Margot Strauhull brought her self-described “rule-following” attitude to her first hospital induction with an OB and had what she considered was a fine birth… until she was overcome by sadness in postpartum. This started her on a journey of peeling back the layers, to finally come to a deep trust in her own wisdom and instincts.
Margot tells Adriana how the fear radiating from her providers around her “history of macrosomal infants” further activated her intuition to switch to a freestanding birth center at the beginning of her 3rd trimester, and finally have the undisturbed physiological birth she wanted.
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- Induction of labour for big babies handout, Cochrane
- Evidence on: Induction or Cesarean for a Big Baby, Evidence Based Birth
- Evidence on: Suspected Big Babies handout, Evidence Based Birth
- Macrosomia – 5 Myths About Big Babies and Birth, BellyBelly
- Big Babies: the risk of care provider fear, Midwife Thinking
- Shoulder Dystocia: the real story, Midwife Thinking
- The UpToDate website, a database to assist in evidence-based practice
- What is the Abdominal Lift and Tuck? Spinning Babies
- Anterior placenta, by Spinning Babies
- The Red/Purple Line: An Alternate Method For Assessing Cervical Dilation Using Visual Cues, Lamaze
- The Yoga Way to Birth website, including the book Labor Love and Liberation, by Tina Lilly
- Tami Lynn Kent’s website (including information on Holistic Pelvic Care™ for Providers)
- Check out the gorgeous freestanding birth center where Margot welcomed her third baby, via Alma Midwifery
- Head’s up, Portland locals: the Hypnobirthing classes Margot took
- One Strong Mama, based on the Body Ready Method® (check out the Learning Center on their website)
Related Birthful episodes:
- Why Do Prenatal Yoga?
- Big Babies and Shoulder Dystocia
- Gestational Diabetes Explained
- The Induction Process
- How to Time Your Pain Relief Options
- Straight Talk about the Effects of Electronic Fetal Monitoring on You and Your Baby
- Diastasis and Tummy Fitness
- What’s HypnoBirthing, Anyway?
- Rethinking the Pushing Stage
- Baby’s Position and Labor Flow
- How Your Baby Helps During the Birth Process
- How to Birth Like a Rock Star
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[Birth Stories] Unlocking Her Dream Birth by Valuing Her Intuition (And Switching Care Providers!)
Adriana Lozada: Hello, hello, hello, Mighty Parents and Parents-To-Be! Welcome to Birthful. I’m still Adriana Lozada and today’s birth stories for our Care Providers series come courtesy of Margot Strauhull, who shares her three evolving birth stories, and how each transformation led her toward a deeper understanding of herself and her instincts.
I also want to let you know that Margot’s baby also had lots to share! So yes, there will be cute baby sounds and hand-sucking sounds throughout the show… and why wouldn’t there be? Margot has a newborn! I think that if there’s a show where it’s okay to have babies commenting on their stories, it’s gotta be this one.
And honestly, I’m here for it.
I mean, I could get on a whole soapbox about how our societal and institutional tendencies to exclude children from “professional” or communal spaces are yet another way we ostracize primary caregivers, and how we need to stop that. Like, wouldn’t it be nice if when there was a tired child crying on a plane or a store, that family would receive the help of many hands instead of the shaming looks?
So yes, Margot and her baby boy will be sharing her stories, which start with a hospital induction with an OB, followed by another induction managed by midwives, and finally the undisturbed physiological birth she had been hoping for, despite all the fear mongering about the size of her babies.
You’re listening to Birthful. Here to inform your intuition.
Adriana: Welcome Margot. I’m so excited to have you here today to hear your stories.
Margot Strauhull: Great! I’m so happy to be here, too.
Adriana: So, let’s get right to it, ‘cause you have three stories— so I’m gonna see how we gonna finagle this in the show! Let’s rewind it back to when you were pregnant with your first: What were your thoughts about birth, and hopes and wishes for that first birth?
Margot: So, y’know, I had just finished graduate school. I had finished my master’s in social work and I had spent that last year doing an internship at our local health sciences university medical school, working in the Center for Women’s Health— actually working with pregnant women around perinatal mood disorders.
And, of course, y’know, in Portland (where I’m from), the current kind of ideas around birth are all very much towards natural physiological birth. So I was like, “I’m gonna have a natural physiological birth.” That summer after I graduated, we went to Europe, and we like to say that we brought home the best European souvenir that there was, which was our pregnancy, our son!
Adriana: Nice. Yeah, yeah!
Margot: So, y’know, I was pretty shocked to find out that I was pregnant right away! And I called just my general practitioner, and was like, “Okay, what do I do now?” And she said, “Well, here’s this OB practice that we refer people to….” So I was referred to an OB for medical care and just didn’t really question it, but I was pretty nervous and anxious— and I’m kind of a rule follower, so I just went with it.
My OB was lovely, and even though I was pretty nervous and anxious, y’know, she didn’t really feed into that at all. But she also didn’t really do much to, like, soothe my anxieties. And like I said— okay, I’m a rule follower— so, like, we have to take all these classes. And so at the hospital where we were planning to birth, we took a childbirth class, we took a breastfeeding class, we took a newborn infant care class.
And in addition to that, I was also a yoga instructor already and there was a course in Portland called “The Yoga Way to Birth.” And I was like, “Oh yeah, that sounds like… That looks like something I need.” And so my husband and I also took The Yoga Way to Birth class, which was a really lovely compliment to all of the other stuff I was doing because it was a much more experiential-based childbirth preparation class. I remember being in that class and one of the activities that the instructor had us do was she gave us an envelope with all of these different words in terms of what birth could hold— y’know, so it was like [inaudible] contraction, ring of fire, like, five centimeters dilated, 80% of effaced— and we had to put them in order in the order that we thought they would come in births.
