I am a planner. I have always been a planner. My days are dictated by checklists, reminders and calendars.
So I was naturally pretty excited when I heard about the concept of a “birth plan.” I can decide in advance how each phase of my delivery is going to go? Great!
It didn’t take long to come up with an outline: I would endure the initial laboring in the comfort of my home until I was ready to go to the hospital. Then, I’d tolerate the pain for as long as possible without requesting an epidural (and possibly not ask for one at all). The plan would conclude with some smooth and quick dilating and pushing, followed by “rooming in” for constant cuddles with my new snuggle buddy!
Everything sounded perfect. There’s just one thing I forgot – that things like this rarely go according to plan.
38 weeks, 3 days
At 6:30 in the morning on the 15th of August, a sudden urge to pee sent me waddling, full speed, to the bathroom, with what I assumed was urine dripping down my leg. As soon I sat down on the toilet, however, a gush of liquid told me that my water had broken. “That’s weird,” I thought, remembering having learned that only 15% of women actually experience their waters breaking before going into labor. Also, I was only 38 weeks pregnant and hadn’t noticed any of the pre-labor signs that I had read about. This definitely wasn’t part of my plan, but I was still excited - The day that I would meet my baby had finally arrived! I stayed at home for a couple of hours waiting for contractions to kick in (while soaking through about 10 towels). At around 12:30, I still wasn’t having contractions and I began feeling a bit anxious. We decided to go to the hospital where I could feel safe and confident under the care of doctors and nurses, rather than impatiently sit at home with no one to consult. At about 6:30 pm, after a couple of hours of monitoring and tests, I finally met with the doctor who checked to see how dilated I was: 0 cm.
I was pretty confused at this point. My water had broken over 12 hours ago. Why wasn’t labor progressing like it should? I was then told that I had 2 options: the hospital staff could either induce me right then or admit me into the hospital and allow my labor to progress naturally before bringing me into a birthing room. They explained that because my waters were clear, it was safe for me to wait up to 48 hours before induction. Because I was GBS positive, however, I needed to receive antibiotics via IV every 4 hours and would therefore be required to stay in the hospital. I decided to be admitted into the hospital and let labor take its course naturally. After all, “natural” had been part of my birth plan.
38 weeks, 4 days
The morning of August 16th arrived and still, no baby. However, the contractions did decide to make an appearance at some point in the middle of the night, leaving me sleepless and exhausted. My husband and I spent the day hanging out in the hospital room and breathing through the contractions, which did not come often enough for me to be considered in “active labor,” but still hurt plenty. A doctor came in to make sure that baby and I were both doing well and every 4 hours a nurse would administer more antibiotics. After a full night and day of contractions, I decided my labor had progressed enough on its own. I was ready to be induced, get my epidural and sleep until it was time to push. When I went to the nurses’ station to inform them of my decision, the nurse very politely responded, “It’s nice that you would like to be induced, but currently we don’t have a birthing room for you.” Did you know that August is the most popular month in Israel to give birth? Yeah, me neither. Poor planning on my part, I guess. The nurse told me I would be put on the top of the list to be admitted to a birthing room, which made me hopeful. Now I just had to wait.
38 weeks, 5 days
Wednesday morning, August 17 followed an even worse evening than the one before and there were still no available birthing rooms. Every couple of hours, while pacing the halls of the hospital attempting to walk off the pain of a contraction, I would check in with the nurses to see if a room had opened up yet. The answer was always, “Not yet, but don’t worry - we will let you know.” The contractions were very painful, but still not close enough together. My husband and I went to eat breakfast and then I took a shower to relieve some of the pain while we waited. As soon as I got out, a nurse came in to deliver the news we’d been hoping for: “We’ve got a room for you!” We rushed to get our stuff together and basically ran to the birthing room area with the nurse. The first thing they did was check to see how dilated I was: 2 cm. That’s it! That’s what I had to show for two and a half days of labor! I was shocked. After a little bit more waiting, they finally gave me Pitocin and set up my epidural. All that was left to do was relax and wait for the baby to come. Hours passed. I was dilating, but very slowly. At one point I jumped to 7 cm very quickly, which got me excited, but then somehow went back down to between 6 and 7 cm for a while. And Wednesday slowly turned into Thursday...
38 weeks, 6 days
Thursday, August 18, 12:13 pm. After slowly dilating to 10 cm, and pushing for what I remember as about a half an hour (but was probably longer), my beautiful son was born. But something wasn’t right. After 26 hours in the labor room, we heard the soundtracks of MANY births in neighboring rooms, and they were always followed by crying. I had finally pushed my son out and the first thing I remember is my husband turning to me and saying, “Why isn’t he crying?” My baby wasn’t crying. My baby wasn’t breathing. I barely even had a second to process this. All I remember is that the moment I felt my tiny baby’s skin against my own, he was yanked out of reach. A parade of doctors and nurses ran into the room to get him breathing and, thank G-d, their efforts were successful. They wrapped him up, gave him to me for about a minute, and then took him away for monitoring and tests. I was too overwhelmed at the time to even be scared or emotional about what was happening. Because they weren’t sure why he was born not breathing (he had a pulse the entire time he was inside of me), he had to be put in a special nursery where they could monitor him. We could go in to be with him but weren’t allowed to take him out. My vision of having my baby in my room with me had gone out the window. Instead, I only got to really see him and be with him about 8 hours after he was born, and couldn’t even hold him until the next day because of all the monitors he was hooked up to.
So much for planning ahead!
Today, my son is 14 months old and thriving. He has been reaching milestones and shows no signs of his traumatic birth affecting him at this stage in his life. Reminiscing about my labor and birth experience makes me very emotional and is hard to think about. But the most important lesson that I learned for my future births is not to get too attached to a plan. That is not to say that you shouldn’t come prepared or make certain decisions in advance, but it’s important to be aware that labors and births come in all shapes and sizes and what you experience is what is meant to be for YOU.
I recently saw something on the Midwifery Today Facebook page that I believe is very relevant and will hopefully resonate with other people: “Our birth plan? We want the baby to come out. That’s our birth plan.”
Pretty much sums up my “birth plan” for all future babies. 😉