When we arrived to the hospital, the baby was posterior. The mama did big exaggerated figure eights. I used my rebozo to jiggle her hips, relieving tension. Soon the baby was lined up great.

She invited women that were important to her birth experience. Not only her doula, midwife and husband, but two close women.

Stephen, her husband said, “Any man who doesn’t let a whole tribe of women into the room when his wife is giving birth is out of his mind.”

The mother said, ” He was so grateful to just be able to ‘be’ and not feel like he had to have all the answers or take care of everything. Thank you 🙏🏼”

This mama has had difficult pushing times with each of her babies. This caused her to utilize medication the first time, forceps the second time and this time it meant pushing for two hours in several positions. This mama was willing to follow every suggestion offered to help.
Here she is using the squat bar. She had been on each side, on her hands and knees, leaning over the top of the bed, in a semi squat, on her back…in every way we could come up with.
We used the Rebozo on the squat bar as well as earlier in a tug position.
We offered counter pressure to open her pelvis.
And then, after two hours, a patient mama, dad and her midwife brought forth the biggest baby she had yet! 8 pounds 7 ounces of pure joy. This mama gave birth on her due date, as only 4% of moms do! Her other babies had been born early. She had prepared her mind and body for this birth. And in labor she listened to her body and when she needed guidance, she accepted it. This mama is incredible. She was willing to do the work.
Her tribe. The mother said, “You were all fabulous. I feel so lucky to have had such a wonderful team. You were everything I needed.”
Her midwife and doula.

The reward for the work she did!

 

At 41wk3d (Thursday, July 10) we went in for a non-stress test at the doctor’s office. My blood pressure is high and there is protein in my urine, (baby was testing absolutely fine). We are sent to the hospital for an induction (not in my Birth Wishes either but excited that I would get to meet my little one soon). I was 1cm, 60% effaced and baby was high at -3 station.

That evening they put me on Cervidil and started Pitocin on Friday morning. [My blood pressure had already lowered by later that evening.] By Friday evening there was no change in my cervix and the baby was still very high. I was disappointed that nothing had happened but thought definitely by tomorrow there would be a change. I kept thinking that people say “don’t plan your birth because you can never plan what’s going to happen.” I remember thinking and saying to my husband that “I know you can never know what labor will be like, and I know it won’t always be like this, but I didn’t expect it to be boring.”

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Before the second day got started a nurse said that the OB wanted to come in before the midwife. I was instantly worried and told my husband to be ready to call our Doula, Jessica, and her apprentice, Kristen. I was worried because I didn’t want to be told that I needed a C-section when we had only tried one day of induction and we were both reading perfectly healthy. [My blood pressure already returned to normal and the baby was showing NO signs of distress.] I was also worried because during my pregnancy I didn’t see any of the OB/GYNs in the practice because I was planning a natural birth and I thought Midwives were the best way to achieve that.

The OB came in, checked me [still no change] and immediately started talking to me about a C-section and how the labor wasn’t progressing and I was way overdue. I expected this, but what he said next I never could have anticipated. He started telling me that the chances of having a natural labor were pretty much 0ut and that the longer I waited the more likely I was to end up with a “dead baby.” I was blindsided. He proceeded to tell me that I could leave the hospital and return home, but that I “would return a few days later with a dead baby.” He used the words “dead baby” so many times it was nauseating. I was terrified but I knew that the baby was healthy, just late. I told the OB that I wanted to continue with the Pitocin. He didn’t seem happy but left. As soon as he left the room I told my husband to call the Jessica and Kristen. I was terrified but I would be damned if I let that man scare me into major abdominal surgery for absolutely no reason.

He came in a few hours later to check me and when I told him I didn’t want HIM to check me but the Midwife. He seemed to take it personally and continued his “You’re just going to end up with a dead baby” rant. He also said that I wasn’t dilated enough to try and break my water and labor wasn’t progressing so a C-section was really our only option. Oh and we could still go home but we would return with a “dead baby” but that “Hey, I told you so.” We told him we wanted to think about it. He left the room and came back in a few minutes later. When we told him we still hadn’t made a decision (my sister had just come to visit and we had talked to her rather than discussing our new “options”) and were trying to find out more information he started questioning us and asking us what our “other resources” were (my husband is a professor with access to medical journals but he didn’t know that). At one point he looked at my 6-month pregnant doula, Jessica and asked, “Are you the Doula?” She said “Yes” and he asked “How long have you been doing it?” She said “A while” and he replied “Have you ever seen a cesarean performed on a dead baby?” That was the last straw. I was already crying because of other things he had said. We told him we still weren’t ready to make a decision and he tapped my leg and told me to go home and that it was our decision because he didn’t get “paid by the hour.”

