Dr. Rhea Zimmerman, D.C. interviewing clients Dara Weyna & Katie Roberts
Left to Right: Dara w/Calvin, Dr. Rhea, Katie w/Audrey
When someone decides to begin care with me I have one goal in mind: assist them to the best of my ability to achieve their goals. For the women who come to me for pre-natal chiropractic care the goal is quite obvious: healthy mom and baby after a healthy birth. Many women have different ideas about how they want this birth to look, and I feel it is my job to simply support them in any way that I can to have the best possible birth experience for them and their child. For two women recently the goal was this: vaginal birth after cesarian (known as VBAC).
There was great joy and excitement for the families and friends of both of these women when they achieved their goals and were able to bring their second baby’s into the world via VBAC’s.
I have asked these women to share their experiences in the hopes that their stories can inspire others to either go for a VBAC themselves or, in general, to be inspired in their lives to do what these “everyday women” did: Face Fear, Develop Courage, Empower Oneself with Knowledge, Create a Positive Image and Believe in it, and Surround Yourself with an Awesome Team who will Support You in Achieving it.
Interview between Dr. Rhea, Dara, & Katie:
Dr. Rhea: Why was VBAC important to you? Many women and families are still told that VBAC is not a safe option, how did you go about finding out that it was something you could do?
Dara: VBAC was important to me for many reasons, the main one being that I didn’t want to undergo major surgery again and try to recover from it while caring for a toddler and a newborn. I also believed that my body could give birth naturally and I wanted to experience what I missed out on with my first son’s birth. I did a lot of research in books and on various websites about VBACs, but it was my nurse midwives who assured me that it was a safe option and encouraged me to work towards it.
Katie: A VBAC was important to me for a few reasons. First and foremost, I believe that having a vaginal birth is the best thing for the baby. The process of birth readies the baby for life. Although my first daughter is healthy and had no reactions to any of the aspects of the C-section (note from Dr. Rhea: Katie’s daughter did see a chiropractor for torticollis after birth which could have been a result of the C-Section), I believe that it is still in the baby’s best interest to experience birth naturally. Second, I chose a VBAC because surgery is a difficult process from which to recover and I wanted to try to avoid it. I had been amazed at how easy friends were moving around after their vaginal births where for me it was a painful recovery for 6 weeks. I didn’t want the surgery to interfere with my physical capability to be there for my oldest daughter since bringing home a baby was going to be difficult enough. Third, I wanted to experience giving birth naturally. I believe that our bodies are strong and are made to give life in a certain way. I wanted to feel that empowerment that birth gives women. I wanted to trust in the process of something outside of myself.
I was fortunate in that my doctors were supportive of my attempting a VBAC. I had to have a caesarian for my first birth because my daughter was breech (Dr. Rhea note: Katie was told she had to have a cesarian because of the baby’s positioning). Giving birth has an element of danger to it no matter if the birth is vaginal, caesarian, with drugs or without them; my doctors told me that I was a low risk candidate to have a VBAC. The only reason that I was told to have a scheduled caesarian was that it would be convenient. That was not a good enough reason for me to do what I felt was in the best interest of my child and myself. I did do some Internet research, talked with other women who had had VBACs, and discussed the issue with my birth team. All of these factors allowed for my husband and I to comfortably elect to try for a vaginal birth.
Pictured: The Queen of the Valley hospital staff & doula who all supported Katie in her desire to have a healthy VBAC. Left to right: Katie w/baby Audrey, Laura M., Mary Lou Bahn, China Rose Reid (Napa Doula), & Dr. Susan Gonzalez
Dr. Rhea: How did your VBAC affect you in terms of personal empowerment and courage? Did it give you the sense that you can surmount other difficulties or challenges?
Dara: Giving birth to my son naturally, gave me an amazing sense of empowerment both physically and emotionally. It made me feel as though I was in charge of my body and gave me back a feeling of authorship over our birth experience, which I really missed out on with the C section. Having a C section left me feeling as if I didn’t actually give birth to my son, but that someone else did it for me. We felt so processed and disempowered and I didn’t feel that this time around. It was very liberating to be the one doing the work to bring my son into the world. After he was born and was placed on my chest, I just kept saying, “We did it, we did it, I can’t believe it!!!” It was the same kind of euphoria I felt after completing the AIDS Ride 10 yrs ago; a sense of accomplishing something so much bigger than myself. I know that I can face any challenge now and rise to meet it…I just have to believe I can do it.
