And what an amazing year it’s been.
Happy birthday, munchkin.
But there is just a little bit more to his birth story, other odds and ends. Like the fact that when Judah was born, Larry was somewhere over the Pacific Ocean trying not to lose his damn mind wondering what happened.
I got to hold Judah for about seven minutes after he was born. “We have to take him up to the NICU now,” my nurse Kathleen said gently. I didn’t want to let him go, this snuggly little warm burrito baby of mine. Judah was whisked away.
Dr. Goodchild had to stitch me up: I had a tiny, tiny tear that needed a couple of stitches. Delivering the placenta was probably the most painful part of the entire ordeal. My friend Natalie noticed it was the only time I ever actually said, “Ow, that hurts” despite almost an hour of pushing. I noticed there were still a number of nurses remaining in my room and that Dr. Goodchild ordered a strong dose of “Miso” for me – shorthand for misoprostol, the generic name for Cytotec, and asked my family to leave while I got stitched up.
“Hold on,” I mumbled in my exhaustion. “I said I didn’t want Cytotec.”
Dr. Goodchild looked at me sternly. “I know, but we need to stop your bleeding right now.” I couldn’t tell if my woozy high and shivering was from the sudden adrenaline dump, the natural oxytocin rush or the massive blood loss. The nurses worked quickly to administer more postpartum medication to stop my bleeding. Thankfully, it stopped and I didn’t need any extra units of blood.
Once I was finally all taken care of down below, my families came back into the room. “Can I please have something to drink now?” I asked. My father-in-law handed me several foiled-topped cups of apple and orange juice. It was the most delicious juice I have ever tasted in my life.
I was up and walking within an hour. I was told I could finally go up to see Judah in the NICU at about 12:30am. I had gotten changed into a clean hospital gown and was being wheeled up to the 4th floor. My phone rang at 12:45am. It was a long, strange number I didn’t recognize.
Larry. It was Larry.
For a moment, I was confused: he wasn’t due to land at Dulles for another thirteen hours.
“Hello?” I answered.
“What’s happened? Is Judah okay? Are you okay?” Larry asked, frantically, unable to contain the panic in his voice.
“Hey honey! He’s perfect! He’s just perfect, Larry,” I said. I was stoned out of my gourd from the natural rush of endorphins and hormones post-birth. “Everything’s groovy. I’m going up to the NICU now.”
“Is he breathing okay?” Larry’s voice choked.
“He’s fine,” I cooed. “No respiratory issues, no cardiac issues. He even got 9′s on both Apgar tests!”
“So he’s okay? And you’re okay?” Larry was on the verge.
“Larry, I’m just groovy,” I smiled. I really liked the way the word “groovy” sounded in that moment. “And so is Judah. He’s perfect Larry, he’s just perfect.” I was wheeled into the elevator. “I’m getting into the elevator now, I might lose you.”
“I love you. I love you so much, Keiko. I’m so proud of you. I wish I was there right now,” he said.
“I know. I love you too, Larry. You’ll be here soon and you can meet your son.”
When I got to the NICU, Judah was in a holding room until his regular room could be fully set up. He was asleep in an open bassinet, his body criss-crossed with wires. I marveled at his tiny figure, sleeping peacefully. “As soon as we get him settled into his room, you can visit him anytime, Mom,” the nurse said to me. I was taken aback at being called mom for the first time since his birth.
After about fifteen minutes, we had to leave so they could finish prepping him. I was wheeled to my recovery room where a turkey sandwich was waiting for me.
It was the best fucking turkey sandwich I have ever eaten in my life.
Shortly afterward, a lactation consultant came by with a breast pump, giving me the complete rundown of my new best friend/most loathsome enemy. I pumped for about a half hour with little result, but I was determined to get my milk supply in as quickly as I could.
My mom stayed with me until about 2am, when I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I told her to go home, get some sleep and that I’d see her in the morning. After she left, I closed my eyes and fell asleep instantly into a dreamless, deep slumber.
I awoke only four hours later, forgetful for a moment of where I was or what had happened. I thought I had been asleep for days, but it was just those four hours. I ordered French toast, bacon, home fries, tea, milk and orange juice for breakfast. Dr. Goodchild came in to order some bloodwork and to report that Judah did well overnight in the NICU.
