"My Rebirth Through Leo's Birth," a VBAC journey with doula support
Authored by: mom Natalie
Mindful Birth Doula: Tara
"The birth of my first son, Eli, via Caesarean-Section, in July of 2018 left me physically, mentally, and emotionally devastated. I had developed severe pre-eclampsia at 32 weeks, and he had to be delivered immediately. Because he was a preemie, he was immediately carried away to
the NICU after being removed from my body; and I actually did not even get to see him until two days later, when I was finally “allowed” to leave my hospital room to go to his.
Our journey then continued with a 5-week NICU stay before he was able to come home. The day I was discharged from the hospital and went home without my baby was, by far, the worst day of my life. Although I am grateful everyday that he had no serious health complications (he just needed extra time to continue to grow and learn to feed on his own), not a day goes by that I don’t feel some sense of sadness in how our story began. I have always felt like his birth was just something that happened to me, and that I was not a part of the experience at all. I still don’t feel like I brought my first-born into this world. And so, I have been dreaming of and working hard for a different kind of birth story since the day he was born – even as I was still laying there in my hospital bed.
So, after over two and a half years of dreaming, hoping, praying, researching, and preparing –
there we were…It was the day before my “estimated due date” with baby #2; and the day started
with a 7:30am OB appointment. I had some health concerns develop during this pregnancy
(intermittent high blood pressure readings and contracted COVID around 35 weeks), but nothing
as serious as my first pregnancy. My midwives had had me monitoring my own blood pressure at
home twice a day, and it was generally normal. But, at my appointment that day, it was high (as
it usually was at my appointments). The midwife agreed to give me a few minutes to relax
before trying to take it again, but also stated that they would be sending me over to the hospital
for an induction that day. Of course, my blood pressure did not go down after that conversation.
Needless to say, I was not happy to be induced. Instead of being excited that I was finally going
to meet my new baby, I could only focus on the fact that things were not going according to “my
I had the midwife do a cervical check, wanting to know if my body was showing any signs of
being “ready” for the vaginal birth that I so desperately wanted. There was slight improvement
from the week before, but I was still only 1-2cm dilated and 40% effaced. The doctor said the
induction was not emergent, so Pete and I decided to go home, finish packing things up, eat, take
a shower, and relax for a few minutes.
As we were wandering around the house that morning putting our last minute things together for
the dreaded hospital trip, all I kept thinking was, “I wish I had given Eli an extra hug this
morning…if I had only known that was going to be the last day that he was my only baby, I
would have held on a little bit longer…” My heart felt heavy.
I ended up contacting my chiropractor to let her know I was going in for an induction and she
was able to squeeze me in for one last adjustment on our way to the hospital. I was filled with
emotion and stress about what was impending, but she really helped fix my headspace. She let
me know that my baby was in great position and that my body was ready for this. She helped lift
my spirits and reminded me that a successful labor was all about my mindset at this point. So, I
started working on getting my head right.
We got to the hospital a little before 1:00pm and got admitted into our room pretty quickly. It
was a while before the midwife on call came in and discussed our induction options with me. I
felt strong and prepared in the sense that I asked questions and made suggestions about my own
medical care (something that did NOT happen during my first birth experience). Initially, the
midwife said we would just be starting the induction with Pitocin because I was not dilated
enough/my cervix was too posterior for her to get a foley bulb in. So, the Pitocin was started
around 3:45pm. A few minutes later, the OB that was on call came in and said she would try to
place the foley bulb for me, if I would like. I agreed and she was a Rockstar at getting it placed.
She even mentioned that she filled it a bit larger than normal, to help move things along.
Everyone was very supportive of my VBAC and had total faith that this was going to happen.
After that, the nurses and doctors left the room and left Pete and I alone to labor as we wanted.
They did periodically come in to fix the monitors and brought me a birthing ball to labor on. I
tried to stay upright as much as possible. I knew I wanted to use gravity to my advantage. I
alternated between bouncing on the birth ball, rocking in the rocking chair, standing, swaying,
and walking in the limited capacity that I could (being hooked up to wires and IVs).
I started to feel what I thought were contractions fairly quickly. I had never felt a contraction
before (other than Braxton Hicks contractions), so I could only assume that this was them. They
were not overwhelming at first, but definitely noticeable. Before I knew it, it felt like they were
just one right after the other with no real break in between and they were increasing in intensity.
I remember one of the nurses making a comment that these were not “real” contractions. I’m still
not sure what she meant by that, but it got me concerned about what I was in store for if these
were not even the “real deal.” I tried to put that thought out of my mind and just focused on the
fact that my body was clearly responding to the induction and that this was going to work.
At one point, I went to use the bathroom and the foley bulb actually fell out into the toilet as I
was peeing. It startled me and I cried out for Pete. The nurse checked me afterwards and said I
was 4-5cm dilated. I was excited because my body had made progress, and the foley bulb had
done its job.
My contractions changed after the foley bulb fell out and I realized it was that bulb that had been
really irritating me. The contractions slowed down and seemed to decrease in intensity for a
while. So, the nurse started cranking up the Pitocin to keep them going. The midwife came in
and said we would stay on this path for a few more hours to see if I would continue to make
progress, and if I wasn’t then we would talk about turning the Pitocin off for the night to allow
me to get some rest.
Again, Pete and I were left alone to labor as we wanted. It was into the night at this point. Our
room was dark, we had music playing, we moved around as much as possible. We tried some
spinning babies moves like the abdominal lift and the side lying release, but nothing was
comfortable and I wasn’t sure that we were doing anything quite right.
The contractions started to pick up again, and the nurse checked me to find that I was still only
about 6cm dilated. It had been a few hours since my last cervical check, and I had felt like I was
doing good work. The contractions had picked up and were not easy to manage at that point. So,
when she said I had only dilated 1cm in all that time, I started to feel defeated. I had been in
contact with my doula, Tara, all along the way, and decided it was time to call her in for extra
support and to see if she could help us do some moves to help me continue to progress.
Thank goodness we made that call when we did because Tara arrived at the perfect time – just
when I needed her most. The contractions were getting painful enough that I wasn’t really able to
concentrate on anything that anyone was saying, and I was having a hard time staying on top of
my breathing to control the pain.
Tara got right to work. Everything is kind of a blur from there, but I remember laboring on all
fours, sitting on the bed in a throne position, and laboring on the toilet for a while (Tara had
turned out the lights and set up candles to make it more peaceful). Tara used essential oils to try
to calm me and help with some of the nausea that I was feeling. She also started using
counterpressure and massage techniques that were so clutch in that moment. At one point, Tara
suggested we try the side lying release for a while. While doing this, I felt a huge explosion
inside me, and the most massive gush of fluid started running from my body. Clearly, my water
had broken, but it was hard to understand that in the moment. I just remember feeling scared and
insecure. Tara reminded me that this was a great thing and my body was doing what it was
supposed to…and my water had broken on its own!
Although the contractions were already difficult to manage at that point, they definitely got even
more intense after my water broke. The contractions were just coming one right after the other,
and I didn’t feel like I was getting any break in between them. My whole body was constantly
shaking and trembling. All of a sudden, I started noticing that my body felt like it was “pushing”
towards the end of every contraction. I realized that I was grunting with this urge that I could not
control. I was hoping this meant that I was finally 10cm dilated and the end was hopefully in
sight. But, when the nurse checked me, she said I was only about 7cm dilated. Although she did
say that the baby had gone all the way from a -2 station to +1 after my water broke. I felt
completely defeated at this point. I was not sure that I could go on any longer not knowing
whether I would have to do this for another 3 minutes or 3 hours. I also started to get scared,
because I knew that pushing before your cervix is 10cm can cause more damage than good.
I agreed to try the nitrous oxide (laughing gas) at some point. The nurse had a hard time finding a
tank that was working and had to bring a couple different ones it. By the time they finally got me
set up with one, I was able to take about a half of a puff before quickly realizing that this was not
for me. I basically threw the mask down, with a quick “nope,” and that was the end of the
My nurse kept reminding me not to push, but it was completely involuntary at that point. Every
time they told me not to push, I got more scared about what I might be doing to my body and that
I might be jeopardizing my VBAC. I had a hard time getting out of my head at that point and I
had a hard time focusing on anything but the intense pain that I was feeling. I started to ask for
some sort of pain relief. Tara and Pete both reminded me that this was not what I wanted, and
that I could do this. I didn’t care what I had previously said; I just couldn’t see the light at the
end of the tunnel anymore. If I had known I only had to do this for 30 more minutes, or 15 more
contractions, or something…then I think I could have dealt better. Of course, there is never a
way to “know” any of those things in labor. So, I started to beg for pain relief…any pain relief…
The nurse, Tara, and Pete all basically told me it was too late for that, but I demanded it anyway.
I was told that I would have to watch an epidural education video first, that it would be some
time before the anesthesiologist could get to me, and that I probably wouldn’t be able to sit still
long enough for the epidural to be placed. I didn’t care, I told them to put me on the list. As I
waited and continued to labor through each contraction, my brain finally felt like there was a
finish line I was working toward. I just had to get through these contractions until the epidural
came. I felt like I could do that.
Before I knew it and before I ever got even close to getting the epidural, I remember hearing
whispers of not having a good reading of the baby’s heartrate on the monitor, and the nurse
making me switch positions multiple times. I think I was back on all fours when the midwife
appeared at my ear and asked if I wanted to deliver on all fours. I told her that I didn’t care, I just
wanted the baby out! She told me to get on my back so that she could assist me better.
So, there I was – on my back, Pete holding my left leg, Tara holding my right, and I was being
given the green light to push...FINALLY. Thank god! I needed this so bad!
They coached me on how they needed me to push during that first contraction. The pushing was
different than I had expected in the sense that I didn’t realize how long I would need to push. It
felt impossible at first. I was exhausted and felt like I couldn’t push for as long as they needed
me to. I, again, felt like I was failing. But, they all encouraged me, said that I was doing great,
and even brought a mirror in for me to see the progress that I was making. After pushing again
during the second contraction, they told me to reach down and feel the baby’s head. It was so
much softer than I had ever thought it would be. Feeling the baby’s head crowning gave me the
adrenaline rush that I needed – clearly, I was doing this and there was no way I was going to
have a repeat C-Section if the baby was already emerging, right?!
Then, everything felt really urgent again – I remember the midwife basically saying that I needed
to get the baby out in the next contraction. Most of the videos that I had watched in preparation
for my vaginal birth showed a woman birthing the baby’s head in one contraction, having a
break until the next one, and then delivering the rest of the body during the next contraction. I
guess this is what I was expecting; but, that is not what I experienced. Everyone told me to give
it my all on the next push, and it felt necessary – so I did. I screamed out with the biggest push I
could muster up, and the baby’s whole body just shot out of me like a rocket! They held the baby
up so that Pete could announced that it was a “boy” and then put him right to my chest. I stared
at him in disbelief…disbelief that he was a boy (I could have sworn he was going to be a girl),
disbelief that he was healthy and was not being rushed off to the NICU, disbelief that it was over,
and disbelief that I had done it.
But, I HAD done it. I HAD delivered him. He HAD come out of my vagina. And I HAD done it
without the epidural that I begged for (it was as if Baby Boy heard my cries for help and said, “I
got you mom, here I come!” just in the knick of time).
So, after 976 days of hoping, praying, and preparing – I finally got the VBAC that I have been
dreaming about since the day Eli was born. Baby Boy Leo was born at 4:33am – after about 13
hours of labor and in only 3 pushes.
Welcome to the world, Leo! Thank you for helping me feel whole and giving me the redemptive
“re-birth” that I so desperately needed.
-Written by Natalie S, mom of 2 beautiful boys, Eli and Leo
Thank you, Natalie, for sharing your incredible birth journey with us! We are so happy for you and your family as you welcome baby Leo into the world. You DID it!
Our doula best,
Tara and the entire group of Mindful Birth Doulas