A Covid Change of Birth Plans

Photo Credit - Salt City Birth and Newborn https://instagram.com/saltcitybirthandnewborn?utm_medium=copy_link

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I felt excited as the first contractions started; but in true Friday the 13th fashion, the contractions did not lead to active labor.  Instead, I experienced contractions for the next 12 days with varying regularity and intensity.  Each day I posed the question, “Will today be the day?”  While the rest of the world was asking, “How will I spend my day in Quarantine today?”  The COVID-19 Pandemic was in full force, as it was March 20, 2020.  I nearly canceled my last appointment as our hospital became a Corona Virus testing site.  Since I was 39+5, would I be safer just showing up when it was time to deliver?  Ultimately, I visited my Obstetrician Friday for my appointment.  Imagine my surprise when she pronounced, “I’ve been thinking about your VBAC, but I’m no longer able to support you in a vaginal delivery.  If you don’t deliver before 40 weeks, I’m able to offer a repeat C-Section.”  I was completely shocked and despondent.  I had sensed throughout our Prenatal appointments I would need to advocate for myself.  I had been studying VBAC’s as if it was my full time job, and eating dates and collagen with the same zeal.  I hired a Doula, immersed myself in research, visited the chiropractor weekly, and practiced Hypnobirthing.  I was prepared!  My doctor explained, the hospital required the OB to be on site, and because her husband and four children were sequestered at home, she “could not wait 12 hours in the hospital while I labored”.  Despite the intent of the conversation, my heart understood the ultimatum.  I could not deliver my baby under these circumstances.  I felt burdened to be abandoned just days before my son’s anticipated due date.  

I left the appointment with tears welling up in my eyes and called my husband to share the news.  I then called friends for OB referrals, and visited another Clinic, only to be disappointed they would not take me on this late in pregnancy.  Disheartened, I called my Doula.  She reminded me she was in Midwifery school and suggested contacting her Midwife trainer.  Could this be the solution?  We met the next morning at the Birth Center where our new Midwife, graciously offered to attend our birth.  I felt peace!  I could deliver my baby with a team that was supportive!  I continually reminded our baby he was safe and secure, we were ready to meet him.  Having endured nearly 10 months of pregnancy, mom was certainly ready!  

Labor started the day after my due date around 6:30 pm.  I started to experience uncomfortable contractions.  When they flowed steadily five minutes apart, I was both hopeful and skeptical.  As the evening wore on, I knew labor was indeed progressing.  Around 9:30 pm I attempted to rest, but the contractions were too strong, and I didn’t sleep a wink.  I kept telling myself, you can call your Doula at 6 am.  It wasn’t until 9 am, after our two year old was picked up by my Mother In Law, that we called.  After arriving at our home and observing for a while, our Doula suggested we pack up and head to the Birth Center.  I didn’t know if we had progressed sufficiently, but was excited at the prospect of meeting our son soon.  We lined the car with towels (just in case my water broke) and made our way to the Birth Center.  When we arrived, we immediately filled the tub. Our midwife performed a cervical check before I got in the birthing tub.  The findings were both hopeful and disappointing.  I was 4 cm dilated.  Our first son, born in 2017, was malpositioned (Occiput Posterior), I only progressed to 2 cm, so after 40 hours of labor, he was delivered via C-Section.  I was disappointed because I had labored all night with contractions three minutes apart and now was informed, I wasn’t even in active labor.  

I went outside to start curb walking.  A few hours later, our midwife performed a cervical check and I was still at 4 cm.  Midwife’s brew was recommended to get things going.  As we waited for the castor oil drink to be prepared, my husband Bob was able to rest since he had been up most of the night supporting me.  He has been the most extraordinary partner throughout this journey.  Tending to my every need for water, food and pep talks.  I’m so grateful for his encouragement and willingness to walk down this road with me.  I’ve felt his love so completely in this process of creation.

