let me tell you, there is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with my spine. That was the most incredible relief that I have ever felt. I know now it was the right decision. My husband was so against it because he was so scared that I was just giving up and throwing in the towel at the final mile. But he didn’t say anything at the time.

The anesthesiologist was amazing. He kept coming in to check on me, making sure I was doing okay. That was around 3:30 that I got the epidural. I stayed on my hands and knees. My doula was giving me peppermint essential oil to help me cope with the nausea. She kept checking on me and I felt that relief around 4:15, then it was calm and joyous. I knew instantly that I had made the best choice for me.

The nurse kept trying to get me to do practice pushes and my doula was like, “You don’t really have to do that.” I was like, “I don’t have to practice doing anything. My body is just pushing.” It was involuntary. It was just happening. I pushed for 3 hours. Yeah, 3 hours of pushing.

Meagan: All right. All right. That’s some time.

Brooke: It was a long time. I started pushing around 4:15-4:30 and my baby was born at 7:28 PM. I had no tearing and it was exactly like my dream. His head was out and my doctor was like, “Reach down, Brooke. You can do it.” I reached down and pulled him from his shoulders up onto my chest and I got that completion of that circular motion. Pushing the baby out, completing the circle with putting him on my chest.

He was crying and looking up at me. I had that skin-to-skin moment. Mind you, this is happening with 15-20 people in the room. The team rushed over. They took him. They checked him. They laid him back on my chest and they left. They were like, “He’s perfect. We’re good. We’ll see you in an hour.”

Meagan: Oh my gosh. Yay.

Brooke: Yeah. Yeah. So I got to hold him on my chest and have that golden hour. It was just me, my husband, and my doula. It was the most incredible, healing moment of my life. I was pushing him out and I was like, “I could do this again! This is amazing!” It was just– at one point in pushing, I even asked my OB. I was like, “Oh my gosh. This is taking so long. Do I need to have a C-section?” My doctor was like, “Brooke, I’m touching his head. No. You’re having a VBAC. It’s here. It’s done. You did it. This is it.”

I was like, “Oh my god.” The baby was never in distress. He did great the whole time. They didn’t feel any need to rush it because medically, he was monitored the whole time. I was monitored. We were both doing great. It just took a while. It was absolutely perfect and then they took him back to the NICU after that hour and he ultimately did need to have bowel surgery and stayed there for almost 6 weeks, but I’m happy to report that he is a 100% normal almost 6-month-old baby now and just absolutely perfect. It was the healing VBAC that I had pursued and I am just over the moon about it. It will remain one of the best experiences of my whole life in spite of all of those challenges that I had with another hemorrhage, an induction, and my baby with this obscure birth defect.

Having that VBAC and that VBAC success really just completely changed my outlook on the whole situation. I could drive to and from the hospital to see him. I got to hold him for that hour. It was an amazing, amazing, amazing experience.

59:40 15 tips for birth

Meagan: I am so happy for you and I’m so happy that you felt you were able to advocate for yourself. It is definitely something hard to do. It would be hard to email and be like, “Actually, I’m not going to go with this provider” or even say, “Yeah, okay. Great. I’m 10 centimeters, but this is not the experience that I’m wanting anymore and I’m going to do this.” I think that is something also they tell people a lot. You can’t get an epidural after a certain number of centimeters. That’s not necessarily true. Sometimes it can be heavy and harder to push, but a lot of the time, it is what a mom needs to push. You had 3 more hours. You knew what you needed. That was the most perfect decision that you could have made for you.

Brooke: Exactly. Exactly.

Meagan: You had that amazing full-circle moment of bringing your son up, feeling him, and holy cow, intuitive. Your dreams are on point. I’m just so, so happy for you and I do want to talk a little bit. There is something that you said a couple of times that stood out to me and it’s something that I feel like I just in life in general, not even just in pregnancy and everything that I stick to. You can only control what you can control.

That, in birth, is hard so what you did is what you could control. I want to give some of those tips. I’ve got 15 tips and I’m looking down here and I’m like, yeah. You did a lot of them. Learn the facts. Learn what the evidence says. A lot of providers are on the opposite side of your provider where they are like, “No. Pitocin is not safe. It is not acceptable. We cannot do this. You have to go into labor by tomorrow or we have to have a C-section.” Right?

Brooke: Right, totally.

Meagan: That’s not what the evidence states. So you learned the facts. You found the provider. That’s the next one. Find a supportive provider. Hire a VBAC doula if you can.

I want to talk a little bit about doulas. Obviously, I am a doula and I have a whole doula program here at The VBAC Link so I advocate for doulas every single second of the day, but I know sometimes it’s not possible and you mentioned that financially. There are avenues. You can go to Be Her Village or instead of a baby shower and getting a whole bunch of extra clothes, you can ask for support for doulas. There are ways around that but then I wanted to also talk about hiring a doula.

Just like hiring a provider who is supportive of VBAC, you also want to try to find a doula who is supportive of VBAC as well. We had a story just a while ago that talked about how she had an amazing doula and it sounds like she was honestly amazing, but VBAC was something that made her uncomfortable. She didn’t know that until she was in that space.

Brooke: Yeah. I experienced that in my interviews. I did talk to a few doulas who were like, “Well, I’ve never done a VBAC but physiologically, it’s the same as any other birth.” While that is definitely true, I knew that I needed somebody in my corner who understood the emotional impact and what this was going to do for my psyche.

Physiologically, man. I have been listening to your podcast. I was like, “These women can do it. I can do it.” A very good friend of mine had a VBAC and the whole time through her pregnancy, I was cheering her on. It was in my head. I was like, “It has already happened. This is done. It’s a done deal. You’re going to have a VBAC.” Then it was my turn and I was like, I had that faith in my friend. I need to have that faith in myself.

I can do this. I really can. I got that from listening to your podcast and hearing other women have this success. That was absolutely critical, but knowing that a doula who understood that and who had been there for other VBAC moms was critical for me.

Actually, the doula that I ended up having with me that I hired and that was with me in my birth, she was the doula for her sister who had a VBAC so I was like, “She knows. It’s personal to her.” It was perfect. It was perfect.

Yeah. It’s another part of your team that supports you and understands. Even if they haven’t had a VBAC themselves, they are supportive of VBAC and really understand again those facts and the evidence surrounding VBAC.

1:04:22 Control what you can control

Meagan: Finding the birth location. You mentioned you knew that this other location may not have been the best idea and this is where you would feel more safe and you chose that. That is so important to choose where you feel comfortable and what resonates with you.

Avoiding induction, however, we know induction happens. Here we are. An induction happened and an induction can happen. Avoid an induction that is not necessary, but also know that if induction comes your way, that doesn’t mean that your birth dreams and your birth preferences and everything just go completely out of the window. It’s still possible to VBAC if we didn’t just prove it with this episode and many other episodes before with an induction.

Processing past birth experiences, creating a birth plan. I love how you had a vision board and you were like, “This is my vision. I’m going to do these things. These are within my control.” Surround yourself with the people who support you even outside of your birth team. Going to the massage therapist, and chiropractor, doing Spinning Babies. All of these things are really, really going to help you have a better chance of a VBAC, but then also I feel like if a VBAC doesn’t end up happening, you can go back and say, “I did everything I could do in my power and I controlled what I could control.”

