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A Story Of Empowered Birthing

A Story Of Empowered Birthing

I have been following January and BWF for a few months now. Your Blog and Facebook page really helped me through the last part of my second pregnancy. I was diagnosed with GD and had to deal with switching insurance at 36 weeks to a non-supportive insurance. The second half of my second pregnancy was the start of fear, anxiety, and finally, empowerment.

I’m 26 years old and in that short time, I have been through quite a bit. I am a cancer survivor, a mother, a college graduate, a wife. I want to tell you my story of my road to birthing empowerment. feel so empowered, I can’t wait until I’m pregnant with my third!

It started back in 2008, when I was 19, a freshman in college, and I had just found out I was pregnant. My then boyfriend (now husband) James was completely supportive. I gained a good 55 to 60 pounds (I had always been rather small. Never really over 120) and at my 38 week appointment, my then doctor informed me my blood pressure was at a dangerous level and I needed to be sent to the hospital immediately to have tests done and to be induced.

At the time, my husband and I didn’t think much of induction. To us, all it meant was we were going to have our baby boy sooner than planned. All tests came back fine, no preeclampsia, no blood clots, but my doctor decided to induce me anyway.

It was July 7, 2008, a Monday. We thought the induction would start right away, at 12pm. Nope, a nurse came and said the doctor was waiting until midnight to start the Pitocin. I asked why and she was honest with me, she informed me that my doctor didn’t want to be woken up in the middle of the night to deliver a baby. (Quick fast forward to now, my own cousin works at the same hospital as a RN and she told me that was completely true, and still true of my then doctor, she also told me that this doctor and partner never let their patients go to 40 weeks. Even after the hospital put in place a very strongly recommended guideline that no one shall be induced before 41 weeks 3 days, unless medically necessary. )

Back to 2008, Pitocin started at midnight and by 1:30 my contractions started, by 3am my water broke as I was getting out of the hospital bed. By 5 I wanted an epidural. I thought it was heaven. I was wrong. The rest of the birth was uneventful, exactly what you would expect of an induction. My sweet little Johnny was born at 12:36pm on July 8th, 2008, weighing 8 pounds 3 ounces. I was exhausted. I took a while before I could get out of the bed myself. I didn’t have a problem with my first birth, until my second.

Now to 2010, the cancer diagnosis. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in June 2010 and I started chemo on Johnny’s second birthday, July 8th, 2010. After six months of Chemo and 17 rounds of radiation, in August 2011, I was in remission, but we were afraid we weren’t going to be able to have any more children.

In January 2013 we decided to find out if we could still have children. My OB ran some tests and assured us I was still fertile. We needed permission from my oncologist though. After more testing, just to make sure I was healthy enough, he gave us the green light to start trying. In April 2013 we started. In October, those two little pink lines showed up.

This was truly an amazing pregnancy. I was in my last term getting my Bachelors of Science in health education; I graduated when I was almost 30 weeks. We were pregnant with another little boy and this pregnancy was completely different. I had terribly severe morning sickness, I was keeping myself healthy, low to no stress. My new OB did an ultrasound at every appointment, and while some may see that as a bad thing, my husband and I enjoyed it. My husband hated going to appointments with my first because my OB was uninterested and uninvolved, but, my new OB was amazing, so involved and helpful.

In early April I was diagnosed with GD, which was hard for me because I am a carb-loving girl. But I managed it using the education I had just spent 4 years obtaining. I also had to switch from a PPO insurance to a HMO, meaning a very large insurance company. I had been told by my doctor that IF the baby was too large, he would induce me. I had no problem with this –  I wanted to give birth vaginally again and I didn’t mind the induction the first time around. My new insurance didn’t feel the same; in fact they felt the need to scare me into a C-section. I was petrified of the idea of a C-section.

At 33 weeks pregnant, while I was at the grocery store, I started having pain in my side. I was scared, so my husband and I dropped Johnny off with my mom and we went to the hospital. I called my RN cousin and she came to the hospital to be with us. I was in pre-term labor and they had to stop it. It took four days in the hospital but when we were finally released, I was still having mild contractions. While we were there my new insurance doctors told me the baby was already 7 pounds and that I didn’t have my GD under control. I left the hospital 3 cm dilated and 50% effaced.

Even though I had had my heart set on an induction, I liked the idea of going into labor on my own, laboring at home then going to the hospital to give birth. My wish came true.

It was a Friday, a very uneventful day. I was excited to get through the weekend because my doctor had said he would help my labor on Monday due to the swelling and pain if I did have him during the weekend.

My son was helping me out throughout the day because I couldn’t do much. My husband got off of work at the normal time, we had dinner, put our son to bed and started playing video games. It was about 10:15pm. I got up to go pee and as I sat there on the toilet I had a small contraction, like I had been the past 6 weeks. But with this one, in my head I begged “Please do something major to my cervix”. And POP, my water broke.

It was one of the most beautiful moments, I remember it so fondly. The rush of excitement through my body was uncontainable. I yelled to my husband “James, my water broke” and he said “Awesome, finally.” And just like that, as I was sitting there on the toilet, my next contraction was pretty strong.

James started getting things ready. I then called my mom, who was tasked with keeping our eldest. I told her I was in labor and she needed to come get Johnny. Then I called my aunt, who was going to be in the room with us while I gave birth. I then called my cousins who lived near the hospital, one being the RN who worked there. Luckily she was off of work that night and would get to enjoy the baby as family. After all of the calls, I walked into Johnny’s room and woke him up. I don’t think he realized what was going on.

At first I told James I wanted to take it slow and labor at home, but soon I realized my contractions were really close together, about 5 to 7 minutes, so we left as soon as my mom took our son. It was at most 10 minutes since my water had broken.  In the car, I labored to the music of Queen and other songs that helped me stay calm through my contractions. Thirty minutes from the hospital my contractions were only about a minute apart and I was squeezing my husband’s hand with each one. He was surprised how quickly they had progressed.

Ten minutes away from the hospital I told my husband I didn’t think we were going to make it. We did though, and James drove right up to the doors. He got me inside with a nurse then went to park the car. The nurse got me into a wheelchair and up to the Labor and Delivery floor where they made me stand. At this point, I felt like the baby was going to fall out. I had the urge to push and told the nurses. One asked me if I wanted to sit down and I told her “I can’t, he’s coming out I can feel him.” They weighed me, then tried to get me to walk down to the room they had ready for me but I told them I couldn’t make it so they took me to the closest room available, which was the C-section recovery room. I stripped down and lay down on the bed. They checked me and said I was at full crown.

I told them I had to push. They told me not to and called the doctor on call. The best thing about my insurance and their doctors was that they always had a doctor on call at my hospital.

The baby was pushing his way out and the nurses kept telling me not to push. I told them, “I’m not pushing, what do I do? What do I do?” The doctor arrived maybe 2 minutes after they called. Finally, relief as he told me I could push with my contractions. Oh boy did I push!

The ring of fire was excruciating but I was focused on my goal, getting my little man out safe and healthy. Three pushes and he was out. I asked if he was ok and my nurse said “He’s fine, he’s crying, hear him?” and I heard his beautiful little cry. They placed him in the warmer next to me and it was such an amazing feeling to see him. They told me there was meconium in the placenta so they were going to have to send it in but the baby was fine.

Everett was born at 11:35pm on June 27th, 2014, a little over an hour after my water broke and about 10 minutes after we arrived at the hospital.

