In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month, we are featuring some great birth experiences from moms who ended up having a cesarean for different reasons.
Erin said writing her birth story out was very therapeutic for her. Has anyone else felt this way?
I had a very easy, healthy, low risk pregnancy. I exercised regularly and did prenatal yoga. My husband and I took all the childbirth education classes Presence offered. I had a birth plan and I thought I was prepared to have a baby. I felt great at 41 weeks and at the time I felt I would have been fine staying pregnant forever. At my 41 week appointment, my midwife informed me that she made an appointment for my induction for Monday at 8am, when I would be 41 weeks, 3 days. At the 41 week appointment she tried to do a membrane sweep, but my cervix was only a fingertip dilated, so she couldn’t. She did not tell me my Bishop score or discuss the risks of induction. I didn’t know to ask at the time. And she certainly didn’t make it seem like it was my choice to induce. It was protocol. I went home and read stories that induced labor was not any more painful than physiological labor. I decided I would be fine, plus maybe I would go into labor on my own over the weekend, the odds of that were in my favor, after all. My husband and I told our parents about our induction appointment. My parents were in town. My mother-in-law took off work for that day and the next, so she could be there to meet the baby.
On Monday morning, my husband and I drove to Presence Covenant Medical Center. I called IKids and told them we were on our way to the hospital. I expressed my disappointment that we were not in any rush to get to the hospital. I had planned that I would labor at home until contractions were regular and no more than 4 or 5 minutes apart. Then we would drive as quickly as possible to the hospital, like in the movies. That didn’t happen. Oh well, I was okay missing that step because I was going to meet my baby that day. I was checked in and set up in a labor and delivery room. I got medical bracelets and a heplock. I had a vaginal exam and was 1½ cm and 50% effaced. Hooray, progress! At 9:30 am I was started on a 12 hour round of Cervidil. The nurse seemed to have trouble placing it. It felt like a tampon that wasn’t quite in all the way. But I figured she knew what she was doing, so it was probably fine.
I was monitored intermittently until 9:30 pm, when the Cervidil was removed. No change. Still 1½ cm and 50% effaced. After some brief research on my phone, I wasn’t surprised. I read that Cervidil was prostaglandins, which are also in semen. My husband and I had been having sex at least every day for the past month. So, they put in another round at 11:30 pm. I tried to sleep as best as I could on the hospital bed, but was not very successful. I wanted the comfort of my own bed, where I could snuggle with my husband. He slept even worse on the fold-out sofa in the labor and delivery room. The next morning at 11:30 am the nurse took out the Cervidil and I was now at almost 2 cm and 50% effaced. Ok, something happened! Today is the day!
As soon as the second round of Cervidil was removed, a foley bulb was inserted into my cervix and I was started on Pitocin. When the nurse started the IV in the heplock I had a shooting burning pain in my arm. It didn’t feel right. In hindsight, that was the greatest physical pain I experienced when I was at the hospital. I told the nurse about the pain and she put a new IV in my right arm. There was no pain that time. As soon as the IV was in, I was told I was no longer allowed to use the shower or tub because I had to be continuously monitored, except for brief trips to the bathroom. I was also restricted to a clear liquid diet. That was at 11:45 am on Tuesday. Couldn’t they have waited until after I had a good lunch to tell me I wouldn’t be allowed to eat solids? I had planned to eat throughout labor as I felt like it. In the childbirth education class they said food was allowed during labor. I was hungry at 11:45 am on Tuesday and I sulked as I sucked down my chicken broth while watching my husband eat a cheeseburger.
My parents and in-laws spent the day at the hospital, but left around 9 p.m. My mother-in-law had to go back to work in Chicagoland. I had planned to have her there for support, but she had to leave before I felt a single contraction. Around 9:30 pm, the nurse checked the balloon and was able to pull it out. I was at a level 18 of Pitocin at that time and only barely feeling the contractions that were coming about 6 minutes apart, according to the monitor. I was at 3cm and 50% effaced. I heard screaming in another room. The nurse said that there was a mom giving birth to a 10 lb. baby with no drugs. She said, “She’s crazy.” I thought, “That’s what I want. When will I be screaming?”
