Maddux’s Birth Story

31 Jul

After 18 long months of trying, I couldn’t believe my eyes the morning of June 24th, 2009 when that second pink line showed up on the home pregnancy test.  Every month; peeing on the test; waiting the excruciating 3 to 5 minutes: only one line.  But this time the second pink line showed up immediately.  It was so faint that every time I blinked I decided that I had imagined it.  But I opened my eyes and there it was.  Still 2 pink lines.  I called Steve into the bathroom and asked him what he saw.  He saw 2 pink lines.  “But the second line is so faint…”  On my lunch hour that day I went to Target to get a digital pregnancy test.  I figured if the options were ‘pregnant’ or ‘not pregnant’ there would be no mistaking the results!  I took the test in the bathroom at Target and saw ‘Pregnant’ in the results window.  I took a picture of the test on my cell phone and emailed the picture to Steve at work.  He called me as soon as he got the email.  I carried that pregnancy test everywhere with me until the ‘Pregnant’ faded several weeks later.

 

The next day I called my OB and scheduled a blood test.  I knew it was early, but I thought if the home test was picking it up the blood test would be able to, too.  I had done a lot of reading about the home pregnancy tests and knew that false positives were extremely rare; almost nonexistent.  While the lab tech was drawing my blood, in my excitement, I mentioned that to her.  She snapped back, “That’s not true.”  She went on to say that I had no idea how many patients she saw who had a positive home pregnancy test who were not actually pregnant.  She handed me the standard paper telling me what time I could call back the next day to get the result of the test.  I left in tears and called Steve to tell him the disappointing news.  I called the next day for the result of the test.  “Inconclusive.”  She told me that could mean that it was just too early or that I had miscarried and that I should come back for another test in a week.  If the level of the pregnancy hormone in my blood had gone up that would be a good sign.  A week that seemed like a year passed and I went back for the second test which confirmed that I was indeed pregnant. 

I scheduled my first appointment, the medical history appointment, which wouldn’t be until several weeks later.  And my research began.  A friend had given me 4 or 5 of those “What to Expect When” books when she found out that we were trying so I started in on “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”  From very early on the book just didn’t feel right to me, so when one of the books I had ordered from Amazon arrived in the mail I put down the “What to Expect” book and picked up the new one right away.  “Your Best Birth” affected me in ways that I wouldn’t understand until much later.  I couldn’t put the book down and read it in just a couple days.

The thing that struck me the most while reading the book was triggered by the realization that while I knew I wanted a baby, I didn’t have any idea how to be a mom.  I was scared because I didn’t know how to feel like a mom.  “Your Best Birth” explained the effect of oxytocin, the hormone released by mom during labor.  I felt so glad that this ‘love hormone’ was going to be flowing through my body into my baby and helping us bond.  When I learned that Pitocin, the man-made form of oxytocin, interferes with the oxytocin doing what it is meant to do I knew that I didn’t want any Pitocin.  As I read more I realized that Pitocin is frequently used during birth for many reasons.  I discussed my concerns with Steve, and then asked him to watch “The Business of Being Born” with me.  After watching the documentary Steve jokingly said, “I guess we’re having a home birth.”  I say jokingly because, really? Who has a home birth?  But the information in the movie was very disturbing to us and we became aware that the likelihood of having the kind of birth we wanted would be very low at the hospital.

Over the course of the next few months I continued to research and learned more and more about the interventions that are common during births at hospitals.  I experienced a lot of internal conflict as I read.  I knew I didn’t want the interventions and the complications that frequently follow, but I didn’t know what to do about it.  I found myself saying, “Women give birth all the time with all of these interventions and everybody is just fine.”  Even as I said it I knew I didn’t believe it; I was just trying to cope with my feelings of hopelessness.  There were times I wished I could go back to my happy ignorance.  At the end of August, as I was trying to reconcile what I knew and what I thought I wanted with what I thought was possible, I emailed 2 doulas I had located on www.DONA.org.  I exchanged a couple emails with them both but there was no urgency yet and the contact fizzled.

Eventually my research led me to this conclusion:  hospitals and doctors are great for the rare instances when there are complications during birth, emergencies that require surgery or other interventions; they are not great for healthy, normal births.  I became convinced that doctors just aren’t familiar with natural birth without intervention because they haven’t seen them.

In October we had our first ultrasound and found out we were having a boy.  As soon as we saw him we agreed on a name.  That day he became Maddux, my son, and I knew I had to do everything in my power to protect him.

