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My Birth Story – Briana Fernandez

I was 20 weeks pregnant when we moved to Arizona. We hated the fact that we had to leave our OB/GYN back home; but when we stepped into Willow Midwife Center for Birth and Wellness AZ, we knew we were in the right hands. Luke had found Willow AZ while researching birth centers in Arizona. Although it was about an hour away from home – all the way in Mesa – we knew this was the right place.

It was Saturday, February 16th, 2019, and I had spent the day at Costco, Walmart, four different Goodwills, and a Saver’s preparing for baby. I bought enough toilet paper and paper towels to last a lifetime, and plenty of newborn sized pajama-like onesies. For some reason I had a feeling that baby was coming early, so I wanted to be sure to have smaller sized onesies. Goodwill had so many adorable brand-new “tag-still-on” pajama onesies. I made sure to get all my “healing supplies” from Walmart to prepare for the postpartum healing process. Thank God for nesting…

That same day around 7 PM – five days after my sixth OB appointment at Willow AZ – we received a phone call from one of the midwives, Pam. She had sent in a blood test to check for a certain rare condition after our February 11th appointment because I had mentioned that I had severe itching on the bottom of my feet and on my hands. Her call that night was to tell me they had made an appointment for me to be induced on Sunday (the following day) because I had Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy, a condition that impairs the release of a digestive fluid called bile from liver cells. As a result, bile builds up in the liver, impairing liver function. Immediate delivery was necessary as the condition is highly associated with the risk of stillbirth.

We had planned on an all-natural, low-stress environment, water birth at a birth center – which would have been perfect at Willow AZ. They could have told me that Joanna Gaines designed and decorated each of the delivery rooms and I would have believed them – each room looked as if it were straight out of the show Fixer Upper. Beautiful bedrooms, each of them a different layout and color – way better than a five-star hotel.

Sophia Rae Fernandez

After hanging up the phone, I realized that our plans had completely changed. With tears in my eyes, and a worried Luke looking straight at me knowing something was up, I told him the news. I had written every single detail of that phone call on a notepad. The four options they offered for inducing labor, the hospital we needed to go to, the time we had to check in, and what to expect during our hospital stay. I remember having so many questions – Pam answered each one with great detail and explained everything perfectly, so even a mother in shock could understand.

At first, we were extremely upset and anxious to go into a hospital. Once we arrived, our anxieties went away. After registration, they greeted us at the front door with a wheel chair and wheeled me up to the labor and delivery unit. The first person to come into our room was Kayla, a delivery nurse. She connected with Diane, our midwife, and discussed the course of action. The plan was to start taking half a dose of Cytotec, a tiny pill, every few hours to induce labor. I was firm on my no pain medication stance, and they were extremely accommodating to each of my wants and needs.

After the first pill, they had an issue finding her heartbeat – so they attached me to a heart rate monitor and put in an IV line to give me fluids. Once I was hydrated, it was easier to find her heart rate, but I was extremely uncomfortable with the monitor because I was using the restroom so much, so they attached me to a wireless monitor. Baby’s heart was racing so fast that they needed to monitor her closely every 30 minutes to an hour. I tried to sleep every 45 seconds in between contractions, and somehow managed to sleep for those 45 seconds a few times. It came to a point where I told Luke to sleep – even though I was having contractions – because I knew I would REALLY need him during active labor. Time seemed nonexistent during labor, and the nurses only came in when they needed to. It was so nice to have that intimate time with Luke. Kayla, my nurse, ended her shift and I turned to Luke and said, “I wish she would stay the whole time…”. Then Ana, the night shift nurse, came and introduced herself. After talking me through so many contractions, I knew she would make up for Kayla’s absence. She was incredible – coaching Luke with tips on how to best help me through each contraction – telling me, “That one is over, and you never have to go through that contraction again!” It was simple, but so helpful.

Kari, my mother-in-law, had told me that relaxing my jaw and hips were so important in getting through contractions – and labor in general. This helped me immensely! Every time I would have a contraction, Luke and I would both take a deep breath in and breathe out saying, “Relaaax”. Why this helped me, I don’t know. Luke was such an incredible coach/teammate – for lack of a better word. Every time I would have a contraction, he was there holding my hand or massaging my back – really whatever I needed to ease the pain from the contractions.