I slept for close to an hour until the Pitocin was brought up to 22, at which point I couldn’t sleep through the contractions anymore. It was around 11 p.m. That is when I started vomiting. I got up to use the toilet, then, I decided not only did I have to poop, but I had to puke too. While I was vomiting the nurse came in because I was unplugged from the monitor. She took me back to the bed and gave me a bowl. There was no nausea leading up to the vomiting, just all of a sudden, I have to throw up and I have no control of my bladder. I must have vomited half a dozen times, and urine and bits of mucous plug came out every time I threw up. I thought the contractions were tolerable, and I was able to talk through them. I wasn’t able to sleep through them and I was tired. Sick and tired and shaking. I woke up my husband to get him to figure out how to help me rest. He said, “Rest between the contractions.” I said, “What between?” The contractions felt like waves rushing over me, but while I was already submerged up to my chin. Not just up to my belly while I lay on the beach. I wanted to get into the tub. I had planned to labor in the tub. I labored on my back in the bed, hooked to monitors on both sides, unable to get into any position where the contractions felt any different. I was not allowed to move too far from the monitors. That lasted until about 5 a.m. when I was checked and at 5 cm. I had planned for a natural birth. I looked longingly at the labor tub in the corner of the room and gave up on all my plans.
I requested an epidural. Rather, I had my husband request an epidural for me, so I could rest. I gave him our code word, banana. That was way too easy. He didn’t argue with me at all, and he loves to argue. I argued with myself. I resolved that I wasn’t moving from the bed anyway, I might as well rest up, especially if it might take another 6+ hours to get to transition. The nurse said I could get an epidural in 30 minutes, after I went through the bolus. 42 minutes after she told me “30 minutes”, I reminded her that the time had passed. I got the epidural less than 5 minutes after that. The anesthesiologist seemed mad when he got there. One nurse told me it would feel like a bee sting. I remarked, “That does feel like a bee sting.” The other nurse asked if she should turn down the Pitocin. I think I said, “Sure.” Almost immediately after the epidural shot, I fell asleep for almost 2 hours. I think that was the longest single stretch of sleep I got in the hospital.
When I was awoken, the Pitocin was back down to single digit levels, and contractions were about 6 minutes apart again on the monitor. I thought, “This is going to take forever!” I was woken at a little before 8am for the midwife to break my waters. There was meconium in the water and the baby was facing sideways. For the next two hours I was rolled from side to side to try to turn the baby. I couldn’t feel anything from my waist to my knees. At that point, I didn’t care. I just wanted to go back to sleep.
A couple hours passed, the nurse checked me, and told me I was at 5 cm. She said, “That’s great!” I said, “So no change?” After my comment, she looked worried and left the room. A few minutes later the doctor came in with C-section paperwork. I would have signed anything to go back to sleep. We thought we had some time, but as I finished signing the papers, baby’s heart rate dropped and I was whisked away to the operating room. I’m still not sure that the monitor didn’t just slip briefly, but I was so out of it, I didn’t know what was going on. Either way, my husband got really nervous. With prompting from the nurses he was able to change into scrubs and come into the room with me. I was conscious. I was happy I got the epidural so my husband could be with me. I was relieved I was finally going to meet my baby.
There were a lot of people in the operating room. I just heard their voices. There was a thin blue curtain that kept flapping onto my face. I could only see my husband. My midwife told me she was shaving me. Ok, whatever, that’s the part you think I’m worried about? I felt a very gentle tugging. I was shaking, and some guy (maybe an anesthesiologist, maybe a troll that lives in the operating room, I couldn’t see him, it could have been either) kept putting hot towels on me. I didn’t feel cold, I just couldn’t stop shaking. Still, I was struggling to stay awake, to keep my eyes open, so my husband wouldn’t worry about me. He was still worried. But he was in the room with me and was able to take a photo right when they pulled my baby out of the gaping hole in my belly. They asked if he wanted to cut the cord. He said no, just like we planned. They dumped the cord and placenta into a medical waste bucket. I had planned to delay cord clamping and to have IKids collect the cord blood. Someone showed her to us over the curtain and asked if she had a name. I just looked at my husband. He told them her name, Violet. They took her away. She had inhaled and swallowed meconium in the womb and had to be taken to the NICU. I had planned to keep my baby with me and to nurse her as soon after birth as possible.
