Against All Odds: Gillian, VBA2C

I have neglected to post an announcement about my daughter’s birth.  I was thinking that I would have a birth story ready to post within a few days of her birth, but clearly that is not the case.  Actually, in addition to her birth story, I will be drafting additional posts related to this crazy birth experience and a couple of guest posts for other blogs.  Stay tuned!  For now, here are some stats for your enjoyment, and a picture of my latest love bug.

Gillian, day 2

  • Gillian, born Tuesday, July 12 around 5:30 am
  • 8 lbs, 14 oz
  • 21.5 inches long
  • 15.5 inch head!
  • HARD labor commenced at 7pm on Monday, July 11, about 5 hours after a second dose of castor oil while pumping, at 41w4d gestation, the same day I cancelled the ‘required’ 41.5w cesarean (scheduled for 1:30pm on July 11)
  • About the only thing that was physiologically NORMAL about all of this is that she came out of my vagina and I was not given pitocin (well, not until stage 3)

I must give particular thanks to the women of ICAN and Birth After Cesarean for lifting me up, particularly during the last trimester of this pregnancy.  The last week of my pregnancy was sheer emotional hell, and I wouldn’t have made it through without these networks of amazing women.

My OB: Hello Dr. Jeckyll? Or Is It Mr. Hyde?

I decided to blog about my OB, Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde, over at My Best Birth.  Here’s an excerpt:

So, I arrive this morning with my husband.  After the nurse weighs me and takes my blood pressure, she tells me to unclothe waist-down.  I then notice the ultrasound machine right by the bed.  “Uh oh,” I think.  Compliant-patient side of me agrees to undress (though I know my cervix is still high and posterior).  Not-gonna-comply-patient will not agree to an ultrasound!

This week, instead of having a big baby, I have “not a very big baby” (based on external palpation) . . . “maybe 6 6.5 pounds right now.”  I’m measuring “right on” (which he didn’t say last week).  Everything looks good.  No worries.  Who is this guy!?  So, a very straight-forward appointment with Dr. Hyde this week.  At this point, I am planning on keeping my 39 week appointment, just so he doesn’t get suspicious of anything.  Suspicious of what, you might wonder?

To read the entire post, click here.

Blog it out: 38 week OB appointment

As I get ready for my 38 week OB appointment tomorrow, I feel the need to just ‘blog it out.’  Ya know . . . as a way to relieve some tension and stress from last week’s appointment.  I’m maintaining ‘shadow care’ with the only OB I know in town who would ‘tolerate’ babysitting an ill-advised VBA2C in the hospital.  Only thing – I’m not planning on going to the hospital.  However, I’ve been encouraged to keep up this disingenuous relationship just in case I do need to transfer during or following the birth.

I blogged last week about his ridiculous statement that “short, Mexican women” have the best births.  Here are some of his other de-motivating tactics:

Sketch by American artist, Ben Murphy

  • “So . . . we still doing this?”  He likes to begin my appointments with this rhetorical question.  He knows the answer, but yet, he continues to ask.
  • “You’re not gaining weight but you have a BIG BABY.”  Such bullshit.  He doesn’t share my fundal measurements with me, but I know I have been and continue to measure ‘right on’ each week.
  • “When you have a bad outcome, ________.”  He’s filled in the blank with a variety of scary things.
  • “When you need a cesarean, you can’t freak out on me.”  I told him that was way too much for him to expect.
  • I have to have a perfect Friedman’s labor.
  • CEFM, IV, yada yada.  Ok, whatever.  I’ll agree to the monitoring assuming they have telemetry.  I’ll consent to heplock but not an active IV.
  • As soon as I’m in labor, I’m to go directly to L&D.  (Yeah, right, doc.  I’ll do that.)
  • I asked him why my rupture risk is increased since they went through the old cesarean scar.  His response: “Because it just is.”  My response: “Come on, you know that’s not a good enough answer for me!”
  • When I told him that I gestate longer than 40 weeks, he said “that’s bad!”
  • Doesn’t believe vaginal delivery is best for healthy babies (?!?!?!?!!!!!)
  • Places VBAC in the “want” not need category, though he seems to understand that I have my reasons
  • Doesn’t seem to believe that the pelvis expands during pregnancy and birth?  The only way to get more room would be to break my pelvis (not that he was suggesting that route).  Does he not ‘get’ the physiology of birth?  Does he not understand the role of hormones in preparing the body to birth??
  • Seems to consider 37 weeks as term . . . not early term as I suggested.  (A newly released NIH study asserts that babies born in the 37th and 38th weeks are more likely to die before age 1 than babies born in the 39th and 40th weeks.)
  • “You know I’d prefer not to do this.”  In response to my objections over having him and an anesthesiologist breathing down my neck during my entire labor and birth.  Which is a mis-representation anyway of what would actually happen.  If I’m in labor during the day, he can continue seeing his patients.  If I’m in labor at night, he’s welcome to go sleep somewhere in the hospital or at his office.  And our hospital has 24-hr anesthesia immediately available, so he shouldn’t be guilting me about an anesthesiologist having to be there for my labor.  If a hospital isn’t safe for a VBAC . . . . it’s not safe for any birth.

