All Due in Time: Perspectives on Childbirth from Deaf Parents

Beldon: Introductions

Jimmy briefly introduces himself. (0:29)

English Summary

Jimmy is from an all Deaf family, His children are 4th generation Deaf. He’s originally from Ohio. He’s worked in several states including Mississippi, Ohio, Minnesota and now South Dakota.

Egina briefly introduces herself. (0:29)

English Summary

Egina is from an all Deaf family. Her children are 3rd generation Deaf on her side of the family. She’s originally from California. She majored in child development at Gallaudet. She now lives in South Dakota. Like Jimmy, she’s moved around quite a bit, but has always had the same job: housewife.

Names of Children: Jimmy gives the name and ages of their five children. (0:39)

English Summary

Estina, 8 – Deaf
Jimmy Paul (J.P.), 6 – Deaf
Emelia, 4
Ernelina, 2 (almost 3) – hearing
Jarod, 14 months

First Delivery

Egina and Jimmy describe the process of their child’s first birth, including their initial desires to have a natural delivery, and how Egina ended up being induced and having a C-section. Processes discussed include: Induction via IV, Epidural anasthesia, C-Section. (12:19)

English Summary

Jimmy and Egina have 5 children, between 1- 8 years old. Egina explains that they have 3 girls (one of whom is hearing) and 2 boys. Jimmy clarifies the birth order and gender of the kids, explaining that Egina “lost count” of which child is which (understandable error!).

Egina always knew she wanted children. When she and Jimmy married, they planned to wait 2 years before starting a family. They became pregnant on their honeymoon (an “oops” baby, as Jimmy calls it). Egina was worried about what they would do. After Jimmy reminded her that they were married (so having a baby was ok), they started to get excited about the idea of having a baby. Egina was a bit worried about the fact that this was not what they had planned, but Jimmy encouraged her to think positively and that they would be ok.

Egina wanted a female obgyn and asked around for some recommendations. When she went to a clinic she’d heard about, they said they had 5 doctors. She was so inexperienced at the time that she thought they meant she’d have to go to 5 different doctors. They found an interpreter who the Beldons happened to know because her husband was deaf. The interpreter didn’t have experience interpreting for a birth, but they didn’t mind. Jimmy and Egina went to their first appointment ready with a “birth plan”. They’d read a book that encouraged them to think about what they wanted to happen during delivery; Jimmy wanted to cut the cord, actually deliver the baby, and Egina wanted a natural birth. When they presented their plan to the doctor, they did not get a good reaction. The doctor said Jimmy couldn’t cut the cord or delivery the baby because of liability issues. Egina and Jimmy didn’t have any experience with all this, but the book they read was written by a doctor and they had heard from other sources that what they wanted should be just fine. They were totally put off by the doctor’s response to their requests, but because they were so inexperienced, they went ahead with her anyway.

Egina was past due. Although she was at 41 weeks, they read that it was ok to go to 42 weeks. Instead, the doctor insisted they induce at 41 weeks. Both Egina and Jimmy had no real idea what they were doing or what to expect, given it was their first time, but they were very excited. They went to the hospital early in the morning, with both their mothers in tow. They also called Jimmy’s sister, who had interpreted for several births. She told them that the IV would start the contractions right away and that they would be fast and hard. The IV drip started…and the contractions didn’t. Egina remembers how the nurses were betting on how long the process would actually take. Both of them were so energized and excited – ready for the delivery. Jimmy was in his scrubs and set to go….and nothing happened. Time went by without any contractions starting at all.

They gave her a second dose and the contractions started at last. Jimmy did his best to do everything they’d learned in Lamaze class. He tried to get their breathing in sync, counting the breaths through the contractions. Both their mothers were in the room with them (it was a big room) and monitoring everything as it happened. Egina wasn’t experiencing any pain at that point. Jimmy, however, would get distracted and lose count and Egina would have to whack him to bring him back to her and the work ahead. It was crazy – first time through it, managing the breathing, hyperventilating…talking to the parents – just really wild.

