Share My Vantage Point

Last night, I saw a postdates mama (41 weeks pregnant) advised to “turn off the part of the brain that is telling you something is wrong”. This is a perfect example of why I feel strongly that the culture of a “perfect birth” can be very dangerous.

I didn’t see it until I had lived through it, and my baby hadn’t.

A vaginal birth is a beautiful thing. A healthy baby is so much more beautiful.

For the fortunate who have had both, it can be hard (almost impossible, it seems) to see that it is not right, healthy or ethical to push a woman to have her baby naturally, no matter what.

It’s not that simple for every woman, because every woman and every baby is different.

If you only know a person online, you are not qualified to give them medical advice. Too many pregnant women (myself, included) get stuck in the thought process that “they did it, so I can too”.

Maybe you can. Maybe you can’t.

You can’t know that you should have done things differently until it is too late, and no one else should have to go through what our family is going through now.

I did not want a third c-section. I wanted a vaginal birth after cesarean very badly.

Right now, five months after our daughter was born still, I can tell you, without the slightest doubt in my mind, that I would endure a cesarean section every day this week if I could just have my baby back in my arms, alive and healthy.

Read what I have written. Learn from my mistakes and loss.

Click through and share “The Vantage Point of Hindsight” with anyone you know who is pregnant.

Share it for Clara.

The Vantage Point of Hindsight

The Vantage Point of Hindsight - A Realistic Look at our Popular Birth Culture

I chose to attempt natural childbirth with all three of my daughters, yet all three were delivered by cesarean section. With my second daughter, emergency surgery saved both of our lives. With my third daughter, I chose a cesarean because, in my shock and disbelief at hearing that our obstetrician could find no heartbeat, I believed it could possibly save her life. Unfortunately it didn’t, though it did end up saving mine, yet again.

I did not intentionally put my daughter’s life in danger by going two weeks overdue. I would never have chosen to attempt a natural labor and childbirth if I had known that my daughter was going to die. From the vantage point of hindsight, I wish I could turn back time and consent to the bi-monthly ultrasounds, the amniocentesis at 36 weeks and the cesarean section at 38 weeks. If I had done so, my daughter would be here today. I was scared of hospitals, a fear that began with my second birth and which developed into full-blown terror over the intervening decade.

I allowed my fear, and my absolute belief that I could have a natural childbirth like so many other mothers do, to color my decisions. I assessed risks, but unwittingly I was only looking at one side of the coin. I worried, questioned myself, asked questions and looked for reassurance on natural childbirth message boards. I was told about women who had gone many weeks postdates, women whose babies had no ill effects from passing meconium, women who had breech babies at home with only their husbands in attendance. I believed, completely and absolutely, that I was doing the right thing by avoiding induction and staying home until I was ready to give birth. I allowed popular birth culture to color my decisions.

I cannot turn back time. I cannot make different decisions for that pregnancy, that birth. I wish I could, more than I could ever express to anyone. All I can do is learn from the mistakes that I made, and hope that other mothers will find my story in the course of their own research and learn from my mistakes, so that they can make better choices for their own pregnancies and births.

The natural childbirth community is full of wonderful people, who mean to empower women into trusting their bodies and allowing their babies to be born into the world peacefully. They don’t mean any harm by advocating these beliefs, but unfortunately, it is all too easy for a pregnant and hormonal mother to become hypnotized by the adrenaline high of other women’s experiences. Too often, the risks are skimmed over, with much focus given to staying positive and avoiding negativity.

Conversely, I have read articles and comments on websites that convey the belief that natural childbirth is inherently dangerous and that home birth should be outlawed. I have seen grieving mothers who have lost their babies told that they deserved what they got, or that they should have known better. I have seen real, true information that will never be received by the intended audience because of the aggressive wording and nature of the writer.

What I have come to believe, in the 12 weeks since my daughter died and was born, is that taking an extreme stance on either side of the birthing communities is very dangerous. There is no one course of action that is best for all birthing mamas. Doctors and midwives are not always right, but they are not always wrong, either. Not all obstetricians and hospitals and mothers are created equal.

The risks of meconium aspiration, postmaturity, uterine rupture, maternal mortality and stillbirth are real, and need to be discussed as openly as the benefits and risks of episiotomy, amniotomy and epidurals are. The feeling that pregnant mamas shouldn’t worry themselves that their babies could die, because it stresses them out unnecessarily, is misplaced. Mothers need to know that it can happen to them, because it does happen to mothers just like them every day, so that they can make informed decisions regarding their health care providers, their birthing facilities and their births.

