Birth Story of Henri, by Janice Banther (Doula)

I remember the day I met Cindy. Her mother in law, Patsy, came with her for her childbirth classes. My office door opened and there stood this beautiful pregnant woman justglowing.  You could tell she loved being pregnant and that she loved herbaby just by the look on her face.

We took some time to get to know eachother.  I already knew about part of her history.  Cindy talked probably the most about herhusband Hank.  I knew he was in prison and the history of what had happenedin their lives the past 3 years.  Hank had been home on ROR till sentencing.  A miracle had happened.  Just before he was sentenced, Cindy gotpregnant! 

She wanted to make sure Hank wasinvolved in every part of this baby’s birth.   Anytime I mentioned a new book that shehad not heard of, she immediately got on her smart phone and ordered a copy ofthe book for Hank to keep him involved.  We both joked that our husbandswere great readers and always had them do the reading then explain the book tous.

It was important right from thebeginning, that she wanted Christ in the center of her home now and after theirbaby boy, Henri was born.  Even though Hank was not with them right now,he was still a huge part of the family, and her best friend.  She neverconsidered herself a single mother.

Cindy and Patsy took many notesand had lots of questions.  I loved it!!  If she was not takingnotes, she was always giving her tummy a hug.

I was so glad they both felt comfortableenough with me to text me with questions and any concerns that she had.  To make sure she was completely prepared,they even took “Happiest Baby On The Block” class.

I love watching mothers swaddle thedolls as if they were real babies.  Thisis just what Cindy did. 

The OB office that she had chosen was sogood to her and was so supportive of her knowing Hank could not be at thebirth.  This gave her so much more confidence regarding her very high-riskpregnancy.

Because of some of the medical issuesCindy had, she was going to be induced .We know the date Henri would be in herarms.  She was so excited when she knew the date he would be in her arms.

We met at the hospital the morning ofthe induction.  Cindy looked so happywhen I walked into her room.  Patsy was there helping in any way that shecould.  Her best friend came soon after.

It was a long day for Cindy. Theinduction did not make any changes.  She never did dilate all day. She spent some of the day resting, but a good part of it talking to us. She had many questions and many concerns. It was hard for her not to watch the monitor.  She kept watching his heartbeat.

The doctor came in and had a long talkwith Cindy and me.  The day had been long, and no changes.  With hisanswers, came the reality that she would have to wait one more day to seeHenri.  This was hard for her.  I knew in her heart that holding herbaby was in part also holding her husband. I left.  Pasty decided to spend the night with Cindy.  

When I arrived the next morning, it waslike a new Cindy. One of her first words to me was this is Henri’sbirthday!  We are only going to thinkpositive thoughts. I love it when the mom takes control over the birthing room!

Not long after the induction and othermedical interventions had started, she went from 0 dilation to 4!! That was amiracle!   Cindy’s smile just gotbigger. 

She said she really wanted to rest andif all of us left, she felt she might be able to rest.  Since I don't everleave the mom, I was a little concerned about me leaving, but with her havingthe epidural and I could also tell she needed her own space.  We all leftand she got some much-needed rest.

After 1 1/2 hours, I went back to herroom.  She had rested and looked great. Her friend and I thought we wouldpass the time to watch a movie that we all loved and thought that if Cindy watchedit, she would end up laughing the baby out!

2 things happened right after we hadjust started the movie.  First, the dr. came in to check to see how shewas progressing.   I could tell by the sound in his voice and how hewas checking her for dilation, this was going to be good news.  But I hadno idea how good.  He said, “You are ready to push!!”  Cindy couldnot believe it.  But was so happy to hear those words.   

The second thing that happened was herphone rang.  It was Hank! Talk about Gods perfect timing!  Theyboth talked to each other with great excitement.  Both had questions forme, but mainly they talked about Henri and how much they loved each other.

