Home Birth

“I have seen vaginas fall out of women’s bottoms; is that what you want to happen to you?” asked Doctor Cook, my home town doctor. It was 1978 and I was pregnant with my first child. I had read articles about natural home births and some had said it was unnecessary to cut into your vagina and then have to sew the whole thing back up. Doctor Cook went on; “It may not happen after the first child but it stretches everything out down there and your vagina will fall out after awhile.” That was the end of our conversation about home birth until I got home and my husband was steaming mad. Apparently, Dr. Cook called him to have a man to man because Denny knew all about our little chat about home birth. “You are not going to read any more books; the doctor thinks you’re paranoid of hospitals! What the hell is wrong with you?!” I did not discuss things with my husband. In our highschool class of 99 students, he was always on the top. Who the hell was I to question his brilliance? I was used to his ranting and stopped trying to assert my opinion soon after we married. I thought the idea that I was paranoid of hospitals was going a bit far though.

My contractions started in the evening of June 6th shortly after going to bed. I woke my husband to tell him. He immediately raced into action getting me to the car as fast as he could. I remember him pulling at my arm as I stopped for a contraction. I’m certain he was trying to move me along because he was worried I had put off telling him about the contractions so that I could have the baby at home and he wasn’t having any of that. In fact, the contractions had just started and they were quite mild, but I was curious and wanted to stop and really see what they were doing to my body.  A band tightened across my abdomen pressing on the baby. I was fascinated and exhilarated that this baby and I were finally going to meet. The Marshfield clinic was 30 miles down the road. We drove through the countryside and small towns in silence; Denny driving as fast as he could manage and still keep the car under control. There was very little traffic at that time of night. People in rural Wisconsin go to bed early.

After we got to the hospital and completed the necessary paperwork, I was taken to a small lab to be processed. A pregnant woman was made presentable for the doctors before ever seeing one in person. I was given an enema and my pubic hair was completely shaved. No reason to give the doctor any unnecessary surprises. No doctor needs to be poking around in unsightly pubic hair. We needed a sterile surface and clean bowels to work with.

Then I was taken to a room to sit with my husband until I was far enough along for the doctor to be called in.  I took the bed and Denny took the chair in a mostly white and sterile room. We were in there for about ten hours with a nurse showing up every so often to poke and measure. Denny and I had long ago stopped talking to each other. He blamed me for getting pregnant and was resentful that we had to go through any of this. After I got pregnant and after I refused to have an abortion, he told me that he would marry me but this baby was my responsibility. To be fair, we did play cards a few times to make the time go faster. Each time a different nurse came in; I noted a look of surprise come over their face. I am sure I looked closer to age twelve than to my actual ripe old age of twenty-one. On top of that, Denny got mistaken as a girl at least once, which really pissed him off. He was rather pretty back then with his baby face and long hair.

My labor pains were not very strong and they never increased in duration. Apparently, the doctor on call became suspicious and decided to look into my situation. He came in with three nurses to hold me down and a room full of medical students to watch as he put his entire hand up my vagina which hurt like hell and was the most publically humiliating thing I have ever been through. He never explained what he was doing or why he was doing it. The room full of male medical students at least looked uncomfortable, shuffling around, not looking me in the eye and the nurses looked sympathetic. After that procedure I was told that my baby was a breech baby and wanted to come out butt first. Also, my contractions completely stopped and would not start again. A nurse on duty told me that was not unusual in these situations.

The doctor decided I needed a cesarean and it was scheduled. I don’t remember having much of a say in the matter.  It was 1978 and a time when hospitals routinely did cesareans. Years later I would read articles about doctors who did cesareans because it was easier to work out their schedule that way. A cesarean could be planned and was not usually done in the middle of the night. There was a near 30% cesarean rate at some hospitals.

Dr. Cook finally made it to the hospital and as I was being wheeled into surgery on a gurney he had just enough time to tell me; “This is exactly the reason why you do not have a home birth!” I burst into tears at that moment. I had held it together for as long as I could but my tough exterior had had enough. Big sobs burst forth. The nurse, wheeling my gurney was very consoling and wanted to know what Dr, Cook had said to make me so upset. Where could I begin?

Kelly Jo Rashka was born on June 7th, 1978. I met my Daughter after waking up from amnesia. She was a perfect baby with a perfect head and perfect hands and perfect feet. There was nothing not to love. It was, of course, all worth it and has been worth it over and over for the past thirty-four years.

Even though the typical hospital stay was seven days for a cesarean in those days, I insisted in leaving on the third day. I had to sign a release to be let out early. It turns out that I was paranoid of hospitals.

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