As a big believer in Murphy’s Law, I knew all along that I shouldn’t have bothered writing a birth plan. But it’s what you’re supposed to do, according to the prenatal classes…and with Andrew egging me on too, I finally caved and banged out a simple bullet list. But I put “plan” in quotation marks to make sure the powers that be (both physical and metaphysical) would know that I know how very little control I have over such divine acts of modern medicine and nature.
Nonetheless, by the time we had our baby girl in our arms, the “plan” had become a running joke around the L & D wards of not one, but two hospitals. It all started on a Saturday in a hospital not too far away…
Saturday, April 23
Since I was overdue with no signs of imminent labour, and a cervical sweep hadn’t moved any mountains (or babies) I was scheduled to start induction on this date. This was my choice – as my other option was to schedule an ultrasound to check if baby was thriving (or not) and wait for labour to start spontaneously, provided all was well on the ultrasound. My maternity clinic had no preference on which choice to make, and since they only let you go 10 days over anyways, I thought I may as well schedule induction and hope for labour to kick in naturally before then. I thought that, like her mom, baby might rise to meet a hard deadline.
So I was 40 weeks and 6 days when I went to the hospital I was assigned to deliver at (FMC) to get a cervical ripening balloon (CRB) inserted around 4 pm. It actually involves the insertion of two saline-filled balloons into your cervix to start the dilation (widening) and effacement (thinning) process required to achieve the 10 cm necessary for vaginal delivery. The CRB insertion sounds kind of awful, but is actually no big deal. No pain; just weird to go home for the evening with two tubes hanging out of your body, taped to your inner thigh. Ideally, you will start having contractions and/or your water will break and/or the balloon will fall out (because the cervix dilates larger than the saline balloons and releases it). Failing all of the above, you phone in at 8 am the next morning to schedule a time to have the CRB removed and begin chemical induction (synthetic oxytocin).
That evening, we ate pizza and cupcakes and watched Netflix. I had some mild, period-type cramps and lower backache–but no real action.
Sunday, April 24
At 8 am we called FMC to report, well, nothing – and they told us to eat breakfast and come on in. By the time we got there, FMC had turned into a zoo of women in active labour. So, after a couple hours of uneventful fetal monitoring, they sent me home and said they expected to have room to accommodate me around 3pm and would call me then – if they didn’t, I was to call them.
At 4 pm they still hadn’t called, so I called them and was asked to come in at 5pm. When I got there they had suddenly gotten crazy busy again and once again couldn’t handle me. Their best suggestion was to call around and try to get me into another hospital (I asked if just getting the CRB out and going home was an option and they said no – it had to come out after 24 hours max and besides, they preferred to keep going with induction once they had started). Two other hospitals had no room for me either. Finally, SHC – a hospital clear across town – called and accepted me.
So I ended up at SHC around 7 pm (tranquil, sparkly new, freaking amazing facilities, a room service menu, 24 hour unlimited friends & family visitation). When they checked me there I was 4 cm and still unaware I was having contractions. Naturally, I assumed things were going to keeping going along swimmingly (ahahahahaha. No.)
When they broke my water there was meconium (baby’s first poop) in it, so they didn’t give me very long to labour on my own (maybe 2 hours? I dunno. Time ceased to exist) before starting the oxytocin drip which – I won’t lie – fucking sucked. My contractions, which noticeably kicked in when my water broke, went from manageable to out of control with barely any breaks, very quickly. I hadn’t wanted an epidural…and I tried the laughing gas…but shortly after midnight I got an epidural (courtesy of one Dr. Cheeseman – I can’t make this shit up) which favored my left side, resulting in a totally dead left leg (dead as in, it fell off the bed and somebody literally had to pick it up for me) and still some pain (like maybe 30%) on my right side. Go figure. Whatever – it was 100% heaven compared to no epidural.
Note: the physician group that works out of SHC always insists on an ultrasound before CRB and/or induction (as opposed to the physician group from my clinic who gave me the option of either booking induction or having the ultrasound and waiting out spontaneous labour,not doing both). So when I was transferred to SHC with no recent ultrasound, they were not happy about that and insisted on continuous fetal monitoring and starting an IV on me. Being all hooked up like that seriously hindered my mobility and ability to cope with the labour – I’ll stop short of saying that I know I could have done it au naturel without the oxytocin…but it certainly felt at the time like that was what broke me. And fast. Well…if 24 hours is fast.
They kept cranking up the oxytocin at what felt to me like insanely frequent intervals and I slooooowly got to 7 cm and that’s where I stalled.
Monday, April 25
At 9 am Monday morning I was at 7 cm and at 3 pm when I was still stuck there we were given the choice to max out the oxytocin drip and give it another 2 to 3 hours before going to a C-section. Or go for the c-section then and there. The OB GYN was comfortable with either course of action, although we both got the impression that she was leaning towards “let’s get this over with”. Se decided to go for it. I didn’t feel like another hour or two would help and I was exhausted. I felt like I’d been in labour for days…and I kind of had.
I wasn’t overly worried about the procedure, although the only thing I remember thinking over and over was “I just want her to be okay”. Luckily, the surgeon distracted me by asking if I had any musical requests and I asked for classic rock, as you do when you’re on fentanyl.
Sloane was born very quickly at 6:05 pm, weighing 8 lbs 2 oz and 19.5 inches. It’s all a blur and all I remember are various unidentifiable people saying that she was a girl after all (we knew this, but I was actually doubting it going into the OR), that she was peeing on me (ha!), and that she had hair. After that, I was so out of it (shaking, puking, super stoned from the fentanyl and epidural top-up) that Andrew had to do the skin to skin contact (literally took off his shirt) and she was given a bottle. But about an hour or two later we were back in our room (suite really, these hospital rooms are all private, huge, big bathroom with a shower and a little curtained off bedroom area for your partner to sleep in and you do labour, delivery and postpartum in the same room…it was so awesome, I keep accidentally calling it our “hotel room”…and everything was fine. Plus I had a fine selection of birth photos courtesy of a nurse who took my phone and documented it from the other side of the curtain.
Literally every single thing I had on my very simple birth plan did not happen the way I wanted it to. I didn’t want continuous fetal monitoring, I wanted to do early labour at home and remain mobile throughout my labour at the hospital, I wanted to be allowed to drink water and clear fluids, I didn’t want an epidural, I wanted to do skin-to-skin and breastfeed right away, I didn’t want to be induced with oxytocin and on and on…I still go back and forth between being fine with this and being unhappy/emotional about some of it. Knowing what I know now, I wish I had opted first for the ultrasound and gone from there so that even if everything else went exactly the same way it did, I would have at least had more information about Sloane’s status in utero and more options (like avoiding the continuous monitoring) at SHC.
But at the end of the day, everything they say is true. Once the baby is there nothing else matters. Except maybe catheters…and IVs that fall out…and 7000 blood pressure checks…
And for the curious, this is the song that was playing when Sloane was born. She coulda done worse.