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That’s Why It’s Called a Birth “Preference” Instead of a “Plan”

That’s Why It’s Called a Birth “Preference” Instead of a “Plan”

I have long-struggled to like myself. I hated my body and lacked self confidence in many areas, so finding out I was pregnant just triggered a heightened sense of anxiety for me. Finding out I was diabetic at my first OB appointment made things even worse. As the doctor rattled off the list of awful things that could result, I sat there expecting each to all happen to my baby, and they would all be my fault. I wondered if I could live with myself if I caused such pain for my beautiful growing baby – macrosomia, dislocated limbs during birth, heart and spine defects, respiratory problems… One thing I had been told from the beginning – I would be induced at 38 or 39 weeks due to an increased risk of stillbirth for infants of diabetic mothers. I strongly opposed an induction but wanted to do what was best for our baby.

As the pregnancy progressed and my education on the issues increased, I became “a model patient” (the doctors’ words). My confidence grew as quickly as my sugars and A1C decreased, and for the first time in my adult life, I was actually feeling good about myself and my body. This new-found confidence gave me the ability to try new things (like yoga, which has been life-changing!) And maybe it was my “mama bear” instincts forming, but I was blessed with a feisty courage that I had not previously known to speak up for myself. Did that cause some tension between my doctors and me? Yes. Was it worth it? YES.

At that point, if I pictured our baby’s ideal birth, it would be in a peaceful environment outside of a hospital, calm, quiet, in water, with no interventions. My husband and I took a hypnoyoga birth class and hired a doula. I talked to several midwives; however, they couldn’t deliver my baby, due to the fact that I was taking insulin. I started researching natural induction methods to encourage baby out on her own. I drank red raspberry leaf tea, walked every day, faithfully attended yoga, saw my chiropractor once a week, got acupuncture, used essential oils on acupressure points, and visualized her calm, peaceful birth every chance I had. And still, the induction date (Sunday) arrived with no sign that baby Samantha was going to come out on her own.

As we walked the short hallway to the antepartum wing, I debated escaping. But I was with my husband and his mom, and really, pregnant ladies can’t run that fast. So we checked in, got settled in our room, and I was soon disappointed to learn that I wasn’t even ripe! After three doses of Misoprostol throughout the night, Resident S (that I ended up liking the most) tried and failed to insert a Foley bulb. Also throughout the night, our amazing nurse kept coming in and apologetically asking me to shift positions. He was noticing small drops in Samantha’s heart rate during the tiniest of contractions. (I wasn’t so worried, as that was a normal occurrence from the time I started attending my NSTs twice a week for the previous 2 months.) Finally, after one more dose of Misoprostol and lots of waiting, Resident K was able to get the Foley bulb in. I was hopeful that things would start happening that day (Monday), especially since they moved us to labor & delivery.

By Monday evening, the Resident K was somewhat surprised to learn that the Foley hadn’t come out on its own. So she gave it a tug and it came out…it was Pitocin time! My stomach did some flips thinking about all the stories I’d heard about the dreaded P, but at the same time I was so excited to meet Samantha and I was really ready for things to get a move on. After 24 hours in the hospital, I’d slept about 4 hours and had felt zero contractions. Thankfully we were blessed with amazing and fun nurses, which helped to pass the time. My husband put on my favorite Harry Potter movie, a few visitors came by, and we listened in excitement as the OB on call said we’d be meeting our baby by the end of the day tomorrow.

Here’s roughly how Monday night/Tuesday morning went:

Nurse: “Did you feel that contraction?”

Me: “Nope.”

Nurse: “Let me adjust the monitors; they are slipping.”

Me: “Ok.” (Try to sleep! Try to sleep!)

3 minutes later…

Nurse: “Did you feel that contraction?”

Me: “Nope.” (Try to sleep! Try to sleep!)

Nurse: “Sorry, I need you to move onto your side…her heartrate is not quite cooperating.”

(Repeat 5,000 times.)

And so it continued throughout the night. By Tuesday morning, they had adjusted the dosage of Pitocin more times that I could count – first increasing steadily, then backing off when her heartrate would drop significantly (from the 150s to the 60s…a few times it even went down to 20!) So when Resident K came in that morning, she explained that it was time to break my waters, in the hopes that things would pick up. I still hadn’t progressed beyond the 3cm that she had measured when the Foley bulb was pulled out.

After hearing her out, I told her that I wasn’t ready for them to break my waters. I explained that I was aware of the risks and benefits and that I just didn’t think it was time. (I had hoped getting up and about during the day would help things move along and that my water would break on its own. I’d given up trying to sleep by that point.) Then the OB came in and gave an even longer, guilt-laden explanation about why it was time to break my waters. She started talking about a “failed” induction. Truthfully, I wasn’t really listening. My mind was made up. Earlier my doula had prepared me for this moment and I followed her suggestion in saying to the OB, “I understand that there are risks associated with a labor that’s not progressing, but I am not ready for you to break my water. I would like to continue as things are for now, and if my baby does become truly distressed to the point where she needs to come out immediately, I know that you are very capable of performing a successful c-section very quickly.” After looking me up and down, “Um…actually for a woman your size, a c-section isn’t that quick.” If only there were words for how I felt at that moment. The only thing I managed to say was, “No. Not now.” A few tense moments later, the OB suggested that we take a break from it all. I wasn’t discharged, but they took me off all the monitors, stopped the Pitocin, and gave us 4 hours to walk around the hospital. “Just don’t go outside; it’s wet and you might fall.” (So the first thing my husband and I did after a shower was go outside. I didn’t care that it had been snowing earlier and was freezing…the fresh air felt amazing after 2 days of being cooped up in a tiny room.)

My husband and I ate some lunch, climbed (crab-walked, jumped, lunged) 10 flights of stairs, and visited the postpartum clinic to look at cute baby stuff…and not one contraction. I was so discouraged. I’d truly hoped that my body would take over and decide to bring Samantha into the world! I lost my mucous plug, but that was it. I am so thankful for the support my husband gave me during that time – he had my back through all of this and did everything he could to get me laughing and having fun. I’ve never had so much fun climbing stairs.

Defeated, we returned to the room and I told them I was ready for them to break my water. They did, and I was back on the Pitocin. Things finally picked up. OF COURSE there was meconium in the water, so I knew that she would have to come soon! As the contractions became much stronger, I bounced on the ball, walked the halls with my husband, and stayed on my feet as much as possible. Standing was the most comfortable way for me to labor, but I knew I couldn’t keep it up forever. My mom and my husband’s mom stopped by for a visit as they had each day, and it was sometime during their visit that I realized it was getting too hard to talk during the contractions. And that’s when all sense of time left me. Was it minutes before the doula came? Hours? Not sure. My contractions were lasting 40-60 seconds and coming a minute or less apart. Sometimes there was no break between them at all. Things picked up quickly and soon I wasn’t able to stand through the contractions. My doula suggested kneeling over the back of the bed so I could rest between contractions. How long had it been since I’d slept? Probably Sunday night. I was exhausted. And these contractions were no joke! And my back…my lower back started hurting so bad. Counter-pressure on my sacrum did nothing, hip squeezes did very little. But I was able to turn inward as I’d been practicing and breathe, focus. Through the toughest moments, I could also hear Samantha’s heartrate dropping. A few times during those drops, I panicked inside and I’d lose control. I felt myself crying out or breathing too quickly. I started to feel like I couldn’t do it. Finally, I asked to get in the tub, and the hot water felt amazing. My husband faithfully knelt by, feeding me ice and refilling the leaking tub.

At some point, I fell asleep. (My husband said I was even snoring and he was so relieved that I was getting rest.)  Maybe it was only for a second, but I felt so much better. Sure, some of it was the hot water, but mostly it was because my labor had slowed down considerably. Samantha’s heart rate had continued to drop with the big contractions so they were decreasing the Pitocin drip. Meanwhile, I heard some commotion outside the bathroom – my doula was packing up our stuff! The charge nurse had decided that she wanted to close the wing we were on, as there were only 3 other patients on the floor. My husband protested, asking her if she really felt like it was right to move a woman in labor. She relented and told us we could stay. Calmly explaining the situation, my doula told me what was happening and how they had already packed up everything, but we could stay if I wanted. She also suggested that walking to the other wing might help move things along without the help of the Pitocin. That seemed appealing, so they helped me out of the tub. I remember thinking it was funny that they were trying to help me into a gown…at that point I didn’t even care what anyone in the hallway saw.

As we walked through the corridors between the two L&D floors, I stopped to squat through each contraction. By the time we were almost to our new room, I was approached by Resident S.

“Things just really aren’t moving along like we thought they would, and Samantha is in quite a bit of distress during your contractions,” she explained. As I attempted to wrap my sleep-deprived mind around what she was trying to say, I remember sinking onto the bed and asking, “If you can give me advice, what would you do?”

After a long pause, a big sigh, and a bit of a frown, she said, “Well, I think I would have a c-section.” She really knew it wasn’t what I wanted, and I trusted her that at this point it was the best option for Samantha.

It’s shocking how fast you get prepped for a c-section. It seemed like only minutes went by before I’d expressed my “demands” (drop the curtain as soon as she’s coming out, immediate skin-to-skin with me or my husband if I wasn’t able…) and asked questions about the surgery, met the anesthesiologist, and walked to the OR. My doula and husband were both with me the entire time, which was incredibly comforting. The worst part of the surgery was the uncontrollable shaking! I felt a sense of calm going into this surgery, because I knew I was going to meet our dear, sweet baby so soon.

