Reflections on Motherhood and Life as a Doula

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Comparing Births - Part 1 - Stephen's entrance

A little over two years ago, Stephen was taken out of me.  I don't recall every little detail anymore (maybe because I subconsciously blocked it out), but I will do my best.

June 26th, 2008 I got out of my car, after interviewing a pediatrician, and my water broke as I walked up the steps to our back door.  My husband, Mike, started jumping for joy and freaking out that the baby was coming.  I was beyond excited, but confused because I wasn't having any contractions.  We called our midwife group - out of Hillcrest - and filled them in.  The midwife on call told me to lay down and rest while I waited for contractions to begin.  She told me that if they hadn't started by 8 the next morning, that they would have to induce me due to risk of infection. 
All night long I tossed and turned with nothing more than a small cramping.  We tried to ignore the idea of going in for an induction and were relaxing at home the next morning.  Eventually we couldn't ignore the harrassing phone calls of the midwife telling us to get our butts into the hospital. 
We slowly made our way to the hospital dreading the fact that my plans for a natural childbirth were no longer possible. 
They put the gown on, started the IV, strapped me to the EFM and walked away.  Every once in awhile a nurse or midwife would come in and look at the monitor and paper and walk back out.  I wondered if I had been mistaken for a coma patient because they seemed to forget that I could communicate much more than a computer screen.
At one point, the midwife came in and asked me if I was planning on getting the epidural.  I told her no.  She asked how I planned on dealing with labor pain.  I told her I had done prenatal yoga.  She laughed with scorn and said "yea, like thats gonna work."
I immediately began to hate everyone at that establishment.
Every once in awhile we would get a nurse who was incredible.  We had one who would tell me to go to the bathroom and then she would take off all the monitors and make me walk around and get gravity to lend a helping hand.  I'm pretty sure we sat there through 4 shifts of nurses. 
The pain started to get bad.  Everytime I would try to move into a position to help cope, the EFM would stop picking up the heartbeat, the machine would start beeping, a nurse would run in and put me back on my back and tell me to sit still.  Late into the night, the midwife walked in with a bunch of wires and an odd looking mechanism.  She lifted my gown and I felt some of the worse pain in my entire life.  I saw blood and began to panic.  I was literally trying to crawl up the wall.  I asked her what she had done to me...she said she wanted to put on the IFM to keep a better eye on the baby (there still were no signs of distress) and that when she checked me I was 7 cm but closed down to 4 cm and she had a hard time getting the monitor onto the baby's head.  With that "simple" explanation, she walked out of the room.  The pain was incredible and I was still trying to climb up the wall.  My husband was at a loss of how to comfort me.  We were scared.
About 10 minutes later, the midwife came in, sat down in front of me with our faces very close together, and told me that I was losing my mind and that she needed me to take some sort of pain relief to calm me down.  I felt like an idiot...was I really losing my mind???  What did everyone think that could hear me?  How embarrassing!
After given the options, we chose the epidural. 
I'm not going to lie.  It was amazing.  Every sensation was gone. 
I went to sleep for 3 hours and I awoke having a strong urge to poop.  They called the midwife in (who was half asleep - I was nervous about her catching the baby) and they began to tell me to push.  I pushed for 3 hours.  Yes, 3 hours.  I pooped a lot, that was about it. 
Although the baby's heartrate was holding up, the amniotic fluid was stained with meconium and the midwife said she was concerned about the well being of the baby.  She contacted the OB to talk about a cesarean. 
The OB was a pretty nice guy.  He was so relaxed and our fears went out the window for the time being.  He said yes to a cesarean, but allowed to me push longer with a vacuum extractor - in hopes that we could cancel the cesarean before they had the room prepared. 
Episiotomy - thank you very much.  I'll never forgive him for that.  My baby wouldn't come out and they wheeled me to the OR for an additional cut. 
I was shaking tremendously through the entire surgery.  Scared shitless.  I felt them pull the baby out and we heard panic in the room.
No one told us anything about him...not even the sex.  Finally, MY midwife (who had just come "on duty") peaked around the curtain and said we had a little boy and that he wasn't breathing.  They quickly moved him past us slowing down just enough so we could catch a glimpse of them pumping air into his lungs.
We waited for them to stitch me back up.  As they were doing this, the pain medicine began to disappear and I could feel every staple being placed into my skin.  I yelled out to them.  The doctor laughed and said there was nothing she could do about it...they were almost done.  I'm pretty sure I passed out from the pain, because the next thing I remember was waking up in the recovery room.  My husband was by my side crying hysterically.  I was numb. 
The pediatrician came in and gave us all the information he had at the moment.  He asked if we had any questions and our response was "no".  He got very angry and said "Don't you want to know if your baby is going to live or die?"  We were in shock and agreed that we did want to know the answer.  He said there was a 50/50 chance.
Days of recovery from two different cuts.  Everyday, I forced myself to walk down to the NICU to see my son who I couldn't even touch because they didn't want us to stimulate him.  I constantly begged and pleaded to hold him and nurse him.  They told me he wasn't ready.  Finally after a week had gone by, a new nurse was taking care of him.  I took my chances and asked if I could hold him.  She pulled him out and handed him to us.  It was the most amazing day!  I was finally holding my baby!  The next day the same nurse was there.  I asked her if I could feed him and she said yes!  Even after a week, he had a perfect latch and we nursed forever.  The next day they said we could take him home and we have been just about inseparable ever since. 
Two years later, this birth still haunts me.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Is it really birth?

