Thursday, February 18, 2016

Welcome!

Varied expressions at 6 weeks
Birth Sweet Brooklyn is Jennette Selig, offering education and certified postpartum doula support services in much of New York City, as well as support during pregnancy, in planning for a birth or adoption, and with breast and chestfeeding.

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You can also check out featured Birth Stories and blog posts on various topics by scrolling down from this post. Or visit Birth Sweet Brooklyn on Facebook for articles of interest.

Have questions or want to discuss how I can support you? Let's talk!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Supporting a Grieving Parent

"How can I support my friend? She was pregnant, but the baby died before it was born. What can I do for her?" This is a question I was first asked several years ago, by a co-worker whose close friend had lost a baby late in pregnancy. My friend was not geographically close to the grieving mother, and she felt at a loss to respond to and aid her friend, especially given the fact that she couldn’t see her in person to offer physical help.

I scrambled a bit, at the time, to come up with some good resources for my co-worker and her friend, but since I’ve now had more training in responses to perinatal grief and loss -- as part of my postpartum doula and childbirth education training -- and since I've been asked this question a few more times since my co-worker came to me, I'd like to share some of what I've learned. The thoughts and suggestions in this post are specifically tailored toward friends and family members who are wishing to support grieving loved ones, and they can be applied not just to late-pregnancy loss and stillbirth, but to miscarriage, selective reduction, and crisis pregnancies or life-limiting diagnoses that end in perinatal death.

Supporting a Grieving Parent or Parents:
  • Remember that as with birth and parenting styles, all parents will grieve in their own way. This may be very different from the way that you expect, so remain nonjudgmental.
  • You will not be able to fix the situation and you might not know the "right" thing to say. Be open and honest. You can tell the parents that you wish you had the right words, but you just don’t know what to say.
  • Tell them that you are there for them. Ask a grieving parent, "Do you want to talk?" or "Is there anything you need?" Even if they reply in the negative, you've expressed your desire to be a support. If they're open to help, ask them for specific tasks they may need done, or if they have any ideas for how you can best support them. Give them ideas, if they seem reluctant to suggest anything specific. You might even help them brainstorm (and write down) a list to share with other people who say, "Let me know if you need anything," as many people do in a time of loss. You can also encourage the family (or friends of the family) to hire a postpartum, loss, or bereavement doula to help out at home.
  • Parents will remember the words they hear during their grief…The well-intended comment that “It was meant to be,” or “You can have another,” can have a devastating and long-lasting impact on the fragile emotions of grieving parents. So can religiously oriented statements made by people who do not have an intimate knowledge of the family’s spirituality. Let the parents lead any conversation of their spiritual understanding of loss.
  • Don’t be afraid to sit in silence. Your presence and a gentle touch can have more meaning than a stream of words issued because you feel awkward and that you must say something. One mother said that, in the hospital, sympathetic nurses who simply held her hand made a big difference.
  • If you are comfortable doing so, invite your grieving loved ones to call you whenever they want someone to talk to. You may feel this is implied by the nature of your relationship, but even if you "normally" talk or text every day, your friend may need to hear you say the words directly. It can be healing for a parent to hear that others are open to hearing about the baby who was lost. Some parents want to talk about the loss or their child. Or they may at some point in the future.
  • Understand that grieving parents are sometimes very comforted by holding their babies, by having photos taken of them, or by keeping mementos. Depending on the age of the child who died, some hospitals will arrange for parents to bathe their babies after birth, to dress them, or to take home photos, locks of hair, footprints, plaster casts of hands, blankets, hospital ID bracelets, or special certificates. Some families will plan burials, scatter or keep ashes, have "naming" or memorial ceremonies (even long after the loss). If you are able to honor these choices, regardless of what you might choose in a similar situation, that can also be a way to support parents in their grief. Your friends may even want or need help finding a photographer (A good place to start is Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep) or planning a special memorial service. If this is something you feel comfortable assisting with or attending, let them know. If the loss did not occur in a hospital, or if the hospital did not support the family in their grief, you might suggest the ideas above, or otherwise help the family create ritual and remembrance.
  • You might also offer to help with notifying other family/friends/coworkers/neighborhood merchants of the loss. Sometimes, if there are two parents in the family, and one is a gestational parent, this job falls to the partner/father/husband/wife, but it's important to remember that a partner parent is also grieving. Parents of any gender returning to work might appreciate someone letting their coworkers know about the loss, as well as whether or not they are comfortable being asked about it. Some parents have expressed disappointment when friends and coworkers treat them with silence, as if "ignoring" the loss would hurt less than acknowledging it. Follow their lead on whether they'd like some help paving the way for these interactions.
  • Along those same lines, remember the partner (if applicable). I've heard of partners who are only asked "How's your wife doing?" by well-meaning friends and coworkers. In two-parent families, both parents experience loss (as do grandparents, siblings, and other close family members). There may be differences between the ways people are taught/"allowed" to grieve, sometimes along gender lines and sometimes not, and each parent may have had a different relationship with the baby, but everyone deserves to be acknowledged in bereavement.
  • Did the parent(s) name the baby? If so, use the name in conversation. Make a note of the anniversary of the baby's birth date, death date, or "due date," and reach out on that day to let your friend know you're remembering the child. Remember them on Mothers/Fathers Day, too, if those days are meaningful to the parents. It's not just living with a baby that makes us parents. It's the love we have. For this reason, even parents who have no living children are just that -- parents.
  • Share a book or resource that might help them process the loss (some ideas are below).  You can say, "I know you may not be able to look at this now. Hang on to it. It may help you later." Again, avoid overtly spiritual/religious resources unless you are intimately aware of the family's spiritual beliefs.
  • Find out about area support groups and counselors/therapists who specialize in perinatal loss. Give this information to the grieving parents.
  • Don't stop calling/emailing/making contact. Grief doesn't often dissipate in a quick and linear fashion. It spirals gently upward from the depths of initial shock and acute grief, sometimes wandering sideways and sometimes dipping lower again. Even if your friend(s) ask for time alone, you can check back in -- in a few days, a few weeks, several months or a year down the road.

(these suggestions were adapted from: Nurturing the Family: The Guide for Postpartum Doulas, by Jacqueline Kelleher; and A Silent Sorrow - Pregnancy Loss, Guidance and Support for You and Your Family, by Ingrid Kohn, MSW, Perry-Lynn Moffit, and Isabelle A. Wilkins, MD.)


Of course, every grieving parent is different. Some are good at identifying what they want and need as support, and some are not. Most will fall somewhere in the middle -- and what they want and need may very well change. You cannot know what will feel most or least supportive to your loved one in need. If your help is rebuffed, don't take it personally. And don't be afraid to reach out again after some time has passed, to try again.

Please feel free to comment and share your experiences with support after loss. Did someone help you in a meaningful way while you were grieving? How did you respond to a friend’s grief?

