Preeclampsia to Freebirth

What a wild ride the last few weeks of pregnancy with Stella Skye were… I felt really called to freebirth and was trying so hard to listen to intuition and decide how to navigate that change with my midwife… she is a phenomenal woman, I just was feeling strongly about only having Billy with us in the intimacy that is birth….

But before I could really formulate how to have this discussion my body felt a little off one morning I was noticing more fluid retention than normal and I thought to text a dear client and friend who’s wife was a former hospice worker to borrow a blood pressure cuff. My numbers were thru the roof. I’ve thought about it and I’ve decided to not share exact number details here because I do not want someone choosing to follow my path with similar numbers unless that’s a decision they come to completely on their own. I will say my numbers were high enough to be admitted to the hospital twice in a week, but I denied all interventions minus one prescription blood pressure pill the second time.

It did not agree with me to use that word lightly, tachycardia, rash, panicked feelings, and all around feeling like I had drank a case of energy drinks. I was miserable, so I decided that I would get a prescription of them to take home for emergency use only, but chose not to take them again.

My midwife was great helping me navigate the hospital terms, talking to the hospital midwife and multiple doctors. My experience at Hilo Medical Center was unfortunately about what I expected lots of whispers about my choices, comments on my recklessness for refusing unnecessary medication and vaccines, and lots of confusion as to why I would come if to only deny treatment. To clarify, my thought process is my numbers were bad (I was told severe preeclampsia my thought that diagnoses doesn’t match what I have seen in textbooks as severe it was serious), while I didn’t want treatment or to expose our child to drugs or medical induction I did want to be in a place for treatment when my numbers were high enough to cause stroke or seizure. I didn’t feel it was my husbands place (a special Education and PE teacher) to watch his wife potentially die at home over her stubbornness.

Luckily after an overnight in the hospital I realized my numbers were improving. Thru trial I had found a way to improve MY preeclampsia. While preeclampsia causes aren’t fully known or understood I also had the advantage of not matching up with ANY of the normally blamed causations. So bedrest it was.

I argued my way out of the hospital for the third time this pregnancy but realized with a take home prescription for blood pressure medicine to be used only if I hit those stroke/seizure causing numbers again that they did NOT make me sign a waiver of against medical advice. So while they verbally argued with me, they too realized something positive was happening or they made a mistake. Either way, I was headed home without the “naughty” paperwork at this point I was accustomed to…

At this point I realized I was putting my midwife and ND in a bind. They were wanting me to continue blood pressure medications, do more checks via Doppler, blood pressure, urine sticks, and everything than I wanted, especially when I at this point could feel my blood pressure without a few points of accuracy every-time. I knew my remaining pregnancy was a bedrest sentence but at the same time I intuitively felt any induction methods were inappropriate. I trusted my daughter to know her perfect timing.

So after much thought, months worth, and advice from so many informed educated friends (on both sides of the fence) I fired my midwife on my due date of Jan 23. (Her tracking of Jan 23rd mine was of Jan 21st) My midwife is also a mentor, a family member of a close friend, and someone who has worked in the field a decade longer than I’ve been alive. To say it was the hardest conversation I’ve ever chosen to have so directly wasn’t an understatement. And you know what happened?

She rallied for me, she supported my choices, we did some paperwork to clear her and my ND of any liability and then she continued to support me in any non medical capacity she could as a sister and mom figure, as a doula, and as an unofficial midwife who said to please call as soon as we wanted any support. I was floored, the thing I was most fearful of was only a figment of my imagination. My midwife was the woman of grace and ultimate birthing support I thought. The only hang up and understandably so is state licensing/ legal interference/ and potential jail time for empowering someone who wanted to take their health into their own hands. At the risk of sounded political, I’ll move on, but so many thoughts about this….

So we continued, bedrest, a chiropractor appointment, an in home acupuncture treatment, healthy foods, and waiting for our daughter to arrive on her own terms. I was leaking mucous for days and I suspected amniotic fluid although I had strips to check I chose not to, anxiety didn’t need to enter my birthing space. Low fluid was fine if I was careful, so it didn’t matter. I checked blood pressure occasionally to make sure it hadn’t skyrocketed, but I back off on any other measures of monitoring other than being more still. It did not bypass me that one of my closest friends had been telling me for months this child would make me learn how to be still. The irony that she was doing it from the womb already wasn’t lost on Me.

