I’ll get to the details of how I fired my doctor after my due date and the hair raising way that my DOG sent me into labor, but I have to start with something a little more mundane.
See, when my husband and I felt like it was time to start our family, we searched around for insurance that would cover maternity and delivery. We found a good deal and signed up! Several months later, when I had gotten my positive pregnancy test, we called the insurance company for details about which doctors and hospitals were covered. To our alarm, they said that my insurance coverage did NOT include maternity care! We were so confused and really uncertain about what to do. At this point, we couldn’t get coverage elsewhere (since I was already expecting) and we felt so mislead since we had been paying for several months on something we assumed would be worth it. The agent selling us the insurance had (mistakenly) informed us from the start that maternity care was included, and fortunately the insurance company decided to honor that commitment for us. They told us to continue with whatever care we were already getting, and they would foot the bill. We were so thankful!
I had been seeing an OB/GYN, Dr. W, for several years and just assumed that I would keep seeing her for my pregnancy. She didn’t have much of a bedside manner, but she was very knowledgeable and I felt like she was a competent care provider.
Amazingly, we got connected with a beautiful childbirth class where my husband and I both learned to love natural childbirth. We saw the supreme benefits of it for mother and baby, and knew this was the way we would prefer to birth. At the encouragement of our class instructor, we developed a birth “preferences” list. Our childbirth instructor also recommended taking a point or two from our birth wishlist and discussing them at each appointment, so the doctor wouldn’t get overwhelmed by a big list of my expectations. As I attended my prenatal appointments with Dr. W, it became very obvious that my preferences were NOT the norm for the births she attended. For instance, I asked my doctor what her c-section rate was. She told me that prior that day she had delivered two babies: one, vaginally and one by c-section, and that it just depended on what the baby needed. She asserted that getting a healthy baby was all they cared about. This was frightening to me (it seemed she was saying that her section rate was 50%!) I asked about episiotomies at my next appointment. To my horror, my doctor told me that since this was my first baby, there was NO WAY I could stretch and that they routinely did episiotiomies for “my sake” so I wouldn’t tear. Another biggie for me was delayed cord clamping. I felt like this was the issue that I was MOST passionate about, since the research continued to show how beneficial this was for babies. Even the AAP recommends this. For some reason, my doctor had not even HEARD of this method. After agreeing to look into it after I made it clear that this was imperative to me, she later told me she had talked to one pediatrician she knew about it and that they both agreed (on what basis, I would like to know!) that there wasn’t any benefit to delayed the cord clamping. I was outraged.
Still, I tried to put up with it since I felt like this was our only option with the insurance. The company was being generous to cover anything at all, and I didn’t want to disturb the delicate balance of that by trying to switch care providers.
At a later point in pregnancy, we went on the typical hospital tour. I just remember being terrified of being in that delivery bed. I hated the fluorescent lights, I hated the stirrups, and most of all I hated the baby warming bed that seemed miles away from the mother’s delivery bed. That was another main desire of mine – to be near my baby immediately following birth – and this hospital room was NOT set up to accommodate that.
I remember my husband reassuring me that we would make the most of it and that lots of other people had birthed there successfully. I wasn’t completely convinced.
The final straw with Dr. W was the day after my due date. I went in for my routine appointment, having been assured months earlier that I would be allowed to go 2 weeks past my due date before she would induce me. At my appointment, she did an ultrasound and then told me somberly that my amniotic fluid levels looked low and that she would induce me the following day. Now, having learned in my childbirth class that fluid levels were HIGHLY subjective and HIGHLY inaccurately gauged by ultrasound, I knew this was a hoax. I also knew that my baby was NOT ready to come out yet. I wasn’t having any signs of labor or dilation. And, the more I thought about it, if Dr. W was truly worried about my fluid levels, why would she wait until tomorrow to induce? The whole thing sounded like a set up for a c-section, and I wasn’t having it! I bawled my way home and phoned my husband in distress. I read that over 75% of first time moms being induced end up with sections. I was NOT going into that hospital the next day for anything!
So, my husband and I reevaluated. We knew of a birth center about an hour away, and called them immediately. They graciously agreed to at least meet with us, but said that I would need all my medical records from my prenatal appointments and the ultrasound from that day.
