#272 | Nancy Wainer, CPM and Pioneer of the VBAC, Shares Her Journey from Mother to Midwife

July 3, 2024

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This episode has been a long time coming and is finally here! Meet Nancy Wainer, the legendary woman who began the Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) movement. Not only did Nancy coin the term VBAC, but she is the first on record in the United States to experience a planned VBAC. Nancy has been a midwife, fierce birth advocate, author, mentor, and teacher to thousands and thousands of women, mothers, and birth professionals over the last forty-plus years. 

Today, we are honored to have her join us to share the story of her traumatic first birth and what led her to become the incredible midwife, author and birth educator she is today. This midwife has turned no woman away: mothers in her care are given the prenatal care and birth support they deserve when no one else will work with them. Nancy discusses who, if anyone, should be induced, what makes a good home birth candidate, why you shouldn't drink milk in pregnancy, and the importance of switching sides in your bed. If you are considering a VBAC or just want to hear what it means to truly trust women and their bodies, you will relish every word from Nancy Wainer and her story. Also: Stay tuned for Part II: a special Q&A episode with Nancy next week!
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View Episode Transcript

So your first book was called Silent knife. And the sub caption of the book, what was the subtitle of that book? Cesarean prevention and vaginal birth after cesarean.

And you told people when you wrote the acronym, you put these four letters together for the first time in the world VBA C, you had to tell people how to pronounce it. So in parentheses, it says ve hyphen, ba CK. And you've said to me, boy, if I knew it would catch on, I would have thought of something catchy. Oh, I would have thought of something that was so much classier than that. But I just couldn't continue to write it all the time.

And when you eventually left the hospital, the doctor said, well, now you're a C section mom and wants a C section, always a C section. And you said to him, no one is ever cutting me open again.

That's what I said no way. Nobody's gonna cut me open again. No way on the planet. they're ever gonna do this to me again. very traumatic. For me, I was a very quiet and soft spoken woman at the time, believe it or not. And as my husband used to say, he thinks when they opened me to do a C section a tiger jumped in. Because my life was never ever the same.

I'm Cynthia Overgard, owner of HypnoBirthing of Connecticut, childbirth advocate and postpartum support specialist. And I'm Trisha Ludwig, certified nurse midwife and international board certified lactation consultant. And this is the Down To Birth Podcast. Childbirth is something we're made to do. But how do we have our safest and most satisfying experience in today's medical culture? Let's dispel the myths and get down to birth.

Hello, dear listeners of ours. You're in for a treat for today's episode. I know for years you've heard us talk about the legend. Nancy Waner. She is the woman the midwife the author, the mother, who coined the acronym VBAC, vaginal birth after cesarean because she herself is the first woman in the United States to have had a planned vaginal birth. This is back in the day when all women were told, once a C section, always a C section. There were no exceptions for anyone, anywhere in the United States. And Nancy said, Absolutely not. So Nancy not only changed the trajectory of her to subsequent births, but in the process, change birth for millions of women around the world. Because there's so much we want to talk to Nancy about we are splitting this into two episodes. In this first episode. Today, you're going to hear Nancy tell her own story, and make some comments about how she views what's going on in the field today. And in the second episode, Nancy is going to answer our listener questions. So we are so grateful to Nancy for making the time to be with us today. So that all of you can get to know this remarkable woman. So please enjoy this episode. And now we introduce you to Nancy Waner.

I'd like to kick it off, if you don't mind by lighting my candle is something that I do every time I talk about birth. And if I don't have a candle with me, then I light it in my own head and in my own heart. And what it does is it reminds me of all of the women who as we sit here right now are being induced when they shouldn't be induced, and being lied to. And having C sections and a PC autumn is still and babies with their cords cut and taken away from their mothers etc. So I just remind myself that this is why we do what we do. And that this candle represents each and every one of the women who needs to listen to your podcast and to learn and to find their own strength.

So and I see you're already about to start crying.

Well, it's my life's work. And I said to somebody the other day, who's also been involved in birth for a very long time. We thought that by the time our own children were grown, that with all the work we were doing, and all the writing we were doing and the teaching we were doing and the lectures we were giving that birth would have been a lot better than it is. And in fact, it's worse than it was. And it keeps getting worse. And so it's pretty discouraging, and I want to remain hopeful and optimistic, but it's pretty upsetting.