Loss altar created at community event, to honor loved ones.

Selected Resources For Further Reading

A Silent Sorrow - Pregnancy Loss; Guidance and Support for You and Your Family, by Ingrid Kohn, MSW, Perry-Lynn Moffit, and Isabelle A. Wilkins, MD
This book would be an excellent resource for any grieving parent, but it also has many suggestions for siblings, extended family, and friends. I'd recommend the book to anyone who has gone through loss, has received a life-limiting diagnosis for a baby in utero, or who wishes to understand and support the phases of grief that may occur after a baby dies.

For Family, Friends, and Allies - How to help family and friends who are grieving (Stillbirthday)

Perinatal Hospice Resources for Parents "Resources for continuing your pregnancy
with a life-limiting prenatal diagnosis." Also on this site: perinatal hospice programs, listed by state.

Resources on Loss and Grief - From Postpartum.net.

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep - NILMDTS trains, educates, and mobilizes professional quality photographers to provide (free) beautiful heirloom portraits to families facing the untimely death of an infant.  We believe these images serve as an important step in the family’s healing process by honoring the child’s legacy."

Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support, Inc. - Providing "support toward positive resolution of grief experienced at the time of, or following the death of a baby. This support encompasses emotional, physical, spiritual, and social healing, as well as sustaining the family unit."

Thursday, October 22, 2015

For Family Fun: www.doodl.club


I have a few more birth stories to share, and some posts in the hopper on other topics, but I want to digress for a moment to post a(n unpaid and sincere) plug for a really cool project. We recently subscribed to our friend Matt's new venture --  www.doodl.club, "Cool Little Coloring Books for Cool Little Humans" -- and Issue 1 was enthusiastically received by our entire family. Kid and grownup humans alike enjoyed looking at and coloring in Jim Stoten's inventive illustrations, and we're eagerly buying gift subscriptions for friends and extended family members while we wait to see what inventive outlines Issue 2 (
Artist: Scott Teplin) and future issues will hold.

What It Is

www.doodl.club is a monthly coloring book subscription. Each month a different featured artist creates a 24-page zine-format coloring book that is addressed and delivered to creative kids around the country (or adults -- you decide!).   

These are coloring books for people who: 
• love offbeat art 
• enjoy collecting zines and comics 
• like finding treasure in the mailbox 
• value time away from screens 
• would like to introduce creative kids to new artists

Issue 1 is shipping now and features the fantastic Jim Stoten. Issue 2, by Scott Teplin, will hit the mailboxes next month. 


Subscriptions start at $7 / month. You can get single issues, too: http://www.doodl.club/
*** Special deal for Birth Sweet Brooklyn readers: Use the code BIRTHSWEET to get 10% off *** (Thanks, Matt!)


~ More about why Matt started www.doodl.club : http://mattcassity.com/blog/www-doodl-club/

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Birth Story: Elizabeth

Today's post is another submission to the ongoing A Birth Story Project. With this project, I provide a public space for birth stories that want to be shared. Please contact me if you'd like to submit your own (anonymous or not, as you prefer). The spectrum of birth experiences is wide, and I'm hoping to be able to post an equally broad variety of stories.

Stories and photos are shared with permission. Stories may be reformatted and edited for clarity, but they are not censored. This is meant to be a safe space, so please read with compassion. Comments may be moderated.


Elizabeth's First Birth


This was my first pregnancy.  I was expecting a boy and had planned a home waterbirth in Brooklyn, NY.

On a Wednesday, five days before my estimated due date and the day before I went into labor, I had some watery, bloody discharge and felt just a tad crampy. I'd been having Braxton-Hicks for several weeks, but was experiencing them more as random stomach tightening than as contractions. They certainly weren't something I could time.

Incidentally, I had every expectation of being one of those women who "went over" her EDD by one or two weeks. I'd even hired a midwife who wasn't due to be back from vacation until right after my due date (though her backup would be available while she was gone, of course). That was how sure I was that I would be "late." The only reason my midwife was in town and didn't miss my birth was that she'd had two other clients who'd gone late, and she'd had to cancel/postpone her vacation!

I also "just knew" I'd have one of those 24-hour "first pregnancy" labors I'd been told were typical.

Wednesday night, a friend came over to watch America's Next Top Model (I know, I know) at our place. My husband and I went to bed around midnight. Just before 4 am on Thursday, I woke up and went to the bathroom. I was still having slightly bloody discharge and imagined maybe I saw a tiny bit of mucous (but nothing much) on the toilet paper. I went back to bed but couldn't fall asleep. I had two cramp-like contractions and thought, "Whoa. That's different. This might be something!" They felt like someone stretching a large rubber band across my stomach and around to my back (I may have read that description somewhere while I was pregnant, so it's possibly not original, but that's how I experienced them). I moved to the couch and tried to distract myself, hoping to wait until my husband woke up on his own (rather than waking him). I figured one of us should get some sleep! I tried to watch something on my laptop. I couldn't concentrate on the screen. I timed my contractions out of curiosity. They came roughly every 10-15 minutes and lasted 30-45 seconds. This seemed to be the real thing.

At seven, when he got up, I told my husband I thought I was in early labor. We'd been good students in our childbirth ed. class, which was specifically for planned homebirths, and I had come away with a list of fun "early labor activities" I wanted to accomplish -- going to the grocery store together to buy labor and postpartum food; making a batch of bran muffins, a pan of lasagna, and a breakfast casserole for after the birth; cleaning the bathroom; filling the birth tub, etc. And maybe we'd watch a movie or take a walk, like our teacher had suggested. I love movies, so that (and the baking) appealed to me most of all. First, though, I texted my doula and called my midwife. They both told me to distract myself -- maybe drink a glass of wine (not likely at 7am, as I'm not much of a drinker anyway), and take a shower. The doula told me to stop timing contractions for the time being. I sent an email to my coworkers to tell them I wouldn't make it in to work that day.

In the shower, I had to lean forward under the shower head, with the spray set to "massage," and let the water pummel my back during contractions. They hurt, but I knew it was just the beginning, so I tried to keep a brave face. The shower helped some, but not as much as I wanted it to. At 10:00 am my midwife came by to check on me on her way to another appointment. I told her my contractions were about 10 minutes apart. I was sitting on the toilet then, as I found it the most comfortable place to be between contractions, and she did not do an internal check because we discussed how I thought my water had broken (in a thin stream, not a gush) while I was in the shower. She checked a pad I'd worn after the shower and said, yes, it was amniotic fluid and there was no trace of meconium. She got out the Doppler and listened to the baby's heartbeat before during, and after a contraction.  She said it sounded great, then left to go to her next appointment -- saying she expected to hear from me when contractions were 5 minutes apart, maybe later that evening.

