In November of 2005 I was at work at the Pregnancy Resource Center where I was the Executive Director. I think they call it a CEO now but anyway the volunteers and staff had left for the day and I was finishing paperwork in my office. I had been using natural family planning methods and knew there was a slight possibility of a pregnancy so I took a test, thinking it would prove my irritability was PMS. I peed on the stick then went back to my office for a bit. When I returned, I was a bit taken aback by two pink lines. My due date was July 12th (remember that, it’s important).
Shane had started a new job at Wise County Sheriff’s Office and worked from midnight until 8am, which would also be an important piece of information because of course babies don’t come during the day.
As I read my journal, I can see the changes in my lifestyle that would eventually earn me a hippy card. I noted that I had a UTI at my first appointment but had self treated with herbs but my OB wouldn’t let me retest so I had to take the antibiotics. We had chosen her because in our minds a VBAC, with it’s higher risk status, warranted an expert provider, not just a family doctor. I know now that your chance of actually getting a vaginal birth are higher with a family doctor.
However I was not quite ready for that hippy card just yet. I had two UTIs during pregnancy and agreed to stay on an antibiotic for the duration of the pregnancy (about 2 months). That is definitely not something I’d do today! I’ve not taken an antibiotic in a decade!
Prenatally, my OB pushed for an epidural because the rural hospital I used did not have 24 hour anesthesia. She said that if I ruptured (a risk with any labor but a slightly higher risk with a previous uterine incision), she might have to do surgery without anesthesia if there was not an anesthesiologist in the building. The research I’d read suggested it can be safer for VBACing women to not have an epidural so that they can feel and report pain from a rupture so I really, really didn’t want it. I didn’t have the backbone to say it like this but I felt like their staffing problem should not have to become my medical problem.
I was so nervous to tell her that I really didn’t want an epidural (I didn’t know what a people pleaser I was until recently). When I finally got up the nerve at a prenatal visit, she nonchalantly said, “Okay, that’s fine, I’ll just have an anesthesiologist come in when you’re laboring.”
Well, if’d known it would have been that simple I would have said it a long time ago.
My journal entry about the epidural discussion ended with, “I really need a midwife but Shane said, ‘No, not with a VBAC.’” I know men are wired to protect their people, especially their female people. Neither of us knew that we were using a provider who didn’t love VBACs in a country with a medical system that would soon earn the lowest ranking of any other developed nation for safety in childbirth. Also in his/our defense, I called a popular DFW birth center to inquire about VBACs and the person on the phone seemed so confused that we saw it as a red flag and didn’t look any closer. I know now that this is not my favorite birth center nor the favorite of many other birth workers.
So after two false alarms that resulted in me calling Shane home from his new job and then contractions fizzling, finally on July 23rd-remember when she was actually due-the 12th-I called Shane home for babying-bringing labor. But he couldn’t come home until another officer relieved him. No one-and I mean no one-answers their co-worker’s phone calls at 1am.
I still remember the contraction I had in our living room doorway-I held myself up by the door jam, vocalizing the pain while wishing I could get to the floor.
Shane felt helpless as he tried to get coverage 30 miles away from where I was laboring. But he worked in the town I’d be delivering in so if he could just get me to Decatur, it’d be a start. He started working on this in the background without telling me. His younger brother was dating a girl who lived nearby us so Shane had her come over. I was not pleased. I didn’t know her, didn’t really like her and I didn’t labor in front of a crowd! I cried on the phone and begged Shane not to “help” by sending his brother to get me. His single brother loved our girls tremendously but was queasy at the thought of even feeling his nieces kick while in utero.
My phone conversations with Shane were going south fast. He felt pressure at work to not have a third false alarm go down and his wife was begging him to come home and not send help. He’d even had a heated discussion with his SGT about the situation. Our compromise was for his brother, Scott, to come to the house and stay in the car incase I decided I needed to get on the road to the hospital before Shane could make it home.
I showered, dressed, and had mousse in my hair as I came out of the bathroom to the girlfriend at the door. She wasn’t alone, a large bald Montague Co Sheriff’s deputy was with her. I was mortified.
Apparently Shane had not told his brother it was not an emergency. If I know my husband, I am certain his voice sounded urgent and demanding in this high stress situation, especially to his petrified 27 year old brother.
Scott had risen to the call of duty and was going to go rescue his sister in law no matter how awkward. What he didn’t know was that a rape had just been reported in the area and since he was driving at a very high rate of speed and didn’t pull over when they ran their lights & sirens, they thought he was their perpetrator. He thought Shane had arranged an escort!
The Montague Co officer in my house barked at me, “Do you need an ambulance?!” “Are you having chest pain?” Frozen with adrenaline from the drama I replied, “No, not chest pain, labor pain. I’m just in labor and my husband is an officer in Wise Co. He can’t get home until his replacement comes in.” He snipped back that if my husband were an officer he should know better (than to speed like that). I explained that the man in the truck outside was not my husband, to which he really didn’t know what to say.
