Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Willem's Birth Story

Thursday night, sex is what did it. Within a couple of hours the contractions started (around 1:30am). I tried to sleep but gave up at 5:30 when I woke Peter up and told him what was going on. We waited until my appt at 11:00 to give me more time to progress. At the appt, I was at 3 cm. That's when they told me I could go up to L&D and then a few minutes later found out they were full so they were sending me home. At that point, I just wanted to be in one place where I could get comfortable. I definitely had the urge to hole up so I could relax and just focus. I wasn't comfortable at home because it is such a small space that I felt trapped, my bed wasn't comfortable, the bath is too small, etc. I think if they had let me get comfortable at the hospital, things would have progressed a whole lot faster. But I got stressed out and I think that really slowed me down.

At 4:00pm Friday I went back to the hospital. My contractions were closer together and stronger but I was only at 3 1/2 cm. I was comfortable, relaxed and happy to finally settle in somewhere. I was looking forward to the bath and just focusing on the Hypnobirthing techniques. I got about 3 hours of that and then the evil midwife Cindy started harassing me about "moving things along." I was given a few options, none of which appealed to me. I might have considered having my water broken but I felt like I needed to progress more on my own. I was given an hour to "wait and see." After the hour was up, they came back and told me that my only options included drugs. That just pissed me off.

I was told that I could 1) get my water broken and started on a pitocin drip. 2) be given sleep medications and go home. 3) be put on a morphine drip and stay in the hospital. What did I want? To be left alone and stay in the hospital so I could focus on the Hypnobirthing techniques. When I made that clear, the chief resident came in and flat out told me that all my options had been taken away and that I needed to go home. No "come back when your water breaks" nothing. I was PISSED. To add insult to injury, the medical charts from that day said that I was told to leave but left before any direction or follow-up could be given. Hello!? They didn't offer it.

The next few hours at home were some of the worst of my life. All the reasons why I wasn't comfortable before were so much worse. The contractions were stronger and closer together and most of them were in my back at that point. I hadn't slept in 24 hours, I was stressed and scared and panicky after the conflict with the hospital staff. Laying down was miserable because I was having back contractions, my bed was too soft to be on my knees and that was making the back contractions worse, flat was bad, on my side was bad. The birthing ball was okay but my legs were so tired that I couldn't keep myself up. I called my friend who was acting as a doula (she had been there at the hospital with us) and she came back. Without her, I don't know what I would have done. I was scared and Peter was scared. She helped us figure out some things to do. I still can't believe the hospital sent me home then without any support. When I called to ask for some help, the only thing I was told was I could come in and they could augment my labor (i.e. breaking the water and pitocin) and received no sympathy. It was either I go in and let them take over or I stay at home. This was about 2 am. By then I had been in labor for 24 hours and I felt like I had been kicked out on the street with no one other than my friend to turn to. It was a hellish experience and I hope I'm not scarred for life. I was so stressed out by then I started vomiting. I seriously started considering giving birth at home but felt like the conditions I was in was second world at best. For goodness sakes, Peter and Shawnette were having to heat water on the stove to put it into my bath, the only place where I was semi-comfortable.

All through this time, I was able to use the Hynobirthing techniques which was basically breathe through each contraction and visualization labor progressing, my cervix opening and the baby moving down. Those mental cues weren't as powerful as I think they should have been because of all the stuff I described in the paragraph above. The breathing kept me sane and Shawnette and Peter helped me focus on that.

By 7 am Saturday, my contractions were much stronger and closer together. I was completely distrusting of the hospital but couldn't keep going like I had been so I basically resigned myself to letting them take over. I went into the hospital at 8 am and found out that I was 5 cm dilated and fully effaced. That was disappointing and I would have been very discouraged if it weren't for the midwife and nurse (the good Cindy) who were on the shift. They were excited to help me and wanted to make sure that I was able to get comfortable. Everything was 1, 000 times better with those two looking out for me. They let me progress for another few hours and then suggested that they could break my water so I could get to the next phase of labor. After contracting furiously for 35 hours, I was open to that, especially since there was no mention of pitocin.

They broke my water at 11:30 Saturday morning. Things really started picking up from there and by 2:00 pm I was fully dilated. I was exhausted but was much more relaxed than I had been in the previous day. I was still breathing through contractions pretty well.

I should probably mention that Willem was doing fine through all of this. His heartrate was strong and stable. I was surprised to find out that he was sleeping through some of my strongest contractions.

At 2:00, I felt like I wanted to start pushing. I expressed that to the nurse and midwife who insisted that I move from my comfortable spot in the tub to the bed. The nurse cajoled and insisted on having me lay down and be monitorred. I was bothered and annoyed and told her repeatedly to take the monitors off. They were making me uncomfortable and I couldn't move into a position that I felt I needed to be in.

In the Hypnobirthing method, pushing is not encouraged and a technique called "breathing the baby down" is used. But because of my exhaustion and the stress of fighting off the nurse and recalling the stress of the day before, I just couldn't figure out how to do it, so I did the only thing I knew I could do- push, in the position they wanted me to be in, on my back, with my legs being held by Peter and the nurse. After 45 minutes of pushing, he was out. I had always heard that after the head is out, that it takes another push or two to get the rest of the body out. Nope, not with this kid. He went flying out in that last push, his head and everything else flying at a surprisingly high velocity. Sad for Peter, he missed taking a picture of the baby's first breath because he was moving so fast. Pushing intimidated me and my intensity in that situation intimidated me. I didn't feel like myself and I still can't describe what it was like. The best I can come up with is primal. The scream that tore through my body was not one of pain, but of sheer effort and the fear that I was actually expelling a child from me and with a vague sense of familiarity like the scream accompanying an intense orgasm.

So after 38 hours of labor, Willem was born at 2:45 pm Saturday afternoon. At birth, he weighed 6 lbs. 13/4 oz. and was 20 1/2 inches long. The only medical assistance I got was having my water broken, something looking back on I regret. How I know that AROM rarely does not speed labor along in statistical tests and wouldn't have have affected my labor in any substantial way.

I did tear a little bit in a couple of different places but I was assured repeatedly that its not that bad and only required one or two stitches in each place. At the time I asked if it was neccessary for the stitches because I would have preferred any small tears to heal on their own. The midwife responded that they probably weren't neccessary but she was going to do them anyway. Before I had a chance to refuse, she had started. I laid back, again, exhausted and tired of fighting and let the whirlwind of activity take place as my baby was taken from my arms and kept away from me while a needle was being pulled through my flesh over and over.

I stayed in the postpartum ward at the hospital on Saturday night but got really tired of the constant monitoring and interruption. The bed was too short for me to get comfortable and I was really looking forward to going home. I'm so glad that home was appealing to me because after Friday night... I was worried that I never want to go back there. Now its the hospital that I never want to go back to.

I feel like I was treated unfairly and unprofessionally by the hospital staff on Friday and am so glad (and the hospital should be too) that I got better care on Saturday, when even then my rights were violated when treatment was forced on me when I was clearly voicing or even before I could voice my refusal.

Since then I've learned that the care I received was standard procedure at that hospital and at most hospitals in the United States. I have experienced months of Post Traumatic stress from that ordeal where I feel like control of my body was taken away from me and my freedom restricted. One reaction I had to that experience was wanting to have another baby as soon as possible to do it better next time, like a do-over. And the next time will be out of hospital with either a hands off midwife, midwife on call for an emergency or completely unattended by midwife or doctor.


Crunchy Domestic Goddess said...

wow. what a frustrating experience. i can't believe you were treated so poorly. oh wait, yes i can. it's awful that hospitals can get away with that kind of treatment and how many women will just give in and be bullied into acquiesing? ugh.

i was just reading something in "Pushed" by Jennifer Block about post traumatic stress disorder and birth. i'm so sorry that you had to experience that. but i also believe that it was because of your experience that you are now such a powerful advocate for other women. keep on fighting the good fight. :)

Crazy said...

Wow. Jenne. I just read this. I'm so sad and enraged about how you were treated. In no place should that be acceptable, let alone in a hospital set up to help you give birth!!!! GRRRR. That makes me so mad and I'm so sorry....I'm so glad you found some solace and some sisters to work through this and make some changes to the system. I'm on your side whatever it takes!