Monday, December 3rd was a normal day. I was 38 weeks and completely over being pregnant. I was really excited because I was going to get a much needed pedicure. It was amazing. She spent about 20 min massaging each leg and it was heavenly. I came home, my partner Mark and I had dinner and did our normal routine and went to bed. I remember asking him, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that pedicure put me into labor?”
I’ve seen lots of resources online for dealing with poor labor care, lack of support, and unwanted interventions during childbirth, but none of those resources deal talk about labors and births that were just bad on their own. I had a precipate labor — which means from start to finish, the entire process took less than three hours and the baby was expelled quickly. My labor and delivery included falling down the stairs, choking in the car, having to consent to an epidural, barely getting it in time, etc (among other delights).
Whenever I would tell a fellow Southerner about my plan to have a drug-free water birth, I would always receive the same reaction: skepticism and a lecture about how painful it would be. Although I would always answer their criticism with the same reply, “I have never been in labor so I know it may be too painful — I am just going to try.” What can I say? I am people pleaser. It is not in my nature to challenge those who seem more experienced. In my heart I knew I could do it. I could only think of one thing that might shake my confidence: a long labor.
When I started with contractions in the evening, I figured a bath might be nice to soothe and it was — but the contractions soon ramped up to every five minutes. This meant no Kindle reading for me (I had such pleasant ideas for early labour like watching a movie together and reading in bed), so we went for a walk around the block. By the time we were back to our house I was feeling so nauseous with every fourth minute wave that we decided to call the hospital (got the hubster to do it as I have serious speaking Swedish nerves), and we went in.
Two hours after every time I ate, I would have the Cytotec inserted, and be checked for progression. By Friday evening, I was having steady contractions, so after dinner, I wasn’t given any Cytotec. I was only dilated 1 1/2 cm. I was in pain, and panicky at this point. I told Jonathan, “I’m sick because of the baby being inside me. The quicker she gets out, the quicker I get better. I want a Cesarean section.” He told me that wasn’t in my birth plan, and tried to calm me down.
I enjoyed working with the doula and thinking about how I could “reframe” pain and manage my panic in labor (panic is a big thing for me). I also prepared “birth affirmations” and put them on index cards for the doula to read to me when I started to panic during labor. I also read a wonderful book called The Big Book of Birth that gave much information about labor both physiologically and psychologically.
Our daughter’s birth proved two things. One, that indeed there were reasons why a person from a developing country might reject this first world’s interpretation of healthcare. I don’t blame any single employee or system for my water breaking or the tub or any of the hospital-related unpleasantries. Those just come with the territory of business. Two, and more importantly, it proved to my boyfriend that many women are capable of giving birth on their own.
My entire birthing experience was prefaced and affected by this determination I had to make the delivery go “perfectly” — or at least perfect from my perspective. A lot of my pregnancy had been frustrating on some petty levels — basically, we had had to rearrange a lot of our lives in ways we didn’t want based on when we conceived, and I developed an autoimmune disorder in my second trimester.