It’s just like they described…it feels like someone’s sitting on your chest. At one point I felt nauseated, several times I felt like I was hyperventilating, and the whole time I was shaking uncontrollably. But then I heard someone say “She’s out!” and I tried to wave my useless arms around and tell the anesthesiologist to move the curtain. I desperately tried to see my baby girl being lifted into the world, but I only saw her once the doctor was carrying her over to the warming table. It felt like an eternity that they were looking her over, and I was calling out “Is she ok? Why isn’t she crying? Stop wiping her down! Just bring her over here!” My doula reassured me that it was only a minute or two, but I was just so ready to hold her! My husband cut the cord and carried her to me. At that moment, I absolutely lost it. I was sobbing, still shaking, and loving my little girl in a way that I’d never thought possible. She was 5 pounds, 14 ounces of pure, seriously adorable perfection

My husband and I had joked throughout the pregnancy that Samantha was a stubborn girl. She just wasn’t ready to come out and wasn’t going to let someone make her! Born on International Women’s Day, Samantha came out literally holding her head up, quietly observing the world around her. My prayer for our sweet girl is that she will grow up a strong woman with the confidence that I only found once I became her mother.

_____

Every time my husband proudly handed off the stunning visual birth plan that I’d designed and he laminated, we’d joke that it was only a birth “preference” because we know that things can’t always go as planned. It still feels like the only thing that went as planned was that our little girl was born, happy and healthy. Today, her 2 month birthday, I’m still struggling with that. And I anticipate that I will continue to struggle for quite awhile. After a bout of high blood pressure and worries of postpartum preeclampsia, extremely low milk production despite 7 weeks of my best efforts and awful-tasting supplements, complications with my incision (two pinky-finger deep holes that aren’t not healing), and postpartum depression and anxiety, I look down at the often smiling face of our sweet Samantha and know it’ll all be ok.


Photo by Tricia Croom – Doula Services.

Photo by Bella Baby Photography.

Birth experience submitted by Melissa Rogers.

With Fresh Adrenaline: A Hospital Birth Story

With Fresh Adrenaline: A Hospital Birth Story

It’s been 7 weeks since our lives and souls were rocked to the core by the arrival of our first son, Declan Finn. It has honestly taken me this long just to reflect on and process the transformative experience of bringing a brand new human onto this planet enough to put it down on paper. Plus, there’s been a good deal of sleep deprivation around here lately, and I’m now seizing a spare moment while the little man sleeps in his swing. 

(Sidebar: this has actually been written over the course of SEVERAL stolen nap moments over the last few weeks. Newborn life, am I right? It’s also unedited and unfiltered. I wanted to really capture my first impressions and feelings about the birth, so I didn’t reread or pick this one apart.)

My due date was May 31st, so as that day approached and eventually passed, everyone at work basically expected my water to break at my desk at any moment. Still I soldiered on, and on Tuesday, June 2nd, I tied up the very last of my I’ll-be-gone-all-summer loose ends at the office, and made a facetious note on our shared calendar that I had a doctor’s appointment the next day “IF I’M STILL HERE.”

I wouldn’t be.

That night, I had dinner with my mom (who had come up from Florida on the due date) and aunt, went to the chiropractor, and turned in early with the hubby because we were both particularly worn out that day. It’s a good thing we did!

Around 2:00am, I woke up to contractions. I had been having them on and off all week long, but these felt like a whole different animal. I stayed comfy and timed them in bed for about an hour, catching short naps in between. They were 5 minutes apart and 45-60 seconds long from the very start, so at 3am I decided to wake Braden. “Hey babe, I think things are really happening!” He jumped right up and asked if there was anything he could do for me. I told him we should try to keep resting while we still could, so we stayed in bed while I timed contractions between brief snoozes. After a while, I couldn’t sleep anymore, and he wanted to get the bags packed and loaded into the car, so we got up, showered, and had a snack. I took a long bath (and shaved my legs, of course), sat on my birth ball, and stayed very zen. Even though the contractions were as close as 2-3 minutes apart, they were still very manageable. I thought, “I could do this all day!”

We called my mom at about 7:00am to let her know that this was it. She said “I will be there as fast as legally allowable!!” And my doula, who ended up being stuck in Edisto Beach because of a huge storm. I also texted all the ladies at work to let them know that they would not be seeing me today (!), and all my best girlfriends to get the prayers rolling.

We decided to take a walk by the river to keep things moving, and in the parking lot of the park, we ran into an ambulance. The driver put her head out the window and yelled “I hope you’re not too close to having that baby!” I told her that actually, I was in labor right now! The back of the ambulance swung open and one of the EMTs shouted with a huge grin “Do you need help?? We can give you a ride!” We about died laughing. It was a beautiful morning, overcast and not smoking hot yet. It was wonderful to be outside by the water in the peaceful “calm before the storm,” literally & figuratively, as a huge. flood-causing thunderstorm was actually brewing that day. We walked (waddled) for a while, and I paused to lean on benches or trees during contractions. Some were only a minute apart at this point, but still easy to breathe through. Once again, I thought to myself that this labor thing was a breeze. (Don’t worry, those thoughts would not last the rest of the day.)

After we got back home, I hopped back into the tub for a while. Mom arrived shortly thereafter, and she & Braden started loading the car with our hospital bags (and my pillows. And comforter. And yoga mat.  And birth ball. Etc. Packing light isn’t really my jam for huge life events.) Braden made me a green smoothie, and I sipped it on the birth ball while watching the Daily Show. I called the midwives around 10am, and after hearing that my contractions had been so close together for so long, they encouraged me to head on to the hospital ASAP. We hit the road around 11am, with towels under me to protect the new Prius’s clean seats (just in case.) I had to really start breathing through contractions on the road, but we listened to music and luckily the ride to the hospital was short and traffic was light. We broke the rules and went in through the main entrance rather than the ER (because, ew) and made our way to labor & delivery. To my surprise, they don’t admit you right away. You go to something of a pregnant lady “holding area” where you’re monitored and checked to make sure the ball is actually rolling before they put you in a room. The first two nurses I met I actually knew via Daybreak, so that was pretty cool. They hooked me up to a monitor and found I was only 2 cm dilated, so they wanted me to go walk for a while to see if I would progress further. To which I responded, “Ok great. I’ll just head home and be back in an hour.”

Well. Apparently that wasn’t an option. Not only did I have to stay in the hospital, but I couldn’t leave the 2nd floor! This threw me off a little bit, but we rolled with it. We proceeded to pace the halls of L&D for about an hour and a half, pausing to lean on the walls during contractions while Braden pushed on my lower back. (I didn’t know this yet, but Declan was posterior, so I was in for some major back labor.) Things were starting to get painful rather than just uncomfortable, and I got a little teary wanting to go ahead and get admitted so I could settle into my labor room and get this show on the road. Luckily, when they checked me again I was nearly 4 cm and moving along nicely. The nurse said “You get to stay and have a baby!”

We moved to our big, comfy labor & delivery room at 1pm. I got changed into the nightgown I brought from home and started to settle in. We met our amazing nurse Pam, who was with us through the whole process, and found out that one of my favorite midwives, Debbie, was the one on call that day. We put on my birth playlist. I took a hot shower. I spent alot of time on the birth ball, and on all-fours on the bed to relieve some of the back pain. Braden and I used a bunch of the moves from our birth partner yoga class and they were hugely helpful with my back labor. I didn’t get an IV, so it was great to freely drink as much water as I wanted to. I had also been nibbling on healthy snacks right up until I was officially admitted, so it was nice to not be starving.

I’m a very cerebral person, always in my head. Labor and birth have a fascinating way of pulling you completely OUT of your head and planting you firmly and irrevocably in your body. I had no concept of time, how much was passing, and I wasn’t able to consider anything but the present moment. Up until then, my labor had been totally manageable and easy to handle. But soon the contractions were right on top of each other, my hands started shaking, and I started to wonder if I could really do this. For the very first time, I felt a little bit of fear. Many of the books I read to prepare for birth preached that labor doesn’t have to be painful at all. Some insisted that birth can even be an orgasmic experience. Bless them.

In the words of John Green, “pain demands to be felt.” My mom, who knows her stuff, had an inkling that I was approaching transition. Sure enough, she was right. In a detached way, the fact that I could produce such sensations was utterly fascinating. In a more attached way, it was like experiencing lightning surging through my body, bringing my baby closer to us with every spectacularly powerful movement. It was like being a human thunderstorm: furious, untamable, and nothing to be done but ride it out.

At 5:45pm, my water broke, which is when stuff got really real. I was completely within myself, unaware of much of anything beyond the raging storm in my body. Nurse Pam got very close to my face and told me very gently that everything was okay, but that there was fresh meconium in the water, and I would need to be monitored continuously from here on out to make sure the baby wasn’t in distress. This meant my movements would be limited to the bed from now on. Up until now, I hadn’t even considered the possibility of pain medicine. My birth plan specifically said, “no pain meds.” I hadn’t even researched any of it in advance, because it was not even an option in my mind. But now I started to entertain the idea. I didn’t want an epidural; I wanted to stay fully engaged with what was happening in my body. To stay an active participant in the process.

Actually, let me clarify with a confession that my hippie earth-momma self is pretty embarrassed to share: I WANTED an epidural. Like, alot. The idea of escaping the pain completely was very seductive at that moment. But I really didn’t want to be immobile, catheterized, and unable to really feel and participate in the pushing process when the time came. Plus needles in my spine give me with willies. Between contractions, I said to my nurse, “I don’t want to sound like a chicken, but tell me about what pain meds are options for me right now.” After talking to her, to Braden, and to my doula over the phone, I decided to try one dose of the most mild, side-effect free medication they could offer me. It honestly didn’t take away any of the pain of the contractions, but it did allow me to take a breath and rest just a bit between them, which with exhaustion closing in, I really think my body needed at that moment.

