When The Unexpected Happens: A Family’s Birth Center Story

When our son William was born in October 2016, we had a different birth plan than for our first two sons. After two wonderful experiences at Greenville Memorial’s Family Birth Place, we decided on a new experience with Greenville Midwifery Care and Birth Center. The Midwifery practice had a laid-back vibe and attentive staff and Midwives who made us feel completely at ease as we prepared for an unmedicated water birth. At the same time, we had the comfort of knowing that if we needed further medical support during labor and delivery, the Family Birthplace and hospital setting was literally across the street. We took a natural childbirth class right there at the Birth Center, where we made amazing friends and learned pain management and relaxation techniques from a highly trained instructor. We were so ready! At least, that’s what we thought.

When my labor—or “birthing time,” as we say in Hypnobabies language—finally started at two days shy of my due date, we were excited to meet our third baby boy. Labor moved quickly and in just eight hours, we met our sweet William! It was an empowering, life-changing experience for me personally to have had the unmedicated water birth I’d always wanted. I know that isn’t what everyone wants—but for me, it was truly perfect. Just a few hours after William’s birth, though, we found out that his Coombs test had come back positive for a potentially dangerous reaction happening in his blood. William had ABO blood type incompatibility—something we had never heard of before. Some of my blood had gotten mixed up with William’s blood, and my antibodies were attacking his red blood cells. We were told that due to his already elevated bilirubin levels and the risk of severe jaundice and even potential brain damage, William needed to go straight to the NICU when we left the birth center. We certainly had not expected this, though it turns out this could have happened to any of our babies due to mine and my husband’s specific blood types. Luck of the draw, right?

We were feeling pretty overwhelmed and worried as our midwife, Bethany, followed us over to the hospital to help us check in. Keep in mind, this was just 10 hours or so after his birth! I was worried about my recovery and how I’d manage walking around 10 hours postpartum. I also really wanted to ensure that William got a good start with breastfeeding, and as a third-time mom, I knew how important those early days were. As we watched William being hooked up to an IV and put under phototherapy lights, we felt blindsided. We soon met Dr. Ohning, who was 100% supportive of my wish to breastfeed and also understood the odd situation we were in with me having just given birth across the street! Within just a few hours, he and the wonderful staff had made arrangements to move William to NICU 2—a step-down unit more in line with William’s needs, where I could room in with him and even stay overnight if I wished to do so.

In the NICU 2 room, I was provided with multiple lactation consultants and a hospital-grade pump (the “Cadillac” of breast pumps!). Our incredible lactation consultant Rachel brought a Medela scale for weighing William before and after feedings, so we could tell how much milk he took. All this, as well as multiple visits from the midwives, ensured that both William and I had the best start we could under the circumstances. I spent the first 6 nights of William’s life with him in that room. No, it wasn’t as easy as being at home. But during a crazy week of unexpected challenges, the entire team of neonatal specialists, nurses and midwives came together to help our little guy and me. Dr. Ohning and Dr. Chandler, our nurses Dava and Emily (two of the sweetest women I’ve ever met!), and so many others helped us manage, and for that I will be forever thankful.

My recovery could have been a nightmare, or I could have been separated from my baby. Instead, my recovery was made easier and my baby’s first days of life more nurturing, in part because of the measures taken by these doctors and nurses. If we ever have another baby, we will be headed back to Greenville Midwifery Care and Birth Center with the knowledge that we’re in good hands—and that we and our care providers are ready for whatever may come.

This blog was written by Becky Wilhoit. For more information about Greenville Midwifery Care & Birth Center, click here. For information about other options at Prisma Health for labor and delivery, click here

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