VBAC

I had my first child in 2007, an innocent completely uninformed first time momma who wound up being induced at 10 days overdue.  Laboured for 20 hours or so, with an epidural, and it wound up being a csection.  Over the years between my son being born and when I got pregnant in 2012 with my second, I got to know the incredible Shannon Stark.  Even before I was pregnant, she was encouraging of trying for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean).  When I did become pregnant, I knew I would want her to be there for us during childbirth and hired her to be our doula.  

During labour Shannon was invaluable in helping me get through each stage.  Her different positions and encouragement to keep switching it up helped my body prepare itself to bring my daughter into the world.  I was under the care of a midwife but unfortunately the midwife I had during pregnancy was with another mama and I was put under the care of another who was not a good match for me.  I am so thankful I had Shannon there, she was the one who got me through and she is the one who never gave up on me even after the midwife as well as myself had.  Because of Shannon I was indeed successful at my VBAC.  It was truly because of her that my body was given the chance to do exactly what it was meant to do.  I will always be grateful to her.

Thanks to the BN team!

I would like to take a minute to thank Babies Naturally for their amazing support. After I had my son back in July 2012, I had a really hard time nursing. He didn’t latch on for the first 5 days, despite receiving all kinds of assistance and advice, from midwives, nurses, and lactation consultants. Then my midwife suggested I attend the breastfeeding clinic at Babies Naturally. I almost didn’t go; I was so tired of receiving all kinds of contradictory advice, none of which worked for us. But I did decide to go. I am so glad I did! Enter Carol Peat: within minutes she had my boy latched on and feeding, for the first time! I’m pretty sure that if I had not attended the clinic that day I would not have continued trying, and failing, to breastfeed my son. So thank you Carol!

Approximately 9 months later I found out I was pregnant again. My first birth experience was not what I had wanted at all. I had succumbed to the epidural because I had had unceasing back labour and I couldn’t handle it anymore. I then had trouble breastfeeding and bonding with my son. I decided that this time I wanted things to go differently. It took me a while to convince my husband, but eventually he agreed that we could hire a doula for this birth. I really wanted to go unmedicated, and of course I wanted the right breastfeeding support from the get-go. So we hired Shannon Stark. Throughout my pregnancy (and for the first number of months afterwards!) she was always available to answer my questions, as ridiculous as they were at times. When I went into labour, her support was even more amazing. She came over to our house and made me assume all kinds of weird and wonderful positions to make sure the baby could be in the best possible position for the birth. My husband was able to relax and watch the Leafs win a game, because he knew Shannon had things under control, and we both trusted that she would know when it was time to page the midwife and get to the hospital. She timed it so well in fact, that we arrived at the hospital at midnight, Isabel was born at 2am, and we were back home by 4:30am! What an experience! Thanks to Shannon, I was able to have my unmedicated birth, and then bond immediately with my baby, who proceeded to nurse beautifully (again, due to Shannon’s assistance; she literally took Isabel and latched her on, and then moved my arms into the right spot!).

Hiring a doula, specifically Shannon Stark, was the best decision we could have made. I’m not sure I would have been able to persevere were it not for Shannon’s continued encouragement and insistence that I could, and would, accomplish the birth that I wanted.

Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Jackie

While my midwife team was an excellent support group, Shannon and Carol were there EVERY step of the way. Questions, education class, labour coaching and post-delivery lactation support – they helped build my confidence. I can’t articulate how much it meant to have knowledgeable, reliable and compassionate professionals guide me along my journey.

Tania Testa

Shannon has always been very professional and always made us feel comfortable no matter what the conversation or topic was. Her knowledge of the birthing process and aftercare is such a great asset and something we found invaluable as first time parents. Many times throughout the pregnancy we didn’t know what to expect or what our options were (or that we had them) and Shannon was always great at explaining and clarifying everything.

The most important area we would like to highlight was the labour and birth. Without Shannon present and on-call at all times, we probably would have made 2 or more trips to the hospital only to be sent home. It was such a relief to have Shannon’s experience and consulting to let us know exactly what was happening and what stage we were in. Being able to labour at home as long as possible made it much easier on us and we are confident this enabled a smooth birth.