When my midwife left, my husband ran to the grocery store to buy a few supplies (we hadn't had time to do anything on my "early labor" list, and things seemed to be setting us up for a short labor). I resumed timing contractions because I felt they had really picked up in intensity and speed. By 11am, they were averaging 4 to 4 1/2 minutes apart, and lasting for a minute or a little longer each time. And they really HURT! I thought perhaps I was having back labor. I couldn't figure out anything to do to cope with the pain. Leaning over the sink had stopped working. Having someone press on my back (which the midwife had done while she was there, and which my husband had practiced in our class) had stopped working. I got on my hands and knees and moaned and complained. But I couldn't get in the tub because my water had broken.

I stopped being aware of time at this point, and I certainly wasn't checking a clock, so the exact timing of my labor gets pretty hazy here.

I called the doula. I told her I couldn't cope and that things were moving too fast. She told me it would be 45 minutes to an hour before she could get to our apartment and that I should get back in the shower. I did, but the water was only barely helping. I started to feel weird and, I dared to think, "pushy." Uh oh! I tried really hard not to push and was mostly successful. I made my husband call the midwife. She listened to me on speaker phone. I was on my hands and knees in the shower, and suddenly I had a terrible contraction and felt something pop right at my vaginal entrance. I said that out loud, "I feel pushy! I'm trying not to! I felt something pop!" It felt super-intense and wrong. I started to get scared.

My midwife said I should get out of the shower and lie on the floor. She was driving back from an appointment in New Jersey as fast as she could. The doula showed up then (thank God it didn't take her as long as she thought it would!) and she coached me to not push. I tried to moan rather than scream -- to breathe short breaths rather than grunt -- at her suggestion. I couldn't get comfortable on my side or on my back. I ended up on my hands and knees (trying to kneel on towels they were pushing under me, but I kept slipping onto the tile) in our tiny bathroom. We don't even have a bathtub.  It's very small. I was accidentally hitting my head and hands and feet and legs on the walls, the toilet, the floor, the radiator with each contraction. Sometimes that pain actually made me feel a little better! A couple of times, I think I did it "accidentally on purpose," if that makes sense. I think that was the "ritual" part of my labor comfort measures (mentioned in a video we had watched in class).

Then I heard my doula (who was on the phone with my midwife) say to her, "I see a foot." What?! My baby was head down! Every ultrasound and every midwife and doula who checked me had said the baby was head down! Only one time had my midwife been unsure, and that was months ago, and she still thought he was probably head down! Looking back on it, I had noticed that I wasn't getting kicked in the ribs constantly during late pregnancy, unlike so many other pregnant women. I had wondered if it was because I'm tall and I had more room in my torso.

Nope. He was breech and a foot had been pushed out of me. I couldn't bring myself to look at or touch it, but once my doula said that, I could feel there was something between my legs. A poor, little black-and-blue leg and foot. Apparently, it was even kicking! The baby's heart beat was still strong. I was scared, and said so. I said this was all wrong. I said I was sorry. I said it to my baby and my husband and my body. I was so angry at every woman who had ever had an easy labor. I can laugh about that now.  But every contraction was so painful, and the pain in my back continued like the worst backache/kidney infection ever -- even in between contractions. To this day, I get annoyed when people talk about "the break between contractions" as being lovely, peaceful and restful. I'm not annoyed with them, just with the idea. I didn't get a break!

My midwife made it to our place (crossing 2 rivers and the island of Manhattan) in about 25 minutes, which is amazing. She double-parked and left her emergency blinkers on and a "medical emergency" sign on her windshield in the hopes she wouldn't get towed (I found this out later, and she didn't get towed). She told us that we needed to decide whether we were going to go to the hospital for an emergency breech delivery. She said it would certainly be a C-Section. Now, I didn't want a C-Section, but what I really didn't want was to get up, make my way down 3 flights of stairs (naked), get into a car, and be driven to a hospital!! And what I really, REALLY didn't want was to make the decision. I felt crazed and unprepared. I told her I'd do what she advised. My husband said later he'd felt the same way -- completely unready to make that call. We both wanted her to make it, and she did. I can see now that she knew our reluctance to say "let's go" was us wanting to stay home -- us trusting in her years of expertise to know if we needed to transfer. She said she thought we could attempt to see this breech homebirth through. She, like me, didn't know how I'd make it out of the house. She thought I'd probably end up having the baby in the car, I was progressing so quickly. And she knew that breech births are possible vaginally. She had a good success rate turning babies, and she didn't attend planned breech vaginal births, so she hadn't done more than two emergency breech deliveries, but she knew it could be done.

As it turns out, my midwife and the doula had just recently watched three vaginal breech births (on video), so the knowledge that it IS possible was fresh in their minds. They also knew when to be hands-off and let the baby's body shift into the best position, which is what had to happen next. He needed to get into position without them tugging on him, and he did it himself. My body helped, so I guess we did it ourselves. Pretty miraculous, thinking back on it now. In fact, after the birth, my midwife and doula even got down on the floor and acted out how his orientation changed as his body twisted and turned through the birth canal!

Now, they settled in to coach me through the remaining contractions, and they were so patient and kind. I made terrible, low noises and tried to breathe. I felt so awful and thought it would never end. I didn't want to do it. I wanted it to stop. But I knew I had to let my body take over. Oh, it hurt. I kept saying, "I'm so scared." Maybe not the best mantra, but I was being honest with myself. I told my husband I was sorry if I was scaring him, too. I couldn't see anyone, so I couldn't read their faces. I was bent forward over the toilet (which had a pillow on the closed seat by now), kneeling on towels and tile. My knees felt quite bruised! And I was embarrassed and angry about how dirty our toilet looked.  I hadn't cleaned it well enough before going into labor, I discovered, and now I didn't want to touch it, but I had to. I was just along for the ride. My husband breathed along with me hoping it would help me be less embarrassed about the noises I was making -- and I was embarrassed. I thought the downstairs neighbors would call the cops, thinking I was being murdered. I can't believe (my husband saw them the next day) they said they were home during the whole thing and didn't even hear me!!

The first time I felt any relief was when the second leg came out. Oh! I let myself believe MAYBE this would end, but the contractions still hurt terribly. Some of the back pain let up, and my midwife told me later that she thought the second foot/leg had been inside scraping along my sacrum and causing the pain. Birthing the butt also hurt badly. I kept feeling like I'd push and make progress, and then everything would slip back in (though, of course, not everything was slipping back in). My midwife told me, "We can see testicles! We know it's definitely a boy!" I didn't care. After the butt came out, he pooped meconium, but when it first came out the fluid (I felt like water just poured out of me at several points during labor, though it was hours after my water had broken) had not had  meconium in it, so they felt sure he hadn't aspirated meconium inside of me. Since they still couldn't get to his head, this reassured them somewhat.

