Eli’s Birth Story

October 2

I woke up feeling crampy. I remember telling Geoff it felt like my period was on its way (which I know is ridiculous, but I was crampy, with lots of backache) I was some what uncomfortable throughout the day, and thought maybe my body was starting to get ready for labor.I asked Geoff to walk with me, so we went to Wal-Mart because it was cool and dark out by the time he got home. We walked around for an hour or two and I was just really uncomfortable. When we got home, I had a cup of  Red Raspberry Leaf tea and took some evening primrose oil (I had been doing both for a few weeks, because they are both supposed to help with labor in different ways) so I drank a cup of tea and we went to bed. I thought I was having contractions, but I was feeling it mostly in my back and hips. I was able to get to sleep with back rub from the hubby.

October 3
I woke up at 2am with a bad gall bladder attack. I went into the bathroom and vomited several times and took a percocet and zofran. I vomited again shortly thereafter, and took another percocet and woke Geoff up. He decided we needed to head to the hospital because in the past, the percocet had not been enough to get the pain to a tolerable level. We got to the hospital around 3am and they checked me into labor and delivery (standard procedure for pregnant women). The nurse tried to check me because I was having contractions on the monitor, even though I wasnt aware of them. I was in a massive amount of pain, so she wasnt able to get a definitive measure of my cervix but thought I was about a fingertip dilated. I ended up declining pain meds at the hospital because the percocet finally kicked in, and I was feeling better. I felt stupid for going in, but in the end our experience has been that at home meds dont usually work, it has had to be IV pain meds because of the intensity of the pain. We left the hosptial at approximately 5 am and went home to sleep. Geoff fell right asleep in bed, and I curled up with him and my cat and tried to sleep. I slept for about 45 minutes or so, and woke up with back labor. I got up and made myself a pillow nest on the couch and put in a movie to try and center myself. I made myself some hot apple cider and toast and laid down on the couch. At around 7am I called my mom and chatted with her for about an hour. It was a really meaningful conversation for me, in the quiet of the morning there were no distractions or background noise on her end, which can be extremely difficult because they have a busy house :o). My mom said then that she thought I was in labor and that he’d be here by Wednesday, but I dismissed it and thought we were just warming up because I wasnt expecting him til after his due date (October 13). My mom and I made arrangements for her to come up on Monday because I wanted the company really badly and sometimes there’s nothing like time with mom. I was planning to have her come up and we could walk, and just hang out because I wasnt feeling great. After we hung up, Geoff woke up and we spent the day hanging out and resting from our looong night before. My contractions starting picking up around dinner time and lasted through the night. Geoff and I spent the whole night going from the bedroom to the living room to the bath tub on my hands and knees and so on. My contractions were irregular, and I was only feeling them in my back. Geoff spent the night providing counter pressure for the increasingly uncomfortable contractions I was having. We laid on the couch from about 11pm until 5am and watched Netflix while I worked through each contraction.
October 4

 

