Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Birth Story

(warning this is really really long)

I read a lot of inspiring birth stories while I was pregnant and always thought I would write my own after L came.  What I didn't expect was to have a birth experience that left me very defeated, hurt, and ashamed. It's taken until now, with L almost 3 months, to even want to write it all down.  I had a very specific plan for my birth, I surrounded myself with those who supported that plan, and I ended up with an almost opposite birth experience.

Even before I got pregnant I wanted to have a natural, unmedicated water birth, and possibly a home birth. It just made sense to me after watching The Business of Being Born and reading up on natural birthing methods.  I was terrified of being cut open; my mother had two c-sections, one traumatic, one planned (they weren't allowing VBACs), and it was major surgery.  I wanted that time with my child right after delivery.

When I became pregnant, the desire for a natural birth became even stronger.  I began to have this connection to my baby and my body - a connection that I felt would be compromised the more poking and prodding that occurred.  Both my parents come from Western medicine practices - my mom a nurse, my dad a surgeon.  So there was a lot of support from family about utilizing modern medicine, but I was still very much set on minimizing medical intervention.  D and I contemplated a home birth, but with no labor and delivery center within 30 miles of our home, lack of support from family, finances, and my general fear of all the what ifs - we decided against it.

Fortunately much of my pregnancy was very smooth - morning sickness was very uncomfortable but passed after the first trimester.  I felt blessed to have an uncomplicated pregnancy.  I also felt blessed to be able to birth at Sutter Davis, where you could not only labor but also birth in water.  It's a midwife run birthing center, but also included a surgery room, OBs and all the modern medical stuff you get at any other hospital - it seemed perfect.

D and I took birthing classes that supported and encouraged natural labor - yet educated us on all the scary interventions.  I read Ina May, Bradley Method, and built up my confidence (maybe a little too much), and truly believed my plan would be executed.  Others would ask about what I wanted my birth to be like, and I would always say, "we're hoping for a natural non medicated water birth."  But in my mind I told myself we WILL have one.  During our last birthing class we watched a video of a woman in labor, fully dilated, all natural no meds, and then after pushing for 3 hours without any progress ended up with a c-section.  I told D that was my worst nightmare - working so hard, coming so far, and then having to be cut....defeated.

I stopped working at 37 weeks, and at my next mid wife appt. we started to worry about my blood pressure - it was getting a little high.  I was swelling some, and not feeling all that comfortable so we decided on checking my urine for proteins, doing some labs for pre-eclampsia, and doing a non stress test on the baby.  No protein showed in the urine, yay!

When I went in for my non stress test at the birthing center, I was informed that they would monitor my blood pressure, watch the baby's heart rate and movement, and do some blood tests.  Depending on how things looked, I could be induced to have the baby THAT DAY!  I was scared, this wasn't my plan, I didn't think induction would go well, I didn't have a "favorable" cervix - meaning I was barely dilated or effaced.  Being sacred and stressed my bp went up, 170/110...the nurse was certain my lab results would come back with preeclampsia and I would have to stay - the baby however looked great.  I was terrified, a little hysterical, D tried to keep me calm - I didn't feel sick. When she returned she said she was shocked but my labs look great, we could go home, but had to return the next day for more labs, and another non stress test.

This occurred for 3 consecutive days - going in to be monitored.  My bp would fluctuate between 130/80 to 160/100.  Not the best numbers but not enough for them to "force" me into an induction alone.  Both the labs and the baby looked great.  This was difficult, an emotional rollercoatser, each day we packed up the hospital bag and prepared for it maybe being THE day.  Finally they gave us the ok to wait 2 days and then come up for another round of monitoring.  I never did get that last monitoring...

Around 11:00 PM on Sunday August 22nd 5 days before my due date, my contractions started to build on one another.  I had definitely had contractions in the 3rd trimester, but they were never consistent, and never painful, just uncomfortable.   These were different, I told D, and decided to try a warm bath - for sure they would stop if it wasn't the real deal.  They didn't stop, they started getting painful, D timed them.  I had wanted to enjoy early labor, but instantly my mind went to a negative place...I remember being down on myself for not enjoying it, which now seems ridiculous.  They were coming between 5 and 7 minutes.  For several hours I labored at home - going from the birthing ball, to the bath, to the shower, to walking the hallway.  My body didn't want to relax, I almost had the urge to run during contractions.

Finally around 6am I said we should go to the hospital - the contractions were 3-5 min apart.  We arrived, and they began monitoring me and the baby.  Normally I wouldn't have had to stay hooked up to the monitors, but since they were worried about my blood pressure, I was confined to the bed.  I instantly regretted coming to the hospital.  They checked if anything was happening with my cervix, and I was sad and panicked to find out no changes, over 6 hours of contractions and nothing.  D and I were both pretty tired and with the pain of the contractions I knew I wouldn't be getting any sleep.  I instantly remembered the video from our birthing class of my worst nightmare - coming so far and then not being able to push out the baby - at this rate I would surely be exhausted.  I discussed interventions with the mid wife.  I was against any induction medications.

