I recently had the experience of helping a wonderful couple achieve their goal of a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean). When they hired me, they explained that for their first birth they had not taken any classes and had not prepared for the birth, trusting that the hospital staff would tell them what to do.
The thing is, that isn’t really the staff’s job. They are supposed to keep mom and baby healthy, which of course is extremely important. But they won’t necessarily suggest positions to help baby move down, offer ideas for staying comfortable or strategies for making make labor efficient, although some do all that and more.
So when this first-time laboring mother told the nurse she was feeling uncomfortable and anxious, the nurse advised her to get an epidural, even though it was very early in the labor and the mom wasn’t then able to be up and changing positions to help move baby down. Next, when the mom was fully dilated and couldn’t feel any urge to push, no one suggested to turn the epidural down. Almost inevitably, a C-section followed.
This couple felt that perhaps the surgery was avoidable and so to their credit, when they became pregnant a second time, they spoke with their doctor about a VBAC, took classes, read books, and hired support.
She went into labor a few days before her due date and after a few hours at home contractions were close enough to go to hospital. When we arrived, the couple’s doctor was not on call. The doctor who met them was more conservative and told them that he thought she was not a good candidate for a VBAC and that they should just do another surgery. They talked about it and because they had done lots of research and had spoken at great length with their OB, who thought they were good candidates, they felt strong enough to say they wanted to proceed with trying for a vaginal delivery.
The mom, who thought she had a low pain tolerance, handled contractions beautifully without any medication and gave birth in 5 hours. The first time she said she didn’t really push because she couldn’t feel any urge and didn’t really know what to do. This time the baby was born with about 20 minutes of pushing that she instinctively did perfectly. After the birth, the doctor told them they had made the right decision.
Being a doula is amazing because I get to help people do the things that they didn’t believe they were capable of doing. With a little bit of support and education couples can access their own strength and realize that they are capable of much more than they might have believed – and that can help them on more than just their labor day.