by Lydia, USA
The story of Kathryn's birth really begins almost 3 years ago, when we were expecting our first baby. We read everything we could and decided to birth in a free standing birth center with a midwife.
I had a great pregnancy and we waited for the big day. On my due date, a Wednesday, I started to have some mild cramping and a pain in my lower right side. The cramping didn't get worse but the pain soon became unbearable. At the time we all assumed it was caused by the ligaments stretching as the baby made its way further into the pelvis.
After 2 days of no sleep, we opted to go to the hospital for an induction. Hoping to get an epidural and some rest so that I would be able to push when the time came. We arrived at noon on Friday, and started Pitocin. I dilated to a 3 and they broke my water and then tried to start the Epidural. The anesthesiologist had a difficult time and we soon realized that the epidural did not work.
I continued to labor with the Pitocin until 4:00 AM and progressed to 5 cm. By that time I had not slept in almost 60 hours and could not handle it anymore. After talking to the doctor about trying the Epidural again, I decided to have the C-sect. Guyler was born at 4:30 AM Saturday.
During the surgery the doctor discovered the source of all the pain, my fallopian tube on the right side had become twisted and basically died. It was completely black and shriveled when he removed it. Although a Csection was the last thing I wanted, in the end it was the right decision, and I took some comfort in knowing that in some way my body knew what it was doing in not dilating. The decision had been mine alone and I felt okay with it.
I had an easy recovery as far as sections go; the baby nursed well from the beginning, life was good. But I knew my next baby was meant to be born naturally. I immediately started researching VBAC. The doctor that delivered my son is one of the few in our city who will still attend a VBAC so I assumed that he would be our doctor for the next baby
Two years later when we found out I was pregnant again, I made an appointment with Dr. G., excited about having a VBAC with a doctor who would support me. That first appointment was not what I expected. I waited for 45 minutes in the waiting room, saw the nurse and then Dr. G. came in for about 5 minutes. When I told him I wanted a VBAC, his first response was “Oh, Yuck!!” He then proceeded to tell me that sure I could try to VBAC as long as I had a picture perfect pregnancy, but couldn't tell me exactly what that meant. I knew it was time to look elsewhere.
Homebirth had been something we considered with our first so I started looking for a midwife to attend me at home. A friend had birthed 2 babies at home with P.J., so I made an appointment with her and we were on our way to a homebirth. I loved that my previous Csection was never an issue with her; I think I was the only one who ever brought it up after our initial meeting. She believed that I could have a natural birth and so did I, I wouldn't have to fight for what I wanted every step of the way.
I was due on April 5th, my husband, John, was scheduled to go back to work for 4 days on Monday the 3rd, I mentioned to him the Thursday before that I really felt like the baby might come that weekend. We went to the beach on Saturday to take some pregnancy photos and on Sunday night at about 10:00 I had my first contraction, 10 minutes later another followed and they continued, we went to bed and I was able to sleep through them for a while.
I fully expected to wake the next morning and it be a false alarm. But by 2:00 am Monday morning when they picked up to 7 min. apart and I couldn't sleep through them anymore, I began to think this might be the real thing. At 6 am I called into work and told my husband he wouldn't be leaving either.
I put in a call to the midwife's apprentice (D.), our doula (D.H.) and my mom, giving them a heads up. Our midwife was out of town that week. We knew from the beginning that she might miss the birth if I went close to my due date, but none of us really thought I would have the baby on time. She had a back up that we could call if she was gone.
After making our calls we tried to continue on with our day as normally as possible, pausing every 5-10 min. to deal with a contraction. They continued every 5-10 min. all day, but were not all that intense and I was able to ignore them mostly. We actually went into the city and did some shopping. My mom called while we were at the mall and freaked out “don't you know your water could break?!!” John and I just laughed, that might be fun we said, we could really freak some people out.
Of course around 10 pm contractions picked back up again, just in time to keep me from getting a good nights rest. We had an appointment scheduled with the apprentice midwife for 12:00 Tuesday, when we got there the contractions had spaced back out to 10-20 min. She did a vaginal exam and said I was a stretchy 2 and was able to stretch me to a 3 easily. We left there with instructions to rest as much as possible and assume that this could go on another day or two.
I was feeling pretty discouraged by then and thinking, there is no way I am doing this for 2 more days, this baby is coming out tonight!! So we went walking some more. Sometime during the afternoon I lost my mucous plug, I have never been so excited to see something so gross.
Tuesday evening by 7:00 they were coming every 3-5 min. and I was moaning through them. My mom and husband were getting nervous, so we decided to call for D.H., our doula. She arrived around 9:00pm and watched me for a couple of hours before she decided to check me and see where we were. I was having a very atypical labor pattern and she just wasn't sure what was going on. I would have 3-4 contractions that were 2-3 minutes apart and then not have one for 5-7 minutes. I was 4-5 cm. and baby was super low.
We called for the midwife, she arrived around midnight. I continued to labor through out the night with the help of the doula and my husband, changing positions a lot and needing lots of counter pressure on my back. This was a surprise since baby had been in perfect position for quite a while. Guyler woke up around 4:30 a.m. and the doula and midwife suggested that I nurse him to see if that would help things along.
