International Women’s Day {our birth stories}

Normally we keep our blogging to the work week but today we’ve got a special post in honor of International Women’s Day. While women should feel celebrated every day for the love they provide to those around them (and men should feel just as appreciated), today is a day where we can reflect on the important women in our lives. One role that many women undertake in their lifetime is that of a mother. And many of us may take for granted how lucky we are to have survived the process of childbirth to take on the role of a mother. In many countries women do not have access to the medical facilities that make childbirth just a little bit easier, and perhaps safer. While Tricia and I were at Alt Summit we had the pleasure of hearing about the non-profit organization called Every Mother Counts (EMC) started by Christy Turlington Burns. The mission of EMC is the following:

Every Mother Counts is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2010 to increase public awareness and support for improved maternal and child health. Every Mother Counts is committed to ending preventable deaths caused by pregnancy and childbirth around the world. EMC informs, engages, and mobilizes new audiences to take action to improve the health and wellbeing of girls and women worldwide.

So in honor of International Women’s Day and to support the mission of EMC, we thought we could share our own experiences with delivering our children to the world. But no worries, we will keep these stories clean (no gore here) and pictures safe for work.

{Erin’s birth stories}

I will preface my stories with this- I have been very blessed with two uncomplicated and healthy pregnancies and deliveries. And considering that I had a multiple gestation, I am doubly blessed! Let’s start with the first delivery, the twins.

First off, I was huge and ready to pop. So big that a man at the grocery store asked me if I could drive because he didn’t think that I could fit behind the wheel of a car. Throughout the whole pregnancy my birth plan was pretty simple, have the twins vaginally if possible. But I was open to the possibility of a C-section if that meant a safe delivery of my twins. I went to the hospital on a Friday morning to get paperwork and such done with the intent that I would be induced on the following Monday morning, when I was 37 weeks. The babies were both measuring at really good sizes and luckily they both were very similar sizes. This was good for me and a vaginal delivery because Baby B was breech but since she was measuring the same size as her brother they felt safe that she would fit out my birth canal since her brother would have led the way for her.

Come Friday night I had just a weird feeling about things and that night, and that night only in my pregnancy, I put a towel in bed with me in case my water broke. And sure enough, around 2 am I got up to go to the bathroom and my water had broke. Being a planner my bags were packed and I was feeling pretty darn calm. We headed to the hospital and got checked in for the delivery. One thing I remember my friend who just had a baby telling me was that if I was planning on getting an epidural to get it as early as possible because there was no sense in waiting for the pain to get really bad. And that is just what I did, got an epidural pretty early on before I even felt what a real labor pain was. The rest of this story is pretty uneventful and quick. I got an epidural around 7 am and progressed to 10 cm. I was hooked up to lots of monitors and being carefully watched.

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Around 2 pm they announced it was time and wheeled me off to an OR room to deliver (in case an emergency C-section was needed). In the OR room there had to be at least 20 people. 2 NICU nurses for each baby, a NICU doctor, my regular OB (who was so sweet to come in just to deliver me), the OB doc who was on duty that day, 2 anesthesiologists, and probably a clean up crew for all I knew. Then at 2:39 pm our first was born- a 5 lb 13 oz baby boy. One minute later, at 2:40 pm they had broken my second sac of water and delivered our second, a 5 lb 11 oz baby girl. I’m still amazed at how fast they got my daughter out of there- just a yank on her feet and out she came! Two healthy babies who came at 36 1/2 weeks but were a great weight and completely viable beings.

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My second delivery wasn’t much more exciting than the first, except for this pregnancy we didn’t find out the sex of the baby. I was scheduled to be induced for a couple of reasons: 1) I had a great relationship with my OB and I wanted her to deliver my baby, 2)my husband was in his medical fellowship at the time and we needed to plan around his work schedule which wasn’t very flexible, 3) all of our family was out of state so we wanted to be sure that we had family in town when the baby was born to help out with the twins. The day of induction my husband and I went out to lunch and then checked into the hospital around 1 pm. The broke my water around 3 pm and things were going smoothly. I had decided ahead of time that I would try and hold off on the epidural so I could actually feel what real labor pains were like. In the beginning the contractions weren’t bad and I could manage them by just laying on my side. And then the game changed. The pain was bad, really, really bad. It hurt, more than you can ever put into words. I kept thinking if I knew that these pains were only going to be for an hour or two then I could deal with them. But if the pains and the labor were going to carry on for multiple hours then I needed an epidural. After about an hour of intense pain I called for the anesthesiologist. And wouldn’t you know it, Dr. Peter Pan (yes, that was his name) had just gone in for a C-section case and wouldn’t be available for a while. You can imagine the curse words that left my mouth then! I finally got an epidural somewhere around 9 pm and by the time it started to kick in it was almost time to push. I pushed for about 15 minutes and then baby #3 was born, I think at 10:47 pm but oops, I don’t remember the time for sure! And baby #3 was a boy! Getting to see the baby come out and find out the sex right then was one of the most exhilarating feelings in my life. Now that I have experienced it I would never find out the gender ahead of time again!

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There are my two birth stories. I know that things could have been different and that I am lucky to have a healthy body that can birth babies without complications . In fact, I really like the delivery part of pregnancy. It’s all the other things that keep me from having more.

