Monday, September 7, 2009

Childbirth - My Way

In November 1980 I gave birth to the first of my two daughters. By that time in my life I had a well established desire to live as natural a life as possible. I grew and canned my own vegetables, shopped in natural food stores, and vowed I would give birth completely without drugs or intervention. Toward that goal I set out to read as much as I could on the topic of natural childbirth and my “bible” became the 1975 bestselling book, Immaculate Deception by Suzanne Arms.

Prepared with knowledge and a sense of my rights as a patient, my then-husband and I informed my birth doctor of our desire to have a completely natural childbirth. The doctor agreed to honor our wishes, that is, until I was his patient in labor.

When it was “time” we went to the hospital where we were met by my doctor. Over the course of a few hours I progressed nicely but apparently not quickly enough according to my doctor. He suggested breaking my water which I at first refused to do, but acquiesced at his insistence. When I still did not progress to his liking, he then ordered a pitocin drip, a drug that would speed up my labor. None of this was going as I had planned or had requested.

It became clearer as the day went on that my doctor had no intention of waiting around for me to progress at my body’s or my unborn child’s own pace. His pressure upon me to intervene in the process increased and became more aggressive. At one point I asked him what the chances would be of a caesarian birth should I follow his recommendations. His response was that of course the need for a surgical birth increased. As my child, according to the fetal heart monitor, was in no distress I once again refused the doctor’s insistence for a drug-induced labor.

As day turned into evening I was no closer to giving birth. My doctor, in a last-ditch effort to coerce me, told my husband and I that if I didn’t agree to his method then he would excuse himself as my physician. We requested a second opinion but no doctor in the hospital would agree to examine me. We contacted my birth coach, Clare, who had herself experienced two natural childbirths. After hearing what we were going through, Clare contacted her birth doctor.

Dr. Hai Abdul operated a birthing center in Azuza, CA and agreed to allow me to come to his facility. With that promise, I signed myself out of the hospital, against medical advice, and we drove the 60 miles to the clinic that would allow me to have the birth experience I envisioned.

Dr. Hai Abdul

Dr. Abdul’s clinic, staff, and attitude were the complete opposite of the hospital we had just fled. Each of the rooms in the clinic was decorated in a different theme. Fittingly, we were placed in the “country room.” I was allowed to move about, eat a bit for strength, and even showered before the moment arrived.

The Country Room and the bed I gave birth on. That's my 2-week old daughter after her check up.

Close to 10:00 am my baby decided it was time to make an appearance. With Dr. Abdul supervising, an attendant midwife guided my child out of my body. I recall Dr. Abdul saying to me, “Open your eyes, your baby is almost here.” Just before she was completely free of my body the midwife told me to reach down and grab her. I pulled my beautiful newborn up and out and placed her upon my chest. The memory of pain and fear melted away as I looked down at my little girl. My husband and his best friend (who had accompanied us) were both looking at the miracle that had just taken place.

Other than the birth of my second child, nothing has come close to the beauty of giving birth naturally in all its painful glory. I have Dr. Abdul to thank for giving me this gift.

Sadly, Dr. Abdul’s life and profession suffered because of his support and actions. Although I don’t know all the details, I do know that once my doctor and his hospital learned of where I had gone, the Board of Medical Examiners conducted an inquiry into Dr. Abdul and his practice.

This was an era when natural childbirth, patient wishes, and even breast feeding were just becoming a popular trend. In fact, midwives were being hounded and prosecuted by the medical establishment at that time; I recall attending the trial of a well-known midwife accused of malpractice. There was even a newspaper account of my ordeal, written and published in the local newspaper about six months after I had given birth.

Times changed, however. A few years after my experience I was once again mentioned in the local paper; this time it was in reference to the opening of a birthing wing in the same hospital that had been so against my personal wishes.

As I prepared to write and share this account I thought I might Google Dr. Abdul to see if I could locate him to thank him once again for the gift he had given me. I found a website created by his familyand dedicated to his memory. I emailed his daughter whose address I found on the site. I told her who I was and that I hoped Dr. Abdul had not suffered too much because of his involvement with my case. Surprisingly, she knew of me and reported that in fact her father did not fare well after he was investigated. I did not inquire further so I don’t really know what the circumstances are. I am, however, truly sorry that such a good and compassionate man and doctor suffered at all on my behalf. I will always be grateful for Dr. Abdul and for the sacrifice he made that allowed me to experience the birth experience naturally and on my terms.