Dara with baby Calvin.
Katie: Giving birth is a courageous and empowering experience. I did feel though that by having a VBAC instead of a C-section and without the use of drugs, I gained even more of a sense of what my body and mind are capable of. Birth is interesting in that it takes so much strength to accomplish but also the ability to surrender and let go. Having the ability to tap into my inner strength as well as allowing and trusting the process of birth gave me a sense of invincibility and strength that I didn’t have before. Doing this without intervention heightened these feelings for me.
Dr. Rhea: How did you select your birth team and what role did each person play in your ultimate success?
Dara: Fortunately, both of our nurse midwives were still with the practice we used the first time. In addition to having 2 nurse midwives on our team, we also sought out a birth doula, and began a relationship with her at 32 weeks. One of the nurse midwives was present at the birth of our first son Levi, who was born via C section after a 4 day long induction and almost 4 hours of unsuccessful pushing. Knowing our history, she played a critical and especially important role in our VBAC experience. She was a huge advocate on our behalf and we truly trusted her and felt supported by her. Our nurse midwife was extremely calm and focused and was a great leader in the delivery room when it came time to deliver, working so well with the 2 nurses who were there. At one point, my labor had stalled for a while and we were under the time crunch of the hospital’s policy on VBAC (apparently they only allow a woman to push for 2 hours in VBAC cases). We were closing in on the 2 hour mark and the doctors were ready to just stop our progress and prepare me for a C section. The nurse midwife really stood up for us and pushed the limits as much as she could to allow us to keep going. Thankfully she was able to buy us time because she knew we could do it. The doula was such an awesome person to have on our team while we were laboring at home and during the delivery at the hospital. She knew exactly what we were trying to do and was a strong presence during the delivery. I felt 100% taken care of by her and I knew that when I was not able to answer a question or make a decision, she was able to act on my behalf, along with my husband. It was an amazing feeling of trust and comfort to have her there.
Dara & Calvin w/Napa Doula Sara Vietti
Katie: With the intention to have a VBAC, I chose to have prenatal care outside of what my doctor provided. I chose them for their healing abilities as well as their personal care. During pregnancy, I continued with my regular yoga practice, saw an acupuncturist occasionally, went to a chiropractor regularly, and hired a doula who is a nutritionist and herbalist. I was blessed to be able to have all of this care, and all were vital in helping me achieve the physical health and the sense of safety and strength to have a successful pregnancy and natural birth. Not only did my team work with my physical body to be healthy, they also provided so much support and encouragement. The acupuncturist alleviated my insomnia and some back pain that I had during the pregnancy. The chiropractor was essential in preparing my body for an easy labor and birth. Foremost, I chose to see the chiropractor to help ensure that the second baby would have the space to be head down. I felt that the adjustments would help prevent another breech birth. Also, the adjustments enabled me to be more comfortable and pain-free throughout the whole pregnancy. I had sciatica with my first pregnancy and wanted to avoid that discomfort. I also knew that if my body was in alignment, it could open and give birth more easily. All three of these concerns and desires were met: the baby was in position, no sciatica, and a relatively easy vaginal birth. The third member of my team was my doula. Her nutrition and herbal guidance helped give me the understanding of which foods to eat in order to keep constant energy and my emotions in balance. Before I regulated my meals, I was having moments of being overwhelmed and sad. The herbs and diet recommendations alleviated these up and down feelings. My doula also was exceptional as part of my birthing team by providing support when and where I needed it during labor. To have a natural childbirth in a hospital, I think that it is essential to have a support person who can be calm, confident, encouraging, and provide direction. She gave me such support and assistance in all stages of labor and delivery.
Dr. Rhea: What lead you to choose chiropractic during your pregnancy and what role do you feel it played in your ability to have a safe VBAC?
Dara: At my 32 week check up , the baby was in a breech lying position. I was told that there was still a lot of time for him to move on his own, but I did not want to risk it, so I sought out Rhea, who came highly recommended by several other moms I know. She told me that she had experience in “turning” babies and that was all I needed to hear (note from Dr. Rhea: I use the Webster Technique in balancing the ligaments of the pelvis, which allows the baby to find the optimum position for birth. I do not actually “turn” babies, though I have had many successes with using the Webster to assist the babies to turn naturally)! After the first session with Rhea I felt instantly better and more comfortable. I began to see her 2x/week for the first month and by 35 weeks the baby was head down and did not turn back. I feel that chiropractic care was crucial and essential to having a successful VBAC. It opened me up (both body and mind) and prepared me for the work ahead. My body felt strong and aligned after my visits and I was always SO relaxed and in a peaceful, positive state of mind. The day of my 39th week prenatal visit, it was determined that I was 3cm dilated and 90% effaced and that most likely I would start laboring within the next 48 hours. I saw Rhea right after that appointment for my final prenatal adjustment and I am convinced that the work she did on me and the positive energy that filled the room had everything to do with the successful birth that took place the next day.
Katie: I had not known the benefits of regular chiropractic adjustments at the time of my first pregnancy and became a regular patient and advocate when a chiropractor healed my oldest daughter’s neck at six weeks old. Because she was in a breech position for at least 5 weeks, her neck muscles on the left side became very tight. She did not have full range of motion in her neck and held it to the left. With only two visits, she was 100% cleared of the condition caused (note from Dr. Rhea: this neck positioning could also have been a result of the C-section). The whole family began seeing a chiropractor for wellness to maintain health. From my experience with having a chiropractor keep my body free from pain, I knew that it was essential to have regular adjustments during pregnancy when more stress and weight is on the body. Also, everything functions so much better when the you are in alignment such as elimination, digestion, sleep. I wanted this for myself and for my baby.
Like I said previously, I especially took care in keeping regular adjustments to allow for my pelvis to be open to prevent a breech orientation and to open more easily during labor. If the pelvis is in alignment, it can open and not get stuck.
Dr. Rhea: How did chiropractic support during pregnancy differ from pregnancy without chiropractic support?
Dara: During my first pregnancy, I suffered from bad sciatic and lower back pain, as well as edema in the last trimester. With this pregnancy, I had virtually no aches and pains and no swelling and I totally attribute that to my chiropractic care. As well, I just felt more balanced in general and ready to go into the delivery without fear or trepidation, because I really felt that my body was able and willing to give birth naturally.
Katie: I was able to really tell how much more open my body felt when I was doing yoga. I felt much more grounded into my body during the pregnancy, and I believe much of that is due to the chiropractic adjustments. The openness, keeping the sciatica away made the pregnancy smoother. Besides being pregnant, I had a toddler for whom to care and I think the chiropractic support allowed me to be very active with her until the end.
Dr. Rhea delivering Audrey’s first adjustment on a house call while Katie looks on.
Dr. Rhea: What role did cultivating a positive mental state play in your preparation to give birth? What helped you to do this?
Dara: Having a positive mental state played the biggest role of all in my preparation to give birth. After the trauma we experienced with our first birth, it took me a long time to deal with my emotions and disappointment about it. I was still dealing with it when I found out I was pregnant for the second time. At first (during this pregnancy), I avoided looking forward to or planning for anything as I had the first time around. I knew I wanted a VBAC, but I wasn’t about to get my hopes up for a natural birth for fear of being let down again. I just told myself, “What will be, will be”; and in essence that is true to the birth experience, but I wasn’t looking at it in the most positive way I could’ve been. I was afraid to start planning, to start working, to start hoping and believing that I could have the birth I wanted because I just didn’t think I could handle the disappointment again if it did not work out. Well, I knew that fear was going to get me nowhere and my laissez-faire attitude wasn’t going to help me, so I consciously decided to work on creating a positive mental state. I think this was the hardest work of all, because in order to do so I had to face my fears. I had to have faith in myself and my baby, that we could work together to achieve a VBAC. I did a lot of visualization; focusing on my baby making his way through the birth canal and into the world. I talked to him a lot and told him that I supported him and loved him and let him know that we were a team. I made up little mantras to repeat to myself while resting or driving; “I believe in my body. I believe in my baby. We are strong in mind, body and spirit.” I also am incredibly lucky to have an amazing and supportive group of women friends, who all knew how important to me a VBAC was and so I had a lot of positive energy surrounding me at all times.
