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.