My birth story starts as you would typically expect. I was a week overdue and scheduled for an induction. My husband and I arrived at the hospital giddy with excitement. We had our bags packed, checklists in hand and birth plan ready to go. As a type A personality and a closet control freak I thought that having this plan in writing would make my transition into motherhood flawless and predictable. I was very wrong.
My first dose of Cytotec was given to get things moving along. I was told by my doctor that it would take up to 4 doses throughout the night before I was fully effaced and dilated. An hour or so went by and I began having contractions. These weren’t just your run-of-the-mill, pre-labor contractions. These were coming in waves every couple of minutes. The type of contractions that make you hold onto the hospital bed rail for dear life. I knew then something wasn’t quite right.
Prompted by my husband, the nurse on the unit came by to check my progress. I was only 1 centimeter dilated, barely even a fingertip she said. I’m pretty sure at this point she chalked my discomfort up to being a first time mom, a rookie, since I had no prior experience with labor pains. I also thought this could be the case.
While my face was contorted into an obvious grimace I was told the doctor would be in to evaluate me. She entered the room, looked at my chart and without much hesitation told me I was having an adverse reaction to the medication and I was experiencing uterine hyperstimulation. My poor uterus was going into overdrive. With this comes a possibility of fetal heart rate abnormalities, uterine rupture or placental abruption. She did not tell me any of that at the time and instead discarded the last 3 doses of medication I was to receive. She even gave me the sweet relief of an epidural far sooner than I would have expected, or had written in my birth plan.
After I received the epi it was smooth sailing. My body was doing what is supposed to and progressing quickly. My water broke in my sleep and the tingling numbness in my lower half was welcomed. In the early morning hours I was checked one last time and told that I was ready to push. It took less than 30 minutes and a shrill cry filled the delivery room. As designated in my birth plan the nurse immediately placed my son on my chest for skin-to-skin contact. Through weary, soggy eyes I nuzzled into that tiny human all the while oblivious to the chaos ensuing around us.
Blake was a dusty blue color, he wasn’t pink like other babies I had seen after birth. His nostrils were flaring and he was having chest retractions. My baby was struggling to breathe. I only had my hands on him for a minute before he was being whisked away and handed off to several nurses I had never seen before. Confused and worried I was searching their faces for an answer.
More people entered my room; nurses, doctors, the NICU staff, a group of medical students all eagerly poking their noses around my son hoping for a good learning experience. This was not what I planned. It was not the calm, storybook moment shared only between a husband and wife. It was nothing like the experiences of friends and family and the pictures I had seen on social media.
Their simple attempts at helping my son failed and they began suctioning fluid from his lungs in hopes it would raise his oxygen saturation and slow his respirations. It did not. By this time only minutes had past, but it felt like an eternity. Blake was quickly rolled away and taken to the NICU. My husband and I sat in the delivery room, which was now quiet and deserted. I’ll never forget the feeling of complete helplessness that surrounded us. There was an overwhelming feeling of longing, an itch I just couldn’t scratch.
My son was in the NICU for observation for 24 hours and thankfully, was doing much better. His diagnosis of transient tachypnea was short-lived and he was breathing on his own. Visiting the NICU was the most eye-opening experience I have ever had. Searching for him in the rows of cribs and incubators I realized that while my experience was messy and unplanned, my son was safe. He was safe and well and had fewer complications than many of the children he was neighbors with that day. It was hard to smile with relief at my son while watching the faces of parents whose children were not ready to be taken home. It was in those moments that I realized how truly blessed we were and how naive I had been.
Birth plans can be a great tool to give moms a sense of calm and control in an uncontrollable situation. But, if I could do it over I would lower my expectations for a perfect birth experience and throw my plan out the window. It taught me that we are not our experiences, but we are what we learn from them. I now have a little more wisdom and a lot more patience for the things in life that are out of my control.