I had been looking forward to Sunday afternoon all week. A local midwife (and friend!) was throwing an open-house party to reveal her new office and birth suite. There was to be a petting zoo, bounce house, food, families, and fun. I couldn't wait, and I excitedly brought my mom and Ezra along for the ride.
LaMonica Bryant, LM, CPM, has been a midwife since 1999. She offers homebirth services to families in Kern, Tulare, and Kings Counties. LaMonica is based outside of Bakersfield, and after moving to a farm with more room, it was time to create a dedicated office space. It was also decided to include a birth suite, for situations when families may want the option of out-of-hospital birth closer to town than they may be.
I arrived to the party, eager to check out the new space and visit with LaMonica. I saw many friends, including my own midwife, Linda Cowley, who had helped me birth Ezra. Tables were set up and food was near, so I sat and visited for a bit, always keeping an eye out for LaMonica as I wanted to tour the new space with her. After about a half hour, another friend came to our table and whispered something about there being a baby born that morning.
Let me back up: LaMonica was pregnant, due around Valentine's Day. Her party's date was supposed to have been far enough ahead of her baby's date to not get the two mixed up. But as we all know, sometimes baby's have other plans!
The night before the party, around 11 pm, LaMonica's water broke! Labor ensued, and at 6:17 am, on the day of the planned party, Jasper was born! A short while later LaMonica's husband asked what they were going to do about the party? LaMonica said, the food was bought, the bounce house was on its way, so the show must go on! A bit bewildered, I would imagine, her husband agreed -- as long as she promised to stay in the house, in bed, with her baby.
After hearing LaMonica's baby had been born (and realizing that was why I hadn't seen her around), I went off to find her. She was accepting visitors, thankfully. I came to her bedroom, where she was skin-to-skin with Jasper. There were a couple other women with her, and it was calm and quiet, despite the party outside. If you are anything like me, though, you know THIS is where the real party is! A mom and her new baby, complete for the moment, happy and resting in a comfy bed with a wall of festive turquoise behind them. LaMonica had such a look of happiness on her face! In truth, she looked amazing and bright -- like she could be out there, showing families the new space! But a woman who has been present for 300+ families when they birthed was having her own moment. And truly, I felt her joy.
There was a buzz at this open house, like all of us were gathered to celebrate the birth of Jasper. Even though most never even saw him, we knew he was near, and we knew he was safe and happy. The most honored guest didn't even come to his own party, but all of us there were aware of his impact. We were reminded that birth is wonderful and unpredictable -- and that birth is safe.
How better for a midwife to know the functionality of her space than to test it herself? It may not have been in LaMonica's plans, but Jasper decided they needed to do just that. Well before the guests arrived, and with the help of her family and her own midwife, the baby was born, the suite was cleaned, and LaMonica and Jasper moved to their bedroom in the house to begin their babymoon (despite the festivities of the day!).
Reflecting back to the spirit of this day, I think I pin-pointed it: As a midwife, LaMonica is with families on these, the most special days of their lives. The birth of a baby -- magical and amazing -- changes a family. What a blessing to us, just to be near LaMonica and Jasper on their own special day, we family and friends who were mostly brought together by birth in the first place. Thanks to Jasper and his timing, to really give us something to celebrate.
Thanks to fellow doula, Melissa Hettick, for sharing pictures of the office/suite.
I was so touched when my October client wanted to share her birth story -- it was amazing to be a part of. I cannot explain how it feels that families trust me enough to accept my support as they become parents. I wrote this about Tegan's birth:
"I always wanted to say something beautiful when my babies were born, something memorable and emotional. I am not sure I ever did, lol. I think I usually said, 'I am glad that's over,' giant sigh.
Yesterday's mom was swept up -- no drugs, fast birth -- and as her baby was lying on her chest, Mama burst into tears and cried, 'I'm just so happy!!!'
You never forget these moments <3."
“Why are you still working?! Your due date is next week, what if your water breaks while you’re at work?”
“Oh that’s not going to happen to me, they do that in movies for dramatic effect. In real life, the water breaking in a gush only happens to about 8% of women, that won’t happen to me, I will be fine”
This was a conversation between myself and my good friend Jammie one week before my October 13th due date with my first child. I had an easy pregnancy, no morning sickness or vomiting, and I had not taken a single day of work off the entire nine months. I manage an office, it’s not physical work and since I had felt fine, I felt no reason to stop working even with my due date right around the corner. I wanted to maximize my time off after the baby arrived. Little did I know, I was about to be one of those 8%...
