From my 20 Years of Birth Stories blog - this is the birth of my third child:
I was nursing Meggie and hadn't had a period since her conception. I had a feeling I was pregnant, but test after test showed I was not. I went to see a German midwife and her bimanual exam couldn't find a baby either, so I went to the military docs. I saw the black male doc that I despised; he was evil to women in birth and I suspected really hated fat white women. He did a bimanual exam, too, and found nothing, but, at my insistance, ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound a week later didn't find anything either.
I was stumped.
I began feeling movements, but with Irritable Bowel Syndrome anyway, those movements might just have been gas rumbling around. You'd think that with this being my third time I might know better, but I was just as lost as the first time. Perhaps more so.
One morning, I was lying in bed nursing Meghann. And dang nursing hurt! I kept thinking, for months, that I had thrush, but her mouth was clear. My nipples just hurt like crap. My LLL leader friends questioned invisible thrush or invisible pregnancies - perhaps I was delusional? Wouldn't be unheard of.
So, lying in bed, I watched my intestines rumble so good I could see a leg sweep across my very fat belly. I poked at my then-husband to show him my non-pregnancy in action. I told him, over and over, I was pregnant, but he didn't buy it since all the tests and ultrasound and docs and midwives disputed it. I was never more sure. I told him if that wasn't a baby, he best just schedule surgery to remove an alien dancing tumor or something.
That day I went to the PX and bought another pregnancy test and I held my pee the whole time. Lo and behold, the line jumped POSITIVE that time.
My wonderful midwife, Mary Carol Akers (who read my other blog and has since commented... please email me so I can email you, Mary Carol!) ordered an ultrasound and they found a baby 20 weeks along. Where had it been hiding before?! Probably behind my fat. By my calculations of intuition and fetal movement, I was only 16 weeks or so and told Mary Carol I was not going to be induced if they thought I was late; that I knew s/he wasn't going to come for another few weeks. She laughed and said we would deal with that if the time came to discuss it. It didn't. The ultrasound was pretty right on.
My "due date" by that late u/s was April 18. She was born April 20.
However, an unexpected "complication" occurred as my membranes ruptured on April 13.
I was going to have another homebirth (Meggie was a UC at home), but with a midwife this time. I'd found a German hebamme (midwife) and I liked her lots! Heide Korner (with the double dots over the O in her last name) was the teeniest of women. She'd had two cesareans herself, but had caught over 500 babies at home, over 1500 in hospitals. She was a delight with her heavy German accent and not all the American words needed. We were still pretty darn poor, but paid her what she asked for because we so wanted a homebirth without the drama of EMS and CPS like we'd had with Meggie's birth.
When my water broke - and it broke with a huge gush and kept dripping - I called Heide (pronounced "High-duh") and she came over agreeing that it was, indeed, my water. I knew that. I had no contractions at all, so after about 12 hours, I started doing all the aggressive things we knew to do to invoke contractions. I was already nursing a 23 month old, couldn't have intercourse, have a hard enough masturbating not pregnant, so orgasm was out of the question... castor oil was the next line of defense. Ick.
Many years later, I learned to do castor oil shakes. Two big spoonfuls of frozen orange juice, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and 2-4 ounces of castor oil (depending on the urgency necessary)... blended in the blender and glugged like nobody's business before it separates again.
But then, before labor with Aimee, I mixed it with orange juice... shaken. By the time the shaking stopped, it was already totally un-mixed and vile. There are not many more vile tastes in the world than castor oil. Hard to believe our grandparents/great-grandparents had to take a spoonful of it every day. blech
I shoved the concoction down my throat as fast as I could and tried, for at least 30 minutes, not to vomit. I never did get diarrhea.
No contractions 4 hours later meant that I had to do the mixed drink again.
And some people do add a shot of vodka/tequila/rum in their orange juice/ice cream mixture. I didn't.
I drank it again and really thought I was going to be ill that time, but I kept it down. I probably should have puked. It might have helped. I still didn't get diarrhea that is the hallmark of castor oil. You'd think 8 ounces would have done something, right?
At 36 hours, my hebamme couldn't keep me as a client anymore. I was devastated. That meant I had to have a baby in the hospital - again.
