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Monday
Jul042016

Open Letter to the Tapestry of Pulse Responders & Healers

It has now been 3-plus weeks since the horrific Pulse shooting here in Orlando, my home town, and as more information comes to light… tweets, texts, conversations, reflections, etc… the finger pointing has begun. It’s minimal so far, but instead of introspection and seeing how we might do things differently in the future, the accusations that this agency or that person could have done more to save lives is finding its way into our news feeds. We already know hindsight is 20/20; please don't bury our saviors in the fallout.

Touching Life

I have wanted to write this since 3am on June 12, and every day since, but it took awhile to even begin to formulate the right words; there was simply emotion and incredible sadness hindering my fingers.

I was a midwife and doula for 32 years, holding lives in my hands many times, resuscitating babies and stemming the tide of postpartum hemorrhage in mothers. Yet I have but a whiff of what our First Responders (and others named below) experienced the night of June 12 and all these days since. I have tried to think of a way to thank these people, have an intense urge to seek each one out and hold them close to my heart while whispering, “Thank you,” over and over again.

The scope of actions from those that were there… are there… for my gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer and straight family, Latinx or Anglo, (for they are family to all of us) is enormous. The incredible amount of love, care, detail, sweat, tears and even shock must be acknowledged. As a care provider myself, I listened to the incredible unfolding of the hospital staff’s descriptions of their work as the waves of dying and injured flooded through their doors. I sat through their first press conference with survivor Angel Colon front and center, enraptured, yet sobbing with gratitude and awe at their choreographed and executed dance to save lives.

I know I could never begin to thank every agency that pulled together, but I need to try. Each profession or organization I list is a thread in the whole, beautiful tapestry that is #OrlandoStrong.

Please feel my overwhelming love and gratitude… and know there are thousands and thousands of others who feel the same. You people, my Superheroes, are a gift to humanity. Never, never let the finger pointing touch you. Do not claim that bureaucratic static that will certainly grow to a cacophony before too long. Stay true to your knowledge that you did everything right, you saved so many. You did the very best any of us could ever have done. No, you did far, far better than most of us.

Thank you a hundred million times plus 102 to those mentioned below. If I have forgotten you, just add yourself to the list; it was merely an ignorant oversight. You, too, belong here.

Thank you to:

- The entire Orlando Police Department who risked their lives, over and over again, to save as many people as possible. I am filled with so much gratitude, my heart overflows with tears streaming down my cheeks.

- Everyone at the Orlando Sheriff’s Department who kept communications between the different agencies running smoothly.

- Orlando's amazing SWAT Team who found ways to get into the building to save people and then removed that evil animal from this earth. You all are incredible.

- Local law enforcement agencies throughout Orlando, especially the Belle Isle Officers.

- The Special investigators who are still at work.

- Our National FBI personnel who keep finding needles in the acres of haystacks.

- The entire Orlando Fire Department, especially Lt. Davis O’Dell Jr., Orlando firefighter paramedics Carlos Tavarez and Joshua Granada, all of Fire Station 5.

- All the tireless Paramedics who used their minds and skills, even when the solutions were unorthodox, to help save lives.

- All the Ambulance agencies that responded and tended to the wounded while getting them to the hospital as fast as possible.

- All the EMS personnel who had many roles to fulfill in saving lives.

- All 911 Dispatch Operators... my heart aches for you wondrous folks who comforted the injured and dying throughout the several-hour ordeal. You gave genuine love to those that died while you were on the line with them and helped keep others alive until help arrived. Your professionalism and note-taking will not be forgotten as the information continues being disclosed. I send you special wishes for emotional and spiritual healing from this horrific experience.

Orlando Regional Medical Center Hospital, especially for their readiness drills that helped set them up for success with extreme situations such as this. No words can possibly express my pride in your response, care, and skill when you were least expecting it. 

- The ORMC Trauma Team, all those years of study, school and thousands of hours working in the hospital and learning specialized skills culminated on June 12, 2016, saving untold lives.

- The Emergency Room Team, thank you for always being ready for anything. You were there. You were there for all of us that night.

- The dozens and dozens of Doctors - ER, OR & ICU - for utilizing everything you've ever learned (and things you surely had only heard about) to save so many. There really are not enough words to offer my gratitude and love for you all.

- The Orthopedics teams... your amazing skills working with the back and muscles was most assuredly crucial that night. I am sure you saved so many from being paralyzed with your gift during surgeries. Thank you so veyr much.

- The Microsurgeons, your extremely specialized skills surely saved so many from bodies that would be unable to feel or move properly once healed.

- The Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgeons, your specialization was crucial with the horrific injuries to the chests of too many. Thank you for keeping so many hearts pumping.

- The beloved Nurses - Trauma, ER, Triage, OR, ICU & Surgical Recovery... it is beginning to sound trite, but I promise, I am absolutely speechless with gratitude for your gifts of kindness and skilled caring. Nothing that night (and since) could have been done without you incredible human beings. You are the Angels of Mercy.

- All the Surgeons of an endless variety, thank you for specializing in your individual areas and to the General Surgeons, thank you for attending to the multiple types of injuries that night. Thank you all for remaining strong and focused during the assembly line of cases that surely seemed neverending at times. Your hands, in the most direct way, saved so many lives that night. Thank you. 

- Residents - who used every moment of training to step in wherever you could.

OneBlood blood bank personnel including Blood Collection sites, thank you for assuring there was ample blood at the hospitals for all the cases that needed it. Thank you, too, for opening up sites on Sunday to collect blood and organize getting that blood back to those whose lives depended on it. 

- The Phlebotomy team, your job had to have been incredibly challenging that chaotic night of terror, finding veins and arteries, keeping the vials organized and then running the thousands of stat samples to the lab, over and over again... thank you for your skills and dedication. 

- The Radiology team - your job was infinitely complicated by the sheer numbers of people working on each person, yet crucial to examining the patient in a life-saving manner. Thank you for knowing how to peek inside the bodies that needed so much help.

- The Respiratory Services team who were called into action to keep massively injured people breathing, either from the assault or the incredible shock and fear they were experiencing. You all are wondrous healers for those who cannot breathe.

- To Environmental Services, who were said to have cleaned and set up a room in 30-45 seconds; miraculous! It is challenging enough to keep things pristine and safe from cross-contamination under normal circumstances, but that you worked with all that blood, tissue, drapes, gauze, tubes, gloves, and then cleaning beds, rails, the floor and emptying the contaminated trash while patients were waiting for a place to lay... doing all of this in mere seconds, really is worthy of immense gratitude.

- To you amazing Anesthesiologists and Nurse Anesthetists... while I know you are highly-trained for emergencies and working with people in dire pain or unable to communicate their medical history, I am sure this night multiplied the need for your skills and knowledge dozens-fold. That you were able to anesthetize our precious friends and family so they might be saved under such circumstances is a miracle to behold. Immense gratitude.

- To ORMC Laboratory Services, the tasks thrown at you June 12 and the days immediately after had to have been enormous, yet you were there as the backbone for the entire health and safety of the injured, getting blood to whomever needed it, organizing the lab results so all providers could coordinate proper care, the list surely continues endlessly. Thank you for your amazing skill and meticulous attention to detail under extreme duress.

- To the Other Orlando hospitals that freely gave a seemingly endless supply of personnel and supplies, especially Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children & Florida Hospital who responded immediately to the call for help.

- To the Orlando Medical Examiners, especially Joshua Stephany for your immense sensitivity in keeping that madman separate from our lost souls. The unbelievable task you all gently and respectfully undertook is appreciated beyond words. 

- To the Physical Therapists who began working with the survivors almost immediately so they could have as full a life as possible once they are recovered, thank you for your skills and knowledge of the body and its nuanced possibilities through movement and touch.

- To the Chaplains of the Orlando Police Department and the others around Orlando, thank you for rushing to the spiritual aid of our First Responders, the families of the injured and dying and praying with the mass of disbelieving friends and relatives in their moments of spiritual questioning and anger towards God. Thank you for your love and patience with so much inner pain.

- To our Mental Health Therapists & Psychiatrists who flooded the different locations where families waited for news of their loved ones, knowing crisis counseling was an immediate need and you provided it, with zero regard for payment of any kind except knowing you were helping someone in emotional pain. Mental health needs will reverberate for years and years for so many of us, so thank you in advance for all you will do for everyone as time unfolds the mental and emotional anguish of this horrific night.

- To the Pharmacists at ORMC, your enormous task of providing the correct medications for scores of critically injured patients has not been overlooked. Filling order after order in the middle of the night had to have been daunting, yet when you, too, called for help, it came in in droves. Thank you for your education and extreme attention to detail.

- To the LGBTQ Center of Orlando, who immediately opened their doors to anyone who needed a place to talk, be held, cry or mourn. No words can express my gratitude for all you have done, are doing and will continue to do for our incredibly awesome and diverse community. May our Center grow as much as our hearts have for you after this disaster.

- To the Cell Phone companies for keeping those injured and dying in touch with loved ones and 911 operators.

- To those inside Pulse that struggled to save lives as the horror unfolded, who shielded others with your bodies, who comforted the injured and dying as you hid anywhere you could, who held friends as they bled to death in your arms... no amount of tears and thanks can explain how full my heart is for you beautiful people. Your unspeakable pain will never be forgotten or taken for granted. You are incredible human beings who were in a horrible situation, but your soaring kindnesses outshone any evil that man tried to snuff out. Bless all of you.

- To those who work at Pulse for your belief in human rights and dignity – you will never be forgotten… especially Barbara Poma – you are so loved.

- To the civilians who just happened to be in the area and helped the injured, comforted the dying and transported anyone they could to the hospital, thank you. Clearly, we needed you there that night.

- To those wondrous people who gave blood in the days after the massacre. We do still need to fix the No-Gay-Men rule! Fix it NOW!

- To the Hampton Inn & Suites for opening their doors and hearts in the immediate aftermath so survivors, family and friends had a place to congregate as they learned the fate of their loved ones.

- To the Translators who offered their love and gift of language to those who would have been lost without you... especially Eddie Meltzer who had the job of telling families their loved ones' fate as well as helping them through the shock of learning their child/mother/family member/father/friend was also gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans/queer. Your grace under pressure will always be appreciated.

- Special note to the Religious Community... Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and many denominations of Christians... who pulled together to pray and offer support to all who needed it. In the days afterwards, church services were held to assist the mourners who found solace in religious healing.

One national speaker, Victoria Kirby York of the National LGBTQ Task Force, spoke at a local church service and she must be held aloft and applauded. In a sea of religions not understanding the LGBTQ community, Ms. York stunned everyone with her ability to use Scripture to affirm the LGBTQ experience and right to love who we choose. Her words were a spiritual salve for so many who have been alienated by the religions in our neighborhoods and the policy-makers' pens.