That message stuck out to me during your story. You said it just a couple of times, but that to me is very powerful. Control what you can control.

Brooke: Yeah. I would want anybody listening to really hang on to that and to have faith in yourself. In my second pregnancy, I felt like I just needed to go along with what the doctor said. I had a high-risk pregnancy. I was bleeding like crazy. I didn’t know what was going on. Everything felt really uncertain at that point in the pandemic and where I was living and it was just that I didn’t take any control.

I just did not own my birth at all. I will always wonder if I had done things differently. If I wasn’t on bedrest and I was moving and if I drank the tea and if I had a doula which wasn’t an option at that moment in time, but if I had done things differently, would I have had such a traumatic Cesarean birth? Would that experience have happened? I will never know, but I wanted to know going into this one that I did everything that felt right to me.

My doula would make suggestions and I did the things that I was like, “Yeah. That’s something I’m going to do.” Then there were suggestions that she made that I was like, “Mmm, that doesn’t sound good to me,” so I just didn’t do it. I followed my gut. I had faith in myself. I was like, “I’m going to do X, Y, and Z. I’m not going to do A, B, and C.”

Doing what feels right to you and your body, my provider, and I had the mantras too. My provider was amazing, but I knew going into it that obstetrics is not as old as the wisdom of my body and I need to trust it first. My OB is one man. If there is something wrong, they are there to course correct but I just need to let my body do its thing. My provider was so supportive of that and I think that controlling that was huge.

I mean, I literally changed doctors the day before my induction. That is something you can do. In my first birth, it was so obvious that I was just routine. I was in and out of the hospital, just another mom giving birth. Nameless.

This is the biggest moment of your life and you have to do what you can do to make it the experience you want it to be. I knew that going in, my son needed an induction and that was the whole pregnancy, I was like, “I won’t be induced. That’s where I draw the line. I’ll go for a repeat C-section before I get induced,” and it was time. They were like, “We need to induce.” I knew that was what I had to do to save my son.

I was like, “We’re going to go for it.” My provider made me feel really safe and I’m just really glad that up until that last minute, I was advocating for the birth that I wanted and that was when I got the birth I wanted, but I knew that if it ultimately ended in a C-section because that was what he needed or if something would occur that that was what I needed, that that is what was needed and not just, “Oh, time’s up. Oh, you have an infection.”

Control what you can control.

Meagan: Yep. That’s the message of the day. Control what you can control. VBAC is possible. You did it. I’m so happy for you and thank you so much for sharing your story with us today.

Brooke: Thank you so much for having me.

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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“Control what you can control.”

Brooke’s birth experiences have not been without challenges. She first had an extremely difficult miscarriage during COVID followed by intense bleeding due to massive subchorionic hemorrhages during her other two pregnancies. Her first delivery was a very traumatic C-section from not being completely anesthetized. After that, Brooke committed to doing everything in her power not to have that experience ever again and to do everything she could to avoid a C-section.

Along with another subchorionic hemorrhage, her third pregnancy presented another challenge when she found out her baby had a bowel obstruction and would need surgery along with a NICU stay immediately after birth. Brooke was disheartened learning that she needed a medically necessary induction, but she was still committed to doing everything she could to achieve her VBAC.

Her efforts to surround herself with a powerful team paid off. Everyone around her championed her VBAC. Brooke was able to go from the most traumatic birth imaginable to the most beautiful, empowering, and healing birth she literally dreamed about.

Brooke’s Website

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Needed Website - code: vbac20

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

Full Transcript under Episode Details

04:36 Review of the Week

07:19 Brooke’s first pregnancy

11:18 Miscarriage

15:01 Brooke’s dream

17:20 Second pregnancy

21:26 Going into labor and getting admitted

28:06 An extremely traumatic C-section

32:53 Third pregnancy

38:17 Bleeding again

43:09 Finding a bowel obstruction in baby

46:57 Switching providers the day before her scheduled induction

50:57 Progressing to complete dilation

54:54 Getting an epidural and pushing for three hours

59:40 15 tips for birth

1:04:22 Control what you can control

Meagan: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening– whatever time it is that you are listening to this episode, I hope that you are doing great. We are excited to get into another VBAC story today from our friend. Okay, so I’m trying to think. Remind me. Are you in North Carolina now or are you in New York City now?

Brooke: No, I’m in North Carolina now, but the story starts in New York City.

Meagan: The story starts in New York City. She’s in North Carolina now. Her name is Brooke. Tell me a little bit more. You are an educator. You are helping kids read, right? Is this what I’m getting from your website?

Brooke: Yes.

Meagan: Okay, so tell us more about what you do.

Brooke: I worked in New York City public schools for 10 years. I was a teacher, a literacy coach, and an administrator so I have experience both in the classroom and in school leadership. After we welcomed my daughter and after the pandemic, we moved to be closer to family in the Raleigh, North Carolina area and here I’m an education consultant.

Meagan: Education consultant. Awesome. We will make sure to have your website linked for anyone listening. What type of people would want to go to your website?

Brooke: I offer a number of services. The first thing that I do is pretty classic consulting in elementary school. I provide literacy support. My expertise is in pre-K through 3rd grade so early reading foundational skills. I help schools with their reading programs.

But additionally, there’s a big home school community in the Raleigh area.

Meagan: I saw that on your website.

Brooke: Yeah, I’ve had a really wonderful experience so far working with families getting set up on their homeschooling journey and supporting parents and caregivers in taking on the teacher role at home.

Meagan: Awesome. Awesome. I think home school, especially since COVID has really taken off. I know a lot of people, some of my best friends in fact here in Utah even homeschool. It’s a great resource.

In addition to all of the amazing, great things you do, you have a VBAC story to share with us after a Cesarean that was performed pretty early, right?

Brooke: Yeah, it was a pretty preterm and traumatic C-section. All VBAC stories start with a C-section so that’s part of my journey. I’m so, so, so, so grateful. Thank you so much for welcoming me onto the show today. Putting this story out there, being on this podcast, and sharing my VBAC was part of my birth plan. It was on my vision board. It was a goal that I had set so I am just so, so, so grateful to have this opportunity to share that.

Meagan: I’m really excited that you’re going to dive in today. We talk about this a lot of the time with this podcast. Without these stories, without women of strength just like you, we wouldn’t even have a podcast. I mean, probably I could get some content for sure but I think these stories are what makes this podcast. I’m so excited to dive in in just a moment.

04:36 Review of the Week

Meagan: I do have a Review of the Week. This is a review that actually was just given this year in 2024, the current year that we are recording. It’s from a Bailee Atkins. She actually emailed us in a review. If you guys didn’t know, you can email in us a review. It makes our hearts smile so big when we open up our email in the morning and we get these amazing reviews letting us know that everything that we are doing right here is helping, is inspiring, and encouraging, and educating.

This says, “I just want to start off by saying I am OBSESSED with this podcast. I’m a labor and delivery nurse of four years, currently 29 weeks pregnant with my second baby. I’m praying for a redemptive VBAC this April. I absolutely love this resource for evidence-based information. Being that I am at the bedside as a nurse, I have plenty of knowledge. However, I don’t have the experience of home birth or a birth center birth, so it’s great to get all of the insight. I can’t escape negative birth situations and stories as a pregnant nurse so this podcast is often my escape and positive note for the day. I’ve been listening since 2022 and couldn’t feel more empowered for this VBAC. It is my dream to be on the podcast one day, so be on the lookout.”

