Infertility, Pregnancy Loss + High Blood Pressure Induction Birth Story
Chelsea and Clayton began trying to conceive in early 2014, before undergoing 2 rounds of IVF in 2015 that resulted in two pregnancy losses including their first son, Colt, who passed at 16 weeks gestation. Upon return from a belated honeymoon, they were delighted to find out they were pregnant without any medical intervention. Chelsea wished to give birth at a local Birth Center, but her plans changed due to high blood pressure. She was induced at 37 weeks and had an epidural-free labor and birth at a local hospital attended by her midwife and doula. Following a 10-day NICU stay, Chelsea and Clayton’s son was finally welcomed home.
Chelsea Johnson Bio
Chelsea is a new mom to her son Connor. She is the wife of Clayton, a nurse from a small town in Wisconsin. They currently reside in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with their son, two cats and one ornery beagle. Together, they have navigated the messy journey that is infertility and pregnancy loss before welcoming their son. They spend their days Netflix-binging The Office and watching hockey when they aren’t busy enjoying being new parents. You can read more about their journey on Chelsea’s blog at lovenfertility.wordpress.com. Connect with her on Facebook or Instagram @chelsearenee31
Listen to me chat with Amanda about today’s sponsor, BabyList, at the end of today’s episode and check out my sample registry for some of my favorite items for pregnancy and postpartum!
Rachel Wilber’s Journey to Becoming Pregnant & Giving Birth
Rachel Wilber is a criminal defense attorney, alongside her husband of four years, in private practice. Three years ago she quit her job as a public defender to pursue health and wellness, in part because she was having difficulty conceiving. Intuitively, she knew that stress was likely contributing to her infertility, and that she needed to create balance in her life if becoming a mother was to become a reality. After three years of infertility struggles (including surgery, procedures, four rounds of IUI, and three rounds of IVF) Rachel finally became pregnant with her daughter.
She had a healthy and complication-free pregnancy, which slowly re-instilled the confidence she had in her body. Despite being advised against giving birth outside the hospital due to a scar on her uterus, she chose a birth-center at 32 weeks pregnant. After years of medical interventions to achieve pregnancy, her natural water-birth was the empowering, gentle, and healing experience she had hoped for. You can read more about Rachel’s infertility journey and her life as a mom to her daughter and two Great Danes at www.twodanesandababy.com or on Instagram @rachwilber.
Rachel shared a more in depth summary of her experiences, which I’ve included below!
Rachel and her husband married in 2013 when she was 35 years old, so they wasted no time trying to conceive, literally starting on their wedding night! Six months later, Rachel saw her regular OBGYN to get the regular tests done to make sure everything looked okay since they had no luck up to that point. The tests all came back fine and the doctor simply told her to keep trying and that at 35, it could take a while.
Another six months passed with no success, and Rachel knew they needed more help. Up to that point, she had been tracking her ovulation, having sex on the right days, eating healthy, exercising, and generally doing everything she could think of to prepare herself for pregnancy. But at 36, and working an extremely high-stress job, Rachel knew she would regret it if she didn’t take drastic measures to lower her stress levels to allow her body to become pregnant.
So, in January 2014, she gave notice at her job (shocking her boss, colleagues, and husband), and enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a Health Coach. During 2014, Rachel went through four medicated rounds of IUI and did acupuncture; she also saw a chiropractor, a therapist, a shaman, changed her diet, and generally tried anything and everything to conceive. But she never saw a positive pregnancy test. At the end of the year, Rachel and her husband knew it was time to try IVF after an HSG revealed that her left tube was blocked and her right ovary was missing due to a prior surgery in 2011 to remove a tumor.
They did their first round of IVF in February 2015, which resulted in only 5 eggs: all immature. The RE told them that all eggs being immature was rare (about 4 cases out of 1,000), and that alongside her other issues, Rachel had a less than 1% chance of success if they did another round with her own eggs. Donor eggs would provide a much more promising 60% likelihood of success, but it was a huge leap to make emotionally and financially and Rachel felt devastated by the news. She took the rest of 2015 off from trying to conceive, of course still holding out hope for a natural miracle, and slowly came to terms with the idea of using donor eggs. By the end of that year, Rachel and Ryan had decided that they could live without the genetic connection between Rachel and a baby, as long as Rachel still got to experience pregnancy and birth; so, they made the decision to choose an egg donor.
Choosing a donor is a whole story in-and-of-itself! But to make a long story short, the stars seemed to align, and when Rachel and Ryan met their donor at the agency, they fell in love with her and everything felt right. They did their first fresh cycle alongside the donor and that attempt failed; however, they succeeded in creating enough embryos to freeze for future tries, and on the second round Rachel became pregnant!
