BIRTH PLAN VS. WHAT REALLY HAPPENED
Throughout my pregnancy, I imagined myself at home, toughing out the contractions until they were four minutes apart before leaving the hospital. Then, I imagined myself at the hospital, finding the birthing pool empty and having that magical, unmedicated, water birth. Being active and fit, everyone always predicted I would have a fast and easy birth. With this in mind, I visualized pushing for a maximum of fifteen minutes and “poof” my baby would be in my arms! No stitches!
There were a couple problems with that labour and birth fantasy:
All the obstetricians were ok with labouring in the birth pool but not all were on board with assisting in a water birth for various reasons. The only thing I could do was cross my fingers that I would happen to find my birth course obstetrician at the hospital who had no problem assisting in water births.
PRE LABOUR SIGNS
37th week – I started to get practise contractions in my last month. They were quite weak compared to the real thing and felt more like an ache than a pain. I usually got a few in a row or one that would last a while.
I lost part of my mucous plug. No bloody show, though. I wanted to know what a mucous plug looked like so I looked it up. Don’t look it up. It’s gross. Who am I kidding? Your curiousity will get the best of you and you’ll look it up anyway.
38th week – I thought I was losing amniotic fluid so I went to get it checked out. It was just watery CM. My stress levels returned to normal.
38w6d – I lost a little blood.
39w0d – I pre-registered at the hospital, had blood tests done, monitoring etc. I was told that I still had a long way to go as my cervix was still high, closed and posterior. Boo. No progress.
There were no signs of contractions, not even practice ones. I taught my dance class and aerobics class as usual.
39w1d – I went to do the groceries at the supermarket when I entered into the pre-labour stage.
At the supermarket, I was slowly walking around when I felt a sort of lower tummy ache as if I had to go to the bathroom. It continued to get a bit stronger until I had to stop and lean on my shopping cart a few times. I called my husband to tell him where I was just in case something were to happen. Driving back home was very uncomfortable and probably not the smartest thing to do. I made it home safely only to have the contractions stop.
Eager to get them started again, I took my car to get a tune-up. (The shop is next door to my apartment building). The contractions came back briefly and then disappeared again.
When my husband came back from work, we went for a walk until my right hip started to give out on me and I had to wobble back home.
By dinner time, my contractions were regularly ten to fifteen minutes apart. Some were attention-grabbing contractions others were easy enough to talk through.
After dinner, I took a bath with candles and lemon diffusers and listened to some calming music. The atmosphere was calming, the water felt great but I was so awkward and uncomfortable in the tub. Lying back in the tub squished my insides. Holding myself up was tiring. Sitting upright made my upper body cold. Bah! Not relaxing whatsoever. I showered. Later, as I lay in bed, the contractions got lighter and I eventually fell asleep.
39w2d 1:00 am – I got woken up by a strong contraction. Wow. That was different. I started to crawl out of bed when I felt a gush of water. I was almost positive that it wasn’t the standard watery CM. My pants were drenched.
I remembered I was Strep B positive! If your water breaks and you’re strep B positive, you need to go to the hospital to get the antibiotics before the baby is born.I called the hospital and they weren’t convinced that I lost all my waters. Apparently, you’re supposed to continue to lose your waters even after an initial ‘gush’, and that wasn’t happening. So, I stayed home.
My contractions were all over the place but much stronger to the point where I had to run to the couch, hug a pillow and breathe. Sometimes they were ten minutes apart then they would consistently get closer until they were six minutes apart. They would get longer again and then shorter again.
When they were four to six minutes apart for a full hour we decided to go to the hospital since it was getting close to morning rush hour and the hospital was thirty minutes away.
We arrived at the hospital, entered obstetrics and who did I see? My favourite obstetrician from my birth course. I think I almost started crying. I hugged her real tight and told her I was so happy to see her so she could assist my water birth. My fantasy was coming true!
There were three other women getting monitored when I entered the room. Basically, you get to sit in a comfy chair while they monitor your belly to detect the fetal heartbeat and contractions. Then, they give you a clicker to keep track of all the movements you feel during the forty minute monitoring session. While all these women were sitting calmly in their chairs, there I was, shifting around, trying different positions to get comfortable and finally opting to kneel on the chair and hug the backrest.
After I received my antibiotics, I went in for a check-up. The doctor decided to break the rest of my waters. I didn’t think they would find a lot of water to break. Boy, I was wrong. There was so much water still left in there that it practically filled a small bucket. I was in for another surprise when I stood up. The downward pressure I felt before was nothing compared to the bowling ball I felt in between my legs after I had no waters left.
