Linnea’s Birth Story
My most recent post before the announcement of my daughter’s birth was about my choice to have a home birth. I talked about my hopes for the birth and my strong misgivings about hospital births.
Let me start by saying that I ended up being transported to the hospital for Linnea’s birth. I had strangers putting things on and in my body, poking and prodding me. I was administered Pitocin and consequently had an epidural. I had an IV dripping a cocktail of antibiotics and drugs into my system. Despite all this, I am grateful to the hospital staff who helped bring my daughter into the world.Doctor Crabtree of Care For Her in Ukiah? Many thanks. There is an endless tap of honey flowing for whenever you want it. I am eternally grateful that the technology was available to me when I needed it, and that I had choices to make. Not everyone has as many options as I had, and I am aware of this.
So here goes…
I woke up early Thursday morning (October 8th) knowing that I would soon be in labor. I had been having false labor for about a week by then, and a few other signs pointed to the fact that the birth was imminent. When Keith woke up, I told him that we had better get the birthing tub set up in the living room. At this point I was having mild contractions that were about ten minutes apart. It took us a while to set up the birthing tub, and by the time it was finished, the contractions were five minutes apart and starting to get painful. I called my midwife to give her a head’s up. “Great!” she said. “Sounds like you’re in labor! Let’s have this baby tonight when I get off work!” I put the appointment in my Google Calendar.
I labored throughout the day, the contractions getting slightly closer and closer together and more painful. Rosalie showed up at four to set up he gear. She checked my cervix, and it was dilated 4 centimeters! This was going quite smoothly. Rosalie decided to go home and eat dinner, telling me to call her when I needed her.
I spent the evening trying to rest, but being too excited and uncomfortable to do so. We watched a video about breastfeeding, I paced around in my hideous nightgown that had parts of it bleached out from hanging on the clothesline, Keith rubbed my back with tennis balls during contractions. We got in bed and tried to sleep, but by 11:00 PM, we knew sleep wasn’t on the agenda. The contractions were powerful and painful. I called Rosalie. She came over right away and checked me. 6 centimeters! Things were really ramping up. Rosalie settled in as I labored away. She and Keith supported me as I worked.
At 3:00 AM, everything had gotten so intense, we were positive we were having a baby before dawn. Then suddenly everything started slowing down. My contractions started getting further apart. By 6:00 AM, the labor had stalled. It was confusing and frustrating. I hadn’t dilated any more. I had been working so hard for nearly 24 hours, and now it just fizzles out? Not fair.
Rosalie encouraged us to take a nap to gain some strength and see if things were going to start up again. I took a short nap, and the contractions woke me up quickly. Everything started again, this time faster and more intense. I cried with relief that the intensity was back. I wanted to have the baby already!
I labored on, the fierceness of each contraction bringing me to my knees. But by 4:00 PM, everything started to stall once more. Rosalie checked me and determined that there was a forebag protruding through my cervix. With each contraction, the bag would bulge through my cervix like a water balloon. Not strong enough to dilate me further. The baby’s head wasn’t descending any further either. Rosalie did not want to break my water because I was positive for Group B Strep. This is a common infection that a lot of us adults have without realizing it because we are not symptomatic. Babies, however can be severely affected by GBS. The bag of water protects the baby from infection, and the longer they stay intact during labor, the longer the baby is safe from infection. I had not wanted to take antibiotics to rid myself of the GBS because I didn’t want my child to start out her life pumped full of antibiotics. I had altered my diet and taken some other actions to try to flush it out naturally, but there is not way of knowing if these things worked, as I did not get tested again for GBS.
Given the extent of my exhaustion at this point and my abnormal labor pattern, Rosalie advised us to go to the hospital. I had been dilated 6 centimeters for 19 hours with no sign of dilating further. At first we politely declined, preferring to work at home a little more. Two hours later, Rosalie gently insisted we go to the hospital. She called an OB friend of hers who agreed to take my case, and we packed for the hospital. Keith and I were crushed. I cried when I saw my birthing tub, warm and inviting, ready to help me push my baby out. I climbed in and contracted there for a while. Why not? I might as well enjoy it for a minute. I showered, and we drove to the hospital. The drive was painful. Each bump in the road shot pain throughout my body, and as we approached the hospital, I was devastated by fear and sadness that I was about to undergo everything I didn’t want for my baby’s birth. I was terrified because I knew they would give me Pitocin, and I felt that, as exhausted as I was, I wouldn’t be able to handle Pitocin without an epidural. Keith and I arrived at the hospital terrified and crushed after 33 hours of labor at home.