On the morning of October 14th, one day overdue, I awoke to my dog barking. She doesn’t usually bark at night unless she needs to be let out to answer the call of nature. I groaned internally. “Ugh, it’s 2:30 am, I don’t want to get up and let her out,” I complained internally. Then I thought, well I probably have to pee anyway, it’s only been an hour since last time I peed and everyone knows how often pregnant ladies need to pee. I heaved my big, pregnant belly up and began walking to the bathroom. "Oh, I guess I really had to go," I thought, as I felt fluid trickle. By the time I got to the bathroom, there was a gush and a lot of fluid. Apparently my water had broken, signaling that the arrival of my baby was imminent. I called to my husband and told him to get up and let the dogs out while I cleaned up.
The first call I made was to my doula, Stacie. I had made the decision to hire Stacie fairly early in my pregnancy, she came highly recommended from a mother of 6 that I have known my whole life. I hired a doula because I was afraid of having a hospital birth, I was afraid of being forced into taking unnecessary medical interventions during labor, and afraid of being bowled over by a medical team that had never met me, knew nothing about me or my baby, and didn’t know what I wanted from my birthing experience. I envisioned an intervention-free birth, preferably at home, with a midwife. My husband, rightly concerned with my health and that of our unborn baby, objected to my home birth plan and preferred a hospital setting. The compromise came in the form of Stacie, who I wanted to help me through an intervention-free hospital birth.
“Stacie, my water just broke, should I go to the hospital?”
“How do you feel? Have your contractions started yet?”
“I feel fine, I am not in pain and having no contractions yet.”
“It’s up to you whether or not you’re ready to go to the hospital. However, it can take some time for the contractions to catch up once the water breaks. Since your water is broken, if you do go to the hospital, it's likely they won’t allow you to leave once you’re there.”
“Ok, well I don’t want to go too early, I think I will wait a while and go later. I should not go to work though, right?”
“NO!!! Do not go to work, and keep me updated.”
After getting off of the phone, I called my mother and told her the news. I told her I wasn’t going to the hospital yet and I didn’t expect the baby to arrive for several hours, probably not until late evening. I expected a long labor, everything I had heard and read said that most first time mommies have a long labor so I was prepared for a marathon. With this in mind, I decided to go to work. This decision was made because I knew I couldn’t get someone to cover me, I work at 4:30 am, and I just planned to go briefly to give a quick morning meeting and inform my staff that I would be out until the end of my maternity leave. My husband got dressed and drove me to work, and I was there for half an hour before we left and drove through McDonald’s for breakfast to be fueled up for all the work ahead of me!
At home around 6:30 am we both laid down, I wanted us both to try to get some rest for the long day ahead. I was having minor contractions at this point, 15-30 seconds long and 5 or so minutes apart. At about 9 am I sent my husband to drop our dogs off at a friend’s house. My contractions had increased in frequency and length but I was still not ready to go to the hospital. I was texting Stacie and asked how long I could safely wait to go to the hospital? Stacie said it was up to me how long I felt safe staying home, and she advised me to contact my doctor for an appointment to check my progress. If I had progressed enough, I could go directly to the hospital, but if I wanted to go back home, I could do that too. That sounded ideal to me, my doctor’s office was located in the parking lot of the hospital I would deliver at.
This is why I wanted a doula and why I decided to go with Stacie; she listened to me, asked me how I felt, and asked what decision I thought was best for me. Essentially, she helped me to decide for myself instead of just telling me what to do or what she thought was best. From our prenatal courses, she knew my concerns about having a hospital birth and advised me with that in mind. Stacie knew that I was concerned about going to the hospital too early in labor, and that I was concerned about having my movement in labor restricted by monitors and hospital rules.
The most important thing that I learned from Stacie was that I had choices for this process. I could be in charge. There were productive ways to communicate with hospital staff to facilitate the birth that I wanted, and decisions that I could make to affect my birth, like the decision to stay home and labor for a while instead of going straight to the hospital when my water broke. I didn’t have to be merely a participant in my labor, I had choices and a voice. In our prenatal courses, we had talked extensively about my birth plan, making 2 or 3 drafts before we were satisfied with it. I also made a gift basket for the nurses and doctors in the hospital, to thank them for their hard work, and partly to schmooze just a little bit! The birth plan would help to communicate what I wanted in the heat of labor, and the gift basket would help them to remember me in a positive light.
