During her first pregnancy, Ashley planned for an unmedicated hospital birth at her hospital’s natural birthing center. Ashley only has one kidney as a result of a Wilms tumor at birth and received close monitoring for pre-eclampsia due to gestational hypertension. She was induced at 39 weeks, 5 days due to consistently high blood pressure readings. She was induced with Pitocin and labored well for 15 hours with the support of her husband and doula. Her water broke on its own around hour 8. She didn’t know her son was posterior, which caused the nurses to be unable to successfully monitor his heart rate with the traditional monitor. After 3 failed attempts to place an internal monitor, the OB on call required Ashley to labor in the hospital bed. At that point, she requested an epidural after learning she was only 4-5cm.
Labor progressed fairly quickly at that point and she was ready to push around 3pm. During this time, the OB on call was rushing back and forth between Ashley’s room and the ER. Another patient of the practice had come in with an ectopic pregnancy and needed emergency surgery. This was rather chaotic and most of the 2.5 hours spent pushing was with the nurses and her doula. Due to his posterior position and the epidural wearing off, Ashley experienced excruciating pain during transition and pushing.
Because the OB on call ended up in emergency surgery, her OB rushed in from her home an hour away to come deliver her baby. The nurses didn’t think her OB would make it in time, so they called an attending and resident in to deliver Ben. They attending didn’t think Ashley could deliver the baby without help, so she received an episiotomy without her consent from the attending as her OB ran into the room. The baby was crowning at that point and he was delivered quite quickly. The resident nearly dropped her son as he was delivered. Ben was born at 8 lbs 4oz. Ashley lost as significant amount of blood and had to have retained placenta extracted manually. She also tore in addition to the episiotomy.
Ashley had a pretty rough recovery from the episiotomy and tears. Benjamin struggled to gain weight in the first few weeks home from the hospital. He was diagnosed with a lip and tongue tie when he was 2.5 weeks old. Ashley struggled with breastfeeding throughout the first year. We were blessed by donor milk and nursed until Ben was 14 months old. Between his traumatic birth and their breastfeeding struggles, Ashley waited until Ben was almost 4 to get pregnant again.
Ashley’s Second Birth
Ashley got pregnant with Cara in September 2019. The pregnancy was pretty similar to Ben’s with blood pressure issues, but nothing terribly concerning. We went into quarantine as Ashley neared the 3rd trimester. She feared her husband and doula wouldn’t be able to join her for delivery as many hospitals restricted visitors. She shared her concerns on Bryn’s zoom calls and received immense support from the Birth Hour community. Protocols changed regularly, but she was able to have her husband and doula attend Cara’s birth due to executive orders signed by New York’s governor. Ashley was induced again at 38 weeks 2 days for high blood pressure.
Labor went much quicker this time and lasted exactly 6 hours from the start of pitocin to Cara’s arrival. Pitocin began at 6:30am and her doula arrived at 9am. Her OB broke her water at 9:30am at 4cm and her husband arrived shortly thereafter. She asked for an epidural around 11am and it was placed by 1130am. Her OB checked her once the epidural was place and she was already 8cm. By noon Ashley was feeling intense pressure and thought her catheter wasn’t inserted properly. Her doula went to look for the nurse and her OB came running in and told her to stop pushing. It turns out the baby already was crowning. Cara was delivered in a few pushes and no tearing. Ashley hardly pushed and felt her body did nearly all of the work on its own. Cara was 8 lbs and 6oz.
Ashley had an easy recovery and felt amazing postpartum. They were discharged at 24 hours post-delivery as a result of Covid protocol. Cara ended up having jaundice and being admitted to the NICU for two days to get her bilirubin levels back to normal. Between Cara’s lip and tongue tie and the unexpected NICU stay, Ashley struggled again with breastfeeding. Thanks to the support of her amazing IBCLC and donor milk, they’re still nursing two weeks before Cara’s first birthday.
Ashley Espejo Bio
Ashley lives on Long Island, NY with her husband, five year old, Ben and almost one year old Cara. She also has a 19 year old stepdaughter, Darlene. She is a tax manager at a private equity fund in New York City. Ashley loves hanging out with her family, going to the beach, coffee and riding her peloton. You can connect with her on Instagram at @Mrs_espejo and on Facebook.