To the hypocrites among the religious folks (you know who you are), I hope you are able to rectify the doublespeak you drooled off your tongues after our tragedy because our LGBTQ family keeps dying because of your hate and damning judgment. It needs to stop. Now.

Ongoing Love & Support

While the above list, surely not complete, reflects the care and love from only the first day or two post-massacre, I could continue for another three days thanking the multitudes of restaurants, airlines, hotels, businesses, those that brought Comfort Dogs to love on those that needed a tender doggie hug, and then the ongoing monetary donations to the Pulse GoFundMe Page

I must also thank the rest of the United States and the World for their endless support through vigils and moments of silence for our 49 beloved murdered friends and 53 recovering victims.

Please take a moment to offer thanks to everyone I've mentioned and those I have forgotten to name.

And lastly, please remember the families of those who have died and been injured. Their lives are forever changed. May they find at least a moment of peace through all of our love.

To our most precious doves, we will never forget your names or who you are:

Stanley Almodovar III, 23

Amanda Alvear, 25

Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21

Martin Benitez Torres, 33

Antonio D. Brown, 30

Darryl R. Burt II, 29

Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24

Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28

Simon A. Carrillo Fernandez, 31

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25

Luis D. Conde, 39

Cory J. Connell, 21

Tevin E. Crosby, 25

Franky J. Dejesus Velazquez, 50

Deonka D. Drayton, 32

Mercedez M. Flores, 26

Juan R. Guerrero, 22

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22

Paul T. Henry, 41

Frank Hernandez, 27

Miguel A. Honorato, 30

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40

Jason B. Josaphat, 19

Eddie J. Justice, 30

Anthony L. Laureano Disla, 25

Christopher A. Leinonen, 32

Brenda L. Marquez McCool, 49

Jean C. Mendez Perez, 35

Akyra Monet Murray, 18

Kimberly Morris, 37

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27

Luis O. Ocasio-Capo, 20

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25

Eric I. Ortiz-Rivera, 36

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32

Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37

Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24

Christopher J. Sanfeliz, 24

Xavier E. Serrano Rosado, 35

Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34

Shane E. Tomlinson, 33

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25

Luis S. Vielma, 22

Luis D. Wilson-Leon, 37

Jerald A. Wright, 31

 

Thursday
Jun162016

Holy Comment Approval!

I totally forgot I had to approve comments.

FOR YEARS!

I've been wondering: Why hasn't anyone commented on anything?

Writing today, I thought that maybe I had turned off comments accidentally. Uh, no... I just hadn't approved them!

I have spent an hour so far approving comments and still have dozens to approve. 

I am so so so so so sorry if you commented and it never came online. Totally my fault!

This won't happen again!

(And I see where I need to update, too!)

I have a couple of hateful comments, but, 99.9% are wonderful and appreciative of my writing. That makes me feel like I have been doing something right for all these years. Yay me!

Again, so sorry for being so obtuse.

(Addendum)

Pingback Spam, Too?!?

I am devoted to cleaning up this poor blog's mess today. Eek!

Thursday
Jun162016

My First Gay Bar Experience

Most of you know I identify as lesbian. Really, the words are "Femme Dyke"... a more political, descriptive explanation of how I walk in the LGBTQ+ community.

Buzzfeed recently asked folks to share their first gay bar experiences as a way to express the good and bad of the atmosphere in what used to be seen as a safe space. I wrote mine out and wanted to share it here as well, especially since my babies have asked me to write my life here on the blog.

There is so, so much more to the story, but here is the outline of my life at the Parliament House in Orlando.

Parliament House circa 1979

What Gay Bars Mean to Me

I was 17-years old in 1979 when my gay boyfriend and I ventured to the Parliament House in Orlando, Florida. It was like walking into Wonderland; an alternate Universe I never knew existed. For once, being a fat girl didn’t make any difference… I was embraced and accepted for all that I was. In fact, I found myself in the midst of brilliant, eccentric, artistic and whirling-twirling misfits that pulled me into the middle of their all-male fold.

Besides dancing to Donna Summer and drinking watered-down gin & tonics, the PH had a Show Bar where Drag Queens performed twice nightly. The Divine Miss P emceed, her biting snark gave me a view into humor I’d never experienced before. There is nothing quite like being the object of a Drag Queen’s dart.

Divine Miss P

For some reason still unknown to me, the Drag Queens took me under their wing. I was not even in the bar legally, must have made a fool of myself with my ignorance of gay culture a hundred times, yet they sat me down in front of the make-up mirror and taught me how to “paint my face.” For years afterwards, I was asked if I was a Drag Queen (although the huge rhinestone brooches and bracelets, the feather boas and glitter in my pink hair might have had something to do with it, too). It took until I had kids that I learned to tone down my make-up enough that strangers didn’t think I was about to lip-sych a song for them.

Being in the bar allowed me to explore my then-fluid sexuality, no one telling me I was disgusting or sinful. I wandered in and out of the closet for another few years before identifying as lesbian after the kids were born. Those early days were a whirlwind of round-robin kissing, casual sex, copious drugs all while struggling to finish high school. A time that was ignorant of the things that would kill us in the not-so-distant future. A time when we would never, ever have remotely thought someone would bring a machine gun into the bar and kill us by the dozens.

37 years ago, here in Orlando, that would have been me in that bar. Instead, it was children of my peers. My heart sobs for the loss of innocence.


 

Tuesday
Jun072016

Anonymous Rape Story Told to Me

 

I was raped too. Sad how many are. 

I was 19. Had a keg party at my own home. Someone brought over guys from the Air Force Base. Friends of friends. 

I drank too much. 

I remember dancing with this guy, I never knew his name. 

I remember being in my room saying no, I don't want this. 

I woke up naked and ashamed. 

I went for a walk, praying everyone was gone by the time I came back. I think they were, it's all fuzzy. 

About a month later I see him at a club. I went up to him and yelled at him & slapped him. I left. I heard from friend of friends he was in an alcohol related accident that night and was seriously injured and discharged from the Air Force because of it. 

Karma. 

I haven't thought about that in a long long time. Still never knew his name. (Or maybe I just don't remember) 

#RapistsWILLHearUsNow

 

Monday
Jun062016

I Was 18. I Was Drunk. & I Was Raped.

(Note: I am purposefully capitalizing the sexual assault Survivor’s pronouns and any words relating to Her to offer Her some of my respect for Her ordeal and perhaps, give Her a smidge of Power back.)

I’ve been following the story of the Stanford former champion swimmer, Brock Allen Turner, and the Woman he sexually assaulted as his sentence (if you can call it that) was handed down by Judge Aaron Persky. You simply must read the entire story to get the picture of the horrific injustice that was inflicted on an innocent Woman as She was unconscious from drinking too much at a college party. 

Much has been said about the Survivor’s drunken state… that She deserved it, that it really is so common as to be irrelevant. She was unconscious when She was assaulted. Even if She was conscious (which she was not) still, She was in no shape to consent. 

The incredible Survivor’s letter that was read aloud in court can be seen here: Here Is The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read Aloud To Her Attacker. She recounts how Her life has been ruined by this attack and trial. Yet the judge, in his comment during sentencing said about Brock Allen Turner, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.” Fuck the impact on the Survivor. 

As can be imagined, the backlash from women around the United States has been swift and intense. A brilliant piece by Katie J.M. Baker of Buzzfeed, entitled We With Pitchforks, aims to shame Brock Allen Turner, imprisoning him for life, all over the Internet, with shame because he never expressed remorse, apologies or was given an appropriate sentence.

Brock Allen Turner - memorize this face.

I feel a kinship with this amazing Survivor because I, too, was young (I was 18-years old), very, very drunk and was raped with very little memory of the experience.

The legal drinking age in Florida at the time was 18 and I took advantage of that, spending inordinate amounts of money I made at a fast food restaurant on alcohol. I had loads of cash because I was still living at home. I felt free for the first time in my life.

I went to a local restaurant/bar (a famous chain) almost every night after work, drinking a few drinks, eating appetizers and socializing with the boys and men at the bar. The bartender and servers got to know me well because I was (and am) an awesome tipper. I would get delightfully tipsy, sometimes drunk, but could always get my bicycle-riding ass home at the end of the night.

However, this one evening, I met three men and they asked me to join them at a table. I jumped at the chance… they were adorable! I had just been paid and bought round after round of drinks for all of us. I shot tequila for the first time, several shots on top of the amaretto and creams I regularly drank.

One minute I was at the restaurant and the next memory was being on a bed, a gun to my head and being raped by each of the men, one by one. Then memories disappeared again and the next time I woke up I was at one of the guy’s houses, in his arms and hurting so bad it took me a great deal of energy to unwind myself, get up, call a friend (no cell phones) and get myself home.

Where I took a shower. And scrubbed my body, including the cuts, scrapes and many, many bruises I had all over my stomach, arms, thighs and, most especially, my breasts. It looked like they had used razor blades? Sharp knives? Definitely fingernails. The bruises looked like they had grabbed my flesh as if it was bread dough, squeezed and twisted it. I could see finger mark bruises in several places.

And then, while showering, the image of the gun flashed into my head. Had I tried to fight and they felt they needed to threaten my life to make me lay still?

I especially scrubbed my vulva and vagina. My sore, swollen and bruised vulva. I used a washcloth and tried to shove it inside myself so I could get their filth out of my body. I soaped my fingers and used them to swipe the semen out of me. I know I was in the shower a very long time.

I didn’t cry at all. Of course I know now I was in shock. It took several days before I could think about it enough to feel. And then cry. (Which I continued doing for years.)

But that day, I did not cry. I was due to go to work at the fast food restaurant so got myself dressed and had my dad drive me to work. (He kept asking, “Where is your bike?” I didn’t know.)

When I got to work, my manager took me aside and asked where I had been the night before. I was confused. Did he know something happened? My friend who came to get me that morning also worked with me, told our manager I had been raped. As if that part of my privacy being exposed wasn’t enough, the manager of the restaurant I had been at the night before called and told my manager that I stiffed the waitress and bartender over $300. Suddenly I remembered I gave one of the guys cash to pay the server when I went to the bathroom. Apparently, he pocketed it. And the server saw me leave a hefty tip… and one of guys grabbing it as he left the restaurant. I was so embarrassed and promised to pay them back immediately.

Talking to my manager, he asked if I knew anything about the guys. I actually (somehow) remembered they were servers at another local Mexican restaurant. My manager and the manager at the restaurant paid their management a personal visit and got the three of them fired that day.

That was the extent of my vindication.

Nowhere along the way did anyone suggest telling the police. It never even crossed my mind. If it happened today and I saw what happened to this assault Survivor, I would never dream of reporting my rapist. Why? It doesn’t change a thing. And, if anything, it smears, smashes and humiliates the Survivor even more… again and again.

