Two months ago today, I got called into a birth. A birth that I thought would be a normal, “easy” birth. I knew Jenny from some of the birth circles she attended. She decided to hire me as her doula, based on a mutual friend’s recommendation. Jenny and Chris were expecting their third child. They had decided not to find out the sex of the baby, but knew the baby’s name would be Shae, whether it was a boy or girl. They had two very normal, healthy births with their first two. Their first birth of their son, Owen, was a hospital birth. Their second with their daughter, Norah, was a birth center birth. There was no red flags, absolutely nothing to signify that this birth would be any different. Anything but perfect. Jenny had a low risk pregnancy. She was birthing a birth center. By all accounts, this should have been a beautiful, flawless birth. As a doula, I’ve always known in the back of my mind that things can happen. Birth is unpredictable. Things can go wrong, but that was the farthest thing from my mind when going into Jenny’s birth. Little did I know that the birth of Chris and Jenny’s third child would forever change me. That the precious baby inside of her would forever altar my life, and change the way I view life, my family, my work, the world. I went into Shae’s birth as one person, and came out forever changed.
I have been hesitant in some ways to post the story of Shae’s birth. I’m a birth advocate. I believe fear hinders birth in so many ways. I believe birth is normal and natural. I never want to scare anyone, but to not share Shae’s story seems wrong. Shae touched the world. She has impacted so many lives. Her life mattered. The loss of Shae was a tragedy that no one could have predicted or prevented. To not acknowledge the part she played in my life and my work and so many others, would not do her justice. So with Chris and Jenny’s permission, I’ve decided to post Shae’s story from my point of view. This is what I experienced the day of Shae’s birth. Jenny and Chris I know have a more tragic, yet beautiful story to share with those they feel led to share with. This is just my version of events.
Birth Center Birth, Chapel Hill, NC
Michelle is a friend of mine, and I’ve known her for a long time. It was an honor to be asked to be at her birth. This was Michelle’s fifth child, and she really wanted to have a natural, unmedicated birth this time. In order to help make that happen she chose to deliver at a birth center in Chapel Hill. She was very excited about having a different experience this time around than she did with her other births.
On Monday, June 8th, at 1:25am, I got a text from Michelle saying she was in labor. She said contractions were about 10 minutes apart, and had been going on since 11:45pm. She said they were getting more intense. She decided she’d jump in the bath to see if they might go away. She said she was feeling most of the pain in her lower back and her butt. Around 2:00am, she noticed the contractions were beginning to get closer together. She asked that I call her so we could discuss a plan. I called her and she explained what was going on. She paused through a contraction while I was on the phone with her. I suggested she call the midwives to see what they recommended. The birth center was almost an hour away, and I felt hesitant to have her wait too long. The midwife felt the same, and she recommended Michelle go ahead and come in. I got ready and headed out to meet Michelle, her husband, Michael, her mom, Angie, and her 7 year old son, Ray at the birth center.
At 2:57am, Michelle texted me to let me know she was on her way and contractions were now 2 minutes apart and lasting about 30 seconds each, but were not yet extremely painful. I arrived at the birth center around 3:45am. When I got there, Michelle had just been checked about 10 minutes before. She was 5cm dilated, 80% effaced, and the baby was at a -2 station. She was on the bed working through each contraction beautifully. Michael was sitting with Ray, and Michelle’s mom. Michelle was still having a lot of back pain so she got on hands and knees, and I applied heat and counter pressure to her back during each contraction.
Around 4:15am, Michelle decided she’d like to try laboring in the tub for a while. We filled up the tub and she got in. It helped with the intensity of the contractions for a while. She was doing an amazing job, breathing and working through each contraction. Michael sat next to her for a while, holding her hand, and counting for her. It helped Michelle focus when someone would count during a contraction. Then he went back to sit with Ray, and I stayed next to Michelle. I encouraged her and constantly told her that she could and was doing this, and was doing an amazing job at it. Eventually Michelle decided she wanted to get out of the tub.
