EBB 302 – Solo Delivery: Navigating Birth During Spouse’s Military Deployment with Kellie McKinnon, EBB Childbirth Class Graduate

Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:00:00:

Hi, everyone. On today’s podcast, we’re going to talk with Kellie McKinnon, graduate of the EBB Childbirth Class, about going through pregnancy and birth when your partner is in the military. Welcome to the Evidence Based Birth® Podcast. My name is Rebecca Dekker, and I’m a nurse with my PhD and the founder of Evidence Based Birth®. Join me each week as we work together to get evidence-based information into the hands of families and professionals around the world. As a reminder, this information is not medical advice. See ebbirth.com/disclaimer for more details. Hi everyone, and welcome to today’s episode of the Evidence Based Birth® Podcast. My name is Dr. Rebecca Dekker, and I will be your host for today’s episode. If there are any detailed content or trigger warnings, we’ll post them in the description or show notes that go along with this episode. And now I’d like to introduce our honored guest, Kellie McKinnon. Kellie McKinnon is a personal trainer living near San Diego, as well as a military spouse. In Kellie’s business as a personal trainer, she’s passionate about empowering women to move their bodies in a way that brings joy without any of diet culture’s rhetoric or judgment. Prior to getting pregnant, Kellie knew she wanted an unmedicated birth with the support of a doula. Her doula suggested taking the EBB Childbirth Class, and Kellie took the class with her husband from EBB instructor Joyce Paik. And they were able to take it together, even though he was deployed on active duty at that time. Kellie’s unique journey through pregnancy and childbirth brings to light the challenges faced by military families, particularly when a partner is deployed. Kellie’s experiences are going to offer you valuable insights into the emotional and logistical aspects of going through pregnancy and birth when your partner cannot be physically present with you. Kellie, we’re so excited to have you. Welcome to the Evidence Based Birth® Podcast.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:02:02:

Thank you so much for having me. I have to say, Dr. Rebecca Dekker, I think I speak for all expecting moms that have taken EBB. We are so grateful for you and your work.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:02:11:

Yes, and it’s so fun to meet you and see you because I know you saw my face a lot when you were taking the class. It’s fun to be able to have a mutual exchange. So I would love for our listeners to hear about your story. I know you have a really unique and a challenging journey. Can you talk about what it was like going through pregnancy while your partner is in the military? And talk about the challenges you faced.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:02:38:

Yeah, we, it took us, you know, we were, we got married in our early 20s or mid 20s. And we waited a bit to have kids and just experience military life. We were sent overseas for a little bit and we loved it. And then we finally decided, okay, we’re ready to start our family. And I found out I was pregnant. And three days later, I believe it was three days, my husband found out he was going to deploy. And I would be five months-ish pregnant. When he would deploy and potentially be missing the baby’s birthday. So it kind of loomed over our pregnancy the entire time knowing, are you going to leave? Are you going to be here? And for me, how am I going to do this by myself? I was in California. My family’s in Virginia. I had friends from previous duty stations nearby, but we had just moved to California recently about four months before. So I didn’t have that big support system that maybe you would have if you had lived somewhere for two years, which in the military world, living somewhere for two years is a long time. So we had that looming over our heads. And it was really hard being emotional and pregnant and knowing that the person that I really wanted to be my support person might not be there for one of the biggest moments of my life, but also his as a first time dad as well.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:03:59:

So what happened then at five months pregnancy? 


Kellie McKinnon – 00:04:03:

He left. He went, he deployed and I was by myself. Luckily, I had a very healthy pregnancy. I didn’t have any complications with my pregnancy. But emotionally, it was very, very difficult to be by myself without him, especially towards the end of pregnancy when you get to 30 weeks and everything hurts and you would just like help with the dogs or the house or, you know, things like that.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:04:33:

Or giving you a back rub. 


Kellie McKinnon – 00:04:35:



Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:04:36:

Yeah. Bringing you a drink or something to eat. Yeah.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:04:39:

And I wanted, you know, we didn’t get to set up things from our registry together or build a nursery together or anything like that. It was all me doing it myself and just wishing that my husband would be there. And I think that people have this preconceived notion about military spouses that we have this big community within the military. My husband’s a Marine, so it’s a smaller branch of the branches. And unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. You don’t always have those people within the military to be there and support you. Like you would want. So it was very isolating and it was very hard sometimes going to appointments, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to be there. He got to go to the anatomy scan, which was really nice that he could be there for that. And we tried our best to stay in connection with one another. I had another ultrasound that I was able to FaceTime him in to be at so that he could be a part of it. And every time I would go to the doctors, I’d get a little list of questions from him as well. To ask the doctor, him also being a nervous first time dad. And one of the main ways that we stayed connected was we took the EBB course, online. So although he was deployed on the other side of the world, he was able, when he could, come in and he could watch the videos and he could be a part of the course with me as well. And it was always nice knowing that on Tuesday or Wednesday nights, whichever it was that we met, that we could be there and prep for the birth that he would hopefully be home for. That was kind of looming. My due date was two weeks before he was supposed to come home. 


