Birth #7

On Sunday, April 23rd, my last doula client (before my baby is born) birthed her baby boy into the world at 7:33 pm, under a waxing crescent moon. The experience was exhausting, intense, full of high-charged energy, roller-coaster emotions, and numerous unexpected turns. My client was a birthing warrior in every sense of the word; both steady and focused yet intense and at-the-ready.
I arrived at her home at 5:15 am and was by her side, along with a partner doula, until we left her and her new boy happily nursing at the hospital at around 9:00 pm that evening. Now, it’s my turn to fully focus on the birth of my baby, as I won’t be taking on any more clients until months after the baby is born.

Recap of the birth:

  • My client had intentions of birthing naturally, after the inductions of her two girls. She wanted to labor at home for awhile before arriving at the hospital.
  • Baby was posterior at her checkup the week prior to labor. I suggested optimal fetal positioning exercises, visualization, and a chiropractic appointment.
  • Client calls me at 7pm on Saturday, saying she’s having a few surges and hour and she wanted to prepare me. Excited, I tell her to keep me posted. I try to go to sleep “early” but am so anxious that I don’t drift off until around 11pm.
  • The phone rings at 4am and she says surges getting uncomfortable, are about 6 minutes apart, and I should head out. Within 15 minutes, I was in my car making the hour-long drive and witnessing the sun barely rising over the mountains. I listened to some Sanskrit chants and meditated about bringing baby warm, golden light throughout his birth. It was a cool, breezy morning and the sun’s brilliant rays had just begun to peek through the vast sky as I entered her home.
  • After a good five hours of so of supporting her in labor at home, I sensed he must have chosen to remain in his comfy posterior position during labor, as she seemed to have a more prolonged labor than anticipated with the most discomfort being in her lower back. However, knowing babies quite often turn in labor, none of us were too concerned and recommended she continue to stay active and change positions. She was so intuitive, knowing all of this already and rarely sitting still.
  • Her surges would remain 4 – 5 minutes apart if she was moving or walking. Once she sat down or would ride in a car, they almost immediately developed a pattern of 7 – 10 minutes apart (which made her antsy about a 30 minute ride to the hospital). It also became evident that she seemed distracted by the amount of activity in her home, which hindered her ability to focus. Thus, to encourage consistency in her surges and allow her breathing room, we took a few good strolls around the neighborhood and even drove to get lunch and then walked around some stores with her. I was so inspired that our client trusted her instinct (and her baby’s cues) to remain upright and keep moving, as I am confident her baby needed that to descend. It was exhausting for her, but she remained totally resilient. Through this entire experience, my client would breathe quietly, closing her eyes. Often, I could hardly tell she was having a surge, until she was done and would say “Didja write that one down?”
  • We tried all different positions for encouraging baby to turn, as well as positions to allow her to get some moments of respite. At one point, we gently urged her to go to her room, away from everything. We accompanied her, turned the lights off, got her in a semi-resting position, and my partner doula gave her a wonderful massage with essential oils. My client listened to relaxing music on an iPOD and managed to get a tiny bit of rest. I sat, providing counter pressure, and we were silent with her for about 45 minutes. Surges did drastically slow down, yet we all felt she really needed to rest, gather some strength, and clear space for herself mentally.
  • Finally, after about 9 hours of laboring at home and trying to establish a “consistent pattern of surges before arriving at the hospital (she wanted to be sure she wouldn’t sent back home) we decided to pack our car with her stuff, take her to an area close to the hospital, and walk around some more stores. Her husband waited at home with the kids (and MIL), anticipating our call to meet us at the hospital. Our poor client, she got so many stares and comments when she would lean quietly over the handle of a cart to breathe, or stand against something to be supported during the intense surges (“Is she in labor? Is she having contractions? Is she going to the hospital soon?). She was such a trooper, especially after overhearing a very coincidental comment by a stranger while she while was leaning against a cart-return rail in the parking lot of Target. The woman said “Ohhh, my back hurts!”, as she got into the front seat of her car. In the middle of a surge, hand pressing against her lower back, our client opened her eyes, winced, and said quietly to us with a sarcastic groan “YOUR back hurts?. I had to giggle at the irony.
  • The walking/shopping worked to bring her surges close and consistent, and when my client said “OK, we have to check out NOW”, I knew it was time to go to the hospital.
  • In a matter of minutes, we arrived at the hospital and checked into Triage. My partner doula lugged our client’s inflatable birthing tub into the hospital (which she was so anxious to get into) while I waited with her. (How cool that this hospital allows you to bring your own in to labor in the water!) She was so proud when she found out she was a good 6cm dilated and she was thus admitted After her husband arrived, we had a small mishap where the staff said we had to get prior approval through “maintenance” for the birthing tub (though my client already got approval from a head nurse months ago). In the nicest way I could I mustered “Well, please call maintenance right now and have them do their inspection. I’m sure we will have no problems.” It got done shortly after that and was approved. My partner doula was immediately on the task of placing the tub in the large bathroom area in the labor room and filling it up.