 

I had a good relationship and a long history with my OB.  I trusted him completely.  Over the past 10+ years he had gone above and beyond in treating me.  In fact, he had once come to the hospital on his day off to help with some problems after my emergency appendectomy.  Steve and I gathered our list of questions and went to our November check up prepared to have a good conversation with him about these interventions.

Our first question:  What is your c-section rate?  Answer:  35%.  Our thoughts:  Just over the national average of 33%.  My research led me to believe that c-sections are truly necessary for around 2% of births.

Second question:  How do you feel about the use of Pitocin?  Answer:  We are in the process of implementing a schedule to use it during every labor to keep things moving.  Our thoughts:  WHAT?  Every labor?

The rest of our questions:  Forgotten because of shock over the previous answer.

We left the appointment feeling even more hopeless and disappointed.  We decided that our best option would be to labor at home as long as possible and go to the hospital at the last minute so that it would be too late for any interventions.  Walk through the door and pop out the baby! 

I found the emails from August with the doulas and scheduled an appointment with the one who was available sooner.  During our meeting I told her our plan and asked her thoughts about that.  She said that would be the most likely way to avoid the interventions and that she would be able to help us know when it was time to get to the hospital.  I asked her about her experience at this particular hospital and with this particular doctor.  She said that while the patient has the right to refuse any intervention she had seen doctors there sneak to break waters after the patient has refused, grab the tool to perform episiotomies after the patient has refused, and sneak Pitocin into IVs after the patient has already said no.  She said that an intervention free birth was possible, but that it would be a fight the whole time.  I just wasn’t sure I would be up for the fight while I was in labor.

And then she said, “Would you consider a home birth?”  I said, “No.”  Hehe – uncomfortable laugh.  “What?”  And she said, “A home birth!  I can give you the names of some midwives who do home births!”  I said, “Do people really do that?”  And then she told me the story of her home birth less than a year earlier.  An HBAC (Home Birth After Cesarean).  Twins.  One of them breech.  She wrote down the names and numbers of a couple midwives.  I shoved the paper in my purse, thanked her for meeting with me and said I’d be in touch.

In December I went for my one hour glucose test.  While waiting the hour, the nurse gave me “just some paper work to read and sign.”  So I read.  And because I didn’t know what else to do, I signed.  It said that I agree that the doctor will make all final decisions about my and my baby’s care during the labor and delivery.  And also that videotaping was not allowed during the delivery.  While I did not want the delivery videotaped, I didn’t like them telling me I couldn’t.  What are they hiding, I wondered. 

The next day I found out I had failed the one hour test and that I had to go back for the 3 hour glucose test.  I had to go to their office and stay there for 3 hours.  They drew blood when I got there; I then had to drink the icky orange drink.  Then they drew blood every hour for 3 hours.  I was making conversation with the lab tech during one of the draws, as I tend to do, and asked how they determine if I pass or fail this 3 hour glucose test.  She told me what the numbers need to be for each of the 4 tests and said that if I pass at least 2 of them, I pass the test.  The next day a different lab tech called to tell me that I had failed the test.  I asked her what the results were and she told me the numbers for each of the 4 tests.  I said, “But those would indicate that I passed.”  She said, “How do you know that?”  I said, “The woman drawing my blood yesterday told me the numbers.”  She said, “She’s not supposed to tell you that!  Well, it’s close enough to failing that we are going to be safe and call it failing.  You need to get in a nutrition class and start taking insulin.”  I said ,“I’d like to try to control it with diet.”  She said, “It’s too late for that; you are going to need insulin.”  After that the conversation got heated and at one point she told me that I was killing my baby.  I said that I wanted to get a second opinion and promised to call back within a week.  I hung up the phone and cried. 

I pulled out the paper with the midwives’ phone numbers and called the first one on the list.  I got her voicemail and left a long message explaining my story through my tears.  I ended with something along the lines of, “I know you are busy, but I would really appreciate a call back in the next few days if you have time.”  I hung up the phone and called Steve to tell him about my phone call with the lab tech and false gestational diabetes diagnosis.  I was just beginning to tell him about the argument when a call beeped in; the midwife already returning my call.  At 5:30 in the evening.  We talked for several minutes and planned a meeting to discuss everything for the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  Before we hung up she said, “Don’t worry about it, Jill.  Everything is going to be fine.”  And I knew she meant it.  I hung up and cried again; this time tears of relief.

Steve and I went to the midwife’s house and met with her in her living room.  We met a beautiful woman with a nose ring and a calming presence.  We sat on her couch and chatted with her for an hour.  As we left she suggested that we take the weekend to think about things and let her know the next week what we wanted to do.

