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CAM Birth Story #22: Allison’s Cesarean

In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month 2010, we will be filling the blogosphere with stories from real women (and their families) who know first-hand the consequences of a 32% cesarean rate. Each day we will post at least one birth story submitted by these women. Prepare to be moved (hint: grab a box of Kleenex)!

From Allison…

It started Saturday the 15th at 7:00am. My midwife was going to come over and assist me in an herbal 3 day induction. Even though my due date was a rough estimate, she legally has to turn me over to an OB at 42 weeks for further evaluation before she can “treat” me any further.

I was anxious about the “induction” and couldn’t sleep really well, as I kept thinking I might get to meet my angel Saturday night. I woke up with what felt like kidney pain…I’ve had kidney stones before, and that’s exactly what it felt like. Just a dull ache that wouldn’t resolve itself by the way I was sitting, and it came in waves. I called my midwife to let her know I was awake and was ready to start the first part of it. She asked if I was feeling anything, and I told her about my back pain. She told me this was probably back labor, meaning baby was posterior. She told me a few things I could do to try and turn her. Stay on hands and knees for awhile, rest on my left side with my knees curled up as tight as possible, lunges, and a lot more. I did this for a few hours with the contractions getting stronger each time but only lasting about 40 seconds and coming every 6 minutes or so. We went for a mile and a half walk, came home, and fixed some lunch. I only wanted starches for some reason, so I just had a little bit of bread and mashed potatoes.

My midwife kept checking in with me and I kept my doula updated. By Saturday evening, the contractions were 4-5 minutes apart and roughly a minute long. My midwife said she would just come over when they were lasting longer and to keep her updated if anything interesting was happening or if they started getting really intense.

Throughout the day I cleaned, got some laundry done, watched a few movies while on my knees and draped over the birth ball, etc. My midwife said to try and get some sleep…easier said than done, but I managed to get about 3.5 hours in that night. I woke up with contractions lasting a minute and a half – two minutes and they were coming every 3-4 minutes. That was quite a jump from the night before, so I called my midwife. She asked if the contractions were still just in my back, and I said yes. She asked when I was thinking about calling my doula, and I said I thought it would be sometime soon. MW said to go ahead and call her to give her time to get the kids ready, take a shower, etc, and to have my doula call her when she got here and we would re-evaluate the situation.

We called our doula and she said she’d be out in about an hour. She came out and helped us try to turn baby…she looked online and brought a book that was supposed to give some good pointers. We tried a lot of different things for a few hours. She talked to my midwife who said she’d be out in the evening to do a check up. I couldn’t sit down all day…even sitting on the toilet hurt like crazy. She brought tennis balls, but those didn’t really help with anything. Not at this point in time anyway. My midwife and nurse came out around 4:15pm and was surprised to see me at 4cm. She thought I’d be around 3 or so. She and the nurse left to run some errands and let nature take it’s course. They came back at about 6:30, and I was at 5cm. Contractions were about every 3 minutes apart and lasting a minute each. They started setting up camp. Opened up the birth kit, lugged in the oxygen machine, the birth bag (emergency equip pretty much), etc. DH had already blown the pool up on Friday, and had it stashed away in the nursery. She asked me if I was up for a power walk. Of course I didn’t, but I figured she wouldn’t ask me to do something if she didn’t think it would help things progress. dh, my doula, and I went walking up and down my street, up and down my (super steep) driveway, etc for about 20 minutes.

We came back, I sat on the birth ball for another hour or so. My doula’s husband called and said her daughter was about ready for bed and needed to be nursed, so her husband brought her 2 kids out a little later. At this point, I had 3 cars in the driveway (midwife, doula, doula’s husband). My entire family lives within 10 minutes of here, and I know they drive by occasionally. While my doula was out in the car nursing, my midwife got a phone call from her saying that my aunt was in the driveway asking questions. This was about 8pm…day 2 of labor, and my family still didn’t know about it, because I knew the news would spread like wildfire, and I didn’t want to feel like I was being watched or that people were holding their breath for a phone call from me…I thought that might stall my labor. Anywho..the phone call from my doula was to tell my midwife that my aunt was outside. Midwife asked if I wanted her to go down and tell her to leave, but I said I’d handle it. I walked down the hill, gave her a hug, told her things were fine, I wasn’t in pain (lie, but again…knew the news would spread and I didn’t want my aunt being the first to know over my parents or sister that I was in labor) really, that they were just out to check vital signs and such, and I’d let her know when the real deal was happening. She was satisfied with this, but I had to text my mom immediately so she wouldn’t hear it through the grapevine.