After 13 hours of contractions every one to two minutes – which started about an hour after the first pill, I had intense back labor – such intense pain. Baby was facing the wrong direction (not breach, just face up instead of face down). In between contractions I was running to the bathroom because of all the water I had been drinking. I took a shower – which helped relieve back pain. I ended up accidentally flooding the bathroom because I had the birthing ball over the drain… oops! Once I was out of the shower, I started doing the cat-cow yoga poses – this helped flip baby around. By then the contractions were so intense. Luke and I walked around the labor and delivery unit a few times and went back into our room. I went into the shower once more to relieve pain and had the urge to push. I told Luke I had to push and that I felt the need to poop. I sat on the toilet and couldn’t help but pushing through every contraction. They had checked my cervix about 30 minutes to an hour prior, and I was 1-1/4 centimeters dilated.

Diane, our amazing midwife from Willow AZ, came into our room and checked again, and asked me, “Where do you want to have this baby?” “Am I ready?!” I was in shock and beyond excited that I started bawling. Luke was literally holding me up while I was on the toilet through all of this. “We’ve delivered babies on the toilet before, but it’s your choice – where do you feel the most comfortable having this baby?” Diane asked me. I decided the couch was the most comfortable, so they got it ready for me and in between two contractions, I rushed to the couch with all that I had in me.

Briana and Baby SophiaI pushed three times and she asked if I wanted to feel my baby’s head. It was beyond incredible to feel her – just a few more pushes! They asked if I wanted a mirror to see her, so they set that up and three to six more pushes and she was out! I asked, “IS IT A GIRL?!” … just wanted to make sure… Of course, Sophia Rae Fernandez – all perfect and gorgeous, was a girl. “Does she have hair?” I remember asking that question – only because I was bald until about the age of two. She had hair! After the umbilical cord stopped pulsating, Luke was able to cut it. At 12:42 PM on February 18th, 2019, I finally had that beautiful baby girl in my arms! Through tears I kept saying, “Oh Luke, she is so PERFECT! Look how perfect she is!”

For the “Golden Hour”, which is the first hour (or two) of her life outside the womb, they left her on my chest for some skin-to-skin contact. Luke and I had the most incredible intimate time with our sweet Sophia. After I had my skin-to-skin time, Kayla weighed and measured Sophia and gave her first check-up. 6 lbs. 5 oz. 19 inches. Everything was perfect. Our baby was healthy. How can you love someone so much that you’ve only just met?!

We moved to our new postpartum room and Luke had his skin-to-skin time with Sophia. We ordered food and Luke ran to the grocery store to get me some sushi after nine months without it – my first meal – SO GOOD! We decided to stay only one night and go home. Sophia weighed 6 lbs 2.5 oz when we left the hospital, which is completely normal.

On our way home we talked about how our plans changed, but we would definitely go back to Banner Ironwood to have a baby. Our experience was one to remember, and a great one at that! The fact that I can still remember the small details almost five and a half weeks later is very telling.

Briana, Luke & Sophia

We had our 48 hour postpartum at-home visit (yes, they came ALL THE WAY to our house!) with Jana, another Willow AZ midwife – and Sophia was looking great! We had our visit with Diane at Willow AZ when Sophia was one week old, and she had already gained 11% of her birth weight back. She was 6 lbs. 11 oz. with perfect hearing and coloring.

I got my natural birth – with no pain medication in a low-stress environment! We are so grateful for Willow AZ! They had our backs throughout this whole process and made it so painless. It was such a relief knowing that I could still have my Willow AZ midwife deliver my sweet baby at the hospital even though things didn’t go as planned. Diane was so great! We are thankful to the entire Willow AZ crew and how welcoming, supportive, and knowledgeable they were. Even though plans didn’t go as planned, I wouldn’t change a thing! Thank you, Willow AZ and Banner Ironwood for such an incredible FIRST birth experience!

Briana Fernandez

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