We’ve been on edge since I was 36 weeks along as to whether this guy was going to make an appearance with all kinds of false alarms! We went from California law says the baby can’t be born until 37 weeks anxiousness to California law says this baby has to be born by 42 weeks anxiousness and we made it just in time last night (41 weeks and 6 days) at 9:26pm. Peter Zachariah, my fourth baby born at home, is 8lbs 10oz and 22in long.
Of course it’s me so there’s a long story to go with this photo. Before you get started, it is a homebirth story and that means there are going to be some frustrations expressed with medical practice and the law as well as some gory details you might not want to read about if you have a weak stomach or you are eating. Proceed if you are into that sort of thing.
Last year California passed a new law that while in some ways was good for and gave more formal recognition to the practice of midwifery, it was very restrictive in other ways.
Even after three prior homebirths I found myself in this strange position of having to prove for most of my pregnancy, where I encountered the same issues as the other three, that I really was healthy enough to do this again. The day I finally could prove this to the medical establishment, I was so relieved to finally continue care with our midwife that had helped deliver two of our three babies.
So I had been having 1-3 hour spurts of patterned contractions on and off since 36 weeks. It was frustrating every time they fizzled.
I remember we were out for tacos with my friend Heather’s family and other friends and I looked and seemed then to be very done, but as Heather joked that night, “California passed a law so the babies better take notice.” The goal was to take it easy that week and make it until at least Saturday, August 2 when I would be 37 weeks, the minimum gestational age under the new law I mentioned.
And then I kept on being pregnant.
As more and more physically uncomfortable I began to grow and in some ways impatient, I also knew that my body and the baby knew what they were doing. We were checking out healthy at our appointments. I was enjoying my visits with my midwife as usual because talking about birth stuff with her is always fun. I made some sarcastic remarks here and there about wanting to be done, but I wasn’t going to try and hurry things along unnecessarily. A few dietary old wives tales were about the extent of any actions on my part.
Then my due date came and went and next thing I knew I was 41 weeks along. Unable to lighten the baby carrying load that night, I decided at 10pm after a shower that it would be a good time to chop 9in off my hair instead.
Another part of the law was that at 41 weeks my midwife had to send me for post-dates testing. Since I hit 41 weeks over Labor Day weekend, it granted me a slight reprieve. I was not looking forward to going in and being lectured by an OB about the “need” to be induced. I had dealt with this before and both times it was not a pleasant experience. So I actually started to have some pretty serious anxiety about it Monday night which resulted in a piddly four hours of terrible sleep.
Tuesday morning after several tries with our insurance automated phone system totaling about an hour and a half, I finally got a real live representative on the phone. As I started to explain my situation, I heard a dial tone and I was calling from my home phone at that. I was beyond frustrated and by now my three small children really needed my attention as they ran through our house banging and blowing musical instruments as loudly as possible. More phone time was not an option. My plan was to make another attempt after schoolwork and lunch, but then my faithful pal “morning” sickness showed up, we had ballet and I had a midwife appointment.
Getting down to the wire of the maximum gestational age under the new law, my midwife and I started to make plans at our appointment. The next morning I would try to make an appointment for post-dates testing with my insurance again and try the good old castor oil induction.
My second attempt at making an appointment seemed to go slightly better. The first rep I talked to was shocked that I still wanted a homebirth at 41 weeks, but I told her that I wanted to get the tests done so that I could make an informed decision about how to proceed. The second rep she transferred me to was very understanding and chatty. She asked about my previous homebirths and said she totally got it. There were no appointments available, but she said she would put in a message to a nurse.
No one called me back the whole day and the castor oil induction attempt was almost immediately rejected by my still sensitive stomach from the afternoon and evening before of “morning” sickness.
Thursday morning I called again and was told they would send another message to the nurse. I asked my sister to come pick up my kids hoping that not having to worry about them would maybe do the trick.
With still no luck going through our insurance, my midwife advised me to go to the hospital, explain the situation and get my testing done there. Hospitals make me super anxious. I’ve never really had a horrible hospital experience, but I was talking with a friend about it the other day and I think part of it is just the level of stress the staff is undergoing often is palpable (even if they are nice to you), as well as the spiritual significance of death and life in that place, add to that intercom paging (especially when things are getting more intense), beeps, heart monitors, the often very low temp maintained by the air conditioning system, etc. and it is just hard to relax there.
I had Stephen with me though and we went that night after he got off work. I was somewhat mentally prepped for it not to be an enjoyable experience, but I am happy to report that it was actually pretty great. We walked into the labor and delivery ward and I was immediately registered and taken care of with very little fuss. At the end of our time there, the on call doctor from our insurance OB group was gracious in the way he handled sharing his professional opinion (that I should stay and be induced because their policy is 41 weeks and 3 days) while also being understanding of my being an informed patient, the appeal of homebirth, and that while there are increased risks associated with going late, the tests showed it was very unlikely that any of those would happen. He even joked about epidurals. He stripped my membranes to help things along and sent me home saying that our insurance would contact me in the morning to schedule my 42 week induction.
