I was 22 and single when I fell pregnant with my first child. I was living in South Africa at the time where there is no Medicaid or other health agencies for students. I thought that I would go through this pregnancy by myself and when it came time to deliver, would arrive at the nearest hospital and get them to admit me.
When I was about 6 weeks pregnant I was having a lot of pain and saw my GP. He thought that I might be having an ectopic pregnancy and recommended that I see an OB/GYN. Because he referred me, the cost would be covered for that visit.
I went to see Dr. Vrey. He checked me and said that everything was fine. He asked me about my plans for the pregnancy. When I mentioned that I couldn’t afford health insurance, he looked at me and said, “My partner and I generally do one pro-bono case a year. This year, we would like you to be our patient free of charge.” This would include all my visits, my hospital stay (in South Africa you generally stay in for 4 days with a vaginal birth and 10 for c-section), and any other costs that may be incurred during the birth.
My pregnancy was pretty easy. I suffered the usual indignity of morning sickness, and having to rush out of classes at short notice. I was extremely fit and cycled to and from the university and my part time job. At 16 weeks I discovered that I was having a boy. I was so excited. My due date was set for the 25th of October 1989, although I had worked it out to be the 3rd of November.
The 25th came and went. On the 30th of October (a Monday) I saw Dr. Vrey. He was a little concerned because it appeared that I had lost 6 pounds between Friday and Monday. He wanted to induce immediately, but the hospital was full. He set up an appointment for me on Wednesday, the 1st of November.
Early that morning, my friends drove to the hospital. My mother would be joining me once my father dropped her off on his way to work. At about 8:00am I was hooked up to the Pitocin drip and played the “Hurry up and wait” game. At about 8:30am my mother joined me. Periodically the doctor or the nurse would peek their heads around the door to see how I was progressing. At about 11:00am the nurse checked me and said that she was going to break my waters. I had seen the needle that they used and I was petrified! She left to get it and as she walked back into the room, I felt a gush of water! She laughed about that and said that was the first time she had ever had a patient who could lose their water on command!!
After that things moved pretty quickly. The contractions had been pretty hard. In my birthing classes the instructor had warned us that induced labour contractions could be different from “regular” labour. She was right. They would hit and peak simultaneously leaving no time to build up. I wanted to go “natural” though, with no medication.
Dr. Vrey came in at about 11:30am. He mentioned that he thought the baby was large. (I am only 5 feet tall and weighed next to nothing). Based on that he wanted to give me an epidural in case he needed to do an emergency c-section. I wasn’t thrilled by the idea, but figured, “What the heck, in for a penny, in for a pound.”
The technician came in and very quickly had the epidural going. I felt very drowsy and also very thirsty. I drank some pear juice (boy was that a mistake) and dozed off for the next couple of hours. At 1:30pm things started to happen. I was dilated to a 10, but I couldn’t feel a thing. So Dr. Vrey instructed me to check the monitor and when it started to rise, to push. That helped, but I still couldn’t push hard enough. He used a suction cup and at 2:15pm Warrick John made his appearance. So much for a big baby, he weighed in at 7lbs 3oz. After all the pummeling that Dr. Vrey did to get the placenta out, I threw up all the juice that I had drunk that morning.
As soon as Warrick as born, they placed him on my chest and let him lie there and suckle while they cleaned me up and stitched and wheeled me to my semi-private room. Only then did they take him and clean him up. During my stay there, they would only take him if I requested it. The one thing I didn’t like was that they were so scared of infection that I was allowed no visitors, except for my parents. My brother wasn’t even allowed in to the ward, let alone the room!
Seven years later I was ready to deliver again. This time I was in a different country, married and determined to go natural. Once again my OB/GYN told me that the baby was big. We knew we were having a girl. We wanted to find out because my husband really wanted a girl. My due date was the 21st of February 1996, a Wednesday. On the 19th of February I went to work as usual, but started having regular contractions. Because I am a computer trainer and on my feet all day, I decided to go on home (to the relief of my boss!!) As soon as I got home, all contractions stopped. I was scheduled to visit my doctor that afternoon. I was 2cm dilated and 50% effaced. He said that I would probably be right on time, but that I probably shouldn’t go to work the next day.
I spent Tuesday walking the mall, trying everything to start labour!! In the afternoon, we picked up Warrick and we went back to the mall. We ate there and returned home. My husband and I tried the age-old adage of having sex that night.
At 5:30am the next morning Terry left for work and I got up to shower and get ready for my day at home. At 6:00am I had a contraction. This isn’t real, I thought to myself, not having had “normal” contractions the last time I wasn’t sure what I expected. At 6:10am I had another, followed by a third at 6:15am. After that they were between 3 — 5 minutes apart, but they were only 30 — 45 seconds long. By 7:30am I could no longer contain myself, called my husband at work, told him it was time and then called my mother-in-law who was going to look after our son. (My mom lives in Las Vegas, we live in Michigan, so she was a little too far away).
By 8:30am all was ready and we drove to the birthing centre. We had chosen that route because the strongest pain reliever they would offer would be Stadel and I didn’t want an epidural again. We arrived at about 9:00am. My contractions were the same. When they checked me I was 5cm and 70% effaced. I was free to do what I wanted from that point. For a while I sat in the rocking chair and rocked during the contractions, doing crossword puzzles during the downtimes.
At 11:00am the nurse checked me and I was at 6cm. At that point the contractions became very strong and I had the need to walk and hold onto Terry during the contractions. I was having “double” contractions at that point. One would start to fade and immediately be replaced by another. At 11:35am, the nurse checked me again. I had told my husband just a minute before, I wanted to be transferred to the hospital to be given an epidural. The pain was intense at this stage. As the nurse was checking me I had the urge to push. Fortunately I was 10cm. From 6 to 10 in 30 minutes! With the first push, my water broke and with the second I could feel this incredible burning sensation. I turned to husband and wailed, “I can’t do this.” The OB/GYN attending (a woman who had had her first baby 6 months earlier) was very encouraging. The nurses were great, they were mopping my brow and encouraging me. Terry was a rock at this point, although he did confess later that he wanted to say, “Well, you have no choice, you can’t stop now.”
With the next push the head crowned, a full head of black hair (that is now red like mine!) and with the one after, Teagan Faye made her arrival into the world!! She weighed in at 7lbs! So much for another big baby! She arrived at 12:11pm and I was home again by 7:00pm, feeling great!
Our next girl, Hayley Claire is due on 24th August 1997, so we’ll keep you posted. Same birthing centre, same doctor and hopefully the same nurses!