(Above photo courtesy of Tammy Bradshaw Photography)
A Little Bean Grows Into a Rose
(This is Debbie’s story of her first birth. For baby number two, her labor went so fast I arrived two minutes after baby Gus emerged into his father’s hands in the birth tub! What a range of birth experiences she has had!)
I have started to write this story down so many times, but always stop because I’m not sure exactly what to say. I planned a homebirth, but did not birth my daughter Rose at home. After we brought her home and people came to visit, I had some friends and family tell me they were sorry that things didn’t work out and I remember not knowing exactly how to respond because although she wasn’t born at home it didn’t mean something went wrong. In fact, having her at Jefferson was always part of the plan.
As I look back now and how my birth story ended, I realize now it only makes sense when I take the time to explain how it began. I am a planner by nature. In fact, it is what I’ve done as a Project Manager professional for almost 15 years. I love projects, I’m good at making lists, checking them twice and making sure everything is done. So, you can imagine my surprise then, when I found out I was pregnant and due Christmas Day. As a Christmas time baby myself, this is not what I would have planned. As my pregnancy advanced I was startled at how little “planning” I actually wanted to do. My husband would laugh to see this written down because of course I prepared for our baby’s arrival, but I know how I usually plan and for me this wasn’t planning. We even decided to let the baby’s sex stay a surprise and referred to our baby as Little Bean.
Now don’t get me wrong, I had a general idea of how I hoped things would go, but for some reason was content to have just the big pieces in place and let the rest come together in its own way. We agreed up front that unless there was an issue that we like to welcome our baby into the world at home, because neither of us viewed pregnancy as an illness to be managed. It was that simple belief that led us to Christy’s door. We loved her approach to maternal care and we knew that she was the best person to help guide our Little Bean into this world. Just in case, I also saw an OB through Jefferson Women’s Center. My Dr. there was very nice and supportive of me planning a home birth, which was wonderful given some of the challenges we face today in maternal care. I learned a lot about the state of maternal care in the US and wanted to use my birth as an opportunity to share this experience with people in the hopes that it might have a positive impact on them and their view of child birth. And so my birth plan was to be home with a birth pool on hand, Christy and a merry crew of supporters including my niece Courtney, who at 21 was very interested in seeing her new cousin be born; a medical student, who might otherwise not get a chance to see a natural birth; my doula Morgan, who has to be one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met; Christy; Christy’s assistant and a midwifery student because at this point it was shaping up to be quite a party.
Since this was our first child, I thought it would be wise to take a class. Now we did attend a child birth preparation class for parents planning a homebirth, but I’m ashamed to say we were both distracted and I really only remember Bill hurting his knee practicing a comfort measure called “Milking the Cow” and dealing with that for several weeks. Despite all the really good advice I got, I failed to write up a birth plan, didn’t practice any comfort measures in advance and never visualized a safe place to go during labor. I was planner who just didn’t want to plan.
I did however buy into what people told me about my Due Date because to be honest I didn’t want my baby born on Christmas. Given it was my first pregnancy, the general consensus from family and friends was that Little Bean would be born late and if we made it under the wire for the 2012 tax year we’d be lucky. So you can imagine my surprise when I woke up on December 21st and thought I felt a contraction around 7:30am. I dismissed it as Braxton-Hicks and went about my day since I was still working, although thankfully from home. I was seeing Christy that morning for a check-up, so I wasn’t too concerned. By 9:00 am I started keeping track of the contractions and by 11:00am a pattern had definitely emerged. I still wasn’t worried, it was my first baby and I was expecting a long labor. My check-up went well and Christy confirmed I was in early labor so I reached out to let a few people know and went into wrap-up mode for work and puttered around the house. Bill came home to check on me and I remember sending him out of the house around 1:00pm to get a haircut since he wasn’t going to get that chance again anytime soon and pick up Christmas presents because even with a Due Date of Christmas, I hadn’t finished my shopping yet. I can’t exactly remember when things changed, but by the time Bill got home around 3:00pm I was very uncomfortable and wanted to get in the shower for pain relief. My doula was on her way and he put out the call to Christy to let her know what was going on. I remember being totally surprised by how bad my back hurt and all I wanted was my birthing tub and I wanted it now. I went into labor believing I had a high tolerance for pain, but this was taking my breath away. Details are fuzzy now, but my hero husband cleared the area for the tub and got it all set up and ready for me to go in record time. I do know that once I climbed in, I didn’t want to get out. Sometime during my long soak my birth guests arrived and I remember the murmurs of conversation throughout the house. My contractions stayed intense and close together and it would be hours before Christy finally coaxed me out of the tub to check on my progress. I think it was around 8:00 pm when she checked to find me 8cm dilated and laboring hard. I was allowed back in the tub since it wasn’t slowing me down and Bill remembers the midwives being happy and expecting the baby to be born before midnight. A few more hours passed and Christy confirmed I was fully dilated, my water had broken and I could push whenever I felt the urge. So I waited, I was ready and my Little Bean was on her way! And then I waited some more. What I thought was just a period of rest turned out to be my contractions abandoning me right before show time. I couldn’t believe it and even now I still can’t. My contractions which had in my opinion mercilessly beat the crap out of me for hours just puttered out. I remember working with the midwives to coax them back into some kind of useful pattern with walking, different positions, herbs and something I referred to as “shakey-shakey”. When those efforts didn’t work, Christy advised we go to the hospital for pain relief and Pitocin. I didn’t want to go, but at that point we felt that was best for me to go to the hospital under my own power and my now infrequent “f-you” pains as I had taken to calling them were doing nothing more than keeping me awake. So I said goodbye to everyone at home and headed off to the hospital with Bill, my niece Courtney and Christy.
Upon arrival at Jefferson around 1:00am I was admitted to Labor and Delivery and given my advanced state taken directly to a delivery room. I consented to the epidural for some pain relief, which surprised Bill because I had said it was the one thing I didn’t want since the idea of being numb with things in my back terrified me. I agreed because I knew I needed rest and understood it would help prepare me for the Pitocin, since the expectation was contractions would return intensely once administered. By 2:00am I was numb and everyone settled in for a much needed nap. Despite what I had most feared about being placed on a strict schedule for progression at the hospital, it just didn’t happen. The on-call OB and staff were supportive of me continuing to labor and deliver vaginally as long as Little Bean and I were doing well. I think it was around 4:00am when they came back and asked me if I was ready to meet my baby and started the Pitocin. I clearly remember it being so odd to have the nurse tell me I was having a contraction and not feel anything, but was confident the Pitocin was doing its job and Little Bean would be born shortly. Well my Little Bean had other plans, because even with Pitocin my contractions would not settle into a productive pattern to push. I think it was around 5:00am when I decided I was pushing with every contraction whether it was good one or not. On Christy’s advice I had them turn down the epidural around 7:00am to get rid of the numbness in my legs and let me feel my contractions starting to build again, which helped me know when to start pushing. At some point I remember Christy asking about forceps or vacuum extraction and being told I still had to push the baby farther down for that and I just didn’t understand why Little Bean wouldn’t come out. I don’t know what finally changed but pushing was finally productive and slowly but surely Little Bean started to move down after 8:00am. I can remember all the encouraging words from Bill, Christy and Courtney telling me I was doing great, that they could see hair and just a few more pushes and the baby would born and not believing a word of it. The on-call OB came back in the room to prepare for delivery and I still didn’t believe it. Bill held my hand, Courtney and Christy each had a leg and I pushed and I pushed like they encouraged me to do, but my Little Bean just wasn’t going to come out. And then I saw tears in my husband’s eye and the word’s “It’s a Girl!” escape his mouth. Christy was smiling, Courtney was crying and then I saw my Little Bean, my daughter Rose and it was true she was finally here.
So there it was, the end of my birth story. The mystery of why it took so long to push Rose into this world was never solved. There was no indication that anything caused my contractions to putter out or that Rose was ever truly stuck on anything. I like having concrete answers and I’m never going to get one. I have to accept, it’s just the way Rose needed to be born. Looking back if you ask me if it went how I wanted it to, I have to be honest and say No, it definitely did not. I had wanted a homebirth and I delivered Rose at the hospital numb with an epidural, on a Pitocin drip, and pushing prone on my back with my legs up all of which I had never pictured in my mind. But, no one needs to feel sorry for me, because I don’t feel sorry for myself. After all it wasn’t unplanned, going to Jefferson was always part of the plan if that is where we needed to go. I did not have an ideal birth story, but it’s mine and I was fortunate that I got to labor without fear, was treated with respect, supported by people who love me and guided by my midwife through all of its ups and downs. I learned that labor is hard, definitely hard to plan for and despite all of that that I could do it and hope to do it again.