In this episode I am joined by new parent Jenny Russell, a registered nurse from Tennessee. Jenny struggled with infertility during her previous marriage, became unexpectedly pregnant in a new relationship, and took the Evidence Based Birth Childbirth Class as a single parent without a support person. Her EBB Instructor, Heidi Duncan, taught the class and also served as her doula. Jenny works full time as a clinical analyst in evidence based nursing documentation. She is also a full time caregiver for her mother, who has early onset Alzheimer’s.
Jenny candidly shares the incredible pressures she faced in her prenatal care, including her traumatic and stressful experiences in choosing the right providers to work with her, and switching care to a midwife just weeks before her due date. We also talk about the importance of doulas, and the crucial role Jenny’s amazing doulas filled during her birth and postpartum care.
- Follow Jenny on Facebook and Instagram.
- Click here for the Evidence Based Birth Signature Article, The Evidence on: Doulas.
- Click here for the Evidence Based Birth Signature Article, The Evidence on: Birthing Positions.
- Find an Evidence Based Birth Childbirth Class near you with this interactive map.
View the transcript
Rebecca Dekker: Welcome to the Evidence-Based Birth Podcast. My name is Rebecca Dekker, and I’m a nurse with my PhD and the founder of Evidence-Based Birth. Join me each week as we work together to get evidence-based information into the hands of families and professionals around the world. As a reminder, this information is not medical advice. See ebbirth.com/disclaimer for more details.
Rebecca Dekker: On today’s podcast, we are welcoming Jenny Russell. Jenny Russell is a registered nurse who lives in Tennessee and had a prior infertility journey five years ago with her ex-husband. She recently became unexpectedly pregnant through a different relationship and took the Evidence-Based Birth childbirth class as a single part without a support person. Heidi Duncan, her EBB instructor in the childbirth class, was both her childbirth educator and her doula and support person. Jenny works full-time as a clinical analyst in evidence-based nursing documentation. She’s also a full-time caregiver for her mother who has early onset Alzheimer’s. Welcome, Jenny, to the Evidence-Based Birth Podcast.
Jenny Russell: Thanks, Rebecca. I’m so happy to be speaking with you today.
Rebecca Dekker: So, tell me, Jenny, a little bit about your journey. I know you were willing to share a little bit about some of your prior difficulties before you got pregnant with this pregnancy. So, you had some infertility problems earlier in life, correct?
Jenny Russell: Sure. Yes, I did. I have a uterine septum, which I resected, and my ex-husband had an extremely low sperm count. So, we suffered through infertility in 2014 and ’15. And as that ended, my ex-husband had an affair and left. And so, going through that infertility journey was something else, and then, to unexpectedly get pregnant was just another curve ball in my life, so.
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah. And so, you had tried fertility treatments, then, with your ex-husband?
Jenny Russell: So, right. We went through a failed cycle or a canceled cycle at 10 days of actually giving myself medication. I was not producing the amount of eggs that they wanted, that they expected from me. So, we made the very hard decision to cancel the cycle at that point. And then, from there, had a lot of depression after that, and that was kind of the unraveling of our marriage.
Rebecca Dekker: Okay. So, shortly after that, you two split apart, and then, later, you became pregnant unexpectedly through a different relationship. What brought you to the Evidence-Based Birth childbirth class? Well, let’s scoot back a little bit because I think you wanted to tell a little bit about what happened when you got pregnant unexpectedly with someone else.
Jenny Russell: Sure, sure. So, I had recently actually acquired guardianship of my mother who has early onset Alzheimer’s about the same time that I started a relationship with my son’s father and unexpectedly got pregnant about eighth months into the relationship. And he was not game to have another child. He has a 12-year-old and did not want another child. And so, he was pushing me into an abortion. He really, really wanted me to have an abortion, and when I refused a week after I found out I was pregnant, he dumped me.
Rebecca Dekker: So, you were entering the rest of your pregnancy alone, essentially, while also caring for your mother with Alzheimer’s.