The midwife stitched me up. I was struggling to stay awake to prove to everyone that my blood pressure wasn’t too low, that I was fine. Everyone, except me, already knew I was fine. My midwife told me that I would be an excellent candidate for a VBAC. That might have made me feel better if I ever planned to have more than one baby. I really don’t remember much of what happened between then and when I woke up in the postpartum room in the middle of the night without my baby. My husband was sleeping on the couch. I was cold. I cried. I sobbed quietly so as not to wake my husband. The nurse came to check on me and asked if I was crying. I said, “Maybe.” In response to her inquiry of why, I told her that I missed my baby. My husband woke up, oblivious. The nurse took us to the NICU and we looked at her in the box with all the wires and tubes attached. She had a pacifier and was wearing only a diaper. She was 7lbs 15oz, but she looked big to me.
The next morning I started pumping my breasts with the hospital pump. I got what I thought was a lot at first. More than fit in the syringe I was given. I didn’t know what to do, so I poured what didn’t fit down the drain. My husband took the syringe to the nurses in the NICU. Every three hours, we got to hold her and feed her, with a bottle. She got the colostrum first, then a lot more formula. When she didn’t finish the 60mL she was supposed to eat, the rest was put through an NG tube. I pumped for 30 minutes every three hours. Each time I pumped I got less and less, until I was pumping for a half an hour and not getting anything. My nipples were cracked and raw. They didn’t hurt though. Between all the painkillers and the belly band, I didn’t feel much of any pain. Two days after the C-section, I met with the lactation consultant in the hospital and she showed me how to manually express. I got a lot more by hand expressing and pretty much stopped pumping after that. By then I was able to hobble, on my own, back and forth between my room and the NICU, with my little bottle of milk. I would express for 45 minutes, go to the NICU for an hour to feed Violet a bottle, and then have an hour and 15 minutes every three hours to eat, shower, see visitors, or sleep.
Sleeping on the hospital couch and only being able to see Violet every 3 hours were torturous for my husband. He was anxious and impatient all the time. He was very concerned with Violet’s care, and frustrated that his questions weren’t clearly answered. How does the doctor know she needs 2oz every 3 hours? When can she get the tube out of her nose? Is it really a good idea to keep waking her up? Although we really liked the NICU doctor, we weren’t always convinced his decisions were in our family’s best interests. We were quite thankful when one of the nurses convinced him to let me nurse her in the NICU. The day after I first nursed her, which she took to much better than the bottles, and four excruciatingly long days after the C-section, Violet was allowed to be in the postpartum room with us. The doctor finally acknowledged that she could eat on her own and was less concerned with measuring her intake. By the time she was with us, I was technically discharged, but I was allowed to stay in the postpartum room as long as she needed to be in the hospital. On Monday, June, 15, we got to take her home. She was 8lbs 0oz when she was discharged.
We took her to the pediatrician the next day for her 1 week well visit and she had lost 5oz overnight. We went back for a weight check a week later, and she weighed 7lbs 12oz. We met with a lactation consultant at Carle twice in the next week, who told us that her latch looked good, my nipples looked bad (it now hurt to latch and unlatch and to pump), and she was taking too long to eat (45 minutes each side, every two to three hours). Based on advice from the lactation consultant and the pediatrician, we started supplementing with formula. She started gaining more weight. At 1 month she was getting mostly formula, but it was a struggle to feed her from the bottle. We got down to only 2oz of formula a day by 2 months. When I went back to work 10 weeks after her birth, she was on all breastmilk. She’s only had formula a few times since then. I have had more success with my Spectra brand pump at work than the Medela, either at work, at home, or at the hospital. Violet still isn’t a big fan of bottles, but she tolerates them at daycare. Violet is now 10 months old, and doing great. She just started walking and loves pointing things out to her father and me.
Looking back, I was disappointed with my birth experience. It was not what I wanted or planned. None of my care providers ever asked if I had a birth plan. There was a lot of emphasis on pain, and no concern about stamina. Each labor and delivery nurse had a different agenda, and it was never to make me, the patient, as informed as possible. They didn’t seem all that informed anyway. At the time you might have thought I was cool as a cucumber, but I was broken down inside, stripped of control, weak, and naked. I’m just a stoic. If I had known that with the induction I wouldn’t be allowed to use any of the pain management techniques I’d planned to, or that I wouldn’t be allowed to eat, or that my unfavorable cervix put my probability of a successful induction at about 50%, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I would have waited, and probably given birth naturally between 42 and 43 weeks, like my mother, and her mother before her. As it was, I really found the C-section to be a relief. The surgery went well and I felt most supported while in the operating room. I recovered pretty quickly. It was only disappointing because it wasn’t what I had planned or expected. And I will forever carry the reminder of my disappointment.