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)!
In October of 2005 my oldest daughter Sophie was born. The birth was exactly the way I wanted- a C-section. I was afraid of birth. My pregnancy was miserable- sick for almost 8 straight months all day long- I had to quit my job because I spent the majority of my shifts in the bathroom sick rather than the classroom. I was afraid of allowing my tailbone to break again during a vaginal birth- the way it had during the pregnancy after a horrible fall. I was given prescriptions to help ease my sickness, but none of them worked- and I heard several times “this is just part of the pregnancy all women get sick” My OBGYN loudly supported my fear that the bone would break, that the way it healed might not even allow the baby to be born vaginally- and the much easier and less painful would be to have a scheduled C-section. I fear pain- I feared childbirth, and I didn’t hesitate to schedule my baby’s delivery by cesarean section.
I went in on a Friday, 2 weeks before my due date, with complaints of my back and my doctor said I was at the beginning stages of labor and we should do the C-section now rather than coming back in later in the night when labor really took hold. I hadn’t experienced any contractions- but the Doctor knew what labor was so I trusted her. I called my husband and told him to leave work- that it was time. Quickly my family and friends filled my room as we waited for 3 30p.m. When it was finally time I was wheeled into the operating room and my husband waited outside until the epidural was in. On the 8th try my OB finally left the room to get another anesthesiologist to put in my epidural. I was told that there are two shots with an epidural. The first one is like a bee sting to numb the area where the medicine will go in. The second one I won’t feel at all. I find that to be a lie. I felt all 8 bee stings, and felt 8 attempts at getting the medication in. The anesthesiologist said my back was “unusual- probably because of my tailbone”- but when her college came in she got it on the first try (but to my body it was attempt 9). I instantly lost feeling from my chest down and that scared me. I heard a nurse say that my water broke, but I felt nothing and I couldn’t you if it broke naturally or if someone was examining me and they broke it. My husband finally came in and the c section lasted only 15 minutes. My daughter was born; I heard her cry and we cried. The doctors then told me it was a good thing I had done the C-section because she was stuck my pelvic bone with a very short cord and there would have been no way she would have delivered vaginally. To this day I believe that the cord was shorter than normal, but I don’t know if I believe in my heart that she wouldn’t have been born vaginally. It took almost 20 minutes for them to allow my husband to pick her up, to bring her to me. Her face was badly bruised and the doctors said it was because being stuck inside me, that many babies come out bruised but not to worry- the bruises would disappear in a few days. The bruises took almost 2 weeks to heal.
My recovery wasn’t bad-wasn’t fun but wasn’t bad either. Within two weeks I was back at church, going shopping, and really thankful that I wasn’t trying to recover from a broken tailbone- but on the inside something was really bothering me about the entire event. I knew I wanted more children- but to be that sick again for 9 long months and while taking care of a child. My doctors had said that if I wanted to try a VBAC with my next pregnancy it would fine- if I was willing to take responsibilities for the risks of uterine tears and the short cord will more than likely follow me with my next pregnancy so I had to understand I would more than likely end up with a C-section after hours of failing to push with results. The seeds of doubt they planted from the very start is so obvious to me now.
In 2008 we were due with our second child. My husband was so excited- I was scared. Sick again with no relief and at my very first appt we were told we might be allowed to do a VBAC but a C-section was much more likely because the risks of a VBAC were too great. I left the office knowing that I had to do something different this time- that I truly wanted something different. Not all women were this miserable; somewhere someone had to have a better way.
Several weeks later I went to a banquet and a friend of the family was giving me her congratulations on my pregnancy when I commented about how miserable I was. She said then that she had several babies and it wasn’t something to be miserable over- she started talking about her midwife, Tricia, and how beautiful her births were. Something inside me stirred. She introduced me to her midwife who gave me several tips about my “morning sickness”- Tricia knew right away how dehydrated I was, that the medicine was upsetting my stomach more than helping, and offered some tricks of the trade. I kept thinking- how can something as simple as peppermint oil help me when prescriptions weren’t doing anything. But the peppermint oil worked and it worked so well that I began to look into midwives, homebirth, vbacs, and my options.
I didn’t know anyone who had a homebirth beside the friend who introduced me to her midwife. I sent a few emails asking her questions, I started reading anything I could get my hands on, and before I knew it I was in her living room asking her to take me on as a patient for a vbac home birth. The rest of my pregnancy was completely different then my first. Tricia helped me find a prenatal vitamin that didn’t upset my stomach, she helped me understand what my diet was lacking and point out better ways to cook healthier food. She asked questions that made us take responsibility for our birth and baby rather than just giving it over to someone else. We made up our own minds about vaccinations based on facts rather than assuming everyone had to be vaccinated, we knew we didn’t need a vit k shot after the baby was born, we knew we wanted to birth the baby in water and so much more. Tricia gave us the tools and the confidence to trust birth and my body.
By the time my due date rolled around I felt like a brand new woman- confident, powerful and ready to deliver my baby. I had told Tricia that I needed laughter, that I wanted to eat and drink during labor, have my friends there to witness our baby’s birth. Tricia agreed to everything and followed through with it during labor. The day after my due date was Mother’s Day and we were on our way to church for a pancake breakfast. My hormones were raging and I was crying because I thought the baby would have been here by now. Just another thing that this pregnancy taught me- babies come when babies are ready not when everyone else is. After church my parents had us over for lunch and I noticed some bloody show. I called Tricia and she said that it may be time- to relax and if contractions picked up to give her another call.
