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What Happens When Your Labor and Delivery Don’t Go as You Expected?
by Julie Paul on 09/23/2014 at 7:26 AM

Labor_resized.jpgLet’s face it, when you are expecting, you’ve diligently planned for the day for nine long months—exploring all the right books and videos—even attending childbirth classes well in advance.  Actually, when I look back at that time, I didn’t think I could have been any more prepared if I tried.  

So, when my water broke at 37 weeks, I was truly excited and ready to get the show on the road.  There I was, awakened at 3 a.m. by a sudden “pop” sensation.  Jumping out of bed, I realized I was gushing fluid all over the wood floor (at the time I thought—hey, at least not on the bed!).  So being “well-prepared,” I immediately noted the color of my fluid and called my midwife.  Though a bit nervous, I was so excited with the anticipation of my baby’s imminent birthday!  

After taking a shower and getting a bite to eat, I arrived at the hospital a few hours later, where I met my midwife.  She didn’t check me right away to see if I was dilating, because I was already ruptured (my water broke), and checking too often, could increase the chance of infection.  So once I was monitored, I was encouraged to go for a walk and let the contractions get stronger…and yes, stronger they got!

It was around 9 a.m. when I had become really uncomfortable.  I had already checked off my organized list of planned approaches to pain during labor—used the labor ball, walked a great deal, took a shower…yet I felt still in need of pain relief.  So along came Nubain, a common narcotic painkiller that is used to help stimulate the brain to increase the threshold to pain.  Though I admit, it helped for a bit, I still felt I needed something stronger.  So around 2 p.m. and 4 cm dilated, I got an epidural to help ease the pain.

But wait … this wasn’t in the plan!  What about all my preparation?  The reality is, as prepared as I thought I was and as disappointing as it seemed at the moment to go off course—by using medication and an epidural—the reality was, I really needed those methods of pain relief. 

So once I settled into the notion of the all-encompassing philosophy:  “it is what it is,” I got comfortable and waited for that anticipated urge to push.  The baby, however, had other ideas.  His heartbeat kept dipping lower and lower—which meant I had to be flipped and tossed in many different positions to try to help influence the baby’s position.  This went on for a while.  While the unexpected chaos was happening, my temperature went up, and as fever set in, the baby’s heartbeat began to dangerously increase, indicating he was potentially getting an infection as well.

Again, this was not in the plan!  After I got treated for the infection, the baby was still showing signs of stress, which meant only one thing—Cesarean birth.  Of all the things happening that were not “in the plan,” THIS was by far the most disappointing moment on the list.  However, my head and heart both knew that the baby’s safety preceded any manmade agenda.  So, the cesarean section went well and four days later I went home with a healthy, bouncing baby boy.

In the days to follow, everyone kept telling me, “at least you had a healthy baby.”  Absolutely, of course I was thrilled beyond words about that—but the truth was that the actual labor and birth was not what I expected.  To be quite honest, it took a while for me to be ok with everything that had happened.  It was almost like I had to grieve for what didn’t happen.

As a midwife, I have encountered this many times.  Women need time to grieve when the birth doesn’t go as expected—and it’s perfectly normal.  If this happens to you, please don’t hesitate to talk with your provider.

So what happens when you get pregnant again after your first birth didn’t go as expected? How do you cope? Can you expect the same outcome?  … New blog post on this topic coming soon!

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