This is the birth story of my son Sawyer Emerson Karli.
It is a story about standing up for myself, even when, especially when, things don’t go exactly as planned. My husband and I had talked about wanting to have children early in our relationship. It was something we both really wanted and I wasn’t sure with my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome how long it would take or hard it would be for me to conceive. Because of this, 3 months before our wedding I began seeing an amazing acupuncturist to help even out my hormones and to regulate my cycles. Two months after our wedding, on Thanksgiving morning, I woke my husband up at 6:00 A.M. shouting “Is that two lines?!”. It was a day with much to be thankful for.
I made an appointment to see my O.B. It was still very early so he said we had missed seeing the heartbeat by a few days and that we would need to come back in a week or so. They got all my info and the nurse gave me a lengthy discussion on the importance of getting a flu shot. I politely declined (as the baby didn’t even have a heartbeat yet and I was trying to keep things as natural as possible).
At the next appointment, I was asked all the same questions as the week before. The only thing they remembered about me was my adamant refusal of the flu shot which I heard them discussing while I was in the restroom by the nurses station. I discussed my interest in a natural birth with no episiotomy with my doctor. He told me we would see how things go. This began my search for a midwife.
Illysa was the first midwife I met with, but I knew she was the one. She was the only midwife in her practice and having a personal experience and knowing who was going to be delivering my baby was important to me. I met with several other midwives, but none matched her calming, yet passionate spirit, so she took me on and I felt very good about choosing to have a home birth.
At my 23-week appointment things were feeling a little off, so I had her check me. We were both shocked to find I was already 50% effaced. We decided to keep a close eye on things and see what happened. Things stayed the same for weeks with no further progression, though we did observe the baby was getting pretty comfy in the sunny side up posterior position. At my 33-week check I was 70% effaced and 1 cm dilated. This is where things started to get a bit tricky.
Illysa had planned birthing classes and a vacation to France around several clients due dates. I was beginning to be fearful that not only would I not make the 36-week minimum for a homebirth, but I wouldn’t have my midwife there either. I was left in the hands of her support midwife while she was away, and with an intense desire to nest (the lady at the Container Store called it before I did), I started getting things ready around the house for the birth of my son.
At 35 weeks on Sunday June 23, 2013 I began having contractions. I was timing them at about 20 minutes apart. My mother, who was in town for the weekend and who had planned to go back home, was very glad she had decided to stay an extra day. Around 2:00 A.M. I had her call the midwife. She checked me and said I was 2 cm dilated and that babies head was very low (-2 station). She said due to baby being only 35 weeks and 1 day, it was time to go to the hospital.
Once we got there, things began to slow down. The first doctor to check me put me at 2 cm dilated and -1 station with contractions 5 minutes apart (I have a high pain tolerance so I wasn’t feeling every contraction at this point). I fought to refuse an IV and antibiotics (my strep b test was scheduled for the next week). We compromised on no antibiotic, intermittent monitoring of the baby, and a hep lock in case “I started bleeding out and my veins began collapsing”. Yikes. This wasn’t the birth I was hoping for. Where was my midwife’s calming spirit? Where was the birthing tub? My biggest fears were coming true.
I was an educated first time mom who was committed to having a natural birth. I’m 28 years old; I had eaten right and exercised. Why was this happening? I felt a bit of a panic so I decided to call my Mayan massage therapist Michelle who had been a midwife for many years. She normally doesn’t come to births anymore, but we had developed a close relationship during my pregnancy so she agreed to meet me up at the hospital. Once Michelle arrived I felt this strong sense of calmness wash over me. As my water had not broken and I was only 2 cm dilated, all of the sudden it occurred to me that I could go home, that I didn’t have to stay! The doctor agreed to let me go home on the condition that I would return when my water broke. I decided to do the strep B test at the hospital (just in case we had to come back) and I returned home.
When I got home, I set the intention that baby boy was staying in until Friday when my midwife would be back and I could have the homebirth I had planned since baby would be 36 weeks. I managed to hold him in for another two days before my contractions started getting the best of me. We arrived back at the hospital on early Wednesday morning. I had stalled out at 6 cm and had not progressed for many hours. Once I got checked in, the doctor came in, looked me over for 5 seconds and stated that I wouldn’t like his recommendation but that I had “been in labor for too long… and needed to be started on Pitocin and an epidural”.
Michelle and the midwife asked if we could have some time for me to adjust to being in a new environment to see if we could get things going. He stated that we were “wasting time” and walked out of the room for the next two hours. I requested another doctor at this point, but the nurses told me it was up to the doctor whether he wanted to pass my birth on. I learned later they work off commission per birth so this doctor stayed on 45 minutes past his shift, but was determined to make my birth go as quickly as possible.
When the doctor came back in we had him break my water. Within minutes the contractions got almost unbearable. I believe this is when baby decided it was time to abandon the posterior position for one better suited to pushing. Transition ensued and I began saying that there was no way I could possibly do this any longer. The room got very quiet and I felt like I had failed in everything I was trying to accomplish with natural birth.
The nurse said it would take 3 more contractions to get the epidural ready. Would I like her to check me one more time? I said yes and was ecstatic to learn I had progressed to an 8. At that point, I knew I could have the drug free birth that I had worked so hard for. The nurses called the doctor back in as my body was beginning to push on its own. I was at a 9 with a cervical lip that wouldn’t budge. The nurses held it for several contractions and it was finally time to push.
The doctor came in obviously mad that I had proved him wrong about being able to accomplish natural childbirth. I had told him several times that I did not want an episiotomy, but he did not care. Without my consent and without giving me any chance to push to see how things could go, he cut me 3 separate times. Before the third cut, as I was saying once again that I did not want to be cut, he threatened me saying that since my son was premature he could get brain damage as a result of me pushing him out. Since my birthing classes were scheduled to begin one week from when I was actually giving birth, I had no training on what to do. I had read books on what would happen, but I didn’t know how to actually push with the contractions.
The doctor told me my pushing was “ineffective” and that my baby had “gone back up inside of me”. It wasn’t until the midwife got between the doctor and me and said that “no woman is born knowing how to do this” and gave me some instruction that I was able to effectively start pushing. I knew I had to get my son out as soon as possible as I was afraid of what the doctor might do to him. I knew he would resort to vacuum assisted birth or a c-section to prove he was the one in charge. So with 30 minutes of intense pushing (some pushes without any contractions to help guide him out), my son was born at 7:46 am on Wednesday weighing 4 pounds 11 oz tiny, but perfectly healthy.
He spent no time in the N.I.C.U. and latched on as soon as they brought him over to me which I am convinced is because I had him naturally. The lactation consultant was amazed at his alertness and ability to feed.
I have filed complaints against the doctor to the hospital and medical board who are both conducting investigations. Though I didn’t get the perfect peaceful birth that I had envisioned, I do have an amazing little boy who I gave birth naturally to. I have peace knowing that I stood up for myself and didn’t let the doctor get away with how he treated me. This is my birth story of how I birthed, not without, but in spite of fear.