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:06:13:

Oh, wow. 


Kellie McKinnon – 00:06:14:



Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:06:14:

Yeah. So really just missing the birth.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:06:17:

Yes. And we had it approved for him to be able to come home early. And I was going off of the statistics, you know, first time mom. I was late. She’ll probably be late. We’ll have you home at 39 weeks. But she decided to come three days before his flight. So my water broke and he missed her birthday, unfortunately, but.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:06:43:

Okay, we’ll get to the birth story in a little bit. Going back to taking the EBB Childbirth Class. So I’m assuming you took the completely online version. Some people take a hybrid where it’s in person and online. And with the online version, you still get to meet virtually with your instructors. You watch videos kind of self-paced. So I’m assuming your husband was able to kind of watch those on his own. And then he was able to attend the live virtual meetings as well.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:07:10:

He was, which was great.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:07:12:

Were there any difficulties with the time zone or connection or did it all work out?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:07:18:

The connection sometimes would be spotty and he would miss a little bit of it. But he luckily had a flexible job when he was deployed that he was able to step away for the hour or two hours that we would meet and be there.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:07:30:

And what are some of the things then you talked about having him, you know, kind of be involved as much as possible in the doctor’s appointments by sending you questions, by FaceTiming during an ultrasound? What are some other ways you stayed connected during the pregnancy, even though you were physically apart?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:07:49:

It can be hard when they’re deployed because you never know what the communication is going to be like. Sometimes they’re on ships and you don’t have access to our cell phones and that sort of thing, only email. So we, luckily, he was at a location where he did have his phone and he could have access to it. So we had a shared album in between the iPhones, which I think you could do that maybe on Google Drive or something as well. And I would upload constant pictures for him, you know, videos of the baby moving or belly pictures and constantly updating him so that when he could communicate with me or when he did have time to get on his phone, he could check. He could have checked maybe if, you know, if he was on a ship and he could have that internet slot, he could go in and see all the updated pictures and feel a part of, I tried to keep him in the loop as much as I could.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:08:40:

Yeah. And you mentioned, you know, kind of the isolation and we talked with my mom on the podcast a long time ago and I can, we can include the link in the show notes because she was also a military spouse whose partner was deployed with my oldest sibling. And she mentioned that as well too, just kind of the feelings of loneliness and not knowing people that you mentioned hiring a doula. Can you talk a little bit about the importance of having a doula for you as the spouse of someone who’s on active duty?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:09:11:

Oh my gosh, the comfort it brought me to have a doula. I think I will forever shout from the rooftops how amazing having a doula was. Knowing that I was going to have someone that I know would be there and should be there for me through the whole process of it, not just at the birth. I gave birth in a hospital system that’s really big. So it wasn’t for sure that my doctor would even be the one that delivered me. And who knows, you know, the nurses changing shifts. And it was scary thinking that it might just be me, that I don’t know the doctor. I don’t know the nurses. And knowing that I was going to have a doula that we would FaceTime with Lee as well. So he got to know her. And she really got to know my goals for pregnancy and to support me as best she could. She was a birthing partner, truly. She was my birthing partner that was in person. She was.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:10:08:

And what are some other things that you had to navigate? Because I know in the childbirth class, we talk about, kind of, the role the birth partner plays. And often that is from a loved one, like an actual family member. But your doula had to take over some of that as well. Often doulas are like, I don’t take the place of the partner. But in this case, they were that physically present person. How did you prepare for birth knowing that this doula would kind of have to do extra duty with you?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:10:38:

I think one of the main ways that really helped us get in line with her having to step in a little bit more, she is a veteran. So she was active duty herself. So she understood what I was going through and that I might need a little bit of more support. And we were both hopeful we would be there and that she would be able to support my husband and not just me during the birth. But we both knew and were very clear about… She asked me ahead of time, would you like me to touch you? Some people like hands off. What are things that… Of the things that I’ve learned through the EBB course, of ways that doulas can support me, what are ways that I would want her to support me? I think now, which can change in the moment, but we were really clear about how I think she could serve me best. And she was willing to be that person for me as well, which was amazing.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:11:35:

The last class in the EBB Childbirth Class is a bit of a dress rehearsal of sorts for the birth. How did you do that then being without your partner physically present?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:11:47:

I tried my best to act like he was. Honestly, my dogs were the stand-in. I was doing my best to pretend like he was there helping me and he was there on screen practicing without me. So we just tried our best to make the most of the situation and role play, even though he wasn’t there.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:12:08:

Yeah. And was the plan, if he didn’t make it, to try and have him FaceTime or somehow video stream in, if possible?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:12:16:

It was. And we actually, when I had an ultrasound and he was able to FaceTime in, I was told in that moment in the ultrasound office that he was not allowed to. They told me it broke HIPAA. Then I went and spoke to my OB and my OB said, that’s not true. And I was very clear about, can you confirm for me that if I go into labor, he can FaceTime in? We don’t even need to record. I just want to make sure that he can be there to see his baby. It was very upsetting to me. I think I had my second or the ultrasound when the FaceTime debacle happened at 32 weeks. It was upsetting to hear that my partner couldn’t be there because I went in alone. And I was terrified after that experience that he might not be able to FaceTime in, but they were very accommodating to that.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:13:05:

And somebody, some employee basically just deciding to follow some rule that might not even be a rule at the time. Yeah.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:13:16:

Yeah, it was, that was challenging. That was a challenging experience. You know, I was crying on the table. Like, what are you talking about?