Jenny Russell: That’s exactly right. And one day, I saw on Facebook that there was a natural birth It was questionable but a natural birth meeting near a facility near me, and I wanted to go to that because I had somewhat of an interest in an unmedicated birth. My mom had four unmedicated births. So, I kind of always had that on my radar, but I wasn’t totally sold on that. So, it ended up being an ICAN meeting, and then, Heidi was there as part of the audience that day. She wasn’t even presenting or anything. So, I met Heidi Duncan who I immediately watched her in action through that class, just talking to people, and I was very impressed with her, and so, I asked her after. I think I was only about 16 weeks pregnant, and afterward, I didn’t want to do the dating. They do a doula dating, like the speed dating thing, here, and I didn’t really want to do that. And so, I asked her if she might be interested in being my doula and got to know her a little bit better, and then, found out that she also taught the Evidence-Based Birth class. And I was so excited to take that because evidence is part of my job. It’s just part of who I am and what I respect as a nurse and a person. So, I was very excited to take that class with her.
Jenny Russell: So, I was about 16 weeks then, and she agreed to be both my doula. We did her normal screening interview and everything, and then, from there, I was … I guess, my 20-week anatomy scan, I went to see my OB after that, and I went to see my doctor afterward, and she told me everything looked great. Everything was great, and I saw her in the office another time at 24 weeks, I believe, and told me she was scheduling me for a 28-week ultrasound, which was not in our plan. She said that I wasn’t going to need any other ultrasounds unless something was wrong. And so, I asked her, unfortunately, not an open-ended question. I asked her if she was planning to check for inner-uterine growth restriction because of my septum, and she said yes. A couple days after, I think I was about 22 weeks maybe, I got a notification that there was a new condition added to my portal, and I went in to look at that, and that was “choroid plexus cyst, fetal” is what it said, and it threw me for a loop.
Jenny Russell: Evidently, that showed up on my 20-week anatomy scan, and that’s why she was scheduling me for another 28-week ultrasound. It was that and possible brachycephaly. And so, I was just … I was wrought with anxiety. In my single mom life, taking care of my mom, how was I going to manage all of that? And I was really upset that my OB had not spoken to me about it.
Rebecca Dekker: Wow. So, she hadn’t said a word to you about the things that were flagged on the ultrasound?
Jenny Russell: Exactly. Not only did she not say a word about it, but when I asked her why she was scheduling that 20-week ultrasound, she confirmed that what I had suggested. Which now, in hindsight, I would ask an open-ended question in that scenario. But she said that that was the reason, and it was just a shock. As soon as I saw that on my portal, I messaged there that someone needed to call me ASAP because no one had discussed that with me. And unfortunately, she sent a message through the portal. I think she thought she was sending it to a nurse, her nurse, and it said, “I thought that I discussed this with her. Please call her.” And so, it was a nurse that called me, not even the doctor who had made the error in the first place. So, at that point, I started looking for another OB. And I sneaked in as a nurse to a birth event here, which was an awesome panel discussion on collaborative care at the birth center, and I asked a couple of midwives who they would go to, and I got another recommendation on another OB, and I was very excited to start with that practice because that seemed like a more holistic practice and certainly what I was more looking for more in an OB.
Jenny Russell: And at first, things were great with that OB. I discussed that I had a history of sexual abuse, and I wanted only informed consent, or I was very specific, and I wanted to discuss any kind of procedures and everything before she did any procedure with me, and I wanted to give her informed consent. I told her that I didn’t want any cervical checks. And she said, “That’s find. I don’t even offer them until 36 weeks anyways.” And then, 35 weeks and four days, I was in for an appointment, and she was going to do my GBS swab, and she said, “Okay. I’m going to do a cervical check.” And she basically forced that upon me, and it was very painful and completely unnecessary, and I didn’t stand up for myself. And it was very traumatic, very, very traumatic.
Rebecca Dekker: So, she basically went in, and while she was doing the swab, she said, “I’m going to do this now,” and then did it to you without asking?
Jenny Russell: Without consent period.
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah. Wow. And she knew you had a history of sexual trauma?
Jenny Russell: Yep. And I think being a nurse and knowing kind of the background on that a little bit, she was going on vacation the next week, and I really think she wanted to have in the chart where I was, which, obviously, as we know, really doesn’t matter at that point. I was not in labor.
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah. You were still technically pre-term. You want to go into labor that day, anyways.
Jenny Russell: Exactly. Exactly, and I had a little bit of bloody mucus afterward and a lot of pain because she basically had to use her whole hand in my vagina because my cervic was so posterior and so hard to get to. And so, it was just very, very upsetting. So, at that point, I was like, “Oh, my gosh.” At that collaborative, I had met another person, a very, very influential person in my journey who is executive, very high, and [inaudible 00:09:22] where I was going to deliver. And I talked to her. They were starting a midwifery program at the hospital. And I basically just explained that I would prefer to deliver with a midwife anyways. I had always gone with an OB because I was concerned about the septum and how that would look at the end of my pregnancy, but everything was going very well at 36 weeks.
