Birthing in Baltimore, Part II


Childbirth (Photo credit: popularpatty)

Continued from Birthing in Baltimore, Part I …

As Shannon McGarry was preparing for last week’s post, Pushing Forward Childbirth in America, which examines the US’ approach to maternal healthcare, she asked me about my own experience – specifically if I had given birth in a hospital (yes) and if I had a positive experience (yes).  Her inquiries and more specifically, her post got me thinking … what choices are women making to ensure wellness for themselves and their babies as they start and continue their families?

The following are real life accounts of maternal experiences here in Baltimore – illustrating a variety of medical preferences, circumstances and personal choices to ensure the health and safety for themselves and their babies.

*Please note that all names have been changed in order to preserve privacy.

Melissa, mother of 1 son

Working in medicine, better yet, surgery – I believe in science and expecting “routine” procedures to be, well, routine.  Even knowing what to expect, having my own baby was an eye-opening experience to epidurals, cesarean sections and whatever else was necessary to bring my baby boy into the world. 

My labor began at 3 AM and by 7 AM, my contractions were 5 minutes apart.  My husband and I got ourselves together and arrived at the hospital by 8:30 AM.  After checking in, a nurse examined me and told me I was 3 cm dilated – and that I had a while to go.  I was advised to go home or try to walk to move things along.  After 15 minutes of walking, my husband insisted I be re-examined – amazingly, I had progressed to the point of admission! 

Once in my birthing suite, things were a little fuzzy.  By 10 AM, the monitor was on, multiple practitioners were trying to get IV access, all the while my husband was helping the nurses take care of me, moving furniture around the room to accommodate friends and family and reciting my medical history!   At this point, the house OB comes in – not my doctor, not from my practice, not a woman – but a large, 6’5” 300lb man!  He broke my water – in walk more nurses and the NICU Team to address meconium (baby’s first stool within the “bag of water”) – I pushed once, following by a second half push, and my baby boy is born … followed by my husband hitting the ground, passed out!  Five hours later to include 2 CT scans, 1 neurological consult, 2 IV bags of saline, a sleeve of crackers and a cold compress for my husband, and some Tylenol for me – we had our first picture-perfect family moment. 

My husband’s joke is that helmets make great shower gifts for men!  


Sandra, mother of 1 son and 1 stepson

Before my husband and I conceived, I frequently discussed a world where one could have elective cesareans. I knew in my heart of hearts this was the right answer for me. Once we actually became pregnant though, we explored our many options from natural delivery to water birth, as well as epidurals and C-sections.  I practiced prenatal yoga from week 5 to week 39, and many women in my class were ready for the full experience of labor. Personally, I did not have a deep desire to “labor.” For me, I knew the experience of delivering my son was about him being in the world, not about his arrival. I told very few people about my choice ahead of time, and to those I did, it was not favorably received.  Nonetheless, my decision for how I delivered my baby was a personal one, which my husband and I took great care in making. It was surprising to have so many people feel comfortable openly questioning my choice. 

We made our choice based on the following considerations:

  • Both of our families are far away and having five days in the hospital to connect with our baby while receiving the care we needed was a great relief.
  • I had some medical concerns that could have been aggravated by having a natural birth.  Thankfully, my personal recovery went well and I had the benefit of the best medical care during my son’s birth and was able to recover in a “hospitable” environment.
  • While momentous, our son’s birth was uneventful – there were no medical concerns; he was healthy and had a high Apgar score. 

Our choice worked well for us – despite some friends and family not supporting our decision.  There are LOTS of decisions to make when becoming a parent – some of them difficult and/or controversial – in the end, my husband and I made the right decision for us.  


Sarah, mother of 1 daughter

Throughout my pregnancy, my husband and I read lots of books and took a birthing class – all recommending that we design a “birth plan.”  My plan, much to my husband’s distress, was that once I went into labor, I would go to St. Joseph Medical Center where I would let the medical professionals take care of me.  Knowing that I don’t respond well to pain, this care would include an epidural, which I had already communicated to my doctor and let the nurses know upon checking into the hospital.  My not having a formal birth plan was my best strategy for remaining as flexible as possible to whatever happened – including what might be medically necessary.

Overall, I had a very positive experience – my doctor, whom I adored, was on duty, and I was especially happy with the care I received from my nurse, Janine.  While I had hoped to “push,” the doctors recommended a cesarean once I stopped dilating and the baby’s heart rate dropped – given that I had been in labor for 14 hours, I discussed the option with my husband and friend who supported a C-section.  Shortly after, my daughter was born and I was in recovery. 

The only negative experience I had was with the anesthesiologists – I had two, one when I was admitted and another one later that night, or early the next morning (I don’t remember).  I had had an epidural, but I was having intense pain in my right hip – and as my contractions advanced, the pain became unbearable.  The new anesthesiologist all but claimed I was faking – to the point where both my nurse and I had to advocate for a “re-do.”  Apparently my spinal cord is very close together and the first batch wasn’t properly administered – which the second anesthesiologist humbly realized after numerous unsuccessful attempts.  Unfortunately, because my contractions were less than 2 minutes apart, the second epidural took nearly an hour to administer – which was long and hard for me, and my husband who was anxiously waiting outside my room. 

I look back on my experience as wholly positive – to the point of looking forward to one day doing it again so that my daughter can be a big sister! 


Taylor, mother of 2 daughters

I loved being pregnant and I was blessed with two very healthy and easy pregnancies!  My girls were born in 1999 and 2001, with one “false pregnancy” in between.  I carried each of them full term – having to induce labor as they were too comfy where they were. 

My oldest daughter was born at Franklin Square Medical Center in a large birthing room.  My sisters were with me throughout my being induced and the labor process.  There were no complications until the last few minutes, when the baby’s heart rate dropped while I was pushing.  The doctor became concerned and quickly put an oxygen mask on me and used forceps to get her – the cord had wrapped around her neck.  I was told the ‘art’ of using forceps had been outgrown, but my doctor did it with exact precision – leaving no marks on my baby girl and we were past the panicky part within seconds.  

My youngest daughter was born at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, also in a large room where my sisters joined me and my husband.  This time, my water broke on its own and the baby kind of just came out.  I had a cramp in my side – I was talking with a friend on the phone – and after I hung up, we had our second daughter within 10 minutes.  After getting home, I had a high fever and was eventually diagnosed with a uterine infection that was worse than any labor I had. 

My girls are 14 and 12 and I love every minute of being a mom!


How do these stories – as well as others – resonate with your own experience(s)?


See more “maternal experience” stories here.

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In my role as Project Specialist, I manage numerous virtual trainings and in-person meetings with an excellent track record of organizing and executing seamless events. I am a Wide Angle Youth Media Board Member, a non-profit organization that provides Baltimore youth with media education to their own stories, and serve as the Business Advisory Committee Chair. Read more.