Ep 145: Crystal’s Birth Story – Laughing Through the Pain


Crystal played roller derby for nine years and even that couldn’t prepare her for her first pregnancy. She not only labored for 30+ hours, had to transfer from the birthing center to a hospital, was diagnosed with gestational hypertension, and her baby had to stay in the NICU, but she was also stung by a swarm of yellow jackets at thirty-eight weeks! Despite all this, she’s able to look back on the whole experience and laugh. Though some people might never want to get pregnant again after all that, Crystal decided to try for baby number two and it turned out to be a redemptive and healing experience. After laboring for only 2.5 hours, she had the unmedicated birth she’d always hoped for and got to enjoy the “golden hour” which she did not get the first time around.

Crystal’s birth story teaches us an important lesson: you must be prepared for the possibility that things may not go as planned. Birth is an unpredictable process that cannot be controlled. It’s beautiful to have birth wishes, and you don’t want to go into the birth experience without knowing what you want, but it’s important to entertain all possibilities and be prepared.

In this Episode, You’ll Learn About:

  • How different Crystal’s two births really were
  • What she wanted from her first birth and what she got
  • How truly painful birth can be
  • Why it’s important to remember that you can change your mind about your birth wishes
  • How her birth experiences differed in a birthing center versus a hospital
  • What is HIE and how can it be treated with cooling therapy or “therapeutic hypothermia”
  • Why it’s worth the time and energy to process the trauma that can occur from birth

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Ep 145: Crystal’s Birth Story – Laughing Through the Pain

Nicole: Hey, Hey, it's another great birth story episode. Welcome to the All About Pregnancy & Birth podcast. I'm Dr. Nicole Calloway Rankins, a board certified OB GYN who's been in practice for nearly 15 years. I've had the privilege of helping over 1000 babies into this world, and I'm here to help you be calm, confident, and empowered to have a beautiful pregnancy in birth. Quick note, this podcast is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Check out the full disclaimer at drnicolerankins.com/disclaimer. Now let's get to it.

Nicole: Hello. Hello. Welcome to another episode of the podcast. This is episode number 145. Thank you for spending some of your time with me today. On today's episode of the podcast, we have Crystal. Crystal and her husband, Gabriel have been together for 18 years after playing roller Derby for nine years. I think that's so cool that she played roller Derby, well after playing roller Derby for nine years, Crystal retired from the sport and started a family. And Crystal is going to share her birth story today, actually, both of her birth stories, because you have to understand both in order to see the differences about what can happen with birth. So Crystal and Gabriel's first birth did not go anything like expected. She had 30 hours of labor, actually over 30 hours of labor. She ended up being transferred to a hospital from a birth center.

Nicole: She got an epidural when she really wanted an unmedicated birth and she had an extended hospital stay due to gestational hypertension and a NICU stay for their baby girl. Her baby girl's doing well now, but you're gonna hear about all those details. And then you're also gonna hear about how her second birth was very different. For that labor, she was only in labor for two and a half hours, and it turned out to be the redemptive unmedicated birth that they had hoped for including the golden hour after birth, which they did not get with the first birth. This is a really great conversation and Crystal is super funny. She has a bit of dry humor. So I know you are going to love it now, as you will hear during the conversation, Crystal is a member of my online childbirth education class, the Birth Preparation Course, that is my signature program that gets you calm, confident, and empowered to have a beautiful birth. I am gonna die on the hill of saying that everyone needs childbirth education. I feel like my voice went up an octave there. It is so important to have childbirth education, particularly in the backdrop of a system that can sometimes take a patriarchal approach to birth. It takes away power from women over what happens in their bodies and can, and for some can also be racist. And being educated about labor and birth, especially how it happens in the hospital is one of the most important things that you can do to advocate for yourself. And that is what I do with the Birth Preparation Course. You can check out all the details at drnicolerankins.com/enroll. Now, even if you don't choose the Birth Preparation Course, I want you to choose something because again, Imma die on the hill of everybody needs childbirth education. And I know sometimes folks say, oh, I listen to your podcast. And yes, this podcast is great, but it's not enough. You need that deeper dive of structured child birth education. So again, check out the Birth Preparation Course at drnicolerankins.com/enroll. All right, let's get into the conversation with Crystal.

Nicole: Thanks so much, Crystal for agreeing to come on the podcast. I'm so excited to have you come on and share your birth story.

Crystal: Yeah. Thank you. I'm excited to be here.

Nicole: Yeah. So why don't you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your family?

Crystal: Okay. Um, my name is Crystal and I am married to my husband, Gabriel. Uh, we have been together for 18 years and married for five and we have two kids, uh, Freya who just turned two and Roco, who is nine weeks.

Nicole: Love it. Love. Oh, you, so you have a brand new baby?

Crystal: Yes. Yes.

Nicole: And did I see correctly? You're in Asheville, North Carolina.

Crystal: Oh, yes. Yeah. I'm in Asheville, North Carolina.

Nicole: I love Asheville. It is so beautiful there.

Crystal: It really is nice.

Nicole: Yeah. We did a vacation there a couple years ago and like, oh, we need to come back. It's a really lovely, lovely area of North Carolina. Yeah, for sure. Right. Yeah. So in order to understand your story for your little sweet baby, we have to actually know about both of your births because the first one influenced the second one. So let's start with what happened with your first birth. What was your pregnancy and prenatal care like?

Crystal: Sure. Um, so I've always been, um, really adamant about having a quote unquote natural birth mm-hmm , um, you know, being medication free. Uh, we, there is a really long time in our relationship where we didn't even wanna have kids, but we would always talk about birth for some reason and say, oh, well, if we ever have kids, I'm not getting an epidural, blah, blah, blah. Right. Um, so we started out with my first pregnancy. Um, I found out I was pregnant, um, uh, pretty quickly, probably about four weeks in. And, uh, pregnancy was pretty normal. We, um, you know, the regular morning sickness and then in the first trimester, and then it was pretty average after that. Uh, but we wanted to go to a birth center. So I was seeing midwives at a, at a local birth center. And, um, we really, really enjoyed that experience and I was very excited about it.

