My son is kind of a double anomaly-he came on his due date, April 17th, and my water broke before labor began, two things that I was told very rarely ever happen. Those weren’t the only two things about my labor that were completely and utterly unexpected.
I planned very much on delivering naturally-I was never afraid of labor (still not), but desperately afraid of getting a c-section because after months of research and preparation, I had a healthy fear of something that happens to over a third of women, which is also many times an unnecessary and major procedure that seemed so much riskier than natural birth.
The day before my son was due I called my mom to complain that I felt constipated. No pain, just uncomfortable feeling like I needed to poop. The first thing she said was “you should go to the hospital-it might be time.” I was incredulous. I had no pain, no contractions, nothing. Besides, I have planned on laboring at home as long as possible in accordance with what I called my birth preferences (as a result of being really tired of peple telling me I couldn’t plan anything). But she insisted, and with the mindset that they would most likely check me and send me home after confirming what I believed, that nothing was happening, my husband and I got into the car and away we went to the hospital we live about 2 minutes away from.
After signing in, getting my pretty little hospital bracelet, I was wheeled to triage (I would have preferred to walk but that’s not allowed) where they could monitor contractions (I wasn’t feeling any) and the baby. In front of the triage door, I moved to stand up and felt a trickle.
“Ok either I just peed a little or my water broke. I might just have peed.” It has felt like so little…
I stood fully up and then came the flood-I sat back down abruptly.
“yeah….my water just broke.”
To which the nurse said “alright well let’s skip triage and we’ll just wheel you down to Labor and Delivery.”
A quick swab of the copious amounts of amniotic fluid running down my legs confirmed my water had indeed broken, at which point I was told “well ya can’t leave now, this is it!” It made me a touch claustrophobic because I didn’t want to labor at the hospital for a long time, but I figured I’d just roll with it. After all, I had educated myself about my options and my rights and with my husband to support me in my resolve and written copies of our ‘birth preferences’ in my chart as well as the staff, I felt somewhat safer.
But apparently no one had read the notes in my chart-the first nurse who came in to help us was ready to set up an I.V. drip with fluids and pitocin. I told her no, I’d discussed this with the Dr. S-who had insisted on a heplock at least, ‘just in case’ but I would be taking no fluids or pitocin. She also began giving me the information on how long I’d have to wait for pain relief-which I informed her, as per my notes and my discussion with the Dr., no one was to mention or offer me any pain meds. I would ask if I felt I needed them.
The nurse really was very nice-she joked about what an easy patient I was because the vast majority of their laboring moms required more checking of fluids, pit, constant monitoring…I had requested intermittent monitoring only, as there were no telemetry units at this hospital I would have to sit 15 minutes every hour for monitoring. She asked if I needed anything-I requested a yoga ball and some ice water. The yoga ball wasn’t a problem but she was concerned about the water. Like most hospitals there were tight restrictions on eating or drinking during labor. I insisted, a call was made to the doc, and huzzah! Ice water. I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to eat but water was a must! I was checked-dilated to a 3, very effaced which I had been for weeks anyways but hey, I was on my way!
So for the next 4 hours after my water broke, we dimmed the lights. I walked, swayed with my husband, sang, leaned over the yoga ball. The contractions started out so mild that i barely noticed them! They gradually got stronger, though, and what I originally needed only to breathe or hip sway for was becoming cause for dropping a few f-bombs. But even at it’s peak, I can honestly say it’s not the worst pain I ever felt! The hardest pain was when I had to sit for the monitoring-but if I stayed moving, life was good.
The nurse brought in preparatory equipment for an epidural but assured me “no pressure-just in case you change your mind.” No matter how nice the nurse was, I found that obnoxious, but chose to ignore it-I was concentrating. I felt no temptation anyway. but that was 2 hours in…at around 4 hours in things were getting intense and I said quietly to my husband “I don’t know if I can do this. What if I can’t do it?” He told me how great I was doing and the assurance alone was invigorating enough to put me at ease and get back to the business of relaxing and giving myself up to each contraction, which were coming in pairs now. A nurse checked me again and was shocked to find that in the past 2 hours, I’d gone from about a 5 to around an 8, almost 9-and the OB, Dr. S, was called in. At this point I’m nauseous, then I’m past transition and my body has taken over the process-I’m pushing without any ability to resist the overwhelming urge, and it feels SOOOOO good to push! Really, I don’t think I couldn’t have. It was undeniably powerful, involuntary and uncontrollable.