My daughter should not have died. I take responsibility for my part in her death, and I torment myself with how I should have done things differently, every day. I probably always will. It is my hope that by sharing my story… Clara’s story… other mothers will not have to experience the horrific sadness that is losing their babies.

Be smart, mamas. Don’t believe everything that you are told, by either your doctors, your midwives or your friends. Every article on the internet is not fact. Do your research, read both sides (good and bad) and decide the parameters of your comfort zone for yourself. Neither natural childbirth nor cesarean sections are the right answer for every woman. Find a compatible and educated health care provider who can guide you through the medical end of the journey.

If in doubt, get to a hospital and make sure that your baby is fine. Don’t hesitate. Above all else, be safe.

No soapbox or belief is worth the life of your baby. Believe me, I know.

(Please, share this post with anyone you know who is pregnant or trying to conceive. Help get the word out to mamas to be aware of the benefits and the risks of the choices that they make regarding their pregnancies and births. If we can help just one mama to make choices that prevent the death of a baby, than we have made all the difference in the world.)

 

Clara Edith Webb

Our beautiful baby girl, Clara Edith Webb, was born still on July 1, 2012 at 3:45pm, by repeat c-section at 42 weeks 3 days gestation. She was 7 pounds 9 ounces and 20.5 inches long, my biggest baby by nearly 2 pounds and 2 inches. The doctor estimates she had been gone for anywhere from 1-3 days. I have a horrible uterine infection that you could smell as soon as he opened my abdomen. They dont know if I got the infection from her passing or if my infection caused her death.

She is beautiful. It’s just not fair & we can’t process this at all yet. My blood pressure is very low, temperature is high, urine output is low, uterus is boggy. The doctor is talking about a hysterectomy if we don’t see marked improvement by Wednesday.

Thank you all for supporting us these many months. I wish I had anything but this news to share. Our Clara was so very loved and so badly wanted. Nothing will ever replace her.



I Am Strong

“We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.”
~ Laura Stavoe Harm ~

Several days ago, a woman from my natural pregnancy group posed the question “what are you the most proud of, as far as how you have handled this pregnancy?” I realized, upon considering this question, how much I have really accomplished within myself over the last nine months… the last nine years, really.

After Addah was born in 2002, I was done, absolutely done, with having babies. I couldn’t imagine going through another hospital birth and I felt that my family was complete. I never even questioned that feeling, just felt contentedly “done” with having more children. It wasn’t until a few years post-divorce from Drew, when David & I finally started our new life together, that the feeling wavered. He wanted a child of his own and I wanted to give him that, more than anything. I felt a void in our little family that I had never felt before and I just knew that we were supposed to bring another child into the world.

A couple of years and several miscarriages later, we decided that it just wasn’t meant to be, that perhaps my body was too damaged from my two previous births and a child together was not in the cards. Turns out, we were wrong… and we were thrilled to discover that we were pregnant, yet again. A little faith, a little luck and somehow, my body has proudly defied the doctors who said I could not carry a baby to term.

I’m proud of how positive I have been throughout this pregnancy. With my other girls, I was so anxious to be done, to have my baby NOW, from about 20 weeks on… and this time, I feel calm, peaceful and ready to see this pregnancy through to 40 weeks and beyond, if that’s how it plays out. I won’t lie… I’m uncomfortable and hot, tired and sore, but I know the best thing for this baby is to stay inside for as long as she can, and I am going to see it through. I am proud of myself for having more confidence in my own body than I did with my other kids, and proud of my body for carrying me through to full term this time.

I am strong. I believe in my body’s ability to birth this baby naturally, without a medical induction or another unnecessary cesarean, and I have every confidence that we are making the right decision in allowing our daughter to choose her own birth date.

I am proud of my littlest daughter and how big and strong she has grown within my body. My skin is stretched to what seems like maximum capacity, and I have a new stretch mark pop up every day, but I am so proud of those marks, which prove what my body is capable of doing.

As of tonight, at 10:55pm EST, I will officially be more pregnant than I have ever been before. I am so incredible proud of this milestone, just as I was when I passed 33 weeks 2 days (the day when Addah was born in that pregnancy).

I am strong. My body was made to do this job. My body was made to carry and nurture these children. It has been a very long road, but I am proud of my body, finally.