Labor definitely started moving after drinking castor oil, but within an hour I couldn’t stomach the unfamiliar brew and threw up.  We tried to relax listening to my favorite classical music, and conducted another cervical check and my birth team found little fingers on top of our baby’s head.  He had a nuchal hand!  It was also discovered he was in a Posterior position.  I had been laboring 25 hours and knew my strength was waning.  My midwife suggested a Chiropractor adjustment.  Our Chiropractor, had an appointment 90 minutes later.  I knew if this baby was going to flip from his sunny side up soiree, we needed all the help we could get.  I prayed earnestly that God would send a miracle.  The contractions in the car were nearly unbearable.  I was wearing a TENS unit, which helped curb the intensity; but at the time, extreme off-roading was how my mind interpreted the ride.  After the longest eight minutes in history, we parked the car.  I couldn’t help but fear my water would break all over the Chiropractic table.  With each contraction I had to stand to find comfort.  At this point, I’m sure I was a vision of birth.  To stay focused, I was singing (more like primal moaning and groaning), reminding myself to surrender to this dance of labor with dignity and grace.  I was truly in Labor Land.  So many emotions manifested themselves; but believe it or not I was grateful to be feeling all of them.  Freed and liberated by experiencing them all!

I was anxious to get back to the Birth Center to see if the adjustment made a difference.  The exam revealed our baby had rotated and moved his hand!  It was indeed an answer to my prayers.  But my bag of water was still below his head so I was not fully dilated, and decided we should break my water.  I sat on a U stool.  Before the Midwife could make contact, water exploded all over her, the floor and everything within a mile radius.  

The next moment proved to be profound and memorable as my Midwife looked me in the eyes and encouraged me to summon all of my strength for Transition, it was going to be difficult from here on out and I would need to focus.  I prayed for God to give me strength to deliver this baby.  We played a Hypnobirthing Easy Birth script.  As I only looked into my husband’s eyes I started to repeat the phrases out loud, “I am relaxed and happy that my baby is finally coming to me…I feel confident, I feel safe; I feel secure…I turn my birthing over to my baby and my body.”  I did not notice our birth photographer.  I couldn’t hear the communication between my Doula and Midwife.  I was lost in big brown eyes of my loving husband, reassuring me we could do this.  WE WERE DOING THIS!  

I entered the tub, and from the moment the water engulfed me, I felt the urge to push.  This is not what I expected, the pushing stage was supposed to be much later in the process, not now.  My Midwife told me to push.  After a few contractions, his heart rate plummeted.  The room shifted from a peaceful place to a sense of urgency.  My Midwife commanded “I need you to push this baby out!”  I did not feel ready, and wanted my body to breath the baby down the birth canal; but all of a sudden, my baby’s life depended on my ability to summon all my strength and push.  I knew from reactions in the room, I wasn’t pushing deep enough in the water, so they hoisted me from the tub and onto the bed.  The room was very energetic and I did not want to imagine what may happen if I couldn’t push him out right then and there.  On the bed, my first contraction felt more powerful and progressive.  My husband was right beside me, encouraging me to “Push! Push!”  I took a huge breath and pushed with all my might.  I did not feel my baby in the birth canal.  I did not feel the ring of fire.  All I felt was that I had to push.  After I pushed I saw my baby emerge, gray as a ghost wrapped up in the umbilical chord.  He was like a Christmas present enveloped in ribbons and bows that was his umbilical cord.  I watched as our Midwife untangled him: one, two, three times, and turned him on his belly to rub his back.  We heard his first cry moments later and with eagerness I lifted him close to my chest and told him, “We love you, we love you so much!”  Our baby boy was born at 8:35 pm, 7 lbs 14 oz, 21.5 inches long.  Having our baby cradled on my chest, feeling the endorphins coarse through my body was an unforgettable invigorating moment.  I felt elated we had had a VBAC!  We snuggled, kissed, and adored our baby.  He nuzzled over to my nipple and forcefully began sucking.  It was incredible he knew exactly how to nurse.  From that moment I knew switching providers was the only way we were able to have the vaginal delivery I desired.  We had the right team in place that met 28 hours of labor with many twists and turns along the way.  My new T-shirt slogan says, “When push came to shove, I pushed!”  

I knew unmedicated delivery would be difficult.  I knew I would need to succumb to labor, allow my body and baby to birth; but I had no idea how much I would need to rely on God.  There were so many miracles along the way: the baby’s hand shifting, rotating, having him descend quickly.  All the nuances of our delivery made me realize: birth is uncertain, there are obstacles; but I was designed to birth!  I put all fear aside and welcomed my beautiful baby boy with happiness and joy!  

-Sarah Ziroll

Sarah Ziroll

Sarah Ziroll