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Ida’s Story

My third child was found to be breech during my pregnancy in the summer of 1980. Very little literature was available on turning breeches at that time, but I found suggestions for the “breech-tilt” position in Ina May Gaskin’s, Spiritual Midwifery. I spent an hour or so each evening lying on an ironing board which was propped against the couch. The baby did not seem to make any noticeable flipping movements. Each time I went back to my OB, he would palpate and say, “I think the baby has turned.” He would then attempt to confirm this with the small, office ultrasound machine. But, no, each time the baby was still breech.

As I neared term, we began to discuss the delivery options. As an older doctor, he had experience with vaginal breech births. The “community standards”, however, were already shifting to cesarean for breeches. I had already birthed two babies, one of them over eight pounds, so he felt confident that I could deliver vaginally. My doctor, knowing that I was a proponent of natural childbirth, agreed that we would attempt a vaginal birth. At the onset of labor, I was to come immediately to the hospital and we would confirm the position with ultrasound and then (he said) do an X-ray to assess the pelvis. I would agree not to use the birthing room, but to go to the delivery room and have an IV, etc.

The primary problem with this plan was that he rotated call with two other doctors who did not agree to a vaginal breech. One of them specifically told me that he would not let his own wife have a vaginal breech and would not be involved in mine. My own doctor agreed to try to be on call for my birth if at all possible.

On the morning of August 21, I awoke with some contractions and bloody show (the only one of my three births in which there was a noticeable bloody show.) We arranged for the grandparents to take care of our two children, and Kramer and I set out for the hospital. My best friend, Ruth, was also coming along to take video pictures. When we arrived, the “right” doctor was on call and I was well into labor. My labors have always progressed fast, so it only took a few hours. Never during this time did my doctor mention the ultrasound or the X-Ray, and I sure wasn’t going to remind him! I had taught childbirth classes for several years, and had attended many births in this hospital as labor support, so I was familiar with the hospital staff. As soon as we arrived, I asked for a specific nurse who had been a foreign trained midwife and was comfortable with vaginal breech deliveries. She was not allowed to work as a midwife, but I definitely wanted a nurse who was supportive of the idea.

When I was completely dilated, the doctor showed up and we went to the delivery room. My husband and my friend were both allowed to come, and no one even questioned the video camera even for this “high-risk” delivery! (It was actually a precursor to the video camera, a sound-move camera, and the film had to be changed every 15 minutes). I was on the delivery table, legs in stirrups, and only a tad nervous about the impending exit. Pretty soon she began to crown: the butt crowned first, then she smoothly slid down until her legs released. Everyone could tell she was a girl before she was all the way out! I called her by her name, Lily, as she emerged to the neck, her arms dangling down. Ruth exclaimed, “Oh, Ida, she’s moving her hands!” Then there was a pause as we waited for the next contraction. My doctor held her body, waiting patiently, and commented, “This part always seems to take forever.” I wondered if I would have to push really, really hard, or if we were all going to get frantic trying to get the head out. And then, barely noticeable, she slipped right out. It was the easiest birth I had ever had.

The funny part was when they laid her on the warming table to dry her off, and her legs sprang right up to her ears where they had always been. They stayed that way for several days, which made it hard to dress her. Fortunately, it was very hot that summer and she didn’t need much in the way of clothes!

During my first pregnancy, I had been fairly afraid of what birth would be like. We took classes but I still expected to have an epidural. My husband wasn’t allowed in the labor room that year (1974), but my supportive doctor let me labor in a post-partum room so we could be together. That was a great idea, because we did not have a lot of interference or offers of “help” while tucked far away in another part of the hospital. With the support of my husband, I used the Lamaze breathing to go deep into the labor and was not afraid. His was a beautiful birth, a true miracle, and I was awed and changed by the experience. I had begun teaching Lamaze by my second pregnancy, and was a strong believer in the natural process. The second child, a daughter, we birthed in the labor room bed, with my doctor standing in the corner, ready to intervene only if needed. I lifted her out of my own body with my own hands. That experience deepened my trust in birth and expanded my confidence in my body’s ability to birth my babies. These experiences were great preparation for the third, the breech, because it would have been very easy to fall prey to the fear of breech that most of the medical community held at that time.

