It’s hard to believe I’m writing my own birth story, well my home birth transfer birth story! I love taking the time to write a birth story from my perspective for each of my clients but it’s still the outsider’s perspective. While I am holding space, I am still not the one experiencing the birth and before now, I could only imagine what each mama was going through. Yes, each birth is VERY different as I learned with my own but I have learned there are some inherent similarities we all can attest to which makes it possible to relate to one another on some level even if we have never given birth. While I appreciated my outsider’s perspective and am grateful I had some experience before giving birth, I am so grateful I now have somewhat of an insider’s perspective as well! So today, I take off my midwife hat and put on the client hat and will do my very best to let you in on what birth looks like to a midwife experiencing it (at least for me anyways ;))! I will warn you now, this is a LONG post! Grab some coffee and get comfy, I think it’s worth the read!
I had a wonderful pregnancy! I loved just about every second I was pregnant. This was with 10 weeks of unrelenting nausea and fatigue and horribly swollen feet even 😉 I just loved feeling my baby move and knowing I was growing a life inside of me, that my body could do it! You see, just a couple months before I got pregnant, we miscarried at 6 weeks and 4 days, right before Mother’s Day. It’s fitting that I write this story now as Mother’s Day is this weekend. It’ll be one year since we miscarried on Wednesday, May 10th which just happens to be my baby’s 8 week birthday! It’s crazy to me how all these anniversaries land so close together and make the moments so bittersweet. Before we got pregnant the first time, we suffered through 10 months of infertility. I found out my progesterone levels were low and after supplementation, we got pregnant only to miscarry shortly thereafter. Even with a successful pregnancy, one is still considered infertile until they are able to carry a pregnancy to 20 weeks. We found out one month later that my left fallopian tube was blocked and that in addition to progesterone, several of my other hormones were off and my body was struggling with insulin resistance. The hits just kept coming. I felt we would never carry a pregnancy and I was bitter. Every pregnancy announcement made me cry. When people would reassure me we’d get pregnant I’d get angry inside. How did they know? The only encouragement was that we were able to get pregnant once. I held onto this glimmer of hope as my husband and I left Colorado for a one month sabbatical in hopes that this rest would help us get pregnant. Fast forward a month and a couple of weeks to August, 14 months after we started trying to get pregnant. I was at a birth (my first since returning from vacation) and was noticing some odd symptoms. I was cramping badly and spotting but my cycle wasn’t due for another 2 days. I’d never had premenstrual cramps or spotting so I was alarmed. As I drove home from this birth, I decided I would take a pregnancy test as my symptoms reminded me of my first miscarriage. I, of course, have taken many negative tests and assumed I’d get the same result especially with my symptoms but shockingly, the test came up positive and a strong positive! It was stronger than with my first pregnancy and I had taken that test when my cycle was late! I was shaking from the shock! I took another different test to make sure I wasn’t crazy and then woke my husband up (it was 5am, he was pleased ;)). He couldn’t believe it either! The only issue was I was still spotting and cramping. That alone caused some minor panicking. I had been seeing an acupuncturist at the time so I called her to see if she could get me in for an emergency appointment. I was able to see her that evening and after a few treatments, the spotting and cramping stopped, my lab tests all came back high and normal for pregnancy and an ultrasound at 7 weeks showed a strong heartbeat, we were in business!! Now to pick up where I left off…
I loved being pregnant and had very few issues or complaints. Once my nausea and fatigue wore off, I felt AWESOME! We had made the brave decision not find out what we were having as we felt as control freaks, it was time we didn’t take control and this was one thing we didn’t need to know! I felt beautiful pregnant and had zero self-esteem issues which was new for me. Pregnancy brought out a new confidence I didn’t know I had and it was so needed. Towards the beginning of my third trimester, the birth dreams started setting in. This is very common and I thought they were fun! Three different times I dreamt that my water would break early (between 36-37 weeks) and that my baby was going to be bigger. Of course, as a first time mom, I know it is very common to go overdue and anticipated I would see 41 weeks easily, my only hope was I would deliver before May! On March 12th, I had been at a VERY long labor with a first time mama and other than a few