Dr. Dina shares her (unexpected) experience of going into labor for the first time.
One might think that, as a doctor, I would be well prepped for my first delivery. Pain would be managed, labor would be fast and painless, and I’d come out with a beautiful, healthy baby on the other end. Thankfully, some of this was true.
But not all.
I am a planner. I like living in a comfortable zone of predictability and organization. My days are planned in advance, often by the minute (literally), and I like it this way. I thrive this way. Moms the world over can probably agree with me, however: babies are usually the enemy of planning.
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Many weeks before I delivered my first baby, Dylan, I started feeling a lot of cervical pressure. Well, it felt like lightening bolts up there. Not pleasant, and not a symptom I was warned about. Turns out friends and family often avoid sharing the gross, painful, albeit painful details of pregnancy and labor to keep from scaring people off!
At 38 weeks, I finally asked my obstetrician to take a peek. Was it just the baby descending, or was there something wrong? Turns out I was dilating… a lot. By 38 weeks I was 7 cm dilated (women are at 10 cm when they deliver!). By the next week, I was then 9 cm dilated. My water hadn’t yet broken, but could any minute. Not a reassuring exam, for sure.
The next two weeks went by with me thinking I was about to deliver. Every Braxton Hicks contraction came with a moment of panic. Is the baby coming!? Is this the day?
My type A, ultra-preparedness mentality had me prepare kits for home and the gym in case I went into labor. But my doctor’s mentality (and perhaps my hormones) had me add sterile gloves, an umbilical cord clamper, stitches and pads, all in case I was delivering on my own. It was insane, really. I didn’t want to be in labor without having done some prep work of course!
Incidentally, I have made these kits for my 2 subsequent pregnancies as well; I am that crazy.
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By 39 weeks and 6 days pregnant, I had not yet gone into labor. I was very dilated and nervous. I was still living my life, spinning and working daily, but my brain was sure I’d be delivering any minute. So my doc, who I adore, decided to bring me into the hospital, break my water and let nature decide if the baby was ready to come. We rolled into the hospital on Oct 7, 2010, ready to have the baby we have waited for these 9 months, thinking this would be a great delivery. There’d be time for the epidural, and I’d be in comfort all the way.
We were wrong.
My doctor broke my water at 5:30 PM and left to attend a cesarean delivery down the hall. As she left, she said nonchalantly, “See you in a couple hours!”
Um, no. Immediately after having my water broken, I went into active labor. Very active labor. The monitor started screaming with contraction spikes, and I was… uncomfortable, to say the least.
What happened next no one talks about. But I will. No nonsense, right? I had the sudden urge to poo. Like really bad. I spent the next 20 min in the washroom, letting everything go. Every spoonful of end-of-pregnancy ice cream, every late night French fry, every-tha-ing. I was in a lot of pain, but empty at least (silver lining: I had always feared pooping on the delivery table, another thing no one talks about, which was now a non-issue).
I had asked for an epidural. I had now been in labor about 30 min. Time was ticking. The anesthesiologist came in, and asked 100 questions. Was I healthy? Yes. Did I have one of a thousand medical illnesses? No, I already said I was healthy.
And, um, I was in A LOT of pain, could we get the show on the road?
15 min later, she tries to place the epidural. I was very round, in very active labor, cramping immensely, and now leaning over the edge of the bed with my feet dangling. She tried four times, to no avail. I was hurting. My feet were numb. I couldn’t believe I had to stay hunched over like this in such a late stage of labor. It was horrible.
And then as she places the epidural, and says it will work, I feel him coming. Like really coming. I call out to her, “He’s crowning!” She says, no way. It turns out, when you don’t have an epidural and your baby is coming, you have no choice but to push. I couldn’t hold him in even if I wanted to. And believe me, I wanted to give that epidural a chance to work.
Without even putting the meds into the epidural, the anesthesiologist runs out of the room, literally terrified, and calls for the obstetrician. My husband and I are left in the room. He has the video camera in hand. I tell him I HAVE to push. He says, “OK, let me hold your leg.”
And with that, holding the camera in his right hand and my leg over his left shoulder, I push and out flies Dylan, after 10 seconds of pushing, into Andrew’s (non-sterile) left hand. He catches him, puts him on my tummy, and I dry him off with my gown. It is now 7:05 pm. Literally two minutes later, my doc runs in the room and yells, “What, you couldn’t haven’t waited five minutes for me?!”
Incidentally, all of this was caught on camera: the craziness of delivering my first baby 90 minutes within my water breaking, no doc in the room, my husband catching him while holding a video camera. Can you beat that?
So you see, even a doctor can’t manage to perfectly plan going into labor for the first time. Thank goodness Dylan was safe and healthy. I was in a good hospital with excellent doctors and nurses. But in my case they weren’t really needed (at least not for this delivery).
I would love to hear your birth stories! The good, bad, and ugly! We all have them!
Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.