[Birth Stories] Pivoting From Wanting an Immediate Epidural to an Unmedicated VBAC Over Four Births

After having three hospital births— that included inductions, vaginal births, and a cesarean— Mariah Robinson couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing from her experiences. She shares with Adriana how she searched far and wide for a collaborative care provider who would support her wishes for an unmedicated vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) and the trust and confidence she built with her body to get through an unplanned homebirth without fear.

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A black-and-white image of Mariah and her husband reclined in bed after their daughter's birth, with blissful and awed expressions on their faces

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Transcript

[Birth Stories] Pivoting From Wanting an Immediate Epidural to an Unmedicated VBAC Over Four Births

Hello, Mighty Parent or Parent-to-Be! Welcome to Birthful. I’m Adriana Lozada and for today’s birth stories, I’m going to be talking with Mariah Robinson, who has had four very different birth experiences. Her first three were hospital births, with two of them being inductions, two being vaginal, and one being a cesarean birth.

Then, because she couldn’t shake the feeling that there had to be something more to birth than what she had experienced, for her next pregnancy Mariah dove deep into all the information, she gobbled it up, everything she could find, and she set things in motion to prepare to give birth at a birth center with midwives.

In the context of our Care Provider series, Mariah’s experiences really exemplify a lot of the practices that I talked about with Robin Elise Weiss during our previous episode on “Why Choosing The Right Care Provider is Crucial for Your Pregnancy.” I mean, Mariah even switched up her providers late in her pregnancy!

Along the way, finding all that information, watching videos, reading, figuring out her choices, really helped Mariah feel more confident in her ability to have an unmedicated birth— which, when she started out, she did not think that was for her. It also helped her husband and her mom understand why having a different experience was so important for Mariah, and how they could show up for what was needed when Mariah ended up having an unexpected homebirth.

You’re listening to Birthful. Here to inform your intuition.

Adriana Lozada: Hello, Mariah! Welcome to the show.

Mariah Robinson: Thank you so much for having me.

Adriana: I am really happy to have you here and share your stories. And I know there’s a lot to share— you’ve had four births!

Mariah: I have, yes.

Adriana: We’re gonna focus primarily on the last/the most recent one, but can you first tell us a bit about yourself?

Mariah: Yeah. So my name’s Mariah and I am mother to four. I had three boys, and then we ended up having our baby girl, which is a whole story in itself. But just a little bit about me, my husband and I, after my first son was born, we started a company ourselves that makes nursing ponchos and that’s what we sell together. And then I also am a stay-at-home mom to my three— my four children now, my three boys and my little girl.

Adriana: How did this whole journey start?

Mariah: Yes, my husband and I got married— I guess, by today’s standards— fairly young. I was 24, and I came from a big family and I wanted to have kids pretty early on.

So right around our two year anniversary, we had our first son and that birth experience for me was pretty traumatic. It was long, and it was in a hospital and I had a very uninvolved nurse. My husband was holding legs and counting through contractions. And he was posterior; I pushed for a long time. I had an episiotomy. It was just really, it was really rough.

Adriana: Yeah. And did… so that was at a hospital with an OB…?

Mariah: That was at a hospital, yes.

Adriana: And I’m guessing you didn’t have a doula.

Mariah: I didn’t have a doula. I didn’t really do much to prepare. My whole mindset was really funny. I just was like, “Well, I’ll just show up. I trust the doctors and they’ll let us know what we need to do.” And it’s really outta my personality. I don’t know why I was so lax about the whole thing, but I really was. I did not prepare myself for what birth was.

Adriana: So then you say that this was traumatic for you… In what way was it traumatic and how did you process that?

Mariah: So it was a really long labor. I labored at home for 24 hours before I was… before my contractions were close enough to go to the hospital. Got there at about a three or four— I can’t remember— centimeters dilated, and labored through the night. They gave me an epidural and the epidural was working really well up until I was about 10 centimeters dilated. And at that point, I could start to feel some things, and I got nervous about it and I told the nurse, and she said, “Well, we want it to wear off enough that you can feel yourself pushing. Wait to push.” But it just kept wearing off and wearing off. And they never gave me any more medication.

And at that point is when for whatever reason, she really checked out. My husband and I didn’t really know what we were doing. And so we just kind of took at face value what she was telling us. And it just became a really emotional situation where I was pushing and I was in a lot of pain and I wasn’t prepared for it.

And my husband— my poor husband, y’know, holding my leg— I’m sweating and the baby was stuck, he was stuck in the birth canal. I pushed for two and a half hours in that level of emotional. I just was so… in so much pain, I didn’t know when it was gonna be over. And he was… like I said, I got an episiotomy, which was very painful for me.

And, I don’t know, I just got done with that and I thought, “Man, that was terrible.” I remember sitting in the hospital that night with my husband, looking at each other and saying, like, “Well, we’re not gonna do that again.” Like, that was awful and we just didn’t know that there was another way, I guess, at that point!

Adriana: And I’m sorry that that was that way. It happens more often, that we— definitely, like, it should never happen— but when people say, “Oh, that was so awful,” and that’s how you start parenting, right? You start parenting from a sort of wounded place.

Mariah: Yeah.

Adriana: Yeah, I’m so sorry.

Mariah: Yeah, it took me a while… I guess, to answer your question about “How did I get over the kind of trauma of that?” I really think that it wasn’t until this fourth baby was born that that happened.

Adriana: A long journey!

Mariah: Yeah.

Adriana: Yeah. So then, okay… So you are pregnant again, with your second boy. What were you thinking at that point? Were you going into it thinking I’m gonna prepare differently? What happened?

Mariah: So surprisingly, no. I don’t know if just the time, like, kind of made me forget? I knew that I wanted a sibling for this baby and I did think about having a doula at one point. I just… I never really went into that side of birth, so I was still kind of unfamiliar with what that really looked like. And so my big thing was just, “I wanna make sure the epidural works.” “I wanna make sure the epidural works,” and understanding that I really don’t have, y’know, any control of that, but I actually was induced for that second birth because my mom lives out-of-state and I just wanted to be able to plan and have control.

And so I was induced a couple days past my due date. It was actually a very different experience than my first one. I did have really involved, good nurses and my epidural worked well and I couldn’t feel anything, which was all what I thought I wanted. And so it wasn’t necessarily traumatic in the way that my first birth was, but I also, at the end of it, felt very uninvolved with the whole process.

So I was like, “Okay, well, that’s what I guess the goal is for most people,” but I didn’t necessarily… that wasn’t my, y’know, “dream birth experience” either, but I didn’t really know why I felt that way, if that makes sense?

Adriana: It does. You’re thinking this should be different than what it is.

Mariah: Yeah. But at that point, like I said, I hadn’t done any research into unmedicated birth. I didn’t really know anyone personally who had ever had one. So I just didn’t even really realize that that was an option yet.

Adriana: So in terms of an induction, how long…? ‘Cause the first one you labored for 24 hours before even getting it to the hospital, and we didn’t talk about how long was it from the hospital until your baby was born.

