Sunday, October 18, 2020

Time's A Wastin'

I spent eight months waiting to get pregnant and another eight months being pregnant. By week 37 of gestation, I couldn’t wait to not be pregnant anymore.

I was physically weary of carrying my big belly around. (While I’d only gained 20 pounds, I was, as they say, “all baby.”) I was tired of getting up five times a night to pee. I was at the point where I fantasized about going to a prenatal appointment and hearing the midwives say, “We need to deliver you right away!” Of course, I didn’t want anything to be wrong with the baby. I just wanted her to be here.

Midway through week 37, I woke up at 1:30 a.m. to go to the bathroom, but as soon as I sat up, fluid rushed out of me and dripped down both my legs, leaving a trail to the bathroom. The spillage seemed more forceful than an “I peed myself” scenario (which was happening more and more frequently). I wasn’t laughing or coughing or sneezing or doing anything else that would normally precede me peeing myself. I went into fluid investigator mode. I turned on the light to see what color the fluid was: clear. I tried to smell it: nothing.

With shaking hands, I dialed the number for the birth center pager, returned to bed, and waited. No one called, so after 15 minutes, I paged again, per the birth center’s instructions.

Finally, a midwife called. Though of course they all had names (and various tattoos and piercings), because I’d only been a patient there for a short time, in my mind they were all interchangeable.

“If your water broke, the fluid will pool in your vagina,” she said. “Lie down for 15 minutes, then stand up and see what happens. If no more fluid leaks, it was just your bladder releasing.”

This didn’t sound very scientific. I knew that if I’d called Dr. Baby-Maker’s office instead, she’d have me come in to test the fluid and maybe even do an ultrasound. Low amniotic fluid had become one of my new worries because it can be dangerous for the baby, necessitating induction or a C-section. Also, if my water had broken, and labor didn’t start soon, I was opening myself up to infection.

Still, I followed instructions. I laid down for 15 minutes. Then I got up again. There was no more fluid. False alarm.

At my 38-week appointment, I asked what I could do to jump-start labor naturally. I’d already tried the obvious tricks: exercise, sex, raspberry leaf tea.

The midwife recommended chiropractic, acupuncture, and acupressure. I would have tried all three of those, but, hello! There was a pandemic going on. Our state was still in lockdown, and I didn’t know of any acupuncturist seeing clients. While I’d been getting adjustments from a chiropractor pre-coronavirus, returning to her clinic now seemed risky. Acupressure, at least, I could do myself or ask my husband to do. (Which we did every night for a week; it didn’t work.)

The midwife had one more suggestion: “Patience!” she trilled.

Yeah, no. That was definitely not an option.

“At what point do you induce?” I asked.

“We won’t even discuss induction until after your due date passes,” the midwife replied.

I couldn’t help but note the irony that I’d left Dr. Baby-Maker because she wanted to induce me at 39 weeks and now I would’ve given anything for some Pitocin.

My doubts about the midwives grew louder. Did they really know what they were doing? Would they know if something was wrong? Why weren’t internal checks standard practice? (And why didn’t I ask for one?) Why didn’t they do a late-pregnancy ultrasound like other clinics did? If they didn’t do that, how would they know if my amniotic fluid was low?

Though I read and watched everything I could on unmedicated birth, my steely resolve to welcome my baby into the world “naturally” at the birth center was waning. In a way, everything about this pregnancy had been an uphill battle – getting pregnant, staying pregnant – and now it seemed the birth was going to be an uphill battle, too.

Depression crept in. I felt hopeless. I was alternately weepy and irritable. “This is all an illusion,” the dark voice inside me said. “The baby is never going to come. You don’t deserve this blessing. Life is going to do what is always does – shit on everything.”

I didn’t like thinking this way and I didn’t dare repeat these things aloud so as not to jinx anything. But I was beyond frustrated at my complete lack of control in this situation.

It was time to advocate for myself. At the start of my 39-week virtual visit with the birth center, I said, “I want an induction plan.”

“We do not induce until 41 weeks and 4 days,” the midwife said. “And that even then, the induction process is long.”

I wish I’d known that before I transferred to the birth center, but of course I didn’t ask because I never expected it to make it this far! What happened to the birth center's ethos of letting pregnant women decide what was best for their births?

“Are you feeling all right physically?” she asked.

I didn’t understand the question. What difference did it make if my discomfort was physical or mental? Would my desire to induce provoke more compassion if I complained of back pain instead of depression?

I said something like, “Yes, but the waiting is really hard.”

“What’s the hardest part of waiting?” she asked.

“I just thought the baby would be early, like my daughters. I’ve been mentally ready for two weeks. Now every day that passes and she’s not here feels like a disappointment.”

I had to hold back tears at this point, but my sadness was palpable, even over Zoom.

“What are you doing to keep busy?” she asked.

Again: not the point. Distraction is not a treatment for depression. I wanted to say, “Well, I had planned to be busy taking care of my baby this week!” Instead, I told her I was working and exercising and spending time with my family.

“Do you have anything special planned?” she asked.

“The options are kind of limited right now with coronavirus,” I said.

“I meant something like getting take-out.”

(‘Cause that’s so fun. Even if we did that, there goes 30 minutes. And then what?)

If coronavirus weren’t a thing, the final stretch of pregnancy would have been so much easier. I could’ve gone to a concert or to the movies. I could’ve scheduled a haircut, a massage, acupuncture, and a chiropractic adjustment. I could’ve gone shopping in an actual store. But all those options were off-limits now.

The midwife seemed to sense she wasn’t going to get anywhere with logic, so she tried encouragement instead. “You’re going to do this,” she said. “It’s going to happen naturally.”

Then she laid out the timeline for the next couple of weeks: I would have a 40-week in-person appointment, a stress test at week 41, and an ultrasound after that. And then maybe we would discuss induction. “But you’re not going to make it that far,” the midwife said. “You’ll have the baby before then.”

I had my doubts.

Before signing off, the midwife said, “I’m on call tonight if you want to come in and have a baby later!” 

She was trying to be kind, and I do believe in the power of suggestion, but her comment felt incredibly cruel because, if I could choose to have a baby, I would have chosen to have her by now!

But I didn’t really have a choice, did I?

Or did I?

After closing the Zoom session with the midwife, I picked up the phone…and made an appointment with Dr. Baby-Maker. I was going to take her up on that offer for induction

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