Then the doctor told me my worst fear.
There was a serious drop in my baby's heart rate.
The doctor directed the alarmed staff to prepare for an emergency cesarean. I had seen so many bad things happen to women in this process.
I was rolled away on a stretcher in a frenzy, and then was left alone in the operating room for an hour after they scrubbed me down, waiting for the assistant surgeon who never came.
No one was monitoring my baby.
At some point, I started pushing.
I screamed for help.
The doctor ran in yelling, “Get me a vacuum.”
He cut a big episiotomy and vacuumed my daughter out vaginally.
I didn’t want to see her because I thought by now she was severely damaged or dead.
But she was healthy and vigorous. She was beautiful! I, on the other hand, was not fine. I had what I now know to be birth trauma. I was terrified of getting pregnant again.
I did not want another birth.
I told myself NEVER AGAIN.
Two years later I was still working at the hospital as an obstetric nurse and I became pregnant again - another surprise, and now I was even more anxious. I started getting panic attacks.
At my second baby's birth, the doctor stuck his hand up me and walked out.
He said, “We’re doing a cesarean” to the nurse.
He didn’t tell me, but I overheard him in the hallway, and told him to please come back, that I didn't want a cesarean.
He told me my baby was too high and posterior, facing my back, and would never come down.
I said "Do whatever you can to turn the baby manually; I have delivered a baby before, so I can deliver another."
He told me it’s going to painful and doubted it would work. I replied, “I don’t care, I don’t want to be cut and have major surgery.”
He rolled his eyes, stuck his hand up my uterus and successfully moved the baby.
I was drugged and given an epidural for the procedure, but these were not completely effective.
The experience was painful and I have no memory of my second birth. I just know that I narrowly escaped the c-section and I did not like the effects of the drugs.
I continued working as an OB Nurse in that hospital. I especially loved helping moms in postpartum and being in the nursery comforting the babies, and helping them breastfeed.
I didn't like how often I was a nurse in the operating room for what felt like too many cesarean births.
I felt like my hands were tied; I was having to rescue the problems caused by what began to seem like too many unnecessary interventions when there was no problem to begin with.
It was like I was working in a factory: get 'em in, get 'em out.
There was no joy and no concern for individuals. It was about expecting the worst and maintaining protection from litigation.
I was telling a friend about my frustrations with the system and she told me I should become a midwife.
I had never considered this before.
I did some research, applied soon after, and was accepted to the renowned, oldest nurse-midwifery school in the country. My husband was very encouraging; and I am forever grateful for his support and help with childcare and household responsibilities.
Midwifery started the journey of coming home to myself.
I was in midwifery school during my third pregnancy.
I was still traumatized from my two previous births, but I now knew what was possible.
I hired an excellent midwife and looked forward to a much better experience this time around.
I prepared in a whole different way and I had a completely transformed mindset.
My birth team, setting, preparation and mindset shift were keys to my success.
But, I told her for me to authentically practice midwifery, it had to work for me; and I really did not think I could actually do it.
She reassured me that I could and that it would be so healing and empowering.
She treated me like a human being.
The experience was as different as night from day in comparison to my previous pregnancies and births.
In labor and birth, she was with me. I wasn’t tied down to the bed.
It was a relaxed environment. I would labor in the tub. I would go to the shower. I would dance.
The birthing process was beautiful and was treated as something normal rather than a crisis.
I wasn’t left alone by my midwife.
I had her there with me helping me with her words and her heart, allowing my body to do what it was designed to do.
She gave me the trust that my body can do it.
I wasn’t afraid. I felt very supported.
I wasn’t an emergency room patient;
I was an empowered, beautiful woman, having a baby.
It was challenging but so doable, I was encouraged to find my own strength, and I did it!
It not only helped to heal my birth trauma, it restored my confidence; it also convinced me that midwifery care works, and that I could now truly help women as a midwife.
If I could do it, so could other women when supported in this way.
I now felt outraged on how women and babies were treated in a lot of settings, and passionate about doing my part to enable mamas and babies to birth without the upsetting experiences and unnecessary interventions that result in real trauma.
As a midwifery student and then midwife, I worked at a free-standing birthing center, several inner city and community hospitals, and clinics.
It was at this time that I had a miscarriage.
It was intense.
I knew what was going on when I lost my baby during the first trimester.
Nothing compares to the feelings and emotions of what happens when you lose a baby. I have been there myself.
I also understand the nausea, vomiting, being exhausted and depressed because you don't feel like you used to feel, and can’t do what you used to.
As a midwife it compelled me to study all the natural and holistic modalities that I didn’t know with my first three.
In my next (and final!) pregnancy.
I was commuting two hours each way to my favorite private hospital practice in Brooklyn, NY with a team of two wonderful obstetricians and six amazing midwives.
But I was having a hard time being pregnant, working and doing my part in mothering my other three children, because of how exhausted I felt.
My son's birth with my midwife was beautiful and I was looking forward to rest and enjoy my family postpartum.
Several weeks after my last birth, I got very ill.
I felt like I was over caffeinated - my thoughts were racing, I was extremely agitated, panicked, completely overwhelmed and unable to function.
I could not think clearly or make decisions.
I could not sleep.
I felt faint, and was losing weight.
It seemed something was very wrong.
I was usually so healthy. This couldn't be.
I felt alone again, with no extended family living nearby, and felt unable to ask for help, even from my close friends.
Friends and neighbors were concerned but I did not want them to know.
My dear holistic colleagues and alternative providers came to my house to treat me; but nothing was working.
At my lowest point, my closest friend, an osteopath stayed with me through the night, doing treatments to relax my system.
I had postpartum thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition in which the thyroid initially makes too much hormone, before not making enough.
This explained why I felt the way I did; it also created symptoms of moderate to severe postpartum anxiety and agitated depression.
The doctor prescribed medications I was so afraid to take, but I was more afraid of my symptoms.
I was so ill, I just surrendered and took them, but they also made me sick.
So between the illness and the medications...I was one big mess.
I am so grateful for the care I received at the center and from my mother, with whom I stayed for a month, and for my husband and friends, who took care of my other kids and home during this time.
I had to stop work for an entire year while recovering from my hyperthyroid illness and its effects on my system.
I do not remember much of my life then.
It actually took me a number of years to fully heal, using a comprehensive holistic approach.
I studied and experienced the benefits of many modalities. My yoga and meditation practice were life changing.
But the complete healing happened after intensive Clarity Breathwork sessions.
It was the most delicious and miraculous feeling of relief I ever experienced.
I know what darkness and pain and breakdowns are like.
It was this process and personal experiences that had me become known in my community as the midwife people would call when they had postpartum depression, anxiety, and also birth trauma.
My passion and journey for helping women from pregnancy to postpartum and beyond was sparked by what I saw as a nurse in the hospital.
Being so very traumatized by my own first births, led me to midwifery for my last two births.
It was also sparked by my own postpartum illness and healing. It affected me so deeply that I had to help others.