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Postpartum After Miscarriage

Postpartum After Miscarriage

birth loss, baby, miscarriage, A couple of months ago, a picture of the “real side of postpartum” went viral. It was a picture taken by a dad, of the backside of his wife wearing postpartum mesh underwear. Yes, that is a very real side of postpartum fourth trimester life. But that is also a very real side of life after a loss. I’m certainly not the first person to go through this, and not the first to speak about it. And many would consider this to be a huge and inappropriate over share, but this is a side that’s never seen, rarely talked about, and is very raw and very difficult.

My throat is sore from the breathing tube. I lost a lot more blood than expected during the D&C and required medical intervention to stop it. Everything is still woozy, two days later, and Percocet is barely touching the physical pain. The doctor’s initials indicating the area of operation are still marked on my belly in permanent marker, a persistent reminder of everything that just happened. I can’t keep my eyes open because I’m so tired but can’t close my eyes because all I see is the ultrasound screen. Dark. Still. Quiet. Should we have looked again? Looked harder? Checked just one more time? No. Should I have tried…? No. Could we have done…? No. What if I hadn’t…? No. There’s nothing that could have, should have, or would have been done to keep this from happening. It’s no one and nothing’s fault. Just science and nature, preservation and survival. What our incredible bodies are designed to do.

The rational side of me knows this was never a healthy pregnancy, and this is for the best- better now than later. But the emotional side of me is trying to discern why? What was and is the point? Why did we have to read this chapter? Why go through all of this? 11 weeks pregnant, six weeks of pure hell, constant and relentless nausea, throwing up, blacking out, 14 pounds lost (10% of my body weight), multiple blown veins, four days in the hospital, who knows how many liters of fluids given, countless milligrams of meds consumed, long appointments every fourth day and so many hours of life and opportunities with my family, missed, because I couldn’t be there with or for them.

Now for seemingly no reason at all. No reward, no payoff, no sweet squishy baby on the other side. Instead just bruises, blood, an empty uterus and these damned mesh underwear. There’s no “right” way to process a loss. It’s complicated and messy. Selfishly, I feel a small sense of relief; there will be freedom from the sickness that has consumed and ravaged my body. And that’s okay. It’s okay to acknowledge me and my complete self. But that doesn’t minimize the reality of the emotional shock and the loss of what was supposed to be. I have no closure. I won’t have closure. It’s over without warning. 11 weeks in, almost in the “clear,” and it’s done.

Each new day will bring healing and clarity, I know this. I know that there is a reason for all of this that will become evident with time. But I also know it’s okay to feel and process, be real, grieve and not have those answers right now.

Submitted by Joanna B.

A Natural Hospital Birth, A Peaceful Miscarriage at Home, and A Future Homebirth Coming Soon

A Natural Hospital Birth, A Peaceful Miscarriage at Home, and A Future Homebirth Coming Soon

It has been three years since I had my son in a natural, med-free hospital birth. It was 27 hours of total labor. Contractions were every three minutes (lasting a minute long) from the get go, so I got no rest once they started at two o’clock in the morning! I went to the hospital after about 18 hours thinking surely I’d made some progress, but they said I was only at 1cm. They told me to go walk around for an hour and come back and they’d check me again. I was a little discouraged, but when I came back an hour later I was at 4cm and was then admitted to Labor and Delivery.

We settled in the room and my husband put a movie on. All the staff that came in the room had read my one page birth plan and was very respectful of my wishes. My nurse was awesome and very supportive of natural birth. She made sure I got the room with a portable monitor so I could walk around and wouldn’t be stuck in bed. I walked, bounced on a birth ball, changed positions, and did whatever I could to move things along. My husband had made me a playlist of serene, relaxing music, so we listened to that for a while. I was exhausted, because I had not slept for two nights now, so I decided to lie down and rest for a bit. My husband got settled in his cot and started to fall asleep, until the nurse came in and told me if I wanted to get this baby out I needed to do some more work. My husband got up and put his shoes back on (he said it made him feel more awake, haha) and I did some more bouncing on the ball and walking and moving around.

After 24 hours, they broke my water and my nurse told me things were about to get more intense. I didn’t believe her, but Yowza! The next couple hours were tough! That was really the hardest part of the whole labor. I would do okay for a few contractions, leaning, and swaying on my husband while focusing on deep breathing. Then I’d get freaked out and lose focus and get scared that I couldn’t do it and cry out to God to help me. Then I’d remember to breathe and focus and gather myself. I almost asked for an epidural at this point, but I knew that I was almost done, so I just kept going. Once it gets to that point, you are so close to the finish.

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Then I felt like pushing, and with pushing the pain went away and I had a new focus. I pushed for about an hour and a half and then the baby came out. I didn’t really feel it – it was so surreal. The doctor gave me an episiotomy while the baby was crowning, which made me tear a little more. I will not be getting an episiotomy for future babies – research shows no benefits; but in the moment I was like ‘whatever just get this baby out of me’. I didn’t feel the episiotomy or the sewing up – though he did inject some lidocaine before stitching me up. I don’t remember the placenta coming out either, because I was in awe of meeting my little guy. I held my baby skin-to-skin for a long time and he nursed wonderfully. I was up walking around and doing everything right away and never had any pain with ‘recovery’, even where I had my episiotomy/tear. I’m so thankful for no pain or complications! My husband was so wonderful through everything and I’m thankful he’s been such a good husband and father.

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Two years after the birth of my son, I had a late miscarriage and went through full blown labor contractions and dilation at home. It was about two hours long, with the last hour being the really tough part of transition. I did a lot better at focusing and breathing this time around and never lost focus. I breathed through the contractions and really relaxed as deeply as I could between them, soaking in the minute of rest. I took them one at a time, instead of getting overwhelmed and thinking they would last forever. The last ten minutes of that tough hour was the hardest, with no break or rest between contractions. I basically chanted/hummed in a deep voice to get through it, and that really helped a lot. I didn’t care what I sounded like – it was what I needed to do to get through it. And then it was done. It was very hard emotionally – I prayed a lot and listened to some relaxing spiritual music to get through. I was trying to not get upset or let negative thoughts in that this was ‘all for naught.’ I wasn’t expecting it to be as intense as birth with a full term baby was, but it gave me strength and courage that I could do it again when the time comes.

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I’m now 8 months pregnant and have planned a natural homebirth this time around, with the help of my husband, midwife, and doula. I’m very hopeful that this will be another good, natural birth experience. I think this will be our last baby, so I want to enjoy and soak it all in.

The Story of Aurora

The Story of Aurora

This story is hard for me to write, because while it ends with a glorious rainbow baby, it begins with an intensely bad storm. February 5, 2014, Chris and I learned that we were expecting our second child. We were surprised, but glad. I called my parents that night at Barnes Jewish Hospital, where my dad was a patient, and told them the news. One week later, I had a miscarriage. Then on the 13th of the month, we found out that Dad was going to come home on hospice — although his cancer was gone, the stem cell transplant which had cured him was now seen as a foreign thing and his body was in rejection. On the 14th, as my parents pulled into their driveway, Dad died.

On March 17th, 2014, I found out that I was pregnant again. I was happy, because we had been trying for another baby, but also intensely frightened. My world, as I knew it, had been shattered with the recent deaths in my family and I didn’t think I could handle losing another child. A dear friend came over and prayed with me that day. Chris was ecstatic, not scared, and he kept encouraging me.

I had ultrasounds at six, seven, and eight weeks pregnant, all showing a heartbeat and normal development. It became more real and something I was allowing myself to hope for: another beautiful blessing from the Lord!

I was so much sicker this pregnancy than with Abbi. It was so bad that I spent almost a week laying around so I would throw up less. I felt GREEN, even when medicated. My sweet husband did a lot more of Abbi’s diaper changes during this time, so that I wouldn’t have to gag over the smell.

I looked pregnant much faster this time around. At Katie, my sister-in-law’s wedding, I was 12 weeks along and visibly pregnant. At 14 weeks, I began feeling the baby kick from time to time. I called her my little womb ninja, because she was so active.

At 17 weeks, the morning sickness finally subsided. Things were looking up. I thought the worst was over.

A week later, my world came crashing down when my husband of eight years was killed in a car wreck on his way home from a church mission trip. All the way to the hospital that night, as I waited to find out his condition, our little child kicked around in my pelvis, as if to reassure me. On the way home, without my husband the next day, she kicked and kicked again, reminding me just how much I still had to live for. The grief vomiting began that day and lasted for the next 4 weeks.

I found out the day before Chris’ visitation that I was expecting another baby girl. At the ultrasound that day, my Mom, Chris’ mom, my sister, and my older daughter all got to watch. They got to see this tiny, beautiful person moving around inside my womb. Chris and I had previously discussed and agreed upon the first name Aurora if the baby was a girl. I kept her middle name secret from everyone until her birth.

