I avoided thinking about labor and delivery for the first six months of my pregnancy. I blissfully browsed Pinterest for nursery ideas, made lists of girl names, and daydreamed about bringing a little warm and shmushy bundle of joy into the world.
Oh, the bliss of ignorance. I didn’t have a clue.
Eventually, it was time to put together a birth plan. I researched epidurals and weighed the risks versus rewards. Despite knowing I have a low tolerance for physical and emotional pain, I decided I would give the unmedicated route a try.
And, like any pain-hating, mildly anxious control freak, I planned and I planned hard.
Here’s what I did:
1. I fired my OB (even though I loved her) and hired a midwife.
2. I hired a doula.
3. I filled my hospital bag with trinkets, music, and scented oils to help manage labor pain and anxiety.
4. I read up on relaxation techniques to manage my anxiety and the physical pain that comes with labor and childbirth.
5. I decided I would labor at home as long as possible to lower the chances of “unnecessary” medical interventions.
6. I requested a labor tub for my hospital room.
7. I prepared high protein and easily digestible freezer meals to nibble on while I labored at home.
But the labor and delivery gods laughed.
Here’s what actually happened:
Thursday, 10 p.m. :: My water broke just as I got into bed and swung my leg over my big body pillow. I called my midwife, and she said I had to come in to the hospital to get antibiotics immediately, since I was Group B positive. There went my plan to labor at home as long as possible.
Thursday 11:00 p.m. :: We arrived at the hospital and checked in. They hooked me up to the monitor, and it was determined that I was having mild contractions. My midwife, weary and sleep deprived, informed me that it was “raining babies.” She felt it didn’t make sense for me to go home and come back, but she wasn’t sure when a labor room would be ready. She suggested I walk around the hospital as much as possible, but since I was leaking amniotic fluid with each contraction, I didn’t feel like prancing around in an adult diaper.
With all of the excitement and anticipation, I couldn’t eat or sleep. I rested, got my antibiotics, watched the clock, listened to my husband snore, and leaked amniotic fluid with every contraction. This was NOT how I pictured my labor experience.
Friday 8 a.m. :: My doula arrived with her bag of tricks, and I finally got my labor room. No labor tub. Again, it was “raining babies,” and I was lucky to get a room at all. There went my plan to relieve my back labor pain in a warm, soothing tub.
The nurses finally decided to check how dilated I was. The contractions were intense, and I was exhausted; I needed something to keep me going. Three or four centimeters, they told me! WHAT?! I started to unravel and went into crisis mode. They got me in the shower and rubbed my back. We walked around. I rolled on the ball. We visualized ocean waves to represent the amniotic fluid that was gushing from me every time I had a contraction. They even injected saline into my lower back to relieve the pain. Didn’t work. The F-bombs started to fly.
Friday, 4 p.m. :: The pain was intense, and I was losing my resolve. I was anxious and unable to manage and tolerate the pain. It took me awhile to work through the guilt of “giving up,” but I realized that by the time I would need to push I’d be absolutely spent. I shifted my thinking from “giving up” to doing what had to be done to have a safe delivery for myself and my baby. Bring me the anesthesiologist!
Friday, 5 p.m. :: Epidural. Holy sweet relief! I reclined my bed, laid on my side with a big pillow between my knees, and slept. The nurses turned me from side to side all night long as I “labored down.” I was able to talk to my husband and my labor team and recognize that I was going to have a daughter very soon. I was finally able to see the magic, the miracle. I was present. It felt right.
Saturday, 6 a.m. :: Time to push! Part of the reason I wanted to avoid an epidural was because it would limit my mobility while pushing. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to feel anything. Well, I was wrong. The urge to push was very strong and uncomfortable. Commence pushing!
Saturday, 7:28 a.m. :: We welcomed our warm and shmushy bundle of joy into the world. She was healthy. I was exhausted, but I made it. The experience wasn’t what I planned, but with most aspects of life and parenting, I plan and God laughs.