My daughters are now of childbearing age. Both have decided that “going natural” is not for them. I honor their choices but secretly wish they would allow their own children to come into this world the way women have been doing so for centuries. That is their choice and thankfully in this day and age, they have the ability and the right to decide for themselves. For me, I will always cherish the moment when the pain of labor vanished with the joy of seeing my newborn and knowing I did all in my power to bring them into the world the way I felt best for them and for me.

This post dedicated to the memories of Hai Abdul and Clare Whalen


Brigitte Dionne said...

thanks for the comment on my page music.
The first tune is the theme composed by Danny Elfman for Edward Scissorhands, one of the greatest movies of all time. It was released on the christmas of my birth-year so now i watch it every christmas as a tradition. It's really beautiful and enchanting.

The other two are music from the pirates of the caribbean movies. because i'm cool like that. XD

I usually don't listen to classical.
but I'll check him out for sure! Thanks for the link.

AmyK said...

What a harrowing experience for the most important moment in your childs life. I don't think I could have walked out of that hospital to do what you did. I'm so sorry to hear taht the Dr. taht helped you paid for his beliefs.

I, too, went the natural method with my daughters. The third was in a birthing chair. That was so much easier than on my back, by the way.

When daughter # 1 gave bith, she chose not to do it my way. As you said, it is their choice and I told her every mother does what is best for them. Then my (Natural birth) sister's daughter gave birth via drugs as well. Both of our daughters joke that we are tough ole broads to do what we did. I told them "That is why you should not mess with us!"

thank you for sharing your story.

Ribbon said...

I too had a drug free natural childbirth :)

Great post.

best wishes

Sandi McBride said...

I too wanted the natural route but at the last moment gave in to the pain, coward that I am and begged to be either knocked out or given DRUGS to take away the pain...I admire your nerve and congratulate you on Post of the Day nomination...but I'm siding with your girls on this one!

Brian Miller said...

i can not relate to giving birth obviously, but i can to having someone push me to take their way over the one i want. i admire your determination. and applaud your mention on david (authorblog) post of the day.

Alix said...

Good news!!! Natural childbirth is alive and well in Dallas, Texas! My sweet niece, Jenni, has delivered two beautiful healthy daughters within the last two years with the assistance of a wonderful midwife and zero narcotics. As did her mother. As for myself, the Pitocin drip was a little too much for my weakening pain threshold and I happily took an epidural. 19 hours later, my son was born. Second time around I didn't get the epidural, but not because I didn't want it. I so admire your strength of conviction and the lengths you went to in an effort to see it through.

Congratulations on your POTD mention!

smiles4u said...

I applaud you for standing up for yourself in this way. And how wonderful of this dr to help you in the ways that he did. How sad that he was pursecuted in such a way. I gave birth naturally with all of my children and reading this makes me thankful that I didn't have to fight for this or worse have to leave while in the middle of labor to go some place else to do so. Congrats on post of the day mention!

Cheffie-Mom said...

Congratulations on the Post of the Day Award!

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I have five children, and I had them all naturally. The best way, if you can do it. It's too bad that young mother's today rarely choose to go the natural route. Congats on POTD

gaelikaa said...

That's a very beautiful story. I have, in this era of caeserean deliveries, been privileged to have given birth to four children by normal delivery and without the benefit of the epidural. I fully understand your need to have a delivery as close to nature's way as possible. Our bodies are designed to give birth normally. I have enjoyed my visit to your blog and will come again!

Vegas Linda Lou said...

What used to be as simple as squatting in the field has now turned into a science. Still, you kill me that you drove 60 miles to an unknown place to give birth.

Great post, Lisa!

Elemi said...

Your post brought back many memories! I was just looking online for information about Dr. Abdul, who delivered my first child in March 1981 (I'm pretty sure in the same room that you have pictured!) I came to him late in my pregnancy, and saw mostly the midwives who worked for him when I had prenatal visits, but when my son was born I remember Dr Abdul walking into the room and bringing an incredible feeling of peace with him. The birth went smoothly, and I was so sorry that he was no longer able to practice when my daughter was born the following year. Now I'm sorry to hear that he has passed away. I hope he found peace following his troubles. He is not forgotten.

Mrs S said...

