Unexpected Change of Plans
“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” -Joseph Campbell
Today I received unexpected news. I tested positive for GBS bacteria (Group B Strep Infection), which means that my much desired, dreamed, and planned home birth will not be possible.
Group B streptococcus is a type of bacterial infection that can be found in a pregnant woman’s vagina or rectum. This bacteria is normally found in the vagina and/or rectum of about 25% of all healthy, adult women. Usually GBS is not serious for adults, and it often comes and goes. Nevertheless, it can hurt newborns. Out of 100, there is a 1 to 2% chance the baby will get infected through childbirth if a mother is GBS positive.
This probability drops to 1 in 4,000 if the pregnant woman who is positive for GBS bacteria receives antibiotics during labor. Which means I need to be in a hospital, receiving intravenous antibiotics, for at least four hours before giving birth to my daughter.
Although the chances of an infection is small (1% chance), I have no other option but to change my plans of having a home birth. At least, that’s what my team recommends. Though I will follow their advice, part of me wants to rebel against this protocol based on outdated advice from U.S. organizations. It’s no secret that pharmaceutical companies keep on bribing many of these organizations in order to sell their drugs at exaggerated rates.
In addition, even if a baby gets colonized by the bacteria, it doesn’t mean she will have an early GBS infection– most colonized babies stay healthy.
Researchers have estimated that the death rate from early GBS infection is 2 to 3% for full-term infants. This means, out of 100 babies who have an actual early GBS infection, 2 to 3 will die. Death rates from GBS are much higher (20-30%) in infants who are born at less than 33 weeks gestation (CDC 2010).
So, if you're following my reasoning, there's a 1 to 2% chance that my baby will develop some disease. And, if she ends up infected, there's a 2 to 3% chance of death, since I'm already 39 weeks. So in reality, there's less than a 0.5% chance of her getting seriously ill and dying.
The more I study and delve into evidence based research, the more I think, ‘Damn, I'm not going to give up on my plans because of this ridiculous protocol!’
On the other hand, what helps me to accept and follow the guidelines of my team is when I find research pointing out that although the mortality rate from this bacterial infection is relatively low, infants infected with early GBS infections can have long, expensive stays in the intensive care unit.
Researchers have also found that up to 44% of infants who survive GBS with meningitis end up with long-term health problems, including developmental disabilities, paralysis, seizure disorder, hearing loss, vision loss, and small brains. Very little is known about the long-term health risks of infants who have GBS without meningitis, but some may have long-term developmental problems (Feigin, Cherry et al. 2009; Libster et al. 2012).
Okay, I get it. I will stop researching and surrender to this new path. Mostly because I don’t want to think about the possibility of my little girl going to the NICU all alone, even if she doesn't develop any health problems. As my heart aches I quickly work through exhaling any pain and truly allowing myself to merge into this new reality by focusing on the positives and moving on.
Some of you might be thinking, ‘What's the big deal, Ariel? Hospitals are safe and taking antibiotics is nothing serious.’
This is relative, but let's talk in parts:
1. Hospitals are great, safe places to give birth
In fact, hospitals have great tools available in case something goes wrong in the physical plane. However, in most cases, the protocols carried out during and after the baby's birth are, in my view, aggressive and insensitive in the emotional and spiritual planes.
From what I experienced last year when attending a hospital birth, the level of anxiety in hospitals is super high. While doctors want to speed up the natural process of childbirth, nurses come and go without really connecting with the person giving birth. Everyone looks busy and stressed. They remind me of the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. Always in a hurry, on the go, and looking at the clock excessively.
However, one of the hardest parts of attending a hospital birth was watching the doctor pull the baby out of its mother's birth canal using her muscle strength. Sadly, the doctor was rough and inconsiderate. She pulled the baby as if she was pulling something that was stuck. Her anxiety didn’t let her see that the baby was coming out naturally, all there was needed was a little patience and another breath.
Right after being aggressively pulled, the newborn was taken straight to her mama’s arms. I was happy to see this moment, but I soon realized that she still wouldn't have peace. Within a minute of being held, her umbilical cord was cut and her vernix removed in the same way a person strips fat from a pan after roasting meat: rubbing hard and not thinking about whether the pan is in favor of this experiment.
No more than three minutes went by before the nurses took her away from her mother so they could examine her under a bunch of bright white lights. After about fifteen minutes of checking on her, putting on a diaper, clothes, and burning eye drops, the nurses handed her back to her mother. That was the first time I saw this baby relax, right where she belonged from the beginning, in mom's arms.
