June 17, 2010

Birth Stories: Please Welcome Jude Harvey

I’ve hesitated submitting this story because it’s deeply personal. But if it can help other women traverse the emotions of beginning mama-hood--and maybe doctors will begin to realize we want more choices--then here goes something.

There weren’t many things I wanted more in life than how much I wanted to have a natural, un-medicated, birth. I’d heard my mother speak of her two natural childbirths my entire life and I had always aspired to have one for myself and my precious baby. It was a gift I wanted to give him. However, baby Jude was head up the entire pregnancy. It was at week 36 that my midwife said we would need to schedule the c-section for week 39. She said that in the mean time I could try some maneuvers at home and make an appointment to have an External Cephalic Version.


A C-Section?!

And so begins my grieving process. I call it a grieving process, 1) because I’m a Mental Health Counselor and I know the stages of grieving oh so well, and 2) because I began to realize the idea of a natural childbirth was slowly slipping away from me. My husband and I had taken Hypnobirthing classes and medication was not an option, whatsoever, for me. I had a deep desire to share with the gazillions of women throughout history who knew what it meant to have a natural childbirth. Eve, Sarah, Bathsheba, Hannah, Elizabeth, Mary. I wanted what they had.
So I began to mourn:

DENIAL: I had to get over the shock that I could not find a doctor or midwife skilled in delivering my breech baby. I was shocked to find out that the skill of safely delivering a breech baby had nearly become obsolete. Throughout my pregnancy I had prepared myself with the idea that my baby or I could become in serious danger during delivery and I would need a c-section or major medical intervention. But, he was breech. Neither one of us was in distress. He was simply head up, bum down. A c-section, really? Really? I was in denial.

ANGER: I became very angry at the medical profession for letting me down. I thought being in the United States of America meant I was free, that I had choices. I was angry that I found myself with no choices, no alternatives.

BARGAINING: I began to bargain with my midwife to give me one more week…okay one more week…okay one more week to get this baby to turn before scheduling a c-section. I tried everything; I mean everything to help little Jude turn. I went to the Chiropractor 3 days a week, I did the inverted “polar bear” position 5 times a day for 10-15 minute stretches, I put ice packs at the top of my belly, I played soothing music in between my legs, I played rhythmic loud music in between my legs, I shined a light in between legs, I went to an acupuncturist, I used moxibustion, I tried visualization techniques, I clipped clothes-pins to my pinky toes and to no avail we attempted the awful external cephalic version. He never budged.

DEPRESSION: I became depressed. I became deeply sad and deeply disappointed that a natural childbirth was very quickly looking really impossible.

ACCEPTANCE: It hit me. Ashamedly, I had become angry and disappointed in Jude. The emotions hit me and they hit me hard. But this realization was my freedom. Somehow all my disappointment and blaming was directed toward Jude. I decided in that moment Jude could do no wrong. I wept and asked for his forgiveness. I told him I would love him whether he was head up or head down, chess player or quarterback, Burger King cashier or President, outgoing or shy, skinny or fat, short or tall, C student or A student. I would love him unconditionally. All along I wanted a natural childbirth because I knew my body could do it. I knew my body was created to do it. I believed my body and my body’s Creator knew what they were doing. So I accepted the fact that my body, my baby, and my Creator must know something I don’t. Why go against those things and force this baby to move when perhaps he was meant to be breech all along? Ultimately I refused to schedule the c-section and decided to wait for baby Jude to come on his own terms. I thought if a c-section was going to happen it’s going to happen after we’ve got many hours worth of the God-given love hormones during contractions.

So on January 7th around 8pm my contractions began. I took a long shower at 10pm (the “back labor” as they call it was horrendous because of his breech position and the shower was just what I needed). At 3am I lost my mucous plug and called the midwife. I told her my contractions were 2 minutes apart and lasted just about 50 seconds. She told me to come on in. I woke my husband (who was oblivious that anything had been going on the last 7 hours). He took a shower and I did the last finishing touches on the hospital bag. We took our sweet time and got to the hospital by 6am. The whole time I’m thinking and believing with every contraction he could be moving head down. They did the ultrasound and sure enough he was still head up. I was 4 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced.

They had me in the cold OR by 7am. At exactly 8am on January 8th, Jude was extracted from my body out of a 4 inch incision.

I wasn’t the first to touch my precious baby. I wasn’t the first to see his face. It wasn’t my voice he heard first. He wasn’t laid on my bare chest. We weren’t able to lay in his goo for hours before nurses did their nurses thing. He was instantly clipped from me and laid in a crib where I couldn’t see him.