Wow, when I write all of that down, I just get angry.  I’m going to crawl under the covers with my Hypnobabies tracks, strengthen my bubble of peace, work on fear cleansing, listen to my pregnancy affirmations, and call it a day.  My husband will go with me tomorrow to my appointment, so I imagine it will be uneventful.  I have a mind to bring in my “birth preferences” just to see how the doc would react, but really . . . is it worth it?  Probably not.  At this point, I’m no longer interested in his opinion because he continues to skew the ‘truth.’  I don’t want to argue about laboring in water or delayed cord clamping or any of it.

Point is – I’m not going to the hospital to have this baby unless the need arises before, during, or after the birth.  I fully recognize that at any point between now and my birthing time, that I may need hospital services.  My husband and I will decide if we agree with recommendations to abort our homebirth plans.  Otherwise, I’m not planning on needing the hospital or an obstetrician.  So the last thing I want to do tomorrow morning is have an off-putting, destabilizing, stress-inducing discussion with someone who begrudgingly is putting up with my wingnut idea to have a natural birth but very vocal about what all “will” go wrong.

You can read my last pregnancy update (34 weeks) here.

Hispanic Female Pelvises are Better?

My OB said the most bizarre thing today.  At first it didn’t really strike me as bizarre, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized it’s a crock of shit.

I’m not exactly sure how we got onto this topic this morning, but he stated that the Hispanic female pelvis is bigger than the average white woman’s pelvis.  The best birthers are short hispanic women according to the doc.  And then said something about a study in Southern California that I didn’t really pay any attention to.

Let’s just break this down a bit.  According to this post over at The Unnecessarean (July 2010), the cesarean rate in Mexico’s private hospitals is 70% and 40% in public hospitals.  If Mexican women are so much more physically capable of using their pelvises, then why does their cesarean rate exceed ours?  Perhaps pelvimetry is not as much a factor as OBs would like us to think?

The Unnecessarean post, an article written by Cinthya Sanchez that appeared in El Universal on July 18, 2010, further points out:

A 2002 study based on public health data from 126 countries found that the estimated rate of cesarean sections in the world was 15%, while in Latin America and the Caribbean, the average rate was 29.2%: Mexico (39.1%), Brazil (36.7%), Dominican Republic (31.3%) and Chile (30.7%).

None of these cesarean rates support my doctor’s assertion that a woman’s genetic structure has anything to do with achieving a vaginal birth.  According to Jesús Lujan, an obstetrician-gynecologist specializing in human reproductive medicine and the director of Clínica Pronatal, other factors are at work here.

“Women are marked in advance by previous cesarean section, any uterine scar in general, and cephalopelvic disproportion, which is almost always an imprecise measure because not all professionals use the same parameters for diagnosis. Mothers are told that are too short and that we are sure your pelvis is smaller than the baby’s head, that they are too old and will be unable to handle birth, that the cord is tangled, that sex will never be the same, and many other lies,” says Lujan.

Aha!  I knew it.  I wonder if some jackass OB in Mexico is currently telling his patient that you need to be tall with a Nordic bone structure (my genes) to have a baby fit through the pelvis?  What do you think?

For more information on CPD (cephalo-pelvic disproportion) diagnoses (and what it probably doesn’t mean for you) and pelvises, I recommend:

The Bestest VBAC of All

So I got an epidural for my VBAC.  Get over it.”  What a great title!  You know exactly what kind of story you’re going to read and can even take a guess at the spectrum of responses to such a post.

