A Positive Hospital Birth with Midwives
Katie followed her intuition and switched from an OB practice to a midwife-led, hospital-based practice during the beginning of her pregnancy. She ended up going past her due date and even when she eventually did go into labor she experienced prodromal labor and was in labor for more than three days. Prodromal labor is labor that occurs prior to actually going into full, active labor. It is sometimes called “false-labor,” but you are actually are in labor the whole time with contractions, it’s just that they start and stop for long periods. Katie tells the whole story on today’s episode of The Birth Hour.
Katie Krysil Bio
Katie is a mompreneur who owns the adorable felt flower accessory shop called Fancy Free Finery. She is the wife to Ian and mom to a little boy named Felix who is usually by her side and she runs her business from her home.
Fancy Free Finery
This episode is sponsored by Katie’s other baby, her small business, Fancy Free Finery! Katie started Fancy Free Finery two years ago as a side hustle to supplement income alongside her preschool teaching job, and it has since grown to be able to support Katie and her growing family. Inspired by the fancy free lifestyle of the young children who wear her products, Fancy Free Finery creates felt flower accessories for little ones, including hair accessories like headbands, clips and flower crowns, as well as nursery decor and birthday party supplies. Each artfully designed felt flower is meant to add just a touch of whimsy to your child’s milestones and memories.
Because Fancy Free Finery wants your little ones to feel comfortable (and keep their headbands on!) each headband is handcrafted using soft wool-blend felt sourced from an American-made supplier and the stretchiest nylon elastics, so your child not only feels fancy, but is also free to explore and play. Meant to be a keepsake item for years to come, Fancy Free Finery’s products are made with attention to detail with a focus placed on quality craftmanship. Go to fancyfreefinery.com for more information where you can use the coupon code BIRTHHOUR10 for 10% off through the end of February 2017. We are also giving away $100 shop credit over on my Instagram page.
Want to all of the details of Katie’s birth story? Read in her own words below!
What a crazy year 2016 was!
The day before Christmas Eve, December 23rd 2016, Ian took me for a drive to see the Christmas lights on Rockvale Ave, a street in Andover, Massachusetts where every house on the street decorates their houses top to bottom. Christmas is a favorite of mine, so we would always go see the lights every year. This year, he proposed, in the car, as we were driving along.
Once we were engaged, we decided we would stop trying not to get pregnant, but weren’t necessarily trying to get pregnant. I always thought it was going to be hard for me to get pregnant, since back in high school they thought I had PCOS, and sometimes I would go months without getting a period. I remember the first time we had sex without Ian pulling out (this was always our method of birth control for years and had always proven safe), I looked at the moon and realized it was a full moon. A coworker of mine believed in moon cycles and fertility, and I thought to myself “Uh oh.” And then I let the thought slip out of my mind.
A month later, close to Valentine’s Day on February 10th, I went to our local Rite-Aid to buy a pregnancy test. I was late, which I sometimes was, and I decided to test. I had gotten negative tests before, and just assumed I would get a negative again. The test quickly turned into two lines and I stood in the bathroom in shock. I remember I had just gotten out of the shower and was getting ready to go meet one of my seamstresses at a local park, so I just went on with the plan in a daze. I don’t even remember what we talked about as we walked around the park, and I’m sure it was obvious that I was barely there. My head was spinning.
I got an appointment with my doctor that very day, surprisingly. She confirmed that I was indeed pregnant. What a whirlwind! I waited anxiously for Ian to come home from work. I didn’t want to tell him on the phone or through text. I was so anxious for what he would say. I paced around the house waiting to see his car pull in. Once he got upstairs, I waited for the right moment to tell him. I don’t know why I was so anxious about spilling the beans. I said “I have something to tell you.” or something equally dramatic. I don’t even think I was able to actually tell him. I just pointed to my stomach and nodded. “You’re pregnant!?” He was just as shocked as I was. “I’m going to be a dad…” He was still coming to terms with the idea, just like I had been. We had no clue it was going to be that easy to get pregnant.
My first trimester was full of anxieties. I had read a lot about miscarriages in the first trimester, so everything had me on edge. I didn’t want to get my hopes up in case anything happened, not that I had any reason to think that anything WOULD happen. I just tend to be an anxious person and didn’t want to get too excited. I made an appointment with a local OB, the first one that came up that my insurance covered when I searched. My first appointment lat about eight weeks left a bad taste in my mouth. I was the only one in the empty waiting room, which was oddly decorated, which for some reason made me feel like something was wrong with the office if no one else was there. The nurse came to get me, and right away started listing off all of the things I couldn’t eat, things to be worried about. I felt like it was a really old-fashioned practice, not progressive at all, since she kept referring to Ian as my husband, when we weren’t married yet. I felt judged, and also felt upset that no one was taking the time to get to know me or ask how I felt. The nurse was just reading off of these photocopied papers that looked like they hadn’t been updated in years. It was very impersonal and overwhelming. I remember being afraid to eat fish for weeks after this appointment because of how scary she made the mercury seem. (Of course I learned that fish is actually good and healthy to eat in moderation during pregnancy, as long as you are eating the right kinds!) The nurse had me get into a johnny and wait for the doctor, so my first meeting with her was when she walked into the room and shook my hand as I sat cold and almost naked on the paper sheet. She mumbled something about how childbirth was painful and most women choose drugs. That was one of the first things she said to me. She proceeded to give an internal exam and send me on my way. I never went back to that office.
At 13 weeks we got our first look at our baby. Since our insurance covered the 13-week ultrasound, and since my anxiety was through the roof, we decided to take advantage of this early ultrasound and see how the baby was doing. I was scared to death that he would have a high number on the nuchal fold reading. Like I said, at this point in my pregnancy, anxiety was still a major feeling I was having. I was reading way too much about what could go wrong and not seeking out empowering information. I watched the screen waiting for her to write down the number of the thickness of the fold. “You need to stop Googling things,” the ultrasound tech told us. Everything looked great and we walked out clutching those ultrasound photos, which I could not stop looking at.
I started searching for a new doctor. I am such a people-pleaser and I was scared to even call the old OB and tell her I was switching, but I sucked it up and did it, asking them to send my folder over to a midwifery in the next building over. “Why?” the receptionist asked. I told her that I felt like I wanted a more holistic approach and it just wasn’t a good fit. She placed me on hold and had me also explain myself to the doctor herself. I just felt so awkward and uncomfortable, and that moment solidified the decision I had made to switch out of their practice. I had decided to switch to St. Joseph Midwifery, a midwifery practice associated with the local hospital.
My first appointment at the midwifery was completely different than my first at the OB’s office. Sharon, one of the two midwives, sat down with me in a comfortable room around a table and got to know me. We chatted about my fears, worries, lifestyle, interests. She gave me a packet of empowering information including recommendations of some books that I ended up reading, like Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, the Birth Partner, Birth Without Fear, etc.
My pregnancy was pretty easy! I didn’t have morning sickness, just some food aversions at first, along with cravings, and extreme tiredness. I was so lucky to be able to work from home. I would take a nap almost every afternoon. Sometimes I would even take a nap as early as 10am. I also had a touch of insomnia early on, and of course toward the end, when I would have to get up to pee all of the time. I craved lemonade and cheeseburgers most of all. I also ate a lot of pickles and salt and vinegar chips. It’s no surprise that by the end of my pregnancy I had gained 65 pounds, despite walking a few times a week in the woods with my mom. We would meet in the mornings about three times a week and walk a 45 minute loop in the woods, right up until a week before I delivered. My routine was to wake up, drink three cups of raspberry leaf tea (iced) — because I heard it toned the uterus for birth — and then go meet my mom. I knew where every porto-potty along the way was. I ended up calling myself the “porto-potty princess” by the end of it. I always had to pee.
In addition to RRL tea, I also tried to “hack birth” in some other ways. I had read that eating 6 dates a day helped with cervical dilation, so I would add dates to my oatmeal or smoothies each morning, or eat Luna bars. I bounced on the birth ball a ton.
We ended up hiring a doula who I loved and really resonated with my mindset. We were both very informed women with similar views on childrearing and birth. I would often ask her questions via text throughout my pregnancy and she was a great resource to bounce ideas off of. We also took a hypnobirthing class together, and I would listen to the meditation tracks as I drifted off to sleep at night.
