Gene and Robin's Birth Stories By Diane Print
Birth Stories - Complicated Birth Stories
Wednesday, 14 January 2009 09:01
This is the story of the birth of my first child; my son. It is not as traumatic as many birth stories I have read, but to me it was still enough to give me nightmares for months.

Little Gene:

9/17/81 - Felt great, weather sunny and cool, but that night I was tired and didn't sleep well. My pregnancy had gone wonderfully; only a little sciatica had been problematic. I was an older mother; age 33, but athletic and fit. No special procedures had been done. However, I had no real birthplan - this was 1981 when they had barely allowed natural childbirths and any other options like waterbirth, doulas, midwives or home birthing were practically unheard of. I decided on Lamaze because I knew the Bradley husband-coached method wasn't going to work with a man like my husband. With Lamaze I could do it myself.

9/19/81 - Cool weather. I lay around the apartment, did a little laundry and dishes; very tired. About 6pm I felt achy in the back and wrote a note of minor cramps about 6:30. Did not keep track of sensations. After a while I quit recording. Took a long soak in the tub. The remainder of the evening I sat up ripping the neck seam out of a brown gingham blouse I was making (never completed) until midnight. Larry kept asking me if I was having contractions; I said I didn't think so, but my back was achy. He said I should go to bed. About this time I felt stronger cramps but never bothered to try breathing. Told Larry the baby might come the next day. Little did I know he would be here within 5 hours! Badly misjudging, I ate a bowl of ice cream (big mistake!), went to bed and tried to sleep, but just dozed. This was about midnight.

At 1:44am I sat up and decided to begin timing the sensations. I was more uncomfortable and feeling some pain but still had no idea I was in labor! Talk about the Queen of Denial!!! My mind was simply not functioning. I kept trying to sleep and was aggravated that these sensations were preventing it. I now recorded each sensation's time and length. Larry was in the other room. (We had slept apart since I was 4 months along. I never knew if it was Larry's thoughtful removal of his loud snoring or his own strange preference.) Thought I would let him sleep as long as possible.

Around 2:15am I called the hospital and described everything. They said to come on in. Mind you, we were 30 miles away from our hospital. I went in and woke Larry about 2:30. As I leaned over his bed I felt a good strong contraction that I finally had to breathe through and then I finally knew this was labor! Larry was groggy but calm. I was getting more and more uncomfortable. The damned Lamaze technique was NOT working, but then I using slow breathing when I should have stepped it up. The initial part of first stage labor was so light I thought the latter part was the first part! I was disoriented and I did not plan the labor strategy well. Unfortunately, I was completely alone in my efforts; Larry was there, carried my stuff and drove the truck but did practically no coaching nor even helped me walk to the truck. What can I say? Some men are simply insensitive.

Earlier in the evening I had been munching on toast with butter and milk in addition to the ice cream, which I found out was a stupid mistake for me to make. If I ate at all it should have been something light. I was beginning to be very nauseated, so I handed Larry a large metal bowl and a small towel to take, along with 2 large pillows and an afghan. I was cold! I had to stop halfway to the truck and stare at the cement, breathing through a good strong contraction. After it ended I resumed my solitary trip to the truck. Larry did help me get in, and damned if I didn't have another contraction getting in.

On the way to the hospital, contractions were coming every 3 minutes and getting rougher. Felt sharp pain in my lower groin beneath my tummy and sharp sciatic pains down my legs. Felt no need for effleurage (light tummy stroking). I shifted my weight on the truck seat but it was no use. I punched the dashboard in irritation. Finally it dawned on me to begin shallow panting, which helped a little. There was no focal point in the dark of the cab of the pickup and I was very uncomfortable. I tried focusing on the road signs flashing by! Larry drove medium speed, quite calm. We passed a wreck on the way and I remember thinking this was going to hold us up and I'd have the baby in the truck!.

We finally reached the hospital and I got out of the truck under my own power. I immediately had to throw up the toast, milk and ice cream. God was I sorry I had eaten it! What was funny is that the sound of me upchucking made Larry sick; I heard him barfing on the pavement behind me! Leaning into the cab to throw up into the metal bowl I had placed on the floor I had a powerful contraction just as I had emptied my lungs vomiting. It must have lasted over 90 seconds. I thought I would suffocate before everything eased off and I could draw a breath. That episode took the strength right out of me and I told Larry to get me a wheelchair. I knew I couldn't walk a step. An orderly brought one and Larry went to admitting while I was pushed into the labor room, huffing and puffing all the way.

A nice nurse met me, looking rather tender-hearted - I badly needed TLC by this time - but I was assigned to a tiny brown Filipino nurse who must have been spawned in hell. She had icy hands, no compassion and a very rough touch. She examined me and it hurt like hell and stimulated the contractions. I was at 3 cm.

I got a mini-prep (partial shave) and an enema which didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. I stayed about 20 minutes in the bathroom, however, with a couple of nurses hounding me with questions through the cracked door as I tried to expel the enema. I had to think hard to answer all the questions: age, number of children, name, etc. At this time I was approaching transition, I found out later, so no wonder I was having difficulty.

I had planned to walk the corridors - I was in great shape and athletic but decided to get into bed. I lay on my back, only turning occasionally. Side-lying was uncomfortable due to the sciatica. Contractions were peaking after a 5-10 second rev-up. I felt no tightness, just sharp pain in the lower groin that no type of breathing technique would ease. I was decidedly becoming disillusioned with this Lamaze method. Only when the peak faded was I able to control the contractions with breathing techniques. Sometimes I could doze between them but most of the time I had residual ache between contractions and could not relax. Got another exam about 4:30am and was at 7 cm. This exam didn't hurt but it stimulated the contractions again. At this point I lost control and cried a little. However, at no time did I request medication; my doctor and I had agreed on absolutely nothing. I knew I would have no side effects and feel much better later without medication. I got mad at the contractions and beat my fist against the wall when I found the Lamaze breathing to be practically useless. However, I think if I had had support and coaching it might have helped a lot. Larry did rub my back but he's just not the type to be very comforting. I felt lucky he agreed to be with me at all.

Then came the damned IV. I asked if I had to have it and the Filipino nurse was adamant about the rules that dictated they had to have a vein open. It was open all right. She dug it open, right at the beginning of a contraction. A tube went in through a needle and she worked it in and out to position it right on top of the wrist at the bone; a very sensitive spot. I finally let go a scream when she did that on top of a hard contraction; she would not wait until it had passed. I hated that woman.

Larry finally tried helping me to concentrate - I tried several focal points and finally tried his face, which helped! Another nurse came in, but this one was an angel. She helped a great deal. Another 45 minutes later I had another exam, I forget who did it, and in my opinion the management of my labor was seriously mismanaged at this point! I was now at 10 cm and was told to begin pushing. The nurses went to call my doctor then about five minutes later came back and told me to stop! I didn't even feel like pushing until they told me to start! I had felt a little pressure but no real urge. Before they got back from calling him I managed a few light pushes and my water broke. Larry saw it but thank God he didn't get sick. It felt really weird but relieved a lot of the pressure. Now I had very little pain but extremely strong urges to push that I had to try to contain, to wait for the doctor to arrive.

The Filipino nurse now checked me with her hard, rough hands during a contraction to find the baby's head. (Why? Did she think it was going somewhere?) I was now hauled onto a gurney to go to the delivery room to await the doctor. The nice nurse coached me on the way verbally to keep me from pushing; I found I had to have someone TELL me not to push or my body would take over! I never thought I had that kind of mental or physical strength to hold back like I did.

The nice nurse left me with the Filipino nurse (damn!) and went away temporarily. I so wanted the nice one with me but didn't think to request it. Larry went to get into his greens. I wanted him to hurry! I wanted the doctor to hurry! I had assumed the doctor would be right there but I had to wait over 20 minutes for him to arrive. The nurses had minimized the urgency, I think; I heard them say something about how they didn't anticipate me dilating so fast. I felt sorry for the doctor dragging himself out of bed at 5am but I was furious at the same time that he didn't hurry up!

