In my doula career, I’ve had the joy of supporting so many families and meeting so many babies. Some are born perfectly healthy and some are born with challenges to face from day one. Each birth and each baby brings with it it’s own challenges, it’s highs and lows, but my hope is always that at the end of the day, the families that I support can look back on their births and know that they were loved and supported through it all!
This wonderful mama was referred to me by a past client. She had had a rather difficult and traumatic homebirth that became a homebirth transfer with her first child and was hoping for a really different experience this time around for baby #2. She had chosen Willow Birth Center as the location for her birth and their wonderful midwives. We clicked immediately and I was so happy to be working with them.
At their 20 week anatomy scan, they discovered an anomaly on his heart. They weren’t sure what it was. Initially they thought it was just a small hole as they couldn’t get a great picture. At the next scan, they got the news that it was in fact Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Without immediate intervention after birth and surgery in the first few days of life, it is fatal. The plans for this birth suddenly went upside down and we were now planning for a hospital birth. The good news is that because they were with Willow, they were able to keep their care with them, just switch to the Hospital Based Midwives of Willow. Along with the amazing Cardiac team at Phoenix Children’s Hospital it was determined that she could still have a low intervention birth, spontaneous labor, and even delayed cord clamping and some skin to skin if baby came out looking good. We were very hopeful.
This mama prayed for a baby over 8 pounds (super helpful for heart babies) and a daytime birth so she could be well rested before the trials of a NICU stay and hospital transfer. Her prayers were answered and just a few days past her due date, she went into labor. I had just been about to go out on a trail run when my instincts said I should check in to make sure things weren’t picking up, but once on the phone with her it was very apparent that a run was out of the question. I scooted home, changed clothes and then we agreed to just meet at the Willow Central location to get her checked as it seemed like things were moving quickly, as can happen with second babies.
When they arrived we walked in the parking lot for a few minutes while we waited for the midwife Kim, to arrive. Her surges were definitely getting strong and every 3-4 minutes. They checked her in the office so that we could skip triage and do a direct admit at the hospital and she was already 6cm and 90% effaced and baby boy was very low. We made a bee-line for the hospital, got in a room, and began to work through the very scary mental aspects of letting labor go when you are bringing a heart baby into the world…
Her contractions became strong. We cried together over our fears for this baby. She prayed and hugged her husband between surges. She squatted on my thighs as I did hip squeezes, and then suddenly during one surge she squatted down deep and low and let a loud roar from her mouth and her waters released! After that, she crawled up onto the bed and quickly began bringing her baby down. It was so raw and powerful and amazing. I cry even now thinking about this brave mama and the magic she wove during her birth.
Her whole team was amazing. She even had a change in midwife right before birth and Midwife Diane got to catch this special boy. She got to hold him immediately. Delayed cord clamping and cutting until the placenta was done. She got to cuddle him for a solid 15 minutes before he went down to the NICU for his prostaglandin infusion to keep his heart open.
I’m happy to say that his first surgery was successful and he’s doing so well. He still has a long road of recovery and surgery ahead of him, but he is getting the very best care and his mama did absolutely everything to help ensure that her special heart baby would get the best start.