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I can't believe a baby came out of me!

I wanted to "give birth" and it was very important to me to have my birth redemption story, because I was robbed of that experience the first time around. Partly my fault, because I failed to educate myself and even know how to give informed consent (for things like stripping membranes at 36 week exam- something I later found out, is supposed to be a simple q-tip swab of the cervix to test for group b strep bacteria- it has nothing to do with internal exam and sweeping membranes). My husband and I, we didn't understand the importance of childbirth education nor a doula. We both thought, isn't that what the doctor and nurse does? They will tell us what to do. This couldn't have been furthest to the truth. In fact, it was my practitioner who was partly responsible for my poor outcome with baby #1. I had no idea what was involved in a vaginal exam. I had no idea why I should refuse the exam if no danger signs or signs of labor are occuring. And, sadly, I was NOT informed, nor given the opportunity to "give informed consent" when they stripped my membranes during my 36 week exam. Which should have never of happened. It was supposed to be a swab of the cervix to check for group b strep bacteria. I never even had the opportunity to even learn the results from the test, because my water broke after the membrane sweep and my baby not anywhere ready to be born was in a breech position. Therefore, a cesarean section followed and my early little one was in NICU for 12 days. Maybe even worse, the hospital staff kept me from meeting and holding my baby for over 12 long hours. I will forever be grateful for the NICU staff and their amazing care of my son.

It still pains me to look at this photo. My first baby spent first 12 hours apart from me and first 12 days in NICU

I longed to be with my baby and because I failed to educate myself, to even properly give informed consent for an internal exam, my entire story changed.

My first baby in NICU / a rough start to life
My motivation to take a childbirth class the second time around

I hope my second story below empowers you to not only believe YOU CAN GIVE BIRTH, but encourages you to begin your training today! We have only nine months to grow and nurture our baby before its born (with a good care provider) and sometimes less time as in my first story if we do not take care of ourselves or heaven forbid, you have a first story like mine (if with an unsupportive/ poor provider scenario). My first appointment with my second baby, I strongly shared my desire to VBAC and before leaving the office the staff asked me to schedule my second c-sectionand even mailed me c-section consent forms. It infuriated me. I had just found out I was pregnant and already disparaged. I did NOT sign those consent forms and made a decision to CHANGE MY BIRTH STORY!

This time, I trained my body and my mind! My husband was amazing and supported me in class, during homework/ practice, at home during labor and was absolutely amazing during late labor at our birth place.

We hired Pam and her Your Birth Helper Athens Doula Dream Team and together, we changed our story. I still can't believe a baby came out of me, but it was by far, one of the most joyful and complete experiences of my entire life.

Oh, and my vaginal birth after c-section was way cheaper, even with childbirth training and a doula team and my baby so much healthier being born full-term and after 24 hours of labor stimulation. I could go on and on, but I'll control my excitement now and let our Doula Pamela Sauls, Your Birth Helper take it from here! ~ Maci Volkmer

Not everyone comes to a barn in the woods to prepare to give birth, but Your Birth Helper clients have the option to train in their home or at the farm with my team and I. As clients of The Athens Doula Dream Team, our YBH couples can attend a monthly labor role play Intensive Birth Training once a month (free of charge) with the Your Birth Helper doula contract of their choice. Many like Matt and Maci, train twelve weeks in traditional Bradley Method® classes and then utilize the monthly workshops as great practice runs. We make DAD navigate through the trial labor, while mom focuses on her positioning and techniques learned in class.

I first met Matt and Maci Volkmer over mexican at Aqua Linda in Athens, Ga to discuss their disappointment in their first birth experience. I was stunned to hear such an absurd story of how a poor use of a routine office procedure, changed her entire story and created such trauma. Most people want to believe the medical staff knows best and what they say do we all should do, but sadly Maci and Matt are not alone with their outcome. Many couples share they felt totally duped, misled, bullied and that they couldn't believe the medical interventions that were supposed to benefit them, actually caused what they, "had to be rescued from!" This is not the norm, but sadly these stories still play out. It is in fact called, "practicing medicine" for a reason. Over dinner, I shared with the couple, my apologies that they had to experience such. I encouraged them to change their story. I empowered them to help plan their redemption story. I am happy to share, not only did Maci push her baby out, the majority of her entire experience was all done drug-free. It is not easy to VBAC, but it is so much healthier for your little one and such a more speedy recovery for mom.

Great news is, It can be done! Let my team and I, give you five tips for successful VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean surgery).

First, you must hire a VBAC friendly provider. They are out there. It may not be the closest hospital to where you live, but you must think realistically. Increase your odds of vaginal birth by hiring a qualified Midwife. Midwives do not perform c-sections. Most do everything in their power to keep you from surgery. Think about it, why would you return to the same practice who failed to support your choices the first time, and/ or created a scenario of which landed you into the operating room, such as a membrane sweep at 36 week that led to her water breaking prematurely to start with? Here is another tip, reach out to naturally supportive, low intervention minded local childbirth educators, doula's or lactation specialists and ask for provider referrals. Maci was healthy and low risk and lived under an hour drive to Athens, Ga. Therefore, I recommended she see the midwives of Women's Healthcare Professionals.

Second, find a supportive birth place. Many practices work at more than one hospital or facility. Why do locals feel one hospital or center is better or more supportive than another (based on your preferences)- ask them. Take a tour- ask what is your percentage of c-section, natural births, VBAC's, etc. Sadly, Piedmont Athens is currently sharing during their tours that 1 in 3 have c-sections there. Choose wisely who you pay your money to and make sure the birthplace you choose will support your wishes for your birth (you need to educate and be aware of your options). Again, reaching out to local birth professionals that support low intervention/natural birth, can be a great place to get referrals, regardless of your choice to utilize pain management or not. Matt and Maci, heeded my advice and chose to attempt their VBAC at St. Mary's Athens, Ga. St. Mary's has proven to be a very family oriented facility which honors family's wishes.

Quote by Dr. Seuss

Third step to successful VBAC is getting your partner on board to support you physically, mentally and emotionally along your journey to vaginal birth. You will need this support to help you to meet nutritional demands (consuming only well balanced meals 80-100 grams of protein, pretty rainbow colored plates, which can help you avoid things like gestational diabetes, edema, elevated blood pressure, preeclampsia /HELLP syndrome, strengthen your uterus, body and overall health of placenta and baby with proper nutrition. Careful to avoid harmful things such as: alcohol, smoking, drugs, including OTC drugs, caffeine, additives, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, excess sugar, empty carbs, etc. Your partner should literally coach you daily and incite you to train both physically and mentally to the best of your ability, including: daily regular exercise to build stamina (at least 30 minutes a day or more), regular pregnancy exercises daily to tone and condition your low back, abs and pelvic floor (kegels, pelvic rocks, butterflies, tailor sitting just to name a few) and 10-20 minutes of daily (meditation/visualization) relaxation practice (preferably at least 10 of the 20 minutes together with your partner. Hard Labor can be hard. You will be glad you prepared when contractions pick up.

Fourth, chose a quality childbirth training program. Matt and Maci chose the most thorough of all birthing methods, The Bradley Method®. The course has twelve segments of study which includes everything from relaxation, anatomy, nutrition, exercise, coach training, first, second and third stage labor basics, complications/variations, understanding birth options, creating a birth plan, how to give informed consent, navigation of labor hurdles, live labor role play, emergency childbirth, labor positioning, pushing techniques, how the coach can help, new baby and breastfeeding basics. True Bradley Method® affiliates teach 12 classes, once weekly for two hours in length. Shortened series of classes are not allowed. Local teachers are independent Instructors, yet bound by bylaws. Any Bradley Instructor teaching less than 12 segments of study, should be reported to the academy at