Crystal: I, um, I read like every book I could find about having a natural birth, having a medication free birth. And I was just, gungho about, uh, you know, there's no other option, I'm having a medication free birth and it's gonna be beautiful and great. And I listened to like every podcast I could find, um,in my podcast app about birth stories. Right. And I just, uh, I really thought I was going to, to, uh, to do great. Uh, I have a, I always, I always consider myself to have a high pain tolerance. Cause I played roller Derby for nine years.

Nicole: Which is so cool by the way.

Crystal: Thank you. So I was like, oh yeah, you know, I can do this. I can get knocked down on the track. I can have a baby. Um, but anyway, so, uh, so we went through the, through the midwives and we really, really liked our experience there. We really felt like, uh, they were very attentive and our appointments were, um, a good length, you know, we never felt rushed. And my husband came to all the appointments with me. This was in 2019. So this is pre COVID. Um, my husband came to all the appointments with me and we just, we really, really enjoyed it.

Nicole: You were pretty, you had a clear idea of what, what you wanted and it sounds like to prepare you read, did you read like all the things or like

Crystal: Yeah, I read, you know, Ina May for sure, Ina May Gaskin, um, I read that book and there's another book, the mama natural Uhhuh, a couple other books. I just like read through them. I was like, got this. .

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. And then other than wanting to have an unmedicated birth, is there anything else that you wanted for your birth experience?

Crystal: Um, not really. I wanted to, I, I wanted to give birth in the pool, you know, at the, at the birth center. So I, yeah, I wanted have a water birth that was, I just had this very idealistic, um, vision of how my birth was gonna go. Obviously you can tell how I'm talking about it. It didn't go that way.

Nicole: And I'm curious, did you talk about that with your midwives at all? Like what you wanted?

Crystal: Uh, yeah, we, we just discussed, you know, I made a, a birth plan and I was like, I wanna have my birth in the pool and just a, a gentle, natural, you know, unmedicated birth and, uh, yeah, that we were, we were all on the same page there.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. And then did they ever give you any indication that maybe you need to prepare for the possibility that things may not go exactly that way?

Crystal: I took, um, a birth education class that was actually at the birth center that, and discussed that, uh, the woman leading it was very open about, you know, don't, don't be idealistic, you know, it it's okay if you need to go to the hospital or you might have to go to the hospital, but, um, I blocked all that out cuz I was gonna have a, a, an unmedicated birth in the pool at the birth. In my head

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. Okay. Okay. Okay. So let's go ahead and get into a, what was your labor and birth experience like?

Crystal: Yeah, let's see. I also wanted to mention too. Yeah. I said I had a pretty normal pregnancy, but I had one wacky thing that happened when I was 38 weeks pregnant. What happened? I was, um, out in the yard, um, you know, I was nesting, so I had to clean everything. So I, I was out in the yard, trimming all the bushes and uh, apparently there was a yellow jacket nest out there and I trimmed a bush that was next to the yellow jacket nest and got swarmed by bees and went running through the yard screaming, but I had 22 bee stings. Oh, when I was 38 weeks pregnant. And I, Crystal I've never been scared in my life. oh, my, it was insane. I ran through the yard screaming and my husband was like, what happened? And I ran straight into the house into the shower and turned the shower on to get the bees off of me.

Crystal: And, uh, it was, it was pretty crazy. I, you know, I've had a bee sting before, but you know, having your whole body too. Yeah. Radiating and I was so afraid I was gonna go into labor and uh, you know, with this incredible pain of bee stings, but luckily the baby held off, so okay. That, that was incredibly scary I bet. Oh my gosh. It was wild and it just sucks like period. Oh yeah. It's it took a couple, you know, the, that it was radiating pain and then the next couple days it was just itchy. So it was, I was like, of course this is so crazy. Of course, of course. Okay. So let's talk about your labor and birth. So I went into labor on my due date. Okay. Um, I started, I was having some Brexton Hicks throughout the day and I was just, uh, you know, I was ready for the baby to come by that point.

Crystal: I didn't mind being pregnant, but it was starting to be a little uncomfortable. So I decided to, to take a bath that night and, uh, right around 9:00 PM while I was in the bath, I got my first contraction and I was like, oh, that, that is not a Braxton Hicks. That is something painful. So I got out of the bath and I kind of walked around for a little bit and I kept getting these contractions. They just came on fast and furious. I had that basically within the first hour, we were already at like the 411 that people talk about, you know? Um, so I was like, oh my gosh, I'm gonna have one of those crazy precipitous births. And uh, so we waited it out for a little bit. My husband was texting my doula and uh, she, she told us to wait it out.

Crystal: It's our first birth. It might take a little longer and right about 1:00 AM. I think I was like, we need to go. I'm in a lot of pain. So we went to the birth center. Got there, you know, it's, it's not too far. We probably got there around one 30 after we got everything in the car. And of course riding in the car was no fun. Um, when you're in labor, but we got there and uh, they checked me and the person who checked me said, oh, you're about six centimeters. We can go ahead and start the, you know, start filling up the tub cuz I wanted to have the water birth. Okay. And I was like, awesome. Right, right. So they, they put me in the shower or they said, I could take a shower if I wanted to. They had like a nice, like nice hot shower there.

Crystal: That felt so good. And I was just like so excited to get into the pool. Um, and so I labored in the shower for a little bit. I started throwing up a little bit and I was just, I was just so convinced I was in transition and I was like, oh yeah, I'm gonna have this baby. Like before Dawn. I was so excited. So I go to get in the pool and um, I had heard so many podcasts where people said, oh, you know, it's, it's like a natural epidural. I got into the hot water and it was so good. And I did not have that experience. I got into the water and it was just like, well now I'm just in water and in pain. I'm sorry. I'm trying. No, I'm like now I'm wet and in pain, like this, isn't what it's cracked up to be.

Crystal: What were those people talking about? Right. Right. OK.Crystal you are hilarious. OK. So I was in the pool and I was like, okay. So I, I labored in the pool and my contractions actually started slowing down a little bit and which I was fine with at the time. Cause I was like, man, these hurt. And um, so I got out later on, um, there was like a shift change with the, uh, with the midwives and they were like, well, let's, let's check you again or asked to be checked. And uh, the person checked me and said, okay, you're right around 3 centimeters. Oh. And I said, no, no, no. I was a six when I got here. That's why I got into the pool. And she, and then, um, they came and said, you know, we actually had a midwife in training check you and the person didn't check behind them.

