Episode 237 Morgan's Surprise HBAC + AFI

1h 2m | May 31, 2023

Today we are joined by a truly amazing woman of strength, Morgan. She recently retired after 25 years of active duty service in the Coast Guard and is a mama to two boys and one girl, each with their own very unique birth stories. 

Morgan’s first baby was born vaginally. Her second was a lifesaving crash Cesarean. Her third was a surprise HBAC born en caul! The high of this empowering birth carried her through a difficult postbirth hospital experience in which she almost lost her uterus. 

Meagan and Morgan share facts and insight regarding the amniotic fluid index. Morgan also gives tips on how to have necessary conversations with your provider to advocate for the birth experience you deserve.

Additional Links

Bridget’s Website (Morgan’s Doula)

How to VBAC: The Ultimate Prep Course for Parents

The VBAC Link Facebook Community

Full Transcript under Episode Details

Meagan: Hello, hello. Happy Wednesday, women of strength. We are bringing another story to you. You are listening to The VBAC Link and we have our friend, Morgan, here today sharing her stories. I’m really excited because just before we started recording, we talked about how Morgan said that she is a numbers girl. She’s like, “I love numbers.” It’s something that I love too but never have ever retained as well as Julie did. I’d be like, “Okay, I’m trying to remember. Is it this or that?” and she’d be like, “It’s this.” 

I remember names and stuff like that and she remembers numbers. That has been something that I have really missed without Julie being here so I’m excited to talk about numbers with you today, Morgan. We’re going to talk specifically maybe about amniotic fluid and percentages and things like that. But yeah. I’m excited to get into some numbers. If you’re looking for some numbers on the chances of VBAC, we’re going to talk about amniotic fluid. What really is a scary number and when do we really need to induce a labor? Stay tuned. 

Review of the Week

Of course, we have a Review of the Week so before I turn the time over to Morgan, we will read Britjl14. That is their review today. The subject is “Tears of Joy.” It says, “I literally got teary-eyed when I saw that your podcast was coming back. You gave me the courage to have my VBAC after two Cesarean baby, 9 pounds, 15 ounces, in late August. Such an uplifting and informative podcast. I tell everyone who mentions wanting a VBAC to look this up. So excited for more to come.” 

I love that. You guys, when we decided to bring the podcast back, it was so exciting for us too. So, so exciting. It was so fun to get all of the emails and the messages on Instagram saying, “Ahh! We’ve been waiting!” because we took a 10-month break. A 10-month break. That’s what we needed to do for our personal lives but we are so happy. I am so happy to be back. I definitely miss Julie every time that I’m recording, but I’m really so happy to be back and so honored to be a part of all of these beautiful stories because really, I wish I had this when I was preparing for my VBAC. I really do. 

I go back. This probably sounds silly because I’m recording the stories and I’m hearing the stories but then every week, I go in and I listen to the stories because I am learning things after recording and hearing them the first time, a second time. I’m learning things about births and certain procedures so it’s always a learning experience even for me who “specializes in VBAC” so it’s really, really fun. 

So yeah. Thank you so much for your review. Remember, if you have not had a chance to leave us a review, we love them. We always, always read them and add them to our queue to read them on a podcast. 

Morgan’s Stories

Meagan: Okay, Morgan. Hello. 

Morgan: Hi, hi. Thanks for having me. 

Meagan: Hi. Thanks for being here. Thanks so much for being here all the way from Alaska. 

Morgan: Yes, yes. Juneau. 

Meagan: Awesome. So awesome. Well, I’d love to turn the time over to you to share your story. I guess it was actually your second birth story technically?

Morgan: My third. My third, yeah. My second was a C-section.

Meagan: Yeah, sorry. That’s what I am talking about, your C-section. Your second birth story, I also want to talk about because it was a very valid Cesarean. 

Morgan: It was. Yeah. 

Meagan: I want to talk about that too because we can come across as so negative with Cesarean because it’s a VBAC podcast and we’re sharing a Cesarean story that led to a VBAC but a lot of the times, the Cesareans were negative or unneeded or undesired or unplanned, so sometimes it can come across that we are talking badly about Cesareans but I want to point out today with Morgan’s story especially that it was very, very needed. We are so grateful for Cesareans too. Even though we are a pro-VBAC podcast, we are not anti-doc and anti-Cesarean. That is for sure. I will let you share your story but I just want to talk about that because sometimes I think it can be like, “Wow. This podcast hates Cesareans,” and that’s not the case. That’s not the case at all. 

Morgan: Yeah, so I have three kids now and my first was a vaginal birth. It was mostly pretty well sought out and went through as expected. I was 41+5 and everything went pretty well. I did have some retained placenta at the end so I had to go back in for a D&C at six weeks postpartum because we hadn’t caught that before. 

My second pregnancy was a really good pregnancy. I was healthy. I was working. Everything was going as expected except my son, Cooper, was transverse. He would not budge. I tried so many things to have him budge. I was doing Spinning Babies. I went to the chiropractor. I could not find an acupuncturist where I was that I trusted and was ready to go to, but we tried so many things to get him to turn and it wouldn’t work. 

Toward the end, my doctor and I discussed doing a version. To me, we had discussed the risks of it were having a C-section at the end, but that’s what we were going in and trying to avoid anyways so the risks weren’t bothering me at that point so we did end up trying a version. It worked. It was very exciting, but then he turned back. I was like, “Oh no!” It was devastating. It was so devastating. 

Meagan: Oh, that would be hard. 

