I got pregnant with my oldest daughter at the age of 21. She was unplanned and I was completely unprepared. During my pregnancy I read “What to Expect” and “Your Pregnancy.” I thought these were sufficient. I had this idea that birth was natural and it would happen naturally and everything would be fine. I didn’t do any other research. I signed up for a birth class toward the end of my pregnancy, but on the day of the class, Bigfoot Papa had a family emergency and we didn’t get to go. All I really knew was that I didn’t want pain medication and I wanted to breastfeed.
My pregnancy overall was surprisingly easy. During my first trimester, I would only get sick if I ate chocolate or Burger King. Once the second trimester came along, all food was fair game. I gained exactly 30 lbs. I didn’t really have any swelling. I trusted everything my doctor said.
There was initially some worry toward the end of my pregnancy that KB was still breech. However, at 35 weeks, she switched into birth position. At my 39 week appointment, my doctor checked me and found that I was not dilated or effaced at all. According to an ultrasound, baby was measuring around 7lbs 4oz. At the end of my appointment she said she wanted to induce labor at 40 weeks. She told me that my chances of stillbirth were “exponentially higher” if I carried beyond 40 weeks. Of course this terrified me. I was a first time mom. I thought, “She’s the doctor, she should know the statistics.” I agreed to the induction.
The night before I was scheduled to be induced, around 11 pm, I started having contractions. They weren’t regular, and they weren’t super painful. I decided to just go to bed. Tuesday, December 9th, 2008. I arrived at the hospital at 5 am to start the process. I did all the admission paperwork. The nurse said “Are you going to try to breastfeed?” I said yes. The nurses checked me and found that despite having irregular contractions, I still wasn’t dilated, although I was starting to efface. I was given an iv and cervadil to dilate my cervix. I told them that I didn’t want any pain medication. From here I didn’t really keep track of time. Things seemed to either last forever or go really fast depending on the circumstances, so I will just describe what happened step-by-step.
The contractions weren’t coming “fast enough” according to the doctor, so I was given Pitocin to speed up the process. This made the contractions come faster and more painful, but I still did not want any pain medication.
My water didn’t break on its own, so the doctor broke it for me. With no pain med, this was a very uncomfortable process. The doctor decided to place an internal fetal monitor after breaking my water. She didn’t really explain why, she just said “we need to monitor her and the external monitors aren’t doing a very good job.”
Not long after my water was broken and the internal monitor placed, the doctor came back in and said that the baby was showing signs of distress with me laying on my back. She put me on an oxygen mask and turned me on my side and that seemed to fix things…for about 30 minutes. The doctor came back in and said she was in distress again and they would try rolling me onto my other side. Again, this worked for about half an hour. The nurses checked me again and found that I was only 2cm dilated. When the doctor came back in she said, “We need to get that baby out. We have to do an emergency c-section.” I started bawling.
A flurry of activity followed. Paperwork was signed. A catheter was placed. Bigfoot Papa put on scrubs. I was wheeled down the hall to the OR. Papa was told to wait outside while they gave me the spinal block. I was terrified. This was not what I had imagined birth being like. I had planned on being in the labor room with only Bigfoot Papa, a couple of nurses, and the doctor. Now here I was in a room full of people who were going to see me basically naked. I was going to be cut into. I had never had surgery before. I had never even so much as broken a bone. The nurses had to hold me still while the spinal block was placed because I was shaking so hard and still having contractions. All the while I kept thinking, “Is my baby ok?”
Once the block was placed, the nurses had to position me on the OR table. Everything from my sternum down was numb and immobile. I couldn’t feel any contractions. The oxygen mask was swapped for the little tubes that go slightly into your nose. My arms were splayed out and strapped down. The nurse explained that this was to keep me from panicking and swatting the drape away. I felt like I was being prepped for crucifixion. As I lay on the table, my eyes kept darting around the room. The sterile white of everything was scary. It reminded me of a lab you would see in a bad horror movie on the Sci-fi channel. Off to my left side, I saw an observation window. I remembered my friend who was in radiology school telling me that they were sometimes pulled to observe c-sections. I had to keep telling myself, “It will all be ok. It will all be ok.”
