I realize this post is long, but I’ve whittled it down to make it as short as I can without leaving out information I feel is crucial to the story. However, if you just want to read the story of labor and delivery, skip the background section of this post and start reading at the second header: “The Rubber Meets the Road.” You can read my feelings on sharing birth stories here. And if birth stories aren’t your thing, just skip this post entirely!
Background: My Refusal to Acknowledge The Inevitable
This story technically starts in October 2012 when we found out we were pregnant. But really to understand it, we need to go back to some of my biggest fears: going to the doctor, bodily fluids, and childbirth in general.
I was a little girl leaving a baby shower when I first learned from my mom that babies don’t pop out of your bellybutton. Without going into detail, she gave me the first inkling that birth was a bit more complex than I had thought. As I grew older, I pushed it out of my mind along with the horror stories women toss about. I knew I wanted children, but it was easier to pretend that they pop out of your bellybutton.
Then one night during college, I saw The Business of Being Born on Netflix and watched it. What stood out to me most was the idea that birth didn’t have to be as scary as I had always thought it would be. It gave me hope. But birth wasn’t on my personal radar, so I didn’t think much about it.
We found out we were pregnant in October. I still tried to push back the information that the baby would have to come out. It felt out of control, scary, and full of the medical side of things that I didn’t like. However, I was interested in health and began to do all that I could to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby. This passion for health slowly wove itself back around to the topic of birth itself. During one exhausted afternoon, I curled up under my pink blanket and discovered More Business of Being Born (Part 2).
This idea of a natural birth made all the puzzle pieces fit together for me. I didn’t have to feel so out of control when it came to this medical experience. The focus was on health and overall wellness. There were things I could do to minimize pain and the chances of a traumatic experience. Every day, I researched and read, and I opened up my mind and accepted what was going to happen.
When I finally went to my first prenatal appointment, it was with a midwife who immediately put me at ease. I loved the personal care of the midwives and the fact that they worked closely with the doctors in the OB/GYN center next door.
I continued to research birth on my own, too. Because my mom had taken a Lamaze class when she was pregnant with me, I started there. Though I couldn’t find classes, I read The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence. Rather than focusing on breathing (which is what I had expected), the book focused on how to actively prepare for a healthy delivery. After Lamaze, I read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (which confirmed what I had read about birth in the Lamaze book). Finally, I stumbled upon the Bradley method. It seemed that the lines were drawn in the sand between Lamaze and Bradley, but I loved the practical nature of Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way (although be warned that their are full color photographs of birth!), and it involved the husband in the experience of birth in clear ways. The descriptions of how one’s body works to give birth gave me an appreciation for birth that I had never had before. It was all I could do not to explain the process to anyone I met!
Because we were moving to a new state in the last few weeks of my pregnancy, we couldn’t sign up for a birth class. So I took the book seriously, and we practiced the visualization and birth position exercises consistently. I was doing yoga and walking, drinking tons of water, and we were eating very healthily. I napped like it was my part-time job.
Though I was nervous about changing midwives, the new midwife, though more direct and a bit older, was wise and helpful.
My due date came and went, but I wasn’t worried because my first midwife had said the baby would probably come a week later (the weekend of July 4th). My new midwife suggested evening primrose oil, and I kept drinking red raspberry leaf tea. I took 2.5 mile walks around our neighborhood most days and was excited about implementing all that I had read. Most importantly, I was determined to avoid being induced.
The Rubber Meets the Road
Then, the evening of July 3, I was at my dad’s house making tea and felt a significant amount of water. “Surely not,” I thought. There was another gush. By the third gush, I was fairly certain my water was breaking. At first, I thought we could just wait to call the doctor until morning to give labor more time to start. Some of my reading suggested this. But my midwife’s list of reasons to call ASAP included water breaking. And above all, I thought of the baby.
With nervous fingers, I called and talked to the midwife on staff. She said to go to the hospital by midnight if labor didn’t start. She must have heard my hesitation, which prompted her to ask what type of birth I wanted. When I told her we were trying to have a natural birth, she said I could wait until 5am. She said to shower and rest and wait. It was my half birthday and our third engagement anniversary (yes, we celebrate these things!), which made the day extra significant. I texted my best friend, and couldn’t believe that we would meet our baby before the weekend! At the same time, I still panicked at the thought of being induced but was confident labor would start on its own.
In shock and with a chattiness I usually get only from caffeine, I sat on the exercise ball and drank more tea and took another capsule of evening primrose oil. By then, it was 9:30pm; I desperately wanted to do something to make labor start. But we were afraid walking might be too tiring, especially in light of a possible induction. I researched and went over our floors with a dust mop and rested.
It was a nearly impossible night of sleep. I remember thinking it would probably be the last time I would go to sleep pregnant for a while. I painted my toenails while we watched TV. Jon was finally able to fall asleep. I went to the living room and read. I kept talking to the baby, and every few minutes, I kept hoping to feel the contractions start. I willed myself to calm down and relax so that labor would start, but it didn’t.
Around 4am, I finally went to bed and fell asleep. I knew I was too exhausted to wake up and go to the hospital in an hour. So we slept in. But when we finally talked to our midwife around 8:30, she was concerned. “They want labor to start within twelve hours of your water breaking or you will risk infection. You need to go to the hospital.”
Her urgency scared me and made me frustrated. I hadn’t worried because I have read about women who were fine for 48 hours and even up to two weeks with their water broken. Many midwives still recommended waiting. I had been taking my temperature to check for infection and had avoided any of the things that can lead to infection.
I cried and vented as I started and finished packing my hospital bag (I had waited until now almost superstitiously, thinking a packed bag would jinx my chances of going into labor naturally). It seemed like things were already going downhill from the labor I had wanted, prayed for, and planned for. I wanted to wait a little longer for labor to start; I knew my risk of C-section and epidural was much higher if I was induced, and I didn’t think I could stand the pain of Pitocin. In addition, I was tired. But mostly, I was terrified that we had done the wrong thing for the baby.