Birth Story – Part 1: Waiting for Baby

13 Nov

Throughout my pregnancy, I did a lot of research—it’s in my nature as a PhD student and internet-lover.  I read books, searched forums, and watched films.  From the start, I had a good idea of how I wanted my birth to go.  I really wanted to avoid any kind of medical intervention, allowing the best possible experience for my baby. In some ways it was a physical challenge to myself to birth without pain medication.   If women are made to birth, why would I need medical help?  If I had my way, I would have considered a homebirth or birth center!

I also knew my limitations—my husband had never seen a birth before and he can get a little freaked out by blood & needles.  He also comes from a culture where men aren’t involved in birth.  My parents planned to come out for the birth, but my mom’s last birth experience was 22 years ago with my brother.  Could my family give me the support I needed? And what if baby came early?

My husband and family clearly felt more comfortable birthing at a hospital.  My insurance was easily accepted at my University’s medical center and it was the closest birth facility.  And so it quickly became my first choice.  Luckily, it had a baby-friendly birthing center with a great team of midwives.  In my search for the right care provider, I first visited the OB at the on-campus clinic.  I had a short list of questions about things that were important to me—what does a typical pre-natal visit look like? What are your labor induction/intervention rates? C-section rates? During labor, what types of interventions do you require (saline IV, hep-lock, pitocin, etc?). What does an ideal labor look like to you?  Her answers quickly told me that I was in the wrong place: no-nonsense comments about timing (moms should dilate 1cm/hr), and regular use of interventions.  But when I interviewed the midwives they quickly put me at ease.  The clinic has a team of 5 midwives that rotate and throughout my months of visits, I got to know several of them pretty well.  I felt confident and comfortable in my care.

In addition, I decided to get a doula to help me out during labor.  I had first heard of a “doula” a couple years ago, and basically they are women whose sole purpose is to support a laboring mother.  They are trained in methods to help manage pain as well as how to support a woman emotionally. Studies have shown that the rate of C-sections dramatically decreases when a doula is present. Having a “woman’s helper” helps women avoid the types of interventions that eventually lead to C-sections (induction, epidural, etc).  I wanted to make my son’s birth an exciting experience for my husband, not a scary or difficult one.  I wanted him to be able to step out if things got tough, and someone to help calm him if he freaked out.

I signed up for a 7-week birth class and we both went weekly.  We did skip one class because at times it was too much “pain” and the breathing exercises got repetitive.  It was such a great experience to go through together and take some time to focus on us and our soon-to-be baby.  In hindsight, it was really useful for my husband to make all those funny pregnancy, labor, and newborn things normal so that he didn’t worry so much.  And with all my breastfeeding struggles, the breastfeeding session was priceless!!

And so I spent my pregnancy growing a baby and anticipating the labor process. I had no idea what labor would be like, but I knew how I wanted it to feel. I wanted it to be exciting for my husband and family; safe, calm, and in-control for me.  I anticipated intense feelings, but I wanted to avoid focusing on pain.  My goal was to labor in the hospital without the medical system affecting me—i.e. no IV, intermittent monitoring, changing positions, etc. I was looking forward to the Jacuzzi bath.

As a first time mother, I knew that my baby would probably be late, but I hoped that I’d be like my mom and deliver him early. She gave birth to me a few days before her due date and my brother was 6 weeks early. My parents arrived in late August to help us get ready and help us, well, wait. In general, my pregnancy was pretty easy, so as I approached September 1, I was confident and excited to meet my little boy.  He was active, healthy, and measuring average (my midwives guessed around 7lbs).

But then September 2nd came, and then Sept 4 (my other due date—depending on which calendar you looked at). And then Sept 8, which marked 41 weeks pregnant.  This baby was clearly comfortable inside, and the wait began to make the days and hours drag on.  At my 41 week appointment, I had my first non-stress test.  My mom and I went to the appointment, and it began with me being hooked up to a fetal heart monitor for 20 min.  The baby’s heart rate looked great and I had some small contractions.  Then we went in to talk with the midwife (one who I had never met) and she checked the amniotic fluid on the ultrasound machine.  Fluid levels should be between 5 and 10 and I had a 4.  Baby’s home was getting crowded and this midwife wanted to induce immediately.  In fact, she said that “if I were her daughter she’d send me right up to labor & delivery.”  I called my husband and quickly discussed it with him while sitting in the exam room–we hesitantly agreed, and mom and I went home to get ready. We were to call at L&D at 5pm to see if there was space available, and thankfully, it was crowded. When they asked how late that night they could call for us to come in, I suggested that we come back the next day to have another NST and check the baby’s condition.  Luckily the on-call midwife agreed.

I spent the evening drinking water and relaxing, since that can help fluid levels. The next day, Friday, everything on the NST looked great! And I was dilating nicely—probably 2 cm dilated and 50% effaced.  This time the midwife asked us to keep up what we’ve been doing and to come back Monday. We all hoped I’d go into labor before then.

The days of the weekend crawled by and when Monday came, I was getting frustrated.  Luckily I had an appointment with my favorite midwife.  We had another NST, which still looked great, but she was getting more confident that baby needed to come out.  We still had time, but the general feeling was that babies are better outside than inside as we get to 42 weeks.  I trusted that she was advising what was best for me and the baby, so we scheduled an induction for Thursday morning—right at the 42 week mark.

The hours still went by with no activity.  I was so tired and frustrated with waiting that we began to go on with our lives.  We ran errands, scheduled meetings, and took care of a lot of last minute concerns.  Baby would come eventually, so we may as well live 🙂  One night we all went out for Mexican (couldn’t hurt, right?).  Tuesday we drove to a neighboring town and walked around the mall with my parents and visited the Russian store to stock up on food.  Before we headed back home, I had to go to the bathroom.  The nearby one was out of order, so we briskly walked to a faraway one.  That walk made my belly hurt—which may have been the beginning of contractions.  That night, I convinced my husband to have sex (since the midwives were all recommending it—it can be a great “cervical ripener”).  Not sure what did it, but at about 4am, Wednesday morning, my water broke!

Part 2 – Active Labor can be found here!

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