Tag Archives: unmedicated birth

Caroline’s birth story – pt 3

AKA “the part where I lost my freaking mind”.

Me. Losing my mind.

Me. Losing my mind.

Also – before we get to the nitty gritty, remember the recent hoopla over the guy who took selfies while his wife was delivering? Let’s just say he wasn’t the first.

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Needs no caption.

Part 1 here, and part 2 here.

I was 7 cm dilated when I got to triage, and probably about the same when they wheeled me up to a delivery room since the stress of transferring to hospital slowed things down a bit. All my months of denial about birth, and hours of denial about labor made me forget all my Bradley training and pretty much everything I knew about labor and birth, so I pretty much rocked up like one of those women who mistake an 8 month nausea-filled gestation complete with intestinal punches and kicks for “the effects of holiday eating” (and I’m really concerned about how they eat on holidays). Naive, confused and completely fecking useless.

Everyone is looking at me an laughing like there is some kind of joke going on. I don't look so amused though... Hmmmm

Everyone is looking at me and laughing like there is some kind of joke going on. I don’t look so amused though… Hmmmm

Oh, addendum: before leaving the triage room I stated “I want an epidural”.

We arrive in delivery at about 3 am and the contractions are picking up steam in terms of pain. Having slowed a bit for the jaunt to hospital (an oft-observed phenomenon) they luckily got nice and regular (read: sucky and regular) when we settled in. The nurse started preparing an IV of antibiotics for the group B strep and fluid for the epidural.

Then my OB arrived. She apprised the situation. She uttered the words “but I thought she didn’t want an epidural?” and with -I swear – a sort of disappointed look responded to “she’s changed her mind” with a shrug and an “OK then”. I wanted to punch her, really hard (even though I love her really). The only thing that saved her pretty face and my jail-free life was the knowledge that she’d be poking around the business end of my body soon, and hey, I try to be nice to people who end up there, whatever their reason is.

I gritted my teeth and told her that I couldn’t deal with the pain after all. My OB’s path to redemption began when she looked at my nurses and told them to help me with the pain. She offered me a bath which I declined mid-contraction in tears and so she suggested a yoga ball. This gave me pause. Wes said “she’s the yoga ball queen” so as a contraction ended I bitterly conceded “ok, that maybe sounds good”.

They even inserted up my IVs while I sat on the ball.

They even inserted up my IVs while I sat on the ball.

I’ll confess: it was darn good. She then got the nurse to put counter pressure on my back with the contraction and I entered his blissful phase where the contractions were pretty bearable and I got glorious pain free (completely fucking pain free) breaks for a minute or so in between but was high on the endorphins. And all with my OB was forgiven. Happy times.

No pain! Glorious pain-free moments.

No pain! Glorious pain-free moments.

That glorious state lasted for ooohh… 10 minutes at the most and then transition started. The contractions got stronger until I was flopped over the bed from my yoga ball begging my OB to look at the contraction monitor and tell me the contraction was on its way down. At some point I think they situated Wes opposite me and got him to be reassuring… Unfortunately at that point I felt intense nausea and started shriek “I’m going to vomit” and retch at his crotch. He bore it well but later confessed he was horrified. The nurses did sweet things like ask me if I liked my hair tied up, and when I said yes, they did so. They really tried to help with small comforts.

At about 3.20 I looked down and saw fluid everywhere and felt totally humiliated by it for some reason. I miserably said “I think my water broke” and the nurse looked down and said “yes” then looked at the OB and said “light meconium staining” and I remember feeling truly miserable as I thought through the pain “I am sitting, helplessly bouncing around in body fluid and poo while crying – this is the worst thing ever”.

