Though I meant to share a bit more of my summertime in Michigan this week–and, argh! Yes, I had a little false alarm with THAT intended post last week (keep your eyes peeled for the FINISHED tale of the vasolined babies)–I had an experience last Thursday that just insists it be shared!
Shared, naturally, with permission, even while I’m changing names and whatnot.
Also, sorry/not sorry this may not be the most polished piece of writing I’ve ever put out, but I’ve too much to do these days to fuss with it much!
So! Let’s get to it! I had my first car birth!
I spent goodly portions of last week with a family in my service–Willow, Garrison, Zander, and yet within the womb, Felicity. Felicity was pressing up toward forty-two weeks inside her mama and she appeared to be content to remain there indefinitely.
Our visits were filled with talk of cervical sweeps, sex, nipple stimulation, acupuncture, homeopathy, and an appointment for a biophysical profile, and were punctuated with sighs, confessions, tears, and sweet spurts of laughter.
At one point, Willow, failing to believe she’d manage to begin her labor in time to stay at home to birth sagged her shoulders and sobbed, “But really, though, what can we do?”
Four-year-old Zander, listening intently as he sat perched beside his mama on the sofa, raised his eyebrows, spread his little hands, and said, “I have no idea.”
Willow’s sobs dissolved into giggles as she wrapped her son up in her arms–the best she could around her swollen belly, any how–and giggles of my own bubbled up to mingle with hers.
And then Thursday morning–two days ahead of the dreaded forty-two week day–dawned chilly and enveloped in mist. Willow opened her eyes and eased her heaviness to the floor around seven o’clock, and was rewarded with a powerful contraction. Two equally powerful contractions followed the first, and Willow tapped me a quick text before a fourth contraction could rise to seize her.
I decided to head her way around seven-thirty and, fairly crawling through the whorls of fog and thick morning traffic, made it to Willow’s around a quarter past eight, very glad to have beat the baby.
Garrison and Zander were setting up the birth pool when I arrived, and Willow’s doula, Hannah, was kneading her sturdy thumbs into Willow’s back and thighs as Willow breathed through the mighty workings of her womb. I listened to the reassuring patter of the baby’s heart, then sat back a moment, wanting to get to know the pattern of Willow’s labor before setting up the supplies.
At ten till nine, Willow was ready to slip into the warmth of the birth pool. I encouraged her to empty her bladder before she did, and her baby’s bag of waters released right there on the toilet with a gush and a splash.
Soon after she settled into the the pool, Willow’s womb squeezed her in such an amazing embrace she groaned and grunted and brought Felicity’s head to just a hairs-breadth below the surface of Willow’s delicate tissues.
A surge of excitement rippled through the room and each heart beat with the anticipation of meeting our world’s newest member.
And then, by degrees, that anticipation grew stale.
Contraction after contraction came and went without any discernible change.
I finally asked if she’d move to her side on the bed for a while so I could see what was going on. I’d texted Sarah not to bother trying to make it after that first magnificent push. Then, as Hannah and Garrison helped Willow creep up onto the bed, I asked if she’d come after all.
Willow stretched out on her left side and groaned through a contraction. As it faded away, I placed the doppler probe against her firm, full belly, and I noticed Felicity’s heart was beating far too slowly.
We instantly got Willow up on her hands and knees, and I was relieved when the pattern of her beats recovered.
Through the next few contractions I kept a close eye on the baby’s heart and, though my relief at her stability remained, concern over the lack of progress steadily mounted.
I suspected we had an issue with a short or tightly wound cord. Maybe an arm issue as well, for the way Willow had begun to complain about her back.
When Willow asked if she could get off her tingling elbows and knees a spell, I suggested she lie on her right side, but as soon as Willow was nestled there into her pile of pillows, Felicity’s heart rate slowed.
We got Willow back up onto her knees, and the baby recovered herself.
Sarah arrived around that time, and I suggested we move Willow to my birth stool. I wanted to see if she’d be able to shift Felicity a bit further south, and hoped she’d allow her mother to remain upright, at least for a time.
Willow did shift the baby a smidgen southward, but the baby didn’t like the change one bit.
We got Willow up on her feet, then had her bend forward over the bed and, again, Felicity recovered.
By that time it was nearly eleven o’clock. Willow pushed gently with each contraction as the minute hand swept from left to right, but, still, no progress was noted.
And then Felicity’s heart rate began to falter slightly despite the seemingly favored position. Strange, unpredictable, variable falterings. Infrequent, yet ominous falterings.
Enough was enough. Between the erratic variations of the heart tones and the anything but imminent birth of the baby, the only decision I could make in good conscience was to transport.
Hannah and Sarah and Garrison scrambled to follow my instructions while I telephoned the doctor on duty at the hospital. We were in the family’s minivan and on our way ten minutes later. Garrison was driving, Zander was strapped into his car seat, Willow was on her hands and knees in the hatchback, and I was crouched beside her with my doppler and the almond oil tucked into my apron pockets. Sarah and Hannah followed behind, each in their own vehicles.
I rechecked the baby’s heartbeat and Willow’s progress as soon as we were rolling. Everything was about the same. I briefed Willow and Garrison on what we might expect upon our arrival at the hospital, then mentioned it was possible the baby would come in the car.
