#91 | Birth Story: How Colleen's VBAC Taught her to Trust Her Body More Than Her Provider

April 7, 2021

Colleen always felt called to birth and was determined to have the birth of her dreams. After two miscarriages, she was so excited to give birth to her first child. When her birth resulted in a cesarean, she knew the next time around she would make sure things went differently.  

Despite her mother and husband resisting the idea of a VBAC she went for it anyway.  At 1/2 a centimeter dilated, the hospital sent her back home while she feared her birth was going to end up with the same outcome as before. 

Discouraged, she labored at home in the tub, nursed her 22 month old, and shortly after had the overwhelming urge to go to the bathroom!  Realizing it was time to have a baby, they rushed to the hospital only to be told, "Don't push. Keep the baby in. We don't have a room for you yet!"  After an hour of waiting, she vaginally birthed her baby into her arms. 

While delighted to have had her VBAC, her postpartum physical recovery was far more challenging.  Looking back, she realizes how she trusted her doctor more than herself and how that may have impacted her recovery.  Next time, she says, "I'll choose a home birth."

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View Episode Transcript

They're like you had the great opportunity, you can pick the birthday, you can just go, you know, get rolled right in there for a C section. Easy as can be. And it just wasn't what I had in my heart. It wasn't what I wanted to do.

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.

Hi, my name is Colleen Reagan noon and I am here to talk about my VBAC. I had a VBAC. 22 months after I had an emergency c section. I started preparing for the birth of my first child, probably 10 years before he was even conceived. I was just so into all things birth and preparing my fertility. And I was it was birth was just something I always felt really called to and always felt like I was going to be really good at and I'm a very petite person, about 90 pounds, not pregnant, tiny little hips. But I was so confident that I was going to squat out a baby, no problem. That was my vision. That was my desire. And I did everything I could to support that dream to happen. So I got pregnant with my first child, shortly after two miscarriages, and his pregnancy, I was sick every single day until 36 weeks. And then I had my 36 to 40 weeks, I felt fabulous. It was also August, and so hot, and I you never met a happier pregnant woman. Because I was not sick. I went into labor on my due date, I thought I was well on my way to my beautiful HypnoBirthing birth. I you know, I my water broke. So I thought it was 9pm and my husband goes to bed and I'm all relaxed and trying to you know, as the waves are coming, you know, closer together, I'm handling them really well. And by 4am we call the doula and I'm you know, I'm thinking I'm just rocking this birth and it's everything is going exactly to plan it's going to be perfect. And the doula shows up and by like, 8am we're like alright, it's been like 12 hours since my water broke. And you know, let's let's go to the hospital because the contractions were close together. And I was also really priding myself on in between contractions, I wanted it to be like light and airy and laughing and I get to the hospital. And they're like you are like half a centimeter dilated. And they're like and you're in too good of a mood in between your contractions to really be in labor, your early labor, you're just tired. You're feeling these contractions worse than they really are. My advice was to take a Benadryl and go home and take a nap. And I was like, I'm not going home. There's a hotel across the street, and I go, Okay, get in the tub across the street at the Best Western. My doula went home because they told her I wasn't in labor. And I get in the tiniest tub ever that has water that's like the foot doesn't work. And I'm like, I don't know how anyone likes a waterbirth. Because this is the most miserable experience I've ever had in my life. I'm just like wet and this is terrible. It's not the right time, not the right time. But at the time. You know, I taken the Benadryl too. And so then I'm like falling asleep in between these contractions, but they're coming more frequently, and they're harder. And I'm pretty much by myself in this hotel room. My husband's going out during goodness knows what when he's back in the hotel room. He's texting. I assume he's texting with a doula. And she's just telling him I'm not that far in labor enough for her to come back. And it finally gets to this point where I've been there probably five hours and I'm like, I need to go to the hospital or I'm going to die. And I don't even care what happens when we get there. But I'm pretty sure I've just gotten to a place that wasn't really great. We get to the hospital. My son's not tolerating labor. He was borderline growth restricted my entire pregnancy. And then when he came out and turns out he was actually smaller than they thought he had a short cord and a very thin cord. So he just wasn't able to tolerate the labor. I was still only one centimeter dilated when these contractions were one right on top of the other. He was born wasn't breathing when he was born. Then he was breathing. He was just a tiny little thing. And he ended up doing great with everything. No problems. Breastfeeding, no problem. We had no problems past birth. I had no problems really recovering from my C section. I had a great experience for what it was and I was up and walking five hours later. I never had to take any of the intense medicines either. I knew though that just because I had one c section, I didn't have to have another. And when I got pregnant when my son was 13 months old, I just told everyone I'm going to have a VBAC. And my husband and my mom thought I was insane. They're like, you have the great opportunity, you can pick the birthday, you can just go, you know, get rolled right in there for a C section, easy as can be. And it just wasn't what I had in my heart. It wasn't what I wanted to do. So I really took a lot of parts from my birth story, especially my son to he was also posterior, my first and I was, you know, I had all these things in my head that I was gonna fix that were going to help me get this feedback.

