[Birth Stories] 5-Day Induction Makes for a Very Confusing and Grueling Birth

Myra Flynn set out to have as few interventions as possible during the birth of her daughter. She tells Adriana Lozada what it was like to stand up for herself— and adapt to the circumstances— during her five days in labor.

What things have you had to do (with care providers, friends or family) in order to feel respected and heard during your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum? Tell us about your self-advocacy process @Birthful.

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Myra looks at the camera in a full-body shot with her pregnant belly strapped with monitors

Image description: Myra stands strong with monitors strapped to her pregnant belly

 

 

Related resources*:

 

Myra and her partner look lovingly at their newborn

Image description: in this black-and-white shot, Myra and her partner gaze lovingly at newborn Avalon, at Myra’s breast

 

 

Myra cradles tiny baby Avalon against her chest

Image description: in this black-and-white shot, Myra cradles baby Avalon against her chest

 

Take action:

One thing you can do for you is to learn about the induction process and the evidence behind the different common reasons why they happen. To do this, listen to our episodes titled The Induction Process and All About Inductions, and read the Evidence Based Birth articles on induction for due dates, for big babies, and for low amniotic fluid. 

The one thing you can do for the rest of us is support the reintroduced Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act. You heard Myra mention at the end that she herself was a holiday hospital baby and that a lot of her fears and motivation were informed by what she knew from her own mother’s birth experience as a Black woman, as well as how the ongoing maternal crisis in America disproportionately affects Black moms. No one should go into birth fearing that they will be a part of this statistic. The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 is made up of 12 different bills that address every dimension of the maternal health crisis in America. Follow @BMHCaucus on Twitter to learn more.

Myra looks exhausted in the hospital bed, wearing an oxygen mask, giving a thumbs-up

Image description: Myra, in a hospital bed, wearing an oxygen mask, looks at the camera and gives a thumbs-up

 

Transcript

[Birth Stories] 5-Day Induction Makes for a Very Confusing and Grueling Birth

Myra Flynn: I’m sitting there like what if something has been horribly wrong this whole time and I have been fighting to have the birth that I wanted more so than taking into consideration to fight what’s best for my baby? And that fear, oh God, that fear. It made me… Get this baby out. Let’s get it out. Let’s get it out. Let’s get it out. 

Adriana Lozada: Those powerful words are from singer-songwriter Myra Flynn, as she talks about the culminating moments of her difficult induction and the much awaited birth of her daughter. It took five days to get to this point for Myra and her birth story, she admits, is almost traumatic. In fact, it’s taken her a year to get to a place where she could share it. But to find out what happened, let’s take it back to the beginning.  I’m Adriana Lozada and you’re listening to Birthful, here to inform your intuition.  

Flynn: My name is Myra Flynn. I am she/her. My father is Irish. My mother is Black. And I identify as a Black woman in America because let’s be honest, nobody’s splitting hairs when it comes to looking at you. I’m a singer. I’m a songwriter. I’ve spent 20 years with a really awesome career doing that. And now I’m a mom. 

Lozada: Myra began advocating for her birth experience from the moment she found out she was pregnant, and she started looking for the right provider. At first, it was a really tough road, filled with her feeling like she was constantly being silenced or like her concerns were not being heard. This happened with multiple OBs and while touring a birth center until she finally found a hospital in Los Angeles with a mixed OB midwifery group that accepted her and where she finally felt supported. 

Flynn: I do feel like I was listened to, respected, and heard. I feel like I had to do quite a bit of work to really ride that line to make sure that I was, because you know, when you are a Black woman, you don’t want to be perceived as an angry Black bitch. And so, you have to do a lot of glad-handing, a lot of smiling, a lot of changing your voice. It’s called code switching and it’s a big part of day to day, but when it comes to your birth, it’s an even bigger part. And we wanted them to like us. My husband is also Black. He’s very tall. He’s very muscular. All the threatening things, you know, and we wanted to be taken care of. 

But we did feel that they were wonderful. It got confusing as the birth came closer. A lot of things got confusing. But in the end, yes, in retrospect we were listened to. We were respected. 

Lozada: So, take us to the day you got to the hospital. 