I think this is an important post to read.  A VBAC doesn’t have to be a fully unmedicated waterbirth at home to be a ‘success.’  Yet, we run the risk of presenting a set of demands on VBAC mamas, and for many if not most this might be obstructive.

My sense of this woman’s story is that she got the epidural knowing what risks and benefits are involved.  If not, then yeah, maybe she got lucky.  My sense of other women’s stories who have had epidurals, is that even though in most women, the risks may outweigh the benefits . . . some women just don’t dilate or labor well without them.  Perhaps we can hindsight quarterback their birth preparation process, but I think that’s a fruitless discussion.

I agree with Andrea’s point that fighting about the best way to VBAC isn’t constructive.  Ideally, we wouldn’t even need to address the “best way to VBAC” if we had a medically-appropriate cesarean rate in this country.  And if “normal birth” (and I do mean natural) has a high degree of variability, so much so that we insist women be left to labor in peace without clock pressure, then we must be willing to accept variability in the way women pursue their VBACs.

Most of us, I would assume, who consider ourselves to be VBACtivists, are working so hard to re-educate women about patient autonomy, patient choice, informed consent, and participating in health care choices, that we start from the position that a woman who requests an intervention such as an epidural during a VBAC labor doesn’t know the risks.  And this is probably how the squabbles begin.

Further, plenty of “die hard” VBAC gals make “natural choices” that I find potentially risky.  I’m pretty specifically talking about the use of EPO for home induction and tonics such as 5w or PN6.  And some women say NO to induction but YES to augmentation.  And some women agree to AROM (having their waters broken).  Some women have their membranes stripped.  And I get it . . . because as soon as you get to 40 weeks, you’re treated as a ticking time bomb.

What will I do this time?  Only time will tell.  But you bet your butt that if I get exhausted laboring at home but think an epidural will help me regain the strength to birth this child vaginally, we’ll hop in the car and accept the the bad with the good.

Pissed! but Accepting?

Wednesday was a banner shite day.  My midwife had been encouraging me to maintain a relationship with an OB, and I knew this necessitated a change.  Friends and L&D nurses urged me to try this one doc, Dr. A (we shall call him), stating that if anyone was going to give me a chance at VBA2C, it would be him.

So, I naively went to my 9:50am interview/appointment with Dr. A.  I was nervous – didn’t really sleep the night before – but hopeful.  The staff was very nice; the nurse was nice.  (I had previously talked with her.)  I had previously met this doc, so at least I wasn’t worried about that.

He was interested to know why I was there since obviously I had been seeing another OB for the 1st three-quarters of my pregnancy.  I told him I had 4 reasons:

  1. I am very motivated for a VBA2C

He interrupts . . . “Don’t do it.”  Shaking head.  Patronizing tone.

I cry.

The rest of the appointment was him trying to scare me out of it, and by the time I told him I’d been diagnosed with a thin lower uterine segment (LUS) during the RCS, he was certain that I am a nut.  Actually, he recognized that I had done a lot of thinking and researching, but he didn’t think I had given enough thought to permanent damage to the baby and permanent damage to me.  (Like, DUH!  What else have I been thinking about the past 7 months.  FFS!!!!!!!)

What was scary is that he’s familiar with the same research I’ve studied.  He mentioned the Cochrane library.  He refuted the opinion of the NIH VBAC Consensus Panel (because most of them don’t deliver babies).  The research doesn’t point to maternal death from uterine rupture but he’s seen it.  Fetal demise begins within 8 minutes of the onset of bradycardia associated with rupture which is too short a time to get a cesarean performed.  Yada yada.

Terrifying.  And I’ve done my research.  I’ve been researching this since 2007.  I have a PhD.  I have fantastic research and analytical skills.  And I was still terrified.  And I still doubted myself, my support system, everything.  And I resented my baby.

And I freaked the hell out.  Couldn’t go to work. 

So, you probably see the “pissed” part.

Here’s the “accepting” part.

Of course he’s going to do “his job” and dissuade me from VBA2C.  In his experience, it’s too  risky to justify.  He’s not going to understand why I disagree.  I’ll never be able to “educate” him here either.  When I don’t rupture and have this baby at home without incident, he’ll assume I got lucky.  I accept that he views birth with a completely different lense.

