I was an annoying pregnant lady. I emailed every ultrasound picture, provided constant updates without being asked, and could not hold a conversation without it somehow relating to my unborn child. I photographed myself almost hourly to illustrate how my stomach was barely developing. I bragged about how I had yet to develop a single stretch mark. I made sure to let everyone know that I was still keeping up my workout routine, despite being pregnant. I was not just a mere mortal pregnant woman, I was Super Pregger, complete with my amazing superpower to relate any conversation topic back to me and my fantastic womb!
Jump ahead to the nine month mark. I was well past the recommended 25-30lbs weight gain. My stomach looked like a road map from all the stretch marks. I couldn’t walk for longer than ten minutes without my calves knotting into spasm. I was so depressed about how I had let myself completely go, that I ate a quarter pounder with cheese for lunch, followed by three cupcakes and a milkshake to wash it down. I was careful to hide all the wrappers so Ben, my husband, would not see the evidence of my guilt-ridden feast. So much for my resolve to bounce right back after pregnancy.
I read books, watched videos, and attended classes about going into labor. I wrote what I deemed to be a well thought out but reasonable birth plan. One of the books advised that I should list what I wanted my nurses to do should I shit the bed. I didn’t think they would take me seriously if I wrote “clean me up and try not to laugh,” so I opted for a more minimal approach. I covered the major areas, such as pain management (starting with natural methods, with the option for an epidural) and important medical information (I had Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia, a condition that caused my platelet count to be chronically low), but I did not go into extreme detail.
The last month or two, my husband and I practiced our breathing techniques and discussed the various positions we could utilize through the labor process. We even did this one exercise where I would grab and squeeze a handful of ice for thirty seconds to a minute, mimicking what it is like to have to focus through pain. He couched me through like a champ. The trunk of our car was packed with birthing balls, extra pillows, water bottles, even his swimsuit so he could get in the shower with me if needed (one of the videos said warm water can help a woman relax during contractions and that a willing partner will hop right on in there with her, disapproving glances from the nurses be damned!)
I was thirty nine weeks along. I showed no signs of being dilated or effaced. My doctor advised I should go to the hospital to have some sort of gel inserted into my vagina that would “ripen” my cervix. I had no idea I had a fruit bowl in there.
I went to the hospital anticipating I would receive the gel and be sent home. Instead, my body responded to the procedure and it was determined that I should be induced. At first, I argued against the inducement. I knew it increased my chances for a c-section. Everything I had read about c-sections was negative. A c-section meant increased risks of complications, a longer recovery, and not being able to bond with my child immediately. In the articles and books I read, women described having to mourn the loss of the birthing experience. I didn’t want to have to come to terms with the method of my son’s birth- I wanted that perfect joyous moment, the kind I had seen in movies since I first started watching movies.
But the nurse explained that my platelet count was in an acceptable range to receive an epidural should I want one. If I waited, my platelet count could drop, and I might not be able to have one. Having never been through labor before, I was terrified that I might not be able to handle the pain and very much wanted to know I could have the epidural should I want it. I took the nurses advice and proceeded with the inducement.
The nurse hooked up my IV and began the petocin drip. I didn’t really feel anything after an hour, and asked her if I should be. She explained that these things take time, but she also cranked up my dosage. Within an hour, I was writhing in pain.
All the time I spent preparing for birth would have been better spent watching reruns of Cops. Because I was induced, I was not allowed to move from my bed. I had to be hooked up to monitors during the entire process. I was not even allowed to turn over in my bed- I had to call a nurse to roll me, like some bed ridden mammoth from a particularly bad episode of Hoarders. This meant no bouncing on a birthing ball, no creative pain techniques, no tricky positions to encourage dilation, no steamy showers with the hubby. I just had to lie in a bed and try to breathe through it.
My contractions went from zero to every two minutes within a three hour time span. My body however, was not responding. The nurse would examine me and look apologetic as she advised that I was still not even 4 cm dilated.
I broke down sobbing. I had never felt such pain. It was nothing like squeezing a handful of ice! It felt like I had captured the energy of an earthquake, reduced it to the size of a baseball and implanted it in my stomach. I had rumbling waves of pain. I had such grand plans to experience the beauty of birth, to bring my child into the world naturally. That quickly gave way to “get me drugs! Any kind of drugs!” I begged Ben to find the nurse and get me an epidural.
The technician arrived to administer my epidural. I had never had one before, and it felt strange- like someone was shooting air into my spine. I was trying to focus through the pain, but my contractions were happening so close together, it seemed next to impossible to sit still long enough to get the stupid thing in. I broke down sobbing. I remember just weeping and saying “help me, please, help me” over and over again. The technician was getting very annoyed with me and sternly advised that if I didn’t sit still, I could not have an epidural. Ben took over. He looked me straight in the eyes, grabbed my forearms and helped me breathe through it. It was over.
I was now free to lie in bed, unmoving, for the next twenty six hours.