My first contact with Melissa was when she emailed me inquiring about my Doula Services. She mentioned in her email that her family was getting ready to move from Chicago back to her hometown of Coeur D’Alene, and had already decided on a birth place, and provider for her VBAC. I had had some experience with the Doctor and wanted to let her know that perhaps there would be a better experience with a different local doctor. I gave her a call and I felt awful for adding to the gigantic load that I’m sure was already on her shoulders. What with an upcoming cross country move and all. I just kept thinking if it was me I would want someone tell me J
We decided to meet up once they had moved to see if we’d be a good fit for her birth. I met she and Ben where we talked about her first pregnancy and birth, what they were looking for, what their goals were, etc. They shared the story of Benjamin’s birth. While it seemed to be a great pregnancy, as soon as they arrived at the hospital (where she found out she was 2cm) they put baby on the monitor and discovered the heart rate was decelerating. After a whirlwind of commotion she was whisked away into an emergency cesarean section, and Ben was sent off to a room alone to wait. It would be in that room that he would find out from a nurse that his son (they didn’t know the sex… this is how he found out.) wasn’t doing well.
So, with this traumatic birth their last experience they decided that a VBAC was what they wanted, once again didn’t find out the sex, found (in my opinion) one of the best doctors in Spokane, and hired me on as their very blessed Doula.
We had made an date for the first prenatal appointment, but she wasn’t due until Thanksgiving.
Imagine my surprise when I got a phone call 5 (ok, I guess techniqually 6) weeks early from Melissa telling me she thought her water had broken and she was on her way to the hospital from Coeur D’Alene.
Her wonderful mother, Grandma Jennie, called me an hour later to let me know her water had definitely broken, and Ben was in Chicago. Uh-oh.
I got to the hospital and we found out that since she was 34 weeks (she would turn 35 weeks at midnight) in order to keep her from being transferred to Sacred Heart and to keep baby in until Daddy had arrived (poor daddy had to fly from Chicago to Seattle and then he and Grandpa Jim drove through the night!) they would give her Terbutaline. She wasn’t dilated at all at this point, so it seemed the doctors and nurses were fairly confident they could keep baby in for a few more hours.
I headed home to get some sleep in hopes that Melissa and Jennie could do the same.
Got a phone call at 4:30 am saying that maybe I should make my way in.
By the time I arrived Ben had too, and I could tell it was a huge relief for Melissa to have him there.
We began walking, lots, changing positions, early labor stuff. But, things didn’t seem to be picking up. Finally around 11am the nurse checked Melissa to see if she had been making any progress… no. Still closed, and posterior, and thick. She talked on the phone with her doctor and he said he was comfortable with letting her go until 4pm before starting Pitocin.
We continued to labor at one point she and Ben were walking the hall and Ben came in and told us to get the nurse. She had had a fair amount of blood come out on the floor. The nurse came and put baby on the monitor, asked if she was having any pain, etc. But, she wasn’t and baby looked great… so not a ton of worries. Still contractions just didn’t seem to be getting any more intense. It was during this time that Melissa said they were feeling like their priorities were:
1. To have Ben be there for this birth
2. To have a successful VBAC.
3. To do it without an epidural.
It’s great as a doula to know what these are. It helps me to know what to focus on, and how to help them break down decisions.
Finally around 3pm Ben and Melissa decided to just go ahead and start getting things moving.
Because she was VBAC’in it, the Pitocin was started very low and increased much more gradually than normal.
At this point it seemed to me like labor really kicked in. I could tell by the monitor that they were much closer together, but you could tell by her face, her sounds, her breathing that they were much stronger. She handled it beautifully. There’s something about watching a woman in this phase. Where she comes to the point where she can either fear it, or embrace it. it’s a turning point. She embraced it.
She listened to her music on her headphones and would sing beautifully along to the songs. She turned to me at one point and said, “You have to hear this song!” It was George Michaels “Faith” J We all sang along to it, smiling and dancing. Then other songs would come on and she’d sing a few lines and make eye contact with her mom. Then they’d both sing, tears in their eyes. Their relationship was so touching. They were so connected. Just watching them made the tears come to my eyes.
Melissa loved having Ben by her. I would notice her contractions seemed much more bearable when he was touching her. She liked to lean on him, although she told him at one point that he was too muscular J I thought about trying to stuff some blankets in his shirt, but didn’t think he’d love this idea! Benjamin was around at this point, coming in and out of the room. He would go on little trips, with Grandpa to the junk yard, with Grandma to the park. He loved being in the room, talking quietly, although the more intense things got it seemed it may be distracting. We did manage to get one picture of them while they were still a family of 3.
As we headed into evening Melissa was really wanting to know if she’d made any change. I was practically certain she had. Around this time we began to notice the baby’s heart rate would dip during every contraction. The nurse came into to watch Melissa and the monitor and finally decided to call the doctor. It seemed for me that this hour period took the longest. I could see daddy getting more and more nervous and finally he asked us all to go out so he could sort of explain things to Melissa.
Finally the doctor on call came in and decided to check Melissa. Maybe she was just getting close to complete and that was the reason for the decels.
He went in to check her and I could see almost immediately that there had been no change. He told her she was still very closed, and very far back.
My heart literally sank.
I feel like I knew at that moment.
I wanted this so bad for them. I had this picture in my mind of her pushing, and Ben catching, and announcing. Of tears of victory and redemption.
But, I remembered her priorities and I knew that number one was still possible.
They decided to get her an epidural, and it all happened very quickly and chaotically. After she had the epidural working we began to discuss. She would say to one of us, “What do you think?” And when we would answer anything besides, “Get a C-Section” She would turn to the next, and ask J She also (probably much more than I) knew what was coming. She knew how tired she was. She knew how far she had to go. And she knew what was most important.
She and Ben took some alone time to talk things through. Which was so wise.
They finally decided to just get a Cesarean. This time, a non-emergency. This time Ben would be there by her side.
I actually ended saying goodbye at this point. There was not a ton I could do for a few hours and even at that point she would be in post-op and not able to breast feed right away. Grandma Jennie promised to call me as soon as she knew anything. I gave Melissa a big hug and headed home. Leaving my heart very much at the hospital. Worried for baby because it was so early, worried for mama about to have surgery, daddy who was emotionally drained, and sad to have to let go of the picture I had created in my head.
I fell asleep and woke up at 11:30 to Grandma. She said, ”Guess who I’m holding!” “Who, who, who???” I said, still half asleep. “Julianne Frances.” Ahhh, a girl. Grandmas pink shirt was right.
I came back the next morning to hear the whole story.
They had gotten mommy in, opened her up, and found out she had in fact ruptured her uterus. (Which was probably the blood that she had lost that time) She had some other complications and while baby was 4lbs 14oz, she was perfectly healthy. Even able to stay the first night in the room with mama! Breast fed right away. Wow.
Ben got to announce to Melissa what baby was. Just writing that fact gets me choked up J
Miss Julianne, you are amazing. My guess is that you will be spontaneous & stubborn J If you’re anything like your birth. You have incredible parents who were so strong, courageous, and determined. A fabulous Grandma and Grandpa that supported them. And an adoring big brother who insisted on not wearing his pajamas to the hospital J
What an honor to stand so close to a miracle.
|Julianne, Melissa & I|