Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Long-Awaited Birth Story of Malachi Justice Allen Grasty

I actually wrote this from the hospital, the day after Malachi was born. In the interest of being authentic, I haven't made any edits. These are, for the most part, the facts, not the feelings of the June 2nd, 2010, the day our beautiful son was born.

I wanted to write out the birth story while it is still fresh in my mind, for me, for Malachi, and for those who love us and are interested in our lives. I know there are those who are curious about what happened, especially how the home part of it went, and how it turned into a c-section after a planned home birth.

I went into labor around 4:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning, June 2nd. I hadn't slept at all, though I had tried. I'd had a long nap that ended around 2:30 in afternoon that day, because I hadn't slept at all the night before either. Less than an hour after the contractions started, I knew that this was our day. I called Alicia (my midwife) and she and the birth team were there by around 7:30, I think. I labored in different positions while the birth pool was filling. They measured me late morning, and I asked not to be told since I didn't want it to change my perception of how long it would continue. I believe I was at 6 or 7 at that time.

I kept laboring. Got in the pool. It was hard. But I knew I was doing it. The birth team was so supportive. My husband was amazing. I couldn't believe how much it helped just to have him there by my side, looking in my eyes and telling me "You're doing it!" My midwives and doula were so helpful to help me manage the pain. Everything was going great, even though it was the hardest thing I've ever done. The only problem was I wasn't keeping down solids or liquids. Literally every ounce I drank came back up.

By early afternoon, I was dilated to 9. I got excited. I knew the hardest part was almost over and I was going to push this baby out in just a matter of time. Joshua and I jumped in the shower b/c the birth pool needed to be refilled (I had vomited in it. Oops.) We laughed and cried in the shower over our little boy that we would meet so soon. I held on to him during contractions. But the limited space wasn't giving me enough options for birth positions.

I got back in the refilled birthing pool. Knowing that this would be over pretty soon, I had someone call my girlfriends, Ingrid, Kim, and Heather to let them know they could come watch a baby being born this afternoon. We were that close. I was just waiting to feel that urge to push. And it started to come. And it came and it went, not that strong, just a little pushy. I kept contracting. It hurt so bad, but I knew I could do it. For some reason, I HAD to take a drink toward the end of every. single. contraction, or I would vomit. And if I took the drink too late, there my water, or sports drink or whatever, would go, ounces and ounces of precious fluid--energy that I needed to finish this. It went on like this for hours. I got more and more tired, and nothing was staying down.

I started to lose energy. Finally, somewhere around 8:30 p.m. (I learned later), I threw up again. Probably 36 ounces of energy, down the drain. I knew there was a problem. Why couldn't I keep anything down? I didn't know what time it was, but I knew it had been a long time. Why had I been dilated to 9 for so long without any further progress. When Alicia came into the room, I said something along the lines of, "I'm really concerned about the vomiting. This is really not good. I think I need an IV," She said she agreed, and was just coming in to convince me (she thought) that it was time to go to the hospital. She didn't go into details at the moment, but said the vomiting, the lack of progress after hours at 9 cm, and a couple other things, were all indications of a problem. I said, "Okay, I want to be gone in 5 minutes."

She called the hospital to let them know to expect us. They rushed us up to a room. I knew that things were going to change, and whatever happened, it would not be a natural birth from here on out. I was okay with that because I knew it was what needed to happen. I was pretty low on energy, and out of it, but I recall that I agreed to the IV. I threw up. I agreed to nausea medicine. We did an ultrasound and discovered that Malachi was in an occiput transverse position (if I recall correctly), and that was the cause of the failure to progress past nine centimeters. I agreed to an epidural so that the doctor could literally stick his hand inside and manually try to turn him. If it worked, I could still possibly deliver vaginally. The procedure was unsucessful. Where some babies heads have room to move, his head seemed almost stuck in that position. My midwife was surprised the doctor was able to move him at all, but even the small amount that he shifted was not enough to make a difference. So my options were:

A) Continue to labor with the epidural for an hour or two more to see if he would move. If he didn't shift, I would need a c-section.

B) Do an internal fetal monitor to check the strength of my contractions. If they weren't strong enough, take some pitocin to get him to shift. If he didn't shift, I would need a c-section.