Hank’s calls could only be for 15 minutes.Soon he was calling and would call right back to just hear her.  Duringpushing, there is not much time for the mommy to talk.

During one of the calls, I had thephone.  I asked him if he would like tohelp her push.  He said YES!!  I told him what to say and when tostart saying it.  We placed the phone on Cindy’s chest so she could hearhim.  And he did a great job.  I was so glad he was doing this.  The nurse and I would share glances to eachother and were both so happy he was being a part of the birth.  Duringsome of the calls, Cindy would just say, “Pray Hank”!  And he did.  During the pushing the nursesaid, “Your baby has hair.”  Cindy andHank both laughed!  They were both born bald and did not expect Henri tohave any hair!   It took lots of pushes.  Almost 2 hours.  Cindy worked hard and gave it her all witheach push.

There was a period of time during thelast part of pushing Hank did not call.  Calling privileges were stoppedduring this time at the prison.  With every push, we helped her push andshe did a great job.  At the same time in my head I was thinking ringphone, ring!!

Just as Henri’s head was crowning, thephone rang. I pulled it out of my pocket and said, “Hank, just wait and listen. You are going to hear your son any minute.”  I laid the phone downnext to Cindy.

And he did!!  They brought the babyup to Cindy’s chest and laid him on her.  She circled her arms around himand just made joyful noise!  Since Hank could not see her, he asked me ifshe was ok.  I said yes, she is fine; She is just so happy, she is beyondwords.  He gave a very thankful laugh.

Soon Cindy had the phone and was talkingto Hank and holding Henri. She then said, “I am going to put the phone toHenri’s ear so you can talk to him.”  It was so precious.  Henriquitted down when he heard his father’s voice.  It is a moment I will never forget.  Watching a mother hold the phone to herbaby’s ear so her husband in prison could hear his father.  Amazing.

Soon the family and her friend came inthe room crying tears of joy.  Hank’s parents, Patsy and Buzzy were oneset of proud grandparents. Not wanting to take Henri away from Cindy, theynever asked to hold him.  Cindy asked ifshe wanted to hold her grandson.  Tears were streaming down Patsy’s face. Buzzy took his huge arms and totally surrounded Henri.  

The next few moments were so preciousand special that they were having as a family, I turned away.  I did not want to interrupt anything that washappening.   

I have attended many births where we hadthe dad on the phone because of being deployed, was working somewhere else inthe country or world. Some even watch on Skype. But I have to say, this wasextremely emotional and I was thrilled they let me be part of it.

When everything seemed calm and gettingready to move to the postpartum area, I kissed them both, hugged Patsy andBuzzy and said good-bye. 

And I did what we do with any birth wedo with Birth Behind Bars. 

I got in my car and cried.

Birth Story of Cindy

I remember the day I met Cindy. Her mother-in-law, Patsy, came with her for her childbirth classes. My office door opened, and there stood this beautiful pregnant woman just glowing.  Just by the look on her face, you could tell she loved being pregnant, and that she loved her baby.

We took some time to get to know each other.  I already knew about part of her history.  Cindy talked probably the most about her husband Hank.  I knew he was in prison, and the history of what had happened in their lives the past 3 years.  Hank had been home on ROR till sentencing.  A miracle had happened.  Just before he was sentenced, Cindy got pregnant! 

She wanted to make sure Hank was involved in every part of this baby’s birth.   Anytime I mentioned a new book that she had not heard of, she immediately got on her smart phone and ordered a copy of the book for Hank to keep him involved.  We both joked that our husbands were great readers, and we always had them to do the reading and then explain the book to us.

It was important right from the beginning that she wanted her religious Faith to be in the center of her home then and after their baby boy, Henri, was born.  Even though Hank was not with them right now, he was still a huge part of the family, and her best friend.  She never considered herself a single mother.

Cindy and Patsy took many notes and had lots of questions.  I loved it!!  If she was not taking notes, she was always giving her tummy a hug.