After the butt, the chest came out in another painful contraction or series of contractions -- I'm not sure how long it took. I guess I was pushing for 30 minutes? I was out of the shower trying NOT to push for 15-30 minutes before that? And in the shower trying NOT to push for 15 minutes before that? That's roughly the timeline.  I wish I knew exactly.

Now only the head remained inside my body. They couldn't get a heartbeat reading on the doppler anymore because of his position (which didn't mean he was in distress; it just meant we couldn't hear that reassuring sound) and the cord didn't seem to be pulsing as well as she wanted, so my midwife said, "I'm sorry, I'm going to have to put my hand inside you." I think I said, "Oh no..." There was a terrible pressure and I had to push. It turns out, she had put fingers into the baby's mouth to tip his head (chin) down so that he could come out right away. The cord was wrapped twice around his neck, so she unwrapped it. He came out into a pile of towels between my legs. I was still on all fours.

I heard him crying right away. My husband said he doesn't even think they had to suction him. I felt like I couldn't look. I was shocked. I couldn't believe it was over. I couldn't believe it. It was around 12:20pm. I sent another email to my coworkers about 20 minutes later, to say I'd had the baby, and they thought I was joking.

I finally realized he was there, between my legs, in a towel, and I could barely touch him. It was a dream. He couldn't be real! But then I was able to get my breath back and move with him out of the bathroom (and off of my knees) onto our couch, which was covered with old sheets and shower curtains and absorbent pads and things. I birthed the placenta there in two painful pushes (I was so annoyed at having to push again!) and everyone said it looked great. I didn't even glance at the placenta.  I could only look at my baby in shock. The midwife and the doula and my husband and I were all sort of in shock, I think. We kept talking about all the details, running over everything that had happened. We couldn't quite believe we had done it -- I had done it. I still sort of can't believe it.

In short, my son was born 4 days before his "due date" on my bathroom floor after 8-9 hours of labor (from first contraction to last push). He weighed 8lbs 9 oz. He was apparently a footling breech (surprise!), or a complete breech with one foot popping out first. He was 20 1/2 inches long and his head measured 37 cm. His APGAR scores were 9/10. 

It was amazing to get that "golden hour" (and more) of skin-to-skin contact after the birth. He was on my chest pretty much constantly, except when he was weighed (and when my husband held him, of course). What a privilege to get to figure out those early hours of breastfeeding as a team. He had some jaundice the first week, and I was quite nervous about the idea of having to take him to the hospital if he needed phototherapy, after all that, but it was nothing our midwife or pediatrician ended up being concerned about. We worked through it.

I can't believe we did this at home. I can't believe I didn't end up in the hospital emergency room. I'm so glad everyone is safe and content today. I did not tear, though I was pretty sore (especially while walking) for a few weeks. My knees were tender for 3 or 4 days. The baby's leg gradually pinked up (the one that was hanging out of me the longest) and was perfectly fine. He had no hip/leg issues.

I just can't believe it.  And I'm so happy.

p.s. I never got into the filled birth tub, of course. There went my dreamy (so I'd dared to wish) ideal water birth!! I always had doubts about renting it (because of the cost), but I'm not pretending I saw this coming! My husband joked that he should've put his suit on and just sat in it for a while, after all the trouble to rent and fill it. Oh well!

p.s.2. When I talked to someone about the birth later, she said, "Did you ever wish you had painkillers available to you?" And, you know, I never once wished I did EXCEPT for a silly, fleeting moment when I thought, "Oh, man, my back hurts so much. But maybe if I took a few Tylenol from the medicine cabinet behind me they might take the edge off." Even as I thought it, I laughed at myself and then transitioned back into another incredibly painful contraction.

p.s.3 After the birth, my husband ordered Thai food for us all for lunch. I remember that I was hungry, but also that I was annoyed that he hadn't ordered any of my favorite dishes! I think he was trying to get a wide variety of things, since we didn't know our birth team's preferences. That night, however, after the midwife and doula had gone, our closest friends brought us fried chicken and biscuits and mashed potatoes. This turned out to be exactly what I wanted. Heavenly!

Update: My son is three now. I wrote this story the day after my son was born, but time reshapes the edges of the story, both concealing and revealing, and I've added some memories/thoughts since then. Birth stories are tricky! I know that I was in a lot of pain and frightened during the labor, but I also can't deny how much I adore the outcome -- my beautiful, amazing son. The fear and pain have faded a lot, leaving a proud, empowered feeling of competency, but there's still some trauma behind those good feelings. I certainly haven't rushed to get pregnant again, though I love being a mom! 

Still, the bottom line I cling to is: I did it! He did it! We did it! Others can do it! Not everyone will get the chance to do exactly what I did, of course, given how rare a surprise breech baby is (and how hard it is to find a breech-birth-friendly provider if you know in advance your baby is breech), and I hope that my story doesn't cause others pain. Sometimes it's hard for me to share my story, because I worry people will think I'm bragging -- especially in the face of mothers who've experienced breech pregnancies that have ended up in cesarean births the mothers may not have wanted. Still, I also think my story, like so many of the birth stories I devoured while I was pregnant (and since!), is a testament to what a woman's body can do, and how we can heal afterwards. Thanks for reading it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Birth Story Project: Kimberly

Here's another terrific entry into the ongoing A Birth Story Project. With this project, I provide a public space for birth stories that want to be shared. Please contact me if you'd like to submit your own (anonymous or not, as you prefer). The spectrum of birth experiences is wide, and I'm hoping to be able to post an equally broad variety of stories.

Photos and stories are shared with permission. Stories may be reformatted and edited for clarity, but they are not censored. This is meant to be a safe space, so please read with compassion. Comments may be moderated.
Kimberly's First Birth (NY):

I had an amazingly healthy pregnancy, doing yoga, swimming & walking til the end,  so I foolishly thought I'd have this blissful Ina May Gaskin-esque experience - it was the polar opposite!

I was 5 days past my due date and had gone for acupuncture to avoid being induced. Not sure that was the best idea - I think it forced G out before she was ready. I'd been having early labor off & on for more than a week, but finally went into "real" labor on a Sunday around 4pm. Immediately, took a nap & during that nap (around 6pm) felt a "pop" and the bed got wet underneath me. I was GBS+ and didn't want to go to the hospital & get hooked up to an IV right away, so I stayed home for another 11-12 hours (!) having contractions that were painful, but manageable, taking showers, eating small meals, took another nap. Had a nice brisk midnight walk w/ my sister-in-law Ruth Ann, who's a homebirth midwife in WV (and had been camping out in NJ at her in-laws, waiting for me to have a baby!).

A little meconium showed up and contractions were getting much closer together, so we decided to head to the hospital at 5am on Monday, before speaking to the midwife on call (at Beth Israel). I lied & told the doctor in triage my water had JUST broken like 2 hours before (not 12!), was disappointed to find that I was only 1cm dilated after all that time/contractions. Had an icky exchange w/ the head resident (who coincidentally is the name listed on G's birth certificate as having delivered her!). Had to do a little fighting w/ a nurse or two about my staying mobile & sticking up for my rights, telling them that I was a midwife patient and they should call her if there were any questions.