Soon, very soon, I felt the overwhelming urge to push. It wasn’t even an urge; my body just started pushing completely on its own accord. It was a fascinating phenomenon. I had the nurse check me quickly, as I knew there was no way I could hold back if for some reason I wasn’t fully dilated yet. But hallelujah, I was 10 cm and ready to roll! Because he was posterior, I had to push in what they usually tell you is the worst position to be in: mostly on my back. Because of the meconium in the water, the special care nursery people flooded into the room, and we got this party started.

Pushing was amazing, because I really felt like I was doing something to bring our little man into the world. There was a tremendous feeling of relief between each push/contraction, and the pain completely faded from my mind. It was like being an amazon warrior, calling forth every last bit of strength and endurance that was left in me, and finding reserves I never knew I had. I made alot of noise, but my husband tells me it wasn’t like cries of pain, but the shouts of someone forging through a battle. We reached a moment when they told me to look in the mirror because his head was in view. That moment was transformative. I saw him, yelled “YES!” and apparently my whole face just lit up. Braden tells me it was incredible to see the transformation of my face.

With fresh adrenaline, I gave the final pushes every last bit of my energy. Pushing out the head took all of my strength, and then the rest of him shot right out like a rush of water. It was 7:01pm, just 20 minutes after I started pushing. Then everything happened so fast. Braden caught the baby and put this big, chubby, beautiful boy on my chest. I don’t know what I said, or if I said anything at all, but I held my little man tight for a few moments before they took him to be suctioned by the special care nurses. I felt profound relief, joy, and also just a sense of being utterly present. I didn’t cry, which even for a constant weeper like myself is normal for my huge life events (I didn’t cry at my wedding either.) I need to process to cry, and when I’m completely in the moment, my tear ducts need time to catch up.

No one tells you this, but those minutes immediately after birth are totally overwhelming emotionally and physically. Suddenly people are pushing on your stomach, you’re delivering the placenta, being stitched up and poked and prodded (I had a relatively minor tear), all while your baby is crying and being poked at himself and it seems like 10 people are in the room (apparently the cord was wrapped twice around his neck as well.)

They told me from across the room that he was 10lbs 5oz (WOW!) and 21 inches long. When they brought him back and put him in my arms, Braden and I just stared at him in awe. Braden had tears running down his face as he told me how amazing I did. We both just couldn’t believe that he was really here; after all this time, Declan Finn, our little buddy who had been flipping and kicking us for months, who we had been dreaming of, was finally earth-side. Our lives would never be the same.

Birth experience submitted by Kimberly P.

Photographs taken by Bella Baby Photography.

When Natural Labour Isn’t Ideal

When Natural Labour Isn’t Ideal

By Anonymous

This is a birth story about the last time I brought a baby earthside. This is also the story of something I’ve learned along the way bringing my first two sweet miracles into the world. In order for this story to make sense, I’ve got to explain what led up to it. Really, this is my three birth stories in two parts. Warning: some details may be a case of TMI for some people. Further, this is my story. By writing my story I am not saying that my experience is, or should be, the same experience as anyone else who has been through the same things I have been through. Maybe my experience will help someone, maybe it won’t. At the end of the day, I am recounting things as they’ve happened to me.

Part One:

I was sexually abused when I was very very very small. Besides working through a lot of mental/emotional issues that were wired into my developing brain, I also ended up with some physical baggage. My husband is a sweet and patient man of character.  He taught me that a man could love me without ever wanting to take something from me or use me. We shared our first kiss in front of the 100-ish people at our wedding. After we got married though sex eventually became something I feared. Even though I wanted to share intimacy with my man, my body made doing so a painful experience. I asked my doctor for a referral to a gynecologist.

When I saw the gyno I explained what was happening and that I was previously abused. When she examined me physically as soon as she touched the entrance to my vagina all my muscles tensed up and seized. She told that unfortunately she sees this regularly and that I wasn’t as bad off as some women who will shrink to the size of a test tube. She explained that muscle has memory. That even in cases of people abused when they are very small who may have no actual memories of the abuse their muscles can still remember it. She prescribed devices made of wax that would slowly stretch my muscles out and train them to not react to the pressure of penetration. We opted to use lots of prayer and slowly stretch things out with my husband. Again, he is a patient, patient man and for that I am very thankful. It took time, but eventually we worked things through and sex wasn’t painful anymore.

We were excited when we found out we were expecting our first little one. I believed strongly that natural labour was the best way to go if at all possible, and I thought I was pretty informed. We took prenatal classes together, toured our local hospital, talked about our hopes for labour and delivery and overall felt that we understood as best we could what we would prefer our labour to look like. I wrote up a “Birth We Would Like to Try Do” list. We didn’t want a set in stone idea of how things “had to” go as that seemed to be the most common scenario for everything to go wrong. We were fortunate to have a Doctor we had a really great rapport with who would thoroughly answer all our questions and was quite hands off overall. He did follow certain policies he was bound to though and I was never told I could simply say “No.”

Thus, as I approached the magical 10 days past my “due date” when he said that was the time we induce as the placenta starts to deteriorate I walked into an induction. I had been at about 3 cm for a week. He explained that he would essentially be using a tampon of hormones that would help my cervix to finish thinning and ripening and if things got too intense the beauty of this method was he could just pull the thing out. What I didn’t know was that however much hormone my body had absorbed still had to be worked out in my system once he took the insert out. Suffice to say, after progressing throughout the day and making it to nearly 8cm I ended up being steamrolled by continuous contractions. One would start before the last one ended. Then to boot, when I was next checked I had gone backwards in dilation by multiple centimetres. Our doctor was concerned that my contractions, while being pretty continuous and somewhat painful, were not being very effective in moving baby down. He said he would be starting oxytocin shortly to help them be more effective.

At this point my husband and I had a meeting. If my body was reacting to the level of pain (which wasn’t incredibly terrible) I was in by clamping down and closing up (knowing my previous history with all the muscles down there we figured that’s what was happening) then how would kicking things up a notch not lead to a disaster and possibly even an emergency caesarean? We made the decision that before any oxytocin got anywhere near me I would have an epidural (I’d had nothing up to this point). We decided that while we wanted to remain drug free, more than that we wanted to avoid a preventable caesarean. I ended up getting the epidural, my body was able to relax, and only a few hours later I pushed out the miracle that would turn me into a mother.

In the days and weeks that followed I felt let down that I hadn’t gotten the natural drug free birth I believed would have been most ideal. While I knew we needed to make a decision, and believed we had made the right one, I also regretting not preparing waaaaayy better for dealing with the actual pain of labour. Really, I’d had no clue what I was doing. I was trying to tell my husband to press here or there or massage this or that, while hoping I was guessing right and often I was totally wrong. Doing his utter best to support me I ended up feeling alone and abandoned by him when I needed him most. I thought that perhaps if we had been better prepared and able to cope better we wouldn’t have needed the epidural. That I would have been able to experience all that I had read about when women described feeling empowered and strong etc. when they birthed their babies without any interventions. I did more research and decided that next time things would be different.

Jumping to pregnancy number two. We hired a doula (If you are thinking about getting a doula but aren’t sure if you should bother with the expense, get the doula. Just do it!), I took a much more thorough prenatal class, and I watched episodes of “One born every minute”. I reminded myself over and over that women give birth every day and I could too; that I already had. My husband and I were now aware that my body might react unfavourably if I wasn’t coping well and were committed to making sure I was well supported and didn’t feel abandoned or alone in the delivery room. My husband had started a new job over 1100 km away but was due home a couple weeks before my “due date”. Given that I went post dates the last time and other women in my family have done the same, we were confidant he would be there before baby came.

One week before my husband was due home I had bright red show. I immediately saw my doctor who confirmed I was in early labour. I cried, then called my husband and told him I would appreciate if he was with me for this. He threw his things in the car and started driving. I called my doula and let her know I’d be phoning sometime in the next while, and I went about my day. I had so much confidence that time that I didn’t have with my first baby. Confidence that I had a team to support me, confidence that my body could do this as I’d done it before. Confidence that we had a better plan in place. Confidence in my ability to recover well afterwards. Just a lot more confidence. At 1:00 am my water broke while I was lying in bed. My sister came to drive me to the hospital. We arrived at the hospital I would deliver at by 3:00am and met my doula there. She hooked me up to a tens machine with a boost button (which was awesome), I put on the gown I had sewn, and we laboured. My husband arrived at 4:00am following his 12.5 hour drive. I knelt facing the raised head of the bed and with each contraction my husband and sister leaned into my hips and my doula pressed my lower back.

Then I hit a point where I felt like I’d had enough and said I didn’t need to be a hero and could certainly have an epidural. The doctor (same one as my first baby) turned to my sister and said “We’re about to start pushing. They always say that when we’re about to start pushing.” And sure enough, I was complete and in fifteen minutes or so of pushing out came my second miracle. While holding my newborn baby and saying over and over “I did it” in a somewhat dazed and surprised head space, I remember two things very clearly. 1) I did not feel any rush of accomplishment, power, or realization of how strong and amazing my body was. I did not experience any sort of joy, euphora, or otherwise “birth high” sort of feelings, 2) I was overwhelmingly relieved that it was all over. I didn’t realize at the time how deeply upsetting this labour was to me. I was soon caring for a newborn (with undiagnosed silent reflux; this was very challenging) and an energetic toddler and had a number of other things going on that prevented me from really taking the time to process everything through. I was, however, terrified of ever being pregnant again. I had never had panic attacks up to that point.  Just the thought of ever conceiving again would lead to a minor panic attack.