I called Mary Carol the next day and she said to come in at 72 hours ROM and we would consider an induction. I cried and began writing a birth plan.
Of course, I was taking my temperature every 4-6 hours, nothing in the vagina, wiping front to back (which is really hard for a fat chick), and taking Vitamin C... and staying home. It was hard not going out, to the park, to the PX, seeing my LLL friends, but I did what I knew I should do.
My membranes had ruptured on Sunday morning. Wednesday morning, I went to the hospital where one of the other CNMs met me and hooked me up to the monitors. The baby sounded great. I had assembled my cadre of spouse, girlfriend Pam who lived 2 hours away in Bad Kruznach, and another LLL leader friend (who abandoned me once I came out as a lesbian) and we all were stuffed into the tiny triage room where I laughed and laughed and laughed, making the monitor jump around noisily, sending a nurse in every few minutes to re-position the belts looking for my bouncing baby... jiggling baby, is more like it. I sobered as long as I could while they re-positioned things and then, as soon as she would walk out, we broke into hysterics once again. I can't remember what was so funny, but can guess it had something to do with a baby coming soon and my not even being in labor yet.
After they had enough of a strip, the CNM came in to do a vaginal exam. I bristled. As she did the exam, she had the strip of Ph paper in her hand to check for amniotic fluid. She also had a long q-tip to collect some fluid to put under the microscope to check for ferning.
The Ph paper came up negative.
Puzzled, she inserted a sterile speculum and rubbed the swab into my very soft, but closed cervix. After waiting for it to dry on the slide, she wandered over to the microscope. Peering in, squinting, and then lifting her head, she looked back down and then at me. "It's negative," she said.
No amniotic fluid could be found.
Am I sure it had broken? Yes.
Did I keep leaking? Yes.
When did the leaking stop? I dunno. I thought I was still leaking.
Mary Carol called and talked to the CNM on and said to let me go home and wait for labor to start. I was ecstatic!!!!
The CNM tucked a doppler into my hands as she shooed me out the door to go home and wait until labor began on its own. I was stunned.
I went home and started on yet another birth plan.
I composed a birth plan for L&D, another for the Newborn Nursery, one for Recovery, and yet another for the Postpartum floor. With Mary Carol's help, I arranged meetings with the head nurses of each department and scheduled an appointment with the neonatologist as well. I was to meet them all on Friday.
No labor still by Friday, so I headed into the hospital for a full day of discussions with head nurses and a doc. Fine, fine, fine, they all said, when I spoke about minimal interventions, freedom of movement, wearing my own clothes... all those things that were incredibly daring to ask for at the time.
The meeting with the neonatologist was some different. Armed with my list, we spoke, for over 2 hours, going point by point, about what I wanted or didn't want. Discussing such things as dextrostix, bili sticks, baths, eye ointment, Vitamin K, early discharge (I was shooting for 6 hours postpartum... 48 hours was early discharge during that time), and breastfeeding continuously (unheard of at that time). The doc was amazingly cool about everything. He signed off on every single want of mine, even lowering the early discharge from 6 hours to "4-6 hours!" The only sticking point was the Vitamin K shot. After discussion, I acquiesced and accepted the shot, but we negotiated getting it right before I walked out of the hospital. No problem! He'd allowed for no bath, early discharge, no erythromycin, getting the baby in the recovery room and everything. I could live with the Vit K shot.
The head nurse of the Newborn Nursery typed up the agreements, the doc signed, I signed, and the nurse signed. I still have that original to this day. I was very proud of what I negotiated.
Labor began quietly on Sunday morning, while it was still dark. 7 days after my membranes ruptured. I slipped out of bed and went to labor/lie down/rock in one of the 13 bedrooms the
"bowling alley" housed. (The bowling alley is the top floor of military housing... the 4th floor... all bedrooms, lined up down a hallway. Freezing the further down the hall one went.)
I remember the dark of the room. My husband checked on me periodically, but pretty much tended to 3.5 year old Tristan and 23 month old Meghann so I could labor. I felt good. Ready. I would lie down sometimes, but found myself sitting and rocking again during a contraction.
