March 23rd 2008
The Birth of Charlotte Allison
The last few weeks have been a total blur… Charlotte Allison McArthur Maupin was born one week ago today, 29 minutes from now. Thank God she is here… thank God I am here to. I don’t know where to begin with my birth story. The due date (being February 28th,) obviously came & went without any indication of imminent labor. We tried everything we could to stimulate labor, we went four wheeling & hiking, we made Love, we rubbed acupressure points, & stimulated nipples, I ate spicy foods…
We also just tried to relax & enjoy our last few days of being just a duo. We had an amazing diner at the Harvest Restaurant with Alycia (our midwife & very dear friend.) While Steve, another dear friend & ridiculously talented musician, was playing that night. It was bliss to listen to Steve’s acoustic jigs, reels, laments and love songs, while savoring the lamb shank that simply melted in my mouth. I won’t even start on the chocolate decadence cake… We played a few tunes with Steve too; banish misfortune, kid on the mountain, star of the county down... It snowed a light fairy dusting, and was a magical night.
The next night, Alex (my husband) heated water to fill the bath tub in the greenhouse, (as we currently have no plumbing.) He filled the bath with nasturtium flowers and leaves- like lily pads, lit candles all around the green house, and made me feel like a fairy princess in a woodland pool! He built a camp fire in the driveway, and we watched a crescent water moon descend upon the horizon. We ordered pizza (local, organic… really,) and had it delivered to our fire. Then he warmed up my woodland pool, and I sank into the waters of fairy princess again. We rented lots of classic comedies in those last few weeks, (Monty Python, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks…) and laughed allot! The energy was beautiful, I laughed at everything, I felt amazing! I sang all the time.
However, the weeks elapsed and the deadline drew dangerously near, if nothing happened by the 13th, I would have to be referred to a hospital. Alycia started me on some homeopathics to induce labor. A few days later she started me on an intense regime of herbs along with the homeopathics.
The afternoon of the 13th we went for a hike. I started to feel contractions that were relatively regular and about 15min apart. On our way home we saw Alycia out brushing her horse Cinder with her kids & mother in law. She seemed excited, we were all hopeful.
That evening the contractions settled into a definitive 10 min pattern. I called my mom & she headed out from Santa Fe. She went straight to Joanna’s (the other midwife) though so we could all get some rest before things got rockin’ & rollin’. I however, was giddy as a schoolgirl and lay in bed timing each contraction (still 10min) until about 1:30am. I woke up in the morning disappointed that nothing had progressed, in fact contractions were more like 15-20 minutes apart at that point.
My mom came over first thing in the morning. She and Alex spent all day timing my contractions; 18min, 12min, 13min, 10min, 8min, 12min, 9min, 12min… At one point my mom took me to the stables so I could shower. I had a few 5min apart at that point, then averaged back out to the 8 to 12 zone. Alycia came over that afternoon, but after a while decided that Alex and I needed some space, so she and my Mom left.
Alycia came back around 10pm and camped out on the couch, she thought it was about 11pm that I finally “got rolling.” I swiveled my hips in a figure eight motion through each contraction… it felt wonderful!!! I labored through the night, laying down between contractions. Occasionally I would fall asleep, and five minutes later would be surprised awake by the next one, and jump up to swivel my hips remembering “Oh yeah, Labor!” Alycia dozed through the night, checking baby hourly. Alex slept, but later he told me that it was fitful, restless sleep, filled with chaotic dreams.
By 6am I was completely dilated, and my water broke. Joanna and my mom were there shortly. I was told I could push now… but I never got the urge to. It took me all morning to figure out how to push. I felt all of my contractions down low and up front, it was hard for me to feel where the pushing pressure was supposed to be, at the back. I figured it out though, and I pushed! I pushed for all I was worth! (I broke blood vessels in both eyes.) I pooped a good bit, I peed a ridiculous amount. The night before I had peed after every contraction, now though I peed with every push, though I couldn’t in between. Baby was hung up behind the pubic bone, so I pushed long and hard. Everyone counted with me, “1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 Breathe! 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 Again! 1,2,3...”
