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Category: Birth Without Fear

Beautiful Hospital Birth From a Mother’s Eyes

Beautiful Hospital Birth From a Mother’s Eyes

February 1, 2014: That tiny internet cheapie pregnancy test finally showed two faint lines. I mean barely see it, squint your eyes and pretend it’s there type of faint. Suddenly, disbelief became my emotion. How could I tell Tyler I was finally pregnant, after just shy of a year since we began trying to conceive, if I wasn’t even 100% the test was positive? I kept quiet and waited for Tyler to go to bed, knowing good well I should just wait and test again in the morning. Emotions took control over me and I whipped out the expensive store bought pregnancy test that had been hiding under my bathroom sink just waiting for this defining moment. So, I took the test and waited. Before the time had elapsed, I looked at that stick and thought no way is this happening. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we wanted this, we had been praying for this moment, but after peeing on what felt like hundreds of sticks, you start to think it will never happen. Of course, I shared the news with Tyler and we each went through extreme ranges of emotions, ending in cautious excitement.

Approximately 7 weeks pregnant: The day finally arrived to go to our OB appointment and confirm that we are actually pregnant! Seeing that tiny little bean on the ultrasound broke me in the most beautiful way possible. I was carrying a tiny human! A tiny human that I had to nourish and protect. A tiny human that I had no control over, because after all it’s in God’s hands.

16-20 weeks pregnant: My phone rings while I am at work, I look down and see it’s the OB calling. I hesitantly answer, wondering why they would be calling; not thinking it may be the results from our downs syndrome screening. It was the nurse on the other end, who informed me that we were high risk for downs syndrome and would be referred to a specialist. Two weeks later, I found myself sitting in the parking lot at this new and strange office. As I was waiting to go in, Bring the Rain by Mercy Me came on the radio. I lost it! All I could do was pray and remind myself that no matter what this doctor said, no matter the outcome of any tests, I had a miracle growing inside of me, and I would remain strong for this baby. Then the hard part came, getting out of the car and making it in to the waiting room to see a specialist. How did such a beautiful miracle end up with us sitting in this waiting room, leaving us feeling alone and afraid of the unknown. Now we knew regardless what the results were, that we would love this baby unconditionally. We were finally called back to ultrasound, to take more in depth measurements of our little pumpkin and then to meet with the doctor. We left this appointment feeling a little more positive, since the ultrasound showed no markers that were of concern. A couple of weeks after this appointment, we got a phone call saying that the blood test was negative and we could just about rule out downs syndrome. I hung up the phone praising God and realizing that everything happens for a reason. Never doubt God, even though we felt very much alone, He was always there.

20-34 weeks pregnant: Other than morning sickness since about 8 weeks, everything seemed to be going smoothly at this point. We found out we were having a little girl and anxiously awaited the arrival of little Lana.

34 weeks pregnant: I went in for my regular 2 week check at the OB. However, the appointment was a little different. My heart rate was way above my normal. My heart rate was in the 150’s, which I had consistently been in the 70’s this entire pregnancy. This scare ended in blood work and a referral to the cardiologist, where they did an echocardiogram, EKG and a 24 hour holter monitor. After the testing, I was put on a beta blocker to control my heart rate and vitamins to help with severe anemia. I was also taken out of work to rest and allow my blood volume to hopefully increase before delivery.

37 weeks pregnant: At this point, I went in to the “it could happen anytime now” mindset. After a few days of that thinking, I kindly reminded myself, that it could also happen at 42 weeks, so I decided to try and enjoy these last few days/weeks, instead of focusing on it as a countdown.

October 10, 2014: It’s officially our estimated delivery date! I went with my mom to get pedicures as kind of a celebration that we made it! I was secretly hoping the foot massage would put me in to labor. Nope. Our estimated date came and went.

October 11 – October 19, 2014: Patience is a virtue, right? I had my rough moments, but I was prepared for the long haul (42 weeks). I kept reminding myself that I would let my baby choose her birthdate. If there is no medical reason to be induced, then why do it? The more days that passed, the tougher it got to handle the comments about why I haven’t been induced or the recommendations on what I should do to go in to labor. I had several episodes of false labor, which can totally mess with your mind. With each back ache, stomach cramp or strange feeling, I thought could this be it? We continued to wait.

October 15, 2014: I went to my appointment with my OB. I was a beautiful, swollen, 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant woman. Everything checked out fine and we scheduled my next appointment for October 20th at 3:15pm to discuss our induction plan, which would be set up if I did not go in to labor by 42 weeks (10/24/14).

October 16, 2014: My mom and I went on several walks just to keep me moving and help ready my body for labor….if it would ever start! I began showing a few signs that labor would begin…at some point.

October 19, 2014: I literally had come to the point where I thought I would never have this baby. Could I be pregnant forever? Surely, no one has been pregnant forever. I talked to our doula and we decided to chat before I went to my appointment the next afternoon, just to put me at ease and prepare me for the induction conversation. This was an appointment that I was absolutely stressing over!

October 20, 2014 (41 weeks, 3 days pregnant): I hadn’t been able to sleep for weeks now. I would stay up until 4am or so wide awake! Sometime after midnight, I decided to update the chalk board in our kitchen to say “Welcome Lana” because she would eventually be joining us…I think.

3am- I decided to get a bath and see if that would help relax me enough to go to sleep. This had become a normal nightly, well early morning routine. I started feeling those achy back pains, which I had been feeling for a week or so now. All I could think was seriously, I am so tired of this, why can’t I just have this baby already. I was dreading the appointment that I would no doubt be going to later in the day. I was trying to prepare myself, knowing I would end up being induced and that my desire for a natural/med free birth was slowly slipping away. As I got out of the bath, the achy back had turned in to cramping. Hmmm…definitely not labor, because I am never having this baby…I will be pregnant forever.

5am- I finally get my very pregnant self into bed. I am lying on my side, because at this point, it’s the only option left. The back pain had picked up in intensity. The thought of it being early labor flickered in my mind. I thought I would try to sleep just in case labor was really starting. After laying there realizing this achy sensation was becoming more intense and cramps had really started to pick up, all I could do was rock back and forth while lying in bed. I wanted sleep to come, but it was nowhere in sight, so I rocked to keep myself comfortable.

7am- Tyler begins getting ready for work. I tell him how I am feeling, but encourage him to finish getting ready and go to work, because I doubt this is labor. I told him if it ended up being labor he could just come back home, but don’t waste a vacation day for nothing.

8am- I text my mom and tell her how I have been feeling. She offered to come over to the house and be with me. I debated whether she should really waste her time coming over and decided that whatever was happening to my body was not slowing down and definitely not stopping, so I wouldn’t mind the company. Mom showed up within probably 20 minutes. When she got to the house, I was bent over on the couch with crazy back pain. She asked if it was mild, moderate or intense. My response was it hurt like sh**. I was still in denial that this was labor. Shouldn’t I be feeling contractions? Heck, how would I know if it was a contraction or not? What does a contraction even feel like? All of these questions flooded my tired mind. I figured since whatever was happening was picking up, we would take a walk to see if it would continue. As we are walking around my street, I am doubling over with back pain. It was surreal. Knowing my neighbors may very well be watching me, all while having no care in the world. It was a beautiful moment, to be outside, the sun beaming down on me and preparing to birth my daughter.

