I’ve promised a few of my friends and readers a story of the birth of our son, so here it is. It’s got details, it’s got some minor downers, but in all it turned out OK. But definitely a lesson for us on “Why silent birth?”.
A note – this is not a short, punchy article, but a birth story, and one which I’m writing down as much for my own sake (while the memory is still fresh) as for yours. So bear with me, if you will.
Before the Birth – Midwives & Birth Assistants as Partners
As you may have read in previous articles on this site (like this one on our first trip to the midwives), we had been planning to have a home birth for our second child. Our first, Mackenzie, was a mostly excellent experience – mostly due to the fact that we had a kickass midwife acting as the quarterback, one who stuck to essential communication only, and was very direct and calm in helping my wife to get a rather large baby out. But my wife preferred a home environment to that of the hospital, so we arranged for a midwife and a birth assistant to come to our home to deliver our second.
As I wrote earlier, our midwives were totally on board with the way in which we wanted to do the birth, and had complete agreement with our beliefs. Already being trained in the Bradley Method, they were used to creating environments where the women can just LABOR, and not be jarred about by bantering nurses & doctors. Our birth assistant was particularly helpful and receptive, especially seeing as she had three other Scientologist clients who she was scheduled to attend births of, and wanted to make sure she was getting it right.
Again, can’t restate how helpful and understanding they both were – so thanks for that.
The Big Day’s Unforseen Twist
If you were following along with our Big Belly 2.0 photo gallery, you’d know our baby was a bit over 40 weeks, and as such we were using virtually every old wives’ tale or proven method known to get labor going. After a visit to the Midwifery and a checkup on the health of mom & baby in the morning, a fairly palatable fruit smoothie of mangoes and castor oil finally did the trick, and my wife went into labor on the afternoon of the 25th of Jan. Midwife and birth assistant were invited over to the house, my wife’s sister came over as well, to help, and we got ready to have a well-planned home birth. Or so we thought.
The baby, who had been utterly healthy earlier that morning, had somehow turned on an abormally high heart rate of about 240 (above a normal range of 140-160/m). My wife’s veterinarian sister, on hearing the baby’s heart on the doppler, called out what the heart rate was even before the midwife, and said – “Wow – sounds like a hyperthyric cat.”
Fluids and such didn’t take the abnormal heartbeat down, and as the midwife – in her 35 years of practice – had never seen such a thing before, she didn’t want to risk anything bad happening. So she called for a transfer to the hospital, and off we went.
The Un-Silent Treatment
Unfortunately, due to our coming in to the hospital in a bit of a hustle, we didn’t have time to brief any of the staff on our birth plan or anything – only concern was getting the baby out in a healthy manner. It was unfortunate also, as we had a duty nurse who seemed committed to ensuring we had as an upsetting a stay in the hospital as was feasible.
On arriving to the Labor & Delivery area, whilst signing in, our midwife told the duty nurse that we were the ones who had called in, that we had a baby with an abnormally high heart rate, and needed help immediately. The nurse blurted out, “Oh, great!!!!!”. Our midwife snarls back at her and says, “No, it’s not ‘great’. It’s serious.” She then replied, annoyed, “Oh, well I mean it’s great you’re here.”
Then, on getting my wife moved into a room, into a bed, my wife started having some pretty serious contractions. Heart rate hadn’t changed, everyone in the room was just being silent & a bit tense, while waiting for our experienced doctor to arrive. But, in the middle of all this tense silence, and while my wife was right in the middle of a real nasty contraction, that same nurse came bursting into the room and blared like a defective yachting airhorn, “Well, how are we all doing this evening!!!!?” My wife, midst her contraction, could only grit under her teeth, “Rrrrrr…..can sssommmmeonnne pllllease shhhhutt her up…”
But then, the icing on the cake came just a few minutes later. We were all waiting for the doctor to arrive and give us her opinion of how we were going to proceed and get this baby out safely. And in the midst of that, before the doctor got there, that nurse comes back in and comes right up to my wife and says, “Well, now seeing as the baby’s heart rate hasn’t come down yet, we’re going to get going and get you prepared for your c-section. Sorry to tell you that, but I just want you ready for what’s going to happen.”
This of course sent my wife into tears. Luckily my midwife was there, and whispered into her ear, “Don’t worry about it – she’s actually totally clueless and doesn’t know what’s happening. We’ll just wait for the doctor to get here.”
Luckily that nurse never came back.
Doctor Mackenzie to the Rescue
When the doctor arrived (wonderfully named “Doctor Mackenzie”), she took one look at my wife and just said, “Tell you what. Let’s just have a baby, OK?” With my wife’s ok, she then broke her water (which was unreal, let me tell you) and literally instantly, the baby’s heart rate slowed from a dizzying 240/m to 140/m, and stayed there.
And at that point, we all realized it was going to be OK. And at that point, my wife got the most intense, “get the F out of my way, I’m having this baby right the F now” look on her face, and proceeded to bear down and push that baby out. Being there was like watching one of these moments you hear about where a woman lifts up the end of a car to save her children or something. I have never seen my wife so intent in my life, and from what I’ve been through with her – I’ve seen her pretty intent before.
Literally within 15 minutes of her water being broken, and after only about 4 major pushes, my wife pushed out a 9lb 13oz baby boy – who was just as healthy and snuggly as could be.
He latched on within minutes of being born, and stayed latched for a full hour. As a result of his excellent feeding habits, he only lost about 3oz while at the hospital, and was back past his birth weight in just a couple days.
The Results & Lessons Learned
If any of you reading this have seen my daily photo log I’m keeping of him (doing a 365 Project for him on Flickr, just like his sister) you’d see that we ended up with a fully healthy, fully happy little boy, one who at 2 weeks old had already passed 11lbs 4oz and is growing well. No signs of trouble either. Nobody – not the doctor nor the midwives had ever seen anything like it before, so if anyone reading this is medically inclined, feel free to chime in with your opinion. Lay observer’s opinion is that the boy just wanted out.
But in terms of lessons learned, it was a somewhat typical example of why Scientologists (or anyone for that matter) might desire to give birth in a quiet environment. The whole point is simply to make the birthing process as stress-free both for the child, but equally for the mother. Obviously, having a foghorn leghorn duty nurse didn’t help my wife have a stress-free birth, and regardless of one’s religious background, I would think that a sense of calm and respect for the mother should pervade anyone working in such an environment.
So to me, that just underscored even more the importance of having a birth devoid of unnecessary chatter, such that the woman can just focus on laboring, and so the baby can arrive to the world in peace.
Luckily for us, my wife had gotten through an extensive Pregnancy Assist Program (see article) on our first child, and has already completed a similar program for this one. So, she’s as happy as could be as a new mother. With all that she went through, our midwife was flatly in disbelief that she wasn’t suffering from any sort of postpartum depression. But, that does tend to be the result of such Pregnancy Assist programs – and again is why I’m glad we have our friends there at the Church to help us out.