#209 | The Danger of Retained Placenta, Delayed Postpartum Hemorrhage & Negligent Care: Chelsea's Birth Story

April 19, 2023

Chelsea was determined to have an unmedicated hospital birth. When she was unexpectedly diagnosed with cholestasis at 38 weeks, she found herself getting induced with Misoprostil, Pitocin, and ruptured membranes at 3 cm dilated. She quickly progressed to full dilation, had a short pushing phase and birthed her baby vaginally.  Everything seemed great until she went home and starting passing large blood clots. After multiple calls to different OBs that all passed it off as normal, she started bleeding profusely and was transferred back to the hospital for delayed postpartum hemorrhage. Chelsea's story is one of knowing the importance of trusting our own intuition and insisting we get the care we need when we know something is wrong.

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View Episode Transcript

I go downstairs and I'm nursing my son on the couch and all of a sudden, I felt like I was peeing myself. So I was a little alarmed, I go to the bathroom, and I'm just bleeding so heavily I blood through my pants onto the couch. And I look up at my husband. And he's just like, the blood drains from his face. And I'm like, we need to go to the hospital right now. And then I passed that again. And I just remember I kept like coming to, and not really knowing what was going on. But I knew it was bad at one point because I could hear my mom start praying out loud. And she was saying, like, Please, Lord, let her be okay, let her be okay. They're like screaming at me trying to get me to keep my eyes open. My mom was just like, look at your baby. Look at your baby, you got it, you're gonna stay here for your baby. Sorry, this part always gets me a little bit.

I'm Cynthia Overgard, owner of HypnoBirthing of Connecticut, childbirth advocate and postpartum support specialist. And I'm Trisha Ludwig, certified nurse midwife and international board certified lactation consultant. And this is the Down To Birth Podcast. Childbirth is something we're made to do. But how do we have our safest and most satisfying experience in today's medical culture? Let's dispel the myths and get down to birth.

My name is Chelsea Hollis, I live in Wilmington, North Carolina with my husband and our two little ones. I have a six month old girl and a two and a half year old little boy. And my main gig is that I'm a motherhood and family photographer. So I am lucky enough to get to work with pregnant mamas and new mamas and babies all the time.

And you're here to tell us your birth story. You have your first postpartum story, right?

Correct. I had my son in the peak of 2020 COVID era. So that brought along its own challenges with it, but his postpartum my postpartum with him was really what shifted my entire rest of my life. Honestly, it it made me want to share this story. It made me want to get my doula certification, it made me want to pour into mothers even more. So that's why I'm here to really share that side of things today.

So it sounds like your postpartum was not exactly what you were anticipating. So tell us, tell us kind of what you envisioned it to be and what the reality of how it went was?