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:13:22:

Talk to me about the healthcare system itself. Like what were your options as a U.S. Military spouse?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:13:33:

So when you’re stateside, you have the choice between two different types of TRICARE. We have TRICARE. TRICARE Prime is where you see providers at Naval Hospital. TRICARE Select, you get to select your provider out in town that takes TRICARE. So after being overseas and having solely Naval providers, I knew stateside I wanted to be able to select my provider. I actually had looked into birthing centers that accepted TRICARE. But my husband was not fully on board with the birthing center yet because he hadn’t done as much research as I had. So there are birthing centers, and there are independent certified nurse midwives that do accept TRICARE. TRICARE will pay for doulas that work with TRICARE. TRICARE will pay for midwives, but they have to be a certified nurse midwife. Because my husband wasn’t comfortable with that, we chose a hospital. It’s funny because after taking the EBB Course, we had taken it around, I think I started around 32-ish weeks, maybe 30 weeks. My husband kind of backtracked and was like, “Oh, wait, the evidence shows that birthing centers are safe.” Maybe I would have done that, but it was too late at that point for us to switch. And I actually, our first appointment we went in, he was able to, when he was home, he was able to come to everything that he could. And I think that really helped us as well, which is going to depend on your husband’s job and if he can do that when it’s military and we’re very lucky that he was able to be there. He was able to meet the providers and we were able to decide that this hospital felt good and it felt right for us. So that was also a big part of him, feeling like he was connected as well.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:15:18:

And how did you feel about your provider then? You know, your first choice was maybe a midwife and a freestanding birth center. Did you feel like, comfortable during pregnancy with the care you were getting? 


Kellie McKinnon – 00:15:30:

I did and I didn’t. It’s funny because I went in and as a first time mom, I didn’t realize you have to wait until 10-ish weeks to even get an ultrasound. So I was like, wait, I’m pregnant and no one wants to see me. What am I supposed to do?


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:15:45:

It still shocks me that that is the case in the U.S. because the first trimester is when you have so many symptoms and issues. And yeah, just being told, “Oh, we’re not going to bother seeing you until 10 weeks or 12 weeks,” is just, it’s really disheartening.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:16:01:

It really was very confusing to both of us. And he was actually a little more scared than I was having to wait, I guess. The hospital that I chose, I knew going into it that they have a midwife and a doctor that work in a pair. As I knew, even though I was going to be seen in a hospital, I wanted to work with a midwife going into it over an OB. And the funny thing about that is I had changed that date of that first ultrasound kept changing because they scheduled my appointment with a nurse practitioner and I was like, no, I want a midwife. And then they scheduled it with an OB and I’m like, no, I want to see a midwife. They’re like, they all work together, but I wanted to see the midwife. And what’s funny is… I had met with the midwife and then they rotate appointments. So you’ll see the midwife, then you’ll see the OB that works with her. Then you’ll see the midwife or him. Then you see the midwife, then you see the OB. And I actually ended up loving my OB and not seeing my midwife anymore. I didn’t—the very first time we went in to see her, I told her that I wanted to, I would love in a perfect world to have an unmedicated physiological birth. And she told me I needed to lower my expectations for that. 


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:17:19:



Kellie McKinnon – 00:17:20:

I immediately thought ‘Red flag.’ My husband didn’t understand the brevity of just that interaction. 


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:17:30:

Yeah. But just immediately saying, well, you’re not going to get that.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:17:33:



Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:17:33:



Kellie McKinnon – 00:17:35:

Yeah. I was really shocked. I had a few more interactions with her where I felt because it was a big hospital system. I felt like just a number standing. She’s standing by the door. She’s not even sitting down and talking to me, taking notes, telling me the tests that I have to have done, telling me, not asking, telling me, not having a discourse with me about it. And the OB that I saw on the other hand had been in practice for 36 years and he would come in and sit down. And say, here’s why you need your Tdap. Or, you know, why do we need to do this testing when I would ask. And I ended up loving him. And I called him and said, I’m not seeing that midwife anymore. Don’t schedule me with her. I only want to see the provider.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:18:19:

Yeah, I think you really, you had four red flags. I was trying to think of them as you were talking, you know. And for those of you who are listening who didn’t quite see them. The ones I heard you say were, first of all, telling you that, you know, you need to lower your expectations. You’re not going to get what you want. And that’s basically her admitting the truth right there. Like sometimes people will tell you who they are, right? In that first introduction, right? And you got to believe them. Like if she says, you’re not going to have a natural birth with me, you’re not going to have an unmedicated birth with that provider. Standing and especially standing by the door kind of conveys that authority and distance like, you know, over you while you’re in a vulnerable position. And then you use the words telling me like she was telling you to do things, not discussing them. And then you said no discourse, like you didn’t have a chance to ask questions or communicate back and forth. So for those of you who are listening, who are first time parents, who don’t know what a red flag might look like, those would be four really good ones. And especially when they occur in a pattern or a clump like that, that’s when I would be like, oops, maybe I need to think, rethink this. So it sounds like you followed your instincts and you switched to the provider you felt more comfortable with. And then did you have a good experience with them for the rest of the pregnancy?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:19:39:

Oh, he was fabulous. 


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:20:41:



Kellie McKinnon – 00:19:42:

He was really, and it was very surprising to me just because I think I went in with a bias thinking a midwife would be better. And I was kind of closed doors to the OB. And it really opened my eyes like, hey, you need to pay attention to how the conversations that you’re having with this person versus what my preconceived notions about the healthcare system might be. 


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:20:05:

Right. So take us closer to the birth. You were planning an unmedicated birth. Was there anything else you were hoping to have? This is a hospital birth. Did you have anything else on your birth plan?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:20:18:

Oh, I wanted the natural experience, I guess you could say. I wanted to avoid interventions. I wanted to trust my body on it. I wanted to wear what I wanted to wear. I wanted to be able to eat food if I wanted to eat food. I wanted to move around. All of the things that we learn in Evidence Based Birth® can help facilitate an unmedicated physiological birth. I want it. So that was kind of in my birth plan. Support doula also helped me come up with a C-section or a belly birth plan as well, just in case that needed to happen, we had alternate. So I wouldn’t be caught off guard.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:21:04:

So you mentioned earlier that your water broke and that’s how labor started. Can you take us to that moment?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:21:11:

Yeah. It’s funny enough, I was watching a show called TLC Unexpected, which is about young moms giving birth, and I was watching them in labor. I think I kind of became obsessed with watching anything about labor and the experience. And I was actually watching this show thinking, man, I wish they had taken EBB because so much stuff was happening to them that I knew maybe could be a better outcome. And I’m sitting there and I have been having what I thought were Braxton Hicks and lower back pain for two days at that point. And I just thought, I’m 38 weeks. My body just hurts. I’m having to do everything by myself. I was really throwing myself the pity party because my husband was gone. I really wanted my support person there in that moment. And that’s, you know, I think the thing about being a military spouse is we always want them there. It’s them missing the moments. And it’s the day to day that just makes it so hard. You just want them there at the end of the day, you know. And so I was having a pity party in the first place, sitting on the couch. And I felt like I had to pee. So I got up and went to the bathroom. But then I kept peeing. And I was like, wait. And I knew I turned around and the pee was like a yellow green color. And I’ve never flushed the toilet so fast. I was just, my husband’s coming home in three days. I know that was not the right color of amniotic fluid. I was flushing the toilet. That didn’t happen. It did happen. And that threw a wrench in all of my, I wanted to labor at home as long as possible. And I wanted my doula to be there to support me. I had my birth ball ready. I had all the things ready at home. And I ended up having to call because I just knew, I knew the baby had passed meconium at that moment when I saw that the amniotic fluid wasn’t clear. I just knew something wasn’t right. So I called and unfortunately, and I didn’t get my labor at home experience that I wanted. I had to head to the hospital right then.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:23:18:

Yeah. So did your doula meet you at the hospital then?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:23:21:

Funny enough, I went two weeks early. Her other mom went two weeks late. She was actually at another birth, but she didn’t tell me that over the phone. I had a friend, I called a friend, and I had all these things in my head that I needed to prepare for just in case my husband couldn’t be there. I had a bit of a scare at 34 weeks that preeclampsia might be on its way. And I had gotten sent to L&D because my blood pressure was high. And luckily they were able to get it down and they sent me home. But in that moment, I was like, “Oh man, my husband is at home. I don’t have a bag packed. I don’t have someone to look after my animals. I don’t have someone to be there in the hospital with me other than my doula.” So I got all of those things in a row. And I think that helped a lot having everything early on. Someone had a key to my house just in case something was to have happened. So I called a friend and she brought me, and my doula sent in a backup doula that I had never met, but she was also a military spouse. I mean, military spouses are amazing. We really show up for each other when we need it. And she stepped in, I had never met her. But she stepped in exactly like I needed. And she was amazing. And at the time that Marlow, my daughter, was born, I actually had both of my doulas, both the backup doula and my real doula because she came after the first birth to support me by my side in the room. And it was a beautiful experience to have them both.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:24:54:

Yeah. So tell us about the labor itself, though. Were you having contractions then when you got to the hospital?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:25:01:

I was. They were like you would expect for someone who’s in very early labor. They weren’t, it wasn’t that I couldn’t. I could still hold a conversation. I could still walk around. I did my hair. So I got to the hospital and I knew going in, I had asked my doctor every time I would take an EBB class, I had a list for him. Can I use a mirror? What happens if I go early? Can we test for group B strep early? Do I have to have an IV? What are the hospital’s policies on this? So I had all these things that I knew. I knew that the hospital had intermittent fetal or they had wireless fetal monitoring system that I could ask for. So I get in and I consented to a cervical exam because I had pre-decided that I would be okay with them as long as I was the one asking for them. The midwife, I was one centimeter dilated. My contractions were just mild, pretty far apart at that point, but still consistent. And she looked at the nurse and said, okay, get an IV started and we’re going to start Pitocin. With no conversation with me. This is a different midwife. No conversation with me again. And I knew going in that, one, I was armed with this arsenal of knowledge from EBB. And two, that if I needed to, if something was going to harm me or the baby, I would obviously listen to the doctor’s advice. And I looked at her in the middle of a contraction and said, do we need to speed up labor because the baby passed meconium? Is that a reason for us to need to speed labor up? And meanwhile, I was texting my husband, what does EBB say on passing meconium? He was like, I don’t see anything. I was like, I need the article. 


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:27:00:

I don’t have an article on that. Sorry. Just a few topics we haven’t covered. There’s endless, but yes, go on.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:27:05:

And they said, the midwife said, “No, there’s no reason. Baby’s heart rate is doing well.”


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:27:10:

That’s good. 


Kellie McKinnon – 00:27:11:

There’s no reason. And I didn’t know at the time that it’s not abnormal for meconium to be passed before the baby is. You know, during that breathing process. So I said no to the Pitocin and she said, well, in four hours, we’ll check you again. And I said no to the IV fluids as well. So I think in that moment, I kind of set the standard.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:27:33:

So how did you say that then? Did you just say? When she said, we’re going to start Pitocin, and you said, is there a medical reason for it? Is the baby not doing well? And she said, the baby’s doing fine. And then what did you say? Do you remember your words?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:27:46:

I think I asked, can we wait? Can we see what my body does?


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:27:51:

Okay, so you just asked for more time.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:27:53:

And they luckily granted that. But then I would have a different OB come in. Because, you know, the time shift changes. And was offered Pitocin, well, not offered. I was told that they were going to start Pitocin multiple times. And I denied every time because my labor was progressing. So I didn’t see…


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:28:17:

Yeah, I talk about that in my book, Babies Are Not Pizzas, but a similar thing happened to me where I was in labor, my waters ruptured first. And every person who came in the room wanted to start Pitocin. And I just kept saying, no, thank you. Because I felt like my labor was happening. You know, I didn’t feel a need for it. At this point, it’s more augmentation. It’s not a labor induction. And we talk about the research on inducing labor for PROM when there are no contractions at ebbirth.com/prom, but you already had contractions. They were talking about augmenting them or strengthening them. And your personal preference was to decline that. And it’s interesting, though, how the pressure, you know, they just keep asking, you know. But the difference is you are a spouse to someone in the military. And from what some EBB instructors have talked to me about is that sometimes there can be a heightened sense of pressure due to like the chain of command and where your spouse is in the chain of command. And can you as the spouse of that military person like freely say no without feeling pressure? Like, did that come into play at all or not really?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:29:33:

I think if I would have given birth at Naval Hospital, it would have been a different experience with that.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:29:39:

Okay, so this was not the Naval Hospital.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:29:41:

Yeah, this was out in town.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:29:42:

Okay, so but you think it could have been a lot harder to say no if you were in the military hospital.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:29:50:

I think also the practices are just even more behind the civilian hospital. And that whole, sometimes I can feel that the biases of a pregnant woman coming in and she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. I know more because I am the provider and this is how we do things can be a little more… 


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:30:14:

Intense maybe at the military hospital.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:30:18:



Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:30:19:

Yeah, just that kind of sense of authority figure talking down to you.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:30:24:

Yes. Yes. That’s a really good way to put it.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:30:27:

Yeah. Okay. So what happened next?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:30:30:

So my labor progressed beautifully. I, you know, contractions were coming stronger. I was doing all the things that we were talking about, you know, in class, going to the bathroom every 30 minutes, getting on the birthing ball, trying different positions, all of the things.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:30:52:

Staying hydrated because you weren’t on IVs?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:30:55:

Yeah, trying my best to, I tried to eat a little bit, but I couldn’t really stomach it. I had back labor, unfortunately, so it was very painful. My doula, I think she did counter pressure for the entire eight hours that she was with me. 


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:31:14:

That helped? 


Kellie McKinnon – 00:31:16:

It felt amazing. And she counted down every single wave that would come. She would count down from the top of the wave to when it was ending. And that helped me tremendously. My husband would FaceTime in periodically because for him, he’s still doing his job overseas so it was he would FaceTime in and check in and he doesn’t know this but I did have to mute him because it was very, it was too many voices, so. 


