medicated birth

Recognizing C-Section Awareness Month: My Birth Story

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.

Maddie Grace

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.

Abi Lee

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Elena's Birth Story


July is birth story month at the Motherhood Collective. Reading the good, the bad, the ugly and the BEAUTIFUL experiences of other mothers gives us a real appreciation for the strength we have in childbirth. Hopefully these stories will inspire you. On January 6, 2012, I woke up at 2:30 am with what I was pretty sure were labor pains, but I had been fooled once and didn’t want it to happen again. I decided there was no need to wake anyone yet. I would record my contractions and wait until they were the 3 to 5 minutes apart for 2 hours (as instructed by the hospital). I was surprised I hadn’t disturbed my husband. Every time a contraction would come along I had to get out of bed. Luckily that early they were far enough apart I could fall back to sleep in between. It was about 4 am when they started getting close enough that I didn’t have time to fall back to sleep. I think it was about 5 am when all my moving around finally woke my husband. He asked if I was okay. I told him I was having contractions since 2:30 I remember saying, “I don’t think you’re going to work today.” As the contractions got closer, I tried to remember everything from our labor and delivery class. I was not doing a good job of relaxing through the pain. I’ll admit if I was able to relax during the contractions things may have gone differently.

At about 8 am I woke my mother and told her we were going to go to the hospital soon. I showered, let the dogs out and finished packing our bags. I tried to eat something since I knew it was going to be a long day but I was already nauseous and nothing was appetizing. Still I forced myself to choke down some Rice Chex and a couple pieces of banana. A little before 9 a.m. we were ready to go. Before we left, Jeff asked if we could stop at the bank he wanted to make a deposit. I know I said something along the lines of, “Uh, sure?” When on the inside I was thinking, “Seriously!?!?!?!”

No harm came from stopping at the bank first. We made it to the hospital and we in the Birthing Center Triage by about 9:30 am. I was 4 cm at that point. Elena’s heart rate dropped while we were in there. I knew what that meant; they would want to constantly monitor her heart rate, which meant I was going to be stuck in the hospital bed. I suppose I could have argued because part of my birth plan was to have mobility. Squatting was what was getting me through my contractions. Except, to be honest, I didn’t really want to argue. I knew I was in the homestretch, but anything could still happen. I’ve known a few people where the decreased heart rate meant the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck. To me that was a very scary thought. I wanted to make sure we knew if her heart rate got too low so we could do something about it. But by not arguing I had a much harder time saying no to an epidural.

A couple hours after we got to the hospital, the epidural was administered. I was around 6 cm by then. A few hours after that I was at about 8 cm and thought Elena would be here by dinnertime. Sadly, she came much later. Thinking back most of the day is a blur. I don’t know if it was lack of sleep or lack of food that made it that way. I remember my nurses coming in frequently asking me to change my position because Elena’s heart rate dropped again or they lost her heartbeat all together. I got sick a few times, and I still don’t know if it was the epidural or the fact I hadn’t really eaten all day. Gelatin a meal does not make. Haha! I’m not sure I’ll be able to eat Jello again for quite a while. I will say this, the epidural did make relaxing much easier. It was like night and day. I could move my legs a little bit, but didn’t feel a thing!

It was at about 8 cm when my labor stalled. Epidurals can do that to you. She hadn’t dropped any and my contractions were not as effective anymore. They broke my water to see if that would allow Elena’s head to drop and apply pressure for better contractions. Once they broke my water they inserted an internal fetal monitor for a couple of reasons. First, they wanted a more accurate reading of Elena’s heart rate and second, they kept losing her heart rate so this was a way to ensure it wasn’t lost again. Even without the padding from the amniotic sac, Elena did not drop any lower and the strength of my contractions did not change. They started administering Pitocin to try and get the contractions going again.

Elena’s heart rate was still a concern but since the doctor saw some progress, he said we could wait and see if I delivered vaginally. Dinnertime came and went. I finally hit 10 cm. I don’t remember what time it was. I only remember it was dark outside, which doesn’t really mean much in January. The nurse didn’t want me to start pushing until she knew the doctor was out of surgery. So we proceeded to wait. Again my sense of time was gone by then, I feel like it was an eternity we waited. I was starting to feel my contractions, but by no means were they as bad as when we had first arrived.