After breakfast, I called my mom. She was already out running errands with my sister to buy me some pajamas and some postpartum clothes. Another nurse came in to check on me, another lactation consultant. Before family arrived later than morning, I wanted to take a shower. I carefully swung my legs over the edge of my bed, planting both bare feet firmly on the cold tile floor. I felt all of my pelvic and leg muscles shake for just a moment as I aligned myself to stand. My tailbone and sacrum felt detached from the rest of my spine and I was genuinely worried that I had dislocated both; thankfully, I hadn’t and it was all just swelling that went away after another day.
I stepped into the shower, letting my hospital johnny hit the floor while I searched for soap. Draped only in a towel that barely wrapped around my body, I had to page the nurse again.
“Do you have any soap or toiletries at the nurses’ station?” I asked meekly through the cracked bathroom door. My nurse met my gaze with sympathetic eyes. “Not really,” she said, “But I can give you the soap we use for newborn baths.”
This was the first moment that I realized I really wished I had my own hospital bag of items. She came back with a tiny trial size bottle of Johnson’s All Purpose Wash. It would have to do. I didn’t even have a washcloth.
The hot water felt incredible. I stood there for a long time, my hands bracing the wall, the water pouring over my head, face, and back. I glanced down and noticed for the first time that my characteristic bump, the one I had become so accustomed too in recent months, was replaced by a much flabbier, mushier version of itself. The enormity of the last 24 hours hit me all at once as I sobbed and sobbed: joy, exhaustion, excitement, relief and yes, even some sadness, but only fleeting. I cried until the water ran cold.
Larry called me as soon as his plane landed at Dulles at about 10:30am. Our friend Andy had driven from New Jersey to meet him there and drive him from the airport directly to the hospital instead of Larry hopping on another plane from D.C. to Philadelphia.
“Have you seen Judah yet?”
I replied that I hadn’t yet, that I was waiting to see him again until he got there. It’s hard for me to explain why I wouldn’t visit him in the NICU by myself but I felt very strongly about not seeing him again until Larry and I could BOTH see him together. I spoke with Judah’s NICU nurse about waiting to insert his feeding tube until after Larry got to see and hold him and they agreed.
Andy had to have driven pretty fast, because Larry got to the hospital just after 1pm. I had a mouth full of pudding as I had just finished my lunch. Larry looked weary but beaming with excited pride. “Don’t let me interrupt your lunch!” he mused.
“Hey big daddy,” I said casually. “Wanna meet your son?”
We walked up to the NICU, a trek we’d become all too familiar with as the days and weeks passed. We scrubbed up and the nurses greeted us, showing us to Judah’s room. His isolette was covered with a thick padded cover to block out the light. The nurse lifted it up for us and he there he was, sound asleep. He had a tiny preemie diaper and knit baby hat on and more wires than I remembered. Seeing him hooked up to so many wires sent me over the edge and I just wanted to tear off the plastic isolette and take him out of there.
We got to hold him for a little bit and we marveled at this new human being: our son. The nurses gently asked if we could step out while they inserted his feeding tube; it was time for me to pump again anyway. We came back later and held him some more; I even got to do some kangaroo care.
Family came and went, friends local to the area dropped by to meet our little man. The night I was discharged from the hospital, I had a full-blown panic attack at dinner, panicked at the thought of having to leave the hospital without Judah. I sobbed. It felt wrong to leave him there, against all of my instincts.
“We’ll be back there first thing tomorrow morning,” Larry assured me. I only nodded in agreement through silent tears as I stared out the window.
I recovered quickly, feeling pretty much back to my old self within a few days. Despite doctors’ orders of “no driving” for two weeks, I was back behind the wheel within a week, unwilling to be chaperoned around. (In New Jersey, your car is your lifeline and the ability to drive is paramount.) We spent endlessly long days hauling back and forth between our parents’ and friends’ homes and the hospital, wondering when we were ever going to see our home in Massachusetts again.
After 29 days, Judah breathed in his first whiff of fresh air the day he was released from the hospital. His bris was on Father’s Day. A week after he had been released from the hospital, we drove back home to Salem, finally.