Pregnancy and Birth Story
Rachel’s pregnancy was strong and healthy from the very start, which was such a relief after so much disappointment! The anxiety of being pregnant after so much failure was still there, but with each successful doctor’s visit it started to fade away. In 2011, prior to starting fertility treatments, Rachel had undergone a myomectomy (surgery to remove a fibroid from her uterus) which was similar to a c-section. Her right ovary was also removed at that time. After that surgery, she was told that when she became pregnant she would have to have a scheduled C-section. At the time, she didn’t care and was fine with that idea. And while going through infertility, she was so focused on just achieving a healthy pregnancy that the type of birth she would have was the furthest thing from her mind. She never allowed herself to think that maybe she would have a choice in the matter. But the further along she got in her pregnancy, the more she realized she felt grief over the idea of losing the opportunity to give birth vaginally and to go into labor spontaneously. She wanted to share that experience with her husband, and something about the scheduled C-section just started to feel wrong. She started doing her homework (watching the Business of Being Born, reading Ina May Gaskin’s books) and decided she would ask her doctor about the possibility of what would essentially be considered a VBAC.
Rachel’s doctor looked at her chart and approved her to attempt a VBAC, although she cautioned her not to do a home birth and that she’d have to be monitored. Rachel was just thrilled to be approved so she didn’t argue! It spurred her on to do more research about VBACs and what would be the best way to try and avoid a C-section. After more reading, taking a Hypnobirthing class, and listening to lots of episodes of the Birth Hour, she was convinced that the best way to avoid ending up in a C-section was to avoid any and all interventions if possible.
At the start of her third trimester Rachel calculated her out-of-pocket estimate for the birth at the hospital and was shocked at the cost. She realized that it was only a fraction more expensive to choose a birth center, which opened her mind to that option. Even though it scared her, she consulted the midwives there and talked to her doctor about it; and, at 32 weeks pregnant she switched her care over to the birth center. The prenatal visits were night and day from her visits to her doctor! She immediately felt surrounded by love and that the midwives trusted her body to give birth. Instead of instilling fear in her about what could go wrong, the midwives focused her on what was going RIGHT with her body, and assured her that they were prepared should she need to transfer to the hospital which was only five minutes away. Rachel and Ryan took a birthing class at the birth center that was encouraging and useful. They also hired a doula for support.
When Rachel reached 39 weeks, she was feeling ready to have the baby and was concerned about doing everything possible to come as close to 40 weeks as possible. That week she saw an acupuncturist who specialized in pregnancy, and immediately after the appointment she lost her mucus plug. The next day at home, while on the birth ball, she started leaking amniotic fluid and was so excited, sure she would go into labor that night! She called the midwives and everyone was on alert, but all that happened that night was mild cramping. The next day she went to the acupuncturist again, but still nothing happened. That night, she and Ryan checked into a hotel close to the birth center (they lived 30 minutes away and wanted to be close by). She rubbed clary sage on her belly, did lots of squats and lunges, and still nothing happened. By the next day, she agreed with the midwife to check into the birth center to do a natural induction. At noon that Saturday, they checked in. Rachel’s water had been broken for 44 hours at that point and the midwife wanted to try and get things moving. She started Rachel on the breast pump and on cottonwood bark for a few hours. When that hadn’t gotten things going by 4pm, they decided to induce with castor oil. She had Rachel take a dose, walk for 45 minutes, take another dose, do more breast pumping… and by 8:30 pm, Rachel FINALLY felt her first REAL contractions. They stayed 4-5 minutes apart for about an hour: just enough time to call the doula, her cousin, and her birth photographer. By 9:30 pm, Rachel’s labor was full-on and extremely intense with no breaks between contractions,and it stayed that way until 12:45 am when she was fully dilated and ready to push. The tub was the only place she felt comfortable, and she spent almost her entire labor in the water. When it was time to push she got out briefly but almost immediately got back in ~ it was the only place that felt remotely comfortable.
Ryan got in the tub with Rachel and she pushed for two hours with Ryan behind her. After the first hour Rachel remembers feeling like she might die and that she was making no progress. She considered asking to go to the hospital or giving up, but remembered all the stories she had listened to and how the women had pushed through the pain and gotten their babies out. She embraced the pain, and decided that the sooner she pushed through it, the sooner it would be over. That thought somehow gave her the strength to push into the pain and use it as a guide. From that point forward, every push brought the baby closer to being born, and at 2:47 am Isla Grace came out and was placed right on Rachel’s chest. She started crying almost immediately and they all laughed because she sounded like a little goat!