Shane knew me well and when I called him about the officers being there, he said, “Do not pretend everything is fine. If they think you aren’t in labor, Scott could go to jail!”
Scott was still outside arguing loudly with the Bowie PD officers not doing his part in avoiding jail. My mom came to sit with the sleeping girls and said to one of the officers who happened to be her neighbor, “Well Mark, that’s Scott, Shane’s brother, you know him….” I am sure Mark didn’t want to hear this man was not indeed the rapist they were after but it did eventually calm down and the officers left us to find our way to Decatur.
Finally about 3am it was arranged that Scott would drive me part of the way there, mainly for the officers to see us in town. I don’t think the officers cared that much about us but Shane was so new to the law enforcement world, he didn’t quite have the experience or callousness to not care.
Meanwhile I felt the focus should come back to me and my labor and not his brother’s jail time. Shane was able to leave and met us at his mother’s house, which was on the way to Decatur. Finally we were alone together and on the way to the hospital. I had some hard contractions on the drive and said, “I really don’t want to do this.”
You’re thinking I was in advanced labor if you know what that phrase means. Well I was not. I was only 4cm. In the hour of monitoring, I had short but intense sporadic contractions. I had pain across my C-section scar. It radiated to my hips and I thought I’d burst with the pain. I told the nurse this and looking back I wonder how much I scared her. She left the room and I told Shane was was asking for a C-section or an epidural (how ironic) because the pain was so bad. I didn’t think I was rupturing I just thought that I was on my way to a rupture.
Dr. Kyle, the doctor on call for my OB came to speak to me about it. It was 6am. He checked me first and I was shocked to be 8-9cm! He was not afraid I was rupturing since the pain was only present with contractions, not between. He said a C-section was the safest option but since I was so close I could deliver before they set up the room. He left the decision up to me and I chose to forge ahead, no epidural. Shane would have preferred a C-section but didn’t want me to do something I didn’t want to do. Interestingly my chart says the OB suggested a C-sectioned and I refused.
At 7am Shane started calling our church friends asking them to pray for no rupture. I haven’t read this journal in years and I can see how much fear he had. We’ve both changed so much since this time and while I’ve not forgiven him for asking me if a “professional” should be the one doing a blood draw on him, as opposed to me back when I was a student, he fully supports all kinds of crunchy things now-and even advocates for them a little louder than I’d like at times. We were just beginning our natural lifestyle journey.
I struggled to use the Bradley Method tools I’d read about through each pregnancy. I was able to visualize but couldn’t relax or breathe well. I squeezed Shane’s hand and needed him to squeeze back with the same strength, increasing it as the contraction peaked and decreasing at it released. I became quite unsettled when his timing wasn’t perfect. Wendy-my nurse-had to help me focus by calling me by name and firmly tell me what to do-it was so overwhelming. She had Stadol drawn up and ready but we never used it in labor. I don’t see how I did it without is as I recall never leaving the bed to labor upright.
Around 7:30am, I told Shane I’d need to push soon. In two contractions, I had pushed at the peaks, very gently. I had a long hard contraction and Shane stuck his head out and called for a nurse-like now. My nurse came in and I pushed once. She must have seen Jaika’s head and my journal says (brace yourself) that she and Shane both held her head in while she said, “Stop while I get Dr. Kyle!” The bed didn’t get broken down and the doctor hardly got gloved up before her head delivered. It seemed like forever before another contraction came. My best nurse friend, Andrea, who you “met” in previous stories, stepped into the room. Out came Jaika’s body.
Shane cut her long cord (immediately-we didn’t know otherwise and would have been laughed out of town back then had we asked for normal cord clamping). I was shocked and stunned to have a baby in my arms. Wendy noticed and offered the Stadol she’d readied. I accepted but should have just taken a minute. It was a whirlwind because I was used to much longer pushing stages and had been 4cm just a few hours ago.
As all of this unfolded, Andrea said, “God saved your baby.”
Jaika’s cord had a true knot, a rare occurrence-only the second my nurse had seen in her 11 years of L&D with a “good outcome.” That’s medical talk for “most of the babies with this knot don’t live.” We think her cord didn’t pull tight until the placenta was being delivered, thanks to the genius of Wharton’s jelly that holds the cord full, allowing for blood flow even if it’s kinked or knotted.
This would be my last vaginal birth but not my last knotted cord.
Notes: Jaika in pronounced Jay kuh and came from Ashlyn telling us a story about a boy named Jacob from Sunday school. Shane misheard her and thought she said, “Jaika” so the idea of that name started. I didn’t love it but was out voted. It fits her well and has a lot of fun nicknames.
The pain I experienced was probably scar tissue stretching, but that’s simply my best guess. A few years ago I started doing more intense workouts than I’d ever done and they would cause a lot of pulling and stretching from that incision site-which had been used three times between the childhood surgery mentioned in Bethany’s Birth Story and my two C-sections. My OB told me after I’d had Jaika that she thought it was my imagination.
Content generously provided by Wendy Fowler, CPM