When I think about my second birth, I get a little irritated with myself. I wonder how I could have been so foolish and naive, to voluntarily go back to the same OB that I used for my first birth. I wonder why I didn’t know better.
But then I remember other little details about my decision, and it makes more sense. I was still scared of going to a big practice where you never knew which OB you were going to see. I liked having an office location that was convenient to me AND the hospital. I figured that I knew what I was getting myself into with this OB…after all, there were no guarantees that another OB would be any better. Anyway, I thought that I could be more confident and assertive this time around. So I decided to go back to the same OB that oversaw my first pregnancy and delivery.
Once again, I’ll tell you up front that the pregnancy went great, and me and my precious first daughter were healthy and without complications. But I learned a hard lesson during this pregnancy that will stick with me throughout my entire life…and that lesson had nothing to do with childbirth.
History Repeats Itself
I walked into my OB’s office on my due date. I felt tired, fat, and ready to have a baby. I still vaguely desired a natural birth, but to be perfectly honest…it was a low day, and the thought of evicting Baby Girl was tempting. So when my OB brought up the topic of scheduling my induction in a week and a half (when I would have been only 41 weeks and 4 days), I was caught a bit off-guard. And in moment of end-of-pregnancy weakness, I agreed to it.
I started having second thoughts almost immediately. I talked to some friends about it. After all, lots of women get inductions! Even I had gotten an induction for my first birth! Daniel didn’t fully understand why I wouldn’t want an induction if I wasn’t in labor by that point, but he was supportive of whatever I decided to do.
And if I ultimately decided to cancel my scheduled induction, I figured I could always tell my OB at my next appointment. I assumed he would require a fetal non-stress test just like he did when I declined the scheduled induction during my first pregnancy. I thought it would be no big deal.
So I waited a few more days.
And then, the day before I turned 41 weeks, the secretary called to confirm my next day’s appointment. By this point, I had definitely decided NOT to schedule an induction. I figured it would be polite to let the secretary know now, in case cancelling my induction meant other changes to their schedule.
Apparently, that was a mistake.
“Talking” to the OB
After I told the secretary I wanted to cancel my induction date, she asked me to wait a moment so she could tell the OB, who was apparently standing close by. The conversation (aka: argument) that we had next left me in absolute disbelief…and my OB never even had the courtesy to get on the phone with me. I don’t remember the convo word for word after all these years, but it went something like this:
Me: “So I decided that I would like to cancel my induction.”
Secretary: “Okay, hang on while I let the doctor know.” (Audibly repeats what I said, followed by a less audible voice responding.) “He says that he doesn’t recommend cancelling the induction.”
Me: “Okay…well, I really don’t think I need it before 42 weeks, couldn’t we schedule it for when I’m 42 weeks? Instead of 3 days earlier?”
Secretary: (Audibly repeats what I said, followed by a less audible voice responding.) “He says that he wants you to do the induction on the that day if you haven’t gone into labor before, because that is his scheduled induction day at the hospital.”
Me: “Okay…well, can’t I just make it a week later so I’m a couple days after 42 weeks, but get the fetal non-stress tests instead?”
Secretary: (Audibly repeats what I said, followed by a less audible voice responding.) “He says that if you cancel the induction, you would be going against medical advice.”
Those three simple words stopped me cold.
Against Medical Advice (AMA)
The discussion up until that point had been getting a little heated, at least on my end. My heart was racing and my blood pressure was up. I had been determined to make my own decisions and take responsibility for my own healthcare. But now this…
I was silent for a moment. As a registered nurse, I knew something about what those “magic” words really meant.
I knew that I always had the right to decline any treatment, discharge myself from the hospital, and generally make whatever health decisions I wanted to make for my own healthcare…but if those decisions contradicted the doctor’s treatment plan, then it would be documented as “against medical advice” (also known as “AMA”).
I also knew that AMA meant that the OB was, figuratively, “washing his hands” of any complications that would arise if I didn’t get the induction. What I didn’t understand was what the full repercussions of going “against medical advice” would be for me and Baby Girl.
If I chose to cancel the induction, and the OB said it was AMA, and something went wrong…would insurance still pay for it? I didn’t know. And that could mean big $$ if there were complications. I didn’t even know if the OB would still continue to provide prenatal care or attend my delivery if I went AMA! And would I even trust him to provide the rest of my pregnancy care if I knew he actively disagreed with my healthcare decisions?
So I agreed to the scheduled induction. With my heart pounding, my head angry, and hot tears running down my face…I agreed to the scheduled induction. Even as I recognized that history was repeating itself, and that I was potentially being manipulated into another end-of-pregnancy intervention that I did NOT want (and didn’t believe that I needed!).
Even more importantly, I had begun to hear that still, small voice from God…and He was telling me that I wasn’t supposed to get an induction for this pregnancy. But what could I do? The OB had said “against medical advice”!!
Going Into Labor…That Night
I was in a funk the rest of the day, but tried to hide it as best I could. My parents were already in town awaiting Baby Girl’s arrival, so we all went out to get italian ice. I got lemon flavored, which I normally dislike, but there had been a lot of news stories lately about how real lemon can stimulate labor…I was willing to try anything!