During the five-hour-long visitation for the daddy of my children, I had the worst migraine of my life. A combination of pregnancy hormones, crying most of the day every day for a week, exhaustion, and stress all had my head in a mess of pain. Partway through the visitation, Mom made me step outside to see, in the sky above the church, the biggest double rainbow I have ever seen. It seemed to originate over the place where Chris’ body lay. I believe God sent that rainbow, in part, to show me that life would still hold beauty. My “rainbow baby” was in the works, after all.

Once I hit 22 weeks, I enjoyed the pregnancy. It was pretty uneventful from that point until 34 weeks, when I found out that Aurora was in a footling breech position. I feared that she would not turn head down before labor and that I would now need a C-section. For me, the idea of being a single mom to a toddler and a newborn was scary enough, without the added concern of trying to recover from surgery at the same time. My little ninja, as I had previously dubbed her, would routinely flip between feet down and head down, sometimes more than once in a day. I could feel her flipping — a sensation of a five-minute long contraction followed by kicking or pressure in different places.

One afternoon, when I was 37 ½ weeks along, I was getting ready to take Abbi to the sitter’s so I could nap before work. I started contracting HARD, all of a sudden. They were so strong they were taking my breath away. I didn’t have the strength or energy to take her to the babysitter’s, so I called to see if she could come get her. She took Abbi and I continued to labor, or so it felt like. I called my doulas and one of them came over. The contractions were super intense for 20 minutes, then regular and painful for a couple more. I spent some time in the tub, trying to relax and remain calm. My doula was with me, and she felt my belly. She encouraged me that it felt like the baby was now head down again. I went to bed shortly after and the labor stopped.

That evening my OB doc confirmed that Aurora was head down. From then on, she behaved herself and stayed put.

The week I was due, I had some GI upset for two hours, two nights in a row. Sunday, the first night of it, I packed my hospital bag. The second night of it, I was at work at the hospital and the bag was in the car, just in case. Then on Tuesday the 18th, I was at home and asleep after a long night at work. Around 1 pm, I woke up and got up from bed to use the bathroom. As I stood, I felt fluid leaking, but I assumed it was urine, because that’s just how pregnancy can be. I went back to bed and then contracted painfully every seven to eight minutes for an hour. I was tired, and I was supposed to work that night, so I told myself, “If this is really labor, and my water broke, then it will get more intense and I won’t be able to go back to sleep.” Thus I continued to lie in bed, the contractions eased up, and I slept.

My alarm went off around 4 pm and I got up, showered, and headed to the babysitter’s house to eat dinner with her family and my toddler. Abbi was especially cuddly with me on the couch that night and I wonder if a part of her knew, instinctually, that something was up. It was, in fact, her last moments of having me to herself. Before I left for work, I again had the nagging suspicion that my water had broken.

I went to work. I clocked in. I got ready to work on labor and delivery. Then I went to the bathroom and decided that, yes, maybe my water really did break. I wasn’t contracting though. I went to my good friend, who was our charge nurse, and told her the situation. I clocked out and became a patient. We sent a test down to lab to confirm my suspicions, and I called to give my mom and my doulas the heads-up.

While waiting, I began to contract. They were painless at the beginning. Then I started to walk the unit, like so many other women had before and would after me. I started having strong enough contractions that I had to stop and breathe through them. The verdict was in: this was the real deal. About 30 minutes later, the test results finally came back and confirmed what I’d already figured out. I called Mom and she came in.

She labored with me for a while. I remember sitting on the birthing ball a lot in the early stages. Mom and I talked about some of the emotional fall-out of what this birth meant to me…for nearly five months after my husband’s death, his DNA literally grew, lived, and thrived inside my body. It was a kind of beautiful, marital intimacy to have that child created by our love, inhabit me for those months following his death. Giving birth meant no longer carrying Chris inside me, at least not physically or literally. We cried together and held each other as I continued to labor.

Birthing room three was finally clean for me and I moved in. We kept it a dark, quiet birthing space so I could do the work I needed to do. I called my doula, Trish, and she came in, bringing the glorious birthing tub with her. She set it up and filled it. A dear co-worker of mine brought me contra-band (real food!) from Steak ‘N Shake. I ate my cheeseburger and was thankful for the sustenance.

My sweet nurse, Amy, who was my nurse when I delivered my first child, was working that night and I got to choose her to care for me again. She was great, always as unobtrusive as possible to the process of my more natural birth experience. She checked with Doppler the heart tones from time to time and Aurora sounded fine. It was such a blessing not to be strapped to a continuous monitor!

At some point, my doula, Carolyn, came in, too. Both these doulas are so special to me, and Carolyn was there for my first child’s birth. She had seen me labor once before, but with my husband at my side. She understood, on a different level, what was “missing” from this labor, because she had seen it first-hand.

I was in and out of the birthing tub at that point. Somewhere around 4:30am I was in the bathroom, laboring on the toilet. Just Carolyn was with me, face to face. Some gentle music was playing and it was very dark. I remember being in active labor and then just dealing with my feelings. “I need Chris.” I sobbed into Carolyn’s arms and then would stop to moan and breathe through an awful double-peak contraction. As she held me in her arms, she “held space” for me. She let me feel what I felt and validated me in that vulnerability so I could move through it.

Somewhere around 5am, she mentioned I might want to have my wonderful nurse, Amy, check my dilatation. I was hesitant to do this, only because I was fearful that I wouldn’t have made any “progress” since I had been checked before. I decided to go ahead and do it. 5 cm, -2 station, bulgy forebag, was the “word”. The 5 cm was okay, but the fact that the baby still hadn’t dropped into my pelvis concerned me. Unfortunately it’s hard to “turn off” the labor and delivery nurse part of me, even in labor! I declined having the doc come in to break the forebag.

The very next contraction after I was checked, I think I went complete. All of a sudden it just felt more intense than ever and all I knew was that I needed to get back in that birthing tub IMMEDIATELY.

Once back in the water, I kind of felt like pushing, but I kind of didn’t feel like pushing and I said this aloud. I screamed with a few contractions as the discomfort was becoming unreal, but my doulas reminded me to keep it nice and low, guttural. I got quieter and more focused. I felt my forebag break into the water of the tub.

Somewhere in this span of minutes I remember thinking how stupid I was to get pregnant again and why didn’t I get an epidural like a “normal” person and this could not be worth it! I continued to push, quietly moaning, on my knees in the tub. My doulas and my mom were very near, with Carolyn face to face with me. I think I must have said the words, “I can’t do this,” which my wise nurse, Amy, took to mean it was time to get Dr. Bishop in the room. She went to the desk to get him, and they came back in.

Moments after they entered the room, I whispered, “She’s crowning.” Then I whispered, “Her head’s out.” Then I felt the shoulders come, but the baby didn’t finish gliding out fast enough for my liking, so I reached down and I pulled her from my body. We had a “Lion King” moment as I lifted her out of the water with her cord still attached, and said, “Oh! I delivered my baby!” She was beautiful and squishy and perfect, her head free of any molding.

Someone helped us out of the tub and into the bed then and the moment was so surreal, I can’t even picture who they were. I had a lot of varicosities, and so I was still in an excruciating amount of pain immediately after her birth. Thankfully, though, there was no tearing.

At 5:35am, on November 19th, 2014, Aurora Kay Williams came earth-side. It was worth all the pain in the world to see that little face. Even the little detail of her birthdate — the 19th — is meaningful, because her daddy was born on October 19th. She was God’s fulfillment to me of His goodness — His faithfulness — the fact that rainbows follow the storms, but it takes trust and perseverance to get there. My Jesus promised me hope and He gave it to me in a 7 lb. 8.6 oz baby girl.

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My Breech Twin Vaginal Birth After Three Miscarriages

My Breech Twin Vaginal Birth After Three Miscarriages

My story starts with the journey of getting pregnant and what I endured to get these precious babies.

My husband and I got married June 2012 and had the most amazing honeymoon filled with love. We decided for me to stop taking birth control and to see what happens. I found out I was pregnant in October, 2012.

Before I could celebrate or be happy, I started bleeding. I was so confused. Was I really pregnant? I took 6 tests and all were positive. I thought I was just 2 weeks late on my period, because I was in denial that I was pregnant until I passed a small sac. I never really grieved it because I didn’t believe it was real.

A month later I had one of the most realistic and vivid dreams of my life. I saw Jesus in a white robe, holding a baby. He said, “It’s okay child, He will be okay, I will take care of him.” I woke up and cried and felt a wave of something majestic. Some days I feel guilty about not letting the miscarriage sink in, and not properly grieving it. I named this baby, Joey.

We got pregnant again in January, 2012! I was so excited! I immediately called my Mom to tell her the good news! My first week of knowing I was pregnant flew by and by week 5 I started getting tired and having pregnancy symptoms. Week 6 rolled by and my phone app said my baby had a heartbeat. I grew more in love everyday. Week 7 came and I thought wow, this is really happening, I’m going to be a mom. I secretly knew it was a girl, although that was something I kept to myself.

