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Pregnancy ’ Category
Thursday, January 2nd, 2014
My wife jokes that we’ve now experienced the labor-and-delivery trifecta: One C-section (unplanned), one vaginal delivery with epidural (a planned VBAC, which I almost missed), and one unmedicated birth (very much unplanned). This is the story of that last experience and what it says about our medical system when it comes to hospitals and labor.
Stephanie’s contractions began in the middle of the night on Nov. 5 and were still far apart—about 10 minutes—when we called the doctor. She suggested we come to her office first thing in the morning, rather than heading straight to the hospital. Hours later, the contractions had not increased in intensity or frequency, and so we went to the doctor’s office. Her doc confirmed that everything seemed fine and healthy and said she’d normally suggest we return home. But we live about a 45-minute drive from the hospital, and she said, with a third baby like ours, things can change very quickly from slow to fast. Oh, how right she was.
The doctor suggested we stay close by–her office is just blocks from the hospital–and so we spent the morning having a lovely time on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, just Stephanie, me, and our doula. We went out for a luxurious brunch and took a walk. I was the one who was most agitated, feeling like we should be settled in the hospital, but contractions remained eight to 10 minutes apart and Stephanie was feeling OK. She, her doctor, and our doula all agreed that we had plenty of time.
We eventually made our way back to the doctor’s office, where she put Stephanie on a fetal monitor and we continued waiting, a surreal day getting stranger.
At one point, we went out for another walk, but things were clearly starting to progress. Still, nothing seemed imminent. The doctor said she’d do a quick exam, and then we’d head to the hospital. Stephanie, however, said it was time to go—NOW.
Then her water broke.
The baby was coming. Fast.
Our doula ran out to hail a taxi. (She later told us she put all our bags in the trunk before telling the driver that a woman in active labor was coming. Smart woman.) The doc and I escorted Stephanie, slowly and carefully, to the waiting car. I later found out that the OB had grabbed gloves and an emergency receiving blanket. You know, just in case of a street-side NYC taxicab delivery.
We were off, eager to go the very few blocks between the office and the hospital. However, this being New York, nothing is quick, and the streets were clogged with bumper-to-bumper traffic the entire way. Our driver did his best to weave and dodge, but with nowhere to go, we inched along as the doc called ahead to let the hospital know to be prepared. I started to feel weak and nauseous and just kept thinking: All that planning, and we’re going to have this baby in a cab. I didn’t sign up for this.
Finally, we turned the corner to the final block of our trip, and traffic remained at a stand-still. The OB got out to literally negotiate with the cars in front of us to move over just a few inches so we could get by, but then I noticed a school bus half a block ahead—and suddenly, its red lights turned on. No one was passing until those lights went off. It felt like a ridiculous movie, where the director piles on a hopelessly implausible set of challenges and obstacles.
Our doctor called ahead once again, and suddenly our taxi was swarming with nurses. They helped Stephanie into a wheelchair, and we ran full force the half block to the hospital. The doctor and I ran just ahead, gesticulating for people to move and screaming like maniacs, “Out of the way! Out of the way!”
We finally made it inside. The nurses shooed everyone away from the elevators and used their powers to summon an emergency elevator. Once in a delivery room, they got a gown on Stephanie, and told her to start pushing. She asked, repeatedly, for the anesthesiologist, for her epidural, but there was no time. Just a few pushes, and I saw the head; in about 10 minutes, our baby was born. Little Sophia made quite the entrance. It was 3:11 p.m.; I’d made a phone call to my parents at about 2:20 telling them that Stephanie’s labor was just starting to speed up and that we’d be going to the hospital soon. That’s how fast this happened.
It was not the birth we planned for, for sure. But there were benefits, besides a great story. No need for an IV, for one thing: Immediately after Sophia came out, the nurses were about to put in an IV port—because that’s what they do for all women in labor—but our doctor stopped them. What purpose would it serve, now that the delivery was over? And despite the pain, Stephanie said she had fewer lingering side effects after, and the baby seemed more alert at birth.
It can often seem like labor is a battle. You go in with a plan and a set of expectations (hopes, really) and try to stick to it, even as circumstances dictate otherwise. We were prepared to navigate the rules of the hospital–issues such as whether the fetal monitor is worn constantly or intermittently and how long someone can labor before a C-section is warranted–and, of course, to follow the advice of Stephanie’s doctors.
But we also knew from experience that these rules are sometimes constraining. For instance, a fetal monitor can inhibit the someone from laboring in certain positions, which in turn can make labor longer and more painful, which in turn can lead to additional, potentially avoidable interventions, including a possible C-section.
So we decided to stay away from the hospital as long as we felt we could. In the end, the extraordinary speed with which Stephanie’s labor turned from slow to baby-coming-now, not to mention the challenges of New York traffic, conspired to make this birth dramatic. Perhaps that could have been avoided if we felt like the hospital experience would be more collaborative and supportive, in which case we may have gone in earlier. Instead, however unintentionally, we were able to experience a completely unconstrained labor–Stephanie was able to walk, eat, and drink, whatever was most comfortable for her–which resulted in a successful vaginal delivery with no complications. But obviously, we’d rather not have had the last-minute scare. If only we could have the benefits of an unconstrained labor and the support for the laboring mother’s needs and choices in the safety and comfort of the hospital.