On Sunday around 12 noon we had hit our low point. We were very exhausted physically and emotionally. Sensing this, Shannon made the trip out to Komoka to be with us even though Amy wasn’t in active labour yet. Shannon was a godsend to us. She raised our spirits, helped Amy relax and really kick-started labour. By recommending new positions and strategies Amy was able to relax, get baby Hope into the right position and get things moving along to the point that Amy was 6cm dilated by the time we arrived at the hospital at 6pm.

When it was time to travel to the hospital, Shannon made the trip with us in the car which was completely above our expectations. Knowing she was there allowed us to relax, confident we were in good hands if the baby arrived early. After all was said and done, Shannon spent over 12 hours with us that day and was constantly dedicated to us for that whole time. Having that level of support was inspiring to say the least.

Amy’s plan all along was to have a completely natural birth with no interventions. We are very confident that without Shannon, this would not be possible. When Amy wavered in her ability to complete the task, Shannon knew exactly what to say, or what to do to relax her, and get back on track. This was also very beneficial to me (Jeff) as watching Amy go through so much pain and discomfort was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Shannon was able to keep me calm and coach me into saying the things I needed to say, and do what I needed to do to comfort Amy. Without Shannon I might have collapsed and recommended an epidural to Amy. Again I am so grateful for Shannon’s support.

One of my (Jeff) initial fears of hiring Shannon was that it would limit my involvement in the birthing process. I can honestly say now that in no way did Shannon interfere with my ability to be involved in the birth. Quite the opposite it allowed me to be involved exactly how I wanted to be involved as Shannon handled everything else. I was able to be 100% focused on Amy and Shannon supported us both however we needed it.

Once Hope was born, it was the happiest moment of our lives. We owe it all to Shannon and are so glad we were able to share that experience with her. We don’t even know how to express how much we appreciate and are forever grateful for Shannon and what she did for us. After Hope was born, Shannon was also a great asset to help Amy in the early stages of breastfeeding. The nurses were almost non-existent so it was great to get little tips and tricks to kick start breastfeeding success. With a few small tweaks and adjustments Hope is feeding great and Shannon was a huge part of that.

Jeff and Amy Northey

 

 

Many people believe that by choosing to have a medicated birth they save themselves from pain in childbirth and I can say quite simply (from experience) that it just isn’t true. I had planned to have a natural birth with my first child and despite feeling prepared and informed I ended up with the birth that I really did not want: hospital, Pitocin, epidural, transfer of care, suctioning and stitches, instead of natural childbirth at home. Needless to say, my first birth experience was not at all what I had hoped for and it took me months to come around to the idea of ever giving birth again. My recovery was long, physically and emotionally draining, and breastfeeding was challenging. Upon discovering that I was pregnant for a second time I decided that I HAD to have a more positive experience; to take control, be stronger, wiser and have the most calming person I knew at my birth. We opted to sign up with a different midwifery practice because we felt that their mandate was closer to our own birthing philosophy. We also decided to take an additional birth education class as the one we had taken during our first pregnancy was not as informative as we would have liked. The” Babies Naturally” birthing class was fabulous. We spent the day with one other delightful couple and Shannon and Kristi, the class co-leaders, shared their ideas about how to achieve a positive birth experience. This class was in stark contrast to the first one that we had taken. We had lively and varied discussion, and felt comfortable talking about our experiences and asking questions. Armed with our newly gained knowledge and a tremendous amount of enthusiasm we gathered our home birth supplies, and felt that this time we could achieve a beautiful natural birth.

 

As we approached the 42 week mark our hopes for a home birth seemed to be slipping away and we were envisioning an induction with the usual catalogue of interventions. I began to panic and decided to try every trick in the book in order to avoid this unwanted outcome. I had two “stretch and sweeps” –the second of which was on the day that my labour started. I took castor oil a few hours after my stretch as the midwife felt my cervix was ready and that I simply needed a bit of help to kick start the labour (and to empty my bowels). I had to admit that it took me two tries to get the vile liquid down my throat (the first lot ended up splattered all over my kitchen cabinets). Evidently, my body was ready as three hours after taking the oil and an hour after a nice long walk I was relaxing in the bath when the contractions started! They began gently and gradually, coming every 5 minutes and lasting for about 30 seconds. After an hour of regular contractions I called Carol to let her know and we chatted a few times over the next half an hour, so that she could monitor my progress. The contractions were building fairly rapidly and Carol suggested paging the midwife, filling up the labouring tub, and preparing ourselves for a quick delivery.

