The planned hospital birth I didn’t think I wanted

Guest post by NatureGirl
Photo courtesy of the author.
Photo courtesy of the author.

I knew my baby would be born in a hospital before I ever got pregnant. I desperately wanted to have a home birth, but my PPO insurance would only cover a birth in a hospital of their choosing. I couldn’t justify $6000 out-of-pocket when I would only need to pay $200 for a hospital birth… so to the hospital we went.

My water broke on a Tuesday. I plopped down amidst a pile of new cloth diapers, expecting to sort through them. Instead, I got a small gush of warm fluid. I did the first thing many people do when something new happens — I Googled it. After all, I’d never had a bag of waters break before.

I decided to continue on with the task at hand, and took a load of new diapers to the garage to wash them. Fluid leaked down my leg, confirming that I hadn’t just peed myself.

I called my mom and I called the midwife who helped bring me into the world. I was cautious. I didn’t want to get everyone riled up. After all, it could be a full day before there was any real action. I took my temperature and drank lots of water. I did not call the hospital, because I really wanted to labor at home as long as possible, and I knew they would tell me to come in right away. Contractions began that evening. I once again turned to Google to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. They were mild, growing in intensity overnight. I struggled to sleep, and retched in pain every 15 minutes.

My mom arrived early Wednesday morning. I continued drinking water, taking my temperature to make sure there wasn’t an infection, walking around the block, and dancing to try to get the contractions to quicken. My husband and I would sway through the contractions, me holding onto his shoulder and breathing deeply. I called the midwife a few times that day. She was supposed to be acting as my doula, but she was in a mandatory training at the clinic she ran two hours away, and wasn’t sure she’d be able to make it to my hospital birth.

Contractions quickened: ten minutes, then eight minutes, then seven. Just as they picked up, they’d slow down again — back to ten minutes, then twelve. We’d dance, walk, drink water. The cycle would start again. They’d quicken, and then they’d slow.
Wednesday night, sleep and comfort were elusive fantasies. I began to wonder how much longer this would go on.

On Thursday I called the backup doula and the acupuncturist. I was prepared for a full day of labor, but this was exhausting — emotionally and physically. It had been nearly 48 hours since my water broke and there was no indication of a baby anytime soon.
I called the midwife, and told her I wanted my dilation checked. She encouraged me to go to the hospital, and coached me how to sign myself out against medical advice, knowing that they would not release me if I was already dilated.

At the hospital, they confirmed that my water had broken and declined to check my dilation (they would not do it because my water had broken and they didn’t want to risk giving me or the baby an infection by introducing any strange bacteria). They pushed me to stay in the hospital and take medication. I was adamant about laboring at home, so I signed away the risk of my baby’s death and went home.
The doula came. She massaged, applied essential oils, timed my contractions. The roller coaster patterns continued. Contractions came five minutes apart, only to have them spread again.

On the third night of labor I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t sit, couldn’t lie down. I was restless and getting desperate. I did not know what to do after three days and how much longer I could go on. Around 3 am, between contractions, the doula and I discussed options. Did I want to go to the midwife’s birth center? No, I’d have to pay out-of-pocket. How long did I want to wait? Could I ask the midwife to come to my house so I could have the baby at home? What would happen if I went to the hospital?

In the morning, I went to the bathroom for the 8000th time, and when I stood up I heard a sucking noise. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I was done. I told my mom and husband that it was time to go to the hospital. We were checked in around 10 am. They hooked me up to a couple of different monitors, but the contraptions kept falling off. I still didn’t have a fever, but they still wouldn’t check my dilation.

By: Jonny Hunter - CC BY 2.0
By: Jonny HunterCC BY 2.0

Most of the nurses came in to adjust the monitors and then left again, watching my monitors from the nurse’s station. Every so often, one would come in and tell me that my labor wasn’t going anywhere and ask if I wanted medication to help my body along. The doula timed my contractions manually since the monitors weren’t picking them up. She’d tell the nurses what my contractions had been doing when they came back in the room every hour or so.

