My dear Ava turned six last month, and I think it’s about time that I share her birth story. Actually, I’ve made a decision this last week, my birth book has been languishing away for about 6 months. I haven’t even looked at it. It feels like a birth in and of itself. The beginning stages are fun and exciting, but as I move closer to the end stages, it’s painful, sometimes excruciating work, but it’s either move forward or let it languish…and I’m not going to let it languish.
In the wee hours of the morning on September 11th 2009, I woke as I had been doing every night for the last three and a half weeks at least. I was having a rather strong contraction, and my uterus was pushing on my full bladder. I was irritated, sure that this contraction did not mean labor. I didn’t bother waking Tommy. Instead I slowly got up and made my way to the bathroom. I turned on the light just in case there were signs of the baby coming…I don’t remember if there was mucus plug, but I don’t remember feeling excited in the least. I was done having my hopes dashed. My midwife had told me that I would know when I was in labor, so I was waiting for evidence that it was without a doubt time.
I laid back in bed, and closed my eyes. I then had another contraction, and at the end I felt a soft pop pop, like the sudden explosion of a water balloon on the inside. Amniotic fluid began to seep out of me. I tried to shake Tommy awake. He didn’t wake. I shook him harder. I called his name and shook him more. I kept repeating that my water had broken and I needed a towel. Finally he woke up and sat up groggy in the bed.
“What do you need?”
He shuffled to the linen closet.
“What am I doing?”
“Sweetie, my water broke, I need you to bring me a towel to put under my bottom.”
He came in and put a folded towel under my bottom. I laughed, as this mirrored the story that my mother tells about my younger sister Zadi’s birth, and my father getting up to get her a towel in the middle of the night when her water broke.
I’m so excited about this finally happening. Tommy asks what I want him to do. And I ask him to call our midwife. It’s around 2:30 AM, and Tommy hands me the phone after dialing.
“Hey, it’s Bibi, my water just broke.”
“That’s wonderful! So, what color is the water?”
At this point I turn back to the bed. We had navy blue sheets on the bed. It was impossible to see what color the water was from looking at these sheets. I then get what I think is a brilliant stroke of genius. I look in my underwear, and the crotch piece looks like it has a green color to it.
“Green.” I answer.
“What kind of green?”
“Well, sort of like split pea soup.”
“Are you sure about that? It isn’t light green?”
“Okay, well Bibi, I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but I think you need to head to the hospital. If I was there I could see what was going on, but with me being this far away, you need to get to the hospital as fast as you possibly can. A dark green like what you’re describing could mean that your baby has been in distress for a long time.”
I started to cry then and asked if we had missed some sign…the answer was, we can’t know that right this minute, you need to get there.
“Will I need a c-section?”
“Yes, I think so.”
At this point I was already getting dressed. I turned to Tommy and told him the baby is in distress, and that we needed to get to the hospital as fast as possible. We called my parents, and they jumped into action. I threw a change of clothes and my cell phone into a bag. Tommy picked up Grace and waited for me in the doorway to our bedroom I stood in front of the dresser for a few moments and stared into the mirror.
To Tommy, and to myself I said “Well, at least we know how to do this.”
We waited at the front door for about 30 seconds and my parents pulled up. We sent Grace with my dad, and got into my mom’s van, and she drove us to the hospital. On the way I could feel the baby move. It was the most reassuring thing that could have happened in that moment.
We live very close to an area hospital, and I walked straight into the emergency room doors and up to the intake window. There was a middle aged woman there.
“Hi, I’m 9 months pregnant, my water broke, my baby is in distress, and I need a c-section.”
She looked at me like I was a crazy person, and picked up the phone to call labor and delivery. A couple minutes later, a man wielding a wheel chair came out of the double doors.
I sat in the chair.
“Are you the doctor? I need a c-section. My baby is in distress.”
“No, I’m the orderly.”
He wheeled me up to the triage room in labor and delivery. A chatty nurse came in.
Nurse: “Here is your gown. The bathroom is over there. We’ll be right out here after you get dressed. Who is your doctor?”
Me: “I was planning homebirth and used a midwife.”
Nurse: “Well, that was a bad idea. Wasn’t it?”
My mother broke in. “That’s a debate for another time.”
Nurse: “Who is your midwife?”
Me: “I see someone from another town.”
Nurse: “Have you even had any prenatal care?”
Me: “Yes, lots.”
I dress in the bathroom, and come out to sit on the table in the curtained triage room. The nurse hooks me up to the fetal heart monitor. Thank goodness. Baby seems to be doing great, and I’m contracting every 3-4 minutes.
The nurses ask a bunch of questions, and then leave. Only Tommy is able to stay with me as only one visitor is allowed in this room. The doctor comes in. He’s a resident as this is a teaching hospital and he asks all the questions all over again. He’s really a sweet guy and he looks like he’s about 18 years old. He checks my dilation and says that I’m at 1 cm. He says quietly to the nurse that the water is light green.
By this point I’ve told them all my story. I’ve been planning a vaginal birth after cesarean. What are their policies on this, and what should I expect. The doctor is very straight with me. He doesn’t do VBACs. I can stay and labor and see if someone comes on call who does VBACs or I can leave and go somewhere that will do that for me.
