A few days ago I walked with Finn through our neighborhood, looping up and down the streets. At dusk, the area was quiet, Finn napped, and I had a lot of uninterrupted time with my thoughts. I revisited my favorite houses and was surprised by how different the area looked now that winter had taken over. I thought back to the hours and hours and hours Justin and I had spent walking this area in the heat of summer, timing contractions that never proved to be much help, dreaming about how our life would be completely different in a few short weeks.
One of the things we spent a lot of time discussing, maybe even obsessing over, was what the labor experience would be like. After years keeping up on women’s health care issues, I was convinced that a natural childbirth, maybe even at home, would be the best scenario for baby and me. With that in mind, I spent weeks trying to sort out what options were covered by my insurance, only to end up with almost no options at all. This was the first thing that didn’t go as planned. And so we carried on, taking a very intensive class that sparked a lot of discussion about at what point in labor we’d go to the hospital, how we’d undermine the nursing staff to get exactly what we want, what music would be playing at which labor stage, what smells would be present in the room to relax me (no, seriously), what words were and were not allowed in my room (seeeeeeeriously), and so on.
Fast forward to August 1: my due date. Justin and I went to a check up with my midwife at the hospital. I was sad to be at that appointment. A week prior when I scheduled it, I was sure that I’d already have my baby in arms and it wouldn’t be necessary. We then scheduled my induction for two weeks out just in case, but I was sure it would never come to that. Not the case. Days dragged on and on, and after plenty of membrane stripping and walking and resting and water and non stress tests and ultrasounds, my induction date rolled around and I showed up at the hospital bright and early on August 14 (you can read about Finn’s birth here). In summary, I was induced (strike number one against a natural birth), never got around to using the relaxation techniques we learned in class (strike number two), and had an epidural (strike, strike, strike…). And guess what?
I had a baby, and he was completely healthy, and I survived, and my experience was wonderful to boot. And we didn’t follow the birth plan a whole lot because we couldn’t, and my water never broke, and I didn’t end up liking being in the tub as I imagined I would, and I was monitored and on a pitocin drip the whole time, and an epidural was just something that needed to happen.
Much to my surprise, I felt very comfortable in the hospital. I felt supported and cared for. I felt like I had options, I didn’t feel rushed and I was made to feel like the most powerful, capable, and incredible woman by each one of my nurses. This truly made all the difference. I labored through three shifts worth of nurses and each woman was intrinsic in making Finn’s entry into the world as wonderful as it was. The first woman was sweet and patient, listening to my questions, laughing with me as I gabbed on and on nervously about what induction would be like. The next set of women (those poor, poor women) I never actually talked to, but they scurried around the room, presenting different laboring options as I moaned and screamed and squawked for hours (and hours and hours) on end. The last two women, Siobhan and Vanessa, might be my favorite women on this planet. I mean it when I say that I actually miss them. I want them around me all of the time. They were powerful and wise and I felt protected by them. And to top it all off, they even cried when Finn was born. They said it was one of the most beautiful births they had seen in a long time. Now that’s saying something.
All of this to say, this was a major lesson for the stick-to-the-plan, anxiety-ridden, anti-spontaneity weirdo that I am. The camp I was coming from made me scared of the hospital and I felt like I was walking into a death trap there. That isn’t to say that all hospital births are as wonderful as mine, but seriously, don’t worry if that is what you choose or where you end up. Sometimes hospital births turn out terrible, but they can be completely magical too. Of course do your research and get to know your options, but everything will be ok. Don’t put yet another layer of pressure on yourself and become terrified about yet another thing. Healthy mom, healthy baby. That was what Justin told me for months and months to ease my hospital nerves and that’s exactly what we got. Success!