My Birth Stories
by Pat Goltz
I have five children that I grew myself. These are the stories of their births.
Tom is the oldest. My pregnancy with him was very uneventful and also very enjoyable. I wanted not to go to the hospital, but at the time, the option of homebirth was not available to me, because I needed a midwife, and I didn't know of anybody. About 2-3 weeks before my due date, my husband and I decided to go see a movie. As luck would have it, the place we went had a triple feature, and we wanted to see all of them. We sat through two of them, and I felt the urge to go to the restroom. As soon as I got into the door, my water broke! This was at 11 pm, (and he was born at four minutes after three am). So we left immediately and went to the hospital. I had taken a childbirth course based on the methodology of Grantley Dick-Read. We got there fairly quickly. Labor progressed very fast, although I felt no pain, only pressure. As is customary in American hospitals, there was no trained person with me most of the time. But they had their act together in other ways, and I was taken to the delivery room on time. I had asked the doctor not to do an episiotomy unless it was necessary. During the second stage of labor, I was making noise because it felt good. I was not experiencing any pain. The doctor decided I was in pain, and ordered anesthesia for me without asking me. He gave it to me too fast for me to protest. I am outraged that he did this. Then he did an episiotomy. For some reason, the way he did it, I had a lot of pain from it for weeks. They had also given me an enema, and because of that, I had nothing to get rid of, but that bothered the staff, and I was given a pill to make me go. Instead of making me go, it made me very, very sick. I was also outraged by that. What were those people thinking? I also asked them not to give me any narcotics for postpartum pain, but they gave me Darvon, another thing that made me very unhappy. I had rooming in, but I didn't see much of Tom during the couple of days I was there. After I got home, I experienced extreme constipation and pain from the episiotomy as a result. I considered that birth experience to have been very poorly managed. It strengthened my resolve to do better next time. I didn't feel any animosity toward our son because of this, mostly I felt a sense of outrage at the doctor, the hospital, and the staff. And I had carefully selected the doctor! My husband was with me for the birth, and also in the labor room. I breastfed Tom 13 months.
Marti is the second oldest. When I chose a new doctor in a new city, I tried to eliminate the possibility of any of the bad things happening to me that had happened in my first birth. But again, I was forced to accept a hospital birth. I don't remember what I was doing when I went into labor, but this labor lasted six hours. She, along with the rest, was born 2-3 weeks early, but all were full term babies. We did go immediately as soon as I was in labor. The staff was less than attentive. They prepped me and then left me completely alone. My husband was supposed to be there, but they were hassling him and kept him from me, so I was alone, and I was concerned because if I developed any problems, there was no one there to help me. That is typical of hospital births, by the way. Fortunately, the amount of intervention in the birthing process was considerably less then than it is now. I never had any IV's, or fetal monitor (they didn't exist). Again, I had a birth free of pain. This time, the doctor didn't give me any anesthesia. Because I labored so quickly, when they notified the doctor, he didn't have time to change into hospital attire, and he met me in the delivery room in his street clothes. It was a good thing he was in the hospital, or he would never have made it. I have no idea why it is so common to wait until the last minute to tell the doctor a birth is happening! That's negligence, as far as I am concerned. When everyone got into the delivery room (my husband was with me by that time), my water suddenly broke, all over the doctor's shirt. When he visited me later, he was wearing a shirt of a different color and I teased him about it. He was not amused. During the birth, the doctor also did an episiotomy, without anesthetic. It did not hurt. When they stitched me up, they used anesthetic. In both cases, the anesthetic given didn't work very well. Either they started stitching too soon, or the anesthetic simply leaks out in the cut and doesn't do much good. After I got to the room, they brought Marti to me. Again, I was supposed to have rooming in. At first, everything worked out OK, but then I saw that her fingernails were quite long and she had scratched her face. So I asked them to cut her fingernails, and they said I had to sign a permission slip. It was a general blank check kind of document, but I signed it. After that, they refused to bring her to me for feeding, and they wouldn't tell me why. She was gone the better part of a day. Eventually they told me that she had jaundice and they were keeping her under the bilirubin lamps, and that's why they couldn't bring her. They said the paper I had signed had given them permission to do this. I was furious! They also gave me Darvon, again after I specifically asked them not to give me narcotics. I developed a nasty rash, and they gave me a shot of antihistimine. That made me sleepy and scared me, so I insisted on having a volunteer with me so I could stay awake. And now I'm allergic to Darvon. Thanks, guys! I breastfed Marti about a year and a half, if I recall correctly. It gave me great plesure to take her to meetings of the National Organization for Women and breastfeed her there, which made the other women at the meeting squirm (even though I did it discreetly).
After Marti, we adopted two children. Because I was still lactating each time, it was easy to breastfeed both of them. We got each when they were a couple of days old, straight from the hospital. These were private adoptions done through a lawyer, not an agency. The probate court did the homestudy. Allen breastfed for two years, and Ken for 11 months.
By the time I became pregnant with Heidi, I was determined not to have any more hospital births. We moved again to another city, and I was able to find a group of midwives there. I chose three of them to come to my birth. The senior midwife was fairly experienced; she had done hundreds of births. One of the others and I became good friends, and she was a Christian. I wasn't happy when she joined a cult later, and told me she had never believd in the Trinity. I don't believe her, and I know that cult members can change their beliefs and think they never believed any differently. But back to my story. Because I was able to find midwives, I had Heidi at home. The labor was quite a bit longer, which I largely attribute to the fact that because we moved when I was very pregnant, I was basically very tired. I'm sure all that breastfeeding I had been doing didn't help. I experienced no pain until the end of the second stage, and then the reason I had a little pain was because she had her fist next to her cheek! I noticed that she often liked to put it there. In spite of the fact that she did this, I did not tear.