Flynn: … said they’d allow me to go to 42. We were monitoring things like my placenta to see if it was still strong, if it was still feeding the baby, and it was. Everything looked beautiful. I didn’t have any complications, pre-existing conditions, everything was looking great. The nurses that morning were joking with me about how the baby wanted to stay in there forever, because I wasn’t having any contractions and it was like, “Ugh.” And you know, my baby never dropped. She never dropped. My belly was always like way up high, up here. 

So, there was some confusion as to why birth wasn’t happening yet, but hey, women have been doing this for centuries. All of a sudden there’s a storm, that barometric pressure hits, and boom, there’s baby. So, we were waiting for that moment. I hate the mall. We went to the mall to walk, and walk, and walk, and walk, and walk, and at this point we’d been doing everything to really induce my labor. Spicy foods, lots of awkward pregnancy sex, walking and hiking, all the good stuff, and nothing was moving. And I went to get monitored that morning, went to walk the mall, got a phone call as soon as we arrived at the mall, this is on Christmas Eve, that said, “You need to come in and get induced right now.” 

Lozada: Out of the blue. 

Flynn: Out of the blue. Yes. And confusing statement number one. Let’s say that. I had just left that morning and so I’m talking to this nurse and I’m saying, “Why? Why was that the case?” And she’s like, “Well, I’m not really at liberty to say.” I’m like, “Well, you better be at liberty to say, this is like… You can’t just call me in for an induction.” She said, “Do you want to speak to one of the midwives?” I was like, “Yes, please. Put her on the phone.” 

So, I talked to the midwife. I was like, “What’s going on? I just left you guys. Everything’s fine.” She said, “Well, we noticed what might be a slight deceleration in the heartbeat.” And I said, “Well, when did you notice this? It wasn’t this morning.” She was like, “Well, we looked at it more closely after this morning and noticed.” So, I’ll stop here to say that Christmas Eve and Christmas is a holiday that’s especially tough with some of the birth doctors really wanting that vacation time and a lot of that has to do with not wanting to be away from their family during those times, and also if you’re past due, you can’t really argue with the fact that they just think you’re ready. You know? 

Lozada: And I want to interject and say that there is data that shows that the number of births that happen during holidays is statistically less than on regular days, even if we take say scheduled cesareans out of the equation, so there is some bias, and there’s even data that shows how fewer hospital births happen during weekends and nights. So, even though this sounds like cynicism, the data is there. 

Flynn: Absolutely. I am not anti-science, anti-medicine, anti-doctors, anti-anything. I’m a total geek and I love this stuff, so you know, please believe that it was very disappointing to learn these things and to have to safeguard myself with these things and add on top of those stats that you just mentioned, add Black birth plus Christmas Eve. It was a recipe for me to be very curious and confused and questioning about what the hell was really going on. And so, I talked to this midwife. She says, “We saw a slight deceleration.” 

I said, “Well, you know, is it scary? Is it alarming?” And she was like, ‘Well, no.” And I was like, “Okay.” She was like, “I just think you’re past due. You should come in.” And I was like, “I don’t want to come in and get induced.” She said, “Well, then can you come in and get some more monitoring? Ask if you can get 12 more hours of monitoring?” So, I said, “Okay, I can do that.” So, Phil and I, we ate a meal, we packed our pregnancy bag or our birth bag in the back of the car just in case, we went to the hospital for 12 hours of monitoring, and we didn’t leave for eight days. 

Lozada: So, you thought you were going into the hospital for just 12 hours of monitoring and ended up being there eight days. Why? 

Flynn: Turns out there’s no such thing as 12 hours of monitoring. Let me explain. You can stay in your hospital bed, your insurance will continue to keep you there, for 12 hours of monitoring if you are three centimeters dilated. I was one. Barely. I was like half of one. And if you are not, you also cannot go home again. If you go home, because I would say, “Well, you know, this isn’t an emergency, I’m not dilated the three centimeters you guys require, I’m gonna go home and hopefully go into early labor on my own in the next couple days.” You can’t go home, because then you’re going against hospital advice, and you are expelled from the midwifery program, and when you come back to have your baby, you can no longer be serviced by the midwives you’ve been working with. 

So, literally between those two bookends, I was being forced into an induction. 

