Birth Stories, Uncategorized

Margaret’s Birth Story

Dana has been featured before in the Bright Birth Story Collection. You can read all about her first birth experience here. Dana and her husband, who live in Texas, reached out to me during their second pregnancy for some Distance Doula support and I was so excited to support them from Cleveland. Distance Doula services sound odd at first, but having a doula in your pocket has proven to be such an asset to many of my clients. I hope you enjoy Dana’s story of sweet Margo’s entrance into the world!

 

 


After several long months of a very physically difficult pregnancy, I was more than ready to give birth. I’d had Braxton Hicks contractions since about 20 weeks, and they had intensified to prodromal or “false” labor on three occasions in the three weeks leading up to my due date. The last time was in the wee hours of Saturday, November 2, when I called a friend to come stay with Frankie because my contractions—while not extremely intense— had gone on for hours and came every 5-8 minutes. When I checked into triage and said as much to the nurse walking me back, she replied, “Oh, well if they’re not super painful you don’t need to come in.” Thanks, lady. When they checked my progress, I was 1.5cm dilated—the same as I’d been since my 36-week appointment. The feeling of defeat, exhaustion, and embarrassment washed over me and I spent the rest of the time before being discharged ugly-crying. I so badly wanted to be in labor. I very much was not.

 

Through all this, I was so glad to have a doula. I never had false labor with my first; I had contractions that started and never stopped, slowly intensifying over 40-some hours until I gave birth. This pregnancy had been so different, and I felt betrayed and let down by my body again and again. Mary Susan kept reminding me: Every contraction was preparing my body for labor. It might not be dilating my cervix, but it is all preparation to bring my baby into the world. Her support to trust and work with a body that I felt had failed me over and over throughout my pregnancy—when I felt weak; when I felt scared—was invaluable.

 

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With her encouragement, I had my membranes stripped at my 40-week appointment on the morning of November 5th. Mary Susan described it as the least-invasive form of induction, reassuring me that it would not work if my body wasn’t ready. An hour before my appointment, I began to lose what I was pretty sure was my mucous plug—so I thought it might be. The NP who took my appointment that day said she had probably a 90% success rate of inducing labor with membrane strips, so we were hopeful, but we scheduled an induction for the following Monday, November 11 (my husband’s birthday, by his request) just in case. Later that afternoon, I started feeling pretty crampy, but I wasn’t willing to believe it was labor quite yet.

 

My first big contractions started around 12:45am (my babies really like to get things going in the middle of the night) and were coming every 5 minutes when I was up and moving around—but they’d slow to every 8-10… sometimes 12 or even 15 minutes if I was sitting or lying down. All the advice from my birthing class saying to sit down, have a glass of water, and see if contractions continue kept echoing in my brain. I still wasn’t willing to believe my baby was coming. But a little after 5am, without having been able to sleep at all, I woke my husband. We went through our morning, taking breaks for contractions… I went ahead and asked my on-call friend to pick up Frankie from preschool. Contractions were painful, but still: Close together while up and moving; pretty spaced out while resting. Terrified of returning to the hospital only to be sent home again, I wasn’t willing to go. Finally around 10:30am I decided to try to take a nap. If I wasn’t in labor, I might as well get some rest.

 

I woke around 11:40 and immediately began to cry in frustration. If I were in labor, surely I wouldn’t have been able to sleep! I got up and went into the living room where my husband was.

 

“I slept a little.”

“Good!”

“I’m in so much pain when I’m standing, but it slows to nothing when I’m sitting.”

“Well, sit down.”

“No!” I shouted at him (poor guy), “I don’t WANT the pain to go away. I WANT to be in labor!”

“Okay…”

“Will you take a walk with me?”

 

We went outside; it was a beautiful day. We got halfway down our block and I had stopped every three minutes to hold on to Michael and breathe through a contraction. I could not move or talk through them. “Let’s turn around,” he said.

“Why?”

“We can keep walking without getting so far away from the car.” By the time we made it back to our driveway, my contractions were two minutes apart. “Okay, let’s go to the hospital,” Michael said, a little panicky.

 

On the 17- minute drive, I was grateful my contractions had such an odd pattern—I only had one in the car. But the walk up to triage was a different story. When I finally made it to triage waiting, two women were ahead of me. The nurse came in to get one of them, and as soon as she saw my face, she said “I’ll be right back for you.” I breathed through two contractions on the short walk from the waiting room to the triage room.

 

Michael met me in the triage room, where I was answering the questionnaire. When they finally checked my dilation: “Whoo, you’re at six and a half… seven!” I’ve never loved pain more. It was about 2:45pm when I was admitted.

 

My wonderful labor and delivery nurse, Rhonda, came in shortly later to bring me to the delivery room. She’d been told I wanted to labor naturally, when my actual plan was to eventually get an epidural, but to exhaust other methods of pain relief before doing so. I was so far along already, though, that Rhonda said I needed to ask for the epidural right away if I wanted one, or it may be too late. I had planned on an epidural and by that point needed relief, and the thought of pushing through my exhaustion was scary. So I didn’t have a chance to try nitrous oxide as I’d hoped, but when my contractions continued to intensify, I was grateful relief was coming. The epidural was in place by about 3:30, and I was administered the first dose of penicillin (I was Group B strep positive) shortly thereafter.

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Michael with a towel wrapped around him—he room temp was set at 60 but I was perfectly comfortable. 🤣

My main desire in laboring so long without an epidural was to prevent labor from slowing, which happened with my first. My contractions did not slow, and as with my first, I was grateful to be able to feel each one (though they weren’t painful) and to move my legs. But at the next check, I was still at seven centimeters. I was able to rest for a little bit, updating friends and family. When the OB came in to check on me, she felt the catheter bulb was in a funny place, kind of buoying my uterus. She pushed it out of the way. The nurse with her advised me that if I felt pressure, like an urge to have a bowel movement that wouldn’t go away, to call. I was so glad she’d said that, because not long after I felt that urge—Rhonda couldn’t believe it; I’d JUST been at a seven, but when she checked: “Yep, no cervix.”

 

The urge to push was nearly unbearable, but they wanted me to wait because it had only been three hours since my first dose of penicillin, and you’re supposed to have four hours before you deliver. The OB was also extremely busy that night—my nurse had paged her, but with each contraction I felt I’d burst if I didn’t push this baby out. I’d never felt that sensation with my first, but it was just as that nurse had described: Like I was trying to hold back a giant poo (sorry)– not exactly painful, but extremely uncomfortable. Finally Rhonda called the room the OB was in and told her to come to me right away. And when that didn’t work, she went into the hallway to flag someone down to go get her and bring her to me bodily.

 

3145E15A-9D2F-4865-934D-32A5B59EB8B3When the OB FINALLY showed up a little after 7pm and got set up, I got in position and was given the all clear to push. After the first push, Michael confirmed what we’d known all along: “She has lots of dark hair!” The OB said she’d been face up, but she could feel her turning as she came down the canal—as babies should. An affirmation my doula sent earlier came back to me: “Your baby knows how to be born.” With those words in mind, I pushed again. Margo turned as she moved down—what a good girl. One more push and a primal yell, and I was looking at my baby girl, and immediately crying. Margaret Jean was born at 7:15pm; I got to hold her for the first hour after she was born, and I felt euphoric.

 

All my false labors had prepared me to have the labor I’d wanted—one where I could get my baby and my body most of the way there. The pain was scary, but I also relished it because I had waited for it so long. After a pregnancy where my body felt alien to me, making it difficult to function and hard to feel connected to my baby, I now recognize what a gift my labor and delivery were.  I’m so grateful for the immediate connection I felt with Margo as soon as she was born, and (though I still wouldn’t wish false labor on anyone) for the time I had to lean into the process of giving birth.


 

Congratulations, again to Dana, Michael, and big sister Frankie! You are such a strong, special family and so, so loved!

Uncategorized

In Defense of the Birth Plan

Ah, the birth plan…such a polarizing topic, am I right? In my experience, folks’ opinions on birth plans predominantly come from two camps:

First, there’s the Over-Planner Unrealistic Expectation Camp whose members feel like if they research and plan out as much as possible, they’ll get the birth of their dreams. (Cue Oprah: “You get a magical birth! And you get a magical birth!!”)