Katie: I knew I had to cultivate a positive mental state of yes, I can give birth vaginally and without drugs or I would have taken the surgical option. In order to do this, I had an extremely supportive husband, a fantastic birth team, and a strong intention. I also had faced my fear of having a C-section during my first birth. Ironically I was able to have such a successful VBAC because I did not have any fears of what if I have to have a caesarian. I trusted my body, and I trusted the doctors and health professionals that I had on my team. Thus, I was able to be calm and ready for the birth of our daughter. All of these factors allowed me to feel safe which created for me the feeling that I could open and give birth with joy, strength, trust, courage, and love. And I did.
Dr. Rhea: What do you want to share with other women considering VBAC?
Dara: I would say first and foremost, do not let fears persuade you. Not your own fear or the fear that your doctor or anyone else may make you feel. It felt like a fight in a lot of ways to hold my ground and stay positive, because the doctors (even though they support VBAC in theory) have to give you the worst case scenario and tell you about all the statistics and failures of VBACs, instead of sharing with you the success stories. If you are in good health, are not high-risk and are having a complication-free pregnancy, there is no reason why you should not be able to give birth vaginally. That being said, I would still seek out as much external support as possible and take really good care of yourself. And most importantly, BELIEVE you can do it, because you can!!! Our bodies were designed to have our babies born vaginally, not surgically removed. However, should complications arise, a C-section will ensure a healthy mom and baby, and we all know that’s what matters most.
Katie: Trust in yourself to make the choice whether or not to attempt a VBAC. When it comes to health, so many decisions are rooted from fear. Begin considering a VBAC from a place of trust in the strength of the human body and that you can have the birth that you want for yourself and your child. Choose a birth team that supports your decision and has experienced successful VBACs. Also, create a sense of security and safety for your labor. Finally, a lesson that I learned from my first breech birth is that we can help prepare but we cannot control birth. Be open to the process and to however your child is born. It will be a gift no matter what.
Dr. Rhea: Is there any favorite moment that you would like to share about your birth experience?
Dara: Once we got to the hospital, my contractions were coming on really strong and I was starting to doubt myself and get scared about what was about to happen next. One of our midwifes was not on-call to deliver that day, but she stopped in on her way to another appointment to see us. While she was there, my water broke and then the contractions got really intense. During one, I was screaming, “OH GOD, OH GOD” and afterwards, she suggested that at the next contraction I add, “Thank you…Oh God, thank you.” It was this small act of gratitude during such an intense and painful moment that brought me through and helped me get to the next stage of labor. I HAD to be thankful for what I was experiencing because it was what I had always wanted and what I always knew I could do…what I always believed was possible.
Dara w/Napa Nurse Midwife Laura Paoletti holding Calvin who encouraged her to add “Thank You” to her “Oh God” while in labor.
Katie: Despite myself, my intention was so strong to have a VBAC without drugs that it did happen. I asked for an epidural at one point in the hospital because I was feeling that I could not do it without taking the pain away. I was feeling tired and had not progressed at this point. Yet the universe said no. My doctor wanted my contractions to be more regular before I would be given an epidural, and then we discovered that the nurse anesthetist was unavailable for an hour and a half. I am so grateful to these circumstances. Once I could not get the epidural, I was able to let go and surrender to the birth process. Less than 2 hours later, our daughter was born naturally. It was physically the hardest thing that I have done but definitely the most rewarding.
Dr. Rhea: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Katie: One of my favorite quotes:
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies with in us.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
My role as I see it with these women was first and foremost to create a positive, relaxing and encouraging environment for them to step into. We now know that thoughts dramatically affect our bodies, and the more that we focus on the powerful, the constructive, the positive, the more likely we will be to embody the outcomes that we hope to create. There is a powerful blend when someone is having their nervous system cleared through a chiropractic adjustment, the ligaments of the pelvis balanced through the Webster Technique to assist the baby to find the best positioning for the birth, and positive suggestions to steer the person’s thinking and imaging capacity towards that which they want to create.
I am in awe of the courage that these women and those like them and am grateful to have played a positive role in their experiences. If there is something that you want to achieve but past failure or fear is getting in your way- please reach out and construct a team of powerful people around you who can assist you to lift up and choose a new outcome for yourself.