Labouring in the birthing pool was glorious and eased the contractions tremendously. We had the pool set up in the nursery and enjoyed light easy conversation between contractions. The midwife arrived at about 10:30pm by which point I was working harder but I still felt extremely calm. The reminders to relax my facial muscles, and my shoulders, and keep my voice soft and low made a huge difference to how I coped. As my labour progressed and I found myself having to clamber out of the tub more regularly to go to the toilet I opted to labour at the side of the bed. Even as the contractions grew stronger and I was feeling such extreme pressure I never once doubted my ability to carry on un-medicated and was really rather enjoying the experience. I found that focusing on something during the contractions was helpful – I picked the screw on the electrical outlet faceplate. At this point with baby moving through the birth canal I found that the most painful part of the contractions was in my back – Carol began pressing firmly on my lower back through each contraction and it helped to no end; my husband was kneeling in front of me so that I could hug him all the while peering over his shoulder and focusing on my electrical outlet. I felt surrounded by love and helpful hands but most importantly I felt strong, empowered and safe. During each contraction I repeated “I can do this” to myself and this little mantra proved to be a powerful tool indeed. Carol’s words of wisdom, telling me as each contraction passed, “That one is over and you’ll never have to do it again” was a help, indeed. I had been declining examination up until this point but the midwife suggested doing a check in case the second midwife needed to be paged: I was already 6cm and progressing quickly so we paged. By this point I was experiencing some cramping sensations in my left leg (this was a problem during my first delivery as well) and was struggling to find comfortable labouring positions. I followed my instincts and ended up labouring on my right side with the painful leg up in the air and pushed backwards – it probably looked absurd but it felt right. The contractions were coming harder and faster but still felt manageable; then my waters quite literally exploded across the bed narrowly missing the midwife and this certainly added some comic relief. A few contractions later I yelled out “That felt different” and with the next contraction baby’s head was showing. I breathed deeply and worked through the next contraction and, as I did, I felt the head emerging from my body. I was instructed to pant at this point, and my baby’s body was out with the third and final contraction. (This was a mere 28 minutes after my 6cm check.) One of the many things that I still marvel at about this experience is that I didn’t have to push during labour. We’d had another beautiful baby girl and we named her Molly. She was put onto my stomach immediately; she took a few minutes to rest before she began inching her way up my torso looking for her first food. Watching the beautifully primal instincts of a newborn babe moving towards its mother’s breast is amazing sight, indeed. The placenta came out easily and without incident just as our second midwife arrived.

After showering and being tucked up in my own bed made up with my favourite sheets and with a nice cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit I couldn’t quite believe that giving birth could be so beautiful. The pain was by no means unmanageable (I truly believe my medicated first birth was more painful) and the empowering experience of listening to my own body’s cues and connecting with my baby was sublime. The day after the birth I was up and about, feeling strong, nursing well and overjoyed at not having to tend to stitches and swollen body parts. Molly is now 6 weeks old and I still find it hard to believe that giving birth could have been so enjoyable. I love to tell our story and encourage woman to trust in themselves and, whenever possible, to have a natural birth while surrounded by individuals who are helpful, loving and supportive.

Madeleine Kendall

 

 

Thank you for your amazing prenatal class! Shannon – you were so organized and detailed and genuine. You have such a lovely spirit and your calm, happy, giving energy was so inspiring. Your honesty and forthcoming nature made the class so personal and so practical and so informative. This class made me feel so educated about birth and so empowered – I truly feel ready to enter into this next chapter and knowing that there are support people like you guys out there makes the whole endeavor seem a lot less scary!

 

Dr. Heather Somers, Chiropractor