I kinda want a birth do-over, but not really. I don't regret the decision to transfer to the hospital, because my baby needed to be born, I needed to birth him...but I think about all the things I didn't do that I should have done. But life isn't a game with do-overs and babies come how and when they intend to, birth is birth is birth. No matter how, no matter where, no matter when.
It was a few days later that I woke up feeling very off. I had taken a few middle of the night showers. I was napping and suddenly sat up, feeling a trickle down my leg. I called my midwife and was so excited because THIS WAS IT, we were going to have this baby after what felt like FOR.EV.ER. I bought the snacks foods and drinks and things just seemed to progress n terms of intensities and sensations. The midwifery crew arrived and things really got going; even the birth photographer showed up! We laughed together, I rode out some pretty strong waves of labor, beautiful photos were taken, I was pushy....but there was no baby.
After being in and out of the water, I was frustrated. I was certain my water had broken and my body was really trying to birth this babe. It was determined that my waters likely hadn't ruptured and after consenting to an internal exam, that my cervix was nowhere near ready. Feeling like a failure and letting the defeat set in, I sent everyone home along with the birth pool. I was mad at myself, frustrated with my body and sending silent questions to my baby. I know birth works. I believe in birth and the glorious form that the Creator knit together to bring forth life. What was going on? As it turns out, my little guy got a bit turned around.
That night I continued to surge every 2-3 minutes, all night long and throughout the morning and afternoon, until I called Sara a second time. Going on two days of some of the most painful sensations I've ever felt. I'm talking split my body in two I'm being ripped right down the middle sensations that can only mean that something isn't quite right. Intuitively, I knew something wasn't. I felt no relief. In tears from being exhausted and in extreme amounts of pain, I called my midwife and asked her if she would check my cervix again (not something I would normally ask for) because surely I was getting somewhere...right? Sara came over in the late afternoon and attempted to find my cervix, but could only guess the dilation as the cervix was in such a position that made checking difficult. We attempted several maneuvers to help baby down and after a very painful and scary attempt at helping to "shift" baby, she expressed her concerns that something wasn't "meshing". We spoke about transferring to the hospital and right away my mind went to a terrible place. The hospital was the LAST place I wanted to be when birthing my child. I know the idea sounds strange to most, but most people haven't walked a mile in my shoes.
Hospital birth means my baby won't breathe, NICU stays for indeterminate amounts of time, it means having to relive my first sons birth. It means my body had failed, or that I did something wrong. I was scared for my unborn baby and for me. Hospitals meant no control, non-consented procedures, intervention upon intervention. Everything I was against and opposed vehemently. However, what choice did I have? Nothing else seemed to be working and my body was obviously trying to birth this bubba. He needed help. It was when Sara said she'd stay with me that I agreed. We were officially transferring care. Off we went.
What is a mere ten minute drive felt like eternity as my body was still laboring. Every bump, every turn was felt. Upon arrival I expected to be treated poorly; most hospitals are hostile to home birth transfers. However, that was NOT what greeted me. I was met by warm, but concerned, smiles from the staff. My amazing midwife has phoned ahead and given them a heads up on our arrival. I thought I would be okay, that my insecurities and fear of hospitals and fear of losing control would stay hidden...but once I was wheeled up to the birthing suite and saw the warming station.....I lost it. All I could hear was the far away voices of neonatologists and nurses past, and the distinct sound of an air compression bag being squeezed. In my minds eye I was back in Germany, watching my sons limp and lifeless body being worked on. I covered my ears and fought the urge to run away screaming. Instead I opened my eyes and focused on Sara. She was from my present, not my past. Her voice pulled me from the movies, a juxtaposed view of one memory playing on top of the present...like two film reels being played at the same time. The flashbacks stopped after I started to remind myself where I was at. I was here for my newest baby and TJ was safe and sound at home probably watching tv. I could feel my hands gripping the sides of my head, slowly loosening their grip. The nurses question of "is she okay" vaguely registered in my mind. Slowly, I could feel the fear being replaced with a strong sense of determination and the urgent need to birth this new life forth. I was moved to the bed. I was adamant that I was there for assistance; this birth would not be taken from me. I denied the use of epidurals and accepted the use of a small but much needed dose of an intravenous drug that gave me pain relief for a brief moment in time.