My labor with Meggie had been 39 hours long starting when contractions had gotten down to 5 minutes apart. 2 hours of pushing.
This time, there was no time. I just rocked, alone, in the dark.
At 12:15pm, spouse came in to say that Meggie really needed a nap and could I please nurse her. I dreaded it. Her nursing was the reason I had slipped into one of the other rooms earlier in the day. She made contractions come on hard. After a week of trying so hard to get labor going, once it got going, it got going fast and hard with suckling.
I took Meghann reluctantly into our bed (we all slept together) and laid down to nurse her inbetween contractions. She latched on and I had a GIANT contraction that ruptured my membranes... again! Here we go, I thought.
I stepped out of the room, leaning on the doorjam and told my spouse that it was time to go. He said he had to take the kids to the sitter, so gathered them together and whisked them off to our friend's apartment in the housing complex a mile away. While he was gone, I called my friend Pam in Bad Kruznach and told her I hoped she'd make it. I called my LLL friend and gave her directions again to the hospital (she'd lost them). During the direction-giving, she kept saying, "Are you pushing?" "You aren't going to have that baby alone, are you?" and I just plowed on with directions.
When I hung up, my husband walked in, all casual-like and I told him it was time to go. He looked at me... I was leaning over the military-issued brown squared chair, contracting hard, sweating like a banshee in my blue dress... he looked at me and said I had better get control or they were going to give me drugs. He barely knew I had been in labor, but I really had only been in labor at all for 7.5 hours. He really thought I had a long, long way to go.
He went into the kitchen and started cleaning the rice and beans he'd made for lunch. It was about 12:50pm. I told him I really thought it was time to go and when he blew me off again, I left without him. I screamed at him as I slammed the door and headed down the stairs. I don't know where I thought I was going and I probably should have stayed put, but I was going to go, with or without him.
He followed once he realized I was serious.
Going down the stairs, I had 2 contractions every half flight. I was crankin'!
Outside was heaven! I was sweating so profusely, I couldn't get cold enough. It was April 20 and 40 degrees outside.
Spouse opened the car door for me. We had a two-door red Toyota Tercel, 1982. I got in, sitting, and he went to the other side. A contraction hit and I jumped out of the car. Spouse jumped out to come and stand with me. DON'T TOUCH ME!! Contraction ended, I got back in, this time on my knees facing frontwards. Spouse got back in the driver's seat. A contraction came and I jumped back out again. Spouse jumped out, stood next to me and I hollered for him to lower my seat's back as the contraction began to fade. Once the contraction was gone (sort of), I got in on hands and knees, the back of the seat at a 45 degree angle, me hanging over it. Spouse jumped fast into the car, closed the door and headed off.
Now, he caught on that I was pushing. He began chiding me to stop pushing. Blow! Blow! Blow! Blowing wasn't doing anything but allowing me to push with lots of hot air.
Driving the 7 minutes or so to the hospital, it seemed like forever. Contractions sped through my body a lot faster than the Toyota went through the Frankfurt streets. Thankfully, it was a Sunday, so minimal traffic, but it wasn't as fast as I wanted/needed it to be. I remember looking up and thinking, "We are only this far?" Several times.
Frankfurt in 1986 was a volatile time. Bombs exploded around the city off and on. Right before Aimee was born, an entire section of where our PX compound was had been blown to bits, the used car lot, part of the Burger King... it sucked, but it was a part of our day-to-day existence. Much like it is now, actually.
Because of the bombings and high alert status, the extended inspections were going on. Normal inspections included long handled mirrors being run under cars and trucks, opening the trunks and hoods of cars, and asking driver and passengers to please step out for a visual inspection. The extended inspection included running dogs through to sniff for bombs.
Our hospital (which doesn't exist anymore) was less than 3 miles from the PX area, so had barriers entering and at least two MPs on at any given time, and they were running the dogs through cars. Even on April 20.
I was full-on pushing as we pulled to the guard shack in front of the Army hospital and as the guard asked for our IDs, I gave the most gigantic push possible so they got it that a baby was coming out my vagina. The guard wavered, but finally said, "Go! go!" and waved spouse through.