And I was really waiting for the instructor to come around and be like, “A+, Margot, you got this all right, they’re all in the right order,” that was not the point of the exercise.
Adriana: It’s not a test!
Margot: It was really to understand that birth is not gonna be a linear experience, and I think that preparation really helped lay a great framework for the birth, and actually led me to feel quite satisfied with our birth experience the first time around.
So that birth, y’know, at 40 weeks I had like a membrane sweep and I wasn’t very dilated. And, like, the next day I was out with my mom for a brunch and we walked into a shop and I, like, squatted down and I felt, like, a little… A small little pop and, like, a little trickle.
Margot: …that seems different. And, like, there was something different in my underwear. So we ended up calling the advice line and they said, “Well, y’know, it could be a small leak, so why don’t you go ahead and come in and we’ll do a ferning test and see if that is amniotic fluid?”
They did the ferning tests— they said it was, in fact, amniotic fluid. And they said, y’know, “You can stay, or we could send you home.” And they were planning to induce me at 41 weeks anyways, and so we were like, “Well, we’re gonna do it anyways in a few days, so why not just do it now?”
So they started with a cervical ripener; Cervidil is what they used in the hospital. [Margot’s baby sneezes.] (Bless you, baby!) So that was, like, around midnight or so by the time that finally happened and pretty shortly after they inserted the Cervidil, I started feeling contractions. And it made me really nauseous. And, I’ll also never forget, y’know, when we first were kind of checking in and making our plan, like, “Are we gonna induce? Are we not?” One of the OBs from our practice came in— and I had never met him before— but all I remember is he had a mustache and cowboy boots and he was like, “Tell me, what’s your plan for pain management?” And I was like, “Well, y’know, I’m intending to have a natural physiological birth.” And he goes, “I wouldn’t recommend that!”
Margot: I was like, “Oh, okay. Thanks for your opinion.”
Adriana: Are you the one birthing? Sorry, I’ll stop my snark.
Margot: No, that’s certainly how I felt. And we had a doula— we had a really lovely doula that we were working with too. And we did the, sort of, cervical ripener overnight and I got to about three centimeters with that. And then they’re like, “Okay, next step is Pitocin.” And I was like, “Okay.” Y’know, I didn’t really wanna do that. And I was pretty nervous, but they were like, “We’ll do a really gradual increase on the Pitocin. We’ll take our time.” I was like, “Alright, great.” So they did Pitocin. And as contractions were starting to intensify, my inclination was, like, curl up in the fetal position on the bed and just, like, cry. But my doula was like, “Well, y’know, do that for a while, rest if you need to… but maybe let’s try and get on the ball and let’s move around and, y’know, sway your hips.” And, as a yoga instructor, everyone was like, “Oh, you’re a yoga teacher. Your birth is gonna be so easy!” which was a little bit to my disadvantage.
Adriana: Right?! No pressure…
Margot: “No pressure.” And I had sort of, like, likened it in my head to running a marathon. I’d run a marathon, like, three years prior and I was like, “Okay, this dilation is like the mile markers on the path to…” wasn’t really fully comprehending, anyways. The birthing is not always that linear! So I went ahead and was moving around. I got in the tub and I felt amazing, but my labor, like, stopped, essentially. So we had to get out of the tub and they’re like, “Oh, okay, we’re gonna increase the Pitocin.”
And they did decide to break my water and it was, like, a huge gush, y’know? And that was when my husband said, y’know, “We entered the ninth circle of hell,” ‘cause I really think baby just, like, came down hard on my cervix, and it was so intense, so quickly.
I ended up trying some Fentanyl a couple times. It didn’t really do much. And then we went back to the tub and I was like, “Okay, I’m exhausted.” We were like close to 20 hours into the labor. But I’d been awake for over 36 hours and I was in the tub and I was like, “I feel like people aren’t listening when I say ‘I want the epidural.’ I really want the epidural.”
Adriana: Right, right.
At that point, like— and I wanna interrupt you for a second— that you say they broke your water even though your water had already broken. And I think that’s a really good, great point to make that, y’know, it’s a big sack, so it can, like, break in one part with a little trickle but then you get, like, this bulging little ball that can come ahead of the baby’s head out of the cervix into your vagina.
So if that’s a big bulging bag of waters breaking that can, y’know, have this super gush, that then the head stops like a cork when it comes down.
Adriana: Yeah, so I tried to paint that picture!
Margot: Exactly, yes. Yes. Thank you for helping to paint that, because that’s what it felt like for sure.
And y’know, the nurse— in this hospital experience— the nurse was very involved. She was doing cervical checks. She was, like, much more hands-on than in my other birth experiences. That was, like, the nurse that was on-call to our room— was, like, there all the time. The OB really just kind of came and go, went. So I got the epidural…
Adriana: So you were heard…!
Margot: Yeah, and it was amazing. And I took a nap. My husband took a nap. We all rested. And then my— after we rested— my doula was like, “Well, can you move around a little bit?” So I was able to move around on the bed. So I was able to get up, like, on all fours and move the back of the hospital bed up so I could kind of, like, drape myself over the back of the hospital bed and be in a more upright position. And I had made it all the way to, like, seven centimeters right before I got the epidural. So I was close to transition and, y’know, I felt really proud, like, I felt like I gave it my all, y’know! And then rested and moved around.
