- What If? A Story of an Unwanted Medicalized Birth
Childbirth is a fascinating topic. Even years before I intended to get pregnant, I read every book and article I could find on the topic. As a professor, childbirth is a prominent topic in my psychology of women courses. In 2012, as my class and I read and discussed Jennifer Block’s “Pushed”, I mentally prepared my birth plan—no interventions, no epidural, no episiotomy, no C–section. I believed myself to be well–informed and confidently knew what I wanted and didn’t want for my own birth experience. At the end of the semester when I announced my pregnancy to the class, they eagerly recalled the main themes of the book and asked if I was hiring a doula and seeing a midwife.
I purposefully left the OB group that I had been using for my annual check–ups. I couldn’t imagine being pregnant and waiting for hours to be seen by doctors who barely had 10 minutes for each patient. I found a lovely midwife group who had delivery privileges at a local hospital. This was the best of both worlds—the gentle compassion of midwives, with the just–in–case technology of the hospital. While early in the pregnancy I considered a home-birth, I ultimately decided that the hospital setting would provide safety while I still had the midwife assisted birth I desired.
At 40 weeks and 2 days, I went to the midwives’ office for a check–up. The midwife listened to the baby’s heart and felt the baby’s position. The baby was happily hanging out in the womb, head down, but not low. She checked my cervix and while it was soft, it was still tightly closed. The baby wasn’t engaged or low enough to exert any pressure on the cervix. She estimated that I wasn’t likely to go into labor any time soon, especially not the next few days. She recommended spending more time sitting on an exercise ball to encourage the baby to drop. She wanted to do a non–stress test, but the more senior midwife said it wasn’t necessary as I was just a few days overdue. I made an appointment for the NST and an ultrasound for the end of the week. While I was anxious to meet my baby, I felt confident that labor would start naturally and I wasn’t worried about waiting as I knew due dates are just estimates.
After sitting on an exercise ball all evening, I awoke suddenly at 3am and felt a pop and gush. I was surprised and excited. I called the midwife and the doula while my husband gathered the remaining items that we needed to pack. The midwife called the hospital to let them know we were on our way. Because I tested positive for Group B Strep, I needed IV antibiotics. I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to labor at home, but accepted the midwife’s orders. We arrived at the hospital around 4am, and settled into a birthing room with a big tub. With an IV in my arm and monitors around my belly, the nurse told us to get some sleep.
In the morning, the midwife checked my cervix, which was still high and closed tight. Moreover, I hadn’t started having any contractions. The midwife acknowledged that I didn’t want interventions, but in the hospital we didn’t have the luxury of waiting for contractions to start especially since my water broke. She recommended several rounds of Cytotec placed on my cervix alternating with walking the hallways. I was frustrated with my lack of options, but optimistic that this would help my body start labor.
By the early afternoon, there had been little progress. When the midwife suggested moving onto Pitocin and a balloon catheter in my cervix, I cried and argued that I didn’t want these interventions. The midwife assured me that they would keep the Pitocin at a very low dose and would hopefully be able to turn it off once my body started contracting on its own.