Braxton Hicks throughout the day, I went to bed as usual on March 13th at 1am, I was exhausted. I woke up at 4am to some mild cramping which again, didn’t alarm me too much as I had had mild cramping before and since I was nearing the end of my pregnancy at 34 weeks and 4 days, some cramping is normal. I woke up the morning of the 13th to get ready for my office day feeling refreshed and good to go. The cramping and Braxton Hicks were gone at this point. At 3pm, I was scheduled to have someone come in for an interview. I walked them into my office and we began talking. A few minutes into the interview, I felt as though I had peed myself! I was super embarrassed and excused myself to go to the restroom. Once I emptied my bladder, the leaking stopped and I assumed I had a UTI or something for leaking that much urine! I finished off the interview but as I stood, I gushed what I thought was more urine again, this time leaving a puddle in my chair! I discreetly walked the client out and went to the restroom again. The leaking stopped. I put on a pad in case it happened again and the thought crossed my mind that my water might be broken. I brushed it aside as I was only 34 weeks and there was no way that had happened! My 4pm came in and as I sat with her, I had another gush of fluid that soaked through the pad I was wearing. Now I was concerned and knew there was a very good chance this was my water leaking and not me peeing on myself! I finished up with my 4pm and since my 5pm cancelled, my day was done. I called my midwife to let her know what was going on and decided to nitrazine the pad I was wearing knowing full well what it was going to say…deep dark blue, my water was broken. I burst into tears and let my midwife know what I suspected was true and I was calling my husband to take me to the hospital (had I not been panicking, I may have chosen to stay home until labor kicked in as I was only cramping at this point but on the other hand, I was preterm and didn’t want to take any chances baby would come too fast or would get an infection since I didn’t know why my water broke). As I was waiting for my husband to answer his phone, I kept going back to those birth dreams and wondered if my body was truly trying to tell me something…
I called my husband to have him come home, he was coaching and it took several attempts before I was able to get ahold of him. On his way home, he called me back and asked me what this meant (he was in shock too) and I told him we were going to have a baby, albeit early! I know many of the nurses at the hospital we transferred to so when we arrived, they were all wondering what I was doing there knowing full well I had planned a home birth! I gave them the information and they put me in a room. After confirming my water was broken, they brought Dr. Dallas in to talk to me about the plan of care. I kept telling Jason (my husband) that I just wanted to go home. If I could go home and get labor going, I could return and everything would be OK. I talked to Dallas about my plan and while he was not on board, he did allow me the option if I really wanted to go home. In hindsight, I think I wanted to go home so badly because I needed to restart this whole scenario. I had been crying off and on since 4:30 pm knowing that my pregnancy was over long before I was ready for it to be and I just needed to reset somehow and going home seemed to be the only way to do that. After talking with my midwife, I decided to stay at the hospital as the risk for infection is much higher with preterm babies and they needed to give antibiotics. I didn’t want to put my baby at risk since we didn’t know why my water broke in the first place. From then on, I felt somewhat calmer about my choice, I was staying and we were going to have a baby. I still cried off and on, especially when asked questions about what we wanted for our baby after he was born. It was so hard picturing what was going to happen as this was never a part of the scenario’s I had worked up in my mind. Here I was the home birth midwife stuck having a hospital birth! Oh the irony! The nurses and docs kept telling me I had the nurse curse but I know full well the Lord had a plan and though I may not know the reason, there was a very good one for why my baby needed to come early (and we still don’t know why, all my tests came back normal)! We got settled in our room and the hubby went home to pack a hospital bag that we never put together. The doc wanted to start me on Cytotec right away but I declined in hopes labor would start on its own. We agreed to waiting 24 hours for labor to start before doing anything extra. They started an IV and antibiotics and once the hubbub from the evening settled, I was left alone with my thoughts. Many of my friends and others may call me crazy but I was so disappointed my pregnancy was over. Even still as I write/think about this, my eyes fill with tears. Everyone told me I missed out only on the worst part of pregnancy. The uncomfortable miserable part of pregnancy but to me, I missed out