Kally McConnell shares her glorious VBAC story, along with all the things she did differently from her first birth, how it all started with a literal bang when her bag of waters broke, and how there was no time for the tub. She also shares with Adriana the insights she gained about the difference between labor contractions, pushing contractions, and Pitocin-generated contractions.
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- Membrane sweeping for induction of labour, Cochrane
- Membrane Sweep, Cleveland Clinic
- Evidence on: Inducing for Due Dates, Evidence Based Birth
- Evidence on: Induction or Cesarean for a Big Baby, Evidence Based Birth
- VBAC Facts website
- The Business of Being Born website
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin
- Birthing from Within, by Pam England
- Birthing Normally After a Cesarean or Two, by Helene Vadeboncoeur
- Need a postpartum doula? Check here:
Related Birthful episodes:
- Do You Really Need to Stop Eating Sushi?
- Have an Easier Pregnancy (And Birth!) With Chiropractic Care
- Why Choosing the Right Care Provider Is Crucial For Your Pregnancy
- Eight Questions to Ask Your Care Provider (Especially in Your Second Trimester!)
- Know What You’re Up Against When Giving Birth at a Hospital
- All About Inductions
- The Induction Process
- VBAC Facts
- The Purpose of Childbirth Pain
- Is Homebirth for You?
- Will You Shower During Postpartum?
[Birth Stories] A Glorious Vaginal Birth After Cesarean
Adriana Lozada: Hello, Mighty One! I wanted to remind you that we are taking a break from our usual series until September, and so from now until then we’re going to be sharing with you some of our favorite birth stories that you probably haven’t heard yet!
Now, July 30th was VBAC Awareness Day, and as a nod to that, we are dusting off a glorious vaginal birth after cesarean story (which is what “VBAC” stands for), courtesy of Kally McConnell. Kally is mom to two fun kiddos— so she didn’t have any more kids since we talked— and the reason why I’m saying that will become clear at the end of the episode. Since her younger daughter’s birth, Kally’s become a certified postpartum doula, and she also has a video recap service to create a digital movie keepsake of your child’s first year, and the service is called Creative Care Services, and we’ve linked it in the show notes.
We originally published this story when Birthful was but a wee little podcast in 2017, and honestly we’re sort of going back to our roots when we only shared birth stories during the summer, because when we started we didn’t use to alternate between topical interviews and stories. We only shared stories during the summer, and the rest of the year it was only topical interviews, so when you hear me referencing our Birth Stories for the Summer series in the intro, that’s what that’s about.
Another couple of fun facts about this episode are that it has the old intro music, and also that I was really really excited because at that time we’d just reached half a million downloads. Fast forward to today and we just passed five-and-a-half million downloads!! How amazing is that! My gratitude for every single one of you is still immense, as I truly deeply appreciate that you are here listening and continually telling others about the show. So thank you again and enjoy this glorious VBAC story!
Adriana Lozada: Welcome to the Birthful Podcast. I’m Adriana Lozada and it’s time once again for our Birth Stories for the Summer series. Today, Kally McConnell is here to tell us about her VBAC story and the intentional preparation that made all the difference. Stay tuned. The Birthful Podcast, talking to maternity pros to inform your intuition.
Hello, Mighty Mamas and Mamas-to-be, and Mighty Dads and Dads-to-be! As always, I want to thank you so much for listening and for all the love you give the show. Mighty Ones, we just went over half a million downloads for the podcast! What? Yeah! And it’s all thanks to each and every one of you for listening and telling others about the show.
Now, how about we dream even bigger and get it up to a million? Keep listening, keep sharing, and consider subscribing and leaving a review because that’s how we get it in front of even more parents. Truly, from the bottom of my heart, a big, fat, heartfelt “thank you” to each one of you. Alright, let’s get to that birth story, shall we?
After last week’s episode with Jen Kamel on VBAC Facts, I couldn’t think of a better way to start our series than with a successful VBAC story. Kally McConnell is here to tell us about it. Kally, welcome to the show. I am so happy to have you here and can’t wait to hear all about your VBAC.
Kally McConnell: Thank you for having me on. I’m so excited. I feel like I’m talking to a celebrity! I’ve listened to your podcast my entire pregnancy.
Adriana: So I hope that we’re helpful.
Kally: Yes. Oh my gosh, yes! You very much led me on my way to a great, great birth.
Adriana: I love it! I love it. And I can’t wait to hear all about it. So, why don’t you start telling us a little bit about yourself?
I know we’re talking VBAC, which we’ll… There’s two stories that make the… you need two stories for a VBAC…
Kally: Exactly! exactly. I had to be driven down the path to my vaginal birth. So, my husband and I got married, was it four years ago? We found out the Tuesday after our wedding that we were pregnant with our first.
So, we were going to take a year and travel, but we were right into it. So we were pregnant with our first, and I can say that it wasn’t exactly the most thrilling news, especially since we were about to go on our honeymoon. So, I dealt with that. I was okay with not drinking margaritas. I finally kind of got through that.
I read all about pregnancy and, kind of, how to take care of myself, the kind of… I don’t know, I just kind of was in denial! I went to work every day. I was eating for two— maybe shouldn’t have anything for two, probably more like eating for 1.5, so my health definitely wasn’t as good as it could have been. And I just… I honestly was a little bit in denial.
So when it came time to talk about my birth at 41 weeks… Interestingly, my doctor, we never talked birth plan. We never talked anything like that. They’d always ask five questions, but I would just kind of like, “No, I think everything’s fine.” And then sure enough, get to 41 weeks and they’re like, “Well, let’s do a membrane sweep, okay?” I don’t know what that is… but let’s do that.
And then they’re going to give me the weekend, and if I didn’t have my water break, or I didn’t go into labor, they were going to induce me the following week. So, my water did break. Go into the hospital, rush in. They told us to go immediately. We needed to get right there. Immediately started me on Pitocin. The nurse tells me that I should really get the epidural right away, because there’s a big rush of women who came in, and if I don’t get it right away… that I might have to wait too long and I’m going to be in a ton of pain.
So I kind of was like, “Well, I was going to maybe try and wait, but I don’t really want to be in a lot of pain if you’re saying it’s going to get that bad. So, sure, I’ll do an epidural.” I don’t really know any different. So I got the epidural. They checked me right after that. I was at four centimeters. Fast forward eight hours. The baby was asynclitic, so she just wasn’t really in the right position. The doctor was like, “Well, I think we might have to talk c-section, but let’s try and push.”
She let me push for an hour— nothing really happened. She was like, “I think a c-section is our only option here.” So, we went ahead and we did the c-section. My daughter was born 5 a.m. the following day. And she was taken away from me immediately. I had had a high fever during labor, so they needed to give her antibiotics. And then they need to take me away— because I had gained so much weight and didn’t really take care of myself— to do an x-ray, because when they open you up and then they sew you back up, they need to make sure that nothing was left inside of you.
So I was waiting for an x-ray. She was off getting her antibiotics. I didn’t see her, hold her for three hours after she was born and my husband held her for maybe two minutes. They kind of showed her to me and then we were reunited three hours later. Luckily, breastfeeding started off great and we kind of got that going, but there was just… There was a real kind of lack of bonding. I just felt very disconnected with this baby that they’re handing me, throughout three hours later, was the baby that I grew for nine months. So, yeah, so it was crazy, and I didn’t really think about how, like, big that was while it was happening.
But now, looking back, it was like… It took us a while. We also had moved during my pregnancy, so I was in a new area, didn’t have a ton of support. Where we were, I’d moved from the city, I’d quit my job. So I just kind of had lost my little comfort zone. And then it was just me and this baby, who I didn’t feel totally connected to begin with.
So now, she’s three. And she’s my BFF and we’re good, but it took us a while. It took us a while.
Adriana: I mean, it does sound like there was a lot that went on with that. And a lot of… For somebody who started out kind of being surprised by the pregnancy and sort of in denial that it was happening […], lots of things happened during the delivery itself that seemed like… I don’t know. Did you feel, once you reunited with her, that “What just happened?”
Kally: Yeah, it was very surreal. I remember going… We had to stay at the hospital for a few days. They were like, “We’ll take her if you want, take her while you sleep.” I’m like, “Yes, take her! I want to sleep!”
And then when we got home, I had a couple of friends come over that night and I was just, like, sitting in my kitchen, like holding this kid, like, “This is so weird. What life is this?” Like, I just… It was very strange. It took us a while to get there, you know? It’s… and you think it’s just going to be this natural, beautiful, like, we’re staring into each other’s eyes, and it just wasn’t that for me. So I was like… that was kind of a disappointment as well. I thought something would maybe just click and it didn’t. And that’s fine. But, you know, it was different than expected.
Adriana: It’s a lot more hard work than you think! And there’s a lot… It’s a big transformation and I don’t think we kind of dwell so much into what the transformative nature of pregnancy and birth really is to our personalities, to our core definitions of who we are and then, and aside from what it does to our day-to-day lives.
Kally: Yeah. It’s so huge. I mean, it’s the biggest change that I’ve ever gone through, from “not mother” to “mother.” I mean, I can’t imagine anything being more vastly different.
Adriana: So fast forward to your second pregnancy, was that also a surprise?
Kally: No, we had been trying for eight months, and I’d mentioned to you at this point I had become a holistic nutritionist, so I kind of had gone from not educating myself to, like, “I’m going to read everything that there is to know!” So I’m reading about the best thing to eat for fertility, what not to eat. And it took us eight months to get pregnant. And it’s totally because I was stressed about it— like, I just feel like “I want this baby. I’m going to have my natural birth,” like “I’m going to have my VBAC.”
