January 5, 2013 by Sarah Christine Bolton
Mae Kamila – Born July 24, 2010
Note: I wrote this just six weeks after Mae was born. I definitely have some perspective on this whole event now, but I wanted to use this version.
L.M. Montgomery wrote that you truly have not lived until you have seen someone die and seen someone be born. I’ve seen both.
I watched my little brother come into the world on a bitter cold March day in Montana. He was born at home, in my parent’s room, with two midwives, my grandmother, and my dad there. I held him just minutes after he was born, and cried because of how breathtakingly violent it was.
When I found out I was pregnant last October (Note: October 2009), I knew that I wanted to have my baby at home. It was never even a question of whether I would go to a hospital. E. had had two daughters at home, and he was excited that I wanted to choose that option.
I spent nine months taking my vitamins, trying to stay active, and reading books about natural childbirth. I cried over beautiful stories of women giving birth at home surrounded by love and support. I envisioned the spiritual experience I would have, and practiced meditating and relaxing. I carefully washed and folded towels, and blankets, and wash clothes, and prepared our birthing kit. We had three incredible midwives. Every prenatal visit brought up our level of excitement and anticipation. I spent time looking at the photos of newly-born home birth babies that cluttered their walls, and imagined seeing my baby’s picture up there someday.
Our daughter was due July 16, but she decided to hang out for a couple more weeks. Finally, on July 22, at 5:00 a.m., I felt the first signs of labor. I was so incredibly relieved and excited, because I was ready to not be pregnant anymore and I was ready to meet my baby.
The first day of labor was incredible. The contractions were manageable, and E. and I spent sweet time together, growing closer with each wave. We spent time in the garden, took walks, cooked meals, and talked. The midwives came over later that afternoon, but I hadn’t progressed much, and as it got later, they told me to take a Benadryl and try to get some sleep. The contractions got more intense, and I spent the night in the bathtub, half asleep, watching my belly rise and fall with the strength of the contractions.
Morning was a welcome sight, and I felt good about the day ahead. We continued walking, but things became more intense. I felt waves of emotion, but never fear really, just a constantly deepening connection with Eric and a feeling of peace about what my body was experiencing. Nothing could have prepared me for the drastic turn of events that was about to occur.
By 6:00p.m., 36 hours after labor first started, I still hadn’t progressed. The midwives were doing a check on the baby’s heartbeat, and noticed that it was very high, in the 180s. They had me switch positions and they gave me oxygen, but the baby was continuing to struggle. I could feel the dread coming over the room as the midwives looked at each other and back at us. “I think we need to transfer to the hospital,” they said. “We’ll leave you guys alone for a moment. Do you have your hospital bag packed?” I numbly shook my head no. I hadn’t even packed it. I was so sure I wouldn’t need it. They left the room, and I broke down, holding onto E. while we both cried, so incredibly disappointed in everything at that moment. After that, things moved so quickly. I managed to throw some things into a bag. As I ripped open the plastic bags with the carefully washed towels and baby clothes that were supposed to be for our home birth, I could feel myself getting numb with shock.
We drove to the hospital, checked in, and went to a maternity room. I changed into a hospital gown, and started getting hooked up to the beeping machine next to my bed. The I.V. hurt enough to make me start crying, but I know I was partially crying because of what was happening to us. They started giving me pitocin, to induce more intense contractions. I told Eric and the nurse that I wanted to still have a natural birth. I didn’t want an epidural.
The contractions began to get really intense. I found a deep place to go to, and began vocalizing through each one. I think the nurses were freaked out at the way I was handling the birth. They were used to women drugged, silent, and numb. The midwives and Eric were there, holding on to me, looking me in the eye, getting me through each one. I labored for a few hours on the pitocin, the contractions getting more and more intense. The nurse came in to check me. “You are at 6 centimeters,” she announced. I managed to smile. Things were progressing! After nearly 40 hours at 2 centimeters, this was great news. Then, her smile dropped. “Actually, you are still at about 2 ½ or 3,” she said. I felt all the life flood out of my body. A contraction seized my entire core, and I started sobbing. I made it through a few more contractions, but when I started to fantasize about killing myself because the pain was so incredible, I begged for the epidural.
I’ve never been so disappointed in my life. I’ve never felt that much dismay and despair. I had reached the bottom of hope. This was not what I wanted at all.
It took two epidurals before the pain went away. Meanwhile, I writhed on the bed, moaning and screaming at the nurse. They also had to give me a catheter, and until the epidural kicked in, I thought I might not survive the pain. Finally, all was calm. I couldn’t feel my body from my waist down. I couldn’t feel contractions or my baby, and I hated it. I tried to sleep for a couple hours, but I kept jerking awake, my body shaking uncontrollably from the icy cold I.V. being pumped into my body.
At one point, I woke up to a woman screaming in terror just down the hall. I later found out she had just lost her baby. Her screams sent shivers down my spine, and made my entire body shake with fear. The nurse came in to wake me up about 2:30a.m. “You are ready to go,” she said. I nodded numbly.
The doctor came in, they turned on the bright lights, and explained how I would need to push. Then, the nurse swung the stirrups up on the end of the bed, and I dropped my head back on the bed. This was like my worst nightmare, coming to life. The next few minutes seemed to last forever. I started pushing, at least what I thought was pushing. I was so numb I couldn’t feel anything. In between pushes, I gasped for air while the doctor and nurse leaned on the stirrups and talked about what kind of cool car and cell phone they were planning to buy. It was surreal. I kept pushing, and started to feel like I was going to pass out. They gave me oxygen, and I managed to push a few more times. “She’s having trouble,” the doctor said. No one told me at the time, but her heartbeat was in the 40s. I agreed to let the doctor use a vacuum suction.
He was careful, and she was out in a just a couple of pushes. He held her up, her red, squirming, crying body, and I started sobbing. It had been 48 hours of labor. They laid her on my chest for just a moment, and then took her away. While the doctor stitched me up, I craned my head sideways, anxious for the nurses to wrap her up and give her back to me. But they didn’t. They wouldn’t. They were giving her oxygen and talking about fluid in her lungs. And then she was gone. They took her away to the NICU.
For several hours, I begged to see my baby. My legs were numb, and I was terrified of my inability to push everyone aside and walk to my newborn. E. was able to go to her, and when he came back an hour later, he showed me a picture on his phone. She was covered in wires and had oxygen tubes up her nose. I sobbed my eyes out. Eric said she had been crying when he walked in there, and he slipped a finger into her hand. She stopped crying and looked at him the whole time. When he had to leave, he pulled out his finger and she started crying again. When he told me that story, I literally felt my heart wrench into pieces.
We finally got to go to her. They put my paralyzed body in a wheel chair and pushed me to the NICU. They let me nurse her, the wires and tubes all a tangled mess around her tiny feet. She got better over the next day and a half. We finally got to take her home on the evening of the 25.
The first week, I cried every day, mourning everything that I had lost. The second week, I cried every other day. And now, six weeks later, I cry maybe twice a week. I’m thankful, so incredibly thankful, that my beautiful daughter is healthy and happy. I realize now that we did the right thing by going to the hospital, but it’s still something that I will always mourn. I wanted to write this, because it has helped me kind of get it out of my head. But I also want to write this and then say that if I ever have another baby, I will choose a home birth again. I’m not afraid of it. In fact, I’m more afraid of going into the hospital.