We found out we were having a boy at our 20 week ultrasound and Ian was thrilled. Being that I have a bow business, I was thinking it would be cool to have a girl, so when we found out, I turned to Ian and said “You got what you wanted…” but I was really happy either way. I had always imagined myself having two boys, since I grew up with two younger boy cousins, so I was happy, even though I wouldn’t have a built-in bow model for my business. He always measured one or two weeks ahead, which I thought made sense since Ian and I are both on the taller end of the spectrum.
Towards the end of the third trimester, I had a lot of lower back pain, in my tailbone/sacrum area. I went to see a chiropractor a few times to work the kinks out, and also in hopes that some corrections would help the baby get into position and move things along.
My due date was October 4th, which came and went. Sharon, the midwife, checked me at my 40-week appointment and I was barely dilated. “Just a fingertip.” She said. They said they would see me next week for a biophysical profile, since I was post dates, and we started talking about induction. I really didn’t want to be induced, but agreed that if I went until October 17th, the weekend after my BPP, I would agree to starting the process.
TUESDAY OCTOBER 11th:
At his biophysical profile, where the baby is supposed to “score” an 8 in order to be considered healthy and thriving, he almost scored only a four. My fluids and his heart rate were fine, but he wasn’t making any major movements, and she couldn’t find him doing his “practice breaths.” She waited over an hour, had me drink juice and move around, and finally in the last fifteen minutes he boosted his score to a perfect 8/8. He was always a little stinker during ultrasounds and never really “performed” for us. He was stubborn.
At that appointment, which was October 11th, Barbara, the other midwife in the practice, checked me and said I was a fingertip, which she could stretch to 1cm. “I bet we’ll see you soon!” she said as we left the appointment.
My husband and I went to get pho after the appointment, because at that point I was trying to eat anything that could induce labor, so spicy Vietnamese food seemed like a good idea. (I had also been eating a pineapple a day that week.) As we walked into the restaurant, I was already feeling what I thought were contractions, since Barbara had stretched me a bit at the appointment. I felt pretty sick throughout our meal, and had a hard time walking as we left and went home. I downloaded a contraction timing app and laid in bed trying to time the contractions. They seemed like they were timeable, so we called our doula to come over. By the time she came over, they had petered out, and I felt embarrassed that we had called her. We went for a walk together under the moonlight (it was almost a full moon) to try to get things going. It seemed like things weren’t going anywhere, so she headed home, and once she left, they started back up again.
This pattern would go on for the next two days. It seemed like every night, I would have timeable contractions as I laid in bed. To manage them, I would listen to my hypnobirthing tracks, or bounce on the birth ball, or take a bath or really hot shower. I loved leaning over the birth ball in the shower and just letting the hot water hit my back. I was already having pretty bad back labor. Cari, our doula, suggested some things to do to get the baby to move, guessing that he may be posterior. I was sure he wasn’t posterior, as I could have sworn I was feeling his butt move back and forth across my belly, so I didn’t really take her advice and continued doing what I was doing.
The first night, after Cari left, I decided to call the midwifery to tell them that I thought I was in labor. Something to note about the midwifery — the midwives are only on call from Monday through Thursday, and then for the weekend, their clients are transferred to the OBs in a neighboring practice. This was always something that weighed heavy on my heart, as I had great relationships with my midwives and hoped and prayed that I would go into labor during the week. I didn’t even give the OBs much thought — I didn’t want to even entertain the idea that an OB would have to deliver me. When I called, it was early Wednesday morning, right after midnight, so I assumed that Barbara would be on call. I called the office, got the answering service as I was told I would, and the woman told me that she would have Dr. Poulin, the doctor on call, give me a call back. “Wait, isn’t Barbara on call?” I asked, panicked. “She’s supposed to be on call Monday through Thursday!” Well it turned out that since Sharon was on vacation, Barbara had coverage so she wouldn’t have to be on call round the clock for a week. I hung up the phone and immediately started bawling to Ian. I was a mess. My expectation that Barbara would be there were shattered and I was beside myself. I had met the other doctor earlier in my pregnancy and had a bad vibe (I tend to not like doctors) and was so upset. We went in through the ER and Dr. Poulin checked me, at which point I was at 2cm and they sent me home, telling me to come back when the contractions were timeable and increasing in intensity. So we did. (After getting pulled over on the way home for failing to use a blinker. The police officer took one look at me and sent us on our way with a gentle reminder.)
WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 12th:
I continued to have contractions that night and kept taking those hot showers and bouncing on the ball. The next day, I was able to be up and moving around, but I had Ian stay home with me just in case. His presence felt comforting to me. Once again that night the contractions started up again. I had a restless night and spent most of it in the shower. I was taking so many hot steamy showers that our smoke alarm kept going off from the steam in the middle of the night. I wonder what our downstairs neighbors were thinking.
THURSDAY OCTOBER 13th:
Early Thursday morning, after laboring through Wednesday night, we called Cari, the doula, to come back again. My contractions tended to peter out when she came around, which lead her to believe that I wasn’t in active labor. We tried a few things to get labor going, like rocking on the ball, and using the breast pump to stimulate contractions. It seemed like when she was there, I felt pressure to “perform” and things would slow down. She left again, suggesting that I take a Unisom and rest. So I did. (We never ended up calling Cari back. In the end, I was best at handling labor like a true introvert, alone, on my own, or with just Ian’s help. The intimacy helped me to feel comfortable and safe.)
Around 1 pm or so we decided to call the midwife again. I wanted to see if we could go in and get checked, and also to see if Barbara would be on call that night. She would. I decided that it was now or never, and that I wanted Barbara to be there, so I wanted to go in right then. Plus, at that point my water had started to leak a little, so we went in to Labor and Delivery… again.
The hooked me up to the monitors and were never really able to “see” the contractions on the strip. Throughout my whole labor, they never got to the classic 4-1-1 pattern, which confused everyone. Plus, I never felt them in the front of my stomach, only as a lot of pressure in my lower back. They didn’t check me for dilation right away, just let me labor for a bit, since my water was broken and they didn’t want to introduce bacteria. The nurses knew that I wanted a natural birth, and they were very respectful and accommodating to make sure I was able to stick to that plan as much as possible. In some ways I really wanted to know if I was making progress, but I just kept laboring, again in the shower in the hospital room. I wedged the ball into the stall and would lean my upper body on the ball and just sway back and forth in the dark bathroom with the shower hitting my back. I stayed in the shower for so long throughout my labor. My toes were pruning so much that my flip flops were hurting them, but then if I stood on the time barefoot, the tiles would leave indents on my feet. I stood on a towel but even the terrycloth was abrasive, that’s how pruned they were. But it was the only place I felt comfortable. I tried to listen to hypnobirthing when I was in the shower, but her voice was too slow and it was annoying to me now that I was in actual labor. Sometimes Ian would stay in the bathroom with me, outside of the curtain. He would play guitar and his presence, again, was comforting. Other times I felt okay being alone in there. I was very focused, just swaying back and forth through the pain. The nurses were able to take my vitals and the baby’s heart rate right there in the shower. I’m not sure when Barbara actually checked me, but when she did, I was at a 4 (cm.) We were making slow progress, at least.
Since I hadn’t gotten much sleep the past few days, a nurse suggested taking something to help me sleep. I was so against drugs and had done so much research and convinced myself I didn’t want them, that it wasn’t safe for the baby, etc. She suggested Nubain, telling me that it was like “smoking a joint and drinking a glass of wine and going to sleep.” I started to Google it on my phone, but in the end just decided to go with my gut and trust the nurses and took one dose of Nubain. I was able to sleep for a few hours, which helped perk up my spirits and encouraged me to labor on.