The long journey was over: from infertility to IVF to Japan to New Jersey to our waiting arms. We were finally a family of three – Team Zoll, finally complete.
“Adventure is out there!”
And so the adventure goes on…
Now that we’ve just finished telling your birth story to a group of Bradley birth students tonight, it’s time to finally tell the end of your birth story, and the wondrous, amazing beginning of your marvelous life.
A nurse wheeled me into my Labor and Delivery room at about 3pm. The space was large and sunny. As I stood up from the wheelchair, I again felt that dripping sensation of leaking amniotic fluid, but turned pale when I saw that it was actually blood all over the seat and floor. Panicked, I asked the nurses, “Um, is this normal?”
They smiled and nodded. “Totally normal. We’ll take care of it.”
I got settled into my bed as best I could, my arm captive to the IV line. A contraction would roll over me, my belly tightening, tightening, tightening and then it would peak and then blessed, sweet release. I winced and focused on my breathing. I could have three approved visitors at a time: my mom (your Obachan), my mother-in-law (your Nana) and my sister (your Aunt Yuko). Larry had reached out to my dear friend Natalie, who was in the process of driving down from Long Island to swap out with my sister to be there during the actual delivery.
My nurses were very friendly and I gave them each a copy of my birth plan. My first nurse was especially accommodating: “You don’t want any medication for pain? Done. I won’t even bring it up again.” More contractions, but sporadic. I was too focused on breathing through them to time them, but I could tell they were erratic. Larry and I continued to FaceTime and Skype: he in Tokyo, me in Voorhees. He helped coach me through contractions – I would develop this tunnel vision as I focused on his face in the palm of my hand: his unshaven beard, his already-exhausted look of nervous excitement, his yellow jacket.
After about 4pm, my memory of time gets a little fuzzy, so I’ll try to recount things in order as best I can.
A NICU neonatologist came in. I had Larry on Skype on my laptop as we held a virtual transcontinental consultation. It was only then that we understood that Judah wouldn’t be coming home with me when I discharged from the hospital.
“Wait, so how long will he be in the NICU?” Larry asked over the computer. The neonatologist looked at the screen and then at me, as I breathed through another contraction. “We never give a definite timeline until we’re able to examine the baby after he’s born and even then, we tell parents to plan to stay until the original due date.”
I did some quick math; I didn’t need to see the computer screen to know the look on Larry’s face. “You’re saying he could be here as long as FIVE WEEKS?” he asked, incredulously. The doctor looked at us with apologetic seriousness. “Possibly, yes.”
At some point, I had to hand copies of our birth plan to my mom and mother-in-law, so they could be in the loop should I be unable to communicate clearly. It was only then, after months of speculation and guessing, that they each finally learned what your name was going to be. They both cried and praised your dad and I for picking such a unique, strong name.
I sat on a birthing ball for about 15 minutes. My IV made it difficult to maneuver around and to be honest, I felt like the contractions hurt worse sitting on the ball. I made it through two contractions on the ball before I was like, “Yeah no.” So I tried squatting in place. That position helped tremendously as I felt like my center of gravity wasn’t at the mercy of a big purple bouncing ball. I looked like some strange yogini sitting in this balanced squat as I closed my eyes and moaned through each contraction.
The admitting doctor who tried to induce my labor came in again at about 5pm to check on how I was doing. I was definitely contacting, but again, they were sporadic, following a rhythm that made it impossible to time because I was so focused on simply riding each wave of tightening pain.
“So it’s been a few hours. I think we should get that induction drip starting,” she said, with paperwork for me to sign in hand.
Larry was on the phone and asked me to turn the phone to the doctor. “No, I don’t think so,” he said to her. I explained that I was clearly laboring and that we wanted to let the labor progress naturally; there was no need to speed it up.
“Well, my shift ends in an hour and I want to see a lot more progress before I leave,” she threatened.
Without batting an eyelash, Larry and I stared the doctor down: “Good, then we can revisit my next steps when the next doctor gets here.”
“She’s just going to tell you the same thing,” she countered.
