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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. 

Starting Life as a Family of 3 in the Birth Center

Starting Life as a Family of 3 in the Birth Center

Thursday September 22nd 2011

I was 38 weeks pregnant with my first baby, had finished my last day at work on the previous Sunday as a midwife and was looking forward to relaxing for the last couple of weeks of my pregnancy. Most things were ready for the baby’s arrival, but I still needed the car seat put into the car and to finish packing my half packed hospital bag. But with no signs of this baby coming and knowing from experience at work that you usually go over your due date with your first child I wasn’t too concerned, and would finish up the last few things on the weekend.

It was my husband Ben’s day off, so we were enjoying our last few childfree weeks together and with friends. I had seen a friend for coffee that morning and Ben headed off to his mates place for an arvo catch up and few beers before life changed for us.

I hadn’t slept well the night before so once Ben left I decided to try to have a nap. While lying in bed I felt and heard a pop, my heart froze, was that my water breaking? I jumped out of bed and ran to the toilet, and as I sat down a large gush of clear fluid poured out of me. Ok, so that was my waters. My midwife mind kicked into gear, clear fluid is fine, and I wasn’t having contractions yet so I was just going to stay quiet about what had happened for a while and see if anything changed. I noted the time, 4pm, and knew that the baby was moving around in there so I wasn’t too concerned. Sometimes it can take hours to start getting contractions and first labours are usually long so I was just going to wait and see.

I messaged my friend who is also a midwife, letting her know that my waters had broken. She was going to come around to check on me before we made our way to the midwife lead birth centre in Perth, Western Australia (I didn’t want to rock up thinking I was in labour when I was only 1cm dilated!). She told me to keep her posted when things started happening, so I went out to sit on my fit ball and see if I could get some contractions started. I was probably rocking round for an hour when I did start to get some cramping. I thought I should let Ben know and tell him to head home, as I was planning on picking him up at 6pm and going to dinner at his parents place, and those plans were changed now!

He answered the phone with a joke “Hey love, are you in labour?” to which I replied, “Well not really yet but my water has broken…” He didn’t think I was serious at first, and then he realised I wasn’t joking, so he rang a taxi to get himself back home.

In the meantime my cramping was starting to ramp up in intensity, so I decided to get my TENs machine on while rocking on my fitball. I was kind of timing the contractions, they were coming every 5 minutes or so but not that regular yet. That maybe lasted half an hour before I started getting really strong contractions every 3 minutes or so. I decided to jump into the shower, and sat on the floor enjoying the hot water running over my back.

Ben arrived home to quite a shock- me in labour! I remember him saying to me I thought nothing was happening, and me replying that it all happened so quickly. I hadn’t called the birth centre to let the midwife know anything yet, so between contractions I was telling Ben what he needed to do, let the midwife know my waters had broken and I was contracting but happy to stay home for the time being.

Then he had to call my mum and let her know too, put the car seat in the car and finish packing my hospital bag. The poor guy, he went from a nice chilled out afternoon drinking beers in the sun to running around like a headless chook!

By 630pm I was contracting regularly and strongly, and Ben and my mum were pacing up and down the hallway while I sat in the bath. I asked Ben to call my midwife friend to come check on me, and I think that was the happiest he had felt all evening, he was going to have some backup and support as he felt out of his depth. I was in my own world and didn’t really notice how tense my husband and mum were, but my mum has told me afterwards that they were stressing out in that time!

My friend arrived soon after that, and she checked to see what was going on, I was 4cm but bubs was really low and in a great position. I remember being upset that I was only 4cm when I felt like I should have been further along because the contractions were so intense. She told me to go and hop back in the bath and that I was doing great, it was words I needed to hear.

The next hour was spent going back and forth between the bath and the toilet, (got to love labour) and my poor husband likens it to the exorcist, with me crawling around moaning and groaning.

At one stage sitting on the toilet I had a contraction and felt a heap of pressure and my body sort of started pushing at the peak of the contraction. As soon as my friend heard the change in my moans and the little push noise during that contraction she was telling me it was time to head to the birth centre.

My friend had to drive us in her car to the birth centre, because Ben had probably had too much to drink to legally drive. So my mum followed in my car and called my sister who was at work (she’s a hairdresser and it was late night trading) telling her to meet us at the birth centre. Everything seemed to be happening so fast!

The 20 minute drive felt like it lasted forever, with my contractions coming every couple of minutes. I was having a shorter contraction followed my a longer one, and my poor friend was trying to talk me through them, encouraging me to not push, warning me if I had a long or short contraction coming and to keep my head. I was in the back seat and remember looking at the speedo which would creep a little over the limit as I got a contraction and back to the limit as it finished. It must have been a stressful drive for her too!

We finally got to the birth centre around 845pm, with me squatting out the front involuntary pushing, and my poor husband banging on the door to let the midwife know we were there. We were quickly shown to a room and Belinda, the midwife that was on call, checked me and said I was 9cm dilated, and to try not to push, as I wasn’t quite ready. As a midwife I have told women to try not to push, but I didn’t realise how hard that actually is in reality!

My husband had called when we were on our way saying I wanted to get in the birth pool, so luckily it was full and ready for me to get into. I think I practically dove into the tub, water is amazing as a pain reliever. I also got given the gas to use to try to breath through the urge to push, and by then my mum and sister had both arrived.

I remember asking for the radio to be put on, and telling everyone in the room that the gas wasn’t working and they all laughed at me. The second time I told them that the gas wasn’t working, Belinda checked the bottle, I was right it was empty. Everyone had a little giggle about that; I knew I wasn’t going crazy!

It was around 9pm and there was no way I couldn’t push, my body was doing it without me even trying! Belinda asked me to feel inside myself to see if baby was right there, which I did. I could feel a squishy little head sitting there, so she told me to just go with my body, which is what I started to do. After half an hour of pushing there was a small amount of head on view but I felt like nothing else was happening, I remember telling them that the baby wasn’t coming. My mum told me to stop being so impatient; I had only been pushing for half an hour. But every time I felt the baby’s head it was the same amount that I could feel.