Rebecca Dekker: And at this point, what were they saying about your baby’s cord and the concerning things that showed up on the anatomy scan? Did they decide that that was not accurate or what?
Jenny Russell: Correct. Exactly. Sorry about that. The second OB did do an ultrasound, and that was one of the reasons I was very impressed with her because she came into the office or into my room after the ultrasound, and she had already called the radiologist to confirm that they were specifically looking for those things because it was a different practice, and they didn’t have the old images to look at, et cetera. And there was absolutely no signs of either of those issues.
Rebecca Dekker: So, now, you’re at 36 weeks, and your doctor has basically just violated you during your prenatal visit, and you’re looking for someone else. You’re looking to switch care four weeks before your due date.
Jenny Russell: Exactly, exactly. And as a first time mother, so, I had no idea what was going to happen, and it was so scary and being a single mom and caring for my mom and working full time. It was just very, very hard. So, Heidi and this other person worked very, very hard to get me connected to the midwife that was going to be practicing in that midwifery group at the hospital, and somehow, all of the stars aligned, and this midwife agreed to accept me, except there was one issue. She wasn’t fully credentialed at the hospital yet. So, she had to have an attending OB that would agree to take our case. And so, fortunately, she found an OB that was willing to do that with us. And so, I met my midwife on Friday. I just went to a coffee shop and met her because she wasn’t fully actually … I wasn’t legally going to be her patient. And then-
Rebecca Dekker: So, this was going to be the first … I think you told me in a message, the first midwifery practice at a large hospital. So, this hospital did not have midwives before this.
Jenny Russell: That is correct.
Rebecca Dekker: And so, she was just starting there but hadn’t gotten credentialed yet. Okay.
Jenny Russell: Right, right. Exactly. She has a ton of experience but just not at-
Rebecca Dekker: At that hospital.
Jenny Russell: … that hospital. Right. Exactly. So, she met me for a couple hours. We discussed all of the things in my life, and that was on Friday, and then, I had an appointment with the OB that was going to be [inaudible 00:12:06] on Monday, and this is all a week before my due date. I think I was 38 weeks when I found out that I was going to have a midwife after all and 39-ish when I got to meet my providers. So, I met my OB. She actually spent two-and-a-half hours with me in the office, and she is trauma-informed and was fantastic with me. And she said, normally, she would spend that much time with a patient just over the nine months. And so, she was wonderful. So, I met her on Monday, and then, I went into labor on Wednesday.
Rebecca Dekker: That’s so incredible that you’re able care a couple days before you went into labor. Let’s rewind back a little bit to the Evidence-Based Birth childbirth class because some point in there, you received the education. So, tell us a little bit about what that was like.
Jenny Russell: Thank goodness I received that education because I think I was a little early taking the class, a little bit younger gestation than most of the other people in my class and I think most people that take it. But I was very anxious about everything, and I wanted to have everything in place before, considering my situation, but I just cannot … I can’t imagine not having taken that class. I learned so much about everything, and I’m a nurse, and I had a broad knowledge of things but nothing detailed. I’ve never worked in the birth world at all. I mean, it completely changed my mind on having an [inaudible 00:13:34] birth. I wasn’t completely sold on it. I had a friend who had just delivered and had an epidural, and she was like, “You’d be crazy not to have an epidural.” And she’s a [inaudible 00:13:43] and just learning all of the cascade of interventions and how that affects not just me but my baby just changed my view on all of those things, and now, I knew what I wanted to push for and fight for in my birth, during my birth. And Heidi was awesome. She was an awesome instructor.
Jenny Russell: I love that it was a mixed class. Some of it was virtual, and some of it was in person. That was awesome because for my lifestyle, it helped. For sure, it helped me be present. It was hard taking the class by myself and thinking through the acupressure and things like that. I didn’t really have anybody to practice that with. So, Heidi helped in some of that and was my partner through the class, the in-person class, and helped, which was great.
Rebecca Dekker: Were you able to use the recordings that I made of the relaxation practice?
Jenny Russell: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I loved them.
Rebecca Dekker: Okay. Yeah. Because for people who don’t have someone who can read to them, I recorded the relaxation practices. So, those were helpful?
Jenny Russell: Yeah. That was perfect. Exactly. Yes, and I was so grateful. Exactly because I didn’t have anybody to read that to me. So, you did. So, thank you.
