Pregnant for the second time, Nicole Burnett learned how important it was to listen to her gut instincts. Her first child was born preterm at 34 weeks and here she was at 36 weeks with her second baby when light contractions woke her up between 3 and 4am. After she fell asleep, she dreamed about the contractions and woke up at 5 again.

“I was hoping it wasn’t real contractions,” she said, “but experience told me it probably was.”

I received her texts that morning. She sounded understandably nervous. She didn’t want her unborn daughter to go through an extended NICU like her son had. I encouraged her to ignore her contractions for as long as she could. When they persisted, she reached out to her medical provider to schedule an appointment. She took her toddler for a walk while she waited and since it was sunny, then got him ready for a nap. Then after she went to her appointment, her medical provider suggested that she go to the hospital to check things out.

“It ended up being a good call because by then, which was around noon, my contractions were making the long walk from the parking garage to Labor and Delivery pretty uncomfortable,” Nicole said.

By the time I arrived, she had been admitted because she was already at 5-6 centimeters. Since she had a C-section with her son, she had hoped for a unmedicated vaginal birth. But she said if she needed medication or other help to manage her pain, she was open to options.I suggested she try some different positions”– sitting, laying on the ball, and standing – all to help her to be more comfortable AND to help the baby move through the pelvis. Her husband, Tyler, couldn’t join her yet because he was arranging childcare for their toddler.

During her contractions, I coached her through her breathing and she said she felt fine in between. She said breathing with me through contractions and getting the back massages most helped her. It wasn’t until close to the end where she didn’t feel like she could take the pain anymore.

“Honestly, I’m still amazed I actually got through the birth without any pain meds and I ripped which was a fear of mine,” Nicole said. “But I didn’t even know I did until they told me afterwards.”

Around 4:30 p.m., Nicole was 9 cm. with an anterior lip, which means that she was almost fully dilated. At that point, she was in transition and her contractions grew more and more intense. Her husband arrived at this point (she was relieved that their other kid was well taken care of and he was able to make it before the baby arrived!).

He and I helped her one contraction at a time with movement, massages, reminders to breathe together. She asked about other options like using the TENS Unit. So, I told her about it and nitrous oxide as an option for pain relief. I’m thinking that she must be close to being fully dilated and in transition because her contractions suddenly got even more intense.

The nurse asked Nicole if she wanted to try pushing so that she wouldn’t feel like she had to fight the contractions and instead work with them. Nicole agreed. After she pushed for a few times, she liked her nurse’s idea and kept going. Nicole’s providers were OBGYN but they weren’t available at the time (busy with other patients). Instead, the midwife came in, ready to assist in any way Nicole needed. After Nicole pushed for about an hour, her baby was born at 7:15 that evening. Nicole was relieved and so happy that she got her VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). She was able to enjoy the golden hour with skin-to-skin time with the baby. The midwife also gave her a tour of her placenta.

After the nurse did the newborn exam and measurements, she worked on breastfeeding the baby. Nicole felt confident with it because she had nursed her first kid too. Nicole felt so proud of herself for trying to and getting the unmedicated vaginal birth she wanted, especially after she had an unplanned cesarean with her firstborn. Aside from her baby being born three and a half weeks early, Nicole expressed gratitude that she had no other complications.

“Dad was great,” Nicole commented. “He kept checking on me and bringing me washcloths for my forehead because I was hot.” She added the best part of her labor experience was Tyler’s presence.

Bananas played a role in being the funniest part of Nicole’s day. Earlier, a friend had dropped off snacks, including a bunch of bananas, then had told Tyler to bring some. In the end, Nicole had fifteen bananas in the room when she had only wanted one.

The Doctor who came in after the birth to check in on Nicole and the baby was the same Doctor who did the cesarean for her firstborn. He was happy for the whole family. What a cool little full-circle moment!

Nicole named her new baby girl Lina after a character in a book she had read.

“Baby snuggles are the best!” Nicole said about being a parent to Lina. “Also seeing my toddler interact with the baby has been really sweet.”


“Kristen was excellent! She did a great job of learning about me, my family, and our wishes for the birth of our daughter. She provided resources to help with birth that were consistent with what I wanted. I’m honestly not sure I could have made it through my unmedicated natural birth without her. She texted me the whole day until it was determined it was go time, then she was there immediately when my husband couldn’t make it for a while due to finding help for our older child. For several hours Kristen helped me through the most intense pain of my life and was able to keep me on track with my plan. Even better, she got some amazing pictures of the birth that I will cherish forever. Highly recommend!” – Nicole B, Birth Doula Client

If you’re interested in a birth doula and/or birth photographer for your coming birth, book a consult to chat!


About the Author Kristen Schell

Kristen is a birth doula, photographer and childbirth educator. She wants to help families feel inspired by what birth can be. It can be beautiful, empowering, supported, and evidence based.

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