At 5:46am, Michelle requested to be checked again. She had progressed to 7cm, 90% effaced, and baby was now at a -1 station. Michelle was very tired and just wanted to rest on the bed for a while. While she was resting on the bed her contractions began to space out a lot. The midwife felt it would be best if she got up in order to move things along a little bit faster. They tried to bind her belly the best they could, and she sat on the birth ball for a while. I did a double hip squeeze as Michelle swayed and moaned through each contraction. Around 6:20am, Michelle then asked the midwife if she could break her water. The midwife agreed to do so. Michelle knew this would help move things along a little faster. She got back on the ball for a little while longer, but really preferred laboring in the bed. So she insisted that she get back in the bed.
Michelle was lying on her side in the bed. Michelle’s mom and I were alternating rubbing Michelle’s back and putting pressure on her hips. Michael was lying next to her on the bed. Ray was just watching. Then Michelle was beginning to feel some pressure. At 6:55am the midwife checked her again, and she was 8cm dilated. Michelle immediately felt the urge to push. Angie stood by Michelle’s head and Ray stood next to her so he could see the baby coming out. Michael was still lying on the bed next to Michelle. Michelle pushed through one contraction, and baby Will was born at 7:03am. He was immediately placed on Michelle’s chest. Michelle was so strong and powerful, and rocked her labor. She got the natural birth that she wanted so badly, and she was so beautiful doing it.
*All stories shared with prior permission
The Birth of Theo, Birth Center Birth, Baby+ Co, Cary, NC
Christine was pregnant with her first. She was originally planning on delivering at a hospital, but part way through her pregnancy she decided to transfer care to a new birth center that had just opened up, Baby+ Co, in Cary, NC. Her baby ended up being the very first baby to be born at the new birth center!
On Monday December 15th, 2014 around 6:00pm Christine sent me a text that said, “So…The baby definitely felt lower today and now, it is uncomfortable. Any chance you have a moment to chat?” I gave her a call a few minutes later. We talked about what was going on and how she was feeling. What she described sounded like contractions, but she sounded so calm and relaxed that I didn’t think she was very far along. She hadn’t been timing them yet, so I told her to do that for about an hour and then to let me know how far apart they were. About 30 minutes later she notified me that she had some bloody show and that indicated to me that she was definitely in labor! At this point she said her contractions were about 4 minutes apart, but not overly painful. She still sounded very calm so I told her to rest while she could, to keep me updated, and to call me as soon as she felt like she needed me.
At 9:25pm I received a text saying that they were heading to the birth center. I got my stuff together and headed there, as well. I arrived at the birth center around 10:30pm. Christine was definitely working hard through contractions once I got there. Her husband, Matt, told me that she was already at 9 cm!!! Things were moving a long fast. Clearly baby Theo was very ready to meet his mom and dad! Christine worked through each contraction like a champ. Some she wanted to lean through, some sit through, some lay down. She did an amazing job listening to her body. At one point I mentioned to her that she was going to be meeting her baby soon. She got really excited about that, as she repeated to me, “Meet that baby soon”. He was her motivation. She couldn’t wait to see his adorable face. After a little while the midwife, Luanne, checked Christine’s cervix again. She was 10 cm, 100% effaced, but the baby was still very high, a -2 station. Christine wanted to know what she could do to help baby move down. Luanne said that Christine could continue to work through contractions, and that he would move down or that she could break her water, and that may help to speed things along. Christine decided to have her water broken.
Within just a few minutes of Luanne breaking Christine’s water, she really felt the urge to push. Christine instinctively got off the bed and onto all fours on the floor to start pushing. One of the other midwives there, Jualeah, grabbed a stool for Christine to lean on and put knee pads under her knees in order to be more comfortable. I sat next to Christine on one side, Matt was on the other, and Jualeah was in front of her. We were all encouraging her. She was doing so amazing. She was listening to her body and doing exactly what she needed to do. She pushed for about 30 minutes, and then Luanne caught the baby. He cried, and Christine said, “That’s a beautiful sound”. Luanne handed him straight to Christine. We helped her walk to the bed, and she just couldn’t stop talking about how adorable Theo was. She was so in love with her sweet boy! Christine was an absolute rock star, and had such a beautiful, peaceful birth. Her husband was an incredible source of support, and the team of midwives at the birth center did an amazing job respecting the birth environment and all of Christine’s wishes.