And then, I was at 10 centimeters. It was time to push. And my husband got super brave and was like, “I want to help catch the baby.” And the OB was not the regular OB that I had been seeing, but just an OB that was on-call that night. He said, “Well, y’know, I’ve never helped a dad catch a baby, but I’ve helped lots and lots of medical students catch babies. I don’t know why I couldn’t help you catch the baby.” And so my husband got gowned up. Yeah, my husband got gowned up and he was there as he was crowning. It was like an hour of pushing and I didn’t have a super hard time connecting. I could feel, like, the pressure of baby coming down, but it wasn’t painful in any sort of way. And my husband’s hands were, like, on baby. And then OB’s hands were around my husband’s hands. And then he lifted him up.
My husband was supposed to announce what the sex was, but he was too busy focusing on not dropping a slippery baby! And so I was like, “It’s a little boy!” And they set him on my chest. And I did have some… I had, like, second degree tears and a little bit of postpartum extra bleeding. So they felt like they needed to cut the cord quickly— so I didn’t get to do the delayed cord clamping, which was okay. And like I said, I just was like, “Oh my God, I did it!”
And there was sort of that, at the end of pregnancy— especially with my first— I was like, “Pregnancy will never end. I’m, like, pretty sure that I’m just gonna be pregnant the rest of my life!” And there was this shock of like, “Holy cow, there was a baby in me, and look at that— here he is.” It was a pretty magical, wonderful moment when he was born.
Adriana: Very cool.
Margot: Yeah. I should also quickly mention, y’know, when he was born, I was like, “This baby looks bigger than normal infants…” And he was— he was nine pounds, nine ounces. And that was a surprise! We had no idea that I was going to have a large baby. No one had said anything about it to me. No one had said I was measuring large or anything. So that was a bit of a shock— a lot of friends had also had infants around the same time and I’d been around a lot of infants and then I was like, “Wow, this is a different size baby.”
Adriana: Right, but it didn’t much matter. I mean, you pushed for an hour, baby was born, all good.
Margot: Yep, totally good. Yep. And I think if someone would’ve said something like, “Oh, you’re measuring big,” or “Do you have any history of big babies?”— and both my husband and I were totally normal-size babies anyways, so, yeah.
Postpartum was great. And I was excited to have another baby because it was such a positive experience, and I felt pretty incredible afterwards. I had some of the, just the normal, like, emotional ups and downs and all of the shock and transformation that comes from becoming a parent and understanding your new role with your partner and that sort of transition— but it was all pretty positive, So I was looking forward to having a second. So I got pregnant about the time that my first was about 18 months old.
And I was with a different insurance company. And so it was an HMO model and it was midwifery care in a hospital. And I was excited to have a midwife. Y’know, I’d done maybe a little more research and was like, “Oh, I like this kind of midwifery model.” I’m a social worker. I like how midwives are more holistic in a lot of ways, sort of like social workers. So I was happy to be with midwives and the midwife I was working with.
[To her baby] Hello! You’re talking so much!
Adriana: He’s telling us this story too. Yours is coming. Yours is coming.
Margot: Yours is coming, it’s true.
So the midwife that I was working with was so lovely and so supportive of natural physiological birth and wanting to support me in that.
But I will say, because I had had a big baby before, there was this, like, thing looming on my— I noticed it on my after-visit summaries, after my visits. My problem is/was “history of macrosomal infant,” which means history of having a big baby. So because of that, they were concerned about gestational diabetes. So they made me do a gestational diabetes screen, the glucose screen, the one hour glucose screen in my first trimester. And I actually just listened to your gestational diabetes episode and I was like, “Ha, I could have done the A1C!”
Margot: It would’ve been so much better in that first trimester. So I did the screen, I passed it. And then I was also (during this pregnancy) was doing my prenatal yoga teacher training, which was a really lovely compliment to pregnancy. I was learning about all sorts of wonderful things like optimal fetal positioning and how mom’s position impacts baby and pelvic floor health and the Spinning Babies website and pain and coping strategies.
I would say the only downside was that my husband wasn’t part of that, necessarily. And so I was sharing some of this information with him, but he wasn’t getting a ton of it. We had our same doula, which was awesome. Y’know, my husband had been a little skeptical too— of like, “Oh, what’s a doula gonna do, really?” And I should mention my mother-in-law was also at my first birth. She had several homebirths herself and has been to many births, and he’s like, “Oh, we could just use my mom. She’ll be there.” But after we had our first birth, he was like, “Oh my gosh. Doula was like the best money we spent in our first pregnancy.” So we were both on board for that, for the second one.
Despite all the information I was kind of gaining from my yoga teacher training, I had had a small diastasis recti with my first birth, and then the second one, it just got really, significantly worse. And I wasn’t feeling like I had a lot of information or knew what to do to prevent it.
And so by the end of pregnancy, I was measuring really big, like three weeks ahead, in terms of fundal height. And I took the glucose screen again in the third trimester, and I passed it. It was fine. But I had what sometimes is called the “pendulous uterus.” I’m not sure—are you familiar with that term?
Adriana: Tell us more about it!
Margot: So there this idea is sort of that there is, like, an optimal angle that your belly could be at during pregnancy and that really helps baby to be in a good position and also prevents unnecessary stretching on that linea alba, the kind of the frontal muscles that connect your rectus together. So my belly stuck really far out and so, y’know, starting at, like, 30 weeks, people were like, “Any day now…” like…
Margot: I got tons of really annoying comments from people about, like, how large I was in that pregnancy. I gained about the same amount of weight, but the angle of my belly I think was really impacting that. And then I also, as a result, had a lot pubic symphysis dysfunction. So, like, in the front of my pelvis, feeling really tender— like, couldn’t put my pants on without sitting down, ’cause I couldn’t stand on one leg without feeling pain.
Adriana: Did you do anything to address the pubic symphysis and the diastasis? Did you do any wraps or any body work?
