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Ursa's Birth Story

I found myself pregnant a little over a year after moving to West Virginia and was fully committed from the beginning to having another unassisted pregnancy and birth. I was a bit more miserable this pregnancy and struggled to eat well. I was parenting alone while my partner worked full-time out of state. He only came home for a week once every four to six weeks and I was struggling to keep up with four homeschooled kids, my part-time job, and a small farm. I was active but often so tired. 

Little miss was a very active baby. She was constantly turning and flip-flopping positions throughout my pregnancy. After four-term or early-term babies, I was completely thrown off by this post-date pregnancy. I suffered through an entire four weeks of prodromal labor. Constantly on edge wondering if labor was starting and never knowing if I should call my partner to come home from his job located five hours away. I had all but resigned myself to birthing alone with my children as I was afraid to “cry wolf”. 

I spent my whole pregnancy looking for someone to hire and came out empty-handed because I lived too far away or because they were uncomfortable attending an unassisted birth. It was something I didn’t understand as I’ve always held the position that birthing people have the right to be supported to birth where - and how - and with whom they did or did not want there, so long as they truly understood the weight of their decisions and were owning them as what was best for them regardless of the outcomes.

At forty-two weeks and five days after laying down to go to sleep for the night I felt a little pop and my waters began to slowly trickle. I threw in a pad and attempted to go to sleep. I was a bit restless with the excitement of labor coming and I didn’t wake up well rested. That morning I decided to go grocery shopping and focus on prepping some meals for postpartum. As I began to get ready to go to the store the flow of water increased from a trickle to intermittent gushes. This continued throughout my shopping trip and ultimately, for many, many more days before I met my baby. 

I was exhausted from so many days of uncomfortable contractions and feeling defeated trying to get her into a suitable position as she kept rocking her way sideways. I began to wonder how much longer it could be. My partner was home for the Easter holiday and helped some with the kids which allowed me to rest a bit more, but we were all getting a bit weary of how long this was taking. I struggled to maintain focus and wished terribly for the support of my best friend or another doula who understood the work that birthing truly is to help me work through the process.

On April twentieth my contractions finally picked up a regular pattern. I could feel they were much more painful and productive and began to fill the tub for relief. We were still in the chilly season and our little house only had a wood stove which struggled to keep it warm. Keeping the birth pool warm was lots of work I couldn’t maintain by myself. The pain was so great. My partner was admittedly terrible as birth support - especially without the comfort and direction of a friend and doula. He was nervous and unwilling to provide the support I so desperately needed. Having a malpositioned baby creates an interesting experience with contractions all over the place. I remember doing so many forward-leaning inversions trying to back her up and get her nestled into my pelvis the way she should be. The pain was so great and my partner’s fear was so strong that I struggled to cope even more. I felt so defeated after so many weeks of prodromal and so many days of leaking waters and contractions with what I felt at the time was nothing to show for it. 

Eventually, the decision was made for me to transfer for relief. As scared as I was to go in, I just needed some rest. This was probably one of the worst decisions made in my life. Bias is incredibly strong in the medical field and this day was no different. The biased education that many hospital staff receive in regard to natural birth processes reared its full ugly head here. I was shamed for providing my own care and not having an OB. They accused me of being an addict and treated me as such. I was yelled at, physically restrained, and shoved around. They refused to listen to anything I had to say. They performed a vaginal check against my will and were purposely aggressive and rough while doing so. They refused to provide any sort of pain relief or epidural because “I deserved the consequences”. They didn’t believe me when I said my baby was coming. As I attempted to move onto my hands and knees to birth my baby they started shoving me hard attempting to get me back on my back. I fought back trying to push their hands off me. In the middle of this scuffle, my baby came flying out - torpedo-style - triple wrapped in her cord around her neck, shoulder, and under her arms. I immediately reached out to grab her as they shoved me away to do the same, resulting in neither of us catching her and she almost hit the floor. Somehow, I managed to grab hold of her cord just seconds before she hit the hard floor and pulled her back up hand over hand by her cord until she was in my arms. I’ll never know how it didn’t snap or cause some sort of injury to her belly or organs but I’m thankful she was ok. After she was in my arms the nurses yanked her away from me. They wanted to perform every test under the sun so sure they were going to find something incriminating. They refused to give her back for me to even hold unless I consented to a glucose test and a drug screen. My test was clean and so was hers. Even still, I was not allowed to nurse her. They pulled my placenta out aggressively and left me in a pool of blood hemorrhaging alone. We were forced to transfer to a second hospital for observation since according to them I had neglected my baby. I was told if I didn’t comply they would call CPS and ban me from the hospital so I could not have say or supervision of my child. I agreed under duress and transferred as a patient so I could keep her in my arms.

The second hospital was less physically violent but just as traumatic. They yelled at me constantly and attempted to take her every time I was asleep or alone. I had demanded all tests be performed in the room in my sight. They pushed against my right to decline procedures spouting hospital policy and state laws that didn’t exist. The burden of proof was on them though and when they couldn’t provide the evidence they were adamant existed they began to back down some. When my partner had to leave to check on our other children a swarm of doctors and nurses came into my room trying to intimidate me into letting the baby go without me to the nursery because they decided I wasn’t mentally well enough to have her in my care without supervision - all because I didn’t agree with all their unnecessary interventions. One doctor physically tried to remove her from my arms and I barricaded myself and my baby into the bathroom and locked the door. I made several calls on my cell phone while in there - to my partner to rush back, a lawyer, and the police. They retaliated by calling CPS. Someone must have told them they had no leg to stand on though, so our stay was slightly more peaceful after that. I fired several nurses from my care and nicer ones were assigned to my room. I ran all communication through patient advocacy after that and was very fortunate to get a CPS worker who could see the overreach and mistreatment. We were forced to stay for an extra three days for unnecessary observation and to get approval from their hospital pediatrician to be released after that. 

While CPS had no desire to open a case, the hospital continued its fight. They called our home multiple times a day trying to get us to come back, to receive care from their doctors instead of our own, order us to vaccinate, and more. It took me threatening harassment charges before they finally stopped. 

The damage didn’t stop there though. I suffered severe PTSD, postpartum depression, anxiety, and rage that bordered on psychosis. My milk supply suffered severely. We don’t have professional options available to deal with things like this locally and my support system was non-existent. It took me more than a year before I was able to drive by those hospitals without hyperventilating or wanting to throw up. I cried every time I had to pass by them to get groceries. I was afraid to look people in the eye when I was in town terrified that I was going to recognize someone that assaulted me.

I dove deeply into my midwifery education, made a habit of supporting every birthing person I could, and providing as much education and counsel as possible to everyone that reached out to me online for virtual support near and far. It was clear to me that this is my life’s work and I have a deep belief and faith that I was put here to do just that. Some things are truly written in the stars and for me, this is one of them.

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