Our dear children. They determine their own timelines and their own destinies, don’t they?
I received quite the reality check in my lovely thoughts of what the birthday of my first-born would be like. If I could give any advice to an expecting mom, it would be this: forget the birth plan. Have a few things in the “absolutely not happening” and a few others in the “will absolutely be happening”. Prepare to fight for them, if it does not harm your baby. Trust yourself, and for God’s sake go in educated of your options, whether you think you’ll need them or not.
August 30, 2015 — PLANS CHANGE
On August 30th at about 2:19pm (who’s keeping track?), I quite honestly thought I peed my pants. I’m eight months pregnant, that’s not a crazy notion, after all. I was sitting at my desk at work, wearing yoga pants at 36 weeks and 4 days pregnant, because obviously they were the only pants that could kind of fit at that point. I was likely sitting there thinking about all the things I was going to do in the next week-put the carseat together, pick out the cutest outfits I could find in stores for my baby, pack my bag, finalize a pediatrician, check Pinterest to make sure I’m doing everything I’m “supposed” to be doing…I mean, most first time mom’s take an extra week of gestation I kept reading, and I was banking on it. I’m an asthmatic, and lungs apparently don’t develop until after the full 40 weeks…better believe I was taking it easy. My midwives thought it was hilarious that I WANTED to get to 41 weeks so badly.
2:19pm, 3.5 weeks before my due date, the entire inseam of my yoga pants are soaked to the knees. I let my officemate know that I needed to run to the bathroom (obviously, she didn’t question that being the 4th time in an hour or so), and avoided everyone in the halls to the ladies room. There, I searched on my phone how I would know the difference of amniotic fluid, and then ran out to my car to grab one of the pads I had kept meaning to take out of my glovebox over the last eight months. I probably had some choice words for myself about not having a change of pants in my car as well. I finished the rest of my workday, and no one knew anything had happened.
After work, I went to my scheduled 36 week visit at my birth center. To give you some background of what I had decided would be the beautiful entrance of my baby into our lives, it was a no-brainer for me to choose a birth center. I was ecstatic to find out that I was lucky enough to live near one, otherwise I was going with an independent midwife. I’m only partial hippie-but I knew that I did not want to be hooked up to a constant IV, get an epidural, or have a billion doctors poking and prodding me while I sat in a tiny bed like a beached whale. Maybe those sorts of things are for some ladies, but I was not feeling them. Of course, I know that not all ladies love the idea of the no pain medication route I wanted, so to each their own I suppose. I also had decided that a water birth in a gentle whirlpool was both practical and beautiful. I am a small person and the thought of tearing creeped me out, so I figured making my skin elastic and allowing gravity to work its magic would be great. Plus, candles and a magical playlist. I mean, I feel like that’s a no-brainer, but again, pick your own ideas. At the birth center, I would get one of four ladies who was on call the day I went into labor, and throughout my visits during my pregnancy, I had a great relationship with all of them. The place was beautiful, and I’d get to sleep in a normal queen-sized bed (with my husband! No weird pleather chair thing for him!)
Anyway, so I went for my normal 36 week checkup, where they got what they needed to test for Group B Strep (a normal screening for a bacteria that can be harmful to baby by causing an infection). As the midwife dismissed me, I asked if there was a way she could test if what I experienced earlier in the day what the fluid I feared it was. I handed over my pad, where she put a PH strip on it. She looked up and said something like “it’s absolutely in the range…I’m afraid this is amniotic fluid Ash.” I took zero seconds to register that, and instead asked her what happened now. Technically, I would have to be at least 37 weeks gestation to deliver my child there, since they are midwives and not NICU nurses. Luckily, this birth center has a OB doctor who shares his time between the birth center and one of the city hospitals, who we had met for our prenatal ultrasound at 25 weeks. He takes the emergency cases, which mine at this point was-I was in labor, although four hours after my water broke, I was still not having contractions. The midwife told me to go home, take it easy, and that I would hear from her within the hour as to what I should do.
