February 23, 2015

Stuck Between a Hospital and Hard Place: How Risky is a Home Birth for a "Low, High Risk" Birth?

That title was a mouthful, and so is this story. This post has been one I have considered writing a long time, but it is difficult emotionally, so I have avoided it. It's time to get it out there.

In 2009, I had a simple laparoscopic knee surgery to correct an old sports injury. I was naive and foolish to think any surgery was simple. (I think that is why I get especially angry when someone says, "Just have a cesarean, it's so easy.") At the time, I was taking the birth control pill. My doctor never told me to stop it prior to the surgery. He didn't feel my surgery and birth control were counter-indicated. Two days after my surgery, I got an intense pain in my ankle, following by intense swelling and the worst charlie horse I had ever had in my life. I went to a massage therapist who thought I might have a blood clot in my leg, but gave me a massage anyway. I went on like this for a week before a finally went to the doctor. I couldn't find a comfortable position, sitting, standing, laying down. I had to leave work, went straight to my doctor, who sent me to the ER. I jumped into the ER on one leg (not yet knowing the gravity of the situation.) As it turns out, I DID have a blood clot in my leg. The massage had dislodged it from my ankle, but luckily it became lodged in the artery behind my knee, only a 3 small pieces breaking off and traveled through my heart into my lungs. (Which had explained some intense chest pain I had recently experienced. That my friends was a minor heart attack when the clots bounced around in there.) The ER doctors told me I was lucky to be alive. I was young then, and thought they were exaggerating. A week in the ICU, not being allowed to get up at all (not even to use the toilet) showed how serious it was. I know now, I really was lucky to be alive. But I was left with more questions than answers. I tested negative for any type of genetic clotting disorder. I think it was the birth control pill because the estrogens in it can thicken the blood, but my orthopedic surgeon vehemently denies this. "Millions of people get knee surgery on the pill and don't clot," he told me.

Well I guess that I am the exception. Now, I can't take the pill, and any time I get pregnant, I have to take two blood thinner injections to the stomach a day. There is a risk of clotting in pregnancy, which is many times multiplied over the pill. I cannot take a blood thinner orally, because they have been shown to cross the placental barrier. I was covered in bruises on my stomach during my pregnancies. A needle phobia didn't help this situation. My husband had to give me 99% of my shots, because I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I asked my doctor how dangerous it would be for me (and my fetus) not to take these shots. She likened refusing this medication to doing a road trip, driving 85 mph down the highway without a seatbelt. Maybe I'd get to my destination safely (clot free) or maybe not. There's a change I could clot again and have a stroke or heart attack that would be disabling or fatal, or my placenta could clot and kill my baby.

Because of this clotting issue, I am considered high risk. However, in all other aspects, I am considered a low risk patient. I don't smoke, I'm not obese, I'm reasonably fit, I don't have "advanced maternal age". One of the doctors I have interviewed dubbed me a "low, high risk patient". Talk about confusing and frustrating.

When I started having babies, I never thought of a home birth. Hospitals were "just where you had babies." However, my heart has started longing for a home birth, or at least something very close. Six months ago you couldn't have told me this is what I would want. I would have thought you were crazy. I have never wanted a home birth. However, the more I meditate on what I have read in "Cut, Stapled, & Mended", the more I feel like a home birth would be the most conducive to achieving my VBA2C. I'm beginning to wonder though, if I really have any choices in regards to my birth location. I feel like I am stuck between the hospital and a hard place.

  • Where am I going to find a midwife that would take me on as a patient knowing that I have the potential to be a serious bleeding risk if things go wrong. ESPECIALLY after 2 cesareans. 
  • AND where am I going to find an OBGYN that would co-manage me with a midwife so I can get my medications, blood tests, etc.
But most importantly is this dilemma in my heart: Am I putting myself, my baby, and my family at substantial risk by trying to birth at home. Am I being irresponsible, foolhardy? Is the risk to my safety so great that I am willing to leave my children motherless and my husband a widower? Is the danger even that high, or have my doctors exaggerated my clotting risk to scare me into submission? I'm feeling backed into a corner. I'm beginning to wonder if I am going to "be allowed" to have the birth I want. I'm starting to wonder if I am going to have to be satisfied with the birth "I get". This really saddens me. After reading "Cut, Stapled, & Mended", I was full of hope. Now I realize that despite how similar Roanna and I are emotionally and physically, medically we are completely different. I feel a lot of sadness, because I can't image a doctor on the planet would approve of a home birth in my circumstances. Most don't approve of home birth for people with immaculate medical histories. I feel like I don't have a snowflakes chance in hell.

If you're reading this and have any experience or suggestions, I more than welcome them. Please tell me what I can explore. Who I might see, what avenues might I pursue? What are your thoughts?

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