Birth Story, A Decade Later

I woke up early. I wasn't feeling anything other than jitters. I was supposed to go in for an induction that day! The day before, they told me that because my induction was "elective" and they had a full floor, I would have to wait. I told the nurse, "No. Mine's not elective. My doctor said I had to have an induction as soon as possible." She politely told me that mine was considered elective, and I asked if my insurance would still cover it, knowing that they didn't cover many "elective" procedures. She said they would. I was so confused at my non-elective-elective induction, but I trusted my doctor, and did what she said. I called again, on September 3rd, 3 days before my due date. They weren't sure if they'd have room, they'd call me. I hung up disappointed and upset. How could they just tell me to wait? My doctor said it was urgent to have the baby!

I know now that I was in no danger. I was dilated to 3cm, and my water was unbroken. She told me I was at risk of an infection. The risk of infection increases with every dilation-check they do, but to limit those was never brought up as an option. I was never told of my Bishop's Score - an indication of how likely it is that an induction will work, based on several different factors - or even that such a thing existed, probably because mine would have been so low to recommend no induction. 

I signed in to the hospital, got hooked up to all the machines that go ping! at about 9am, and settled in. My contractions weren't strong. My back hurt a lot, but I thought it was the bed and my huge belly. My family all came to the hospital, someone picked up my mother-in-law from the airport, who happened to be flying in that day. Around 5 o'clock, the doctor said that I was finally at 5cm, far enough along that they could break my water and speed up the process. So we did.

Immediately, I started to feel those contractions that I hadn't been feeling. I was unprepared for the pain, and although I had planned to go "as long as possible" without pain medications, I asked for the epidural within the hour.

This is why I highly recommend childbirth classes and a doula to every new mom. You need to be prepared. You need to have an idea of what to expect, and what to do when the pain comes. Even if you plan on asking for the epidural the moment you're in the hospital room, you should have something in your back pocket in case you do get to experience natural labor. Yes, I said "get to" - it is one of the most empowering experiences of my life. 

The anesthesiologist joked about how he was about to head out, but his wife would have made him turn around and come back if she knew he'd left me there, asking for him. What's funny is, while I was waiting for him, I did what I did in all my other births - I took it one contraction at a time. I told myself to just deal with that one, and not worry about the next. It never occurred to me that I could do that all the way through labor - until I did it with my second-born.

The next few hours were somewhat boring. We all hung out in the hospital room. I kept asking my dad to lift my foot up for me and set it right. I could feel enough that it was slightly uncomfortable when my toe pointed forward, but not enough that I could move it. At about 9 or 10 pm, I realized I was snapping at people, and they were all seriously annoying me. My sweet daddy came close, patted my leg, and gently asked if maybe it was time for all these people to get out of my room. A lightbulb formed above my head. OH! Maybe that's why I want all these people to Just. Shut. UP. Maybe that's why I want to hit some of them in the face. Maybe I'm in the middle of birthing a baby, and my body needs to focus! haha! Having been through several more births now, I know that when I get to transition (the part of labor right before pushing, the most intense part), that when I'm in a contraction, I want everyone in the room to Just. Shut. UP.

Everyone left, except Scott. The nurses came to check me, and said, Yay, you're at 10cm! Time to push! I remember asking what to do, how to push, when to push. The nurse kept saying to do what my body told me to. That would have been fantastic advice. Except, I couldn't hear my body. I felt like I had put a muzzle on it. It couldn't send messages into my brain to tell me when to push or how. I would ask the nurses, one who was holding my leg up towards my chest, "Now?" as they watched the machine that goes ping! contraction monitor. I tried to read their faces and guess when the right time was. I tried to find a rhythm that felt like it was what I was supposed to do.

I feel now, like we've done ourselves a terrible disservice by not watching our mothers, sisters, aunts, friends labor and birth (and breastfeed). We have no idea what it looks like. No idea of the wide variation of normal, and we - at least, I - try to do what we think it should be like, based on a few scripted scenes. 

Over and over again, the doc would come in. She would ask how we were doing, tell me "twenty more minutes" until she'd have to do a c-section. After an hour or so, it became "ten more minutes" every time she came in. I still have no idea why I escaped a c-section that day. She is still one of the local docs with one of the highest c-sec rates in town (right at 50%, I believe - if half the women that come into your general obstetrics office are not capable of birthing on their own, there's something wrong). It was late, she'd been on-call, she'd been waiting on me all day. I couldn't even tell you why I didn't want one. I knew the recovery was a bit harder, but it seemed very normal to me.I had friends who told me they preferred it, even. Their opinions made sense to me. But I knew I didn't want one.

After hours of pushing, the doc came in to deliver the baby. She gave me an episiotomy, which is the exact place I tore with every baby after that, even my gentlest births. She had to use the vacuum to suction the baby's head and pull her out.

At the moment her head was delivered, Scott said, "WHOA! There's her face!"

Babies are usually born face-down. This allows them easier passage through the birth canal. A face-up baby usually causes painful back labor, which would explain why I didn't think my contractions were very strong at first, and why, when my water was broken and they intensified on top of the pitocin, when I had no plan to deal with pain, I so quickly wanted an epidural.  

They whisked her over to the pediatrician, because she had passed meconium. She didn't cry. I distinctly remember the OB telling me, "That's ok. We don't want her to cry yet." I heard her cry a few moments later. I asked Scott to go check on her while they stitched me up. I had no idea that she had been in danger, and asked Scott if she had red hair. While the doc spent 45 minutes stitching up some wicked tears, I also distinctly remember the OB asking the pediatrician how the baby was. They were married, and the pediatrician was one of my Starbucks regulars. He said, "She's fine. We had to baggy-baggy a little," while making a squeezing motion in front of his face, like the breathing mask, "but she's fine now." They never mentioned to me or my husband that she was in any danger.

I can't decide if that was harmful or beneficial. It was only a short time, and it might have worried us unnecessarily. Maybe they didn't even have time to say anything, but just reacted quickly, and handled the situation. I still felt somewhat deceived by the whole thing. They never explained her Apgar scores, or that she was not doing well right off the bat. Was that to protect us? Or protect them? 

I finally held my baby at least an hour after she was born. I hadn't even laid eyes on her until that point. Thankfully, that was one of many things that I never experienced again. I would have told you then that her birth was fine. I even defended it vehemently once to a doula, and had to go back and apologize. I knew though. I think I knew even then that something was off. I had a blind faith in that doctor. In her goodness, in her knowledge, in her abilities and experience. I will never have that kind of blind faith again. Yes, we turned out fine. But that birth story is filled with anxiety, fear, and frustration. It is so different from my other birth stories. I used to wonder if it affected my relationship with her, and I worked very hard to be sure that I didn't treat her or look at her any differently than the children whose birth stories I love.

While I don't love her story, I do love my journey. This experience led me to look for something more. It led me to doulas, and then to midwives, and to homebirth, and waterbirth. It led me to want to share in that experience with other women. It led me to the woman I am today. There is a point in my life, somewhere between the births of my first two children, that I chose to walk an unconventional path. Without any one of my births, I would be different. Even aside from each of my beautiful, lovely children, I cherish their births for what they did in me.

Happy tenth birthday sweet baby girl!


LuLu said...

I wish every mom-to-be could read this. Everyone thought I was nuts for wanting to give birth in a tub with a midwife and no drugs. But I'm the only mom I know that can say with confidence that I had an awesome birth experience. It's really sad that so many women never even realize what could have been for them and the births of their babies OR the dangers in the things they're told are "normal." High five to you for writing and sharing this, even ten years after the fact.

Post a Comment