Zach's Birth Story

Written on his first birthday...

To set the stage, the baby's original due date had been November 4, 1998, and we were planning a homebirth. A few months into the pregnancy, based on my measurements the midwives felt that either I was going to have twins, or that we had the conception timing off by a month. We hadn't been planning on doing an ultrasound unless there was a medical need, but we decided we really wanted to know if it was twins or a single baby.

So, off to get an ultrasound we went, and found out that it was one baby after all. (I had been pretty excited about the possibility of having twins, but was certainly fine with just one!) Based on a compromise between what the midwives though for the new date and what the ultrasound showed as the likely date, we settled on November 11 as the new due date.

Dave felt really strongly that because we were having the ultrasound anyway he really wanted to know the sex of the baby. I still didn't want to know, but after much cajoling and a little bullying, we found out that he was a boy. I found that even though we knew that he was a boy, and we knew what we were going to name him, it made me uncomfortable to refer to him by name before he was born.

On November 11 I decided I was good and sick of everyone at work asking me why I was still there and treating me like I was about to pop at any minute, so I stopped work and went on my maternity leave early. A couple weeks later we did a biophysical profile (routine to do when later than the due date), which found that we were doing just fine, and guessed another week and a half before he would be born. We were feeling a lot of pressure from our families - my mother-in-law had planned a month long visit around my original due date, and was getting impatient to say the least!

Normally after two weeks post-date the protocol doesn't allow a homebirth, but because my dates had been somewhat iffy to begin with, we all decided that as long as everything was looking fine we would let it go and still have him at home. Somewhere around this time we started doing the natural things one can do to induce labour - some herbal tinctures, stripping the membranes, and a set of doses of castor oil, in addition to the PN6 herbs I had been taking for the month leading up to the 11/11 date. No such luck, but I was still dilated slightly and everything still looked fine.

We had Thanksgiving dinner at my parents house, and visited the midwives the next morning. This time the senior midwife stripped my membranes (if you're not familiar with the terms, basically it involves running a finger between the cervix and the amniotic sack to stir things up a bit). She found that I had a very rare occurrence where my cervix wasn't dilating all at once, but the outside was dilating more than the inside. So, the strippings we had been doing weren't helping because we weren't actually inside the cervix, and the dilation measurements were not accurate.

This time, however, it worked! On the way back from the appointment in the car, I started to time (mild) contractions at every 5 minutes - fortunately I wasn't driving.

Much to my dismay, we decided that taking castor oil again would still be a good idea to make sure that the contractions didn't taper off. (Castor oil is vile nasty stuff, and three doeses of it is beastly. On the other hand, it beats an IV of pitocin in a hospital by a long shot!)

We had some friends from out of town show up, excited and a little flustered at their timing, and invited them to stay for the birth.

I tried to get some sleep that afternoon, and did manage a couple of naps between doses of castor oil. Our midwife Jack (Natasha Hawke) came over sometime late that afternoon or early that evening to check on our progress. We had one potential problem - the baby wasn't in the ideal position for labour - he was posterior, meaning that his back was along my back, which generally leads to long painful labour. Some time in the late evening after senior midwife (Linda Cozzolina) arrived, we ordered chinese food (I remember very vividly being totally upset that there wasn't any white rice), and decided that we would try to turn him.

Turning the baby involved Jack getting her whole hand inside me, up through the cervix, and using her fingers on the baby's head to turn him. This was done in the "polar bear" position - imagine being on your hands and knees, spread fairly wide, and then lowering yourself down onto your chest with your head on your forearms.

Turning the baby was Not Fun. We had already been trying to get the baby to move on his own by staying in the polar bear position for quite some time, and my knees were really unhappy with it. That made it really hard to relax into the turning itself, which varied between uncomfortable and excruciatingly painful. I'm not sure how long turning him took - somewhere between twenty minutes and an hour and a half? Probably closer to the latter, which would mean that it was maybe 11:00pm when they were done turning him.