Morgan: That was one version and he turned back. So the doctor had said, “Man.” She was right with me on my birth plan too. She was there. She was ready to go. She said, “Well, let’s try another one.” I was like, “Okay. Let’s do it.” I went through it. I got through the first one. It was uncomfortable but we did it. So the second one, we tried another one, and sure enough, he turned. We were like, “Yes! We’ve just got to keep him there.” I was standing up all day. I wasn’t going to move. He was going to stay in. 

He turned back. I felt him turn back. I was like, “Ugh.” A second successful version that then turned back. After that, we were coming up on our due date and I was just so adamant about wanting a vaginal birth at that point that I said, “You know what? Why don’t we try a third version and we’ll just induce right after that? Maybe I won’t get my unmedicated birth but I’ll still have a vaginal delivery,” which for me was important because I wanted to be able to breastfeed without any concerns. 

So we tried. We tried a third version. It was on my due date. We were in the hospital. We were ready to induce afterward. My doula was on call. We were going to call her in after I started laboring. In the middle of the version, we lost his heartbeat. She had me connected with an ultrasound the whole time. She’s doing the version and there’s a nurse that’s doing the ultrasound and all of a sudden, we had no heartbeat. 

She said, “Maybe it’s just where we are. Let’s move a little bit and see.” I turned and I moved. We tried to find the heartbeat again and we couldn’t find it. She said, “Just give me a second.” She walked out of the room. I was all the way in the back of the labor and delivery unit at that point. She walked out of the room so calmly. She went into the hallway and yelled, “We need help in here!!!”

Meagan: Whoa. 

Morgan: I was like, “Whoa.” I was not expecting that. What went from calm right in front of me went to a massive emergency in a hallway. All of the nurses descended and the bed got moving. We went into the operating room and it took 20 minutes because I didn’t have an IV or anything connected to me at the time. So 20 minutes later–

Meagan: So you were under general anesthesia? They didn’t put you under general?

Morgan: They did not. No, I saw it. I saw the whole thing. I mean, they had the cover up but there are so many reflective units and metal everywhere that I could actually see what was happening which was fine. I don’t mind that. 

But yeah. They pulled him out 20 minutes later. He was not breathing. No breathing, no heartbeat, or anything. They had to do CPR. 

Meagan: Scary. 

Morgan: They got him back. The nurses got him back which is just amazing. He was rushed to a NICU at another hospital, the highest level NICU. I think it’s a 4. 

Meagan: Yeah, mhmm. 

Morgan: Yeah, so he went to a children’s hospital where there was a massive NICU. He’s good. Friday is his birthday and he’ll be 8. He’s just an amazing little kid.

Meagan: So amazing. 

Morgan: So I’m very, very grateful for that C-section.

Meagan: How was that for you? How was recovery for you? 

Morgan: Recovery was fine. There were no unexpected occurrences. We knew it was going to take a little longer. I knew not to work. The thing that was hard was, well first, breastfeeding because I had so much IV fluid in me. 

Meagan: I was going to ask. 

Morgan: Yeah. I got really nervous because I was pumping. He was at a different hospital. After two or three days, I saw my levels go down drastically and I was like, “What is this?” What happened was that the IV fluids had left my system so it was just my natural breastfeeding amount. I was not expecting that drastic change. But once we figured out what that was, that was good. 

The second thing that was hard was his being in a NICU. Once I was discharged from the hospital, my husband was driving back and forth from the home to the hospital. Luckily we were close enough, but I could only sit. I couldn’t lay in that NICU. I couldn’t lie so there was a little bit of pain there. Once we were ready to get him breastfeeding, we didn’t have a room for us. He was still in the NICU so I was sleeping outside in the guest area, like the waiting room along with other families that were going through things like their kids in cancer and stuff and there was nowhere for the parents to stay so we were all making tents in the waiting room. So that was a little hard for that recovery. 

Meagan: That is hard. That is really hard. 

Morgan: Yeah. That part was stressful but once we were all home, it was good. It was good. 

Meagan: How long was he in the NICU?

Morgan: He was there for 11 days. They were worried about brain damage so it was a hypothermic treatment that they put him on. 

Meagan: Did they put him in a cooler?

Morgan: Yep, mhmm. 

Meagan: Yeah. Well, so grateful that all is well. There must have been something. It’s so hard because my baby kept going breech. My midwife would flip him and then boom, back breech. Flip him, and then boom. Back breech. It was the same thing. I’d feel him and I’m like, “What the heck?” She finally was like, “We have to trust him. There’s a reason. We don’t know why. We don’t understand it, but we have to trust him.” It’s so hard. It’s so hard. 

Morgan: Yep, yep. 

Meagan: Because I was like, “If I have to have a third Cesarean because he’s breech, I will be so mad.” But yeah. That’s so hard. 

Morgan: Right. That’s so true. I think Cooper was telling us, “I’m not supposed to be here if I go this way. Things are going to go bad,” and sure enough, they did. He tried twice but then yeah. 

Meagan: The third time was too stressful for him. 

Morgan: It was too stressful. I think possibly that maybe that umbilical cord got bent in a way that no airflow could go through or something. We don’t know. But yeah, thank goodness for that C-section because it brought him back to us. 

Meagan: Absolutely. Yeah. So then baby number three? 

Morgan: Yep, baby number three. That was five years later. We’ve had a lot of difficulties with some miscarriages. I didn’t mention before that I’m Active Duty Coast Guard. I also am on the ships all of the time so you have to plan pregnancies around shipboard life. 

Meagan: Oh my gosh. 

