My birth story is one that has changed who I am as a person. It is one of the driving forces behind why I started doing birth photography and continues to push me as artist, mother, and woman year after year.
DISCLAIMER: This story involves negligence by a medical professional and does not reflect the way I feel about any other medical professionals or midwives in Dallas/Ft. Worth.
To truly tell this story, I have to start at the beginning.
When we first got married, Chris and I knew we wanted kids, but being young and naive, getting pregnant so soon after we got married was not something we thought could happen to us. The day after Thanksgiving 2010, just 3 months after we got married, we found out we were going to be parents for the first time. We were overjoyed and could not wait to meet our little girl. Because we were also broke, young college students, we ended up on Medicaid for the pregnancy and were very limited in our choices for providers.
At 34 weeks pregnant I watched a documentary called The Business of Being Born and decided then and there that I had to have a midwife and an non-medicated birth in a birthing center. Chris was extremely supportive and we were glad to find one midwife in DFW (at that time) who would take a Medicaid patient. Without hesitation we switched providers at 36 weeks.
During our normal visits, we loved how personal each appointment was. She always spent time discussing our options with us and never rushed through the appointment each week. Also, we were thrilled at the idea of having our baby out of the hospital and couldn’t wait for labor to start.
Then, everthing went downhill.
I started feeling labor pains around 2 am, but waited a few more hours before waking Chris since I knew it would likely be a long day. By 7 am the contractions were consistently five minutes apart and I felt like it was time to call my midwife and head to the birthing center per the midwife’s instructions beforehand. The birthing center was 45 minutes away so I didn’t want to take any chances with morning work traffic. After speaking with her on the phone, she insisted that I wasn’t actually in labor – instead I just needed to take Tylenol PM and go back to sleep. Regardless of what she said, I was determined to go in and get checked.
I made it to the birth center at 8 am, but since I was only one centimeter dilated, she wouldn’t let me stay at the birthing center, even with contractions coming every five minutes or less. She told me to come back when I was four centimeters dilated. From the birthing center, I went to the closest place (my grandma’s house) and labored until 1 pm when the pain became unbearable. Later I found out that Lyla was turned facing the wrong direction, which caused excruciating back labor and slowed my progress significantly. We made the trip back to the birthing center with contractions two minutes apart, but I was still only three centimeters dilated (according to the midwife) so she still wouldn’t admit me; rather, she insisted that I take a pain shot and Tylenol PM (again!) and go to sleep. This was the middle of the day! She also told me it was my fault for labor going so slowly because I wasn’t walking around enough.
I went back to my grandma’s house and labored for another three hours before coming back to the birthing center and insisting on being allowed to stay since there was almost no break between contractions. At this point, I finally reached seven centimeters and was finally allowed to stay and get in the water which immediately took my pain away. I went from screaming and crying with every contraction, to being in control and relaxing. Although I didn’t see the midwife again until I told her I had to push, I had the support of my husband, mother, and mother-in-law tirelessly through the entire process. There is no way I would have survived the day without their support.
I delivered Lyla, in the water, 45 minutes later and immediately began to hemorrhage. My husband and I knew very little about water birth and trusted our midwife, so we had no idea how dangerous the situation was until later. I tried to sit up to get out of the water, but passed out over the side of the tub. I was then put in the bed with some IV fluids, told to eat, and tried to nurse. During the delivery, I sustained fourth degree tearing and required about an hour’s worth of stitches. I was then told I needed to get up and go to the bathroom so I could get dressed and leave. All the while I continued to hemorrhage.
For the next hour, I continued to pass out every time I sat up and several times when the midwife forced me to get up and walk to the bathroom or to try and make it to the door, I ended up on the floor unconscious. Eventually I was told, not even 3 hours after Lyla was born, that I need to just stand up and try and make it to the door so I could “go home and rest.” I linked arms with my husband on one side and the midwife on the other and I made it about four feet before passing out and hitting my head on a table in the hallway.
As I came to, I remember being really confused because I was laying on the floor again looking at the underside of the table wondering if this was normal. In the background, I heard the midwife saying, “If you could just crawl to your car, I think you’ll feel much better once you get home to sleep. There is no need to call 911.” So I mustered the strength to get on my hands and knees and gave everything I had to crawl to the door before passing out again on the welcome mat.
At this point my mother-in-law steps in and demands that the midwife call for an ambulance even though the midwife continues to say that there is no need and I’ll feel better after I get home. This is where my memory becomes pretty fuzzy. We call 911, I get admitted to the Cardiac Care Unit (it’s like the ICU for people with heart trauma) because all of the testing they did indicated I had a recent heart attack and I undergo extensive testing to find the cause. They discover that I have lost over half my blood volume from a severe postpartum hemorrhage and needed three blood transfusions.
We decide that it’s best for Chris to take Lyla back to my grandma’s house with my mom while Chris’s mom stayed with me in CCU for the next three days. The doctor told us if I had gone home and gone to sleep like the midwife suggested my chances of waking up the following morning were nearly zero.
I missed all of Lyla’s first moments. Her first bath, Chris learning to change her diapers, taking her home, feeding her…
The entire time I was in CCU I was so sick I didn’t even care that I wasn’t with Chris and Lyla. It wasn’t until the morning that I left that I started feeling better and I realized how much I was missing. This photo is one of the most precious photos that I have – the first time I really remember holding Lyla, just a few hours before I was released from CCU and three days after her birth.
In a few weeks, it will be six years since all this happened to me. In that time I have experienced so much healing through seeing the love and support for laboring mothers from midwives, doctors, nurses, doulas, and fathers. I have witnessed midwives squeeze hips and hold laboring mothers as they weep through another contraction and want to give up. I have seen nurses comfort scared fathers as their wife is being rolled back for a C-section or cheer a mother on as she brings her little one into the world. Each birth that I document where a mother feels empowered and supported makes the memory of what happened to me fade just a little bit.
Although this story may seem very detailed, I only remember bits and pieces of it and mostly from others who were there. The photos that I have from that day are sparse.
Birth photography can bring so much healing in situations like mine. This is why I am so passionate about giving everyone access to photos who truly wants their day captured. It’s not just a photo; it’s a way to remember the journey and celebrate the process no matter the outcome. I am who I am today because of what happened to me, and photographing each birth is deeply personal to me, and it’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly.