First, two became one. And that was the day Milkman and I were married. We were going to wait a year before trying for a baby.
2 months into our marriage we decided to “leave it up to God and see what happens.” We were pregnant the next month. Just two weeks before our first wedding anniversary, we became a family of 3 when Captain was born.
We thought we would wait a year before trying again. And then when Captain was 8 months old, we got another positive pregnancy test. Our sweet Mamitas was born 41 weeks later, and we became a family of 4.
When Mamitas was 11 months old, we had another positive pregnancy test. We were so excited to be a family of 5! We cherished each moment we had, but at my 17 week appointment, our little baby love was no longer. I delivered Ezra’s sleeping body 4 days later, and we remained a family of 4.
4 months later, another positive test! Our rainbow baby was the greatest joy of our lives. Peachy was born that Fall, and then we were 5. We knew after such a difficult pregnancy and traumatic labor and delivery that biological babies would not be in our near future, but we had already completed our foster parenting requirements, so we trusted that our family would grow in time.
9 months later, we received a call for two sisters from our foster agency. Within 24 hours of getting a call, we were a family of 7. Three months later, they reunified, and for two weeks, we became a family of 5 yet again.
It was too quiet, so imagine our joy when we received a call for an “adoptable” 5 day old newborn baby boy. Sweet Warrior. He left us just under 3 months later to a non-family relative home. We were devastated.
And the calls stopped. We were just 5 again. For 6 months we sat by the phone, and no more children came. But then, a call. And we were 6, when little Chatito came to live with us. And 6 we have happily been, and 6 we shall remain for a little while longer. Then 5 again when he reuinifies, but not much longer after that…
And we will be a family of 6 yet again. Because the Lord has blessed us with the gift of pregnancy!
We are grateful to God for giving us another baby to love. Our hands are full, but our hearts are bursting. What a joy to have 4 children at my feet to love on while a 5th steadily grows in my womb! Join us in praying for a healthy pregnancy and a sweet, full of life baby in Summer 2018!
As we all piled for our morning cuddle on the couch the kids asked what the plan was for the day. I told them, “Don’t forget, you guys need to pack your backpacks with quiet activities, today is visitation.”
Captain, my oldest asked, “Is it the one where we go to the coffee shop?”
“No, that’s the other visit. Today is the one where you need to sit quietly in the car in the parking lot so your baby sister can sleep while the baby is visiting with his mom.”
Both my preschooler and kindergartener groaned. This is the least favorite day of the week. We eat an early lunch, every one goes potty, and we load up into the van and head to the other side of the county for our fosterling to visit his mother for an hour. Because of when it’s scheduled, my little ones end up stuck in the car for two and a half hours. I don’t like it either. Trying to keep my older kids quiet and occupied so that my youngest can get some sleep is stressful. On good days, she gets half of her normal length in nap. On bad days, it’s a 5 minute nap and a whole afternoon of meltdowns. It’s not easy on our foster baby either. Some how it always works out that he gets awoken to go to the visit or awoken once we get to the visit. Lots of interrupted sleep usually equals a very long day with lots of crying, nap fighting, and fussiness for him.
“Mom, we don’t like this visitation day! It’s boring!” I sighed as the day had just started and the complaining was already starting. Milkman looked at me sleepily from the corner of the couch where he spent the early morning after a very early wake up call from our foster baby. We trade off nights, so I actually got sleep last night, but I couldn’t say the same for my sweet husband.
As much as I wanted to reply, “Stop complaining, too bad!” I realized this was a teaching moment. “You know what guys? I don’t necessarily like this visitation day either. It’s stressful for me trying to ensure every one is quiet in the car. But… Well. Do you know why we do this? God says that we need to care for orphans and widows. Do you know what a widow is? It’s someone who has lost their spouse and has no one to care for them. Do you know what an orphan is?”
They looked at me blankly.
“An orphan is someone who either doesn’t have living parents, or their parents cannot currently safely care for them. The foster children we’ve had in and out of our home are considered orphans. So we actually have a really important job, because we are obeying God when we care for foster children. We don’t just do this because babies are cute— even though they are! We do this because we love them, and have a duty to obey God, and this is how our family has been called to obey. And one of the jobs of foster families is to make sure foster children get to see their parents.”
They nodded slowly. Well, the older kids did. My youngest, Peachy, was dancing around like a wild maniac to Celtic Christmas music. Never a dull moment.
Milkman chimed in, “Can you imagine if you only got to see mama and papa two hours a week?? You would miss us so much and we would miss you so much, right? The baby’s mommy wants to see her baby.”
I continued, “Exactly! And that’s one way we can serve his mommy, too. She loves her baby. So I know that visitation day is kinda lousy and boring for us. But it’s a sacrifice we make together as a family to obey God and to serve the baby and his mommy. Can you understand that?”
“Yes, mama.” They replied. I’m sure they didn’t feel super happy to go on with the plan for the day, but at least they now knew there was a valid reason behind their boring day ahead.
Sometimes teaching moments are hard to come by, and sometimes they fall perfectly in your lap, like it did for us today. My kiddos do sacrifice a lot for our family to continue fostering. While it’s not as much as Milkman and I have to, it’s a decent amount for very young children.