I had done a lot of emotional preparation for managing the pain of contractions, but it really never happened that way. The contractions before the turning had been easily bearable, and after the baby was turned there was a lip of cervix that kept trying to slip back over his head. So, they had me start pushing to try to get his head past the lip of cervix. Somewhere during the turning or soon after we broke my water, which didn't seem to make a lot of difference to me.

I spent a long time pushing, trying to get him past the lip of cervix, with Jack's hand in me the whole time trying to help him past. (Having her hand in me for so long was really hard for me emotionally). At some point we went from me pushing because we were trying to get him past the lip to pushing because it was what my body needed to do.

We tried several positions, but the one that seemed to work best for the baby was the classic flat on the back with the legs up and spread. I was pulling on Dave's and other peoples arms during contractions to try to get leverage. It was incredibly hard, and we weren't getting much movement. I could reach down and feel quite a lot of hair there, though!

I had been drinking gatorade and water the whole time, and we thought that a full bladder might be getting in the way. I tried a few times to go to the bathroom, but had no luck. We talked about using a catheter, but decided against it.

I'm not sure at exactly what point the midwives realized we would probably need to transport to the hospital. They had been monitoring the heartbeat of the baby throughout, and they had noticed that it was dropping during contractions. I still wasn't getting movement from him, and so it was decided that we would go into the hospital.

Someone laid out a futon in the back of our suburban, and I climbed in the back along with Jack, oxygen tanks at the ready. The baby's head felt HUGE between my legs during the ride, as I alternated between trying not to push too hard and putting all my strength into it. Dave was driving, with our roommate with him in the front navigating. Others followed in separate cars.

It's about a 20 minute drive to the hospital, and the cop who watched this caravan go by at 80 miles per hour must have realized something was up, because he left us all alone and pulled someone else over.

When we got there they wanted to do a c-section right away, but we convinced them to try for a vaginal delivery with a vacuum suction assist. (One of the midwives had called ahead, but they still didn't quite seem to know what to do with us.)

We ended up in the OR, with Dave, Linda and Jack along with probably 8 or 9 hospital personnel. They ran an IV right away, and I think they started the pitocin as well. Jack and Linda told me everything that was going on, acting as a buffer between me and the doctors. I remember that they were only going to give me a short time to try to deliver vaginally before they would go for the c-section. This was motivation to say the least!

After catheterizing me, they cut a standard episiotomy and attached the suction device to the baby's head. I did one killer push, and got some movement, but the vacuum device popped off.

They cut two more episiotomies, one on either side, and we tried it again. I think it was two huge pushes, with Dave at one hand and Jack and Linda at the other, before his head came out. I was so relieved! His body followed on the next push with some tugging from the doctors (which I didn't like at all).

It was 12 minutes from the time we got to the hospital to the time he was born at 7:40am.

They cut the cord right away and took him off to the side. As soon as Zach heard Dave's voice he turned right to him - it was amazing!

They did a lot of suctioning - there had been no meconium in the waters when they broke, but in retrospect I think that they didn't believe the midwives on it and were taking the worst case scenario. He was a little low apgar at first, but came up in a few minutes.

I remember being really frustrated because somehow in all the fuss my glasses had gotten misplaced, and I couldn't see him at all. (I have terrible vision). One of my frustrations with the hospital experience was that they pulled the placenta from my by the cord, which certainly contributed to the 7 weeks of uterine bleeding that followed.

They also started to stitch me up, and at some point I realized it Really Hurt! I remember sort of waking up to the fact that I wasn't supposed to be in pain any more and complaining about it. We concluded later that they were probably so used to women having epidurals that they forgot I wasn't under any anesthesia. They used a topical, but it seemed to take forever, along with several complaints about the pain, before they were done.

To the hospital's credit, Zach never left my sight (once I could see!) for a minute. Dave was right by him while I was being stitched up, and when I was all stitched they put him on my chest to take me to the room I would be recovering in.

The rest of the hospital experience was much as one would expect - they were pushy about the hep b vaccine, wanted a complete history from me after they had done everything they were going to do, etc, etc. We were asked to stay overnight so that they could monitor me - on the bright side, there was a place for Dave to sleep in the room with me!

After convincing them that we did indeed want to leave, we headed home the next day, and had his one day postpartum checkup from Jack at home!