Vaginal Birth in the Operating Room- WHAT?!?!

That's right! Why and how would someone have a vaginal birth in the OR? Have you ever heard of such a thing?????

I met Michelle and Johnathan on one of my weekly tours of Our Birthing Center on Friday, March 16, 2018.  An expecting couple getting ready to welcome their second baby into this world, excited for the new birthing option in New Jersey. I showed them the three birthing suites and they beamed with excitement!  We got to talking about birth stories and they shared with me their first birthing experience.  Ever since then I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. I asked if I could interview Michelle and retell her story.  I felt others could learn from it and find the strength to advocate for themselves when it counted most.

Michelle’s pregnancy was smooth, low risk and healthy on all fronts.  She read every holistic birthing book recommended, took a private HypnoBirthing® course and hired a well-respected doula. They were well prepared for their natural birth plan.

Michelle, being a first-time mom experienced what she thought was her water breaking, she felt like she wet her pants and went on to call her provider.  They tried many things to get kick labor into gear but sadly things weren’t progressing.

This is where their education came in handy.  They knew the longer they labored at home the higher their chances were for a natural birth. The doctor said to come in at 5pm, they said they’d call back at 5pm, and so the dance began.  They put on their negotiation hats and bargained every step of the way.  They finally went in at 11pm. To their dismay, they found out Michelle was only 1cm dilated.  They tried everything that night to induce labor naturally but nothing worked.

7am was the start of another doctor’s shift and right away Michelle was put on Pitocin. For those of you who don’t know, Pitocin is the synthetic form of oxytocin, a natural hormone that helps your uterus contract during labor. Oxytocin is released as the body naturally prepares for childbirth, but if the contractions are weak and the uterus isn’t contracting quickly enough or you aren’t in labor at all and need to deliver for health reasons, Pitocin can be administered as a medication to enhance or start those contractions.

Michelle was exhausted and knew she would still need energy to deliver her baby so she decided an epidural was for the best.  She slept for 2 hours.  During that time she dilated to 9cm.  Things are a bit blurry for her at this point but she does recall the doctor saying, “I’m going to break your water now.” Which is strange because all of these interventions were given with the belief that her water had already been broken and her only choice was to deliver her baby in a certain time frame.  Maybe she misheard the doctor?  Maybe the doctor meant they were going to break the amnion sac, the innermost sac in which the baby is directly contained? Maybe in this rare case she meant she was going to break her secondary bag of water? Hmmmm, food for thought I guess.

Somewhere in-between 9-10cm dilated her baby was hooked up to an internal fetal monitor.  Yup, you heard me right, as in attached to the baby’s head.  The internal fetal monitor, low and behold, began to show fetal distress. Michelle was fully dilated but the doctor was calling for a C-section.  Michelle and Jonathan begged the doctor to let her try pushing but the doctor insisted the baby was in distress and would need a NICU team and possibly up to 2 weeks in the NICU. They asked that since they’d be in the OR with the NICU team right there if they could try pushing just once.  The doctor agreed and said they would have a vacuum ready to go.

Once in the OR, with the doctor, nursing staff and the NICU team around them, they asked to have their one chance that was promised to them, to try and deliver their baby vaginally.   No one was ready and it took the doctor 10 minutes to find the vacuum, the one they had previously said they’d have ready to go.  Once everyone else was ready and in place Michelle knew she was only going to get one shot at this. ONE PUSH and her baby girl was born vaginally in the operating room, PERFECTLY HEALTHY!!!! Never spent one second in the NICU.  Michelle recalls the person charting her birth asking the nurse next to her, “was that even 1 minute? I’m calling it 60 seconds.”

The reason this story is so amazing to me is because if she did wind up with a C-section I would never have met Michelle and Johnathan and get to see how excited they are to have this amazing new birth choice in New Jersey, Our Birthing Center.  They have also switched providers because they feel the Midwifery Model of Care better suites their uncomplicated and healthy pregnancy more than the Medical Model.  The Avalon Midwives were their top choice because of their reputation and the fact that the Avalon Midwives are the only in-network midwifery practice supporting births at Our Birthing Center.

When I asked Michelle if she was mad in any way from how her first birth went her response was, “No, I’m grateful for not risking out of the birthing center.  I feel bad for people who are not as prepared and don’t know how to advocate for themselves.”

I hope this is part 1 of a 2-part story.  Stay tuned for the birth story of Michelle and Johnathan’s second child in the only freestanding birth center in NJ!