In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month 2010, we will be filling the blogosphere with stories from real women (and their families) who know first-hand the consequences of a 32% cesarean rate. Each day we will post at least one birth story submitted by these women. Prepare to be moved (hint: grab a box of Kleenex)!
I woke up around 4 am on Wednesday, March 2, 10 days past my due date, to intermittent pains in my back. I knew right then and there that it was labor, and thought about the baby boy we were getting ready to meet. I talked to him and told him I couldn’t wait to see him and hold him in my arms.
I timed my contractions, and they were 11 minutes apart. Soon they got to 8 minutes apart and I called my doula to let her know. I couldn’t sleep, so I followed her advice to take a bath and call her in an hour.
The bath felt good, but I was very sleepy and just wanted to drift off to sleep and the contractions weren’t letting me. I went back to bed to try to get some more rest, but the contractions were coming too often for me to really fall asleep.
By 6 am, I asked Trey to call in to work to tell them he would need the day off, but they told him he would have to go in until they could get a replacement to fill in for him that day.
I called my doula back and she asked me if I wanted her to come over and check me. I decided no, since I already had an appointment with my OB at 9:30. So Trey called his grandparents who were in town to come and stay with me between now and then, since he had to work. To be honest, I was quite scared to be left alone, even if this was only early labor.
I ate breakfast with my grandparents-in-law and got ready for the day. It took a while, though, since I had to stop during contractions and focus on relaxing.
Soon, we were on our way and BOY did the bumps on the road hurt! I arrived at the doctor’s office and told the nurse that I was in labor and that contractions were 4 minutes apart. They let me in, and soon my doctor came in to check me. I was at 4 cm!
I was pretty excited, but for some reason my doctor seemed alarmed. I had a bit of protein in my urine and my blood pressure was a bit elevated. He told me this would change all my plans for the birth, and to prepare for that because it would be nothing like what I had in mind. He wanted me to walk to labor and delivery to be admitted and monitored, and possibly given some magnesium sulfate. I myself wasn’t too worried because I felt fine overall, but seeing his alarm at the current state of things got me a bit scared.
So we walked over to L&D, got admitted, and got some blood drawn to check for pre-eclampsia. The labs came back negative, so the resident told my doctor he didn’t think I would need magnesium. Soon, though, the resident said the doctor wanted to break my water to see if there was meconium since I was already 10 days past my due date. My wonderful nurse, herself a Bradley mom and natural birther, told me I didn’t have to if I didn’t want to, and that baby’s heart tones were looking great with no signs of distress. I was so happy to have someone on my “side,” and happily refused AROM.
I labored on throughout the day, with contractions that were painful but very bearable. I was happy to welcome each contraction, as I knew each one would bring me closer to finally meeting my baby. I reached 7 cm by 4 pm after laboring in the bath, on the birth ball, and slow-dancing with Trey, and by 7 pm I was at 8 cm. Slowly but surely, I was getting there.
Around 7:30, my doctor came in to talk with us and stayed for quite a while, making small talk while I labored quite peacefully. Then, the conversation turned to my progress–that I was already at 8 cm but only after having progressed very slowly throughout the day. The doctor really wanted to know if there was meconium, and told me that labor tends to go faster once the membranes rupture. I had been handling contractions very well up until that point, and having heard that laboring without the cushion provided by intact membranes was much more painful, I was scared to think of what would happen to my pain level if I allowed AROM. Still, I was eager to meet my baby and I really wanted to please my doctor, who had already spent so much time with us one on one. I agreed to AROM around 8 pm, and that was the beginning of the end.
Soon, my contractions were on top of each other and the pain became unbearable. I labored on the birth ball, leaning over the bed for support, trying to relax as I was taught in the Bradley classes, but only wishing the pain would go away. At some point, I started to wail softly, but for some reason, vocalizing made me feel even more consumed by the pain. My doula suggested I labor in the bathroom for a while, so we spent some time in there all the while the pain got worse and worse. Someone asked me to rate my pain from 1 to 10 and I said 9.5 – only because I know I’m not dying.
I wanted it to stop so badly, and said so, but my doula suggested we go to the shower. I hated to think of having to walk down the aisle to reach the shower, but I figured if I did it fast, I could get there in what seemed to be the 15-second break between contractions. I made it there, and soon felt the water run through my body. It felt good, but not good enough to give me any relief, or even to take a little bit of my focus off of the pain. I also felt quite self-conscious being naked in front of the nurse and my doula, but I couldn’t say anything because I was so immersed in my pain.
Soon I began to feel exhausted, and felt like my knees were ready to give way. I asked to go back to the room, saying I couldn’t do it anymore. Trey and my doula tried to encourage me, but I kept thinking this level of pain had to be abnormal. I surely hadn’t read any birth stories that described a pain like this, and even the Bradley book said something about abnormal levels of pain being a sign something could be wrong.
