Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A hospital birth story

I have a friend and fellow doula who is allowing me to share her birth story here. I think many people may think that because I support and have had home births that I think that is the only way to go. Actually I know that the majority of women will not birth at home and there is no reason why a hospital birth can't be as peaceful and respectful. I remember the first birth story I ever read was from my sister in-law while I was pregnant with my first. I found it fascinating and was overwhelmed at the beauty of it. At the time, I was planning on getting to the hospital and getting medicated as soon as possible so this was a new thing for me to read her story. She spoke of leaving the hospital AMA to go get herself something to eat, being at home in the tub, having a doula(what on earth is that??!), her husband sitting behind her while she pushed, and music being played. I loved it but at the time thought that was SO not me. She was in a hospital and had even been on bed rest for many weeks. She educated herself about birth and her body, hired a doula and had a wonderful hospital birthing experience.
Back to my friend, K. She actually wrote me at some point while she was pregnant and shared her plans for a natural birth and wanted me to know that she had been following my blog. Here is her birth story:

My guess date was June 2nd, but instead of a baby I had a prenatal appointment. At that time the midwife (Titi) asked me if I wanted her to sweep my membranes. I did not go to that appointment prepared to answer that question, so I just went along with it. I figured if she suggested it, then it's probably okay to do. (I'm not doing that again.) By the time I made it to my car I felt premenstrual-like cramping. I called Robbie just to let him know what happened and that I was feeling premenstrual.
Around 3:30pm on June 3rd I noticed something that HAD to be bloody show. I wasn't sure that's what it was at the time, though hindsight being what it is, how could I have NOT known that's what it was? Robbie got home around 4pm and I told him about it. He was so excited! I was still feeling crampy from the day before, so around 4:30 I decided I felt like taking a long shower. We were supposed to go to a church function that night, but I just felt like taking time in the shower before we left. I asked him to check on me every 30 minutes just to make sure I didn't fall asleep in the shower or something. I was planning on taking a VERY long shower.
Time went by pretty quickly in the shower, and I stayed in there until 6pm. When I got out to get ready to go, I thought, "I'll just lay down on the bed for a minute." Well, apparently Robbie fell asleep too! He came and woke me up at 7pm. Well, we knew that we weren't going to make it to the church function, but I still wanted to go to Sonic! I was starving! And I wanted one of their Strawberry Limeade drinks. When I stood up to go to the bathroom, something leaked out of me. I told Robbie, "Something just leaked out of me and I don't think it was pee!" We weren't really sure what was going on so we started making a bunch of phone calls.
At around 7:30pm on June 3rd my membranes ruptured, though I did not know it at the time that's what it was. I wasn't having contractions as far as I could tell, so I called the midwife (Debbie) to see if that's what it was. She told me a few things to do, and eventually she just said to come to the hospital to get checked out. We made it to the hospital around 9pm. The drive there was really calm and peaceful because I wasn't feeling any pain and I still didn't think the baby was really coming. I was kind of excited though.
When we got to the hospital they took me to a triage area, hooked me up to some monitors and used some sort of paper to see if my membranes had ruptured. They had! The nurse checked me (I think next time I'll ask them not to do that), and I was still at 3cm. After awhile the nurse told me I was having contractions and they were coming 3-4 minutes apart. I still wasn't feeling them. Robbie left to make some phone calls and I started to feel my contractions when he was gone. This was probably a little after 10pm. It seemed that things took off really quickly after this. It was funny because I was watching a Family Guy episode where Peter delivers a baby. :o)
By the time Robbie got back I wasn't having fun anymore. I actually started gagging during my contractions, and I had not started any kind of coping mechanisms. It was a good idea that we never had a chance to go to Sonic because I probably would have lost my dinner at that point. I remember at some point the nurse brought a birthing ball in there, but I just didn't feel like getting out of the bed yet. I was waiting for them to get my room prepped which seemed to take forever. Debbie came in there and talked to me for a little while. I felt kind of guilty and rude because it was very difficult to talk. I suppose she's used to women getting like that! There were a couple of other mothers she was attending at the same time. Because I was a first timer, they thought I would take a long time.
