The Birth of Duncan Lochiel Cameron
Thursday evening, August 5, 2004, I sat down to eat dinner. I’d been having frequent contractions every night for a week or two, but nothing too uncomfortable so that evening’s contractions just fit right into the pattern. The prior two days I’d been battling a stomach virus filled with diarrhea and vomiting, but at last my body was signaling I could eat again, so we ate. I had a nice steak, and some veggies. I made it about halfway through the meal before suddenly I knew everything was coming right back up. And, it did. I was puzzled, as I’d really felt certain that I was better, but what could I do?
We watched TV, and I contracted along peacefully, starting to think to myself “this is getting regular here, and with that vomiting up dinner, could this be labor?” but of course refuted it, since I was only 38 weeks 4 days (one day more pregnant than I ever became with Bonnie and a personal goal of mine) and besides that, this wasn’t painful or uncomfortable, and labor should hurt, right? So, Rob goes to bed, and I continue plugging along. Finally, I decide to take a bath and have a hard cider to see if the contractions go away. Nope, they don’t. So, I decide that I better get some sleep while I can and nap for about an hour and a half until 3:30 in the morning I’m suddenly awake for a large contraction. I get up out of bed and begin to prowl the house. I send a few emails, post to my favorite message board, and begin to wonder “should I be timing these?” I time a few, and they’re 3-5 minutes apart. Wow!
I only timed for a short time before I felt this overpowering need to get my husband awake, call my doula and get my daughter's caregiver on her way over her. I filled a tub and labored for a while in the tub while Daddy paced and packed our bags. What was I thinking? 38 weeks with no hospital bag packed! LOL. Before I got in the tub, Daddy timed the contractions for a good half hour and we discovered that they were 2-3 minutes apart. Didn't see how long they lasted, but it was enough to convince Daddy (and myself!) that my instincts were correct and this show was rolling. Once I was in the tub, there was no clock so he gave up on the timing, and we just experienced labor together. It was very nice time. I called our mothers and told them it was baby day, while I was still able to talk, and then shortly after felt the need to call our midwives and ask when I was supposed to call them or head to the hospital. At that point, I was beginning to think that was the time to go, but I was still talking through contractions, and that seemed like I wasn't waiting enough. Suzee mostly agreed, but said I could come whenever I felt the urge. She was remarkably laid back, probably because I was managing so well. I said I'd go ahead and wait until the office opened at 8:30 (which was one option she offered me) and get checked there. That was about 5:00 am. By 5:15, I knew it was time to go, so I called my friend who watched Bonnie, Jill, and said, “HURRY! COME NOW! EAT HERE! SHOWER HERE!” and then waited for her arrival.
Our doula, Maggie, arrived shortly after that, and helped Rob get our stuff together. While I was sitting in the tub, I started thinking my water was broken. I couldn't be certain, as I'd been losing my mucous plug and was slippery slimy, but sometimes during a contraction, I'd feel a smallish gush of fluid. I thought I could be urinating, but just wasn't sure. As soon as Jill arrived, I pulled on a short nightgown and short bathroom (no undies); we ran for the car and commenced the 20 minute drive to the hospital. Let me tell you, that was the longest 20 minutes of my life. I was in the passenger seat, facing the back of the car with the seat partially reclined, hugging the seat and gritting through contractions while my husband drove with one hand and provided counter pressure on my back with the other. I had excruciating back labor, and his arm just bearing down on my back made all the difference. It's a wonder we arrived at the hospital alive, but we did. He dropped me at the entrance while he found a parking space, and Maggie parked her van. I sat there for a few minutes, then had a contraction, dropped to my knees on the tile floor with my ass surely waving up the sky for all the world to see, and moaned through the contraction. I was aware, but very amused, by everyone who watched. Labor is such a powerful, significant, amazing thing to be in and I honestly relished this show of exhibitionism.