Around 2 pm, I was feeling worn out. I started contemplating misoprostol, a tablet that was originally used as an ulcer medication and has now been used in labor. After consulting with the midwife, I decided to give it a try. It wasn’t an easy decision, but having her hippie, natural, 40-plus-years-experience opinion meant a lot to me. About an hour later, my contractions were picking up — three to four minutes apart! Another nurse came in, and urged me to take another dose of misoprostol. Her monitors weren’t picking up my contractions, so she didn’t think anything was happening. My husband and I took a shower, and I shouted out to the doula when each contraction started and ended. They were coming faster now, almost back to back. We got out of the shower, and I was almost a little excited.

They hooked me back up to the monitors. And yet again, the contractions slowed. My heart sank. They offered more drugs. I asked to be checked. They refused. I asked to think about it. What felt like hours passed, and a new midwife came on duty. I told her I wanted to be checked before taking any more medication. She agreed. I was so relieved. Finally, someone will check that shit out!

My legs went up in the stirrups. The midwife did her thing. She said that she didn’t feel anything, and that it could be because I was fully dilated. She felt something bulgy, and thought it might be a bag of waters. Did I mind if she tried to pop it? Not at all! A few seconds later, a river of fluid came gushing out. F.I.N.A.L.L.Y. She said I was fully dilated and that I was ready to have a baby. The relief in the room was audible.

Forty-five minutes later, after 15 minutes of pushing, our baby was born. The midwife who helped birth me walked in just as I was pushing him out. In the end, the labor and birth of my son was nothing like I expected. As my mom said, everything happens for a reason. There was a reason we went through all that, and maybe it was so we could have the most awesome Kaiser midwife that was on duty that day.

Comments on The planned hospital birth I didn’t think I wanted

  1. I am no where near that “ready to have a baby” part of my life but when I do, I want a doula and as natural birth as possible! I love reading stories like this that the hospital didn’t totally run the birth!

    • One of my coworkers had planned a home birth. She labored in the tub for ages, but on her doula’s recommendation, booked it to Kaiser when they found meconium in the fluids. Fifteen minutes after admission her beautiful baby boy was born and within an hour, I believe, of arrival, the whole family went home as though nothing happened. Having a good plan seems like a very good idea to me, and while I too will likely try to opt for home birth, her story gives me reassurance.

  2. Thank you for writing about how health insurance was part of your decision making process. I think insurance coverage and how we are going to pay shapes so many of our choices. At least I know it did mine.

  3. I’m amazed that the hospital staff refused to check your cervix for dilation multiple times. I had two hospital births and the very first thing done when I arrived at the hospital was check the dilation (and monitor my contractions). I was told that they would only admit me if I were over 5 cm dilated.

      • Hey guys! I checked with the post author, and the reason they didn’t check her is they were afraid of introducing bacteria since her water had already broken. Added this info to the story!

      • I went through it, and I was also super perplexed! The fact that they would give me multiple doses of medication without checking dilation at all was astounding to me! I think it had to do with nit wanting ti intriduce bacteria, but also with me having signed out against medical advice- I think I was consider a big risk/liability because of that. But, it all worked out in the end!

  4. I felt like a dang muppet with every nurse up my vag. I’m kinda jealous I must say. And totally understand the is it pee or fluid questions. We googled that too :p

  5. I had two planned C-sections because of health complications. The best thing anyone ever said to me was this: if a baby is the result, it’s a birth. I’m glad that you and your baby are healthy.

