One of my first thoughts after the Clearblue stick read “Gravid” was, “Oh shit. I have to give birth.” As much as I have always wanted a baby, I have always had a fear of childbirth.
I didn’t ever think I’d be one to want to have a natural delivery, but I had resolved to try it back during the first month of pregnancy, when I discovered Ina May Gaskin and her books. An induction might have been nice for convenience, but I really was more scared of the drugs/process and didn’t want something so planned. I didn’t go to any birth classes, or read everything that I’m sure I could have, I didn’t do my hypnobirthing as much as was recommended, and I felt like I should’ve done more yoga, too. Despite all of this, I did feel like I could give birth medication/intervention-free because, hell, I was a D-I rower and I know what it takes to win a National Championship…I could probably get myself through the pains of labor. If ever there is a place to try for a natural delivery, Sweden is it.
I had to make natural childbirth normal in my mind, and change everything I’ve ever known about how that process goes. So, I just surrounded myself with positive birth stories and tried not to think about it too much. I would trust what the midwives told me to do.
A week and a half before Porter was born, I’d had my last scheduled midwife appointment, which was 2 days past my due date. My blood pressure was a bit high so my midwife made one more appointment, at 41 weeks, for her to check it again. She also scheduled my induction date two weeks from then, at what would be 42 weeks 0 days (or 42 weeks 1 day as the Americans would say it).
Unlike in America, Swedish midwives don’t even think of induction until past 42 weeks, and unless there is an indication of something to worry about, they don’t monitor anything. There was no offer of membrane stripping at regular appointments, or anything else to get the ball rolling. There was no ultrasound to check amniotic levels or placental health. I had had a perfectly healthy pregnancy (aside from slightly high blood pressure) so everything was really hands-off.
At 40 weeks 6 days (and a week before he was born), I woke up early to very little fetal movement. This was somewhat rare for these last weeks. Though this baby was practically still (it seemed) for 9 months, his movements had started to become regular and frequent in the last weeks. I have the My Baby’s Beat app on my iPhone that I used regularly to listen to his heartbeat – for reassurance and fun – and my phone wasn’t picking it up either this morning. I freaked out. So, a call was made to förlossningen (labor and delivery) to see what they would say, and they had me come in to be monitored.
The idiot that I am, I forgot to take my phone cover off while listening for the heartbeat – the only time I’ve ever forgotten (placenta brain + immanent-mommy brain, I guess). I immediately remembered this after the phone call to the hospital, but we decided to go in anyway. This would be our first visit to the place where I’d give birth, so at least now we’d know what to expect, and I also needed the reassurance that the baby really was OK. For the record…his heartbeat popped up right away once I checked without the phone cover…sigh.
I was monitored for a half an hour, and it was really awesome to hear his heartbeat for so long and watch myself have some Braxton Hicks contractions on the CTG screen. At the end of the 30 minutes, they also checked my blood pressure and urine, and everything was found to be perfectly healthy. A midwife offered to strip the membranes while we were there (to my surprise), and I was only too happy to have her do so – as any woman can understand who’s gone past her due date. She told me I was about 2 cm dilated at that point, so my body was getting ready. We were really hoping this would kick-start labor soon.
No such luck! That afternoon we picked up my Mom, who had flown in for 2 weeks to help us out. For her entire first week here we played tourist, or I should say she played tourist, while I basically went to fika with her every day as that was all I could really do.
The blood-pressure-monitoring midwife appointment came the next day, and turns out I didn’t need to go since I had just been to the hospital. At this point, it was just waiting until I went into labor or I went in for induction. Mom and I tried walking around town as much as possible every day to help get this guy out. One day, during lunch, I started experiencing “flimmers”, or eye disturbances, which is one of the main signs of pre-eclampsia. Being so far along, and hot and tired and huge and anxious, Mom and I cut lunch short, I called Matt home from work and we went back in to the hospital for more monitoring. I was hooked up to the CTG again, then seen by a doctor to check for pre-e, and again there was nothing to indicate any problems. We were advised to come in should it happen again. At this point, I really figured I’d have to wait to be induced and I did not want that.
I was getting desperate and my weekend phone call to my Dad made that clear. I was afraid that something would go wrong – even though Sweden has some incredible birth stats, I didn’t want to be that ONE person who had something go wrong because they let the baby stay in too long. All the American women on the baby message boards were being induced on, or just after, their due dates, and they all had opinions on waiting until 42 weeks for induction (that was “THAT IS TOO LONG!”). I was stressing out so much over this stupid crap that my Dad seriously suggested I call the hospital to ask if they could give me some reassurance that the baby was definitely healthy in there. Luckily…I didn’t have to make that call…