One mama learns that a perfect pregnancy doesn’t always end with the perfect birth story.
When I got pregnant with my daughter I did everything I could to feel extremely prepared. I read tons of websites and books, ate better than I ever had, walked daily and completely laid out my birth plan. I had a dream pregnancy: zero morning sickness, beautiful skin and hair, and not a single complication. There was no way that my birth should not have gone according to plan.
And yet it didn’t. It may have been because I didn’t pick the right doctor for the birth I wanted to have. I didn’t listen to my instincts. To be honest, I felt restricted by my insurance and couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket for a midwife or different doctor. So I decided to stick with my OBGYN, and continued to think positive.
My first red flag was during one of my check-ups, when I requested no epidural for my birth. In response, they told me it would hurt. Well, thank you very much; I am almost sure that I know it will hurt. I was very secure with my being able to handle birth and with my pain threshold. I didn’t see this how this kind of a statement would help me.
The second red flag--and when I should have begun to look for another doctor--was when I wanted to attend my baby shower in Michigan at 32 weeks. The OBGYN told me that they could not advise flying on a plane past 28 weeks. Now I know that this isn’t a doctor’s dream catchphrase, but I Googled the whole “flying while pregnant” thing a million times, and I couldn’t find any reason that someone with a normal pregnancy could not fly past that timeframe. Even the airlines were fine with it up to 37 weeks! I flew. I had my shower. All was well.
Finally, my due date came and went, and within just a few days, the doctor told me I would be scheduled for an induction. I wished every moment of every day for my water to break or contractions to begin. I knew, from all of my pregnancy books, that due dates often went past 40 weeks with first time moms. I also knew that my due date of March 7th was actually March 10th because I knew when I conceived. Nevertheless, I was 40 weeks and 6 days, and that was much too long for my doctors.
On the day of the induction, we woke up at 5am and headed to our corner diner for breakfast. I forced a bagel down and gulped some orange juice, and we reluctantly headed to the hospital.
The first thing I did was cry when they inserted the IV. Here it began, the waiting game, and I could feel my entire birth plan slowly drifting away. Everything from no epidural to kangaroo care to not being bound to a bed was long gone.
By the afternoon, my pain was a 3 out of 10, my IV drip probably added about 10 pounds to my body and still my baby wasn’t coming. My doctor did the most painful cervix check ever to be done, and the news was devastating…maybe a centimeter dilated. Maybe.
I cursed and cried and blamed them all. How could they let me be in this situation? My baby wasn’t ready to come out, I was on the highest dose of Pitcoin, they hadn’t even attempted to insert Cervadil and I wasn’t even a full week overdue. Why was I being forced into labor? I hated all of them and honestly contemplated checking myself out of the hospital.
I convinced my doctor to insert the Cervadil, which takes 12 hours to work. We slept overnight and reached the 41-week mark the next morning. My cervix remained the same and contractions had exited stage left. I had no idea what to do and was stressed to the max. I was starving, having eaten nothing but ice chips for over 24 hours. I was delirious, angry at myself and my doctors, and unsure of what my next steps should be.
I knew if I left, I would I wind up in the same situation a week from now, so finally I decided to get this all over with. I wanted to be done, out and never to see this place again. So the girl who said she would never get a c-section got a c-section.
And just like that, everything I wanted for mine and my daughter’s birth was gone. And it shouldn’t have been that way. In fact, in most cases, there is no reason why a healthy woman cannot have the birth that she desires.
I thought I read up on everything and was “extremely prepared,” but now I realize I wasn’t prepared at all, and I didn’t read nearly enough. Even today I am learning more and more about things I could have done differently, another doctor I could have used, things I should have said and spoken up about, even how I could have prepared for my breastfeeding journey and a “gentle” cesarean, where they delay the cord-cutting and still offer kangaroo care.
I was definitely made to feel that these decisions were not mine. I felt forced and manipulated, even up until the day we left, when we found out Ava would need to stay in the NICU for two days due to losing 10% of her birth weight and a fever.
Imagine getting ready to leave and you find out your daughter is hooked up to various cords and IV’s with an automatic round of antibiotics. I felt like she wasn’t mine, I wasn’t me, and that we had no role in any of what had happened. We were puppets of the medical system every step of the way. I truly felt like another number and that no one cared about our wishes and plans.
I learned well after this that she didn’t lose 10% of her birth weight, because her birth weight was recorded after 36 hours of constant IV fluids. And that fever? Probably due to dehydration because the nurses told me to feed every 4-6 hours…and it should have been every 2-3.
In the end, my daughter is thankfully healthy and happy, has been sick just once, and is a thriving, nursing toddler filled with personality. Things could have been much, much worse. There were babies in the NICU for months. There were moms whose milk supply was low or who couldn’t get their babies to properly latch when their one wish was to breastfeed. There were babies with serious medical issues. And that really put life in perspective for me.
While my birth wasn’t ideal and left a bad taste in my mouth, I’ve learned from it in so many ways. I use my experience to educate and help others with their birth plans and to give extensive breastfeeding advice. But telling my story has helped me most of all, by coming to terms with the birth that I had, and accepting it as best I can.
by Chelsea Vassi.
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