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Cara and her husband, George decided they wanted to begin their family immediately after getting married in 2019. They were shocked at how quickly they fell pregnant in October. Cara is a medical student so during the beginning of her pregnancy, she was taking classes like human anatomy which involved dissecting a human cadaver all while being 10 weeks pregnant.
Cara’s pregnancy was uneventful until around 28 weeks when her husband and parents all came down with COVID, which caused her to miss several appointments with her Ob/Gyn.
When she finally got back to the doctor, her blood pressure was high and they knew she was most likely developing preeclampsia. Cara was diagnosed with preeclampsia around 31 weeks of pregnancy. This led to her needing an induction at 37 weeks. Cara’s labor was long, and involved multiple interventions, like cytotec, a foley bulb, and epidural, until ultimately she went forward with a c-section due to suspicion of chorioamnionitis (infection of amniotic sac and placenta). Prior to the decision to go ahead with the c-section she developed a high fever which was indicative of an infection in her uterus. After 47.5 hours of labor, she and her husband welcomed their son, Lucas into the world on June 2, 2020 at 5:26 pm weighing 7 lb 10 oz and measuring 21.5 inches.
Cara continued to struggle with an elevated blood pressure due to preeclampsia even after she gave birth, but was able to completely stop taking blood pressure medication at 12 weeks postpartum.
Connect with Cara on Instagram at @caragrudziak___ .
Today’s episode is sponsored by Owlet. Meet the Owlet Pregnancy Band, an at-home pregnancy monitor using innovative, passive technology to give you peace of mind and the reassurance you crave through daily insights into your baby’s well-being. You can listen to your baby’s heartbeat, see Baby’s trends through the night and over several days, track Mom’s sleep position, and read weekly gestational updates about your pregnancy all in the Owlet Pregnancy App. Right now get exclusive access to the Owlet Band in its beta program and save $100.Get yours now, before spots fill up, at owletcare.com/band.
During her second year of residency Lisa and her husband decided to expand their family. Her pregnancy was uncomplicated and she went into labor on her own. Labor and delivery were also pretty uncomplicated for a first time delivery, other than a pushing stage of a little over 3 hours and a fever. She was able to deliver without other complications and was surrounded by her co-residents. Breastfeeding had a hard start though mostly from the baby having a tongue tie that was released at about 1 week, which greatly improved her nursing journey.
After graduating and working as a full spectrum family medicine doctor in rural Maine, her family decided to try for a second child. This time she and her husband decided they would like to have a home birth. She again had a routine pregnancy. Her labor started on its own again and progressed much more quickly this time. After 3 hours of active labor, she experienced a fetal ejection reflex. She really enjoyed the postpartum recovery at home.
Lisa Stout Bio
Lisa lives in rural Maine with her husband Jeremiah and their two boys, ages 7 and 5. She practices full spectrum family medicine. Her husband stays at home with their sons. Connect with Lisa on Instagram @stoutberger.
Today’s episode is sponsored by Esembly- a new diapering system for sustainability. Esembly provides EVERYTHING you need to to radically reduce diaper waste, from organic diapers and skincare, to upcycled storage bags and specially-formulated diaper-cleaning detergent. Their complete system, coupled with their 4 step wash instructions, make cloth diapering simple enough for any sleep deprived new parent to master. And just 44 of their reusable diapers is all you’ll need from birth to potty training- compared to 6500+ diapers if you’re using disposables! Esembly diapers don’t just save thousand of diapers from sitting in landfills, they save you thousands of dollars too! Not to mention, they are blowout-proof and insanely adorable.
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After two miscarriages, we used progesterone to get pregnant and continued it throughout the first trimester. This pregnancy was pretty uneventful, aside from some aches and pains of growing a tiny human. My mother had carried 4 of the 5 of us to 42-43 weeks, so I was prepared to go post dates, as well. We started at home induction methods at 40 weeks, but it wasn’t until 41 +4 when a castor oil smoothie kick started things!