10am- Lisa (our amazing doula) arrives at the house. Honestly, I don’t know what time I contacted her or what I even said. All I knew was Lisa was at the house and my mind kept thinking, “I hope she did not come all the way over here for nothing.” I remember at some point shortly after Lisa arrived, that she said this seemed to be the real deal! I remained cautious; thinking this probably really isn’t labor. But that back pain was constant and I felt everything getting tight. Lisa worked with me and did a few different positions during contractions to see if we could alleviate the back pain some. We walked up and down the street and all around the living room. I received countless back massages that really helped me to keep going. It eased the back pain and allowed me to stay in my own little world. I was almost enjoying the pain at this point. I knew my body was doing exactly what it was supposed to. I was in my own world, some type of trance, a birth high. Whether I was or not, I felt quiet and private, empowered and beautiful, strong and powerful. I really had no idea what to expect labor to be like, but this definitely was not it. My eyes remained closed through most of it and I did whatever my body told me to do. Again, I found this pain to be tolerable and amazingly beautiful. I was falling in love.

11am- Tyler came home from work because this was really labor! I continued to follow my body’s cues on what to do. Lisa made suggestions which I believe aided in helping things continue to progress. I walked around the back yard, leaned on my husband, took a bath and did lunges on the stairs. While in the bath, the song Oceans by United played. I relaxed and just silently talked to God. All I could really manage to say was “it’s in your hands.” Through the intense moments, I actually found myself loving this. I wanted it to keep going. I wanted it to become more intense. I wanted my baby girl in my arms.

1:45pm- Our photographer (Heather Dimsdale) came to the house to take a few photos before Lisa said it was time we make our trip to the hospital. I was so thankful knowing that she came to our home, to give us permanent memories of such an intimate time.

2pm- We load up in the car. It took me a few minutes to get from the living room to the garage. These contractions were coming closer and closer together, increasing in intensity. Contractions in the car picked up even more! I never knew a car ride could be so intense. As we were turning towards the on ramp for the interstate, I had my first moment. I yelled at Tyler, not in a hateful way, but in an intense tone, I just told him he could slow down a bit. I just wanted to be in my zone again, alone and by myself, and out of this car. I did my best to focus, stay within myself, and allow my body to open.

2:40pm- Finally, we arrived to the hospital and made it through admissions. I leaned against the chair in the admissions office, signing paperwork between contractions. Thank goodness I preregistered, so it was a quick process. A nurse came to get me with a wheelchair, which I refused, because my mind kept thinking, as long as I keep moving, this baby is coming down. Truthfully, I didn’t think I could sit at this moment. I remember passing my OB who was sitting at the nurses station. He asked how I was doing and I managed thumbs up. I felt amazing, like I’ve made it. I labored at home! We continued the walk to my room, pausing for contractions in the hall way.

3pm- Made it to the room! My OB wanted to get a quick monitor before allowing me to be unhooked from the IV and baby heart rate/contraction monitors. He checked me at 7cm! I had done it; I had almost made it to transition! After being unhooked, I walked the room, leaning on whatever was available during contractions, bed, sink, railing, and people. I feel like a lot of the time laboring in the hospital was spent sitting on the toilet. It was the most comfortable place to sit. I was able to feel my body opening and could lean forward during contractions. Someone was constantly massaging my lower back with coconut oil and I felt amazing. I had almost done this! With each contraction becoming more intense, I became more vocal, making a moaning/humming noise with each exhale. I think I also chanted “almost there” or “I am doing it.” My mom and Lisa would reinforce my statements, saying “you are doing it.”

4pm (or something close to it) – My OB came back in the room to check me again….9cm! It’s almost time to push! My OB said he had to leave at 5pm. Part of me wanted to panic, I wanted him to deliver this baby. He knew my plan, he knows me. He offered to break my water and said I could possibly deliver before 5pm, if not it would be the on call OB. I declined, knowing the pain would be more intense if my water was broken. I didn’t want any interventions, my water remained intact and my body was doing its job. He told me who the on call OB was and said he would bring her up so I could meet her before delivery. They began to bring tables in the room and ready everything for delivery. Lisa said this means you’re very close; see they are getting everything ready. I tried to remain in my world, away from all of this. While we waited, Lisa suggested squatting and leaning on the head of the bed. It felt awkward being so pregnant climbing up in bed to squat. We finally got situated and I thought I might be feeling an urge to push. Again, so unsure? What’s “the urge” supposed to feel like? I tried to relax and remind myself that my body was designed for this and I would know when it was time to push.

4:40pm (or something close to it) – Things became very intense. I yelled “oh, my butt!” That was the only statement I could make that described how I felt. So, this is what the “urge” feels like. Within seconds, my water broke and the pressure became so intense. Is she almost here? The room filled with people. Through the intensity, I heard Lisa asking me if I wanted her to coach me through pushing….ummm…yes! I have no idea how to do this! Her look was so comforting, so reassuring. I felt extremely vulnerable and was so thankful she was there. A brief thought crossed my mind that I could not handle this. As soon as that thought entered, I remembered that when you feel like giving up, that’s the moment you need to keep going. I prepared myself and tried pushing while still in that squatting position. The pressure was so intense; I was trying to stand instead of staying squatted. My OB in a kind, but firm voice said, “Britney, you cannot keep doing that, every time you do, you are closing your pelvis.” With those words, I flipped over on to my back and began pushing with all my strength. I reached down and felt a head full of beautiful hair. That feeling was all I needed; I knew our little miracle would be here very soon. I set it in my mind that when I felt like pushing, I would push with all my might. My body knew what it was doing.

4:55pm- After less than 10 minutes of pushing, Lana Faye was born. The cord was wrapped twice around her neck, but after it was unwrapped, she began crying and was immediately placed on my chest. I had done it, we had done it! Our little miracle had finally made it!

I still am in awe at all that my body went through. I desired a natural, med-free birth and by listening to my body, trusting God and having an amazing birth team with me, I was able to have a beautiful birth.

I want to thank my husband for his support from day 1! His love through the entire process was unconditional. He was quiet during labor and delivery, but so helpful. He was my rock.

My mom for being a sweet reminder that I was doing this! Until my mom arrived at my house that morning, I wasn’t sure I wanted her in the delivery room. Nothing against her, I just thought it would be awkward. Now, I couldn’t have imagined doing it without her. Mom, I love you!

My OB, for supporting me and allowing my body to do things naturally and not rush in to unnecessary interventions. He truly listened to me and encouraged me to achieve this birth.

To Lisa, who gave incredible support from the day she became our doula. She gave advice, without ever being pushy or judgmental. Lisa, I could not imagine going through pregnancy, labor, and delivery without your knowledge.

Our L&D nurses, thank you for being supportive of our decision for a med-free birth. The experience you all provided was exactly what I had dreamt of.

Our nursery nurses, thank you for sharing your knowledge with us as first time parents. The first night in the hospital we had a scare with her choking, as a new mommy, I was so thankful for your quick responses and for reassuring us that everything was ok.

Our postpartum nurses, thank you for allowing us to have time alone with our daughter to bond in the first days. Your courtesy in allowing me to recover and bond as a new family should not go unnoticed.

And to our lovely photographer, Heather. She followed our story, from our birth announcement photo shoot through the end of pregnancy, and those first moments with our daughter. We have documentation of the most intense and joyful moments of our lives. Tears, smiles, laughter, and some pretty intense faces were all captured for us to cherish for years to come.

I love you guys and could not have done it without each one of you.

To my daughter, you are more than worth the labor of love that I endured for you. I would do it over and over again, just to have you in my arms. I couldn’t have done it without you either baby girl. You were so strong. Our bodies worked together for you to arrive on your chosen birthdate. Mommy loves you!

Story submitted by Britney A.

Photographs by Heather Dimsdale of Two Little Loves Studio

The Best Father’s Day Gift We Could Have Asked For!

The Best Father’s Day Gift We Could Have Asked For!

To tell you about the birth of my second child, I have to tell you about the birth of my first child. With my first pregnancy I had Gestational Diabetes, and Gestational Hypertension and due to mounting concerns from my midwives from my rising blood pressure and heart rate, I was induced at 39 weeks. My cervix was dilated with a foley balloon, and then my water was broken. After 10 hours of intense labor, I was hooked up to pitocin which caused back to back, incredibly painful contractions with no break in between. I quickly became overwhelmed and frightened, and I gave up on my natural birth plan and got an epidural. Several hours later, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy my husband Josh and I named Henry. Despite the fact that I had a beautiful and healthy baby, I had this irrational feeling that I had somehow failed at his birth.

Fast forward 4 years to my second pregnancy. This second time around I had several goals so that I would get the birth experience that I wanted. The first was to go into labor on my own. The second was to have a natural birth with no interventions (I wanted to stay as far away from pitocin as I could), and the third goal was to have a water birth.

So to prepare for the natural birth, I tried to cement into my head that I can do anything for one minute. Meaning, that when those contractions became difficult, painful and/or overwhelming, I could focus on the fact that it would be over in one minute, and then I’d get a break. I would meditate on that subject, and go to sleep at night thinking about it, building my foundation for this natural birth that I so wanted.

With both of my pregnancies I had Gestational Diabetes, but the second time around I did not have the hypertension that I had in the first; my blood pressure stayed beautiful the whole time. The main difference between my pregnancies were the false labor (practice labor) contractions that I had. For the last several weeks of my pregnancy (and by “several weeks” I mean at least 5 weeks) I would have timeable contractions that would start, increase in intensity and then all of a sudden stop. Starting at 36 weeks we had several false alarms. Some that even sent us to the Midwife’s office to be assessed, but each time, it turned out to be braxton hicks contractions. The longer I stayed pregnant the more I felt like a ticking time bomb. I was more than ready for my baby to decide on its birthday. Having to relinquish the control and let the baby decide when it wanted to be born was one of the hardest parts of my pregnancy, and I struggled with that aspect almost every day.

When I hit 40 weeks, I was a bit shocked. I assumed that since this was a second kiddo that I wouldn’t make it to my due date, but June 12th came and went. I started to feel like I’d be pregnant forever, and that I’d be enrolling my gigantic belly into kindergarten. The longer I stayed pregnant the more my brain started to assess every cramp, twinge and pain that I felt, which at 40+ weeks is about every 4.3 seconds. I felt like I was slowly losing my sanity while waiting for my baby to decide what day it wanted to be born. This kid wanted to stay put despite all the red raspberry leaf tea I was drinking, all the evening primrose oil I was taking, all the squats that I did, and the daily walks I took.

On Friday the 17th, at 5 days past my due date, I broke down and called my midwife’s office and asked if I could come in and talk about options. I was starting to get a bit nervous about going over my due date because of the Gestational Diabetes, as well as just wanting to be done being pregnant. I’m one of those people who don’t love being pregnant. I love the end result, but the actual process of growing a human is extremely hard on me. I had horrible morning sickness the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy, and then had two trips to the hospital in my third trimester because of gallbladder issues, and let’s be honest, GD, although manageable, doesn’t make things easy either.

Anyway, on June 17th, I was really hoping that I could get my membranes stripped, and that it might propel me into labor. However, at the appointment one of my midwives informed me that she couldn’t reach my membranes to strip them, so unless I wanted to schedule an induction, I was just to wait. Josh and I had talked about having an induction, and we were considering it as an option. However, when the midwife brought it up and described how she would induce me, I firmly decided against it. Hearing the process she would take for the induction brought back all of the memories of my first birth. So, we went home a bit sad and discouraged, and resigned ourselves to wait.

I had a few contractions on Friday night after the appointment, some even timeable, but I didn’t think anything of them. As always, I was disappointed that I was able to go to sleep and that they seemed to have stopped. On Saturday, the day before I hit 41 weeks, I had some projects to do around the house (making Josh’s Father’s Day gift with Henry), and as the day wore on, I noticed that I had been having contractions for most of the morning. At some point I texted Josh to tell him that I was having them, but I didn’t know if it would lead to anything, so not to get excited. He got similar texts to that one for about the last 5 weeks, so he didn’t think much of that text either. My contractions were irregular in length, and really far apart – 40 minutes or so, and very mild, I could ignore them easily. To me they still felt like braxton hicks.

In the afternoon Josh and I took a 2+ mile walk in our neighborhood. It was great time to spend just the two of us. We talked about how we wanted labor to go, when we thought the baby would come, and how our first son Henry would do as an older sibling. We were so excited for this baby to join us! I was contracting all through the walk, but didn’t think anything of it, those contractions had become so routine.

We had a friend’s birthday party to attend that night, and I really wanted to go. So, Josh and I got ready and headed out of the house around 5:30. We dropped Henry off at the in-laws for him to spend the night (that turned out to be very serendipitous), and drove out to the party downtown.
All through the party I was having contractions, and after a while I was noticing that I needed to zone out while they were happening. They were still really far apart, and I could still talk through them if I needed to, but they were getting harder and harder to ignore. They still weren’t painful, but I was starting to have to focus on them and my breathing during them.

Josh and I had a really great time, and as we walked around downtown I had a lot of people comment on my belly. Around 9 pm, we stopped at a restaurant and got something to eat. While eating dinner, I noticed that my contractions were getting closer together, and I was getting more and more uncomfortable. At one point I got up to go to the bathroom and I had a strong contraction while in there. It’s at that point that I started to think these contractions might actually lead to something. A short time later I noticed another contraction that was strong as well. After 4 strong contractions (at 10:15ish) I told Josh that we probably needed to head home. So, we paid for our meal, packed up to-go boxes, and said goodbye to our friends. As we were walking to our car, I heard a guy yell out of his car window “Are you going to have that baby on Elm St?!” I yelled back “I wish!”

As we were walking to the car I told Josh about the contractions and that we should start timing them as we drive home. He seemed surprised at that statement, but pulled the app up on the phone to time them. As Josh had had a few beers that night, I ended up driving home while having contractions that were about 10 minutes apart. I supposed I should have mentioned the contractions earlier…It’s a good thing that my excitement trumped any kind of pain I was feeling. The first contraction we timed was at 10:45. As soon as we got home, we finished packing the go bag and got everything ready in case this was really it.

Once the bag was packed, everything seemed to get more intense fairly quickly. By midnight my contractions were about 5 minutes apart. They were starting to get strong, and to get through them, I was leaning over the yoga ball and having Josh do counter pressure on my lower back. It’s around this time that my back labor started. My pelvis and lower back were really starting to hurt, but leaning over the ball and firm pressure on my lower back really helped and kept them manageable.

We called our doula to let her know what was happening. She asked how I was handling everything, and I told her I was ok. She told us to keep her posted, but because I hadn’t had any bloody show, or lost my mucus plug she wasn’t convinced that this was it, especially with all of the false alarms we’d had. She told us to call her the moment I saw bloody show, or if I needed help and wanted her to come to the house. I was handling everything well at this point, so I just kept laboring.

Some more time passed and when my contractions hit around 4 minutes apart Josh and I called our midwife to let her know what was up, and she said to head to the hospital at any time. I wanted to wait as long as possible at home, so we just kept going. Me leaning over the yoga ball, breathing through contractions, Josh doing counter pressure on my back and The Office streaming from Netflix to distract us between contractions.

By 1:00, my contractions were 3 minutes apart, and I was really having to concentrate to get through them, and had started to vocalize during them. My mom joined us around this time and was helping to get things ready for us to head out. I kept waiting for my contractions to become as painful as what I remembered from my first pregnancy, but that never happened. And because I never reached that pain threshold, I was really unsure about when to head to the hospital. As long as I was in a position that took the pressure off of my lower back, I was good.

Still unsure that it was time, Josh, my mom and I left for the hospital at around 1:30. As we were getting ready to get in the car I just stood at the car door and had 2 contractions standing there because I didn’t want to sit down. I was having strong back pain, and I knew sitting would put an unwelcome amount of pressure on my pelvis and would be excruciating…I wasn’t wrong.

That 30-minute trip to the hospital was awful. I tried to lay on my sides as much as possible to take pressure off of my lower back and pelvis, but I could never find a comfortable position. I withered in pain during each contraction (2 minutes apart at this point) and the pain in my back was unbelievable. Josh was my rock though. He kept calling out landmarks as we were driving so that I’d know how close we were getting. As soon as we got to the hospital I was out of that car as fast as I could be.

While checking in I had several more contractions. I would sit in the chair to rest while talking and answering questions to the woman behind the counter, and during each contraction I would have to stand up and lean over the counter and moan, this didn’t seem to faze the woman at all. Once I had a bracelet on my wrist, I was in the waiting room and had to lean on chairs. My mom applied counter pressure on my back while Josh parked the car.

At this point in time my contractions were fierce and almost frightening in their intensity. I was finding it harder and harder to keep my composure. I kept thinking that I didn’t want to do this and that I wanted an epidural. I even voiced those thoughts to my mom who told me I could have whatever I wanted – sweet words that helped me calm down. Soon after those thoughts popped in my head, our doula arrived (Josh called her at some point to let her know we were going to the hospital) and was helping me with positions while we waited to be called back, and my thoughts of giving up on a natural birth went away.

I was the only one in the waiting room, and was taken to be assessed fairly quickly. They checked my blood pressure (which was up) and temp (which was normal). They then took me straight back to a room – although I hadn’t been admitted yet. It took some time to get to the room. I didn’t want to sit in a wheelchair, so I walked. And, during each contraction I would stop and lean on Josh in the hallway.

I had three nurses that seemed to be moving and buzzing all around me. Soon after getting into the room a nurse asked me to undress from the waist down so that she could check me. I dreaded getting on my back, but I managed it. I was so worried that they were going to tell me that I was only 3 cm and that I needed to go back home. However, I was relieved to find out that I was at 8 cm dilated and 90% effaced! No wonder I’d been having thoughts on giving up – I was in transition!! I remember looking at Josh and smiling, at that point we knew it wouldn’t be long before we got to meet our baby!

For the next little while, I was standing next to the bed, with my head on Josh’s chest, eyes closed, belly hanging down between us and moaning through contractions while a nurse hooked up the belts to my belly. I had another that was putting an IV in my arm for my GBS, and another that was entering information into the computer. All through this, my midwife still wasn’t at the hospital, and was on her way. In all of our haste, we forgot to call her. The nurses were texting her telling her to hurry.

I remember a nurse saying that my IV was placed at 2:45. We had planned all along for this to be a water birth, and I was excited for it! I was more than ready to get in that warm water. However, I was told that I couldn’t get in the birthing pool until my midwife got there because of paperwork. And, because my midwife wasn’t there, my doula couldn’t even fill up the tub! To cut the tension that information caused, Josh tried to distract everyone by taking a poll about the baby’s gender. Apparently, there had been a streak of girls born at the hospital and all the nurses thought the baby would be a girl.

All this time going by, I was still standing next to the bed with my head on Josh’s chest and eyes closed. Being in labor is the wildest feeling. I was conscious, and aware of everything that was going on, but I was also totally in my own head, my brain thinking and whirring the whole time but unable or unwilling to voice most of it. I was just concentrating on the contractions, trying to remain relaxed and loose, and to rest as much as possible between them.

The nurses must have pushed my IV fairly quickly, almost as soon as it was placed it was taken out. They left a heparin lock in, and taped a rubber glove over my arm so that I could get in the tub when the time came.

I’m fuzzy on the times, but I was told that my midwife got to the hospital around 3:10, and it’s at that point that I was finally admitted to the hospital. I found out later that she had her shirt on inside out because she was in such a hurry to get there. As soon as she came in she got the paperwork going for the birthing tub to be set up, and then she turned to me and wanted to check me. I was so over being checked, and I didn’t want to get on my back because of the back labor I was having. I didn’t want to move, I just wanted to stay exactly as I was, but I finally consented.

I waited until I had just finished a contraction, and got on the bed. She checked me fairly quickly and told me that I was now at 9 cm! But, she then kept me on my back to break my water. I was irritated at this, because she never asked if she could break it, and I didn’t know it was happening until it was too late to do anything about it. As my doula was setting up the tub, she didn’t know it was happening until after. And, then of course I had another contraction while on my back, which caused me to whither and cry out in pain, derailing me from my focus. Back labor is just awful….

In retrospect, I wish I had declined that final check, but labor is a funky thing. With both of my births I have found that when someone tells me to do something, I’ve found that I generally just do it without thinking, despite all the plans I had made previously.

I remember looking at the bed after my water had been broken and saw my mucus plug and bloody show on the pad. Who would have thought that at 9 cm dilated that those two things would still be firmly in place? My water was clear, so thankfully I’d be allowed to get in the pool. I was told that if my water had meconium in it I wouldn’t be allowed to labor or deliver in the pool. I had one contraction after my water was broken, and man they don’t lie when they say that contractions are more intense after your water breaks.

After all of that, the pool was finally ready and I was chomping at the bit to get in it. The warm water felt amazing, and really helped to take the edge off the contractions. Almost as soon as I was in the water, my body started to push on its own. I was kneeling in the pool, hanging over the edge and pushing, and pushing and pushing…..and getting nowhere. After a while, my midwife checked me while I was in the pool and discovered that I had an anterior lip of cervix caught between my pubic bone and the baby’s head which was now swollen. So, my midwife had me flip over on my back to push for a few contractions while she tried to move the lip of my cervix out of the way. #1. it hurt like hell to be on my back again, #2. it hurt even more when she was messing with my cervix. I believe I was screaming in pain.