The nurses were chatting in the corner of the delivery room. Larry was at my head and I was on the delivery table, terrified that the baby would fall on the floor. I surreptitiously tried to push very lightly to relieve some of the horrendous pressure and was soundly reprimanded by the group of nurses who stayed in their little huddle! That one little push I allowed myself felt so good! Almost orgasmic. This part I looked forward to. Making progress and feel-good pushing and I was not allowed to do it.

I kept feeling fluid come out. The nice nurse returned, thank God! Again she helped me. I was blowing so hard to keep from pushing I blew the hair off her forehead. I blew so hard I lost my breath, panicked and hyperventilated. My hands started tingling. Everyone was ordering me to blow out and not push. I thought the damned doctor would never get there; I told everyone rather politely that I wished he would hurry. I was not aggressive in those days. Nowadays I would order one of them to catch the baby. No I wouldn't. Nowadays I would have my baby in comfort at home.

The Filipino nurse began taking my thumbprints in the middle of a contraction, smeared, then had to do them over and chose another contraction in which to do them. Words can't describe how I hated her, and how I hated myself for not standing up to her.

Finally the doctor showed up! My legs were now hoisted into their full-length cold metal troughs. Now it really felt like the baby would hit the floor! I was terrified! What a revolting, undignified position to be in. My hips felt as if they were laid up a hill. My right leg was positioned higher and further out than my left by a good 6". I asked the nurses to please fix the stirrup. The doctor said nothing. The nurses said, no, it will only be a few more minutes. I was most uncomfortable and worried about damage when the baby emerged since my hips were not aligned. I now insisted on fair treatment and Larry insisted as well. He could see how miserable I was. Hell, if I could wait to push for 20 minutes I could wait until they fixed my legs! They finally got my legs straight and my feet strapped. They didn't strap my hands; I would not have allowed it. The Filipino nurse completed the foot strapping on my right foot, tightly pinching my big toe in the process inside the buckle! Instead of complaining I just concentrated on trying to pull my toe out which distracted me from my labor. I got it free and finally everything was ready.

My feet were freezing; I had worn no socks. I asked if I could have sheets or something placed between the steel troughs and my legs; they were extremely cold. They put paper sheets down which didn't help.

By this time I think my contractions had eased off and I didn't feel much urge to push any more. I received a warm wash over my perineum and was surprised; with everything else so cold I expected ice water. I asked if I could finally push and the doctor said go ahead. Finally!! I began with a small one; didn't know how it would feel after so long a delay. I never even pushed hard. The uterus felt like it was doing all the work and I just let go and let it happen. I pushed a second time and it hurt a little - must have been the crowning. I cried more from nerves than pain. I felt the doctor use the scissors (damned episiotomy on the left side) - I don't remember feeling the sting of a needle for anesthetic. I think the pressure of the baby's head provided a little numbness..
Then it felt like his head just popped out and there was a lot of relief. The pressure had been incredible. I pushed again and his little body rippled out of me. Shook me all over. Such a weird feeling, but good. His birth actually felt good!

The doctor put him on my stomach and said it was a boy. I said 'Hi son!' but I couldn't see him! I am extremely nearsighted and had been forbidden to wear my contacts (I didn't have any glasses). All I could see was a dark purple sausage. They took him and weighed, Apgar'd, nitrated and wrapped him. He weighed 8 pounds, 4 ounces.

The doctor kneaded my stomach and said push again for the placenta. One more push and it was out. A nurse finally brought my son and held him above my face. I asked her to bring him closer so I could see him (she would not let me hold him!) He cried very softly the whole time. He had a little blood on his forehead and lots of black hair. They took him away again and the Filipino nurse proceeded to jab Demerol into the top of my hip, a procedure which I did not request and after the doctor and I had agreed no drugs! I don't think he told her to do it; she just did it. I did get a warm blanket.

