We’re celebrating all kinds of births this week, so we’ve dubbed it BIRTH WEEK. Today we’ll be focusing on Cesarean deliveries.
We hope it goes without saying that we LOVE midwives and home birth on Offbeat Mama. That said, some home births don’t go as planned and no health care practitioner is infallible, and we want Offbeat Mama to be a place for those truths, too…
This is the story of a super-crunchy girl who just had to get over herself. As a minor, I had a few doctors take liberties with me, i.e. repeatedly poking me for blood when they couldn’t find my vein in ten tries. I promised myself as a teen that, once I could govern my own body, doctors were OUT. Holistic medicine was in.
When I got pregnant last January I was stoked about the joyful, carefree unassisted birth I had always dreamed of. My husband and mom, though, were concerned about the safety of freebirths and so I compromised with them and hired a Certified Nurse-Midwife who only did home births. She was a mother of two who lives on a farm and works primarily with the Amish women in our area. When I caught her voicemail, I noticed she signed off with “Namaste.” I thought: “Wow, this is going to be so great! She’s just like me! I don’t have to worry that she’ll force me to have medicines or procedures done that I don’t want.”
Throughout my pregnancy I operated under what I considered to be the “natural” way. I didn’t take prenatal vitamins or discontinue drinking alcohol (though I did limit it). I meditated and spent time connecting to the spirit of my baby. My midwife came once a month to check my blood pressure and let me hear the heartbeat, but that was the extent of the care (which is what I wanted). I had two ultrasounds, at 20 and 22 weeks, just to check the sex and make sure Baby was healthy. She was. My midwife and her assistant taught me about herbs and meditation techniques that would be of use to me in labor. They were extremely derisive about hospitals and obstetricians, but then, so was I. They understood.
Once October came, I was beyond excited about meeting my little girl. I went into labor in the wee hours of Saturday night and called my parents (who were driving four hours to come be with us for the birth). I had been told not to call my midwife until contractions were less than five minutes apart. That stage came pretty quickly, and I called her at 7 a.m. Sunday morning.
I don’t want to go into the gory details of my labor, but I will say that it lasted 92 grueling hours. My mom and dad holed up in the spare bedroom, crying; my husband held me and the baby’s godmother poured me wine and stroked my hair to try to help me sleep when I had been awake for the first 48 hours. My midwife kept coming and going; she would drive over and check my cervix, which dilated excruciatingly slowly. She would leave afterwards, telling me in none-too-caring tones that everything was “normal” and that every other woman in the room had gone through this, so there was no reason I shouldn’t be able to handle it. I begged her to take me to the hospital, and she scoffed. “I know the doctors at that hospital,” she said, “and they’ll cut you open without asking any questions.” I was terrified of a C-section, and she knew it.
At one point she felt my cervix and told me I had reached eight centimeters, and that she’d check me again in two hours. When the two hours were up, I asked if she would do it again. She said there was no need (she was knitting a scarf serenely on my floor). “Do you feel like you need to push? Then push.” I did, but nothing happened.
Finally I worked up the courage and told my mother to help me into a dress because I was going to the hospital. The midwife’s assistant railed at us and told me I “had no faith in the Divine.” My husband all but pushed her out of the door while my parents helped me into the car; she stood outside our door looking bewildered and angry.
The anesthetist cradled my head as she held the gas over my face, and crooned to me in Afrikaans. Long story short: Rowan was born, and she was perfect.
Once at the hospital the nurses, anesthetists and doctors were more than kind. The head nurse held me close to her while I got the epidural I dreaded, and I was able to sleep for the first time in days. The obstetrician told me I would probably be able to have the baby vaginally, but that my midwife had lied to me — I’d never passed seven centimeters. The baby was “sunny side up,” presenting the wrong part of her head downward. After a few hours it became imperative that I have a Cesarean section: I had a fever and Baby’s heart was starting to race.
I was terrified. The anesthetist cradled my head as she held the gas over my face, and crooned to me in Afrikaans. Long story short: Rowan was born, and she was perfect.
In the recovery room I almost died; my blood pressure was half what it should have been and I shook uncontrollably for the better part of an hour. I really thought that my life was ending. I remember the nurse asking me if there was anything I needed, and I said “I’d give anything for a Coke.” She replied, “I’ll get you a Coke, honey, if I have to break eighty rules to do it.”
After a few days I was fine. Rowan’s six months old now, and she’s the best baby I’ve ever known. A few weeks after she was born, a representative from the Commonwealth of Virginia showed up at my door. Turns out, my midwife had let her license expire a while ago, and that was why she disappeared when I wanted to go to the hospital. I never had to appear in court, but I was interviewed for the record.
I still see the obstetrician who performed the Cesarean section. We have a lot in common and I really like her. She wouldn’t dream of making me have more prenatal procedures than I felt comfortable with, next time around. My self-righteousness has had to take a backseat to my gratitude to the medical community, and the newfound knowledge that Western medicine is a tool I can use.