As we started walking back up the hill, my doula asked if I wanted my spine aligned. Totally forgot her husband was a chiropractor! He came inside and adjusted everyone for free…that was pretty cool. It didn’t do much for labor, but it completely fixed a lower back problem I’ve been having for years. I got checked again around 9 and was still at about a 5, so we went walking again. This time, the whole crew went. I tried to eat when we got back, but it made me queasy. Baby’s heart rate had gone up to the 170s, so my midwife said I really needed to push fluids and rest. The contractions I had while on my side were more intense than anywhere else, and it was all I could do to breathe/cry through them. I had to stay on my side while drinking glass after glass after glass of water/cranberry juice/water/cranberry juice. That got her heartrate back to a normal level and our vital signs were looking great.

Around midnight I got checked again and was just a little over 5cm. I heard my midwife in the other room telling the nurse she didn’t want to transport me, but that legally she has to take me in after so many hours of no progression. I think it was something like 18 hours since she first checked me. She said I needed to sleep, or at least attempt it, but the contractions were way too painful to sleep through. She sent me to bed, but again…lying down contractions were so excruciating, I couldn’t even relax. dh brought me some mashed potatoes and bread and a glass of water. I ate all of that, and my doula suggested I put a pillow on the floor and curl over the bed (on my knees) to see if I could possibly rest that way. She was wonderful…kept a cold washcloth handy, held my glass up (we had bendy straws) for me to drink, helped me to the bathroom, etc while dh got a little sleep. I stayed this way for at least an hour before deciding I’d rather
sit on the birth stool with a chair in front of me with the birth ball in the seat (confusing to explain, but this was a somewhat comfy position and allowed me to “sit” without killing my back. I managed to get about a 3 minute power nap every 10 minutes or so, but by this point I was really needing coaching on my breathing. I’m guessing I was a bit noisy, as my midwife and nurse came in after a particularly powerful contraction to ask if I wanted to be checked again. I said I’d handle a few more contractions in this position and then I’d go for a check. She and the nurse took turns listening to the baby’s heart rate during contractions as well as my blood pressure, pulse, etc.

I got checked around 4am and was at 6.5cm…pushing 7. She said that they would start filling the pool. That’s what I’d been waiting on! I had envisioned the tub to be this haven of easier contractions. DH had already hooked up a water hose directly to the hot water heater, but we hadn’t turned it up much, so it was still lukewarm (needed to be around 100 degrees). DH woke up and started boiling water. My contractions were incredibly strong by this point…no amount of counter pressure was helpful…no words of encouragement were helpful. I remember my doula saying “pain is progress” and I wanted to beat her with the birth stool…

I finally got to get in the tub. I tried a few different positions for contractions, and I just couldn’t get comfortable at all. I got out to use the restroom and just never got back in. I found it more tolerable to be upright walking around than anywhere else. My MW said she’d check me again at 7:15 and it was now about 6:45. The contractions started coming one right after another. I remember asking “is this transition?” and the nurse said yes and I was doing great, something or another. Each contraction got stronger and longer, and I just remember watching the clock…remembering transition was the shortest phase of labor and that it would be over soon. I got worried around 7am with contractions coming like they were. Something didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel any contractions that were “stretching”…only intense, excruciating back pain. I waited until 7:15 to be checked, and I was still at 7cm. My midwife said she thought the baby was stuck and that we should think about transporting. I agreed, and she got on the telephone to find out who was on call at the 2 Little Rock hospitals (she has worked as a doula and wanted to make sure I got a nice doctor).

The next 10 minutes or so are pretty blurry. The nurse was trying to help me get dressed, my doula was in the nursery packing up diapers, DH…well, I have no idea where he was. My midwife was on the phone with the CNM she works with to see about getting my paperwork transferred or something. I started crying when I realized I’d have to sit in the car for 30-45 minutes due to morning traffic. My doula was on the phone with her husband (sitting in the middle of traffic) trying to figure out the fastest way to get there. Note, we live 2 minutes from a hospital, but it’s horrible…I’m so glad we didn’t have to go there.

DH laid back the passenger side of the car, and I lay down. Contractions were still coming frequently, but I was nervous at this point and that seemed to dull them a bit. I started texting family to let them know which hospital we were heading to. We pulled up to the hospital and my doula walked me in while DH found a parking spot. I got in a room immediately and my nurse (she was AWESOME) got me hooked up to the monitors. I got to be on my side at least. My doula put counterpressure on my back and my midwife held my hand through them. DH still hadn’t made it up yet (poor baby carried EVERYTHING up at once).

