October 15, 2002 — Liam Trevor Hunt
When I got pregnant the second time, I wasn’t even trying. We’d been trying to conceive for months, but illness had put us off it that month. But we got pregnant anyway, and I was due on the triplets’ birthday! We still believe he was the lost number 4.
My second birth, fourth child, was a planned homebirth after c-section (HBAC). We had intended to have a homebirth the first time, before we found out it was triplets. In fact, we’d already selected a midwife and had our first visit with her. So we called her up and asked if she’d be willing to take me on as a VBAC, and she said yes. The pregnancy went well. I had an ultrasound at 7 weeks to count babies (only one!), and I had a little fear left over from the triplets that kept cropping up. I’d panic whenever I had contractions (which started up at 17 weeks, just like the first time), and I was concerned about whether my damaged cervix would turn out incompetent. Then when my cervix stayed closed, I worried about whether it would open properly during labor. I went to work the last few months because my husband had gotten laid off, so I started to swell up in my feet pretty badly from being stuck in office chairs all day and not moving around enough.
I went into labor on my due date. Started with contractions that woke me up at 10 minutes apart, then seemed to move closer together. I called the midwife, and since she was just leaving another birth that had kept her up all night, she said she was going home to sleep and to call her when things got moving along a little more.
They never did.
Contractions became extremely variable, from 5 minutes to 15 minutes apart, never the same interval for three contractions in a row. It was definitely labor, full contractions. I had a lot of pain in the front of my pelvis, because Liam was actually hanging in front of my pelvis instead of being inside it, and every contraction slammed his head into my pelvic bone. I also had back labor because he was posterior. I had trouble eating again because of feeling like I would choke if a contraction came on. I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t lie down because every time I had a contraction while laying down I had excruciating pain and had to immediately roll out of bed onto all fours. It was definitely labor, but it wasn’t progressing. I visited the midwife that afternoon, and got an internal exam, and I was still closed, dilated only to 1 (which seems to be my default now).
This went on for three days. I couldn’t sleep at all, only catnap between the contractions. By day four, I was a mess. We had a massage therapist come by. We’d met her at our childbirth class, and she volunteered to do a diaphramatic release on me, no charge, to see if Liam would slip into my pelvis. It worked! Within hours after she left, the contractions finally became regular, about 8 minutes apart. We visited the midwife again, and when she checked me I was at 4 cm. I broke down and cried. I was so tired, and so exhausted, and so frustrated, I just couldn’t believe it was finally moving along. She sent me on home and told me to call her when I felt I needed her.
I labored at home with my mom and Brian until about 7 or 8. My friend Ariel came over. She wanted to watch the birth, and she was going to take pictures and video. By 8 o’clock, I was really feeling like I was in active labor. I couldn’t pay attention to the TV or talk much anymore, so we called the midwife back. She came in and starting setting up to stay. She checked me and said I was about 7 cm.
I continued to labor. I felt like I wanted to sit on the toilet a lot. At one point, I went upstairs and stood in the shower for a while, until I ran out of hot water. I tried sitting on the midwife’s birthing stool, but it was too painful for some reason, it just didn’t feel right. My water broke, and there was some slight meconium staining, not enough to worry about just a light yellowish-green color to the fluid. I was completely spaced out at this point, endorphins running full steam. I made the comment once that this was the best high in the world, better than drugs, and I meant it. I really enjoyed laboring during that time. It was hard work, but it wasn’t torture or anything, not like the last time. But because I was so high, I pretty much lost track of time.
Sometime in the middle of the night, the midwife checked me and said I was 9 cm but that I had a lip. She tried having me push while she held it back, but that didn’t work. This is where I really feel she started to screw up. She decided that, if there was a position that hurt, it must hurt for a reason, and it was something I needed to work through. Somewhere in her twisted brain, she decided that the only way I was going to get past that lip was to stay in whatever position hurt the most. And, being in the throes of full labor, probably in transition and definitely higher than a kite, I couldn’t fight back. I just did whatever I was told. So for what seemed like hours (I don’t know how long it was), she had me lying on the couch (which we had flattened into a bed), curled onto my right side. I screamed. I literally screamed. Every contraction in this position felt like I was being sliced open. And she just nattered on about how good I was doing, don’t move. Bitch.
Finally the midwife said I was past the lip, fully dilated and ready to push. I didn’t have the urge to push, though. So she rolled me over onto my back and got me into the classic lithotomy “stranded beetle” position and had me start purple pushing. Purple pushing is where you push when you are told, to the count of 10 or whatever, as hard as you can. You are ignoring your body, and it is called purple pushing because it tends to turn you purple in the face, breaking blood vessels, bruising your eyes, etc. THIS WENT EXPRESSLY AGAINST MY BIRTH PLAN. During pregnancy, when we discussed the birth, I SPECIFICALLY stated I would not push in this position, and I would only push when my body pushed. But again, in labor, I do what I’m told, I can’t say no, and because I didn’t educate/train my husband enough, he didn’t step in and do anything, he just went along with her. So I ended up on my back, purple pushing after 4 days of labor and no sleep, on my back with a posterior baby. I was doomed from that point on.
I pushed like that for four hours. He moved down some. I could just barely feel his head two knucles in. But he got stuck with his head under my pelvic bone and wouldn’t go any further. When the midwife started talking about transport, I finally came out of it a little bit and said that I needed to switch positions. But I was so worn out, I could barely stand. My legs were like noodles. I simply could not push any longer in any position. I was finished.
We transported to the hospital. I rode in my mother’s car; I don’t know how everybody else got there. I certainly had the urge to push now, with every contraction, but the fear had kicked back in. I was no longer high on labor, I was scared to death because I was heading for another c-section, and the fear turned everything into pain, nothing but pain. That car ride was hell. Then we got to the hospital, and I was being admitted while my body was trying to push with contractions, I was exhausted to the point of collapse, I couldn’t see straight because my eyes were so swollen…and they wanted me to sign papers!!! I don’t know why, because if I changed my mind later I could just say they were signed under duress. My signature wasn’t even legible! I started out in a little back room because L&D was full. They put in the IV and a scalp monitor. Then they got a regular room open and moved me there. They put in an epidural.
The epidural was the weirdest feeling in the world. On one hand, I was getting some relief, a break from all the work and pain. But on the other hand, I was completely disconnected from my body. I could barely feel the contractions any more, and I couldn’t move my legs. I was just a thing, a piece of meat on the bed. I hated it.
The idea was that I would rest for an hour or so with the epidural in, then try pushing some more. The rest was to give me the strength to push again, and the epidural would be kept in place hoping that relaxing my pelvic region would give Liam the room to slip through my pelvis. It didn’t work. I pushed for another hour with that damned epidural in. The doctor said he’d never seen anybody push that well, especially after already pushing for four hours, but Liam just wouldn’t budge. They said he was just a little too far in for extraction…so we were doing a c-section.
The c-section went better than the last one. Anesthesia was the epidural, topped off to a complete block. Because it was an epidural instead of a spinal, they were able to keep topping it off as it wore off (which it did about every 5-10 minutes). So I didn’t have any pain this time in surgery. They honored my request for a mirror, and I got to see the whole birth. It was a good thing, too, because if I hadn’t actually seen that dark, red-skinned, black-haired baby pulled from my belly, I would never have believed he was mine (and would you believe he is a pale-skinned blonde now???). They brought him by to say hi, then took him over to the warmer to check him out and clean him up a little. They brought him back to me to hold for a minute, then took him off to the nursery for a bath. Brian went with him. My mother stayed with me for the rest of the surgery. I dozed off after Liam left. I remember watching them clean and stitch my uterus, and thinking that it looked like a plucked chicken. Other than that, I just passed out and slept.
When I got back to recovery, it seemed to take forever until they brought me Liam. When they did, he had a scab on the top of his head from the scalp monitor, and bruising on his forehead from where he got stuck. Also, the entire back of his head was swollen, and he screamed when it was touched, which made him a very mad baby when he was held. This was from his head slamming into the front of my pelvis those first three days, before we got him to engage, and it took a good week for all the bruising and swelling to go away.
In the end, at the time we made the call to cut, it was a necessary c-section. But there are so many places where we could have gone down a different path, and I will never forgive that midwife for betraying me the way she did.