Kathy the midwife: 

We got in the car and neither of us said anything for several minutes.  Finally I took a breath to ask Steve what he thought but before I could make a sound he exclaimed, “I love her!  Let’s do it!  I mean, if you want to…”  And I said, “YES!”  We knew that she could only take me as a client if I was healthy enough for a home birth.  She had to confirm that I really didn’t have gestational diabetes and we had to keep my high blood pressure in check.  But we finally had hope. 

I exchanged emails with her the next week to find out how to proceed.  I had an appointment already scheduled with my OB for the second week in January and we decided I would go ahead and keep that appointment and that I would ask for my flowsheet at that appointment.  This would contain all of the information she would need to determine if I was healthy enough for a home birth.  In the meantime, the lab techs kept calling me telling me that I needed to get in the nutrition class and start taking the insulin ASAP or else I would kill my baby. 

When I got to the OB office for my appointment the receptionist told me that my doctor was an hour and a half behind schedule so I would be seeing a different doctor whom I had never met before.  The nurse called me back and as she was pumping the blood pressure cuff she said, “I see you were going for a second opinion about the gestational diabetes.  Who are you seeing?”  I said, “Do I have to tell you that?”  She said, “Yes.”  I said, “I’d rather not discuss it.”  She said, “You have to tell us.  Hmmm, I see your blood pressure is high.”  Ya’ think?  She decided to take it again.  As she pumped up the cuff a second time she said, “If we don’t make sure that you are being treated for the gestational diabetes we are negligent.  You are obligated to tell us what you are doing to treat it.”  I said, “I’ll have her call you.  She would like to see my flowchart, so I’ll need a copy of that today, please.”  “We can’t give that to you unless we know what you are going to do with it.  Your blood pressure is still really high.  I better go get a different cuff.”  She left the room and I took some deep breaths.  When she came back in I said, “I think that I am entitled to a copy of my flowsheet.  Who do I need to talk to about this?”  She grumbled, “I’ll get you a copy.”  In silence, she took my blood pressure again.  This time I guess it was acceptable because she left the room without another word. 

The doctor came in and we had a similar conversation; she wanted to know where I was planning to get this second opinion and I was hesitant to tell.  When it was time to listen to the heartbeat I began to pay attention to the baby’s movements.  He was always really active and I knew I would be able to hear the movements.  She put the device on my belly and right away I heard the familiar, comforting sound of his heartbeat.  She immediately moved the device away.  Pretty soon he moved so that I could hear his heartbeat again; she moved away from it again.  This happened another 3 or 4 times.  Finally she said, “I’m having trouble finding his heartbeat.  We should probably do a non-stress test, but if you are transferring care we aren’t going to do it.”  The nurse came in and handed me the flowsheet and left the room.  The doctor asked in an accusing tone, “Are you going to try to have a natural birth?”  I said, “Yes, I would like as few interventions as possible.”  She said, “There are ways we can treat the gestational diabetes with diet, you know.”  I said, “This is the first time anyone here has been willing to talk to me about it.  Every time I’ve talked to anyone they have said I need to be on insulin.  Every time I’ve talked to anyone it has turned into a fight.  I don’t want to fight anymore.  This should be a happy time in my life.”  I fought back tears and stopped talking.  She didn’t say anything.  I said, “Are we done?  I’d like to leave.”  I left without scheduling my next appointment.

I sent the flowsheet to Kathy and unfortunately it was not what she needed.  I signed a waiver to release my information and Kathy faxed it to them.  She said she got a note along with the medical information stating that she was jeopardizing my and the baby’s health.  The good news was that I passed the glucose test and did not need to be treated for gestational diabetes and Kathy was able to take me as a client.  Our first few appointments with her were in her living room.  My blood pressure was fine at every appointment.  We always spent at least an hour with her and never felt rushed.

Steve and I were also attending our Bradley class every week.  We were learning how to prepare physically, mentally and emotionally for labor.  We practiced positions that we might find comfortable during labor.  I was feeling more and more confident in my body’s ability to have a baby.

Beginning at 36 weeks, Kathy started coming to our house for our weekly check-ups.  She spent about an hour with us at each appointment.  My blood pressure was always fine.  Steve and I prepared our home for the birth.  We purchased the supplies from the list Kathy had provided us.  We made sure we had a hose that would reach from the washing machine to the spot where we wanted the birthing tub in our living room.  I continued to prepare my body for the birth by doing my Bradley exercises and I began taking Evening Primrose Oil to help soften my cervix.