And I think all that pressure that I put on it just slowed things down a little bit. But we did get pregnant and I was like, “Alright, it’s on.” And I bought every single book that there is to read. I read Ina May Gaskin. I read Birthing from Within. I drew birth art, about my first pregnancy and then what I wanted my second pregnancy to be. I listened to every episode of Birthful podcast. I had my daily walks with my dog. I just… I’ve fully immersed myself in everything that is the birth world.
I watched The Business of Being Born. I went to a hypnotist who we helped visualize what my second birth would be like. Just kind of everything that I could do! And I was very lucky I should say that my husband took a six month sabbatical from work, so he was home for most of this. So I had a lot of time to do this. Most moms probably would not have had the time to, you know, read all these books and go on all these long peaceful podcast walks that I was able to do…
Adriana: Right, ’cause you had a little one at home.
Kally: Yeah, so she was two when all of this was going on, which is such a fun age, and it was, you know… We kinda got to co-parent, co-stay-at-home parents. I don’t know many people that get the opportunity to do that! And then all the same. I was able to focus on my pregnancy and staying healthy and active. And I went to a chiropractor, all that good stuff.
Adriana: That sounds super fun!
Kally: Yeah, it was. It was. So my husband said, deep down, “Oh my gosh, if she doesn’t have this VBAC, this is gonna… she’s going to implode, because she has spent so much time prepping for it.”
Adriana: So, did you do anything specifically VBAC-related in your preparation?
Kally: There was… I wish I remembered the name, there was a book I read about VBAC.
It was like How to Have a Vaginal Birth After a C-section… or Two. It was, like, some German book that was translated to English, and it was more just educational— just kind of really kind of warning you what the system (the hospital system, the healthcare industry) is going to want to do when you have, like, you’re having a VBAC, because they’re going to be nervous about it. And so, like, to know your stuff and to talk to your doctor.
And I was very lucky, in between pregnancies I had switched to a different practice. So I was now with a midwife practice who was, like, one of two in my area that is very supportive of the VBAC. So I was lucky that I kind of already had that support. And they were very great and kind of talking me through everything. And my doctor— who would be the doctor who would perform a c-section if it was necessary— was like, “I don’t even think we’re going to have to worry about it. I think you’re going to be fine.” So just everyone just kind of around me had a good positive attitude about it.
I also had a doula, who was amazing and she had had a VBAC. So she was kind of there for me to bounce any concerns off of, which was great.
Adriana: So, yeah, so very different ways of going into the second birth from the first one, right. Right? Yeah. So, okay… How did you know that you were in labor? Let’s go to the birth story. How did it start?
Kally: Yeah. So, it’s funny, because actually I went into labor on a Monday morning. The Thursday and Friday before I had the stomach flu, which I thought was labor. So I made my husband call out of work both days thinking that, like, this was the beginning of labor. And my… unfortunately my daughter threw up as well, so it’s like, “Oh, okay, we’re sick. This is not labor.” So on Monday morning at 4:30 a.m. I felt this big, like, pop (almost like a punch in my gut). And I was like, “That was weird.” I was like, “Oh, I wish my… I hope my water didn’t break, ’cause that would be maybe not the best way to start this whole thing.” And I’m like, “It didn’t. That was probably just a really big kick,” like “I’m just going to go back to bed.”
And then I was like, “Oh, am I peeing my pants or did my water break?” So I get up and I’m so nervous, because I don’t want to wake up my husband, who leaves for work at 5:00, and tell him that he’s got to stay home again. Like, he’s gonna kill me if this is a false alarm!
So I was like, “Okay…” and he just started a new job, I should say, so he was already a little bit stressed to need to call out two days in a row and then for nothing. For… not for nothing, but wasn’t a baby. And so I called my doctor and she’s like (the midwife)… and she was like, “Well, it could be your water breaking,” or I don’t even know what she said it could have been.
And she’s like, “But let’s just wait and see. If you start contractions, you know, give us a call, let us know. And if they are, I would say as long as they’re five minutes apart,” I think they had the 5 1 1 rule, five minutes apart, for a minute, lasting a minute, for an hour, “and then, like, then we’ll be concerned about it,” which I thought was interesting.
I thought they might want me there sooner, especially since it was a VBAC, but like, okay, well, you know. I called my doula. She told me to take a bath. So I took a bath and pretty much stayed in the bath for four hours. And I called my husband on the phone from the bath and was like, “By the way, I think contractions just started. So, sorry, you’ve got to call it work again,” but he was great.
