This next part may be very hard to read. Please be forewarned, relatives and former caregivers may not want to…
When we phoned my care provider, there was a major miscommunication…apparently she thought she had explained that she could not attend a homebirth at this point. As far as I know, I could have refused to transfer to the hospital…nothing was wrong…but at that point I had already avoided induction and I did not want an uneasy care person in my midst and in my home. Despite the accusation that we had somehow deceived our doula because we were “told we couldn’t have a homebirth”, I chose to go. We took our time packing…throwing in hypnobabies and a salt crystal lamp…items which made the hospital room into a womb-like cave that had everyone relaxed and sleepy. I nearly threw up on the 5 minute ride to the hospital. I no longer felt very trusting of the tone and minced words of our care provider, but I had my husband and my doula there with me and labour went on. I am so grateful to my doula for negotiating not to have continuous fetal monitoring while still on the phone with the midwife. Policies and rules could be bent if I would agree not to put her in an admittedly sticky political situation by refusing to transfer.
We arrived and went right to our room fairly seamlessly. I was checked and was 3 cm but having very regular strong roaring contractions. Sapphire’s heart rate was pretty steady with regular Doppler checks. All was well, and I cared little where I was anyway. I alternated between leaning over the birth ball, hanging off Haley, the bed, being in the shower and sitting on the toilet.
Due to many strange turns of events I no longer have any photos of my labour. Between people moving, and computers crashing and a privacy crisis on Facebook there are all gone, and were blurry from the cave like lighting anyway. I think this is a sign from the universe to let it go…not all the photos are fun for me to see so perhaps I can gradually let the sharp edges fade.
We overheard our care provider, in such a different voice than we had known through our prenatal care, telling the nurses that “The baby’s heart rate was fine –for now, and she hoped it would stay that way.” The tone of it was not confident, and it shook our faith a bit further. Amazing how little nuances can be so pivotal in labour…
Here I’d like to note that during my whole pregnancy I did everything “right” as my husband would say…or closer to what many people would term perfect than the majority of women. I ate all organic healthy food with the occasional ice cream thrown in, I did prenatal yoga, I walked, I did hypnobabies, I took time off work early when the stress proved to be too much, I had regular chiropractic care, acupuncture, saw a naturopath, and watched birth videos. I refused tests I felt to be high risk. I spent the last weeks of my pregnancy mostly on hands and knees because Sapphire kept flipping posterior. My bum was propped up with a cushion in the car to prevent the same thing, and I often leaned over a ball or sat backwards on chairs while using the computer or watching tv. I never reclined past about 4 months pregnant. The odds were in my favour…but…somehow I was very afraid. I had seen a friend’s birth and been quite traumatized by what happened, my own birth had been fairly traumatic and a C-section. I wondered if my body could really do this? I had a long long history of agonizing periods and I doubting the function of my uterus. But I soldiered boldly on, preparing for a home waterbirth.
There are many layers to why our births happen as they do…some people say women birth as they live, and for me that was true. I was, admittedly, in a predominant state of fear (I guess many first time mothers are) in my life at that time, and I had a fearful sort of birth. Some say our babies know all the possible outcomes for their lives and their births…the highest loving outcome, and the most fearful and dire, and decide that all will serve them in this life…I’m sure they hope for the loving birth of gentleness for the most part, but they accept all possibilities, and often have a hand in difficulties that arise. Birth is one of the few mysteries left, really. I was told Sapphire is a warrior, that she would challenge me. This has been true, she has been a trooper.
I labored to about 5 or 6 cm’s when suddenly the intensity changed into agony…she had flipped posterior, despite me leaning forward the entire time. I don’t know why…with more distance from it all, I was told by an osteopath and several others that babies often need to turn in funny ways to release themselves from hindrances we may never know of. Or maybe she had had enough…we were both tired. Or maybe there was a restriction in my body or muscles and that was the end… most likely it was a combination of things…I think with quite a lot of certainty that had I been less tired at that point I may have had a fair chance to have her vaginally. My resolve fizzled…I knew I couldn’t fight anymore; the pain didn’t subside in between contractions. I consented to gas and air which made me dizzy until an epidural could be arranged. I knew despite the small chance the epidural would allow rest and she may yet turn, that I was heading for a C-section.
The whole atmosphere changed, nurses bustled in and out, many were very rude especially to my husband, bright lights were switched on, I was constantly checked to see if I had a fever, if the anesthetic was creeping too high up my body (with ice packs). I felt very alone, I did not sleep or get much rest with all the bustling and I felt very keenly that the staff wanted me to hurry up and be sectioned. Still, each intervention was discussed thoroughly…it was informed consent every step of the way, and I was grateful for all my reading and research. But still I felt helpless…of course my labour slowed, I needed Pitocin, then sapphire’s heart rate became difficult to monitor with the EFM, a scalp probe was proposed…I was flipped from side to side as I could not move my legs whatsoever.
