#7 She didn’t think it could happen to her
This weeks post is a little different. I wanted to share my girlfriends story in hopes of educating but also to make sure you’re prepared. Labor is something we have very little control over and it’s god to consider all possibilities and not eliminate yourself from a situation so that you can be mentally and emotionally prepared if something doesn’t go as planned. My friend had a c-section, not by choice and didn’t have the best experience, no to scare you though, others have c-sections and have great experiences. This is just her story and outlook on her personal situation, to give you a different perspective and information, which I am beyond honored to share. Something my dad has always said to me is “if you don’t have expectations, you won’t be disappointed” and I whole heartedly agree. So here is her story...
Every mom-to-be has their vision of how they want their birth to go, but are told to be ready for your “birth plan/vision” to go out the window once things get rolling. I have always been drawn to water, it calms and relaxes me. Naturally, I have always envisioned a water birth which would take place at a birthing center, as many hospitals don’t have tubs. I studied so much about how it’s a more peaceful way for babies to be born and water cuts contraction pain in half (as I wanted to go unmedicated). I choose a birthing center because of this reason among many more (the comfort of a homelike environment, I am in control of what I want, I can roam around, eat and most of all: hospitals scare me). But in the event of having to go to the hospital, the midwives travel with you and it is only a 7 minute car ride away. This all being said, things don’t always go to plan and in the end, what matters most, is getting baby and mom through labor safely.
Wednesday August 8th, I had an amazing day spent with my husband Steve. Since our due date was the 6th, he left work the week before to spend time with me and wait patiently (and anxiously) for the arrival of our first baby. During this time, we were having a heat wave in California so the last 2 weeks were spent every day in the ocean. That day, we had gone on a long swim in the waves and finished the day off watching the sunset at Ponto beach. Between 10-10:30 pm that night I started having contractions. I was warned that they would feel like period cramps and that if labor started a night, I could sleep through them. This was not the case for me. I knew right away labor was starting by the intensity of the pain. This was no period cramp for me, they started off very painful. I woke up Steve and said, “I am definitely in labor there is no question about it”. We called the midwives to give them a heads up. She asked about this and that symptoms and encouraged me to have a glass of wine or benadryl to try and get some sleep throughout the night to conserve my energy for the long hall. When we are ready to transport to the birthing center, my contractions needed to be every 4 minutes apart, for one minute for a consecutive hour (4:1:1).
I was unable to sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time that night because my contractions were so strong, even with a glass of wine. The morning of the 9th, I did my best to stay busy. It took me 2 hours (with the help of Steve at the end) to chop and make a breakfast casserole to eat during labor that was supposed to take 20 minutes to prep. I kept having to pause and breath through a contraction. At one point, I jumped in the shower and just stood under the water moaning. It felt so good to moan and I did not feel embarrassed about the sounds I was making due to the muffling of the water (our neighbors live in close proximity). Steve was helping me time the duration of the contractions and by 3pm we called. By the sound of my voice, the midwife encouraged us to come to the birthing center. While Steve was packing the car, our neighbor came banging on the door seeing if I was okay. He thought something bad had happened since the car engine was running and I was still moaning outside of it. At the time, I didn’t want to see anybody, but it’s nice to know that our neighbors have our back if anything happened to us.
We arrived at 3:45pm to the birthing center (17 hours into labor) and when she checked to see how many cms I was dilated, I had reached 4. This was shocking. I thought “ARE YOU F@&$#!G KIDDING ME? ONLY 4CM?! I have been in labor for so long and only progressed THIS far?!” My contractions were a minute long every 4 minutes. Throughout the rest of the day, I did everything to keep comfortable. I removed all my clothes, used the shower, rocked in the rocking chair, sat on the birthing ball (which made my contractions so intense because it was opening my pelvis, same as the toilet) and swaying on Steve. I desperately wanted to get into the tub, I knew it would be relaxing and I wanted to have my baby there. I had to be 5cm to get into the tub (not sure why) and when the midwife checked me at 7pm (21 hours in), I was. Happy, but also disappointed by not having progressed a lot further, I jumped in the tub.
