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CAM Birth Story #27: Melissa’s homebirth turned 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 Melissa…

Interestingly enough, and hopefully inspirationally for some, the harsh memories I have from this birth, the story of which I wrote in 2006, have dimmed, and healing has set in. It took being a doula for three years and having a home birth myself, but the healing came.

I had planned and hoped very much for a home birth, but my home was out of my midwives catchment area. So, thanks to Melissa, we went in the back door and found another doula, Katherine, who was willing to host her home for our birth. I started feeling contractions on the night of Wednesday the 17th August around 12:30am (so really Thursday). They were pretty light, but I could definitely tell right away what they were. I had been tossing and turning in bed for 2 hours before they started, and Jamie had just gone to bed himself. My logic told me that I needed some sleep but I was so excited. I lay there and timed intervals between contractions (which varied from 5-9 minutes). I kept going to the bathroom to ‘go pee’…even though really I was looking for a mucous plug, or water, or something. I found it pretty quickly. I figured, contractions plus mucous plug – obviously I am in labor. I tried to wake Jamie up three or 4 times before he actually woke up – around 1:30am. I told him what was going on and he’s just like okay…..soo….what do we do? So I called Melissa. I got frustrated because I didn’t get a contraction the whole time I was on the phone with her. She told me I should do whatever I think is best, but I should definitley try as hard as I could to rest. I didn’t really try very hard at that because I was too excited and convinced, based on family’s history of births, that i’d probably be meeting my baby by the time I would normally be waking up. I really didn’t like the idea that I was going to have to travel to Katherine’s place eventually, and I wanted to do it sooner rather than later, so that I could be settled, whether it meant sleeping there, or laboring there, if I knew I was going there already, I just wanted to hurry up and get there.

I called my mother, who we had planned to have there, and she was going to call my grandmother (also coming) and pick her up and they would meet us at Katherine’s.

Silly us still hadn’t packed a bag yet (yeah yeah, days after my due date and we still didn’t) – I guess silly me thought I’d be able to do a proper job in early labor. So we called the midwives and gave them a heads up, called Katherine and told her we were coming over and weren’t sure how far along I was, but I knew it was still pretty early. Melissa had asked me how strong I thought they were on a scale of 1-10 and I said about a 4.

Contractions were handled strangely, compared to the rest of the labor. I would tense up, reach for something to grab or squeeze. They didn’t last more than maybe 30 seconds. I seem to remember standing and not wanting to stand – in retrospect I should have squatted if I felt that way, I’m sure that’s what my body felt like doing at that time, but it was still very new to me and I didn’t really understand how to follow my body. We made it into the car, around 4am. Laboring in the car sucked. I felt every bump in the road, it was very tense. I dont even remember if Jamie was in the backseat with me, but I am pretty sure that he was. The ride was about 40 minutes, as we live in Hockley and Katherine lives just
outside Bradford.

When we got to Katherine’s place, I went straight inside (she was expecting me) I guess it was around 5am. She held me for that first contraction and suddenly things really changed. It got sooo much easier. She just let me melt into her – - she’s a big woman and it came in sooo handy because she was so soft just like a pillow and I could really just melt into her! That first contraction was just when I got to the top of the stairs after I walked in the door – so she held me leaning into her standing up. It was so much easier. This gave her an idea as to how far I was and she, too, understood I still had a long way to go. She called Melissa to get some advice, since Melissa was my primary doula, and they decided the best thing to suggest would be to relax and try to drink some wine.

My mom and my gramma arrived shortly after I did. I labored on the rocking chair in the room that Katherine set up for
laboring for me. It was nice being on there, nice to relax. My mom and gramma were obsessed with timing contractions. When my mom was pregnant with me they always told her to go to the hospital when she was 10 minutes apart, but in reality, they can be 10 minutes apart for days with no changes! But really, they had their stop watches going, and would get this furrowed brow – - ‘oooh’ – - – look on their face if I got a harder, or longer,or closer together one. They really thought things were much further than they were, and I knew it, and I was kind of annoyed at what they were doing.

So Katherine let me know what Melissa had said. She said I should drink some wine and try to lay down on my side and even try to sleep, if I could. She said “Trust us, honey, you’ve got a long long way to go and some very very hard work to do and you need to be rested up.” I was already tired, since I hadn’t slept at all And I agreed with the verdict.