I was immediately able to get up and use the restroom and I was so energized and empowered. No epidural, no Pitocin. It was truly the best birthing experience. I couldn’t have wished for a better one and I wish the same upon every woman, whether at home or a hospital, in a bed or a pool, a quick, pleasant, and happy birthing experience. I’m so lucky to have had the experience that I did!


About to start first nursing session

Daddy holding Everett while his vitals are checked

Johnny meeting Everett for the first time

My R.N. Cousin giving Everett his first bath

Our sweet little man came out so fast his head is pretty round for a vaginal birth baby

ten minutes old

Natural Hospital Birth {Support is Essential}

Natural Hospital Birth {Support is Essential}

OK, I have to be honest.  Writing this is hard for me.  For some reason, I don’t want to write it.  Like I’m dreading it?  I think there are just too many things about it to write down so I know it’ll take me forever…?  I have no idea.  But here’s my attempt.  I definitely want it documented. I have to thank a few people before I begin:

Joe.  He has been such a support this whole pregnancy, in what I have been wanting to do.  During Labor, he was right there, helping me over such a huge mountain.

My Midwives. I have grown to love hese women.  They truly care about me, my body and my baby.  They are completely supportive of what is best for us.  They also were there during the labor and helped me get through it. (Once my care was transferred to the hospital & Dr. Wells, they were no longer able to be in charge.  They then became my doula’s in helping me ease my labor.)

Karlye. Man, I am so fortunate to know this girl.  One of my best friends.  We have too many things in common and I love that.  I can talk to her about anything.  And I can also invite her to my birth and take pictures for me.  That’s how comfortable and grateful I am for our friendship.  She was the talent in documenting my labor.  I am so grateful to have these pictures!!  I can forever look back at them and remember exact feelings that were happening.

Dr. Wells.  It was no accident that Dr. Wells was the one in the office when I went to do my Non-Stress test the day before Jake’s birth.  He took interest in my case and worked flawlessly with my Midwives to make my birth plan happen.  I also liked that he is also LDS which meant he knew my values and I him.  There was like a secret, non-spoken, pact with him because of it. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain.  But he understood my faith, which is a huge part of my life. The added Spirit he brought to the table probably helped too!

And let’s not forget Joe’s Mom.  She came in on the 27th and was there until Nov. 10th. Such a long trip!  I was grateful she came into town to help with the kids before and after the baby came.  I was so big and in pain those last few weeks. It was nice she could take and pick up kids for me, and more important, clean my house!

Alright, those were the main characters in my Birth Story. Anyways, here we go.

When I hit my last month of pregnancy, my body kind of shut down.  Everything seemed to start to fall apart.  Things started aching and hurting.  Going walking was even starting to become a chore.  And I would be so SORE that night.  I feel that the smoke that filled the air most of Sept. probably had something to do with it.

I also was becoming really really big.  Like seriously.  For months, people had asked me if I was due “any day?” for how big I was.  So when Oct came, I just kept getting bigger.  I started to think my due date was off because I was becoming gigantic.  It was really annoying.  I was so hopeful that this baby would come before my due date. But he never did.  My mother-in-law even came in on the 27th, hoping I would come early because I was so big…but I didn’t.

As I approached my due date, my midwives noticed the large state of my stomach and also the fluid that my body was retaining, inside and outside the uterus.  They started talking about if there were too much fluid in the womb, that they probably would have to transfer my care to a doctor and induce.  I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case but I didn’t worry too much about it since we still had a few weeks.

So my Due Date came and went.  It was Thursday, Nov. 1st.  The Midwives weren’t too worried about the baby not coming yet and frankly, nether was I.  There was only one thing that they kept an eye on and it was the size of my uterus and the fluid retention my body was experiencing. By then, I was SUPER swollen.  My legs and Belly.  So they kept an eye of that, to avoid problems like Prolapsed Cord. They then talked about if I was still pregnant by 41 weeks, then they would schedule both a Non-Stress Test & an Ultrasound to measure the fluid and baby.

Let me just say that everything my body was doing was ripe for labor.  The only thing that wasn’t aligned was the baby’s head.  It was not down where it should have been.  Since there was a lot of fluid in there, it had room to float.  There was nothing forcing his head down, which then cause me to not go into labor.  So we were hopeful that it wasn’t too serious and that his head would drop.

But we hung in there, I was determined to let things happen naturally.  As I’ve stated before, I wanted to experience labor how it’s naturally supposed to.  My 3 previous pregnancies were all induced before going into labor.  I kind of felt like my body was broken because it had never gone into labor alone.  So I wanted to test my body and see if it would if I gave it a chance.  Sounds lame but that’s just how I felt. They did strip my membranes on my 39th week appt. to help things along.  I was also doing things at the home front to move things along, like walking, dancing on the Wii, and other things….So some nights, there were some serious contractions.  But I would fall asleep.  I would wake up the next morning, frustrated and a little bit discouraged.  But I just kept it up.  They also checked me and I was at a 2. That was good to know that something was going on down there but it also didn’t mean I would go into labor anytime soon.

I went into the midwives again the following Monday and I was at a 3 and effacing pretty well.  They stripped my membranes again and hoped for the best. They scheduled the Non-Stress Test for Thursday, at the Hospital clinic which would be 41 weeks for me.  From there, they wanted to see the results to then schedule the ultrasound.  We were all hoping it wouldn’t go to that point…

Thursday, Nov. 8th (41 weeks) had come.  I went into the Clinic to do the Non-Stress Test.  The majority of the time, this little guy was asleep!  He wasn’t doing what he was supposed to be doing and moving around!  So of course Dr. Wells was concerned that he wasn’t moving as much as he should.    Luckily Jake started moving the last 10 minutes so he passed.  But the Dr was concerned at the size of my belly.  So he recommended the ultrasound and tried to schedule one that day.  But there were no openings.  So they scheduled one for the next day, Friday Nov. 9th at 10:30 am.

So Friday morning, I went to my ultrasound.  It was interesting to see this guy so big on screen.  She did all the measurements, for the fluid and the baby. She even played with the 3D camera for fun.  Afterwards, she went upstairs to show Dr. Wells the results.  So I waited to see what happened next. The Ultrasound lady came back and told me that Dr. Wells was discussing my case with Laurie, my midwife about the result and what option should we take that would be the safest one for me and the baby.  So I waited some more.  She came back and had me follow her into her office, where Laurie was on the phone, on hold.  She wanted to talk to me first and tell  me what they found out.

So I get on the phone and after asking how I’m doing and feeling, she tells me that the Sonographer measured my fluid.  A normal measurement is usually around 15-25.  My measurement was 34.  That was super duper high. Because it was so high, there was a great chance of water rupture & cord prolapse.  I could no longer have my birth at the birthing center.  I was now a High Risk patient and would have to be at the hospital.  Both her and Dr. Wells felt that the best route would be to check into the hospital and from there, prick my bag of waters to slowly leak and control the water so that the umbilical cord could not come out in front of the baby’s head.  They recommended doing that sooner than later to avoid my water breaking somewhere outside of the hospital.   At that point, with the new information and what my options were, I was ready and willing to get this baby out.  So we both agreed that this was my best option and to move forward.  After talking to her on the phone, I went up to talk to Dr. Wells.  We again talked about my condition and possible risks that were involved.  I told him my conversation with Laurie and so we then talked about when.  I told him, the sooner the better.  He asked, “Today?”  I said, sure.  By that time, it was around noon.  He was then talking about immediately heading over but then changed the time to 3 pm.  That would be fine, I told him.  That gave me time to call Joe.

