The Gory Details, Part 2: Til Tuesday

On the Monday preceeding my appointment with Dr. Beshara (that would be November 22), I'd had about two hours of consistent contractions, and I started to wonder whether I was in labor. Since my strategy was to labor as long as possible at home before heading to the hospital, it didn't much matter; I figured if the contractions got more intense and closer together as the day went on, or if my water broke, I'd call Al at work and the doctor. Eventually the contractions subsided, and I went about the rest of my day as usual.

When we got the news that the baby was breech and that we were headed for a C-section, Dr. Beshara asked about whether I'd been having any strong contractions. I mentioned the Monday session, and the fact that I was more likely to wait too long to go to the hospital than show up with false labor. Dr. Beshara's response: "Don't wait. If you see any signs that you might be in labor, go to the hospital."

All of a sudden, all the signs of labor beginning—signs that I'd been looking forward to with great excitement—became things I wanted to avoid at all costs. My belly, which I'd been looking at as a birthday cake someone might jump out of and yell "surprise!", was now a ticking time bomb.

So when my mucus plug fell out on Thursday night, I didn't know whether to be excited or afraid. I resolved to call the nurse at my OB practice the next day and ask. The problem was that, like most offices around the country, the OB's was closed on the day after Thanksgiving. I felt silly having to page the doctor on call for something that might be nothing, but the guy manning the answering service switchboard assured me that it was better to be safe than sorry. When he said that it was my least favorite doctor who was on call, however, I almost called the whole thing off.

The doctor returned my page about 35 minutes later and said that my mucus plug falling out was no big deal, and not to call unless I was in active labor or my water broke. Since these are the guidelines for when to call if you're heading for a vaginal delivery, and they seemed to contradict Dr. Beshara's "don't wait" advice, I didn't know what to think. I decided to just go about my day as planned and see what happened. The plan was to go to BJ's, ACME (aka Albertson's), and Home Depot to stock up for the recovery from surgery, buy some parts for a few home repairs, and pick out a Christmas tree. If we had time, we'd go to the Han Ah Reum in New Jersey to buy a case of Korean pears.

Meanwhile, I was now peeing at least once an hour if not more, and about every third time I went, more of the mucus plug fell out. Who knew there was so much brownish glop in there? My sister called mid-morning to see how I was doing, and I reported on the mucus plug and the advice from the doctor. "You do realize," she said, "that if you'd gotten a different doctor, you might have gotten different advice, right?" Thinking of Dr. Beshara, I responded in the affirmative. "If I were you," she continued, "I'd spend the day on the couch and act as if the doctor had ordered bed rest. It certainly couldn't do any harm." I conceded her point.

Al went out to BJ's, ACME, and Home Depot without me, though he opted not to shop for a Christmas tree. I wouldn't let him go to New Jersey because I was nervous that labor would start, and he'd be too far away. I spent most of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on the couch, alternately watching the original Star Wars movies with Al and the first season of '24' on DVD. The rest of the time I spent sitting on the birth ball or clutching the stand-up mirror in the living room, attempting to breathe through increasingly intense contractions that sometimes lasted upwards of 10 minutes. "Where... the... hell.... is... the... peak???" I panted. There are still index cards and receipts littered about the house with contraction counts on them; some only list a single, 5-minute-long contraction, while others list 10 or more with intervals ranging from 1 minute to 12 minutes.

Despite this, labor never did seem to progress, and my water never broke. On Monday morning I was going a bit stir crazy, and I had a library book that was due that day, so Al and I walked, very slowly, to the library, the Whole Foods, and back before returning to the couch.

At around 1:30 we left for our appointment with Dr. Chen, who turned out to be just as nice and just as calm as he'd appeared on the episode of Birth Day. We were surprised, however, when he brought up the subject of attempting an external version. He said Dr. Beshara had talked to him about the amniotic fluid levels being on the low side of normal, but he said if we wanted, they could measure the fluid again on Tuesday morning and see if an external version were possible. We wanted to know what would happen if we went that route. Dr. Chen explained that if the procedure were successful and did not cause fetal distress, we'd be sent home to await the onset of labor; if was not successful and did not cause fetal distress, we'd proceed with the C-section that day (although probably later in the afternoon rather than at our scheduled time of 9am); and if it caused fetal distress, regardless of whether it succeeded or not, I'd be rushed to the OR for an emergency C-section under general anesthesia. We said we'd have to think about it. In any case, Dr. Chen said I should stay off my feet until it was time to leave for the hospital in the morning. (I guess my sister was right; the morning walk was probably not such a good idea, but the weekend spent watching '24' had been.)

We discussed our options later that night, and as appealing as being able to have the vaginal birth we'd originally planned for would be, there were several downsides to attempting external version: (1) the procedure is usually extremely painful, and Dr. Chen preferred to do it without the use of an epidural so that he could gauge whether he was hurting me too much; (2) the baby might be breech for a reason, and by attempting to turn him by force, we might cause fetal distress by entangling him in the umbilical cord or by some other means; (3) we'd finally come to terms with the inevitable C-section, and having to change mindsets back to awaiting the onset of labor was a U-turn I'm not sure either of us could handle; and (4) we'd already told our parents that the baby would be born on November 30. All the "have you had the baby yet???" phone calls we'd hoped to avoid now might happen anyway if the version were successful. I think we were both hoping that the fluid levels would be low enough to take the decision out of our hands, since it was obvious that Dr. Chen had a bias toward attempting the version.

We set our alarms for 5:30am (me) and 6am (Al) and went to bed at around 8:30 or 9 that night, wondering if we'd actually meet our baby the next day, and if so, under what circumstances.

Posted by Lori in austen's birth story and pregnancy at 2:47 PM on December 10, 2004