I was so glad both Cindy and Patsy felt comfortable enough with me to text me with questions and any concerns that she might have had.  To make sure she was completely prepared, they even took the “Happiest Baby On the Block” class.

I love watching mothers swaddle the dolls as if they were real babies.  This is just what Cindy did. 

The OB office that she had chosen was so good to her, and also very supportive of her, knowing Hank could not be at the birth.  This gave her so much more confidence regarding her very high-risk pregnancy.

Because of some of the medical issues Cindy had, she was going to be induced. We knew the date Henri would be in her arms.  She was so excited when she was told the date he would be in her arms.

We met at the hospital the morning of the induction.  Cindy looked so happy when I walked into her room.  Patsy was there helping in any way that she could.  Her best friend came soon after.

It was a long day for Cindy. The induction did not make any changes.  She never dilated all day. She spent some of the day resting, but a good part of it talking to us. She had many questions and many concerns. It was hard for her not to watch the monitor.  She kept watching his heartbeat.

The doctor came in and had a long talk with Cindy and me.  The day had been long, and still no changes.  With the doctor’s answers, it became clear that Cindy would have to wait one more day to see Henri.  This was hard for her.  I knew in her heart that holding her baby was in part also holding her husband. I left.  Pasty decided to spend the night with Cindy.  

When I arrived the next morning, it was like a new Cindy. One of her first words to me was “This is Henri’s birthday!  We are only going to think positive thoughts.”

I love it when the mom takes control over the birthing room!

Not long after the induction and the medical interventions had started, she went from 0 dilation to 4!! That was a miracle!   Cindy’s smile just got bigger. 

She said that she really wanted to rest and if all of us left, she felt she might be able to rest.  Since I don't ever leave the mom, I was a little concerned about my leaving; but, with her having the epidural, I could also tell she needed her own space.  We all left, and she got some much-needed rest.

After 1 1/2 hours, I went back to her room.  She had rested and looked great. Her friend and I thought we would pass the time by watching a movie that we all loved because we also thought that if Cindy watched it, she would end up laughing the baby out!

Two things happened right after we had just started the movie.  First, the doctor came in to check to see how she was progressing.   I could tell by the sound in his voice, and how he was checking her for dilation that this was going to be good news.  But, I had no idea how good.  He said, “You are ready to push!!”  Cindy could not believe it, but she was so happy to hear those words.   

The second thing that happened was her phone rang.  It was Hank! Talk about perfect timing!  They both talked to each other with great excitement.  Both had questions for me, but mainly they talked about Henri and how much they loved each other.

Hank’s calls could only be for 15 minutes. Soon, he was calling and would call right back to just hear her.  During pushing, there is not much time for the mommy to talk.

During one of the calls, I had the phone.  I asked him if he would like to help her push.  

He said, “YES”! 

I told him what to say and when to start saying it.  We placed the phone on Cindy’s chest, so she could hear him.  And he did a great job.  I was so glad he was doing this.  The nurse and I would share glances to each other and were both so happy he was being a part of the birth.  

During the pushing, the nurse said, “Your baby has hair.”  Cindy and Hank both laughed!  They were both born bald and did not expect Henri to have any hair!   It took lots of pushes.  Almost 2 hours.  Cindy worked hard and gave it her all with each push.

There was a period of time during the last part of pushing that Hank did not call.  Calling privileges were stopped during this time at the prison.  With every push, we helped her, and she did a great job.  At the same time in my head, I was thinking ring phone, ring!!

Just as Henri’s head was crowning, the phone rang. I pulled it out of my pocket and said, “Hank, just wait and listen. You are going to hear your son any minute.”  I laid the phone down next to Cindy.

And he did!!  They brought the baby up to Cindy’s chest and laid him on her.  She circled her arms around him and just made joyful noise!  Since Hank could not see her, he asked me if she was ok.  I said yes, she is fine; she is just so happy, she is beyond words.  He gave a very thankful laugh.