Mariah: Total is about 36 hours, my first labor.

Adriana: And then with this one, with the induction, the second one, how long was this one?

Mariah: It was actually pretty quick. I wanna say I was induced at like 7:30 in the morning. He was born around 5:00, I think, that evening— something like that. So it was pretty uneventful, yeah. And I think because it was my second, I was that much more ready. I was induced past my due date. So I would… my body was a little bit more ready than it would have been, y’know, if I was induced early.

Adriana: Right. So you were feeling this was a better experience, but sort of lacking something?

Mariah: Yeah. Like, I remember my mom was there for this birth, and my mother-in-law was there. And I remember when it came time to me to push, they were, like, wanting to be involved and help me through it. And I was like, “You guys, I’m fine.” Like, I couldn’t feel anything. It was calm, but it… I just felt like I didn’t do anything to get him there. And I didn’t know what that was yet, if that makes sense? I didn’t know what I was missing.

Adriana: Mhm. It does make sense to me, ’cause I know what’s coming!

Mariah: Yeah, that’s right!

Adriana: So then, third baby. How was that one?

Mariah: So, third baby was a really unique experience. My son actually has a heart condition called “hypoplastic left heart syndrome.” So I was 34 weeks pregnant when he was diagnosed with that— it’s a pretty severe heart condition. And so when we got that diagnosis, we found out that he would have to deliver at a specific hospital next to a Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, that he was… he would be directly transferred there after his birth, and he would need open heart surgery at three days old.

So I was with an OB that I really liked. I then was essentially forced to switch to an OB a few weeks before my pregnancy, and they required— I fought them and fought them— but they required that I was induced at 39 weeks because they didn’t want me to go into labor spontaneously because they wanted it to be a very controlled environment when he was born, ’cause they needed a whole NICU team around him. And so I was induced at 39 weeks.

It was a very, very rough experience. Long story short, my body was so not ready to go into labor. I sat on Pitocin for two days and I never even started contracting until I was like at the highest doses of Pitocin. And then the baby’s heart rate— they were very, very concerned about his heart rate because of his condition. And so anytime his heart rate would start to drop or raise, they would completely take me off the Pitocin and start back at one.

Adriana: I’m gonna interrupt you to explain a little bit of that, because I think that needs to be unpacked, of how Pitocin gets dosed. And usually they start at the lowest doses. So Pitocin is great in the sense that it responds very quickly. So either plus or minus, like, if you add to it, you’ll feel changes will usually happen pretty quickly, or if you take it out, if you’re having contractions because of it, they’ll stop. So they start it at a very low dose, one or two, and depending on how your contractions are, how you’re progressing, they can up it by one or two, every— depends on the hospital, its protocol— half an hour/45 minutes. And then they do, depending on how quickly they move it, there’s like a total amount you can get in a certain amount of time. So if they did it every half hour, you can only go to a certain amount. And if they’re going every 45 minutes, you can go a little higher, but the top is— and because there’s variations, I can’t quite remember— but it’s something like— depends on the hospital— 30-something or 40-something, but they start with one or two.

Mariah: …so it takes a long time to get up to the top.

Adriana: Right. If you were like up to 28 and then the heartbeat changed and they brought you to nothing— they turned it off— they gotta start over at two.

Mariah: Exactly. And that’s what was happening. So I wouldn’t even feel anything, ’til— I want to say it was like 20-25 when I even started to feel anything?— and then his heart would drop and so they would start over. And so it was like, yeah, another, like, five or six hours even longer before I would even start to feel anything again.

Adriana: That is a long…

Mariah: And, yeah. And so anyway, so I did that for… it was like two days, and I hadn’t eaten and I was just sitting in the hospital and finally at— so I can’t even remember the time, but it had been for sure at least 48 hours— the OB came in and she said like, “You’re at two; you’re really not progressed at all.” And I just was like, “Oh my gosh, let’s just…” She said, like, “Let’s keep going. But if nothing’s happening by tonight, we’re just gonna have to give you a c-section.” And at that point I had never had a c-section before! And I just thought, like, “This isn’t gonna happen. I’m gonna sit in the hospital forever.” And so I consented to a c-section, and that was a rough experience.

Having not had one before, it was very… it was so medical. I would… they literally strapped my arms out to the side and got him out. And he was… he did… was doing really well. And I guess my mindset during that was, “He just needs to be okay. So I just need to do what I need to do to let him be okay.” So he ended up being a c-section.

Adriana: And also, I’m sure you were thinking about other bigger considerations in terms of, like, if he needed to have open heart surgery within a few days, what that would look like for you guys, right? It wasn’t just a birth and you’re taking him home. It’s a birth and then more medical big issues.

Mariah: Yeah.

Adriana: That’s a lot to deal with.

Mariah: It was. And so this was all very unique circumstances. Normally, when a person has a c-section, they get to go home and rest, but I didn’t. I was in the hospital without my baby for two days. And then as soon as I got released from the hospital, I just was sitting at another hospital all day long with him. And so it was a rough recovery for that reason, that I just didn’t ever really get— y’know, I was sitting down, but I was sitting in a hospital chair and in another hospital. And so it was days and days before I could even walk upright. And that whole process was so… I just couldn’t believe how different it was for my vaginal birth!

Adriana: You knew you were gonna have an induction, but had they talked to you about the possibility of having a cesarean and what that looked like for you to prepare? Or was it… Did you find it came outta the blue?

Mariah: I feel like, in hindsight, I should have prepared either way. I was very emphatic that I wasn’t going to have a c-section and they originally were pushing, “Let’s just do a scheduled c-section.” And I was like, “Absolutely not. There’s no reason for that. I’ve had two vaginal births.” And so no, I was not prepared for a c-section. There’s all these things that could have prepared me to have an easier recovery that I didn’t really know about. And so in hindsight, yes, I should have definitely prepared for both alternatives.

Adriana: It’s tough. ‘Cause it’s… I understand the idea of, like, “Let me not think about it, ’cause then it’ll happen.” But I also understand the idea of, “Let’s prepare, so then it doesn’t happen.” Like, “Let’s have a spare, right?”

Mariah: It’s true.

Adriana: And so you find yourself pregnant again… What did you do differently this time?

Mariah: So this pregnancy was a complete surprise. We had our three boys and my husband was done, unless we could figure out a way to have a girl. I really, really wanted a girl. I have four brothers and no sisters, and I just wanted a girl with all of my heart. But I thought “If I can’t guarantee a girl, then I’ll just be happy with my three boys.” And so we even were talking about adoption and “What are we gonna do to get this little girl in our lives?” And I ended up pregnant and it was such a shock. We were so not planning to be pregnant. But then it came down to like, “Oh my gosh, is this a girl or a boy?”