So I was, you know, I was doing acupuncture and chiropractor, which were all I highly recommend, they definitely got my body in a great place, the baby in a good position, I had a low placenta that I think it was, you know, we at like 3032 weeks, it was still low, and I did all this acupuncture, and it moved right on up and, and so they were they were definitely all this great preparation that I did really helps, I think, get me to a good place for my feedback. But I also think I relied a little bit too much on instead of trusting my body and learning from my body during that first birth, and maybe this is how my body did things. I was so determined to fix what my body did. So it would do something different. With my second at 40 weeks. Exactly. So both my babies I went into labor at 40 weeks, we went blueberry picking as a family and my mom was five hours away. We called her told her you know, to start getting ready to come and and my contractions were kind of picking up through the day, I went to bed that night, I woke up the next morning, which happened to be my birthday, my 32nd birthday. And there was just nothing, there was no contractions nothing. And by this time, like my mom was well on her way. And I'm like, Oh, I think this might have just been a false start. But they did pick up again. And so I had already been scheduled since it was past my due date for a non stress test and an ultrasound. So we showed up at the hospital for those. And when they're doing the non stress tests, they said, you know, your contractions are coming close enough together. You could stay if you want it and I said no, I know I don't feel like I'm in for an awful lot of labor, I'm going to go home, went home. And my my doula came over. And we tried to do some body movement work in order to get the baby Canada to engage and the contractions they were they were consistent, but they definitely by the evening, I could feel him kind of going away. And then that next morning on the 18th of July, I woke up at 4am with like real strong contractions. And I was like, okay, we're in business. My mom was here and by like 7am, I was like, I just want to go to the hospital. Because I want what I didn't have last time, I just want like that spot to have my baby and have my husband and my doula supporting me there the whole time. You know, this, I'm imagining this 12 hour long birth. And I just want those two supports there the whole time. So you get all get to the hospital. And they're like you are, you know, half a centimeter dilated. You're not having this baby anytime soon. And they're like, you've got to go back home. And it's like, I'm not going, I'm not going home. I was like last time I went home, it was awful. I'm not going home and they said we don't have any rooms, you have to go home. And so I was so discouraged because everything that so far I didn't want for my first birth was happening again in this second birth. So we have a tub at home. And it's a much larger tab. What was interesting though, is after my best Western experience, I was like waterbirth sounds like the silliest thing I've ever heard now. But anytime I did the hypnosis sessions, I envisioned myself laboring in a tub. And I couldn't really understand it because I was so against it. And it was really interesting to me that I ended up having my most of my labor in this tub, just like I had visualized. Things went really smooth in the tub, I did get to a point where my 22 month old was not going down for his nap. And my mom brought him in, he was still Nursing at the time. And I nursed my 22 month old in the tub with me while I was in labor, which was a which was a fun experience. Looking back. I think in the moment, it was not it was not that fun. But I wonder too, if that kind of helps because it was shortly after that my water broke. And then I was like, you know, things started to feel really different. And I think I went from you know, zero to 10 real quick and was in transition and I call for my husband and I was pretty much just kind of doing my own thing in the tub because once again my doula had left because they told her I wasn't in labor and I was like I've got a poop you need to help me out of the tub I have to cook was like don't poke. Don't poke. He's like they told me if you said you have to pay To call them, it's like now you need to get me out. I have to go on the toilet. He

really wanted to say don't have the baby without the staff here, right? If you had gone into the bathroom and shut the door and gone to the bathroom, there's really no problem. He just didn't want the baby to come out before you guys were ready. Exactly. That's impossible to ask of a woman in my opinion, you can never asked her not to have her baby when it's time. Oh, but you can ask what. So what happened?

At this point I like I'm like crawling up the back of the toilet seat with each contraction. There was like a like 15 minute period where they were just so intense. I probably shouldn't have gotten out of the tub. I would have been much better in there. But I'm out and like I was just like, I go from like on the floor to just like crawling up the seat to the back of the toilet while my husband's on the phone with the doula and the doctors and my mom's knocking on the door and she's like, get that woman to a hospital like she's gonna have a baby and just from like the noises I was making on hospital like, yeah, you guys should come now, I wish I had just stayed home. I should have but I you know, plan was to have this baby in a hospital. So I you know, got myself dressed no shoes or anything, just gotten carbon their shoes, we had to go back and get those a couple days later, I'm in the car. And my husband tried to get me in the front seat. And I was like, I can't sit down. But at this point, since I was pushing, of which I wasn't really conscious that I was doing it. The contractions actually got bearable. They spaced out a bit and felt good to bear down. And so as we go, like I can actually manage this. So I got in the backseat, and I was squatting, holding on to that bar by the window, the 20 minute ride to the hospital, but she probably didn't like 10 or 15 minutes. And I was just like kind of, you know, pushing the whole way there. And we were kind of close. And I saw this ambulance on the side of the road. And it's like, Oh, that's good news. Because I have this baby right now. There's an ambulance close by. And it was just like I was very calm about it because I was like, Okay, this baby's definitely coming. We pull into the hospital and they get the wheelchair and I'm like squatting with my hands on the back of the wheelchair and I'm just like screaming I am I do not labor quietly. And he's like, pushing me through the halls and the doctor and see me that morning said now that's a woman in labor. So they wheeled me into the triage room, they still have no birth rooms, and they I'm fully dilated, the baby's down, but they are not ready. And they're like okay, you and so I've gone from you know, half a centimeter dilated to having this baby and probably four hours. They're like, well, you have to hold the baby in. We're not ready. By this time my doula had arrived. And she said to me said you don't have to hold this baby yet. But my first since he wasn't breathing when he was born, I just had this thing in my head, which was absurd because we were at the hospital, but I just had this thing in my head of if I don't wait to have this baby until the doctors there, then it could be born out breathing and and this would be all my fault. I was you know squatting on the bed leaning over the back of the bed, doing like the horse lips for probably close to an hour to keep this baby in until they were ready. And as soon as the doctor came in, to push us he was out. But at this point the pelvic floor damage had already been done.

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So I had I had him and he came out really easy. Immediately after birth, I got to do that scan to scan. And it was I mean, it was every it didn't matter, all kinds of the wild things that happened and that wasn't the birth that I had to be back I had a vision because I did I get to hold them right skin to skin and I got to have those moments. And it was it was just such this amazing experience. And you know, and I got to have them in in the clothes that I wore there and I got to birth him in whatever position I wanted to because we weren't in a birth suite, they weren't able to have that first bed and so they said you just birth them how you want and that that part felt powerful. So it wasn't really until kind of after that I started to look at the other pieces and go Wow, I really trusted these doctors and not my own body. And when I did trust my own body, how much smoother things went than when I was trusting other people saying no, you're not really in labor. No, you can't push this baby out yet, because we're not ready, I think part of having to hold that baby in. And then I think a lot of the back and forth from the hospital and all that is, I had kind of a tough recovery. The first little bit, I a couple hours after I had them, I fainted. And then I ended up on fluids, and I end up having to do a catheter put in, I couldn't stand up on my own for the I was released from the hospital 36 hours after his birth, but I couldn't stand on my own until like 30 hours after his birth, I felt like I should have been in the hospital longer with this vaginal birth than I was with my C section. And obviously, a couple days later, it was a very different story. It really kind of made me think, you know, like, Where, where I wasn't listening to myself and my body and how that manifested post birth. And I had had this beautiful medication, pre intervention, free birth, and then I had such a high intervention post birth.

So it's so interesting, because in part because they didn't have a room ready, you got this very low intervention style birth, yet at the same time, because they weren't ready, you had to go through this really difficult experience of not giving birth

on your own time. Right? You know, you can't you can't ever be sure what, what caused what, but I definitely I had a lot of issues postpartum, I couldn't even put a tampon in, I had so much pain and discomfort. And so I did at, you know, my, my child was nearly two, by the time I even found out a pelvic floor therapist was the thing. And I went in, in one session, it was like, Whoa, this is like a whole new world. And so talking to her, she definitely thought that that holding that baby in, when he was pressing to come out, definitely contributed to some of the issues I was having.