Brian was sneaking me food & juice. Ruth Ann went to Whole Foods & got me some castor oil & herbs to hasten things. I kept hearing other women enter the room next door, labor for a bit, scream, move out, next woman, etc. Finally saw Susan, the midwife around 11am. Was glad it was her: she was funny, loving & a tough cookie. She determined I had a "forebag" when your water breaks up high on the sac, so basically the body doesn't know it's broken, and there's not downward pressure from the baby to move things along. Tried to use the amnio hook, but I wasn't dilated enough, so it was Pitocin for me. My heart sank - there goes everything, I thought! Ruth Ann assured me that she's seen women labor on Pitocin, and since I'd already been having contractions I'd have the endorphins to counteract it. I had this idea that I’d get a little Pitocin, it would kick things into gear, and then I could get off it. In reality, about every 1/2 hour or hour, as no progress was made, they'd up it. Bam! I would literally BEG the nurse NOT to up it when she'd come in. “Please, I need a break.” I labored on Pitocin for 8+ hours (in addition to the 20 hours of labor pre-Pitocin). At some point I remember hearing "Always Love" by Nada Surf (listening to the Birth Playlist via ipod) and I hugged Brian, swaying to the music, and cried, I felt so emotional.

It got to the point that I had no break in between contractions. I had smaller contractions, in between the big ones, that were as intense as my previous contractions had been. I had been active the whole time: bouncing on a ball, pacing, swaying, rocking in a rocker (and had started involuntarily banging my head against the back of the rocking chair during contractions trying to make myself lose consciousness). The whole time, Ruth Ann & Brian (and Susan) were very encouraging that I could do it. Susan was the only midwife that day, so I didn't see a ton of her, which was actually nice - we spent a lot of time just the three of us in the room. They kept giving me little milestones to reach to get me through the pain, "Susan will be back in an hour to check you, you just need to make it til then" or "just 20 more minutes til X happens."

At one point, I was on the toilet & Susan told me to stay there for a while (where I was unconnected to monitors) and I recall not being able to sit down any more - I couldn't have any part of my body touching anything due to intense pain. She eventually put me in bed to rest because I was so exhausted & she said I needed to have energy to push. That bed is a thing of my nightmares, like a torture device. This is when the most intense contractions occurred - the ones w/ no downtime. According to Brian, during this time I would pass out cold between contractions & start snoring! For several weeks after, every time I'd lay down in a bed to sleep, I'd be transported to THAT bed and relive the trauma. Every big contraction, I'd climb the bed rails. I felt very alone at that point (even though surrounded by people) as I realized that I WAS alone - I was the only one that could do it and no one could help me. I begged someone to help me, "I can't do it!" “You can! You're doing it,” they said. At some point during labor, my sister showed up, which was really great - I'd thought of inviting her, but hadn't. It's all pretty blurry. I was hinting at pain relief & kept getting talked out of it, because they knew that's what I wanted. Weeks later, I felt like, "why was it OK (from a midwifery standpoint) for me to have Pitocin, but not to have my pain taken away?"

After 8 Pitocin-hours (and 28 hours total), I was 5cm. “I don't have another 5cm in me!” I thought. I asked for an epidural - it was very nerve wracking getting it, staying still during contractions so they don't puncture your spinal cord. Ugh. Brian (& everyone but the anesthesiologist) had to leave the room. My sister whispered to me "you're amazing. You didn't fail! You're only doing what 95% of women do." It was very hard for me to get drugs administered in front of Ruth Ann, who is a total bad ass (40 hour horrendous drug free labor with her 1st kid). She said to me, "when I said I've seen women labor on Pitocin, I meant like for 2 hours, not 8! Holy Shit girl!" I then slept & Brian & Ruth Ann basically watched my monitor, in which both the baby's & my heart rates would take turns skyrocketing & plummeting due to the Pitocin. Now that I had the epidural, they could jack it - still not making progress.

At some point in the middle of the night, I was awoken by the nurse, who sat me up to get the benefit of gravity, as Susan explained I was being examined in one more hour and if there wasn't sufficient progress, I'd likely end up w/ a c-section. So, I actually had this amazing hour to myself while Brian & Ruth Ann slept in the corner & I channeled my inner Ina May, speaking to the baby, meditating & guiding her down & out. And then Susan came in, spread my legs and said "Oh shit! It looks like someone has spilled a can of split pea soup between your legs." Literally like 2 cups of meconium on the bed. And only 7cm. Game over. C-section, it is! I had about 10 mins to talk it over w/ Brian, and the attending surgeon came in to explain everything to me about the procedure. I recall her describing how they double-suture the incision, so that I can have another baby in the future w/out fear of rupture. I thought, "Is she crazy? I'm never doing this again!"

The surgery was very stressful to me, psychologically, because I feel like it was sprung on me and I hadn't had time to get used to the idea. I had considered doing a home birth w/ Ruth Ann & she said to me on the way to the OR, "If we'd attempted a home birth, we'd have ended up in the same place." And she also said, "I've transferred many women to hospitals who've gotten totally bogus c-sections & I've had to make up lies as to why they needed them (because the dr. wanted it), so as not to make them feel robbed of their birth experience. I don't have to lie to you - you legitimately need this. This is why they exist."

Brian held my hand & I was very cold, arms splayed on the operating table, like I was on a cross.There were roughly 10 people in the room, 2 of them NICU pediatricians just in case, as G had been very distressed during my super-medicated labor (and the ass-load of meconium). I heard, "She has so much hair!" and "She looks just like Daddy!" & then I heard what sounded like a cat in the room & I asked if the baby was crying. She was! Brian was alternating between comforting me -- "Everything's fine, Sweetie! She's perfect" -- and giving permission to the peds to intubate her! She was grunting & not breathing at first & poor Brian thought she was dying!

Before whisking her to NICU (she'd swallowed a ton of meconium, which they'd sucked out of her lungs, and she was running a fever), I saw her for like 30 seconds. I got to touch her cheek. I think I said, "Hi!" No holding, but Brian got to hold her. What no one tells you about c-section is that it takes maybe 10 minutes to get the baby out and about 45 mins to put you back together. I heard the surgeons & nurses counting: every piece of equipment and gauze had to be accounted for. Then I had this feeling that there was a metal clamp on my lower abdomen - I thought that was something from the surgery that they'd remove. Then they said, "OK, you're done!" What about the metal clamp? Nope, that's your new abdomen! Oh, that was Tuesday, December 21, 2010, 6:23am - 38 hours after my labor started. Whew!