Soon Cindy had the phone and was talking to Hank and holding Henri. She then said, “I am going to put the phone to Henri’s ear so you can talk to him.”  It was so precious.  Henri quieted down when he heard his father’s voice.  It is a moment I will never forget.  Watching a mother hold the phone to her baby’s ear so her husband in prison could hear his father.  Amazing.

Soon the family and her friend came in the room crying tears of joy.  Hank’s parents, Patsy and Buzzy, were one set of proud grandparents. Not wanting to take Henri away from Cindy, they never asked to hold him.  Cindy asked if she wanted to hold her grandson.  Tears were streaming down Patsy’s face. Buzzy took his huge arms and totally surrounded Henri.  

The next few moments were so precious and special that they were having as a family, I turned away.  I did not want to interrupt anything that was happening.  

I have attended many births where we had the dad on the phone because of being deployed, was working somewhere else in the country or world. Some even watch on Skype. But I have to say, this was extremely emotional, and I was thrilled they let me be part of it.                

When everything seemed calm, and Cindy and baby were getting ready to move to the postpartum area, I kissed them both, hugged Patsy and Buzzy, and said good-bye. 

And I did what we do with any birth that we do with Birth Behind Bars. I got in my car and cried.

Permission was given by family to use their real names

Birth Story of "Baby G"

When my phone rang early one morning, my first instinct was to roll over and hide under the covers, but my heart knew better. The call was to tell me an inmate was in labor, and ask if I could head to the hospital to support her. I agreed and began the quick “doula dash” of getting ready.  

Usually we get to know the moms we support as they attend Pregnancy Class while incarcerated. But with this inmate, we knew nothing about her, except her name, and that she had only recently arrived at jail.

On my drive to the hospital, many questions ran through my head…who is she? What does she need? How is she handling this transition? When I arrived at the hospital and knocked on the door to meet this woman for the first time, I had no idea what to expect. I first introduced myself to the deputy who was in the room, and then quietly introduced myself to this mom, whom I found in tears. She was being assessed in triage and was very confused by what was going on. I calmly explained what my purpose was and that I was going to be there with her and provide support to her throughout her labor. She looked at me as if I was joking – I knew this was a lot for her to take in. I told her how there are people who work in this program who care about her.  I explained that we usually get to know the inmates that are expecting, but since she had only recently been incarcerated, we didn’t have that opportunity to meet before.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath; I could tell she was processing all this information. As more tears came from her eyes, she told me this was her first baby, and she explained this was hard for her as she always expected her mom to be with her, and that she didn’t want to be alone. 

Giving birth is an emotional event when you have your family there with you. This mom didn’t have that – instead of her own mother that she wanted to have at her birth, or the baby’s father who is in prison, she had me and a deputy. While this was far from her ideal situation, she immediately expressed gratitude that she did have someone to lean on as she finished her journey from woman to mother.

After further assessments, the doctors came to the realization that this mom was not in active labor, but because she was past her due date, they were going to induce her. The nurse explained the process to her, and I could tell by the look on her face, she still was confused…so much going on, so quickly! I sat down next to her to further explain what was going to happen, and how I was going to return early the next morning to be with her when they started the induction process .

I arrived back at the hospital around 5:30am the following day. As soon as I walked in, I greeted the new deputy who was there. I then turned my attention to a sleepy mama. She sat up, and said she was so happy to see me again. She was handling the induction process well, but we both knew there was a long way to go.  

Throughout the rest of the day, we talked in between moments of her resting, and she explained how having a baby like this was her wake up call. A family member was going to take her baby while she finished out her incarceration. She knew she needed to follow a different path so she could be reunited with her baby, whom she so desperately wanted to meet. By evening time, it became apparent to staff that this mom’s baby girl needed to be born soon, and mom agreed to a cesarean section. She was worried I wasn’t going to be with her, and she said she couldn’t do it alone. The nurse put her mind at ease that I would be following her into the operating room.