Once I was strapped and the drapery was placed, Bigfoot Papa was allowed to come into the OR. I felt better with him beside me. I just knew that if he was there, it was going to be ok. My heartbeat slowed back to a closer-to-normal range and I thought, “Ok. We’re here now. Might as well get this done.”
Surgery started. People who have never had a c-section before assume that you can’t feel anything. This is not true. You can’t feel the pain, but you can feel the pressure. It’s like when your hand is asleep. You can feel it if you pinch it, but it doesn’t hurt. I felt the doctor pulling the incision open. I could feel them pushing and tugging to get the baby out. All of a sudden I heard a beautiful sound. My baby was crying! I started crying again. She’s here. She’s alive. I hear a nurse announce “I:54 pm.” I had been at the hospital for just under 8 hours. She was taken over to a station where the nurses started rubbing the blood away from her. Bigfoot Papa went over to her and took several pictures. The nurses swaddled her up and Papa brought her to me. She was beautiful.
The nurses took Papa and KB out of the OR to the nursery, which is right beside the waiting room. I had to stay in the OR and be sewn back up. My anesthesiologist told me that it was going to take a while for them to get me stitched back up and asked if I would like to take a nap. I said sure. I woke as they were getting ready to take me to the recovery room. After about 20 minutes in the recovery room, I was wheeled back to my room where I finally got to hold my baby girl. Instead of over 7lbs like the ultrasound had said, she weighed in at 6lbs 5oz. She was very drowsy from the surgery and did not want to latch on to nurse. After only a few tries, the nurse said, “Well, I guess we’ll just bring her a bottle.” After the morning that I’d just had, I was just happy she was alive. I accepted the bottle.
C-section recovery was rough. I had staples and stitches across my abdomen. Coughing, sneezing, even laughing hurt. I had terrible gas pain in my shoulder. I was very nauseous and kept throwing up for the first hour or so after surgery. My face itched from the morphine. I had to stay in the hospital Tuesday night and Wednesday night. Every time the baby was hungry, I tried to nurse her before giving her the bottle. Finally, on Thursday, everything clicked and she started nursing. No bottles needed that day and we went home.
After going home and being off the pain meds, I developed what is called a spinal headache. It happens to approximately 1% of patients who receive a spinal block. This headache was worse than any migraine I’d ever had in my life. I could not be vertical without feeling like my eyes were trying to press themselves out of their sockets. It passed after a couple of days, but it was incredibly rough.
I was able to nurse KB for almost 4 months. After I returned to work and started using birth control, my supply dwindled and stopped. We started formula.
It wasn’t until 2011, when I got pregnant with JR that I learned where things had gone wrong. It didn’t even occur to me to question things until my new doctor asked, “Why were you induced? A normal pregnancy can last until 42 weeks.” Then he looked at my c-section scar and said a slightly unprofessional curse word. Three and a half years after my surgery and the scar was still as thick as my index finger. He told me that he could tell just by looking that the old doctor had been in a rush and tore more tissue than was needed.
I should have done more research.
I should not have been induced. The lack of dilation and effacing should have been proof that my body wasn’t ready for labor.
I should have researched more about breastfeeding, lactation consultants, how birth control affects supply.
I am happy that in the end my baby girl was fine, but I felt slightly cheated that I did not get to have the normal vaginal birth experience.
I strongly urge any expecting mother out there to do your research and trust your body. I know it can be hard to wait for the baby to come on their own, especially at the end of the pregnancy where the days seem to stretch forever. If it is important to you to have a natural birth and breastfeed, do your research and have some patience. Make your wishes known to your doctor and to the nurses when you check into the hospital. Don’t let anyone bully you into changing your mind. Remember, it is YOUR body and YOUR baby. You are the one paying the doctor. They work for you. If they do not respect your wishes, you can fire them and find a new OB.
*Disclaimer: I know that inductions and c-sections CAN be medically necessary, but this was not my case.