“Hello?” -Joe “You ready to have this baby today?!” “What?!” I then went on to tell him what happened and that he should probably cancel the rest of his appointments that day and get home! I was also able to go home, pack a revised bag, take a shower, call Karlye so she would be ready to take pictures etc.  (There are definite benefits to planning a labor time!)


So we arrived at the hospital at 3 pm.  Checking in was a breeze.  It seemed like there was no one in the hospital and that I was the only patient.  Once I got into  my room, we met my nurse and got changed into those ugly hospital ponchos and waited.  They came in and tried to insert a needle to draw blood on my arms.  I say tried since I got poked about 6 times.  They kept getting an empty vessel.  3 nurses came in to try and finally one succeeded.  It was the worse thing ever.  That has always been worse than getting an epidural!

As I laid there, my midwives came for support and help & Karlye arrived too, ready to document.  Apparently, the doctor told me to come a tad early since he didn’t even come into my room until around 6 pm.  But the weird thing was, as I was sitting there, I started having major contractions pretty close together. Wouldn’t you know it, I was going into active labor ON MY OWN!  By the time Dr.
Wells came in to prick my bag, I was measuring 4-5 cm.  I warned them that as soon as they broke my water, my body kicks into high gear.


So as discussed before, they nicked my bag so that it was slowly leaking.  They didn’t want a huge gush of water to push the umbilical cord out since his head had still not dropped into place.  My contractions started to get a little big stronger but it was still bearable.  There was just so much fluid in there! Finally at around 9:30 pm, Dr. Wells broke a larger hole and started draining my uterus.  While it was draining, we had the nurse pushing my belly down to keep baby’s head in position (down and dropped) and Dr. Wells coming from my birth canal, holding the baby’s head up so the water could come out.  It was a tad uncomfortable  to say the least.  We did that for 10 minutes.  There was so much fluid!  Again, explains the large belly I had!  At that point, I was dilated to a 7-8.  Sweet.

Something that happened though as they drained out the water was that Jake turned to the other side of the uterus.  I heard them say that but it didn’t click in my head what that really meant…that he would be facing UP going through the birth canal.  I didn’t really understand that until later….


Once they drained a TON of fluid, the contractions started coming hard.  I was able to get up so I sat on the big ball.  I bounced on that for a while.  The nurse, Melissa, and my midwifes started implementing soothing treatments for my contractions, like squeezing my hips together and pushing on my lower back simultaneously.  That did the trick.  Next, I started antsy so I walked the halls.  I had a trail of people following me so they could do the squeezing and pushing on me when I got a contraction.  They also didn’t want me going too far away from the room since I was getting close.  The told me if I started feeling lots of pressure down there & hurting really bad, to haul belly back to the room.  I wasn’t out in the hall for that long…


As I came back in, I bent over the bed during contractions while they squeezed & pushed.  Laurie, my midwife, suggested I kneel up on the backside of the bed so I could rest on it between contractions.  So I “hopped’ up there, kneeling, & facing the back of the bed, which was reclined up.  This is when things started getting pretty serious for me.  These contractions weren’t messing around anymore.  To help Jake descend, I would rock my hips back and forth.


All the while, the crew would squeeze and push on me as I went through each contraction.  Karlye not only was taking pictures during this whole time but she put it down to help me during this phase with cold compresses, giving me water and pulling my hair out of my face!  This was the hardest part.  It’s hard to describe how I felt during this time.  There was be no pain in between contractions.  And then BAM, I could feel it build and mentally tell my body to RELAX and BREATHE.  I had to really FOCUS on relaxing.  That’s one of the key things I learned from the Bradley Method classes.  Relaxation and breathing are key to avoid unnecessary pain during labor. That went on for who knows how long…It felt like forever but probably only 15-20 minutes.  I could feel the baby too, which was pretty cool.  And then things started getting really really REALLY painful and HARD.  And I remember thinking, this better be transition because otherwise, I won’t be able to make it.  I remember during those contractions, I would be battling thoughts in my head “Keep going Lyssa” “You can do it!”  VS. “Holy Hell, this hurts SO BAD” “I can’t do it!”  Back and forth, as I struggled through each contraction.  I was also just Praying to Heavenly Father for strength and energy to get through this!  And looking back, I know He did.  How else could I have done what I did?!   I remember those last few, I was literally whimpering from the pain.  And then, like a switch, I started feeling the urge to push.  And around that same time, the nurse said, “if you feel the urge to push, do it!”  With that, I told her YES I DO!


So Dr. Wells had to stick his hand in me and turn Jake around.  Ok, that part hurt freaking bad too.  haaa haa.  I know I said a few complaints but they reassured me that things will run much smoother if he is in the right position. After that ordeal, Jake’s big head came into view.  Things kind of slowed down at that point.  Dr. Wells did a great job at stretching the “hole” to avoid tearing.  When a contraction came, I was pushing as hard as I could to get that head out because it was BURNING.  lol I got the full dose of “ring of fire”. And then in between them, his head would sit there as everything burned. Another PAINFUL part of the process in my experience.  But oh the joy when that head finally broke through!  But we had to proceed slowly with Jake’s shoulders too to avoid any dislocation since he was so BIG.  At 11:47 pm, once those shoulders came out, Dr. Wells pulled him out and I couldn’t believe this baby just came out of me! Jake Ryan Zimmerman was finally born!  lol   We were hoping to have him on the 9th, an exact month before my birthday.


There is something so raw and real in that instant when you are aware and free from any medications.  My senses were definitely overstimulated at that point. I was wide-eyed and in shock.  They gave him to me so I could hold him and have some skin on skin contact.  There was no cries, just grunting, ha haa.  I did a little breastfeeding too and he seemed to know what he was doing (I would hope so seeing how he was the size of a 2 month old!)

I know most people say during this time, you are so high on the natural emotions and endorphins your body makes that you don’t notice the last phase of the placenta birthing and stitching…Well for me, that wasn’t the case.  I was definitely aware of what was going on down there.  And any sort of pushing on my stomach REALLY hurt.  And because of Jake’s size, I couldn’t avoid tearing so I got a 3rd degree laceration.  So I was also aware of the prodding and stitching. Again, Another painful part of this process.

But during that, they took Jake, cleaned and made sure he was “crying”.  They weighed him at 11 lbs 1 oz.  We were all shocked and laughing at the fact that I just gave birth naturally to an 11 lbs baby!  When I really think about it, I can’t believe it. Another reason I know I was given endurance and strength from God to do this. I think He knew how bad I wanted to do it and have this experience that He pathed the way for me to do it.


Also I might add that both the midwives & Dr. Wells suspected that I developed Gestational Diabetes the last month of pregnancy.  I took my test when I was supposed too and passed.  But for some reason, I got it later.  Which makes everything that happened make sense.  I got huge.  The baby got huge.  I did eat like crap. Darn Halloween.  So in hindsight, its scary to think what could have happened having that.  Lots of thing could have gone wrong.  Any small complications that could have happened would have sent me straight to the OR to have a C-Section.  yikes…  So another experience that humbles me and makes me truly grateful for what did happen.

