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.
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.