Morgan: Yeah. There are big time periods between my kids. But baby number three was five years later. I wanted a VBAC from the start. I wanted an unmedicated VBAC. I knew I could do it. After my first pregnancy where I was so close to being unmedicated and my second pregnancy being a C-section, I knew that VBACs were available. I knew that I could do it. I was so adamant about going down that route. 

With the Coast Guard, you don’t really get to choose. With any military, you don’t really get to choose your provider. Most of the time, we are in a military treatment facility. I was very, very grateful to not be there. I had some negative experiences in both the local MTFs. This was in Washington, D.C. so getting to be with a civilian provider was just amazing to me. I was very happy. We were with the INOVA hospital system at that time. 

The provider I went to for the first appointment was at 10 weeks. We had a great heartbeat. Everything was going well. I was like, “I’m going to have a VBAC with this child.” He said, “Okay. I am good to go on that.” It was exactly what we were expecting. I would never have expected him to say otherwise at that point. I’m like, “Vaginal birth is clearly the way to go without any sort of condition saying otherwise.”

The pregnancy progressed. I guess I should mention that I was 40 at this time. With my second child, Cooper, I was 35 or 36 when I had him so I was in that high-risk stage just for age at that point. So of course, I’m there now at 40 and everything was fine. The pregnancy progressed. Everything was going well. At some point midway through, we were looking at what position the baby was in and she was breech. I was not happy about that and he was like, “It’s okay. It’s okay.” Knowing what happened with Cooper, I was not so thrilled. 

Meagan: You’re like, “I have some trauma on that.”

Morgan: I did, yes. At this point, I didn’t go for a chiropractor but I did learn that there was a wonderful acupuncturist in the area that had wonderful success with turning babies so I went to him. It was a 3-hour session and I actually felt her move in the session. It was just amazing. I couldn’t believe it. It was so cool. I’m like, “I feel her moving.” So she did. She turned a whole 180 at that point. 

He left us with homework. He called it, “Hot hot sticks” where you burn this incense over your pinky toe. 

Meagan: Bladder 6, yeah. 

Morgan: My husband would do it and the acupuncturist said, “You don’t take it away when she says, ‘Hot’, you take it away when she’s like, ‘Hot, hot, hot, hot!’” so that’s why she called it hot hot sticks. 

Meagan: Hey, I have actually seen that work though. The baby flips with those things. It’s called Bladder 6. It’s really cool. 

Morgan: We did that. He’s like, “You have to do this every day.” We continued to do it. It was great. I mean, I speak wonders about his service in the D.C. area. So that worked. We go back to the doctor and around 30 weeks, he started saying, “Okay, we need to schedule your C-section.” I was like, “Why? No. We don’t need to schedule a C-section.” He goes, “Well, you had one so we just need to schedule it.” I said, “I’m doing a VBAC. We talked about this.”

Meagan: Yeah, remember at 10 weeks?

Morgan: Right, right. He said, “Well, just in case.” I was like, “Why can’t we just induce? There are many steps between vaginal delivery and a C-section.” 

Meagan: Yes. 

Morgan: And scheduling a C-section I should say, right? So he taught me then, “We don’t induce with VBACs. There’s no Pitocin.” Later on in the story, I found out that that’s not exactly accurate. Some doctors will do it but he wouldn’t. That appointment was leading us down the road of research and starting for me to learn more about how to advocate and how ACOG and obstetricians and gynecologists work in their network and what their risk levels are and how important being able to talk to them in their language was. 

Meagan: Yeah.

Morgan: He said, “We’re going to schedule a C-section for 37 weeks.” 

Meagan: Whoa. 37 weeks?

Morgan: I was floored. Yes. I was like, “This isn’t even a full-term baby. No. No, no, no.” He goes, “Well, this is when they do it. It’s just easier. If you want a VBAC, as long as you go into labor before the C-section then we’re good.”

Meagan: 37 weeks?! How rare is it that people go into labor? I mean, it happens. We know this but it’s not very common that the body just spontaneously goes into labor before 37 weeks and then we have a baby going into labor at 37 weeks and we’re concerned because before 37 weeks, we’re not full-term. Interesting.

Morgan: Exactly. I was like, “No. No, no, no.” I was so upset after that appointment. I was like, “First off, my body would never go into labor before that.” I mean, sure. I’m speaking in exacts. 

Meagan: Didn’t you say that your first one was 41+5?

Morgan: Right, 41+5 for my first. With my second, I had no contractions. I mean, he was transverse, but I had no contractions before 40 weeks so I was like, “There’s no way my kids are coming early. That’s just proven to be wrong for my body so far.”

Meagan: Oh my gosh. 

Morgan: I left that appointment and I was really frustrated with it. I started doing work. I started doing research on where are the risks, what are the risks, and getting myself familiar with it. I started being in that defensive zone where I was having to prove myself. I found your website. I found your blog. I started listening to every single episode. I mean, it just gave me so much knowledge on where to look and what to look out for and the bait-and-switch that you were calling it. I was like, “This is me! This is what’s happening.” So I did. I researched and defenses were up at that point which is unfortunate because you don’t want to be in a defensive situation. 

Meagan: It is unfortunate, exactly. It’s so hard because again, we’ve talked about this on the podcast. We don’t want to have to walk in with our arms up and be ready to punch. It’s not what we should be doing. We just want it to be a nice, cohesive relationship where the provider is listening and we are listening to the provider because it’s also important for us to listen to the provider. They did go to medical school for a reason but at the same time, we also have to know that sometimes what those providers are saying is maybe skewed based on their own experience or maybe whatever. I don’t know. We’ve had providers tell people that they have a 30% chance of rupturing after one Cesarean. We have to still be aware that there is more information but we should never feel like we always have to have our wall up and our fists ready. It shouldn’t be like that and it’s unfortunate that sometimes it is. 