After the birth, Rachel got out of the water and tried to birth the placenta, but it was soon obvious that there was a problem. The midwife gave her a shot of Pitocin, but nothing happened. After about 20 minutes the midwife gently pulled the cord to try and loosen the placenta, and the cord broke off. She leaned over Rachel and said to her, “I’m so sorry but you have to face your biggest fear today ~ I have to go in and get the placenta.” (At her last prenatal appointment, the midwife asked Rachel what her biggest fear was, and she told her it was a retained placenta. Somehow she knew it was going to happen to her, and it turns out she was right.) Luckily there was at least nitrous oxide available to help Rachel cope as the midwife went in and retrieved the placenta with her hand. The pain and fear Rachel felt during that procedure were intense and she remembers screaming into the mask while Ryan laid next to her on the bed holding Isla. Five minutes later, however, it was over and she wasn’t bleeding too badly. All she remembers feeling at that moment is relief that it was over and that she didn’t have to go to the hospital.
The midwives helped get Rachel and Isla all cleaned up and snuggled into bed, and helped Isla nurse for the first time. They spoon-fed Rachel yogurt and made her breakfast. The care they provided was loving and amazing! Rachel didn’t tear, and by 10:30 a.m. they were headed home as a family.
After the birth, recovery was fast and easy, which Rachel credits to her choice to give birth naturally and to the care she received from her midwives and her doula.
After 3 years of testing and fertility treatments, Mary Kate and Brad were excited to find out that their second IUI attempt was successful! On November 16, 2016, after 31 hours of labor and 4 hours of pushing, baby Reid was born. Mary Kate was able to get through her long labor by using the hypnobirthing techniques she learned during her pregnancy. At the end of the labor, vacuum extraction was required to give Mary Kate the ability to give birth vaginally. While she was overjoyed and in love with her new baby boy, Mary Kate discovered that she had suffered a 4th degree tear during labor. Mary Kate knew that this serious tear could lead to a difficult recovery, but a week later she developed another complication known as a rectovaginal fistula. Three weeks after the birth of her baby, Mary Kate underwent surgery to repair the fistula.
Mary Kate Gallagher Bio
Mary Kate lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts with her husband and 6-month-old son. She can be found on Facebook: MaryKate Gallagher and Instagram: @mkg723
This episode is sponsored by Sarah Wells Bags. With thoughtful functionality and chic styling, Sarah Wells offers breast pump bags and accessories to help you reach your breastfeeding goals. An all-in-one bag for your breast pump, pumping accessories, laptop, phone and more, Sarah Wells Bags also transition to a diaper bag or purse when you’re done pumping. See the full collection, including the Pumparoo—a wet/dry bag and staging mat for pump parts at sarahwellsbags.com. Use promo code: BIRTHHOUR15, good for 15% off all orders at sarahwellsbags.com.
We are giving away 10 pumparoos to 10 lucky mamas! Enter below!
After 3 IUI’s and on her 3rd round of IVF Jenica became pregnant! She will never forget the incredible happiness when the blood test came back positive! At 10 weeks, she found out she was having twins! Along with pregnancy came morning sickness, discomfort, cankles, and long nights! But gratitude overwhelmed every emotion for Jenica as her dream of becoming a mother had finally become a reality. Her boy and girl twins had to be delivered at 32 weeks because of Preeclampsia! Harris came first and then Goldie! Her first weeks as a mother included her and her husband Tyler visiting their sweet little ones in the NICU every day. After 5 weeks in the NICU the family of four was able to all go home together! Learn more about her journey here and you can connect with her on Instagram.
Jenica Parcell Bio
Jenica Parcell started her blog titled, “A Slice of Style” in 2014. She wanted to share the best deals on the nicest things for a slice of the price. After struggling with infertility for several years, her blog evolved and she shared her struggle to grow her family by documenting each needle, doctor’s visit and wish for her future child during her 3rd round of IVF. That “child” turned into “children”! Her twins Harris and Goldie were born after 3 IUI’s and 3 rounds of IVF. She now shares tidbits about her life as a mama to twins along with deals, fashion, and lifestyle!
This episode is sponsored by Theralogix, makers of the TheraNatal line of nutritional supplements. TheraNatal supplements are specifically formulated to meet a woman’s unique nutrient needs before, during, and after pregnancy. All TheraNatal vitamins are dye-free, gluten-free, and cost less than the typical insurance co-pay. Use this link to get a discount of approximately 15% off your purchase and enter our $250 giveaway below!
Same-sex couple Mariel and Viviana knew they always wanted a baby; so, a year into their marriage they began trying to conceive by the traditional route of IUI’s with frozen sperm via a sperm bank. After nearly a dozen failed tries, they switched gears to a known-donor and were quickly pregnant. Early on in Viviana’s pregnancy she began having complications, and on the same day of her anatomy scan at 20 weeks and 6 days, Viviana’s water bag prolapsed and broke. Tune in to hear the details of their devastating infant loss due to incompetent cervix and the redemption story of their boy/girl rainbow babies conceived within 7 days of each other and born only three days apart. Follow their journey on Instagram at @moderndaytwins.
