The Surprising Stories of Birth
I will never forget his birth or his parents faces, they will forever be engrained in my soul. Although we moved on, I am still reminded via text from his mom on his birthday, “Thank you for saving my son’s life.”
Choosing to be a Midwife out of hospital, choosing an alternative path to give mothers an option to deliver somewhere as safe as a hospital if they fit my conservative measures felt like a privilege. I worked my ass off for my license, worked more hours than a week holds, lost as much sleep as new parents. It was “soul stretching” at it’s finest.
Midwifery allowed me to have complicated conversations with my cohort of OB’s, CNM’s, CPM’s and GP’s. I was blessed to have some of the top teachers in the country, but more important it was good that I listened and practiced the mechanics of birth. As my momma says, surgeons and doctors and midwives (etc) are just glorified mechanics. I agree.
Understanding the mechanisms of birth, having pictures and protocols drilled into my mind that I would rarely have to practice like a well-worn coloring book paid off on a stormy night in May, 2013.
After an initial page from a second time mom, I knew game was on and I would have to be on my toes. The lightening outside was enough to indicate it would be an eventful birth. As I hung up the phone from triage I hear this voice say in my head, “Well, tonight is either a cord prolapse or a fast fast multip birth.” I got the cord prolapse.
Every birth professional fears a Cord Prolapse. They are complicated and babies can die. When you’re at a Birth Center, you might have 3 city miles to travel to the hospital, but you have to arrange transport and this can take time. From this baby’s cord prolapsing to birth in a hospital OR suite via Cesarean was 32 minutes. That’s a long time in the birth world.
The mom and I, we worked as a team. The providers supporting my management, were my team. I directed, they played and they were awesome players!
Mom and I. The way we worked together once she was in position to get the baby out of the pelvis (google it); the way that little boys heartbeat and cord was between my fingers beating 120–140 the whole time; the way he stayed out of her pelvis with my fingers encouragement, how he kept moving to tell me he was okay — it was an incredible experience to feel. Feeling was how I knew he was alive. Surprise #1 to my clinical brain.
We were a good team for everyone around us helping us move, because we both stayed calm. KEY in a cord prolapse — CALM. Eye of the storm calm.
Where did the frenzy come in? When the large hospital staff moved us from stretcher to operating table. Doc asks, “Fetal heart rate?” I say, “120–140, consistently and he’s moving a lot.” She looked skeptical. She says, “Dilation?” I say, “When I initially checked she was 8cm, that was 20 minutes ago.” She looked skeptical, again. I guess I would too, since my hand inside of a woman beyond my wrist to keep the baby from descending onto it’s cord and cutting it’s circulation system off; and they were certain they had a dead baby on their hands.
The OB and I exchanged positions, when she went to check I heard, “Heartrate 140, completely dilated.” I left the OR. Less than 7, maybe 10 minutes later the Chief Resident came to me and said, “Baby Boy, Apgars 8 & 9, thank you for what you did.” I said, “Thank you.”
As a Midwife, I had one purpose. Birth is about a healthy and safe outcome for mom and baby, it’s not about the place a baby is born. I was a Midwife to provide the option of safe-care, and every client I worked with knew if she was to be transferred it was into supportive and high-quality Obstetric Care. These collaborative relationships are what make Maternity Care in places like Canada and the Netherlands some of the best in the World, with low Maternal Mortality Rates. I digress.
My purpose just let me go into action to make sure that baby boy lived, that one cord prolapse. Not on my watch was anything else going to happen. You can’t ever be lazy in Obstetrics and when you are, shit hits the fan. FAST.
The next day, I called my girlfriend who is a Midwife in the Oakland area to process. She said she’d just been to a lecture with a Maternal Fetal Med OB in California on Cord Prolapse. He was teaching them about delivering “through a cord,” so women can have their birth at a birth center or home. I second guessed the way I cared for the mom the night before, but then said frankly and in a slightly PTSD manner, “I never want to be that provider, or put two people at risk. No thank you. I’ll take the transfer and a live birth.” She asked me every detail, and it was a great case review to have so close to the birth. As I told the story bit by bit, I couldn’t help but feel proud of my work. Like a mom when she does something for the first time with ease after days, weeks or months of practice — there’s a feeling of knowing you did a good job.
This birth, a few days later would shock and surprise me into changing my career trajectory out of Midwifery. That one cord prolapse made me realize there was something deeper inside wanting to get out and start impacting lives of women and moms deeper and broader. I wanted to shift culture and bring awareness to conversations that many don’t know even exist. Do the have something called “Post Traumatic Surprise Disorder?” If so, I was in it.
Every mother knows that there is this shift that goes on immediately after your child is born where you go from fear you won’t have enough love to give to knowing you are the one for the job even though it’s f*cking hard work. It was on a crazy stormy night in May, 2013, I knew I was the one for this job and the outcome happily shocked me out of my skin and surprisingly onto a new trajectory in life. Not only did I save an incredible boy’s life, I think I might have just saved my own.
Originally published at rebeccaegbert.com on January 24, 2015.