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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. 

A Positive Emergency Induction Story

A Positive Emergency Induction Story

Natalie shares the story of her son’s induced birth.

I’d been researching about babies and birth for as long as I can remember; so when my husband, Greg, and I found out we were pregnant, I was so excited to put what I had learned into practice. I hated reading stories about all the awful things that went along with pregnancy and I was determined to love carrying this baby. I had only mild morning sickness, and I never had any swelling, heartburn or cravings. I credit this to eating a really healthy diet with lots of whole foods.

Our due date was Leap Day 2016, and in October we found out we were having a little boy.

Through all my research I had outlined a very specific birth plan: I’d labor at home with my husband for as long as possible, then we’d go to the birth center where my midwives would help me deliver our baby in a very calm, peaceful environment with few interventions. But we all know what they say about best-laid plans…

At 35 weeks, I started having itchy feet. It was odd enough for me to Google it and I read about Cholestasis—a potentially very serious complication with the liver/gallbladder in pregnancy. The risk of stillbirth is much higher than normal pregnancy, and induction before 37 weeks is strongly recommended. The labs came back at my 36-week appointment on February 1 and were very high—borderline severe—so I was referred to an OB practice.

After wrapping up things at work in the morning, we went in the next day and had a biophysical ultrasound. Our little man looked great; he had perfect fluid levels, and they estimated his weight to be about 6.5lbs. We met with the OB and he recommended we induce ASAP as there were no guarantees how long he would be okay in there. The problem with Cholestasis is that things can go from fine to terrible without much warning. We were to go in the following morning at 7 a.m., but the Maternity Unit was full; so we ended up going in Wednesday evening, February 3.

My cervix was high and unfavorable; not great conditions for inducing – but we needed my baby out. On Wednesday night they gave me Cervadil to try and soften my cervix. On Thursday morning, February 4, they administered Cytotec to try and get things moving. All day I had mild irregular contractions, and we kept moving around in between long stints of monitoring. At 6 p.m. they started a low dose of Pitocin to try to get things started; but I was still barely dilated.

Later that night they gave me a Foley Bulb, which was the most uncomfortable thing ever. The constant ache from the Foley bulb, mixed with the artificial Pitocin contractions, was way too much to handle. We decided to turn the Pitocin off, and I was able to get a half decent night of sleep.

On Friday morning, the OB removed the Foley bulb and I was dilated to about 3 cm and was not having regular contractions. At 10 a.m. our dog escaped from the sitter. She was loose on the town for two hours, and my labor stalled until she was found. Once my husband came back from canvassing our neighborhood, they started Pitocin again and I labored all afternoon as they turned the Pitocin up and up. At the peak I was on 15ml/hour. I had to be on the monitors constantly, which I thought I’d hate, but it was reassuring to hear his heart beating steadily. The OB checked me at 6 p.m. and I was back down to 2 cm but 70% effaced. It was really disheartening, but I was determined to get him out.

At 10 p.m. the OB checked and I was dilated to a 5 and 80% effaced. This was awesome news as I was doing loads of work. I labored in the shower because I was having a hard time relaxing during contractions, and I was definitely questioning my decision to go pain-med-free. It wasn’t that the contractions were unbearable; I just didn’t think I could handle another eight hours like that.

Greg was able to give me the “Tyler Durden” pep talk and got my head back in a better spot. While in the shower my body temp rose, which caused baby’s heart rate to stay too high. Greg was really concerned so I got out and lay on the bed and tried to rest between contractions, but I was having both back and front labor. The contractions focused in my lower abdomen, but I was having really painful back spasms, and the only way to help was to have Greg massage my lower back and push on my tailbone. The nurse said that when I was ready, they would move us into the delivery suite and break my water. I knew this meant the end was near, but I spent a while on the bed, scared to take the leap and move forward because I knew it was about to get harder.

