Elevated blood pressure, PVCs, a Disney villain-worthy cardiologist, and multiple scans are just a few things that scrambled my perfectly curated (and color coordinated) birth plan. Often I would lie through my teeth and say “my birth plan is not to plan, anything can happen!” knowing damn well I was not down with that. When we were faced with transferring mid-pregnancy from midwife care to an OB–birthing center to a hospital–I definitely took some time to grieve the experience I had dreamt up in my heart. Once the dust settled and (most of) the tears dried, my family regrouped and kept our core values close as we marched forward to welcome our second son.
Due to a few high blood pressures and a “big” baby, we were scheduled for an induction at 39 weeks. Still clamoring for my natural birth experience, I pulled out all the stops leading up to that date. Speaking of dates, I was suddenly eating 6 a day. Red raspberry leaf tea, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and hopping around the house on the birthing ball while using a breast pump were just a few of the techniques I used to get things moving before I was in a hospital bed with an IV in my arm. On 39-weeks-eve, I started having contractions four minutes apart and some leaking. Around 9pm, my doctor advised us to head to the hospital to be checked. My husband threw his bag together while I threw my arms around my first born, tears streaming down my cheeks.
Once we arrived, we bonded with our nurse right away. She supported, and celebrated, our natural wishes and let us know that we would most likely be staying as she prepped to check me for traces of amniotic fluid. The test came back negative but contractions were consistent so I stuck around for monitoring. We kept our doula in the loop and were all very excited that it looked like we wouldn’t make it to our induction date. At 1:30 am, our nurse let us know we were being sent home but she predicted we’d be back in “about 4 hours.”
We were a little discouraged, but I was happy to go home to shove food in my mouth, get some rest, and sneak in another hug from my toddler. I guess 1 out of 3 ain’t bad. Once we walked in I grabbed the closest snack I could find, updated my mom then hopped into bed. As soon as my head hit the pillow my water exploded. We laughed in disbelief as we got ready to head back to the hospital.
We were put in the same room we had just left and were relieved to see “our” nurse. She reminded me that a natural hospital birth was totally possible and encouraged me to stick to my guns, then broke the news that shift change was coming up and she had to leave. Almost immediately after the new nurse came in I started feeling discouraged. Up until this point, I was thrilled to be walking around the room with a wireless monitor while coping with contractions. I was free to use the birthing ball and anything that made me more comfortable, but our new nurse explained we needed to do things differently. She said the wireless monitor was “faulty” and she needed me in bed to hook me up to the traditional one. I felt like the cascade of interventions had begun and I felt the whole vibe quickly change. It wasn’t long before they said pitocin was necessary and we “needed to get this show on the road.” I was now confined to a small area besides my bed, hooked up to an IV and plugged into a monitor, but I was determined to continue my natural coping mechanisms under the circumstances.
Our doula showed up at the perfect time and really helped my husband remind me of my goals, helped lift my spirits, and introduced new tools to deal with the pain. As contractions intensified and crept closer together, the nurse and doctor caught me off guard a few times by talking about shoulder dystocia, c-sections, and internal monitors. I probably would have completely crumbled if it wasn’t for my support team. I was exhausted, emotional, and starting to question my decision of doing things med-free. At this time, my nurse said I needed to change positions because the baby wasn’t tolerating contractions well (same, kid, same!). She had me get in bed and lay on one side to see if that helped. It didn’t.
At this point contractions were on top of each other and I was convinced we were in transition. The nurse checked me and I was dilated to a 9, completely effaced, and she started making calls. I was having a complete out of body experience, making sounds I had only heard on “Crikey! It’s the Irwins” and clawing at my husband. My doula was such a gentle presence and she picked up on my cues, seamlessly stepping in with new breathing techniques. Once I felt the urge to push, I went for it. I remember being so nervous about the pain of pushing, but it felt like such a relief from the contractions. After 15 minutes, my new son was on my chest. I couldn’t believe he was here. I couldn’t believe I actually achieved my goal of going without pain medication. I couldn’t believe he was being lifted off my chest already.
Our son’s coloring was “bluer than they liked to see” and he was brought to the warmer to be stimulated. He quickly responded to their efforts. I was so concerned with what was happening with him, I didn’t notice what was going on with myself. I caught a glimpse of bloody rags and vacuums, and when 2 nurses were pounding on my stomach, I started paying attention. I picked up on words like “transfusion,” “anesthesiologist,” “liters” and “OR.” I was asked if I wanted fentanyl and I asked “what the hell is going on?”
It was a furious blur going from achieving my goal of a med-free birth, having my baby lifted quickly off my chest and being rushed to the OR. I had torn the back of my cervix, had multiple uterine lacerations, and they just could not stop the bleeding. I’ll never forget how helpless my husband looked as he stood between our baby and my bed that was wheeling away. I’m so happy our doula was there to support him when I couldn’t.
Kind nurses held my hand while I got spinal anesthesia and my doctor got to work. It was a strange feeling to be getting the meds I tried so hard to avoid, but I didn’t feel defeated. I felt the urgency in the room and I was surprisingly calm. Once on the table, I focused on the hexagon-shaped lights. My toddler is obsessed with shapes and I felt connected with him while I was drowning in the unknown. The only thing I focused on was getting home to my big boy with his new brother.
It could have been 5 minutes or 5 hours, but by the end of the procedure I had lost over 3 liters of blood, received 1 transfusion and countless stitches. The doctor told me my boy–with a 99th percentile head–was perfectly healthy and waiting eagerly to meet his Mama.
It’s been six weeks of healing and loving on my family. I was mentally prepared for my natural birth but I wasn’t prepared for what I endured after. I’m just starting to unpack the trauma in between snuggles with my perfect boys. It will take a while but I have an A+ support team.
I am so very lucky to have had my incredible husband by my side, and our doula who went above and beyond through our experience. I knew that no matter what was happening to me, big brother was as happy as can be, learning shapes, at home with Grandma. I’m blessed beyond belief that I was able to leave the hospital with my new babe in my arms, ready to take on whatever the world throws at us. So here is to recovery, grace, growing and new beginnings. To birth plans and detours. Here’s to healing, healthy mamas and babies, and honoring your story.
PHOTO CREDIT :: Allison Turpen Photography