I am strong - and ready to give birth!

The Birth Story of Addah Shannon

Our beautiful youngest daughter was born on December 9, 2002!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Addah Shannon!
Addah weighed 4 lbs 5.8 oz and was 17 inches long @ 33½ weeks gestation!
My second daughter in the NICU - Addah's Birth Story

 

The Beginning:

I guess I should start off with the birth story of my first daughter Lakin, since it is through her birth that I decided on the path to Addah’s birth. I was induced at 37 weeks with Lakin because though I was not in active labor, I was dilated to 2cm and the doctor thought we might as well. I didn’t know any better and went along with it. After 12 hours of Pitocin and a nasty dose of Stadol, I had only dilated to 5cm. I was declared “failure to progress” and a c-section was performed. Lakin Leigh was 5 lbs 14 oz and 18 3/4 inches long. Although at the time I was thrilled to finally have my baby, in the weeks afterward I realized just how wrong my birth went. I never intended to have a c-section, I didn’t and don’t feel it was necessary. My body did not fail to progress, my doctor failed to be patient and wait for my body to labor and progress on its own timetable. I resolved to never have an experience like that again and planned for a home vaginal birth after cesarean for our next baby.

We never used birth control after Lakin was born. It had taken us 15 months to get pregnant with her and since we wanted our children to be close in age, and since I was breastfeeding, we didn’t want to add any more elements to keep us from conceiving as soon as possible. We were never clear on our actual conception date because I was nursing our older daughter Lakin and had not yet gotten my menstrual cycles back. I do know that the date we took our first positive pregnancy test was March 23, 2002, putting our due date at approximately late December/early January 2003.

My pregnancy was very normal, seemingly as textbook as my pregnancy with Lakin. I felt fine, gained very little weight (10 lbs, which is normal for me). My blood pressure never went over 120/80, fundal height consistent with a late Dec./early Jan. due date; baby’s heartbeat remained between 140 and 162 every time we checked with our rented Doppler and from late August on, baby’s movements were very active. We chose not to have any ultrasounds since all signs pointed to a normal pregnancy and baby, and since we had no desire to know baby’s sex. We planned a home vaginal birth after cesarean: read everything we could get our hands on, gathered our supplies, and got ourselves as ready as we could.

On October 22, I woke up having mildly uncomfortable contractions. I took a hot bath, drank several glasses of water and went back to bed. After several hours the contractions slowed and then stopped. Contractions continued to come and go throughout November, some so hard that I just “knew” I was in labor but they always slowed and stopped after a while.

On December 4, 2002, our county was hit with a hard electrical storm and we lost our power. After a long night of contractions by candlelight, it was getting cold enough in the house that we decided to head to my mom’s house. It was the first time in over a month that I thought, “please don’t let me go into active labor right now”. All I wanted was to get back into my home with my privacy before labor started.

Off to the Hospital:

On December 7, 2002 at 4:00 am, Drew, Lakin and I were relaxing on my brother’s bed when I felt a “pop” and a gush of fluid. I told Drew that I thought my water had broken, but when I put my hand down to check for fluid, there was bright red blood instead. I rushed to the toilet and sat for a few minutes, thinking that the bleeding would slow or stop, that maybe it was nothing. In hindsight, I wasn’t really thinking clearly at all, I was panicking and my head was pounding. I started crying and told Drew I was scared to go to the hospital. Visions of a repeat cesarean were already rushing through my head but when I stood up and the blood gushed out again onto the floor, I knew I didn’t have much choice.

We arrived at the hospital at 4:30 am and were taken immediately to Labor and Delivery Outpatient for monitoring. Blood was still gushing out and I had soaked three towels by this point. I was hooked up to a fetal monitor, which showed that baby was doing wonderfully. I was swabbed for several tests and an ultrasound machine was brought in to verify that baby was okay. At this point, baby was head down and my placenta was low-lying but not over my cervix. 2½ hours later another ultrasound was performed and our baby had flipped to a back up, transverse lie and was being blocked from flipping back down by my placenta. An hour after that we had a 3rd ultrasound and baby was still transverse.

Three different doctors came in to tell me how dangerous and negligent we were being by having planned a vaginal birth after cesarean and one told Drew he would never “allow” his wife to make such a decision. We were feeling pretty antagonistic towards the staff by this point and just wanted an answer as to what was going on so we could know what would happen next. I was still very much planning on having a vaginal birth and since the ultrasound showed the baby to be pretty small, I wasn’t concerned with the transverse lie. After all, baby had just turned from head down to transverse so baby could still turn back, right?