So let's begin by let me introduce you a bit if I may. And then one of us has to tell your story. This is very important. So you are Mansi Waner, you've been published under the name Nancy Waner Cohen, you have been a midwife since the 80s. I'm you're the reason V backs are happening, they may never even start may, they may never even have started happening without you. You've coined the acronym V back. And I want everyone to hear your story, but they should know you are the woman I refer to all the time, in my classes and on this podcast as my friend and mentor. You've been there for me through the years, I'm certain I've learned more from you than from any credential I've ever earned. And you have been welcoming to all of my clients even as recently as this weekend, asking nothing in return. always reminding me you live for this work and you're there for anyone you've turned no woman away out of 1000s that you've attended in birth. That includes women who've had many, many C sections, women who had any sort of health condition, obesity history have any kind of health condition you have turned no one away. And your favorite motto that I've always heard you say that I believe you also coined is every baby has just one chance to be born. So welcome Nancy Waner. It is an incredible honor to have you on the podcast, I cannot begin to say how much of an honor it is. The reason I've always been so afraid to bring you on this podcast is I don't know how not to have a four hour conversation with you. Because every time I'm with you, I just I there's just so much I want to ask and there's so much I'm learning and I thought how on earth are we ever going to get that into an episode but I say it's time to begin -- welcome. And it is an honor to be here because without people like you, I don't know how I'd be able to get up in the morning.

Let's begin by telling everyone your story. I remember in 2007 attending my first big birth conference, you were the keynote speaker. And the whole buzz for the first day was that Nancy Waner is coming. Nancy Waner is coming, I had no idea who anybody was. And in this big auditorium, I sat by myself in the front row with a notepad and I took pages and pages of notes by the time you were out there speaking. But it is not an exaggeration at all to say that when you walked out on that stage with your small frame and your huge personality, you changed my work, and you changed my life. And so if it's okay with you, I would like to begin this episode The way you began that lecture that day by sharing your remarkable personal story and what got you into this field of work? Okay, should I try to summarize it? Or do you want to do it?

Start, but I'll probably interrupt interrupt. So let's, let's, let's see, let's see how well I remember it. In the 70s, you were a speech pathologist, and you got pregnant, like any other young married woman, everything was fine. You were unsuspecting that trends were beginning to change in the 70s, you went to the hospital. And this is where you might want to fill in the blank. But I usually cut to you were given an emergency C section and your baby was taken away. What do you want to add to that? That's right. That's right. Well, that really is it. I went in there, terrified on the one hand, but thinking I would have a normal delivery. And after a few hours, the doctor said that I wasn't progressing quickly enough. It was on a weekend, it was before Father's Day, and I now absolutely believe that everybody wanted to get onto the golf course or to their barbecues. And I ended up getting taught and it was very traumatic for me, I was a very quiet and soft spoken woman at the time, believe it or not. And as my husband used to say, he thinks when they opened me to do a C section, a tiger jumped in. Because my life was never ever the same. And I was doing research. There were no internet, there was no Internet, there was no there were no cell phones. But I was doing research. By the time my baby was just a few days old. I was schlepping to medical libraries. It was very difficult to get in. But I wanted to find out everything that I could about why I ended up a normal healthy woman having a baby cut out of her rather than to have a normal delivery. So yeah.

And if I'll continue, I'll continue from there. Of particular trauma to you was having your baby removed.

Oh my goodness gracious. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

I went back in the 70s. We need women to know what life was like back then women couldn't get their babies until pediatricians signed off.

That's because he was a C section baby. He had to be observed in the NICU for you know, X number of days. And so I started screaming for him. And then I was labeled as a crazy hysterical mother. And they said that I would be it would be even longer before I would be able to get my baby and that was not acceptable to me. So I very gingerly got out of bed. Tried to rip the IV out of my arm had some difficulty with that. And very slow I made my way to the nursery with people screaming at me the whole way.

And when you eventually left the hospital, the doctor said, well, now you're a C section mom and wants a C section, always a C section. And you said to him when you say it, no way, no one is ever cutting me open again.

That's what I said, No way, nobody's gonna cut me open again. I had done enough reading. Soon after my son was born to know that in Europe, when a woman had a cesarean, she automatically was given the opportunity to have a normal delivery, even for a baby who was supposedly larger than the baby for whom she was sectioned. So I wasn't going to let them come near me. And when I said to my husband, I'm never going back into the hospital to have a baby again. He said, You have to you absolutely have to go back in you have to have another C section. And I said, there is no way on the planet. No way on the planet. they're ever going to do this to me again. I was angry, I was enraged. I was terrified. I was sad I was I would hold my baby and my arm Cynthia and I would say I couldn't love you any more than I love you. But I hate the way you were born. I just hate the way you were born. And that was the beginning of rest of my life. And the world. In fact, yeah.

When I got pregnant the second time, I tried to find other women who had had normal deliveries after having had a previous C section. And I couldn't find anybody couldn't find anybody until I was about in my eighth month of pregnancy. And I heard about a woman in Texas. I was in Massachusetts, I heard about a woman in Texas, who had given birth naturally. And it took me days and hours. And I finally found out who she was. And I called her and I said I heard you had a normal delivery. And she said actually, she said I was on my way to the hospital to have another C section, my water broke. And I ended up delivering the baby or even before I got to the hospital. But she was on her way to have another cesarean. So that didn't help. And so when I made the decision that I wasn't going to allow them to cut me open. I think I was the first woman in many, many decades to have a vaginal delivery after having had a previous as Aryan because I wasn't gonna let them touch me.

You were the first known planned vaginal birth after cesarean. And I hope that our listeners can even try a little bit to imagine what the world was like back then. But we all had big fat telephone books in our homes, and every few months, another one would get delivered to the front door and you'd replace it. And it was not easy to find anyone. It was not easy to track someone down. If you had to find a woman in Texas, you had to somehow call information and transfer states and get access to those phone books. And you called every hospital in the country it took you I don't know how many years or months but you called every hospital to see if they had a single record of a single woman having a planned vaginal birth. And there hadn't been. So other than finding this one woman who had an accidental one, you made the determination that you would be the first you call that last hospital and said well, then I'll have to be the first. And I interviewed 18 doctors who all told me that I would die if I dare to try to have a normal delivery after a cesarean. They said I would rupture. My uterus would rupture. I might die I would certainly you know have to have a hysterectomy and that my baby would not survive. And the 18th or 19th Doctor said, Well, he had done some training in Europe, he said we might be able to give it a try. And that was all I needed to hear. That was all I needed to hear. And you reminded me of something that I just remembered. I went to a childbirth conference when I was in my ninth month of pregnancy. And there was a raffle there were about 250 people there. And it was a raffle for a teddy bear. And as I put my little paper into the raffle thing I said if I get this teddy bear, I know I'm gonna have a vaginal delivery. And they called me a day later and said that my name had been picked and that I had won the teddy bear. So I was ready to go.

I hope you still have that teddy bear. I do.

Very good. So you had done all this research and you ended up compiling the information you learned into your first book Silent knife which we'll come back to in a moment. But you became pregnant and again correct me if I'm not remembering this was 2007 When I heard you tell this story, but on the weight but it made a deep imprint. On the way to the hospital. You said to your husband, so help me. I am birthing this baby. Originally, this time and so help me. I am holding my baby after the birth they are not taking my baby from. Absolutely, absolutely. Absolutely. I was not going to let them take this baby. So you were truly hell bent you. I always tell my clients don't become hell bent because we need to have flexibility and change course when necessary. But you were truly the definition of hell bent. That baby was coming out of you vaginally. And she did. Yes.

And this is one of the reasons why I continue to do what I do, because even as hell bent as I was, they did take her away. I know she had retained fetal, something something fluid she was paying, she was crying, but I think they were punishing me. And by the way they had I had wanted a friend to come into the hospital with me to be with me. In addition to my husband, they said No, there wasn't enough room. And when I gave birth to her vaginally, there were 12 interns residents in the room, they were there to witness what they had possibly hoped, but definitely thought would be a uterine rupture.

So you were able, you were actually able to find one OB, I found one OB birth. That's right. And by the way, one of the obstetricians who said over his dead body, would he ever attend a woman who had had a previous as Aryan for a normal delivery? Many years later, I saw that he was in the front of a newspaper in New Hampshire saying Oh, yes, that he was one of the best feedback doctors on the planet. So there you go, changing the world.

So when they took your baby away, I thought that was when you just flipped out. What happened? What happened?

I have slipped out a second time. I flipped out a second time I had a reputation at the hospital for being you know, absolutely insane. And that's when I decided I was staying home to have our third child that there was no way on the planet. People said you were so brave to you know, to stay home. And I said, on the one hand, yes, I own that bravery and that courage. And on the other hand, I was too chicken to go back into the hospital and have you know them do to me and to my babies, what they had done the first few times around.

Were you afraid when you gave birth in the hospital that second time? Did you? Did you fear that something horrible could happen?

I was on my toes. I was I could feel the tension because people were coming in and disturbing me. And yeah, so I would imagine that any woman would feel that way. Never not knowing if this really was something that she should or shouldn't be doing since and

also not knowing if that doctor was going to be on he said, If I'm on we're all set, and I will do my best to come and be there. But I can't guarantee it 100% Because of the way the shifts work in the hospital and all this kind of stuff. So yeah, it was extremely tense. You know, it was truly destiny as you won the teddy bear the right back where was on call, Nancy, and when you burst your second daughter at home, when you said on stage, when my second daughter was born, the homebirth midwife in me was born. i And I recall very well that you said you became a young midwife, new midwife. And you attracted many high risk women, many women who had only had C sections, you turned no one away. And I specifically recall that your first client who ended up needing to go to a hospital for a C section was Birth Number 155. And your second was Birth Number 376. That is really, that is incredible. And women need to hear that because too often women believe their odds of a C section are like one and three. And I say oh, no, no, no, no, no, in the right hands of the right provider, your odds are more like point 5% between point five and who knew who's to say now with with conditions. So who knows two to 10%, let's say. But Nancy, I do want to talk for just a couple of minutes about your book Silent knife. I want everyone to know exactly the waves that made in the world and the recognition and acclaim that it received. So your first book was called Silent knife and the sub caption of the book, what was the subtitle of that book.

So they're in prevention and vaginal birth after cesarean.

And you told people when you wrote the acronym, you put these four letters together for the first time in the world VBA C, you had to tell people how to pronounce it. So in parentheses, it says ve hyphen ba CK. And you've said to me boy, if I knew it would catch on, I would have thought of something catchy. Oh, I would have thought of something that was so much catchier than that, but I just couldn't continue to write it all the time. So that's exactly what happened. That's what happened.

So your book, I know. The Wall Street Journal wrote it up and they said it's the Bible of suicide prevention and the American Library Association awarded the book and even recently you have a special place. Can you talk about what you're right next to Julia Child's remember you told me about this. So I got a call from the Schlessinger women's health history library, which is associated with Harvard. And they said they wanted to archive I don't know who called but somebody called and told them about me. And they want to archive some of my articles and materials. So I have a box of things that will go to the Schlesinger Library. At some point in the not too distant future.

Yeah. That teddy bear, though.

Not the teddy bear that's gone with me to the grave, cremated together. Nancy,

tell us a little bit then about, about your life from there when you became a midwife and just talk to us a little bit? Well, I always tell people that it really started in high school, I thought about becoming a nurse. Now remember, I'm old. And in those days, you had you know, maybe four choices, you could become a speech therapist, a teacher, a nurse, or who knows what else. librarian. Absolutely. So I went to the future nurses club, and our first outing to the hospital, they were showing us how to draw blood, and I fainted. And so I didn't know that I would be a future nurse. But they encouraged me to come to one more meeting. And at the second meeting, I fainted again, because there was somebody was not feeling well, or there was some blood involved, or I don't even know what it was. So the thought of becoming a nurse or being anywhere around people with liquid and blood was just absolutely just foreign to me. I became a speech therapist. I liked what I was doing. But again, as Cynthia pointed out, when my my daughter was born at home, I had gone to a number of births, I had become a labor assistant. I don't like the word doula. I don't use it for a wide variety of reasons. But I had become a labor assistant and the labor support person. And I just said, I can't. And I had gone to hospital births. And I think I made a little bit of a difference. But there were so many rules and so many protocols. And there were so many things that were done to the women and I would come home and I would puke. So I said I have to become a midwife because I have to be able to have some autonomy, some authority, the women have to have some autonomy, some authority, and I started my midwifery training in the Boston area with my mentor Valerie l halter and never looked back.

Valerie is the woman who instructed my husband, Eric on how to manually turn my breech baby. Remember that? So she changed my life. I'll never forget when you said call my mentor, and I thought you have a mentor. You're my mentor, you have a mentor? And I thought, of course you do. Because the great learners are the great teachers. And I view you as someone who has totally arrived and you don't view yourself that way at all, you're you know, not at all. So that's what makes you a great mentor yourself and a great midwife. So why don't you continue from there with your your story?