We called back to Dr. W’s office and were told that it would take TWO WEEKS to get copies of those. And, they said Dr. W would have to approve them, and that there was no way we could have the ultrasound photos. I was in complete shock. I knew the whole time that the situation with the doctor wasn’t ideal, but I didn’t know just how controlling they could be. Finally, my husband went up there and demanded that we were getting a second opinion, that I could go into labor at any point, and that we needed the records immediately and could not wait two weeks! They reluctantly made copies for him but never would give the ultrasound pictures (which further confirms my suspicions that the levels really weren’t low after all).
So, off we went, 40w1d pregnant to interview the midwife at a birth center. From the start, I could tell that this would be a much better fit. The atmosphere was homey (no stirrups in sight!) and they even had a Jacuzzi tub for waterbirths! All of my “birth preferences” seemed to be their normal protocol. We wouldn’t have to fight our way to a natural birth.
In the following days, we prayed and felt like this was the best decision. My husband did the dirty work of reporting to Dr. W that we no longer would use her services. We connected with the midwife and her team, and they even worked out a reasonable payment plan for us since we would have to pay out of pocket. I had my first (and only!) prenatal appointment at the birth center, and it was a dream. I laid on the queen sized bed and relaxed as they talked about labor and answered any of my questions. They showed me where the baby’s head and bottom were, and let me feel everything alongside them as they palpated my stomach. The appointment lasted over an hour! My usual doctor visits were less than 10 minutes, tops. This apparently was the norm for midwifery care. I was sold!
I knew the baby would come when she was ready, but being “past” due was mentally exhausting. We tried all the usual tricks for getting the baby out. It seemed like walks would always stir up some contractions, so we walked several times a day, to the utter delight of our energetic weimeraner, Lucy. On one particular walk (at 41 weeks pregnant), we set off on a huge hike in hopes that this time would do the trick. My poor swollen feet would only fit in flips flops at this point, but off we went. Lucy and my husband set the pace, and I tried my best to keep up. In the middle of the walk, though, there was a complete downpour! We hadn’t thought to check the weather before we left! So, there we are, quite the sight: a 41 week pregnant lady running in the pouring rain IN FLIP FLOPS after a giant 75 pound dog and her husband! That certainly brought on some significant contractions, but nothing lasting. In fact, for about 5 days I had timeable, strong contractions. But, they would always taper off after a few hours. Looking back, it’s kind of funny, but at the time I would get so discouraged that the baby was never going to come. As an encouragement, my midwife promised me that she didn’t have a dungeon of permanently pregnant ladies…eventually, my baby would come! That gave me something to laugh about!
So, during these days of on and off contractions, my midwife’s assistant came to check me. I was at a THREE! I was so excited that these contractions were actually doing something!! This went on for about three more days, though. Substantial contractions, but always dying down. I was restless, and SO ready to have my little baby out in the world!
On a Tuesday morning, 9 days after my due date, I let our dog out in the back yard. I stopped on the back porch as I heard a small “meowing” sound. I spotted the kitten before Lucy did, but Lucy was immediately and instinctively on alert. The poor stray had wandered into our yard, one of many in a litter born under the house next door to us. It was probably starving and searching for some food. Lucy, though, went into overdrive and cornered the kitten before I could even blink. I screamed for her to stop, practically bursting my lungs in an effort to prevent the inevitable. Lucy was bred for hunting, and I witnessed her innate traits come out that morning despite my protests. She would not let the kitten out of her jaws and flung it around. I screamed “NO” over and over until I couldn’t handle being so close to the horror, so I headed inside and watched the scene play out from my window. I was crying, worn out from screaming, and totally inconsolable. I called my husband and he graciously came home from teaching to take care of the mess and even washed out Lucy’s mouth. He calmed me down, assured me that all of the “evidence” was out of sight, and that the kitten was in a better place. He went back to work, but the events of the morning had certainly sent my body over the edge.
I was experiencing contractions that were getting “stronger, longer, and closer together,” just like the textbooks say. I tried to keep my husband in the loop by texting, hoping that I could make it until the school day was over, but at a certain point I had to call him and tell him to come home for a SECOND time that day! I was REALLY IN LABOR!
Surreally, we packed up the car, grabbed some snacks, and got on the road. I remember moaning and gripping the door handle during contractions during the hour long drive. I made my husband call the birth center several times to alert them and to make ABSOLUTELY sure that the birth pool would be ready as soon as we got there! I wanted to be out of the car and in that water so badly!