Rebecca Dekker: You’re welcome. It was fun putting those together. I actually worked with a music therapist. So, I kind of picked some music, and then, I reached out to those musicians to even pick out the background music for the relaxation recording. So, it was fun to put those together.
Jenny Russell: That’s awesome. Yeah. They were wonderful. And also, the Evidence-Based Birth playlist on Spotify, I used the acoustic playlist so much, and that’ll be a little bit part of my story, but I still love that to this day. I listen to it all the time.
Rebecca Dekker: Oh, that’s awesome. Me, too. It’s one of my top lists on Spotify.
Jenny Russell: Yeah. Same here.
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah. And that was also developed with the help of Kate Taylor, who’s a board certified musical therapist and a doula. So, yeah, shout out to Kate for helping us with that.
Jenny Russell: Yes. Thank you so much. I enjoyed both of those, the relaxation and the playlist, for sure.
Rebecca Dekker: Okay. So, take us to the day or so before labor started. You’d finally, after several switches, found the right time, the supportive team, to care for you. What was your mindset like at that point?
Jenny Russell: Well, so, Monday, I was stoked. I left. Heidi went with me to my appointment to meet my OB, and then, afterward, we actually went to the hospital because she hadn’t been in the hospital for a bit. And so, we went to the hospital. A nurse showed us around. We took a little tour. I kind of talked about my story and everything, and she was great. Then, Tuesday came, and I was on Facebook, and I had a plan for my mom when I went into labor, sort of. Her friend was going to take care of her and hang out in the waiting room or in my room as needed, and then, she was going to stay in a hotel with her close by and bring her to the hospital so she could be close by and be part of all of this. And not knowing when I was going to go into labor, of course, it was very hard planning all of this stuff. And I saw a Facebook post that she had temperature of 103 and was going to be admitted to the hospital. She had a liver transplant, so-
Rebecca Dekker: The friend who was going to be the caregiver for your mom while you were in labor?
Jenny Russell: Yep.
Rebecca Dekker: Oh, my.
Jenny Russell: So, freak out. I’m texting Heidi the night before. I’m sitting at my counter in my house. Oh, yeah. I bought a house and moved in about seven months pregnant, seven or eight months pregnant. [crosstalk 00:17:17]
Rebecca Dekker: And for people who don’t understand, when you’re the primary caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s, and there’s nobody else, you go into labor, you can’t leave her. And she can’t necessarily come with you. That’s a huge dilemma.
Jenny Russell: Exactly. Somebody suggested that I leave her in the waiting room and have the nurses check on her, which made me laugh, especially being a nurse. They’re barely able to take care of their patients, much less a family member. So, yeah, it was very scary. I’m like I don’t have any family in the area. So, it was very scary, and I just cried at my island in my house and texted Heidi. And Heidi was like, “It’s going to be okay.” She was like, “I really think you should talk to my backup doula. She’s done some of the sibling doula work, I believe, and she’s wonderful.” And so, I thought that that was a very good plan, and that was Tuesday, though, and I was exhausted, and I went to sleep. And I was awakened at about 3:30 in the morning with labor pains. I was like, “Is this really it?” Because as a first time, you never know, and I had been having a lot of contractions anyway. And so, I didn’t know for sure for a little bit, and I waited maybe a half hour or so, and then, I texted Heidi. I was like, “I’m pretty sure this is it.”
Jenny Russell: So, I was having contractions about every four to five minutes and at 3:30 in the morning. And so, she said, “I think this is it.” And so, she came to my house. I think she got there about 7:00 maybe. We’re over an hour away from one another. So, she just jumped right in and started supporting me. I have trouble remembering what those pains are like, which is fascinating to me. I’m five months post-partum now, but I do remember in the moment, they were extreme, and she was so wonderful. I don’t know how I can’t remember how to breathe properly from three to four minutes apart for each contraction, but I swear every single contraction, she reminded me exactly how to breathe and how to moan through the pain and get through it. She was just invaluable. She had me in my big bathtub at one point, and the faucet was leaking and dripping and driving me nuts as a laboring mom. And so, she came up with a solution for that. She just had a solution for every single issue that arose that day, and it was just amazing.