“If it comes in the car, we can probably turn around and go on back home.”
Both Willow and Garrison received that idea with such unanimous enthusiasm I felt I shouldn’t have presented it. Never in all my years had any mamababy duo I’d transported to the hospital produced a baby on the way.
I let the doctor know we were enroute, kept a bead on the baby’s heartbeat and progress, made sure I knew which nook and which cranny Sarah and Hannah had stashed the items of gear I’d told them I’d especially need–cord clamps and scissors in case there was a truly tight cord, under pads, blankets, oxygen, a ziplock bag for the placenta, antihemorrhagics–and I had Garrison call out each cross street as we flew along so I’d always know exactly how close we were to the hospital.
My heart went out to Willow as we lurched along, and I held her as steady as I could with my arms wrapped around her swaying derriere. But the unrelenting onslaught of jostling caused the little flicker of hope within me to grow brighter. I did so desire for the trip to jiggle the baby free of her mother’s hips and whatever else might be holding her back–arm, cord, both–and allow her to be born safely, swiftly, and, ideally, with minimal intervention.
Garrison said, “Templeton Gap,” and Willow had a massive contraction that, for the first time, really moved Felicity. Happily and for the first time, Felicity didn’t seem to mind the change.
I almost had Garrison pull over, but as Willow’s body had so far kept to a mild, mild, strong contraction pattern through the entirety of second stage, I knew it would be a good thirteen to fifteen minutes before we had another strong one, so I directed Garrison to keep moving forward.
When we rounded the corner from Union to Boulder, Memorial Central Hospital loomed into view. I called the doctor to say it was time to meet us at the door with a gurney so Willow could remain on her hands and knees. Just then Willow had a second tsunamic contraction. Just then Garrison asked, “Do I pull in here?”
Unable to see well from the back of the van, especially while tending to Willow through that contraction, I said, “Yes!”
But it was the Emergency entrance instead of the main entrance.
Still on the phone with the doctor, I told her what happened. She said never fear, they’d be down to Emergency in a blink.
Then, in the space of that flutter of lashes, Garrison opened the hatchback, I hopped out, a swarm of personnel surrounded the rear of the vehicle, and Willow cried out, “Kim! Contraction!”
I peeked beneath her nightie.
“Okay. Okay. The baby’s coming.” I sprayed a stream of almond oil over Willow’s dramatically bulging perineum and cupped it in my left hand. “I’m going to catch it right here.”
From somewhere behind me the doctor asked, “Are you the midwife?”
“I am,” I said as the baby began to spread Willow’s labia and fill my palm.
“Easy, Willow. Easy.” I whispered in her ear.
Felicity’s head bloomed into view and rotated to face Willow’s left thigh. I pressed the baby’s cheek gently toward Willow’s bum and felt a tiny fist slide toward the light–a tiny fist, a tiny arm, pinned against the baby’s chest by a snug loop of cord. I drew the loop up and over the baby’s shoulders and head, released the arm, and received the child as she slid from her mother.
I laid her on the pad beneath Willow and the group behind me exploded!
“SOMEONE GET THE CLAMPS AND SCISSORS!”
“Oh no,” I said, “we don’t need clamps or scissors.”
“HAVE YOU GOT A BULB SYRINGE?”
Felicity was pale, but had let out a few cries and was already beginning to pink up. “We don’t need a bulb syringe.”
“VITALS!” A set of hands reached for the baby.
“Oh,” I said as I lifted Felicity from between Willow’s legs and placed her in Willow’s arms, “babies always go straight to the mamas.”
“BUT I’VE GOT TO GET A SET OF VITALS ON THAT BABY!”
“Look,” I said as I dried the baby with a blanket. “I do this all the time. I really do know what I’m doing. The baby’s fine–”
I turned to face the sea of worried faces and spread out my hands, “Could everyone please just back up a little? The baby’s fine.”
Garrison materialized in my peripheral vision, and I shifted to look at him.
“What do you want to do?” he asked.
“Do you want to go home?”
He hopped into the driver’s seat and I hopped back into rear of the van. “Thank you, everyone! Thank you! Sorry for the excitement! You were wonderful, but we’re fine now and the family would like to return home!”
“You’re going to leave?”
“Yes! We’re going to leave! Thank you! Good bye!”
I pulled the hatchback shut and Garrison pulled away.
I received Felicity’s placenta as we rumbled homeward, tucked it into that ziplock, and called the doctor to apologize more officially for causing such a stir and to assure her all was well.
Then Willow, disheveled but beaming, beautiful babe pressed to her breast, looked up and gushed, “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!!! I can’t believe I just did that!”
Four-year-old Zander, calm as anything through the entire ordeal, twisted around in his seat, smiled, and said, “Two thumbs up, Mom!”
Two thumbs up? Oh, yes! Two thumbs up indeed!
Here’s a vital footnote! I want to make sure it’s clear here—the Labor and Delivery staff at Memorial Central Hospital is hands-down the best I’ve experienced in twenty-five years! They welcome our homebirth transfers with open arms and do their utmost to honor the desires and dreams our clients come to them with! I just had the team all in a fluster at this birth—though we all were in a bit of a fluster, I think 😊
Kim Woodard Osterholzer, Colorado Springs Homebirth Midwife and Author
Books by Kim: