The past few weeks have been busy and exciting for our family as we welcomed our daughter Audrey Violet to our family on April 16th at 4:52 am. Both mom and baby are healthy, and we are settling into a new routine. I cannot say “Thank You” enough to my clients for the support and encouragement that you have provided. Our family truly appreciates the emails, cards, and baby gifts.
This month’s article is a little different as it is Audrey’s birth story written by my incredible wife Linnea. She wrote Audrey’s birth story in part so that we can look back and remember it but in addition, she wanted to provide some insight into what it was like to be pregnant and deliver during this pandemic.
Audrey’s Birth Story
At 9 weeks pregnant with Audrey, I had my first appointment with the OBGYN who delivered my daughter Elin. During this appointment, I had a dating ultrasound and we were able to see our beautiful, tiny baby and hear her heartbeat. We did not know whether she was a boy or a girl, but my guess was a girl! Audrey looked like Elin in utero and Elin told us that the baby was a “sister” because that is what she wanted.
I talked to the OBGYN about my plans for a VBAC. Our first daughter, Elin, was delivered through a c-section on her due date since she was breech and would not turn despite all our efforts to turn her. The OBGYN was not against a VBAC but she stated that because of my maternal age (35 years old at delivery), there would be strict “rules and guidelines” for a VBAC. Mainly that her preference would be a repeat c-section at 39 weeks, and she would not allow me to go past 40 weeks. Due to her strict guidelines and a few other concerns that came up during our initial conversation, I decided to interview other providers that would be more supportive of a VBAC.
In addition to interviewing providers, I started working with a nutrition coach and once I was in my second trimester, Mike twisted my arm and asked me to join CrossFit at Ardent Fitness with him. He had started CrossFit shortly after Elin was born and he continually told me how life changing it was for him. I knew that exercise, nutrition and chiropractic care were foundational to a healthy pregnancy so that was a commitment I made to myself and baby Audrey. My fitness coaches were pivotal in helping me scale movements and which is a nice way of saying that I was the pregnant lady in the gym doing air squats and not the pregnant lady doing ring muscle ups at 8 months pregnant.
Around this time, I found two wonderful midwives that agreed to support a VBAC with Audrey. Mike & I adored them both and after meeting with them several times, we felt safe and empowered for birth. However, at the 20-week ultrasound, we had some startling findings. I did not have any concerns with my pregnancy with Elin, so this news caught me off guard. My ultrasound report showed that Audrey had “soft markers” for Down’s Syndrome. They asked if we wanted further testing for chromosomal abnormalities and we declined. Additionally, ultrasound report stated I was at high risk for a baby with IUGR. The radiologist suspected that I had small fibroids directly behind the placenta that could interfere with the nutrients and oxygen baby would need. At first, I told myself not to worry about these findings. It was a “risk” and not a diagnosis. I was confident that the midwives would not be concerned and would monitor everything. However, at my next appointment with the midwives, they told me that a risk of IUGR was concerning enough that I would need to transfer care to an OBGYN again. The risk was too great because a baby with IUGR could be as simple as a smaller sized baby to the severity of a very premature and/or underdeveloped baby.
The midwives referred me to a local OBGYN. I was disappointed again but more so; I was praying for a healthy baby! The period of waiting until my next ultrasound was the hardest part. We had to wait two months for a follow up ultrasound to monitor growth. At that ultrasound appointment, we learned that Audrey grew from “12%” to “61%”. The ultrasound tech even commented that my due date should be changed to 5 days earlier, but my provider allowed us to keep it the same date. The placenta had migrated from anterior to fundal position and it appeared that IUGR was no longer a high risk.
At the OBGYN’s office there were two midwives as providers, so I requested to have care provided by one of them since I was no longer high risk and baby was healthy. They wanted to do one more follow up ultrasound a few weeks later to determine Audrey’s position. It was at the 32-week ultrasound that I learned she was breech. Once again, I felt discouraged. I knew she still had plenty of time to turn to a head-down position but experienced showed me that Elin was breech at 32 weeks and she never turned. The next day, I showed up to my chiropractor and reported Audrey was in a breech position and asked him to please “work your magic”.
As the weeks unfolded, we started getting more and news about the coronavirus. Admittedly, I was not paying much attention except I noticed all my dental friends and peers were reporting not having access to PPE (personal protective equipment). We continued to get more headline news and reports and eventually told to “social distance” and “stay at home”. At this point, the reality that I would be giving birth soon with the threat of the virus among us was concerning. As the peak started to hit different states, I followed reports of hospitals not allowing visitors and some hospitals not allowing support persons (such as doulas). There were also reports of hospitals in New York that were not allowing a spouse in the delivery room. Moms were being asked to labor with masks on. Moms testing positive for covid-19 were being separated from their babies for 2 weeks. It was all very scary! We called grandma (Gigi) to let her know the latest developments. She was able to fly from the United Kingdom to stay at a townhome in Schaumburg that The Salvation Army owns and begin her 14- day quarantine so she would be able to support us after birth.