Okay, I love that. This is being aired probably after her due date. I mean, I don’t know when her due date was, sometime in April, but we are now in May, so Bailee Atkins, if you are still listening, if you haven’t already, email us and let us know how it goes and we would love to have you on the podcast.

07:19 Brooke’s first pregnancy

Meagan: Okay, cute Brooke. I am so excited to hear your stories. You also have a miscarriage story, too. Is that where this all began?

Brooke: This is where it all began. I’m glad you brought it up because I did want to just say at first that my story– I just want to put a note out there to any listeners who are kind of sensitive. My story does include loss and a lot of medical trauma so I just want to put that on the listeners’ radar.

Meagan: Yeah. I think that’s important. I know some people don’t feel like they need any trigger warnings, but when you’ve gone through loss or medical trauma or things like that and it hasn’t completely been worked through or processed or anything like that, and even if it has, it can be really triggering so we just wanted to make sure to mention that.

It also is your story and I think that’s also really important to share.

Brooke: Yeah, so thank you for that. It was actually four years ago this week at the time of this recording. This is a really lovely way to kind of just close that chapter. It just is all working out beautifully.

I’ll set the scene. It’s December of 2019. The world is still turning. Things are great. I’m at a New Year's party in Brooklyn. I’m just thriving. I had just come back from a great backpacking trip with my husband for the summer across Asia. Life was– we were on a high.

Meagan: Wow, super exciting things happening.

Brooke: Yeah. It was great. It was a great time. We call it the great grand finale.

We are at this New Year’s party in Brooklyn and I go to pour myself some champagne and I think, “Maybe I shouldn’t. I think I could be pregnant.” I’m like, “No, no, no. Whatever.” Anyway, I take it easy. We go home early. A couple of weeks later, I’m so ill. I am so sick. I have the worst cough and cold situation I’ve ever had in my life.

My boss at the school was like, “You need to go to the doctor. This has been too long.” I go to the doctor and I’m at urgent care. It’s a Saturday morning and they’re like, “Oh, we need to do some x-rays. We think you might have pneumonia. Is there any chance you might be pregnant?” I was like, “Oh my gosh, yeah. I didn’t drink at that New Year’s party. That was two weeks ago. I can’t take this x-ray.”

I go to the store. I pick up a pregnancy test. I go home. I take it. It’s positive. I’m over the moon. This is the happiest moment of my life up to this point. My husband gets home. We are jumping up and down. We are so excited. Everything is smooth sailing. Everything is great. I immediately start getting sick and I’m breaking out. I just feel awful. I was complaining.

As this pregnancy is progressing, the world is really starting to get a little bit of that pre-COVID hysteria. It’s just starting.

Meagan: Yeah. Especially in New York.

Brooke: Yeah, right? I’m in New York City at this time. I go to the doctor. My husband is still allowed to come with me and things like that. This is the time before. We see the baby. Everything is normal. We go back again. We see the baby. Everything is normal. My doctor offered the NIPT genetic testing and I was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.”

We took the blood sample. I think I was about 10 weeks at that point. We got the results 7-10 days later in that window and it was inconclusive. The doctor was like, “It says there’s not enough fetal DNA. We might have just taken it too early. This happens sometimes. Nothing to worry about.”

I was like, “Okay, nothing to worry about.”

11:18 Miscarriage

Brooke: It was maybe week 11 and I had miraculously felt better. I was like, “Phew. I don’t have any more symptoms.” I’m there at the end of the first trimester and everything is fine. I go in. It was March 9th. It was a Monday. I had my nuchal translucency 12-week scan then and I was going to be 13 weeks the following day on Tuesday. It’s Monday. I wake up. I’m getting ready for work and I start bleeding.

It’s just spotting. I call my doctor. She’s like, “Spotting can be normal. I wouldn’t stress about it just yet. You have an appointment later today.” I was like, “Okay.” I tried not to worry about it, but as the day went on, the bleeding got really bad. Really bad.

I got in a cab and I called my husband who was at his last day of work at the job he was at. I was like, “You need to leave right now and meet me at the doctor’s appointment. I know it’s not until 3:00 but I’m going now.” It was around 1:00.

I showed up at the hospital early and went in for my scan. I was like, “I’m bleeding. I can’t wait 3 hours. Can you just take me now?” I was so shaken.

Meagan: Yeah, that’s a lot.

Brooke: I was so scared. This is March 9th. People are masked. Everybody is a little bit scared of the hospitals because in New York, things had been happening at this point but nothing was closed down yet.

I went into the room. A doctor I had never seen before because this was my first MFM visit does the scan and she comes in. She’s like, “The baby isn’t growing.” My husband is there with me and he’s immediately crying. I’m just not computing. I’m like, “Okay, so does that mean he’s going to have delays? What does this mean?”

She’s like, “No, there’s no heartbeat.”

I was like, “Okay, so what can we do about that?” I was just not understanding what she was very delicately trying to explain to me. I was like, “What do you mean he’s not going to grow anymore? What does that mean? Is he going to have defects?”

She was like, “No. The baby stopped growing 3 weeks ago somewhere between 9 and 10 weeks. You are 13 weeks now. We need to do a D&C.”

It was like I was in a whirlpool. I had no idea what was going on. I just became a complete zombie. I just moved through the next two days just absolutely devastated like catatonic. It was the worst grief I had ever known. It was just so surprising. She was like, “You had a missed miscarriage” which I had never heard of to that point. I was like, “What does that mean?”

Meagan: What does missed miscarriage actually mean?

Brooke: Another term for it is a silent miscarriage. It is when the baby’s heart stops when you have a miscarriage, but your body continues to grow. Your body grows. You still have symptoms. Your body doesn’t recognize that the baby is not growing anymore and isn’t viable anymore and doesn’t properly miscarry.

It was several weeks later before I started to bleed. It was that day. I didn’t know.

In retrospect, it’s like that’s why the NIPT came back the way it did. That’s why my symptoms stopped. Those things on their own, in my first pregnancy, I didn’t understand.

15:01 Brooke’s dream

Brooke: On the 11th, we had the D&C that Wednesday and on Friday, March 13th, New York City shut down. I came out of this procedure just so sad and then was basically locked in my house for a year. My husband and I were grieving in total isolation. It was just a really tough time.

Typically, after a procedure like that, you would go in for a follow-up appointment several weeks later and the doctor would make sure everything was okay. But because it was only emergencies in the hospitals at that time, my doctor just emailed. She was like, “Let me know if you have these symptoms and then I’ll see you, but otherwise it’s safer for you not to come in and you can get pregnant now.”

In retrospect, I think she meant you can, not necessarily that you should but I was like, “Okay. I can get pregnant again.” This is maybe a little too much for some people, but I was crying myself to sleep just so, so, so sad and I was like, “I want my baby. I just need to know that it’s going to be okay.”

