We celebrated my baby girl’s first birthday recently. I’ve gone back and forth about posting her (and my son’s) birth story for a lot of reasons. It’s pretty personal and there’s a lot of TMI that goes into birthing. My births have been a bit traumatizing. A few months ago my cousin and I were discussing our traumatizing birth stories in front of her daughter who is twelve now and the daughter chimed in that she felt bad and a little guilty about what her mom went through. I’ve reflected on that, I don’t want my kids to feel any amount of guilt or feel bad because of how things happened. In the end, I would do it over again to have them in my life. But, I hope by sharing my stories that maybe someone else can be better prepared or avoid some of the issues I had.
My stories are by no means the worst or hardest out there. I have two happy, healthy children and I’m alive and (mostly) well to tell the stories. However, of the “normal” births out there, I have some kind of extreme stories. So if you are a hopeful or soon-to-be mom, please realize that my situations are certainly on the fringes.
While it’s my daughter’s first birthday coming up, and her birth is the one that was in many ways more traumatic for me, you have to understand his story to understand the context for hers.
To add more context, my son is named after my “angel baby” brother. As well as having several miscarriages, my mom also carried a baby to 38 weeks before he passed in the womb most likely due to complications following a version (the manual turning of a fetus in the uterus). I was only 2 1/2 when he passed so I don’t remember much from the actual time period, but he has been an important part of our family. And as such, I grew up knowing that unfortunately things can go tragically wrong with an otherwise normal pregnancy.
That’s a fear I have carried with me through both of my pregnancies (and mom, that is not your fault- you never told me I should be afraid, it’s just an unfortunate fact that is part of our family story). It makes it hard for me to bond to my pregnancies because I have this constant nagging fear that one morning I’ll wake up and the baby will be gone. This has lingered well past what most people consider the “safe zone” and actually gets worse the longer I go. Which in the case of my son was a really long time.
My pregnancy with my son was fine. I wanted to puke all the time from about 6 weeks to 10 weeks (never actually did, just always wanted to). Smells were especially bad, something about the smell when I walked into the office building I worked in was especially offensive. I would gag 3 times between the front door until I made it into our suite. And don’t even get me started on the bathroom in the building, heaven forbid someone actually did lay a stinky. But otherwise I was fine, I don’t remember being overly tired. I definitely had some brain fog, a really hard time recalling words which made for some really difficult IEP meetings when I couldn’t remember the word, cognitive. I was uncomfortable, and big, really big, but overall I was ok until about 36 weeks. At that point my pelvis started to separate. I told people my hip was starting to hurt, but that wasn’t a very accurate description. It was up in the hip socket, in the crotch, not like on the outside of your hip. But that’s kind of awkward to describe to people. I couldn’t lift my foot more than about an inch off the floor which made basically everything really difficult especially getting dressed. My husband pretty much had to get me dressed. The only time I felt ok and could move was in the swimming pool so I guess lucky for me it was summer and we lived in an apartment complex with ready access to a pool.
Since this pain started at 36 weeks I figured ok, I can handle this, less than a month to go right??? Wrong. I tried a bunch of the old wives tales (within reason and safely) to get things moving. Nothing. My due date came and went and the days just kept dragging on. People would say things like, “keep him in there as long as you can- you won’t sleep a wink once he’s out,” “just be patient, babies come on their own time.” And they were so sweet, and I wanted to punch them all in the face. I was huge, I was in pain, and I couldn’t sleep. And I was anxious, really anxious. Everyday he was inside was another day that I couldn’t see and make sure he was still alive. That nagging fear just sat there.
Finally at 1 week past due I woke up at about 3 am on a Tuesday morning realizing that something was about to come out of me. I made it to the bathroom in time, I thought maybe it was my water breaking but it was just the mucus plug. Contractions started, spaced apart and not too painful. I got to about 5 before I woke up my husband. We timed them for a few hours and about 8 am we headed to hospital to be sent home with some tylenol and an ambien and told to come back later but it looked like today would be the day. I went home and slept a little, went to the chiropractor to get adjusted and got a prenatal massage. About 8 that evening the contractions were close together again and much more painful than they had been in the morning. That drive back to the hospital was so miserable and whoever thought that speed bumps were a good idea at hospitals on the way to the maternity ward was a jerk. Each bump was awful.
I got into triage and they started reading through my birth plan, “So it says you are considering natural?” My response, “I wanted to see how for I could get naturally, I’m there, I’m done, epdiural now please!” But I was only up to a 3.5, I wasn’t even far enough to get admitted yet. At the thought of going home again I got panicked and told them no, I absolutely couldn’t go home again. They had me walk to hall for eternity, I mean an hour, a very painful hour with fire coming out of my eyes at anyone who dared smile. After that I was far enough along to be admitted but they wouldn’t let me get an epidural yet because I was progressing too slowly and they were worried it would slow me down more. It was close to 10 pm, they got me into a room and into a labor tub. That felt really nice, for a little while but eventually the pain was too intense for the tub to help. I got out and they gave me some morphine because I was still too slow for the epidural.
That was a long night. My husband fell asleep but I couldn’t really sleep because of contractions. So I turned on the TV to try and pass the time. The only thing I could find was King of the Hill. So far giving birth was not going anything like I pictured, King of the Hill was definitely not in my birth plan.
About 5 am on Wednesday my water broke for reals. Being beta strep positive, they started me on antibiotics, and having made some progress they finally let me have an epidural. Yay! They excitedly told me it should only be a few more hours and then my baby would finally be here.
The passage of time over the next several hours is sketchy at best. The midwife visited several times checking in on contractions and told me when I felt like I was going to poop myself then it would be time. At some point in the late afternoon I felt it and the monitors caught it and my midwife and nurse came in and let me know it was time to start pushing.
So I pushed, and I pushed, and he started coming on down. But then a weird thing happened. My contractions, while very strong, went down to 8 minutes apart. So I’d push and push and push and he would come down and crown and then in the 8 minutes between he would just slide right back up. I had requested intervention be kept as a last resort and the practice I had chosen as well as the hospital had low intervention policies.
I pushed for 5 hours and nothing. At that point hospital policies said I had to be seen by a doctor and receive some sort of intervention. Also, as you can imagine after 5 hours of pushing, which was like 36 hours after everyone had been put on alert that I was in labor, family members started to freak out.
I had wanted everyone to wait and come to the hospital a few hours after he was born. I only wanted my husband in the delivery room. So when he told me both sets of parents were coming I was very upset and told him no, they couldn’t come. He explained that everyone was very worried, and they were coming. At that point I hadn’t realized how long it was but as the amount of time that had passed settled in I agreed that they could come and give me a blessing.
This started the next round of waiting around and nothing happening. I needed clearance from the doctor to start pitocin but every time the doctor was about to come in someone else would start pushing and she would have to run and catch a baby. So another 2 or 3 hours later she came in and talked me through my options and we agreed to go ahead and try the pitocin before resorting to a c-section.
After finally hearing from the doctor, my in-laws went home because they had to work the next day but my parents decided to hang around. My mom sat with me as the pitocin did it’s thing over the next 2 hours. I was so exhausted at this point that I would fall asleep in the 2 minutes between contractions and then wake up again. In one of my moments between being asleep and awake I remember thinking, “I’m just going to be pregnant for the rest of my life, I’ll just die pregnant.” Not that I thought I was dying in that moment, but just I really thought that my pregnancy would never end because it certainly hadn’t been going anywhere fast.
With the upheaval and my entire birth plan having been thrown out with the bath water, I was at least still planning to have my parents step out once it was time to actually push. But suddenly, at 5 am on Thursday- 50 hours after labor had first started- the midwife and nurse came in, announced it was time, my husband barely had time to get up out of his chair and wasn’t really awake yet when they had my legs up in the air ready to go. With my dad sitting there not sure where to look.
What took 5 hours to NOT do earlier took less than 5 minutes with the pitocin. However, having been so used to them trying to get me to push as much as I could I pushed a little too hard and a little too fast and ripped myself a new one. Level 3 tear. But he was out and I wasn’t pregnant anymore. I got to hold him and finally see him and see that he was fine. It was all so relieving.