Jenny Russell: And she had me in different positions as I labored all day, and we were suspicious that I wasn’t really progressing much, and she got me into some weird positions to try and move the baby. And she just supported me so well during that and during my labor. It was just amazing. My mom came in the room a couple of times and gave me a report on what my dog was doing. So, she wasn’t very attuned to what was going on that day. And so, she just kind of hung out in the house that day, but then, when it was time to go, Heidi had set up … She had been texting. In addition to supporting me, she had been texting her backup doula and had arranged for her to take care of my mom while I was in the hospital.
Rebecca Dekker: So, did you bring your mom with you, or did your mom stay home?
Jenny Russell: Yeah.
Rebecca Dekker: Okay. So, your mom came along? So, you had Heidi as your doula, and then, the backup doula caring for your mom?
Jenny Russell: That’s right. Exactly. So, Heidi actually drove us to the hospital because that was another thing I wasn’t really … I didn’t really have anybody to drive us to the hospital, and that was another really scary, scary thing, and if Heidi hadn’t gotten [inaudible 00:20:51], if labor hadn’t gone the way that it did, I didn’t know what I was going to do exactly. And I’m about 35 to 40 minutes from the hospital during non-rush hour.
Rebecca Dekker: So, what happened when you arrived?
Jenny Russell: So, I labored all day, from 3:30 in the morning until about 9:30 at night, and then, we decided to go to the hospital. And Heidi had been in touch with, I believe, with my midwife, but I believe also with my OB, or everybody was talking, but fortunately, I didn’t have to be involved in all of those conversations. So, we got to the hospital about 10:00. My OB was sitting at the nurses station waiting on me, as was the nurse that took Heidi and me on the tour. She had switched days and was working night shift that night. And much to my surprise, she was my nurse that night. So, it was wonderful. I just walked in there like, “Oh, my gosh, how is this happening.” And so, she took me to my room. Heidi was there with me, obviously. My mom was in there for the first part, and they got me all settled. I did allow the nurse to start an IV on me. That was something that was very questionable for me. I was torn between my old nursing shoes and knowing how nervous I was when patients didn’t have an IV and the evidence.
Jenny Russell: I did allow to have just a saline lock IV. From there, Heidi and I walked the halls a bit while we waited for midwife to show up, and then, everybody knew about my history of sexual abuse, and both my midwife and my OB were very, very patient with me about having my first cervical check, and I appreciated that so much, so, so very much. And had I not known the evidence on cervical checks, I probably would’ve played along as a good patient, kind of tend to fall into that role a lot, even though I’m a nurse. So, I was very grateful to know exactly when I wanted that done, if at all. And so, we talked through that. So, I labored for quite a while before they ever did my first cervical check, actually. Walked down the hallways, and I think I sat in the rocker maybe in the room, and everyone knew that my goal was an unmedicated birth. And once my midwife came, they decided that I needed my first cervical check to see because I think maybe everybody was suspicious that I wasn’t progressed. And of course, I just, at that point, was just entirely a patient, and I had no nursing skills whatsoever.
Jenny Russell: So, it was really nice to be able to take that hat off because I had good providers that were going to take care of me that I felt comfortable with. And so, they did my first cervical check, and I was only four centimeters dilated, and I think I was fully effaced at that time. And so, my OB did the cervical check, and she felt a ring of scar tissue around my cervix. And they were suspicious that I wasn’t going to be able to progress anymore without breaking up that scar tissue. I had been laboring pretty well until then, and then-
Rebecca Dekker: So, they were thinking that this scar tissue in your cervix was why labor had been going on so long with such strong contractions but not progressing past a four.
Jenny Russell: Exactly, exactly. And so, at that point, my mind started going to negative. I just started thinking about all of the things of my past and how much I’d struggled and how I was going to have a baby and was so excited about that, but all of these things kind of came crashing down on me.
Rebecca Dekker: It was almost like your past was haunting you in this moment in a way.
Jenny Russell: Exactly, exactly. And so, they discussed with me that they’d like to just go in with their fingers and break up that scar tissue. And I’m not sure who said that, who said it in the room, but I think somebody said that most people would have an epidural at that point, but I had set my mind to having an unmedicated birth, and I really didn’t want to do that. So, for a while, I thought about it and kind of worked through that, the pain of the past, the emotional pain, and I decided that I was going to turn on my Evidence-Based Birth playlist and play my song that I had dedicated to my son, sorry, which is Hold You In My Arms by Ray Lamontagne, and that’s the first song on the playlist.
