This guest birth story is by a friend who, after 5 boys, had her baby girl. Nicolle was instrumental in helping me find my midwife when I moved to Bakersfield pregnant -- this was her hometown. I knew Linda Cowley was right for me when, at our interview, my dog sat on her feet! I owe Nicolle a debt of gratitude for her recommendation, and in an abuncance of good karma points, she found a midwife just as excellent to help her with Keira's birth. Enjoy the story and pictures!
On March 29th, 2014, my blue streak ended. I had a daughter. She was a total and utter surprise, starting from her pregnancy. I found I was pregnant after losing a pregnancy early in the first trimester. I assumed I would be having another boy. I don't think I allowed myself to even entertain the thought of having a girl, but shortly after finding out I was pregnant I bought a tiny pink nightgown, keeping the tags on, because surely I would be re-gifting.
My pregnancy progressed normally. I was taken care of by a great midwife. I can say in my life I have had the privilege of knowing some very amazing midwives. Randi was no exception. I called her for a consult, she came to my house, and I knew in my gut she was the one. I had interviewed several homebirth midwives at this point, but had not yet pulled the trigger After my initial consult, I hired her on the spot. I knew she was the perfect fit to help me and guide my baby earthside. She was competent, confident, and smart. I felt immediately comfortable, and it felt I had known her a million years. Our appointments were like a visit from an old friend. Lots of laughs and love.
Towards the end, baby decided head down was for losers. This baby decided breech was the way to be. I immediately called Randi, who came out the next morning and confirmed the lump I felt under my ribs was exactly what I thought it was, a head. No panicking, no freaking out was done by her, she was cool as cucumber. My mother, a seasoned midwife said inside she probably thinking, "oh for the love of Pete, this great big baby needs to turn head down immediately or I will have to be carried out of here on stretcher." We did some exercises, threatened the baby with a spanking(haha) and that silly baby turned head down. And then I stayed pregnant for another few weeks, as my babies like to do.
41 weeks came and went. Xander, our oldest, was to be confirmed on March 30th. March 28 came and bit of urgency was felt by me. I did NOT want to be in labor the day of his confirmation. My mom and Cheryl, my ever present birth partner, made the 5 hour drive up north. But, alas, no labor came.
I woke up at 12:45 AM, March 29th, with my water breaking in bed. I shook Jacob awake and told him my water broke. He didn't really wake up, but moved over so he wasn't laying in amniotic fluid. I heaved my very large self out of bed and had a contraction that brought me to my knees. I had to have Jacob get out of bed to wake my mom and Cheryl, and call the midwife. I was having back to back contractions and couldn't do anything but stay kneeling over my bed, preparing for the next contraction.
Things moved quickly from that point on. Randi made it, and my friend Danielle was there as well. Cheryl was taking pictures and I was getting close. I have always labored a long time, but this time it was different. I was going fast. Jacob and I seemed to be completely in sync with each other, and I didn't really have to even articulate what I needed, he just knew. Between he, my mom, and Cheryl, I was very well attended to, and I had a lot of help to support me through my intense contractions.
My contractions were on top of each other, and very intense. I thought maybe the bathtub would help, but I didn't care for it, at all. I had a really hard contraction when I was getting out of the bath, and I told Jacob I didn't think I could handle another like it. I started to get a little a weepy, and my legs started to shake, a sure sign of transition for me.
I was not feeling the urge to push, although I was fully dilated. Baby was high and floating. Randi said I could push if I wanted to, and I didn't want to, but it was going to be the only way to get this over with. I pushed, and the amniotic sac bulged out like a tidal wave. My bag of water burst explosively, shooting up over the chux sheet Randi was shielding herself and Jacob. Keira's head quickly followed, and with one more push came her body. I heard Jacob say "I think it's a girl!" and the whole room just came alive. I laughed, and then I cried tears of joy. I could not believe I had a daughter. I kept saying over and over I can't believe I have a daughter. She was perfect. Just perfect. She breathed and cried, and was trying to nurse while she was still connected to me. I was on cloud 9!
I wish I had to words to describe how the air felt in the room. I wish I was not limited by language so I could fully explain the joy, the peace, and the euphoria I was feeling. That feeling, that is birth. That is why it happens in a sacred place, the place where that child was created, a living token of the love between Jacob and myself, who are given the privilege to create life.
