So this weekend, I had the amazing privilege of joining the students and midwives at MLL for a 24 hour shift. It was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life, and has definitely strengthened my resolve and excitement to become a midwife! So here’s how my day went…
Saturday, January 7th, 2012
7:40am: I arrive at MLL, 20 minutes early. Most of the girls from the previous shift are still asleep, except for two who were very kind and welcoming. As the previous shift began waking up, the women who would be on with me began filtering in, and soon the kitchen was bustling with activity. Everyone seemed very excited to have me at the clinic, and couldn’t wait for me to see my first birth. I also met Anna, who I felt I spent the most time with during the day.
8:00am: Everyone joins hands in circle, and Friday’s shift tells the new shift that there is one woman in labor whose water broke at 9:00 the night before, and the clock is ticking until 3:00pm when, by Texas law, they will have to transport her to the hospital if she hasn’t reached 4cm. Also, another woman, Nancy, had come for a labor check the night before and is expected to return today. We finish circle, and the new shift takes over. Almost immediately, Nancy returns to the clinic in active labor and Anna and I scramble to make sure the Rose Room is all set for labor!
8:30am: Nancy is set up with her birth team in the Rose Room, and I shadow Anna at a “cita”, which is what MLL calls their prenatal, postnatal, and well-woman care appointments. We are quickly interrupted and informed that Nancy will be giving birth soon, and that Anna is needed and I should definitely watch. We turn the cita over to another student and join the others in the Rose Room.
9:00am: Nancy welcomes her adorable little boy, Alan Mateo, into the world peacefully and beautifully, and just like that I’ve witnessed my first birth!! I definitely got a little misty-eyed, because it really was just so wonderful.
10:00am: Now I’m following Rowan, another of the students, as she sees citas. I learned so much from following her, but I honestly couldn’t even begin to list it all! She was truly wonderful to me, and to the expectant mamas she saw while I was shadowing her!
12:45pm: I stopped for lunch, and was able to talk to Trisha and Ilana, two of the staff midwives, which was a real treat. They were very informative, and also were able to tell me more about what it’s truly like to be a midwife. Trisha also started teasing me because every time she saw me, I was eating! I tried to eat snacks throughout the day to keep my energy up and my blood pumping.
After this, time gets a little hazy, because I wasn’t looking at the clock much, until we were done for the day. So I’m just going to talk about everything!
After Lunch: I began shadowing Anna again, and got to see a couple of postnatal citas with her! There was a beautiful young woman, 16!, who came in with her 1 week old little boy…I swear this girl looked like she had never even given birth, she looked so great! Amazing what a young body can do. Anyways, she was just glowing, and so obviously in love with her little boy that I was very surprised when I found out her age. I would have guessed maybe 19. I also got to hold the baby, which was magical! He was crying, and his mama had to go to the restroom, and the second he was in my arms he quieted and fell asleep. So heartwarming!! Anyways, she and her baby checked out great, although he had been slow to regain his birth weight, and she went home, to return in the next couple days for her 12-day checkup. Next, Anna went to go do a pap, and I helped the girls clean the room that the mama who had been in labor all night had been in. I never actually found out whether she gave birth or was transferred. I was too busy!
After that, I rejoined Anna for another postnatal, this time with a mama who was one day postpartum, who hadn’t been eating and was worried she didn’t have enough milk for her baby. She got very dizzy when we first brought her back to the exam room, and we had her cousin go and get something for her to eat. She seemed a little depressed, but baby looked beautiful! Mama finally got some food in her belly, and Anna began examining them both. As she was examining the baby, however, his respiration seemed very fast, and when she checked his temp he ran a 102.7! She ran and grabbed Ilana and Trisha, and they got the baby out of his clothes (it was unusually warm that day). After a minute, everything started to come back normal, but it was quite a little scare! We also observed her latch, and they were connecting beautifully. No problems there, except that it seemed a bit overwhelming to mama. She was instructed to return the next day and eat as much healthy food as possible so her milk will be rich and nutritious for her baby.
8:00pm: Things started slowing down around 8. Everyone was tired from the long day, and trying to finish “listing”, which is their cleaning and restocking routine. After that, delicious food smells began filling the kitchen as everyone began making themselves dinner. I snacked more, had some soup, and had some of this amazing squash dish that Adela made (I think Adela made it, at least). Yum. After dinner, one of the girls, Emmy, put on her brazilian butt workout tape! I was too self conscious/exhausted to do it, but everyone else joined in and had fun. I kind of felt like a debbie downer since I didn’t want to participate, but I really don’t think I would have made it through my long night if I had done it!