Another 15 minutes of pushing and with one almighty heave my baby’s head was out, and looking down I could see her fishy lips and eyes looking up at me under the water. The next contraction the body was out and along with the midwife I guided my baby out of the water! Oh the relief, except my coccyx bone in my bottom was really sore! My husband checked what we had, a girl, and told me I could call her whatever I liked! (After months of arguing about names!)

Once we had all calmed down, Belinda reminded me that I had pushed out a posterior baby, which is one of the hardest positions for a baby to be in when pushing. She must have turned right at the end of my labour, because I had no signs of a posterior labour, no back pain and no slow progress, which are two signs of a malpositioned baby.

My beautiful 2730g (6lb) baby girl Lydia Lee was just perfect! I had a physiological 3rd stage, my husband and I slept at the birth centre overnight and headed home the following morning to start life as a family of 3.

Story and photograph submitted by Sam M. 

I Am Wholly Here: The Healing Water Birth of Finn

I Am Wholly Here: The Healing Water Birth of Finn

There was a moment, just before Ellie reached a gloved hand inside of me, that I wondered if I was cheating. If my body was incapable of truly beginning labor on its own. 6 centimeters dilated, completely effaced, 42 weeks with him in my womb. I ached to feel the natural progression of things – the dance of intensifying rushes around my middle, the surprise of his waters leaving me in the middle of the night, or as I rose in the morning, or in the produce aisle of the supermarket.

“Are you ready?” Ellie asked, one hand on my thigh. I leaned against a stack of pillows and nodded. And just like that, with a swift poke and a tug and a pop, the fluid that held him for forty-one weeks and six days, was gone.

Rushes started slowly, climbing from my thighs, to the top of my belly and back again. Caitlin, my doula, diffused cinnamon and cedarwood, and KC reheated salmon and beans from the night before. The birthing room was warm and honey colored. The rain outside came and went in waves. I felt an overwhelming safety and a drumming readiness as I paced from one wall to the next. The tub rested in the middle of the room, empty and waiting.

Didn’t plan much for this birth. With Aspen still so young and needing, and labor being (generally) so unplannable, I hadn’t thought to make a music playlist or pack snacks for myself or pen affirmation cards. Instead, my bag was full of smoothie pouches for Aspen, and diapers, and footed pajamas. But the disorganization of it all was oddly comforting. I took the opportunity to trust, and to settle into the moment.

I thought that music might be nice, so I opened Pandora on my phone. The default station is Disney music for the toy shop, and a song from Mary Poppins began to rattle my bones loudly. I tried to remember what music I was hoping for, but my mind was getting foggy. I turned to watch the rain out the window and switched my phone to silent.

And then, a rush much more intense than the others suddenly overtook me. I leaned against the glass and waited for it to be over, but it never quite left. The next was nipping at its heels, and the next, and the next, stacking atop one another like aftershocks from an earthquake. I found myself on the cool of the concrete floor, rocking and vocalizing through the cascade. I remember calling for KC, who was in the kitchen heating the salmon. I could hear a low conversation between he and Caitlin, and they both sounded worlds away.

I was somewhere else entirely, body and mind.

When they made it back into the room, the steaming to-go box made my stomach turn. I pushed it away and suggested a popsicle, maybe, because my body was telling me that I was both very hungry, and very sick. I took a few bites and then passed it back to KC.

It was time to fill up the tub. Just an hour after Ellie broke my water, I was now loudly vocalizing through rushes that lasted a minute or longer. I eased my body into the bean shaped tub and immediately knew that I wouldn’t leave the water until my baby was born. The feeling of weightlessness was a primal birthing need that I didn’t know I had until I gently moaned through a half-dozen rushes in the water. I closed my eyes. Caitlin held a cool cloth to my brow and Ellie’s nurse, Spring, pressed two hands down either side of my spine. I let my arms hang heavy over KC’s shoulders and inhaled the salty smell of his neck.

“You’re doing it,” he said into my ear, “You’re almost there.”

I was trapped in the in between – so close to the veil, where life splits and hangs in warm water, one side light, the other dark. Life meeting life meeting death. I knew a part of me was about to die, again, as it had when I gave birth to Aspen. I welcomed the death, and let it tear into me. Fire filled my belly, burning from back to front and back again.

From somewhere on the other side, I heard Spring say, “You’ve been in this position for fifty minutes now. Do you feel ready to try something else?” I felt myself nod. I waited for a lull in the pain and then pushed my body back, resting my spine against the curve of the tub. KC held my feet and massaged gently.

And then, just like that, I woke up.

When before I was barely breathing, barely awake, eyes closed, I now felt safe and alert and alive. I opened my eyes. I was smiling, laughing, talking between rushes that had mellowed measurably. The space between the bouts of pain grew longer.

“Something’s wrong,” I told Ellie. “I feel too good. Why are my contractions spacing farther apart?”

“It’s normal,” she reassured me, touching a hand to my shoulder. “Your body is resting, building energy. You’re about to meet your son.”

When rushes came, they were fueled by fire. They peaked in the middle and as they unraveled, my body heaved energy downward. The urge to birth my son was primal and uncontrollable. Each rush summoned screams wild and ancient to tumble from my throat. I have never heard something so loud. I shook the windows. Outside, the rain poured.

And with my wailing, the veil was torn.

I remember looking up at KC and seeing tears in his eyes. “I can see him,” he said quietly. “Here,” he grabbed my hand and guided my palm downwards. Just within me, there he was, the smooth round of his head pushing towards my fingers. We waited for the next rush with wide eyes.

And then, with the silent hum of a hundred thousand mothers before me tearing through my middle, my body revealed through a ring of fire a neat round head, and then shoulders, a belly, two arms reaching, and last, legs. One, smooth, involuntary push.

Just like with Aspen’s birth, there were ghosts in the room. I exhaled and heard the sound swim from myself as if I were holding onto my own body gently.

We did it.

We pulled him from the water and I held him to my heart. Ellie cleared his nose and wiped his face and we all slowly worked to move our still connected bodies from the water, to the bed. My faithful team tended and nursed and warmed and whispered. I drank a cinnamon tincture and hot cohosh tea. We cut the cord, changed a diaper, and welcomed family into the room.

