My Healing, Midwife-Led Hospital Birth

I consider myself to be very fortunate that after my first traumatic birth experience in hospital, I was able to empower myself and have the healing home birth that my mother-soul craved.
Since Ghanima’s incredible home birth experience in 2012, I have given birth again.
My daughter Harmony was born in the Royal Alexandra Hospital, on March 24, 2014. This hospital birth experience was a world of difference when compared to Levi’s birth. It is possible to have the hospital birth that you desire…
Here is my experience with midwife led hospital birth:
Sometimes, your well laid out birth “plan” does not go the way that you envision it. That does not mean that it has to be any less of an uplifting experience. I was terrified to give birth in the hospital, and in a lot of ways, I am grateful for the opportunity to lay that fear to rest.
At the end of my pregnancy with Harmony, my midwife voiced some concerns about the size of my baby, (I have already given birth to 2 very large babies at this point, Levi being 10lbs. 8 oz. at birth, Ghanima being 10lbs. 12 oz., and this one seemed like she might be even bigger.) I hadn’t had any ultrasounds during this pregnancy, but I had gained A LOT of weight. As usual, my belly was HUGE!! With only 8 months between giving birth to Ghanima and getting pregnant again, it was a hard pregnancy. I felt like my body had hardly healed from my last birth. 
At one of my final prenatal appointments, I was given a CHOICE (yay! I get to choose!) between trying again for the home birth we had planned, and leaning on the side of caution at the hospital. After weighing all of the risks, and consulting my deep seeded fear of hospital birth, I chose to try for my second home birth. My midwife supported my decision.
So the day I went in to labour, (just past 41 weeks gestation) we prepared our home in the same way we had for Ghanima’s birth. I had a big pot of homemade miso and quinoa soup on the stove (my favourite post birth snack) and my young daughter was whisked off to Grandmas house so that we could focus on the task at hand. My husband prepared the birth tub, I called my beloved midwife, and things were going pretty smoothly…
I laboured in the tub all day long, I repeated birth affirmations, I moaned and rocked, and screamed and cried…
24 hours later, things were not moving along so smoothly. In the last weeks of pregnancy, I had been using evening primrose capsules to soften the cervix. My cervix was thin and dilated, surges were intense and definitely effective, but my baby was just not moving down. With her head still high, and the waters still in tact, my midwife had one concern. If the bag of waters broke, the umbilical chord could slip down before the baby’s head, and get compressed. Which can be very dangerous for the baby. 
We tried everything we could to bring the baby’s head down… rebozo, squatting, etc… nothing worked. My big baby just was not budging. And I was getting tired. 
My midwife sat me down next to my husband and levelled with me… no bullshit.
She thinks that we should call it, and go to the hospital. After many tears, and eventually a fear release exercise, I reluctantly agree to go. My husband packed a bag for me and the baby, and we headed for the hospital.
I was terrified that when I got there, some strange doctor that I had never met before would barge in and take over. I had already been in active labour for a whole day, I was exhausted, and I was worried that they would tell me I couldn’t do it on my own…
But that wasn’t the case. When we got there, the charge nurse showed us in to a room at the end of the L&D ward. My midwife and her team (her back up had met us there, as well as her student), they took care of the paperwork. The nurse who saw us in assured me that we would be left alone unless we needed extra support. My midwife was able to break my bag of waters and be confident that because we were in the hospital, if an emergency situation arose (such as the baby’s head compressing the chord) that we were close enough to the resources we would need in order to get the baby out quickly. 
When she broke the membrane, I could feel the baby begin to descend, although she got stuck on my tailbone. Luckily, her umbilical chord did not descend through the birth canal before her head came through. We tried the rebozo again, I used the sink in the bathroom to squat as low to ground as I could, and tried with all of my might to push the baby over my tailbone. Eventually, I felt a shift and she began to move down!!! I got back on the bed on my hands and knees, I pushed and panted until her head emerged!!
…And that’s where things started to get blurry. Her shoulders were still stuck. I turned over carefully on to my back, and two midwives reached in (eeeeeeep) and were trying to tug her out. My husband got scared and started to run squirrely all over the room. It took a few minutes to get her body out after her head emerged, and he was worried. I started to scream, I started to lose my mind a bit… the student midwife who had been supporting me face to face looked at me with a look of fear and pity… and I thought that I was going to die. I gave one final big push and FINALLY my big baby slipped out. I pulled her up on to my chest and collapsed with relief! She was ok! She cried and snuggled in to me.
Everyone cheered, and the nurse poked her head in to witness the moment of victory! I was so happy! We were all rushing from the endorphins…
I bled a lot after she came out, and I am glad that I was in the hospital and my midwives were properly equipped to deal with an emergency situation. (I will point out that at the hands of my skilled midwives I DID NOT TEAR!) After an hour or so of skin to skin contact with my babe, they took her for assessment and I got in to the tub to get cleaned up. When they weighed my baby girl, she was 13lbs. Again I will say… NO TEARING!
I am so grateful for my midwives, my husband, and for my strong and capable body… 
I am also grateful to have had a hospital birth that honoured my birthing preferences. I can say today that I am no longer terrified of giving birth in a hospital, and releasing fears is oh so good for the soul. 
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Harmony’s first nursie!!
 

