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Jill's Birth Experience ---Polyhydramnios

font size=3>On Nov.l8, l998, my friend and client Jill gave birth in an inflatable pool to her third child--a lovely l0 pound 2 ounce boy. This was Jill's third homebirth and her second waterbirth.

Her first call to me came at about 8 AM. Sensations were far apart but finally coming regularly and she had some "show". She was 3 weeks past her due date as was normal for her. She called her husband who was at their home about 800 miles away to come on the first plane with the other children (4 and 2). They arrived about suppertime and I picked them up at the airport. Things were mild through the evening (Dad and kids slept). By about midnight Jill really wanted the water and got into the pool. She never made a sound throughout the birth. Dad got up about midnight and stayed with her through the heaviest part. She asked for a smoothie green drink at one point and got up to the bathroom as needed but was very self contained. At 4:12 AM she said "I just broke my waters, guys" and at 4:l8 AM the baby was in her arms.

As the head fully crowned I whispered to Bruce, the father, "are you going to catch?" and Jill said "It's OK, I've got it" and out slipped her son into her waiting hands. We were so awed by both Mom and baby--he was pink, perfect, healthy right away.

What makes this story remarkable is that Jill's fundal height was so large at 28 weeks that it was clear she was either carrying twins or had polyhydramnios (too much amniotic fluid). An ultrasound was in order and it revealed one normal sized baby with an excess amount of fluid. In 40% of cases, this is an indication that the baby has a developmental defect like spina bifida, esophageal atresia, fistula or . . .? In 60% of cases the cause is never known. Jill was terrified and very upset by the country doctor's prognosis of problems. Her husband Bruce reacted to the possibility of having a child with a birth defect by saying "If our baby has problems it will probably be the biggest gift our family could receive." (Could we please clone this guy.)

Jill left their home on September 4th to come to Vancouver to be near the specialists, the big tertiary care hospital, the children's hospital and me, her midwife. She has a good friend who is a student midwife and she was able to stay with her family as the odyssey unfolded. A very thorough ultrasound in the big city, with me watching carefully, revealed no problems in the baby. Was this reassuring to the medical folk? Nope. There could be something out of the range of their high pitched sound waves that was blocking fluid intake or excretion in the baby. We began weekly trips to the perinatologist. She was nice but I never heard her give this lovely woman one positive word of encouragement. Always looking for the "problem" is a sickness.

The initial prognosis was that Jill would go into premature labour and we would be dealing with all the problems of a preemie. Around 32 weeks, Jill complained to me of having leg cramps. I told her she must be low on calcium/magnesium and went to my kitchen cupboard and got out my special Usana vitamins that also have Vitamin D with the cal/mag. I gave her a baggy full and told her to take the recommended dosage, which was 5 spaced throughout the day. From the day she started taking it the leg cramps ceased and the polyhydramnios also seemed to come under control. When 36 weeks came and went and the baby was still in utero, the worry for the perinatologist was that the belly was so overstretched that the uterus might not be able to contract and she might never go into the birth process on her own.

By 40 weeks, Jill could no longer stand the visits to the perinatologist so she stopped going. I had her write out all the negative things and warnings she had heard on paper. I offered her a copper dish I use for smudging with sage and told her that when she was ready to let go of all the negative input she could tear the paper into the dish and light it on fire. When she did this we all lightened up a lot. I think the baby liked it, too. We had a Blessingway ceremony for her that was really beautiful, and her friend helped her make a belly cast of her lovely, huge belly.

The last 3 weeks after 40 weeks were really hard to handle and we needed all the beauty we could generate. Jill missed her home, husband and older kids. They had major money problems with Mom being away so long. Her parents in Ontario were worried sick. Jill was wondering if her baby was growing into a giant size (her second child weighed 11# and had tight shoulders). I had read everything I could about polyhydramnios complications -- cord prolapse, postpartum hemmorrhage, placental abruption and I was also dealing with post-datism thoughts -- meconium aspiration, big baby, etc. I actually didn't realize how worried I was until the baby was born and then it was like someone took a 100# sack of potatoes off my shoulders.

The communication I had with Jill throughout this pregnancy was so clear. We were both committed to letting healthy and natural unfold, but also to using technology if that seemed smart. She would go straight to the internet every time she heard or read anything and I think she is now the world's authority on polyhydramnios in pregnancy. It was so inspiring to me to see this young woman (26) catch her own baby. This little boy will always be special. He taught us all so much about faith and patience. The family loaded into their car three days after the birth and drove the 800 miles home to Kaslo, B.C. to begin life as a family of five all together again.

-- Gloria L.