Prepared as I was for being treated like a pariah, imagine my shock when ALL of my wishes were not only respected, but met with a very quick and simple, " OKAY!" No separating my baby and I, baby placed on my belly/chest immediately, I want to pull baby up and out myself, waiting until cord is done pulsing before cutting, no circumcision (I would be asked at least a dozen more times before being discharged), I would be keeping my placenta, no pokes or ointment for baby, leave me alone and let me birth: these were all my wishes (that I can recall).
All the while my body is working so hard and my baby is FINALLY moving and once the pain reliever is administered, my pelvic area relaxed enough for baby to move and descend. I remember the anesthesiologist coming in and telling me I would need the epidural. I looked her straight in the eye and informed her I would not be getting an epidural this day. The medicine wore off and my body started cranking out waves after increasing wave of intensity; I knew we were almost there. Everything was a blur until it came time to birth baby; I remember the resident and attending standing at the foot of the bed. I opened my eyes and focused on them, when doctors huddle together it's never a good thing. I heard a murmured "dystocia" and promptly asked what was going on. The attending asked me if she could maneuver baby because he/she was a little stuck and she knew I wanted as hands off as possible. I consented because I could feel that baby was stuck and needed help. It took 3 pairs of hands to help get babies little head and shoulder unstuck and a lot of roaring through the intense feelings and moving baby out. That moment, the moment when you're certain you'll break in two pieces followed by a rush of relief as the pressure is released; the doctor told me to reach down and put him up. I reached down and felt a warm little body and pulled that squish right up onto me. It was a beautiful boy! I remember him being so warm and oh the marks of hard work all over his sweet face. He was so turned around for so long; all I could think was how thankful I was he was here and glad I was to not be pregnant anymore! His feet were wrinkly and peeling, signs that he as nearing the end of his time as a womb-baby. He had large shoulders and his finger nails were just perfectly formed. Every part of him was perfect, nothing out of place and everything just pure brand new to this world perfection.
Birthing the placenta proved to be the most painful and most uncomfortable. I vaguely remember or watching the doctor do a manual extraction of the placenta because it was taking too long. This is where things get fuzzy for me because my blood pressure plummeted after getting up and using the bathroom and I don't remember much of anything except for just feeling like I was underwater in a tunnel. Apparently I was losing blood in massive quantities and my husband had to take over skin to skin care for baby because I couldn't hold him.
Once I was able to rest and was given more IV fluids, my blood pressure improved and I was able to initiate breast-feeding and continue skin to skin with my brand-new baby. Zechariah had finally arrived and it was like a huge wave of relief mixed with the bittersweet feelings of being in a hospital environment. I refused to feel like a failure and I instead focused all of my energy on my brand new baby and absorbed all that had transpired in the past week. I laid in the delivery room soaking up my sweet baby boy, who weighed in at a whopping 9 pounds 8 ounces and measured 23 inches long! My amazing midwife and her student stayed with me the entire time, offering words of wisdom and encouragement, holding my space for me. Words can never express how much I adore my birth team; I never would have had the courage to transfer to the hospital or continued to believe in my body to birth had it not been for Sara and Sam.
Zechariah's birth story is one full of lessons in patience, trust, humility, acceptance, and faith. In a way it represents coming full circle in birthing my babies. It started with a traumatizing hospital birth, continued with a much needed and healing homebirth, and ended with a completely healing and perfect hospital birth. I do have some feelings of defeat and wonder sometimes if I had done something different, walked an extra mile every week, ate less meat...stood on my head...would Z have been born at home? Then I remember that "what ifs" are pointless and the reality is Z was born where he needed to be born and with the very people he needed to be surrounded by. I regret nothing. I cherish everything. Birth is beautiful no matter where it happens, how it happens, or when it happens. As long as the birthing woman is respected for the amazing warrior and powerful being she is all is well; as long as her choices, her body, and her baby are treated with dignity, she will birth the way she is meant to.