Handling the Unexpected
There is a quote by William Shakespeare, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” I think my birth story and life in general these days definitely fits this concept. As a type A person who overthinks almost everything, I was bound to have expectations going into my birth. From the moment I found out I was pregnant with my first baby in the summer of 2017 I started imagining what my perfect birth would look like and I immersed myself in all things natural birth. I read Ina May Gaskin’s “Guide to Childbirth,” followed a ton of birth Instagram accounts, listened to birth podcasts, and scoured the internet learning as much as I could about childbirth. Although I was nervous, I knew an intervention-free, non-medicated birth was what I wanted. However, the healthcare provider I was with, a midwife that was affiliated with the OB/GYN practice I had been going to for years, did not act like the midwives I was reading and learning about. So began my search for a new healthcare provider. I soon realized there were not many options on Long Island, but somehow I stumbled upon Gaia Midwives. Although they were located around 45 minutes from me, I immediately had a feeling they would fit what I was looking for. Upon meeting Ashley, I knew this practice was a great fit for my husband and I. She answered all our questions and had such a calming presence. I knew this was where we needed to be. After my 20-week sono I officially transferred to their care.
Initially, we had planned to give birth at Nassau University Medical Center because home birth was something we feared as first time parents and we knew nobody personally that had done it. However, as the weeks wore on home birth seemed more and more appealing. We decided around 30 weeks to begin planning for a home birth. Up until this point, my pregnancy was pretty uneventful. However, at a 3rd trimester sonogram at 33 weeks (the only one we planned to have in the home stretch), we discovered some manageable complications. Not to get too sidetracked but I had a succenturiate placenta (it was in two parts) and a velamentous cord insertion which was not seen on previous ultrasounds. I had to see a high risk OB and although a vaginal birth was still possible, my husband and I, with the midwives support decided against home birth in light of this new information. During these weeks we carried on with weekly sonograms at the high risk office. However, we were becoming increasingly stressed because the baby was firmly in a breech position. Luckily, our amazing acupuncturist used moxibustion and other techniques to encourage the baby to flip, which he did by 35 weeks! My expectations for a hospital vaginal birth were looking up! Little did I know the curve ball life was to throw at us.
At 37 weeks my husband was shockingly diagnosed with stage 3 testicular cancer. This news was beyond devastating and at the time it felt as though timing could not be worse. He had surgery in late March when I was 38 weeks pregnant and because I was so far along his oncologist agreed to start chemo April 16th, 2 weeks after my April 2nd “due date,” thinking I would definitely give birth before then. It was obviously extremely important for us that he was there, so we agreed that this was a good plan.
During these final weeks of my pregnancy, the midwives were amazing! They made home visits and supported us emotionally as we navigated this news. Once I hit 40 weeks and there was still no baby, I did as many natural things as I could think of to bring on labor. By 41 weeks, I was really feeling the pressure to get labor going. The midwives suggested that on 41+2 we could insert the Foley balloon catheter. This immediately seemed to get things going but as soon as I got home the balloon fell out and contractions stopped. Hours later, I nervously decided to take castor oil in a last ditch attempt to get labor moving. Thankfully it worked...and without all the negative side effects its known for! We labored at home for a few hours and by the time I got to the hospital I was 6 centimeters dilated! Ashley and Amanda were present at the hospital along with my husband and doula and after hours of laboring and staying mobile in the shower I learned that I was still only 6 cms. I made the difficult decision to get an epidural. At the time the only thing that mattered was needing some relief. My expectations to be completely intervention free ‘somewhat regretfully’ went out the window. Ashley and Amanda were great at trying to encourage me that I could do it without, but I was defeated and emotionally drained. My plans for a non-medicated birth seemed inconsequential to the pain I was feeling. At this point I still had high hopes that I could deliver vaginally, but my rollercoaster of a birth was far from over. After being told by the hospital OB’s that I needed a c-section and then not, I finally dilated to 10 cms on my own the morning of April 12th. Nevertheless, I ultimately ended up needing a c-section anyway because of the way his head was presenting. Ashley was in the operating room and talked me through exactly what was happening during the birth. Our son, Wyatt Christopher was born at 11:48 am and weighed 7 lbs 7 oz/ 21 inches long - he was perfect! Ashley brought him to us once he was checked out by the pediatricians and took the first pictures of us as a family of three.
My postpartum period was also full of expectations. I expected breast feeding to be natural and easy. It was not. My milk supply did not immediately come in and my son had trouble latching. I’m sure being in a hospital made it worse. If it wasn’t for the constant visits and phone calls by Colleen, Ashley, and Amanda, along with recommending a great lactation consultant, I probably would have given up. We ended up having to stay an extra day and were released the day my husband had to begin chemotherapy. This was definitely not the way I envisioned our new life beginning, but we managed and we came out the other side. I’ve found the beauty in hardship and in handling the unexpected curve balls life has thrown my way. Now almost 4 months postpartum, I am so proud that I am still breastfeeding! Wyatt is growing and developing such a cute personality! My husband Christopher has successfully finished chemo and is in the final leg of treatment. Doctors are optimistic that he will be fine, thankfully his cancer is very curable!
Looking back I can’t believe how many obstacles we had to overcome in such a short time. I definitely think it’s made us stronger and I have learned so much through these experiences. I truly feel that I even though my birth plans did not go the way I expected, I was with the midwives for a reason. They showed my family such compassion and care and they walked me through every decision. I am so appreciative of their constant support during my prenatal, birth, and postpartum period. The care I received was unmatched. I wish every birthing woman had the blessing of a great midwife by her side. I don’t know what my future looks like when it comes to more babies or birth, but I do know that the unparalleled care I received for this pregnancy exceeded all my expectations.