I was 8 weeks 1 day when everything changed… I started spotting. I went right to my doctor for an ultrasound. I was so nervous and anxious, praying everything was okay. I was laying there staring at the ultrasound screen anxiously waiting for those words, “Here is your baby, this is the heartbeat….” But instead I hear “This right here is your gestational sac and it looks like the baby didn’t develop properly.” I was numb, I didn’t even cry right away. She said that we would need to do a D&C. My doctor left the room and I took a picture of the screen. I sat there and stared at the empty sac, still in disbelief.

I got in my car and lost it. I started bawling. I could barely breathe. My Husband called hoping for good news. The words came out of my mouth for the first time, “The baby didn’t make it.” “What?”, was his reply. “Are you okay. Where are you? I’m coming.” I sat in the parking lot and my heart was literally hurting. My husband got there, got out and hugged me. I couldn’t talk. I thought to myself, did I let him down? Why me? What did I do wrong? The following weeks were some of the hardest of my life. I was very upset. I didn’t understand why I had to go through this. I dreamed about becoming pregnant for a while and imagined it to be so wonderful, but my dream just became a nightmare.

People didn’t really know what to say to me. Some people avoided it, some people said it wasn’t meant to be, some people said they were sorry and left it at that. I took a 2 weeks off of work… still awaiting my D&C. I was definitely in 7 stages of grieving and there was a clear sense of denial even after seeing 2 ultrasounds that clearly showed a non viable pregnancy. I thought maybe my tilted uterus is hiding the baby.

The morning of the D&C was emotional for me. I went through the procedure and woke up feeling empty and alone, even though I had a nurse there. I went home and slept all day. I woke up the next morning and wanted to start getting through this. I went through days of hopefulness, days of anger, bitterness and jealousy. I had a sadness that no one understood and a want for my baby that was so strong. I swear I saw a pregnant women everywhere I went- reminding me of what I wasn’t capable of. The world around me was pregnant and I was just living in it. My Mom kept reminding me that I would be a Mom someday, but there was a worry deep in the pit of my stomach that it wouldn’t happen. I didn’t want to go out because I knew that I would keep seeing things would remind me of my losses. At times I would just lay in my bed crying. My Mom and I came up with the name Stella for her. I wanted to start trying again after one cycle, and that is what we did. I didn’t think I would get pregnant again right away and to be honest I was still scared.

I woke up on a Saturday morning in May and I just felt like I was pregnant. I thought that was silly because I would have only been 3 weeks 3 days. I tested anyways. I got out a pregnancy test and nervously took it. I saw a faint but visible line! I started smiling, could it be? I got on my knees and thanked God. I felt so blessed, I felt like I was given another chance to have a sweet, beautiful baby. I rubbed my non existent belly/ baby bump and said” Thank you for picking me as your Mommy, I love you so much already”. I wanted to get creative on how to tell my husband because the first two times I just told him. I got a onesie and ironed on I love my dad in Bosnian (my husbands first language), along with the positive test. He was shocked and also informed me I spelled it wrong. I went right away for an HCG and Progesterone test. I had a good feeling, I tried to stay positive. My Dr’s nurse called me and said that the HCG was rising  now like it should and but my Progesterone was low. My heart sunk, and I asked if there was anything I could do. She said she called in Progesterone and to pick it up right away and take it. I took the rest of the day off, called my mom and rushed to the pharmacy. In my mind I thought that this couldn’t happen again. I was so scared.

I went to my Mom’s house and there was a lot of crying and hugging. I hadn’t even lost the baby yet nor did I know if I was going to lose it, but somehow I felt defeated. I even thought stupid things like well maybe I’m not meant to be a Mom. My Brother very quickly reminded me that I have so much love to give to a baby and that I was born to be a mommy to either my own biological baby or adopted baby. I had HCG tests every 2 days. The doctor was cautiously optimistic. My levels were still rising but not doubling every 2-3 days. At 6.5 weeks I got a miracle phone call. My levels doubled in 2 days. Finally the news I was desperate to hear! I cried tears of joy. We scheduled an ultrasound for the next week.

I went to my ultrasound appointment and we didn’t see anything but my doctor said it was probably too early. He saw a “hotspot” meaning that’s where the baby implanted and was growing, it was just too early to see the baby’s heartbeat. I felt calm and I knew the next ultrasound we would see the baby.

Three days later, my life changed again. I started bleeding. I stayed calm and told myself that I was okay because I wasn’t cramping. That night I passed a small clot and stayed in bed all day and the next days to come. A few days later I passed a large clot and I just knew that I would be miscarrying again. I started cramping and my world was shattered again. I went to the ER and passed a lot of blood. I had full on contractions. I tried to be at peace. I talked to my baby I named Anthony as I was miscarrying, and it helped me. I felt so broken, so useless. My body wasn’t capable of carrying a baby. I wondered how people would perceive it. Once again “why me” kept popping up in my head. I knew I had to do something to figure out why I kept losing my babies. I did a lot of research and finally went to a reproductive endocrinologist.

She was wonderful and helped us figure out the issue: low Progesterone, short luteal phase and MTHFR mutation. We started Clomid and got pregnant immediately. I was so happy but still rightfully scared. Our first ultrasound was set for 6 weeks. We waited for the tech and my heart was racing. She said how many babies do you think there are and I said I thought we were having twins. She turned the machine on and looked around and I could see it! Two sacs. Then she showed us something that would change my life. There were heartbeats! Two healthy, perfect little babies. My dreams had come true.

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I had a pretty uneventful wonderful pregnancy. I was very positive and didn’t see the aches and pains as a bad thing as I felt so blessed! We were beyond excited when we found out they were girls. We had a big gender reveal party and everyone was so happy. It seems every milestone we got to kept happening quicker and quicker. The biggest was making it to 30 weeks. That was one I was really happy about.

Maternity Shoot

At 32 weeks there was protein in my urine and I had elevated blood pressure, so my doctor wanted to monitor me twice a week. My labs and 24 hour urine test stayed pretty moderate and weren’t too concerning yet.

One morning at 34 weeks 2 days I woke up with severe upper abdominal pain that I tried to ease with a bath and laying down but I couldn’t move or breathe without it hurting. I decided to go to labor and delivery to be checked out. I arrived and my blood pressure was high. They consulted with my doctor and did labs. I was diagnosed with pre eclampsia. My doctor came to talk to me about my options because he was concerned if he sent me home I would end up back in labor and delivery that week and the few extra days of development wouldn’t really be a make or break in the health of the babies compared to the risk of the pre eclampsia. He checked my cervix and I was 2.5 cm and 50% effaced. He felt that it was in everyone’s best interest to induce me.

Gown

I called my husband and told him that I was being induced that day and he needed to go home to get some stuff and meet me at the hospital. I’m sure he was feeling a ton of emotions.  The nurse gave me an IV with fluids and gave me some apple sauce and cereal as my last meal before I was given Pitocin.

My husband arrived and it was go time! At 4:45pm the nurse gave me my first taste of Pitocin. My mom arrived and I tried to sleep but couldn’t. I didn’t really feel much pain or the contractions at that point. I was riding on adrenaline and it took a while to feel contractions. At 6:30pm my doctor came back to check me and I had progressed to 3.5 cm, but he unexpectedly broke my water. I’m actually glad I wasn’t warned of it because I probably would have tensed up in anticipation. That was when the fun started!

labor

I started getting stronger contractions. My mom and husband rotated giving me back rubs since I was having pretty bad back labor. I didn’t make much progress by 9pm. I felt discouraged as my contractions were bad enough that I though I would have progressed more. I was in pain and wanted an epidural. The anesthesiologist came in and I wasn’t sure what to expect. It didn’t hurt and I felt relaxed immediately.

I was checked at 11:30 PM and I was 4cm. We decided to change my position and use a peanut ball between my legs. I will tell anyone wanting to have a vaginal birth to use the peanut ball! Only an hour later at 12:30 AM I got uncomfortable, partly because my epidural was wearing off- I called my nurse in. I wanted to switch positions as well as tell her I had the feeling I needed to go to the bathroom. She decided to check me and I was 9.5 cm. When she said that I was completely shocked! How did I go from 4cm to 9.5cm in an hour? My husband was sleeping on the couch and I called his name to wake him up, I said 9.5! He said what? I said 9.5 centimetres. He got up quickly and didn’t know what to do.

Meanwhile the nurse wouldn’t leave since the babies head was right there.  She called my doctor. My husband had the pleasure of holding my right leg up as the nurse took my left and on my next contraction I had my first experience with pushing. My nurse was surprised at how good I was at it because after two practice pushes she said stop. If I kept going she would be delivering Arijana. My husband got scrubbed up since I was delivering in the OR. It was very interesting to have contractions and not push. I had to breath through them and focus on keeping her in.

