Be warned – this is the birth I am bitter about. Yes, still to this day, I get straight up angry when I think about it. Angry with my care provider and angry with myself too. For anyone who thinks that ‘the way the baby gets here doesn’t matter, so long as it’s healthy’ should talk to a mom like me (or one with a much worse story), and see if she thinks it matters. It does.
So with one natural birth under my belt and a 13 month old, we decided to try for #2. Once again, within a month we were pregnant. By this time, we had moved, and the midwife I used with Baby A was no longer catching babies. (I was so sad about that – I really would have probably driven 3 hours to see her!) Anyway, I had to find a new care provider. I knew I wanted a midwife, and I knew that there was a chance this baby could come pretty quickly – Baby A did. I was excited to find out that a hospital only 40 minutes away used midwives to attend the low risk mothers. I decided that would be perfect! Little did I know at the time that all midwives are not created equal. Some are much more medical minded. These would fall into that category. But they put on a good front, and I was duped.
I told them right up front that I would be delivering naturally, declining an epidural and induction. They said they were fully supportive of that (they weren’t but they said they were.) At my first appointment, they asked if I’d like to have an ultrasound – not because I needed one necessarily, but because they like to do them to confirm the estimated due date (EDD), and they weren’t too busy in the office. I agreed, which I now regret. (I will preface this by saying very early ultrasounds are typically very accurate, and the accuracy level drops significantly as baby grows. Early ultrasounds can be useful and appropriate at times, but in this instance it really wasn’t needed.) The midwife did the ultrasound, and said she saw 2 sacs. At that point, only one had a detectable heartbeat, but at this early stage the second one could be viable but the ultrasound could miss picking it up. I’d have to come back in 3 weeks, at which time another ultrasound would be done to determine if there were in fact one or two viable babies. Talk about a LONG 3 weeks. I told my mom, and she was ready to make plans to put a camper in the yard to help out with the twins. Finally, after 21 long days of wondering, we had the second ultrasound done, only to find we had one sac, one baby, one heartbeat. The other sac was no longer there, which is typical. Whew. Dodged that bullet! I wasn’t sure if I could handle twins!
The rest of the pregnancy went relatively smoothly. I saw three different midwives there, who rotated shifts. You never know who will be working when you are in labor, so it’s good to meet them all. Everything was going well until my 37 week appointment, at which time my midwife asked if I’d like to be induced. I told her no, and she reminded me that if I changed my mind I would need to call and get on the schedule.
The next week, I was offered again, and declined. I felt like they were trying to talk me into it, and it bothered me a little. Then again, at 39 weeks. No thank you. I will go into labor at some point. Now keep in mind, I went into labor with Baby A at 38 weeks and 1 day. I honestly assumed I just cook babies quickly, so surely this one would be early too. By 39 weeks I was getting impatient, but stayed strong. My next appointment was on my due date. Still no steady contractions. At that appointment, my midwife did a procedure called ‘stripping membranes’, which I agreed to have her do. It involves her separating the amniotic sac from the uterus slightly, in a circular motion. For some women, it will get labor going, for some it doesn’t do a thing. I was the latter. Nothing happened.
Here’s where I start getting upset. At this point, the midwife starts getting antsy. She started acting like I was some kind of leper for wanting to let things alone and wait for labor. She insisted that I come in 2 days later for a non-stress test (NST). There was no medical reason why one should be done, but she seemed to be worried. I was trying to be complacent so I went. I passed, all was fine. But wait, now I need to come back in 2 more days for another one. What?! Ugh! A NST involves me having to sit with an electronic monitor on so it can attempt to measure the baby’s movements and heart rate. I went. I sat. Baby was fine. My poor doula. I had hired a doula, who was also an RN (not at this hospital). She went with me to one of those NST appointments. We walked together to try to see if labor would get going, but no contractions were steady. I was told by my midwife that I just couldn’t go to 41 weeks. (I knew at the time that it really wasn’t a big deal, but she was stressing out big time about it.) When you start playing the ‘what if’ card with a mom who is now pregnant 3 weeks longer than she was the first time, sometimes she caves. I did. Emotionally, I was ready to meet this baby and was exhausted with the waiting. If I had a supportive care provider, I could have been encouraged to let nature take it’s course. But no, instead, she was gravely persuading me to agree to an induction.
