Community Birth Story | Jocelyn

Community Birth Story | Jocelyn

As told by Chelsea:

I was eating dessert at Thanksgiving when my water broke. I was eating coconut cream pie to be specific. Just like I heard in the stories about when the water breaks, I felt the sensation of peeing my pants. I was at my husband’s aunt’s Thanksgiving get together. My sister-in-law is a doctor so after several minutes of wondering to myself did I or didn’t I, I pulled her aside and told her that I think my water broke. It was the day before my due date. Over the next two hours, we waited for contractions, for more amniotic fluid, or for any other labor signs. I remember thinking that the movies really made it seem more obvious and dramatic than this when you have your first baby.

I was in touch with my midwife, April, throughout the evening. I had two mildly uncomfortable contractions on the way home from dinner, but nothing else, so we were advised to get a good night sleep and meet at the hospital early the next morning. There, a test would be conducted to determine if the waters had broken.

Surprisingly, I slept great that night. I calmly showered the following morning, fed our cats, and we loaded our suitcase in the car. Because contractions still really hadn’t begun, I was hoping the staff at the hospital wouldn’t turn us away due to a false alarm.

At the hospital, I took a test that resembled a pregnancy test where I had to pee on a stick. April met us in triage and came back with positive results from the test. The good news was: my water had broken and we were gonna have a baby! but labor had not begun so we had to use a artificial oxytocin to induce labor and contractions, get a 10 cm dilation, and birth the baby.

As much as I was a little disappointed my birth plan already was going down the drain, I was excited that today would be the day. We were leaving the hospital with the baby.

The mind of a new mother is quite foggy, so here are the highlights from the day, presented very likely out of order.

1. Labor felt like a combination of severe menstrual cramps and the sensation I believe a vegetarian would have if they ate at Fogo de Chao for the very first time.

2. My birthing team was my husband Jake and my friend Kirsten, who was an off duty Certified Nurse Midwife at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. My mother also visited the hospital, but she stayed for only about an hour in order to set up a crystal grid on my bedside table, and give me words of encouragement and support.

3. I threw up 3 times during labor and delivery from pain. Jake said it was much more than 3 times.

4. My pain relief techniques included a hot shower, a hot bath, distraction via Fixer Upper on the laptop, bouncing on a exercise ball, rocking in a rocking chair, and humor. During a contraction, I would ask Jake or Kirsten for a joke, knowing that the serotonin from laughing would help offset the cortisol from the stress.

5. My labor kept starting and stopping. April asked late in the afternoon if I wanted her to strip the membranes, which should help move labor along. I said yes, and that procedure was probably the most painful part of the labor thus far. After they were stripped, labor contractions came on full tilt and hit me, wave after wave. I felt like I only just come up, gasping for air, when another one would come on and the undertow of pain would take me under again.

6. I sat in the shower amongst strong contractions, Jake shirtless and sitting on the edge by my side. I had some flameless candles in there to keep a calm energy flowing. If the circumstances were different, it’d be pretty romantic. And in a way, it was, but not in a sexual way. I sat on a chair in there, naked with my swollen belly, tears turning into water by the time they hit the drain. I would squeeze Jakes hand tight when a contraction would come and I go, vulnerable in front of him, willing this baby to come soon but also asking myself to be patient and trust the process no matter how painful. I was in so much pain, and remembered the dumb quote in the movie Major Pain “you want me to take your mind off that pain?” It was so dumb yet funny, and at this point I was becoming slap happy, so I tried my best to tell Jake the plot of the movie. I probably looked nuts while I cried and laughed sitting in the shower.

7. I sat on the edge of the bed, writhing and trying to get away from the pain when they came only 60 seconds apart. Jake was on his knees in front of me so I could lean against him. He kissed my neck and told me to breathe. Kirsten sat behind me on the bed giving my lower back counter pressure.

It was as I labored in the tub, with Kirsten pouring warm water over my belly and April coaching my breathing, that I asked for the epidural. It had been 10 hours of laboring on pitocin, which apparently can be more painful than naturally occurring contractions. I felt like my body had been through battle, and I needed reinforcements so I could keep going.