However, he’s agreed to take me and said he won’t drop me either even if I go forward with the VBAC.  He’d rather babysit me through this poor choice than turn me away.  I’ll have to sign an AMA (against medical advice) waiver just to cover his butt.  Fine; whatever.  So, for now . . . I’m planning to continue my concurrent care with him.  If it becomes a regular thing for him to try and terrorize me, then I’ll drop him.

Although he really shook me to the core on Wednesday, thanks to the amazing support of ICAN and Birth After Cesarean, I’m back on track and actually feeling more solid about my birth plans.  I just don’t “see” the hospital figuring into this experience.  Perhaps God or my baby or some 6th sense will change things, but for now, I’m back to planning a peaceful birth at home.

Day 2 Pt 1 Impactful ICAN Conference Tweets

The working subtitle of this post is . . . you can lead an OB to the table, but can you keep him/her from cutting??

some rights reserved - thetorpedodog @ Flickr

Here are some of my favorite tweets from the Saturday morning sessions.  (And as I look at the 300+ conference tweets paused in twitterfall this morning, the day after, I realize there may not be a part 2 . . . kind of like History of the World!)

Disclaimer: Since I collated these posts from a public feed reader, I have not asked permission to repost them.  OPs may request their tweets be removed and are welcomed to clarify their tweets in the comments section.)

Regarding breech:

BirthingKristen “Women should have the right, the support, and the resources to choose their own set of risks.” #vaginalbreech #ICAN2011
I do believe this, but gee, it’s hard to achieve especially when you involve birth attendants, regulations, insurance, hospitals, even birth centers, etc.  I’m afraid to say that the fact is that women will never fully have the right to choose their own set of risks unless they birth on their own.

DeepSouthDoula Vaginal breech birth is in our reach but it’s up to the parents to make it happen. Like the parents who walked out 1 hour prior. #ICAN2011
Again, somewhat idealistic.  In my case, I knew I’d be trying to fight my provider’s malpractice insurance . . . me . . . alone.  I’m not saying there aren’t things we can’t and shouldn’t do, but realistically many, if not most, families are not going to fight the system one hour before giving birth.  And they shouldn’t be made to feel like failures because they didn’t fight this overwhelming machine.

ShannonMitchell GT: breech birth is a part of the traditions midwifery #ican2011 #breech
Yes it is.  Isn’t it a shame that it’s often not in the current scope of practice for traditional midwifery?

DoulaMari: “Mama loves you enough to have you at home even though you were breech!” #ican2011
This just hurts my feelings.  I know the statement had nothing to do with me or my choice to consent to a CBAC for double footling breech twins and that it’s excerpted from an emotionally powerful experience, but it still cuts like a knife.  Actually, it feels like a repetitive cut to the same wound that refuses to heal.

drpoppyBHRT When docs tell midwives, “you can’t do that” is it really because THEY can’t do that? #vaginalbreech #normalbirthignorance #ICAN2011
Nice.  Yes, I think a lot of the time it does mean that.  They haven’t been trained to trust the body’s wisdom; they’ve been trained to search for pathology and treat that pathology.  Even the NIH VBAC consensus report indicates that younger doctors may be more resistant to VBACs because they were trained during a time when VBAC was (is) so highly contentious.

heathertom Tully: the question may be Is the attendant safe? #ICAN2011 #vaginalbreech
Absolutely.  I personally would be more afraid to show up at the hospital pushing out a breech baby if I didn’t know that the doctor on the receiving end was experienced with breech.  In fact, I’m of the opinion that in my community it may be irresponsible to show up at my hospital with a vaginal breech.  It hasn’t been part of the local practice – obstetrics or midwifery – for more than 10 years.

poderyparto Breech: 80% no intervention needed at all, 20% need maneuvering. #CAM2011 #ICAN2011
In other words . . . HANDS OFF THE BREECH!

drpoppyBHRT OBs in Germany and Israel are working to unite midwives and OBs to increase vaginal breech birth. I love that! #kneechest #ICAN2011
This is wonderful to know.  We should be pointing to these case studies every chance we get.  This will help us as we advocate for evidence-based care.

