Posts Tagged labor

Ashley’s Birth of Hannah, or, A Memorial Weekend to Remember

10 July 2011

I got Ashley’s permission to post my version of her birth story which occurred over Memorial Day weekend, which I wanted to post because it is just about the most amazing birth story ever.  And I consider myself blessed to actually have played a little role in it.  I’m just going to say it: childbirth is a religious experience for me.  I really think God wants to teach us something about Himself with our births and I think this one really demonstrates this.

FRIDAY

Sometime during the day I read on facebook that my friend Ashley was in labor.  So excited.  I knew she was planning for a natural birth, so I’ve tried to support her in this throughout her pregnancy.  I texted her that I was praying and that she should contact me if there was anything I could do for her.  I think I threw in a couple of pain management tips as well.

At 8:45 pm I get a text from her.  “They want to break my water.  it’s either that or pitocin.  What should I do?”  Now I don’t know her medical situation so I definitely don’t know what to do.  I do know that even a minor intervention like the artificial rupture of membranes (aka the doc breaking the water instead of waiting for it to happen naturally) can often lead to other bigger interventions.  And pitocin sucks.  She’s already been in labor for 8 or 9 hours.  I pick up the phone and call her.  While on the phone I listen to her go through about 4 contractions.  They were coming about 5-7 min apart and she could not talk through them.  She was breathing and relaxing and just sounding like she was managing them really well.  Turns out it was the nurse, not the doctor who was putting pressure on her.  I offered words of encouragement and told her it sounded like she was heading into late first-stage labor.  She was concerned that she wasn’t dilating fast enough.  I told her about the natural alignment plateau and that she may dilate quickly later even though she has plateaued right now.  Mostly I just tried to encourage her.  She was doing a really great job and her hubby was supporting her and they made a great team.  But the hospital environment wasn’t doing all they could to support her.  Although, she had heard that one of the doctors on call (a female one) had recently given birth naturally, in water.  That was hopeful news. (from now on I think I’ll call this doc Dr Natural)

SATURDAY

2:12 am.  I get a call.  They want to put her on pitocin.  Doc says she should be dilating 1cm per hour.  It’s now been 15 hours and she’s only dilated 1cm past when she was admitted.  (She’s now at 5cm btw).  Again, I don’t know her whole medical situation so I can’t advise.  But she definitely doesn’t want the pitocin.  First I prayed for her.  Then, together we talked through the pros and cons of all her options.  The good news is that baby’s heartrate is good and Ashley seems to be doing well also.  Labor seems to have stalled completely.  She did not contract while I was on the phone with her this time.  When I hung up she still hadn’t decided whether or not to do the pitocin or go home and wait it out.  She was planning to discuss with Dr. Natural the idea of going home and get her opinion on that.  I told her to pray for wisdom and then just do what she thinks is best.

5:52 am.  Ashley posts this on facebook (which I read at a more godly hour when I woke up):

So…I am all ripe and ready, contracting along my merry way, when I am told I have only dilated 1 cm in 15 hours!!! They wanted me to take pitocin but I declined…my body knows when it’s ready and baby Hannah will come out when she is ready, and not because of some protocol. Even the doc said I made a good choice to go home and wait it out! :)

I was glad.  That was a bold move.  It required a lot of courage and faith. And I was so glad that she did it with the approval of Dr. Natural.  BTW, I’d like to take a moment to discuss momentous occurances in childbirth.  Because I felt that I also had a pivotal moment in my first birth where a big decision had to be made.  One that would have ultimately determined the course of the rest of my labor and birth.  This was it for Ashley.  I’m so impressed with her ability to listen to God’s guidance and listen to her body.  Well done.