  6. The refusing to check you or listen to you part rings true to my hospital birth experience. The midwife did check me between doses of miso and opted to fully rupture my bag of waters (like the OP my labor started with leaking fluid) after the third dose. My contractions were never regular, but I felt something change not long after my water was broken, like the contractions were spacing out, and BEGGED the nurse to check me. She told me I had to wait another hour. Twenty minutes later I couldn’t take it anymore and told my husband very calmly that I needed to push. Lo and behold, when the darn nurse finally got the midwife to come check like I’d been begging her to, she came up with a kind of shocked look on her face and asked me to push. Less than 20 minutes later, our son was born. I had more pressing things to do than be mad at the time, but obviously my body was ready to have the baby before the time they finally let me do what I needed to do. It bothers me in retrospect that I was basically ignored and I wonder how many others it has happened to.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience! The postpartum nurse who cared for me right after the birth said that she loved it when things don’t go the way the hospital staff think they should. Her perspective was unique, and told me that most of the staff who I dealt with had a very linear vision of how labor and birth should go. But, everyone is different, and it doesn’t always work out that way. I at least hope that my birth experience was an eye-opening experience for the people who worked with/on me. I know it wasn’t typical, and many hospitals have a difficult time accepting when things aren’t typical because they are 1) freaked out about liability 2) trained in a very particular fashion and 3) very accustomed to being in control and people allowing them to make decisions on their behalf. It really throws them off when people have an agenda that’s not exactly in line with their routine practices.

  7. My PPO also refused me. After talking with a third party, I learned that my home state (NY) has a law that supports a mother’s choice to birth at home or at a center, despite the insurance company. Instead of calling the company again myself, I had our birth center call and smooth things over. In the end, the law held up and our insurance covered our birth at a center. Not every state is like this, but may be worth looking into. I met someone recently who said she wished she’d known, because her hospital experience was very different than yours. I was born in a hospital and my mom had an amazing experience, so this isn’t to negate hospitals at all. I just wish we could all freely choose the birth we want.

    • I live in California, and I’m not aware of any similar laws here. The research I did indicated that I could opt for a home birth, but my insurance (Kaiser) was not obligated to pay for it. They only pay for services that are rendered in their own facility. There are other insurance options that would cover a birth center, and possibly home birth, but not the one I have.

  8. Oh natural birth is painful, at home or hospital… VERY… I had to be induced and I was a thousand percent sure that I was not accepting pain relievers, and yes I felt when they cut me so my baby’s head could pass, but it was worth it. Unfortunately I almost lost it because I was induced (now I realize that it was not really necesary) and it happened too fast for me to get ready and used to the pain, so when I was finally on the last stage I was so damn scared and tired and I truly felt that I couldn’t do it, I cried and screamed and yeah… I made it worst for me. I should have declined the induction, maybe things would have been different. I don’t know, but next time I’ll be ready. Now I’m just happy that my son is here and healthy, that’s all I need. All the pain, the bad moments… everything was worth it just to be able to hold my son.

  9. I just wanted to let others know that you CAN have a natural birth at a hospital. I chose a hospital because my family has a history of retaining the placenta and also bleeding heavily. I had a very detailed birthplan a doula and a team of midwives that worked and were familiar with the hospital.
    I didn’t have any medications or IV’s during the entire labor, but just as I suspected my placenta was retained so they gave me pitocin. I had also discussed with my midwive what the hospitals policy on this was and she did recommend that we use pitocin to get the placenta out if we needed it. A few weeks before I also did some research on natural ways to get the placenta our and one was nipple stimulation. I had already breastfed my baby for the first time and they called in a Dr. “with small hands” to try to get the placenta out manually, I asked for nipple stimulation from my partner, he felt awkward, I tried myself, also awkward, my doula ran out of the room and produced a breast pump which we used for a few minutes, when I took the pump off, seconds later the placenta came out. I was very close to having to have a blood transfusion, but luckily didn’t have to do that. They gave me an “iron infusion” that was supposed to help me make blood on my own. But in my case I was glad that I had my birth in the hospital because if anything worse would have happened I wouldn’t have to travel by ambulance to get there. Every birth is different and you should birht wherever you feel safe wether it be at home or hospital. But the best thing you can do is communicate your wishes and needs and get as much informatin as possible and also most importantly listen to your body.

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