When we arrived around 4pm, I was at 6 cm! We were overjoyed! I thought that we would hit transition soon and have a baby within two hours at the most. After all, that’s what most of the “books” say about transition – it’s hard, but quick. Unfortunately, the “quick” part did not seem to happen by the books for me. I felt incredible pain – and felt like I had to detach mentally to escape feeling what my body was going through. I was in an out of the tub, I sat on the toilet for awhile, I was on hands and knees, I labored on the birth ball…I tried everything. My husband’s prayers and constant encouragement kept me going. The relaxed atmosphere at the birth center was the only way I survived! I was free to move around and do anything. Looking back, I don’t know how I could have achieved natural birth in a hospital setting, confined to a bed. I needed every ounce of freedom that I had. And never once did I feel like I was “on the clock” or that I needed to hurry things along.
At one point, though, I felt totally at the end of myself. It was midnight, and I was at 9.5cm and screaming in pain. I begged the midwife to break my waters, in hopes that this would speed things up. I thought that certainly this labor could NOT be any longer. She broke my waters, I got a “Boost” protein drink, and finally began to relax as I labored on the birth ball.
I knew then that it was time to get back in the tub. I told everyone that I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom, and they immediately scrambled for their equipment and put on their gloves. I was the stereotypical woman with a baby in the birth canal, not a bowel movement, but it felt so similar! I got the urge to push and did little pushes with my contractions. Finally, my husband and the assistant midwife said they could see the baby’s hair. At this point, I was so ready to get the baby out that I didn’t have the presence of mind to reach down and feel her or anything. I got her head out, and then the midwife said that there was too much blood. She told me, “Sarah, you have to push this baby out NOW.”
And so I did.
My baby was finally here! She made me a mom at 2:42 am, arriving almost 11 hours after we came to the birth center. I held her and looked into her eyes. Blue! Not what I was expecting at all. She was breathtakingly beautiful and perfectly formed. She pinked up quickly and they double checked that she was, indeed, a girl, and then said I needed to get out of the tub to control the bleeding (from slight hemorrhaging) I stepped out, and was given a small shot of pitocin to control the bleeding (This is the type of intervention that I feel like is necessary and welcomed because it was truly needed). I birthed the placenta immediately and then laid down in bed to nurse and cuddle my baby. I was expecting that once the baby was out, the pain would be over, but my midwife was making sure that there weren’t any blood clots and that there weren’t any retained parts of the placenta. I was so euphoric and delighted in holding my little girl, though, that it all seemed minor in comparison. And, to further prove my old Doctor wrong (who had told me that I couldn’t possibly stretch and birth naturally) I didn’t have a single tear and did not need an episiotomy! All that slow labor really paid off!
After nursing and giving us a long time to connect skin to skin, they did the newborn exam. 8 pounds 9 ounces, 21 inches long! Beautiful and perfect in every way. We ate a little bit and were given the all-clear to head home around 5am. About 14 hours after we had left our house the afternoon before, we were returning with a new member of our family! It was perfect, and we got to snuggle together all day and rest, soaking up the sweet newness of our little girl.
I am so thankful for the birth experience I had, and for the amazing way God designed our bodies to create and bring forth life. I hope that in sharing my story, women will be encouraged to evaluate their birth choices and care providers and choose wisely. It matters. Birth matters. It truly is an experience I think about every day and I am so happy with the way things happened. I had a very gentle postpartum recovery and I credit that to the natural birth experience. The midwives were equipped to handle the necessary interventions (following the hemorrhaging, for example) but did not intervene when birth was going slowly. They KNOW birth and knew that my body could do it and would do it in its own time. I would encourage women to really surround themselves with like-minded people in their births and not leave it up to chance.
Even if you have to change your healthcare provider after your due date…YOU CAN!
Please, women, if your provider says or does anything that isn’t 100% peaceful to you, GET A SECOND OPINION! It could end up being the best decision you ever make. My daughter and I are living proof that it is WORTH IT!
I have had 3 more births since this one, all homebirths with the same midwife, and I am so thankful that my first birth gave me the confidence that I could do it. Instead of using scare tactics or making me fearful about labor, she empowered me and encouraged my choices. Your care provider matters. With each birth, I am increasingly in awe of the amazing things that God designed our bodies to do, and I am so thankful for a care provider that allowed me the freedom and satisfaction of birthing the way my body was designed to!