Tests all came back normal. I was moved to a regular Labor and Delivery room and shortly after 9:30 am, the bleeding slowed and then stopped.

At 12 pm the bleeding was still stopped and I felt much better. The doctor wanted me to stay for another few hours for monitoring but Drew and I decided to go on home. We left the hospital at 1 pm, I ate a sandwich and went to bed.

At 11:30 pm I woke up, went to the bathroom and ate some dinner. We were lying in bed watching TV when I felt a gush. I said, “I think I’m bleeding again” and then I felt something coming out of me. I reached down in time to feel a very large (2-3″) blood clot slide out of me. I didn’t know what it was or what to think and was freaking out. Drew called 911 and I called my mother to come pick up Lakin.

The ambulance arrived very fast and at 12:30 am I was re-admitted to Labor and Delivery. My blood pressure had spiked to 160/100 in the ambulance but it stabilized and went down quickly. Fetal monitors still showed baby doing great and another ultrasound showed that baby was still transverse, with feet dangling by my cervix. Measurements showed our baby to be 33 weeks and 2 days, completely inconsistent with our test date, and seemingly impossible since we had a non-existent sex life because I had such awful morning sickness until mid-May.

Doctors began considering that our baby had intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR) and the preliminary diagnosis given was a sub-clinical placental abruption, a fissure too small to be seen by ultrasound and too small to hurt the baby, but large enough to cause frank vaginal bleeding and large enough to have caused IUGR in our baby. I had fallen over a baby gate in our house back in August… the abruption could have happened then and just not been big enough to cause bleeding until now.

Bleeding slowed again at around 10 pm on December 7, 2002 but at this point neither Drew nor I even considered leaving. It had become apparent that this was quite serious and that it was not going to go away. I was quickly seeing my VBAC dreams go out the window and Drew and I spent much time talking and crying, trying to make peace with the huge possibility that I would have a repeat cesarean.

At 1 am on December 8, 2002 I was moved to the High-Risk wing on the Labor and Delivery floor and I was given a steroid shot to hasten lung maturity. The next morning I was taken across the hospital complex for a level 2 ultrasound. Measurements still showed baby at 33 weeks 2 days. The only abnormality found was a 2-vessel umbilical cord instead of a 3-vessel cord. We were told that while not common, this is not exactly uncommon either and probably was not a big deal.

The heads of High-Risk OB and Maternal/Fetal Medicine asked us to consider an amniocentesis so that if an emergency occurred and delivery became necessary, we would have some idea of baby’s lung maturity. We decided to do the amnio at 11:45am. It was not as painful as I’d feared it would be, but certainly very uncomfortable and more than a little scary. Amnio results came back that baby’s lungs are not mature, only rating a 24 when 50 is considered mature.

I went back to my room in high-risk L&D. I had some cramping, which I was told was normal with an amniocentesis. Three doctors came in and all mentioned discharging me within 24 hours and scheduling me to come back in for another ultrasound and amniocentesis in a couple of weeks. With baby lying transverse and my placenta partially abrupted, I was told I had no choice but to have a c-section. In my head I was still defiant — I thought I could go home, no more bleeding, baby would flip head-down and I could still have a VBAC. I made arrangements for Lakin to come up to the hospital to be with us and was feeling much better all around. It was a wonderful relief to know that baby was doing so well on the monitors and that I could go home soon.

Drew left to go run errands and my mom was on her way to bring Lakin at 5pm. I called Drew at home to remind him to bring Lakin’s pajamas and we hung up when my nurse came in to take my vitals. She commented that the baby and I were doing very well, said she was planning to take the monitors off in a while so I could get some real sleep and asked if I felt okay. I said yes, that the bleeding had almost stopped completely again. She left and had been gone no more than 90 seconds when I felt a big gush of fluid again. I hit the nurse call button and she came back in; I told her I thought I had started bleeding again. She pulled back the covers and freaked out! I had passed another large blood clot and I thought this nurse might just faint. She ran for the doctor, who ran in the room…. Everything started happening so quickly. The doctor thought my water might have broken too and decided to do a litmus test to check. Drew walked in the door while I was being tested and a moment later, my sister Hilary and Lakin appeared at the door. I had been waiting all day to see Lakin and I had to tell them to leave, that we would call.