About a year after the third birth, I met in my Lamaze class a couple who were going to have a home birth. I had heard of home births, but had not attended one. I was invited to their birth, and met their midwife, Mary. I had been attending hospital births for many years, and had seen the gradual increase in dependence on technology and the pathological view of birth.

Witnessing the home birth changed my life as much as my own three births had. I knew this is what birth was supposed to be like, and I began apprenticing with Mary immediately. We have now worked together since 1982. We became licensed in 1985, and our regulations do not permit breech births at home. Several of our clients have had breech babies in the last few months of pregnancy. Some have turned on their own, some have turned with some external encouragement, and some have not turned. Of these, most have opted for the hospital cesarean birth. One was referred over to The Farm in Tennessee, where she birthed breech after several hours of pushing. Another client, found to be ten centimeters and breech at home upon our arrival, birthed into our hands easily. This was not a planned home birth breech, but worked out beautifully. A third client planned to deliver breech in the hospital after finding a doctor that agreed to allow her a “trial of labor”.

She had not birthed a baby before, but both she and her mother had been born breech. She seemed like a good candidate for a vaginal breech birth. We labored at home with her for a few hours, then she began to dilate rapidly. We hurried to the hospital, where she was ten centimeters on arrival. Nothing more happened for a couple of hours; no urge to push, no descent. Suddenly her water broke, and a foot emerged with a cord wrapped around it. She was rushed immediately to the OR for a cesarean.

So, I have seen breeches go really well, and I have seen one that could have had a bad outcome if an emergency cesarean had not been so readily available. I continue to believe that most births can and should occur at home with midwives, and am grateful that medical assistance can be obtained when appropriate.

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Peter’s Birth

Third pregnancy, third baby, 2 days overdue. I was preparing for a home delivery with lay midwives. 6 weeks before my due date, my husband announced he was in love with a friend and was probably going to leave us (and this was to be my “serene” pregnancy, since we’d moved during each of the previously two.) The next day, a midwife determined the baby was breech, and by their protocols no longer a candidate for home delivery. I was crushed. I read and attended birthing classes. I elevated my hips every time I was hungry (to ensure an empty stomach) in case the baby might have been able to turn when floating up out of the pelvic cavity. I had a massage, followed by an attempted in-office (no drugs) external version by the Dr. who had delivered my firstborn, also a breech. My midwives were also present to learn the procedure. Everyone long ignored my repeated suggestion that we elevate my hips. His touch was painful and the version was not successful. After every “request” to turn over, I would stroke & reassure the baby within that it was all right and fine any way it needed to be.

Labor again proceeded gradually over several days at a leisurely pace, allowing me to sleep well each evening. The day before the birth, a midwife came over to check me internally to learn more about breech presentation. She estimated me at 3 cm. dilation. Rushes again stopped for me to sleep, then picked up again. I went to the hospital only when I needed to breathe with concentration, to be there “in time” for whatever x-rays or ultra sounds that might be required of me, always hopeful of the possibility of the baby’s turning and my going home for birth, after all.

When I arrived at our local teaching hospital, labor temporarily stopped, as before. A nurse tried to prevent our entering with a small cooler of snacks for my estranged husband/coach, but she was snatched away by others. Many folks came in and respectively discussed requests I had written for no interventions. I had no doubt I could safely birth this baby, as his brother & sister came out fine. I felt prepared and ready. When contractions slowed down, I walked around. I was examined upon arrival and the first (intern?) assessed me at 3 cm. Two seconds later, someone else checked and pronounced me 5 cm. Someone put in an IV, and blood from my arm spurted and spiraled into the air as they tried to catch it for tests. People argued and berated one another outside the door, but we tried to make a nest of peaceful solitude in the labor room, nevertheless.

