Sharon’s Story: Part 2

Text Book Pregnancy – an Earlier Chapter

After a hard loss of a first pregnancy, I was thrilled to find myself pregnant just four months later. Still early in my marriage at age 39, I was optimistic (always one to look at the glass half full). Advanced Maternal Age was stamped on my chart at my traditional OB’s office. Dr. B. knew my name, having been my gynecologist for over 10 years, but it was an otherwise impersonal greeting for my very positive pregnancy test that was administered on that warm April day.

Early tests were good, a heartbeat on an ultrasound, no feelings of discomfort or bleeding. Then the reminder of the dreaded CVS test at 12 weeks, the one that had vanished my dream of my first pregnancy and loss the year prior. Into the perinatologist’s office I went with my husband clutching my hand tight. “This time will be better,” he assured me. I held my breath while the long needle gathered fetal cells, ones that could be normal. I kept faith during the long weeks of waiting. I checked in with the genetic counselor I knew well. “Should be next week,” K assured me. “Let’s not worry.” Our next conversation was one week to the day of that initial call and yes, it was good news, “a healthy baby boy was coming in December.”

I felt healthy with limited morning sickness and other symptoms, and was again optimistic. I worked, enjoyed free time with my husband and friends without too much concern. Despite this, Dr. B. was full of warnings each month during my routine visits. There were no emergency calls or extra visits to cause alarm

She likely felt she was helping me by reminding me about upcoming tests. Every time my blood pressure was taken, the new nurse seemed surprised that it was low and healthy. (No one cared to notice that during the prior 10 years of routine care at that office that I never had elevated blood pressure.) After the first trimester, it seemed that Dr. B.’s commentary about risk factors became longer and more frequent. I had no symptoms of a troubled pregnancy so why was I being warned about gestational diabetes, hypertension, and the high probability of c-section?

The chapters and complete books I had read about high-risk pregnancy contained similar warmings and the associated doom and gloom. Why was my doctor worrying me? Was there something else looming? I didn’t understand it. I considered (and still consider) myself young and healthy.

After the standard 20 week anatomical ultrasound, we were thrilled to see all 10 fingers and 10 toes, healthy organs and that our baby boy was growing at a normal rate. I continued to feel good and started to make plans for childbirth. Lots to research and think about I thought.

I enrolled in prenatal yoga class at the well-known Yoga Yoga in Austin. With some 5 prenatal classes per week, I could fit one or two into my busy work and travel schedule. I exercised, learned yogic breathing, and more importantly made connections with my instructors (all wonderful, caring mamas), and new friends. We were in a club of soon-to-be mamas who met weekly to share ideas, and we were going to have babies, many within the same month.

Two of my yoga instructors, including Sarah Evans, my now long-time friend, talked a great deal about the use of yoga in labor and delivery. I was a good student of all of the yoga postures designed to release and relieve pain, and get comfort. I learned to breathe deeply and consciously for the first time in an early evening class. My husband and I attended the studio’s yoga for partners session that focused exclusively on working through childbirth together. I felt empowered and supported in this new chapter in my life.

One of the yoga instructors, Dawn pointed us to certain books that would complement our yoga practice and support us in childbirth. My sense was that this were not the typical books I had found, which were filled with warnings about high risk pregnancy. I read Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth cover to cover one evening. It changed everything for me. No, I was not going to her famed “Farm” in Tennessee but my new, aspirational goal was to have natural childbirth, no planned c-section or medications unless absolutely medically necessary. Imagine the surprise on Dr. B’s face when she heard that out of the mouth of her 39-year-old patient?

Next I asked my yoga instructors about doulas. They had mentioned that doulas provide couples with outstanding support in birth and beyond. I wanted a strong, experienced doula on my side if the going got tough. I couldn’t have found a better support person than Dawn Martin, one of Austin’s most experienced doulas and mamas. Dawn had taught Birthing from Within classes, and now is one of the most sought after lactation consultants in our city. We discussed what an ideal childbirth looked like for us and began writing a birth plan to serve as a written document of our childbirth wishes.

In the 25th week, Dr. B. looked at my birth plan with surprise and a bit of shock. “Do not offer me medicines for pain. Do not limit my movement with a fetal monitor UNLESS ABSOLUTELY MEDICALLY NECESSARY for my and my child’s health.” I forced her to sign it and she shrugged her shoulders and scribbled a doctor’s scrawl on my persuasive, marketing-like document.

Dr. B. didn’t deliver my son. She’s since retired from delivering babies. Her partner and a nurse delivered my healthy boy with my husband and Dawn by my side on a warm December morning. Despite 28 hours of back labor and a lot of associated pain, there were no complications and no high-risk delivery in my Advanced Maternal Age of 40 and 2 months. This experience was powerful. This age is about blowing past the stereotypes and working hard to fulfill one’s goals as many of us have done in every other aspect of our adult lives.

Read Part 1 of Sharon’s Story!

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