The last few weeks of my pregnancy felt like they lasted forever. I was uncomfortable, exhausted, stressed out, and ready for my pregnancy to end and motherhood to begin. I also wanted to go into labor on my own. Most of my friends championed medication-free births, and as a result I thought a "natural" childbirth was best for me and my future baby. So when my midwife offered to induce labor, I refused. But now, looking back, I wish I would've been induced.
Before I had my first baby I was not only against induction, but I was willing to do pretty much anything I could to go into labor on my own and without any kind of medical intervention. I asked my midwife for tips, consulted Google, and gave every DIY remedy you can think of a try. Why? Because I was terrified of being induced. Fear was driving my want for a medication-free birth, and fear is a very powerful thing when you're a soon-to-be mom.
So I walked mile after mile every single day and bounced on an exercise ball every single night. I drank gallons of red raspberry leaf tea and ate spicy Indian takeout. I used a breast pump, had my husband stimulate my nipples the old-fashioned way, and had tons of awkward pregnancy sex. I even inserted capsules of evening primrose oil into my vagina before bed. When nothing worked, I asked my midwife to strip my membranes at three separate appointments.
I was just about 39 weeks pregnant when my labor started during an early showing of the latest X-Men movie. I wanted to see how the film ended (plus, I had a bucket of popcorn to finish), but decided sticking around for too long wasn't the best idea. I started timing my contractions using my phone, and in no time they were five minutes apart and it was time for my husband and I to make our way to labor and delivery.
I spent two weeks enduring labor pains, an incredible amount of exhaustion, and the most uncomfortable feeling that can only be described as holding a bowling ball between your legs.
We drove to the hospital, the nurses checked me in, and I answered a series of preliminary questions about my contractions and whatnot. Then I changed into a stiff hospital gown and was hooked up to a few different monitors. It watched the hills and valleys of my contractions on a mobile printout, mesmerized by my body and the physical proof that I'd be meeting my baby soon. Then my contractions slowed, eventually stopped, and my nurse gave me a look that let me know I wasn't "really" in labor.
After a quick cervix check I found out I was only two centimeters dilated. It wasn't time to meet my baby after all.
After a few hours walking the hospital corridors I was sent home. Little did I know, I would return to the hospital two more times with contractions so strong they took my breath away, only to be told I had something called prodromal labor — false labor. I spent two weeks enduring labor pains, an incredible amount of exhaustion, and the most uncomfortable feeling that can only be described as holding a bowling ball between your legs.
As a way to mitigate my pain and discomfort, my midwife offered to induce me three times. But I was terrified, and truly believed that going into labor on my own was the only way I could experience the "perfect birth," with no pain medication, no interventions, and a vaginal delivery in a pool of water with flameless candles flickering and Tori Amos playing in the bathroom. I had a very specific idea of how I was going to experience labor and delivery. Clearly, I wasn't up for compromising.
I was able to know what was happening when it was happening, and could watch my labor progress from start to finish.
I was 40 weeks and five days pregnant when my midwife let me know my body was no longer tolerating my pregnancy. I was in near-constant pain and my blood pressure was reaching unsafe levels, so I had a decision to make: wait two more days and hope I didn't reach 41 weeks, or allow my midwife to finally induce me. This time, I was willing to let go of my "perfect birth plan" and compromise. I said yes.
I was admitted to the hospital at 6:00 p.m. for an induction, but my water broke all over the hospital bathroom floor before the process could begin. I wasn't going to be induced after all, which, at the time, was a relief.
Labor was nothing like I imaged, and back labor was by far the worst pain I had ever experienced in my entire life. I kept waiting for the endorphins to kick in, or to have breaks in between contractions to rest or breathe, but instead I just felt like I was being stabbed in the spine and punched in the stomach simultaneously.
I refused any kind of pain medication for almost 20 hours, hellbent on sticking to my "medication-free" birth plan, only agreeing to an epidural when my midwife told me I needed one. In that moment I felt defeated, and sad, like I had failed at the one thing I was "supposed" to do as a woman. I didn't experience the labor and delivery I had wanted, but the moment that epidural hit I also realized that some plans are best forgotten. Perhaps, I thought, I didn't need to have a "natural" birth after all.
I wish I would have known that medical intervention can help a woman feel in control during labor and delivery, and that the "natural" childbirth movement isn't for everyone.
Years later, when I was pregnant with my second child, I was induced three weeks early for preeclampsia. And while I was initially scared, I quickly admitted that it wasn't nearly as horrible as I thought it would be. In fact, and unlike my previous birth, induction actually helped me feel in control of a really scary situation. I was able to know what was happening when it was happening, and could watch my labor progress from start to finish. And once I had my epidural, I actually enjoyed the entire labor and delivery process.
If I knew then, what I know now, I would have agreed to an induction when I was first pregnant. I wish I would have known that medical intervention can help a woman feel in control during labor and delivery, and that the "natural" childbirth movement isn't for everyone. I wish I knew that instead of fearing birth interventions, I just needed to better understand them so I can make the best, most informed decision for myself, my labor and delivery experience, and my baby.