After the operating room was prepared, the deputy and I went in, and I sat by mom’s head, stroking her hair and breathing deeply with her. I reminded her she was not alone, and while I knew that I wasn’t her mother, that I was there by her side no matter what. It only took a few minutes before the doctor announced she was about to meet her baby girl…tears ran down her face as she heard her baby’s first cries, and as the nurse brought baby girl over for her introduction. The look on a mother’s face when she sees her baby for the first time is priceless! After numerous ‘I love yous and sweet kisses, the nurse had to take the baby to the nursery.

Mom handled surgery well, and it was not long before she was reunited with her baby girl back in her room. You could see the love this mom had for her baby, as the nurse gently handed her over. If she wasn’t kissing her, she was telling her how much she loved her. After a little while, she looked up at me and said ‘thank you,’ as tears streamed down her cheeks.  She didn’t need to say any more…I could tell what this meant to her by the look in her eyes.

It was already the next day by the time I left the hospital, and mom was happy to hear that I would be coming back later to visit. On my drive home, all I could think of was this mom and her baby, and how she only had a few precious moments to be with her before returning to jail.

I returned to the hospital in the afternoon and greeted the deputy and then said hello to mom – her first words were asking how I was feeling. She told me she was worried about me since I had been up for so long! I told her how thoughtful that was, and she then went on to tell me how her baby girl was doing great, and that she was a peaceful baby.  I watched as she lovingly took care of this sweet newborn, feeding her, changing her diapers, and swaddling her. It took everything I had not to tear up, as I knew that these moments she had with her baby were going to end soon.  

A few hours later I knew it was time for me to get going. I thought the hardest part of this was going to be fighting off how tired I was. In reality, the hardest part was saying goodbye to this new mother – I wanted to do more. She gave me a big hug and told me she couldn’t have done it without me. I told her it was my pleasure to have been part of this journey with her and that I will always remember her.

I encouraged her to take this experience and grow - to picture a new life for herself and her baby. As I left the hospital, tears welled up in my eyes, as I wondered how this mom’s story would end. While I may never know the ending, I know I helped her bond with her baby and I know how important this is for the baby as she grows up.  I hope what I did was enough.

Postpartum Visit with Baby A's Mom

I thought it was just a typical Monday until I got a call from Janice around noon. She asked me to make a postpartum visit to an inmate who had given birth the day before. Part of me wanted to make my life easy and just say no, but I knew that wasn't really what I was about to do.

So, I agreed and got the details. I headed out later that afternoon, ready for whatever lay before me. I knew this was definitely one of those "Oh Lord, what did I get myself into this time?" kind of experiences.

When I arrived at the hospital room, I was greeted by a friendly, young face, and the aroma of lasagna. I soaked it in quickly, decided right then and there that any preconceived notions I had were most likely incorrect, and chose to be in the moment and accept whatever unfolded before me as a chance to "be the light".

Enough about me...there I sat with a young woman, who had given birth quickly and easily the day before. It was immediately apparent that she felt a strong bond for her tiny, new son. She shared a few details of her labor and birth, then went into greater detail about her plans for getting out of jail and being at home with her son. She alternated between beaming with pride about how beautiful and strong he was, and tearful sobbing about the guilt she felt for being a bad mother and causing pain and poor circumstances for her baby.

The easy road here was for me to listen to that little judgmental voice in my head saying "of course it's your fault, you messed up". But, instead, I just continued to listen and tried to put myself in her shoes. As her story unfolded, it became easy to see that this woman was just as much a victim in life as her newborn son was now. Her own family, while growing up, was replete with substance abuse, dishonesty, abuse, poverty, and general "poor choices". That's what she knows; that's her comfort zone. I choose to hold steadfastly to the idea that, with loving guidance, she can rise above it and make a better life for herself and her child. Yet, I also know the statistics, so I will continue to hope that this miraculous baby will know unconditional love and safety, no matter how or where that has to occur.