My waters broke spontaneously during a blood pressure check by a friendly nurse, I was so excited, she smiled & smiled as I asked her to confirm the waters were clear. Every time a Dr. came into the room, labor would stop. One Dr. came in to check and pronounced me fully dilated & effaced, but baby was still very high (at zero?) I asked where baby would need to go and he told me (station 4?) While he was checking, the baby obligingly shuddered and shifted all the way down! “You only need to tell me what’s needed,” I assured the astonished man. It was soon apparent I was to have a son. When my body proceeded to push in spit of my blowing as instructed, we were made to move to a delivery room because he was breech.

(This was a summer of extraordinary swarms of flies, causing jokes about birthing at home while brushing flies aside.) In the delivery room, the hand grips were broken and useless. I was put into the lithotomy position with out having to have my wrists restrained. (There on the light over my head was a big, fat fly! No one else seemed to understand that I thought it was funny.) There was great tension in the room. The attending physician stood by my side, the resident sat on the stool. Things seemed to me to be progressing very well. I concentrated on following instructions, especially about waiting, so I wouldn’t pop him out so quickly as I had his sister. I was told to “hold it!” and I did.

My husband leaned close to me and said, “They’re going to put you under.” I asked, “Why? Everything’s going so well!” I looked in the mirror and noticed that my son’s whole body was already out and thought, “They’re worried about the head!” So I promptly “gave them” the head. (four hours after arriving in the hospital.)

Next thing I knew, a masked anesthesiologist was very upset, kicking carts out of his way. He was scolding nurses to take my glasses, that “We could be having a patient fatality here!” Someone noticed my alarm and warned him to behave. My husband later told me he saw the anesthesiologist inject something into my IV, before he could do any more, my husband tapped him and showed him that the baby was already out.

The anesthesiologist was trying to put a mask over my face.
“I don’t want to go to sleep, LOOK, he’s out! I kept pointing.”
“This is oxygen,” he tried to reassure me, “you’ll be taking a little minute nap.”
“I DON’T WANT to go to sleep, LOOK, he’s already out!”
“It’s already in your IV.”
“Will it hurt the baby?”
“”No. It will be completely metabolized in 8 minutes.”

I saw them cutting the cord, and thought I then said, “Now for the placenta.” They were swabbing my uterus (SOP) as they reassured me, that had already happened and I had just come to.

I overheard the attending physician and the resident talking in the corner. Apparently the attending had felt my tightened abdominal muscles when I’d been asked to “Hold it.” and worried my uterus was hardening in some dangerous way. NO ONE asked me to relax. NO ONE except my husband even spoke with me about what was happening until putting that mask over me. Later, baby & I were soaked because the IV pulled out of the needle in my arm. Then I realized the IV could have been interrupted and fervently wished I had just PULLED it out myself instead of receiving unnecessary drugs.

Needless to say, I missed the wonderful rush of joy and special connecting time right after birth. I struggled to be ever more aware, I refused to let us be separated. They made us put the baby in the cot to move to a postpartum room, so his dad kept a hand on him as we were wheeled along. All other procedures were done in my room, and I again signed myself out Against Medical Advice. Our pediatrician discharged our new son, Peter (7″ 12 oz., 21″, 37 cm head) because he’d been examined by a pediatric resident in the delivery room. My husband wondered if I should go home soon after anesthesia. I assured him that if he wouldn’t take me, I would take a taxi, because I WAS GOING HOME! We left at 11:30 p.m., four hours after his birth.

This was a bittersweet time. The birth was wonderful amidst wounding treatment. My husband did leave us. My family who came to help were not sufficiently helpful and I determined to take care of myself. The kids were great, though not unscathed by their father’s departure. La Leche League was the ONLY place I found support to be WITH my family. I later met and fell in love with a man who dated baby & me as a nursing couple. He and I have been on one long date for the last 17 years. It has been very healing to share my story with you. My feelings are still very strong. I hope it helps others.