I hope they know, for as long or short as we have to foster, it’s not just something we do for the heck of it. It’s something that takes self sacrifice. It’s something that is hard to do. It’s something that takes giving up our schedules, preferences, and desires. It’s certainly not something we do for praise from others or accolades. But, most importantly it’s something that we do in love and obedience— together. As a family.
On a Tuesday afternoon last October we got the call. “Would you take a 5 day old baby boy?” 3 hours later we were pulling into the driveway with a tiny stranger, screaming both from withdrawal and hunger.
We jumped out of the van, unbuckled everyone, ran into the house and I yelled to Milkman, “Make him a bottle!” He looked at me completely confused.
“How? Do we use hot water? Cold water? How much do we scoop in? How much does he need?”
I was frustrated– not because of *his* lack of knowledge on the subject, but of our collective ignorance. As I fumbled with the pacifier and white noise, Milkman was googling and so was I. “Okay! Warm water, sanitized bottle, 2 ounces, so that’s one scoop!”
How is it that 2 adults who had been parents for 4.5 years to 3 children not know how to make a bottle and feed a baby?
As a nursing advocate, lactation hobbyist, and exclusive breastfeeder, I was (and am!) steeped in all things human milk related. I can help you latch a newborn, hook you up to a pump, make you lactation cookies, and assure you at 4am that that screaming gassy 3 week old you have is totally normal, and it’ll pass. (No pun intended…) but formula feeding? Totally new. We were lost.
So, we began to educate ourselves, learned proper handling, preparing, and best practices for formula feeding. I thought time and time again how much easier it would be if I could just give him breastmilk. I did some googling and found that while it was not common to get approval for human milk, it was in the realm of possibility.
Because of the baby’s particular set of health concerns, I presented the idea to his pediatrician. She agreed that human milk would be optimum for him. The next step was to get approval from the social workers, who surprisingly were also in support of the idea. The last (and most important) approval I needed to receive was from the baby’s mother. I was so nervous, it was my first time meeting her, and while all the social workers had told me his case would go to permanence and he would likely end up apart of our forever family (he didn’t by the way, because foster care!), I knew this was still her baby. I told her of his particular struggles and that the pediatrician had recommended human milk. Before I could even finish my question, the response she gave was, “Ew. No.” Of course I was disheartened. It was a long road to get him on the right formula, to help with his various health issues, but thankfully we were able to sort his problems out with Gerber Gentle formula.
I had been cautiously optimistic about being able to give human milk to our foster baby, but once I talked to other foster parents I began to realize how rare approval was. Since then I’ve been asked dozens of times in breastfeeding groups online, crunchy mom circles, and friends “since you have milk, can’t you just nurse your foster baby?”
So let’s break this down.
Biologically, can I nurse a foster baby while still nursing my bio child? Yes. Absolutely. I’ve spent almost half of my nursing journey tandem nursing– that is, nursing two babies (of different ages) at the same time. Milk production works based on demand. In general, the more you nurse, or the more children you nurse, the more milk you make. So biologically, it would be possible for me to nurse a foster child– or any other child for that matter.
Legally, could I nurse a foster baby? The short answer is no. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but the general rule is, this isn’t my baby, so I don’t have the authorization to feed this baby whatever I please. In my county, I can’t even switch formula brands without pediatrician approval. The other issue we fall into is the matter of that of physical boundaries. We live in a culture that has re-assigned the human breast to one task: sexual arousal. Of course, we know biologically that the primary purpose of the female breast is to provide nourishment to children, but nonetheless, offering your breast to a child who is not yours, and may have experienced sexual abuse is going to be a logistical nightmare.
So can you bottle feed pumped human milk to a foster baby? There will be times where a baby is struggling badly with withdrawal, is having serious digestive problems, or is premature, and a doctor will approve human milk, likely from a milk bank. If a biological mother were to refuse this recommendation and it was deemed to be medically necessary for the child to receive human milk, with proper documentation and approval, it could go to court for a judge to overrule the mother’s protest. Again, there could be a biological mother who says yes, and it’s approved that way. On the other hand, some mothers send their own milk with baby, which (if pumped safely and mom is sober and healthy) is a great option. However, the most common answer is going to be no. Of course, this is a hard pill to swallow for me as an advocate for human milk for human children, but it all comes back to this: these foster babies are not my children, so it is not my choice to do something I have been told not to.
Imagine if you were an exclusive breastfeeder and you found out that your child’s day care provider was feeding them formula every day. You’d probably be pretty floored, right? Well the same goes in this situation. I’m caring for this child, I make decisions to keep this child safe, fed, and loved, but generally it’s not in my jurisdiction to change their food source if I’ve been denied that request.
Do foster parents breastfeed or bottle feed human milk to their foster children? Yes. I’ve talked to many of them who have. Some in hushed tones, others with boldness. Many social workers will say “don’t ask, don’t tell”, some doctors will say the same, and some bio parents aren’t around to give approval or denial for the request. Most of these foster parents have the best interest of the child in mind, I’ve never met anyone doing it maliciously. Some counties care less than others and leave more decision making up to foster parent, so it’s not as big of a deal.