And that was such an intense time for us. Like we… I just thought “How am I gonna do this, if it’s a boy?” And so we ended up going to the— and when we found out it was a girl, it was just incredible. And so going into that birth, I remember I was driving to San Diego with my husband and for the first time just looking online and looking at like, “Okay, what are my other options?” I knew that I didn’t want a c-section again. So, that was really my driving motivation. Initially, I wanted to have a VBAC, but we’re in kind of a unique area where there are not a lot of options for VBACs. There aren’t a lot of hospitals around here…

And so I just kind of started to look, and then I started to look at the risks of VBACs, of how supportive, y’know, doctors tend to be of VBACs.

And so I was referred to a doctor who I was told was supportive of VBACs, and I’m not sure what the disconnect on that was, but I went there and I went to the appointment and I was, like, in the stirrups, ready to do my initial ultrasound, and she said, “Oh, by the way, are you wanting to VBAC?” And I said, “Yeah, that’s why I came here.” And she said, “Oh, we don’t do those anymore, but I can still do your ultrasound.” So I was like, “Oh, well, that’s the whole reason I’m coming here.” That was a really discouraging appointment! She told me that because I was 33 years old having this baby, that I was borderline geriatric, that I was “high risk” to have a VBAC.

And that it would be difficult for me to find a person who would take me as a transfer patient to do a VBAC. And so I said like, “Well, I’m obviously not gonna— y’know, I need to leave this place ’cause that’s not even an option for me.”

And I started looking for a doctor who did a VBAC and I found one, but at the back of my mind, I always had this thing of like, what if, like, something in the back of my head was kind of pricking, of an unmedicated birth?

What if there’s more to this experience? And I don’t even know really where that came from, but it just was kind of there. And so I was going through this process. I met with this doctor, which I guess was a process. I had to find someone who would take my insurance, who had accepted transfer patients and also who did VBACs— and that was kind of the trio.

That was… it took me weeks to find a doctor who would even do that. But I did! But then I was talking to a friend one night and she was the first person I had ever known personally who had had an unmedicated birth, and she had a water birth in a birth center. And she was just saying to me like, “Y’know, this is really worth looking into…”

“It is such an amazing experience,” she said. “Watch The Business of Being Born. It might change the way that you’re thinking.” And so I did, and I just was floored by that documentary and kind of the whole way that the birthing world is set up with OBs versus midwives. And that was really… that was really eye-opening to me.

Adriana: And before that you’d never consider a midwife before?

Mariah: I’d never considered a midwife. I’d never considered— I was intrigued with the idea of an unmedicated birth, but I was also terrified of it, and so for a long time, I tried to find a hospital that would allow me to have a more natural birth experience, but also an epidural. I, like, wasn’t fully committed to the idea of not having an epidural. It just was scary to me. And so I did a lot of research and I guess there are some hospitals in different areas of the country that will allow for both— they’re like a birthing center environment— but nothing on the West Coast. And so I watched that documentary and I thought, “Okay, I’m going to start down this road and see,” and I was really pumped and I came home and I talked to my husband and I said, “I think I wanna have this baby in a birth center.” And he was very… he was not, he said like, “This is crazy! I don’t know why you would wanna do that.” And I was really kind of surprised by his reaction. And then as we kind of both calmed down and talked about it, he said like, “I just am worried about you. I’m worried about your safety. And I don’t know that I trust a midwife. I don’t know even what a midwife does!” And he was so unfamiliar with that process. And I was so unfamiliar with that process that I was like, “Okay, that makes sense, y’know, that you are concerned with my safety and the baby’s safety.” Like, I can get on board with that! Let me see if I can find a hospital that will kind of give us that experience.

So there was a hospital in San Diego and I started the process of transferring there. And my insurance is a little bit unique in that it’s called a “share plan.” And so doctors were very wary of it. I called the doctor and they said— I was about 28 weeks along at this point— and they said, “For you to even be seen by a doctor, you are gonna need to come in with a full deposit.” And so I had to then start the process with my insurance to get that deposit before they could even establish care with me. And it took like six weeks for them to get that money and all the finances in order. By the time I got in contact with this hospital again, they said, “You have to establish care by 34 weeks.” I was like 33 weeks and six days! And they said, “The next appointment with the midwives is in two weeks. And if you don’t establish care with them by 34 weeks, then you have to see an OB. You’re no longer a candidate for a midwife program.”

And so at that point I was feeling really discouraged and I kind of decided like, “Well, I guess I’ll just go back to my original doctor who was supportive of VBACs, and I’ll see if she is supportive of unmedicated birth.” And I went there and I talked to her and I felt like she was very much telling me what I wanted to hear. But I didn’t feel a lot of sincerity from what she was saying. And I started to feel like, I don’t know, like maybe I need to figure out another option, because none of these options seemed to be panning out with what I was hoping to have.

Adriana: And that is a lot, to be, like, searching and going back and forth and trying to finagle while, y’know, at this point you’re like 30 weeks pregnant or more? No, you’re 30- almost 34, yeah.

Mariah: Yeah! So yeah, so I was 34 weeks pregnant by this time. And yeah, and I had said to her, like, y’know, “Will you support me having a, y’know, going into labor spontaneously? And will you support these things?” And she would say things like, “Yeah… but if you don’t go into labor on your own by 41 weeks, then I’m gonna induce you.”

And so I felt like in some ways she was maybe supportive, but when it came down to it, I knew that it would be a real fight for me to get all the things that I wanted. And at this point, I was doing tons of research and I was learning about delayed cord clamping. And I was learning about all of these extra things that were so amazing in birth that really weren’t usually part of a hospital experience, that I wanted, that were becoming more important to me. And so I just kept saying to my husband, “I just want to be able to make my own choices about my birth.” And I was so surprised how hard that was!

Adriana: And isn’t it crazy that that’s what it comes down to, the… you have these choices and have to do so much legwork to find somebody who says “This is your experience. You’re an expert in your body. I’ll keep you safe, but I’ll walk this experience with you. I trust that you will make the best choices for it,” ’cause it’s not like if something’s wrong, you’re gonna say, “No.” You already went through a cesarean because your baby needed to get out and be out, and clearly you were like “This is the safest thing for him.” So it’s not… It’s just that whole thing about it is “healthy baby, healthy mom,” but we can have “healthy baby, healthy mom, and good experience.”

Mariah: Yeah. And the other thing that I did wanna bring up, I was really surprised how much noise there was around unmedicated birth. And that was something that I really wasn’t prepared for. I knew that it wasn’t necessarily the conventional choice, but I was so surprised how many people had really strong opinions about it. And that was hard. That was unexpected. And that was really hard. I felt a little bit like a lone man on the island during that time.

I kind of just started to keep it to myself because I didn’t wanna hear what everyone had to say about it. But I just wanted to bring that up, because for people that are kind of considering this option, just, I guess, to make it known that that really is common. And I’m a part of some Facebook groups, and so often really just discouraged moms will come on there and they’ll say, like, “I just can’t believe how many negative opinions I have about this choice that I have to go unmedicated.”

Adriana: Like it’s anybody’s business!