Lozada: And just to clarify, this was specific to your situation, because your leaving would be going against medical advice since they were recommending an induction, but if someone else went to triage at less than three centimeters and no one was recommending an induction, they could go home without getting kicked out from the midwifery program. It was the part about going against medical advice that was the issue. 

Flynn: It was a mess. It was a mess. We were invited to our induction party and we didn’t even know it. So, I decided, after I’d spent a lot of time crying and pleading our case, and still doing it with a smile on my face to not be a Black bitch and to make sure everybody in this new environment liked me and I decided membrane sweeps. Let’s look at… You start looking at the most holistic and alternative ways that you can get this party going. So, I had about 12 membrane sweeps in the first couple days of my being there. 

Lozada: That’s a huge number of membrane sweeps. 

Flynn: It was awful. And you know, a huge part of that was the staff changes. I had a lot of new people with their fingers inside of me, sweeping my membranes regularly. They are the most painful thing I can think of in my labor, were the membrane sweeps. And the reality is the first two membrane sweeps had sent me into early, early, early labor. So, I was having these contractions, so again, when I use the word confusing, I don’t use it lightly. Because I was contracting. My body was starting to work, and I was still having to fend off this mythical induction that was right around the corner that everybody still wanted, and we were seeing these charts, and nothing was happening. You know, my contractions were too far apart to really be a labor anybody took seriously. 

Then, you know, they start getting sick of me in the bed and they say, “It’s time for you to have Pitocin.” 

Lozada: When in the process is this happening? 

Flynn: I’d say we had been there for… This is the morning of our third day. Our third day in the hospital. So, they started saying, “You know, it’s time for you to really have some Pitocin.” At this point, the they was the oldest midwife on staff who had been there the longest and she was just awesome. She was wonderful. I remember she just took my hand, she’s like, “It’s time. What are you doing?” Like, you know, we need to start this. And I said, “Okay, let’s try a little bit.” 

Now, normally with Pitocin, this is the problem. And I want people to really understand why I was fighting this induction, because I’m sure there’s quite a few women listening that have been induced and are like, “What’s the big deal? Why didn’t you just go for it?” Besides Black mortality rates, besides Black women being forced into inductions, and besides the holiday that was looming, inductions call… or Pitocin can sometimes cause what’s called a cascading waterfall of interventions. 

Lozada: And that is such an important concept, so let’s explain it a bit. So, basically when one intervention causes side effects that lead to another intervention, and then they snowball, creating the need for even more interventions, that can often lead to a cesarean because it then becomes the only option, like that’s the cascade of interventions. So, for example, Pitocin can bring on really intense labor, and then that leads people to getting an epidural, which then leads to limited movement by the birthing person. While the intense contractions are still felt by the baby, which may lead to a situation where the baby doesn’t tolerate the process and starts showing signs of distress, and then that leads to cesarean. 

So, what I’m hearing is that you were hesitant to get the Pitocin for fear of it cascading into a cesarean, but after talking with this midwife, at this point in your labor, what did you decide? 

Flynn: I decided to take a level two of Pitocin. And typically, they administer a level 10. And didn’t really do much. I blew up my birth tub, my sad little birth tub that we had bought and gone to courses for, blew it up in the corner. My doula did for me. And I got in, just to feel like I did. But it was so sad. I was so hoping to have a water birth. Nothing was happening with this level two. They cranked it up, level three, level four, level five. I started having really close, awesome contractions that I could bear, and I said, “Hey, new staff change member, would you take me off this stuff and I can just walk and walk and just see if my body will do it naturally?” Because let me tell you, natural contractions are so doable. They’re this wave and they’re hard, but they’re this wave. There’s a crest and then there’s a descend and there’s a break.

And Pitocin is this jagged dinosaur chomping away at your uterus. It’s not a fun time. So, she said yes. I got off it, and I walked, and I walked, and I did everything, and I was having these contractions, and then they started slowing down, and then they started slowing down, then they went back down to nothing. So, I looked at Phil and I said, “It’s time.” At this point, I was past the 42 weeks. I was on day four of being in the hospital, of fighting, of advocating, of code switching, of glad-handing. My doula was baking the nurses station cookies. I said, “It’s time. Let’s crank up this Pitocin. Let’s get this done.” 