Yeah. Well, I first of all, just didn't envision it to be anything like it was for my whole pregnancy because I was pregnant for the first time during COVID. And so that meant you know, going through all my appointments alone and being super isolated from family and friends. None of them even really saw me pregnant in person. And so I guess the silver lining in that though, is that it gave me time and space to reflect and like do some digging into what I really wanted for my birth. That's kind of what got me into looking further into having an unmedicated birth and hiring a doula and all that stuff, which I'm glad that I had that time for. But you know, postpartum and entrance into motherhood is hard enough as it is, nevermind leaving the hospital with the doctors telling you you're not allowed to see anybody, so just don't. And that lack of support. So I had been, like I said, planning and admitted unmedicated birth the whole time, I was really looking forward to it loved our doula team was feeling really confident about the whole thing had a really easy, non complicated pregnancy. And then probably around week 37 I was pregnant the summer this was like late July, I started getting really itchy. And like all over my body, and I didn't know what the heck was going on. But I had listened to enough birth podcasts at that point to know that it was a sign of potential cholestasis so I called my OB right away. They got me in for bloodwork told me that we wouldn't know for sure until like a week later. So when I went in for my 38 week appointment, the OB came in and she was like, Oh, we were just talking about you. Turns out you do have cholestasis and we would like to induce you because you know, we don't want to see you go past 39 weeks for the increased risk of stillbirth. Now looking back on that I kind of wish I had asked a little bit more questions because I have come to find out that my levels were pretty mild. But you know, as a first time mom, you hear the word stillbirth and you're just immediately like, Okay, I'll do whatever it takes. And, you know, we live on the coast of North Carolina. It happened to be a hurricane hitting us that very day. And so they're like, you can either go in tonight and be doted on because you're going to take priority as a medical induction or We can push it out another week if you want and kind of see how things go. But you're gonna have to call us if you find any, like, decrease in his movements or anything like that. And that just scared the crap out of me. So I was like, let's just do it today, called my husband, we went to the hospital. That evening, I finished storm prepping the house and off we went. And luckily, I had a nurse and provider team that knew, you know, I wanted an unmedicated delivery. And they were okay with kind of taking a longer patient approach to the induction. Especially because I went in at Ground Zero, I was naughty faced really, totally close, cervix was high. So we were in it for a long game. So we just started off that evening with the several rounds of site attack through the night. Just was a little bit cramping, nothing crazy, but I could definitely feel things starting to happen didn't sleep at all that evening. Woke up the next morning was still, you know, not really dilated much. But things were starting to happen with cervical change. So my next OB came in and tried to do the full Leibold thing. And tried for like several attempts, and it was very uncomfortable. And she just could not get it to stay. She said something about my cervix being like, tilted over to the left or something like that. And she just wasn't able to place it. And I was done with her trying to so she was like, let's just move on to Pitocin we've seen enough change in your cervix. And I was like, sounds good. I don't want any more finagling up there. But it was it was enough. So we started the Pitocin. And throughout the day, it was pretty manageable. We were we were on a long, low and slow sort of ride with that. And I want to say by 5pm or so we decided on breaking my water. And at that point, almost immediately, things just kicked into high gear, which I kind of knew at that time. But it was like I went from doing really well managing through the contractions to Okay, now we're an active labor, kind of moaning and needing more movement. My safe space was kind of on the birth ball leaning over the bed with my doula giving me counterpressure alternating with my husband. And I'll never forget this part of the story because this meant a lot to me. But coming around that, you know, 7pm hour it was a nurse change shifts change. And the one that I had that day was just so supportive of my desire to go unmedicated. Never once pushed anything on me, it was like, I hardly even knew she was there. And right before she left, I was laboring on the ball. And she's like, kneel down and got down to my level, put her arms around my shoulder. And she said, I just want you to know, you've got this, I can tell you've been working so hard. And you've been preparing for this, and I believe in you. I have to leave now. But I just wanted you to know that. And I was like, wow, you know, I didn't really think much in the moment because I was so in labor land. But reflecting on that later, I was like that really just meant the world to me.

That makes you realize how every comment means the world to us, and how often they are not serving us and how often those comments aren't making us feel better. We're very sensitive to what we're hearing when we're in labor. Absolutely. This wonderful when compassionate people come into our, our world and touch our lives in that way. But how many women have those little casual comments that do the opposite? Every comment will stick it'll go into the brain and she has to process it. Yeah, it's so true. I was very grateful for that. And the nurse I had after her was fine. I just could I could kind of tell she wasn't like super thrilled about me not having an epidural kind of thing. Because she made a couple of comments later on that. We're like, well, not many women can get to this point sort of thing where I was like, Okay, awesome. But, um, I don't know, I would I wanted her to just keep pushing me through it rather than sort of be like, Okay, well, you You did enough. So time to tap out. That's kind of what it felt like to me from those compounds. When you get the epidural, the nurses job becomes far easier, right? There's a lot less hands on and they don't have to be present as much. And it's kind of like, oh, well, she's good until Yeah, I'm gonna have a baby. So we'll just skip right to the good part.

Exactly. I had her previously to like, the night before into the morning and I had asked to take a shower and she just like couldn't get the monitors to stay put while I was in this in the shower. So she made me get out. And I was so bummed because that was like, where it was feeling the best. I was getting the most comfort in there and the warm water and then she was like, Yeah, I can't get enough tones on the baby. So let's just pause right there for a second because she made you get out of the shower because she couldn't get the monitors on you knowing I guess you were on Pitocin at that time. So monitoring maybe wasn't that I was on maybe I can't remember how to be honest, I might not have been yet. But either way they were, you know, intermittent monitoring was not an option because I was being induced. So I knew that that part of my birth plan had to be compromised.

