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)!
This pregnancy was definitely one of discovery. I had been to two different medical groups before I found doctors that I was ok with. I never really appreciated the typical OB visit- 5 minutes to say hi, measure my stomach, and leave. I started taking the Bradley Childbirth Method in my third trimester, and that changed my whole perspective on birth. I had always planned to have a natural birth, and was going to use Bradley as my coping technique. After taking just a few classes, it was clear to me that it would be difficult to have a natural birth in a hospital setting. My other option at that time was the birth center at UCSD with nurse midwives. My prenatal care with them was definitely more involved, appointments were longer, and they really seemed to care about me. And then, I went postdates.
I went in for the non-stress test and exam on 5/15 since I was 10 days overdue. Everything looked fine except that my BP was high (145/95), as it sometimes had been throughout the pregnancy. I’d been blood tested for pre-eclampsia on several occasions and it was never positive for protein. The BP was around 145/90 all morning. The midwives were concerned, and suggested I check in on the labor & delivery floor for monitoring and possible induction. At this point, my chances of having a birth center birth had dropped severely, because they do not induce labor in the birth center.
My labs came back normal again at the hospital, but my BP continued to be high throughout the next few hours. Rita, the on-call midwife helped me to get castor oil administered so I could at least try to get things moving, since the docs were eager to start pitocin. Keep in mind, by now I had tried acupuncture, raspberry red leaf tea, walking, sex, and having my membranes stripped twice in order to start labor. The castor oil did nothing except give me gas pain. The docs were anxious to get the pitocin started. Once they did, I started having reasonable contractions that I could totally get through- early labor. I was 2-3cm at that point and fully effaced. Camille was sitting at -1 station and didn’t budge. Rita came back and said, “Julie, if you don’t have two hours of low BP readings, they will start mag sulfate, and you don’t want that. So let’s get that BP down!” No pressure, right?
Meanwhile, it’s dinner time and I’ve had no food since lunch. I was able to convince the nurse, Juliet (who was really cool), that I needed some sustenance. Even though I wasn’t supposed to eat while on pitocin, she cheated and brought me a dinner plate- I wolfed it down. She later told Rita that she totally snuck me some food. They were both in cahoots for my benefit. I still hadn’t interacted with any doctors and I had been at the hospital since about 1pm. I was thankful for that.
My BP continued to be high, and they pushed the mag sulfate in my IV. They told me I would get really tired, woozy, and that labor could possibly intensify. I slept for a bit while it kicked in, still having my early labor contractions. The doula from the birth center, Bernice, came down to help me out after I woke up. At this point, Rita went home and Karen took over the midwife care for me. She said I hadn’t progressed, and we should break my bag of waters. WOW what I sensation THAT was! It literally popped and gushed water. I was creating puddles on the chux pads, and then on the floor when I stood up. I think it was at this point that labor pains jumped about 10 levels and I was having indescribable back pain. All of the relaxation techniques we had practiced went out the window and I just held onto Dan and moaned at the peak of the contractions. I was so irritable, yelling at Dan… Bernice had to calm me down and keep me focused. But the pain was just awful. After a few hours (not sure how many, it’s still a blur) I looked at Bernice and asked her, honestly, what I had to look forward to since the contractions gave me no breaks to rest. She said she had seen many pitocin/mag births and they all led to epidurals thanks to the intense pain level brought on by the drugs. Apparently the drugs suspend your endorphins from working to help you through the pain. She assured me it wouldn’t get any better, and would probably get worse. At that point, I called for the epidural.
The anesthesiologist came in before I knew it, and luckily the contractions settled down. I sat on the edge of the bed, woozy from the mag, and didn’t notice the pain of the epi. I remember they had to insert it twice which left me with a bit of soreness days later after they removed the catheter. Once the epidural set in I was completely numb and just laying in the bed feeling like a beached whale. I was also really woozy from the mag, so after this point I don’t remember much and Dan helped me piece it back together. I remember the midwife coming in with some nurses to tell me there was meconium in the amniotic fluid so they might have to take Camille away if she didn’t cry right away. Also, they noticed her heart-rate falling a bit here and there and they were concerned.