Yeah, I mean, when your body wants to move your baby through, that's what your body wants to do. And anything that we do that resists that can be harmful.

Yeah, would you do it differently today, if you had the opportunity? Oh, my gosh, yes, I,

I would trust my body. And that's what I kind of wish I had learned from my first that my body had a certain way it was going to do things and I wish I had kind of embrace, embraced what my body was telling me, instead of trying to fix it, so it would do the normal thing. And so I was so convinced I was just going to birth, you know, like the normal way where you you know, you dilate, you know, so much every hour, and it just kind of goes in a very easy to easy to see progression. And you know, your your doula and your husband are there the whole time. And you know, and it's I don't know, like that whole thing. And so I now feel like it doesn't it the whole the whole dilation, which I knew didn't matter, but like they The hospital just keeps telling you it does. And so I wish so much. And doing it again, would be to just trust my intuition that when I feel like I'm in labor, that I am in labor, and that my body is going to do what it needs to do. And I'm going to get kind of nice intuitive, which both of my babies, I had these intuitive ways of how I wanted to labor. With my first he was posterior, which I didn't know, but I want every time I had a contraction, I would go on my knees and put my head down on the ground. And it was my body intuitively saying we need to help turn this baby. And then with my second one, just in the waterbirth this vision I had always had was a knee slightly laying back, which for me didn't seem intuitively like the best labor position to like, you know, get the baby to go down. But as soon as I started doing that he really engaged and that's where it was and and that's what I think is so great about having the unmedicated is you really can listen to your body and your body will tell you what it needs. And then with that pushing to his there was no, I didn't need a doctor to say like, and now you've hit transition. And now it's time to start pushing my body started pushing on its own. And then when you get to the hospital, and they're telling you Oh no, don't push. You're like, Oh, I'm not I'm doing the wrong thing I'm doing maybe I'm doing something that's going to damage this baby. Maybe I'm doing something that's going to you know, delay this birth process. When really my my body knew exactly what to do. And I was trying to control that which is actually hindering it and so absolutely not. I mean next time I would like to have a home birth because I would like to just kind of be in my own little nap. And be able to listen to my body with no interruptions.

I love the part of your story where your toddler came in and nursed, and how your labor accelerated after that, because that had such an impact. That's such a rush of oxytocin to your body. And had you been in the hospital, you know, your toddler wouldn't have been coming in and nursing in the middle of your labor. It just didn't. That's it. That's it's such a great example of that intuitive process and how birth works, when we just follow our body's cues and do the natural things. Exactly.

When you mentioned your body was pushing on its own, that actually is called the natural expulsive reflex. And it's fascinating to experience it, when you're not told to push and forcing pushing, you can feel that it's just happening with or without your participation. You know, when I talk to clients about giving birth, we have this conviction that getting an epidural means an easier birth. It definitely means reprieve. But there's definitely an angle that I feel I experienced in having a natural birth that is easier. Yes, you're experiencing more, you're you're you're feeling more, but you're in constant and direct communication with the baby. And when the baby does need more space, the baby ends up applying pressure in just this certain manner and location within the woman's body that then prompts her into a position she's responding to what she's feeling. And without even consciously being aware of it. She's getting herself in just the right position to give her baby space, which is one reason why natural births are quicker. There is an angle where a natural birth is actually easier than a birth with an epidural. Which you know, it seems so counterintuitive. Yes,

that's exactly it was Yeah, it was definitely the you know, I was I my body was I mean it wasn't the I wasn't even in control of it, but it my body knew exactly what to do to get in the right position to do the right things. And I do feel like to be you know, them telling me not to push was from there. So they're probably so used to telling people with epidurals don't push Yeah.

And then they say and now push. I mean, they totally direct the whole thing. Yeah.

Oh, yeah, that's, I mean, that's exactly what they did is this baby was out into pushes, but they wanted to direct those two pushes, and me push past when I felt the urge to push, which was just so badly because his baby was coming on out. Like they're, they're the ones who held up the process. And the doctors, like, we're gonna get this out on this next question. I'm like, you know, I like I could I mean, I yeah, I still I beat myself up a little bit. But I'm like, why did I not just have this baby. But when you're in the hospital, it kind of brings up those fears of like, something could happen, and I have to listen to them. And they know my body better than me. And that just really wasn't the case. I was fear. It was and the fear probably helped keep them in. I just had all of this different fear. And I in so I did those hoarse lips. And I just remember I just like shaking and being like, Where is this doctor? And I can't hold this baby in much longer.

