Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sarah Palin's Birth Story: A Work in Progress

Sarah Palin was in Texas on April 17th 2008, when according to her own statements, her amniotic sac began leaking during the early morning hours. According to multiple sources, around 28 hours later, at approximately 6:30 a.m. on April 18th, Trig Palin was born at Mat-Su Regional Hospital in Palmer Alaska. The events of that 28-hour period as Gov. Palin made her way from Texas back to Alaska comprise the core that has fueled virtually all the continued speculation about this birth. The trip was unavoidably public and documented, and many of the details were questioned within days of the birth. Without the concrete time frame of this trip, very little could now be pieced together about the sequence of events.

Sarah Palin's version has changed numerous times. They story has been shaded and spun. Details are still changing. The point of this post is to document this "work in progress," in all of its forms, in one place.

Palin is relying, I believe, on a couple of factors that allow this story to stand. First, birth is personal. It involves an extremely private event that a woman should be able to share only with those of her choosing. It seems really rude to call her on some of these details. Second, a lot of people frankly don't know much about human childbirth. Although this story feels wrong to many, they don't quite have the medical knowledge to know how or why. Third, knowing the end of the story as we do (i.e., she did not give birth on an airplane) it's hard not to let that color our interpretation of the story. All's well that ends well.

Here are my responses to these three points: This woman is candidate for vice president of the United States. There are credible questions about whether or not she actually gave birth to a child that she is claiming as her own, a child with a medical condition that has become part of her political persona. While we don't want to invade anyone's private life, when she accepted that nomination she needed to understand that ordinary rules don't apply to her, and that the American people can ask for and expect reasonable answers. She's counting on the fact that people will not really confront her on the specifics. She's counting on the fact that the mainstream media can't figure out how to pursue this without looking like they are "dishing dirt." So far, she appears to be right.

Second, a lot of people don't know much about birth, but plenty of people do. Numerous doctors, midwives, and OB nurses have commented on the story on multiple boards and forums, and, to a person, have stated that this story makes no sense, not from the mother's view, and not from a physician's view. No one seems to be listening to them.

Third, we must look at this story from the point of view of someone that does not know the outcome. Sarah Palin, leaking amniotic fluid and having one or two contractions an hour could not have possibly known when she got on an airplane that she wouldn't begin "gushing" amniotic fluid and having one contraction every three minutes within twenty minutes of take-off. Her argument now seems to be that because she didn't have the baby on the plane, the decision was correct. I can let my two year old run across the highway and he might not get hit by a car, but that doesn't mean it's a correct decision.

So what really happened?

(4/19) The first official statement from the state of Alaska is as follows: Palin's "labor began Thursday [4/17] while she was in Texas at the governor's energy conference, where she gave the keynote luncheon address, but let up enough for her to travel on Alaska Airlines back to Alaska in time to deliver her second son." (Comment: Let up? So she was having more active labor, or more amniotic fluid leakage, or something else that just "got better?")

(4/21) From an article in the Anchorage Daily News : Palin was in Texas at a Republican Governors Association energy conference last week when early signs of labor began. She said she called her doctor early Thursday morning after some amniotic fluid began to leak. She talked over what was happening with her doctor, Cathy Baldwin-Johnson, and they consulted about what to do. (Comment – she and her doctor "consulted." Doesn't that mean she got her doctor's input? But see below.)

She gave the keynote luncheon address; then she and Todd caught an Alaska Airlines flight back to Alaska. She said was never in full-blown labor on the plane but was having a contraction or two every hour.

"By my fifth child, I know what labor feels like," Palin said. That wasn't labor, she said.

(Comment: Right. But just because you're not in labor now, doesn't mean that you won't be in "full blown labor" ten minutes from now. A long labor for someone on her fifth delivery would be ten hours. I personally had a fourth child three hours after I cooked lunch for eight people.)

(4/22) From an article in Anchorage Daily News: Palin said she felt fine but had leaked amniotic fluid and also felt some contractions that seemed different from the false labor she had been having for months. (Comment: Leaking amniotic fluid and contractions that are different from false labor = "real" labor.)

"I said I am going to stay for the day. I have a speech I was determined to give," Palin said. She gave the luncheon keynote address for the energy conference.

Palin kept in close contact with Baldwin-Johnson. The contractions slowed to one or two an hour, "which is not active labor," the doctor said. (Comment: Again, it may not be active labor now but that says nothing about what might happen in one minute or one hour.)

"Things were already settling down when she talked to me," Baldwin-Johnson said. Palin did not ask for a medical OK to fly, the doctor said. (Comment: But hold it? Didn't Gov. Palin say she'd called her doctor as soon as she felt something going on at 4 AM? And "settling down" from what? More active labor that had slowed down temporarily? Palin did "not ask for a medical OK to fly?" Well, then what did they talk about? The weather in Wasilla? If you're talking to your doctor about potential early labor and you're out of town, what's the topic of conversation? I would think it would be whether you're safe to travel!)