Except that you can have telemetry and monitoring Rangers monitoring while in the shower. And it just, it's just infuriating that her inability to get it right compromised your labor experience. Staying in the shower, another hour could have changed everything for you. You're not allowed to listen to your body because somebody's too frustrated with the process of trying to get it to work, or they don't have the right equipment, or they don't have enough time, which may not be their fault. But right. Yeah, the same old story. When you made that comment that she said to you, not many women make it this far. As soon as you were saying it, in the words were coming out of your mouth, I heard the additional words in her care. Not many women in her care make it that far. Because if you ask so many different birth providers, like if you ask Trisha, do most women make it this far, she would chuckle and be like, Yes, almost like virtually everyone complains a homebirth gets past this point. But it's her. It's her experience. That's probably true. But it's also a reflection of the care she's providing or failing to provide. Yeah, that's a really good point. Like who is she to make a grand statement about what birth looks like? She only has her tiny little perspective of the women in her care. So true. Yeah.

Yeah. So I guess after that shift has happened, that's kind of when I went into full on labor zone. I don't really remember time and space and whose hands were touching my back at that point. But my doula was incredible. My husband was amazing. And they just kind of took shifts with that hands on support. And then, I guess I want to say around like 10, or 11. At night, I was getting to a point where I felt like, okay, if I'm not, if this isn't transition, I've got to be getting there soon, because this is starting to get really, really difficult. And I was like, this isn't enough, I'm ready to get in the tub, I need to like feel a little bit more weightless. So she was like, okay, that's fine. Let me just check you before you get into the tub. Because at this hospital, they are not okay with babies coming out in the tub, which I know how you guys feel about that.

That's just what we do. We check. Before we do this, we check before we do that, right? I got on the bed. And she does this check and tells me that I'm at a three. And I was like 80 or 90% new face and baby was pretty low, I think like a negative one or something like that.

They broke your waters before you're even at a three. I mean that I don't want anyone listening to think it's normal to break a woman's waters are given anatomy. That's a very risky procedure with arguably no benefits. But they often say to speed up labor, but to do it early is just so much more. It's in, it's exponentially riskier. Because it can affect the baby's access to water, you handle positioning, so you were only a three.

Which looking back at since since this birth experience, I've talked to other people, my midwife with my most recent pregnancy was like, I have a feeling you were not a three because of how quickly things progressed from this point on. But all I needed to hear was that I was still at a three and I lost it. Like, I was like, if this is what a three feels like, and I've labored for this long this hard, then there's no way I'm going to make it, you know, to my goal of going on medicated. And that's when the nurse made that comment to me about oh, not many women get to this point and blah, blah, blah. And so my doula comes right back around, and she goes straight in my face. And she's like, look at me, this is just a number. It does not mean anything like you've got this, you've made so much progression, baby's getting lower. It's just a number. Let's just keep trying. Oh, I forgot to mention too. They took me off Pitocin once they broke my water because my body kicked into high gear and the nurse that had made that super sweet comment to me and getting on my level. She went ahead and turn the Pitocin off because she knew that I was good. Like I was in a rhythm contractions were in a pattern. And so I had been off Pitocin for from that point forward. And so when I'm having this moment of like, total breakdown, I'm crying. I'm like, I can't do this anymore. This is that breaking point for me. My husband and doula are speaking life and encouragement and to me and the nurses like listen, I think your body just needs to catch up a little bit with the dilation. Your contractions have started spacing and back out a little bit more, they're not as strong. If we just put you on like a little bit more Pitocin, we think we can catch you back up. And at that point, I was like, whatever, like, I'll, I'll try anything I'm so done.

Sorry to interrupt again. But I just want to make the point that your contractions were spacing out and your body needed to catch up with your dilation. Because of this interference in the labor process, this changing up what you were doing getting a survival exam, the mental anguish of thinking that you were still stuck at three, we talk about this a lot, how fear impacts labor, and how when we feel threatened, or in danger or afraid. Our body naturally slows down. That's what it's supposed to do.