“I’d love to hear it from her directly. I think we’re done here,” I said dismissively, turning my attention back to Larry as he coached me through another contraction. Exasperated, the doctor left. I never saw her again, thank G-d.
With the shift change at 6pm, the doctor who would deliver you (Dr. Goodchild) stopped by to assess my progress. Labor was definitely moving along, but I refused any cervical checks unless absolutely necessary. She offered induction, but was willing to let me wait another couple of hours. I got a new nurse at the shift change, too – Kathleen. She confirmed that I wanted an unmedicated birth and like the previous nurse promised not to bring up medication unless at my request.
I went for a walk with my mom around 7:30pm to see if we could kickstart my contractions a little more. I remember distinctly taking a few selfies around this time to document my labor progress. The last picture I took was around 7:44pm. That’s when shit got real.
The contractions were getting much, much stronger and lasting longer. Obachan and Nana each tried to help in their own ways: Obachan wanted to hold my hand or rub my head while Nana kept asking me if I was sure I didn’t want something for the pain. I snapped.
“NOTALKINGNOTOUCHING!” I shouted, exasperated. Hands flew away from me and the room fell silent except for my strained breathing and long, guttural groans. My contractions were beginning to rise in an intensity that left me feeling like I was being dragged behind myself, like I needed to catch up.
At one point, Kathleen came in to check on me. I was writhing and on the verge of hyperventilating; I couldn’t get comfortable. She told me to focus on her face and we had come to Jesus moment: “Keiko, I need you to get your breathing under control. If you want to have this baby naturally, you need to get your pain in check right now.” Her sharp tone snapped be back into the moment, to bring me mentally ahead of the pain instead of a fighting captive to it.
I felt like I was going to throw up. It was when Kathleen handed me the bean-shaped barf dish that I resolved to do whatever it took NOT to throw up.
“You seem pretty uncomfortable,” she began. I expected her to offer me medication, but instead she wanted to do a cervical check. I was well in the early stages of transition and was a touch irrational. I frantically mumbled something about infections and she said, “I think you’re farther along that you think, sweetie. We need to check and see.”
I barely remember the cervical exam itself but I remember Dr. Goodchild proclaiming triumphantly, “You’re six centimeters dilated!”
I was ready to cry. “Only six?” I said tearfully. “I still have four to go??”
Kathleen smiled, “Since you’re so early and the baby isn’t full term, you probably won’t need to go the full ten centimeters – this baby’s coming pretty soon!”
Transition was intense. The contractions kept coming, one on top of each other. I felt freezing cold and then ripped the covers off of me. I couldn’t get comfortable no matter how I moved, limited by my IV and the fetal monitor across my belly. There was a moment as I stared at my bed rails, my knuckles and hands white as I gripped it as hard as I could, droning a hummed moan through clenched teeth and closed lips as it seemed like the contraction was never going to peak:
I need drugs. Fuck me, I need drugs. The thought was as clear as day.
And then – the contraction peaked and I knew I had a few seconds of denouement before the pain would rise again.
“You can do this, you’re almost through the toughest part.”
It was Larry’s voice, on my phone. He was still there. I got my second wind and allowed myself to be carried along the currents of pain, like bobbing waves in the ocean.
At some point toward the end of transition, my IV blew. When I least wanted to be touched or to focus on anything other than getting through each contraction, an anesthesiologist was called in to put in a new IV on my other arm, as I still had one final dose of antibiotics to receive. Amazingly, he got it in with little difficulty.
Another contraction welled up over me. I squeezed my eyes shut so tightly I could see stars, feeling tears singe along the edges of eyelids. As the pain peaked, I screamed with a closed mouth, moaning as the pain receded. I braced myself for the next swell of pain and then –
Nothing. No contraction. I broke out in a cold sweat and opened my eyes.
I had made it through transition. I had a few minutes to breathe and readjust myself when I felt the overwhelming urge – no, primal need – to push. “I feel like I have to push,” I whined to anyone who was listening. Kathleen had been there, as had some other nurses, prepping the baby receiving area this whole time. “Alright, let me go get the doctor and let’s have this baby!”
Dr. Goodchild came in and I remember the lighting changed dramatically. The lights were dimmed around me while a special series of overhead lights were lit up on the business end of things. Obachan took my left leg. Nana took my right leg. Natalie had arrived just in time and stood at my shoulders, a hand on my left shoulder and a hand on my forehead.
I heard Larry’s voice in the background; I don’t know who was holding the phone.
“Keiko, I have to go,” I could really hear the fear in his voice for the first time all day. “I’m on the plane and I still have signal but they have to close the doors and taxi for takeoff. I have to go, I’m so sorry. I have to go. I love you. I love you…”
I don’t know if I said I love you back to him or not or if I merely said it in my head.
Dr. Goodchild walked me through the basics of pushing, instructing me to grab my legs and pull back with each push. I looked at her doubtfully. “But I don’t wanna hold my legs, I’m tired!” I whined.
“Yes I know you’re tired but you have to hold your legs,” she said. “Now you’re only going to push on each contraction and we’re going to try to push three times with each one. We’ll count to ten. You’ll want to inhale as much as you can, hold your breath and push for ten, then blow it out and do it again two more times,” she instructed.
I felt another expulsive contraction coming as she was talking. “Can you please stop talking for a minute?” I asked, trying to center and focus on everything she was saying.
The first few pushes weren’t productive. “Don’t push with your face,” she cautioned. I had to close my eyes to focus on the muscles I needed to activate. “There you go,” I heard her say. “That’s it. Keep pushing!”
I remember asking for something to drink. “Can I please have some water?” I begged. I had been screaming through each push with my mouth closed and my voice was nearly gone. My throat burned.
“Mom, go ahead and give her some ice chips,” Dr. Goodchild said to Obachan. My mom went to place some ice chips into my mouth. I looked at my mother and said with what breath I had left: “Just give me the fucking cup.” I drank what melted ice water there was, ready to cry from the relief to my throat.
I could feel you moving through me: literally, through me – but was unsure of the progress as I pushed. It wasn’t until I heard gasps from both mothers and Natalie whispering, “Oh Keiko…” that I knew your head had cleared. Dr. Goodchild did a quick suction and clear as day, I heard you scream before you had even finished your exit. In the next push, your shoulders cleared. You were still howling.
The sensation of physical and emotional relief as you finally left my body is almost indescribable, but a muscle memory I can never forget. I threw my head back and let out a sigh of relief. With my next exhausted breath, I asked frantically, “Is he okay?”
My mom cut your umbilical cord as Dr. Goodchild offered her the scissors. I could hear your cries but couldn’t see you; I asked for my glasses back. You were weighed and measured as the nurses performed your Apgar tests.
“Can I see him?” I asked, to the flurry of activity around me. “Can I hold him?”
Kathleen gently handed you to me. You were wrapped up like a little burrito with a tiny hat. Your fingers were so tiny and I marveled at your eyes, so alert and looking around at all the commotion.
“Hi there, Judah! Hello,” I said softly, smiling. Our eyes locked for a moment before you took these long blinks, your eyes searching at all the light and sound of your first moments of life topside. Your tiny fingers grasped my finger, holding tight. I kissed your tiny nose.
You were perfect. Absolutely perfect.
Just before 11pm on Mother’s Day, after eight hours of active labor and four long, difficult years of infertility, you had finally arrived.
Welcome, welcome and hello, my little one.
Continue to the epilogue: Afterbirth.
I can’t believe you’re 10 months old already and I haven’t finished telling you your very own birth story! Let’s just say, you’ve kept me and your dad on our toes the last few months
Your father and I joked, after you were born, that we were birth class dropouts; we still had another 4 classes to go when you arrived. Tonight, our birth class instructor invited us back to share our remarkable birth story with her latest class, so I figured it was time to stop plunking away at half-written drafts and tell you about the big day of your arrival.
The morning of the day you were born started rather dramatically with my water breaking in the very room I grew up in for eighteen years of my life. After realizing that no, I hadn’t just peed myself, my first instinct was to check for bleeding. Nope, no blood, so we were all good on that front.
