Lori and Petra always knew they wanted to start a family, but when the time came in 2017, it did not go as easily as they had hoped. Lori struggled emotionally as IUI after IUI treatment failed, and even completed an unexpected full Ironman (140.6) to deal with the emotional fallout of the process. After 2 years and 6 failed IUIs to ‘prove infertility’, Lori and Petra were fortunate enough to get insurance authorization for a cycle of IVF. Although the egg retrieval process was successful, resulting in 4 viable embryos, the physical aftermath for Lori included OHSS and intermittent ovarian torsion. Despite the setbacks, the first embryo transfer was successful. The 2020 global pandemic started during Lori’s second trimester, but the pregnancy progressed smoothly. In September 2020, their son was born healthy via induction at 41 weeks. Although the delivery was relatively straightforward, Lori experienced postpartum complications that included vertigo, possible mastitis, a fissure, and stage 2 bladder prolapse.
Lori Vance Bio
Lori and her wife Petra met almost 15 years ago while studying abroad in Heidelberg, Germany. 3 years later they started dating in South Korea and got married in 2012 in Rochester, NY. They now live in New Hampshire with their son Nyle, 2 spoiled pit bulls, and a kitty-cat. As of 2020, they also live in a multigenerational home with 3 of Nyle’s grandparents. He loves it. Connect with her on IG: @doitordonot or visit her blog: https://doitordonot.wordpress.com/2020/02/28/ivf/
Niki and her husband, Brian found out they were expecting twins at an 8 week ultrasound in late April of 2019. This was a complete shock to them. The twins were spontaneous, di-di twins, meaning they had their own sacs and placentas- the least risky type of twin pregnancy. Niki and Brian chose to have blood work completed to find out the genders and they were again shocked and excited to find out they were both girls! Their then 3 year old son Dante, was not so excited about the babies in general but he really warmed up to the idea as he could see them growing in “mommy’s tummy.”
The pregnancy went very smoothly. Niki attributes much of this to the dietary, exercise and lifestyle modifications she made based on the book When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets or Quads. Niki also chose a high risk OBGYN as she wanted a practice where the doctors would allow the patient to attempt a vaginal birth even if one of the babies had a breech presentation. Her general OB said it would be an automatic c-section if either baby was breech. The high risk doctors agreed that as long as baby A (lowest baby) was head down, even if baby B was breech, they would allow a vaginal delivery. Niki wanted to have an unmedicated hospital birth, just as she had with Dante. Niki and Brian hired the same birth doula they had for their son, another postpartum doula and took classes on caring for and feeding twins. Niki’s goal was to tandem breastfeed the girls for at least 6 months.
The twin’s due date was November 19th, 2019. Niki stopped working in September as she felt too uncomfortable performing a lot of the physical requirements of her job as a physical therapist and she was concerned about preterm labor. She was having a lot of daily contractions at this point of the pregnancy, but every ultrasound, cervix check and doctor’s visit went perfectly. As the weeks rolled by, the OB began discussing induction dates as they wouldn’t allow twin pregnancies to exceed 38 weeks. The induction was scheduled for 6am on November 7th when the twins were 38 weeks, 2 days gestation.
The last 2 months of the pregnancy were challenging, to say the least! In September, the entire family came down with a cold but Niki was not getting better. By October she was having such terrible coughing spells that she fractured 2 ribs and ended up in the ER at 36 weeks. There was a minor pre-clampsia scare at the same time (one high blood pressure reading and one abnormal blood panel), but they were sent home from the hospital with antibiotics and a lidocane patch for the ribs. Slowly, Niki improved and was finally able to rest.
She had been practicing hypnobirthing meditations throughout her pregnancy and utilized positive imagery and daily meditation to get through her rib pain and illness. She was afraid that this injury would lessen the likelihood of having the unmedicated birth she planned.