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:31:46:

Did you have him like on a phone or a tablet or a computer propped up? 


Kellie McKinnon – 00:31:51:

We had him on my phone. I had given my phone I got to a point where the contractions were too intense for me to be present on my phone at all so my friend was on my phone FaceTiming him in. And then when it got closer to the baby, meaning the baby, it was very typical for me of, you know, vomiting, feeling like I couldn’t do it. And I knew all of these things meant that she was going to be there soon. And the provider came in and said, hey, if you want that epidural, we’re taking the anesthesiologist and you only have one hour to decide if you want this epidural or not. And I just got past that, I guess. Then when the OB, the people started coming in the room, they had to have the NICU team come in just in case since she had passed meconium if she needed help once she was born. They were in the room and the provider came in and me and my, I don’t know, a wild hair got into me. And I looked at the provider and I said, don’t cut me open, meaning like don’t do an episiotomy. And she looked at me and said, don’t point your finger at me. And that was..the only time, the only interaction we had.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:33:08:

So is this a doctor you’d never met before?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:33:10:

I had never met her.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:33:11:

Like they hadn’t even been in your room earlier in labor?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:33:15:

No, it was a different doctor that had been coming in. 


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:33:17:

Wow. Interesting. 


Kellie McKinnon – 00:33:19:

That was funny. But she did.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:33:22:

Sassy, as my daughters would say.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:33:26:

It was. I think back and I feel a little embarrassed.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:33:30:

Well, no, you shouldn’t be embarrassed by you. I’m embarrassed by what the doctor said, unless they were joking. Were they joking?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:33:36:

I asked the nurse practitioner later during my checkup and she said, no, that doctor was not joking. 


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:33:43:

Oh my gosh. Because I think what you said would be very typical for someone about to push a baby out. Don’t cut me open. You’re doing your last ditch. I’m about to go into this place in my brain and I know I won’t be able to speak. Here’s my wish is for you to not do this. That just seems really awkward for the doctor to say that back.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:34:08:

It was interesting. Now they did let me have everything that I wanted, a mirror. So they brought the mirror in. My doula knew I wanted to try to help catch the baby. I had to ask my actual OB if that was possible. So I did touch her head as she was coming out. I wasn’t expecting the baby to be so slimy. I don’t know. So I said, I’m going to focus on pushing.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:34:32:

And meanwhile, is your husband watching, then?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:34:35:

He was on FaceTime. So when things started to heat up, he got back on FaceTime. And so luckily, I had a friend who was there holding the phone while all of it was going on. So luckily, he could be there.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:34:49:

And you had two doulas at this point as well?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:34:52:

I did. I had two doulas, so I had one on each side. While this was going on, I had wanted to try to do laboring in a different position, but on my side just felt best for me. So I had one doula holding my leg and the other one’s still giving me counter pressure, the poor doula on hour eight of that.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:35:14:

And how long did the pushing phase last?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:35:17:

I pushed for an hour. Okay.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:35:21:

What was that like?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:35:23:

Um, actually back labor was more intense than pushing her out.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:35:28:



Kellie McKinnon – 00:35:29:

So it really wasn’t, um, I really, I guess, enjoyed that. I don’t know if enjoyed is the word, but I felt like an active person in my labor. It wasn’t anyone telling me when to push her, at least if they were, I wasn’t listening to them.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:35:45:

Okay. So you did, you directed your own pushing and you were breathing while you’re pushing. Nobody was shouting at you or anything. No.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:35:52:

And I think, I think having both of my doulas up at my head so that they were the only people that were. Talking to me. At least that I was tuned into. They were amazing. I mean, after every wave, they would say, rest. And I would physically, my body would just rest. And they just allowed me to do what I needed to do. And they were making sure, you know, like low guttural. I was one of those vocal women in labor and low guttural sounds. And, yeah, they were really, they were the best thing about labor.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:36:38:

Do you want to share their names with us?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:36:40:

Yes. Allie Koganor, I believe is how you say her last name. Sorry, Allie, if you’re listening to this. And the other one is Amanda. Unfortunately, Amanda, this is military life. She PCS, she moved. That’s what we call moving. She moved right after birth. So I will maybe never see the other doula again. So amazing. She showed up for me in that moment.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:37:06:

Yeah, she was there for you and you’ll always remember that. So thank you to Allie and Amanda for being by your side. And then how was the actual, the emergence of your baby, the baby coming out?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:37:19:

That part was a little, I really had it in my head that the golden hour was going to be this beautiful experience for me. And I did tear. I had a second degree tear. And I did allow Pitocin after the baby was born. So the baby was there trying to breastfeed right away. My doulas were feeding me because I was hungry. I was getting stitched up by the provider. I was shaking. My husband was FaceTiming and trying to talk to me too. It was a very overwhelming experience. Luckily, she cried right away. So the NICU team didn’t have to do anything. So that was a blessing. But it was a very overwhelming experience. And I remember being very scared in that moment, too. I had prepared so much for the birth, but I don’t think I was naturally prepared for how those hormones would feel once she was there. 


