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My Birth Story

I suppose this story isn’t technically mine. It’s the story of my son’s birth, the event that set everything into motion for me to become a birth doula (and whatever other “titles” I acquire in the future.) It all started with this.

During my pregnancy we lived in North Carolina. Jacksonville, to be specific, and I was seen at Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune for my care. That’s a serious mouthful and I generally just say I was seen at Naval, military folks know what I mean. It wasn’t bad care by any means but it got seriously messed up by Hurricane Florence. We evacuated all the way back to Michigan for almost a month and that threw off the timing of all my appointments so I was seen only three times over the course of my whole pregnancy, and that third appointment was the day my son was born. To be perfectly clear I was seen around 10 weeks, again at 23 weeks, and then at 37 weeks and that is not the norm for most facilities but it was a weird situation.

But there I am, waddling into my 37 week appointment with my husband alongside, taking my sweet time because my feet felt like water balloons and I could never quite catch my breath. We get back to our little room and the nurse or whoever she was (they’re really bad about introducing themselves) checks my blood pressure and other vitals.

And then checks my blood pressure again.

And then says she’s going to have someone else check it real quick to confirm, which they did.

At this point in comes one of the midwives on my care team and she asks if I’d like an ultrasound, to which I agree. As I lay back and she preps the sensor thing she says, “So we’re having a baby today!” and my husband and I look at her super confused, and I say “No, I don’t think so?” She checks my baby’s position and he’s entirely breech, and casually tells us that we’re heading to L&D after this because my blood pressure is extremely high and she suspects I have severe pre-eclampsia.

Mind you, I’m pretty pregnancy ignorant at this point and I have no idea what she’s talking about. In my head I’m thinking “So what? Loads of people have high blood pressure” as they get me into a wheelchair and send me up to triage. They took my blood pressure AGAIN and I swear it was within a minute they had me changed over to a gown, a IV magnesium drip started, a catheter placed and my bed rails padded. My poor husband is freaking out and the nurses are trying to explain while also moving super fast to deal with me, and finally someone breaks it down for us. My blood pressure was 190-something over 120-something, so insanely high that I was at risk of a seizure, our baby was at risk, and the only cure was to deliver our baby ASAP.

I couldn’t even find my words at this point. Everything had gone so sideways so fast. I knew I wanted a drug-free vaginal delivery but this was truly a medical emergency and that option was out the window. My husband was talking to the care team for me about my wishes and they suggested that we could try a manual version to get him head down and then an induction but they had concerns about it. To be honest, so did we, and we made the decision to go for a C-section as soon as possible.

Less than five hours later, our sweet baby was born and we found out we had a son, as we had chosen not to know the gender beforehand. It was not an easy procedure for me as I have a fear of anesthesia and it wasn’t easy for my surgeons either. They had to move quickly to lessen the amount of blood loss due to my high blood pressure and anterior placenta they’d have to cut through, and there was a risk of them accidentally cutting my baby or of me having a wonky incision, but those risks were comparatively minor when looking at the likelihood of seizure and death. He came out untouched (but with his cord wrapped TWICE around his neck!) and after four long days in the hospital we got to go home. When you compare the ideal birth I had planned and prepared for to the reality of what I experienced, it would be easy to feel disappointed and upset, and I did for awhile. It took time to process everything and realize that we did what we felt was necessary and would give us the best outcome. I focused on the fact that I did ask questions and explore my options, nobody dictated anything to me, and my husband was in support of my choices. Those things mattered so much to me and made the experience better.

This story isn’t an easy one but it is a happy one, and it helps me relate to all those pregnant people faced with changes to their birth plan. You can still have an empowering and positive experience if you’re able to give informed consent and have people there to support you, even when it’s a different outcome than you had planned.

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