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)!
38 weeks ago, Al Capone arrived; I was 38 weeks pregnant and had been in labor for 13 days and 8 hours. After he was born, he quickly became part of this blog, but I never posted my birth story. I told myself I would do it at 1 month, 6 weeks, before I went back to work, but I wasn’t ready. I was conflicted. I needed to write his birth story for me, but I wasn’t ready to be judged by the outside world. So I compromised, I wrote this post and scheduled it to be published 38 weeks after he was born. I’ve revised it, added to it, and deleted some parts, but here it is.
I started having contractions on April 1, 2009. I didn’t really know that I was having contractions, but I told the doctor I was cramping and she put me on the fetal monitor. I was 33 weeks pregnant and having mild contractions 4-6 minutes apart. The fetal fibronectin test was negative and I wasn’t dilated, so I was put on bedrest for a few days and given meds to stop the contractions. It worked, and I went back to work.
2 weeks later, we discovered the cause of the contractions. I had too much amniotic fluid. The perinatologist wanted me to come back for more ultrasounds to keep an eye on the fluid in addition to checking the growth of the baby and the umbilical cord.* I begged my OB to not make me go back and she agreed to monitor the fluid. At 35 weeks I was measuring 39.5 weeks.
The fluid kept increasing, and on April 30th, 2009 I went into labor. I was sitting in an English Ed meeting and noticed that I was having contractions. They were strong and pretty frequent, but I had just run across campus to make the meeting. I went home and took a nap. I was still having contractions. 7 pm they were getting stronger, so we went to the hospital and I was having strong contractions 5 minutes apart. After an hour I didn’t progress, but my contractions were so strong that they kept me overnight. They slowed the contractions with some fluids and pain meds.
The next morning I was sent home. The contractions never really stopped and 2 days later on a Saturday night, the contractions got more frequent. They were 2-3 minutes apart, so I called my doctor and she told me to go in. The OB nurse that came down to meet us at the ER practically ran to labor and delivery when she found out how close my contractions were. I wasn’t as convinced. I had dilated a little more, but still no change. They once again kept me overnight, but this time nothing worked. I was released the next morning in tears still having strong contractions every 2-3 minutes. I was 37 weeks to the day, but my doctor was nervous about the inducing me. The baby was supposedly big and I was measuring well over 40 weeks, but even at 37 weeks, babies can have complications.
On Tuesday, I went in for a regular appointment and things got more complicated. Capone was now transverse. He was using all of that extra fluid to practice his acrobatic skills. My doctor assured me that he might still turn, especially with the extra fluid, but in the mean time she was really worried about his position, plus extra fluid. I went home with instructions to stay off my feet and come in the instant my water broke. By the next week he has flipped again and was head down again.
His acrobatics, however, caused more contractions plus nausea. By Wednesday night I was throwing up everything. I had a stomach surgery when I was 18 months old that had left significant adhesions and at nearly 38 weeks with a large baby, there just wasn’t enough room anymore. They tried anti-nausea meds, but they didn’t really work, so I went back in on Friday. I was just shy of 38 weeks. My blood pressure was rising, I was dehydrated, I hadn’t slept in weeks, the fluid levels kept rising and I was still contracting every 2-3 minutes. They decided that if I didn’t go into labor before Tuesday, they were going to induce/augment me.
I contracted throughout the weekend, but my water never broke. On Tuesday morning we went to the hospital. I was 38 weeks and 2 days, 2-3 cm dilated, 75% effaced, and contracting on my own every 2-3 minutes. Induction isn’t really a fair term, since they barely gave me any Pitocin to set things in motion.
Within a few hours, I was 4-5 cms. I agreed to have my water broken because my doctor wanted to do it in a controlled manner. I had way too much amniotic fluid and was at a high risk for a cord prolapse. She barely broke my water, so that it would be a slow leak. It worked at least until I sat up 45 minutes later and then my water really broke.