My child was welcomed into the world surrounded by those that loved her the most. The first hands to touch my daughter were the hands of her grandmother, who lifted her into my arms, the arms of the woman who would be her champion until the end of time. My world was complete.
Keira Kristina was born on March 29th, 2014 at 3:16 AM. My fastest, easiest delivery. It was everything I wanted it to be, and I wasn't in labor for Xander's confirmation. She was gracious and came the day before. My mom made it, Cheryl made it, and she took the most beautiful pictures. I will treasure them always. A truer friend there never was. I am pretty sure she'd drive the Bronco in a slow speed chase if I needed her to. Randi was perfect, just perfect. She slipped out of the room after I delivered the placenta and was tucked into bed, Facetiming my sister. She came back in with a plate of snacks, and yummy tea for me, and had thrown in a load of laundry for us. I love her so, and I forever am in debt to her goodness to me.
Two years later, and I am still reduced to tears of joy when I think about my girl's entrance into the world. She is just what this family needed!
Just a few shout-outs to some great professionals:
Linda Cowley, LM, CPM, serving the Bakersfield Area
Randi Payton, LM, CPM, serving the Greater Sacramento Area
Cheryl Lopez Photography, serving the Bakersfield Area
These are my sad stones. I found them at the beach one day, when I felt the need to venture away from my home and my problems and spend time collecting my thoughts and just feeling free for a while. I had been crying daily, hit by a sadness I couldn’t even explain. It was a terrible time for me, and while I knew I should reach out to a professional for help, everything just felt too overwhelming. With a family of busy children, a nursing baby, and all that was expected of me, I couldn’t fathom finding someone to call from a random list of names, figuring out if my insurance would cover expenses, and taking the time to travel and sit with a therapist, pouring out my sadness…which I already didn’t have the energy to engage. There was just too much I already had to do, and I didn’t have the resources within me to do this for myself.
When I trained as a doula, many years before I ever experienced a perinatal mood disorder, I learned depression in pregnancy is more common than postpartum depression. This surprised me, and it took many years before I heard Birdie Gunyon Meyer, RN, MA, CLC, give the exact numbers: one in five women experience depression while pregnant, and one in seven experience postpartum depression. Dads can be affected as well – one in ten will experience depression before or after their child is born.
In my childbirth classes I often share we have ideas about how life will be after our baby is born. I liken it to a wall of decorative boxes where we have our existing activities and priorities. We expect to contain our new baby in the space we have carved out for him or her. The reality sets in, though, and suddenly we see that “baby space” has exploded, baby puke all over all the other boxes – everything smells faintly of sour milk, and we wonder, “Could this be right?”
Up to 80% of women experience Baby Blues. This is a short time of very strong emotions, tears, frustration, as we move into the role of being mothers. It is not supposed to last longer than two weeks – at that point, it is possible we have moved into a postpartum mood disorder. What can be confusing, though, is we often tell women to watch out for “depression,” for crying all the time, sadness, not getting out of bed, etc. We don’t often warn women there are other signs of something going on inside, and it may not look anything like depression.
Pregnancy and birth is a time when hormones affect almost everything related to growing, having, and feeding a baby. Hormones affect our bodies, and they can also affect our minds. It makes sense to have emotional changes related to becoming a parent – as our bodies are prepared to grow, birth, and feed our new ones, emotional changes can help us prepare in other ways. There is a saying – worry is the work of pregnancy. Indeed, worrying can move us to action. If we are worried about birth, we can take a childbirth class or hire a doula. If we worry about how our babies will stay warm, we can gather clothes, blankets, a safe place for sleep, etc. Worry can help us be ready.
Many mood disorders are normal feelings that are working overtime. This is where anxiety, panic, or obsessive-compulsive thoughts and actions can appear. That doesn’t always come with crying all day or feeling sad. This can look like worrying something is wrong with your baby; needing to check on your baby while he or she is sleeping, counting baby’s breaths or heartrate, taking baby’s temperature; feeling overwhelmed about all the baby gear you must bring with you to leave the house and choosing, instead, to stay home. When these habits or behaviors interfere with the pastimes you used to enjoy, activities with friends and family, or needed tasks such as grocery shopping, it may be time to let your doctor know and ask for support.