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The Story Of Blair Vaughn

My husband and I waited 10 years after we married to have our first baby. The pregnancy was no fun. I was sick (morning sickness type) the whole nine months. We had no ultrasounds, no *real* problems. I had had a lot of Braxton-Hicks (sp?) contractions the last few months. That is what I thought was happening on Blair’s birth day. We live close to my parents, and had had lunch with them that day. I started having a few contractions. Wally (dh) went back to work at my urging. I thought it was just B-H again. My mom went to a meeting. That left my 70 year old dad, who got plenty nervous. After I couldn’t just walk them off, stay on my side and drink water, etc., he began urging me to call Wally home (he works about 3 miles from there). The man was plainly nervous.

BTW, the first contraction was at 12:30. By 1:30, Wally was there, took me home to get the suitcase and call the doctor. I was sitting on the toilet ( I could have sworn I had to go … how was I to know what labor feels like?) when the teacher who had taken over my 9th grade English class called to ask about a student’s grade. She’d had children, she knew. She asked me if I was having the baby and I said yes. She said she’d make up a grade. At that point, I didn’t care.

The doctor’s office told us to come on. It was one day past my due date, and I had been dilating about a centimeter a week for the past 3 weeks ( I was 3 1/2 cent. the day before). Wally drove like crazy to get us to the hospital. We live about 45 minutes away. I had the ac on full blast. He kept wanting to stop at places we passed, like the rescue squad, our family doctor’s office, etc. I told him to shut up and drive. Then, in front of the hospital, he turns left instead of right and I screamed at him. WHY ARE YOU GOING TO THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE! Standard policy during daytime labors, as it turns out. They told him to check by there first. Luckily, they were just across from the hospital. The nurse took one look at me and sent us across the street.

It gets a little blurry in my mind at that point. Wally went to park the car and they wheeled me up to the beautiful birthing suites we had seen on the tour. He soon found us, without the luggage or camcorder. He was a little panicked.

The first nurse examined me and quickly announced she needed to find her supervisor. That nurse examined me and said she would go find the doctor. The doctor examined and took a look at our *birth plan*, basically a list of what we wanted, what we didn’t. He told us we would be okay on most things, but the bad news was that the baby was in a frank breech position (butt first). He did an ultrasound to confirm. The good news was that I was already dilated 8 cm. My water broke while he examined me and I was at 10 cm. quick. Let me tell you, it was INTENSE! We were rapidly wheeled into the OR (no pretty birthing suite), and I was moved to a quickly put together combination birthing/operating table. We had to be ready for a quick c-section if necessary.

This little bitty nurse, about the size of my little finger, held one of my monstrous legs while Wally held the other. The doctor made a joke about the baby having big feet ( Wally couldn’t get the surgical scrub slippers over his size 12 feet). After 45 minutes of the hardest work I have ever done in my life, Blair’s bruised little behind entered the world, followed quickly by his beautiful, perfect head. It was 4:45. It all happened in 4 hours and 15 minutes. I didn’t even miss a meal. (well, I didn’t eat the turkey al a yuk they brought to the room at 6:30 — -I was much too pumped up!)

What I didn’t realize until later was that a) half the hospital was behind me while I was pushing. Not many of them had ever seen a vaginal breech birth. Most of them had never seen a totally unmedicated breech birth ( I mean not even a Tylenol —- we had no time to even consider it). And b) most of the doctors in my group, and those who practice at this hospital would have immediately done an emergency c- section. I was quite thankful that this one didn’t. Like Jen pointed out, recovery from a c-section is much worse than from an episiotomy (which I had — one of the compromises from my l*st). Blair’s APGAR was 9.8, quite a relief since he made his entrance in such a backwards way.

From the very beginning, Blair was so alert. He slept almost none that 1st 20 hours. Wally stayed with us the entire time ( he even wore one of my nursing gowns the second night we had to stay to give his clothes a rest). We had to stay a bit longer because of Blair’s circumcision. I would have left that day if I could have. He nursed like a pro from the very beginning. He’s my beautiful strawberry-blonde, blue-eyed boy (also quite a surprise coming from dark haired parents with brown eyes and hazel eyes).