Author: Jessica Moffitt, BS, CHES
This one was tough to write. This blog was supposed to be a gentle reminder to moms that a birth plan is for the ideal situation, when you are in complete control. But it doesn’t always work out that way. Need a birth plan? I suggest using the plug and play option on Earth Mama’s Website. It’s truly wonderful. We used that as our template at the beginning of our pregnancy, and then added things we had talked about throughout the pregnancy. By 41 weeks and 1 Day, I had a 2 page, typed and signed birth plan that was printed on linen letterhead and stapled oh-so-very-carefully in the upper left hand corner, and a copy for literally anyone who came within 10 feet of my delivery room. I MUST STICK TO THIS!
But here’s how it really happened.
At 40 weeks exactly, my mom flew from Oregon to Kansas to keep me company. I decided that I would start maternity leave on my due date, whether I was ready or not. My husband, a physician in a private clinic with no other call coverage at the drop of a hat, had 4 more days after my due date of clinic time before starting winter break. We hoped that we would wait until just 5:05 the night of his last shift to go in to labor and get 2 full weeks of maternity/paternity leave together. But that day came… and went. And so did 4 more others. I walked MILES those days. I ate spicy foods. Did the … you know. And made a stir fry with every herb and food I could find that was supposed to promote uterine contractions. We danced. Oh did we dance. We did squats and laps around the mall until my belly grumbled, but it didn’t do anything for contractions. Not even one measly Braxton Hick. Nada! Sunday night (41 weeks exactly), we went to bed around 10:30 PM after a killer Yahtzee tournament (life is VERY exciting at 41 weeks pregnant). Nothing. No urge.
Around 11:45 I woke up to pee. I made it to the end of the bed before I felt the warm liquid running down my leg. Now let me tell you- my biggest question I DID NOT ASK while pregnant was “can you tell if your water breaks versus peeing your pants?” I didn’t want to be the one to ask. But let me tell you- yes. You can. It’s warm. There’s no movement or sensation in the bladder, and contraction of your vaginal and pelvic floor muscles does not make the liquid stop. AND I BURST INTO LAUGHTER. I am not kidding you, I started laughing. I woke my husband by pulling his foot, and said “Either I just peed my pants, or my water broke”. Now that’s comical for a couple of reasons. 1) I was not wearing pants. 2) I hadn’t peed my pants at all during my pregnancy. Not even one trickle. And 3) I couldn’t stop laughing. From the other room I hear my mom “Missy- its past your bedtime!”. And I ran to the guestroom like I was 10 years old and had just lost a tooth. Don’t worry, I put a nightgown on first. Anyways, I got cleaned up, and decided to climb back into bed. At this point, I hadn’t had a contraction yet. My birth plan said I would labor at home as much as possible first, and since the contractions hadn’t started- we were sticking to the plan, and staying home.
And then the first one started.
Oh. My. Goodness! That’s not what I expected. It was the oddest thing I had ever felt. And it lasted 15 seconds. And then I panicked as I realized I hadn’t even installed a contraction counting app. Oops! So I downloaded my app, and before I knew it- another one. 15 seconds long, 2 minutes apart. Ten minutes into this, I realized we were NOT going back to bed. I woke up my husband again, and off we went.
The phone call to Labor & Delivery consisted of a “we are on our way, be there in 8 blocks”. They didn’t have a room ready for us (small town), but adapted quickly. The night had been an odd one for them, with several surprise visits. We dilated to a 6 fairly quickly, and I made it through the contractions well. If I can give you any advice, it’s focus on the gap between the contractions, not the contraction itself. And try EVERYTHING. We used the peanut, the yoga ball, walking, dancing, squatting, standing, squat bars, side posture. You name it, we tried. And it helped. Oh it helped so much. And by 7 AM we were just under a 7, and the nurse said my doc would be here shortly for shift change, and I got so excited. Guys, my doc was supposed to be on vacation! I was sooo excited to see her. But guess what? At 7:30 the next shift nurse said I was told incorrectly and it wouldn’t be my doc. And it mentally screwed with me. The contractions became 30 minutes apart. And my dilation stopped. It was horrible. NOT my birth plan.
At 1 the shift doctor had expressed his concern for infection, based on how long my water had been broke. At 2, I was exhausted. I hadn’t slept but an hour in 36. I was mentally done. We opted for the epidural (not on my birth plan) to see if we could get the contractions going again. At 4:30, they still were 30 minutes apart, and I was at a 7. At 5, we tried Pitocin (also not on the birth plan). The tiniest of bits. At 7, we tried a tiny bit more. At 9, we bumped it up to a 4. And then all of a sudden, around 10. I knew. Oh man did I know! I knew it was time for this little bundle to get here. My entire demeanor changed. We were talking baby names and trying to decide on a girls middle name. We had a boy name picked, but couldn’t decide on a girl.
We decided on a girl’s name some 4 years ago sitting in our favorite bar, enjoying a burger and micro brew. It was a joke. We weren’t actually thinking of baby names intentionally, but somehow in our random conversation pathway we combined our parent’s middle names, and the perfect girl name was created. Then while brainstorming boy’s names, we stumbled across a gender neutral first name, that had tied our original baby name for first place girl’s name (still no boy name at this point). It just needed the perfect middle name.
Back to the delivery room- I began thinking of all the things in my life that made me who I am, and got lost in my thoughts about my grandpa, central Oregon, the Juniper trees, and my papa’s rose bushes, and “Juniper Rose” fell from my lips before I couldn’t consciously process it. And I LOVED it. I secretly hoped at that moment that I was having a girl.
It started with calling the doctor on call back from his dinner break, and ended with a beautiful little girl.
Active labor went great. Or so I thought. I remember a brief moment of feeling like I wasn’t going to make it, like there was no way to make this child come out. And I remember seeing the look in my husband’s eyes when he realized I had to do this on my own. And then I heard the doc “she’s crowning. Do you want a mirror to see?” And I didn’t. Guys, I know I could have. But I didn’t. I was so afraid that I would see the head and scare myself silly. So I said no and kept pushing. My arms felt like they were tearing as I anchored myself on my legs. I could feel my body shaking, exerting the last bit of energy I had left inside. And then all of a sudden the room started to spin, and I could hear the doc saying one more push. And I could hear the nurses mumbling something. And then I saw this little bundle of joy in my doctors arms, and I remember thinking “A vagina!”. And that was it.
I was exhausted.
Panic struck as I realized I couldn’t lift my arms to hold her. I had zero strength left to hold my head, and my stomach was contracting in ways unimaginable to me (and I had just delivered a baby!). But I could feel my daughter’s warmth on my chest and tugging at my breast. And despite all the confusion in my body, things felt so right in that moment.
So surely everything was okay, right? The doctor told my husband we didn’t have time to wait, he needed to help mom. “Cut the cord now, please” he said. And then I realized- I was mom. He needed to help me. And then I saw the look in my husband’s eyes as he held back tears cutting the cord. I watched the cord fall away from my daughter’s stomach, and the doctor hand her back to a nurse. The most precious thing I had ever seen in my entire life was just a few short feet away from me, and completely out of reach.
And the stomach cramps.
They just kept coming. And I looked down, and the doctor was pushing on my stomach, and something was splashing. And the nurses were starting another IV and something sharp just hit my leg and I can’t hear my baby. I can’t hear my baby. And the biggest lump of fear I have ever felt in my life came not from moment, but from the one following…. “Do you want to hold your daughter?” she asked my husband. And he responded “no, I need to be there for her mom right now”.
And I knew it was bad. I couldn’t understand what was going on, but I knew something was wrong. It felt like eternity as I laid on that bed, looking around at all the nurses, watching my husband’s face. Hearing his voice begging me to stay awake. But I was so tired. Oh, I was so tired.
Whatever they gave me must have kicked in, because all of a sudden the blurriness went away, and I could see again, and feel again, and I looked down between my legs to see the doctor’s hand moving up and down rhythmically as if he was orchestrating a choir. “Just a couple more” he said. Stitches. Ugh. Stitches. NOT in the birth plan. And I waited (patiently I thought), and finally said “are you sewing a quilt down there?”. The tension in my husband’s eyes relaxed just a bit as we all let out a chuckle.
So what happened?
Well, we aren’t completely sure. From what we can tell, my daughter’s head kept surfacing and then getting sucked back inside between contractions, it was building up pressure inside my uterus, and my placenta must have already started to detach, because I had hemorrhaged. Based on the CCs recorded of lost volume, and the typical volume of a pregnant woman my age and weight, I had lost just over 31% of my blood volume. 25% blood volume causes the body to go into shock, about 6L, and typical blood loss is ½ L. Needless to say, I lost a lot of blood, needed a lot of saline, a handful of clotting medications, and a “quilt” worth of stitches. Pharmaceuticals were definitely not in the birth plan, but neither was hemorrhaging.
At 23 hours and 45 minutes we were packed up, dressed, and eagerly awaiting the PKU test for discharge. And at 12:03 AM on Christmas Day, my sweet little Juniper Rose Moffitt and I made it home.
My baby is healthy. I am healthy. We made it out okay. And we are both doing very well.
The point of the story?
Our birth plan did not happen. We didn’t have our doctor. We didn’t get to walk the whole time. We didn’t do a natural birth. We didn’t get 3 minutes of delayed cord clamping. We didn’t get to wipe off the uterus goop when she came out. And we got a LOT of stitches. I had pharmaceuticals for the first time in my pregnancy (and the last time since birth). But you know what? It’s all okay. It is exactly what we needed to continue to be healthy, and I am here on this earth still, able to write this blog, while my daughter and her dad water the garden.
So, take a breath mamma. Know that your birth plan is not a guarantee. And know that at the end of the day, you don’t have to share your story, or justify your actions, to anyone. At all. No matter who they are, or what they say- it is your choice. Trust your gut, trust your medical staff, and trust in your partner. Love yourself with all that you have. You will do great.
And if you are reading this, even if you are (or are not) a mama, take a moment to realize that what happens in that delivery room isn’t always the plan, regardless of our best intentions. Delivering a child is a different story for each person, and for each child. Give grace. Avoid judging. Don’t jump to conclusions or determine the value and strength of a woman by what happened in that delivery room. Love her and praise her for the work she put in, and for the end result.
The rest, well, it’s history.