My water breaking signaled another increase in contraction intensity and a lack of break between them such that one would start before true other ended. I think I truly lost my mind slightly because I remember the OB reminding me to breathe and I didn’t even realize I wasn’t. I also remember the pain ripping angry yells from my body at the peaks. I was lucky – transition lasted only about 15 minutes for me. I guess it was obvious to my experienced OB that I had passed through that because after 15 minutes she looked at me and very calmly said “Alexis, do you feel constant pressure yet?”. I tried to figure it out… I thought that if the pain would just recede a little I could figure out if and where and when I was feeling “pressure”. But the pain was just unending and intense and I gave up and felt useless not being able help, and said in tears “I don’t even know”.

My team was super nice about my pathetic-ness and just gave me space to do my thing; they never questioned or pushed me or intervened to assess me. They seemed to truly trust me and my body which on some level was reassuring and must have been calming because a few minutes later I looked at them with terrified eyes and said “I need to push”. Followed by “actually, thinking about it, I think I’ve been pushing for a while”.

The OB told me to get on the bed and the thought of actually balancing and putting weight on my legs was like someone asking me fly so I declared I couldn’t do it. I looked at the resident who was evidently going to actually deliver the girl and said in a measured and dangerous tone: “my epidural?”. I swear j have never seen a doctor look so scared and she mutely shook her head. That was it. I wailed “I can’t do this” as the nurses hoiked me onto the bed. Half way up I yelled out “oh, ring of fire! Ring of fire“. My nice OB said no stirrups or anything like that, just to let me get into my own position. Basically a glorious hands off approach.

Left to my own devices my body really did take over and push with the contractions at the end of transition. My mind had nothing to do with this… My body was pushing and wailing and screaming through contractions and I was completely unaware of it… It all seemed to be on autopilot and I truly felt like an animal. A couple of minutes after getting on the bed, when my OB said “try to use your energy to push down not yell out” it brought me to my senses more. I realized that I had not even realized I was yelling and needed to pull it together a but. The contractions had more or less gone and the pain was gone. So I did what any reasonable person would do at this point when faced with the prospect of reopening the door to pain and took a deep breath, looked the staff In their eyes and calmly, but firmly, re-iterated

“I can’t do this”

Everyone - everyone - joining in the effort to convince me that I could do this

Everyone – everyone – joining in the effort to convince me that I could do this

Everyone joined in this team effort to convince me I could. I was highly skeptical until my OB told me that I could, because I basically already had. Caroline was almost out – she had been pushed most of the way on the ball, and was now crowning. I should have known that from my “ring of fire” yelps, but my reason had gone. Gone. Even the crowning didn’t move me – it was when my OB said “she’s blonde” (I responded “blonde? Really? Like her brother?”) that it became real to me – my daughter was here and she had hair like her brother.

My super sexy pushing face.

My super sexy pushing face.

So I pushed. And pushed. Probably only 3 pushes or so, but it hurt. It really hurt – the contractions were like the most intense I-might-pass-out type pain. The pushing was nowhere near as painful but just deeply unpleasant – I felt like my intestines were going to fall out of my butt hole. Seriously. Like I was going to turn inside out. The level of pain was bearable… The unpleasantness held it back. My OB could tell I was holding back and put two fingers in me and pressed down stretching my entrance. I got quite cross and said “you’re hurting me!” And she said triumphantly “yes! Now push past that pain” which helped – a lot. I could focus on an area and push beyond it. A couple of pushes and I asked if I could have a break to breathe… They said yes…. Then as I started up again, the other super helpful thing my OB said was “when you get her out all this pain will go” which was a good motivator. A few more painful pushes and the nurses looked excited and said “yes! She’s here”. Her head was half way out! I asked for another break…

At this point. All the pain really really stopped. I mean, I’m not going to claim that it was comfortable having half a baby’s head out of me, but it wasn’t painful. And it was nearly 4 am and I was tired and it really did cross my mind that I just wouldn’t start pushing again. I’d nap. Have a snack. Maybe start again tomorrow. Maybe.