The morning of the 26th contractions woke me up around 4:30. This wasn’t abnormal I had been losing sleep over uncomfortable prodromal labor since Dec 30th. But I was hopeful. While I was managing with bedrest and parenting a toddler, my husband was still having to work and I knew this half bedrest lifestyle wasn’t sustainable for long without potential serious health repercussions. I sent my husband to work as normal with the request he kept his phone close and I communicated with my childcare team of friends for what felt like the 20th time that maybe today was the day. We have been so blessed with amazing neighbors and friends this pregnancy and birth experience I don’t even know how to thank everyone. I labored at home most of the day short contractions, but by noon undeniably intense. I had started my garmin at 7:30 am hopeful for the data this labor as I had missed it my last and had seen sky high pulse rates when I went to check time and was disappointed to not know what my body went thru.

Luckily my husband had no qualms about leaving work a few minutes early, because from the moment he was home things were intense. I actually wonder if my body would have labored shorter it I had had him call in, it’s like I was waiting for my safety net to transition. We tried all the positions. I got in the bath while he got our birthing pool together, but by the time he did I knew I just wanted to be close to him in a dark place. We rotated between different things in the bathroom, the toilet, kneeling in the bath, a birth stool (yoga headstand stool repurposed), a ball, kneeling on the ball, but ultimately every contraction that wasn’t standing felt like knives stabbing into my lower abdomen. He tried hip counter pressure and back pressure but both made my back hurt worse. I didn’t realize at the time this was back labor with probable placenta abruption. I just knew standing being held up by my person was my only place of refuge so I let go into him. Birth is the most intimate experience. At one point I told him I couldn’t take it anymore and I knew as I said those words she must be close. So I reached down and had him confirm all we could feel was a bag of water and it wasn’t close still 4 inches away. I stopped trying to check, birth happens as it needs to and I went back to just trusting Billy would hold strength for me when I ran out. I talked to her and told her when it was unbearable and weirdly time would freeze and the pause between contractions was longer. We hadn’t officially met but Stella and I were working together.

Suddenly I realized only a few minutes later, what I had told Billy when I saw him trying to time contractions maybe an hour prior was happening. The timing of the contractions didn’t matter, the length didn’t matter, but I was in them more than I was resting. I confirmed this with him and told him to get towels and sterile pads. Instantly I felt burning ? Was this the ring of fire I missed last time? It wasn’t bad just a different sensation and a welcome change from the stabbing abdomen pains. I tried to shuffle / waddle to a place that I could hold myself up on the sink counter. I told him she was coming but then I realized it wasn’t her head but a huge bag of water larger than her head. It grew and grew and finally all in one moment she came en caul the water bursting into Billy’s hands as her head landed into both of our hands and I snatched her forward thru my legs protectively to my chest. I knew being em caul was rare, but it took a Google to realize this was a 1 in 80,000 birth. Although I know it’s much more common with home births I do wonder if it had to do with letting the baby lead the birth. It took almost 24 hours for us to realize she had been sunny side up leaving her with no head molding looking like a doll from the first cry. She was completely pink from the first catch, I whispered in stun that her Apgar was at least a 9. I had Billy help me sit and prop me up. I told him to feed me honey and I assessed the situation less than a cup of blood maybe a half had come out with her.

I told him to call our now “postpartum doula/ family friend” to have her head this way and I tried to call my mother. Then I headed to the bedroom to lay down. I knew then placenta didn’t feel close and she had a short cord so I needed to get comfortable.

As I laid there and I assessed her it was hard to not feel anger at the hospital. They had wanted to remove her a week ago, and yet she was showing so many signs of being earlier on this “late date”. Her chin was smaller, she had heavy vernix, she herself was drastically smaller than my son had been, and she still had light lanugo. If they had jerked her out like recommended the last two weeks I had been to the hospital not only would they have made a massive profit but it would have been damaging to her long term health.

My former midwife arrived about an hour after birth, and she got to work cleaning up, helping Billy be able to be more present with us, and confirmed taking the herbs I wanted to take would probably be helpful. Again I’m not giving specifics I want to share my experience without confusion anyone that this should be their choices. Do your own research if you plan free birth with any medical concerns. After taking some herbs and a few tries about two hours passed with no heavy bleeding the placenta came. I showered briefly, we weighed her and measured her. No other things other than to note she was small 7.1 and 18 1/8 inches, with a larger than normal head (probably due to lack of molding).

Our neighbors kindly brought us Thai takeout, we ate and relaxed for a few minutes before Billy headed out to get our toddler from another neighbor. He came home about 9 pm so we did a quick introduction before doing his bedtime routine.

It’s been a few days to reflect and as my blood pressure steadily improves (but is not normal yet) I’ve had time and stillness and bed rest my worst enemy to reflect. That birth was the most empowering day of my life so far and seems so suiting to my introduction to being a girl mom. In this world women need to be strong and empowered and I’m so glad I was able to listen to her well enough for that to be our very first day together.

So we continue with my health hopefully improving, our birth the literal exact experience I wanted, and the most perfect sweet girl in our arms.

I

34 weeks pregnant

Well, we’ve made it this far, rounding the corner of the last 2 to 10 weeks of pregnancy. When people have asked about my due date I try to remain vague, as I think sharing a set date sets people up for false expectations of what a natural pregnancy should look like.

I feel good considering I’m in the last trimester while parenting a toddler, working full time, and going to school full time. I think it’s so common for people to find this time overwhelmingly and stressful, but myself I find primarily excited about the possibilities of meeting our second child soon.

My body is holding up well, my weight fluctuating around 160 lbs, my energy stable most days. I think for me in pregnancy managing hormonal and emotional fluctuations seems to be harder than the physical tolls of pregnancy. Perhaps this is due to my fitness training / sports choices, perhaps it’s just a lack of personal development in the other areas. Either way, I enjoy sitting with the changes, thoughts, and minor discomforts to reflect on areas this child is requiring me to grow.

I find myself looking forward to the birth, the ceremony with my husband. I find myself nesting and preparing everything we need for a home-birth again once and twice sometimes triple checking it. I find myself more excited for the last birth I will attend this month as a space holder and doula, knowing the woman I am attending has a birth plan and mindset similar to my own. It feels honoring to be invited to attend someone who’s goals for her fourth birth mirror those of this second birth for myself. I feel a sisterhood with her and other women who invite the responsibility and potential challenges of home birth into their space and lives. I find myself as often in pregnancy in a beautiful place of reflection, ready to venture between worlds to meet our second child.

28 weeks and a few days …

This pregnancy could not be more different than my last… and as a student midwife I’m really grateful for the diversity of the experiences…

For starters my palate is mirroring my husbands to a level that is uncanny and sometimes unsettling. Foods and drinks I normally would pass on are what I’m seeking. This baby “S” is sitting extremely low causing a different type of discomforts that my pregnancy with Cosmo. I feel certain personality aspects are being highlighted differently…

All of it, different and unique to this child seeming more like my spouse than myself these days. Even in words and thoughts, feeling the urge to keep everything more private this time.

Last weeks photo

I have lost weight the last week or so, and “S” has dropped some, so staying hydrated and resting as much as possible to avoid early labor. My walking miles are around 20-30 a week still, but running is inconsistent maybe 1-2 times a week, with the recent addition of indoor cycling again, since the rainy season is beginning and I still value my sanity.

The irony is last pregnancy I was sleeping about 9 -10 hours a night. The female body is unbelievably Strong.

It seems my phone and life energy battery are parallels currently. Time to stop writing and start capitalizing on any moment to rest. 💕

Halfway, Or so…

Not all that surprisingly I have less time to blog this pregnancy. As the mom to almost a year and a half old, at 20 weeks pregnant I am functioning as a “C student” at most things.

Currently, I’m going back to school, thru the Indie Birth school at the very beginning of learning about midwifery from a traditional direct entry perspective. I am still working online & in person coaching full time, and accounting and hike tour guiding part time.

