Advisory : In loving kindness – I have chosen not to share the story of when my son was born with pregnant folks. It’s a big and scary story. Skipping to the end –  we made it and are doing great. I chose to share my story in this forum because I’m grateful for my doula. The story does have beautiful parts, and the birth of my son has shaped who I am.

I was so looking forward to meeting my little boy. May 5th (his due date) came and went, and each morning, I woke up wondering if this was the day I got to meet Sebastian. A few days later, my good friends came to cheer me up and eat pizza together. Over dinner, I began to feel contractions and got very excited. My friends left, and I expected to have mild contractions all night, similar to my friends with long labors. I did not want to make a rookie mistake and stay up all night, so I planned to get a good night’s rest. That didn’t happen; the contractions came strong and fast. I could feel each contraction over my whole body. I rushed to the bathroom because I was being squeezed in all directions. The pain was stronger and faster than I imagined. My husband was with me in the bathroom while everything was being squeezed out of me. I did not want him to leave. The pain was scary, powerful, and fast. I felt as if my body was hijacked by another force, and I had no control. My husband called the doula, and she came. He called the midwife, and she came. The pain was so immense that I screamed in pain, faster and faster, more and more powerful. The second midwife came. Somehow, my husband managed to fill the birthing pool with warm water, and the second midwife suggested that I move from the bed to the pool. I remember thinking that was a crazy idea; I felt as if I had such little control of my body. They all helped me to the pool. I was scared; everything came so fast. The first midwife suggested I angle my hip differently, and as soon as I did, more powerful shifting in my womb. I was scared the pain would continue, and I cried. She said my little one was crowning, and I felt his head. AMAZING. There was no turning back. He was coming, and so quickly, my little one sprang out and into my arms. I kissed him and said I was so happy to meet him and that I’d been waiting with excitement. My husband embraced our new family from behind and I remember the beautiful glisten in Sebastian’s eye. It was amazing to think, just moments ago, that this being was fully developed inside me. 

After fumbling to cut the umbilical cord, our little one was handed to my husband while I labored with the placenta. It didn’t release in the pool, and I was asked to move back to the futon. I remember feeling relieved that the pain was over. I smiled. The silly placenta was not coming out. I was given a shot of Pitocin. Nothing. My baby nursed on my breast, awkward but sufficient. Nothing. The first midwife informed me that I would require a routine transfer to the hospital to ensure that the placenta was released. The fire department was called and on their way. I was disappointed but understood. While waiting, her eyes bulged. Something was not right. I remember feeling fluid drip from me but assumed that was natural. She looked me in the eye and said, “This is going to hurt; you are bleeding and I am going to put my hand in your uterus.” I nodded, and she proceeded. PAIN, OMG PAIN. The firemen arrived but without an EMT. The midwife asked that they send for an EMT, and 10 minutes later, he arrived. My house was full of men and birthing professionals, and I was naked and smeared with birth. I remember saying in a funny tone and smirk, “Welcome to my home.” The EMT saw the midwife’s hand attached to me. He said, let’s administer Pitocin; we said that we had. He said, let’s have the baby nurse, we said that we had. The midwife pleaded to just take me to the hospital, and the men agreed. Now, the awkward fumble to get us out of the room, through the hall, through the kitchen, out the door, to the deck, down the stairs, down our long driveway, and into the ambulance. I think they lifted me up with the sheets underneath me until I was propped onto a gurney. It was five in the morning. I felt the cool breeze on my bare skin where the blanket was not covering me. The midwife stayed attached to me and smiled at me from inside the ambulance. I hurt. Bless her for holding me together to preserve my life for me, my baby, my husband, and my family. The ride to the hospital felt as if it was taking forever. I asked the EMT to gently place his hand on me to comfort me. He did, but was more comfortable ensuring my vitals were stable than tending to my desire for comfort. I sang to pass the time, naughty songs from my sorority days and gave the fellas a chuckle at my foul language. 