As the induction date approached, Niki and Brian tried everything possible to self induce labor. She walked and hiked for miles, walked on uneven surfaces, danced, ate dates, etc. You name it, they tried! She was having a lot of contractions and had been dilated 3cm for over 2 weeks, but at her final OB appointment 2 days before the scheduled induction, it appeared these babies were not going to come on their own. This was such an irony to them because they spent the majority of the pregnancy worried about preterm labor and now they were worried about having to be induced! She asked the nurse to sweep the membranes in a final effort to bring on labor more naturally. When she did this, Niki lost the mucus plug.
That night, they prepared to leave for the hospital early in the morning. They had a final crab leg dinner with their son and said goodnight to him one last time as an only child. They tried to sleep. Niki cried before bed because things just weren’t going as planned.
At 3am, she woke up having heavy contractions and her water broke moments later. Brian was rushing her to leave the house and she wanted to make the bed, grab some snacks and make sure everything was ready. They left about 20 minutes after Niki’s water broke. They called the doula and she had an urgent tone to her voice about rushing to the hospital. Labor really picked up in the car! Niki used hypnobirthing meditations throughout and was amazed by how excited, exhilarated even, she felt. She was so happy to have gone into labor without being induced. She finally felt like the birth might actually go the way she wanted. Brian drove in a complete panic, asking Niki if he should run red lights, to which she yelled, NO!
When they arrived at the hospital, Niki and Brian knew she was very close to delivering a baby. Brian couldn’t figure out how to operate the phone to be buzzed up to the L+D floor and was panicking. Niki noticed another phone by the elevators, and that worked! As they exited the elevator on the L+D floor, the nurses were waiting and laughing saying “Niki, you’re over an hour early!” It was about 4am then and the induction was scheduled for 6am. The doctor on call, Dr. Roy Bergstrom, was the doctor Niki wanted. She knew he had a reputation for supporting unmedicated births and would likely let the doula in the room. Again, she felt excited and exhilarated by how well everything was going! The hypnobirthing meditations allowed her to feel a “bubble of peace” and drown out the sights/ sounds of the hospital and be in her own space with her babies. Between contractions, she would talk to the nurses about her birth preferences. She really wanted the L+D bed in the OR, where they make women deliver twins in the event that an emergency c-section is needed. The nurses pushed back on this one but said they would try. Dr. Bergstrom asked to call anesthesia to place a port- Niki agreed, though she knew she would not need the epidural. The nurses and Dr. Berg seemed a bit surprised when they checked her and she was 8cm and 100% effaced upon arrival. There was a big sense of urgency, but not panic as Niki was remaining very calm and relatively quiet. She was mainly standing by the bed and leaning over the bed when a nurse asked, would you like to “sit on the bed?” Niki asked to go on hands and knees. At that point, she was telling the nurses that she felt an urge to have a BM. They began calling for the doctor and without discussion, Niki pushed hard and out came baby A- Althea June Popper- dropping right into the mesh underwear and on the hospital bed! Brian described Dr. Bergstrom ran in the room and swept his hands under Althea just as she was dropping to the bed. They wheeled Niki, Althea and Dr. Berg all together into the OR. As they were going through the door, the nurse said in Niki’s ear, “That’s one way to get the bed in the OR.” They were laughing! The mood was so jovial. As they rushed into the OR, all Niki could see was the floor and tons of people’s feet shuffling next to the bed because she was still on hands and knees.
Althea was tiny, but mighty and very healthy! 4 lbs, 15oz, 20 inches long. Brian held her while the nurses and doctor got Niki situated in the OR. Niki was asking to get back on hands and knees, but was told no as they were trying to get monitoring on baby B. They began signaling to Niki to push. She didn’t feel ready and she asked for more time. Barb, the doula arrived right then and said, “Niki- you can trust them. It’s time to push.” She wasn’t feeling the same urge to push and the position on her back was terribly uncomfortable- truly the first time in the birth that she felt real pain. She pushed for a few minutes and out came Avery Betty Popper- 12 minutes after her sister, clocking in at a whopping 7lbs, 10oz, 21 inches long. Everyone was absolutely shocked by the size discrepancy. At this point, the anesthesiologist finally came into the OR and joked “I got a call, brushed my teeth, and in that time, you had two babies!”
