A gut feeling. That little voice you can’t ignore. A mother’s intuition. Whatever you call it, you know what I mean. This is the story of my first child’s birth, and I hope that it reminds you of the importance of trusting yourself and being your own advocate, not just in medical situations but in life in general. Make your voice heard.
It was a blazing hot Friday in August. I was due in almost 3 weeks. Though I was miserable and should have been resting, something kept nagging me to put together the bassinet. We were planning to complete this last task over the weekend, but my nesting urge took over. I anxiously assembled it myself. That was the first sign I ignored. That night, we grabbed a pizza from Papa John’s. I felt something bizarre when I climbed out of the car. I told my husband, “Get the pizza. I think my water broke.” There was no puddle, nothing trickling down my leg, and my dress was completely dry–not at all what I expected. I was a little damp though, so we went to the hospital just in case.
I told the L&D triage nurse what happened, that I wasn’t quite due yet, and that I hadn’t noticed any signs of impending labor. She strapped the monitors around my belly. The baby’s heart was good. I wasn’t contracting. She looked under my drape, and without even touching me, declared, “I think what you felt in the parking lot was just you peeing on yourself.” This didn’t sound right to me. I was sure that wasn’t what I’d felt, but what did I know? After all, this was my first pregnancy. She was an experienced L&D nurse. I reasoned that she was the authority on the matter, and we left. Again, I dismissed myself.
Saturday morning, I was damp again. I’d never had episodes of incontinence before, yet I rationalized that it can be common in pregnant women. I continued to fight my intuition. I shrugged it off, changed the sheets, and went about my weekend. I woke up damp again Monday morning. Since my OBGYN was now back in the office, I popped in for a visit just in case. I briefed him on Friday night’s hospital visit and what had been happening. After an exam, he confirmed that my membranes had been ruptured for a while and that I had an infection. We were going straight to the hospital.
This time when they put the monitors on me, the baby’s heart rate wasn’t good. It had been SIXTY-EIGHT hours since my water broke at Papa John’s. He needed to come out quickly. Though we would both recover completely from an emergency c-section, I missed out on the birth experience I’d imagined. I was traumatized (and that trauma carried over to my next pregnancy). I still think about how much better things would have been if I’d gone with my gut and demanded an exam in the hospital.
While I can’t predict exactly what would have happened, I know that at least some of this was preventable. I knew my body. I knew something wasn’t right, but I ignored myself. I’m not excusing the triage nurse. She dropped the ball when she didn’t verify her assumption with an examination (and when it was all over, she faced some significant consequences). But I blew off all the signs. I silenced myself. I was certain someone else knew better. I endangered us because I didn’t trust my instincts.