  • My client managed through some pretty rough and painful surges while she got transferred from Triage to L&D, got a 20 minute fetal monitor read, and then waited for her midwife to arrive to examine her…so she could hop in the warm water for some relief. Finally, her midwife arrived with amazing, positive energy and proclaimed her at 8 cms already (only about an hour after being examined in Triage). Wow! We were all so psyched as we prepared to help her into the tub, which had sweet-smelling eucalyptus oil in it.
  • But then, just as her midwife was getting ready to finish the exam, she said “Ohhhh, BUT…we may have some trouble. I feel baby’s nose and lips. I think he is presenting with his face.”
  • Course of fast-paced events: Ultrasound machine was brought in, talk of potential C-section, midwife hands over the process to a well-respected/midwife-friendly/mother-friendly OB to determine course of action, OB confirms rare face presentation of baby (relatively uncommon labor presentation, when the baby is head down but has its neck extended, as if looking down the birth canal, rather than with its chin tucked), with a positive attitude the OB thankfully determines he still envisions a vaginal birth but will prep her for C-section just in case (IV’s, sign consent forms, draw blood), OB breaks her water to try and help speed things along, hordes of staff come and go quickly, client is caught in a whirlwind and understandedly confused, overwhelmed, and emotional, and two doulas stand ready to support our mama whatever the outcome. We, too, try to infuse calming energy, but I admit I had an internal freak out moment when they began talking about C-section.
  • What’s very interesting is that my client mentioned to me over a month ago that she felt like she was going to have a C-section; that she had felt that throughout her entire pregnancy. My initial, gut instinct was to ask her about her fears, what was causing these thoughts, was there something about the process or about her body/baby that she didn’t trust? And then I immediately thought “Perhaps she really is basing this off her intuition, her woman-wisdom”. So, instead I acknowledged her concerns and feelings and told her that as her doula I’d help to do everything I could to help avoid that outcome. But, in the end, if her baby needed to be born that way, we would support her and continue to ensure her birth experience was beautiful. So, when the OB and midwife talked about a C-section, my heart dropped and I immediately thought “Wow, she really did have some intuitive messages coming through.” She looked at me with searching, tear-filled eyes and said “See, I told you so many times I knew I was going to have a C-section”. I stroked her hand and softly reminded her “If that needs to happen, I am here for you, I can prepare you and we will make it a sacred birth. But for right now, the natural birth you envisioned is still unfolding as it needs to.”
  • Out of the blue, the midwife suggests an epidural, thinking it will help our client really relax but OB discusses why he isn’t comfortable with an epidural at this point (his logic about really needing her to have good muscle control to bring baby down and during pushing made sense to me, especially considering the situation with is presentation). I’m stuck between trying to support a client who, at this point, “wants but doesn’t want” (her own words) an epidural, and OB who seems to really be trying to support her in a vaginal birth, and a midwife who is supporting her need to get relief and comfort in order for her to birth vaginally. To me, all of these things seemed both compatible and yet conflicting at the same time and I didn’t know how to properly react. I simply looked deep into her eyes and told her, over and over, “I am here to support you no matter what. This is your choice and you go with what you need right now, trust what your body and your baby are telling you.”
  • In another struck of amazing luck, midwife and OB easily and swiftly allow to let our client get in the birthing tub (despite her membranes being ruptured even!!), as they agree it could both help ease her pain as well as bring baby down quickly. I was shocked when they supported this decision and totally over the moon that, despite all the twists and turns, she seemed to be achieving the vaginal, natural birth she envisioned.
  • Immediately upon entering the water, she instinctively assumed a deep squatting position and hummed about how much better she felt in the water. Her midwife stayed with us for awhile, gently stroking our client’s hair and offering loving words of encouragement and empowerment. At was almost in tears of joy over how supportive and attentive the staff was. And while they still wanted to monitor baby every hour, they simply stretched the monitor cords into the restroom and held them to her tummy to get a sufficient read while she stood in the tub. Thank goodness she didn’t have to transfer back to the bed!
  • After only about 30 minutes in the tub, our client mentioned she thought she felt the urge to push. I immediately called for her midwife, who then called for the OB, and we got her out of the tub and into the bed for an exam.