I don’t have a hometown, but if I had to claim one, it would be Dallas, TX. I met Mariel in college at UNT and quickly fell in love. A few years into our dating, and after moving to Austin, she asked me to marry her; so, we had a ceremony in TX and made it legal in NYC when I was 29 and she was 22. I’ve always wanted to be a mother and never could have guessed the road to realizing it would be so hard. Now the Mama to my “modern day twins” and my little angel baby in heaven, I’m at peace. My loss and the birth world has been truly inspirational to me so I share as much as I can on social media and hope to give back somehow. Connect with me on Instagram at @vivianarchy.
I grew up in Brownsville, TX, which is on the Texas/Mexico border and never lived anywhere else until I left for college where I met Viviana and instantly fell in love. Up until meeting her, my life was pretty vanilla: I had a set goal, and was meeting every expectation my very traditional Mexican family set out for me. Then, all of a sudden, I threw all of that out of the window and started taking risks I’d never imagine were possible – I graduated college in three years and moved to the most expensive city in Texas without a job just so I could finally live passionately. It’s been a roller coaster ride with many ups and downs, but despite the uncertainties, we’ve always managed to land on our feet and have been blessed beyond measure. I love to tell our story to anybody that will listen so that people see that there is hope so long as you don’t give up and are willing to take as many detours as life throws your way. Connect with me on Instagram at @cafesitamami.
Sarah Wells Bags
This episode is sponsored by Sarah Wells Bags. With thoughtful functionality and chic styling, Sarah Wells offers breast pump bags and accessories to help you reach your breastfeeding goals. An all-in-one bag for your breast pump, pumping accessories, laptop, phone and more, Sarah Wells Bags also transition to a diaper bag or purse when you’re done pumping. See the full collection, including the Pumparoo—a wet/dry bag and staging mat for pump parts at sarahwellsbags.com.
We are giving away a $150 shop credit and there is also a promo code: BIRTHHOUR15, good for 15% off all orders at sarahwellsbags.com.
Lida battled chronic pain throughout her teens and twenties, and underwent laparoscopic surgery at age 24 to remove adhesions caused by endometriosis. In order to inhibit the disease’s progression and to preserve her fertility, Lida took continuous hormonal birth control until she and her husband were ready to begin trying to conceive. The endometriosis started to return immediately, but with the help of a minor fertility intervention, Lida was able to conceive after only seven months.
Unmedicated Hospital Birth with Midwives
Once her pregnancy was deemed healthy and low-risk, Lida opted to leave her OB-GYN for the care of midwives within the same hospital-based practice, and she committed to an un-medicated birth. After years of working to achieve a healthy reproductive system with the expert and faithful aid of medical intervention and surgeons, Lida approached pregnancy and birth as a process that doesn’t necessarily require either. Despite an end-of-pregnancy preeclampsia scare and prodromal labor, Lida was able to have a healthy birth without intervention. She credits having battled a disease with readying her for childbirth; not merely because pain prepared her for pain, but because over the years she has learned how to balance asserting her personal agency with releasing control and fear. Lida of course believes that chronic illness isn’t the only vehicle for learning this lesson, and she wishes for all mamas their own version of their best births!
Lida Sunderland Bio
Lida lives with her husband, Mark, their infant son, Rocky, and two fat cats in Washington, DC. Together they love to explore both the city and its greener surrounds. Lida is an art therapist and art educator. She has years of experience promoting mental health in schools, but also works with a broader variety of clientele through private practice. You can learn more about her work at www.lidasunderland.com
As an art therapist, Lida is a champion of new mamas and mamas-to-be taking charge of their mental health. Although a sleepless night before recording and the gooey-sweet feeling that overcame her while talking about the birth of her son resulted in her failure to mention it, Lida feels deeply indebted to two important resources for her post-partum mental health: a subsidized psychiatric clinic focused on pregnancy and post-partum, and a support group for new moms run by mental health educators. She encourages all to look into similar resources in their communities during their pregnancy journeys.
This episode is sponsored by Aeroflow Breastpumps. Aeroflow helps new and pregnant moms qualify for breast pumps through their health insurance. They carry all of the major brands, including Medela, Spectra, Lansinoh, Evenflo, and more. Visit their website to get started today, and your dedicated breast pump specialist will take care of all of the paperwork for you, including getting a prescription from your doctor and filing the claim with your insurance. Go here to get started!