A Mother's Instinct

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Unplanned | Unassisted | Undeniably Remarkable

We've all had moments and events in life - some big and some not as significant - where you just reacted. There was no time to think about it. You just did it! Where your natural instinct kicks in and it feels like you are tapped into some body-brain auto-mode. Maybe it's catching your kid from diving off your sofa or a parent's intuition that your baby is sick in the night, you will have moments as a parent that you just can't explain or you can't believe how you were able to do it and get through. What if you had one of those moments while welcoming your child into the world? That is exactly what happened to one Pittsburgh mom on a calm November evening.

A few years back this family was preparing to welcome their first child when they learned that she was breach. Mom tried her best to turn their little girl, but in the end baby was snug tight inside - head-up. Mother was given permission to allow labor to occur naturally on its own and would have a cesarean birth upon arrival at the hospital. Her first labor happened quickly being only a first-time mom. When she arrived at the hospital they were in shock that she reached 8+ cm dilated before wheeling her in for surgery. She was an ideal candidate for a VBAC and that is exactly what she choose to do when she and her husband found out they were expecting their second child. 

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Mother was an ideal client for me as well. She was determined to educate herselfknew her options,  and was confident in her choices for her body and her family. She did everything right and was very proactive in her care. Baby number 2 was head down and we were gearing up for a beautiful VBAC birth. I remember going over her birth plan with her in our prenatal appointments. She had a bullet-point in there where if the circumstances allowed it, she would love to reach down and help pull her baby up herself. Of course as a doula and birth photographer I thought it was super cool, hardcore, and hoped that something like that could happen for her! Father was always so sweet and was just game for anything. He knew how important a VBAC was to his wife. 

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My mother texted me early in the morning informing me she had been up some in the night with contractions that were 15-20 minutes apart and manageable. I talked with her about the game plan for the day and told her I'd be on alert and we'd see if anything came of it. She never really felt like she had experienced prelabor before so it was all quite new for her. Her contractions were slow and steady but always there and moving forward. They got up to 10-12 minutes apart sometime in the early afternoon. I talked with her about the game plan as we were going to be heading into the evening and most likely into the night. She called me a few hours after that telling me they had gotten up to 7-8 minutes apart and asked me if I felt labor might be picking up and if they should consider sending their daughter away soon. I told her that it was definitely a good idea to start sending their oldest off and that I felt that her labor would only progress from here - not peter out. She informed me that her husband had taken their little girl on a ride and they were going to start the process of preparing for labor. I told her while she was alone that she should set up her birth environment, take it easy, and get in a good place mentally to prepare for the task at hand.

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It was about 30 minutes later mother called me. She was breathing very heavy on the phone and wasn't talking. I knew whatever was happening it was DEFINITELY time for me to get going to mom. She then yelled out that her water just broke and that it was incredibly intense. She was completely overwhelmed. She then told me that her husband was not yet back and that she couldn't get a hold of him! I told her, "I'm coming right now. You know I live literally 5 minutes away. Try and stay calm - I'm coming." The phone disconnected on her end and I grabbed my bags and ran out the door. I do miraculously live 5 minutes away. When I entered the parking lot there was a guy standing outside smoking who definitely yelled, "SLOW DOWN" as I drove past and threw my car into park. If only he knew! I buzzed every door in the complex to get into the front entrance. Three young college-age girls came down surprisingly fast. They had a look of worry on their face. It was apparent they knew something was going down. I thought the most likely scenario would be that I would go up to her apartment, get her downstairs, in my car, and I would personally have to take her to the hospital. There would be no time for anyone else to arrive in time - ambulance, cab, father, or whoever else - but we would surely have enough time to make the 15 minute ride.

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When I ran up the stairs to their door a completely different scenario played out. One that I'm pretty sure will stay with me forever! I heard her moaning and yelling through the door so I tried to let myself in. THE DOOR WAS LOCKED! I knocked on the door and said, "I'm here! I need you to open the door; it's locked. Can you get to the door?" She let out a huge yell and then proclaimed, "THE BABY'S HEAD IS COMING OUT!" I turned to one of the young girls and said it was time to call for an ambulance. I said through the door, "You've got this! You're going to be okay. I can't get in." And then there it was - The baby's first cry! I heard her yell out with joy, "You're here, you're here, you're here!" I told her she was amazing and asked if she was okay. I then told her it was very important to open the door when she could. Mother then unlocked and opened the door - beautiful pink wiggly baby in her arms with the thick blue cord strung down her belly.

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I helped her lay back down on the floor and I checked her and baby over the best I could as a doula - whereas I have no medical training - I saw no red flags and in fact mother and baby looked wonderful after what they had just gone through. I informed her that the ambulance was on its way and kept telling her how proud I was of her. I got a hold of husband and informed him of what happened and he made his way back home. There was a beautiful peace as we waited in the dim-lit living room for the paramedics to arrive.

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When the the medical team arrived I was so impressed with them. Having heard stories and even having a friend deliver unplanned at home, I was nervous how much chaos would occur from their arrival. They were incredibly calm, nice, and understanding of the situation. They handled mother with care and compassion. Father made it back a little after the paramedics arrived. He had their sweet firstborn daughter in his arms, who had fallen asleep waiting for her baby brother.

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Family was transferred to Magee Women's Hospital and checked over. All was well! This birth was incredible to be a part of. My hope is that as this mother shares her story it empowers others to know how strong a woman can be. I hope it inspires VBAC families that there are plenty of success stories and that they can do it like this mother did.