Pulling around the left of the hospital, he stopped at the foot of Labor and Delivery. Jumping out of the car, he ran and opened my door so I could get out. I yelled that I couldn't move, to go get someone fast. As he started off, I told him to check and see if the baby was there. He lifted my aqua dress and said, "nope" and I said, "Go!"
Working at the hospital as a doula (before the word doula existed in our lingo), I knew their pet peeves. One was the doorbell. The nurses and doctors hated when someone would come through the double doors without being invited in after announcing their presence with the doorbell.
As spouse was running up the long ramp to L&D, I screamed, "Ring the doorbell!"
And then I was alone. With my baby. I was kind of upright, kind of leaning over the seat and I felt another contraction coming on. I was the most present I had ever been with any of my labors in that one moment... in those 60 seconds where I was alone. Earlier in the day, I was pretty present, but I was also worried about noises with the other kids around and stuff. This moment, there was no worry. Just peace. Me and the baby. Just me and the baby.
I felt her drop into my vagina. From uterus into vagina. It was incredible. 19 (21) years later, I can still feel that feeling. As if it were a minute ago. I know I smiled.
And then chaos ensued.
A nurse came running down with my spouse, she pushing a wheelchair. "Get in! Can you get in?" she implored. I calmly said, "the baby's here" and the nurse lifted my dress and saw her head. "Shit!" she hollered and told someone to go get the precip pack. I learned later that the nurse was a CNM who hadn't gotten her paperwork to deliver yet at this hospital. So, when they ran in for the precip pack, they also called for the doctor.
I learned 2 days later that the women in the day room were watching the scene unfold. They could see out the window at the car, hear the nurses hollering for a doctor, and all plastered their faces against the glass to watch me birth my baby. Dr. Mark Repka clomped clomped clomped down the hall (wearing Birkenstock clogs as all docs back then did) and dashed through L&D, down the ramp and to our car. I knew Mark from working as a doula. He was one of the kindest docs in the mix and was glad, later, that I had him. At the time, however, I didn't care a whit.
Mark hovered outside the car, me still on my knees in the car, and Aimee barrelling out. He implored me to get down onto my side and I balked. He said, "she can't come out this way!" and that was enough to get me to flop over onto my right side, face into the back of the driver's seat. I suppose in skinny women, babies can come out with moms on their knees in a bucket seat, but for a nearly 300 pound woman, the doc was actually right. Thighs and ass, all in the way.
The emergency brake jammed into my right side and I was suffocating from not being able to breathe, my face crammed into the plastic car seat. Over and over I said I couldn't breathe, but all the activity was down at my bottom end, so no one heard me. In a momentary lull, I said it again and Mark sent spouse around the car to lower the car's front seat back. As he did, I inhaled deeply, felt Aimee coming, and spouse grabbed the camera sitting in the back seat.
Mark said to the CNM, "scissors" and I yelled, "No episiotomy! No episiotomy!" and Mark said, "Mrs. (fill in last name), you are in the car, we are not going to do an episiotomy." Aimee oozed out of my vagina easily. Her sister had been 10 pounds 6 ounces at 20 inches long... a nasty shoulder dystocia. This baby, a girl, weighed 8 pounds 13.5 ounces and was 21 inches long. Her older sister had paved the way.
Mark said, "scissors" again and I yelled, "No episiotomy! No episiotomy!" and he laughed, along with the others and said, "Mrs. (last name), the baby is born, I am not cutting an episiotomy. I'm cutting the cord."
Because it was cold, cold! they cut the cord zippity doo dah and whisked Aimee into the hospital.
Everyone gone, I was left with the nurse's aid who wanted me to get out of the messy car and into the wheelchair.
As I stepped out of the car, umbilical cord dangling with a forceps connected to the end, I plopped down into the wheelchair and heard applause. Looking up, I saw a man on a balcony across the parking lot and he was hooting and clapping. "What was it?!" The nurse and I in unison - "a girl!" Woo hoo!! I started laughing at the absurdity of having a baby in the car. I had no concept of the mileage it would have over the years. I teach my students and clients that if they have a baby in the car to not be worried at all... that it is the coolest birth story forever.