I called my doctor’s office. When I told them my water was broken, they told me to go straight to the hospital. I explained that I wasn’t ready yet and that I wanted my doctor to check me first. Fortunately my doctor was working and agreed to see me at 11:15 am. I took a shower, which was the best shower I have ever taken in my life, so relaxing! And my husband and I departed for the doctor. We pulled into the parking lot shortly after 11 am and I knew in my heart that we weren’t going home. My pain level had increased significantly since 9 am, but I was still unsure whether or not to go straight to the hospital. In my mind, I was clinging to the 4-1-1 rule (contractions every 4 minutes, 1 minute in length, happening for at least 1 hour) and I wasn’t’ there yet! My contractions were only about 30-45 seconds long, and I didn’t think they were long enough for me to go to the hospital.
Once in the doctor’s office, I had trouble disrobing from the waist down and getting up onto the exam table. When my doctor arrived and checked me, we were both surprised to find that I had already dilated to 5! It was time! I was going to the hospital! I was put in a wheelchair to go across the parking lot. I texted Stacie: “I am at 0 station and 5 centimeters dilated, I need you here ASAP!” “I’ll be there as soon as I can!” My husband accompanied me to the room and I sent him back out to the car for the hospital bag. The desk nurse gave me a hospital gown and asked for a urine sample. I got into the gown but the urine sample wasn’t going to happen. I was in too much pain, and I curled up on the hospital bed in the fetal position instead.
When my husband got back from the car, I was crying. “I need an epidural, I can’t do this, I’m going to die!” Cue the theatrics! He went for help. The nurse checked me and immediately ordered a birth kit; baby was coming faster than any of us anticipated. I asked for an epidural. My husband asked if I was sure, and in that moment, I certainly was! The nurses told me it would be at least an hour before I could get one; in retrospect I am sure they knew there simply wasn’t going to be time. The baby was going to be there before the anesthesiologist anyway! Stacie arrived around noon I believe, and everything became a blur. I was very lucky that my doctor was on duty and was there for the birth. Between her, Stacie, my husband, and the nurses, everything seemed to happen at lightning pace. Almost immediately, they had me pushing, I had plenty of help and support. My dear husband, who had pledged to stay by my head during labor to avoid the potentially traumatizing show, found himself holding one of my legs up while I pushed, after a nurse said “here, help her." Before I knew it, baby was crowning. Doctor Blair asked if I wanted to touch the head? “No! What are you talking about?! We are wasting time, let’s get her out of there!”
At 1:13 pm, Tegan Janine arrived. 7 pounds, 3 ounces and 18.5 inches of pure, healthy perfection. I remember seeing her for the first time, her arms outstretched. As they laid her on my chest, I was overwhelmed with emotion and disbelief. She had arrived so quickly, I was caught off guard and burst into tears, “I’m just so happy." Delivering the placenta was slightly problematic, it didn’t want to dislodge itself. The doctor massaged away at my abdomen for 20-30 minutes, and I cursed loudly…but it was eventually delivered. I was given a shot of Pitocin in my thigh because I was bleeding a little more than they would have liked, but otherwise everything was fine.
All of the preparation and planning were worth it. The decision to hire a doula and educate myself on my choices and decisions was crucial. I am extremely fortunate that I had an easy pregnancy and a fast labor, many mothers aren’t as lucky as I was. I recognize that genetics and pure good luck played a huge part in me having a positive labor experience. I hope that by sharing a positive story of birth, other mothers can feel more confident. There are so many terrifying stories of labors gone wrong, I feel that women need to hear that labor can be a positive experience.
One thing I will always remember about this birth: It was an intense and fast birth in Bakersfield, CA, and soon the room was filled with voices offering suggestions and helps to work Tegan out. While I listened to the voices of incredibly caring and wise nurses, and my client's amazing (I cannot say that enough!), AMAZING doctor, I heard them calling my client by her given name, and not her preferred name. It struck me in that moment, what an advantage I had as her doula, with the benefit of many hours of time together before birth! I was able to get to know this family, understand their desires and needs, and offer them the education and tools they would use to shape their birth experience. I knew them, and to me, that really means something.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)