How I came to love the hospital birth that I didn’t want, Part 1

Two weeks ago today, I had a baby.

He’s right over there, in bed next to me.

Photo on 2013-06-15 at 09.58
He is very blonde.

Two weeks and one day ago, I agreed with my midwives that the home birth I had hoped for was not the safest option, and I sobbed while I packed my hospital bag.

Three weeks ago, I was 41 weeks pregnant with an emotional state the equivalent of soggy tissue paper, battling the daily mind-game of “Why isn’t my body going into labor?”

I had forgotten, since the birth of my three-and-three-quarters (!) year old, J, how strange and vulnerable it feels to stay pregnant significantly past the “due date” of a baby. I mistakenly thought that my experience as a doula and of birthing J 13 days after he was “due” would carry me through. I know that statistically, most women carry their babies past 40 weeks. I talk my doula clients through this all the time—and even gave myself the same pep talk I gave one of them in the latter part of this blog post (which may also delight you if you like gluten free baking).

But memories and knowledge barely stack up against the gravity of an extremely pregnant body and the wash of emotions constantly lapping at the shores of the extremely pregnant brain in a culture that celebrates planning and “due dates” and has erected a very intimidating, medically-recommended cut off date of 42 weeks to most pregnancies.

Let’s just say that in those last couple weeks, I swung dramatically between 1) a tower of mindfulness and brave surrender and 2) a complete disaster puddle.

One day, I would feel completely unfettered and at peace—enjoying the relative simplicity of life with only one child and eating these incredible doughnuts.

Thank you, Doughnut Dolly.
Thank you, Doughnut Dolly.

The next, I would be plagued with worry that despite all my efforts at natural induction—sex, acupuncture, membrane stripping—that I would reach 42 weeks and, according to my home birth midwives’ policy, no longer be able to have the home birth that I wanted. And then I would envision a whole host of unlikely and horrendous birth defects that might be the reason I wasn’t going into labor, and also the complete financial disaster that would ensue once we had our complicated hospital birth of our very sickly child on our not-so-great insurance policy.

And then, it happened. I had to jump headfirst into my hospital birth fear and let go of the last shred of control I thought I might have when my midwife said, “This looks like a baby that wants to be born in the hospital.”

At a routine non-stress test (used to assess the health of the baby by monitoring its heart rate and amniotic fluid levels) the nurse saw one significant deceleration of our baby’s heart rate. And my amniotic fluid levels were quite low. My midwives consulted with their back-up obstetrician and recommended that I check into the hospital for an induction in a few hours. Their concern was that the low fluid levels were leading to cramped conditions in utero and that some sort of compression was leading to the heart deceleration that we saw. If those decelerations continued and intensified, they would lead to consistently reduced blood flow and oxygen to the baby.

I was devastated. I would never light all the candles that my friends had given me when I went into labor at home. I wouldn’t hear my own moans in our living room as I labored our baby into the world.

I was scared. Would I feel cornered into making decisions that I didn’t want to make at the hospital? Would the Pitocin make my contractions unbearable? Would the post-partum nurse cram this baby’s head onto my breast in those first few minutes instead of giving me and the baby time to try breastfeeding on our own?

The questions rolled through my head and I cried. I packed. I ate dinner at our house. And said goodbye to my mother and J. It felt like I was heading to a kind of death. Two hours to pack and say goodbye, and don’t forget to pay attention because your family will never be like this again.

We drove to the hospital and stopped on our way to get a popsicle. I allowed myself the extravagant purchase of a local, artisanal, tangerine gelato version from Whole Foods. My partner A. and I scarfed them down while we lugged our bags up to Labor and Delivery.

Photo by sleepyneko/flickr.
Photo by sleepyneko/flickr.

That popsicle was my turning point.

We settled in and unpacked. Hung some colorful scarves on the wall. Chatted with our midwife and laughed with our nurse.