When I arrived at the hospital, it was right from a scene in the movies. I swear there were 12 medics greeting me at the door. Apparently, I arrived at a shift change, so I had those from the late shift and those from the morning shift surrounding me, two people deep. The midwife explained to the stern, short female doctor that I had a tear inside my uterus and was bleeding. The doctor seemed doubtful. The midwife would not release her grip on me until the doctor was ready to trade. PAIN when her hand left my uterus, and I sighed in relief. And without a full breath, the doctor’s hand went inside my uterus to verify the conclusion. I screamed. I screamed so loud that I felt as if I was outside my body listening from the hall. I was sad. I was sad that my baby’s first sound of his mother was her screams. The medical team sat me up to attempt an epidural; I passed out. I floated into a warm cloud of comfort and felt embraced by bliss. I was roused awake, delighted, and disappointed to resume in reality. My husband and the little one were near, and as I was whisked away to the surgery room my husband brought his face close to mine and asked me to name our baby. I said, “Sebastian.” At that moment, I understood the severity of my situation and feared that I might not come out of it alive and that that may have been the last moment we saw each other. I saw a plethora of hospital lights from my gurney as they shuttled me down the halls. I finally made it to a room that was bright white with bright lights. I recognized the surgeon, and he had a warm smile. And then I remember nothing. 

I woke up in a new room. A gaggle of nurses were in the corner, huddling and cooing over vacation pictures. They did not notice me wake. I did my best to make noise for them to tend to me, but nothing. My weakness was overwhelming. I tried again to provoke the nurses, and on my third attempt, a woman came to me with a warm smile. I asked where I was and, more importantly, where my husband and my baby were. 

Where is my husband? Where is my baby? I asked over and over. Finally, they transferred me to the room where they were waiting for me. I had enough awareness to move my eyes in their direction, and it was so satisfying to see them. My mom was there too. I don’t remember too much from this time, but eventually, perhaps a day later, I was approached by a doctor who informed me that I had lost a lot of blood and that a blood transfusion was an option that I should consider. Once the doctor left, both my brother, who is in the medical field, and my midwife eagerly encouraged me to proceed with a blood transfusion. I agreed. I remember being poked in my fingers every morning and every evening for what? I did not know. I remember arrangements being made for the blood transfusion. I laid there, so out of it, with my husband and others assisting Sebastian to nurse from my breast. At times, my baby lay with me. Before Sebastian was born, I dreamed of actively snuggling with my newborn child. I was quite a sight: a limp and barely alive mother nourishing her baby. The nurses set me up to take in the bag of blood. It has always been tricky to find a suitable vein, and my lack of blood made the setup extremely challenging for the nurses. It was quite uncomfortable, the new blood entering my body. It felt like squeezing a thick milkshake through a tiny straw. I was told that blood was thicker when it was cool, and I could feel the pressure as it entered my veins. Mutual gratitude and discomfort for my new blood; I had someone else’s blood in my body. The plan was to have four bags transferred to me. When the first bag was empty, it was replaced with another bag. Quickly, intense pain. Significant discomfort. I was confused; I did not understand why this procedure was so painful because I’d never seen people on TV with a grimace under the same circumstances. I told the nurses this hurt. They ignored me. In a firm voice, I told the nurses this hurt. Nothing. I cried. My parents and brother stood near my bed, watching me with watery eyes as I said “This hurts, this hurts, this hurts.” Why was I being ignored? Instead, I said, “I know what pain feels like; I just had a baby, and I just had a hand in my uterus, and THIS hurts.” That statement made them pause. Knowing that I had their attention, I used words other than “hurt” to describe pain. I said, “I feel like my arm is full of fire ants and they are pulling my arm away from my body.” At that moment, the nurse’s eyes were wide; one ran out of the room and came back in with a doctor. They immediately detached the bag of blood from me. A gentle young nurse inserted a little bit of fluid into my pic line. I yelped in pain and cried. She whispered to the older nurse, “It was only saline.” There was a bustle of medical discussion, and I concluded that my veins must have collapsed. They switched arms and reattached the bag of blood; relief. Once the veins collapsed in my other arm, they transitioned to one foot, then the other foot, poke, poke, poke, poke, poke, poke, poke, success, completion. I did not feel better, but I knew that progress had been made. My wonderful family took shifts to stay with me in the room so that I was not alone. I was so lonely. I saw fear on all of their faces, and it saddened me. I was able to talk a bit and immensely enjoyed my family enjoying my new sweet baby. 