It took years of therapy and rape survivor support groups to forgive myself for being drunk that night, to finally believe it wasn’t my fault, that I had not asked for it. The cuts and bruises healed over the first week or so. The inner torment lasted over a decade.

I no longer cry about the experience, have integrated it into a part of my life story and share it when I see a woman beating herself up for putting herself in that position. I beg her to see the reality that we never ask to be raped or sexually assaulted, even if we were out-of-our-minds drunk or drugged. It might take her years and years to grasp even a seed of what I say, but at least I offered her a counter to the screaming voices in her head… and the fucking crap “friends” and family might be saying.

So I share here for the Woman who was terrorized by Brock Allen Turner and Judge Aaron Perksy so She might know She is not alone. I am another woman who knows and understands the shame and humiliation they try to push into our Souls via our vaginas. I also want Her to know there can be joy in Her life again one day. I want to tell Her how proud of Her I am She faced this animal in court even if the judge buried Her in shit with his sentence.

She is not alone. I will think of Her and send Her healing light every single day.

A Change.org petition has been created asking for a review of the case and Judge Aaron Persky's decision. If you feel so inclined, please sign it.

Friday
May062016

Discussion of NYT’s Op Piece on the Safety of Home Birth

There’s an uproar over Dr. Amy Tuteur’s New York Times opinion piece on April 30, 2016, "Why Is American Home Birth So Dangerous?"... Inflammatory! Judgmental! Incorrect! I have heard it all. They are common and frequent refrains when talking about her. People despise her so much they refuse to either click on her Skeptical OB site or read anything she writes. 

I am here to say that sticking your head in the sand is not the answer! Unless you read what the “enemy” says, how do you know how to rebut? You can’t! 

And then, what if you just happen to read something that resonates? Might Tuteur have something to say that is valid? Is every word suspect? 

In the New York Times Op Ed piece, she uses the Oregon statistics as her jumping off point for showing how dangerous home birth is in the United States. Why does she only use these? Why isn’t she using the beloved MANA Stats? Because the MANA Stats were done so incorrectly and are only with self-reporting midwives, who can believe what they say? And even the MANA stats showed increase in death for babies in home births! And they climb even higher if breeches, twins and VBACs were included. 

But what about the statistics from the Netherlands? The UK? Canada? Those statistics are absolutely irrelevant here in the US. Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) do not have the same education as midwives in those countries. When CPMs have hospital privileges, learn pharmacology in school, and a standardized education, only then can we compare those countries’ stats with our own. 

So, say you disagree still with what Tuteur has to say and you want to argue with her… in writing, of course. I have only read three rebuttals so far from the home birth midwifery community. 

The first was from MANA in their “Women Are Choosing Home Birth: The Infant-Maternal Health Care System in the U.S. Owes Them A Safe Option,” a rambling piece about why women choose home birth. (Yes, yes, we know… the medical model does suck a lot… yes, women do want more autonomy….) But, one of Tuteur’s main points is that US CPMs don’t pass muster with the International Confederation of Midwives’ standards for midwives around the world. 

MANA says: “Families deserve the support of a provider that meets international standards. The International Confederation of Midwives, with input from over 100 countries’ midwifery associations including those from the United States, have created standards that are increasing safety for families globally. The International Confederation of Midwives supports the ‘recognition that midwifery is a profession that is autonomous, separate and distinct from nursing and medicine.’ and does not expect, nor recommend, that midwives be nurses first. MANA, among other midwifery organizations, is working on continuing to meet and even exceed the recommendations of the ICM.” (emphasis mine) 

Criminy, even MANA states, in black and white no less, that CPMs don’t even meet the minimum standards of what midwives around the world should be giving their clients! 

This is completely unacceptable. 

The second rebuttal comes from Faith Gibson, LM, CPM in California. She writes in “MCDG ~ Amy Tuteur & the question of why people think ‘… American Home Birth So Dangerous?’” I’ve known Faith for years, watching as she tirelessly fought for home births and then licensing in CA. So, when I saw she’d written a rebuttal, I thought, “Finally! Someone might be able to argue cogently!” But, oh, how very wrong I was. 

Not only did she mock Tuteur’s name (on more than one occasion), sounding like a pre-schooler taunting a classmate, she also advocated non-consensual bondage of Tuteur, saying: 

“I’ve had more than one delicious fantasy of tying her to a chair and making her watch 48 straight hours of Sponge Bob-Square Pants cartoons.” 

Wow. Advocating violence against another person and attempting to make it humorous makes Gibson look almost monstrous to those of us who have been held against our will at some time in our lives. 

And then, quite oddly, Gibson picks Sweden’s statistics to use as proof of the safety of home birth. Sweden? Again, a totally different system of education and midwifery. She went into a great deal of detail about Sweden, all completely irrelevant to the conversation. 

When she morphed into a historian, I sat shaking my head. She discussed maternity care from the late 1800’s through the 1940’s. What in the world does that have to do with countering Tuteur’s opinion piece?!? Not one thing. This part of her piece went on and on. And on. Even saying PBS should do a History of Maternity Care segment. Not a bad idea, but not fit for such an article as this. 

I need to mention the horrific picture Gibson chose to highlight her article, a baby being removed from (most likely) an anesthetized mother in the 1940’s. She couldn’t have picked a more gruesome photo if she tried. Yet, again, it has zero to do with birth today. 

Brilliant Bodies writes in “In Response to Tuteur's ‘Why Is American Home Birth So Dangerous?’": “There is no solid evidence to show that C.P.M's mortality rates are any worse than C.N.M's mortality rates as C.P.Ms are typically the ones working with economically disadvantaged and rural populations, there are far too many factors to point to their training as the cause of death.” 

This is patently false. There is evidence (see the MANA Stats as a start, but the Oregon Stats if you weed out the MANA ones like I do) and CPMs are not… ARE NOT… the midwives that primarily work with economically disadvantaged and rural populations! From the CDC, "The uptick in home births began in 2004, and, so far, the majority of these have been among non-Hispanic white women." The CDC also says, “In 2012, 1 in 49 births to non-Hispanic white women were out-of-hospital births.” 

And one last note from this blog says, “And none of us (including Tuteur) have been through C.P.M training so we have no right to speak to the quality of the education involved.” 

Well, I have been through the CPM training and have every right to say how inadequate it is. So much needs to be done to fix this CPM mess we’re finding ourselves in. There are answers. Fix the holes. NOW. 

So, to date, no one has effectively been able to counter what Tuteur was saying in her Op Ed piece. Anyone else want to give it a try? 

Just to inform you all, Tuteur is not going anywhere. She is only going to get louder and more pervasive in our lives. You can try to ignore her all you want, or you can listen to what she has to say AND BLOODY WELL FIX IT! (Sense a theme here?) 

There isn’t a month that goes by that I don’t hear about a fetal death or disability from a home birth midwife (most are CPMs). One helacious 2-week period showed one of each from one midwife! These that I am hearing about have parents still in their early grieving periods, so haven’t reported the midwife. Yet. I guarantee you will hear about these incidents within the next 2-3 years. 

This is unacceptable! NARM simply must standardize the CPM education. It cannot allow schools around the country to make up their own curriculum any longer. Just reading that schools do this is absurd! 

If MANA and NARM want midwives to step up to the International Standards, then, for goodness’ sake, DO IT ALREADY! What are you waiting for?!?

 

Wednesday
Feb242016

Pierced Suspension in Pregnancy

A question appeared that asked about Pierced Suspension Play and pregnancy… safe? I thought it would make an awesome blog post, so here it is! 

Visual Alert! For those not used to seeing Suspension Play, the pictures/videos can be jarring. Be aware of your cultural biases if you choose to Google what it is or looks like. 

Background: I have been a part of the Kink community for 25 years, lifestyle (living it, not just playing at Dungeons or Play Parties). I have participated in a wide range of experiences from bondage to impact play to edge play (including needles and suturing). I have not been suspended, but it is a familiar experience in my own bio family as well as my kink family. 

Suspension Play, pierced and otherwise, is part of the BDSM Scene… the Kink Scene. Suspension is one of the advanced experiences in the Scene. Those that partake may or may not be Pain Sluts. They may or may not do other advanced play such as needle play or brandings/cuttings. DO NOT ASSUME the person is merely looking for a higher high. Suspension, historically, has been used during religious ceremonies and has been used as Rites of Passage/Vision Quests in different cultures. In BDSM, the "goal" is the same; to push the body into sacred spaces... physically, emotionally, spiritually. 

Now, for a pregnant body, the issues that come into play would be the elasticity of the skin (via hormones) and the bottom’s ability to withstand the experience without sustenance. If I were counseling a pregnant person considering being suspended, even if they were experienced, I would really encourage them to choose a Top that was very, very experienced… one who really knows the body’s strong spots… and will take extra caution with the shifting musculature. If the person has played this way several times, there will likely be scar tissue from previous suspensions. The Top will likely need to ignore where the body had been suspended before, instead, seeing the body as a first-time bottom… feeling where the hooks should be, how deep they need to slice through the skin, and then find their exit far enough from the entrance so the skin doesn’t rip when the body is lifted. 

The set-up tends to be the longest part. Making sure the pregnant person is hydrated adequately is really important. Sie should be counseled/encouraged to call hir Safeword at any time sie feels (abnormally) light-headed, dizzy or confused. The Top should also check in regularly to make sure sie is doing well. This, of course, goes throughout the entire Session. 

Those who do suspension play must be cautious of the body falling from any height. Injuries from falls must be prevented.

When one is suspended, it can last for an extended amount of time, sometimes hours. I would caution erring on the side of a shorter session than a longer one. Checking in and keeping hir hydrated is really important. Again, sie should call hir Safeword at any time, but it really is the Top’s job to gauge the Scene and bring the person down sooner than later. 

That addresses the physical aspects of the Scene. Now, let me talk about the emotional/mental parts.

There are several descriptions/words that try to explain the high that comes from any kind of pain play. Subspace is a common word used. Flying is another one. We know, of course, that it is the rush of endorphins that flows through the body, giving one that awesome feeling of being in the presence of the enormity of life and floating on its wings. (As in birth, trying to describe the endorphin flow using words is extremely difficult. And woefully inadequate. My apologies for not being eloquent enough to describe it properly.)

In suspension, the endorphins are amazing and the world falls away. When this happens in birth, Nature takes the reigns, guiding the flow, bringing the endorphins out when needed, then gradually lowering them again after the birth so the birthing person can come back into their body/head to begin parenting. In a Scene such as suspension, there is no innate ebb and flow to signal the end of the Scene. It depends on a human decision. Because the bottom is often really fucked-up-high from the Scene, it becomes imperative that the Top call the Scene when the time seems right. 

If I were doing pre-Scene negotiation with a pregnant person about to be suspended from hooks, I would ask hir to please keep a part of hir brain connected to the baby’s needs. Is the baby moving more or less than typically? Does the baby “feel” scared? Does the baby need to eat? If sie feels any weirdness from the baby, consider ending the Scene. If I was in charge of a Scene as a midwife, I might even check in on the baby with a Doppler periodically (one with headphones). Most people wouldn't consider it, but would be an added reassurance if desired.

After such an intense Scene, Aftercare will be of extreme importance. Don’t let the pregnant person walk alone after being brought down and moved to an Aftercare site. Makes sure there is juice on hand. Have a glucometer handy in case sie needs to check blood glucose for hypoglycemia if sie’s shaking (or is it from the Scene itself?). When sie can eat, carb and protein snacks periodically will be really helpful. 

How would I counsel a pregnant person who came to me asking about Pierced Suspension? I would first ask why sie was wanting to do it. Is it a spiritual need? An endorphin desire? The rare opportunity presenting itself? Exploring why can help hir make a conscious decision to move forward or not. 

If sie hadn’t ever done it before, or only a couple of times, I would encourage waiting until after the pregnancy (and maybe even nursing) to do it. We still don’t know enough about the effects of stress hormones on pregnancy, labor, birth or breast feeding. 

I might suggest a more mild type of play… needle play, for example, which can bring on the delightful endorphins as well, without the massive intensity of suspension. 

Reminder! With any blood play, BE SAFE! Discuss health history, Hepatitis/STI/HIV status, have brand new/sterilized needles/hooks for each insertion, disinfectant/alcohol at the ready, sterile gauze to staunch bleeding, an emergency kit with supplies to revive some who has fainted and a phone close by to call EMS if more help is needed. It’s always a good idea to have a medic-type person specified for intense Scenes so they aren’t involved in the Scene itself and can watch with a more detached view of the Scene. 

If I am missing something, let me know! Email me at NavelgazingMidwife@gmail.com

Friday
Dec042015

The Cunt Coloring Book (and other feminist memories)

This book was integral to my beginnings of loving my body as well as understanding the vulva in midwifery.

Tee Corrine was an artist in the 1960's, 70's and 80's. I learned of her around 1988 when I moved to San Diego from Frankfurt. I was a newly out dyke and Zack was still in the Army in Frankfurt (but was being separated for being lesbian) and I attended Lesbian Support Group meetings at the LGBT Center in downtown Hillcrest.

The Cunt Coloring Book, published initially in 1975, was extremely controversial, even when I first saw it in the late 1980's. Older lesbians told the story of how difficult it was to get published and some enterprising dykes published it on their kitchen tables to start. It was shared in an underground fashion, passed quietly frrom woman to woman (ha! the spelling of "woman" at the time was "womyn"... couldn't have the letters "men" anywhere around a vulva), sometimes one woman coloring a page and having the next in line color the next one.

There were very few lesbian mothers at the time and I knew of no gay fathers at all. We moms eventually formed a Lesbian Mother Support Group and it was awesome. I loved meeting other moms who understood the secrecy needed when sending our kids to school... how the Emergency Contact was a "friend" who happened to live with us. 

Just like when any moms get together, there are going to be different parenting styles, but blessedly, they, for the most part, didn't spank. I was already in the Natural Birth Community, a La Leche League leader (who I also had to hide my sexuality from) and had been a doula for around 6 years. There was one mom who talked about "seeing red" when she got mad at her kids and she thought we all did, that that was perfectly normal. I remember an intervention, of sorts, where we discussed what was discipline and what was abuse... a topic hardly ever mentioned back then. We encouraged her to find a therapist and deal with the anger instead of taking it out on her kids.

The lesbian community was quite polarized at that time. There was a Separatist faction that wanted nothing to do with men. At. All. I had a boy child (and co-parented Zack's son as well) and was not welcome in Separatist spaces. Even if I didn't go with my kids, I was snubbed and usually left because no one would talk to me. I refused to pretend my son didn't exist, so soon learned where to, and where not, to go.

While there have been transgender folks since the beginning of time, there seemed to be so few back then... public... except in bars, usually as drag queens doing lip synch shows. Goddess forbid a lesbian come out trans; he was ridiculed and the venom flowed that he had joined The Enemy and just wanted to be part of The Establishment instead of remaining an oppressed dyke.

At this time, the late 80's, is when the term Politically Correct was just coming into vogue; it wasn't a negative term yet. The words became a frequently used phrase when I worked at the San Diego Lesbian Press as a writer.

"The first issue of the San Diego Lesbian Press is published in October (1987), just six months after a group of women meet to discuss the need for such a publication and form a collective to make it happen."

"A Collective" being the operative words. The SDLP operated on the "consensus" method of making decisions. (Or rather, NOT making decisions!)

Consensus: Consensus is a process for group decision-making. It is a method by which an entire group of people can come to an agreement. The input and ideas of all participants are gathered and synthesized to arrive at a final decision acceptable to all. Through consensus, we are not only working to achieve better solutions, but also to promote the growth of community and trust. 

In other words, consensus is a group of people who argue for WEEKS on end about trivial shit and rarely, if ever, get anything done because everyone in the group is an Alpha Female and refuses to conceed to a different position/belief/idea.

Clearly, I hate consensus. It started with the SDLP, but has continued in other, mainly lesbian or women-prominent spaces.

One SDLP argument: It was a Separatist newspaper, but was always on the verge of dying because of lack of funds. One time, a man (gasp!) wanted to advertise in the paper... something benign like a lesbian bar. But he owned the club and the money would come from him. So several women had hairy cows over the issue of whether to accept the money or not. I am not exaggerating when I tell you the "discussion" went on for weeks... 3 meetings a week... for at least 4 weeks. "What if the check was written on his wife's account? Can we do that?" "What if he 'donated' the money. Then could we accept it?" "We can't take it for any reason... on principle."  

I got so sick of it; that was when I left. 

I wrote some good pieces while I was at SDLP, though. Looking back, well.... I wrote a piece about admiring Indian (from India) women's "costumes" after going to a parade and there were many women in sparkly harem outfits. I talked about hiding behind the veil and how they were "mysterious," but did they really represent oppression? Was I admiring the oppression of women in another culture? As far as I knew, we were on the cutting edge of understanding the oppression of other cultures by flaunting them.

I wrote a very long and very well-received article on how BDSM is one of the most vile and sub-culturally-accepted forms of physical abuse against women. I insisted there could never be consensuality and both submissives and Dominants were deluded in their belief that it was acceptable behavior to be hit/hit, that no one EVER deserves to be hit. For any reason. (Remember, this was a total La Leche League belief that I parroted often.) 

When I was coming out in the BDSM community in 1995, I had to overcome that long-held belief. Apparently, I did. Completely. laughing

I was privileged to attend several really cool lesbian concerts and shows and, because I wrote reviews, I got in free (I was way poor at the time). Jamie Anderson, Tret Fure, Cris Williamson and the Indigo Girls long, long before they were as well-known as they are now. There were also lesbian comedians: Lea DeLaria (now famous in Orange is the New Black), Kate Clinton and Lynn Lavner all gave me great interviews. It was hilarious hearing about our (lesbian) lives through their comedy. Decades before Ellen. Both the singers and comedians generally alluded to the lesbian community... except Lea DeLaria who was screamingly out. We were more used to reading between the lines and, in the case of songs, changing the gender from "him" to "her." (I think lesbians and gay men still do this!)

Below is a picture of me marching in the Gay Pride Parade (what they were called back then) about 1989.

It was very challenging being a lesbian mom back then. Many of my friends lost their kids to their former husbands when they came out. I was one of the very few lucky enough to march.

Besides lesbian issues being important to me back then, fat issues were also important. That will be a post all on its own, but I needed to make a comment here about my marching 3+ miles as a fat woman. I did it. Easily. I was also 28 years old. The fat activists of today are in their 20's. I will share, in other posts, what exactly fat does to a body's mobility as the years pass. And I'll discuss fat and health issues as well. I believe that, because I spent a great deal of time speaking and writing about fat activist issues... the importance of not fat-shaming (a relatively new term)... that I am uniquely able to talk about fat as an older woman and the hobbling effect it has had on me. Anyway, as I said... other posts.

Okay, moving on to another topic. Writing as fast as I can.

Thursday
Sep032015

Swallow Your Fear (An Adventure Story)

I loved Charon. She was one of my dearest friends in San Diego for many years when our kids were small... breastfeeding pals, birth junkies, one of the doulas I trained... just an awesome friend. When she moved, I lost touch with her. She isn't on social media, but I just found her address and will write her a snail mail letter.

But this is about an adventure she and I went on once... when we were trying to figure out if we were supposed to be midwives or not.

Where the wild hair came from, I don't know, but she and I found ourselves in her car thinking, "Let's go to Mexico and find a Curandera!" Curanderas are healers, midwives, witches... the wise women of the village. We immediately went into total un-PC mode and tried to think what a Curandera would want in trade for her wisdom. Unfiltered cigarettes came to mind. (Can you see me rolling my eyes in complete shame now?!?) And microwave popcorn. Where that came from is beyond me, but we stopped at a store and bought both. We also had sandwiches, fruit and a lot of water. 

Then we headed South.

We had NO idea where we were going! We turned off the highway onto a small, barely asphalted road, and somewhere along the way, we entered Mexico... no border crossing, no sign... just after driving for a couple of hours South, there was nowhere TO be, but in Mexico!

We began seeing little tiny houses, multi-colored, but it looked like someone had taken sandpaper to them. We headed into a neighborhood... barrio... and the first person we saw, I asked in my terrible Spanish (I wasn't fluent back then), "Where is the Curandera?" Amazingly, the man pointed in a direction I could understand. We drove on... into a new barrio... and asked again. The same direction was pointed out, so we went on. We asked about five people before someone pointed to a house three away from where we were. 

We parked the car and walked up to the door... and the Curandera opened the freakin' door before we even knocked!!! She looked at us like she was expecting us and invited us in.

Her house was a shrine to the Virgin Mary and Jesus. Every level space had candles (many lit), and statues of Mary and Jesus... they were everywhere. It was very dark in the tiny space even though she had the curtains pulled aside. She sat us down at her table that had two chairs and talked to us. I caught about every third word, but the gist was we were to begin praying to the Virgin Mary for guidance. She knew we were looking for guidance? Hmmm.

In my broken Spanish, I explained to her about our conflicts in becoming midwives. We had little kids. We were getting older. We didn't have money for school. The Curandera waved off each concern. In no uncertain terms, she told us to suck it up and get ON with life already.

Then she brought out the Ball Jar. It held a pink liquid and was about a quarter full. She turned to Charon and said that she was the one that was most scared, so she had to drink some of the liquid... it would make her fears go away. Hesitating, she finally reached out and took the jar. She took a small sip and her face scrunched up tight and I thought she was going to throw up. "It tastes like transmission fluid!!!!!" She tried to give the Curandera back the jar, but she pressed it into her chest/heart and said anytime she felt fear, she was to drink some of the liquid.

Charon kinda laughed and said, "I don't think I will be afraid of anything ever again!"

The magic worked!!!

It was time to leave and we brought in our meager (and terribly driven by old Westerns) gifts and the Curandera followed us back out to the car and tossed the cigarettes and popcorn back in. She began rummaging around and found the fruits and water and took all that we had. We helped her carry everything back into the house. I realized, because it was getting darker, that she had no electricity and no running water. It was sad to leave... she gave us huge hugs and kisses on our cheeks.

Then we got back into the car and looked at each other; how do we get home? Drive North! So, we headed out and just depended on divine intervention to get us back to the States. 

We drove a lot longer going home than getting to the Curandera's house. We drove on a mountain (that we never even saw going down!) with terrifying winding roads that had no barriers on the dropping side of the mountain. I dared to look down and EEK! There were buses crashed down the hill. Cars. Oh. My. God. If we fell off the side, NO ONE would know where we were! We hadn't told a soul where we were going. We would have just vanished. We started laughing about it WOOSH! our car was picked UP by the wind and set back down again with a thud. We stopped laughing. She then drove about 30 miles an hour the rest of the time on the mountain... cars lined up behind us. We didn't care.

To this day, I have no idea how we found our way back to a US highway, but we didn't go through Border Patrol that time, either. Just all of a sudden, signs were in English. We drove home, glad to be back on American soil.

When I get scared, I think about Charon's jar. I wonder if she still has it.

Sunday
May102015

Addendum to "Non-Con Cytotec"

I was thinking about the post and remembered a couple of things that happened that I wanted to share. Both were at Casa.

First, for some reason, the Hispanic women fainted much more than I have ever seen anyone else faint postpartum. It happened in El Paso and it happened in San Diego as well. Very interesting. I wonder what that mechanism was all about. But, anyway, so the women would get up to pee and either faint walking to the bathroom or faint right after peeing on the toilet. Much has been talked about why that happens, so we won't talk about it here, but what happened after the fainting is what I want to discuss.

There was an especially cruel midwife who worked at Casa when I was there both times. She'd been fired a number of times for various things she did wrong, but always came back. From what I could tell, this "treatment" for fainting came from her. When the women were on the floor or on the toilet, she would grab their nipples and twist them, wrenching them hard. The women, not in their bodies, would eventually say, "Ow!" and then would quickly come to again. While the twisting did work, it was unspeakably cruel and a violation of their bodies. I did it a few times, but it just felt wrong, so I ended up sitting with women (who were not bleeding and in shock) and waiting for them to come back to their bodies. It took longer, but felt much better in my spirit.

One more experience stands out in my time there. I don't remember exactly when it was, but I think it was during my 2002-2003 stint because I had a Littman stethoscope. I was first-on, which included being in charge of the labors and deliveries during my shift. There were always staff midwives who oversaw what we were doing and who we could go to with questions or concerns. So, I had a baby and in checking vitals postpartum, the baby was in Respiratory Distress and I went to tell the midwife and ask her to please call EMS to transport. Instead, she went to see the baby herself (which was fine) and holding him, she used my Littman to listen to the baby who was audibly grunting and retracting. She frowned while listening and then said, "Let me see that stethoscope," pointing to the $10 one Casa supplied. I said, "But this is a Littman! (an $80, excellent stethoscope) and she demanded I give her the $10 one. She listened with it and pulled it off her ears and said, "That's better! He's fine" and handed the incredibly distressed baby back to me. I was stunned. She had no intention of getting this baby help. Would it have looked bad on her transport record? Was she worried about the hardship for the mom if the baby was in the NICU? I will never know, but none of that should have been at play; only the health and safety of that baby should have influenced her decision.

The baby, by the way, came back on Day 3 doing well. The midwife smugly said, "See? He was fine." Ugh. (Dumb luck.)

Just wanted to share these memorable stories.

Saturday
May092015

Non-Con Cytotec (and more)

So, the Honest Midwife, Leigh Fransen, wrote a post entitled "Cytotec Tea" and it has been making the rounds, the truth of the post being questioned, Leigh's motivations being questioned... (is she a Dr. Amy minion?!) and it is time to share, publicly, what I also have seen at the hands of CPMs/LMs.

I was also an LM/CPM like Leigh, but was an apprentice/student when I saw much of what I did that was unethical and illegal.

I was at Casa de Nacimiento for three months in 1993 and then during most of a year from 2002-2003.

In 1993, I was nearly totally midwifery green, having attended maybe 75 hospital births by that time. I knew not what was legal and what wasn't; I trusted my senior midwives for guidance and education. But, there were clearly things being done to the women that weren't right. I didn't have the presence of mind to 1) say anything or 2) to leave. Sometimes women would stall near the end of their labor and a midwife would give a clandestine shot of pitocin into the vaginal vault (the floor of the vagina), shooting the baby out almost immediately. The women never knew it was given to them. Other times, the midwives would use something called a "ghost," a gauze tampon soaked in pitocin, placed inside the vagina or rectum, again, without their consent. The ghosts worked slower than the shot, so was less dramatic on the baby (and, most certainly, mom). 

Charting, too, was often a stretch (understatement). Any glimmer of changing dates (a mom had a longer cycle? *wink wink*), lying about when women's membranes ruptured and not beginning to count second stage until you could see the baby's head were all common occurences.

After I left Casa, I moved to Orlando and worked at Special Beginnings Birth & Gynecology Center with CNMs. It was an amazing place where we charted what we saw, women were risked out according to the law and there was never, ever, lack of consent. I was startled at the difference.

Why did I volunteer... no, PAY... to go back to Casa in 2002? And stay for almost a year? It was midwifery boot camp. I learned so much there, including tips and tricks I could have in my arsenal should I ever need them. By the time I got back there, the pit in the vault and the ghosts were gone, but pretty much everything else was still there.

And so were the cameras.

Cameras had been installed to watch the students in the birth rooms. The women did not know about them. As far as I know, there was no taping going on, but the lack of privacy was terrible. I heard that later they put the cameras on the consent (buried?), but they were not there when I was at Casa. 

Somewhere near the end of my time there, I learned that some of the women were being given Cytotec without consent. I was horrified. I thought back to all those post-dates women who miraculously went into labor with the Blue & Black Cohosh (that never worked when I gave it to them!) and realized they had probably gotten Cytotec. The only time I was asked to give it to a woman, it was in Gatorade, melted; I refused to give it to her. The midwife shrugged and went and gave it to her herself. I went back and looked at my charts and saw, "Mom sipping Gatorade" in several places... almost always with post-dates women ready to be risked out. I don't know if they used Cytotec to augment labors; I never saw that occur.

So, when I've disclosed this in midwifery groups (usually in defense of Leigh), other Casa graduates have said I was not telling the truth, that they never saw any of these things happen. I say to them that the students were usually sheltered from the information, yet they still can't believe the midwives would ever use Cytotec. Blessedly, another midwife, a trusted midwife in the community, finally said she learned of the Cytotec in the herbs while she was there with some of the women who were disbelieving. Validation is a wonderful thing.

I left Casa behind to become a CPM/LM in San Diego, CA. There, most of the midwives were good and above board, but there were still the fudging on charts, the taking on of high-risk clients and, in my experience, the manipulation of consent. (I often said, "How informed IS informed consent?!" My IC form was extremely long and demanded the women explore a wide variety of providers and studies before making their decisions. I did not want to be the only piece of information they received.)

One midwife in particular was less than stellar. I learned, from her clients that transferred to me, that if she didn't have gas money, she would call the client and have her measure her own belly. Not that self-care is a bad thing, but if you're paying for a midwife to do a visit, then she damn well better pay a visit. 

Did I ever do anything wrong? You bet. I fudged charts, lied about ROM to care providers when we transferred, allowed women to keep pushing far, far beyond what the law stated we should and took on high-risk clients (the most egregious was taking a client with a history of three shoulder dystocias... who had a helacious one again). I took a woman with a history of a massive PPH... waving away its seriousness as "probably" the doctor pulled on the placenta and caused it himself. Wrong. Blessedly, she transferred care mid-labor and then had a torrential PPH in the hospital; she almost lost her uterus to save her life. I would have killed her at home.

What was in my head?!? I wanted to help women... help them have a great birth experience... to help them love giving birth... to show them there can be respect in birth... and, now that I look back, that I wanted to SAVE them from the medical establishment. How fucking arrogant of me. I am incredibly ashamed of my behavior and actions during those years. I have apologized to the women who will talk to me (and have psychically apologized to those that won't/don't). All I can do now is speak out.

Why? Why now when so much is past? Because I have been saying these things for years and no one listened until Leigh started her wonderful blog. While there are a few things I question about her experiences, enough resonate that I know she isn't lying about most things. (I don't think she lies, per se, but is a tad hyperbolic at times.) I get messaged and told of all kinds of things midwives arre doing around the country, hear the stories of the damaged babies and the physically used women. Yes, even midwives damage clients.

If home birth midwifery is going to have any sort of quality reputation in the US, we really need to reign in the rogue midwives. We need to stop the lying, the operating outside the scope of practice. It's true, the hospital/medical system doesn't allow for a lot of leeway with autonomy and a low cesarean rate like midwives can offer and when there is IC, women should be permitted to determine their own course of care. However, far too often, the midwife isn't skilled enough, doesn't have enough education, to facilitate such complicated births. Until midwives acknowledge their limitations, we are doomed.

I encourage others to speak out, but realize they may have to wait until they are no longer licensed either. Even still, I hear those that tell their stories, in public, about the midwives who shouldn't be practicing anymore. What's so hard, is there is no one governing body to report these wrongdoings to. Where is the accoountability? Oh, that's right... there is none.

Let's fix that.

Friday
Mar272015

GoPros in L&D

So much is being said about video cameras on the bodies of cops so they can be held accountable for their actions. I say we bring cameras into L&D to do the same of doctors and nurses. 

I worked at a birth center once that had cameras in the birth rooms. From the day they were installed, the midwives and students acted differently than the day before. As far as I know, the cameras weren’t recording, but I can’t say for sure. There are very real issues of privacy to think about, but making sure the students didn’t operate out of their scope of practice was more important to the owners. 

I’ve thought about this privacy thing in L&Ds and thought if the woman was the one with the camera, the privacy issue would become moot. She could wear a GoPro on her head and her privates wouldn’t be able to be seen, but the doctors and nurses would.

Would the medical personnel act differently if they were recorded? Would they manipulate women the way some of them do? Would they humiliate, belittle, dehumanize women the way some do? Would they speak kindly to everyone finally? Would they offer the pros and cons in a way that would hold up in court? 

Hospital legal teams would never allow this to happen, of course, lest things be caught on camera that can end up in a courtroom. But what if we secretly recorded, audio recorded, our labors and births? What if we had a Google Glass and could record everything that went on? What if we have a special pen that captures what our “team” does to us? 