We went home and in my heart I knew it was time. We watched several episodes of my favorite tv show and I napped on the couch. When I awoke it was to an intense contraction. I smiled and told my husband it was time to start making some calls and get the birthing pool blown up. My mom and friends were on their way and by the time Tricia arrived I was ready to be in the water. The water was calling me. After I got in the birthing pool I was able to breathe through each contraction, there was laughter in-between, Disney lullabies playing in the background and my friends all there cheering me on. For almost everyone this was the first birth they witnessed, even the moms there hadn’t been a part of a birth unless it was their own.
After an hour or so in the water Tricia checked me and I was at 9 and almost ready to start pushing. I was amazed- I thought it would take endless hours and the contractions up to that point were totally doable- nothing so painful the way I had seen on TV or the way the doctors had explained. I don’t do pain- and that was not pain. I truly believe that fear made the contractions painful and I didn’t have any fears during my labor to that point.
But then I had a deep contraction and I threw up. I have to say I hate throwing up and it scared me- why all of a sudden was I puking? I smelled it; I wanted out and away from it- and that one moment made me loose track and become fearful. Tricia did her best to get me calmed back down. I knew I should expect the unexpected but throwing up was not part of my plan- and I did not want to do that again. Tricia made me get up out of the pool, and I went into my bathroom standing next to my vanity- contractions standing up were intense. I didn’t like it at all. I wasn’t ready to get back in the water and they weren’t finished cleaning it so I laid down in my bed and began to cry.
Tricia asked everyone to leave the room- to give me a moment with my husband to try and get things back in control. She checked me and I went from 9 centimeters to 5. It’s amazing how the body become fearful and labor stalls. I began to let the fear overwhelm me- my friends weren’t there, I puked, it was so painful- something was wrong. Really wrong- maybe I couldn’t do it and maybe I should just stop and go to the hospital. Tricia walked out in the hallway to give me and Ryan a few minutes together and I begged him to tell me what was wrong. And he looked into my eyes and said, “Just stop Tif- you know what to do, you knew transition was going to be crazy, and you know how you get when you throw up. Now is the time to stop freaking out and have this baby.”
Tricia came in a few moments later with a glove of ice. Her assistant Tiffany was massaging my lower back and explaining what Tricia was going to do with the ice. Because I closed back up and the feeling to push was so overwhelming Tricia used her experience to help soften my cervix. She used the glove with ice to help “melt” away the cervix and after only a few moments I was ready to push. I didn’t get back in the water- which I regret now. But at the time I was lost in my words and just ready to meet my baby. I started on my hands and knees, then leaned into my husband for a few pushes, rolled over on my back and began to really push.
There wasn’t anyone who was yelling at me to push- no one was telling me what to do – only encouraging me that I was doing it. To keep listening to my body, to each contraction. The room was full again with my friends, my mom was on my side confidently telling me that everything was all right, and my husband was on the other side silently holding my hand breathing through each contraction and kissing my forehead each time. Tricia help with me avoid tearing by guiding me to slow controlled pushes, deep massages, and helping me open my eyes and see that the baby’s head was out and ready for me to give one last push. Pulling my baby onto my stomach the room filled with laughter, tears, and joy. I have never felt so powerful, loved, or happy in my life. I was truly exhausted but energetic. My husband exclaimed it was a girl and my heart leapt with joy. My little Lola was here. Born in the early morning May 12 at 1:37 am weighing 7lbs 6 oz and 20 and ¾ inches long.
Lola’s cord was shorter than normal- and there was a slight tugging sensation when I had Lola at my chest. We planned on delaying cord cutting until it stopped pulsating- giving Lola her entire blood supply, avoiding risks of jaundice, and helping me delivery the placenta easier. After almost 10 minutes I asked for the cord to be cut because I wanted to lift up my baby and the length of the cord wouldn’t allow me to. We clamped and Ryan cut the cord, and shortly after, I delivered her “Tree of Life”. Tricia showed us the placenta and explained its value.
Everyone cleared the room after a few moments, giving Ryan and I private time with our new daughter. For the first hour our daughter was only in our hands, only skin to skin with her mother, bonding and loving each moment. Later Tricia measured Lola and did a quick examine to make sure I was fine. We brought in our oldest daughter Sophie to meet her little sister and it was the most wonderful moment- to be in our home, with our daughters, with my body intact, with a new strength. Sophie fell back to sleep and Tricia came in to say her goodbyes. Two hours after my baby was born- we were all asleep in bed together.
Lola’s birth was the hardest and most rewarding thing I have ever done. It was walking away from the “norm”- to leave the hospital and their machines, to trust my body, to trust my midwife. To get back on track after I was sick during labor. To let go of my fear and give my control back to my body and let it happen. My birth team was such a big help- to have women there with their comfort and support was better then any kind of drugs. I know that they will share my daughter’s birth with others and let the word spread that yes you can birth your baby without drugs, without machines, even after a C-section- and that everything will and can come out wonderfully. My midwife Tricia, and her assistant Tiffany- were angles. They did not give up on me, they didn’t doubt my body, and gave me my confidence, they kept me and my baby safe during our journey. They make so little money and do so much compared to my doctors.
I have had both ways- medicated “pain free” C-section and natural homebirth. And if we are ever blessed to birth another baby- we will be at home. We will be in the care of midwife (hopefully Tricia will have moved back to Ohio by that time but if not another midwife), and I will know that without a doubt that I’m in the best place for my birth and my baby.
Lola’s birth video: