John's Birth Story

Thursday, May 26, 2016

John turns 4 next week! Eeek! So I finally got around to writing up his birth story. 
Fair warning: I cover PPD and some traumatic aspects of birth towards the bottom. I suggest you don't read past the going home picture if you think that might be a trigger for you.

John was due 5 days following my college graduation. I walked the stage looking enormous. There were bets about whether he would be born on graduation day. Fun times.

Enormous. Told ya. 

Baby boy stayed in there though!
And stayed.
And stayed.

Eventually he overstayed his welcome.

This was punctuated by a fun thing called prodromal labor. 
Also known as for realsie labor and contractions that do NOTHING. So. Not. Cool.
That lasted for nearly 2 weeks.

I actually went in around 41 weeks to L&D because the contractions SEEMED like they were doing something. They were getting closer together, not stopping, all that jazz. When hooked up to the monitor, the nurses could see promising looking contractions. Enough that they admitted me.

But the thing about being admitted to L&D means you will be watched like a hawk and not allowed food or drink. 
In labor. Over-due. And not allowed to eat. 
By 24 hours in I was mentally breaking. Growing a human on no fuel will do that to ya.

They started a line of Pitocin. It did make the contractions bigger, but progress I did not. Apparently I'm one of those fun people who don't respond well to Pitocin.

Now I had awesome L&D nurses who fought so hard to get the orders changed. But OBs don't like cases like mine. All bodies are supposed to work the same, don't you know? Who did I think I was having the audacity to NOT be progressing? 

On Day 2 I was finally allowed to go off the Pitocin and Matt ran out to Jack-in-the-Box. You have no idea how good a cheeseburger and curly fries can taste until you are a starved super pregnant woman. I think John did a little in utero happy dance.

I insisted on being discharged that day. No more torture for me. I had had enough of feeling imprisoned, starved, and not able to sleep.
Leaving L&D without a baby is one of the most demoralizing things that can happen when you are that far along. I just stared at the ground and cried as quietly as I could.

Then began the fun rounds of Non-Stress Tests (NSTs) to check up on little John. I always looked like I was contracting regularly (because I was), and every new nurse would try to say encouraging things like how I was going to go into labor any hour now. I basically wanted to throttle everyone.

At 42 weeks we had to call it and the CNM midwife scheduled an induction. 
Getting induced meant getting up really early, calling the hospital to make sure they were ready for us to come in, and doing hurry-up-and-wait in L&D. 

We arrived about 7am but they didn't get around to starting the induction until closer to noon.
We watched a lot of Law and Order.

We were in a room that was a lot smaller, and a lot less nice, than our previous room. Our first nurse was not great. She bumbled through getting the IV line in my hand, and we found later that she had left a sharp on the ground (by which I mean we found the sharp in question.) 
In the room people are mostly wearing socks or nothing. Yeah, not cool.

Misoprostol was finally administered about noon. After the hour of having to lie on my back, I was finally able to move around a little bit. 
Because I was being induced, I had to stay connected to the fetal monitor. I had the one with cords. They had a number of cordless sets but they were all in use. 
By people not getting out of bed. 
I continue to be less than thrilled in the decisions of others.

I was able to get a birth ball and spent a lot of time on that sucker. At some point I moved into the shower, and Matt spent a lot of time keeping the stream of hot water moving around my back. 

I made a lot of progress in the shower, and discovered staying in there was a great way to get the medical team to leave me alone. At this point, I didn't want to see a doctor until absolutely necessary.

They finally made me leave the shower so they could check progress. The temperature change made me really nauseous (the gathering intensity of the contractions might have had something to do with it too). 
I labored on the bed a little bit. Suddenly, I got this overwhelming feeling that something was changing really fast.

And my water broke.
Way to go intuition!

But there was clearly meconium in the fluid, which meant little John might not be doing too great.

Back on careful monitoring.

Laboring on the bed was a lot harder, and it was in the wee hours of the morning now. I was exhausted and kept falling asleep/passing out (honestly, not sure which) in between contractions. 
The monitor kept moving so the nurses would have to fiddle with it until they got it in a good place again.
I made poor Matt keep saying "Soft, soft" over and over again. You want weird stuff in labor I suppose. 