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:38:15:

Mm hmm. So you’re kind of feeling like you’re flooded with hormones in that moment. Plus, there was a lot going on in the room. What about the moment your baby was on your chest? Like, how did you feel then when labor was finally over?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:38:31:

I just felt, is this real? Is she really here? And a part of me was scared, I think, from what we think labor is going to be like. Like, am I going to hemorrhage? Am I past the point of this being a scary experience? I don’t know why my brain went there, but I was worried it would be a scary experience post-birth. 


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:38:55:

So you had some fears, maybe? Like, you made it past labor, and now you were thinking about postpartum. And how did your postpartum experience go then?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:39:06:

That was very emotional, too. My husband came three days later. So I had a friend that came and stayed with me in the hospital. It was amazing. She slept just like he would have right next to me. And she helped me with the baby at night. And then he came home and met her. It was very hard bringing my baby home without my partner there. But he got to meet her and he was home for two weeks before he had to leave again. So that was very difficult too, because the entire time I was with the newborn, I think in the back of my head, I was thinking my husband’s going to deploy again. And how am I going to be okay with a newborn? And luckily I had family come out and stay with me. It’s just as a military spouse, you feel like the military takes a lot from you. They take..our careers are really hard to keep. We always have to, we move away from friends. We moved away from family. We’re at duty stations for around a year and we finally, you know, get plugged into the community and then we’re ripped from it. And sometimes people don’t want to invest in us that aren’t military because we’re moving and they know we’re moving. So you feel like it takes a lot from you. And then to also have a moment that you and time that was very special and that you can’t get back and wanting their support and knowing that they can’t be there because it’s hard for me in that moment with the baby, but it’s also him missing his baby, which was very difficult. So he went back overseas. Then he did come home for good about two weeks later. And thankfully they have a new policy. They can take 12 weeks of paternity leave, which is amazing. He’s actually gone again right now. So he didn’t get to take the full 12 weeks. It has been. It has been a very emotional year for our family.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:41:02:

When the two weeks that he was home with you right after the birth. Did you feel like you were able to live in the moment or were you constantly worrying about being separated again?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:41:15:

I was very worried about being separated again. And I unfortunately prepped a lot for labor, but did not prep as much for breastfeeding as I think maybe would have helped me. And not only was he leaving, but I ended up in the hospital five times for mastitis. And it was just stress on top of him leaving.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:41:38:

Yeah. And what about like, parenting with like, nighttime awakenings and things like that? You said you had some family there for a while, but, you know, as time goes on, do you feel like you have enough support?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:41:57:

That is… such a yes and no. I think about that all the time because he left again when she was four months old. And it’s scary taking care of an infant by yourself. And it’s exhausting being with them all the time with no help during the day or in the evening. And I have amazing friends. One of the best advice that I got as a younger military spouse was to say yes to everything that you get invited to. Even if you don’t want to go, say yes so you can get out, you can meet people, especially when they’re not at home. And I have amazing friends that will be there and they have kids so they understand what it’s like. But at night time and dealing with the night feedings, it is challenging because… no one can help you like your partner can in those moments. 


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:42:54:



Kellie McKinnon – 00:42:55:

That’s been challenging to say. We don’t have the best sleeper, so that’s been challenging.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:42:59:

Well, and you know, the thing too is, I know people think the first three months are really hard and that’s when you need the most help, but. Almost every baby I’ve ever known has gone through like a four month sleep regression. They’re finally starting to make some progress and then everything just falls apart and they’re it feels like they’re awake all night and it’s I think it tends to go along with the milestone of they’re more aware of their environment so they start really noticing like if you’re in the room or not or if I’m being held or not and and so that can be really difficult to handle on your own.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:43:33:

It was very hard and she was a baby that wanted to be held all the time she didn’t from the very beginning she did not like to be by herself um you know on on her mat or in a bouncer or something she she didn’t like swings so it was very difficult trying to figure out you know my husband is leaving and it can be hard as a military spouse you see them pursuing things in their career that are you know my husband was deployed when the birth happened but he loves being deployed and he gets to do his job and he’s really happy when he’s deployed and then I’m home with a baby trying to just figure out. How am I going to wash the dishes? What if she wakes up five times and I can’t make it through the day? And I made it through. Here I am. But it’s always a lingering little bit of anxiety. 


