~ Kryptonite: Be Gone
I am feeling like the kryptonite I had hanging around my neck on a massive chain was
just removed. I have been able to recuperate my personal power. This week I seriously doubted that I would continue with this pregnancy journal, not wanting to appear as some pseudo-reality TV show, feeling absolutely disheartened and embarrassed by my all too eventful pregnancy.
In a last ditch effort to have the birth of my dreams, on my terms in an imperfect system, I contacted some lay/traditional midwives last weekend. After several calls I connected with one named Denise. She set up a time for us to meet on Monday after I knocked off (that's British talk meaning when you get off of work). I met up with her, her sister, and birthing/doula assistant at the local mall and they followed me back to my home. It turns out that I knew the birthing assistant, Christine, because she audited one of my nurse-midwifery classes. Denise presented me with a hug and kiss accompanied by a load full of fresh cucumbers from her country garden. We all sat in my living room sipping ice water as I explained how I had been grudgingly preparing myself to leave abruptly to seek medical care stateside; how I was nothing but a number to my OB/GYN; the feeling of being abandoned by the certified nurse midwives I was in initial talks with; and being unable to find another clinician to take me at my weeks gestation.
They explained to me that they work in conjunction with an OB/GYN which I should try to see at least 3-4 times as a formality. Just in case, I have to birth in a hospital due to unforeseen circumstances there is a paper trail that ties this doctor and I together. And that if it did come to that, she would be right in the hospital alongside me to catch my baby. Okay, fair enough.
I asked her about something I heard that the department of social services has been known to take babies if it is discovered that the mother did not seek prenatal care with a MD per se. Denise explained that it is an urban legend that people propagate in order to spread the psychology of fear to get women into hospitals. She did recount a story of a woman who attempted a VBAC with her. The VBAC was not successful and the woman wound up in the hospital with another Cesarean. Although she had been seeing an OB/GYN all along in conjunction with the midwife, the department of social services somehow viewed her actions as negligent and opened up an investigation initiated by her relatives who were against the home birth.
Denise asked several times how my husband felt about the home birth careful to stress the importance that we are both on the same page. I reassured her that this is a part of Syed's tradition and that he has no problem with it. Unfortunately, he was working and unable to speak for himself but I felt confident speaking for him. I was reassured that the OB/GYN was pro-woman and respective of their birthing choices having experience working on a Native American reservation as a back-up physician to traditional midwives. Denise phoned him and spoke about me as a new client and my situation. He said that he looks forward to meeting me and that I should schedule the appointment as soon as possible.
I could not help but feeling like we were partaking in some covert operation. The culture here is highly medicalized. M.D. for so many means "the next best thing to God". I made the mistake of mentioning that observation to some co-workers the morning of our meeting and that I wanted to have a home birth and their jaws went dropping. It was as if I said that I was looking forward to trekking up Mt. Boujeya and birth inside some remote cave alongside hanging bats decorating the place. "Jeanette, you need to be careful and do what is right for you and your baby. I don't know if a home birth is the best thing for you." I recounted this exchange for my visitors--not surprised, they advised me not to bring the subject up again with others. She also advised speaking with the neighbors ahead of time because they could become alarmed and call the police.
The most ideal birthing situation for me would be at our home in Africa. But I just did not want to chance it. I am a bonafide risk taker, have no doubts about it, but my risks are a bit more calculated these days while I still have children under eighteen that I am hoping to raise. Fortunately, millions and millions of successful births ceremoniously grace the continent, but I chose not to contribute to that number. It would be ideal because we would have the entire support of Syed's family and the community. I would not have to so much as lift a finger, just bond with that baby. Here we are on our own. Well, not so much. I feel like our incarnated angels are gathering to help us through this beginning with Denise and others. I am expecting a bassinet and a slew of baby clothes from my ex-supervisor. And, now I have some fresh cucumbers that are not from China (as everything else practically is).
I still have a ways to go, but I need to start buying things little by little. I was thinking about buying some wipes and diapers. The diapers I feel will be the biggest and most frequent expense.