Morgan: Right, right. So after that appointment, I had already known I wanted a doula, but I was adamant about getting a doula with this one as well. I found one and she was amazing. She had been a doula for a VBAC before so she had also pointed me toward research and was ready to help me. She really was. She was awesome through this whole event and the whole birth. 

Time continued to progress. I remember going and taking my older kids to Chuck E. Cheese one day. They were off doing their thing with all of the arcade games and I’m on my phone. I’m listening to a podcast. I’m scrolling through ACOG research and I’m like, “I don’t want just the bulletin. I want the research behind it.” I’m doing all of this on my phone trying to find it all and I found it. I found what I was looking for. It was not just the risk of a VBAC and the risk of a second C-section. It was, “What happens when a person has already had a vaginal birth?” It’s a conditional probability, right? I’m a numbers person. I had already had a vaginal birth. Then it looks up, “What are those risks for a person to have a VBAC and a person to have a C-section?” When a person had already had a vaginal birth, the risks for a uterine rupture and the risk for mortality were actually so far below what the normal risk levels were. They were actually below your first birth. So if you’re a first-time mom and you’re having a first-time vaginal birth and you still have the mortality risk and you still have the uterine risk, my risk was lower than that because I already had a successful vaginal birth. 

Those were the risk levels he was working on. I was using his research and I was like, “No, no, no. You can’t tell me my risk levels are extraordinarily high when your own research that you are following tells me that I’m actually safer. I’m in a less risky stance now than when I had my first child.” I was even more adamant at that point to go towards a VBAC. I told him, “I will not have a C-section at 37 weeks.” I think it was your podcast that helped me advocate for myself in terms of standing up to a doctor. I have advocated in many other situations like law enforcement, school, or whatever but doctors were a whole new ballgame for me. To be able to say, “This is my right and this is my voice and I get to make this decision,” was a little intimidating before. 

Meagan: Oh absolutely. 

Morgan: I learned how to do it. So over the course of 3 or 4 weekly appointments at that point, I had rescheduled and rescheduled and rescheduled until finally, I got him to 41 weeks for a C-section. That was with the threat of going to another provider who I did go see on my own who was willing to induce with a mild amount of Pitocin, was willing to wait until 41+4 for a C-section, and was just on board with the concept. 

I had gone to see them and the unfortunate part was that they were not in the network so while I could pay a little bit of that bill, I couldn’t pay the what-if part of it. Like what if things go bad and I have to be in the hospital? All of that wouldn’t have been covered. 

Meagan: Which is so hard. 

Morgan: That would have been tens of thousands. 

Meagan: That’s so hard when we are restricted by insurance. 

Morgan: Yes and I was. Tricare is very restrictive. You don’t get to go choose another doctor just because you don’t like this one on Tricare Prime. You are stuck and I was. I went back to him and said, “I don’t want to be here right now but I can’t be anywhere else. I can walk into an emergency room and have a birth that way.” I was totally fine with doing that so I told him, “This is where I am. I am not happy with your care for me right now. I don’t think that you’re listening to me. I’ve seen another provider that tells me that this is possible and I also know that there is a wonderfully VBAC-friendly hospital in Washington D.C. I will easily drive past yours to go to that emergency room if I need to,” because that’s where I was bound within our insurance needs. 

He listened. He listened then and he said, “Okay.” So that’s where 41 weeks came. He did, though, say, “I’m not going to give you Pitocin.” I did learn that was his decision. He felt that–

Meagan: You have to respect that is his opinion. Yeah. 

Morgan: Right. He gets to determine what is safe in his mind and he thought a C-section was safe. He did not think that Pitocin was safe. I was like, “Fine. That’s fine.” So we waited. We waited until 41 weeks for a C-section. Through that time period, I continued with the monitoring appointments that they want high-risk women to do. So two times weekly, I was going to the hospital. Not his appointment area, but the hospital where they had a clinic. 

Meagan: The non-stress tests and stuff?

Morgan: Yes. All the non-stress tests. It was the non-stress tests where you have 20 minutes of checking the heartbeat and then always an ultrasound as well where they were checking the amniotic fluid levels. After all of these things got done, it took about an hour and I would meet with the doctor who would go over the information with me. That was one-on-one time. I think there were three or four doctors there doing all of the work. 

I ended up getting to see this one doctor pretty regularly. She was great at answering my questions so I asked her all of the time, “Where are your numbers for amniotic fluid? You are telling me I have an amniotic fluid level. In my world of work with the Coast Guard, then that means there is a risk level if it goes too high or too low so I want to know where your levels are. If you’re giving me a number on amniotic fluid, what’s the high level and what’s the low level?”

They told me. They said that the low level was 5.5. I have no idea what the measures of unit are but I know 5.5. I kept going and kept going. Everything was always perfect. 

On Friday around 40 weeks, she was starting to get worried about a VBAC. This is again a different doctor. At that point, I had already gotten my membranes stripped once. I was dilated to 1 and I was still up a little higher. So there was no movement. There were no contractions, nothing but everything was still fine. All of the levels were still fine. On that Friday, my amniotic fluid was a 9 so it had dropped, I think, by 2. It was 11 that week and by Friday it was a 9. 

I had been busy but it was still above the 5.5. Everything was fine. She said, “We should admit you.” I said, “What are you going to do if you admit me?” They couldn’t answer me.

Meagan: Because they’re not willing to give you Pitocin so they’re not willing to induce your labor. So what is admitting going to do I guess other than signing up for the Cesarean at that point?

