Our planned 5th home waterbirth did not happen.
Our precious baby boy came during a spring blizzard and in an ambulance, escorted by a county snow plow, three deputy cars, and a paramedic vehicle!
Fletcher Truth Mehl (My first land birth child!)
Wed., Mar. 23, 2011
8 pounds 7 ounces
I was having prodromal labor for weeks so thought nothing of the continuous Braxton Hicks contractions throughout the day. Though, I recall telling my husband in the late afternoon about the continuous contractions and to be prepared just in case. (I did this frequently the last few weeks.) However, at 10 p.m. I was starting to second guess the prodromal labor and think that it may be “real” labor! I started to time them, they were 7 minutes apart and pretty regular.
I decided to call our homebirth midwife to give her a heads up due to poor road conditions from the current blizzard and earlier day's freezing rain. (We live in rural MN.) It would normally only take her 20 minutes to get to us.
Anyway, she said to see if I could check my cervix for dilation and call her back. I went to the bathroom first and came back to the bedroom where my husband was waiting. The contractions were now about 4 minutes apart. I called my midwife right away telling her I was certain I was in labor. I handed my husband the phone as a contraction swept over me. I then quickly checked myself and announced to my husband that I thought I was at a 3-4 cm. He informed the midwife and she said she would be on her way.
My husband got dressed warmly to go clear the drive with the snowblower. I continued to labor while the other four children slept peacefully, unaware of the impending birth of their sibling. I started to get the house ready for the birth, by setting down drop clothes on the carpet and making room for the birth pool. My husband came back in and said he cleared the drive enough for vehicles to come in. He stated the conditions outside were much worse than he anticipated. I could tell that his blood sugars (he is a Type I diabetic) were getting low. He immediately consumed some juice and ice cream. We then received a call from my midwife. It was now almost midnight. She stated her car got stuck in the snow and she wasn't going to be able to make it for some time. She said another motorist was willing to give her and her assistant a drive back to the city to get her assistant's vehicle.
I started to prepare mentally for delivering at home without the midwife and her assistant (who happens to also be a close friend of mine). I asked my husband to be prepared, as well. He said he would, if he had to. Labor continued, I had to lean into the contractions while standing. Vocalizing with them saying "Hooooeeeee" with each surge.
A little before 1 a.m., the midwife called back and said they were now on the road again and would attempt a different route to get to our home. She told my husband to start getting the birth pool ready. Just as my husband was getting off the phone with her, my water broke while I was standing and leaning into a contraction in the bathroom. (I had never had my water break before the pushing stage!) The midwife must have prepared my husband for imminent birth, because he looked a bit pale. I knew his sugars were still dropping.
About 20 minutes later, the midwife called and stated the road conditions were too dangerous for her to continue traveling. My husband was the one on the phone. I knew immediately the devastating news by his expression. I continued to prepare myself for delivery at home without her. My husband got off the phone and stated that he was thinking about calling an ambulance because he didn't feel comfortable with being the only adult in attendance, other than myself. I was pissed! I didn't have the time to be angry, however. I finally stated to my husband in between contractions that he had to decide, but that I would be pissed if we had to call an ambulance. I then went into the bathroom to continue to labor and cried. I talked to my midwife on the phone about my emotional stance on the situation and my anger over the decision. In the meantime, my husband called 911 for an ambulance, also was no way we were able to get out ourselves with all the snow on the roads.
It took the ambulance over an hour to arrive, when it should have taken less than 20 min. In the meantime, we had a first responder at our house who lived nearby and was called and a second first responder. I was quite vocal for my hatred of standard hospital birth practices and my frustration in not having my homebirth. One of the first responders stated that I had the right to choose how I gave birth, even if he didn't agree with it.;-) (I can't believe my body was still in labor at this point. I was fueled with anger at them and yet strangely at inner peace with my body and baby. I knew what to do and knew my baby knew it too! I also apologized to the responders about my anger over the situation. I told them to not take it personally.)
My husband woke up the children and got them ready for the drive. He would run from one end of the house to the other, because I needed to lean on him with the contractions. I told him I wasn’t mad at him, but at the situation. I was also starting to feel nauseous at this point. I knew I was nearing transition.