The recovery was horrible. I was physically so exhausted from laboring for so long, then pushing for so long- my legs felt like I had run a marathon, or at least I would assume that’s what they would feel like if I did run a marathon because I don’t run marathons. And that tear, oh my word. Lots of TMI here. For about 8 weeks it literally felt like at any moment my hoo-haa would rip in half. Standing and walking were the worst, sitting wasn’t much better, lying down kind of helped. It hurt so bad.
I had no idea that wasn’t normal. When I saw women out and about after a few weeks I thought they must be crazy. I was down and out for a long time. I forced myself out for the store and social gatherings for the sake of sanity, but I wasn’t great company and struggled being there because I was in so much pain. Also I peed myself constantly for a few months.
A lot of people have criticized the medical staff for how that birth played out. I don’t know how different it would have been if I had asked for intervention sooner, not pushed like a crazy person in the end, or if a c-section would have been easier on my body. What I do know is that they respected my wishes until it reached a point where it was medically necessary to intervene, my son is here and healthy, and I did heal. At no point did I ever feel endangered or out of control. I knew the whole time that they had my best wishes in mind.
When my son was almost 18 months I got pregnant again right as we bought a house and moved. I don’t know if it was because of the different gender, or the thyroid disorder I developed after my son was born, or the move, but looking back things were a little harder from the get go. I started struggling with depression pretty quickly, I tried to wave it off due to the stress of the move, which was definitely a contributing factor, but it turned into a bad cycle that plagued me throughout the pregnancy. I had the same “morning sickness” issues (hate that term because it’s not a morning thing for me- it’s all day). I also had zero energy, like could barely get off the couch kind of lack of energy. My doctor…didn’t care. My thyroid levels came back normal so obviously I was just fine.
Pause for a minute on my doctor. We had just moved a half hour north of where we had been living, my midwives were 20 minutes south of where we had been living. Going back to them was not a feasible option, especially considering that during high traffic times that drive can easily turn into an hour and a half to two hours. I wasn’t super familiar with the area and didn’t know anyone well enough to feel comfortable asking around like, “Hey, no reason in particular but…anyone know a good OB?” So I went with online ratings. My doctor had really high ratings, everyone appeared to just love him. He had been in practice for like forever, even my Pediatrician that I found had used him for her babies and they were now in college. She told me after we made the connection at an appointment for my son that I “would have the most beautiful birth in his care.”
That was not my experience, in fact, finally in the last few months I have stopped having nightmares where he is the bad guy.
At about 10 weeks I woke up one morning and I didn’t feel sick, I was so grateful to be past that phase. Except the very next morning I woke up and that horrible pain that had started with my son at 36 weeks was there. I freaked out a little because how on earth could I survive that for 30 weeks instead of just 5 weeks. Also my depression was getting worse. Multiple times a week I would sit on my bed and cry for mostly no reason, sometimes there was an identifiable trigger, but nothing big enough to warrant hours of crying.
At my doctor’s appointment around 15 weeks I brought up the issues with the pain. He shrugged it off, basically like, yep, you’re pregnant. I told him about my issues with depression. He told me that they don’t treat women for depression while pregnant so just go for a walk. But I couldn’t walk, I was in excruciating pain. He told me I should wear a belly band, I told him I had tried that and it wasn’t helping the pain much but was really uncomfortable in other ways. He looked at me like I was an idiot. I cried the whole way home from the appointment.
I thought about changing doctors at that point, but how was I supposed to find anyone better, I mean this guy had really high ratings so I decided to just stick it through.
By 24 weeks there was no relief in sight for the pain. I had finally seen something on Facebook about SPD, symphysis pubis dysfunction. I looked it up and suddenly realized that was what was happening, and why I had such a hard time explaining to people what I was experiencing, because I just hadn’t had the medical terminology to describe it. I would tell people I was having ligament pain, and they would pat their round ligaments and say, “Oh yeah I had that too, everyone gets that.” And I was like, no that’s not where it hurts, but it’s not exactly in a place you can point to in polite company. But I’m all about TMI on this post so basically imagine someone stabbing you with a dagger in your crotch right between your leg and your vagina up into the hip socket. That’s a pretty accurate description of what it felt like, all the time. Sometimes it hurt so much that I lost joint stability. Standing was the worst, walking was horrible but for some reason not as bad as standing, sitting didn’t continuously irritate it, but didn’t make it go away. Rolling over in bed frequently made me cry out in pain. Being in pain ALL THE TIME is really bad when you’re already struggling with depression. I wasn’t ok. I tried to explain this to my doctor at my appointment at 24 weeks. He shrugged it off again and told me there really wasn’t anything they could do, I’d be fine. I told him that I would need a handicap placard then, again I got the “you’re an idiot” look but he signed the paperwork.