Finally, I stopped progressing at 4cm and they weren’t confident I could get much further on my own. I heard some mumblings about “big baby”, etc. They guessed Camille to be in the high 8 pound range. So here I am, drugged up, and they’re telling me that I will need a Cesarean. I remember I started crying and Dan held my hand. He looked upset, too. I asked if it was an emergency, or if we had some time. I really wanted to be alone with Dan and just talk. They said it was no rush, so they stepped out of the room. By the way, I finally met an obstetrician at this point when they started talking about a C-section. Up until now, I had only been under midwives’ and nurses’ care.
When everyone left the room, Dan burst out into tears and I remember saying “Don’t cry, it makes me cry,” and we just held each other and he said he was so disappointed. My whole birth plan had been literally tossed in the trash at this point and nothing went according to our preparation and plans. We calmed down and suddenly everyone surged back into the room and said, “we have an operating room now, so let’s get you prepped.” They shaved me and whisked me off to the cold, sterile, white surgery room. I was strapped to a table with my arms stretched out like a crucifixion. The anesthesiologists started working on my pain management and kept pricking me saying “can you feel this?” There was lots of noise and I couldn’t see what was going on- everyone seemed really busy and no one paid any attention to me at all. I really wanted Dan there to hold my hand because I was so scared, but they didn’t even let him in until right as they were pulling her out. I still don’t know why he wasn’t called in sooner. At one point, I even asked a nurse to hold my hand. The scariest part was that the anesthesia made my chest feel heavy and I felt like I couldn’t get a full breath of air. The docs assured me I was breathing normally and it was in my head!? I could hardly talk to tell them I felt really awful with the O2 mask on- they gave me nasal canulas instead and I felt a little better, but I still couldn’t breathe. I just wanted it to be over.
At some point I heard Camille cry and I think I remember them asking if Dan wanted to cut the cord (after they’d already cut her from me). But a lot of the surgery was a blur. I remember Dan handing me Camille and I kept saying “she’s perfect” and I was crying. The next thing I know, I was hoisted into a gurney and wheeled into another recovery area. Dan says they brought Camille to me pretty fast and I was able to breastfeed her- but I only remember this because of the photos that we have. Much of that morning was a blur due to the mag sulfate I was given and had to stay on until Thursday morning.
My parents visited later that day as did Dan’s aunt Robyn and cousin Rachel. I barely remember them being there. I know that my dad changed Camille’s first diaper and taught Dan how to diaper her as well. I slept a lot and went in and out of interacting with people.
Those days in the hospital were difficult with a screaming baby who was waiting for my milk to come in. The nurses insisted that we try to tube feed her formula to supplement, and I figured it was the best thing to do since she was obviously starving. She lost quite a bit of weight, and they kept me at the hospital an extra day just to be sure she was eating well and thriving. I feel like our whole first week together was mucked up by her birth and all of the drugs I was on during and afterwards. I was deeply traumatized by having to have my baby plucked from me, and not as nature intended. I definitely had a hard time bonding with her early on, and felt distant and disconnected. Every time I spoke about the birth I would cry in sadness and anger.
I am editing this story almost 3 years later, and it gets me so upset to read about it- I feel that my care was mismanaged, but I’m not exactly how or when it started, or why. I just know that if left on my own, I could have had my natural vaginal birth. Especially since I just recently had a VBAC and he was 8 lbs, 3 oz. They were telling me that my pelvis was inadequate to birth my 9lb,1oz. daughter, and I simply don’t believe it.
It took me about two years to recover from the trauma of my first birth. ICAN was instrumental in my healing process, and my co-leader was critical in my decision to avoid the hospital and seek a homebirth VBAC. I am indebted to ICAN and the community of women who have experienced the “unnecesarean” and may even be fortunate enough to get their VBAC.
Check back this afternoon to read Julie’s HBAC story…