We Interupt this program...

Posted by  | Wednesday, December 9, 2009  at 8:04 AM  
We interupt "How to make your own..." to bring you one more birthing overseas post. We had an entry out overseas birthing experience arrive to us a little late. I can't imagine why??? This incredible mom has SIX BOYS and she birthed four of them overseas. So, we didn't want to leave her story(ies) out because of her great insight.

In the last 11 years, I've been under the care of eight different OB/GYNs in three different countries and three different states while being pregnant for almost five years (Yih!) and giving birth six times. Baby boy number six was born in September and was our first baby to be delivered by the same doctor as one of his brothers.

They say every pregnancy and every birth is different, but in my wildest dreams, I never expected to have such a wide range of experiences. Looking back now, I clearly see God's hand in the pregnancy and birth of each of our boys.

Zachariah - 24 June 1998, Limassol, Cyprus

Dr. L had a "one man show." Most Cypriot women don't go to hospitals to give birth, but private clinics, usually owned and operated by one doctor and a team of nurses. I asked other expatriate friends which doctor they would recommend and several said Dr. L was the one to see. He was the only one they knew of who didn't perform abortions, had four children himself and a wonderful bedside manner.

There were no appointments but he saw patients starting at 8:30am on a first-come-first-served basis. I quickly figured out I could avoid a long wait if I came first thing in the morning. He spoke English and did an ultrasound at nearly every appointment. He had studied in Germany, so some of his practices were a little different. During the last few weeks of pregnancy, when he did internal exams to check my cervix, there was a nurse present during the exam but no customary sheet draped over my legs and belly. After the first one, I wore one of my husband's long shirts to each exam.

At about 8 weeks, I had some spotting and he was very reassuring. I was a nervous wreck. It had taken us two and a half years to become pregnant and I didn't want to lose this baby. I was admitted to the clinic for observation for one night and then, as a precaution, I had progesterone shots through the rest of the first trimester. The shots were nauseating beyond belief, but I had never been pregnant before and I didn't have any pregnancy experience in the States to compare it to.

Two days after my due date, I was huge, hot, swelling and so ready to have this baby! We went in for a routine exam and since I was at 2cm and had felt a few contractions, the doctor decided to break my water to speed things up. I wish now that I had done more research - I probably would have waited a few more days - but my research resources were limited and I trusted my doctor. After 5-6 hours without much progress, I received pitocin. At around 11pm, when I got to about 5cm, Zach's heartbeat dropped off the monitor. Within minutes, the doctor stopped the pitocin, called the anesthesiologist and pediatrician to come to the clinic and started prep for an emergency c-section. Thirty minutes later, Zach was born and it was discovered that the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck.

Dr. L was meticulous in stitching me back up, taking an hour to do so. My husband had called everyone on our list before I even woke up from the anesthesia. Because of his great attention to detail, I have been able to have all my other boys VBAC.

I stayed at the clinic for five nights. This was routine for a c-section at that time. And, I think Dr. L was just more cautious with his expatriate patients.

Noah - 3 April 2000, Atlanta, Georgia

Noah started out under the care of Dr. L, who was disappointed to learn he wouldn't be born in Cyprus. I was also feeling apprehensive about having a baby in the US. My sister-in-law had a 36 hour labor, complete with conflicting meds given by the doctor and a resident and ultimately she ended up having a c-section. Hearing about her experience was so awful I didn't want to have a baby in America! And, I had heard of women who weren't allowed to even try VBAC because doctors were so afraid of being sued. We were going to be in Atlanta (not my hometown or my husband's) and I didn't know what to expect.

To make a long story short, I again asked around and found a wonderful Christian woman doctor, Dr. R, who was willing to try VBAC with me. I had one bout of false labor and after that, it was decided to try to induce about four days early. Zach had been 8.5 pounds at birth. Noah ended up being 9.5 pounds at birth and there was some concern over his size and the uncertainty about my ability to deliver VBAC. The induction and epidural both went smoothly. I waited until I was about 6cm before I got the epidural. I wanted to be dilated at least as much as I had been with Zach before any intervention. My husband now tells people I slept through labor with Noah. (He also wanted to find the inventor of the epidural and kiss him.) Noah was born without any problems or complications!