I didn't officially get to "meet" Georgia until more than a day after she was born (and we didn't name her until then). I couldn't go to NICU because I couldn't sit up & get there via wheelchair (on a different floor from maternity). As hard as that was (between bouts of being passed out cold on morphine), it was actually an amazing bonding experience for her & Brian. He went to NICU and took off his shirt, doing skin-to-skin contact (the nurses thought he was a rock star!) and feeding her. One of the nurses woke Brian from a nap in our room the day of her birth and begged him to come down and give her formula, as she'd been screaming in hunger. I didn't want her to have formula, but I didn't want her to be hungry and feel abandoned either.

Not being able to breastfeed right away made it difficult, but I had to say that while my birth experience was WAY less than ideal, the nursing staff & lactation consultants were very helpful & supportive of breastfeeding. Also, the NICU staff was great. G spent 40 hours there total & was the pinkest, chubbiest baby in NICU (7 lbs, 10z, 20 inches). I felt very grateful that she got sprung so quickly & felt sad for parents who's babies were in there for weeks. And I remember feeling a bit nervous when at 9pm Weds night the NICU ped said, “You can take her back to your room.” "Right now?" We had a dehydration scare while in the hospital (before my milk came in), but eventually got the hang of feeding.

We brought her home on Christmas day. I was hallucinating in the car; I was so exhausted. My friend/neighbor David was walking down our block when our car pulled up. He took a picture of the three of us in front of the car. Later, he sent me an email saying that seeing Brian and I walk up the stairs to our building, carrying our new baby on Christmas Day, put him in mind of Mary, Jesus and Joseph.

 Mother and daughter officially "meeting" in the NICU


Monday, June 16, 2014

A Birth Story Project: Sarah (2)


Sarah's back with another submission to A Birth Story Project -- the story of her first son's birth. Read the story of her second son's birth here:

With this project, I provide a public space for birth stories that want to be shared. Please contact me if you'd like to submit your own (anonymous or not, as you prefer). The spectrum of birth experiences is wide, and I'm hoping to be able to post an equally broad variety of stories.

Stories and photos are shared with permission. Stories may be reformatted and edited for clarity, but they are not censored. This is meant to be a safe space, so please read with compassion. Comments may be moderated.


Sarah's First Birth

Greyson was 9 days pass his due date and the ultrasound scan was estimating almost 10lbs, give or take a lb. Kyle [my husband] was 13lb at birth so they were slightly concerned. I was freaking out! I wanted him OUT stat. We talked over the options. I wasn't dilated, effaced, nothing... I cried and cried. It was so depressing at the time. Even in Kyle's largest t-shirt, my belly was hanging out.

This was a Wednesday. The plan was to perform a C-section the next Monday, if he didn't arrive on his own. I was really upset, as I was planning on a natural childbirth.

When I found out I was pregnant Kyle had decided to not shave his beard until Greyson was born. We left the doctors office, got Shake Shack, and Kyle said I could do the honors of shaving his beard. Well, halfway into shaving Kyle beard, the contractions kicked in! I didn't say anything because I had had false labor a few time earlier in the week. We made enchiladas for dinner and I baked a cake (I was already huge at this point; I didn't care).
 
I had contractions all night and the next morning threw up some, etc. The contractions became super close together, but my water hadn't broken, so we stayed home longer.

Things got real, and we called our neighbor to drive to us to the hospital. We checked in around 10am on Thursday. Thank GOD I was 4cm dilated, as I was "nothing" less than 24hrs earlier. We walked around for about 2hr doing squats, etc. I slept for 2hrs, then woke up to "NO PROGRESS."

My doctor wanted to break my water, but I said no waited and another 4 hrs. NO PROGRESS, but the contractions continued. Took a shower, walked more... I was seriously so tired at this point and it felt like I had been in labor for days.

At almost 6pm, the doctor insisted on breaking my water -- and that point, I didn't care. I was over it. Around 8-10pm, no progress. The doctor became worried that (because of his size) he was stuck. They wanted to do a C-section, but I said I wanted to try longer. The doctor said it was fine, but advised me of the possibly of the baby's shoulder getting stuck.

2am: no progress, so I got an epidural in preparation for the C-section, and -- BAM -- within a few hours, right as I was watching the ROYAL WEDDING, I was going through transition and was ready to push! I was screaming I WANT TO PUSH!!!! My doctor thought I was crazy and was shocked that after all that I was ready to go.

It took me a while to get a hang of pushing. I felt the urge to push, but I just couldn't figure it out, I guess. I had an epidural but I was still moving all over the bed. I don't know if it was working or not. After about 2hrs Kyle said, "Holy shit I see his head and he has a ton of hair!!!" I also remember the doctor saying, "You're doing it, you're doing it!"  I pushed him out with the next push: 8lbs 15oz 22in and COVERED in Meconium. He was screaming, with arms straight out. Kyle reached out and touched his hand. I was so glad he was out and didn't get stuck. I kept saying, "I can't believe I did it." 

I did end up having a tear with 4-5 stitches and a fractured tailbone, but I was so happy with how things turned out.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Birth Story Project: Beth


I have the honor of posting another submission to A Birth Story Project. With this project, I provide a public space for birth stories that want to be shared. Please contact me if you'd like to submit your own (anonymous or not, as you prefer). The spectrum of birth experiences is wide, and I'm hoping to be able to post an equally broad variety of stories.

Stories and photos are shared with permission. Stories may be reformatted and edited for clarity, but they are not censored. This is meant to be a safe space, so please read with compassion. Comments may be moderated.
 


Beth's Third Birth

It was 4:00 am. A familiar sensation brought me out of sleep, though I was not quite awake.  “Great,” I thought. “I started my period.” Suddenly, I was wide awake. “Wait a minute. I’m 28 weeks pregnant. I couldn’t have started my period!” I quickly got up and headed toward the bathroom. It had definitely been something, but I couldn’t figure it out. There was hardly anything there and it had no color, nothing distinguishing. Puzzled, I crawled back into bed. I started to wake my husband, then stopped. He had to get up at 6:00 to get ready for work and I hated to disturb him if I wasn’t sure. I lay there, thinking. When I heard the rustling of my husband getting dressed, I told him what had happened.

He assured me it was probably nothing. “You probably just wet yourself a little,” he said.

“What if it’s amniotic fluid? Remember what happened to your mother?” I said.

“Oh, it can’t be amniotic fluid. It’s way too early for that. Let’s just keep an eye on it,” was his reply.

I agreed and got up to get dressed myself. As I got ready, I wondered if I should call the Birth Center where I had been going for my prenatal appointments. If I called, they may have me come in to be checked, which would be an hour and a half drive. My husband would have to take the day off and I would have to pull my oldest child from preschool -- to potentially be told it was nothing. I put on a liner so that if it happened again, perhaps I would be able to see it better, and vowed to keep an eye on it.