Alycia and Joanna by that point had figured out that the baby was malpresented, they both pulled apart on my pelvis during pushes trying to get baby past the pubic bone. Alex applied the pelvic press from the outside, we all worked hard for about five solid hours. At one point the women all went for a walk, and I got in the bath, it might have still been morning then, I don’t know. I remember thinking at that point that they must know something was wrong.
At one point towards the end of the day, I collapsed on the floor crying and sobbing. Alycia sat down next to me and asked me if there was anything I wanted to say, I shook my head no. There were no words for all the emotions I was feeling at that point. It summed up into “I just want my baby!!!” which I did say then after all. I wanted my baby so bad. I cried for a while longer until I was ready to push again.
That evening they urged me to rest. They ordered pizza and green smoothies, and had it delivered to the stables, as we had to get more oxygen from there anyways. I had almost used up all of Alycia’s at that point. My mom went to get it all. I tried to eat, but mostly just sipped on my green smoothie.
I slept in between contractions, & stood to swivel through out the night. I assume that Joanna & my Mom went back to Joanna’s, and that Alex slept, I don’t really remember though. I remember forgetting I was in labor every time I would fall asleep, being up & swiveling before I knew what was going on. Alycia kept monitoring baby and I, we were doing all right, I was drinking lots and eating a little (had many a spoon full of honey coaxed down my throat,) and baby’s heart rate was good.
The next morning, the girls had a new plan of attack, we were going to try to re-present the baby. They had me utilize positions that would help baby retract back up into the womb, so that she could come back down with her chin tucked, and the right part of her head leading. I did lunges, and put my but in the air and head down. It worked, we got baby to retract and Joanna said that baby had changed positions, but she couldn’t feel the suture lines just right.
My eyes ached from the previous day’s pushing. I rested with cucumbers and a damp cloth on them in between contractions. Finally we decided to push again, I felt more of an urge than the day before, but still nothing strong. Alex helped me push, he held me up, he worked really hard. My Mom stood across the bed, and I pushed against her hands. I pushed harder than I had before, I pooped on Alex. Several times the women left for Alex and I to recuperate. Often they stayed in the greenhouse.
Around 5 pm I confessed that I was running out of energy. Everyone agreed that it was time to go to the hospital. I think they had all known for some time, they were just tactfully waiting for me to realize too. It was a defeating feeling. I asked Alycia what she thought was wrong, she said it was probably a cord entanglement situation. She told me to grab whatever I wanted from my birth alter, to “bring home with me.” The only thing I grabbed was a green rock that said “MIRACLES” on it. My bosses’ thirteen year old daughter had given it to me at my blessing way.
Alex, Alycia, my Mom and I all piled into my Mom’s car, Joanna fallowed shortly behind us. The drive to Alamosa (the nearest town with a hospital, about an hour away,) was uncomfortable. I couldn’t swivel through contractions, only rock, swiveling felt good. I had a hot water bottle on my lower back though, that helped. I kept thinking about my cousin who had a hospital transfer and vacuum extraction. Alycia kept monitoring baby on the drive. At one point I asked her “How many times have you had to take a mom to the hospital because she had to go, not because she wanted to?” She turned and looked at me, her face seemed long, her big brown eyes were sad, “You are the first.” she said quietly, sympathetically.
We arrived at the hospital around 7:30 and Joanna soon thereafter. I remember standing and swiveling in the entryway with Alex and Alycia, still holding the hot water bottle on my back, not really believing where I was, while my Mom parked the car. The nurses were nice, though a bit taken aback when I refused any kind of IV or anything without seeing the doctor first. I wouldn’t lay down either, I wanted to swivel. When the doctor came in and checked me, he said that I was only two cm dilated. I muttered “sphincter law” and rolled my eyes, not surprised in the least by the doctors finding. He did an ultrasound, and said that there was no amniotic fluid left, and that baby was posterior.
Then… he said something that made me angry, he said “This baby is just simply too big for your pelvis.” I spat “Bull Sh*t!” at him vemenously , and pointed at Alycia, “You see that woman there! She pushed out a ten pound posterior baby and has half the pelvis I do!” “Congratulations” he nodded at her dryly, and gave me a look that said “OK, my reason may have been BS, but you still need a c-section, no if’s and’s or but’s. Do I really have to explain it to you?” I asked for a minute, and he obliged.