Then there’s the Fly by the Seat of Their Pants Camp, whose overarching opinion is that planning is futile since birth is so unpredictable anyway. If you don’t over-plan, you won’t get disappointed. Low expectations won’t let these parents down!

 

Now, these are obviously very oversimplified generalizations and I understand that most birthing couples have far more nuanced beliefs surrounding birth planning. However, I do think that these stereotypes speak a some truth and as a doula, it’s my job to help my clients hit a sweet spot that’s the best of both worlds. Below you’ll find the most common questions I get from clients when discussing the benefits of birth plans and my responses to those questions. Hopefully they’ll help shed some light on your way to creating your own balanced birth plan.

 

What’s the point in a birth plan if everything is going to change anyway?

Let me be clear here. When I advocate for clients to create a birth plan, I don’t mean that I think they should create a hard and fast legal document that they’ll nail to their delivery room door a la Martin Luther. There’s a big difference in creating a list of birth demands and creating a birth plan. Creating a plan requires birthing people to look at all of their options, weigh pros and cons, make decisions based on their values, priorities, and goals, and educate themselves about possibilities. Ideally, the process of creating a good birth plan will leave couples with a wealth of information that they can tap into if and when they deviate from the plan.

The other side of this coin begs the question: How do you know what you want or don’t want if you haven’t researched your options? Do you want your baby to be administered Vitamin K? How do you feel about the use of fetal scalp monitors? Do you want to labor down or have coached pushing? I can assure you that the easiest time to ponder these decisions is not during contractions or immediately postpartum, especially if you’re hearing your options for the very first time. If you’re completely comfortable deferring to others for the medical care of yourself/your partner/your baby, then by all means don’t make a plan. But if you’re the type who wants to know more or to better understand your options, planning is definitely for you.

My final thought on this question is that you will never regret knowing “too much.” Navigating a birth situation, especially for a first time parent, is much less tricky when you’ve taken the time to educate yourself on terminology, hospital policies, and potential procedures. A change in plan or an unexpected event during labor is a lot easier to manage when you’re not completely unfamiliar with the options that exist. Knowledge is power, my friends!

 

I don’t want to make a birth plan because I’m afraid talking about it will just scare me!

Okay, let’s lean into this for a minute. When I hear someone say that they’re frightened of birth I can infer a few things. First, this person is normal, and second, they have some some soul searching to do. Guys, our culture has not served us well in preparing us for birth. When the main birth narratives we’re taught from childhood center around horror stories, panicked scenes in movies, and “Yoouuu did this to meee!!”  it’s no wonder we’re scared. Combine that narrative with everything we’re not taught about women’s bodies and you’ve got some major blanks to fill. And what do we fill the blanks with? You guessed it, fear.

It is absolutely normal to fear what we don’t know. The Haunted House ride at Wonderland Park in Amarillo, Texas scared the cuss out of me as a kid. I almost peed my pants and broke my sister’s hand when she forced me to go in it with her. I didn’t know what to expect except to know that I was embarking on a journey of abject terror: it was dark, loud, clammy, musty, and full of strobe lights. I rode it with my eyes screwed shut the entire time except for the portion during which my sister told me it was safe and I opened my eyes to see a zombie driving a freight train right at my face. Good times, good times.

But here’s the thing: the Haunted House wouldn’t have been so scary if I had known what to expect. If I had been given a calendar that stated the month I was scheduled to  visit the Haunted House, I’d have had time to psych myself up for it. If I had been given a guidebook that told me the different rooms I would travel through, I’d know that our vehicle would pass some bats, a clown or two, and four to eight severed heads on pikes. If someone had taught me the mechanics of how those severed heads popped up, I would have been able to anticipate the scares and manage my response accordingly. By the time I got to the zombie train, I’d have known that the ride was almost over and daylight was just around the corner.