My body was shaking and I was in tears when I asked Jake what I should. He knew I wanted to attempt a drug free birth, but he knew that my body was slowing down after the beating it had taken all day. He told me to make it through one more contraction, and then decided. I did, it came and went, and I yes, yes, a thousand times yes… I need help. April suggested another pelvic exam to see how far I was dilated if that would help cement my decision. The exam, more painful each time it was conducted, revealed that I was only 4.5 cm dilated, a whopping 1 centimeter more than I was at the beginning of the day. I felt so defeated that we had only made it that far.

I sat shaking on the bed as the needle was administered into my spine. Staying as still as possible while receiving the epidural may have been the hardest thing asked of me yet. Everyone but Jake, one nurse and the anthestisiologist left the room to reduce risk of exposure to infection. Jake couldn’t hold my hand, only the experienced nurse could. I was introduced to her only moments before I clung to her for dear life. The doctor was calm and collected; a woman crying and exhausted from pain did not phase him due to his profession.

Within a few minutes after he left, my body started to relax. The shakes subsided as well as the pain. I felt like the edge was taken off and my body could finally get some rest. And rest, we did. The staff dimmed the lights and Jake, Kirsten and I all took a nap. When April came back in an hour and a half later, she conducted another exam to check my dilation. It was 10 centimeters. Everyone was shocked, especially April. The rest and pain relief were what my body needed to become ready to push the baby out, and I was so glad I opted for the epidural, birth plan be damned.

As the medical team prepared for the pushing stage, so did we. It was 10:30 pm and we were all in high spirits as I asked Kirsten to braid my hair to get it out of my way. We were having a baby! But the hard part was only just beginning.

In labor, you are supposed to breathe during the contractions. In delivery, you are supposed to hold your breath as you bear down and push. There was a learning curve in regards to learning how to control my breath yet push with all of my might, and just when I finally gotthe hang of it, all the tension I put in my chest and lungs built up into terrible reflux- like burning, resulting in vomiting about an hour into pushing.

They say you use every muscle in your body to push the baby out, including your eye lids. This is fact.

Time began to lose all meaning and get fuzzy during the 5 hours I pushed. After getting sick once again, I developed a terrible, excruciating headache. It was 2am and I needed a break. Everyone in the room became frustrated at one point or another, whether at me or the situation, I’m not sure, but no one would dare tell me. I was frustrated myself. I sat on the bed with my eyes closed and I think I even fell asleep for a few seconds while everyone took a break of their own.

I vacillated between asking my baby girl to please come out – come on sweet baby, we’re all waiting for you – to  down right demanding for her to vacate my uterus – child, don’t make me come in there and get you!

After more pushing without success, April came to my head and told me that she was starting to get uncomfortable with how long this was taking. She was a patient person who never rushed me, so when she said this, I knew it must be serious and that the baby was starting to show signs of distress. Her heart rate was high and I had developed a fever and was put on oxygen. I was so tired, hadn’t eaten for 12 hours, and for the first time in this whole ordeal, I became scared. I told April that I consented to anything that would help get the baby out. She calmly but quickly left to get the doctor who would perform a vacuum. Jake and I knew that we were now headed towards a c-section. At this point, I didn’t care how she left my body, I just wanted my baby and for her to be okay.

While April was gone, I watched the monitor and saw contractions come and go without doing anything but laying there. For the millionth time that day, I cried. I thought the baby was in danger and I couldn’t do anything to help her. I was trying my best and even asked April if I was pushing correctly, to which she told me that I was.

When April returned with the doctor and a new O.R. nurse, the 15 minute break from pushing proved to give my body a renewed strength. The doctor waited to see me push before jumping into action. I pushed with all my might, and we finally turned a corner. Everyone in the room audibly gasped their excitement: they could now see the baby’s head.

“You don’t need me. You’re going to push this baby out.”

The doctors presence was the motivation I needed to make progress in pushing. It still took another hour, and another visit from the doctor, to fully push her out.

When the baby’s head was breaching, Jake told me that there was so much hair. I wanted to see! The nurse rolled in a large mirror and I could see the hair as well as how effectively I was pushing. It was one more hit of motivation I needed.