I felt absolutely no fear. 

 36 weeks:

37 weeks:

38 weeks:

39 weeks:

At 1:35 the morning of Monday, March 1st, 2010, 4 days before my due date, I woke up needing to use the restroom.  When I stood up I felt the gush of my water breaking.  I sat down on the side of the bed and it stopped.  We had been hearing birth stories at our Bradley class and everyone said the same thing:  “I wondered if I was peeing myself or if it was my water breaking!”  I had told myself, “Don’t wonder if you are peeing the bed!  It’s your water breaking!”  But there I was, sitting on the side of the bed, wondering if I was peeing myself or if it was my water breaking.  “Steve!”  Sleepy, mumbly, “Huh?”  “My water broke!”  Wide awake, “What?  Are you sure?  Really?”  “Well, either that or I peed the bed.  A lot.”  I stood back up and the gushing continued.  I sat back down and it stopped.  Eventually I made it to the bathroom where I became pretty sure it was my water.

I hadn’t had any contractions yet, though.  Steve and I debated about whether to call Kathy yet or not.  At 2:00 we decided to call her.  She told me to try to get some rest while I could and that she’d check in later in the morning.  We tried to rest, we really did!  But there was just no way.  We were probably going to have a baby that day!  After as many minutes as we could stand to lie quietly in the dark Steve announced that we were not sleeping and went for a Mountain Dew.  He also gathered the birth supplies in a laundry basket and took out the garbage.  One of the couples who had shared their birth story with us mentioned they had found a website to help track contractions.  While we were still killing time waiting for contractions to start Steve did some surfing and found http://www.contractionmaster.com/.  We wondered if we should start filling the birthing tub but decided it was too early.

At 2:30 I experienced my first contraction.  It was extremely mild and short; only 30 to 45 seconds.  My first 3 contractions were 10 minutes apart.  Around 3:00 the contractions got stronger, longer, and closer together, and I started throwing up.  The contractions were anywhere from 3 to 7 minutes apart, lasting a minute to a minute and a half, and I was either throwing up or having a contraction at all times.  The contractions weren’t particularly painful, but I was getting worn out and dehydrated.  Steve was a great coach during this time.  He was timing contractions, keeping the barf bucket clean, keeping the washcloth cool, and reminding me to relax and breathe deep into my abdomen.  The abdominal breathing made the contractions easy to bear.  Eventually Steve called Kathy to report that the contractions had been quite close together for over an hour now.  Kathy said that it hadn’t been long enough and that her assistant, Cammy, would be there to check on things in a couple hours. 

At 4:30 we called my mom and dad.  I knew my mom would be leaving for work around that time and wanted to let them know it was probably the big day.  I had to hand the phone to Steve when a contraction started. 

The next few hours consisted of contractions 3 to 5 minutes apart and throwing up.  I wasn’t in pain, but I was getting pretty miserable.  Fortunately, the time was going quite fast for me.  When Cammy came at 10:00 to check how we were doing I was amazed that it was already that late.  Cammy checked me for dilation which was pretty uncomfortable.  She went out in the living room to call Kathy with an update.  I am assuming she thought I couldn’t hear her because she said, “She’s doing okay, but she looks miserable.”  And then I heard, “one centimeter…”  I wasn’t even thinking about how far I might be dilated, so I didn’t have any expectations, but hearing that was pretty depressing. 

Cammy came back to the bedroom and held the phone to my ear so Kathy could talk to me.  She said that the contractions were going to have to get a lot stronger in order for dilation to occur and that it just wasn’t going to happen right now because I wasn’t getting any time to rest.  She said she was going to give it a couple more hours and then we’d talk about our options.  She suggested that I get in a warm bathtub because sometimes that can cause the contractions to slow down some.  Hopefully they would slow down enough for me to get some rest. 

At 10:15 Cammy left and I got in the bathtub.  Steve put a towel over me to help keep me warm.  He set up camp in the bathroom with the laptop on top of the washer to track contractions.  I felt better for about 3 minutes and then my body was buckling from the contractions which were one on top of each other.  Steve was telling me to relax, but I just didn’t see how that was possible.  I was yelling and screaming.  All I could think was “This would be fine if I was nearing the end.  But if it’s going to be like this for hours and hours I’m not going to be able to do it.”  Steve would ask me, “Has that contraction ended yet?”  And I would answer, “I don’t know, I couldn’t tell because another one started.”  They were lasting a minute and a half to 2 minutes, but one would start before the last had ended and I was experiencing peak after peak after peak.  Steve said that if anyone was walking by and heard me they would think I was dying.