Our sweet Griffin arrived screaming into the world at 3:51 PM on Wednesday, January 18th. He was 9 pounds and an ounce, and 20.5 inches long. Though I was bleeding heavily and weak in the knees, I felt almost immediately that his birth had healed some ancient, shattered part of myself. Maybe something I had broken when I chose to numb myself for Aspen’s birth. Or maybe the part of me that had torn in two when I first became a mother. She came alive again that day, in the water, roaring through the thin of the veil.

From mother of one, to mother of many. My edges have been sealed with warm milk and honey light. The veil is closed again, and I am wholly here, on the other side.

Story submitted by Kristen Hedges.

Photographs by Caitlin Wilbur.

Tree of Life, Vernix, and a Bubble of Support

Tree of Life, Vernix, and a Bubble of Support

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

So much #vernix! 😍 Did your baby have a lot or none at all? 📷:@appleblossomfamilies #birthwithoutfear #birthdayfrosting

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One hour old and the cutest little baby we’ve ever seen. ❤️📷:@fodselsfotografen #birthwithoutfear

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Barely at the Birth Center! A Fast & Easy Birth

Barely at the Birth Center! A Fast & Easy Birth

The birth of my first child Adelyn Perry was one of the greatest life changing, and empowering experiences that I have been a part of. It has put me in a place of awe and trust in the way God has beautifully designed a woman’s body. Probably like most new moms I was fairly naive about what labor and birth really meant before I actually experienced it, but I read a lot of books on natural childbirth and purposely searched unassisted births and breech births online (which is how I came across the Birth Without Fear blog).

Reading stories of the unassisted births particularly encouraged me that if women can give birth without assistance I could give birth with the caring help of a midwife! I’m am so thankful that my husband, Elijah, was on board with doing a birth center birth. Honestly it was kind of by default that we ended up at the birth center. At the time many of our friends were hiring the midwife, Tiffany, and using her birth center facilities with great results, so she was the first (and only) care provider we looked into. We immediately felt comfortable with her, and LOVED the fact we would not have to deliver in a hospital (Elijah greatly dislikes hospitals).

During the pregnancy we chose very little testing, and even declined an ultrasound, therefore we did not know the gender of our baby. Most of the pregnancy I thought we were having a boy, but as it got closer to meeting baby we simply could not decide on a boy name, yet we both had fallen in love with the name Adelyn. It was from that point on (about two months before the due date) that I felt we were probably having a girl, all because of the name. The entire pregnancy was very easy, with little to no morning sickness and very few complaints. I kept exercising the whole way through and felt great.

My due date was December 23rd, 2012. Leading up to the date and after I did not feel in the least that I was about to go into labor. I was nine days overdue (January 1st) and my family, who had been in town for the last two weeks were going to be leaving in a few days.

That day my midwife, Tiffany, called to see how I was doing and suggested if I wanted I could get a membrane sweep the following morning, to see if it would move things along. Both Elijah and I really wanted me to go into labor with NO interventions. After getting off the phone with Tiffany I remember sitting there and praying to God. I told Him that I was ready to have this baby, I didn’t want to hold back anymore (up till that point I had been fine with being overdue) and I really wanted to have the baby before my family had to leave town.

Around 3pm that afternoon two of my very best childhood friends who had driven all the way from Oregon to California came to visit me. One of them had said it would be neat to both see me pregnant and then meet the baby during the few days they would be in town. They got what they wanted! We all went on a hike up a mountain by my house, and of course my non pregnant athletic friends set a fast pace. I didn’t complain however, I wanted the exercise. It was funny though how unaware they were with my very pregnant state and that I usually would not walk that fast! During the hike I started getting painless contractions, but thought maybe they were Braxton Hicks, something I had rarely experienced before but heard many other pregnant women complain of. After the hike I said good bye to my friends and was pleasantly surprised to find that the tightening sensations did not go away. I was getting several painless contractions every hour.

Elijah came home from work, and I showed him how my body was contracting. By 7pm the contractions got slightly uncomfortable, it felt like I was stretching way down low in my abdomen. Slowly they got more intense, longer, and more frequent, but they were never unbearable. I was preparing myself for a potentially long labor and really did not want to drive a whole 45 minutes to the birth center only to be sent home if I wasn’t far enough along. I was going to stick it out as long as possible at home. Birth stories I read encouraged doing what you would normally do if you weren’t in labor, so as to conserve energy. For example if you usually eat or sleep at a certain time of day, do the same if you’re in labor (if you obviously are capable of doing it). I thought of a story I read of a woman who had a really long labor, and looking back had wished she had slept. I did not want that to happen to me and was determined to learn from even the harder more unfortunate stories I read.

It was 9pm by then and I was getting bloody show and starting to lose my mucus plug. I thought I should pack my birth bag, notify my midwife of my labor suspicions, and then try to get some sleep. When I called her to let her know about the loss of mucus plug and the tightening sensations, she told me I could be in the start of labor or it could be a while that things actually got going. I was having contractions about every 7 minutes by then but did not have to focus on them to get through it.

After the phone call I went upstairs to our loft bedroom (while Elijah cleaned the house… he likes to keep moving and doing things). I rested/slept between contractions, took several trips downstairs to the bathroom, and ate a piece of toast for energy. Eventually Elijah came to bed and the sensations got stronger and closer together. I felt the most comfortable during a contraction to get up on my knees in bed and sway in the darkness breathing deeply. Elijah’s presence next to me in bed and occasional comforting hand on me was strengthening. We were unsure of when to go to the birth center and even though the contractions took a lot of my focus, they still never felt out of control. It wasn’t the easiest thing to time the distance and length of contractions.

