intensely trivial

Sondra’s story, Part 2

I’m going to attempt to bring you all the way up to the present in Sondra’s story now.
Sondra and I met about once a month between Feb. and May 2010, getting to know each other and fleshing out her “birth plan.” Even though I spent 1 1/2 hrs. driving each time, it was really so enjoyable. I have cared so much about her situation this whole time. Her son is the most beautiful little boy, and she is a lovely person, full of compassion and faith.
June 7
Sondra has been seeing both a nurse-midwife and an OB (that’s how this hospital works). Her midwife has been very kind and supportive of Sondra’s VBAC plans. At our last official prenatal visit, Sondra told me what her highest priorities were for the birth of Baby Michael, and I helped her write a “birth plan” — just a tool for communicating with her care providers. Of course, she takes Bryan’s birth into the utmost consideration, hoping this time to avoid all the trauma that entailed, and to do that, she’s adamant about not being separated from baby Michael. Since Vince might very well not be home, we figure out exactly what my role will be in his absence. Assuming she has a vaginal birth, she wants to hold the baby immediately skin-to-skin on her belly and chest. She doesn’t want anything to interrupt their touch for the first 1-2 hours. (I know she’s going to have to fight hard for that, even though there is normally no medical reason to take the baby away from the mother; these routines are engrained extremely deeply.) And no poking the baby! — although she does agree to the Vitamin K shot.
For the best chance at a VBAC, she wants to go into labor naturally, and she wants to labor with as few medical interventions as possible. Read: Avoid epidural if possible, and follow her body’s impulses during contractions and pushing.
If Sondra does end up having another c-section, she still wants the baby to stay near her the whole time. She wants to breastfeed as soon as possible, and she wants the baby to have skin-to-skin time with her as much as possible.
I can live with everything on her birth plan. I think Sondra has made sensible decisions, while still being realistic about things that might crop up.
We have even made plans about how she’ll get to the hospital if Vince is still deployed. I’ll have to drive her there in my van, which to me is excessively exciting! πŸ™‚
Fri., June 11
At an appointment with her midwife, Carina, she discussed her birth preferences. The talk went well, and Carina was very supportive. Sondra also talked about her fears of ending up with one of two specific doctors who have reputations as misogynists. Her midwife helped her formulate ways of asking for a different doctor, should one of these two doctors be on duty when Sondra is admitted to labor and delivery. (Here’s how you say it: “Please call another doctor.” There is no reason to allow a doctor to “care” for you when you are scared of him/her. You won’t dilate normally. Fear shuts down labor.)
Sun., June 13
Sondra called me with the news that she’d been having painful contractions every 10-15 min., painful enough that she can hardly stand up during worship. A nurse friend at church recommended she go to the hospital to have herself checked out. She found out she was 50-60% effaced and “dimpled” (not quite 1 cm open on the bottom of her cervix, closed on top). So she went home. Sondra didn’t like contracting, but there’s no sense in staying at the hospital if you have so far to go.
Mon., June 14
Contractions continued. I think labor can actually last up to a trimester, really. It’s not unusual to have contractions come and go for weeks leading up to the birth. But our culture depicts it as this short-term deal, so every time a pregnant woman has contractions, she gears up, tenses up, wondering whether this is “real labor,” when it doesn’t really matter, does it? My advice: Just roll with it and ignore it if you can. If you can’t ignore it, do what you must to cope with it. (Not that I was that relaxed with my own labors, but I think that would be an ideal mindset.)
In fact, Sondra’s contractions intensified as the day progressed, and got more frequent, even 5-6 min. apart. She went for a prenatal massage, in which the massage therapist pushed on all the places that can stimulate contractions, and that apparently worked, because she sure had more contractions. But if your body’s not really ready to give birth, there’s not a whole lot that can make it do so, aside from drugs.
By nighttime, she was very frustrated and distressed. Bryan, her son, sensed that she was in pain and was pushing all her buttons — just not the ones that would make her have a baby! πŸ˜‰ The stress of caring for her son with her husband gone, and feeling so yucky was just too much for her. She thought she’d need me during the night, because she thought she just might be in labor, so I packed my bag and got ready for a quick getaway. As on-the-edge as Sondra sounded, I wanted to get there ASAP, to encourage her and help her stay buoyant if I could.
Tues., June 15
Sondra and I talked again, multiple times, on the phone. She was still contracting. I bossed her around (which I try not to do, but sometimes I can’t help it) and told her that she was to spend the day taking care of herself. She was to drink a lot of water, eat well, rest, and think happy thoughts, basically. She told me that she had had an attitude adjustment, and I could hear it in her voice. Finally, I was able to be at peace, too, knowing she was going to be OK now. I offered to come to her house and help her during Bryan’s bedtime routine if she needed me, but it turned out that her strength returned, and she didn’t end up needing me. Since Sondra was worried about her water breaking in public, a friend went to the grocery store and brought her two gallons of milk, so she was all set again.
Wed., June 16
Sondra woke up in the early morning, nauseated and with some diarrhea, and then, strangely enough, contractions stopped. She was at peace with that development. I was grateful that she could just go about normal life without the discomfort of contractions.
Fri., June 18
