You are my hero!


Just
when you think you’ve seen it all, the universe sends you a new one. And this
one was a whopper!

It was exactly 10 days past her due date. I wasn’t worried. Baby obviously
wasn’t worried. Our mama wasn’t worried. She knew babies come when they are
ready. But boy, were the midwives worried. They had already resorted to scare
tactics by telling Zala the statistics on stillbirths and post-due
babies. Right, I thought. Exactly what she needs just
now. 

So now Zala
was becoming less confident by the minute.  She considered using castor
oil, tried long walks, and then agreed to let the midwife she was seeing strip
her membranes–twice. That is done by sweeping a finger around the baby’s head
inside the cervix. The water isn’t broken, it is just manipulated a bit, just
enough to get things rolling, usually. It often sends a signal to the uterus to
begin labor. It didn’t do anything in this case. Another day went by.

Then on day 12, a gorgeous Saturday morning, I got a text at 10 a.m.:
“Contractions 5 minutes apart. Meet us at the birth center.”

I was so excited. Even after 30-plus years I still get excited. I texted back:
“On the way! Happy birth day!” I was actually ecstatic because I
thought my grandson’s birth had been my last-ever birth two years earlier. I
had retired due to health issues; paramount was my loss of over 90 decibels of
hearing. I was diagnosed with Meniere’s which not only destroys hearing but
also affects one’s balance and equilibrium. I could no longer only not hear my
clients but could fall over at any time without warning besides. Broken ribs
and a fractured leg proved my point.

On the way to the birth center I got another text: “Water broke. Birth
center won’t be open until 12:30.” Since when do birth centers have
hours? Really? I couldn’t believe this.

When I got there I rang the doorbell over and over again. There really
won’t be anyone here until 12:30? That is over an hour from now. Are you
kidding me? 
I went from being incredulous to being angry. What
the f&#@! 
I still could not believe it.

Finally the door opened. The lady apologized, “I am so sorry. I am just
the cleaning lady.” I told her she isn’t just the
cleaning lady. We couldn’t do this without her!

She let me in and I asked if there really would not be anyone in until 12:30.
She confirmed that.
I could
not wrap my brain around this one. What do I do now? Well, I do what I have
always done when I find myself in hot water: I brainstorm all my options and
all the possible scenarios.
I
decided I would go to the couple’s home and catch the baby there if I needed
to. But I’d retired from midwifery close to 10 years ago now. I didn’t have a
birth kit with me. I didn’t have anything.

I told the cleaning lady that I am thinking I should “borrow” some
supplies from the center and go to the couple’s house and hang out there until
the center opened. She agreed (I would have stolen the goods even if she had disagreed,) so I went into the first birthing room along the
hallway and ransacked the drawers. I opened up my shawl and started dumping
things into it: sterile instrument pack, cord clamps, gloves, bulb syringe,
etc. I wrapped it up and made a bee-line for my car parked out front. It crossed
my mind that I might end up in jail by the end of this day, but I didn’t care.
It wouldn’t be the first time. And that was not for delivering a baby.

It was back during the notorious 1960s when I was hitch hiking with friends
along the West Coast.
We’d
made it as far as Eugene, Oregon from San Francisco when we were arrested.
Literally. Hitch hiking is illegal in Oregon. Who knew? We were put in jail,
literally. Although I was only 16 at the time, they didn’t buy my story. They
laughed when I told them I was a minor. So I spent the night in jail. I chocked
the experience up to “education.” The other time I was arrested was a
year before the hitch hiking fiasco while protesting the Vietnam War at
Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, New York City. I was allegedly
defacing city property by painting peace signs on the cobblestones, even though
it was water-based acrylic paint. Yes, the ’60s were an exciting time.
But
back to this birth which was close to fifty years after the arrests. (I have
managed to avoid prison time since then.) So I raced to the couples’ house 12
minutes away from the birth center with the loot wrapped up in my scarf on the
passenger seat. I ran a red light, too, which I have never done before. A
65-year-old rogue. A miscreant grandma. What had I become? The thought crossed
my mind, I wonder if they have a vegetarian option in prison these
days? 

When I
got to the house Zala was dealing well with the contractions (being called
‘rushes’ now,)
walking
around the house, puffing away, holding up the wall when a rush built up again.
I didn’t think we were at transition just yet. Her breathing didn’t sound like
we were. You get used to that sound if you hear it enough times.

I asked if she felt ‘pushy’ yet, which she didn’t, though I expected to hear
that tell-tale sign sooner than later. I encouraged her to keep drinking juices
and rest when she could.

Finally
we got to 12:00 p.m. without a baby appearing so we all agreed to go to the
birth center, where they quickly got Zala in a room and checked on her
progress. 5 centimeters. YAY! 

Contractions
slowed down, allowing her to rest and eat something. Then they all but petered
out. The midwives started getting anxious. Walking didn’t help. Nothing helped,
so we waited, and waited…and waited. Finally, about supper time, they
suggested that for some unknown reason, she just might need a bit of help
getting things going, like with Pitocin, which they couldn’t offer at the
clinic but she could get at the hospital. The couple were pretty deflated by
that, to say the least, but I explained that if it worked, got the rushes
coming again, they could turn off the dose completely and we could proceed with
a natural birth. I also told them that they could still have a midwife and we would also still honor their wishes as outlined in their birth plan. (And I had
visions of a home birth only hours earlier.)


They liked that, though it was not what they had expected. I assured them that
they would be respected and not be bullied into all sorts of interventions.
This hospital had some great midwives that I’d worked with in the past and I
told them that we all still wanted the best for them and their baby. 

We got settled in and the new midwife checked Zala. 4 centimeters. What
is going on here?
 I thought to myself. I haven’t seen anything
like this in a very long time. 
I didn’t want to alarm anyone, so I
tried to stay positive and very patient. A major change during labor, like
moving to a different place could definitely slow things down. Except 10 hours
later, she was still at 4 centimeters. We had tried everything. Walking,
resting with a peanut ball between her knees, more walking, lunges which often
help baby engage in the pelvis. The midwives were concerned that the baby had
not properly engaged in her pelvis. She remained so high and felt like she
was in an
 asynclitic presentation. 
Below, everything you’ve always wanted to know
about 
asynclitic presentation but were afraid
to ask, from the Spinning Babies website, 
https://spinningbabies.com

A
synclitism
refers to the 
position of a fetus in the
uterus such that the head of the 
baby is presenting first and is tilted to the
shoulder. 
Asynclitism
means asymmetrical. It’s when a baby’s head is tipped towards one shoulder. The
tipped head has a harder time passing through the narrow part of the pelvis,
the ischial spines. 
Labor becomes
longer, and sometimes baby doesn’t fit out the pelvis. Happily, we have
techniques for this problem!
The baby who
is asynclitic after engagement is at a disadvantage. Soften and balance then
get upright for stronger and more effective surges to bring baby down.
Early
in labor, the baby’s head enters the brim of the pelvis in asynclitism, tipped,
to get around the protruding base of the spine (sacral promontory). Early in
labor, before 3 cm, asynclitism is normal and desired.
Normal asynclitism
helps baby engage by navigating the sacral promontory.

At 3
cm, when the nurse checks the cervix, she’ll notice that the baby’s head is
closer to the mother’s front (usually). There is space between the baby’s head
and the mother’s sacrum in back. We are reassured, as long as the forehead
doesn’t overlap the pubic bone (in which case, we help the baby engage in labor).

