I am a midwife, childbirth educator, lecturer, doula, and natural mother of eight children. This is not a medical reference; I do not proclaim to give medical advice. Anything stated here is from personal experience, research, study, and opinion. Each woman has the responsibility to do her own research, consult with her own medical team, and make her own decisions about pregnancy and birth.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Just Say No to Interventions!

 Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim

I always enjoy reading birth stories and am especially pleased when I know the family personally.  This particular story comes from such a dear and sweet sister whom I am particularly fond of, masha'Allah.

While reading through her story, the thing that kept festering inside me was the medical staff's repeated push for interventions.  I am proud of this mama and baba for sticking to Allah's design for birth as best they could and achieving an unmedicated, natural birth, masha'Allah!

I'd love to read your story too!  Please contact me if you'd like to share.  Now on to the story...Just Say No to Interventions!...

When my real contractions finally started they took me by surprise. 

I just came from a hospital checkup the day before.  I was nearly a full week past by “due date”, my baby still hadn’t dropped, and my once in a blue moon Braxton hicks weren’t getting any stronger. After an hour holding a metal button to my belly, the nurse’s monitor showed that I was in fact having contractions but they were so small and so far apart that I wasn’t able to feel them. 

A quick check by a doctor I had never seen before revealed that my cervix was only just starting to soften and still remain closed. Fearing that my pregnancy could continue for another week at least, the doctor scheduled me for an induction two days later. My husband and I had no intention of keeping that appointment and instead continued to make dua’a that Allah allowed me to deliver naturally. 

The first contraction woke me from my sleep the next morning. It was a sharp pain in my abdomen, much like a period pain. It came and went so quickly, I thought it was just another pregnancy cramp. I became accustomed to cramps in my third trimester whenever I was still for too long. I gently stretched it out and went back to bed. A couple hours later, another contraction came. But this time, I felt it in both my abdomen and my upper thigh. 

At just before 11AM, the contractions began to hit my abdomen, pelvis, thigh, and back all at once. That’s when I started writing them down. I kept a log of every contraction, the time they hit, where it hit, and whether or not it hurt. In between contractions, I did the math to figure out how much time had elapsed between each one. 

In the meantime, I went about my housework, played it cool in front of my mom who was visiting from California and casually warned my husband that even though my real contractions had begun, my notes showed they were still inconsistent and nothing to worry about.
As the day passed, my contractions grew more and more intense and began to stop me in my tracks. By 8PM they still hadn’t reached a consistent timing but were so strong that I could only manage them by hanging onto the side of the bed while squatting. At this point, my husband insisted that we head to the hospital. 

Half the car ride to the hospital was spent managing my contractions while the other half was spent trying to fight financial and logistical worries in my head. I had a few insurance issues during pregnancy which left me without the luxury of a midwife or a familiar doctor to assist me during birth. I wasn’t even allowed to check in through the maternity ward at this particular hospital because if I did, the bill would be much more than we could afford. 

Had I chosen a hospital closer to home, or at least one located in the same county we lived in, the story could have been different. But I was determined to birth at Monmouth Medical. They were ranked one of the top hospitals in the nation, had the lowest c-section rate in all of New Jersey, and were known for being birth plan friendly. It didn’t matter to me that it was located over an hour away from home or that unless I managed to convince them I was an emergency case they probably wouldn’t cover my bill. I was determined. So of course, I made my husband get determined too. And as he sped down the highway to try and shave minutes off our driving time, I worked through my contractions and planned a killer emotional sob story to get me through the emergency door. 

About ten minutes out from the hospital, I got a horrible urge to urinate. On top of that, all the speeding and swerving on the highway was making me carsick. We stopped at a grocery store so I could use the restroom and my husband could load up on snacks for the hospital. In the restroom, there was a lot of bright, red blood. I started to worry that I was somehow losing the baby. Did I wait too long? Should I have taken the induction? Fear overwhelmed me and I quickly waddled my way back to the car and we rushed to the hospital. 

Alhamdulilah, when we reached the hospital, I started having another bad contraction so the nurse quickly admitted me though emergency and rushed me upstairs before I even tried to recant the fictional sob story I had planned. A new doctor I had never seen before confirmed that the blood was from my cervix opening (HUGE relief, alhamdulilah) but that I still wasn’t anywhere near being dilated enough for them to admit me into delivery. 

They wanted to send me home but I told them I didn’t live in the county and insisted that I may end up delivering in the car just trying to get back home. Alhamdulilah, they took pity on me and gave me one hour to walk around the hospital in the hopes that it would speed things along. If after that hour I wasn’t progressing, they were for sure going to dismiss me.  

