Monday, January 31, 2005

The Way It Is Supposed to Be

Now that I have compared birth to death, I would like to share my marvelous birth experience with my seventh baby.

The pregnancy was normal, although it seemed the attending midwife and staff were overly concerned about me. My blood pressure was always a little high when I arrived for the appointment, but went down to normal after a little while. My blood sugar was just below the newly lowered threshold (I have already forgotten the number). Because of this I was treated as if I was in a dangerous situation. At the time I was 37. I am getting side tracked here, but that was probably one of the biggest frustrations of the pregnancy. They seemed suprised that I was holding up physically. I was also told group B strep test was MANDATORY or "They" wouldn't release my baby from the hospital for 48 hours. I am the type that like to be discharged ASAP, so this was a huge threat for me. I finally agreed to the test, and when I went back next visit to get the results, my BP was through the roof. As soon as they said it was negative, it dropped to normal. I was adament about facing the opposite direction while getting weighed, and Please don't tell me what I weigh unless it is a medical necessity. Each time I had a different nurse, I had to explain my distaste for knowing my weight. Doesn't anyone ever write anything down?? Meanwhile, I was reading Sheila Kitzinger books, wishing for a practice that has as much common sense as she does. Now, it is important to note I really like the midwife I have gone to all these years. She is kind, compassionate, non-judgemental, gentle, caring, and very nurturing. I would never be able to handle a physician practice, I am guessing. The practice "as a rule" doesn't see pregnancy as a sickness, but that is "within reason, of course". I mean really, who has seven babies? I really dread having to go back there again. I love the births with them, but hate the pre-natal care.

Anyway, I digress. I was supposed to be speaking of my wonderful birth. I had ALWAYS wanted a water birth. Each of the previous six times, I was refused ("The room is full", "It would take too long to fill the tub", "The nurse on duty is too busy") Truthfully, I was usually only in the hospital one hour before the last 4 babies were born, and the midwife even missed one altogether, and my dh delivered him. THAT freaked out the nurse on duty, let me tell you! Anyway, back to this birth. This time, my water "popped" about 3 hours before contractions got too strong. I actually heard and felt it. Very weird. I called the midwife on duty (not my usual one, but I was quite comfortable with her). Because of the advance notice, she was able to reserve the room with the whirlpool. By the time we got there, it was the last room available. Now I am skipping some funny stuff, like as soon as I told me DH my water broke, and started to pack, he took a nap to rest up. My single brother had come over to stay with the other kids, and he walked me around our circle drive at midnight, while dh was resting. Gotta love practical men.

Anyway, back to the birth. We walk into the room, and my dh immediatly started filling the tub. Didn't ask. I walked in and declared there would be NO baseline 30 min fetal monitoring with straps and supine positioning. "If you want fetal heart tones, do hand-held while I stand bedside. " I assured them I was in active labor, and they didn't need to keep checking me. They insisted, I refused, they insisted, I said, fine as long as I don't have to lie down. They gave up. My husband passed out copies of our birth plan, and made sure they all read and understood it. (Basically it requested privacy and quiet, and as little intervention as we could get away with. ) Now that we all had an understanding, things went along fine. I had read the book "Ina Mae's Guide to Childbirth" just a week before, and had really identified with a statement about letting the fear rip right through you, so you can then get on with the labor (I also loved using the term "surges", instead of "contractions", and envisioned expanding rings of a pebble tossed in a lake). So, I became afraid just as I was begining transition. So I let it rip. "I want an epidural!!!! I can't do this again.!!!!" DH looked horrified, as he had never seen me like this before. "You don't know what it's like!!!!You don't know!!!" I realized after the birth, I had forgotten to tell dh about my new "let it rip" strategy. He was FLUMMOXED! About that time Mrs. Midwife arrived and being the pro she is, she told me, "Of course you can have an epidural. It just takes time to set up. Why don't you get in the tub so you can be more relaxed while we wait." I got in the WARM lovely water, and instantly I had forgotten about the epidural request. I relaxed. I floated. I felt the "surges" coming and went limp and let them do their work, and it didn't really hurt, but the power of my body was awe inspiring.

