Labor Pains: Reasons to Ditch Your Birth Plan

Let’s rewind a bit. About a month ago.

During my baby shower I was given a ton of advice. More advice than I knew what to do with. Some of it I didn’t care to hear, but some of it really got me thinking.

My best friend’s mom has worked as a midwife for probably longer than I have been alive. My mom’s childhood friend is an OR nurse who delivers her fair share of babies. Both of these wonderful women attended my baby shower. We’ll call them T&D. I knew they would have some wise words to offer me, so I wasted no time diving into conversation. One question they asked me was, “did you write a birth plan?” Well yea, I had. Every website and blog I had come across told me to. “Write out a detailed plan of all your wants and desires for your childbirth experience, this way your nurses and midwife will know exactly what you expect from them.” – This is more or less what every source told me, except for T&D. When they heard I had written one, they told me to rip it up. “Don’t write a birth plan, don’t waste your time. Babies have their own agenda. You’re going to bring it to the hospital, things aren’t going to go as you planned (they never do) and you’re going to end up being disappointed” they said.

When I returned home from my shower, I reluctantly deleted the file on the computer titled “Jess’s Birth Plan”. I’m sure they know what they’re talking about.

I had been doing my research and I had made up my mind that I was going to have a 100% natural childbirth. I spent hours online reading about other women’s experiences, learning all sorts of lingo and brushing up on new trends. I wanted no meds to speed up labor, no pain meds to take the edge off and I wanted my baby skin to skin until I decided it was enough. Yep, I had a vision and in my mind, I was going to have an empowering experience.

On that note, let me share with you why L will be in my debt for quite sometime.

If you’ve been following my previous posts, you’ll know that at 38 weeks pregnant I had tapped out. I was done. I wanted nothing more than to have my baby. I had given up on galloping to get him out, eating whole pineapples to get him out, and sex to get him out. I was starting to think I was going to be one of those women that went 2 weeks past their due dates.

Hubby and I decided to carry on as normal and enjoy that beautiful Saturday. We went to the pool, went out for a nice dinner and came home to be lazy while hubby had a few beers to cap off the night. Just as hubby was getting a good buzz, the unimaginable happened. Against all my research about labor, how contractions start slowly and increase in intensity and frequency, and how it’s not like in the movies with your water breaking at an inopportune moment and labor quickly follows; my water broke. I was feeling uncomfortable laying in bed and began the process to roll myself over when I felt a pop followed by a warm gush. Oh sh*t. At 10:51pm on Saturday evening just after hubby and I had just crawled into bed, I declared, “either I just peed myself or my water broke.” And there it was, a huge puddle of my amniotic fluid covering the fitted sheets down to the mattress pad. I darted to the bathroom to avoid an even bigger mess while Hubby panicked, sprung out of bed, got dressed, ready to take me to the hospital as I called my midwife practice. I couldn’t help giggle to myself while on the toilet as I watched the panic spread across his face. My practice  recommended I rest while I can and wait until morning and call back with an update on my labor.  Sleep?? Yea, not going to happen. So, to pass time we watched American Reunion (thank you HBO) as we washed the bed sheets. Within an hour, regular contractions started, lasting 45 seconds, 6 minutes apart, I was getting more and more uncomfortable. I remember thinking that this is all happening so fast! That is, until around 6:30am Sunday morning, when I realized my contractions were getting further and further apart.

After the sleepless night, I called my practice and they told me to come to the hospital once I’ve showered an had breakfast.

Reason #1 a birth plan would have failed me- I wanted to labor at home as long as possible. Hospitals are uncomfortable and I figured I could cope better at home.

At this point, my labor had stalled almost completely. That made me nervous, but I assumed things would pick back up once we had a change of scenery. I was admitted and waited 2 hours for shift change when my midwife started her shift.

Around 11am on Sunday, we assessed the situation and discussed our options. We were at the 12 hour mark with broken water and I knew that the clock was ticking. I thought typically 24 hours is the maximum length of time until delivery becomes necessary to reduce risk of infection.  My midwife, Nancy,  assured me that as long as all signs are good, there is no real time frame for me to deliver. Let’s talk about Nancy really quick. SHE IS AWESOME. She knew I wanted to have a natural delivery and became a huge advocate for my cause. Despite having 2 other labors in progress, she bumped me up to her priority and was more than ready to help me achieve what I set out to do.  Anyway, we decided that 12 hours out with stalled labor I needed a little kick to get things rolling again. Nancy knew I was not keen on being tethered to an IV pole. I wanted the freedom to be mobile. She suggested a new drug (I can’t for the life of me remember the name) that works like pitocin but is taken orally. It’s job is to kick-start contractions and my body would get things moving from there. I was excited, hopeful and ready to meet my son!

#2- I did not want induction drugs. My understanding is that it created unnatural labor and make the process unbearable.