My run mileage has been a little lower than my last pregnancy, but my mindfulness of what’s going on in my body is a lot higher. I am doing prenatal yoga when I can versus religiously. At 19 weeks I had a scare with PROM causing me to be even more intentional about not stressing run mileage or intensity. My fitness came back last time so quickly, I believe primarily because I did take the end of pregnancy easily. Slowing down allows the body to learn to relax and Open up for the dance of labor. Not forcing fitness, and tension, and stress in turn makes the return to it more smooth. At least that’s my experience.

My weight is still a little lighter than it was last time around, around 140 versus 144-146 this week of my last pregnancy. While the weight is or no importance to me, it is interesting to see the stark differences in the pregnancy and the last. Initially this time I lost weight the first trimester, down to 123 from my starting pre pregnancy weight of 128 or so… so I’ve gained more weight this pregnancy at this point, but my body starter lighter. This time I’ve dealt with migraines, on and off nauseous feeling the first 14 weeks, sickness with smells, and overall more “symptoms”. It’s hard to explain, unless you’ve felt the differences between pregnancies but it’s a shockingly new experience.

This time I’m working with a midwife friend, who has a more traditional approach. She is more willing to give me guidelines on activity levels, foods, and her personal opinions of things. It’s refreshing to have care that isn’t “regulated” by state guidelines, just 40 years of experience and intuition.

In summary, this pregnancy has been a whirlwind so far, paralleling our lives in this season. It’s sometimes harder than expected, it’s delightfully more fun than I could ever have guessed. It makes me want to be pregnant forever, another 10 times, and also never again all in the span of 5 minutes sometimes.

Hapai

Pregnant again! Wow the last 15 months of our life with Cosmo has been a whirlwind. I’ve all but given up on social media, I’ve changed some of my side jobs (switched the winery position for tour hiking for a nonprofit and accounting ), and I hardly ever have time to write anything longer than a grocery list.

Here we are though, in the busiest season I can remember ( including traveling nonstop for years), and preparing for our worlds to be turned upside down again. Billy and I knew we wanted another child, and one close to Cosmo, so I never even considered natural preventative timing. My cycle, took about 7 /8 months to return ( paralleling the end of our breastfeeding journey, but when he turned 1 we started thinking more carefully about getting pregnant again. I ordered the Ava and boom as most things go when you gamble money (they refund you in full if you aren’t pregnant within 6 months) I was instantly pregnant. I was shocked, I expected to have to wait longer ( I was in heavy run training still having a normal cycle) but I didn’t expect to get pregnant the first time we intentionally looked at the calendar first! Hello, healthy body! I was so proud of myself to be in both the fittest shape I could remember being as an adult, and also the most fertile.

So Im “due” around the backend of January ( although hopefully we all know babies appear when they please), making me 12 weeks pregnant at the writing of this blog. Not too much has changed ( I skipped racing the 100 mile ultra I was training for ), but Im still getting active daily. I’ve committed immediately, to another home birth, and have already begun Spinning Babies daily yoga practice ( more for mental preparation than anything). I chose this time to go with a midwife who is the family member of a close friend, but feel grateful to have both my midwife from my last birth, and a midwife (hospital only ) covered by insurance who are both willing to monitor me at any capacity I request. My friend circle has shifted to mothers and women who support and have experience with birthing, so this pregnancy I feel very supported by my community. It’s comforting and also calming.

While Cosmo has my personality at the moment, loud, borderline abrasive and demanding, but a total charmer, I feel this this child is different. I get a calming quiet energy from internal and I feel a little more hormonal than last time ( shorter temper ) and mildly nauseous most mornings ( solved with something bread or cracker like ). I feel like this child will be more Billy’s energy and probably female. However, unlike my last pregnancy I won’t be persuaded to overly monitor it ( the gynecologist I started with, not the midwife I finished with).

I am choosing to skip most ultrasounds ( I did one to confirm single pregnancy and I plan to do one more at 20 weeks or so to confirm healthy organs ), I’ve done bloodwork to determine sex ( will know soon and to rule out chromosomal abnormalities). Providing neither the bloodwork or organ scan come back with unexpected results we will proceed with a home birth again.

