I had a birth plan. A good one. But my daughter had a different plan. She won. Although I was initially disappointed that my birth plan didn’t happen, her plan was pretty awesome and was exactly what she needed.
Birth plan overview
I had a very easy pregnancy. I LOVED being pregnant. Like, really loved being pregnant. My pregnancy was so easy that it bordered on being boring. I was very tired during the first trimester, but other than that, I really didn’t have many common pregnancy issues (see how I prevented and dealt with them here). I was never nauseous, never had any weird cravings or food aversions, no uncomfortable ankle swelling……it was an easy pregnancy.
Something that did cause problems for me were ultrasounds. I had bad reactions to ultrasounds every time I had one. I am not opposed to a few ultrasounds during pregnancy to check on things. But for me personally, they did not go well and I regret having them. If I could go back in time, I would opt out of all ultrasounds (or at least the ones I had after the first one and realized I had a bad reaction).
The first time I threw up during my pregnancy was after a sonogram at 22 weeks (I threw up one other time from food poisoning at 29 weeks). I was horribly sick for 24 hours. The midwife that taught my birth class said that my reactions were probably caused by my back surgery history (I have a spinal fusion; read about that here). The pressure from the ultrasound pressed against my back, causing my stomach muscles to contract and spasm to protect my back. Those spasms caused nausea and put the baby in distress.
I took a birth class at my local birth center & I developed a birth plan (I should say that I started the class. I made it to the 1st two of the six classes before she was born). I had decided early on during my pregnancy to deliver in a hospital with a midwife (see more about that decision here). However, after a couple classes at the birth center and watching The Business of Being Born, I decided to switch from the hospital to the birth center. Luckily, my midwife works with that birth center so I wouldn’t have to change midwives so late in my pregnancy.
My placenta was a troublesome little thing from the beginning. I had:
- An extra placenta lobe: My midwife said this normally is not a problem. But it is important to know so we are sure all placenta is removed and none of it stays in my wound after labor.
- Marginal cord insertion: This happens in about 7% of pregnancies. Marginal cord insertion means insertion of the umbilical cord on the edge of the placenta rather than in the middle of the placental mass. Normally, it’s not a problem. It can affect the flow from the placenta to the baby and slow the baby’s growth. Sometimes a caesarian is needed. However, my marginal cord insertion didn’t cause any problems. My baby was growing great and was ahead of schedule at most checkups.
Those placenta abnormalities usually require more frequent sonograms. But because of my reactions to sonograms, my midwife was ok with me opting out of sonograms as long as the baby was measuring well and the heartbeat was good. However, when I told my midwife my decision to birth at the center, she said she had to have another sonogram to check out my placental.
So I had another sonogram. I was 32 weeks and 6 days. The sonogram showed that almost everything was great. The baby scored a perfect 8 out of 8 for vitals (heartbeat, breathing, etc). Her size was right on schedule and she was tall. But it showed her head size at the 3rd percentile. I was sent to a specialist for a closer look. Same results. I was put on bed rest. Overall, my midwife wasn’t too concerned since everything else was great. She thought a little bed rest, extra hydration, and a high protein diet would help.
I had 2 very long sonograms in one day. The next evening, I went into labor.
My daughter was born at 1:12 pm. Her head size was exactly at the 50th percentile, exactly how it should’ve been. Both of my sonograms just 2 days earlier were false alarms (read more about the inaccuracy of sonograms here).
Mabel Rose Mayer was born on July 3 and was 4 pounds, 3 ounces and 17″. I was 33 weeks and 1 day. Other than being small, she was perfect without any complications. She was in the NICU for 3 weeks.
My Birth Story Vs. My Birth Plan
I planned on finishing my 6 week birth class. I made it to 2 classes.
I planned on taking professional maternity pictures. I had already bought the outfits and made a deposit with the photographer.
I planned on giving birth at a birth center with my midwife.
I planned on squatting during the push stage.
I planned on having a birth photographer.
I planned on immediate skin-to-skin contact.
I planned on encapsulating my placenta.
Mabel didn’t really like any of those plans.
I started having contractions at about 7:00 pm on Thursday, July 3rd. They were very mild. So mild that I scrubbed the bathtub and cleaned the bathroom while having contractions. I wrote them off as Braxton Hicks contractions and just knew it was a false alarm. I slept great that night. I was 33 weeks; 7 weeks early.
I woke up at about 5:00 am on Friday morning to go to the bathroom. When I stood up, I realized my water broke; about 36 hours after having 2 very long sonograms that the midwife speculates put the baby in distress because of my back history. However, I didn’t really believe that it was my water. So (of course) I googled what else it could be. I googled for about 20 minutes because I was convinced I wasn’t going into labor at 33 weeks. When Google didn’t give me any other explanations, I woke up my husband. He had the same reaction and said, “What else could it be?” I told him google confirmed that it was my water.
I called my midwife. She told me to go to the hospital. When I got to the hospital, I was very excited that there was a midwife on call.
In between contractions, hospital staff was admitting me to the hospital and bringing me lots of paperwork to sign. I was trying my best to comprehend what I was signing. I was most worried about signing something regarding vaccines or other medical decisions for my daughter that I didn’t agree with.
They gave me an IV with magnesium sulfate, steroids, and antibiotics. Those 3 things were definitely not part of my birth plan. The magnesium was to slow down the labor. The steroids and antibiotics were for the baby.