It was around 1am when I thought they were coming about every 4 minutes and lasting about 30 seconds long. We decided to call Tiffany to check in and see what she thought. When I had Elijah call Tiffany to let her know I was in labor he was relaying some of the timing of the contractions wrong, so I corrected him, and Tiffany could hear me talking in the background. I think because of my ability to communicate well, and lack of obvious pain, she did not think I was very far along. She said to call her back when the contractions were lasting longer like around 1 minute long and have been that way every 4 minutes for over an hour. After that I stopped timing contractions, I didn’t feel like spending all my focus and energy on the clock and timer on my phone, plus I believed what Tiffany said: that I might have a long way to go…

It was somewhere around 3am when I distinctly remember the contractions starting to come at a much faster and actually overwhelming pace. Elijah was finally asleep and I was having a harder time managing. I decided to go down stairs and take a really hot shower. I turned the water on and while letting it get hot, sat on the toilet. For the first time I was really not enjoying this. I cried out to Jesus saying I can’t do this anymore please help. Looking back I realize now that I was going through transition, and it was just me and God. I jumped in the shower, finding temporary relief with the hot water. Every contraction brought me to my knees and they were coming quickly. I wanted Elijah, but I was so consumed with the contractions I couldn’t call out to him. All I could do was loudly moan hoping he would wake up. He did wake up, thankfully, coming into the bathroom. At that point I definitely wanted to be at the birth center having my midwife help me. I asked Elijah for us to go to the birth center and he wanted to time the contractions first and call Tiffany to see what she said. I didn’t have the energy right then to talk about it. He timed between two contractions and they were a minute apart; He immediately called Tiffany. While Elijah was talking to Tiffany I was loudly moaning in the background (surely she would think I was in real labor, because of all the noise!).

Then I got the urge to push. It was scary but so instinctive; I did not want to be pushing though, I wanted to have my midwife with me! I told Elijah I felt like I was pushing. I decided to reach up inside to see if I could feel the baby’s head, but I really did not want to feel the baby’s head. I nervously reached up there a little tiny bit and was amazed at how open I was! Thankfully I did not feel a head. Tiffany told Elijah we needed to immediately drive down to the birth center; I didn’t think we could make it with such a strong urge to push. He briefly hashed out on the phone the option of having her drive to our house, but Tiffany had no idea where we lived, and we were very far out in the dark country down a winding dirt road. Without my knowledge Tiffany told Elijah we had a much better chance of getting to her faster than her getting to us, and also that it usually takes an average of 1 ½ hours to push out a first time baby, which was within our driving time.

The craziness continued. Looking back I am so thankful for an amazing husband who managed to get everything together to get me to the birth center. He grabbed all the things on my list to bring to the center, plus a bunch of towels in case we had the baby in the car. The worst part about transferring was having to get out of the shower soaking wet and then put cloths back on. I briefly wondered if I could go naked, then decided that if we got pulled over for speeding I would prefer to have cloths on. I managed to dry off and get my pajamas back on. I crawled into the car and buried my head in a pillow, informing Elijah not to tell me how close or far we had to drive, I didn’t want to know. I had three contractions on the first mile of bumpy dirt road and it was awful. I started praying out loud that the contractions would stop until we could get to the center. After praying I only had contractions every 10 minutes for the rest of the 45 min drive.

When we arrived at the birth center, the dark parking lot and surrounding office buildings were lit up with only a street light. Tiffany and my mom (who Elijah thankfully called while I was getting my cloths back on at the house) walked out of the birth center, to help me in. I made it to the room when I had another contraction bringing me to my knees. After the contraction Tiffany asked if she could check me. When she did she said the baby’s head was right there. I was fully dilated and baby was already in the birth canal. My body kicked back into gear with pushing the baby out. I tried several pushing positions preferring being upright and on my knees on the soft bed. Pushing contractions felt much different than the dilating contractions. They did not take lots of focus and energy, but rather felt very natural; my body seemed to know what to do. Eventually Tiffany suggested I lay down because the baby’s heart rate responded the best in that position and it was beginning to drop low. Having been awake off and on all night I was very sleepy at this point, and was surprised I was actually able to dose off between pushing. While pushing Tiffany broke the waters and there was some meconium in it. Even with these potential concerns Tiffany had a very calm reassuring presence that encouraged me so much. I asked her if the pushing was doing anything, and if she could see the baby coming. She said yes, reach down and feel. I reached down and was amazed to feel a bulge of head right there. It gave me so much strength to know I was very close to being done, and with that I worked harder. Baby’s head began to crown and I felt the burning ring a fire. Tiffany supported, oiled, and put warm compresses on my perineum. I felt like I was tearing everywhere, the first true sense of pain during the labor. Wanting to cross the finish line I gave a loud roar. Her head came out with an immediate sense of relief, and then her body slid out without any more pushes. Tiffany held her up and I saw a purple screaming baby, and she put her on my chest. Elijah and I were both so dazed we did not think to check the gender. Tiffany finally asked Elijah what the baby was. He looked and announced that it was a girl.

Our Adelyn Perry was born at 5:42am, January 2nd 2013, about an hour and a half after we arrived at the birth center. She weighed 7 pounds 3 ounces and was 19 ½ inches long. When I pushed her out, her head and her hand came out at the same time. Surprisingly and thankfully I did not tear at all!! Elijah cut the cord, and the placenta was delivered easily. Adelyn pooped all over my stomach right after she was born, but I could care less. Eventually we put a diaper on her because she pooped all over the blanket again after cleaning up the first mess. The meconium that was found in the water did not cause any problems for Adelyn’s breathing. Elijah and my mom got to hold and look at her, and my mother in law drove down to meet Adelyn, while Tiffany helped clean me up and get me comfortable. I rehydrated and ate some food, feeling amazed that I just gave birth and that it was all over and our baby girl was with us. Only about two hours after having Adelyn, while the world was waking up on that fresh sunny winter morning, we loaded up in the car and headed home. At home I was greeted by my warm bed where my baby and I snuggled up for a much needed nap, and various family members came over to meet Adelyn and bring us dinner. It was then I decided that next time we had a baby we would be doing it at home; we were barely at the birth center!

I loved almost every aspect of the birth of Adelyn and fondly thought about it over and over again in the many months to come. The hardest parts about recovery was a very sore tailbone from pushing her out while lying on my back and the challenges of breastfeeding and getting use to a newborn. I eventually healed from my bruised tailbone, so thankful that it wasn’t a fracture. As for learning to breastfeed, I was surrounded by other moms who were successfully nursing their babies and encouraged me to push through the first hard three months. Things got easier and smoother knowing how to feed my baby, and we ultimately found a rhythm to our new life. For me having an enjoyable birth experience was an empowering stepping stone into entering the unknown world of motherhood, and I wouldn’t trade the experience!

Story and photograph submitted by Janelle. 