Rob arrived back at the entrance with Maggie running behind him and we started running for the birthing floor, which of course is on the complete other end of the hospital and on a separate bank of elevators. So, we'd run about 10 yards, I'd dropped to the ground, moan, pant, scream for counter pressure and people would stop and stare "do you need help?" LOL. Yeah, right, as if you could help me now! Then, up we'd go, and I'd jog another 10 yards, and the whole scene would repeat. So completely undignified, so unnatural, but incredibly hilarious. I had several hospital staff members offer to get me a wheel chair and I'd say, "sure, but you have to be quick, because I'm going to continue running in that direction whenever I can, so get it, and catch up with me", but nobody ever did.
We finally got to the elevators, and while going up to the second floor, I had a huge gush of amniotic fluid, slightly bloody but clear otherwise, and kind of chuckled at the other passengers on the elevator "that's my water breaking". ha! A couple of women wished me luck, a few people seemed perturbed, even grossed out, but I was proud as could be. It happened on its own, and it was MINE! We jumped off the elevator at the right floor and ran down to triage. Maggie sat herself on my birth ball right outside the door while I went in and announced my presence. There were silent women already ahead of me, quietly laboring along (and I'm thinking to myself, you don't belong here!) while I ROARED through labor. I’m telling them "get me to a room, for God's sake, this is the real thing, there's nothing stopping me now!" and it was about 6:30 am. They checked me and I was 5 centimeters - my exact goal for hospital arrival. I did it! That was everything I wanted to do, right then and there. Start labor on my own, decide when to go, tell my husband, tell my family, have my water break on my own, dilate to 5 centimeters on my own. All right there. I burst into tears and was so damned proud of myself I can't even tell you. I'm crying right now as I'm typing it!
So, they admitted me, my OB decided that she would attend me rather than the midwives and I got checked in. I actually like the OB better than the midwives so this was fine with me. She was glowing and proud, and knew that I could do it. By 9:00, I asked to be checked again, and she gently discouraged me, but I said no! I want to be checked. 7 cm. I was progressing along perfectly and knew it. At 10:00, “check me again please.” “Really?” “YES! Check me!” 9 cm and stretchy, but baby was still at -2. No problem, labor along in peace. She left us alone for most of my labor only coming when I called for her.
The only people in our room were Rob, Maggie and myself. Nobody intruded, we did have a nurse check us occasionally, but she was so in favor of unmedicated birth (having had three herself) she only offered us some music (some beautiful Indian tribal music with pipes and organs, just gorgeous!) and disappeared. The hospital was humming with babies being born, I think it was the busiest day of the year, so it worked in our favor. I was doing so well, they pretty much ignored me.
My doula reminded me at some point early on, when I was moaning and making a lot of painful cries that I had HypnoBirthed my way through labor with Bonnie, and maybe that would help me now. I thought about it and agreed, yes, it would, although I hadn't practiced. So, the next contraction, I relaxed my entire body, and it was like riding a bicycle - it all came back. Suddenly labor was much less overwhelming, and I started sleeping through the spaces in between contractions. I was having amazingly animated conversations with them in my head though. We were scheduled to have our World Breastfeeding Week celebration the next day, and I was in charge of a lot of stuff, so I was telling Maggie (in my head) all the people she needed to call for me (she's one of my co-leaders). And, I would relate other amusing tales, all laughing and cheerful, but apparently I was actually snoring! Delirium?
This is where it starts to change. I stalled at 9 cm for a very long time. I don't know how long it was, but it was long enough that I started to get really tired. REALLY tired. I would get in the shower for pain relief, but the darned shower was so small and crampy that nobody could offer me counter pressure. So, when they wanted to monitor me, I would get out without complaint, because it wasn’t helping as much as I wanted it to.
The monitored me off and on (unlike the continuous monitoring they'd insisted on in advance), I was allowed to move and follow my body, and I did. My blood pressure was high, but effort was made to shield me from that for a while, because that was something I was very worried about. They weren't really hiding it from me, but rather distracting me, encouraging me to focus on other things. After a fairly long time of nothing happening, waiting to feel like pushing, Dr. Wah came back to the room. She checked me again, no progress, but maybe the baby was a little lower, could I try to push and see what happens? I pushed, and she felt the baby descend and then pull back again. So, she told me that my pushing was perfect, I didn't need a coach, and maybe if I felt like pushing, to just let it happen. And, if I didn't feel the urge, it might be helpful to push anyway, and see if I could get the baby down on my own. She was very straight with me, and said, "I'm kind of bound here. I need you to progress, since you're VBAC’ing, and I truly believe you can do this without pitocin or anything. If you can get the baby down on your own, that's our goal." No mention of time limits, just a "let's make this happen" pep talk.