I went to the recovery room, shaking hard and was transferred from the gurney to a bed. A nurse gave me two difficult massages and another easier one. Then another nurse who looked like a Marine sergeant came in and BRUTALLY massaged my stomach again. I screamed!! Larry said not a word as his wife's belly was treated like a loaf of bread. I hated him for not standing up for me, for not telling her to back off. I felt her hand ripple my spine and I do not exaggerate. She said she was sorry but that it was necessary. I got another lighter massage in my room later on. Then they finally let me alone.

Later I got Rhogam shot which hurt like hell. I refused the light and sitz bath; didn't need them and I wanted to be let alone. Larry stayed with me until I was in my room and they finally brought my son to me. I was drunk on Demerol and can't remember the way he looked. They took him back to the nursery. Later that night I got up (I felt fine by now) and went to the bathroom where I laid a blood clot nearly the size of the baby's head into the commode. I didn't tell the nurse. I massaged my stomach myself and did kegels. I wasn't about to invite any more torture.

Later I learned that my baby was born with tracheo-esophageal fistula (closed esophagus) and would require major surgery the following day. This was probably why they kept him from me so long and wouldn't let me hold or try to nurse him in the delivery room. He couldn't have nursed anyway. The milk would have gone into his lungs.

One thing the hospital failed to do that I cannot forgive: they refused to take a newborn picture of him - 'against their policy for such a sick baby.' My first picture of him is when he was 10 days old and they had shaved his head. I have no memory of how he looked with hair. Furthermore, if he had died, how would I remember him?!

I got to see him once before they took him away the next day, then my doctor released me the day after that. I think he knew I would be better with my baby than laid up myself. I didn't need any more hospitalization! Larry and I headed straight to the children's hospital to see him. Once again, I traversed the long hallways carrying a freezer container with mother's milk, sore, tired and just a tad weak, without any help from my husband. He was walking far ahead of me. Although strong and healthy, I was surprised that I had to stop to catch my breath every so often.

I scrubbed to enter the surgical nursery and got gowned and properly sterilized. I approached the bassinet where he lay, looking like something out of a science fiction movie. He had tubes and IV lines and equipment all over him. I sat in a rocker and a nurse somehow, with all the equipment, laid him in my arms. He didn't cry; he just said 'la, la.' It was a cry but he was so weak all he could do was just say it. Again, I couldn't see him but this time my vision was blurred by tears.

Shaken, I left the nursery and called my dad (my mom was in last-stage ALS and was unable to speak). Dad asked what name we planned for our son and I proudly related that we had named him for both grandfathers. I didn't realize how much my dad hated his name until now and he soundly berated me for giving him the name. Shaking and crying I simply said OK, we'll change it, and handed the phone to a nearby relative, who explained that I had just seen my critically ill son and was upset at the moment (which he knew). Yes, sensitivity in men runs in my family!

Gene and I had a very rough start but after 10 days in the hospital he was able to begin nursing. A young nurse, who I'm sure was only trying to help, kept assisting us to get started nursing. I felt like a brood mare with all her manipulations. I had pumped religiously all this time to maintain my milk and we had a very difficult time starting. Gene couldn't quite get the hang of it. The nurse tried one of those rubber nipple shields but it hurt like hell. She finally, mercifully, left us completely alone and in the quiet of the room I finally held my baby and taught him to nurse. We could now finally bond, after nearly two weeks of medical interference, necessary though some of it might have been.

Unfortunately, I was not wise enough to do further research into midwifery or homebirthing for my next baby; fearing another birth defect.


Little Robin

This is the story of the birth of my second child; my daughter. It was less traumatic but not without its indignities. Her birth was a total 180 degrees from my son's!

8/10/83: I lost my plug at 1:00pm. Began recording very light and short contractions, all averaging 30 seconds and requiring no participation on my part. Went all that afternoon and into the next day napping, doing housework, bathing my 22-month-old son with these light contractions, recording them or asking Larry to. I ate a light breakfast this time! No ice cream! I noticed upon waking the next day that I had amniotic leakage. I went to the doctor's office and he examined my record and decided to break my water after admittance. We were in the admitting office when someone came looking for me; I was so embarrassed. I was scolded for not coming straight to L&D.

8/11/83: I was very embarrassed to have them rupture my membranes for some reason. I've always been overly modest and somehow this just felt invasive. I had my knees together and they made me separate them. I had shaved myself to avoid having the nurses do it. When they discovered what I had done it became a joke to them that I had done such a 'thorough job'. I felt like telling them to shut the hell up; they hadn't had to do it, had they? I was being ridiculed and I didn't appreciate it. At least this time I didn't get an enema and the third degree while trying to poop!

All in all though, this was better treatment by the staff than my previous experience. I had been practicing punching techniques for months in anticipation of that Filipino nurse but never laid eyes on her. Thank God!! Maybe they fired her. I hope so.

Once settled in the labor room, I got comfy and lay back on the big pillows I had brought, still having 30 second light contractions. I wasn't in any hurry and felt fine. The doctor peeked in, saw my tranquil visage and in light of the fact that I had been laboring for 22 hours with little to show for it, ordered pitocin. I asked the nurse to double check the doctor's order - was this really necessary? I had requested no drugs. She said it was necessary. The damn shot hurt and I feared what it would do to my tranquil feeling. I had an IV again but this time the nurse placed it comfortably before a contraction began. Then the pitocin kicked in.

Oh my God, drugs are powerful things. My contractions started revving up and got worse and worse and worse, double peaking and lasting more than 90 seconds each. I could barely cope, but I was still adamant about not receiving drugs. This was not just stubbornness on my part. I simply knew instinctively that the less medication I had the better I would feel afterward, and I was right. I found holding the wall up helped a lot. If I hadn't held that wall up it would have fallen.:) Larry left me twice during this difficult time to go eat and smoke. He didn't call in a nurse to help me and I didn't have the breath to call one myself. I coped alone with a hard, drug-induced labor for over an hour. I had had the same type of transition with my first baby; hard contractions with no rest between. I hyperventilated badly; I was using my lungs to cope and they overwhelmed my body. The clock in the labor room sounded like Chinese water torture but I used it to help time my breathing.

I was ready to go to delivery in under 2 hours. I guess I'll always wonder how long it would have taken if I had not had the pitocin. I would have preferred not to have it but feared letting more time go by with no amniotic fluid. Only 3 cc came out when they broke my membranes! This time my feet were not strapped. No pinched toes! However, I did find it very difficult to literally push uphill in that damned lithotomy position with my legs lying in the troughs with no straps to pull against. Robin was hard to push out; she was a big baby, 8 pounds, 14 ounces!

I had had even worse sciatica with Robin. She sat on my sciatic nerve all though my pregnancy past the 4th month and a few times it got so bad I used crutches. Now as she descended down my birth canal she leaned into the nerve again - all the way down.

Normally first babies are slow and second babies are fast. I reversed the procedure. Gene came like lightning and Robin took her time. I didn't count Gene's contractions but Robin's were 215! I never had much urge to push with her at all. Just one light sensation. This delivery was much slower. At least I didn't have to wait on the doctor.

Expulsion hurt terribly; Robin's head was much bigger than Gene's. I barely made it through the crowning - I really groaned loudly as she emerged. I pushed about 12-15 times before she emerged, hard, grunting pushes that didn't feel good like Gene's and didn't feel like she was descending. It may have been due to lack of fluid to ease her way. She was a dry birth. The only way I could determine her descent was that damned sciatic pain shooting further and further down my left leg. The shots for the local anesthesia stung bad, and the stitches hurt. I was extra sensitive this time but did not get the shakes. I outsmarted them this time: I had kept my contacts in without a word to anyone and I could see everything! I was cold again and asked for a blanket in the delivery room but didn't get one. Guess they were too busy.

Robin had a lot of mucous I guess from lack of amniotic fluid - she must have swallowed some. She pooped twice in the delivery room, but she was a fine, healthy baby. No birth defects!