So yeah, so I had people coming to me, who had had previous C sections, etc. And because someone didn't turn, oh, I should probably tell you that. Two weeks after my due date, I was still waiting for my baby refused to be induced, and the midwife who had agreed to attend my home birth called and said that she had mentioned to someone else that she was going to be attending a woman who had had a previous C section, even though I had had an intervening vaginal delivery. And she said to me, I can't come to your birth. And I said, What? And I said, I'm past my due date. We call it a guest time. But she said she said they the midwives in the area are doing their very best to gain some respect from the obstetricians. And if I take on someone who was had a previous as Aryan anything goes wrong, she said, not only will I be fried, she said, but the entire midwifery community will have some black marks against it. So I was over my due date. I had no midwife. I was a frightened to do it on my own, but I was more frightened to go in the hospital. And the phone rang. And it was a woman by the name of Kay Matthews, who is a midwife in Vermont. And I answered the phone and she said to me, Nancy Wayna, she has a British accent, which I which I don't. And she said to me, she said, I have been nice to call you for about two years. I heard you speak, and you cited some article and I need the article. And she said, Do you think you could find it for me? And I said, Yeah, and I just put the phone down and went down in my files. I was more organized than than I am now. And lo and behold, I found the article and I I gave her the citing, and I was just about to hang up with her. She said, thank you very much. And then she said to me, are you alright? It didn't dawn on me that there was a midwife on the other end of the phone that I might be able to talk to. It didn't even dawn on me and I spurt into tears. And I said to her, No, I'm not okay, I'm totally not okay. And I told her that this midwife had bailed out on me. And I wanted to have a home birth. And without skipping a beat, Kay said, I'll come. And I said, What? And she said to me, I'll come. And I said, Kay, I said, you don't even know me. And she said, I heard you speak. I'll come. And so she drove down the next day from Vermont for hours to meet with me and my husband. And she bent the night. And then she drove four hours back the next day because she had to milk her cows. And then a few days later, I started feeling some labor, I called her she drove down for hours, stayed the night, my labor just stopped. She drove home to Bill Kirk milk. The third time I said, I am not calling her again until I'm sure I'm in labor. And she missed the birth. Ah, wow. I was granted.

Well, no, because at that point, I called a midwife in the area. And I said, she's coming and she said, I can't be the primary. But if I know that there's another midwife coming, I can come she arrived 11 minutes before my daughter was born.

That experience changed you though this is why, yeah, never turn a woman away.

That's exactly why I and a lot of the midwives got very angry with me, they said, You're a new midwife. And you know, you're biting off more than you can chew. And I think they thought that I had some kind of, you know, inflated ego or whatever. And I think for me, you just hit it on the nose Trisha, and that is that someone said that she would be there for me. And I felt like, whenever possible, I just had to be there for these women who had no alternative, but to either birth alone or to go into a hospital have another crap birth. So and I want everyone to know you have driven for hours for one of my clients. You've driven hours for many of my clients, but you've driven for hours for one of my clients who had had a couple of C sections that had nowhere to turn and you were there at her birth. And that changed her life. It changed the doulas life. You didn't give a single vaginal exam, you walked in, you went down on your knees, you held her hands, you looked her in the eyes, and you loved her until she held her baby. You just loved her. You looked at her and you supported her and you loved her and you kept your hands out of her. And you just held her emotionally while she went through that birth on her own as we all do.

Please, please tell us more about this birth year third birth.

