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Lauren’s Worst Day

The day my eldest son was born was the worst day of my life.  I know what you’re thinking…how can you say that?  But it has nothing to do with my love for him and everything to do with the way that he was brought into this world.  I know they say that birthing a baby is the most natural thing in the world, but Eli’s birth was about the furthest thing from “natural” as anyone can get.

I was 41 weeks and 5 days along in my pregnancy when I had an OB appointment at Magee (though the OB will argue I was only 40 weeks and 6 days, but that’s another story).  Because I was so far along in my pregnancy and because I had limited fetal movement, they decided to do a non-stress test.  Eli failed, so they sent me downstairs for an ultrasound where the tech found extremely low amniotic fluid.  I was sent back upstairs to my OB’s office to discuss the results.  When the nurse invited me back to Dr. A’s office, I knew something was wrong.  When Dr. A walked in the room, she exclaimed, “So how does October 2nd sound for a birthday?”  My immediate response was, “Today?!?!”  She informed me that my placenta was getting “old” and not producing enough amniotic fluid.  I was to call my husband and then proceed downstairs to be admitted to Labor and Delivery.  Could I stop home and get my bags?, I asked.  No.  I needed to stay put.  My husband was a nervous wreck, sped the whole way from his office in Blawnox to our house, then rushed to Magee.

It turns out there was no need to rush, because when my husband arrived at Magee around 4pm, I was still sitting in the waiting room anxiously waiting to be admitted – all beds were full.  After pestering the admission lady (Dr. A said she wanted me on fetal monitors within the hour), I was admitted to triage around 4:30pm where we sat for 3 grueling hours until a bed opened up at 7:30pm.

Upon being admitted, they inserted an IV for fluids and started the pitocin drip.  I begged for food since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast at 8am.  The nurses adamantly told me no food, but thankfully Dr. A allowed me to order a full dinner – she said it was going to be a long labor and I would need my energy (and boy oh boy was she right).  Since my cervix was completely closed, Dr. A also decided to insert a foley bulb to essentially force my cervix to dilate to 5cm.  She tilted my bed back as far as it would go and I started to feel nauseous while at the same time I tried to keep myself from crying because the pain upon insertion was intense.

I labored like that throughout the night – hooked up to fetal monitors, an IV drip, and pitocin.  I was allowed to walk around, but all the wires would only allow me to move about 5 feet from the bed.  The nurses kept increasing my dose of pitocin, artificially making the contractions stronger and closer together.  Every time a nurse came in the room, she asked if I wanted an epidural, but I politely declined.  I wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom but instead had to use a bed pan.  Around 5am, I needed to relieve myself, but after I was done urinating, fluid still kept coming out and I knew my water had broken.  I told the nurse, but she didn’t believe me because she said there wasn’t enough fluid there.  I asked to be checked and a resident came in, confirming that my water had broken (and confirming that my amniotic fluid was, indeed, extremely low) and informing me that I had dilated to 5cm.  She tugged on the foley bulb and it came out.  Did I want an epidural now???  My husband had slept for maybe 45 minutes that night, but I didn’t get a wink.  I told them I could make it at least another 2 or 3 hours without pain relief, but they said it would certainly be much longer than that before my baby was born.  Considering I had been up for 22 hours at this point, I knew I didn’t have it in me to labor indefinitely, so I asked for the epidural.  And that’s when all hell broke loose.

The epidural went in just fine and brought some pain relief at first.  But an hour or two later, maybe more, I’m not sure…I started having complications.  It was at this point that I lost track of time and couldn’t focus on anything except my own body, so forgive me if the story from here on out seems a bit jumbled.  First my blood pressure started dropping, then the baby’s heart rate started dropping.  Alarms went off, nurses came running in, they gave me oxygen, they flipped me on my left side but that didn’t help.  So they flipped me on my right.  Eventually, somehow, they got the baby’s heart rate to come back up.  This scenario repeated itself at least 3, maybe 4 or 5 or 6 or more times over the course of the next 12 hours.  At some point, they even inserted an internal fetal monitor because it kept happening so often.