I got to hold her during the placenta delivery and stitching of the damned episiotomy on the right side. I would have nursed her; I tried to, but Larry stopped me! I guess he was afraid the nurses would veto it. Why in hell did I allow him to do that? The placenta was delayed about 5 minutes but emerged intact. This time I received no Demerol; I specifically asked that it not be given. In retrospect I wish I had consented to it, considering the next hour I spent lying on a hard gurney in the recovery room while a soft empty bed stood 3 feet away. They weren't crowded that day, either. Why they didn't allow me to use the bed I'll never know, and why I didn't demand to use it I'll never know. I know most of the torture I endured in hospitals is a direct result of my own lack of assertiveness.

In recovery, I received much gentler massages this time; although lying on that gurney for over an hour, rolling back and forth in a pool of cold blood was very miserable and I had an extremely fierce backache. I tossed and turned trying to ease it. I almost asked for Demerol at this point! All that time there sat a soft, comfy bed!

The doctor ordered water feedings for the first 24 hours - I guess as a precaution since my son had had the TE Fistula. Robin was born at 1:00pm and I finally got to see her at 5:40pm, then from 9:30pm to 10:10pm. I was angry because they took up a lot of my visit time with water feedings. They sabotaged my first breast feeding and for nothing. Robin was fine!

The nurses would not let me get up for 4 hours after I got to my room or eat for 4 hours or take a bath for 24 hours!!! I was forced to use a bedpan. My dad barged in just as I was crouched over it trying to go. I was so damned embarrassed. I asked him to wait outside. I could not use the bedpan lying down so I sat up, squatted on the bed over the damn thing and went, while the nurse looked at me in amazement. 'You're sure bouncing around, aren't you?' she said. I said 'Yeah. Wanna play tennis? I'll run you ragged.' I decided then and there to take matters into my own hands!

A few hours later a couple of friends visited and I had them run interference for me while I went to the bathroom and took a shower! It felt heavenly! They changed the pads on the bed for me. Meanwhile I was starving. My only meals had been breakfast at home and a really lousy hamburger from the hospital after 24 hours of labor. They brought me some decent food. I was so grateful to them!

Thankfully, Robin was brought to me frequently the first day but only to feed her water!!! I had very severe afterbirth pains. I had to take contraction pills (didn't have these before) and the natural contractions of my uterus were much harder. I was in a lot of pain the first night from contractions, backache, neckache, stitches and hemorrhoids! I finally had to ask for medication for the hemorrhoids. I cried a lot the first night. When the nurse came by my door I grew quiet. I didn't want her to bother me; I just felt like crying. I blame a lot of that pain on lying on that gurney.

After the required 24 hours were up Robin and I finally, with the hospital's sanctified permission, got down to nursing. She caught on right away! (I nursed her for 6 months when she developed colic and I had to switch her to formula. My mother died of ALS and I lost my milk at the same time. I had nursed Gene for 15 months - which helped get him healthy - but I was unable to do the same for Robin. I felt like a failure.) I was unable to sleep the whole time in the hospital. I had bad postpartum depression and I missed my son. Just being in the hospital was depressing to me.

I kept trying to sleep but the nurses woke me up for blood pressure and for another contraction pill. I gave up, got up and read for a while, filled out announcements and again tried to sleep. They woke me up again for the last contraction pill. I balked again and faked taking it, flushing it down the commode. I was sick and tired of artificial birth routines and hospital rules. I got up, fixed my hair and went to look in the nursery. A nurse was aware of my insomnia and brought Robin in for a half hour special visit which was very much appreciated. I felt so homesick.

Finally, mercifully, we were released and Larry came to take us home. I was never to glad to leave a place as I was to leave that hospital.

Epilog: I had largely unmedicated childbirths but there was nothing 'natural' about them due to hospital interference. Also, those two right-and-left lateral episiotomies I had did nothing to prevent pelvic floor collapse and incontinence as the doctors insist they are designed to do. Fifteen years later I can't hold my urine when I cough or sneeze and my cervix rests on the pad I have to wear each day.

For God's sake, those of you who read these accounts, don't have your baby in a hospital without a good birth plan and a midwife or doula. I would highly recommend having it at home if you're in good health. HOSPITALS ARE NO PLACE TO HAVE CHILDREN!!!