Friday, July 10, 2009

Virginia's Birth Story: Part One

by Mary Kury

When I was seven years old someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. “A surgeon,” was my response. Asked what a surgeon does I replied, “They surge on people.” Fast forward three years. “Mary, what do you want to be when you grow up?” And my now firm reply was, “I want to be a mommy,” though my resolve was shaken a little when my mother explained to me precisely how that baby would get into my belly. Too much information, Mom, too much information.

At the age of 27, I was married to the man of my dreams... and apparently of other women's dreams as well. Turns out a huge majority of women are attracted to hard working, blue collar workers- and my husband is definitely one of those. He's a tree surgeon, or arborist to be exact... and he spends his days outside working on maintaining and improving the urban forest. He's strong, and muscular, and rugged, and well... he's HOT. So, it was no surprise to anyone that after three months of marriage (and nine years of birth control) we were pregnant. I'm not so sure that any method of “birth control” works to harness that type of loving. ;)

Well, I was working full time and so was Todd. The position I had been hired for had been recently vacated due to a woman going on maternity leave and never coming back. I was gently instructed by my new boss (and old friend) “not to get pregnant, please” and I assured her that there was no way we were ready any time soon. In fact, we had discussed it before the wedding- we would wait for 3 years, until I turned 30, to try.

In October of 2006, I was on my way back from my new belly dancing class and it dawned on me that my period was 4 days late. Hmm. I called Todd and asked him to go and pick up a pregnancy test, not because I was concerned, but just for fun. In the recent months before the wedding, our company had encouraged everyone to switch from brand name to generic drugs to help save on our health care costs, and being one of the company's accountants, I was happily willing to cut costs wherever I could- and the only drug I was purchasing was my birth control. Turns out that generics can have a 15% margin of error from the brand names... When I got home, I grabbed the pack and saw that it was the grocery store brand. “Todd! It's a generic!! It won't be accurate! If I'm pregnant, it's because we used generic birth control. Why would you get a generic pregnancy test?!?!” He was a little confused and I went to the bathroom. I peed on the stick. And then, according to the directions I would wait for 2 minutes for a second line to appear. Within SECONDS the second line appeared. I stepped out of the bathroom and handed him the stick and said, “We're pregnant. Oh my gosh. We are pregnant. Oh well, there goes our trip to Italy.” He looked at the stick and then snatched the instructions away from me and said, “You didn't do it right.” I said, “You didn't get a brand name pregnancy test!” He took the next twenty minutes to read every single instruction, and then told me how to pee on the stick. I did it again. And it came back positive again. Then we called my best friend and asked her to bring me an EPT. She did... still pregnant. Wow.

I originally wanted to have a birth the “easy” way- elective c-section with a tummy tuck afterwards. But then I started doing research and found out that as flippantly as c-sections are seemingly done, they are in fact major abdominal surgery and women die each year due to complications of that surgery. I found that in the United States we have some of the highest maternal intervention rates in the world and also the highest mother and infant mortality rates of the industrialized nations. It didn't make sense to me. If our intervention rates were increasing, our mortality rates should be decreasing... but they weren't. And that scared me.

A few weeks into my pregnancy I was talking to a coworker who had twins. His wife actually carried both babies to term (past 40 weeks) and went into spontaneous labor (unheard of for twins these days) and had them both vaginally (I hadn't realized that was an option) with, get this, no medication. I asked how she performed such a feat and he said, “We took Bradley Method classes.” I immediately went to the computer and began searching for our nearest Bradley instructor and signed up for her next series of classes. My husband and I attended each class and took meticulous notes. We created a detailed birth plan and then began discussing when we would present it to our OB team.

I am an extremely non-confrontational person, so I was thrilled when I asked my primary OB what he thought about natural childbirth. He said, “I don't see the purpose, but if that's what you want, I'll do what I can.” I asked him how many natural births he had seen. He told me that he didn't know a specific number, but said that it was “less than 5 per cent of his deliveries.” Hmm. Interesting. I made another appointment with my primary for my 32 week check, and this time something was wrong. He wasn't there. Instead, the female OB with whom I had clashed earlier in my pregnancy at the mention of natural childbirth was there. I had my birth plan all drawn up and decided to show it to her. She looked it over and had a few generic “hmmms” and “hrrumps” and then she just stared at me. She looked back down at my plan and took her red pen and sent me straight back to elementary school- systematically marking off all of my goals and telling me that my decisions were against hospital policy and would kill either me or my baby anyway. For example, I had requested intermittent electronic fetal monitoring and the right to walk if I wanted to during labor. She told me that intermittent monitoring was against hospital policy (even though my primary had okayed it) and then said that if I wanted to walk, I could but I would be attached to the monitor which was attached to the wall, and would give me about a 3 foot radius to pace and was therefore pointless and I would just be better off staying in bed. She explained that the shot of pitocin after the baby was born was mandatory because I would either bleed to death or require a blood transfusion. And I HAD to have IV fluids because they wanted me to keep my strength up. I began shedding the first tears of my entire pregnancy and she told me that I looked like I was upset. I just stared at her as she handed me back my plan to sign approval on all the changes she had made. I refused and left, making an appointment to speak with my primary OB the following week.