Yeah, it's interesting, because it's, it's now that you've done it, you wouldn't do it differently. you'd walk in through those doors, and you'd be like, you know, screw you, I'm having this baby, because you trust yourself now. But when we're new, we believe that even though you may trust your body, we believe that doctors know birth better than we do. Because you know, they do it day in and day out. We don't.

Yeah, and I often think of I don't know, what if, what if I had stayed home, like that extra 20 minutes. And like how differently it probably could have played out. I do have that to have, like, think of all of this experience that I've gained, that I can now bring to other people to let them know, like, you're there is trusting yourself. And your intuition is actually something you really need to work on before you have your baby. And because it seems like oh yeah, I'm gonna trust myself and intuition. But no, it's actually something you need to really focus on and work on. And it's just become a passion of mine to really make sure that point gets across.

This is a theme that comes up over and over and over again, in birth stories that we are sharing on this podcast and women were talking to us the transformation, the transformative experience of birth, and it always comes back to the same thing, deepening that trust in our own bodies and deepening that trust in our own selves, which then we take out into the world. As mothers and beings. whatever we're doing, we have grown so much in trusting ourselves through the birth process.

I've noticed that whenever a woman has her next baby, her key focus is like, Okay, this time I am definitely Doing this differently, or I'm definitely doing this on my terms. What would that be for you? Because you've made a few references to have in a third. So what are those things for you?

Yes. And yeah, and I, it's I do have that thing to where I feel like a lot of other women do also is that, like, I feel like I haven't gotten it right yet, which I know isn't like the best phrase to use, but like, I need that other birth to be like the healing one for me. Which I think which is probably a good clue, I need to work through some more birth trauma. Well,

you know what, Colleen, we're craving satisfaction, right? We're craving a satisfying birth. And that's what that means, like, it doesn't quite feel complete, because we don't feel quite satisfied. Yeah,

I would like to have a home birth for my next birth. I mean, I don't think they're gonna let me enter the hospital anyways. And that next imaginal baby would come a lot quicker than this first one. But for me, just what I kept craving in my births, was to just be in that one space, I just wanted to be in one space where I felt safe and comfortable, and where people weren't constantly leaving me. And I feel like home is going to be the best place where I can get that. Also, too, I just love the idea of working with a midwife where your appointments are an hour long, and they go over the whole of you. It's such a holistic approach. And not just, you know, my first pregnancy, I was with a midwife group through the hospital, I end up changing to OBS for my second one, because my midwives were, it seemed very intervention heavy. And you know, every I wasn't gaining enough weight. And like, they I was throwing up every day, and they had no interest in helping with that. They just wanted to scold me for not gaining enough weight. And they're, they're just it didn't seem like they cared about me. It was like, you know, we need we need to have you be on this particular schedule to fit exactly like all of our other patients. And if you don't, you're doing something wrong. And I love Just the thought of working with a midwife to have those longer appointments and have that whole holistic approach and have someone check in with me mentally, in talking to people who've had home births to hear how like they were just encouraged to get in the shower, and like their sheets were changed. And I'm like, I need that maternal care.

How would you, you know, given your experience, personally and professionally, and I know you became a HypnoBirthing instructor, as well for having been a woman who wants to throw the book across the room have declared, you now know, HypnoBirthing is not a matter of something that works or doesn't work. It's like meditation, it's like yoga, right? It's a practice. But what's the key thing you would just say to any woman no matter what kind of birth she wants to have,

we put this in the right words of this is your body, you're the one who this body in this labor is going to be communicating with. And so that puts you in a really special role that no one else in this birth has. What's going to help you connect more with your intuition. What's going to help you connect more with your baby in utero. What's going to help you learn to advocate for yourself. Because I mean, I know at first I had to advocate for myself against my husband and my mom, which I wasn't the doctors, I was expecting those two people I wasn't initially expected. And so finding that power within yourself to not only advocate for yourself, but your power to trust yourself to believe this intuition, your feeling is real and what your body is telling you is real, to really feed that and spend time with that during your pregnancy. So by the time birth comes, it's just going to be second nature to do those things and that you are just going to have a beautiful glowing birth experience.

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Last night doula, she took pictures and I have these pictures from right after he was born. And I didn't realize the importance of those photographs. The next birth I have I will have a photographer because like those photos mean more to me than absolutely anything and like they represent so much. And it was it was just such this amazing experience.

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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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