Avery seemed okay at first; big, crying, etc. But very quickly, Brian and Niki realized that she was struggling with breathing. Her oxygen levels were low. The team was ready to rush Avery to the nicu. Dr. Bergstrom took command of the OR and asked everyone to slow down and let Niki hold her babies. She held both of them to her breasts. Althea was rooting but Avery was struggling to breathe. Brian went to the OR with Avery and Niki cradled Althea in her arms and was wheeled to the mom and baby unit with Barb. Dr. Bergstrom reassured Niki, “This is a healthy baby- she’ll be back with you in a few hours.”
Brian and Niki didn’t see one another for several more hours. Niki focused on nursing Althea and pumping to try and drive up her milk supply. When she finally went to the nicu, she saw that Avery was on a CPAP and that she was not, in fact, going to be leaving the nicu anytime soon at all. This was such a devastating moment for Brian and Niki. Because it was flu season at the hospital, they were not allowed to bring Althea to the Nicu. Niki and Brian spent the next 4 days alternating between nicu with Avery and mom baby unit with Althea. It was incomprehensibly hard. After everything had gone so smoothly with the birth, Niki couldn’t understand how this happened. She attributed it to pushing too soon during labor.
They were told initially that Avery had “Big Baby Respiratory Distress Syndrome.” That these babies “get better quickly 48 hours after delivery when surfactant kicks in.” 48 hours later, Avery’s condition had deteriorated significantly and the neonatologists began questioning this diagnosis. In the next 2 days, Avery developed a collapsed lung, a small bowel obstruction and worsening oxygen levels. They intubated her, started antibiotics and stopped all feedings. They suspected at this point that she aspirated fluid and blood at birth. Blood neutralizes surfactant so her surfactant production was not sufficient. The doctors were continuously coming to the mom and baby unit to tell Brian and Niki about a new complication.
On day 4, Althea was discharged and Niki and Brian left the hospital with one baby- Niki’s greatest fear coming to life. It was a devastating moment. They continued sharing duties of being at home with Althea and Dante and rushing back to the hospital to be with Avery. Niki pumped enough milk to provide both babies with breast milk- Avery in a feeding tube and Althea at the breast or with a bottle. Brian and Niki’s moms took turns with the kids as well.
In total, Avery spent 11 days in the nicu. She was finally able to come home with oxygen on November 17th. Avery and Althea were so content being together at home, at last. Avery made a complete recovery and no longer has complications related to her difficult entry to this world. Althea grew very quickly despite being small for gestational age. Both girls are healthy and thriving 18 month olds now. Niki experienced some postpartum depression and anxiety that improved significantly after she started seeing a therapist. She was able to take over a year long maternity leave. In July of 2020 she started her own physical therapy practice called Popper PT where she focuses on prenatal and postpartum care. Brian continues to work for Hello Fresh and they are a thriving, happy family!
Niki wanted to share her birth story because she loves hearing other people’s stories, she wanted to share about an unmedicated twin birth because those stories were hard for her to find and she sharing the story helps with her emotional healing from the trauma of the nicu. She hopes her story touches and helps other families as well.
Niki Popper Bio
Niki and Brian Popper have been married for 10 years and partners for 18 years. They met in college at the University of Denver. Niki is originally from St. Louis, Missouri and Brian is from Bethesda Maryland. They live in Denver with their three children, a 4-year-old son named Dante Alexander and 15-month-old twin girls, Avery Betty and Althea June. They also have a beloved 8-year-old cocker-spaniel mix named Pepper
Niki is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and focuses on treating patients with pelvic health, pre natal and post-partum concerns. She also specializes in treating TMJ and headaches. She has been practicing for 8 years and started her own practice, Popper PT in July of 2020. She sits for her Women’s Health Clinical Specialist (WCS) board certification exam in March of 2022.
Brian is Chief Operations Officer for Green Chef, an online organic meal kit delivery company that was purchased by Hello Fresh in 2018. The sale of green chef allowed Brian and Niki to have the resources to move to a new home and for Niki to take a year and a half of maternity leave.