While I was waiting in triage, Robbie and Debbie would go in and out a couple of times. Because I had not felt my contractions yet, I was not worried. Until then I had been watching the monitor and marveling at the fact that I could not feel what the monitor was showing. I suddenly started feeling them at one point when I was completely alone and I became worried I would not be able to handle those contractions for 12-14 more hours! Robbie came back at some point and helped me start using low deep sounds. Finally my room was ready, but by then it was difficult for me to walk. I'm glad I decided to get wheeled to the room rather than walk; the breeze felt really good.
When I got there I really did not want to have to get out of the chair, but somehow I made it to the bed. When I got there, I had a contraction and blew chunks all over myself! Poor Robbie, I almost got him in the face. They began filling up the tub for me. At some point Debbie came back (she had several ladies to tend to). I remember I was just standing there for some reason, probably looking overwhelmed and lost, and I started having a contraction. She just ran to me and hugged me through the contraction. It took a little while to make it to the tub. I had to lean over the bathroom sink and rock my hips through a wave while Debbie rubbed on my back. I finally made it to the tub and spent the rest of labor in there. Oh boy what a relief!
All I remember is that contractions never seemed to completely go away, even in the water, and Robbie really helped me remember my low sounds. He would vocalize with me and I appreciated him doing that so I would not feel so self conscious. It was the perfect way for him to help me! I tried to visualize each wave as an ocean wave entering a cave and going back out again, as if it was pulling the baby out of me. That was my favorite idea out of all the stories I read, and I tried to use it. I also tried to take each wave one at a time. Debbie (midwife) turned off the lights in there and kept telling what to relax-usually my shoulders. I don't remember what made her decide to get me out of the tub, but she and Robbie helped me out of the tub. I remember saying, "I need to poop!" as I was getting out. Debbie replied, "That's the baby!" I remember feeling a mixture of not really believing her and extreme happiness.
I remember thinking right before they helped me out of the tub that I didn't know how much longer I could handle it, and I definitely understood why women would want relief. I also remember thinking that I wasn't getting any breaks between rushes. I'm not sure if I said these things out loud. Robbie told me I didn't talk during labor. I think the only thing I said was, "Oh sh*t!" when Debbie told me it was time to start pushing. Robbie said that was comic relief!
I made it back to the bed and Debbie checked me for the first and only time that she did that. I was at 9.5 cm. I was so surprised, relieved, and really happy! Debbie got me to do little pushes to get completely to 10cm because I had a little lip of cervix in the way. I think she left the room for a little while and when she came back she said it was time to push. Whoa! Already? Really? (This is the part where I said, "Oh sh*t!" because I don't think I was emotionally ready. I got ready quickly because I thought, "I don't care what happens! I don't care how much it hurts, I'm going to get this baby out! I'm not going to hold back because that will only slow things down. And if I poop on myself oh well!" Yes, I thought all of that, and then got to work. Once I got those thoughts out of the way, I was able to completely focus on the task at hand.)
I don't remember how long the pushing stage lasted but Robbie said it lasted about 30 minutes. I remember being scared of crowning before but it really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Debbie REALLY did a lot to help me do a good job pushing. After reading many birth stories since then, she was probably protecting my perineum-another reason why crowning may not have been as bad as I thought it would be. And then, all of a sudden, she was out! Debbie immediately put her on my chest and she stayed there for the rest of everything. They helped me latch her on, and I was able to breast feed before they did anything to her. Robbie says the first thing I said to her was, "Hey little thing!" He says that's the sweetest thing he's ever heard and he'll never forget it. I did NOT like when they massaged my uterus after. So Lilian Nicole was born at 2:41am on June 4, 2010. She weighed 8 lbs 3 oz and was 20 inches long. I'm completely in love with my little baby and so impressed with the work my body was able to do! I can't believe I achieved an unmedicated birth, but I am so thankful that I was able to do it. What makes me really happy is how much Robbie is happy with the care I received from the midwives. He didn't trust them at first, but now he really does!
** Note: After the wonderful care I received with from midwives at The Women's Specialists of Houston, I decided to start the journey to become a doula.

So, for all of you out there wondering what things can be done to achieve a positive birth(for YOU..every one's definition is different), here are some suggestions:

1. Pick a hospital with mother/baby-friendly practices..this can include rooming in, no separation from mother, and support of breastfeeding from the time of birth.

2. If you don't want a c-section, avoid a hospital with high c-section rates. One hospital in your city may have a 20% rate and one may have a 50% rate...pick the lower.