Morgan: Right, right. So I was like, “Are you just going to let me sit in a room for days on end until I go into labor naturally?” 

Meagan: Yeah. 

Morgan: Is there a time limit for that? She couldn’t answer those questions. So I said, “You know, I’m okay. I’m going to go home.” So we went. We agreed that I would come back on Monday. I would do a lot of drinking water and Gatorade and I would come back in on Monday and see if that changed my amniotic fluid level. 

So I did. I came back in first thing on Monday and again, everything was fine in terms of how they had prescribed the numbers to me ahead of time. So fetal kick counts, fine. Baby’s heartbeat, fine. The non-stress test and everything there was fine. The amniotic fluid level was at a 7. It had gone back down a little bit further but it was still above the 5.5. 

At this point, she called in the on-call doctor for my provider’s group which was another female and we said, “Let’s just do another check right here to see if I’m dilated any further.” I was okay with that. So she did. I hadn’t dilated any further but the baby had dropped some at that point. I was happy with that because the baby needs to drop first before you start dilating. That helps it. 

Meagan: Yep. 

Morgan: But they didn’t see that as anything. They were only looking at dilation. I said, “I’m good. I don’t feel like I need to be here. Everything is fine.” They said, “Well, you haven’t started dilating further.” I’m like, “Well, it’s not like you dilate 10 centimeters over the course of 10 weeks. That’s not how it works.”

Meagan: Nope. Nope. Dilating needs some contractions a lot of the time too. 

Morgan: Right, right. We’re having this weird conversation where they’re telling me that I’m in trouble and I’m just not seeing it. There’s no urgency in their voice. There’s no actual concern in any of the testing that was happening and again, I’m asking again, “Well, what are you going to do if you admit me today?” They again can’t tell me an answer. So I said, “I’m going to go make a call.”

I called my doula and we had a long conversation. At that point, we really thought, “If I had to go back again on Tuesday or Wednesday, it was just going to get worse with them urging me and urging me and how much stress did I want to add on for them to do that?” We were getting close to that 41-week C-section date at that point. So even doing all of the things, right? All of the induction things that you do. You’re pumping and you’re doing the red raspberry leaf tea–

Meagan: Walking, yes. 

Morgan: All of the walking, everything. Nothing had changed, right? I went back to the doctor and I said, “I’m not going to be admitted today. I am going to go home.”

We went home and we went to our last resort of induction which was taking the Cytotec, that weird horrible tasting stuff. 

Meagan: Castor oil?

Morgan: Castor oil. Taking castor oil. Cytotec is that horrible drug that induces miscarriage. It was castor oil. So I did two tablespoons of castor oil in a milkshake. It was Ben and Jerry’s peanut butter. I wanted a really strong, intense taste to get rid of the castor oil taste. I told my doctor ahead of time that I was probably going to do that. I wasn’t trying to hide it. 

Meagan: Yeah, you weren’t sneaking around. 

Morgan: I did it. That was what I had for dinner that night at 6:30 and at 10:30, I had to go to the bathroom. At 11:30, contractions started. We were home and the kids– both boys were in bed at that point. We were just in labor. I went to the bathroom a few times. At some point, I said, “I really want to be in the bath,” so I went to the bath. I had a nice warm bath and I stayed in the bathtub probably for 45 minutes or so. 

Then I said, “I need to go to the bathroom again,” and that was when it probably felt like starting to push at that point but we weren’t sure if it was still the remnants of castor oil or if it was literally pushing. Our doula had said, “You’ll probably feel the castor oil effects for that first hour of labor.” We were still in that first hour so I was like, “Okay. Okay.” But Dave, bless him. He saw a change in me that I didn’t see. He saw me get into a more determined working mode in my face. 

He called my doula and he called my sister. He got everybody in motion. My sister was going to come to watch the boys so that we could get to the hospital when the contractions were around five minutes. My first vaginal birth was 14 hours so that’s what I was expecting. I thought it would be somewhere around 12 hours or so for this one. By the time my doula got there 30 minutes later, I was crawling on the floor. She said, “Let’s just see how you’re doing.” I must have looked like the devil because I said, “We’re going to the hospital,” while I’m crawling. 

Then I had a contraction while she was right there and she was like, “Whoa. You’re pushing, Morgan.”

Meagan: Whoa.

Morgan: “We need to go to the hospital. You’re right.” I was like, “Okay, okay. Let’s go.” That was one contraction. In between that next contraction, we got dressed. That contraction happened and then the next one. These are about two to three minutes apart at this point. 

Meagan: Really close, yeah. 

Morgan: I’m crawling to the end of my bedroom. I had another contraction at the top of the stairs. After that one was done, I walked down my flight of stairs and I got to the front door. I had another contraction and by then, my doula Bridget said, “You’re not going to make it to the hospital. We have to have this baby here.” “Okay.”

Meagan: Oh my gosh. 

Morgan: Yeah. Dave calls 9-1-1. Fairfax County has an amazing fire system set up so we were expecting them within seconds. They did. They probably got there five minutes later from our call. 

Meagan: Wow. that’s fantastic. 

Morgan: They’re really fast but I had already had the baby by then. 

Meagan: Oh no way!

Morgan: Yeah. He was out looking for them to show up and I had the baby one contraction later. 

Meagan: Oh my gosh. 

Morgan: Kori comes out. 

Meagan: So he missed the birth. 

Morgan: He did. He was outside getting the ambulance and firetruck to come. So Bridget was in there and she’s like, “Morgan, you’re baby’s coming. Catch your baby.” I was like, “Oh.” So I reached down and I was on my hands and knees. I reached down and caught her. She was still fully inside the amniotic sac. 

Meagan: She was born en caul?

Morgan: Yeah.

Meagan: Oh, so cool!

Morgan: Yeah. There was no water rupturing or anything so she was fully inside her sac. Bridget had said, that’s the doula. She said, “She’s inside your amniotic sac. You need to open that up.” So I remember opening it up and having the water come out around her and fall to the floor. We had gotten some towels down. Then she screams and I just bring her up onto my chest and hold her. She’s bright and pink and everything is fine. I felt wonderful. 

Meagan: I bet. 

Morgan: It was such a great experience. There was no scariness to it. I wasn’t worried about being at home. I felt really in control of the entire process. I knew what was happening. I knew my body was working the way it was supposed to work so I wasn’t worried about the pain. There was a lot of pain but it wasn’t like pain. It wasn’t like someone was pinching me. It was intentional work. It really honed me in on what was happening and it was just amazing. I loved every minute of it. 

I’m holding her on my chest and two minutes later, nine big firemen come running over. I’m naked. I’m naked. I’m breastfeeding because I had taken off my bra at that point. I’m breastfeeding. I’m just sitting there against the coat closet. 

Meagan: And your husband was probably like, “Uhhh.” 

Morgan: Dave is right there. He’s right next to me at that point. It has to be nine or so. It was definitely a full firetruck and an ambulance and it was all men. They all walk in and I was mortified. I was like, “Oh my god.” Everything about my toned, intact, powerful, and in-control birth just went out the window. 

They got me a blanket so I covered up and they were ready to cut the cord. I said, “Let’s just hold. Let’s just hold off for a minute,” and they did. They let me hold off on cutting the cord. 

Meagan: Beautiful. 

Morgan: We let all of the blood drain out. I breastfed. I made sure we got that in and then eventually again, Bridget was so good because she kept a really good awareness of everything that was happening in the situation. She said, “You know, you haven’t delivered the placenta yet so we need to go to the hospital.” I was like, “Oh, right.” 

In the big transition, I had lost my big, powerful, intact mode of doing what I knew I needed to do and I switched to covering up my body and all of that. I wasn’t in the zone.

Meagan: Yeah, which is kind of telling if you think about it. When you’re vulnerable like that, you’re like, “I forget that I have this other part of birth that I need to take care of,” because you’re just so protective of yourself. 

Morgan: Right. Right, yep. So we walked out to the ambulance and I did. I walked out to the ambulance holding her and we got there. We had a 20-minute ride. At some point in that ride, I thought I needed to get the placenta out but I couldn’t. I was by myself. I didn’t know these people. I felt too vulnerable to be able to do it there. 

Meagan: You didn’t feel safe, yeah. 

Morgan: We get to the hospital and the ER decides that they don’t need me. I’m not an emergency at this point so they take me up to labor and delivery. The doctor that I had seen earlier, the day before because it was a 24-hour shift, she’s the one that was still on call. She said, “Okay, well we have to get the placenta out.” She was doing this in a very rushed, not pleasant way. She was upset with me because I didn’t listen to her earlier and now I’m coming in on an ambulance. I could tell that she was mad. 

She said, “We can do this here or we can do it in surgery.” I said, “Well, let’s do it here. I don’t need to go into surgery if I don’t need to. You can give me an IV, put a little Pitocin in me and let’s go. I know that’s how you do that to get the placenta out.” At this point, there’s no issue with uterine rupture because the baby is already out so Pitocin should be fine. But that is not what happened. 

I said, “Yeah, we’ll do it here.” The next thing you know, she sticks her entire hand all the way into my uterus. I am in so much pain and she rips out the placenta and with it, she ripped open my uterus. 

Meagan: *Gasps*

Morgan: I screamed. It hurt so much. I handed Kori, who is my little girl, over to Dave at that point. Bridget was just floored. She tells me this afterward because I passed out. 

Meagan: I’m sure you were in shock. 

Morgan: I must have been. She went over and went out of the room and yelled to get help even though the doctor was in there. There was another doctor that was nearby. It was the anesthesiologist who came in. She said, “No, no, no. We’re not doing this here. We’re going into surgery.” My doula took a picture of my blood pressure or my heart, whatever it is. The blood pressure monitor at the time. I was at 50/20. 

Meagan: I’m sure your heart rate was through the roof. 

Morgan: Yeah. It must have been. 

Meagan: You were in shock. 

Morgan: It was bad. They took me back to surgery and I did come back when I was in surgery. I remember feeling pain like they were moving my legs all around. I was telling them, “You’re hurting me. You’re hurting me. Get me under. You’re hurting me.” I had five D&Cs at this point in my life so I knew what they were supposed to feel like which is easy. They’re not supposed to hurt at all. I was supposed to be under and I wasn’t. I was telling them, “You’re hurting me.” 

I remember that it was either the anesthesiologist or the nurse. I couldn’t see who was next to me, but they were saying, “She’s not under. Stop. She’s not under.” So finally, I did get under and I had to have a big blood transfusion because of all of the blood loss that I had. 

Meagan: Blood loss because of your uterus, yeah. 

Morgan: They stitched me up–

Meagan: Stitched your uterus?

Morgan: Yep. Whatever they had to do. I don’t even know what they did but I still have my uterus. It’s still in there. 

Meagan: Which is great. 