Yeah, I mean, it all makes sense. Looking back and, and reflecting on it. Yeah. But you know, at that point, I was just so exhausted. And I was like, I'm just going to do whatever this takes, I'm so ready to have this baby here. And I got in the tub, she, you know, wrapped my IV and plastic so that I could get in the tub for when they started the Pitocin again, and it was it was low, I remember I kept looking at it and making sure like you're not putting that up any higher. And at that point, it almost felt like immediately I hit full blown transition, I was throwing up a lot over the tub. And then the nurse said that I couldn't have water anymore, because I just kept puking. So I was just eating ice chips. And my poor husband just sitting there puke bag after puke bag over the side of the tub. And at that point, in between contractions, I felt like I was almost not falling asleep, but sort of slipping out of consciousness. Like I was like dreaming almost. I always describe it as that feeling that you get or sometimes, you know, like you're laying in bed and you start to dream a little bit, but you know that you're not fully asleep yet.

That's called theta waves. Yeah, that's also the Hallmark sign of the resting phase between being fully dilated and ready to push.

Oh, there's a fun fact.

There's a pause, there's a rest, there's a little break, you reach full dilation. And then suddenly, the woman is just sort of like, gone for a little bit. And then yeah, that she's gone for a little bit. And then interesting, come back, and it's like, it's time to go, let's push.

That's exactly what ended up happening. I was in the tub for maybe like 45 minutes. So at that point, I started feeling a lot of pressure. And feeling like I needed to push and the nurse asked me, you know, are you feeling the pressure only during the contractions? Or is it staying steady, even in between? And I was like, No, I, I feel a lot of rectal pressure, regardless. So she was like, okay, you know, you're not quite acting like someone that needs to push yet if you want, you can get out of the bed, and we can see where you're at. And right after she said that maybe like two or three contractions later, I was like, I have to push grunting, like leaning out over the side of the tub just bearing down I could only grunt at that point, I knew he was coming out. So they dry me off, get me to the bed covered me up i i At that point, like didn't want to be naked anymore for pushing. So they gave me a gown to wear. And I always envisioned myself as being someone who would push on all fours or standing or squatting. I was so exhausted at that point, the sheer idea of even getting on my hands and knees was just out the window. I just couldn't do it. I mean, I was trembling like had no like muscle tone left at that point. And so I remember when I got on my back and they're they're doing the whole, you know, hold your knees back here. I remember looking at the nurse and I was like, hold my knees back. Like, I don't have the strength for that right now. Even that smallest thing was like, I can't believe you just asked me to do that. I have nothing left to give. And so I had my doula on one leg, my husband or the nurse on the other and my husband holding my hand and doctor comes in and we start pushing. And that was probably the most peaceful part of the whole birth for me. And it was not even painful. Like I just felt so good to be able to push through the contractions. I was so scared of that part. And it was probably the most beautiful for me. I just remember like all I remember was my husband, like telling me how proud he was of me and encouraging me and my doula on the other ear. And within five rounds of pushing my baby was on my chest and and it was just incredible. And that whole process was just such a blur from that point, you know, when it's your baby's on your chest, so it's hard to really remember anything else but a few I don't remember exactly what moment in time it was, but I just remember the doctor saying, Okay, we'll send this out. And I was like, Oh, I didn't see it. I don't really remember anything about that process. And yeah, from there, it was really smooth, then we only stayed for maybe another 24 hours after that got to go home. He was nursing really well, everything was going pretty smoothly, I felt amazing. I didn't even really take any of the Tylenol they offered me, I was in little to no pain. And my bleeding was also pretty light. And so once we got home, and we're working on the whole feeding situation, my son had dropped a good bit of weight. And we were trying to figure out what was going on with my supply and our feeding issues and everything. So I was seeing an ibclc she was having me triple feed. And I remember at one point, she said to me, I feel like something else was going on here. Like there's not really a reason for you not producing like you should be because it took five to seven days, probably from my milk to actually come in. And even then it was just very, very little, and I was working my butt off to try to produce for him. So right off the bat, we started supplementing with formula and everything. And that first weekend home I had him on. Technically, it was a Wednesday morning when tech like it was Tuesday night, we got home. And on Friday evening, I sat down on the toilet and I dropped a pretty decent blood clot. And, you know, they tell you when you leave the hospital if you drop anything bigger than a golf ball, please give us a call. So I did it made me a little uneasy to see that and call the OB she happened to be the one who delivered Silas and she said, you know, are you having any other symptoms? Are you dizzy or nauseous, feverish? Anything like that? And I said no. So she said, Okay, it's probably no big deal, then probably just whatever was hanging out up there still, since you're bleeding has been really light, but call us if a b and c you know if you drop more if you start bleeding heavily through a pad, etc. So another week goes by, and at that point, Sussan week, like two and a half weeks post birth, my bleeding had nearly stopped. And I thought wow, this is great. Like I got off easy. I was only wearing like panty liners at that point. And I had a really tough night of cluster feeding where my son nursed literally all night long. And the following morning, I got up and started bleeding again. And it was it seemed like a lot of new red blood just looked different than that initial like post birth blood. And it was a little alarming because it was a lot. And again, I called here from a different OB, the practice, she explained that sometimes at that time, the scab that forms where your placenta was, can come off, and it can cause some of that new bleeding. That's probably all it is if you don't have all these other symptoms, et cetera, et cetera, just like the other doctor had said. So I was like, okay, no biggie. Go to sleep that night, get up the next morning, I'm nursing my son again. And I sat down on the toilet and I dropped another clot, which was like, the size of an orange. It was massive. scared the daylights out of me. So I call again. And same thing. She just says okay, well, you know, if, if you're not bleeding through a path and less than an hour, and you don't have any these other symptoms, I think you're fine. So now I'm like, okay, like something is going on here, please. Yes, pay attention.