The biggest thing I remembered that helped me was a particular nurse. She was young and of mixed race. She appeared out of nowhere, and it was only later that I learned she was the nurse that accompanied the doctor in case I needed a vacuum or c-section. I focused in on her, especially because she was quiet until I pushed some really hard pushes and made another leap. At the time, she felt like a good gauge to measure my progress.

Finally, after several more encouragements involving “yes, that’s the one!”, I felt a gush of fluid.

“The head is out!” 

“Okay, that’s the biggest part of the baby,” I told myself. I knew I just had to push once more to get her shoulders out and then the rest of her body would slide out with considerable ease.

And true enough, I pushed one last time, and at 4:22 am, Jocelyn Luna was born. It was finally over.

The labor had lasted about 15 hours and the pushing went on for 5 hours. Joss was quickly placed on my belly and was toweled off and was encouraged to cough or cry to get her lungs to open. I don’t remember crying happy tears or saying anything, but all I wanted to know was if she was okay, and she was.

Her eyes were big and open almost immediately. Jake stood over my shoulder, kissing my head and laugh-cried as he welcome our baby. Joss used all of her tiny little strength to lookat him as she laid on my chest. I found her tiny hand with my finger, placed it in her palm, and she closed her hand around my finger.

I heard April ask Jake if he wanted to cut the umbilical cord before they took her to the nearby warmer to check her vitals and towel her off some more.

Much later that morning, we were settled into our new post-delivery recovery room. Jake was in the shower and it was my first time alone with Jocelyn. Phone calls had been made and photos were snapped. Family would be arriving soon.

I hugged her tightly and simply stared at her.

So this is you, huh? You’re my baby I asked aloud.

I had gotten to know the little baby that grew inside of my belly for the past 9 months, but now I could finally see what she looked like. I already knew that she had a funny sense of humor and kicked me in the ribs when I started talking about her. But now I knew that she had dark hair in the shape of a perfectly coiffed pixie cut, her skin was bright pink, flowing with new blood, her eyes were blue and her face looked exhausted, eyebrows furrowed at me. It took us both a lot of energy to get here. She looked at me, looked away and then darted her eyes back to mine, staring sleepily at me.

I think I could see her beautiful deep blue, piercing eyes say to me:

So this is you, huh? You’re my mom

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Click HERE to learn more about the Community Birth Stories Project or to submit your own birth story


Community Birth Story | Naomi

Community Birth Story | Naomi

Mother’s name: Melissa Eyler

Date of Birth of baby: 5/19/2015

Place of Birth: Waynesboro Hospital PA

My pregnancy was very healthy and progressed normally.  I was nervous as I had a previous miscarriage, and all the testing and stressful atmosphere of the clinic always rushing me didn’t help. I really needed reassurance, but didn’t really get it, at my first appointment at about 6 weeks they gave me a paper that had some basic guidelines about diet and a list of medicines to take or not to take, but that was it.

I needed to know more, I did a lot of reading and decided we needed childbirth education. Nathen and I took the Bradley Method 12 week class. It taught us all about nutrition, relaxation exercises, normal labor progression and basic coping techniques.  It was very helpful and gave us more confidence. I kept my full time job and worked right up to my due date.

At 41+1 (May 18th) I went to the hospital for an ultrasound and non-stress test at 4pm. They said the fluid was low so they would have to keep me in and induce me. I was admitted and taken up to the maternity ward. I was very upset that I hadn’t gone into labor naturally and I knew that being induced would be more painful, so I felt like all the preparation I had done was worthless. Nathen helped me know that he was with me and what mattered was our baby, and we would still be able to use the coping techniques from our class.

I was admitted and the midwife on duty came and talked to us. She gave me the option of Pitocin or Cytotec. I had heard all the problems with Pitocin induction, but hadn’t heard anything about Cytotec, so I asked her what it would do. She said it would get me started and give me contractions (she didn’t tell me that they would be incredibly painful and that women have died as a result of Cytotec induction, or that it is not even FDA approved for pregnant women, which I have since learned). So I said ok. She checked my cervix (my first time) and it really hurt me – on discharge she mentioned that she had stretched my cervix, without my permission. I will never forget what she said “if you can’t handle a cervix check then you will NEVER be able to give birth without any pain medication.” I was only 1 cm dilated. About an hour after she gave it to me I started having some very strong and painful contractions. I was on the monitor so couldn’t get up. A very grumpy nurse kept coming in to check the machine, but she didn’t pay any attention to us. I asked her if I could get up and walk around but she just said I had to be on the monitor a bit longer and just acted like I was being a baby about being in pain. The nurse and midwife both dismissed my birth plan and said that plans like that were unrealistic for a first birth. This made me feel even worse about the whole thing and I just wanted to go home.

