Produced by Dan Ryan for St Mary’s Medical Center

As the time approached to give birth to her fourth child, Joia Heid had a decision to make. “My first baby was born via C-section, my second was a vaginal birth, and my third was a footling breech which made a C-section necessary. But something in my gut told me that this baby was supposed to be born vaginally. I knew I could do it. I had done it before. But I knew that I had to find the right care provider who could help support me in that decision.”

Enter Leah Maulding, a Certified Nurse Midwife at St. Mary’s. “Joia and her husband had just moved here and were looking for a provider who was a supporter of vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC),” says Leah. “I remember thinking, ‘okay, we’ll go through the risks and benefits and see how she feels about it.’ A big part of our role here is to educate our patients and help them make the best decision to safely deliver their baby.”

“My desire was to find somebody who’s first priority was my baby’s safety,” Joia says. “I need somebody I could trust to tell me ‘no, this isn’t the best route for your baby,’ or ‘yes let’s try this because we know we can do this safely.’”

“Here at St. Mary’s, we collaborate with our team of physicians on the higher risk pregnancies to assure safe care for our moms and babies,” Leah says. “One of the things we offer that is unique to the Western Slope is the opportunity to have a VBAC. Nowhere else in western Colorado do people have this choice. It’s a common misconception that once you have a C-section you must always have a C-section, so being able to provide the VBAC option for our patients when it’s safe for them is super important to me. It’s one of the reasons why I chose St. Mary’s as a place to practice.”

Joia says that going through both forms of birth was a big motivating factor. “Both my C-section babies had a bit of a hard time adjusting to the world, needing oxygen support and other things, which I was hoping to avoid with this baby. I’m also a busy mom with three little ones at home and I wanted my recovery to go faster than what I experienced with my previous C-section recoveries. So, as long as it was going to be the right route for the baby, I was all in.”

After carefully reviewing her options with Leah and weighing the risks and benefits of each, Joia decided to go ahead with the vaginal delivery. A healthy 9 lb., 4 oz. baby boy was born with no complications, and Joia and her husband, Vincent, were thrilled.

“It was a dream come true for me,” Joia says. “I had been told by other providers that it was too risky and not to do it, but that experience was healing to me and my recovery was just wonderful. The level of care that Leah and the staff at St. Mary’s provided was far beyond anything that I’ve experienced before, and I’ve been through a lot, pregnancy-wise. But Leah was there for me every step of the way and I will take that part of the story with me for the rest of my life.”