Last year, then 23-year-old Lynsee of Minneapolis made national news when word got out that she was planning to broadcast the birth of her first child on the Twin Cities MomsLikeMe.com site. The story was picked up by ABC News and the Huffington Post. Lynsee tells us the back story and responds to online critics of her decision in this guest post.
“You did what?!”
“Wow, you are brave. I never would have done that, especially with my first!”
These are two of the most common comments I get when I tell others about my online journal of my pregnancy and birth. Notice the “when” is italicized. I do not go around blurting this out to others. Nor do I commonly tell this to strangers. It is not because I am ashamed or embarrassed of what I did, but more of the fact that I don’t want to ‘brag’ about it.
In November 2009, I gave birth to my daughter live on Twin Cities Momslikeme.com. The birth was livestreamed. Yes, I had a ‘camera crew’ in the delivery room with me! There were computers set up along the window ledge and a camera mounted in the corner of the room. (I wish I would have taken a few pictures of the setup!) There was one roaming cameraman, one monitoring the shots, and the site manager who was making sure everything was going as we wanted. Along with those three were my mother and husband. Oh, and my midwife and nurse. Quite the packed house, but it really did not feel like it!
I spent so much time with the site manager and the camera people that they became a second family to me. The ‘crew’ were really like flies on the wall (except one incident when roaming Jeffrey forgot about the microphone cover on his camera and got a bit too close to my face. We laughed about it because he was so into it!). The shots were all done tastefully, nothing was shown that would require this to be rated PG-13 or higher. The whole experience was about the emotional aspect of the labor and delivery rather than the actual delivery. That is where I feel viewers failed to listen BEFORE the actual delivery. So, for those creep-os that wanted to see my ‘goodies’, I’m sure they were quite disappointed with the video. Oh well!
OK. So, how did this whole situation come about, you ask? Well, let me fill you in! My husband and I (after having a commuter marriage for the first 2 years of our marriage) finally moved together to the Twin Cities. When we found out I was pregnant, I joined the Twin Cities momslike.com site. As newbies to the area, we didn’t know where to go for prenatal care. I knew I wanted a midwife, so I posted a thread on the site and found, through numerous recommendations, my AMAZING midwife.
A few weeks later, the site manager posted a thread asking pregnant moms to contact her, so I shot her an email. She replied back saying they were looking to do a Twin Cities version of “A Baby Story.” I was intrigued. I talked it over with the hubby and we were on board! There were about a dozen other women interested as well, but most of their husbands put the kibosh on it when they heard about the live birth. We met with the site manager and her boss to discuss it all. And it all started from there! We were on board and excited to share our journey into parenthood! In the beginning, we only expected it to be a hit in the Twin Cities. Never did we imagine the interest we would pull from all over the world!
No, I was not paid to do this. No, we did not want to become the next Jon and Kate Plus 8. If that were the case, then why am I not hanging out with Kate and the kids now, instead of watching her camp with the Palins on TV! As a teacher, I saw this as an opportunity to use myself as the textbook and teach others about pregnancy and birth. I did not hold anything (well, not much) back on the blog. I talked about how I felt, how nervous I was, and also used it as an outlet for any questions. I met many other mothers who were going through their first pregnancy along with me at the same time. Now, I am not saying that everything I did was perfect and that is what should be done. Did I work out like I should have? No. Did I always eat everything I was supposed to? No. I did what I felt was best for ME.
The pregnancy FLEW by. Each week I posted a picture on the blog of my growing belly. I posted a few times a week about how I was feeling, progressing, etc. It was a great outlet for me, especially since I am one of the first of my friends to have a baby. The whole pregnancy went relatively smooth. No major morning sickness, no pre-term labor scares. I wasn’t gaining weight as the midwife had hoped in the beginning, but I made up for that in the final trimester.
At 38 weeks and 1 day, I had a checkup. No cameraman was at this appointment. It was just the site manager, her tiny camera, and me. She and I were supposed to go out for a nice lunch after the appointment, so when I overslept that morning, I just grabbed a slice of toast on my way out the door. Before my appointment, I had a meeting at Starbucks. There, I decided to treat myself. I gave in and had a small Mocha Frappucino. YUM! I hadn’t had a regular one the whole pregnancy and I did that day. I was a bit stressed that day. The night before, Entertainment Tonight somehow got a hold of my brother-in-law’s unpublished home phone number and left a message for them to have me call ET back about an interview. I was not happy about this. I did not want to do an interview for ET. I was not doing this for entertainment purposes AND I did not want to be put in the same category as Kate Gosselin and the Octo-Mom.
After dealing with all of that the night before, my nerves were a bit frazzled. So, needless to say, my blood pressure was a bit high at my appointment. At the appointment, I was also already 4 cm dilated and 80% effaced. “Well, you are having a baby this weekend!” proclaimed my midwife. I was ready. My bags had been packed and car seat put in the car the night before. We were ready. I just wanted to hold my baby girl! Since my blood pressure was not going down, my midwife sent me to the hospital to get monitored for pre-eclampsia and our lunch date was postponed.