Mariah: I know. And that’s what I kept saying. I just kept saying, like, “I can’t believe how many opinions there are about something that does not affect them.” It does not affect them. It is not… y’know? But I just… It was so rare that I would bring it up to a person that would just say, like, “Good for you! I hope it goes well.” And that just meant the world to me when somebody just was supportive. And I understand— like, I definitely understand— where my husband was coming from. It was very foreign to him and he was really worried about, like I said, my safety, the safety of our child. And then even my mom, I remember bringing it up to her— and I was so, so nervous to bring it up to her, ’cause I didn’t know how she would feel about it— and, the more that I researched and the more that I learned, the more confident that I grew in this decision, I started to not care as much. And I started to feel like I know best. I know what’s best for my baby, or at least I know what’s best for me. And what’s best for my experience. And I am starting to feel prepared, but at the same time, I still did really have that fear in the back of my head.

Adriana: I wanna talk more about this fear, you started to overcome the fear through information and feeling confident, but what got you all the way there?

Mariah: So there were a couple of resources and honestly, your podcast was so helpful for me. I would go to the gym and I would just listen to anything and everything I could, birth stories were really helpful for me, watching natural births on YouTube and seeing like a calm experience. So— and even, like, this last week, I was talking to my friends and hearing the way that we talk about birth is such a scary… we talk about our scary experiences and we talk about all these negative things in birth, and I think it’s very much part of our society.

You start to assume that that’s just what birth is. And for me, it was really eye-opening to watch these, like, homebirths or these water births or these births in birth centers where these women were so prepared and so calm. And I just didn’t even know that that was an option. I thought in order to get rid of/over this fear, I have to be okay with (kind of) this crazy experience.

And I started to realize it doesn’t have to be a crazy experience. So that was really powerful for me, as well as understanding pain and childbirth. So you have a podcast and I can’t— is it Whapio that talks about pain and childbirth?

Adriana: Whapio talks about the holistic stages and rethinking pushing. We- I have two on “pain”: I have Rhea Dempsey, who talks about the purpose of labor pain.

Mariah: So I probably listened to that podcast five times! It was life changing for me. And just that understanding that there is purpose in the pain of childbirth, in a way, that there isn’t in anything else in life was so powerful for me. And I started to really think about it as like a marathon.

And I would say, y’know, to my husband, this is, y’know, if a person I prepared for a marathon and they got five miles in and started to get tired, we wouldn’t say to them, like, “Oh, just stop.” Like, that’s something that was important to them! That’s something, they prepared for it, something that they want to accomplish, and we respect that choice.

And looking at childbirth that way was so transformative for me that I. It started to really take that fear away. And I started to shift from, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know if I can do this,” to “I really think that my body was made for this. And I’m going to trust that my body was made for this.”

Yeah. I love Rhea’s episode because I think— like, I love her book, I love it. I’ll link it in the show notes at the episode, because it is a great listen for everybody.

Mariah: Oh my gosh.

Adriana: But that, yeah, that point that you made, of how we talk about birth, we’re always putting it in this negative light: that the experience, right, is beyond painful and way more than you can deal with. So let’s numb it. And that’s it. There’s not another option. But once you started seeing that that other option existed and preparing yourself for it, then it wasn’t an either/or proposition. It wasn’t a “If I’m not gonna do an epidural, then it’s gonna be suffering,” period.

Mariah: Yeah. And I think that’s very much the way that people look at it is like, “Why would you do that to yourself? Well, why would you put yourself through that? That’s what modern medicine is for.” And I think it’s also something that she talks about, is that we’re really taking away this transformative experience from women and having gone through it, I can 100% say that that’s the case.

And just that confidence of knowing, like, if I can do this, I can do a lot of things— like, I’m stronger than I really ever realized that I was. And it’s such a small amount of people that even will look that direction. I feel like it is something that is really being taken away from women all over, especially in the United States, that people really do have the ability to do this amazing thing, but that, because we’re so fear-based, people don’t even really look that direction.

Adriana: Mhm. And so you started becoming more confident, you were getting more knowledge. Was your team starting to jump on board as well? Did you tell your mom?

Mariah: Yeah. I had told my mom before, and I don’t wanna say that she wasn’t supportive. She was… she just was nervous about it. She just— y’know, I am her oldest, I’m her only girl. And she just… she had five c-sections herself. So the whole thing was just very foreign to everyone! And so jumping back to my OB, I had talked to her, like I said, I just didn’t get a great vibe after I talked about unmedicated birth.

So I started to talk to local doulas in my area about who had worked with patients under her care and started to hear some not-great things. And so somewhere along the line, I had contacted a birth center. I’m sorry, a midwife— midwifery school. Someone had said to me, y’know, you can contact them and they might have a doula-in-training or somebody who can come talk to you about this.

And somebody had given me a call and said, “Look, I have a friend who’s a doula. She’s amazing. Why don’t you give her a call? She’ll be a good resource to you.” So I called this person. At this point, I was 36 weeks pregnant. So I was really starting to get really nervous about everything. I just felt like I didn’t… I remember the night before I talked to this doula, just breaking down to my husband and saying, “Y’know, I just think…”— and at this point he was definitely getting more on board, he could see how important this was to me. And he could see that I really was trying my hardest to do this, y’know, in an environment that was comfortable for both of us. And I had said to him that night, “Y’know, I think you’re just gonna have to be my person and you’re gonna have to fight for me. And I don’t wanna do that when I’m in labor. These things are important to me.”

And so he was on board with all of that, but I just said “I can’t believe how hard it is for me to just do the things that I wanna do.” Anyway, so I talked to this doula. The next day, she called me and she was just… so it was such a breath of fresh air. Everything that was important to me, she understood.

And she said to me, “Y’know, I teach birth classes at this birth center and I’m good friends with the owner. And she will sometimes take women this late, who, y’know, want a natural birth experience,” and “Is that something you would be interested in?”

And at this point, I thought, like, “Yes, this would be amazing. My last hurdle is just if I can get my husband on-board with a birth center, because previously, y’know, that wasn’t something that he really had felt comfortable with.” And so I talked to her and it was just so comforting and reassuring. And— I remember my husband was at the gym at the time and I remember, like, being so nervous to talk to him about it, just because I really wanted him to be fully on-board with me ’cause I knew it was something that we needed to do together— and so he came in and I said, “Look, I talked to this midwife and she’s willing to get us into this birth center.”

And he just said, “You know what? You’re in a completely different place than you were a couple months ago. I trust your judgment. I just wanna know that you’re in the best hands that you can be in. So let’s see the birth center and if everything feels good, you know, let’s move forward.”

And I was like, “Okay!” And so we went down that next Saturday and we toured the birth center and that was his first experience meeting midwives. And so he had a bunch of questions for them and they just were so amazing. And he got outta that and he said, “You know what? Those guys know what they’re doing. And I can see that they are seasoned women and they have— they know what birth is supposed to be. And I’m in.”

Adriana: Do you remember some of the questions that he asked?

