Our lovely client, Frances, agreed to share the story of her birth with us. Frances and her husband, Jon, were so wonderful to support! They chose to be educated and informed throughout the whole process and Frances was really committed to preparing her body physically for birth. She birthed their sweet son with strength and courage, staying calm, focused, and flexible as her birth took routes she hadn't anticipated! Enjoy their beautiful story below:
Kai’s Birth Story
I knew I wanted to be a mom and start a family after meeting my husband. We met in the dorms as freshmen at UC Davis and I immediately developed a huge crush on him. Although we never dated in college, we remained friends. We reconnected after I had moved back home to Los Angeles while he was still in Davis, working toward a rigorous dual Masters and PhD program in Electrical and Computer Engineering. We got married after dating for three years and while we both knew we wanted to start a family, but we decided to wait until Jon was closer to finishing his program.
Once we decided to try for a baby I switched from years of being afraid that I would accidentally get pregnant to being afraid that I couldn’t get pregnant. Luckily, we got pregnant immediately. Jon and I are both committed to living a healthy lifestyle, from eating well to getting plenty of exercise and spending time in the outdoors. I approached my pregnancy with the same mindset; however, the first trimester threw me for a loop. I developed very specific food aversions (i.e. apple pie, or any kind of pie) and cravings (lemonade, citrus, greasy food, and more lemonade please). I felt fatigue like nothing I have ever known. I slept in my car on my lunch breaks at work and had absolutely no energy to exercise. Once I got to the second trimester, I was able to do a lot more.
I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and decided that I wanted to try for a natural, unmedicated delivery. I started a routine that included a whole birth yoga class, swimming, walking, and weight circuits. I was able to eat a well balanced diet again. In short, I started preparing my mind and body for childbirth. My husband shared my goal and together we decided to look for a doula that could help us achieve it. After a few interviews, we felt that Wendy and Kersti were the most approachable, practical and warm. We liked how knowledgeable and friendly they were and feel that we could not have made a better decision. My husband, Jon, is an engineer, and I am a graphic designer, so naturally we have different strengths and weaknesses, but one thing we have in common is curiosity and a thirst to learn! So in addition to the doula support, we attended a Birthing Naturally class and every single class that Kaiser Permanente had to offer.
Fast forward to 38 weeks pregnant, I went in to my OB for a routine appointment. They did an ultrasound to check in on baby and she felt there was not enough fluid for the pregnancy to continue. She told me I would have to go home, grab my hospital bag and check in to labor and delivery at Kaiser San Jose to be induced. I started to panic, but remembered all the meditation/mindfulness stuff I had been practicing. I took some deep breaths and calmed myself down. I called my husband, my mom, and then I called Wendy. My biggest fear was ending up with a cesarean and I knew that having an induction could increase that possibility; however, I just focused on remaining calm, peaceful and optimistic. My priority above all was the health of my baby.
Jon came home from work and we packed a few last minute things, gathered our hospital bag and drove to Kaiser San Jose. After checking in to Labor & Delivery, the OB on duty rechecked my fluid levels with an ultrasound and again found an unsatisfactory amount of fluid. We still wanted to try everything possible to avoid induction so I was put on I.V. fluids over night to see if my fluid levels could increase. Kersti checked in on us that first night and stayed with me while Jon went to grab us In n’ Out for my last meal. My husband did a great job at keeping me calm and bringing the oxytocin vibes, but in the morning the result was the same, so the staff offered us a last chance to walk around, eat breakfast, and prepare for the induction ahead. Wendy and Kersti armed us with a wealth of information about the different induction methods that Kaiser was offering us. We decided to try the Folley Bulb first, which is a little balloon they insert into your vagina to manually dilate the cervix. The catheter gave me some painful contractions and symptoms of nausea, but did not kickstart active labor. It did its job though and dilated me to a 4 and then fell out when I went to the bathroom.
The next step was to begin Pitocin. I was really fearful of Pitocin because I had heard so many bad things about the type of contractions Pitocin can give you and I thought it would increase my likelihood of needing a Cesarean. Some things that helped me cope with my fear were breathing techniques I learned in prenatal yoga, visualizing my happy place swimming laps and floating in the swimming pool, and talking to my husband and the doulas. Wendy came to the hospital for a visit and to give Jon a break. She made the room smell wonderful with essential oils and gave me a massage. With these coping mechanisms I was able to remain calm and peaceful. I was really hopeful that I would just need a small dose of Pitocin to signal my body to go into labor; however, that was not the case. I ended up being on Pitocin for close to three days. By the time my body took over and sent me into active labor the level of Pitocin was at 19 (the highest they let you go at the hospital is 20). At first the contractions were fast and furious and one on top of another, without breaks in between. That is when Kersti joined us at the hospital for the second and final time. They lowered the Pitocin to 14 and I began to have regular contractions that indicated I was in active labor.
I focused on breathing slow, deep, controlled breaths to get through each contraction. Jon and Kersti helped me try several different positions to manage the pain. The position where I felt the most pain was lying down in bed; however, when you are on Pitocin the hospital staff has to constantly monitor the baby. Every time I would get out of bed to labor, the nurses would rush into the room and reposition the monitors. The monitoring equipment did a poor job whenever I was not lying down. Finally, after several hours of active labor and many hours of being in the hospital with no sleep, I decided to get an epidural. On top of the fatigue, I was frustrated at having to lie down in bed. At that point I was dilated to a 6. After receiving the epidural, I instantly felt relief, but perhaps even more importantly, I was able to relax and take a much-needed nap. After napping and a quick visit from my mom, I felt refreshed. I also felt the sensation of a water balloon popping and leaking fluid. The midwife checked me and sure enough, my water had broken and I was dilated to a 10 and completely effaced.
I sat upright in bed for another hour to let gravity help bring the baby down. At that point I was able to start pushing. Pushing required a lot of strength and energy and looking back, I don’t know if I would have been able to do it without that little nap beforehand. I pushed for two hours on my back, sidelying and using the squat bar. After two hours of pushing and three days of laboring in the hospital, our son Kai James Pimentel was here! He was a perfect 8 lbs 4 oz and 20 inches long. My husband was able to catch the baby and cut the cord and I was able to have immediate skin-to-skin contact with my baby and breastfeeding within his first hour of life. The feeling of holding my baby for the first time does not compare to any other feeling in the world. After Kai was born I realized it didn’t matter what I had to go through to have him, he was worth it!
My husband was my rock and a rockstar throughout the entire process. Even though he was sleep deprived, he was constantly making sure I had everything I needed. He gave me massages, slow danced with me, played music, made jokes, and overall helped bring our son into the world in a calm, peaceful, loving environment. This experience just reaffirmed that he is my soulmate and I could not have done it without him.
I also can’t recommend Wendy and Kersti enough. I think they are a big part of why I didn’t end up with a cesarean, even though I needed a hospital induction. They were a wonderful part of my labor team and they do so much good work. I know its a cliché, but they are honestly worth their weight in gold.
We went home for the first time as a family of three within 24 hours of delivery. The first few days were difficult and scary for me because his jaundice level was a little high. My milk did not come in right away so we had to supplement with formula for 24 hours. I also developed mastitis at seven weeks postpartum. Kai is eight weeks as I am writing this and the antibiotics are helping me to feel much better, but breastfeeding is still not perfect for us. I highly recommend the free breastfeeding clinic at Good Samaritan on Tuesdays. They have some very experienced lactation consults that give clear advice.