I know I have talked about this at length before, but never in this context. I’ve always talked about the birth. How upsetting it is to know I could have had the home birth I had envisioned. How I felt powerless at the end. How I mourn that lost birth experience even as I enjoy my son. How having a healthy baby is not all that matters.
But this time I’m not going to talk about the birth. Instead I’m going to shed some light on what led up to it.
At 34 weeks, just after my friend’s baby shower, I felt my son move down. I was leaning over the back of the couch and rocking my hips, encouraging his descent. It was uncomfortable, but I could handle it. Only a few months ago I had suffered a severe back spasm that had left me in pain for three days. We’re talking pain so bad that I was nauseous. I threw up. I dry heaved and was sure my muscles were being torn apart. My son was my only concern. I was so afraid he would be hurt; that I would go into premature labor at 25 weeks. I didn’t. He was fine.
After that I had been seeing a chiropractor. I saw her regularly for adjustments to keep the back pain at bay and at 25 weeks after that first adjustment my son had turned. He had more room. Turns out my pelvis had been twisted. So this? This was nothing.
At that midwife appointment Jules was the one to check my belly. She was impressed that his head was already in position. She said things were going well for me and asked if I had found a doula for my home birth yet. I told her I had a meeting next week. She was the one who had helped me get in touch with Lucinda, and she was happy I had managed to make contact so quickly. Time was running out, after all. I can never express enough how much I love them both; my doula and my midwife.
Then Jules was on leave for a few weeks. This is when all hell broke loose.
At my 35 week appointment I saw Heather. She expressed concern that I was measuring smaller, not believing me when I told her that it could be because my son had dropped. Like REALLY dropped. I could feel his head where my G-spot was located. She decided to send me for an ultrasound.
Ty and I were just happy to see our son on the screen again. We were smiling and joking about how big his feet were and thought nothing of it. He looked fine. The tech said everything seemed okay; fluid was good, the placenta was in the right spot and our son was a good size.
A few days later we met with Lucinda. She seemed a perfect fit but she told us to wait a few days before making a final decision.
Sunday night I got the call from Heather. It had been four days since the ultrasound and I had been confident that everything was fine with me and my son. I felt perfectly fine and my son was as active as ever. There would have been news a lot sooner if something had been wrong.
That night she destroyed everything.
I’m cuddling on the couch at 8pm with Tyler and happily watching TV. She calls, I answer. She tells me she just got the results and has to discuss some things with me.
Apparently the scan turned up showing a smaller stomach than what is to be expected. She’s consulting with an OB. She tells me that my son may have a IntraUterine Growth Restriction (IUGR). She says that he might not be able to tolerate labor well. She thinks it’s best that I go in for Non-Stress Tests to see how he’s doing. She says that they might have to induce me. I will probably have a c-section. She wants me to start seeing an Obstetrician. I can’t have a home birth.
I am devastated. I’m terrified and crying and I just can’t handle this.
I am needle phobic and all I keep thinking is how I’m going to have to have an IV line and an epidural and a catheter. Goodbye home, hello hospital. Goodbye to all that is safe and comfortable and hello to my worst nightmare.
I am inconsolable. I’m sobbing on Tyler’s shoulder after that call. Devastated, broken sobs of a girl who has just lost everything. All hope is lost. I need Lucinda. I tell Tyler that I need her. I call her.
She is my angel, and from her I gain my strength. I am reassured that it’s still early and things can change. She tells me she will be here for me every step of the way. She sends me article after article on births that “seem impossible” where the mother was able to deliver without complications, naturally. She sends me information on IUGR and tells me not to worry. She tells me that I can STILL avoid an induction and a c-section if I just stay calm. Go in for the tests. Prove them wrong. You can do this.
She is the only one who understands. Tyler tries, but he’s scared too. My family is unsupportive. “It’s not so bad to just have him in the hospital,” they say. They tell me that if something goes wrong that at least I’ll be safer there. A friend who has had a c-section reassures me by saying it’s not that bad. That is not reassuring at all because she doesn’t understand WHY I don’t want one. I fear the needles and the loss of control more than actually being cut open. I would rather labor for days than go under the knife. I don’t want to stay in the hospital. I want to breastfeed immediately. I want my natural birth.
Nobody understands this.
Heather is still the midwife on duty during my appointments. I tell her my concerns and she dismisses them. She tells me it’s not that bad and that even though the tests are coming up fine, I should STILL see an OB. I lie and tell her I’ll think about it, but I’m not going to actually do that. I don’t want an OB. I don’t trust them to not induce me or cut me.
Heather visits the hospital during one of my many NSTs. I point out that all tests are coming up fine and ask if maybe they’re wrong? Maybe I can birth at home after all?
“I still think you should be at the hospital” she says, crushing me again. She says this in front of my husband, which puts doubts in his head too.
So I continue going in each week, still upset that I can’t be at home. I tell Lucinda and she suggests I just “change my mind” the day I go into labor. It seems simple, but sadly it’s not enough. Heather continues to tell me that even if I was to have a home birth I would probably have to transfer anyway. “First babies are rarely born at home,” she tells me. “You don’t know how labor will go for you. It’s more feasible for women who have already had one baby before to attempt a home birth.”
More fear. More shaming me into compliance. I am too inexperienced to know what I want. I won’t be able to handle it on my own. I’ll end up giving up, in the end. Might as well just accept it.
At 39 weeks I get the call from Jules. She tells me that the scan they were basing everything off of was a terrible one and she doesn’t believe it for a second.
By that time everyone has been telling me for weeks to just go to the hospital. Ty has started to agree with them. I am alone. Unsupported in my wishes for a home birth.
So when she tells me I can have one, I decline. I fucking lose my nerve and believe it’s too late. I am defeated.
And now, over a year later, I am fucking PISSED!
Maybe Heather was swayed by the OB. Maybe she felt pressure from the medical community that oversaw the maternity group practice. I don’t care; I will never forgive her for her part in destroying my birth plans. I will never trust another person to tell me what I can and can’t do. I will go into my next pregnancy suspicious of everyone and will outright refuse routine tests. Because of what I now know, I will only ever trust in myself and my body. I will alert Lucinda the second I find out I am pregnant again and secure her as my doula right away. I will go into every midwife appointment with skepticism. If they say I’m measuring too small I will likely roll my eyes and tell them “that’s cute. I did that with my firstborn too and he was born perfectly healthy at almost 8 lbs. But if you want to order that ultrasound anyway that’s cool, because I wouldn’t mind seeing my baby on screen again. However, I will still be having that home birth even if I have to go in for NSTs just to prove you wrong.”
And then I’ll probably end up giving birth before the midwife even gets to our house, just because I can.