  • OB said she was at a good 9cm dilated but that baby hasn’t seemed to move down much at all. The pace and energy becomes highly charged again: our client is in a lot of pain and turmoil over the process at this point (her lower back is understandably killing her with baby’s face presentation), she is shaking with the hormones and intensity of transition, and is begging the nurse for some relief, for some drugs that “won’t make her loopy”. The nurse says that the drugs will not take away the pain (true), will transfer to her baby, and at this point she is so close that they just aren’t sure about doing that. Client is confused and lost. I rub her feet and hold her hand and tell her she is as strong as she writhes in bed (in too much pain to move to another position), saying she can’t do it anymore. I ask her to draw the strength to make it through just one more, to take it one at a time, and yet I know in my heart she is so discouraged. She experiences the most massive, long surges yet and is wearing down physically and emotionally after each one.
  • Finally, her midwife and OB are brought back in, the epidural is ordered, and the OB says she can still do this vaginally but that he really hopes she progresses within a half hour after the epidural or they may need to do a C-section. I am abundantly thankful that he says this with sincerity and hope for her, not with authority or humiliation. Finally, my client is getting prepared for some much deserved rest and pain relief. And I am truly relieved for her, as I’ve witnessed her weariness set in. She has labored with grace, power, love, trust and patience for many long hours.
  • The anesthesiologist arrives, my partner doula and I are asked to leave (only one other person allowed in the room during epidural insertion) and we head to the waiting room to gather our thoughts and share advice. We are torn – desperately hoping the C-section doesn’t happen but admittedly feeling like the path is leading more towards it. We know to trust babies and to trust the process and perhaps he really wants to be born this way. We quickly try to gather our reserves of energy, breathe deeply, and chomp on a snack. I am glad our client is finally getting relief and hoping her baby descends in a jiffy. After about 15 minutes, a nurse comes out and tells us we are being asked back into the room.
  • We meander back calmly, and pass the midwife in the hall who says “She’s perfect, absolutely perfect. Go see!” Thinking our client is relaxed and happy, I walk into the room full of nurses and staff and see my client shaking and confused looking…and holding a bundled baby! The staff turns to us and apologetically and excitedly proclaim “It was too fast! We’re so sorry! We wanted to call you but you I swear you wouldn’t have even have made it then. It JUST happened”.
  • I was in serious shock, trying to figure out what had just occurred and processing how the hell I missed a client’s birth while I was just down the hall. I ran to her side, kissed her forehead and apologized over and over. She was just as confused by the whirlwind of events and said “It’s not your fault! I couldn’t help it, it happened too fast!”
  • Evidently, as soon as the anesthesiologist began to insert the epidural, my client yelled “I have to push! I can’t stop it”. In a matter of moments, they repeatedly begged her to stop moving, but quickly got the point. She was rushed into a side-lying position where the baby’s head was already visible and our client’s body was pushing on its own. One more push, and baby’s head was out (face presenting). One more push after that brought her son into the world. Even with that mega-fast entry, she encountered not a single tear. Cord was clamped and cut, baby was laid on Mom, and we walked into the room just a few minutes later. The mood was happy and anxious, excited and crazed. Baby was totally healthy, mellow, and calm as if his birth was totally the norm! His face was a bit bruised as expected, his chin had some scrapes, and his lips and eyes were swollen. But perfect as could be at 8 lbs 12 oz! He will be a tough little guy for sure after that experience!
  • Mama ended up “getting an epidural, but not getting it!” and still having a natural, vaginal birth. We all joked that baby really must not have wanted that epidural and decided to exit swiftly once he caught word of it. Mama’s body spontaneously pushed him out, which she totally never expected to happen. He nursed almost immediately and within an hour or so the atmosphere was restored and relaxed (although Mama is still reeling and trying to process the experience) and I was on my way home to bed.
  • Moral of the story: Birth is mysterious, babies are wise, birthing women are incredible. Oh yeah, and don’t ever tell your husband that you anticipate you’ll be home by 10 am for a birth, because that means you won’t be home until 10 pm.


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Ninotchka says:

    What an incredible story and birth! Wow. Congrats to you all.

  2. amygeekgrl says:

    amazing! you are such a great storyteller, leigh. i was on the edge of my seat through the whole story and could feel her pain. and what a wonderful, attentive, in-tune doula you are! i’m so happy this birth turned out so amazingly beautiful!

    now the next birth you will attend will be your own, right? how exciting! 🙂

  3. amygeekgrl says:

    p.s. i’m going to hear ina may speak tomorrow. i’m sooooo geeked! 🙂

  4. Sarah says:

    wow!! What a wonderful birth story! Thank you for sharing it!

  5. Oh Leigh … what a wonderful gift you give your doula clients. Thank you for sharing this story with us!

  6. Pingback: Burgeoning «

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