In the early morning hours of April 4 I knew contractions were starting. But I tried to get more rest, as I knew my baby would be here by supper and I would need plenty of rest. I laid in bed reflecting on my previous births. There was no way I would allow this birth to end the same way and had taken great measures to ensure just that. This time there would be no unnecessary medical interventions, only that which was absolutely necessary since I was planning a homebirth.
At 5:00am I finally got out of bed to do some walking, contractions were a little closer together and the excitement was getting the best of me. I thought about how I was forced to go to the hospital way to early with Jared, our first baby. I was only dilated to a 2 when the drama began. My water was broke against my knowledge or permission, I.Vs were hooked up, and I was stuck in bed, which by the way, is extremely painful during labor! After no progress in 7 hours a c-section was done to ‘save his life.’ I later found out the doctor just didn’t know how to turn a baby and had something he needed to go to that night. I had to beg for five hours to hold my son.
Around 5:35 am I started to cook for the day. That was very helpful, as I didn’t have to concentrate on each and every contraction as my midwife had taught me. Here I was getting ready to have my third baby and everything seemed like it was the first time. I was just excited this time as I was with Jared or Anthony. I knew so much more this time it was amazing yet I didn’t even know if we were having a girl or boy. I thought about where I was in this stage of labor with the boys; flat of my back in a bed with nothing to eat or drink. At one point I was shaking from hunger and knew I would feel so much better if I just had real food. As I patted my tummy during a contraction, I took a big bite of my egg omelet, a tear ran down my cheek as I mourned the loss of a good birth that went bad for no real reason except a policy written by someone who had never even had a baby.
It seemed like I was in the kitchen for hours when the alarm set for 6:00 am went off in our bedroom. I rushed in to turn it off so it didn’t wake Mark. I kissed his cheek and told him he didn’t have to go to work today, he was going to be a father again by the end of the day. I went back to the kitchen, as I needed a good distraction from these contractions again. The food was almost done for lunch and supper. Breakfast was on the stove. I sat at the table and looked out the window, the beginnings of the sun started to peer out. Again my thoughts turned to my previous births. It took all my strength to have a VBAC with Anthony, but I did it. I thought of my previous birth plan and how it was laughed at once I got to the hospital. Then by the time I got to my room it was ‘lost.’ The doctor, I had diligently paid in full, in cash, was nowhere to be found. I had no idea that he didn’t even have an obligation to come to the hospital even after we had paid him. I laid there in total shock. I told them I ate a big meal right before I came in knowing they would have to allow me some time before they tried to push a c-section again. As I sat looking out the kitchen window I thought of how peaceful it was not having to deal with strangers who try to push their wants onto me during a most sensitive time as labor. I thought of how they tried to scare Mark into making me consent to another c-section while I was secretly pushing under the sheets. If it weren’t for a nurse watching my monitor at the nurse’s station I would have just kept pushing him out while they argued as to whether or not I could do it. By the time they got all their stuff together he was crowning, I pushed him out into the arms of a nurse I had grabbed by the arm and yelled, “Catch him!”
It was 6:25 before Mark came into the kitchen. He asked if I was really in labor or could this maybe be those Braxton Hicks again. I hugged him real hard and let him know this was for real. That woke him up, he started rushing around, asking what needs to be done. I told him breakfast, lunch and supper was on the stove and we were set for a day of baby. He asked if I had called the midwife yet and I let him know I wasn’t ready quite yet. He wanted to call his mom. Absolutely not, I told him. She was worse than dealing with hospital staff in labor. I thought of my labor with Anthony and how she had bullied Mark my whole pregnancy and told him over and over ‘Once a c-section, always a c-section.’ That came from a woman who had a saddle block and had her children dragged from her body with forceps. That was all Mark knew about birth growing up, and I didn’t know much more. I was always taught you just go to the hospital as soon as you are in labor and leave the decisions regarding yourself and your baby to someone else.
It was getting close to 7:00am when Mark insisted I call my midwife. She gave me some pointers and lots of encouragement and started on her way. I started the water for a nice warm bath, as contractions were growing more painful. I was sitting in a chair on the side of the tub when I just started crying. Mark rushed in. He asked if I needed to go to the hospital after all. I hugged him and let him know I was just having a hard time dealing with what had happened in my previous labors with the boys and I just needed support. I reassured him that physically I was fine, better than fine, I was in labor and it was wonderful. Wonderful isn’t the word used to describe most labor, but the excitement of being able to just have my baby with no fight or arguing, no strangers in and out, no IVs, and no bed, it was a wonderful labor despite thinking about my previous births.