Other awesome tweets: (before I fell off the wagon)

drpoppyBHRT: Midwives told to stop doing #VBACs, they responded “when you stop doing cesareans.” Gail Tully #ICAN2011
AWE.SOME.

MamaBear1326 Why am I lucky enough to live where I achieved a vba2c and some people dont have that option #breaksmyheart #ican2011
Many women don’t feel they have the option to birth their babies.  This is so sad.  The fact is that women have fundamental rights.  No one can force you to consent to a surgery.  And even ACOG’s 2005 committee opinion supports protecting these rights:

Efforts to use the legal system to protect the fetus by constraining pregnant women’s decision making or punishing them erode a woman’s basic rights to privacy and bodily integrity and are not justified.”  (via birthaftercesarean)

Unnecesarean Dr. Poppy Daniels: “Women who really want a vaginal birth can go to extremes to get it.” (No kidding) #ICAN2011
And we will.

ICANofAtlanta How many ob-gyns have not read the latest ACOG practice bulletin on VBAC, not to mention the NIH consensus? #ican2011 #hcsm @drpoppybhrt
. . . and won’t acknowledge that local practice should change to reflect the bulletin and NIH findings.  This is why I’m sending letters to all local OBs.  I’m done with their fear mongering and lies.

RobinPregnancy T-shirt spotted: Keep your politics out of my vagina on @shannonmitchell #ican2011
Nearly snorted my coffee when I read this.  And I want one.

mollytoba I keep hearing about better integration of midwifery and OBGYN care. Who is actually doing this? Any successful models? #ICAN2011
Someone did respond to this, but I can’t find the tweet.  She mentioned some place in LA (which I can’t remember if refers to Louisiana or Los Angeles!).  But that was the only ‘successful model’ response I read.

DeepSouthDoula Exploring birth trauma in mamas AND with birth professionals. What we witness can be traumatic for us too. #ICAN2011
I may have to dedicate a post to this.  Birth professionals who experience trauma need to be treated!!!  Please refrain from bringing your trauma into future births.

babydickey “I’m not a uterus walking into an operating room.” I’m a pregnant woman with a family. #ICAN2011
<le sigh>

blairlovesjason Glad @drpoppybhrt discusses the harm in shows like Deliver Me, A Baby Story, etc. Means a lot coming from a professional. #ican2011
Totally!  I didn’t know any better and was watching these shows in 2004 when I was pregnant with DD1.  It made me afraid of the cesarean, but it didn’t do anything to help me (or encourage) me to prevent it.  It was like watching a car wreck in progress, over and over and over again.  Dammit, and then I wrecked my ‘car.’

ShannonMitchell Acnm says they are working on revised vbac statement addressing “immediately available” #birthaction #ican2011
Very good news.  The ACNM needs to step up and not hide behind ‘big brother.’

babydickey Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) has a c-section rate of 5.03%. YEA! #ICAN2011
I trust this to be true, but it would be so helpful if MANA would release the data.  People want to see it.  I want to see it.  MANA hold plenty of statistics that to my knowledge are not publicly accessible.  It’s a shame.

mollytoba Ida Darreagh of NARM: the safest place for a woman to give birth is where she feels strong, supported and capable. #ICAN2011
Absolutely.  This is why I try to be super careful when talking with mamas who have different ideas about where to birth.  Everyone should feel safe giving birth.  It doesn’t ensure a perfect outcome, but it’s still important to respect one another’s decisions.

DeepSouthDoula Don’t feed the trolls! Seriously not worth it. As @unmarketing says – you are not the jackass whisperer. #ICAN2011 AND seeKJtweet Ok who said Beetlejuice? #ICAN2011
Oh my.  There is a persistent non-practicing OB with too much time on her hands who just hates natural birth advocacy.  She has quite a cult following.  I used to go to her blogs thinking there was something possibly to learn there . . . but it’s just so polemic that I realized I was wasting my time and scaring myself in the process.

RobinPregnancy Every state needs to look at the safe transport bill for home births. #ican2011
And where do I go to find that?  Over to Google.  Searched ["home birth" "safe transport" legislation] which didn’t come up with much.  But I did find that a bill is working its way through the Illinois General Assembly.  Have a look!  I found this as a result of reading this action alert from the Chicago-area homebirth meet-up group.