People told me they were able to see a bit of color in my face. I was interested in drinking water, and straws were lifted to my lips. I even ate a popsicle. The TV was on. The popsicle was delicious. My mom carefully broke the popsicle into pieces and fed them to me. It was incredibly humbling to require delicate feeding. Between family visits, I wanted a drink of water. I pressed the nurse call button, and a busy, smiling nurse came to my room. I was able to ask for water. She returned with a full cup and placed it on my tray. “Here you go, sweetie,” she said, and she walked out of the room. I remember thinking, “Huh, the nurse seems to think I can drink water by myself, perhaps I can.” So, I had grand plans to reach for the tray, pick up the glass, and bring it to my mouth. I could hardly move my flaccid hand forward and wept. I was so thirsty and could not even do the simplest of tasks. I pressed the button for the nurse again; another one came into the room. I explained that I was too weak to reach my water and that I really would like to have a drink. She seemed so annoyed to have to hold a glass to my face while I hurried to drink. I felt like a burden. I don’t quite remember what happened that day; perhaps I drank some broth. A day or so later, the nurses suggested I try standing up, and with assistance, I was successful. A day later, let’s try standing unassisted. Success. Let’s try walking to the bathroom. Success. Let’s try brushing my teeth. Success. Now it’s time to rest. A few hours later, the nurses suggested that I attempt a shower. My mom and sister eagerly jumped up to assist me without me having to ask. I braced my plump naked body in the shower adjoined to my room. My sister and Mom made me laugh and smile, and I got scrubbed up. Oh – the feeling of clean teeth and a fresh shower. Now, it was time to rest and feed my baby. The next day, they said I could go home. Clean clothes were brought to me; someone dressed me. My shoes did not fit. The IV fluid swelled my feet. My sister’s shoes were bigger, but those did not fit me either. My mom’s shoes were bigger; they could fit, and we comically shuffled our shoes between us until we all wore a pair as we walked out of the hospital.

I remember getting into the car. My husband drove our new family home. I remember getting out of the car at home. I don’t remember how I got into bed. I do remember the bliss of being in bed with my husband and Sebastian and the special quiet we got to share together for the first time. My husband told a tender story about a baby llama and how much the mommy and daddy llama loved him. I remember the quiet; it was so peaceful. My brother and sister-in-law managed to clean our home, so it was spotless upon our arrival. What a gift! The next few days had scattered visitors. I drank a lot of protein shakes. I was able to go to the bathroom by myself; what a victory. And finally, a few days later, I had the strength to hold Sebastian in my own arms, with my own strength, and it was a milestone I will never forget. 

1. My doula was a blessing that day. When I was transferred to the hospital, she got my baby dressed, sang to him, and secured him in a car seat so that my husband could drive. Just imagine a 1-hour old baby bundled up and ready to be a “visitor” at the hospital. My husband, with the baby in tow, followed the ambulance, and the doula followed my husband. When I was first admitted to the hospital, she continued to sing to my baby, letting him know that he was loved and that his mom would be ok. She held him while my husband called our families. 

2. Even after 12 years, I remember the birth being full of fast, overwhelming pain. I built a story in my head to reassure me that women’s bodies are designed to birth babies. Women have babies all over the world and in all sorts of places, and I can do this too. And I did. And it hurt a lot. The day my son was born was nothing that I expected, including my plan to focus on the lilac outside the window, but Sebastian was born at night. 

3. Holding my son to my chest seconds after he was born and watching him open his eyes for the first time was breathtaking. That memory is imprinted into my being. 

4. I cherished my birthing team of two midwives and a doula. They cared for me as a team before my son was born, during the birth, and came to my bed to care for us weeks after Sebastian was born. They knew me, cared for me, and tended to me physically and emotionally. The doctors and nurses at the hospital did exactly what needed to be done – kept me alive. After a full day of trauma, the hospital staff provided little to no emotional support. I’ve come to terms with the fact that they healed my body, and I’m thankful for that. I did need emotional support that day, that week, that month – and frankly, for the next few years. I was able to find the team to navigate me through the emotional healing process.

5. There is no need to point fingers; there is no benefit from the “you should have.” I had a rare condition that was not detectable on an ultrasound. I could have just as easily bled out at home or in a hospital. I’m grateful for everyone who played a part that day to keep me, my husband, and my son safe. 

6. The story still blows me away. The only reason I’m alive is because my midwife acted swiftly by putting one hand inside my uterus and one hand on top of my stomach and holding me for an hour until I could get stitches. My baby boy was given a visitor badge so that he could visit me in the hospital. And that I was so weak that I could not lift my hand; I swear it took all of my energy to simply move my eyes. 

7. I survived. My body did it. It lost 70% of its blood, accepted the transfused blood, made new blood, and made enough to nourish my baby with heaps of breast milk. My stitches healed. And I learned how to move through PTSD and postpartum depression. Today, I feel more deeply; I am stronger, wiser, more compassionate, forgiving, optimistic, and full of joy.