Jude’s Birth Story – Part One: The Before
It’s about time. Jude turns 9 months this week- which is so hard to believe, by the way. And I can’t believe we are nearing the one-year mark. This year has been full of so many surprises, and when I reflect on who I was 12 months ago, I realize I have learned a lot. I’ve learned life is not always fair. Choices are not always easy to make. I’ve learned that motherhood is amazing, challenging, and in a weird way, also healing and redeeming.
I went to visit my friend last week after she had a baby in the same hospital where Jude was delivered, and so many details of Jude’s birth came racing back for me. Then this week we have ventured to Seattle to tag along with Scott while he works, and I actually get some time to reflect and write while Jude naps (instead of racing around the house to clean or deal with something that needs attention). Writing is healing in ways, and this has really helped to end one chapter and move on to some more exciting things with a growing, active boy. It’s taken me so long to sit down and write this, and even now, I’m not totally ready. There’s always something in the writing of things that makes you see everything more clearly, though. So here we are. I’m dividing this in to three pieces. The before, the during, and the after. It makes sense to me, and it avoids the Longest Post Ever that I won’t even want to read myself.
So let’s rewind. My pregnancy. It was totally uneventful as I felt pretty good (comparatively), and my round belly displayed all the signs of a growing, healthy baby. I was at the same OB practice I’d gone to for something like 5 years, and I found my doctor through his ASTOUNDING reputation in the Atlanta area. I will spare you the details of my sister’s second delivery, but I’ll tell you he treated her during a difficult pregnancy that could have ended at least three times as she was in and out of the hospital for premature labor; he vaginally delivered a large baby who was positioned in a way many doctors would have shied away from and preferred the OR. It was actually my doctor who first said to me when I had my introductory prenatal appointment, “Pregnancy is a wellness. It’s natural. It’s not a sickness. Relax and know your body knows what to do.” It was his attitude that led to my interest in natural childbirth, and I enrolled in a Bradley course where I learned a lot of specific and useful information, and my birth plan revealed my preference for no induction or pain relieving drugs. I wanted to do what was best for the baby, and I also wanted an experience that would allow me to feel everything in labor and fully experience childbirth as I was created to do it.
Fast forward to October 3rd, 2009. I finished my last day of work before maternity leave, and I was 4 days out from my “due date.” From the beginning of my pregnancy, I had always proclaimed that I knew he would arrive late. I don’t know why, I always knew. Family, friends, even strangers affirmed this as they’d tell me I “looked too good to be that close.” I felt too good, too. I’d walk up and down my driveway and around my hilly neighborhood everyday to “walk that baby out” as I’d been told. My driveway is a small mountain, and this task leaves even a fit man exhausted, but I walked and walked and walked without a second thought. I was relishing these last few days off work before Jude’s arrival and taking it easy with energy to spare. Minimal anxiousness, total confidence in my body. Having taken my Bradley course, I knew precisely what would happen in each stage of labor and how my body should react. I knew that modern interventions are usually unnecessary. I knew that birth is natural for the female body and that I was created for this very thing. My original due date according to my period was October 1st. My practice later changed that date to October 7th after looking at an ultrasound and understanding that I wanted to avoid induction.
The morning of October 7th, I awoke feeling great but dreading being “overdue” and answering the questions that came with it. I went to my weekly ob visit, and my doctor was very calm and collected. He informed me that he had a family emergency he had to attend to and that he would be gone the following week. He also assured me that I was 80% effaced and that many women go in to labor within a week after their “due date,” and that would probably happen to me. If it didn’t, I was in the care of the practice’s senior doctor the following week, and he knew my baby was healthy and delivery would probably go very well. With a smile and a vote of confidence in me, he was gone. I left the appointment feeling so impressed and grateful that there was NO mention of induction on the date I was due. I knew most Atlanta practices would have scheduled an induction already, and I felt both affirmed in my choice of practice and confident in my body. That evening, Scott and I went out for eggplant parmesan (third time!), and I even indulged in a glass of red wine – a first for my pregnancy. I mustered all the patience I had and waited on Baby Jude.
As great as I felt, I also wanted to avoid induction so badly that I had been doing everything in the world to get this baby out since about 38 weeks. Walking? Check. Pineapple? Check, everyday. Eggplant? Check, three times. Sex? Super awkward and check. Nipple Stimulation? Used the breast pump, check. Herbal teas? Check. Full moon? Weekend before my due date, check. The only thing I refused to try was castor oil since I’d read a few things linking its use to meconium issues. Nothing was successful, and let me assure you that there is still nothing more frustrating to me than wanting so so badly for your body to do something when it won’t. It’s torture. As the days after my due date went by, I began to fear induction and get nervous. I was never worried about Jude’s safety; I felt good and he was active and moving. I just worried about having to be induced if I went 14 days over since I knew that even very lenient midwives usually act at that time.
On the morning of Monday, October 12th, I was 5 days “overdue” and went to the doctor for my weekly check-up. I had a vaginal exam, and there was no change in my dilation, and the new doctor (whom I’d never met before prior to this appointment) explained that Jude was still quite high. He stripped my membranes without asking “to hurry things along” and chatted with me in a way that seeped arrogance. With an ultrasound, they discovered that my fluid levels were at a 7 which is certainly a drop from my previous reading of 15. I knew from my research that normal levels were 5-25, but when we went in for the conference with the doctor, he explained that his anecdotal experience told him that 7 is definitely low, and that I needed to be induced that very night. I questioned him on this, and he informed me that he was a doctor who had been delivering babies since I was born, and that a healthy mother and baby were of his concern. When he asked,”You don’t want to risk stillbirth for the sake of a ‘birth plan’ do you?” I really began to freak out. He also told me that Jude was “at least 9 pounds” and that I was a small woman with an unusually narrow pelvis, so a cesarean was a possibility. I knew in my gut that I was not carrying a 9 pound baby, but the mere mention of a cesarean sent me to ridiculous levels of anxiety.
I left the office in such a crying mess, I couldn’t even talk. I felt so betrayed by my doctor. I knew deep inside that there was no problem and that I didn’t need to induce, but what if I was wrong? He had a point that he was certainly experienced, and I could never forgive myself if my stubbornness led to problems for Jude. The word stillbirth hung like a rock in my stomach, and I couldn’t shake it. I called the office back and asked for a few more days. The doctor himself called my personal phone, which apparently he never does, and told me that he wouldn’t feel comfortable letting me go longer and that his conscience would not let him be negligent on this. I asked for a non-stress test to assess Jude’s health more closely. He said “okay but only if it is early tomorrow a.m.” So on Tuesday the non-stress test was performed, and everything looked fine. As I used that for an argument against induction, my new doctor explained that it was just the point he was trying to make; Jude was fine now, but I was playing with fire by staying pregnant any longer, and those test results could soon change. He argued for an induction that night. I was incredibly torn, stressed, anxious, and conflicted. I did my reasearch on which doctors were on-call in which days, and I finally succeeded in convincing him to wait until Thursday, even though he was “not entirely comfortable with that.”
Looking back, I knew things were heading in a terrible direction. I spoke with my family, cried to Scott, chatted with my closest friends, all the while making it clear that I didn’t want to do this but felt pressured to do it. My friends, bless their hearts, were trying so hard to be supportive and reminding me of all the successful inductions they knew of. Nevertheless, I was so so nervous as we drove to the hospital on Wednesday evening.