At that point, the only promising productive thing was my cervix was really very well effaced, which can be confusing, because you… Again, you’re not dilating, but you have this really ripe, soft cervix, and so your body is ready for birth, but she wasn’t coming down. 

Lozada: And I want to explain, like what’s going on, it’s they’re trying to jumpstart a process that your body is not ready for, and there’s no guarantees of inductions. Inductions don’t just happen quickly, and you just have a baby. If your body’s not ready, it can take a lot of effort, as you were experiencing, to convince your body to just say, “Okay, let’s have this baby.” Right? 

Flynn: Absolutely and it feels exactly that way. Oh, gosh. It just felt very… There was no break. As soon as they cranked it up to the level 10, there was no break in those contractions. And so, I got an epidural. I hung my head. So, talk about shame, number one, which obviously women should not feel. Epidurals are everywhere. But I was somebody who did not want any interventions, and so, here I was now four days into the hospital with Pitocin, and an epidural, and the epidural made my legs swell three times the size, and I was strapped to this bed with this monitor, and I had my husband and these nurses passing my legs back and forth so I wouldn’t get bed sores because I had been there for so long in bed and they were just so swollen, and I had a catheter to go to the bathroom, and I just remember looking at my husband and crying and saying, “I’m sorry.” 

He’s like, “What in the world are you sorry for?” But I just felt like I’d let us down, let our baby down, like I hadn’t fought hard enough. Maybe if I had just said the right thing. And being numb from the epidural, I felt like caused me to be numb in some other areas, as well. Just I lost my fight. I was so tired. But you know, the baby still wasn’t decelerating in any massive way, and she wasn’t really moving, and it was very confusing. 

Day number five, in walks the final staff change of midwives, and she’s straight out of Africa, Black woman, I was like, “Where have you been? We’ve been looking for you in our OBs, we’ve been looking for you in everything.” She was… She spoke my language. I have a very old school Black mother and she was straightforward, no nonsense, didn’t give a ton of time towards my emotions or sob story, but definitely was still caretaking and just very matter of fact, and I really appreciate people like that in general in life. And she was wonderful, and she went and got the midwife, midwife came and checked me, so I remember asking this very important question, which was like, “If I have an epidural and I can’t feel anything, how am I supposed to know when the baby is coming?” 

And she said, “When you know, you’ll know.” And I said, “Okay.” And I went… She said, “Go to sleep.” Went to sleep. 

Lozada: Well, and talk about trust, because she’s not giving you an answer. She’s just telling you, “When you’ll know, you know, and go to sleep.” And you’re like, “Oh, but I feel safe, supported, and loved by you, and I know you got my back, so I can let down my guard and sure, I’ll fall asleep.” 

Flynn: I literally went to sleep. I hadn’t slept, like truly slept, in so many days. And it was just the most wonderful permission. And in so many words, it was her trust, telling her to trust myself. When you know, you will know. You are in charge of this. Remember that. I’m gonna be over here. Let me know what’s up when it starts happening. It was awesome. It was the power. It’s just this little moment of transfer of power that I’ll never forget. And I did know. 

At around 1:00 in the morning, I woke up and I said to my husband, I said, “I think I’m gonna poop in this bed right now.” And he was like, “All right, go for it.” It’s like, “Okay. I will.” But you know, it wasn’t poop. It was the only part of your body that the epidural doesn’t fully numb is your perineum. And you can feel the pressure. You can feel the pressure of the baby’s head. 

Lozada: That’s the only point of reference you have. You haven’t had a head go through there yet, you’ve pooped, so it’s similar. Yeah. 

Flynn: It’s similar. And I hadn’t felt my body for so many days, and then to just feel that, I was like, “Ooh.” And so, the nurse came in and I said, “I’m gonna poop the bed.” And I remember she just turned on all the lights and she went, “All right, it’s time!” Oh, my goodness, like nine and a half centimeters dilated or something like that, so ready, so effaced was my cervix. The only thing that hadn’t happened was my water was not breaking. It had not broken. And so, she said, “Let’s keep an eye on it a little bit longer, but I might… The baby’s ready. Baby’s head is here and might need to break your water.” 