We decided on a medication that would help relax me and hopefully allow for some sleep (deviating from my birth plan), and I could go home - the midwife really concerned me with this particular comment - "I think you'll have this baby this week!"  You think, this week?!?!?!  I could barley imagine a few more hours, let alone days.  So D and I went home with the medication.  By this time my mom had driven to see us, again deviating from our plan of no family besides D and I.  At home nothing changed - I wasn't able to sleep, the contractions didn't slow down.  D took a nap, I think I slept for a few 5 min increments.  I labored on the birthing ball, in the shower, and in the bathtub.  The bathtub was the best, I was able to focus well in there.

Around 9pm I said, lets go to the hospital.  It was Monday night and I hadn't slept since Saturday.  At the hospital my cervical check created great disappointment - no dilating.  D's family came to visit - I really didn't want visitors, I wanted some rest.  We again discussed options with the midwife- it seemed like I was in for a long haul.  We settled on a shot of morphine so I could sleep.  Although I wanted a natural birth, I had previously discussed with D how I would rather use pain relievers like morphine then get an epi if it came down to it- I saw it as less destructive to the natural birthing process, and less "permanent", as in it would wear off and I would be able to move around still.

As soon as the morphine kicked in my water broke!  It was about 2am and I had been in labor for 26 hours and things started to get really intense and painful, I remember shaking in pain.  I was begging for an epi at this point, thats how overwhelming it was.  My midwife suggested getting into the shower, I did this for an hour and then the anesthesiologist arrived.  The pain relief was incredible and I didn't regret the epi at that point, they checked my cervix after the epi and I was a 4!

I was so deliriously tired at this point I'm not sure what the timeline looked like, but 4-8 hours later with no progression, we discussed the evil pitocin.  I had already completely given up on a natural birth, obviously.  I agreed to the pitocin, still believing this would at least be a vaginal birth.  But hours later and still no change in dilation.  The nurse mentioned that my uterus may be "overtired" so they wanted to turn the pitocin off for a bit.  Next door I could hear another woman birthing he child, I was jealous, I wanted to be pushing out my baby.

The midwife came in and we had the dreaded discussion.  Continue with pitocin or c-section.  It had been almost 40 hours since contractions became painful and regular, we tried so many interventions I never thought I would even consider.  The midwife said my sons head was swelling through my cervical opening trying to push through.  There was no emergency, but they were concerned which made me terrified.  I think thats when I completely gave up emotionally and physically.  I said "I can't go on physically or emotionally, lets do the c-section."  Of course I was devastated, I cried the whole time we prepped for surgery.

I remember saying, "I want to smell him" to D when they pulled him out.  I loved him instantly, I no longer cared how he arrived.  D held him up to my face, he nuzzled in my neck.  His head was pretty mis-shaped, you could see a circle of swelling where he had been pressing on my cervix, but he was beautiful.

After returning to the recovery room, we did skin to skin and I wanted to breastfeed as soon as possible.  L was incredible and did the "infant crawl", found the nipple, and latched on (one thing went right in the birth plan!).  When I look at this next picture I want to cry because it's beautiful and tragic- beautiful because it's my newborn baby boy nursing for the first time, yet tragic because it was not my plan. I was groggy and developed anemia from surgery blood loss, was swollen with iv fluids, and I had given up.

Recovery the first week was all about physical healing.  I was so incredibly swollen I could barely bend my legs, and omg I peed so much!  It was painful to get in and out of bed the incision had to heal, but after a week it was like old hat.  The emotional healing has taken much longer.  I was very sappy and tearful for a few weeks, not depressed, but just very sensitive and sentimental.  I can imagine how a positive birth experience would have made that sensitivity a euphoric feeling...I however felt defeated.

I am still devastated by my birth experience and I wonder when I will be able to let go.  But I love my son more then I could ever express and if the only way to have him in my life was to relive that experience I would.  I'm much more compassionate to other women who choose interventions and struggle to achieve their desired birth experience.  And it's possible to not be "bullied" into interventions- which is where most sad birth stories go.  I learned a lot about myself during this experience and know future births I will need at least a doula and to expect a 3 day labor.

The End.


  1. The only thing that makes sad reading your birth story is that you have felt sad about it. It is my humble-ish opinion that moms who strive so hard for a natural delivery but end up accepting other methods do so with some innate guidance or knowledge. I can think of three recent births, including my own Fynn, where this was true. With your son's head swelling into the birth canal, it seems like maybe you are the fourth. So I honor your willingness to do what it took to deliver your baby safely, regardless of how you had hoped it would go. Look how wonderfully it turned out. Parenting is a lot like that. Way to go, Mama!

  2. Stay strong mama! I do went from planning a natural birth to a c-section due to a breech baby. Nowhere near the same as your situation, but please don't feel as though you gave up. You carried your beautiful baby for nine months, and although you needed the intervention, you still had to be strong to get through the surgery and recovery. You made it through and successfully bonded and nursed your baby, you succeeded!

  3. aww thank you ladies. It helps to hear stuff like that :)

  4. We have almost the same birth story. Here is part one. There are two more posted after this. Just do a search.