From the moment Dr. S., walked in, the atmosphere became one of panic. The level headed, relaxed demeanor she’d had at every prenatal visit that had comforted me in my choice of doctor had apparently drained away with my amniotic fluid. I had been rocking steadily on all fours which felt really very nice-despite what Dr. S and I had discussed in prenatal visits about how it was ok for me to labor freely and she would work around my positioning, as laying on my back was uncomfortable during pregnancy, the first thing to happen was I was told to lay on my back-I was mid contraction and shook my head no, managing to breath out that I didn’t want to move, I couldn’t move right then. But they kept insisting I had to lay back to check the heart rate and for Dr. S to check me and finally “physically assisted” me into a laying position, at which point things became much more painful. Again against my wishes, my legs are hoisted up and I’m directed to hold my breath and push, exactly what I didn’t want to do, as an oxygen mask is forced over my face. Had I not been in the throes of a force older than time itself that had taken over my right mind, I’d have protested a whole lot harder.
Heart monitor on and suddenly the doctor is very hurried and tense-the baby’s heartrate is difficult to track-he is very low. Without my consent or even so much as talking to me or my husband, suddenly an internal fetal monitor is utilized, at which point the panic intensifies-his heart rate is ‘a bit low.’ Not terribly low, no distress, but suddenly the room explodes with nurses galore and an anesthesiologist as I’m hurriedly told “we need to do a C-section now-I don’t know how long it’s been low.” Everything is moving so fast and my husband and I are so shocked that this is even happening after my fast and relatively easy labor that we are dumb with disbelief as a catheter is inserted-forcefully-1…2…Dr. S. finally gets it on the 3rd try because baby’s head is so low. With no epidural or pain meds of any sort, that is what I remember as the most painful part of labor. Also because there is no epidural, I am put under general anesthesia in the OR. my husband is denied access to the OR. Neither of us saw the birth of our child or heard his first cry. I had run the marathon and was denied to finish just short of the line. He was given a hep B shot-another thing I had on paper that he was not to receive-one of the drawbacks of neither parent being present in the room when their child is born. I was very drugged and don’t remember the first time I saw him, or even the first few days with him more than just a haze of pain and some mild, detached happiness at my son finally being earth side.
A couple days after the section, while we were still the hospital, I began experiencing faintness and tachycardia. I was wheeled away for a CT scan with contrast (which interrupted our breastfeeding for 24 hours per doc/s pump and dump order) to rule out possible blood clots-blood work confirms merely that I need a blood transfusion so I am given 2 units of blood. I remember the second OB, Dr. T, who I saw at my prenatal visits (one of the three docs in that practice) claim that in the event of a C-section, my request for in-body uterine stitching was impossible because they needed to take it out “to get the bleeders” and stem blood loss. Apparently it wouldn’t have mattered either way. They had the luxury of pulling my uterus out of my body to stitch up those bleeders and still I needed a blood transfusion. I recall hazily Dr. T. coming in a day or two after the surgery to tell me how “women with a birth plan almost always end up with cesareans” and how “birth doesn’t really matter…you’re not really a parent until you’ve gone to a PTA meeting.” Had I not been doped out of my mind I might have reacted more violently than a weak nod and a smile. Imagine…a man who works with birth for a living but says “it’s not that important…”
Coming home was a relief, but difficult-I had a very long and painful recovery. I was still getting lightheaded a lot, and at one point I woke up needing to go to the bathroom and was in so much pain on the left side of my incision that I couldn’t get to the bathroom. My mother had to bring me a bucket because I couldn’t walk to the bathroom with a full bladder pressing against the incision-another aspect of C-section that hurt worse than labor.
Adding insult to injury, I received an 18,000 dollar hospital bill before the insurance caught it, and was shocked to see that the c-section had been billed for the 16th. My son was delivered the 17th. When I brought this up to Dr. S her immediate response was “well if you don’t trust me I may not be the doctor for you.” I’ve worked in billing-you can’t bill something the day before it happens. But it was brushed off as a billing error. Just about a year later, and I’m still working through the shellshock of what a disaster this birth was. I wish I’d gotten a doula and a midwife. I thought I or my husband could advocate for our birth-but it’s hard to advocate for yourself when your OB is fear mongering and your pushing and not quite in your normal state of mind. I’m sorry to say that it was easily, other than for my child being born, the worst day (which stretched out for a couple months, actually) of my life.