Our second child was on the way and, having the first one a boy, I was longing for a little girl. My son’s birth had been extremely painful and I felt out of control most of the time. There had to be a way to make this one different; I wanted my birth experience this time around to be more peaceful, more controlled, more “my way”. Now that I have had four children, I realize that there is a point in every labor when one loses control; when your body takes over and there is nothing you can do about what is happening. It’s all in how you deal with it.
I had read an advertisement years before for a homebirth service and as soon as I discovered I was pregnant I called the midwife. She followed my care from our home, sending out the blood work and coming to visit me every month. But because I chose her for my provider, I did not have an ultrasound and therefore did not know if this baby was a boy or a girl.
One evening, 4 weeks before my due date, I stood up from my easy chair to go put my four-year-old to bed and felt a popping sensation with a trickle.
We weren’t ready yet! My husband had already been awake for 20 hours as he had had a long day at work. The water birthing pool we had wanted to use was not set up. Oh, MY!
We called the midwife and, as we weren’t yet having contraction, the plan was just to wait and rest. However, the adrenalin rush from the knowledge of impending birth sent my husband into a cleaning frenzy. He did the dishes, mopped the kitchen floor, vacuumed, cleaned the bathroom and prepared our bed the way the midwife recommended.
Contractions started around midnight, but were irregular and unevenly spaced. Around 2, we called the midwife and her apprentice to come. They brought the tub and set it up in the living room. When we began to fill it, it became evident that our hot water heater would not be adequate to make the pool usable so we eventually abandon that idea. My mother arrived and my friend from next door.
Looking back, I should have realized something was not right. The contractions were not very painful. Some discomfort and a pinching now and then were easy for me to deal with. My husband finally went to take a nap in our son’s room and I sat and visited with the ladies; stopping now and then to deal with a contraction.
Around 5am, we decided to check my progress and headed back to the bedroom. When she announced I was nine centimeters, I couldn’t believe it! My previous labor had been painful enough to drive me out of my mind, yet this one had been so easy.
Then a slight scowl crossed her brow and she swept her fingers over my cervix again. Feet. There were two little feet coming first. The baby was sitting Indian-style in my pelvis and it seemed the bag of waters had resealed itself. This was a very good thing, as breech babies tend to have a higher incidence of cord prolapse; a condition where the umbilical cord slips out before the baby and becomes compressed causing life-threatening complications for the baby. The sealed bag would protect the cord. So we discussed what to do and decided we would go ahead with the delivery because I was so close to being done. But first, we had to check the heart rate.
The seconds ticked into minutes as the midwife tried to find the heart beat. Scowling and furtive glances my way were raising my anxiety level. She sent her apprentice to the other room to get the Doppler in hopes it would say something different than what she was hearing. However, when we found the baby’s heartbeat, it sounded like machine gun fire. At 280 beats per minute, the electronic Doppler could hardly keep up. We immediately decided to transport me to the hospital and my mom went in to wake up my husband.
The midwives called the hospital; asking that they have a wheelchair at the door and have the ultrasound machine at the ready. My son stayed with the neighbor, the midwives lead the procession and my husband and I rode with my mother. Those seven miles were very, very long.
When we arrived at the hospital, we discovered that they had not taken the midwife’s advice. There was no wheelchair and I had to walk through the front lobby and down the hall to my room at 9 cm dilated. It took them 30 minutes to find the ultrasound machine in another department and the young nurse who checked my dilation upon admission jerked her hand away from me like she’s been bit by my baby instead of simply feeling her feet.
When the obstetrician on call came in, I felt he was angry with me for attempting a home birth. He would not speak to me and roughly shoved my breast aside to listen to my heart. The announcement was made to rush me into surgery and we were all stunned. I cried from fear and was trembling like a leaf from the drugs given me to stop the progression of my labor. As they wheeled me into the operating room, my husband had to wait in the hall and my mother and midwife were abandoned in the waiting room. The anesthesiologist tried to get a catheter into my back to place a spinal block but gave up after several tries that sent electrical shocks shooting down my right leg.
I’ll spare you the rest of the details of my surgery preparation; so as to save the baby from the effects of the anesthesia, it was necessary to wait till the last second to put me to sleep. The baby’s heart stopped after birth and it was necessary to shock her to resuscitate her.
Because of her rapid heart beat, caused by a congenital nerve defect, she had acquired a build-up of fluid in her abdomen. Basically, she looked like a grey cantaloupe with a baby attached to the back of it. The decision was made to transfer her to a larger city hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, but they kindly decided to wait until I awoke from the operation so I could at least see her before she left.
When I opened my eyes, they told me I had a girl. I grinned so big and said “Say it again, please!”
“You have a daughter!” How good that felt!
For about one minute, till my husband bent next to my bed and gently broke the news that she was gravely ill and had to be transferred. He said I looked like a deer in the headlights; big wide eyes and a blank stare. He pressed me as we needed to make decisions about what to do. He would travel with her in the ambulance and would come get me in a few days when I was discharged from the hospital.
What a heartbreaking time! The nurses at the NICU took polaroids of her and sent them back with the ambulance crew for me. I hurt from the operation and I missed my son, my baby and my husband.
After my discharge, I went to stay with her in the big city and my mother kept my son. We were there for 30 days, coming home on what was supposed to have been her due date. We were able to regulate her heart with medication and had the defect surgically repaired when she was 4.
Many people have criticized my midwife, but after much research and consult with specialists and surgeons I am certain that there is no way my midwife could have known what was going on with my baby girls’ heart. As the rapid rate episodes were only intermittent, anyone could have missed it.
My postpartum depression after this traumatic birth was severe and compounded by the stress of her illness, the separation from family and complications from the C-section that took 12 weeks to heal.
Her APGAR scores were 0 at one minute and 6 at five minutes. She was 19 inches long. At the birth hospital, she weighed 8 lbs, however two pounds of that was the fluid in her abdomen. At discharge from the NICU, she weighed 6 lbs.
I must say, it certainly was a birth experience different from the first; although not in a good way. However, my daughter is now healthy and everything turned out well. God laid all the events in place in order to save her life and I believe He has a great purpose for her. Her fluffy blonde hair, hazel eyes and impish attitude win over the hearts of all who meet her.