The important thing is that we feed babies using best practices. Clean hands, sanitized bottles, properly prepared, and portioned. So if you’re a crazy breastfeeder like me who ends up formula feeding, instead of being too crestfallen at your denial for human milk, do all you can to become educated on formula feeding so the baby has their best chance at a healthy start! And if you’re a formula feeder who has been told to feed human milk, do your research for best practices on handling human milk!
Disclaimer: I am not an expert on foster parenting, breastfeeding, or everyone’s experiences ever with feeding every foster child on the planet, these are merely my thoughts, experiences, and observations. If you’re unsure about human milk and your foster baby, contact your social worker!
To be a Foster parent does not take incredible strength, it does not take super powers, or special gifts. The right timing isn’t needed, nor is a perfect home. It does not require great wealth, a heart of gold, or above average patience.
What fostering takes is much simpler. It takes the ability to love someone who needs love, when you aren’t sure if that love will be reciprocated or how long that love will last. So, it basically takes what you need for any relationship, whether it be of a romantic, friendly, or parental nature, as my friend Jessica put it to me today, it’s being willing to risk a piece of your heart.
One thing I hear from a lot of people is, “Wow, you foster? I could never do that, I would get too attached.” It’s always such a strange statement to me, as nothing in life is ever certain. I suppose we could say the same thing when people get married: “you pledged your life to someone? Man, what if s/he dies and leaves you a young widow? I could never do that, I would get too attached.” And the same goes for friendships and biological children. Getting too attached isn’t really the problem of fostering, because as a foster parent you SHOULD get “too attached.”
If you loved everyone you love with a guard up to keep you from getting too attached, you would not know real love. Loving people is always a gamble. But it’s what we are made to do and called to do.
I some times wonder if people think you have to be a robot to be a foster parent. Foster parents aren’t people who have a special switch they can turn on and off that keeps them from getting too attached. By saying *you* couldn’t do it because *you* would get too attached, insinuates that I don’t get too attached.
I currently have a 3 week old baby sleeping on my chest. I feel his chest pushing into mine as he takes breaths. A little whistle in his nose squeaks as he does so. His head is soft, with the most delicate blonde fuzz, and has that newborn smell that causes oxytocin to flow whenever you breathe his scent in. Every now his little feet dig into my tummy to readjust himself, 10 itty bitty toes, delicious and sweet. When I move my face towards his, he opens his mouth like a baby bird for what I like to imagine are baby kisses (but actually are just lips in search of milk!) Some times when he’s asleep, he smiles and laughs– don’t tell me that’s gas, it’s a smile and every time we see it we ooh and ahh. When he cries at night, Milkman interrupts his sleep and leaps up to change his diapers and feed him his bottles. During the daytime we wear him hours each day close to our hearts so he can learn how to bond and form healthy attachments, we seldom put him down. I some times weep when I stare at him, completely overtaken with his innocence and beauty.
Do I sound like someone who isn’t too attached? Do we sound like people who can just take care of an innocent human life and then not shed a tear when we get the call that it’s time for him or her to leave us? Of course we are attached. We love our foster children.
I am not special. I am not more gifted than you. I do not produce some sort of magical half love reserved for fatherless children. I do not find goodbyes to be easy. What I am is willing. I am willing to have my heart broken for those who have broken lives. I am willing to get attached. I am willing to risk the pain of saying goodbye. I am willing to love.
Can you be willing to love too? It could mean the world to a child.
I’ve been hoping they would formulate a baby lotion since I first tried their baby body wash. I use the healing balm for really rough spots on my children’s skin, but I wanted something for daily after bath use. My dreams have come true! Tyler and Nikki from Era Organics reached out to me and asked if I would like to try their new baby lotion, and of course I obliged. Any chance I get to test some Era Organics products, and I’m jumping on that!
We’ve been using it on all 5 of the children after baths for a couple of weeks, and Milkman and I are loving it. Our younger foster child, Cheekies, has really sensitive skin. It’s been a long process to try and get her skin healed and soft. The HoneyBuns healing and diaper balms have helped on the super bad patches she had, but now that those are healed up, the HoneyBuns baby lotion is keeping her skin from being itchy and her sweet little pudgy arms and legs are deliciously soft.
I have been stealing a pump here and there after shaving my legs, and my skin is loving it, too! Oh and the fact that it’s a pump? What parent doesn’t love a pump cap body wash or lotion? One handed, easy peasy, done! And when you have 5 children to get ready for bed, you appreciate every little time saving feature you can get.
After 6 years of discussing it, 4 years of deciding to do it, 1 year of going through classes, background checks, paperwork, and fingerprints, Milkman and I got the call to become Foster parents. The last week and a half of my life has been so exhausting and such a learning process. It brings more emotions each day than I normally experience in a month.
Thankfully, we expected uncertainty, we expected to work through a lot of emotions, we expected to be exhausted having 5 children aged 4 and younger… But one thing I didn’t know I would feel is intense love and compassion for the mother of our Foster children.
There are so many horror stories of biological parents who get their children taken away and put into foster care. There are parents who truly don’t care about their kids, parents who abuse their kids, and parents who grossly neglect their children. Many of those stories are sad and real. These are the stories that made me want to become a foster mom as a teenager, so I could help remove a child from a scary situation.
