Penny's Birth Story (*post birth transfer)
Updated: May 1, 2020
Trigger warning - hemorrhage/traumatic after birth I said from the beginning I wanted to be transparent about homebirth, and I think it's even more important now to share with homebirth gaining in popularity due to COVID-19, but also because things did not go as perfectly as they did for us last time. -I woke up from a contraction at 3:24am, and puttered around cleaning up for about an hour making sure it was "real" labor, because I'd been having prodromal labor for about a week. I texted my midwife to let her know labor was starting and also downloaded an app to track my contractions - they were 4 minutes apart and about 45 seconds each and definitely gaining in intensity. -Justin woke up and came downstairs a little after 5am carrying his work clothes, at which point I laughed and told him he wasn't going to work that day. He blew up and filled the pool around 6am, and Brynn woke up around 6:30. He and she watched Bolt while I coped through contractions, each time Brynn asking me, "You kay Mommy?"
-I told my midwife to head over and she got here a little after 8am, walking in to me in the pool already, actually exactly like I was for Brynn's birth. We joked and talked between contractions and she told the other midwife and our photographer to make their way over, both of them arriving around 9am.
-I really wasn't set on having a water birth, and in fact, I loved the feeling of both of my feet on the ground when I had Brynn, but the water helped sooooo much with my back labor that I couldn't bring myself to get out. It was incredible being able to focus and be completely in control and be aware of everything that was happening with my body and my baby - being able to tell exactly where she was and how close her head was by her movements and also by the crease under my belly. My midwife encouraged me to feel inside to see if I could feel her head, and I held her head in my palm the entire time she crowned.
-Penny was born into my hands at 10:42am, although she did need some help with her shoulders (I'm 2/2 for sideways babies🤦), and it seemed like a lifetime before I actually pulled her from the water! I remember asking if she was okay hanging out in the water before the contraction pushing her body out, and seeing her face as it broke the surface, all squishy and wrinkly and covered in vernix and her letting out a scream almost instantaneously. That was a huge relief for me because Brynn took a while to breathe and I realized at that moment that I was worried Penny would need help too. -She was absolutely perfect, scoring a 9/10 immediately, and she looked SO different than anything we expected! Big sis reached her arms out and asked to hold her the second Penny broke the water, making us all laugh with relief and joy and love.
-My placenta needed some help coming out too as it was massive, but also crooked coming out, and the contraction to get it out was extremely weak. I climbed out of the tub holding onto my new baby and walked over and laid on the couch (my "landing pad" lol!) and my midwife did all the regular checks, also drawing blood from the cord to check Penny's blood type.
-About 25 minutes after her birth, I started losing clots and blood, and the midwives gave me Cotton Root - again exactly like Brynn's birth, so we all expected that to be enough. 4 minutes later I was still losing more than average, and they gave me a shot of Pitocin to get my uterus contracting. 3 minutes later I was not bleeding and my midwife massaged my uterus, which felt totally perfect at that point, but a lot more blood gushed out, so they gave me all the Misoprostol we had. A few minutes after that, I consented to my midwife checking inside me to see if there was any placenta being retained even though she'd already checked my placenta and it was full although slightly torn. She manually removed a sizeable clot and more blood followed, prompting another shot of Pitocin. 3 minutes later and more of the same, so they gave me a shot of Methergine. My midwife asked to check internally again, which I consented to, and she checked for uterine prolapse and also noted more clots. Everything seemed to be working by then, although I became extremely cold and started having horrible back contractions from the medicine, to the point that I asked if we were sure there wasn't another baby about to be born!
-An hour and a half passed, and in that time they estimated that I'd lost ~1600mL of blood, and we discussed my needing to take it extra easy and focus on nutrition and continuation of my iron supplement to have an optimal recovery. They suggested I try getting up and to the bathroom, of course extremely slowly since I'd lost so much blood. -I don't remember all of what happened next, but I do remember trying to sit up and my vision going blurry and not being able to hear anything all of a sudden, and coming to to the smell of peppermint. We waited to try again, this time only getting up on my arm, and needing to lay down again even from there. One of my midwives suggested leaning against her at increments, which we tried, and I vomited into a nearby mixing bowl, which caused a huge rush of blood as well. They laid me back down and I vaguely remember discussing the need to go to the hospital at the very least for fluids, and who I wanted to go with me, and the need to be able to get to the car or else having to call an ambulance, and my pulse being higher every time it was checked.
-Justin cut Penny's cord at 3 hours post birth, and the ambulance arrived at 2:15pm. I watched as the EMTs stomped in in their boots, noting the sunlight coming in the front door, but also feeling a moment of panic over their boots on my carpet during COVID and having the obviously irrational thought of needing to vacuum.
-Anthony, Lance, and Jacob transferred me, giving me a bag of saline during the ride to the hospital and keeping me talking at increments, being extremely friendly and positive. Justin drove behind, although he told me that at some point he passed them up and flew to make sure he'd get there before them, because he was told it would be nearly impossible to get to me if we went in without him with all the extra precautions the hospital was taking.
-I ended up needing two bags of saline, plus a ton of manual clot removal (the WORST part of the transfer), and after passing out again trying to sit up, the doctor gave me the choice for a blood transfusion as well, which I agreed to in order to get back to our children as quickly as possible.
- Overall I feel fine emotionally about the transfer, although I suspect the guilt over leaving my hours old infant her first day of life will always be there to a certain extent, however, birth nerd that I am, it was incredible to me to see first-hand how seamless the transfer was. Everyone did their absolute best work for their individual parts of our story, and the whole experience also confirmed what I've always known - that home birth is a safe alternative for low-risk mothers for several reasons, but two being that cases like mine very rarely happen (I was the first maternal ambulance transfer for my midwife in well over a decade) and even with the transfer, they obviously knew when to make the call for extra help, and that help came quickly and efficiently.
- The memory of being in the hospital will also always be sacred to me for the time between myself and my husband. We spent the first couple hours coming up with a name for our daughter now that we had seen her. We both individually came up with the same name, but I didn't actually want to name her it, so we looked up similar ones and when we heard the name Penelope and added it to Justin's family name Gray, it was perfect. It wasn't until later that our midwife and our photographer pointed out that she was born to the Beatles playing on our Alexa - a very happy coincidence, as I adore the Beatles! We talked everything over, we joked, we shared snacks that our amazing nurse snuck in for us, we watched Harry Potter on the hospital tv. There was an overwhelming feeling of relief that our children were perfectly safe where they were, I was okay, we were together, and everything was over and we had getting home to our new baby bubble to look forward to.