My due date was January 22, 2014. As that date approached and especially after it passed, more and more people called, texted, emailed, and even cornered me at work and the grocery store to ask if my baby was ever going to come. I was diligently preparing for my natural birth by concentrating on the knowledge that my body knew what to do and labor would start on its own when the time was right. I was tuning out all the “noise” from well-meaning friends and family, doing my daily affirmations, exercises, and journaling, trusting in my body and my baby. The weeks leading up to and following my due date were very busy as I tried all the natural things I read about to start labor –walking, stretching, eating fresh pineapple and dates, dancing. I absolutely, positively, did not want to be induced. I was planning an intervention free, natural birth. I wanted to labor in the water, without external fetal monitoring or an IV. I wanted to labor at home for as long as possible before heading to the hospital.
I had a prenatal appointment with my midwife practice at 41 weeks 2 days. We did a non-stress test and the baby was very active. We went for a follow up ultrasound to do a biophysical and passed with flying colors. We made an appointment for the next Monday to do another biophysical if I hadn’t gone into labor. We spent the weekend feeling great and confident that our baby was healthy and would come when she was ready. Labor did not start so we were back for the biophysical on Monday. The results were not as good this time – the baby wasn’t moving nearly as much during the ultrasound and non-stress test. The doctor told us that based on those results he had to recommend that we go directly to the hospital to be induced. We knew that the baby had been moving like normal over the weekend and throughout the day (just not during the tests) and decided to wait on the induction. We made an appointment for another biophysical the next day and agreed that if the test results were the same, we would go for the induction. Tuesday morning we packed the car with all our labor bags and headed for the biophysical. We got a score of 10 out 10. The baby was moving beautifully, fluid levels and blood flow were great. We were so relieved and headed home ready to keep waiting.
Wednesday morning we were at 42 weeks and back to the midwife for another appointment. A vaginal exam revealed that I hadn’t made any progress over the last couple of days, I was still 2 centimeters and my cervix was soft. We had previously discussed stripping my membranes, but decided against it. I really wanted to avoid any kind of intervention. We were hoping to hear that we could keep waiting for labor to begin naturally because our test the day before was so good, however the midwife we saw still recommended induction. She told us that the risk of stillbirth increases after 42 weeks and that it would be better to induce now while the baby is doing well and will be more likely to tolerate labor well rather than waiting and potentially needing to induce if/when baby is struggling. We decided to go ahead with the induction. Although we had great test results the day before, we had bad results the day before that. We were worried this pattern would continue and didn’t want to risk it. We decided to go in that evening for a low dose of Pitocin overnight and kick it up the next morning.
To say I was devastated is an understatement. My whole preparation for a natural, intervention free birth was focused around the idea that my body knows what to do and will do it – birth is completely natural and my body is made to birth my baby. I felt like my body had failed me. I also was not 100% convinced this was necessary so I was second guessing myself. Add to that my fear of C-section (everyone I knew who had been induced delivered via C-section). It was a very emotional day for me.
We arrived at the hospital around 8pm to check in. We were planning a low dose of Pitocin overnight to allow me to rest (I was exhausted from the emotions of the day) and then increase the dosage in the morning. Our doula, Teresa, happened to be at the hospital that evening and sat with us while we were checking in. I was still very emotional and practically in tears when they put in the IV and placed the external fetal monitors. This is the exact opposite of what I wanted and planned for. The midwife on call was not the same midwife we saw earlier in the office and she was not on board with our plan of low dose Pitocin overnight. She wanted to get started with full on dosage right away stating that my cervix was ready and the low dose was pointless. With some encouragement from Teresa I was able to speak up and tell the midwife that I was not going to begin labor exhausted and that if we did not do the low dose overnight I was going to go home and sleep in my own bed and come back the next morning for the induction. I told her about my fear of C-section and my hope that we could turn off the Pitocin once labor was established so I could labor in the tub. She finally agreed to the low dose and we settled in to try and get some rest.
Contractions woke me up around 4am. I was having trouble coping so we called Teresa around 6am to tell her to come back to the hospital before rush hour began. We stopped the Pitocin around 8am so I could eat breakfast and take a shower. Mild contractions continued during this time. I asked the midwife if we could delay the Pitocin to see if labor would continue on its own but she said that could potentially interfere with our goal: a safe, vaginal delivery. This was the answer I would hear each time I asked about turning the Pitocin off to get in the tub. How can you argue with that goal? It seemed that my hopes for how that safe, vaginal delivery happened weren’t important.
After half an hour on Pitocin the nurse came back to turn up the dosage a notch. I was already working hard through the contractions so I said I didn’t want it to be turned up. Half an hour later the nurse returned with the midwife who insisted we turn up the Pitocin so we could achieve our goal: a safe, vaginal delivery. I agreed, and the dosage was increased.
For the next few hours I labored mostly leaning over the bed, I was feeling the contractions mostly in my back. The midwife said that when I got to 6 centimeters we could discuss turning off the Pitocin and getting in the tub. I knew I couldn’t get in the tub if I had an epidural so that really motivated me to keep going. All the birth stories I had read said that being in the tub was really helpful and I was determined to get there! After a few hours I was able to sit on my birth ball in the shower and that really helped with the pain. During one of my early contractions I said “oh no” out loud and Teresa encouraged me to say “open” instead. So I chanted “open” during the rest of my contractions. The IV and external monitors really inhibited my movement and position options which was really frustrating.
I did not want to get out of the shower, but agreed to so that the midwife could do a vaginal exam in hopes that I was 6 centimeters and would be able to get in the tub. I had already had a few exams and wasn’t there yet. This check at about 2:45pm showed I was at 7 centimeters and my body was already starting to push. At this point I was laying on the bed, exhausted. I was 10 centimeters and ready to start pushing by 3pm. I pushed on my side with one leg up on the squat bar and holding on to sheet for leverage. Anna was born at 3:53pm. She was 7lbs 1.5oz and 20 inches long.