I had twins at his wonderful center about a year before you did... In that same room. THANKS for the photo as mine were lost. He and his staff were such a blessing. My midwife would not do twin deliveries, so in my 7th month we discovered that I was carrying twins. It was a great experience. I do not believe that your case is why he was railroaded (long story) by the establishment docs $$. So very sad. Please pass along my appreciation for what he did )for me and my healthy babies) to his family if you could. He gave us a gift! THANK YOU for sharing this story! :)

Karen Werner said...

Googling Hai Abdul, I found your site. Dr. Abdul delivered my second child in my own bed in Chino Hills, CA, 1978. The midwife was with me for 8 hours, and Dr. Abdul was at our home about 4 hrs. A fabulous experience in every way. The next baby was born in hospital 5 years later. Nurses were changing shifts, not watching me closely enough, and he was born without a Dr. attending. The flustered nurse gave him a shot of vitamin K intended for me. It was chaos. My son was fine, but I got better medical attention at home from Dr. Abdul. May he rest in peace.

Mina ZombieVixen said...

Hello, he was my dad. This post was very comforting to read on this father's day, as I miss him very much, I vividly remember growing up at the birthing center and all the great things my dad did and all the happy smiles and love by people my dad gave an amazing experience to. He loved what he did, he loved his birthing center and firmly believed in the methods off natural childbirth. Its a shame I couldnt experience that, but at least I am able to read about other's experience with my dad. Thanks

~Reagan~ said...

Thank you! Dr Abdul is my Daddy and I'm so proud of his work. He was a wonderful doctor!

Lisa Gioia-Acres said...

Mina ZombieVixen and Reagan, you have no idea how touched I am that you both took the time to write to me. Your dad lives on in my heart because he was so wonderful and kind. My birth experience is one I cherish because of him. I am so sad I didn't get the chance to tell him how much he meant to me before he passed. Thank you for commenting. You are two lucky women to have had such a wonderful man as your father.

Shafiq Abdul said...

Dad was the absolute compass for my life and so many more! It's the most incredible feeling to see and hear that his peacefully compassionate presence is as broad and real as I know it to be. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with my father and his practice, he lives in the ways we remember him!

Shafiq Abdul said...

Dad was the absolute compass for my life and so many more! It's the most incredible feeling to see and hear that his peacefully compassionate presence is as broad and real as I know it to be. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with my father and his practice, he lives in the ways we remember him!

Debbie Lovejoy said...

Dr. Abdul delivered my youngest son on March 12, 1981. After having my daughter in a hospital in West Covina on the labor bed and delivered by a nurse. Then was told after getting to my room when they brought my daughter to me that I was contaminating her by unwrapping her. That is when I decided my next one wasn't going to be born in a hospital. Dr. Abdul was great. I did tell him I did have my babies fast. Of course no one believes you when you tell them that. Lol! We had went several times with false labor. The last time it was the real thing. I had a couple of pains at home. They were close together. Off we go to the clinic. Hubby driving, sister in law in back seat. Me in front laying my head on hubby lap. I thought I was telling him to go faster. But later they said I wasn't saying a word. We made it to the clinic. How I made it up those stairs with my knees together, I will never know. As soon as we got there the nurse took us to the Country Room. The one you have showing. I was laying on the far side while the nurse got the birthing side ready. Oh I forgot to tell you. When she checked me. I had a bulging bag of water. Which ment he was ready to be born. The nurse called Dr. Abdul to come up. She had to wake him since it was about 5am. While I was laying flat on my back. My son came flying out. My husband caught him in mid air. The poor nurse was 7 months pregnant herself. My poor sister in law had forgot the camera in the car. So she had went to get it and she missed the birth too. I laugh when Dr. Abdul got there. He was so surprised to see a baby there already. The fist thing that came out of his mouth was "Maybe I shouldn't of gotten dressed". Lol! I told him, I told you I have my babies fast. He checked us out to see if we were okay. I got to go home a few hours later. I loved Dr.Abdul. Because back then that was not a popular thing to do. When I was still pregnant we went to support him at someplace there. The news were there. They interview me. But I was so emotional all I could do was cry. So my hubby talked up and supported what Dr. Abdul was doing.
For his children that has seen this blog. Your Dad was very mush loved for what he did and believed in. He was a good man.
Oh on a update on my son. He works on the big Air Force plane's keeping them in the air. Who would of thought that when he came flying out.
Love to Dr. Abdul and his family!