*All birth stories shared with prior permission from client
"When I asked my husband if he would recommend getting a doula to other expectant families, he said “without a doubt.” When I asked him “why?” he said that having Anna there made him more confident about the decisions that we were making during our daughter’s birth. It was good to have another, more experienced person there, on your side, helping you to evaluate what the nurses and midwives were telling you. Anna was incredibly positive and professional during our entire experience with her. She shared her opinions and knowledge without making us feel that if we made a different choice, that it would necessarily be the wrong choice. That’s a difficult balance to strike, and Anna does it well.
Anna supported me during contractions with rebozo and with coaching on breathing, as well as helping me to remember other strategies that were available. She encouraged me to use the bath, take walks, and stay with standing or sitting on the birthing ball when that felt right. She was observant and helpful without seeming to intrude. We are very grateful to Anna for partnering with us as we endured an extremely long induction process, and celebrating with us at the final birth of our beautiful daughter. We would recommend Anna to other couples looking for a doula."
~Kirsten and Chris
Kirsten and Chris hired me a few months before their guess date. They had two adopted children, and thought they could never have a biological child. To their surprise it happened! This was their miracle baby. They are such amazing people, and I loved their story. I was so excited to work with them.
Kirsten and Chris changed care providers near the end of pregnancy to a team of midwives who they felt would be more supportive of their birth choices. They wanted to have a natural birth, and avoid any unnecessary interventions. Due to Kirsten’s age and her history of high blood pressure the midwives suggested inducing labor on her due date, if she had not gone on her own before then. Kirsten had a few false alarms in the few weeks before her due date, but things always slowed back down. Kirsten and Chris did a lot of research and were very well informed on the benefits and risks of inducing at 40 weeks. They felt comfortable asking to delay induction for a few days, provided all tests came back showing baby was healthy at the 40 week appointment. At the 40 week appointment all the tests came back showing baby was happy and healthy. Unfortunately, Kirsten’s blood pressure was 150/100. They sent her to the hospital for monitoring and to discuss a possible induction. Kirsten was monitored for a few hours. Her blood pressure remained high. For the health of both Kirsten and the baby they decided to induce.
Around 7:00pm that night they gave Kirsten cytotec. At that time Kirsten’s cervix was 1cm dilated and 70% effaced. They continued giving her a dose of cytotec every three to four hours. Around 4:30am, Kirsten sent me a text to let me know that she was near the end of her third dose, and that her contractions were three minutes apart and one to two minutes long. She was hopeful that maybe her body was taking over on its own. About 6:30am, they administered the fourth dose of cytotec. They also checked Kirsten’s cervix at this time. She had progressed to 2-3 cm and was 80% effaced and baby was still very high. The midwife on call at that time wanted to start pitocin at 10:00am. Kirsten really wanted to avoid pitocin. She asked that I go ahead and come in so that I would be there to discuss different options.
I arrived shortly after 9:00am. Kirsten was sitting on the birth ball when I walked in. She was still having consistent contractions, but they weren’t extremely intense yet. The midwives changed shifts at 7:00am, so there was a new midwife on call. Also the labor and delivery floor suddenly got extremely busy. A lot of women were in labor, and the midwife had her hands full. The nurse came in to let us know what was going on, and to say that it might be a while before the midwife would be able to come in. I suggested at this point that Kirsten and Chris get some snacks before labor really started to pick up. Kirsten was really craving coconut cream pie. Chris ran to the store to pick some things up. He returned with coconut crème pie, crackers, cheese, Gatorade, and some other snacks.
