Today I want to share a story that is very near and dear to my heart… my birth story.
In order to fully understand my birth story, I have to start from the very beginning. Alllll the way back to when I was a sophomore in college. My eldest brother’s daughter was just born and when I found out my sister-in-law had a natural childbirth, I. Thought. She. Was. Crazy.
Fast forward almost a decade later when I found out I was pregnant. I immediately went into hyper-research mode. I wanted to learn anything and everything I could about pregnancy and giving birth. That’s when I stumbled upon Ricki Lake’s documentary: The Business of Being Born. That documentary changed my life. I won’t go into too much detail because the information could fill an entire blog on natural unmedicated childbirth. But I will say that everything I learned convinced me that I wanted to do everything in my power to give birth without medication and with minimal medical intervention.
Mr. C and I enrolled in Bradley Method classes – 8 classes total, 3 hours each – I kid you not. Even though it is quite the time commitment, I cannot recommend these classes highly enough if you are considering natural childbirth. The Bradley Method’s philosophy is partner-coached, evidence-based childbirth. The classes armed me with the knowledge and confidence I needed to accomplish my goals. Not only that, it really helped Mr. C get involved in the process and become fully supportive of my decision to give birth naturally. Honestly, without these classes and the amazing instructor, I’m not sure we would have been able to withstand the pressure from our birth team in the heat of the moment… more on that later.
I found a midwife practice, featured in the documentary, that had privileges at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Birthing Center. However, after I started my Bradley Method classes, I learned that midwives who are affiliated with a hospital have to abide by hospital rules which ultimately provide much less flexibility in promoting a natural childbirth.
Anyway, I learned this the hard way when, at around 28 weeks, I began having regular, timeable contractions for four hours straight. I called my midwife who advised me to go to triage. I was placed on an IV and monitored with a fetal heart rate monitor and tocodynamometer (contraction monitor). I was also internally checked both manually and with an ultrasound wand. At the time I was hooked up, I continued having contractions but had no other signs of labor – i.e., long and closed cervix with no change, a negative fetal fibronectin test, no loss of mucus plug, etc. The baby’s heart rate was strong and not in distress and the amniotic sac looked good.
Despite the lack of factors indicating labor, the nurses consulted with a high-risk specialist who recommended that I be admitted and put on Indocin. I asked about the side effects and was advised that it could damage the baby’s kidneys if administered for too long, “but they know about that risk now,” so they wouldn’t have me on the medication for more than two days. Considering this was off-label use for the medication, the potential for side effects, and the fact that, by their own admission, there was no guarantee the medication would even stop my contractions, I declined.
And that is when, from my perspective at least, all hell broke loose.
The midwife on duty called me and freaked out that I was “leaving against medical advice.” The doctors and nurses repeatedly dropped the term “fetal death” and made me sign discharge papers acknowledging that I was risking fetal death by leaving the hospital. I was miserable, exhausted, and terrified. But my reasoning was that I did not want to take unnecessary medication unless I was actually in labor. It was 3:00AM and I just wanted to go home, get some rest, and see if there was any improvement.
I told them, if my contractions continued the next day, I would return to the hospital. I later found out that the hospital had a blanket policy not to discharge patients that were experiencing contractions.
In the end, despite the immense pressure and insistence otherwise, I listened to my gut. Call it mother’s intuition. I went home, slept in, and when I woke up the next morning, my contractions had subsided.
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