This is where I should have stopped listening. I pushed for the next few hours with no effect. It hurt like hell to push, and I was mad that I was pushing. Not mad that I was being told to push, but pushing made me angry if that makes sense. It didn't feel right. I talked to the baby “come on baby, move down, let’s get this going. Mommy wants to meet you!”
Dr. Wah came back and checked me again after a couple of hours, sat back and said, "let's talk about this". My cervix was starting to swell, and now I was 7cm dilated and not very stretchy. Baby was still very high. I'd been "stalled" for 4 hours or more (not sure how long it had been) but baby was tolerating everything very well, so she'd been letting me do what I needed to do. Here's her dilemma, I'd had PIH blood work taken earlier in the week and my liver function was elevated, my uric acid level was 7.5 (which was higher than when I'd been induced with Bonnie) and despite the fact that I'd called and asked "am I pre-eclamptic?" and been reassured that I was "fine and we'll talk about the results at the next appt" I really wasn't doing so hot. She was stretching the rules with me because I was so motivated and she really believed in me. This is true, and I know it in my soul. She knew how badly I wanted to labor on my own, and she was right there rejoicing with me when I was. You should see how happy she was for me; it was almost a mirror of my own happiness, truly. But, now we were at a juncture and we needed to decide what to do. I right away, before she could say anything said, "I want an epidural". This was the one thing I wish I'd done with Bonnie, and felt like it might be a good choice in this situation. She asked me why, and I said, "It might lower my BP, give me a chance to rest, and allow my cervix to complete dilating again, maybe help the baby lower some". Rob seemed concerned, my doula seemed to agree, and Dr. Wah said it sounded like good reasoning to her.
I then had to wait for the anesthesiologist to be called, and after getting some fluids, he got me set up. It did seem to be helping, so I felt like it was a good choice. Everything slowed down, but I felt energized again. I tried to not push, although it was becoming involuntary at that point, and just let me body relax and recharge. A friend had printed up some labor related prayers for me, and we spent some time in prayer together, listening to uplifting music, and tearfully connecting with the baby. “Come on baby, we can do this together.”
After a few hours, Dr. Wah came back, checked me again, and told me the rest of the story. She was off call at 5:00 pm. She was actually supposed to be on vacation that day but stayed for me, because she wanted to be there with me, and because of my pre-eclampsia status. The next OB on duty was not so VBAC friendly, and would likely just encourage me to have the cesarean right away. It was now 4:30. I could continue to labor and see what happens, or we could talk surgery. Completely my choice. Her feeling was that there was some reason the baby wasn't dropping, and we couldn't know why until after it was over, either surgically or vaginally. She felt it was probably related to the baby’s head being very large, and maybe a malposition making it even harder to descend, but couldn't be certain it was whatever that term is when Mom's pelvis is too small to birth her babies. She thought the baby was still too high to consider using forceps or a vacuum (which I didn't want anyway). She was concerned that maybe my body was not progressing because of the baby’s size and the fact that much more pressure might be more than my uterus could handle. She told me that I was not failing, no matter what I decided. That my body did exactly what it was supposed to do, exactly the way it was supposed to, but that final step just wasn't there yet. These were all things I was feeling myself, so it wasn't like she was trying to sell me on anything, they were just neutral observations.
I asked for a few minutes to think about it, and talk things over. She agreed and left us alone for 15 minutes or so. I talked to Rob, talked to Maggie, and did some soul searching. Maggie felt that I could still pull this off, but the problem is the environment here with regard to VBAC's. If I continued with the next OB, I'd probably end up having the cesarean within a couple of hours, unless I felt certain that something would change, which I was no longer feeling. Rob was concerned about me feeling as though I'd failed, but at that point, it no longer felt possible to fail. I'd achieved everything I set out to do, except the actual emerging from the vagina. I felt very involved, very active in this baby's birth, and felt extremely empowered by all that I'd done and learned since my last birth. But, I had some questions before we proceeded, and some very specific requirements that Dr. Wah agreed to in our talk before she left us alone. I was afraid that another doctor would not honor those wishes as well as I knew she would, so we decided on surgery.