We immediately started sobbing. It was probably the hardest day of my life and my husband’s so far. To be clear the baby was still not showing any signs of distress. We were scared and angry. When the midwife came back in we told her we didn’t want to see him anymore and that he was not welcome in our room.

It was difficult, but we decided to stop the Pitocin and waited until a new OB and Midwife came in the next morning at 7am. The new OB/GYN and Midwife were a complete 180 compared to the monster we saw the night before. I think they also thought/knew that a natural delivery wasn’t likely but they were willing to let me try by breaking my water as a last ditch effort to get the baby here. It started to work but by the time I was 5-6 cm later that afternoon I couldn’t handle the pain. Although I hadn’t felt much of the contractions the past two days, I believe my uterus was exhausted and I opted for the epidural, hoping it would relax me and take me the rest of the way. By 2:00 Monday morning I had stalled at 7.5cm/80%/-3 Station.

It was time for the C-section. I tried to fight it but the Midwife was very calm and explained to me that it was time. She wasn’t angry or condescending. Nevertheless, I started to cry. I tried to ask for more time—2 hours, 1 hour, 30 minutes. My husband was very supportive and told that I had fought very hard and that it was okay to get the c-section. It made me feel better and I knew he was right. I said “okay” and they started getting everything ready. I held Jessica’s hand very tightly. The operating room felt surreal. There were people everywhere and I felt so drugged up and was shaking uncontrollably (from the epidural). But then I felt some tugging and heard her cry. I remember feeling happy and sad at the same time. They took her to clean her and I couldn’t see her for a few minutes. I didn’t know how to feel. Then they brought her to my cheek and I touched her hair and said “hey sweetie.”

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She was born on July 14th at 3:55am, 8 lbs. 8 oz., 21 inches and was still PERFECTLY healthy. She latched and breastfed immediately (20 minutes later in recovery). I know that in the end, I tried my all at a 3 1/2 day induction. I don’t regret anything, even the C-section, even though it wasn’t in my plan. My daughter is beautiful and healthy and we can’t be more grateful.

Postpartum depression is real. It is more than the proverbial baby blues for many women. This is a story for those who may benefit from the sharing from this mom. My comments are in italics.
My husband and I tried to conceive for over a year and were having trouble getting pregnant. I had extensive lab work and thorough check-ups done to try and figure out what was going on. I tried everything from acupuncture, chiropractic care, fertility supplements and herbs and finally out of the blue, I finally ended up getting pregnant. I was beyond excited but nervous about keeping this baby safe and healthy for 9 whole months.
My estimated due date was March 27, 2013 and I had a 3 page birth plan along with my hospital bag packed and ready about 2 months before I was due. I was beyond ready. My birth plan included delayed cord clamping, saving my placenta for encapsulation and to be able to have the baby the entire time for skin-to-skin and nursing and not allowing them out of my sight without my husband or myself present. (We encourage moms to have a very short birth plan- and a separate baby list. Keeping it simple helps it to be read. The things she was asking for were basic things that many hospitals offer to most every birthing mom.) I wanted a home water birth but I have a history of miscarriages (previous marriage), low progesterone levels, and worst of all, a blood clotting disorder. I did not want to take any chances since I was about 45 minutes from my hospital. I planned on having a natural labor and delivery. I requested a birthing bar for the end of my bed, to be able to labor in the bath tub as long as possible and for them to respect my wishes.
I had a doula that I hired from the beginning and she was also my chiropractor. I had issues with my doula throughout my entire pregnancy because I felt like she wasn’t doing what I expected someone in her role to do. I wanted a doula so that she could support me and be my voice for whenever I was in discomfort and would not be able to speak for myself. (The role of the doula is never to speak for the woman- as that is as disempowering as not listening to the mom- but instead to help her find her words and confidence to share those words.) I needed someone to support me and my birth plan as much as possible. (I think it may be difficult for someone to be a working professional doula and also have another full time professional job that may be a huge distraction. Some can manage it if their work is flexible, but with demanding jobs it may be more difficult. If during your pregnancy you feel the doula is not a good fit- change!)
I tried to stay as healthy as possible throughout my pregnancy and gained a healthy amount of weight. I took a hypnobirthing class. Overall, despite my blood condition, I pretty much had a text book pregnancy. I was so excited to be a first-time mommy. (Even though hypnobirthing offers many good concepts for a natural birth, having more tools may prove to be beneficial for a mom who does not find it to be the only effective tool in her labor.)
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It was now Sunday, April 7, 2013 and I woke up feeling different. It was now 12 days after my EDD. I was happy to be pregnant and enjoyed it the entire 9.5 months but I was tired, so huge, and ready to meet this baby. I started labor slowly and manageable that morning and all throughout the day. I kept in touch with my doula but she seemed preoccupied with other things. It was not almost midnight and I was starting to feel more uncomfortable. I knew we still had to drive to the hospital and it wasn’t necessarily around the corner. I sent my doula a text and asked her for advice. She said it was up to me but I could go ahead and head to the hospital if I wanted. She said to only call her if I got admitted. When we got to the hospital, I was checked and was at 4 cm. They went ahead and admitted me and things went fairly slowly. (ACOG in an attempt to lower the cesarean rate came out with a statement that we need to consider cervical dilation of 6 cm (instead of 4 cm) as the start of active phase labor. So they encourage women to realize early labor can take a long time. We find that if the baby is not optimally positioned- it may take even longer.)
After being in labor for several hours, I was beginning to feel more and more discomfort and decided that I was ready for the bathtub to help relieve some of my surges. They told us that the tub attached to my room was not working. They didn’t have a different room to offer us. They never brought in the birthing bar and when I asked my doula about it, she said she would check but I never got it. My doula never offered me her birthing ball. I was confined to the bed and my husband was trying to help me but we were both new at this and there was no one to help or listen. (It is a shame that this mom felt confined to the bed. Often without encouragement moms will stay in the bed although they should have freedom of movement per evidence based studies.) I was so upset that my wishes were being ignored. I was stuck at 9 cm. for many hours and in so much discomfort at this point. I could not get relief from anyone and I was not progressing. I refused anything that would force labor and wanted to wait as long as possible to see if things progressed on their own.
After about 17 hours in labor, I was approached about a C-section, again, and told them that I did not want one, again. (The average woman is in labor for more than 19.5 hours)  They told me that I was not making any progress on my own and it would become dangerous for myself and the baby. We looked to our doula for advice and she said it was up to us.(The role of the doula may have been confused at this point as we do not give medical advice or refute medical advice. Instead we help you formulate questions to help you gather more information. ) Once again, I had no support from her. I felt so alone. Nothing was going as planned. I had taken some castor oil a few days before to try and speed things along and they were concerned that with the baby being “overdue” and with me taking the castor oil, she might be swallowing her meconium. (We are never fans of castor oil but the studies are not conclusive on whether this indeed can cause the baby to pass stool due to taking it.) This scared us to the point that we knew we had to do whatever it took to get her out. The baby’s heart rate started dropping, as did mine and then they mentioned that they needed to perform an emergency C-section. At this point, I just wanted her to be safe. We started to prepare for the C-section and my husband and I were both so frightened. Within a few hours, they were performing the surgery. (I can only assume this was not an emergency but an unplanned cesarean since it was not done right away.g  And I am guessing the baby’s heart beat issue resolved as well. )