As I cued up an episode of The Birth Hour, my water broke all over our living floor at 5:15PM. Our homebirth midwives let us know that with the smoothie things can be intense at first and then plateau. My husband stayed in touch with them and around 9:30 said he thought they should come. They arrived just before 11PM to find that I was 10cm and bearing down during contractions. My little dude had been ROA and asynclitic in utero, so we did a lot of different positions at the end of labor to help move his head and body through the birth canal. At 1:19am, just about 8 hours from when my water broke, he was born at home and changed our lives forever.
Alyssa Blask Campbell Bio
Alyssa is the founder of Seed & Sew. She’s an emotional development expert, mama, and podcaster. She pinches herself on the daily because she truly can’t believe she has the best job: sharing with committed parents, teachers, and caregivers like the tools that change how you show up with tiny humans every day.
Connect with her via website Seed and Sew or @seed.and.sew on Instagram.
Today’s episode is sponsored by Ergobaby. Founded in 2003, Ergobaby has pioneered the gold standard for comfortable, ergonomic soft structured carriers. Ergobaby is dedicated to helping families bond, grow, and thrive by creating premium baby products where function and quality are not compromised. Ergobaby has created a broad range of award-winning baby carriers, strollers, swaddlers, nursing pillows, and related products that fit into families’ daily lives seamlessly, comfortably and safely. In 2020, they launched Everlove by Ergobaby, a first of its kind baby carrier buy back and resale program, a sustainability effort to support families and the planet.
After becoming pregnant in January of 2020, professional marathon runner Sarah Crouch continued training at a high level throughout her pregnancy (listening to The Birth Hour every single day as she ran!) and pursuing work as a birth doula as Covid overtook the country and changed the landscape of birth work. Sarah was one of the 5% of women who go into labor on their due date and labored at home for several hours with her husband and her doula, Betsy, before traveling across town in the middle of the night to the Flagstaff Birth and Women’s Center.
A completely unmedicated 16-hour labor completely rewrote the pain threshold that Sarah thought she had maxed-out as a professional endurance athlete and finally, just before eight in the morning, her daughter Charlotte was born.
The next four months were the hardest of Sarah’s life as she battled severe Postpartum Depression, anxiety and insomnia that resulted in a trip to the Emergency room among other hardships. Sarah’s birth story is all about the process of relearning what the body is capable of and the power of accepting the new role of motherhood.
Sarah Crouch Bio
Sarah Crouch, 31, is a professional endurance athlete and is one of the fastest marathon runners in America. She is also a running coach and a certified Birth Doula. Sarah currently lives in Spokane, Washington with her husband, Michael and their seven-month old daughter, Charlotte. You can follow Sarah on Instagram @sarahcrouch1989.
This episode was sponsored by Motif Medical. Motif designs insurance-eligible products for busy moms. With a focus on innovation and empowerment, Motif’s line of breast pumps and maternity compression garments are sophisticated, yet discreet, and made to support mothers as they navigate new motherhood. Discover why moms are reporting more milk in less time with the Luna breast pump, and see how you can get it covered through insurance at motifmedical.com/birthhour.
Natalia was camping when her water broke in the middle of the night at 34 weeks pregnant. She’d planned to birth at a birth center but instead had to go straight to the hospital, a place she’d avoided since the onset of Covid early in her pregnancy. She initially felt empowered & positive about the unmedicated birth that followed. After a challenging two-week NICU stay, her postpartum recovery seemed to stall. The physical results of birth — including pelvic congestion, hypertonic PF, urethral hypermobility & prolapse — have led to a slow journey of healing from birth’s physical & emotional tolls.
Natalia Hurt Bio
Natalia met her husband a decade ago while backpacking in Nepal. He’s from Luxembourg & she’s half German, so they’ve lived in Europe for most of their relationship. They now live in Portland, Oregon, with their son Tristan & are excited to share the beauty of the Pacific Northwest with him. She’s not very active on social media but can be reached via her instagram account: @afarcorner.
This episode is sponsored by Wumblekin. Life’s busy and there’s a lot of noise out there, that can be especially true during pregnancy. Wumblekin breaks down pregnancy, labor and birth with evidence-based education and expert-curated products for mom and baby. Easily buy or gift single boxes, or subscribe to receive them throughout pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Be informed and prepared by ordering Wumblekin pregnancy, birth and postpartum essentials, today! Get 15% off your first box by using promo code BIRTHHOUR at checkout. Visit wumblekin.com to order or subscribe, today!