When Dr. Wah returned, we told her our choice, and things got rolling. It was very important to me that I see the baby emerge from my body, so they brought in a mirror, and lowered the drape. They took a lot of time placing it so that I could see where the head would be, and none of the innards of myself (which was my request). They were gentle and respectful of my presence and birth experience and involved me, as I should be. I made sure to tell the entire room "do not announce the sex of the baby, as my husband wants to do that" and repeated myself several times.
They had a hard time getting the baby out at first, and I couldn't see what was going on, fortunately, but I heard them talking to the baby, saying "come over here, your mommy wants to meet you" and things like that. When they finally had his head, they asked if I could see the baby starting to come out, I looked but someone was in the way. They paused and made sure I had a clear view (bless them!) and then I saw this beautiful head peeping up through my belly. One more time I reminded everyone "don't announce the sex!" and they pulled him out. Simultaneous to my remark and as his little testicles cleared my body, without even pausing from reminding everyone else to let my husband make the announcement I shouted out "IT'S A BOY!" to which I immediately (and with enormous embarrassment) apologized to Rob profusely. But, it was the most amazing thing of my life! I couldn't have stopped myself if I tried. He forgave me and announced his name. Duncan Lochiel Cameron. Bets were placed on his size, and wonder expressed at the hugeness of his head. He had been engaged but was stuck. Slight cone head, but still a beautiful round head. They showed me the placenta, inside and out, while Rob cut the cord and they took photos of that for him.
Rob went with Duncan to the nursery and my doula joined me in the operating room. We went to recovery together and talked about my experience. The only way it could have been better is if I had vaginally delivered him. That is the only thing different. His birth through surgery was treated exactly as though it was a vaginal birth, and I'm just in awe that it was so wonderful.
I was feeling pretty numb, and overwhelmed with exhaustion while we waited for Duncan’s return. Mysteriously, my arms and hands were hard to control. The anesthesiologist told me I should be having that problem, or I’d be having difficulty breathing as well, but every time I went to scratch my eyebrow, I’d hit my nose instead. Thank goodness Maggie was there with me, because when I was reunited with Duncan, she helped him latch on. My fingers felt so thick and clumsy, I couldn’t do it myself.
I know a few things that could have been different, and I see them. But, this is the path I chose. There was a midwife in California that I’d considered hiring, Barb. If I'd had the courage to have her here with me, I'm sure I could have done it. But, I did not. And, that was part of my gamble. I know that I could have done it, and for me, that's enough right now. Maybe later, I'll have regrets, but I don't think so. I took this birth very seriously, studying it, owning it, researching it fully. And, I decided to stay in the medical system. The choices they made are ones that I'm familiar with, and knew were part of the choice to stay in that system, so I can't fault them for that. My own fears were what kept me there, and I take full responsibility for that.
But, let me tell you, he is one beautiful baby boy! And, so serene. He has these wonderfully alert eyes, and just takes everything in. He's nursing beautifully and we are just a happy family now. My three year old is ecstatic to be a big sister and loves her little brother with all her heart. Me, it's strange nursing a new baby again. I have to get to know him. I love him dearly, but it's so different this time around. I look at him and am so fully aware that he is a whole new person and all his own. It's such a different feeling than I had with my daughter. With her, I just knew that I had created this baby and she would be exactly what I wanted. This time, I know better. He will be exactly what HE wants, and only time will start to reveal that to me. I'm really looking forward to it!
For those who may wonder, his name has a story as well. Duncan is a good Scottish name, chosen simply because we like it. Duncan was also the name of the King of Scotland in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. And, Lochiel is the sect of the Cameron Clan that we belong to. It’s actually a title that is reserved for the head of the Cameron Clan, so it’s a very powerful name to give him.