At that point my mom got in my face and yammered ceaselessly, I had to yell at her to stop so I could hear what Alycia and Joanna had to say. Alycia didn’t have to say anything, the look on her face said it all. Joanna patiently explained to me about the amniotic fluid and the cervical regression, and said in simple words that , no, at that point I did not have a choice. Alex mentioned his grandmothers dry birth, which had left her brain damaged. I think it came as a surprise to me, I was still so set on having a vaginal birth, that I hadn’t even let the thought of c-section cross my mind. Again, I had been thinking about my cousin.
The next moment was the single most difficult moment of my entire life. Everything that had come before was insignificant to the momentous challenge of finding acceptance, to consent to having my belly cut open. The long labor, the Olympic pushing, crazy class V+ rapids, being deported from the UK… every challenge my life had seen up until that point, all paled in comparison to that one small moment. I burst into screaming sobbing tears, I collapsed into someone’s arms, I don’t know if it was Alex or my Mom, and cried and screamed and sobbed and cried and cried and cried.
After that, everything happened so quickly. An IV was inserted, it took a couple of tries, and blood was drawn. The anesthesiologist came in and recited a rather monotonous monologue in an almost comic manor. A new nurse came in and put me on a bed to be wheeled away. Everything happened to fast, I asked the new nurse what was going on, she looked at me funny and said “A c-section.” I said “No, right now.” she said she was taking me to the operating room, I said I wasn’t ready, I wanted to say by to my midwives. My Dad called then, I said I wanted to talk to him, and was handed the phone as the nurse began pushing me down the hall way. I told him I had to have a c-section, I told him to pray for me.
When we got to the surgery wing they told Alex to get suited up and wait to be summoned. I was shaky and teary, but then began to shake uncontrollably, like a leaf in a strong spring wind, threatening to loose hold of my branch, and to sob uncontrollably too. When the door closed with Alex on the other side, the hallway suddenly grew to mammoth proportions, long, tall, empty, echoey. Time stretched, matrix like… an eternity,… a few mere seconds.
The operating room was bright and cold. The room bustled with strangers, counting instruments, preparing tables, and making light conversation amongst themselves. The nurse who had wheeled me in said “Why are you crying? Is it because I’m so ugly?” “I’m so scared!” I gasped between sobs. Another nurse in the room, a small girl, said “ I had a c-section.”
I began to pray… “The Light of God surrounds me, the Love of God enfolds me, the Power of God protects me, the Presence of God watches over me, wherever I am, God is, and all is well.” Over, and over, and over and over again. The anesthesiologist’s name was Bruce, ( my grandpa’s name was Bruce,) he asked me to try and stop shaking a little so that he could administer my spinal block. I tried, he seemed to manage somehow. I kept praying. Alex came in the room at about the time when I came to the place in my praying when I could accept it as “All good.” My mantra changed from “The light of God…” to “It’s all good, it‘s all good,” and I continued to pray.
They strapped my wrists down crucifixion like. Alex sat next to me, his big red beard far from contained by the scrub mask he wore. He held my hand and my gaze, he held me tight. They raised the blue curtain and inserted a catheter. The numbness crept up my torso and into my breasts, I asked about breastfeeding, and Bruce assured me I’d be fine. I felt nauseous. I began to drift. Alex held me tight, but I still faded in and out, exhaustion collaborating with anesthesia and emotional overload. Alex held on to me though, he didn’t let me fall into the void, he lost my gaze occasionally, but his hold on my hand and my heart never faltered.
From the other side of my body, the side I couldn’t see or feel, the conversation drifted back to my functioning ears… “There’s the head, wow that’s a big head!” and “yup, there’s the cord around the neck.” I wasn’t really surprised.
At one point they told Alex he could stand up and peek over the blue curtain to watch his child emerge. As he stood , I saw him begin to shake. I asked him if he was Ok. He said “Yes” and ceased to shake. He was strong for me.