In the meantime, I went to church and met a girl who had had a home birth. Let me tell you, this girl couldn't have been 120 pounds soaking wet and was over 5'8” with narrow hips and a tiny waist. I looked at her, and then confided to Todd, “If she can push a baby through those hips, I'm positive that these birthing hips will not have a problem at all!” Then I spent an hour asking her questions. I didn't want to have a home birth, but I was becoming more and more convinced that this was the route I would have to take if I wanted to have a normal birth. She sent me the information for her midwife and I made an appointment with Linda Weaver.

As I pulled up to her house, I expected to meet an old woman with long white frizzy hair, wearing enormous spectacles and a long skirt to cover her rotund body. Instead, I met a beautiful (and thin) young woman- somewhere in her late 30s or early 40s, with cute brown hair cut and stylish jeans. Hmmm. I was liking this midwifery idea more and more. She looked like I hoped to look in the next 10 years. I sat down with her and my husband and over the next two and a half hours we covered the 6 typed pages of questions I had written out (92 questions in all), and covered things like “had she ever lost a baby” (No.) and “how do you handle a shoulder dystocia?” (I didn't even know what a shoulder dystocia was...) I wrote down all of her answers and we left to discuss our next course of action.

Then next week or so was spent devouring as much information about the safety and efficacy of homebirth. We read Henci Goer's The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth and Marsden Wagner's Born in the USA- How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children First. We read articles like Outcomes of Planned Home Births with Certified Professionals: A Large Prospective Study from 1992 and learned that women who have births in their homes with licensed midwives have the same or better birth outcomes that those who choose obstetric care and the hospital system. After much thought and prayerful consideration our decision was made.

My dad is a medical doctor- a specialist in internal medicine to be exact. And we grew up taking antibiotics every time we had a cough and never wasting time in a doctor's waiting room. We were spoiled by medical society and a little naïve of the risks associated with medication in general. Todd and I decided to go ahead and hire Linda as our primary care provider and with that decision we embraced the realization that I would have to somehow tell my father, the patriarch, about having a baby at home. I was utterly terrified. In fact, I waited until after I had spoken with my primary OB one last time. I made an appointment for my Group B Strep test (a fun one, indeed) and then asked him if he had a moment to talk to me. He obliged and I asked him if he could make a promise to me. He just looked at me with a perplexed look on his face, and I asked, “Can you promise that you will be the doctor that delivers my baby... even if you are not the doctor on call?” He shook his head no, and I said, “Okay, well, then I have to tell you something. I'm not going to have this baby at the hospital. I'm going to have her at home.” He asked me why I had made this decision and I told him, “Because Dr. X will bend over backwards to find a reason to induce a mom at 37 weeks, create a medical diagnosis for an elective cesearean, but refuses to leave me alone during my labor. And I'm not okay with the 80% chance that I will get her or one of the other doctors at my birth.” He looked at me in amazement and said, “We have a staff meeting at lunch today. I'll be sure to thank her for losing me a patient. In fact, if you want to be completely honest, this is a business and she just lost me thousands of dollars.” I appreciated his willingness to be honest and then said, “How do we change this system, Dr. P? When can I trust that you will make decisions based on what is best for me and my family instead of your fear of litigation?” He considered this and said that he could not stop being afraid of being sued as long as the statute of limitations for OBs was 18 years- effectively ensuring that he would be sued by a family whose child didn't get into the college of his choice due to the way that he was born. It is all very ludicrous. I left the practice feeling sad, but optimistic. I was 34 weeks... only 6-8 weeks to go!

At 36 weeks I finally found the courage to tell my father that we were anticipating a home birth with two midwives. After I set him up to believe that I had something awful to tell him (ie. We were going to give the baby up for adoption or something along those lines) I dropped the bombshell. “Todd and I have made the decision to have our baby with midwives. At home.” The fork he was holding fell from his fingers and clanked loudly on his plate. He pushed himself away from the table as my mother stared at us, raised himself out of his chair and said, “Just make sure she washes her hands” and left the room. I looked at Todd and then to my mom and said, “I think that went well!”. be continued

Molly's Note: I know, I know! It's horrible that I'm going to make you wait another week for the rest of the story! In the meantime, go check out Mary's Website and Blog, Upstate Natural Birth. Mary is a childbirth educator and mother of two beautiful girls. I truly believe that birth is a journey and I think this is illustrated beautifully in Mary's story. The second half is just as good as the first. Promise.


  1. Wonderful story, even with the mean cliffhanger. ;) Mary, I fired my OB at 7 months along with my first pregnancy. My husband and I had also attended Bradley classes, and when we had The Talk with my OB, it did NOT go well. It was scary to make the leap that late in the pregnancy, but I am so, SO glad we did! All three of my babies have been born with a midwife, and all in a birthing tub. The last two were born at home, and I wouldn't have had it any other way! I look forward to reading the rest of the story next week. :)

  2. what a story! At this point I can only be relieved to live in a country where homebirths are the nr 1 way to go... Terrible how pregnant woman are treated!

  3. Fun story! (i like the funny early marriage part - i feel the same way about my husband;)