At 2:30 p.m. or so, an EMT entered the home to assess me. He was a young 20-something year old. I asked him how many births he had attended and he stated 3, all at the hospital. (Being a doula, I knew this meant nothing in preparation for a natural birth. I was certain to change his views on birth all together!) He asked me if I thought I could make it to the hospital without having to birth in the ambulance. I stated to him that I thought I was 8-9 cm at this point. Otherwise, he said I could birth at home if it was going to be soon. I asked if he knew how to check and stated he did know a bit. So off I went to my bedroom for what I thought was a cervical check. I spread my legs open and just then a deputy entered the bedroom! I was so upset with the violation of my privacy! My husband immediately closed the door on the deputy! The EMT said, he didn't see a head. Well, I could have told him that! I decided then to get dressed and get going to the ambulance. (I should have really listened to my inner voice and accept the offer by the EMT to stay at home and birth. If only I wasn't a laboring mom, and had my real brain "on" I would have stayed home!!)
I dressed and quickly tossed some baby items and breastfeeding essentials in a backpack. I made sure to wear a long skirt, knowing quite well that the baby would almost certainly be born in the ambulance. I exited the house and realized just how many trucks, deputy's, and men were around me! A huge county plow, three deputy cars, a paramedic SUV, and ambulance were all in the driveway and road. The lights were blinking everywhere! I didn't notice much wind or snow, but the blinking lights glistened on the new fallen snow! It was a bit after 3:30 p.m. at this point . The ambulance didn't even back all the way to the door, I had to walk about 300 feet. I had only one contraction come upon me, but reached the side door of the ambulance in time to lean on the handle and labor outside in the snow.
Upon entering the ambulance, I realized I would be too hot and confined in this space. I was told I would have to be belted in the whole time and have to lay down on the stretcher. It was so narrow and uncomfortable. As the vehicles started to go, I also realized it would be a super bumpy trip! I was praying at this point that I would birth quickly, as it was so uncomfortable to labor being confined and OH MAN THE BUMPS changed the contractions! Why didn’t the EMT mention the extreme bumpiness. He said he was sorry how bumpy the trip was going to be, even without the snow it would be bumpy. He said the ambulance would stop, if I felt I was going to delivery. I was hot and nauseous. I asked him if he had any water, and he said he only had an IV. I declined that immediately. The EMT then offered me his own ice-tea beverage. I also asked for a cool pack to help ease the nausea. The lights were also quite bright in the ambulance, thank goodness I do my laboring with my eyes closed. My husband and children were in the van following behind the ambulance. The trip was slow, as the roads were horrible.
After about 15 minutes, I stated I needed to push. The ambulance stopped. I was unbuckled by the EMT and I immediately asked to tie a sheet to the bars on the ceiling as leverage for me to push with. (The EMT’s (the EMT in back with me and the driver) complied and I think they knew I knew more about birth than they did.) I tried using the sheet as a support for squatting, but the stretcher was too narrow for me to squat adequately. I then flipped on my hands and knees to try to push, but that too didn’t work, so then I stayed on my hands and knees and used a chair off to the side to support my upper body with my hands while my legs stayed on the stretcher. When I told the EMT’s I was crowning, they sounded surprised. He came out in four pushes. Fletcher cried immediately. Due to the small space, the young EMT must have been literally inches from the birth (poor or lucky guy…you decide). I delivered the placenta only a couple minutes after Fletcher was born, and it too was delivered on my hands and knees. I went to lay back on the stretcher and Fletcher was immediately placed on my chest. I asked the EMT to hand me my backpack so that I could place a hat on him. Fletcher immediately nursed and off we were to the hospital. I called my husband from my cell. I also filled in my midwife. The only down side was that I forgot to tell the EMT to delay clamping the umbilical cord. I suppose a laboring women, under stressful conditions can only remember so much!