I started our morning routine of dressing the boys, fixing their breakfast, brushing teeth and getting on coats and shoes. I dropped my 3 year old off at preschool and my 2 year old and I came home to decide how to spend our morning. He decided he wanted to make biscuits, one of our favorite things to do together. I got out the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, butter and milk. We had fun making our biscuits. All seemed to be right with the universe.

In fact, everything seemed to be going well lately. After my last pregnancy, I was a little scared to get pregnant again. My son had been transverse, and despite doing an external version, he never stayed head down. To add to it, I had gestational diabetes and a lot of extra amniotic fluid, which compounded the problem of trying to get him to stay head down once he was turned. I ended up with a C-section, something I had desperately been trying to avoid.

My current pregnancy had started out with a lot of ups and downs. The doctor originally thought the baby was ectopic, and wanted me to take Methotrexate to end the pregnancy. They could not see anything on ultrasound and thought they should be seeing at least something in the uterus at that point. We refused the Methotrexate. We felt we just couldn’t take it when there was no proof the baby was outside the uterus. We wanted to wait to do another ultrasound, as I was still pretty early along. That was a hard week of waiting. I went in for periodic hormone level checks and they did not feel that my numbers were going up fast enough. Another sign, they said, that the pregnancy was ectopic. The doctor gave me a card to carry with me in case I had to go to the emergency room. I was counseled to head there immediately with any pain. I was told the risks to me if I were to have a tube rupture. Amazingly, the next ultrasound showed a little something right where it should be! The ultrasound tech was speechless. We were relieved and elated.

At the next ultrasound, though, the Dr said the sac was not growing as fast as the baby. We were plunged back into a waiting game. Finally, after the first trimester, I switched to the Birth Center in Topeka. We knew the sac was small, but there didn’t seem to be anything that could be done about it. We knew this pregnancy was in God’s hands and there was nothing else we could do but wait and pray. The main reason for the switch, though, was for a better chance at a VBAC [Vaginal Birth After Cesarean]. The hospital in Manhattan [KS] had said I could try for a VBAC, but if I came in when they were busy with a lot of other mothers in labor, I would be sent straight to the OR.

My appointments in Topeka went well. I had another ultrasound at 20 weeks where were found out we were expecting a little girl this time! When I asked about the sac size, I was told there was enough room around the baby. There was a little concern about the placenta being low, but I was told this usually corrects itself. At my last prenatal appointment I found out that I didn’t have gestational diabetes this time around. I was so excited to be able to eat what I wanted. Yes, everything seemed right with the universe. I was starting to be convinced that this time around was going to go so much more smoothly than last time. I do admit to having a few nagging doubts about the VBAC. I knew the chances of something going wrong were low, but if they did, could we live with our decision?

I continued on with my day. I picked up my 3 year old from preschool and the afternoon was full of the business of watching two rambunctious little boys and keeping the house running smoothly. My husband got home from work, excited for a weekend off. We talked briefly about what we would do, as his weekends off are few and far between. I ran to the grocery store to pick up some things to make dinner, and even had to run back home for my wallet which I left on the counter. I was tired from a long day and felt a little scattered.

It was while I was putting away the dishes from dinner that I felt the first big gush. I ran to the bathroom. This time there was a pink tinge. I yelled out to my husband. “Something’s wrong!” I said. When I called the midwife, she told me that my water had probably broken. “Is there anything else it could be?” I asked. At that point, anything sounded better than my water breaking. “No,” she said. She told me to head to Stormont Vail Hospital in Topeka. Thoughts were swirling around in my head. I was trying to figure out the logistics of this with 2 little boys whose bedtime was only an hour away. She asked me what time this started. I told her about what had happened early that morning. “I’m not sure if it was the same thing or not,” I said. “If this started at 4:00 in the morning, you need to get to the hospital right now,” she said.

My husband said he was not driving to Topeka. He would drive me to the hospital in Manhattan, which was about half the distance. I remember being really hurt that he didn’t want to drive me to Topeka. What I didn’t understand at the time was that he was afraid I would go into labor in the car and he thought it would be better if an ambulance took me from Manhattan to Topeka.

Later, a nurse told me that this was really the wisest decision.

The next 20 minutes are still kind of a blur. We tried to decide who to call to help with the boys. We knew it should probably be family, since we would not likely be coming back that night. His family was closest, but we could not get a hold of his parents. I called his brother and sister-in-law next. They have five of their own, but she thought nothing of putting the baby in the car and heading to Manhattan to meet us while her husband watched the other four. We threw some things into a bag for the boys, and in the meantime, I had to change to a heavy pad twice. My husband asked if he should just call an ambulance, but we were pretty much ready to go at that point. We piled into the car and headed toward Manhattan.

The ride was a quiet one. I thought to look for the rosary we usually left in the car, but I couldn’t find it. “One of the boys took it out," my husband told me. I quietly prayed without it, looking out the window. I don’t think it had sunk in how big this really could be. I was just worried about going into labor at that point. Every twinge I felt grabbed my attention. It seemed to take so long to get to Manhattan. The boys were exceptionally good for the ride. When we were close to Manhattan, my oldest said, “Mommy, when you get done at the hospital, let’s get something to eat and go home.” At that point, I had to fight back the tears. I knew I wouldn’t be going home that night.

We finally arrived at the hospital and parked. When I got out of the car, I realized that I had leaked through my jeans. We hurried inside and up to labor and delivery, where they were already waiting for us. The Birth Center in Topeka had called them. It turned out that I was not dilated, thankfully, but a swab test showed that I was leaking amniotic fluid. I was definitely ruptured. I heard the nurse telling my husband that I was ruptured and would have to be taken by ambulance to Stormont in Topeka. I felt like I was in a dream. They then wheeled in a sonogram machine to check on the baby and gave me a steroid shot in the hip. I tried not to think about what that meant. I knew they were trying to mature the baby’s lungs in case she was born early.

By that time, my sister in law had arrived and was helping distract the boys with snacks. I was glad to have someone else there. The doctor came in to do the sonogram and I was told that I had just “bought myself a ticket out of there.” It was agreed that Jeremy would take the boys home and I would go by ambulance by myself and call my Mother to meet me in Topeka. I happened to ask my sister-in-law if she had a rosary. She lent me hers to take with me. It was comforting to hold it during the ride to Stormont Vail and really came in handy that week.

Two men came in to load me onto the ambulance. One of them ended up knowing my husband’s family and we were able to make small talk about that. I don’t even remember which way we ended up leaving the hospital. I just remember being put into the ambulance and driving off. I was so scared that I laid there stiff as a board for most of the ride. I continued praying silently and tried not to think of the boys.

When we arrived in Topeka, I was put in a temporary room to be checked in. The nurse was very smiley and perky, which grated on my nerves a bit. I was terrified. I just wanted the Dr to come in and tell me when they would be delivering. I assumed it would be later that night. The nurse asked a lot of questions and kept saying, “You know we don’t do VBAC’s here, right?” I told her I did. Finally, the Dr came in and told me that I had Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes. They would be doing a few tests, but he said that usually no cause was found. It was just something that happened sometimes.