My doctor got there and they wheeled me into the OR where they deliver twins in case of the possibility of an emergency cesarean. I lifted myself up and moved to the bed and all the nurses were wondering how I could feel my legs to do that. I told them the epidural wore off and I was completely mobile. I remember music being on and while they were setting up and I thought it was funny the song We Will Rock You was on. I guess it was a good song to give me some energy to do this.

My doctor was ready and it was go time. On my next contraction I pushed twice and Arijana was out at 1:36 am. I was teary eyed and in awe of my sweet baby I just gave birth to.

Arijana

They did a quick ultrasound to see where Isabella was positioned, and she was still breech and very high up. He said he wouldn’t be able to turn her. I thought that meant he would have to do a c-section. As I thought this, I hear him say, “So that means were gonna deliver her breech.” He broke Isabella’s water. Having a baby breech was a totally different feeling. I felt her legs were out and with 2 pushes I pushed her head out and she was here at 1:41 am. The song Yesterday by the Beatles was on when I gave birth to Isabella.

I laid there shocked. I just gave birth vaginally to two babies with pre-eclampsia and one baby was breech. I felt like a total rockstar!

Isabella

Seeing Arijana for the first time was amazing. I got to look at her and talk to her for a few minutes before I gave birth to Isabella.

Snuggle

I was able to see them a few minutes before they took them to the NICU as a precaution to monitor them to see if they needed to stay longer. I got wheeled back into the labor room where my mom was and she was shocked at how fast it happened. She was proud of me and so happy I got to have the girls the way I wanted. I told my husband to go with the babies. My Mom and I cried at the pictures my husband was sending me. I so badly wanted to be with them and that was hard.

An hour later I was finally able to go to my postpartum room and the NICU to see the girls. I immediately breastfed Isabella and she latched on amazingly! I had a picture perfect delivery with active labor only lasting 4 hours. I am so lucky and fortunate it went so well and the girls are healthy. Arijana weighed 4lbs 10oz and Isabella weighed 4lbs 3oz. They needed to stay in the NICU for 18 days and it was very hard to leave them, but they’re now home with us and although I’m barely getting any sleep, my heart is so full with these two beautiful & amazing daughters of ours. I can’t wait to watch them grow.

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Completing Our Family, Part III {A Story of Loss and Hope in Three Parts}

Completing Our Family, Part III {A Story of Loss and Hope in Three Parts}

Vanessa continues the story of her quest to complete her family. After two miscarriages, two complicated pregnancies, a traumatic and premature birth, she and her husband knew that, despite the warnings from family and friends, they were meant to have another baby. At this point in her story, she is in her third trimester, pregnant with their baby baby, who was diagnosed at 32 weeks with Intra-Uterine Growth Restriction (IUGR).

Read Part I
Read Part II

“The weekend leading up to my growth scan appointment I started to feel sick like I did with Jackson and Eva when I had preeclampsia. I spent most of the weekend in bed resting. I had headaches, elevated blood pressure and pain in my right side. On Monday at my appointment my blood pressure was elevated again and Lincoln’s growth went from the 7th percentile overall to the 3rd percentile. In the meantime I hadn’t been gaining weight and my belly wasn’t growing and my doctor decided it was time to admit me.

I was admitted to antepartum because there were no open rooms in labor and delivery. Another doctor came in about an hour after I was admitted to discuss the plan for me. We would be moved to labor and delivery as soon as a bed was open and I would be started on the mag drip to help with my preeclampsia. It’s a nasty drug and I wasn’t thrilled about it.

This doctor had done my second D&C in 2010 and is one of the other high risk doctors. I was happy to know that if my doctor couldn’t deliver me that this doctor could. They worked together the whole time on the plan for me. So on Monday I just rested and waited for a room to open up. I was checked and to my surprise was dilated one centimeter and was told I was 50% effaced also. At 1am on April 1st I was moved to L&D.

Once in L&D they did one dose of Cytotec. I had been contracting regularly the day before so they hoped that this would be all that they would need to do. They had planned to administer three doses every four hours but after the fourth, my contractions were coming too frequently to do anymore. So they tried Pitocin. I had really wanted them to just break my water since that is what put me into labor with both Jackson and Eva but Lincoln was still high and they were worried about a prolapsed cord which would cause an emergency C-section.

So we did Pitocin, and there was no change – exactly what my husband and I expected. So we decided in the afternoon to stop the Pitocin and try to get my contractions to stop so I could try Cytotec again. The doctor said we’d be having a baby one way or another the next day and I was really hoping my body would just cooperate to have him naturally just as I was able to with the other two kids. I had a massive migraine all day on Tuesday which was awful. We were finally able to get it to calm down by the night. I was hoping and praying that things would go well the next day.

Starting the evening of April 1st they once again gave me my first dose of Cytotec and I was actually able to have a second dose. But after the second dose my contractions were once again too regular for a third. So that morning we waited to see what the doctor would decide. He came in just after 11 am and checked me. I was two centimeters dilated but still pretty thick and Lincoln was still high. He said, “Well, we’re having a baby one way or another and you said breaking your water will do it so that is what we’re going to do.”

At about 11:15 he broke my water and started Pitocin again. At that time I just rested for a few hours and changed positions in the bed often. I had asked Sheryl, my nurse, if I could take a bath and she found some cordless monitors so that I could. It was awesome. I spent an hour relaxing in there. {Side note, Sheryl was an awesome nurse I met when I was in labor with Eva and we had stayed in contact over the past two-and-a-half years. She was my nurse on April 1st and came in on her day off on April 2nd to be my nurse again!}

After the bath I go out and dressed again and Sheryl said it was time to walk. Matt and I spent half an hour walking the halls until around 4:15 in the afternoon. We came back in since I felt like my contractions were changing. Sheryl checked me at 4:35. I was a three and thinned out (FINALLY) and our baby had come down a bit. She said that he was feeling the contractions because he was having decels with them.

The doctor came in and had me wear oxygen for a bit. We were not sure which way it would go since at this point I was only three centimeters dilated and could be in labor for hours longer. I still didn’t have an epidural either and really didn’t want to but I had some incredible pain and finally caved and asked for it. While we waited the contractions were beyond intense. I felt like such a baby because I kept thinking, how can I be in so much pain and only three centimeters dilated?! Little did I know, I was progressing incredibly quickly.

It took the anesthesiologist a while to get to me. I thought about asking to be checked first but it hadn’t been long since the last check so I thought again, There is no way I have progressed that much. I remember saying to Matt that I felt like I was complete already. At this point Sheryl had to leave due to a family commitment. She thought I would be at least a few hours more. Once I had my epidural and the anesthesiologist was leaving I asked the nurse to check me and so she got the doctor and – what do you know, I was complete!

I, along with everyone else, was incredibly shocked. No wonder I had been in so much pain. The epidural never took effect because it was given too late when he was too low so I was feeling it all (my epidural didn’t work with Jackson either). Once the doctor checked me he told me that if I felt pressure to get him because it would be soon. I said okay and he went to leave. He got to the door and I yelled at the nurse to get him back because I had to push.

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She got him in and phoned NICU as I was doing my best not to push. The doctor and my husband got into position for Lincoln to be born and in two pushes he was out. Matt was able to help guide him out as he did with both Jackson and Eva. They cut the cord and had to take him away right away to work on getting him to cry. He was born at 5:33 in the afternoon, when less than an hour ago I had only been dilated to a three.

Since my epidural never worked I was sitting up on the bed when they took him so I could kind of see them working on him. It took just a bit to get him to cry by rubbing his back and then he did. He looked PERFECT! We knew immediately he was smaller than Eva and when they finally weighed him he was 4 lbs even. I was beyond thrilled because on Monday they had said he was 4 lbs 1 oz on the ultrasound and I was praying it was accurate (as it was for Eva). When I found out that he was really indeed 4 lbs I cried.

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It was a crazy fast labor and I felt every pain with it and I am SO glad that I got to experience that. This was not the labor I had hoped and dreamed of but out of my three, it was the closest I got to little intervention. I did not need the internal monitors like I did my daughter. I was not incredibly sick like I was my first son. I was alert the whole time and able to experience all of it including the pain.

After they got him cleaned up a bit they brought him to me to do kangaroo care for about 15 minutes. Ahhhhhh I was so thankful that we got to do that!!! After about 15 minutes, though, they had to take him to the NICU and Matt went with him. The nurse knew how bad I wanted to get over there so less than an hour after he was born I stood up and got in the wheel chair to go and see him. He was perfect and I got to hold his hand and be there with him while our kids were on their way to meet him too.

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They came in and saw him and were in love! Especially Eva. She kept wanting to touch him and kiss him. It was adorable. They only stayed a short time and then we had them taken home. We were told in the NICU there was a chance that Lincoln would join me in my room that night. I could hardly believe It. There was no way! But I was so excited!

Lincoln was not able to join us that evening back in our room. In fact, he had several setbacks which kept him in the NICU for 17 days. He lost some weight and got down to 3 lbs 12 ounces and was not able to maintain his body temperature. He had to be in an incubator for a week. He had some issues feeding as well and was jaundiced and required a special blanket. The worst was apnea.