What does this say about trusting our providers in birth? For the majority of women, the person they hire is not who they see in labor. For too many VBAC women, the bait and switch at 37 weeks can be beyond frustrating… even angering. Maybe if doctors heard themselves talking, they would reevaluate their words to women. 

Yeah, I think a GoPro on the forehead of a laboring and birthing woman is a dandy idea.

Tuesday
Mar102015

What's Up

Let's see... lots has happened.

Zack and I broke up in December.

I moved to Orlando, Florida in late December after driving across the country with my daughter Aimee and the 2 dogs. I live with a dear friend and her family while my doggies are living with my mom 6 miles away.

I've been very, very sad about the loss of my 28-year relationship with Zack, but am trying to stay positive to the things that might come to me here, across the country.

It's a lot hotter here in Orlando than anything San Diego could give me.

I have to go to school for 3 years if I want to be a FL Licensed Midwife. Not sure that's going to happen. I want to be a Monitrice more than a Midwife, but still have to get licensed here to do that.

I'm exploring other options, including possibly working at Disney World again (a job I loved!). It would close a door on birth, but maybe I am due for a new season.

I'm becoming a SMART Recovery Facilitator (a secular AA/NA/OA sort of group) so I can bring SMART meetings to Orlando. SMART has become a very important part of my life.

It's been a relief to leave San Diego's midwifery community.

I get to see my dogs every day and take them to the dog park several times a week. They have kept me saner than anything else.

I also get to see my mom every day and she is a delight! She makes me laugh lots. I am glad I get to be here for her last years.

My girls pay for my membership to the Y and I go at least 3 times a week to ride the exercise bike. It isn't helping with my weight, but it should be doing something good, right?

I got to spend Christmas with my girls and grandbabies and it was a delight!

I'm selling my mother's Disney memorabilia for her on several Facebook Disney Selling sites. I'm meeting some cool people! Who knew there were such rabid pin collectors?!

I have something weird happening with my right groin/leg... I go for a sono next week to see what's up.

I have all my new docs set up here and things are good. I also have a great therapist who is a Mindfulness teacher. We have lots in common despite her being younger than my youngest child.

Zack and I remain good friends. He is someone I will always love; we just couldn't make the trans thing work. We, quite literally, grew apart. He will always be the great love of my life. *wiping tears*

I need/want to write more. So much is tenuous, I just don't know what to write yet. Will this remain a birth blog if I go work at Disney? Could I go to births on my days off? The way my leg feels, I am glad I am not on-call right now. But, I do miss birth.

*sigh*

More soon!

Saturday
Oct182014

Doulas Get Together

I had a great time today! First, I went to a class on how to use a rebozo (long piece of cloth) in labor and birth then got to spend some time with five newish doulas at a local restaurant. You’d think, after all this time, I would have all the knowledge I’d need, but I’ve been taking classes and learning very cool things like how to give foot baths and how to “sift” a mom in early labor to help her relax. (Sifting is another word for jiggling a very little bit.) I loved the class today and met some really great women, some of went to eat with me after the class. 

I listened as they told their few birth stories, filled with excitement and joy, expressing the difficulties the moms and babies had and how they’d been called to two births at the same time. It reminded me of my early days, too! I remember how much I learned those first few years, how it seemed every birth had a complication I’d only read about and didn’t really feel equipped to attend to. But, the Universe had other ideas and there I was, with the baby with meconium, the mom with preeclampsia, the labor that was prodromal and the dad who was freaked out. And you know what? I did great with what was given me! And these women did the same thing that was given to them. It is the way we learn; trial by fire. 

I didn’t share a whole lot of my experience, but the women said they knew of my Facebook Page and my (poor neglected) blog. Made me feel good! 

I’m putting more than my toe into the doula community and enjoying it very much. I’m finding some cool women who agree to disagree with major topics such as circumcision and breastfeeding… and perhaps even with my belief that home birth midwives need more education and skills training? (The tipping point that scooted me out of the midwifery community 4 years ago.) I’m loving the doulas; they are great! 

And look! I even wrote a blog post about them! They even inspired me to write today. Who could ask for more?

Tuesday
Apr082014

Lilia's Birth Story (Brow Presentation)

"I think she'll be born next week," my doctor told me. At 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant, it wasn't what I was hoping to hear. I had stopped working the week before, both my parents had flown in from Hawaii, baby's room was clean and ready, and her newborn-sized onesies washed. My baby was prepared, too. Since week 20-something she had been in a head-down, anterior position.

To my surprise, I woke up the next morning, her due date, with bloody show. Not long after, I began to feel contractions. My husband and I began tracking them at 8:30 a.m. on December 6. At 11 a.m., we called our doctor to let her know they were consistently 10-12 minutes apart. I continued contracting into the afternoon, but life went on as normal. I understood that contractions could stop, so I didn't want to get too excited, but I asked my mom to take some pictures, just in case it was my last day being pregnant.

Around 6 p.m. Dr. G came by to see how I was doing. "You're at 1 cm," she said. "I'll be back later." From the beginning, I loved Dr. G's calm, confident nature. When my husband and I were window shopping for obstetricians, she was the first we met. I found her website when we were just a few weeks pregnant with the search terms "home birth Panama". In a country where the c-section rate in private hospitals is 8/10, I was determined to have a vaginal birth, and it seemed like a home birth was just the ticket. Dr. G was just the person for the job. Actually, she was the only person for the job. She and her husband are the only doctors in Panama who do home births.

At 11 p.m. Dr. G came back. "You're 6.5 cm. I'll set up the pool." I was elated. 6.5! That's practically 7! I'm almost there. When the pool was set up, Dr. G invited me in. I was in darkness, in my daughter's room, contracting in the warm water. The contractions were getting pretty intense. I loved the water, but I wanted to use the bathroom, then go to the bed, then back to the water, then use the bathroom again. In the living room, my mom and Dr. G, along with her husband, talked and looked at family photos. During a particularly intense contraction, I told them to shut up. For the most part, my husband and I were alone in our little girl's room, in the dark, waiting for her to come.

I was camped on the edge of the pool, arms hanging over the side, resting on my knees. When I got the urge to push, I told my husband, who alerted Dr. G. "Push if you want to push," she said. So I did. I pushed when I felt the urge to. I didn't feel like I was making any progress, so I thought that maybe I was misreading my body's cues. Still, I pushed when I felt the urge to. I pushed with my whole body.

Dr. G came to check me and said that there was something preventing me from being fully dilated, and that it was preventing my baby from being able to come down the birth canal. I'm actually not completely sure what she said, as Spanish is my second language and I was in labor, but that's what I understood. She finished breaking my water, which had partially broken while I was on the bed earlier.

Though I was not aware of the time, it seemed hours passed. The sun began to light up the room. "December 7th," I thought, "My daughter's birthday will be December 7th." Dr. G insisted that I drink some juice. "You need energy," she said, "Take a sip." I refused. "Take one sip. Now another. And another. OK, finish the cup now." I didn't want any of it. All I wanted was to finish the job. Dr. G was right, I lacked energy. But I did not lack determination.

Dr. G encouraged me to feel for my baby. "How many knuckles in?" she asked. "Two." After several pushes, we were still at two knuckles. What am I doing wrong, I wondered. I'm doing everything I can.

At the insistence of my mom, my husband Jose got in the pool with me. She had been gently suggesting this for the past half hour, but I did not want to move from hugging the side of the pool. Finally, I gave in. My tired body rested in the arms of my husband, who sat behind me. With each contraction we pushed together, his hands gripping my legs and giving me strength. Soon some black hair emerged. It was at this point that the pain of the contractions were matched by the pain of my daughter's head grinding my tailbone as it curled back inside me post-contraction. I don't know what was worse, the pain during a contraction or after a contraction.

I remember my contractions pausing for some time. When they came back, I pushed with everything I had while my cheerleaders coached me in English and Spanish. I was so caught up in pushing that I hadn't realized the progress that I had made. "Look down," my husband said, "Look at her face!" As soon as I looked down she was already swimming out of me like a little fish. Dr. G got her, unwrapped her umbilical cord from her waist and leg, and handed her to me.

Lilia Marie was born with her eyes wide open at 8:30 a.m. on December 7th. 7 lbs, 2 oz and 19 inches long.

I didn't think much of the unicorn shape of her head then. I knew babies' heads were funny-shaped when born, and I was more taken by her beautiful face, her precious hands, and her full head of hair than the shape of her head.

When Dr. G came back the following day to check on Lilia and me, she mentioned that the obstetrician books say Lilia's type of birth, brow presentation, is not possible vaginally. I didn't understand then what I understand now. The diagram below is helpful. The most common presentation is A. Lilia's brow presentation is illustrated in C.

 

I also did not understand how this would effect my recovery. Supposedly, a benefit of vaginal childbirth is a quicker, more easy recovery. I, however, could not stand up without immense pain for three weeks. It felt like a bulldozer had cleared a tunnel through my body, and when I nursed, I could feel my insides going back together. It was so painful I would often cry. At my six-week check-up an internal wound was still healing, so I was prescribed Sufrexal to help it along. My physical recovery took a toll on me emotionally as well, as I could not hold my daughter in a standing position for the first month of her life, and I felt that I could not adequately comfort her.

Monday
Apr072014

If You Have to Ask...

FACEBOOK!... the answer is TRANSPORT!

That is all.

Monday
Apr072014

Kristen's Uterine Rupture Story

In 2005 I delivered my first child, a son, via emergency c-section due to "non-reassuring tones".  I miscarried my second pregnancy at 10 weeks in 2009.  After infertility treatments, I became pregnant a third time in 2011.  My pregnancy was glorious, healthy, and I felt great throughout.  I was seen by a seasoned midwife at a highly respected practice that delivered at a large suburban hospital. My midwife was pushing for a vbac, but I was on the fence.  I told my midwife that I would not want to attempt a vbac if my baby was over 8 lbs, at which point she reassured me he wasn't (he was actually 9 lbs, 9 oz at birth). I think my instinct was telling me not to vbac, but I was being overwhelmingly told how much better for my baby a vbac would be.  Ultimately, I decided to let God/the Universe decide.  I prayed about it and said if I went into labor prior to Jan. 2, 2012 (the first date the hospital would allow an "elective" c-section due to the March of Dimes 39-week guideline), I would attempt a vbac.  If I did not go into labor prior to Jan. 2, I  decided I would do a RCS. 

My water broke around 1:00 AM on 12-31-11, as I was brushing my teeth before bed.  Because I was Group B Strep positive, we went right to the hospital so antibiotics could be administered.  I labored slowly, and around 7:00 AM began receiving Pitocin.  They continued to increase the amount of Pitocin and I began to have a lot of pain, so around 10:30 AM I asked to have a C/S.  The midwife talked me out of it, saying both the baby and I were doing well, and why would I want an unnecessary surgery.  She suggested I get an epidural and I remember saying, "but if something goes wrong I won't be able to feel it".  She assured me they were doing continual monitoring and all was well.  It will haunt me forever, but I agreed to continue laboring as well as to get the epidural. 