Finally, Egina just couldn’t take it any more. She abandoned the whole idea of a natural birth and called for the doctor to give her an epidural. By this time, the whole day had passed and they were well into the night. Now, because Egina had planned for a natural birth, she really had not looked into what an epidural entailed. They told her to bend over; that she would have a shot in her back and that she could not move. For hours and hours she’d been experiencing contractions and not able to be still one moment and suddenly she was expected to not move at all while still experiencing contractions. She was paranoid that they would somehow paralyze her, so she held it together but was sweating buckets and hanging on by the skin of her teeth during the shot. Jimmy remembers how the monitors spiked while it was happening. Egina didn’t even feel the needle because the pain of the contractions was much worse. She remembers wanting the pain to go away as soon as they were done. It took a bit, but finally the pain of the contractions subsided.

Suddenly, Egina became happy and smiling – a total 180 degree change from her mood before the shot. It was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (according to her mother). Labor continued through the night until about 4:21 in the morning. Jimmy says that they remember the time because their doctor was finishing her shift and had suggested a c-section because the baby’s heartbeat dropped at one point. It was a very emotional moment for them because they had hoped for a regular delivery.

Jimmy picks up the story from there because Egina doesn’t remember a lot about it because she was doped up. He remembers how they strapped Egina on the bed with both arms out (like Jesus on the cross) and put a huge drape in place so he couldn’t really even see her face when he was standing by her feet. All she could do was stare at the ceiling – she could barely even sign because her arms were strapped down.

Jimmy watched while the made the incision (through several layers of fat, he says…and gets nudged from Egina in reply). While Jimmy watched the two doctors working on her, Egina was totally oblivious to how vigorously they jostled her abdomen. They were very casual about the whole thing, chatting about their kids while they worked. The interpreter was interpreting everything to Jimmy who wanted them to knock it off and pay attention to what they were doing! After a bit of tussling, out popped the baby’s head, just like in “Alien”. Jimmy was reporting all of this to Egina who wanted to know if it was a boy or a girl. He told her to wait a sec and finally they got the baby out, turned it around and he could tell her it was a girl.

From that moment on, Jimmy said goodbye to Egina and turned his attention totally to their baby. He followed her into the other room where they checked her over and gave her a bath. He’d heard stories of babies getting accidentally swapped in hospitals and he wanted to make darn sure to keep his baby in his sights. He tried to memorize her face while they were working on her – just in case. The doctors stitched up Egina while Jimmy was doing all this and then Jimmy brought the baby back in to her.

For Egina, everything was just turning out to be not at all what she expected. Because she couldn’t sign, she was forced to talk in order to communicate with the interpreter. Then the interpreter went off with Jimmy and the baby, which was fine, but it left her stuck there alone, strapped to the bed. So there she was thinking about her experience– she hadn’t given birth naturally, she was all alone, she hadn’t held her baby yet, and she was stuck waiting to find out if the baby was healthy or not.

A nurse did come in to talk to her somewhere along the way, but without the interpreter, so Egina really didn’t know for sure how the baby was. While she was in recovery, she started to shiver and felt freezing cold. She was shaking, clutching warm blankets around her, barely able to communicate and just dying to see the baby. Staff people came and went but she just didn’t care – only wanting to see her baby! Finally, they brought the baby to her and she held her at last and just burst into tears.

The next day, the baby had a hearing screening. They remember the doctor coming in with a somber face (with an interpreter) and telling them that unfortunately, their child did not pass the hearing test. The doc was surprised when both of them shouted for joy at the news. It took a minute for the doctor to realize that to them, of course, it would be good news that their child was deaf like them! Even with that, the doctor asked them (in all seriousness) if they knew how to raise a deaf child! What an idiotic question!

Second Delivery

They explain going for a Vaginal Birth After C-Section (VBAC) for the birth of their son. Processes discussed include: Induction by Stripping; VBAC; delivery with suction. (8:16)

English Summary

On to J.P.’s birth. Egina talked to a lot of people about the possibilities of having a vaginal birth after a cesarean (VBAC). The obgyn they had for their first delivery did not really allow them to plan for and deliver the baby the way they had dreamed. They had gone along with the doctor’s recommendations and lost control of the process. They did not want that to happen again.