Something's going on. And you keep telling me to call you if I dropped bigger clots, you can reserve much bigger and you're telling me the same thing, but I was speaking to different obese each time. So I go downstairs, and I'm nursing my son on the couch. And all of a sudden, I felt like I was peeing myself. And I handed my baby to my husband. And I was like, I think I'm peeing or something. So I remember that happening a little bit like right after I gave birth, but when you don't have bladder control, you know, but hadn't happened. Since I was a little alarmed. I go to the bathroom, and I'm just bleeding, like, so heavily. I bled through my pants onto the couch. And I look up at my husband. And he's just like the blood drains from his face. And I'm like, we need to go to the hospital right now. So he and I pack up, take the baby, we go to the ER, or they let us go right back into labor and delivery triage since I just given birth. They do an vaginal ultrasound, and they can see that there's still a lot left inside. And they're like we don't know if it's just clotted blood, or if it's definitely like placenta or something like that. But we know that it's in there and it needs to come out. And so basically, the doctor came in and said we have three options. We can either go ahead and do the DNC, we can give you medication to like bleed it out at home or we could give you pain meds and do it manually right now. And I was like all three of those are not appealing to me, I don't really know what I want to do. And so she said, let's just do some blood work. Let's see where things are at. And that'll give us a better answer. So they took some blood. And in the time that it took for my blood work to get back, I'm like researching asking all of my friends who's had a DNC who has had this happen. And basically, the general consensus was like, You should probably just opt for the DNC so that, you know, everything's removed, and it's in a safe manner, you don't have to go back. And so I had kind of in my mind decided, I think that's, that sounds like the best option. Even though all of them were a little scary.

Can we just pause and have Trisha describe what a DNC is and what happens during it.

So basically, that's a procedure where they, you know, dilate. The D stands for dilation. And the SES stands for carrier Taj, and they go in and they dilate the cervix, if it needs to be open, and then they. So it's just a procedure, a surgical procedure for removing leftover tissue placenta. I mean, it's done. With miscarriages, it's done with retained placenta. So clear out anything that's left, it's surgical, but there's no incision, they enter vaginally with it through your cervix. So the dye the D stands for dilation of the cervix, and the C is the technique for kind of getting the products off the uterine lining.

And as a woman awake during it.

You can be Yeah, you you don't have to be knocked out.

I don't That's what I was afraid of, honestly, I, when she gave me that option, I wasn't sure. And the thought of being awake for that. I was like, I don't want to be awake for that. So once I found out they normally knock you out for it, I was like, okay, then I think that option sounds like the safest to me, you know? So the OB comes back and she said, Okay, well, we got your bloodwork back, your hemoglobin is really high. So we think the best course of action is to send you home with the medication to do this at home. And I was like, Well, I think I'd just prefer the DNC at this point. Is there any way we can just do that? And she said, No, because your blood count is too high. So I don't have the case for one. What? Those were her words? And I was like, Okay, I didn't know what that meant.

