I wrote my birth story when my daughter was 13 months old. I’m sharing a revised version for this year’s Labor Day Birth Story Link Up over at Mother Rising (MY doula!). I was a doula for several births before my own and those experiences helped me immensely. If you are reading, please make sure you read all the way to the end. The journey wasn’t an easy one, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but my experience overall was a positive one and the final paragraph of my birth story is the most important one.
: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :
I awoke on a Thursday, two days after my “due” date, to my first REAL contraction. I’d been having contractions on and off for week since my last cervical check showed I was 3-4cm and maybe 70% effaced. But this one was for sure the real thing. It was 3:45am. I went to the bathroom and woke my husband to let him know my labor had changed. We napped and snuggled until around 6am – I couldn’t stay lying down anymore. I showered and made us breakfast, yummy French toast, and used the counter for support during contractions between cracking the eggs or flipping the slices. It was still early, so we were taking things easy.
A few hours passed and my contractions were getting much closer together: 3-5 minutes apart if I was sitting on the birth ball, 1-2 minutes apart if I was standing, but they still were not hard enough that I was sure it was time to go. We called our doula, Lindsey, at one point earlier in the day and called her again around this time. I was starting to feel it was time to go to the hospital, but was worried I was making a rookie mistake — it’s one thing to watch a woman in labor and see in her face and actions if it’s time, it’s another thing to make that decision myself! When she arrived, I was hanging out on the birth ball in the kitchen. I remember laughing because I was worried I was jumping the gun. I think she thought I was, too, until she saw me in a contraction.
I wasn’t in control of my actions anymore, I couldn’t help but stand, my body hovering, squatting, my face pressing into the side of Dan’s neck as he sat next to me. I rode the surge in the quietness and warmth of that space, and found the same comfort later in labor pressing my face into him, squeezing his hands or arms. It was time.The car ride to the hospital was interesting. I was kneeling in the passenger seat, facing the rear, and I could see Lindsey in her car following behind us. There was a gush of fluids and I said, “I either just started peeing or my water broke!” It had! We arrived at around 11:15am.Even though I’d registered at the hospital I was still able to scare the crap out of a waiting room full of people with a few contractions while I waited for them to take me back to triage.I was 6 or 7cm when they checked me and I was allowed to move freely around the room after they gave me some antibiotics since I was GBS+. This is the awesome nurse who was with us for the first half of labor. I don’t think she works at the hospital anymore, but I want to give that woman a HUG!
I got in and out of the bath, especially as my labor got more difficult. The power of the water coming straight out of the faucet and onto my tailbone was glorious! The breaks in between contractions were a treasure, a little treat during labor, and I appreciated them so much – it was like I got to take a little lunch break from work and visit. I would smile and laugh, and then go back into my space refreshed. It wasn’t too much longer before I was in transition and missing those breaks, they were long gone and not coming back ever again!
I started laboring on the toilet, which is a wonderful place to labor! They checked me because I started talking about pooping and asking when to push and they found me to be at what they called 9+, meaning I was fully dilated with a small lip (as an aside, this is typical with malpresentation because baby’s head isn’t pressing uniformly onto the cervix).
“Resting” through with Lindsey’s help (around 3pm). I was HOT and trying not barf everywhere (thank goodness for lemon oil!):
I wrestled the bed and ignored the kind nurse telling me the beds weren’t made to withstand that kind of rattling… it’s not my fault the birth beds weren’t made for a birthing woman! My body was pushing, so I was grunting through contractions and pushing in little bursts. But once I was complete, there was no stopping me. I pushed in every position, but hands and knees the only comfortable position with relief from the pressure on my tailbone (my daughter was sunny-side up, or “persistent OP” which is why I had so much back labor and the cervical lip and the long pushing stage).
I’m not sure of the exact timeline, but the time between when I was 9+ and the time my daughter was born was about 11 hours. I kept asking why no one was saying they could see her head, and the doctor said it was just inside and was “all but crowned.” He said the vacuum would hurt because it would be pretty much ripping her out the rest of the way and he would only proceed with an epidural. So epidural it was. And then I pushed and he pulled for maybe an hour? I dunno, but it seemed quick to me. The baby’s heartrate dropped and wouldn’t come back up, and the meconium started pouring out of me after having clear fluid for the nearly twelve hours since my water had broken. The doctor said that it was time for a cesarean, that we couldn’t wait any longer. The baby had to come out now. I had negotiated until I couldn’t anymore and I am so proud of the hard work I did. If if it was up to the doctor, I would have had a cesarean long before it actually happened, and I would have always carried around so many What Ifs?
I was wheeled out of the room and past a crowd of my family who were waiting for the baby to be born. I am not sure who was there waving to me as I rolled by, they had taken my glasses, but I remember the outline of my grandmother and my aunt’s voice saying they loved me. I started bawling… the last time I was wheeled into an operating room was at 24 weeks pregnant to have my gall bladder removed after it caused me to have pancreatitis. The last time I was on a gurney, I wasn’t sure if I was going to live, much less if the little life inside of me would survive… The anesthesiologist tried to reassure me by telling me that cesareans were very common… and I told him why I was crying and he apologized…They rushed around me and it wasn’t too long before they were frantically asking Where’s Dad?!? Where is DAD?!?
They were needing to get the baby out but Dan hadn’t even made it into the room yet. I didn’t even know he was in the room before I hear his voice saying It’s a GIRL!
Our daughter Sarah was born at 11:27pm, weighing just under seven pounds.
I had to ask if it was still Thursday because I knew that I had been wheeled back not too long before midnight. My legs and hips were rocking throughout surgery and even into the next day – my body didn’t know that birth was over.I experienced three types of births in my one epic journey: I know what it feels like to labor naturally and push a baby almost
all the way out. I know what it feels like to push with an epidural. And I know what it feels like to lay my life and my body on an operating table and hear my baby being born behind a blue curtain in a room full of blue-clad people with obscured faces behind blue masks.Her first moments are nothing like we’d imagined. Her first moments are full of my only regrets. Her cord was cut immediately, she was intubated with a deep suction because of the meconium. No immediate skin-to-skin. So many things happened to her in her first moments that we did not want for her. So many things I wanted for her – and for us – that did not happen.Her first hours are a haze for me because after she was born the anesthesiologist asked me to close my eyes and gave me morphine without my knowledge; the epidural traveled into the nerves in my arms and I wasn’t comfortable holding her by myself at first. I was going to share a photo of me in recovery, Lindsey helping me try to latch Sarah because she knows how important it is to establishing a breastfeeding relationship, but I can barely look at it without feeling sad for what was lost in those first moments and days. I barely remember being there, and I feel almost that I’m looking at something that didn’t really happen, not to me at least.
I am so incredibly proud of what we accomplished during the many hours before her birth, and appreciate that our birth plan was followed completely. I enjoyed labor and really was able to step back and watch myself through each contraction in awe at what my body was doing. I am proud of my husband who was there for me just like I needed him to be. I am happy to have formed a bond with my doula that lasts even to this day. Giving birth was an amazing experience and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.
: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :
If you have had a cesarean or are preparing for one, the emotional aspect is one that others who haven’t had a cesarean may not be able to comprehend. If you need help in your emotional recovery, please contact your local ICAN chapter. I don’t know where I’d be without my local group.