Crystal: And we're really sorry, but you are actually closer to three. And uh, I was like, oh my gosh. It just like, it broke my brain. I was like, here, I was thinking I was in transition, like about to give birth. And now I'm only like around three centimeters and I was like, oh my gosh. So, um, that kind of, it just, it just, it was very hard to digest that mentally. Yes, yes, yes. On top of still dealing with all the pain and all like, it was, that's just a lot, that's just a lot, right? Yeah. Yeah. So I labored there that was like eight o'clock in the morning. So I labored there, um, at the birth center pretty much all day. And by the afternoon I actually got to about seven centimeters, but the seven real centimeters. And uh, but I started to stall there.

Crystal: Um, I did not progress from there. Um, probably about midafternoon until the, into the evening. I was still at seven and I was walking around and going in and outta the pool and going in and out of the shower and laboring on the toilet, you know, everything everyone's trying to help me do something. And, uh, so, uh, I had, there are a couple things at play here. I think one of them was, uh, many years ago, like 10 years ago I had a leap procedure, which is, um, well, you know what it is, but I'm just gonna yeah, absolutely. Yeah, please. Yeah. It's uh, like pre-cancerous cells on my cervix were burned off and, um, that, you know, it was just a, it was a simple procedure many years ago, but apparently that left some scar tissue on my cervix. So they were concerned that the scar tissue was the reason that I wasn't progressing.

Crystal: So they manually broke up the scar tissue. Um, while I was in labor to try to release that, which of course was very uncomfortable and, um, tried to help me progress, but it still, I was still just stalled. Right. Um, and I stayed stalled at seven, uh, seven centimeters for a very long time. So in, in, you know, in between this time, there's like people coming and going from the birth center, like coming in and having babies and leaving since I've been there. So they come back to me and they say, okay, here's the plan. We're gonna have a baby, you know, by tomorrow morning. So we need to, you know, they're trying to encourage me, um, we're gonna get this baby out. So we're gonna try some breast stimulation with breast pump and then we're going to break your water if that doesn't work.

Crystal: Okay. So I tried the breast pump and that definitely, um, got my contractions back on, on, um, a schedule cuz my contractions had slowed down a little bit. But um, I did that for a little bit and they checked me and they said, oh, you're still at a seven and we can, we can break your water if you want, but it's gonna make things more intense. And I said, oh, okay. You know, at my, like I figured things were pretty intense already. And I was like, they can't be more intense. Right. It's fine. Oh, so silly me. I, so, uh, yeah, so they broke my water and I went to get back into the shower. Cause that's where I was laboring cuz the shower felt best. And uh, it, the contractions just came on like out of nowhere, just so, so strong.

Crystal: I could not believe how painful they were. I was, there's a point where I was literally clawing at the side of the shower to escape my body. I have never, I was having like an out of body pain experience and I was like, this is wild. I can't do this anymore. So I tried to get back and they were like, well let's fill up the tub again. That will help. And I was like, okay. And of course we got back into the tub and uh, it, it was the same thing. I was like, no, I'm just covered in water and I'm so much pain. Right. So I was screaming, I need to, I need an epidural. I need to get outta here, like right now. And so we're like, okay, so we're gonna transfer to the hospital so I can get an epidural. And the hospital is like right around the corner.

Crystal: So it's not too far, but it's not fun when you've been, you know, at this point I went there, uh, early tu you know, 1:00 AM at Tuesday morning and now it's Wednesday morning. So I've been there for more than 24 hours. And our stuff is everywhere. My husband bins and a couple, my husband and a couple of my friends were there and my doula, they're all like, you know, grabbing my stuff, trying to pack it up. And I was so gung-ho about having a birth at the birth center. I hadn't really packed much for myself. And so I didn't need all I had were pants. And I was like, there's no way I'm putting pants on right now. I'm just in this like hysterical pain. So they wrapped a sheet around me oh, so I'm like, I'm like wearing like a sports bra and a sheet, like screaming, going to the hospital.

Crystal: And um, I went up to the hospital and I was just like, give me the epidural. And they said, okay, well we have to, you know, you have to get fluids first before you get the epidural, I was like, oh my gosh. I said, I don't have time to do that. And well, you know, they said we have to do that. So, um, I had to get two bags of fluid, but they put it on a, um, I don't know what you call it, like a fast. It's called a Bo called a bolus where it goes in quickly. Yeah. So they put it on that. Thank goodness. So it, it went, it didn't take as long as they originally said it would. And then an amazing man came in and gave me an epidural and he said, uh, he's gonna do it between contractions and I can't move.

Crystal: And I was like, I can't guarantee I won't move. Right. And he was like, you have to stay still. So, and um, soon as he put it in, he said, okay, it's, it's probably gonna take about 10 minutes to kick in. And by then I was still, I was just in so much pain and I I'd started throwing up again. And I was just like screaming. And uh, I said, I don't have 10 minutes. And he was like, uh, you'll be okay. And um, luckily it just, uh, it really, it really worked like instantly. I was so I was like, thank you, mystery man. Right. And, uh, I laid down and was just, it was amazing how I was like, literally like trying to remove myself from my body and the next minute I felt okay, right again. Right. I was like, oh, this is lovely.

Crystal: Right. So I just kind of, at that point, I just laid back and I think I fell asleep immediately. Cause at this point I hadn't slept since Sunday. Yeah. You had, yeah. You had to be exhausted. Yes. Yeah. I slept Sunday night now it's Wednesday morning. Yes. So yeah, I, I kind of slept and rested a little bit and then I was still stuck at seven for a while. I was just stuck, just not progressing from seven centimeters. So at one point they came in and said, we think, you know, at this point you're, you haven't progressed. We think you should have a C-section. And I said, okay. Um, you know, I, I, I'll just, I'm gonna throw in the towel. I I'm, I'm done. I'm tired. So, um, so my husband was getting dressed out, you know, putting the little cap on and, and everything to go into the C-section and they were getting ready to wheel me in there.

