I’m one of the few women I know who actually wanted to make it past her due date.
I teach Special Needs Middle School English, and my baby’s due date was September 6, 2000: the first day of school. I kept telling my OB’s office that I had to at least make it through the first week of school before I went on maternity leave. They thought I was crazy.
I had a very easy and fun pregnancy because I was on summer vacation for the last trimester. At my OB appointment the Friday before Labor Day weekend, my doctor said I was fully effaced, but only about one cm. dilated. “See you next Friday!” he told me as I left the office.
We had a great Labor Day weekend, went paddle-boating on Saturday (yes, it’s possible to pedal a boat when you’re nine months pregnant…), cleaned house on Sunday (the nesting instinct, I guess), and went to a cookout on Monday 4th. Other than a lot of back and butt pain from sciatica, I was feeling fine.
I woke up to use the bathroom at about 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning and felt kind of crampy. I happened to notice that the crampy sensation was coming roughly every eleven minutes, so I figured this might be the beginning of labor. I tried to go back to sleep, but was too excited so I dozed on and off until my husband, Forrest’s, alarm went off. I told him he wasn’t going to work that day and that I’d been having contractions every ten minutes since one a.m. “Yay!” he said and promptly fell asleep again.
We enjoyed a great early September day together, went shopping, got haircuts, and returned maternity clothes I’d bought for school that I clearly wouldn’t need. All day long I had contractions about ten minutes apart. Some weren’t painful at all, but some were as painful as bad cramps. Since this was my first baby, I didn’t know whether this was real labor, false labor, or what. All I knew was that my OB had instructed me to call only if my water broke or if I’d been having contractins every five minutes for at least two hours.
Dinnertime came and went with no major changes, and we headed over to our friends’ house to watch the last episode of NYPD Blue. They were sure surprised when I told them I’d been in labor for eighteen hours! My friend Judy timed my contractions with her sports watch, and although they were a little more painful now, they were actually slower. At the end of NYPD Blue, I went for twenty minutes between one contraction and the next, so I figured I’d better go home and get ready to teach the next day. Famous last words!
After the twenty minute break, the next contraction was very strong, and came only seven minutes later. Then they started to come around four or five minutes apart, and were all as painful as bad cramps. Around midnight, as soon as I got in bed, I had a contraction that was so painful I actually jumped out of bed. No mean trick for a very pregnant lady! The only way I could deal with the pain was by walking around.
Forrest finally said, “Look, let’s call the doctor. I know it hasn’t been two hours, but this is getting serious.” So we did.
My doctor wasn’t the one on call that night, but I had met the doctor who returned my call when mine was on vacation. Dr. G listened to my story and suggested I head right down to the hospital. He said he’d let them know I was on my way.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with the pain in the car, but somehow I did it. I had taken labor and delivery classes, but I wasn’t using any of the breathing techniques I had learned. I was just counting and breathing deeply. In between contractions I was fine, but I’d feel one coming and tell Forrest to hold on, I’d count through the contraction, then we’d pick up our conversation where we left off. I wasn’t timing them, fortunately, but Forrest told me later that they were actually coming 90 seconds apart and lasting about 45 seconds! I didn’t have a clue at the time but he was starting to worry about making it to the hospital in time.
Well, we did make it and I was pretty sure when they checked me that I’d be about three cm. dilated because I hadn’t been in very much pain until an hour before. Much to our surprise, I was between eight and nine cm. Dr. G. asked if I was going to want the epidural, but I couldn’t decide.
“I don’t want to pressure you,” Dr. G. Said, “But you need to decide now, because if you want the epidural that’s fine, but if you don’t, I’m going to break your water and you’re going to push this baby out in about ten minutes — with pain!” Ack! Now I really didn’t know what to do.
Although I had said throughout that I hoped for a natural birth, I realized there was a strong possibility I would not be able to make it. Now that I was so close to doing it, I was pretty scared of the pain. Already I was hurting big-time and the fetal monitor showed that my contractions were literally off the top of the graph paper chart! What finally swayed me was that the epidural would slow things down enough for my mom and my sister to make it in time. I asked the doctor if he’d allow them in the room, and he said, “Whatever you want… it’s your birth!”
I got the epidural and it was great. The needle did hurt for a second, but it was nothing compared to labor pain. I had a great anesthesiologist. He gave me enough anaesthesia to numb me a little without knocking me out. I could still move my legs and feel pressure, but there was no pain at all!
As soon as the epidural took effect, the doctor came back and broke my water. Sure enough, I was ready to start pushing. By this time, all the tension of making the decision was over and it was party time! My mom and sister arrived and we got to work.
I pushed for about 20 minutes with the nurse on one leg and Forrest on the other. Then on one contraction the doctor said, “Whoa stop! You’re going to push the baby right out!” I pushed another little time and I could hear the baby cry — the head was out! I’ll never forget that feeling of hearing my baby for the first time, while it was still partially inside me. What a miracle. My mom and sister were crying. Forrest was all excited. It was great! I gave one more gentle push and the baby was born.
We hadn’t wanted to find out before if it was a girl or a boy and the doctor had told Forrest he could be the first to announce it. Forrest and I had thought all along that it was a girl, so I was shocked to hear him say “It’s a boy!”
“It is?” I asked, incredulous.
“Oh… it’s a girl,” Forrest said. Yay! Tabitha Jane was born at 4:11 a.m. on September 6, 2000: her due date and the first day of school.
I’ve heard a lot of negative experiences about medication and hospital interventions. I’ve heard women say that they are determined to have natural childbirth, only to be very disappointed when they had to have all kinds of intervention. Why there is so much pressure on women to have this “glorious natural experience”, I’ll never understand. True, women have been giving birth unassisted for thousands of years, but we also used to pull teeth and set broken bones without pain relief and we got over that, didn’t we? I’m going to perch on my soapbox here and say that women should feel free to have any birth experience they want. I was lucky that my doctor left it up to me, although it was stressful making the decision at the time.
While pregnant, I had felt a lot of pressure to “prove myself” by having natural childbirth. The medical community was portrayed as wanting to push medical interventions on patients just so they could make things easier on themselves. I found this to be totally untrue. Who knows, maybe the second time around I’ll feel like going the natural route, but the decision will be made by me, based on what I feel is best for me and my family at that time.
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