It took 199 Contractions for 1 Vaginal Baby

Aktualisiert: 16. Aug 2019

I wasn’t worried about labor. Just the normal tension and fear of a first timer. I mean, billions of women have squeezed honeydew melon sized objects out of their vaginas, right? So why, in the midst of my 13-hour labor, in which I had to deal with poop and 199 painful contractions, did medical professionals make stress?

I delivered in a hospital that prides itself on having a low cesarean birth rate. In fact, that hospital doesn't accept any woman planning to have a c-section. Knowing that, I expected that the doctors and midwives would be as "hands off" as possible during labor.

When my contractions with Baby Paul Thor started I was transferred into a labor room that included a tub (so big that by the time it was full, I didn’t feel like getting in), a gymnastic ball, a rope (yes, a rope, and I stretched the hell out of it), even south facing windows with a view on a forest (because you’ll just sit and relax…?). During the following 13 hours it felt to me as if my husband and I were alone most of the time. Every four minutes I cramped up and couldn't help but scream through my contractions. I lost all sense of courtesy and ordered my husband in an unprecedented way: massage me, harder, softer, lower, higher, stop it, why aren't you massaging me. In my quest for relief I didn't make sense.

My biggest struggle was to keep breathing regularly during contractions. Every so often two midwives visited to poke and prod me a bit. In this hospital it was standard procedure to be attached to a CTG (cardiotograph), a machine that displays the fetal heartbeat and the uterine contractions. I was familiar with the CTG from the last six weeks of my pregnancy and despised it for having caused incredible stress, leading to a questionable emergency hospital visit.

So, there I was, having a déjà-vu moment, eight hours into labor. Unhappy with the machine's record of my baby’s heartbeat, the midwives kept fiddling with the belt wrapped around my lower abdomen. When the monitor kept blanking out, one of the midwives told me she would like to place an electrode on my baby's skull to enable better monitoring of his heartbeat. This procedure is called Internal Fetal Monitoring.

It was 3am, I was about a minute and a half into catching my breath after my last contraction knowing the next wave of pain was coming in about the same amount of time and the midwife was asking me to make a decision about whether or not she could put a probe into my baby’s skull, a procedure nobody had bothered to tell me about in the previous eight hours.

My husband and I both ignored the midwife and her question. A couple of contractions later, she repeated her request phrasing it as a recommendation.

"Are there risks?" I asked.

"No, it's a standard procedure, we do it all the time."

So why the heck didn’t you tell me about it when it didn’t feel like my anus and vagina were ripping apart?

After the next contraction, picturing a needle screwed into my baby's head, unsure what such a needle would look like and how it would even get there, I mumbled something like "I don't know, no" in a 'please don't ask me that again' tone. In the meanwhile my husband acted as if no one asked us a question and single-mindedly focused on telling me to breathe. So labor continued, the midwife left the room, and we never talked about the electrode again.

Today, this encounter feels very strange to me. How would it have been had I delivered in another hospital? Or even just with other midwives?

I'm glad that I listened to my gut, which probably was a result of rationalizing that, 1) the CTG never worked well for me/my baby during the weeks leading up to delivery, 2) I had an uncomplicated pregnancy, 3) I wasn't worried about my baby; as painful as labor was, it all felt "normal," 4) I knew interventions include risks, and 5) I've learned to carefully question the opinions of medical professionals throughout my life so far.

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