Posts Tagged ‘pregnancy books’

I remember being 38 weeks pregnant and asking an obstetrician, ‘So I’m in labour, right?’ And the answer: ‘Kind of.’ Pregnancy books do not prepare you for this. In fact, there is a lot that pregnancy books don’t prepare you for. For example, being 38 weeks pregnant and in a labour a bit. The long answer to my questions was something like, ‘You’re having contractions and you’re 1cm dilated, but things are going too slowly. This is pre-labour, or light labour.’

Nothing I had read in preparation for giving birth had prepared me for pre-labour. I’d gone to hospital because I was having some infrequent, intense pains that did not match the description of labour I’d been given – the pain was too sharp and too localised, low in my pelvis – and some blood spotting. Eventually the doctors and I figured out it was the baby bumping my cervix repeatedly, which you’re not supposed to feel but oh boy, did I ever. However, this trip to hospital ended up with me undergoing some fetal monitoring and some increasing anxiety from the midwives and, later, the doctors attending me. I was having long surges of Braxton-Hicks contractions along with the pain, and fetal monitoring was turning out to be less than successful – every attempt to monitor the baby’s heartbeat showed that he would be normal for long periods of time, and then suddenly spike into a ridiculously, dangerously fast pulse. I was admitted and moved from ER to a maternity ward.

The monitoring went on for quite some time, and the obstetricians who attended me continued to hover somewhere between ‘mildly alarmed’ and ‘freaking the fuck out’ every time the baby’s heart rate spiked. He moved constantly too – I had a 4.6kg baby rolling around in my huge belly, constantly knocking the monitoring belt off and making it hard to get a clear reading. I remember this happening fairly clearly:

Doctor: We’d like to induce labour by perforating the amniotic sac. (She holds up a very long, thin needle with a hook on the end. Alex and I discuss briefly.)
Me: Uh. Okay? Now? I’m having the baby now?
Doctor: That would mean you’d have the baby fairly quickly, yes. (She starts arranging the terrifying needle with some gauze and absorbent pads all around me.)
Me: Okay. We’re having the baby. Okay!
Doctor: Okay, let me just go check with a senior colleague. (She wanders off while Alex and I deal with identical holy-shit, we’re-having-the-baby-right-now, we-didn’t-bring-the-hospital-bag reactions. The doctor returns with another doctor.) So I’ve consulted with my senior colleague here, and we’ve decided we won’t induce just yet. Instead we’re going to sedate you, in order to sedate the baby, to try and get a clear reading of his heart rate. Okay?
Me: Um. Okay then.

And that’s what happened. I got doped up, so the baby got doped up, and they finally got a clear reading of his heart rate and decided that everything was fine after all. I slept in the hospital bed and Alex slept on the floor beside me. Despite being in ‘light’ labour I was sent home (with the general consensus that things would pick up soon). That was four days before I actually gave birth. I remained in ‘light’ labour for that whole time.

Books about having babies do not tell you how quickly things can change, how one minute you can come within one long thin needle’s length of having your child a little early, and how much of that decision is based on your doctor, their opinion, and whoever’s opinion they happen to seek out. Books don’t tell you that the line between Braxton-Hicks and real contractions can sometimes be pretty damn blurry.

Here’s a quick list of other things I didn’t know anything about, but happened to me anyway during the birth of my child:

-The hospital can, and will, send you home, even if you’ve been labouring all night, because of ‘lack of progress’. I got sent home at 8am and was back at midday. What a waste of damn time.

-No matter how much I dreamed of an intervention and drug-free birth, and even bought into the Calm Birth ideal, I was not prepared for how horrendous labour can be when you haven’t slept for about 50 hours. Yes I wanted the drugs. I sucked down that gas like it was the cure to all ails. It made me feel sick and dizzy and disconnected from the world, and I hated the bath I was in, so I asked for an epidural.

-An epidural does not always work. Three epidurals do not always work. A senior anesthesiologist may be wiggling that tiny needle around in your spine, but she can’t guarantee pain relief. In which case, when they offered Fentanyl, a drug that had previously been on my No Not Ever list, I was delighted. Despite knowing it was on timed release, I hit that little drug release button over 100 times.

-Apparently your cervix can have a ‘lip’. I had never heard of this. It meant an injection of pitocin, to try and dissolve that lip. When suddenly I was really really REALLY ready to start pushing, the midwives kept telling me not to because of the lip. It was like trying to stop gravity.

-The sight of a group of midwives and doctors having a whispered conference in my room was a bit terrifying. When they finally, finally presented me with a form allowing intervention, I remember I didn’t actually read it, I just try to look coherent while I signed so it was legal.

-Those forms aren’t for specific intervention, they allow any sort of intervention. Which is why when I was moved to an operating theatre, I wasn’t terribly sure of what was going on most of the time. I mean, I didn’t end up having a C-section, although it was a near thing, but I did end up having an episiotomy – the doctor didn’t really ask me, he just told me I was having one, and while it and other maneuver actually saved Sebastian’s life when shoulder dystocia occurred, at the time it was just one big surprise to me.

The moral of this story is, I guess: things don’t go according to plan. There’s no way of knowing what will happen, no way of anticipating all the variables, and the process of labour isn’t as clear cut as it is in the books. And that’s fine. I think the best way to approach the matter is to be prepared for how unprepared you’ll feel when the time comes. I mean, ultimately, any birth that ends up with mother and baby alive at the end can be classified as ‘normal’, no matter if it’s vaginal, Cesarean or executed with laser gun.

Another thing the books don’t tell you is the massive endorphin high you get after giving birth, which is a major plus, and you feel it surge to life every time you look at your newborn.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: