If you don’t want to read my daughter’s birth story, I suggest you stop now and go somewhere else on the interwebs. (Though, after that I imagine most of you will stay out of sheer curiosity!)
If you’ve been around here for a while, you know I’m a huge fan of the television show Bones. I’ve been watching it pretty much since it’s inception. Even though I’m an English nerd, I somehow inherited my dad’s scientific and purist views of the world, so I tend to identify with Dr. Brennan and her Squints. (You know that episode with the baby in the tree? Brennan pulls a purple elephant out of the diaper bag they found to entertain the baby and says, “Elephants aren’t purple. This is wrong.” That pretty much sums up about 50% of the interactions I have with my baby.)
Anyway, one of the most recent episodes [SPOILER ALERT!] has Daisy giving birth to Dr. Sweets’ son. She’s hired a natural doula to try to connect with the baby on a spiritual level and to try to have a natural, drug-free childbirth. The doula doesn’t want Daisy to have her friends around her because she doesn’t want energies mixing. Eventually, Daisy kicks the doula out because she’s fed up with her dogmatic beliefs and, well, she wants her friends around her during the birth of her child. She says something like, “I want doctors and shiny machines and medical technology!” I almost busted open my c-section incision laughing at that, because it rung so true for me.
I was absolutely set on a drug-free childbirth. My mom did it twice, and I was in incredibly good shape when I got pregnant and all though my pregnancy, so I didn’t think there would be any problem. I hated being pregnant, but I had zero complications. Everything was textbook, so I assumed I’d go into labor on my own. I passed my due date, but that was OK. Most first time moms do. So I waited.
10 days later, this girl was NOT coming out, so we scheduled an induction. But I still wasn’t worried. My mom was induced when she had me, and still was able to avoid an epidural, so I thought I’d be totally fine. This was just history repeating itself.
We got to the hospital and started the induction on the morning of November 11. The contractions were bad, but manageable. I was able to relax and breathe through them. Then, at night, they checked my dilation. I was thinking I was almost there and, by midnight, I’d have my baby in my arms. Nope – 3 centimeters dilated.
The doctor insisted on breaking my water to speed things up. Having labored for about 15 hours and knowing I was at 3 cm, I agreed. Medical intervention #2.
And guess what happened? Nothing.
I called my mom into the delivery room. I wanted the epidural. It had been 20 hours at this point, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to push if I didn’t get some sleep. We talked about it for a long time, and we waited. Tim, ever the coach, told me I could do this and I was strong, but also knew that I was pretty close to my breaking point.
At about 4:00 AM, a team of nurses came rushing in, flipped me on my side and put an oxygen mask over my mouth. The baby’s heart rate had dropped to 60 beats per minute. I was absolutely terrified. She recovered in minutes, but I didn’t. Relaxing through contractions when you’re super afraid your baby is going to die inside of you? Not gonna happen.
If her heart rate dropped again, I was going to have to have an emergency c-section. Without an epidural, they would have to knock me out to do the surgery. I wanted to be present for my daughter’s birth, even if I was numb from the waist down for it, so I got the epidural. Medical intervention #3.
The process of getting the epidural was about as awful as I thought it was going to be. The reason I wanted a drug-free childbirth in the first place was because I was terrified of the epidural. It took the anesthesiologist three tries to get it in my spine because he insisted on trying to put it in before the local anesthetic took effect. The first two times I felt the whole thing, and kept jumping away in pain – not a super good thing when you’re putting something in your spine.
So I got the epidural and I was completely numb from the waist down. I could not feel one thing, nor could I move my legs. I hated the feeling more than anything, but I was finally able to get some sleep.
The doctor came in at around 9:00 the next morning to check my progress. 5 cm. Not great progress, but progress. She anticipated I’d have a baby by noon.
Noon rolled around. 6 cm. The doctor felt my belly and determined she was turned with her spine to my left side and couldn’t properly get into the birth canal. They flipped me on my right side and told me to stay there, hoping gravity would do its work and she’d flip and come down.
5:00 PM came and went. 7 cm and bloody show.
7:00 PM came and went. Still 7 cm. The doctor started talking to me about the possibility of a c-section. I opted to wait another hour to see what happened.
8:00 PM and 8 cm. The doctor told me I could wait as long as I wanted and push all day if it would make me feel better, but it was her professional opinion that this baby was not coming out without some help. I talked to Tim and my mom. I was exhausted. I didn’t think I could push even if I wanted to. I opted for the c-section. This was the fourth and final medical intervention, and the only one I was hoping to avoid.
At 9:42 PM, my daughter was pulled from my uterus and entered this world screaming. It was the most beautiful scream I had ever heard. Tim was in awe of her, and of me. He held her up for me to see her, and I was in love with her chubby face. Later, in the recovery room, my mother-in-law, with tears in her eyes, told me how proud of me she was and how brave she thought I was for going through so much labor. Tim was beaming the entire time.
Several people have since told me that they’re sorry I had to have a c-section. They mean well, and they are saying it because they know I wanted to avoid having a c-section at all costs. But, the fact is, I’m not sorry. My doctor made a recommendation, but it was my decision. I decided to have the surgery, and I’m glad I did. In another time and place, my daughter would have died before she came out, and I would have died with her. There is a stigma surrounding c-sections currently. Our society tends to see them as the product of lazy doctors who want to schedule operations in order to make their tee-time at the golf course and selfish mothers who want to pick their child’s birthday. And, while this might have been the case – and still might be in some cases – it wasn’t for me. In my case, it was a necessary evil for both my daughter and me to come out of this thing alive, and I’m grateful for that.
I’m also grateful that I was surrounded with so much love through the entire process. From going through so much labor unmedicated, to making the rational decisions to have an epidural in case of a c-section and then having the c-section itself, to braving major abdominal surgery while still awake and aware, Tim was so impressed with me. My mom and dad and in-laws were, as well. Tim and I were able to work as a team, make tough decisions together, and hold each other’s hands through it all. Our marriage came out a million times stronger than it was before; in fact, I don’t think I knew just how much I loved him until I saw him in those surgical scrubs, trying to show me he was not concerned, and then beaming over our daughter and laughing when I said strange things (like, “she’s really a girl?!”) in the haze of the operating room.
I won’t lie: Recovery has been a b*%@#. I’m just now, 8 weeks later, starting to feel like I can do most of the things I used to do, like flex my ab muscles and walk without pain. But it was not only necessary, it was my decision, and one I didn’t make lightly. And, even though I tend towards the natural way of doing things, I’m glad for the doctors and medical technology and shiny instruments that made it possible for my daughter to come into this world, and for me to be here to see her grow up.
Photo credit: isafmedia