This birth story, in honor of Cesarean Awareness Month (CAM), comes from Emma. To have your birth story posted on this blog, email it to: firstname.lastname@example.org
“That’s a beautiful scar”
When I was younger I always envisioned birth as you saw it on TV… a woman who was rushed to the hospital in the throws of labor, her water broken signaling the start of the process, quickly hooked up to an IV that would take away all the pain, and then after a few hours and some pushing a baby would be born! It would all be simple and wonderful. Then of course I actually decided to have a baby, did my research, and realized that this was not the way birth was meant to be. Birth wasn’t meant to be experienced flat on your back with people saying “PUSH!” over and over again. Birth was natural and normal and wasn’t supposed to need drugs to “help speed things along”. I watched the business of being born, read books and blogs, and quickly formulated my birth plan. No drugs, no intervention, no hospital.
I spent 1/3 of my pregnancy in the care of midwives at a free standing birth center. I went to their orientation and eagerly picked out which room I wanted to birth in. As the due date drew closer we packed our bags, purchased food to eat during and after labor, installed the carseat, and waited. And waited. And waited. I went for my weekly checkups only to hear “well, nothing’s going on yet but that doesn’t mean anything!”. My due date came and went and still, no baby. I knew this was normal… my mom went past her due date with both my brother and I. I was not nervous. Then at 41 weeks I lost the ability to give birth in my birthing center. Now I was considered at a higher risk and would have to give birth in a hospital. Depressed but not defeated I continued to wait. I went to my ultrasounds and had non stress test’s performed. Baby was happy and comfortable. Then at 42 weeks the dreaded word appeared… induction. I was given a choice: wait and be transferred to the care of an OB I had never met or have an induction performed at 42 ½ weeks. I was already 3cm dilated and about 50% effaced. I decided that I would give in to the induction. My dream of the natural birth at a hospital was over.
I was depressed but again, not defeated. My midwives would be performing the induction and would be there with me. Just because I was getting the dreaded pitocin didn’t mean I couldn’t still have the birth I dreamed of. Sure, I would need monitoring but I was assured there were portable monitors. My midwives encouraged me to bring food to the hospital and eat when no one was looking. I was assured I wouldn’t have to end up flat on my back pushing: they would accommodate other positions. I entered the hospital that gloomy Sunday morning optimistic and eager. I had dreams that by nightfall I would have my son.
I should have become nervous when the nurse I was assigned was not very friendly towards my “I want to walk around” attitude. The fact my midwives showed up late and then hardly were in the room to support me also should have set off warning bells. When my water finally did break instead of offering advice to help me my midwife was quick to suggest an epidural which, in tears, I gave in to. I knew the epidural was the nail in the coffin. How right I was. I went to sleep with an epidural so strong I couldn’t feel my lower body… I couldn’t move. I was forced to lay in the position that the nurse and midwife left me in. I shook and trembled which my midwife told me “was because I was in labor” when in fact I believe it was a side effect of the epidural. It was horrible. Needless to say my progress was slow… after 24 hours I still wasn’t fully dilated. My requests to sit up were rejected with “but then the medicine will all sink to your butt”. All I wanted was to move positions.
Thankfully the new midwife on call with me realized that me laying on my back wasn’t a good idea and allowed me to sit up… she also requested the epidural be turned down so finally I could feel my legs again. Then they came in and had me do practice pushes… they counted, they shifted me into weird positions, but nothing helped and nothing felt good and nothing was causing my baby to move downwards. Almost 2 ½ hours of pushing resulted in no change… he was high up and not budging and my options were running out. I could see it in my midwives face when she sat next to me… the word c-section was coming. I cried. I bawled. It was the ending I had feared. I had never had any major surgery. But I was exhausted and hungry and weak and wanted nothing more than an end… so I said yes.
The second I said yes things moved so quickly it is almost a blur. My room filled with about a dozen medical personnel who introduced themselves to me. I was given a lot of information, things were packed up, my husband was given clothes to wear, an anesthesiologist was talking to me about what I would feel. I was being whisked down a hallway into a freezing operating room. There was music playing, I specifically remember hearing “soul man” being played. People were standing, talking about their weekend plans. They quickly introduced themselves to me and went back to their conversations. The one thing I vividly remember is the sweet anesiologist who made sure I was comfortable, who got me a warm towel for my head, who reassured me that nothing would happen until I couldn’t feel it. No one told me when they started to cut. No one told me what was happening. All I know is one second I felt a release of pressure and a baby wailing. That was it. He was born. I lay there in a confused stuper… I remember telling my husband to go be with him while my midwife held my hand. I just wanted to meet my son. Finally they bought him over to me and let me see him for a few quick minutes before again he was whisked away while I was sewn back up.
It seemed to take forever before they were moving me to the recovery room. I thought, at last, I can hold my son! Instead I discovered to my disappointment he needed more tests so instead I lay on a bed, 2 feet away, staring at him, unable to touch him. All I wanted to do was hold my son and instead I was in a bed attached to monitors drugged up so that I couldn’t feel anything. Finally, after what seemed like forever they let me hold him and breastfeed. That was the most amazing thing in the world… but it was tinged with sadness. I felt spacey and disoriented and distanced from the situation. It seemed more like a dream than reality.
To say bonding was difficult in those first few days was an understatement. I was unable to move so my husband had to pick the baby up for me. Then they suspected he had an infection so they wanted to administer IV antibiotics which meant a NICU stay. He was whisked away downstairs with me visiting every 2 – 3 hours to feed him. I clung to breastfeeding determined that something in my birth plan would go right! But instead of being able to cuddle with him as he slept I found myself rushing back to my room for my next round of pain medication or simply to sleep. Those precious first few days of bonding with my son were torn from me. They are days I can never get back.
At 2 weeks post partum I had to return to my midwives for a follow up exam to ensure everything was healing correctly. They had told me that I could remove the sani strips that held my incision together in the shower but my fingers refused to touch the area. I had looked at it in the mirror once, just once. Walking into that office brought tears to my eyes. As I walked past the pregnant women sitting in the waiting room all I could remember was my optimisim, my hope of a natural birth. As I sat in the small room waiting for my midwife the tears fell. I was supposed to give birth here, not be returning 2 weeks later to have my incision checked. At 2 weeks I was hardly walking more than 10 feet without needing to stop or sit down. I could not carry my baby up or down the stairs. I could hardly even carry him in his carseat let alone in the carrier I had purchased for him. Even getting out of bed was painful. The midwife removed the sani strips and said the phrase that would forever haunt me “Oh, you’re going to be really pleased with this when it heals. It’s really nice”. Its really nice.
I wanted to scream at her and yell how it wasn’t fair, this wasn’t what I wanted, I shouldn’t even have this scar. But instead I numbly nodded and went on my way. I told myself I was still hormonal after giving birth that I just needed time.
But then, my 6 week appointment rolled around. Again off I went to the midwives office and again that feeling of dread hit in the pit of my stomach. Again the tears fell as I sat in the exam room. Again I was reminded that I was a failure. Again I was told “That’s a beautiful scar”.
A year later I still can’t even drive near that office without the familiar feeling of dread passing through my body. Just saying their name reminds me that I failed… and that they failed me. The midwives who promised to assist me in my natural birth ultimately helped to sabotage it. I feel naïve and silly that I put so much faith in their words when ultimately their actions told a different tale. I regret giving in to my induction and the pressure that I felt.
To me that scar will never be beautiful, no matter how cleanly it heals. It’s a constant reminder of what happened to me the day my son was born.