The birth story of Georgia Lin truly demonstrates the difference in care plus size people receive when they connect with size friendly care providers.
I have been overweight for most of my life. Except for a short, now laughable time during childhood when my nickname was “little miss no-butt.” I don't remember a time when I didn't wear at least a size 16, where my thighs didn't obliterate jeans, or where I wasn't dieting or trying to lose weight in some way.
When my husband, Mike, and I met, we were both at our lowest adult weights. As with most of my relationships, the weight crept on, a pound – maybe two – per month, year by year. After a few years that adds up to a lot of pounds, and we found ourselves at our highest adult weights. We got engaged, said we would lose weight for the wedding, didn't, and had a big, fat, happy wedding.
Even though our tiny apartment and general life situation weren't ideal, I knew I wanted a baby, so I talked to my OBGYN. He said, “just get back to your fighting weight, you know where you're comfortable.” I was excited to hear that since I was expecting to be told to get to a “healthy BMI” or some such seemingly impossible instruction.
So I started eating healthier and exercising, and when I had lost about 30 lbs, we decided I would stop taking my birth control. I had been on it for 16 years so I figured it would take my body a while to get into a groove.
Well, I was wrong! I took my last pill at the end of October, and got my first positive pregnancy test on January 20th!
We were over the moon excited, but I was a little nervous since I was at 257 lbs.
I was heavier than I had planned on being at the start of my pregnancy. I immediately wondered what the doctor would say, how providers would treat me, and if I would have any complications. In hindsight, it's sad that my happiness was at all overshadowed by these thoughts and worries!
When I went for my first appointment, I asked my doctor if my weight was a problem. Should I watch what I gained, be concerned about anything, or cut anything out of my diet? He practically laughed it off and told me only to avoid caffeine if I was able to and to cut out artificial sweeteners. I left that appointment feeling great – like I'd had a huge weight lifted off my shoulders!
Since I was at a large practice, I saw different midwives and doctors at almost every appointment. At my next appointment, this provider told that I would have more appointments than other pregnant women because I was being considered high risk due to my weight. She said I just inched out of the cut off for being high risk based on my BMI. She made it seem like it was no not a big deal. They'd monitor me more, which as a first time mama I was OK with! I asked her about weight gain as well, and she agreed that the standard 11 to 20 lbs for my weight range was acceptable, but told me not to make myself crazy.
My next couple appointments were uneventful – in a good way! We saw our sweet baby, nobody said a thing about my weight, and we got the OK to share our news!
Then I had an appointment that was a little off-putting.
I saw a someone who I had heard from friends didn't provide size-friendly care. I went in prepared! As she was listening for the heartbeat she said, “now you know we're asking you not to gain any weight” I just shrugged it off. Then we talked about an early gestational diabetes test. I was told “when” – not if – they got my results that I “would” – not could, not might – be diagnosed and sent to a nutritionist. I fully admit that appointment ruffled my feathers, and I was noticeably upset. Yet, I tried to stay positive and was determined not to let her ruin my excitement! After that appointment, I decided I would not see that particular person anymore. Things from there stayed more positive!
I absolutely LOVED being pregnant! I was motivated to eat well and exercise regularly, and I felt amazing! The first flutters turned to kicks and rolls, and the feeling of life inside my body was indescribable!
My husband and I bought a house, and I could just envision it filled with children! I hired a doula and saw a friend who is a chiropractor to keep me aligned. I joined mommy forums, practiced breathing, and read books and blogs about natural birth experiences and plus sized pregnancy. As well as, took progression pictures and worked on our nursery. I was so excited to show off my belly that I ended up with a maternity wardrobe that rivaled my regular one!
Our appointments, NSTs, and ultrasounds were a little difficult to keep up with, but everything looked great. I even talked to one of the doctors about my birthing preferences and was met with all the answers I would have wanted. They seemed to be pro-natural, unmedicated birth, fine with minimal monitoring, OK with my desire to not be induced, and I was happy. Most importantly, mommy and baby were healthy. There were some hiccups along the way, but nothing could get me down!
In my 37th week, I had an appointment that changed the course of my entire pregnancy and birth experience.
They informed me it was time to talk about induction. I immediately said I was not comfortable with that and I had was told I would get the opportunity to go into labor on my own. At the very least, I could go to my due date.
*Trigger Warning* I was told that I was at “significantly increased risk of stillbirth” at which point I asked if that was based solely on my weight. She nodded and said, “yeah, it is.” She continued to say she was sure I'd noticed how closely I had been monitored up to that point, and after them getting me so far in the pregnancy “it would be awful if something were to happen.” She continued to guilt me into induction, instilling the fear of a stillborn baby into me until I said OK. *End Trigger*
Feeling defeated I started to discuss some of my other preferences. When I asked about the ability to stay active, walk, and change positions during labor and delivery she replied with a smile and an enthusiastic “absolutely!”. That was quickly followed up by the restrictions I would have because I would be continuously monitored.
I had been told the hospital has a wireless/waterproof monitor for mothers who want to stay active and/or use the tub to labor in so I asked about reserving that. Another smile and nod followed up with a speech about how there are only one of those monitors. I could only have it if nobody else did. She told me there was only one tub as well. So I could only use that if nobody else was. Lastly, she said even if I had to be on wired monitors I could always stand up or even lay on my side! How exciting! (Note: sarcasm.)
I stopped asking questions at that point.
She said I would be getting a call to schedule my induction for around 39 weeks. I left the appointment completely crushed, and went out to my car and cried.
While in the car I got a call from the office – it was the midwife I had just seen telling me that she had just checked my chart. Based on my information she would allow me to go until 40 weeks instead of 39. I guess I was supposed to be excited. Actually, I was more upset that she hadn't thoroughly checked my chart to begin with. I really wasn't sure what to do so I went home and tried to push it all out of my mind but I couldn't relax.
*Trigger Warning* She had drilled the fear of stillbirth into me so deeply that it was all I could think about. *End Trigger* I counted every kick and tumble instead of just living life and enjoying them as they came, and I hated her for ruining that for me.
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Then I remembered that a friend of mine had talked to me about the idea of switching practices back when I had the first off-putting appointment.
My friend knew I had this dream birth experience in my head and really thought this other practice would be a good fit for me. I thought about it, and though I liked the idea of a midwife practice and a birth center. Yet, I had been with my OB practice for 17 years and ultimately chose to stick with what I knew. Yet, the experience I'd just had was enough to push me out of my comfort zone.
I contacted my friend and talked to her about what happened. Was I crazy for thinking of switching practices this late and if they would even take me? She assured me they would and even called them as my chiropractor to make sure. It was invigorating to be doing something so spontaneous, and not like me at all, but this was not the time to play it safe. So I made an appointment to speak with them and tour the center.
It immediately felt like the place I wanted to be!
The two birthing suites were home-like and inviting. They each had a private bathroom with a shower and a huge tub and the common area was huge and comfortable. Should anything go wrong, or if you requested pain medication aside from nitrous oxide, they'd quickly transport you to the hospital across the street. They did not do continuous monitoring; instead, they had birthing balls. You could have music, snacks, and as many (or as few) people as you would like there with you. They had a quick discharge time and they provided size-friendly care. It was exactly what I wanted! So I made arrangements to switch to them as my provider and felt really great about making what felt like such a positive decision for myself and my baby!
I continued to enjoy my pregnancy while now in the care of the birth center's midwife practice. I explained to them what had caused me to make such a hasty decision. They assured me what the previous provider told me was incorrect. On top of that, I wouldn't even be considered high risk in their practice! I was just a regular pregnant lady! For the first time this pregnancy I was gloriously normal!
When I reached 40 weeks we did have a conversation about induction, only this conversation was to educate me, and I was an active participant.
I could choose to be induced at any time now that I had reached 40 weeks, but I could also choose to wait. If I then reached midnight on the day, I turned 42 weeks I would be considered an increased risk and would no longer be eligible to have my baby at the birth center. I would still have similar options at the hospital, and I would still be under the care of the midwives. So I just kept on doing what I was doing and hoped baby would come on his or her own.
The day before I turned 42 weeks was a Friday.
At my appointment that day we talked about my next steps. They did recommend induction due to the chance of placenta function decreasing after 42 weeks. They also let me know I could continue to wait. I chose to agree to an induction. I was a little disappointed, but I had made it so far, and the hospital I would be at had a very birth center like atmosphere, so I felt OK about it. We talked about what to expect during the induction, made an appointment for an ultrasound and NST for the next morning. I left to finish my last day at work before maternity leave.