I spent a lot of time on my knees, bent over the ottoman while Henry ran back and forth between me and Geoff, worried about my groans and sways. I felt so powerful and womanly swaying and vocalizing through the contractions. Around 5am Geoff suggested a hot bath. I spent about an hour in the tub, trying to relax and welcome each contraction. At this point I was trying not to get my hopes up because my contractions were still very irregular ranging from 2 minutes to 10 minutes apart. At 7 am, as the sun was coming up, Geoff made some coffee and we decided to go for a walk. We slipped on our slippers and hoodies over our pajamas and walked around the neighborhood for half an hour. That walk was one of my favorite parts of the day, the neighborhood was very quiet, the sun was still low in the sky and the air was cool and we spent the time talking about our future son and labor and delivery. We discussed our hopes for our son, and about how we want him to grow up to be a sweet, loving, respectful man who is strong and hard working. I felt so close to my husband in those moments. I had a few contractions as we walked, and I stopped and held onto his neck and swayed through them. When we got home we rested some more and waited for my mom. My mom got here around 9:00am and suggested we call my midwife and see if we could go in and get checked. I was resistant because I didnt want to go in and be told I was at 1/2 cm and go home, it was a false start. Nevertheless, Geoff insisted so we called and made an appointment for 11am. We finished picking up a few things around the house and made sure the bag was packed just in case. We got the doctors office, and Terri Gross (one of the four midwives at the clinic) saw us. It took a while to get in so I spent 20 minutes on my knees, leaning over the back of a chair with contractions off and on. When we got back into the exam room, Terri checked me and excitedly announced I was at 6cm, 100% effaced, and +2. I was thrilled! We headed over the hospital! On the way, I called my dad and texted my siblings with the good news. Geoff called his parents and sister, who helped spread the word that we should have the baby that day!! Once we got checked in, I realized I forgot to bring a copy of my birth plan. I told my nurse that, and explained to her that I wanted a natural childbirth, I would prefer not to be asked what my pain level was or be offered pain meds. I also stated that if I got to the point where I was asking for pain meds, I was open to alternative means. This may have come back to bite me…Somewhere in there Geoff called Katie (our doula) and she arrived a few hours later. Once she got there we settled into a routine of me laboring while walking around the room, on my hands and knees leaning over the back of the bed and so on. My labor was all in my back and my contractions were getting quite strong. Katie had some great techniques to help me cope, including the use of a rebozo wrap, which went around my hips and allowed her to simultaneously help squeeze my hips, and put counter pressure on my intense back labor. I am not really sure how long we labored like that, because my sense of time disappeared.

At some point I decided to get in the tub and put on my swim suit. While I was in the tub, my brother and Geoff’s sister got to the hospital. They were able to come in a visit for while, since I was sort of dressed. Laura sat with me for a while and her and Katie kept my shoulders and hips warm with wet wash clothes while I lay on my side in the tub so they could help apply counter pressure. I dont know exactly how long I was in the tub because at this point my sense of time sort of disappeared. My midwife, Kelly Jean came in and checked me and said I was about 7cm and station +1. I was not progressing very fast at this point and becoming frustrated. We kept laboring, walking and doing counter pressure. My mom went out and got the family at some point to come in and say hi. Geoff’s dad, his dad’s girlfriend, his mom, stepdad and sisters where all there. I only saw them for a few minutes because my contractions were getting really strong at this point.

 