He had several spells where he stopped breathing and started turning grayish. It was incredibly scary. He was put on a dose of caffeine and I was told he would go home on a heart monitor. Thank God I was able to room in with my littlest man and we worked on breastfeeding. After 17 long days Lincoln came home the day before Easter. We were able to baptize our son on Mother’s Day which was incredibly special to me.

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image9 lincoln birth

He is the missing piece to our family. His birth has completed us. Pregnancy and deliveries have never been easy on me but I would do it all in a heartbeat to have my three living children here with me today. I think about my angels in heaven every day and know that someday we will meet again. I might not hold them in my arms but I always hold them in my heart.

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Like so many women, my pregnancies and deliveries were far from what I had hoped for but I made the best of my situation. I feel so grateful to have had a wonderful doctor and team around me as well as a great support system. My husband and I are thankful for these blessings and as I finish typing this and watch my littlest miracle sleep I feel humbled by what God has given me. I am truly blessed.”

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Professional photos by Tera Ward Photography, Michigan.

Completing Our Family, Part I {A Story of Loss and Hope}

Completing Our Family, Part I {A Story of Loss and Hope}

Vanessa from Michigan wrote us the incredible story of her journey to complete her family. Her story is a story of loss and grief, but also hope and persistence. It’s about illness and premature birth, but also survival – and most importantly, about the strength of a loving family.

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We will share this story in three parts – the first today and the next two in the coming days.

Read Part II
Read Part III

“Our first child, a boy we named Jackson, was born in January of 2010. The pregnancy was complicated as I began having blood pressure issues at 24 weeks. I was put on bed rest at 28 weeks and was in and out of the hospital from 35 weeks on. My pregnancy-induced hypertension turned to full blown preeclampsia and after two failed inductions our son was finally born after being induced a third time. He was born not breathing due to the cord being wrapped around his neck twice and tightly.* It had to be cut before he was even out. I was very sick and was on the mag drip to try and control my blood pressure and an infection was starting. The birth trauma caused breastfeeding issues and a longer hospital stay but he was a fighter and we made it through that. He was an amazingly sweet baby so we decided later that same year to give him a sibling. Being an only child, I knew I wanted a bigger family.

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We found out we were pregnant in September of 2010. This time I saw practitioners in maternal fetal medicine because of my pregnancy history. When they did an early ultrasound they saw that the baby was measuring three weeks behind but with a heartbeat. They assured me I must have had my dates off but I knew I didn’t. I prayed a lot and the pregnancy continued – or so it seemed. When I would have been 14 weeks we did another ultrasound because we could not find a heartbeat by doppler and we learned our sweet baby had passed away. I was crushed.

This was in December before Christmas. Since it was a missed miscarriage my doctor suggested a D&C. I had that done which was emotionally difficult and I returned home to be with my husband and son. The next day I fell sick. I went back into the doctor to find out that an infection had started because there was retained placenta. I was admitted and given drugs to help me pass the remainder. They failed so a second D&C was needed. This time it was complete and after a three-day hospital stay I was discharged. I felt defeated and like I did something wrong.

Testing was done since they were not sure if my body was to blame for the loss or not. The results showed that we had lost a baby boy with a very rare chromosomal abnormality called Triploidy. They assured us it shouldn’t happen again and advised we wait a few cycles before we tried again.

After lots of praying and feeling a strong urge to just let nature take its course we actually found out in January of 2011 on our son’s first birthday that we were expecting again. Again, I was monitored closely by maternal fetal medicine. At eight weeks along my mother and best friend was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent lifesaving surgery to remove the tumor from her lung. Thank God that the beginning of my pregnancy was uncomplicated since I was so scared for my mother. Every day I hoped and prayed that she would survive and that my unborn baby would too.”

*Click for an informative article about nuchal cords (the cord being wrapped around the baby’s neck).

Healing Home Waterbirth After Traumatic Cesarean and Miscarriage

Healing Home Waterbirth After Traumatic Cesarean and Miscarriage

“This is the story of my Home VBAC Water Birth after a traumatic cesarean birth and a miscarriage. My story really begins with the birth of my first son. It is fairly lengthy, so I didn’t want to repeat the whole thing here. Some of what I will share will make more sense if you do read it. It was written over a year after my son’s birth, and while I might not write it exactly the same today, it is very much how I felt at the time and a part of my journey. My son is now 3 1/2 and this birth was just as much for him as it was for me and our new baby!” – Melissa

I separated my cesarean birth experience from my son from the moment I met him. I knew I had to in order to be a mom to him. Those few days had torn my heart and made me question everything. I couldn’t have this beautiful new little being attached to such horrific event. He was here, he looked like my husband so he must be mine, and I was going to do everything I could to succeed at what was left for me to do – be a mom.

For months I didn’t dare think about what happened, I was holding on to my faith by a thread. When I did start to think about it I struggled with making sense of it. The only conclusions I could come to were either A – God wanted this to happen, in which case I was incredibly pissed at Him and didn’t want to talk to Him, or B – This was a test, as I had felt it had been, and I had failed in which case I was ashamed and didn’t want to talk to God. So I stopped. I wasn’t until our son was about 2 years old that I started to make any sense of the spiritual aspect of the events. I often get flack for saying this but it doesn’t change what I know. My first experience was a test, God tests His children with trials, and I failed. He asked me to trust Him and I didn’t. It’s taken a long time, but I have come to terms with that. The key is “His Children”, even though I failed, I am still His child and I have learned from my failure.

In March 2012, I found out I was pregnant again. We were both so happy! We wanted more children and hadn’t expected to take as long as it did to conceive again. I was in the middle of planning the first Bellies to Bambinos Expo. I knew I would have a lot of work to do to prepare for a VBAC but I was busy with the expo and figured I would have plenty of time after it was over. I did, however, come to the conclusion that there was a good chance that I could have another cesarean and that I needed to be at peace with that. My husband thought I was giving up on a VBAC like I had given up on my first birth. But I explained that I just needed to be able to be at peace with either outcome so that I wouldn’t be in fear the whole time. I knew that even if I had another cesarean there was no way that it would be like the first. One major reason for that is that I was educated this time and I was going to trust God. If I had another cesarean, it wouldn’t be because an inpatient OB bullied me into it, it would be because there was not other choice and it was truly needed. This was a bit of a revelation for me.

April 8, 2012 around 1am, I was up with my son, who had been woken up by our new noisy neighbours again, and I had a cramp and got dizzy. I thought it was odd and was a little worried but I as 10 weeks, I went back to bed. I woke up with bleeding. I called for Dave, in tears, and asked him to pray. Even thought it wouldn’t end up being over for 8 days, I knew in my heart that our baby was gone. I had cramping and bleeding all that Easter Sunday that peaked that night in about 6 hours of, what I can now say was transition like, labour but without the pressure. I had taken another shower as it had helped before, but it was too hot and I started to pass out. I had no intention of going to the hospital and I was fine by the time my husband was on the phone to 911, but I went anyway. They confirmed in what I knew in my heart. I was so sad, and scared, but I was trusting God. They had offered me a pill to speed things up, but even though I thought they were right, I knew they could be wrong and there was no way I could take control of this. I left it in God’s hands and our little “Sprout” came to us on April 16, just after I had attended a birth. It is still incredibly sad, but I am at peace with it. God loves me and knows best and this is what He chose.

The end of October 2012 and I was pregnant again! I was excited, but both me and my husband were a little hesitant to be too excited. He will admit that he had issues bonding with the baby even up to the birth. He had been hurt by the miscarriage and was afraid to get attached and lose another child. I knew either way, this was going to be hard. I was either going to face another miscarriage or have to fight for the VBAC I knew I wanted. With the planning of another Expo in the works, I went to some counseling with a doula friend of mine who is also a Christian. She asked some hard questions about my faith, as I had come to terms with my failure at my first birth but hadn’t really known how to move forward from there. How do I see myself? How does God see me? Who did He make me to be? In light of this, how should I live? Questions we should all ask. I didn’t get time to finish all the sessions before the birth, but even just having someone listen to me and not throw out the standard “Thank goodness for Drs, God made them too and they obviously saved you from yourself” and “you should be happy you have a healthy baby” was a load off of my shoulders.

I remained cautiously excited and did what I could to stay healthy and give myself the best shot I could at a successful VBAC. This included having midwives and choosing a home birth. I also wanted as close to an unassisted birth as I could get and still have the midwives there. I wanted to know that this was happening on my turf and I was calling the shots. My midwives were so supportive and respectful of my decisions all the way through pregnancy and the labour.

I had gained about 70lbs with my son, I believe mostly because I was allergic to wheat, diary and corn and didn’t know. This time I gained about 25lbs and attended belly dancing classes, to which I attribute the amazing core strength I had through out my pregnancy. I also took a few different vitamins and supplements, saw a naturopath and had a few acupuncture treatments. While for months I would jump at any little twinge or gush, in fear of another miscarriage, but the pregnancy was without any major complications. I was, and remained a good candidate for Home Birth and a VBAC.