After it was over, we asked the nurses how often this sort of thing happens. They told us that a baby was born in an ambulance on the way just that morning. I’m grateful that Sophia made her debut in the hospital, and of course, that everyone is safe and healthy. Our doctor gave me the blanket she’d taken along in the taxi as a memento. Happily, it’s still wrapped in its packaging.
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Thursday, November 14th, 2013
I’ve never given up on my stubborn belief that anybody can change the world. I think that’s why I find this story of a 59-year-old car mechanic who’s about to save thousands, if not millions, of moms’ and babies’ lives so flat-out awesome.
Seven years ago, Argentinian car mechanic Jorge Odón was hanging out with his co-workers when some of them started talking about a YouTube video showing how you can use a plastic grocery bag to retrieve a cork from the inside of an empty wine bottle. You essentially insert the plastic bag, blow air into it until the bag envelops the cork, then you pull it out. Cool party trick, but Odón realized this concept could be used for much bigger things.
If this simple inflate-and-retrieve method can pull a cork out of a bottle, couldn’t it also be used to help deliver babies stuck in their mother’s birth canal? Obstructed labor is not only responsible for large numbers of neonatal deaths worldwide, but also for roughly eight percent the maternal deaths that occur each year—that’s over 20,000 women we’re talking about. This could be a real game-changer.
Excited by his idea, Odón woke his wife up in the middle of the night to tell her about it. She thought he was crazy (and was probably so annoyed at being woken up!) but Odón didn’t give up on his idea. In fact, the very next morning, he met with an obstetrician and asked about the feasibility of using an inflatable plastic bag-type device to help with cases of obstructed labor. The doctor had a very different reaction from Odón’s wife, so Odón set to work in making his idea a lifesaving reality.
Flash forward to today: The Odón Device has been backed by the World Health Organization, and a U.S. tech company is putting it into production. Doctors see it as a safer alternative to the forceps and suction cups that are currently used in cases of obstructed labor, and the New York Times reports “it has enormous potential to save babies in poor countries, and perhaps to reduce cesarean section births in rich ones.”
Obviously, this is fantastic news—and when it comes to my feelings on hero mechanic Jorge Odón, I’ve got to borrow from the lyrical genius of Salt-n-Pepa: “Whatta man, whatta man, whatta mighty good man.” Amirite?
TELL US: Did you have a difficult labor? Are you as in awe of Jorge Odón as we are?
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birth canal, clamps, difficult birth, forceps, heroes, inventions, Jorge Odón, maternal health, maternal mortality, neonatal death, obstructed birth, Odón device, suction | Categories:
Must Read, Pregnancy, The Parents Perspective
Friday, October 25th, 2013
Ah, pregnancy. A time of wonder. A time of excitement. A time of creepy strangers thinking it’s fully acceptable to put their paws all over your stomach.
I’ve never understood why it seems that the moment a woman becomes visibly pregnant, her body ceases to be her own anymore. It’s suddenly public property, and everyone from the checker at the supermarket to the local school principal not only has an opinion on what she’s eating, how much she’s resting, and how the baby should be born—they also feel they have the right to feel the new mama up.
If you’ve ever fantasized about pushing away a particularly handsy well-wisher and yelling, “Get your hands off of me!,” you’ll be excited to hear about new legislation out of Pennsylvania. The state has made it a criminal offense to touch a pregnant woman’s bump without her permission. That’s right, it’s illegal for randoms to man-handle your bump.
Some people are defending the Preggo Petters, saying they don’t mean any harm, and that they’re just excited about a new baby coming into the world. But um, since when has “just being excited,” been an excuse for unwanted touching? Not. Okay.
I don’t think this law will be all that easy to enforce (I mean, unless you carry handcuffs around with you and do a citizen’s arrest until the cops can arrive on the scene!) but I’m hoping it’ll act as a sort of public awareness campaign—knocking some common sense into some very clueless people.
Did random strangers rub your baby bump? How did you react? Tell us in the comments.
If you’re pregnant now, see just how big you might get as the weeks go by!
Image of angry pregnant woman via Shutterstock.
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Tuesday, September 17th, 2013
I’d really love to love home births. The idea is wonderful. Mom (and whomever she wants by her side) is in a happy, warm environment—no bright lights or scary machines in sight—when she meets her son or daughter for the very first time, with no need to worry about being rushed out of “recovery” or denied the comforts she truly wants. As if those things didn’t sound good enough, home births also cut parents’ birthing costs by approximately two thirds. And considering that the cost of a hospital birth has tripled since 1996, that’s very good news to a lot of families’ wallets.
