When you're the CBE/Doula having a baby of your own, it's supposed to be as perfect as all the movies you show in class. Right?
Here's the story I wrote about my dd's birth six months ago. So sad about so much still, yet I love her with all my heart. Of course, no one understands why I could possible be sad or feel that I lost out on something, even her dad, who really tries to understand but doesn't.
BF and I were planning to welcome baby Scarlett in our home with the support of wonderful friends and CNMs Pam and Louise. Despite intense family stress during the pregnancy, everything was always peachy keen - GBS negative, passed the GCT, nuchal fold just fine. But I gained my requisite 60 pounds this time around too, and assumed that like the other two times, I would not make it to my due date, which was 6/24. I was glad when the 37 week mark arrived, meaning that she could safely be born at home. I went to the chiropractor regularly (every day for the last two weeks) and did exercises and watched my posture to prevent another posterior presentation that I'd have to turn in labor (again). No one who saw me thought I'd make it to my due date - friends I'd meet around town literally didn't recognize me, and every waitress we had was so excited about our "twins."
Needless to say, my due date came and went. My blood pressure started rising, so Louise advised against castor oil, 1-2 cm at my visit. I walked constantly, when it was too hot outside I used the treadmill. One night of heavy contractions and I had the men folk set up the tub, but I woke up the next morning still pregnant. Saw my mucus plug four days or so later. Tried getting on the lawn tractor and hitting all the bumps. NST at the midwives' office was text book perfect, 2-3 cm. Weeding the garden one night, I noticed fluid leaking when I stood up. Called my midwife, who said that we could check, but it wouldn't change management at 41.4 weeks anyway so carry on. Had sex every day. Scheduled AFI for 41 and 6. Emailed back and forth with Gail Tully on positioning questions.
We went in on July 8 for the AFI at 11am. After seeing the results (.77), the maternal fetal medicine department didn't want me to leave the building at all. I informed them that I was going home to get some things together and I would be back. They argued that I didn't need anything, and that if there were some small thing, BF could get it. I calmly explained that I am a doula, and it takes me at least half an hour to pack a bag for someone ELSE'S birth, and it would be impossible to explain to BF what to bring me. They called my midwife and I left. I sobbed all the way home, BF telling me that I was being selfish and they had explained to him that the baby could die if she didn't come out right away! I handed the phone to him to speak to Louise, telling him that I've been doing this for 12 years, and I have heard that speech many many times, and it doesn't phase me anymore. I knew that my baby was just fine. I tearfully made my way around the enormous, empty tub in our living room, packing things up. I decided that I would sign out AMA a couple of hours after she was born, and hopefully be home by Saturday morning. Stopped at the chiropractor on the way back to the hospital, and BF, much more understanding now, stopped for coffee at Dunkin Donuts.
Arrived at the hospital at 1:30. Quickly discovered our video camera had chosen this moment to die, so BF ran out to Best Buy as they got me checked in and started. Hung pit around 3:30. Around 5pm I started feeling crampy. Shortly thereafter, I announced, "OK, that one made me put down the paper I was reading." BF returned shortly after and I don't remember a whole lot after that. Leaked a little fluid when I stood up to rock my hips and they decided to call me "ruptured." I was 3-4 and "mushy" on admission, and was having non-stop contractions and feeling pukey by 8:30 or so (??). Forewaters broke somewhere in there, all I could say to tell them was, "Pop! Pop!" Checked between 9-9:30, fully with an anterior lip. Since this was my third birth and I was feeling a little pushy, we decided to try pushing that lip out of the way. I tried for three hours to push through that lip, lying on both sides, flat on my back, sitting on the toilet, sitting on the ball, leaning over the back of the bed. Finally got the squat bar and pushed her through to a full 10cm. Pushed for another 2 1/2 hours. Agreed to vacuum. Midwife called the doc, who said she wouldn't put a vacuum on that baby's head, since it was probably huge and the shoulders would get stuck. Pushed a little while longer. Agreed with midwife that the "writing is on the wall," even though we both hated it.
Met the doctor. Signed her consents in between contractions, during which she rolled her eyes and tapped her pen on her clipboard, and regarded my outstretched hand like a thing diseased. BF went ballistic and said we wanted another doctor. Midwife calmed him down, and we proceeded to prep for a c-section. It took the anesthesiologist a full HOUR AND A HALF to be available, and I labored the whole time, pushing, crying, saying that this was not pain, this was suffering, and that I didn't want to be a midwife anymore (that made Pam cry). Finally, Pam and her student physically went to get the anesthesiologist and he came. They wheeled me back past my family and my older children, who had been looking forward for nine months to being part of a warm welcome for their baby sister at home, and BF was told to wait outside while the inadequate anesthesiologist took three contractions to place the spinal. Every contraction was like "the big one" that moves the baby past the pubic bone, ripping through my body for hours, and at that point I just needed to stop feeling them. Because of my back injury (at L5-S1), he placed it high and it was not only hard to get in but made my breathing feel funny. I watched them pumping me full of drugs and cried. The surgeon never spoke to me, and I asked my midwife to talk me through it. I also asked my midwife, who shares my faith, to pray for me, which she did. I listened to everything that went on on the other side of the curtain, and I remember saying, "I hear suction!" 4:58am. They held her up for half a second, an image that has haunted my nightmares ever since, because I realized at that second that her first image on earth was of Mommy getting smaller, going away. I believe that was the moment, after beautiful heart tones through 5 1/2 hours of pushing, she first thought about giving up.