I didn’t know it was possible, but I started having Braxton Hicks contractions from about 6 weeks pregnant, I had never had any the first time. The baby also dropped in to my pelvis and was quite low very early on. Everyone, even the midwives, speculated that I might go early! Since being post dates was the major instigator of everything that happened the first time, I really hoped they were right!

Week 40 came and went, I was now 40+5 and creeping closer and closer to the 41+4 that my son was taken from me at. I was still in good spirits but the worry was always there, quietly in the background and saying that the clock was ticking and I would have to fight. I had a plan, I would be 41+1 on Canada day and I have a fairly severe allergy to milk. My plan was to go to Dairy Queen and get a Blizzard if labour was no where in site! A BIG one! I knew that it would have about the same effects as castor oil on me and would taste far better. The midwives thought the plan was hilarious and even said they hoped it would work so they could write “induction via Blizzard”. My husband didn’t mind the idea either as he hadn’t had a Bilzzard in as many years as I had.

My midwives appointments were every Friday now. Thursday afternoon I lost my mucus plug! I was excited as I knew that meant change, but cautious as it was no guarantee anything was going to happen soon. My Braxton Hicks came back again, as they had stopped for a couple of weeks, but were different. I didn’t know for sure what it meant – early labour? Nothing? I was excited about both at my appointment and really didn’t have any desire to discuss induction at our Friday meeting. I really thought the baby might be here by Canada Day. My Midwife was optimistic, but was talking about what day the hospital did inductions. I think I started to tune out at this point. I am sure she knew I wasn’t going to agree to one, even if it meant being 42 weeks and having to deliver in the hospital, but it was on the check list for the appointment. I left still in good spirits but anxious to move things along.

I had been doing and taking everything I could over the last couple of days to get labour going, homeopathics, essential oils, sex, evening primrose oil, acupressure and letting my son nurse as much as he wanted (which was the only thing that seemed to do anything). Each evening feeling hopeful I would wake up to labour. When my husband got home that evening, we went out and got some groceries and went to the bank. At the bank I saw my naturopath and asked if she would be able to do a treatment on me, she said “Yes!” and came to our house later that evening. She put in about 25 needles, ALL the way. I think that was about my third or fourth treatment ever and I really wasn’t expecting the needles to disappear into me! My husband thought it was hilarious and just had to take a picture to commemorate the moment. I thought for sure I would wake up in labour this time!

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Saturday morning came, and I had slept the whole night. No only that, but I wasn’t even getting the mild contractions anymore that I had been. Letting my son nurse wasn’t working either. Everything had stopped. I was started to panic, to doubt, to play worst case scenarios over and over in my head and to think that I was NEVER going to go into labour on my own. At more that one appointment I had told my midwife that I was hoping and preparing for a pain free orgasmic birth, but really all I was worried about was actually getting into labour and whatever happened after that I could deal with as it came up. She thought this was a good plan, but so far it seemed like it wasn’t going to happen. Saturday came and went, my husband arranged for someone else to cover the sound board at church as he didn’t know if he would be there, but I was starting to get a pessimistic and wanted to just make plans for the rest of the week and forget everything that was going on.

Sunday morning came, and once again I had slept the whole night. My husband went and did the setup and sound and took our son with him as he usually did. I slept in and made sure I went into church late. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, especially when most knew that I was due or post dates. I didn’t want the questions, the looks, the “You’re still here??” stare. I came in and sat at the back, with my husband at the sound table and avoided eye contact with everyone. Much to my pleasant surprise, one of the other moms came in a bit after me and walked right over and said “You look like you are going to have that baby any day!” It almost brought me to tears. I had carried very high and trim the whole pregnancy and most couldn’t believe I was full term because I looked to small this time. This instigated a lot of “You don’t look like you are having a baby any time soon” type comments, even when I was 40+ weeks. This was the first time anyone had said I looked ready. I needed that. One concerned friend came over with an almost frantic look on his face after church and said “Where is your baby??” His wife had been a part of the Blessing Way group and my Mom had told them on Friday that I was in early labour, I guess some had assumed that I would have had the baby by now. I relied pointing at my belly “In urtero.”

I came home from church tired and exhausted. I was getting scared, worried, frustrated and just plain fed up. I felt like I had done everything I could and my body was just saying “NO.” I didn’t feel like it would ever say “Yes.” My husband went took our boy outside with him and worked on the shed that we had been building, he had hoped to finish it before the baby got here so he was taking the opportunity while he had it. This left me some time to think. I often do my best thinking when I am journaling, something I haven’t done a whole lot of lately but I felt I needed to get it out. I wrote/prayed to God and wrote to my baby. I begged God, pleaded with Him to make me go into labour NOW! As I thought this I realized that this wasn’t His way. While I am all for doing things to prepare your body as best you can for labour, I had been attempting to take things from His hands, once again I wasn’t listening to Him or asking Him or trusting Him. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. If I “made” myself go into labour, who would be glorified? God doesn’t like to share His glory, and He clearly told me He wasn’t going to. I could either trust Him, or fend for myself. Well, I know how well that worked out for me last time. I chose to trust Him. I also wrote to my baby, I told it that I was sorry I was so sad and that it was safe to come out now, but if it waited to much longer, it might not be. Mostly I was scared to fail, scared to fail by baby and my son, who wanted to be at the birth so much. After my praying and journaling I felt more at peace, I had let go.

Once I had let go, I decided I needed to do something to keep busy and keep my mind off of things. Cleaning the bathroom has been my husband’s job for a long time. It started with the toilet when we got married. I said the two things I do not do are garbage and the toilet – that is a boy’s job. Since he was already there he kind of just took over the rest of the bathroom and it’s been that way for years. However, every woman knows that most men’s version of clean isn’t quite the same as ours and I would need to do a really through clean every once in a while to satisfy myself that it really was clean. I had found out I was pregnant right after moving into our house and had never had the energy to bother with a good scrubbing the whole time we had lived here. In the back of my mind I had known for weeks that the bathroom was going to get cleaned by me before the baby would come. Now was the time! I scrubbed my heart out and cleaned every inch. My husband came in at one point and tried to take over, being sweet and not wanting me to have to do it. I quickly bit his head off, tired of waiting for labour, and said “Just leave me alone! I have to do SOMETHING!” I just as quickly apologized and he left me to clean.

About 8pm Sunday I started to feel the surges again, but stronger. My heart was elated, I knew this was it! I kept it a secret as I wasn’t having to breath through them yet and didn’t want my husband to be too excited to sleep. I had a bath in our soaker tub with a small glass of wine and some cheese. I floated and swayed in the water, reveling in every surge and delighting in secret that only myself and my baby knew – we would soon meet. I went to bed but I didn’t feel I would wake in the morning.

About 4am Monday I had been awake for a bit off and on, the contractions were becoming stronger and I couldn’t sleep through them any longer. The birds were singing outside our window as they always were at this time. The sun was just beginning to make it assent into the sky. I had to get up and move. I put on my robe and paced and swayed. They were strong enough that I couldn’t ignore them but I didn’t have to breath through them yet. I hummed and sang to my baby, standing and swaying in the front door watching the sun rise. I sang the song from church the day before that’s lyrics were “Grace to you and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” It was new but words and the melody had been playing in my head since I had heard it. I enjoyed our time together, some of our last hours so close. I am in tears remembering the beauty of it as I write.

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About 6am my husband and son woke up. He had known that things were happening but had tried to get some more sleep. He got us breakfast then proceeded into a flurry of action that lasted the rest of the day. He was excited and nervous and I think he felt like completing tasks was the best way to “fix” the situation. Some of the things needed to be done, he went to the grocery store and got some food for everyone and kept our son busy and fed. But all I really wanted was for him to hold me, sit with me and for us to spend some time together as a family. The contractions had gotten stronger and I was having to breath through them by mid morning, but they were still irregular and anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes apart. I waiting until I thought everyone would be up on a holiday Monday and let them know what was happening. I called my doula, my midwife, my photographer and my Mom. I had at least 2 or 3 contractions when I was on the phone with each of them and always felt like a creep doing all that heaving breathing on the phone. I had a good laugh with each of them about it too. They all appreciated that I had waited until morning to call and were on standby if anything changed. Nothing really changed.