We were brought to the birth center at the hospital in Fargo, ND. My husband and the children arrived to the room and greeted Fletcher into the world only minutes after I arrived. I gave the nurses my back-up birth plan with baby care wishes, which stated our refusal of all newborn procedures, aside from getting him weighed and measured. Fletcher was put into a cloth diaper immediately and dressed in his own clothes. The nurses thought that was weird too! I asked to immediately be discharged. This was delayed due to birth certificate paperwork issues. Fletcher was born on a county road (not even 8 miles from our home) in MN, but the hospital is located in ND. Upon discharge and due to road conditions, we stayed at my parents’ house for six hours waiting for the rural roads to be cleared of snow. My midwife stopped by my parents’ house to do a postpartum visit. We made it home a bit after 5 p.m. and snuggled into bed! It was a glorious, clear, sunny day (mid 30’s) by this time. The snow was immediately melting.
My husband also wrote his account of the experience for me, which I have posted below:
Fletcher and the Winter Wonderland
It was a dark and stormy night is such a cliché, but that is what it started as. My wife had been having Braxton-Hicks contractions 8 minutes apart for several hours and when we laid down for the night she began to feel more active contractions that were very intense coming on. She asked me to time some contractions for her and I did so, gradually returning to full consciousness (Not something I do well unless an alarm clock is involved!)
After an hour and a half of this we decided to call our midwife and have her come out (Christine had already called Beth to give her a heads up). We called her back and she said she would be on her way shortly. I got dressed and went to snow blow and when I got outside that is when I noticed that the weather was many things, good not being one of them. After 20 minutes of snow blowing I had the drive cleared enough to get into and I went back inside to see how things were going. It was around 12:55 am at this point (which is the only way we avoided the “Dark and Stormy Night cliché, it was morning now), when Christine’s water broke in the bathroom. It wasn’t a 10 gallon bucket on the floor water breaking, just a small puddle of liquid and some pressure. I called our midwife shortly after this and we let her know what was going on.
After this update we began preparations, getting the birthing pool ready, tossing the cat and dog downstairs, and a few other things. The phone rang and I answered it. It was Beth and Jill (Her assistant who is also a Doula) calling to tell us they were stranded. They were eventually able to get another person to give them a ride back to Jill’s in Fargo, and we spoke with Beth several more times throughout the morning. At this point I started to get nervous. My blood sugars were starting to go down erratically (Typical of births), I was several million miles out of my comfort zone at the thought of Christine giving birth with just me and the kids to help, and on a related note, said kids did not move when I tried to wake them up. (I may have been able to handle things but was terrified at the thought of something going wrong with the baby or my wife.)
I broached the idea of calling an ambulance and Beth stated if that is what we want to do. Christine didn’t want that outcome and I was getting more fearful by the moment after learning that travel was non-existent due to the storm and road conditions. I also managed to fill the birthing tub to a nice 101 degree temperature during this time. Christine and I discussed our options between contractions and I called Beth back to see where they were at (Jill and Beth were trying a different route with a different vehicle). I learned from this call one very important thing about myself, having no professional help at the birth if my own child is a adrenaline producing experience. Beth and Jill were forced to turn around by the deteriorating road conditions. Christine and I talked a bit more and I made the decision against her wished to call an ambulance.
I did so and she understood despite her frustration how I felt. I pretended to listen to the dispatchers instructions which ranged from uninformed to idiotic (Lay on back, put legs up, Strip from the waist down). After she finished this she must have sensed my inattention, she said to set the phone down and pick it up if we needed her. I assumed the ambulance would get to our house soon, so I kenneled the dog, and got the kids awake and bundled up. I was back in the main bedroom when the doorbell rang and then opened. I went to see who it was and it was a first responder who had been closer than the ambulance. I really thought the ambulance would be there soon at this point, it only took him 10 minutes to get here. 25 minutes later I saw floodlights outside on the garage and looked out and saw……. A second first responder (Which is a oxymoron). The whole time, Christine was contracting every 5 to 6 minutes so I would stop and support her during contractions periodically as she needed it. The kids were wonderful. Very well behaved and patient (Translates to not really awake).
The ambulance finally showed up and the first EMT came in and we brought him up to speed. He wanted to check Christine to see where she was at and so we moved back to the bedroom. A second EMT came in and a sheriff (who should have knocked and not walked in during a pelvic exam). The EMT (who looked very young) was amenable to waiting a bit to see what was going to happen, finally decided we should hit the road. Christine got dressed, I got the kids bundled up again, and we headed out.