Let's put ourselves in this baby’s shoes for a moment. She has just landed on planet earth and has been greeted in an aggressive manner rather than being greeted softly and calmly. What’s her first impression? Will this impact her later on? Will this moment create some kind of unconscious programming of fear and pain?
Aside from everything I just mentioned, there was absolutely no respect for the Golden Hour; that glorious moment after birth. No one stopped to savor this special first hour with the family. Instead of being in the moment, admiring the miracle of life, smelling oxytocin, and receiving love and light, everyone was too preoccupied with finishing their job.
What no one on the team realized is that the job was already done. Everyone could have taken a break and celebrated the victory of a smooth, uncomplicated labor. It's been more than a year since I participated in this hospital birth and I still stop to think about how this experience impacted this little life.
Returning to the conversation about hospital safety, hospitals indeed offer plenty of security when it comes to physical care. However, in most cases, there's a lack of understanding of what goes on beyond the material plane. Research already tells us that everything that happens in the first moments of a person's life makes a big difference during their existence. Why then not consider all the details of how to welcome the newborns that will shape the future of our planet?
2. Taking antibiotics isn’t anything serious
This is partially true. While antibiotics save lives, they can also destroy health.
Recent research has found that while hospitals have been giving GBS positive women intravenous antibiotics for more than thirty years, there is new evidence that suggests that the use of these drugs affect the newborn's microbiome, at least for some time.
Based on my readings, while antibiotics affects the newborn's microbiome, if delivery occurs vaginally and the baby is exclusively breastfed, the likelihood is that within three months to a year, their microbiome will return to normal. That is, similar to those who did not receive drug intervention.
The results showed that the infant microbiome was influenced by antibiotic exposure during labor, birth route (cesarean or vaginal birth), and breastfeeding.
At 3 months, infants exposed to antibiotics during labor or birth had a decreased level of Bacteroidetes (a beneficial bacteria), as well as a decrease in the “richness” of their microbiome, regardless of whether they were exclusively breastfed or not.
The most severe deficiencies happened among infants born by Cesarean. Infants born by Cesarean also had higher levels of Clostridium, Enterococcus, and Streptococcus—potentially harmful bacteria.
At one year of age, most of these differences were gone, showing that the effect on the microbiome was short-term. However, some negative effects on the microbiome still persisted in infants born by unplanned Cesarean who had not been breastfed for at least 3 months.
This latest research makes me very comfortable with all these last minute changes as I plan to breastfeed my daughter for at least a year.
But… science talk aside, if you've been following my blog, you'll know that I used the art of visualization to visualize my daughter's birth story in a home setting.
Now I have to adapt my previous intentions to a different environment. In order for me to succeed on this new journey, I plan to keep the magic flowing, regardless of setbacks along the way.
"Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck." -Dalai Lama
I hope the Dalai Lama is right, because a home birth is inexplicable and I want to experience that emotion again. As my incredible Brazilian translator Raquel told me when reading this paragraph, only those who had an all natural home birth understand the intimacy, the enchantment, and the delicacy of this experience.
After years of learning about subtle energies, something I can easily see today is that everything is energy before it becomes matter. So I have to let go of what could be and keep my intentions clear in the face of current conditions. Yes, I’m going to the hospital but my experience will be different from the one I saw last year. I know that the more I focus on success, the more chances I have that everything will go as envisioned.
The important thing now is to ensure that there is mutual understanding within my team. I already know that some of my desires, such as holding my baby after birth for as long as possible, waiting for her umbilical cord to stop pulsating before cutting it, not removing her vernix, and delaying vaccines that can be given in a different moment, can be easily done.
Likewise, respecting the golden hour, ensuring that there’s no hospital staff in and out of my room, and cultivating silence are other possible predilections to fulfill. The important thing is to maintain a clear dialogue with my team so that I can relax in this new situation.
At the end of this whole storyline, I feel good that I chose a hospital that allows me the freedom to make choices outside the standard protocols. Did I mention that the hospital chosen was the hospital I was born in? My heart also fills with joy at the thought that all the people on my team are amazing women with similar ideals and values to mine.
P.S. Last year after attending this hospital birth, I wrote down, in detail, all the reasons why I dislike regular hospital protocols. If you want to delve deeper into the subject, I invite you to read my blog: