Giving Birth: Prepare For The Unexpected

Even after my water broke, I still didn’t think I was in labour a month early. Spoiler: I was

So, you have a birth plan, eh? 

You can see it all in your mind: low lighting, happy music, walking down the hallway in your housecoat, your partner by your side holding your hand as yet another contraction hits, you smile at each other as you know things are getting closer to the big moment.

That’s all very nice, but here’s the thing—birthing rarely goes the way you’ve planned.

Let me tell you a story.

It was a month before I was due to give birth and I was still at work, happily typing away when, as happens often in pregnancy, I had the urge to pee.

I went to the washroom and as I was standing up, I felt it.

Pop.

It was just a little pop, a tiny trickle, and I sat back down thinking, “What was that?” It couldn’t be my water breaking. It certainly wasn’t the huge gush I was expecting. It was too early. I didn’t have any contractions.

I wiped and saw pink.

I sat there for a minute or two and wondered what I should do. I was working an afternoon shift. It was almost 5 p.m. on a Friday and I had three hours left in my shift. I worked in downtown Toronto, but lived in a city about an hour away. I considered returning to my desk and going back to work. But something in my head said, “No, go get this checked out.”

I walked back to my desk, told my coworkers I wasn’t feeling very well, logged out of my computer and left the office. I called my husband and told him I was coming home.

“I don’t think it’s anything, but just in case, I think I should go to the hospital,” I said.

I got into my old 2001 Sunfire, a rust-bucket that had more than 300,000 kms on it but had served me well, and I started the drive west to home through rush hour traffic.

For a Friday evening, the drive wasn’t too bad. All the way I kept thinking to myself, if I feel contractions, I’ll pull over. But I never did. An hour and a half later, I was in our driveway and as I got out of my car, there it was, the giant gush of my water breaking.

I went into the house and asked my husband to get me new pants, then we went to the hospital—no bag packed, no plan.

We called ahead as we had been instructed to do and the nurse told me, “You probably just peed yourself, but come on in and we’ll check you out.” My husband still jokes he had his Facebook status planned in his mind: False alarm, Kate just peed herself.

After a test came back positive for amniotic fluid and the doctor checked me out, they told my husband and I that we would need to get everything ready right that minute to prepare for our baby because I was, in fact, in labour. I got up, ready to go with my husband to wash onesies and pack my bag, but the doctor laughed.

“You’re not going anywhere,” he said.

My husband was sent home alone to do all the laundry I had planned to do later. He called his own work and cancelled a planned work trip for Monday morning. He called his sister, who ran out and bought diapers, nursing pads and newborn sleepers because, knowing the baby was early, we assumed the baby would be tiny (even as a technical preemie, she was still more than eight pounds).

He was back in a few hours. I had spent the time watching television—a Storage Wars marathon that continued all the next day while I waited for our baby.

On Saturday morning, after very little sleep because I was too excited, I was given drugs to induce labour because our little peanut wasn’t moving. I was hooked up to monitors almost constantly and I felt like I had to fight with some of the nurses to unhook me so I could go for a bit of a walk. After a while, the nurses had to attach an electrode to my baby’s scalp, so that was the end of me walking around at all.

More Storage Wars.

I was not allowed to eat; even the smoothie my husband brought me was taken away. I was tired and excited, but also a little upset that this wasn’t the beautiful experience I had thought it would be. I thought I would be able to walk off the pain or bounce on a ball. Instead, I was confined to my bed. For me, that was the worst part of the whole experience—I just remember being so uncomfortable.

Then came the pressure for an epidural. I had entered the hospital not planning to have one or at least, seeing how far I could go before needing one. But the nurses told me the drugs used to induce labour make the contractions far worse than normal.

“You’ll want an epidural,” they said. And they started to really push it because the anaesthetist was going to be on the floor soon, and after that, who knows where he might be. I might not be able to get one when I wanted one and trust them, I’d want it.

I relented, but I was emotional about it. As the anaesthetist attempted to put in my epidural, I was crying because it wasn’t something I had really wanted, but it also hurt like hell. I was tired, and my hormones were probably a little out of whack. I didn’t hold as still as I should have. His first attempt at the epidural resulted in—I am told by my husband—blood spurting from my back. The anaesthetist tried again, declared it was “in” the second time, and left.

It was not in. The epidural did not work.

And then, the contractions started.

All of Saturday night is a blur of contractions, my husband sitting beside me warning me another contraction was on the way and me bearing down to take it. Then, a brief 30-45 seconds of relief before another wave of contractions.

After several hours, I was put on another drug, fentanyl. It was administered by me pushing a button, but I was only allowed to push the button every 10 or 15 minutes.

This drug made me kind of crazy. I was still awake for contractions every minute or so, but would pass out as soon as it was over. I was having weird waking dreams about Storage Wars. From the lack of sleep and all those drugs, my husband said I was pretty loco for a period of time.

That night, I was warned if my baby didn’t make an appearance soon, I’d be going in for a caesarian the next morning. That really stressed me out. Everything I had thought giving birth would be for me was thrown out the window. This wasn’t some magical experience. Plain and simple, it was awful.

I don’t remember when, but either the pain subsided or I just gave up caring about it. I watched the sun rise on Sunday morning and even took a picture with my cellphone because it looked so lovely. Then, a few minutes later, the nurse asked me to push a little, just to see. I did, and then they ran to get the doctor.

Twenty minutes later (I was told I was an excellent pusher), I had a beautiful baby girl on my chest. She was considered premature, being born in the 36th week, but she was over eight pounds. She was beautiful and I was smitten.

I have since heard friends talk about their birth plans and I smile. I try not to dash all their hopes, but I do tell them to expect the unexpected. Babies have their own plans and everyone you meet along the way to giving birth will have their own opinions on how things should be done. But don’t think this means you can’t have the beautiful birthing experience you want. Be open to change, but stick to your guns if there’s something you really believe.

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