Jenny Russell: And I just put that on repeat. I put my earbuds in, and I laid back in the bed, and I let the midwife clean that scar tissue up or break up that scar tissue. And then, sure enough, after that, labor went into full force. But I just got into the zone. In my mind, some of the relaxation meditations were going on, and I was just singing that song to my baby that I was about to meet. And I just sat back and relaxed and let her do what she needed to do. And it was just an incredible experience. It was the most cathartic thing I think I’ve ever been through.
Rebecca Dekker: To be able to make it through that?
Jenny Russell: To be able to make it through that because I was in control at that point and learning, learning all of the evidence behind everything and knowing … having the confidence of going after the goal that I had set because I knew that I could do it. It just put me in the right space to be able to push through all of that. It was amazing.
Rebecca Dekker: Wow.
Jenny Russell: Yeah. Let me wipe my tears. I’m sorry. And so, my labor was progressing pretty well. My midwife had me in the shower.
Rebecca Dekker: After the scar tissue was broken up, you started progressing well?
Jenny Russell: Yeah. Exactly, exactly. I don’t know if we ever did another cervical check until we were pretty far along, but they got me into the shower so I could lab in the shower, and it was quite a sight because the hospital had ordered new shower curtains, and they were too short. So, there was water everywhere. My midwife and Heidi had water up to their calves on their pants. They had rolled their pants up. Everybody was just wet, but they were just in that space with me and were just amazing. It didn’t matter that they were getting wet. They were there supporting me, and it was just incredible. The handheld shower didn’t work, too, of course. Of course, I would have that room. And so, I just had to stand in the shower, right where the water was coming out, but that was great, just experiencing that. The hospital where I birthed didn’t have tubs, or else, I would’ve been in the water there.
Rebecca Dekker: Which I guess is not surprising if they hadn’t had midwives.
Jenny Russell: Right. Exactly, but they are actually … They’re getting tubs pretty soon, I believe. They’re changing a lot of their practices, and they have a very important person at the top that has a lot of experience in the birth world and has a lot of great things to bring to that space. So, I’m very excited for the future. I wish that it could’ve been before I delivered, but such is life. So, we labored in the shower for a while. I used the bar to do some squatting in the bed. I was on my side some and just all different positions that we has learned in class. Well, I thought I liked side lying with a peanut ball when we were practicing, and that turned out to be the position I hated the most.
Jenny Russell: So, it was kind of funny. But I was in such a good space, all except for that one time when I found out about the cervical scarring. But besides that, for the most part, my labor was just so cathartic, and I was just in such an … I don’t know, just an incredible way in that room. Knowing that I was going to finally meet my baby and getting to use all of the things that I had learned, it just was incredible. Having the right birth team there, it was just incredible. As I think about it, it makes me so happy to think back on my birth. It was my birth and my baby’s birth.
Rebecca Dekker: So, take us to that moment, then, the moment of birth.
Jenny Russell: I wanted to tell you about my water breaking, though. Because I had a midwife and the right support, I was able to go to the bathroom during my labor. So, I went to the bathroom, and I was sitting on the toilet, and I was like, “Oh, gosh. I need to push. I need to push.” My midwife said, “Okay. It’s okay. Go ahead and push.” And so, I needed to pee desperately, but every time I would relax enough to pee, I would have another contraction. So, I pushed a little bit sitting forward, and then, next thing, I’m like … That contraction left, and I was like, “Ugh.” I told her every time I relax enough, I get another contraction. She said, “Turn around backwards on the toilet.” So, I turned around backwards on the toilet, and then, immediately, another contraction hit, and I pushed, and we hear a pop, and then sploosh. And then, I think we looked at each other first and then looked into the toilet to make sure there wasn’t a baby in the toilet. Fortunately, it was my water breaking. So, my water broke over the toilet, quite conveniently, but there was meconium in it.
Jenny Russell: Another part of my birth was that the monitors really, really bothered me. They hurt everywhere that they would touch my skin. It felt like when you touch a tongue to a nine volt battery. It just hurt me so badly. So, my nurse was amazing, and so, instead of strapping the monitors on, she was just holding them on whenever they needed to. But of course, the meconium in the stool meant that they were going to need to check a little more frequently, and I was okay with that. And so, but it was only … I think it was about a half hour from my water breaking to me actually birthing my son. So, I was back in the bed. My midwife said, “I think you need to be on your right side with the peanut ball,” and I said, “No. Any position but that.” But she said, “Well, I’m pretty sure if that’s your reply, then that’s exactly the position you need to be in.” So, that’s the position I got into, and I started actually getting to push. And so, I don’t remember a whole, whole lot about pushing. I know Heidi was there with me and helping. I know, I mean, I was crowning, and then, the next thing I really remember is my OB saying, “Okay, Jenny, reach down and grab your baby.”