Clean up and all that aftermath took some time.  Jake was sent to the nursery to get cleaned up and made sure all was good.  By the time i got to my recover room, it was well past 1 AM.  I. was. exhausted.  I had never felt that tired my whole life.  And I knew what to expect during the night at the hospital.  So I tried to get as much sleep as I could.  I had wonderful nurses during my stay. They even watched Jake during the night for a long stretch so I could sleep since they knew what I had just gone through.  Apparently I and one other person was in the maternity ward that day and word quickly spread about my 11 lbs baby. I had nurses not assigned to me come and see him or come see me and congratulate me.  haa haa, I felt famous for the day.

I was excited for the kids to finally meet him on Saturday with Joe and his mom. They adored him and the free popcicles my lovely nurse had given them.  After a bit, we all started getting restless so I said goodbye to them and went back to sleeping throughout the day.  One of the perks of staying at the hospital is the room service.  I loved being able to call any time of the day to order whatever
food I wanted.  It was so nice!

Jake and I were discharged Sunday night.  Joe picked us up.  It was freezing cold and raining.  The drive home was foggy in my mind.  I was under medication and was definitely feeling the side effects.  But it was so surreal, having a new baby in the backseat.  We talked about the labor and all the things we weren’t aware of at that time and how things could have gone terribly wrong.  We both felt that God had watched over me and Jake during the pregnancy and labor. We were so thankful that there were no serious complications.

This experience has been life changing for me.  It definitely testifies to me that there is a Heavenly Father who loves me and my family.  He watches over me, knows my righteous desires, and gives me tender mercies endlessly.  As a mother, I feel more confident, capable and I trust myself more.  This experience also shows me that my body was made to do this!  God blessed women to bear children.

It is not a burden but a blessing in my mind.  When  you are aware and understand the process and what it can be, it’s a beautiful thing.  I am just grateful that I was able to experience that.  ( and by no means do I look down or judge other moms who do not give birth this way.  Each to his own!  Every woman is different!  I know that.  More power to you!  This is just what I have learned for myself.  What matters is the end result: Healthy Mom & Baby!)



Difficult Pregnancy and Traumatic Birth {Hyperemesis Gravidarum, Gestational Diabetes, Cholestasis And Induction}

Difficult Pregnancy and Traumatic Birth {Hyperemesis Gravidarum, Gestational Diabetes, Cholestasis And Induction}

My pregnancy and birth were by no means ideal or what I had planned. But sometimes its more important to hear about the births that didn’t go to plan than the ones that did. If my experiences can help just one person then my story is worth sharing. – Johanna

Ever since I was a little girl I have been desperate to experience pregnancy and motherhood, seduced by images of glowing women tenderly rubbing their bellies and tiny perfect infants.  I knew early in my teens that pregnancy may never be a reality for me – I suffered from severe endometriosis and lost a fallopian tube to a laparoscopy at the age of 17 and was told my chances of conceiving without intervention could be minimal.

Fast forward eight years and there I was with a positive pregnancy test in my hand. I was cautiously excited – despite the unplanned nature of the pregnancy – knowing my chances of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage were high. In my mind I had won my battle – I had proved the doctors wrong with my pregnancy and could not imagine that anything but happy days were ahead for me. Sadly, my battles were only just beginning.

By the time I saw my baby’s little heart flickering on the eight week dating scan I was already very ill. I was wracked with debilitating nausea and vomiting and having trouble even keeping down water. I was told all the usual things – have small meals, get fresh air, try ginger, eat crackers – but nothing worked. I had been determined that I would eat healthy and not take any medications at all during my pregnancy and was still dragging myself to work to do ten hour shifts in child care. When I finally broke down due to exhaustion and dehydration and let my partner Mark take me to the doctor to get a prescription of anti-nausea meds I cried all the way home. They did nothing to help and I soon made my first visit to the hospital after vomiting blood. They put me on IV fluids and gave me a medicine called Ondansetron (Zofran). For the first time I was able to drink a small cup of water and keep it down so they sent me home with no medication, no advice and two days off work. As soon as the medicine and fluids wore off I was back to my worst and in desperation and fear for my baby’s life I went to a doctor to beg for a prescription for Ondansetron – she told me she wouldn’t prescribe it for me and it was dangerous for my baby and I left in tears feeling devastated and ashamed.

Two days later I was back at the hospital being admitted and was finally diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum – I was vomiting blood again after days of bringing up all food and liquids and bile, too dizzy and weak to get out of bed without assistance. Food revolted me, smells revolted me – I couldn’t stand the smell of tap water let alone my partner, I couldn’t stand up long enough to shower and I couldn’t brush my teeth without vomiting. I was losing weight rapidly. I had to tell my work I would not be in for the foreseeable future. Mark was working full time and then coming home to nurse me – as well as running our household by himself – I was utterly helpless and some days could not even make it across the hallway to use the toilet without assistance. My Mum came over on her day off every week to take me to Drs appointments and offer what assistance she could with house work etc.

After my admission to hospital I was given a script for Ondansetron. It gave me a little more control over my vomiting but I still vomited most things. I managed to keep myself hydrated with lemonade ice blocks and frozen coke because they were all I could keep down. I cried bitterly when I was alone, scared that I could not provide my baby with the nutrition necessary for it to grow and convinced that the baby would die…or that both of us would. I was pushed into early testing for gestational diabetes due to my high BMI and when it came back positive I felt even more helpless – the only things I could manage to keep down were the very worst things for GD but I had to eat what I could eat or end up back in hospital.

The strain of going down to one income became too much and when the government wouldn’t help us with any sickness payments, we had to make the painful decision to pack up the little home we had made for ourselves, break our lease and go and live with my parents. My symptoms got very slowly better and I began to get a better hold on my vomiting. I was able to expand my diet to more normal foods and keep down water with the help of my medication – even if the nausea was still very prevalent. The damage to my body had been done though and I was suffering from malnutrition, weak, had lost a huge amount of muscle and was in constant pain due to atrophied muscles in my back as a result of all the months of bed rest.

At my 20 week scan we found out we were expecting a little girl and by about 22 weeks my vomits had decreased to one every few days – unless I exerted myself in any way, got too tired or got upset. I was still unable to contribute to the household in any way and spent my days lying in bed watching TV. I was very grateful that I was seemed to be coming out the other side of the hell I’d been going through with HG and my GD was totally diet controlled (I’m still not convinced the state I was in when the test was done didn’t produce a false positive) – things were looking up!

I was 32 weeks when I again started to feel something was wrong. I had been improving in tiny steps and filling my time writing my birth plan – I was planning a birth totally free of induction or drugs. I became incredibly itchy, to the point that I wanted to rip my skin off and I was crying. I was diagnosed with Cholestasis of pregnancy – a condition involving the liver which meant that my baby was at a much increased risk of stillbirth and would have to be induced before 38 weeks and had to spend the night in hospital for monitoring because my test results were so bad. I couldn’t believe it! Why did these things keep happening to me? I had been through such pain and suffering already and had been focusing my energies on making up for my terrible pregnancy with an amazing, intervention free birth….now that was being ripped away from me too! Around the same time I was informed that the glandular fever I’d had the previous year had not in fact resolved itself as I had been told and had in fact been active and present in my blood throughout my whole pregnancy!!!!

At 34 weeks I was admitted to hospital again – this time I was struck with excruciating pain in my back, so bad that I was screaming and wild. I spent 6 nights in hospital with a massive infection in my gallbladder and on IV antibiotics. The doctors were very concerned by my body’s lack of immune response – despite the seriousness of my infection I never once got a fever which showed that my body was not trying to fight the infection at all.

I made it to my personal goal of 36 weeks, managing to enjoy my baby shower – which we had long feared I would not make it to. Then my liver began to show increased distress despite the 8 tablets a day I was taking to try and keep my body working and my induction was scheduled for November 21st – I would be 37 weeks and 2 days.

The day of my induction I was filled with conflicting thoughts. I was excited to meet my little girl although I would not be having the birth I had planned. But as much as I did not fear the actual process of birth, I had trouble believing that things would go right for us given all the road blocks that had been thrown in our way during the pregnancy.

We arrived at the labour ward at 5pm and Mum, Mark and I settled into the room armed with many bags of things to sustain us through the long night ahead – 12 hours with a foley bulb in if I was dilated enough or perhaps the same amount of time with cervadil. They examined me, ready to try and place the foley bulb and found I was already 3cm dilated! The midwives and Drs were happy and excited saying this never happens for a first time Mum at my gestation. They decided to send me home and have me come back in at 7am rather than break my waters and have me labour through the night. The Dr gave me a stretch and sweep and we went home and tried to relax – it felt like an anti-climax but I was also excited thinking that perhaps I wouldn’t need any interventions. My body could do this! Despite my best efforts that night, I didn’t go into labour and my waters remained intact. When I got up in the morning I had started to lose some of my mucous plug and became excited that perhaps I had dilated even more overnight.

Back at the labour ward and a check revealed I was still only 3cm. I was disappointed but determined. The midwife ruptured my waters with a great deal of effort and to my great disappointment there was meconium in them. This changed the whole birth plan right away – I was no longer allowed to labour without any augmentation – I would have to go straight onto the hormone drip. I asked if they could keep it on a very low level and they agreed. When my contractions began it was 10am and I handled them well, walking around the room and bouncing on the birth ball. I had to consent to monitoring because of the drip but had organized to have to wireless monitor – it was a struggle from the start. It was supposed to make it easier for me to move around but every time I moved it kept cutting out and finally I had to have the wired monitor on as I continued to bounce through contractions on the ball. Every time I stood I was losing amniotic fluid in big gushes but my contractions which were coming every 2 minutes were ‘too short to be effective’ and they turned up the hormone drip. I began laboring on hands and knees on the bed which felt very good but in this position none of the monitoring would work and the Drs came in and told me I had two choices – lie still so the monitoring worked or consent to internal monitoring. I chose to labour on my back to spare my baby from having her head punctured.

Lying still on my back was torture and made the contractions hugely intense. It was now 5pm and I had now been contracting every two minutes for 7 hours but a check showed I was only at 5cm. Having made so little progress made me really disheartened and I was starting to doubt that I could do it. I had clearly stated in my birth plan that the midwives and Drs were not to offer pain relief but Mum and my fiancée Mark could see how exhausted I was getting and urged me to try some gas to take the edge off and I consented around 6pm. The gas relaxed me a lot – made me cheeky and stoned – and helped me focus on the task ahead and regain my confidence. This had an effect on the contractions which started to last longer and every second contraction my body began to push involuntarily which made me feel quite confident that I was making progress. 8pm found me at barely 7cm and the midwife made the decision to turn up the hormone drip making the contractions even more intense. I couldn’t stay still, the gas stopped working, the baby had turned so she was posterior and I couldn’t stop myself pushing during the contractions which was making the lip left on my cervix swell. The Drs came in and told me they were having trouble finding baby’s heartbeat – my student midwife told me later that they were pushing for a C-section at that point – and they convinced me to agree to internal monitoring.

By this stage I had lost control. I had told myself I would be calm and cool but I was screaming my lungs out. Mum and Mark took turns leaving the room for breathers because it was hard for them to see me like that. I was exhausted – I had now been contracting every two minutes on a high level of hormone for 12 hours – and, desperate not to have to have an epidural I consented to pethadine. I really regret this because it was useless, making me sleepy between contractions but doing nothing to help with my pain. Before the pethadine kicked in the midwife convinced me to try the shower, hoping I could stand up in there and get things moving but my legs would not support me, the pain was too intense.

At 12am I was checked again and was 8cm, still thick. The midwife told me that based on my progress so far she would estimate that it would take me three or four more hours to dilate fully. After 14 hours of contracting every two minutes I had a decision to make. I could see my Mum and fiancée having worried discussions over in the corner, I had no more energy, and I had screamed so much my throat was raw. I felt broken and helpless and I knew that I didn’t have another 3-4 hours in me. Mark and I started talking and he told me that he supported any decision I made, that it wasn’t failing, that I had endured so much and fought hard – especially considering my lack of stamina from all those months of bed rest. I felt like a fool, like I had failed. In my head I could see my birth plan with every second line crossed out. An epidural was always something I had been insistent I would never do but at this point I truly felt that even if I made it to 10cm without one I would have no energy to push and would end up with a C-section anyway.

At 1am, after 15 hours I got an epidural and cried the entire time. When the epidural kicked in the room visibly relaxed. I was no longer screaming and Mark and Mum were visibly relieved to see me not suffering any more. With the pain gone my midwife was able to help me maneuver into some different positions and I was able to get a couple of hours sleep while they raised the hormone drip to its maximum. At 3am they brought in an ultrasound to check where baby was and found that she had moved out of the posterior position and was ready to go and a check showed I was fully dilated. I dozed for a while longer and then asked for the epidural to be dialed back so that I could feel the contractions enough to push. At 4am I was ready to push with a mirror in front of me.

At 4.43am after almost 19 hours of active labour, Ella Quinn was born into her Daddy’s hands.

newborn birthed into daddy's hands

newborn with mom

The relief and joy was overwhelming. I held her on my chest and cried hysterically. Mark began to cry too which was something I had never seen before and I have never been more in love with him than I was in that moment.

newborn bonding

newborn with mom and dad

mom and dad newborn hospital birth

hospital birth

I began to shake and shiver violently. Ella had some problems initially – she had trouble breathing, then low blood sugars, an infection and jaundice – and spent her first five days in the special care nursery but is now home, a beautiful girl with a mop of black hair who is growing bigger on Mummy’s milk and adored by all around her.

I have my good days and bad days. I have my days where I think, why me? Why did I have the horrible pregnancy, the difficult birth? I have days where I wonder what I could have done differently during my labour to avoid all the interventions I ended up having. I have days when I feel like the huge debacle that was my pregnancy is only eclipsed by the failure that was my birth experience. But then I remember that no matter how I feel about them, my pregnancy and labour resulted in an amazing daughter who is not going to care if I hated being pregnant or if I had an epidural. She is only going to care about how much I love her – and that is something I’m positive I will be successful at.

I Will Birth My Baby {Out Of My Vagina!}

I Will Birth My Baby {Out Of My Vagina!}


I am STRONG because I spent 9. 5 years since my first babies traumatic birth educating myself and becoming informed. 7. 5 years since my sons unnecessary, failed induction leading to my second cesarean, I learnt to trust my body.

I am STRONG because I knew I wanted a VBA2C, I also wanted a Homebirth as I had wanted to with my 1st, but I also knew I would have Gestational Diabetes. When I fell pregnant I chose to have my care done through the same hospital I’d had my traumatic birth in. I endured ‘dead baby’ cards & doubt, until one day I stood up for myself and told them enough was enough. I wrote a letter stating I am an informed woman making informed choices, in the best interests of myself and my baby I have chosen a VBA2C. From that day on my choices were respected.

