An unmedicated high-risk premature hospital birth

March 13 | Guest post by Elsbeth Magilton
By: David QuitorianoCC BY 2.0
On Saturday May 12th, 2012 my husband Morgan was spending his last day in Philadelphia to attend his father's funeral. The day before I learned I had to retake the Bar Exam after three years of law school. It was a tough week. But I was 34.5 weeks pregnant, happy to be so, and figured I had at least a month to go before our son would be born. We planned on a midwife and doula assisted unmedicated water birth at the hospital and had made all the appropriate arrangements.

I started noticing some "leakage" around 11am while showing an apartment for my part-time leasing agent weekend gig. I assumed it was just increased discharge normal in pregnancy. Certain I was overreacting, but because of how serious our Lamaze instructor had explained a ruptured sack is, I decided to call after my shift. I went alone to the hospital at the midwifes instruction. The nurse took the test while I watched Resident Evil on SyFy in the hospital room. About 45 minutes later the nurse came back in and told me I was having the baby! I still blame Milla Jovovich for my water breaking early (it was actually a routine Strep-B infection).

I called my parents and they rushed to the hospital. Morgan quickly started trying to rearrange flights to get home. We figured I would need Pitocin in the morning to really get labor going because the baby was so early. The midwife left and suggested I get some sleep. My dreams of unmedicated labor felt crushed. I became certain I would undergo a cesarean section, and my husband wasn't there to hold my hand while I toured the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

We were all wrong. At 12:30am active labor started. Because I was early and high risk I had to stay on the monitors and the baby had a scalp monitor. Even though I couldn't have my water birth as planned or walk the halls I had positions and tactics for laboring in my room. Thank gods for pregnancy yoga. The sun pose single-handily helped bring my son into this world. We turned off all but the essential lights, and boy, did I blare some Ani DiFranco — I needed to feel strong in my femininity. My nurse Jen stayed with my mother and me all night. I later learned she stayed four hours past her shift just to support me.

Despite being early and carrying my first child, my body felt built for labor. I dilated quickly and contractions became rhythmic almost immediately. I found myself totally silent and occasionally wept over the situation. I used my wedding ring as a focal point and comfort object to touch, as my heart sank with each contraction knowing my husband was going to miss the birth of his first child.

After seven hours of back labor and a half hour of pushing, Maxwell arrived early in the morning Sunday May 13th, 2012 at 7:02am. It was Mother's Day. My mother, now a grandmother, cut the cord. Morgan was flying over Houston when Max was born. At landing he was bombarded by texts and pictures on his phone. After telling me he loved me, the first words out of his mouth were "Apologize to your brother, he'll never be able to top this Mother's Day gift to your mom."

Once Maxwell was born they laid him next to me for a few minutes before he was whisked away to the NICU. I stayed in the labor room to deliver the placenta and be stitched up. I hadn't slept in over 24 hours and I was exhausted. Truly joking I asked the midwife if they could just "yank" the placenta out by the cord. She chuckled, but the over-seeing physician thought I was serious and explained that could be very dangerous. It was a funny moment.

Morgan got to the hospital at about 1:30pm with Mother's Day flowers in hand. I was so relieved to see him that I burst into tears upon hugging him. I remember telling him how scared I had been, which wasn't something I had verbalized until that moment. While I was happy my mother could be there and that Max was safe, I was devastated Morgan wasn't there to support me and that he missed the birth. Morgan had a very positive attitude. He obviously would have preferred not to miss his son's birth, but was very proud of me and excited to meet Max.

My last night in the hospital was Max's third day in the NICU and happened to be our wedding anniversary. We ordered-in Italian to our hospital room to celebrate. Maxwell's total NICU stay was a little under two weeks and he is now a healthy and happy (if not a little impatient) seven-month-old. I hope I never relive a week as hard as that one was, but I'm pleased that my boy knows how to make an entrance!

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  1. This post made me tear up… it was so similar to the birth of my youngest! So glad you manage to focus on all of the positives of Maxwell's birth rather than the disappointments and fears that come along with having a preemie. Congratulations!

  2. I was all teary, and then your husband humour made laugh out loud (no small feat – I'm a tough crowd!). Congrats mama!

  3. You are awesomely strong to get through all that.
    My DH has just been informed of a death in the family (his grandmother), and the funeral is in another town, which is difficult to get to, on Monday. I'll be more than 39 weeks pregnant at the time, and so we are now having the fun discussion of does he go and take the risk that the baby might arrive (thankfully its only a day-trip, he can be back in the evening), or not.
    I'm scared of him not being here if the baby arrives. But I dont want to pressure him in to anything. I guess I just hope that if he does go, and the baby does come, I can deal with it as well as you have.

  4. Thanks for sharing. My water also broke at 34.5 weeks- but mine wasn't a trickle! My contractions were all over the place, and I was transferred from my midwife to an OB, who got really impatient with my progress. I had also hoped and planned for an unmedicated birth, but ended up with an emergency c-section after 16 hours of labor. Our little guy spent 6 days in the NICU (during which my husband and I also celebrated our wedding anniversary in our baby's hospital room!), and is now a perfectly happy and healthy 6 month old. I wasn't scared at the time, but I am afraid that if we decide to have another baby I will have a lot of anxiety about another pre-term labor, especially because the hospital could never identify a reason for my early delivery.

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