Recently, because this is such a tender topic for me, I have set up a Postpartum Support International chapter for Kern County. PSI is an organization that provides resources for families dealing with mood disorders related to pregnancy and having a baby. Families can call for resources – therapists and groups that can help. They can call for information about mood disorders. They can also call just to talk to someone when they are feeling they need immediate support. If you are a professional who works with mothers and families dealing with perinatal mood disorders, please connect with me so you can be listed within the resource network of PSI of Kern County.
On PSI’s website it says this: “You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help, you will be well.” Reading this statement continues to bring tears to my eyes. It is valuable! We aren’t alone in this. We are not to be blamed. And we can, with help, be well.
I keep my sad stones in my kitchen window, to remember that time. As I picked each one up off the sand, they felt like heavy weights adding to my emotional burden. I held them, wet and cold, and wondered, how will I ever get through this? I did, though, with help and with patience, and I emerged feeling healthy and well on the other side.
I can look at them now for what they are – rocks. They are smooth to the touch, with tiny holes bored in them by sea creatures. Just rocks – nothing more, nothing less. But I remember, also, I was dealing with a real illness, and I don’t want to face that again. They remind me that if I end up there again, there is hope and there is help. And I don’t have to suffer alone.
Tori is the mother of three boys, a La Leche League Leader, and a birth doula. Her baby, Otto, was born in September, 2015 -- he had ties, but no one really knew until his weight dropped in response to his decreased desire to eat. In Tori's words, she documents their journey, and how hard it was to find help while her baby was struggling to eat and grow.
"Here's a timeline of our journey to the breast.
Born Sept 21 2015, weighing 9lb 3oz, noisy latch, unsettled baby, needy baby.
Jan 2016- weight arrested at 13lb 4oz (in hindsight, because milk supply tanked and no longer fueled by postpartum hormones, looking for adequate sucking to maintain it, baby not sucking adequately or very long per feeding). He would pull off at letdown, refused to latch deeply and the bottom lip never flanged like it's supposed to.
Feb 2016- weight unchanged for 1 month, I started pumping, building back my supply and trying every way under the sun to supplement. SNS, Haberman feeder, syringe, 8 different types and flows of bottles, all with little success. Syringe was best because required no sucking and because of severe posterior tongue tie he was unable to suck properly.
In Feb I saw our Ped, LC, and Speech Pathologist. All 3 professionals examined his mouth and stated that tongue tie was not present, because he could thrust his tongue out of his mouth. I mentioned posterior tongue tie with all 3 professionals and was told in so many words, 'it's not real.'
I had 2 meetings with speech pathologist who encouraged me to spoon feed him and use Haberman feeder to help avoid mouth aversion. She refereed us to Children's Hospital to have a barium swallow study done to watch on X Ray my baby swallowing, mainly to check for silent aspiration which can over time cause pneumonia. The soonest they could get my baby in was April 7th, 2016, 2 months from the time the study was requested.
Over this month my frustration and desperation grew to a crippling degree. I didn't sleep, I was spoon, syringe, bottle, breast feeding around the clock. My baby was fussy but never showed signs of dehydration that I was told to look for (soft spot sunken, dry lips, listlessness, dark urine, few diapers). He had normal large stools and urinated clearish non-smelly urine 12 times per day. At urging of Speech Path, I started keeping a detailed log of every single bit he would eat. I did this for 5 days, it varied from 14 oz to 20 oz, guessing with how much transferred during breastfeeding.
March 4th 2016- I took him for another weight check with Ped. Still no weight gain. 2nd month. I lost it in the office. She offered to draw labs on him and I said yes. Labs showed a drop in blood sodium levels.
March 6th- we repeat labs at emergency room and sent to Childrens because of sodium. By this time I had connected finally with dentist who does posterior tongue tie revision. It's $500, and our insurance was not accepted, so I had been trying for several weeks to get an appointment and gather the money to pay for it. I wanted to revise him before our hospital stay, but both Drs agreed he was too sick. So we put it off until after the stay.