Crystal: And my, um, midwife had come to the hospital with us and she was going to do, um, vaginal seating. So she went to check me and was like, oh my gosh, you're fully dilated. Um, I think you can push now. Right. And I was like, no, no, I'm having a C-section. And she was like, and then, so some other doctors came in and they talked to me cause I was so, so tired. Right. And they said, you know, at this point it's really better to, to try to have a vaginal birth cuz the baby's in the birth canal. So we don't wanna do some damage, pulling them out of the birth canal through a C-section. I said, okay. And I said, but I'm so tired. I can't push for like two or three hours. And they said, ah, well you can try it's okay.

Crystal: I said, okay. So after a little while I think they started, um, giving me Pitocin or something at some point. But um, I started pushing and I did end up pushing for about two and a half hours. Um wow. Which is time goes by fast though while when you're pushing it does I'm sure it does. It probably didn't go by fast, fast, for my husband, but um, yeah, it, it went by pretty fast, but um, toward, toward the end, it, it was getting, I, I thought we were getting close. I kept pushing and pushing and um, I couldn't feel anything I had that epidural and I, I couldn't feel my legs. I couldn't, I couldn't feel anything. So I was just pushing, um, you know, the best way I could, the way they described it to me, like what I should do. And all I can remember is my arms, for some reason hurt so bad.

Crystal: Cause I had been laboring for two days prior to that, like holding onto the handicap bars, shower at the birth center, like squatting and holding onto the bars for so long. Um, so I kept saying my arms and the nurse was like, what is wrong with your arms? Like you're having a baby. It was so silly. Um, so I started pushing and um, or I'd been pushing for a while and toward the end they said, okay, well the baby's heart is starting to De-cell said, okay. So they tried to move me around a little bit, the best they could. And um, they kept saying, oh, like it would go up a little bit and then they'd say, okay, well her heart, heart rate is, um, De-cell some more. So all of a sudden, out of nowhere, there's like it went from having like two people in the room to like a whole team of people in the room.

Crystal: And there was a doctor that I like, the midwife had yelled to call for a doctor and um, doctor came in and everybody just, you know, I could feel like it very serious, all of a sudden. Right. And they're like, you need to get this baby out right now. Like you, you need to give it all you've got. And I was like, I've like, you know, in my head I was like, I've been given it all I've got like, I don't know. Um, so the doctor did ask me if she could give me an, an episiotomy to, um, help. And I said, yes, do what we need to do to get the baby out. And um, it took a few more minutes and they got the baby out and the baby, I did not, I had the epidural and I did not feel that baby come out at all.

Crystal: Like I had no idea the baby had been born and um, they took the baby over and she wasn't crying for the first little bit and wasn't crying, wasn't crying. And um, finally they got a little cry and they put her, they had put all sorts of like, I don't know if it was something to help her breathe. Um, I don't, they put all sorts of little contraptions on her and basically said, here she is mom. We have to take her to the NICU and whisked her away. And my husband went with them and I was like, whoa, like what just happened? Like what the hell just happened? Yeah. And I was like, well, she cried. And at that point, like I was so tired. And so just discombobulated, you know, it now it's, it's um, three 40 in the afternoon on Wednesday and I haven't slept since Sunday and I've been in labor since Monday.

Crystal: Right. So it was 30 hours of labor later. Um, so they came back to talk to me a little while afterward the NICU people did and her Apgar score when she was born was a one. Mm. And I think they do another apgar, I think five minutes later um, her next apgar was a five and they had taken blood and done some testing and said that she had a high level of acid in her blood and they were really concerned about her losing oxygen during her, while when her heart rate started going down um, and she did have the, um, cord around her neck when she was born. Okay. And so they think that that contributed to it. So they actually did diagnose her with H I E. Okay. Which is hypoxic. Yeah. ischemic encephalopathy yeah, exactly.

Crystal: Yeah. So, um, they diagnosed her with that and they said that, you know, it's very concerning and very serious, but they do have a therapy for it, which right now it's, um, they do something called therapeutic hypothermia, which they put the baby on like a cooling blanket for three days. Yeah. And they intentionally lower their body temperature to a, on 93 degrees. And, um, just like they slowly lower their body temperature with hope that the, um, the brain, the, the, the concern with H I E is that, um, the brain might swell or it might be damaged from the lack of oxygen. So, um, the hope is that when they cool their body down, then it, you know, the, the brain has time to repair itself, I guess. Um, I don't know if I'm explaining it very well. You are, you are explaining it exactly.

Crystal: Spot on. Yes. Okay. Thank you. Yeah. At the time it was, you know, it was a lot to take in at the time. Um, so basically they said, okay, she's in the NICU. She's gonna be on this cooling blanket. Um, they, they kind of sit, they sedate, they sedated her. So they said, she's not gonna be in pain, but she's gonna be cold. You can't really touch her. You can't pick her up. Like they said, we could put our finger on there if we wanted to touch her, but don't rub her, don't stimulate her. Don't do anything like that. So it was, it was definitely pretty scary. I didn't see her until after shift change that night. So I had her, I at 3:40 on Wednesday and I didn't actually meet her until probably about eight o'clock that night. Um, and it was just, she had a C P a P and all sorts of, um, electrodes and stuff on her.

Crystal: Right. And, uh, all, all sorts of stuff. And C P a P for the listeners is just continuous positive airway pressure. And it's just like a little bit extra to help babies with breathing. So . Yeah. So that was a lot, it, it was, yes. Um, yeah, so, so she was there and they said she had to be on the cooling blanket for three days. And then on the third day, they would very, very gradually warm her back up. They said, it's, it's very crucial if she gets warmed up too fast, or if her body doesn't react to the warming very well it's possibility that she could have a seizure or it could cause some other complications. So we kind of just held our breath, you know, for three days waiting for that warming up time. Um, so it, it was, it was a lot, so we would, I was, you know, staying in the hospital room, uh, you know, while she was up in the NICU.

Crystal: And while I was there, I started to develop gestational hypertension. So my blood pressure was going off the scales, and I had never had blood pressure issues in my life. And I couldn't believe that I was dealing with this while, you know, I was in the hospital, you know, all, all of this, you know, here, I thought I was gonna have this birth center birth and be there for, you know, two hours and be home. And, uh, then here we are in the hospital. So they were giving me some blood pressure medicine and, and keeping tabs on my blood pressure. Sure. And then on Saturday, which is when they were supposed to, they were supposed to start warming her up on Saturday. And then on Sunday was the day I was supposed to hold her. I was supposed to be, we were supposed to be able to interact with her and hold her.

