Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cesarean Section Homebirth Style -- My Birth Story

By Rachel

The pediatrician described my labor and delivery as death by a thousand cuts. I’m not sure I would describe it that way, but it was intense. My water broke on Friday morning at 7:30. Contractions started by 8. My friend, Theanna, and Maria, the midwife, came over to the house. The morning and afternoon went as expected. Lots of rocking and swaying, humming, breathing, and counting. Cassie applied counter pressure to every contraction which also helped. I hung out in the shower, draped myself over an exercise ball, dropped into it instead of resisting, walked around outside in the sunshine, listened to the soothing music Theanna brought over, and did everything else we had learned to do to manage labor. I had an IV drip of antibiotics every 4 hours (to combat GBS which I tested positive for. GBS is a virus(?) that lives in the vagina of some women and can cause sepsis if it gets on the baby on the way out the birth canal). Cassie chased me around with water and OJ which I threw up on two occasions which was awful but usual apparently. Every few hours the contractions shifted to something more intense and we found a new rhythm, new pain management techniques, and kept moving through it.

This all went fine until late in the evening when we hit some new pain intensity that I could not believe. I had no idea it would hurt that much. None of the previous tricks were working and I was so tired. I had never lain down all day because it hurt too much. The midwife got me lying on the bed somehow so I could rest between contractions. That roller coaster was an amazing ride. Up with the excruciating pain, Maria talking me through the panic and sense of being trapped. Then down, still stiff and shaking, while Maria coaxed me to breathe, relax my shoulders, and rest. I would actually fall asleep during those 1 to 3 minute breaks and it was the most restful relief of my life.

We had one last secret weapon -- the warm birthing tub in the middle of the living which was set up with much hullabaloo in the morning. But I suppose we miscalculated when to use it. I threw up one last time during one of my rests on the bed which did it. My hold on control was so tenuous at that point that the trauma of coughing and spitting out vomit on the pillows sent me over the edge. I was done. I wanted it over. I was 5 centimeters.

I hung in there 20 more minutes for one last IV while bags were packed and we got ready to go to the hospital. I knew that complete relief was only moments away. I sort of remember having a contraction on the walkway on the way to the car, in the car, and again in the hallway of the hospital as I staggered towards to elevator. I'm sure I looked and sounded like someone dying a painful death. Finally the labor and delivery room, vital signs, blood drawn, fetal monitor attached, and news that they wouldn't even call the anesthesiologist until the blood work was back. I think we waited nearly two hours.

Maria said that she wanted me to do my best but that it wasn't supposed to be torture. It was torture. I continued to feel trapped and panicked every time. I remember staring at one spot on the ceiling to try to stay focused. My mind kept screaming to Cassie to "get me out of here!" Maria (I'm sure) did her best to guide me through. I refused some narcotic that was offered, knowing that the anesthesiologist would be there any minute. She finally arrived and I truly felt like she was the angel of mercy. Within a short period of time the needle was in. Someone looked at the monitor and said, "You're having a contraction." "I am?” I said. Cassie, Theanna and Maria looked at me in disbelief.

Then we slept. I am in tears of gratitude now thinking of the dedication of my birth team. Theanna slept in a chair, and Cassie and Maria slept on the cold, hard hospital floor. I could not believe it. Three or four hours later it was morning. I was 9 and more centimeters. Hooray! They said we would have a baby by noon.

There was only a little lip of cervix left which everyone thought wouldn't impede progress. I was absolutely done with pain and didn't want the epidural turned down so I could feel the contractions and know when to push. Maria and the hospital midwife coached me, and the pushing felt incredibly weird since I couldn't feel anything. After a few tries, the midwife checked and said I was pushing right but the baby wasn't coming down. Also, that little remaining bit of cervix wasn't moving. One problem with epidurals is that they can slow down contractions. So I agreed to a little bit of pitocin to get things moving again.

What happened after that gets blurry. There was much fiddling with epidural and pitocin levels. I could feel contractions again. I was exhausted from pain by then and shied away from every contraction. It hurt and I couldn't focus. I finally accepted the narcotic which didn't take the pain away but kept me fairly relaxed during contractions, and totally relaxed in between, without me having to do anything. I cried really hard. I couldn't see my way through. Everyone was helping me relax and get through it moment by moment. My dad appeared and held my hand.

Suddenly we changed gears. They wanted me to push. The nurse said something about if I wanted to avoid a c-section I had to work harder than I ever had in my life. I would not. I could not. I couldn't even get mad. I still felt trapped and powerless. Then I realized that, in fact, I was absolutely powerless over what was happening and what was to come. Theanna said a prayer with me, and then I let go of everything knowing I would be taken care of. I focused on a spot on the floor, blocked everything else out, and, following the cues from the contractions and the voices around me, put every ounce of myself into pushing.

