Comments OffApril 19, 2015

Birth Story from a Partner’s Perspective – Part 2

 Throughout the month of April, we will be featuring stories, poetry, and artwork to tie into our message that you can do everything right, and still have a cesarean. If you would like to make a submission, please email info@homebirthcesarean.org.  

This is the second part in the view of a homebirth cesarean from the partner’s perspective.  To read his first story, click here.


Erin 1

Written by Daddy

Saturday, April 17

Erin and I attended the 5th Annual Spring’s Alive festival at Gardner­Webb. Erin spent a LOT of the day (nearly 5 hours) walking around and hanging out with friends. She has had contractions, braxton ­hicks, irregular, often over 2-­3 hours apart.

Week of Sunday, April 18

A rash developed on Erin’s belly. We believed it was related to the heat and walking from Saturday and all the elastic in her pants rubbing her lower belly. Her contractions continue, though they are still mild and without pain, and nearly non­existent overnight.

Friday, April 23

Erin shows me a few bumps on her fingers that look like ant bites. Small, clear with a bit of swelling and red around them. They itch her. Her contractions are still without pain and occur anywhere from 30 minutes to 2.5 hours apart, and are less frequent at night.

Saturday, April 24

Erin has developed more of these bumps and they itch. We debate on whether they are related to her belly rash or something different, as they seem more bite-­like when they first appear. Her contractions can at times come 20 minutes apart, though they are still not regular or with pain.

Sunday, April 25

We notice the bumps appearing on and up her arms, and a few on her legs. Contractions are fairly close now, anywhere from 6­ to 10 minutes apart, and vary with activity.

Monday, April 26

They had covered her arms, her side, and legs. We walk in the afternoons after work up and down our road. I notice her contractions are more regular and more intense while we walk, occurring 5 minutes apart, though they still slow down with activity change and overnight. We have an appointment with the doctor Tuesday concerning the rash, and we have also decided to have our midwife sweep her membrane tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 27

Her hands and feet were swollen and her skin there was textured and tough. We were fairly sure she had PUPPS or some other pregnancy­ related rash, and our doctor visit confirms this. We had a wonderful experience at the center and though it was painful, the Midwife made us feel very comfortable as she stripped the membrane. Afterwards we went to the movies and saw DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon. Contractions were more intense and a fairly consistent 10 minutes apart, give or take 2­-3 minutes.

Wednesday, April 28

Her rash itches her something terrible. Contractions are still around 10 minutes apart, closer and more intense as we walk in the afternoon. So much for Full Moon baby.

Thursday, April 29

I stay home from work, as her contractions continued overnight. Her itch is much worse than the contractions and bothers her consistently, though she has done well not to scratch. She has used sundry creams and ointments throughout the week, but a cold pack seems to work well at temporary relief. We walked nearly five miles throughout the course of the day, and had to stop often during contractions, as they were more intense and more painful.

Friday, April 30

I stay home from work again. Throughout the day she continues to itch. Her contractions progressively got closer and were consistent. She didn’t feel like walking as much today, as she needed to concentrate during contractions. We feel she is ready for birth, and Friday evening we decide to go to the birthing center. I would rather be a few hours early than a few hours too late.

6:00 PM

We are at the center. Another couple arrived about 20 minutes before us and got the blue room we wanted (Later, we decided though the blue room would be better to live in, the green room was nice and had a much more comfortable atmosphere, and were glad we ended up there). We get settled in and decide to go for a walk. During the walk, we had to stop during each contraction and breathe through it.

9:00 PM

We are back at the center and continue laboring in the green room. The assistance we received from Rhonda, Crystal, Amy, and Linda was wonderful. During each contraction, Erin had multiple people rubbing, massaging, applying counter­pressure, and helping her relax and breathe. Most of Erin’s pain was in her central lower back. Erin was a little leaky and Midwife Amy checked to find no amniotic fluid present in the discharge. Erin measured a solid 1 cm dilated.

Saturday, May 1

Erin 4

Midnight

Since I’m writing this in retrospect I’ll go ahead and speak from a more omniscient point of view. Sometime between Midnight and 2 AM we found Erin’s water was indeed leaking, though there was never a full-blown burst or explosion like you may picture. We were discouraged to hear Erin measured 2cm at this point.

2:00 AM

We’ve used multiple positions during contractions, done a few full rotations. We used the birthing tub and enjoyed it. The couple in the next room gave birth some time around this point also. Having learned about labor and birth, if I did know one thing it’s that nothing is set in stone, and women experience labor differently. Erin’s contractions have been very long, and they have not allowed for very long breaks. I stopped timing a few hours prior, as I needed to focus more on comforting her. Contractions were lasting about 2.5 minutes each, and fell about 2­-3 minutes apart start ­to ­start. If you do the math, it leads to a lot of overlapping contractions, and some contractions continuing for up to 10 minutes without a break. At the time we thought it was Erin’s body’s way of doing things.