Doctor Crabtree met us and tried her best to put us at ease. She made it clear that she knew this was not how we had envisioned our baby’s birth, and she showed us a very kind and loving bedside manner that I am eternally grateful for. She explained that our baby would be born in that same room, and never taken out. She told me that it was up to me when the baby was weighed and dressed. She told me that as soon as the baby emerged, she would put her on my belly. This was reassuring to us.
Doctor Crabtree started me on an IV drip of penicillin and broke my bag of waters. This got my contractions going again, and the labor became more intense than ever. After a couple of hours, I was dilated to 8 centimeters. And then my labor stalled yet again. The baby’s head still had not descended any further. Her head was cocked to the side and it was catching on the edge of my pelvis. She would not turn her head. We later found out that this was because the cord was looped twice around her neck, restricting her movement. My contractions were not strong enough to help her head descend.
Doctor Crabtree started me on Pitocin. It rocketed pain throughout my body like nothing before. I screamed as I lay there, strapped down by two monitors on my belly, one internal fetal monitor, a heploc on my left hand shooting penicillon and pitocin into my body, and a blood pressure cuff on my right arm automatically squeezing my arm to take my blood pressure every two minutes. I wasn’t able to turn or move around, and there was a pain in my lower back shooting through each leg, causing them to shake violently. I was experiencing everything I didn’t want for my birth. I was exhausted, in shocked, miserable and frightened. Poor Keith was beside himself, having to watch me go through this. We were both terrified that my strength would be so depleted from all this that I would not have the energy to push. Doctor Crabtree told me later that she was sure I was headed for a cesarean and that she had an operating room booked and a surgical team standing by.
Rosalie, who had been with us this entire time, soothing and coaching me, suggested that I get an epidural. My hippie home birth midwife told me that this is the exact situation when an epidural is needed, and that it would allow me to reserve my energy for pushing. I refused and then immediately relented, relinquishing the last bit of control I had over my birth plan.
They called in an anesthesiologist and he came immediately. As the contractions continued to rocket through my body, had turned my on my side and told me not to move. Not to move! Or I would be paralyzed! With the straps and the squeezing and the contractions and the leg pain! Oh sure. I’ll just be over here in my happy place, no problem.
He drilled and shunted and screwed and jack hammered my back as I contracted and cried and screamed and somehow kept myself from moving. Keith stood next to me and cried and held my hand and begged me not to move. Strange sensations shot down my legs. I felt cold and then heat and then I felt like I was being shocked with electricity. And then, nothing. The pain in my legs was gone and the pain of the contractions was gone. I immediately fell asleep for the first time in 36 hours. I dozed and contracted while Keith slept in a chair next to me, his head on my bed. I dilated my last two centimeters very quickly and then it was go time.
They took the epidural away and the pain slowly came back. This time, however, I could use the pain and push with it. What a relief! I started pushing lying flat on my back with my knees next to my ears. “Am I making progress? A little?” Aw hell no. I was done. I was done being strapped and poked and prodded and monitored and kept in hideously uncomfortable positions. After all I had been through, I kicked everybody out of the way and said, “I’m getting on my knees”. Nobody was stopping me. I popped up on my knees (I remember it like that: popping, flipping, up like a Britney Spears backup dancer). I started to push like mad and scream. I channeled my inner jungle woman and hung from the bar they inserted into the bed. At some point I held the bar and shouted, “this bar smells like marijuana!” Everyone just looked at each other.
I pushed and she started to descend quickly (later, the doctor said, “I think that position really helped you push her down faster”. Duh. Gravity. Look it up.) I had her head out fast and then the doctor told me to lie down on my side and stop pushing. Don’t move, she said. I knew that this meant the cord was wrapped around her neck, but I didn’t worry. I held still. From Keith’s point of view, the doctor had to strain to get her fingers between the cord and Linnea’s neck. She hacked away at it until it broke free and then told me to go ahead and push. I pushed twice more and she slithered out. They set her on my belly and she looked up at me and locked eyes. She stared at me like I’ve never been stared at and she didn’t break her gaze as they toweled and squeegeed her off. She didn’t cry, and she started nursing immediately.
Then she looked at her dad for a minute.
The company of friends and family waiting in the lobby sent up a cheer when it was announced that she had arrived. We showed the visitors our new daughter, and then collapsed into sleep as a new family. The 40 hour ordeal was finally over and we had our beautiful Linnea safe and sound.