My midwife was pretty sure that I would have that one last night at home, but wanted me to go to the hospital just to get checked. In the half hour drive to the hospital (I rode with the site manager), I started to have regular contractions. But I did not feel them! I didn’t realize it until I was hooked up to the monitors at the hospital and the nurse had been watching them for a while. We got to the hospital at about 11:30 or noon. At around 4:30, just after the nurse shift change, the new nurse proclaimed that I was to walk over to the delivery ward and check myself in. I replied, “Um. No! I am supposed to have one more night!” “Sorry. Your bags are bulging. This baby is coming tonight,” she explained back to me. The site manger and I look at each other with big eyes! I immediately call my husband and mom as the site manager calls the "crew." I waddled over to the delivery ward and checked myself in. My husband showed up at about 5:30, just as they finished putting in my IV (I was Strep B+). My midwife came in about an hour later and broke my water. Prior to this, I was still not feeling the contractions. But after this, WHOA BABY! Did my contractions ever come on hard, strong, and FAST!
By this point, the camera crew was all set up and my parents had made it up. I bounced on the birthing ball for a while, breathing through contractions. (This is where the toast comes into effect. I mentioned to my midwife that I hadn’t eaten hardly anything that day, so she snuck me some toast to help me gain some energy). My husband was great about making sure I changed positions every 30 minutes. My next move was bouncing on the ball in the shower. OH, WAS THAT AMAZING! It felt great to concentrate the warm shower on my contractions! That 30 minutes flew by, so I moved to kneeling on the bed. Another 30 minutes gone. We walked the halls in between these rotations as well. Next up was tub.
As much as I thought I would like it, I didn’t really. I’m not one for hot tubs, so I should have expected that I wouldn’t like this. But I wanted to try it! I was getting into the tub, with the cameras off, that I started to talk about an epidural. Our plan was to try to go without, but to keep an open mind. My midwife explained that you don’t know how your body is going to react during the birth, so to go in with an open mind about pain medications. Yes, I was doing great without it! But when the water was drained out of the tub, so did my energy.
By this point, it was about 11 pm. I was exhausted. I was hungry. I could barely walk without shaking. The cameras were off again as I was getting out of the tub. I looked at my husband and said, “Monkey. Monkey. Monkey!” Monkey was our codeword for the epidural. We talked about an epidural a few times during the labor. We all knew the plan. I said “Monkey” and I meant “Monkey.” The epidural was ordered. My midwife and husband did not let me down, as many watching thought. A lot was talked about off camera, like when we were walking the halls, getting into the tub, etc. The cameras weren’t always on. I had a lot of support. They knew how exhausted I was and I knew that I would not be able to go through with the actual delivery. I wanted the epidural. I got the epidural at about 11:45 pm. Then my husband and I were left to relax.
The mounted camera was on, but everyone else left. The lights were turned off. We opened my computer to watch a movie. Not to ‘check my Facebook’” as critics have surmised. A half hour later, the nurse came to check on me. I told her I felt some pressure really low, so she called the midwife. My midwife came in and said that my contractions had slowed down and they might have to administer some pitocin. I told her that I was now feeling a lot of pressure really low, so she decided to check my progress. To our surprise, I was fully dilated and ready to push! She gave me some more time to rest while prepping the room for delivery. We also had to rally the troops!
Everyone got into position and I started to push at about 12:35 am. After about 10 minutes and four pushes, Solveig was born! Daddy got to “catch” her and cut the cord! It was an amazing feeling to hold our baby after nine months of anticipation!
The cameras rolled for another half hour or so. Solveig nursed beautifully shortly after birth, and then my mom brought me my Big Mac and chocolate shake! YUM! That is when the cameras faded out and the crew packed up. By the time they left, it was about 2am. My family left shortly after as well. By 2:30, the epidural was wearing off and we were taken to the post-delivery room. The hoopla was all over. We got to enjoy our little baby with just the three of us!
Now, Solveig is almost 14 months. She walked for the first time on Christmas day in front of my whole family. What a special present! She is such a little ham, too.
I stayed home with her all last year and started teaching this fall. It was hard to leave her but I also love my job. I know she has fun at “daycare” (one of my fellow MLMers watches her!) and I love picking her up everyday with a huge smile on her face when she sees me!
Do I regret what I did? Absolutely not! Would I do it again? Probably not. I loved sharing my experience, but I don’t think I would have time to do it next time around! I knew that there would be a lot of people that would not agree with what we did. But to each their own! Yes, some of the criticism hurt. But most of the criticism was from ill-informed people who only read the headlines of articles. But I also had a lot of support from all over the world!
One that sticks in my mind was a message I got right after I checked into the maternity ward. A very nice women from the UK sent me a message saying that she was over there cheering me on! I was surprised by the amount of people that viewed the actual birth! At the high point, there were over 2,000 computers logged in watching! WOW! And a lot of people also watched the edited version afterward. After all was said and done, I did not read a lot of the posts and discussions on the MLM site during the birth. For me, it was over. I know it was monitored so there wasn’t anything nasty, but what I did read was very nice. I let a lot of that criticism slide off my shoulders. I know my reasons for doing this project, that a lot of people wouldn’t agree, and I didn’t let it bother me.
Well, now mommyhood calls. Solveig is up from her nap and ready to play!