FRIDAY OCTOBER 14th:
Time starts to get hazy at this point. All I know is that I kept asking for the epidural, because I was frustrated that it was taking this long, but I also knew I didn’t really want the epidural, and Barbara kept reassuring me that I was doing great. She checked me sometime on Friday morning and I was a 7 (cm.) The nurse suggested that I try some other positions, but I had such bad back labor that nothing felt good. I didn’t want to sit down, because my tailbone hurt so badly. I tried to sit on the bed, backwards on the bed leaning over, on the toilet, on the birth stool… everything at this point just hurt so badly. The back labor was so intense. I was complaining a lot, crying that I couldn’t take it and that it hurt so bad. They introduced the nitrous gas + air, and I tried using that to manage the pain. I can’t say it helped much, but it did help me to focus on breaths, which was beneficial. It gave me something to focus on besides the pain. My contractions never showed up on the monitor, so they never knew how I was progressing. In fact, I didn’t even really have “waves” of contractions, just a constant pain in my butt.
At this point, it was time to switch shifts, which meant that Barbara would have normally left and Dr. Poulin, the OB who would be on call throughout the weekend would take over. Of course this wasn’t even on my radar so far in labor, but Barbara came in and let me know that she was going to go home and take a shower, but she would come back and help me finish my labor after she freshened up a bit. Her daughter-in-law was actually having a baby, Barbara’s first grandson, in a hospital room close by, so Barbara was planning to be around anyway. We were so grateful for her in that moment. I still cry thinking about how dedicated Barbara was to making sure I had the birth that I wanted.
When Barbara got back, she checked me again and I was a nine, but with a lip still on my cervix. I was close to pushing and the nurse suggested that I try to bear down and see how it felt. I held on to the tray table and bore down and my water started gushing on the floor. It was pretty gross, but it felt good, so I kept doing it. They kept putting chucks pads down to collect the fluid. I got in the bed to try to push, but it really wasn’t my favorite part at all. I was so exhausted, and I didn’t realize you had to work so hard to push out a baby. I had read birth stories about how your body will instinctively push the baby out, but that just wasn’t happening in my case, maybe because of his (or my) positioning. Barbara really lit a fire under me and basically told me that I couldn’t keep doing those wimpy pushes, that we had to work to get this baby out. I needed that pressure, I guess, because I started working hard to get him out. It was stressful, honestly. Really hard work. Ian jokes that I had doing anything physically demanding, which is really true. When we ride bikes, I always wimp out and complain at the hills. In general, I don’t like to physically challenge myself. And birth is probably one of the most physically challenging things ever. My face was beet red and I was grunting, straining trying to get him out. They gave me an oxygen mask to help me and the baby and were encouraging me to take deep breaths for the baby. Ian was holding one of my legs up, while the nurse was holding my other leg up, and he was looking at me, panic-stricken it seemed, but telling me “It’s okay! You’re doing great! He’s almost here!” I wanted to believe him but he looked so scared and overwhelmed that I remember thinking to myself “Yeah, whatever.” I was pushing so hard that I was pooping, which was sort of embarrassing but they would just wipe it away, and plus when you’re in labor, you don’t really care about anything except getting the baby out. I pushed for about an hour and a half and soon they told me they could see his head. Ian confirmed. They asked me if I wanted to see, but I didn’t, I just wanted to keep pushing, so I did, and finally he was out.
Felix was born at 1:32pm on October 14th. He came out sunny side up (posterior, hence all of the back labor and pain) and they sucked out his airways and passed him right up to me, all slimy and even still covered in meconium. I snuggled him and got him to latch on while Barbara and the nurses delivered the placenta, which came without any trouble, and Ian cut the cord. He didn’t cry, just looked at me so sweetly. I was on such a high. I remember Barbara telling me that I had two small tears on my labia and she would have to stitch me up, that it might hurt a bit, but I didn’t feel anything. I was so relieved and grateful and kept thanking everyone. I felt so great in that moment. They took Felix over to get weighed and measured — he was 9 lbs 3 oz and 23 inches long — and Ian soothed him as he got this Vitamin K shot. Then they brought him back to me and Ian and I both took turns giving him skin to skin time until they brought us to our recovery room.
Felix was happy and healthy! The nurses helped me out a lot with different holds for our breast feeding relationship, and it has been great ever since. At two months, he is weighing in at 15.5 lbs already! Since he was posterior and during labor he was pressing on my sacrum, I had lots of tailbone pain for weeks afterwards, even buying special pillows to take the pressure off of that area when I was sitting.