I remember sitting on the couch with Daniel and my parents watching a new episode of American Idol. Baby Girl felt like she was pushing down hard, with razor blades in both hands!! Every single commercial break, I got up to go pee…it was never a lot, and I assumed that it was just the way Baby Girl was pushing down so that she was squishing my bladder. It was very uncomfortable!
I was restless, and I got tired of watching TV. I decided to go up to bed early…like 7 or 8pm early. I was still upset from my conversation with the OB (or, rather, his secretary…). I was tired, and my body felt uncomfortable. I also felt the need to be alone and talk to God.
A Hard Lesson to Learn
Since it was relatively early, I went up to my bedroom by myself and had some alone time. I started praying, talking to God about how I felt like He didn’t want me to get this induction, but that I wasn’t sure what I should do about it.
Suddenly, it hit me: I thought I was this great Christian woman, but I was more fearful of confronting my OB than I was of disobeying God. I completely broke down into gut wrenching sobs as I confessed what He already knew: that going through with this induction would be a sin…and that I was going to actively choose sin because I didn’t feel I had the strength to go against my OB’s wishes.
(Side note to clarify: I don’t think inductions themselves are a sin…I just knew that in this situation, it would have been a sin for me because of what I felt God telling me to do.)
As I lay curled up in bed, sobbing uncontrollably, I begged God to make me go into labor before my scheduled induction so that I could avoid sinning AND avoid a confrontation with my OB. At some point, I cried myself to sleep.
Is this Labor?
I woke up with an uncomfortable contraction only an hour or two later, and felt slightly wired and unable to fall back to sleep. Daniel had already come to bed and was sleeping soundly. As I lay in bed trying to sleep, I noticed that my contractions were feeling more painful and were coming at more regular intervals.
After about an hour or so of monitoring my contractions, I woke Daniel and told him that I thought I was in labor. It was time to go to the hospital. We woke my Mom so that she could come with us, while my Dad stayed at home to take care of our son.
The Fear Creeps In
I was surprised at how unsure I felt…this was my second baby, so I had assumed I was a seasoned pro! I didn’t even hire a doula this time (because I hadn’t wanted to spend the money…) I had assumed that since I already “knew the ropes” that I wouldn’t need one.
As I began to realize that I might actually be in labor…I also began to grasp the inevitability of what was about to happen. And I felt a new kind of fear creep in. I realized that I had never gone into labor naturally…I had been induced. I had never labored naturally…I had gotten an epidural.
I didn’t even know if I was far enough along in my labor that I should go to the hospital! But I could already tell that my fear was making the contractions even more painful. So we left for the hospital.
Going to the Hospital
Worst. Drive. Of. My. Life.
And it was only about 15 minutes away.
Even now, I occasionally have flashbacks when I drive down the road leading to that hospital, especially in the spots that were the bumpiest. The road doesn’t feel particularly bumpy when I’m completely unpregnant. But when I was hugely pregnant and having a contraction? It was pure misery.
At the Hospital
We arrived at the hospital, and they called the doctor. He said he wanted to make sure my labor was progressing before they admitted me. Now that I was at the hospital, there was no doubt that I was feeling highly anxious, and desperately wishing I had hired a doula!
I kind of wanted an epidural right away. But since I hadn’t been admitted yet, they wouldn’t give it to me. Instead, they offered me an opioid medication (I can’t remember which one) to help “take the edge off”. It was a muscular injection, and I accepted.
Shortly after it kicked in, I regretted my decision. I felt loopy, slightly nauseous, and hazy…but my contraction pain felt exactly the same. In my opinion, it seemed like I got all the side effects without any of the benefits. I decided not to request another dose…ever.
After a while, the nurse came back to do a vaginal exam, and confirmed that I was further dilated at 4 cm. That meant I could be admitted for real.
I’ve Gotta Pee!
Sometime around 3am, I was officially admitted and given an IV. I was still feeling highly anxious, and was more than ready to get an epidural! So much for my natural birth.
I remember that I had to pee really badly by this point, so Daniel helped me walk to the bathroom with the IV pole. I sat on the toilet, but was having trouble relaxing enough between contractions to let myself pee. And obviously I couldn’t relax enough during contractions, either!
After a few unsuccessful minutes in the bathroom, and nurse popped her head in and said, “The anesthesiologist is available on the floor, if you want an epidural then now would be a good time because otherwise you never know when he will be available again!”
I immediately hopped up from the toilet…without ever peeing…and waddled back to the hospital bed, IV pole still in tow.
I don’t remember much about the epidural, and the memories that I do have might be blending together with the memories of my epidural from my first pregnancy. Suffice to say, it was uncomfortable having to lean forward over my fat belly (and full bladder!) AND hold still during contractions, all while the anesthesiologist poked a needle in my back!
After the epidural, I was stuck in bed. Which was fine, because I also couldn’t feel my contractions
anymore! One thing I am definitely thankful for, is that I have had very effective epidurals without any negative side effects!
