The Birth of Baby D


The birth of our beautiful new son did not go as I had planned. The end result, however — a healthy baby– is worth reality laughing in the face of my ideals. Here is how the birth was supposed to go: I begin to feel contractions. Remaining calm, I take a nap and a shower, wash any laundry in the hamper, cook a meal to bring to the birth center, maybe take a walk. When the contractions become undeniably persistent I call the midwife, who tells me to come in right away, my baby will make an entrance soon. Once at the birth center, my husband helps me remain in my right mind through the active stage of labor. I receive no medication, and during the pushing stage my vocalizations are sane– no screaming. In the end the baby is born, nurses right away, and we go home within twelve hours to bond and recover in our own environment.

Here is what really happened:

Friday May 13: At 5:30 in the afternoon I begin to experience contractions. I don’t allow myself to get excited, thinking that it may be false labor. So I take a shower, walk around the house, and relax. The contractions do not subside. Throughout Friday evening the contractions come at regular intervals and increase in intensity. I allow myself to get excited. This is the real deal! I consider calling the midwife, but remember what I learned in birthing class– early labor is long. Stay home as long as possible. So, instead of interrupting the midwife’s Friday evening, I spend the night trying to sleep but having mental images of a baby born in the kitchen because I chose not to call. The contractions are getting stronger and come sometimes five minutes apart, sometimes ten. I tell my husband somewhere around midnight, because I can not hide the pain anymore. He wants to call. I say wait for morning. Finally, dawn.

Saturday, May 14: We are supposed to attend a family member’s first communion. I ask my husband to politely give our regrets. I stay in the bedroom for most of the morning because we haven’t let the other family members in the house know that labor has started. Around ten o’clock I call the midwife, congratulating myself that I have waited until a decent hour and fully expecting her to tell me to come to the birthing center. Actually, she tells me that labor has definitely started but is nowhere near over. Her advice is to take a nap and call back when contractions are regularly three minutes apart. A little disappointed but still sure that the baby was coming that day, I wait. And wait. The contractions never become regular. I begin to go a little nutty. We wait some more. At 5pm three aunts and three cousins arrive from out of state for a planned visit. They bring all of the gifts from the baby shower they held in my absence. While I open the gifts they have a blast timing contractions. Finally they are coming at regular intervals 5 minutes. Everyone wants to go to the birth center now. I say I was instructed not to call until the contractions are three minutes apart. Everyone says that is risky. I hold out until 7pm. I call the midwife again. She says that labor has progressed, but that I should stay home longer. My parents, my aunts, my cousins, and my husband disagree. At eight o’clock my family makes the decision to go- I don’t have much choice. We caravan to the birth center to be there “just in case”.

Now we are in the parking lot. Contractions three minutes apart! Much, much more painful now. My husband calls the midwife, who is surprised that we are at the birth center already. I am torn between wanting to apologize and just wanting to get into the birth center. She tells us she will be there in 15-20 minutes. We watch every passing car hopefully until she arrives. It is a relief to get inside. She checks my dilation and calmly announces “Four centimeters”. I am really disappointed. We can’t even be admitted to the birth center until five centimeters. Aargh! Thankfully, she lets us stay. She says labor progresses at an average of one centimeter an hour, plus about two hours of pushing for first time moms. So, she predicts, we should have a baby in about eight hours. Yay! That is very exciting. I lean over a birthing ball through contractions for the next hour and a half. The midwife checks my dilation again. Still four centimeters. What?! No problem, she says, sometimes it just takes a while. Meanwhile, my family has arrived and are in the waiting room. I can hear loud laughter. At least they are having a good time. As time passes the pain becomes intense. I do not like showing pain, but I find it impossible not to make a sound something like a walrus having a root canal with every contraction.

