The third day past my due date, I woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Shocking, I know. Unfortunately, I spent the next two hours trying to make my baby move. I couldn’t feel my active little boy, and I freaked out. I drank some orange juice, ate a candy bar and tried eggnog—anything to wake him up, so I would know he was OK.
In the following four hours, I only felt him twice. I called my doctor on the way into work, and he had me come in to have a fetal monitoring test. Sure enough, my baby’s heart rate was around 100-110 beats per minute. When he was being pressured with a vibrating massager, his heart would rise up to a normal range, but when he was left alone, his heart rate would drop back down.
My tech told me the doctor would probably send me to the hospital since I was already overdue. (Another friendly tip: Don’t tell an overdue pregnant lady she’s probably going to have her baby that day if you don’t know that.) After 20 minutes of monitoring, the baby woke up, and his heart rate went back to a fairly consistent normal level. The doctor said we didn’t need to do anything that day. Stubborn little boy was just playing tricks on his mom, but I was relieved that he was just sleeping.
Thanksgiving came and went, and I notified my work that I would not be coming back in the next Monday to prepare for induction on Tuesday. I spent Saturday watching football with friends, and although there were a few more episodes of low activity with the baby, I was always able to get him to wiggle around to let me know he was OK. Then, it finally happened.
Ready, or not
Around 1:30 a.m. I woke up and felt a little discomfort, but I thought maybe I just needed to change positions. When the pain came back every few minutes I actually thought I could possibly be having contractions. I wasn’t sure because the discomfort seemed to be there all the time. It would be more intense and then lessen, but it never really went away. I woke Kip around 2:30 a.m. and told him I thought I was having contractions, but I was having a hard time timing them because I couldn’t tell when they started and stopped. I started trying to guess based on the worsening and lessening of the intensity, and it seemed that they were every 3-4 minutes. My doctor had told me that if they were every 4-5 minutes for an hour straight, I should go to the hospital. I knew that I needed to wait as long as I could at home, but I also seemed to be having contractions pretty close together, as far as I could tell.
Around 4:30 a.m. I told Kip I wanted to get checked out, so we grabbed the bags and in we went. I got hooked up to the fetal monitor in the labor triage area and sure enough, my contractions were every 2-3 minutes. I felt a little proud of myself for being able to listen to my body. However, I was only 1 centimeter dilated. The baby’s head was facing up instead of down, and his position was not producing the appropriate pressure to help me dilate. The nurse told me to walk the halls for an hour and see if I would progress, so they could admit me as being in active labor.
During our walk, I made frequent stops to lean over and stretch my lower back to relieve discomfort—and frequent stops in the bathroom because my body apparently didn’t want anything to remain in my system. The contractions were getting more uncomfortable. They were so close together, I didn’t have much time to feel “good” before another one started. After the hour, the nurse told me I was still at 1 centimeter even though my contractions were every few minutes. Because I hadn’t progressed in dilation, the on-call doctor didn’t want to keep me, as it would be considered an elective induction. She offered me a sleeping pill and recommended I try to sleep. I was incredibly frustrated and angry. How was I supposed to sleep? When was I supposed to come back? I was following my doctor’s instructions and was being sent home!
I went home in tears. I tried to rest but instead ended up spending a few hours moaning, vomiting and losing bowel control. The joys of childbirth! I did finally lose my mucus plug, and I was able to take a shower before my mom and Kip told me I should go back to the hospital. Desperate and hoping for good news, it was about 11:30 a.m. when we went back to the hospital. Thank the good Lord, I was 4 centimeters dilated, and the doctors would keep me this time. However, my contractions were 1 to 1.5 minutes apart, and the baby’s heart rate was not getting the time it needed to recover from them. His heart rate had dropped down to the 90s, 80s, and at times, it was dangerously lower.
Again, I felt justified in having been so miserable. I kept saying to Kip that it wasn’t supposed to be like this. I’m pretty sure that he thought I just had a low pain tolerance, but I knew better. I was told we might need to do an emergency C-section if the baby’s heartbeat still wouldn’t recover properly from the contractions. I really respect all those ladies who want natural births or at-home births and truly think it’s incredible for those who are able to experience that, but my “plan” from the beginning was to get an epidural. I think my medical background always made me feel more comfortable with having a birth in the hospital, and I was so glad I was confident with my decision as we waited to hear if the baby was going to be OK. The doctor said we needed to wait until we knew if I would need a C-section before I could have any pain medication of any kind. The only birthing goal I ever set for myself was to deliver a healthy baby in any way that was the safest. C-section was fine with me if that is what had to be done. I was not in control of my body or this baby, but I trusted my doctor.