birth story

NJ’s Birth (Part 1)

I’m not sure how to tell this story. It started when I found out I was pregnant. I quite literally checked out every book I could about pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. I devoured “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, “Your Pregnancy Week By Week”, “Pushed”, and “Your Best Birth”. I was apprehensive about everything after reading “What to Expect”, shocked and angry after reading “Pushed“, and calm and reassured after reading “Your Best Birth“.

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I continued reading throughout my pregnancy. My sister (pregnant with her second at the time) would ask me questions she’d never thought to ask the first time around. “Why do I always have to give a urine sample?“… “Wait, there are risks to epidurals?“…

For the most part, my sister was content to do as she was instructed. Urine sample, check. Blood pressure, check. Gestational diabetes testing, check. She wasn’t interested in being informed as to the reasons for these requests.

We couldn’t have been more different. While we saw the same midwife, we received drastically different care based on our needs. I needed to know why. I wanted the science. I asked prenatally about every single item on my birth plan, encouraged by my midwife, took a birthing class, and planned for a “natural birth”.

*my definition at the time just meant unmedicated*

As the end of pregnancy approached, I knew to expect weekly vaginal exams for cervical checks. I did not know at the time that I didn’t have to do it and that it didn’t really give me any information about when my baby would be born.

Even after all my research, I still got frustrated at my lack of progress.  I took to wives tales to move things along. My hips were aching and I desperately wanted to meet my baby. I walked with one foot on and one foot off the curb. I had oodles of sex. I even asked my midwife about castor oil! (She advised against it, and in hindsight I’m glad she did!)

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At my 39 week mark, my husband and I decided to spend the chilly November Saturday walking around an RC Willey store. We wandered around, talking to our baby, urging her to come meet us. We did stairs and ramps and after a couple of hours I finally conceded defeat for the night. I collapsed into a massaging chair, turned on the demo, and focused on relaxing.

Within a few minutes, something felt… off. My underwear felt wet and it felt almost like I was peeing, but I wasn’t. “I think my water broke?” I practically asked my husband. “I’m gonna go to the bathroom and check.”

I had expected a gush. When I stood, I squeezed my knees together, literally expecting a torrent of amniotic fluid to come pouring down between my legs. I waddled awkwardly to the bathroom to check my panties. They were wet, but not soaked, odorless with just the slightest tinge of pink. Sitting on the toilet, I felt drips for several seconds after I was done going.

I had never been so excited to have wet underwear.

I grinned like a maniac as I excited the bathroom. “Yup. Ninety-nine percent sure my water broke. It’s baby time! ” I bragged to my husband.

DH raised his eyebrows. “Aren’t you supposed to have contractions or something?”

Oh. Right. I quickly ran through everything I remembered about ruptured membranes. “Sometimes it takes a while for contractions. Let’s still go to dinner at my parents’ and then head to the hospital. I’m sure I’ll be contacting in no time.”

We beat my parents to their house, so we walked their yard, progressing faster and faster, zigzagging through dormant fruit trees. During dinner, I was too excited to sit. I didn’t have much of an appetite but forced myself to eat anyway. I drank water like it was my job, hoping to avoid IV fluids for my labor that would start… when, exactly?

If I held my hands on my stomach, I noticed small contractions, but they didn’t last long and they weren’t close together. I resignedly went to the hospital, stopping only to pick up our well-packed hospital bags.

The fluid was checked with a test strip and was confirmed to be amniotic fluid. My cervix was checked and I was disheartened to hear that I was still only a single centimeter dilated, and only 80% effaced.  I had been 90% effaced for my previous check with my midwife and didn’t realize that different people will get different numbers from a check. I was put on monitors and encouraged to rest while we waited for labor to begin. Still, we were admitted and so we sent out excited texts to a few friends and family members.

I drifted to sleep to the soft sound of my daughter’s galloping heart beat, but I did not rest well. The monitors itched, the computer screen was bright, and my room was right next to a busy nurse’s station. My husband attempted to nap on the couch.

Around 3 AM, I took the monitors off and padded out to the nurses station. I asked my nurse if contractions needed to hurt and explained that I didn’t even know I was having one unless I was touching my stomach. She smiled gently and said, “The monitors are showing me that you’re contracting about every five or six minutes, but… if you’re not feeling them, they’re probably not strong enough to be doing much.”

She suggested nipple simulation and hinted that my husband should help with that. I went back to the bed. I twiddled and twisted my nipples, massaged my breasts, stopping only during contractions, waiting ten minutes and then trying again.

I finally slept, frustrated and confused. Labor wasn’t happening yet. I was determined to trust my body to give birth without intervention, but it wasn’t doing what I needed it to do. I clung to the hope that labor would start while I was sleeping.

I awoke to a soft knock around seven that morning. My midwife entered and smiled at me. “She’s taking her time getting things going, isn’t she? Can I check to see if we’ve had any progress?”

I consented to the exam, wincing as she felt for my cervix. “Hmm.” She retracted her hand and removed her glove, looking thoughtful. “Well, you’ve made a little progress. You’re a good two centimeters dilated and you’re completely soft. But we need to talk about your options, since your water is broken.

“You can keep doing what you’re doing, but I have to warn you that you’re ‘on the clock‘, and if I’m not seeing serious progress in the next twelve hours, the hospital will really push for a c-section. You could try getting a pitocen drip going to see if that will get you started, but you would have until about eight pm to have this baby or, like I said, the hospital will push for c-section.

“Or you can go home. It takes you off the ‘clock‘, gets you somewhere more familiar, and maybe gets your body relaxed enough to labor. Most of my patients have their labor start within about 48 hours of their water breaking.”

She smiled gently. “Not an easy choice. I’ve got to go check someone else, but I’ll be here all morning. Let me know when you decide or if you have any questions.”

I quietly panicked. I remembered “Pushed” and how often women are coerced into unwanted  (and unneeded) surgical births. I did not want to be one of that number. I woke husband up and we talked for a long time. He was supportive of whatever I chose. He reminded me that I wanted to trust my body. I wasn’t sure what to do.

To stay, or not to stay?

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