So hold on. Had you She offered it to you at the beginning before she offered you bloodwork. Have you just said yes. In that moment, she would have died? Oh, no, I don't know if they still would have done the bloodwork and then the time from there. I'm not sure. But she said my hemoglobin was a 14, which I feel like was wrong after I just gave birth. Like, that's just bleeding that much. That seems totally inaccurate. Yeah.

Yeah. So anyway, I was like, Are you sure? And she was like, Yeah, you'll be fine. Even if you bled a lot at home, your blood counts so high, like so this will be fine. We'll, we'll see you back on Tuesday for an ultrasound and make sure everything got out. And this was on a Sunday. So I was like, okay, that doesn't sound great. But all right, we get the prescription filled. Thank goodness, my parents who don't live in town, knew we were in the hospital with everything going on. And they said, How about we come back and just be there for you to take care of the baby might be some, you know, crampy through the night and uncomfortable, like, maybe we can come assist you and your husband and I was like, that sounds great. So they're on the way back and something in me just told me not to take that pill until my parents got into town. I don't know why it was just like this gut feeling that I had. Because when I got home, this is another piece of the story. I got out of my husband's truck. And immediately when I stood up, of course, this the bleeding kind of subsided when I was laying down in the hospital bed. Soon as I stood up at home, I just felt like chunks coming out at me to the point where I had to hand the baby off again and just get straight into the shower. I called that same lb again and I'm like, Listen, I'm bleeding a lot. Like there's big chunks coming out. Should I still take this pill? And she's like, Yeah, that's great. That just means your uterus is doing its job and like getting rid of what's in there. Like you should still take it. So I wait till my parents get there to take this pill that's maybe like five at night. All night I'm so uncomfortable. I can't sit still because I can just feel like chunks coming out of me. And I'm wearing you know a diaper at that point. And so maybe by around like nine o'clock, I got up to use the bathroom and go change my pad and my husband was holding my son my mom was sitting closest to the restroom. And as soon as I sat down on the toilet, I thought three huge chunks come right out of me and I knew I was going to pass out I could feel it happening. And so I yelled out to my mom, I'm gonna pass out because I started blacking out and, you know, tunnel vision, couldn't hear anything. And next thing I knew I came to To my mom holding me up on the toilet, and my husband standing in front of me just looking like he just saw ghost holding our baby. And they're yelling at me and trying to get me to stay awake. My mom's got like a cold towel that she's smacking me with Can't they can't get me to stay awake. And I remember, like sitting there and being like, Okay, I remember sitting down, I remember what just happened, but okay, I'm safe. They've got me. And then I passed that again. And I just remember I kept like coming to, and not really knowing what was going on. But I knew it was bad at one point because I could hear my mom start praying out loud. And she was saying, like, Please, Lord, let her be okay, let her be okay. And they're like, screaming at me trying to get me to keep my eyes open. My mom was just like, look at your baby. Look at your baby, you got to stay here for your baby. Sorry, this part always gets me a little bit. And so next thing we knew there's like 12 men in the house. So you know, I heard her call my dad call 911. And EMS got there. They asked me like several times for my name and trying to get me to come to and I finally did. I couldn't even get a blood pressure reading on me. It was so low. And so they dress me get me on the stretcher, I had to go in the ambulance alone, because it was still COVID. So I had to keep my husband separate. And they said, Oh, you can drive with us. Or you can you know, fall behind. And once we get to the ER you can come in which didn't happen. Nobody let him know anything for hours.

I can't roll my eyes enough. When I hear these COVID protocols. They just make me so angry. I mean, you live with your husband? No, where's you know, they cannot there's no end to how crazy this is. You live when something horrible was happening to you? And you weren't, he wasn't with you? Why? Like, it just, it's unbelievable. It was terrible. How is any of this in the name of health? How is any of this in the name of care?