However, in my VERY short time as a foster parent, I’ve come to the realization that some (hopefully many!) mothers whose children get placed in foster care are not so far gone that they are not in shambles at the thought of their precious babies being handed over to complete strangers. I don’t know the parents of our placements. I don’t know their ages, what they do for work, or what kind of struggles they are going through. What I do know of most parents whose children end up in foster care is that things got tough enough in their lives that someone needed to step in to help out while they get the right things into place.
I am not the hero. The parents of these children are not villains. We are not fighting some war on opposite sides of the battle field. We are, in fact, on the same team. We are on the same team as their children. We all want the same thing: for their children to be healthy, happy, and safe.
When I hold these sweet children close to my heart and sing them bed time songs, I think of how their mother must be wondering who is tucking her babies into bed. When I push one of these children on the swings and hear them giggle, I think of how their mother must miss that sound. When I look into their eyes, I wonder if they look like their mom or dad did as children, and think of how I’m staring at a piece of this mother I’ve never met.
How her heart must ache. How empty her arms must feel. How many tears must her eyes have shed…
When I put myself in her shoes, I imagine her desperation, fear, love, and yearning to feel complete again.
There may come a day when we have children in our care who have been in truly deplorable circumstances, and whose parents I struggle to love. But for now, I’m so glad that God is teaching me to practice empathy for these people I have never met.
I wish I could tell the mother of these children that her treasures are safe, and hug her when she cries. But for now, I’ll just keep holding these little ones close for safe keeping, until she’s ready to hold them safely again herself.
I love me a good bag. Once I had kids, I had to give up my giant purses that I loved so much, because carrying a diaper bag AND a big ol’ purse is just not practical. I had seen some designer diaper bags here and there, but I couldn’t believe the price tags on them. I really hate spending loads of money on something that is going to be hit with serious wear and tear and possibly WILL end up with some sort of bodily fluids on it.
When Captain was a baby and my only child, other moms would see me lugging my huge diaper bag around and say, “Oh, just wait til he’s older, you’ll go back to a purse and just carry one lone diaper and a few wipes in a baggy in it.” Four years later, and I’m still carrying a huge diaper bag with my entire world in it. Clearly these mothers didn’t know me before kids, when I would carry a purse large enough to cart multiple crochet projects, one-eighth of the historical fiction section of the library, a Costco-sized tub of Advil, and many tubes of red lipstick. I plan for disaster at all times. I ALWAYS carry an extra change of clothes for each of my 3 children, enough diapers to last us a couple of days, snacks, activities, and wipes galore. (You can never have too many wipes on hand!)
I came across this bright, playful bag from Cheeky Tummy and I thought, “It’s been too long since I had a cute bag. It’s time to carry something cute again!” and I am SO glad I did. This bag is not only adorable, it is HUGE inside. It holds everything I need to have with me without being stuffed to the zipper. Oh! And it comes with a matching changing mat! I feel so fancy whipping our my pretty little mat (its cushion-y, too you guys) to change a booty and folding it and fastening it to go back into its spot in my bag.
Another feature I love is that it is incredibly versatile. Prefer handle straps? It comes with those. Like a shoulder strap instead? Oh, yeah, comes with that, too. What about a bag that attaches to your stroller? Um, yeah! Also included. (PSA: never put an overloaded bag onto the back of your stroller handle without a firm grip on your stroller, we don’t want any babies tipping backwards!) I threw this on the back of my Uppababy Vista, and it looked super purdy. I’m telling you, I feel fancy.
Here’s the deal, it is a great bag all around while still being affordable. After talking with Diana at Cheeky Tummy, I was able to really see the heart behind her company. As a new mom she felt overwhelmed by the amount of bags and price points on the market, and out of that frustration Cheeky Tummy was born. I liked her bag so well, that I asked Diana if we could give one of these gorgeous orange and white chevron bags to one of my lucky readers and she agreed! So, head over to She Rocks the Cradle on Facebook, and enter the giveaway!
Want one of your own right now? Head to Cheeky Tummy’s store and grab a bag for yourself. If you use the code CRADLE10, you get 10% off your first order!
It all started on a Friday night in July and we were going to get drinks and listen to Brazilian jazz downtown, and I had a strange feeling that I should stick to the jazz and not the drinks. I came out of the bathroom and into the living room in the converted garage where we were living, and I said “it’s probably a false positive.”
And in that moment, your face displayed a joy I had never seen before. I just remember you saying “Babe! Babe! Babe!” and kissing me. I refused to let myself get excited because I was scared of the unknown. After googling “false positive pregnancy tests” I took another and it was also positive. You held me and you said “I’m going to be a daddy.” And that night I got a virgin Mai Tai.
And when Captain was born 9 months later, he was placed in your arms all swaddled, and I watched you from my bed while I cramped and bled and was sore, and nothing was more satisfying than seeing the man I loved the most hold the physical proof of our love– our son.