And here I go again. All of a sudden, no matter how exhausted you are, “What do you mean break my water? What does that mean? What does that entail? Is that bad for the baby? I didn’t do enough research on this. What is that going to do?” And she’s like, “Calm down. It’s gonna be fine. We do this all the time and it’ll get the baby here. We really want to do this.” And at this point I just trusted. I said okay. And so, in about an hour from there she came in and used that crochet needle and broke my water, and another confusing thing. No water came out. I had no water when they broke my water. 

So, at this point, we speak about shame number two. I’m sitting there like, “What if something has been horribly wrong this whole time and I have been fighting to have the birth that I wanted more so than taking into consideration a fight for what’s best for my baby?” And that fear… Oh, God, that fear, it made me… Get this baby out. Let’s get it out. Let’s get it out. Let’s get it out. 

Well, as soon as I start thinking this way, all of a sudden I develop a fever. A fever of 104. And I remember this doctor came in and I was so certain this doctor was going to tell me it’s time for a C-section. You cannot have a fever of 104 and all of these things. And then she was like, “I’m here to give you antibiotics. Calm down.” So, I got antibiotics and started pushing, and pushing, and my husband was prepared to catch the baby. That was something he really wanted to do. He was down there. The midwife was down there. Pushing, pushing, pushing. And then all of a sudden, you know, I felt that beautiful head just come right through. For me, it was like a pop. It was wonderful. Her head came through and I was like, “I’m doing this right.” 

But then I hear my midwife yell, “Thick mec. Thick mec. There’s thick mec.” And the NICU team ran in and swarmed the room and I didn’t know what thick mec meant. I thought she was saying, “Thick neck,” and so I thought something was wrong with my baby’s neck. It’s like one of our jokes now, but at the time it was very… What’s wrong with her neck, I kept saying, and I was in the fog of Pitocin, and epidural, and I felt like nobody could hear me. Nobody was listening to me. Nobody was looking at me. Everybody’s staring at my vagina. And I have no clue what’s going on. 

And all of a sudden, we hear the midwife say, “One, two, three,” and then hand the baby off to the NICU. The cord had been wrapped around our daughter, Avalon, three times. 

Lozada: Okay, and I want to stop to bring some context and clarify this complex and even scary situation, so that we don’t traumatize listeners. The cord around the neck wasn’t creating issues for the baby getting oxygen, because in utero, babies get oxygen through the cord, not their noses, and also because the midwife was able to unloop it and not cut it, which we know by her counting of the loops, then we can assume that it wasn’t tight. Cords wrapped around the neck once or even twice are super common, but a cord that is wrapped three times is more rare, and I wonder if in this case the cord was also wrapped around the baby’s body, as well. 

The main concern here is the meconium. Meconium can be rather common, and if baby swallows it in utero, that’s usually not the problem. The problem is if the baby inhales the meconium into their lungs immediately after being born, because then it can bring in some breathing issues. But even in severe cases, those issues can go away in a few days with treatment. To minimize that risk, what they do is they wipe babies faces and suction mouths and noses ideally before they take a breath. Now, what the wrapped cord was doing was making it more difficult for the baby to descend, making this birth so darn long, until somehow baby Avalon was able to sort it out and make her way out into the world. 

Let’s get back to Myra. 

Flynn: She had been staying still inside of me, not descending, but also not turning side to side, so nobody could really see that sharp, jagged thing that they needed to see in the monitoring to see, “Oh, there’s a cord. Time to get this baby out.” She just knew to stay still, but what she had done with all this Pitocin, she’d been pooping inside of me for like two days, so thick mec meant thick meconium. And I got an infection because of this meconium. That was responsible for my fever. And she needed antibiotics, as well. 

So, that was the big surprise, you know, that damn cord. They still were gracious enough to give me my first moment with my baby on my chest, and she nursed right away, and it was just beautiful, and then the NICU took her, and that’s a whole other birth story. 

Lozada: Okay. And I want to highlight that the fact that Avalon nursed after being checked out by the pediatric team in the labor room also tells me her breathing was fine and that she was vigorous. She then went off to the NICU for antibiotics and observation as a precaution for her fever, which can point to an infection. So, when Myra says that she was in the hospital for eight days, that includes five days of birth and three days of Avalon being in the NICU.