I am STRONG because I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes as expected. I changed my lifestyle for my baby from the very start of my pregnancy to minimise any adverse outcomes for when my blood sugars would rise. I was told I would birth a big baby, but knew through research this wasn’t correct for my strict controlled Gestational Diabetes.

I am STRONG because I pricked my finger 6 times per day & injected insulin 4 times per day after diet & exercise alone didn’t work.

I am STRONG because I was told under hospital policy I was to have a repeat cesarean at 38 weeks because of Gestational Diabetes. I declined. My Gestational Diabetes was strictly under control and my babies well being tests were perfect. I spent all of my time researching studies, and the lack of. I knew I was making the best decision for myself and my baby.

I am STRONG because I spent week 40 crying, doubting my bodies ability to go into labour on it’s own, I surrendered and let go the day before I went into labour. I am very STRONG because I had reached 41 weeks, I had never laboured before. My body went into labour on it’s own & I rocked it!

I ROARED my baby out of my vagina after 4 hours of labour into the water. I Birthed my baby out of my Vagina, at HOME, at 41 weeks, after 2 previous cesareans, with Gestational Diabetes, to a very healthy 7lbd 7oz baby girl who had a beautifully healthy placenta.

I am STRONG because in 2011 I had a breast reduction and had 2kgs taken out of my breasts, unsure if I would be able to Breastfeed I sought out Donor Breast Milk, I wanted to give my baby the best start in life & believed donor milk was the next best thing to my own. I bought an SNS so I could breastfeed. I have 20 litres in my freezer, thank you to those wonderful mums.

I am STRONG because I am not special, I am just an informed woman who did what she believed was the best for herself and her baby. I believed in myself and didn’t let the fears of others overcome me. I refused to make decisions without evidence & it led me to a beautiful calm POWERFUL birth at home surrounded by love.

– Mel




The Truth About Gestational Diabetes {And Why It’s Not Your Fault!}

The Truth About Gestational Diabetes {And Why It’s Not Your Fault!}

So you’ve had the Glucose Tolerance Test, or maybe you’ve been monitoring you’re blood sugar levels at home, and your blood sugar readings were high. You have been given a diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes. If your experience was anything like mine, an Obstetrician or midwife gave you a pamphlet on ‘Diabetes and Pregnancy’, referred you to a dietician and endocrinologist for management, and then sent on your way. And now you’re at home, and all the questions you didn’t think to ask are flooding in…  What the heck is it? And what does it mean? Will my baby be alright? Do I need a caesarean? Will I need to be on insulin? What can I eat? Do I have to stop eating CHOCOLATE?!?!?!

There is some debate against the use of routine testing to diagnose Gestational Diabetes, and also questioning about giving the diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes as a label on pregnant women. Dr. Sarah Buckley recommends avoiding routine testing for Gestational Diabetes for most women. Henci Goer and Dr Michael Odent are among many pregnancy and childbirth professionals who argue against diagnosing women with gestational diabetes, citing unnecessary stress and interventions as one of the risks of the Gestational Diabetes diagnosis. Nevertheless, whether you want to call it Gestational Diabetes or Pregnancy-Induced Insulin Resistance, or just high blood sugar levels in pregnancy, some women do have elevated blood sugar levels and need some extra help.

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM or GD) is described as a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy, and usually goes away 4-6 weeks postpartum. In a pregnant woman without Gestational Diabetes, the body works ‘as usual’. You eat, your stomach breaks down your food, you start to digest it, and the glucose from the carbohydrates in your food enters the blood stream. The pancreas gets the signal to secrete more insulin into the blood stream to help the cells absorb the glucose and convert the glucose into energy. The blood glucose level increases straight after a meal but as the glucose is absorbed from the blood and into the cells, the blood glucose levels decrease. The blood glucose readings fluctuate as normal, but remain within the ‘prescribed levels’.

In a pregnant woman with Gestational Diabetes, the cells become ‘insulin resistant’. The pancreas makes ‘the usual’ amount of insulin to enable the cells to absorb the glucose, but because the cells have become ‘resistant’ to the insulin, the amount of insulin needed increases. When the pancreas makes as much insulin as it can, and the cells continue to struggle to absorb the glucose, this is Gestational Diabetes. The blood glucose levels in a woman with GDM rise as normal after a meal, but stay elevated due to the cell’s inability to absorb the glucose.

diabetes blood sugar test

So what can you do to prevent or stop insulin resistance and GDM from developing? There seems to be this myth floating around that fit and healthy women don’t get GDM, and unfit or unhealthy women are probably going to have GDM. It’s false. In pregnancy, insulin resistance is mostly caused by an increase in pregnancy hormones (hormones produced by the placenta). The hormones are thought to reduce the effect of insulin on the cell, as well as reducing the response of the cell to insulin. While keeping yourself healthy can reduce your risk, there is nothing that can stop your cells developing insulin resistance from the hormones made by the placenta. Although there appear to be some risk factors which could increase the chance developing Gestational Diabetes (for example, age, ethnicity, weight, personal or family history of diabetes,  or some hormone-related conditions such as PCOS), there are many women who develop insulin resistance and GDM who do not show any risk factors. In short, you just can’t control how your cells respond to your pregnancy hormones. There is a lot of research to suggest the most pregnant women will develop some insulin resistance during the pregnancy because of the increase in pregnancy hormones, but for many women the pancreas is able to produce enough insulin to maintain stable blood sugar levels and so it does not develop into diabetes.

There is also this idea that women with GDM can control it. Women are told “You just need to keep your diabetes under control.”, like it’s just that easy. Unfortunately, no one can explain how to control a cells response to the pregnancy hormones. You can’t control Gestational Diabetes. It happens sometimes. But telling a women that she should be able to control it really put unnecessary shame and blame on mothers who are frustrated and disappointed enough as it is. So if you’ve ever said this then, please, never say it again!

You can’t control Gestational Diabetes. It happens sometimes. But there are ways to help your body deal with it. Monitoring diet and engaging in regular exercise really can be the key for women who have low-to-medium level insulin resistance. The aim of monitoring your diet is to balance the amount of carbohydrate in your meals. The general consensus from dietitians and endocrinologists seems to be that having 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day (but please follow the advice of your personal care provider). It does make sense that it’s easier on your body if you spread out the carbohydrates into 3 balanced meals and 2-3 snacks instead of packing them into three carb-heavy meals per day. Another way to manage high blood sugar levels can be regular exercise, like walking. Going for a walk 30 and 90 minutes after eating to can help lower blood sugar levels by using up the excess glucose in the blood stream. Every person responds differently though, so if you do have Gestational Diabetes, please work with your care provider in finding the management plan right for you.

Some women develop a high level of insulin resistance, despite eating balanced and spaced out meals and snacks, and exercising regularly. These women continue to have consistently elevated blood glucose levels. I was one of those women.

When my hormones peaked at 32 weeks, I would not be able to eat a chicken and salad sandwich of barely 30g of carbohydrates without my blood sugar spiking well above the ‘allowed’ limits. People kept telling me to “control” my diabetes. I thought I was doing something wrong because my blood sugar levels were so high, so I reduced my carbohydrate intake drastically. The dietician put me on insulin when I started losing weight (and I was only 140lbs at 32 weeks, so didn’t have much to lose!), I had no energy and I was and spilling ketones into my urine.

If, like me, you are doing all you can and you still need insulin, please be kind of yourself – it’s not your fault. Remember, you can’t control this. You have a medical condition. You are insulin resistant. Your body just needs some help. Injecting insulin is very easy (I found it virtually painless, and nowhere near as unpleasant as the finger-prick tests!). It helps your body by giving it the extra insulin it needs when your pancreas is producing as much insulin as possible but your body is still unable to lower your blood sugar level.