I walked to the delivery room sometime around 2:30 a.m., where the OB broke my water. I was 7 cm and 100% dilated. Breaking my water definitely started transition. It was a lot of intense contractions with no break. Transition was difficult; Greg was working so hard to help me, but nothing could make the pain go away. At this point they turned off the Pitocin and let my body take over. I needed to pee but there was no way in hell I was going to get up and go to the bathroom so I asked the nurse if I could pee there. It apparently I didn’t get my point across because she and Greg were surprised when I just started going on the bed. Not a single f*** was given at that point; plus, the bed was already covered in pads and towels from my water breaking. We all had a good laugh about this afterward.

Transition was over quickly and soon I started to feel my son moving down. The pressure was immense and my body started to push involuntarily, so I went along. The OB came back in, checked me quickly, and said “His head is moving down and you’re fully dilated.” I thought I was going to want to push on my hands and knees, but my legs were too unsteady. Greg held one leg and also held the Doppler in the right spot so we could hear his heart beat, and held my hand while I pushed. Pushing was really uncomfortable; the pressure was insane and felt like I couldn’t breathe very well. But besides the discomfort, pushing was actually the most romantic experience I’ve ever had with my husband.

Between contractions I looked into Greg’s eyes, and he encouraged me while I held his hand. The feeling in the room at that moment was something I’ll never forget, and is difficult to put into words. I breathed our baby down slowly and I held my hand on his head as he crowned then popped out. The OB assisted in getting his shoulders out and I got to pull my wiggly little babe to my chest. James Gregory was born at 3:20 a.m. on February 6, 2016.


He had tons of hair, a thick cord and was covered in vernix. I held him skin-to-skin as I delivered the placenta, which looked amazing (the concern with Cholestasis is that it breaks down the placenta rapidly). James started crying right away and pinked up quickly. He received an APGAR score of 9, and the nurses couldn’t find anything to take off.

The OB checked me, and I hadn’t torn at all! After I got to hold James for awhile, I passed him off to Greg and he got to hold him skin-to-skin before they weighed him. He weighed 6lbs 8oz at birth, and was 20″ long – both great measurements for being technically premature. They brought him back to me and we tried breastfeeding. He latched right away and all the nurses were amazed. Preemies of his age usually have a hard time with breastfeeding.


Labor was hard; it was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done – but I am so in awe of what my body was able to do. This birth wasn’t the one we planned for, but it ended up being perfect. I got to have the best of both worlds: the one-on-one personalized care from a midwife, and the specialized yet compassionate care from an OB and medical team.

For more information on Cholestasis, or ICP, visit Awareness saves little lives!

The Birth Story of Pippa Saoirse

The Birth Story of Pippa Saoirse

It was a Friday and I was 41 weeks pregnant with my second child. I had an appointment with the PPC (Prolonged Pregnancy Clinic) to monitor the baby and myself and discuss options. I had been feeling pains on and off at this point for nearly two weeks and was very much ready for my baby to arrive.

When we arrived and after I had eaten, I was hooked up for 20 minutes to see how bub was doing. She was moving fine and everything was going well. I was asked how I was feeling, had I lost my mucus plug, had my waters broken, was I feeling baby move, and did I have any concerns, but to me everything felt fine. After I was taken off the monitor I was then taken in to see the doctor and have an ultrasound.

As they were setting everything up, I was asked the same questions as when I first arrived. Then the doctor started looking at the baby and the room was quiet, too quiet. She eventually asked when my last ultrasound was and I told her it was when I was 19 or 20 weeks and I was told everything was fine, so I did not need another ultrasound. I was then told that my baby had little to no fluid left and that my placenta looked like it was deteriorating.

I knew before the doctor spoke that I would end up being induced. I felt sick, like I had failed my baby and myself. I was induced with my son because of high blood pressure and I had really hoped that the second time I would get to experience labour naturally. After the doctor spoke to me and we decided to induce as soon as possible, instead of waiting the following week, I had an internal examine to see if I was dilated; I wasn’t. The doctor explained to me that since I wasn’t dilated that I wasn’t going to be induced until the following day, but I was going to get a balloon catheter to help bring on labour. I was offered to stay the night, but after everything they said I just wanted to go home and sleep in my own bed and be with my husband and son.

