Atticus’s Birth Story

8 Jan

When I went into labor at 41 weeks, just like any other overdue woman, I was relieved.  After battling weeks of carpal tunnel and PUPPPS rash, I was ready for it all to end.

At 1:30 am on a Thursday, I woke up to mild contractions that I initially thought were cramps.  I went to the bathroom, then returned to bed.  This was my first pregnancy, so I was unsure if I was actually in labor.  Besides the mild cramping, I felt fine.  And because I was a week overdue, I had convinced myself I’d never go into labor; so it never crossed my mind.  Except, a few minutes later, the cramps became so intense I couldn’t ignore them, let alone sleep.

I nudged my husband, Steve. “I think I’m in labor, babe.”

He immediately hopped from the bed. “Really? Now?”

My mild groans through the contractions were enough to convince him.  He grabbed his phone and called Kate, our midwife.  We would later find out that she had received a call right before us from another of her clients who thought she was also in labor.  Turns out she wasn’t, which worked out well for us since I really wanted Kate to be there, not some other midwife.

Kate told us to time the contractions for an hour and then call her back.  By 2:30 am, I was in the fetal position on our couch, vocalizing through each contraction.  They were 45 seconds long, 3 minutes apart.  When Steve called Kate back, she didn’t ask for the times, she could tell from hearing me that we were indeed ready to have this baby.

When we found out we were pregnant in October 2011, I wanted a home birth.  I researched it, talked to friends and family who had done it, and tried to find the best midwife in our area capable of providing the kind of service and care I wanted.  That is how I found Kate; she came highly recommended.  However, that didn’t mean much to me until we had a chance to meet with her.  Our intake visit, scheduled for an hour, ended up running past four hours, late into the night.  She not only became our midwife that night, but a good friend.  We knew that she would listen to us, and that we could trust her to make the decisions we couldn’t.

However, at seven months, we moved out of our house and into an apartment.  This was when we had to revisit having a home birth.  We definitely did not want our neighbors hearing hours of me laboring.  The great thing was that they didn’t have to.  Kate offered up her own home for us to birth in, and we took it.

So when we got off the phone with Kate that morning, at 2:30 am, Steve got the car ready and laid in the back seat, my mom up front.  My mom was visiting for the birth.  Out of all the people who could have been there, I only wanted her and Steve.  My mom had seven hospital births, knew nothing about home birthing, but she was my mom.  I knew that in those moments of doubt and pain that I would want her to be there.

We drove thirty minutes to reach Kate’s house at three in the morning.  She rushed us inside to a private suite she had ready for laboring mothers.  It was equipped with a private bathroom that had a stand-alone shower and a full-size jacuzzi tub.  Before she would let me relax in it, though, she did a quick cervical check.  I was already dilated to 9 cm.  Because of how fast I was progressing, Kate rushed me to the tub, where she coached me how to breathe through the contractions like cresting a wave.  I asked Kate when I should start pushing, and she said to wait, that my body would know.

Time flew by fast.

At 5:30 am, I remember this overwhelming feeling that I had to push, an inescapable pull.  It caused me to momentarily panic and I told Kate.  She was calm the entire time, and told me to do whatever my body was telling me to, so I did.  I started pushing with each contraction.

But it wasn’t that easy.

I was pushing and pushing and felt like nothing was happening.  The only change I felt was pain, and it didn’t feel right.  The pain started in my back and radiated through my hips.  It was becoming more painful with each contraction and it wasn’t stopping.  We ended up moving out of the tub and into the bathroom, where I labored for a while, but still nothing.  I was then moved to the bed, where we attempted several different positions.  While on my back, Kate checked the baby visually, and then she informed me of the problem.

The baby was posterior.  With each contraction, the head was putting pressure on my spine and causing unbearable pain.  For the next few hours, we tried more positions and abdominal maneuvering to try to shift the baby into a better position.  Each contraction was exhausting.  Kate, and my other two midwives, checked my blood pressure and the baby’s heart rate after each contraction, but they were coming on so fast that I only had about fifteen seconds between each one to catch my breath.  Throughout the entire laboring process, my blood pressure and the baby’s heart rate remained steady.  However, my ability or desire to keep going was dwindling fast.

There were a few moments when I would move to the bathroom with Steve to try to labor over the toilet, trying to find any position that might offer any relief.  Whenever we were alone, I begged him to take me to the hospital.  I pleaded, crying, trying to stay quiet because I didn’t want Kate to think I was giving up even though I was.  Steve never said no, but he also didn’t know what to do.  I asked Kate at one point why we weren’t transferring to the hospital, and she said that we were not in any danger, and we were progressing, just very slowly.  She never denied me from being able to leave, but she always redirected me to focus on something else.

At 3 pm, we were all exhausted.  Kate finally offered me two options: bring in another midwife who was skilled at turning babies, or transfer to the hospital.  Before I could answer, she informed me that the other midwife would take an hour to get to the house, and then she would need to prep.  I was unwilling to wait.  We packed up and got in the car.  The drive to the hospital would be a thirty minute drive.

It’s a wonder how the mind works.  While we were in the car, I had to groan through the contractions because the back pain was unbearable, but I can remember conversing normally with Kate and my mom between the contractions as if everything was okay.  The fact that I knew I didn’t have long to wait for it all to be over gave me relief enough to keep going through the pain.

When we got to the hospital, I was immediately wheelchaired and shipped up to the ninth floor.  After putting me in a room, a nurse got my I.V. started as an O.B. entered the room.  She began taking a report from Kate.  This was then I informed the entire room that I wanted an epidural immediately.

I prided myself throughout the entire pregnancy that I had taken the time to inform myself on pregnancy and birth enough to know that I wanted minimal intervention.  However, when I asked for the epidural, I was taught something I didn’t know: there’s a difference between an epidural and a spinal.  The O.B. stated that if I ended up with a c-section, that they would need to do a spinal instead of an epidural.  A c-section was what I had feared the most, but in that moment, I didn’t care at all.

Kate let me know that if I wanted to continue to attempt to deliver vaginally, the O.B. would have to manually turn the baby with forceps.  This, I did not want.  So, in that moment, I didn’t think twice, and I had no doubts.  I asked for a c-section.

When they wheeled me into the O.R., I was alone, even though the room was full of nurses and doctors.  Steve was outside getting prepared to come in, and I was inside getting the spinal.  Through each contraction, a nurse held me tightly (or rather, I held onto her), so that I would not move.  Throughout my entire hospital experience, she is the only professional that I remember to this day.  She took very great care of me in the O.R. as they prepped me.

After the spinal was in and I was laid back, I remember her asking me, “What music do you like?  I’m going to turn on Pandora.”  Without hesitation, I told her, “mewithoutyou.”  I knew that any minute Steve would come into the room, and we always listen to the mewithoutyou station on Pandora at home.  When he entered the room, I told him about the music, but I could tell he was focused on something else.  He seemed very bothered, which is unusual for him, and would barely talk.  He later told me that when we transferred to the hospital, he had a difficult time processing it, because he knew I didn’t want a c-section.  He felt helpless that he couldn’t prevent it, even though we tried everything.

The cesarean went extremely well.  I never felt any pain or even any pressure during the entire process.  When our baby was born, we were pleasantly surprised to find out he was a boy (we did not previously know the gender) and also that he was over nine pounds!  His Apgar score within the first minute was a 9, and then again a 9 at five minutes after birth.  He was (and still is) a beautiful boy.  They handed him to me after cleaning and wrapping him.  I laid him on my chest, but because I was so drugged up and could barely even move my arms, I asked Steve to take him so he wouldn’t roll off of me.  The nurse helped Steve tuck our son into his gown so that only his head was poking out.

All in all, my hospital experience went incredibly well.  I birthed at a pro-breastfeeding hospital, and it felt like a hotel–a nice one.  I was never judged for attempting a home birth, nor was it even brought up.  Each nurse, lactation specialist, and doctor whom I encountered were very professional and kind.  It is one of the reasons why my husband wants us to have a hospital birth for our next child, because the experience went so smoothly.

Looking back at my birth, and through telling it here, it was definitely an experience I am glad that I had.  I sometimes feel overwhelmed with regrets and “should have”s, when I shouldn’t be.  I sometimes wonder if I should have called my chiropractor during labor so she could turn the baby.  I sometimes tell myself that I was weak and that I gave up and that everyone will see me that way.  And then I look at my son, whom we named after my dad, and I let it go.  My experience could have been many times worse than it was, and it would still have been worth it if in the end I would receive this beautiful boy.

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