Birth Story

Birth of Isla Jaymes Harris

September 1, 2008 - 11:29am    7# 13oz

My birth story actually started about 7 years before the birth of my daughter, Isla. I had reproductive problems that started with puberty. I had turned 18, and when I still hadn’t started my period the doctors put me on hormones to get it started in the form of the birth control shot, DepoProvera. It is birth control in the form of a shot that a doctor gives you once every 3 months. I was on this birth control for about 3 years, until I got pregnant on the shot. Since I didn’t know I was pregnant, I ended up getting a second shot during my pregnancy, and didn’t even figure out that I was pregnant until I was over 12 weeks pregnant since on the Depo shot it isn’t uncommon to miss your period for months at a time. I lost that baby at 17 weeks, I assumed because of the birth control I had been given because of the pregnancy, but it’s hard to tell. I was in a monogamous relationship and decided to try different forms of birth control, and got pregnant one more time with an unplanned pregnancy before I met my husband, and again lost the baby.
 
I met my husband when I was 21, and our first pregnancy was when I was 24. I lost that baby at 8 weeks, and don’t know why. Our second pregnancy was about a year later. I confirmed my pregnancy with a home test, and found out at our first appointment that I had a large cyst inside my uterus and would probably lose the baby. I lost that baby again at 8 weeks. This was in February, and our wedding was in April, we decided we would try again after the wedding.

It took a couple months to get pregnant, but finally we did. We went to our first checkup at 8 weeks, and for the first time saw a heartbeat. We had our follow up appointment a month later, and it was then that we found out that we had lost another baby. An ultrasound told us that the baby had died about a month earlier, approximately 3-4 days after our first appointment. The doctor explained that my body for some reason wasn’t passing the fetus, and strongly recommended a D&C, or risk infection. So I had surgery the next day, and had decided that that was it, I couldn’t do it anymore, and didn’t want to try again for another baby. The biggest reason I didn’t want to try again was because no one could give me any answers as to why this kept happening. I was very healthy, had a very healthy diet, didn’t drink alcohol even when we were trying to conceive. The doctor said my uterus looked great, and to just try again.
  

At this point I had been pregnant 5 times The biggest thing my husband learned throughout all of these pregnancies and losses was that every specialist had a different opinion, and we were going to have to take from them what made sense to us. One doctor told me to stop taking prenatals and to take Flintstone vitamins to help me with my morning sickness. I had an appointment with a midwife that delivered one of my good friends babies that year and had a hard time with her advice. I was having a hard time finding the balance between western medicine and technology, and the more natural approach.


We lost that last baby in September. In January, I found out I was pregnant again. This time I couldn’t believe it! I always joke that this baby picked us, because we were definitely trying NOT to get pregnant this time. Our excitement was met again with fear, but we were just staying positive. This time we told everyone we knew right away instead of waiting 3 months “just in case”. The scariest part the first few weeks was chosing a doctor. I had Kaiser health insurance, but I was so dreading that first visit, and was already exhausted thinking about having to worry about every piece of advice, or lack of advice I might get. Before my first visit to the doctor I got a yeast infection. I had never had one before, and was scared to hear what the doctor might tell me to do to treat it. I told a co worker about my problem and she insisted that I give a call to the 2 midwives that had delivered her baby – Jan Ferguson, and Merrily Daly. Jan’s number was the first one written on the card so I hesitantly gave her a call. She gave me advice on my problem, and I gave her a little background info and she immediately made me feel like I could trust in what she was saying. I could tell she was one tough mama, and had a no nonsense attitude, and wasn’t what I like to call too “hippy woo-woo”. I told her I would like to meet with her and Merrily, and she said Merrily was leaving in a few days for Mexico for a couple weeks, and we should try to have a visit when she returned. I was about 8 weeks pregnant at that time.

A couple days after my conversation with Jan I had the familiar experience in the bathroom where I sat on the toilet, and started bleeding heavily. I was sure I was losing the baby. I called my husband to take me to the hospital, and called Jan on the way. I wanted her input on what I should do if they recommended another D&C. She said to get to the hospital, and call her and let her know what they said. I thought it was so amazing that this lady I had never even met was so compassionate and concerned, and ready to meet me at the hospital. They did an ultrasound and gave me the good news, and the bad news. The doctor (quite insensitively) informed me that my baby was still alive, but I was probably going to lose the pregnancy. He called it a threatened abortion. Apparently the placenta had detached from my uterus, which is what was bleeding. He said that it was only partially detached and could reattach, but there was nothing I could do to reassure that that happened. I asked if I should stay off of my feet, if there was anything I could do and he said no. He said there was scar tissue in my uterus from where the cyst from the previous pregnancy was, and that is where the placenta was trying to attach. He said I should go about my life, and to call my doctor if I didn’t want to pass the baby naturally, that I could schedule a D&C.


Devastated, I called Jan and told her the news. She said that it didn’t make sense to her, and that I should get home, get into bed, and stay there until she called back. She said she was going to call Merrily and see if Merrily had any advice. About an hour later I got a call from Merrily. She said she was on her way to the airport, leaving for Mexico but she had left something on her porch for me that would help me keep this baby. She gave me a list of things to send my husband for at the health food store (vitamin E, a food based prenatal, and a 800 mcg folic acid), told me how to take them, and recommended I be on very strict bed rest, and to keep in touch with Jan. What she had left on her porch for me was progesterone cream, and when I did research on it I was absolutely appalled and very angry at my previous doctors for not informing me about this. It has shown to help women stay pregnant, and has NO side effects! The next few weeks were very nerve racking! I laid on the couch the whole month, and never even called the doctors at Kaiser until it was time for my 12 week appointment. I felt good though that everything was going well because I had horrible morning sickness which I’ve heard is a good sign that the pregnancy is healthy, and the bleeding had stopped within 2 days. I had an ultrasound at 12 weeks that finally confirmed my healthy baby, and that the placenta not only had reattached, but had migrated up in my uterus and away from the scar.
 
