Monday, July 20, 2009

A Letter To My Midwife...And The Rest...

Shiloh Selah Love
May 5 2009 3:32pm
Name meaning: Eternal gift of peace and love...

I am posting this letter, in response to a request for further payment to my midwife...who in our opinion, failed us...but in so many ways it is a huge part of our birth story...


I have written this letter 100 times in my head. It has taken me some time to try and figure out exactly what went wrong with you and I…although, here I am, 2 months later, still completely baffled. You see, there was obviously a huge emotional disconnection that I either missed somewhere along the way, or you brought with you to my labor.

My labor with Solomon was hard, intense, long and constant. I powered through it and gave birth to him. I was in a hospital with an OBGYN and nurses who encouraged me and directed me and helped me. These were people that I hadn’t really built a relationship with, they definitely were never in my home or had met my family…yet they found it in their hearts to be a source of strength for me when I was in a situation that I had never been in before. They believed in me and reassured me and guided me when I asked for their help. I was very honest about my birth with Solomon. I never made it sound short, easy or less than it was. I expected Shiloh’s birth to be relaxing, wonderful, shorter than Solomon’s, but still a good amount of work. Perhaps you weren’t prepared? Perhaps you didn’t want to be a support for me, you just wanted to catch my baby? Perhaps you had a bad day or carried some sort of baggage into my home during my labor? Perhaps you just don’t like to wait? I am not sure. Whatever your reasoning is, you did not turn out to be what I expected…in any way. Will and I are very disappointed.

If I truly looked back, I could honestly state that I felt your apprehension well before my labor. Your constant complaining about “how far you had to drive” to get to our prenatal appointments began to make Will and I feel guilty…although, we were paying you…and your comments were unprofessional and out of line. Perhaps that should have been a sign to us, as to what was to come, but we over looked it, hoping that your professionalism would come out during labor…but that was not the case.

After my water broke, I called you up. You advised me to use hot compresses on my nipples to induce contractions. I followed your advise wholly and completely. Contractions slowly started coming. I was getting really excited. I loved and embraced them. I really focused deep with in, feeling my body start to work, just as it should have. You and I were in touch throughout the day. You advised me to call you as contractions came about 5 minutes apart. I sat working with my body for the afternoon, really enjoying labor, knowing full well that my body was doing what it was made to do. My family and I decided to get my focus off of “labor” and go out to dinner. At the restaurant I was really working hard. The contraction were coming strong and steady, stopping me from doing anything other than working through them…every five minutes for about an hour. We decided to wait to call you until we got home, but we didn’t want to wait too long because of how far away you live. We called. You were on your way.

I was upstairs, excited for you to get to our home, to our birth, to be apart of it and support us during this wonderful time. I heard Will answer the door and ask how you were. In a put-out sounding sigh, you said, “Ugh, tired…and tired of driving.” My heart sank. “Am I burdening her or inconveniencing her? Isn’t this what I am paying her for?” I thought. I was feeling bummed but I tried to shake it off because I was so proud of my body, so confident in my body’s ability to give birth to this baby. So you ventured up stairs and asked to check me…which by the way, was a joke. Haven’t you delivered nearly 500 babies? You couldn’t even find my cervix! There is infection risk and other risks during vaginal checks, but you prolonged them to at least 5 minutes each time…as if it were a joke to you…”fishing around in there” acting as though it were your first time. I still don’t know or understand why you were so incapable of doing this. It was ridiculous! I dreaded it every time for many reasons, but this was one of them. I digress…back to your checking me. I had barely been laboring for a few short hours, coping wonderfully, enjoying my labor to the fullest…you finally were able to inform me I was 4 cm. I cannot express to you how elated I was. My heart was jumping with joy…but you quickly deflated me. “You think that’s good news? I have to say, I’m disappointed!” you informed me, What???? I labored 20 horrendous hours with Solomon before I got that far. At this point, I barely felt like I was in labor…but you, the person who was supposed to be my biggest (not to mention professionally trained) support, was voicing your disappointment with my body’s amazing progress. My heart was beginning to sink below the point of ignoring. In fact, my body could no longer ignore it. Whenever you were around my contractions slowed. I finally told Will that I needed to get out of the house because your annoyed presence was halting my contractions. Will and I went for a walk…the contractions started getting harder and closer together…until I came back into the room with you. They slowed way down. I felt like the best thing to do was talk with you and let you know how your actions were affecting my labor. I informed you that your constantly talking about being so tired and talking about how you wished you were at home sleeping, and voicing your disappointment in my body was really weighing on me. You made a joke of it and we tried to move on…you said “oh your not an inconvenience…BUT…if you don’t do something soon I’m going home hahaha…” Still a little baffled by you, I started feeling in the depths of my heart that you might not be capable of delivering my baby. The rest of my birth team, one by one, came to me and asked “Is everything ok with Ellen? She seems to be acting like she does not want to be here…” We couldn’t have agreed more…but at the point, what other choice did we have?

I labored and labored and labored. Each time you checked me, there was progress yet each time you still acted disappointed. I begged for your input. “What should I do Ellen?” Your response? “I don’t know.” You couldn’t tell me positions, movements…anything. This is your job. This is what you are paid to do…“I don’t know” is not a response I would expect in such a circumstance. You made me a few tea mixtures which I drank as quickly as I could, but they seemed to have little to no effect. I waited for direction, but it never came.

Throughout the night, I was contracting every 10-15 minutes. I tried to sleep in between them. You were able to sleep too. I was hoping that after some rest, you would be more pleasant, positive and refreshed. That was not the case. I continued to take walks and took a hot shower. You asked me if I had any fears that were holding me back. My biggest fear was not performing as I should and you continuing to lose hope in me and become unable to catch my baby. But instead of talking about that, we talked about my relationship with my mother and how I feared that might affect my relationship with my daughter. Unfortunately discussing this didn’t speed up or intensify my contractions. The only thing that helped me was leaving the room and being away from what I felt was your constant disappointment in me.

Eventually, I was a good 7-8cm, You were still lacking confidence and this is when I started to panic…You decided to make a phone call in my presence. You called a fellow midwife to ask her advise. You informed her of my “lack of progress.” You told her that the baby’s head was in the wrong place, she was up way to high, that I wasn’t progressing and that you did not know what to do. My heart broke. I was so confused. I knew that my performance wasn’t up to par in your eyes. You wanted something more. I pushed it out of my head for, what would be, the last time. I had to fight it off and push forward, fight for my desire to deliver my baby at home.

Pretty suddenly, the contractions got intense, really intense and I began to need every ounce of help I could get. Where were you? In my sons room, sitting in his rocking chair. Candice came to me and said, “Amber, I know I have no experience other than delivering my own two children, but I know you are in transition. This baby is coming soon!” You never told me this, never reassured me that I could do this…but something did happen. I began to slip in to a state of hysteria (which, obviously, is a MAJOR sign of transition…and had I not been in this state, I would have clearly seen that.) My contraction were more powerful than I had been having up to this point. They were coming every 2 minutes or so. I needed help, seriously help, to get through them! I yelled, “SOMONE HELP ME!!! I do not know what I am doing…I am not the professional here!” It took awhile, but all of a sudden, you stepped up to the plate. I believe you got me through 6 or so contractions. You looked in to my eyes and helped me breathe through every moment. Finally…that was what I have been waiting for…but in my heart, I still had the nagging that you would not be able to get me though this birth. You started talking about how the cord might be too short or might be fixed around her neck. Then…you said, “I wouldn’t be laboring this long at home…I would have gone to the hospital hours ago.” I lost it. You didn’t trust my body. You didn’t want my body to go through this process any longer. How could I go on if I felt like my professional support had already “checked out?” I went to the bathroom and became frantic to the rest of my birth team. “This is an emergency…get me to the hospital, this birth cannot happen here.”

Candice stepped up to the plate, walking me through transition. She followed all of the signs that I was giving her and got me through the process. I got to the hospital begging for relief. The nurses and Doctor, along with Will, April and Candice, worked extremely hard to convince me that I DID indeed have the power and strength to get through this. I was so amazed, even though I didn’t believe them, that these nurses who knew NOTHING about our situation or me, were at my side telling me “YOU ARE DOING THIS!!” They checked me about 30 minutes after you had last checked me and I must say, had NO problems AT ALL. The nurse was in and out in less than 5 seconds…not 5 minutes. The head was perfectly positioned, I was at 9 cm. The Doctor came in 2 minutes later, checked me again. I was at 10 and was beginning to push. It took the encouragement of my amazing birth team and these strangers to convince me that this baby was coming out…

Five minutes and four pushes later…Shiloh was born. Will, Candice, April and I were elated. After all of the struggle we had at home, it took exactly 32 minutes from arriving in the hospital parking lot to Shiloh emerging from me…it was over. We were all so confused as to what had gone wrong at home, with you…and to this day…our questions go unanswered.

Personally, I feel confusion. More than confusion. I don’t know what happened. I had initially connected with you deeply. I feel like slowly we lost that…and by the time my labor began, something was seriously wrong.

I received your request for additional payment. First, I have to say, I am extremely offended that you stated that the reason for the transfer was “maternal exhaustion and difficulty dealing with contraction pain.” I will agree that maternal exhaustion was present…but I cannot think of a birth that wasn’t somewhat exhausting. Do you really truly believe that I could not deal with the pain? Do you believe that you didn’t know how to walk me through the last phases of birth? I paid you the amount you have already recieved for less that 4 months of prenatal visits and what turned out to be a pretty disappointing (and partial) birth experience. I do not feel that an additional payment is deserved. What is it that you feel merits that? Because we are extremely disappointed with our experience. I spoke to many midwife friends and my in laws who used your services…and no one understands or can make sense of what happened.