Around 3:30 PM on 12-31-11 is when I believe I ruptured.  I noticed I didn't have one big baby bump anymore, instead I had two smaller ones that were diagonal in my abdomen.  I pointed it out to the nurse but no one seemed worried.  Minutes later, I heard my son's heartbeat slow and not come back up.  My parents had just arrived, and at this point the midwife and several nurses came rushing in, only to realize I was bleeding heavily.  They rushed me to the OR for a c-section, but for reasons still unknown to me, no doctor showed up to perform the c-section for 45 minutes.  During that time, the midwife, nurses, and anesthesiologist simply had to stand there knowing my baby was most likely dead already.  When the doctor did show up, my son was found up in my abdomen, my cervix had also torn, and my catheter was filled with blood as my bladder had also been damaged.  The suction necessary to pull my son out was so strong, it lifted my body off the OR table.  When my son came out, my husband said my body fell back onto the table and I passed out. 

My son was blue and not breathing at birth.  He was resuscitated and put on life support, then sent to a NICU at a trauma center an hour away.  While initially there was some hope we would eventually bring our boy home, sadly his brain damage was too significant.  He went into cardiac arrest at five weeks old, and although he was again resuscitated, he suffered further brain damage and we had to remove his life support so he would not have to suffer anymore.  Of course, after watching my son's incredible suffering, I will always wish I had trusted my instincts and demanded the C/S when my son was still perfectly healthy.  Or refused Pitocin (didn't know then I could have said no), or not taken the epidural...   I am learning to live with the million "what if's" that I now have.

Monday
Apr072014

Anna's Uterine Rupture Story

On Christmas Day, my husband unwrapped my gift - six consecutive boxes to find, eventually,my positive pregnancy test. We were expecting our second baby the following August.  Through that winter, spring and finally summer, I had a perfect pregnancy. Even in the heat of a southernsummer, I loved being pregnant.  

Early on in my pregnancy, I read a newspaper article about a mom who had chosen to give birth at home after a previous c-section.  It sounded so different from the hospital c-section I’d experienced with our daughter who turned breech at 39 weeksThis mom described her birth as “empowering” and her story was so full of emotionWhat a relief it would be not to be separated from my 2 year old daughter and have her welcome her little brother as soon as he was born.  How comforting it would be to walk my own halls – or better yet, the garden – as my contractions progressed.  How nice it would be to not be caught on the hospital conveyer belt of pregnancies, but have a midwife who knew me and my family, attending.  I contacted the midwife mentioned in the story to see if she would be willing to have a patient over an hour away from her practice.  To my surprise she said yes, and our journey began. 

We took our preparations for our son’s birth seriously. We studied pain management techniques, I was active and did weekly yoga.  I found a local doula and signed up for childbirth preparation classes.  We also grappled with days of doubt.  We asked our midwife hard questions about recognizing problems before they became emergencies: How would we know if something wasn’t right? “I’ll know” she assured usAnd as a Certified Nurse Midwife with 10 years of hospital experience, as well as experience with hbacs, I expected her to know what she was doing, how to manage the risks and when to transfer to the hospital.

Finally, at 40 weeks and 2 days, we thought Christmas had finally arrived.  I woke up at 1am in intense pain, but figured I should try and rest for as long as I could.  There was no resting.  I called my midwife, barely able to talk through my contractions.  She was at another labor, but promised to send another midwife from her practice.  My nerves kicked in - this was not what we had planned. I remembered my husband predicting the midwife would not be there for us when I went into labor on the long drive up to one of the many appointments she had cancelled.

The sun rose.  The alternate midwife arrived.  The pain increased. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t focus and around 7am said I needed a break.  I knew that was supposed to be a sign that my labor was transitioning, but I also knew that the pain I was experiencing did not feel like the pressure I expected; it was too raw.  I did not feel empowered, I felt vulnerable.  Nothing about this was “beautiful” or “healing.”  Hours had passed.  The water in the birthing pool had been warmed up again and again but was no longer offering much comfort. expressed my concern that I was experiencing the “wrong kind of pain.”  There was a strange popping sensation. The midwife had no answers for us.  My husband noticed that my abdomen looked asymmetrical and pulled our midwife aside to express his concern about my pain.  The midwife said everything was normal; he continued to encourage me accordingly.  For hours.  

I remember seeing a hummingbird at the window, hovering, curious over the roses my husband had put in the window for meThen, in one contraction my whole body suddenly felt like it was tearing apart. I thought my son was descending; in reality it was my uterus rupturingMy midwife tried to check my son’s heartbeat.  I could hear the faint dull, slow, thud.  60 beats per minute when it had been in the 130s.  And then the vomiting and shaking started.  I closed my eyes and did not open them – willing the world to go away.

After eight hours of labor there was nothing my midwife could do to save our son.  There was no operating room in my kitchen.  She only had a pediatric oxygen maskWe put in a 911 callimmediately but even with the EMS arriving within 10 minutes it was a further 15 before they had managed to get an IV in and we were even on the move to the hospital, each bump in the road causing all-consuming ripping pain.

By the time we reached the hospital by ambulance – under 8 miles away  Brody had no heart beat.  He was gone.  I prefer to think that he died when I felt him struggle upwards out of my uterus while we were still at home, than in the ambulance to the sound of my screams to get him out.  

I am lucky to be here after the volume of blood I lost.  Without the rapid transfer I would have bled out.  When my surgeon performed the emergency c-section I needed to deliver my dead baby even he was shocked.  My uterus was – in his words – shredded.  Brody was lodgedagainst my liver.  I had insufficient blood volume for anything other than general anaesthesia to work.

I will always regret the gamble I took with our son’s life.  If I had been in a hospital, continuous monitoring could have shown that Brody was experiencing trauma; that my contractions were not the right intensity given the pain I was experiencing; and my rupture might have been caught early enough to have given our son a fighting chance of survival.  Aultrasound later in my pregnancy would also have shown he was going to be big – 9lb 2oz – rather than the 7lb my midwives guesstimated.  An obstetrician might have raised concerns about the short time, just 10months, between my pregnancies, and warned me of the risks involved with being too far from an OR.  There’s a reason ACOG’s guidelines recommend hospitals who allow vbacs have an OR available and staffed 24 hours, 7 days a week.  I had come to believe in “trusting birth” and “trusting my body.”  But my body broke.

If we had been in a hospital I would probably not tell myself every day that not only did my choice to give birth at home result in the death of my baby, it deprived my husband of the gift of a first son, and took away my daughter’s chance to have the little brother she now asks to go rescue from heaven in a rocket ship.  We all want him back.

In one out of every two hundred vaginal births after caesarean, the mother ruptures.  But, I had a perfect pregnancy – why would I be that one?  The bigger risk – surely – was “unnecessary interventions” inevitably leading to a repeat c-section.  I did not know how quickly my baby could die.  I did not know that the hospital would be too far away to save Brody.  I did not know that I was gambling on my son’s life for the sake of an idyllic birth at home.  

I know there are lots of stories of mothers who have had a great experience birthing at home.  They were very, very fortunateI need you to hear my story: parents who suffer tragic HBACoutcomes do not tend to speak out because we know it was our choice. But, the absence of their voice should not give you the false impression that heartbreaking experiences like ours don’t happen.  They do.

My medical records state “13:15 client stable, holding baby”.  My warm, pink, perfect baby who quickly began to turn blue.  I stroked his soft cheek, willing him to come alive in my arms as thetears fell on his closed eyelids.  There was no magical fairytale ending to break the curse.  No true love’s kiss could make him breathe and let me look into his eyes.  My hummingbird had flown.  We love you Brody, I’m so sorry I let you down.  xxxx

“i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart).”  ee. cummings

Monday
Apr072014

K's Uterine Rupture Story

I had my son by C-section in 2006.  Joey was a little giant, 10 lbs. 2 oz.  Reason for the section was shoulder dystocia and cord prolapse.  My recovery was pretty uneventful, but I still thought that if we had another child, I’d like to try for a VBAC. 

I had several miscarriages between the births of my children, and consulted a reproductive endocrinologist at the University of Iowa (we lived about 45 minutes away from there in a small town called North Liberty.)  One of the tests I underwent was an ultrasound to check if my C-section scar was a contributing factor.  It looked good, so good that the tech called it “the most beautiful scar she ever saw”.

They found that the reason I kept miscarrying was most likely due to low progesterone levels, not anything as a result of my section (the only other uterine procedure I had was a D&C because of a miscarriage).  I was given the go ahead to try one more time.

I got pregnant with my daughter in the summer of 2009.  My doctors carefully went over my file and told me that they thought I would be a good candidate for a VBAC if I wanted one.  Even though I had a difficult pregnancy (I had lost Victoria’s twin at 8 weeks, she had been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at 20 weeks, and I had gestational diabetes that was difficult to control satisfactorily, even with insulin), they still offered me the chance to attempt a VBAC at the University Hospital, based on that ultrasound report about my scar and their opinion that it was highly unlikely that I would have another child with cord prolapse.

We scheduled a C-section for March 7, in case I didn’t go into labor naturally, so we could have the NICU ready for my daughter’s needs.  I went into labor naturally, however, on the evening of the 4th.  I stayed at home until my contractions were about 5 minutes apart, then we headed to the hospital.

My doctors had told me that they were not going to give me Pitocin, which was fine with me.  They told me that it could increase the chance of rupture.  Before I could get an epidural, they had me sign a bunch of paperwork.  I remember one of the sheets talked about uterine rupture, but said the risk was small.  They would not let me proceed with a VBAC unless I signed it, so I did.  And I waited.

I got moved to a primo spot (I could see the football stadium from my room’s window ~ which is a huge deal to UI fans.)  I quickly progressed from 3 cm to 8, then to 9.  We expected her to come any moment.

Then we stalled out.  I was stuck at 9.5.  Breaking my water didn’t help.  I asked my doctor for one more hour, but had no progress.   We agreed to wheel me down to the OR for a repeat C-section.  We were all pretty tired, and we wanted to finally meet this little girl.

At first it went pretty much like my first C-section had.  There was a light mood in the OR.  We told them what her name was going to be, we waited a bit for the NICU staff to arrive (so they could get their first really good look at her heart), and we waited for my husband to get suited up.  The doctor said she was making the incision, and there was happy chit chat.

Then about two minutes later, it went silent.  I looked at my husband.  He didn’t seem to know what happened either, but when we looked at the doctors and nurses they all looked pale.

My doctor spoke first.  Clipped tones, slightly louder voice, no nonsense, precise Indian accent. All business.  Everyone moved quietly, efficiently.