C) Go ahead and get a c-section.

We decided on Option C. The reasons were that a) I had already been pushing with strong, hard contractions for hours. My midwife believed that my contractions were strong and hard and yet had not cause him to shift all day. It seemed unlikely that an hour or two more would help, especially since the doc couldn't even move it. B) I was concerned about the possible complcations of pitocin. Malachi could go into fetal distress, the c-section would become much more urgent, and there coul be delay in having him with us, a delay in breastfeeding, breathing problems, etc., and I really didn't want that. C) If A or B didn't work, which was likely, C was our only option anyway. I felt that I was ready to be done with this. After 17 hours of labor (before medicine), I was ready to hold my baby.

I didn't feel upset. Or pressured. Or disappointed. I just felt it was the decision that needed to be made, based on the circumstances.

So we did it. All the drugs messed me up. I don't know if they were normal side effects or what, but man, I was out of it. I felt almost paranoid, not about the surgery, but just about how weird I felt. I'm sure that was a side effect. I was not alert at all. When they showed Malachi to me, I couldn't really take it in. I saw Joshua holding him, and felt so incredibly fuzzy and tried tried tried to stay awake to look at him but just felt confused and sort of other-worldly, and a sense of not-rightness that they were over there, and I was over here in a fog. I couldn't feel happy. I was too drugged. I remember feeling concerned about him eating. What would they do if I couldn't feed him because of my state? I remember desperate, disconnected thoughts going through my head that I had to tell Joshua to make sure Malachi got to breastfeed tonight, even if he had to hold him to my breast. And I remember fuzzily reassuring myself that I didn't need to tell Joshua these things, he already knew, and I could trust him to do what was best for Malachi.

When they woke me to take me to my room, they handed him to me and I was concerned that he would fall out of the bed. I couldn't barely hold him. And then we were in our room, and he ate. And I slept. I fed him again. And in the morning, I really saw him for the first time. He was beautiful.

That's where I stopped writing. It was the middle of the night, and I was exhausted. I didn't anticipate that it would be seven weeks until I felt ready to come back to this story. Since then I've been able to recall more details about that day.

I remember being surprised that he didn't look like a fresh from the womb baby. He wasn't red and puffy. He looked a week old. I remember feeling relieved that he was so beautiful. I really expected to look at him and see both of us in his features, and I didn't at all. It took a few days to see us in him.

I remember feeling so disconnected from Malachi, and disoriented. I had expected to feel an immediate connection, like I already knew him. That's the way my mom describes the moment she saw me for the first time. But it wasn't like that at all. I kept asking myself, "Is this love that I feel?" It felt less like love to me than responsibility, or ownership. Looking back, my feelings seem so normal. Considering the circumstances, I don't know how I could have felt differently. I was so out of it and incredibly tired. As OB after Pediatrician after nurse came in and out of the room, for what seemed like all day, I would literally fall asleep between their questions.

It took a few days to feel a strong connection to Malachi and I felt guilty about that. That feeling made me feel very regretful that he had been born by c-section. Not that there really was a connection, but in my mind there was. I believed that if he had been birthed from my body, instead of surgically removed...If I had felt him crown with my fingers, seen his head being born, and pushed his body out of mine...If I hadn't been handed my baby two hours later, still so drugged that I had to struggle to keep my eyes open on one of the most significant days of my life...If he had been caught by the four hands of his mother and father, his new family, the people who he will share life with and who will love him best...If his slippery little new born body had been placed on my chest fresh from the womb...If we had both been alert, our bodies and minds unaltered by medicine...If those things had happened, then I would have felt the connection I had anticipated, I thought.

But over the next few days, the hours that we spent together, me getting to know him and learning to provide for his needs and feed him, through pain and fatigue, and him learning how to eat and breath and live in the world with me by his side, bonded us together. We learned together. And my love for him grew so fast and deep that it overwhelms me at times.

And now, seven weeks later, the rough beginning that we had doesn't matter in the same way. I don't regret the decisions we made. It was the best decision under the circumstances. But I regret that it had to happen that way. I wish Malachi had been in a better position in the womb. I wish that I had been able to keep my food and fluids down so that I could have possibly labored for a few more hours. I wish that I had been well-rested. But since those things didn't happen, I am thankful. We needed the hospital. We needed a c-section. We were one of the exceptions to the rule.

People are all the time saying that it doesn't matter how he got here, all that matters is that we got our baby, and that we are both healthy. I appreciate what my midwife told me. To loosely parephrase, "It does matter. You can be thankful that you have a healthy baby, but you can also be sad about the how you got the baby. When you lose something that was special to you, it matters, and you are allowed to grieve what you lost." That expresses very well the feelings that I have about it. But each day our experience with Malachi grows, and his birth, though significant, is just one small part of our life together, a life that is all the time growing and changing, as we grow and change together. We are so in love with our precious baby boy.


  1. wow, what a story. it is beautiful and bittersweet. i know the're thankful foor modern medicine but wished to have birthed and not have it happen to you. i'm so glad you two have bonded like you hoped, since then, and hope that his colic gets better. thanks for telling your story, too. i'm grateful for getting to know you a bit, again!

  2. yay, loved that you shared your story. Cant wait to see you guys and meet Malachi!

  3. Sandra - Thanks for sharing the whole story. I was wondering how things went, and now I know. It was hard not being able to be there with you guys when all this was happening, so am glad to finally get to hear the story of Malachi's birth. I had similar feelings when I had April. She was born natural, but due to her size (9 lbs. 8 ozs.) it was a difficult labor and delivery. I was able to have her naturally, but during labor (which was mosty spent by myself as they were all helping another lady and thought I would be okay by myself)I just "knew" I was going to die, and there would be no one there to help me. LOL - obviously I didn't, Thank the Lord! They strapped my arms and legs down to the table and then just left me to go help the other lady. Hugh hadn't made it to the room yet (can't remember why), so was there all by myself. And then finally they all came and it was over. This was around 3 AM and I was totally exhausted. I remember they put her to my breast right away, but then that was about it. Then I remember being wheeled to my room, then a few hours later, I guess, I felt like I was dreaming and it was like I was hearing a train whistle - couldn't quite figure out what was going on, until a rude young male technician came in the door wanting to know "Aren't you going to feed your baby?" I was so out of it that I remember him handing her up to me and I started to feed her, but know I could barely stay awake. He left right away and I didn't have the energy to push the call button, ans was afraid she would also fall out of the bed - so I know how you felt. I knew that technician hadn't the foggiest notion of how exhausting giving birth is, especially if you'd just spent the previous day taking care of 5 children, then going through a painful and difficult labor. I can understand your feelings exactly!

  4. Sandra,
    THANK YOU for sharing your beautiful story. Your heart seems so real and raw in it --- the perfect position for a new mom to be in! (I would assume.) Malachi is precious, and he is blessed to have parents that have cared so much for him since the VERY beginning. :)
    Elizabeth Chapman

  5. I've been meaning to comment on this. Thank you for sharing. It's good to know I'm not the only one! I was disappointed in my birth experience; I wanted an all natural birth but was exhausted by outside factors BEFORE I went into labor. The result was I had too much cortisone and after 14 hours of labor, it took over so much the birthing hormones were blocked. My contractions weakened yet I felt more and more unable to cope with them. At that point, I just wanted any birth so I could stop laboring and rest.
    My doctor said I might not be able to push him out. That hurt. But it was also a dangerous situation since my water had broken from the get-go, so it was either Cesarean, or try Pitocin. I got an epidural since contractions from augmentation are more intense. It was super scary but I don't regret it; I was able to rest and my contractions started right up again. I believe it was before the Pitocin kicked in because a nurse kept saying she thought Elijah's head was already all the way down my pelvis. (I am peeved about the doctor not checking on me earlier; poor Elijah, getting his head squeezed by the contractions!)
    It was weird not being able to feel anymore or feel to push and I kept wondering what it would've been like. I was so crushed when my doctor even mentioned the C-word during labor. I just lost it after the nurse said I was the best patient ever. (Maybe she says that to everyone!) I had PPD and I'm sure it was a contributing factor. But it's amazing how all this stuff can go wrong and a perfectly healthy baby can come out! It's either a miracle or...I am just really protective of my baby. :)