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.