Saturday came – 42 weeks pregnant! My husband and I took a ride down for my appointments – which they needed for induction information. Everything looked great on the ultrasound. Our little cub was a little uncooperative during the NST. I managed to get some good movement by playing a YouTube video compilation of cats purring. An idea I had based on the movement I got when my cat purred on my belly! The midwife I saw commented that my uterus appeared to be pretty active. I was feeling fine, and baby looked good, so there were no concerns. I was told to expect a phone call sometime Sunday evening to head to the hospital to start my induction.
We headed home for one last night as a family of two – or so we thought!
That evening I started to feel a little achy and crampy – nothing abnormal – and decided to take a dip in the hot tub. *Disclaimer: hot tubs are not regarded as safe for pregnant women, but this was my hot tub, and we kept the temperature set between 80 and 96 degrees to ensure I would not get overheated – it was basically like a big, warm bath*
I figured I could float around a bit, eat some dinner, and get one more really good night of sleep before we welcomed our baby into our lives! While I was in the tub, I noticed the cramping started to radiate to my lower back a little bit. It was not painful or anything, just a little different than the usual. This was also something Dorie, my doula, told me to be aware of as it could mean real contractions. So I got out of the tub an headed in to put some comfy clothes on.
Rolling and bouncing around on my yoga ball a bit, I started to realize the contractions – as mild as they were – seemed to be coming in waves. I thought maybe I should time them. So at about 7 pm I downloaded a free app and continued to hang out on the ball. I'd tap my phone screen periodically to signal the start or end of one of the waves.
After about 30 minutes I called Dorie to let her know what was going on. She said to keep timing them for the next hour or so and to keep her updated and let her know if I wanted her to come over at any time. During that hour I timed, bounced, rolled, and walked in circles.
The contractions went from “totally no big deal” to “I can handle this” to “wow, these are no joke” pretty quickly, but I was still feeling good!
I called my mom to tell her I think it might be almost time, and during that phone call, I had a big contraction that told me it was definitely time to call someone! I called Dorie again and told her to come, and my husband called the center and told the on-call person I was in labor, and we waited for a call from the midwife.
Stephanie, the midwife on call, was so sweet when she called back. She told me not to stress, this was my first baby and I still probably had time. We were an hour away from the birth center. I really made sure to express how quickly these contractions were increasing in time and intensity. She told me if it made me more comfortable we could come down to the center and be checked out. If I wasn't ready and we had to leave, we could go to a hotel, or triage at the hospital to wait it out. I went to the bathroom while my husband put everything in the car. While in the bathroom, I had a whopper of a contraction! It was so bad that Mike decided to tell Dorie to meet us at the center because he was sure it was time!
When we were leaving, I hopped in the front seat as always, and my husband thought I was crazy. I assured him I was fine. Yeah, not so much – two minutes onto the highway I made him pull over so I could get in the back.
Things were getting intense, and I needed the room!
Afterward, I realized that most of my transition labor was in the back seat of the car while on the highway! While I tried to get somewhat comfortable my husband, bless his heart, tried to help while he was doing some serious speeding.
Want some music, honey? Maybe. No. No I don't, Turn it off! Want me to turn the heat on? Maybe. Nope! Turn it off. And please roll the windows down. No, not that much! Want.. no.. please let's not talk now! I'm OK! I'm working through it!
Moaning my way through the seriously intense waves of pressure and pain, I contorted and breathed. At one point I was ripping my clothes off and looking for something to maybe throw up in. I thought my water broke but later found out I just peed myself – it was exciting, to say the least!
We pulled into the parking lot at the same time as our doula did. I got out of the car in my disheveled state – one pant leg on, barefoot, sweatshirt half off and a boob hanging out somewhere. My midwife took one look at me, and I'm pretty sure she knew I'd made the right decision to come now!
I waddled inside and faced with the worlds hugest staircase – I had to go down to get to the offices. Stephanie went downstairs to get the room ready. Mike and Dorie helped me through my contractions all the way down the stairs, into the office, to the bathroom, and to the exam room. I somehow made it on the exam table, and when checked, I was at 5cm! Stephanie said, “OK, let's go upstairs!” which was the most amazing phrase I could have asked to hear!
