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
I have a son who was born with an aortic stenosis. This means his aortic valve is narrower than it should be. He just turned 14 and up until his cardiology appointment last month, there has never been an issue.
Before we found ourselves back in the office, we had been rescheduled twice, so I was already feeling on-edge. Walking into the waiting room, there was not one place to sit. This added to my feelings of annoyance. When we finally met with the doctor, I was relieved, until after placing the transducer on my son’s chest his first question was, “Have you had a growth spurt recently?” Not what you want to hear when your child has a heart defect.
The most recent reason we had been rescheduled was our doctor had a spider bite on his leg that needed treatment. I rolled my eyes when the receptionist shared this with us (good thing it was over the phone). I thought it sounded like an interesting excuse – who has to go to the hospital for a spider bite? But another part of me wondered: Why is she telling me this? Is that my business?
At this bad-news-appointment, we were told medication would be needed to lower my son’s blood pressure – not because it was high, but because the rate of flow through the narrowing could cause damage to the area where the blood comes through, like spraying a pressure washer constantly at one spot on your house. We were also asked if we had other children, and if they had ever been assessed by a cardiologist? We have 4 sons total, and no one has ever told us this before – that was jarring. The doctor was adamant my husband and I be checked, as well. Our heart-son’s health is monitored fiercely because there is a known issue – but if this were genetic, any of us could have an issue and not know. That was frightening.
We were the last appointment of the day and the office was shutting down. As the doctor was performing the echocardiogram, he kept sharing details of his spider bite, occasionally shaking his leg or letting out a sigh or “ouch” here and there – it was obvious he was not feeling well. He also said he couldn’t wait to get out of there that day and change the dressing.
So here’s us: bombarded with overwhelming information.
And here’s our doctor: trying to help us while being distracted with his own issue.
I left that day feeling sad, scared, and unsure about all his recommendations. Knowing we didn’t have his full attention added to my stress and confusion. I questioned our relationship with this professional, and again to my mind came: Why is his issue my business?
So how does this relate to doula work? Let me share another story.
A number of years back I had a couple I loved, and I think they loved me. We were so excited to work together. A week before they were due, my grandma passed away and the funeral was in another state. Of course I was going to attend – in the grand scheme of things, my grandma’s funeral is going to be more important to my health and memories than the birth of a client’s baby. So I let my client know my plans.
It was an emotional phone call, because she was one of the first people I told. I did cry when I let her know I was going out of town, and of course I would provide a back-up for her. I felt good about everything. I was gone for 5 days, and just as we hit the California state line again, I knew I would be home by nightfall and things would return to normal! I could still be there for her birth.
I was unprepared for the phone call I got within an hour of that feeling. It was my client. She said she didn’t want there to be any bad feelings at the birth, and they had decided to proceed without a doula. I felt confused because I knew I didn’t have any bad feelings – had I been clueless to their feelings?
The next day we talked it out more. I felt I had made it back and things would proceed as planned. But what I didn’t realize was, my business had become her emotional baggage, as she worried about my loss and whether I would be back in time for her birth.
At the time I remember thinking, “No one cares about me.” Meaning, clients don’t offer the same emotional support and empathy that doulas do. Our lives don’t get the same priority as the pregnant families we serve. It was an acutely painful realization made worse by the loss of my grandmother and exhausted nature of the trip.
Of course, I was wrong. That’s how it should be when I am being contracted to provide a service. And once I was mature enough to realize it, I decided I wanted my clients to feel like I don’t have a life. Never again would I burden a client with my personal business. I want them to realize, when it comes to their expectations of me, there is nothing more important (even at the most inconvenient times), than their call of: “we need you.”
I have heard from many women over the years, words and situations that haunt them, where a professional’s business was made the mom’s business (which is really bad for business).
-A mom was waiting for her midwife to come for a postpartum home visit. The midwife told the mom she couldn’t find childcare for her little boy, so she would need to reschedule. The mom experienced a pretty traumatic birth, and she was eager for this visit and the need for someone to look over her baby again. She was so worried she took her baby to the ER just to have someone tell her the baby was safe and healthy (which she was).
