By Wanjiku Musindi, M.D.
I am a doctor, specifically a high-risk obstetrician. This means I take care of women with medical conditions that complicate their pregnancies. I love what I do, especially since most of the women I care for have very challenging experiences. Because I have a lot of practice dealing with these moms-to-be, who go through a lot, I felt pretty confident that I could handle anything that came along when I eventually got pregnant.
My husband and I were overjoyed when we found out we were expecting our first child. We decided not to learn the gender of the baby so it would be a real surprise. I created a blueprint for my pregnancy and put into action all the advice I have given my patients over the years: I modified my eating habits, continued to exercise moderately, and took good care of myself. I was on track for the perfect delivery. Little did I know that, even with the best-laid plans, life could throw me a curveball.
At the beginning of the third trimester, I reviewed my delivery strategy with my obstetrician and felt very much in control. Then, at 37 weeks, on a day when I was scheduled for a routine doctor visit, I noticed that my baby wasn’t moving. The nurses performed a standard non-stress test, which involved placing monitors on my belly and tracing the baby’s heartbeat. Another monitor documented contractions.
It quickly became apparent that I was having contractions and that my baby’s heartbeat was lower during a couple of them. As a physician, I knew this meant that I would need to be induced to deliver the baby that day. But, as a mother, I was in denial. How could my perfect pregnancy plan be falling apart? What was happening to my baby? Was he or she all right?
I started to cry. For the first time, I realized I couldn’t control anything that was happening. For the first time, I was scared. Looking back, I think that although I possess all the knowledge about pregnancy and the correct procedures, I found it emotionally difficult to accept that everything was changing so quickly.
The doctor induced labor and broke my water. To keep track of the baby’s heartbeat and my contractions, she inserted an internal monitor. Over time, I relaxed and stopped feeling scared; I knew I was getting the best care. When it was time to push, I thought about the instructions I had given my patients about pushing and put them into action. I delivered in 19 minutes!
The first thing I saw was my baby’s head, which was full of hair, then his back and butt. My husband told me it was a boy and I again started to cry—this time, tears of joy. Our son began to wail and I held him close to my body as he squirmed. He opened his eyes and looked into mine, and I fell in love.
Wanjiku Musindi, M.D., an assistant professor at The Ohio State University, lives in Columbus, OH, with her family.