Aug 15

“How valuable is your uterus?” –and other things you don’t want to hear when you’re in labor!

This is the story of Joanna’s birth. I believe I have kept it all pretty G-rated, but please be advised, if you don’t like to read birth stories, STOP HERE!

Joanna was born on July 23 after a scheduled induction. Why did I decide to be induced? Primarily because by the 23rd, she was one week past her due date and I was quite tired of being pregnant. For the last two weeks or so of my pregnancy, I experienced contractions on a regular basis. I began to immediately react with annoyance to anyone who mentioned “just Braxton Hicks” contractions. Call them what you want–but they were decidedly uncomfortable, they happened every evening for hours in a row, and they never progressed into true labor. I eventually quit paying attention to them, after getting tired of timing contractions that went on and on and then just stopped. My body just seemed incapable of going into labor. At my 40-week prenatal appointment, my midwife asked me what I wanted to do, and I replied that I wanted to have a baby. So they scheduled me for an induction for the following Monday.

I knew going into the hospital on that Monday that it was going to be a long process. I’d been at 1 cm for the past two or three weeks with little or no change. They began by checking the baby’s position via ultrasound. Turns out little Joanna was head-down, which is good, but face-up–which is not so good! Her head, because it was not turned face-down, was not able to put very much pressure on my cervix, thus not causing it to dilate. My midwife gave me two pills to swallow to induce contractions, and then left me alone for four hours to see if they made any effect. I was able to get some rest, and even eat lunch. After four hours, at 1:00 p.m., I had dilated to 4 cm, and we were all encouraged. The midwife suggested waiting a couple of hours to see if my body continued laboring on its own before trying any other medications. When they checked me again at 3:30, however, I was still at 4 cm and the contractions weren’t getting any stronger (though I was pretty tired of them).

At that time, I decided to request an epidural, which was the part I was dreading the most. I’ve had epidurals with all of my 3 previous deliveries, but  the last one was not a good experience and I was afraid of having a similar experience again. On the other hand, I was MORE afraid of an unmedicated delivery. I also have a history of postpartum hemorrhaging, and if it happened again, I didn’t want to go through the process of fixing me back up without pain medication. I was so relieved when the epidural went smoothly and without any problems. The anesthesiologist was great, there were absolutely no side effects or complications, and I relaxed completely for the first time in weeks. The midwife started the dreaded pitocin around 4:00, after the epidural was administered, and we all settled down to wait some more.

I was resting in bed, feeling better than I had in a long time, and hoping to get a nap in, when my midwife comes in with one of her supervising OBGYN’s. I had not met this doctor before, as I had only seen midwives with this pregnancy. I was surprised he was coming in, but thought maybe he was here to break my water. The first thing he said after introducing himself was, “Well, we don’t think the bleeding is fetal tissue.”

WHAT??? To back up, I had started bleeding during labor earlier in the day, but as my midwife did not seem concerned about it, I had not been worrying about it either. Now the doctor comes in talking about fetal tissue! (And besides, didn’t he mean “baby”? I mean, aren’t we way past “fetus” at this stage, regardless of when you believe life begins? I digress…) Even though he stated that the baby’s heartbeat was strong and steady, and that they did not believe it was blood from the baby (Thank God), I was shocked because I had not even realized that had been a possibility.

Well, the doctor’s visit didn’t go much better after that. He repeated that the baby didn’t seem to be in danger, but he advised having the baby as soon as possible. (I was totally OK with that, but felt he should really be addressing that to Joanna and not myself.) He went over my history of postpartum hemorrhages and recommended various medications to be administered immediately after birth, to hopefully prevent or stop it from happening again, which I agreed to. He then asked me, “What I need to know is, how valuable is your uterus?”

Again–WHAT??? I think I stammered something out, while my midwife, who was right next to me, immediately responded, “It’s valuable!” The doctor asked if we planned on having any more children. I answered that we had never really discussed it, but we certainly hadn’t decided NOT to have any more, either. (At least that is what I meant to reply. I’m not sure what I really said. I was having trouble thinking clearly.) The doctor continues, stating that in cases of hemorrhaging, the main cause of maternal death is when doctors work too long trying to save the uterus, and when they finally decide to remove it, it’s too late to save the mother. Ahhhh! In the space of twenty minutes I’ve been in conversations about fetal tissue and maternal death. I managed to tearfully say that I wanted to be here for the children that I already have, and Tim agreed. The conversation continues a little more and then the doctor leaves.

My midwife remains and calms me down a little. Honestly, at this point in labor, I am convinced that I am going to go home with a hysterectomy. I’m pretty overwhelmed. However, Joanna decides to kick things into gear, and labor begins to progress pretty swiftly, leaving little time for contemplation.

Around 7:30, I have dilated to 6 cm, and then it seems it’s just a few minutes later that I feel her moving down, and ask the midwife to check again. Sure enough, I was fully dilated and ready for delivery. Joanna was born at 8:12, perfectly healthy and beautiful. As soon as she was born, the nurses gave me a shot (which I didn’t even feel, thanks to the epidural!) to prevent hemorrhaging, and I didn’t even have a postpartum hemorrhage. Everything turned out absolutely ideally. I had a wonderful time bonding with Joanna as they let me hold her skin-to-skin right after delivery for as long as I wanted. I began nursing her within an hour after her birth, and my parents, Naomi, and Rachel, were able to come and see their little sister shortly after that. All in all, my recovery from this birth was easier and faster than any of the others.

Joanna is a true joy and blessing to our family. Her birth was wonderful and perfect and I know God answered many prayers on that day. I am so thankful she is here now!

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