SubhanAllah, I never had such a hard time walking as I did in that one hour. My contractions were so strong that I couldn’t walk without supporting myself against a wall or hand rail. My husband had to constantly walk next to me to help keep me standing. Every contraction was more painful than the one before. My husband, may Allah bless him, trying to keep me in good spirits by cracking jokes, wasn’t helping either. Every time I laughed (he did manage to make me laugh mashaAllah) the pain came stronger and faster. 

Close to the end of the hour, my whole body started to get chills and shake with each contraction. I began to vomit then too. For nearly ten minutes straight, every contraction brought with it uncontrollable shakes and a new pile of throw up on the hospital floor. We made our way back to the bed and the doctor, rather disappointed, said I had only progressed 1 centimeter! My heart sank but then another contraction came and I was back to shaking and throwing up again. Alhamdulilah, when the doctor saw I was in no condition to go anywhere, he had the nurses admit me.

At this point, I handed copies of my birth plan to the doctor and nurses tending to me. I made sure to include things like, “staying hydrated with fluids by mouth instead of IVs”, “intermittent, external fetal monitoring instead of constant internal monitoring”, and of course “natural, vaginal birth”. Alhamdulilah, they graciously accepted the plan but it wasn’t long before they came to debate with me about my choice not to receive pain medication. First, it was a nurse who rather sweetly tried to talk me into an epidural. Then, it was a different nurse who just “stopped by” to suggest that I change my mind. Finally, it was the doctor who sat in front of me as I labored and questioned my reasons and logic for refusing the epidural. I told him I didn’t want the medication to affect mine or my baby’s senses. I told him God made our bodies with everything we needed to birth naturally and that so long as baby and I were healthy, I intended to do things the natural way. After that they let me be. 

MashaAllah, after working through about 12 hours of intense contractions (with my husband’s coaching and massage help) I was finally 10 centimeters dilated. But my water still hadn’t broken. I was exhausted and more than ready to get things moving along. I called the doctor to break my water and began to push. Alhamdulilah, between me, the nurses, and my husband, we had pushing down to a science. The nurse would tell me when to push, I would push, take a drink of ice cold water from my husband, push again, and then relax. Push, drink, push, relax. Push, drink, push, relax for almost a full hour before baby finally came out.

I remember when the baby crowned, the doctor asked me if I wanted a mirror so I could see and reach down to touch his little head. I flashed back to being totally grossed out by crowning images on YouTube and websites when I was pregnant, and responded with a firm, “NOPE!” The last push that got my baby out was a relief. I could feel the doctor pulling his wiggly body from me and my whole body relaxed. I kept asking, “Is he okay, is he okay?” MashaAllah, he was born healthy, weighing 7 pounds, 12 ounces and measured 19.75 inches long. 

Against my birth plan (we can’t always have our way, right?) they immediately put him on a table and started checking him over head to toe, so I didn’t get to hold or breastfeed him right away. After they determined he was healthy and breathing properly, they gave him to my husband to hold while the doctor had me deliver the placenta. SubhanAllah, I’ll never forget that look of awe on my husband’s face. His eyes even started to tear. <3 

After the placenta was out, I got to hold my baby briefly before they took him away again. This time it was to the nursery for his newborn check while the doctor stayed to stitch me up from a minor tear I incurred during the delivery. Unfortunately, it was more than an hour before I got to breastfeed him. 

Alhamdulilah, as per my birth plan and my husband’s watchful eye, the nurses refrained from giving my son any breast milk substitutes so he was more than ready to eat when I finally got to room with him. Even though I had read a little about breastfeeding before giving birth, getting a good latch was difficult for me. It wasn’t until well into my second day at the hospital that I was able to get baby to latch on properly and breastfeed without feeling any pain. And that was with the help of a staff lactation consultant. Alhamdulilah, we live and we learn. 

MashaAllah, the rooming in helped a lot. It allowed more one-on-one time for both my husband and I to get to know our new baby and allowed me to respond to my baby’s needs right away instead of him being left alone with strangers. It also gave me great opportunity to track my baby’s feeds, wet and soiled diapers. Alhamdulilah, I kept records of everything so I was more on top of how my baby was doing than the doctors and nurses were. I actually remember one time the nurse didn’t even bother to ask me how the baby was. Instead, she just asked for my journal so she could copy what I wrote down onto her paperwork. Haha. 

Alhamdulilah, with lots of dua’a and a little determination, I had a blessed birth experience. Looking back, I’m actually very grateful to Allah, subhana wa ta ala, for putting resolve in the hearts of my husband and I to stick to what we felt was right and best for our family, despite the challenges we faced. Alhamdulilah.

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