A Tale of Three Pregnancies. Part Three: 1980

Here is the third and final story from my mum. They say third time’s the charm and in this case it is true. I’m so thankful that she took the time to write down her birth stories to share with my family and also with you. Enjoy!
We were in Washington State for 3 months while my husband taught a semester at UW when I discovered that I was pregnant, unplanned. I had done the extra course work and taken the State Board exam to get my US RN registration and I had been working part-time for two years. This pregnancy took me by surprise especially as I was volunteering in Seattle for a Family Planning Group. After weighing all the pros and cons for several days my mind was made up. We would change our lifestyle and the pregnancy would go on. I did my research regarding Downs Syndrome. I would be 36 when I delivered; the odds were 500 to 1 for a Downs baby and my Husband reminded me that if I backed a horse with those odds it would never win. Once back on the East Coast I sought out a new OB/GYN. A close friend had just delivered in the next town 20 miles away. As she was also a nurse I took her recommendation and made my appointment. The two doctors were a charm compared to what I had been dealing with before as I found out quickly. I saw each on alternating visits and mentioned two visits in a row that I did not want any drugs for the delivery, nor did I want the epidural that I had been forced to have in the past. The older doctor leaned forward and said “You already stated this last month to the the other doctor, it is already in your chart and you don’t have to repeat yourself.” Whew, what a relief. I had it all sorted out: no drugs, no stirrups but I could not talk them out of an episiotomy for which I would receive a local anaesthetic. I was already set to tell them I would stay home and have my husband do the delivery if they hadn’t been accepting of my wishes. This would be the last time “to get it my way.” I did have genetic counseling but chose not to go through with an amniocentesis because the odds of a miscarriage after an amnio were 200 to 1. Ultrasound diagnostics were just being used on occasion during pregnancy. These doctors wanted to stay away from them unless there was a red flag. I took this to be a good thing. Inductions were also rare. The pregnancy was the usual for me, nausea for the first 4 months and I was given Bendectine which helped, the usual drug for the symptom at the time. I was more tired during this pregnancy and my hemoglobin ran low but was treatable.  I prepped my breasts with daily exposure and rough towel rubbing. I also read that the best method of a successful breastfeeding experience was to have baby to breast within one hour of delivery. This was going to happen for me this time I told myself.
By now the Lamaze method of staying focused and relaxed during labor had come into vogue and I actively participated in a local class. It was a fairly small class and we became a close group; with my husband and I hosting the after birth party at our home. My husband needed little encouragement to be an active partner for this birth and he did all he could to be involved with my daily relaxation practice. This time he would be my coach, be present at the birth and at last feel included in the miraculous event.
I was encouraged to gain weight and at my visit prior to delivery the older doctor told me to buy an ice cream on my way home as I had only gained 20lb. Wow, what an attitude change. My due date was June 5th and my two children now almost 10 and 12 were really excited as the time drew closer and certainly did not want to go to school on my due date. On June 6th I woke and felt “different.” I sent the children off to school. “No it’s not time yet” were the last words they heard and I sat down to watch a Phil Donahue show (on of all things, midwives) that morning. I had backache, did my pelvic rock and started in mild labor. I did have a doctor appointment later that afternoon but after calling to let them know that labor was in the early stages they upped the appointment time. It was the older doctor who did the exam, told me I was not going anywhere and sent me over to the hospital. I would be one of the first to deliver in the new birthing room. I checked into the hospital around 2.30pm. I tried arguing that I wasn’t ready but he in no uncertain terms told me he was looking at a dilating cervix and a bloody show and I wasn’t going anywhere. I asked for an enema, was told that didn’t happen anymore but to keep me happy my request was honored. Once settled in my husband and I watched “Jane Eyre” on television. I did have to wear the external monitor but would unplug it when I needed to walk around. As labor progressed my husband stepped up as a very supportive couch giving me the needed pressure in my lower back. At 5pm a nurse entered the room and said “wow, your contractions are really strong and coming fast.” This seemed odd to me, yes I was uncomfortable and my back hurt a lot but I still felt I was a long way from transition. I was hungry and had my mind focused on what I could eat after delivery. Moments later reality hit and I was totally focused. I knew Lamaze, I focused, I used my skills. The younger of the two doctors (who I preferred), arrived and set up for delivery. I needed to pee so badly and was told to hurry up and go to the bathroom. OMG I thought I was going to deliver in the toilet, things were moving so fast. Once in bed I shrieked “I have to push” and the doctor answered “I thought you’d never tell me.” “Please adjust the mirror” I shouted,” I can’t see and I need the stirrups after all; I can’t get any traction here.” I had a local anesthetic for the episiotomy that I had been unable to talk my way out of. Pushing started at 5.30pm and a baby girl was delivered at 5.40pm. Yes, ten minutes was all it took. There was a huge clock up on the wall in front of me and I was actually focusing on that between contractions. This baby had the cord around her neck; once released, she yelled and peed all over the doctor, who commented that both ends were working well. Immediately I asked if she “looked” OK and I was reassured right away that “there are no signs of Downs.” The doctor knew that this had been a concern for me after making the decision not to have an amniocentesis.
I had her to breast within moments of delivery. She weighed 7lb 5 oz. The nurses hugged my husband as well as me and said “You guys make a great team and great babies.” We shone with pride. I finally had experienced a great delivery. Before I could relax and enjoy this though I did need a rectal repair which the Doc said was damage from the previous delivery ten years before.
My two older children (who had been about to sit down and have pizza at home with a close friend) were then rushed over to the hospital to meet their new sister. They arrived within an hour of her birth. They were really sweet and in awe of it all.
My husband was so excited after the delivery that all the photos he took (with an old fashioned film camera) got left behind. The film was on cassette which he put in the pocket of his green scrubs then in his excitement threw the scrubs in the laundry basket on our way back to the main recovery area! That OB was a very special individual and two days later when I saw him again he sat on my bed and told me he had some things he wanted to say. He began by saying that was married to an Licensed Practical Nurse who was very much against natural childbirth. He went on to say that after watching how I handled the pregnancy and delivery he was sold on doing it naturally and without drugs. I felt good about knowing that he would be super supportive of future patients who wanted to have a delivery without drugs.
And, I was able to continue breastfeeding successfully for another nine months!
1980 at home 1980 hospital 1980bassinetnewbornErica
It is a huge experience and memorable time when you deliver a baby. It is important that you have the right setting, a coach that you connect with, the right medication or no medication at all. You need to feel that you did the right thing, in bringing this tiny helpless being into the world even though your plan may sometimes take a different path than you expected. I thank Erica for being the person that helps you make some of these decisions and I feel a swell of pride when I read the testimonials that some of you have written. I knew she was enjoying this new calling and your words confirm this.

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