I wrote this piece several years back, but since it’s Sarah’s 36th birthday today and she now has delivered any number of babies as a physician, I think it’s time again for her rather tumultuous home birth story. Besides, it reminds me of how precious this little bundle was and is, my very first baby, and how lucky I have been to see her grow up and become not only a wonderful wife, mother and doctor, but also one of my favorite people in this world. Happy birthday, sweetie pie.
I was 29 when Sarah was born, which means that I was in the height of our antique dealing life, jumping on and off the back of our pickup as we loaded for Canton Trades Days, going to garage and estate sales and auctions, all in pursuit of merchandise to buy and sell.
Our midwife for this birth was named Fritzie and she had an office in Plano. We’d drive down and see her once a month and get the thumbs up on my healthy condition. I was right on target with weight gain and blood pressure and I didn’t have any edema or other signs that might suggest there were any problems. So, up we came to my due date and as is the case with many first babies, that date came and went. Then a week passed, and another, when suddenly I noticed that I was ur…leaking a bit…and I knew this was not from my bladder. A call to the midwife confirmed that we were indeed on our way, but since that was my water that I was feeling, but not a lot of it, then it was time to induce labor.
I remember feeling scared at the idea of going into labor. An experience I’d never had before and one that so much has been talked about. I had a book about birth around the house which I picked up on the day that Fritzie said I had to go buy the two Fleet enemas and the castor oil to “get this baby here by morning,” and the book mentioned British mothers delivering their babies in the dark during air raids during World War II. I remember thinking, “If they can do THAT, then surely I can do this,” so off I sent to the grocery store to get those supplies.
Well, Fritzie was absolutely right about having a baby by morning. In the middle of the night, I was in full blown labor and Fritzie was on her way. She arrived with her little midwife’s bag and was so calm and competent that all I had to do was relax and have the baby. I remember asking her, “But if we have a complication, what will you do?” Her response was, “We’ll get you to a hospital, but, don’t worry, I have never sent a mother to the hospital in distress.” That sounded reassuring to me.
My labor was short considering it was a first baby and only 6 or 7 hours from the first pain, I was pushing. My friend Patricia was there and Ray, of course, and Patricia took pictures as little Sarah’s head popped out. Sarah looked around the room, body still in the birth canal, and said, “Ah uh.” The rest of her arrived forthwith and she was placed on my breast immediately for me to nurse. Of course, this was that wonderful bonding moment that all mother’s long to have.
Except right after this, I started hemorrhaging, which was evident by blood soaking the sheets. Fritzie, ever calm, explained that my placenta had not yet delivered and was still attached to my uterine wall, where it was still connected to blood vessels. More blood arrived and Patricia took the baby as Fritzie kneaded my abdomen, trying to stimulate the natural separation of the placenta. But it didn’t work and more blood poured out. Fritzie gave me a shot of Pitocin to stimulate labor – and detachment – but it didn’t work. More blood. At this point, she said words no new mother – or old mother for that matter – wants to hear: “I have to reach up inside you and manually detach this placenta. Otherwise, you’re going to lose too much blood.” Yikes. This was about the LAST thing I wanted anybody to do since that tender area had just delivered an almost 7-pound baby. But without further adieu, Fritzie reached up and in, sending me almost to the ceiling. She said the part of the placenta still adhering to the wall was about the size of a quarter and it peeled off naturally just as she was about to do so manually.
Ray looked dazed as he watched everything that was happening. We’d been up all night and here it was early morning. He said he kept thinking, “Oh my god. I’m going to have to raise this baby by myself.” He said he wasn’t sad. He felt numb.
As for me, I was lying on the bed feeling more and more relaxed and comfortable and realized that this must be what it’s like to slowly be dying. I didn’t feel stressed or sad. It was as though I was watching everything that was happening from up above. If this was dying, then it wasn’t so bad.
By this point, I had lost so much blood that I was fading. I told Fritzie so and she slapped me hard across the face. “You will not fade!”
I came back around and she immediately gave me an IV with fluids. She also inserted a catheter since I had tried to get up to go to the bathroom and was dizzy and faint.
Fritzie kept checking my blood pressure and my pulse. She had already determined that the hemorrhaging had stopped. I lay there watching, so peaceful and calm. My arms as heavy as wet beach towels.
Patricia changed Sarah’s first diaper. I was regretful I missed that. She brought her back to me so she could nurse. I lay there quiet with the baby at my breast.
Fritzie stayed an extra two hours to verify that I was completely stable. Grandparents all arrived and saw me hooked up to an IV, but no one asked why I was receiving extra fluids. None of us mentioned the complication we’d just gone through. We knew the grandparents didn’t need to know how close we’d come to a disaster.
Just before Fritzie left, I thanked her for opening a medical practice on the scene. She smiled and said, “I told you I’ve never taken a woman to the hospital in distress.” I nodded. I could see how she had avoided that. But then she leaned over and said, “But you should know that I was giving you 2 more minutes and we were going to call an ambulance.”
I was literally – and I do mean literally – a faint green for a couple of months. I was also anemic and had to take iron supplements. But two days after the birth, Ray took Sarah and me to see Fritzie at her office in Plano. I hopped up on the examining table and lay down. She smiled. “If you’d had an episiotomy, you wouldn’t be hopping.” I knew she meant if I had gone the traditional hospital route, which included a routine episiotomy, I wouldn’t be up and about like I already was, even with my odd shade of green.
Even with Sarah’s birth, I elected to have my other children at home as well. Those WWII British moms were to blame. If I hadn’t had them as role models, I might have high-tailed it to the hospital shortly after we started.
The best news, of course, is that this event brought me sweet Sarah, who is special beyond words. So, whatever it took to get her here was worth it. How grateful I am for this fine girl.
Sarah and Her Family, Easter, 2018