The amazing Heather Felker, with her daughter Allyson Storey, and granddaughter Savannah (6 mo)
Heather is biological mom to eight, Piper (30), Cameron (28), Allyson (25), Jayson (18) Dalton (16), Landon (10), Maddox (8) and Sterling (5). She also has custody of two of her grandchildren, Phoenix (8) and Ariadne (7).
Heather does pregnancy very gracefully but the birthing process has always been more difficult for her. She became pregnant with her first child in tenth grade when she was just 15 and didn't feel like she had many choices in the matter. She ultimately delivered via cesarean which in retrospect was likely not necessary. When she had her second there wasn't much talk about birth other than that she'd just deliver via cesarean again. When Heather was pregnant with Allyson she met her first midwife and started to learn more about the birthing process. She was allowed a trial of labors but wasn't fully supported and again delivered via cesarean. By this time, the thinking was that once a cesarean, always a cesarean and so that's what she did. By time she had her youngest, Sterling, her uterus was so scared she developed Placenta Previa and Placenta Percreta. She was on bedrest from 22 weeks on and they delivered her baby at 35 weeks in a general OR. She had two OB's, a urologist and team of nurses in the OR. They hung 12 bags of blood products when they got started and she needed 25. Heather woke up in the ICU and spent six days in hospital.
Heather had prepared for her birth as much as she could by meeting with all the specialists who would talk to her and storing colostrum. Sterling only spent two days in NICU and was eventually able to latch and nurse well. Heather's final nursling just weaned about six months ago and she is celebrating having lactated for approximately 17 years.
Educated consent is extremely important to Heather. She says that many women trust their caregivers not knowing what their options are and you can't make a decision if you aren't told all of the potential outcomes. On the flip side of that, once that education takes place respecting a women's decisions for her body and her choices are so important.
Allyson wanted to start a family well before her husband but once he was ready they were able to conceive in about three months. She expected pregnancy to be easy for her but by 6 weeks along was incredibly nauseous. It was difficult for her to eat and she found herself going all day without food because she wasn't able to overcome the nausea. Around 25 weeks, Allyson was diagnosed with GERD after going to the hospital for chest pains. She remained fit throughout her pregnancy and imagined that birth would easy for her as well.
Prodromal labor started four days after Allyson's due date but stopped after about five hours only to pick back up the next day. Once she past the five hour mark she realized it was really happening. She had been planning a home birth with a trusted caregiver but things moved very slowly. She had planned to go without checks but 24 hours in needed to know more about what was happening. Allyson's midwife was facilitating another birth at their birth center so they sent an apprentice midwife and then a back up. She was told she was 6 cms at 2am and then given a natural supplement to help labor along. Allyson wishes she'd had the chance to do more research because the supplement caused pitocin like contractions without doing anything to move things along.
The following morning Allyson's care provider checked her again and hurt her really badly. She asked her to please stop and was crying but the care provider ignored her and wouldn't look at her. Allyson felt violated and embarrassed and didn't know what to do but did know she didn't want that person to touch her again and no longer felt safe. Allyson was able to transfer to the birth center where Savannah was born after about 48 hours of labor.
Allyson was unable to think about her birth for quite some time afterwards after feeling so violated. She wants women to know that even when you give birth at home with a trusted care giver it's important to trust yourself. It's okay to be sad and reflect on your experience. She has learned so much that will empower her in future experiences. She knows how to respond now and advocate for herself and hopes other woman learn to do so as well.