I threw a text to my husband as I got in my car telling him to finish things at work so that he’d be able to leave it for a couple weeks and come home when he can. That everything was fine, but that we might be going to the hospital later. He obviously called then, where I told him the quick side of the story and assured him that I was fine.
From there, I went home. At the time, a friend of ours, Drew, lived with us in a transition point in his life. He enjoyed cooking for me on the nights my husband worked, because my husband is super picky and it’s always much more fun to cook for more than just yourself. When I came in the door, I asked how his day was, and then he asked how mine was. “Well, when you’re done making dinner, would you mind helping me clear my craft area quick? It’s turning into the nursery, and I haven’t gotten that far yet (we lived in a small 809sqft home). I must have seemed off, because he asked if everything was alright. “Oh yeah, I mean, my water broke this afternoon, so–” WHAT!!!! You’re in labor!!? “Calm down man, I don’t feel anything yet, and I’m waiting for the midwife to call and tell me what I’m supposed to do. Plus I’m starving, so take your time.” Just think for a moment what the look on his face must have been.
The midwife called on the outside of an hour and informed me that the hospital was waiting for my arrival, and that she had pre-registered me. She made me swear I would get there as soon as possible. Uh-huh. Yep. I don’t think so. Zero contractions, and I was supposed to have this baby in a calm beautiful tub, remember? The candles and awesome playlist bit, remember? Hospitals mean IV’s. I’ll take my time, thanks. I ate dinner and texted a friend who he and his wife had just had our godson six weeks earlier, asking if he would mind coming over and installing our car seat (that was still in the box, because that’s how I roll.) He along with our housemate were AWESOME that night. At this point, I was very angry at having to go to the hospital. It was close to 7pm at this point, and I called my mom quick to ask for her best friend’s number. I briefly told her to not worry about dropping everything and coming, that nothing was happening yet and that I would let her know when it was getting closer. This friend happens to be a long-time midwife, and I needed to know my options. Both ladies live about an hour and a half from me. Anyway, my mom’s friend Brenda did wonders to calm me down. She assured me that if I stayed strong and stuck to my guns on interventions unless my baby was at risk, that it would still be great, even in a hospital. She told me that since the results from my Strep test wouldn’t be in for another few days, they would be putting me on an antibiotic as a precaution. It would be administered through an IV every four hours or so, and I might be able to advocate for myself by asking my doctor if I could come in every four hours to get the antibiotic, but then labor at home until I was in active labor. Ladies, have that patient pillar of strength to call if you need it, especially if you feel helpless or vulnerable-know who that is beforehand.
My husband came home while I was on the phone with Brenda, and he and Drew preceded to totally freak out together while I threw what I could manage to remember from that darn Pinterest board what I’m supposed to have in my bag (ladies on this app, you know what I’m talking about). The boys sat on the couch waiting while I showered, because obviously I needed my legs shaved and toenail polish on. Plus, I hadn’t had time to change pants. Since the 2:19pm event. Yeah. I was getting that shower. And, still no contractions.
At close to 10pm on August 30th, the boys brought me to the hospital where I found out that the OB we had met and who worked with my midwives had just left for vacation that afternoon for a week. I was devastated. He LOVED midwifery service. He respected them, and advocated for them. I saw him in action at the birth center, and it was a wonderful thing. Instead, a female OB came in and informed me that although it was my right to refuse to admit myself and that technically I could come in every four hours for that antibiotic, that if I chose to take that course of action, she would have no choice but to refuse midwifery service to me because I was knowingly placing my child at risk by not seeking care from the beginning. I eventually conceded to be admitted because if nothing else I was going to get midwifery service and council, and was wheeled down to my room.
