Desmond’s Birth Story

At 9:30pm on the evening of August 31 (two days after my due date), I started having regular contractions. They weren’t bothering me much but I started timing them just to get an idea of how far apart they were – since this was my second baby, my doctor had advised me to go in if they reached 7 minutes apart so that we could make sure I got two doses of antibiotics for Group B Strep prior to birth. The entire week prior to this, I had several nights where I woke up to contractions that got gradually closer together before petering out at about 8 minutes apart, so I had no real reason to believe these would be different. However, they were different – these contractions steadily got closer together over a couple of hours. I hung out on the exercise ball to help them along and around midnight they were moving right along at 6 minutes apart. I made sure they were consistent for a good hour before I called Labor & Delivery. I wasn’t sure I was in labor – the contractions didn’t seem bad enough to be real labor – but you never know, right?

David and I packed up our stuff and headed to Kaiser so that I could get checked out.

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I was put into an observation room and hooked up to some monitors at about 1:30am (coincidentally, it was Labor Day). After a bit over an hour, a midwife came in to check on my dilation. I was only at 1.5cm (same as I had been on the previous Friday) and she didn’t think my labor had really started, but she felt fairly sure it was close to starting. Not only that, but the baby’s heart rate had decelerated a number of times so she wanted to keep me there for more monitoring. So we sat tight and she came and checked back in around 3am. My contractions were 4-5 minutes apart at that point, so we decided I should go ahead and get admitted.

The baby’s heart rate was fine by 7am and the contractions continued at the same rate. At 12pm, we decided to start on pitocin since I still wasn’t in active labor; we figured that my body just needed a little nudge in the right direction. I had a lot of reservations about pitocin because my labor with Jack had been long and hard, but the midwife assured me that we would go slow with the pitocin and we could turn it down or off if needed.

My contractions certainly intensified on the pitocin. I spent time going between the exercise ball and walking laps with David around the maternity ward.

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By 5pm, I had still only progressed to 3.5cm, although the baby’s head had moved lower into my pelvis. I kept doing my thing and trying to move a lot with contractions. The pitocin was slowly turned up every so often and every 4 hours I also received a dose of Penicillin for the Group B Strep (sidenote: the antibiotics had me in more pain where it was going into the IV than my contractions – OUCH!!!).

Around 7pm I put on my headphones and cranked some music (Lana del Rey!) to help me through the steadily intensifying contractions. I started needing David’s help to get through them but I still felt like the labor was manageable without any medication. David made a comment about how nice all of the nurses and midwives were…

Then there was a shift change at about 9pm…

A midwife named Doris came into the room and outlined her plan for our birth. She immediately started saying that my contractions weren’t productive, that she was concerned about the decels in the baby’s heart rate (which hadn’t occurred for hours by that point), and telling us that I was going to get too tired to birth the baby if things didn’t happen more quickly. There was talk of epidurals (was I SURE I didn’t want one??) and a c-section if I got too tired to push. The more she talked, the more agitated I got, especially after she said something about how if we followed her plan she GUARANTEED the baby would be born by morning.

Doris was a full on medwife. UGH.

After making her initial rounds, she sent our nurse in and instead of increasing the pitocin just a bit as we had been doing, she CRANKED it according to Doris’ instructions. Within 30 minutes I was doubling over with every contraction and sobbing hysterically from the pain. The contractions were maybe coming a minute apart and I had no time to recover between them. I was a shaking, crying mess, and I held onto David for dear life. I felt like I wanted to die.

Doris came back in the room and checked me, said that I still wasn’t at 4cm, asked if I wanted anything for the pain (which I rated at 8-9), and then sent the nurse back in to turn the pitocin up AGAIN. It had been about an hour since it had been cranked up and I was not coping well. Thankfully David stepped in and had the nurse turn the pitocin down a bunch to see if we could slow things down and give me a break. It took a bit of time but the contractions slowed just enough for my sobs to quiet and I was able to get a few breaths in.