I was focusing on relaxing as much as I could, but I was faintly aware that Steve was talking on the phone.  I heard him saying that things were pretty intense.  I was also aware of him lifting the towel.  I swatted him away, “There’s nothing to see here!”  I found out later that he was looking for the baby!  Pretty soon I heard the front door open.  I figured I had been in the tub 30 to 45 minutes, so I was confused about who would be here.  Then I heard Cammy on the phone before she had even seen me.  “I haven’t checked her yet, but she’s pushing!”  I thought, “I’m not pushing!  I know not to push!   I’m maybe 3 or 4 centimeters if I’m lucky – I’m not pushing!”  I asked Steve why Cammy was back already and he told me it was almost noon.

Cammy came into the bathroom and checked me.  She told me she was going to go call Kathy, but that instead of yelling I could put my chin to my chest and push.  I was confused, but I did it and the pain was gone immediately.  I heard Cammy on the phone, “I don’t think he’s going to get here before you, but you better hurry!  She’s 10 centimeters and he’s almost here.” 

Because we have sliding glass doors on the bathtub Cammy didn’t feel like she could get a good angle to catch the baby if she needed to and asked me if I would mind getting out of the tub.  While Steve helped me out of the tub Cammy prepared our bed.  She put a shower curtain liner over our normal bedding, and a sheet that we were planning to throw away over the top of that.  I got in bed and a few minutes later Kathy arrived.

Within a few minutes Steve was able to see Maddux’s head.  Kathy said she thought I could have the baby on the next push.  With the next contraction I pushed and took a deep breath and pushed again.  Kathy, Steve and Cammy all encouraged me along and assured me the baby was almost here through several more contractions.  Steve said that Maddux’s head was coming out quite far each time.  I had a hard time believing it because I just wasn’t getting the job done.  After a little while Kathy suggested I try a different position so we brought the exercise ball on the bed and I leaned on it.  I pushed through 2 or 3 contractions in that position but found it uncomfortable and switched back.  Eventually Kathy suggested that she might cut an episiotomy if I couldn’t get him out pretty soon.  She said that it seemed like I was holding back for some reason.  While I didn’t feel like physically I was holding back, I decided to push 3 times on the next contraction instead of 2 and finally Maddux’s head was out.  The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck so Kathy unwrapped it and then told me to push one final time.  What an amazing feeling as Maddux’s body slid out the rest of the way.  Kathy placed Maddux on my chest.  Because there had been meconium in my fluid, Kathy suctioned him out right away while he was on my chest.  Fortunately he hadn’t swallowed any.  He still wasn’t breathing so Kathy gave him a puff of oxygen to get him started.  It was all very calm.  I never felt worried or scared.  He was born at 1:35PM; after pushing for an hour and 15 minutes; exactly 12 hours after my water broke. 

With Maddux on my chest, Kathy told me to push and see if the placenta would come out.  It didn’t.  Kathy pushed around on my belly a little, which was quite uncomfortable.  I felt ready to be done with pushing!  While we waited to see if I would have a contraction to expel the placenta Kathy examined me and discovered a small tear.  She prepared to stitch the tear.  The umbilical cord had stopped pulsing so Kathy clamped and cut it.  We waited a few more minutes and still no placenta.  Kathy had me take 2 pills that she said would bring on a contraction.  Within a couple minutes Kathy could feel that I was contracting and told me to give a gentle push.  The placenta slid out.  I hadn’t felt the contraction at all, and didn’t feel much when the placenta came out.  Kathy stitched me up while Steve and I admired our new baby.  He was perfect.  He was wide eyed and looking back at us.  He had quite a misshapen head from having been in the birth canal for so long, but it was gone within a few hours.

About a half hour after Maddux was born I got up to get in the shower and clean off while Cammy and Kathy cleaned up the bed.  Steve took Maddux to the living room and made some phone calls.  When I was done in the shower Steve brought Maddux back to our bed and everyone helped get me all tucked in and comfortable.  Kathy examined Maddux.  He was 9 pounds, 1 ounce; 22 inches.  She explained everything that she was checking and assured us that Maddux was great.

Maddux’s birth was an amazing, awesome, empowering, life-changing event for me.  I am so glad I had a home birth and that everything went well.  The 3 of us snuggled up in our bed and it was so nice to spend our first hours together, just the 3 of us, at home in our own bed.

I love you, Maddux.

 

 

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This is my first post

31 Jul

Hi, This is my blog.  I hope you enjoy it.