My midwife couldn’t get my cervix to move out of the way while I was in the pool, so she then wanted me to get out of the pool and onto the bed. The move out of the pool took an immense amount of strength for me. I did not want to move. I was in pain, out of focus and just wanted to be left alone. I remember that I was thinking that I just wanted this to be over, and I wanted a break. I even had thoughts of wanting a C-section so I could be done. I never voiced those thoughts, and eventually I did make it onto the bed. I believe Josh and the nurses had to almost physically haul me out of the tub.

And, once again I was put on my back while my midwife tried to move my cervix out of the way. It was more painful than it sounds. I remember yelling quite fiercely while she was moving it, and begging for her to stop. She kept telling me that I wouldn’t like her during this, but I would like her afterward, and she was right. Eventually she got the lip out of the way. She had me then get on my knees and push on the bed for two contractions, to get the baby’s head below the lip. That time it worked, and I could get back in the pool. However, I didn’t want to move. I remember telling everyone to leave me alone, that I just wanted to relax and have some downtime. My contractions had spaced out and weren’t as hard as the transition contractions, and I just breathed through them without bearing down, giving myself a little rest. I was tired, and my energy was draining, and I really just wanted a nap. My doula was strongly encouraging me to get back in the water before I had the baby on the bed, and eventually I summoned the strength to move again.

As soon as I started pushing in the pool, I could feel the baby moving down. And, fairly soon the head was right there, ready to come out. That feeling, freaked me the hell out. It burned oh so badly. I felt like I was stretched to the max and was about to tear from stem to stern. But, Josh, my mom, my midwife and doula helped me get refocused. Seriously, Josh was amazing the whole time. He really was my rock and kept me focused and determined. He was repeating the mantra I’d been saying to myself my whole pregnancy: I can do anything for one minute. That helped snap me out of my freakout. I also remember my midwife telling me that I was fine, and that I wasn’t going to tear apart, which was reassuring. They then helped me widen my knees and when I was pushing I would sit back, almost in a child’s pose, or as close to child’s pose as a pregnant, laboring woman can get. Seriously, my face was in the water as I was pushing. After a few more times pushing like that, and out the baby came. I believe the baby came out in one push. One of the nurses later told me that the baby ended up doing a flip in the water as he came out.

The next thing I heard was Josh announcing that the baby was a boy! It took some fancy maneuvering since he came out so fast behind me, but I was able to stand up, step over the cord, sit back down in the water and then he was handed to me. For the next while I was holding our son to my belly (the cord was too short to reach to my chest) skin to skin in the water and just marveling him. I just kept thinking how beautiful he was. He was squishy and plump and perfect in every way. He cried a few times, and then was just alert and calm, snuggling with me. Josh was leaning over the pool and I could hear in his voice that he was tearing up. It was a very beautiful moment.

Soon enough the cord stopped pulsating and Josh cut the cord. Not long after, I handed Josh the baby to do skin to skin with while I got out of the tub. I got up on the bed and I was covered with warm blankets, and then the baby was handed back to me. He nestled right on my chest, and was just beautiful. It’s at that point that we decided to name him Benjamin.

I definitely remember still having contractions after Ben was born, which I still had to breathe through, but I didn’t care about them. Instead, I was irritated at the umbilical cord, because it just kept seeming to get in the way and rub places that it did not feel good to rub against. Thankfully, not long after getting up on the bed I delivered the placenta, which didn’t hurt at all. I had a tear (no idea on the degree, I never asked), which required stitches (I have no idea how many). My midwife gave me a few shots to numb the area, which stung, and then I could feel her stitching me up, feel the thread pulling through skin, but oddly it didn’t hurt. All while that was happening the nurses were assessing Ben on my chest. Ben’s APGAR scores were 9 and 9.

We got over an hour of skin to skin time before Ben was taken to be weighed. It seemed no one in the room could agree on how much they thought he’d weigh. The nurses all suspected that he’d be around 7 lbs, but we were all surprised when he was 8 lbs, 6 oz. He was 20.5 inches long, with a head circumference of 14 inches.

After everything was all said and done, and we had been moved from Labor and Delivery to the Mother/Baby suite, things settled down and I was finally able to really connect with my son. I’ve read account after account of women getting that natural oxytocin rush immediately after delivery, but that overwhelming feeling of love, comfort and peace didn’t come to me until about 3+ hours after Ben was born. I believe because those first two hours are so busy, with so many people working on you and assessing the baby, even while you’re holding him, that it’s hard to just sit and relax and bond. But, once it was just me and my husband alone with Benjamin, that overwhelming feeling of love started to flow. Even now, over 6 months later, I still get that feeling whenever I look at my boys.

Benjamin was born at 4:23 in the morning on June 19, 2016 – Father’s Day. I think that he was the best Father’s Day gift that we could have asked for!

Story and photographs submitted by Amanda C. 

5 Twin Birth Stories – Variations of Normal

5 Twin Birth Stories – Variations of Normal

A Birth Story of Twins {IVF}

The first week was hospital bed rest and I begged to go home. Around then is when my husband was able to feel the boys kick, so it was then more early tracking to be told that the hospital doubted I would be carrying them past 22 weeks. Well, they sent me home on strict bed rest and had to make appointments with my MFM to see him once a week. We lived 45-50 minutes from the MFM and the hospital we were planning on delivering at.

Twins Born at 27 Weeks {A Mother’s Story of the NICU and Coping}

I had a doctor appointment that morning. I was so excited because it was an ultrasound appointment and I was going to get to see my little boogers. I met with the doctor after the appointment and he kept me a little longer because he was afraid that I had twin to twin transfusion. They tried to hook me up to heart rate monitors but said I wasn’t far enough along for them to work…. So he sent me on my way and made an appointment for the following week.

C-Section for High-Risk Twins

There are many aspects of my pregnancy which I did not share because I was scared to do so. I did not want to fall apart every time someone asked me about it. There were only a few people who knew what we were going through, not even all of our families knew.

Simple Hospital Birth of Twins

Today is officially my due date so I thought… no better time to post my birth story. It’s taken me a while to get into a groove and to be honest, it’s taken me even longer to wrap my brain around all the events that transpired. Alas, here it is…

Traumatic First Birth Followed by an Empowered Surrogacy Birth of Twins

I was scared, I was tired, and I felt like I was drowning. I sobbed and begged to be admitted. I had hardly slept in days and wanted something to take the edge off. They agreed to keep me over night and give me a dose of Stadol. After it wore off, I danced, rocked on all fours in the shower and I vocalized with determination in the dark until sunrise.

Motherhood Temper Tantrums

Motherhood Temper Tantrums

There are times in motherhood where you will simply lose your shit. I’m completely serious. If you haven’t yet, it is coming. If you have, then you know what I’m talking about.

You’re exhausted, pulled in too many directions, and pushed too far. It usually builds up with lack of sleep, always being needed, life stressors, and trying to force things.

The bad part about losing your shit is that it makes everyone sad. Sadness is part of life though, darling. We can’t be happy 24/7. We need to learn and have growth. Like mom guilt isn’t bad enough though, a mommy temper tantrum is great at adding extra. But once the dust settles, you have a good yell or cry or both, and good things can actually come from it.

Shedding all that frustration, hurt, anger, etc. can help you get to the core of the issue. It gives you clarity to see things from a different perspective and to build the pieces back up to be better than before.

I’m not telling you to go lose your shit for the sake of losing your shit, I’m just saying that it happens and it’s not the end of the world, you’re still a good mother, and there’s always a silver lining.

