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Protecting your own health while pregnant

Also written by new MOM, Angela Collins.

It all started in a YourBirthHelper Labor Workshop, wait that’s not exactly true. I suppose it all really started when Jake and Angela decided to conceive a child. Then they found the #CharlotteDoulaDreamTeam and began educating and preparing for labor and birth.

This story is empowering for moms who have health issues of their own. Mom, Angela Collins, knew the work she had in front of her, going into pregnancy combined with the daily struggle of what’s commonly known as "Immune compromised.” She had to explore the best routes to prepare, train and execute her birth to protect not just the baby's well being, but hers as well. Education and Preparation were key to their success in their obtaining their happy “birth” day goals.

This is the John 16:21 journey of Angela and husband coach, Jake.

For those not familiar, the scripture reference John 16: 21 (ESV)

For when a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

For people of faith, pregnancy, labor and birth can be a time of growing closer to the Lord and strengthening their own personal walk. In addition, also a time of growing closer to their spouse and strengthening their marital relationship. Thus creating stronger family units. Simply put, it matters how a mom is supported during labor and it matters how a baby enters the world, because it often sets the precedence of how the family unit functions in the future. Throughout the bible, stories depict life is full of hardships and trials. They will come and if we are not prepared, its often difficult to weather or overcome them. James 1: 2-4 reads, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. For Angela and Jake, it was way more than simply a decision of how to have a baby exit her body (as in to medicate or not), but to keep both mom and baby safe first and foremost.

Below, in this slide show, Doula Nancy Cook, YBHD, BSN captures push phase and the excitement of Angela giving birth...

Mom shared...

I've dealt with doctors and hospitals for most of my life.  I have Ulcerative Colitis, which is an autoimmune disease and have been on a medication (Remicade) that suppresses my immune system since I was 15 years old.  I also have the privilege of working in the healthcare industry.  Because of this, I have learned to be my own healthcare advocate, and have had to do my own research and question the current standard of care.   I know that physicians intend well for all of their patients, but aren't always up to date on the newest research and are even slower to implement different and updated protocols for established practices.  Because my immune system is prevented from functioning normally, I have to take extra precautions to avoid infections and unnecessary antibiotic use.  This is my context for my pregnancy journey. I receive my medication every 8 weeks by IV, so I had major concerns about my unborn baby being exposed to the medication during pregnancy, and how it would affect his immune system after he was born. My Gastroenterologist didn't provide me any information about being pregnant with my condition, and didn't have any of the same concerns that I did regarding my medication, so I started pushing back.  I learned that I would have to take a break from my medication for a set amount of time around my delivery, and once our baby was born, he would have to avoid most vaccinations for at least 6 months because his immune system was compromised.  Again, this was nothing my GI doc freely shared, this was info I had to find on my own, which was frustrating.  It's exhausting feeling like you can't fully trust your doctor to make the best decisions for you, in addition to the pregnancy hormones which are already making you more sensitive than normal. I wanted to do everything in my power to keep myself and baby healthy during pregnancy and delivery, and in my mind, this meant avoiding any unnecessary interventions or procedures.  We learned about Your Birth Helper from friends of ours who had used their services a couple of years prior.  I loved the idea of having an expert on natural birth, who could also guide us in advocating for ourselves to avoid any unnecessary interventions that could put me and baby at risk for infection.  Because I was already exposing my baby to a medication that I needed, I wanted to avoid exposing him to anything else (epidural, Pitocin, etc.) if I could help it.  We took the labor workshop offered, and decided to join in for the last half of the 12 week Bradley Method® birthing course.  The classes were an enormous help, and we went into the labor process feeling empowered and encouraged that we could make this happen how I envisioned.   I was lucky to have Charlotte OB/Gyn midwives who understood my concerns, and appeared to understand when I declined some of the standard protocols.  I declined vaccinations during pregnancy, and any internal exams during office visits.  I was blessed to have an uncomplicated pregnancy, and was convinced that I would deliver a week past my due date.  Maybe that's what I was secretly hoping for, but baby decided that I would go into labor the day after my due date.  My husband Jacob and I went to breakfast on Saturday morning, and by 4pm that afternoon, my water had broken.  It was hours before I started to have any contractions.  I was expecting a long, slow labor, but again, I was probably just secretly hoping for time to adjust and mentally adapt to what was happening.  It felt like things really picked up pace quickly.  I started contracting regularly around 7 or 8pm, and pretty soon I felt like I couldn't catch my breath, everything was happening so fast. 

Jacob was great at coaching; giving me options for positions, providing counter-pressure for my lower back pain, being a needed positive voice, all while keeping in constant contact with my Your Birth Helper team for guidance.  I made it difficult for my husband as I didn't want to cooperate with any of his suggestions, and think I even kept my "I can't do this" guidepost moment to myself, so he really had to make a gut decision to take me to the hospital at 2am.  Our OB midwives only delivered at CMC main in Charlotte, and we live in Fort Mill, SC, so it was a long car ride.  My contractions were pretty much on top of each other the whole time and I felt the need to push towards the end of the drive.  It's worth mentioning that CMC Main will tell parents on the birth tour that they have valet parking, which is an amazing idea.  However, we arrived just before 3am, and they kindly told Jacob that he would have to move our car from the entrance himself after I got up to my room - they only offer valet parking during daylight hours.  Just the kind of curveball an expectant father wants when his wife is in late labor.   When we made it to the laboring room, they did insist on a fetal monitor for 20 minutes, and it was my biggest irritation.  It was so uncomfortable, but as we would find out, necessary for our baby.  I was ready to push from the time we got in the room, and couldn't help it at that point.  I tried to wait for the midwife to see how dilated I was, and was astonished when she told me that I was 9cm.  Pushing was truly hard, and I've never felt anything like it.  Zane Daniel was born at 4:44am.  It was good that we delivered quickly, as his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck twice, and around his body once.  The fetal monitor had detected heart rate decelerations, so it was necessary to wear during labor.  Despite being completely tangled in his cord, he quickly turned pink, and was snuggled in for our hour of skin to skin contact. Wharton's jelly found within the umbilical cord is another layer of added protection for baby when this occurs. During recovery, Jacob asked our nurse how many truly natural childbirths she sees at Charlotte Main hospital.  She had been working there for 5 or 6 years, and she had only seen 3 or 4, said it was extremely rare.  Sad.

Expectant Couples know this... It can be done, even if you have less than perfect health.  Be determined, and surround yourself with people who will support you.   Angela Collins

Your Birth Helper & Team would like to thank Kathy Shields, CNM and the nursing staff of Charlotte Main( LDR), for their support of #SymbioticBirth, a perfect blend of the best of normality, paired with only medically necessary interventions. Special thanks to our own Sarah Neri, YBHD for instruction in The Bradley Method® combined with the awesome Doula Nancy Cook, YBHD, BSN~ now that's a team that screams very happy "birth" day!

Congrats again Collins Family ~ your #CharlotteBirthFamily is extremely proud of you!

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