It was finally time to push. By this point I was so tired and wasn’t even sure I’d be able to push. Elena was still high and they wanted to see if I could get her to come down by pushing. I pushed some and threw up between each push. Elena wasn’t budging. I was starting to feel really out of it and couldn’t catch my breath. While I took a “pushing break” the doctor came in to reassess the situation. He took one look at me and at Elena’s heart rate and determined it might be time to do a caesarian section. The ultimate choice was mine, but that was his suggestion. Although I had wanted a vaginal birth, I conceded. I didn’t feel like I had any energy left to continue and I was worried about Elena.

The nurses moved fast to get me ready for surgery. We had a couple of hiccups due to my allergies, but we got everything straightened out pretty quick. I honestly don’t remember much about going into surgery. I was given some additional pain meds in my IV and was asked to verify why I was there. I also remember a pediatrician introducing herself to me, but I don’t remember her name. They put up the blue curtain and that was probably the scariest part for me. My mother had mentioned what it was like for her when she went for her C-section and as soon as they set me up I understood why she felt the way she did. Along with the anticipation of meeting our child, I was full of anxiety. I was lying on the operating table that was not very wide with my arms stretched out at my sides. It didn’t hurt or anything, it just felt unnatural. It also made me feel like maybe I’m just a tad claustrophobic.

Jeff was finally let in to the OR and that helped me feel better. At least I wasn’t going through this alone. I still couldn’t wait to meet our little girl. I remember I wanted to see what was happening so I’m glad Jeff was able to take pictures. Believe it or not one of my favorite pictures is one Jeff took of Elena being pulled out. I think I will always remember what the doctor said once he saw her. He said, “You aren’t very big, just stubborn.” I had been afraid we were having a tiny baby since throughout my pregnancy I was told I looked small. But I wasn’t thinking that at the time, I remember saying something about how she’s like her parents. It was 10:33 pm when we heard her cry yet surprisingly that’s not at the top of my list for most memorable. I think the most memorable thing to me was actually hearing the wonder in Jeff’s voice as he pointed out what we “made.” I don’t remember the exact words he used but the sentiment just about brought me to tears. I was so happy when I saw how happy and proud he was. Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face.

I saw Elena quickly before they whisked her off. I don’t feel like I had enough time to get my emotions in order when I saw her that first time. I think it may have been relief. I spent my entire pregnancy worried something would go wrong. After it all, here she was and she was perfect.

Jeff left with the baby to the nursery. This part was probably the worst. Now that the baby was born, all I wanted to do was follow her out of the room, but I had to wait. They had to put me back together. And boy, that’s how it felt. The adrenaline was gone, and I was overtired. Not to mention I felt like I was fighting panic because that blue screen was not taunt and kept falling into my face. I just kept reminding myself once it was over I’d be able to join my family. My family - that was a great thought. Some people don’t like epidurals for C-sections they felt too much during the delivery and the rest. I can understand. I didn’t really feel pain but I was able to feel all the tugging, pushing and pulling to get me back to right. The doctor kept trying to hold a conversation with me. I’m not sure why, but I think it was supposed to help me feel better. I thought it was nice of him, but I really wanted him to just be done.

Soon after I was wheeled into recovery, I threw up again. Jeff came and sat with me for a while. I believe by this point it was close to midnight if not later. I wanted sleep, food and to really see my baby. I remember one of the first comments out of my mouth was about Elena’s cone head. I kept saying she shouldn’t have a cone head since she was a C-section baby. To me not having a cone head baby was the one advantage of having a C-section and I didn’t even get that. Even with her cone head, she was beautiful.Mother and Baby

Our parents were in the room when I arrived from recovery. We took some pictures and they all took turns holding her. They left rather quickly since it was well after midnight at this point and knew we needed some sleep. It was around 2:30 am when we were finally able to try nursing, but that is a story for another day.

So there it is, our birth story. Not exactly the way I envisioned it, but the ultimate goal was met. A baby was born healthy and as safely as possible for the both of us.


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