Oh, you know, I had 11 minutes my birth Yeah. And I just wanted to tell you that yesterday morning I got a call from a woman who doesn't live in my area. But I helped her find a midwife and she had a nine pound three ounce baby after three prefaces. Aryans that so that's Yeah. So my home birth, is that what you're asking about my home birth. It was lovely. It was absolutely lovely. Everybody went to sleep. And I stayed up the whole night and just looked at my baby. It was absolutely lovely. And then I started teaching childbirth classes that I put together and for VBAC predominantly for VBAC Cathy dobb took those classes. They were my first classes. She is now the head of birthworks. And she had a vaginal delivery and John Kabat Zinn's people generally know that name his wife Milea took my classes it was very exciting all these wonderful people. However, what was so disturbing was all of these healthy wonderful, smart, intelligent, terrific women were all having C sections. So I knew there was a need for classes at that point. I remember one July you asked me to edit a few of your articles at once. I remember one involved a shaman that you that was a very cool story to remember that that was your life has been very yeah your life has truly been magical and so many of those teddy bear kinds of things that happened so that slideshow you did once also we have to have you back on just to talk through those births because honestly, I don't think people would believe them if I if I just shared some of the stories but the one I was remembering was one article you had me review was it was a July one July you had Reading feedback women in your care, and all of them were past 42 weeks. And the families were nervous and everyone was getting anxious. And though I don't understand, like, there have been so many mornings, I woke up and had a text from you where you said, a mother tongue and a half on baby born last night, and this mom had had this many C sections, and this baby weighed this much. And they're also big, and they all went so late. And you do have to wonder when they put out these statistics on, like, when the average woman has her baby, it's like, I don't buy any of that. Because when you really leave them alone, they're going long and late, and their babies grow big. So even when you hear about the average size of babies, I think that's not true in Nancy's world because she's leaving them alone. And we're still also my mother's don't drink milk. And I think that's one of the things and that's one of the things that happen. They also alternate sides of the bed, they sleep on the left side of the bed one night, right. So there's a lot of things that women do that I think increase their chances for having a normal delivery a little bit more easily. So that's another thing we can talk about another day that Charmin story is, takes a few minutes, so I won't do it now. But when you're ready, that story, knock people's socks off. Wait, I think before we proceed, you're gonna have to tell us just a little bit about the left side and right side of the bed sleeping? Because I'd be very curious.

Well, when people when women sleep as most of us have our side of the bed and love our side of the bed. Every night when you get up to when you get into bed, you're getting it in the same way when you get out of bed to go and pee you get out the same way. And I think that can influence this the this position the baby, so. So it makes sense. I have a woman whose baby is not in position, I have her alternate sides of the bed as one of the many things that she might do to help to increase the chances for her having a normal delivery, just one of many things. And while I have my own explanations on it, why don't you explain why you also tell all of your clients not to drink milk?

Oh, there's so many reasons. The main reason that I start with his that we are the only mammals who drink another mammals milk. Cow's milk is for baby calves who start out at 160 pounds, and who have to stand up and follow their mothers around the barnyard in order to drink their milk. So when we drink milk, and we don't have the same stomachs, they have different completely different digestion. But when we when we drink milk, our bodies on some level may feel as if we are going to be growing a baby calf who needs to stand up immediately and follow the mother around. And so the bones are different. The bones are denser, the bones are there, their calf bones, they're not human baby bones. So which can make birth much more difficult because our bones are they are semi porous, whereas a birds are practically hollow and a cows are extraordinarily dense. As you said, we can't follow our mothers around for a year on average, but cows do get up within about an hour and walk away. So you've the argument is that if they make bones that are particularly strong, if women eat an inordinate amount of cow protein, dairy, that they can potentially make bones that just might be a little more difficult to birth. Not necessarily in every case, you don't want women getting nervous about this. But for the doctors who are saying to have more dairy, you need more calcium, that's a very poor source of calcium. And you were once with a client of mine, they now have four children. But you were once with a client of mine for her first birth. And it was a very difficult birth. And she I remember you said she had a very low pubic bone. And you said this would have been a C section. So easily almost anywhere else you'd like you just barely could help her get that baby through. And I always think of her Kate. Kate, I'm talking about Kate and Ryan. I'm just thinking about like, if that had been one of those cases where the bones were just quite not pliable enough. It might not have happened.

That's true. And in her situation, if I recall, she had also been told that she didn't have enough amniotic fluid.

She was told Nancy, she was told this was about 15 1215 years ago, she was told she had too much fluid she was she was my first client. She was my first client who was told she had too much fluid. And I said and I remember she came here I knew it had something to do with amniotic fluid. And she came here and I have a bed and I had her lie down on the bed and I asked if it was okay. I said to her is it okay? If I say hello to your baby? And she said okay, so I said Hi, sweetheart. How are you? My name is Nancy. And she started to cry. And she said nobody has talked to my baby. And I said, Well, here we are. The baby's part of this whole thing. And that was one of the things that Valerie had taught me. You talk to the baby you tell the baby what you're going to do. And so anyhow so then I said to her is it okay if I touch you and your and so she said Yes. And I said, Give me your hand as you land on her hand. And I just because I don't touch somebody's belly first. That's just too it's too much. So I held her hand and we talked for a few minutes. And then I said, May I touch your belly may touch a baby. And I said, Baby, is it okay? Mama says it's okay. Is it okay with you, and we put our hands on the baby. And I said, you have just the right amount of amniotic fluid. And she said, nobody's ever even touched me. So I thought How sad. She's nine months pregnant. And nobody has said hello to this baby. And nobody's touched her. It's just crazy. Don't get me starting about don't get me started about prenatal care in this country. There's no such thing.

