Monday, July 14, 2014

A Birth Story Project: Kimberly

Here's another terrific entry into the ongoing A Birth Story Project. With this project, I provide a public space for birth stories that want to be shared. Please contact me if you'd like to submit your own (anonymous or not, as you prefer). The spectrum of birth experiences is wide, and I'm hoping to be able to post an equally broad variety of stories.

Photos and stories are shared with permission. Stories may be reformatted and edited for clarity, but they are not censored. This is meant to be a safe space, so please read with compassion. Comments may be moderated.
Kimberly's First Birth (NY):

I had an amazingly healthy pregnancy, doing yoga, swimming & walking til the end,  so I foolishly thought I'd have this blissful Ina May Gaskin-esque experience - it was the polar opposite!

I was 5 days past my due date and had gone for acupuncture to avoid being induced. Not sure that was the best idea - I think it forced G out before she was ready. I'd been having early labor off & on for more than a week, but finally went into "real" labor on a Sunday around 4pm. Immediately, took a nap & during that nap (around 6pm) felt a "pop" and the bed got wet underneath me. I was GBS+ and didn't want to go to the hospital & get hooked up to an IV right away, so I stayed home for another 11-12 hours (!) having contractions that were painful, but manageable, taking showers, eating small meals, took another nap. Had a nice brisk midnight walk w/ my sister-in-law Ruth Ann, who's a homebirth midwife in WV (and had been camping out in NJ at her in-laws, waiting for me to have a baby!).

A little meconium showed up and contractions were getting much closer together, so we decided to head to the hospital at 5am on Monday, before speaking to the midwife on call (at Beth Israel). I lied & told the doctor in triage my water had JUST broken like 2 hours before (not 12!), was disappointed to find that I was only 1cm dilated after all that time/contractions. Had an icky exchange w/ the head resident (who coincidentally is the name listed on G's birth certificate as having delivered her!). Had to do a little fighting w/ a nurse or two about my staying mobile & sticking up for my rights, telling them that I was a midwife patient and they should call her if there were any questions.

Brian was sneaking me food & juice. Ruth Ann went to Whole Foods & got me some castor oil & herbs to hasten things. I kept hearing other women enter the room next door, labor for a bit, scream, move out, next woman, etc. Finally saw Susan, the midwife around 11am. Was glad it was her: she was funny, loving & a tough cookie. She determined I had a "forebag" when your water breaks up high on the sac, so basically the body doesn't know it's broken, and there's not downward pressure from the baby to move things along. Tried to use the amnio hook, but I wasn't dilated enough, so it was Pitocin for me. My heart sank - there goes everything, I thought! Ruth Ann assured me that she's seen women labor on Pitocin, and since I'd already been having contractions I'd have the endorphins to counteract it. I had this idea that I’d get a little Pitocin, it would kick things into gear, and then I could get off it. In reality, about every 1/2 hour or hour, as no progress was made, they'd up it. Bam! I would literally BEG the nurse NOT to up it when she'd come in. “Please, I need a break.” I labored on Pitocin for 8+ hours (in addition to the 20 hours of labor pre-Pitocin). At some point I remember hearing "Always Love" by Nada Surf (listening to the Birth Playlist via ipod) and I hugged Brian, swaying to the music, and cried, I felt so emotional.

It got to the point that I had no break in between contractions. I had smaller contractions, in between the big ones, that were as intense as my previous contractions had been. I had been active the whole time: bouncing on a ball, pacing, swaying, rocking in a rocker (and had started involuntarily banging my head against the back of the rocking chair during contractions trying to make myself lose consciousness). The whole time, Ruth Ann & Brian (and Susan) were very encouraging that I could do it. Susan was the only midwife that day, so I didn't see a ton of her, which was actually nice - we spent a lot of time just the three of us in the room. They kept giving me little milestones to reach to get me through the pain, "Susan will be back in an hour to check you, you just need to make it til then" or "just 20 more minutes til X happens."

At one point, I was on the toilet & Susan told me to stay there for a while (where I was unconnected to monitors) and I recall not being able to sit down any more - I couldn't have any part of my body touching anything due to intense pain. She eventually put me in bed to rest because I was so exhausted & she said I needed to have energy to push. That bed is a thing of my nightmares, like a torture device. This is when the most intense contractions occurred - the ones w/ no downtime. According to Brian, during this time I would pass out cold between contractions & start snoring! For several weeks after, every time I'd lay down in a bed to sleep, I'd be transported to THAT bed and relive the trauma. Every big contraction, I'd climb the bed rails. I felt very alone at that point (even though surrounded by people) as I realized that I WAS alone - I was the only one that could do it and no one could help me. I begged someone to help me, "I can't do it!" “You can! You're doing it,” they said. At some point during labor, my sister showed up, which was really great - I'd thought of inviting her, but hadn't. It's all pretty blurry. I was hinting at pain relief & kept getting talked out of it, because they knew that's what I wanted. Weeks later, I felt like, "why was it OK (from a midwifery standpoint) for me to have Pitocin, but not to have my pain taken away?"