Then another complication.  I started to feel dizzy, light-headed, like I was going to pass out.  I was slurring my speech.  I was talking crazy, saying I didn’t want to die.  I told my husband something was wrong.  Very wrong.  My nurse came in, then another nurse, then another…then a resident, then Dr. A, then finally an anesthesiologist.  Everyone was dumbfounded.  Dr. A held my hand and kept telling me that I was fine, I wasn’t going to die.  She also kept telling me I didn’t sound like myself and asked my husband if I had a history of psychiatric issues (ummm…no).  The nurses asked for a dose of epinephrine.  But that didn’t make sense, the anesthesiologist said…my blood pressure was fine.  But they gave me a shot of epi anyway.  Did I feel better now?  No.  Not at all.  They waited a bit.  Did I feel better now?  No.  Not all.  So they gave me another shot of epi.  How about now?  Did I feel better now?  NO!  NOT. AT. ALL.  Finally, the anesthesiologist said they should check my sugar.  The nurses argued but eventually conceded.  When they checked it, it was absurdly low – in the 40’s, I think?  I don’t know.  Like I said, I don’t remember all the details.  But whatever it was, it was so low that they were all shocked I was still conscious.  Dr. A gave me a glass of ginger ale.  Did I feel better now?  Yes, thank goodness!  (See…I TOLD YOU I’m not crazy!)

But alas, this was not the end of complications for me.  The nurses kept increasing my dose of pitocin – hey, I had an epidural and couldn’t feel the contractions, so why not, right?  My contractions were overlapping and I could now feel them in my upper abdomen.  They were so intense that I was panting and screaming and holding onto the bedrail.  The nurse got excited – maybe it’s time to push?  But someone (a resident?  Dr. A?  Like I said, the details are fuzzy) checked me and it was not even close to pushing time.  So they called the anesthesiologist and he gave me another dose of meds, but it didn’t help.  So he gave me another dose, but it still hurt.  So they finally turned the pitocin down.  Ahhh, relief.  For now.

Around 5:30pm (it was the next day now, October 3rd), Dr. A came in and checked me.  I was 8cm.  She said she had to go home – poor girl had been on call since I saw her for my regular OB appointment the day before at 1:30pm!  I complained to her that my back was killing me.  The pain was excruciating.  She said it must have been from lying in the same position for 13 hours – my stubborn child would only allow me to lay on my right side.  If I moved at all, boom!  His heart rate would drop instantly.  So Dr. A, my husband, and I talked at length about a “plan.”  As much as I did NOT want a c-section, I was exhausted in every sense of the word.  I was going on 34 hours without a wink of sleep.  I couldn’t do it much longer.  Ultimately, the decision was that Dr. B (they had to switch shifts) would check me in an hour.  If I had progressed further, I would continue to labor.  If I didn’t progress, I would go in for a c-section.

Well, they switched shifts, Dr. B came in at 6:30pm and checked me.  She said I was 6cm dilated.  SIX?!?!?!  Are you seriously f&*#ing kidding me?!?!?!  Wasn’t I just EIGHT an hour ago!?!?!?  She looked at me and said, very matter of factly, “It’s time for a c-section.”  I was depleted…physically, emotionally.  I was done.  I didn’t have the energy to argue.

So they wheeled me in for the c-section.  It was cold and the lights were bright and I was terrified.  Absolutely terrified.  They strapped my arms to the table and started prepping my naked body…preparing to cut my baby out of my womb.  But once they started cutting, I started screaming.  I could feel it.  I could feel everything.  The anesthesiologist kept asking me, “Pressure or pain?  Do you feel pressure or pain?”  PAIN, I screamed, PAIN!  The anesthesiologist kept saying I shouldn’t feel any pain, just pressure.  I kept screaming.  Finally, after the anesthesiologist kept insisting that I couldn’t feel anything, Dr. B yelled at him and told him, “Well every time I cut her, she keeps screaming!”  A curtain was drawn, so I couldn’t see anything, I couldn’t see when they were cutting me.  He gave me more drugs, but I still felt the surgery.  I felt every minute of it.  At some point, I heard Eli cry.  But I couldn’t even be happy about that because, in all honestly, I couldn’t focus on anything except my body, the pain, and trying to breathe.  As they sewed me up, I asked my husband to stay with me and I didn’t want to see the baby because I still felt like I couldn’t breathe.  Eventually, when they were done putting me back together, a nurse brought the baby over and my husband got to hold him.  I kept asking my husband to hold the baby up because I couldn’t see his face.  When the surgery was over, they put the baby in my arms and wheeled me back to my recovery room.  I was so exhausted and doped up on drugs that I remember asking the nurse to make sure the baby wasn’t going to fall.  I literally, physically, could not hold my own child.

Shortly after arriving in the recovery room, I started hemorrhaging.  A million doctors and nurses came in a flurry.  A resident – her name was Helen, I still wish I could meet her one day and thank her for her kindness – took care of me as I hemorrhaged on and off for the next 4 hours until she finally got the bleeding under control (I still, to this day, don’t know where Dr. B was??).  First she massaged my uterus (did I mention that was incredibly painful after just having had surgery on it?).  Then she gave me some medicine to make my uterus contract.  Then she massaged my uterus again.  The bleeding would stop for awhile, but then it would start again.  She kept saying my uterus was “boggy” and they couldn’t get the bleeding under control.  I kept asking what was going to happen – and they said they may have to do a D&C.  ANOTHER SURGERY?!?!?  Are you kidding me?!?!  At this point I was freaking out.  She said first she was going to try to remove the blood clots – manually.  Wasn’t that going to hurt?  Yes.  They said they could use my epidural for pain relief.  NO!, I barked.  That thing gave me nothing but trouble.  So they gave me morphine.  But the nurse pushed it too fast and it created a terrible pain in my arm (Could I please catch a break here?  Even my pain meds were causing me pain!).  Then she proceeded to do the most God awful thing I could have ever imagined – before I knew it, she was elbow deep inside my uterus, pulling out clots the size of baseballs.  All the while the nurses were trying to tell me to keep my legs open and that if I didn’t, they’d have to do a D&C.  I was told that I gave the most blood curdling screams anyone has ever heard – I’m sure I scared every other birthing mother on the floor that night out of their wits.  I’m not sure how long it took for her to remove all of the clots, but it felt like an eternity.  At one point, I made the mistake of opening my eyes – there was a mirror on the ceiling (intended for birthing mothers) and I saw the entire horrific scene…it looked like a crime scene.  I don’t think I’ll ever get that image out of my mind.

Somehow, eventually, Helen stopped the bleeding for good.  She brought the baby over to me and let me hold him.  And I kept saying, “It’s not fair.  It’s just not fair.  I’m so tired.  I’m soooo tired.  I just want to sleep.”  But she kept telling me, “You’re right, it’s not fair.  But you have a baby.  Look at your baby.  This is what you’re going through all of this for.”  And I started sobbing and kissing him all over his face and his eyes.  I had a baby.  I had a baby.

Around 2am (it was October 4th now), they finally sent me up to the postpartum unit.  I had a baby, but I was exhausted and depleted and doped up on drugs.  And though I swore I would never send my baby to the nursery in the hospital…I sent him to the nursery.  Because I had been up for 43 hours and I had just endured hell and I couldn’t keep my eyes open.  And so I spent the rest of the night in a morphine induced sleep.

And that is how my son was brought into this world.  And that is why I say the day my son was born was the worst day of my life.  I still can’t remember what he looked like in those first hours.  By the time they brought him to me the next morning (October 4th), he was bathed and fed and swaddled and had his hair combed.  He wasn’t the same baby that came out of my womb all messy and bloody and screaming the night before…I’ll never remember that baby, for his memory is forever lost on me.

21 Comments

  1. Heather says:

    I am so sorry that you experienced this. Thank you for your courage in sharing.

  2. Bonnie says:

    Dear Lauren, I am crying for you, your husband, and your baby… You have a right to call this the worst day of your life. I hope that at some point you will be able to look back on this terribly difficult experience and find that you have healed. Bless you!

  3. Racheal says:

    Your story is heartbreaking. I pray that you are finding the healing that you need. Congrats on your baby boy. I can completely empathise (sp?) with your feelings. While you definitely when through a lot more pain then I did, the saddness of not knowing those precious first hours of my son’s life will not go away. I miss that I can’t share those memories with others & instead have to rely on others who don’t remember the details that I so much wish I had.

  4. Christina says:

    I always say, “the day after my son was born was the best day of my life”
    I really try not to focus on the actual day he was born because it was so traumatic for me. When the time comes I don’t know what I’ll tell him about his birth….
    I’m trying for a VBAC in Feb and I’m scared to death, but at the same time I know I’ll never be induced again and ICAN has given me the hope of a BETTER BIRTH this time around!

  5. Lauren says:

    Thank you everyone for the support. My son is almost 3 now. It took me that long to build up the courage to actually get his birth story down on paper. I wish I could say I’ve healed from his birth, but I haven’t and I’m not sure I ever will. I did go on to have a second son and although I desperately wanted a VBAC, it ended up being another c-section. Thankfully, his birth was FAR less traumatic and (somewhat) cathartic – I did get to see him and BF him right after he was born.

    Christina – good luck in your journey to VBAC. I really hope it happens for you! I, too, knew that I would NEVER be induced again when I was trying for the VBAC with my second son.

  6. Beth says:

    I cried reading your post because I thought no one else had gone through the hell that I went through with my son’s birth. I labored on pit and epidural but as soon as I went into surgery, I could feel them cutting me open and it was the worst thing I could have ever imagined. They didn’t believe me when I told them I could feel it! Finally they just knocked me out right after I got to see a few second glimpses of my son and his dark head of hair. I woke up in a room, alone, without my baby or my husband wearing off the drugs. I didn’t have the clots but I remember not being able to walk and trying to breastfeed through a fog of percocet. I will NEVER be induced again! EVER! I am having a VBAC in a week and chose a midwife in a birth center and am not even having an IV. I refuse to go through something like that. God Bless you and know that you aren’t alone and its women like us that will change the horrible way birth is managed in hospitals. By our stories and experiences, we will change this!!!!

  7. Angela says:

    A very brave post. I just came out of a 2nd, family-centered c-section (you can see a bit about it on the ICAN blog, posted today) and it was day & night from my other experience. I thought I had it pretty bad (1st experience was a stillbirth–52 hours of pit-induced labour from scratch at 33 weeks, but a transverse vaginal delivery thanks to a midwife) followed by a bad c-section experience. In my case the epidural worked & I *cannot imagine* what it not working would be like…oh my god.

    I *hate* when people say “look at what all that pain gave you”…I mean *it’s true* but it truly negates *your* feelings, *your* health (especially emotionally) and where *you are at* with the experience. I *still* describe my stillbirth experience as “more positive” than my daughter’s birth because it was, in many ways, less traumatic.

    Anyway, I wish you continued healing…thank you for sharing.

  8. karen says:

    WHile mine was nowhere near your’s, i also “Went backwards” which my later midwife told me was impossible! anyway, my HBAC boy is 17, so DO NOT WORRY!! Pitocin is the pits, but you can do anything!

  9. Bonnie says:

    Dear Lauren, I hope you did not feel minimized in any way by my previous comment. Healing is never “glib” or to be taken for granted. It does take TIME… I can barely imagine (and only through your story) the horror of an un-anesthetized c-section, plus hemorrhaging! Gruesome beyond comprehension, unless you’ve experienced it. I am glad you SURVIVED it to BE a mother to your little Eli.

    From my perspective (1980 & 1992 c-secs, 1997 HBA2C) there is much about your story still to unfold within you, still to be gained, still to be understood. As you said it took three years to be able to write this post. I find I am still re-thinking, still learning about my three birth experiences.