Morgan: Yes. Yeah. They fixed whatever they needed to fix. That same doctor fixed whatever they needed to fix. I went to recovery. I woke up maybe four or five hours later and it was my doctor that was on call by then. He had said, “You’re lucky you still have your uterus.” I was like, “Well, I shouldn’t have been in that situation to begin with.” I definitely shouldn’t have had a hand go into me the way that it did. 

18 hours later, I walked out of that hospital. I went home. I was discharged. I felt fine. The blood transfusion worked wonders. 

Meagan: Yeah. I’m sure it made you feel better. 

Morgan: Yeah, and now two years later, I’m allowed to donate blood too so I do regularly because of that. I did before but now I totally recognize that need and do it. But I look back at my birth story and I think about the home birth. I don’t really think about what happened at the hospital too much but I do think about how amazing that home birth was and how wonderful it was to have the people near me that were fully a team. 

Everyone that was there was there for me and it was an amazing team. It was just an amazing birth. I loved it. I knew I could do that. I knew I could do an unmedicated, vaginal birth and I did. Man, it was awesome. 

Meagan: An unmediated, vaginal birth en caul too!

Morgan: Yeah, yeah. 

Meagan: Oh man. That is so amazing. What you said, you hold onto the home birth. You hold onto that experience. I think sometimes we have to hold onto those experiences. I had kind of a really wonky experience. I don’t know if I’ve talked much about it. I need to do an episode and talk about my postpartum but after I had my son, my VBAC, my body went into some weird shock too and I kept passing out actually. We don’t really know to this day. I didn’t bleed externally or internally. We don’t really know what happened and it’s been really frustrating to me to know that and it’s there. It’s in my mind just like this hospital experience. 

Obviously, this insane uterine/placenta issue that shouldn’t have happened like you said is in your mind but then you’re holding on to this over there and that’s what I do. I hold onto my VBAC because I do still wonder what happened or whatever. You’re like, “Yeah, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place, but I’m holding onto this HBAC technically.” It was an unplanned HBAC. That is sometimes where we have to go. We just have to hold onto the good. We have to hold onto the good because there is so much good that outweighs potentially the bad. 

Morgan: Right, right. 

Meagan: Yeah. Yeah. Congratulations. Congratulations. 

Morgan: Thank you. 

Meagan: I’m sorry that your husband missed it. 

Morgan: I know. He did. He walked in right afterward and then my sister came right after the firemen to watch the kids. I mean, it all worked out. It was great. Even the boys got to see her before we went to the hospital. My older son, Zach, was just wonderful. He came over and just connected with her right away. Cooper who was five at the time was like, “Oh, firetrucks!” 

Meagan: Firetrucks! That’s cool!

Morgan: He’s like, “Awesome! Firetrucks. Can I go back to bed?” I was like, “Yep.” It was neat. It was perfect. It was the perfect home birth even as unexpected as it was. It was wonderful. 

Meagan: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, well congratulations. Congratulations. 

Morgan: Thank you. 

Meagan: Yeah. Let’s talk a little bit about AFI which is the amniotic fluid because you were getting into this space of, “Oh, they’re getting concerned. Oh, let’s admit you. You’re at a 9.” I think you were at a 7 maybe when they were like, “Oh, let’s admit you.” 

Morgan: They started at 9 on the first day. It was like, “You’re at 9. Let’s admit you.” 

Meagan: Yeah. Yeah, okay. 

Morgan: I said, “No.”

Meagan: I’m glad my memory is not too far off. 

Morgan: You’ve got it. 

Meagan: But yes. Let’s talk about that because something that can happen and it doesn’t always happen but it can happen when we’re doing non-stress tests or things like this very commonly in the end is that they’re paying attention to this AFI. Sometimes that is one of the factors that pushes people to being induced. Not push reluctantly, but it’s the ticket for induction for a lot of providers so let’s talk about it. You love numbers and you talk about 5.5. A lot of providers will even say 5-25. 25 is high so after 25, we’re looking at high fluid which is also another concern for providers if we have too much fluid. 

But after 24 weeks of pregnancy, it’s most common for them to measure an AFI. They usually don’t pay attention to it before 24 weeks but they sometimes do after. It is normal for it to be anywhere from 5-25. The question is, okay. Say you’re at 6. Say you’re at 7. What do we do? Do we have to induce? No, we don’t. You are proof of that. We do not have to induce. What can we do to help with amniotic fluid? Are there other ways?

You mentioned drinking Gatorade and water. Definitely increasing your fluid can make a huge difference. We’ve had a client go in and she was actually at 6, just above 5. She was like, “I just want to go home tonight. I’ll come back tomorrow. Obviously, I’ll come back in if baby’s not very active or anything like that.” She went home and she drank magnesium, like Mag-calm, and a lot of fluids. She went back in and it had gone up. It was just above 7 so not a ton, but it had gone up. They were like, “Oh, okay.” She was like, “I feel good about this.” 

She kept doing that. She kept going in for non-stress tests and fluid checks. Fortunately, it continued to stay just fine. Then sometimes it doesn’t and we don’t know exactly why, but hydration is super helpful for upping amniotic fluid levels. Salt can help us retain that a little bit. But yeah. And then getting actual IV fluids. Did they ever offer for you to get IV fluids or anything like that?

Morgan: No. Wouldn’t that have been helpful? Huh. Yeah, they didn’t. I didn’t even think about it. You’re right. That would have been really helpful. 

Meagan: Yeah, so sometimes when we’re ingesting through our mouth, we don’t retain the fluid as much but sometimes via IV, we can and it can be really helpful if we’re dehydrated. I’ve been dehydrated before and I’m drinking, I’m drinking, and I’m drinking but it’s not seeming to help then I’ve gotten into Instacare and gotten an IV and it was boom. Night and day, it felt so much better. That can really improve by getting an IV fluid. So you can be like, “Hey, I want to get an IV fluid. I want to get some fluids.” 

