March 26, 2012

What the Water Gave Me

I met her at the hospital at noon. Her contractions had already started — at around 6 that morning. By the time I got there to meet her, they were irregular, coming on with fierce pain that stabbed her lower back (due to the baby's posterior position) and made every muscle in her body tense up as she wailed. I immediately suggested that I apply acupressure. Marybeth, the midwife, stopped in and greeted us, and immediately suggested we start walking the halls, to get labor into gear. We walked for two hours, and Maddy gripped the wall and handrail, as each contraction came upon her, and I stood behind her, leaning into her back with both hands planted firmly into her spine, adjusting the location and pressure as she guided me. 

After what seemed like forever, the midwife examined her and determined that she was still only 3 1/2 centimeters dilated — a half centimeter away from "active labor," which would keep her from using the Alternative Birthing Center — the whole reason she had been driving 20 miles to this suburban hospital in the first place. Options were discussed:  just wait and see. go home. nipple-stimulation. And the dreaded P-word, Pitocin. The midwife favored starting a Pitocin drip, as she was concerned with risking exhaustion, as this was a first birth and the labor could be long. She doubted Maddy's stamina, as she was already quite tired and irritable. Marybeth told us that using any sort of intervention would prohibit Maddy's eligibility for the ABC. Sobbing tears and a flood of emotions came at this point, and the midwife left us to discuss things and make some decisions.

We decided to check into a standard L&D room (we had been in a triagé up to this point) and give it a few more hours before considering Pitocin. In that time, I told Maddy I would do everything possible to get her into active labor. After some pleading, they were able to check her into the one room that they had that had a water birthing pool. But I wasn't going to let her get into it...because now was not the time for relaxing. Now was the time for cranking things up. What followed was a hot shower, breast-pumping for nipple stimulation (which releases oxytocin into the bloodstream) and another hour of walking, followed by more pumping while sitting on a birthing ball. At this point I could tell that the contractions were intensifying and we were getting close. One more hot shower, a few hands and knees position contractions and it was clear that she was now in very active labor.

As the midwife came back in to examine her, Maddy was now asking for Pitocin to get things going, not realizing that she had already moved into active labor. When we got the news that she was at 7 centimeters, we were overjoyed that we had crossed the major hurdles without any drug interventions. They began to fill the birthing pool, as labor quickly intensified. Still applying acupressure with each contraction, I tried to counteract the enormous pressure on her pelvic bones. When the pool was finally full, she got in and got into a comfortable position, her head resting on the side of the pool where we placed a towel and I slipped one arm under her head for added support. The water seemed to bring her exhausted body a measure of comfort for what would be the final stretch. As each intense contraction came, the midwife and I encouraged her and watched as her body finally surrendered and as she begged for it all to be over, the baby's head crowned. Amazingly, she pushed slowly, but for a mere 15 minutes and didn't require any stitches afterward. Her beautiful son was born at 10:21 pm — Diego Cosmos.

Being a birth Doula for the first time felt like the most natural and intuitive experience in the world to me. It was definitely a "bucket list" item for me, and I feel truly blessed to have been able to share this experience with my good friend. We are now bonded in a sisterly way that I cannot begin to describe. I am hoping that I will now find other opportunities to support women in natural childbirth with empathic and supportive care.

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