This is a guest post by Kate Pavlovsky. Learn more about the author below!
It has been hard for me to sit down and find the words to tell my birth story. It seems so surreal; so out of character. I’ve been having a hard time coming to terms with it.
A few days before 39 weeks I started feeling anxious quite frequently. Not about any one thing in particular; I just had a constant underlying feeling of anxiety. For days this built on itself until I could no longer eat or sleep. It had completely taken over and overwhelmed me despite my many efforts to control it naturally and talk myself down. After 3 days of no sleep and little food, I reached my limit. I texted my midwife desperately, asking to be transferred to the hospital for a cesarean so I could end the pregnancy as quickly as possible.
My midwife wisely knew that a cesarean wasn’t necessary, but she called and assessed me and listened to what I needed. She arranged for me to meet with some wonderful nurse midwives at the hospital in Kerrville that afternoon. My parents came to pick up the other two boys and we headed to Kerrville.
Arriving to the Hospital
When we arrived, everyone basically granted my requests. They were all so kind and respectful and for that I am so thankful. I was checked in to the hospital, administered anti-anxiety medication, and we began the induction that evening (2-13). I was only 1 cm and 50% effaced, but I asked that they not use cervidil or cytotec to ripen my cervix. They happily obliged, offering instead the “Cook’s Catheter,” aka “The Cook Cervical Ripening Balloon.” This device manually/mechanically dilates the cervix up to 4 or 5 cm by placing pressure on both sides of the cervix. It is MAGICAL and I highly recommend it if you must be induced. It is similar to a foley bulb induction, but the cook catheter is MADE for this use. They inserted the catheter around 8 pm and then I fell asleep for the first time in days.
At 3 A.M. I woke up with contractions too strong to sleep through. It seemed my body had responded quite positively to the cooks catheter. I labored around the room for awhile: sitting on a birth ball, standing while leaning on the bed, laying on my side… then around 5:30 A.M. I went to pee and the Cook’s catheter fell out. I rejoiced because the nurse midwife had told me that if it fell out it meant I was 4-5 cm dilated! After returning to the room, I continued to wade through the contractions.
A few minutes after the catheter fell out, while I was laboring strong but handling it well, the anesthesiologist came in to see if I wanted an epidural. I had told the midwives that I would likely want one because I worried the pain might bring my anxiety back. Although, I didn’t feel anxious and I was handling the contractions well, I consented to the epidural. I almost instantly regretted it. I am a person who loves to feel grounded and in control. Being unable to move my body was NOT a good experience. It did allow me to get more naps in, but if I could do this birth over I would say no to the epidural. The epidural was in by 6 A.M.
At 6:30 A.M. the midwife on call came in to check on me. Every step of the way they looked to me for direction, never pressuring me to take any action. I was determined to get through labor as fast as possible, so I requested they break my waters.
Nearly six hours later, I had just finished napping for about an hour or so, and Joel excused himself to grab a bite to eat. My mom stayed with me and we were chatting. I started feeling very strange and I knew it must be my hormones moving through transition even though I couldn’t feel the contractions (what an odd sensation!). Then suddenly my chest felt peculiar and I called in the nurse. My pulse and blood pressure were normal so they couldn’t explain what the feeling was. That’s when I felt it.
“HE’S COMING OUT!” I said, my eyes wide. The epidural had been so strong that I hadn’t felt Huxley coming until he was literally THROUGH my cervix. “CALL JOEL!” I told my mom frantically. Luckily he was right down the hall on his way back to the room and arrived quickly. My midwife entered just before him, took one look between my legs and said, “Yep, there’s his head!” Everyone filed into place. Joel put on gloves (because y’know HOSPITAL) and prepared to catch our baby. I recorded the whole thing while on my side, medically paralyzed by the epidural (seriously, the weirdest experience.)
Overall, I am grateful to the kind nurse midwives who allowed me to call all the shots. The staff at the hospital were all so accommodating and friendly. The experience was very strange for me because I am a home birther at heart. I LOVED having my first two babies at home because it was so intimate and comfortable… that being said, I am grateful I was able to get treatment when I needed it. Being well educated about birth and about my options in the hospital allowed me to direct the experience. Having good care providers who listened was also key.
I am still grappling with these events. Even though I was respected throughout the experience, it is not the experience I planned to have. The severe anxiety has dissipated… apparently this is something that occurs in a small percentage of women toward the end of pregnancy. For some it begins even earlier and they don’t have the option to end the pregnancy until they are full term. Still, it is not a pleasant experience to look back on. Not because I was in the hospital vs. at home, but because my mental health failed me. The memory of this experience does not make me feel empowered in the same way my other two births did, and that is hard. Birth is so humbling. So surprising. So impossible to plan. I will likely be mulling this over for years to come.
It has been over a year since the birth of Huxley, and in honor of the anniversary of that time I wrote a blog on how to reduce/manage anxiety during pregnancy & postpartum.
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