Crystal: So we got to Saturday and every day at the hospital too, every, every morning the nurse would say, you're getting out today, aren't you? And I'd say, I don't know. I hope so. And they kept holding me. And then on Saturday they said, listen, your blood pressure is too high. Um, a doctor came in and spoke with me and said, we really wanna put you on a magnesium treatment. And, uh, I hadn't, for some reason, you know, I, I listened to all these birth stories before on podcast, but I, I, I guess I blocked out that magnesium part and, um, couldn't remember what it was. And she explained it to me, but she really explained it poorly. I think she was saying, I think she was giving me the worst case scenario. So she was saying, we're gonna put you on a magnesium drip to, you know, um, try to get a hold of your blood pressure.

Crystal: And she said, it's gonna give you, it's gonna make you feel really sick. Like you have a really bad flu. You probably won't be able to walk. Um, we're probably gonna have to catheterize you cuz you won't be able to go to the bathroom. Um, you probably won't be able to hold your baby and uh, you're gonna have to be on this for at least, um, 24 hours. And I was like, what? And I just couldn't believe it. Cuz the only thing getting me through every day at the hospital was being able to hold my baby on Sunday. Right. And I was like, no, like I can't do this. I have to hold my baby. And she was like, you know, well there will be other, you know, you'll have plenty of time to hold your baby in the future. And I was just like, it just like, it, it really broke my heart.

Crystal: Yes. And I was like, I can't like, all I wanna do is hold my baby. Um, and my husband was getting really kind of annoyed at this point cuz every day they'd say she's getting out. And then all of a sudden in the evening they'd say, oh no, you have to stay. We have to monitor you. So he started talking to the doctor and uh, was asking her about, you know, what, what are the odds like what, what are, what's the actual statistics behind this? Like, do I actually have to get this treatment? Is there any other option to go with? And um, she was kind of holding her ground and um, still requested the treatment. So we had a nurse come up, um, to, she was gonna put like another IV into my arm and get the magnesium started. And she came up and I was just crying and crying and crying.

Crystal: And um, in the meantime, one of our midwives had called my husband to check in and I had gone to the bathroom and I came back and my husband had told the midwife, everything that was going on and the nurse was in there and had heard the conversation and I said, okay, I'm ready. And she said, we're not doing anything right now. And I was like, okay. And um, he got off the phone and she was like, you know, I don't think we need to do this magnesium treatment. She was like, I've, I've seen, you know, she seemed really experienced. She's been there for 20 years or something. And she's like, let me talk to the doctor. We need to figure out if there's something else we can do to try to make this work for you. So we ended up talking with the doctor and the nurse and um, everyone agreed that, um, in order to let me hold the baby the next day they would, um, instead of giving me the magnesium treatment, they would just monitor me like leave the blood pressure cuff on my arm the whole time. Okay. And monitor me intermittently. And if my blood pressure did spike up again, then I would get medicine. So, um, so that was, it was, it was a good meet in the middle at the time. Right. Uh, looking back, I don't know how terrible the effects of the magnesium would've been. I don't know if I would've been, it would've been that drastic, but at the time it's just sounded, so it just sounded like the end of the world, honestly. Sure. It really felt like the end yeah.

Nicole: So, and everybody experience it, experiences it differently. I would say some people do have feel like crap on it, some people don't so yeah. There's just no way to know.

Crystal: Yeah. Okay. So, so yeah. So anyway, so all this to say, uh, they, they warmed up the baby on Saturday and everything went well. They had a neurological team actually monitored her, monitored her for 12 hours to make sure her brain was functioning properly. And we got to meet her on Sunday and hold her. And I got to try to let her nurse and she started nursing right away and it was all really great. And she was in the NICU until that following Wednesday. So she was in the NICU for seven days and they let her go and said, you know, we, we think the therapy went really well. You're basically, you won't know anything until she starts getting older and hopefully she'll meet her milestones. Right. And, um, honestly she's been meeting every milestones since, um, she's two years old now and she's a little crazy toddler. So I think, uh, I think it went well hopefully. And uh, yeah, so that, that was quite an experience. Very, very very different than my idealistic experience.

Nicole: Like very, very different. And then like, well, first of all, I'm glad that you're you are well and that she is well, did you have to keep monitoring your blood pressure also for a little bit?

Crystal: Oh my gosh. Yes. They, they put me on medication that I had to take twice a day and it, it was really pretty bad. Um, it made me really dizzy. It gave me heart palpitations. It made me nauseous. I, I called multiple times, um, and asked if I could be taken off of it or weaned off of it and made me stay on the, like a heavy dose until for about three weeks and then I started weaning off of it for another three weeks, but, um, I didn't really feel like I could do much of anything for three weeks. I didn't even drive my car cuz I just felt so dizzy and nauseous. Right. And it was, uh, I hated it but uh, but soon as I got of it, I was like, oh wow. Okay. I feel normal again. Cause I wasn't sure what was postpartum, you know, I didn't know if it was, you know, is this, is this how you feel when you have a baby? Right? Or is this the medication? But um, turns out it was the medication.

Nicole: Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. So then you decide that you wanna get pregnant again.

Crystal: Yeah. And

Nicole: Cause a lot of people would've been like, ain't no way I'm doing this again, but right. You decided like, no we're, we're gonna, we're gonna go, go for this again. Yes. And then how did, how did you approach things differently the second time around?

Crystal: So this time, um, so we, we were definitely from the first birth it was, you know, a little bit traumatic and we a little much as I . Yeah, it was, we, we didn't want that to happen again, but we were definitely, yeah, it was a lot. So we were pretty shaken and uh, you know, as much as I loved the birth center and I, I really, really liked everyone worked there and I felt comfortable there. Um, we, the birth center at the time was only technically doing births at the birth center. They didn't help. They, you couldn't have the midwife come to the hospital. Um, unless you got transferred there. So, um, we said, no, we have to have a hospital birth next time. Cuz if something happens like this again, you know, we want the NICU team there.