Normal
posterior asynclitism – this just means baby’s head now tips below the sacral
promontory.
By 4-5
cm, the head has usually filled in the space in the pelvis evenly.  There
will be more room in the back, but the side to side angles of the head match.
The head has become symmetrical inside the pelvic canal. The head is synclitic.
Now baby is
synclitic and about to rotate on the pelvic floor (not shown) See the “seam” or
suture of baby’s skull bones in the transverse diameter. First time Zala is
about 5 cm now.
Asynclitism
becomes a problem when the head is still tipped at, and after, 5 cm dilation.
Discovering asynclitism in labor
The
nurse, doctor, or midwife may notice the asynclitism during a vaginal exam.
The
cervix will be thicker on one side and thinner on the other side (NOTE: thicker
in front is normal, in my experience, and I don’t worry too much about that).
The baby’s head will seem a little lower and closer to the bones on the thin
side. The baby’s head will seem to angle away, deeper into the pelvis and less
close to the mother’s bones on the thick side. The nurse will have to think about
it, so ask her to check for this before or during the vaginal exam.
The baby’s
head is asynclitic. On one side there is more head coming down, and less
cervix. On the other side there is more cervix but less head. I’m not talking
front to back, but rather, side-to-side.
Labor with an asynclitic baby
If the
bag of water releases suddenly with a strong contraction, there is a
possibility that the baby’s head comes down to the mid-pelvis while still
asynclitic. Asynclitism may be caused by a hand near the face, or if muscles
are imbalanced a twist in the lower uterine segment, causing the baby to twist
to fit the area. More typically, the pelvic floor is asymmetrical and so the
head gets tipped as it is pressed down with strong contractions on the uneven
edges of the opening to the pelvic floor.
Labor is
often longer. Sometimes the labor pattern is a fast dilation to about 8 cm and
then slow to get to 10 cm. Other times, when a hand is up, things may be slow
throughout dilation. Pushing tends to go very slow – the baby can’t help get
born in this position. The head is angled wide and the baby can’t wiggle down
because the neck isn’t lined up with the spine. Zala has to do the work.
Dilation
often takes longer and there can be a delay in progress at about 8-9 cm or 9
1/2 centimeters for many hours.
A
mother may feel pain to one side. She may have significant pain in one hip. Hip
pain may also be from one of the baby’s arms being up along the head or a spasm
in the muscles within the broad ligament.
Contractions
are often strong throughout, unlike the ebb and surge of a posterior labor
(though that can happen, too).
Longer second stages
It not unusual
for second stage to last 3-6 hours when the head is tipped. I’ve also attended
first-time mothers with second stages 2 and 3 times longer than this.
The
baby can develop a caput. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the baby won’t
fit. Often, the baby requires the mother to change position frequently (maternal positioning)
to open the pelvis. Spinning Babies pays attention to the “soft tissue” anatomy
(muscles, fascia, ligaments) in the midpelvis and muscles to the pelvis.
What should I do for Asynclitism?
·      
Do
the Pelvic Floor Release (Side
lying Release)
·      
Follow
with the lunge (the lunge will work
better after the pelvic floor/sidelying release)
·      
Doing the Dangle should follow the
Pelvic Floor Release and the lunge.
·      
Sometimes
resting and not pushing at all through 2-5 contractions helps molding. Rest in
Rest Smart position.
·      
Vertical
positions, such as standing and slightly bending the knees during a surge
·      
Stand
with one foot on a stool
·      
Sit on
the toilet with one foot on a stool and the other foot on the floor
·      
Pulling
on a towel or rebozo during pushing contractions
·      
“Shake the apple tree” by
shaking the mother’s buttocks in the same speed you would shake a branch to
make a ripe apple fall
·      
Keep
moving during a contraction (it’s ok to rest, but don’t “freeze” your body with
tension)
Eating
small amounts and drinking warm honey tea helps keep labor contractions strong
enough to keep moving the baby.
Lying
down in one position is not likely to allow the baby to descend further
downward. Very specific and persistent techniques are often necessary.
As long
as we are talking about what to do, please look into craniosacral therapy and
pediatric chiropractic for baby after birth. They should know the special
techniques for babies. This can be very helpful with the breastfeeding latch.
 Asynclitism
means asymmetrical. It’s when a baby’s head is tipped towards one shoulder. The
tipped head has a harder time passing through the narrow part of the pelvis,
the ischial spines. Labor becomes longer, and sometimes baby doesn’t
fit out the pelvis. Happily, we have techniques for this problem!
The baby who
is asynclitic after engagement is at a disadvantage. Soften and balance then
get upright for stronger and more effective surges to bring baby down.
Early
in labor, the baby’s head enters the brim of the pelvis in asynclitism, tipped,
to get around the protruding base of the spine (sacral promontory). Early in
labor, before 3 cm, asynclitism is normal and desired.
Normal
asynclitism helps baby engage by navigating the sacral promontory.
At 3
cm, when the nurse checks the cervix, she’ll notice that the baby’s head is
closer to the mother’s front (usually). There is space between the baby’s head
and the mother’s sacrum in back. We are reassured, as long as the forehead
doesn’t overlap the pubic bone (in which case, we help the baby engage in labor).