They enjoy cooking, canoeing, hiking, skiing and snowboarding and camping. Niki is a certified Pilates instructor and enjoys Pilates based exercise and indoor cycling. Connect with her on Facebook at
facebook.com/niki.popper.1 or facebook.com/Dr.NikiPopper and on Instagram @drnikipopper. Her website is www.popperpt.com
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Arden Cartrette is a grief and bereavement doula who found her calling to help others through pregnancy loss after a long fertility journey to her son, Cameron. With two miscarriages leaving her with trauma and needed the assistance of her reproductive endocrinologist to get pregnant – she opens up about pregnancy and live childbirth after infertility and loss. Arden founded The Miscarriage Doula Co which is an online service and resource for women who are going through a miscarriage and navigating life afterward.
This episode is sponsored by Fairhaven Health, creators of Milkies and their new Vaginal Care & Comfort line. Milkies is a line of thoughtfully designed products for moms, by moms, to support you throughout your breastfeeding journey. Products include breast milk collection and storage, supplements, teas, nursing pads and much more!
Their Vaginal Care & Comfort line contains isotonic, paraben-free, glycerol-free, and oil-free products to support vaginal health. Their vaginal care line currently includes 5 products:
BabyIt, the only product specifically designed to be used with perineal massage during pregnancy.
IsoFresh, a vaginal balancing gel that supports a healthy vaginal ecosystem
IsoFresh Probiotic to help replenish bacteria and balance yeast
BabyDance Fertility Lubricant which is pH-matched to fertile cervical mucus and tested to ensure it’s safe for sperm and eggs
And Sage Personal Moisturizer and Lubricant to help provide relief from vaginal dryness.
Fairhaven Health is generously offering 15% of all of their products with the code BIRTHHOUR at www.fairhavenhealth.com. In today’s episode, our guest Arden shares a bit about her experience with products from Fairhaven Health.”
Living in a very small town in rural West Virginia, Hattie had extremely limited birthing options. With only one hospital to choose from within a 75 mile radius and no birth centers or midwives, the decision was already made for her but she was thankful for the few options she was actually able to choose from. Her sweet husband Tyler is always supportive and was the best caregiver/ helpmate through the entire pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum.
Shortly into her first pregnancy, Hattie developed severe gallbladder issues that could not be resolved until after baby was born. Between that and “morning sickness” that lasted all day throughout her entire pregnancy, she lost a total of 23 lbs from her original pre-pregnancy weight.
Hattie had two precipitous labors with both of her sweet baby boys; with the first being only two and a half hours long and the second being one hour and fifteen minutes long from start to finish. Things got intense QUICKLY with both labors and she felt she was not being taken seriously by the medical team at the local hospital either time. Once they realized these were not ordinary labors, panic ensued among the nurses until the doctor finally arrived minutes before the babies were born. In both labors, the doctor barely made it to the delivery which was very nerve wracking for everyone involved in both cases.
About 5 weeks after her first son was born, Hattie had a cholecystectomy which affected her milk production significantly. She pushed through with nursing until four months postpartum and finally realized it would be best for both her and baby to switch to formula completely. Hattie is currently still exclusively nursing her second son at six months old and is very thankful that things are going so well this time.
Small town living with very little birthing options, Hattie developed severe gallbladder issues with her first pregnancy but needed up have an extremely fast labor and delivery. After a cholecystectomy at 5 weeks postpartum, their nursing struggles unfortunately came to an end. When she got pregnant with her second baby, she knew she needed to be prepared in case this labor would be similar to the first. It did end up being even FASTER than the first but nursing is going well this time around and continues to this day.
This episode is sponsored by BabyCube. Your baby’s first year can really fly by and if you’re like me you may feel guilty for not keeping up with that baby book you got at your shower. BabyCube is a simple & easy way to capture memories by adding photos as you go in a user-friendly platform that organizes your baby’s first year week-by-week in a visual timeline. Then, at the end of the year (or when you’re ready) each weekly note & photo is printed and sent to you in a beautiful engraved wooden box. My favorite part is that you can start and finish at your own pace so it’s perfect for parents who need flexibility! And, it is definitely a great alternative to those baby books or journals we all feel like we should be filling out but somehow never do! For a limited time, BabyCube is offering 20% off to birth hour listeners with the coupon code BIRTHHOUR20 at babycubeglobal.com.
