Author’s note: This is not MY personal story, per se, (despite the “my pandemic pregnancy” headline), but a story told by our readers, week by week. Today’s is shared by Kriss.
You might have heard that being pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or delivering right about now is strange, in this age of coronavirus. But how? In what ways? We’re going to tell you. To contribute your own experience, scroll all the way down to the bottom of this article and tap the link.
When Kriss Reed learned she and her husband were expecting their first child, she started researching homebirths. There was just something about the concept that sounded appealing.
She was intrigued by the idea of a water birth especially, which isn’t always allowed in a traditional hospital setting. Some hospitals will let you labor in the water, but it remains rare that you’re permitted to deliver there.
Reed and her husband, Eric Reed, investigated their options. Should they opt for a birthing center? Or what about the University of Michigan, which has some flexibility with all-natural options? Should they truly do it at home?
Kriss Reed spoke with a friend who had hired a midwife for a homebirth, so Kriss asked her some questions.
The friend, a sorority sister, passed along a phone number and told Reed to confirm that this was something she really wanted, and to see whether she’d be a good candidate. (Sometimes, if you have certain health conditions or you’ve had past OB complications, you might not be able to attempt a homebirth. It all depends on your personal circumstances).
The Reeds watched “a whole bunch of YouTube videos,” Kriss said with a laugh, to see if they’d be able to handle the pressure. They knew that delivering at home meant fewer pain management options: Most notably, no chance for an epidural.
“If you decide to (do) it at home, you know you don’t have a choice,” Reed said. “I was concerned (about birth in general). How can this large human come out?”
But she was OK with the all-natural route. In fact, she preferred it. Kriss Reed ended up selecting Cynthia Jackson, a professional birth worker and the founder of Sacred Rose Birthing Services, as her midwife.
Jackson provides homebirth midwifery care and hospital doula support for families across Metro Detroit.
Reed made the decision in late February, right before the world seemingly shut down for COVID-19. Once the coronavirus really started making its way around the United States, and specifically, Michigan, Reed said she and Eric were even more confident in their decision.
“We were so grateful,” Reed said.
Interest in homebirth has certainly been on the rise, considering the pandemic, according to this Healthline story. It makes sense, in theory, why pregnant women might inquire about the possibility. A lot of people want to avoid hospitals right now, although doctors, since the start of the pandemic, have insisted new families are in good hands, separate from COVID wings, patients and floors. Delivering at a hospital remains safe, the experts have said, but in that link above, you’ll see the Reeds are far from the only couple who’ve considered homebirth.
Kriss’ pregnancy was a positive experience, all things considered. The baby was due July 18, so at more than 41 weeks (nearly 42!), Reed was happy to deliver.
The Reeds were excited to welcome their daughter into the world from the comfort of their home. Kallie, as they named her, was born July 31.
Leading up to that, Kriss Reed had two membrane sweeps, which are natural ways to induce labor. She said those were pretty painful, and then labor started July 30. Reed started experiencing contractions about 6 a.m. that day, and said she really didn’t know how these would feel. She compared them to menstrual cramps, but said for hours, they were light, she remained comfortable enough and she was able to move around, which was nice.
Between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m., the contractions picked up, and she stopped being able to move as freely. She lied down, started experimenting with different body positions in order to remain comfortable, and remembered some of the suggestions Jackson had made previously. Jackson had recommended Eric learn some positions too, so he could help as an active birth partner — and the pair got out one of those oversized exercise balls, too.
Labor continued to progress. Jackson arrived at the couple’s home, in Westland, and Reed went from pretty verbal to not so talkative. Contractions became excruciating, she said.
At the home, the Reeds had their midwife, a doula (the midwife delivers the baby and the doula plays a support role), Kriss’ mother, Eric’s mother, Kriss’ sister, niece and best friend — along with Eric’s brother and his girlfriend.
At many hospitals throughout the U.S., women in labor are allowed one support person, and in some cases, possibly a doula. Restrictions have been tight when it comes to visitors, ever since COVID-19 took the world by storm.
“Even in my hospital birth plan,” (which Kriss made just in case), “They said we wouldn’t be able to have more than one or two people in the room, who wouldn’t be able to leave,” Reed said.
Kriss and Eric liked being able to invite whoever they wanted and move freely. They asked everyone in attendance to get COVID-tested beforehand, so they knew they were being as safe as possible, and creating their own makeshift “bubble” environment.