This went on for some time. I could have gone on like that forever. We tried two positions. From time to time Maria or the hospital midwife checked. There was a swelling on the head that was moving down, but the bones of her skull were not passing under the pubic bone. They just bumped up against each other over and over. The hospital midwife said my pushing was stronger than any she had seen in a long time.

About two hours into it, the hospital midwife said it wasn't going to work and recommended a c-section. Maria agreed. I let down my guard and cried. That was it. It was over.

Or was it? Maria said there was one more position we could try. I said I could not do it. I couldn't regroup. The hospital midwife didn't come back. Maybe the hospital had given up. It was just me, Cassie, Theanna and Maria again. I regrouped enough to agree to try three more pushes in the new position just to say I had tried everything. We did more than three, and then Maria checked. She said she thought maybe a little something was happening, but she couldn't really tell. She said that she had a little bit of hope with this position, but that it could be two or three more hours of pushing, maybe two or three hours before we even knew anything. I freaked out. I couldn't go on this roller coaster ride anymore. What to do? "Little Bit of Hope" versus "Two or Three More Hours." I said no. I would not do it. At once, I was wheeled away for a cesarean.

That is the moment. The one I replay in my head over and over. "Little Bit of Hope" versus "Two or Three More Hours." Did I make the right call? I said I would do everything I could. I could have pushed for two or three more hours, couldn't I? Maybe, but I could not accept the idea that we might not know if it would work. My spirit and mind were totally exhausted and overwhelmed by then. Maybe I did the right thing. But I am sad. I cannot believe how terribly sad it makes me. I am starting to move through the feelings of utter failure, but the grief over being cut open is still strong, as is the loss of a vaginal birth, of finishing the experience, of being complete. Not to mention knowing that the possibility of ever having a home birth or even a vaginal delivery in the future is very compromised. I am surprised at the level of grief that I feel, but it is definitely there.
But, on to the good stuff. Within an hour of my decision, little Anna came to us. Her large head was turned the wrong way which explained the mystery of the ineffective pushing. They lowered the curtain at just the right moment so I could see her birth with my own eyes. Suddenly she was actually there, she was real! She cried just like in the movies. Cassie stayed with her at the table where they checked her out, and soon she was on my chest.
People said that any sadness or pain about your birth experience would disappear at the sight of your child. That is absolutely not true, but I do not ruminate on the grief and sadness. It immediately recedes to the corners of my mind at the sight of her. She is completely perfect and beautiful. I am in utter awe and deeply in love, on a cloud like never before. The bliss and joy is like they said it would be -- like nothing else.

As for the cesarean, I think of it as Cesarean Section Homebirth Style. My midwife says that homebirth is a state of mind, and I agree. I received excellent prenatal care which was compassionate and thorough. Every appointment lasted an hour, all of our questions were explored and concerns addressed thoroughly. Through those appointments and our excellent 6 week homebirth preparation class, we learned about every tool available to us at home and at the hospital. My fear of labor and delivery diminished over time and was replaced with confidence and respect. The folks in our class have kept in touch and encouraged each mama, holding her in love and light, as she brought her baby to the other side.

The memories of laboring at home bring me peace and joy. I hear the music and see the sky and sun and feel the soft breezes. I am very proud that I labored for 17 hours without intervention, mostly at home. Those were homebirth moments. My compassionate and dedicated partner was with me every single step of the way. She knew what to do thanks to her homebirth training. My beautiful and supportive friend, Theanna, got into the groove right away. My homebirth midwife was with us to the end guiding us in the ways of homebirth.

I don't see how I would have experienced all this if we had planned a hospital birth. We would have had perfunctory 15 minute prenatal appointments. I understand that many hospital oriented birth prep classes are cursory. We would probably have gone to the hospital early. I would have been given the epidural, pitocin and narcotics early. I may not have even known I had a choice. I would have missed the many hours of uninterrupted, quiet, natural labor at home. As it was, I was able to make informed choices at every turn with the help of my trusted birth team. I chose the epidural, I chose the narcotics, I chose pitocin and ultimately, I chose the cesarean, but only in the moments when I knew it was right for me and my baby. Those were also homebirth moments. I felt completely empowered through the entire process.

So that's my story. It's different than I expected it would be, but it's mine and it's perfect in its own way. And of course, most importantly, we got a beautiful baby girl out of the deal. Somehow we get to keep this little bundle of joy. She's ours! We're parents! The journey has just begun.

An American Scotsman

The triumph of birth is not in the how or the when or the where, but in the courage to face the unknown, to make decisions that will effect you for a lifetime, and the letting go of an imagined scenario for the willingness to be present in every moment. The mystery of birth confines us to humility -- the ultimate surrender of parenthood.
Finn Loch Taylor-Ladas was born on November 9, 2008 at 5:11pm. We waited 42 weeks and 3 days for his arrival. Mamas Debbie and Suzanne (the Scottish gals) are happy as clams with the wee one. The dogs are happy too!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Birthing the old-fashioned way

Birthing the old-fashioned way. Here's a great article that came out on the SF Gate website earlier this week. SF Gate is the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle.
I'll take the old-fashioned way any day!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The size of a penguin

We are very happy to announce that Cosimo Ballard (aka The Fish) was born on November 17, 2008 at 13:24 in San Francisco! Cosimo is about the size of a healthy adult Adélie penguin at 3997 grams (8 pounds, 13 ounces) and 54.6 cm (21 ½ inches). He is very healthy and already has a good appetite, just like his mom. He was born at 42 weeks and 3 days, after 2 days of pre-labor, 10 hours of active labor, and 3 hours of intense pushing. Viola inspired all present with her stamina and courage over an arduous, sleepless several days. We had amazing and constant support through the whole process from Viola's mother Cristina and Grant's sister Robin, and our wonderful midwife Maria.

Cosimo is receiving visitors effective immediately!

With much love,

Grant and Viola

Greyson's my man!

This boy is, well, one of the cutest guys I know! Greyson Danger was born on the first of October, 2008, after we all waited patiently for 42 weeks and 5 days. Flora's birth was amazingly quick for the 9 pound 5 ounce baby she would ease on into the world without a nick. She showed Kaiser a thing or two-- birthing squatting on the floor in all of natural childbirth's glory. Kevin was there too, to welcome his son to the world. Greyson at 8 weeks is already 14 pounds and just a pleasure! Welcome to the world and congratulations to Flora and Kevin!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Joyful Profession

Tracey Bowman from the Bridge Club had an opportunity to shake Barack Obama's hand while he was on the campaign trail. Here is what he said about her being a midwife: "It must be the most joyful professon in the world, bringing new life in."   Tracey says, he said a bit more about that and we talked about how important healthcare is and he moved on to the next hand.  BTW he is very tall and thin and has thin long hands!

Our new president knows about midwifery! Opportunities abound.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New York Times

Hooray, we are in the New York Times today: Baby, you are home!

We are gaining exposure and momentum! Please spread the word.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

White Ribbon Alliance

White Ribbon Alliance Praises Senate Resolution to Save Women’s Lives Needlessly Lost in Pregnancy and Childbirth

Theresa Shaver, Executive Director of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, today praised Senators Blanche Lincoln and Olympia Snowe for their leadership to focus the nation’s attention on the #1 killer of women in the world today – maternal mortality – and welcomed this week’s passage of Senate Resolution 616 as a critical step to hold the United States accountable to play its part to reduce maternal mortality at home and abroad. Shaver made special note of the Senate’s recognition that access to quality and affordable health care is essential to improving maternal health.

“More than 536,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth every year,” said Senator Lincoln, Sponsor of S. Res. 616. “While the majority of deaths occur in developing countries, the United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among industrialized nations. This is not a problem we can or should ignore. A mother’s health affects the health of her child, her family’s well-being, and the productivity of a community. It’s time we made maternal health a priority.”

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Open Letter to Barack Obama from Alice Walker

Nov. 5, 2008

Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their
wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remi nd us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people's spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to "work with the enemy" internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,
Alice Walker

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Mothers Naturally Awards

Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein were honored in Traverse City, Michigan on October 17, 2008. They won a Mothers Naturally Award for Outstanding Film, 2008 for The Business of Being Born. Other award winners included Jennifer Block for her book, Pushed; Carol Leonard for her new memoir, Ladies' Hands, Lion's Heart; Ina May Gaskin for Ina May's Guide to Childbirth; Tina Cassidy for her book, Birth; and Dina Munsch and Harriet Storm for their blockbuster film, It's My Body, My Baby, My Birth. For a complete list of award winners, please visit the Mothers Naturally website here.
Mothers Naturally Awards commend outstanding achievement in childbirth activism, advocacy for normal birth, and empowerment of women in childbirth. Mothers Naturally Awards recognize films, books and websites highlighting midwifery and home birth. The Midwives Alliance of North America congratulates and thanks all of the award winners.
We were honored and thrilled to have Ricki and Abby in attendance at the awards ceremonies. We saw a very funny intro of Ricki Lake that you can check out here: Mothers Naturally 2008 Award to Ricki Lake. Both Ricki and Abby have joined the natural childbirth movement as strong and valued allies. The Business of Being Born has been seen all across the globe. Netflix reports over 150,000 views! That is such an astonishing accomplishment. We thank and honor Ricki and Abby for their work.
You can be a part of next years awards selection. Simply nominate a film, book, or website you think deserves recognition and we will send your nomination on to the selection committee. Nominations must be received by August 31, 2009. Winners are announced at the Midwives Alliance conference .