The next thoughts all occurred simultaneously in the span of about three seconds once I fully understood that yes, my water had broken: 1) OMGMYWATERJUSTBROKE; 2) I need to call your dad; 3) Oh crap, I can’t call your dad because my phone is dead AND HE’S IN JAPAN; 4) Oh wait, I’ll just use Skype on my laptop – 5) Oh shit, I just started my OS update and it’s stuck in the “who knows when I’ll turn back on” reboot cycle; 6) I need to get a towel.
Oddly enough, at no point did I think, “Perhaps I should wake my mother, who is asleep in the room not ten feet away from me.” My priority was getting in touch with your dad as soon as humanly possible. I wanted him to be the first to know.
I plugged my phone in, staring at it with fury in my eyes. In fact, I could see the fury in my eyes because they were reflected back at me in that black glass screen as I Jedi-mind-willed that stupid phone to turn the fuck on already but it took a solid five minutes before there was enough battery for it to turn back on even when plugged in. With shaking fingers, I dialed your dad on Skype.
He didn’t pick up.
I tried Viber. No answer.
You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought. I kept redialing between Skype and Viber, sending messages to the effect of “Please pick up or call me. Emergency.”
I heard the familiar FaceTime ringtone, your dad’s face filling my screen with the familiar “wahhhng” connection noise. He was half-asleep (it was about 9:30pm Osaka time). “Whassgoinon?” he asked, his face barely lit by his phone in the darkened room.
“Um, my water just broke.”
“My water just broke.”
We quickly assessed the situation: my water had broken and I think I had a single, twenty-second contraction. I wasn’t bleeding, I could still feel you moving (more so now, because of the broken waters). He would wake up my dad (who was there with him) and call the airline and I would tell my mom. I didn’t get that far. Within about two minutes of getting off the phone with Larry, the house phone rang. Ten feet to my left in the next room, I hear my mother scream, “WHAT?!”
My dad had called my mom from Japan to let his wife know that their daughter’s water had broken ten feet away from her. My my thundered into my room.
“Are you okay? What’s going on? Do we have to call an ambulance?” she looked panicked.
I stood there shockingly calm and merely said, “My water broke. I’m okay. I’m not having contractions. Could you please get me a towel?” My mom, bewildered, nodded went downstairs to wake my sister. I heard another familiar, “WHAT?!” from downstairs.
I spent the rest of the morning sending frantic text messages to my birth class instructor, my therapist and a few local mohels, as well as friends in the area who knew of good birthing hospitals. When I wasn’t texting or calling other folks trying to come up with a gameplan, I was FaceTiming with your father. I spent a solid hour researching local hospitals online, sitting in my bed, wearing Depends because, well… once my water had broken, I continued to leak. My mom brought me breakfast in bed: it was Mother’s Day, after all!
The consensus among my friends who’d had children in the area, as well as my online research, pointed to Virtua Voorhees: it was a brand-new, state-of-the-art multi-million dollar hospital with a level III NICU. A large determining factor for me was its Caesarian rate. I was disappointed to learn that New Jersey, as a state, had higher rates of C-sections than Massachusetts, so I knew that I might be in for a fight for an unmedicated birth once I got to the hospital. Virtua Voohees’ rates were mid-range in the state.
I sent out some emails to friends and family that were being kept in the loop, so we were all on the same page. My friend Nicole, who had hosted my baby shower just the day before, offered to run out to buy some preemie clothes and wash them for me while my mom and sister agreed to buy a bassinet and car seat; at the time, we had no idea whether you’d be coming home from the hospital right away.
Throughout the morning, your dad and I struggled with the very real possibility that he was going to miss your birth. I wasn’t mad or upset at all, but your father? I could tell he was a wreck, despite his outward bravery. His resolute strength helped to keep me calm and level-headed. No matter how far away he was, we were in this together.
He had called the airline, but there was no earlier flight, unless of course he wanted to charter his own jet back to the U.S. With the clock ticking and still no signs of any contractions, Larry urged me to get the hospital. He had to board his flight from Osaka to Tokyo, so it was a good time for me to head off and get checked in.
Before I left my parents’ house, I took a nice long shower. I packed what few things I had brought with me for the weekend into an overnight bag: my computer, my phone, appropriate chargers, and of course, a printed copy of our birth plan (which, mercifully, I happened to have a copy in my email). I thought about putting on a pair of pajamas to head to the hospital but reconsidered as I got dressed: jeans, a short-sleeved fuchsia top with ruffle details, and mint-colored ballerina flats. On a whim, I grabbed a pair of bright red rose earrings. I intended to do this whole thing in style.