Finally, the last surprise: I was completely effaced, cervix in the anterior position, baby’s head was pushing down and contractions were four to five minutes apart. I had to be dilated like, at least five centimeters, right? Wrong. I was at a big fat ZERO. Zero centimeters dilated. So much for my fast and easy fantasy labour. I thought to myself, “if the contractions are already THIS strong, what the hell will they be like at seven or eight centimeters?” *panic “Did someone say ‘epidural’?”
FALSE ALARM. BACK TO PRE-LABOUR
10:30 am – The staff put me into the labour and delivery room anyway. My contractions were even stronger now because they broke my waters and baby was ready to come out. I just needed to dilate!
I had three concerns:
Concern number 1: Pain. I was handling it now, but they were only going to get more painful, right? I had already been up since one in the morning and I hadn’t even started active labour. If I chose to do a water birth, I wouldn’t be able to have an epidural and at this point, I wasn’t sure I was ready to give up the possibility of having one.
Concern number 2: Shift change. The obstetrician and doctor on duty were on board with my water birth but their shift was going to end in three hours. I would have to hope that the next doctor and obstetrician coming at 1:30 would be on board as well. Unless I could fully dilate and push out the baby in three hours, I wasn’t going to get my fantasy water birth.
Concern number 3: I still wasn’t past four centimeters and three hours had passed. Was this my worst case scenario?
1:30 pm – Not wanting to give up the possibility of an epidural, I decided against a water birth. One thing I was annoyed about was the fetal monitor. From our hospital visit, I was under the impression that I would be free to move about the room and to use all the fun labour equipment they promoted. I was stuck with this weak fetal monitor that would only detect the heartbeat when I was in certain positions and only on the bed. There was only one wireless monitor and I didn’t have it.
The shift changed and the new obstetrician and her assistant were really sensitive to my needs. They let me off the monitor several times, let me change positions frequently and gave me and my husband some privacy. I felt very comfortable with them.
GO TIME! ACTIVE LABOUR
2:00pm – Finally! I was five centimeters dilated and had officially started active labour. My obstetrician suggested for me to take a warm shower since she knew I originally planned for a water birth. The water was so relaxing and instantaneously relieved me of some pain. In thirty minutes, I went from five to eight centimeters and started feeling the urge to push.
3:10 – I was fully dilated and was given the ok to actively push. In that moment, baby decided to come out crooked. Thanks kid!
Because of my baby’s position, I pushed for two hours and forty-five minutes. All the aerobics and dance classes I did during my pregnancy was coming in handy!
In the end, the doctor had to push down on my belly to help me get him out. Actually, ‘push down on my belly’ is not an accurate description of this maneuver. To describe this move, you have to know a little WWE, The Rock and “The People’s Elbow”. She attacked me with the ‘People’s Elbow’. Before she did, she warned me, “you are going to feel an unbearable amount of pain, are you ready?” Like I had a choice..BAM! “The People’s Elbow”!
I was crowning. Holy ‘Ring of fire’ is right! All I wanted to do was just push him out to relieve myself of that burning sensation. Instead, I was told NOT to push. I had to wait for the next contraction. ‘Whaaaaat?? Are you kidding me?’ is what I thought. I whimpered until the next contraction came, got attacked again with “The People’s Elbow” and ‘TADA!’ my beautiful baby was born.
Labour is like a marathon and like a marathon, you need to stay hydrated. I was allowed to drink all the water I wanted so I drank about four and a half litres and was still thirsty. Pushing out a baby is like…it has no comparison.
My baby was huge! I couldn’t believe he was in my belly! Everything I went through was worth it! I would do it again! Errrrr, maybe in a few years.
As soon as they placed him in my arms, he started looking for his milk. After he found it, he crapped in my hand. Welcome to motherhood!
As for me, I ended up without any stitches. Zero. I was told that when the baby comes out slower, it allows the tissues to stretch gradually and reduce the risk of tearing. The afterbirth business went fairly smoothly apart from some blood loss and subsequent dizziness. I remember the obstetricians making comments like, “Oh, what a beautiful placenta, all intact. Just perfect!” Meanwhile, all I could muster was a stink face. I don’t know how people can take it home and cook it in their pots to make placenta fajitas. To each, his own!
In the end, it never occurred to me to ask for an epidural. I was so tired and thirsty that I drank and slept in between contractions and never thought about pain relief.
If I were to go back in time, knowing what giving birth entails and how well my body responded to water, I would have opted for a water birth. I also would have stayed at home longer to avoid being tethered to the fetal monitor.
Based on my experience, I’ve compiled a list of six things I want to remember for future pregnancies that I wasn’t aware of before giving birth. Hopefully, you will find them useful as well.