Mariah: I remember he asked about transfer rate and what constituted a “transfer” transfer, and what they would do if there was, y’know, if the baby wasn’t breathing when they were born. I don’t remember what else, but things like that. And so they, y’know, explained to him that they were trained in child, y’know, newborn resuscitation, that they had oxygen there, that there was a fire station around the block.

You know, the transfers typically were from a person who just had chosen to get an epidural, and they talked about the steps that they took to make sure that there were no— I mean, they got all of my surgery notes from my c-section. They had an ultrasound tech come in to look at my scarring to make sure that that was [sic]. Like, they did way more than my OB had to to make sure that I was a good candidate for it, and so that was all really, really comforting to both of us.

Adriana: Well, and the thing is to be a candidate for this, and to be able to be taken into a birthing center, you basically have to be low-risk.

Mariah: Right.

Adriana: So they have to do their due diligence because they can’t do a cesarean. They can’t do— y’know, that’s why there’s transfers. And then… and that clarification of that usually, more often than not, transfers are because of, not at all because something scary is happening, but because, y’know, the birthing person said, “Y’know what? I’m done. I want an epidural,” or “I wanna go to the hospital.” Not because there’s imminent danger.

So, he met them, talked to them and they totally con— not convinced him, but reassured him that you were in the best hands?

Mariah: Yeah, it was pretty amazing. Like, we got done with that and we, y’know, we came back in the car and he said like, “Y’know, I trust them. I can see that they really know what they’re doing and I’m in.” And I felt the same way. I just… I remember walking through the birth center, I thought like “This… this is what I want. This is what I’ve been looking for.” And then having those appointments [were] so amazing for me. I just loved the way that they practiced, that they would come in and they would present something to me and they would say, “This is your option. Here’s the literature. You make your decision and you let us know.” And I just thought, “Oh my goodness, this is how this should be.” And you know about everything from vitamin K to eye ointment to strep B to— I mean, all of the things that are typically, y’know, “This is what we’re doing. This is how it is.” And it… I got to make all of those decisions for me and my baby. And I just loved that.

Adriana: And I’d really appreciate how that sets you up for parenting— because you’re gonna have to make all these hard decisions for your baby once they’re out.

Mariah: Yeah.

Adriana: Like for many years, yeah.

Mariah: Forever! Yeah.

Adriana: Yeah. So then you were feeling good. Your husband was feeling good. Did you end up taking any childbirth education classes or getting a doula?

Mariah: So we did end up using that doula, the one that had helped us get into the birthing center and we didn’t ever take any child birthing classes because I felt… I mean, I like ate and drank birthing. It was all I listened to! It was all I read! I just… I was feeling really prepared at this point. So the doula did come over a couple times before, and showed my husband, y’know, different techniques that he could help me during labor to get more comfortable. And that was really great, but we didn’t ever go to any, like, actual classes.

Adriana: You curated your own childbirth classes!

Mariah: We did.

Adriana: Yeah.

Mariah: That’s right!

Adriana: So then, come to birth, to the birth. How did that start?

Mariah: So, I was 41 weeks pregnant by the time I finally went into labor. But I will say something… So everybody was saying to me like, “Oh, it’s your fourth baby. You’re gonna go to labor early. Like, don’t even plan on going full term.” Not the midwives, obviously, but just, like, friends and family. And so I started to kinda get that in my head and, y’know, midwives have a completely different approach, which is “The baby will come when they’re ready.”

And, y’know, “Due dates are an estimate,” and “Don’t worry about that,” and “Don’t get hung up on that date.” And so I went in like a week before my due date and I asked that she check me. I asked her to check me and she said, “Y’know, you’re dilated two centimeters, but baby’s still pretty high. It’ll probably be at least a week or so.”

Came back a week later, she told me the same thing. And… but in my brain, because I had all this noise about like, “You’re gonna have a baby any day,” and I was telling myself that I just, like, wasn’t even… I just was doing everything I could to try to put myself into labor. And when I went back that second time and she said like, “You still have a few days,” I decided to make just the mental change. I decided to tell myself— it was like 40 weeks— and a couple days later when I went, I decided to tell myself mentally that I was 39 weeks. And it made such a difference for me when I said I was 39 weeks. All of a sudden, all of that noise in my head about like, “I have to go into labor,” “I’m gonna go to labor in seconds,” or “I need to push myself into labor.” I just was able to just relax and say like, “Well, I’m not gonna labor anyway. So I’m not gonna think about it.” And it’s funny that just telling myself that, it really made… I was able to just calm down and kind of enjoy those last couple of days rather than obsess about, y’know, when I was gonna go into labor.

Adriana: Oh, I love that. I love that concept. That’s fantastic. That is perfect. Is it okay if I use that with people from now on?

Mariah: Yes.

Adriana: Yes. I love that.

Mariah: I tell people that! “Just tell yourself you’re not even…”

Adriana: And also you’re quieting down a thinking brain, which is not helping because it’s not letting the oxytocin flow, like it actually is so important to calm that brain to get into that relaxation state. I love it. Yeah.

Mariah: Okay. So then anyway, I was 41 weeks on the dot, and that night about, I say, like, 2:30 in the morning I started having contractions. And my doula had said to me, “As soon as you felt anything, call me,” because I didn’t have so much as a Braxton-Hicks. Like, I am not a false labor person with any of my babies.

And so, like, with my first, my first contraction led to labor, like, and so she said to me, like, “As soon as you feel anything, y’know, let me know, ’cause it’s probably gonna be the real deal.” And so I started contracting that night and I wanted to sleep through as much as I could, but by about 6:30 that morning, they were strong, right from the get-go. And they were strong with all my babies, right from the get-go. I didn’t really have any, like, little baby contractions. Like, they… I just… I dunno! And so by 6:30 they were uncomfortable enough that I got up, and I remember that was such a special time. Nobody was awake yet. Everybody was asleep and I came downstairs and I had made this birthing mix, of just, like, a playlist of songs that I just love. And I turned it on and I made myself some eggs and toast and I just sat down and kind of started to mentally prepare for what was to come. And I called my doula and let her know, and let my mom know ’cause she was actually out of state, and let my mother-in-law know ’cause she was gonna come up and be with our boys while I labored. And then I let my husband know about an hour later, and as everybody started to wake up. And so that day, he had a couple meetings in the morning, and then he said, “Let me do these. And then I’ll, y’know, I can focus for the rest of the day.” And so he did that and I just kind of was with my boys and cleaned the house and I was having contractions, but they were really irregular.

I was timing them on an app, but they would come every 20 minutes, every 40 minutes, every seven, like they were all over the map! And anytime I started to rest, they would really slow down. And so about— I wanna say 10:00 or 11:00— my mother-in-law got here and my husband and I went for a walk to try to get things going.

And while I was walking, my contractions were really consistent and they were really strong. So they were about every seven, eight minutes apart. And it was really uncomfortable for me to walk. I was like… my back was spasming and I just was so uncomfortable. And so we walked for about a half an hour. And I had to go to the bathroom like every five minutes. We walked for about 45 minutes and then we came back and I checked in with my doula and I said, “Maybe I should be walking.” And she said, “Just give yourself a rest. You don’t wanna wear yourself out before, y’know, you’re in active labor.” And so I did.