Crystal: Right. And uh, um, so I started going to an OB and there, I actually found a local OB office that has a midwife on staff and I started seeing her and um, it, it was pretty great. It was still like more of an OB office feel. And I got to meet all the different doctors, you know, cuz you never know who's on call when you go into labor. So I met all the different doctors and um, it was, it, it was still good. It wasn't um, I, I still missed the birth center a little bit and every now and then a doctor would mention, um, because I'm, I'm older, I just turned 40. Um, they would mention something about possible induction or um, or something like that, any sort of intervention. And it would kind of make me a little nervous cause I'm still, you know, even though I had the, the hospital birth with the first one, I still wanted to have an unmedicated birth. Right. Right. So I was like, oh yeah, I wanna have this beautiful unmedicated birth. That's what I want. This is my redemption birth. So, um, so yeah, but the care was, was actually really good. Okay. At the OB office.

Nicole: And I mean, there's no getting around it. Birth center, prenatal care is a lot more hands on yeah. Than, um, I mean, it just is than, than what you're gonna get in OB office. So I'm not surprised, but I'm glad the overall it was a, a good experience. So what did you do differently to prepare for your second birth?

Crystal: Um, for the second birth, I, I think I really started to process the first birth or I was thinking about how I got stalled in labor. And I started remembering, I really started try to remember like how it felt and how I felt. And um, a lot of it was mental, you know, I really, I had, I thought that I was gonna have this quick birth, but I also was very scared in between contractions. It was, it was a loss of control. Like I felt like, you know, that, I didn't know when the next contraction was happening, it was painful. And you know, so in between contractions instead of like relaxing, I was, um, you know, clenched up and like, I don't want another contraction. Um, so I started processing how that was and I started thinking more about like, okay, if when I go into labor, I really need to get into this and like surrender and just let it happen and just know that, you know, this, this is happening to me or this is happening with me and not just, uh, feel like I had that fear, that loss of control. So I, I did a lot of processing, um, mentally trying to figure out how to deal with it.

Nicole: Did you just do that on your own or did you seek out any sort of help or how did you do that?

Crystal: Um, I think I did that mostly on my own. I talked to my husband a lot about it, obviously, cuz he was there to, to the first one. Right. Uh, so we, we unpacked a lot of it and then I kept listening to birth stories on different podcasts and, and, and all that stuff. Okay. So, okay.

Nicole: Okay. What else did you do to prepare?

Crystal: Yeah, we actually ended up, um, actually ended up purchasing your, uh, birth class.

Nicole: Oh my how did that not know the, see, I never know. I, I feel like I should start asking this question when people submit, because I, I, I did not know that.

Crystal: Well, yeah. I was like, we probably need a refresher just in case because the, the first birth class we went to was very birth center centric and um, I've always been a birth nerd. Like I feel like I, I, I have a really good idea of everything, many, many things that can happen. So I felt pretty comfortable with all the different, um, interventions or any, you know, what, what, what could happen, but my husband's not as deep into it. So we watched, um, a lot of your class, um, together probably, um, you know, a little bit. And then I will admit that I dipped off a little bit toward the end cause I was just tired. I mean, it's pregnant with a toddler.

Nicole: Yeah. And it's a lot and it's a refresher for you. So some of it, you know, you may cause some of it you may not need to know, but yeah. I hope it at least prepared you more from like for a hospital birth. Like it, this is how it's gonna go.

Crystal: Yeah. I definitely watched cuz they kept, um, mentioning casually mentioning induction so I was like, okay, I'm definitely gonna pay close attention to the induction options. And uh, I actually, my husband ended up, um, watching a lot of it to make sure that he knew all the different options that could happen. So he felt better going in, uh, this time than just, uh, what, what we had learned last night. Gotcha. Yeah. It, it was good. So we, we felt a little more refreshed and well rounded about that.

Nicole: Good. Good, good, good. So then other than wanting another medicated birth, is there anything else that you wanted for this second time around? I mean obviously to not have all the other stuff that happened as well. Right.

Crystal: But, um, I, I was very, very careful not to create this ideal picture in my head. So I, I just wanted, I just wanted, uh, I wanted to be healthy. I wanted a healthy baby and I wanted to have that golden hour, you know, I didn't want my baby to be whisked away. If I could, not that I, not that you can help that, but I was, was just very much hoping that I could spend, you know, the first, you know, hour of my baby's life with them. So that was really my, my hope. Gotcha. But I, I was very careful not to, um, to, to put all my eggs in one basket, basically with a ideal birth.

Nicole: Gotcha. Gotcha. Gotcha. And then, so then what was your labor and birth like as we're getting close towards it towards the end, but I, if I understand correctly, it was not nearly the 30 hour, 30 plus hour experience. The second time around.

Crystal: It was not, it was, uh, so with this one, he, it, I started again, it was the day before his due date and um, at nine o'clock at night, I started having contractions and I, they came on fast and furious again, just like with the first birth but this time I, I was, you know, it so much of it is mental looking back. So this time I was like, there's no way I'm, I'm, you know, very progressed. This is how I felt last time. And last time I was three centimeters. And so I ended up going like hiding in our bath room, um, and laboring in there just very, very quietly like with my first labor, I was very loud and trying to do like Mo sounds and all this stuff. And like in this labor, I just breathed, I was using like a contraction app that would like help you breathe through it.

Crystal: And I was very, very quiet and uh, eventually my husband came and my, um, my stepmother actually had texted me at one point, cuz she knew that I was having a lot of Braxton Hicks and I thought I might be going to labor soon. And she texted me and kind of like snapped me out of that labor land and uh, was like, Hey, last call. Are you okay? Or you going to bed or what's going on? Right. And I, I, I was in between contractions. I just sent back like text my husband, like text Gabe. And so, um, because I was just lost and I didn't even know how much time had gone by. So my husband came and was like, Hey, should we go to the hospital? And at that point I was um, uh, I guess at this point looking back, I think I was in transition, but I was at my wit's end.

Crystal: And I said, oh, I said, I don't care what we talked about. I'm getting an epidural as soon as we get there and I'm about to throw up he was like, okay, he's like, I've got the car packed. Uh, we're ready to go. Right. And so, um, we ran out to the car and got to the hospital and um, I really, really did not think, like I was like doing the math in my head. I was like, okay, it's 20 minutes to the hospital and then I'll have to get the IV and then I'll have to wait for the epidural. Like I was doing all the math in my head, like when can I get relief? I'm so like, I'm so over this, I'm just in so much pain. So we run up to the hospital, go up to the labor and delivery floor and they get me into triage and you know, I'm just kind of like frantic and uh, the nurse there is, you know, very, very calmly says, Hey honey, just, just hop up here on the bed and I'm gonna have to monitor you for 20 minutes.

Crystal: Right. And I was like, oh my God, this sounds terrible. I, I, I wanted epidural. Right. So, um, I hop up on the bed and I came it like, I could only be on hands and knees. Like, that's just, I could not even fathom being on my back. Right. And so I'm going, I'm getting through a contraction and she said, okay, I'm gonna check you after this next contraction. I'm like, okay. And uh, she checks me and all of a sudden she goes, she's complete with a bulging bag. I need a room, I need a room. I need a room. And all of a sudden like, there's is this like flurry of activity. And she's wheeling me down the middle of the hallway to a room. And I was like, whoa, it's my first thought in my head. I was like, oh man, no, I'm not gonna get that epidural.

Crystal: I was like, I better not have to push for two hours. Right. Right. So, um, they got me in there and um, I got to mention, I was GBS positive with both, um, births. So I had to get antibiotics. They like, they poked me right away to get the antibiotics. And um, I was on my hands and knees just laboring and just, oh my God. In so much pain, I could not believe it. I was like, I think this is more painful than last time but I was really trying to breathe through it. And uh, the doctor came in and said, okay, Hey, well, whenever you feel the need, just bear down. And uh, I, I don't know if I ever felt the need. I just, uh, I mentally felt the need. All I could think was I have to get this baby outta me.

Crystal: This hurts so bad. Right. And so I was pushing and pushing a little bit. And then, um, they say, oh no, your, your baby's heart rate is starting to De-cell. Oh my. I was like, oh my God, I cannot do this again. But yeah, my, it was like, oh my God, I can't do this. So they turned me on my side and they were like, you need to turn on your side. And I was like, oh, like, everything was so hard. I was like, I can't. Um, so then I turn on my side and I push it through pushes there and they say, oh man, baby's really De-celling we need to get the baby out. Now you need to push as hard as you can. And I was like, I like, I literally am. Like, I don't, I don't like this either. Like, um, so, um, I pushed like just as hard as I, I could and baby wasn't coming out and the, the doctor said, listen, we need to get him out.

Crystal: Now his, his heart rate is really going down. Um, I suggest that we use forceps and I was like, okay, do whatever you want. Right. And so she, so then I had to flip to my back and, uh, so she, I think we did, like, I did like one or two pushes and used the forceps and there was a lot of pressure and then, um, I definitely felt the ring of fire and I definitely felt the baby come out this time. And, um, he was out and before it was like, while he was coming out, he had already started crying. Oh, nice. I was like, oh my gosh. And he came out and he was, and all I could say was, is that normal? Aw. And everybody's like, yes, it's good. It's good. And I was like, oh my gosh, thank goodness.

Crystal: And so they put him on my lap. He had like a really short cur cord. And, uh, they'd kind of put him on my lap instead of my chest. And all I could think of was like, am I responsible for holding this baby on my lap right now? Like, I'm really tired. Like what? And so after a minute, you know, they, they cut the cord and, uh, and took him over, checked him out. Everything was great. And, uh, we got the golden hour and, and everything. It was basically the, the birth was way, way more painful than I ever could have imagined. Right. Like all those podcasts I listened to where people are like, I felt some pressure. And then I had a beautiful birth. Like, no, this was like, I was being torn in half on my backside. And I could not believe all those people who said they had this a little bit of pressure.

Crystal: And then they felt the ring of fire. Like, no, it was, it was wild. Right. I was like, this pain is how, how, how is the species still going on? Right. It know. Right, right. But, uh, but yeah, we did that. And, um, wow. Yeah. So then baby. Yeah, we had our golden hour. We had my natural unmedicated birth and, uh, it was a whirlwind. It was two and a half hours after I went into labor. So my goodness, my first birth was 30 plus hours, like in active labor. And, and my second birth was two and a half hours. And it was, I couldn't mentally grasp it. Right. I was like, this is insane. I have a baby now. Right, right,

Nicole: Right. Wow. Wow. Wow. So did you have to get any stitches after the forcep?

Crystal: Uh, yes. Okay. Uh, I had, well with my first birth, I had the app episiotomy and, and with this birth, she said, oh, you tore where you tore last time. And I was like, oh cool. Cuz it wasn't terribly long last time. But this time I think, I think she meant it was in the same area. Right. But it was much, much bigger, but it was still a second degree tear. She said it felt more, it felt worse. And it was a little longer for me to recover. Gotcha. I was hoping. Gotcha. But gotcha. I do feel pretty good now. Okay. Well, good weeks out.

Nicole: Good. Good. I'm glad everything, um, ended up being better this time. And I presume this time you ended up going home a couple days later.

Crystal: Yes. Yeah. They, it was just, I gave birth to him 11:40 at night and uh, on a Tuesday and by Thursday afternoon, the nurse came in and was like, um, when is your husband gonna be here? I was like, oh, you're like, actually you're seriously letting me go. Right. Cause before they would say, oh, you're you might get out today and then I'd have to wait. And then they basically like kicked me on Thursday afternoon and I was like, oh, ok. I guess we're leaving now.

Nicole: And no trouble with your blood pressure this time?

Crystal: No, no thank goodness. I had like one higher reading and I was like, no. And they said, it's okay, this is normal. And then it just, it went back down to normal and I never had a problem again. And I was so, so grateful cause I did not want to be on those.

Nicole: Sure. Sure. So when you look back on both of your experiences, how do you feel?

Crystal: I feel good. I feel, um, like I have a very well rounded, uh, uh, experience, I guess, you know, I've had the, I've had the crazy long birth with lots of interventions and I've had the very short, crazy wild fast and furious.