Lastly, consider hiring a competent Doula or Doula Team that has a proven track record of successful VBAC and natural birth. There are so very many things that could challenge you along your journey. By every definition of the word VBAC is a first baby scenario. Meaning typically a longer length labor as in a first baby to pass through the birth canal. As a VBAC candidate, you will not be subject to induction methods. Therefore, you must get into natural labor before 41 weeks. You will also be subjected to additional routine interventions such as (in our best practices/ birth places): constant fetal monitoring over 6cm, Hep Lock/ IV access, admitting to your birth place earlier (using what we call the 6-1-1), etc. Our Your Birth Helper teams empower the couple to meet their goals through proper preparation. We are here during pregnancy, labor and beyond. We Educate, We Train, We prepare, We help navigate and We help execute your plans! And, together, we successfully VBAC, isn't that right Matt & Maci? Now, here is a peak into Maci’s active labor phase (laboring with her husband & Doula Pam)...

Active Labor approximately an hour before heading to birthplace.

Now, from one Man to Another, here is Dad Matt's perspective...

What were the determining factors of why you chose to train with Maci and choose YBH Doula services? (From a mans perspective to help other men consider wisely)

— I chose to train with my wife and YBH Doula services because I wanted what she wanted. I wanted a happy, intimate birth experience that we could both participate in and would never forget. I think a large part of why men would be hesitant is because they don’t think they have any role during birth and they don’t have the knowledge to see just how valuable they are throughout the process. After working with YBH and experiencing birth first hand I would not have changed a thing. Because I had the knowledge and I knew my role, I can honestly say it was the most intimate, bonding, and surreal experience of my life and I got to share it with my wife.

What did you enjoy the most during training?

— the most enjoyable part for me was the weekly Bradley Class. It was a great date night and you discuss things that you have never even thought of with your wife. It brings up great conversations and makes you closer because of it.

What was the hardest part of your journey?

— The hardest part would probably be the diet and making sure Maci was getting the right portion amounts of all the various categories.

What was the scariest part of your VBAC journey?

— The scariest part was that the VBAC could be taken away from her due to something out of her control. But it goes to show that if you follow the plan from YBH you can get your body and mind ready.

How would you rate your midwife experience and birth at st Mary’s vs. your previous practice/ birthplace?

— our experience at St Mary’s was nothing short of perfect. The whole atmosphere at St Mary’s is nothing but positive and helpful. The entire staff there was onboard with a VBAC and you could tell they genuinely wanted it for us. Our Midwives Hillary and Hannah were awesome and completely supportive. They tailored their care to exactly what we wanted and needed.

Dad helps catch baby with help of Midwife Hannah

What was is like catching your own baby? (Matt)

— without a doubt the most surreal experience of my life. It is something I will always remember and I have never been so proud of my wife in that moment.

Woman to Woman Chat... Mom Maci‘s Q & A responses:

What did you enjoy the most during training?

•This is a tough one because it was all so much fun & so cool to me... but the thing I probably enjoyed most was learning how incredible our bodies really are & being able bond with Matt in a way we never have before. It was so cool to see Matt learn to respect women’s bodies and what we go through on a another level.

What was the hardest part of your journey?

•The hardest part was probably making the decision to VBAC after my first providers tried to scare me away from it. I decided, in addition to my own health, my daughter was worth all the efforts of trying.

This Photo by Here Comes the Sun Photography

What was the scariest part of your VBAC journey?

•The scariest thing for me was the thought of something going wrong and ending up in a repeat cesarean despite all of our hard work. I knew I had to at least try though or I would regret it. I felt it was the healthiest option for our little girl. I wanted the most natural experience I could give her.

How would you rate your midwife experience and birth at st Mary’s vs. your previous practice/ birthplace?

•Oh 10 out of 10! It’s not even comparable. The midwives with Womens healthcare associates are phenomenal! And st marys was AMAZING. They are so accommodating to mom & baby and all about giving you the birth you want! I don’t have a single complaint. It was apparent to us after the care we received with the pregnancy that our previous provider wasn’t worried about giving us what we wanted at all. it was more about what was convenient for them.

Dear World,

Please join me in welcoming...

Baby Oakley Ryan Volkmer weighing in at

7lbs 13oz and 20 inches long. Your Birth Helper and teams are so proud of your hard work, practice and efforts to increase your odds of achieving a successful VBAC!

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