Sunday, May 15. Somewhere after midnight. disheartening, the contractions have spaced out again. Five minutes. Seven minutes. Six minutes. At this point she suggests breaking my water to try to get thing moving. I reluctantly agree. When the water is broken, there is light meconium in it. Not enough to be an emergency, but we can’t wait too much longer. When my dilation is checked again– six hours after arriving at the birth center– the midwife announces “Five centimeters”. My exact response was “Five centimeters?! That’s ridiculous!” I have no composure left. I burst into disheartened sobs. The midwife now suggests that we go to the hospital and get some pitocin. With meconium in the amniotic fluid and such slow progress, she says, it is the safest option. I am convinced that she is suggesting this because I am being a wimp about the pain. I am not thinking clearly, and I am crying  uncontrollably. I agree to the transfer feeling totally defeated. My family, the midwife, my husband and I make our way across the street to the hospital. I refuse a wheelchair, wanting to preserve my dignity enough to walk to the birthing room under my own power. Stopping for contractions along the way, I succeed in walking to the room. A small victory that seemed very important at the time. Once in the room I need to fill out admitting papers before I can receive any treatment. Thankfully that process doesn’t take too long. Once I am admitted I throw all of my ideals out the window and opt for an epidural. I am very sad about this. When the anesthesiologist arrives, he is very friendly. unfortunately he has to explain in detail to me everything about the procedure. This is legally required, but in reality I can’t focus on anything he is saying and I just want him to get on with it. When he does begin to put the epidural in, I feel sharp, shooting pain down one side of my body. I can only communicate this as “Ow ow ow ow!!!” Thankfully the anesthesiologist  believes me and does not follow the suggestion of the well meaning but off track nurse who asks “Should we give her something to calm her down?” He gets me to clarify what the pain is like, then tries a different spot for the epidural. Much better. The pain relief takes effect very quickly. It feels odd not to be able to move my legs by myself. They feel very heavy– like they are made of stone. The nurse and my husband help me move into a comfortable position, and a pitocin drip is started. The nurse advises me to try to sleep.  Surprisingly, I do. My husband is also able to sleep on a sofa that is next to my bed. I wake up a few hours later. I feel contractions. A nurse says no problem, we’ll put some more medication in. Let’s just check… ten centimeters! No time for medication, it’s time to push. Finally! The midwife who has been with us all night comes into the room and coaches me through the first couple of pushes, but it is time for her to leave. The next midwife, who has a completely different style, is coming on shift now. She is good at what she does, but she is like a drill sergeant. “You’ve  got to push your baby out!”, she yells at me more than once. This makes me very annoyed. Tell me something I don’t know. “Push harder!” When I try to answer she barks “No talking. Direct all your energy to pushing.” Since I had the epidural, I ended up lying on my back to push, which I had hoped to avoid. Although the epidural was worn off enough for me to feel contractions and move my legs easier, I still did not have full muscle control over my legs. So the repeated admonition to hold my legs back as far as I could while not putting any energy into them was frustrating me. I kept saying “I’m trying!”, which just led to the midwife telling me not to talk. She told me several times to pretend that I didn’t own my legs– while holding them back as far as they would go– and direct all of my energy to pushing. In a calm state of mind I would have said “I don’t physically know how to do that”. As it was I just kept saying “I’m trying”, and she kept telling me not to talk. I am getting angry with her.

“Your baby has dark hair!”

“You can see the baby?”

“Yes, The top of the head is here. Push hard. Get the baby out! You’re not pushing hard enough!”

“I’m try–”

“Stop talking and push!”

This goes on for a while. The baby’s head is right there but not coming out. This apparently is my fault.

“This is not good for your baby. You are not pushing as hard as you can. You’ve got to get the baby out!”

I surely thought I was pushing as hard as I could.

“The head is almost out! Reach down and touch your baby’s head.”

“No!”

“You are birthing a baby. Touch your baby!”

“No!” ( I am not sure why I did not want to touch the baby’s head, but there was no way she was going to make me do it.)

With the next push the head was out. At this point my husband was able to take over and guide the baby’s body out.

“It’s a boy!”

“A boy? Is he okay?” By this point he was being looked at by a doctor. I do not know when the doctor came into the room. I don’t know if anyone answered my question. A few seconds later, though, he was on my chest. He was beautiful. He was screaming. He was a little slimy.

After all of the pain, and all of the anger directed at the drill sergeant midwife, I felt total relief. I felt great. He was indeed okay. He was more than okay. He was healthy, alert, and the love of my life. He nursed right away– no latching problems. Drill sergeant midwife disappeared, and my husband, baby D and I were alone to bond. It was all completely worth it.

Mommy Madness


It will be five weeks tomorrow that our beautiful son has been out of the womb. He amazes us every second– every little thing he does, every sound he makes, seems miraculous. Very little is going according to plan– there are posts coming covering nursing, cloth diapering, elimination communication, and sleep. I have been working piece by piece on a post about his birth, which is also forthcoming. As it is baby D and I are still figuring each other out. My time has two categories: baby D and training. I have become even more serious about the upcoming marathon, and I have added cycling to my athletic obsession. I cheated a little (don’t tell the midwife), and started exercising seriously three weeks post partum. There have been no problems. It feels so good to run again! I am slower than before, but I don’t care. With the help of my dedicated husband I have been running or going to the gym every day. A baby plus a training program really does take cooperation from both parents. At first I felt totally guilty leaving baby D for any amount of time, no matter how brief. I felt like a neglectful mother when I realized I had been concentrating on the workout and had not thought of him for a couple of minutes. Now I don’t feel as guilty– he is my motivation to work harder to get back to him sooner.