The Birth:

The litmus test was positive for amniotic fluid, the head doctor of high-risk OB was called and it was decided that our baby needed to be born. A quick ultrasound was done and baby was still transverse and very high. Of course this means we had no option but to have a repeat cesarean.

Everything seemed to be happening at the same time all around us and we were more than a little scared. We were rushed back to the Operating Room Recovery Room, where it was discovered that my IV line was no longer running. It was taken out and 3 different people starting trying to get another IV, plus 1 nurse trying to draw blood. I had 2 people on each arm, poking and prodding and then starting over since they couldn’t find any veins. I ended up with cotton balls and tape on the inside of both wrists, on top of both hands and in each elbow. The IV ended up being placed on the inside of my left wrist, a really painful spot. I was in tears and in horrible pain from all of the needles.

At this point the doctor came in and explained that since no abruption was showing on ultrasound, that there was also the possibility that I had the opposite problem, a placenta acreta, where the placenta fuses to the uterine wall. To remove it forcefully can cause massive blood loss and maternal death, so he said that if he encountered that problem, that he would perform a hysterectomy. I was losing it by now. I was so tired, having contractions, lying in a pool of gushing blood, needles in both arms, facing an eminent repeat c-section and being told that I might have to have a hysterectomy. I think I started to shut down at this point, I remember feeling dizzy and then I drifted in and out of sleep for what felt like hours but was really only 5 minutes.

We were waiting for 4 units of blood to be sent up from the lab in case I needed a transfusion. Since the baby was still doing well on the monitor, it was decided that I had time for an epidural rather than the spinal I had asked for or the general anesthesia that we had feared as a possibility. The epidural was just as awful as I remembered from Lakin. My lower back is the most sensitive spot on my body and I could not hold myself still to save my life. I finally had what felt like an out-of-body experience; I focused on the spots on the chair in front of me and disconnected my brain while the epidural was inserted. A test dose was given and within 3 minutes I couldn’t feel my bottom or hips.

The blood was brought up, Drew changed into his scrubs and I was whisked into the OR. The nurse-anesthesiologist tested to make sure I couldn’t feel anything and the drape was put up. I asked for Drew “before they start” and the anesthesiologist said that they had already started, that my belly was opened already. I remembered the intense pulling and pressure from when Lakin was born but it seemed to be taking so much longer this time. I later found out that the doctor initially opened my belly and uterus on my previous cesarean scars, both of which were low transverse incisions, but that the baby was so high that my uterus had to also be cut vertically and diagonally, leaving me with a K-shaped incision on my uterus.

I heard a suctioning sound and then a loud cry, followed by “It’s a little girl!” and I started crying. Addah Shannon was born at exactly 8:00pm on December 9, 2002. She was crying so loudly and sounded wonderful. The NICU team checked her over and gave her the Apgar scores of 6 and 9, wonderful for such a tiny little early baby. She was brought around for us to see briefly and then Drew left to follow her to the NICU. I was closed up and taken back to the Recovery Room, where my mom and aunt were waiting for me. My vitals were checked again and at about 10pm I was taken to the NICU to see Addah and then moved to a regular Mother/Baby room.

My first impression was of how tiny she was, my fingertip filled her little hand and her head was no bigger than an orange. She weighed 4 lbs 5.8 oz at birth and was 17 inches long.

The Story Continues:

She was put on a forced oxygen breather at 25% oxygen, which we were told was very good since we only breathe 21% and this wasn’t much different. By 6am she had been taken off of the oxygen and was breathing regular room air.

A breast pump was brought to me this morning at about 8am and I started pumping. I was so proud of the 1 oz. of colostrum I was able to pump! As far as I was concerned, breastfeeding was the last thing that I had any control over of with this birth and I would not allow it to be messed with in any way. I started pumping every 1½-2 hours and got a pretty good amount to send down to the NICU.

My catheter was removed at 3pm today and I got up to move around some. I remembered having to relearn how to pee and walk from when Lakin was born, but this was much more excruciating that I remembered, I guess because I had the extra vertical incision this time around. By 6pm I felt good enough to take a wheelchair ride to the NICU to see Addah. She had been moved to a heated isolette and was doing very well. I got to hold her for a few minutes. She was so beautiful, so perfectly formed, like a little china doll.

Visiting my daughter in the NICU - Addah's Birth Story