He… I don’t know why I thought he was going to be mad about his baby coming. But, he called my mom then, so my mom could come over and be ready with… to babysit once we were ready to go. And everything I’d kind of read about the VBAC, if you’re going to go to a hospital— which, we were having a hospital birth— was “stay at home as long as possible.” So I think I may have pushed it a little bit too far on that one. I want to say my contractions were probably more like four (3 ½-4) minutes long before we started kind of got our butts in gear to get to the hospital.
So my mom was downstairs. I’m, you know, loading up the baby monitor for her, like, making my daughter lunch, and my mom’s like, “I think that you’re… like, you’re having to stop doing all these things to have contractions. I think you should be worried about your other child. Like, I can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Why don’t you guys get in the car?”
Adriana: Wise words of the mama!
Kally: I know! I’m looking back, like, her and my husband, like, I could see them looking at me kind of like, “She’s insane!” like, “What is she doing?” But, like, knowing how I am and how kind of this was my little event, how much I had planned for it, they were kind of just letting me be the crazy person and gently reminding me that maybe I should get out the door. So my husband and I finally got in the car and—
Adriana: What time is this that you’re going?
Kally: This is at 8:30.
Adriana: 8:30 at night?
Kally: No, 8:30 in the morning.
Adriana: So, you’re right. Because your water broke at—
Kally: 4:30 a.m.
Adriana: 4:30 a.m. when you heard the pop, right, when that happened? And I want to interject because, in a way, the first time around, it kind of also started with your water breaking!
Kally: Right! Right after the sweeps. And they were very nervous. They were like, “Get in here! We don’t want your, like… water to, like, you know, drain out, or whatever you would say.” Like, they wanted me in ASAP and this doctor, or this midwife, is very different. She’s like, “Let’s wait. Let it progress. See what happens. Give it some time.”
‘Cause with my first, they put me on Pitocin immediately, immediately. And I didn’t even know what Pitocin was. So we had not discussed that. And it was just, like, the nurses, like “This is what your doctor wanted you to do.” I’m like, “Oh, great!” I thought that’s just what everybody did.
Adriana: Well, and also, how far along were you for your second birth?
Kally: Yeah, I should mention that I was not even… I was going to be 39 weeks the next day, right? So it was early, and everyone kind of told me, “If you’re… if you go late, you’ll probably go late again,” so I was in no way prepared for that.
I was supposed to babysit my cousin’s daughter while she was at a work conference that day. I had to text her at like 5 a.m. being like, “So… my water broke. Hurry!” I was not, yeah, definitely not thinking it was going to happen so early.
Adriana: And so maybe also the difference in attitude might have been… because it seemed from what you’re saying, on the first birth, like, you were 41 weeks, but they were really trying to urge it along to get things moving—
Adriana: —and I don’t know if there was stress about the 41 week mark or what, you know, it might be because… it’s ’cause your water’s not gonna run out, you make more. So it seems more like they just wanted to get you in there and get things going.
Kally: It was. And I don’t wanna wish or think that people would make decisions for this reason— but I have heard that it’s a thing— it was a holiday weekend, it was Memorial Day weekend and it was beautiful out.
My husband and I both said after, even before we knew everything, it felt like they just wanted to rush us through this process. Like, they just wanted to get this baby out and they were not like… kind of we were disregarded as, like, this was our kind of journey into parenthood.
Adriana: Yeah, which is even the sense that I’m getting from what you’re telling me.
Kally: Right? I remember telling the story to my doula when I interviewed her and I’m now at the point that I don’t cry, but it’s like… I cried every time I talked about it, because it was just like… I just felt it was not, like, this personal experience. It was like we were just cogs in the wheel of the hospital, so—
Adriana: It sucks. It shouldn’t be. It does.
Kally: I know. It did suck. And… but the next time around it was so refreshing because the doctors I worked with, the doula, just every… It’s like the good people are out there, like, the ones who are really supportive of the process and the people and, you know, concerned about everybody involved. Like, they are out there, you just… you have to find them.
Adriana: Which goes back to that, you know, the importance of finding the proper team to support your wishes and the difference. Yeah, I’m so glad you found a team of people who were VBAC-supportive— not just VBAC-tolerant, even.
Kally: Totally, totally. Yeah. I designed that paperwork for the VBAC, and I’m just saying, I recognize it’s just kind of a legal thing, like, “I recognize that I am putting my child at risk because of the chance of uterine rupture,” and the doctor rolled his eyes. He’s like, “Sorry, you gotta sign it.” The practice that they are under makes them do this whole legal thing. He’s like, “It’s B.S. Don’t worry about it.”
Adriana: Yeah, how comforting, though, like, right? Instead of stressing you out about it. Yeah, right. Yeah, yeah. So, alright. Sorry for the interruption! It’s 8:30 in the morning. You are going into the hospital.