The neonatologist gave her blow by as her father tried to tell me what she looked like from across the room: "Oh my God, Jen! She's beautiful!" He cried with joy, though I have since seen the video footage he was taking and as an RN I can see that she was flaring and retracting as he looked on unaware. They put the mask on and rubbed her, but they couldn't stabilize her. They put that fake smile on their faces and took her away, pausing as they wheeled her past me, so I could see some blankets in a plastic bassinet. I told her father, "DO NOT LEAVE HER." So when he came back 15 minutes later, I had a fit. He said that they were taking her for a chest x-ray, and I cried. He announced that she was 6 pounds, 10 ounces, and I lost my freaking mind. Sobbing and screaming, I didn't care anymore that I really want a job at this hospital in this department. Over a pound smaller than my last baby and I couldn't get her out?? My midwife didn't believe it either, and went down to check, and came back shaking her head. The surgeon said she was OP.
Recovery room. I told Pam that my foundation was shaken, and I just didn't know what I was going to do with the rest of my life. We cried together. My nurse cried with me, saying that three teenagers had come into L&D that night who didn't care how they gave birth, and it broke her heart to see me back there and them up front. This nurse's name was Melissa, and I will never, ever forget her. Declined the IV fentanyl she offered. The neo came back and told me that my baby was on CPAP and would be in the NICU for some time. Apparently the nightmare just could not end. I would not see her until I could be brought over in a wheel chair, which would probably not be until that night. With all my knowledge, and years of experience as an advocate, my heart was broken and I just could not fight anymore. I refused Percocet and asked for Motrin. Didn't sleep.
BF went in and out of the NICU, escorting the older children, my mother, my sister who had all slept the night in the waiting room (including my sister’s six-week-old). I finally got to see my baby at 5:00, a full twelve hours after her birth. The picture of her shattered me, CPAP over her face pinned to a nursery hat. OG tube down her throat, causing foam all around her mouth. IV tube in her arm. I could not hold her. I prayed for the strength to stand up and held her hand. I started to tell her that I know it was scary, that so far we had always been together, but that I was with her even when she couldn't see me. Her nurse chose this time to try to explain to me what was "wrong" with her. She explained all the equipment I already knew about. I just wanted her to go away so I could have the 15 minutes with my baby that was all I was told I could be out of bed. Then she started to explain that the reason this was happening was that she was shunting to fetal circulation, because my placenta had "started to die," and that she should have been born no later than 41 weeks. That she was "post-term." I corrected her, she is post-dates...and she wanted to argue with me. Then she told me that "in a few days" they would start giving her my milk via the tube, then by syringe, so I would need to pump enough for 10cc per feeding. That I would probably not be able to make that much. I told her I wanted donor milk, and that my sister and a friend would be happy to provide it. She said they could only use milk from the bank, and that it is "very expensive." I have since learned that it is covered by insurance, including Medicaid and Medicare. This nurse's name was Michelle, and I will never, ever forget her. I hate myself today for not reaching across the warmer and wrapping my hands around her neck. God forgive me, but I do.
I went back to my room and cried. The wonderful young nurse taking care of me said she would make sure that Michelle never took care of my baby again as long as we were there. The Duramorph wore off, I asked for another Motrin. Went to see her one more time that night and she was off CPAP. Apparently, after I had come in to see her she had magically stabilized "for some reason." I went to bed without my baby, cried myself to sleep.
That night they called me in at 2am and told me to put her to the breast. Again I prayed, and she latched perfectly. She would stop between sides to gaze at me for 15 minutes and I couldn't stop looking at her. They told me the next morning that her blood work had come back showing no signs of infection, and that they would start to wean her off the IV. And that, by the way, someone had improperly zeroed the scale, and they are pretty sure she weighed about 7 pounds 15 ounces at birth. I thought, not only of the breakdown I'd had on the operating table, but al the medications she had been given calculated on milligrams per kilogram. Cried some more.
She came into our room on Monday and nursed continuously through the entire night and finally fell asleep around 7am. Our nurse left instructions for us not to be disturbed until as late as possible. We brought her home on Tuesday. On Friday, Pam came to remove my stitches. She apologized to me for how long I pushed (as though I would have stopped on my own before I collapsed), and said, "Honestly, it just never occurred to me that YOUR baby wouldn't come out." I told her that in my darker moments, I would run my fingers over the ascynclitic caput on the right side of her head, tangible proof that I tried but I just couldn't get her out.
Scarlett regained her birthweight in four days, and my boobs exploded 2-3 cup sizes (I guess my milk came in). She has no further problems, and the consensus is that she was simply worn out and had a rough transition. We are exclusively breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing...but it still haunts me that I wasn't there for her in the beginning. I never saw my placenta (which, incidentally was sent to pathology without my consent and was not "dying"). My partner will never witness normal birth. I will have to tell my daughter someday that she was born via cesarean.