Reflections on Motherhood and Life as a Doula

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Enjoying Birth Guest Blogger: Christina - Part 1 "How we got to *home*"

I had planned to get this posted yesterday in celebration of Jacob's First Birthday, but I did not succeed.  Here is part one of Christina's amazing birth story leading up to the birth of Jacob.  You can also find these stories here.  Happy Birthday, Jacob!

I would be remiss in telling Jacob’s story without mentioning Rebecca’s.
Jacob’s birth could not have happened without Rebecca’s – the intensity of the story, the divine interventions, the miracle of it all – would not have been possible if Rebecca had not been born. Jacob’s birth story has as much to do about him, as it does about her.

Rebecca mere hours after birth – before I even had a chance to meet her.

While pregnant with Rebecca – I knew in my heart that I wanted a natural birth. I also knew that would be hard to come by in a hospital setting – but I was naive enough to believe it was possible. And indeed – a natural birth is possible in a hospital – but just not for me. I read all the right books – fell in love with Ina May Gaskin and her book Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and really thought that I could do it.
Have my baby unmedicated, naturally, in a hospital – I believed I could do that.
What happened though, in reality, was not at all what I had dreamt. Things started to go downhill the last week or so of my pregnancy with Rebecca. I was led to believe that my blood pressure was high – and indeed – it was high for me but I didn’t have pre-eclampsia. I didn’t have anything as a matter of fact, except a need to have a baby.
Regardless – at 40w5d I was scheduled for an induction. Miraculously, I went into labor on my own the night prior – my water broke at 11:30pm. Unfortunately, it was full of thick meconium. And thus began our trials….
Upon entering the hospital, our natural birth plan that we had gone over with our *midwife* was figuratively thrown out the window. I was placed in a bed, strapped to an external fetal monitor that was later exchanged for an internal fetal monitor, had an amniotic infusion, IV (b/c it was hospital policy – whether it was needed or not) asked repeatedly if I wanted an epidural, and then given Pitocin without my consent.
Rebecca was born 9 1/2 hours later – I was unable to push her out since I was lying on my back, numb from an epidural, and her unfavorable OP position. She was taken by forceps and when she finally arrived, we saw the cord was wrapped around her neck twice – tightly. Her initial apgar was 0/1, they nearly intubated her – thankfully, it was unsuccessful, b/c an intubated baby would be transferred to the nearest NICU which was an hour away. She did go through a bunch of blood tests, which we would find out 36 hours later, she was GBS+
This resulted in a 10 day treatment of IV antibiotics.
The next week and a half of our lives was the most difficult and trying time Scott and I have ever lived through. Only by the grace of God did we survive it…only then, we didn’t know it.
I couldn’t fathom leaving the hospital without her. It was excruciating.
On day 5 we were forced to leave her under nursery care for 24 hours – at that point, God intervened and we were allowed to room-in with Rebecca the rest of her days in the hospital.
It was at this point I started to breathe again.
And now – nearly 6 years later – the memories are fading as are the IV scars on Rebecca’s hands, feet, and head…God has worked hard on me to bring me to a place of healing and I believe I reached it last year, on her fifth birthday, when I wrote this.
This is why we did things differently with Jacob. I believed with my whole heart that birth could be different. That it could be safe and gratifying. That it could be done unmedicated and naturally and produce a healthy baby.
When we found out I was pregnant early this year – Scott and I were both concerned about how it would all end up, would the baby be healthy, would we be home with it before it was 10 days old, where would I give birth?
The answer started in January of this year before I was pregnant….I met Jo, my midwife, at TLF on base – she and I were both saying good-bye to a dear friend. Jo was also her midwife and we were introduced and I was able to question her about midwifery in England and what it was like for us living on base that desired a homebirth. At this point, I was just curious about it all as I had become very aware of what it was like back home. I had no intentions of actually needing this information.