Flynn: And yes, I worry about traumatizing other mothers with my birth stories, especially other Black mothers, but I will say this. It took me a year to say this. You can hold both trauma and absolute joy in the same space when it comes to your birth story. And most women do. And they don’t talk about it, which is why I’m so honored to be on here and find it really important to start talking. But I did not want to be the statistic, the Black statistic in America on the holidays that my mother was with me. 

Lozada: It is an honor to have you here to share your story and to bear witness of your telling, even if it’s a year later, and so thank you so very much. 

Flynn: My goodness. Thank you so much for having me. It feels really good to share and I want to encourage other women to study their birth, recount their birth, talk to other people who are involved in their birth, and then do this. Share their stories. Because you never know how much it will empower another woman in the process. 

Lozada: That was singer, songwriter and mom, Myra Flynn. If you want to hear more about her birth, NICU, and breastfeeding experiences, follow her on Instagram @BabyMamaMyra, and to learn more about her music, go to MyraFlynn.com. 

I hope your takeaway from this story is that sometimes the complexity of birth can bring on a set of overlapping circumstances that can make it very confusing and scary. This birth was probably somewhat confusing for the medical team, since they were not seeing any signs of distress from the baby’s heartbeat. It was confusing for Myra, who also wasn’t getting clarity as to what was going on, and the situation was making her question her choices. And it probably was also confusing for Baby Avalon, who was having some difficulties making her way out. What caused her to poop for such a long time? It’s almost impossible to say as we don’t really know why babies poop in utero. It could be that she wasn’t happy about the intensity of the Pitocin contractions, the labor in general, that her system at 41 weeks was mature enough just to poop for several days, or something else. When all these circumstances come together, it can sound really scary, and it can be when you’re in it. And it can definitely be a lot to process. 

One thing you can do for you is to learn about the induction process and the evidence behind the different common reasons why they happen. To do this, listen to our episodes titled The Induction Process and All About Inductions, and read the evidence-based birth articles on induction for due dates, for big babies, and for low amniotic fluid. 

The one thing you can do for the rest of us is support the reintroduced Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act. You heard Myra mention at the end that she herself was a holiday hospital baby and that a lot of her fears and motivation were informed by what she knew from her own mother’s birth experience as a Black woman, as well as how the ongoing maternal crisis in America disproportionately affects Black moms. No one should go into birth fearing that they will be a part of this statistic. The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 is made up of 12 different bills that address every dimension of the maternal health crisis in America. Follow @BMHCaucus on Twitter to learn more.

You can connect with Birthful on Instagram @BirthfulPodcast and to learn more about Birthful and my birth and postpartum preparation classes, go to Birthful.com. 

Lozada: Birthful was created by me, Adriana Lozada, and is a production of Lantigua Williams & Co. The show’s senior producer is Paulina Velasco. Virginia Lora is the managing producer. Cedric Wilson is our lead producer and Kojin Tashiro mixed this episode. Thank you for listening to and sharing Birthful. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, and everywhere you listen. And come back next week for more ways to inform your intuition. 

CITATION: 

Lozada, Adriana, host. “[Birth Stories]: 5-Day Induction Makes for a Very Confusing and Grueling Birth. Birthful, Lantigua Williams & Co., February 16, 2021. Birthful.com.

 


 

Myra Flynn, pregnant, wears a black bikini and head wrap, kneeling in the shadow of a wicker structure with the shadows on her body

Image description: Myra Flynn, a Black woman, is pregnant plus is wearing a black bikini and head wrap, kneeling while sunlight filters through wicker leaving shadows on her skin

About Myra Flynn

Singer/songwriter Myra Flynn spends her career embracing dichotomy. Half Irish and half African American, her original indie/soul songs blend soulful vocals with a lyrical delivery that doesn’t let one get too comfortable. As the New England Deli Magazine puts it, “Her vocal influences have as much in common with Ani DiFranco and Shawn Colvin as they do with Rihanna and Jill Scott.”

Currently, Myra Flynn lives a bi-costal life, still holding onto her roots in Vermont half of her year while also working and living part-time in Los Angeles under the guidance of Swift Street Management Team. She has toured the United States countless times as well as: Whales, London, Ireland and most frequently, Australia. Her motto regarding next steps and fame tends to be: “If you’re doing it, you’ve already made it.”

Learn more about her music at MyraFlynn.com or on Instagram @BabyMamaMyra.

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