March 7th- after 6 hours of stress for my exhausted baby, with multiple more lab and urine draws, Children's finally placed a feeding tube in my baby. We fed him through a tube down his nose, 2 oz every 2 hours for 3 days. His weight gain was on average 15 grams per day. They were also supplementing his sodium and watching it closely to make sure it was rising, and it was.
March 8th- Barium swallow study performed and severe tongue restriction and silent aspiration of syringe feeding observed.
March 9th- I was persistent enough to get an ENT doctor in my hospital room to revise his tongue. This doctor used a long metal tool to lift my baby's tongue deeply and revealed a frenulum far back under his tongue that no one had ever laid eyes on before. The ENT doc cut this about 1/2 inch long piece of skin and handed my baby to me. My baby IMMEDIATELY latched differently than he ever had, drained my entire breast, which he never had done, and we only did one feeding through the tube that day as he learned to use his newly released tongue. ENT doctor exclaimed 'Oh, that released a lot,' when he did it, in surprise.
March 10th- morning weight gain was 130 grams after breastfeeding all night.
March 11th- consulted with speech path, ped doc and ENT about stretching his tongue to keep revision from re-adhering and all told me not to, but because of my own research I did it anyways.
March 13th- constant weight gain of on average 120 grams per day and maintained sodium levels, so we went home.
I'm attaching two pictures, that were taken 9 days apart. The first one is the day of the lab draw and the 2nd one is the day of hospital release.
I believe sodium levels were low because my baby was starving, not unlike someone with anorexia. I received consults from endocrinologists, geneticists, nephrologists (kidney doctor), lactation consultants, urologists and speech pathologists during our hospital stay. The doctors didn't think sodium was low because of his lack of feeding but were searching for other causes. They did an ultrasound on his kidneys and discovered they were enlarged, but recommended just watching them every few months to ensure they don't get worse. It's my opinion that the kidney issue is unrelated to the sodium levels, but there are still some tests out on his hormones that will answer that for sure (adrenal hormones).
I urge you to educate yourself, if you work with moms and babies, and stop telling mothers that posterior tongue tie isn't real, and to start learning how to clinically recognize it. My case was typical yet on the extreme side, and my baby and I were made to suffer because it went untreated.
I'm personally feeling a huge amount of guilt, and the months leading up to our hospital stay were traumatic for us both. I share this with you in love and kindness and hope you will learn and grow as I have."
I am grateful to Tori and her willingness to share her story. Tori and Otto were let down by many health professionals -- any one's education or awareness could have quickly changed the course of events before hospitalization was needed. Tori has chosen to contact these health professionals, not to stir angry feelings or place blame, but to simply ask them to learn more, so they can help the next family and prevent complicated issues like she and Otto faced.
This week we celebrated IBCLC Day...
to recognize those amazing, top-level lactation professionals who have gone through the difficult steps to becoming International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. IBCLCs are at the forefront of breastfeeding difficulties -- or at least they should be. What seems to happen, though, is when breastfeeding problems arise in the early days after birth, many families turn to their doctors for breastfeeding help. It is natural to assume this provider who cared for you during pregnancy would have the skills to treat sore nipples or inadequate weight gain, right?
Liz is a friend of mine in medical school, and I am so glad she set her sights on becoming a doctor. I know she will do a world of good, absolutely A WORLD OF GOOD, because of her knowledge base and her passions. Liz gave a "Breastfeeding 101" presentation last weekend at Take Root: Red State Perspectives on Reproductive Justice conference. Spend 10 minutes watching this and you will gain understanding of why lactation knowledge is so lacking among our doctors, and why we should be shouting from the rooftops the value of IBCLC help and support.
Unfortunately, the end was cut off, so I let me add Liz's takeaway points:
The last point in particular is one of interest to me: What if all residents received the same three-hour lactation education required by physicians when a hospital is working toward Baby-Friendly Hospital Status? That three hours could be a consistent way to provide lactation education to new doctors.
Three hours -- many of us would be happy if doctors received just three hours of education. Think about this: I just finished 90 hours of specific lactation education as I work toward becoming exam-eligible to get to IBCLC -- 90 hours! And there is something busy doctors out there can do to add to their skills in an easy, effective manner -- today, without even one minute of extra education: Get to know local IBCLCs, and refer to them often!
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)