    Perhaps the greatest benefit you may receive from this terribly painful trauma is a depth of inner strength and compassion for other women…. Bless you, bless you, bless you! {{{Hugs}}}

  10. Lauren says:

    Bonnie,
    I did not feel minimized by your previous comment, I’m sorry if it came off that way. I know you were only wishing me the best. I was merely stating where I currently am, from an emotional perspective. I thought that I had mostly healed from Eli’s birth, but then I joined my local ICAN chapter and all of those feelings began to resurface, as raw as they were the day it all happened. And then I realized that I hadn’t, in fact, healed from his birth. Not at all. I guess I was just suppressing it all. But now that I have started to share my story, I have begun to feel some sense of validation. And I think, for me, that may be the beginning of my journey to healing from this trauma.

  11. Judithe says:

    I hope you will find enough healing somewhere somehow that you can find a different way to think about your son’s birth. How would you feel if your mother said, “The day you were born was the worst day of my life”? I know I sound callous but I have a beautiful son who was born by cesarean. (My older child, a daughter, was not.) I developed a clot in my ovarian artery after he was born and the infection made me infertile. I was never able to have another child which was a sadness to me. But my son is now 32 years old and I have loved every minute of his life (okay, the teen years were somewhat troublesome at times). I have worked for years as a LLL Leader and I have done, taught, and written everything I could to prevent unnecessary cesareans but the trauma of my son’s birth was one of those bad things that happen in life. There is much in my life I would change, including my son’s birth, but I can’t. He is a precious gift to us, each and every day.

  12. Lauren says:

    Judithe,
    I take extreme offense to your post. I stated in the very first paragraph, “it has nothing to do with my love for him and everything to do with the way that he was brought into this world.” Of COURSE I love my son and of COURSE he is a blessing. I wanted him so badly and planned to have him for years. But the fact of the matter is that his birth WAS the worst day of my life to date (and I wouldn’t say I’ve had an easy breezy life…my 36 year old cousin was murdered when I was 16, my grandfather dropped over dead when I was 13, my 46 year old aunt died two months ago from an occupational hazard, the list goes on). To say I shouldn’t feel this way truly minimizes my experience. I came close to dying that day. I truly thought I WAS going to die. To say it was a horrible day would be an understatement. And a HUGE part of what made that day so horrible was that I DIDN’T GET TO SEE MY SON THE DAY HE WAS BORN. That hurts me more than words can express. And don’t think I haven’t thought about what I’m going to tell him when he’s older. The mere though terrifies me. Perhaps I’ll tell him what Christina said, that the day AFTER he was born was the BEST day of my life.

  13. Anna says:

    Lauren…you are very brave to write your story..Judithe you are very wrong and insensitive..I also have had a terrible birth…it was one of the worst days in both me and my husbands life. I love my daughter…in fact she is the only good thing that came out of that terrible experience. I bet you love your little guy more than anything! Thankyou for sharing your story…it truly moved me

  14. Lauren says:

    Thank you Anna! And I’m very sorry for your birth experience as well.

    Karen – I’m very curious, your midwife said it was impossible to “go backwards”? My OB said that my cervix must have swelled??? Although, I think it was just a difference of opinion between the 2 docs.

  15. Kristal says:

    Great story Lauren. My birth was far less traumatic than yours, and I can’t imagine what you went through. You have every right to your feelings about it, no matter what gripe anyone has with it. It takes years to recover from something like this.. but I think you are well on your path to emotional recovery. You’re very lucky to have survived your ordeal, and I only hope that one day you can have the ‘perfect’ birth you have dreamed of. Best wishes!

  16. Kristal says:

    oh.. I forgot to add.. about the ‘going backwards’. When laboring with my second child I had the same situation happen. I was told I was 5cm when admitted, 6cm an hour later, and 4 hours later when nurses changed suddenly I was still at 5cm. Sometimes your water bag can cause the cervix to appear to be dialated further than it actually is.. and since dilation really is a bit of a guess it varies from one staff member to another. If you want a more accurate measure I found that the old midwife trick of counting how many finger widths are between the ribcage and the top of the uterus is actually more accurate than the opinion of a medical staff personnel’s opinion.

