Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Birth Story

I've been on hiatus. Isn't that what what folks say when they don't wanna say that they've been too lazy to keep up with their blog? Well, it's what I'm saying. I apologize. Please accept my gift of a birth story as a token of my.... Ah, hell. Let me just tell you this story.

About a week ago, I had the privilege to be an attendant at a beautiful, if mildly frustrating, birth. My frustration didn't stem from the mother or her labor pattern. It stemmed from the fact that, even though she was choosing to birth in a hospital, she was being cared for by a group of nurse midwives, and I had rather high expectations. My bad. So the story goes...

I received a phone call at about 8:25pm while sitting on the couch with the hubby. Turns out, this mama who I'd been expecting to go into labor soon had broken her water but wasn't having regular contractions yet. After having a brief conversation with her, I instructed her to call her midwives and see if they would like her to go to the hospital right away. Being that she was GBS positive, I suspected that they would tell her to come in, so I got dressed and waited for her to call me back. I was right. Off to her house I went. Because this mom and her partner had decided that the partner would stay with their young daughter if labor began at night, I would be the one to pick the mama up and drive her to the hospital.

We get to the hospital around 10pm and wait in the waiting room for about an hour while the maternity unit staff tried to find this mom a bed in the triage unit. Her contractions at this point are becoming regular and are about 4-6min apart lasting 30-45 seconds. Mom is hooked up to monitors when we finally get into the triage room and the monitors are showing decent contractions and good fetal reactivity. So, she's admitted and we're both told to go to sleep and she'll receive her first vaginal exam at 2am. She's been told my the midwife on that if she's not in good labor by then, they probably start her on pitocin. "All you'd probably need is just a whiff of pit to get things cranking.", she says. At this point, I'm thinking, "Oh, boy. The p-word already? From a midwife? Hmm." So this mama and I go into the labor room and attempt to sleep.

Instead of sleeping, I lay down in a chair and watch this mama (who is lying on her left side) for a while. Every so often, I notice that she reaches around and rubs her hand on her lower back. I ask if she wants me to rub her back, but she says she's okay and doesn't need it at that moment. She does ask me to check the monitor to see if it's registering her contractions. (Oh, did I mention this mom was on continuous fetal monitoring through most of her labor even though she was told that she'd be monitored intermittently?) I looked at the strip coming out of the monitor and noted that her contractions were not being accurately recorded even as I stood there with my hand on her belly during a contraction. I mentioned this to the nurses on several occasions and the monitor was readjusted several times.

At 2pm, the vaginal exam revealed that the mama was about 3-4cm, 50% effaced, and +1 station. She was also told that her contractions were insufficiently strong and that they could start pitocin or wait a couple of hours more. She opted to wait. As the midwife walked out of the room, the mom asked me why they were pushing pitocin on her when she'd created and given the midwives a birth plan that indicated a preference for no drugs including pit. I told her that I really didn't know, but could speculate that maybe that's what they're used to seeing and doing. I told her that whether she decided to take the pitocin or not would be up to her and her partner and they should discuss it.

A few hours later, the midwife returned and asked what mom'd decision was regarding the pitocin. The mother stated that she like to hold off on the pit for a while longer. Again, she was told that her contractions, at 6 min apart, were insufficient and pitocin would help to move things along. The mother declined the pitocin again. That midwife went off shift and another came on. The new midwife removed mom off the monitor (after readjusting it for the millionth time and getting the monitor to actually read the contractions which were quite strong) and sent us into the hallways to walk. The contractions weren't much closer together but were building in intensity. Mom's partner got to the hospital around 8am while we were walking. We went back into the room and the midwife came in to tell the couple that the contractions were still not very strong and pitocin would be their best bet. "...With your GBS status, CDC guidelines recommend delivery as soon as possible. Yes, we've given you antibiotics but the literature tells us that even if we do that, babies can still get the GBS infection...", the midwife stated. When the mom nodded that she understood and began saying that she and I had discussed the pros and cons of receiving the pitocin, the midwife cut her off by say, "Well, she's the doula. I'm the midwife. And I'm telling you that you need this pitocin." I didn't even bother to inform her that I was also a midwife. I don't think it would've helped.

At this point, the mom started having a contraction and went into the bathroom. Her partner followed and the midwife turned to me and said, "Why's she so resistant to the pitocin? I mean, I don't think she gets it. I haven't heard her say that this GBS infection could be deadly!" Umm, okay. So I replied, "I think she gets it. She's had this conversation with me, with her partner, and with the midwives she's seen during her prenatal care." Exasperated, the midwife walks out of the room shaking her head. 10 minutes later, the couple call me into the bathroom and mom has the look of a woman getting ready to push etched on her face. I step outside to call the midwife who was sitting 10 feet away. I called her name, said the mom looked like she was getting ready to push and was not acknowledged. Another nurse told me she'd send the midwife in. 5 min passed and I poked my head out the door again to call the midwife and was not acknowledged. A third time 5 min later and I was told by yet another nurse (not the midwife) that mom had to be out of the bathroom in order to be checked. 5 min later, the midwife walks in to check the mom who is completely dilated and pushing. After pushing for less than an hour, a beautiful 6lb 9oz baby boy emerged.

After the birth, we had a few more hurdles to jump in order to get baby to room with his amazing mother but we did it. I was exhausted and frustrated at how my expectations of the midwives at this hospital were not fully met. This mother delivered a healthy, beautiful baby a little over 12 hours after breaking her water. She DID NOT need pitocin. And none of the midwives sat with her long enough to monitor her contraction pattern themselves. I take the meaning of midwife, "with woman", to heart and I expected the midwives to be with this woman. All in all, I know that things could've been worse and I appreciated the midwives' willingness to let the mother and her partner have time to discuss things. I thanked both midwives for their patience. However, I also know that while things could have been worse, they could've been a little better, too. And I know that's not strictly due to the midwives, but our entire system of maternity care.


  1. Good to have you back Milk Chocolate! Great story. It's always interesting to observe others in medical environments who don't know you know your stuff.

    I have a special place in my heart for midwives. A wonderful midwife delivered my son. She was always "with woman" beside my wife every step of the way. As an MD I was totally impressed and have tried to model my bedside manner after hers.

  2. Thanks, Doctor D. It truly is interesting to see how others behave when they don't know my educational background. It's definately made me more aware of the how I treat and speak to folks.