For the record, if you experience these kinds of symptoms, there IS something you can do. Unfortunately I didn’t find out until my baby was 6 months old and I was finally in physical therapy because the pain didn’t resolve itself. But, you can and should see a physical therapist who specializes in obstetrics. Why didn’t my OB suggest that, I wish I knew.
My only consolation in all of this was that in my early appointments, when we went over my history and the craziness of my son’s birth, my OB told me a few times that he definitely wouldn’t let me go over. He didn’t want me to have another big baby and risk tearing again. So at least I knew that before August 29th I would no longer be in pain.
At the end of July around 35 weeks I started having Braxton Hick’s contractions almost constantly. And even though I know that 35 weeks is not full term and has some risks involved, the risks are low at that point and a big part of me hoped that it would just go ahead and happen. My OB was in Africa for the month so I was seeing his nurse practitioner, she did put me on modified bed rest for a week to make sure I got to 36 weeks, and she figured baby would come early.
But over the next few weeks I kept showing up for appointments with baby girl still inside. And the doctor changed his mind about sending me in early, she wasn’t as big as he had worried so no reason.
At 39 weeks I asked about getting my membranes stripped to trigger labor. He explained that if you’re not ready it doesn’t trigger labor, it just makes you bleed so he didn’t do it. I asked if we could go ahead and schedule an induction then. Nope, low priority, I would just get bumped. I looked him in the eye and told him I was in excruciating pain and needed to be done. Nope, nothing, didn’t seem to care how much pain I was in, just another pregnant lady whining about being uncomfortable at the end.
I was physically and mentally coming apart. The thought of putting up with that for one more week was devastating. This wasn’t just me being uncomfortable and wanting to be done, I wasn’t ok, and he didn’t care.
That was a Monday, that Thursday as I was going to bed I felt a little more than a trickle of fluid leak. Being beta strep positive again I knew that if you had a slow leak you needed to get in to be on antibiotics. We called triage and they said I should probably come get checked. I wasn’t contracting so I knew I wasn’t really in labor and if I was leaking and needing an induction it would be several hours, so I just went ahead and drove myself, but we put my parents on alert in case they needed to come get my son.
I got in and answered the nurse’s millions of questions in triage. I went over my allergy to bananas and melons like 10 times (which is not a medical issue, if I get some I just get itchy, and I just won’t order them from the kitchen). I told them that yes it had been a “normal” pregnancy. And I’m sitting there like, why did I pre-register if you are going to ask me all of these questions again.
It was a false alarm. They condescendingly patted my arm and told me not to come back until my water had broken or my contractions were less than 4 minutes apart, preferably both. Again, I felt like I was being treated like an idiot pregnant lady.
40 weeks. Doctor’s appointment. No sign of labor. We finally started discussing induction dates. The appointment was on a Monday. He said, “Maybe Wednesday…hmmm… no Friday, we’ll do Friday.” I chimed in, “Or Wednesday!” He asked why Wednesday mattered. “I just want the baby out, I’m in horrible pain and I need to be done.” “Well what’s two more days?”
Anyone who would say something like that has clearly never had chronic debilitating pain. I almost jumped down his throat and said, “If I have to be in pain for 5 more minutes I’m not going be ok! That’s why 2 more days matters!!”
I didn’t yell at him. I agreed to Friday. He proceeded to check me and said I had made some progress from the week before so he went a head and “swept” my membranes. I have no idea if there’s a technical difference between sweeping and stripping aside from sweeping sounds nicer.
The next morning I woke up crying about having to face another day in pain by myself with a 2 year old. I knew I needed to not be alone but I also didn’t really want to be around people so I headed to my parents’ house because my older brother spent the days there as caretakers for my grandmothers. They were people and could help with my son, if I needed to talk they could listen, and if I needed to sit there in silence or cry, they were family so it would be fine.