Canada Day continued that way all day. The contractions would get stronger and closer together and then they would space out, they didn’t get any weaker but every time they got stronger they got further apart again. Then they got closer and stronger then spaced out again. I walked, bathed, ate, drank and continued the day like that. Evening came and I paged my midwife about 8pm. I wanted to check in with her before bed time as I knew I wouldn’t be getting much sleep. She asked if I wanted her to come and assess me, I said my biggest fear was that I had laboured all day and she would check and I would be 2 cm. We decided that she would come and see where I was. When she got there I was on my knees and draped over the birth ball. I looked at her and said “It just occurred to me what actually molds the baby’s head – that’s not nice!” She checked me and sure enough, I was 2cm… She suggested that I try a Gravol shot and Tylenol. I have issues with Tylenol so she was going to just do the Gravol but discovered she was out. While she went to get some more, I heard the Canada Day fireworks and laid down in bed and slept! I had maybe 2 contractions in the time she was gone, which was about 2 hours. My body knew I needed a rest and it gave me one. I probably could have slept longer but when she came back I woke up, the contractions started again and she gave me the shot. It didn’t do a thing, and the silly part was that the injection site was hurting like crazy, was red, hot and swollen! It almost hurt more then the contractions at that point. She left us to go to a hotel and get some sleep. I, unfortunately, didn’t and the contractions picked up where they left off. By 2am Tuesday, I knew I needed some support and called in my Doula and paged the midwife to come back.

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When my doula and midwife arrived to stay, I felt like things were finally really happening! I was vocalizing through contractions and coping well. Up to this point I had been labouring on my own. My husband had been home for the most part, as well as our son, but mostly I was going doing my own thing without any support through the contractions. It was good to know I wasn’t alone and I didn’t have to troubleshoot things myself anymore. I could just let my mind go and let things happen.

My husband filled the birth tub in our living room while our son was still sleeping. I was in different positions and tried the tub. I was still eating, drinking, peeing and pooping – oh the pooping! I don’t think I have ever pooped so much in my life! The student midwife arrived and at 6am I was 3cm and 90% effaced. I didn’t want to hear that, I was tired and already felt like I had been in labour forever. It was progress, but it wasn’t as much as I had hoped. The midwife called this the start of active labour. I knew I wasn’t going to give up but I was discouraged that I had made what seemed like so little progress. I also knew that things could change quickly as my cervix had almost completely thinned. We called my friend, fellow doula and volunteer birth photographer to come when she was ready. I continued in and out of the tub and different positions, vocalizing eating, drinking – pooping! Around 10am they checked me again.

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I was 6cm, once again it was progress but labour was getting really hard and it seemed like it should be happening faster. I was in the thick of active labour and it hurt like hell. Nothing seemed to help. I was getting frustrated that nothing seemed to even be taking the edge off. At every birth I had attended there was always something that helped. I couldn’t understand it and I was starting to feel like no one was helping me. They were all there and supporting me but I didn’t feel like they were. I think everyone could tell I was hitting a wall and suggested I go out side for awhile, it was humid but a nice day. I really didn’t want to, but did it anyway.

As soon as I stepped out the door I had to drop to my preferred hands and knees position as this was how I had been labouring, that, and howling like a banshee! When it was over I made it about another 20 feet and was down again. I stayed down when it was over. My husband was with me and I could tell he was worried. I really wanted to say “I can’t do this” but I knew I couldn’t, I wouldn’t. I did say “I don’t know if I can do this” but that is because I didn’t know. It was so hard, nothing had prepared me for that. Not the books I had read or even the births I had attended. My husband was strong for me when I couldn’t be, he told me I could do it and that I there was no way I was going to give up.

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I made it back in side and sat on the birth ball. My midwife could see that I was still having a hard time, she talked to me about my head space. She suggested that maybe I was trying to have three labours at once – my first son’s, my miscarriage and this one. She later said I gave her a look of death and that is why she had backed off after, but it was just that I hadn’t had a conversation with anyone in a while and just wasn’t in the head space to think quickly. I took a few minutes and really thought about what she said. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t think that was the issue, or at least the biggest one, but I did realize that I was thinking too much about the future. I needed to deal with what was happening right then and there. I needed to take it one contraction at a time and the truth of the matter was that I WAS doing it and had been doing it already much longer then I ever thought I could have! That was the moment I dug deep and fully committed. This was happening, it was what I had wanted so desperately and I was going to see it through. I wasn’t alone, God was with me, friends and family where praying for me and I was joining every other woman throughout history that had every given birth.

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Less then an hour later I was on the toilet, again, and started feeling a little “pushy.” My contractions actually stopped for a little while too, and my whole demeanor changed. I “woke up” and looked around, I was smiling at people and greeting them, as I didn’t remember doing it when they came in. It crossed the back of my mind that this could be my “rest and be thankful” stage before pushing! I asked to be checked. About 1:30pm I was 8cm with a thick lip at the front, they told me not to push. Once again I was feeling somewhat defeated, happy that I had made progress but really expecting to be closer to fully dilated. Now I was in transition, wanting to push, feeling like my pelvis was going to break into a million pieces and I couldn’t do the one thing that had brought me any relief – push. I got into some forward leaning positions to try and put pressure on the the front of my cervix, it was so hard, but there was only one way out – quite literally! And that was for things to progress. At some point my husband had started breathing with me as I had totally lost control of my breath at the peak of the contractions, he said “Breathe innnn and ouuuut.” This became my ritual, my breaths were me saying/yelling “IIINNNNN – OOOOWWWWTTTT!” And, yes, “Out” just so happens to start with “Ow!”

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Just after 2pm I was into the tub again and that is where I stayed! I was actually sleeping in between contractions and my body was starting to push all on it’s own! About an hour later they checked me again and I still had a cervical lip at the front, so they said not to add anything to the pushing my body was doing. My body might push through the lip but they didn’t want me to cause anything to swell. The student had checked me and she also said that I could likely reach the head if I wanted to feel – did I ever! It was the most amazing thing to feel my baby’s head while it was still inside me. I could also feel what my body was doing and boy was it doing something! I had moved into a squatting position in the tub and thought I might as well try and do a bit of pushing with a contraction to try and get the feel for it.


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I had my finger on my baby’s head and it moved a little when I pushed, but right after I stopped, my contraction peaked and my body pushed – it moved about a 1/4″! WAY more effective than anything I was doing. My contractions spaced out a bit at this point, likely to catch up to the movement of my baby down the birth canal, and I slept in between them. I felt my baby through every one, I even let my husband feel too.

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The second midwife was there and keeping our son occupied as official “Pooper Scooper” and got him involved in checking the tub temperature too. It wasn’t too many contractions before I started to feel a bit of the “ring of fire” and everyone said they were starting in be able to see hair! I hadn’t been freaked out or worried up until then. This was the part that I had been a little worried about – crowning – I didn’t want to tear and I heard it burned like hell. I had to take my hand away for a bit so I could gather myself. I put my hand back and my baby’s head was right there! It was slipping back a bit in between contractions so I did a little bearing down in between so that I wouldn’t loose any progress. A couple more contractions and it’s head was out! They knew I wanted to be the one to pick the baby up so all they did was check for a cord around it’s neck. It had a tight one they couldn’t get off, so I pushed out the shoulders. My baby was born! I picked it up and brought it into my arms. As a family, my husband, my son and myself – we welcomed our new son!

At 5:49pm on July 2, 2013. Our family was reborn. As a family we welcomed our new son and brother, Levi, into this world, into our home, without drugs, without interventions, without fear and in God’s own timing. Levi means “joined together” or “joined with him”. That day our family was joined together and so was my heart, it was healed.

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Photos © 2013 Nicole Marozzo & Melissa Van Dam
I Am Strong by Ariana {Birth Without Fear}

I Am Strong by Ariana {Birth Without Fear}

I am strong because I lost my first baby in April 2011 when I had a miscarriage at the age of 18.

I am strong because when I lost my baby I was living in Belgium with only my boyfriend to support me.

I am strong because 2 months after losing my baby I was back in the U.S. to attend the birth of my first nephew.

I am strong because at 19 I moved back to Belgium to marry my boyfriend of 4 years.

I am strong because 1 week after I got married I found out I was pregnant again, I was terrified and overjoyed.

I am strong because I battled terrible morning sickness and lost 20 pounds in 2 months.

I am strong because half way through my pregnancy I ended up in the hospital with horrible pain and the doctor didn’t know what was wrong.

I am strong because 2 months after I left the hospital I was admitted again for the same pain. After 4 days they finally found out that I had Cholecystitis (gallstone with an infection). I spent another 5 days alone in the hospital on antibiotics.

I am strong because at 38 weeks I developed PUPPS. I was covered in scabs because it itched so bad and none of the creams helped.

I am strong because at 41 weeks I was back in the hospital due to contractions and pain from the Cholecystitis.

I am strong because after 26 hours of labor I delivered my 9 pound son on August 3, 2013 via c-section at the age of 20.

I am strong because after my c-section I developed another rash, swelling in my hands and feet, low enzymes in my liver, and anemia.

I am strong because I was too weak to hold my son or walk on my own so I was given 4 blood transfusions.

I am strong because after a week in the hospital I could finally go home with my little boy.

I am strong because only 2 weeks after my c-section I was back in the hospital for my gallbladder surgery.

