Warning: This could be triggering.
It’s been 8 and a half months since I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl. It’s also been the most emotionally trying period of my entire life. Why? Because my birthing experience left me traumatized. (UPDATE: after actually writing this post I realized it’s so long that it will come in 2 parts. Below is the story about my birth, part 2 will be the after effects that I’m still struggling with)
This post has been brewing in my head ever since starting this website but I haven’t been able to write it. Our blogger Dena posted this amazing article yesterday called A Love Letter to C-Section Moms (That Everyone Should Read) and it really triggered my feelings about this topic. So here I am, emotional, sharing with all of you what my birthing experience was like. My intent is NOT to scare you but instead I want to help give voice to those of us who had unwanted c-sections and are struggling coming to terms with it.
When I was pregnant I knew I wanted a natural birth. I had watched the Business of Being Born (multiple times) and even made my husband watch it with me. I didn’t want unnecessary interventions and I knew I didn’t want to be induced. I actually switched OBGYN practices when I was 6 months pregnant because I wanted an office that had midwives and a more supportive attitude about things like doulas. Speaking of doulas, I hired one and really liked her. Our plan was that I’d give birth at Manchester Memorial Hospital with my husband, doula and doctor.
I went into labor naturally and labored at home for about 16 hours with the help of my doula and husband. I got to the point that I needed to go to the hospital because the pain was becoming severe and I didn’t know how far along I was (I don’t know about anyone else but I had excruciating pain in my butt, yes I said it, I literally couldn’t sit down). Things were going perfectly at this point, I was managing.
I checked in at the hospital and they said I was 5 centimeters dilated and so I was admitted. This is a very long story, which I’m trying to keep somewhat short for you, but once I was around 7 centimeters I asked for the epidural. I was in incredible pain. Once I got the epidural I was finally able to rest and felt much better, although part of me did feel like I failed (since I wanted to do it naturally).
I continued progressing well, although it was slower than the doctors/nurses wanted. After another 12-15 hours I had dilated to 9 centimeters. For some reason that last centimeter was just taking a long time. I tried pushing at one point and my epidural wore off (I didn’t even know that could happen). So I was in the worst pain of my entire life for what felt like hours until they were able to up my epidural dosage. I was screaming for someone to kill me. I know that sounds outrageous but I didn’t know how I was going to survive. I looked my doula in the eyes and said “I cannot go back to this level of pain again, I just can’t.” She told me she wouldn’t let that happen, that if it started to wear off again we’d do something about it right away.
Finally the epidural did it’s job again and I was more relaxed. At one point the doctor said to one of the nurses that he thought I was going to need a c-section but I just couldn’t understand that. I was almost fully dilated; they kept saying the baby was doing great. I was floored by the casual suggestion of a c-section.
I rested a bit more and then we decided to try a vacuum-assisted birth. As I was pushing I noticed I could start feeling my legs and I said to my doula “I think it’s wearing off again.” She just looked at me and didn’t do anything. I kept telling her I could feel things and she still did nothing until it had completely worn off and I was screaming on the top of my lungs. I remember looking at her and saying, “I told you I couldn’t do this again!” I was so angry, and still am.
At this point there was a nurse who I did not like at ALL. She talked to me like I was a two-year old and made me feel like she didn’t believe how much pain I was in. The doctor tried twice to use the vacuum assist to help the baby come out and on the second try I saw blood splatter over his glasses. At this point he said I needed an emergency c-section and I started to panic. I did not want a c-section. It was the last thing I wanted. I had set up all these support systems to help me birth how I wanted and now I had to have a c-section? I couldn’t understand, and honestly, I still don’t understand.
I haven’t even gotten to the most traumatic part. The c-section started out fine, but then I started to feel a struggle in my body. I kept asking what was going on and no one would tell me. What I realized was that because I had pushed so much, the baby had descended and she was too low for them to pull her out via c-section. So they had to put their hands in my vagina and push her back up. Even though I couldn’t feel pain I could feel this struggle.
Then, she was out. And I heard nothing. No crying, no baby noises. Nothing. It was like a moment in a movie really. I kept saying, “I don’t hear anything! Why isn’t she crying?” and still no one would really say anything. Turns out she was a 1 on the apgar test but fortunately within 5 minutes she was a 9. Because of her struggle, the doctors had to whisk her away and out of the room. My husband had to decide between staying with me for the rest of my surgery or going with the baby. I will never forget this. He looked at me with these huge eyes, having no idea what to do, completely torn. I said to him “go with the baby.” And he did. (I found out later they told him he could come back and then refused to let him)
And I laid on that table alone for another 40 minutes or so, traumatized by everything that had happened. I had never had major surgery before and at points I felt like vomiting. The worst thing was that I didn’t get to touch my baby, kiss my baby or hold her after she was born. I didn’t know what was happening and I didn’t know if she was OK.
I think it was about an hour and a half until I was able to hold her and start breast-feeding. Little did I know my emotional journey had just begun.
Things that have stuck with me:
- The doctor who delivered my baby never, ever introduced himself to me. He barely looked me in the eyes.
- I feel like my doula failed me. She should have been advocating for me, she should have been comforting my husband who was horrified watching me in so much pain. She should have taken my cries of pain seriously and she should have listened when I said the epidural was wearing off. She should have asked the doctor/nurses why I needed a c-section and she should have comforted me about it afterwards.
- I wish that there was more communication during the c-section about what was happening and I wish I had the foresight to ask one of my closest friends to be there for the birth so she could have stayed with me during the c-section instead of being completely alone.