It doesn't make any sense. But I remember like, by the time I got to the ER I somehow was pretty like lucid you know, as obviously it's a little out of it. But I can remember everything from this point on. Probably because they were pumping me with fluids and everything to try to get my blood pressure back up. And I remember the the nurse and the little like, er pod that I was in. I was like, Oh, you want me to turn off the lights so you can get some rest while we're waiting for the doctor? And I was like no, no, like I was, I was terrified of passing out again or like falling asleep. I was just so scared. And I'm asking around like, can anyone call my husband and let him know what's going on? Because he's just out there sitting in the parking lot. doesn't know what's going on and terrified. And finally, I didn't have my phone. And if anything, I'm wearing a nursing bra and pants and like I don't even have shoes to guide me right now. With my mom at home, my okay. So they find I finally call a nurse and I'm like, can I please call my husband? I'm like, he's probably freaking out right now. Can he come in? And after the doctor came in the same OB I saw earlier was like, Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. If I had known this was going to happen. I would have never sent you home. And I was like, Yeah, precisely my point. So obviously, we were going to do the DNC it was emergent at that point. And I wish that we learned earlier.

What was your hemoglobin now? Do you remember?

I don't even remember it was low. Definitely. Well, yeah.

There's no way that first number was right. No, there's no way. I think it was like a seven or an eight out it was like right on the cusp of a transfusion. And so finally, they let my husband come in. And as soon as he saw me, he just sobbed in his lap. Like he he didn't know if I was going to be there when he came in like he hadn't, he had little to no information, no communication, and he's out there in the parking lot for a couple hours. So they finally said, okay, he can come in and you know, say bye to you, your clothes, whatever you need, and then we're gonna go do the surgery. And either, we'll let you know if you can come in and come get you or if we're gonna end up keeping you overnight. In which case, he couldn't be there either. Which seems so silly because two weeks ago, I was in that same room with him and my baby. And because I wasn't giving birth I wasn't allowed to have my spouse with me. So yeah, from there, they wheeled me in to have that emergent DNC and kept me overnight and I pumped, stayed there alone for a night until the next day when he was able to come get me and that experience just affected my whole entrance into motherhood. I was afraid to be alone. From there, I wouldn't make my husband come in and stand by me when I took a shower. I was working my butt off to get my supply to catch up and I was triple feeding, I made it. Like eight weeks of trying to push through it before I was just like, You know what I feel like my body is never going to recover fully from this, if I keep pushing it past its limit and decided to just you know, full on, switch to formula from that point. But I grieved a lot of my postpartum I didn't get to breastfeed the way I wanted to, I didn't get to confidently step into motherhood without needing like, so much support, which of course, we all need support. Regardless, we could have the most amazing birth and still need help. But I just felt like I couldn't be the mom that I want it to be to my son in those early weeks and months. And it really just transformed everything from me. And shortly after I got my doula certification, because I just felt like this burning desire just to support women in that season, whether it was like actually, you know, attending their births or not, because it being pregnant and COVID. And then going through all that made me realize the gaping holes in in that type of support.

This is might sound a little extreme, but it's true. This is how women die after birth. And providers don't listen to them. I mean, imagine if you live two hours away from a hospital. Yeah. The it's, it's just, it's that it's it's one, whatever was done, potentially, at the birth of your placenta, maybe it was cord traction, maybe it was aggressive. Lee, you know, trying to expedite the birth of the placenta, maybe it had nothing to do with what the provider did, maybe it was just you had, you were gonna have retained tissue no matter what. But then just the lack of listening to you repeatedly knowing that something was wrong and repeatedly being sort of brushed off until it became an emergency situation. I also just want to make sure our listeners know that the reason your milk didn't come in until day five, or day seven, which is by the way, a warning sign that your provider should have listened to, my milk doesn't come in, that's a sure sign that you're bleeding, that's a sure sign that there is probably some retained placenta that does seriously compromised milk production.

Your story is just another example of why we're always saying to women to listen to your intuition, because that's the last thing most women want to listen to. And in your case, you knew not to take that pill till your parents were there. But also like all along you were calling them. And I think you had that you want your anxiety must have just been like off the charts, you must you must be a changed person from this experience. And your trauma in this case came from this gut feeling something was wrong. And being repeatedly told it wasn't. And everyone has these terrible fears that something's going to happen. You know, we especially after giving birth are terrified, something's gonna happen to us or the baby or our partners or, and in your case, you had this fear, and it was becoming realized. So then you have this feeling like Well, now I don't know what to trust. Because this was my feeling all along. And I was told not to listen to it, and you guys weren't their medical community. So like, it's like, I can't rest now. Now I have to constantly listen to my intuition and watch myself because I can't trust that I'm being watched. Exactly the anxiety like I can't even imagine what that did to you. Yeah, to this day, how that changed your brain.