I recently "attended" my first "birth" - other than my own - and it was quite an experience for me.  I wasn't able to do my job as a doula because I had a 3 week old at home who needed to be nursed often.  But I did stay by this woman's side for about 9-10 hours of her "labor". 

I learned a lot from this first experience.  I saw first hand how much a woman's emotional stability affects the outcome of her birth.  For her privacy, I will call the woman Jess. 
When I first met Jess, she was planning on scheduling a cesarean section because she had been diagnosed with multiple high risk pregnancy diseases.  She felt that she was okay with having a cesarean.  But Jess, being the incredible woman that she is, listened to all of my horror stories about my cesarean and opened her mind to the possibility of vaginal birth - and not just vaginal birth, but natural vaginal birth.  She armed herself with knowledge and talked to her doctor and became a mini advocate for natural childbirth. 
As her due date came closer, she became more and more excited and anxious as every first time mother does.  Her doctor warned her that her baby would be too large to birth vaginally if she went past her due date and scheduled an induction date for her.  Jess was not happy about an induction, so she did everything in her power to talk the baby out before no avail. 
Not only were they planning on inducing her, the doctors had her come in the night before the induction to try to soften the cervix.  As if labor isn't hard enough work, they gave her extra hard labor with the pitocin and took away the much needed sleep before the induction. 
After about 4-5 hours of induced labor and only a few centimeters dilated, Jess asked for an epidural.  She apologized and thought she was being a wimp.  I had to remind her that it didn't matter how much she was dilated, she was having unnaturally painful contractions.  I probably would've gotten the epidural too. 
As she lay there, permanantly on her back, pain free, and bored, I watched how the nurses and doctors treated her.  Although they all seemed to be kind, not one of them checked on how she was doing emotionally.  I never heard REAL words of encouragement.  They just continuously reminded her that "this part" takes really long - it wouldn't take so long if she was at home, living her day to day life, not even knowing that she was softening and opening.  Nature made the first part easy for us. 
I even heard the one nurse tell her and her family that the epidural barely passes through the placenta and causes no harm to the baby (is this what we call informed consent now adays??? telling lies??), that the epidural actually gives the baby more oxygen (news to me!!!  then why do they have you where an oxygen mask when you get it??), and that pushing is easier with the epidural (maybe for them)!!!!  UNBELIEVABLE!
I watched as fear, boredom, self doubt, and exhaustion took over my mini advocate.  It was beyond depressing.  I left late that night, knowing that her family would be by her side if there were any changes, and went home to my own family to nurse them off to bed.  I prayed the whole ride home that the baby and mom would be safe and that God would let happen what was meant to happen - even though I hated what I knew the outcome would be. 
In the middle of the night I received a message from Jess, with the picture of a baby, delivered by cesarean section.
The doctors say she gave birth to a baby boy, just as they say I gave birth to a boy two years ago. 
Is birth pumping a mother and unborn child full of synthetic hormones???  Is birth interrupting the natural hormonal blueprint?
Is birth yanking a baby out of an incision in the abdomen??
Her baby was of average size, maybe even on the smaller side.  I'd be interested to see what their reasons were for the cesarean - failure to progress?  CPD?  fetal distress/the baby couldn't handle labor?  
All reasons to make the mother feel a little more like a failure.  Her body isn't cut out for childbirth or it can't make a baby healthy enough to handle labor.  I wonder if they will ever write in their records that the outcome of the labor was because they made a mistake and screwed up the process.  I want them to rightfully take the blame for once.
A mother is affected emotionally by a surgery like this.  It takes a long time to heal from a cesarean - and not just physically.
Everyday I look at my son and wonder, how does he heal from this?  He was ripped from his mother's womb, whipped around like a ragdoll and taken from me for a very long time.
He doesn't get a second chance at birth...