Monday, August 6, 2012

Reader Birth Story: A Precipitous Birth

Good Monday to you all. Today we have a special guest post from Snehal Naik, a college classmate of mine. Snehal tells us about the rather unusual circumstances of her daughter's birth. 
At my first childbirth education class the instructor went around the room asking all the women what they were most worried about. Her goal was to make sure she allayed each of our fears during the course. My answer was completely different from everyone else’s: I was afraid I would be in labour and not know it. She assured me that my fear was unfounded. At my 36-week checkup when I repeated the concern to the midwife, she too told me that it was very highly unlikely. Perhaps it was my particular situation that made this fear so acute for me- at the time my husband worked in another state and I would commute a 100 miles daily by car.  My head was full of ideas of having to deliver my baby by myself in my car on the highway or on the bathroom floor, even as my screams went unheard.  But every single person I expressed this concern to told me it was unfounded; since this was my first child, I would surely have plenty of time to get to the hospital and get my husband to rush back too.

On the last day of week 37, I woke up at 4 am to use the bathroom. The instant I climbed back into bed I felt a rush of something and, thinking my water had broken, rapidly waddled back into the bathroom. To my horror, it wasn’t amniotic fluid but blood. I yelled for my husband to call the doctor and get dressed- we were going to the hospital. We were there in 15 mins with nothing but the clothes on our backs, we left two days later with our daughter.  As soon as the midwife finished examining me she exclaimed, “You’re fully dilated, you’re ready to push!” I think my response was something along the lines of, “No, no my baby isn’t due for another 2 weeks, I’m just here to stop this bleeding and then I’m going home.”  They showed me the full-strength contractions on the monitor and kept asking me again and again if I felt anything? No! I had felt nothing at all- the hours of agonizing pain that I had braced for before I would be hearing those exact words the midwife had greeted me with- they never happened. A mere 12 hours before being wheeled into the OR (a precaution due to the bleeding) I was at my baby shower.  I had literally slept through 10 cms of dilation and to everyone’s utter surprise I was, in fact, in labour and did not know it! I watched the monitor with surreal interest as the nurse’s aide told me, “Look here comes another contraction!”  Without the monitor, I would have no idea. I can only imagine how absurd that sounds to anyone who has ever experienced a contraction, and that too one in active labour!

The medical term for what I experienced is precipitous birth- defined as labour lasting less than 3 hours. 5:12 AM I was wheeled into the OR, 7:12 AM I heard that first screeching wail. There was of course no time for medication but I was just glad that I was able to deliver non-surgically.  They had to break my water for me and once that happened I experienced pain that I have no words to describe. Perhaps because I didn’t have the time everyone else spends in labour to prepare my body and mind, perhaps because she turned while coming out and I experienced back labour which is more painful- whatever the reason, I think I delivered in a state of shock. I skipped labour- lucky, unusual, blessed, whatever you want to call it.  I certainly feel blessed that everything turned out fine- it was before office hours and a Sunday so I was not alone, my daughter was healthy despite the bleeding being from a placental infarct, and my doctor and midwife made sure I got every chance to deliver non-surgically even in that unusual circumstance.  I also feel amazed when I think back to my number one concern during the pregnancy- was it instinct or pure coincidence?  My husband wanted a refund on our childbirth education classes. I simply hope that anyone else out there who has an unusual concern about their pregnancy finds a way to prepare for that circumstance no matter how far-fetched it seems. Surely anything’s possible if you can be in labour and not know it!
Snehal is the mother of a two-year old, a molecular geneticist by training, and a research scientist by profession. Thankfully she only commutes 15 miles now, but her husband continues to work in a different state. Discussions on part-time single parenting or the effects of a traveling parent on a growing toddler are always of interest to her.

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