A few weeks ago I got a call from my doctor that a routine prenatal screening had turned something up. I had an asymptomatic GBS UTI (a bladder infection caused by Beta Strep that wasn’t causing me any discomfort). In the world of getting news from your doctor about a prenatal screening red flag, this is rather mild and straight forward: take an immediate course of antibiotics for a week (to prevent a kidney infection and preterm labor) and have an IV for antibiotics during labor (to prevent the baby from picking up the bacteria, which while still a rather rare complication can cause a very serious, and at times deadly, infection in little babies). A GBS UTI is a more serious form of what is a fairly common pregnancy complication, simply being GBS positive at your 36 week screening.
I, of course, promptly starting crying on the phone with my doctor. I was trying not to cry, which made it very difficult to manage to get any words out, and my doctor was so concerned about my gasping and splutterings that she said she’d call back the next day to check on me.
I wasn’t crying because I was worried about my baby getting sick (maybe that would have been a more appropriate response), I was crying because this was not a part of my plan. I did not want to have to go the hospital as soon as my water broke; I did not want to have to have an IV; I did not want to have my tiny little baby have antibiotics; I did not want to have an increased chance of developing thrush in the early postpartum weeks. I thought that I had at least 6 weeks to prepare for the GBS screening, and I was armed to the teeth with probiotics to try to escape, and here I was already caught.
Everything I had read about natural birth in a hospital setting seemed to start out with the same advice: do not go early and do not get an IV. On the phone that Tuesday afternoon in late September it felt like the natural birth that I had been preparing for was slipping away.
I already felt a little bad that we were planning on going to a hospital at all. But the decision was primarily financial: an out of hospital birth would, for our particular insurance situation, cost thousands more than simply going to the hospital, a great hospital with a fantastic NICU. It wasn’t really what I wanted, and yet I could not justify not going to the hospital and not following a protocol that has saved hundreds of babies’ lives over the years.
But there I think is the rub. There is no easy answer about where to give birth. There are no easy answers about what risks and preventative measures to take. There are only pros and cons, statistics, intuition, good advice, and prayers. There are no 100% guarantees of safety in birth, as in all of life.
I knew that if I surveyed my community—friends and family, online circles and offline acquaintances—that what each person would say I should and could do would be slightly different—from bewilderment as to why I would for a moment even consider not taking the most conservative medical approach to birth when my and my baby’s lives were on the line, or confusion as to why I was not simply under the care of a midwife who would not be fazed by such fear-mongering and super-bug producing hospital protocols for such a small fraction of a percent chance that something could go wrong.
But even though I knew that people would have different opinions as to what I could do, I knew that I needed to reach out and talk about my hurt and disappointment. So I wrote an email to some of my closest friends, and talked it through with the moms in my life. And yes, they had different opinions. Many of them were GBS positive during their deliveries—some didn’t mind the IV’s and had natural hospital births, others had epidurals, some hated the IVs, and some birthed at home in the water and used probiotics, garlic suppositories and Hibiclens.
But more than any of that — they really cared about me.
They cared about my bruised heart and my disappointed dreams. They promised to pray for my soul and my body. They wrote back such sweet words to me. They called me and listened to my frustrations. They gave me beautiful words to ponder and to take with me into the delivery room:
“Peace for your heart, sweet friend.”
“Extend Grace to your body.”
“May God comfort you with Deep Peace.”
“Be full of faith and gratitude.”
“God loves you and Evan and your baby and will supply all your needs.”
“God has you and your sweet babe in the palm of His hand.”
“I know you and Evan will make a good decision.”
The path of birth and motherhood can get so tangled with labels and judgement, mostly of ourselves and fear of what others think of us. I found it so uncomfortable to tell people I was going to do something not very crunchy like going to the hospital because I am normally the crunchiest person in the room by a healthy margin! Also, I found it so disheartening that I had another GBS UTI, something that I had a number of before I went Paleo, like somehow I had failed myself and my baby because I didn’t eat well enough or take enough probiotics.
But my friends remind me that those things—those ways that we want to have it all together, to be seen as healthy and strong and in control—those things are not the most important.
They remind me of the grace of God, of His provision for the weak, for the sickly, for the confused, for the human. We are all making our way through a life that is filled with choices and situations where there often is only a good and a slightly better option, or a bad and a slightly worse one.
All of that has not made me super confident I am choosing the right thing, or particularly pleased about the complication, or even justified in having these feelings which are such a small suffering compared to the real and great hurts of mothers around the world.
But I am grateful for this opportunity all the same. I am grateful for the doctor who caught the infection. I am grateful for the antibiotics that have kept babies healthy and alive. I am grateful for the good work of midwives who have helped create options and advocates for natural birth. But above all I am grateful to my friends. I am grateful to this sisterhood of women who care about me and my baby and who look forward with me to see the birth story that God is going to write for us over the next month.
When has your community surrounded you with love and grace in a time of fear and confusion for you?
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