The U.S. military is regimented, strict, and follows a standard protocol, and their approach to delivering babies is no different. When I found out I was pregnant, I was given a schedule of all my appointments until my due date. I was expected to be on time, and promptly follow all instructions, take my vitamins, get rest, drink water, etc. There would be adequate care, but no extras. No birthing pools, no midwives, no extra ultrasounds unless necessary. As a new military wife, and a first timer mama-to-be, I was in awe at the speed and efficiency that took place as I was shuffled in and out of my appointments.
As my due date drew closer, I proudly presented my “birth plan” to my Officer Doctor. He smiled at me, and tucked it into my file and made sure to give me his pre-canned speech about how “birth is unpredictable,” and described the point at which I would have my epidural. He told me that epidurals are standard protocol and that I was welcome to try, but the anesthsiologist would be on call. After all he had delivered “many babies and first time moms usually need some help anyways so it is easier to just follow the procedure.” After voicing my concerns I left the office in tears of frustration… I felt condemned to a standardized birth.
The day of delivery was like any other Sunday. Monday was my due date and I was becoming increasingly worried at the thought of my pre-scheduled induction date, which was also standard procedure.
I’m an active person and don’t do well sitting still for long, even when nine months pregnant. I went to Costco and the shopping mall, added a few more cute outfits to my droves of tiny clothes in the nursery. Finally my husband and I polished off the evening with my ritual 1/2 mile walk with our dogs. I laid down to go to sleep and discovered I couldn’t lay down! I tried and tried but it hurt! I told my hubby I was going to get up and that I think this was it! I labored at home from about 9:00pm until around 5:00am when I figured I was getting a bit too uncomfortable to sit in the car and ride to the hospital.
Upon arrival the nurse sleepily directed us to a room. My husband, slightly nervous by now as I think he could sense the time was drawing near, asked her “Where’s the doctor?” “I have to check first and see if he even needs to come in” was her reply. As she checked I watched between my legs as her eyes grew wide and all sleepiness left her face… I was at 9.5cm dilated and ready to go! Oh gosh, I thought, I guess we were going to stay.
As soon as we got into the delivery room my water broke. By then Officer Doctor had come rushing into the room. He checked again and said I was welcome to push when I felt ready. As I labored freely he supervised my pushing from a variety of positions, even getting down on his hand and knees to keep an eye on things. The poor guy actually looked relieved to stop chasing me around the room when I finally grew a bit tired and said I wanted to try laying down for a minute.
I started to push, but I didn’t feel as though I was “pushing right” — I didn’t feel like much was happening. I saw the doctor putting on a face shield and gowns, and galoshas for all I knew! I kept pushing and though I didn’t think it was working, everyone grew excited as Kole Anthony Brown made it into the world completely without any medication or assistance. After hearing that first loud cry, I was startled to also hear clapping and cheering from the eight nurses who were also in the room! As Kole was placed on my chest, I remember feeling how warm he was on my skin. I had been in such a rush I soon realized I wasn’t even in a gown — just the tank top I had worn to the hospital. So much for standard protocol! I snuggled up with my husband and baby and realized I had done it.
Later during my stay in the hospital I found that I had become somewhat of a celebrity. Several of the lower ranking nurses had never seen an unmedicated birth before! Officer Doctor came in to check on me looking slightly ashamed: he admitted to not thinking I could do it, and said he was honored that he had been able to share such a special birth with such a strong young woman — even if it didn’t follow protocol.