We took separate cars to the hospital: my sister drove me in her van and we followed my mom there. Larry’s parents met us there shortly after I arrived. Because I wasn’t affiliated with any particular OB or practice, I was admitted via the women’s clinic affiliated with the hospital. Once changed into a hospital gown and hooked up to a fetal monitor, I got to meet my admitting doctor.
Yeah, there’s no polite way for me to describe her. In fact, I was so underwhelmed by her I don’t even remember her name. She had frizzy red hair and thick glasses and a beak-like nose. For her, I was just another laboring patient. For me, well, this was kind of a big deal: my first child after an IVF conception and four years of infertility.
As she assessed my situation, I shared with her my birth plan. Essentially, we wanted a Bradley birth: an unmedicated vaginal birth with as little intervention as possible. I was prepared to acquiesce to certain interventions, but only if certain criteria were met. For example, I understood that I needed to have an IV because I had gone into labor before I could get my Group B testing completed, so antibiotics would have to be administered prophylactically for the health of my baby.
Despite stressing the importance of a Bradley birth with as little intervention as possible, she immediately wanted to induce my labor, given that I had arrived at the hospital and was barely contracting. “You’re only one centimeter dilated and we should really speed things up because we don’t want to run the risk of infection.”
A red flag immediately went up in my gut.
“Why don’t we let nature take its course?” I suggested. “Clearly, things are already progressing because my water broke and I am dilating with a few contractions here and there, right? Everything looks okay on ultrasound and the fetal monitor, right?” While the doctor concurred that everything was normal, she still pressured me to begin induction.
“Let’s just say I consent to induction – I’m not, but let’s just say we induce me in a couple of hours. What would you use to induce me?”
“We’d start you on Cytotec,” she said casually.
*record scratch* All my alarm bells started ringing.
“You won’t start me on Pitocin?” I tested innocently.
“No, not since your waters’ have already broken. We want this to move quickly.” The doctor scribbled something on my chart.
“Well then, you’re not inducing me,” I stated flatly. I sucked in a breath as my belly tightened, a contraction rolling through my body.
“If you can start my induction with Pitocin, we can talk about that as a possibility in a few hours’ time,” I said evenly.
My doctor was completely taken aback. “I’m going to have to check with my supervisor.”
“Please do,” I said. “I’m not going anywhere.”
When she disappeared from the triage room, I frantically dialed Larry; he had just landed in Tokyo.
“Larry, I’m going to have to fight for an unmedicated birth,” I warned. “She already just dropped the Cytotec bomb.” Larry was just as resolute as I was about avoiding Cytotec (generically known as misoprostol) at all costs. “Stand your ground, honey,” he said. “They can’t force you to get it.”
When the doctor returned, she said that Cytotec was my only option.
As another contraction came and went, I slowed my breathing and calmly replied, “I find it hard to believe that such an advanced new hospital would use an ulcer medication to induce my labor, especially considering both the FDA and Cytotec’s manufacturer have explicitly stated that Cytotec for labor induction is an unapproved, off-label use.”
My doctors’ eyes bulged behind her thick glasses. “Well…” she stammered. I cut her off: “Well why don’t we see how this labor progresses then? Let’s get me up to a room and check on me in another couple of hours, hmmm?”
Within a few minutes, my doctor had left in a huff while I was sitting pretty in a wheelchair being wheeled on my way up to Labor and Delivery.
(Other hospital shenanigans: when the nurse went to take my blood during triage, they broke the needle. Amazingly, it didn’t break in my vein, but blood shot out everywhere and I ended up with a HUGE bruise. It was like the Keystone cops as these three triage nurses tried to stop my arm from bleeding by holding it over my head while trying to find the needle that had shot out of my arm and onto the floor. My darling dear, I’m so glad you don’t have veins like mine.)
It would seem that, your story is simply too awesome to be contained in a single blog post, so I’ll finish up the rest later tonight: I promise this time!
Continue to Part Four.