Updated: Aug 16
Every now and then, life has a way of bringing two special people together. Some say, "It was fate", "we were destined to be together", "our paths crossed" and some have even used the phrase, "our souls connected." You can describe the feeling when you find your person however you would like. These two described it as "extra thankful" especially when the two that came together created the best surprise ever!
Meet Cara & Bryan of Charlotte, North Carolina! They have assisted me in writing this awesome birth story, because Covid hospital restrictions tried to screw up our in person doula support and birth photography. Of course, Your Birth Helper & Team, was not going to have that!
We worked together to create a new strategy. One that would benefit the "mom and dad to be" in freely laboring in their own relaxing environment, as long as possible, mask free! Stay with us, you are going to be empowered from their ability to remain positive and focus on the JOY of their first born's happy "BIRTH" day, despite Covid_19.
When Bryan and I found out we were pregnant, we were not married, and actually had not been together for that long. Bryan's excitement at becoming a father and interest in the drug-free natural birth that I wanted, made all the difference in our ability to birth naturally. I think it's vital for both mom and dad to be on the same page, as I don't think I could have been successful without his presence, love, and knowledgeable coaching, thanks to our training! Cara
It is very common for healthy first time mom to carry up to 8 days or more, beyond their estimated due date as calculated in doctor's office. Sometimes, couples decide to put in the work at home to better prep mom's body for spontaneous labor. Is it frustrating watching your due date come and go?... YES! But, again, if you EXPECT it. then it is not such a shock when it happens to you. Also, consider telling others your due date is two weeks later initially. Then at least folks aren't driving you crazy at the end or stressing you out for quote, "being overdue!" Simply carrying a baby beyond your estimated due date is not a medical condition requiring medical induction. So ask your medical provider and yourself a simple question, "Is mom and baby okay?" If the answer is yes, make the decision best for you. Induction is not a cake walk and can potentially robe you of your low intervention natural birth. If you decide remaining pregnant and waiting for labor to begin on its own, please be prepared to at least use your time wisely to raise your Bishop score, in case induction does eventually play out for whatever medical reason.
The universe in all its mighty power controls so many aspects of our lives and sometimes, even the uterus, when deciding the timing of when mom goes into labor and expels her baby. Now, according to Scientific studies, there is no evidence of such, but just ask medical or law enforcement personnel how their work load varies during Full moons, New moons, Storms or an Eclipse. Whatever and however the universe and its weather contributes to the uterine activity we don't know. In general terms, more moms are laboring during these times, such as this one below. I captured this photo of a crazy thunderstorm on my way to meet Cara and Bryan at Atrium Health Maternity Center in Pineville, North Carolina. Things that make you go.....hmmmmm?
When baby girl did not arrive on her due date (July 6, 2020), Cara began getting impatient and thought "how could she get any bigger?!". Mom and dad began trying every technique to help induce labor, including tea, hilly walks, and getting in the right mindset. Without our doula, we definitely would not have known how to best proceed and what to ask for at our midwife appointment on July 7. Who knows- we may have agreed to interventions that we didn't actually need or want just to get things going. However, we found out at that appointment that we were on our way, at 2cm dilated, 75% effaced, and -1 station! This was Cara's first exam (again, thanks to the advice from our wonderful doula). With the good news, we agreed to a membrane sweep, and returned home to keep on trying to get baby moving in the right direction. Bryan
We had spoken multiple times on the phone that day. There was so confusion over her appointment and a little office frustration. It happens on occasion, but the Corona virus scare had several OB offices closed to cut exposure of staff going in and out. Unfortunately, that meant some visits would be virtual and all office visits were fed into the same location. I encouraged Cara to have her cry and put those emotions away. We had work to do. I gave Cara and Bryan some homework for our Operation Baby Evacuation the all natural way. They both went straight to work and even more determined than ever to get Cara's uterus contracting on her own without medical induction.
She was moving real slow and not talking much at all during her late first stage contractions. She did muster up a smile for me as she exited her vehicle(especially since I had driven up from Athens, GA for this exciting baby evacuation plan).
Labor really started to get going around noon on July 8th. I was determined to labor at home as long as possible, since we had been so well-trained by Pamela and Bryan was prepared to coach. We went for our last hilly walk that afternoon, and Bryan even brought a camp chair for me to squat on during the stronger contractions! Bryan quickly prepared me a nutritious dinner for the work we would be putting in (even though mine didn't stay down long!). Cara
As soon as she stood up, another contraction consumed her. Change of positions and relaxing with each contraction helps promote progress. We can't camp out in the same position for hours during labor and expect positive changes to occur. We have to get mom a little uncomfortable to promote cervical dilation and station change.
