I wouldn’t say that I ever felt tired of being pregnant — a feeling that I’ve heard some women use to describe the end of pregnancy. It had been a pretty seamless nine months. However, when my due date of October 9th came and went, I continued to grow more and more emotional. Aside from the physical aspects of pregnancy feeling “easy”, the emotional aspects wore on me a lot. I remember being a few days over due and spending most of the day crying, for a reason that I really couldn’t pinpoint. I wasn’t tired of pregnancy, I just thought I would have met my baby by now. I wasn’t sure what to think. It felt like I was in this weird state of limbo. I was still pregnant, but I wasn’t really “supposed” to be. I felt too big and too tired to leave the house, and I had stopped working. So all there was to do was sit and wait.
On Tuesday, October 15th, I had an appointment with my midwife. When I got up out of bed, I noticed some fluid leaking. I told my midwife at the appointment and she used a pH strip to test my cervical fluid. Looking at the pH level could help her determine whether the fluid I had noticed was amniotic fluid, which would mean my water had partially ruptured. The test came back negative, meaning the amniotic sack was still in tact. I have a feeling that this test was incorrect, but I was later told by an OBGYN that a false negative is highly unlikely. I guess we’ll never really know but personally, I trust my instinct.
At this visit, I had a test called a “non-stress test” which evaluates how well the baby is tolerating life inside the womb. My baby and I passed this test with flying colors. The midwife told us that she would be comfortable waiting until I hit the 42-week mark to plan on medically inducing labor. She told us that this was actually longer than she typically allows with her patients, but since the baby and I were so healthy, she felt comfortable.
During my pregnancy, I never got morning sickness, my feet swelled one time, I stayed fairly active (I mean, I backpacked Europe for a month!) So, I had envisioned myself having a natural birth, free from any medical intervention. I honestly didn’t even believe that a cesarean delivery was a possibility for me. It seemed unnecessary to even plan or discuss it. If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s to not have any expectations because you really never know what life will throw at you.
On Wednesday, 10/16 I woke up around 6AM and could tell that more fluid was leaking. It felt exactly as it had the morning before, but this time there was a bit more and I was starting to feel contractions. The contractions were mild, irregular and very spaced out. I went back to sleep and woke up around 10AM. By this point, the contractions were more regular but they were still pretty weak. I hung out around the house for the day and kept myself busy but also rested quite a bit. By about 4PM the contractions were very regular and only a few minutes apart. I decided to give the midwife a call. She said that she would like for me to come in within an hour or two, since I thought my water could have broken.
At 5PM, my boyfriend got home from work. At this point, the contractions were causing me a lot of pain. I was breathing through them pretty well. I started to time them and realized that they were only 3 minutes apart, but they were only lasting for about 30 seconds. I felt like we needed to get to the hospital since they were so close together, but I also wanted to wait as long as possible.
We were heading to the hospital around 6:30PM. In between contractions, I decided to play the birth playlist I had designed for the occasion. Turns out, “Here Comes the Sun” was the last thing I wanted to hear in that moment. I slammed my hand on the volume button and shut down George Harrison mid-verse and mid-contraction. I just wanted to breathe, focus and be in silence.
I really wish this was one of those “we barely made it to the hospital bed, I almost gave birth in the elevator!” or “I didn’t have time for an epidural, I was already ready to push when we got there,” stories, but unfortunately it is not. Everything changed very quickly as soon as we got to the hospital. Once I was hooked up to the fetal monitor in the triage area, we found that baby and I both had elevated heart rates. “Does your heart rate usually run high?” the nurse asked me. “How high?” I asked. “Like 130..” At the time, I was so distracted by the pain of the contractions that I couldn’t even remember the normal adult heart rate of 60-90 beats per minute. I kind of just gave her a blank look and told her I wasn’t sure. My baby’s heart rate was running at about 180 and I had a fever.
The nurse tested my cervical fluid with a different type of test than what was used on me the day before in my midwives’ office. This test confirmed that my water had in fact broken, and based on the presenting symptoms, it looked like I had developed chorioamnionitis, which is a fancy way of describing a bacterial infection developed before or during labor. Often, chorioamnionitis is the result of a woman’s water being broken before labor begins. If the water is broken, the baby and the womb have less protection from bacteria that could enter and cause infection. The longer this protective barrier is broken, the more likely it is for some type of infection to occur. Often, after a woman’s water breaks, doctors want her to deliver within a certain timeframe to avoid this complication. This is why I believe that initial pH test the day before was a false negative.