Jenny Russell: So, I guess they had decided that the OB was going to catch, but my midwife was right there. So, I never expected … I wanted an unmedicated birth, but I never expected the birth center kind of experience. I was ready to push for a minute and a half of delayed cord clamping, but she actually said to me, “Reach down and grab your baby,” and I was just like, “Oh, my gosh.” So, I reached down and grabbed him and put him to my breast, and then, it was just amazing. He was trying to suck already, and I’m just laying there with my baby, and I’m just thinking, “Oh, my gosh. This is incredible. He’s right here. I’ met him. He’s here,” as I was coming to. And then, the next thing I know, the OB said, “Jenny, I think it’s time to cut the cord. It’s been six minutes.” And I was like, “What? Six minutes? Oh, my gosh. I didn’t even have to fight for that.” All of these things that I had prepped in my mind that were going to be a struggle for me and a fight just fell into place because I had the right providers there with me and a nurse that was supporting me in my unmedicated birth in the hospital. So, I would’ve preferred to deliver at a birth center, but that wasn’t an option for me, so.
Rebecca Dekker: So, what time was your baby born, then, after this long morning?
Jenny Russell: At 5:51 in the morning.
Rebecca Dekker: So, a little more than 24 hours after your labor began.
Jenny Russell: Right, exactly, exactly. Yeah. And yeah, it was just incredible. I think his APGARs were eight and nine, and he was a healthy little boy, but I would not let anybody weigh him or take him away from me. So, we didn’t do that until we got to post-partum after they transferred me. So, yeah, it was incredible. It was incredible. At one point, I did forget to mention, my midwife realized that my mom might be impeding my progress, too, and she suggested that maybe my mom should go to the waiting room, and I was like, “Yes. Can you make that happen, please?” And she did. And so, my mom went to the waiting room with our other doula, Marcy, who’s fantastic as well. And once they left, I felt a little bit more comfortable, and I was just thinking back. That was incredible that a midwife that met me on Friday recognized that, but that’s what … Awesome birth workers are just amazing.
Jenny Russell: They just know these things and have so much knowledge that isn’t taught in the books. So, just amazing. So, she knew exactly what I needed. So, the birth of my son was Heidi, my doula, my nurse, and then my OB and my midwife, and that was it. And Heidi cut the cord, which was really an awesome experience. She had supported me so much in my journey, and that was really special for me to let her have that honor. That was a very special moment, too.
Rebecca Dekker: I’m sure Heidi was honored, I bet.
Jenny Russell: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. It’s just … yeah, it’s awesome. She gives away these gifts in the Evidence-Based Birth class, and one of them is that she paints frames, picture frames. And so, at some point, when I’m not in the throes of early post-partum, I’m going to frame the picture of her cutting the cord and put it in that frame. That’s just so special.
Rebecca Dekker: So, how is the post-partum period and recovery for you?
Jenny Russell: So, physically, post-partum was awesome. I recovered so quickly. I literally only had the saline flush when they started my IV, and that was the only medication that I had until post-partum, which I just took Advil, but my physical recovery was great. My son has lip and tongue ties. So, fortunately, I learned about those prior to experiencing that. So, the first night, after the first night in the hospital, my mom stayed with me that night, which probably wasn’t the best idea. She was out once she fell asleep, and so, I didn’t really have any help, and my nurse that night was the most supportive. And so, I didn’t call her when I was trying to latch, and so, I had bruises on both nipples the next day. So, we figured out that he had tongue and lip ties in the hospital the first day, and I actually elected to have the interior tongue tip clipped in the hospital. And that helped a little bit, but I struggled a lot with breastfeeding, and I had an IBCLC come to my house afterward and help me once we were home.
Jenny Russell: And we actually ended up having to have his tongue tie revised via laser and have his lip tie revised as well. So, I developed mastitis in the first week or so, week-and-a-half maybe, was so sick. And that was so hard because I am a single mom. So, my sister-in-law came to stay with us and cooked and take care of us, which was amazing, but at night, everybody would go to their respective quarters, and I was alone with my new baby. So, the first night I went home, I actually hired the doula that took care of my mom. I hired her as my post-partum doula, which is some of the work that she normally does. She was amazing, and she has a lot of breastfeeding experience and knowledge. So, she helped so much, and that’s when we decided that I was going to have the IBCLC come into my house and help me there. So, finally, once we got started … I still struggle with breastfeeding a little bit. I have Raynaud’s in my nipples, and so, I end up having vasospasms, and my son didn’t have a great latch. And so, he causes a lot of pain and pressure.