Educated & Empowered: A Home Water Birth

Educated & Empowered: A Home Water Birth

My birth story begins a few years before my son was even conceived! While my husband, Jeff, and I were dating we discussed children multiple times. We both knew that we wanted to have kids but I remember clearly telling him that I thought I wanted to adopt since my fear of childbirth was too big. My husband is adopted and we’ve both always felt that it doesn’t take blood to make a family so that was our plan, we would adopt to spare me going through childbirth. Every time I thought about labor or giving birth my body would tense right up and I was filled with such anxiety about all of it. I’ve always thought that I had a very low pain tolerance and the thought of going through such agonizing pain from contractions was just too much for me! Not to mention that then there was getting that kid out – I’d either have to shove it out of my hoo-ha or get it taken out of me from surgery! No thank you! I knew that there was always the option of getting an epidural but I have severe scoliosis and was never quite sure if an epidural would work for me. Though I was confident I didn’t want to experience child birth, as my longing for a child grew, so did my interest in viewing birth photography.

I spent weeks looking at pictures of parents meeting their babies for the first time. My interest in birth photography then grew into an interest in birth stories. I read so many! Some stories of beautiful hospital births, some of brave women having cesarean’s (some by choice, some because of emergency), some of ecstatic parents meeting their adopted children for the first time, and some of peaceful home-births. Each story seemed to lessen my fear of childbirth a little bit more. My thinking slowly began to shift from this terrifying event to an empowering and beautiful process to be able to take part of. I decided that I wanted to be one of the “links in the endless chain of birthing women.”

When I found out that I was pregnant, I knew I wanted a midwife! Where I live it’s possible to get a midwife through the health region but it can be very tough to get into the program since there are only six midwives to cover all of the city and surrounding area! A few people had told me to call as soon as I found out I was pregnant so I called the very next day. I was incredibly lucky to be accepted into the program a month later.

I adored Alison, our midwife, the moment I met her! Alison took wonderful care of me throughout my pregnancy and answered all of my questions. Our midwife always made sure that we knew all of our options and what the pros and cons were to each. Even on her busiest days she took the time to explain things to me in great depth, I really began to trust her. We had been planning a hospital birth throughout our whole pregnancy but when I talked about the birth that I envisioned I always gravitated to home-births. I wasn’t sure how safe they were and I was also scared of the judgment that we would get once people found out that we had a home-birth. Unfortunately, a lot of the time home-births seem to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths because they aren’t educated on them. Alison showed us a lot of research that had been done on home-births to prove to me that they were just as safe as hospital births in low-risk pregnancies. I came to her with a list of possible hiccups during the birth and she explained to us what the procedure would be in each one. I really felt like we were making an educated decision that was best for us, so we decided to plan for our home-birth!

As mentioned previously, I have severe scoliosis. I have an ‘S’ curve with a small curve to the right in the middle of my back, and a large curve to the left in my lower back. Since I had read so many birth stories, I knew there was a slight, but rare, possibility that it could affect whether or not I was able to get an epidural. Because we were planning the home-birth my goal was for a natural labor and delivery, but Alison and I agreed that it was important to cover all grounds so she arranged for me to have an appointment with the head of the anesthesiology department at the hospital. I didn’t get the best news there unfortunately! They weren’t going to have a problem getting the epidural into my spine (which was my original concern) but there was a decent chance that the epidural would not properly administer the pain medication because of the smaller top curve of my spine. It might work – but he couldn’t guarantee it. The head of the department and I talked about what that looked like for me. He explained that if I wanted it, there would be other forms of pain management that I could take. Ultimately though if I needed to have a caesarean I would most likely be put right under with general anesthetic. Nothing changed about our birth plan, but I will say that I had a lot of anxiety about that and worried about who would be there to greet babe if I was put under since Jeff wouldn’t be allowed in the room either. There was nothing else we could do but wait and see what happened.

About a week later, just two days before my due date, Jeff had just finished working around 9:00PM we walked over to the drug store across the street and got a frozen pizza. We came home and watched a terrible show on Netflix then decided it was time for bed. Usually we are in bed by 10:00 but since he had worked much later than usual we ended up staying awake until midnight. Every night in the last two weeks of my pregnancy I had gone to bed a little anxious, I really didn’t want to be awoken by labor – I’m not sure why, but I liked the idea of being awake when the process began. I had just finished brushing my teeth and was sitting down to pee one last time before bed. I was sitting there and suddenly felt this pain in my back. It lasted around thirty seconds but the pain wasn’t super intense. I had back pain throughout my pregnancy so I thought it was probably just that – plus it was still two days before my due date and I had convinced myself that I was going to be overdue! I was getting up from the toilet when my water broke. I wasn’t entirely sure if it was my water or not, but it kept leaking so I had a fairly good idea. Jeff remembered our birth classes and Alison telling us to check for COAT (color, odor, amount, and time) and it seemed everything was normal so far. Jeff asked me if he should fill up the birth pool but I just couldn’t believe what was happening so I said no. Was I really in labor?

My contractions started out five minutes apart but only lasted about thirty seconds. I called a girlfriend of mine who is a labor and delivery nurse and she assured me that I was in labor! She told me to hang up the phone and call my midwife, so that’s exactly what we did. We explained to Alison what was happening and she told us that although my water broke, I could very well be in labor for another 24 hours. She asked me to take a Tylenol, get into the bath tub, and try to get some rest. She explained to us that the bath would probably space out my contractions but have them become longer. She asked me how the pain was and I said it was tough but manageable. At this point I was still able to move around and talk on the phone. Jeff had set up the birth pool while I was on the phone and asked if he should fill it up but I told him to hold off for now. I got into our bath tub and the water felt so nice but I didn’t like that I wasn’t able to move around much. After about half an hour in the tub my contractions sped up to 2-3 minutes apart but lasting between 30-45 seconds. The pain was getting intense! I got out of the tub but my body was not happy. I felt like I was having a terrible flu, I started throwing up that darn pizza! My contractions were getting more and more intense. I was still having mostly back pain but I remember being able to feel my hips literally separating so we decided to call Alison again.

We explained to Alison that my contractions were 2 minutes apart now or less, but they still weren’t lasting quite a minute. Some of them were as short as 30 seconds, and some were 50 seconds, but they didn’t last longer than that. Because of the strange pattern in my contractions she was fairly sure that I was in early labor still, but she asked if I would like her to come check me and I did. I told her that the pain was getting very intense and if I was in early labor then I wanted to talk about what my options were for pain management. She told me that it was going to get a lot more intense and I would really need to focus if I wanted to have the home-birth that I had hoped for. At this point I had decided that if this was early labor I was definitely going to the hospital for some kind of drug, so I once again told Jeff not to fill up the tub.

I labored on our bed while we waited for Alison. I didn’t feel like I could move around much at this point so I tried to just stay as calm and comfortable as possible. The contractions were still quite random but on average were 1.5 to 2 minutes apart. While I was laboring I felt a little chilled and said “socks” to Jeff. He ran out of the room and came back with the small bin of baby socks that we had purchased! Jeff and I are “How I Met Your Mother” fans and if you’re familiar with the show you’ll remember an episode where Lily decides she wants to have a baby because she sees some cute little baby socks. Throughout my pregnancy that was a little joke that we had when we bought baby clothes! At this point though I wanted socks for my feet, not to look at. I still laugh whenever I think about that!

Alison arrived around 3:00 A.M. We talked for a little bit about how I was feeling and she coached me through a few contractions. The pattern to them still wasn’t consistent, she explained that one of two things was happening: either the baby was in a strange position causing the irregular contractions or the baby was coming very quickly. My family has a history of fast deliveries so although in my head I was preparing for the worst, I was really, really hoping that I was fairly far along. I’ll never forget what Alison said when she checked me! “Tessa! Oh, Tessa! You’re having this baby at home.” I replied, “Yeah?! Really?” And she said, “You’re a 7!”

And that was it. If I had gotten to 7cm dilated with thinking that I was in early labor, surely I could see this through! That was the confidence boost that I needed. Since our baby was coming quickly, we needed to prepare! Jeff now had to hurry to fill up the pool since I kept telling him to hold off. Alison had to bring all of the birthing and emergency equipment into the house and set it up, and she needed to contact another midwife to come for the birth. I moved from our bed to the couch so I could soak in the hustle and bustle of the night. It was so exciting. I had read so many books on labor and written cue cards for myself to meditate on. I didn’t use the cards in labor but I had read them so many times beforehand that I was still able to think about them during contractions.

That time between 3:30 and 4:30AM are some of my fondest memories from my birthing experience. Our sweet dog, Timothy, came and snuggled up beside my leg. Since the baby was coming quickly Jeff and Alison were both busy and couldn’t spend much time with me but I never felt alone. As cheesy as this sounds, Timothy was the sweetest birth coach! One of the best notes that I had read was to really take time to enjoy the moments between the contractions. I thought about celebrating their birthday a year from then and how excited I was to plan the party. I thought about seeing their little face and holding them for the first time. I thought about all of the women around the world birthing with me at the same time and how incredible it was to be a part of the circle of life. Although the pain was intense when I was contracting it was just such a beautiful thing to be able to experience. My body knew what to do!

I started to feel the urge to push but the second midwife wasn’t at the house yet. Alison had tried to call the other two midwives on her team but neither of them were able to make it there quickly so she called a midwife on the other team who agreed to come right away. Alison told me that if I felt the urge to push not to resist it and asked if I was able to move into the tub. The tub was full enough to get in so I slowly made my way into it. The water felt phenomenal! I know everyone says that, but it’s true!

When I got into the water I remember thinking that labor is just so weird. At that moment I felt completely, 100% normal and was not experiencing any pain at all. It’s hard to believe that there are moments like that in labor but there really are! I started pushing shortly after 4:30AM. Pushing felt great. Pushing took away almost all of the pain from the contractions. I remember the other midwife coming into the house when I was in the middle of pushing. I hadn’t met her before and I didn’t want to be rude so I grumbled out “helloooo” to her! Jeff had pots of water boiling on the stove and between staying with me he would run to get a pot and dump it in to keep the water warm. At one point while I was pushing he dumped the pot of water partially on his hand but decided it was best not to mention that while his wife was in labor – smart guy! I pushed slowly and only during contractions. I put my hand down and felt lots of soft hair, the baby was getting closer. I had read about the “Ring of Fire” and I totally get why they call it that. There really is no better explanation for that pain. Our sweet babe was crowning and I was making sounds that I didn’t even know I could make. I kept my eyes shut the entire time I was pushing so I had no idea where anyone was. Jeff and I had talked about the birth numerous times before and he always said he didn’t think he would watch the baby coming out but, to my surprise, he did! At 5:20 AM I felt instant relief from the pain.

I looked down and there was this tiny little babe in the water. The chord was wrapped around his neck and as Alison unwrapped it she told us that that was actually very common. It made me so happy that she wasn’t concerned in the slightest about it. And there was our baby! After all of that: all of the hoping, dreaming, and praying – our baby was here. They placed the baby on my chest for immediate skin-to-skin. We looked down and saw that it was a sweet little boy. We did delayed chord clamping. Alison let us feel for the pulse in the chord to slowly disappear; while we waited, it was so cool watching the colour come into his body from the chord. When the pulse was gone, Jeff cut the chord. He says that it was firmer to cut than he had been anticipating. It was all so magical! In our birth plan I had agreed to a shot of oxytocin to speed up the birth of the placenta. After a few minutes, I was feeling ready to push again so I gave the baby to Jeff for skin-to-skin. Pushing out the placenta was a breeze compared to the baby.

Shortly after I slowly stood up out of the tub. What a weird feeling! It was almost as if my insides were all falling back into place. I distinctly remember feeling my organs shifting. I walked over to our bed where Alison had set up a cozy and clean area for all of us. She assessed me and determined that I had a second-degree tear. I snuggled our new babe while she stitched me up. They asked us what his name would be – Everett! After I was stitched, Everett found his way to the breast to nurse. He latched on right away and was happy to be eating. Alison then took Everett’s measurements, heart rate, and got his weight. He was 20.8” and weighed 8lbs, 6 oz. Jeff and I both thought that he looked so small when in reality he was a fairly big baby! The midwives stayed with us a while longer to examine Everett and I then they left us alone as a new family of three (four if you count Timothy). The experience of having a home birth was phenomenal. I loved the comfort of being in our own home. Our family came over the next few days to make sure we were well fed, our house was cleaned, and our garden was even planted for us!