And 8 months later, I was tired and decided to take a shower after a nursing marathon with Captain, and before I got in the shower, I looked at the test on the counter to see 2 lines. I came bursting down the hall in piles of tears, so scared to be pregnant and nurse a baby, and you held me and told me it was going to be okay, and you once again had that look of joy in your eyes, though slightly dimmed by 8 months worth of sleep deprivation. I didn’t know you were scared about money in that moment, because you never let it show, you just held me and kissed me and said “We are going to have another baby!”
And when she was born after 57 months of pregnancy (okay, it felt like that) you stood over Mamitas’s screaming, pink body and she let out the most ghastly shriek I had ever heard, and you said your baby girl was perfect and beautiful.
And then 10 months later, Captain announced mommy had a baby in her tummy, and you gave me a look of astonishment and once again I saw that light in your eyes I had seen twice before, and you were so excited, you even ate the oatmeal I made for breakfast that day.
When I delivered his sleeping body at 17 weeks, it was just you and me in the room, and you cried with me. I sang “Stay Awake” to Ezra, and he couldn’t hear me, but you did, and you sang me and our still child praise songs and held his tiny body in a green blanket I made just hours earlier.
4 months later, I asked you to get my glasses off the bathroom counter on a weekday morning before work, and after you saw the test on the counter, you came back to me in the living room with tears in your eyes, and you held me and we cried, and I didn’t see your eyes because mine were too clouded from crying, but I felt that light and warmth and joy radiate through my body from yours, because we were going to have our rainbow baby.
And when we met Peach, after a very awful 48 hours of little sleep, and frustration, you cried at the sight of our baby girl– the first birth you cried at.
Late nights, and middle of the nights, and early mornings, you are present. When Captain cuddles up close in the dark of the night and I hear you kiss the top of his head, when you wash Mamitas’s hair in the bathtub and assure her you wont let the shampoo get in her eyes, when you take Peachy from me because I’m tired and put her in your Ergo and sing to her. When I get into bed and begin whimpering, missing our Ezra Eugene, and you hum “10,000 Reasons” in my ear and whisper that you miss him too.
Your children love you. There is some sort of magic in your relationship with each of them. Captain wants to be just like you, Mamitas wants to have your attention every second, and Peach? Well, she wishes she was glued to you 24/7 because you are her favorite person.
I hear so many say that women become mothers the second they see those 2 pink lines, and fathers have to grow into their role as a dad after the baby has born. You were different. I have grown into motherhood, but you were made out of the fabric from which the finest fathers are constructed.
And now that I think of it, it didn’t all start on a Friday night in early July, it started in a church parking lot in April, 14 months earler. We were both nursing confused and broken hearts and we sat on the curb in the middle of the lot and cars began heading home that Sunday night. We talked about our faith, and we talked about how we were raised. We talked about goals in life and morals and values. And we talked about children. And I had never seen a man my age so passionate about the idea of getting married and having babies and raising a family. And though in that moment I didn’t know for certain what would become of our friendship, a little light flickered in my mind’s eye– a little hope, that maybe those babies you seemed so excited to have one day, could be my babies, too.
When you don’t sleep for 4 years and you spend most of your life covered in some sort of bodily fluid from a child, the time that passes seems to grow into centuries. But here we are, babies, kids, family, and so much love.
And when you walk in the door every day after a long day of work, and you drop your work bag on the floor and your children see you, I see the same light in their eyes that I saw in your eyes each time you found out they existed– and that makes all the craziness worth it.
I love you, Milkman. Our babies do, too! Happy Father’s Day.
I really recommend avoiding non-positive birth stories when you are pregnant. I hate setting people up for fear. If a non-positive birth story will trigger you or cause you to fear birth, please pass on this for now, and instead go pay Birth Without Fear a visit.
I have been avoiding writing this and posting it for several reasons. One of those reasons has to do with my own trauma surrounding Peach’s birth, I’m actually nervous about re-living it right now to write it. The other is because the community in which I live has a very tight knit birthing, baby wearing, and breastfeeding circle. I am thankful for these wonderful women, but many of them have had such different experiences from my own using the same care providers, and I am anxious to post this for fear of extradition from these circles because of their loyalty to the care providers I chose.
If you know me, or have read much of my blog, you know this to be true: pregnancy is unkind to me, labor is an enemy most cruel. In spite of this I am obsessed with babies, and just this week told Milkman how much I miss the feeling of contractions. I have real issues.
After losing Ezra, Milkman and I were elated to be pregnant. The anticipation of our rainbow baby kept my head above water through the insane amount of appointments I had, doctors I visited, specialists I tried out. It kept me hoping when the pregnancy threw my body in a blender and spit me out, leaving me to hobble with a cane, til I resorted to a walker, and right up until I succumbed to a wheelchair. Though pregnancy and its disabling effects on me were unescapable, I was determined to have a better birth experience. I had difficult back labors with Captain and Mamitas. Captains labor clocking in at 34 hours and Mamitas at 24. I just can’t seem to progress past 5cms and I stay there for hours and hours til my body goes into crazy person exhaustion mode. Its at that point where I will go for an epidural– only to have them fail. Every. Time. This time, I had decided would be different.
We saved and planned so that I could have a birth center birth this time around, wondering if a different environment would help me to progress better. I also had some trauma surrounding delivering at the hospital where I delivered Captain and Mamitas… Because the last baby I delivered there was dead. My sweet Ezra.
