Kaitlin Marie O'Halloran
Birth Centers became legal in Minnesota after I had my son in April 2009. Even though I had had a midwife experience with him, I felt like the hospital atmosphere was less than ideal. Not to mention that my single worst appointment ever was with one of the midwives at the clinic who discounted and belittled my emotions. When I became pregnant again, I was thrilled and elated to find that Morning Star Birth Center had opened a facility in the Twin Cities area. I was hoping that they would be able to provide what the other midwife experience could not, or would not allow. A place that nurtured, empowered and respected all aspects of me: the emotional and the spiritual along with the new life that was growing within me. Anyone who walks through the doors of Morning Star knows that it is different than your typical clinic/hospital setting and I knew that was what I wanted.
When I woke up one morning with bloody show before 37 weeks it concerned me enough that I called Catherine, in spite of a lengthy conversation with my husband because I didn't want to bother her at 6am on a Sunday morning. It worked out for her to trade my Tuesday appointment for that day and so my husband and I packed our bags to leave down at the birth center and we made the 50 minute trip to St Louis Park from our house in Lindstrom. I was only 1cm dilated and fully anticipated that it would be at least another week before things really got going. After all, my due date wasn't until June 19. Still, we ran last minute errands and we decided that we should make a concentrated effort on names.
I had contractions on and off that day and even on Memorial Day they still weren't that bad. Tuesday my son went to stay with a neighbor as I was starting to get increasingly uncomfortable. I asked my husband to come home from work that afternoon. He called the midwives when he arrived at home and saw what kind of state I was in. I still didn't want to go. (After arriving at the hospital to deliver my son it was another 24 hours before I had him and that complicated my decision making). A couple of hours later the contractions changed and as we were leaving our driveway I was thinking that I wasn't sure if I was going to make it. My husband drove the back roads to the interstate. He almost passed someone on the shoulder while on I-35, but that annoyed them and they sped up. I can only imagine what they were thinking. At one point we pulled off the interstate because I felt something pop. We called the midwives. While talking in that calm voice of theirs that only comes with experience, they talked me through the contractions. I wouldn't have made it without their breathing instructions. We kept driving. I wanted to push SO bad. Paula said I could. My husband said, "Don't Push!" I didn't want to be on the 10 o'clock news. I was not going to have my baby in the car even though we had just attended our Handling Complications class. Then our pay-as-you-go cell phone ran out of minutes. My husband was driving almost 90mph, credit card and phone in hand trying to add minutes back onto the phone, while my 2-year-old was in his car seat imitating my contractions (I don't recommend this by the way!). By the time we reached Hwy 100, every exit we passed was a milestone and one more reason why I didn't want to have my baby in the car. It was rush hour but my husband was able to run that extremely long red light on Excelsior. The midwives were waiting in the parking lot outside the center, blue-gloved and ready for anything. Paula opened my door and asked if I wanted to have the baby right there. I said no. (What I was thinking was...I didn't just drive all the way down here to have my baby in the parking lot on Excelsior Blvd during rush hour traffic!) Two minutes later she was born. I had one big push that felt OH-SO-GOOD. She was here...she was here. I can't believe you are here. Our car ride ordeal was over.
And then as quickly as you can say Life Changing, another ordeal was just starting. And I knew it the moment I saw her. (She came out en caul...with her still inside the amniotic sac...so it took just a half second for me to get my first glimpse of her.) She looked funny. I can't say what it was....the down-turned mouth...her pink spots...or was it just that she didn't resemble my son after he was born? Paula was trying to get her to "perk up". I knew something wasn't right, but I didn't care. Paula said the words "Down Syndrome" and I knew. My husband knew too, but he did not have the benefit of all of those love hormones pouring out of him. The midwives drew us a bath. The most wonderful bath I've ever taken. We cuddled. We talked. With guidance from Paula we made the decision to transfer to the hospital to have her looked at. Catherine rode in the backseat to Children's hospital carrying the oxygen tank. It was hard for me to realize that even though I had my baby at the Birth Center, I still going to end up in the hospital. Catherine came to visit me for my check-ups. The nurses there were not familiar with this type of care. "Somebody's coming to see you?" "Yes. Well I am the person who just delivered a baby". Catherine helped advocate for me and together we got Baby Girl O'Halloran out of the hospital sooner. Out from all of that red-tape, checking, monitoring and "data points". The entire time that we were there, Catherine provided support, encouragement and a shoulder to cry on. When I told her that I was feeling so sad that I didn't get to have her follow me home the night we had her like all of the other mothers, she came and met us at our house when we were discharged from the hospital. Such a small thing...but it meant so much.
As I'm writing this, I have a beautiful, healthy 11 month old girl. It's the first real warm day in a while and I'm taking pictures of her on my new i-phone while she's wearing the onesie that says Morning Star Birth Center on it. That's right little girl. You were born at a Birth Center, nearly born in the car and most certainly born surrounded by an amazing circle of women. Thank you Morning Star for all of the wonderful care that you provide. This family will be forever grateful.