However, it was then I learned that Tricare (our insurance through the military) will pay for 100% of midwifery care and a homebirth, while they won’t in the states. I also learned that we are not allowed to birth at home if we live on the military installation.
Which we do.
(I asked ‘why’ once to an OB Nurse, and she about flipped out when she realized I was planning a homebirth even though I live on base. She said I couldn’t do that!! I assured her I wasn’t – we had made alternative plans, but regardless, I wanted to know why. To which she replied that the Commander wouldn’t agree, it was very dangerous, and that ACOG doesn’t support homebirths. I think she would’ve continued, but I quickly excused myself.)
We hadn’t always lived on base, but had felt led to move on base and it was a good decision for us. Until now – until I became pregnant and knew that a homebirth was our best bet at having a healthy baby and gratifying delivery for all involved.
But Jo mentioned something that I had never thought of – just because we lived on base, I could still have a homebirth – I would just have to go to a friends’ house. At the time, it sounded insane to me. All of it…not being allowed to birth on base at our home, and then if I wanted it bad enough, I would have to find a friend willing to open their home to me at a moments notice.
At the time, it didn’t pose that much of an issue. I wasn’t pregnant.
But I was a month later.
And when I contacted Jo to find out what my options were, if she could take me on, she was very encouraging about me having a hospital birth at the NHS hospital since she wasn’t taking any women on during the last few months of the year – and I was due November 4th. While I was disappointed, I didn’t think all that much about it b/c Scott and I were still nervous about having a homebirth – as it was, I didn’t have a place to have a homebirth, anyway. So we planned on a waterbith at the local NHS hospital. I would still receive midwifery care – and be able to go home 6 hours after the birth. It would work – it had to…our other option was having the baby at the base hospital. And we had been there, done that, and didn’t want to do it again.
Actually, I remember saying that God closed the homebirth door to us…and I was fine with that. He knew what He was doing…and for whatever reason, He desired a hospital birth for us.
So – I signed on with the NHS, had my initial appointment in our home with our midwife at the end of my 1st trimester, and was thrilled that I didn’t have to see her again until I was 28 weeks along. Time passed – everything was going well – my 1st trimester passed along quickly and beautifully. I was exhausted, but was also while pregnant with Rebecca so I didn’t think much of it. But I didn’t have all that much morning sickness…which I did with Rebecca, even though I never vomited, I was often nauseous. This worried me at times, b/c I knew that morning sickness indicated there was good pregnancy hormone levels, and a lack of could lead to a miscarriage. But one day, I heard God say to me to just accept this blessing of His for me to have a healthy pregnancy without nausea. So I did – as long as I could.
It didn’t last too long.
In May, I was just entering my 2nd trimester, and flew home to be with my family in New Hampshire. At that point, I was getting a lot of motion sickness – in cars – which I always had. But this particular day I participated in a 3 1/2 hour bus ride to the airport, a 9 hour flight, and then another 1 1/2 hour ride to my Aunt’s house. Oh, we were so close to home….so close…and then, unbeknownst to everyone, including me, I projectile vomited all from the back seat into the front seat!! All over everyone – myself, my daughter, my cousin, my grandmother – all over.
And thus the 2nd trimester sickness ensued. The lack of morning sickness I felt in the 1st trimester was made up in the 2nd trimester.
The entire 2nd trimester. Fun stuff.
At 20 weeks pregnant, the NHS requires an anomaly scan of the baby – we also could find out the sex at this point. So – we gladly went. Scott and I kind of had a feeling what it would be. Rebecca was praying for and holding out for a baby sister. And when we were told it was a boy – “see his little willy there on the screen” the only one surprised was Rebecca – she nearly cried – and I nearly cried for her. I can only imagine how badly she wanted a sister sibling…another little girl to chat with, to dress up with and play dolls with, have tea and scones with.
To help her embrace having a boy sibling, we promptly took her shopping for big sister clothes and baby brother outfits. She smiled.
At 28 weeks, we started having routine midwifery appointments at the local clinic. We didn’t have home visits anymore b/c the midwife found it too cumbersome to visit us on base, even though she was an ID card holder. I didn’t think too much of it. Regardless, what we ultimately wanted was a healthy baby and safe delivery. And we believed we could get it the NHS hospital. The appointments were quick and to the point. I was measured, listened to the heartbeat, BP taken, and urine tested. Our midwife would let Rebecca help with the measurements and listen to the baby’s heartbeat. Rebecca loved that.
A few weeks into my 3rd trimester, however, I was told that I would have to see an English OB b/c of my previous delivery with Rebecca, specifically, b/c of the tear I received as a result of the forceps. Why was never really explained to me – I also was told I would need to take a Glucose Tolerance Test. I was not in agreement with doing a GTT b/c I had one with Rebecca, and it was so negative, that my last glucose level 47. Obviously, I didn’t feel well at the end of that test. Neither did my baby – I am sure.
So I tried discussing it with the Midwife and the OB at why I didn’t want to take it. They didn’t seem to hear me. Instead, I recorded my food intake and my blood glucose levels for one week before my next MW appointment (my GTT wasn’t scheduled for another few weeks). As far as I could tell, my blood levels were right on. However, my MW, when shown the records, acted as if I was insane for doing this. She even refused to look at my records. She kept asking my ‘why would you do this’ and I tried explaining that this was a better indicator of whether or not I had gestational diabetes, that if I did have it, I would have to do this anyway – she just didn’t get it though and actually told me that all I was thinking about was myself and not my unborn baby. Wow.
At this same appointment, I asked her if she thought it would be possible for me to have a homebirth. She indicated that she didn’t think so b/c that would be too much to ask of their midwives, especially having to get on base if they weren’t ID card holders. They could be signed on to base, but she thought that would be too much for them to have to go through for me to have a homebirth. So then I asked if Rebecca would be allowed to be a part of my labor and delivery. My mom would be here and would keep an eye on her, but Rebecca really wanted to be a part of it and Scott and I thought that was appropriate. We don’t hide much from her – she knew where the baby was coming from – and obviously, she would be removed if things went array. However, the midwife said most definitely not – hospital policies – birth could be very scary for a little girl – why did I want her there anyway, again indicating that I was only thinking of myself and not my child.
(Just a sidenote – when my Doula came to visit after Jacob was born, Rebecca said, “Hey Mom, remember when I used to watch those baby shows while you were in the shower when we lived in Florida? Well they really paid off, because they really prepared me for watching you….with Jacob, because I wasn’t scared one bit.”)
I felt my options were very limited now – I felt the NHS system was just as medical as our own healthcare system – and I was at a crossroads. Scott and I felt very jaded, and both of us contemplated going back to the base to have our baby thinking it may just be better there. Perhaps we should give them another chance.
All along – I had been praying. God and I had been doing a lot of talking and I really felt his hand on us, and on this pregnancy. I just had to stay open to hearing Him. I also had to use discernment, which I was not all that good at.
God spoke to me through these verses during this time:
Matthew 6:34
Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Philippians 4:6-9
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

So – for the time being, my plan was to be a good pregnant patient, do what I was told, not ask questions, and just go with the flow.
Then one day everything changed.
I knew Jo advertised on Lakenheath Yard Sales and so I thought to check on there for a Doula. I knew that having a Doula would increase my chances for a safe, healthy delivery – especially at a hospital. So – as God would have it – a Doula had advertised on there. I contacted her and while she was still in training, she would be willing to take me on, if I would be willing to have her as my Doula. Immediately I knew I did. We met at my home when I was 35+ weeks pregnant. We discussed a bit of history, a bit of what I wanted from her, my expectations, etc. And then Emma described what it would be like for me to give birth at the NHS hospital. While they are very natural and women friendly, they are not at all family friendly. There are no waiting areas, there is no way Rebecca would be able to be with me during labor, only Emma and Scott would be allowed with me until the baby was born. And then – and then – if I had the baby after visiting hours, no one – NO ONE – would be able to stay with me and the baby. Mom and Rebecca wouldn’t even be allowed to see us for a moment. Oh – and I’d be put in a room with 4 other women and their newborns.
This was not what I had signed up for.
I had mentioned to Emma that I had contacted Jo, the local Independent Midwife, but that she wasn’t taking any women on. To which Emma replied that things had changed and that, ‘why yes- she is still seeing women at the moment’.
When Emma left, I was sick stomached – according to the Mother Friendly Childbirth Initiative, there are 10 steps for a hospital, birth centre, or home birth service to take to become Mother Friendly. The first listed? Unrestricted access to the birth companions of her choice – husband, family, children, friends, etc.
I immediately emailed Jo – told her my situation – and asked if she would be willing to take me on so late in the game.
I was flipping out internally – emotionally – I was a wreck. I prayed and waited…prayed and waited. What was God’s answer going to be? How was I going to handle a hospital birth without my family but encouraged to give birth naturally? How was I going to handle a hospital birth with my family present but encouraged to take an epidural and pitocin? What about a homebirth? Where could that take place?
I remembered that about a month prior a friend had offered her home to me. I had blown her off – thinking a homebirth was impossible at that point. But now – I was reaching, grasping for anything. I emailed her too – and waited.
The weekend passed and I had some answers. My friend said ‘of course’ and Jo said we needed to meet and discuss some things. So – we met, at home, on a Wednesday, and Jo looked over my history, heard my concerns, and agreed that a homebirth was most definitely possible. Some things with Rebecca – like my elevated blood pressure, my GBS status, my PPH, all made me delivering at home a bit more risky – but worth trying. And Jo wasn’t too concerned about anything – except maybe the GBS, and requested a urine test to see what my status was at that point. (It was negative – of course) and I opted to use the Hibiclens protocol instead of antibiotics to stop any GBS transmission that might occur.
The only thing, Jo said, was that she had a full November month as it was, and if someone else was delivering when I went into labor, she would have to go with them, since I signed on last. Fair enough, I thought.
We were all relieved and very excited. All of us – Scott, Rebecca, my Mom, me….
God was shining on us. God had heard the desires of my heart and was answering my prayers.
The next few weeks flew by – I had weekly visits at home with Jo – she did her best to prepare me and educate me for what would happen, what it would be like, birthing in a pool (which I desired)
At about 38 weeks – things changed again. I heard God calling on me to switch homes where I was going to birth at. And He was pointing me to Faith – the friend who had thrown my Blessingway.
Faith had initially offered me her home early on in the pregnancy – probably about the same time she offered to give me my blessingway. But I had disregarded her offer too quickly I guess. First – I never thought I would be comfortable enough to give birth at someone else’s house . Second – Scott and I weren’t completely sold on a homebirth. Third – I had already signed up for a hospital birth with the NHS. Fourth – I didn’t want to bother her or her beautiful family. So – I never really thought about it again. Until now, months later, when God was nudging me.
So I called Faith and humbly asked her if the offer still stood. She would have to check with her husband first – but didn’t think it would be an issue. However – they were moving on November 15th, onto base housing, so I would have to have the baby by then, or else. No problem – I thought. Of course I would have the baby by then!! I was due on the 4th as it was anyway.
38 weeks pregnant and things were all lined up.
Midwife – check.
Doula – check.
Home – check.
For two weeks, things were smooth. I had started having Braxton-Hicks pretty regularly, had started having pelvic floor pain, and the baby had seemed to drop (something Rebecca never did) I was beginning to feel uncomfortable and ready (also something I never felt with Rebecca) Everyone just knew I was going to have this baby soon. I knew it was going to take some extra time. I never anticipated having the baby before my due date – always anticipated having him late….just not so late.
These next two verses were key to me staying focused and to stop listening to the lies/the tapes being played in my head about the ‘reality’ of the situation. Like – who was I to have a homebirth? I couldn’t handle it anyway – my baby was going to be born sick, I was going to have to be subjected to a miserable hospital birth, this was all for naught. But God persevered:
Romans 8:31
31What then shall we say to [all] this? If God is for us, who [can be] against us? [Who can be our foe, if God is on our side?]