3. Pick a practitioner who supports normal birth. Red flags would be anyone who tells you what they will "allow" or ones who brush off your questions. Remember you are paying THEM. You need to feel respected. If you don't get that feeling during pre-natals, you probably won't during labor and birth. I would like to make a plug for Certified Nurse Midwives who practice in hospitals. They have very low intervention rates and are less likely to opt for surgery for their own convenience. They will also be with you during labor more than an OB who will get there when you are pushing. I am not saying that all Dr.s are bad though..there are good ones out there, you just have to find them. Ask them how often they induce, and for what reasons. If getting to your "due date" is a reason to induce, this may end up being a Dr. who does not have patience for your body or your baby. If you have had a c-section before and would like to have a vaginal delivery(VBAC), ask them what percent of their VBACing moms actually have VBACS. It is easy to say you support them but some Dr.s will only "support" one if you go into labor by 40 weeks or whatever other reasons they may come up with.

4. Labor at home as long as you can. The sooner you get to the hospital, the sooner you are on their "clock".

5. When you call to say you are coming in, request a nurse who "enjoys working with unmedicated mothers" This will make a huge difference as your nurse will be with you more than your delivery attendant. No one wants to have a nurse with a chip on her shoulder because you want to walk around, get in water, or eat. Which brings me to my next point.

6. Eat and drink. Want to know a secret?? You can eat in the hospital. They can't force you to only have ice chips. I always feel bad when moms feel they have no choice in this matter. You may need to sign a waiver or eat when the staff leave your room but you should be able to if you want. For faster labors, you may not want to eat but most women will become very thirsty towards the end of labor and during pushing. No one expects marathon runners to go without food or drink to replenish your energy so why do we expect birthing women to go without? I always feel so bad when I know of a woman in labor who was induced or something and it is a 2 day labor. I always think, " I bet she's not even getting anything to eat or drink" and worry about her being too tired or weak when it comes to pushing.

7. Get in positions YOU feel are the most comfortable. A woman on her back is most convenient to the nurses and the Dr. You should not worry about them but about what your body and baby need. I have a cousin who swore when she was pregnant with her 1st that she would do any position BUT hands and knees. She thought it was too animal like I think. Guess what she did when she got to the birth center? She got straight on her hands and knees and pushed her baby out just like that. She did what came naturally to her in the moment. Also, if you have a care provider that will only "let" you birth in certain positions...Red Fag!

8. Hire a doula! Doulas can provide different things for different families. A doula for one mom may provide hours of massage during labor if she is not wanting medication. For another mom, she may provide emotional support during a medicated birth as well as facilitate in postional changes that can help the baby move down if the mother is confined to a bed. Doulas can remind staff of wishes the couple may have regarding their birth. Doulas can think of things the mother or husband, such as bringing a sports drink of water to a mom in between pushes. The list goes on.

To conclude, you have options..but only if you know them. If you don't research your choices in pregnancy and childbirth, you will not have any. One of the perks of birthing at home is that most of this stuff is a given. I wanted to share this example of a hospital birth where the mother was able to birth the way she wanted to and was respected. Every woman deserves to feel respected and empowered during childbirth..whatever kind of birth that is.


Lei said...

Good suggestions Sarah. If I did it agin I would make sure to have all those things in place and i especially like the idea of calling ahead and requesting a nurse that, as you said, "enjoys working with an uneducated mother". Because as you know, my second nurse whispered "I've never worked with this kind of patient before"... when her shift started.

I especially encourage the eating and drinking... and the analogy to a marathon runner is spot on. It just makes sense! So stupid that they want you ready for an emergency c-section before they even get you in the delivery room.

Lei said...

Uh, I meant unmedicated not uneducated.

Laura: The Sushi Snob said...

I really appreciate it when people give tips on how to have a positive hospital birthing experience instead of demonizing hospitals. I'm preparing to give birth unmedicated in a hospital in March, and these tips are very helpful. I'm currently seeing CNMs who have privileges in a supportive hospital, and I'm in the process of hiring a doula :)

Keri said...

Beautifully shared birth story. Nothing beats CNM - except maybe CNM"s in birthing centers (mine were hospitals) or CPMs.

Prof. Chin said...

Loved reading about your natural delivery--so honest and heart-felt. Thanks for sharing! We're about to have a baby next month and are planning to deliver at a birthing center here in NYC. (In the meantime, I've been reading all the Ina May books I can get my hands on!).

Btw, I heard about your blog through Sarah Pinneo and greatly admire it. I met Sarah on book tour recently and am also due to have a memoir out (next year, by Simon & Schuster) about foraging and food with lots of home remedies and recipes in it. Would you be interested in checking out an advanced copy?

Fyi: I write the "Urban Forager" blog for the New York Times and also keep a personal one at www.AvaChin.com.