I decided to get my epidural around noon (I was 5 cms) and because of some of my underlying health problems, it had been advised as the safest form of delivery. I sat up and my water really broke. And by broke I mean, L&D ran out of towels. Every nurse that saw us from that moment until we were discharged commented on the water story. The anesthesiologist was kicked out while a team of nurses tried to mop up the floor and make sure I wasn’t prolapsing. 3 sets of sheets, a new influx of towels and 30 minutes later, they finally got things back under control.
Eventually, the anesthesiologist came back. I got my epidural. I slept. I continued to dilate. Everything was fine.
By mid-afternoon, my heart rate started to rise. They called my doctor. She agreed to watch it and we were able to control it by having me lay on my left side. It worked, for a while. By 5ish, the nurse turned off the alarm. She would later get written up for this action. I was only allowed to stay on my left side. By 7 pm I was at 9 1/2 cm. They called my doc. My heart rate was still high, but stable.
9:00. Still 9 1/2 cm. Heart rate climbing.
10:00 My doctor tries to stretch the cervix over Capone’s head. I push. No change. 30 minutes later. Still pushing on my left side. Heart rate nears 170 between contractions, but comes down when I push. I feel like my heart is exploding between contractions.
10:30: Heart rate stays near 170 pushing and not pushing. Still at 9 1/2. Still pushing. I still feel like I’m having a heart attack. My doctor says that we’re headed to a c-section if they can’t get my heart rate under control. I change positions. Nothing is working.
10:45: Heart rate passes 170 and doesn’t come down. No more pushing. Anesthesiologist is called to prep for a c-section. Also tornado warning is issued for the area.
At this point things get really fuzzy. I sent Rakicy to the waiting room to get my mom. I got into an argument with a nurse asking me to fill in the blank on the consent form about why I was having a c-section. This was due primarily to the fact that my heart rate was sending me into shock and that despite the fact that I completely out of it I was also insisting on trying to write in cursive “posterior lip on cervix complicated by tachycardia.”
The last thing I really remember clearly is being wheeled into the OR. The bed from the L&D room had broken earlier (my OB had only the week before been forced to deliver a baby on a gurney because the same bed broke while a woman was pushing). When the bed broke in the ER, my doc crawled onto the table to pull me off of the bed.
Rakicy came in.
Rakicy was gone.
I threw up. I blacked out. I woke up in recovery having contractions and screaming at a nurse to call my doctor to come deliver Capone, only to be told that he had been born @ 11:15.
Rakicy was with Capone the entire time I was unconscious. The power flickered as the hospital switched to generators. Capone was never given formula. He was brought to me around midnight in recovery and nursed like a champ. We had wonderful lactation consultants and 4 days later despite blood incompatibility and jaundice we were discharged primarily because Capone was nursing so well. I am eternally grateful for that.
I did not want a c-section. I was even more bitter about the fact that by the time I had my c-section I was so out of it that I do not even remember Capone being born, but I don’t think my c-section was unnecessary. There were medical factors that I won’t discuss on this blog that meant that the fact that I had gotten pregnant, carried a healthy baby to term, and had a safe delivery were all miracles by themselves.
In the first weeks after his delivery, I struggled with his birth. I felt like everyone was either in the “be glad you have a healthy baby” camp or the “blame the OB for unnecessary interventions” camp. I was in neither. I don’t blame my doctor at all. In fact, I think that lots of OBs would have probably opted for a c-section much earlier given the situation (medical history, fluid levels, etc). She supports trying a VBAC for our next child. She let me avoid a c-section until my life was in danger.
All that said, I still feel like I was robbed slightly. C-section recovery is no picnic. I was in a lot of pain for a very long time. C-section recovery is even worse when you have been in labor for a very long time. I’d contracted for a VERY LONG TIME. I’d pushed. I did it all and then had a c-section.
Originally published on Don’t Pat the Belly