Doris came back in at some point and I started crying again and silently wishing harm on her person. As soon as she left, I decided two things – I would go ahead and get an epidural, and I didn’t want Doris anywhere near me for the rest of my labor. David called for the epidural and I begged the nurse to keep Doris away from me and instead send in a doctor.

The epidural was placed right around 12am, in between contractions. It was pretty quick and painless and the numbing started immediately. I still had incredible pain in my tailbone (which I am 99.9% sure I broke when giving birth to Jack), and the anesthesiologist said that the epidural wouldn’t touch that, unfortunately – I just had to get through it. ūüôĀ

The doctor came in to check my progress then. Right as she was saying, “This is probably going to break your bag of waters,” there was a splash. The staff scrambled to change the padding underneath me and I said that I felt like I was going to poop. The doctor looked down, said it was the baby’s head I was actually feeling, and announced to the team that the baby was coming! The staff kicked it into high gear, but the baby wouldn’t wait – his head slid right out, then his shoulders slowed him just enough for the doctor to get in position before he SHOT OUT like a football. I didn’t even get a single push in!

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Desmond Eric

Desmond Eric was born to a room full of chuckling people at 9/2 at 12:43am. He didn’t cry – instead, he looked around and squeaked a bit every now and then. He was 7 lbs, 1 oz, and measured 19″ with a tuft of blonde hair.

We are totally in love.

How I'm Using What I've Learned

I know I at least mentioned this before, but in speaking with family and friends this weekend I found myself more clearly stating my plans for birthing a second child.  I will absolutely do things differently next time around, and that means I will stay out of a hospital if at all possible.

Now, don’t get me wrong.¬† I have nothing against hospitals.¬† I worked in a hospital and absolutely loved it.¬† I love the people and their commitment to helping others.¬† I love that hospitals offer safety and a variety of medical expertise.¬† There is so much about Jack’s birth that I cherish.

But!¬† The downsides are many.¬† The people in the hospital don’t know their patients for the most part.¬† The number of staff is large, and the shifts do not cover an entire labor.¬† Some of those members¬†of staff have a horrible bedside manner, and patients are stuck with what they get.¬† Of the four nurses who attended us during our time in the hospital, two of those four were absolutely horrible.¬† And unfortunately due to timing, those two horrible nurses had a much greater impact on my birth experience than the great nurses.¬† I do not want people I don’t know to have that much impact on what is a very personal and unique¬†experience in my life.

Despite my birth plan, despite my doula, despite my OB’s agreement with my wishes, despite my¬†repeated restatement of my wishes, choices were taken away from me in the hospital.¬† And the reason why those choices were taken away?¬† Simply for the nurse’s convenience, or due to someone else’s mistakes, and my OB was not there to overrule in my favor.¬† Being admitted to the hospital meant that others took over and had more control over what was happening than I did; in spite of all previous reassurances that my wishes would be respected.

I didn’t have a horrible birth experience.¬† I was able to deliver Jack vaginally, without pain medication,¬†and I healed pretty quickly.¬† My son is healthy, and¬†I am healthy.¬† My goals were achieved.¬† But I know if I had simply chosen to give birth at home or at an independent birth center, there would have been a lot less stress, a lot more support and¬†comfort.¬† I thought that the birthing room looked homey and warm, but I didn’t realize that decor is only one small piece of what makes a person feel comfortable in their environment.

Let me be clear.¬† I am not the type of person who desires to “experience the miracle of birth” or “realize my strength as a woman” or other such¬†romantic notions.¬† I am nothing if not practical.¬† I¬†simply don’t want to hand over my autonomy to a large number of¬†strangers who have done nothing to¬†earn my trust and who have protocol in the forefront of their minds at all times.¬† Birth is about¬†babies and parents and nature and all working together in a common goal.¬† I want to be surrounded by those who respect that with words and deeds, and I want the birth to be the priority, not something that is thought of after the institution is taken care of.¬† I understand why hospitals do what they do, but that doesn’t mean I have to let a hospital and its staff dictate how my child comes into the world.