The interpreter they had worked with during their first delivery (and subsequently their second) had had a baby after theirs and had used a midwife. Everything about that process was exactly what Egina wanted to have happen for her as well. When they got pregnant the second time (this time it was planned), Jimmy supported the idea of using a midwife. There were 4 midwives affiliated with the hospital who worked on a rotation so that they might not know who their midwife would be when it came time to deliver the baby. All of them turned about to be good – there was one who was not used to working with Deaf people, but right away Egina had a better experience. While the first appointments with the doctor were just a quick check, the midwife was willing to hear about everything the Beldons wanted. She was very supportive of the birth plan they originally made outlining how they wanted to do the first delivery.

With this baby, Egina knew what to expect. She was ready for the labor pains; they didn’t go to Lamaze class and were very excited about going through the birth process. Egina made clear to the midwife she did not want to be induced again. The midwife said that would be fine as long as the baby came before 42 weeks. After that, the hospital physicians would be the ones managing the delivery. The Beldons did not want that and thought a lot about their options. The midwife told them about some herbs and natural medicines that might help start labor (which they couldn’t use as part of their hospital care because of liability issues).

The midwife offered to “strip” Egina’s membranes. That’s a process where the midwife uses her hand to irritate the inside of the cervix. The process does not break the woman’s water, but it can trigger the hormonal shifts necessary to start labor. Egina agreed. At that time they were living in Ohio but Jimmy was commuting to Indiana to teach and was out of town. They agreed on doing the procedure and he would arrive that night. By this time Egina was at 42 weeks and overdue.

She took the herbs, had the stripping and waited. At last labor began. Jimmy’s sister had flown in and his parents were coming to take care of the baby while they went to the hospital. Egina’s labor progressed and she and Jimmy went to the hospital. The contractions were pretty strong, but they told her she wasn’t ready yet and to go back home. Egina was tired, irritated and wanted to get going so she could have the natural birth she’d planned. But they went on back home. Jimmy remembers how they’d read not to leave for the hospital until the mother really feels “ready” for delivery. Although Egina had felt pretty ready, apparently there was more to come.

Once they got home, Egina tried to sleep while the contractions continued. They both laugh about the fact that during the first labor and delivery, Jimmy was right by Egina’s side every moment. This time, he came in to support her for short periods and spent the rest of the time on the computer playing games. Finally, Egina couldn’t stand it any more and they went back to the hospital but she still was not dilated at all. This time they decided to stay at the hospital until the delivery.

Well, all that night, the next day and into the next night Egina’s contractions continued. It was almost 30 hours. They had her sit in a warm bath, which didn’t help. They gave her some Pitocin to help the contractions get stronger (although they felt pretty strong already to Egina). Finally the pain got to be too much and Egina had an epidural. When at last she was at 10 cm, she started to push. She pushed for 2 hours – it was incredibly hard. She thinks maybe because it was her first vaginal birth her body wasn’t used to pushing a baby through the cervix. She was totally dilated, but the baby just wouldn’t come. The doctor prepared to use suction to help with the delivery. Jimmy remembers a friend telling him that a baby delivered with suction would have a misshapen head. He didn’t want a pointy-headed baby so was hoping that they didn’t use suction.

At last the baby came and this time it was a son. Jimmy was thrilled – he had a son and now they had one son and one daughter. With their first baby, they didn’t know which they would have and even though they had a good idea this one would be a boy from the ultrasound; they still had to actually see him to be sure.

The labor and delivery had taken so long that Jimmy’s parents and sister had actually left. When the baby came, the nurse looked him over, specifically at his skin, and said he looked like he was 38 weeks old, not 42. That explains why Egina’s body was not ready to give birth and why they had to force the process along so much. So, Egina got her vaginal birth, but still not a natural one.


