A Healing Hospital Birth {After a Delivery that Resulted in PTSD and Birth Trauma}

by Krystal Cleaver on October 8, 2013

This birth story of my daughter Kayla was my healing birth after having suffered a traumatic birth experience with my son Alex in December of 2011. When I gave birth to Alex, it was a traumatic, intense birth to say the least. I struggled with PPD and PTSD as a result of his birth.  I wanted Kayla’s birth to be different and healing.

I had hoped and planned for a homebirth. I suffered HG my entire pregnancy and because of that my hemoglobin was dangerously low, too low in the state of Wyoming to be “allowed” to birth at home.  Because my labors and births with Blake and Alex were so fast we still prepared and educated ourselves to have this baby unassisted. To be completely honest, I wanted nothing more than my husband to catch Kayla.

I had been contracting every 4 to 6 minutes from 6:00PM or 7:00PM the night before.   As morning approached they were becoming much more intense and harder to work through.  When my husband woke up at 6:30AM I informed him of this and we both made the decision that we would pack and drop off our boys and make the 45 minute drive to our midwife.  I had an appointment with her at 2:00PM that day but didn’t think I could make it that long and didn’t want to give birth on the interstate.

I was checked in to triage.  I knew that on the drive over my contractions had gotten much worse but was shocked to see on the monitor they were every 2-3 minutes lasting 30 seconds to a minute. I felt as though I was leaking amniotic fluid so made sure to tell the OB but the two tests they did right there were negative and they also sent a third to the lab. I was dilated 3cm which was an improvement from 2cm but still only 50% thin and minus one station.  I was told to walk the halls and come back to be re-checked.

Jimmy and I walked and walked and walked. I was very disappointed but not shocked that my contractions were slowing down and becoming much less intense. This always seems to happen to me when I arrive at the hospital.  We eventually made our way back to triage and just knew there would be no change but I also knew that just because there was no change now doesn’t mean that I may not be in full blown labor later that day or night.  I was re-checked and sure enough still 3cm and -1 station and I was 60% thinned out.

I was getting ready to be released when Kayla’s heart rate jumped to the low 170′s. Her normal heart rate is usually late 140′s to low 150′s and I know this because I checked it often at home on my Doppler. Many of the labor and delivery nurses had commented on how beautiful her heart rate usually was and joked that she was just showing off. They opted to keep me in triage for a while to monitor her and see what would happen.  I had texted my doulas earlier that morning to let them know what was going on and kept giving them updates.  They were trying to decide at this point if they should make the hour drive to join me.  I told them not quite yet, I would let them know if and when I needed them so they were on stand by.  Jimmy was updating my mom and sister who were watching Blake and Alex.

The doctor ordered a bio-physical profile to be done.  The tech didn’t give us any clue as to what was happening but she made a comment to the effect of “they will take good care of you here” as she was leaving.  After that comment was made I just had that “feeling” she had found something on the BPP.   We waited a bit and then my nurse came in and said,  “Do you want to have your baby today?”.

She walked me to a labor and delivery suite and started an IV.  I agreed to this because I knew with my hemoglobin and hematocrit level being so low I was in danger of bleeding out after birth.  The doctor came in and informed me that I had no fluid.  My heart immediately sank because I knew that I was at risk for the cascade of interventions being started. The doctor said that her recommendation would be to start Pitocin but I stood my ground and said no, especially with Kayla’s heart rate being so high and the fact that I had no fluid. She agreed to try and stretch my cervix as much as she could.  She was able to get it to 4-5cm and at this point I was 90% effaced.  I let my doulas know that I needed them as well as my mom and sister.

My mom and sister arrived with my boys around noon, about 15 minutes before my doulas did.  Once they arrived the doctor came back in and asked how much time I felt like I needed to get things moving and we said two hours.  I don’t think she was happy about it but she agreed and she also agreed to “let” me get out of bed as long as I stayed on the monitor.  This meant I could only go as far as the cords let me.

As soon as they left the room my doulas had me get up and start moving.  I was doing squats, figure 8′s, lunges, bouncing on the ball and all fours in my bed.  I knew as long as I kept moving and upright there was a very good chance that I would get things going on my own without the Pitocin. I had an amazing nurse that day and I do think God was looking out for me.  She came in countless times to re-adjust the monitor and never once complained or ordered me back to bed.