I am strong because I am still living in Belgium taking care of my little family and fighting to move back to the U.S. to be with the rest of my loved ones.

ariana

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Unwatermarked photography by Isamofoto

Hospital Trauma and Healing at Home: A Story of Two Births (Part I)

Hospital Trauma and Healing at Home: A Story of Two Births (Part I)

**Trigger Warning: This post narrates a traumatic birth.**

Sarah Robertson-Barnes, former contributor to the Pregnant and/or Parenting Through Adoption/Infertility/Loss (PAIL) blog collective and writer of Little Chicken Nuggets, shares two birth stories with us. With grace and humor she here describes the challenges of being pregnant after infertility and loss, and the traumatic hospital birth of her son, HGB. Tomorrow, Sarah will share the triumphant and healing home birth of her second son (a surprise pregnancy!), whom she calls MJB.

“After two miscarriages and a bunch of fertility treatments, I am pregnant with HGB. Being convinced that I will complete the miscarriage trifecta within the year, I am too terrified to even consider seeking the care of a midwife which is what I want deep down in my heart. Instead, I stick with the OB sub-practice within my family health team. Because, you know, they can totally prevent random early miscarriage.

The crippling anxiety and depression, coupled with an unbearable interpersonal situation, make my experience of pregnancy almost intolerable.  And I have an easy, textbook pregnancy, so what is my problem? I can hardly admit it out loud, even to my husband, BJB. Being told that I should just get over it because “(I) am getting what (I) want” is dismissive, devastating, and mean. I don’t really believe that I will have a real, live baby until about 35 weeks. At that point, it is too late to transfer under the care of a midwife though I deeply desire a natural, unmedicated birth. In the hospital. In case of everything that could possibly go wrong. The things you cannot un-know.

We prepare for our delivery by going to the pre-natal classes at the hospital. They are… the worst. Honestly, they should just call them “Fear Mongering 101” at that place and be done with it. So, no beuno. I am reading all the Ina May I can find and even go to see her speak when I am about 37 weeks. I come out of that talk totally zen, all Earth Mother, confident, and full of crunch.

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My friend Carla (a doula!) is incredibly supportive and talks me down frequently. I will show the hospital what’s what! I write a birth preferences document of which, I will soon discover, NOBODY reads a word. I prepare for my birthing time privately with my yoga teacher. I decline the membrane sweep. I am going to have a natural birth and that will reclaim all that infertility and pregnancy loss have stolen from me, dammit. NO PRESSURE.

I am “due” on May 27. On May 28 I lie down after lunch to have a nap. I wake up at about 4:00pm feeling like I am getting the worst period ever. The sensation doesn’t stop, but holds steady for about two hours. I am pacing the apartment like a wild animal in complete and total denial that this is IT. I was told there would be WAVES. That there would be REST in between. That early labour could last for DAYS. Instead, I have a contraction for three straight hours with no respite. I can’t stand up, or sit down, or lie down. I can only sit in the bathtub until I FREAK OUT and start pacing again. My husband, BJB, says, “Um… I’m just going to call triage for a second.” He comes back and says, “Yeah. You are in active labour. Time to go!” AWESOME! So we pack the hospital bag (I KNOW! But everything was out on the kitchen table, just not physically in the bag. I do NOT recommend this!) and get in the car. To the hospital!

7:45 pm: Longest. Car ride. Ever. (Actual duration = 8 – 10 minutes).

8:00 pm – At the hospital, we go to the Preggo Intake Holding Room where they hook me up to the monitor and check me. 6cm! WOOT! Other than the fact that I am still having this LONG ASS CONTRACTION, I am killing this! A doctor shows up, and despite “meeting all the doctors” in our group practice, I have never seen her before in my life. She turns out to be lovely, but I am unimpressed/horrified/UPSET in the moment.

9:00 pm – Runaway Freight Train Contraction stops and I have this weird 15 minutes of lucidity where I feel awesome and totally normal. And then WHAM! Right back on the train for another three hours. But, 8 cm! Nurse assures me I’ll be “done” by midnight. I don’t know which nurse, because despite being told you are assigned one nurse for a whole shift, this is the fourth one I have seen in two hours.

12:00 am – 9.5 cm. FREAKING OUT. I am panicking. There are NO breaks in between my pressure waves. Because there are no waves. It is one giant wave – a tsunami. I suddenly decide I need an epidural NOW. RIGHT NOW. I am no longer able to mentally cope with the amount of pain I am in with nary a 30 second break. The devastation I feel over “giving up” makes it so much better! Blerg.

2:00 am – First stab (literally) at epidural fails. Second one takes. Anesthesiologist  is a total bitch. Oh, you are “very busy” and I am “not cooperating”? Cool. You should try being meaner, that might help. I have a human being trying to get out of my body while I’m trying to sit still.

4:00 am – I am now being told that I am “failing to progress” as I am still at 9.5cm. They start talking Pitocin. I start crying. Nay, SOBBING. Because everyone is looking at the monitor and nobody is looking at the human woman in the bed. BJB talks to the doctor in the hallway and declines. They bring it up a few more times. Finally, at 6:00 am I say for the first of many times, through sobs, “Fine. Just do it.” so that everyone can stop talking about me like I am not there and I can have a moment’s peace.

7:00 am – Shift change. Dr. Asshole is now on duty and takes over. And by that, I mean he flicks the light on and barges in in the middle of a check. Hey guy! I know you’ve seen 2987329873 vaginas, but we just met. You could fucking knock.

11:00 am – I am told it is time to start pushing or I am looking at a C-section. Dr. Asshole says I am “on the clock” and I have two hours. NO PRESSURE. Cue a lot of people yelling “Push! Push! Push! Push!” while pushing my legs up to my ears and looking at the goddamn monitor. I don’t even know where BJB is anymore. Lights are on full blast. There must be 10 people in here. At least.

1:00 pm – Still pushing! Still being screamed at. Dr. Asshole now tells me that he wants to put in the fetal scalp monitor for a “clearer picture”. I am looking at BJB sobbing, “No no no no no” and Dr. says “Fine. It’s your life, do whatever you want. But you’ve got 10 minutes to push this baby out or we’re heading to the OR.” Sounds like a valid reason to me. And so I lie back, defeated, and sob, “Fine. Just do it.”

1:10 pm – No baby, but he’s literally right there. Dr. Asshole is telling me, “Time’s up!” when some resident suggests a vacuum extraction. Dr. Asshole says they have one shot. Feet in stirrups! More yelling! Can we get more people in the room please? Make it a little brighter? MORE YELLING!

1:13 pm – HGB is born! I assume. I didn’t see it. I couldn’t see him. BJB says they cut his cord and took him right to the warming table, where he was FINE. They rubbed and wrapped him up – no skin-to-skin for you! At least BJB brought him over to me. I did the placenta thing and got stitched up, still in the stirrups. Suddenly, everyone was gone and I had a cheese sandwich and ginger ale. And a BABY! Huzzah!

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Which means it is now time to get in the elevator with people off the street and go up to the maternity ward, where everyone will just waltz into your room and squeeze your nipples.

And now, the EMOTIONS…

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All in all, I realize that this birth experience is not “that bad”, at least in physical terms. Believe me, I am fully aware that it “could have been much worse.” What I struggle with, still, is how I was treated during my birthing time. I felt like a patient, not a person (on kind of the most important day of her life). I did not feel supported, comfortable, or safe in the hospital. At times, I felt abandoned, bullied, and threatened. I felt helpless. I was told I was failing. I do not feel that I was afforded  any dignity.

None of these conditions make for an ideal birthing environment. I wonder how different the same circumstances would have been with adequate compassion and support from the birth team. For months afterward, I felt so guilty and ashamed that I was feeling this way when “at least” I had a baby. Every so often, I would have a breakdown to BJB about what a total failure I was as a wife, mother, and woman. He would assure me that I was NOT, but really, I was. That is how it felt. After all the failures in trying to even conceive this baby, I couldn’t even birth him properly. I had failed again.

That feeling of failure was REAL and pervasive. Another in a long list of failures in my journey through infertility and loss. I believe that it influenced my early bonding with HGB and contributed greatly to my very serious PPD episode. Trying to talk about a negative birth experience is very difficult, particularly when it is a non-emergency situation. While folks are trying to be helpful, platitudes like “Just be happy/grateful that at least you have a beautiful baby!” are not helpful. It made me feel even more guilty and ashamed that I couldn’t “just” be happy. And so, for the most part, I have stayed silent for the better part of two years.

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To be clear, I feel much better about this now. I have forgiven myself for things that were beyond my control. I have found a few women my age (with similarly aged children) to discuss it with who are loving and understanding. And I’ve been to a LOT of therapy. Writing this out, finally, is part of that. I hope that if even one woman reads this and sees herself that it brings her some peace, lets her know she is not alone. That her feelings are legitimate and I wish I could hug her.

My previous birthing experience led me down a very different path in terms of prenatal care and choice of birthing place for my next baby. I am going with my gut this time, and I think it is going to make a world of difference.”

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