I went to sleep and I had the strangest dream that I watched myself through a snowy window of a nurse handing me a baby girl in a pink blanket and then I didn’t see her, myself in the hospital bed didn’t see her, but through the window, I watched the nurse also take a baby boy and lay him next to me. He was asleep.

Meagan: That just gave me the chills.

Brooke: Yeah, I’m happy. I’m holding a baby girl. I woke up and I just felt okay. Two weeks later, I found out I was pregnant again. The whole time, I was like, “It’s a girl. It’s a girl. It’s obviously a girl,” and it was. I just knew right from the outset that I was having a baby girl.

17:20 Second pregnancy

Brooke: I tested positive at 4 weeks. At 5 weeks, I started bleeding and this time, I was angry. I was like, “What is wrong? Why am I miscarrying again?” I go to the doctor and my OB who is amazing, my New York City OB took such incredible care of me. She is just really an all-star doctor. She was like, “I don’t know why you are bleeding so much, but the baby is fine. They are still in there.” I went back a week later. The bleeding never stopped.

When I say bleeding, I mean I’m passing clots the size of golf balls.

Meagan: Whoa.

Brooke: At 7 weeks, I went in. At this point, my OB was like, “I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t understand why you are bleeding so much, but the baby seems fine.”

Meagan: There’s no placental tear?

Brooke: No.

Meagan: Subchorionic? Nothing?

Brooke: At this point, they didn’t know what it was. They did find out. I got on the table and I was like, “I’m really bleeding a lot.” She was like, “Okay.” She put me on the table and she was like, “Oh my goodness. It literally looks like you’ve been shot. There’s so much blood just everywhere.” I mean, I’m not a doctor obviously, but I was like, I don’t know how I can go on with this much blood loss. It was really extreme.

Then the psychological impact of all of that bleeding when I’ve just had loss. The world’s not turning. I’m locked in my house other than going to the hospital. There are field hospitals everywhere. I can see them from the window. It is really just apocalyptic.

We go through the next several weeks. I go to the MFM. They diagnose a very, very large subchorionic hemorrhage. It was three times the size of my daughter. They were like, “We don’t know if she’s going to be able to sustain this much blood loss and there’s really nothing we can do to stop it.” They were like, “There’s not a lot of research on this kind of thing. We don’t know how it’s going to go. We’ll just keep seeing you once or twice a week, making sure you’re not losing too much blood and make sure the baby is still okay.”

The whole pregnancy, she was totally fine. I bled and I bled and I bled. I was on total bed rest because any walking I did at all just aggravated it and caused more bleeding. I was so scared of that. I was really, totally isolated.

It was very tough emotionally and physically, but my doctor took excellent care of me, helped me find mental health resources, and helped me to get a prenatal nutritionist just to really give me well-rounded care throughout the pregnancy.

Brooke: By 24 weeks, it went away. Prayers were answered and the hemorrhage went away.

Meagan: Halfway through the pregnancy.

Brooke: Yep, by 24 weeks, it was gone. I didn’t have any new bleeding although I was still bleeding, but it wasn’t the full hemorrhage bleeding that I had been experiencing up until that point.

I took it easy until 36 weeks when I was like, “I need to start walking and moving. I’ve been in bed this whole pregnancy. I know that’s not good.” I’m usually a very active person, so I was a little anxious about that. Around 36 weeks, we started taking the daily hot chocolate walk. We would walk to a different spot and we would get a hot chocolate. It’s winter time now. It’s December. It’s Christmas. We were just relaxing and then on January 15th, it was snowing in New York City. I was 38 weeks and 6 days and I went into labor.

21:26 Going into labor and getting admitted

Brooke: I woke up at 3:00 in the morning and I was like, “I’m in labor.” I was so excited. It was happening. I labored at home for 14 hours and then we went into the hospital. The traffic was so bad from the snow that I ended up walking down 5th Avenue for 10 blocks because we were in gridlock. I was like, “I’m in labor!” I was nowhere near ready to go to the hospital but I didn’t know.

I went to the hospital way too early. Classic C-section red flag right there, but I didn’t know. I got there and my doctor happened to be on call. I was so excited because she was just incredible. We had such a good relationship after the care she had given me throughout both of these pregnancies and I was just so excited.

But then she left. She had me in triage. I was only 2 centimeters. She was like, “I think you should go home.”

Meagan: You’re like, “I just walked blocks to get here.”

Brooke: I was like, “I can’t.”

She was like, “It’s probably going to be another 12 hours until you really need to be here.” I was like, “I can’t come back at 3:00 in the morning tomorrow.” I was so anxious. My anxiety from what I had been through, I was like, “There’s no way I’m going home.” She was like, “I’ll push it. We’ll admit you now.” She was catering to my emotional and mental needs to have this baby monitored. I was so scared.

Brooke: I get admitted. By the time I get upstairs, my poor husband is not admitted at this point. He’s outside in the snow just walking around Central Park. Not until I’m in my room is he allowed to join me because he had to be tested for COVID and all of that. This is January 2021. Now, mind you, two days before that, I think the 14th was one of the worst days of COVID that we’d had up to that point in New York City.

That is what everybody is focused on in the medical world. They’re not like, “This routine birth. This girl is in labor. She’s 39 weeks tomorrow.” Nobody’s stressed.

I get the epidural. By that time, I’m 5 centimeters. Two hours later, my water broke. I was at 8 centimeters. It’s 7:00 PM. I’m 8 centimeters. I’m like, “This is happening.” Everything is smooth. I go to sleep. I keep telling everybody that the epidural is not working. I can feel the epidural on the right side of my body. The nurses moved me around, trying to get the medicine to other places, they had me just lying this way, laying that way, but I got up. Never walked around. Didn’t get in any other position other than my back or my side.

I went to sleep. I woke up in the morning and was still 8 centimeters. I had stalled out and now, everybody is starting to worry. The doctor who was on call, my doctor, who left after I was in triage, was someone I had never met. I have lots of friends who she delivered their babies and they had great experiences with her, so I’m sure she is absolutely wonderful, but I didn’t know her and I felt really unsafe. She seemed very busy every time she came in and I was very anxious at this point. I was like, “I thought I was going to have this baby yesterday. What is going on?”

My angel of a nurse just was so reassuring that whole time, but I kept telling her, “I don’t think this epidural is working.” She was like, “Well, this is the max that you can have. Let’s give you more Pitocin to get those contractions to kick in so we can get you all the way.” More epidural, more Pitocin. More epidural, more Pitocin.

The cascade of interventions. This is all for a labor that I went into spontaneously. It’s 39 weeks now. I’m full-term. My nurse goes on lunch break. It’s now Saturday the 16th. My nurse went on lunch break and another nurse came in, someone I didn’t know which is a theme throughout my whole VBAC journey. I really liked to know my provider.

Meagan: That’s an important thing, by the way, to know. It doesn’t happen as much anymore, but to know who is going to be with you is very common to want that. It was for me.

Brooke: It was not something that I thought I would care about, but at the moment, it was something I really needed. So this nurse I didn’t know came in and took my temperature and was like, “Oh no. You have a fever. This is bad. I’m going to get the doctor. She’s going to operate.” I was like, “What are you talking about I have a fever. What?”