4:00 AM

We found that Erin’s least favorite positions were on all fours or lying on her back, as these positions were painful and didn’t allow a break in contractions. Sitting on a toilet helped her and often leased a short break between contractions. Joe, the father from the couple in the next room, was a chiropractor, and Linda suggested he align Erin’s back to help with the contractions (he had done so for his wife and it helped a lot). He entered and waited a while for Erin to finish a long set of back ­to ­back contractions, after which he popped her chin side to side to loosen her neck. Another set of contractions and she was able to stand against a wall while he went down her spine popping her vertebrae. After he finished, Erin relaxed and a lot of water came out, as though Erin had peed. Soon after, Midwives Amy and Linda came in and checked baby’s heart rate with the doppler over the course of a few minutes. Up until this point, though we may have thought things weren’t going textbook, we were unaware of just how harmful the situation had become. Later we realized Erin’s water had meconium staining. Linda then called us in the bathroom to chat. We made our way there and Erin sat on the toilet as I knelt on the floor. Linda informed us that Erin had progressed to 4cm, but her constant contractions were not giving her cervix enough time to rest and dilate. She recommended we transfer to Spartanburg Regional in the hopes of regulating the contractions.

5:00 AM

We arrive at the hospital and get ourselves in a room. Since Erin’s water had been leaking, she was given an IV to replenish fluids. She was asked to be given small amounts of Pitocin (I believe it was set to 2) to regulate her contractions, with pain, tears, and advice from all the midwives and assistants (who graciously stayed by her throughout the entire ordeal), she accepted.

6:00 AM

The contractions became much more regulated, occurring about 4­-5 minutes apart. This was very relieving, as before they were on top of each other and nearly unbearable since there were few if any breaks. Erin tries a few different positions while on the hospital bed and is able to go to the bathroom when necessary.

9:00 AM

Erin is forced to make another very difficult choice. She is still measuring 4cm and her body has all but given up. Her contractions have slowed and may occur 8­-10 minutes apart. The doctor suggests her body needs a rest in order for her cervix to dilate. He suggests an epidural so Erin can relax. We are devastated by the request, as we know this setup has the potential to wreck our expected plans, as if we weren’t already far enough away from what we had expected. We cry a lot and pray. With support from the midwives and helping hands, we decide to take the epidural. Though Erin has not complained about the intense pain, her mind has started to join her tired body, having been through so much already that night, and without such a break, we see no way of obtaining even a vaginal birth.

10:00 AM

The epidural helped out a lot, and quickly. Erin measures 7cm and we hold strong to our hopes. Sometime during a movement the epidural was shifted and Erin regains feeling in her lower body. The Pitocin drip is now at 27 (out of a suggested maximum of 30), and Erin feels the contractions again, though that pain is still bearable, she is such a strong woman. On top of this pain, she also feels a much more intense pain in her bladder between and during contractions as a catheter had been inserted with the prior epidural. I became upset at one nurse’s neglect, especially when the nurse stated that Erin “isn’t having a contraction now and doesn’t feel the catheter.” It didn’t take much to realize she did indeed feel pain between the contractions, and she stated the location of concentrated pain quite accurately. With the help of our doula, the catheter was removed and the excessive pain subsided. Soon after a second Epidural was inserted in the hopes of gaining more dilation, as was the case with the first.

11:00 AM

Doctor Watkins checked back in and we were excited to hear that Erin had reached 9cm, though she was not fully effaced and still had a lip all the way around. The doctor did a good job respecting our wishes, and said he’d give us some time to let things work out. Though hesitant, I took a brief nap and stayed in the room; the others went for lunch to return soon. Erin tried her best to relax and let the Pitocin and epidural work with her body.

4:00 PM

The doctor returns to see how things are going. Erin still measures 9cm with a lip. As much as it was dreaded, we knew the next step. The doctor recommended a cesarean section. He mentioned the meconium staining in the leaky bag of waters that has been present for over 12 hours. He warns of a ruptured uterus or lack of oxygen to baby. He gives us the choice to accept the c-section now or try for an hour more before the risks get too great and emergency surgery is required. He stepped out of the room and gave us some time to think about it. We cried and talked with the midwives, assistants, doula, and our parents. It boiled down to potential risks to our baby, and though the choice would change our lives forever, preventing us from ever obtaining that ideal birth Erin had dreamed of, we agreed baby’s health is far greater and make the hard decision to have a cesarean section.