Sondra had an appointment with Carina, her midwife. Carina checked her cervix. (Oh, I am getting mighty tired of unnecessary prelabor cervical checks.) She was still 0 cm dilated, but had effaced a lot, and her cervix was farther down — which actually was great progress! Baby was also very low. But of course, people focus most on dilation, and so Sondra was trying not to be too discouraged. It was impossible to strip Sondra’s membranes, which she was kind of wanting in order to move the labor along. However, while Carina was examining her, she apologized ahead of time for hurting Sondra and then proceeded to stimulate her cervix vigorously — I guess that’s the next best thing to stripping membranes. (Why???? Why mess with anything, is what I want to know.)
Dear reader, do you know what happened to Sondra that evening? Surely you can guess. She started contracting painfully, because that’s what happens when you mess with a cervix. She called me and hardly even said hello before she said, “I need you here now!” So of course I packed up some sandwiches and a couple of books and my notes and my toothbrush and a change of clothes, and I headed out to Sondra’s house. Thank God for Dan and Friday night, because it was easy to leave home and know that I didn’t have to be back for, oh, two days. And it could have been that, because I thought Sondra was only in very early labor, if she was in labor at all.
When I got there, Sondra was working pretty hard during her contractions. She was figuring out ways to deal with them, though, and over the next 12 hours, I thought she got better and better at handling contractions, even thought they got more intense. It got to be bedtime, so I suggested we all go to bed (she had her sister at her house to help care for Bryan), so we did. I slept on an air mattress next to Sondra’s bed, and before we went to sleep, we made phone lists and directions to the hospital for her sister, who is from out of town. Sondra found some positions in bed — and a lot of pillows — that enabled her to go to sleep (fitfully, because she was still having contractions). She labored all night.
Sat., June 19
In the morning, she labored some more. Contractions were every 7 minutes or so. She wondered why things were taking so long, but I wasn’t really surprised. Early labor takes a long time. We hung out. Bryan was cute. Leah, Sondra’s sister, was such a servant, too, making me some scrambled eggs (because, even though I’d been eating my rations that I brought along, I was still hungry; I can really eat!).
By about 2 that afternoon, contractions were slowing down. We had talked multiple times about whether we should try to speed things up and had decided every time not to work too hard at it. (I have a pretty hands-off, trust-birth philosophy, so I didn’t push her to hurry up. But I left it up to her. Sondra made her own decisions not to stimulate the contractions.) I asked Sondra, “What would you think of just taking a break from labor?” And she said, “I’d be OK with that.” So we called the whole thing off. πŸ˜‰ Not really; it was calling itself off.
In hindsight, I think what happened was that Carina manipulated Sondra’s cervix so that her uterus started contracting, but since her body and baby weren’t ready for labor, it didn’t really do much or stick around. But talk about frustrating! A night of lost sleep and painful contractions. . . .
Mon., June 21
Sondra had an appointment with her midwife. She wondered how much her cervix had dilated from all those contractions. Zero cm. That’s right: None. I know most people don’t even question cervical exams. It’s just something you do as you approach the baby’s birthday, and it’s harmless, right? Well, here we have a woman who’s fighting with all her might for the assurance that her body works. What good did it do to find out she was 0 cm? I would posit that it did *no* good. And her body is doing just. fine.
Second, at her midwife appointment, she found out that she needed to set a date for a c-section, in case she doesn’t go into labor. (Sorry, are my hackles getting in your way?) She would like to have a c-section only in the case of “emergency” (and there are really not that many c-sections that are true emergencies — like where you have to get the baby out within 5 min.), but I guess now that plan is out the window, thanks to hospital policy. Also, Carina doesn’t want to get in trouble for having a VBAC patient show up in labor on her own terms. Furthermore, in order to avoid the two doctors who terrify her, she has to schedule a c-section (just in case) for July 1. That’s only about four days after her “guess date.”
My gut feeling is that she’s going to have her baby before then, but my guts have been wrong before. The point is, Sondra should *not* have to deal with this in order to have her baby in a perfectly reasonable, evidence-supported way. Meanwhile, she’s waiting — under a lot of pressure.
Can you see all the things wrong with this picture? Sondra has cried enough tears over this. She should not have to be fighting these battles. And she’s nowhere near an exception. This kind of @#%#^ happens all. the. time.
And while I’m ranting, let me just get one more in. Sondra talked to a trusted older woman at church about the situation. Her friend’s answer? “Sondra, maybe this is God’s way of saying this baby needs to be born by c-section.” I’m sorry, but don’t blame this on God. I could go on for a while about that comment, but I’ll spare you. Feel free to respond with rants of your own.

So here we are, waiting. One piece of happy news: Sondra’s husband, Vince, gets home today! I am so thankful she’ll have him around before the baby’s born and as a support during the birth and the postpartum period. I’m sure three-year-old Bryan will love seeing his daddy. I’m looking forward to meeting Vince and supporting him, too, during the birth.

From here on, I plan to post as developments happen. If your prayers join the other ones for Sondra, baby Michael, brother Bryan, and Vince, that would be just wonderful.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Still closed. . . « intensely trivial pingbacked on 7 years, 11 months ago


  1. * shelley c says:

    You do such important work, Rachel! I’m so glad women have you on their side. I look forward to celebrating baby Michael’s arrival.

    Posted 7 years, 11 months ago

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