Benjamin’s birth story is a little more complicated than the other two, only because I start my stories so long before the actual birth part starts. Many of you know that we moved to Key West, FL while I was pregnant. I did my research into the birth options here as soon as I found out about the move and was not happy with what I learned. I was torn between staying here and using one of the local Obstetricians and the local hospital or traveling to Miami to have him at a birth center. After a lot of thought and going back and forth I decided to stay in Key West, hire a doula, and prepare to do things my way in a less than friendly environment for natural birth. I knew that a birth center with a midwife would be the best way to guarantee an intervention free birth, but I didn’t want to travel. We had just moved here and the idea of packing bags and staying in a hotel for a week was not appealing.
We arrived in Key West at the end of May and I was about 34 weeks pregnant. It is so much hotter here than I was used to in Washington and it was hard to stay hydrated. I felt a lot more “practice” contractions and tightening than I did with either of the other two babies. I was pretty sure that this would be the baby that came “early.” Between the heat and unpacking and keeping up with the other two kids I thought there was a good chance of never seeing my due date. I was wrong.
The OB I selected here was okay. It was a lot different seeing an OB than a midwife. He was all business and never that chatty. He claimed to be okay with no interventions, but anytime I asked about a specific thing (like routine pitocin after delivery or premature rupture of membranes) he was apt to take a more dramatic stance. For example, when I questioned routine piton after delivery he told me that it was the standard of practice to always administer it. Of course, I could refuse and he could let me bleed to death. Insert eye roll here. I was also suspicious of everything he said and probably had a tendency to see him as being more aggressive with interventions that he actually would be. Who knows. Although he makes it a practice to do ultrasounds at every visit he was okay with me declining them. He usually starts cervical checks/pelvic exams at 38 weeks, but was okay not doing them if I didn’t want to.
At the 40 weeks check-up that I never thought I’d have I did consent to a cervical check. The day before I had experienced a few less than comfortable contractions and thought things might be happening soon. My appointment was on my due date and when he checked me I was ZERO centimeters and 50% effaced. I had never made it to my due date and been zero centimeters. I was surprised and a little disappointed (exactly why I didn’t want any checks before then). This was the last place I wanted to go too far past my due date. I didn’t know how far past he would let me go, but I was ready to fight for 42 weeks. He told me that there wasn’t much I could do to go into labor. I could walk and walk but that won’t make things start (so much for the laps around the neighborhood Jay and I had been doing). They only thing that might work would be sex. I left and called Jay to give him the update (and plant the seed about what we might be doing that night after the kids went to bed) and then went home. It was a normal day without any contractions or anything. Jay came home from work and told me that he wanted to get a license to fish for lobster. It was the first day of “mini” lobster season and it only lasted for 48 hours. I told him to go get the license. Wouldn’t it be funny if I went into labor that night and then he didn’t even get to use it.
That night, after Madeline and Houston went to bed, Jay and I took matters into our own hands. About thirty minutes later contractions started. Right off the bat they were coming pretty close together. They lasted anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute and varied in intensity, which made me wonder if this was labor. I had heard sex could work, but I didn’t think it would work this well. I started timing them at 8:45 using an app on the ipad. Isn’t technology great? They were anywhere from four to six minutes apart. An hour later they were about two minutes apart. Jay had gone to get the lobster license and some supplies. While he was gone I labored. He was gone for awhile and I never called him. That’s how it is for me, though. I just retreat inside my head and deal with contractions. I put off calling my doula, the doctor, everyone. I just couldn’t be bothered. I was in the living room with my mom but not saying anything. I kept catching her looking at me like she knew something I wasn’t ready to admit: this baby was coming. Jay came home to find me in full blown labor.
I called my doula and told her what was happening. I was still unsure about whether this was the real deal because the length and intensity of my contractions were so varied. I told her that I was going to lie down and see what happens and that I would call her in a little while. She would be able to get to me about an hour after I told her I wanted her to come. I called her about an hour later and asked her to come over. Things were getting intense…and very painful. A lot more painful than things had been with Houston. I was feeling a lot of pain in my back and was very nervous that he was going to try and come out sunny-side up. Madeline had been that way and I ended up with an episiotomy/4th degree tear. I couldn’t help thinking how amazing a nice warm birthing tub would feel at that point. I had Jay squeezing my hips for counterpressure and still had a lot of pain. When I wasn’t using him for his muscles, Jay was on the computer, watching tv, working out. It was all very annoying. I never said anything, but everything happening in the room that was not about me was irritating.
My doula arrived and right away she was a calming presence. I was still in A LOT of pain, but she knew just the right places to massage and the right things to say. I didn’t mind her talking, so that was a good sign. Very soon after she got there I told her I was ready to go. I just wanted to be in the place where I was going to have the baby. I was also starting to feel a little pressure, so I’m pretty sure she thought it was time to go too. Jay called the doctor, who if he didn’t realize it before realized it then that I was not going to call him when contractions were five minutes apart for an hour. He gave us “permission” to go to the hospital. Then it was time to actually stand up, walk out the door and down the steps to the car. Easier said than done. Contractions on the way to the door, on the porch, outside the car, in the car… Finally I got comfortable kneeling on the back seat with my head in the infant car seat in the middle and my hands gripping the belts in the car seat. Second worst car ride ever behind the one to the hospital with Madeline. Jay told my mom we were leaving, which was more courteous than I was being. I told him not to bother; she would figure out where we went.
We left the house at 1:30 a.m. Luckily the hospital is really close. Not so lucky that the road there is really bumpy. My contractions slowed for the ride and picked up as soon as we got to the lobby to check-in. My doula offered me the birthing ball and I sat down, only to shoot right back up. The baby was too low for that to be comfortable. When all of the checking in was completed we walked over to the door to meet the nurse from labor and delivery. My doula cheered when she saw her, so I knew we got lucky with a good nurse that night. She let me ride backwards on my knees in the wheelchair up to the second floor. I was wheeled into the room and had another contraction as I stood next to the bed. I knew they were going to want to check me and get at least twenty minutes on the monitor. I did not want to lie down for either one. I took off my pants and gingerly placed myself on the bed. The check was quick because there was no question that it was time to push. The nurse told me that I’d be pushing soon – not yet, because the doctor wasn’t there yet, but soon. I told her it would happen when it happens. I was pushing a little bit with every contraction already.
As my nurse was attaching the monitors Jay tried to stop her (love him) but I told him it was okay. I knew they would push to at least have me on there for a little while. With any luck we wouldn’t be there long anyway. To be honest, I was so deep into things at that point that as long as I was comfortable I just didn’t care. I actually opted not to be more upright than I was because it hurt my back. The monitors ended up being on the whole time, but I didn’t notice much. The volume was down, so I could only hear them a little. At one point I heard the heart rate slow, so I rolled onto my left side before anyone could get concerned.
My doctor arrived and I saw him briefly before he left to stand outside and let the nurses do all of the work. According to my doula, the nurse kept him out as long as possible. My doula did a great job of communicating my wishes to the nurses. The nurse told the doctor that she would get him when it was time. I didn’t realize how long she was going to wait and it was actually a little discouraging. I thought that I must not be that close if the doctor wasn’t in the room yet. However, he literally came in to catch. I did most of the pushing on my side and then on my back gripping the handles on the bed. I was good about being vocal and not holding my breath, which helped things stretch and helped me avoid any tears (yay!). Pushing that head out was the best feeling. My doctor was a little more “hands on” during the delivery than I would have preferred, especially considering no one touched me when I pushed Houston out, but he didn’t cut me and I didn’t tear, so whatever.
Benjamin was born at 3:11 a.m. on July 26, 2012. I pulled him up to my chest and Jay intervened to stop the cord clamping. Who would have thought that would be an issue. The evidence is pretty clear in favor of delayed cord clamping, but my doctor must have missed the memo. He told me that if we didn’t clamp and I held the baby above the placenta, the blood would pump out of the baby. Seriously?! I had heard of doctors telling their patients this (check out http://www.myobsaidwhat.com for that one and more gems) but I never thought it would happen to me. It sure didn’t come up when we reviewed my birth plan. I laughingly said, “no it won’t” but I could see he was stressed. He insisted that the cord had stopped pulsing so it was fine to clamp. The cord was somewhat limp and this doctor looked like he truly believed I wanted to drain my baby of his blood so I gave the go ahead to cut it. Crisis averted.
A little while later (and after a little tug on the cord by the doc – oh how I wanted to kick him) I delivered the placenta. As they dropped it into a container I said, “And now I’d like the eat that.” I quickly clarified that I was just kidding. I’m sure my doctor was over it at that point. No tears at all so his job was officially done for the night and he made his exit. Then I had the chance to have skin-to-skin with Benjamin for about an hour and a half before he was weighed, measured, etc. I was pleasantly surprised that they gave me that much time. Several times the nurse said that she had never seen anyone so in control during a birth. One of the best compliments I’ve ever received.
Benjamin found his way to the boob and chilled there for most of that time.
We stayed at the hospital for a little over 24 hours. Apparently my doctor would have signed my discharge papers after 6-8 hours, but the pediatricians require the babies to stay. Funny thing was Benjamin was discharged before I was because my doctor had surgeries and such on Friday morning and couldn’t get to me until well after lunch. The nurses were all really nice and only one asked me if I wanted to supplement with formula. I still wonder whether she would have explained what that meant for successful breastfeeding if I had said yes. I hope she would have, because I’m sure plenty of first time moms come through there not fully understanding how breastfeeding works and how even if your milk isn’t in your body is giving your baby exactly what he needs those first few days. But I digress.
All in all I had a good experience. My plan had been to arrive at the hospital as late as possible and that’s what I did. I think you definitely risk a lot more intervention if you are there too long. I never even had to pull out the notebook that I brought with print-outs from ACOG, http://www.evidencebasedbirth.com, the CDC, etc. My doula was amazing and I thank her immensely for helping me have the experience that I did. She was worth every penny.
Now onto convincing Jay that we should have a fourth so that I can I have one more birth in my ideal setting