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:44:27:

I was going to say it probably puts military spouses at higher risk for postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety just because of the stressful environment they’re in and the isolation.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:44:39:

I would agree. I would agree.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:44:42:

And I think also this year talking with you reminds me of some of the episodes we’ve done on postpartum doula support. So we’ll put the links in the show notes to some of the episodes about postpartum doulas because we kind of talked about the importance of a birth doula. When you’re pregnant and facing going into birth without a partner, but also, postpartum doula support can be really important. So Kellie, looking back on your experience and where you are today, what are some of the most important lessons you learned or strengths you discovered within yourself?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:45:20:

One of the two best things that I think I did was educate myself on what could happen and educate myself on what the birthing process could look like in many different ways, not just my dream way of how this could work is if I, you know, if my water broke early, what’s going to be offered to me or just all the different scenarios and feeling confident in what I knew and knowing that this is why I took the Evidence Based Birth® course, because I knew that it was good information. There’s a lot of information out there nowadays that, it’s the internet. There’s so much out there knowing that it’s good information and that I can trust that I’m making the right decision for me and my baby because I have informed consent. Even if there’s no discourse between the doctor, EBB still gave that to me because I knew. We already knew the evidence.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:46:18:

Yeah. And you knew that you had choices and that you had rights as well.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:46:24:

Yes. And knowing that birth doesn’t just have to happen to me. I can be an active player in that. That was really big. And having a doula, I will forever tell everyone to have a doula. Even one of my really good friends just had her second baby and her goal is to have a medicated hospital birth. But I told her doulas are still there to support you even through that. Get a doula.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:46:49:

You still would have needed that support with an epidural as well. You shouldn’t have to go through that without support.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:46:56:



Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:46:57:



Kellie McKinnon – 00:46:59:

Someone to check on you, you know? Yeah.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:47:00:

So getting good information, educating yourself and having a doula with you. Thinking for any partners that may be listening who are facing active duty or deployment, do you have any advice for partners who are deployed and can’t be physically present for the end of pregnancy or the birth?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:47:22:

Oh, I should ask my husband that one. I think going into it with low expectations helps. I know that sounds maybe a little depressing, but going into it, if they are deployed, knowing that they might not be able to be back, it’s command dependent if they can make it back or not. And even though my husband was able to come back, we had to pay for the flight for him across the world to come home. And not everyone is going to be able to have access to the funds to pay for that flight, which was… Actually, one of the more frustrating things for me, I’m thinking about maybe a younger military couple that this could happen to. So preparing appropriately for…


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:48:07:

It’s like knowing that there’s a chance you won’t make it back. And preparing an alternate plan for that scenario.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:48:14:

And just being, I think, a listening ear. A lot of times, especially for military spouses or the partner that is active duty, they are given a problem and then they come up with a solution or they’re given orders and they fix that problem. But knowing that for your pregnant spouse, there isn’t a problem that can be fixed because of the distance and the deployment. So just being an open ear and understanding and going through a course like EBB or reading a book on pregnancy and knowing they just need an ear. They need me to listen to them.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:48:54:

I think that’s definitely a mistake, some maybe less experienced spouses or people who still haven’t learned that lesson is like sometimes your spouse just needs to like, get it out by talking about it and you can’t necessarily fix the problem. But like you said, just being the listening ear is therapeutic. It’s a type of therapy as well. It is something you’re doing, even though it feels like you’re not. You’re just like absorbing this angst or, you know, distress and you can’t do anything about it. But by being there and listening, you are doing something.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:49:29:

Exactly. Because I can feel like as a military spouse that we just have to figure it out. They’re gone and you just figure it out. And we do figure it out. We do have, you know, I hate it when people say, you’re so strong. We’re not strong. We’re forced into these situations. We have to continue to. Life goes on. But-


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:49:53:

Yeah. Well, thank you, Kellie, for sharing your story and bringing light to some of these issues. And I think your advice, too, to think more about postpartum when you’re a military spouse, that that’s just as important, if not more so, to prepare for than the birth and really building up a team if you’re planning on breastfeeding, making sure you have lactation support, thinking about postpartum care, family, and going beyond just the first three to four months. But that entire parenting journey, when you’re on your own, you can’t do it on your own. You have to have support. So, Kellie, anything else you want to say?


Kellie McKinnon – 00:50:32:

No, I don’t think so. Thank you so much, Dr. Dekker, for having me. I am so grateful for everything that you’ve put in to give just the normal person like me the ability and the knowledge to go in there and be empowered and be an active participant in their birth and have informed consent. Thank you so much.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:50:54:

You’re welcome. And Kellie, our whole team here, I’m sure we’ll be proud of you to listen to this interview and hear how you spoke up for yourself and did all this planning and troubleshooting. And we really admire and respect everything you’ve done and you’ve given and sacrificed. And so thank you so much for sharing your story with us.


Kellie McKinnon – 00:51:14:

Thank you.


Dr. Rebecca Dekker – 00:51:16:

Today’s podcast episode was brought to you by the online workshops for birth professionals taught by Evidence Based Birth® Podcast instructors. We have an amazing group of EBB instructors from around the world who can provide you with live, interactive, continuing education workshops that are fully online. We designed Savvy Birth Pro workshops to help birth professionals who are feeling stressed by the limitations of the healthcare system. Our instructors also teach the popular Comfort Measures for Birth Professionals and Labor and Delivery Nurses workshop. If you are a nurse or birth professional who wants instruction in massage, upright birthing positions, acupressure for pain relief, and more, you will love the Comfort Measures workshop. Visit ebbirth.com/events to find a list of upcoming online workshops.



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