Those first nurses, bless their hearts. I will never forget my first two nurses. I was wheeled into a room with several flameless candles going and vanilla lotion in a little catsup cup to smell (commonly used as a calming scent). The one nurse looked so sad, and apologized, saying that she tried to do her best to get me closer to the birth center experience I had planned for, but that this was “all” she could find. I almost burst into tears, her heart was unbelievable, my attitude completely changed from completely angry to compassionate. She knew I did not want to be there, and she knew I was hell-bent on letting everyone know that I had had a much different vision of how this was going to go. They started me on Pitocin, which was the one emergency intervention my husband and I had agreed on letting happen in an emergency situation. It is the synthetic form of our normal oxytocin hormone, so it basically gives what we naturally have a huge boost which hopefully gets one’s uterus to start working on contractions. It’s rumored to make for worse labors, because it basically makes your body slam into high acceleration, instead of allowing the woman’s body to come about it slowly on it’s own. I wanted my baby to choose their birthday and have zero anything in their systems that was synthetic, but everyone made it seem like between the possibility of Strep and the bacteria that could be getting to the baby through their broken sac, having this baby sooner rather than later would be ideal. They added the first round of the antibiotic, and put monitors on me. The nurse was shocked when I insisted I did not feel any contractions. “That’s odd, because you’re getting them every 5 minutes or so, they’re steady, and you should be feeling them.” I was not at all dilated or effaced. That was a long night.
August 31 through September 2, 2015 — NO MEANS NO
The next morning, and every change of the guard following, I was told that I needed to try Cytotec. This drug was on mine and my husband’s “absolutely under no circumstances” list. Allow me to tell you why: Cytotec is a drug that is supposed to be used to treat stomach ulcers in the elderly and is commonly used to abort pregnancies in the second trimester. My husband is adopted, and I’m not using a drug ever for a purpose other than what it is intended for. Sure, it’s very commonly used to thin the cervix in childbirth, and although it is not approved for that use, doctors are able to prescribe to be used for that purpose because it is an extremely effective side effect. After taking into account its additional side effects and our convictions, it was put on our very short “not a chance” list. However, we lost track of how many times we got to hear all about it and how it’s “not that bad, and just think, you’ll have your beautiful baby even sooner!” I’m good on that, thanks.
Speaking of, on our second night there, we had a midwife that questioned me about how I had slept the previous night. She did not like my answer of 3 hours, and informed me that I was potentially harming my baby and that I would need the strength if I was going to insist on doing this naturally. I thought “well, you’re a different sort of midwife than I’m used to…” and then she told me that she needed to give me a pill to make me sleep that night. Obviously I turned it down, and told her the truth when I said that I normally slept 3-5 hours a night anyway, so I was fine, and since I couldn’t do anything but lay in this stupid bed anyway, I’m sure I’ll nap during the day since there’s nothing else to do. She was not having it, and basically told me she would not leave until I agreed to take it, and that it was basically just Benadryl anyway. I have no idea what pill it was, but I eventually conceded at about 10:30 that night, just to get her to leave me alone. The funny thing-at about 2:30am (this would now be Sept 2nd) I awoke to her shaking me, wanting to discuss Cytotec for the second time with her. It has been rare that I have ever seen my husband as angry as he was at this moment. Apparently, she had first woke him (in his stupid pleather chair) to ask him if I would ever consider taking this drug. When he told her no, I would never do that drug and that he was not okay with it either, she wheeled her stool over and woke me up to ask me if I’d consider it yet. This would be the same midwife who forced me to take that sleeping pill. Yeah. Lady, I think you should reconsider your profession, but maybe that’s just my opinion.
Anyway, the morning of the 2nd, a Wednesday, I was forgotten for close to six hours, and it poured rain all morning. All of the ladies who had come in around my time and shortly after to deliver had gone home with their babies in their arms. There were several nurses that could not believe I was still there on their next shifts, barely feeling contractions still about every 5 minutes apart on a constant Pitocin drip until this moment. For six hours, I did not have Pitocin or the antibiotic but still had all the monitors and the IV hooked to me, and when my husband went down the hall to inquire as to what was going on, he was given an apology that they were very busy with a sudden influx of deliveries and that someone would be in shortly to start up another round. I did not see an entire shift of midwives or nurses. Eventually the next shift’s afternoon midwife came and told me that she wanted to give my body a big break from the Pitocin, that by this point my body was basically just being a robot and not going anywhere. She administered another round of antibiotic, and after that half hour session, unhooked my IV and took the monitors off and informed me to shower and go for a walk outside. I almost cried. I honestly did not know what freedom was until I was unhooked, and it felt totally weird. She told me to be back in time for my next round of antibiotic in about 3 hours, but to go to the cafeteria, enjoy lunch, do whatever I wanted in that time. All I wanted to do was walk. The rain had stopped about a half hour earlier and the sun was shining. It was incredible!