Katherine coerced my mom and gramma out to the living room to watch some TV. The sun was just starting to shed a little bit of light out at this point, which bothered me because I have a hard time relaxing when it starts getting light outside. Jamie and I laid down on the mattress on the floor and tried to rest. I got a little bit of rest, but it was a lot easier said than done. I was still excited, still wondering how far I was. I was really surprised when I realized that it was daylight outside. After about 45 minutes of this, Katherine told me Melissa was coming soon, and that she was going to put me to work. For the time being, I just labored laying on my side. When Melissa came, she did put me to work. We stood up, we paced, we walked through the hallways. It was tougher that way, but I knew and I could tell by my contractions, that it was definitely helping.

Melissa arrived around 7:30. With her help things really started picking up and the doulas thought it was time that the midwives come. Katherine called them for me, since I was very involved in my contractions and didn’t want to talk on the phone. They insisted that they hear me through a contraction and ask me some questions, so I did end up talking to them. It was Marcia that was to come to our birth, the one midwife that I had only met 2 weeks prior to labor, only twice, and Jamie had only met her once. Because I hardly knew her I was praying she wouldn’t be my primary midwife. She was very nice though.

I had to have Jamie with me all the time. He could barely escape to go to the bathroom, I just needed him there all the time. My mom was a big help, too. I think Katherine or Melissa had talked to them and made them understand that I needed them to relax so I could just do my thing.

Marcia arrived around 9am and watched me through contractions. We were out on the back deck outside, it was a cloudy but beautifully warmish day. It had been obvious for a long time now that I was in back labor. I could barely even feel the contractions in my cervix, what was bothering me was my back. I had to have someone pressing in on my back at all times during a contraction. Katherine and Melissa were great at this. The others got great, with my telling them “OW!’ “nononono HARDER!” “UP! DOWN! LEFT! RIGHT!!! Someone get Katherine, she does it better!” Actually, a lot of it was just me whining and shaking my head trying to tell them that, and then I would tell them after the contraction. Things were definitely intense. I was desperate for Marcia to check me, though I knew in my heart where I was. I guessed around 3 cm. She checked me at 10am (at this point I am referring to Melissa’s written birth story since most of this is a blur for me) – holy moley did it ever hurt. I had guessed right. My cervix was 70% effaced, 3cm dilated, and baby was at -2 station still. I was sad about the -2 part, but everything else was exactly where I expected it to be. My temperature was a little high at 37.6…but it was a hot day, too.

Katherine and my gramma started cooking lunch in the kitchen. We decided to try and bring my fever down by going in the shower. Marcia said a few times throughout, since my blood pressure and temperature both were somewhat elevated for a lot of my labor, she kept telling me if it gets any higher, we have to go to the hospital. here I am thinking, what? Hospital? But I feel fine…. But anyway, i went in the shower and Jamie came in the bathroom with me.

Marcia checked me again around 1:25 and I was 90% effaced, 5cm dilated, still -2. Aside from the -2, everything was going normally. I was frustrated that baby hadn’t dropped but I had guessed right, again, about my dilation. I was right where I thought I was.

Shortly after this, while I was on my hands and knees, just before a contraction, I felt a *pop* inside me. I thought, hey, that must have been the baby drop!! I said that I felt something strange. When my next contraction came, however, we discovered that it definitely wasn’t baby dropping – it was my waters. It gushed out. Jamie was so happy he cried. I was just dealing with contractions. They were really picking up. I could tell I was approaching transition. I was totally out of it. My bowels lost control, and I pooped in front of everyone. I kept thinking my god, before this I couldn’t even PEE in front of Jamie and here I am pooping in front of everyone, and I don’t even care! I was definitely starting to feel some pressure.

Somewhere in here, I had gathered that Jamie’s sister Alicia, and her 4 year old daughter Finn had arrived. I didn’t like how I felt about this – I didn’t like that a 4 year old girl was there listening to me screaming and moaning and pooping on the floor. I didnt feel close enough to her to want her to be part of this. I was fine with Alicia being there – she and I share very similar views on how the birth process is meant to go. Shortly after this, she told Jamie that she had convinced their mom to come. Jamie had really wanted her there from the get-go and I never had the guts to say anything different, though I really didn’t think she was going to be there. When I found out she was coming, my shoulders kind of slumped. I didn’t like it.

Marcia checked me and I was at about 7cm. 45 minutes later, I was 8cm, with a lot of thickness around the front. I did everything the doulas suggested to do. I really wanted this baby to turn so it could settle, since I was still -2 or -1ish. Katherine suggested I take some homeopathic belladonna to try and get the last bit of cervix. At 4pm it was still there. Janice, the second midwife, arrived around 4:30. It was really, really really hot. Within 10 minutes of her arriving, I started feeling really, really pushy.

Looking back on this part of my birth story, everything seems so normal. Early labor, dilating, waters breaking, back labor,
transition, now I’m feeling pushy. Little did I know what would happen. The midwives woudln’t let me push until they had checked me to make sure I was fully dilated – well….I wasn’t. Marcia checked me at 5pm and found that my cervix had swollen and was now 7cm. For the next hour, my urges to push were unbearable. They were so strong, I couldn’t ignore them, I couldnt NOT push. They had me putting my head up, breathing differently, but all I wanted to do was bear down and push. I couldn’t understand what was going on – why wasn’t this right? This is when I’m supposed to push baby out and have it all be over. Why isn’t it happening? Why won’t they let me? Vaginal checks were so painful but they had to keep checking me. They checked me through contractions which was the worst.

I remember at one point, in my agony, looking to the door and seeing Jamie’s mother standing at the door. I felt angry. What were they doing here? This was MY birth. They were doing nothing but sitting on the couch watching TV waiting for me to give birth and I wanted them to go away. But I had a really hard time acknowledging this, and definitely couldn’t say anything to anyone about it.

At 6pm, Marcia checked me again, and there was no change. I remember one or both of the midwives and one or both of the doulas taking me aside and asking me if there was anything going on my head that I needed to work out. For some stupid reason (and I really wish I had acknowledged how I was feeling about Jamie’s family) I couldn’t think of anything other than “I’m going to miss being pregnant”. They asked me what I was thinking and I’m just like “c-section!! GOD please!”

I wanted desperately to stay there, but desperately to go to the hospital. They told me that if I went to the hospital and got an epidural, the epidural would take the edge off my urges to push and I would probably be able to dilate. So we packed up and by about 6:40 we were en route to the Alliston hospital.

The car ride was horrible. I only had a few contractions but it was just so hard. I was in the back of Katherine’s van with Jamie and Katherine and Melissa were up front, with a midwife each in the cars behind and in front of us. I was so desperate to get there and get relief.

When we got to the hospital, I got wheeled in. My mom did all the papers for me and Jamie, Melissa and Katherine came into the room with me with the midwives. I expected to get the epidural as soon as I got there but was told the anesthesiologist wasn’t even there, and I needed to get blood work before they would give me an epidural. Janice brought me some nitrous oxide. I was desperate for anything. I felt like okay, this is an emergency and I am in the place where emergencies are handled and I am here because they are supposed to make everything better.

The nitrous was horrible. They kept telling me if I go more than 4 breaths without using it, the effects will wear off. It didn’t do a damn thing for me except make me really, really stoned. I was hallucinating, I was in another world. Jamie told me later I was turning blue, and I was practically hyperventilating I was breathing this stuff in so much. I was so desperate for an epidural. When Dr. Yacoub got there, he offered to check me before I got the epidural. It hurts so much to get checked I told them to skip it and check me after, I was positive that nothing had changed, and really didn’t want to be told it was worse. Eventually Buzzy (anesthesiologist) came in to give it to me and by 9:30 I had it in and working. 2 and a half hours!!!!!! It was agony. By this point, I had had pushing urges I was forced to ignore for 5 hours!!!! Melissa and Jamie stayed with me while he put the epidural in. By this point, I was absolutely exhausted. I had gone nearly 2 days without sleep, since I had been laboring for nearly 24 hours. I was also getting really crabby with the staff. I hated hospitals. I hated the medical establishment, and at that point in time, I wouldn’t hesitate to admit it to anyone who asks. And I hate the idea of a man other than Jamie going anywhere near me while I’m so vulnerable. When he did check me, I was still 7cm.

I slept. Jamie got a bite to eat. I was so happy to have been able to sleep, but really – sleeping, when really your body is in transition, is not sleeping. It’s just closing your eyes. My body was numb but I could still feel like I was in labor. I could still feel contractions, they were just a tensing feeling instead of an actual contraction.

