Kayla’s story is our story
By Tanya Strusberg LCCE
As a childbirth educator, I find myself reading a lot of posts on a variety of birth-related Facebook groups. It’s important for me to know the issues women are talking about, asking about, concerned about.
Last Saturday, I found myself commenting on a post that a woman called Kayla who was in labour in Albuquerque, New Mexico wrote;
6 September at 04.25
GOOD MORNING LADIES!!
Still no baby. It’s 4:25am and I got some of what you could call “rest”. They keep coming in every hour to check on baby and check my contractions. I was tracking them for a while but fell asleep. All I know is they’re getting stronger. I wake my husband every time I have one because I make this weird noise. It’s so annoying and painful! I wish they would stop. Anyway, the wicked witch of the SouthWest hasn’t been seen since I was in triage so I’m guessing she got the hint. The IV is still in place, still hurting and just there for no reason. And I’m hungry but am not allowed to eat. My mom called and said she wasn’t coming down from California and it broke my heart but I’m over it for the most part. I just miss my kids. Today is my husband’s company picnic and my kids are gonna meet him there I think. I wish I had the baby by now. I’m about to get up and start on this ball again if I can take the pain.
QUESTION— What’s next?? What do I do?? It’s been 13 hours since I told them my water broke. I want to go home!
As a bit of background, Kayla has had two prior Caesarean-sections, and was determined to have a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean). I wrote a note in reply to her post and told her that she should eat something – that there was no evidence that contraindicated eating and drinking in labour (in fact, quite the contrary – labouring women NEED to eat and drink in order to maintain their energy levels). In the United States, many women having a hospital birth (and I am talking about all labouring women – including healthy low-risk women in labour with their first baby) are denied food and even drink during labour. Instead they are “permitted” to suck on ice chips, maybe the occasional ice lolly and are usually hooked up to an IV pumping them full of fluids, which is often painful and certainly impacts on a woman’s ability to walk and move around freely in labour.
My comment to Kayla was only one of 153 equally encouraging and supportive comments.
24 hours later and Kayla was still in labour. Her contractions were slowly picking up, becoming more intense and more frequent. At this stage the hospital staff were not pushing a repeat Caesarean as her baby was doing fine, but Kayla was starting to become despondent. She was tired, physically and emotionally exhausted and starting to lose faith in her ability to birth her baby vaginally.
“I couldn’t read all your comments but I love you guys from the bottom of my heart. I’m still trying but with a broken heart” wrote Kayla at 4.28am. Another 151 comments came in from women around the world rallying to her side and supporting her from afar.
Around this time, some women were suggesting that Kayla could really do with some extra support and encouragement and that perhaps hiring a doula would help her. A doula is a professionally-trained woman who provides emotional and physical support to a labouring woman. Within hours, Dwenna, a doula who lived in the area, and who was available to support Kayla, answered the call and arrived at the hospital. Donations flew in from everywhere so that Kayla and her husband would not have to bear the cost of the doula themselves.
Kayla wrote a long-awaited update on 7 September at 4.54pm:
My husband and I are so touched. I don’t think we have ever received a gift this generous. We thank each and every one of you for just taking the time to read my post. The doula has contacted me and says she’s on her way. I’d like to know who contacted her!! I want to thank you for taking the first step!! And ALL OF YOU for being my sisters in this lonely world!! I’m not sure if it’s my hormones but I can’t stop crying just thinking of you guys!!! I love you and I really mean that!! I feel so much more confident that I’ll succeed in this!! Heaven is for real, and angels live on earth!!! Thank you!!!!!
The post attracted 728 likes and 259 comments and newly created hashtags #kaylathevbacwarrior and #teamkayla were suddenly everywhere.
Another group member wanted to let Kayla know how many people were supporting her and where they were all from.
“Just to give #KaylatheVbacwarrior an idea of how many people are supporting her, maybe we should comment below with where we are from. So she knows how many women all over the world right now are thinking of her, praying for her and supporting her. And how many people will be rejoicing when she gets her sweet baby in her arms.”