Sometimes, low amniotic fluid can be caused by underlying conditions like high blood pressure or maybe if they’re a diabetic patient. I actually don’t know exactly if gestational diabetes can affect it but I would assume probably. Treating these and checking in with blood sugars and making sure our blood pressure is good can also help our fluid levels and our hydration just by checking in and making sure there aren’t any preexisting things. 

Then if we have moms that are dropping dramatically by 5 points or whatever, that could be something where we just do bed rest. We just chill. Just don’t do anything to exert our body. And then of course except for eating and going to the bathroom, showering, and taking care of ourselves, we aren’t out and about going to Chuck E. Cheese but that doesn’t mean going to Chuck E. Cheese lowers your amniotic fluid, I’m just saying we are literally doing nothing. That can sometimes help increase amniotic fluid as well and of course, stay hydrated. 

Then diet. Diet. Getting more lean protein and whole grains and really fresh fruits and vegetables can also– there’s not a ton of really heavy evidence within this but there is some evidence that shows it can impact your amniotic fluids which is kind of crazy. You’re like, “Oh, food.” But hydration and stuff come through food and it gives back to our body. So anyway, there are others out there and everything but those are some tips on how to raise amniotic fluid and help. 

Like you said, you felt very comfortable, very comfortable where you were at. 

Morgan: I did. 

Meagan: Yes. That’s still another leading factor. We always have to check in with our gut. Always, always, always. Morgan says, “Okay. I’m feeling good about this. I’ve done the research. I know the numbers. I’m a numbers gal. I feel good. I feel good about this.” Look what happens, right? But it is hard. I would love to know any opinion that you have or anything that you would like to share because it is really hard. You spoke about it earlier. Having that conversation and where your research started and learning how to advocate for yourself which you did very much so. 

I mean, it would have been very easy for you to schedule a Cesarean at 37 weeks or it would have been really easy for you to schedule a Cesarean at 39 or 40. But any tips that you have for our listeners to really, truly advocate for themselves? Again, we talked about how we don’t want to go in with our punching gloves. We don’t want to be punching and be combative back and forth but we want to have that really healthy relationship saying, “This is what your practice of obstetricians and gynecologists says. Let’s talk about this. Let’s have this conversation.”

Morgan: Yeah. It was a hard conversation. I would say it was not one that ended in one appointment. That actually made it hard too because you’ve got a 30-minute appointment and you have to stop this conversation and start it a week or two weeks later. But every time, I really thought ahead of time. It was not a spur-of-the-moment discussion point for me. It was one that was planned. I wrote down exactly what I wanted to discuss beforehand so that we could really have that conversation and we could get through it in the amount of time that he had available. 

I do want to still be respectful and respect his schedule. I want to respect the other women that are there that need care as well. I also wanted to hear from him on why he wouldn’t do Pitocin, why he was worried about wanting to be so far in front of 40 weeks, or not wanting to go past 41 weeks. I got the answers to those things. Some of them I agreed with and some of them I didn’t, but really these decisions on pushing the C-section date back to 41 weeks, he ended up being okay with after all of the discussion and me saying, “Look, I don’t care about scheduling. I don’t care if it’s first thing in the morning. You’re assuming that I want to get in on the schedule at 8:00 AM but I don’t. I don’t care about that. If it has to be 3:00 in the afternoon, whatever. I want it to be at 41 weeks. That’s more important to me than an 8:00 AM scheduling of stuff.” 

I did go to the other doctor and get a second opinion but I had to pay that $300 for that appointment. 

Meagan: To do that, yeah. 

Morgan: Right, right. 

Meagan: I love that you mention how it’s so easy on both parties, on the birthing parents' side and the provider’s side to just assume, “You don’t want to fast all day because when you have a scheduled Cesarean, you have to fast so you want an 8:00 AM Cesarean, don’t you?” But it’s so important to say what you mean and where you’re at so there is no assuming. They know. They know where you’re at. 

Morgan: Right. Right. 

Meagan: I mean the same thing with providers. I encourage them to not just assume that the patient wants something but also talk about where they’re at. Like you said, you could have that conversation and be like, “I can see that. I can see that 100%. This is where I’m at,” and then you guys can have that meeting ground. 

It’s so important. It’s really hard, you guys. It’s really, really hard when you are in that space because we don’t want to go against a medical provider. We don’t want to fight. We don’t want to say, “You’re wrong.” That’s just not the position we ever want to be in but if there’s something that’s deeply in your gut and you’re like, “No. This is not what I’ve found out,” or “No. This is not what I’m okay with,” then have that conversation. I encourage you to have that conversation because that is going to better your relationship with your provider. 

Morgan: Yeah, absolutely. 

Meagan: Well, thank you so much. 

Morgan: Thank you. 

Meagan: Thank you so much for being here with us and sharing your beautiful story. I’m sorry that happened at the hospital but I’m so glad that you were able to leave pretty quickly and get back to your family at home. 

Morgan: Yeah, me too. I did not like that. But when I look at everything that happened, it was a wonderful story. I got my baby girl. Our family is complete and I’m just in awe of what a woman’s body can do. 

Meagan: Yeah. Absolutely. We are true women of strength. 

Morgan: Absolutely. 

Meagan: No matter how we birth, we are women of strength. I full-on believe that. Thank you so much and have a wonderful day. 

Morgan: Thank you. You too. 


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