Birth Story, Part III

September 15th, 2009 was by far the most adventurous day of my life.

If you've read the birth story of my son, you'll hopefully understand my thoughts and feelings concerning the upcoming birth of my daughter. I was in personal predicament, being pulled in two different directions; on one side was my obstetrician strongly recommending I have a repeat cesarean section due to "risk factors" and the other side were my instincts telling me myself and my daughter were healthy enough to handle labor and that a natural vaginal birth was best for both of us rather than a surgery, given before she was even ready to be born.

That morning I had an appointment with my obstetrician. I brought my husband Jason with me because I knew it was going to be tense. The week prior, I had agreed to tentatively schedule a repeat c-section for Thursday, the 17th, which was one day before my due date. My OB and a perinatologist recommended I not go past my due date because of risk factors I mentioned in my last post. During the appointment as my OB is telling me he really doesn't think I should push the date back to wait until I go into labor on my own I broke down in tears. I was hoping to not get emotional, but at that point I was tired. Tired of fighting, tired of arguing with a medical professional, tired of unsolicited advice from others telling me what I should do. I felt my body and my daughter were telling me something: That everything was fine. All the recent tests (including one that morning) showed she was healthy. But there was a little part of me that felt compelled to listen to this man who had the medical degree and 25 years of experience. My husband asked him, "Are my wife and daughter in danger?" and my OB replied, "Well, there's always the possibility of sudden stillborn."

As below the belt as that comment was, I still knew, I just knew that we were okay. I went home and cried my eyes out and trying to come to terms with the fact that I should just give in and have another c-section. My doula, Linda, said we didn't need to make any decisions today, and that I had until Thursday morning to decide. She said to do my best to relax. That was much easier said than done.

At 5 pm I went in our back yard to sit with my son while he played. As I tried to get comfortable on an uncomfortable wooden patio chair I felt some movement down below and a warm trickle. I told myself not to get too excited that my water broke and stood up. Sure enough, warm clear fluid raced down both legs and if you've ever had this happen before (the same thing happened with my son), it's pretty obvious that it's not pee. I was in somewhat disbelief. But OH MY GOD IT HAPPENED! All the tears, all the worry, stress, indecisiveness and frustration, all came together and this was it. I still didn't know how it would all turn out, and there was still worry that my daughter wouldn't handle labor well, like the doctors warned me she may not, but at least I was going to get the opportunity to try to labor like my body was meant to.

Jason got home from work about 10 minutes later, we scrambled to eat and get some last minute things together. I called my doula, Linda and she was ecstatic. She said to call her when we got checked into the hospital because it would most likely be a while before my labor began. And away we went.

In the car the contractions started. They were uncomfortable, but bearable and I could still talk through them. But pretty much all I was saying was, "Ouch, this really hurts." They were steady at 5 minutes apart. We got to the triage floor and I approached the front desk where there were 3 nurses there. No one looked up for several seconds and that, for some reason, really irritated me. I suppose I expected them to see me, throw all their papers in the air and start yelling, "Oh my God, she's here!! The girl that wants a VBAC is here! Everyone get ready!" No such luck. They were very busy, but got me checked in and into a room. At that point time started to go really, really slow and I was very impatient. They took entirely too long to do everything, (which in hindsight they weren't, but in my position it was taking too long to do anything). My contractions were getting noticeably stronger and I felt like I had to go to the bathroom (yes, poop). This happened twice and both times I had to unhook myself from the monitors and tip toe across the triage room to the only bathroom. I had to stop a couple of times for contractions to pass.

The nurse came back and checked my cervix. I was 2 cm dilated and 90% effaced. So, no big emergency. Yet. She said they were really busy and would check again for a room. At this point time seemed to go as slow as molasses. People could not move fast enough. The only thing that was moving fast were my contractions and I really, really, wanted to get to a delivery room. Now, I don't consider myself a high maintenance kind of girl, but I told the nurse I needed a room, NOW. The next thing I knew I was getting into a wheelchair (which before then I thought only sissies had to be wheeled from triage to labor and delivery. I thought for sure I would be walking. Insert hysterical laughter on that thought). I asked the nurse to stop twice on the way while I had a contraction.

When we got to the room, I immediately had to throw up. I was trembling and shaking like I had never experienced before and began to feel like I was completely out of control of my body. Like it wasn't even my own. I made it to the bathroom and told my husband and Linda that I wanted some privacy. I sat on the toilet and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I had one hand on the wall and the other clutching the safety handle bar. I was pale white, sweating, and a little confused. Was this early labor? If I was only 2 cm dilated, didn't I have possibly hours and hours before I even make it to 4 cm, when the active labor stage starts? I left the bathroom and the obstetrician was there. For some reason I was relieved to see that it was a woman, perhaps I thought she would be more supportive that I wanted a VBAC. I managed to make it into the bed and the OB began asking me question, after question after question. About my health history, about this pregnancy, about my previous c-section, about my pain. I couldn't talk through contractions and even in between was difficult because all I wanted to do was be still and not utter a sound in fear that my voice vibrations may conjure up another contraction. I finally said, "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be rude, but isn't all this information in my file or on some computer here?" With that, the OB said she wanted to check me again. Perhaps they know when the laboring mother gets feisty, things are moving pretty quickly, who knows. I finished a contraction and told her to hurry and check. I had my eyes closed and heard her say, "She's a seven".

Excuse me? Seven centimeters? I immediately thought of a book I had read, Your Best Birth where Ricki Lake describes the transition phase of labor going from seven to ten centimeters as something like, "This is the part where you're not fucking around anymore!" And boy was she right. I have also heard women say that at this point you sort of leave your body. It was like that for me. It was all happening so fast I could do nothing but think of how to stop the pain. I had previously decided to have a natural child birth. (Again, insert hysterical laughing here). However, when given the option to have an epidural when my head was spinning around, guess what I said? I would have taken a shot of tequila with a hit over the head with a frying pan.

The anesthesiologist arrived and I had to sit through transition contractions while he administered the medication in my back. He kept saying, "Don't move!" Ummm, okay. As soon as he left the room the OB checked me again and said, "She's complete." I heard the nurse tell me she was sure I was complete before he even started the epidural and that I had just gone through what takes most people 10 hours of labor in one hour. I've mentioned in other blog posts that I've always been the type of person that does things in a hurry. Apparently this was no exception.

I kept asking if the baby was doing well and the nurse told me (after I asked her for the 10th time) that she was doing better than a lot of babies that come in with no "risk factors" like mine. After the epidural kicked in things were a lot more peaceful. They left me alone with my husband and Linda so I could "labor down" and just let the baby come down naturally. After more than an hour the nurse said I could practice pushing and I said, "Like a dress rehearsal?" It was a little strange to push with no feeling down there, but practicing did help. They said they could see her coming. I was impressed with my husband who previously said he wouldn't want to see her come out at all, but he did in fact look. Part of the baby's head showed and I asked him if she had hair. He said yes. The nurse decided to call the OB to deliver. I was ecstatic!

It was 10:30 when the OB came in and sat down. I did about 4 sets of pushing and her head was out. One more push and Sydney Marie was born at 10:37. The OB put her on my chest and it was totally quiet. I didn't cry like I thought I would. I didn't say anything. I was stunned. Stunned that I did it. Stunned that she was here, finally and she was fine. Stunned at how beautiful she was. And stunned at how beautiful labor and birth are.

They let her stay on my chest for at least 30 minutes, I can't remember how much time passed. I think I finally cried, as did Jason. The placenta was delivered with no problems and the scar tissue was still attached to it. I didn't have any tearing. I kept thinking it was too good to be true, that everything went so well, even with the fast and furious labor. I said a few times that I felt like I was dreaming and that I would wake up and it would be earlier that same day. Linda pinched me and said, "You're not dreaming, you did it!"

I want to close this post by saying that the reason I wanted to share all of this was to emphasize the importance of listening to your body. Sometimes it's easier than others, but if we try and open ourselves to it, our bodies will communicate with us. I never once felt like anything was wrong during this pregnancy. There were times when I had to stop and ask myself, "Am I lying to myself?" and the answer was always no. I spent time alone, relaxing to become in tune with the mind/body connection and my body responded by opening up and communicating with me. I had to trust it and let go of fears which was probably the hardest part. In all that I have been through over the last several years, doing this has been the most empowering and healing reward I have been given.

Sydney Marie- 2 days old


*I also wanted to give a special thanks to the staff at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women. The nurses and obstetrician were so helpful and played a major role in the safety and smoothness of my birth. Without them and their support that night, I'm not sure how it would have turned out. I don't believe there are enough words of gratitude.

Photos courtesy of author. Please do not duplicate without my permission.

Birth story, Part II

I've been putting off writing part 2 to this trilogy of my birth stories, only because the last couple of weeks has not turned out exactly like I had planned it. I'm not sure what I was thinking; pregnancy and birth can never be planned, many times there are bumps in the road and sharp turns need to be made. But if you read my last post, you know that I didn't have the best experience with the birth of my son and that my cesarean section left me feeling, well.....scarred for life.

With this pregnancy I had planned on a vaginal birth. My situation is called a Vaginal Birth After Cesarean, called a VBAC (pronounced "vee-back"). There has been much controversy over the years about VBAC and I won't spend time going over all of the research I have done, but in a nutshell, I felt that a vaginal birth was completely safe for me and my baby and my obstetrician was in agreement and supportive. I was ecstatic to be able to have a baby the way nature intended.

At 18 weeks things began to go slightly downhill. I was told I had what is called a uterine synechiae, basically scar tissue on my uterus connected to the placenta. Basically it was caused by my previous c-section. Another thing to add to my list of "why my c-section sucked". They said they are usually harmless, but weren't going to say a for certain "yes" to my VBAC until they checked it again, at 34 weeks. So I had to wait until then for them to not only check that, but check the baby to make sure she wasn't harmed by this and for them to tell me what they thought about the safest way for me to birth.