Take a deep breath, try to take some time to yourself to quietly process (when you can), learn from it, and try something different!

Motherhood is the ultimate survival mode, problem-solving, multi-tasking job there is. Figure out what works for your family even if it seems completely unconventional. And be willing to leave some wiggle room for adjustments and change.

If things are really feeling out of sorts, it may be best to take a step back and just go with the flow for a little bit. Say yes a lot more. You’d be surprised how that can help.

Moms, you are allowed temper tantrums too and your family will love you unconditionally through them just like you love and support them unconditionally through theirs. That’s what family does.

Oxytocin Vibes, Covered in Vernix, & Birthing Next to a Baby Deer

Oxytocin Vibes, Covered in Vernix, & Birthing Next to a Baby Deer

In case you missed the Birth Without Fear Instagram this past week…

✨weekend mood & oxytocin vibes✨ 📷:@lindseymeehleis #birthwithoutfear #oxytocinvibes #optionssupportrespect

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Just a sweet little baby and a whole lotta vernix. ♥️ @kendalblackerbirth #justborn #oxytocinvibes #birthwithoutfear

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Happy weekend friends! TAG a pregnant friend. 🤰🏾@januaryharshe #birthwithoutfear #optionssupportrespect

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How a Loss Healed Me

How a Loss Healed Me

This begins 12 years ago when I was 20. I was carrying a child I knew I couldn’t raise, so I opted for adoption. Her parents are fantastic people and we were lucky to have them in a position to come witness her birth. We thought H would be a boy, actually, but she surprised us, and from all accounts, continues to surprise her parents. Labor was induced because contractions came and went and I wasn’t able to sleep. Once, Mom applied some counter pressure to my back and hips. It helped. But then my step dad told her to stop. He didn’t think I needed coddling.

Labor just never seemed to progress. First baby, nerves, not a great mental place, etc. So the hospital induced me. And then refused to feed me. Or let me walk. Or move much. And once I was over 5 centimeters, I couldn’t even get out of bed. I hate ice chips under normal circumstances. It was bad. I caved to an epidural I was afraid of, and finally managed to relax enough to dilate to the full 10 centimeters. But my doctor was dismissive and apparently thought I wasn’t going to push the baby after so long (and I did push for more than 2 hours!), so he prepped the surgery team. And then I crowned. They had to recall him. The nurse put me flat on my back, and palmed the baby’s head, saying she wasn’t going to fill out the paperwork for delivering that baby. By the time the doctor made it in, the baby was kicking her way out. Planted both feet against the top of my uterus and shoved, hard. She went from crowned to her shoulders in an instant. Even the doctor jerked back in surprise. She tore me (guess how I found out I’m allergic to dissolving stitches?!). She scored a perfect 10 on her Apgar scales. Her new dad cut the cord, and baby was wiped off and wrapped up and handed around and they went off to the nursery for a mandatory observation. I barely got to hold her.

And then the doctor pulled on the umbilical cord and pulled out the placenta, hard. It hurt. It briefly pulled me upwards towards him when he did it. None of this was okay with me. I was bulled into many things I didn’t want. The only thing I truly consented to was the adoption itself. Mom spoke for me and around me, and I had no agency. While I was pushing, a nurse stood on a stool at my side and applied fundal pressure, using her entire body weight. Her feet came up off the stool. She bruised my gallbladder, we found out later. I asked her to stop and was hushed and told it was this or surgery, she was trying to help me. The head nurse was between my legs, manually stretching my vaginal opening, and there were a lot of people in the room, coming and going, and the door was open. The lights were bright. My first birth experience was not a good one. There are memories I can’t scrub or whitewash. Later, I heard my mom telling my step dad that she didn’t hold my hand, that I’d done it on my own. I detected a lot of sadness there, but an odd note of pride, too. I’ve never forgotten that conversation.

Later, when I found out I was pregnant with a son I could raise, I chose a midwife and a non hospital birth. The birth center was quiet, and no one touched me without asking. No one examined me without consent. But the damage was done, no one could touch me to comfort me either. Again, with my second son, my partner could not touch my stomach once I was in labor. His touch set off warnings in my head that I didn’t understand or take time to ponder before the next contraction hit.

A third child. A new city, new midwife. Her policies were different, and I ended up with a long gap between visits between 17 and 23 weeks. On October 30th, 2013, we lost the heartbeat. She couldn’t find it. I waited 24 hours before going to the hospital. No one wants that memory on a holiday. Ultrasound showed fetal death occurred in the 18th week. The placenta and cord were beginning to deteriorate, and I could not wait for my body to get the notice, or risk sepsis. They induced me. This time it was different. My wishes were respected. I was not examined until I was ready. They let me move and eat and drink. When I asked, they even shut off the IV, though they left the needle in, for later needs and blood draws. I was able to labor and deliver in the positions I chose. There weren’t a bunch of people in the room. The lights were natural. The door was shut and there was a curtain in front when it was opened briefly. I was allowed two of my friends and my partner. My friends held my hands and helped me get into a birth position. When little one began crowning, V called for a nurse, who came quickly. They cut off my underwear at the hips (the meshy absorbent hospital kind) rather than make me move. That tiny baby tumbled right out into my hands. The placenta followed moments later. The nurse helped me arrange him and the placenta into a small towel and hold him as long as I needed to say good bye. They never cut the cord, just like I asked.

I named him Jamie Lou.

As absolutely horrible as the experience was… it was also peaceful. It restored some trust and hope. The nurses were wonderful. I truly hope good things happen for them.

Three months later when I missed my period, I was terrified. I chose another midwife, one closer with better hours. She held my hand through my fears. When baby flipped breech, we discussed the possibility of a hospital birth plan. Her scope of practice did not include breech for legal reasons and insurance and I respect that. I also felt, after the peace of delivering Jamie, that my own limits and wishes would be respected if we had to face the hospital. I felt okay. I felt strong enough. I felt supported. And then he flipped and presented normally anyway! But I still couldn’t be touched during labor. My partner asked me why, many moons later, especially why I didn’t want to be touched on my stomach, where I love to be rubbed when I’m not in labor. When I said it felt oppressive, it clicked the memory of that nurse leaning on me with my first daughter. I understood. My step-dad used birth against me. He used my own power to try to punish me. And nearly won.

August 28th, 2016, I came full circle. I birthed my daughter, the girl I was terrified of, touched and comforted by someone who loved me. The way I always should have been. I feel cheated that my sons’ births could be better, but I still view them as wonderful experiences. Overcoming the huge obstacles set in my way feels like I’ve stopped something from following me into another life. And that feels bad ass.

12 years. 6 pregnancies. 1 girl placed for adoption. 2 healthy boys. 1 angel boy. 1 healthy boy. 1 world changing, chain shattering daughter. When someone sought to use my own strength against me, to cripple and shackle me me, loss led me to trust and love healed and changed me. I could not have done it without my partner, his love, and understanding. This is what family is built on. Not fear. Love.

Story and photo submitted by Stefani L. 

My Story Isn’t the Typical One: Overcoming Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

My Story Isn’t the Typical One: Overcoming Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

I had a very quick birth. My second baby was almost born on the interstate in the middle of the night. I was on the phone with my OB screaming that her head was almost out. As soon as I got into a room and managed to make a phone call to my birth photographer, she was out and screaming. All 9 pounds and 2 ounces of her. I had a little one at home who was getting ready to celebrate her second birthday (the following day). It was my first night away from her. Everything went picture perfect and I was allowed to head home the following afternoon.