The recovery was so completely different! Pain now or pain later? Given a choice I'll take the pain of childbirth over the recovery from a c-section any day. When Noah was four days old, we all went to the mall and I bought a pair of shoes! Ten days after Zach's birth, I could hardly bend over to put shoes on my still swollen feet.

I held on to Dr. R's contact information and actually used it a few times to get advice from her during future pregnancies.

Simon - 19 November 2002, Loerrach, Germany

Simon was supposed to be a girl. Well, the doctor told us he was 90% sure but then changed his story about 8 weeks later when another ultrasound revealed his mistake. My Mom ended up donating the pink sweater she knitted to a charity auction.

Since I had already had one successful VBAC, the doctor said he would treat me as any other patient who had not had a c-section at all. There were lots of things different about Germany - no pre-natal vitamins were prescribed, but I called Dr. R and got a friend to bring some to me in her luggage. The doctor I saw for all my prenatal check-ups told me from the beginning that he would not be at the hospital for labor and delivery. The hospital had an OB/GYN on staff, along with a midwife and nurses.

We toured the hospital's labor and delivery ward about 8 weeks before Simon was due. There were four labor rooms - two with twin sized beds, birthing balls and other kinds of options for alternative birth positions; one with a queen sized bed and a sort of rope looking thing hanging from the ceiling; and one with a giant pink jacuzzi type bath tub for a water birth. There were also two regular bath tubs and several showers to use during labor. I thought those might be worth a try - I had heard they were relaxing especially during long labors. In America, I was told I could never get into a bath or shower during labor since I had had a c-section.

Simon's due date came and went. I knew I was getting huge, but the doctor said they would not induce or intervene until I was at least two weeks overdue. Six days past my due date, I had an appointment and was dilated about 3cm. I expressed my concern that Simon might be getting too big. The doctor gave me three homeopathic tablets and said I would go into labor within 24 hours. Not having had much exposure to homeopathic medicine, I was skeptical that three tiny sugar pills would do much. That was around noon.

At 2am, my water broke. By the time we got to the hospital an hour later, I was dilated to 6cm. I had planned to have a walking epidural, but the midwife said it was too late. The anesthesiologist couldn't get there fast enough - it was raining and snowing that night. Being a labor wimp, I took any and all pain relief the midwife suggested. To this day, my husband still can't believe I said yes to acupuncture in the top of my head, to a muscle relaxant suppository, to homeopathic tablets and finally, to a bath. The contractions were coming faster now, but I thought I had many hours ahead of me and a bath sounded relaxing. (The acupuncture did relieve some pain. After the needle was put in, the monitor for my contractions would get 20-30 points higher before I squeezed my husband's hand.)

Between contractions I walked ever so slowly the 30 feet or so to where the bathtubs were. When I rounded the corner to the toilet, we discovered that there was a bit of a language mistake. The midwife was filling up the giant pink birthing tub. Still thinking it would be hours, I thought, "Why not? More water to relax in should be better." I got undressed and got in. (Watching me get into the tub, my husband realized I wasn't getting out until the baby was born.) It took two hours to get to 10cm and the midwife never left my side, except to phone the doctor when delivery was close. I pushed only three or four times and at 5:32am, weighing 10.5 pounds Simon was born... under water. They cleaned him a bit and laid him on my chest and he let out the sweetest sigh that made us all laugh.

My husband had stood in the only space available during the birth, directly under the heat lamp that was pre-heating the bed for the baby. The nurse sent him back to the other labor room to sit down on the bed and then took Simon to him. They were afraid to let him carry him since he had become queasy. In the mean time, my blood pressure had dropped so I didn't have the strength to get out of the tub by myself. The doctor, midwife and another nurse picked me up and put me on the bed and started an IV.