By this point, a different midwife was in helping take care of me as another mom came in to give birth in the other room. The tub was a huge relief on my contractions, I barely felt them. She had determined that the baby was stuck and that we had to turn him. With the help of Steve, they turned me on my side with a birthing peanut between my legs. It was a tad uncomfortable but I was determined to have my baby soon. I am very lucky that the whole time, Steve was extremely supportive. Listening to my needs, played DJ, turned lights low, putting cold wet cloths on my forehead, and made sure I was eating and drinking (which is prohibited at the hospital). I climbed in and out of the tub for the next 2 hours. I would get really hot and needed to sway with Steve or change positions of the peanut ball. Eventually the only thing that felt okay was the rocking chair, which was a relief to Steve so he could sleep a little since it was past 24 hours of being in labor. I thought I was feeling the baby moving down and that he would be here soon.
By midnight, I was checked again (which, by the way, is extremely uncomfortable). I had progressed to 6cm. Around that time, I had heard the first cries of the other mom’s baby. All of this was so overwhelming to me that I started to hysterically cry. I had been up for more than 24 hours, my contractions were not slowing down, I was not progressing and deep inside I was so pissed that the other woman came after me and had her baby before me. It felt like a punch to the face. I thought, “this is not fair. How come she came here way after me and already has her baby to hold?” Of course, I was happy for her but sad for myself ( side note: I never met her or saw her). By this point I was feeling extremely discouraged.
By 1am (Friday morning), I was in the tub again. I was alternating between laying down and squatting. I felt my body do 2 spontaneous pushes and my hopes turned around. I thought, “finally this is it! All of this will be over soon and I’ll have my baby!” Turning with the peanut ball, nothing more had come of my 2 urges to push. Around 2am I had had enough, I was exhausted and thought I can not do this anymore. The original midwife said I have a choice: I can try and sleep to conserve my energy through contractions or we can transport to the hospital. What I love about the birthing center is that it was always my decision on what I wanted to do, I was never forced to do anything. I decided to try and sleep through contractions and let Steve get a little more sleep as well. I did not want to go to the hospital, I was determined to have my water birth.
By 5-6am in the morning (32 hours into labor), we discussed the benefits of going to the hospital since I was not progressing. I wanted to think about it and Steve had suggesting going for a walk in the cool air outside to discuss. The thought of putting on my robe was daunting but I did and we looked at the stars. I decided I was too tired to carry on and I wanted an epidural against my own wishes. I really did not want to get one, I wanted my baby to come into the world unmedicated but I had enough. When I was pregnant, I didn’t want to seem weak or like I was giving up getting an epidural. I wanted to know that my body was capable of handling it. But this is one of those cases where things don’t go the way you want and you don’t anticipate your baby getting stuck. I assured myself that I had done everything possible to get him here on my own and that my body was too tired to carry on without intervention.
By 7am, I was checking into the hospital. While I was standing there, waiting for my room, my contractions were coming every 3 minutes and doubling up to 2 minutes long. I knew I had made a good decision by this point to get an epidural. I did, however, feel embarrassed moaning in the hallway with so many people passing by so I suppressed my urge to make noise. This made the contractions hurt 10 times worse than before. In the comfort of the birthing center, I could scream all I liked because it was just the 3 of us. Already at the hospital, my birthing experience was turning gloomy. From here on, it seemed like everything was taking a turn for the worse.