The OB comes in. She’s washing her hands. She’s putting on the fresh gloves. She’s doing it. She just came out of C-section. She was like, “You have a fever? You’ve been at 8 centimeters for how long? All right. We’re going to the OR.”

I just immediately start hysterically crying. I was terrified. My nurse is back and she was like, “It’s okay. Look. Your baby is perfect. She’s not in distress. Everything is okay. It’s just taking too long. You have this fever. We don’t want the baby to get sick. This is the best thing.”

The OB was like, “Why are you crying? Everything is fine.”

Meagan: Oh my gosh.

Brooke: My husband was like, “You know, she’s been through a lot with the loss and the hemorrhage. We are scared.” The doctor was like, “What hemorrhage? What are you talking about? This wasn’t your first pregnancy?” I felt in that moment like she didn’t know me like she didn’t know my case and I felt really unsafe. She’s a great doctor and she knew what she was doing, but I felt nothing.

Meagan: She wasn’t really talking to you. She was telling you what you were going to do, not talking.

Brooke: Exactly. In retrospect, I can appreciate that they are in the middle of a pandemic and it was truly unprecedented. I understand now where she was, but it was not good for me.

28:06 An extremely traumatic C-section

Brooke: I go back into the OR and I’m sure all of the listeners are familiar with this moment where you are being prepped for surgery and it’s really overwhelming. I was like, “Oh my gosh. I hope my husband is not in here right now.” I couldn’t see. You’re just staring up at the lights. I was like, “I hope he’s not in here right now seeing this.”

They bring him in and I’m prepped for surgery and they are testing where they are about to perform this surgery. I was like, “That really hurts.” They were like, “No, no, no. It’s just pressure.” I was like, “No, it’s pressure on the left side of my body, but it’s pain on the right. I am telling you as I have been telling you since I was 5 centimeters yesterday, that the epidural is not reaching the right half of my body.”

They were like, “Okay. Here is some pain medication through your IV, but we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.”

Meagan: Oh my gosh.

Brooke: I think it was extremely traumatic for my husband also because I was screaming through my whole C-section. I was in extreme agony. I’ll liken it to when you watch a Civil War movie and you’re watching an amputee. I was being operated on and was not fully anesthetized. It was the worst thing I have ever experienced or could really imagine physically. It was excruciating.

My daughter was born and they said, “The baby is out.” That was maybe the longest moment of my life because she didn’t cry. The first thing I ever said. The first words my daughter ever heard me say were, “Is she alive?” I was like, the baby is out but she’s not crying. They were like, “Yeah.” She cried. They did the suction and she cried.

100% healthy, perfect APGAR scores, everything was fine, but all the while, I’m just screaming. After they checked her, they handed her to my husband and they made him leave. He was down the hall taking the baby to where I would ultimately meet them in postpartum, but he could hear me screaming all the way down.

Meagan: Oh, so traumatic for both of you.

Brooke: Yeah, it was horrible, to say the least. I hate saying that because it was my daughter’s birth and so amazing for so many other reasons, but my experience was bad. Bad.

I was thankfully able to nurse her really well and hold her and everything from then on was just totally smooth sailing. She was perfectly healthy, but I knew immediately that I never wanted to have another C-section.

Brooke: The next morning, they were doing their rounds in recovery, and the anesthesiologist who was there, not my anesthesiologist, someone I hadn’t seen before. My husband and I were like, “Will this happen again? If I were to have another baby, would this happen again? What’s wrong with me?” He was like, “Well, I’m not sure, but you probably have a window in your spine and yeah, this would happen with any epidural so I wouldn’t recommend it in the future. We’d have to go a different anesthesia route for a different C-section or you would have to give birth unmedicated.”

That was the story in my head moving forward. After that, I was like, “I’m not having another C-section,” so in my head, it was like, “I’m going to have an unmedicated VBAC in the future.” That was day one.

To process all of that trauma, I started listening to VBAC podcasts. I just was listening to VBAC stories because that was really the only place where I was hearing C-section stories. I had so many friends who had C-sections before me and I didn’t understand how horrible that recovery can be for some people.

Mind you, lots of my friends had great C-section experiences, but I did not and it really took a lot of work to process that. At my postpartum visit, I was back with my doctor and she was like, “You know if you do decide to get pregnant again, we will do an anesthesia consult and really explore that and make sure that that never happens to you again.”

Life goes on. I’m raising my daughter. We’re in New York. We decide to move to North Carolina to be with family and to try again for another baby. We’re in our new house and I don’t really know anybody here beyond some family.

32:53 Third pregnancy

Brooke: I found out that I’m expecting again and we are so excited, but there is obviously a lot of anxiety after everything that I went through. I was like, “This time around, I need a doula.” I was like, “We’re in a different time. It’s not New York at the height of a pandemic. I need a team. I know now after 2 years of listening to VBAC stories what I need to do. I’m going to control every single thing I can control so that this will go how I want it to go.” I made a vision board about it. I looked at it on my desk all the time. I was like, “These are the things I need to be doing every day to hit this goal.”

Sharing my successful VBAC on a podcast was on that, so I am really excited to be able to do this today.

Brooke: The first thing that I did was hire a doula, but I didn’t know any doulas and I knew that I wanted one who would really support a VBAC that had experience with the emotional elements of it. I interviewed several doulas with that in mind, but what I did that I would definitely urge listeners to do if they don’t have a supportive provider is I asked every doula that I interviewed if they knew of or could recommend or had worked with in the past any VBAC-supportive OBs.

I knew for me and my anxiety given the complications that I had with the hemorrhage and the loss that I wasn’t going to go the midwife/birth center route. I knew that I would want an obstetrician. I was looking for a hospital provider that would be VBAC-supportive. Every doula I interviewed recommended the same practice and the same hospital.

I was like, “That’s where I need to go because if all of the doulas are recommending this practice, that’s where I need to try and get in.”

I was relieved to find out that they delivered at WakeMed Raleigh and I say that because it’s important to note that it is one of the lowest C-section rates in the country, that hospital. That alone was really reassuring to me because I was like, “They are not going to do it just because it’s taking too long.” It’s really going to be based on that medical evidence.

If I need to have one medically, then that’s what we have to do, but I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t the result of interventions or stalling. I don’t know if I had done things differently if my C-section would have or wouldn’t have happened, but I know that I didn’t set myself up for success. This time around, I was really determined to do it.

I got a doula. I got a supportive provider. Through my doula, I did childbirth education classes. They recommended Spinning Babies and yoga. I did that. They recommended a Webster-certified chiropractor and I did that. All things really stemmed from my doula and the doula group that she was with. I cannot recommend that enough. I know getting a doula can sometimes be cost-prohibitive, but there are so many doulas on Instagram that share a lot of this information on social media that just following those recommendations, I tried it all.

I really did. I drank the tea. I ate the dates, but early in this pregnancy, I hadn’t even hired a doula yet.

38:17 Bleeding again

Brooke: 6 weeks, I started bleeding again. I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I wasn’t as scared because I had just been through my daughter’s pregnancy and I was like, “This just must be the way that I am.”