Margot: Y’know, I was doing acupuncture and I did Mayan abdominal massage, which I definitely think helped a lot, but wasn’t… it wasn’t quite enough. And I just wasn’t feeling like I had the right tools or support. And no one told me I had a pendulous uterus at the time. Looking back at pictures and doing more research and kind of getting further along in my prenatal yoga teacher training, and I was like, “Oh, that’s what was going on. And that’s why I felt uncomfortable.” So it was sort of, hindsight was 20/20. I wish I would’ve been like, “Get me to your women’s health PT!” Like, “I think there’s stuff I could be doing prenatally!”
So my second baby, y’know, he just didn’t wanna come out! So at 41 weeks— and I was so uncomfortable— at 41 weeks, I was scheduled for an induction. They probably would’ve let me go longer if I wanted to. But I had, like… I had tried everything to, like, get labor going on my own. I’d done acupuncture, I was drinking the castor oil, we’d done the membrane sweep, I ate the spicy food… like, I was pulling out all the tricks! Yep, yep. Literally. Yep. I was trying all the tricks and it just wasn’t quite working.
So we did a scheduled induction at 41 weeks exactly. Which happened to be Labor Day, which my husband had teased, was teasing me.
Adriana: How appropriate, right?
Margot: I know. So appropriate!
Fortunately I was a little more naturally dilated on my own, so I was, like, at two or three centimeters just going in for the induction, as cervixes are just a little more open the second time around. And we started with Pitocin for the induction and, y’know, I felt really, really great. And they kept cranking up the Pitocin and I just… I wasn’t feeling a lot. I was feeling awesome. We were, like, doing lunges up and down the hall. We were doing all the hip circles. We were doing everything! And I was like… y’know, we were watching a movie, it didn’t really seem like I was in labor. And I was like, “Y’know, I feel like baby just isn’t low enough. Y’know, I don’t feel like he’s, like, in my pelvic bowl at all. So I feel like that’s part of the reason that labor isn’t really going or starting…” So I had been reading on Spinning Babies about all these things, and one of them was the abdominal lift and tuck—
Adriana: I love that!
Margot: —from Spinning Babies. Oh, yes. Yeah. So it’s a great one. And I will say, y’know, we had tried some other things. The midwife we were working with was super collaborative and very (also) no nonsense. And she had broken my water and that was what really, like, pushed me over the edge of my last labor. And she’s like, “Well, let’s, y’know… I know a way to do it, like, a slow release water break.” And so that’s what she did and it was awesome. And it did not kind of push me over the edge in any sort of way. And so she was able to break the water and then let a little bit out and then kind of hold it close. I don’t know how she did it!
Adriana: They do a teeny tiny…
Margot: Let a little bit…?
Adriana: Yeah. Instead of, like, doing a big tear, they do a teeny tiny puncture so that it kind of trickles out on its own.
Margot: Yeah. So that was really helpful.
And so we went for the abdominal lift and tuck and so over the course of 10 contractions. My husband came behind me and he would kind of scoop the bottom of my belly up and I would take a little pelvic tilt (so tucking my tailbone under), and he would kind of pull my belly in, so as if, like, pulling baby up and down into my pelvic floor.
We’re kind of walking in between contractions and then doing the lift and tuck. And about halfway around was the midwife’s workstation, and she was like, “I’m gonna go get the tub ready, y’know, ’cause, y’know, you said you wanted to labor in a tub.” And I was like, “Yeah, but I don’t think I’m that far along yet. I don’t want my labor to stall out again.” She’s like, “I’m gonna go get the tub ready…”
Adriana: Ah, she knew!
Margot: She knew!
Adriana: Yes. Did you continue doing lift and tuck?
Margot: Yep, yep. And by the time we got back to my room, I was, like, no longer chatty. Things were a hundred percent in motion. And I had gone from, like, five to seven/eight centimeters dilated relatively quickly with that move. Got in the tub and it felt pretty good.
Y’know, it was super challenging mentally. I went into Laborland— y’know, like, tunnel vision, couldn’t really see much else. The midwife was really wonderful, and she was there with me and pressing on my hips and my low back and doing these deep guttural moans with me— she was really working alongside me.
I got to about nine and a half centimeters and she said, “I want you to kind of get out of the tub. I think baby’s gonna come right now.” And I just had this sense that baby wasn’t quite low enough yet.
Margot: So I got out of the tub. They were trying to get the fetal monitors on, and they just couldn’t get them in the right place. And there was an OB who was supervising, And, y’know, I have no recollection of who this OB was or what he looked like, but I could feel his presence, like, at the doorway. And then there was this kind of conflict and tension between the OB and the midwife, and potential shoulder dystocia was kind of the word that was going around.
And so this midwife said, “Y’know, you have a small anterior lip of your cervix. I think I can move it out of the way if you give some pushes.” So I started pushing and really was trying to get baby to come down. And it just wasn’t working. And I got super exhausted and I kind of felt defeated. And it was pretty… I was like, it had gone from 0 to 60 really fast and I was giving my all. And so I was like, “Please just, like, give me the epidural. Like, I don’t… I can’t do this anymore. I can’t push anymore.” And I wasn’t having a strong urge to push either. Like, it was more directed pushing. And normally they probably wouldn’t give an epidural to a woman that was that far along. But they were also concerned that I’d need an emergency section, I think. And so they went ahead and let me get the epidural.
I rested for maybe half an hour and fully dilated. And then I pushed that baby out in like 20 minutes! So he came right out. He had kind of a low Apgar, and was like a little slower to wake up in some ways, but he was totally fine. And okay— there were no issues. There was no shoulder dystocia. He slipped right out!