Beldon: Third Delivery

Egina and Jimmy tell the story of their third delivery which was an attempt at having a home birth that turned into a bumpy ride in an ambulance with a hospital delivery. Processes discussed include: midwifery; meconium; ultrasound; delayed onset of labor; water birth. (10:57)

English Summary

The third pregnancy happened after they moved to Indiana. This one was an “oops” baby like the first one. The ultrasound was good and everything was going fine. Egina was considering trying a home birth for this baby. A friend had told them about her experience with it. For Egina, it meant she would not be dealing with medicine or have shots to fall back on. She would be forced to truly experience a natural birth. Also, the baby could come at the right time and not be induced just because the pregnancy was at 42 weeks. Jimmy was a bit hesitant and his family was really resistant to the idea. They lived close by and were very concerned about the safety of the process. All their babies were born in a hospital. They gave her a whole list of questions to ask the midwife.

Egina had found a midwife and had gone for a checkup to make sure she and the baby were ok. The midwife did not do home births, however, and that’s what Egina really wanted. The midwife gave them the name of someone who used to work at the hospital and now did home births. They were nervous but when they met her they found she was wonderful. Very nice, comfortable with working with Deaf people, open to discussion – they were thrilled. The midwife’s office was in the basement of her home. They went with their two other children to appointments, talked about what they wanted and felt comfortable with her. She was very supportive and patient with all their questions. It felt like talking to a friend. She was a certified, trained midwife with experience, so she was very qualified as well.

Egina asked if she could have a water birth (she loves to swim) and the midwife agreed. They borrowed a kiddie pool from a friend and practiced how she needed to be positioned for the birth. It was a lot harder than they thought – took them about 3 hours to figure out the temperature and how Egina should be positioned. Meanwhile, the kids couldn’t help themselves and played in the pool as well. Once they got it figured out, the kept the empty pool at the ready.

Finally Egina told Jimmy it was time. He ran to fill the pool. Really, this time Egina went to 42 weeks and still had not started labor. She asked the midwife what they should do and she said that they would wait until the baby was ready. They wouldn’t induce or attempt to force labor in any way – very different than their last two experiences. 43 weeks came and went. They did tests to make sure everything was ok and that there was enough amniotic fluid to sustain the baby until the birth. If there wasn’t enough fluid, the baby’s heart could have problems – but everything was just fine. It felt odd to just simply wait for labor to begin after all the effort they went through to induce it the first two times. Finally, at 43 1/2 weeks, labor began. (Which apparently is a record for the midwife…she’s never had a delivery that late before or since.)

During labor, Egina was very restless. She paced the hallway, going from her kid’s bedroom to her bedroom, back and forth around the house. Jimmy was running around – helping her some, making calls and both of them were a bit nuts. Egina’s parents were there ready to take the kids. Jimmy thinks her parents weren’t there but Egina reminds him that that was for J. P.’s birth. It’s understandable how he, too, would get confused after so many deliveries. They called the midwife. Jimmy took care of it because Egina was totally focused on managing the contractions.

Their first two children were born in the middle of the night and Jimmy was really hoping that this one would be born during the day. Alas, there they were again, in the middle of the night ready to deliver the third. It seemed they never managed to get a good night’s sleep before their babies were born. When the contractions were the right amount of time apart, they called the midwife and the interpreter. Both came over to the house.

The midwife said that things were progressing just right. Egina remembers how she was vomiting and that the midwife said that was a sign that the time was close. It had been about 7 hours since the contractions started. They got everything ready. The midwife also had a nurse with her. So Jimmy, Egina, the midwife, nurse, interpreter and Egina’s mother were all in the room together. (Egina’s dad was sleeping). Egina was really having a hard time. The nurse, who was a pediatric nurse and focused on how the baby was doing, was monitoring the situation and said that things were getting a little risky because the baby’s heartbeat was dropping now and then. Egina tried and tried and the baby just wouldn’t come. Egina’s only real connection with what was going on was Jimmy. She was oblivious to anything else that was going on, to any conversations happening, to the interpreter –Jimmy was the one person she could focus on during this whole process and he served as her support and interpreter.

Jimmy starts to explain more about their next decisions but Egina reminds him about the pool. Jimmy explains how their plan to have a water birth was not what they expected. Egina was in pain and thrashing around so much in the pool that it became a whirlpool. The pool itself was twisting and rocking, water was going everywhere. She couldn’t help it; she was in so much pain she just had to keep moving. It was hilarious to watch the water go round. Egina found she had nothing to really hold on to, unlike the hospital where she could grab the bedrails while she pushed. Jimmy was right there, ready to help. (All set with shirt off and snorkel on, he jokes). In reality, Egina did not like the whole water and pool experience although she didn’t say so at the time.

Finally her water broke and they realized they had a problem. There was meconium in the water and that meant that the baby could possibly choke. They ordered Egina out of the pool. When she said she was glad to get out because she didn’t like the water anyway the midwife asked her why she didn’t say so before! Once out of the pool, she still wasn’t able to deliver and they decided they needed to call the ambulance to take her to a nearby hospital. It wasn’t what they planned, but they had to do it. What they expected was the usual ambulance to show up. What they got was a huge truck pulling up in front of their house. They hauled Egina out and up into the truck, closing the enormous doors behind her. Jimmy had to climb up into the cab because there was no room for him in the back. They already had the interpreter, and midwife in there with Egina. So they went bumping along in this enormous truck to the hospital. Egina felt lost because suddenly she didn’t have Jimmy next to her to help her through it. She clung on to the interpreter and was hollering at the midwife about the contractions, pressure and pain. The midwife was monitoring some of the blood that was already passing and telling her to hold back and not push. It was crazy.

They lifted her down out of the truck and before they even got in the elevator door the baby’s head was crowning. They rushed her up to the delivery room where the whole medical team was not quite ready. The midwife and Jimmy went right to work and the baby came right out. The doctor then showed up after the fact and checked the baby, cut the cord and left. The doctor didn’t even charge them because the midwife had done the actual delivery. So they didn’t get the home delivery they wanted again.

Later, when Jimmy was telling the story of the birth, someone told him that American Indians used to bounce overdue pregnant women in a blanket to help the process along. For Jimmy, it made him think that the bouncy truck ride to the hospital was probably the ticket to complete the delivery! Egina is sure it was the ride that did it too – she was bouncing all over the place. She remembers clearly one thing from her trip to the hospital. When they took her out of the truck, she smelled cigarette smoke from a person standing just outside the doors and remembers wondering why the heck were they allowing someone to smoke there! She remembers the actual arrival of the baby as well. She was looking at Jimmy who was telling her not to push. She was nodding to him, telling him she wouldn’t even as the baby came out. Then she said, “Sorry, I pushed!” Jimmy remembers that as well.

Beldon: Fourth Delivery

Egina and Jimmy explain how they were finally able to have the delivery at home which they had been wanting. (3:04)

English Summary

When they got pregnant the fourth time, they were determined to have a home delivery with a midwife. They had come so close the last time, a mere 20 minutes away from a true home delivery. They lined up the same midwife, pediatric nurse and interpreter. Egina reminds Jimmy that actually they had a new interpreter because their other one moved. Jimmy explains that they had an interpreter who’d never done a birth and was actually a former student of Jimmy’s. So everything was arranged.

Sure enough, Egina started labor in the middle of the night, just like before. She remembers how they had gone to bed that night, talking about their plans. She was feeling some contractions. Jimmy asked her to please not give birth in the middle of the night this time. They went to bed at 10 and at 11:30 Egina’s water broke. That was the first time her water breaking was the initial warning of the delivery. She woke up Jimmy who was totally disoriented and told him her water broke. He couldn’t believe that one hour after he begged her to wait till morning, her water broke.

Egina took a bath to clean up and told Jimmy to call the midwife. He was taking his time and she really had to hound him to make the call. She felt the baby was coming soon and he was sure they had plenty of time. So again, the midwife and interpreter came. This time they planned to have the baby on the bed. They got everything ready to go. This time, everything worked out smooth as silk. They’d had labors of 24, 30 and 7 hours (with a hospital trip) and this time it was 7 hours and a perfect delivery at home. For the first time Jimmy was able to do the actual delivery, the way he’d wanted to from the very first pregnancy.