Life is chaotic and busy, but we feel calm, content, and curious. Maybe this child will continue to bring these qualities to our home.

As I often get asked and rarely have time to answer ways to work with me are:

  1. In person fitness instruction ( contact me dralyxbarnett@gmail.com )
  2. Online fitness / nutrition instruction
  3. Currently running a free fitness group
  4. Hiking in Volcanoes National Park

I’ll attempt to post updates again, but no promises!

Rounding up to 6 months

We’re a week away from C being 6 months old. It’s wild to think in half a year our lives have changed in so many ways. He’s talking now (hi & hello quite selectively usually accompanied with a wave) and crawling (he’s been scooting/dragging/army crawling since right before 5 months but now he’s properly crawling with coordination and speed as of last night Sept 23) …

I just can’t believe we have another talking moving human in the house, it takes things that once seemed important and resets their value (or lack of)… and makes things that once were a priority and makes them a faint echo…

I actually emailed our school of choice to start the waitlist process for Pre K yesterday (yes good schools are that hard to get into in Hawai’i)… and I had teachers there validate I wasn’t the only one!

Billy and I are good, still adjusting to segmented sleep and juggling both working, working out, and baby life.. it’s a dance for sure but I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling.

Not much to say, just writing a few notes so it doesn’t all become a distant memory.

Hiking with mom
Running with dad
Crawling around the tea farm
First solo flight with mom for a day trip to Oahu

Rounding up on 4 months

In a few days we will have been parents for 4 months now officially. I can not believe that much time has passed, it feels like yesterday that I laid down in bed and announced my water had broken.

The concept that time flies, has never been more real that it is now. Yet, everyday as parents is a new adventure. Cosmo is such a talkative, cheerful, giggling baby, we are so lucky.

So what’s new in the last month!? Just a few days ago I reached my “trying to conceive body weight again”, and I’ve started doing some harder efforts while running, feeling close to normal minus the slightly heavier than “ideal race weight” body! Cosmo is almost fully crawling he currently has a pretty solid drag and scoot, rolling himself across the floor only takes a moment. (We plan to baby proof electrical outlets this weekend. ) We traveled to the east coast for him to meet grandparents/extended family and all got a nasty cold (not Covid we checked multiple times) and survived that, although seeing Cosmo be sick was so heartbreaking. My heart goes out to parents with children that aren’t healthy the majority of the time.

Grandma Teresa
Grammy Nicole
Grandpa Gary
Grandpa Bill
Uncle John

So we’re here, running a lot, working a lot, laughing a lot. It feels like time is all misplaced and I’m finding a new interpretation of how a day can pass in a moment, and a week in the blink of an eye… but here are a few words to hopefully remember this beautiful season of chaos.

I hope that Cosmo knows how loved and cherished he is. 💕 We feel so lucky to have him!!

Anniversary/ First Fathers Day

What luck, I just had when I realized Fathers Day & our 2 year anniversary landed on the same day, Summer Solstice. It makes remembering them both easier every time we glance at the summer skies.

Getting outside as a family is so easy in the summer

They are both tomorrow, but first a few updates on how life has changed. I’ve been working a lot with online and in person coaching, as well as at the winery around the corner. Moments turn to days, which in an instant seems to have blurred into nearly a month passing since my last writing here. I’m enjoying the busy season, but am looking forward to setting more time aside to intentionally reflect and remember these beautiful moments.

Cosmo is simply a delight, I can’t imagine a sweeter son. Every few days it seems he gets a new skill, pushing up, smiling to his name, rolling over with more ease, or giggling when he knows you’re playing with him. I think our birthing choices have paid off in spades, creating a baby who is almost always relaxed, easy going, and comfortable. That or he got primarily his father’s genetics. 🧬 🤞 At his 10 week visit he was at 15 pounds, nearly double his birth weight. We chose to do a delayed vaccination program, so he got some of his 2 month vaccines then, and will get others at 3 months. It was a joy that his pediatrician was so supportive of our choices, and had nothing to say but positives about how healthy and responsive he is with our current methods.