I could hear his precious cries.

They led my husband over to the crib where nurses were hooking him up to oxygen and rating his Apgar. After the first 10 minutes of my baby’s life they walked him over to my head. He was completely swaddled in hospital blankets and I could barely see his tiny cheeks. I said “Bring him closer” and I stretched as hard as I could to try and kiss his little face. I had barely kissed him when they walked out with him to the nursery to monitor his lungs. I laid there for another 30 minutes while they stitched up my insides--without my baby boy. Our love hormones that had been coursing through my body throughout the contractions were now interrupted with a spinal tap, morphine and antibiotics. They wheeled me to a recovery room where I got frequent text messages from my husband who never left Jude’s side. Jude was wheezing and they wanted to monitor his breathing. Of course he was wheezing. Without the birth canal to apply pressure to his lungs he’s gonna need a little more effort and time to clear his lungs.

We were separated for 4 long hours. He was brought into my room swaddled up. I couldn’t grab him fast enough. I put him on my chest, pulled off the hospital cap and began kissing him and telling him over and over “Here I am, here I am, here I am.” I immediately stripped him and myself down to begin breast feeding. In an instant I didn’t care that we’d been separated for his first 4 hours of life. The world was perfect. My life had truly begun. I had a healthy, warm, happy baby in my arms. He wouldn’t leave my side for days.

For weeks it didn’t matter in the least bit that I hadn’t had a natural birth. I was so infatuated and googily-eyed with this handsome little baby that the natural childbirth was a fleeting thought. But my baby is 5 months old now and I still can’t watch a natural childbirth. I cry. A flood of grieving emotions come over me. I realize there’s still some unfinished business with my emotions toward the loss of a natural childbirth. However, I know I’m able work through these feelings and understand these thoughts so clearly because I have a husband that in every way is my very best friend. Without his unconditional listening ear, I could not have made sense of my emotions. I know I was an emotional wreck at times, but I can’t imagine what I would have been like without him enduring my journey of becoming a mama.

JUDE means praise and thankfulness and Harvey means battle worthy. He’s managed to live up to these names very quickly. I thank God for him.

Ed. Note: We are so grateful to Jude's mom for offering the beautiful and moving story of his birth. For more information on Breech birth and our rights as Moms and babies, come see "A Breech In The System" at Cinema Salem on Saturday, June 26th.


Erin said...

This was so stingingly beautiful. This mom's story has a familiar ring to it, it's important for those moms who had an undesired C-section to tell their stories. Thank you for sharing.

Catie said...

This is a beautiful birth story, thank you for sharing it so openly. I can relate to this birth story on so many levels, as my first was born by c-section as well. I GET it. All those stages of grieving, loving the baby & hating how he arrived, all of it. It is abhorrent how breech birth is a skill that US OBs/hospital midwives no longer have for the most part. We should at least have choices. If you haven't already, try joining ICAN, there are a lot of women there who GET it.

CGB story said...

Does anyone have a story about VBAC? We'd love to hear it!

julie said...

Beautiful story. I too, had a c-section b/c my daughter was breech. I was devestated when I heard the news. I agree that I had to grieve the loss of being able to give birth naturally. I cried a lot! My Ob completely understood and completely validated my feelings. I was very lucky to have a wonderful OB. I also went through all the stages of grief, and I too was angry at the baby for being breech and at my body for what I considered a "failure" My daughter was born safely and was very healthy. AS far a c-sections go, I had as posititve an experience as can be expected. I could see her as the nurse attended to her, and even before my husband held her, the nurse brought her to me and put her cheek up against my cheek. We were never separated and my husband pushed her in the bassinette as we went to the recovery room.I held her and was able to breast feed her in less than an hour. I was still sad about not having a natural birth but I got over it with time. I came to accept that being breech was the way my baby was comfortable and that is how she wanted to be. It was her birth,and although not how I had previously envisioned it, it was still her birth.
My second daughter was born via a VBAC. Again, my OB and all in her practice supported me 100%. In fact, I feel that they encouraged me to have a VBAC. I feel lucky to have been able to have a successful VBAC and grateful that my second daughter was healthy too. I look at my daughter and they are as different as their births. They are different but both still wonderful and beautiful!

Catie said...

My second was a VBAC, I still need to write up the story. It was a long labor, and didn't go as planned, but was totally worth it.