Normal
posterior asynclitism – this just means baby’s head now tips below the sacral
promontory.
By 4-5
cm, the head has usually filled in the space in the pelvis evenly.  There
will be more room in the back, but the side to side angles of the head match.
The head has become symmetrical inside the pelvic canal. The head is synclitic.
Now baby is
synclitic and about to rotate on the pelvic floor (not shown) See the “seam” or
suture of baby’s skull bones in the transverse diameter. First time Zala is
about 5 cm now.
Asynclitism
becomes a problem when the head is still tipped at, and after, 5 cm dilation.
Discovering asynclitism in labor
The
nurse, doctor, or midwife may notice the asynclitism during a vaginal exam.
The
cervix will be thicker on one side and thinner on the other side (NOTE: thicker
in front is normal, in my experience, and I don’t worry too much about that).
The baby’s head will seem a little lower and closer to the bones on the thin
side. The baby’s head will seem to angle away, deeper into the pelvis and less
close to the mother’s bones on the thick side. The nurse will have to think about
it, so ask her to check for this before or during the vaginal exam.

The baby’s
head is asynclitic. On one side there is more head coming down, and less
cervix. On the other side there is more cervix but less head. I’m not talking
front to back, but rather, side-to-side.

Labor with an asynclitic baby
If the
bag of water releases suddenly with a strong contraction, there is a
possibility that the baby’s head comes down to the mid-pelvis while still
asynclitic. Asynclitism may be caused by a hand near the face, or if muscles
are imbalanced,  a twist in the lower uterine segment, causing the baby to
twist to fit the area. More typically, the pelvic floor is asymmetrical and so
the head gets tipped as it is pressed down with strong contractions on the
uneven edges of the opening to the pelvic floor.
Labor is
often longer. Sometimes the labor pattern is a fast dilation to about 8 cm and
then slow to get to 10 cm. Other times, when a hand is up, things may be slow
throughout dilation. Pushing tends to go very slow – the baby can’t help get
born in this position. The head is angled wide and the baby can’t wiggle down
because the neck isn’t lined up with the spine. Zala has to do the work.
Dilation
often takes longer and there can be a delay in progress at about 8-9 cm or 9
1/2 centimeters for many hours.
A
mother may feel pain to one side. She may have significant pain in one hip. Hip
pain may also be from one of the baby’s arms being up along the head or a spasm
in the muscles within the broad ligament.
Contractions
are often strong throughout, unlike the ebb and surge of a posterior labor
(though that can happen, too).
Longer second stages
It not
unusual for second stage to last 3-6 hours when the head is tipped. I’ve also
attended first-time mothers with second stages 2 and 3 times longer than this.
The
baby can develop a caput. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the baby won’t
fit. Often, the baby requires the mother to change position frequently (maternal positioning)
to open the pelvis. Spinning Babies pays attention to the “soft tissue” anatomy
(muscles, fascia, ligaments) in the mid-pelvis and muscles to the pelvis.
What should I do for Asynclitism?
·      
Do
the Pelvic Floor Release (Side
lying Release)
·      
Follow
with the lunge (the lunge will work
better after the pelvic floor/side lying release)
·      
Doing the Dangle should follow the
Pelvic Floor Release and the lunge.
·      
Sometimes
resting and not pushing at all through 2-5 contractions helps molding. Rest in
Rest Smart position.
·      
Vertical
positions, such as standing and slightly bending the knees during a surge
·      
Stand
with one foot on a stool
·      
Sit on
the toilet with one foot on a stool and the other foot on the floor
·      
Pulling
on a towel or rebozo during pushing contractions
·      
“Shake the apple tree” by
shaking the mother’s buttocks in the same speed you would shake a branch to
make a ripe apple fall
·      
Keep
moving during a contraction (it’s ok to rest, but don’t “freeze” your body with
tension)
Eating
small amounts and drinking warm honey tea helps keep labor contractions strong
enough to keep moving the baby.
Lying
down in one position is not likely to allow the baby to descend further
downward. Very specific and persistent techniques are often necessary.
As long
as we are talking about what to do, please look into craniosacral therapy and
pediatric chiropractic for baby after birth. They should know the special
techniques for babies. This can be very helpful with the breastfeeding
latch.  End of quoted text.

Added on December 12th:

We tried many of the above maneuvers, though nothing worked for long.
Her
midwife suggested an epidural at this point, her reasoning being that maybe
labor wasn’t progressing because Zala was so depleted. They had started an IV
so they could re-hydrate her, which made Zala feel so much better, but didn’t
restore the rushes or encourage dilation. I suggested that the epidural be
postponed which the midwife thought about for a moment and then agreed
with. I suggested that perhaps a short term drug like Fentanol might give
her the rest she needed without pulling out all the big guns, so to speak. After
this, the midwives and nurses included me in all their conversations, asking for my advice or
input along the way. As the couple’s advocate I often turned to them,
explaining what had been said and giving them full autonomy in the process.
This was paramount to me.
One nurse
in the room said that if she had known who I was she would have felt quite
intimidated by me; (the midwife had actually trained under me in a birthing
clinic in the city while she was still in school and knew about my book, Ma
Doula: A Story Tour of Birth
, and had obviously talked about it at the
nurses’ station.) This particular nurse however, had absolutely
impressed me with her brilliant knowledge of how to correct mal-presentations.
This was new to me. It was brilliant, groundbreaking stuff. I told her she
should publish this. 
When she said that she would have been intimidated by me, I couldn’t disagree
more: what she was doing in this hospital and teaching new methods of
correcting a mal-presentation actually blew me away. I was genuinely in awe of
this lady and I told her so. I had never seen anything like it and had a lot to
learn from her. Then I quoted something Ina May Gaskin once said, “If you meet
someone who knows more than you do, you just shut up and listen.” Exactly!
I might never have an opportunity like this again. One thing that she addressed
was the shape of Zala’s pelvis. 50% of African women have an Android pelvis
which could be what we were dealing with here. I had heard of this and had a bit of a guess that this was possible. 
So many women in Africa experience the horrific complications of this (when a C-section is not  available) that they not only loose the baby, but even if they themselves survive delivery, often their anatomy is compromised by a fistula and other damage and they are rendered incontinent. This becomes a permanent condition without surgery to correct it. see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93JdSmRqsNc


From another, reputable source:


The Android pelvis. It has a heart-shaped brim and is quite narrow in front.
This type of pelvis is likely to occur in tall women with narrow hips and is
also found in African women. The pelvic cavity and outlet is often narrow,
straight and long. The ischial spines are prominent. Women with this shape
pelvis may have babies that lie with their backs against their mothers’ backs
and may experience longer labors. It is important that these women take an
active role during their labor and need to squat and move around as much as
possible. 


The Gynaecoid or genuine female pelvis. It has an almost round brim and will
permit the passage of an average-sized baby with the least amount of trauma to
the mother and baby in normal circumstances. The pelvic cavity (the inside of
the pelvis) is usually shallow, with straight side walls and with the ischial
spines not so prominent as to cause a problem as the baby moves through. 


The Anthropoid pelvis. It has an oval brim and a slightly narrow pelvic cavity.
The outlet is large, although some of the other diameters may be reduced. If
the baby engages in the pelvis in an anterior position, labor would be expected
to be straightforward in most cases. 


The Platypelloid pelvis. It has a kidney-shaped brim and the pelvic cavity is
usually shallow and may be narrow in the antero-posterior (front to back)
diameter. The outlet is usually roomy. During labor the baby may have
difficulty entering the pelvis, but once in, there should be no further
difficulty.


Many women are concerned that their pelvic capacity may be limited and that
they will therefore have difficulty in giving birth. The true capacity of the
pelvis will only be realised during labour. Only the forces created by mother
and baby during birth will allow the pelvis to open to its full potential. This
may take some time, but it is the only true way of exploring the “fit” between
the mother and baby during birth. ~ end of quote on pelves (plural of
pelvises.) 

******
And
then Zala’s temperature started creeping up. And after that her blood pressure
crept up, though ever so slowly. And the baby’s heart rate soon followed suit. What
was going on here? Her urine was also pink at this point, though we knew she wasn’t dehydrated. No one could put
their finger on what was going on here. That’s when Zala mentioned that she
thought the amniotic fluid that continued to drip smelled funny to her. Smart
lady.
Bingo!
The next thing I knew, a special team showed up to both analyze the infection,
now being called sepsis, determine what kind it was, and isolate it or confine
it to this room only. This hospital is on the ball, I thought
to myself. 
From some articles on
sepsis explaining that the baby can get the infection from the mother before or
during delivery: The following increase an infant’s risk of early-onset
bacterial sepsis: GBS colonization during pregnancy, infection of the placenta
tissues and amniotic fluid; Neonatal sepsis can be caused by bacteria such as
Escherichia coli (E coli), Listeria, and some strains of streptococcus. Group B
streptococcus (GBS) has been a major cause of neonatal sepsis. However, this
problem has become less common because women are screened during pregnancy. The
herpes simplex virus (HSV) can also cause a severe infection in a newborn baby.
This happens most often when the mother is newly infected. Early-onset neonatal
sepsis most often appears within 24 to 48 hours of birth. The baby gets the
infection from the mother before or during delivery. The following increase an
infant’s risk of early-onset bacterial sepsis: GBS colonization during
pregnancy, preterm delivery, water breaking (rupture of membranes) longer than
18 hours before birth, infection of the placenta tissues and amniotic fluid
(chorioamnionitis,) etc. ~ end of article.

Without having the luxury of an instant diagnosis–the blood work could take
hours to get back–the midwives and now their consulting OB doctor laid out the
options which continued to dwindle by the minute. What it all came down to was:
A. we could wait for the labs to get back, but if they were positive, then baby
would have to go to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) immediately upon
delivery or, B. If baby was delivered now, s/he could stay with Zala and bond,
most likely be treated in the room with Zala, and not have to be separated. The
team would deal with the infection in the most appropriate way as the results
of the labs came in. At this point the surgeon came in and explained all this
to the couple. He did’t rush and I must say I have never seen such respect from
a doctor before. He could not have been kinder.

This was not a case of going to the hospital and having all the interventions
domino into a C-section. This couple could not have done anything differently
or better. The doctor explained that the uterus was fighting this freak
infection and couldn’t function normally by producing effective contractions
or appropriate dilation. Now we knew what we had been dealing with all along. It dawned
on me that if this couple were back in East Africa where they were born, the
odds of Zala and baby surviving were not good at all. They were just as good as nil. They might have become a WHO (World
Health Organization) 
statistic. 

Her doula, Isa, and Dad were given scrubs to put on and went into surgery with her. I could have gone in, though I would have bumped her doula who I knew needed as much experience as she could get and was only at the beginning of her career. I had seen dozens of Cesareans and as much as I wanted to see their baby being born, I didn’t want to take this away from Isa. 


Within an hour Zala was in recovery. We all sighed a huge sigh of relief and said our prayers of thanksgiving. I got to see the new little family in recovery. Daddy had baby on his bare chest. He was on cloud 9, totally smitten with his new baby girl who was peacefully sleeping. After a couple more days they could go home and start their new lives as parents.


Zala, you are my hero and I love you so much. All that pure love and energy to birth your child. Thank you for sharing that with me.
I count my blessings.

To leave comments at this blog, please email me at: ssskimchee@gmail.com


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