The hospital I was at does not have a good NICU. So they decided to transfer me to another hospital in the next town. It was Friday morning during rush hour traffic. Luckily, it was July 3rd, the day before a national holiday and traffic was not bad. The midwife checked me one last time to see if I had time to be transferred.
I got to the new hospital and the contractions started to become more intense. I was starving since I had not had anything to eat since dinner the night before. Part of a midwive’s philosophy is for the mother to be as comfortable as possible and to eat if she’s hungry. However, I wasn’t with a midwife anymore. I was in a hospital with an OB/GYN with the possibility of a caesarean and food was not an option.
Because of my spinal fusion, it was very important to me to stand and squat during labor to minimize the pressure I put on my back. But now I was lying on an uncomfortable hospital bed. I asked to stand but wasn’t allowed. The doctor said it was because the magnesium made me drowsy. I assured her that I was not tired at all. The pressure on my back was intense and I definitely felt the contractions in my back.
So far none of this is part of my birth plan:
- I’m in a hospital that is not in my home town. I know it’s silly, but I really wanted her birthplace to be Denton, Texas.
- I don’t have a midwife with me. My midwife did not have privileges in that hospital.
- I’m not able to stand and squat.
- I’m starving and not able to eat.
I tell my husband, Ryan, that this wasn’t right. That I wanted to leave.
And then the nurse shushed me.
My first big contraction hit me. And I let out an animal noise you normally only here in the jungle. I know the nurse did not mean to shush me. She was trying to be calming. But since I was already not happy with any part of this situation, that shush put me over the edge. I looked at Ryan, pointed at the nurse, and said, “She @#&% shushed me. I don’t want to be here.”
And in between contractions, the staff from this hospital is bringing me paperwork to be admitted to this hospital.
Just when it couldn’t get any worse (or at least how I felt at the time), the NICU nurse practitioner came to my room. She was explaining the situation to me. When it sunk in that they were going to take my daughter to NICU immediately, I lost it. I started crying hysterically and screaming that they are not taking my baby girl. Immediate skin-to-skin contact was very high priority on my birth plan. And she wasn’t supposed to leave my side. Ryan got on his knees to look me in the eye and told me that I had to calm down. The OB/GYN got my midwife on the phone to calm me down. Everyone was explaining the situation to me. I was scared for my daughter. And I was furious that she couldn’t stay with me. Deep down I knew that was best for her. I knew she needed some extra TLC. And I knew she was at risk. But that didn’t change my hormones or my need to hold her immediately.
I was able to have a natural, drug-free delivery. Of all of my wishes and plans, that was the most important. She came quickly and easily. My push stage was less than 40 minutes.
My placenta, however, was not as easy. It took over an hour and a half to birth the placenta. That was by far the most painful part of my labor. I’m telling you, my placenta was an issue from the beginning all the way to the very end. I wanted to encapsulate my placenta. I had a release and liability waiver document (you can find it here) to get my placenta released from the hospital. But I didn’t have it with me. I tried to get it released, but I was unsuccessful.
I was able to hold Mabel very briefly, less than a minute. Then they took her to NICU. Ryan went to the NICU with her. We had about 15 family members waiting at the hospital who took turns going to see Mabel. A few hours later, the doctors allowed me to go see her.
She was doing great. We weren’t allowed to hold her yet. She had a IV for feeding (that she only had for a few days) and some monitoring wires. It looked scarier than it really was. She had a mild case of jaundice and was under UV lights for a few days.
After she was in the NICU for a few days, the nurse asked me if I wanted to hold her. I started crying uncontrollably (again). It was best words I had heard in a very long time. For the first few days, we were allowed to hold her for about an hour a day. After that, we were able to hold her unlimited.
The hardest part was the guilt I felt. I felt guilty when I wasn’t with her. And I felt guilty when I wasn’t with my older son. He was at a sitter’s house everyday during the 3 weeks Mabel was in the NICU.
Even though the NICU was not part of my plan (it’s never a part of anyone’s plan), we were very happy with her care while she was in the NICU. They met me as far as they possibly could with my wishes for Mable. From the first time I got to hold her, I was able to do skin-to-skin. I did skin-to-skin with her everyday, usually for several hours. They fed her my breast milk. I pumped at home and brought my milk in everyday. When I was at the hospital, I was able to breastfeed. She latched at the first try. They let me bring my own soap and lotion for her bath time. We could visit any time, day or night, and stay as long as we wanted.
After 3 weeks in the NICU, she was released. And you’ll never guess what happened next.
A banana truck caught on fire. I can’t make this stuff up. Read about it here and here. The hospital is 14 miles from my house. It took us over 4 hours to get home. Four hours with a newborn baby that just left the intensive care unit. Mabel didn’t care at all. She never complained, not even once. Ryan and I, on the other hand, did complain. We wanted to have the proper family celebration with our 2 year old son that we weren’t able to have after she was born. But again, our plans were changed for us.
As I’m writing this, she’s now 6 weeks old. She’s 5 pounds, 15 ounces and 20″ (she was 4 lbs, 3 oz. and 17″ at birth). She sleeps great. She eats well. She’s a very happy and healthy baby!
Even though none of this was my birth plan, it’s exactly what she needed. From placenta issues to sonogram reactions, she was in distress. She knew she was ready and able to thrive. She’s amazing and I can’t imagine my life without her!
Sometimes we have plans. And sometimes something greater than us changes those plans for us. Mabel knew exactly what she needed.
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