{Tricia’s birth stories}

My birth story with my first son started almost 3 years before he was actually born. In January of 2000 we contemplated trying to get pregnant for about 5 minutes and it happened right away.  It was thrilling to be pregnant and to think that I as a woman could bring another little human into the world. But at just 6 and a half weeks pregnant I started bleeding. At the ultrasound two days later the doctor told me I miscarried. Fortunately for me the doctor scheduled a follow-up ultrasound and at that time an astute ultrasound technician spotted an ectopic pregnancy. I was sent straight from the doctor’s office to the hospital for emergency surgery.

Living in the Adirondacks of New York, a fairly rural area of the country,  adequate medical care was more than an hour away from our home.  I was lucky that I had insurance and had access to good medical facilities even if not nearby.  Had I not had that follow-up ultrasound and learned of the ectopic pregnancy my fallopian tube could have ruptured at home and I doubt I would have made it to the hospital in time.  Access to quality medical care saved my life.

After that pregnancy, a couple surgeries, months of fertility treatments and a second ectopic pregnancy the only option open to us was in vitro fertilization.  To say it was a difficult couple of years is a massive understatement. At the same time we both felt like we’d been born under lucky stars as, with our move to Oregon, we were near one of the best fertility centers in the country (OHSU) and we had health insurance that covered the cost of IVF.  

I became pregnant with our first round of in vitro. I think I held my breath the first trimester until we knew it was a viable pregnancy.  Other than a bit of bleeding early on (bring a 40 lb box of books to the post office when you’re pregnant is a bad idea) it was a completely uneventful pregnancy. On my due date, I went into labor at 12:30am. A couple hours later my contractions became more regular coming 10-15 minutes apart and continued like that for most of the day.  Not being a planner like Erin I took care of a lot of last minute things that day – like getting a pedicure, going out to lunch, going out to dinner and finally packing my bag.  At 1am that night, the contractions started coming 5 minutes apart and by the time I was checked into the hospital they were 2 minutes apart.  The contractions kept coming 2 minutes apart but by 10:30 that morning I was still only 1cm dilated. At that point I gave in and requested a half dose of stadol.  That took the edge off the pain for a couple of hours.  When they checked me again and I was still only 2cm. I couldn’t handle the pain anymore and asked for an epidural.

The rest of the day is a complete blur.  It was a long day during which nothing went the easy way.  The doctor broke my water, administered pitocin, flipped the baby several times as it (we didn’t find out the sex in advance) was sunny side up, and placed an internal fetal monitor into the baby’s scalp.  The epidural never kicked in and I had terrible back labor – probably because the baby was in a posterior position.  I also discovered throughout the day that I can scream very, very loudly for a very long time.

In the late afternoon I was finally ready to push and I did for two and a half hours.  They then tried to vacuum the baby out for 45 more minutes.  After all of this the baby’s heart beat became so erratic the doctor determined they needed to perform an emergency c-section. Finally at 8:34pm I delivered a healthy, beautiful baby boy weighing in at 8 lbs 8 & 1/2 oz.

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Under different circumstances I’m sure the outcome could have been grim. I always tell people how lucky I feel that I wasn’t born a century earlier because I’m sure the the ectopic pregnancies probably would have killed me back then.  But if not, then trying to deliver my son would have. Living in the modern era of medicine though would have meant nothing if I’d gone into labor in a remote African village without doctors or adequate medical facilities nearby. If that were the case I don’t know if I’d be here to tell you my story. With a head as big as his was, there was no way that baby was coming out on his own.

After a miscarriage at 12 weeks and another egg retrieval I became pregnant with my daughter. Originally it was a twin pregnancy but I lost the second baby at 11 weeks. Otherwise it was another uneventful pregnancy.  This time I opted for a scheduled c-section so it was a much less traumatic birth experience.  Our lovely “little” 9 lb 1 oz baby girl was born at 8:39 in the morning.

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Five years after having our daughter and right before moving to Colorado I finally managed to convince my husband one more baby would make our family complete.  Incredibly, our second and third babies are technically twins as they were conceived at the same time.  We had 20 frozen embryos after I became pregnant with my daughter and six years later a number of those were defrosted, implanted in my uterus and I became pregnant with our third child.  It will never cease to amaze me what a truly incredible gift modern technology has given our family.  In another time and another place we never would have had these kids.

I was in my 40’s with my last pregnancy.  Advanced maternal age increases a woman’s risk of gestational diabetes.  When I was 28 weeks pregnant I found out I had diabetes.  Exercise, a controlled diet and carefully monitored blood sugar readings weren’t enough to keep my diabetes under control.  Medication did help regulate my blood sugar and I was able to avoid going on insulin. I went in for a scheduled c-secion at the end of 2010.

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Our second son was born at 8:35am weighing in at 9 lbs 5 oz.  Once again, access to good health care insured a happy outcome for both of us.

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Babies delivered at altitude can be very purple at birth.  That was a shock to me.

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Have you ever seen such a chunk-a-munk?  The hospital didn’t have diapers big enough to fit him!

So many women are not as blessed and do not have the happy birth stories that Erin and I had. Improving access to medical care and facilities can help women to safely birth their children. If you are interested in learning about what you can do to help Every Mother Counts, I encourage you to hop over to their website and read more about this great organization.

 

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One Response to International Women’s Day {our birth stories}

  1. Meg says:

    Amazing.