After a few minutes, I was taken to where Simon was, transfered to the bed and then stitched up while a nurse gave Simon a bath. I had torn in five places! The hospital provided clothes for all the babies and Simon was dressed in purple - not my first choice for a boy. We stayed in the hospital for two nights.

Back to the doctor who did all my prenatal check-ups... his wife was a midwife. She came to our house to check on us for a full month, starting three times a week. I never took him out of the house the first five weeks! I learned lots about homeopathic medicines, baby massage, essential oils and could call her day or night if I had any questions. Though it was strange to me to have a totally unknown doctor attend the birth, the midwife at home after made my German birth experience so much better.

Gabriel - 16 September 2004, Orlando, Florida

I had a wonderful woman doctor whose last name I couldn't ever pronounce in Florida. She did an extra ultrasound at about seven and a half months since Dr. L (We were living in Cyprus again when we learned Gabriel was on the way.) had done the last one at 17 weeks and told us it was a boy. She said it was definitely a boy, but I couldn't see it clearly on the monitor. She pointed and said, "Leg. Leg. Not a leg."

She was willing to induce and go for VBAC number three, but the hospital policies were very strict, in spite of now having a history of two VBACs. I checked in at 5am, did all the paperwork, started an IV, but couldn't start the induction until the doctor would be there full time. She had appointments in the building across the street, and hospital rounds to do in the morning and hospital policy dictated that since it was a VBAC, the doctor had to be present. She didn't know this until late the night before. So, we just waited around until about 1 o'clock before the pitocin was started.

While waiting, I started to have contractions on my own. Everything went smoothly once again and, weighing "just" 8 pounds 6 ounces, Gabriel was born VBAC. He spent a day in the semi-ICU due to low blood sugar and jaundice, but I was allowed to nurse him and visit as often as I wanted. Once he was out of there, he stayed in the room with us most of the time. We had an incident with a nurse who thought he was choking. Without any explanation, she just grabbed him and left the room. This did not endear us to the hospital any more even after the head nurse explained their procedures for when the nurses think a baby may be in trouble. I guess since we were in our own country where we speak the language fluently, we expected better communication.

Hope - 30 July 2006, Amman, Jordan

My pregnancy with Hope ended at 13 weeks. I am including it because even miscarriages may not be handled the same way in different countries. Then again, I never had one in the US or any other country, so maybe it's not so different.

I had some spotting and the Dr. K told us to come to the hospital that afternoon. We needed time to find someone to stay with the boys anyway. He did an ultrasound and told us the baby's heart wasn't beating any more. After I got dressed again, he talked with us in his office and gently told us some of the statistics - as if to say, we are not alone in this experience. He must have conversations like this quite often, yet he spoke with us as if it were the first time. He left us for a few minutes so we could talk and cry together. When he came back, he said he had made arrangements for the D&C to be done that evening and that sooner would be better, given my age (35) and that the baby's size suggested she had died around nine weeks.

I was quickly checked-in to my room. Being a middle eastern country, there were no Gideon Bibles in the rooms. My husband called his boss to tell him what was going on and help us find someone to stay overnight with the boys and ask him to bring us a Bible. I was given medicine in preparation for the surgery which eventually gave me chills. That was around 5:30pm. By 8 o'clock, I was wheeled into the surgery area where a very nice anesthesiologist met us, along with the doctor who would do the surgery and everything was explained to us (in English).

My husband had asked what would happen to the baby. We had no idea what to expect. They said because it was so early, they would first run some tests on the tissue and then dispose of it properly. While I was just waking up from the anesthesia, a nurse came by with a small jar with the remains in it, but I never really saw it. I just said, "Bye bye, baby." Later my husband told me there was nothing recognizable. I feel pretty sure that would never have happened in the States.

They brought a second bed to our room for my husband that night, and I think they brought some dinner, but I really don't remember. I didn't sleep much. In the morning, we had breakfast, made to order omelets and it was brought in on a table with a cloth and our plates were covered with silver domes. It was a beautiful breakfast, really. We met with Dr. K and the doctor who did the surgery and they very patiently answered our questions. Shortly after that, we checked out.

About two months later, I had some continuing bleeding - spotting really. I ended up going in for another D&C as some of the placental tissue had become embedded in my uterus during the four weeks I carried Hope after she died. This time, they got all of it. I missed about two weeks of language classes. The procedure was just an overnight stay, but they put me on a super strong antibiotic for 10 days that made me dizzy and nauseated.

Jacob - 8 October 2007, Amman, Jordan

Dr. K was absolutely overjoyed when we returned to his office about six months after losing Hope. He was, of course, cautiously optimistic, until the end of the first trimester. I was prescribed folic acid, a prenatal vitamin and baby aspirin; the latter, to help prevent possible blood clotting issues since I had miscarried.

I carried Jacob with relatively few problems, but we did learn at about 32 weeks that I had developed Gestational Diabetes. Dr K's associate, Dr. Lamia, whom I came to trust as much as Dr. K, kind of scolded him for not testing me sooner. With careful attention to diet, I was able to control my blood sugar without medicine or insulin shots. I met with the hospital's nutritional consultant. It was helpful, but I had to extract the dietary principles from the one week menu she gave me, and I looked up some information on the internet, too. I also visited an American trained endocrinologist, who gave me good advice, as well.

I think I had a few extra appointments during the first trimester. And, Dr. K did an ultrasound at every visit throughout the pregnancy. I also had two in depth ultrasounds with a specialist - routine for women over 35.

About a week before my due date, I had an appointment scheduled for late afternoon, but there was a mix up and it took about an hour to sort it out before I could see the doctor. While waiting, I realized I was starting to have regular contractions. So, after a quick exam in the doctor's office I was admitted and taken to my room. After about two hours there, they moved me to the labor and delivery floor. It was newly remodeled with the most modern medical equipment, florescent "highlighter yellow" floors and a great view of the city. There was a nurse and a midwife present the entire time. Dr. K came and checked on me and another OB/GYN also checked on me at various times.

Jacob was born during the month of Ramadan (fasting month for Muslims) so Dr. K offered to have the hospital chef make Donald something to eat after sundown. (Since I had an IV, I wasn't offered anything.) Eventually he got a sandwich which he took to the waiting room next door to eat since we hadn't eaten anything since lunch at 12. The waiting room was actually a "family room" with leather couches, wood floors and a flat panel TV. It was so nice I wouldn't have felt comfortable having our boys wait in there for fear they'd leave permanent marks.

Around 11pm labor stalled a bit, so I got an epidural and they started pitocin, too. I had brought my own music to listen to and so I was able to relax a bit. Dr. K liked it, too. Jacob was born at 2:22am. I got to hold him for just a minute or two before they took him to the nursery and a full pediatric exam. It took nearly an hour to deliver the placenta. So there I was, half naked, with two male doctors, a male anesthesiologist and my husband, in the wee hours of the morning, listening to them chat about "guy stuff." That was a strange feeling!

Jacob had jaundice and our pediatrician was concerned. He has my very fair skin so he looked extremely yellow compared to the other middle eastern babies in the nursery. We ended up staying an extra night so they could observe him and put him under the bili-lights.

3 comments:

mzyelle said...

That was so very interesting! Thanks for sharing! I had a homebirth VBAC this year and it was wonderful to say the least.
I love to read other birth stories.

Krista said...

Thanks for sharing, it was really neat to read how each of your kiddos were born!

Mallory and Amy said...

Could you email me about the details of your OB and hospital in Orlando? I live here now (just recently moved here) and am looking for OB recommendations. Thanks!

mallory.gabriel(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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