After many births delivering standing bedside, I had realized that left me feeling vulnerable and disconnected. There I was, facing the wall, while midwife and dh were standing behind me. The door is behind me, I had no idea who was in the room. When the baby is born, he gets grabbed from behind me, and then passed through my legs. I felt out of the loop. With my first 2 standing births, I was facing my husband, hanging on him really, when the baby was born. With the next two, he was behind me, and I felt all alone.

Back to this birth. Dh was just sitting next to the tub, stroking the back of my hand, making sure I didn't clench into a fist, and reminding me to keep my jaw slack. Mrs. Midwife was sitting on the other edge of the tub, keeping eye contact with me so I didn't retreat into my fear. Very calm, very private (remember, we're in a bathroom, not the main room), very medatative, very peaceful. This went on for 30 minutes or so, and I started feeling more pressure low, and a little pushy. Remaining transfixed by the warm water, I just let it all happen. Total bouyancy, trust in my body, power positively surging through me. Mrs. Midwife askes me if I am feeling pushy, and thinks about getting her protective gear on. "After the next contraction, I'll go change." The next contraction begins, the power envelopes me. I feel the tell-tale burning, and know this is near the end. Next thing I know, Mrs. Midwife says, "Whoa, we have a baby!!", and reaching into the water gently places my sweet love on my chest. I was in awe. She was lovely, tiny, perfect, I had known her forever, it seemed. Dh had almost missed it, as he went to change the CD. What I remember is there was no blood, no confusion on my part, no utter exhaustion. Just joy. Then, after the cord stopped pulsing, it was cut and I had to get out of the tub before the placenta was delivered (why? no one explained that one). That was the worst part, as I was freezing in the air, began to bleed, and could no longer hold the babe. It took awhile to get me to stop shivering, massage the uterus, which would do it's job for a while, then quit, then start up again. Very irritating. After a few shots of something stronger that pitocin, all was well. I felt terrific, no tearing, no bottom pain, just pretty intense afterpains . All in all, I felt it was almost perfect.

I had read in my Bible recently the quote in Genesis, after the fall, and I noticed for the first time it says, "Your pain in childbirth will be greatly increased." This leads me to believe that even before the fall, there was some pain with birth. The kind of pain that lets you know the power of the event, but doesn't lead to despair. I feel I experienced the closest thing to that kind of birth. I am so blessed, and, I might add, significantly less fearful of the next birth, should there be one.


Blogger Anne Basso said...

That is what I always dreamed birth could be like. My first three have included some combination of artificial rupture of membranes, pitocin, and epidural. Now I am expecting my fourth and reading that story gave me hope and peace. I read Spiritual Midwifery, and the advice Ina May gives about attitude has made all of my births positive, but you've given me something to strive for, that spiritual birth I've always wanted. Thank you for your beautiful post.

February 01, 2005  
Blogger alicia said...

You should send your birth story to Ina May - she would get a kick out of it!
I wish that I had more patients like you all - I get so frustrated with the "I want my epidural and I want it now!" ladies. The hospital where I am used to have a birthing tub - they took it out because so few moms used it. We have a labor jacuzzi, and I keep hoping that some mom will 'accidentally' birth there but so far not for me.
If you have another baby, make up a sticker and ask them to put it on your prenatal chart (weigh backwards, do not discuss weight, take BP at end of visit, etc). If my nurse gets a high BP on the patient I tel the patient that I personally will retake it after we have had a chance to chat and after she has had a few moments to settle down after the waiting room hassle. Sometimes she has to remind me!
The whole Group B strep test makes me nuts. So does the gestational diabetes testing protocol. But we are stuck in a system that is horribly adversarial, and if I want to continue to work within the system I have to put up with that kind of insanity. I try to modify things as much as I can get away with, but as a health care provider in our dysfuctional chaos, I have to serve many masters. It's a wonder I don't have an ulcer.

February 03, 2005  

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