Being induced was not part of my birth plan. In fact, I had clearly made it known to my husband, parents, in-laws, and most importantly, my OBGYN, that I wanted to allow Baby S to come when she was good and ready.
Well the problem turned out that Baby S was too comfortable inside me. She was already nearing two weeks overdue, and as a result, she was losing amniotic fluid. I wasn’t dilated or having many contractions. My water had not broke. Instead two ultrasounds had revealed that she was losing fluid rather quickly. Dr. R really hadn’t given me a choice.
After my stress test she flat out told me, “I’m sending you to be induced at five this afternoon. Can you be there?”
It was already two. That left G and me three hours to mentally prepare for Baby S (as if nine months wasn’t enough – and it wasn’t). I agreed, shell-shocked, and went home to cry, shake, shower, pray, and gather my hospital bag.
A little after five, G and I entered the hospital. I was cramping slightly because Dr. R had scraped my membranes. I had requested she not do this months prior, and I didn’t realize that she had done it until I was in the shower and saw blood. I realized that the slight scraping sensation I’d felt during my exam had not been her carelessness, but her attempt at furthering along my labor. I never mentioned this to her, but I will remember for my next baby to remind her I do NOT want this done. (It did nothing to further along my labor other than cause me to cramp and ache.)
I digress and rant.
Before my room was ready, G’s father, Senior G, showed up to wish us well and offer his never-ending optimism and corniness. I appreciated the distraction and joy. Baby S was (and still is at this time) the only grandchild for both sides of the family. Soon my parents and brother would arrive as well as G’s mother and younger sister.
I knew Senior G wanted to come back into our room for the delivery, but I still refused. Though I knew he’d be respectful of my modesty (which would disappear in a few hours), I felt he would be a distraction from the mental trials I’d soon be facing. Also, my father would never forgive me if Senior G had been allowed, and he hadn’t.
After forty-five minutes of waiting and listening to G and his dad talk about ATVs, the nurse called us back. We hugged Senior G and headed towards our labor room.
I was weighed (a final total of 161 lbs – just at the thirty pound mark for weight gain) and then given a brief tour of my room. The admitting nurse then gave me my gown and asked that I change before the nurses arrived.
At this point, I was excited and slightly anxious. My mother hadn’t arrived yet, though I wasn’t surprised. The woman will be late to her own funeral, especially if my father is driving the hearse.
G was quiet. He needed my mom there almost as much as I did. The two have always gotten along well. They joke with one another and tease me, and G needed that distraction.
I settled into the bed and waited.
Mom showed up about twenty minutes later, full of life and excited. She joked as I knew she would with G and sat beside him on the sofa as the nurses finally entered. Both nurses were friendly enough, though they remarked it was unnecessary that my mother and husband stay overnight. I brushed off their remarks and told them I needed them both there. G and Mom knew what they signed up for. The nurses could butt out.
Dr. R showed up and explained how Cervidil would work. She would insert the soft gel pill into my vagina to soften and dilate my cervix. The hope was that this would kick-start my labor without any other methods being needed. She told me she would be in to check on my in twelve hours and to rest.
As anyone who has spent any amount of time in a hospital knows, there is no rest for the weary in a hospital. While connected to monitors and an IV, I could not sleep. My big belly made any position uncomfortable unless I was on my left side, which was impossible because my IV cord would snag each time I began to drift off in that position. Also, because I was nearly 42 weeks pregnant, I had to pee…all…the…time.
Mom was a champ. She gave G the sofa to sleep on for half the night. She agreed she’d wake him at 3 to switch. She never did, and I knew she wouldn’t. As she later explained, she knew he would need his rest for the next day’s events. So my darling mother took the night shift. She dozed in a terrible, plastic coated recliner and jumped up every time I began to shift and shuffle towards the bathroom. She’d wheel my IV and unhooked my monitor (which was allowed) then lead me to the bathroom. Afterwards she’d wheel my IV stand back and reattach my monitor, adjust my pillows and blanket before settling back into her chair.
G snored with his back to us on the sofa.
I don’t resent G for sleeping through this first night, nor does my mother. What my mother did was her way of being involved, of helping her granddaughter come into the world. She took care of me as I plan to for Baby S and her future babies. It was extremely familiar and comforting to have my mother there that first night. I was scared and having my mother there reminded me I was going to be okay.
For the later part of the night, I did finally drift off to sleep. The nurses somehow managed to tread quietly enough from four until eight that I don’t remember seeing them until they entered to check my cervix.
As Mom woke G, the nurse withdrew the Cervidil. “Only one more centimeter.”
That meant I was less than two centimeters dilated.
I felt exhausted and defeated already. “Now what?”
“Now,” the nurse explained, “I’ll talk with your doctor. I’m assuming she will want to break your water.”
The nurse left and I looked to G for help. We had discussed breaking my water with our childbirth educator. She had advised us against it since it would be a ticking clock afterwards. Baby S would be more susceptible to infection without her protective “water” around her. Plus, she was already losing fluid.