When we know what to expect, the unknown isn’t as scary. I think it’s very important for us to dismantle our fears surrounding birth. What specifically are we afraid of? What is the root of this fear? What is the worst thing that could happen if this fear came true? What practical things can we do to prepare ourselves for the things that scare us? When we speak our fears and give them names, we take away their power. Once I finally knew what to expect from the Haunted House at Wonderland Park, it had significantly less power over me. I was far more confident riding with knowledge than when I knew nothing and buried my head in my sister’s shoulder, trying to pretend it wasn’t happening. I still got nervous when I rode the Haunted House the second time, but I started to enjoy the thrills and cheap gags for what they were. The more I knew, the better able I was to cope. And guess who closed the Haunted House down at Wonderland that day? This kid.

 

This isn’t my first baby, so I know the drill and a birth plan isn’t really necessary.

I understand the temptation to fall into this line of thinking. I’ve got four children of my own and I know full well how impossible it can feel to even think about stealing one uninterrupted minute to plan for a subsequent birth. When you’re pregnant and parenting other kids, it’s easy to feel as though giving birth is like riding a bike. And in some ways it is…until it’s not.

I like to remind clients that every birth and every baby are different. So many factors contribute to how a birth will play out from baby’s positioning to how mama is feeling emotionally. You only get to do each birth once, so it behooves you to take some time to remind yourself of what your birth goals are and reevaluate your previous births to see what you loved and things that you’d do differently this time. Birth planning for seasoned parents is likely to be less time intensive than for first timers, but again, you’ll never regret taking the time to recenter and refresh your knowledge.

 

 

To conclude, birth plans can be an incredibly useful tool when created with evidence-based research, open hearts, and room for flexibility. I take pride in the fact that I spend a large amount of time with my clients discussing and planning for their births. I value birth planning so much that I even offer Birth Brainstorming sessions independent of my birth doula services for folks who just want assistance in planning their births. Sometimes it’s just nice to have an unbiased third party to bounce ideas off of! You can find more information on Birth Brainstorming sessions on my Services page.

What about you? Are you a planner, do you prefer to go with the flow, or are you a combination of both? Remember, at the end of the day, plan or no plan, this is your body, your baby, and your best birth. I’m here to support and educate you however I can, so feel free to reach out and let’s chat!

Birth Stories, Uncategorized

“I Led the Whole Way” – Brittney’s Second Birth Story

About You – Brittney Melton. Mom of 2. This will be about my second child. A much different birthing experience. This time I wanted a VBAC.

 
How did you find out you were pregnant? It was a surprise. I planned. We went on a vacation and I suspected we were. Took a test along and everything. Negative… came back from trip still thinking I may be. Waited and knew my cycle should’ve surely started. Took a test. Positive. I didn’t know if was quite ready for another. My first was only 19-20 months old. God had other plans. And I’m so glad.

 
What was your birth philosophy before you gave birth? How were you expecting it to be? I knew I wanted different this go around. Having had an emergency csection – completely unaware about csection and thought I’d never have one – I was determined for a VBAC.

 
How did you approach planning your birth? Did you take classes, read books, meditate, or seek out guidance from someone in particular? We actually took a class! We hadn’t the first time because my doctor told me we’d prob not need it because she’s be there telling me what to do. Well, she wasn’t there and baby wasn’t doing well so c-section it was. This time I asked to try for a VBAC and it was denied by my doctor who said her practice wouldn’t perform one. So, I sought out a new doctor. Bye old doctor. Changing doctors was scary but in the end such the right choice! He listened to what I wanted. Gave me the risks, looked over previous medical history from my first birth and said I’d be a great candidate. I trusted him fully with the plan. I wouldn’t have changed a thing and loved my second doctor.

 
How did you plan to deliver? VBAC with my OB. For precaution we would have an epidural in case things went south quickly. Otherwise they’d have to be me out to perform [a c-section] and I did not want that.

 
What were the most important goals or areas of focus for you in respect to your birth? I just wanted the vaginal birth I’d dreamed of. I wanted to actually experience and “do it” myself. I felt that was taken away from me. And I am in no way saying it’s not real birth… c-section IS birth – with scars to prove. I just wanted a chance at what my heart desired. This doctor gave me that chance.