9:00pm: Everyone starts turning in. I opt to stay on the couch downstairs with Adela (sooo glad I did now, even though I was reluctant at first), and she and I finish her listing and lay down around 10:30. It’s hard to fall asleep, since we’re in charge of answering the phone and the door for the night! We manage to drift off sometime after that.
12:30am-ish: Adela and I don’t hear the doorbell!!! We fail to wake up, but thankfully it was another of the student midwives, and not a client who was in labor. We don’t sleep very well after that.
2:00am: The doorbell rings again, and this time we hear it! It’s a mama in labor!! Adela and I do the labor check together (which is where we check how quickly labor is progressing, and how active labor is). Yesenia is doing wonderfully, and have contractions which are moderately strong, lasting 30-55 seconds each, and are a couple minutes apart. We wake Ilana to have her do the internal check (mama is 4cm!), and we keep her for two-hour observation and set her up in the Purple Room. Adela and I provide labor support through back massage and encouraging words (this is where I really found out my spanish is actually pretty good). We teach her husband how to do the back technique, and Yesenia labors on. It’s a pretty strong labor, and she’s in quite a bit of pain, but can still hold conversation between contractions and walk around. I’m kind of dazed at this point, and kind of hesitant since I’ve never done something like this before. Adela said I did great, but I think the only one who deserves credit is Yesenia!
4:35am: We do our hourly FHR (fetal heart rate) check, and the little guy is doing great. Now that the two-hour observation is up, we wake Ilana again and have her do another check. Mama is at six centimeters! At this point, we wake up Nily, whose birth team will be overseeing Yesenia’s birth, so Adela can go back to sleep in case we get another mama in before 8 am! Nily teaches me some more amazing labor support, and she and I help Yesenia try out different positions to ease her pain. We believe the cause is that her cervical lip is more pronounced in the front than the back, and positions where mama is bent over at the waist tend to ease that, and help the cervix open up more. So we help her lean over the birthing ball, and Nily teaches Daddy some more techniques to help Yesenia relax. We start breathing with her to try to help her remember how important it is, and gently remind her to “Sopla, sopla” every few minutes. Yesenia is a total champ.
6:15am: Mama says she is ready to push! We wake Ilana, again, for the go ahead, and she reassures mama that if she’s feeling the urge to push, she is welcome to. Yesenia seems to be gathering her strength, and drinks gatorade and becomes quieter.
7:00am: Yesenia’s contractions are becoming quite strong, and Trisha wakes up and comes in to do another internal check. Mama is at 10cm, and so is given the all clear to get that baby out! The birth team is woken up and come down to help. Side note: At this point, Yesenia’s water still hasn’t broken! We can see it every time she pushes, and it kind of seems to freak her husband out a little.
7:30am: Yesenia’s water finally breaks (and almost douses Ilana, it goes so far!), and soon after her baby boy is born!! During the last few moments, her eyes kept locking with mine, and it was so incredible to be part of her experience. I definitely cried with this one, although there was also a huge smile on my face!! I think it was fate that she came in when she did, because I was so lucky to participate in her labor from beginning to end. Truly a remarkable experience. Alexander Fabian was born healthy and happy, although his umbilical cord was a tad short and wouldn’t let mama hold him to her breast until the placenta passed and it was cut. Mama didn’t suffer any tears to her perineum, and she and her hubby were so happy. I left the room shortly after to let them all bond together.
8:00am: shift ends the way it started, with circle. I thanked everyone for allowing me to be a part of such an amazing day, and for sharing their knowledge and experiences with me. Afterwards, I individually thanked Anna, Rowan, Adela, Trisha, Ilana, and all the other women who were part of my day there. I was so incredibly touched by them in those 24 hours. My last memory before I leave is walking past the purple room, and the door is cracked, and Yesenia is holding Alexander and her husband is on the bed with them. They look up and smile at me and wave as I walk past.
So again, to everyone who was there for the shift I was a part of, thank you so much for your warmth, kindness, and awesomeness during my stay with you!! I can not WAIT to return and become your sisters. To those of you who will graduate before I can come back, I hope I will see you from time to time, as well. I know for sure, without a trace of doubt, now that this is exactly how I want to spend my life. I’m sure the things I experienced this weekend, especially Yesenia’s magical labor and birth, will stay with me for the rest of my life. I can’t wait for September!!!