Fast forward through an awesome experience that led me to being willing to try again (we have always wanted a big family) and we were pregnant again. My second born’ was diagnosed with silent reflux and was being treated with appropriate medication for his condition and was also finally sleeping through the night. I had both the time and mental clarity to think about and process my previous labour.  As I looked back on it in I realized fully just how traumatizing that delivery was which was somewhat puzzling to me. I had achieved my ideal drug free labour. I had been awesomely supported and birthed in a quiet room with nobody telling me how to push or what to do. On a scale of one to ten I would say the pain never got past a 5-6. My husband made it in time and my body didn’t go backwards. I had gotten everything I had hoped for and yet, I felt overwhelmingly traumatized. I thought about and talked through everything with my husband trying to figure out why I was so incredibly upset by such an ideal labour. Trying to figure out why I hadn’t experienced any of the euphoria I’ve heard described, or even the level of “birth high” I felt after my first baby.

And then one night I stumbled across it. With my first labour, once I had the epidural I was no longer dealing with pain in areas of my body where I had experienced trauma as a small child. I could feel all the pressure of that baby being born, but nothing hurt down there. With my second, I could feel all the pain and just had to cope with it. It didn’t matter that I coped well, it didn’t matter that the pain was never as enormous as I thought it would get. While talking and processing what came out was “I just felt so violated! I was being subjected to pain in the most personal parts of my body and I couldn’t do anything but hold on until it was over!” and then I burst into tears. That feeling of being violated and just coping until it was done was buried somewhere deep in my being and having a completely natural labour with my second baby had fully brought it to the surface.

After that chat I became much more aware that labour itself could dig up some pretty deep wounds in me. So, we prepared more. We read more, we planned more. We had moved since our last delivery and were blessed to get on with a midwife who was terrific. We put together a great birth support team. And we waited. I was now fully aware that I was free to decline doing anything I didn’t want to do during my pregnancy/delivery. Thus as 10 days “post dates” I signed a form that I do not consent to be induced and we continued to wait for baby to be ready to meet us.

That story coming finally…

Part Two:

I was 43 weeks + 1 day. My husband and I had chatted and decided that we weren’t comfortable going much past 43 weeks and so the previous few days I had been using a breast pump on and off, walking lots, and even tried taking herbs, and using an essential oil a friend gave me. Nothing really worked. When I was walking I would have decently strong contractions, but as soon as I stopped they petered out. It was Friday, and my in-laws were set to arrive to be staying with us for a time. My husband and I took kids to an indoor family fun carnival in the evening, and the whole time we were there I felt strongly that I wanted to see my midwife. During the carnival I remember holding my baby boy (soon to be middle child) and being acutely aware that this was the last event where he would be my youngest. I wanted to cherish every moment of the evening.

As things were winding down I told my husband that I wanted to call the Midwife as I was now a day past 43 weeks, couldn’t seem to kick labour over into go mode, and hadn’t felt bubs moving as much as usual that day. While I was confident my littlest one was simply tucking in for what lay ahead, I figured it would be wise to make sure. I spoke to my Midwife and she said we should come in and be assessed and monitored for a bit and that she could sweep my membranes too. Not sure if a membrane sweep would push things over into real labour, we called our friend who was doing our birth photography (but didn’t have a car at the time) and said we’d be able to pick her up shortly. My in-laws had arrived at our house while we were at the carnival. We thus dropped our kids off with them, said a quick hello, and headed for the hospital an hour away.

Our midwife met us at the hospital. She assessed me, and we monitored bubs for a bit. I don’t actually remember if I was already dilated or how much if I was, but she said I was soft and certainly ready for labour. She also said that now she had us there she didn’t want us to disappear again. She performed a stretch and sweep and we made arrangements to stay overnight in town. I had some decently strong contractions start up, and was having trouble trying to fall asleep with them. I was starting to wonder if we just needed to head back to the hospital when I finally drifted off. I woke up the next morning (Saturday) with no contractions at all. We also woke up later than we’d thought as we were normally up by 7:00 or so with the kids, but without them there we had both slept in. We rushed to get ready and back to for the 9:00 am meeting we’d agreed to with the midwife to discuss what to do next.

Our midwife said she would be happy to rupture my membranes and was confident things would progress well if we went that route. I was hesitant to start that way as it was my understanding from my previous labours that once my water broke I would be “on the clock” and after somewhat arbitrary amounts of time could be pressured to allow further interventions. I was not quite fully awake and put together and didn’t express any of my concerns though. I just asked what other ways we could try kick things up a notch. Our midwife consulted with the Dr. on call (she had to as per hospital policy) and said she could order an oral dose of cytotec to start labour. When the nurse came in with the pills I remembered the contractions that I’d ended up being steamrolled with my first labour. I was tired from how long it had taken me to fall asleep, hungry from not having eaten breakfast yet, and given our haphazard and rushed morning I felt that everything was coming at me too fast. I chatted with my husband and essentially said I didn’t want to take the pills and would like to leave the hospital, collect myself, eat some breakfast, and then reconvene with the midwife. I remember saying to my husband, “Nobody is holding a gun to our heads saying we need to start labour now. A few hours isn’t going to make or break this.” When we told the nurse that we didn’t want to take the pills and wanted to leave there was some confusion when she relayed our desires to the midwife. The midwife (who was doing training in a different part of the hospital) came back and asked if it was true that we wanted to refuse care from her (essentially firing her from our labour). We assured her that was not the case and clarified what we wanted to do and she was fine with our plans and said she’d see us in a few hours. So we went downtown, met up with our photographer friend and another friend who would be supporting me during labour, and had some food. I collected myself some, and returned to the hospital much more composed and confident. Once again, while walking contractions would get strong, but once I stopped they disappeared.

When our midwife returned she again brought up that she would be happy to rupture my membranes. This time I was able to express my concerns about being “on the clock” and she assured me that wasn’t going to be the case. She said as long as baby and I were looking good then there was no need to add anything else unless it had been quite a long time and I hadn’t made any progress. I didn’t need to fear any 10 or 12 hour arbitrary timeline. I was very relieved and decided that we would just break my waters then. When she was preparing to do so, she noted that baby was still sitting high enough that there was a very real risk of prolapsing the cord if bubs wasn’t lined up right when my water broke. (We later realized this was probably why nothing would ever turn over into sustained labour. Baby was just sitting too high). The doctor on call was called in, and she stabilized my little one while my midwife broke my water. The doctor guided bubs to drop down into place, and I was safe to stand up.

And then I walked, and sat on the bed, and sat on the toilet, and made wonderful progress. I eventually got into the bathtub and laboured there a while and quite appreciated it. My husband did an awesome job of supporting me and I was so thankful for our friend who was also a terrific support. Things started to get harder and I felt shaky and ill and recognized that I was in transition. I focused on making sure the muscles in my face were and thighs were loose and used a low voice to repeat “Mooooovvee down baby.” Throughout everything from the time my water was broken I felt calm, confident, and very well supported. As I progressed through transition though things started to feel different. I couldn’t find a position that was working to manage the contractions (which were only about a 5 on a scale of 1-10 for pain). I started to feel like they were coming at me more than I could cope with. I tried to remain focused and breathe, and relax but it just wasn’t working. I broke down and said I needed a break from everything. My midwife suggested a quick acting narcotic (which I had never thought I would agree with but in the moment was fine with) and I was given a dose of fentanoyl. As the pain abated and I could reflect on things apart from the pain two things hit me. 1)I was terrified of all the sensations coming back, and 2)I remembered this terrified feeling from my last labour. With much more clarity than I probably should have had on a mind altering drug I knew that what I had been overwhelmed with was that same feeling of being violated and just trying to hold on until it was over. I had been trying not to focus on it, and hoping that I could cope better with it this go round. I had hoped that with each contraction I would get a handle on it and it would eventually go away. The feeling wasn’t going away though, it was getting stronger. I knew I did not want to go through the same emotional trauma as my previous delivery and I told my midwife I wanted to get an epidural.

My midwife was a tremendous support and she assured me I was doing well, and encouraged me to keep at it. I told her that I was serious and I wanted an epidural right away. My fentanyl was going to be wearing off shortly and I did get a bit panicked so she ordered a second shot while we sorted things out. I continued to repeat that I wanted an epidural please and thank you. My midwife took my husband out into the hall and had a chat with him. She explained her that she has had many women regret getting an epidural at this stage and that some have even “blamed” her for “letting” them get one instead of continuing to encourage them to carry on. She was concerned that I was being hit hard by transition and might regret having gotten an epidural so close to the end of everything. We had prearranged for our medical team to check with my husband if anything came up where they needed clarification on our birth plan/desires. My husband and I had talked at length about every aspect of our delivery and I figured that while I was in labour I wasn’t interested in trying to explain things to people. I also trust my husband completely and knew he would stick to what we had talked about. I am thankful that our midwife took the time to ask my husband if what I was saying lined up with our desires for this birth, and he assured the midwife that if I was insisting on an epidural I had good reason and that it would be better for me to have one than not.

I remember the midwife coming back into the room and letting me know she needed to check me to see if I was 8 centimetres or more in which case it was too late for the epidural. I said (through tears) “But you’re just going to tell me I’m 8 centimetres and that it’s too late to get one.” In hindsight, when she initially told me that I was doing so great without the epidural and could keep going I felt like she didn’t want me to have an epidural. That wasn’t the case at all, and she was doing her best to support me in what she was thinking was a moment of panic that I might regret. However, this feeling spilled over into thinking she wouldn’t be honest in telling me how far along I was, which was totally irrational. She had not given me any reason to disbelieve her character during my whole pregnancy and I felt bad for essentially accusing her of setting up to lie to me.

Labour makes a person say crazy things!