Kally: Yeah, I also just remembered something that I think it helped me with the VBAC is that when my water broke, I kind of looked at myself in the mirror and was like, “Okay, like, this wasn’t how we thought it was gonna go, like, so far, but like, whatever happens, happens. You prepped and you’ve done everything you can do, and now you just have to trust in the universe and that you and your little baby can do this together.”
At that point, like, we’re headed to the hospital, like “Here we go.” You know, we’re gonna do everything we can. We’ve got the team in place. But if I did end up with the c-section, I was like… I told myself not to beat myself up, because I didn’t want It to be a disappointment. I didn’t want it to feel like a failure if it didn’t work out, and I think that kind of mindset, just, like, setting myself there and was a good place for me to kind of start the hospital process.
Adriana: Absolutely. And you know, actually what… Before we get to the hospital process and you tell us the rest of the story, we’re gonna take a break, and we will be right back…
…And we’re back, talking to Kally about her VBAC experience. And so we’re kind of in the midst of her experience where you’re going from home and everybody’s kind of going like, “Oh, it might be time to go.”
And contractions are every three to four minutes and you are on your way to the hospital. So then what happens?
Kally: So the hospital is about 30 minutes from us. I did have a little bit of a drive to go to this practice compared to other doctors that were in the area. But the doctor that I chose was a little further away. So my husband was a little bit… I think that’s part of the reason he was panicked, was because he’s like, “Alright, 30 minutes is a long time, and it seems like this, things are really moving along here.”
So, he was so panicked that he got lost. We had made the drive before, but he, like, made, like, a few wrong turns, and he just sometimes was listening to the GPS, and sometimes wasn’t, because he thought he knew where he was. I was fully reclined in the passenger seat being like, “It’s okay. Calm down.”
Like me being the one calming him as I’m like breathing through these distractions and it’s so funny, the car is the only time that he was nervous throughout the whole thing. I think it was just, like, the part that he was in charge of and he kind of freaked out a little bit, which was funny. But we got there, we got in the parking garage.
I had to take a couple breaks, lean on a couple stranger’s cars during contractions. And it was funny— when we finally got in the elevator to go up to Labor and Delivery, someone was there bringing balloons to one of their family members who just had a baby, and they’re like, “You seem really calm.”
And I was like… that blew me away. I was like, “I do not feel like I’m calm at all, but thank you.” Like, thank you, I’ll take that one! So we get in there, and we’re filling out the paperwork and I kind of had to take a break. For contractions as well, my doula walked in, she had already been there, but she was looking around for us thinking we had maybe gotten lost because she was expecting us sooner because of how fast things were moving along.
But she was amazing. She stepped right in as I was filling out my paperwork. She started rubbing my back, to kind of help ease the pressure. And it was funny when she walked away for a minute and my husband was like, should I tell her to not do that? Because when he had started rubbing my back at home, I was like, “Back off!” like, “I’m okay!” like, “No, no, no. The doula? She’s got magic hands. She can rub my back. Just not you.” But I just… something about the way she did it, it felt good.
So we got into the delivery room and it’s funny, I had created all that birth art. I had packed my essential oils. I had packed honey sticks and Laborade and all this crazy stuff to help me get through this labor.
And they were at, you know, the doula asked if she wanted me to run the essential oils. I was like, “No!” My husband’s like, “Should I put on one of your birthing playlists?” “No! I just… no, nothing.” And they said, looking back, that I had my eyes closed. The entire time I was in the room, I never opened my eyes— except to fill out a couple more pieces of paperwork I had to fill out. So the nurse comes in, she finishes checking me in and she checks me. She’s like, “Okay, you’re about six centimeters. Where’s your midwife?” And I was like, “She’s on the way. We called her on the way to the hospital, or right before we left, and she’s gonna meet us here.” She’s like, “Alright, she better get here quick!”
I was like, “Okay, six centimeters, that’s pretty good. We got some time.” So, this hospital, they did require continuous fetal monitoring because I was a VBAC. But they had, like, some kind of new technology that was supposedly really non-invasive, that was waterproof and wireless, so you could be in the tub and the shower, and it wasn’t… it’s pretty reliable, so it wouldn’t be non-invasi— or it wouldn’t be very invasive. The doctors had kind of assured me that it wouldn’t screw with me, because everything, some of the things I had read is like the continuous fetal monitoring can kind of cause people to be on edge and add more stress to a situation that doesn’t need to be stressful. But it was necessary at this hospital.
So I agreed. So they got just like the standard fetal monitor on me. And my doula asked the nurse to order one of the wireless ones, so they could hook me up so I could either get in the shower or get in the bath. And in the meantime, the midwife gets there and she’s like, “Alright, let’s check you out. Let’s see where you are.” So she checks me. She’s like, “Okay!” And the doula’s like, “Well, we’ve got the monitor on the way, I think, and we’re gonna get her in the shower.” And my midwife was like, “I don’t know about that.” And she’s like, “Maybe we can get the birthing ball?”
And Julia was like— or the midwife was like— “Yeah, maybe. Sure.” And I was like, “Well, how dilated am I?” She was like, “You’re pretty much complete.” I was like, “What?!” I had no idea. And I was like, “I felt like I was six centimeters 30 minutes before!” The nurse comes back and she’s like, “Oh yeah, you were 8 ½-9 centimeters, I just didn’t want you to panic that your midwife wasn’t here.”
Adriana: What!? C’mon nurse!
Kally: I was like, “Well, that would have been good information to know but… alright.” I mean I’m gonna take almost ten centimeters. So they did bring in a ball really quick. I kind of leaned over the hospital bed on the ball. Contractions were… they were kind of… they weren’t terrible. It’s interesting! Like, I don’t know, I was expecting it to be way worse. And I think everyone had told me, because I’d only had Pitocin contractions previously, that they just, like, hit you so hard out of nowhere that it just […] seemed way more intense and unbearable. And I think maybe because I just was kind of eased into contractions the second time around, I never really got to a point where I was like, “I can’t do this anymore!” So I… People have since told me they are so impressed that I never had to have an epidural. I’m like, “I feel like anybody/everybody can do it.” I mean, granted, I had a pretty… I got there pretty quick, so!
Adriana: No, but still, I mean […] the same things need to happen. It needs to be— whether it’s condensed or not— you still get the intensity required.
Adriana: Now, I have a question, since you mentioned the difference between the Pitocin contractions and regular contractions. They were different in intensity. Were they different in any other way, like the quality of it?
Kally: Yeah, I, well… I was also… I got the epidural fairly early. I was only at four centimeters when I got the epidural.
Adriana: Right, but you were feeling those contractions way more intense than your transition contractions without it?
Kally: Right, yeah. I think I was scared. I think the nurse scared me as soon as we got in telling me that I should get the epidural. It felt… I think I was tense too. I think I was more tense about them. Like I just… because they came out of nowhere. It wasn’t this natural progression. I mean, it was just a totally different experience.
I feel like also just reading about contractions and what they’re actually doing. The birth art I created, I actually had this little, like, circle, where it starts with one centimeter and then there’s a two centimeter circle around it and a three… So it’s just kind of, like, seeing, like, visualizing your cervix opening up and all that. So just kind of knowing how necessary they were was super helpful, instead of just feeling like I have this overwhelming pain and not really understanding what it’s actually doing.
Kally: And that was… Just being educated on what was going on, I think, was a huge difference maker as well. And I felt way— I should also mention— I felt way more connected to my baby this time. Like, we talked. Like, she and I would have, like, a pep talk, like, “Alright, girl, we can do this. You and me, teammates.” And then the whole, kind of, the whole time through, I felt like she and I were doing it together. Like, my water broke, I’m like, “Alright, you’re ready to come?” like “We’re going to do this together, little one!” Yeah.
Kally: I think that made a big difference too, feeling like she was a part of the team we created.
Adriana: Well, and that’s it. It’s such a perception, such a subjective perception, of what… the contractions are different for everybody and every situation, but I think it’s important for everyone to remember that they’re not… that perception has a lot to do in how you feel them and how intense they are.
Kally: Totally. And pain with a purpose, I feel like I’m okay with. Just pain for no reason sucks. But pain with a purpose, like, moving us along here? Let’s do it.
Adriana: Love it!
Kally: Yeah. So let’s see, ten centimeters, I’m leaning over the birth ball on the hospital bed and all of a sudden I have two contractions that are just… they were just very different, like all of a sudden they were super, super intense and just more full body, I guess, than previous ones.
And at the end or the start of the third one, I, like, just yelled out […] “I want to push! I want to push now!” So, my doula very calmly rings the nurse. She’s like, “She’s feeling pushy. I think we need to call Beth back in now.” She had such an amazing, calming presence that my husband said that if he’d been in the room with me when that happened, he would have been running, screaming into the halls, like “Get somebody in here now!”
She just calmly rings the button. And so my midwife comes in. She said, “Why don’t we start on your back,” which I had never envisioned I’d be laying in a hospital bed. It’s just everything that I had looked at and researched and read, you know, on your back isn’t really the most natural place to have a baby.
But when she said it, it felt right. So, I started on my back. The midwife and the doula actually, it’s funny because they— I didn’t know this until after— are really good friends, like they go and grab drinks together. So they were like a really good team. They did not kind of clue me into that prior. When I told my midwife I had hired Nikki, or the doula, she’s like, “Oh, great. She’s, yeah, she’s great to work with.” Little did I know that they’re, like, best friends. So they were a great team in kind of telling me when to push, how to push. So they would have me hold my breath while I was pushing. And then at the end of the contraction, blow it out, like I was blowing out a candle. I’ll always remember them saying that!