 
And now for the good stuff…Here’s Brittney’s second birth story! Just like my firstborn… my secondborn was late. Her due date was 2/12. I had one false labor on 2/8. Doctor even though it was go time and admited me overnight. Being a VBAC patient he wanted to insure that we were super cautious. So any intense contractions for longer than a few hours he wanted me in to be checked in case of an emergency.

 

They were strong alright. Strong enough to not talk, shhh, close my eyes strong. And I couldn’t walk. Sometime from being admitted at 5, eating dinner with friends and watching the super bowl… the high intensity wore off around 3 in the morning. I was no longer struggling through them, and by morning they weren’t there. I was so sad. I thought this was it. My doctor did too. But I also hadn’t progressed any.

 

My doctor gave me three options. 1. Stay, hope they came back (highly unlikely), 2. Have a c-section (not ready for that yet) 3. Go home ( and I was slightly scared to because I was afraid something bad may happen. We chose 3. And the following day had a check up. My doctor said to go ahead and schedule the c-section. He wouldn’t let me go a week past being a VBAC patient. I respected that protocol. So we scheduled for 2/18. He joked that sometimes when you give the baby an eviction date – they’ll choose to come on their own.

 

2/14, false labor #2. Intense contractions but something I now realize I could’ve probably labored at home with. I mean geez, I’d labored for like a week already. But I was anxious and DID not want 2/18 to come. I think I was mentally trying to will it – again – just like my firstborn. We were admitted for safety reasons and … sent home again.

 

12/15 evening it changed. There was some strong ones but this was something else. I was hunched over the couch and my mom was like uhhhh yea it’s time – go. Such a painful car ride to the hospital. We get there and I’m at a 4! Praise Jesus. They gave me a medication to wear off the top end of the contractions to which I was so grateful for. Anesthesiologist came in to administer epidural and MISSED 3x…. urregggh. 4th time finally. And I felt relief. I’m thankful to my doctor that he asked to have a certain dosage administered so I could still feel low end of contractions. I could still feel and labor along with them.

 

We went into the next day. 2/16. When I was at an 8 they broke my water. Talk about a weird relief. I got to a 9 and stalled. Checking baby with both hand and u/s they determined her head was turned into my hip. Stubborn thing. The nurse went in and flipped baby’s head – owwwwwwwww. She said you’ll immediately start to feel pressure on this next contraction. Ummmm yes ma’am you are correct. She said, well, it’s time, I’ll call the doctor back in. And I’m like REALLY!?!!! The VBAC is gonna work!? And she said yea, baby is already passed the scar line. She’s coming. BEST news ever.

 

Doctor came in. Told me push when I felt contraction… I led the whole way. I felt all the stretching. I don’t know what I was thinking but I honestly thought – isn’t the epidural supposed to help me feel ummm nothing? So yea, I felt it all. They said it was too late for the epidural to do anything… so didn’t feel full contraction but felt everything else. Which now, looking back, I’m glad to have had that experience. Feeling it all felt so miraculous. And that my body was working. An hour of pushing and she was finally here!!! Such an amazing feeling that I will never ever forget.

 

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What was the advice that you found to be most helpful in preparing to give birth? Keep asking questions. Always get a second opinion.

 
What was the most surprising thing about birth for you? That it worked! I thought it wouldn’t have! I was proud to have a VBAC.

 
What was the most challenging part of birth for you? Waiting and the unknown. Would the VBAC work or was I head for another c-section?

 
What was your favorite part of your birth? Feeling it all. Strangely enough if I ever have another that’s what I’d desire. Pain – yes. But an amazing experience. Feeling her head and shoulders and hips all coming. My baby placed on me. Miracle.

 

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What do you wish someone had told you before you gave birth? Honestly I felt more prepared this time around than ever. And it was a whole new experience. And also – someone to tell me my babies just like to be stubborn and late. (This one 4 days late)

 
How did your perception of birth change after you experienced this birth? I desire more kiddos. I hope that happens someday. A prayer of mine. But also not to fear the pain. The pain helps you know what to do.

 

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Birth photography by Janeane Marie Photography.