She gently disagreed with me that she would tell me exactly how far along I was and wasn’t about to make anything up. Then she checked me and said that I was just under 8 cm as I had a lip on my cervix that was keeping me from dilating further. I have not had a lip on my cervix at all in my two previous labours. I honestly believe it was the grace of God on my life that kept me from progressing further as a smidge more of dilation and I wouldn’t have been able to get an epidural. To confirm what she felt she had a nurse check me as well, and the nurse agreed that I was just under 8 cm with a lip on my cervix. The midwife thus called the anaesthesiologist and said she hoped he was able to make it soon. By that time of day the anaesthesiologist was not physically at the hospital and had to be called in to come from home, somewhere in town. I was told it could be 30-40 minutes, but in a much shorter time he was there with his wonderful caddy of needles and other stuff and I rejoiced. I sat as still as I could and tried not to think that a needle was about to puncture into my spine. He numbed my back and then I felt the pressure of a push. But then I felt the pressure of a second push a minute later. I thought to myself “He did two???”. It turns out he didn’t like how the first puncture placed so he did a second try. I had absolutely no side effects from the epidural (I had a terrible pressure headache from the one I got in my first labour) so I think he did a stellar job. Shortly thereafter the tightness and pain started to fade away and it was like I could breathe again.

I was a bit weepy right before and after the epidural.  I remember apologizing to my friends that they wouldn’t get to see a natural labour and telling them I was sorry but it wasn’t my fault and that a very bad man hurt me when I was small and I just couldn’t cope with the feelings this was bringing up from that. They were all great and as the epidural really took I got chatty about all sorts of stuff. Both during this labour and when I had my first baby once the epidural was fully working and was masking all the pain I could still feel and had control over both of my legs. I could also feel all the pressure of baby being so low, and this time I could feel the tightness of my muscles contracting.

As it were, we sat around chatting and then eventually my midwife checked me again and said I could start pushing any time. The bed was up in a seated position and I tried a push and really just felt like not much of anything happened. It didn’t feel like baby moved at all. My husband and I had talked a lot this labour about pushing in alternate positions (I had previously only ever pushed in a seated position with the back of the bed up and the bottom broken down) and I felt like it could be good to try something different. I said to my midwife “I’ve read some good stuff about pushing while kneeling. Do you think that would be a good idea”. She told me I was free to try any position I liked. So I turned around and knelt leaning against the raised head of the bed (as my epidural didn’t prevent me from moving around, thank goodness!). I tried another push and immediately knew that this one was effective. I don’t remember my total number of pushes, but I remember that it wasn’t long before bubs was crowing (My midwife said “Baby has dreadlocks, like me” and I though “Ahh, this one has a lot of hair, eh.”) and then the head was out. My midwife said to breathe a bit and try relax and not to push for a minute to let me stretch some. I remember asking my photographer to get some pics of what was happening and replying to my midwife that “I have a baby’s head sticking out of me and you want me to relax!!” but I did my best to wait a bit. And then I pushed again and bubs was out!! It was 15ish minutes from when I did the first push while kneeling to when my precious new son was on the bed between my knees. My midwife said “This kid has gotta be 5 kilos!!” I guess he was a pretty big newborn compared to the ones she typically sees. She was completely right. Later when we weighed him we learned he was exactly 11 lbs (5 kilos).

I turned around and sat down and they tried to lift him up onto my chest. His cord was pretty short though, so he would only make it up to my belly. I sat, holding him and stroking him and my whole being swelled with joy at this beautiful squalling miracle of life that was now not in my belly but on it. I remember being so happy I could have cried, and simultaneously being so so so thankful to experience that happiness. After a couple minutes the midwife said his cord had stopped pulsing so if we were okay cutting it I could pull him up further onto my chest. My husband (as with our first two babies) cut the cord and I got to hug and hold my sweet little one in a far less awkward embrace. He had meconium on him as he had pooped near the end of the delivery but he was fine and suffered no ill effects from it. I didn’t care that there was poop in his hair. I loved him, and loved that I could feel that love for him as soon as he was born. We dealt with my haemorrhaging (I haemorrhage every time), sang over our sweet baby (we always have a guitar there and songs picked out), stitched me up, and ordered pizza. It was quite the party. Bubs nursed, our friends went to get some much needed sleep, I had a glorious shower, and then we settled in to the rest of our first night with our new son.

I don’t for a second regret getting the epidural. I didn’t regret it when I asked for it, I didn’t regret it five minutes after he was born, and a year later I still don’t regret it. Unlike my first labour where I processed, grieved about, and ultimately made peace with having gotten an epidural, I have never been anything but completely okay with how this delivery went down. Because of that epidural I didn’t spend the last portion of my delivery being clawed at by deep and dark hurts. I didn’t go hollow inside while trying to hold on until everything was over. I didn’t feel ambivalence towards my precious new baby in the moments following birth because I was simply trying to collect myself while being flooded with relief that it was all over. Because of that epidural I did not feel violated and helpless. Because of that epidural I could focus on my precious new baby. I could experience joy, and happiness, and such a deep welling up of love for my husband as he looked on in wonder. I could tune into the weight of this fresh new body on my tummy, then chest. I could marvel at his uniqueness and explain to everyone in the room what his name was and why we chose it. Because of that epidural I have healed so much from the trauma that characterized my previous “ideal” natural labour.

I am not saying it is wrong to desire, or even have a natural labour. I have read a lot of research and recognize that from a purely physical health perspective it is “ideal” to have a labour free of interventions and medications if possible. I think it is sad when women have interventions that they were neither informed about nor had any say in. We hope that in the future if we have more children I will be able to overcome my scars and progress through labour without things breaking down as they have. And, if that doesn’t happen and I am overcome with hurts from my past that I have no control over, I need not carry any guild or shame for the epidural I will get again. Yes, a natural drug free labour can be ideal, but it just might not be ideal for me; an I am perfectly okay with that!  

Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP) & My Gentle, Family-Centered Preemie C-section

Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP) & My Gentle, Family-Centered Preemie C-section

I had a typical, healthy pregnancy with my daughter, Priya, until I didn’t. Late in my pregnancy, I became very itchy, my urine was dark in color, I was overly tired and frequently nauseous. I had lamented to friends and family about how I was feeling but was typically met with well-meaning encouragement. I heard things like, “You’re pregnant and chasing a toddler around; of course you are tired!” or, “It’s common to experience itchiness and nausea in your third trimester.” Yet, I could not shake this feeling that something was off.

I started to research my symptoms and came across something called Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP). As I quickly scanned the information, I knew in my heart I had this condition. As I read more, my worry began to increase. The treatment for this condition is to be on a medication that keeps your elevated bile acid levels from harming your baby, accompanied by frequent NST and ultrasounds to monitor the baby, and finally a delivery no later then 38 weeks, my worry grew because I was already over 35 weeks, and when left untreated, the complications can be serious and delivering past 38 weeks has a stillborn rate of 15 percent. Thankfully, I have a provider who excels at really listening to their patients, and when I called with my concerns, they saw me immediately. When I brought this up to him, he ordered the blood test and said they would call with results.

At 35w6d I laid down for bed. Anxious thoughts about receiving my test results the next day filled my head when I realized my baby was quiet. Where the usual kicks and tumbles that kept me up for an hour at bed time every single night, I was met with stillness. I did all the tricks to try and provoke some movement…nothing. Because we were waiting on the results of the blood test, and knowing what complications could arise with this condition, I didn’t want to take any chances, so we headed into Labor & Delivery.

Thankfully, our baby was looking great on the monitors, but right before being discharged by a nurse, my OB caught that the test results had come in. He told me what I had already known in my gut. That my bile acid levels were elevated above 10, which indicated a diagnosis of Cholestasis and that he would need to admit me and deliver her within 12 hours. He said waiting another week when we have had no treatment on board was not safe for her any longer and that she needed out very soon. Thankfully, the whole week I was waiting on my test results I had prepared myself for this scenario and even told my husband on the way to L&D that “I think we are having this baby in the next 24 hours.” So the shock I experienced was minimal.

Because of my previous emergency C-sections, her decreased movements, and the fact that my body had been essentially slowly poisoning her, we opted for a gentle cesarean instead of inducing labor to decrease the amount of stress she would experience during birth.

I have to admit, I mourned the birth I had been preparing and longed for. I had chosen a doula and had put in all the leg work to have my VBAC but sometimes birth plans and birthing your baby safely are not the same thing. Once I knew I would not get my VBAC, I was clear about my desire for a gentle cesarean. My provider explained that a cesarean with a preemie is unpredictable, but as long as she was doing well once she was earthside, my requests would be honored.

My birth plan requested the following:

• I did not want any medication that would make me drowsy for my birth.
• I wanted the radio on to help relax me while in the OR.
• I did not want any drape. I wanted to see my daughter being brought into the world. (This request was met with the exception of needing an air-filled warmer for her on top of us.)
• As long as she was breathing well on her own, I wanted skin to skin immediately in the OR.
• I wanted delayed cord clamping so she could receive her own vital stem cells, red blood cells, iron, and regain her full blood volume.
• I requested that she not be bathed at all but that the vernix should be rubbed in to aide in moisturizing her skin and help protect against infection.
• I wanted my catheter and IVs be removed as soon as possible.
• I requested breastfeeding-safe medication.
• I wanted the support of a lactation team to help me with the learning curve of breastfeeding a preemie and that she would also be evaluated for a lip and tongue tie.

My birth with Priya taught me three important things: First, to always trust your gut. When something feels off to you, listen to your body. Trust your God-given mama instincts. NO ONE knows your body and your baby better then you. Second, find a provider that supports you. Having a birth care provider who listens to you and supports you fully, even during less than ideal birth circumstances like this, makes all the difference in the world. Third, even if you have a less than ideal birth (like my four weeks early, emergent C-section), you can still have a birth that is a healing experience if you feel heard, understood, and your wishes have been respected. Though my story did not look the way I thought it would, I walked away from my less than ideal birth feeling at peace because my providers did everything in their power to give me the birthing experience I desired, and for that I am forever thankful.