Having a baby is strange – beautiful, but strange! When I saw Everett for the first time I knew that I loved him without a doubt, but I remember thinking that I loved my dog more than him. Yup! I remember lying in bed thinking, wow, I love my dog more than my baby, I probably shouldn’t have a kid! The first night we were getting ready to go to sleep and Everett started to scream at around 10 PM and all I could think was “what have we done?” It took time for me to fall deeply in love with him and that’s something I wasn’t prepared for. I felt somewhat disconnected from the whole thing, Alison assured me that that was normal, but I wish that as mothers we talked about that experience more! I think that’s why skin-to-skin is so important for parents and babies. The next few weeks were challenging, my hormones were somewhat everywhere and I was a little nervous to be responsible for a tiny human. Jeff took two weeks off of work when Everett was born and I’m so glad we had that time together as a family. Jeff took the lead with diaper changes and would walk with Everett in the night while I was healing from the birth. Jeff was the more patient parent right out of the gate, it all seemed to come really natural to him but it felt like a bit of a struggle for me. I had never been around baby’s much and even though we took a lot of classes, I still felt like I had a lot to learn.

Breastfeeding was hard! There was a lot of pain but I was determined to keep going with it. Everett had a tongue and a lip tie which at the time we decided to leave but in hindsight I think that was part of the reason we had such a battle finding a good latch. Luckily our midwives were great for showing us some different nursing positions and the lactation consultants were wonderful resources!

Everett is eight months old now and I really do love him more and more every day. Watching him grow and learn new things is so exciting. Birthing him was challenging, but by far my greatest accomplishment in life. I am so proud of what my body has done. Having a home-birth, for me, was the ultimate way of conquering my fear of childbirth. I absolutely loved the experience of it all. Before I had him, a friend of mine said that she wished she could birth a baby every day – I thought she was crazy! But I understand what she meant now as I, too, wish I could birth a baby every day. It is the most wonderful and empowering thing I have ever been a part of. What a beautiful gift, and honour, it is to be able to grow and birth a human being!

Story and photographs submitted by Tessa N. 

Roaring for Aurora: A Hospital Birth Story

Roaring for Aurora: A Hospital Birth Story

My entire pregnancy had been spent preparing my body and mind to bring a wonderful little girl into the world. Including the fact that as a first time mom, she would probably arrive later than her expected due date of April 10th! So in order to prepare for her arrival sometime in April I left my job on the last day of March, giving me at least a full week till my due date to finish cleaning, shopping and sleeping before I had my daughter… Or so I thought.

In the early hours of April 4 I rolled over and, much to my surprise, felt a gush of liquid. My first thought was that I had peed myself; it hadn’t happened before but at 39 weeks pregnant anything can happen, right? I got up, changed my pajamas and crawled back into bed. I then proceeded to roll over again and there was more liquid. This time I was pretty sure my water had broken but nothing else was signaling the start of labor, so I changed again and curled up on the couch and started googling “how you know your water has broken” because I was convinced that she was going to be late.

My husband Kevin got up and started getting ready for work and I crawled back in bed to try and rest some. But rest was not happening and when Kevin came back in I said, “Hey you can turn on the light, I’m awake. Also, I think my water broke…” I was still unconvinced.

“Do I need to stay home from work then or what?” he asked.

“No, I’ll take you. And if anything changes I’ll let you know.” So, I got up and got dressed, texted our doula Amy and let her know what was happening and drove my husband to work.

On the way home I decided to stop at a lake and take a walk; it was a nice day and out and I took about a lap and a half before I decided that I was having a few contractions. I texted my husband and let him know I was going to come get him after I went home and showered. I put on my labor clothes, picked Kevin up from work and came back home to pack up the last few things I needed for labor.

I was already scheduled to have an appointment with my OB and my mom had been going with me due to some previous high stress appointments and she pulled in shortly after we arrived home. “Why is Kevin home?” she asked.

“Well… I think my water broke.”

“Okay… so what’s the plan?”

We decided to hang out at the house, make sure we had everything we needed and I bounced on the birth ball for awhile, before finally making the decision just to head to the labor and delivery triage around 10am. We got checked in to triage and they took my vitals, as well as testing for amniotic fluid. My water had broken, but I was only 1cm dilated and they of course immediately offered to start Pitocin, but I was determined to do this without it, so as soon as we got to an L&D room my husband and I started walking laps.

The doctor came in and introduced himself and assured me that I could labor wherever I wanted including in the tub as long as I didn’t deliver there. He was fine with my decision to put off Pitocin but did remind me that we could only do that for about 24 hours, as long as everything was still looking good. Over the course of the day my parents, Kevin’s parents, and a whole slew of family and friends came and visited me. My doula arrived later on in the afternoon since I wasn’t quite in active labor and I was doing fine without her.

The nurse came and checked to see if I had progressed any around 4pm or so and I was still only at a cm and they again offered Pitocin. My doula knew I was trying to avoid it and we opted to try nipple stimulation instead. We got hooked up to the fetal monitor and started that for about an hour and it helped get some contractions going but not anything sustainable. We continued to walk and late in the night I took a shower, listened to some music and read some. Around 1am they checked again and still no progress. I tried to get some sleep because I knew I would need it. At some point Amy, our doula, went got me some oatmeal and gatorade; she was a great help in making sure I was hydrated and fed.