And, y’know, he was there and it was wonderful and I was so happy to have this baby again. I think my biggest shock was that he didn’t look exactly like my other baby. But as time went on, I kind of, like, had these lingering feelings of, like, sadness or grief about the birth experience and how it had happened. I went and did women’s health PT and did a bunch of work for my diastasis recti and pelvic floor, which was helpful.
And then about two years later, I went to a naturopath who was trained in holistic pelvic floor treatment, which is a women’s health PT trained her to do this work— Tami Lynn Kent, who is the trainer and the designer of this holistic pelvic floor work. And I had this work done, and it was more spiritual in some ways. And there was a point where she was doing some internal manipulations, and I started crying and I realized that I had been holding all of this tension in my body of how I had failed at birth. And so I just cried and I felt so much better. And I have, like, very little reactivity around that birth anymore!
Y’know, I had felt so sad and so defeated and I couldn’t really put words to it. ’cause I felt like it was being held in my body. And that’s what we know about how trauma is processed. It’s held in your body, like, literally. And so having that process and going through that healing really allowed me to kind of just process like, “No, you didn’t fail. Like, birth just happens the way it happens. And you did the best you could under the circumstances that were there,” so.
Adriana: Yeah, and I’m glad you got that release. And it speaks to how important it is to connect with your body and do some body work as well, and introspection into what you’re carrying, ’cause we are holistic beings, right? Mind, body, the whole bit.
Margot: Exactly 100%.
Adriana: So, one question—
Adriana: How big was this baby?
Margot: Oh yes— the final measurement. So he was ten pounds, six ounces— so he was a big baby.
Adriana: A little bigger, yeah.
Margot: A little bit bigger, but, y’know, still came out vaginally and was okay! And, y’know, I had second degree tears again that time, nothing that seemed to, like, cause me any issues or problems. So, yeah. So that was birth number two.
And then, when my youngest (then, at the time) was two years, I had this treatment, and then my husband and I decided that, y’know, we are officially crazy and we’re going for number three. We had the same insurance, so I was going back to the midwives.
And I was excited to see my midwife again. Again, she had been so lovely, so supportive, and I had felt really kind of nurtured by her, which is what I wanted from a provider.
And y’know, they had the “history of macrosomal infant” still, and it was even bigger the second time. So they’re like, “Don’t have an 11 pound baby now!” And there were lots of comments like that in my pregnancy. Like, “Oh gosh, you’re gonna have an even bigger baby. Watch out!”
Adriana: How did that make you feel?
Adriana: No kidding!
Margot: It made me feel terrible, yes. Yeah— was not helpful at all. I was going to my appointments there and was feeling like a little sad ’cause I felt like I wanted something a little bit different for this birth. But financially it was, like, a good decision to stay with this HMO, and it was really affordable… but I kind of had this, like, nagging feeling of, like, I feel like I’m constantly, like, on-guard and having to defend myself!
I worked in a public health clinic, so I have access to what’s called “UpToDate,” which is a, like, research website that doctors use to, like, check current best practices. So I was, like, using this website to, like, look up all these things about shoulder dystocia and, like, do all this research myself about “What are my risk factors for having shoulder dystocia?” and “Is that even really a concern?” and “How valid is this?” And writing down all these statistics and just really feeling like I was kind of on the defensive this time around, which did not feel great either.
Margot: And then, around 26 weeks, I had to see a, like, a stand-in midwife versus someone that I had— the gal I’d been seeing before. And it… the visit just kind of, like, left a taste of my… It was… Their standard practice is to give every woman the DTaP in their third trimester, to help reduce the risk of pertussis in the infants. And I had just had the shot in my previous pregnancy about three years ago, and I know the vaccine’s good for 10 years and. She kind of was like, “Well, it’s not for you, it’s for the baby.” And I was like, “I know that.” And I just… It felt kind of shame-y and manipulative.
Margot: And I was, like, y’know… I think I needed something different. And so there were two insurance companies that we could choose from at my employer. And so we were able to switch insurance companies, and at the beginning of my third trimester, I transferred to a freestanding birth center, and it was amazing. Like, the change was exactly what I needed to do.
And like I said, this whole journey of my third pregnancy was really this trip of, like, “I know my body. I can trust my body and birth.” This healing process from my previous birth, where I had been told I couldn’t trust my body and then I had failed in some sort of way.
And, like, little things were kind of giving me these nudges. Like, I remember around, like, 16-17 weeks, like, I was starting to feel baby move, but it felt so different. And I was like, “I think my placenta’s anterior,” because I think it’s kind of muffling the movement, and it just feels different than my other pregnancies. And they were like, “Oh yeah, we’ll see at the 20 week ultrasound, like, where the placenta is.” And sure enough, placenta was anterior! Like, I was just learning to, like, listen to my body and listen to these cues and listen to my baby a little bit more, which was so lovely.
In terms of childbirth prep that we did— my husband and I did together— we decided to take a hypnobirthing class together. So, my husband and I did a six-week childbirth education, which was so funny because, oh, there was literally, like, maybe 15 other couples in the class and everyone else was, like, having their first baby and we’re like, “We’re here with our third,” and they’re like, “…Don’t you know what you’re doing by now?” Nope!
Adriana: You would think!
Margot: Still figuring it out!
And so again, switching providers at the beginning of the third trimester was amazing. The appointments were an hour long, which felt incredible, to just have that kind of attention. They really practice informed consent, which I believe so strongly about, working in the healthcare field. So, like, making sure that people are educated and understand their choices and options.
Like I said, they’re a freestanding birth center. So the birth center is actually in this beautiful old Victorian house that they’ve remodeled into a birth center. And each room is like a bed and breakfast room. They do waterbirth, which I had really wanted to have a waterbirth.
Adriana: I encourage people who are listening to go to the show notes at birthful.com because they can see the pictures of that bed and the… And how homey-like it is.