I sank into the tub in total bliss. The contractions were harder, my excitement grew, but my feelings of loss of my two previous births kept creeping in. Mark poured water over my back during contractions. He paused and said, “ I’m so sorry for not trusting you during your pregnancy with Jared and Anthony. I know you love our children just as much as I do and would never do anything to put their life in danger. I’m sorry I didn’t take the time to read and learn more or listen to what you had learned.” With that I burst into tears again. I needed to hear that, I know my healing began at that moment, he understood. We sat there in each other’s arms, calmness over came me. I thought I had felt peace with this labor all morning, but not like this. A great burden was lifted. I had been so angry for so long that he didn’t stand up for me in the hospital, he took the trader’s side, I had felt. I thought about my pregnancy and how far we had come as a couple, as a family. I smiled inside when I thought of how he had wrote my midwife a nasty letter telling her she was unqualified to deliver babies and he wanted someone who knew how to resuscitate and put his baby on oxygen if it were necessary. I chuckled inside thinking about how she wrote him a beautiful letter in return, not once scolding him for how he treated her. She assured him that she not only carried oxygen, and knew how to resuscitate a newborn, but taught CPR many of the nurses in the area hospitals. So if he wanted to blame the nurses if something went wrong, she would still be the bad guy as she was the one who may have taught them.
There was a knock at the door. It was his mother! My heart sank. She had threatened to call child protective services and 911 if we went through with a homebirth. I hoped Mark would tell her I was sleeping and to leave. There was another knock. It was my midwife, Darlene. She came in and hugged Mark and his mother, congratulating them. Then she did something brave, she asked if Mark’s mother would help her! How did she know that would be the breaking point, how did she know that asking this cold, perfectly manicured woman that has given me nothing but grief, would melt her heart and she would be supportive.
It was 7:45am when I asked about the time. It seemed like hours, but it was just a few minutes. Contractions were much harder, much closer together, I needed support, but was so happy I could barely stand it. Darlene checked me while I was still in the tub. Baby’s heart tones were good, and I was already dilated to a 9, I cried again, smiling ear to ear. My thoughts went back to my labor with Anthony. At this time in labor I was refusing cervical checks every fifteen minutes, demanding they not put a screw into my baby’s head, and begging for something to eat with a little protein to build up my strength. Here I was in my own bathtub and my midwife knows what is important to me and will honor my wishes.
I wanted out of the tub. I think I just wanted a change of position to see if it helped these contractions. As I dried off and wrapped a towel around me, my midwife put her arm around me to help me to my room. My water broke as soon as I took one step. I looked over to see that she had brought all her equipment in and it was discretely waiting to be used. Mark had put the plastic sheeting on the bed, just in case I wanted to go there. But after drying off, I caught my breath and asked for the birth stool. Another contraction came immediately. I squatted with a push, I was amazed how my body knew what to do. I had thought of pushing on a bed, in the bath, and on the birth stool, but this felt good. My mother-in-law stood at the bathroom door holding the birth stool. I squatted again pushing. My midwife softly told me I was doing fine, my vital signs were good, baby’s heart tones were perfect, just push as I needed to. I looked at Mark, and gave in to my labor, I could feel my baby’s head emerging slowly. Wow, I had never actually experienced this before. I had been yelling at nurses during this time with Anthony. Darlene took Mark’s hands and led them to the baby’s head then she felt around the neck. Baby looks fine, she said, as our precious baby daughter slipped into his awaiting hands at 8:16am. I was crying, Mark was crying, my mother-in-law was crying, and in the hallway, there was Jared and Anthony crying because I was not in bed to snuggle them. My mother-in-law picked up Anthony and took Jared by the hand and stood in the bathroom doorway so they could see their new sister. I nursed her while waiting for the cord to stop pulsing and be cut. I was in total awe of her, all 9 pounds and 8 ounces. I did it, I did it, I kept thinking to myself.
I am writing this as part of my therapy. I want to share it with as many people possible.Even though I had the most wonderful birth, I have suffered tremendous postpartum depression at the loss and disappointment of my labor and births with Jared and Anthony. I am having such a hard time dealing with the fact that anyone could treat a laboring woman in such a way as to steal away her birth experience or make the birth of a child a horrible memory. After my homebirth everyone treated me as if I should just bounce back like super woman because I was strong to have a homebirth. But in reality it was enduring what I went though in the hospital that made me strong. I had to be strong to get through all of those policies and procedures, that were totally unnecessary, and still end up with a live baby. Homebirth was a breeze, for the first time I was taken care of, I had choices, I delivered my baby. And Mark stood with me.
I did have a small tear where my scar was from the tear with Anthony, but it was minor. We thought we had the perfect name picked out before her birth, but after Mark’s mother made such a complete turn around and has been so supportive since the birth, we decided to name our first daughter after both our mothers, hence the name Melissa Gail. I have never been separated from her and have exclusively nursed her from her first moment of birth.
Darlene Dorries-Scrivner, Licensed Midwife
Member of Association of Texas Midwives