That night I could barely sleep, every pain I got I was hoping it was the start of labour. I had my heart set on a natural labour, but as each hour passed, I knew it was not going to happen. I barely slept, worrying about different things that could happen, but also excited because I knew the next day I would finally get to meet my baby. I arrived at the hospital around 7am to book in; I was led to my room, got changed and waited for the midwives. Just before 8am they tried to break my waters, but were having trouble since there was barely any fluid. At 8:15am I had the drip put in and by 8:30am, I was having my first contractions.

Since I was being induced I wasn’t allowed to have the water birth I had hoped for, but unlike my first induction, I was allowed to get up off the bed and move around more freely.

By 10:30 or 11am, I was too tired to stand anymore and just wanted to lie down and rest. I tried to sleep in between contractions, but that’s didn’t work. I really wanted to avoid any type of pain relief, but I was getting tired and was worried that when it came time to push I wouldn’t have the energy. I decided to wait and try a heat pack instead, but that didn’t help. I kept trying to focus on getting through each contraction, but my blood pressure was rising and each time I had a contraction my babies heart rate would go from 150bpm down to 25-30bpm. I could tell the midwives were getting concerned, but when I asked they were great and reassured me that everything was fine and if I or baby need any help that we would discuss it when the time came.


Around 12pm, after the midwife had checked to see how far I was dilated and she said I was only 3-4cms. I was too tired and decided that I was going to get an epidural. They told me everything was arranged and I would be able to get one in about 40 minutes, so to try to relax and breathe and it would be there soon. About 35minutes later, I was having a contraction when I felt like I needed to push. After pushing with two contractions, I asked the midwife to check and see if I was dilated and she said I was only about 5cm and try not to push too early. I tried not pushing with the next contraction, but it didn’t work and I was pushing involuntary. It helped ease the pain. Fifteen minutes later the midwife came in to tell me that I was about to get the epidural. I told her I needed to push and I could feel the baby coming. She looked a bit surprised, but came over to check and sure enough my babies head had started to crown. She rushed to get gloves and everything ready. At 1:18pm Saturday, 24th October, 2015 I welcomed my daughter Pippa Saoirse into the world. I had a second-degree tear and the midwife told me I had ragged membranes and my placenta was grainy. I struggled afterwards with accepting her birth and how my body had failed to have her naturally, but after some time I know it was the best decision.pippa2

I Am Strong Because I Am FREE!!

I Am Strong Because I Am FREE!!

I am strong because three months after my husband and I got married, we found out we were pregnant, and at 12 weeks, we lost the baby.

I am strong because after three months of waiting to try again, we found out we were pregnant for the second time, but at six weeks, I miscarried again.

I am strong because that very next month, I got pregnant for the third time. My doctor put me on progesterone supplements to help prevent another miscarriage, and soon we had a healthy, growing baby.

I am strong because on New Year’s Eve, I went in to be induced, and after only a few hours, my doctor told me I needed a c-section. She said my pelvis was too small and that I would never be able to give birth vaginally. Not knowing much about birth at all, and being totally unprepared, I had a c-section, and our beautiful son was born a few hours before midnight.

I am strong because even though I was in excruciating pain from the surgery, I continued to breastfeed my son and refused to give him formula.

I am strong because at 2 weeks old, my son’s pediatrician said that he was too small and told me to start supplementing with formula. Not knowing much, and being a scared first time mom, I listened.

I am strong because even though I supplemented, I kept nursing as much as I could. I started researching everything I could about breastfeeding and how to up my supply. I bought an SNS to help wean him off formula so that he could nurse exclusively again. I was prescribed medication to help increase my supply.

I am strong because when my son was a month old, I developed double mastitis, was put on antibiotics and was in so much pain, but I still continued to nurse.

