My birth story isn’t for the faint of heart. I hesitate to share it with new moms or those who are easily angered. Truth be told, my birth story is, for many, a worst nightmare come true. It has been nearly 6 years since my water broke at the doctor’s office two days past my due date. Actually it didn’t break, it BURST. No simple leak with me but an audible pop and a huge mess. A test at the office confirmed that not only had my water broken, but there was a presence of meconium. A nurse kindly directed us to go straight to the hospital and to skip the trip to Target we had planned for that afternoon.
I wasn’t ready for labor to start. My hospital bag wasn’t fully packed, much less sitting in the back of the car. My carefully crafted birth plan wasn’t printed. My doula was on an airplane. I was in shock.
We got to the hospital and after a bit of confusion, I was finally shown to a room and given a gown. After checking me, the nurses didn’t want to admit me since I wasn’t having any contractions. However, since there was a possibility of baby being in distress, the doctor insisted. Going through the early stages of labor in the hospital was NOT in the birth plan. But I was soon to learn that my birth plan was nothing more than a wish list, and that in birth, as in in life, wishes aren’t always granted.
10 am on Tuesday November 6th I was admitted into the hospital and labored naturally for roughly nine hours. I got in the tub, used the birthing ball, and tried different positions in the bed all to no avail. While I was progressing, I was in unbearable pain and eventually asked for IV drugs. For the next 4 hours or so I labored in a haze. My husband says I rested some, but I still was feeling every contraction. I was just unable to communicate that to him.
1 am on Wednesday November 7th my body was ready to call it quits. After 15 hours of labor my body had stopped progressing. At 16 hours of labor my body actually started regressing. My contractions were nearly nonexistent. At this point I had also been on antibiotics for 16 hours and there was concern about my and baby's health. I stopped the IV meds so we could talk through options and eventually agreed to Pitocin and an epidural. This was is no way my first choice. It was the opposite of what I had wanted for so many reasons. I had heard all the horror stories about both drugs and knew all the reason NOT to take that course of action. To add to the matter, we were entirely self-pay, and the cost of the drugs was not something I wanted to think about. That being said, the other options seemed even higher risk, so we moved forward with the drugs.
2 am, I finally slept. With the Pitocin doing its job, my body was once again progressing and with the epidural I was able to rest my, now very tired, body. I hadn’t slept in close to 24 hours and hadn’t eaten anything other than a bagel in close to 30.
5 am, the nurses came in and woke me up and encouraged Josh and I to get comfortable. Baby was coming soon and we were going to start pushing soon.
6 am, the doctor came in and we start pushing. We pushed. And we pushed. And we pushed. And we pushed.
8 am, the doctor’s shift changed and the new doctor came in to check on me. He was worried that my water had been broken for 24 hours and that because of the presence of meconium, I had also been on antibiotics that long. He was also concerned that after two hours of pushing, we hadn’t made more progress. He asked me to consider a c-section. I refused, convinced that if given the chance my body would do what it is designed to do.
10 am, I had been pushing for 4 hours. The doctor asked my husband to come see our daughter’s head. She was stuck. With each push, the top of her head smashed against my pelvic bone. A c-section was brought up again. I asked if they were able to use forceps or suction. Those options were discussed and exhausted. Each push put Abi under more stress. I’m still fighting a C-section when a very loving nurse comes in close. She kindly, but firmly, explains that for whatever reason Abi cannot come out. We were unclear if it was her position, or something not right about my bone structure, but if I wanted a safe delivery for baby and me, a C-section was the only way. She told me I could wait, but that the baby could only handle so much stress. If I waited, the doctors would be forced to do a C-section because of baby’s heart rate (or mine) showing problems. They gave me a little longer to talk with Josh. He called my dad and we explained the situation to him and to my mom. Josh put the phone on speaker and held it over my head while my dad prayed for my safety, the safety of the baby, and wisdom for our doctors. The choice for a C-section was made.
11:30 am Wednesday, November 7th, my dear baby girl Abi Lee was born via c-section and placed in her daddy’s arms. She had a black eye and the top of her head was bruised and swollen where she pushed against my pelvic bone for over 4 hours.
I am moved to the recovery room and kept company by a compassionate nurse. “We do this every day, and it’s safe, so to us it feels normal. But you just went through major surgery. It’s traumatic. It’s ok to be emotional.” Eventually Josh made his way back to me. The ordeal has been taxing and emotional for him as well. The last time he saw me was on a table covered in blood. He needed to see with his own eyes that I was ok. He held my hand, assuring himself that I was, indeed, okay.
Recovering from a C-section is an interesting experience. Not only are you adjusting to motherhood, learning to nurse and all the other normally post birth stuff, you are also recovering from major abdominal surgery and coping with the loss of an ideal. I was comfortable and okay with the choice I made for my first birth. I knew it was necessary for the health and safety of my child. I made the choice to put my own comfort and desires aside and do what was best for my little one. I acted like any mother would.
While I was comfortable with my choice with Abi, I was forced to face it in a new way 19 months later when I wanted to travel late in my second pregnancy. My doctor asked to check me before approving a 8 hour drive. In the process, it was discovered that Maddie had dropped. However, to the doctor’s disappointment, my body was not adjusting as it should.
The entire pregnancy we had assumed we would do a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean). It was my first choice and the first choice of my OB, as well. Now, for the first time, we had to discuss a repeat C-section. She gently told me I needed to prepare myself emotionally for the possibility of a repeat C-section. She was willing to attempt a VBAC, but wanted me to know the complications my body was presenting.
Once again, my husband and I were faced with a complicated choice. We knew the complications on both side. Thankfully this time we were able to take our time. We took a few days to talk, pray and research. Eventually everything seemed to be pointing in the same direction -- we would go with a scheduled C-section.
I am now in my third pregnancy and each time I learn more about my own body. Together the doctors and I have made discoveries about how my body works and what my internal bone structure looks like.
I will never have a natural birth. And yes, there are moments where I feel a sadness about that.
I am not unaware of the risks involved in multiple c-sections. It’s something my husband and I have talked about at length and taken into consideration when discussing how many children we would like to have.
I am not unaware of the stigma around c-sections (both emergency and scheduled). I have experience firsthand the ridicule and opinions of complete strangers telling me what I did “wrong” in my birth experiences.
BUT I am abundantly thankful that c-sections and repeat c-sections are an option. There was a time when a situation like mine would have ended horribly. Instead, I got a happy ending. I had not one but two beautiful, healthy daughters and, God-willing, will deliver my third in late July.
It would be easy to feel bitter or angry about my situation, but rather I choose gratitude. I choose to thank God for doctors and nurses who speak love into painful situations and gave me the best chance at having what every mother desires, a healthy child.
To find more information and support about Cesarean birth, visit title="ICAN">http://blog.ican-online.org/