“I just KNOW that I could have pushed my baby out if anyone had listened to me!” Elizabeth had tears in her eyes as she told me the story of her first birth. “I’m sorry to get so emotional, it’s still such a painful memory for me.”
She had been planning a natural birth, but she was scared, and when labor started, she went straight to the hospital at her mother’s urging. There, the contractions that had been so regular at home dwindled to one every ten minutes or so. She was only two centimeters dilated, but instead of encouraging her to go home and hang out until things progressed more, her doctor said, “Let’s get things going here,” and broke her water. When that did not stimulate regular contractions, Elizabeth was told the nurse would be starting a pitocin drip to regulate and strengthen her labor.
Once the pitocin kicked in, contractions started coming one on top of the other, and Elizabeth felt she was not getting a break. Panicked, she asked for an epidural. She was now 4 centimeters dilated.
After the epidural, she slept for a couple of hours and woke up to the nurse saying cheerily, “Time to start pushing! You’re 10 centimeters!”
Elizabeth didn’t feel like pushing. She felt like going back to sleep. But the nurse told her the doctor was on the way. Suddenly, the room was filled with people. Two or three nurses were huddled around the baby warmer, setting things up and talking to two student nurses who would help with the newborn admission. The labor nurse was there, and had called for another nurse to help her get Elizabeth ready to push. There were two residents watching, both hoping Elizabeth’s doctor would let them do the delivery. The nurses whipped the sheet off of Elizabeth, pulled up her gown, and supported her legs in a flexed position, one on each side. Elizabeth was horribly embarrassed that her entire body from the waist down was naked and exposed, and she tried to close her legs and cover herself. The nurses pushed her knees apart and pulled her legs back. “Honey, give the baby room to come out.” Elizabeth glanced at the half-dozen faces staring at her bottom and pleaded, “Can’t some of these people go out? I can’t push with all these people looking at me.”
The nurse rolled her eyes, and motioned to the residents to step back behind the curtain, where they continued to watch. Tears ran down Elizabeth’s cheeks as the nurses coached her to push. She was terrified she would have a bowel movement in front of all these people watching her. Even after the nurse sent the students out, others came in. Elizabeth asked to be allowed to sit up more, but the nurses said it was important that she stay on her back to give the baby room.
“You’re not pushing! You’re not even trying” one nurse complained.
“I can’t push with all these people watching me, ” Elizabeth replied.
“Well, if you won’t push your baby out, we’ll just cut it out,” the nurse responded, pushing the call button and asking the charge nurse to send the obstetrician in.
Dr. Gracie hurried into the room, checked Elizabeth briefly, and said, “You’ve been completely dilated for one hour and really haven’t made much progress. We’re going to have to do a c-section.”
Elizabeth apologized again as she finished her story. “”I just get so upset when I think about it. They told me I’d never be able to have a baby normally because my pelvis is to small, but I know I could have pushed my baby out if I could have had some privacy.
“Would you like to try a VBAC this time?” I asked. Elizabeth nodded, but said that the prior midwife had told her she couldn’t have a VBAC because of staffing issues. I assured her I would go to bat for her, and see if we could try a VBAC.
Later that day, I saw one of the other midwives in the hallway. “You’re going to have to do that VBAC, ” she said. “I don’t want to do it, and I don’t think she can deliver vaginally.” I told my colleague that I would be happy to attend Elizabeth’s VBAC.
Fast forward a month. Elizabeth is in labor. She comes in to be checked and is 3 centimeters dilated. I send her out to walk. She comes back in two hours. 4 centimeters, contractions still pretty mild. Go walk some more. Elizabeth comes back after five hours of labor, and is 5 centimeters. “I can still walk some more,” she says. “The contractions aren’t too bad.” I tell her to walk some more and come in to the hospital when she is ready.
She arrives two hours later at 6 centimeters dilated, and quickly progresses to complete. I help her onto the birth stool, where her bottom is not exposed for everyone to see. I cover her with a sheet. I turn the lights low and ask everyone to go out of the room. I promise to call them in time for the actual birth. Elizabeth pushes for only 15 minutes, and delivers her baby into Daddy’s waiting hands. He places the baby girl onto her chest. Elizabeth gently embraces her baby and looks at me with glowing eyes. “I knew I could do it! All I needed was for someone to give me the chance!”