In my adult life, I tend to approach most things in a lax, “all things work out” way. With my first baby, I didn’t read books or pick a parenting strategy. I didn’t tour the hospital or have a birth plan. It just happened, and it was great. I’m thankful for an easy first experience, free of complication and worry. When I got pregnant again, rather quickly, I decided on a similar approach for round No. 2.
I sailed through my second pregnancy. It was kind to me, like my first, allowing me to escape the awful clutches of morning sickness, back pain and exhaustion that can be crippling. All in all, I felt great, but my heart started turning toward pursuing a different experience, seemingly out of thin air. I listened to a lot of birth stories on my commutes to and from work, and at work (P&N!), I read even more accounts of babies entering the world, so it eventually took hold of my imagination as I desired to maybe lay some groundwork for how this was going to go in writing my own story. Somewhere between my glucose test and my Tdap vaccine (I think it was 37 weeks), I decided to look into natural birth plans.
I was with a practice that encouraged medical intervention. My OB was and is a wonderful person. She listened to my wrestling convictions and aspiration to try something different, and she totally took my side. She agreed it would probably be best to switch practices for this birth, considering I was contemplating water births, tub labor, all forms of non-medical pain management, etc. We parted ways peacefully, and I eventually found a practice with a midwife.
Switching things up that late in the game is doable, but not preferable. For one, you can’t develop the warm and fuzzy relationship you want with your doctor or team of doctors. They don’t know you, you don’t know them … it’s just an unfortunate truth. It also makes for a forced foundation of trust. It’s hard to trust someone you just met, but this person is going to deliver your baby, so you have to try. (Funny story … my first appointment with the new practice was right after my final ultrasound at my regular OB office. Baby was in the perfect position and ready for birth. The first thing the midwife says to me is, “Your baby is breech.” It didn’t make for the best or most trusting first impression. Thankfully, she rectified that statement at a later appointment, ensuring he was in fact, head down!)
As my due date came and went, I was sweating the idea of being induced. I was induced with my first, but I had no plans of attempting labor without an epidural. Because I was hoping to avoid all intervention this round, I definitely was not interested in enduring Pitocin while opting out of pain relief. I kept telling myself contractions can’t be stronger than I am because they are part of me. I crossed my fingers I could make it through on that single affirmation and waited for labor to start on its own.
At 41 weeks, I was officially a problem patient. I had been approached about induction a few times, always talking my way out of it while also refusing to be checked or have my membranes swiped (they hate that). I had no idea how things were progressing down there, but I felt OK, despite an almost daily high blood pressure reading (my theory being a stressful commute and the anxiety of having to avoid intervention). One evening I got a call from the midwife explaining I had a low fluid reading, and I was out of time. If my son didn’t show up by my next appointment, I was headed to the hospital.
I went to the gym and tried to stay active. I have a 1-year-old daughter, so there’s not a lot of lounging in my life. I told my husband to be on standby at work, and we waited. And waited. And waited. At 4:30 the morning of my appointment, I felt a pop and immediately knew my water had broken! Yay! I was so relieved, yet immediately so serious. My mother told me her second labor was extremely quick. She barely made it to the hospital, and she wasn’t able to have the epidural she wanted. It was about four hours total from her water breaking to the completed delivery. So, I’m thinking, by 10 a.m. I’m going to have another baby—easy-peasy. Mhmm.
I didn’t rush to the hospital or immediately call anyone. Instead, I wait for the contractions to start. They never, ever started! The four hours of what I thought would be labor and delivery came and went. Eventually it’s noon, and I haven’t felt a thing, even though my water broke hours ago. Knowing I was getting closer to the line of infection risk, I begrudgingly call my doctor and tell her my water broke “a while ago.” I’m told to go to the hospital to be safe. My husband and I make a quick stop at Target to grab a few things while I chug my second iced coffee of the day. I had my first contraction in Target, but I knew it was nothing to be too excited about. By this point, it’s 1 p.m. and my water had been leaking for almost nine hours. I was so confused, and I was not looking forward to going to the hospital.
When we arrived, I was the only patient in the maternity ward, so we got lots of attention. I was given an amazing RN named Kay, and she was the perfect amount of realist and cheerleader for my birth experience. She didn’t mock me when I told her I wanted to try the natural route, and she didn’t make me feel guilty should I change my mind. All she did say was that come 3 p.m., if my contractions weren’t creating some progress, I was going to be induced no matter what.
I’ve never wanted to feel undesirable pain so badly. I really, really wanted to progress at my own speed, and with every tick of the time clock, I felt my confidence waver. I knew that Pitocin would change my game, and I knew I was out of arguments. The reality was my water was almost ruptured for 12 hours, and that meant we were at risk. I sighed. I took a deep breath, and I agreed to start the drip.
Determined to keep trying, I had another nurse fill up my tub. We birthed in a new hospital, and every room comes with a labor tub. We had our flameless candles and the diffuser running. Everyone kept favorably commenting on our “labor feel.” We made lots of friends thanks to the lure of lavender oil and our jazz vibes playlist. It was fun, minus the IV hookup and terrible pain. I got in the tub and expected it to be magical or something. I had heard so many stories of water minimizing discomfort and providing relief to the mother. I don’t know what those ladies were sitting in, but it just felt like water. I didn’t feel weightless, and my contractions were anything but fluid. I wasn’t experiencing any kind of back pain, so perhaps this prevented me from benefitting fully from the tub.
At this point I started feeling pretty ill with each contraction, especially the ones that would make me want to jump up from the pain, but my body was too tense to move or breathe. Matt did his best to be encouraging and bring life to my dreams of a natural labor, but I found myself questioning what my priority was and who or what I was doing this for.
I agreed to be checked and was somewhere between a 5 and 6. I think for some, that’s a good number to lean on and for others, that’s a victory in itself. I looked over at Matt and suddenly had a change of conviction … I had a desire to have a conversation with him, to take a nap and capitalize on our time together. As I mentioned earlier, we have another baby, and our alone time was already scarce. I realized I had available time to spend with him, sans baby No. 1, and that window was coming to a close sooner than later. I really wanted to make that time about us, rather than my natural birth, and I asked Kay to arrange for an epidural.
He never said it, but I think Matt was relieved. We had done this together before, and the familiarity brought peace. We just looked at each other, trying to make jokes and watched bad television while resting. He snuck me too much apple juice and reminded me that we were able to handle whatever life was going to look like after that point, and we were always going to be together. It didn’t take long to get the show on the road. A few nurses came in to check on things because they couldn’t detect my son’s heart rate. This was because he was too far south for a reading to be established. It took about thirty seconds for my delivery doctor to arrive (not the midwife). She had also been my advocate for natural labor, but she didn’t say a word when I opted out, which I appreciated.
I’m not sure what’s helped this be the case, but I have the quickest deliveries (praise hands). Both my babies emerged in just a few minutes—this most recent birth being the quickest at about 3 minutes of active pushing. I barely had time to get in the current frame of mind when he was born. Navy Wells, a whopping 8.4 pounds and 21 inches long. My doctor handed him to me and said, “Look at what you just did. Look at him. Meet you baby.” He was seriously handsome, and he made me feel known by him immediately.
Now that we have gotten to know one another a bit better, I can’t believe I spent 27 years of my life without him. His creation completed unfinished parts of me, and his arrival brought me to the end of myself. He is sweet, sensitive and deep. He completed our family, and no matter how he arrived, it feels like we have always been waiting for him.
Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to email@example.com. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!