Morbid tinted glasses

This post has a bit of a dark side. We all know the term “rose tinted glasses.” Seeing the world through a rosy, happy glow. We have this innate ability as children, as young adults without a care in the world. As long as we are untouched by sorrow.

I was thinking about perspective the other night. I was online late in the evening. I came across a post by a friend of mine. Actually, she is my friends mother. A man I have known since grade school. He was recently brutally murdered. His mother, she had posted that she was struggling. She was missing her son. I reached out to her (this is my calling, as an SBD, as well as my duty as a friend!) I called her, and I could feel the pain in her voice. She lives 3000km away from me, but I could absolutely feel her sorrow. All I did, was listen. She just needed to talk.

During the conversation, she mentioned that she had a disagreement with her surviving son in the weeks after her youngest sons death. It was a matter of perspective. He had done something in remembrance of his brother, (I won’t say what it was, out of respect for her privacy) which she was shocked at. She felt like his tribute to his brother was a morbid gesture, while he thought it was beautiful. And she asked me why…. why didn’t she see the lightness of his gesture, the way that he saw it?

I have thought about this question… this question has plagued me since my own journey with grief began. Why is everything so dark!!?? And I was honest with her. I told her that she will see beauty again, she will recognize it. But that in my experience with being a bereaved parent, my “new normal” was that perspectives change. Things seem to be “morbidly tinted.” A bereaved parent will always have this morbid tint to their perspective on life… We can laugh, love, enjoy life, but our perspective has changed.

We are people who know that ugly things do happen in the world. We cannot hide behind misconceptions such as bad things do not happen to good people, or innocent children. We are people who have experienced the dark side of human emotion. And unfortunately we are people who do not easily forget the darkness. We can rejoice in the lighter side of life. We can rejoice in the light and love that came from our deceased children. But once we have lost that piece of ourselves, we will see things through a slightly darker tint.

I wish I had come to terms with this early on in my grief. It would have saved me a lot of time spent wondering what is wrong with me, why am I so dreary? Why did I see that differently than how everyone around me saw it? Now I know that nothing is wrong with me, I am not strange or morbid. I am a woman who has a slightly different perspective. And there is an entire community of bereaved parents around the world who can see through the same shade of tinted glasses.

Birth

This morning I woke up and realized that throughout this journey of grief and healing, I haven’t shared any stories of birth. Really, those are the most important ones!

So I’m sitting here, staring at a fresh, new blank page on my computer, reflecting on why I have been holding those stories back. I came to this conclusion; Levi’s birth was a traumatic experience. I’ve been embarrassed to admit that, as much as it was one of the most sacred, life changing moments of my life, it also carries a great deal of remorse. Most women who have gone through a birth experience in a hospital setting will understand what I mean when I say that giving birth in that setting is traumatic, for both mother and baby.

I didn’t even realize that there was an alternate way until I became pregnant with my second child. I knew that I was terrified of giving birth in the hospital again, so I started to research home birth. After contacting a few midwives in the city, and pleading my case with them (there were waiting lists as long as ones’ arms) I finally found a loving person who agreed to care for me throughout pregnancy and birth at home. Although that baby was not carried to term, I delivered at home with my husband, and was grateful to not have to go through all of the hospital rigamarole during that time of grief. I was able to let my body do what was needed, even though it was physically and emotionally painful, without being interrupted by hospital staff for the sake of “procedure” and being on a hospital time sheet.

Giving birth to that tiny embryo at home, with my husband lovingly caring for me, was a pretty empowering experience. It wasn’t an illness, as the hospital treats it. It was birth. It did not yield life, but it was birth. My body did all of the work, with no help from a doctor with a glorified vacuum cleaner. Afterwards, we were able to hold a small ceremony in the river valley near our home to say goodbye to that little life. The experience brought us closer together than we ever had been, tightly weaving our bond as family.

We spent the next year of our lives travelling western Canada, relaxing, having fun as a young couple generally does. At the same time the next year, I became pregnant again. Of course, I was terrified. I again contacted the loving midwife who had cared for me during my last pregnancy, and it was smooth sailing from there. What a joy it is to go for a monthly visit with a health professional who does not treat you as if you are ill. No internal exams, no poking and prodding, no ultrasounds. Just a gentle check of the babes heartbeat, a few questions, and all is well.

