Certified Labor Doula – Placenta Preparation Specialist
Hewitt, New Jersey
I have always been intrigued by the capability of a woman’s body and the beauty behind creating life. I was twenty-four years old when we started to try conceiving. It was right after we got married and bought a house that we decided we were ready to start a family. We tried for months and were starting to consider making an appointment with a fertility doctor. We didn’t know what to expect. Was it my husband or was it me? Trying to pinpoint a reason added so much more unwanted stress. Exactly a year after beginning our journey, I became pregnant with my first son. Both of my pregnancies, I knew I wanted to be cared for by a Midwife. I wanted my questions to be heard and answered. I felt as though some OBGYN’s in my area were not giving that same care. My pregnancy was straight forward and uneventful. There is a long history of genetic problems in my family that resulted in genetic counseling and some extra anatomy ultrasounds. My first anatomy scan at 20 weeks they visualized a hole in Liam’s heart that had not closed. They didn’t seem concerned but instructed us to come back at 32 weeks to see if it had fused together, which it did. That was the last time we would see him before he was born. The hospital that I delivered at offered a wide range of holistic coping techniques and hands-on support. I met with a doula provided by the hospital to create a birth plan and go over all types of options. This grew my curiosity about birth work.
With your first pregnancy any little ache or pain you think, “well is this it?” I felt that for a whole month. I sat a 4cm and 75% effacement starting at 36 weeks. We all expected I would go early. Due to my contractions, I had a stress test done thinking I was in early labor. I had ferocious acid reflux for the majority of the pregnancy, especially towards the end. At 39 weeks I ended up throwing up so much bile that the irritation caused bleeding. I ended up in L&D for extreme dehydration, reduced fetal movement and tearing the lining in my esophagus. Eight bags of IV bags fluid and overnight observation later, I was sent home.
I went into labor at 0200 on his due date. It was very nerve racking to have such an advanced dilation for my first. I didn’t know what to expect, let alone feel. My anxiety was at an all-time high and I didn’t have any family support nearby. My husband and I finally went to the hospital around 0730. My cervical exam showed that I was 5cm dilated. I was having back labor from his position being sunny side up (occiput posterior) and it was not easy. I decided to get an epidural. I had to wait for almost 4 hours to get an anesthesiologist to place it. The first was called to an emergency cesarean, the next anesthesiologist on-call ended up being in another emergency. During this period of time, I decided to try everything to help relieve the pain. I spent time on a birthing ball, I took a shower and moved while I could. I couldn’t rest enough to sleep, and I was extremely anxious. I asked the nurse to stay with me and chart in the room. She offered to massage my hands using some lavender essential oils on a cotton ball to help calm my nerves. That selfless act meant the world to me. After my epidural placement I was able to rest and I wasn’t checked for hours. My night shift nurse brought tray table to put between my legs because there were no peanut balls available. I was on my side with one leg up on the tray table to keep my hips open and give him enough room to rotate from an OP position. Well, it that position got me to complete and after an hour of pushing he was born, still sunny side up at 7 lbs. 7 oz and 20 ¾.
My second baby, Roan was born during the rise of COVID-19. We were pregnant before the threat of a pandemic was even a thought in our minds. In February I went on maternity leave a month before the virus shut down most everything. We had heard our surrounding states were not allowing support people to be present with women in labor. My mother was to fly up a week before my due date to help us with Liam while in the hospital. But we ended up being in a hot spot and she is a breast cancer survivor. We decided to air on the side of caution, and it would be best for everyone if she stayed home. None of us thought it would get as bad as it did, as most probably thought. I am thankful both my husband and son were able to attend every appointment but was devastated that my son couldn’t meet his brother after delivery in the hospital. It is already a stressful time bringing a life into this world but another level of stress when you have a global pandemic knocking at your door.
While I was pregnant with Roan, I wound up having extremely itchy skin. Worse than having chicken pox. On my scalp, my hands, my feet, Basically everywhere. Once it started it wouldn’t stop and it kept me up all night. I thought it was our hard water or I developed an allergy to my shampoo. I mentioned it to my midwife, and she suggested checking labs for ICP (Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy). My liver and the level of bile salts in my blood were checked weekly and they always came back borderline.
At 39 weeks and 1/7 I went to L&D for excruciating pain. A pain that I had on and off during the pregnancy, on the side of my torso. I thought something was wrong. It was Saint Patrick’s Day and he day before I had a membrane sweep at 1cm and 80% effaced. When I arrived to L&D I was 3cm dilated and 80% effaced and was kept for observation. Because I presented with the unusual pain and my history of reflux, I was given the option for an induction. That was something I was against. I never wanted to unless it was medically necessary, but I ended up agreeing to it in the end. I maxed out on the IV Pitocin and still was not moving from 3cm dilated. I had AROM at about 1900 that day, still at 3cm and an epidural. At about 2030 I was 5cm dilated and he was born at 2149, within 10 min of calling the Midwife. Roan was 7 lbs. 14 oz and 21”. My Midwife delivered both of my babies and I am so grateful for that.
I know birth plans change, things do not end up as expected and unfortunately, things can go wrong. The thing I worried about the most was not having someone who knew about me and my babies from conception until birth. Reflecting on both pregnancies, they were so different. Both might have had things that I didn’t expect or want, but in the end gave me the best gifts life has to offer.
I believe with Roan I was meant to be induced. If he went to his EDD we would have been smack in the middle of a COVID hot spot. When I delivered, the hospital had 0 positive cases. The following week on my due date, two hundred positive cases. My husband was able to attend my delivery, we did not have to wear masks, simply asked a series of questions upon entry.
I felt like I went in with things still being fairly normal and coming out to a complete state shut down. The day we got discharged, my husband and I were both furloughed. Found out via a letter in the mail. We ran into challenges with accessing diapers, wipes, formula, toilet paper and paper towels. My milk had not come in when we left the hospital and it made things uneasy for us. We did not know if we would be able to provide the next feeding or not. Thankfully I was set up for success with the help of the lactation consultants at the hospital and the calls from them after I left, my milk came in strong. After this I could not imagine that I was done with babies, I want to help others. I needed to help others achieve the birth they wanted with confidence in being heard and in control.
The pandemic has affected birthing families greatly and supporting them during this vulnerable time is paramount. Many have chosen to take precautions to keep extended family safe & many have not had the chance to meet the newest additions in person yet. Some of mine still haven’t. I wanted to be there for birthers who may not have any other support system. I wanted to help them find the courage to handle anything that arose. I can say I found my calling, something that I am passionate about, that inspires me. Like the women that cared for me during my deliveries. The thing that makes me feel empowered and helping expecting families get their voice. To help them see their light, their strengths, and their brightness.