“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Charles Dickens
Never have I understood those words with more truth than on July 13th 2013. The day my son was born was in fact the most amazing day of my life and the most painful simultaneously. I never realized how one event could evoke two entirely different emotions until the birth of my son. Finally after two years, I am ready to write about it. I tried right after he was born. I tried several times after. I have about 50 half written blogs telling my birth story. I was even asked to blog about it for another site and I couldn’t even bring myself to respond to the email request. It seemed ridiculous that I couldn’t manage to formulate an email explaining why I was unable to write my birth story. I tried, I just couldn’t face it. Part of this site is to help other moms by talking about the things we are afraid or embarrassed to talk about…so here it is. My birth story in all it’s glory (or at least the version I remember).
I was one of those moms that dreamed my birth would be magical. I had visions of rainbows and waterfalls and imagined it would be something akin to a scene from Snow White complete with woodland creatures scurrying about gaily. I had a well thought out birth plan (haha) that I printed and handed to every nurse who promptly smirked and rolled their eyes at. I spent hours putting together a motivational playlist. I labored at home as long as I could manage, refused to get induced and brought my own damn birth ball to the hospital.
I was 42 weeks when I finally went into the hospital in active labor. I had gone to the Dr. that day to get my fetal monitoring to make sure my placenta, uterus and adorable little baby were all doing well. After 2 weeks of trying every method of self-induction possible (with the exception of castor oil – explosive diarrhea NO THANKS), I finally started to have contractions in the morning and when my Dr. checked me at my scheduled (crazy lady is super overdue but won’t let us induce her) appointment, I was around 3cm dilated. She told me she would see me later at the hospital and to go home, relax and get ready. I remember being excited and thinking, “I got this, these contractions are no big deal.” HA. Fast forward to 7pm that evening, me doubled over in pain every contraction and starting to get a little scared that this may not be all butterflies and daisies.
We headed to the hospital, parked the car and went up to L&D. They checked me and I was 5cm dilated, but because they were a packed house they wouldn’t admit me unless I wanted an epidural (most decidedly NOT in my neatly printed birth plan). They wouldn’t however let me leave since I was already 5 cm dilated, so they told me I needed to stay in a shared triage room. So, obviously, I did what any rational laboring woman would do…I ran away. Ok, I waddled down the hallway. I wanted to try to move things along and knew that movement was the best way to do that, so hell If I was going to sit my ass on a bed until they had a room ready. One of the (likely new) residents chased after me begging me to come back and lay down, to which I replied, “what are you going to do? arrest me?” About 20 min later the same poor resident came and told me they had a room for me and that I needed to be checked again. The next three days are a bit of a blur. Yes…I said THREE days. I met pretty much every nurse, resident and doctor in the department as I labored through change of shift after change of shift. I remember bargaining with the nurses that if I could make it through two contractions without my heartbeat or my sons dropping that I could go in the shower. I remember my husband blasting scalding hot water on my back during contractions because that was the only thing that made the horrible back labor the slightest bit less painful. I remember vomiting with every contraction because apparently that is how my body responds to horrific pain. I remember begging to drink some juice so that I could have something to throw up instead of dry heaving. I remember the sinking feeling that something was wrong when they broke my water after stalling at 8 cm for several hours. I remember my husband yelling at a resident and kicking her out of the room when she mentioned c-section for the 500th time. I remember being scared, in pain and I very clearly remember thinking I was going to die. I remember a revolving door of faces. Each one was different. Each one said the same thing…c-section c-section c-section.
I was stubborn. My husband was stubborn. We were ignorant and poorly informed. To outsiders (aka the ENTIRE hospital staff, my mother, and everyone around) we were idiots risking my life and my son’s life. But, in that moment, I believed that I was protecting us. I believed we were fighting what was unnatural, risky and not ideal for myself or our baby. I didn’t realize or fully understand my situation because I was misinformed. You see, I am insanely stubborn. That is an undeniable fact. But, I am also a researcher. I research. I research the facts, the percentages, the risks and benefits. I don’t make decisions or plans based on unfounded fantasy. And when it came to labor, I researched A LOT. I signed up for a Bradley Childbirth class at the hospital and over the course of twelve weeks was grossly misinformed. I was very very informed how to have the birth I hoped I would have. I was empowered and excited about allowing my body to do what God designed it to do. Unfortunately, I was also completely unprepared and uneducated about the labor I actually DID have.