With his Fathers Day card, thank you to our island Ohana

My postpartum fitness journey is going well, with the busier season of work, breastfeeding, and just in general with life…. I have kept the miles easy, the last few weeks around 55 miles a week, still focusing heavily on strength training, with some indoor cycling as needed with weather or scheduling. Surprisingly to me, it has felt easier and more natural that I thought it would, and while I’m keeping things slow, I’m extremely pleased to be this fit already less than 3 months postpartum!

Finally, a few realizations, the very act of pregnancy and child raising seems to breed community. I am in awe of how my neighborhood acquaintances have become close friends, babysitters when we need, and just the kindness that surrounds us from nearly all directions. While there will always be those that are negative or jealous, the overwhelming response has been kindness, understanding, and love from all directions, even those we wouldn’t have expected it from. We are so blessed. 💕

Best friends

Almost 8 weeks

A few moment pass and suddenly weeks have flown by, if any unsolicited pregnancy advice I got was right it was that these would be the best moments of my life and they would pass to fast. Every day it seems Cosmo is bigger, in fact he’s now in the 95% or higher on all the growth charts. The illusion that he’s growing overnight may actually be a reality at this point.

I started to actually train this week (it’s Tuesday, so starting yesterday)… No real news to report other than starting to move is hard, stopping the motion once I’m warmed up is even harder. I did 3 weeks at 20-25 miles of run/walking, completely comfortable with some lifting and very small amounts of cycling too…. Not exactly sure what kind of volume I’m working up to, but definitely feeling confident enough to increase it a little this week (tomorrow is 8 weeks postpartum)

Sleeping is going well, at least better than I think I expected. People seem to enjoy worst case scenario shares to pregnant women, my advice ? Ignore them, people by the lot are nasty creatures and overwhelmingly pessimistic. We wake up 2-3 times most nights, and he has a bit of a witching hour if you will around bedtime. His witching hour ranges from a few moments to a few hours long, but overall it’s not as bad as I worried it may be.

I’m not saying all is perfect, but it’s better than I hoped and dreamed. My body feels weak, but strong considering where I’ve been recently. I’m over the moon with my body’s progress. And I’m so grateful to have a local run & lift community to train with often!

More soon, when I make no promises!

5 weeks as a parent

I meant to write a blog at 4 weeks, but a family visit came and went, a new job popped into my life… and well I’m a week behind my intentions with a ton of new news.

Cosmo has a radar for only needing me when I’m my most busy

Starting off with the star of the show, Cosmo is huge. Ahead of all predicted growth charts he’s jumped from the 75% to the 95% trending aggressively to prove breastfeeding is working better than I could have ever imagined for us both. Finally, it is pain free and enjoyable, hang on mamas and just bear thru that first engorging unbearable time, it is worth it! Hydration and lactation support pills seem to be my best friend, Next to my pump and my ever patient husband. Billy has really stepped into his role as a father, so seamlessly, countless moments have passed that I have said I don’t know how anyone does this single. My hats off to all the single parents, and those single by circumstance as well. You are all heroes and have my applause and appreciation.

From 8.1 to 12.2 lbs in the first month

Today is a good day, as it was my first (two runs)? I was out walking my dogs, And Cosmo in the stroller, short on time before a client, and suddenly my legs had transitioned from a power walk into a shuffling jog… before I knew it the 4 of us were running of sorts minus stops for nursing, roadside sniffs, and puddle breaks… so when Billy got home I snuck out for a quick forty minutes to run 3 miles before walking almost another mile home to ensure my zealous heart didn’t betray my fragile pelvic floor and legs.

Before these runs, I’ve spent 3 weeks lifting and also cycling starting at 3 weeks postpartum. To build strength and some basic conditioning back is my main physical goal before even establishing any postpartum run goals. I do have some floating around in my brain, but those secrets are between Billy, a few of my closest friends, and myself. I’m not ready to be public, but I’m sure that will come soon. A massive shout out to Aliphine Tuliamuk, Amanda Basham, and Jenn Shelton for being a few months ahead of me in the postpartum journey, and extremely helpful to me in this transition.

How new parenting feels

So until further posting, we’ll be here, juggling minimal sleep, I’ll be aiming to continue breastfeeding until it doesn’t work for us, and now we will be running together. Thanks for hanging in for the journey.