Two hours later the doctor came back and I was so scared but almost positive I had made a change.  I was approximately 5 to 6 centimeters dilated at this point and 100% effaced.  We were all elated.  I continued to do what I had been doing and my doulas made sure I stayed hydrated and nourished at all times.

The doctor continued to come back every two hours to check me and every check there was change.  At some point in time I made the very difficult decision to have a fetal scalp monitor placed so I could be a bit more mobile and wouldn’t have to worry about the monitor not staying on.  I must say that this doctor was amazing and truly she restored my faith that there are still “good” doctors out there.  She respected my wishes. She would always tell us what her opinion was but never once pushed anything on me. She never violated me and would always ask before doing a cervical check if it was okay and if I was having a contraction would wait until I told her it was over.

One of my doulas took the clock down so it would not be a distraction to me.  My mom and sister unfortunately had to leave and go home 45 miles away with my kids.  It made me sad they wouldn’t be there for the arrival of the baby.

The atmosphere during my labor was consistently calm and relaxing, the lights were dim and we used candles. It was the kind of atmosphere I needed.  My husband was putting tons of counter pressure on my back and was using cold rags to help with the pain and also because I was hot.  I found the most comfortable position to be on the ball and I stayed there most of my labor.  Things hadn’t got intense yet and I was easily breathing and moaning through the contractions.  I made sure to stay on top of them and really, really focus. I remember thinking at one point “could it really be this easy all the way to the end?”.  There was one point and I think it was around the time I hit transition that the journey become emotional, very emotional.  It caught me off guard.  I was having flashbacks to Alex’s birth and realizing that I was facing this fear head on.

It was when I hit 8 centimeters that things got bad and I really started doubting my ability to do this naturally.  I had made the move from the ball to the bed for that check and was still doing somewhat okay.  The doctor let me know she was slightly concerned because although I was dilating and thinned out Kayla’s head was still -1.   She let me know that if it stayed that high there was nothing she could do to help get her out vaginally and it would have to be a cesarean section.  I remained calm because I trusted my body. I trusted Kayla and I remembered something a different labor and delivery nurse had told me when I was pregnant with Alex. Some babies do not drop until moments before birth.

The doctor brought up the idea of Pitocin and it stirred a lot of fear within me. I was reassured that I would not need much at all.  I agreed to it but was absolutely terrified because I have heard so many stories how unbearable Pitocin makes contractions. I was suddenly hit by the worst contraction ever. I couldn’t get my focus back and I lost control.  I started begging for the epidural, saying I could not do this and yelling at the nurse to stop the Pitocin.  To this day I am not sure if I received it or not, I know the bag was hung but not sure it ever entered my body.  The nurse said she had barely hit the start button when I yelled to stop it.  So, if I got any at all it was a very small amount. I know now this was transition because of the intensity and fear that just took over. What made it worse is I lost my focus. I had been so calm up until that point but the idea of Pitocin and a possible cesarean section sent me over the edge.  Deep down I knew she would drop.

I could feel Kayla’s head getting lower.  I could feel that I was leaking what little fluid I did have left and I knew I was pooping.  I was embarrassed but there was nothing I could do. I started screaming, “She’s coming, she’s coming”. My husband knew from my previous birth that when I start saying that the baby is close very close to being born.  He let them know someone needed to get the doctor right away.

She came in and did a cervical check. I was 10 centimeters, her head had dropped and she was about to crown.  The doctor barely had time to get dressed.  I told her I had to push and I pushed once.  I felt the ring of fire but was so confused why it wouldn’t stop. I know now that it is because she flew out all in that one push and flew out so fast her body hit the bed.  I screamed and the next thing I knew she was on my chest.

I began bawling and couldn’t stop; it was surreal.  I could not believe I had just given birth un-medicated and I survived! Although this was not the birth I envisioned or planned, it was wonderful. It was healing and most of all it was empowering and in that moment my natural birth high began.

Empowering Hospital Birth after birth trauma

 

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