Nicole: Right, right. I mean, you, you are like the textbook example of birth is an unpredictable process

Crystal: Oh yes. A hundred percent. Yes. And it's all very mental cuz with the second one, I was like, there's no way, like I, you know, in my head I thought I still had another day or so laboring. And I got there and they were like, you need to start pushing, you know, whenever you feel like I was like,

Nicole: Wow, like what's going on. Right, right, right. Wow. So I that's, I'm just like, they're just, those experiences are just so, so entirely different. I think they're just really great examples of how you just have to be ready to ride those waves because you just don't quite know what may come at you in the birth process.

Crystal: Yes, for sure. Yep. Yeah,

Nicole: Absolutely. Absolutely. So then what is the one piece of advice that you would tell other women if they get ready for their birth?

Crystal: Um, I think, well, everyone told me this, but I didn't listen, but understand that birth can go any which way in any direction and not only, you know, not only be prepared for it, but just don't have an, have an ideal birth planned out in your head, like be prepared. Don't, don't just pack like a pair of pants to go to the hospital. Um, no, I would definitely say, you know, it, it's great to have a, a wish, a wish list, you know, for a birth, but, uh, be prepared, um, for anything that could happen, you know, mentally, uh, men mentally prepare yourself and, and, and know, know what what's out there.

Nicole: Yes. Yep. For sure. For sure. Well, Crystal, thank you so much for agreeing to come onto the podcast. I'm super grateful that you shared your story. A ton of people are gonna learn from from it. I know some folks may be a little bit scared by it, but this is the, like it's the react everything's OK. Yeah, everything's good. This is the reality of what happens and we wanna be able to share real stories. So you all are prepared for the things that are possible in the, in the realm of pregnancy and birth. So where can women connect with you? You, you can say nowhere if you want. Are you want any social media or anything?

Crystal: I am, uh, yeah. Um, Instagram's probably the best. Uh, my Instagram is just, uh, Crystal, C R Y S T a L P as in Peter kicks. K I C K S that's my Instagram. And that's probably the easiest way to find me. Okay,

Nicole: Right, perfect. Well, again, thank you so much for agreeing to come, come on. I'm so excited that you got to share your story and I'm grateful that I got to be a part of helping you and your husband be ready for the second time around. Yeah.

Crystal: Thank you. Yeah, this has been really fun and exciting.

Nicole: Wasn't that a great conversation with Crystal and wasn't she funny? I really enjoy talking to her and I appreciate her coming on to share her stories. Now, you know, after every episode, when I have a guest on, I do something called Nicole's Notes where I talk about my top or four takeaways from the conversation, and here are my Nicole's Notes from my conversation with Crystal. Number one, I wanna be clear, please, don't interpret this story as you shouldn't go to a birth center, birth centers can work great for lots of people. Um, and just in this instance, it just happened that she needed to be transferred to a hospital. What's really important to know is that there was a plan in place for her to be transferred to the hospital if need be. So birth centers can be great. So don't interpret this story as you shouldn't go to a birth center because it definitely works for lots of folks.

Nicole: Okay. Number two. And this one is so, so important. You have to be prepared for the possibility that things may not go as planned for your birth. Birth is an unpredictable process that cannot be planned. I cannot say that strongly enough. And some people think that if you entertain different possibilities, that things may not go as ex exactly as you'd like that, somehow you're inviting that energy or inviting those things to happen that you don't want to happen. And that is not true. That is absolutely not true in the case of birth. As a matter of fact, I find that when people are not satisfied with their birth experience, it is most often because they were not prepared for the possibility that things could go differently. So they didn't know how to handle it and out, out of control, actually, when you prepare for the possibilities and you know, the things that may come up and you're ready to deal with it, if they happen, they don't have to happen.

Nicole: But if they happen, then you can take control as much as you can, of the things that you can control. You don't feel blindsided in the process. So again, you have to be prepared for the possibility that things may go, not, may not go as planned and childbirth education is another thing that will help you with this. Okay. The next point, and I have a few with this one. The next point is I wanna talk a tiny bit about the blood pressure treatment. I wanna be very clear that blood pressure issues in pregnancy can be very, very serious. Uh, as a matter of fact, hypertensive issues in pregnancy is the leading cause of pregnancy morbidity and mortality and not taking it seriously has led to a lot of unnecessary, serious deaths, particularly among black women. So I do appreciate in the story, although it was certainly challenging to figure out like, you know, her staying in the hospital with the blood pressure and things like that.

Nicole: I wanna be clear that we must take blood pressure is issues very seriously because it is a leading cause of death. And we have to stay on top of it quickly in order to prevent bad things from happening. All right, couple more Nicole's Notes. Uh, next one is, do take time to process your birth. If you need to understand that you can be happy that you and your baby are healthy at the end of the, uh, at the end of the experience, but you can also maybe not be satisfied with how things went. That is perfectly okay. I hate it when people say, oh, just be happy that you have a healthy baby that is so dismissive of the experience and the thoughts and feelings and things that go into your birth experience. So if you did not have a happy birth experience or things didn't go exactly as planned, or if it was even really traumatic for you, take some time to process that process that whether it's on your own or with a trained professional.

Nicole: And then the final thing that I will say for Nicole's Notes is childbirth education is great for your partner too. It's not just for you. Childbirth education is also great for your partner. Crystal talked about how her husband also found the Birth Preparation Course really helpful. I have lots and lots and lots of folks who say that they appreciate that they and their husband can go through the course together and then they can ask any questions or, um, the birthing person can ask any questions and follow up in the Facebook group and things like that. So child birth education is great for your partner too. Again, check out all the, the details of the Birth Preparation Course at drnicolerankins.com/enroll. I would love to see you inside the course. All right. So there you have it. Do me a favor. If you enjoy this episode, if you enjoy this podcast, please share it with a friend, um, spread the word.

Nicole: I want to serve as many folks as possible, and I would love your help, help to do so. Also be sure to subscribe to the podcast, wherever you're listening to me right now, and feel free to leave an honest review in Apple Podcast that helps other women to find this show. And I just love what you have to say about this show, and also follow me on Instagram. Check me out there. I'm drnicolerankins.com/instagram. I do what I call office hours there. Occasionally, where I answer questions about pregnancy and birth. I post helpful tips about pregnancy. I post things like Dr. Nicole says, which are my thoughts about pregnancy and birth. So follow me on Instagram. That's @drnicolerankins there. Okay. So that's it for this episode do come on back next week and remember you deserve a beautiful pregnancy and birth.

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