The teeny nurse started pushing the wheelchair towards the ramp that led to L&D, but right off the street/asphalt part, before the ramp, there is a 1/4 inch step-up and the chick hit it... hard. I was knocked out of the wheelchair and stood there laughing, umbilical cord tick tocking between my legs, the clamp brushing my calf. I told her I could walk up the ramp perfectly fine, but she insisted I sit, so I did. I couldn't wait to see this.
As she pushed me up the ramp, she was nearly horizontal. I just laughed at the situation and swear she put oxygen on her face when she dumped me into L&D's hands.
I was wheeled through L&D, past the Newborn Nursery where Aimee was in the warmer and right into the Delivery Room. I hollered for them to bring me Aimee as I flew past the Nursery and they said she would meet me in Recovery.
Spouse tells me that when he went into the Nursery (he went in when the gang left me in the car - per my instructions), they grabbed my birth plan and the Nursery staff stood next to her in the warmer, ticking off what they were not to do. Bath? Nope. Erythromycin? Nope. Vit K? Later. etc. They were lost. And I loved hearing that.
In the Delivery Room (and for those confused about all these separate rooms, it was like that - a separate place to labor, usually a room for two women, separated by a curtain; a Delivery Room that doubled as an OR; a Recovery Room where women spent about 2 hours postpartum... until they peed, usually; and then the Postpartum floor where they stayed 3-4 days for a vaginal birth and 6-8 days for a cesarean), I sat alone in the wheelchair. I felt the placenta let go and started a great contraction. I hollered that the placenta was coming. No one heard but the echoing walls of the Delivery Room. I stood up and out plopped the placenta, right into the seat of the wheelchair. I stood there and yelled, "Placenta's here!" and Mark came running back in saying something about, "Can't I please give you a shot of pitocin?" blah blah "precip" blah and I said, "Nope" and reached under my dress and did some self-nipple stimulation. I barely had any bleeding. I didn't think to tell him that I'd been in labor for quite some time, I just didn't come in. I did not precip.
Mary Carol, my CNM, had said she would come in for me even if I had the baby not on her shift. However, when I delivered in the car and they called her, she laughed and said she'd see me in 3 days instead.
I was put into yet another wheelchair and moved to the Recovery Room and met spouse who had Aimee in his arms. I jumped into bed and touched my daughter for the first time on the outside. An overhead warmer was put over both of us and we were toasty within moments. I don't see these warmers anymore, either. All I see are the warmers attached to the isolettes in birthing rooms. Those overhead warmers were the best for keeping moms and babes together when a baby was slightly chilled or having some breathing issues.
I unwrapped her to look at her. My friend Kathy got there and we told her the story, laughing the whole time. Aimee had a brown spot on her left knee and I asked the nurse if it was a birthmark. She asked me what I thought it was... and I said, "I dunno, dirt?" and she laughed asking if I dropped her on the ground out there. Nope. Beautiful brow birthmark she carries on her upper knee to this day. I never see it without thinking of her amazing birth.
We nursed great and things were so fabulous, the neonatologist on-call said we could go after 4 hours postpartum. Then he came in at 3 hours and said that if she got the Vit K, we could go. Do it!
I was home 3 hours and 10 minutes after leaving.
Spouse went and got the kids while I called Heide, the German midwife, who came rushing over. When the kids were there, Heide checked Aimee from head to toe and chided me for not calling her when I was about to deliver. Confused, I said, "I thought you couldn't keep me as a client?!" and she said if I'd have called, she would have come. Dang.
So many other things to share. I had a really hard time nursing Aimee; she sucked on her lower lip and it wasn't discovered for over 2 weeks. I tandem nursed and that was really difficult for me, but I made it.
Besides the beauty of having another child, when Aimee was 2 days old, I went to a La Leche League meeting and met Sarah, the love of my life. Sarah'd heard about my cool birth, my fabulous birth plan, and came to the LLL meeting especially to meet me. It was there I met another woman who watched Aimee be born and told me the story from the inside of the hospital. I loved being able to have the story from several locations! I was with my baby girl.
I still laugh... am smiling writing this... it was such a great story to live.
And even more fun to tell!