Right now cycling is taking up much of my other-than-baby thoughts. I was able to get a very basic, entry-level road bike. Score! I thought there was no way I could afford a road bike. I bought it as-is from a department store. It is being tuned up at the local bike shop now. My thoughts are already turning to century rides… Ok, how about just building base miles first. I do plan on upgrading most of the components over time– so much fun!

It is interesting– now that I have had a baby, I have become more serious about becoming an athlete. I am morphing from a recreational runner who aspired to complete a marathon to a woman on a mission to reach my physical limits. Did the experience of childbirth bring this on? Do I want to prove that the body can improve and reach new heights after having a baby? Have I gone a bit mad? I’m not sure yet.

 

Welcome Baby D!


 

It has  been a busy couple of weeks! Baby boy D was born two weeks ago today. He was 7lbs. 8 oz., 20 inches long, and has a full head of dark hair. The birth did not go as we planned. I will post about that when I have a little more time. He is healthy and woderful, and worth every second of labor– which lasted from Friday night until Sunday morning. He is the new little light of our lives!

Why a Birth Center?


Moms have choices as to where and how they want to birth their babies. Gone are the days when everyone went to the hospital– and before that when everyone had to birth at home. When I was considering where to birth, my first thought was to stay home. There would be no rush to another birthing place, we would remain in our own comfortable environment, baby’s first moments would be spent surrounded by the things that will become part of his or her life, and I would be in complete control of my movements and choices during labor.

However, as this is my first child I do not know what to expect during labor. My husband is supportive of home birth, but I think choosing to remain home for our first birth would have caused him and our family great anxiety. The most common birthing place, though, the hospital, was out of consideration from the beginning. While some hospitals are better than others, in all of them the birth process is subject to hospital routine and protocol. A routine IV is pretty much universal practice, fetal monitoring that requires the mom to lay on her back is most often required, and moms are usually restricted to the flat on the back/knees pushed up to chest position for pushing. This position is the easiest for the doctor who is catching the baby, but it does not allow the mother’s pelvis to open to full capacity, resulting in more difficultly for the baby in coming through the pelvis. This leads to greater likelihood of tearing or episiotomy, longer pushing, and greater chance of surgical intervention. When I learned that mothers birthing in hospitals must submit unquestioningly to one-size-fits-all policies I knew I did not want to go that route. Not every birth follows the same pattern. Why try to make everything the same for the convenience of the medical staff?

There is another, less well known option. Birthing centers provide the security of knowing that medical help is available if needed, but trust the ability of the woman’s body to birth a baby. Birth is not treated as a medical emergency unless a complication really does occur, whereupon it is treated. When birth happens in the way it is supposed to happen– when the woman’s body is allowed to do what it is designed to do in birth and trusted to be able to allow the baby to pass from the womb– there are no arbitrary restrictions on what a mom can do and how she must birth. Midwives encourage the mother to adopt the positions during labor that will best help baby proceed down the birth canal and provide maximum space for baby to pass through the pelvis. The mother is encouraged to drink to stay hydrated, and to eat if she feels so inclined. The injunction against food and drink during labor in hospitals is a precautionary measure in case general anesthesia is required. Since general anesthesia is a very rare measure during birth, birthing centers take the approach that it is better for mom to keep hydrated and strong while performing a very strenuous task than to be restricted to ice chips for fear of needing anesthesia. Birthing centers also allow new mothers to go home sooner than hospitals. If mom and baby are healthy and mom wants to go home a few hours after birth there is nothing stopping her. I’d much rather bond with my baby and recover in my own home.

I think birthing centers will grow steadily in popularity. As more and more women choose birthing centers and come away with stories of safe, calm births they will become more socially acceptable. The birth center that I am using is freestanding (not associated with a hospital), but is just across the street from the hospital. In the fourteen years it has been operating there have been two emergency transfers, both of which resulted in healthy moms and babies. More women than that have chosen to transfer to the hospital for pain medication. (There are no epidurals offered at the birth center.) I like those numbers– you can transfer if you want, but only two women in fourteen years have actually had a medical reason to transfer. That reiterates for me that birth is usually a safe, non-emergency process.

It is true that many women did previously die during childbirth. My own great-grandmother died giving birth at home in 1919. The difference now is that moms are transferred right away when complications arise, and there are more medical interventions available when they are truly needed. We can also stop postpartum hemorrhage, which was a major factor in maternal death. All in all, women have more options in birth now than ever. I am so thankful that we are not all locked in to the same routine procedures! I will write about my experience at the birth center after my baby is born. Anyone who would like to share their birth story, wherever you chose to birth, is welcome to do so via comments.

Your Baby is Too Big


I just want to feature a link to a blog post written by a doula about the fear tactic of a baby being “too big” that is used to get women to agree to induced labor and planned cesareans. This this post is worth your time!

The Big Baby Myth