We continued laboring together, Katie providing constant counter pressure and Geoff and my mom offering moral and emotional support. I cant give a definitive time line at this point because, like I said, my sense of time disappeared. At some point Kelly Jean came back in and wanted to check me again and I declined, because I knew I hadn’t progressed. I was getting frustrated and exhausted at this point. I had been awake roughly since 2 am Saturday morning, and we were now at 6 pm Monday night. My contractions were getting increasingly intense, but not becoming more regular. I think around 8 or so Kelly Jean came back in and decided to check me again. I was at 8 cm at this point and starting to feel despair. She thought breaking my water might help labor pick up so I tried to get comfortable on my side in bed so she could. This is one part of my birth experience i am not sure I would repeat. By breaking my water, I doubt the baby had any chance to turn, but at the time we werent sure what his position was. Once she broke my water, she was able to tell he was occiput posterior.http://www.birthingnaturally.net/birth/challenges/posterior.html That basically means he was facing my stomach instead of my back, so the back of his head (the occiput) was against my back, so it makes entering the birth canal extremely difficult. If they hadn’t broken my water, maybe he could’ve turned…but maybe not. He had a long time with lots of contractions to turn and didnt so there’s no telling what would have happened if we hadnt ruptured my membranes. My contractions became MUCH stronger at this point, and I was becoming extremely discouraged because I wasnt progressing very quickly and my contractions were starting to become unbearable. Before this point I was able to groan, moan and make throaty, low noises to cope through them, but at this point I was screaming. I have never felt anything so intense in my life. I started begging for it to end and was screaming for some one to make it stop. I finally asked for pain medicine, much to my own chagrin. I felt my hopes for a natural  birth experience slowly draining away at this point, but I could no longer cope. The gave me a shot of something, and it helped for all of two contractions. I tried to keep laboring, but the pain in my back was becoming so intense I couldnt deal. My midwife suggested I get back in the bath tub to see if that provided any help, and I agreed. I dont know how long I was in there, but my mom sat with me for a while so Katie and Geoff could step out. I started becoming afraid of contractions at this point and remember being overwhelmed with the intensity of them. I got out of the bath tub and had a few contractions while sitting on the toilet. For some reason, my midwife wanted me to try laboring on the toilet but I HATED it. That was the worst position for me, I had to be either on my hands and knees or standing, I couldnt bear to sit through them. I remember holding onto the rail in the bathroom watching my legs shake. At this point, I was butt naked and remember registering some embarrassment that my doula and good friend was seeing me naked but mostly I didnt care. My legs felt like jelly and somehow I got back to bed and begged for the epidural. Kelly Jean suggested a sterile water block in my back at this point to help with the back labor, because it was supposed to act like counter pressure. My poor doula and hubby. Their wrists, hands and arms had to ache by now from the intense pressure they were applying. We tried the water block and it made it worse because they couldnt put pressure on my back anymore because it would undo the water block. I decided I had to have the epidural. I always thought once I asked for an epidural, it would be instant, but its not. It seems like it took at least an hour between finally convincing them to give it to me (remember I told them not to offer…yeah) and then I had to have at least half a bag of fluids in me and so on. Finally the anesthesiologist came in and I was sitting on the bed in a tank top and nothing else and I didnt care. He was really kind and helpful and got the epidural in place quickly and efficiently. He didnt do it too heavily, thankfully because once he left my midwife turned the lights off and told me to try and rest. I collapsed into bed, exhausted. Katie let me lay there for a few minutes or so and then told me I needed to get up on my hands and knees. I was able to do this even with the epidural, I still had control over my legs. She was hoping if I kept turning the baby would turn. At this point I became aware that his heart rate was dropping. My blood pressure was really low and I felt like I was going to black out. Katie helped me get on one side then the other so the epidural didnt pool on one side of my body. Kelly Jean came in and put two monitors on us. One under the scalp of the baby to better monitor his heart rate, and one next to his head to measure the strength of my contractions since I could no longer feel them. My contractions were getting less intense, which at this point told us that my labor was stalling.  I was really distraught and Kelly Jean and another nurse came in and were surprised to see me up on my hands and knees, but were concerned about the baby. My blood pressure was very, very low and the baby’s heart rate was no longer indicating he was responding positively to the contractions. In fact it was the opposite, as my contractions peaked, his heart rate dropped. I was scared for my baby. They put me on oxygen to help my heart rate and blood pressure, and some where in here Geoff stepped out.

 

 He came back and saw me oxygen and he became really upset and concerned about both me and the baby. My dad arrived at the hospital shortly after and I remember him coming back to see me, and holding my hand. All I could do at that point was lay there and hold my dad’s hand and try not to cry. I was so distraught at this point and discouraged that I had labored for so long for nothing. Kelly Jean came back because she was worried about the baby, she said we should monitor him for a few more minutes and see what happened and then decide whether to go forward with pitocin or a c-section. At the words “C-section” my heart went through my stomach. That was the last thing I wanted, but at the same time it meant my baby was so close to being in my arms and out of harms way. His heart rate continued to not respond the way we wanted and we made the decision. They told me two people could come back with me. I was torn. I knew Geoff would be there, but I didnt know if I wanted Katie or my mom to be the other one. I wanted my mom there because she’s my mom and I didnt want her to miss anything but Katie had been so supportive and she is an RN, so I felt safe having her there to lean on. We decided to have Katie and Geoff accompany me into surgery. The got me prep’d and wheeled me back. I dont remember the trip down there really, I just vaguely remember them transferring me onto the board and upping the epidural so I could go through surgery.

The curtain went up and Geoff sat by me and distracted me through the beginning of the surgery. Katie took some pictures for us and once our son was lifted out, Geoff went with him to see him be weighed, measured and cut the cord. Katie stayed with me as they sewed, stapled and otherwise put me back together. I could hear my baby crying and I started crying. I wasnt responding well to the anesthesia and started shaking violently and feeling very nauseous. The wonderful doctor who did my epidural and Katie worked together to get me stable and stop the shaking. Once I was ok, Geoff brought our son over for me to see. I remember crying my eyes out because he was incredibly beautiful. I wanted to kiss every inch of his tiny face.