  17. Kati says:

    I am so sorry Lauren. My birthing with my first son was an induction at 40 weeks and 4 days (because I had a pelvmentry scan and “5 of 6 measurements were well below average in the pelvis— well no crap, I was lying down during the CT scan!), with an “all night ripening” with cytotec (that only yielded 1 cm of progress), an amniotomy AT 1cm (stupid OB), an epi after 8 hours of intensely PAINFUL, pitocin-induced contractions, with two hours of pushing after a reasonably shorter labor (only about 16 hours in all). All I’m trying to say, I guess is, that I had a C/S as well, because baby boy was malpositioned with his cushion gone so early in labor. He was facing posterior, with no natural way to turn himself around, poor guy. And I didn’t have any help with this, even though I requested it on a birthing plan. I could feel all the incisions they made with my C/S also. The anesthesiologist was a nice guy and offered to put me under, after topping up the surgical epi 3 times, but I declined, wanting to see my baby right away. Needless to say, my recovery was bad, with lots of mother/baby bonding problems, PPD and breastfeeding issues (we figured the breastfeeding out completely, pain-free after 2 months of fighting for it to happen-I’m still nursing him at 18 months and 35 1/2 weeks pregnant with twins). But it wasn’t bad like yours was BAD. I am truly sorry for what you went through, and reading your story helped me think again about why I’m being careful with this next birthing, due to happen anywhere from now-3 weeks from now. I’m going for a natural, twin VBAC, with a supportive OB and practice.
    Aren’t ICAN groups such wonderful support? I love mine!

  18. Lauren says:

    Kati,
    I’m so sorry for your experience with your son. I wish you all the best in your attempt to have a natural VBAC, with twins no less! I really hope it happens for you! Please post an update on here or you can e-mail me at laf6@verizon.net. I love to follow VBAC stories!

    And yes, my ICAN group is great. Unfortunately, I’ve only been able to attend one meeting so far (b/c of my husband’s work schedule), but I’ve found great support online as well and I’m hoping to attend another meeting soon.

    Oh, and good for you for making the BFing work! I was unfortunately a big fat failure in that department as well. I can’t birth my children, I can’t feed my children…sometimes I just think, what the he!! is wrong with me? After speaking to several lactation consultants, I discovered that my breasts are tubular and I lack sufficient glandular tissue to ever produce enough milk for any baby, let alone 9lb ones. I did, however, BF my 2nd son for 6 months, even though at least 95% of his nutrition came from formula.

  19. Lauren, I too experienced an under-anesthetized cesarean. It was total and utter hell, and yes, it was one of the worst days of my life on what SHOULD have been one of the best days of my life. I completely “get” you saying that; don’t let anyone minimize that.

    The experience so traumatized me that it was FIVE YEARS before I was even able to share the story fully, simply because it brought things back too vividly for me to talk about it. But eventually I did some PTSD work and was able to process much of the experience and find more peace with it. However, it’s normal to be traumatized after something like that; it’s not something you ever “cure”….just find more peace with. Honor your feelings and where you are in the process.

    Some research indicates that a posterior baby (baby facing your tummy instead of your back) presents a higher risk for inadequate anesthesia experiences. It often also leads to slow, non-progressive labors and many cesareans.

    I too had a cesarean with my first and then a CBAC with my second, simply because my babies were posterior and had difficulty fitting through in that position and because my pelvis was all out of whack.

    I did go on to have two VBACs (VBA2C) after those experiences, after seeing a chiropractor who helped immensely with the pelvis issues (which also helped the babies get into an easier position for birth). I can’t promise that will happen for you, of course, but I wanted to let you know that others have been through something similar and still gone on to have a VBAC. It’s not impossible.

    If you ever want to speak to me about these experiences (inadequate anesthesia, CBAC, etc.), feel free to email me. In the meantime, hugs to you and kudos for speaking out about your experience. Good for you. Make yourself heard.

  20. Leah Shane says:

    I am so sorry this is what your experience was on your first time. I am amazed that you would go through birth ever again. I had a terrible first delivery (nothing compared to yours though) and it was emotionally scarring. My husband still can’t totally understand why I hate c-sections so much. I hope that you can have a vbac someday.

  21. Becky Lillejord says:

    Maybe it’s possible to “go backwards” in dilation but the most likely reason is that the person who has done the “checking” has made a mistake- but they’ll never admit it- or even realize that they are wrong!