I rested— my husband and I rested for a while. We watched some TV together, laid down. My son came home from school. We went for another walk and I went over— we have a, like, a community clubhouse— I went over and walked on the treadmill for a while.

And again, my contractions would pick right back up and they would be about every six or seven minutes. But as soon as I stopped walking, they would slow back down. And so at this point it was like around 4:30 or 5:00, and I called the doula and I said, “Maybe I should just go to the birthing center,” ’cause I was worried about traffic. We’re about 20 minutes away from the birthing center. And I said, “Maybe I should just go and hang out around there so that if things happen I’m not having to, like, get stuck traffic or whatever.” And she said, y’know, “Honestly, you’re probably still pretty far out, so why don’t you wait a little bit longer?”

And I thought, “Okay.” So about… And so just inconsistent/consistent until about 7:00, and at that point, my mother-in-law said, “I’m putting the boys to bed. Why don’t you just go into your room? And you guys just focus.” And so, you know, my husband said, “Do you wanna just relax? Do you wanna watch something? Take your mind off it?”

And I said, at that point, I said, “I think I just wanna really start to embrace this, if that makes sense.” So I felt like all day long, whenever a contraction came, I had been kind of getting into the best position to not feel it. I was definitely breathing through it and staying calm, but I was trying to like be in a position where I couldn’t feel it as much or trying to, like, avoid pain rather than just kind of letting it come into me.

And so at that point, we turned off the lights and I turned on my hypno tracks that I had been listening to since 30 weeks. I had gone to sleep every night, listening to them and I turned them on and I turned on the rainbow visualization. And I was on my birthing ball, and for the first time all day, I just— the contraction would come and I would just totally relax my body into it.

And I would have my husband behind me and I would lean back on him and he would press on my hips and I would just, like, breathe through him. And I felt like, because I was in such a calm, focused place, my labor started to really ramp up at that point.

Adriana: And you mentioned Whapio earlier— and first of all, I love this concept of instead of resisting, going into it and exploring it, that is huge for labor to continue, like you have to go, if you’re resisting, then you’re resisting, you gotta go through it— but Whapio also talks about in the holistic stages of birth of how kind of in early labor, it’s about a mountain and the beginning of it is you’re at the base of the mountain and kind of like, “Am I gonna climb it or not?” And trying to get into that place where you’re gonna be all in, of making that decision of, “Okay, I’m gonna climb and maybe you start and go like, “Eh, no, I’ll go back.” And you know that, that sort of psyching yourself up to go, “Alright, let’s do this mountain.” And that just reminds— you talking just reminded me of that.

Mariah: Yeah, no, it’s so true. And it wasn’t even like that I was scared. I just was unfocused. I was taking care of my kids. I was, y’know, like I just was kind of, like, trying to do both. And at a certain point after that long, I just was like, “Okay, I need to just do this. Like, I just need to focus and, like, let my body know I’m in. Y’know, I’m ready for this.”

And so I did, and I just would put that on repeat, and the contractions were getting really intense at this point. And I had been able to breathe through them, but at this point… so it was around 8:30, so it started about 7:00, around 8:30, I started to vocalize through my contractions and I found that really helpful, ’cause they were really long, but still inconsistent. My husband was timing them and they averaged about every eight minutes, but in-between, it would be every 15 minutes, every five minutes, every, like, they just were never getting super close together and never super consistent! And so about 9:30, I called my doula and my midwife called, and she listened to me through a contraction and she said, “Y’know, they sound like they’re effective, but you probably still have a little bit.”

And I asked my doula at that point, ’cause she kept saying all day, “Do you want me to come over?” And I was like, “No, it’s fine. I think we have time.” And so at around 9:30, she called and checked in again and I said, “Y’know, maybe you should come just because, y’know, I think it would be nice for you to be here, to help my husband, kind of give him ideas of ways to help me, or whatever.”

And so she said, “Great, I’m on my way.” And right around probably 9:30-10:00, I felt this shift in the contractions and they started to go into my back and I started to get really, really bad back labor. And I remember being on my hands and knees and for about 10 minutes, the thought started going through my head like, “I can’t do this. This is too much. This is too hard. I can’t,” ’cause I thought I still had hours! I thought… I had no idea what I was dilated to, right? ’cause I didn’t have anyone checking me. But I started to think “This is too much,” and my brain started… just still offered me all these ideas with like, “Just leave, just leave, just leave, just go to a hospital, just get an epidural, just get outta this.”

And I thought that for about 10 minutes before I finally said out loud to my husband, like “I’m done,” like, “Let’s go!” And my husband was like, “What?” ’cause I think for him it just came out of the blue. And so in hindsight, I know now that I was in transition during that time, I didn’t think that it was possible for me to be in transition because of how inconsistent my labor had been, but now that I, y’know, when I think about it, like everything that I had read and learned about transition was like, “This is the time when kind of the primal brain starts to take over and your logical brain doesn’t keep up and it just wants a way out.” And if I would’ve been, y’know, in a state to really think about it, logically, I could have seen that like, “Oh, this is definitely what was happening. And at one point I thought “Maybe I’m in transition…?” but then I thought, “No, there’s no way I can be. It’s too soon.”

Adriana: Yeah, and that is such a common, internal debate at that point, I find— especially with not-first-time-birthing people, but y’know, ones that have gone through it before, that you’re like, “No, this can’t be it yet.”

Mariah: Yeah. Yeah, and so I… and so my body… I just really started to kind of lose a little bit at that point. I wasn’t really thinking super logically. And so I just knew that I wanted out of this. And so I remember leaning over my vanity and at this point he texted the doula and said like, “Are you close? Y’know, she’s kind of starting to lose her cool.” And I remember I just wanted to get in the shower and I wanted him to get in the shower with me. And he was saying like, “Well, let’s wait ’til the doula gets here, so we’re not just in the shower when she gets here. Let’s see what she wants to do.” And he was calm and he was so amazing through the whole thing. But, I really started to go inside my head at this point.

But I didn’t know what was happening. Like I really, in my head, thought I still have hours of this. And I just thought I was starting to get into active labor. And so the doula got there and I right when she got there, another really strong contraction came and I bent over the side of my bed, kneeling down, like almost in a prayer position. And I just was leaning against the bed and she was trying to talk me through it and she was really calm. And I just knew mentally, like, “I’m past that,” like, I’m past the point of just kind of getting through these in silence. Like, I’m in it. Like, it started to, like, fully consume me, not in a scary way, but in just like a “this is taking over every ounce I have.” It’s taking everything. I have to just focus on this.

