I have been meaning to write down my labour experience for a while now. I find myself struggling to put things on paper as I am working hard to move on from the experience. So here goes.
I was one week overdue and I hadn’t felt the baby drop. The midwife was adamant that I get an ultrasound and although I was very reluctant to do so, I felt I was forced to. The 41 week ultrasound showed a condition called polyhydramnios. This is when there is too much amniotic fluid. The speculation is that the excess fluid is inhibiting the baby to drop and the ultrasound also showed a larger sized baby. Because of the polyhydramnios, there is an increased risk of a cord prolapse. This is when the umbilical cord descends before the baby and blocks the oxygen supply since the cord carries the blood flow to the baby. So here I am 11 days overdue in hospital with a fetal monitor attached to my belly being told by the midwife and OB that I should get induced in order to avoid a spontaneous membrane rupture (water breaking) and thus a cord prolapse at home. At this point my condition becomes a transfer of care from the midwife to the OB and I am feeling option-less. I resign to the fact that I am no longer having a home birth and receive a vaginal suppository of Cirvidil, which is a prostaglandin that helps ripen the cervix since the baby’s head was not low enough to cause a mechanical dilation of the cervix naturally. This procedure caused my uterus to contract very strongly and it must have impinged the umbilical cord because the baby’s heart rate plummeted! This was very scary and luckily didn’t happen again. But because of this, I was told I had to stay in hospital overnight.
I could not sleep as I was strapped with a fetal monitor and by 4am my water breaks on its own. It’s just a trickle and I was only 1cm dilated so the cord did not prolapse. After that the OB wanted to induce me with IV Pitocin right away. This is a hormone that is similar to oxytocin (the one our body makes naturally) in order to start the uterine contractions. Because I was Group B Strep negative, I convinced them to wait and see if my contractions would start naturally. Sadly after about 6 hours, the contractions were not strong enough to effectively push the baby downwards and so I was given the Pitocin drip. This amplified my contractions but there was still a pocket of amniotic fluid preventing the head to drop. The next OB on call broke my waters but instructed me to not walk or squat because there was still some fluid and they were still afraid of a cord prolapse. Being bed ridden, it made it difficult to endure the contractions and use gravity to push the baby’s head down.
The contractions got too painful for me and I had to get a catheter because I was unable to void my urine. I was also exhausted at this point and asked for an epidural. Once I got my epidural, I was so pleased for the pain relief. I felt humbled and amazed at women that could endure these contractions for many hours. The epidural allowed me to get some much needed sleep. I was checked regularly and unfortunately I was stuck at 6 cm, had a fever and the baby’s heartbeat wasn’t great. The OB on call at that time suggested a c-section because he didn’t know how much longer it would take to get me to 10cm and at that point the baby’s heart beat could take a turn for the worst and thus needing an emergency c-section. I wanted to avoid being hacked open in a time crunch and so decided to go ahead with the c-section.
When baby Lana was born, she wasn’t breathing and so they put a c-pap mask on her and they also did a chest x-ray to rule out pneumothorax (opening in the lungs). After 3 hours she was breathing on her own and everything was good. They put her on IV antibiotics to prevent any infection and did a blood culture to make sure there was no sepsis. Lana stayed in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) for 2 days and I stayed in hospital for 2 days to recover from the surgery.
After 2 days of Lana being born, we were finally able to go home. Luckily my dad and sister were visiting and staying with us because the first 10 days post partum where hell for me. After the surgery, I started having very sharp pains in my abdomen and shooting into my back. It was like very intense heartburn pain. The pain was so strong that it forced me to vomit. So here I was breastfeeding and holding my daughter with one hand and holding a puke bucket with the other. I wasn’t able to enjoy my new baby. I was happy that the pains did end up subsiding by the second week and I could finally feel like myself again. I am thankful that overall breastfeeding has gone very well and that I am able to rectify some of the interventions with good probiotics and lots of love.
I wish I could brag about an amazing birth and I have to say that there is a lot of shame that comes with it. I feel like I let my husband and myself down. The thoughts constantly flow through my mind: “Did I make the right decision? Should I have been more assertive?” I feel embarrassed because being a naturopathic doctor, there is this expectation (that I put on myself) to do everything natural. After all, I was taking all the right supplements, I was exercising, taking hypnobirthing classes, meditating and doing yoga. Why didn’t I get my home water birth? There are many reasons that I can think of. The polyhydramnios and possibly the large size of the baby (and the inability to use gravity during labour) prevented the head from descending and causing the cervix to dilate. Being induced means that I did not go into labour naturally which then perpetuated the cascade of interventions. Part of me feels that when you’re in hospital there is this time crunch to get you and your baby out of there as quickly as possible. A lot of my wishes like skin-to-skin, delayed cord cutting and baby inoculation could not be fulfilled.
I was also under a lot of stress to get the home clinic and house ready before I went on maternity leave. Being self-employed is rewarding but also challenging. I still feel like my practice is my second baby. I have found it very difficult to balance my business with childcare. I constantly feel the need to learn new things by reading articles, listening to webinars and attending lectures. I also love keeping my patients up to date, giving talks in the community and writing health articles. Sadly, I cannot spend quality time with my daughter and husband, sleep and work on my practice all at the same time. So here I am, learning how to balance life, forgive myself, reduce the high expectations I have on myself and just be in the moment. I choose to grow from this experience, remove judgement and be grateful for the amazing daughter I have been given and a supportive husband that allows me to do what I love. Let’s be kind to ourselves and flourish from our hardships.