I remember being so drowsy and out of it and feeling such a sense of disappointment and sadness. She was born at 7:31pm on April 8, 2013 and they had someone ready to aspirate her lungs in case she had swallowed the meconium and fortunately, she was fine and didn’t need it. (There is always a team for cesarean babies as they are not squeezed on the way out and need some additional help with breathing often. The fact that this baby was so healthy was another indicator that she was not under distress in the last hours of her labor after all.) She was a healthy 7.10 pounds and 21 inches long. I was so excited to see her but was so exhausted since I was never allowed anything to eat or drink or even time to sleep. (Eating and drinking in labor is good practice as per evidential studies. And it sounds like an epidural to allow her to rest and wait out a few more hours could have resulted in a possible vaginal birth.)I was so drowsy that I could hardly stay awake to see her when she was born. When we were taken to our recovery room, I never really got a chance to bond with her. I never got the skin-to-skin (Family centered cesareans are now being offered in a few hospitals in the area- which allows the baby to be skin to skin and nursing while in the OR.)and to top it all off, I had to keep staying on top of ensuring that they saved my placenta. I reminded them many times and still, they managed to throw it away. They had apparently done 2 more C-sections after me and I asked them if they could dig it out. They knew they messed up so they had someone dig it out. I worried if I was getting mine or not but they were certain it was mine because I had some large fibroids during the pregnancy and this marked my placenta in a unique way.
When I got back to the room, I was expecting my doula to give my baby her first adjustment since she had been through so much trauma with the C-section. My doula had already left and I was so upset. (Rarely we leave before seeing the mom after a cesarean. Often we are allowed to meet her in the recovery area. Occasionally for reasons often that are outside of the control of the doula, the mom is separated in recovery for several hours. If it has been a really long labor, we may leave- but it would have to be an extended stay in the recovery area or another mom calling in labor to have us do so.)  Soon after that, my mother was kicked out of the room because at this point, she was considered a guest and it was after visiting hours. My mother went with us and she does not drive, we were not sure how she would get back to our house 45 minutes away. I was so stressed and knew that I would need her help but there was nothing I could do about that. At this point, I haven’t even had an opportunity to enjoy my new baby and I felt as though everything had gone wrong and was completely out of my control. There is nothing worse than feeling like you have no control over this new experience. (I can not even imagine a family member who had been invited to the birth would be asked to leave if the mom desired to have her stay to help. I am unsure of which hospital this was but this is a travesty for sure. I stayed the night with my daughter and her husband after the birth of her babies)
I started trying to nurse the baby and I was persistent in trying to get her the colostrum the first few days. It was not going well and I could not get a good latch. She was constantly crying and hungry and I was not able to successfully nurse her. They had to express my milk and have me pump a little to feed her through a small tube. It would hurt me to nurse her by cradling her because of my surgery and the soreness from it. (The lack of support for moms needing help with breastfeeding is a hospital issue at most every hospital. I feel strongly that attending LLL meetings prior to having a baby and taking a great couples’ breastfeeding class helps!)
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I started feeling so inadequate as a new mother. I was not as happy as I expected to be at this point with a brand new baby. I hated feeling this way but I didn’t know how to make things better. My husband was there by my side the entire time but he couldn’t help me either. After about 4 days in the hospital, I was finally released and it was a tough transition at home. I could barely get around and nursing was still a struggle. I had to break down and get the baby formula to try and supplement and this was disappointing to me. No matter what I did, I could not seem to find my happiness. Here I was, a brand new mother, with a healthy baby girl and yet I was so depressed. (The way a mom feels about her baby is affected by her birth experience. Recovering from major surgery only adds more sadness to this situation. Having a postpartum doula could have been the best gift she could have gotten- someone to help her talk through her birth, help her get rest and help her with breastfeeding would not have been a luxury but a wonderful necessity at this point for sure.)
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I was crying everyday for most of the day and trying to hide it from my husband and my mother. I had so much love and support from them but I felt so incredibly alone. I even had moments where I would see my baby getting hurt, not by me but where she would fall or something like that and I felt horrible for thinking these thoughts and worst of all, I didn’t know where they were coming from. I had my placenta encapsulated after about a week after I got home and despite what others may believe, I truly feel that they are what saved me. It could be in my head but as soon as I started taking them, once she got them back to me, I started feeling better. (We hear the stories of how placenta encapsulation is so helpful in these situations!) I never felt that way again. Postpartum depression is a very real thing and although mine was very short, thank God, I felt the pain of it and hope that it never happens again. (These are all expected feelings directly related to PPD.)
I have since told people my story, in a much shorter version, and they seem to see it as though I’m complaining and being selfish. They tell me at least I have a baby and as long a she was healthy, I should have been happy but what they don’t realize is that when a baby is born, so is a mother. I may not have had the perfect labor and delivery that I wanted, but now that it is 15 months later, I can appreciate that I do have a happy and healthy baby and despite what I went through, it was all worth it in the end! (It makes me sad that the feelings that a mom struggles to share are diminished in this way and she is not being heard as she begins to process her pain.)
Thanks for listening,
Martha Kelly
I can only hope that Martha heals from this birth. I hope she seeks a childbirth class that offers a safe healing space for her to do so prior to her next labor. I hope she is able to find an experienced doula who will support her fully and that she finds a provider that offers patience in her having a gentle VBAC. I know that Martha has plans to do things very differently the next time. So often women feel like this will never happen to them.
Birth experiences affect so much about how a woman feels about herself, her baby and can impact so many areas for life. Please value the experience and help moms have the proper support in labor- the proper support after the birth and in the first month of motherhood. Stories like this need to be told so others can think about what they would want to have be different. Thanks so much Martha for sharing. The sad thing is pregnant couples do not know what they do not know. The preparation you think is enough, often is not providing you with what you may really need. Often times there are red flags along the way that your intuitive voice warns you about- listen to that voice.