Jenny Russell: But very proud that I’ve made it five months, and he never had anything but breast milk. So, we’re working through all of that. I just healed so quickly, though. I think because I had no medications. Nothing changed what my body was doing naturally, and I think, for me, that was exactly what I needed to do.
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah. It is really great for you that you physically healed really well, and you had as normal a birth as possible because, like you said, you had to go home on your own, basically, being a caregiver for two humans now. So, I’m really thankful that you were able to get the birth that you wanted. And it sounds like you were really resourceful in figuring out who could help you in the post-partum period and not being afraid to ask for help. So, that’s really awesome.
Jenny Russell: Yes. That’s a learning experience in itself is learning how to ask for help. So, that’s right. I actually had somebody booked for the first maybe two weeks, two-and-a-half weeks, to be at home with me all the time. Sometimes, it wasn’t one of my brothers. I have three brothers and no sisters. So, my sister-in-law came, and then, my brother and his girlfriend came, and another brother came. So, sometimes, it was a man that didn’t really know what to do with the baby, but everybody was very supportive and helpful, and it was wonderful. And I have a friend in my caregiving support group who had set up a meal train for me. So, that was immensely helpful, too, because that was one of my biggest fears like, “How am I going to feed us even?” It was quite the struggle in planning, though, and logistics, for sure. Because you don’t know when you’re going to go into labor.
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah. Well, I know one of the reasons you wanted to share your story is you wanted other people who are entering birth and pregnancy and parenthood as a single parent and not feel alone. Do you have any advice for anybody who might be listening who is what some people call self-partnered? You don’t have that other person to help.
Jenny Russell: Yeah. My best advice is become self-aware enough to learn how to ask for help and know when you need help because there’s just a lot of this that you can be very strong and still not be able to do by yourself. So, asking for help from the IBCLC, I was fortunate enough to be able to hire a post-partum doula. I know not everybody has that luxury, but that’s amazing, amazing, amazing help. And I also made friends with other single moms. I’m in a moms group on Facebook, and I just saw someone else post that she was going to be a single mom. And so, she and I exchanged information, and she was delivering in a different hospital. So, we ended up going to the newborn classes for each other’s hospital as our other partner. So, that was really fun and just great to have that companion. And I ended up talking her into having a doula, and she’s very, very grateful for that.
Rebecca Dekker: So, it sounds like doulas are really critical for people who don’t have a partner.
Jenny Russell: Absolutely. I think they’re critical for everyone, personally. That’s my stance on that, but most definitely for someone who does not have a partner, for sure, for sure, or self-partnered, definitely.
Rebecca Dekker: If you had to sum up your birth experience in one shot sentence, what would you say?
Jenny Russell: It was the most incredible, hard experience of my life, and I am so glad that I had support and the right people around me to experience it with me and share in my journey.
Rebecca Dekker: All right. Everyone, thank you so much for joining us with this interview with Jenny and her incredible and also hard but really rewarding birth experience. And thank you, Jenny, for sharing your story.
Jenny Russell: Absolutely. It’s my pleasure. Thank you so much for all the work that you do, Rebecca. We appreciate it.
Rebecca Dekker: Today’s podcast was brought to you by the Savvy Birth Workshops developed by Evidence-Based Birth. We have an amazing group of more than 100 Evidence-Based Birth instructors who are teaching Savvy Birth Workshops all around the world. I designed the Savvy Birth Workshops to help parents that have to give birth in an imperfect healthcare system. Then, professionals started asking for workshops to help them, too. So, we created the Savvy Birth Pro Workshop to help birth professionals, doulas, childbirth educators, and labor and delivery nurses who feel stressed by the limitations of the healthcare system that their clients are facing. If you’re a parent who wants to figure out how to get better care or a professional who wants to help your clients get better care, even if they’re giving birth in a broken system, then these workshops are for you. Visit directory.evidencebasedbirth.com to find out if there’s an instructor in your area. You can also find a list of our upcoming workshops for parents and professionals by going to the Evidence-Based Birth Facebook page and clicking on events.
Listening to this podcast is an Australian College of Midwives CPD Recognised Activity.
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