Babies are not normally treated like they're real people. That's right. It's like they eat especially in utero. But when they come out, they're not even treated like real people. We just do stuff to them. Like they're not having a real experience. And it's easy to fall into that way of thinking because we ourselves don't consciously remember, though, I would swear I have dreams once in a while where I'm back in that consciousness of infancy, I would swear, I'm sometimes back in that state of wanting to speak, I'm unable to find my words. And I'm sure that it's in our subconscious. And of course, it affects us whether we remember it consciously or not. But throughout history, women were loved when they were in labor, they were touched, they were held, they leaned back into arms, they had someone stroking their hair, they were held, they were cradled, they leaned forward and someone was there to receive them when they were leaning forward. The very notion that women are just hooked up to things and allow him it is a very different experience.

Horrible experience, just horrible, just horrible. So I never doctors predicted that in by by 2030. All women would be having C sections. Now I don't think that's going to happen. But unfortunately, in some places, it's 5060 70%. So we are in trouble. We are in trouble. When a culture loses the ability to give birth, we are in trouble, big trouble. And so I feel extremely emotional because I get called still to go to birth. And I can't say that I'll never go to another birth, but it's been several months. Although two weeks after I said I can't anymore. My doorbell rang. And the fifth woman who I had never met before who had her baby in my bathtub, she was in labor. She couldn't get to her hometown, which was an hour away in traffic. And she called her midwife and the midwife said, Oh, you're right near Nancy. So she rang my doorbell and her baby in my bathtub. Her husband, by the way, was a plumber and he said you have free plumbing for the rest of your life. And I thought I don't need plumbing. I live in a condo. And the next day my toilet broke.

Well, your life is magical. I told you. Well, I've never missed one. I just had another question. Also, you've never you don't check women for GBs. Now if I'm if I'm paraphrasing your position correctly, I would paraphrase it to say that you say gestational diabetes is is basically a crock but you don't say GBS is a crock GBS is a real, actual potential risk to it. But we don't I didn't. I never test for it. Because it comes in it goes and it comes in it goes right. And usually the problems occur when there is a premature baby when the water breaks early. And my mother's wouldn't be at home having their babies at 32 or 3334 weeks. So because they would go to the hospital if that were to happen. Yeah. So what about Volvo having

heard, and I can't remember his name at the moment, but it will come to me. Someone a doctor, an obstetrician and another part of the world who works with premature babies. He said that even the 32 and 33 and 34 week babies do better at home with their mother's kangaroo style than going into a hospital. So you know very well we have studies around the world that show that kangaroo care is more effective than incubator care, which is what's private here in the US.

And when you mentioned the word induction, my whole stomach turns upside down and sideways. Because the induction rate is so high and it's just out let's answer let's let's answer that question. This is something so many mothers wonder the induction rate is insanely high and women are getting induced for every possible reason that any provider can think of to scare them into an induction is so true in your mind. Is there any scenario where induction is warranted? What what are those scenarios?

I'd have to think long and hard, long and hard. Because in my mind, you never say never. But on the other hand, I would say if the Last 200 Women who have called me who have been induced zero of them needed to be induced, and they should not have been induced. So you know, if the body is ready, the baby will be born. If the baby is ready, the mother will be in labor. And you need those hormones and you need that time. And so,
Nancy, just if you if there's a young woman listening to this, who hasn't done her research, yet, she doesn't really know a whole heck of a lot yet. And she's presuming she'll birth in a hospital because it's all she's ever heard. What would you say to that woman who doesn't really know yet about the controversies or physiologic birth? What do you what do you say to that person?

I would tell him to call Cynthia Overgard It's really easy. And Emily VITAS who does wonderful, wonderful work with bliss born and I mean, they're, you know, I would just send them to the right people, and have them read one or two books, most books are sucky. Most of the birth books are sucky check with your doctor do this, you know, et cetera, but Nancy,  who should birth in a hospital? Would you say?