Birth is not static. This is what the medicalization tries to do to birth. Let’s plan it, schedule it, control it, make the outcome to be conducted in just such a way. But that is not what birth is like when it is allowed to shift and transform and unfold naturally.

It is not just the medicalization that tried to do this to birth. As a childbirth educator and doula I often hear women whose main concern in planning their birth is control. They are afraid of being out of control. The idea of an induction to know just when they will be in labor is enticing. Even planned cesareans are seductive for some moms.

But when women allow the mystery to unfold they are often amazed at how their bodies knew how to shift and transform. They were amazed at how strong they were in the moment. Yes it may also have been a bit scary but it often is exhilarating as well.

I recently had a student that when her labor signs were very early, she was fearful she did not know what she needed to know. I encouraged her that she just needed to sigh deeply and let go and not fight it. Her labor was still quite early when she called me to alert me that tonight may be the night. Her contractions were moderate and not in a real active pattern yet.

I received a call three hours after that initial text and she sounded quite calm. (Later she would tell me it was in her nature to hide how she was feeling when in pain!) (Do not do this when talking to your doula please!) And she sounded like she may be moving into what could be more active labor, but it was still a bit early. Her breathing was slow and not labored at all. I told her to call me if she needed me to come. She said okay and then asked me if there was a possibility that this would go away and not end in a birth in the next day. I thought this was a weird question but agreed that it could be prodromal labor but it would soon let us know. When I asked a few more questions, she felt her fundus was still not as firm as it would be in active labor.

I had gone to bed early and laid my clothes out awaiting a call from her in the middle of the night. I thought this was indeed going to become more active labor. She was just 38 weeks and she was in denial that she would have this baby two weeks prior to her due date. We were scheduled to do her prenatal in the next few days. It had been delayed and I think she felt like things were not yet ready.

I awoke at 4am and saw my clothes hanging on the bathroom hook. I guessed she was resting and her contractions had settled down. But I was wrong. The mystery of her labor was that around midnight, an hour and a half from our first phone call, the contractions came on with a fury. She would need all of her energy to get herself in the car for the ten minute drive to the hospital. She had a lot of bloody show just before getting dressed – we know now this was rapid dilation.

Her partner got her out the door and in the car and sped through a few lights to make the normal 15 minute drive in almost half the time. Never did it cross his mind to call me. She was deeply in labor land and was not thinking about anything but the strong contractions. While in the cargo bay of their SUV on a blanket her water broke just before they pulled into the ER bay. A wheel chair was rapidly declined and a gurney took her upstairs where her midwife met her and declared her complete and the baby coming!

The plan for our prenatal meeting to discuss what her desires for her birth, the water birth she had taken the class to participate in, the twinkle lights she knew were in my bag for creating ambiance in the room, her playlist of music, my capturing the birth with my camera… none of that was going to happen today.