It is. It is amazing. And, y’know, part of my preparation was doing something that is part of yoga, which is this kind of, like, self-inquiry, self discovery. And it’s something that we encourage, like, participants of The Yoga Way of Birth to do as well.
So I was really kind of, like, constantly using meditation and yoga as a way, just kind of, like, tune into, like, “What’s coming up now?” There is no other time I feel like where your intuition is louder, than during pregnancy and birth. Like, it just… It can be so obvious, if we take the time to really listen to those cues.
Adriana: Yeah. That your body’s definitely—
Margot: Go ahead.
Adriana: —to that, like, y’know, hormonally and just deeper brainwaves and your body switches during pregnancy to give you more intuition. It’s not just the feeling. It isn’t actually, like, a documented thing, that your brain thinks different.
Margot: Yes. Yeah, absolutely.
Adriana: So did this baby show up on his own? How did labor start?
Margot: Yeah. So, another thing I was really grateful about this birth center is that they really make sure people know all the possibilities for how birth could look. And so they talk about all the reasons that you would have to transfer to a hospital.
And they have a very low transfer rate, but they feel that it is necessary to cover those things with the patients that they work with, because those things can happen. So I was sort of, at the end of birth, was really, like, holding all those possibilities. Like, I was like, “Y’know, I could go to 42 weeks and have to have a cesarean,” like, but I will have been listening to my body the whole time.
40 weeks rolled around and I taught my very last prenatal class at the studio I was teaching at, and I went to work that week. And… But I was having this, like, strong, strong feeling of like, “I just wanna, like, hibernate.” Like, I don’t wanna see anyone else, I don’t want anyone asking me about when the baby’s coming, I don’t wanna have to defend myself anymore. I don’t wanna have to talk through this with anyone else. I am just… need to be, like, quiet and listening to what’s happening with my body right now. And so, that’s kind of what I tried to do.
You know, I went to work and then, at 40 weeks and three days, I was at work and I was only scheduled to work a half day. And my clinic manager said, “Yeah, I think you should just be done, Margot. Like, it’s okay. Like, you don’t need to come back to work anymore.” And I was like, “Okay, I’m good with that.” Like, I’ll be done working now.
And I went to a midwife appointment and, in addition to feeling like I needed to hibernate, I also felt like I really… Like, I had a lump in my throat, like I was about to cry, but I couldn’t cry. And so I went to my midwife appointment hoping that maybe I would have a good cry. And I got there and sure enough, just being in that safe space with those women, I was able to just let go and cry. And what was coming up was like, “How am I gonna love three babies all by myself?” y’know, like, I mean with me and my husband, like, “Will I be able to give this baby the love they deserve?”
And my midwife, what she said to me, it might make me tear up right now as I say, but she said, “You know, Margot, of course your heart is breaking. It has to break open to allow this new love to come through.” And I just started sobbing. I was like, “You’re exactly right! That’s a hundred percent what is happening, yeah.”
And then she did a membrane sweep, per my request. And she was like, “You’re, like, at three centimeters. And when she did the membrane sweep, she was like, “Ooh, that was a really good one.” She’s like, “I felt like I really broke up some adhesions.” And like, “Yeah, that was a good membrane sweep!” And I was like, “Awesome!”
So I went home, went to bed that night, and I had been having to wake up probably, like, two or three times a night to get up and pee every night. And I was getting up to go to the bathroom, but I was feeling more like I was… like I needed to have a bowel movement. I was, like, feeling kind of funny and I was like, “This feels just a little different…”
And so I was like, “Ooh.” But I wasn’t really… I kept waiting for, like, the rhythm, y’know? I was, like, waiting for that rhythm of birth to kind of pick up and trying to, like, tune into the rhythm of birth. Like, it’ll have a momentum to it. It’ll have, like, a wave-like sensation to it.
By five in the morning, I was like, “Well, there might be some…” so let me, like, get the app out and I’ll just time it and see what’s going on. And sure enough, I was having, like, regular contractions. And because I’d never had labor on my own without an induction, it was kind of, like, “I don’t know what it’s gonna look like. I’m not sure how this is gonna be.”
So, I was like, 7-10 minutes apart, one minute long. Awesome. This is early labor. Good. I didn’t wake my husband up and then, like, around 6:00 I was like, “Okay, I think I’m having some contractions, honey.” Texted my mom. Both my kids were scheduled to go to school that day, so I was like, “I think we can get ’em off to school. I’ll just text my mom and be like, ‘Maybe be on-call to pick them up.'”
So we called the midwives and they said, “Great, y’know, just keep us posted. Sounds like everything’s going well.” And I just kind of, like, hung out in my bedroom. And then labor started to move more quickly and my husband was kind of, like, madly packing our bags and the kids’ bags, ’cause of course we were, like, not super prepared. And so we called my mom and were like, “I think you might wanna come and pick up the kids, because things are picking up more rapidly.” So about 7:30 a.m. she came over and got the boys and got them off to school. And my husband came back up and was like, “I think it’s time for us to go to the birth center.” Like, “I think we need to go!”
So he came up and he helped me kind of get out of bed and get myself downstairs. And meanwhile I was like, pausing, like, top of the stairs, have a contraction, down at the bottom of the stairs, have a contraction. So labor was really picking up and had a pretty good rhythm to it. I had really tried to focus on the spaces between the contractions, and remembering that nothing is happening in those spaces between the contractions. And so I kept focusing on that.
We got in the car about 8:00 a.m. and of course it was rush hour, so we had to go to the birth center through rush hour. So we pulled up to the birth center about 8:30 or so, and on my last contraction in the car, I was like, “Oh my God, I think I’m pushing!”