At hospitals, it is mandatory to have an IV line and of course the nurse put it in the worst spot, my wrist, right where my hand meets my forearm. While she was putting it in, I was having a contraction. I asked if she could wait till it was over but she was already stabbing me. It was very hard to stay still during this 2 minute long contraction. Every time I moved my hand, I could feel the plastic tube inside me. A few minutes later, the on call doctor came in to give me my epidural. She explained the risks involved and once I had agreed she proceeded to give me the needle. I had to sit on the side of the bed holding Steve’s hands. I had to sit completely still as to not disrupt what she was doing. Remember, the slightest mm off and the needle could paralyze me. She had sanitized my whole back and I had an itch on my side. I went to go scratch it and she yelled “Don’t touch you’re already sanitized!” As she was about to put the needle in, a contraction started. I cried to have her wait but she proceeded to have the needle enter. She yelled again to have me stay still and in my head I’m thinking “Lady I’m having a contraction right now can’t you effing wait till its done!” I was so upset about this, I felt as if her and the nurse had purposely poked me while I’m having a contraction. At the birthing center, the midwives always calmly waited till it was over to proceed with anything. The doctor asked me where I felt it and then explained to me how the button worked when I needed more medicine. I was extremely pissed about what had just happened.
Once settled, I was checked and had reached 7cm. I was feeling a little more hopeful that I was slow and steadily progressing. I did not like the side effects of the epidural though. For one, you can not eat once it is in and by the end of my labor, I was famished. My entire right leg went numb, I could not move it at all. Really creepy feeling slapping your leg and not feeling anything. Another annoying symptom was how itchy I was and that I was strapped to the bed (another reason I had previously not wanted an epidural). The icing on the cake about getting an epidural is that you receive the accessory of a catheter. I wish I had been mentally prepared for this. It is very dehumanizing and invasive getting a tube up your pee hole. At this point nothing hurt (thank goodness) but it did feel very odd going in. After all this, I had some hours to catch up on some much needed sleep.
Around 10-11am, the midwife suggested to have a small dose of pitocin to help make contractions more effective since I was at a standstill of 7cm. I agreed and it was added to my IV line. After a while the baby was starting to lose oxygen. Nurses rushed in to check on me and had told me that his head was pressing against the umbilical cord and that the pitocin should be stopped. This was so scary to me as I did not want my baby to die. After this, I had a catheter inserted into my cervix to send in fluid to help me dilate more. I hated the feeling of constant water coming out down there and I could do nothing to stop it. During this time, I was introduced to a new doctor. A few thoughts ran through my head as I met him: 1. This can’t be good if I am meeting the doctor. 2. It’s a man and I don’t know how I feel about a man seeing my vagina other than my husband and 3. He is here if I have to have a cesarean. He was extremely kind and I felt comfortable around him. Most of the time, Steve and I were just left to wait to get any updates about the baby from the midwife or the doctors. However, the nurses came in all the time to check on my medicine, see if I needed anything, or fix the baby’s heart monitor. I am very lucky that all the nurses (with the exception of 1) were extremely kind and reassuring to me which made me feel comfortable.
Some time in the early afternoon, my water broke. At first, I thought the catheter had fallen out and I was peeing myself uncontrollably because I had no feeling from the epidural. I screamed for Steve that I was peeing myself! From all the exhaustion, stress and delirium I just started laughing. He said that my water probably broke. The more I laughed, the more it gushed out which in turn made me laugh even harder. I will never get the image of my husband mopping up fluid with towels between my legs out of my head. The gushing felt so weird! I yelling in laughter “don’t look at the catheter, you’ll never look at my hoo-ha the same!”. Which he did and now my husband has seen more of my body then I have... A nurse eventually came in and changed all the bedding and pads under me.
After many hours later and many position changes made, the midwife and doctor brought up what I had been dreading to hear the most. Cesarean. And the thing about midwives is that they believe cesarean is the last resort, so at that point, I knew we were getting into deeper water. I had been at 9 ½ cms for over 12 hours. Twelve hours. Talk about a slap in the face. I was so close! I asked why I just couldn’t push at that and they said that I would tear on the inside which would be a harder recovery then a cesarean. Apparently, his head was stuck in my pelvis bones and he could not get passed a small lip of my cervix. The whole afternoon and night, whenever the doctor or midwife came in, my body would involuntarily shake. I could not stop it and my teeth would even chatter. It’s like my body knew seeing them, bad news was coming (which usually did). It was very exciting, however, to hear after the doctor had checked me that my baby had hair. Hair! I hadn’t thought of this and it made me so happy! At this point, the time was ticking close to midnight and I at 50 hours of labor.