Brittany’s first birth was a hospital induction with a planned epidural. Though it was a relatively smooth labor, she felt like she was tense, out of control, and fighting against her body the whole time. She decided to hire a doula for her second birth three years later in the hopes that she would have a more connected, empowering birth experience and avoid some of the pelvic floor trauma she experienced the first time. Though her second birth was very similar to the first—a hospital induction with an epidural—Brittany’s physical and emotional experience of labor was totally different, resulting in an empowered and redemptive birth story.
Brittany L. Bergman Bio
Brittany is an author who is passionate about telling stories that provide refreshment, connection, and encouragement to mothers who don’t want to lose sight of their identity. Her essays on motherhood have been featured in a variety of publications, including TODAY Parents, Motherly, Coffee + Crumbs, and The MOPS Blog. She lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband, Dan, and their two children. By day, she is a copy editor of nonfiction books at a publishing house. Her first book, Expecting Wonder, is about the identity-level transformation we experience as we become mothers. You can connect with her at brittanylbergman.com or on Instagram.
Today’s episode is sponsored by Advanced Nutrition by Zahler. Zahler offers complete nutrition at a crucial time when it matters most. Zahler kosher Prenatal + DHA contains a potent blend of 26 vitamins & nutrients including 300mg of DHA and the active form of Folate. Zahler’s Prenatal provides the full spectrum of nutrients you and your developing baby require. Enjoy an exclusive 25% off toward your purchase on Amazon using code PREDHA25.
After Caroline and her husband, Matt, learned they would be welcoming their first baby in July 2020, they established care with a midwifery practice and hoped for a low-intervention birth experience. Except for a brief bleeding scare about 6 weeks into the pregnancy, and a case of gestational thrombocytopenia that resolved itself in the third trimester, Caroline had an easy and active pregnancy.
At their 20-week anatomy scan, the technician laughed that they had a little breech baby, knowing that babies constantly change positions that early in the pregnancy. However, at every subsequent ultrasound, baby continued to present in the breech position. Around 32 weeks, the midwives discussed possible interventions to turn the baby (whose sex was a surprise), explaining that no one in the state of Maine would perform a vaginal breech birth. During this time, COVID-19 hit and they learned that their hired doula would no longer be able to attend their birth.
Caroline and Matt began trying everything under the sun to turn their baby head down in an effort to avoid a c-section: moxibustion, acupuncture, Spinning Babies, flips in the pool, and two ECVs. Ultimately, Caroline found acceptance in a scheduled c-section and loved her birth experience. She was able to advocate for all of the gentle cesarean practices including immediate skin to skin, a clear drape, arms free, music playing, etc. Aila Mae Roy was brought into the world in a beautiful, serene birth on July 2, 2020 at 9:25am.
Caroline Culbertson Bio
Caroline Culbertson is a ‘southern girl transplant’ living on a farm in the Portland, Maine area with her husband Matt, daughter Aila, and a menagerie of animals. She is a life-long equestrian. Follow her on Instagram @caroline.culbertson
We are so excited to introduce our new partnership with @CordBloodRegistry, also known as CBR. CBR has helped millions of parents bank their children’s newborn stem cells. Newborn stem cells have amazing potential for treatments in the future and cord blood stem cells have already been used for thirty years in stem cell transplants. It’s kind of like investing in your baby’s future health.
For a limited time, CBR is offering The Birth Hour listeners some pretty big discounts. Go to cordblood.com and use code: HOUR to get 60% off the Newborn Stem Cell Bundle which includes both cord blood and tissue banking. Visit their website to learn more about how newborn stem cell preservation could protect your whole family and why CBR is the #1 most recommended cord blood bank by families and OB/GYNs.