Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Lina and Stella
This is not a post about stillbirth, thank goodness. It is a post, however, about the miracle of life, the fight to survive against all odds and the wonder of medical intervention when necessary.
I met my dear friend Lina in 2008. I was trying to conceive a baby, as was she. We both joined a forum to find support and advice from other women in the same boat, but I quickly took a shine to Lina in particular, along with another beauty called Belinda. These two seemed to share my kooky sense of humour and were on my wavelength all the time. We became good friends and now have cemented the friendship...I count these two amongst my nearest and dearest.
Lina suffered from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome which was a challenge for her fertility. However, when I was 20 weeks pregnant with Sybella, she announced that she too was newly pregnant, at 6 weeks. When Sybella was born, Lina was still pregnant and thriving. I have no doubt that it was a terrible time for her, trying to support me, without pushing her own pregnancy upon me. She is an incredibly empathetic person and feels everything you do. She cries easily and would give you the food off her plate if it made you happy. She is thoughtful and honest and honours your wishes. She deserved to relish in her pregnancy, seeing as it took so long to achieve but selflessly put her feelings aside and supported me instead.
Her daughter, Stella, was due late August. Stella’s due date came and went and I checked Facebook regularly for updates or a birth announcement. As days went by, I got a little edgy. I never had a “bad” feeling about Stella’s birth, but I was consumed with anxiety, as I have met so many mothers in grief whose baby has died after 40 weeks. Many many many. To myself only, I secretly urged Lina to induce sooner rather than later. Of course, induced birth is much more intense than natural birth and you want to avoid it of you can. I know there are many births that go over 40 weeks, even up to 42 weeks and babies are fine. But from my experience, going past 40 weeks scared me. Of course, I did not want to impart my personal fear, based purely on my own experience, onto a new mother-to-be, with birth being imminent. So I kept quiet. Chances are, things would be fine and go smoothly.
The following is an extract from Lina’s birth story:
Paul was struggling to see me like this and so he asked if there was anything they can do for me. She offered pethidine and although it helped with my back pain, and slightly took the edge off my contractions, it really just made me totally drugged out and sleepy. I am not sure if I slept. This period was really blurry and dreamy for me. At about 10am, it was only Paul and I in the room and I saw him bolt out. Next thing I know a midwife has come in and turned the Pitocin off. Someone else is putting oxygen on me and then she told the other two midwifes to ‘prepare me’. What had happened was Paul was watching Stella’s heart rate and saw it drop to 60, he knew that this was not a good thing and ran to get the midwife. Thank God he was there. The midwife explained that the Pitocin was causing Stella’s heart rate to drop as I had been on it for while now and it was turned up quite strong. They got Stella’s heart rate under control and left the Pitocin off for a while to help her out....
Paul said “I can smell the C word” and I was a bit confused. The midwife went out of the room and came back with a doctor. The doctor told me that Stella’s heart rate was rising and she was in distress and that at this point after 11 hours (26 by my clock) of labour it was time to get her out and so a C- Section was my option. Of course I never hesitated. Not after I heard my poor baby was in distress. Especially after her little heart had plummeted hours earlier. I think she was having enough.
Finally Paul was there and held my hand and the surgery began. It was so strange and so scary, to feel the pulling but not have pain, to know my baby was coming any time. But baby was stuck! Apparently she was stuck pretty far down so someone had to push her up for the surgeon to get her out.
Then she came out and she wasn’t breathing.
Paul was white as a ghost and looked like he was about to collapse. I told him it was okay, she would be okay, but I could not comfort him and it hurt so bad to see him like that. The anaesthetist was really nice and comforted Paul. After 3 minutes of resuscitation Stella began crying and we were told she was okay.
Back in Recovery, a midwife came to talk to us and this is why Stella is a miracle. Not only did she survive the Pitocin scare, not only did she survive being stuck and then having to be resuscitated, but we were told Stella had a ‘true knot’ in her cord. True knots happen in 1% of pregnancies. Also her cord was extremely thin where it attached to the placenta and was pretty much about to be ripped off. Had Stella been born vaginally she would not have survived. The midwife said she had only ever seen two cases like this and one baby died. They do not know how she survived as her cord was pretty bad and she was overdue but she did. It doesn’t bother me that she came via C-Section. What bothers me is that more scans are not done in pregnancy to detect things like this. When I can get my head around to having another baby, I will be going private and getting scans done later in the pregnancy, I will also probably opt for an elective C-Section where I have my baby at 38 weeks or something.
I never ever want to go through what I went through ever again. It is so hard to write it down with the emotion I feel or the story deserves but I just look at my baby every day and thank God that she is here with us. As going by the ‘rules’ of nature she should not have been here, but she is and I know that miracles like this happen through a greater power and whatever that power is, whatever you believe in, saved my baby’s life.
So. There you have it.
The first time I read this story, my heart was in my mouth. I could not believe what I was reading. The thing I love about Lina is that she makes no apologies for her choices and never needs to defend herself. Back when I had Jack, I was not so smart or self assured. I had a scheduled C-Section because he was breech and copped a fair bit of flack for not having a trial of labour, from a wide range of people...midwives, friends and family. The fact of the matter is, that my C-Section was beautiful, my son was lifted into the light of the world amidst laughter and joy and I held my pink, breathing baby against my chest straight away. Very different from my natural labour with Sybella, who slipped out, blue and silent, an atmosphere shrouded in grief. Of course, she did not die in labour like Lina’s daughter may have, she died beforehand. I am grateful for my natural birth. I was lucky, my labour was easy and short...it wasn’t my perineum being ripped in two, however, it was my heart. Our birth helped us bond and it helped me process my grief. Natural birth proponents often speak of “empowerment.” My natural birth wasn’t empowering, it was heartbreaking. My C-Section however, was empowering. Because to me, empowerment is life and life is empowerment. I am sure that Lina feels the same way. Had Stella been born naturally, and subsequently died, I am not sure that Lina would say “well, my natural birth experience was empowering, despite the outcome.” I think Lina would have regretted her decision not to have a C-Section that would have saved her baby’s life. Some people think that too many women are bullied and coerced into surgery out of fear and doctor’s convenience. I am sorry, but I do not know one doctor who would do this. That is almost like me ticking all the words right on a spelling test of a child in my class, just to get home quicker. Unprofessional, unhelpful and just plain wrong. One particularly delightful website used the terminology “doctors who play the dead baby card.” Having HAD a dead baby, I can tell you, it is not a card to be played. I was horrified that a baby’s life was likened to a card game in the most trivial way. A stillbirth outcome is very real and I resented the implication that doctors feed unnecessary fear into labouring mothers, they “pretend” that the baby’s life is at risk, just to get them to agree to a C-Section. I think obstetricians have seen enough stillbirths to know that taking that tack is highly immoral and unethical.
When a woman needs a C-Section, it is wrong to question her decision. It is wrong to assume that C-Sections are the “easy option”...when most are performed as emergency surgery, with a distressed baby and terrified mother. It is wrong to assume that doctors are scalpel-happy due to the ease of convenience.
Natural birth is the ultimate goal. It is a beautiful thing, if all goes smoothly and well and there are no complications. I loved my physical birth experience. It was beautiful and peaceful. It was the ending that broke my heart. There was no joy or empowerment in that.
Lina’s story is one of beauty...despite the “clinical, sterile” environment that it took place in, a mass of surgical instruments, tubes and monitors. Who cares about all that?
Her daughter lived.