Before we decided when we would have our second child, I started studying natural childbirth and evidence based studies. I was determined to have a better birth! We decided to cloth diaper and be more natural in our parenting style than we previously knew how. In July of 2010, we found out that we were expecting baby #2! We chose to find care in a city sixty miles away in order to receive more humane and personalized care. We liked my new OB, as far as OBs go. ;) She recognized that I knew what I was talking about and was eager to learn more and to take an active role in my gestation and birthing process. We wanted a water birth, but the hospital had only one labor tub, so we kept our fingers crossed.
I'd had an intuition all along that I would go into labor on St Patrick's Day--and I did! I assumed for many hours that it was just prodromal labor, but transitioned from early to active labor that evening. Kirsten went to my parents' house that evening and we labored at home for a bit. I had an appointment scheduled for 9am the next morning anyway, so this was good timing. I was 37+6 wks. After a while, my contractions were pretty intense and moved to about 2.5 minutes apart, so we departed for the hospital. Ryan and I were in good spirits! We arrived at the hospital sometime around 11 and I was taken to a room for monitoring. I was asked to lay on my back in the bed and allow them to monitor my contractions. This felt too familiar. They checked me for dilation and I was only dilated 2cm and the baby was no longer engaged, she was in my ribs! What was going on with my birth? We were released around 4am (?), despite begging to stay since we had an appointment so early and lived almost 1.5 hrs away. We drove home and my contractions continued. Ryan slept just a little bit and I labored in the tub. We were only home about an hour before it was time to leave again. This ride wasn't as pleasant as the first. My body was definitely in labor and we had to stop every little bit so I could use the restroom. Looking back, I know that my labor was lengthened by the obstacles we had to overcome. You know, sphincter reflex and all. We arrived at the office and I'm sure I scared a family of small children sitting behind me in the waiting room every time I had a contraction. We saw the doctor and she checked me...dilated to 3cm. Oh my. So far to go. She told us that she felt I was definitely in labor and recommended that we find something good to eat before we headed to the hospital. We went to Panera Bread and I was too uncomfortable to labor without privacy at this point. At the hospital, I was told that I was the sixth woman to check in in fifteen minutes. Thank.you.supermoon. I labored on my back, hooked up to monitors for over two hours in c-section recovery before I was given a room. Remember that episode of Friends when the woman was wheeled into Rachel's room, before being wheeled *right* back out and delivering her baby in the hallway? Yep. Happened to me. I was finally given a private room--not the one with the labor tub. I moved around a LOT, spending a lot of time on my hands and knees. Dilation was incredibly slow. Around 45 hours in, I started to absolutely lose it. I was panicking and the nurse proclaimed me a 6. I started begging for the epidural. I had been in labor for almost two days, awake longer. I was exhausted and could no longer manage the pain. My amazing husband and sweet nurse worked me through a few contractions, but in the end, I received an epidural. The anesthesiologist and nurses saw how hard I had worked and how much I wanted to go 100% natural, so they administered a walking epi without me even requesting it. I will be forever thankful for that kindness, as it made a WORLD of difference in my emotions about the epidural. I was allowed to sit and move about as much as I physically could this time, they let me do whatever I wanted!! The epi never took full effect in the left side of my abdomen, so I didn't rest, it merely served as a way for me to manage the pain while still feeling every contraction--some that I still had to breathe and concentrate very hard to get through! :) In just a little while, I told Ryan that I needed the nurse because I could feel the baby in my birth canal, there was tremendous pressure. I buzzed her in and she delightedly proclaimed that the baby was crowning and started playing with her very dark hair! Ryan went down to look and was amazed! She asked me to do a trial push while the dr was on her way and made me stop--I was too eager to get baby earth side and she wanted the dr in the room. She allowed me to do "mini" pushes until the dr arrived, then I pushed twice and Norah came out all at once! She was perfect and made her anger at entering a cold world known! Just like her big sister, she became very calm when her daddy talked to her. They still do that today. ❤ She nursed immediately and for 30 minutes! Our wishes to allow the cord to stop pulsating before clamping were honored this time, and my placenta delivered on its own! Everything was as it should have been. We all went to the recovery room together and Norah later went to the nursery...that was where our nightmare began.
When the nursery nurse brought Norah back from her bath, they told us that they wanted her wrapped up the entire time because her termperature had dropped a little and they wanted her to stay warm. I still hadn't slept, but was on a birth high, so I just complied without thinking. In reality, I should have unwrapped her and done skin to skin, but it didn't cross my mind. A while later, they took her to the nursery again for a little while to check her temperature. They brought her back, saying that it was better, but they still wanted to watch her. Ryan and I finally fell asleep and when we woke up, she was gone and a neonatologist was in our room. He informed us that he felt her temperature was too low (it had hovered in the 97* range) and he sent her to the NICU--without our consent. He informed us that it was a 4-5 day *INVOLUNTARY* stay. He left the room and I began to cry. My dreams of a "normal" hospital day were shattered. I immediately marched down to the NICU, Ryan hot on my heels and demanded to know specifics. The only specifics we were given were that she was going to be contained in a heated isolette until she could hold a satisfactory temperature on her own, but that the "testing of the waters" would take at least three days. We would not be allowed to hold her except during feeding times, which were every three hours, and we would not be allowed to stay in the NICU when it was not a feeding time. I was bullied for feeding her as long as she latched because they said that it was "interfering" with their feeding schedule. We had to stay at the Ronald McDonald house and I got caught in traffic one day, making me three minutes late for her feeding. I called to tell them that I was in the parking lot and told them not to give her formula. When I got to the NICU, they were feeding her formula!! She proceeded to throw up every little bit of it and I cried as I Breastfed my hungry newborn.
After a four day NICU stay, they told us that she held a satisfactory temperature and could be released. They took each of our temperatures and found that both Kirsten and I had low temperatures. The nurse said that it must be hereditary. Hmmm...imagine that. A NICU stay for nothing at all. All of that stress for no reason.
I say all of this to encourage anyone who may have a story similar to one of mine, as well as to hope that me sharing my painful past may make parents aware that it doesn't have to be this way. I could have signed an AMA and taken Norah out of the NICU, following my instincts. She would have been perfectly fine, as she was never even given medicine or treatment of any kind. The ONLY thing they did for her was monitor her temperature. We wouldn't have been bullied by the nurse system and we could have taken our healthy, term baby home. She was born at 38+1wks. While many babies do have good reason for being put in the NICU, ours did not. Every day when the doctors made their rounds, we were told that she would be held longer for "observation". Several nurses told us that they had no idea why Norah was being held, that they never would have admitted her to the NICU had they been the ones examining and not the neonatologist.
This birth will be different. Stay tuned.