From that day on I really knew that I was going to have this baby, and I absolutely believe that things might be different if it weren’t for the help of Jan and Merrily. The conversation that really made me feel trusting in all their advice was when I talked to Jan a few days after the hospital visit, when we felt that I would hold the pregnancy. She was so honest with me – when I asked her questions she wasn’t completely sure about, she told me so. She told me that homebirth might not be for me, that I was someone that might need technology, but that she would help me through the entire pregnancy. I had decided that just to “be safe”, I was going to have my baby in the hospital, and didn’t change my mind until I was over 5 months pregnant when Merrily delivered my friend Simona’s daughter. Simona told me about her birth – how special it was to be at home alone with just her husband and 2 women delivering her baby that she had built a close relationship with. She showed me pictures of her birth, and I was sold when I looked into her 2 day old babies eyes and it was remarkable how alert she was. You could tell there was nothing traumatic about how she came into this world – and I wanted that for my baby. My pregnancy had gone so well since the initial placenta problem, I felt confident that everything was very healthy. So I called Jan and Merrily and told them that without a doubt, I wanted to have my baby at home, and scheduled a prenatal appointment.
 
The next few months we really built a close relationship. I loved my prenatal appointments – they were so thorough! They last for an hour, we talked about all aspects of my life – my relationship, work, my fears and hopes and dreams and history…..when I went to my Kaiser appointments I was in and out in 15 minutes. They took my weight, blood pressure, made me pee on a stick and sent me on my way. My husband also really fell in love with the midwives because they kept him so involved, and wanted to make sure he got all that he hoped for out of the experience.
 
Finally August rolls around. It was about a month before my due date, and there were a few bumps in the road with preterm labor. I called Merrily over when at about 36 weeks I was experiencing contractions.  She came over, and somehow stopped it. She has this bag of tricks, and with a little of this and a little bit of that, Poof! The problem is solved!  My husband jokes that 100 years ago, she would have been burned at the stake. When Merrily came over the next morning to take out my IV she confirmed what I had been thinking – she said if I had been under anyone else’s care that night I probably would have had my baby. Had I gone to the hospital, they would have flown me to Oahu, and I’d have had a premie. That whole month was a little difficult, as the contractions would be triggered by any little thing, and Merrily put me on bedrest again until 10 days before my due date. At last it was safe for my baby to be born at any time, and I resumed my normal activity.
 
My water started leaking at 1 AM on Saturday night. My contractions were really light and irregular so I stayed in bed and waited to call the midwives until the morning. I called Merrily at around 8, she said I could start walking to get things going, and that one of them would be there to check me in a couple hours. At around 11 Jan came and said that I was still only 1 cm, completely effaced, but when she tested for amniotic fluid it came up negative so if my water had broken it was just a high tear that had stopped leaking. Jan got me started on some homeopathy that got the contractions going and to help my cervix dialate, and we went for a walk. Merrily came about an hour later and did something with a catheter that helped me dialate, my cervix went from 1 cm to 5 in about 40 minutes with almost no pain! I laugh when I think about all the smack I was talking, saying how easy it was…..it got a lot harder! Labor slowed down a lot after I got to 5 cm so Merrily broke my bag of waters at about 1 pm, and labor finally really got going.
 
I labored all night long…. and the sun came up… and still no baby. We had tried all kinds of positions, I had been pushing since 7 am, and we were all exhausted. At about 10:30 am on Monday morning, everyone took a break and I heard Merrily and Jan telling my husband that they were basically going to eat, and then we were out of time and had to go to the hospital because it was getting unsafe for the baby. That’s when I snuck off into my bedroom by myself. I figured I had about 2 minutes before someone came in to check on me, and decided that I was going to get her head out. I grabbed onto my bedpost, shot down into a squat, and all of the sudden I couldn’t stop pushing and needless to say – I got her head out! The midwives came in, flipped me up on the bed, and long story short delivered our baby – Isla Jaymes Harris - into my husband’s arms, in our home at 11:29 am on Monday September 1st , 2008….Labor Day! It really was a dream come true.

Isla at her 2nd Birthday                  
 
I heard the argument all the time – pessimists of homebirth say that I got lucky. That thankfully, nothing went wrong, and what if she wasn’t breathing….Well Isla DID have problems after she came out. She was full of amniotic fluid, and it seemed like an eternity for her to get that first shriek out, but Merrily was prepared for it. She had a machine there that sucked the fluid out of her lungs and stomach, and had an oxygen tank there and got Isla on oxygen right away. Instead of taking her from me like they would have in the hospital, we got her to turn pink by putting her on my breast where she immediately started nursing. She is absolutely perfect, and I really wasn’t scared at all. The midwives truly blessed us. I don’t know if Isla would be here without them, and I do know that I would NOT have had that dream birth experience without them. She probably would have been delivered as a premie, and if she hadn’t they definitely wouldn’t have let me labor that long and would have taken her by c-section at the hospital. There were so many little things that I consider to be invaluable too – (the crock pot full of warm towels they put on you when the baby’s crowning is AMAZINGJ) I got to sleep in my bed with my husband and healthy baby that night! Absolutely priceless!
 
Thank you Jan and Merrily!