After one big contraction, urge to push started happening in full force. I was lying on my side, and felt like John was moving really well in that position. But once nurses figured out I was actually delivering, doctor got called and I had to go on my back. 

I did NOT want to go on my back. It made me feel nauseous and terrible and something just felt really not right about it. John apparently thought so too. His heartrate dropped quickly, and I could easily have been an emergency C-section if I didn't deliver so fast. 
They had to hold me down to keep me on my back. 

He had the cord wrapped around his neck, and was a little blue, but baby boy pinked right up on my chest. He pooped all over me too. It was a hard road for him too I guess.

I lucked out and didn't need what they so delicately call "reconstruction". I just got to cuddle the baby and finally eat a ham sandwich.

Staying in the hospital afterward re-affirmed that recovery in hospital is terrible.
No one lets you sleep! Who seriously was like, "You know who really doesn't need a lot of recovery and sleep? Women who have just finished one of the hardest marathons of their lives!"

Every few hours they WAKE YOU UP to take your blood pressure. Then they WAKE THE BABY UP to check on them. 

One night nurse freaked me out by insisting John was really jaundiced and needed the doctor immediately. You don't say these things 1) before if you know it is true and 2) to a woman who hasn't slept properly in weeks.

This was one of those "baby friendly hospitals" that does not do well nursery. 

So no one else is helping care for the baby, nor will they let you sleep, or let you move around much at all. They only "help" we got from staying in the hospital was not having to cook, but I'm not sure that's saying much. It's not bad to throw a freezer meal in the oven or crockpot.

Finally going home!

Needless to say, I was so so happy to get out of that hospital. 

My mom came and stayed with us for our first week, and that was great! Actual help! Real food! Chores getting done! Getting to sleep!

But I quickly learned there would be zero post-partum support anywhere else.
When I was showing signs of Post-Partum Depression (PPD) I did what they told me to. I called my midwife. A few times. They finally just told me to go to the ER. Not what I was expecting, but I continued to do as I was told.

In the ER it became clear that things were not the kind of help I was trying to get.
I got suspicious when there was a security officer positioned outside my room.
Eventually a doctor came in and explained they were 5150ing me. In California, that means I was being forced into a psychiatric hospital.

None of this was what I was asking for. I was not ok with it. That meant forced separation from my breastfeeding newborn.

They came in with the gurney to take me to the ambulance for transport. But with a 5150 they have to handcuff at least your ankle to the gurney, I felt like I was being arrested for doing what I was supposed to do in asking for help.

The sounds of baby John crying in the hospital room in Matt's arms as they wheeled me away just broke my heart. 

The hospital was clearly not set up for PPD cases. As in, I was the only one they had ever seen. Everyone else on my floor were largely in for eating disorders, the others were schizophrenic or had other severe forms of depression. 

They did not have answers to a lot of important questions. Like did they have a breast pump? How would I get milk to my newborn? When would I be allowed to see him?

I decided real fast that I was going to do whatever it took to get out of there. Lie if I needed to. 

There just had to be a better way.

At this point I had spent the better part of 2 weeks in labor, been starved, dehydrated, sleep deprived, abandoned by care providers, and now forcibly separated from my baby, breast feeding was shot, and I was being held against my will.

No way was I doing that again.

So that's the big long story about why Therese was a homebirth. And it was sooooooo much better!

***Edited to add: Yes the story with what happened with recovery from PPD and such has more of an ending to it, but this post was already getting crazy long and I feel like it will be better completed in another post. Stay tuned!***

**Here it is!**


  1. Oh my *expletives* !! That is just awful! I am so sorry you went through that. How anyone could have thought they were doing the "best" thing for you - or even just caring for you - is inconceivable. It makes me want to punch the health care system in the neck. I'm so glad you were able to do things differently with Therese. God bless you all today and next week for John's birthday and always!

    1. I ask myself a lot of the same questions. I think a lot of my story happened because too many people were so busy checking off boxes, they never looked up and noticed the person in front of them.

  2. I'm in did you get home?!?! Did you ever get the help you needed? Postpartum depression is common; how could there not be a system in place?

    1. More coming soon, promise!

      There STILL isn't a good system for handling PPD cases. My hope is the more we talk about experiences with PPD, and the systemic failures to aid us, we might arrive at a system that can be of real help to women.


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