on the special part of pregnancy. The part where you get to anticipate your baby coming. Yes, the waiting can be torture but to me, it’s those times when you get to bond with your baby was you talk to them about coming. It’s the time when you get to be excited about going into labor. And when you do go into labor, you get to remind yourself how badly you wanted this when labor hurts so badly. I didn’t get any of this. I didn’t want my water to break and I was definitely not ready for this baby to come. My baby shower was in two weeks and we had NOTHING! We had a room and some diapers and that was it! I felt I had missed out on the dreaming and on the peace. At this point, it was total chaos. When I wanted to be angry at God for allowing this to happen, I pressed hard into Him in this moment. I didn’t get any answers but the peace I had lost for so many hours was starting to return and I could maybe, just a little, anticipate my baby’s arrival in amongst all the questions about how he would do and what having a preterm baby looks like. (I’d like to pause here and let you all know that I was scared out of my mind during this time. I was a midwife yes, but I take care of full term healthy babies, not preterm so I had no idea what to expect other than my hospital experience working as an RN in labor and delivery. This part of my story is so vital as it sets the stage for what is to come. I could have been so fearful and while there was fear, it was dampened tremendously by God’s peace. I truly had to lean hard on God and his strength especially at the very end to not allow fear to steal what joy I had left).
That night, I had come cramping off and on but by morning, there was nothing. We waited until 4pm on March 14th but I was still in the same boat of nothing happening. Dr. Bissell urged me to take the Cytotec at 3pm but I wanted more time. We tried everything but nothing was working! At 4pm, I finally caved. I was tired of being in the hospital and wanted this all to be done. I took my first dose of Cytotec at 4pm and waited nervously for labor. The hubby and I watched old Office episodes to keep the mood light and right before I received my second shot of steroids to help mature baby’s lungs, I started to feel cramping again. At 8pm, the cramps were about 5 minutes apart and my nurse Stevie urged me to take another dose of Cytotec so my labor didn’t slow down (it seemed to be spacing out at this point). I agreed. At this point, I had been laying down in bed unable to focus on the show anymore and had I been able to think strait, I probably would’ve declined that second dose as it propelled me into a very intense and fast labor when I was already in active labor to begin with; I didn’t really need it. By 10pm, I couldn’t lay down anymore. The cramps were so intense I was moaning through them and a couple of them made me burst into tears. I asked Jason to call my doula Sarah in and let my birth photographer know what was going on. I felt awful for both of these ladies as Sarah was overdue in her pregnancy and Monet had been up the night before at 2 births, both were exhausted and never expected me to be calling. I was shocked by my labor. I expected contractions to be a full body experience but to me, they were horrible period cramps way down low by my pubic bone. I felt no pain anywhere else. It was the most insane feeling I had ever experienced and it was focused all in that one spot. I felt like I had a huge misconception about the pain of birth! Why did it only hurt down low? Was this it or was it going to hurt more? Could I handle more? This thoughts sped through my brain as I moaned through yet another cramping contraction. My doula arrived to me lying in the bed (I was exhausted and couldn’t stand anymore). I told her how much of a wimp I was and kept apologizing for crying! I felt like I should’ve been stronger as a midwife! She encouraged me to get in the shower to help with the pain. I listened and by some miracle and the strength of my husband, I was able to sit on an exercise ball in the shower, it felt amazing! The only thing I distinctly remember while in there was the shower head pipe was loose in the wall and it made this awful rattling sound when the water was on. I remember Jason telling Sarah how annoying it was but all I could think was how distracting it was! I labored in the shower for the next hour and a half or so (I truly couldn’t tell you times as I was very much out of it at this point!) and I noticed I could not open my eyes and I was shaking so bad and I could no longer sit on the ball it was so uncomfortable. I stood and leaned on Jason for support and continued to moan through each contraction as it came. Stevie came in to listen to baby twice with the Doppler which I appreciated but eventually I had to go back on the monitor again. I felt like I barely made it to the bed but it felt so good to lie down as my legs were tired. I adjusted myself into an exaggerated SIMS position and I believe it was around this time my birth photographer arrived. I was so relieved my backup (Brezi) made it! I was shaking so bad, I knew in my head I HAD to be in transition, but was so terrified I’d be 3cm I was scared to have a cervical exam! The only other one I had had was at admission when I was told I was 1cm and it HURT like crazy to have it done! I finally agreed to an exam and was relieved to be at 8cm! I decided suddenly with the start of the next contraction that I wanted fentanyl and asked for it but at the end of the contraction no one responded to me (I didn’t really want it of course, it just hurt)! At the start of the next contraction, I “midwifed” myself and reminded myself that fentanyl depresses the respiratory cycle and I don’t want my preterm baby to be depressed any more than he will be at birth (all of this was out loud, haha!). It was at this point in my labor that I became VERY vocal. Any thought that came through my brain came out of my mouth. Some of it was not so pretty 😉 I remember my doula encouraging me to get out of bed and sit on the toilet but the thought of moving seemed so impossible! They tried to get me out of bed but I felt baby drop into my pelvis that I actually told Stevie to get the doctor because baby was coming! Haha!
I got back into bed and they sat me high in the bed (like I would’ve been on the toilet) and dropped my feet low. I remember during this time my labor felt like it was at the most intense it had ever been. I was scared as I knew I was getting close to delivery and didn’t know what was going to happen or what to expect and I noticed when fear was dominating, I felt like I wasn’t going to make it. I was praying loudly (out loud) to God to help me get through each contraction and while it didn’t take away any of the pain, I could feel Him in the room holding me even as I moaned through each contraction, I knew I was going to make it because of Him and the amazing support I had. At this point, the pressure was intense and it wasn’t long before the urge to push set in. Stevie checked me again and said I was 9.5cm and needed to not push but I couldn’t help it and she knew it!
With each contraction that came, the urge to push was stronger and stronger until I couldn’t bear it anymore and I started pushing with it. This was sometime around 12:30am on the 15th of March. Again, labor surprised me, pushing hurt like CRAZY to me! I was shocked as so many of my clients (and others) told me pushing felt good! I was so upset pushing hurt and let everyone in the room know about it. I felt like at this point, I became the whiniest person ever to labor! I whined about every time I had to push and expressed constantly how much it hurt! I even told them I was ready for my epidural which made everyone laugh as we all knew it was much too late for that (and of course, I didn’t really want one)! Everyone was so awesome encouraging me to keep going and telling me how close I was to meeting my baby and to “do this for my baby.” Of course at the time, I was not pleased with this and told them how much I didn’t like this baby because they were causing me so much pain (of course not ;)! I remember Sarah asking me if I wanted to get on my hands and knees to push but again, the thought of moving was overwhelming and I didn’t want to do it. I couldn’t get out of my head during pushing. Everyone kept telling me how quickly baby was going to come because he or she would be small but they weren’t coming quickly! Pushing was HARD and I didn’t want to do it anymore! I was getting really discouraged that I would be pushing for hours and couldn’t get my friends experiences out of my mind that I started not pushing as strong (I had 3 friends who had recently had their first babies and all had to push 4+ hours). Stevie caught on quickly and told me she was getting a mirror so I could see my baby’s head. When she pulled the mirror in and showed me baby’s head, I felt a wave of relief and a big smile fill my face, I was almost done!
I pushed hard with the next couple of contractions and they called Dr. Bissell into the room as I was moving fast! I reached down at one point to feel my baby’s head even! I gently allowed baby to crown to try to prevent tearing but by the third contraction, I was done and ready to not feel pain anymore. I remember looking at Sarah and telling her I was going to push my baby out on the next contraction! That next contraction came, I pushed with everything in me and suddenly felt the ring of fire! It was so intense and I almost didn’t think I was going to make it but then it was gone almost as fast as it came and I remember Dr. Bissell asking me to stop pushing but I couldn’t! My body had taken over at this point and baby was coming out! (Jason told me that at this point baby had the cord around his neck twice and when I pushed him out, he flipped over himself and into Dr. Bissell’s arms. He said she barely caught him! This is actually called the summersault maneuver and a lot of midwives use it to help with tight nuchal cords. I thought it was funny I used it on myself without even knowing it ;)).