My baby girl was lifted high for me and my husband to see.  “She’s beautiful” my doctor said, then handed her off to the NICU staff.  Still no talking, other than a call for a certain clamp or other surgical instrument.

Me and my husband knew something was wrong.  No idea what, though.  It had to be bad.  Everyone in the room was pale and holding their breath but us. 

Then someone said the word “rupture”.

I looked at my husband.   English is not his native language, but he understood it before I did.  I have never seen him look that scared before.  I hope I never do again.

Oh shit, I thought, as it slowly sunk in.   Was that the only glimpse I was going to get of my daughter?  She was….is….beautiful. 

Someone asked my husband if he wanted to go to the NICU with Victoria.  I told him to go.  He refused.  I then ordered him out, and said she needed him more.  (Actually, I thought there was a good chance I was going to die and I didn’t want him to witness that.)  He reluctantly left.  I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to see him again.

The doctors continued to work.  I started silently praying, and occasionally dry heaving.  I started shivering so hard my teeth chattered, and was beyond grateful when they brought me a warm blanket.  On occasion the anesthesiologist asked me if I could feel any pain.  I couldn’t.  I did feel sleepy, though, and fought to stay awake.  I was scared to close my eyes.  I knew as long as I was awake I was alive.

I heard someone talk about my ureter.  I guess I looked confused, because the anesthesiologist told me that they wanted to be sure it was not cut while they were putting me back together. I wasn’t going anywhere until they were sure it was working correctly.

It was.  I saw some color creeping back into the doctors’ and nurses’ faces.  Someone said “closing up.”  The anesthesiologist told me I would be feeling some pressure.  I kept visualizing my guts being stuffed back inside me.  Someone told me that they were able to save my uterus.  I wasn’t going to die, after all.

When my daughter was delivered, I looked at the clock over my doctor’s shoulder.  She was born about 5 pm.  It was now closing in on 7.  Two hours of this.  I couldn’t believe it.

Finally, the doctor left the room, and I felt my gurney backing up.  They were wheeling me out of there.  There must have been ten doctors and nurses coming along with me to my first recovery room, just off the OR.  I guess I started to feel a little giddy then.  Couldn’t believe I came that close, and was still here.  I’d get to see my husband, my daughter and my son again.

I arrived at the first recovery room.  Had a nurse standing by, with what looked like six flat screens.  She was supposedly tracking other patients in there.  I noticed she kept asking me about my family, and my life, and other little chit-chat questions.  I guess all my signs looked good, and an hour later I was sent to the regular maternity ward.

First time I was alone in hours. 

I started wondering what the hell just happened to me, and was my baby ok.  I was exhausted and finally passed out for a bit.

I heard a nurse come in, and I asked her about Victoria.  She was fine, she said, and asked me if I wanted to see her.  YES!!!

They found someone to push my wheelchair over to the NICU.  I know I looked like hell, and even being wheeled over was tiring.  But I got to see her around midnight.  She still looked beautiful, and they got her out of her bassinet so I could hold her.  We made it.  Thank God.

The next morning, the nurse got me up to use a walker.  I remembered that from my first C-section.  I dragged myself down the hall, and would have tried to make it back to the NICU if I wouldn’t have been so wiped out.
Then, the first pair of doctors visited me while I had breakfast.  They were two women, in their late 20’s.  One brunette, one blonde.   They were the first to tell me just how badly I ripped apart. 

The blonde doctor told me that the OB was just about to start the incision into my uterus when she watched it split apart before her eyes.  I tore all the way into my vagina.  When I asked about my original C-section scar, she said that held together.  Everything else fell apart. 

Then the brunette doctor spoke.  They were able to save my uterus, but I should never think about having another child.  She said that it was highly unlikely I could carry another baby to term.  Any attempt would likely kill us both.  They could not guarantee that I would pull through a second time.

We had already decided that Victoria would be our last child, but hearing that was hard to take.  I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Maybe it is because it wasn’t just me and my husband making the decision any more, but my body hitting the limit of its capabilities. 

I got a variation of that second doctor’s speech about five more times before I was discharged four days later. 

The doctor who saved my life was able to answer a few more questions when she checked in on me.  Maybe her soft Indian accent made it easier to take.  She said the walls of my uterus were paper thin, and we were lucky that they held as long as they did.  I had lost two liters of blood before she could stanch the bleeding.  She had been practicing since the late 70’s, and I was the third rupture she had witnessed.

I didn’t have enough guts to ask her what happened to the other two women, or their babies.  I hope they made it through, too. 

For the next few months, I concentrated on getting my daughter prepared for her corrective open heart surgery.  She was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, and surprisingly the whole ordeal of her birth didn’t affect her one bit.  (She’s now a beautiful little four year old imp who loves torturing her older brother, dancing, swimming, ice skating and Hello Kitty.) 

I didn’t deal with the rupture until my daughter was almost a year old.  By then, she had recovered from her surgery with flying colors, we had moved from Iowa to Florida, and life was starting to settle down a bit.

I started to look up things about uterine rupture and   came across some survivor groups.  I’ve never met anyone in real life who had a uterine rupture, so they’ve been a source of comfort.  I stopped feeling like such a freak of nature knowing there’s other people out there like me and my family.

I’ll never be completely over it.  I can’t help but think about it whenever my daughter’s birthday rolls around, for example.  I can’t help reliving at least part of that day.  I dread the day when she innocently asks me what it was like when she was born….”was it a happy day, Mommy?”

Sometimes it hits me at random moments.  Just recently, when I was at Publix, I picked up a bottle of wine.  750 ml., average size.  For some reason, I put two more next to it in the cart and said, “That’s how much blood I lost that day.”  I sat and stared at it for a while.  Couldn’t believe I could lose that much, not have a transfusion, and still drag myself down a hallway the next day.

My husband still tears up and says he thought I was going to die and leave him a widower.  He only recently told me that while he was waiting to hear if I would make it, he was wondering how he would raise two small children alone.
No one ever tells you that uterine rupture affects men, too.  How could it not?  They watched the mother of their child almost die; maybe they witnessed their child’s death.  I worked with men, and know how they always want to “fix” things.  This is something that they can’t fix, possibly the first thing they can’t do one damn thing about.  I know women who would try again, but their partners just refuse.  They don’t want to take that risk.  Their hearts can’t take it.


One of the hardest things to accept is how many of the women in the survivor groups shouldn’t be there.  Most of them were in better shape than I was.  They had healthier pregnancies, they were younger (I was 41 when Victoria was born), their children had nothing wrong with them (or at least, nothing as serious as V’s heart condition).  I had a c section, and several of them did not.  Yet their children were taken, and my daughter wasn’t.  I still can’t make sense of that.

I didn’t think when I signed the paperwork that I would be that 0.5% they were talking about.  I had no idea how I would freak out over a late period, and start worrying about possibly being pregnant (After all, maybe I’m in that 1% of women who get a tubal ligation and it doesn’t work?).  I still have no idea how I’m going to address my daughter’s questions about her birth.  What if my daughter, or future daughter in law, is trying to decide if a VBAC is the right choice for her?  (I still think it’s a great option, but damn straight I start worrying like crazy when a friend of mine attempts one.)  How do you explain that you are happy when other survivors find your group, but you wish there weren’t so many of you in it?


This is why I get angry when I see some half-wit post that uterine rupture is overblown.  If you are only concentrating on the number of women who experience it, yes….it’s statistically small.  But the effects on the families who experience it are huge, even if everyone pulls through.  Shouldn’t that factor into the discussion, too?

I post a little about my story from time to time, usually when a post about HBAC (or UBAC) comes to my attention.  I say that a VBAC at a properly equipped hospital is an excellent choice, please reconsider your plans for something other than that. 

I get one of two reactions.  Either I’m ignored, or someone calls me a fear-mongerer.  I’m not.  I’m the best case scenario.  I pulled through, my daughter did too, and physically, I’m ok.  I have a talented doctor, a first rate surgical team and a properly equipped hospital to thank for that.  I practiced what I preach, and that’s why I’m here to talk about it.

I’ve not only heard the stories of women who tried HBAC and/or UBAC and fell on the wrong side of that percentage, I know their names and the names of the ones they lost or left behind.  They aren’t mere statistics to me.  They’re beautiful, brave women and beloved children.  They were someone’s everything. 

You don’t want to join our club, and we really don’t want more members in it.  That’s why I speak up.

Monday
Apr072014

Uterine Rupture Birth Stories

It’s very difficult to find uterine rupture (UR) birth stories. The moms who have them say they are shuffled off into the dark side of the Internet where they huddle together in isolation from the support they’d once had when they were pregnant. Told they need to go to Loss Groups, they are left almost alone in their grief. 

I’ve decided, after talking to several of these moms, that enough is enough. Their birth stories deserve to be heard, even if they ended in tragedy. And not all did, thank goodness, but enough have that it will surely make the reader uncomfortable and sad going through the stories. 

I am pro-Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) and pro-Home Birth After Cesarean (HBAC). I get a little more woogily when it comes to Vaginal Births After Multiple Cesareans (VBAmC), but do support them if they are done in the hospital. 

I believe in order to do a VBAC, the client needs to have a very skilled and experienced provider, one that knows the signs of UR in its beginning stages. These are fetal heart tones going down with or without uterine contractions, the uterus looking divided, the baby crawling up in the uterus, pain in the mother, not necessarily over the scar, a mother’s feeling of panic or fear, her blood pressure crashing and finally, and the least likely to be seen first, is bleeding. The blood doesn’t often come until the abdomen is opened during a cesarean. 

URs are rare, but are, as far as I can tell, happening more and more. Whether that’s because there are more women wanting to VBAC or because the cesarean rate is also climbing, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just hearing about them more. I’ve only seen two URs and both were in primip(aras –first time moms) when they were given too much Pitocin. I’ve never seen a UR in a VBAC mom. I know midwives that have, however, and they become skittish about attending VBACs ever-after. I wonder what I would have done as a home birth midwife if I’d have had a client experience a UR. Would I have stopped attending them at home? I often say that a midwife is a product of her experience, so very well could have stopped servicing HBAC moms and only doulaing them in the hospital. 

I’ve attended about 40 VBACs in the hospital, about 20 in birth centers and about 15 HBACs. I’ve attended VBAmCs in the birth centers, but none at home. The most previous cesareans a woman had was four, VBA4C and there were two of them at the birth center I was at in El Paso many years ago. I doubt they would do that again today. 

Concurrently being published is a piece by Dani Repp at “What Ifs and Fears Are Welcome.” She wrote a post regarding the risks and benefits of VBAC, Elective Repeat Cesarean Delivery and HBAC. I took part in the Q&A on the post and you can read it here

If any of you need more information or support from UR moms, you can contact me and I can put you in touch with a Facebook group or a UR mom.