"I don't think it was unreasonable for her to continue to travel back," Baldwin-Johnson said. (Comment: More than one medical professional has stated that if she really said this to a 44 year old woman who was a) on her fifth pregnancy, b) leaking amniotic fluid c) in pre-term labor with d) a known Down's baby who e) was contemplating taking two four hour plane rides, she should lose her medical license.)

So the Palins flew on Alaska Airlines from Dallas to Anchorage, stopping in Seattle and checking with the doctor along the way.

"I am not a glutton for pain and punishment. I would have never wanted to travel had I been fully engaged in labor," Palin said. After four kids, the governor said, she knew what labor felt like, and she wasn't in labor. (Comment, again right. But labor happens fast for women on a fourth or fifth delivery. At times really fast. At any point Palin could have become "fully engaged in labor," and once that happened she could easily have given birth within an hour or two. )

But another report from 4/22 contains direct contradictions: "The governor, eight months into her pregnancy, noticed amniotic fluid Thursday morning prior to giving a keynote luncheon address at the Republican Governor’s Energy Conference in Texas. After wrapping up the speech, Palin and her husband consulted with her physician about possibly flying home on an earlier flight. After being granted permission from her doctor, she and her husband proceeded with the trek home.

At that point, Palin was only having minor contractions and was not showing signs of active labor, Sharon Leighow, the governor’s spokeswoman, said on Monday." (Comment: Elsewhere she said she did not get an "OK" from her doctor. Did she or didn't she? And the governor's spokeswoman stated that she was not showing signs of active labor. If her amniotic sac had ruptured, she was in labor. Saying anything else is just not accurate.)

Here are comments from the transcript of a "in-person" interview that was done on 4/22: :
Reporter: Just a clarification – you flew commercial Alaska Airlines?
Palin: Yeah, yeah.
Reporter: And did -- This was something else I think I heard your father say I just wanted to clarify. Did you have to hide your pregnancy because you were so far along?
Palin: Well, you know I never felt nor do some people say I ever looked like I was that far along, um, so no purposeful way or need to hide that I was pregnant. Um, some, I know that some airlines would have uh, some hesitancy on letting maybe a nine month pregnant person get on board but it wasn’t nine months so, um, it was…
Reporter: And you didn’t tell them you were feeling something when you came back on the plane?
Palin: No need to because I wasn’t feeling at all like I was in labor in fact, you know I wasn’t having one or maybe two contractions an hour that felt just like Braxton-Hicks which I’d been having for months. That doesn’t constitute labor, so…

Comment: This seems almost blatantly to contradict what has been said elsewhere. First, she said specifically elsewhere that the contractions were different from the "false labor" (i.e, Braxton-Hicks contractions) she had been having for months. Here they are "just like" Braxton-Hicks. And when she's asked point blank about whether she felt the need to tell the airline anything, she says "no need," basically because she wasn't nine months pregnant, and because she wasn't "feeling" like she was in labor. Of course, the fact that she also was leaking amniotic fluid doesn't seem to be relevant here, I guess because she's only eight months pregnant. What? Did she really say that?)

And now, months later, the story is being spun even more firmly. In the New York Times article which has been widely republished, when she's questioned about her decision to travel, it is stated categorically that "Around 4 a.m. on the day of her presentation, Palin stirred in her hotel room to an unusual sensation. She guessed she was leaking amniotic fluid, she …called her doctor back home. Go ahead and give the speech, said the doctor, Cathy Baldwin-Johnson, who declined to comment for this article." But then, the article goes on to say, "In fact, Palin was not yet in labor, and her doctor thought she had time."

(Comment: Which doctor thought she had time? The one who would not comment on the article? So.. then... who said Palin wasn't in labor? Palin?)

The entire saga from the time it allegedly began at 4 AM on Thursday April 17th until when the birth occurred at 6:30 AM on Friday April 18th is full of holes, inconsistencies, and contradictions. Much of the time, the story reads like the efforts of people who don't have their stories straight and have to keep backtracking. (For example, Palin saying she called her doctor as soon as she felt something happening, and the doctor saying by the time Palin called her, things had "settled down." These are in direct contradiction to each other.) And, perhaps most glaring of all, is Cathy Baldwin Johnson's utter lack of any decisive statements about the birth whatsoever. Never once has this physician gone on record to say that "Sarah Palin is Trig Palin's mother," or even that she was actually at the birth. She has not spoken to anyone about this since the few very tepid statements she gave to the press in April. Now she won't comment at all.

The one thing, however, that is strikingly constant in this whole thing, and that is Gov. Palin's single-minded determination to reach not Alaska, not a familiar doctor, but Mat-Su Regional Hospital in Palmer, Alaska. Guess they must have really nice birthing rooms. Or maybe there was something else there.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Audrey, for the time line of events.