7:30 pm.  I called to see how she was doing and spoke with her husband.  Still in labor.  Over 32 hours now.  She is now at the hospital around the corner from her house.  (the previous hospital, the one she had planned to birth at, was about an hour from home)  They seem to be much more comfortable in this hospital than the last one.  Ashley has now started to have very painful back labor, and decided to manage her pain with an epidural.  Mind you, this is the first intervention of this entire labor.  This woman has gone over 30 hours completely natural.  And she’s only dilated to 7 cm.  Not done yet.  Not even ready to push yet.  I told her husband to please tell her that I thought the epidural was a good idea and that she should try to get some rest.  And that’s not lip service.  I’m all for natural birth, but getting an epi after 30 hours of hard labor sounds like a good way to stave off maternal fatigue, and hopefully prevent a c-section.  I don’t blame her one bit.

I start to wonder a few things.  Because this is a super long labor.  And now back labor.  I wonder if her baby was posterior.  I make a mental list of questions to ask her after this is all over.  Posterior labors are known to be long and hard because mom’s body has to turn the baby all the way around.  They often end in c-section because it’s very hard to get through the birth canal when the baby is faced the wrong direction.  Or sometimes the birth attendants are simply impatient and won’t allow a mom to labor as long as Ashley did!

SUNDAY

I’m checking my phone constantly for texts or pictures of the baby.  I’m checking facebook all the time to see if she has posted anything.  There are a couple of posts from her and hubby that make it look like she’s still in labor.  Crazy.  We go to church.  She’s still on my heart.  Thinking, praying, wondering if she had her baby yet.  I started to think that maybe she hasn’t announced the birth yet because it was c-sec and she is in recovery.  After all, something must be going wrong to have a labor this long, right?  Oh Me of Little Faith!

3:20 pm  I finally get a call from her.  Little Hannah Rose was born at 11:20 (ish) am.  I am so happy.  And guess what?  It was completely vaginal!  Ashley’s daughter was born just about 48 hours after labor began and she still had a vaginal birth.  And almost a completely natural one at that.  The long and short of the rest of the birth story is that after a few refills of the epidural she finally started pushing.  Pushed for about 45 minutes when baby’s heart rate dipped a little too low.  Doc told her she need to push her baby out now and well, she did.  Ashley told me that she got really scared and just pushed with all her might.  One more push and it was done.  Wow.

After talking to her, it’s my educated (albeit un-professional) guess that this baby was posterior.  All signs just point to it.  She had the soft front to her belly, the long labor, the eventual back pain.  Just all makes sense.  Her body took 2 days to do it, but turned that baby allllll the way around so it could be born normally.  Wow.  Good thing she didn’t let them break her water at the first hospital.  Good thing she refused pitocin.  Her body wasn’t dilating NOT because it was broken.  Oh no.  Just the opposite– her body was turning a baby around 180 degrees, preparing it for a normal and safe birth.  God knows what He’s doing.

This is why I see birth as a spiritual, religious event.  I see God working in a marvelous, mighty way in childbirth.  Ashley wanted a natural birth and in so doing, opened the door for God to do something really amazing in her life.  She put her trust in God instead of men, and seized the opportunity to witness how great God is.  If she had bowed to the pressure of the interventions early on, she would have never got to see her body do this incredible work.  God really showed up this weekend.  And I am so amazed at the work of His hand!

Doctors who say it doesn’t matter how a baby is born, just that it is born healthy– well, those people are wrong.  This baby and mom were saved from a surgery, from massive amounts of drugs and other unnecessary interventions all because mom had faith, patience, and courage.  Baby and mom are way healthier because of it and the spiritual benefit of birthing in this way is even greater.

Thank you Ashley and Kevin for letting me in on your birth experience.  I was so blessed by it.  Baby Hannah is one lucky kid to have you two for her parents.

You Were Wrong, Doc

12 December 2010

It seems now that I’m processing this second birth experience, I can’t help but compare it to my first. I suppose they are inseparable. Now I had a very good birth the first time around, but it was an uphill battle to accomplish a natural birth at a hospital, especially DRMC, and with the very unsupportive doctors I had. Even though Peer’s birth was natural, there were still many unnatural things that were done to me and the baby that I wanted to make sure didn’t happen again. Like the routine pitocin I was given after the baby was out. I was not asked or warned at all about this and only found out as I was receiving the shot in my arm. Or like the premature cord clamping and cutting, and the subsequent yank the doctor gave the umbilical cord to get the placenta out. Or, in general, the separation that we experienced just to have the baby bathed. Now that I’ve experienced another way, I’ll never go back. (if I can help it)

But mostly what I want to talk about today is the overall unsupportive attitude I had to combat with the doctor throughout my whole experience, and it was culminated in a final comment he made immediately after the birth and then again at my six-week postpartum check-up. He said that I was very small inside and that if Peer had been any bigger, I wouldn’t have been able to deliver vaginally. Peer was 6 lbs 2oz. At my check-up he told me if I ever have a baby any bigger, that I should have a c-section. I was just too small.

I always thought this opinion was hogwash. And guess what, Doctor Bender? I did it. Despite you. I had a bigger baby (a whole pound and three ounces bigger), again without drugs, no episiotomy this time, and considerably less tearing. You cut me badly last time because you thought I couldn’t do it. I needed 30 stitches. I took 10 weeks to heal. This time my birth attendant believed in me and let me do it on my own. As a result I had minimal tearing that needed only 3 stitches. You were wrong.

Here’s another thing that I now know I was right about. The whole issue of the perineum. As I mentioned, last time I had a really bad cut/tear because the doctor insisted that I “needed” an espisiotomy and then when I resumed pushing, the tissue tore like crazy from the already-started laceration. With both my births, I seem to have gotten really powerful and determined at the end (what woman isn’t?), paying no mind to my perineum. So some tearing is probably inevitable for me. Ever since Peer was born, I always knew that I had been somewhat robbed of that culminating sensation of childbirth– the ring of fire. This is the feeling of the soft, thin tissue between the vagina and the rectum stretching (or tearing) as the baby’s head crowns and is born. Why, you may ask, would anybody actually want that sensation? Shouldn’t I be grateful to have been spared? True, it was frickin’ painful. It burned like crazy. But one also must observe how considerably less damaging this series of events were than during my first birth. Last time, my birth attendant intervened and injured me badly. This time there was no intervention, and my perineum remained mostly intact. I am far less injured this time around. And what “injury” I do have from this second birth was my natural fate– not the result of the poor judgment of a pompous, faithless doctor wielding tiny scissors.

Also, in terms of my own experience, feeling the ring of fire was extremely encouraging in the moment of birth. It was obvious what this feeling was, and I knew that I would be completing my hard work and meeting my baby very soon. On a personal level, the more intense the sensation, the more meaningful the memory. In other words, it was an amazing feeling. I’m so glad I got to feel my baby coming out. Fire and all. I’ll never forget it–in fact, I will cherish that moment in my memory forever.

Dr. Bender, you laughed at me when I said I wanted a natural birth and told me I’d be screaming my head off in labor. Well I did it once in your presence and did it again without you. Your words have been lingering in my memory for three years. You don’t know what you do to women when you say these things. You should believe in us. We have more power than you think.

Three Years Ago Today…

6 August 2010

I was lying in bed in the early morning hours, unable to sleep. Suddenly, a rush of water flooded the sheets. I was 37 weeks pregnant and the time had come, taking us all by surprise. The first test of faith came early with the decision to either follow doctor’s orders and go straight to the hospital, or stay home. At home we would be in privacy, in peace, and under only God’s protection. The faith of my husband was greater than mine and we stayed home. He ran to the store to get supplies. I sat alone on my bed. Silently. Peaceful, yet anxious. I waited and prayed for something to happen. I recognized in those silent moments that my faith was weak and the intervention I needed was not medical, but divine. Eventually and slowly the tide began to sweep over me. As pain filled my body, relief and gratitude filled my soul.

He came home. We relocated to the couches, and laid in the darkness. Waiting. Pretending to sleep. Trying to rest. Uncertain of what would lie ahead. Taking note of every sensation. The pain soon moved into my back. No relief was offered between surges. Intensity grew and pain remained constant. We got up and ate something.

As dawn broke, my body was filled with power and overwhelming movement. It was painful, it was intense, and it was all I could think about. We took a short walk, stopping every few moments to rest through the growing tidal waves that were enveloping me. We went home. We ate a real breakfast. We intended to go for another walk, but I said maybe later. I laid down to rest on my side on the couch.