I don't remember how long she breastfed, but I know it was longer than any of the others so far. After I had her, she was on my chest, and she was fingering my nightgown. By this time, I had started offering the babies a chance to reach and grasp. In fact, I did this with all but Tom. Each of them reached and grasped anywhere from a few hours after birth to three days later. I did this by putting them on their backs in the crib and suspending a cradle gym (which has two red rings) on the crib within reach. Newborns are especially attracted to red, and a newborn will readily reach for the red ring. Ken (one of our adopted ones) didn't do it for a few days, and Victor either. But grasping was well established after that. Most babies don't grasp until they are several months old, and I think the reason is that they aren't offered the opportunity.
After this, I met a midwife from California. His name is Norman Casserley, but he had his legal name changed to "Mister Midwife" because he got tired of reporters implying he wasn't really a midwife! He was quite a character. When I first met him, I organized a seminar so he could teach some women how to do midwifery. He ran the School of Spiritual and Scientific Nonmedical Midwifery in San Diego. Last I heard, which was several years ago, he was going to law school. He was tired of being prosecuted for practicing midwifery (without a license, I presume) and not having the skills to defend himself adequately. The training he gave us was very basic, but very, very useful. He had done over 3500 births, and liked to handle the high risk cases. In exchange for organizing the seminar, he gave me a discount on his price, which was very important, since we weren't exactly affluent. The story of my pregnancy with Philip is located here. This essay, by the way, has some rather emotional parts, so please expect it. Please close the extra window to return. When I went into labor with Philip, Norman was in San Diego. I had to call him and he had to get a chartered plane (if I recall correctly) and fly in. This meant that my labor was longer, which didn't make me happy, but the improved safety and having it my way more than made up for it. Nothing particularly eventful happened at this birth. I had no pain. I was very, very pleased with the experience because Norman is such an excellent midwife! I wish all birthing mothers were so lucky! After Philip was born, I went out and milked the goats because I was the only person who knew how to do it. I breastfed Philip for about two years. Philip is now a married man with a child of his own.
My last child is Victor. When I got pregnant with him, I was very unhappy about it, because I was feeling very worn out. But abortion was not even an issue. As the pregnancy continued, I became happy about it. Again, Norman was in San Diego, and again he had to fly in. I had told him both times I have my babies early, but I couldn't persuade him to come until I was in labor. But once he was there, he stayed with me until the baby was born. This labor was quite long. I went into labor, but because I was waiting for Norman, I actually stopped laboring once he got there. I tried to sleep. I knew I would be better off if I could get some rest, but I was too excited to sleep well, so after awhile, I used a technique to get my labor going again. I think I labored with him about 33 hours. For most of the labor, I had no pain, but I was feeling very tired. The last two hours, the pain was intense, mostly because I was so tired and worn out. But I was able to relax between contractions. Perhaps altogether I had about a half hour of intense pain, when you subtract the time in between contractions. When Victor was born, he showed no signs of life. His Apgar was 0. This lasted for 11 minutes. Norman massaged his body gently, and he came back, and he was smiling. I later learned he had seen Jesus. When I asked him what Jesus looked like, he said, "A white light." I think because of this experience, he didn't take life too seriously! I learned that the reason why Victor was born without a sign of life was because he had his umbilical cord wrapped tightly around his neck, and it cut off the blood supply to the carotid artery. The fact I had been taking adrenal supplements meant that his adrenal glands didn't kick in. Norman told me he had no pulse in his fontanelle. I firmly believe that if Victor had been born in a hospital, they would have killed him, permanently. I was very grateful for Norman's skill and the prayers of the women I asked to come. In spite of how tired I was, I went out and milked the goats again. In fact, I had had to go milk them during labor because it was so long. As with the others, I offered Victor He didn't reach for it when I was watching for about three days. One day, I walked out of the room and came back, and he had his hand around the ring. As soon as he saw me, he jerked his hand away. I saw this tendency not to want to show me what he knew on other occasions as well. In fact, by the time he was four months old, he had a speaking vocabulary of about 11 words. But by the time he was a year old, he wasn't making any sound at all except crying when he wanted something. I thought maybe he had experienced some brain damage, but I saw no other signs of this. When he was a year and a half, I happened to be outside the room he was in, and I could hear him talking to himself in complete sentences. I was so tuned into him (because of the homebirth primarily) that I knew what he needed before he even asked! So a couple of days later, I told him, "I know what you need when you cry, and you know I know, but you need to learn to speak English, so from now on out, you won't get what you need unless you ask for it." Within a few days, he was chattering a blue streak to me! Victor breastfed for three years. Needless to say, we chose his name because he came back to us. I mentioned he was smiling when he came back to us. Over the next few days, he continued to smile, but gradually he stopped smiling. When he was several weeks old, we had him baptized. That day, he started smiling again!
If I had it to do over again, I would spare no effort to find a midwife for my first two births. There is simply no comparison between my experience in the hospital and my experience at home! And things have gotten a lot worse in the hospital! Women are now preparing birth plans to tell the doctor what they are willing and not willing to have happen to them. They need to INSIST that the birth plan be followed to the letter except in case of real emergency. They also should hire or acquire a doula, who can help act as an advocate to make sure that the birth plan is followed. But if you have ANY choice AT ALL, please choose homebirth. It's safer for both of you (unless you are high risk, and if you are told you are high risk, get a second opinion, please), a lot more pleasant, and you will bond so much better. This will ease your early experience with motherhood more than you can possibly imagine!