They took him away again and Geoff went out into the recovery room to show him to our family. The wheeled me into recovery and I could see my whole family standing outside the window waiting for me. They had to put up the curtain at this point though because I started vomiting again. Once I was OK, they let everyone come back a few at a time to see me. My mom and Geoff and Katie were back there for a few minutes and I took the baby and held him to my breast and like magic, he latched right on! I could feel my heart swell at this little miracle in my arms. I had to have help holding him because of the epidural, but I felt my life change as I held my son for the first time. Eventually everyone came back for a few, and left, and they moved Geoff and I to our room. Katie accompanied us for a few to make sure we were OK and then she left. In hindsight, I am glad I tried everything I did before the epidural and c-section. I am sad that I failed in giving birth to my son naturally, but am thankful that we were in a safe place where we were able to use the miracles of modern science to deliver my son safely. It was worth it in the end and I am thankful everyday for this precious baby boy.

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C-sections and External Versions

This is a topic that I feel quite strongly about. I feel so lucky that with the birth of my daughter, that I was not pressured to have a c-section after I stalled for nine hours at 6 centimeters dilated. Without my amazing midwife and the team I had, I really don’t know what would have happened. Thankfully, it was never even mentioned. But for how many women is it? And how many of those women end up feeling pressured to have one? And lastly, how often is it really necessary?? This will always be one of those things that I will learn as I go. This, obviously, does not have anything to do with times in which a c-section would be appropriate.

The following link will take you to an article written by an OB regarding the top ten signs he/she may be planning a c-section. I agree with most of the points, however #6 regarding a breech baby and performing an external cephalic version (ECV) as the “remedy”. I work in a hospital and in my experience, these are not super successful. Seems that about half the time they work and the other half, they don’t. Then there is a small percentage of the babies who do flip from the ECV but then go back breech before labor begins. Then what? AND not to mention that every woman I have talked to has said that this is so incredibly painful. If you are under the care of a midwife, the on-call OB is the one to perform the ECV. You have to be hooked up to an IV for a number of reasons because it is risky. Placental abruption, cord twisting, and labor onset (which could be as early as 36 weeks) are just a few and really, these are not very common, but something to be aware of. My thoughts are: why not just deliver a breech baby? It seems that many facilities still shy away from allowing healthy moms and babies to deliver in the breech presentation. Transverse breech would be the only time in which I would see a c-section necessary. The hospital I work in and where I delivered both my babies does not yet allow breech or water births unless delivery is imminent (as in-within minutes of arrival). It does happen. I remember when a mother delivered a footling breech baby in front of the ER in her car. Then there was the mama who rode into the birth center backwards on a wheel chair with a tiny little foot ready to come out. There are risks with breech deliveries too. The baby who was born outside the ER did suffer a broken clavicle.

Anyway, this is not the most educationally driven post. I just wanted to write out some thoughts on the subject. Please share your experience with both breech and an ECV, especially if you are already a student or working midwife.

Improving Birth article

Have you heard of improving birth? Have you heard of the blog Improving Birth? As a huge birth advocate, I am always trying to figure out ways to improve birth in our country. How can I become an asset? How can I provoke change? How can I teach and encourage women?? These questions will always be asked until there IS change. That is what Improving Birth is all about. I found an article posted back in December that I wish I could have written. If I had written it, these are the words I would have used. And because I love how well this is written, I am posting it word for word with a link, rather than just linking it. Thank you, Improving Birth, and all birth advocates who are working to make a change.

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I Don’t Care How You Give Birth

Cristen Pascucci, a political and communications specialist, recently joined Improving Birth’s executive board.

Elective C-section?  Ocean waterbirth?  Seriously, go nuts.

You may think that because I chose (and fought) to give birth with no drugs in a hospital, I think everyone should.  Or, that because I rant and rave about our bloated surgical birth and artificial induction rates, that I would do away with these medical interventions.

Absolutely not.

First and fundamentally, I believe that it’s your body, your baby, your birth.  There are many options around birth, and I hope you avail yourself of them–and when you do, it’s none of my business.  There is no one-size-fits-all birth.  I have friends who have given birth across the spectrum from homebirth with no access to pain medication, to a planned epidural at 2 cm dilation, to full-blown elective “convenience” surgery scheduled months ahead, and I stand firmly behind each of those women in their human right to make their own decisions.

For me and my baby, a drug-free birth was of the utmost importance.  It was for personal reasons, really, not because I’m some flaming hippie who doesn’t believe in hospital voodoo.  It was a choice I made and prepared for because I knew it was the best thing for both of us–mostly my baby–that had absolutely nothing to do with being anti-medication or anti-establishment.

Second, these medical interventions save lives when used appropriately.  That is why they were created in the first place.  Sure, their overuse contributes to more dangerous conditions for moms and babies, but when they are used prudently and out of necessity, they preserve life.  In the U.S., in theory, we have the resources to have the best possible outcomes.

What IS important, and what I care deeply about, is that you go into birth with your eyes wide open; that your decisions are based on full and accurate information; that you understand the risks, benefits, and alternatives of your various birth options; that you work with your care provider, and that he or she respects and supports your wishes.

Birth doesn’t always go according to plan, which is why it’s not enough to create a “birth plan” and call it a day.  Sure, most of the time it is safe, but that doesn’t mean it’s predictable.  It’s very possible, even likely, that you and your support team will be called upon to make decisions during labor.  It’s these gametime decisions that can make the difference between a positive experience and a traumatic, dangerous, or disappointing one.  There may not be time at that point for in-depth explanations about the risks, benefits, and safety of various interventions or procedures, so you’ve got to be informed ahead of time of what might come up.

And, probably even more important, you’ve got to have a support team who is on the same page.

If you go into birth unprepared, you are placing your dignity and the safety of your self and your baby directly in the hands of people you may have never met and who may or may not respect you and your wishes.  It could go either way. It’s a huge risk to take.

good example of this is my own birth story: when my care provider was strongly suggesting to me a procedure (an artificial induction at close to 42 weeks pregnancy) that was NOT the only or even the safest option.  I was lucky enough to have better information that allowed me to make a different decision, for a different outcome, that I firmly believe was the safest for me and my baby.  But a little less preparation on my part, and it never would have happened.  What happened with my care provider happens all too often.

I say all this to say that what is truly important, and I think a lot of “birth advocates” would agree with me about, is that you are prepared, informed, and supported in whatever you desire.  You can’t make decisions about what’s best and safest for the two of you if you aren’t informed and supported.  And information and support don’t happen on their own.

When you’re educating yourself about these decisions, you might be surprised at what the evidence shows: surgical birth increases your chances of death by six times, but it can also save your life.  Epidurals can prevent a surgery, just as they can increase the odds of your having to have it.  Natural, unmedicated birth can be the safest option, or it can be impossible.  Every one of these things has lasting effects.  How will you navigate these choices?

Remember: ”If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any.”

So, no, I don’t care how you give birth, as long as it’s your way–and I trust that, as your baby’s mother, you’ve made certain that “your way” thoughtfully considers the best scientific evidence, supported and vetted by your care provider.  (Here is a wonderful summary of the current best evidence for common birth practices and procedures.)  The final decisions about your baby and his or her birth lie with you, the person who is ultimately most invested in your own and your baby’s safety and best care.

And I hope you have the safest, most wonderful experience you can have, bringing your baby into the world.

Article: The Real Risks for Cesareans

As a mama who was able to have the vaginal birth that I wanted, it is hard for me to understand exactly what a cesarean feels like. However, my drive to become a midwife does not waver in that I want to help educate you, dear readers, and any future clients, about the risks involved with a cesarean. There are risks involved with any birth, be it at home, in a hospital, with or without interventions. Heck, pregnancy is risky. The responsibility we as women are given to take care of and nurture a growing being is beyond fathomable which is why educating expecting mamas is so important to me.

This is also another one of those “reasons” as to why I want to be a midwife. I know that not every patient I have will have a successful, med-free vaginal birth. This is just one way to encourage childbirth education and teach women that they DO have a voice.

Check out the article HERE.