My baby was placed on my chest and he was screaming. I remember taking the blanket off my chest that the NNP had put on there for skin to skin and she yelled at me that it had to stay there to keep him warm…lol woops! I was finally holding my sweet baby as my husband announced we had a boy! I remember yelling, “Hi my sweet McKinley!!!” after that! It felt like time came to a standstill at this point for me. I heard them talking about cutting the cord and I remember my placenta delivering and them rubbing my belly but it was barely noticeable. I was in heaven! The hormone rush was incredible and it truly made me want to do labor and birth again! I was holding my sweet baby I thought I’d never get to hold after our infertility journey, it was such a rush! They took McKinley to the warmer to wrap him up and then brought him back to me because he was breathing well. I got to hold him for a few minutes before they took him to the NICU with my husband. I felt so good I was surprised I didn’t even mind it. About 30 minutes later I received stats on my phone. McKinley was born at 1:32 am on March 15, 2017 after 6 ½ hours of labor including one hour of pushing. He was a whopping 6#2oz (I was told he’d be 3.5-5lbs, no wonder it took longer to push him out!) and was 19 ¾ inches long. This was the 97th and 98th percentile for weight and height. He was a super healthy boy who was headed to 9 pounds plus at full term! Just an hour and a half later, I was at my baby’s bedside snuggling him after they had had a very difficult time getting an IV in him. I was so relieved I was done and he was here!
I could write a book on the experience we had in the NICU. It was mostly extremely positive but the pain and anguish of leaving your baby behind to eat, go to the bathroom or shower and not being able to hold your baby whenever is excruciating. Watching them poke him, prod him and doing the things for him that I as a mother should have been doing at home with him is absolutely heart wrenching. I missed out on “normal.” That’s what my grief truly came down to. Nothing about what was happening to me was normal. And while we tried to “create” normal as often as possible, it was still not normal. Now, anyone can say that there is no normal, but there is. It’s being at home with your baby upon discharge. Never having to leave your baby behind unless you choose to. Deciding what will be done to your baby if at all. Breastfeeding your baby on demand, not when a nurse tells you to or not to. It’s being allowed to pick up your baby when they cry and not having to listen to them cry from the warmer because they have jaundice and need to be under the lights. Normal is very real and I lost it when my water broke at 34 weeks and 4 days and I lost it even more when my child came one day shy of the 35 week no automatic NICU admission cut-off. So when someone tells me I missed out on all the uncomfortable things of pregnancy, I’d like to instead say that I missed out on normal and that was so disappointing and is absolutely fair to grieve. Now, I had a WONDERFUL hospital experience and attest that to knowing what I wanted when I arrived but also to the doctors and staff for allowing me to have options even when they really didn’t want me to do them. I felt in control even when I was very much out of control and that helped so much! While my birth story isn’t exactly what I thought I’d be, it’s so perfect for me as a home birth midwife! We will try for another home birth in the future but now I can be a support to all those mama’s of mine and others who weren’t able to have their home birth! If my story touches even one person, it was worth it! My sweet baby is home safe now (discharged from the NICU in a record 10 days!) and we are living life to the fullest! He is doing all the things I was told would likely be too hard for him and he continues to amaze me! I had a wonderful home birth transfer experience from home birth and I hope and pray more mamas have stories just like mine when a home birth is no longer an option, you deserve it!
Birth Photography courtesy of Brezi with Captured by Brezi Photography http://www.capturedbybrezi.com/ https://www.facebook.com/CapturedByBrezi/
Some of McKinley’s newborn shots just 12 days after he was born, my sweet rainbow baby!
Photos by Dakota Summerton with Modern Newborn Photography https://www.facebook.com/ModernNewbornPhotography/