Part I; If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail?
Preparing for my second birth, I was advised to seek therapy regarding my first birth. It was an experience that left a mark on me, and changed me as a person. I knew therapy was a good idea, and that I was going to be pushed to face the memories of that day. One of my homework assignments from my therapist was to finally write the boy’s birth story. Though it was hard for me to do, and I procrastinated and pushed back, I did it. With April being Cesarean Awareness Month, I thought it’d be a good time to finally share the story on my blog.
After finding out I was pregnant, I spent weeks on Pinterest collecting nursery ideas, researching strollers and picturing how happy I’d be to have a belly full of baby instead of just pizza. The one thing I hadn’t begun researching was how this baby was going to exit my body. I had always assumed I would go to the hospital and have an epidural, because that’s just how you have a baby, right? Something sort of kept coming into my head and it was the scene in “Look Who’s Talking” when she gets the epidural and you see the baby in utero having drug induced trails. Well, because my husband tends to be a bit more of the “naturalist” when it comes to medicine, I thought he would object to the idea of me getting pumped full of drugs to give birth to our baby. I found the documentary “The Business of Being Born”, and scheduled a date night with the hubby to watch it. Watching that movie opened my eyes to the practices of obstetrics in today’s society, and that they may not be the best for women, and could be creating complications in childbirth.
Natural childbirth was what I wanted. No pitocin. No epidurals. No unnecessary interventions. Just me and my baby doing the work we needed to do to bring him earthside.
I had been with my OB at the time for years, and had planned on delivering with them. Even after watching the movie I stayed with the practice, but began doing research. I started with asking a friend that was pregnant and had already expressed views similar to what I had seen in The Business of Being Born. She told me about the childbirth class she was taking, her doula, and the midwife practice she was with. The hubby and I decided that we’d get a doula, and ended up with the doula group that worked out of the hospital my OB’s delivered. We also decided to sign up for the childbirth classes my friend recommended.
The class was 8 weeks long, 2ish hours a class. It was quite the time investment compared to the hospital class, that could be accomplished on a Saturday. Every week was filled with incredible amounts of information on our bodies and what they are capable of, the complications that could arise and how to handle them, and the best practices to achieve the birth we desired.
There was one class in particular that changed my path. There were nine other couples in the class, and everyone was talking about the hospital they would be delivering in. I was the only one slated to delivery at the hospital I was, and it was discussed they were not quite the most cooperative when it came to natural childbirth.
We discussed questions to ask my doctors at appointments to make sure we were all on the same page. We reviewed ways to address potential push back from nurses and doctors, while in labor. During a break, I went outside and I broke down crying. I didn’t want a battle during my birth, I wanted support and love. I couldn’t stand the thought of going through labor and needing to fight against the people that were supposed to be there to help me.
My next doctor’s appointments the hubby and I came prepared with questions. We asked the same thing different ways to see what the doctor’s responses would be, and if they felt sincere and supportive of the birth I was looking to have.
Ultimately, the doctors didn’t answer questions the way we wanted. We got a lot of “sure, as long as baby is okay” or “of course, that’s standard procedure, as long as everything looks good”. To us, those statements were not settling. They were telling us that they were running the show, and if anything wasn’t as they wanted it, they would take control. That was not what I was looking for. I was looking for providers that would consider me the one in charge, and should an emergency arise, still practice informed consent.
The hubby and I decided midwives would be the way to go. Being like so many other women having a baby, I was afraid of not being in a hospital to give birth. It just seemed like the safest option, so if we could get in the practice of midwives that delivered at the hospital, that is what we would do. I contacted the midwife group my friend was with, and they were able to take me.
In the state of Maryland, and I believe most states, in order for midwives to have delivery rights at a hospital, they must be backed by an OB practice. The midwives are there to be your prenatal care providers, and to deliver your baby as long as you remain a low risk patient. After I switched to the care of midwives, there was a slight change to my prenatal appointments. I would still come in, get weighed, pee in a cup and get my blood pressure taken. The difference was, instead of having about 5 minutes of the doctors time, I would talk to my midwife for more like 15 minutes, depending on what issues needed discussing. It made me feel like I was getting all the information I needed, and able to talk out any of the craziness that was rolling around in my brain. I felt good with my decision to switch providers.
The weeks passed and my belly grew bigger, and I became more stressed. No matter how much I prepared, I was having a hard time believing something human sized was going to come out of something pea sized. I knew that my body was made to adapt, and that generations of women before me had done this before, but my brain just wasn’t listening.
It didn’t help that at my doctor’s appointments I was being told that the baby was measuring larger than my gestational age. The thing is, they don’t know exactly how pregnant I am. They don’t know when I ovulated, or when the egg implanted. So how can they tell if at 36 weeks, I’m measuring 37 weeks? What does 36 weeks or 37 weeks look like when there is so many variables? Either way, I was measuring large, and I was constantly being reminded.
My 38 week appointment was the first time the evil “C” word was mentioned. My midwife told me that since I was measuring large, I could choose to have a cesarean if I desired. I was FLOORED that this was being offered to me. Wasn’t their very purpose as midwives to support in natural childbirth, not offering projected “big baby” elective cesareans? I was very clear with them that I wanted a natural childbirth experience, and I wasn’t interested in having a cesarean because they thought I may have a big baby.
Week 39 appointment, same thing. “Because of your fundal measurements, we can offer you a scheduled cesarean if you’d like”. Um, no. I was there because I didn’t want any interventions; I certainly didn’t want to be cut open.
At this point the fear started to sink in. Maybe I couldn’t have this baby vaginally? Maybe he was too big? How was I going to do this? I’m pretty stubborn, so I wasn’t going to change my plans. Instead I just sat having panic attacks of the impending doom of my vagina.
Once 40 weeks rolled around, I was put on the clock. I was told I had until 42 weeks to have the baby. They asked me to schedule an induction; I refused. I didn’t want to be induced, I didn’t want the drugs. I wanted to begin labor on its own, and spend as much time as possible laboring at home. My time at the hospital was going to be kept to a minimum, so I could be as comfortable as possible, and not subject to their rules or thoughts on how quickly I should be progressing.
I stopped working once I hit 40 weeks. I had these horrible ideas in my head of my water breaking at my office, or while walking down the streets of DC. I had mentally checked out of my job, so I decided 40 weeks was it for me. I was going to be at home, relaxing, and waiting for that ‘I’m going to have the baby soon, nesting’ to happen.
Nesting never happened. Instead I sat at home with nothing really to do, and no where to focus all my nervous energy. I was so large and swollen, I couldn’t stand the idea of walking, or even getting off of the couch. Day after day, I lay there watching reality tv, waiting to feel something that could be a contraction. You know that whole “a watched pot never boils”, well consider me that pot that never boiled.
At my 41 week appointment I was pressured again to set an induction date. Though I really didn’t want to, I went along and scheduled it. I would have 5 days before I was slated to arrive at the hospital and begin their induction procedures. This is the point at which I officially freaked out. The hubby made me start walking around the neighborhood, I was eating everything anyone recommended as being a labor inducer.
I also began calling acupuncturists in the area to see if anyone would take me in the next day. One was willing to see me. Over the next two days I spent hours in his office with the needle in the appropriate points in my body. Then each night I was sent home with a TENS machine to hook up to myself and help encourage my body to begin labor.
I was scheduled to be at the hospital by 5p on Wednesday night. That morning I was back at the acupuncturist’s office and having a nervous breakdown. Nothing was working and I was running out of time. I felt completely backed into a corner, with no options left, but to go be induced.