Here’s where we start getting into a lot of TMI. I was crampy and I started passing a decent amount of mucus and some blood vaginally. It was gross, but I realized it would be expected following the membrane sweeping. I had also been told not to go in until my water actually broke and my contractions were less than 4 minutes apart, because the membrane sweeping can cause some false labor. No reason for alarm.
In the afternoon I started getting some chills and feeling a little sick to my stomach, almost flu like. Again, no alarms going off in my head because I was overdue and pregnant, I hadn’t felt great for over 9 months.
My parents live 45 minutes away unless it’s high traffic, then it’s as long as an hour and a half. That traffic starts to build up around 2 in the afternoon and doesn’t resolve until about 7. If you don’t leave before 2 it’s best to just stay for dinner. My husband had a meeting at church that evening anyway so I decided to stick around til after dinner and left their house about 7 pm. No signs of labor, just generally feeling blah, passing mucus, and still in pain. Always in pain.
A scripture started running through my mind on the way home. Doctrine and Covenants 19:18-19. This a revelation that Joseph Smith received in which Christ essentially details His mission. As He explains what He went through in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross he says:
“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.”
The raw and very intimate explanation of his pain really hit me. That a God trembled because of pain was validating to me that my experience with pain was not an idiotic weakness like my doctor was treating me. It was a real trial and it was ok to not want to go through it. Christ didn’t say, “yeah, it hurt, but it’s ok, I just dealt with it.” He TREMBLED. He didn’t WANT to drink it. And I can’t imagine anyone patting Him on the arm and condescendingly telling Him, “you’ll be fine” “What’s 2 more days?” “Now don’t bother us again until it’s really happening.” So why then were medical staff and others so condescending about my physical and mental pain? I’m sure if any of us were there with Him (and I believe that we were there watching), we would have wept with Him. While there was nothing we could do to ease the pain, we wouldn’t have discounted it or ignored it. We would have reverenced it, because His pain was sacred. Our own pains are sacred and we shouldn’t wave them away or discount them. That doesn’t mean we go looking for pain, but when it’s there it needs to be given it’s due respect and reverence.
About 20 minutes from home I had one kinda strong contraction. Nothing crazy, still able to drive, but definitely a contraction.
We put our son to bed and sat down to watch a show. The contractions were a little painful and a little more regular so I started timing them about 8 pm. By 9, they were definitely painful and I thought I should get in the bath to help keep me relaxed. While in labor with my son, one of the midwives had told me that tensing up slows you down and I definitely didn’t want to be in labor for 50 hours again. As I was about to get into the tub I suddenly got the chills really bad. That hadn’t happened before so I had my husband Google it. Chills can just be a normal occurrence in labor due to hormonal shifts. No alarms going off in my head so I got in a nice warm bath and made my husband track contractions.
I started a lot of self talk through the contractions, “If you can deal with this pain now there won’t be pain later.” I did my best to relax through the contractions rather than tensing hoping that it would help me progress faster. After about an hour in the tub I got suddenly too hot so I got out.
With contractions coming pretty strong and regularly I climbed into bed and took a tylenol PM to help me rest in between. I would squeeze my husband’s hand to let him know another started and then let him know when it stopped and drift off before the next one. After a while I asked him how far apart they were- 4 minutes. I sat up a little and asked how long they had been at 4 minutes- an hour. I told him we needed to call my parents and get ready to go then. His response, “I don’t know, I mean they don’t seem that bad yet.”
He was thinking about last time, I was not so calm with the contractions before. Also, keep in mind 50 hours of that. My thought was, “Gosh, I guess I’ll start complaining more.”
My next contraction I hammed up the moaning a little more so he realized it was more painful than I had been letting on and then on the next contraction my water broke. Luckily I was lying on a towel, but still, fluid everywhere. Then he believed me that it was for real. This was a little after 1 am.
I went into the bathroom to clean up and then the contraction pain went up another notch, a little past my breathe through it place. He called my mom so they could come get our son. I heard him on the phone, “No, she definitely can’t drive herself this time.” I started shouting, “Get in the car, get in the car NOW! Why isn’t she just in the car yet?”