Later, I learned that something was “wrong”: my baby was stuck in a malposition, most likely caused by the AROM I had agreed to earlier. Not an insurmountable problem, but definitely a very painful one.
I asked my nurse (who had come in with the shift change, and was also a natural-, home-birthing mama!) to check me. I wanted her to say I was complete and ready to start pushing to even consider not asking for an epidural, but she said I was 9 cm with an anterior lip. I was crushed, and shaking all over, I started begging for an epidural. Trey and my doula tried to talk me out of it, but I was in too much pain to listen to them, and told them and my nurse that it was illegal for them to withhold pain medication from me. I told them to call my doctor, because he had said I could have one whenever I wanted.
Soon, the anesthesiologist arrived and asked me if I would be able to keep still for the epidural. I told her I could do anything for that epidural. I just needed something, just a little, to take the edge off.
Almost instantly, I started to feel relief. I was so happy. I thanked the anesthesiologist and told her she must be one of the most loved people in the hospital.
I don’t remember very much of what happened next. I know I got the epidural around 10 pm, and during that time I remember wondering how I would be able to push my baby out if I couldn’t feel a thing. I asked if it was possible for them to turn down the epidural so I could feel at least the pressure of the contractions, but I don’t remember getting a response.
The next thing I remember is my doctor standing next to me, telling me that my baby wasn’t coming out, as I was still 9 cm with no descent. He wanted to do a cesarean, and ignorant of the risks and exhausted from labor, I agreed.
More tears… It has taken me two and a half years to write this story because I knew it would be painful. If only I had known better… if only I had stayed away from the hospital and away from this doctor… if only I had refused AROM… if only I had seen the warnings signs that are all too clear to me now, the signs that are typical of an obstetrician dying to push intervention after intervention and getting frustrated for having to “fight” me. When all I wanted was a healthy mother for my children, the best possible start in life for my baby, and the best chances of protecting my future babies. If only.
I cry because this pain has been bottled up for too long. As women, we are expected to be happy for our healthy babies, and if we feel any grief over the way our babies are born, we are left to ourselves with it. It is so painful to watch myself make these terrible decisions all over again, and even more painful to watch this doctor mislead me down the path to a surgery that was totally unnecessary. If only I had known that this seemingly “kind” doctor had his personal interests—whatever they may have been: convenience, fear of a lawsuit, love of the surgical specialty that is obstetrics and gynecology—much higher on his list of priorities than me, my baby, and my future babies. What has been even more painful to realize is that such a doctor is the norm in today’s maternity care system. (See Born in the USA by Marsden Wagner, MD.)
Soon I was being prepped for the OR. My doula convinced my doctor and the anesthesiologist to let her be present during the surgery, as she was a nurse and knew about sterile fields. Trey donned his scrubs, the anesthesiologist pricked me with a pin from my abdomen to my chest to check the epidural, and the surgery began around 11:40 pm.
During the surgery, I wanted to fall asleep, but I did my best to keep myself awake as I prayed to God not to let me die. I was scared.
I felt lots of tugging and pulling, and I wondered what was taking them so long. It turned out my baby was so low in my pelvis that they were having trouble getting him out the other way.
Finally, at 12:03 am, I heard the most beautiful cry fill the room. I was a mother.
Tears… and a smile.
He weighed 9 lbs 12 oz and was 22 ¼ inches long. Just perfect.
As the doctors worked to clear out my uterus, return it into my body, and stitch up my wound, I met Lucas for the first time, all swaddled in blankets. He was crying when Trey brought him over to me, but stopped to listen as soon as I began speaking to him. He was absolutely beautiful.
After the surgery was over, I was taken to the recovery room and I was able to nurse Lucas for a few minutes. I could have kept him longer, but I was very exhausted and drugged up by then and I didn’t really care very much. The nurse wanted to take him for a bath, and I let her. Around the same time, Trey thought it would be a good idea to go home and let our dog out.
I was alone.
I was taken to my postpartum room after about an hour in recovery, and on the way, we stopped at the nursery for a nurse to show me my baby. As soon as I saw him I said, “Oh my God, that’s my DAD!” It was like seeing my dad’s face on my newborn baby – identical.
Once I got to my room, I waited, alone, for my son to be brought back to me. Trey returned around 3 am, and I told him I wondered why they were taking so long. Eventually, close to 4 am, they brought Lucas back. I was so happy to see him, and we nursed and cuddled for a good while.
I mourn the loss of those first few hours of Lucas’ life. I should have been there to hold him, to nurse him, and to let him know he was loved. Instead, he spent close to four hours in a strange place. And like me, he was alone.
After five grueling days in the hospital, we finally made it home.
Born on March 3, 2005 at 12:03 am
9 lbs 12 oz
22 ¼ inches
Come back tomorrow for Lily’s VBAC and HBAC stories…