I hope you can see things from our perspective and understand why we have come to this decision.

We wish you well in all that you do…
Amber and Will Cole.

I must add more to the story...because as I was writing this letter in response to her, I felt that so much of it was my birth story...but there are TONS of positive things.

First of all, I wouldn't change a thing about what happened. It was exactly as it should have been. Had I not used a midwife for most of my birth, things would have been extremely different. My water broke a day and a half before I actually gave birth to had I had a hospital birth there is no doubt I would have not been able to labor at my own pace. I would have been hooked to a pit drip and in turn had an epidural I am sure...all of which I could have lived with...but laboring at home was the most awesome thing ever. (sans the above haha) Giving birth to Shiloh, with no epidural or interevention at all was the most insane, intense, miraculous, incredible high I have ever had. I must say, every time I think of those feelings, I can still tap into those incredible feelings. Ahhh...amazing. I know I said it before, but I must say it again. Tapping into that inner part of me, where I found the strength to endure and press onward when Itruely thought I had nothing left, gave me the strenth I needed to erase the fears that I had about having a daughter.

Who knows what I will do if I am to have another child...but the "recovery" was so delightful that I can hardly remember being in pain. With Solomon, it took me 2 years to think about having kids. I tore, I was in so much pain, bleeding profusely...but with Shiloh I was taking mile long walks when she was 3 days old!!! Its amazing...still...her birth was as perfect as she is...

I must state this little amazing child is so perfect. She is sensitive and cuddly and adores me ::sigh:: She sleeps like a dream. She has been sleeping through the night since like 3 weeks old or younger...even then I had to wake her up after 6 hours because she was sleeping soooo long. She is heavenly...I love her with my whole heart and I am so completely looking forward to beingher mommy for the rest of her life...My Shiloh Selah Love...the love of my life...

In closing...I must say this. I trust the midwifery model of care whole heartedly. Nothing in my birth went wrong aside from an emotional disconnect...and most times, in hospital births there isn't the same emotional connection that one can have with a midwife...most obgyns come and go quickly because of all the patients they are committed to...I would fully consider this same birthing method again for many reasons...and I just want to clarify that my birth was wholly beautiful and perfect...and I would not want to change a thing...


Birthkeeper said...

Oh Amber. :( My heart breaks as a friend, and my anger grows as a Midwife. I'm just so sorry that your Midwife failed you like this. There is ZERO excuse for a Midwife to complain about driving. For my last client, I drove over an hour and a half each way. They were a joy in my life, not a burden.

There is no excuse for your Midwife doing multiple vaginal exams, after your water broke. Period. Nevermind lasting a long time each. She sent your risk of infection through the roof. :(

I desperately hope that you will not allow this one experience with this one Midwife affect your view of Midwifery and Home Birth. There are wonderful Midwives out there - and I say this as a mama who has used one, not as a Midwife. ;) My Midwife drove 2 hours to me. Not once did she complain, and not once did she give up on me even though I had a long and VERY hard labor. *I* didn't think I could do it - she *knew* I could. That's how a Midwife is supposed to be.

You did an amazing job. You gave your daughter one of the best gifts a mother can give her baby - a birth free of drugs. A birth where she got to come when SHE was ready, not when you were sick of being pregnant, or when a care provider said it was time.

I am so proud of you. I know it doesn't mean much from here, but I am. Many women would have given up earlier. You didn't. You kept going, and gave your daughter that gift.

Hugs and love to you. Snuggle that precious baby.

Amber said...

Thanks friend...I am proud and feel more empowered as a woman than I think I ever have or ever was an incredible experience and nothing can take that away from me :)

KelliAnn Christensen said...

I am so glad that you posted this. I just loved reading it, and I loved how passionate and honest you were. I had no idea that the experience with your midwife was so . . . weird, I guess, just weird. I am proud of you for trusting yourself and for doing it in spite of everything. I look up to you a lot, Amber. Thanks.

Eli's Lids said...

I had a doula with Eli and it was VERY similar. She ended up telling me I needed an epidual!?!? She didn't walk me though any contractions and fell asleep while Brad (my Hubby) was coaching me... oh well...
During my natural labor with #2 (Cora) Brad, my best friend, my mom and my dad coached me and it was awesome!

Corin said...

Wow Amber, thanks for posting. What an insight into your experience.

I'm so sorry you had that emotional disconnect w/your midwife. That is such a HUGE factor in a normal birth; the aura of the room. She absolutely should have NEVER brought any baggage into your labor/birth.

I'm so glad that you feel empowered by the situation. Good for you for using it as a positive in your life, because after all, it was! What a beautiful and amazing baby girl you have! And you gave her such a thoughtful, healthy and loving birth. You're a wonderful mama.

To echo Birthkeeper, there are SO many amazing midwives out there! I hope that if you and Will ever have another baby you find exactly the right fit for you!