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- Carrissa is a mother of 6 children: 5 girls and 1 boy.
She always knew that she wanted a big family: Carrissa has 4 siblings herself, and her husband was an only child- both were very on board with a large family!
I met Carrissa through a group in which she has been an admin of for over 9 years- Homebirth and Waterbirth.
Carrissa explains the group and its purpose: A place for mothers interested in homebirth and waterbirth to come and feel connected and supported.
When she became pregnant with her first child, Carrissa began thinking that she wanted to have her baby in the most natural way possible. Her husband was not quite comfortable with the idea of a midwife at that time and preferred they use the hospital. Carrissa decided that was okay and went along with a planned hospital birth.
Unfortunately, while in labor, Carrissa had a very negative reaction to a medication given to her. On top of that, her water was broken very early- she was about 4 cm dilated at the time. She continued to labor, though and at close to 9 cm, she asked for medication to ease the discomfort. They gave Carrissa Fentanly through her IV, and immediately she felt a shift in her body. Baby move back up the birth canal, and her cervix actually began to close- she went from 9 cm dilated to 7.
Carrissa went unconscious for a moment, and the nursing staff had to wake her back up. Her baby’s heartbeat went from 144 beats per minute down to 77, and she was in distress. They tried to get Carrissa up onto hands and knees, while several doctors and lots of nurses rushed her to the OR.
They put Carrissa under general anesthesia, and when she awoke, she realized her baby had been born about 4 hours prior. Everyone had been able to hold her and snuggle her before Carrissa.
Carrissa says she felt heartbroken—she felt as though she had given her baby a bad birth experience. Of course, now she recognizes that the situation was not ideal- she had a doctor who was not very supportive, and a lackluster nursing staff. She mentions that that hospital has come quite a long way since that time, and they’ve done quite a bit to improve (this was 13 years ago).
With her second daughter (11), Carrissa was adamant that they would have a homebirth this time. The birth went so much better, though she discusses how once again at 9 cm, she stalled. She attributed this to the fact that that’s as far as her body had gone with labor the last time, so her body still had to do the hard work of figuring out how to have a baby this go ‘round.
Baby was born safe and sound, and Carrissa mentions how much better her postpartum experience was with this baby- she did not have to contend with the drugs and medication that she had to be on with her first birth, which kept her feeling foggy and as though time was slipping from her.
Carrissa’s third birth (another homebirth) was her shortest. She was putting her two daughters to bed one night when her midwife called and said, “Hey! It’s a full moon tonight, so I just wanted to call and check up on you- full moons tend to put moms into labor.” Carrissa laughed and told her that she was actually about to call—that she was getting into the shower and thought she might be in labor.
Her midwife came over and checked her, and told her that her waters were bulging and she was very dilated- she’d be having a baby soon! The pushing phase was rather difficult, but overall the birth was short and lovely.
Carrissa’s next pregnancy was 6 years later- it was a surprise! She decided to have that birth in the hospital- it was financially a better option at that time, and her midwife was no longer practicing.
She mentions that she also wasn’t in the best place mentally and emotionally at that time, so the decision to go to the hospital made Carrissa feel the most comfortable.
For that birth, she had been in prodromal labor off and on for several weeks. In fact, she’d gone to the hospital several times thinking it was certainly the real deal. Luckily, they did not admit her at any point.
Several days after Thanksgiving, Carrissa and her sister were making ornaments for their children to hang- She was clearly in labor. Everyone around her kept say, “Let’s get you to the hospital,” but Carrissa was not ready to go- fearing it would be another false alarm.
All of Carrissa’s children came at 39 weeks and 6 days… except for this baby! She was 40 weeks and 2 days at this point, and she was convinced that this baby was just not coming!
“’Im going to be the first woman in history to be pregnant forever’… I was convinced of that!”
Finally, after several hours of what was clearly active labor (to everyone else), her sister and father convinced her to go to the hospital.
“They didn’t even get to fully admit me before I was crowning!”
The nurse checked Carrissa and said, “Great, you’re at 7 cm.” Carrissa responded, “Okay, that’s great, I really need to push right now.”
“[The doctor] walked in and was putting on his gloves, and said, “Op, there’s the head.” Both the doctor and Carrissa caught her baby. She says it was a great experience. In fact, it’s her favorite birth story to tell!
With her youngest baby, Charles, there was concern of preeclampsia. An induction was scheduled, but on the morning of the induction (39.6 weeks), Carrissa woke up in labor.
She says that his labor was difficult- he was very large compared to her previous babies: 9 pounds, as opposed to her 2nd biggest being 7 pounds!
“My husband was a huge support- he was pretty nervous, but he did awesome.”
Carrissa had the same understanding doctor as with her previous birth, making the experience a very comfortable one once again.
We touch on the idea of education on the mother’s part being so critical. At one point in her last birth, a nurse told her she thought Carrissa having a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean) was a bad idea- Luckily Carrissa knew that this information was incorrect, and a vaginal birth was statistically safer than another cesarean.
“I really do believe that research and education can make or break your plans.”
Carrissa has been a doula for 9, going on 10 years. After having her homebirth, she became so in love with the birthing process that she wanted to help other mothers.
Carrissa has been a doula in a number of situations: homebirth, unassisted births, and hospitals too.
“I love watching a mom find her voice.”
Now, with 10 years of experience under her belt, Carrissa has created a doula course: Birth Workers International Doula School, which opened in March 2019.
She is offering courses for birth doulas, fertility doulas, and postpartum doulas.
Carrissa is also creating a program with her father, who is an NLP, that focuses on healing for women with trauma: be it birth or sexual. She discusses how giving birth after either of these types of trauma can be incredibly difficult.
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- Education changes everything! Carrissa discusses the difference between her first hospital birth versus later ones, and the massive difference was her ability to stand up for what she knew was right for herself and her baby- all backed by education.
Not every single birth requires the same birth setting- Carrissa knew with several of her births that a homebirth was just not the right choice for her at that time. What’s most important is going with what feels will be the best, healthiest choice for you- even if it’s a different choice than you made with previous births.
Sharing is caring. Carrissa is dedicating her time and energy to not only serving as a doula, but also training other doulas. Whatever skill you have, be sure to share it with the world!