Awhile back I invited readers to submit their birth stories, to be posted while I take a maternity leave. Since Baby J is here, it’s time to post them! Some of the women have Marfan syndrome like me, but not all. If you have questions for the authors, feel free to leave them in the comments section; I’ll also try to email them any questions I see (as soon as I have time).
This is Abbey’s story. You can find her at The Naptime Report.
When I was in 5th grade, I was diagnosed with scoliosis. I can remember complaining of back pain, but the first ‘red flag’ came during one of those routine the-school-nurse-will-check-your-back-in-the-locker-room things in elementary school. My parents immediately took me to our family doctor, who referred me to my orthopedic specialist.
He diagnosed me with a 32-degree s-curve. I clearly remember two things from that first appointment. One, I finally knew why I wasn’t flexible like the rest of my friends. I’d spent years being embarrassed that I couldn’t complete the ‘sit and reach’ portion of the Presidential Fitness Test, no matter how much I stretched at home. Two, I remember Dr. B telling me that if I ever chose to have a baby, I shouldn’t get an epidural. He said the curve of my spine versus the location of my spinal cord could lead to paralysis if it wasn’t done correctly. Even in the 5th grade, I knew I would be a mother someday.
I wasn’t given any real restrictions, and for the most part, lived my life just like any other child. I learned to water-ski and snowboard, and I enjoyed horseback riding. I even learned to do round-off back handsprings on a gym floor. Most of these are activities that many people with scoliosis don’t get the chance to enjoy. My doctor wanted to fit me for a daytime brace, but I opted for the nighttime brace instead. I wore that for about 5 years, and that was essentially the end of my regular treatment.
After I graduated from college, I took up running as a hobby. This caused me to have pretty regular lower-back pain, but it was manageable, and the enjoyment from running far outweighed the pain. In 2007, I found out I was pregnant. That pregnancy, and the one after, was an ectopic pregnancy. Though the doctor didn’t know why, and half of my reproductive system was removed, she was positive that we would be able to have a healthy pregnancy. Just a few months later, we found out I was pregnant again (three times in one year!), and this one was in the uterus.
Aside from harmless (yet heavy) bleeding from time-to-time, this pregnancy was low-risk and normal. The most fantastic part was that the counterbalance of my baby against my back completely erased my lower back pain from about 5 months on. We’d find out later that the pregnancy would cause my s-curve to completely correct itself (meaning, each curve is exactly 16 degrees….something my experienced doctor has never seen).
Per my doctor’s orders in 1995, I planned to have this baby au natural. I don’t think I would have planned for that type of birth otherwise, but I felt it was best for my body. My OB was completely supportive (she’s a fantastic, fantastic doctor) and gave me ideas and strategies. I got a doula and prepared via hypnobirthing. I also have severe endometriosis, and I’d been using a form of self-hypnosis to deal with the pain from that for several years.
At 38 weeks, my doctor encouraged me to be induced based on the pitted edema I’d had for 4 months. I was generally uninformed, sick of being pregnant, and completely trusted my doctor, so I agreed. While I don’t think it was a bad choice, I think being induced made my natural birth next to impossible.
I was given pitocin starting at 8:00am. I labored pretty easily until about noon, when my doctor broke my water. I had limited mobility, and was walking around as much as possible. A few hours after that, the pain was more intense than I’d imagined. My doula was fantastic, but my hopes were dashed when I was checked after 15 hours of active and painful contractions, expecting to be at an 8 or 9, and I was at a 3.
At some point, probably about 6 hours into it, the baby’s heart rate was erratic. My doctor toyed with the idea of a c-section, but I begged for another option. They inserted an internal fetal monitor (a screw in the baby’s head), which was less than ideal, but better than surgery. While I was avoiding the OR, I could no longer get out of bed. I was happy to know my baby was doing okay, but it was awful to be bed-ridden.
After I realized I hadn’t progressed past a 3, I asked my husband to go out to the car for the films of my back. I’d brought them along, just in case. I asked the nurse for some Nubain, and then almost immediately wanted an epidural. I (hopefully politely) demanded the chief anesthesiologist to be the one who reviewed my films. He wasn’t sure it would work, but agreed to try. He assured me the risk of paralysis was low, and I knew it was the only choice I had left. My mind wasn’t going to let my body go any further.
Thankfully, the epidural was administered well, and it worked like a charm. I was comfortable and relaxed. About 45 minutes later, I asked the nurse to check me again. She reluctantly agreed, but let me know that she wasn’t going to check me very often. She explained that it can be frustrating if I’m not progressing and it also puts me at a greater risk for infection.
As she was checking my dilation, she got a strange look on her face, and called for another nurse. The second nurse confirmed what seemed impossible: I was at a 10, and ready to push. The next few minutes were a flurry of activity as they prepped the room for delivery. Everyone, myself included, thought we’d be there all night. My doctor got there in just enough time to deliver my daughter, who was born just an hour after the epidural was administered.
When she was born, my OB guided her from the birth canal to my belly, where she crawled up and started nursing. I didn’t believe it until I saw it happening. I was nursing her within minutes of her birth. I think that has everything to do with why she was such a champ at nursing.
I made the nurses wipe her off and check her breathing and heart rate from my arms. I refused to let them weigh or bathe her until 2 hours later. I did not see an immediate need. Also, for one hour after birth, no one came in our room. We hung out and practiced nursing and Nic and I introduced ourselves to our baby girl before our parents knocked down the door. I highly recommend this.
While the birth didn’t go as planned, I was able to have a natural-ish birth amidst the technology and ‘routine practices’ present today. Despite the drugs, IVs, and fetal monitors, I was able to have the birthing experience that I’d desired. About two hours after my daughter was born, the epidural wore off and I regained feeling in my legs. While I’d trusted the anesthesiologist, both he and I were beyond thrilled when I was able to walk to the bathroom.
I don’t know what my birth plan is yet for this baby (I’m due in June), but I do know that I won’t compromise on those first hours of bonding with my child. To me, that was the most important part of our story.