Kirsten and Chris enjoyed some snacks and then decided they’d walk around the hospital for a little while to try to get contractions to pick up. It seemed to do the trick. The more Kirsten walked the more intense things got. Around 11:00am, the midwife came in and checked Kirsten. She was at 3cm and 70%, and baby was at a -2 station. The midwife suggested that instead of starting pitocin that Kirsten remain active, and that maybe later in the day she could try breaking her water in order to move things along. Kirsten continued to stay upright. She’d walk and sway through contractions. She was doing an awesome job, and her contractions really started to intensify and go into a beautiful pattern. She kept at this for several hours, and then the contractions started to slow down again. Kirsten was understandably exhausted at this point. The midwife came in around 7:00pm and did another check. Kirsten was now 4cm dilated. The midwife again suggested breaking her water, but Kirsten and Chris didn’t feel like that was the best thing to do. Instead, Kirsten really wanted to try and get some sleep. Things had slowed down enough that we decided to give it a trial run. I left the room for 30 minutes to see if she could sleep through the contractions. If she could, then we agreed that I would go home so Kirsten could get a good night’s sleep, and return whenever they felt they needed me. Chris laid down next to Kirsten on the hospital bed, and she was able to get into a deep sleep right away. This was such a relief, because I knew she needed the energy to continue handling the labor.
The next morning , around 8:00am, I texted Kirsten to see how things were going and if they were able to get some sleep. She said that they were able to get some good sleep, and that she hadn’t had any big contractions yet that morning. She said that baby was very active, and that she was feeling more energized and positive. She told me who the midwife on call that day was, and said as soon as they had a plan that she would let me know. Around 9:00am, the midwife came in and thought that starting with the cytotec again was a good idea. They gave Kirsten three more doses of cytotec. After the third dose, around 3:00pm, Kirsten felt like her contractions were getting stronger. I was planning on coming by between 5:00 and 6:00 anyway to check in, and Kirsten still felt that would be a good time.
I arrived around 6:00pm that night, and Kirsten’s contractions had definitely picked up. They were much more intense and very consistent. Around 7:00pm, Cheryl came in to check Kirsten’s cervix. She was 5cm dilated, 70% effaced, and baby had come down to a -1 station. All of this was very good news! They had decided that they would start some pitocin around 9:00pm to speed things up a little. Shortly before 9:00, your mom’s contractions really started to pick up. The midwife was okay with holding off on starting the pitocin since things seemed to be progressing on their own. They were getting a little bit harder to handle, so I suggested that she try the bath for a little while to help with the intensity. That seemed to help a lot. We put the diffuser in the bathroom, played some music, and Chris sat next to Kirsten in the bathroom. She was really able to get into a great labor zone during this time. She was handling everything perfectly.
The nurse came in to listen to your baby’s heartbeat and make sure baby was handling labor well. After she did that Kirsten’s contractions began to space out more, and things started to slow down again. Kirsten decided to get out of the bathtub. When she got out and sat on the bed she made the decision that she wanted to go ahead and start the pitocin. The nurse brought the pitocin in. The minute she put the IV in your Kirsten’s arm, her water broke. The pitocin didn’t have a chance to get in her system to work yet. Kirsten’s labor was progressing on its own! They still kept the IV in, but after her water broke things really started to get intense. Kirsten wanted to try to get in the tub again. The nurse didn’t want Kirsten to get in the bathtub, while on the IV, so she promptly told the nurse to take the IV out, because she didn’t need it anymore. The nurse did. Things moved very fast after that. Kirsten was in the tub for a little while. She was handling each contraction beautifully. She did begin to get a little overwhelmed by the intensity at the end, as all women do, but she was able to work through it all perfectly.
Around 1:00am, I noticed she seemed to be grunting and pushing some with each contraction. I asked her if she was feeling the urge to push, and she felt like she might be. I had her get out of the tub and sit on the toilet for a little while. We called the midwife in, and she checked her cervix while Kirsten was sitting and pushing some on the toilet, and she was fully dilated!!! The midwife talked her through several pushes on the toilet. Then she had her move over to the bed. She had her lean on the bead while Kirsten semi squatted next to the bed. This was the perfect position for her. She only pushed for about four contractions in this position, and then Cecily’s head came out. The midwife caught baby and handed her off to Kirsten. She held baby close to her chest while we helped get her on the bed. Both Kirsten and Chris were just so in love with their baby girl, and so excited to finally see her!
Kirsten was an absolute rockstar during the entire labor. She had a lot of difficult decisions to make, but she made so many great choices. She worked hard to make sure to do everything that was best for baby. She’s such a strong woman, and she completely rocked her birth!
***All birth stories shared have received prior permission from client***
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