When I carried Cormack around the corner of the house I saw Chaos. An ambulance was backed up in front of our garage, there were 2 F-150’s in several inches of snow near the dumpsters, and a State Trooper and 2 Sheriff’s vehicles were in the lot as well. The icing on the proverbial cake was the county plow ready to make sure everyone made it out along with the paramedic 4x4 vehicle with a snow plow attached. As Christine climbed into the ambulance away they went. One of the Sheriffs was kind enough to help correct my inability to back up straight with hand signals and verbal directions, so I made it to the road ok. I kicked it into drive and caught up to the convoy quickly. We took a right on 110th, and headed towards county 11. The convoy was only doing 30 mph or so. The roads were ugly, even with the plow, so they took it slow. We turned left onto 11 and headed towards town.
By the time I could see 2 police vehicles following we had reached County 26. For the first time in my life I deliberately ran a stop sign in front of the law. I was not ticketed. =) We continued towards town and I was trying to explain to the kids birthing at the hospital is bad when shortly after the bridge over the buffalo river the ambulance pulled over. The snow plow slowly faded into the distance, visibility was maybe 100 yards at most between gusts, a EMT came back to let us know that Fletcher shared Christine’s views on hospital birth. He would take the dramatic approach and push his way out in the ambulance. On the Radio I had just heard they extended the Storm Warning to 1pm. The State Trooper blocked the road behind and it was 1 open lane only to the front which the ambulance was in. So Fletcher was on his way to having a strip of County Highway dedicated to him.
The kids and I talked some, the Sheriff and the State Trooper stopped by the van to wish us luck, and the EMT that was driving separately came by 15 minutes later to let us know she was still laboring. A short time later the State Trooper came to the van to let us know the news. He informed us we had a healthy boy and that the dispatcher and all of the State Troopers in Western Minnesota wished us congratulations. An EMT came back a minute or two later and told us we had a healthy boy, Fletcher, who was crying, and eating like a horse. Another EMT came back a few minutes later to congratulate us. We started moving again and the excitement was high, as was my apprehension. Christine called me and we talked briefly, then the ambulance stopped again. For a moment I was worried, but one of the EMT’s wanted to let me know we had to go to Sanford at Christine’s backup doctor’s request. The State Trooper an d Sheriff moved on, both giving us a thumbs up and waving. The ambulance pulled back onto the road and we hit I-94 on our way to Sanford.
Christine (wife, mom, doula for 8 years, and midwifery student)
DD12, DS10, DS7, DS4.5, DS2.5, & #6, a boy, due mid-Sept. plan 5th home waterbirth
Not what you expected for your birth experience I am sure, but I hope you are able to be at peace with it. It sounds like you made the best decisions possible at the time and advocated well for your family in what were less then ideal circumstances.
I live in MN - southern suburbs - and my biggest fear all winter has been going into labor during a similar storm (as you know we have had no shortage of them!). During your birth snow storm we only had 4-6 inches here but with the sleet/ice before hand it was horrid driving down here - where you were was 10 times worse I am sure.
I hope your babymoon is much more peaceful and involves a lot less people in uniforms!
I gave birth in Fargo to my oldest, I'm glad you didn't have a hard time with the hospital! Congrats!
A very exciting, eventful birth! Congratulations - there was no stork. YOU delivered your baby! Great job, all things considered, and I think you did really well getting what you needed instead of succumbing to all the people around you. :) Hooray! Congrats. He's gorgeous.
sorry about your plans going awry, but what a crazy story you have to tell now!
Congratulations and way to keep your head!
(i would have been PO'ed at dh too!)
Banana, doula wife to Papa Banana and mother to Banana One, Banana Two, Banana Three, Banana Four...
This brought tears to my eyes! Not the birth you wanted, but a great story nonetheless, and it sounds like you educated most of the first responders and emergency personnel in your county! That alone is a great component of Fletcher's birth!
Mama to F (3/09) and S (3/11); and never forgetting my babe gone too soon (4/10).