I heard someone say “It’s a girl!” and I turned my head to my right, where I saw her little bottom and kicking legs on the table. Nurses surrounded her, suctioning and wiping and such. She was definitely a girl, and her meconium plug was still safely in tact. She was so pink! So perfect. My heart gushed like a spring time flash flood, tumbling down all walls and fences in it’s path. Glacial run off, a massive melt. My first thought was her name… “Honey! Can we name her Charlotte Allison?” I blurted out, turning briefly to look at Alex. I don’t remember what his response was, I was staring at her again. Both names had been on our list, but not at the top, or together. That is definitely her name though, it fit’s her perfectly. Charlotte was my grandma, who passed away three weeks before the birth, and Allison was Alex’s grandma, who passed away three weeks after conception.
They brought her over to me for a brief moment, what felt like a millisecond, and only because I asked. They unstrapped my right wrist so that I was able to touch her. I stroked her cheek, and desperately, passionately took in every little detail of her face. They let Alex carry her to the nursery, I was glad he was with her. Suddenly though, I was alone among the bustling room of strangers again, my husband and daughter on their first journey together.
The conversation was light, this crush and that crush, who’s cute and who’s not. It almost felt stereotypical, like an episode of “Scrubs” or something. Bruce began to sing “Oh lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz,” then “Oh lord, won’t you buy me a season pass to Wolf Creek,” (ski area.) I smiled and piped in with “And the gas to get there!”
The nurse who had originally wheeled me in, stayed with me during recovery. Her name was Mary, she was nice, I liked her. Recovery seemed to pass quickly, I was surprised to find that almost two hours had passed since Charlotte’s moment of birth. She was born at 9:51 and it was almost midnight before I had her in my arms, back in our room.
I don’t remember being handed her, I just remember holding her, I remember being afraid to let her go all night long. I slept upright, not really sleeping, simply because I was in awe of having her in my arms, and never wanting to let her go.
I was able to walk and pee on my own the next morning, and they never pressed me to take any pain medications after my initial decline. The next few days were challenging though, as I was soar and exhausted, as well as out of my element. I lobbied to leave as soon as possible, the OB told me that I had the OK to leave the second day, but the Pediatrician wouldn’t let Charlotte go for three days.
Alex slept on a cot next to us. The nurses never gave me a hard time about sleeping with Charlotte. One nurse even told me “Snuggle closer, it’s cool in here.” I took lots of GSE, Echinacea, and e-mergen-c those three days, for fear of being in a hospital of all places. (As it turned out, the city water had just been contaminated with salmonella.) Alex would sit under a dormant tree outside my window to smoke his cigarettes a couple of times a day. Every time they took her to the nursery, he went with her. Once, he left for a little while when my mom was there, to get some real food, since they were feeding me but not him, he brought me back a teddy bear and bubbles. Those three days were difficult. They were worth it though, it was all worth it, for her, for Charlotte Allison.
A few months later, I received a copy of my medical records and spent an afternoon going through them with Alycia. There were some amusing notes… “patient is very distressed, crying and cursing loudly.” Some pertinent information about the incision, and the information we had been looking for. The placenta’s pathology sheet held it, confirmation that Alycia had been right. Charlotte had been on a leash, the cord had been around her neck right near the placenta. I had pushed so hard, that the cord had begun to detach from the placenta. This tidbit of information scared me and relieved me all at the same time. Relieved my feelings of failure, my body did not somehow fail. Presented a scary realization of how close I had been to killing us both. One more good round of pushing, and I might just have succeeded in pulling that cord all the way out, cutting off her oxygen, and causing myself to hemorrhage.
I still have deep emotions around Charlottes birth… I still don’t feel like I gave birth. I had labor, I have my baby, but there is a missing link. I am grateful though, grateful that help was available to me, and that I was able to accept it. I used to always think that I was born in the wrong century, I am a bit old fashioned. Now though, I realize that had I been born in another century, Charlotte would never have lived, and my life would have been short. Alex would have found himself a young widower, and possibly the path to madness. I am grateful to be alive in these times when miracles are performed in the medical world every day. In these times when a random homebirth hippy can walk into a hospital late at night in need of a miracle, yell at the doctor, cry, scream and carry on , and still receive the most immaculate Loving care, and the miracle I needed.