In the early hours of April 5 the doctor came in and talked Pitocin since it had been over the 24 hours. While I had been fighting it all along I was ready to see my baby earthside and gave them the go ahead to start the IV. Sometime between 6 and 7am they started the Pitocin and, because of the risks it poses, I was able to labor only as far as the fetal and contraction monitors let me go. I had hoped to labor in the tub but they couldn’t find a cord for the monitor so that was no longer an option. As soon as they started the Pitocin my contractions really started picking up. I managed to eat some breakfast (which was all liquids) but by 9am I couldn’t talk through my contractions anymore. My mom left around this time telling me not to have this baby until she got back. I lost track of time soon after that. Kevin and Amy were a huge help during all of this. I felt immense pressure in my hips and Amy provided counter pressure while I was sitting on the bed. I stood and swayed with my husband for most of labor, but at some point ended up back on the bed, on my hands and knees and I felt immediately nauseous; thankfully Amy came fully prepared and had lemon oil in her bag for just such an occasion, it helped so much. I also remember thinking as Amy said aloud, “Yay! That’s a good thing!” We all knew I was align through transition. I changed position again with my legs dangling over the sides. With every contraction I would curl my toes as Amy told me to relax them. She placed heating under my hips to help ease the pressure I was feeling there.

When my mom got back to the hospital around 11am she came in and started stroking my hair and using a cool rag on my neck. Kevin was holding my hand and keeping the fetal monitor in place, because with every contraction she would move and we would lose her heartbeat. He kept it in place so that the nurses could track her heartbeat. During this entire process the nurses came in and out only to bump up the Pitocin drip. They hadn’t checked me since 1am, for which I am thankful, but they didn’t realize how quickly I was progressing, because around 11:45am my body began to push. Amy suggested to my mom that she call for the nurse and joked that we may have a baby before the afternoon! The nurse came in quickly and asked me to lie back so she could check my progress. Much to her surprise she could see my baby and asked me to not push, which is the hardest thing to do when your body is telling you something else! I did my best while she frantically paged the doctor. She actually paged him twice because she was afraid he wasn’t going to make it. He ran in followed closely by the baby nurse who began getting the baby warmer ready. Tearing the bottom off the labor bed and breaking one of his gloves in the process he gave me the go ahead to push all I wanted! My husband on one side and my mom on the other both helped me to relax and Amy reminded me to use the low register groaning to my favor; she called it ‘roaring for Aurora’. I pushed two or three times and then there she was!

At 11:56am. All of 6lbs 10oz and a head full of hair. The first words out of my mouth as they handed her to me were, “Is this real life?” I was in awe of the tiny little girl curled up on my chest. She was perfect in every way.

Story and photographs submitted by Ashley B.

Maternal Assisted Cesarean, Oxytocin, & 12 Year Old Catches Her Sibling

Maternal Assisted Cesarean, Oxytocin, & 12 Year Old Catches Her Sibling

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Prepared by Bradley Method: 3 Birth Stories in 1!

Prepared by Bradley Method: 3 Birth Stories in 1!

I have three beautiful children. All born very close together within the 5 years that my husband and I have been married. I jokingly call myself “Fertile Myrtle”. My husband is more of a natural/holistic person than I am and convinced me to go the natural way for our first pregnancy. We read a Bradley Method book that prepared us extremely well for all of our pregnancies. We chose a OB/GYN that was highly recommended by friends. She agreed with our birth plan and was very nice at every office visit. What we didn’t know at the time, was that she was in the middle of at least one lawsuit where she had lost a mother.

Two months before the delivery, she asked us to give birth at the birth center in town since she didn’t have rights at the hospital anymore. We didn’t know any better what that meant at the time. We lived 14 hours away from family and chose to keep that information a secret and let our parents know we were still giving birth at the hospital. We felt like it was too late to change plans anyway. We were kind of excited to get the “best of both worlds.” Labor was long and hard but pretty much by the book. No surprises and 12 hours long. I was able to give birth to a beautiful 9lb baby girl. We named her Luciana.

It wasn’t until after the birth that my doula told us all of the awful things the doctor did to me during labor that could’ve ended badly. The doctor broke my water without my consent, physically dilated me the last two centimeters, pulled on the placenta and fished it out herself, pulling out globs at a time. I had bad tearing but never found out what degree it was. It took me two weeks to recover. Let’s just say she’s not a practicing doctor anymore.

Towards the end of my second pregnancy, we were back in our home state and living at my parents’ house. We opted for a Certified Nurse Midwife and homebirth, much to the disappointment to my mother, a Labor & Delivery nurse. I absolutely loved our midwife. She had 30+ years of experience and gave me so much confidence. This time around, labor was 16 hours long. I think it was because I laid down in bed for most of it; afraid of going too fast and getting torn again. Our 9lb son, Matthew, came into the world at my mother’s home and it was absolutely beautiful. No tearing and no complications.

We planned another home birth for our third child but things didn’t go according to plan. My water broke on its own on a Friday morning. My husband and midwife were confident that I would go into labor soon…but Friday turned into Saturday and I was beginning to freak out. My husband didn’t want to go to the hospital and was convinced that I would eventually go into labor. But I knew with each passing hour we were putting myself and the baby at risk for infection. I had to beg him to bring me to the hospital Sunday afternoon. He was convinced that the hospital would give me an epidural or whisk me to a C-section without our consent. I, however, was so happy to be there and so happy when they hooked up that pitocin. I was so tired of not being in labor. I just wanted my baby!

My husband wasn’t kind to the nurses and I had to convince them to listen to me and not my husband, who very obviously didn’t want to be there or trusted anyone. They kept saying “I’m just trying to make everyone happy.” But I informed them that they weren’t gonna make him happy. Just focus on me. Once the contractions got intense he was able to come back to reality and be the birthing coach that I needed. I was so happy to have him there. I could not get through my labors without him. He is the best coach. Better than my doula was for our first labor! He always ends up being more exhausted than me at the end of the birth. Labor only lasted 5 hours and I pushed for 5 minutes and had no tearing. I loved that the labor was so fast even though it was a little more painful than my first two. Our second boy, Augustine, was so beautiful at 8lbs.

However, 9 days after he was born he ran a fever and his breathing was sounding funny. We brought him to the ER and he was in septic shock. He was intubated, put under sedation, and immediately started on antibiotics. He had contracted E-coli. They said we’ll never know how he got it, but the nurses said it was probably from my waters being ruptured for so long. We stayed in the hospital for over 3 weeks. He recovered like a champ. He is now 18 months old and is quite possibly the happiest baby on the planet. He has been so easy and such a delight to see grow up.

We are now pregnant with our fourth baby! I’m due in late July and can’t wait to write up that birth story next.

Story and photographs submitted by Kristin J. 

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