When it came time to give birth, we were prepared and empowered, and we knew we were safe in the comfort of our own home. My mom was there helping me through surges, my husband sang songs, even my dog was there! I could eat if I was hungry, drink if I was thirsty, walk the dog, sit, squat, dance, and enjoy the warm water of the birth pool. Labour was long and intense, but we were confident, we knew we could do it. Our baby girl was born safely in the comfort of our bed! She was 10lbs 12 oz, a big healthy girl, and my body did what was needed to bring her in to this world, naturally. Her birth healed all of the trauma and remorse I had felt from Levi’s hospital birth. I’ll follow with his birth story, hopefully reading it will provide an understanding as to why I describe it as being traumatic…

*          *          *          *          *          *           *          *          *          *          *          *          *          April 6, 2004

It’s five a.m. I wake to a nurse stirring in my dimly lit, sterile hospital room. She is checking the fluid in my i.v bag. I glance at the clock, I have been asleep for about three hours, after giving birth to my baby boy. It had been a very long labour, and hard on both of us. I’d been in the hospital for four long days…

After my water broke at home, I had rushed to the hospital. A decision I came to regret. Although I wasn’t having contractions yet, I was told that I had to stay in the hospital because of the risk of infection. I was hooked up to an i.v. and a fetal monitor, so it was hard to move around. Labour was slow to get going, so after a couple of days I was given a drug called pitocin in order to speed things up. Oh, man. That pitocin is one hell of a drug. Things were pretty intense after that, and although I had decided I was going to give birth without drugs, I was laughed at by the staff at the hospital, and given drugs anyways. I was informed that I had no idea the pain I was in for, and that I was naive to think I could actually do it without drugs.

When it came time to push, I was pretty out of it. My mom and sister in law were with me, cheering me on, while Dad and the rest of the family waited in the lobby. After 23 hours of active labour, not being allowed to eat or drink anything, and hysterically begging the doctor not to perform a c-section, my 10lb, 8oz. son had finally arrived. His head was very swollen and bruised from the forceps, and I was in shock from the tearing and the blood loss. I only got to spend a mere few moments with him before they whisked him off to the NICU for observation…

….So it’s three hours later, my breasts are aching, and I am anxious to see my newborn son. I ask the nurse if I can see him.

“Not yet,” she answers bluntly. “He is in recovery. The doctor still has a few things to look over before we can bring him to you. We’ll bring him here as soon as he is stable, and you can try to nurse him.”

The nurse exits the room, closing the door behind her, leaving me in absolute silence. I gaze out the window to glimpse the beginnings of an impossibly beautiful spring day. Simple human emotion easily procures a sense of tranquil wonderment. I give thanks for the quintessential gift of motherhood as I drift to sleep again…

When I wake again it is almost 8 a.m. My family will be here soon. A sense of panic overwhelms me when I realize that I have not yet fed my infant son. My breasts are swollen and sore, and I’m worried that he might have been given formula. I ring for the nurse.

A few moments later she comes swishing into the room pushing a glass bassinet.

“He is pretty hungry,” she tells me, “he’s been fussing for a little while. We wanted to let you sleep a bit.”

I peek into the bassinet and I am taken back by the bruising and cuts around his head. He is quite swollen and his eyes are squeezed shut. The nurse notices my worried look, and goes on to explain that the forceps and hard delivery had caused a bit of trauma to his head.

“The doctor says that it will heal quickly, it’s nothing to worry about.”

I smile at her, and pick him up gingerly. He is a big baby, he looks strong. Unlike most of the newborn babies I have seen, he does not seem frail and weak. And he is ravenous! As soon as I settle back on to the bed with him and open my gown, he is grunting and rooting around with his mouth, suckling for dear life! It takes a few tries to get him latched on properly, but we get the hang of it together and soon he is feasting happily. The nurse makes sure we are comfortable, then leaves us to go and make her rounds.

All at once, our reality seems effulgent, rosy. Love takes on an entirely new meaning with this budding new life to inspire. My fingertips lightly trace his face, his fiery red eyebrows, his perky little nose and chubby cheeks. I tickle his fingers and toes. He is drifting in and out of sleep, stirring every so often only to seek nourishment at my breast. The sensation of feeding him is a satisfaction unlike any that I have ever known. I have never done anything so important as bringing this little muse into the world.

Soon my family is bustling into the room, my mom and dad, two brothers, sister in law and my nephew, all anxious to meet him. They have been waiting around for four days. He was born in the middle of the night, so they were ushered out by the nursing staff just as soon as the big show was over. Now I cannot wait to proudly introduce to them all to the most magical little being that they will ever meet.

Of course, every mother feels that way about her children. And why shouldn’t they? Your children will always bring about the best person in you. You can look into the eyes of your children, and see everything that is your past, your present, and your future. They hold the key to awareness for future generations, as well as all of the wisdom of the ancients. When I looked in to Levi’s eyes during those first moments, I saw the entire universe in him. I knew instantly that he was wise beyond his infant body…

Levi, moments after birth

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Ghanima and I, seconds after giving birth.

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