I wanted to celebrate my first born turning two so we went to a quick dinner and returned home ready to start our new lives as parents of two.

This is when my life turned into a living hell. I walked in the house and sat down on the couch admiring my two babies, when all the sudden a rush of something came through my feet and up to my head and back again. I immedietly knew something was wrong and told my husband to dial 911. I started to get dizzy and was breathing heavily. The rush of something was still running through me. I was on the verge of passing out. I thought I was dying. The ambulance took me to the hospital with my husband and newborn in tow. They weren’t allowed back into my room as they were forced to wait in the lobby. She hadn’t nursed in hours. I told him to call me as soon as she cried to eat and I would figure something out. The ER was so busy that day and I was getting weaker and weaker. Unable to move or speak. I got the call…she was screaming to nurse. I asked for a pump. After two hours of waiting, a pump was delivered and I pumped. Nothing.

Scared and feeling hopeless, I discharged myself before seeing a doctor so I could feed my newborn. I went home without answers. Just tired and weak.

Days go by and I get weaker and weaker. The rush that ran through me that night continued to come at random times of the day. I would stop breathing. Scared. I didn’t know what was happening to me. Then the insomnia started. Nightmares came if I closed my eyes. Horrible nightmares. I would wake up screaming for help. I continued to get weaker until I was bed ridden. Several weeks went by and eventually I stopped eating. My day and night consisted of me being spoon fed to survive and staring at the ceiling. Cringing at the sounds of my toddler or baby crying. Gasping for help but not knowing where to find it. My husband would hold my baby to my breast and nurse while I laid and cried, scared and awaiting the next wave of panic.

Finally, a neighbor decided to take me into my OB because she knew whatever was happening wasn’t normal. They mentioned possible post partum anxiety and depression but their words were just mumbled up hums in my head. I heard them but I wasn’t listening. I was too far gone. I was scared to leave my house, scared to eat, scared to ride in a car. I had extreme urges to run and hide or extreme urges that I was definitely dying.

Several months go by, my husband takes a medical leave of absense. I finally was talked in to seeing a psychiatrist. I remember laying on the floor of the waiting room with my head against the air conditioning unit just sobbing and taking one breath at a time while the air blew into my face. I was terrified of anything and everything. Any sound or light made me cringe. Traveling. Eating. Hearing my baby cry. Hearing my toddler talk. All noises made me cringe. I was immediately prescribed Zoloft and a continous dose of Ativan. I then became a walking mommy zombie who just rolled through the motions of life. I was so dizzy and sedated from the medicine that all I could do was sleep. I only ate enough to make milk. Everything else inside of me seemed to rot away. I was absolutely helpless.

Eventually it was discovered that my thyroid was completely not functioning and I was suffering from severe anxiety and the depression came along beside it all. I continued seeing my pyschiatrist and was given permission to taper off my medicine as my baby turned 14 months old. Life at that point was still not easy. I still experienced the rushes in my body which were later described to me as panic attacks (something I never knew about). I was also afraid to be alone and never left the house. I had panic attacks almost every where I went.

I am now four years post partum and I can proudly say that the only medicine I take is one little anxiety pill in the evening. I still have panic attacks but they only happen during periods of stress or travel. Our Disney World trip in 2016 was not fun. I experienced way too many attacks than I had hoped for during that trip. I can mostly control them and ward off any extreme thoughts.

Coming from a woman who never experienced anxiety or depression in her entire life to being bed ridden and unable to feed myself was extremely unsettling for my husband, family, and friends.

My story isn’t the typical one. It has a lot of odd circumstances. I never knew what was happening to me until after it was all over and I began to make the connections. It could have been from my thryoid not functioning, I am just not sure. I was not educated on the matter at all. I also didn’t have much support. Postpartum anxiety can manifest in several ways. So can depression. I still loved and adored my baby, but my body and my mind were fighting against me.

I should have known to seek help faster and my family should have known where to find the help. I believe those were my two main issues. No one knew exactly what was happening to me because we just didn’t know. We didn’t even know postpartum issues exist. I was totally fine with my first baby. If I had only known what was happening to me was called a “panic attack” maybe I could have gotten better before it got out of hand. Before the depression set in. Before I went months and months feeling desperate and alone. Maybe if the ER doctor that night could have gotten to me he would have noticed the signs and I would have gotten help.

I am saddened today because I don’t even remember my baby’s first year. I have barely any pictures of her during that time. It can be different for you. You are not alone. Be brave and seek help now. Below is a picture of me and my babies today. I am 90% better. I will never be the same.

Story and photograph submitted by Amber W. 

Born En Caul, Twins in NICU, Hugs, & a Happy Baby

Born En Caul, Twins in NICU, Hugs, & a Happy Baby

In case you missed the Birth Without Fear Instagram this past week…

Overcoming Placenta Previa, NICU, & Hospital Policies to Birth a Beautiful, Healthy Baby Boy

Overcoming Placenta Previa, NICU, & Hospital Policies to Birth a Beautiful, Healthy Baby Boy

I was 16 weeks pregnant when I thought I was miscarrying. It would be my second miscarriage. I was on a business trip in Minneapolis, 750 miles from my home in NE Ohio. Seven hundred fifty miles from my husband and family. As soon as my plane landed, I realized I was bleeding more heavily than the light spotting I left home with earlier that morning. My cramps were worsening. I climbed into a taxi and awkwardly told the driver I needed to get it the nearest ER as I texted my husband the warning that I thought I was losing our baby.

I managed to hold back tears until I entered the ER and started to explain my situation to the registration desk. I was immediately offered a wheel chair and whisked back to a room. After a painful internal exam, I was finally taken to have an ultrasound. My baby looked great. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. I texted my husband the good news as soon as I made it back to my room in the ER. He had been an emotional mess, frantically searching for airfare to Minneapolis as we tried to determine whether he should come out to be with me.

The doctor came in a short while after my ultrasound and confirmed I had placenta previa, a condition in which the placenta forms low in the uterus and fully or partially covers the cervical opening. I was told that ninety percent of previa cases resolve on their own as the baby and uterus continue to grow throughout pregnancy. If unresolved by late pregnancy, however, I was destined for a scheduled c-section around 37 weeks. Women with placenta previa have a high risk of bleeding with labor and delivery. To avoid hemorrhage, previa cases are typically delivered via c-section before a woman has the chance to go into natural labor. I was diagnosed with a marginal previa, the least severe and most likely to resolve. My baby’s placenta was on the very edge of the cervix, but not quite covering the cervical opening. In partial and complete previas, the placenta partially or completely covers the cervical opening respectively, blocking baby’s way out. I was optimistic that the previa would resolve on its own so I didn’t dwell on it too much, though I was terrified of the thought of having a c-section. My first-born came into this world through a stress-free vaginal birth and I hoped my second would do the same.

At my twenty-week growth scan, I learned we were having another boy. My marginal previa persisted, though the ultrasound tech assured me I still had plenty of time for it to resolve. The rest of my second trimester went smoothly. I was insanely busy with work, helping plan for my organization’s annual conference. When the conference started, I spent the morning of the first day excitedly setting up and preparing for a full two days. By lunchtime, I was starving. I scarfed down a huge meal and had just sat down to prep for my upcoming breakout session when something felt off. I scurried to the bathroom where I realized I was bleeding. Heavily. I was 28 weeks pregnant.