5:00 PM

Erin has been rolled away to surgery, I put on scrubs and join her. I instantly forget the way to the surgery room as soon as I tread it. A short blue curtain separates her head from the surgeons at work. Her body is so tired she is nodding in and out of sleep, though she is capable of maintaining conversation and asking questions. I occasionally look over the curtain and watch as they stretch, cut, and operate. At 5:19 PM the surgeons pull out a remarkably clean (relatively speaking) child from Erin’s body. I see the sex as baby is lifted and taken to the corner for immediate attention (as there were still risks with the meconium). My mind doubts my eyes for a second, until I am reminded by the anesthesiologist Kelly that I know what the baby is and should announce. “It’s a girl,” I hear myself cry. I took a picture of my face. Honestly from this moment on for the next 36 hours or so I experience a hyper­reality, the closest thing to drugs that a body can naturally produce, a feeling of euphoria more powerful than adrenaline; looking back I can hear my voice as though I weren’t the one speaking. I kept saying “it’s a girl,” and “I’m so proud,” and announcing to Erin everything the doctors and nurses were doing, how unbelievable everything seemed. I was now allowed to see my child. It happened so fast, I went over to her, loved her, and took a few pictures. She was shown to Erin and put close to her face, and then they had to take her to the NICU. She didn’t stay there long, and by the time Erin was stitched up baby was back. Erin was taken to recovery just outside the room. I had planned ahead to follow baby to make sure everything went well, though I felt guilty leaving Erin after such a big event. I watched baby in the nursery as they cleaned her, checked her blood and blood pressure, combed her hair, and warmed her. When I knew baby was safe I announced the birth to the family (and on another occasion to some strangers) and returned to Erin. Soon baby returned to mommy’s side and she held her and started to nurse. We discussed briefly which name would fit her best, and decided out child would henceforth be known as Juniper Ainsley Houser.

Erin 3

6:00 PM – Midnight

We meet up with the family in Erin’s room of the maternity ward. Baby Juniper joins us soon and I still recall the surreal feelings flowing through me, perhaps it was lack of sleep, or how overwhelming the whole situation was, or the continuous adrenaline, or a combination of all of these. The nurses were helpful and wonderful, and baby was beautiful and healthy (and big compared to all those other thin little red babies in the nursery). I didn’t sleep much that night, but in spite of everything I really didn’t feel the need to sleep that night. The front page of USA Today on the day of Juniper’s birth read, “You Just Feel Helpless.” Amen.

Sunday, May 2

We were required to stay at the hospital for some time after the section. Erin was in lots of pain, but managed to get up and take a shower with some help from the staff. We had several visitors and made a few calls, though this was not as high on our priority list as we thought it would have been. I ran a fever and felt cold (probably due to the lack of sleep), but I had an ibuprofen and the fever broke later that day.

Monday, May 3

Erin took a shower on her own in the morning. She is still in pain, but she is doing very well considering the circumstances. That afternoon we were released from the hospital. Baby slept during the ride home from the hospital, though it was painful for Erin. We made it home and began our lives together as a brand new family of three: Juniper, Erin, and Me.

Looking back at the whole process, I am most grieved by the fact that Erin was not able to have that ideal home birth we had come to desire and nearly expect. Were our expected birth wish just one of many options, I am sure the situation would not be as difficult; however, we had prepared ourselves physically, mentally, and even spiritually to have that natural birth at the center, and as each complication arose, we felt ourselves distanced and torn from our dream. It’s hard to accept the fact that not only did she not get her wish, but she will never be able to go back and live it with consecutive children either; she’s destined to give birth in a hospital whatever the scenario. It hurts to hear stories of people who don’t take care of themselves during pregnancy or don’t care one way or another and yet get to live out our dream while we are now lumped in the category with those who screamed epidural and ended up with an “emergency c-section” because it was most convenient for the mothers and doctors. It’s hard to overcome what has been lost. We are told, “Look at the good that came from the situation,” and trust me we agree, our baby is worth the entire process over and over again; but we still beg the question “Why this way?” when up to that point every sign pointed to another direction. We may not ever be given the answer, and the lost desires may never cease to hurt, but we do know that we will slowly learn to cope and accept our situation, as that bottom line and blessed outcome remains. Though at times our lives may look like loose ends, knots, and frayed edges, through different eyes is seen a beautiful tapestry, perfect in every way.

About the Author

Before marriage, Mark had no knowledge of midwives, home births, or breastfeeding. His wife Erin introduced him to these and other aspects of natural living. Convinced through research and study, he quickly adopted the mindset that the body is fully capable of operating without external intervention. This commitment was soon challenged during the birth of their daughter Juniper. A son joined their family two years later by VBAC, and they now await the arrival of baby three this Fall.