We waited until 5pm to check any progress. Contractions had started up but weren’t anything to ring home about. I was disappointed but even more so when Nancy announced I was a mere 4cm dilated and only 80% effaced.  We decided to double the dose of the nameless drug because we wanted things moving!

#3- More induction drugs. Definitely not part of my plan. 

Well, that seemed to do the trick. Slowly but surely contractions started coming harder and more frequent. By 11pm on Sunday, I had been in labor for 24 hours. Nancy assured me that since I wasn’t running a temp, baby’s heart rate was solid and consistent and I seemed to be coping well, there was no need to worry abut the time frame.

Around 2am things got real. Breathing, walking, showers, back rubs, you name it weren’t providing any relief. The hospital has a tub for labor but they typically don’t let women enter it if they have had broken waters longer than 18 hours. I was approach 30 hours. Nancy however, would not take no for an answer. She threw (from what she told me) an epic fit and fought tooth and nail to get me tub privileges. I was thrilled when she delivered the news that the tub was a go! Contractions started to become unbearable. I had been awake and in labor for nearly 30 hours and It was starting to become obvious.

The tub only provided relief for a mere 10 minutes. We think baby was like sunny-side up and giving me back labor. Things got so bad that I started to get angry when I repetitively said “I can’t do this anymore” and hubby and the nurse assured me I could. UM NO.

Nancy saw me around 3:30am and one look at me and she was sure that we were nearing the end. She was sure I was in transition based on the intensity of the contractions. She checked me and to my absolute devastation I was only 6cm dilated………

I broke down, panicked and wanted to cry. I was 30 hours into labor and this was all I had to show for it?! Nancy suggested Stadol through my IV to take the edge off.

#4- I wanted a natural birth, no pain medications. 

I don’t remember much about the next hour or so. Apparently, after the IV injection I had one more awful contraction and then Hubby watched as my eyes lost focused and my body went limp. AHHH, SWEET RELIEF. I managed to get a little sleep.

Being on Stadol is like having a crazy drug trip. Every once and a while I would wake up, see crazy colors, hear muffled voices and have no idea where the hell I was. According to Hubby, I was hilarious.

During my drug induced state (again not ideal but man was I happy), Hubby and Nancy discussed the next step. With little progress, intense contractions and no sleep with a 32 hour labor, we were at a cross roads.

Both of them knew what I had wanted but both of them knew what needed to happen to get this baby out. They had both been AWESOME with my natural plans and it saddened Nancy and broke Hubby’s heart to have to make this decision. I needed pitocin to finish up the process and I needed an epidural to cope with the pain.

#5- Neither of these were ever part of my birth plan. They were the top 2 interventions I DID NOT WANT.

Not long after, the Stadol started to wear off. The contractions hit me hard. They woke me up from my drug induced slumber. I had no way to mentally prepare myself for them when they hit and it was unbearable. Loopy, confused and suffering I was going through it. I could see on Hubby’s face that he had done something he didn’t want to do. After all this time, he was mentally and physically exhausted as well. He had to make the decision for me, despite my wishes. Looking back, I’m glad he did.

So I was given an epidural and started on pitocin. During the epidural I only had one contraction. Once again, my labor had stalled. Shortly after, contractions had stopped altogether. Again. Seriously!?

Ok, let’s wrap things up. Pitocin worked wonders. I was able to get some sleep with the epidural. After 38 hours of labor and only 30 minutes of pushing, L arrived at 12:35pm on Monday July 22nd.

L was placed on my chest but his cries were muffled and pathetic. He was very blue. I think I only held him for 30 seconds. They cut his cord and took him from me to asses his breathing.

#6- I wanted L skin to skin until I decided they could take him. I wanted to delay his cord cutting to ensure he got all that placenta goodness.

L had swallowed amniotic fluid but was suctioned and given back to me within five minutes of his birth.

We came to realize that my water must have not broken on it’s own. Maybe L’s toe or finger ripped it?  Who knows. As a result, my body was not ready for labor. My body fought every step of the way and it fought hard. If things had progressed in a more normal manner maybe 38 hours would have only been 8. It’s hard to say.  Despite the long process L’s heart beat was strong the whole time. He tolerated labor like a champ. Considering the length of my labor and the strength of my contractions, I should have delivered 2 babies in that time. Guess we know for baby number 2 that I will be able to go all natural with no problem (hopefully).

So, birth plans? They are for the birds. Babies and bodies have their own agendas. Writing one may help make you feel organized and in control, but they can also lead to disappointment when things don’t go as planned. My advice? Do your research, have a plan A, a plan B and plan C just in case. Know at the end of the day, despite how baby gets here, the ultimate goal is a healthy baby and mom. It’s amazing how quickly you forget about the suffering when you finally hold that little bundle.

Cheers,

Jess

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