So she started asking a lot of questions and I didn’t wanna talk. I just wanted to focus. And about 10 minutes after she got there, I said, not even realizing what I was saying, but I said, “I think I need to push,” and I’ll never forget ’cause she’s thinking she’s coming into this, y’know, early-ish maybe starting active labor stage— and so she’s not, there’s nothing inside of her that’s thinking that I’m even close to ready to push, the midwives, y’know, are on their way to the birth center. And so I said, “I need to push.” And she said, “Oh no, no, no, not here. Like, we need to go to the birth center!” And so her and my husband started trying to talk me into going to the birth center, but it was so funny when I got to that state, my brain… it just made total sense that I was gonna have that baby at home.

Like, I didn’t question it. It didn’t scare me. I just thought like, “This is what’s happening.” So I said to her, “Can I just have a baby at home?” And she was like, “Oh well, you know the birth— the midwives are coming to the birth center.” And… but she was very supportive of me. She just… I think she just, like, was a little bit in shock. Like, she didn’t know what, y’know, what to do and if I was really as far along as I was saying that I was, and so I said, “I’m not moving.” And at that point she said like, “Okay, we’re doing this.” Oh, I guess what really convinced her that that’s what was happening was that my water broke right around that time. And as soon as my water broke, I could feel the baby crowning.

So, and I think at that point she could see the baby crowning. And so all of this mind, like, y’know, seven o’clock, I’m like, think I’m barely in labor, my contractions are 20 minutes apart. And this is two hours later, three hours later, and I’m already to that point! So at that point, she said to my husband, like, “Y’know, you need to get tarps, you need to get a bowl.”

“You need to get…” ’cause we were not obviously set up at all for a home birth. And so she started asking him to get all the supplies and she called the midwives and said, “Look, we’re— y’know, we’re doing a homebirth.” So they were, all of them were en route to the birth center. So they just drove up to our house, which is about 20 minutes farther from the birth center. And at this point I am, like I said, I am not talking. I am not, I’m pretty unaware of what’s going on, and I guess when my water broke was when I was like, “Oh, okay, this is really happening.” I think that’s when, like my brain started to catch up with my body of like, “Oh my gosh.” And, probably 10 minutes after my water broke, maybe 15— it’s hard to know what the times were— but very soon after that, I started to feel this incredible urge to push. And I remember when I was preparing for this birth of watching videos of people, they were talking about like, is it the fetal ejection response? Is that what…?

Adriana: —reflex. Yeah.

Mariah: Reflex! The fetal ejection reflex. And I remember watching some videos of women, like of them really feeling that. I know that it’s not something that every woman feels, but I remember reading about that and, and watching that, and that is exactly what happened with my birth. It was so crazy to have that experience, because I essentially was just along for the ride. Like my body was gonna push the baby out and all I had to do was just let it. And so I started making those really guttural noises and pushing, y’know, with all of my body, so strong. And what was really interesting to me about that and what my husband said later too, he said that the thing that was most surprising to me was that “You would have a contraction and your whole body would just be bearing down or you would make these like animalistic noises and then the contraction would stop,” and I would be… so I would be completely pain-free in-between those contractions. And so I would lay down on the bed and I would be almost asleep in between the contractions. And I thought “That was so I was not expecting!” And so I would rest, and then another contraction would come and I would push. And during this time I remember thinking like, “This is doable,” like, “This is okay.”

Like, I didn’t think that pushing was terribly painful. I just was, like I said, I just was along for the ride and that experience of feeling your baby go through the birth canal? It’s incredible. And it’s so hard to explain and it’s so foreign from anything you’ve ever felt before. And so I could feel her coming out and then I remember very distinctly feeling the ring of fire and thinking like, “Oh, this is what people have talked about,” ’cause it was a very distinct feeling, but still not unbearable. Like, it was okay. And so I would push, and this is all— y’know, I heard this after the fact, ’cause I really didn’t know how far, y’know, out she was or what was going on— but what would happen is while she was crowning, she had a little nuchal hand. She had a little hand up by her head that was preventing the head from being born. And so about three or four pushes, my midwife said to me, “You need to put your leg up.”

And I wasn’t listening to what anybody was telling me to do. I just was doing whatever I felt like my body needed to do. But… so I wasn’t a very good listener in all this, but anyway, eventually she just lifted my leg up for me during a contraction. And I actually tore because of that hand, during that next contraction— and so I remember, like, kind of screaming during that time, but then her head was born.

And then— I didn’t realize that that what was, is what was keeping, y’know, my body was turning so hard to push her out, but that was keeping her from being able to come out— and so once she moved by, like, it was in the perfect position that she could then come out and then the next contraction the body was born.

And so she came out and she, y’know, I don’t even— that’s funny now that I’m thinking about it, they must have caught her and put her on the ground ’cause I didn’t catch her— but it was right on my rug, right? I didn’t move from that spot that I talked about being, like, in that kneeling position on my bed, I didn’t move from that spot until she was born.

And then right after she was born, it took a couple more contractions for my placenta to be born. And that’s when I felt like I could really relax. The contractions stopped and I could really just enjoy this baby, but it really took a second right after she was born, it took a second for my brain to catch up with my body. I just, it all happened so fast. It was so different than I ever expected. I was expecting at a birth center. I wanted to do a waterbirth and all of a sudden she just was there and she was born and on my floor and it was so crazy and it was so perfect.

Adriana: Oh, that’s such a good story like that! The unexpected! As you’re talking, I can see it. I can visualize it. I can look, all the things and how people are going around doing things around you, and you’re just, “I am birthing,” or “I’m out of the way. My body’s birthing.” Oh, so you were hands-and-knees when she was born. What… How did the midwife lift your leg? Like, off to the side? That’s the part that I’m trying to…

Mariah: Just, yeah, so I was kneeling down, my elbows were up on the bed and then she just… so it was my right leg, she just… I was kneeling and she just pulled my leg out to the side and up, I think.

Adriana: Got it.

Mariah: She pulled it up like a dog, yeah.

Adriana: Yeah, no. And I’m thinking, like, that most likely your contractions were so irregular throughout because there was the hand in the way, that nuchal hand, not putting even pressure on the cervix.

Mariah: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. And you know what’s so funny is, like, right before I went to labor, literally the day before, I was listening to one of your podcasts. You have one about somebody who had a hand and it made her labor really irregular and really long, and I remember thinking, “Oh, I hope that doesn’t happen to me!”

Adriana: Careful what you wish for!

Mariah: Of course, but it was like, I’m grateful that it really did move along. I mean, it was irregular, but once that happened, it really did move. So what’s crazy is that I never… I don’t know at what point I was, what, y’know, at what point I was dilated to 10, I don’t know how fast I dilated. Like, I don’t know anything about that because nobody was there until the last hour before she was born.

Adriana: Your body doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter, right?

Mariah: It doesn’t care. It doesn’t care. You’re right.

Adriana: Bodies focus on having a baby, not getting to 10. It is, yeah, not linear. Oh, I love it. You had mentioned, though, when you contacted me, that there was something about your tablecloth being involved?

Mariah: Oh, yeah, there was! My husband took it literally, ’cause they wanted a vinyl— they wanted something that was, like, waterproof— so he literally took the tablecloth off of our table! And that’s what I pushed on. Like, that’s what the baby came out on, was our tablecloth. The whole thing was like something out of a movie. It really was, ’cause he was running around, my mother-in-law was running around. The one of the midwives didn’t even make it. Like two of them got there, but the last one got there after she was already born. But the thing I loved so much about it was how, in the midst of all of that, the calm that there was, there was no… Yes, there was running around to get ready for the baby, but it was in hushed tones, the lights off, there was music on and during, y’know, when I was pushing everyone just watched and they just let my body do what it needed to do. And after she was born, it just was so calm and so serene. And that was so amazing and so different from the hospital birthing experiences that I had had. And so after she was born, they got me and her up on the bed. She immediately latched, like, within 10 minutes after she was being born and stayed there for, like, 30. And they took the placenta and they put it in a baggie by me so that she could, y’know, keep the cord attached for a little bit longer and everybody just watched and they just… It just was so incredible. And my mom had gotten the only flight that was available that day; it was at like 11:30 that night, and so she was able to get there about 20 minutes after she was born. So she got to see, y’know, her cord being cut and her being weighed and like the newborn assessment, which was really neat. And I just loved that part of it. That was so incredible, of just laying in my bed with my husband, with my family, with my baby, and everyone’s just happy and everybody’s calm and everybody… It just was so beautiful.

Adriana: And you didn’t have to go anywhere!

Mariah: I didn’t have to go anywhere! Yeah.

Adriana: ‘Cause it’s hard to figure out when to leave, when not to leave, and having to leave like that in itself, we don’t think about it, but that in itself is an intervention to the physiology.

Mariah: You mean if you’re at a birth center…?

Adriana: You’re where— if you’re not giving birth at home— at some point you’re gonna have to leave and have your baby. Even though you gave birth at home, you were still, y’know, the doula, your husband, everybody was trying to figure out “When do we go? When do we go? When is it time to go?” And that is something that, y’know, it takes up brain space!

Mariah: Yeah, definitely.

Adriana: And I’m not saying that we should all do homebirths, y’know? I am saying you need to give birth wherever you feel safe, and hospitals can be a perfectly good place to have birth. And I’ve had wonderful births at hospitals, but understand that that is, y’know, having to go somewhere is a physiological intervention.

Mariah: Definitely. And I— it’s funny, y’know, like all of this, like, coming full-circle— with my husband, going from, like, feeling very uncomfortable about the whole thing to being on-board with the birthing center to then having a homebirth. It was so neat for me to, y’know, after all of that, have that conversation with him and saying like, ’cause he just took it all in stride and he was in it and he was awesome. And after the fact, I said like, “Y’know, if you were to do it again, would you have done it in a birthing center or would you personally have chosen to do it at home?” And he said just what we are saying right now: having, y’know, being able to go to bed in our own bed and like having that all happen in our home was a really cool thing. And he said like, “I think between the two, I would choose a homebirth,” which coming from him? Like, that’s what I always say, when I talk to my friends, I’m like, “If he can be converted, anybody can be converted,” y’know? Like it really can happen for anybody. I feel like sometimes there’s kind of this stigma of, like, there’s a certain kind of a person that would do a homebirth, but I don’t necessarily think that that needs to be the case.

Adriana: No, and I think you need to be prepared. You need to take charge of your birth in terms of like— not in a combative way, but understand that you’re the person doing the birthing. So show up, be responsible for this experience you’re going through, and then you can be more in tune of what this, y’know, experience requires of you. And if it’s a, y’know, scheduled c-section, then that’s what it is for you. I just want people to take charge so that they have the experience that they want and can parent from that place, rather than parenting from fear or trauma, or feel that things were done, y’know, birth happened to them, instead of that they made choices.

Mariah: Yeah. No. And I think that’s so true. And honestly, had I done that from the beginning, with my first, y’know, three births, I think that all of those experiences would’ve been very different.

Adriana: I’m glad you had the fourth one though.

Mariah: I am so glad. I really am so glad.

Adriana: Do you know how earlier on— I can’t remember if it was the first experience, second experience— the second experience, you said it was fine, but it felt like something, like “I was missing out on something, but I didn’t know what it was.” Do you feel you found what it was?

Mariah: Oh my gosh. Yes. Hundred percent. A hundred percent. And I would not… And you’re right: had I not had her, I really feel like it was a real gift to me, because I would, those would’ve been my experiences. And like you said, they would’ve been fine and very typical. And I got out of them, my babies were fine and healthy and I was okay. And it was all fine. but that really, for me, took it to this next level of something that I had been searching for unconsciously that I hadn’t even realized that I’d been searching for. And so I am so grateful that I had that last opportunity and to do it in such a really special way.

Adriana: Is there anything you wanna make sure that the listeners hear before we close?

Mariah: Just if it’s something that you’re thinking about, if it’s something that the idea intrigues you, but it’s still scary, I guess— just know that that’s so normal and that you don’t have to be in a place where you have no fear before you make the decision. Like, that’s part of the journey. And I really truly feel like if I can do it, anybody can do it.

I think that there is this feeling of like, I don’t know, you have to possess some sort of something to be able to go through with an unmedicated birth. But I really think that it’s in all of us, if we want it, if we choose that, and if that’s something that’s important to us— ’cause it’s not important to everybody and that’s totally fine.

But if it’s something that is important to you, and it intrigues you, I would really encourage you to just look into it and start the process of being comfortable with it. And just, I guess, understanding that it is a process. And that’s totally okay, and that if you choose that direction, that it really can be a transformative experience.

And also just to listen to your intuition and understand that there may be a lot of noise around it, but that ultimately you’re the one making those decisions and, and that what you choose for you, that’s all that matters is that you feel good about that decision.

Adriana: I love it. Thank you so very much for sharing your stories today. I loved hearing them!

Mariah: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.

That was Mariah Robinson who is a mother of four and the creator of Cover Me Ponchos nursing covers.

You can connect with us on Instagram @birthfulpodcast.

In fact, if you are not driving, we would just love it if you would take a screenshot of your phone, of this episode right now and post it to Instagram sharing your biggest takeaway from the episode. Make sure to tag us @BirthfulPodcast so we can see it and we can amplify it.

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 anywhere you listen.

Come back for more ways to inform your intuition.

Lozada, Adriana, host. “[Birth Story] Pivoting From Wanting an Immediate Epidural to an Unmedicated VBAC Over Four Births” Birthful, Birthful. September 14, 2022. Birthful.com.

 


 

A photograph of Mariah's baby daughter, who was unexpectedly born at home, laying on a bright rainbow patterned blanket

Image description: a photograph of Mariah’s baby daughter, who was unexpectedly born at home, laying on a bright rainbow patterned blanket

About Mariah Robinson

Mariah Robinson is a wife and mom to three boys and one girl. She has a history as a solopreneur; inspired by her own nursing journey, Mariah started the business Cover Me Ponchos, manufacturing nursing cover-ups. She and her family love traveling and they are having fun exploring the world together!
 

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