I am strong because twice a week, I had to take my son to the pediatrician to have weight checks, and every time, I just heard about how small he was, until finally, his pediatrician said that my milk wasn’t good enough, didn’t have enough calories, and that I needed to stop nursing. Without running any tests, she decided that my milk wasn’t suitable for him.

I am strong because I went home that day and refused to stop nursing. I knew my son was fine and that he was growing like he should. I started looking for new pediatricians who would be supportive of my desire to nurse.

I am strong because when my son was 2 months old, I found a new pediatrician and canceled my appointment with the previous pediatrician.

I am strong because the next day, Child Protective Services came to my house and took my 2 month old away from me. I could do nothing but watch them take my baby. They said that we were an immediate danger to our son and that we were neglecting him because he was so small.

I am strong because CPS never told us where they were taking our son. We found out later that night that he was admitted to a hospital, but we weren’t allowed to know which one, or if he was okay.

I am strong because over 24 hours after they took our son, they called and told us to come to the hospital where he was, and that they had kept him overnight to run tests on him. They found nothing wrong, and encouraged me to keep nursing. They said that the previous pediatrician had called and said that we were starving our son, and that he was in danger with us. The hospital said that they would be reporting the pediatrician for lying to CPS and causing us so much distress.

I am strong because the hospital offered to test my milk and they found that I was producing an average of 60 calories per ounce! Way above average! I continued to nurse my son, and used donor milk from a friend to eventually wean him off formula.

I am strong because when my son was 9 months old, I found out I was pregnant again. Another boy!

I am strong because at my first prenatal appointment, my OB told me to not even consider a VBAC because I would never be able to do one, I was “too small.” She encouraged me to schedule my repeat c-section that day.

I am strong because shortly after I found out I was pregnant, my husband got orders to move to South Korea. We decided to move there with him and I would give birth there.

I am strong because even though my milk had almost dried up from being pregnant, I continued to nurse until my son’s 1st birthday!

I am strong because I started researching VBACs. I got my operation report from my previous OB and learned that the c-section was unnecessary, and that I COULD give birth vaginally if I wanted to! I immediately told my new OB that I wanted to try. I hired a birth doula to help me through the process.

I am strong because at 41 weeks, my doctor said that he had to induce me (per hospital policy) or give me a repeat c-section. Because this was the only military hospital in Korea, I didn’t have a lot of options. I chose the induction.

I am strong because even though I was in immense pain from the pitocin, I went eight hours without any pain medication. six hours later, I gave birth via successful VBAC to my second son!

I am strong because in the birth canal, he had swallowed meconium, and I wasn’t able to hold him until he was over 45 minutes old.

I am strong because I still haven’t been the first to hold either of my babies.

I am strong because my second son has never had anything but MY breastmilk! He is now 16 months old and still nurses four times a day, and yes, he is just as small. We just have small babies!

I am strong because I knew my mothering instincts were right and I protected my right to nurse, and my right to have the birth I wanted, even when I was told I’d never give birth that way.

I am strong because I was so inspired by my birth and my experiences, that I decided to become a labor Doula and am planning my next birth (not pregnant yet!) to be at a birthing center.

I am strong because even though I have never shared this story publicly, I am ready to help someone else out through my experiences.

I am strong because it has taken me years to trust people and doctor’s, but I am slowly starting to trust my children with other people, and to have faith in doctor’s again. I am slowly letting go of the past and looking to the future.

I am strong because I am FREE.

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I Thank God Every Day!

I Thank God Every Day!

On December 26th, 2014 I went to the hospital to be induced with my third daughter. I was 39 weeks and 2 days. The induction was planned by me as I was in so much pain I was in constant tears. I arrived at the hospital at 7:45am and was 4 cm dilated. At 11:30 that morning, the doctor came in and broke my water. It was my goal to allow my body to do what it could do naturally with as little intervention as possible.

