In 2015 I married the love of my life. We went on a whirlwind honeymoon to Thailand and came back pregnant. Finding out that we were expecting was one of the most joyous experiences. I remember taking the test, screaming with joy, and immediately calling my doctor’s office. At 13 weeks, I went in for my first ultrasound, and Karen, who I would come to know very well, asked me if I was on fertility treatments. I questioned where that question came from, and she responded that we were expecting twins. My husband was staring at the screen, shaking his head in disbelief, and I just giggled with happiness. Slowly I started to realize that something was wrong. Karen kept going back and forth with the ultrasound wand, searching for something.
Karen left to get the doctor, and when he walked back in, our lives turned upside down.
Our happiness and excitement quickly turned into disbelief and fear. We were having one of the rarest types of twin pregnancy. Monoamniotic, Monochorinoic. Our twins were at risk every moment they were in the womb. I would need to be admitted to the hospital at 24 weeks for monitoring and hope that they would make it to 32 weeks when they would be delivered via cesarean section. We would throw any dream of having a natural birth, within my control, out of the window.
I spent the next two months feeling like I was at war to safely bring my children into the world. I went into the hospital with a comprehensive plan put together by my doctors based on current studies of my rare pregnancy. And once admitted, my doctors wanted to change the program to less intensive monitoring. One doctor even told me that if an emergency occurred, they probably wouldn’t be able to deliver my children in time, so no reason to be monitored more frequently. I demanded the industry standard of care researched for my pregnancy type, and asked my husband to advocate for me when my voice wasn’t enough. It was exhausting. When my twins arrived, the few choices I could make for their care weren’t honored. I felt utterly at a loss. We spent the next month in the NICU holding our babies as much as we were allowed for skin to skin and trying to learn how to breastfeed.
I cannot say that the entire experience in the hospital was a negative one. The nurses that cared for me were incredible. If they saw my spirits dropping, I would be surprised with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream or a gentle push to go for a walk in the sunshine before I was on constant monitoring. They even made a point to reserve the most beautiful room in the hospital after delivery and decorated it. My doctors who delivered my children did so in an expeditious manner, and my cesarean scare is almost nonexistent.
The pressures of working for a Bank that didn’t offer maternity leave outside of FMLA and needing to return to work once the twins left the NICU lead to me taking longer to heal, both physically and mentally.
Fast forward three years later. My husband and I wanted another child. I was scarred from the first go around, but this time I decided I would do what I could to give myself the experience I missed. On my first appointment at the Birth Cottage, I was trepidatious. I was a bit scared, I had experience with the worst case, and I had a severe fear of hospitals.
I also knew the statistics on black maternal mortality, and after having to fight to get the care, I needed during my twin pregnancy, I was extremely cautious. Adrian immediately made me feel at home, welcomed, and safe. She didn’t diminish my fears or try to push past. She simply gave me a safe space to share my experience and show me what my birth could be.
I was blessed with a relatively easy pregnancy. I wanted minimal intervention; after having weekly ultrasounds, daily injections, and constant monitoring with my last pregnancy this time, I just wanted to experience the life growing inside me and take joy in the small moments.
My son, Maksim, was born on April 18th, 2020. My water broke at 9:30 pm, and by Midnight we were on our way to the birth cottage. Marissa, Adrian, and my doula Dashanna helped me have the powerful birth I knew I was capable of. I labored almost entirely in the water, uninterrupted, and able to move and shift as my body needed. At 3:04 am, I caught my son, and Marissa helped bring him to my chest. That moment will live with me forever, from Alicia Keys,
Un-thinkable playing in the background to my husband, Adrian, and Dashanna supporting me just in the way I needed. My experience at the Birth Cottage did more than just help me deliver my son. It gave me my power back. After the trauma of my first birth experience, I didn’t realize how healing my pregnancy was until after I delivered my son. I was able to experience the incredible act of giving birth in full detail, on my terms, in my way. I didn’t ask if I could push; I let my body do what it needed to do. I didn’t ask if I could move; I just moved the way my body needed to rock the baby out. The body is a mighty thing, and having people around you who believe in you and believe in your ability to do what you may consider being unthinkable at the moment means all the difference.