I was very conflicted. I was tired of being pregnant and was disappointed that contractions would start and stop, never staying regular. But inside, I knew that my body had worked just fine before. I knew it would again. But the constant badgering from the midwife caused me to come to the table with an offer. I would agree to the induction, if it would be done as naturally as possible. I really felt like if my water broke, that hormones would kick in an labor would start. (This was a very bad idea. I cover risks of amniotomy in my Birth Boot Camp class. In hindsight, I would NOT have done this again. But this is the story of what I did, so here goes.) I agreed to show up on my 40 weeks and 6 days date, if the midwife would agree to break my water and leave me be. I wanted to walk the halls and see if labor would get going. She agreed.
The night before, I was nervous. I knew it didn’t feel right, and I even called my former midwife (I still had her number) and cried to her for advice. She assured me that no induction police were coming to drag me to the hospital in the morning, and it was still up to me. She felt like, given my ‘stats’, I would probably respond to an induction and get a vaginal birth, but that if I didn’t want to go, I should stay home. That’s what I should have done. But I didn’t. I went.
I arrived at 6:30 am, as scheduled. I was so well hydrated I could pee clear water. I didn’t want an IV, and I somehow (miraculously) convinced the night nurse getting ready to head home to just hook me up with a ‘piggyback’ instead. This way, if an IV was needed, the needle was set, but nothing was hooked up. I wanted free movement to walk around. So, we waited….and waited, and waited….finally, around 8 am, the midwife arrived to discuss our plans. She left and would be back to break my water (an amniotomy). However, she didn’t come back alone. She came back with her boss, the doctor. I had never met him, because he only sees the high risk moms. The midwife looked scared. Great. He swaggered in and proceeded to talk to me like I was stupid. He said as part of my induction, I would be getting ‘medicine’ along with the amniotomy. I told him that no, I wouldn’t be getting any Pitocin (yes, Doc, I know the big word.) He argued that I shouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to follow induction procedures. I told him I was only here because the midwife pressured me to be here. I explained I had a natural birth previously, and I thought my labor would pick up fine after the amniotomy. He sneered tried to explain that these things take a while, and basically said he didn’t want an emergency after 5 pm. You know, for my sake. He’d have to come back and that could take a while. I really should make sure my emergency takes place before he heads home. I was furious. He told me he’d give me until noon, but at that point I may have to have Pitocin if contractions weren’t coming.
He left, and the midwife and nurses knew I was livid. They performed the amniotomy and I started making laps around the hospital. I kept having to come back every 20 minutes to be hooked up to the electronic monitor to check for contractions. (Hmmm. Maybe we could just ask the me if I’m having any? Hello!?) That is how it went from 9 am to 12 noon. Me, my husband, and my doula….walking, getting monitored, walking, getting monitored. I was sneaking food I brought in during monitoring sessions, and the nurse was getting mad at me. I brought granola, yogurt, and grapes. Not a T Bone. Chill out, lady. (Yes, I am planning to be a giant pain in the butt today. Smile.)
At noon, the midwife came in a softly murmured that the doctor wanted me on Pit. Contractions weren’t coming as long and often as he’d like. I agreed to a very small amount. Remember, my doula was also an RN. I asked her to check and make sure it really was a small amount. It was. It wasn’t long after that, the contractions started. Not too bad at first. Then after 40-45 minutes, they started getting much stronger. The stupid electronic monitor wasn’t picking them up, so I’d have to have my doula squeeze the belt when I told her one was starting and stopping. The midwife came in after the Pit had been on for an hour. She watched me have a contraction and looked at the paper. She was going to turn the Pit up a little. Um, no. Turn it off. She was reluctant, but I told her to turn it OFF. She did, and for the next 2.5 hours, I had the worst labor ever. It was awful. Pit with no epidural. The contractions were much more difficult to handle than the ones I experienced with my first baby. My body was all out of sorts. I was sweating, then would be cold. I was standing up, rotating my hips in kind of a dance with my husband, then leaning over the birth ball. At one point, I felt like my entire body was on fire. My head started feeling like it was spinning and my ears starting ringing. I felt very close to passing out. I put my fingers in my ears, and my doula noticed immediately. She asked, “Are your ears ringing?” I said yes, and she ran out into the hall and had someone find a fan. We plugged it in and she held my hair, talked with me in front of the fan until my faint feeling passed. I was struggling not to faint, because I knew without a doubt I would be immediately wheeled in for a C section. The deck was stacked against me, the doctor’s attitude told me he wanted me to fail. I would NOT let him win. After the faint feeling passed, labor continued and I told the doula I was feeling like it was time to push. The doula told the midwife, and she took her sweet time coming in to check me. (From the point of Pit on, I was hooked to an IV and dealing with all of that mess anytime I moved. It was frustrating.) At the point of pushing, the midwife, nurses, my husband, and doula were all in the room. In terms of other people, I know I really wasn’t pushing all that long, but it felt like it was taking forever. My back was hurting (had been the entire labor), and I was doing my best to be as upright as I could in the hospital bed (I had it inclined almost all the way and was kind of sitting/squatting.) I noticed the midwife say my baby was bald, so I knew she must be close to crowning. Push…push…push….I started noticing the midwife and staff getting looks on their faces that wasn’t too comforting. One nurse told me to be quiet and not to scream. (Really?!) Finally, the midwife makes the realization that my baby is ‘sunny side up’, or posterior. (Not breech – head down but when the baby is presenting face up instead of face down.) What that basically means is that the baby doesn’t rotate or move as easily through the birth canal, which means much more work for mom. Finally, after what was realistically probably more like 25-30 minutes of pushing that felt like forever, Baby L was born! I had done it! I was exhausted, sore, and the labor was awful, but I did it! With the deck stacked against me, I did it! My daughter was here.