After some unforeseen delays, I accompanied Mama to the NICU to see her baby (her baby was addicted to drugs). She held him so tenderly and cried precious tears all over him, as she had waited many hours for this opportunity. She talked to him sweetly, admired his delicate features, rocked him, and cried some more. Tomorrow, she would be returning to jail, and he would be remaining in the NICU, alone. She thanked me about a hundred times for taking the time to spend with her and told me how much she appreciated all the support she had received from For the Love of Birth. In that moment, as a mother and a human being, her circumstances didn't matter. She was a mother, absorbing the warmth and scent of her newborn baby, doing it the best she could, possibly for the last time. I was grateful for the opportunity to share that moment with her.

The Birth of "Baby A" - Is it Ever Enough?

When the phone rang in the middle of the night, I knew who the jail was calling about. I had been with this inmate the week prior when she was in “false labor” at the hospital. Her due date was soon, and although she had been hoping that her baby would hold out until she got out of jail, that wasn’t the case.

I gathered myself and headed out to the hospital that the inmate was supposed to be at…only to find out that EMS had transported her to another hospital closer to the jail because she was so far along in her labor. This meant that I had another 30-40 minutes on the road before I even got to her. At this point I worried that I wasn’t going to make it in time. But the trip left me plenty of time to think about this mother, her baby boy, and the tough road ahead of both of them.

When I arrived at the hospital and went to her room, I could tell that it was a close call! The inmate smiled through the flurry of activity and said, “I didn’t think you were going to make it.”  I assured her that I wouldn’t miss it for anything and immediately went to her side.

She took my hand and held tightly through her contractions, moaning, and wriggling around on the bed, obviously close to the end of her labor.  In between contractions, she closed her eyes and rested her head on my hand, thanked me for being there, and cried over what was about to happen.

Although it seemed like a lifetime to her, it was only about 10 minutes after I arrived that she began to push. And after only about 3 pushes, her sweet little baby boy was born! There were tears and kisses and more tears as he was placed on her chest for the very first time. She said his name aloud, the name she chose was to remember her father whom she lost very early in her life. She was a proud mother loving her son.

After the initial rush of activity, when things calmed down some, we finally had time to talk. As she held her baby, she told me how horrible she felt. This woman had been on a methadone treatment throughout her entire pregnancy and felt guilty for what she “had done” to her baby. I took this time to tell her that she didn’t do anything to her baby; she did what she had to do to keep herself and her baby healthy during her pregnancy. I assured her that she was a good mother. She cried and kissed him more, and apologized to him through her tears.  It is times like this when it is hard to hold back my own tears, but this is what we do.

Baby boy went to the nursery for his initial checkup, and this left us time to talk alone. She thanked me again for being there and said that she didn’t know how she could have done it without me; that even though she doesn’t really know me, she was so grateful that I was there for her. At that point, there was nowhere else in the world I would rather be…

We used this time to tackle the hard questions. We talked with the nurse about her baby boy’s health, how the methadone was going to affect him, how he would be treated for withdrawal. We discussed where her baby was going to go while she was incarcerated. We talked about her plans after her release from jail. Some of these questions were not answered before I left that day, or even before she left to go back to jail. Some of them won’t be answered for months or years to come. But, it felt good to talk about them, and to try and address the ones that we could. I encouraged her with positive words and told her that it wasn’t too late. It was never too late for her to make a good life for herself and her baby boy (she also has an older son).

As she held her baby, I could see that she was starting to get tired. I offered to hold him while she got some rest. I held him for a while. She rested, but didn’t sleep, just stared at him and smiled and cried.

When it was time for me to go, I assured her that someone would be back to visit her and her baby boy tomorrow. She hugged me and held my hand as she thanked me one more time for what I had done for her. And as always, I felt like it wasn’t enough….it never feels like enough.