Doctor: “Bottom line, I see that you have a 50/50 chance of having a vaginal birth if you stay….but maybe better somewhere else”
In this moment it occurs to me that he means somewhere else, as in, another hospital. However, all I can think of is the possibility of going home.
I ask for a little time to think things over. He says that I can have as much time as I need…even if I need a couple of hours. I thank him and turn to Tommy. I can’t remember exactly the jumble of our conversation at that point, it was all confusion to us. So, it seemed like everything was okay. It felt safe there. I wanted to just stay hooked up to that fetal monitor forever where I could watch my baby’s heartbeat and know that he or she was safe. It took me a while to tear my eyes away. Then I asked for my phone.
I called my midwife again and asked for her advice. “They said they’re going to let me labor. It sounds like everything is okay. What should I do?”
Midwife: “Oh Bibi, there is no way that I can answer that question for you. You have to answer it yourself.”
I knew she was right, but I still felt like cussing her out. We talked for a few minutes more as I explored my feelings about what I wanted to do. I told her I would call her back when I made my decision. One of the nurses came back at that point. She noticed me having a contraction and noted the strength on the monitor.
Nurse: “You’re a tough one, I think you’re gonna make it.”
This was just the sort of thing I needed to hear in that moment. I was a tough one. I was going to make it. I had the stuff it took to have a natural birth. She left the room, and I heard her speak to another nurse.
Nurse: “I just got her vitals, you go get her IV in case she needs pit later.”
With those few words, it felt like the world came to a screeching halt. Not only were they not consulting me with what they had planned for my care, but I knew the research on augmenting labor in women who had had a previous cesarean. I knew it was dangerous. I knew that I would have to fight against every intervention they wanted to push. I looked back at the Fetal heart monitor. I wasn’t planning on having one of those at my homebirth anyway. We had had a miscommunication about the color of the amniotic fluid at 2 AM.
Nothing else about my birth or pregnancy circumstances had changed. I tried to explain all this to Tommy, and he got it. We decided to go home. We called our midwife. Told my mom and other family members who had arrived in the waiting room. I told the nurses we were leaving. They sent the doctor back in.
This poor kid. I had just ruined his shift. He had this look of terror on his face.
Doctor: “I need you to realize that you have ruptured membranes, and have a risk for infection. I’m worried about what will happen if you leave.”
I looked him straight in the eye “I’m going to be okay. This was all part of my plan. I was planning to give birth at home. My water was always going to break. I promise we’ll come back if we run into trouble.”
He told us to wait for some paperwork to sign and then we could go. In the meantime, my contractions got suddenly stronger. I unhooked myself from the monitors and pulled on my jeans. I didn’t want them to see the strength of my contractions, and I wanted to be ready to go.
In came the hospital’s midwife. She seemed quite determined to not seem like she was trying to convince me to stay, while trying to convince me to stay. “We have birth pools” She offered. She wanted to know where my midwife worked out of, and without thinking I told her. At the time, it was illegal to be a homebirth midwife in our state. She guessed my midwife’s name and acted like they were old friends. Then she told me we could go into a private room and I could labor there peacefully. I told her that I was aware that the nurses were preparing an IV for me and were already talking about pitocin before I was even checked into the hospital, and I felt that they were planning a path that would send me down the road of a repeat cesarean. Through all this talk I would pause and hold onto Tommy’s shoulders during contractions. They were quite hard.
The midwife suggested that since I was determined to go home, that I should get in a shower once I got there. After she left I waited for one more contraction and then I knew that I needed to go home now or we weren’t going to be able to walk out of the hospital. I began to walk out of the room and finally the nurse brought the paperwork that we were supposed to sign before leaving. I hadn’t known what it was before, but it was the paperwork saying that we were leaving against medical advice.
I signed a crooked signature. The nurses asked us to please call and let them know how everything went. They were 100% well meaning, but I felt with urgency that we just needed to go quickly. We promised to call.
I slowly walked down the hall to the elevator. Careful to not call out when I needed to stop every few feet to have a contraction. Hooked up to the monitor my contractions had been three minutes apart, but walking seemed to make them come faster. I didn’t want anyone to know that we had switched from early labor to hard labor until we got out of there. We made it out of the elevator without anyone stopping us. Then slowly down the hall to the waiting room. My mother, and some other family members were waiting for us. Mama was going to drive us home, and my sister and brother in law were going to be heading back to their home. I instructed everyone not to touch me.
I felt so ungainly on my way back to the van. I could barely make any distance between each contraction. I sat in the front seat when we finally got to the van and Tommy sat in the back. Mama drove.
As we pulled out of the hospital parking lot I had another contraction. I thought to myself, I must be really stupid…this really really hurts, and they have drugs in there to make it go away.
I tried to get my head back into the idea that this was supposed to be happening, that my body knew what to do, and that my baby would come out. However, the scare from earlier kept me thinking, I can’t have a baby until I get home and my midwife has arrived.
As always thank you for being here. Even when my posting has been sporadic as of late. I hope to return to twice weekly posting in the immediate future.