By now, you may have read about some of the struggles and challenges other women have faced getting and staying pregnant. My husband and I have been blessed in that getting pregnant was the easy part for us. Although during each of my pregnancies I suffered for many months of hyperemesis (severe vomiting which necessitates medication) that’s not the struggle I have chosen to write about. My real battle has been my actual births.
I knew I was pregnant with my first baby within days of conception. I walked into the food store, took one look at the sushi case and felt my stomach churn. Having completed an extensive research project on the Medicalization of Childbirth during my undergraduate studies, I already held some skepticism regarding the current state of childbirth in the United States, specifically regarding how medical interventions can commonly lead to higher rates of c-sections. After continued research, I quickly uncovered my deep yearning for a drug-free vaginal birth and prepared with my husband accordingly. The birth would be coordinated by my four page birth plan and my husband would act as my doula. The plan was in place, but nowhere did the it reference what our actions would be when my blood pressure began to escalate during my last trimester. Nowhere did my plan reference the choices we would have to make when all of my and my ob/gyn’s best efforts to normalize my blood pressure failed.
Swollen as can be, with no more options available, I willingly agreed to be induced at 36 weeks pregnant.
I say willingly because although it was not in the plan, I felt it was the safest and best option left. When I was first induced with a dose of Cervadil placed on my cervix, I was neither dilated or effaced and my baby boy was floating high in my uterus. Although my body could not handle the pregnancy any longer, it was not physically preparing for birth.
The cervadil helped kick-start labor. I had regular contractions, which grew in intensity and I dilated to 2cm. And then, everything stopped.
We waited. And waited. And waited. Nothing.
So, once again, I agreed to another intervention. This time the dreaded Pitocin was administered. If my previous contractions were wave-like, rhythmic and bearable, the contractions brought on by the Pitocin were anything but. They left me screaming in agony, unable to stand, and wailing. They left me completely out of control. And so, the cascade of interventions continued when hours later, I could no longer bear the feeling of being so powerless and “under” the constant brick wall force of the contractions. I had an epidural.
My dream birth was nowhere to be found, and while it was disappointing, it was okay. My doctor was amazing. He deeply understood my desires and together, we tried our best to see them all into fruition. But after several hours of pushing with no progress whatsoever and two failed vacuum extraction attempts, we decided that my son would be born via c-section.
When it came time for my doctor to pull Sean out of me, he found that my sunny-side up, large headed little guy was completely wedged inside of my pelvis. I will never forget the grunting of the two grown men who used all of their strength to physically push my precious baby back up into my uterus. In my memory, those sounds signify the final struggle. They represent the battle that my son and I had fought, together.
After Sean was born, I remember the doctor holding him up to me and feeling a foggy connection. I was so physically and emotionally exhausted that I had nothing left for my first moments as a mommy. The first moments with my baby boy were the ones I missed the most.
Sean was not in great shape and neither was I. We each needed extra TLC. My poor guy spent days under the billirubin lights and he didn’t grow hair on the spot where the vacuum was attached for almost two years. I was sore from pushing, sore from the surgery and swollen for weeks after. It was a reminder for me of what we had been through.
My birth turned out to be everything I feared, but I didn’t suffer the guilt, depression or remorse afterwards that is common with women who have had c-sections. I did everything I could, but things simply didn’t go according to plan. Although I was not exactly prepared for the events that unfolded, I went into my birth smart, determined and well-researched. That was the best I could do. I didn’t hobble out of the hospital as a victim, instead I chose warrior. (Well, I was hobbling a bit.) My son and I were birth-warriors. The doctors and nurses referred to my birth as “brutal, awful, the worst kind.” Brutal and awful? Agreed. The worst kind? No way. I went home with a beautiful, healthy son. Gently, together, we recovered and took our own sweet time getting to know one another.