After 8 Pitocin-hours (and 28 hours total), I was 5cm. “I don't have another 5cm in me!” I thought. I asked for an epidural - it was very nerve wracking getting it, staying still during contractions so they don't puncture your spinal cord. Ugh. Brian (& everyone but the anesthesiologist) had to leave the room. My sister whispered to me "you're amazing. You didn't fail! You're only doing what 95% of women do." It was very hard for me to get drugs administered in front of Ruth Ann, who is a total bad ass (40 hour horrendous drug free labor with her 1st kid). She said to me, "when I said I've seen women labor on Pitocin, I meant like for 2 hours, not 8! Holy Shit girl!" I then slept & Brian & Ruth Ann basically watched my monitor, in which both the baby's & my heart rates would take turns skyrocketing & plummeting due to the Pitocin. Now that I had the epidural, they could jack it - still not making progress.

At some point in the middle of the night, I was awoken by the nurse, who sat me up to get the benefit of gravity, as Susan explained I was being examined in one more hour and if there wasn't sufficient progress, I'd likely end up w/ a c-section. So, I actually had this amazing hour to myself while Brian & Ruth Ann slept in the corner & I channeled my inner Ina May, speaking to the baby, meditating & guiding her down & out. And then Susan came in, spread my legs and said "Oh shit! It looks like someone has spilled a can of split pea soup between your legs." Literally like 2 cups of meconium on the bed. And only 7cm. Game over. C-section, it is! I had about 10 mins to talk it over w/ Brian, and the attending surgeon came in to explain everything to me about the procedure. I recall her describing how they double-suture the incision, so that I can have another baby in the future w/out fear of rupture. I thought, "Is she crazy? I'm never doing this again!"

The surgery was very stressful to me, psychologically, because I feel like it was sprung on me and I hadn't had time to get used to the idea. I had considered doing a home birth w/ Ruth Ann & she said to me on the way to the OR, "If we'd attempted a home birth, we'd have ended up in the same place." And she also said, "I've transferred many women to hospitals who've gotten totally bogus c-sections & I've had to make up lies as to why they needed them (because the dr. wanted it), so as not to make them feel robbed of their birth experience. I don't have to lie to you - you legitimately need this. This is why they exist."

Brian held my hand & I was very cold, arms splayed on the operating table, like I was on a cross.There were roughly 10 people in the room, 2 of them NICU pediatricians just in case, as G had been very distressed during my super-medicated labor (and the ass-load of meconium). I heard, "She has so much hair!" and "She looks just like Daddy!" & then I heard what sounded like a cat in the room & I asked if the baby was crying. She was! Brian was alternating between comforting me -- "Everything's fine, Sweetie! She's perfect" -- and giving permission to the peds to intubate her! She was grunting & not breathing at first & poor Brian thought she was dying!

Before whisking her to NICU (she'd swallowed a ton of meconium, which they'd sucked out of her lungs, and she was running a fever), I saw her for like 30 seconds. I got to touch her cheek. I think I said, "Hi!" No holding, but Brian got to hold her. What no one tells you about c-section is that it takes maybe 10 minutes to get the baby out and about 45 mins to put you back together. I heard the surgeons & nurses counting: every piece of equipment and gauze had to be accounted for. Then I had this feeling that there was a metal clamp on my lower abdomen - I thought that was something from the surgery that they'd remove. Then they said, "OK, you're done!" What about the metal clamp? Nope, that's your new abdomen! Oh, that was Tuesday, December 21, 2010, 6:23am - 38 hours after my labor started. Whew!

I didn't officially get to "meet" Georgia until more than a day after she was born (and we didn't name her until then). I couldn't go to NICU because I couldn't sit up & get there via wheelchair (on a different floor from maternity). As hard as that was (between bouts of being passed out cold on morphine), it was actually an amazing bonding experience for her & Brian. He went to NICU and took off his shirt, doing skin-to-skin contact (the nurses thought he was a rock star!) and feeding her. One of the nurses woke Brian from a nap in our room the day of her birth and begged him to come down and give her formula, as she'd been screaming in hunger. I didn't want her to have formula, but I didn't want her to be hungry and feel abandoned either.

Not being able to breastfeed right away made it difficult, but I had to say that while my birth experience was WAY less than ideal, the nursing staff & lactation consultants were very helpful & supportive of breastfeeding. Also, the NICU staff was great. G spent 40 hours there total & was the pinkest, chubbiest baby in NICU (7 lbs, 10z, 20 inches). I felt very grateful that she got sprung so quickly & felt sad for parents who's babies were in there for weeks. And I remember feeling a bit nervous when at 9pm Weds night the NICU ped said, “You can take her back to your room.” "Right now?" We had a dehydration scare while in the hospital (before my milk came in), but eventually got the hang of feeding.

We brought her home on Christmas day. I was hallucinating in the car; I was so exhausted. My friend/neighbor David was walking down our block when our car pulled up. He took a picture of the three of us in front of the car. Later, he sent me an email saying that seeing Brian and I walk up the stairs to our building, carrying our new baby on Christmas Day, put him in mind of Mary, Jesus and Joseph.

 Mother and daughter officially "meeting" in the NICU