He called triage to see if I needed to come straight in or if it was ok to wait the 45 minutes until my parents could get there. They weren’t concerned about the 45 minutes even with me being beta strep positive. So initially we decided to wait the 45 minutes, I thought maybe I could just continue to breathe through the contractions. There was a big mess to clean up anyway.
Maybe 10 minutes later I think I turned into the spawn of Satan or something. Everything got way more painful than I remembered it ever being when I was in labor with my son. I suddenly went from the ok, let’s wait 45 minutes to, get me to the hospital NOW, no THEN! I need the epidural NOW!!!! Right now. Stop putting things in the washer and let’s go NOW!!!!
My husband asked if we should call one of our back ups on our side of town to drop our son off with them and then my parents would grab him there. No, I didn’t wan’t to take the time to call, then stop, then pull out a car seat. I wanted to teleport to the hospital. Moving was next to impossible. Just getting to the car from my bed I had to stop at the couch.
Got the hospital about 2 am. They wheeled me in to triage while my husband parked. They asked me to get on the scale, nope not going to happen. They asked me to pee in a cup, totally missed the cup. They asked me if I was sure my water had broken, I wanted to punch them all in the face. They checked me and told me I was only at a 4, and for a second I freaked out that they might not admit me. Then someone checked my temperature and asked me if I had been sick. I said no, I didn’t think so. Then remembered earlier in the day when I had an upset stomach and the chills. They told me I had a fever, and I remembered the really bad chills before getting in the tub and the overheating. Then they got a monitor on and baby’s heart rate was too high, she was in distress. They put an oxygen mask on me and told me if they couldn’t get her heart rate down I would have to go in for a c-section. My response about a c-section- “Whatever gets me the epidural faster!”
My husband came in, with the 2 year old who was very much not asleep and making plenty of noise. So now I’m lying there, begging for an epidural, answering their million asinine questions again because they couldn’t save them the first time, and they can’t really understand me because I have an oxygen mask on, and there’s a toddler in the room. Something had to give so I sent my husband out with our son to wait for my dad to come.
Here let’s insert my dad’s story. He got ready and left the house after the call with me screaming from the toilet. He realized he was out of gas, but my parents’ nearest gas station is a few miles away. He got to the gas station and realized he didn’t have his wallet, so he had to turn around and went home. Upon getting home and grabbing his wallet, rather than switching cars he stayed in his and went back to the gas station. Because, remember last time, there would be plenty of time. He got to the hospital about 2:15, he met my husband and they got the car seat traded and the kid in the car. And as he was about to leave my husband said, “Well, we’ll probably have a baby sometime tomorrow.”
It’s a really good thing we didn’t wait at home for my dad and his gas station escapades because….
My husband got back in the triage room just as the nurses finished all of their questions and told me they could finally go put in the orders for my epidural and my antibiotics. I reiterated how urgently I wanted the epidural. She sent me another one of those condescending smiles and left.
I turned to my husband pretty frantic, I felt like I couldn’t breathe with the oxygen mask on and in the craziness getting out the door I had forgotten to put my hair up and it was everywhere and making me extra hot. Here’s a little tender mercy, he looked down and found a hair tie on the floor, and while maybe that’s gross to use a hair tie from the triage floor, I didn’t care. I also couldn’t get it in my hair by myself because of all the monitors so he did the best he could being a man who does not do hair and me thrashing about in pain from a contraction and the feeling of claustrophobia brought on by the oxygen mask.
On my next contraction I suddenly felt the urge to push. I ripped the mask off and told him I had to push. He didn’t know what to do, the nurses were out. I yelled, “Go find the nurses, I have to push!” He ran out in the hallway and a few seconds later they all came running back in. I was up to a 9, going from 4 to 9 in about 20 minutes.
I knew that once you hit 9 you don’t get an epidural, but as they were yelling for people to get things prepped in case I delivered in triage I asked if there was something they could give me for the pain. She said no, it would be dangerous for the baby. My eyes got wide and I asked for morphine or anything, again no. My mind started racing- I mean could I get hit over the head, a leather strap to bite on, a stiff drink maybe?? I took to gripping the sides of the bed which they kept having to tell me not to do because the doorways they were rolling me through were too narrow. Also they ran me into a wall, which was excessively painful when in the middle of a contraction.