I moaned and moaned with each passing surge. The music I had picked out was too distracting. Relaxing hymns on a solo piano were better. Soon the sensations overcame me and I became consumed in a sea of confusion. I was entering the Dark Forest of Uncertainty. I began to doubt everything– my body, my self, my husband, my faith, God, whether or not I was really in labor. Maybe I was just really sick…? Andy thought the contractions were still 15 minutes apart. I thought they were coming on top of each other. Every time he would ask me a question, I could only moan a mournful “I don’t knooooooooow…” At some point, amidst all this uncertainty I suddenly became staunchly determined of one thing. It was time to leave. I don’t care what anyone says, I don’t know what is going on, I just know we have to leave NOW. Get ready. Get the bags. Get the birth plan. And shut up.

As I waited, I bounced on the birth ball with my head on the back of the couch. While Andy was in the other room, I suddenly felt the first break I’d had in hours. For just a few minutes, peace swept over me like a warm blanket. I was thankful, but I knew what this meant– Transition. I didn’t dare speak this out loud or tell Andy. It was too intimidating to imagine being that close to the birth of our child.

We arrived in the parking lot at 7:00 in the morning. We knew this would be my last chance to eat, so I took a bite of a granola bar and immediately threw up all over the parking lot. Oh well.

The determination I felt ten minutes earlier had now turned into intimidation. I remember Andy’s voice telling people, “woman in labor here,” and I remember people pointing, always pointing, and we followed pointing fingers like roadsigns. The roadsigns eventually led to the overflow room– the only room in the ward that I had been in before, albeit only once.

After I undressed and put on a hospital gown, I laid on my side and let the surges come, still moaning, just riding each wave without regard to what was happening around me. Eventually a nurse came in to check my cervix. To my surprise and delight, her face went blank when she muttered, “you’re complete.” Joy filled my heart. I really was in labor and I had accomplished my first major goal– I had made it past the time when pain medication could be offered. Now I just had to push the baby out.

But that was too scary. I knew she was wrong to put my legs together and tell me not to push, but I was too timid to hear my body telling me that was just the thing to do. So I laid there and waited, moaning and enduring as I had for Godknowshowlong before then. The nurses scurried around the room, getting it ready for the impending birth that suddenly took priority over the others that had been in that hospital waiting for hours. Andy overheard them discussing who was best at catching babies, just in case the doctor didn’t make it.

Eventually, a kind and gentle soul came to me and told me to try practicing pushing. Practice pushes I could handle. So I started practicing. My mother arrived, floating in like a nervous butterfly, ready as always to help with eager excitement. Andy almost left to go get the camera, and I yelled at him the first unkind and panicked statement during whole ordeal. He sent someone else. Very early on, Andy said he could see our precious baby boy’s head making its way into this world.

The doctor made it in time. His cocky attitude and sharp metal instruments were a rude awakening from this world of gentle, caring women and family that loved me. I didn’t notice. He made a rude comment. I didn’t notice. I just kept pushing. There was a brief disagreement about the episiotomy. I shut them up. I had work to do. I had emerged from the Dark Forest, and was now as focused as a lioness on the hunt, as powerful as a tiger in battle. At some point the doctor told me to relax and not push. He made a little snip with his lethal scissors. He told me to push and I did, with all the force my body could muster. Then he panicked and raised his voice, telling me to stop pushing. Then in a surprising moment I heard Andy say, “that’s it! He’s out! You did it! He’s born!” I was confused. I thought it was supposed to be another half an hour. (why? I don’t know. I just thought that.)

I held my slimy, sticky, amazing baby boy in my arms for the first time. I cried and openly praised God for what He had done. Everyone asked what his name was and Andy said, “this is Peer.”

This is Peer. My best friend, my precious baby boy. My firstborn. The one who made me a mother. The one who, without knowing it, birthed me on that day into a new being that I didn’t know could exist. I will never forget that day as long as I live, and every year at this time I will relive it, and cherish it, with awe, gratitude, and love.