Leaning in often takes the edge off the contractions. Cara found this position eased her discomfort. She continued her deep abdominal breathing, as I played the role of her literal countertop.
After a little more curb walking, her pressure was starting to intensify. The joy for Cara and Bryan in actually laboring on the hospital sidewalk... they didn't have to mask up! Cara could actually deep breath which a mask can seriously challenge at times.
Sinking into a contraction and staying out of the uterus' way is very important to allow the uterus to naturally push your baby down during contractions. A loose pelvic floor and consciously releasing your bladder during the peak is especially helpful.
By 7pm after a chat with Pamela, we knew it was time to get going. We are so lucky that Pamela was able to meet us in the parking lot of Atrium Pineville, where we all 3 labored together for an hour and a half. I'm sure we were a sight to see - a few people even stopped to make sure we were ok!
After Cara vomited up that dinner I prepared (all over Pamela and my shoes!), we were admitted for our triage initial exam. Pamela had advised us NOT to find out the results - and thank goodness we listened! Cara was only 4cm dilated- after all of that work! However, we were admitted to Nurse Nancy's room (again, thanks to Pamela & Nancy!) to keep laboring since behavioral and physical signs reflected Cara could be in transition phase. Bryan
Lena had also arrived to show her support. The Your Birth Helper Team was sad they had to remain outside and would not be allowed to accompany us to our room.
Why we decided on virtual education and doula services:
When I asked my mom friends the one thing they wish they had known/had done differently, 100% of them said they wish they had gotten more training and/or hired a doula. In March, when all of our classes were cancelled due to COVID, we started to take this seriously. We knew that we wanted a natural drug-free birth, especially after hearing so many friends recently for whom this was a struggle. While many people say "childbirth is natural, people have been doing it for hundreds of years, it will just happen", this is not the case. There are so many factors these days that interfere with a woman's ability to give birth naturally, including the complicated medical system that is focused on money and in-and-out care, poor diet, stress, and a myriad of other factors. We knew that in order to have the natural birth we wanted, we had to adequately prepare, and have someone on our side in the medical system who could not only advocate for us, but coach us along the way with what to ask, and steps to take. We got all of that and more with Your Birth Helper! We now know why they call them the Charlotte Doula Dream Team.
Cara was also surprised to learn that baby Olivia was posterior, causing very painful back labor. Some positions that seemed to help the most were standing leaning over the bed, throne, and side lying. When the pain got really tough, we labored in the bath for awhile, and the warm water helped soothe Cara. Nancy used the peanut ball in side lying position to help turn Olivia, and pretty soon we were ready for push phase! Cara started using the squat bar. Nancy called Jennifer Crumpler, CNM, our midwife, and Cara got eager to start pushing. However, things started to slow down as the pain got stronger. Nancy offered Cara Pitocin to speed things back up, but that only made Cara's resolve stronger. I called and got Pamela on the phone, and together our team coached our daughter into the world drug-free! Bryan
Nancy suggested changes in positioning to help the baby flip anterior with use of the peanut ball.
Showing off in late first stage, supported by Dad and definitely making that full squat look easy.
Olivia Marley Stewart, born July 9, 2020 at 3:47am. 8lbs 1oz (bigger than expected as mom is only 5'4" 110lbs pre-pregnancy!), 19 1/4inches long. Olivia received a 9 apgar, began breastfeeding immediately and is thriving. We are so grateful to our doula team and the wonderful help we received at Atrium Pineville!
I asked Cara and Bryan a few specific questions to benefit expectant couples who may be reading. I hope you can be encouraged and empowered by their answers!
Do you feel your virtual classes and labor assistance were key to your success? (From being more confident to labor at home, to not arriving at hospital too soon to talking you through rough spots in labor, strategizing with you and dad to overcome hurdles, etc.:
Definitely, the classes and virtual doula help were vital in helping Cara labor at home and while in the hospital drug-free!!
Do you feel you could’ve managed labor drug free without your advanced training? Maybe, but since I had back labor for so long, I'm not sure what interventions may have been suggested (and accepted) had Pamela and Nancy not been there to help us navigate alternatives and stick to our birth plan.
What did you enjoy most from your labor and birth?
It seems the stars aligned for us, because when I went into labor Pamela was in town and Nurse Nancy was on duty that night for our labor. We felt so cared for from the time we were admitted until we left the hospital. Having all of the labor tools available, and the knowledge of how to use them, made things go much more smoothly.
Congratulations on the execution of your happy "BIRTH" day ~the all natural way! Not everyone puts in the work needed during their nine months to endure countless hours of labor, back labor on top of that. You worked hard. You two trained. You both labored with confidence making great decisions along the way and you #NAILEDIT.