That night’s midwife asked me if I would consider Cervidil. Initially, I told her no. I’m on days of Pitocin and I had a sleeping pill. No more drugs!! I was SO TIRED of hearing about drugs at this point. I’m still asked by people why I did it without pain medication. Quite honestly, at this point, it was the only thing in my original plan that I felt I had left. I NEEDED to be empowered to do it this way. When everything else was going wrong, I felt, at least this was something that could not be taken away from me. I clung to a natural birth at this point. I did not want any more drugs, and I was so sick of constantly getting asked to consider them, like they were some new idea. However, my husband remembered that the doula who had given us our prenatal classes had said that of all of the medications other than Pitocin that is the least harmful, Cervidil could be used in a pinch. He remembered that it was at least developed for this specific purpose. I had been in a hospital for three days by now with zero change in anything. I easily could talk through my contractions, I just sat there looking normal, albeit pretty annoyed. I pulled out my phone and did some research on Cervidil. My husband had actually paid attention, this drug is specifically for thinning the cervix in childbirth, and the various comments about bacteria entering through the ruptured sac were starting to get to me. However, I noticed that it wasn’t recommended with women who have asthma. When the midwife came back for routine stuff, I asked her if I would still be a candidate due to my asthma, and maybe that was why no one had offered it, to which she promptly told me she would research that for me. When she came back some time later, she told me that the manufacturer had put that restriction on it because of the type of medication it was, and that this drug did not have any confirmed complications between it and asthma. After some more thought and conferring with my husband, I called her in and she administered it. At that point, she was also the first to check my dilation (that damned bacteria, mind you), and informed me that I was about 2% dilated. I could not have felt more defeated. I went through about 3 constant cycles of Pitocin every day, each pumped up two points past where it normally is pumped up to. I wasn’t in any real pain, but boy, what I pissed I was still sitting there when everyone else got to go home with their babies already.
September 3, 2015 — FINALLY
September 3rd started like the days before it. It had been a lovely vacation, in its fourth day, I assure you. Cervidil is something that is placed inside by the cervix and left there for 12 hours, and the theory is that in that time, it will…well…thin the cervix. So I slept with it in, and it was removed early in the morning. The Group B Strep test came in negative that morning, so all of that antibiotic was basically for no reason, but maybe helped with other bacteria risk, who knows. In the afternoon, still on constant Pitocin, one of our favorite midwives from the birth center stopped by to check in. Like…we loved this chick. She was incredible in her field, and I peppered her with questions, told her all the things that had happened, and asked if I had made any bad decisions. She assured me that no, I was right to turn down things, and if I was to choose interventions, I picked the best ones to have the most natural birth possible given my situation. She couldn’t believe I was sitting there talking to her normally, just hanging out. In this time, Drew also come to hang out. My husband had gone home once to go grab a few things I had forgotten in my fury from finding out I was hospital-bound and had no time to pull up checklists, as well as being there for several days and needing new clothes to sit in. Drew brought a few more things like newborn gloves and a few movies. After a while our awesome birth center midwife said she needed to go, but gave my husband her number in case we had any more questions and to update her on progress. At the same time, I told the boys to go do something, and that a watched pot never boils. I just wanted time to myself, I was tired of seeing people. So, the three of them left, the boys to a movie theater. It was almost 4:30pm.
For about an hour while everyone was there, I had had to pee SO BAD. But it was a huge production to wheel the IV into the bathroom with me, and I had discovered that if anyone but my husband (who I had already yelled at) was in the room, they would insist on helping me in there. Ugh. Anyway, I was all too happy when that door closed, and I got up. GUSH. Down to the floor, my pants got super soaked. Before I got the stupid IV the few steps into the restroom, I was doubled over in contractions. A nurse came running in, obviously their hallway monitors showed something happened. She asked if I was alright, and I told her I would be out in just a moment but that it was go time, I knew it. She helped me out of the restroom, I managed one step between contractions before having to stop and wait, paralyzed. She got me sitting on the bed and shut down the Pitocin. I asked her how long she thought I might have, and she said likely several hours still, I had just entered active labor. I texted my husband “when you’re finished with the movie, just have Drew drop you off, things just got real.” I can imagine what that poor man was thinking, having just arrived at the theater. He called, and I told him to enjoy the movie and that he’d hopefully arrive to more excitement than when he left, but that I needed to be alone for awhile. Reluctantly, he obeyed.
He arrived shortly after 7pm, so I had been in very labor for a couple hours, contractions every minute or so, lasting about 30 seconds. This is transition period consistency, right before the woman pushes, which usually lasts between 30 minutes and two hours. These things are what initially doubled me over in the bathroom-so I basically skipped the whole “active labor” bit. The nurse suggested I sit in the tub, which I loved that idea (again, that silly birth center plan). It took forever to get me into that tub with the nurse and my husband on either side of me. She found those flameless candles and put them in the four corners of the little hospital tub. Contractions feel a million times better in water, ladies. I went from yelling to just face crinkling within thirty seconds. It was short lived though. Less than five minutes later, I told the nurse I had to push, and although I could labor in the tub, I was not allowed to push in it. She told Chris to help me out of the tub while she ran to grab the midwife (who had just come on shift, I hadn’t met her yet…still have no idea what she looked like I was going out of it). She checked, I was 7cm dilated, 100% effaced. I remember whimpering. She told me that the rest will go very quick, that it is the first 6cm that take darned near forever. She told me she was going to go get ready for delivery. When she came back minutes later, she checked, and found out our baby was decending.
Now. My husband had previously decided that he was going to be on the other side of the room when this whole thing was happening. He paled at the prospect of seeing blood in the water of the whirlpool, and he certainly wanted nothing to do with watching this business close-up. He was there for me to break his hand all I wanted and cut the cord. Otherwise, count him out. Ha. Haha. Ha. When that midwife came back, she told him to grab a leg and the rest is history in that regard. That man had a front-row seat. And guess what birth partners, he lived-you will too!.
Anyway, from 7cm to born took 22 minutes. Eight rounds of three pushes per round, actually. I don’t remember much, it is honestly a full out of body experience if you choose to go drug-free. Weeks later, I realized I got oxygen at some point. Eventually, that Pitocin worked, and when our child decided she wanted it to be her birthday, she came like a freight train. I started out by crouching over the head of the bed trying to allow gravity to do its thing. Quickly, my legs buckled. They flipped me to my side. Anything other than my back, I will not have a child on my back, I said. Never. My hip basically burst into flame, and I involuntarily flipped myself onto my back on my way to switch sides. I didn’t make it.
My dear husband. He whispered to me “remember what that doula said…cross the bridge. It will take a long time, right until you commit to jump, and then you’ll be on the other side.” I absolutely lost myself then, pushed through the pain that felt like flames were consuming me and-
“Baby, it’s Olivia. She’s beautiful.”
We did not find out the sex of our child. My husband would get to tell me who they were by name when they arrived. And I would not trade looking up to the thick tears in his eyes for anything.
September 3rd, at 9:09pm, we welcomed Olivia Grace. This little thing with dimples and her daddy’s eyebrows. This day made it 37 weeks gestation, meaning no NICU stay, straight up to postpartum instead. And I felt like I could conquer a planet.
What didn’t quite go to plan? What was your experience like?