A couple of weeks ago at my husband’s company picnic at the zoo, 35 weeks pregnant“And now it’s time for me to tell the story of my third birth. My pregnancy was wonderful, but I had an unusual episode of heavy bleeding at about 12 weeks. I now believe this was correlated to the fact that I was unknowingly carrying twins and lost one of them. This is probably why I had excess amniotic fluid, so that my midwives thought my baby was several pounds larger than he actually was. I took the matter of choosing midwives quite casually – after all, third births are supposed to be easy, right? But my labor was far from that – it began with the release of my ample fluids, and my baby (smaller than my others) wedged down firmly in my pelvis in a posterior, deflexed, and asynclitic (cockeyed) position. I dilated to 5 centimeters in just a few hours, but then got stuck at 6 centimeters. Of course, I tried every position and trick I could think of. Hours went by. I remember my feeling of despair when, in knees-chest position, I became aware that my midwives had my textbook open and were trying to figure out how to manually rotate my baby!
But he was too high to reach anyway. As contractions continued, spasms began in my lower back, with pain on one side shooting all the way to my shoulder and down my leg – a sure sign that my baby was not putting uniform pressure on my cervix, which I knew would keep me from dilating further. As the pain became constant and more and more overwhelming, even between contractions, I heard myself say, ‘I want to go to the hospital.’ I could barely believe I was saying this, but I knew the score.
When we got there, my blessed backup doctor, Charles Bookoff, came into the room, kneeled down to look into my eyes, and said, ‘Tell me what you want, I’ll do anything you want.’ I said, ‘I need Pitocin to bring my baby down…and I want a low-dose epidural, one-third dose.’ With that, I could still feel the contractions, but now it was just back labor like with my second birth at home – no more nerve pain. I started moaning loudly with each contraction, and then I found my rhythm, found my spot, could feel my baby coming down, and realized that I was on my way. I dilated completely, and squatted and pushed my baby out. His heartbeat slowed while I was doing this, but no one dared even suggest an episiotomy. He needed light resuscitation, but soon he was in my arms, and I knew I had barely escaped a cesarean.
The hardest part was the aftermath, the fallout in my community. I certainly learned who my friends were and were not. I vividly remembered a phone call from one of my colleagues just days after the birth. She told me she had heard all about it, and when I asked what she’d heard, she replied, ‘That you had back labor and went to the hospital for an epidural.’ I began to explain the complexity of what actually happened but then realized it was pointless. People make judgments if they want to, and there was no use in being defensive. Later, I wrote and article about my experience for Midwifery Today (‘Passing Judgment’) that addressed the unknowable aspects of birth and my growing understanding of it as a *Blood Mystery.”
* “In many indigenous cultures, the perinatal period is considered a rite of passage steeped in mystery and power…let’s begin by reframing birth as a key physiologic and spiritual milestone in women’s lives….” (Orgasmic Birth page 116)
Excerpt from Orgasmic Birth by Elizabeth Davis and Debra Pascali-Bonaro, 2010
More on this fantastic book to come, and exactly what the title means, but I just wanted to share one of the author’s birth stories, since so often women judge, disparage and humiliate one another for how and where they have given birth. Maybe the medicalization behind birthing in America hasn’t only affected our physical bodies but our emotional and mental states, as well. Very dissatisfied with both of my previous births, especially my second one, I definitely relate to this birth story and the author’s feelings about being stigmatized and misunderstood. New knowledge has helped to prepare me for a vastly different experience this time around, but I also know that I’m not naïve and things can take different twists than we anticipate. My prayer is that my birth experience this time is for my daughter and I, something healing and powerful, and I will never let it be anything that needs explanation or allow someone else to chip down the beautiful, God-ordained journey of birth.