Her birth had been a mystery. She had shifted and transformed as she needed to to birth her baby. She had gone from gently contracting to roaring her baby out quickly. She used words like scary, difficult, empowering, exhilarating and amazing! A mystery indeed! Was she disappointed that her plans had not happened? Nope, she was too immersed in holding her new son at her breasts and marveling at the warrior she had become!

I know that many providers would want to schedule an induction for her next baby so this would not repeat itself. She said her next baby will be born at home since the car ride was the only bad part! I think she is listening to her body quite well!

 

I was delighted to work with Dr. Richard Robbins at my last birth. He knew this mom wanted a natural, lesser intervened birth. Her water broke and she waited several hours to go to the hospital. I arrived a few hours after she was there, not yet in labor. The Pitocin was started and I was there to meet her soon after.  Dr. Robbins arrived a short while later and entered the room with the greeting of, “Hey Stud!” to the mom. I loved it. He chatted about how his wife had a natural birth with their first two but the third was a much longer labor and after several hours she chose the epidural. He mentioned that this baby was a bigger baby by a pound. This caused my client to ask if a pound made a huge difference. She asked this since the sonographer had said this baby was at least a pound bigger than her first one. Dr. Robbins said, “Nope! Should not be a problem at all!” He stayed a short while and when he left he said as he shook his hands in the air, “Let’s keep these out and let you do what you are doing so well!” I wanted to kiss the man! He was so encouraging to my client!

(more…)

One of my doulas recently had this birth experience. Ironically with the same group of midwives as mine but at a different hospital. Let’s read about the dots she made sure she followed.

Labor began in the early hours of day one. She calls this the start of labor because she could no longer sleep through the contractions. She left for the hospital a little more than 9 hours later. Her contractions were 2.5 minutes apart for just at an hour and she was feeling some pressure in her bottom. (more…)

According to Wikipedia “A warrior is a person experienced in or capable of engaging in combat or warfare, especially within the context of a tribal or clan-based society that recognizes a separate warrior class. According to the Random House Dictionary, the term warrior has two meanings. The first literal use refers to “a man engaged or experienced in warfare.” The second figurative use refers to “a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness, as in politics or athletics.”

So I want to consider when a woman is in labor- how does she become a warrior? I love the phrase “warrior woman.” I feel the way we carry ourselves through our journeys of adversity we become warriors. But for the sake of this blog, I want to explore the aspect of labor and birth.

A woman who shows “great vigor, courage or aggressiveness” in labor and birth… hmmm. Does a woman have to birth naturally- without any pain medication to be a warrior? Nope, I don’t think so. (more…)

Okay I am going to share a birth story of sorts… with anonymity but with permission from the mom.. but with a time line of sorts to show you how a first time mom’s labor went recently… but first let me tell you a few things…

She chose to birth at North Fulton with ISIS midwives.(She drove from Norcross there)
She chose to take Hypnobirthing as her only formal childbirth education.
She chose a doula from our group, although her doula was called out of town on an emergency and she got a back up doula from our group instead. (A rare situation)

Her water broke on it’s own just after midnight on Wednesday morning. She had had an exam on Friday and was 3 cm dilated. Within 30 minutes she was mildly contracting 10 minutes apart. By 2 am they were coming every five minutes but again were still very manageable and mild.

By 5 am although they had slowed some of the time in between but the contractions were now beginning to hurt and had sped up. She was ready to be heading to the hospital soon. (more…)

I was thinking about my blog regarding my niece’s birth and I felt the need to clarify some things. Women need to make informed decisions about their births. Their births will be affecting them the rest of their lives… that experience is paramount according to the studies on how they will mother that infant and see themselves as strong or weak later on.

A woman is not classified in active labor until she is dilated to three centimeters and contracting regularly- stronger, longer and closer together. Usually that means at least an hour of contractions lasting at least a minute for at least an hour. Now I don’t know what my niece’s labor was like. But I do know that the studies show that when a mom stays at the hospital with her water intact and under 3 centimeters dilated, she increases her chances of a cesarean by 30%. So the intervention train is boarded- after all, you are at the hospital to have the baby. So, their job is to help you get the job done. What? At what cost? (more…)