My progress was very slow and the contractions were very painful. They wouldn’t let me get up apart from to use the bathroom so I was stuck in bed most of the time, they did let me labor in the bathtub for a while but I didn’t really like it. I tried to stay in there for a while as that meant I wasn’t in bed. At about 2am I was still only about 3.5cm and they convinced me that to have the energy to make it through without a C-section I would need some Stadol so that I could get a break from the contractions for a while and sleep, I was exhausted. I had the Stadol and slept for a couple of hours, I remember suddenly being aware of the painful contractions coming again, but I was so drugged and out-of-it that I couldn’t really move. When I woke up Nathen was sleeping on the couch, but I couldn’t call him. Eventually I got his attention and he came to help me breathe through the pain, we called the nurses and a new Doctor came in, Dr. Lessard. She checked me and I was 5cm, she broke my water but said that if it didn’t pick up within a couple of hours, I would be going to surgery. This was about 7am.

After this my dilation did continue and the contractions started getting much longer and more painful. Courtney the new midwife and Nurse Betsy were with me and they were amazing, coaching me and letting me change positions. As it turned out, Naomi was posterior and they were trying to get her to turn around, but the contractions were so strong that she didn’t have chance. I alternated from being on hands and knees and on the ball. My transition was so intense I didn’t think I could take any more. When I had to push I had to wait while she checked me and I thought I would die, but pushing felt better, like I was actually getting somewhere.

I was told that I pushed for 90 minutes, but it felt way longer than that. I ended up squatting with my feet on each side of the squat bar with a sheet around it to hold on to (I was too short to use it normally) to move her down, then I pushed her out on my side. I had a third degree tear. The OB surgeon had to come back in to stitch me up.

I was allowed to hold her, but I was flat on my back being stitched so all I could do was hold her on my chest. It was longer than an hour before I was able to start breastfeeding and I had a lot of difficulty getting her to latch on. They did let me hold her for a while before they weighed her (in the same room so I could see) but I didn’t get to feed her until my tear was fixed.

After the birth all the nurses were very nice, I had a lot of trouble getting her to feed (it turned out later that she had a tongue tie) and lots of nurses helped me. Nathen was great and did everything he could to help and bond with Naomi.

I was very tired and sore from the stitches/hemorrhoids. Nathen was very helpful and supportive, but he could only stay for a week. I really needed help around the house after that. His parents came over most days, but only wanted to hold her. At least I could get a shower and sitz bath in peace. I needed more breastfeeding help and general reassurance. My parents were great, they came to visit when she was almost a month old, but they could only stay for 3 weeks.

Breastfeeding was very hard initially, I couldn’t get her to latch very well and struggled with sore nipples and thrush. I ended up getting Marah my local La Leche leader to come and see us (she is an IBCLC), she said Naomi had a posterior tie that needed revision. I then took her to the pediatrician who referred me to the ENT specialist. They snipped her lip tie but said the tongue was ok. Issues persisted and Marah said I still should see the pediatric dentist. I did and he fixed it. But not until almost 4 months. Then breastfeeding got a lot easier and all my problems went away, but I suffered with a low supply and had to supplement with formula for a while. Now I am still nursing her at 33 months, I also nursed her through another pregnancy and am now nursing both sisters.

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Photos: The Eyler Family

Click HERE to learn more about the Community Birth Stories Project or to submit your own birth story

Click HERE to read the birth story of Naomi’s little sister Leah Rose

Every Question You Need to Ask on your Hospital Tour

Every Question You Need to Ask on your Hospital Tour

35+ GOOD QUESTIONS — for a hospital or birth center tour

This is a list of every question we could think to ask during a birth facilities tour. It’s a freaking lot of questions, guys. You won’t need all of them. In fact, most of them will be answered by your tour guide along the way. And some answers won’t affect your unique birth vision, anyway. So, feel free to use this guide as a way to jog your brain to ask the questions that are most important to you.