If you or someone you know is experiencing itchiness while pregnant, please talk to your provider. Cholestasis of pregnancy, when treated correctly, almost always leads to healthy babies; but when left untreated, it can have devastating consequences. If you feel you are not receiving proper care or support or would like to be informed about this condition, please check this group for the most updated evidence-based research. This is a foundation that brings awareness and proper information to women dealing with this.

Experience and photographs submitted by Emily Russo. 

Snow Moon Baby: A Fabulous Hospital Birth Story

Snow Moon Baby: A Fabulous Hospital Birth Story

I did it!

I had always wanted a non-medicated, natural, home birth. It is my belief that childbirth can be positive and not “scary”. However, in the state/region I lived in at the time, it was not legal to do so at home and my husband and I felt uncomfortable with the notion of doing something unlawfully. When we got pregnant with our firstborn daughter, we decided to go with a hospital in the area that has a midwifery practice and is known for respecting women’s birth decisions. In the beginning, my husband had the mindset that birth is a horrendously painful ordeal and there is no way around that unless you get medicated. Through childbirth education and learning about hypnobirthing and coping techniques, he came to believe that an all-natural birth can be positive and not traumatic. Though I had concerns about being in the hospital, they were put to rest and I had a fabulous labor and delivery experience, all natural, without tearing!

I was 41 weeks and three days on February 10th, the night of a full “snow” moon and lunar eclipse. I had lost my mucus plus several days before. At 4am I felt something wet, but I was not sure if it was more than just my bloody show. Then around 6:30 I felt a bigger whoosh and it was clearly my water breaking. I was very excited and woke up my husband. He was excited that the baby was finally coming! We texted our parents and doula (R.M.), as well as my friend (RC) who happens to be a labor and delivery nurse at our hospital (We’d agreed that if she was not working, she would come to be a support in conjunction with my doula). My contractions almost immediately got stronger and by 7:45am they were painful, not just strong and uncomfortable like they have been over the past several weeks. They were about 3-4 minutes apart and 1-2 minutes in length. I ate a pretty big breakfast since I was not sure how quickly things would progress. We went out to feed the horses, but I was not able to do much because I had to be still and really concentrate on breathing through the contractions.

We called the midwife clinic to let them know that my water had broken and that we were going to labor at home for a while. At 10am, RC said she was on her way over and a few minutes after that text, I felt strongly that we should be heading to the hospital soon. The contractions were very strong and intense. I needed my husband to support me through each one and I could not talk through them. Between contractions I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and fruit. RC arrived and called the charge nurse on the Labor and Delivery floor to let her know that we were coming. I dreaded the ride because I could not effectively move around to relieve the discomfort. Thankfully, the hospital is only 15 minutes away. They had a nurse bring me up to the labor and delivery floor, she offered me a wheelchair but I declined because I needed to be upright to manage the contractions.

We arrived in the hospital room around 11am. Initially, I had to lay on the bed to get some monitoring, but once they got a good reading for how the baby was doing, they would unhook me from the monitors and just intermittently hand doppler me every 30 minutes before, during, and after one contraction. This would allow me to move around and walk wherever I wanted to go. The midwife checked my cervix. I was 5 cm dilated and that made me super happy to hear. The time in bed for monitoring was no fun, but I was coping alright even in the laying down position. While in the bed they placed a Hep-lock in my forearm in case we needed it. I was very happy that it was in my forearm, because I could flex my hands better that way. Finally, they let me off the bed! I tried laboring on a birthing ball, but I did not like that. Walking around and then stopping to lean on my husband’s shoulders while slow dancing and swaying my hips while bending my knees and sticking my rear out was my favorite way to go through contractions. My husband would tell me encouraging things and R.C. would stand behind me and remind me to breathe deeply and make low noises, she also would rub my neck, shoulders, and hips. This was very effective and I could stay on top of my contractions and feel relaxed through them. After doing this for a while (though in all honesty, time did not seem to have a place in anything so I have no idea how long it was) I decided I wanted to try going into the Jacuzzi to relieve some of the discomfort. That was amazing! My husband got in the tub with me. The water was very soothing and I could effectively relax. R.M., my doula, arrived while I was in the tub. It was neat, my husband, R.C., and R.M. each had very different roles in supporting me and they all were just what I needed. My husband was my hands-on guy, he physically held me and told me how great I was doing and how proud he was of me. R.C. helped me focus on my breathing, making sure it was deep and my moans were low noises. R.M. kept me grounded, saying birth affirmations and telling me that my body knows what it is doing. While I was in the tub, R.C. used the water sprayer to spray warm water on my back during contractions. I found it to be effective and most comfortable to be semi-squatting/on my knees and leaning forward on Nathan as he faced me, moving my hips sideways during contractions.

After about two hours, I decided I wanted to get out of the tub. Once I got out, the contractions felt much stronger and it took a lot more concentration to remain relaxed and breathing/moaning effectively. My midwife came back in and sat back and watched me labor for a little bit and then she used a rebozo scarf to wiggle my belly gently back and forth to help baby get in the best position for birth. The midwife suggested to labor for three contractions sitting on the toilet, as that can help bring the baby down. I did this, but it was not fun. I was in a lot of discomfort at this point and was getting tired. The midwife asked if I wanted my cervix checked and I was not sure. Because I knew I needed to lay down in the bed and be still to be checked, which would be hard for me to cope through. But I wanted to know how far I had progressed, so I decided to lay in the bed for an exam. While laying down, each contraction seemed 100% harder and I felt like I was losing control of my relaxation and breathing. I was at 7cm and everyone in the room except me was excited!

I actually cried because I was sure that, with the intensity I had been feeling, I would have been at 8 or 9cm. Everyone encouraged me, saying that this next stage would go by faster than the earlier stage and that my body was doing great. Then the transition phase set in. It was longer and more intense than I anticipated. I really did not like it and voiced that opinion rather loudly! My midwife suggested I lay on my side and put the peanut ball between my knees to help open my pelvis even more. I did this, but it was my least favorite part of the labor. Each contraction felt like I was losing control of my body. I was shaking and this was the one point when I said several negative things: “I can’t do this, I don’t feel safe, my body is tearing in half, give me drugs.” I didn’t mean it at the time; the pain was talking, and everyone else encouraged me that this out of control feeling was getting my body ready to deliver my baby. Both my support women encouraged me that I needed to believe that I could do this, and R.C. told me that I needed to tell myself that, “I can do this,” even if I didn’t believe it. So I did, and gave myself a pep talk. Then I really started feeling like my uterus was heaving and rolling during the contractions and a pressure down on my bottom with the slight thought of pushing each contraction. This made me feel even more out of control.

The midwife said that if I wanted to try and push, I could. I gently pushed a little during the contractions and that helped me feel less out of control. A nurse set up the squatting bar on the bed and suggested that I get up and squat, this was a welcome suggestion since I hated lying on my side, even though it clearly was helping. Instead of truly squatting, I knelt in a forward leaning position, with my husband in front of me. During this time, I was getting tired, in between contractions I could relax and rest easily, which surprised me. I also felt very nauseous during these contractions, but I never actually vomited. I continued to gently push when I felt like I wanted to push. The midwife, who had been giving me my space to let me work with my body, got in position behind me when she heard my moaning get very deep. Maybe two contractions after she did that, my water fully broke in a huge gush. I heard them say that there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, but no one showed concern. The midwife calmly told me not to worry, that the only difference would be that if she didn’t cry right away that they would have to pass her to the NICU team to make sure she didn’t aspirate anything (Hubby said they called NICU into the room when they saw the meconium but I don’t remember them being in there at all). The midwife told me that I could start truly pushing in earnest if I wanted. She never checked my cervix to see if I was a 10, she trusted me listening to my body since I was totally un-medicated. I started pushing and then started feeling the burning as she began crowning. My husband said I didn’t like that feeling, but I remember just saying, “Oh it is burning” in more of an acknowledgement way because it almost felt good.

Right after the birth, so much joy!

I feel like I probably pushed strongly about five times before I felt her head come out and then the midwife guided her body out. That was the strangest feeling, her body bursting out of mine. At 5:49pm our daughter made her entrance into the world. I heard a little squeaky cry and then the midwife passed her between my legs and I held my baby on my naked chest. I was on a total high, I kept saying, “I did it, I did it!” as I held my baby. She was covered in vernix and so beautiful. My husband was crying, later he told me that he was just so proud of me and that was why he was crying. I nursed her and just reveled in how beautiful she is and how glad I was that she was here. She had chubby cheeks and a full head of dark hair. I delivered the placenta in one push, it was so easy compared to birthing a baby. The cord stopped pulsing after a couple of minutes and my husband cut the cord. He held her skin to skin for a few minutes and then they did her measurements. She was 7 pounds 12 ounces, 20.5 inches, bigger than I or anyone expected. While they did all this, the midwife examined me, I did not tear externally, which made me so happy! However, I was bleeding a lot, so they gave me Cyotec to stop the hemorrhaging.

One week old

I loved my birthing experience! It was exactly how I hoped it would be, low intervention with my body dictating how things progressed. The medical professionals stayed quietly in the background, there for support when I needed them, but not interfering. My midwife made gentle suggestions and only checked my cervix twice, and only because I wanted to be checked. My husband came away with a huge respect for natural childbirth and a belief that it does not need to be an excruciating and scary process. Today our daughter is 4 months old, happy, and healthy with a wonderfully positive birth story!

Birth experience and photos submitted by Abigail Richard.

