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How NOT to Deliver Your Baby at Home, 101
From Camilla Millar
I woke up with a startle at about 6:45 A.M. from an uncomfortable contraction on the morning of June 22—the due date for my fourth baby. My first thought was, “Yes! Maybe I’ll have this baby today.” Shortly thereafter my day began with various household chores—feeding the kids, getting dressed, tidying up the kitchen. During the course of the next few hours, I experienced more contractions, but they were very irregular. A few were 10 minutes apart and others were 45 minutes apart. I called my husband, who is a surgical resident, and gave him the update so he would be aware of what was going on at home. We both decided that he would continue work until things seemed more urgent.
At 10:30 A.M., I had a non-stress test scheduled at the outpatient clinic of the hospital because it was my due date. I packed my bags, secretly hoping that my contractions would become more regular at the hospital, and they would admit me for the labor and delivery. I dropped my kids off at my sister-in-law’s, Cynthia, home and warned her that I had experienced some mildly painful contractions that morning and perhaps might be admitted.
When I arrived for my non-stress test, my contractions seemed to halt. After sitting in the comfortable chair for 30 minutes, I only experienced one contraction. After the technician analyzed my results, she said she saw the contraction on the monitor and I had also had a few others, but because they showed no consistency in strength or duration, that was a sign that of classic ‘false labor.’
I disappointedly walked to my car, but as I reached the parking structure, I had another somewhat painful contraction. “Well,” I thought to myself, “I’ll kick myself if I get home then my labor really starts. I think I’ll go upstairs to Labor and Delivery and have them check me.”
I arrived at Labor and Delivery and they showed me back to the triage nurses. I explained to them that I had had uncomfortable contractions all morning, and was wondering if this was the beginning of labor. One nurse told me that I would be admitted for a L&D emergency visit, do a non-stress test, then they would have me change into a gown and check my cervix. “Oh, I just had a non-stress test,” I told them. “It seems silly to do another one again.” They told me that was the standard protocol, and one nurse mentioned that it sounded like all I really wanted was to be checked (that was exactly right!). She said she thought I was in false labor, and I should come back when my contractions were 5-7 minutes apart. She told me I could run down to the OB clinic and be checked by my regular doctor, but as I passed the floor where the clinic was I felt silly because I had just been told by a technician and 2 nurses that I was in false labor. I didn’t want to make my doctor miss lunch or the other patients have to wait longer because of my paranoia. It was now about 11:45 A.M.
I picked up lunch, picked up the kids, and headed home—somewhat sadly, I might add (I really wanted this to be the day!). I put my 2 year old down for a nap at around 1:00 P.M. From 1:00 P.M. to 2:00 P.M., I read stories with my 6-year-old twins and helped my son make a model airplane. I had one contraction during that hour. Then, at 2:00, I told the kids I needed a nap, so we headed to the bed with the portable DVD player—the kids watched a movie and I laid down to sleep. During the next hour, I had three contractions (just after 2:00, then 2:25, then 2:50) that were 25 minutes apart. The last contraction really woke me up—it hurt! I got out of bed and walked around my back patio for a bit.
At around 3:00 P.M., I called my husband. He said he had two more cases for the day that would be pretty short. I let him know my last contraction was pretty painful, but that they were still spaced so far apart that I didn’t think we needed to be in a hurry. We both decided he should scrub in for one more case and call me in about an hour when it was done.
I then walked into the house and did some tidying up. At about 3:10 or so, I had another really painful contraction, then 10 minutes later I had another one. At this point, with the contractions coming quicker and with definite force, I decided it was time to round up the kids and take them back to my sister-in-law’s home. I told the twins to gather their things, put their shoes on, and go to the car. They obeyed and ran out to the car to wait. I called my husband and left a message with the O.R. circulator that I was taking the kids to his brother’s house. It was now about 3:25-3:30-ish. When my husband got that message, he said he excused himself from the case-after all, he had just spoken to me 20 minutes before and now my story had changed.
Shortly after I left a message with my husband (about 5 minutes or so, around 3:35), I experienced another whopping contraction (I’d say about as intense as right before I asked for an epidural with my last pregnancy). I then paged my husband with the subject line: 9-1-1. This is our code for , ‘call me now, I really need to talk ASAP.’ My husband says that when he got this page, he was gathering things up from his locker, but when he saw 9-1-1 he threw everything back in and ran out to the parking garage.
At this point, I didn’t think I should be driving on the freeway, so I called my good friend, Liz. I told her that I was planning to take the kids to my sister-in-law’s home, but had just experienced some intense contractions and didn’t think it was wise to drive on the freeway. I asked her if I could bring the kids up to her house. She said, “Of course,” and even tried to say she’d come to my house. . . .”No, no,” was my reply, “I’m sure it will be fine to drive up the few streets to your house.” Then, I began another contraction—a big one—and told Liz I needed to hang up because I couldn’t talk. I hung up, muscled through this contraction and dialed Liz right back. “Liz,” I announced, “that was a really big one (contraction. I think maybe you better come down here. Maybe I shouldn’t be driving at all.” Liz says her phone recorded this call just after 3:40 P.M.
During the course of my conversations with Liz, my husband was frantically trying to reach me—remember he had just gotten the 9-1-1 page from me. He tried over and over. The line was busy—I was talking to Liz. Finally, he dialed my cell phone. Luckily, I had left the phone in the car—and my 6-year-old daughter answered it. She was instructed by her Dad to go inside and find mom so he could talk to her.
At this point, things really began happening quickly. Right after I hung up with Liz, I was in the bedroom and another contraction hit. The best way I can describe it is as one of the most painful things I had ever felt—and it took me by surprise. I put my hands on the dresser, and screamed out it pain!! I thought this was just another contraction, but it didn’t seem to be ending. The thought came to me that maybe I needed to use the bathroom, so I hobbled around the corner and sat down, but still-no relief. Just as I sat down, my daughter entered the bathroom with the cell phone. She told me Dad was on the line and wanted to talk to me. “No! I can’t talk,” I blurted out.
“Dad wants to know if he should call 911,” she said.
“I don’t know,” was my reply. I still thought this contraction was going to end!
My daughter then answered a few questions from her Dad (where is mommy? Is there blood on the ground?), and then once again my daughter said, “Dad wants to know if he should call 9-1-1.
“Yes!” I finally screamed. This contraction was not ending, and now I felt the urge to push. My mind told me that having to push during a contraction meant the end was coming but I still held onto the hope that this pain would end soon. But, I couldn’t hold off. I pushed. As I did, my water broke. ‘Good,’ I thought, ‘now this contraction will end.’ (my last labor began with a contraction that broke my water. But that labor had ended with a delivery 8 hours later).
Much to my dismay, the urge to push did not leave me—and neither did the pain. At this point I reached in between my legs and, lo and behold, there was a head-crowning. It was then that I knew I was actually about to deliver my baby at home. I reached down again, and this time I also processed that the baby’s cord was on top of his head- a prolapsed cord! In my mind flashed a cartoon image from a First Responders Course I had taken from the Red Cross. It was a cartoon image of a woman giving birth with a cord coming out first- the image was framed in a circle with a big “X” over the top. I knew at this point that I had to push this baby out fast because every minute longer was a minute he was going without oxygen.
I asked my daughter to grab some towels for me. She did, and obediently went back out to the car to wait. I whipped off my bottoms and got down on the bathroom floor on all fours. I tried to feel the contractions and push with them. I was also racking my brain with breathing techniques ‘Oh, yeah, don’t hold your breath,’ I told myself. After a few pushes I felt that the head was beginning to come out.
While I was on all fours, the phone rang. Although the phone was just on the countertop, I was too overcome to get it. The answering machine picked up,” Hello, Camilla. This is Salt Lake City Fire Department. I just wanted you to know that EMS is on their way. If you could pick up the phone, I would love to talk to you. I’m going to wait here for a minute, then I will call back.” That phone call was very comforting, but I still didn’t know if I would be delivering this baby all by myself or not.
Then, I heard Liz outside. “Liz,” I screamed, “Get in here! I am crowning!” Liz walked in the door and was greeted with a scene she probably wouldn’t have been expecting in her wildest dreams! A pregnant lady on all fours, GIVING BIRTH! Liz quickly dialed 9-1-1 on her cell phone and as she did, the phone rang again. I told her that it was probably 9-1-1 and she should answer it. She did. She listened for a moment, and I heard her tell the woman on the line that she could see a head. “Camilla,” she said, “they are telling me that you need to turn over on your back.”
“I can’t,” I whined. I just thought it would be too hard with a head in between my legs, not to mention the contractions I was having. The woman on the line told Liz to ask me if I wanted to move to the bed. Liz knew I wasn’t moving anywhere, but she ran to the bedroom to grab a blanket. As she did, I gathered up the courage to turn over like I was told. Liz came around the corner and helped me. Then she moved to my feet where she could help me.
After a push or two on my back, I had pushed out the baby’s head. I heard Liz say, “I see his face. His head is purple,” This scared me. I told Liz that I was going to push out the body and I needed her to pull. I pushed. Nothing happened. “Liz,” I said,”I need you to pull harder.”
Then Liz got her hands up around the baby’s head and shoulder. I pushed and she pulled. She said she sort of wriggled the baby’s head and body out and then he was born! I felt such relief at this point. But again Liz said, “He is purple and not breathing or crying.” I told Liz there was a bulb syringe on the dresser in the baby’s room, and she should give me the baby. I grabbed the baby while she got the syringe. He was pretty purple. I slapped his back and tried to remove any goo from his mouth with my finger. He started gurgling slowly, but no crying yet. Liz returned with the syringe and went to work.
Then EMS arrived and took over for Liz. Very slowly, the baby started making more noise. They cut the cord and asked for some blankets to warm him. I told them where the blankets were. Then my husband came running in, the hallway was crowded with four EMS guys, and no one saw him. He cleared his throat and announced, “I am the Dad and a physician. Can I please get past?” He came into the bathroom and checked me out. He asked about my bleeding, and the man that was helping me said that there wasn’t too much blood. My husband then felt confident that I was going to be okay. He turned to the man holding the baby and helped wrap the baby in blankets. This man informed him that the ambulance had been heated up and they had oxygen in there. My husband said, “Let’s go then.” I am told that after several good slaps and some oxygen that my baby cried, pinked up, and seemed no worse for the wear.
I was shaken and didn’t know what to expect with the placenta. I asked if I needed to push it out. EMS informed me that I could if I felt like it, but didn’t need to worry. They then lifted me up on a chair and moved me to a stretcher. I was then whisked out of the house and to the ambulance. I was greeted by the many neighbors who walked down the street to see what the commotion was all about—totally embarrassing! I delivered the placenta in the ambulance, in my own salad bowl of all things! When I arrived at the hospital, they stitched me up and gave me some much-wished-for narcotics.
Camilla, Baby Reed and Liz
I thank my Heavenly Father for granting me clarity of mind and several perfectly timed things happening during this ordeal; my great friend showing up in the nick of time, my ability to remember where the bulb syringe was placed, my six-year-old daughter answering the phone which was ‘accidentally’ left in the car, the hasty arrival of EMS and my dear husband getting home as quick as possible! All’s well that ends well, right?
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