A few hours went by and there were no contractions. The nurse and I thought it would be best to start me on pitocin to get my labor moving along, and it worked. Almost immediately, contractions started coming, but they were not bad. Not only was I able to breathe through them but I was also able to keep myself occupied by playing games on my tablet. My nurse came in a couple more times to bump up the amount of pitocin I was receiving in my IV and of course the contractions started getting closer together and stronger. Very painful and little I could do to keep my mind off of the pain.

At around 4:30 pm, my nurse came in to check me and I was dilated to 6 cm. At this point the contractions were so intense and so close together that I was having troubles breathing through them or catching my breath between them. I opted to get an epidural to help relax my mind and my body. By the time the epidural was placed, I had dilated to 8 cm. I was very glad to have received the epidural when I did.

An hour after that it was time to start pushing since I was fully dilated. It seemed to be going great! I had the father of my daughter on one side holding one leg and the godmother holding my other leg. However, things changed when two nurses pushed each of them out of the way, leaned the bed back as far as it would go, and I had another nurse on top of me pushing on my abdomen. My daughter has gotten stuck. She was losing oxygen and it was a very intense few moments.

When she did finally arrive, she was not breathing and she was a dark blue. It took what seemed like forever before she took her first breath and began crying. I had broken down because not only was I scared that I could have lost her, but also because I was relieved to hear her cry and know she was okay. I have delivered two other daughters: one by c-section and one by VBAC, and neither of those were scary. I am not a religious person, but from that moment, all I can do when I look into her beautiful face is thank God that He didn’t let anything happen to my baby girl!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

newborn birthed into daddy's hands

newborn with mom

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

newborn bonding

newborn with mom and dad

mom and dad newborn hospital birth

hospital birth

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

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

A Much-Desired VBAC with a Supportive ObGyn

A Much-Desired VBAC with a Supportive ObGyn

The stories of my children’s births are both my worst and best day ever.  My son was born February 26, 2011.  I had wanted a natural childbirth, unfortunately that did not come close to what I got.   I was called by my midwife on the 23rd, stating that she had concerns regarding some of my blood work and said that I would need to be induced that day.  This is a moment I think of often and wish so much I could have acted differently.  I was close to 42 weeks and was ready to be done, and so I said “okay”.  I knew I should have asked what other options were available, but I didn’t.  When we got to hospital my birth plan fell apart immediately.  They let me know that my platelets were low and I would be unable to have an epidural.  This wasn’t a big deal to me; I didn’t want an epidural anyway. I was dilated to a one and nothing seemed to help, my body and my baby were not ready.

The first day they tried Cervidil which did nothing.  The second day they tried Cytotec which gave me some mild contractions the entire day.  I was still excited at this point and couldn’t wait to meet my baby.  I was not scared of birth; I couldn’t wait to take part in this amazing journey.  Even though I was contracting, I wasn’t dilating.  The next morning they gave my Pitocin.  This is when my world fell around me.  Two hours after receiving the drug I was in agony.  I was unable to get through a contraction without vocalizing and I felt completely lost.  I was not prepared for this.  After hours of intense contractions with no relief my pain transitioned into suffering.  I was begging for help, but no one could do anything.  At one point I looked around the room and saw our midwife, nurse and my husband simply staring at me totally helpless.  No one could help me, I was entirely alone in this room full of people.  I continued this way for almost an entire day.  I got to nine centimeters dilated and stayed there for hours.  My hope was gone, I had done enough.  I was ready.  They took me in for a cesarean.  Every part of me that makes me “Meghann” was gone.  When I got up to go into the surgery room I didn’t say goodbye to my husband, the only thought running through my head was that the pain would be over soon.  I cried knowing I would not be awake at the birth of my child because of my platelet levels, but needed help.

When I woke from surgery the full impact of what just happened hit me.  I was stuck on the table and could not get up.  I did not know one person in the room.  Tears instantly began streaming down my face.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  All of my physical pain had turned into emotional pain.  One of the nurses came over when she saw I was crying and asked what hurt.  I told her I wanted my baby.  “In just a few minutes.”  I heard them tell me that for almost an hour while I waited to meet my son.  I asked “what color eyes he had?”, “what color was his hair?”, “how much does he weigh?”. They told me, “I don’t know”. How much longer until I could meet him?!  It was the worst time of my life, waiting and searching for my baby while I knew he was doing the same for me.

Finally they took me into our recovery room where my husband and my son were waiting for me.  I remember them wheeling me down the hall, still lying in a bed.  I could not stop crying.  I saw family of other women who were likely having beautiful births waiting to meet their newest family member.  They saw the look on my face and they no doubt knew that child birth did not always go that way.  Once I was in the room I hurriedly looked from side to side asking where he was.  My husband pointed to the bassinet in front of the bed.  It was strange, but I felt like I could not have him, like he wasn’t mine, as if it would be inappropriate to ask them to give him to me.  It was as if the hospital had more rights to him than I did at that moment.  My husband went over and picked him up and put him in my arms.  While I have read about difficulty attaching after a cesarean, this was not what happened.  I felt instantly bonded to him, and did not let him go.  I felt that I needed to protect him and make amends to him for what we had just experienced.

I can’t tell you how painful Jackson’s birth was.  He was our first child and I missed everything.  I missed his first breath, his first cry.  I missed my husband meeting his son for the first time.  I didn’t know if someone had bathed Jackson or not.  I couldn’t answer simple questions in our baby book such as “Dad’s first words to his son”.  Jackson was introduced to me by others, others who knew my son first.  I should have been the first.  This was never going to happen to me again.

When Jackson was 15 months old we learned I was pregnant with Audrey.  A dark shadow hung over my pregnancy as I was told that my platelets would likely drop again.  I went back to my midwife and she told me not to worry, that it would be different.  I wouldn’t have to labor, I would come in for a scheduled cesarean.  She gave me a concerned look when I said that I was going to VBAC.

My platelets were indeed dropping.  I did everything I could to keep them up.  Took an array of vitamins, ate huge amounts of organic fruits and vegetables.  I scoured the internet for anything I could find on lifting platelet levels.  I had to be awake for this birth. I knew that my success did not just depend on me, it also depended on the people I chose to support me.  My husband and I chose to birth in a hospital, which meant I would need to find an OB, which was a little concerning to me.  It was at this point that I realized how much women come together to help one another when needed.  There was hidden in society a network of women who understood the meaning of birth and would fight to help one another succeed in achieving their desired birth.  I spoke to doulas, midwives, women who had beautiful and horrific experiences.  Over and over the same names came up, doctors to definitely check out and doctors to definitely avoid.  I began interviewing those doctors and was feeling a bit hopeless.  Then I finally found a one that I intuitively felt I could trust.  He listened to me and seemed to understand in a way you would not think a man could, how much Jackson’s birth hurt.  He vowed to help me.  I also hired a wonderful doula that listened to Jackson’s birth story and knew my desire to witness my child’s birth.  She helped me establish a birth plan for every possibility and stood beside me throughout my pregnancy and birth.

I went into labor with Audrey the night before her due date.  My contractions began at just under four minutes apart, but were easily handled.  After about two hours of labor I woke my husband up to let him know.  He urged me to call the doctor’s office.  I got the doctor on call, not my doctor.  She said that I needed to come in and that I shouldn’t worry, if I’m not dilating she’ll just start me on Pitocin.  I got off the phone with her and felt like I could not leave my house.  Was this battle starting already?  I called my doula.  I felt grounded when I heard her voice.  I remembered that I have the right to refuse any procedure, but that I would need to be strong.