So now they had a girl, boy, girl and (even though they thought it might be a boy) another girl. Egina remembers that the baby was born around midnight and she and Jimmy went to sleep soon after. In the morning they work up with all the other kids around the bed asking them where the baby came from. They had slept the whole time everything was going on. For them, it was as if the stork came and just dropped her out of the air overnight. Egina remembers how they all stood around in amazement looking at the baby. Even Emelia stood at the edge of the bed, sucking her thumb and just staring at the new baby. They had both been so tired – it was wonderful to just fall asleep in their own bed.

Beldon: Fifth Delivery

They explain about their fifth delivery which happened in the hospital with a midwife. Processes discussed include: breaking the amniotic sac (water). (3:04)

English Summary

Their first two babies were born in Ohio, the third in Indiana and the fourth in Illinois. They were in Minnesota when they got pregnant with the fifth. They found a midwife, made sure everything was covered by their insurance and arranged for another home birth. They had 10 –15 midwives on call – a real sign of being in a bigger city. Then they decided to move to South Dakota. They weren’t sure if they’d have any luck finding a midwife in such a small town. They found out it was against the law to have home births in that state, which was very depressing for them. So they fully expected to have a hospital delivery. They visited the labor and delivery area in the hospital and were pleased to find it very nice and homey. There was only one midwife on staff and she was very nice as well. By this time they were in the 7th month of the pregnancy. It was a surprise to the midwife, but really, they were used to being pregnant and so busy that they almost forgot to even schedule an appointment. They had to remind themselves to put everything together, interpreters, appointments, plans and the like. The midwife almost didn’t even take them because they got in touch with her so close to the due date. Egina told her all her stories (she loves to tell them) and so the midwife agreed to take them on. Egina explained how all the previous babies were late. The interpreter had had a lot of experience interpreting births. They all looked at the calendar and estimated the delivery for around December 25 or so. Things went along and then, around Thanksgiving, Egina told Jimmy she thought she was starting to feel something. They couldn’t believe that anything could happen that early. She waited a couple of weeks. She was experiencing some bleeding and although Jimmy didn’t think it was a big deal, she went ahead and called the midwife. She went into the hospital to get checked and she wasn’t having any contractions and the bleeding wasn’t serious enough to worry about.

So, once again, Jimmy begged Egina to try, this time, to give birth during the daylight hours for a change. But it was not meant to be, it seems. Around 9 p.m. Egina was feeling some contractions and some of the restlessness that came with her labor. She packed for the hospital, paced the floor and warned Jimmy the baby would be coming that night. At around 11 she told him they should just go ahead and go to the hospital because she felt the baby could come at any time. She remembers being really annoyed with the nurse that met them and took her to their room. He was walking way too fast for her to keep up. (Jimmy adds that he thought he was out parking the car.) Here she was, walking along, pregnant, in labor, huffing and puffing as the nurse strode down the hall. She had to stop to catch her breath and it took him a while to realize she couldn’t keep up with him. Given that he was a man, he’d never experienced what it was like to be in labor. Egina was really irritated by this time.
They got into the delivery room and all set to go. The midwife was very good about communicating everything to them and things were working out well. She was at 7 cm. As usual, there was no way Egina could stay still during the labor process. She had to be constantly moving. So she paced and sat and moved around hoping the baby would hurry up and come. The midwife offered to break her water. For the first time in all the deliveries, Egina talked directly to the midwife. She’d always gone through Jimmy before. Egina asked why the midwife wanted to break her water and she said that it might help the process along. Egina was incredibly restless, unable to sit in one place for more than a few seconds. Jimmy kept trying to get her to settle, but she just couldn’t. Her water broke and the contractions became really painful. The baby was really close to delivering so she finally settled down. Everyone sprung into action, ready to help. Jimmy got her to focus on her breathing (something they totally had forgotten about). He had to tell her when to push, how to breathe, when to relax – it was like she had never given birth before, she just totally forgot how to manage the process. But the baby came out just fine, without any epidural or other medication. It took about 45 minutes from the time they got there to the actual birth.

And, as Jimmy says- that’s the story of babies 1-5 – as for #6….to be continued!

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