“It’s your call,” G offered as I had assumed he would.
I waited anxiously for Dr. R. When she entered she explained that breaking my water was one intervention that could prevent me from having to take Pitocin – something I knew I did not want to do unless absolutely necessary. Breaking my water was necessary to further things along.
I wasn’t given much time to pout before several nurses entered. They placed a dry pad beneath me and laid me back flat (again, not something any 42-week pregnant woman wants to do). Dr. R opened my legs and with a long, metal rod, broke my water. I felt a slight pinch then gush and soon the nurses cleaned me up. “You’ll soon begin to feel contractions. These are normal.”
As the nurses left, G kissed my head. I felt as if I was letting Baby S down. I hadn’t wanted any of these interventions. I’d read, researched, discussed, and planned to do this all naturally. Was I making the right decision?
G convinced me I was. In hindsight, he and Dr. R were right. Baby S could not stand to lose more fluid if we wanted a normal delivery without complications. In that moment though, there was a brief pouting session that I’m not proud of, but I had to do it then. I had to mourn the fact that this birth was not mine to plan, but Baby S’s and that this would work out as God had intended.
Once I pushed aside my selfishness and pity, I became determined. I was united with Baby S that we were going to do this without any other interventions unless absolutely necessary.
So I walked.
I paced my room and talked and joked with Mom and G. I nibbled crackers and juice that Mom smuggled in from the labor unit kitchen. (There was no way I wasn’t going to eat.) I talked to my best friend on the phone and reassured her things were fine.
Dr. R would return at noon to check my cervix. I prayed for progress and dilation. At noon I had only progressed another centimeter. Dr. R began to suggest Pitocin, and I refused. Baby S was doing just fine still. Her heart rate hadn’t changed; she wasn’t in distress. My heart told me to hold out. I had faith in my body, in myself, and most importantly, my baby girl.
We could do this.
Dr. R reluctantly gave me another three hour window.
Three more hours of pacing, breathing, stretching. My contractions were coming on stronger and quicker. G paced them as he had learned to do. He held my hand and watched the monitor. He’d remark at the level of intensity from the monitor’s reading. I’d glare at him.
As the pain began to gradually intensify I began to withdraw into myself. I felt like a machine. I had a task. It had to be done and the pain was part of the process.
My nurse from this twelve hour block was an angel. Older than my mother, she was gentle and encouraging. She told me I could do this – that she herself and many of the nurses in this unit had given birth without any pain medication. She made gentle jokes to G to ease his worry and even allowed me to take off my monitor for thirty minute stretches.
In those blissful half hours, G and I would get in the shower. I’d be naked and G would slip into his swim trunks. There he’d allow the water to pound on my lower back where the majority of my pain was. I’d lean against the shower wall and breath. Sometimes G would offer me Cheez-Its because I was so hungry. I was instructed not to eat because Dr. R was fearful of me throwing up. Such a ridiculous rule in my opinion.
You are laboring, running a marathon if you will, and you aren’t allowed to nourish body except for the measly IV stuck in your arm? Bologna.
If I have one rule I’d say break, bring in your own food, ladies. The worst they’ll do is make you throw it out…which in that case someone can sneak more in for you!
After the showers and secret Cheez-Its, I’d lie back down.
Three o’clock came and Dr. R didn’t show up. I kept praying, kept breathing. G would hold my hand during an intense contraction. Mom would gossip to ease G’s concern. I appreciated her mindless chatter. I could focus on my own thoughts and not worry about the death grip on G’s hand.
Around five, Dr. R returned looking irritated and stern. I secretly hoped she lived close to the hospital and wasn’t hanging around for my benefit. She explained that Baby S was doing fine. She looked at my vitals and said I was fine as well.
A mother of a contraction hit as she was speaking. I blocked her out. When it subsided, she explained that she would be back in an hour or two to start Pitocin. I don’t remember agreeing or refusing, but I was glad that she left.
I was still only 6 centimeters, but I knew things were progressing. I felt the pain becoming so intense that the next few hours became a blur. My gentle nurse ended her shift at seven, and I remember being teary as she left me. The next nurse was not as personable, but seemed kind nonetheless. She also encouraged me to persevere. She told me I was another centimeter dilated.
The clock began to click towards nine, and I asked my mom to turn off the lights. G was out in the lobby visiting with his parents who hadn’t left since early that morning. My dad and brother were also out there: Dad was reading and Ba-Ba (as Baby S now calls my brother) was on his laptop.
G needed a break.
I held onto my mom’s hand as one of the worst contractions surged. I focused on a focal point (the TV stand on the wall) and silenced my mind. The only thought I remember was, This will end. This will end.
Suddenly the contractions were coming faster and harder. I was so tired from being up the majority of the night. The pain was beating me down, and I looked to my mom and whimpered, “I can’t do this, Mom. I’m sorry.”