It's just incredible that Sarah would have been on the plane and not showing signs of labor, let alone outward signs of pregnancy.

Does the low pressure of an airplane cause labor to advance? We've all heard the stories of women who gave birth on planes. Could that have happened to Sarah? SHOULD that have happened? What are the odds?

Maybe this seems... uh... personal, but why would she be on the campaign trail when her five month old son is at home? Wouldn't she be "missing" him terribly? Especially if she was still breastfeeding him?


Anonymous said...

Wait.. then how did she get to Texas? She must have flown and she must have been pregnant then. Didn't she show up for the conference a few days earlier?

Didn't anyone on her flight ~TO~ Texas notice a very pregnant women on the airplane?

And... why would her doctor allow her to fly at eight months pregnant? How important was the conference?


Anonymous said...

I keep asking myself and others: how did Sarah Palin know she was leaking amniotic fluid without having a medical exam? At 6.5months, I thought I was leaking urine. An exam revealed it was amniotic fluid and my physician kept me in bed in the hospital for 3 weeks until my baby was delivered. My sister thought she was leaking amniotic fluid. An exam revealed it was urine.

Unless she had litmus paper with her, how did she know it was amniotic fluid? How did her doctor diagnose her over the telephone?

A person who is so careless with her own health and the health of her baby should not be one heartbeat away from making life and death decisions for our nation.

Audrey said...

Emma -

I asked my husband who is physician and a pilot your question. (However, he is NOT an obstetrician.) Here is his answer: "I don't know of any relationship between atmospheric pressure and rate of labor progression. However, pressurized planes are only pressurized to 10,000 feet - not sea level -, so both mom and baby get less oxygen during the whole flight."

Regarding Trig and the campaign, I watch the news pretty consistently, and I have seen him right along. I have also seen Piper (the seven year old.) I have NOT seen Bristol for a couple of weeks but have never heard it announced that she left the campaign, so my guess is she is there too. I believe Trig is with the Palins. I doubt very much he is still breastfeeding.

As far as I know, no one has come forward and said anything about seeing her on the flight down. However, this was Alaska Air and she is a well-known and well-recognized governor of Alaska, so it's actually rather surprising that no one has said anything. She has stated that this conference was very important to her.

There's no evidence that she ever asked her doctor for permission to fly at eight months. Frankly, there's no evidence she ever saw a doctor. One of the issues no one can seem to put together is how she managed to do prenatal care in Wasilla towards the end of her pregnancy when she was living in Juneau for the Alaskan legislative session which runs from mid-January to mid-April. Juneau is 800 miles from Wasilla.

Audrey said...

As far as your question about how someone would know, most of the time in my experience with a lot of birthing women, people are pretty sure. Certainly, some people have doubts, and often if there is one little "event" this can be caused by a particularly well placed kick to the mom's bladder, but usually when a mom calls and says, "My water broke," she's right.

There are two simple tests that can be done to see if there is amniotic fluid or if there is urine. One is quicker and involves basically litmus paper (remember high school chemistry?) but is less accurate, the other is a bit more complicated (you get a swab right from the cervix). If Gov. Palin had gone to an ER in Texas, these are the tests that would have been done.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I know about using litmus paper to test for amniotic fluid. I guess my point is that a very slow leak of fluid is very different from completely ruptured membranes.

My OB said that a slow leak mimics losing a small amount or urine, and you really need a litmus test or an examination to determine what's going on. At the time it happened to me, he said he saw in patients presenting with my degree of moistness that about 60% were leaking urine, 40% amniotic fluid.

Since Ms. Palin has talked about leaking fluid rather than a complete rupture, I still think she would have needed an exam to be sure. Why rush home to Alaska if what you're leaking is urine?

Anonymous said...

Never thought of that.....
I am a mother of four and each pregnancy, although you are more informed, is very different.
I had one baby who practically sat on my bladder and I leaked urine quite frequently during the last few weeks.
Good question...why fly all the way back to Alaska if you were just leaking urine? Did she go to the pharmacy or ER and get some paper to determine?

If it isn't a great lie, fraud (which it would be), etc. It at the very least shows this woman has very little sense. Her judgement is seriously in question. I would NEVER choose a favorible facility over the health of my child....
And what uber Republican wouldn't want their kid born in Dallas, TX...please...

Sarah Insurance Fraud said...

April 28, 2008. 10 days after giving birth! No post baby figure here. This Video Sarah awards Monegan with excellance in service.
This certainly sheds a different light on Sarahs clains of the Trooper-Babygate scandal.
What's next???? Bristol really not pregnant? Or will it be Irish twins?

Anonymous said...

I was just wondering if any of you have children? How pathetic is your life(author of this lovely story)that you feel the need to stick your nose into another woman's pregnancy,labor and delivery? Maybe you should spend as much time on your own life as you obviously have on Sarah's and think about starting a family of your own,that is if anyone would want someone this obsessed with another woman's pregnancy. That's just wierd!