Childbirth: The Ultimate Exercise in Going with the Flow
Witness the transformation
I was 37 weeks pregnant and had just completed a busy Monday in the OR, my last scheduled shift before maternity leave. After consulting both my regular OB and a high-risk OB specialist, the plan was to induce labor at 38 weeks due to my significant swelling and increasing blood pressure, so I had already given away any lingering work shifts in the month of December. While relaxing in front of the TV that night, I found my fetal kick count to be significantly lower than normal. I spoke with the on-call OB team, and after going back and forth, we decided it was best if I go to the hospital for further fetal monitoring. I threw on my slippers and jacket (was already in pajamas) and said, "See you in an hour or so," to my husband. I never made it home that night, and six days later I brought my baby girl home from the hospital!
At least we had bought the car seat and installed the bases. The crib was set up, but other things like the stroller were still sitting deconstructed in boxes. I had planned to complete many last-minute preparations that week. I was even excited about the fact that I would get to eat a huge pre-induction Thanksgiving meal that Thursday and that the date of induction (if my calculations were correct) would mean her date of birth would include both my husband's and my favorite numbers. In hindsight, I can't believe I was thinking of unimportant such things!
That night, the fetal monitoring showed that she was ironically doing just fine. It was me they became worried about. My blood pressure had soared to 160/100 and I had developed protein in my urine. If we induced immediately, the preeclampsia would most likely not cause me long term liver or kidney damage. The only wrinkle was that my husband, who had operated his own patent law practice for 10+ years without ever having to go to court, had a scheduled court appearance for the next day! He had chosen the date back when we thought I would be having the baby around 40 weeks like "normal" people...
The hospital OB team and my personal OB worked to time my induction such that it was very unlikely that any "action" would happen before his brief court appearance was complete. He dutifully brought my pre-packed (check!) hospital bag and my birth plan that morning before heading to court. Yes, I had a birth plan - but not the long, detailed essay that some women present to eye-rolling hospital staff, replete with all sorts of unrealistic demands involving birthing balls, hot tubs, candles and music. As an anesthesia trainee on the obstetric service, we used to joke that those women with the most detailed and rigid birth plans would inevitably be the women who ended up with "emergency" epidurals at 3 AM, or worse in the OR for a crash C-section. Instead, what I provided was a one-page preference sheet with a few important decision points and an outline of my complicated medical history.
I will tell you that even with my minimal birth plan as a "good luck charm", things still didn't go the way we had originally hoped. And yet, once she was born, none of that mattered one bit! She came out with meconium present and couldn't be placed on my chest immediately, the cord was cut to soon, etc. But she was healthy! I was lucky to have a careful induction with no complications and a quick period of active labor (only 45 minutes of pushing). We didn't have to go to the OR for a C-section. I only needed two stitches post-delivery. Again, she was alive and she was healthy! After experiencing a pregnancy loss, I admit that a fear had persisted deep inside me even into the late months that I would lose her without getting to see her face.
Our stay in the hospital after she was born was also different than envisioned. After spending two nights and feeling ready to go home, we found out she had elevated bilirubin and needed to stay longer. Poor babe had to spend a day "at the beach" (as the nurses have deemed it) under the UV lights to lower her bili levels, which if left high could result in brain damage. The hospital staff generously let me stay an additional night to be with her (even though I was officially discharged myself), but we had family members already staying at our house who had come to visit with anticipation of us being home from the hospital already.
Nothing went exactly as expected, and yet everything turned out fine. Nothing went exactly as expected, and yet everything turned out fine. This mantra applies to lots of things in life, come to think of it... The whole experience was an exemplary lesson in how to take what comes in stride without creating more stress. Because in these instances, resistance and rigidity would have posed potential risks to both me and baby. I wouldn't want anything to have gone differently!
Happy holidays everyone!