My team began to get a bit nervous as their wailing gnashing banshee sat there serenely peaceful, doing nothing. For all the world as if she was about to settle in with netflix and some wine… Apart from the baby half hanging out of her. They made all sorts of encouraging noises (it got to the stage where even the non-medical staff such as the clean-up lady give me huge thumbs up of encouragement). I just half closed my eyes and felt peaceful. Eventually it crossed my mind that this might not be too good for my baby and that galvanized me into one last push… And out she came. Caroline was here.

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The pain did indeed immediately end. The pediatric team had been called because of the meconium staining, but Caroline came out roaring and my OB said “as she’s crying can I hand her over?” (Love my OB!). They pediatric team obviously said yes and a sticky, gooey, poo-ey Caroline was laid on my chest while they suctioned her and did a clean up right there on my chest. I had an itty bitty first degree tear sewed up and just looked at my daughter. She was here!

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Caroline’s birth story – pt 2

Read part 1 here.

Before I get to the real nitty gritty of the delivery, I have realized I can’t describe Caroline’s birth story without acknowledging my state of mind of going into it, because I have realized that it is inherently part of the story. Although it had every medical intervention possible short of a C-section, Sam’s birth went well. Due to an undiagnosed case of von willebrands (plus I suspect, some bad luck), the post-birth part did not go well. Aside from brief outbursts of emotion, this was something I realize now that I chose not to fully process.

In part, I think it is hard to process something that you are unconscious, or heavily medicated, for. In larger part, it is frankly easier, if more cowardly, to go into something that nearly killed you last time pretending that it didn’t nearly kill you last time. The first sign that I might in some sort of denial may be that I refused to believe I had von willebrands for a while. OK, I still don’t really believe it, but I do accept my smart hematologist’s edict that we have to treat me as if I have it, given my “history”. But as mild von willebrands essentially needs no treatment in day to day life, that issue didn’t rear its head too often.

Another sign might have been that if someone brought up how close the call had come, I was genuinely shocked and surprised, and little awkward. I remember my friend Taylor saying on Sam’s birthday “Hey – it’s the anniversary of you surviving!” and I just kind of stared open mouthed like a guppy at feeding time, and then scowled and changed the subject. And when I transferred to my new OB (Dr. Dryden) the nurses muttered to each other “Dryden saved her” – and I just scowled again and labelled them as “over dramatic”. But again, this was not something that often came up – people don’t generally like to bring up nasty medical experiences (at least, not if they want to keep their friends…).

Things started to change when (1) expert people telling me how serious the situation really had been; and (2) having to prepare to give birth again. When I saw my OB at my first trimester appointment she brought up my chart and started stutter as she read the history saying “I can see you had a massive transfusion“. I did. Massive transfusions are not good (well.. they are good, it’s just the situations requiring them is not good), and when I initially told people about my birth experience I would say “As I went to OR I just remember the words ‘massive transfusion protocol'”. But then I decided that I probably dreamed that, or made it up for dramatic effect. So I was kind of shocked to hear the surgeon in charge of the birth state it. And see it there in my notes for all to see.

During that visit, my OB said to me “You’re lucky to be able to have another child!” and I said “well… it’s due to YOU” and she looked confused and I reminded her “You were the one who delivered my son… you saved me and my uterus by using a new procedure… you sewed the balloon into my cervix which hadn’t been done before.. right?” and the light dawned, and her eyes went wide with recognition and then a kind of fear and I’ll never forget her saying “Oh my God… it’s you… you’re you… You came back!” [aside: of course I came back – she was the most awesome surgeon ever! And my kiddo is the greatest kiddo ever]. I nodded and my OB – my extremely experienced OB who seems to specialize in high risk cases – said “I will never forget your birth”. Seeing how seriously she took the situation was not something my “it was no big deal” mindset was ready for. I looked her straight in the eyes and said “It’s fine… you did great last time with no warning, I have no worries about this time with plenty of warning… I trust you completely”. Then I pretty much packed up my things and left. Which was nice for my OB, but essentially what I was saying was “I don’t want to think about this, or deal with it, so I am shutting the whole conversation down”.