Literally, as L was still on me, and we were being cleaned up (I don’t even think I had delivered the placenta yet), guess who came to visit? Yes, The Good Doctor. His exact words? “Guess you didn’t need that C-section after all.” Yes. I kid you not, that is what he said to me. It was all I could do not to get up and punch him in the face. JERK! What a way to try to ruin the bonding moment we were having. The midwife wasn’t too keen on waiting for the placenta to detach on its own, and literally began tugging on it. It hurt so much – not like it should have been done. Afterwards, she ended up giving me a Pitocin shot to control the bleeding. “You’re a bleeder”, she told me. Really? You don’t think you playing tug of war with that cord might have something to do with that? I am fortunate I didn’t end up with a life threatening complication of having a retained placenta from the way she did it. At one point very soon after L was born, the nurse tried to take her away for her bath, etc. I ignored her. My husband sternly said, “Leave that baby with her mama.” She left.
L nursed soon, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Unfortunately, protocol is to wait 24 hours after baby is born. I hated it in there. The one positive I can say is that they do ‘rooming-in’, which means the baby stays with you instead of taking them to the nursery. However, at that time, the rooms were not private and I was sharing with another mom. I think between me, Baby L, the other mom, and her baby, we had 3-4 different nurses in and out all during the night. Hospital rules said no one could stay in the room with us. Not even our husbands. I had done this before, so I sent my husband home per the rules, but this other first time mom was having a really hard time. Her baby was having its blood sugar checked before and after every feeding, and nursing was a struggle. I told the nurse that it was fine with me if her husband stayed – he didn’t need to leave her alone on my account. She promptly let me know that “it wasn’t up to me” and sent him to the waiting area. This was in 2008. I mean, really?
Anyway, we were bothered all night long with something, and I was chastised for asking for an extra pillow, “this isn’t a hotel, you know.” Yes, I know. Clearly. We finally got discharged around 4 pm the following day. I was counting the minutes to getting the heck out of there.
Needless to say, looking back, I wish I had been stronger. I wish I had been more adamant about this being MY birth. I shouldn’t have allowed myself to be pushed around or pressured into things. My biggest mistake was hiring the wrong care provider. I should have seen the red flags. I was duped. And I don’t like feeling stupid. I was very upset about how the entire thing happened, and I know I narrowly avoided getting a C section. You shouldn’t feel like you are going into war when you’re in labor. You should have supportive people with you. Without my husband and doula, I don’t know what I would have done. They were the two supportive voices all day long.
I wouldn’t call it severe, but I did have some postpartum depression after this birth. Is it any wonder? I had a hard time letting those feelings go; feelings of defeat, struggle, being duped, and feeling like I should have known better. All of that combined with lack of sleep and adding a newborn to the mix with a 22 month old makes for a cocktail of tears. I would say it took a good 2.5 months before I felt like myself again. I think all moms need someone to be looking out for them, especially with PPD. Let the mom tell you about her birth – her feelings about it do affect her ability to bond, care for the baby, and cope with the stresses newborns can bring.
Once I was past the PPD “baby blues”, I promised myself I would not have the same situation again. I had learned a significant lesson, and I can speak to others now from the experience I had. It wasn’t until Baby L was 2.5 that we decided to try for #3……