This is a letter of recommendation for Dr Christine Schlenker and Maria Werner. Through my birth story I would like to recommend Christine and Maria in the strongest possible terms to any pregnant woman as the benefits of their care are vast and amazing!
As a British Registered Midwife, I had many concerns about giving birth to my seventh baby in a new country where I was unfamiliar with the system.
I had planned to have a home birth from the beginning and quickly found a midwife to support me through my journey.
My pregnancy was uneventful (if you ignore moving halfway across the world in the seventeenth week). My previous pregnancies had been uncomplicated, with babies all born naturally ranging in weight, from 8lb 2oz to 9lb 13oz.
My labor this time, however, was unusual. I began to dilate at 39 weeks without being in labor. I requested that my midwife strip my membranes at that stage, as I had a history of going up to 2 weeks late and my midwife felt that the baby was a good size. At that stage I was 6 cm dilated, but not in labor. At 40 weeks I was checked again and was 8 cm dilated – not in labor! I was having some strong contractions, but with big gaps of 20 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours. My midwife became nervous as her journey was 40 minutes door to door and we all knew that once I did start to labor there might not be much time.
However, there I stayed for 2 days, with violent contractions, transitional in their intensity, but no progress, becoming increasingly exhausted.
This is a difficult story to tell and in order to understand fully the pivotal role that Christine Schlenker and Maria Werner played I need to skip forward in time to the hours and weeks after the birth of my son and then return to the labor as knowledge of the former informs the latter.
When my son was born it was obvious that there was a problem. His head was a very strange shape and his jaw was deeply recessed. His head was long, front to back, like a football and measured 15 inches (the average being 13.7 inches). We hoped it was excessive molding and that it would settle with time, but at 10 weeks of age sagittal synostosis was confirmed by an MRI scan at Children’s hospital. Sagittal synostosis is where the saggital suture that should divide the baby’s skull front to back to allow the brain to grow in the first 18 months becomes fused during the pregnancy. The only solution is surgery, which my son underwent at 4 months and has completely recovered from.
So back to my labor and with the benefit of hind sight, I think what had happened was that my sons head had got jammed in my pelvis laterally with his face towards one of my hips and the longest diameter presenting side to side. Because my body has labored many times before, my cervix didn’t need that deep pressure created by the descending head to dilate, it got to 8 cm almost on its own, but then became stuck with no head pressure to finish the job and despite my bodies best efforts I could not dislodge my sons unusual shaped head.
Enter Christine and Maria at about 6:30 after an exhausting and perplexing day (remember we were unaware of the problem with my sons head at the point). They came and I don’t know what I was expecting, but for some reason it wasn’t the smart, professional, compassionate young women who turned up. I was very tired and not really receptive to new people entering my birth space, but Christine and Maria seemed like two angels who came and saved me from what I am sure would have ended as my first C section without their help.
The next three hours are a bit blurred in my mind. I just remember that as soon as they began to speak, I felt a calm creep over me. I knew that they could help me and I tried to do everything that they asked. I remember lying on the floor and having my body moved in lots of different ways. I remember standing at the end of my bed and being supported by these amazing women as I went down into deep squats. I remember talking a lot about my past and how some of those things were having an effect on what my body was battling with now. I remember wonderful fragrances as they used aromatherapy oils. But most of all, I remember the feeling of being protected and loved during the three hours that they spent with me. Then they left, silently into the snowy night and I got into my tub and I was alone in the candlelight and the silence and my contractions came every 2 minutes and suddenly I was in control again and an hour later I birthed my beautiful son. Despite his head shape, it was an easy birth and quite wonderful.
The main point of me writing this for Christine and Maria is that from a professional view point and with the full benefit of hind sight, I am in no doubt that both in England and here, without their magical intervention I would have ended up with a C section, which for me would have been very upsetting. I am sure that my son was well and truly stuck and nothing my body did could move his elongated head.
I owe Christine and Maria a huge debt of thanks for everything they did for us that night. But also, for their professional approach, their compassionate presence, their tenderness and understanding and their support. Being a midwife means literally to be ‘with woman’ and that is what inspires me to do what I do and for me Christine and Maria were truly with this woman when I needed them. Thank you both.
NB. I was unaware of the benefits of the sort of care offered by Christine and Maria prior to my labor. I have since witnessed the benefits enjoyed by women who access this care throughout their pregnancies and this would be both my recommendation to women in my care and my plan for myself should I consider number eight!
Victoria Edwards RM CPM