We were planning on going with who seemed to be the most respected midwife in the county. I will refer to her as HMF for Head MidWife. Turned out we couldn’t afford her. She recommended a doula that worked with her. We met with the doula and she informed us she was training to be a midwife (Lets call her DMF for Doula MidWife) and could offer us half off at the birth center as our midwife, with HMF watching over the birth as well. The price was right. In fact it was JUST right. The exact monetary amount we had set aside for a birth center birth.
Pregnancy progressed, I had some moderate risks due to losing Ezra, my MTHFR, my SPD, and so I saw my medical midwife (I’m gonna give a huge shout out to Margaret “Peggy” Colby at Kaiser!!!! She is one of my favorite care providers ever), an OB, a Perinatologist, and DMW/HMW during my pregnancy. (This does not count the chiropractors, acupuncturist, physical medicine doc, and physical therapist I also saw during my pregnancy! Can you say APPOINTMENTS??). Milkman had finally agreed to let the baby’s sex be a surprise after refusing my request for my other kiddos. I was elated, and this made my pregnancy and its pain seem all the more tolerable. Everything was seeming awesome, apart from the pain til my 36 week appointment. My perinatologist, who was very sweet by the way, knew that gender was supposed to be a surprise. HMW and DMW told me I needed to ask the medical side of things for baby’s measurements. As it is, I was uncomfortable with even knowing percentiles because of how off they can be. But as they were insistent I went to the medical Midwife, Peggy, to ask to see what the perinatologist had recorded for baby’s stats. As we scrolled past her notes, she listed the baby’s gender in the chart. I held it together in the office but when I got to my car I cried. Hysterically. And continued to for the remainder of the day. I knew this didn’t change anything, I was still having a baby, I was still excited, I didn’t really care what was between my baby’s legs, but I was so disappointed for the surprise to be ruined. We decided not to tell anyone else that we knew, but it was incredibly difficult to have gone that long without knowing only to have it ruined. This was my first downer leading up to my birth.
Once I was full term, I was aching to get my little baby born. I am a huge believer in trusting your body to birth when it’s ready. However, when you can’t get yourself out of bed in the morning without help, and need a walker or wheelchair to get around because of the pain you are dealing with from the baby, it’s hard to wait.
The week before I was due, I checked in with DMW who informed me that she had attended many, many births in a row. Most midwives and doulas have a cap for how many patients they care for in a period of time, but because she was working as both, she essentially had double the case load. I told her I was having contractions and after telling me that the babies had tried to kill her (just too many births in too few days) that we should have “none of that”. After trusting her and liking her during my prenatal care, I all of the sudden felt very nervous. Why would she say that? Was I an inconvenience? Would she collapse from exhaustion at my labor? Would she be able to hold up her end of the bargain? I had one of my weird atypical migraines I get with pregnancy the next day. It acts like a stroke, and I lose the ability to move and feeling in half my body, as well as my vision, hearing in one side and I cannot speak clearly. I checked in with her and once again she seemed hesitant about my ability to birth at a birthing center, even though the OB on call at the hospital spoke with her and gave her the OK.
This should have been my sign to back out, but I felt like we had already paid too much money and I was afraid of disappointing people (my own made up fear) by not going through with it, so I shut up that voice in the back of my head and continued on.
(Here is the log of what I wrote in real time during my labor).
October 4th, was here. My EDD. Sunday morning. I woke up to a big contraction at 8:20am. Captain and Mamitas ran into the room to tell me daddy had made apple crisp for breakfast and to get out of bed. I sat up and felt a small gush. I went to the bathroom and saw I had some show, and put a pad on. We went to church, and I brought a chux pad to sit on in case of membrane rupture in church. I had a feeling this was the day I would go into labor.
I got home and had a surge of energy and stamina. I scrubbed the bathroom. Nothing worse than laboring in a dirty bathroom. I even took the shower drain apart and bleached it! I wanted this labor to be perfect.
I had Milkman take a full body picture of my, thinking this would be my last day pregnant. I sent him to the store for gatorade and ice. I sat down on the couch to watch Call the Midwife, and and eat a snack and I felt another small gush. at 2:15, a HUGE gush. There went my waters! I hobbled to the bathroom to get cleaned up and texted Milkman to let him know. I had never had my membranes rupture spontaneously and never before labor. No contractions. I got nervous for a little bit, but I decided to remain positive. I got on the ball and was hula moving back and forth in hopes to make something happen. When Mamitas woke up from her nap, I asked if she wanted to nurse, hoping that might get things moving, her response was, “I want to nurse FOREVER mama!” And so we nursed for what seemed like forever.
I kept in touch with DMW via text and Milkman installed the carseat while the babies and I paced the backyard and then came in to make some chocolate chip cookies! It started to rain. Odd for October in California.
We fed the kiddos dinner and cuddled a lot. My mom came to get the kids in case I went into labor. (I wish I hadn’t done this. It caused a huge upset in my mood, I missed them so badly I couldn’t keep it together emotionally).
Milkman took me out to dinner and we came home to get some sleep. STILL no regular contractions. DMW told me that contractions would likely pick up in the night. But they didn’t. They stayed erratic.
Monday morning I woke up and cried. Where were my contractions? Why did I let my babies go last night when I needed them close? DMW told us to meet her and HMW at the birth center to test to make sure it was amniotic fluid I was leaking and to talk about a course of action. The test was positive for amniotic fluid. They sent Milkman to the store for sprite and castor oil, and set me up with an IV of antibiotics. Unfortunately, DMW couldn’t get a good vein anywhere except antecubital, and that’s a crappy place for an IV. The antibiotics burned, as she had the drip too high. HMW seemed peeved with DMW and I felt even more nervous about birthing with this team, but I was determined to take it back to a positive. The castor oil began working its effects. I threw up most of my pregnancy and had nausea throughout. Nothing like how awful castor oil makes you feel. I would ask for pitocin a hundredfold over castor oil if I were to do it over. It was awful. HMW told us to go walk, but I was terrified to get too far from a restroom. We attempted to walk the mall, and my memories of walking the mall are like a cloudy nightmare. Intense nausea, intense contractions, aching back, aching and tired body. We went back to the birth center.
Contractions stayed steady, but I wasn’t progressing. At one point I was crying for my babies and DMW came in and said in a strangely unfamiliar tone “You need to get that out of your system, crying like this is going to stall your labor. Stop focussing on your older two children and focus on getting this one out of you.” At this point I was shattered. Had I been allowed to display my emotions, I would have felt better about progressing, but because I had been shut up, my walls came up, and I felt like I had made the wrong choice to birth with this woman. Even still, I refused to vocalize these feelings to Milkman or to myself, because I wanted to remain positive. I dried my tears and tried to lay aside my mistrust for my care providers. Hours passed. Contractions became erratic. I walked as much as my aching, hobbling body would let me, willing my body to progress. Reciting scripture, praying, singing hymns.
I was checked so many times. I was under the impression that you should not be checked often with ruptured membranes for fear of introducing bacteria. Every time I hesitated at a check I felt like I had to.
After a very long time, I asked why I wasn’t allowed to go into the birthing tub to labor since my back labor had kicked in. With hesitation I was allowed to labor in the water (this was the number one reason I picked this birth center, so I could labor in the bath). The water was warming and comforting, but I could hear HMW and DMW talking about me in the other room in hushed tones, and I couldn’t block it out. I felt so awful. They were tired and not offering the support I had hoped for. At 2am I told Milkman I was scared. HMW came in and said very forcefully during a back contraction “If you are scared you should not birth here, you should transfer.” I wanted to scream. I was scared because I was scared of having to transfer and lose out on alllllll the money we paid out.
At this point I faced the women who were supposed to be supporting and comforting me and asked for them to be realistic with me. I had been ruptured a long time. 36 hours. I was stuck at 5cms and had been for a very long time. How realistic was it that I would deliver at the birth center? HMW was honest with me at this point (for which I was very grateful). She told me that likely I needed pitocin to progress as well as a pain reliever so I could sleep. I had been awake too long, my body was too tired. It was time to transfer. They checked me for the umpteenth time. Still a 5.
We got to the hospital just a block down the street. DMW said she would meet us there, and though I didn’t want her to, she had agreed to taking the role of a doula in the event of a transfer and I needed someone to help Milkman help me through contractions. She got there and her demeanor seemed one of someone who is apathetic. The nurses insisted I have yet ANOTHER check. I refused. I was told I would not be given pitocin or meds until I was checked. I looked at my DMW hoping for some support, she gave me a “Well, what are you gonna do?” look and began scrolling through her phone. I wanted to scream “HELP ME.” but I was too busy breathing through contractions. I finally agreed to a check. Epidural was placed. Epidural failed. Second was placed. Second failed. Pitocin was kicking my uterus into high gear and there was no relief. Though the epidural was placed, it was leaking into another part of my back, so no pain relief was brought but it was still being pumped into my body. I have very low blood pressure normally, so at one point the nurses came in and told me I needed ephedrine for low blood pressure. Through a contraction I tried to inform them that my BP is always low. I looked at DMW for her to speak up and let them know that my whole pregnancy she would joke with me about this very fact. I said “No… ephedrine. Please. Its… normal. Low blood pressure. NO. NO. NO!!!!” and it was shot into my IV. Here I was. I was becoming one of those stories where the interventions keep piling on top of the other. I looked at my DMW and she gave me a look again, unsympathetic and went back to her phone. Hot tears seared my cheeks. I was so angry. I told DMW she was free to leave. She kept refusing to. I asked her to get food or go take a break, and though she seemed like she would rather be getting a root canal than stay with me, she kept saying, “No, it’s okay, I’ll stay.”
Finally another anesthesiologist decided to give the epi a try. He told me my scoliosis curved right where the epi was supposed to fit, so he eyeballed it to the right and got it in. It offered temporary relief and I was able to sleep for a while. Milkman passed out, DMW passed out at my feet. I woke up once the epi stopped working to breathe through my contractions. I stared at sleeping DMW with tears in my eyes. I wanted her gone so badly, but I didn’t want to be rude. I could slap myself now for caring about that in the moment.
I woke her and Milkman up to help me through contractions. Milkman went to the restroom at one point and I looked up at DMW during a very hard contraction and reached my hand out to hers for her to hold mine. I swear to you, the look that returned to me scared me. It was almost sinister? She refused to hold my hand and stared at me with a grimace on her face while I went limp and breathed. This happened several other times. Once again I told her she could leave, once again she refused. I still don’t know why she stayed other than maybe she wouldn’t have gotten paid if she left?
After a few rude nurses, it was time, I was a 10. New doctor on call came in and I told her due to my SPD I could not push on my back and would need to be on my side. The doctor said she hadn’t delivered with a mother on her side, I said that was nice, and I would be her first. If DMW would not advocate for me, I would advocate for myself. DMW offered to take pictures, I got in place. 3 contractions, Peach was born. Relief. Tears. She was here.
I looked at her warm wriggly body and I cried out “She’s alive! This one breathes. She’s not still like Ezra was. This is my baby and SHE IS ALIVE. Thank you, Lord, she’s perfect!” I cried for a long time. It was quiet in the room, and the air felt thick and awkward, but the only thing I cared about in that moment was gratitude for this gorgeous little creature I held in my arms.
After a while the room cleared out and DMW finally announced she would be leaving and a great wave of relief washed over me. She assured me she would send the photos and when the door shut and it was just Milkman, Peach, and I, I breathed easy for the first time in 48 hours. Peach latched on and looked up at me with one eye open, and I marveled at her perfect skin and face.
Once we got into our recovery room in postpartum, my mom brought Captain and Mamitas to come meet their little sister. It was so wonderful to have my little family all together, if only for a short period of time. Captain was feeling homesick and it made it hard for me to say goodbye when they left.
That night, I sat in the hospital bed, nursing the baby and eating dinner and I looked over at Milkman and asked, “What did you think about DMW?” He pursed his lips and (wisely) asked me, “What did YOU think about her? Did you find her helpful?” I started crying. I told him how unsupported I felt, how I felt like a burden to her. How I didn’t want to talk with her or have anything to do with her. How she made labor that much harder. How when I reached out for her she ignored me. He nodded his head as I talked and came over to hold my hand. I asked him again and he said he felt very much the same as I did but didn’t want to bring it up in case I hadn’t caught on to it because he didn’t want to put a damper on the experience. I wept and he held Peach and I while I shook with angry tears. He agreed that any contact with the birth center and either of its Midwives would go through him, so I wouldn’t have to deal with it.
We picked up my placenta from her a couple days after delivering, all the correspondence though Milkman still. She never did send my birth photos. I wept much in the weeks following my birth. None surrounding my baby, or the usual baby blues, all in relation to my awful birth experience and the care I was promised and paid for but was not given.
6 weeks later we finally heard from HMW and she asked why she hadn’t heard from us to schedule my follow-up appointments. We hadn’t been contacted til that point. Milkman was a saint and explained that I was dealing with birth trauma and I couldn’t bear to go to the birth center. Right after he sent that we heard from DMW for the first time in those 6 weeks saying she was concerned she hadn’t heard from us. It felt awful, all over again. Like it was my fault she hadn’t done her follow-up. And it confirmed all the more that she didn’t care enough to contact us sooner. Milkman went to the birth center to pick up my records and asked if someone would please send the pictures from my birth.
A while later we received an email with the photos, all thumbnail sized and poor quality. I asked for her to re-send them at a higher quality, as these were the only pictures I had of the birth, and were intimate and meaningful to me. She never replied and I haven’t heard from her since.
Since all this happened, I attended a birth trauma session at MommyCon and spoke with the ladies at Integrated Birth. At the end of the session where they offered advice for avoiding birth trauma (like hiring a doula, birthing at a birth center, using people who came highly recommended, etc). I began crying very hard (thankful my sister was there with me to hold my hand and cry with me). There was a Q&A time so I asked “What happens if you did all those things, you did everything right, all your research, picked the best people, and it still went horribly?” I was told that most likely DMW had taken off more than she could chew and was in birth burnout mode, and most likely shouldn’t have taken me on as a client. I was told that I was supported and to not be afraid to write my story, whether or not I ever shared it with anyone. The compassion I received from the fellow attendees and from the presenter and the Integrated birth team was AMAZING and empowering. We all cried together. At once point Laney from the Mommycon team came over to me and hugged me and she said she understood how I was feeling. For the first time I felt like people other than my sister and my husband understood me, and actually cared. That my concerns were valid and real.
I still occasionally break down thinking about Peach’s birth because it brings up a lot of angry and hurt feelings, but I am on the road to emotional recovery, thanks MOSTLY to Milkman and his love and patience and understanding. He’s heard me hash it out so many times, cry over it so many times, and never once has he dismissed those feelings. Peach is the happiest baby I have had and this has also helped tremendously. Had she been as high needs as her big brother and sister, the physical and emotional healing would undoubtedly have taken much longer. Every smile reminds me just how worth all the pain really was. She is magic.
If you’ve made it thus far, you are dedicated! Thanks for reading. If you are dealing with birth trauma and want someone to talk to, feel free to reach out and contact me, I’m here to support you!