At my 20 week appointment, my obstetrician dropped a huge bomb on me- she could no longer deliver babies. She explained that some time ago she had cancer, and as a result of the cancer she has lymphedema in one of her arms, making it unsafe and difficult for her to perform all the tasks associated with delivering a baby. I would have to see another doctor for the rest of my pregnancy.
“WTF!”, was the first thing that crossed my mind. I am a creature of habit and not too fond of change. Going into pregnancy #2, I felt a bit calmer because I knew what to expect. I knew how labor felt, what delivering a baby was like, and how my doctor rolled with delivery room procedures and overall care throughout pregnancy. That was all out the window now, and I was going to have to start from scratch with a new doctor, a stranger.
My doctor suggested I meet with the other doctors that are in the practice, but she encouraged me to meet with the midwife that’s on staff in their practice. I never would have considered it had she not suggested it. My pregnancy is low-risk and I am healthy overall, so why shouldn’t I consider it? This was the first time I ever questioned how I wanted the medical care of my unborn child and me to be. I evaluated my first labor and delivery experience and decided I wanted something different. Just to break it down:
My doctor decided to induce me the day before my due date because my blood pressure was slightly high, and it was her on call night at the hospital. I had 2 rounds of Cytotec before the Pitocen was started. The Pitocen was started at a really high dose, so there was no “transition” time into the contractions. They hit me so hard, I panicked when the pain was unmanageable. My doctor wouldn’t let me get the epidural when I asked for it because she was concerned that the baby would turn face up. I had Stadol to hold me over until I could get the epidural. This is a powerful narcotic that knocked me on my ass. But it worked wonderfully. I was tied to the bed with monitors because the Stadol was messing with the baby’s heart rate, so I couldn’t move around to help with the managing the pain. The epidural did not work 100% for me, so I was given Fentanyl to relieve the pain right before I started pushing. Fentanyl is another powerful narcotic, the stuff that killed Michael Jackson. I don’t really remember even being asked if I wanted it. I wasn’t allowed to push at my body’s own pace. I was told not to shout or yell after all the rounds of intense pushing. I remember thinking that it was kinda bullshit that they wouldn’t let me release the energy of labor/pushing how I wanted to. I pushed for a little over 10 minutes before my daughter was born. I think this is why I had the multiple tears, both internally and externally. I do not remember hearing the doctor say “It’s a girl!”. I don’t remember hearing her first cries. I don’t remember the moment I saw her for the first time. I think this was due to the fact that I was awake for over 24 hours at that point and on so many drugs. My only request from the medical staff was that she be put on my chest immediately after delivery, and I didn’t get that. Her cord was wrapped around her neck, so they took her away to make sure she could breathe and then to do the Apgar assessment and weigh-in. I don’t think all of that was necessary, because it is very common for the cord to be around the neck. Another “wtf” moment for me.
None of this was exactly what I had planned for, hoped for, or imagined childbirth to be. I wish I would have done more research on all of my options. As a first time mom though, you just do what you’re told and what you think is the normal thing to do. My medical care has always been managed by a doctor, so it only felt natural to have my pregnancy, labor, and delivery managed by a doctor. I felt comfortable going with my doctor’s plan, and didn’t take the time to consider what would be best for me and my baby.
Being on someone else’s agenda for my childbirth experience was the biggest mistake overall. I was the uninformed, first-time patient, and the moment I walked onto the Labor and Delivery floor I was herded into a plan of intervention after intervention. Not my plan. It was just me, my husband, and my mom. We had no one else to help us with making decisions, weighing different options, or advocating for my wants and needs. Besides my husband’s attempts to help me with managing the pain, no medical staff was there to help me cope with the pain outside of using narcotics or an epidural. The nursing staff was wonderful, but they aren’t really trained to help with pain relief outside of drugs, nor do they have the time to assist with that either.
So why has having my OB ditch me for my delivery been the best thing that’s happened to me for this pregnancy? I am taking charge. I am designing, researching, and making choices for what I want to happen the day I give birth. I have a Plan A, B, and C, and I am 100% happy with each plan. Meeting my midwife for the first time was a breath of fresh air. She answered every question I had thoroughly, honestly, and her answers exceeded my expectations. For example, her pitocen usage rate is 10%, her C-section rate is 8%, and she will be with me the entire time I am in active labor and a couple hours after I give birth. I left our meeting feeling confident, prepared, and calm about having her attend the birth of my second child. My routine appointments with my midwife are completely different too. She is much more hands on and takes more time to explain things to me and answer questions.
My midwife recommended a doula as well. I never, ever, ever would have given any thought to using a doula. I am not planning on having an unmedicated birth, so why would I need a doula? I looked into the role of a doula more and discovered that having one just might help me have the birth I am hoping for. A doula will help my husband help me. She will help me get through the tough parts when I just want to give up, offer words of encouragement and advocate for my wants and needs, document my labor and delivery experience, be there to help me nurse and visit me after I come home from the hospital to check in and help me out. There’s so much more I could say about having a doula, and I haven’t even used one for giving birth yet. After interviewing a few, I am so much more confident and calm about my impending birth.
Researching about doulas led me to even more options that are out there for me. I had postpartum depression that was pretty debilitating about 6 weeks after giving birth to my daughter. Most doulas offer postpartum services to help with childcare so mom can sleep, shower, do errands, feel normal again, etc…they are there for your every need whether it’s just a shoulder to cry on or to babysit. Many doulas offer placenta encapsulation as well. After looking into it and reading about how it can help with the hormonal craziness after giving birth, I am going to give it a shot. I will do anything in my power to prevent PPD from happening again, and out of every possible thing I could be nervous about for labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery, my #1 fear and concern is about having PPD again. My mind is at ease knowing that I have something else to try (outside of antidepressants) that might work.
My plan for giving birth this time around never would have happened had my OB not suggested I see a midwife. I am so grateful she encouraged me to go that route. While not everyone is fortunate enough to have the freedom to make choices about how they will give birth, I feel like I owe it to myself to try something different, that’s tailored to my wants and needs, and that will make childbirth a calm, peaceful, and positive experience. I am 6 weeks away from my due date. My hope is that after I have this baby, I can write about how wonderful the whole experience was, and that my experience might inspire and encourage a first-time mom or veteran mom to look into their options. As my doula said, you put a lot of time and effort into planning your wedding, and you should put even more time and effort planning how you will bring a life into the world.
Please share your own experiences! Did you use a midwife, or is your doctor amazing? Did you have a doula? An unmedicated birth?
I need all the words of wisdom, inspiration, and positive vibes I can get!