I took some Misoprostol at 10:30 pm, and contractions started 5 minutes later. Sweet, blessed contractions that I’d been dreaming of for days. They were nice, rhythmic, easy ones. The baby had more heart decelerations with those contractions. They gave me oxygen started an IV drip so fast that it left me shaking with the flood of cool fluid in my veins. The decelerations stopped. And I knew at that moment we had made the right decision.

When I agreed to be induced at the hospital, I was overwhelmed by disappointment. This was not what I wanted. And I needed to sob myself silly over it. Now, here I was, thanking my baby for those heart decelerations. They helped us all make what we hoped was the best decision for him. And they confirmed, as I breathed in oxygen and watched the methodical IV drip, that it was.

***

It has taken me the better part of a day juggling one toddler and one baby to write this, so in the interest of my own sense of accomplishment, I’m going to post this now. I hope to deliver part 2 “soon.” ((And here is part 2…only took me 3 weeks…))

13 thoughts on “How I came to love the hospital birth that I didn’t want, Part 1

  1. so glad you’ll always have this great account of the emotions and events leading up to little c’s entrance into the world! excited to read part two, xoxox

  2. Congratulations. So very glad all worked out for you….and the baby. Hopefully some of ya’lls parents are out to help.
    Can Aaron take some time off?
    Aren’t you glad you didn’t start that parking strip garden yet?
    Wish I were closer to boy sit for you.
    I look forward to seeing some photos. Let me know when anyone has time to post them.
    I’m so pleased and happy for you two…er….three….er….four.
    What’s the gender and name?

  3. Congratulations!!! I’m sorry the path started out sad and hard … but I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your story. Thank you for sharing it.

  4. Congratulations, S and A! I must have been out of town when you had little C, so I’m sorry my message is late. Thanks for sharing your story (well, the beginning of it, so far). It’s so important to know that a hospital birth is not the end of the world.

  5. Congrats on your newest little man, S & A! I love that you had the beautiful intention of having your baby at home, but weren’t stuck to it enough to be unwilling to incorporate a bit more of the western / hospital world, which — in this specific case, sounds as if it was in the best interest of little C. Many best wishes for all of you! I can’t wait to see you guys, whenever that might be — hopefully August 10th!

  6. thank you for sharing your story… though i hadn’t planned for a home birth, i did wish for a natural birth for both of my kids, and for reasons similar to those you have written about, i ended up having two c-sections. it was devastating to not be able to experience true labor, but the births were still miraculous, and allowed me to have two amazing children. sometimes it is necessary to surrender a little. i really look forward to reading the second part of your son’s birth story…big hugs.
    d

    1. thanks, d. i love your expression how you feel about your birth experiences. the miracle and the devastation. i really hope for all women that they can be able to feel and share all sides of it. big hug right back!

  7. I’m sorry, I’m really trying to read this whole blog post, but I can’t stop scrolling up to look at those donuts. And now I really, really, really want good donuts. I almost licked my computer screen. Hope nobody saw that….

    🙂 (ok, I did read the whole thing – what matters, ultimately, is bringing these guys into the world safe and sound. So often with kids our plans go awry – whether it’s how we want to birth them, how we want them to eat, the hobbies they like, whether they go to college or live the dreams we dream for them – rolling with the punches is probably the very best thing a parent can do. It sounds like things worked out in a way that was best for baby regardless of plans – congratulations!)

  8. […] How matters a lot more than what. There’s pretty much nothing I’d rather listen to than a birth story. So I’ve heard A LOT of them. And the consistent thread is this: The way a woman feels about her birth has lots to do with how things happened and much less to do with what happened. It’s easy to see birth as a binary with Drug Free Birth on the Winning side and C-Section on Losing. It’s that kind of black and white thinking that can leave women feeling less than open to options that might be helpful or necessary when the time comes. I’ve seen epidurals work wonders. I myself, hoping for a homebirth, said “I love Pitocin!!” during my labor with Cal. […]

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