And Beth, the midwife, had a rag that had mineral oil and something else on it to kind of help me prevent tearing, the whole time I was pushing. And it took about 45 minutes of pushing, and it… again, it hurt, but I think… I forget who it was you interviewed, it was like “One minute: You can do anything for one minute.”
So I was just pushing, and I had my eyes closed, actually. I was picturing myself… I ran a half marathon like two years ago, so I pictured myself running a half marathon, which is something I never thought I’d be able to do. And I pictured my grandma who had 11 children naturally. And every time I pushed, I closed— like I wouldn’t squeeze my eyes really tight— and pictured myself running the marathon, half marathon, and picturing my grandma, like, “Okay,” like “I can do it.” And like, “I come from strong women who can do it.”
So we got her out in 45 minutes, we actually didn’t know if she was a boy or a girl. But it’s so funny when she finally popped right out, I didn’t even care. I was just like… They put her on me immediately, skin-to-skin. And I was just crying. I told my husband— I, like, looked at him— I’m like, “I knew I could do it!”
And he was like, “I knew you could do it, too.” Sorry, I’m getting emotional!
Adriana: It’s beautiful though!
Kally: Yeah, it really was. Yeah. So all that work and all that prep and she was there and she was amazing. And I didn’t care if she was a boy or a girl. My husband thought she was a boy because of the umbilical cord, ’cause he just had never really seen the birth before the first time. They’re like, “Is it a boy or a girl? Is it a boy or a girl?” And he’s like, “How do these people not know that that is clearly a boy?” Umbilical cord! Ah, yeah. But she was there and she was perfect. It was awesome.
Adriana: And so she was directly on your chest. And did you guys have any separation at all this time?
Kally: Oh, none. The nurse who was so great. And when I actually was working with the hypnotist, which is so funny that I did that. She was like— ’cause I told her about my anxiety about the hospital— she’s like, “We’re going to envision these beautiful hospital workers who are going to help you along your journey and be super supportive of your choices and everything you want to do.”
And it’s like, this woman was like exactly that. She didn’t make me sign the consent for the c-section because she knew I wasn’t going to need it. She’d let me hold her for as long as I can. The doula helped me get breastfeeding going. She’s like, “We don’t need to take her measurements for a while.”
So I want to say she was on me for maybe an hour until they finally took her and did her measurements and all that good stuff. So, it was awesome. It was like the best hour of my life.
Adriana: Aww, I’m so happy that you had the experience that you wanted to have. And how much effort you put into it, compared to the first time around for whatever circumstances, right? And that you could actually see and feel and have that sense of accomplishment, of that you could do it like you saying “I knew I could do it!” Like that’s a whole different place from which to start your mothering journey.
Kally: Absolutely! And even though mothering two is obviously harder than one, I just… I have gone into this with such… I’ve told my husband that I have such a different sense of confidence. Like, if I was able to do that, like, I set my mind to it and then did it, like, “Okay, I can set my mind to getting these two little girls into the car, into the grocery store on my own.” I feel like it just kind of set me on a better path into mothering two. So it’s just… it was completely different.
Where the first one, I was questioning like, “Okay, I wasn’t able to do that part,” right? I wasn’t able to have the vaginal birth. I wasn’t able, you know, to kind of do this on my own. And second time around? So different. I also want to mention that I did a postpartum doula and it was amazing, that everyone should do that as well.
Kally: She was great. If I think I had had that the first time around, things would have been very different, even if I still had had a c-section. Just having kind of a supportive woman there, who’d been there, and kind of can just be a sounding board, made a huge difference.
Adriana: Absolutely! And so tell me a little bit more about that postpartum doula experience, because that’s something that I don’t think it’s talked about enough and not a lot of women get postpartum doula, yeah. Since you did get one, what was she helpful with? What did she do?
Kally: Yeah, it’s… I learned about it again from the Birthful podcast, and it just makes so much sense to me. Like it is such… you know, other cultures, I have my sister-in-law who is Chinese. When she had her son she had a year of paid maternity leave. Her mother came and lived with her. They have someone to clean her house every single day. It’s just… Over here, it’s just, “Alright, leaving in the hospital, good luck!” Hopefully, you know, someone will be there to cook you a meal or two.
So my doula got me in touch with the postpartum doula, ’cause I just asked her if she knew of anybody. And I called her, she lived five minutes from me, and my husband had had two weeks off of paternity leave. So I’d asked her, you know, if she just wouldn’t maybe mind coming three days a week, like, the first week that he was gone. And then we kind of just see how it went.