I made my way back to the conference and tearfully explained my situation to my supervisor, who offered to drive me to the campus medical center (I work for one of the largest universities in the nation). I once again found myself away from home in a medical emergency. I spent the night in a hospital two hours from home as nurses and doctors monitored my bleeding. The bleeding quickly tapered and I was discharged the next evening. My baby boy was doing great, but the previa persisted.

A week and a half later, another bleed. This time, I was home. My husband left work and we rushed to our community hospital five minutes from home. I stayed overnight for monitoring. The bleeding tapered and the baby looked great, but the previa persisted. I remained optimistic that my previa would resolve and I could deliver a full-term baby vaginally. I was shocked to learn at my 32-week appointment, however, that if my previa didn’t resolve by 36 weeks my doctors would have me deliver in Cleveland or Columbus since our local hospital doesn’t have the resources for a blood transfusion. Because of the previa and because I had a posterior placenta, I had a high risk of heavy bleeding during surgery. My doctors explained that they were more comfortable having me deliver in a hospital that could better handle a blood transfusion.

As I tried to wrap my head around the idea of having a c-section two hours from home with a doctor I never met, I still tried to remain optimistic that the previa would resolve. My optimism came to a screeching halt, however, when I was 35 weeks pregnant. I had just arrived home from teaching my last big program before maternity leave. I was tired and contracting every 2-3 minutes. The contractions were normal for me. I was diagnosed with irritable uterus earlier in the pregnancy and suffered from periodic episodes of regular contractions. I crawled into bed hoping for a decent night’s rest. Within 20 minutes, I felt a gush of fluid. I thought my water had broken.

I made my way to the bathroom where I realized the gush of fluid was blood. My husband and I woke my two-year old son, Milo, and loaded him in the car before making our way to the hospital. Upon entering the labor and delivery unit, the nurses at the registration desk notified us that the hospital had a restriction on children under 14 due to RSV. Despite telling the nurses that my in-laws were currently on their way to get my son, we were told my son would have to leave. The hospital refused to allow my son to stay in my private room for the hour it would take for my in-laws to drive to the hospital. I refused to be admitted without my husband by my side so we angrily left and decided to drive an hour to a larger city hospital, where my family could be together. At this point, I was still operating under the assumption that, like my previous bleeds, I would spend the night in the hospital and be discharged the next day.

We arrived at Akron City Hospital and I was quickly taken to labor and delivery triage. I was hooked up to the monitors the doctor performed an excruciating internal exam. After looking at my records and consulting with my OBGYN over the phone, the doctor advised that I would need a c-section. We assumed we could wait until morning (it was about midnight at this point), but the doctor explained they were going to start prepping me for surgery and I would deliver within the hour. I tearfully called my parents to let them know we were having a baby as my in-laws made their way to the hospital to pick up Milo.

Before I had time to process what was happening, my beautiful baby boy was born. Doctors held him above the drape just long enough for me to catch a glimpse of his face before he was whisked away. He was taken to the NICU for what we hoped would be a short transition. I remained in surgery with my husband by my side as doctors began to close my incision. I was losing a lot of blood and I remember feeling lightheaded and nauseous throughout the almost hour it took to put me back together. Once in recovery, I continued to lose blood. Each time the nurse massaged my uterus, more blood would pour out. I begged to see my baby, but was told I would have to wait until the bleeding subsided and the feeling in my legs returned before I could go to the NICU. At one point, the doctor came into recovery to break the news that I would need to go back into surgery and have a D&C under full anesthesia to stop the bleeding. I tearfully asked if I could see my baby boy before surgery. The nurses graciously wheeled my bed into the NICU where I was able to see and touch my boy for the first time. At this point, it was about 6 hours after delivery. Little Leo was in an isolette with tubes and wires covering his little body. He was 5lbs 8oz.

After holding his hand for a short while, my doctor advised me that they would try an injection of Methergine, a drug meant to help the uterus contract, before taking me back to surgery. Fortunately, after several injections of Methergine and lots of massaging later, I stopped bleeding enough to be taken to a room. At some point amidst the chaos of the early morning, we were told that Leo had been admitted to the NICU rather than just being there to transition to the well baby nursery. When asked how long he could be in NICU, doctors told us it could be one week or three, depending on how well he does.

Leo would spend two full weeks in the NICU as a “feeder/grower.” He didn’t have the stamina to take a full feed by mouth so much of his food was given via a feeding tube. My milk supply was very slow to come in, most likely due to a combination of blood loss and stress. Our hospital did not offer a guest room program for parents of NICU babies, so once discharged, I would not have had a room to stay in while Leo was in the hospital. I would not have a private bathroom, a shower, or a bed and I didn’t have time between feedings to go home since we lived an hour away and I was attempting to nurse every three hours for each feeding. In addition to having no guest room program, the NICU lacked a bathroom (parents had to go to the hospital lobby to use the bathroom) and although I was told I was welcome to stay at Leo’s bedside, I barely had room to recline my chair. The facilities weren’t exactly parent-friendly, especially for any mother dedicated to breastfeeding her baby around the clock.

After conversations with numerous nurses and doctors, I was allowed to stay in my hospital room for three nights beyond discharge at no cost. While I was appreciative of the accommodations, I was reminded multiple times each day of how lucky I was for the hospital to have made “unprecedented” accommodations for me. The floor was half-empty for the length of my stay, so I couldn’t fully understand why it was such a big deal. For three days, I worried non-stop that I would lose my room. During that time, Leo’s NICU doctor attempted to facilitate a transfer to our local community hospital in Wooster so we could be close to home. Our local hospital has a “special care nursery,” which is a step-down from a NICU. Wooster, however, only has five beds and they were full. It would take three days for a bed to open and for us to be transferred. Ironically, once transferred, we were the only family in the nursery for the remainder of Leo’s stay. The space we had in Wooster was massive compared to what we had in the NICU at Akron. The lights were dimmable and noise was kept to a minimum, which allowed for my family to get much needed rest. I was also provided a free room and two free meals per day since I was breastfeeding (Akron also offered two free meals per day for breastfeeding mamas).

After one week in the NICU at Akron and one week in the special care nursery at Wooster, Leo was discharged. He was finally taking all his feeds orally. In a matter of 48 hours, we went from thinking we’d be stuck in the hospital forever to preparing to come home. We were elated that Milo would finally be able to meet his baby brother and we could return to some sense of normalcy.

Although hospital policies made our first week in NICU a nightmare, the nurses and doctors that cared for me and Leo were nothing short of amazing. It’s a shame that hospital policies prevent staff from subjectively assessing each patient’s unique situation. From not allowing our son, Milo, in our local hospital for an hour while my in-laws made their way to pick him up to making me fight for a guest room so I could be near my son in the NICU at Akron while I continued to recover from my c-section, stagnant policies added unneeded stress to our already stressful situation.

In the end, Leo is a beautiful, healthy baby boy. He’s eating well and gaining weight accordingly. Our nurses and doctors listened to our concerns, provided emotional support, and fought to have our needs met and for that we are forever grateful.

Story and photographs submitted by Danae W. 

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