When Your Baby Doesn’t Follow Your Birth Plan
Have you ever set out to accomplish something life-changing? How did you prepare for it? Did you research it online? Did you read a how-to book? Did you seek advice from those you trust? Would you ever show up for the big day without preparing ahead of time?
Back in November of 2017, I finally saw those two blue lines on a pregnancy test. I was unbelievably excited, but yet filled with fear and anxiety. After over a year of trying to conceive and a devastating miscarriage, my husband and I were blessed with the opportunity to try it again. For anyone that has experienced a miscarriage you know that each cramp, test, and Dr. appointment is filled with intense emotion and fear.
The fear and anxiety wasn’t completely gone after our 12 week ultrasound, but it definitely became a background noise that I could drown out with our baby registry, nursery decorations, and my efforts to create the perfect environment for my baby for the remainder of the pregnancy.
During my first trimester, I was gifted The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Genevieve Howland (highly recommended by the way, even if you’re not a super crunchy mama) by my sister who unknowingly would become the trail blazer that would go before me by about 12 weeks and share all her child rearing wisdom with me. This was new for me as an OLDER sister, but her recommendations and personal experience were pivotal in creating an empowering childbirth experience for me.
Fast forward to the third trimester where it really started to sink in that I was going to birth this tiny human inside me. This is the part of the story where I realized I was going to experience something life-changing that I knew very little about. After reading the best books, talking with seasoned mamas and investing in a bomb childbirth course (Mama Natural’s once again!), I decided that my ideal birth plan was to have a vaginal delivery with as few medical interventions as possible. I did the research to get the facts and my husband was very supportive (but also a rookie) so I wanted some reinforcement to help me achieve my dream birth story. This is the part where my very wise sister recommended talking with Gold Coast Doulas about how they could help me reach my goals. She had just accomplished a successful, low intervention vaginal delivery so it didn’t take much convincing for me to call and get matched up with doulas that were a good fit for my birth goals.
At 41 weeks and 3 days, it became apparent that my son had not read my birth plan and despite my best efforts was coming out on his own terms. In the midst of my research, I learned that induction could be intense, unpleasant, and ruin my plans for an unmedicated birth; unfortunately, my OBGYN had decided this was the best option for me. My husband and I walked into the hospital like a couple headed to Baby-Mart to pick-up our baby. I had not experienced one real contraction to this point, was dilated to 1cm (I still think this was a pity centimeter) and I had shed many tears as I realized how little control I actually had over this birth experience. I prayed God would help me surrender to His will for this birth.
As if this was the moment my son had been waiting for all along, I felt my first real contraction minutes after being hooked up to the fetal heart monitor before beginning the induction process. I finally stopped feeling sorry for myself about my “ruined” birth plan and regained my confidence knowing this was MY birth plan and no matter how it ended, it was the perfect plan for me!
Contractions continued to come, and they recommended that I receive a dose of Cytotec to soften my cervix. Thankfully labor continued to progress on its own without any further doses of cytotec or pitocin. Several hours after contractions started, I peed the bed… or so I thought. After 2 trips to the bathroom and continued “leaking” I realized my water had broken. My cervix continued to dilate and my husband was now recruited to help me through my increasingly more intense contractions. My nurse was amazing and encouraged me to change positions by kneeling and leaning forward on the bed and rolling from side to side with a peanut ball between my legs to encourage continued progression of my labor. It’s funny because I knew this movement was important, but in that moment, all I could think about was how it made my contractions hurt worse and that I didn’t want to move at all. Turns out that’s the point! You want to intensify contractions, progress labor, and get that baby in your arms!
As the hours progressed my husband continued to ask if we should ask Mary, our doula, to join us (she’d been checking in with him periodically) and I continued to say no. I guess I had heard too many stories about long labors because I was convinced we still had a long way to go. When my attentive husband noticed the signs of transition he quietly vetoed my decision and let Mary, along with family, know that we were getting close and it was time to come to the hospital. When Mary arrived they were wheeling in delivery equipment and it was go-time. She reminded me of the breathing techniques I had practiced and was available to help with whatever comfort measures we needed even when it was silence.
There was no mistaking when it was time to push as my fetal ejection reflex kicked in. I was thankful that my provider let me stay in a side-lying position to push while my husband and Mary held legs and hands (focusing on my needs) allowing the doctors to focus on our son. My husband excitedly updated me that they could see his head, but he just didn’t seem to want to move past that point. Despite my best pushing efforts for about 40 minutes, our baby’s heart rate was dropping, and I was now needing oxygen. At this point, my OBGYN highly recommended an episiotomy to deliver my son quickly. This was not part of my birth plan, but I agreed knowing everyone’s goal was to deliver a healthy baby. As his head emerged and the OBGYN quickly freed him from the umbilical cord around his neck, he launched himself earth-side and to this day has not stopped moving and wiggling.
It’s crazy to think that at 8 pm on Sunday night we walked into the hospital with a space in our hearts we had no idea even existed and by 8:30 am on Monday morning our hearts were overflowing with love and connection with someone we had only just met. Childbirth was unknown, exciting, and challenging. The experience was so very empowering and the outcome was undeniably life-changing. My piece of advice for expecting moms is to go into labor and delivery prepared, supported and believing in yourself knowing that your body was made to do this!
Written by Dr. Nicole Bringer, DPT
Owner of Mamas & Misses Physical Therapy