As an editor at P&N, it was widely assumed I had a firm grip on what I wanted for my second pregnancy. After all, editing birth stories is part of my 9-to-5, and there’s no shortage of labor and delivery information running through our office.
Like many expecting women, I listened to a lot of stories of births and the different plans that categorized each method. With my first, I had a very textbook hospital birth with no complications and an epidural. On all accounts, it was a fine delivery experience—one I thought I would most likely replicate with baby No. 2. But something in those memoirs captured my thoughts, and I developed the desire to tell a different story. Somewhere between that lovely glucose test and my Tdap vaccine, I decided to look into natural birth plans.
The big switch
I did this knowing I had no plans of attending a birth class and reading up on different laboring methods. (I was 37 weeks at this point!) I was also with a practice that encouraged medical intervention. My OB was and is a wonderful person. She listened to my wrestling convictions and aspirations to try something different, and she totally took my side. She agreed it would probably be best to switch practices, 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.
Transferring 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 care providers. 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 said to me was, “Your baby is breech.” It didn’t make for the best or most heartening 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 at the time. Because I was hoping to avoid all intervention this time, I wasn’t interested in enduring Pitocin while opting out of pain relief. I kept telling myself contractions aren’t 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 swept. I held off until I got a call from the midwife explaining I had a low fluid reading at my most recent visit, 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 checkup, I felt a pop and immediately knew my water had broken! Yay! I was so relieved, yet immediately so nervous. 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.
Slow and steady
I didn’t rush to the hospital or immediately call family. Instead, I wait for the contractions to start. They never started! The four hours of what I thought would be labor and delivery came and went. Eventually it was noon, and I hadn’t felt a thing, even though my water had broken nine hours prior. Knowing I was getting closer to the line of infection risk, I begrudgingly called my doctor and told her my water had broken “a while ago.” I was told to go to the hospital to be safe, so we grabbed our bags and headed for the door.
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 pacified any feelings of guilt 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.
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 had almost ruptured 12 hours ago, 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 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.
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 it for.
I agreed to be checked and was some- where between 5 and 6 centimeters. 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 my husband 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 precious 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 my husband 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 also 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. “This baby is about to fall out!” said one nurse excitedly. It took about 30 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 changed my mind, which I appreciated.
I’m not sure why, 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 proper 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 your baby.” He was seriously handsome, and he made me feel known 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 also brought me to the end of myself in many ways. He is sweet, sensitive and deep. He made our family what it is present day, and no matter his arrival, it feels like we have always been waiting
Meet the DeBusscheres
Home: Atlanta, Georgia
Navy now: A 10-month-old baldy who smiles constantly and has fixed heart eyes for his sister, Bellamy.
Favorite activity: Breakfast, snack time, midnight meals … this kid loves to eat!
Behind the name: Navy just fits his personality! He is gentle and deep, not too harsh while also vibrant. His nickname (affectionately given by his sister) is Nay-Nay.
Milestone memory: He just started crawling, but he can’t even sit up on his own yet! Having an older sister helps model his activity, but having a big head makes balancing a challenge.