Margot: And I was like, “I think I might have just pooped my pants,” is what I said to my husband, and I was like, “Wow, I might have a car baby,” just kinda went through my head.
Adriana: Right there, yeah.
Margot: So the midwife from the birth center came out and met us at our car and I had a contraction, like, right there on the street, like, holding onto the side of the car and she was like, “Oh, it sounds like you’re pushing.” And I was like, “Yeah, I think I am.”
And I had literally just listened to your episode with Whapio about the second stage to labor and let non-directed pushing and just letting your body do it for you. And it really, like, there was nothing I could do to stop it— like, my body was doing this work for me and I just had to move out of the way.
So we made it inside to the birth center and we walked into the room where our baby was born, and there were candles lit and the tub was filling with water and the shades were closed. So it was nice and dim and I was like, “Ahh!” Like, that immediately just put me at ease, 100%.
First place I went was like to sit on the toilet because that’s where I felt like I needed to be. And I sat on the toilet through a few contractions and they checked baby’s heart tones and everything sounded great. Then after that I got into the tub, and I was in the tub, gosh, a little after 8:30, probably. And that’s where I was for the rest of birth.
And really it was, like, just this quiet, sacred space. The midwives were there. They were pretty hands-off, y’know, like, they didn’t really touch me. I didn’t really need them to touch me. I was just doing my thing.
And one of the phrases that was kind of rolling through my head is, like, in this book Labor, Love, and Liberation, and she says, “Birth is not a bully.” And I was like, “Birth is not a bully. Birth is my friend. Birth is here to work me.” Y’know?
And so I was just kind of welcoming all of the sensations and I can’t— looking back— I can’t say that it was painful. It was, like, so intense and so commanding. But there was also these huge spaces between my contractions— or at least it felt huge, where I could really rest and like catch my breath and take a break and let go and release my muscles and find some ease, in between the intensity of the surges.
Adriana: Yeah, that’s such a great point in how, y’know, birth time works and you can… Those minutes can stretch out so you can feel, if you go deep into— what you were saying, I love it— “that space in between” and just really focus on relaxing and taking that rest.
Margot: Yes, 100%. So I was, like, seeing that as a gift every time it came. And, y’know, I was sort of scanning, y’know, like, ‘Is there anything emotionally or mentally getting in the way of me allowing this baby to pass through?” And there was a point where, y’know, I had been pushing for probably almost close to an hour. I was like, “I just… I feel like baby’s not coming down.” And it was the exact same fear and feeling that I had had in my second labor. Like, baby’s not low enough, baby’s not coming. Like, these pushes are not being productive.
And I remember looking over at my midwife and saying, “Baby’s not coming. He’s not coming.” And she said, “Well, why don’t you? I think he’s coming.” She said, “Why don’t you feel…? Why don’t you see if you can feel him?” And so I reached inside and sure enough, like, I could feel like it was not… There was a little head there, y’know, like, he wasn’t down on my perineum, but he was… I could feel something different.
And I was like, “Oh my gosh, that is him! He’s coming down.” Like, he is moving down the way that he needs to. He knows what he’s doing. And that is another thing that we kind of talk about in The Yoga Way to Birth, is that, like, babies are so wise in their birth process, in terms of how they are able to work with birth. And they don’t need us. They don’t need to go to a birth class to learn that. Like, they just know how to do that on their own.
Adriana: Alright, yeah.
Margot: Yeah. So trusting that my baby was doing what he needed to do too. So my pushing phase was the longest of any of my pushing phases. It was about an hour and a half.
And then around right before 10 o’clock… Oh, and the only thing I remember hearing from my midwives was two things: one, that the bag of water had not broken, that they were like, “He’s still… The membranes haven’t ruptured. The membranes haven’t ruptured.” So I remember them whispering about that, ’cause they were, like, “Is this baby gonna be born en caul?” and I was kind of excited too, “Maybe I’ll have a baby born en caul. That would be so cool.” Yeah.
And then the other thing I heard them talking about is, I also had a student midwife with me there, who had been there for all of my prenatal appointments and had kind of followed my pregnancy, and they were pointing out to her that I had the purple line on my backside. Do you know about that too?
Adriana: I do, yeah!
Margot: Yeah, so it’s the line, it kind of goes up from— for better lack of words, like, your butt crack, I think— and it is this sort of purple line that travels up your backside, that matches your dilation. And they said I had a perfect purple line on my backside. And I heard them whispering to the student midwife, “Have you heard about the purple line? Can you see it right there?” And they never checked my dilation or anything like that. I had no cervical checks during the birth process.
Adriana: Well, and you saw it— you should have felt, the head was right there.
Margot: Yeah, exactly. So of course I’m fully dilated, yeah. So as he— like, a big audible pop and the bag of waters burst and, gosh, that was the only time— they went “Give us a little push.” And I did give a nice good push, to get his— after his head was born, to get his shoulders out. And then he sort of… I had been kneeling on the side of the tub with my head, arms draped over. And I kind of sat back and they sort of swam him between my legs and his arms were outstretched and he was just, like, flying through the water. It was the most beautiful thing ever. And I was like, “There you are!” and “That is you,” and “I’m so excited to meet you.” So it was just this, like, wonderful… like, “Holy cow, I can’t believe I did that.”
Like, I really felt like I had… I was a rockstar. Like, I was, like, “This was amazing. I can’t believe I did it.” And it reminded me of that episode about birthing like a rockstar. And I was like, “I did it! I birthed like a rockstar.”
But at the same time it was totally unremarkable too, y’know? Like it wasn’t anything special or big or, y’know. Like, I just did it, y’know? Like that was how it was supposed to happen. And millions of women do it every day. And it’s really incredible.
