As a mother, most of my friends are either other mom’s or moms-to-be. This is the sort of thing that happens when you become a mom–your priorities change, and the people willing to adapt to those priorities are usually the same people who have similar priorities because guess what–they’re moms (or going to be moms) too! As a result of this, you often find yourself talking about baby and pregnancy related stuff all the time.
I was having one of these conversations with a couple of my friends the other day. One has a son about a month older than Henrietta, and the other is in her third trimester of pregnancy. We were swapping labor stories when the pregnant friend said something along the lines of, “I’ve got it all planned out, I feel prepared.”
If you’re still awaiting the arrival of your baby, you’re probably thinking something along the same lines. However, if you’ve already had your baby, you’re probably doing the same thing we did: laughing at her. Of course, we don’t mean this in a mean way at all. It’s just that you can’t plan out something like labor. You might think you can, but you can’t.
All natural, IV medications, gas and air, epidural….Room full of people, alone, only with father-to-be…Home birth, hospital, birthing center, water birth, vaginal birth, c-section….The list goes on and on. Some women have every detail planned out, but the thing is, not one birth plan is actually going to work. Think about it–in real life, even simple situations like a picnic at the park, does anything really ever go as planned? No, not really. And it may seem like having a birth plan and sticking to it is so important–after all, it’s the birth of your child, what should be the best day of your life. But the truth is, none of it matters. Not one bit.
My birth plan was laid out pretty straight forward. I wanted to go into labor on my own, stay home as long as possible and head to the birthing center where my midwife would deliver my baby, have an all natural birth with no medications, deliver naturally, do skin-to-skin the moment she was born, and breastfeed as soon as possible. This birth plan went to pieces at 38 weeks.
I had known since earlier in my pregnancy that I was very high risk for pre-eclampsia. While I did have higher blood pressure and protein in my urine, it was never enough to be diagnosed. My midwife told me the whole time that despite this, she was sure I was per-eclamptic. At my 38 week appointment, I had unusually high blood pressure and protein in my urine. Candy, my midwife, told me she’d like to do a cervical check. Once she was done, she asked me how I felt about being induced. I didn’t want that, and I told her I’d rather wait as long as possible. “I respect that, however we’re concerned for your health and the baby’s health, and you’re 50% effaced and dilated to 1, so it looks like your cervix may be ready for labor.” When I walked out of my appointment that day, I was told that I had until the day after my due date to go into labor on my own, or else I would be induced.
I managed to get contractions started the night before my induction. After two weeks of walking up and down hills like a maniac, eating whole pineapples, eating spicy food, dancing, bouncing, nipple stimulation, sex until the point I wanted to become a lesbian because I was so sick of it, and anything else I could think of to get that baby out including riding a go-cart (slowly and carefully, but still enough to be bumpy), contractions started the afternoon of my due date. However, they weren’t consistent and they weren’t constant. All day long I watched them, hoping and praying that I would go into full blown labor. Then, the contractions stopped around 9PM. I went to bed at 11 PM and slept fine. The contractions weren’t even strong enough to bother me.
I was induced at 7AM on September 6th, 2016. The contractions started around 9AM. Around 10:30, the doctors broke my water. Shortly after that, my mid-wife had a family emergency and had to leave the state, and I was left with the on-call doctor. I wasn’t comfortable with her, and I didn’t like her. By 8PM, I was dilated to 5 and although I handled the pain well, I was so tired. So, so tired. When the doctor came in to check my cervix, I couldn’t even hold my legs up. My husband held one, his mom held the other, and the doctor did the check. At this point, I’d been having contractions that were more than a minute long and less than a minute apart consistently without any form of pain management for eight hours. I was progressing so, so slowly. I was doing good with the pain, and although I had almost given in and asked for IV meds a few times, I was confident that I could continue to stick it out. And then the doctor said something that totally changed my outlook on pain management during labor: if you don’t get the epidural now, you won’t have the energy to be able to push when the time comes considering how slowly you’re progressing, and you won’t be able to delivery this baby.
It was the end of the world for me. So I got IV pain medicine. However, it did nothing for me. I still felt every contraction full force, except I was even more tired than before because of the medicine and I couldn’t take it anymore. It was about an hour later that I finally broke and got the epidural.
I slept through the rest of my labor. Around midnight the doctor checked my cervix, I was at a 6. It took my body 4 hours to dilate 1 centimeter. At around 4 AM, the doctor came in again and checked my cervix. Unfortunately, I had stopped dilating. I was still at a 6 and making no progress. There was almost no fluid surrounding my baby anymore, and my blood pressure was rising. The worst news came 10 minutes later: we’re going to do a c-section.
Of course I protested. Of course I was scared. I cried, I begged and pleaded, and cried some more when my pleas didn’t work. I was wheeled back into the OR, I was numbed. They had me lay down on the table and my arms were stretched out. I was freezing. I was asking the doctors to make sure I was completely numbed, but they weren’t even paying attention to me. Finally, they told me that the incision had already been made. I felt the doctors moving things around inside me, pulling my long-awaited baby out of me, and then things started to fade for me.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d started bleeding to much, my baby had swallowed fluid and wasn’t breathing too well, and then I passed out. As for my baby, they were going to fly her to Nashville to a hospital with a NICU to take care of her since she wasn’t able to breathe too well. Fortunately for me, they allowed her to stay, but she was stuck with needles and IVs, had to wear a cast, and had to stay under an oxygen hood so she could breathe. As for me, I was unconscious for her birth. I never heard her first cry, and I wasn’t the first to hold her. I never met her until she was three and a half hours old. I had passed out from blood loss, was given a transfusion, and then sent to recovery. I woke up a few hours later, and my daughter was not with me.
I actually don’t remember waking up. I know that I did, and I vaguely remember the doctors coming in and explaining what had happened to my baby and checking to make sure I could walk. But I don’t really remember what happened between waking up, and meeting my daughter.
She was under the oxygen hood, she had a cast on her arm to hold the IVs in place. There were little stickers holding things onto her all over her chest. She was so amazing though–bright eyed, looking around at everything. She was only a few hours old and was trying so desperately to lift her head. She had her arms up next to her in this super-hero like pose that just made my heart melt.
From that moment, I didn’t care. It didn’t matter what happened during the prior 24 hours. Do I have regrets? Of course I do. I wish I could’ve been the first person to hold me baby, not the second. I wish I could’ve been able to hear her first cry, to see her enter this world, to have held her on my chest as soon as she was born. But rarely do I even think about that. I don’t think about it. I haven’t thought about it since it happened. In fact, I take pride in her birth. I literally almost died, but it was still the best thing that happened to me. I would do it all again.
The reason it doesn’t matter what happens during your labor, or the type of birth you have, is because the result is the same either way. The focus of pregnancy and labor and childbirth has nothing to do with you, or the labor, or the birth. It has everything to do with the life growing inside of you. And once that life is here–once you’ve met your baby and begin your lives together–you don’t even think about it. You spend your entire pregnancy excited, nervous, scared…anticipating labor and the details. But the thing is, the only time you care about that stuff, is when you’re pregnant.
You can’t control it. And if you try to, you’re probably just going to be frustrated or disappointed. Don’t get me wrong–having a birth plan, knowing what you want, that’s all good. However, don’t expect it to happen, and don’t have your heart set on it. Because all you’ll do is stress yourself out throughout your entire pregnancy, when in the end, it’s all minor details, and the only thing that really matters is meeting your baby and everything that comes after.