I started to cry at the thought of a cesarean and the doctor and midwife asked me what my fears were. One of my main fears is that I wouldn’t get numb and I would feel the pain. I had issues in the past with not getting numb enough and feeling the knife. They assured me that everything would be numb and they do thorough checks before anything happens. I was also worried about the recovery but I just had to come to terms with needing more time then vaginal. I was reminded that I was having major abdominal surgery. I don’t know why it had never occurred to me that that is what it is. I knew there was 2 layers being cut, the skin and the muscle, but I had never put it together like that. Once I realized I didn’t have any other option and that they health of myself and my baby was at stake, I agreed. I signed an agreement saying that if I lost a substantial amount of blood that they could give me a transfusion. This didn’t help my anxiety at all.
About 20 minutes after they had left to prep the OR room, the nurse came in to tell me I had to wait a few more hours because 2 emergencies had come up and they needed the OR rooms. I saw this as a good sign so I could get a little more rest before the operation. When she left, Steve and I fell asleep until around 2am. This next part is one of the most heartbreaking parts of the whole labor. Another nurse (who apparently had been there for decades) came in and checked my progress. She had said, “ok you are at 10 cm’s so let’s start pushing”. When it comes to checking, it’s all about feel and that’s why only by this point the doctor ad been checking me to stay consistent with his findings. I was so ecstatic when she told me this. “This was the hairpin turn I was looking for that I am supposed to have my baby vaginally” I thought. Steve jumped awake at the word “push”. My legs were put into the stirrups and she taught me how to push. You take a deep breath and push as if you are pooping (yes that is how it feels). And man did it feel so good to push. I actually really enjoyed the feeling. After 3 tries, the midwife and doctor came in exclaiming “why is she pushing?!” At a pause in my contractions, the doctor checked me again and looked up with a frown. “You have actually decreased down to 9 cm” he said. It felt like getting stabbed and having your heart broken a million times all at once. I started bawling and couldn’t stop. They asked me why I was so upset and I said I thought after all the obstacles I was really going to have my baby vaginally. It was my dream. I could tell on their faces, the whole situation should have never happened to me and given me false hope. I could feel the remorse from everyone in the room. They told me the OR would be ready soon and assured me I would have my baby.
Some time around 3am, we were on our way down the hall under the fluorescent lights. Everything was so bright. I was so thirsty but was denied anything other than ice chips before surgery. Steve and the midwife were there with me the whole time. Once there, my legs were strapped down and my arms spread out like Jesus. This is protocol to be strapped down but at the same time my shakes were at an all time high from the medicine and being scared. The anesthesiologist went over the kinds of drugs he was going to give me and reassured me I wouldn’t feel a thing. Doctor used a tool like huge tweezers and pulled at different areas on my stomach asking me does it hurt or feel like pressure. I responded every time that it was just pressure, no pain. I now have a different understanding for the word pressure after labor. With the green light, the operation had started. I had Steve on my left hand and the midwife on my right hand. I couldn’t see anything over the curtain, only the people next to me. I tried to stay calm but I was shaking so much that I was extremely distracted (in a bad way). The doctor kept saying I’ll feel pressure here or there and it was so uncomfortable and invasive. At one point, I started screaming. My worst fear was coming true. It felt as though someone was taking a sharpened pencil and shoving it inside my stomach, the pain was almost unbearable. I felt as though I was in a movie and this wasn’t real life. They told me that I had something called a hot nerve (one that never goes completely numb). I could see the horror on the midwifes face when I screamed and grabbed her hand. This was not normal. The anesthesiologist said he could give me something stronger to numb the pain but the birth of my son would be blurry as I would become sleepy. I refused. I would rather endure the pain and remember the birth of my son.