And of that list of people in the home, not all of them were in the room with Kriss as she weathered those contractions. She wanted to keep things as calm as possible.
“I went in the pool. I could listen to music. I had lights, candles, fruit, raspberry tea — anyone could come up and check on me,” Reed said. “It was a very intimate setting.”
It was exactly what she wanted.
Although Reed had hoped for a water birth, her midwife said at one point that she should get out of the water, based on some concerns over the baby’s heart rate. Reed understood, and trusted Jackson’s judgment.
At 2:10 a.m., Kallie was born, weighing in at 8 pounds, 11 ounces, and measuring at 21 ½ inches long. She was perfect. Eric was able to “catch” her and help Kallie get her first breath. It was a beautiful moment.
Although the Reeds hoped to avoid a major medical facility entirely, they knew a hospital transfer would be a possibility, should any complications arise. One issue that came up, post-delivery, was Kriss Reed’s placenta — it wasn’t coming out right away.
She took some natural herbs. The midwife tried to get it out, which “hurt worse than labor,” Reed said. But it wouldn’t budge. Reed ended up having what’s called Bilobed placenta.
“Bilobed placenta is a placenta with two roughly equal-sized lobes separated by a membrane. It occurs in 2% to 8% of placentas. The umbilical cord may insert in either lobe … or in between the lobes,” this website explains.
The Reeds didn’t want to take Kallie to the hospital, but it became evident that Kriss Reed would need to go in. So the baby stayed behind with a friend and Eric’s mother, while the couple and Kriss’ mom went to St. Mary’s Hospital in Livonia, where doctors were able to get the placenta out.
That process was a little unnerving, but the Reeds were happy they went.
They didn’t love the fact that Kriss had to ride in the ambulance to the hospital alone, because of COVID, or the idea that Eric wasn’t allowed to stay by Kriss’ side, either. He had to get tested for coronavirus, wait an hour for his results, and then he was finally able to come back and be with his wife once they were stitching her up (as a result of some tearing). But they understood.
These days, the new family of three is doing well. Kriss said she healed beautifully from her placenta situation. She was even able to have it encapsulated, which was something she planned on.
The days that followed Kallie’s birth were tough, in some ways. Reed said she truly learned about the importance of postpartum care.
“No one had warned me about the challenges of breastfeeding,” she said. “You just hear it’s free and healthy and beneficial for the baby.”
Part of that all-natural experience Reed wanted involved breastfeeding, but because of the trip to the hospital, she wasn’t able to nurse Kallie immediately.
The baby had to have formula first, and it was a few days before Reed was able to breastfeed. It’s one of those lessons you hear about as a new parent: You can’t plan for everything. When it comes to babies, sometimes you just have to roll with the punches and take things as they come.
Beyond that, they’ve had a lot of people who want to meet Kallie.
“But it’s not like how it used to be,” Reed said, when discussing the pandemic. “People who come visit, we don’t let everyone hold her. We do have visitors, or we’ll occasionally go visit our grandparents so they can see her. I still have so many people who haven’t seen her.”
About a month after Kallie’s birth, the couple sold their condo in favor of a move to Detroit.
“I wasn’t even completely healed,” Kriss said.
They were able to push closing back to Aug. 31, but it was still a busy time, considering the ongoing pandemic and the couple continuing to acclimate to life as new parents.
Reed realizes that her homebirth was unique. It’s not something you hear about everyday. But she was glad she got to experience it.
And she was happy to share her story and all she learned throughout the way. Some parts were really empowering: Reed had to learn what to buy for the delivery, the postpartum phase, and her midwife provided tools and resources, but a lot was up to the couple. It’s sort of like a build your own adventure. They could have opted for more people, fewer people or no extra people at all.
They were impressed by how much they could do, all at home. They had newborn photos taken, Kallie’s footprint stamped, the baby got her Vitamin K, a newborn screening, and their midwife did a followup visit, as well.
“Some people had a lot of questions, like ‘You’re going to do all that at home?’” said Reed, referencing the birth.
She was nervous about it at first, but said the family is very spiritual. She and Eric prayed a lot about it, and their extended family members did, too. To prepare her mind, she listened to positive affirmations and researched about what the day would likely look like.
Despite the hospital transfer, a global pandemic and an impending move, the homebirth was a positive experience, overall. The couple loved working with their midwife and are happy to be parents. Kallie is now 3 months old.