Three days prior to my due date, I received a call from the OBGYN office that my midwife would not be available to deliver Audrey. She was gone due to a “family emergency” so that meant the OBGYN would oversee my birth and not the midwife overseeing my prenatal care. That left us scrambling to determine what we wanted to do next because my strong preference had been delivery with a midwife. At 39+6 weeks pregnant, I called the original midwives I started care with in my second trimester. Once again, they were wonderful and supportive! They told me they would support my birth considering I am low risk, but they were also extremely reassuring that I would be safe and supported by the OBGYN they referred me to. That conversation gave me the confidence I needed to stick with a hospital birth despite the last-minute changes and ultimately to have peace so that my body could go into labor. The very next morning, at exactly 40 weeks, I woke up around 4:45 am with regular, rhythmic contractions. I walked downstairs and saw the snow on the ground. Funny because there was no snow in the forecast! I started timing contractions at 5 minutes apart lasting about 1 minute. Mike woke up around 7am and I told him, “I think this is it…”. He called Gigi and she headed over to our house to help watch Elin.
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As the day continued, Mike notified our doula, Heather that we were going to have a baby! It was late in the afternoon when I told Mike, “I really need guacamole!” I had my guacamole and our doula told Mike to get me outside for a walk. Mike & I did not make it to the end of the street before I started crying. For no reason at all except our doula said at some point it would happen and, “call me when she gets emotional… you will know”.
Around 6pm, our doula Heather showed up at our house. Labor started to become more intense. My experience with labor was not-so-much painful but rather extremely intense and all consuming. My goal was to labor at home if possible, so we did not have to spend an extended period in the hospital. All the things I thought I would want to do during labor or use during labor did not actually happen. I did not want to shower or get in the bathtub. I did not want to use the birth ball. I did not want music, oils, massage, the tens unit machine… nothing. At one point, Mike told me he rubbed my back and I said to him very sternly, “don’t do that again!” My experience during labor was that I felt best when I was able to close my eyes, go off into a meditation or trance and “ride the wave” of each contraction. That is exactly what they felt like to me. A huge wave roaring in, picking up speed and intensity. It would crash at the peak and start to dissipate and pull away. The only technique that consistently felt great during labor was breathing and “humming” (however after the birth, Mike said that my humming sounded like a lion roaring and that he has never heard those sounds come out of a human before!) .
Right after Elin went to sleep, contractions started to become even more intense and frequent. Mike did a fantastic job laboring with me and Heather coaching. Mike & I were able to breathe in sync and drift off into a twilight sleep for a few minutes until the next one came. It was right after midnight that Heather told us it was time to go to the hospital. The car ride was rough but short! We arrived at Sherman hospital and since the only door open was the ER, Mike called Labor and Delivery to have a nurse meet us downstairs. She screened us at the door taking temperatures and asking us to wear masks. Wearing a mask while walking up to Labor and Delivery felt utterly ridiculous. I knew I had to, but I also knew I had to breathe in order to labor. Each time I felt a contraction, I would hang onto Mike, lower my mask and breathe out into his chest or shoulder. Then I would put my mask on and continue the walk.
When the nurses checked at the hospital, I was at 8 cm dilated and 100% effaced. I continued to labor but felt much more fatigue and out of sorts. We discussed breaking my water to speed labor and I agreed. I felt confident about that decision because I knew I had limited energy left towards the end. IT had nearly been 24 hours at this point. Shortly after my water was broken, contractions greatly picked up in intensity. My doula stepped away for a few minutes and I took that opportunity to plead with Mike to “please… please help me! I am dying. I can’t do this anymore”. He responded, “let’s just wait for Heather to get back” and he continued to ignore and redirect my pleas. When Heather returned, she assured me that it was almost time.
The nurse, Jordan checked me and confirmed “yes! You are ready”. Jordan coached me through pushing. Each push felt progressive and although intense, it was a relief. The nurse quickly called in the OBGYN and after 45 minutes of pushing, Audrey went from womb to world. 4:52am. Beautiful and healthy!
Mike was able to watch the entire birth and cut the cord. The OBGYN grabbed warm blankets, covered me up and said “Congratulations!”
It was not long before we were wheeled to the mother-baby room. I asked if we had no complications if we could go home ASAP and they said “yes, our goal is to send you home in 24 hours”.
I learned from one of the nurses that April 16th was their busiest day so far for births that month! The nurse told me that over 40 labor rooms were filled with laboring moms. They had two rooms strictly reserved for moms with covid-19. The nurse told me that one mom tested positive with covid-19 and there were several other moms with symptoms but not testing positive. Each person that entered our room had masks and gloves. We were not allowed any visitors or photographer. We found that all disappointing and yet, it felt very peaceful because the healthcare providers were in and out of our room quickly. Although we were very sleep deprived, we had much less commotion this time around compared to our first. It was wonderful!
We were released from the hospital the next day around 1 pm after Audrey passed all her newborn tests. I was able to move around much better this time around compared to my c-section, so the discharge day was much more enjoyable. Elin still had not met the baby at this point, so we were excited to bring Audrey home and introduce the two of them. When we pulled into the driveway, Elin was waiting outside for us and she ran over to the car in anticipation. I have never seen so much joy from our 4-year old! She gave Audrey hugs and kisses and was extra excited to hold her for the first time. There was not a dry eye in our living room that day as something magical happens when the two of them are together.
In the past two weeks, we have been enjoying our time with the four of us and adjusting to our new normal. The sleep deprivation is still very hard as it was with Elin, but Audrey will sleep up to three hours at a time, so we are given some relief. Audrey had some latch issues due to a tongue and lip tie, so we were able to get those revised which has significantly helped with nursing. Elin enjoys calling our family members and telling them everything Audrey has done that day and she was especially excited to introduce her sister to her friends and teachers at school during one of their e-learning calls. We, as a family, look forward to what the future holds as our two daughters become best friends.