Monday, July 27, 2009

Welcome to Casey Richard Smith

Northern Bro

I am very pleased to report that at about 3:44 Friday morning Casey Richard Smith joined our family. Mom and baby, as well as Dad and big sister are all doing well, although Mom is a bit sore and sleep deprived. Of course the first thing we did is count his fingers and toes. Everything is there. His color is coming in just fine. Linda pulled out her baby photos, and the little guy looks just like his mom. Oh yeah, did I mention he has quite the set of lungs?

Casey @ 90 minutes old.

We were so happy that we were able to complete our plans to have Casey born at home instead of in a cold institutional setting. I was initially skeptical of Linda’s preference for a homebirth, and didn’t really come around until we had done a lot of research and checked out the options.

So here is how it played out: I was driving home Thursday evening when Linda called to say she thought it might be time, but not to hurry. She is funny that way, what did she expect me to do, stop and go see a movie? So I arrived home at around 5:30, our midwife (Kathryn) showed up about half an hour later. At this point Linda’s contractions were coming fairly regularly, but still about 10-12 minutes apart. Kathryn checked Linda over and while she couldn’t rule out that this might still be a false alarm (as it was the previous night) she thought that this may be it. Then – get this – the Kathryn took off again and told us to call her when the contractions were about 5 minutes apart for at least half an hour. At this point my skepticism about midwives in general and Kathryn in particular returned. I was never really concerned, and of course as it turned out I had no reason to be concerned at all, but it is much easier to realize this now than it was then.

The Smith family on the day of Casey's birth

So Linda and I retired to the living room turned birthing room. I got her a little bit to eat – upon Kathryn’s recommendation - and we started timing the contractions. Backing up a little bit, over the last few weeks Linda and I have practiced relaxation techniques almost every night. The idea is that labor could be made a bit easier if the Mom could let go of the tension and pain of one contraction before the next one came along. So there we were with the timer, Linda was on her hands and knees (this was the most comfortable position for her), the contractions kept coming and we were working on keeping her as relaxed as possible between them.

Another little aside about positioning. One reason I now believe that homebirth is head and shoulders above anything a hospital could even think of providing (except as noted below), is the freedom it gives the woman in labor. When Linda was in labor with our firstborn they had her flat on her back for most of the time, in spite of the fact that it was an extremely uncomfortable position for her. She asked to be able to change positions, but to no avail. The hospital staff loved their gadgets and they had hooked several up to Linda and then said that she couldn’t be moved because of the gadgets. It was all so stupid and inconsiderate. Here is a good example: during both births the attendees monitored the baby’s heartbeat. In both cases – as is common – at some point during labor the baby’s heart rate started to dip a bit. Both sets of attendees said that we had to get more oxygen to the baby. The first time the gadget happy hospital staff slapped an oxygen mask onto my wife’s face and told here that the health of her baby depended on her keeping it there, scaring the shit out of her. To top it off, the oxygen mask was so uncomfortable that Linda had to take it off every few minutes so she could breathe. It was all so stupid. Contrast that with this experience: Kathryn noticed that the baby’s heart rate was dipping. She said that this often means that the baby has just moved around a bit and is now lying on top of the umbilical cord and that if Linda lay on her side things would be alright. Linda shifted a bit to her left side and sure enough the baby’s heart rate went back to normal. No oxygen, no mask, no scare tactics. (Of course, Kathryn had her 2 canisters of oxygen at the ready if they were needed.)

OK, I know that sometimes gadgets are needed, and sometimes traditional highly invasive medical techniques are needed. We were certainly ready to head to the hospital if needed, or to call an ambulance if needed. Also, sometimes a woman simply wants medical interventions such as pain medication. All that is well and good if needed or desired. It is just appalling to me how often modern medicine is shoved down our throats (sometimes literally) when it is neither needed nor desired. Here is something pulled off of the Wikipedia page for homebirth:

As one doctor described birth in a working class home in the 1920s: You find a bed that has been slept on by the husband, wife and one or two children; it has frequently been soaked with urine, the sheets are dirty, and the patient's garments are soiled, she has not had a bath. Instead of sterile dressings you have a few old rags or the discharges are allowed to soak into a nightdress which is not changed for days.

The first time I remember reading this I was disgusted, did they really mean that the main reason to go to a hospital and bring the full crushing weight of the medical profession on a poor woman is because the sheets are dirty? Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to simply bring a clean sheet to the home? The article goes on to say that the medical profession thought hospital births are necessary because the lighting is better there. Now I realize that flashlight technology in the 20’s wasn’t what it is now, and many homes didn’t have electricity then, but it strikes me that in this day and age this excuse doesn’t hold up either. (Kathryn brought 2 powerful maglights, including a waterproof one in case Linda wanted to give birth in the tub, this was something that wasn’t available in the hospital our first time around).

Enough of the rant, we were in the birthing room and all the 20 or so candles were lit. That was the only light Linda wanted, so that is what we had. By about 9:15 we had a good solid half hour of contractions coming 3-5 minutes apart and lasting 30 seconds, so we called Kathryn back and she was here in about 5 minutes. A few minutes after that her assistant showed up. I, having read the “What to do if the baby arrives before the midwife” pamphlet several times, breathed as sigh of relief. We started filling the birthing tub and in a few minutes that is where Linda was. Except for bathroom trips that is where she stayed for the next four hours or so. Here is where my second thoughts about midwives surfaced again. During the entire time Linda was in the tub I was there with her, holding her hands, putting cold washcloths on her forehead and trying to coach her through the contractions and calm her in between. 90% of the time Kathryn and Sherri were there too helping Linda along, but about 1:00 am I remember looking over and they both were laying down with their eyes closed. I began to wonder if I was going to have to wake them up! No need to worry, it turns out they had done this many times before and knew the importance of resting when possible. The fact was they never once missed a scheduled check of the baby’s heartbeat (once every 15 minutes). Nor did they ever leave Linda wanting for anything or not check on her as needed. After 4-5 hours in the tub Linda was ready to lie down so we moved to the bed. Contractions continued to come and Linda eventually started pushing. The poor little guy was having trouble getting around a little ‘lip’ of her cervix so at around 3:30 Kathryn suggested we move to a birthing stool so gravity could help a little bit. From then on things moved very fast. Linda got on the stool and within 2 pushes Casey was well on his way (although at this point we still didn’t know if it was a Casey or a Molly). Here is were the most amazing transformation took place: So all night our midwives have been checking on Linda, checking on the baby’s heartbeat, doing their jobs, but when I looked at them I still saw two people in their jeans and t-shirts drinking their herbal tea and eating crackers and hummus by candlelight, thinking this is OK, but kind of low key. So Casey’s head comes out and his cord is wrapped around his neck. Yikes! Seemingly out of nowhere a tray of surgical instruments appears. Gone is the attitude of calm reassurance, in its place is practiced professionalism. Kathryn tells Linda to “Push Now!” and in an instant they have clamped the cord, cut it free of the baby’s neck and it was over. The rest of Casey came out and he was beautiful and healthy. Did I mention that when this happened one was attending to Linda while the other was filming the birth (this was also Linda’s preference)? Of course, when clamps were needed then the camera went down to the floor. I also need to say that having attended two births now there is not a single part of me that ever wants to watch a birth video.

As soon as Casey came out I held him while Kathryn and Sherry got Linda off the stool and cleaned up a bit. He was wet, wrinkly, a little blue in the extremities and beautiful. It was so amazing to hold the little guy when he wasn’t even 5 minutes old. Then, of course, he went to his mom. You would have thought Linda had a thousand candles behind her eyes, she was glowing so brightly.

And that is the story of Casey’s birth. Before Evelyn was born the staff at Cheshire Medical Center had promised that our preferences would be taken into account during labor. Of course, that was a bunch of bull. This time Linda was listened to, her preferences were respected and she couldn’t have been happier with the results. And we couldn’t be happier than we are with Casey.
Casey with his big sister on the day he was born, and the little guy 2 days later. (the blog keeps rotating this picture & I don't know how to fix it!)


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