Cholestasis, a Change of Plans, and a Respectful Induction

Cholestasis, a Change of Plans, and a Respectful Induction

I’d planned a natural birth in a birth center from the second I found out I was pregnant with my third child. I’d had a dehumanizing induction with my oldest; my second baby’s birth was far better than my first but still not exactly what I wanted so I made huge changes during my third pregnancy in order to finally have the experience I desired. My pregnancy was wonderful and healthy and everything was perfect every step of the way, I received care from a wonderful practice of naturally-minded obstetricians and midwives and truly enjoyed every prenatal visit. Everything was going great and my husband and I were happily anticipating our impending daughter’s birth.

When I hit 37 weeks I started noticing that my skin was very itchy. I used a lot of lotion and didn’t think much of it at first but I quickly realized it was getting worse by the day. I was soon so miserable I was even willing to try anti-histamines despite being reluctant to take any medications while pregnant. Unfortunately neither anti-histamines or any lotion or cream helped at all. After six days it was so horrible I was becoming concerned, this just didn’t feel normal. I called my doctor’s office on a Sunday morning and asked for advice. The midwife I spoke to thought it would be a good idea to come into labor and delivery and have blood drawn to be tested for obstetric cholestasis. After examining me she was hopeful that it was just a miserable case of PUPPPS but felt that the tests were a good idea.

Unfortunately the tests took about a week to come back so we wouldn’t know for sure anytime soon.

The next day I noticed baby was moving a bit less than normal. By that evening movement was significantly less but I was still feeling her enough that I wasn’t panicking. I was up all night trying everything I could think of to get her to resume normal movement but had no luck. I got up in the morning, took our big kids to school and called my doctor’s office. They had me come in immediately for a non-stress test. After a few minutes on the monitors baby wasn’t moving so they brought me apple juice… and more apple juice… and cups of ice water. Attempts to buzz my stomach yielded no results. Baby’s heart rate was perfect but for some reason she was clearly not moving.

A few minutes later one of the doctors came to talk to me. My hands and feet were where the itching was the worst, he examined them carefully and found there was no rash or apparent cause to the itching and said that this was concerning. The timeline of my symptoms and the appearance of my skin were textbook signs of cholestasis, a condition where a build up of bile acids in the blood stream cause intense itching. Still birth is a potential risk of cholestasis and given my baby’s major decrease in movement he felt it would be best to induce labor. He could tell I was extremely upset and was willing to support me even if I disagreed with his recommendation. He told me to call my husband and discuss it with him but that if we decided it would be best to induce labor that he was going to schedule my induction immediately. It didn’t take my husband and I long to agree that this was the best option. Several months before I had attended a Birth Without Fear Meet Up where January described the birth of “Beard Baby”. Prior to her birth she had had decreased movement and January described this as feeling that her baby had “nudged” her. I had a brief moment of peace realizing that my baby was nudging me as well and that this was all a sign that it was time for her to be born.

My mother picked up our children, we packed our bags and in what seemed like seconds we were at the hospital starting the induction. I had a very hard time processing what was happening to me and barely spoke a word for hours. I couldn’t believe that in such a short time my plans for this birth were completely shattered. How could a pregnancy go from complication-free to this in a matter of minutes? I was three centimeters dilated and 50% effaced but I truly did not feel my body or baby were ready to be in labor and I was absolutely terrified to start down this road of interventions.

After getting settled into our hospital room, the midwife from my practice who was there that evening came in to talk. She had a student midwife with her and they were both extremely compassionate and willing to do whatever they could to try to give me as much of the birth center experience as they could. The induction plan was to use Pitocin very slowly and to bring in a portable birth pool for me to labor and birth in. After talking to them I felt a million times better, this wasn’t exactly the birth I wanted but it was going to be okay.

Pitocin was started and I quickly began having regular contractions. I tried to rest through the night but the itching was worse than ever and prevented me from resting at all. One thing I’d found that helped the tiniest bit was Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple cream and luckily the hospital used this brand. My midwife’s student brought me tons of packets of it and I passed the night applying nipple cream to my entire body. By morning I’d had little progress and was feeling discouraged. I felt sick to my stomach I was so worried that this was going to turn out badly. As the morning went by however, things finally started to pick up a bit and contractions became much more intense. I began having to actually breathe through them and was only comfortable standing up, rocking through them. My midwife Missy and her student Lila Rose thought it would be a good idea to check me and see if they could break my water. They thought that since this was my third baby that if they broke my water things would progress very quickly but I was absolutely convinced there was no way that would work. Regardless I agreed that it was worth a shot. They checked my cervix and found that I was five centimeters. They broke my water and left the room for a bit to be with another patient.

In a matter of minutes my contractions intensified. They went from very uncomfortable to actually painful and I continued standing up, rocking and swaying through them. I suddenly realized I’d been too upset to eat anything for almost twenty hours and became very worried that this would effect my ability to get through labor. My husband offered me several healthy snack options but the only thing that sounded good was a Kit Kat bar that he helped me eat in between contractions. I don’t remember Missy and Lila Rose coming back in the room but when they saw me they realized I was getting close. I didn’t realize this myself though and still truly felt that I was half a day away from giving birth.

I was in a lot of pain at this point and asked to get in the tub. Lila Rose got it ready for me and helped me get in. The warm water was an immediate relief in between contractions but during contractions I was in extreme pain. I remained sure that I was no where near giving birth and this began to alter my state of mind. I was so sure I was going to be in labor for hours upon hours and didn’t know if I could handle this pain for the rest of the day. Lila Rose helped me breathe and focus more during contractions, despite my being a total wreck her words of encouragement were extremely helpful. She was using a Doppler to check baby’s heartbeat frequently and realized her heart rate was going up and staying up and she asked me to get out of the tub. She and my husband helped me get out. As soon as I stepped out I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. Lila Rose told me that that was just the baby and I didn’t really need to use the bathroom. I remember thinking “I’m not an idiot! I know that feeling like you need to use the bathroom is actually the baby when you’re close to giving birth but I am NOT even close to giving birth so I must actually have to go.”

I labored on the toilet for a minute and Lila Rose draped a warm blanket over me. Baby’s heart rate was still high so Missy asked me to try to get on my hands and needs on the bed. I moved into this position pretty easily and the contractions suddenly became absolutely unbearable. Contractions were maybe 20 seconds apart so I wasn’t getting a break between them at all. I started saying there was no way I could do this and that I needed an epidural. Missy tried to calm me down and reminded me that I didn’t want an epidural and that I would most likely regret it. She and Lila Rose tried to get me to focus more on what my body was doing and how each contraction was getting me closer to meeting my baby. I was still sure that I wasn’t actually close to meeting my baby though and asked again for an epidural. They explained that this baby was going to be born before they would even have a chance to request an epidural and I was perplexed. I didn’t understand why they were so sure that I was very close to having a baby when I was beyond certain that I wasn’t close.

Suddenly I felt the urge to push. I slid down on my side and started pushing and instantly my entire mood and mindset changed. I could feel my baby descending and the urge to push made me realize that I really was very close to giving birth. The urge to push was such an immense relief compared to the contractions that I’d been feeling that they actually almost felt good. I could tell each push was extremely productive and she was coming fast. My midwives started telling me that they could see her hair. I could feel intense burning and felt like I was pushing too hard and too fast and I tried to slow down and breathe her out but my body was on auto pilot and I didn’t feel lik&e I had much control over pushing. Before I knew it I could feel her body sliding out and I reached down to touch her, suddenly she was on my chest, screaming, and I was in disbelief. I immediately asked my husband what time it was and found that it had only been about 40 minutes since my water broke.

I birthed the placenta painlessly but my midwives said there were still a lot of large clots in my uterus and working them out was extremely painful. I was bleeding more than they liked though and they wanted to make sure everything was okay. Once they were sure, they checked me for tears and found two very small tears and asked if I would like them to stitch them. They thought they would probably be fine either way but that they would heal a little faster if they were stitched and I agreed. As soon as they were finished they covered my naked baby and I with warm blankets, dimmed the lights and left my husband and I to bond with our baby girl. We were left completely alone for hours and it was absolutely wonderful. No one bothered us or tried to bathe our baby or mess with her at all. A pediatrician stopped in just as I was actually feeling ready to try to get up and use the bathroom and clean myself up a bit anyway so the timing worked out perfectly.

I felt immense relief knowing that our baby girl was earth side, safe and healthy. I had salvaged a pretty awesome birth out of a situation that terrified me. I had been induced with my first baby and had absolutely no control. Every decision was made for me, without me. Not only was I never consulted but I was so disconnected from how birth should be that I didn’t even realize that I had a right to be consulted. I remember feeling as though I was in the way during my own birth. I remember thinking everyone would have an easier time delivering this baby if I wasn’t there. This induction was a completely different and wonderful experience. My health and the health of my baby were the priorities of my doctor but they were not used against me. My choices were respected every step of the way. I received guidance from my health care providers and was allowed to make my own choices. This wasn’t the birth I had planned but it was exactly the birth my baby needed.

Submitted by Kate S. 

Dancing Doctor & Mama

Dancing Doctor & Mama

“Who you choose as a provider will play the biggest role in the options, support, and respect you receive through your pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum journey. Choose carefully, be picky as hell, and don’t hesitate changing if needed. Love yourself enough to get the care you deserve. As much as you would for someone else you love. Yes, love yourself that much, darling, because you’re worth it!” – January Harshe

We love seeing providers like @drfernandoguedescunha who is dancing with mama to get baby down and earthside!

VBAC Despite Thrombocytopenia: The Birth of Elodie

VBAC Despite Thrombocytopenia: The Birth of Elodie

The birth of sweet little Elodie really begins with the birth of our son Huck. I had a normal and, dare I say, easy pregnancy with our first. Nothing was out of normal and I had no doubt I would be able to deliver this baby naturally until about 32 weeks when I was diagnosed with severe gestational thrombocytopenia. Basically my blood platelet levels were dropping rapidly, putting both me and the baby at risk for hemorrhaging during the delivery. At this time, we were living in Africa in a city where health care was limited and our doctor became so worried about my severe thrombocytopenia that she demanded a C-section at 36 weeks and 2 days. I ended up having a C-section under general anesthesia and didn’t even get to see my son until he was 3 hours old which left me feeling so removed from the whole birthing process. The whole experience was very traumatic for me and recovery from this C-section, which I never thought would happen, was harder than I ever thought possible. I almost didn’t want another baby until I started reading about VBACs.

When we found out we were pregnant with our second, I knew without a doubt that I wanted the opportunity to try for a VBAC. During this pregnancy we were living in another country overseas which was not the best place to try for a VBAC. After many conversations with my husband, we agreed we would temporarily move back to the States at the end of the pregnancy so I would have the best chance possible of delivering naturally. We emailed an OB/GYN who was a family friend and he was immediately on board and excited about helping me go for a VBAC.

Our pregnancy was pretty routine and easy like my first one but the whole time we questioned whether the thrombocytopenia would come back and what it would mean for my chances of a VBAC. Around my 30th week of pregnancy, we flew the long transatlantic flight back to America and settled into my in-laws’ house with our almost two year old to wait for baby girl’s arrival.

About the same time that we got to America, my platelets started dropping again which meant the thrombocytopenia of my first pregnancy had returned. Our OB/GYN was amazing and had many a long conversation with us about how my low platelets could lead to different outcomes including steroids, induction, and the inability to get an epidural in case of an emergency C-section. The whole time he never mentioned a repeat caesarian as an option for me and made us feel in control of our decisions which was such a different experience from our first pregnancy.

We were fortunate enough to be able to transfer our care to the midwives of his office while he still helped us navigate the thrombocytopenia. Still we were forced to wait to see what my platelets would do. Every week I had blood draws to check my platelet count and each week, from 30-35 weeks, they dropped more and more until they were around 90,000. At this number they are considered too low for epidural and were coming closer and closer to the number our doctor wanted to induce me at. I had many good cries about my platelets and about the idea of having to go on steroids and then have an induction as I had really wanted an intervention-free birth where I could labor at home as much as possible. There were moments I was convinced my dream of a VBAC was slipping away. I wanted so badly to avoid interventions or an induction. I had this overriding desire to see what my body could do because I felt like I was robbed of the chance of experiencing labor with my first. I knew my body could do it if only it was giving the chance but with the thrombocytopenia I was so scared I would not be given the opportunity to naturally labor. All this time, my husband was always there to encourage me to trust my body and believe that we could have the birth I wanted.

We asked all our friends to start praying for my platelets to miraculously go up, even though we were prepared for them to start drastically dropping as they did in my first pregnancy. We went in for my 36 week blood draw full of trepidation to see where my platelets had fallen to. My husband called for the results a few hours later and found out they had gone up to 105,000. That was the first time ever in either of my pregnancies that my platelets had gone up! Over the next two weeks they kept going up until they were at a really good level (121,000) when I entered my 38th week.

At this point I started knowing in my heart that this was the ideal time for baby girl to come as we didn’t know if and when my platelets would drop again. On Thursday we went to our chiropractor for an adjustment and then spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday walking a ton. Each night I told baby girl that then was a good time for her to come. Sunday night I went to bed asking God to bring baby girl in his timing but asking Him to allow me the natural VBAC we had worked so hard for.

Around 1:00am Monday morning (I was 38 weeks 4 days), I woke up for my nightly pee and noticed bloody show in the toilet. I got really excited and knew that this at least meant my body was getting ready. Almost immediately after that I started getting my first ever contractions (I never had one with my first pregnancy). My husband was sleeping in our two year old’s room because our son was sick with a cold and ear infection so I laid in bed timing my contractions. I ended up having contractions all night long every 5-7 minutes apart. In the morning they spread way out and my husband and I were both disappointed. I had contractions off and on all Monday then throughout the night again which left me exhausted by Tuesday. Tuesday we spent the day relaxing and napping as contractions came and went. I eventually told my husband I did not think I could do another night of these contractions and I really hoped active labor would start soon. My husband ran out Tuesday evening to get me some of my favorite soup for dinner while I bounced on my birthing ball and watched our two-year-old.

It was at this point that the contractions changed from being mildly annoying to being painful. I started having to concentrate on breathing more and really focus during them. My husband at this point didn’t realize that things were changing so he was going about doing dishes and laundry…at some point I snapped at him to stop leaving me alone because I needed him. He said it was at this moment he realized things were picking up. We sat together and watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy as contractions came every 7-10 minutes or so. It wasn’t until around 9pm that I think I really entered active labor. I moved into the shower and labored there as contractions started coming every 5 minutes or so. Eventually we ran out of hot water for the shower so I went into the bedroom. It was at this point the contractions became really intensely painful. My husband called our doula and she came by the house to check on us. It was about 11:15pm and she guessed I was probably 4.5-6 centimeters and said I should try to sleep between contractions as I was now on my third night without much sleep. She left around 11:45pm asking us to call her when we headed to the hospital, which she thought would be in about 2 or 3 hours. As soon as she left contractions picked up in both intensity and frequency. They started coming almost every 2 to 3 minutes and lasting almost a minute. I was a little shocked by how intense they got in such a short amount of time. I told my husband that we needed to head to the hospital then. He was hesitant to go to the hospital as the contractions had not been that consistent for a whole hour yet. After a few more minutes of me yelling about going to the hospital, he decided it was indeed time to go and we headed out. The drive to the hospital was only about 10 minutes but I was contracting every 2 to 3 minutes so it seemed much longer.

We got to the hospital around 12:20am and were checked around 12:30. The nurse said I was a stretchy 6.5 centimeters so I was immediately brought to a labor and delivery room. At this point I was exhausted and demanded some IV pain killers. I knew I didn’t want an epidural but I was beginning to panic between contractions and knew I needed something to calm down. The painkillers helped me relax and sleep a bit between contractions with me still waking up every 3 to 4 minutes to breathe, scream, and occasionally cuss through so wildly intense and painful contractions. All this time the nurses were struggling with monitors for fetal heart beat and contractions. I did not know what they were talking about but I kept hearing them say “the contractions aren’t being read on the monitor” which in my tired mind meant that they weren’t strong enough to be picked up yet. That totally freaked me out as I thought I must just be at the beginning of labor. I kept asking our doula and husband if all of this was just false labor, to which they kept assuring me that this was really labor and a baby was coming soon.

By around 1:45am the painkillers had worn off and I started asking (demanding) for an epidural during every contraction. Our doula knew in that moment that I would really regret that decision so she lovingly but strongly told me no. Our nurses were awesome in honoring our request that they not suggest or bring up epidural either. Our doula did suggest I get checked at 2:00am as a way to give me a goal. At 2:00am our midwife checked me and I was at 9cm and the baby was at a 0 station. It was then suggested by our doula, that our midwife should break my water to help speed things along. At 2:15am she broke my water and I immediately began to feel the baby moving down. After about 2 contractions where I felt baby moving down, I told everyone in the room that I was going to start pushing. Our midwife, thinking I was still at 9cm, told me to try not to push. I told her again I was pushing and pushed with the next contraction. She had me flip over onto my back (I had been on my knees up over the top of the bed the whole time) to check and saw that the baby was close. At that point she called the nurses in and told me that since pushing was working I should just keep going. At that point all I wanted in the world was to get that baby out. I started pushing at around 2:25am and baby was crowning after only 2 or 3 contractions. Even as the baby was crowning I was scared of messing up somehow and needing a repeat C-section. I think almost everyone in the room laughed as baby was crowning and I was asking if there was any way that I was still going to have a C-section and if I was really in labor. It all just happened so fast that I was in shock!

The moment I pushed my baby girl out was literally one of the best and most empowering moments of my life. Her head came out and the rest of her body followed immediately. Our midwife placed her right on my chest and that is where she stayed for over an hour. After having a general anesthesia C-section with our son, getting to spend the first hour of my daughter’s life just holding her was a gift that I could not possibly be more thankful for. It was only after my daughter’s arrival that our midwife told me that my platelets had indeed dropped again and were under the threshold for an epidural. My husband and I are both so thankful we did not know that going into the hospital as the fear of a general anesthesia C-section would have caused me to panic. We are just so thankful baby girl came right when she needed to and exactly how she needed to.

Overall, I felt like my husband and I really fought for this VBAC and it was so worth it. We felt educated, informed, and empowered during the whole pregnancy. Even when dealing with thrombocytopenia and the complications that came with that, we felt like all our providers were fighting alongside us for our VBAC. All I wanted was to give my body a chance to do what I knew it could do and what it was made for. Our amazing team never pushed any interventions on me and allowed me to labor how I wanted. Our midwife was absolutely amazing in completely following my lead and allowing me and my body to control the pace and feel of labor. One of my recovery nurses, while reading the notes on my labor and how fast it went, said, “It is just sad you ever had to have a C-section in the first place. It’s clear that your body was just made for this.” It was such a redemptive moment for me to once again believe in my body’s ability to birth.

Overall, God gifted us with a birth we only could have dreamed about with only 2 hours in the hospital from check-in to baby. We now are thrilled to have a beautiful, healthy baby girl that came into this world naturally, surrounded by a loving and supportive team.

Story and photographs submitted by Julia Van Scott. 

Beautiful Hospital Birth From a Mother’s Eyes

Beautiful Hospital Birth From a Mother’s Eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story submitted by Britney A.

Photographs by Heather Dimsdale of Two Little Loves Studio

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