The doctor on call wasn’t available until the afternoon, so my nurse called and asked if he wanted to start pitocin to see if we could get me dialated the rest of the way. I was now at 8cm. He said definitely, but if I didn’t progress by the time he got there at 12:30 (by now, I think it was around 10am) , he said c-section. My nurse said I could go ahead and get an epidural in case a c-section was needed, so I opted for that. Pitocin was started afterwards. MW and doula came back in, my mom and dad came in to check on me. Mom (a nurse) looked at the monitors and said the baby’s heart rate looked great. Doctor came in at 12:30 and the nurse checked me…still at 8cm after a rather huge dosage of pitocin, and he said that with me not progressing much since the early hours of the morning and the baby being posterior and chin up, she doesn’t seem to want to come out that way and he’d like to do a c-section. I asked if he thought more pitocin might
work (desperate to not have surgery at this point), and he said no. I asked if I could have some time with my husband, and he said sure. I was bawling by this point, but dh calmed me down and assured me that baby was still ok and that I could do this, and that a healthy baby was all that mattered in the end. I asked my midwife if she does VBACs, and she said no, but that she knows ways to have them in my state. I agreed to the surgery and within minutes was being prepped. I begged my MW to go with me, as I knew dh would be with the baby and I didn’t want to be left alone. We got the go ahead from the anesthesiologist for her to be there and they wheeled me down the hall to the OR. That was the scariest bit was being in the OR by myself during the initial prep. dh and my MW came in soon after, though, and he held my hand. Within minutes, I heard “you fed her good, mama!” from my MW, followed by the most beautiful sound in the whole world (I bawled). They took her off for suctioning (she swallowed a little meconium) and dh got to take pictures. My midwife stood by me and answered any questions I had. She told me stuff like “baby is pinking up nicely”, “she looks great”, “lots of hair!” to tide me over until dh got to bring her around. I got to touch her face, kiss her. I remember being shocked at her size, as I was really only expecting a 7lb…MAYBE 8lb newborn. Not a 9lb 5oz and 21 in long bundle!!! They found that she was so far down in the birth canal and positioned just so that she was literally wedged there. She had a bruise on her collarbone from them having to reach in and tug her out!

The OR was cold, so the surgeon said for my husband to take the baby back to the room, and we’d be there in a few. Things got a bit hazy here, as something was placed in my IV (still unsure what it was) that made me extremely tired. I said “I don’t think I can keep my eyes open, but I want to nurse as soon as I get back.” My MW said she’d see to it that I did and to just rest. They wheeled me back to my room after I was fixed up, but I was shaking so badly I didn’t want to hold her. I was crying because I couldn’t hold her immediately, I was fighting sleep, I wanted to nurse, etc. My MW held her beside me until I completely passed out. When I woke up, she was nursing and in a cloth diaper. I had been out cold for nearly 2 hours, my blood pressure had dropped to like 90/60.

Anyway, that’s how my beautiful girl came into this world! Nursing is very challenging…it was very painful, and she wanted it nonstop, but we stuck it out. I had great support system with my local La Leche League.

One Comment

  1. Susan Peterson says:

    This is the first C section I have read about here which sounds as if it might have been medically justified. Do any midwives read this and think “If only they had-”? From the story it sounds as if that baby in that position wasn’t going to make it out. But I would love to hear that I am wrong, because I love to believe that birth works the vast majority of the time.

    I really didn’t like reading about the protocols the midwives were operating under, as I tend to think that experienced midwives can judge these things for themselves, and that they are not absolutes. I remember being told in the hospital that I had been pushing for an hour and fifteen minutes ( I thought it was only about 15 because I was in that altered consciousness state where you doze between pushes) and that “we only give you two hours.” So I got up in a squat and pushed like hell and got the baby out in the allotted time. But it wasn’t as if I wasn’t making progress, or as if the baby was in any danger, or as if it was any advantage to me or to the baby for this to happen faster. Since he weighed eleven pounds, it was good to stretch things out gently, I think. The hurry was artificial.

    Anyway, I’d love it if some midwives would, not in a critical way but in an informative one, would weigh in on this one.

    And, Allison, you did great, worked hard, and didn’t give up easily. Not many women ask for more pitocin! No reason to think that your next baby won’t be in a different position and come out just fine.

    Susan Peterson