Despite the myths floating around, a diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes does NOT mean you will automatically have a big baby. It does NOT mean you automatically need to have a cesarean. It does NOT mean you cannot VBAC. It does not mean your baby will definitely need to go to the Special Care Nursery… You have options, and a gentle, calm and intervention-free vaginal birth with gestational diabetes is possible for most women.

diabetes insulin pen


Australian Diabetes Council. (2013). What is Gestational Diabetes. Retrieved on February 28, 2013, from

Buckley, S. J. (2008). ‘Gestational Diabetes Testing’. In Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices. Retrieved on March 31, 2013, from

Goer, H. (1996). Gestational Diabetes: The Emperor Has No Clothes. The Birth Gazette, 12(2). Retrieved on April 1, 2013, from

National Diabetes Service Scheme. (2013). Gestational Diabetes. Retrieved on February 20, 2013, from

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. (2013). What I need to know about Gestational Diabetes. Retrieved on March 1, 2013, from

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence [NICE]. (2008). Diabetes in pregnancy: Management of diabetes and its complications from pre-conception to the postnatal period. Clinical Guideline 63. Retrieved on April 1, 2013, from

Odent, M. (2004). Gestational Diabetes: A Diagnosis Still Looking For a Disease? Primal Health Research: A New Era in Health Research, 12(1). Retrieved on April 1, 2013, from

Gestational Diabetes: To Test Or Not To Test

Gestational Diabetes: To Test Or Not To Test

If you’ve been pregnant, chances are you’ve had to decide whether or not to take a ‘Gestational Diabetes’ test. You’ll usually be given a form to go have one of two ‘routine’ tests, the Glucose Challenge Test or the Glucose Tolerance Test, and that’s that. When I was pregnant I wasn’t really given any explanation about the test except that I would have a drink that was “like sweet, flat lemonade” (which it kind of is). I had no idea what Gestational Diabetes was. I didn’t think I had the option not to take the test, and I had no idea what ‘failing’ the test would mean. Unfortunately, it was only after I had ‘failed’ the test and was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes that I researched more about the unreliability of the formal tests and the impact the diagnosis would have on my prenatal care.

The Glucose Challenge Test (GCT) is a relatively simple test: at 24-28 weeks gestation you drink a sweet drink with a high glucose load, usually around 50g of carbohydrate, and a blood sample is taken one hour later. Your blood glucose or blood sugar levels are tested and then compared to the ‘average’ levels. If your blood sugar levels are over the ‘average’, you are considered ‘at risk’ of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM), and will be sent for the Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT). This is a more involved test. You may be sent straight to this test if you are considered high risk of developing GDM. You must fast for approximately 10 hours, and then attend the pathology clinic for around 2 ½ hours. You will need to drink another sweet glucose drink – this one usually has around 75g of carbohydrate (the equivalent to eating 5 tablespoons of sugar or 3-4 pieces of white bread). A series of three blood tests will be taken – one before you have the glucose drink, another test one hour after you’ve had the drink, and another one hour after that. This series of blood tests are graphed and compared to the average levels. What the doctors are looking for is a normal fasting blood sugar level, a blood sugar peak at one hour, and then back within ‘normal’ range two hours after the drink.

gestational diabetes blood glucose meter

The ‘average’ and ‘cut-off’ levels seem to vary depending on where you live, however generally in the USA, UK, Australia  and New Zealand, women who have blood sugar levels above 8-9mmol/L (140-160 mg/dl) at two hours after drinking the 75g-glucose drink get the diagnosis of GDM.

Recommendations from some of the prominent College’s of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (ACOG, RAZNCOG and RCOG), state that every pregnant woman, regardless of risk or medical history, should be screened because the rate of GDM among expectant mothers is rising – although, that statement itself is ironic! They also claim that the GCT/GTT is essential: the potential ‘risks’ of GDM mean that women need to be under strict management during pregnant, labour and birth for optimal maternal and fetal outcomes. However, there are many medical and birth professionals who, after reviewing the data themselves, have decided to do away with routine testing for GDM.

When you think about the test, it’s not surprising that many women ‘fail’ or are considered ‘borderline’ or ‘pre-diabetes’. Most women are also asked to sit and not engage in any sort of activity for the entire two hour test, which is a factor that can lead to higher blood glucose levels. Pregnant women also naturally have some form of insulin resistance thanks to the pregnancy hormones. You drink the sweet glucose drink (a fast-release carbohydrate load that is larger than someone would have in an average meal) without any form of protein to slow the release of glucose. It’s easy to see why many have decided that the formal tests are not an accurate representation of the mothers ability to tolerate carbohydrates in everyday meals. Dr. Sarah Buckley, GP and obstetric professional, recommends against routine testing for GDM for most women. Ina May Gaskin, a Certified Professional Midwife and founder of The Farm Midwifery Center, also reports that up to seventy percent of women who repeat the test get a different result than on their initial test.

But… what are the options?

Well, a lot doctors and midwives won’t give you any. At a hospital appointment I once had, my partner and I sat and listened to a midwife argue for 15 minutes with a woman who refused the routine GDM test. Over the course of the conversation, the woman asserted herself, telling them she was 34 weeks pregnant, she checked her blood sugar at home periodically, she’d had a scan, everything was fine, and she didn’t want the test. The midwife belittled her, bringing her weight into the conversation. Tried to scare her by predicting the size of the baby. Insinuate that she was uneducated and naive and she didn’t understand the risks. She even tried to pull the “You’re jeopardising the safety of your baby, it’ll be on your head if something happens” card. I’m not sure what became of the woman, but she was just one woman in what I imagine is a sea of pregnant women trying to assert themselves in this medicalised and interventionist culture of birth at the moment.

gestational diabetes glucose meter and strips

The mother in my story knew a great option. One that WAS reflective of real life – periodic home blood sugar tests. If you are comfortable with refusing the GCT/GTT, but still feel the need to have some kind monitoring, then this is one of your options. It is logical and obvious that testing two hours at home after eating your lunch and doing whatever you normally do afterwards, would give you a good idea about whether or not your body is having trouble. These results are usually compared to the ‘average’ results – usually aiming for less than 5.5mmol/L (100mg/dl) while fasting, and less than 6.7mmol/L (120mg/dl) two hours after meals. This could give you an idea of whether you need to readjust your diet or consider medical management.  And, going by the stories I have read and the women I have talked to, this seems to be the option many homebirth midwives give their clients. However, it can be a hassle if you forget, or if you’re in the habit of frequent eating, because for accurate results you need to eat your meal and then nothing but water for two hours. This is because other food or drink could raise your blood sugar levels and give an inaccurate reading of your body’s ability to handle the carbohydrate load of your meal.

Another option some professionals give is to keep the formal test, but swap the drink for something else with an equivalent carbohydrate load. This attempts to mimic a real-life situation, and is thought to be more accurate than a test based on the glucose in the sweet drink. However, this is not recommended by some medical professionals because eating a meal takes more time than the 5-10 minute limit you are given when drinking the glucose drink. Also, different types of foods have slower or faster releasing glucose, so the results can’t really be compared to the ‘average’ results after the glucose drink.

If you choose to forgo the routine testing for less invasive tests or none at all, educating yourself is important. Be aware of the quality of your carbohydrates and how to eat well-balanced meals that include low-GI (glycemic index) carbohydrates. This is a good way to keep your body healthy, diabetes or not. Dr Michael Odent explains this practice quite well in his article ‘Gestational Diabetes: A Diagnosis Still Looking For a Disease?’ (linked below). Alongside a balanced diet, Buckley, Gaskin and Odent all recommend regular low impact exercise throughout pregnancy to help the body lower blood glucose levels naturally.

Keep reading: The Truth About Gestational Diabetes {And Why It’s Not Your Fault}



American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology, The [ACOG]. (2011). Screening and diagnosis of gestational diabetes mellitus. Committee Opinion No. 504. 751–3. Retrieved on March 31, 2013, from

Australasian Diabetes in Pregnancy Society, The [ADPS]. (2002). Gestational Diabetes Mellitus – management guidelines. Retrieved on March 31, 2013, from

Buckley, S. J. (2008). ‘Gestational Diabetes Testing’. In Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices. Retrieved on March 31, 2013, from

Goer, H. (1996). Gestational Diabetes: The Emperor Has No Clothes. The Birth Gazette, 12(2). Retrieved on April 1, 2013, from

Gaskin, I. M. (2003). Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. United States: Bantam.

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence [NICE]. (2008). Diabetes in pregnancy: Management of diabetes and its complications from pre-conception to the postnatal period. Clinical Guideline 63. Retrieved on April 1, 2013, from

Odent, M. (2004). Gestational Diabetes: A Diagnosis Still Looking For a Disease? Primal Health Research: A New Era in Health Research, 12(1). Retrieved on April 1, 2013, from

Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, The [RANZCOG]. (2011). Diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus. Retrieved on March 31, 2013, from

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, The [RCOG]. (2011.) Diagnosis and Treatment of Gestational Diabetes. Scientific Impact Paper 23. Retrieved April 1, 2013, from

A Surprisingly Quick Natural Birth

A Surprisingly Quick Natural Birth

My little Rainbow baby is finally here and, between the chaos of the first few weeks and our soon-to-be relocation to Florida, things have been a whirlwind around here. No less a whirlwind than his birth though! From the beginning I decided to make this my most natural birth to date. I decided on no epidural, Pitocin, induction, or anything medical in order to tamper or alter my birthing experience. Bummies Birth (#3) was a hard one because I did get induced and I did get an epidural, which didn’t work. It only numbed my right thigh for three days, which would have been great had I given birth through my leg, but sadly that’s not how it works. So, due to that and the terrible afterbirth feeling, I knew that I had to take as much control over my birthing experience as possible.

I was initially nervous that my natural experience wouldn’t happen because I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes halfway through my pregnancy. This was the first time this had happened to me; go figure it would happen during my fourth pregnancy, right? I was able to control it with diet, and honestly, not even that; my blood sugar numbers were always so low or where they were supposed to be during the pregnancy that it almost felt like I was misdiagnosed or the initial test was a bit of a fluke. It did force me to eat healthier, but it also caused a lot of stress the first few weeks of figuring out my diet and blood sugar levels, etc.

Because of all the information I read online, I was concerned with issues preventing me from birthing naturally from needing a c-section to getting induced due to the “size” of the baby. I am grateful it all worked out and on October 20th, at 12:22am, my little 4.0 was born! Leading up to the birth, because I had heard a lot about “Birth Preps” (which are a various concoctions of herbs to help the body get ready for birth) and I decided to take some in order to “prep my body” for the birth. After lots and lots of reading, I finally settled on 5W by Natures Sunshine. The instructions say to begin taking the last five weeks of pregnancy, but I was worried it would cause preterm labor, so I didn’t begin taking it until I was 36 1/2 weeks pregnant. I noticed my Braxton Hicks did get a little more “thrilling” and obviously were doing something because I was dilating about a centimeter each week after my 37th.

The pills do not bring enough for the five weeks, so once they were done I stopped taking them, which was about half way through my 38th week. I thought about buying more but decided to start walking more and using my exercise ball to help put the pumpkin into position. On October 19th (39 weeks 6 days pregnant) I had felt “funky” all day and had been running errands all day with my family. We went for a long walk around Target, ate some spicy Mexican food, and even went to the grocery store where I picked up some pineapples which are supposed to help induce labor. I figured it was an old wives tale, but the pineapples looked so yummy and were on sale, so I figured why not?

Of course I was only able to eat half of one because my kids kept asking me for some, so I think that theory got thrown out the window. Hubby and I had a nice BBQ dinner with my parents and after watching some episodes of our favorite show (Warehouse 13) I decided to call it a night by around 10:00pm. I still had this funky feeling I can’t explain where it *almost* felt like contractions but more discomfort than anything else. After saying my night time prayers and finishing my novena to St. Gerard (who happens to be the Patron Saint of Pregnant Women for Catholics) to intercede on my behalf and help me have a safe and easy labor, I “fell asleep”; literally zonked out.

What must have been about 15 minutes later I woke up feeling stronger contractions, enough where I got a little “concerned.” So I yelled over to my hubby and let him know something was up. He of course said let’s go to the hospital and I’m like, “No… just wait a little more until I can figure out what these contractions are timing out at.” As soon as I said that I felt a gush of water and hopped out of bed faster than a cheetah! Yelling, “Oh Carp! My water just broke!” Of course he starts freaking out, telling me to get dressed, and I actually stayed pretty calm and asked him to go get my parents downstairs. This was about 11:07pm.

I got dressed in a blur, threw in the last few things into my bag while stopping every few minutes because of contractions. I managed to give my three sleeping pumpkins a kiss and a blessing before swooping out the door and into the car. I popped on my earphones and began listening to my iPod in order to “zone out” the contractions. At this point the contractions were coming about 3-4 minutes apart and even though the hospital is only 15 minutes away my hubby started getting nervous. I was in quite a bit of pain but I have to say it wasn’t as bad as in the past where I had been given Pitocin. We arrived at the hospital at 11:38pm where I was swooped off in a wheelchair while hub parked the car. I was dressed and thrown on the bed in minutes.

The nurse came in to check me and said I was dilated to 6 centimeters and that my water had not broken completely but I was definitely in labor. They strapped me up to the monitors (which I hate!) and all of sudden they came in to do blood work and put an IV needle in “just in case.” I tried arguing with them not to do it because I wasn’t getting Pitocin or anything else, but they insisted it was “just in case.” Now this is when you need a strong advocate, because I was in so much pain and my husband was so wrapped up in other things that I didn’t even bother arguing. I asked to go to the bathroom; not that I had to go, but I just wanted to get away from all the chaos in the room. I later called the bathroom my “Happy Place” because I placed my ipod in one of the pockets of my gown and labored for a little while in there. It felt like 10 hours but only ended up being about 30 minutes. Which I guess feels like an eternity when in labor.

All of a sudden I saw the doctor walk by with an adorable little ultrasound machine and I was “asked” to go out so that he could check the baby’s position. Silly man, little did he know what was going to happen next. As I reached the bed I had the mother of all contractions and had the sudden urge to go “#2” – and said so very loudly! Well, the nurse looked down only to realize the little guy’s head was already coming out. So as quickly as we got there I was thrown on the bed. Poor doctor wasn’t even dressed to attend birth. He somehow threw on his hat, gloves, and sterile equipment in order to catch little 4.0 within minutes and after a couple of pushes our 4th little blessing was born at 12:22 am on October 20th, 2012 – his due date!


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