That said? I just can’t get behind home births. Why? One simple factor, a factor that I think easily outweighs comfort, ease, and economics–and that’s the life of the baby being born. Little ones born in planned home births are two to three times more likely to die in infancy than babies born in a hospital setting (some studies say the risk is even higher, but this number is the most solidly backed up). I’m used to home birth devotees rolling their eyes at these numbers, calling out the fact that women have been giving birth at home since the beginning of time, and that there are no definitive studies on the topic; but I beg them to look at the hard facts: In 2009, Colorado midwives reported performing 637 deliveries, and transferring another 160 pregnant women to hospitals either just before or during labor. As Michelle Goldberg reported in the Daily Beast, the midwives’ patients suffered nine perinatal deaths—near double the state-wide infant death rate, which includes high-risk and premature births. Three of those home birth infants died during labor itself, something that’s incredibly rare in a hospital setting.
Nine deaths out of 897 pregnancies might seem small, but it’s not small at all to the parents who’ve lost their babies. And those parents are the only thing I can really think of when I hear that yet another one of my friends, or even some woman I meet at a party, is gearing up for a home birth (and more and more of them are—incidents of home birth rose by 29 percent between 2004 and 2009 alone). I know that there’s a lot wrong with American hospital births—that many women lack control during childbirth in clinical settings, and that they feel they have no choice about what interventions are used and when. I also know that our health care system in general is broken and that hospital births are dauntingly expensive even to middle class families. I understand the desire for an alternative, but I don’t understand ditching the whole system when it still seems to be the safest we’ve got.
Obviously women need to be free to make their own choices when it comes to prenatal health and childbirth, and I respect women’s decisions. Some friends of mine have given birth to healthy, beautiful children at home—but that doesn’t stop me from taking a deep breath and worrying when I hear that yet another mom-to-be who I care about is dead set on this option. I tend not to say anything or make a big fuss about it, especially if the mother is close to her due date (at that point, everything’s pretty much set and I know I’ll just cause more anxiety around the birth, which isn’t helpful), but for those women who still have some time to think it through, I do tell them about the increased risk of infant death. I also tell them that if they do still want to go through with the home birth, that they should hire a licensed Certified Nurse Midwife, who has more solid medical training than a Certified Professional Midwife. My thoughts might be unwelcome to women who are really invested in the home birth movement, but as a friend and someone who is professionally focused on all aspects of pregnancy, I think I have to at least say something.
Photo via Shutterstock.
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Friday, September 6th, 2013
Any miscarriage is devastating. From the minute that little strip turns pink or the plus sign shows up on the pregnancy test, your mind starts spinning dreams, and you begin making plans for a wonderful new addition. Miscarriage pulls all those hopes to grinding halt, and can even make a mom-to-be question whether she is at fault for the loss of pregnancy (even though most miscarriages are chromosomal or genetic and have nothing to do with the choices of the pregnant woman.)
Because of the insane amounts of grief that can come with miscarriage, many moms-to-be choose to keep their news private, or at least contained to a small group of family and very close friends. But in late term miscarriages, most people already know that you’re pregnant, meaning that a widespread miscarriage announcement is pretty unavoidable. Sadly, that’s the situation that Jack Osbourne and his wife, Lisa Stelly, have found themselves in. Already a mom to 16-month-old daughter, Pearl, Lisa announced on her blog, raddest mom, that she and Jack had suffered a miscarriage last week. “I have been dreading this announcement,” Lisa wrote, “I needed some time before being able to say it. Jack and I lost our baby boy this week. Having a late term miscarriage is by far the hardest thing either of us have ever had to go through.”
I’ve never suffered a miscarriage myself and will not say I can imagine what it feels like (because I can’t), but a few years ago, a friend of mine went through the horror of losing a pregnancy. She had just announced that she and her husband were expecting, and we were all psyched for another cutie in her brood. I popped a fun little present in the mail to her—only to find out the next day that she’d miscarried. I felt horrible, not only for her immeasurable loss, but also because my cheerful “hooray baby!” package likely arrived in the days after her pregnancy ended, pouring unintentional salt in her very fresh wounds. We never spoke of the gift, in fact, I like to think it’s something her husband deftly intercepted from the postman and never told her about—but I’m sure mine weren’t the only well-wishes with terrible timing.
Neither Lisa Stelly nor my friend had the option of privately dealing with their pain—but many other women do, especially since most miscarriages occur during the first eight weeks after conception, before the big baby news has typically been spread. But even some of those women who could keep the whole things under wraps choose to talk openly about their losses either to gain support of their friends and family when they need it most, or to help erase the stigma of miscarriage and show others that they are not alone. Earlier this year, Beyoncé revealed that she had previously suffered a miscarriage, and explained why she kept it a secret until after having Blue Ivy.
If you miscarried, would you (or did you) tell anyone besides your partner and your closest family members? Was it helpful to have all the support possible? For Jack Osbourne and Lisa Stelly, I’m hoping that’s the case.
Image of Jack Osbourne and Lisa Stelly via s_bukley / Shutterstock.com
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