4:04 am Saturday morning, 54 hours of labor later, he was pulled out of me. I was anticipating the first sounds of my son. Not until they had put him on a table in the corner were they able to get him to cry (about 1 minute later). I was told later, he came out gray and not breathing right away. Steve rushed over and helped cut the umbilical cord and hold him for the first time. I still had to wait to be sewn up and asked the anesthesiologist to hold my hand because I needed the comfort until Steve’s return. There are no words to describe seeing my son for the first time, he was perfect. Steve brought him close to my face and I got to kiss him and smell him. I thought after all I had been through I would be an emotional crying mess and I wasn’t. I felt so disconnected from the whole experience and that my ideals of his birth were vanished. I was denied seeing him be lifted over the curtain, denied my husband catching him (which he wanted), denied automatic skin to skin, denied immediate breastfeeding, denied delayed cord clamping. Denied. I didn’t get to hold my son until after I was wheeled back into my room. All those first minutes of life were lost to me.
We had to stay in the hospital for 2 days and a requirement to leave is that I had to use the bathroom on my own twice. It felt so good to have all my tubes removed with the exception of the IV (comes out right before you are discharged). I, for one, had to keep the IV in because I had lost so much blood during the operation. I came very close to having to have a transfusion. It was a whirlwind of emotions finally having my baby here. I was told that after the excitement calmed down that I would crash from exhaustion. I had so much adrenaline running through me that I stayed up most of that day. When I did get tired, Steve would watch the baby as I slept. It was difficult to sleep due to the many interruptions from nurses checking on this and that on my machines. Steve almost locked the door so I could rest (he didn’t). I was lucky enough to have a lot of help with breastfeeding from the nurses. They were all trained and had different tips to help me. They helped me take my first steps (which were so painful), helped me shower and helped us take care of the baby, like his first bath. Although there were constantly nurses and other staff coming in, the rest of the stay went smoothly with many visitors coming to see us and our new baby.
The first 2 weeks home were tough. Exhausted, learning to breastfeed and taking care of a little baby is hard. Since, I had lost a lot of blood during the cesarean this made me incredibly weak and anemic. I was also experiencing a lot of water retention and was swollen from all the fluids pumped in me. I left the hospital weighing more than I had when I arrived, baby and all inside me. This really hurt my ego. I read a lot about how you could walk out of the hospital 10 maybe even 20 lbs lighter. My feet felt like water balloons and hurt to walk on for long periods of time. Because I could not use my abs at all, I had to have Steve put his arms underneath me to lift me up from the bed. I felt so helpless. After naps, I would knock on the wall so Steve knew to come in to pick me up. He was extremely helpful with me, the baby and around the house. I am so lucky to have him as my husband. I was, though, embarrassed to have him check my incision sight because I couldn’t see down there yet (and it had been over a week since my last shave! Not that he cared but I did). Something I was warned about but not prepared for were the gas bubbles. Not the kind of gas bubbles you’re thinking. Since I was cut open a lot of air got trapped inside me and needed to work it’s way out. When those bubbles popped, they hurt more than contractions did. They took about a month to fully phase out. We had visitors every day who brought food and wanted to see the baby. Although we were very appreciative, after a week we were ready to start our new lives without disruption.
I feel as though the last few hours before he was born were very traumatizing to me. Although most of the staff at the hospital were amazing, the experience itself was very traumatic. I’m afraid this experience will haunt me to my next pregnancy in fear the same thing will happen. I am terrified to get pregnant again. I desperately wanted to have a VBAC at the birthing center for our next baby but they are not accredited to do so. This news was hard to swallow learning that I will never have a baby in a birthing center, let alone in a tub. With cesareans, the risk of a uterine rupture is high so incase of emergency hospital is best. I should have better prepared myself for a cesarean but flipping through those pages I thought “that won’t happen to me”. I wish I had been more prepared. Although what had happened to me during the cesarean was extremely rare, it is still scary to think about. But all in all, I have a beautiful healthy baby and thank God for modern medicine. If this was 100 years ago, him and I would have probably died. I am disappointed in how it turned out but I am in no way disappointed in myself. I am a warrior for sticking it out unmedicated for 32 hours. Every labor and delivery is different and would I go through it all again to have our son.