Monday, March 28, 2011
As told by his mother Elizabeth.
Half way through my pregnancy, I made the mistake of watching The Business of Being Born. It absolutely terrified me. I was convinced that should I allow the hospital to be a part of my birthing experience, I would be given Pitocin. The Pitocin would make the contractions unbearable. I would then be given an epidural, forced to labor on my back with a fetal monitor attached to me, unable to move or feel my first child come into the world.
As a young, single, soon to embark on the greatest journey of my life, I was beyond concerned. Also, as a prior victim of domestic violence, all of my hospital experiences were very negative. I wanted the organic experience- as close to nature as I could, within reason and safety, get to. I wanted to eliminate the chance of succumbing to the temptation of drugs to bear labor, not just for the experience, but for the safety of my son. I wanted immediate skin to skin contact, the first crawl to the breast, and mother to mother support in an environment I was most comfortable with- my own room, my own bed, in my own clothes, on my terms. I had extreme faith that I was strong, young, very capable, and that my body would know what to do.
When I asked my obstetrician about natural, active childbirth, she said, "We'll see." That was not good enough for me. We'll see?! Was it the folly of youth that gave me such a strong desire to need a guarantee of safe passage into motherhood? The fear of the unknown? Being alone without a partner to ease into the rhythm of parenthood alongside me? I did not want whatever obstetrician who happened to be on call to deliver my child- I was looking for a wise, experienced shaman to guide me safely through the oceans of fear, pain, and uncertainty and dock me safely in the harbor motherhood- a journey, rite of passage, centuries of women took before me.
I transferred care to a midwife. Towards the end of an uneventful pregnancy, my midwife asked if I wanted to be tested for Group B Strep. She said not many midwives tested for it- that OB's had just begun, within the last 5 years to routinely test for it. Since my prenatal care had begun with an OB, I had been tested for everything under the sun and the results gave me a very a strong peace of mind. Knowledge is power- of course I would take the simple swab for more knowledge.
The result was more than a hiccup in my birth plan. I was GBS positive. Which meant, according to my research, that I would need at least four hours of antibiotics before the birth of my child. IV antibiotics my midwife could not provide. I was heartbroken and began mentally preparing for a hospital birth. My family was relieved. However, my midwife was unconcerned. She kept repeating over and over, "According to state regs, it does not rule you out of homebirth. So many midwives don't test for it- their clients have GBS and don't even know it. They still birth perfectly healthy babies. We can use garlic and a clorohexidine douche during labor. It just means after your water breaks, you only have about 12 hours to deliver the baby." After a while, the repetition of that mantra placated me. I trusted her deeply.
I was two weeks overdue and my midwife was stressed. She kept calling me to see if anything had changed. I had terrible Braxton Hicks contractions without progress or dilation for over 2 months. We had an ultrasound done to check the fluid levels to make sure the baby was still doing okay. She said she thought I was lacking oxytocin to progress my labor and she actually gave me oxytocin pills to take while she monitored the baby.
That night, I went into labor. When my midwife arrived, I was 5 cm. All I wanted was to be on my hands and knees, but she kept forcing me up, forcing herself behind me and pulling my belly up with her hands. It was beyond painful. After nine hours, she broke my water, something we had agreed that based on the GBS, she would not do. She told me there was "slight meconium," and I learned days later from my family who had witness the gush, that it was all meconium. She cleaned up the soiled Chux pads so quickly, I did not see them. We repeatedly did clorohexidine rinses.
I could tell she was panicked because she kept leaving the room to converse with her assistant. Upon returning, she told me we needed to get the baby out immediately and that I could start pushing. So I did. My midwife yelled at me with each contraction, that if I didn't push for 10 full seconds, I was wasting the contraction. She accused me of not wanting my baby enough, of not putting enough effort into labor, she even began separating my mother and sister (people whom I wanted with me!) from me, accusing them of "negative energy and keeping the baby from being born." They kept saying that the head was right there- but I couldn't feel it. I am 22 years old. Very fit. I danced classical ballet for 16 years. I practiced prenatal yoga every day of my pregnancy and walked two miles a day in my last trimester. I know how to use my body, and trust me, every atom inside me wanted to bring my son into the world.
After three grueling hours of being yelled into pushing every ten seconds, I was exhausted. I had not been offered food, water, or any breaks. I remember saying that I was going to pass out, so my midwife put oxygen tubes in my nose and left the room. I was thrashing around the bed, beyond frustrated and in extreme pain. "I can't do it...something is wrong," I remember saying. My mom looked at the oxygen tank. It was not on. When my mom told my midwife that she did not turn the oxygen on, she laughed and replied, "Oh, I forgot." At this point, I wanted to transfer to the hospital.
At the hospital, my midwife refused to give the nurses my chart. She was very combative and would not release any details of my labor or prenatal care. Upon being examined by two L&D nurses, a family physician, a resident, and an obstetrician, they all agreed that I was only 6 cm dilated. The "head" they saw was actually a blood clot on my bladder. An ultrasound showed that my son was asynclitic posterior. (Not only did my midwife constantly assure me that a doppler was very accurate, she told me that my son was LOA- the "easiest" position to labor in! Later she admitted that she should've known he was posterior because she was getting fetal heart tones from the lower left quadrant.)
I was so swollen from pushing that I could not urinate, although I desperately had to. It took two skilled nurses thirty minutes and several tries to insert a catheter because the swelling was so extreme. A fetal monitor showed that my baby was going into distress and an on call obstetrician asked if I wanted an emergency c-section. Although I know I had no choice, I will always deeply respect that he asked- he made me feel like being rolled down to the O.R. was my decision- that I had chosen to completely surrender to his medical care.
My son had to be resuscitated and he was jaundiced - he had a very low APGAR score. Because of the level of care he required, I did not get to see him until after I was done in recovery. Had he not been born in a hospital, he would not have lived. We were both under constant surveillance due to the meconium and the GBS. He had a ruptured membrane in his eye and a bruise on his eyelid and brow from slamming into my pubic bone. I thank the universe every day that my selfish desire to birth in an environment I preferred, instead of what was safest for my son, did not result in death - and I have so much empathy for the women who have lost their babies to homebirth. My son is almost seven months old now, still breastfed, and in the 98th percentile on the growth chart!
My body, however, is not unscathed. There is much internal damage from pushing for so long before being completely dilated. My OB told me that my bladder had prolapsed- that he literally had to pick it up and put it back where it belonged. It is tilted now, which makes emptying my bladder fully impossible without a sit down/stand up/sit back down dance every time I have to urinate! It can be fixed by surgery, but it's not advised until after I have all the children I desire, so it is currently monitored by my OB and a urologist. Due to the internal damage, I will never experience vaginal birth. I will never be a VBAC candidate. Every pregnancy from now on will be considered high risk.
I filed a complaint with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. The hospital staff, as well as my surgeon, also wrote in complaints against my CPM. The state board is currently investigating my birth and my midwife stands a very strong chance of losing her license due to negligence.
I only hope for the safety of future mothers that she will not be allowed to practice midwifery any longer. No woman should ever have to experience what I did, to know the guilt that I have, the permanent damage that I live with every day. And I was lucky. I know that every day my son wakes up, it is a day to be thankful for, a day that is thanks to an extremely remarkable staff at St. Mary Corwin hospital. I named my son Zen.
Homebirth changed my life forever. I am now currently getting my Bachelor degree of Science in Nursing, to help save women like myself. I can not only attest to the dangers of homebirth, but I will dedicate the rest of my life to telling Zen's story.