So there I was in my hospital bed, hooked up to a continuous fetal monitor, IV Tylenol, fluids, and antibiotics all running at once, unable to get out of the bed. The complete opposite of the labor that I had envisioned and I was definitely letting it get to me. I was falling into a negative mindset which made it really difficult to manage the pain of the contractions and they were getting really intense at this point. To make things worse, I was only dilated to about 3 centimeters, not even halfway to the point of pushing.
After about two hours of laboring in bed, my midwife came in and told me that things weren’t changing and that they were concerned about my baby. She said she was going to do everything she could to help me still have a vaginal birth but a birth free from medical interventions wasn’t going to happen at this point. Since my water had not fully ruptured, she was going to break my water and insert an internal fetal monitor which is a device that attaches onto the baby’s head and watches more closely to see how they are tolerating each contraction. The hope was that breaking the water would help the labor progress more and we would be able to get the baby out before she went into distress from the side effects of the infection. Something interesting about chorioamnionitis: often the only cure is to deliver the baby. Once the baby is out, the infection resolves immediately.
The process of breaking my water, checking my cervix again and inserting this fetal monitor, was extremely painful. It was a minute or two that felt like an hour. My contractions were extremely close together but not lasting long at all and I was still only dilated about 3 cm.
Very shortly after, the on-call OBGYN entered the room and informed me that they didn’t want to wait any longer and that I would have to deliver via cesarean section. Hearing those words was really painful, and when I think back to that moment my heart still drops into my stomach. At the time, I was so distracted by the pain and by everything going on that I wasn’t really sure how to react, what to feel or what to think. I was in shock more than anything. “The good news is, you’ll be meeting your baby within the hour,” this was crazy to me because I had only been at the hospital for 2-3 hours. I expected to labor all night and not meet her until the morning.
Before I knew it, I was laying on my back on a surgical table with multiple doctors and nurses leaning over me. I’ll never forget the first time I saw my daughter. I glanced behind me as a nurse carried her over. My first view was the back of her head, wow look at all that hair. I hadn’t really imagined what I thought she’d look like, but somehow she looked exactly as I would have expected, if that makes sense. I felt like I just knew she was my baby the moment I laid eyes on her. She was placed next to my head, all wrapped up and my boyfriend was at my side. She was screaming at the top of her lungs. It was all really strange to be entirely honest.
I didn’t feel a big rush of emotions at first. I felt medicated, anxious, numb, shocked, and scared all at once. I wanted to be holding her on my chest doing skin to skin, right away. I wanted to breastfeed immediately after she was born. I had wanted a natural birth. None of those things were happening. What was happening? I wasn’t sure, I was in foreign territory.
It was really hard to accept the way this birth went. After we got home from the hospital, I felt the need to mourn the loss of the birth that I had wanted to have. I know this might make me sound ungrateful, because hey! at least me and the baby were both perfectly healthy! Right?! That is true, and a really well-intentioned thing to say, but it wasn’t what I needed to hear. I was honestly so heartbroken and no silver lining was going to change that. In those first few days after giving birth, I would come across some of my old pregnancy books, “The Mama Natural Week-By-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth”, “Having a Baby Naturally”, and it would cause me to break down. I couldn’t help but think about all of the ways that I had compromised what I wanted, but it had been totally out of my control.
I’m still learning to accept this story. One thing I’ve learned is that I may never fully accept it and that is okay. Sometimes I still ask myself if there was some way that things could have gone differently, although I realize that there isn’t and everything really does happen for a reason. This experience has truly become a part of who I am.
I can’t imagine any birth being easy to process emotionally. The ability to endure such a miraculous thing is just another reason why women are so incredibly resilient. Learning to process this trauma has made me a stronger person and better version of myself. I’m so much more emotionally aware than I ever was before motherhood. I’ve realized that many aspects of life are unpredictable, and letting go of the need to be in control can be really beneficial. I’m still working on that though. I’m also trying to teach myself to stop setting expectations for things because the future is unknown and often, expectations lead to disappointment. How do we find a balance between setting goals/envisioning our dreams and setting expectations? Do expectations always lead to disappointment or is it okay to have expectations sometimes?
Even the traumatic births are so worth it in the end. It only makes sense that the most challenging endeavor would result in something as life-changing as becoming a mother.