We drove the hour drive on ice covered roads.  When I got into my room the doctor came to check on me.  She immediately said that she wanted to feel my stomach so she could measure the baby.  She said that if the baby was too big she would know later not to use a vacuum.  What?  Why were we already discussing vacuums and babies that are too big?  I knew I had to tell her no.  I then had a contraction and it hurt.  I thought to myself, if I’m strong enough to get through this contraction then I can tell a doctor no, and I did.

I asked about my platelet levels right away, they were high enough that no matter cesarean or vaginal, I was going to be awake!  They told me this, but it didn’t really sink in.  I could only concentrate on the contractions, nothing else.  I began vocalizing like I did when Jackson was born and I was ready for relief.  I opted for an epidural.  Once it began to work was when my doula looked at me and said “You’re going to be awake”.  Tears fell, happy tears.  I had worked so hard and everything I had worked for was being realized.

My doctor came on a few hours later.  His first words to me I’ll never forget, “Goal one met, you’re going to be awake”.  I had been clear with him that while I desperately wanted a vaginal birth, it was more important that I was awake, it was of primary importance.

He checked me about an hour after he came in and I was fully dilated!  I began to push but wasn’t making a lot of progress.  He told me that my little girl was sunny side up.  I worked and worked, and the pain was excruciating.  Even though I had an epidural, I could feel my doctor attempting to stretch me to make room for my baby to change positions.  I screamed through many of the contractions.  I worked for over three hours and then consented to allow a vacuum to help her out.  Looking back, this wasn’t what I planned, but I trusted my doctor and felt that he would not recommend anything that was not necessary.

An intense and indescribable pain, the hardest push I could muster, and then I heard the words, “Meghann, reach down and grab your baby”, and I did.  I pulled her onto my chest.  I heard her cry, saw her first breath.  I was the first to hold her.  I kissed her and told her I loved her.  I saw my husband meet her.  Nothing happened to her without my consent.  She did not leave my arms unless it was to go into my husband’s.

This picture that you see is not simply me meeting my daughter; it’s a moment I knew I could miss.  It’s a moment I missed with her brother.  It was the most precious moment of my life.  It was something that is entirely indescribable.  Since her birth I still feel as though oxytocin is cursing through my body.  I feel so empowered, so strong.  I am capable of anything!  To be a woman is truly an unbelievable gift.

Meghann's much-desired VBAC

A Mother Survives Two Strokes Post Partum and in Pregnancy

A Mother Survives Two Strokes Post Partum and in Pregnancy

I am 36 and a survivor of 2 strokes.

My first stroke was 7 months after the birth of my first son, I was 34.  I had a normal pregnancy and a vaginal birth in a hospital after 31 hours of labor.

Due to my first stroke, my husband and I decided that it was best for my health if we didn’t have any more children.  Well, the powers that be had other ideas and we were blessed by getting pregnant almost exactly 2 years from the conception date of the first child.

At 9 weeks, I was hospitalized for a stroke again.  After a lot of testing and 5 days in the stroke unit, we still had no answers as to why it happened again.  I was discharged on the blood thinner, Lovenox, which is an injection that I had to give myself in the belly 2 times a day for the duration of the pregnancy. I started seeing a high risk OB once a month in addition to my regular OB and had a relatively easy pregnancy.

The high risk OB told us that it would be necessary to induce me at 39 weeks due to the risk of having another stroke.  In my mind, I knew that I could go the full duration of the pregnancy, but I did not want to risk having another stroke, so I went ahead with the induction.

From this, I learned that I am not a fan of Pitocin and hated every minute of the process, but after 9 hours, I had a healthy 6 lb 11 oz baby boy vaginally and he and I are doing well.

I know that my story is not that out of the ordinary other than I was a stroke survivor with my second child and I am stronger because of it! I know that there are other women like me that are scared/terrified and worrying about how to handle a birth after stroke or just surviving the birth in general following a stroke.

I just wanted to say it can be done, no it was not fun at all, but I survived and so will they.




{Gabriel, born (02/12/13) 40 weeks after my stroke}


{Steven (01/09/11)  born 7 months before my first stroke, holding Gabe}

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