I was feeling extremely thirsty by now, however. And of course the hospital policy did not allow me to eat or drink anything during labor. However, I was allowed to have ice chips. So Daniel spoon fed me ice chips between contractions.
Ice chips are better than nothing, but they’re a poor substitute for a big glass of water when you’re thirsty!
Around 5:30am, a nurse came in to do a vaginal exam and check my dilation. She was joking that her nickname was “Pitocin Fingers” because laboring moms always progressed faster after she checked their cervix 😉 I was exhausted from being awake all night, and ready to see Baby Girl as soon as possible.
Baby Girl is Born!
The nurse wasn’t lying, because less than an hour later I was ready to push! I proved that my first birth wasn’t fluke, and that I really AM an efficient pusher (do they give out awards for that?). After only a few pushes (and an unwanted episiotomy…again), Baby Girl was out of my body and onto my chest.
Daniel was able to cut the cord, and the OB sewed up my episiotomy. Baby Girl and I were able to successfully start breastfeeding, and all was well.
After everything was settled and we looked at the time, Daniel asked my permission to go to work! It sounds bad when I put it that way, but it was for a good reason…he had to complete his Physical Readiness Test (PRT) for the Navy, and this was the last day he had to complete it without having negative repercussions. My mom was with us, and I was exhausted and wanted to rest anyway, so I was more than happy to give him permission to leave and take care of that.
On another note, I apparently forgot to get another placenta picture 🙁
The Easiest Way to Empty Your Bladder…
Before the epidural completely wore off, the nurse came in and suggested that she do a “straight cath” to empty my bladder. I agreed, and so she threaded a catheter (aka a small rubber tube) up my urethra and into my bladder so that the urine could drain into the catheter bag.
One and a half catheter bags later, the nurse laughs and says “You had a really full bladder!!” Honestly, I’m surprised I was able to push Baby Girl out at all, given how full my bladder was! Guess I should have made more of an effort to pee before I got the epidural…
“By the Way, Since You’re a Redhead…”
Before they transferred me from my labor room to my postpartum room, I noticed the nurse hanging a new bag on my IV pole.
Me: “What’s that? More IV fluid?”
Nurse: “No, it’s pitocin”
Me: “I thought that was only for inductions? Why do I need it after birth?”
Nurse: “Well, you’re a redhead, and redheads are more likely have extra bleeding postpartum. Pitocin helps your uterus contract more so that you’ll be less likely to hemorrhage.”
Me: “Okaaay…” (But I was secretly thinking: “NOOOO! I thought I was going to avoid the pitocin this time since I didn’t need an induction!”)
After they moved me to the postpartum room, I requested that they stop the pitocin because I felt like I was having worse contractions than I had during real labor. They insisted on leaving the pitocin on until it finished, but turned down the drip rate…so it would last longer? 🤷♀️
I should have hired a doula.
Doula’s are the bomb!
In my effort to save a buck, I assumed that I wouldn’t need additional childbirth support since I had already had a baby once. Big mistake!
Doula’s are worth their weight in gold. If I had hired a doula for my second birth, I think that I wouldn’t have felt as fearful OR as anxious. I might have been able to hold out on the epidural for a little longer (or completely).
I might have been able to pee on the toilet, instead of been straight cath’ed and filling one and a half foley bags, too.
I wish I would have declined the Pitocin. Other than the fact that I was a redhead, there was absolutely no indication that I was going to bleed more than average. In fact, in my future births, I discovered that I have the tendency to bleed a little less than average.
I should have exercised my right to decline the Pitocin. Healthcare providers are trained to use their assessment skills, and in this situation they chose instead to use a “cookie cutter” intervention on me. I would have preferred to wait and assess whether I really needed Pitocin…I doubt I would have needed it.
Notes About My Medical Record
There is nothing in my medical record about the phone argument between me and my OB. Zero indication that I ever wanted to decline a scheduled induction. Not even a mention that he threatened me with “Against Medical Advice.”
I don’t even know what else to say about all that.
But the Biggest Lesson Had Nothing to Do with Childbirth…
I will never forget the feeling of coming face to face with my own spiritual weakness. Knowing full well that I was consciously choosing my own path instead of God’s, and feeling completely broken over it.
I realized that I do not have nearly as much faith or trust in God as I would like to pretend.
If I had full trust in God, and had felt sure that God was telling me to cancel that induction (and I did feel that way!)…then I should have been willing to obey without hesitation. The fact that I was afraid meant that I didn’t fully trust that He had the best plan for me. All I could see was “Against Medical Advice”, financial worries, and uncomfortable conversations.
Three Things I’m Thankful For
This was not the only time in my life that I have keenly felt my lack of spiritual courage, but it’s one moment in time that will always stand out in my memory. I hope that I will use this memory to be braver in the future whenever I face a situation where God is telling me to do something that doesn’t make practical sense…at least, doesn’t make practical sense from my limited, human perspective.
In fact, I think this experience has already shaped me in that way. And for that I’m grateful that God cares enough about me to shape me to be more like his Son (Romans 8:28-29)
Aaaand…I’m also grateful that He made me go into labor that night, so that I could ultimately avoid the whole entire situation 😉 That’s just another example of His grace!