At this point I started panicking. I had not signed on for natural childbirth. If someone had asked me if I wanted an epidural the day after I found out I was pregnant the answer was yes. After being in constant pain for 30 weeks straight I had absolutely no interest in being in pain for a second longer. And this was more painful than I ever could have imagined. With every contraction I was sure my body would just rip in half. And for all I knew this could go on for 5 hours because that’s what happened the first time around.
I had signed consent forms for an epidural, not for natural birth. I struggle with feeling out of control. I am most definitely not an adrenaline junky- skiing, sledding, ziplines, etc. are not my thing. I don’t like feeling like my body is out of my control and suddenly it was completely out of my control.
They got me into a delivery room but then everything they asked me to do my answer was no. “Can you get yourself over to this other bed?” “NOPE!” I mean really, I could barely roll over in bed before I was in labor, now you’re asking me to transfer beds while contracting, with an oxygen mask on? After the next contraction I did manage to like flop myself over to the other bed but in completely the wrong position and I made them scoot me around somehow.
“Can you scoot your bum down?” NO! Tried a little but then announced I was pushing, too which they told me not to. Ummmm….this is not a voluntary action! So then I just started pooping everywhere. Which wasn’t so much embarrassing because I know it happens to a lot of people while giving birth, it just added to the alarming feeling of being completely out of control.
I kept telling them I was pushing and they kept telling me to stop because there wasn’t a doctor there yet, which was incredibly aggravating. Finally a doctor comes stumbling in the room and asks, “What’s going on?” I’m pretty sure I yelled, “I’m having a baby, what did you think was happening?” But I might have just said it in my head- it’s hard to remember what actually came out of my mouth aside from screaming.
There were so many people rushing around, it felt like complete chaos. I finally looked at my husband who was crying from watching me be so panicked and not able to do anything. I finally closed my eyes and began to pray, “Please just make it stop hurting….not my will but thine…….nope, I’m not there yet, please just make it stop hurting.”
And then they finally told me it was time to push. The doctor was concerned that I would tear along my original scarring so she went ahead and started cutting- which I could feel. And then blessedly baby girl was out in only 2 pushes.
They didn’t really tell me what was going on, they didn’t show her to me, the only thing that let me know she was actually out was them bringing my husband around to cut the cord and then I heard her cry. But they immediately took her across the room. She was born with a fever and her heart rate was really high.
Friends that have delivered naturally (whether intentionally or accidentally like me) have talked about the rush they got afterwards. The amazement and empowerment that they were able to do it, and the joy. I didn’t get that, and maybe part of it is because I went through all of that and then didn’t even get to hold my baby. All I felt was confusion and trauma about what had just happened.
They started to stitch me up which, despite the fact that they did start giving me some kind of pain reliever, I could feel. Then they finally brought her over and handed her to me, but I was shaking so badly and wincing with every stitch so I couldn’t really hold her and they had to whisk her off to the NICU anyway.
They got me cleaned up and let me rest for a little while still in the delivery room then wheeled me down to the NICU to see her. Her blood sugar had been dangerously low so they had given her a bottle immediately and had already gotten an IV in and started her on antibiotics because of exposure to Beta Strep.
They got me to my room and I met my nurse. She explained that I would be on an IV antibiotic because I had an infection in my uterus. She told me that I must have been leaking fluid throughout the day which introduced the infection, my labor had gone so quickly because my body was trying to flush out the infection.
Then it really all came together. My doctor had swept my membranes. I was passing mucus and blood, so I didn’t notice that there was also fluid leaking. I felt sick, because I was sick. The chills before getting in the tub was not a normal part of labor, it was a warning sign that I was about to spike a fever. Getting into a warm bathtub was the WORST thing I could have done because it allowed the bacteria to proliferate. And then my body did what it had to do to get it out fast.
My doctor never warned me of the risk of introducing bacteria with membrane stripping. With how desperate I was to be done, whether or not we would have decided to move forward with it, if I had known that if I showed any signs of illness it could be a sign that there was a problem I would have gone in several hours earlier and gotten antibiotics.
Instead I faced an incredibly traumatizing birth and my daughter stayed in the NICU for 10 days receiving IV antibiotics. Her blood cultures came back positive which meant she also had to have a spinal tap to be sure it did not get into her spinal fluid as well. The first time they attempted the spinal tap they failed, she was bigger than they were used to dealing with in the NICU and she wiggled too much. They had to give her a dose of morphine to sedate her so they could get it done.
When I got released my parents brought our son back home. We had been doing our best to prep him for the new baby. I had put her rock and play next to our bed a few weeks ahead of time and kept showing it to him and explaining to him that it was Baby’s bed. When he got home he ran to our room to see her in her bed. My heart broke. There wasn’t a book for explaining that baby had to stay in the hospital.
My husband and I traded off going to the NICU and did our best to time our visits so we could be there for feedings while the other stayed home with our son. It was definitely not the sweet time we had imagined having home together as a family while he had paternity leave.
The most difficult part of the NICU for me was having to relearn the “rules” for my baby depending on which nurse was there. Most of the nurses were AMAZING, but there were a few that I just did not get along with well. One day, before I was discharged, I was holding baby and started drifting off with her in my arms- like most new mothers do while holding a sleeping baby in a recliner. The nurse barked at me, “If you’re going to sleep go back to your room!” I looked at her a little shocked, thinking maybe she was being sarcastic about not sleeping in front of her because she couldn’t sleep. But then she added, “You might drop her.” Excuse me, I was sitting in a recliner, if my arm went slack the worst that would happen would be that she would land on my stomach, there was no way she could get hurt. The other nurses we had didn’t mind us napping with the baby in our arms so it was shocking to be yelled at for it. There were other smaller things that changed between nurses, but that was the most upsetting. It was stressful to feel like I was not the one in charge of MY child. Like I said, most of them were wonderful and I’m so grateful for them, but I was also very grateful when it was time to leave and take her home with us.
Physically I recovered much faster from her birth. The pain from the episiotomy went away after about a week as opposed to the 8 weeks of pain I went through from tearing. When people say it’s better to tear, it heals better, I kinda want to smack them. I went through both, the cutting healed so much faster and better, maybe that’s not the way it is for everyone, but it most certainly was for me. I also was significantly less exhausted, probably because I didn’t labor for 50 hours and push for 5 on limited nutrients.
The emotional and mental healing has been harder. Way harder. I found a new primary care doctor a few months after baby girl was born, she diagnosed me with post traumatic stress. Being in constant pain for 30 weeks followed by a delivery that felt out of control followed by having to leave my baby behind in a hospital broke something inside of me. As opposed to my son’s birth I DID feel endangered and completely out of control and I did NOT feel that my OB had my best wishes in mind at any point in the pregnancy, delivery, or post-partum. Like I mentioned before, I began having nightmares, sometimes about the birth, sometimes just in general, but my OB would show up as the “bad guy.” I would wake up frantic and sweating. I could tell the story of her birth to people, but when I was alone and really thought about it I would get anxiety attacks.
It’s been a year and we’re doing really well. Little girl has had no lasting effects, she’s reached her milestones on track or ahead of schedule. She’s happy and healthy and simply adorable. My nightmares have stopped, and I can think through the birth without having an anxiety attack, although it is most definitely a painful memory and something I hope I never have to experience again.
Here’s the things I’ve taken away from my experiences combined:
- Maybe c-sections aren’t as bad as the internet mom crowd make them out to be, I’ve had friends heal faster physically from a c-section than I did from my tear with my first, and with my second I would have avoided an incredibly traumatic birth and resulting NICU stay.
- Doctors need to fully explain the risks involved with procedures so that women can make INFORMED decisions, and then know what to watch for if there is a problem.
- If you have ANY reason to be worried go in and get checked. Let the nurses roll their eyes at you (but also nurses, please stop treating women so condescendingly), it’s better than ending up in the NICU.
- The right way to give birth is one where mom and baby are safe and preferably not traumatized at the end. If that means an elective c-section or in a tub in your living room then good for you.
- Women’s mental health and physical well being needs to be considered in greater detail when determining what is best practice for BOTH mom and baby.
- Listen to women, take them seriously.
As I said before, I love my children, and in the end these experiences were worth it to have them here in my arms. I just hope that these stories will help others to avoid some of these issues, or at the very least know that they are not alone and find some empowerment in that.