When I discovered I was pregnant I wasn’t sure who would be my care provider, as I did not have a doctor (my yearly pap smears were done at a clinic). I had a couple of internet aquaintances who were doulas, and hearing about their expereinces I thought that it would be nice to have a doula if there were any in my area. Doing an internet search on doulas l came across Toni’s website. Who would have guessed there would be a midwife in our small little town? My husband and I are self-employed, so our health insurance is pretty minimal- they didn’t offer any pregnancy insurance. After reading up on midwifery, we decided this would not only be an economical choice for us, but it would also be an amazing experience that we definitely thought sounded far superior to having a baby in a hospital.
When I met with Toni I was very pleased. She was very knowledgeable and easy to talk to. She gave us all kinds of great information; my mother and mother-in-law were amazed with all the interesting facts I was getting that they had never heard from their doctors when they were pregnant. In fact, one night at our childbirth class during a break we couples were all talking about this, and agreed that our “primitive” choice to have a midwife actually made us more informed about our bodies and the process of birth than our friends who had “modern” hospital births.
Right around midnight two nights before my due date I noticed some bloody show. I wasn’t sure if it was really a precursor to labor until an hour later when my contractions started. All that night I had contractions. I tried to sleep through them like I was told to in class, but they were strong enough to keep waking me up the few times I was able to fall asleep. In the morning I called Toni to let her know that my contractions had started, but that I didn’t think the baby was coming any time soon. I made an appointment for her to come by the house in the afternoon to see how I was progressing. When she examined me, I was 3 cm dilated, but the contractions had gone away. She counseled me to sleep as much as I could while they had stopped, and to let her know when I thought they were starting up for real. I got 4 hours sleep that afternoon; they would be the last hours of sleep I would get for some time.
In the evening my contractions started up again and kept me awake all night. At times they were accompanied by a backache, and sometimes I was also getting cramps that felt similar to premenstrual cramps. When morning came the contractions stopped again, but I was still getting the cramps from time to time which kept me awake. I called Toni to give her an update, but told her not to come yet as I didn’t think I was close enough yet. As the afternoon went on the cramps really started getting to me. When my husband came in and found me crying from the discomfort of the cramps, he called Toni to ask if I could take some Tylenol for the pain. I talked with Toni on the phone, and she suggested that the cramps may just be contractions that felt different from my other contractions. She had me time them, and sure enough they were coming five minutes apart. Once I started breathing through them as I had been breathing through the first set of contractions I felt much better.
Because they were five minutes apart I asked Toni to come examine me again when she had a chance that afternoon. When she got here I was feeling much better, and was hoping that I was still dilating. Well, surprisingly I was at 10 cm! The baby should be coming at any time, yet for all the cramps and contractions (which were starting up again) I felt no urge to push. I walked around the neighborhood, I sat on the birth stool, I drank raspberry tea; nothing was working to kick my body into gear.
At about 11pm we decided that I should lay down to try to get some sleep, but if anything my contractions were stronger laying down. There was no way I was going to be able to sleep, and I was started to feel really exhausted. At midnight, 47 hours after my first contraction, we decided to break my water in the hope that it would speed things along. I was pushing as hard as I could, but it took a long time for my body to kick in and start helping me.
At this point things are a little fuzzy for me. I alternated between laboring on the birth stool and laying on my side on the bed. In between contractions I was so tired that I could barely open my eyes. After laboring like this a couple hours without much progress Toni told me that during the contractions the baby’s heart was decelerating more than she was comfortable with. After laboring with the oxygen tank for a while she suggested that we go to a hospital to get some help with the birth. My immediate thought was that if I went to the hospital I would probably end up with a c-section, although Toni told me she was thinking more along the lines of a vacuum extraction. But I didn’t want anything to happen to my baby, so I agreed.
Luckily the hospital was only a few blocks away and we got there pretty quick. It was rather disconcerting to have to answer a million questions in between contractions (like I would really remember when my last period was at that point!). It was also scary to have to sign all the forms saying it was okay to give me an episiotomy or a c-section if the doctor thought I needed one– everything I was hoping to avoid with my home birth.
The way the nurses had me deal with my contractions was different than what I had been doing at home, and it felt unnatural and uncomfortable. I was pretty much confined to the hospital bed because of the baby monitor and the other things they had attatched to me. I was really wishing I was still at home, although I was glad that they let Toni into the room to help with my labor.
After laboring quite some time without much progress, the doctor suggested I get a c-section for the baby’s sake. By that point I was so completely exhausted that I agreed, although it made me feel disappointed and more than a little scared. I was given a shot to stop the contractions and was prepped for the surgery.
I found out later that this whole time Toni’s apprentice Nanci, who was not allowed into the birthing room with Toni, was spending time with my in-laws who had rushed over when they heard I was going into the hospital. She was explaing what was going on, and calmed them of their fears. They were extremely comforted by her presence, as well as that of Toni when she joined them as I went in for the c-section.
At 7:21am my baby boy Kennit Alexander was delivered– over 54 hours after my first contraction. He had a massively pointy head from all the pushing that I did! I saw him briefly after he was cleaned up, but then did not see him again for over 5 hours. I didn’t even get to see my husband for a couple hours after the surgery, which frustrated me. I had to spend 3 days in the hospital, during which time I really wanted to be at home. Nurses and doctors came in and out at all times throughout the day and night to check on me and/or the baby. The baby was allowed to stay in the room with us most of the time, thank goodness, and there was a chair that folded out into a bed for my husband to sleep on. Most of the nurses were really nice, but there were a couple that had kind of a bad attitude. “So you’re the one who tried to have a baby at home by yourself?”, and, when Kennit would cry, it was “You know, it’s okay to give him a pacifier…” It got so that I got really frustrated whenever Kennit cried, because I knew that if he didn’t stop within a minute or two someone would be in to chastise me with their ‘helpful advice’.
So that’s the story of how my economical little home birth became a massively expensive medical intervention. But my little baby boy was worth it! If I ever get over the trauma of birth (haha), I would definitely go with Toni again to try for a VBAC. On the bright side… at least I didn’t have to get an episiotomy!