The obstetrician showed up, felt inside me, tried to turn sapphire’s head manually and couldn’t. I had dilated a bit more…close to eight cm’s and then my cervix began to swell on one side. Some meconium and a strange odor were detected when the obstetrician examined me. I knew Sapphire was ok, but she was “overdue” and very tired and so was I. There was really nothing left to do but a C-section. I had no strength, and nothing was changing favorably. Calmly we discussed it like doomed people, shooing the OB away when he came in in 2 minutes instead of the 5 I’d asked for. He scoffed and looked at his watched as he exited again. “Haley, you will go with her and not let her from your site and wear her skin to skin, and I want my placenta.” It didn’t occur to me to fight for anything else, that maybe, just maybe I could stand up against the policy of separating mom and baby…especially when I had a doula, midwife and husband to monitor me and the baby. This is my next biggest regret; for that separation was the beginning of the truest trauma I suffered as a mother.
Before the operation began my second midwife (shift change) whispered in my ear words I am very grateful for “Go inside, Laura, and connect with your baby, there is lots going on, go inside and be with your baby for their birth.” This was the little solace I had during that horrible event.
Just as my daughter was pulled from me, they began to ask me if I’d had painful periods, trouble getting pregnant. I was completely distracted…yes to the painful periods, why? Well, I was full of scar tissue and there was a chocolate cyst on one ovary. I had endometriosis…They would remove the tissue for me. Not, would I like them to? But they would, right when I just had my first baby. It was too much and I began to vomit violently, nearly in my midwife’s lap. That overwhelm is fused to the memory of my daughter’s birth. I wish they hadn’t, frankly. I never agreed to it. And endometriosis usually grows back after surgery; alternative means like Chinese medicine seem to be more effective. I wish this had been a discussion for later…
It wasn’t until I saw an episode of babystory where a woman in the US had a planned C-section due to a baby with hydrocephalus (swelling of the head from fluid, can often be fatal or very severe, requiring quick surgery) and *she* was not separated from her baby until several hours later for her first surgery. It occurred to me that both I and Sapphire were stable, how ridiculous for me to be away from her for hours. It pains me to say this, but by the time I saw Sapphire again, I didn’t know her. I couldn’t connect her with the baby that had been inside me. I was in shock and my arms felt too limp to hold her, I begged them to take her away from me before I dropped her. I couldn’t stop thinking of when I would be able to feel my legs again….it was a horrible claustrophobic feeling…I asked every nurse, my doula, and midwives WHEN would I be able to feel my legs. No one knew, it depended…maybe in an hour, maybe by morning…I watched the clock tick wishing I would regain sensation. I think it would have been prudent to have given me something for anxiety then…but I’m sure no one knew just how distressed I was or they were concerned my bonding would be further interrupted by medication.
Hours later, a nurse came in to check on me. I hadn’t slept. I was shell-shocked, and beyond tired. She gave me morphine. I still did not sleep. I think I was given Ativan, I listened to some calm music and Haley did Reiki on me and I slept a few hours before my child awoke. After the c section, it took me more than 8 months to sleep well and consistently without medication or melatonin. It was like my nervous system was on high alert continually. Everything hurt, and I couldn’t eat until I’d passed gas so they knew my digestive system was intact. A nurse forced me to get up and walk and it took a very long time. You don’t know what abdominal muscles do until you cannot use them. I had to use the washroom with a nurse standing and watching me, she changed my pad, just as had been done for me right after the operation. Nothing was sacred anymore…I had been worried about being naked in labour; no everyone had seen and heard it all. It was humiliating. Nurses were in an out for days asking if I had passed stool, inserting suppositories into me in front of my husband, with the door often open. I couldn’t laugh or sneeze or cough without my incision searing. I didn’t feel like I’d had a baby, though I knew in my head she was mine.
We tried to latch Sapphire on, and realized just how flat my nipples were and she wasn’t exactly cooperative. No one had much experience with flat nipples and just suggested trying again later; she would be ok a bit longer.
Then I was told that my baby had a serious blood infection, they needed to treat her with heavy duty antibiotics, and confirm the blood test with a spinal tap. Something about dying or death was mentioned or implied. I had no fight left in me. In retrospect I think they could have repeated the blood test to be sure, but I was not prepared for these kinds of newborn decisions. I was not allowed to come, I sent Haley to go with her. I thought I was ok, I got up to shower. Then I began to feel dizzy, to see black spots, and to feel like I couldn’t breathe. I sat on my bed, all alone, gasping, crying, and soon screaming for help. Everything was coming crashing down…I think it was a very very severe panic attack…my first ever. Nurses asked if I was alright…someone disappeared and reappeared a while later having gotten permission from my midwife or a doctor to give me Ativan. The same nurse began to do some kind of mysterious acupressure on my legs which helped, and very calmly and strongly told me to look at her. Eventually, I could see, but I know I was about to pass out. That was the worst moment of my entire life. Almost subconsciously, I was sure my baby was dying. And I was alone. And confused, and everything was catching up with me.
This is, unfortunately, not the happy photo it might seem to be:
Sapphire and I, about 1 day old.
To be continued…