-A mom who wanted a TOLAC (trial of labor after cesarean) ended up with a repeat cesarean birth. It was very emotional, everything leading up to this and ultimately, having an unexpected surgical birth with an unexpected provider. Toward the end of the birth, the doctor said, “Can someone take over for me? I have to get to my granddaughter’s piano recital.”
-A mom who experienced terrible postpartum anxiety and depression who was desperate for support. She sought out a therapist recommended to her by a friend. Once there, sharing her story in an uneasy fashion, with tears, and memories, and guilt, the therapist let this be an opening to share her own struggles with depression after her brother’s suicide. Suddenly "a little postpartum depression" felt minimal compared to this professional’s loss.
We pay professionals for a service. They should be taking care of us. When the tables turn and we are suddenly made aware of their personal lives, it can stir up feelings of empathy and sympathy. It can make us feel like we should be the caretakers now – we need to look out for this person and not bother them with our trivial matters. “I don’t want to load too much on her, because she has struggles of her own.”
But then, what are you paying that person for again?
Professionals need to leave their personal business out of their professional lives.
That’s not to say clients are rude or uncaring – they aren’t. And the focus still needs to be on them. What can we do when something comes up?
As a doula serving Bakersfield and Visalia, California, I strive to build families up and let them know I will be there for them, come hell or high water. I also contract personally with a back-up doula who attends prenatals with us, thus laying a foundation of support in the small chance I am unable to attend a birth (it rarely, rarely happens, and the cost of paying for a back-up’s time is absolutely worth my peace of mind). It shows a family: I am committed to you, and sometimes things come up; if that happens, here is my trusted back-up so you won’t be alone in this journey.
Ultimately, I believe me making my business your business is bad, overall, for business!
My older sister likes to remind me that once upon a time, while pregnant with my first, I responded to her question of, "Are you going to breastfeed?" with an unsure, "...if I can." To this day I still deny it. I honestly have no recollection whatsoever of that conversation -- I know she wouldn't make it up, though.
Over 16 years later, life has put me in a different place. I have successfully breastfeed my four children. Soon after my second baby's birth I went on to become a breastfeeding counselor, leading meetings for local mothers and mothers online, taking phone calls from frantic mothers all hours of the day and night, making home visits and hospital visits, and participating on our county's local breastfeeding coalition. I have written articles for journals, magazines, and blogs, spoken at breastfeeding conferences, and I am currently working toward becoming eligible to sit the exam to be an IBCLC. I cannot imagine who that person was who meekly replied, "...if I can," all those years ago.
Yet with all the future-breastfeeding moms out there, this is a common feeling. I think it stems from allowing a bit of room for failure -- not setting the bar too high in case of disappointment. Simply put, lowering expectations.
You only have to go as far as your nearest mother to find why this answer has held its place as, I would guess, the number one response: We love to share our horror stories. Any pregnant woman can attest to this when it comes to birth stories -- suddenly women are crawling out of the wood-work to tell you their impossible experiences -- the pain, the suffering, the horridness of it all, oh, and good luck! This carries over to breastfeeding experiences as well.
One day in the grocery store, a young clerk asked, while checking my items, if this was to be my first baby? I was prepared for her to launch into her personal drama, so with my fists clenched, and most likely talking through gritted teeth, I replied, "Yes." She looked at me so sweetly and honestly. "You are going to do just fine." I was stunned! She must have sensed this -- she went on to say, "Having my son was the best experience of my life. I wouldn't trade his birth for anything." I left for my car feeling like she had just revealed a secret to me -- I felt this young lady, about my age, had seen something in me I did not know I possessed. I felt powerful.
Birth and breastfeeding are related in the way we think about them both: We hope for the best, but in the end, we do not have ultimate control over how things will turn out. This tends to be more true for birth than for breastfeeding. Some of the most committed breastfeeding mothers I have met have been mothers who had to have cesarean births after planning completely natural births. I think many of them found exerting energy into the breastfeeding relationship healed the loss the cesarean birth left with them.
As women, we need to focus on sharing our positive feelings about birth and breastfeeding. We need to assure other mothers although there can be problems and set-backs, there is always a way to accommodate, adjust or overcome with the right network of support.
Let me share the biggest secret to a successful breastfeeding relationship: Know where to get help. You can always call me with your breastfeeding concerns. My doula role ends after your baby's birth, but my role as your breastfeeding counselor continues until you no longer need me.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)