Upstairs meant I could have my baby at the center the way I had planned! No hospital, no interventions! I could officially add overjoyed to the running list of emotions I was feeling!
Stephanie went upstairs to get the tub ready since she knew that was what I wanted to try. Mike and Dorie helped me back up the enormous staircase. I didn't even bother putting my pants on at this point – it's amazing how quickly any but of modesty goes right out the window. While I was waiting for the tub to be ready, my amazing little birth team helped me through some yucky back contractions. This was the first time I actually thought – and said “ow!”
Luckily the tub was ready so I stripped down to my bra and got in. It felt incredible! The weightlessness was such a relief! I found a comfortable position that allowed me to put my hands on my lower back for counter pressure and I got in the zone. Dorie was at my head and she talked me through some visualization while I breathed deeply. Stephanie was at my side with a doppler to check the baby's heartbeat as needed. Mike was down at the business end taking it all in. He told Stephanie there was blood and asked if that was normal, she said it was and they ended up switching spots!
Once I was in the tub I had a couple more intense contractions and they started to mellow out. I was able to relax and breathe through them for a while. My eyes closed and I floated, listened to the near silence, and my doula's coaching, and did what my body was made to do.
I was in my own little world.
After some of the more mellow contractions, my body told me it was time to push – it just happened so naturally! I don't think I could have stopped if I wanted to! My midwife looked at me and said, “did that one feel a little different?” I told her it felt “pushy” and she said she could tell and told me it was OK to push. After hearing stories of women being told not to push, or to stop pushing, I was so glad to hear her say that! So I started to push with each contraction then on out. I stated in my zone. With my eyes closed and my breathing controlled, and with some instruction, I kept my sounds deep and animalistic. It was absolutely primal.
I didn't push for very long before my daughter was born!
My husband described most of the next parts to me from his point of view, since I was just concentrating on pushing. He said he started to feel bad that I would have to be doing this for so long as he'd heard typical first labors are very long! We had no idea I was becoming an exception to that! I was getting closer and closer to the end – at one point we thought my amniotic sac might stay intact, but shortly after that Mike said he saw hair floating in the water. Stephanie told me to try to hold my breath a little on the next push if it felt comfortable. When I did, Mike said she reached down into the water and pulled out a baby!
It was so quick and exciting and just the single most incredible moment of my life so far. I did it! She laid her on my chest, and I've never felt more instantly connected to anything.
Georgia Lin was born at 12:31 am on October 16th, in the water and under a full moon!
We stayed in the tub for a while after that – not even thinking to check the gender yet! I was waiting to get another contraction to deliver the placenta but it wasn't happening. At that point, Stephanie and the nurses suggested I try to move to the bed. I stood up to try, but since we had not cut the cord yet it was very awkward! I ended up getting that next contraction once I stood up so they just bought a tray over for me to deliver it standing up. Oh, boy was that a scene!! It looked like the set of a horror movie!
I moved to the bed, Mike cut her cord, and we finally checked to see that she was a she!
It's funny – I thought she was a boy the whole time! I was so sure! But as soon as I saw her face I just knew I was wrong, so I wasn't surprised when I found out for sure. She was weighed and measured – Stephanie guessed 7lb 12oz and she was right on!
By far the most painful part of the whole experience was the stitches afterward! It was a whirlwind while they hooked me up to an IV with Pitocin. I lost blood quickly since my labor was so fast – 5 hours from the time I started timing contractions! I tore upwards on the sides of my urethra. The lidocaine injections were so painful I almost gave in to the nitrous oxide! Thankfully the lidocaine started to work, and they completed the stitches. I ate something, let Mike sleep, nursed, snuggled, and was just in awe of what I had just accomplished!
We were discharged around 7 am and headed home to have breakfast and introduce Georgia to some family.
I've used all the words I can think to describe the experience, but it really is something that's indescribable. I am so grateful to have had such an amazing group of friends and family who supported me when I had to make tough decisions. I can absolutely say I had the perfect birth experience! It's my hope all women – plus sized or otherwise – feel empowered enough to know that they have rights and options when it comes to their care. If they aren't completely happy and comfortable with something – change it!
Audrey's birth story shows the true difference connecting with size friendly care can make! If you're wondering how to connect with a size friendly care provider, get your free copy of our My Size Friendly Care Providers Guide.
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