And then I was led to Psalm 27:1-3
1THE LORD is my Light and my Salvation–whom shall I fear or dread? The Lord is the Refuge and Stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid?2When the wicked, even my enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.
3Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, [even then] in this will I be confident.

40 weeks came and went. I continued living life as normal. But inside I was dying…the looks I would get from people who thought I should’ve had the baby by then, the comments on facebook – was just too much to handle. Eventually at 41 weeks, I turned off from the world. I stopped getting on facebook and stopped taking phone calls. I tried as hard as I could to relax.
God was encouraging me to stay strong, to stay hopeful in Him – to allow him to finish what he had started, to fulfill his promises. The more I worried, the more I was saying to Him that I didn’t believe he would do this for us. I needed to step aside and allow him to do his good work.

Isaiah 40:31

31But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.
And then I just love what my commentary has to say about this:
Hoping in the Lord is expecting that his promise of strength will help us to rise above life’s distractions and difficulties. It also means trusting in God. Trusting helps us to be prepared when he speaks to us. Then we will be patient when he asks us to wait and expect him to fulfill his promises found in the Word.

Hebrews 12

1THEREFORE THEN, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us,
2Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.(A)
3Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds.
Jo was beginning to get nervous. She had to tell me the chances I was taking having a baby after due date – the risks involved. At 41 weeks, I agreed to stripping my membranes – but was so nervous because that was done with Rebecca – and was concerned about the increased risk of GBS with more interventions. When Jo checked me and stripped my membranes, the good news was that my cervix was low, I was somewhat dilated, but the bad news was I wasn’t effaced at all. Jo seemed discouraged and didn’t think that birth was imminent. That was a sad MW appointment – my doula had also showed and we were all pretty down.
Because, ultimately, I was on a pretty tight timeline now. First – I had to have the baby by Monday, or else I was without a home to deliver at. Secondly – if I was going to have an induction, I would need to choose hospitals. We had chosen our local base hospital – but they weren’t in agreement with me using them as my back-up hospital b/c we had already opted out of their healthcare. If I was going to have the baby there, I would have to re-enroll with them, so to speak. Third – the later I went, the more chance that I would overlap with another laboring Mom in Jo’s schedule. There was so much….life was so overwhelming…I was not handling anything well at all.
And thenI received this message in my inbox from the Tammy Trent newsletter – spoke directly to me and what I was going through. Divine intervention.
“May you take heart in knowing that God is preparing you for what He has already prepared for you! There is a new season that is already waiting for you. As you allow yourself to take on the fullness of God’s processing in your life, He is doing a work in you already, even if you can’t see it, so that you will be ready for the day when God opens up all the doors and allows you to walk into that new place. Maybe it’s time to “clean house” so you can be fully ready for it. Don’t let anything or any person hold you back from God’s perfect will in your life right now.
I don’t believe God gives us impossible dreams or unreachable desires. He gently takes us through life step by step so that when we face each new opportunity or challenge, we are ready in faith to choose to keep moving forward, always towards truth.
Your challenge right now is not to ask God why things around you are changing, in transition or falling apart, but rather perhaps to ask, “What’s next? What can I learn from this?” There’s a reason and purpose in our struggles or time of difficulties. The thing is, we have to find out what that is and begin to see our difficult time in perspective and how God is using it to prepare us. Search my friend. Search. The answers aren’t all that far away. Some times we just like to keep circling the questions hoping we’ll land on the “right answer” WE were hoping for. Trust God in this moment, that HE is STILL in control of your next season.
As true believers, we must never forget that God does not send “bad things” but He certainly uses them. And wow, do I sure understand and know that for my own life.
I did everything I knew to do to encourage labor: reflexology, rose and clary sage oil, evening primrose oil, accupressure points, walking, sex (seems everyone knows that one b/c everyone told us to do it!), membrane stripping…
I was really grappling with all the potentials that was happening. I was trying to wrap my head around either having a baby to hold at home in a few days, or scheduling an induction. I knew that going into a hospital was not going to end up the way I wanted it to – but I also knew that I was running out of options. My membranes were stripped on Thursday – Jo was due to come back Sunday to do it again – and then on Monday, my time was up as Faith was moving. I was talking to God constantly – praying for God to give me the desires of my heart, but for His will to be done ultimately. I wondered why He would bring me this far just to take it all away. I wondered why I couldn’t have had Jo from the very beginning, instead of having to wait until I was 36 weeks. Why would that door close early on just to be opened late in the game, and then closed again at the very end? Whatever was going to happen, I knew that I would continue to love Him. Regardless.
I didn’t want a hospital birth. I didn’t want a sick baby that would need IV treatment. And I really didn’t think that God would give that to me for a second time – but as it was – I didn’t know what was in store for us. I didn’t really know what God was saying.
For the longest time, I had heard God tell me to just wait, to just ‘tary on the Lord’ and wait. Be patient. Be hopeful and faithful. But then, as time got closer and my world became hectic and my mind was chaotic, God began speaking very directly to me – as I need Him to. I have often prayed for Him to be very direct and clear, as I said earlier, the gift of discernment I have not.
On Wednesday, the day before my membranes were stripped, Rebecca and I were at church helping prepare for Bible Study. Usually, when the Praise and Worship takes place, I listen in the narthex, instead of going into the sanctuary so that I can still greet women as they come in. However, this day, Rebecca was urging me to go into the sanctuary and participate with her. I had a friend helping out at the welcome table, so I felt comfortable leaving my station – I went in with Rebecca. Lo and behold, God had words to speak to me – and I was moved to tears as I heard Him through this song.
And then – the morning I had my membranes stripped, I awoke to God saying this to me loud and clear:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the Lord your God will be with you!” Joshua 1:9
Two days later, I went into labor.

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