When I was formulating my birth plan I discussed my hopes for a natural birth with my mom and discovered that I was the first baby born in Longview, WA with a birth plan! Crazy, right? After some searching we were able to find the original birth plan, as well as all of the photos of my birth. I asked my mom to write a guest post about her experience using a birth plan, and she happily obliged.
Leila has asked me to write a guest post about her birth and our birthing contract. This will be an adventurous prospect for me, as my “public” writing has been confined to the annual Christmas missive and classroom assignments for my students.
Needs must, we start at the beginning. Leila and Tim’s daughter is due to make her appearance on October 4th. If she’ll wait a day, she’ll show up thirty years to the day that her mother was conceived. A mother knows these things – given that it was a travel day during the 1982 World Series between the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals. Her father grew up in Milwaukee, a quietly obsessed fan. A break in the action led to a wee bit of action. But, I digress.
From that October 5th date, I counted back from the 5th and predicted her birth on July 5th. Dr. Stan Norquist, with his spinning gestation wheel, said June 28th. Having a baby earlier, rather than later in the summer, sounded good to me. I spent the winter and early spring doing what all expectant mothers do – buying the latest and greatest books on pregnancy and delivery and diving in. Remember, this is all pre-Internet. Research meant trips to the bookstore and the library, using tools like the hardbound (and the paperbound bi-weekly) green Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature. I date myself.
Stan Norquist was the perfect choice for me. A general practice doc, he was long established in the community and didn’t feel that he had to go along to get along with his peers. He was willing to be flexible and to negotiate the first written birthing contract in the community. Back in the day, the medical community in Longview, WA was, dare I say it, too conservative by half. I was reading about changes going on in the practice of obstetrics, but they were slow to arrive in this working class mill town.
Forest Grove, Oregon, near Portland, had a birthing center and midwife options, both of which I wanted. No midwives, no birthing center in Longview. Breakaway birthing beds and birthing chairs, allowing mothers to be up and walk around during labor, choosing not to have an episiotomy and having perineal massage instead, not being strapped to the delivery table, dad’s in the delivery room, un-medicated births, rooming in for the babies, were among the many changes being written about in the various mother-to-be publications, but not necessarily in practice where we lived.
Our community hospital was trying to keep up with the times. As I spent the spring reading, they were remodeling the maternity floor. Promises of the opening of the new birthing room were pushed back a time or two and I was fearful that it wouldn’t be available. Looking at the contract today, we really didn’t ask for very much – hardly a radical contract, but that was how it was perceived by the local OB/GYNs. The opening paragraph indicated that this pertained to a non-eventful birth and, regardless of what agreements had been made, in the event of emergency delivery conditions, all decisions would fall to Stan, who would explain the decisions only if there was time to do so.
What did we ask for? We wanted to use the birthing chair, if available and the birthing room bed (breakaway) if not. Given the newness of the facility, Stan was uncomfortable actually performing a delivery in the new birthing room because, as he said, if things went south – he wouldn’t know with a sense of automaticity, where everything was. The chair or the bed was to be moved from the birthing room to the delivery room for the actual birth. Negotiating contracts is all about the art of compromise…one for Stan. If neither the birthing chair, nor the birthing bed was an option, I was to be allowed to sit up and supported by Bob. Think about it – ALLOWED to sit up and supported by my husband during the delivery. We’ve come a long way, baby (Sorry, cliché intended). Regardless of whether he was propping me up or not, Bob would be allowed in the delivery room.
We specified that my best friend, Trudy would be allowed in the delivery room in order to photograph the birth – standard today, new back then. We compromised on the episiotomy – only if Stan felt is was really necessary and even then – I got the 5 o’clock/7o’clock, not the straight shot down. He got the fetal monitor, I got to remain ambulatory as long as I felt comfortable.
- I got no urine catheter unless there was an issue with the birth proceeding in an orderly fashion
- I was allowed ice chips in limited quantities – when the standard was nothing by mouth for the entire labor and delivery.
- I was allowed to nurse immediately after birth
- I negotiated for a silver nitrate alternative to be used to prevent bacterial infections of the eyes.
- I negotiated for no soap for washing nipples prior to nursing while in the hospital and, if there was any time that the baby was in the nursery, no sugar water, formula or other liquids were to be given via a bottle. This was to be a nursed baby – not exactly standard at that point. I could be present to nurse immediately after a circumcision.
- I could leave after 12 hours. I negotiated for 24 hour rooming in for the baby.
In the event of a C-section, Bob would be allowed to be present, I would get a “bikini cut,” instead of the stem to stern incision in practice, I would be allowed to remain awake unless circumstances prohibited it and I would be allowed to nurse immediately after delivery.
Most of you reading this post will look at the list and shake your head because there isn’t anything on that list that isn’t standard fare today. But in the fall of 1983, when Leila was about 3 months old, I sat on a birthing forum panel put on by the American Association of University Women (AAUW). The panel was comprised of a physician from the local OB/GYN practice (only one in town back then), a woman who had delivered at the Forest Grove birthing center and had a water birth, and a midwife from the Portland area who participated in home births and me – as someone who had used a birthing contract. To say that the physician was somewhat hostile and condescending towards the rest of the panel members is something of an understatement. Each in our own way, we flew in the face of standard medical practice and he clearly didn’t like it. It was an interesting evening. Although he never said a word, I understand that Stan took some real heat for having participated in a contract.
The tale of the birth itself is a tale for another day. However, I can’t resist saying – Leila was born on the date I said she would be – July 5th. A mother knows these things!
Thanks mom! I’ll be expecting my birth story as a guest post soon