We suggest you to ask open-ended, rather than yes/no questions, wherever possible. “How often do you see…?” “What do families who birth here usually choose…?” “How will you support us during…?” “What are the policies regarding XXX procedure or situation…?”

Many of these questions can also be asked of your doctor or midwife during prenatal visits. Sometimes, what a care provider is comfortable with and what hospital policy allows don’t match. It never hurts to double check.

 

  1. How many births take place here on an average day? How many of those are caesarean births? How many are VBACs? How many are unmedicated? How many are induced? What induction methods are used most often?

 

  1. How often do you see doulas or birth photographers attending births? How do you feel about their presence? 

 

  1. How many people can be in the delivery room at once? Does that number change during Flu Season? Is there a place for my partner or birth team to rest? Are my older children welcome during labor and birth? Are my older children welcome? Do you have policies in place for unwanted visitors? (Make sure to assess the rooms. Do you feel comfortable there?)

 

  1. Are there any situations that may take me away from my birth partner and/or doula? (epidural administration, cesarean birth prep, triage, etc.)

 

  1. What are the facility’s policies around birth photography and videography? What are the facility’s policies around doulas? Is there any paperwork that either will need to sign?

 

  1. How often are students or residents present during labor? Can I decline their presence if I change my mind about their attendance? Who should I contact if we need to explore a staff change?

 

  1. How many nurses/midwives/OBs are on during a shift? How long are shifts and at what times do they end?

 

  1. Will I be in the same room for birth and recovery? Will I ever share a room with another family? Are TVs and internet access available?

 

  1. What does triage look like — is there a special triage area or a will a private labor room be used? Will my partner and doula be allowed to stay with me? Under what circumstances would I NOT be admitted (i.e, would I be encouraged to leave at under 4 or 6 cm dilation, or a certain contraction pattern like 4-1-1)? How often is there a significant wait for an open labor room? How often are families turned away because there are no free labor rooms?

 

  1. Can I decline an IV? Can I opt for a Hep-lock instead of an IV? Can fluids be administered intermittently? Can the IV be disconnected after a course of fluids, antibiotics or Pitocin are finished, or turned off? Will I still be able to use water therapy with an IV placed?

 

  1. What is the typical protocol regarding Group B Strep? Is a rapid test available? If I test positive, how often will antibiotics be administered? Will a positive test affect any other part of my labor care or progress?

 

  1. Am I encouraged to eat and drink during labor? Under what circumstances would I not be permitted to eat (with an epidural)?

 

  1. What is the typical protocol for fetal monitoring and how often will you do it? How many wireless telemetry, wireless patch systems (like the Monica Novii) or handheld doppler systems are available and are they waterproof? How often do you use internal monitoring and under what circumstances?

 

  1. How often are vaginal checks usually performed? When is a vaginal check not recommended (i.e.ruptured membranes)? What would you say if I declined a check?

 

  1. Will a shower be available to me, and if so where is it located? How many birth tubs are available and where are they located? How often and how long may I use the tub? Will I have to leave for fetal monitoring? How long does it take to set up and/or clean the tub between uses? Will I need to call dibs early? What are the circumstances where I wouldn’t be able to labor in the tub (ruptured membranes, fast labor, none available)? Am I able to birth in the tub?

 

  1. What options, aside from the epidural, do you offer for pain management (narcotics, nitrous oxide, sterile water injections)? What options do families choose the most often? Is one method suggested over the others? Are there wait times to be considered? What are some of the most common side effects you see for mother or baby (Will baby need special observation if narcotics are administered less than 4 hours before birth?)

 

  1. What is the average wait time for an epidural? Does that change during the night, weekends or holidays? Can my epidural be turned up or down at any point? Does that require my anesthesiologist or OB, or can the nurses do so? What are the most common side effects you see for mother or baby?