652 comments followed from women from all over the United States and the rest of the world including; Australia, Romania, Greece, France, UK, Malaysia, South Africa, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Spain, Mexico, Germany, Japan, Dominican Republic, South Korea and Austria.
On September 8th at 8.02 am Kayla wrote the following post, accompanied by this photo which in stark contrast to her earlier photo, clearly shows her broken heart and spirit;
“I failed. Heading in for my c-section. I thank you for believing in me and along with my new child and husband, I ask that you forgive me for letting you down.”
Hundreds of comments flooded in from women everywhere telling Kayla that she was not a failure; that her body had not failed her – it was the system that had failed her.
The next day, September 9th, Kayla posted a photo of her beautiful newborn son, Santino Diaz, together with this comment;
“I won’t be posting a birth story. I will be posting a VBAC fail story, filled with agony and heartache. I’m in a very ugly place right now, however I won’t let this get in the way of enjoying my new baby and time with my husband and kids. I love you all and WILL reply to the messages and notifications as soon as I get out of this sick place they call a hospital. I love you all, truly.”
Her doula Dwenna wrote earlier today;
“…the most extraordinary thing I have EVER experienced in my entire life happened. I became part of this amazing web of wondrous women who had been a support to Kayla over the course of her pregnancy. The way you all supported her and her husband and me during the time I was with her was the stuff of fairy tales and bedtime stories or at least the type of experience I thought only happened to other people.
I want you all to know that I could FEEL the love and support coming from you all. During the down times in Kayla’s labor, both of us were on our phones reading your posts and comments. We felt every click of the “like” button. Over 4,200 people saw the post asking for prayers for Kayla. Honestly, I don’t even understand how this happens, but it did. At the time, I had no idea it was international. I only felt a tremendous amount of love. I can honestly say that I felt what I have been teaching my students to strive for: connecting to other human beings on a large scale in order to promote positive change. I believe that is what happened this weekend.
So, what I am trying to say and not doing a very succinct job of it is, THANK YOU. Thank you in every language on earth. I did not do anything extraordinary. I did the work that doulas do. And this is also why this interconnectedness that you all created between a mama, a dad, her doula, and the birth community is so important. I think you helped to show the world the importance of doulas for mamas who are unfortunately in a system that does them no favours (speaking of the USA). You showed that the fact that Kayla even needed this support is indicative of the injustices that women suffer under our current system of medicalized birth. Doulas are something that insurance companies should cover in the face of medicalizing birth and existing in a system where VBACs are banned in many places. Your group has power. We all have voices. A birth revolution is in order!
But, more importantly, I am humbled and grateful for your love and support and belief in Kayla. Please continue to support her and each other because, tragically, as we know, vaginal birth has now become something we have to fight for.
In solidarity, Mamas,
The love and support for Kayla has not ended with the birth of her son. Her hundreds of new friends are rallying behind her and sending her cards and flowers, setting up meal trains for her when she gets home and lovingly putting together postpartum care packages.
Social media, especially Facebook, often gets a bad rap. But Kayla’s story has shown us the incredible potential and power for good that social media has. What happened during the course of Kayla’s labour was an extraordinary outpouring of support from women around the world that I’ve never witnessed before and it just shows you how powerful we can be as an international community in our efforts to improve our archaic, patriarchal obstetric systems. So whether we are in Albuquerque, New Mexico, or Manchester, England or Melbourne, Australia – we ARE the key to change and we CAN make it happen. We just need to keep shouting until our voices are heard.
Tanya Strusberg is currently the only Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE) in Australia and teaches prenatal education to pregnant women and their partners in Melbourne. She is passionate about inspiring, educating and empowering women to feel confident about their body’s ability to give birth naturally and without unnecessary medical intervention. Tanya and her husband Doron have two beautiful children, Liev and Amalia.
To learn more visit www.birthwellbirthright.com