Over the last few years, I have seen some great changes occur in our Abilene hospitals while working as a doula, supporting moms and dads. When I first started a few years ago, it was not often that moms were allowed very much freedom of movement during labor, immediate skin to skin with their babies, or respect given when parents wanted to decline some of the routine birthing or newborn procedures.
Today, I can honestly say that I'm seeing families allowed more autonomy in their choices. Changes are evident. Of course, there's always room for more improvement, and something that's been on my heart that needs change is access to VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) for moms in the Abilene area.
Almost weekly, I hear from a mother who is doing some heavy research because she just wants to avoid another cesarean - if possible. The options for VBAC in Abilene limited. Very few providers in our community will support a moms choice for vaginal birth after she's had one cesarean, and almost no one will offer support if the mother has had MORE than one cesarean. Some moms choose homebirth as their best option. Even though I personally loved my homebirth (and fully believe that it prevented an unnecessary c-section in my case), I know that it is not the right fit for every mother.
So, what are families to do when they feel they have run out of options in Abilene? Well, more of them are traveling longer distances to get the care that they want. It is not uncommon for Abilene women to travel to the DFW area to get the best shot at a safe VBAC, or a Family Centered Cesarean if a repeat c-section becomes needed.
As a Birth Boot Camp DOULA, I have built some pretty great relationships with birth workers both near and far. Today, my friend Sydney Williamson is joining us on the blog to provide information about VBAC birthing options for women in Abilene who are considering making the trip out of town to give birth. She is a doula in the Dallas Fort Worth area and is also a VBAC mom herself.
Hi Sydney, and thank you SO much for being a great resource! Can you share a little about yourself and why you became a doula with our readers?
Hi! Thanks for inviting me to chat about this. I'm a mom of two and doula in Fort Worth, and I'm passionate about breakfast foods and supporting families' transition into parenthood. ;) I feel like that sums me up pretty well!
I wanted to become a doula after I was in a rut pursuing a nursing degree, I wanted to be an L&D nurse but something wasn't fitting. I wanted to connect more with families and support them to reach their goals, especially through pregnancy and postpartum. So I took some time off, then got pregnant with my first baby, had a cesarean, and stepped away from anything birth related for a bit to heal from my cesarean. I supported the births of friends, and the doula spark was in there. When I became pregnant again and realized what I was up against planning to give birth after a cesarean, the fire was ignited and I knew my career would be supporting families to reach their goals in birth and parenthood.
If a mom were traveling to DFW for a VBAC, what birthing locations or specific providers would you encourage her to explore?
Fort Worth would be the closest option, and two of my very favorite providers are super VBAC supportive certified nurse midwife (CNM) groups that deliver in really great hospitals in Fort Worth.
Grace OBGYN & Midwifery (gracebirth.com) catches babies at Texas Health Harris Southwest hospital, and they're amazing. They have an office at Texas Health Resources Willow Park, so that's even a bit closer for all the office appointments, families would just be driving in to Fort Worth for the birth.
The UNT Midwife group (nurse-midwife.com) is my other top pick, and they deliver at Texas Health Harris Fort Worth, which is in downtown Fort Worth. They're really wonderful, I actually had both my own babies there! One was a family centered cesarean, and the other was an out of hospital transfer VBAC.
Speaking of family centered cesareans, both of these hospitals really strive to practice family centered care, so if plans change they still provide a respectful and compassionate birth experience for families. They support delayed cord clamping, immediate skin to skin, breastfeeding, and lots more that families look for. They also have nitrous oxide which is a fantastic option for pain management!
There are also licensed certified professional midwives (CPMs) in Dallas Fort Worth who support VBAC, one of my favorites is Michele Massey at Gentle Beginnings in Hurst, about another 20 minutes from downtown Fort Worth. The postpartum stay at a birth center is shorter than a hospital delivery, so that's something to consider as well.
What if a mother has had multiple cesareans?
If a mom has had multiple cesareans Dr. Frederick Cummings is THE guy. He's the doctor who believes women can deliver vaginally even when every other provider has said no. He only takes those special circumstances who don't have great chances of being supported in a vaginal birth elsewhere- so VBAC after multiple cesareans, twins, breech, etc. He catches babies at Denton Presbyterian hospital, so it's a bit further of a drive, but well worth it for those that he may be their only option to have their VBAC supported.
I just checked my GPS and it says that the drive from my house in Abilene to Fort Worth is 2 hours and 13 minutes. What would you say to a mom who is worried about her birth location being so far away?
I think every family has to weigh their goals and priorities against their options, and decide what compromises they'll make. The stakes feel even higher with a VBAC- I know what it's like to feel like a doctor doesn't believe you can do it, to have friends or family tell you what you want is unsafe, or to feel like you have a scarlet letter on you because you had a previous cesarean birth. I consulted with an OB for my own VBAC that was almost an hour from my house, and told him I was pretty concerned about making it to the hospital on time. He told me if the hospital was in Houston (4 hours away) I'd probably still make it in time, haha! He was right, because generally labor starts out slow, and gives you time to get where you're going. Not always! But I think most families will have plenty of time when they realize they're in labor to make a 2ish hour trip to Fort Worth.
A big concern with traveling out of town to give birth is working out the logistics - getting to appointments, childcare during the birth for older siblings, etc. Do you have any tips for working out these logistics?
For the appointments I think just don't schedule them when you'll be driving with rush hour traffic. And get into a good podcast ;)
Within DFW some women travel an hour plus to get to their birth place, and I commonly hear of families checking into an inexpensive hotel near the hospital in labor. That could be an option. There's a network of moms and moms groups that I could help an Abilene mom reach out to, and I think lots of local women would want to support another mom in her goal for a VBAC, if they could help by offering childcare I think they would! There's also the option of hiring a "sibling doula" or sitter/nanny for the birth.
With your knowledge about options in the Fort Worth area, would you recommend that a mom make the trip? Why or why not?
I would, absolutely. I tell my clients to give birth where what they want is standard. It can be done, but walking in somewhere and fighting for a birth plan that the hospital doesn't support just rarely has a positive outcome, and families shouldn't have that kind of stressor on what should be a beautiful and sacred time welcoming a baby to their family.
Again, I think families have to weigh their goals against their options, and decide what their priorities are and what compromises they'll make. If VBAC is a big priority and they don't have options near them, Fort Worth is an awesome place to have a baby.
I already know the answer to this, but I want you to share with our readers today - do you think it's helpful to hire a doula specifically for a VBAC?
Yes! Absolutely. I really really do. Especially if a family is planning to travel to DFW- having someone connected to those resources is huge. But for anyone planning a VBAC anywhere, I think it's beneficial. Just feeling validated, listened to, having someone to ask those questions and voice those concerns for me was huge when planning my VBAC. For the birth, having someone there contraction to contraction who is 100% in your corner and supporting you in your goals and helping you reach them- it's just worth a doula's weight in gold.
Are there any final words of wisdom that you'd like to share?
You can do it! Build a birth team that supports you and your goals, and treats you with respect and compassion so that no matter what you have a great birth because you felt heard, loved, and listened to.
Looking for a doula in the Dallas Fort Worth area? You can visit Sydney's website HERE or visit her business page on FACEBOOK.