I was told that I would be on bed rest in the hospital -- hopefully until 34 weeks. I felt like the world was crumbling down around me. 34 weeks? That was a full 6 weeks away. What would we do about the boys? I wanted to bawl, but I couldn’t. I was moved to a room in labor and delivery and was told that my first 24 hours would be spent on complete bed rest (not even any trips to the bathroom). I would also not be allowed to eat that first 24 hours until they were sure things had stabilized. By the time I was finally settled in my room, it was around 11pm. I was exhausted and terrified. I kept thinking about the boys at home. I should have been there to tuck them in that night. I had never been apart from them both and I felt like someone had just ripped my heart out. I was worried about this baby who would be premature and I felt sorry for myself too. Our whole plan was out the window. I wasn’t proud of these feelings, but I acknowledged them. I didn’t get much sleep that night. When I did fall asleep, it would be for very short periods of time. When I woke, I cried.

By the next morning, the tears were flowing freely. I couldn’t talk without crying for awhile. I was told that I would have a sonogram that morning, but would not see the perinatologist until Monday, as he was out of the office. I had heard of him before and knew that he was good. The sonogram showed that the baby was sideways but growing fine. Amazingly, the amniotic level was at 14; still normal! I did not have any leaking that day and was encouraged, but the leaking returned that night, with cramping. I was told that I would probably leak the whole time. I had to wear these things around my calves that pumped air and lowered my risk of developing blood clots. I was started on large doses of antibiotics through an IV to lower the risk of infection setting in since I was ruptured. I had my second and final steroid shot that night. Somehow, I was given the strength that day to accept that this was our reality. I knew we would get through this, and I was determined to be as positive as possible.

The next day was Cinco de Mayo. It was also the day of the super moon that year, which unfortunately I could not see through my window. I was disappointed that we would be missing the Cinco de Mayo celebration at church that night. I had been looking forward to taking the boys, as I knew they would enjoy it. However, my husband brought the kids to visit. It was so good to see them! My 2 year old climbed right up in bed with me to snuggle, like always. My 3 year old seemed a little taken aback and quiet. They played throughout the afternoon and had supper with me. They were so excited that they could see the Lifestar helicopter from my window. I was able to get out of bed to go to the bathroom and take a very brief shower that day. I had a new appreciation for the small things in life!

I had almost no leaking that day or night. That evening, while I was praying and trying to keep the fear away, I had a vision that I was walking with Jesus and he took my right hand. It was the most comforting, peaceful feeling. I wished that I could hold onto that forever! Sunday was very uneventful. There was no leaking or cramping.

Monday was roller coaster ride. The nurse came in and told me that I would have a sonogram with the perinatologist that morning, who was back in the office. However, she said that my Doctor was so encouraged by my lack of symptoms that they thought I had sealed over and I would probably be allowed to go home. They just needed the perinatologist’s approval. I couldn’t believe it! I was so excited and thankful. However, when I arrived in the perinatologist’s office downstairs, the nurse asked why I was in a wheelchair and not in a hospital bed. I thought once they did the sonogram, they would see that I was sealed over, but that was not the case. The doctor said that that baby was now head down, which was probably creating a cork-like effect, keeping me from leaking. The nurse told me that there were still pockets of fluid outside the amniotic sac and that I would probably have at least one more big gush. The amniotic fluid level was still on the low end of normal, though, and all her growth was still normal! They estimated that she weighed about 2 pounds, 12 oz, more or less. I decided to be encouraged by that, even though I was disappointed that I would not be going home. I still felt very lucky.

Tuesday morning was a scary one. I had a big gush of blood in the early morning hours. I just remember lots of nurses in the room, calling the Doctor. I passed a very large clot. They put me back on complete bed rest with no eating or drinking all day, just in case. They did a quick sonogram to be sure that the placenta didn’t appear to be separating, and they checked to see if I was dilated (I was dilated to a 1). They kept the baby monitor on for a good 12 hours (normally they put the monitor on twice a day to make sure she wasn’t in distress). It was very soothing to hear her heartbeat while I rested.

On Wednesday things had calmed down again a bit. I was able to eat and drink again but the bleeding continued, so I remained on bed rest. They said they would continue just monitoring things. I looked forward to seeing my husband and the boys on Thursday or Friday.

Thursday was pretty much the same. They continued monitoring the baby twice a day. I remained on complete bed rest. That night after supper, I began feeling a little anxious. My heart seemed to be beating fast. The nurse noticed my heart rate and when I told her how I was feeling, she said it was very normal to feel that way when you’ve been cooped up for so long.

On May 11, 2012, at around 8:00am, the Doctor came and told me that my lab results that morning showed that infection was setting in, and because they didn’t know where all the bleeding was coming from, they would be delivering by C-section in about 3 hours. I called my husband who left work and began the long drive to Topeka. They started me on Magnesium Sulfate. They usually try to give it 12 hours before delivery, but since they had to deliver quickly, they gave a large dose, then went down to a smaller dose for the remainder of the 3 hours. Unfortunately, I got the large dose in, but then felt like my chest and throat were on fire, so they stopped it. I began having contractions that morning as well.

My husband arrived about 5 minutes before surgery, just in time to put on his scrubs. I was glad he was able to make it and could hold my hand throughout the C-section. The operating room looked so different from the last C-section I had. There was a lot of equipment for the baby and a team from the NICU. They assured me that most of the equipment was there “just in case.” During the surgery, I could hear them counting, but I’m not sure what the counting was for. The hypnobirthing that I had been practicing for my big VBAC actually helped keep me relax during the procedure. I was very calm this time around.

Jeremy and I were both surprised when Lucy started crying after she was delivered! They wheeled her around for me to see before she was taken to the NICU. She was so tiny! They told me that she was a good size for 29 weeks, though. She weighed 2 pounds, 13 ounces. Our precious little girl was born one day before Mother’s Day. She stayed in the NICU for 6 weeks but did amazingly well. She never had to be on oxygen, but did stay on a CPAP for her breathing pressures for quite a while. She passed a lot of blood that she had swallowed. They eventually determined that the bleeding was due to placental abruption. I kept a journal of her stay in the NICU.

We are so grateful to have our little girl here with us. She is now a healthy and happy one year old and we can’t imagine life without her. That week in the hospital was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through, but it taught me more and caused me to grow in ways I never imagined. It’s been so therapeutic to write down my experience. For months I felt like I was stuck in May of 2012. I felt (and still do feel) things more acutely than I ever have.

I am so thankful that the angels were surrounding us that week and for all the prayers and support. We are also thankful for all the skilled doctors and nurses and all the medical advancements that have been made.