And it was just so nice. It was just so relaxing. She came over for just three hours, but she loaded and unloaded my dishwasher. She read stories to my three year old while I was breastfeeding. She folded my laundry. She, when I put my three year old down for her nap, she held the baby so that I could kind of have some, you know, special time with her, we could read stories. And then while the three year old napped, I was able to nap for just, you know, as long as she could hold the baby off until she needed to eat again. It was just so nice. And we only did it six times, I would say. So she came for three times for one week, and then two times the next week, and then just one time the following week.
But it really just kind of eased me back into real life. And it was amazing. It really was. And she was great too.
Adriana: I really like how you spaced it out so that it was a slow, gradual—
Kally: Right! ‘Cause it’s money that is spent and it’s not an affordable choice for everyone. So having her come every day for the full day wasn’t really possible. But just having her kind of come and, yeah, gradually taper off and she’s… When she left last time, she’s like, “I’m setting you free. You can do it.” Like, “Thanks! I think I can!” but every once in a while when I’m having a stressful day, I’m like, “Maybe I’m going to call Meg, see if she wants to pop back over for a little bit.” But we’ve been back—
Adriana: Yeah, no. And I, you know, and that’s a great point that you make that you don’t need to have a postpartum doula all day, every day there for you, that it is just having even… like, coming once a week for three hours, that that already makes a big difference.
Kally: Totally. And I, my two month old, I think because we created such a strong connection, she doesn’t like to be put down. So, I love it most of the time, but it was nice in that beginning part, like, just kind of having some freedom, feeling like I had my arms back just for a couple hours for those days. So, it was big. It was big. It made a big difference.
Adriana: Very super cool. So for the listeners, I think we did a good job covering this whole experience. Is there anything that you’d like to make sure people knew? You can make it feedback specific or, you know—
Kally: Yeah, I mean, for the feedback thing, I just think if you are going to do it, commit to it and just tell yourself that you can, but do have that moment for yourself where it’s like, “Okay, I’ve done everything. I’ve tried my hardest. I’ve put the team of people in place, whatever happens, it’s fine.” Like I don’t… I would never want anyone to beat themselves up, but I… If you try, like, oh gosh, it’s so amazing. It’s so amazing!
Adriana: Yeah! I’m so happy that this was your experience and I’m very grateful of you coming on the show today to tell us all about it.
Kally: And I wanted to tell you, I’m going to call you back if I have a third baby, because I’m definitely doing the homebirth. We’re gonna go from c-section to hospital VBAC, homebirth next— try, at least. I already told my husband and he’s like, “Great! I can’t wait!”
Adriana: Well, and you know what? And it’s not the place of birth that makes it scary and makes it complicated or risky.
Kally: I absolutely could have done the second birth at home. It would have been just as safe and wonderful. So—
Adriana: Complications happen in one place or the other. It’s more like that transfer situation and how the system works with the structure. So I have no doubt that with your determination that you put into the second birth that if, you know… do you set up your systems and make it all in such a way that you’ve got all your contingencies set up, that you can have a beautiful birth. And then you’re not having to worry about, like “When do we go to the hospital?” and “Is it time? Is it not time? Are we staying home long enough?”
Kally: Totally! And you could sleep in your own bed that night, because hospital beds are the worst.
Adriana: Well, you call me and we’ll do that story too whenever that happens.
Kally: I will! I will. I’ll keep you posted.
Adriana: Fantastic. Thank you so much, Kally!
Kally: Thank you so much! It’s been a pleasure.
Adriana: Mighty Ones, I love to hear from you, so share with me your thoughts, and if there’s a certain topic you’d like to know more about, let me know!
Go to birthful.com where you can learn more about me, the show, Patreon member benefits, send me messages, and more. This episode was produced by me and made possible by you. The title song for this podcast is Vive Ace by Kevin MacLeod, and the sponsorship song is Air Hockey Saloon by Chris Zabriskie. Find them both at freemusicarchive.org.
I’m Adriana Lozada, please join me next week here at The Birthful Podcast. Thanks so much for listening.
Lozada, Adriana, host. “[Birth Stories] A Glorious Vaginal Birth After Cesarean.” Birthful, Birthful. August 2, 2023. Birthful.com.
About Kally McConnell
Kally McConnell, is first and foremost, a stay-at-home mom to two kiddos, Mackenzie and Brynn. She can’t believe how old (and fun!) they’re getting! In the years since Brynn’s birth, Kally has become a Certified Postpartum Doula via Cornerstone Birthwork Training. Life has caused her to pivot a little, and she recently launched Creative Care Services, a video recap service where she collects pictures, videos, and audio from the first year of your child’s life and creates a beautiful digital movie keepsake for your family to treasure forever. She also offers free or pay-what-you-can postpartum care services when she can. All proceeds from her work is given to organizations and birthworkers who support BIPOC parents. Kally is a firm believer that if parents can feel supported in their birth and postpartum time, then the world would be a much more beautiful place (that’s why she loves Birthful so much)!
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