Week 34 came around and the synechiae was almost MIA, apparently it's typical for it to get pushed aside at that point. So, my VBAC was agreed by the perinatologist that I would be a good candidate. Hooray!!! I was so excited! I hired a doula and threw myself into researching about VBAC, natural childbirth and just birth in general. I couldn't wait to experince the magic of childbirth. Of course I knew that there was always a chance of another c-section, but I was content knowing that I would be able to allow my body to do what it was meant to do: Give birth.

At that appointment, I was told that my daughter was measuring small for her gestational age. She didn't seem too worried and asked about my son's size at birth. When I told her she said, "You're probably just one of those women that have small babies". Okay. She told me to come back in 2 weeks to monitor her progress. They don't mind if she's still small, but they want to make sure that she's growing adequately. For some reason I wasn't worried. Something told me it was fine and that my baby was growing as she should be and there was nothing to worry about. So I went to the next appointment feeling confident that they would tell me she was still small, but okay. They didn't. The doctor came into the room and said, "Last time you were here your baby was small, now she is officially small, in the 8th percentile for her gestational age. And your placenta is showing calcification, a sign that it's aging".

Time stopped. My mouth feel open as if to say something but nothing came out. I promptly burst into tears.

My head was spinning. Thoughts flooded: "What did I do wrong? I'm 34, I'm too old to have a baby. Why isn't she growing? What is wrong with my placenta? IS SHE DYING???"

I think I asked a question or 2, but the doctor might as well have answered in Chinese because I wasn't listening. I did ask what her recommendation of birth was for me; a vaginal birth or a cesarean section and she said I could go for what is called a trial of labor, they will monitor the baby the whole time, if she's fine I can go ahead with labor, if she seems stressed they will take her via c-section. Fine by me. I drove to my husbands work to tell him the news in person.

So for the last few days I have been going back and forth from being a complete mess about this, to feeling confident that everything will work out fine. The reason I wanted to share this is because of this:

I have learned (a little late) that opinions on this topic vary greatly. It's one of those things that if you have never been there it's impossible to say how you would feel and what you would do. It's a highly sensitive matter. Backing up a little, let me share with you my personal feelings about this. Keep in mind; these are my feelings, and I am not speaking for all women here.

I have come to the conclusion that women are given vaginas for 2 reasons: To make babies and to birth babies. We are put on this earth to reproduce and as a female, it is our inherent right to give birth. Modern technology has given us the gift to make sure our babies are healthy in the womb and have saved many, many lives of both mother and baby. If I had had the same pregnancy I had with my son 100 years ago (breech position and severe hypertension), there is a good chance I would have died during childbirth, as well as my son. I do think the best decision was made when it was decided to have a cesarean section. It goes without saying that I am grateful for modern medicine.

That being said, it still doesn't take away the feelings of failure that a surgical delivery brought to me. I feel like a natural child birth is something I was meant to do and it was taken away. My mother did it three times, and her mother did it 11 times (all at home by the way). I can't help but think: What is wrong with me?

At this point I have no idea how I will end up birthing this baby. The constant back and forth of decisions, feelings and emotions is almost too much to bear. One minute I think I should throw in the towel, schedule the cesarean and deal with the emotions later. The next minute my instincts say, "Wait a minute! I can do this! I was meant to do this! She is healthy and will be fine." Whichever voice is louder at that moment wins, and the process starts over. Sometimes it's unbearable. This is not how I imagined my last few weeks of pregnancy to be. Worried sick about my daughters health and doctors telling me different things about how I should birth. Not knowing what's best and running out of time. The whole time thinking how powerful it is to love someone so much that I haven't met yet. That there are so many people fussing over her and she is blissfully unaware of it all.

Then there's the question of selfishness. Why is this birth so important to me? Is it really best for both me and the baby? Is natural labor really just as safe? Biologically and scientifically I believe yes, I have done the research both ways to come to this conclusion. Sometimes it's not, and in my situation as I type this, I'm not sure what the right answer is for me, if any. I suppose I will find out within the next 2 weeks.

I think as women, many of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to have the perfect birth, the perfect magical experience, blissful breast feeding, etc. And when it doesn't go that way, combined with all the hormones, it's the perfect storm. I can only speak for myself in that sense, but I beat myself up a lot over those things. This time I am working on letting it go.....I can only control so much and most importantly I can control my emotions, my reactions and leave the rest up to God.

In closing, I have had to ask myself why this birth is so important to me. For me, I am at the end of my child bearing days. Pregnancy is beautiful and I have never felt anything so alive and amazing as having my child grow and thrive inside of me. I am very lucky to have experienced this. I have always imagined what it would be like to be in labor, to feel my uterus actually contract and begin to push my baby out of me, a new life ready to experience a life of his or her own. For me, this is the essence of womanhood.

*Note: Although I love comments, due to the sensitivity of this matter, please do not comment if you are going to tell me what you think I should do or to be snarky. I posted this because I feel there are other women who probably can relate to these feelings and that it's normal to feel them.

Photo courtesy of soartsyithurts

Old posts revisited

One of my favorite sites, Girl, Get Strong has posted 2 of my old blog posts recently. You can read, "Sweet Revenge....or is it?" here, and "Every party has a pooper, that's why we invited you" here.