Around midnight, they checked me and I was fully dilated. I think they said baby was around -1 or 0 station and I was allowed to start pushing. Before I did, Jamie’s mom came in for a little visit and a talk, and his sister came in for a few minutes too. I pushed for a little while with the nurse, Brenda and Jamie, Melissa was still resting and preparing to come in with Marcia (who had gone home to shower and rest a little herself). I couldn’t feel the pushing urge anymore. I couldn’t even feel my vagina. I tried, I strained, I pushed. Brenda wanted me on my back, with my knees to my ears. I asked if I could squat but she said no. When Marcia came, around the same time as Melissa and Dr. Yacoub, the doctor and midwife said I could squat on the birthing stool, since I could feel my legs enough to get up there (with a lot of help). I tried, I tried so damn hard. I pushed from about 12:30am until 3am, give or take half an hour or so. The doctor would put pressure on my perineum so I could feel where to push. But I made no progress. I was exhausted. I was frustrated. I felt like I couldn’t go any further. Baby’s heart rate was looking good and things appeared to be well, though I heard afterwards there was meconium in the fluid (I’m not sure if this was detected while I was pushing though). Dr. Yacoub said he suggested a cesarean. My epidural was starting to wear off and I was getting a terrible cramp in my upper left thigh. It was really bad, like worse than contractions. I didn’t know if it was feeling a contraction in my leg, or because I had been squatting for like 2 hours. But it really impaired my judgment and all I could think about was this being OVER and getting this terrible cramp out of my leg.

The worst thing about the last part is that by the time I got to the OR, I could feel the urges to push again. I wish, so, so, SOOOO bad that I could have tried to push again. Despite the leg cramps, I could feel the urge to push again. God, how I wish someone had told me to just try one more time, that it was okay. I was so used to being told to NOT push when I felt that feeling, that when I did feel it, I didn’t know what to do. They were wheeling me to the OR and I’m saying – I feel pushy, what do i do?? And Brenda just told me to do light little pushes. Why didn’t she let me PUUUSH? Why was it okay 10 minutes ago, but now I can’t?? Now that I can feel it?

On the way to the OR, in a blur, we passed by Jamie’s mom. She reached out and touched me and by this point I knew that I was bothered by her presence. It felt really violating that she was there and touching me when all this was going on.

It was scary in the OR. I was desperate for this to be over with. They wheeled me in and told me to get on the other bed,and I’m just like ‘what? yeah, right!” so they (being a couple nurses and either the doctor or the anesthesiologist) nudged me bit by bit onto the operating table. I remember snapping at them “can you be GENTLE please?” like come on, I’m in labor! Men! I’ll never understand why they feel such a need to be so involved in woman’s work.

Jamie wasn’t in there, and I was just searching everywhere for him. All I could see was all these faces with masks on them. I asked them if they could unstrap one of my arms so I could touch or hold the baby after it was born and they told me of course. The screen went up over my belly, so I couldn’t see and it was really scary. Now I kind of understand why they say they strap the arms down so mom doesn’t touch her belly – all I wanted to do was hold my belly and keep my baby so close one more time and just protect her from all this craziness and fear. I looked to my right and saw that the person behind the mask holding my hand was Marcia. Jamie came in and stayed on my left. They tested my skin with forceps to make sure the epidural was working okay,but I could still feel it. I even contemplated saying I couldn’t, but I did feel weird about being awake while my guts were being taken out of my body. After they had concluded the epidural wasn’t enough, they told me they were going to have to put me out. I didn’t know how or when they were going to do it so I looked at Jamie and said I love you and waited. Turns out they made him leave. I had no idea how they were doing it, didn’t know if it was in my IV or what, I asked a nurse and she said in a minute. Dr. Yacoub said I’ll remember very little about what happens after the birth. Then they put a mask over my face and I remember a really bad, chemical taste in my mouth and that was it.

Next thing I remember is two strange faces swirling above me and a woman’s voice saying I have a girl. I thought, what, who, a girl? I don’t have a girl, I have a boy (we were convinced.) Then I was out again. When I did wake up, Melissa was standing beside me and I told her someone said I have a girl and do I, and she said she’ll leave that stuff up to Jamie. They brought me out to the birth room. I remember thinking ‘what was the Dr, talking about, everything’s clear and I’ll remember this just fine” but really it is very foggy and the only reason I remember as much as I do is because I go over it in my head every day.

Check back this afternoon for Melissa’s HBAC story…