The next morning bright and early they did call and wanted me to come in to the OB clinic for an appointment and more testing as well as paperwork for my induction. At that point I was just feeling slightly defeated and passive about the whole thing (I thought I would never go into labor!), so I agreed. My husband was not happy, saying another appointment was overkill.
We went in. The doctor that had an opening that morning was not exactly happy about my still being pregnant and my plans, but we got through it with an “agree to disagree” ending, another NST and check of my amniotic fluid, and an induction appointment for 7am the next morning.
With two clean bills of health from the medical establishment (which wasn’t really news) to satisfy state law, we could move forward with our next set of plans. My midwife came over, started an IV of antibiotics and broke my water at 3pm.
Nothing really happened right away, but after two hours I started having some contractions that were increasing in intensity. I went from chatty and joking to irritated and slightly snapping at Stephen about movement next to me, lighting, sounds and being touched within an hour. My midwife needed to start some more antibiotics at 6:30, but I have small veins that roll and she didn’t want to keep poking me and blowing veins. So she called another midwife with a background as an EMT to come start an IV. I wanted in the tub and tried there for a bit, but then wanted out and on my bed. By the time the other midwife got here at 8:50 and was trying to start a new IV, I was semi pushing. After IV attempt one I just really didn’t want to be poked again and knew that I was going to be pushing this baby out really soon making the antibiotics somewhat mute. I could not get comfortable on the bed and decided to go back to the tub.
I was kind of in a table position on my knees with the side of the tub and started pushing. It felt better in there, but obviously still uncomfortable because it’s labor and you are pushing a tiny human out of you. I don’t really think I pushed a ton, maybe 5-6 times and he was out. My position was awkward in the tub though so I was the only person that could reach down and pull him up and out of the water. I felt so shaky and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to hold myself up with my legs alone, but I did it. I saw that he really was a boy just like the halfway point ultrasound said, but we slightly doubted because he was so active making a clear picture tough for the tech and because my pregnancy symptoms were so much like Jilly’s. I was eased back into a sitting position where I stayed for a bit until the placenta came out as they were draining the tub.
With the other three I gave birth on our bed so the midwives were changing out bed pads and towels the whole time and I was lying back instead of sitting up so I didn’t really see anything. So I was kind of shocked about how much blood there was in addition to the shock of just giving birth and feeling slightly weak and shaky from that.
They got me out of the tub and onto the floor by the tub, but I didn’t feel like I could walk all the way back to our bed right away. When I stood up it just felt like my lungs and everything were falling without that baby holding them up and squashing them. So they checked me out there first.
They got me back to the bed and I initially felt pretty good. I was in way less pain than I expected to be in both with nursing and dealing with afterbirth pains.
Stephen made me some toast so I could take some Advil. I took one bite and I suddenly did not want it in my mouth and thought I might throw up and that’s when things got a little tense. I did throw up. I started not feeling good at all and the midwives were concerned about my uterus contracting. It was contracted, but not down far enough. They started an IV. I was bleeding a bit more than they liked. I was feeling really out of it too. It maybe seemed more scary to me, but they both kept assuring me that I was going to be OK and that if they were really concerned they’d have emergency personnel come. They gave me medicine in the IV and then decided they needed to check for clots. It was really painful, but once they got them out the bleeding was much more controlled. Things calmed down. I started to perk up and joke again.
Once I was more stable they examined our baby, Stephen cut the cord, I had more IV fluid, they cleaned me and our room and bathroom up. They gave Peter a 10/10 on his Apgar and decided based on their examination that his gestational age was actually 41 weeks. They reminded me that I went through a bit of trauma and that I needed to stay in bed this week before heading out so we could go to sleep in the first hours of Saturday (our 11th anniversary!)
So that’s my plan. I think this is really the first time I don’t feel like getting up the next day, actually. Pretty content to rest and snuggle our very sweet and cute boy.
*** Sorry if I sound like such a Debbie Downer about laws and medical practice. I’m just not sure if I would feel as tired or had the immediate post-partum experience I did if my body had just been allowed to do things more naturally when it was ready.
**** For those interested in the reasoning behind the names:
St. Peter the Aleut was an Orthodox martyr right here in California. We have a children’s book version of his life which all of our kids, but especially big brother Henry love. In this last year of helping to start up a mission parish for the Orthodox Church in America, one of the things that made it possible was the closing of St. Peter the Aleut mission in Lake Havisu because they gave us several liturgical items.
Yesterday was the feast day for the Prophet Zachariah.