So I go and I get an appointment with this practice because I knew right away that that was where I wanted to go. They took me even though I was a new patient. They took me right away even though I was 6 weeks because I was bleeding. I don’t think all practices bend the rules that much. Their policy is, “Oh, don’t come in until 9 weeks,” but they took me. I really appreciated that. I loved the staff. They were like, “Yeah, we don’t know why you are bleeding.” I said, “Well, I do. I’m telling you right now that it’s a subchorionic hemorrhage.”

They were like, “We don’t say anything.” I was like, “You will.”

Pregnancy was pretty routine after that. The bleeding stopped. I didn’t worry too much and then I took my daughter to a museum at 12 weeks, 5 days which if you recall is just about to the day and the time of my loss. It was 12 weeks and 6 weeks when I started bleeding. I had a huge bleed. I mean, bad. I was like, “How could it be that I am miscarrying on the same day?” I was like, “This is crazy.”

We went to the ER because it was nighttime and I was like, “I just have to know if there is a heartbeat.” The ER checked and it was incredible too because I could feel that the doctors were nervous for me and then I felt their relief telling me that there was a heartbeat. They were like, “We don’t often get to give good news in the ER and we are just so happy to tell you that your baby is fine and you have a subchorionic hemorrhage.” I was like, “Knew it.”

I continued to bleed for a few days. They were like, “Do you want to do bloodwork and see if there’s anything else?” I was like, “No. That’s what’s happening. I don’t need to stay for bloodwork. This is what it is. I’ve just got to ride it out and take it easy,” which is tough with a toddler, but I did my best. The bleeding stopped and everything was fine.

The rest of my pregnancy was great. I had that second-trimester glow and it’s sunny North Carolina. I’m with my family. I’ve made some friends. Things are going smoothly. Then at my 24-week appointment, I said to one of the OBs there that I was feeling pretty anxious. I was like, “I’m a little bit nervous just because I did hemorrhage this pregnancy. I hemorrhaged all last pregnancy. I don’t feel okay with this being my last ultrasound until delivery. Can we just put a growth scan on the chart?”

She was like, “Of course. You need to feel comfortable.” I appreciated that. She didn’t have a medical reason to do it, but she was like, “You’re right. You’ve been high risk. Let’s go ahead.”

At 30 weeks, it was the night before my appointment and I had the strangest dream. I had a dream that I had the most amazing birth. My doula was there. I was standing up. I pulled my son from my own body. It was this redemptive, joyous dream. I felt this happiness. Then all of a sudden, it went dark and everything was dark. I was walking around an auditorium, a dimly lit auditorium with a bunch of empty bassinets. I was looking for my baby.

I wasn’t scared, but I was a little bit nervous walking around there, then all of a sudden, the nurse handed him to me and they were like, “Here he is.” I was like, “Where has he been all this time?” She was like, “Oh, he’s been with us, but he’s fine. You can go home.”

I was like, “Okay.” Then I woke up. I went on with my day and I was like, “That was a weird dream.”

I went to my 30-week scan and mind you, I had been put on there because of my advocating for myself. I looked at the ultrasound. It was just me and the tech in the room and I said, “What the F is that?” I had seen through weekly ultrasounds my entire pregnancy with my daughter. I’m not a tech, but I have a lot of experience as a mom looking at ultrasounds and I was like, “This is not normal.” His belly looked like sausage links.

It was like nothing I’d ever seen before and the tech was like, “I need to go get the doctor.”

43:09 Finding a bowel obstruction in baby

Brooke: She brought in another doctor at the practice. This is a big practice with lots of different OBs, all of whom were wonderful. This doctor who this was my first time meeting was just so sweet as she told me that my baby had a bowel obstruction and that he would need to have surgery and stay in the NICU for a while when he was born and that it was really likely that I was going to have to deliver him prematurely.

I immediately became hysterical. She was so sweet. She asked if she could hug me. I was like, “Please.” It was just the most incredible practice of doctors. I felt just really supported by them. She sent me to the MFM where I had to get an ultrasound at least once a week. They did the antenatal screening there to check his intestines every few days because they wanted to make sure that they were balancing the risk of letting me go as close to term as possible while not risking his intestines bursting basically.

Meagan: Right.

Brooke: This was very scary again so I was like, “Oh my gosh. What is going on with me?” I go through with the rest of the pregnancy. I did have polyhydramnios because he is not passing fluid as he’s supposed to be. It’s all getting stuck where this obstruction is. But because it’s a picture of a belly inside a belly and your intestines are so long, you can’t see through ultrasound where the block is.

There were five causes that they were going through. They weren’t sure where this block was or if it was part of a larger disease or if this would cause lifelong issues. There were so many questions, but I just was like, “Listen. I had a dream with my daughter that I would have a baby girl in the snow and I did. I just have to trust that this baby is going to be fine too and I’m going to take it home too.”

I’m going to have that VBAC and at every single appointment, once or twice a week, I ask, “Does this impact my ability to have a VBAC?” He was like, “No. It has nothing to do with pregnancy and delivery. That’s going to be what it is. You make those choices based on your history. It’s just that when the baby is born, you will have to have a huge team out there. The NICU team has to be there. Pediatric surgery needs to be there. You’re going to have to give birth with 15-20 people in the room.”

I was like, “There goes my unmedicated, serene vision with no epidural, no medical intervention, beautiful hospital birth in a dimly lit room with the candles. No.” All that planning is out the window. It’s gone. I can’t have that experience. So I’m like, “I have to control what I can control. The MFM is saying I can still do it. I’m still going for it.”

So then at just before 37 weeks, they were like, “Okay, it’s time. We need to get him out and get this surgery underway.” They were like, “He’s doing well. You’re doing well. Let’s have an induction.” For a VBAC, being induced, I was like, “Oh no. This feels just like a death sentence to my VBAC plans, but this is what we have to do.”

46:57 Switching providers the day before her scheduled induction

Brooke: I’m meeting with one of the OBs and it’s the day before my scheduled induction. This is on Monday. I like this OB a lot. We’ve worked together in the past. She’s been great and supportive, nothing bad to say about her. But we were talking about my induction which was going to take place and I asked her a question about Pitocin.

I just asked a question because I didn’t know. Her response was along the lines of, “With all due respect, you need to let the nurses do their job. You’re not trained in Pitocin and you need to let them do that.” Right then, I was like, “Mm-mm.” Medically, she’s right. Would she have delivered my baby safely? Almost certainly, but I knew right then that was not the energy that I needed in the room.

I felt immediately like I shouldn’t have asked the question and I was like, “I can’t feel like that this time.” I didn’t ask any questions at my daughter’s birth. I just went along with it. I was blind and this time, I need to be with a provider that I feel like I can ask anything and that I will get an answer.

So I emailed the MFM and said, “Do you think it’s safe if I push the induction a few days? I’m not comfortable with the plans we have right now. I want to give my baby and my body a few more days. What’s the last possible day I can push this to?” He was like, “I’ll let you go 72 more hours, but I really think we’ve got to get this moving.” I messaged the doctor I felt the most comfortable with in the practice and I was like, “Listen. I really want to have my baby with you. I just feel the most comfortable with you. You had mentioned you were going to be on-call that day.”

I didn’t do it because I wanted to do it sooner so I had scheduled it with a different doctor, but he was like, “Let me see what I can do. I have a full load that day, but let me call the hospital and see what I can do.” He called me back and he was like, “I pulled some strings and I got you in. I’m going to deliver your baby. We’re going to do this induction. You’re going to have your VBAC. I don’t want you to stress at all. We’re going to have your VBAC. Your baby is going to go to the NICU. He’s going to be fine. You’re going to come home happy.”

I was like, “This is what I need.” I just felt like, “Ahh.” I was like, “Do you think it’s safe to be induced? Is it safe for a VBAC?” He was like, “It is totally safe and I will let you know the moment things become unsafe and we will change the plan. But right now, this plan is safe and I will let you know when I don’t think it is safe anymore and we need to do something different.” I was like, “Okay.”

I went in for my induction and it all moved really fast from there. I had a Foley induction on the night before. I went in on Tuesday night and they gave me a Foley, but all that prep work paid off. I was already 2 centimeters dilated when I showed up at the hospital at 37 weeks for my induction. I was like, “Yes.” That baby was in a great position. I was in shape. I had done that Spinning Babies yoga. It was paying off. I had drank the red raspberry leaf tea. I ate the six dates a day and I will never eat one again.

I was like, “Yes.” They put the Foley in. It fell out around 8:00 AM the following morning so this is on Wednesday now. Wednesday, September 27th. At 8:00 AM, they started Pitocin. By 10:00 AM, I was in back labor. It was mild. It was manageable. I was not stressed at all. My nurse was amazing and she helped me get into a lot of different positions. We got baby to move and back labor subsided. That made all the difference.

50:57 Progressing to complete dilation

Brooke: By noon, just a few hours later, I was 100% effaced and I was 5 centimeters. I really wasn’t feeling anything. I was totally fine. I was able to sleep and I was already 5 centimeters on Pitocin so I was feeling good. I was like, “Oh, I can do this. I do not need an epidural. This is happening.”

My doctor came in and he was like, “I want to break your water. You have a bulging bag. Let’s break this.” I was like, “Okay,” because I fully trusted him. He was so respectful of my birth plan. I had put on there that I wanted limited cervical checks because in my previous labor, I got the chorio infection and I was like, “I want to limit cervical checks because I don’t want to have that infection again that caused my first C-section.”

He was like, “I’m not going to check you unless I feel like we really need to and we can talk about it.” He was just so respectful of my wishes and how I wanted my birth to go. He was barely there. My contractions weren’t intense, so at 2:00 PM, my nurse upped my Pitocin to a 10. I’m not really sure what that means as the other OB pointed out. I’m not trained in Pitocin.

Meagan: It’s starting to get into the higher does. Usually at 20 is when OBs will cap it off or try to get MFM involved to get more clearance or do an IUPC and stuff like that. 10 is low but still getting there and getting higher.

Brooke: Okay. Okay.

She put it to 10 and said, “It’s time to get things going. I was just still coping fine and I was starting to get a little bit worried that I wasn’t going to get past 8 centimeters because so far, it had been similar to my previous labor. It was taking a while, but I was feeling fine.

I texted my doula. This was 2:00 PM. I texted my doula and she was like, “Go get on the toilet. Sit backward. I call it the dilation station. Just go sit there for a little while and I’ll check back in with you at 3:00.”

But at 2:10, so 10 minutes of doing that, I texted her that I was at 8 centimeters and I was in so much pain. I was like, “You need to come in right now.” 10 minutes. I was so sick. I thought I was going to throw up. I was screaming. I was not prepared for how bad this was going to hurt. I was not expecting that. It came out of nowhere.

She got there at 2:35. I was pacing up and down the room yelling and I was screaming that I really wanted the epidural. My nurse gave me IV pain meds and I kept telling her I would get relief during the contractions but the contractions themselves really hurt. My doula was there applying counterpressure, helping to move me into different positions and she and my nurse were working together to get me from just one contraction at a time. One contraction at a time.

I mean, I was just in labor land. I could not see beyond the moment that I was in. I was begging for an epidural. My husband didn’t say anything because he was really supportive of just supporting my wishes, but I was like, “I really want an epidural.” My goal going into the birth was to have a good experience and not necessarily to have an unmedicated birth because the unmedicated part was because I was afraid that the epidural wouldn’t work again.

That’s why I didn’t want the epidural. It wasn’t because I wanted the unmedicated birth. It just felt like that was my best option.

54:54 Getting an epidural and pushing for three hours

Brooke: I’m hysterical and I’m like, “I want the epidural. This is not a good experience. This is not on my birth plan.” My doula was like, “I think you’re right.” My nurse checked me. She was like, “You’re complete. You’re complete. You can just push.” I was like, “I am not pushing without an epidural! This is not what I want!”

An angel of an anesthesiologist came in and gave me that epidural. I was complete and I got that epidural and let me tell you, there is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with my spine. That was the most incredible relief that I have ever felt. I know now it was the right decision. My husband was so against it because he was so scared that I was just giving up and throwing in the towel at the final mile. But he didn’t say anything at the time.

The anesthesiologist was amazing. He kept coming in to check on me, making sure I was doing okay. That was around 3:30 that I got the epidural. I stayed on my hands and knees. My doula was giving me peppermint essential oil to help me cope with the nausea. She kept checking on me and I felt that relief around 4:15, then it was calm and joyous. I knew instantly that I had made the best choice for me.

The nurse kept trying to get me to do practice pushes and my doula was like, “You don’t really have to do that.” I was like, “I don’t have to practice doing anything. My body is just pushing.” It was involuntary. It was just happening. I pushed for 3 hours. Yeah, 3 hours of pushing.

Meagan: All right. All right. That’s some time.

Brooke: It was a long time. I started pushing around 4:15-4:30 and my baby was born at 7:28 PM. I had no tearing and it was exactly like my dream. His head was out and my doctor was like, “Reach down, Brooke. You can do it.” I reached down and pulled him from his shoulders up onto my chest and I got that completion of that circular motion. Pushing the baby out, completing the circle with putting him on my chest.

He was crying and looking up at me. I had that skin-to-skin moment. Mind you, this is happening with 15-20 people in the room. The team rushed over. They took him. They checked him. They laid him back on my chest and they left. They were like, “He’s perfect. We’re good. We’ll see you in an hour.”

Meagan: Oh my gosh. Yay.

Brooke: Yeah. Yeah. So I got to hold him on my chest and have that golden hour. It was just me, my husband, and my doula. It was the most incredible, healing moment of my life. I was pushing him out and I was like, “I could do this again! This is amazing!” It was just– at one point in pushing, I even asked my OB. I was like, “Oh my gosh. This is taking so long. Do I need to have a C-section?” My doctor was like, “Brooke, I’m touching his head. No. You’re having a VBAC. It’s here. It’s done. You did it. This is it.”

I was like, “Oh my god.” The baby was never in distress. He did great the whole time. They didn’t feel any need to rush it because medically, he was monitored the whole time. I was monitored. We were both doing great. It just took a while. It was absolutely perfect and then they took him back to the NICU after that hour and he ultimately did need to have bowel surgery and stayed there for almost 6 weeks, but I’m happy to report that he is a 100% normal almost 6-month-old baby now and just absolutely perfect. It was the healing VBAC that I had pursued and I am just over the moon about it. It will remain one of the best experiences of my whole life in spite of all of those challenges that I had with another hemorrhage, an induction, and my baby with this obscure birth defect.