Oh, my goodness. That's an interesting question, Cynthia. Nobody that I can think of at the moment. But I do think they need to have better prenatal care and nutritional counseling, and who do you think should birth in a hospital? You know, I mean, obviously, home birth is not just a place to give birth, it is a philosophy of living, it is a spiritual decision. And so people who are not there shouldn't be there. During COVID, there were a tremendous number of couples who decided that they wanted to have their babies at home. And as homebirth midwives, we were delighted to have, you know, even more people who were homebirth interested, but we had a fairly high transport rate. And that's because these people were not really home birth clients, they were making the decision out of fear, not out of philosophy, and the ice, and they were concerned that, you know, their husbands would be taken away from them and their babies, which is true, which is I mean, don't even get me talking about the fact that they took COVID babies away from their mothers is just ridiculous. Absolutely. And they have been birthing in masks. I know. And they have the higher mortality rates to show for it now, as if we couldn't see that coming. Of course, of course. So I see what you were saying. You're saying home birth is not just a location, you have to actually take a greater degree of responsibility, right? You have to you and I have had the same approach. We feedback women when a woman has called either of us saying, I want to VBAC you and I each have said, talk to me, tell me about why it's not good. You have to see if the person really has the responsibility involved in having the birth that they want.

A woman says homebirth has to believe in the physiology of birth, they have to trust the process of birth. And I think any woman who decides to become really educated about birth, who decides to take those courses that you just recommended, who decides to dig into understanding birth, starts to realize that there is really only one place where you can support birth in that way, and that is at home.

That's true, that's true. Some women begin to believe that they can do this, and they do it. Some women have to do it in order to believe that they can do it. So if the woman is not yet at a place where she's fairly certain she can do this, then she needs to have people around her who believe that she can do this. So you know, it's kind of a little bit of a catch 22, so to speak.

Well, it's kind of how we say we always say Seeing is believing but the truth is for most of us believing is seeing right? You must believe it before you experience it. Yeah.

Until any woman actually does it for the first time. It's hard. It is very hard to there's always going to be that little bit of doubt. That's normal, you know, eliminate that 100% That's why you have to have that team of people around you to to fill in that space to fill in that doubt.

Yeah, yeah.

And so you've lived an incredible life and you have touched, you've personally touched 1000s of women, and you've indirectly probably touched hundreds of 1000s or millions of women. I still view you as very young because you're one of the most active, you might be the most active person I know. And you look for two hours this morning, you're you swim, you're incredibly active. But to look back on a 50 year career in this and to think that you ever went into speech pathology and had no idea this was coming. What do you feel about the life you've lived when you look back?

Well, I believe that it was divinely or spiritually ordained. For the most part. I feel extremely grateful you talk about mentors. I am so grateful to those who came before me who taught me when I know. And I feel so grateful to the students who have come my way who have taken I just got a I just got a thank you note from one of my student midwives. And she said, and I talked to the babies, and I hold the mother's hands first. And she said, I've trained with six or eight other midwives who have all taught me something important. But I have to tell you that what you taught me is the basis for the kind of midwife I want to be. And so I think about that that letter just came about two weeks ago, and I'm just so grateful. I hated my C section. But it catapulted me into a life that has been such an amazing adventure. extremely unpredictable. Very I use the word exciting already an adventure it's like oh my god What an adventure this life has been and the people I have met oh my goodness, the people I have met unbelievable.

It's been it's been a treasure it's been an absolute treasure. I'll cry if I say more.

Thank you for joining us at the Down To Birth Show. You can reach us @downtobirthshow on Instagram or email us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com. All of Cynthia’s classes and Trisha’s breastfeeding services are offered live online, serving women and couples everywhere. Please remember this information is made available to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is in no way a substitute for medical advice. For our full disclaimer visit downtobirthshow.com/disclaimer. Thanks for tuning in, and as always, hear everyone and listen to yourself.

She's a nurse midwife or no?

She's not a nurse midwife. She's a midwife midwife. Okay. You know when you say nurse midwife, I think of ballerina carpenter.

Who's that?

What I mean is that they don't go together Oh yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, I see what you mean that's very good. That's very good.

Because it because if you think of birth as opposite a call if you think of it as medical then a nurse midwife makes sense but I don't think birth as medical so nursery make any sense to me whatsoever? Sure. I've had to unlearn all the nursing part of my midwifery. I'm fully agreeing and fully not offended in any way by that as a being a nurse midwife, myself.

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About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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