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Alaina’s Story

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Trusting Birth…Even When Things Don’t Go As Planned
By Alaina Kerkhove,Colman,SD

First published in the September 2010 Birth Blessings Messenger

Early one stormy morning in December I awoke to go to the bathroom yet again.  This pregnancy was physically very taxing for me.  I was rather large for date and I felt it.    When I climbed back into bed I felt a gush.  My first thought was my water broke then I tried to reassure myself that it could not have been as I still had eight weeks left till my due date.  I got up and spent some time going round and round in my head “my water broke”  “no I just peed my pants”.  I finally admitted that my water had indeed broken.  This was pregnancy number six for me.  I was sure I had plenty of time as all my other labors had been 24-48 hours long and I wasn’t even having any contractions yet.  I woke my husband up and we prepared to go to the hospital.  We had nothing ready since we still had two months left.

Wouldn’t you know it our first really good snow storm of the year was brewing outside.  Being an hour from the hospital in good weather we wanted to make sure we had everything “just in case”.  I was very large for date but was sure of my conception dates as I was using the Sympto-Thermal Method of charting my cycle (see www.ccli.org).  Since I was measuring big myOBhad done an ultra sound at my last visit to check for twins.  We only saw one baby!?  This left me wondering, why was I so big?

During the next two hours that we were at home getting ourselves ready and the kids set, I started having contractions at first 5 minutes apart so wimpy I wouldn’t even consider them a good Braxton Hicks contraction.  About 45 minutes later they went to 3 minutes apart and I had to think about them.  At this point I was thinking that we would have a baby by that night (one of my labors I had more intense contractions 3 minutes apart for over 24 hours).

About 45 minutes later I remember thinking that I was done-that I couldn’t do it anymore, the typical emotional signpost that you are in transition. Yet I had no physical signs.  My labor so far had been easy and I would say painless. I went to use the bathroom before we left.  That is when I had a contraction and realized that I was pushing at the peak!  In an instant I was flooded with sheer panic. I was two months early! I couldn’t give birth at home to a preemie!  All the “what if’s” flooded my head.  Then reality hit…we were over an hour away from the hospital with a snow storm picking up steam outside.  It didn’t take me long to realize that we had more control of environmental factors and had more things available to us at home then in the car in a snow storm, thus making it safer to stay home at that point.

About 25 minutes after getting the urge to push our little girl was born all 5lbs 4oz of her.  She seemed fine. She pinked up nicely and seemed to be breathing fine.  Maybe my due date was off?  No, she was awfully tiny for how big I was.  After her placenta was born I still didn’t feel right.  About 25 minutes after she was born we had baby number two, a little boy 4lbs 12oz.  He did not do as well.  He was grunting and his color was not as good, yet he was doing his best.  We immediately prepared to leave.

Because one of our family members has health issues, we had oxygen at home and we put it on him.  It didn’t help since his inability to get good oxygen was due to lack of lung development.

Living rural you learn very early on, the only reason to call the ambulance is when you can’t drive yourself.  Time is a huge factor when calling the ambulance.  We could be half way to the hospital before they could even get to us. Training is the second factor. Most of the rural volunteers have limited training, especially when it comes to birth and new babies.

Oxygen wasn’t helping so what could they really do anyway?  I knew infant CPR and I even had to use the rescue breathing part of it on the family member with health issues on several occasions.  Thanks to advice from several midwives over the years I knew the most important thing to do for him was just to keep him skin to skin to keep his breathing and his temperature regulated.  Our older children at home got to see them for a few minutes before we left which turned out to be the only time they were able to see them until they were discharged from the NICU a month later, due to hospital policy.

We were off and had to drive slowly in the storm.  My due date was right; they were two months early. They spent a month in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the hospital mostly for feeding issues-preemies are usually too tired to wake up and eat so they were being fed my breastmilk by a feeding tube.  Our babies did amazing!  They started nursing like champs and are thriving; you would never guess that they were early.  What an awe inspiring experience.

Besides my deep faith there are several things that I feel made my babies birth a blessing when so many things could have gone wrong.

During my first birth experience, I was “delivered” of my child and our whole family is still suffering the consequences of the doctor and nurses actions at that birth – both physically and emotionally.  I knew that what was done to me was not how my body was designed to birth so I decided to change some things for my future babies:

  • I educated myself about birth.  I asked tons of questions from trusted experts about birth and read everything I could get my hands on.
  • I trusted birth and stayed calm.  I sought out birth attendants that looked at the birth process as a normal function of the body not some disease that needed to be managed and controlled (see the midwifery model of care at www.motherfriendly.org).
  • I ate well, including making sure to get plenty of protein based on the research of Dr Brewer www.blueribbonbaby.org.  I took care of myself, resting when necessary.
  • I was prepared for the unexpected.  Living rurally, I have always prepared for the off chance that my baby could be born before I could get to a hospital.  Because of this I had an “emergency birth kit” on hand.

Americais last among industrialized nations in infant mortality rates.  Our mother mortality rates are rising now as well.  Our c-section rates are through the roof, more than 1 in 3 babies born in local hospitals will be born by major surgery.  The World Health Organization recommends no more than a 15% c-section rate, higher than this increases risks to mom and baby

Through my experiences giving birth and supporting mothers giving birth, I have learned that how we are treated during the pregnancy, labor, and birth of our babies matters – not just for mom and baby, but for everyone.  Statistics show that couples who receive prenatal care from midwives have comparable mother and infant mortality rates to low-risk women giving birth with physicians. These same statistics show much better morbidity outcomes (less physical injury to mom and baby), much less financial cost for care, but higher quality and quantity of care (mana.org/CPM2000.html).

These families as a whole are much more satisfied with their birth. This is because their pregnancy and birth is not “managed” for them. They become partners in their experience, choosing and being responsible for the decisions that are being made as they become educated.  I believe that taking responsibility for their birth ultimately influences how they parent their children.

How we birth changes who we are as wives, mothers, and women; bonding us to our baby or causing us to reject our baby.  Birth outcomes can make the difference between breastfeeding being “easy” or “hard”; between loving guidance or child abuse.  We need to realize that how we give birth changes the world.  The question is, “Are we actively changing it for the better or for the worse?”

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