At that moment, I don’t remember, but the sweet nurse had checked me and saw that I was fully dilated. My mother looked away from me and smiled, “Baby, it’s time! She’s getting the room ready! It’s time!”
I was happy and terrified and exhausted.
Before I could think enough about it, I felt Baby S pressing hard against me. She was ready. Our baby girl was ready to come out and there would be nothing gentle about it.
“I need to push, Mom!” I cried softly, still gripping onto her hand.
“Hold on, Baby,” Mom said. “She’s getting everything ready.”
While the room began to flood with nurses, G returned and shut off the TV. My primary nurse explained that there were several options for me to give birth. I could do so on my back, legs in the air like I’d seen countless times on TV. I could grip the labor bar at the foot of my bed which had been broken down into an over sized chair. Last I could hold onto the head of my bed and squat.
I tried laying down, but that was excruciatingly painful. My back screamed in a searing, blinding protest, and I shook my head no after half a push. Baby S was headbutting my cervix, pounding her way out, and I just needed to bear down.
So I tried the bar, but my thighs were too weak. After several pushes, I turned away, gripped the headrest of the bed, squatted against it with my back to the room, and pushed.
G offered his arm, and with one hand I held him and the other held my nurse’s hand as she tried to coach me through each push. Eventually my body set it’s own rhythm, and when I felt the urge, when Baby S was really trying with me, I pushed with everything I had.
Yes, I did poop a little.
Did I care? Ha! Absolutely not. All modesty that I have ever possessed dissipated in those moments.
I don’t remember thinking of the time in between contractions or how tired I was. I just remember focusing on making it through each push, allowing my body to relax in between.
Midst my pushing, I suddenly felt a fiery pain like I’d never felt before. Dr. R, who had seemed to appear out of thin air, was now at the foot of the bed, and she said loudly, “I can see hair!”
When I heard that, at the next contraction, I bared down with everything I had in me. I wanted this child out and the pain to be over.
This moment, when the baby crowns, is appropriately nicknamed “the ring of fire.” I felt myself rip as I had feared I would and with another push after, Baby S slipped out.
I almost collapsed because while squatting my legs had gone completely numb, but G and the nurses told me to wait.
As I panted against the bed and G’s arm, I heard Baby S cry. It was loud, feral, and gargle-y. “Is that her?” I whimpered. G smiled wider than I’ve ever seen and nodded. “Yes!”
Dr. R offered G the umbilical cord to cut which he refused, and with help, Dr. R and the nurses guided me back onto my back. Dr. R did not ask as she injected Pitocin into my IV. She instead stated plainly: “This is for your placenta.”
Seconds later I felt erratic, harsh contractions and within a minute my placenta slipped out while I pushed and Dr. R pressed on my abdomen.
I laid in a daze, numb, shivering from shock, and exhausted. I could hear my darling girl feet away. I told G to go stand by her, that I was okay. He obeyed, reluctantly.
Nurses began to pile blankets on my upper torso while Dr. R injected a numbing agent. Seconds later she began to stitch me back up. I had a second degree tear which means I had torn my perineal muscles – it could have been far worse, and I’m forever grateful it wasn’t.
Meanwhile my wonderful mother caught video of G holding Baby S for the first time. It’s a video I’ll always treasure. The look on his face, so full of instant, all consuming love, is gorgeous. I can’t ever thank my mother enough for those captured moments, and I highly suggest other mothers to consider trying to do the same (if your hospital will allow it).
The nurse who coached me through my labor placed a large ice bag on my crotch, which I thanked her profusely for, and then I held my little girl for the first time.
I expected tears, but I didn’t have anything left. I couldn’t cry because I pushed everything in my body out to deliver her. My arms were weak, but I did hold her with G’s help. Bundled, she was still so tiny and delicate. Red faced, but awake, she blinked up at me, and I was in awe.
The birth plan, the interventions that I hadn’t wanted, none of it matter. My darling girl and I had worked together, and she was here. Every part of her perfectly functional and healthy. Her awareness almost startled me. I should have known that she was telling me to prepare for the future – for an infant who was far too aware of her surroundings and could easily become over sensitized. For a baby who would need nearly constant interaction to stay content, and for a toddler who hasn’t stopped running or babbling since the moments she discovered she could do both and do them well.
My birth plan was just a plan. An outline of how I’d like for things to go. It is not set in stone, and no medical event is ever textbook. It’s funny how as an adult I should know by now that life is going to go the way it’s designed to. A child being born is no exception, and I am more aware of that now than ever.
My advice is to prepare to adapt. Know what could come up during your labor such as an increased heart rate or low amniotic fluid. Listen to your inner voice and stay in tune with your body. If something doesn’t sound right, speak up and ask questions. If you have surrounded yourself with good nurses and doctors, they’ll listen and answer. If something is wrong, tell them. Use your support person (or people) for what they are, support! That’s why you have them there.
Whatever way you choose to have your baby, home birth versus hospital birth, medication versus none, just know that at the end of the day what matters is the healthy delivery of your baby.