The biggest surprise postpartum was that after he was born, I was like, “Oh my gosh, labor is not over.” And I had never had to have third stage labor without an epidural. And so I was like, “Wow, I really feel like labor is not over.” So at that point, I felt like I needed to get out of the tub, and they moved me over to the bed and we were hanging out and he was still connected with the cord. And we waited for, gosh, at least 15 minutes or so, to kind of let the cord stop pulsing.
And I was like, “Okay, I feel like something needs to happen, because I still am not feeling, like, at ease,” because I was still having pretty strong contractions and was like, “I think something needs to happen.” And then they were like, “Okay, so it sounds like you’re ready to birth your placenta.” And I was like, “Yeah, I think that’s definitely what needs to happen.”
So, they were like, “Okay, just take your time, no rush.” And I was like… I was kind of scared to push again, and they were like, “Don’t worry, your placenta doesn’t have any bones.” And I was like, “Okay.” And sure enough, I gave like one, yep, I gave one push and it, like, slid right out of me, no problem at all.
It was really beautiful. And yeah, we called my mom and we’re like, “The baby’s here!” Called all our family, “The baby’s here!” And they’re like, “What? We didn’t even know you were in labor already. Oh my goodness.”
Adriana: What time was the baby born?
Margot: So he was born at 10:00 a.m.
So it was about five hours of labor from when I, like, started timing contractions to when he was finally born.
Adriana: It was all you!
Margot: It was all me. It was wonderful. And it was literally my dream birth. And y’know, I say that not ’cause I felt like the outcome was really amazing, but it was my dream birth because it was this amazing time where I learned to listen to my intuition more strongly. Where I felt really seen and heard, and my own personal journey (versus what a medical model wanted to have happen) was valued over that. Like that was… My intuition was just as strong or as needed as any sort of medical model that existed. So it was really just incredible in terms of my own process. And I— again, I just can’t say enough good things about that birthing experience.
Adriana: And did you tear? And how big was he?
Margot: So, zero tearing, no tearing at all. She said she checked me afterwards and she was like, “There’s, like, a tiny little skid mark, but I wouldn’t even, like, classify it as like a first degree tear.” So zero tearing, my longest pushing phase, and he was the runt of my boys at nine pounds, six ounces.
Adriana: Still a good size!
Margot: Still very good size.
Adriana: Yeah. So, y’know, we’ve… The question I’m gonna ask— I’m like, should I even ask it?— because you’ve told us a bit of it as you shared, but can you put into words how were you transformed by all these births?
Margot: Yeah. So I feel like each birth like really held its own valuable lessons and, I think, like, I sort of said, y’know, the transformation was from the beginning with an OB induced birth to the end with a freestanding birth center with midwives and feeling like I did it a hundred percent on my own.
Yeah, it was really just… I can’t say enough good things about taking the time to listen to your body, to connect. And like I tell— I told women this before, but I don’t know that I’d put it in practice for myself, ’cause it’s always so much easier to tell people than it is to do it for yourself. But as much as you can listen to your own body, tune in, trust yourself, and know that, like, your body and mind are wise and they know how to handle this. And like you always say, like, “You don’t birth with your mind, you birth with your body.” And, like, as much as we can kind of get… figure out what emotional stuff might be getting in the way, or psychological stuff might be getting in the way, we can get out of the way so that it can unfold the way that it needs to.
Adriana: Yeah. I love it. Love it. And that’s something that carries on to parenting because, like, if we take the analogy even, or the phrase (even better), as you were saying, I was thinking, “Right!” And you don’t parent with your brain alone, either.
Margot: Exactly. Yeah. Yes, yes. You parent with your body too. And any new mom can tell you that the physicality of being a parent to young kids is intense.
Adriana: No kidding, right? Yeah.
Margot: It’s physically demanding.
Adriana: Thank you both so—
Margot: —those are my birth stories!
Adriana: [Margot’s baby makes noise.] There he is, yeah.
Adriana: Yeah, thank you so much, both of you, for coming and sharing your stories.
Margot: Oh, absolute pleasure. Adriana. And, y’know, I just cannot say enough good things about your podcast and how helpful it has been for me, and how informative it was and so supportive, and I just appreciate the way that you really try to bring unbiased information to the amazing service that you offer.
Adriana: And I am so glad it was helpful, really. I— y’know, that’s why I do it! So glad to hear these stories and how through it you were referencing “…this episode… in that episode,” and I’ll put them in the show notes. Thank you so, so much. It’s been delight.
Margot: You are so welcome. Yeah, my pleasure.
That was perinatal mental health therapist, prenatal yoga instructor, and mom of three, Margot Strauhull. You can find Margot on Instagram @margotyoga.
And you can connect with us @birthfulpodcast on Instagram.
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You can find the in-depth show notes and transcript of this episode at Birthful.com, where you can also learn more about my birth and postpartum preparation classes and download your free postpartum preparation plan.
Birthful is created and produced by me, Adriana Lozada, with production assistance from Aysia Platte.
Thank you so much for listening to and sharing Birthful. Be sure to follow us on Goodpods, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and everywhere you listen.
Come back for more ways to inform your intuition.
Lozada, Adriana, host. “[Birth Stories] Unlocking Her Dream Birth by Valuing Her Intuition (And Switching Care Providers!).” Birthful, Birthful. November 9, 2022. Birthful.com.
About Margot Strauhull
Margot is a mama to three boys, a perinatal mental health therapist in private practice and a prenatal yoga instructor. When not trying to keep up with her three kids and husband, or supporting new parents during pregnancy, postpartum and beyond, she can be found running through the forests, drinking coffee, dancing, trying to remember to breathe and attempting to notice all the precious moments of life.
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