Having that VBAC and that VBAC success really just completely changed my outlook on the whole situation. I could drive to and from the hospital to see him. I got to hold him for that hour. It was an amazing, amazing, amazing experience.

59:40 15 tips for birth

Meagan: I am so happy for you and I’m so happy that you felt you were able to advocate for yourself. It is definitely something hard to do. It would be hard to email and be like, “Actually, I’m not going to go with this provider” or even say, “Yeah, okay. Great. I’m 10 centimeters, but this is not the experience that I’m wanting anymore and I’m going to do this.” I think that is something also they tell people a lot. You can’t get an epidural after a certain number of centimeters. That’s not necessarily true. Sometimes it can be heavy and harder to push, but a lot of the time, it is what a mom needs to push. You had 3 more hours. You knew what you needed. That was the most perfect decision that you could have made for you.

Brooke: Exactly. Exactly.

Meagan: You had that amazing full-circle moment of bringing your son up, feeling him, and holy cow, intuitive. Your dreams are on point. I’m just so, so happy for you and I do want to talk a little bit. There is something that you said a couple of times that stood out to me and it’s something that I feel like I just in life in general, not even just in pregnancy and everything that I stick to. You can only control what you can control.

That, in birth, is hard so what you did is what you could control. I want to give some of those tips. I’ve got 15 tips and I’m looking down here and I’m like, yeah. You did a lot of them. Learn the facts. Learn what the evidence says. A lot of providers are on the opposite side of your provider where they are like, “No. Pitocin is not safe. It is not acceptable. We cannot do this. You have to go into labor by tomorrow or we have to have a C-section.” Right?

Brooke: Right, totally.

Meagan: That’s not what the evidence states. So you learned the facts. You found the provider. That’s the next one. Find a supportive provider. Hire a VBAC doula if you can.

I want to talk a little bit about doulas. Obviously, I am a doula and I have a whole doula program here at The VBAC Link so I advocate for doulas every single second of the day, but I know sometimes it’s not possible and you mentioned that financially. There are avenues. You can go to Be Her Village or instead of a baby shower and getting a whole bunch of extra clothes, you can ask for support for doulas. There are ways around that but then I wanted to also talk about hiring a doula.

Just like hiring a provider who is supportive of VBAC, you also want to try to find a doula who is supportive of VBAC as well. We had a story just a while ago that talked about how she had an amazing doula and it sounds like she was honestly amazing, but VBAC was something that made her uncomfortable. She didn’t know that until she was in that space.

Brooke: Yeah. I experienced that in my interviews. I did talk to a few doulas who were like, “Well, I’ve never done a VBAC but physiologically, it’s the same as any other birth.” While that is definitely true, I knew that I needed somebody in my corner who understood the emotional impact and what this was going to do for my psyche.

Physiologically, man. I have been listening to your podcast. I was like, “These women can do it. I can do it.” A very good friend of mine had a VBAC and the whole time through her pregnancy, I was cheering her on. It was in my head. I was like, “It has already happened. This is done. It’s a done deal. You’re going to have a VBAC.” Then it was my turn and I was like, I had that faith in my friend. I need to have that faith in myself.

I can do this. I really can. I got that from listening to your podcast and hearing other women have this success. That was absolutely critical, but knowing that a doula who understood that and who had been there for other VBAC moms was critical for me.

Actually, the doula that I ended up having with me that I hired and that was with me in my birth, she was the doula for her sister who had a VBAC so I was like, “She knows. It’s personal to her.” It was perfect. It was perfect.

Yeah. It’s another part of your team that supports you and understands. Even if they haven’t had a VBAC themselves, they are supportive of VBAC and really understand again those facts and the evidence surrounding VBAC.

1:04:22 Control what you can control

Meagan: Finding the birth location. You mentioned you knew that this other location may not have been the best idea and this is where you would feel more safe and you chose that. That is so important to choose where you feel comfortable and what resonates with you.

Avoiding induction, however, we know induction happens. Here we are. An induction happened and an induction can happen. Avoid an induction that is not necessary, but also know that if induction comes your way, that doesn’t mean that your birth dreams and your birth preferences and everything just go completely out of the window. It’s still possible to VBAC if we didn’t just prove it with this episode and many other episodes before with an induction.

Processing past birth experiences, creating a birth plan. I love how you had a vision board and you were like, “This is my vision. I’m going to do these things. These are within my control.” Surround yourself with the people who support you even outside of your birth team. Going to the massage therapist, and chiropractor, doing Spinning Babies. All of these things are really, really going to help you have a better chance of a VBAC, but then also I feel like if a VBAC doesn’t end up happening, you can go back and say, “I did everything I could do in my power and I controlled what I could control.”

That message stuck out to me during your story. You said it just a couple of times, but that to me is very powerful. Control what you can control.

Brooke: Yeah. I would want anybody listening to really hang on to that and to have faith in yourself. In my second pregnancy, I felt like I just needed to go along with what the doctor said. I had a high-risk pregnancy. I was bleeding like crazy. I didn’t know what was going on. Everything felt really uncertain at that point in the pandemic and where I was living and it was just that I didn’t take any control.

I just did not own my birth at all. I will always wonder if I had done things differently. If I wasn’t on bedrest and I was moving and if I drank the tea and if I had a doula which wasn’t an option at that moment in time, but if I had done things differently, would I have had such a traumatic Cesarean birth? Would that experience have happened? I will never know, but I wanted to know going into this one that I did everything that felt right to me.

My doula would make suggestions and I did the things that I was like, “Yeah. That’s something I’m going to do.” Then there were suggestions that she made that I was like, “Mmm, that doesn’t sound good to me,” so I just didn’t do it. I followed my gut. I had faith in myself. I was like, “I’m going to do X, Y, and Z. I’m not going to do A, B, and C.”

Doing what feels right to you and your body, my provider, and I had the mantras too. My provider was amazing, but I knew going into it that obstetrics is not as old as the wisdom of my body and I need to trust it first. My OB is one man. If there is something wrong, they are there to course correct but I just need to let my body do its thing. My provider was so supportive of that and I think that controlling that was huge.

I mean, I literally changed doctors the day before my induction. That is something you can do. In my first birth, it was so obvious that I was just routine. I was in and out of the hospital, just another mom giving birth. Nameless.

This is the biggest moment of your life and you have to do what you can do to make it the experience you want it to be. I knew that going in, my son needed an induction and that was the whole pregnancy, I was like, “I won’t be induced. That’s where I draw the line. I’ll go for a repeat C-section before I get induced,” and it was time. They were like, “We need to induce.” I knew that was what I had to do to save my son.

I was like, “We’re going to go for it.” My provider made me feel really safe and I’m just really glad that up until that last minute, I was advocating for the birth that I wanted and that was when I got the birth I wanted, but I knew that if it ultimately ended in a C-section because that was what he needed or if something would occur that that was what I needed, that that is what was needed and not just, “Oh, time’s up. Oh, you have an infection.”

Control what you can control.

Meagan: Yep. That’s the message of the day. Control what you can control. VBAC is possible. You did it. I’m so happy for you and thank you so much for sharing your story with us today.

Brooke: Thank you so much for having me.

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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