They got us set up in bed, me on my side and John behind me with his knee in my back so I could roll into him for counter pressure when a contraction came and my son started nursing. It was about 3 contractions later when I felt a pop and a gush and my water broke and soaked everything, good thing we put plastic sheets on the bed.
The midwife came in to check the baby and everything was great. Then the contractions hit, much more intense but not closer together. I worked through a few on the toilet and was getting grunty at the end so she asked to check me one more time. I was 6 cm. at this point; this was the last vaginal exam she did. I wanted to get into the tub so bad at this point but because my contractions were so spaced out they were afraid that it would slow things down too much, so we waited a while, I labored on the toilet for a while since that really seemed to bring the contractions on stronger and then on the birth ball.
Finally at @ 7:00 AM I got into the birth tub. We had it set up in the atrium in the center of our house, so we were outside. It was so nice to be in the water. They encouraged me to feel for the baby's head, I could feel the head about an inch or two inside so I knew it was okay to push. I pushed squatting, reclining, on hands and knees, with my ankles pulled in like a butterfly stretch. There would be progress during each push but I just couldn't quite get the baby to come under the pubic bone and stay put.
After about 2 hours of pushing, my husband got into the pool with me so that I could lean against him and get better leverage. Then I was able to pull my knees back and push. The contractions had really spaced out by then.
I remember thinking at times it seemed like forever before I would have another contraction. D.H. says they were 7-8 minutes apart at times. Finally I started to feel the burn at the end of each push and knew that I was getting closer. I could reach down and feel the baby's head getting bigger when I pushed; this really helped me to know when I was pushing the right way. Since my contractions were so spaced out the midwife suggested some nipple stimulation to get them closer together to help me to get the baby out quicker.
We were concerned that the head would come out and then I wouldn't have another contraction for 8 minutes. The next contraction I pushed with all my might and felt her head come out. I remember thinking “I am really doing this!!” The next thing I knew D. is telling me to push, hard!!! She had her hand in trying to dislodge something, at the time I assumed it was a shoulder and was preparing myself for the Gaskin Maneuver.
It took about a minute of hard pushing without a contraction and out the baby came. Turns out the shoulders weren't the problem; she had both hands up by her cheeks. The first one slipped out easily, but the second was more stubborn and the midwife had to reach in and grab it. The midwife put the baby up on my chest and covered her with a warm blanket from the oven. I just kept saying “We did it, baby, we did it” and then I turned to my husband behind me and said “I could do that again, for this result.”
After a couple of minutes my mom asked if we knew what we had yet. I tried to reach down and feel and thought I felt testicles and a penis, but double checked and found that it was a girl, I had felt the cord. I hadn't had another contraction since her head came out so we decided to get out of the tub for the placenta. Everyone helped me up and we made our way to the bed.
All was fine until I laid down there and I started bleeding a lot. Luckily the placenta had detached and I was able to push it out without a contraction. We got Kathryn latched on and the nurse started massaging my uterus to help it clamp down and stop the bleeding, my blood pressure was fine but the bleeding wasn't stopping. We decided then to give me a shot of Pitocin in the arm. They gave the Pitocin about 15 minutes to work while they kept an eye on me and Kathryn nursed. After 15 min. the bleeding was better but still more than they were comfortable with so they gave me a shot of Methergen too. The bleeding was fine after that.
We continued to nurse and rest, for the next 2 hours, Kathryn never left my arms. When we were ready for the newborn exam and herbal bath, the midwife did the exam on the bed beside me and then John took Kathryn to the scale to be weighed, she was 8 lbs. and 5 oz.
D. examined me and found no tears, just an abrasion where her hand had been. They helped me up and to the bathroom, I had to be real careful as I was a bit woozy from the blood loss and they didn't want me to faint. I made it to the toilet and had to sit for a few minutes with my head between my knees. I have fainted giving blood before so I think even a normal amount of blood loss may have affected me the same way.
After a few minutes we made our way to the tub for the herbal bath, it was so soothing and relaxing. Kathryn loved it too; she immediately relaxed when I put her in the water, spreading out her arms and legs. After about 20 minutes John took Kathryn and got her dry and dressed and they spent some time together while I got out of the tub. I got settled back in bed and was given strict orders not to get up for at least 24 hours. My mom took our son to daycare for the afternoon. We made a few phone calls and then settled in for a long nap.
Despite being 60 hours long this was such a rewarding birth experience for me. I felt so powerful when it was all over, like I could do anything. I have never considered myself very strong physically, but now I know differently, if I need to be strong I can be. For a few days after Kathryn's birth, I really struggled with Guyler's. It brought up a lot of emotions that I thought I had dealt with. I finally knew what I had missed out on the first time, and there was some mourning for that loss. I came to the realization that the births of each of my children are special. Guyler made me a mom and Kathryn made me a woman*. A few days after Kathryn was born a friend sent a T-shirt for her that said “Born at Home, Surrounded with Love”, I cried happy tears when I opened the package. I wish everyone could feel this way, just once.
*A few people have taken offense at this statement, so I wanted to clarify. In no way do I feel that you have to give birth vaginally to be “a woman”. This is simply the way I felt at the time, kind of “I am WOMAN hear me roar”. Although my son's birth was amazing I did not have that sense of power after he was born.
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