It did. 100% Yeah, I It has made me if anything, like if I have to look at the positive side of it, it has made me a more confident mom, and that I trust myself way more than I do anybody else this point because I'm like, No, clearly, they don't know what I do. And they don't know my body or my baby the way that I do. So I've just like learned all these lessons over the last couple of years that yeah, just have made me more of a fighter for myself. And in the decisions that I make for myself and my children.

What Trisha said about the fact that they should have recognized it as a signal when your milk didn't come in is yet another example of the dangers in American medical, in the American medical system of these siloed providers. I mean, they they should know the first thing I'm not a sound sarcastic. They should know the first thing about anything that's related to their field the first signs of postpartum depression, milk doc coming in it means this pelvic floor issue don't tell them oh, that happens. You're just going to have painful sex or you're going to urinate every time you sneeze no like they should know go to pelvic floor specialists, you don't have to live with that. But this was a life or death matter, and how limited I mean, they already can graduate from medical school without seeing a single physiologic birth, and end up with that degree where they get to call themselves experts. But look at the how it's a life and death matter that they didn't know the first thing about the relationship between breastfeeding and birth. As if it's a whole separate entity as if it's not completely driven by the birth process itself. So true. They should have it was we have different doctors for every single body part. You know, it's just not it's just really nuts. It sounds like your placenta was there was a lot left. Yeah. So she told me there was a lot in there. I don't. I do remember having my six week or my four week postpartum visit with the doctor who was there at my birth. And I said to her, like, why did this happen? Like, did it have anything to do with my induction? Like, what? And she said, sometimes it just happens, like I examined your placenta and it looked intact. So I don't know. I don't know if there was traction attack. Yeah, I could probably go back and try to find what was actually recorded. But as a doula at that hospital, I have since seen them use chord attraction for quick placenta deliveries, even with you know, unmedicated births and stuff. And it makes me wonder, okay, is that just the way they do it? And is that what happened to me? Or? Or was this just coincidental? I'm not sure I try not to hold too tightly to that though, because I held a lot of resentment for a long time about what that did to my whole postpartum, that I almost needed to just let it go past a certain point, and not blame anybody, because I just felt like I had to move past it, especially once I had my second to be able to, you know, just step in and consider a new experience.

So what advice would you give other women who have had an experience like this, not necessarily this specific type of placental experience, but other women who have had an experience where they felt robbed of their postpartum because of something that happened in birth, I would say find ways of, you know, reaching out to your community. And it helped me immensely to be able to talk to other women who had a similar experience. Because just like with motherhood, you could talk about it all day long. And no one truly understands until you've endured something like that. So that was really healing for me. I also did go to a professional therapist for a few months to kind of work through that trauma. There was a lot of times where I would have flashbacks and like, weirdly, particularly when I would go to my yoga classes and I would be moving my body I would like have these random flashbacks of I don't do it. Yeah, yeah. Emotions do get stored in the body. That's yeah. This is this won't be easy to answer, I'm sure. So just like sit with it for a minute. But what does it do for you to be able to share your story? Why does it feel important to you?

I think it's just an opportunity to be heard. Because I wasn't when I was going through it. And so I really appreciate this platform and the opportunity to share it and I think that's why it's so beautiful and powerful for women to get to share their stories because a lot of us don't see things as they're happening in the moment. It can be scary and so this retrospective reflection and time to just be able to like sit with it and share and feel like someone's listening just means a lot.

Thank you for joining us at the Down To Birth Show. You can reach us @downtobirthshow on Instagram or email us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com. All of Cynthia’s classes and Trisha’s breastfeeding services are offered live online, serving women and couples everywhere. Please remember this information is made available to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is in no way a substitute for medical advice. For our full disclaimer visit downtobirthshow.com/disclaimer. Thanks for tuning in, and as always, hear everyone and listen to yourself.

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About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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