My attraction to a home birth is that I do not have to leave my home and I can avoid the hospitals here. In the hospital where I did my clinical practice, a birthing mother changes rooms three times before making it to the maternity ward; (1) there is the intake evaluation room, (2) where she gives birth, and then the shower before advancing to the (3) recovery room. Afterwards, when the nurse completes her paperwork she is hauled off upstairs to the maternity ward. Shortly after the birth, baby is whisked off to the nursery because there were things to do and paperwork to push. When the nurse completes her paperwork the mother is hauled off upstairs to the maternity ward. The baby stays downstairs in the nursery. I have never heard of the baby rooming in. If and when the mother wants to visit her baby, she must make the hike to the nursery, check in with the security guard (to see if the bracelets match) and sit with her child there during visiting hours.
Once in the nursery, I saw the oddest thing: A baby's temperature was low and the overhead warmer did not work, so he was inserted bottom first into a plastic grocery bag to warm up. Thankfully it did not cover his face or anything, but it came up to his chest.
When my son was born twenty-one years ago, I was checked into a birthing room and stayed there throughout the birth until discharge. He was with me the entire time. Why a twenty-year old practice cannot be achieved here in 2010 is beyond me?
Also, this place has one of the highest C-section rates in the world. It is so common that it is hard to find a woman who has given birth vaginally. It appears to be done for the convenience of the doctors who do not like to work on weekends, long hours and lack the patience for a laboring woman. But officially, they claim that the life of the mother or baby is at stake. A laboring mother is in no position to advocate for herself. A scared, confused, and temporarily disempowered partner is likely to cave under duress if a life or death situation is presented.
Syed swears that he is absolutely against his wife being cut open, but there is a language barrier and I suspect that he could not be my best advocate. So, I have multiple reasons for staying at home. The least of which is because I am enthralled with a natural drug-free birth. I am not. I abhor pain. In fact, I am the best nurse a patient could ever have because I am always evaluating their pain. My son was a natural birth. My daughter was going to be the same, but I became so tired and overwhelmed by the pain that I simply could not push anymore. They rushed in to administer me something intraspinal. It was too late for an epidural. However, once those drugs ran through my CNS we are talking about the difference between body rocking pain to the sensation of someone just slightly tugging on my finger. I rested for a short period and pushed her out within 15 minutes after that.
Considering that I had never considered more children, I never re-evaluated the drug issue until it was discussed in my nurse-midwifery classes. My professors were anti-drug, pro-natural birth but I never completely jumped on that wagon. I just kept my feelings quiet. I know first-hand the difference. I really wanted to birth my daughter without drugs and almost made it. Of course there are risks associated like respiratory depression, slowing down labor, and diminishing the woman's natural cues to push but even with all that I cannot knock the drugs. It must be a viable option. Well, this will not be an option for me considering
that there are no last minute drugs here that can be rushed in. It's Jeanette vs. Nature! Well, it's Jeanette and Nature. I am going to use positive visualization and prayer to aid in my labor. I need this to work for me. It is going to work.
Denise phoned the next day to inform me that apparently she did not consult her agenda and cannot accommodate my June birth because she has to travel. Admittedly, I was very upset and expressed my feelings, not to her, but to her birthing assistant. She explained to me that Denise never says no to a mother, but needs some health treatments which she has been putting off for a year. When her husband heard that she was thinking about postponing her treatments again to attend my child's birth, he put his foot down. She went on to explain that Denise is currently 50 pounds less than her normal weight.
During our conversation, I did find myself wondering if the midwife would be around for the birth. She is an older woman who let her age slip out and the thought did cross my mind. I pushed it out not wanting to discriminate. My anger left. Looks like a lot of people travel to seek adequate health care. Syed and I knew immediately that for whatever reason, it is not meant for our baby to be born here. We both took it as a sign meant to protect us and our baby. Maybe the "kryptonite", the weight of leaving, was a good luck charm after all.