The I vowed not to think about birth until I hit the second trimester and the highest risk of miscarriage passed. And then, at that point, I would start to think things like “do I want an epidural?” and never really get very far with my answers. And suddenly I was 35 weeks and it was my beautiful baby shower and I was telling people that ‘yes, I was totally ready for everything” but when they got to specifics ‘no, I had not bought diapers yet…’ and ‘no I had not packed my hospital bags..’ and ‘no, I had not sorted the nursery’ and ‘no, no, no’. And that triggered something in me… some deep seated awareness that holy crap, I was actually going to have to do this again. And suddenly the darkest recesses of my mind took over and would pipe up at inopportune times. Like when I was reading Sam a book, something deep in my mind would say “I hope that if you die someone will tell Sam that his Mum used to read him books and do all he silly voices with him..”. I would squash the thought but later on the voice would say “If you die, hopefully people will tell your children ‘she loved you so much, she risked everything to bring you into this world'”. It wa startling to me how strong these thoughts were.

The next day I was in Starbucks and I had to walk past my hospital and while standing in line waiting for ‘the usual’ [tall decaff PSL, no whip, just one pump of syrup] I began to shake and cry and it is very awkward when heavily pregnant women start silently bawling in public because no one thinks they can ignore them and everyone thinks it is about the baby and tries to help . And when strangers asked if I was OK, it’s not like I could regale them with the whole birth history that I was trying to deny….

It’s funny, looking back, I don’t think I truly accepted what happened after Sam’s birth until after Caroline’s birth. I was taken up to a postpartum recovery room, and the nurse in the room said “Have you given birth here before?” and I said “Yes! Almost three years to the day I delivered my son here” and she said “OK, I am going to be honest… I knew that… I remember you… No one will ever forget your birth” and I thought “Geez… even nurses not involved in the situation are freaked out about this”. And my OB came by to visit me, and everything was perfect (and as you’ll find out in part 3 she has been utterly amazing in the birth) and I was holding my sweet Caroline and fully recovered within about an hour and my OB could finally say “I’ll just never forget your first birth… it’s just emblazoned in my memory and I can’t shift it”. And I thought ‘crap.. it really was that bad’.

So I didn’t finalize the process before Caroline came along, but I did begin to accept that I was utterly freaked out about giving birth again – not necessarily because I thought the same thing would happen, but because I realized that anything could happen. So I began to accept that I was scared, and angry. I was angry at my body for letting me down. My strong, half marathon and tough mudder running body builders body. And I was angry at the ‘natural birth’ community. I was angry at their message that ‘women were made to do this and should just trust their bodies’ (because where would that have got me? Let’s say it: dead is where) and even more angry at my treatment after birth. Basically, from all the natural birth communities I engaged with while pregnant, suddenly not one of them wanted to share my birth story, which left me feeling excluded and shunned. And then angry that by purposefully denying these stories, some parts of the natural birth community are lying to their followers: they simply discount the very real, and very rare, dangers rather than acknowledge them and allow women and their partners to make informed choices.

It was a tough few weeks and probably contributed to a lot of the depression I suffered with at the end of Caroline’s pregnancy (not something I have admitted before). I was scared and felt trapped – trapped into having to do something I was scared of. But, the reason that this is so part of Caroline’s birth is that I eschewed all thinking about actual birth before going into labor (in fact, possibly while in labor, which is why I didn’t accept I was until I was fully in transition. Although sleeping through labor definitely has some up sides…). Consequently, I didn’t have any kind of plan for what I would do in labor. At all. I just ticked the ‘no epidural’ box on my hospital pre-addmission forms and that was it.

So, I went into the delivery room really quite unprepared…

I’m glad I have written this down now. I am still 28% hippie and believe in things like the damages of repressed emotions, so I am glad to have written it down and am now able to really move onwards an upwards.