 

  1. What birthing tools are available (birth ball, peanut ball, squat bar, mirror, birthing stool, labor sling)? Which tools are requested most often? How often do you see families bringing their own tools (such as a TENS unit, essential oils, rebozos, birth balls, heating pads)?

 

  1. Will I be encouraged to move freely throughout labor (walking, squatting, lunging, using birth balls/ stools)? Will I need to stay in my room, on the L&D floor, or may I use the facility grounds?

 

  1. How will you support me during pushing? Will I be encouraged to “labor down” during the latent part of the pushing stage of labor? How long do first-time families usually push and is there a standard time-limit for pushing? How often do care providers give perineal support or counter pressure with warm compresses during crowning? What is typically used for lubricant (baby soap, Astrogilde/KY)? May I provide the lubricant of my choice? How often are episiotomies performed? How often do you see families experience vaginal tearing significant enough to require repair?

 

  1. In what positions do you see families giving birth most often (on their back, on their side, on all fours, kneeling, squatting, upright, on a birth stool, in the tub)? In which positions do you see the least instance of tearing? The most tearing? Will I be able to give birth anywhere but in the bed?

 

  1. How long do you usually leave the cord intact after birth? How often do families choose to wait longer than 4 or 5 minutes? What are the policies for the third stage of labor and what techniques are usually used to encourage the placenta to detach? Is immediate postpartum Pitocin administration standard policy? After how long is a placenta considered “retained”?

 

  1. Will my baby be placed skin-to-skin immediately after birth? How soon will we be encouraged to begin breastfeeding? 

 

  1. In the event we experience a cesarean birth, how many support people can be present? Are doulas/photographers welcome in the OR? Can they be on standby to swap out if my support person leaves with the baby? Is skin-to-skin and breastfeeding encouraged in the OR? May I have at least one arm free to hold my baby? What does a “gentle” or “family-centered” cesarean birth look like here?

 

  1. What is the typical protocol for baby care immediately after birth? If my baby needs to be checked, weighed or placed on a warmer will he leave my room? How long are you comfortable waiting for examinations after birth? How long are you comfortable delaying baby’s first bath? How often do families decline HepB, vitamin K or Erythromycin administration?

 

  1. Is there a release form to sign should I choose to take my placenta home with me? If any tests need to be performed can just a small piece be sent to pathology instead of the entire placenta?

 

  1. How will I be supported in the first days of breastfeeding? Who will be there to guide me shortly after my baby is born? Is lactation support offered 7 days a week? Under what circumstances will formula or pacifiers be given? Will I be asked first? What kind of follow-up resources are available for breastfeeding concerns after discharge?

 

  1. Will my baby be encouraged to stay in my room? On average how much time will a baby spend in the nursery? Are there any tests or procedures that would be required to be done anywhere other than my room (hearing screenings, circumcision)? Are there any options for baby care if I desire?

 

  1. Is there a NICU at this facility? What level is it and what’s the youngest gestation accepted? Where would we be transferred should we need a higher level NICU? What are the typical protocols for NICU transfers? Are there any circumstances where I might need to be transferred to another facility? What, if any, lodging is available to us if our baby has a significant NICU stay?

 

  1. Are there specific visiting hours? Are there limits to how many people can visit at once? Do you allow young siblings to visit? Does a birth during Flu Season change anything? 

 

  1. What security measures are in place? Will a device be placed so that my baby is unable to leave the floor? Do visitors need to be buzzed in and are there security guards present?

 

  1. What kind of meal resources are available to me and my partner? What are the cafeteria hours?

 

  1. What time does discharge typically occur? How long do families usually stay after an uncomplicated vaginal delivery or cesarean delivery?

 

  1. What follow-up resources do you offer for new parents? How and when can I reach out for questions, concerns or emotional support?

 

  1. What can we do to help make this a good experience for everyone involved?

 

* BONUS #1: Good Questions when planning a VBAC: http://vbacfacts.com/2009/06/06/interviewing-care-providers-questions-to-ask/

 

* BONUS #2: Add “does any of this change with multiples?” to any question if you are expecting more than one baby.

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If you are planning an out-of-hospital or homebirth you may find this list more helpful

If we missed anything please drop us a line and let us know what to add!