Our Bradley class gave us study upon study on the negative effects of intervention. They warned us of the slippery slope of induction, epidural or doctor assistance in labor and how it would lead to a dangerous, unwanted and unnatural c-section. So, every time someone mentioned intervention during my labor, I assumed they just wanted to rush me along as I had been warned. I had been convinced that the doctors in the hospital weren’t interested in my wellbeing but just wanted to meet their “cookie cutter” labor time line. I wasn’t told that there are situations when intervention is NECESSARY, like when your body is not handling labor well. When you’re dry heaving from the pain, aren’t progressing and your baby won’t descend. I wasn’t told the risks of being stubborn and refusing help. Thank God Avery and I were healthy, because I wasn’t informed that when your baby’s heart rate drops during labor there could be life-altering devastating effects. And most of all, while I was very informed of how important it was to avoid all the things that could end in a c-section, but I wasn’t ever informed what would happen during a c-section. Because of this I went through my c-section not only exhausted from my labor but scared about what was happening in the operating room. I don’t blame my childbirth educator, but I do wish that I had gotten a more balanced education on what to expect. I firmly believe that it is possible to nurture and encourage a natural birth while also preparing parents for the possibility of necessary medical intervention.
When all was said and done, I labored for about 53 hours in the hospital (from 5-10 cm) about 48 hours of that was completely un-medicated. I pushed for 5 hours, rested and pushed for another hour. Yes, I pushed unsuccessfully for 6 hours. (I told you I was stubborn). I was pumped full of so much fluid I gained 12 pounds from the time I was admitted to the time I gave birth. During the pushing, I had to move around after each contraction to keep my son’s heart rate up, and as a result my epidural line slipped. I had to wear an oxygen mask the entire time and my sons heartbeat dropped with every contraction for the last hour and I was eventually rushed in for a c-section. I had to “sit still” while they re-inserted my epidural line as I had contractions 1 min apart and was dry heaving. I may or may not have yelled at the anesthesiologist with some “choice” words. During my c-section I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like someone was lying on my chest. I had panic attacks the entire time. I thought I was dying.
After they delivered my son, the doctors decided they would attempt to stick to our birth plan (that had been thrown out the window hours ago) and allow my husband to announce the gender. What they didn’t explain was that he would stand up and see my insides OUTSIDE of my body on a tray next to me. So when he stood up and sat back down he looked like he had seen a ghost. As I lay there helpless unable to see or hold my baby, I had to try to decipher why he looked so horrified. They immediately placed Avery on my chest for skin-to-skin and as he squirmed his way to my breast to breastfeed, I laid there unable to move my arms. I couldn’t hold my baby in his first moments of life. I couldn’t comfort him. I couldn’t touch him. It was the first of many times I would feel the inconsolable ache of not being able to make everything perfect for my child. I spent his first days in a drugged haze until I finally started refusing the pain medication and started to feel human again. It was the worst experience of my life, and yet those same horrifying, painful, scary moments delivered the most incredibly amazing joy of my life.
I remember sitting in the nursery after we got home and crying. I was afraid that every year on my son’s birthday I wouldn’t think about his birthday as being the most amazing day of my life. I was sad that I would have all these negative memories. I was wrong. When we celebrated his first birthday it was only full of love, happiness, joy and amazement at the incredible little man we are so blessed to know.
There are still days I feel sad or anxious about what I went through, days where I fall down the rabbit hole of should have, would have, could have, but as time goes on those days are fewer and farther between. I want other moms who may be in the same position or moms who feel like they can’t move past it to know that it gets better. It’s lame and cliché, but time really does heal. (If you had told me that two years ago I would have told you to F off) But honestly, as you move forward, the love, happiness and laughter begins to push out the pain and sadness until you can look back on that day with contentment. I want moms with similar experiences to know that it’s okay to have completely mixed emotions. You can love your child to the moon and back AND hate the way they were born. The two have ABSOLUTELY no bearing on one another. We are trying for #2 now, which brings a whole slew of new emotions and anxieties bubbling back up, but I know two things to be true. 1. That experience will never be repeated. and 2. I love my son more than I ever thought possible and nothing about the way he came into the world has any bearing on those emotions.
Avery’s birth story is his birth story…but what really matters is the story of his LIFE – and that is something I get to relish in every day, and for that I’m incredibly fortunate.