Something unexpected happened. I got pregnant on birth control.

I was 34 years old when I found out I was expecting my first child. We wanted to start our family soon, but I was working on losing about 30 pounds, so I would be healthier and feel better during my pregnancy.

When I found out I was pregnant I was excited, but also surprised. I hadn’t spent any time thinking about what my options were for prenatal care and delivery. I was like, “Ok, now what?”

This is an unusual interview and birth story for us to share. Julie Garner never gave birth at Breath of Life, but she has been a supporter of our birth center over the last few years. After being introduced to our staff and touring the facility, she came to us and asked if she could share her story. She wants women to know that they are empowered with choices–choices she never knew she had.

So, Julie, you were pregnant before you were planning to be and you didn’t know that you had options for prenatal care and delivery. What did you do and how did you make that decision?

Most of the women I knew had hospital deliveries, so it’s the only choice I thought I had. My mom had breast cancer when she was 48, and so I had started seeing an OBGYN in my early twenties for preventative, well-care. So, I just scheduled an appointment with him. He had been supportive of my health, so I was sure he would be supportive of my pregnancy, too.

And was your OBGYN supportive?

Of course, he was very excited for me at that initial appointment. When I went to check out, though, I was scheduled for three more appointments over the next week. A pre-birth consultation, an ultrasound, and an introduction to a midwife.

The ultrasound was awesome because I got to see this tiny little human life inside of me and hear its heartbeat. At the midwife appointment, I learned that I wouldn’t be meeting with my OBGYN again unless there was a need for a doctor. There were 10 midwives on staff and I would never know who I’d see from appointment to appointment. They sold this as ‘a good thing for me” since any of the midwives might be working when I go into labor, so I should get to know all of them.

But, the meeting with a birth consultant was horrible. She walked my husband and me through a large stack of paperwork. She repeatedly told me that both my age and my weight made my pregnancy high risk.

“Do you want this test to find out if your baby has birth defects?” No, thank you.

“How about this test to find out if your baby is at risk for Downs Syndrome?”  No.

Those tests wouldn’t have changed anything for us, yet, I could sense her frustration that we wouldn’t want to know about risks early in the pregnancy…because, after all, I was high risk. (She repeated that at least a dozen times.)

I left that meeting feeling scared.

How did that concern of being high-risk play out over the next few months?

Each appointment was both exciting and anxiety-producing. Every time I went, I was reminded that my age and my weight were a great concern.

At around five months, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. That produced more fears and more concerns, even though I was disciplined enough to control my blood sugar through nutritional changes up until the last month of my pregnancy.

Then, my proteins were high and I had to carry around a container and collect my urine for several days. That turned out to be a false alarm.

I had extra ultrasounds where each time they would tell me my baby was large.

My final four weeks, I was going into the office almost every other day for Non-Stress (NST) Tests to make sure my baby wasn’t in distress. Let’s just say, it was nine months of high anxiety.

That sounds stressful. Tell us about your labor and delivery.

At week 38, one of the midwives suggested I have a labor induction because of how large my baby was measuring. As a first-time mom, never having experienced birth, this was very alarming. I wondered how my body could possibly handle birthing a baby the size of a bowling ball.

She stripped my membranes at that appointment and scheduled me to report to the hospital a few days later if things didn’t progress naturally.  When I arrived at the hospital appointment, I was immediately hooked up to machines. I couldn’t walk around without the assistance of a nurse. I also couldn’t use the shower or tubs to relax. I was confined to the bed.

So they did end up inducing labor?

Yes, and when the Pitocin kicked in, my labor came on hard and furiously. I didn’t know that induced labor is actually more intense than natural labor. I had wanted to deliver as naturally as possible, but since I was already using medication to go into labor, I begged for an epidural as soon as I could have it. That slowed everything down.

How long did it take for you to move into transition?

It had been over 24 hours since I had been admitted and I was finally able to push. But I was already exhausted. Every time I pushed, the baby’s head would go further up instead of moving down. After 2 hours of pushing, my OBGYN came into my room. It was the first time I had seen him since my first appointment in his office. He said, “Hey, Julie! I’m the doctor on duty right now and I have time to take you for a C-section if you want to do that. You’ve been working at this for a long time and I don’t think your cervix is going to allow you to give birth to this baby.”

If I was going to have a C-section, I wanted him to be the one to do it. So, I agreed and within 30 minutes my little boy was being held next to me. I couldn’t hold him though. They unstrapped one of my arms so I could touch him, but I had to stay hooked up to wires and IV’s. It would be another few hours before I would hold him in my arms.

Was your baby as big as they expected?

No. He was just a little over 8 pounds. And perfectly healthy!

Well, we are so glad you had a healthy baby, even though the birth experience isn’t what you hoped. You had a second baby. Did you consider different options for her birth?

Actually, no. Because my first experience was so traumatic and because I was now 36 years old, I just scheduled a C-section with her without even trying a natural birth. And that’s part of why I wanted to share this story with other mamas.

I want other women to know that there are options for them. There are midwives who will treat them with compassion and who will listen and educate them on their choices. When I walked into Breath of Life for the first time, I immediately wished I had known about it sooner.

The staff and midwives at Breath of Life are so kind and care about the whole woman, her baby, and her family. The birth suites create a beautiful atmosphere that is calm and positive. You have birth slings and waterbirth tubs. Moms can walk around outside, you let them eat and listen to music and diffuse essential oils. It’s the opposite of my entire experience.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to an expectant mother?

Yes, I have two beautiful, healthy children–but my birth experience wasn’t healthy for ME. I know my entire experience would have been different if I could have just scheduled that first appointment here.

Do your research. You have choices. And, if you’re feeling anxious and scared, consider shifting your plan and talking to a birth center or a midwife about all of your options. Birth is hard, on one hand. But it is also so beautiful. Experience that beauty fully.

Big thanks to Julie for her vulnerability in sharing her experience so other women know they have safe, personal and empowering options.

Today, more and more women are discovering the value of natural birthing benefits for both mom and baby. Still, many new moms are finding themselves nervous about the unknown. We are here to support and guide you through the many options available to you with natural birthing.

You’ll be an active participant through every decision of your labor and delivery. Our moms appreciate the options they have during labor. Whether it’s massage, counter-pressure, hydrotherapy, personal music selection, movement, various position options through birthing balls or slings, hot and cold therapy, or spending time outside, it’s a comfort to be in control of all the details leading to your baby’s first breath of life.

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