I hope it's okay for me to post this here. This is the story of my "failed" natural childbirth and a little about the regret and resentment that I feel toward it. I have a lot of birth guilt. At any rate, I wanted to share my story and I'm hoping maybe others who have been in the same situation can offer some words of wisdom about overcoming these feelings.
Here goes: (The birth story is REALLY long and taken from our blog)
DH and I welcomed our amazing little boy into the world on Monday (39 weeks and 4 days). He was born at 11:47 a.m., weighing 7lbs10oz and measuring in at 19.5 inches long. He is completely perfect in every way, and I’m not just saying that as a biased new mother. Every doctor and nurse has agreed that not only is he cute and angelic, he’s perfectly healthy—a proud parent couldn’t ask for more. I’ve never felt the level of happiness that I’ve felt since bringing him into the world.
It wasn’t all blessed out happiness, though. There was a labor involved in birthing this little angel. And what a labor it was. We hoped for a completely natural childbirth, free of drugs and most interventions. The purpose behind this was because we believe that women are built to give birth and that provided everything goes according to plan, there isn’t really a need for medical intervention. We took Bradley classes to learn relaxation techniques, but also to learn as much as we could about the birthing process so we could be prepared for whatever came our way. Our mission with the classes was ultimately successful, and I would highly recommend the Bradley method to everyone, even those who don’t desire to have a drug-free birth.
We didn’t get our drug-free birth, but we had an excellent experience regardless, and I truly believe that the preparation we received through our Bradley classes allowed us to remain confident and make good decisions throughout the process.
Everything started about 4:45 a.m. on Sunday morning. I got up to pee for probably the third time that night. I climbed back in bed, wrestled with my pillows and caught my breath to fall back to sleep when I felt a subtle “pop” and then a little trickle of what felt like urine. I had a fleeting moment where I thought my water might have broken, but shrugged it out of my mind, because 1) this was too early, and I was sure this baby was going to linger at least a week past my due date and 2) so few women actually have labor start with their water breaking. (I think the stat is like 80 percent of women have their water broken by the doctor in the hospital after they are already in labor) It wasn’t until I shifted position and felt more of what felt like urine that I reconsidered. I just peed! Surely I wasn’t leaking urine. If it’s not urine, what is it? Could this be my water breaking? No way. Not possible. Bravely, and surprisingly nimbly, I leapt out of bed and made my way to the bathroom, where it became very evident that it was indeed NOT pee. I think I mumbled something like “uh-oh,” which woke DH up. He asked if I was okay and I replied, “well, I’m fine, but we’re going to have a baby.” He asked if I was having my bloody show and I responded that no, it was even more definite than that; my water had broken. In a flash, DH was in the bathroom and we were both just staring at each other completely stunned. It was definitely NOT supposed to happen this way.
I think deep down we both knew that this was an omen of the difficulties that we were about to face. Given that my water had broken, and I wasn’t feeling contractions, this wasn’t exactly the best sign. We called the doctor, and, knowing our birth plan and the fact that I was GBS-negative, they agreed that I could stay home and labor on my own and just requested that I call back later in the morning if nothing was happening.
I climbed back in bed, but totally unable to sleep (hello!! I’m going to meet my baby soon!) we tried to relax and see if we could wrap our minds around what was happening. It was at that time that I realized that I was actually having contractions, they were just pretty mild, and I had been passing them off as the Braxton Hicks contractions that I’d been having regularly for weeks. In fact, it was then that I realized that I had probably started having contractions the night before when we were at a Michael Franti and Spearhead charity concert that my work was sponsoring. After several hours of being at the show, I started to get really uncomfortable, but thought it was because I had been standing for so long. I told DH I needed to find somewhere to sit, but we wound up leaving because it was getting late anyway. I had to stop twice on the walk back to the parking garage because I had a Braxton Hicks contraction that was so strong that it made it hard to walk. Plus, I was also having a lot of round ligament pain, and the combination of the two was pretty uncomfortable. Turns out, that’s exactly what real contractions feel like for me. Go figure.
Around 7:00, we called our birth instructor to get her take on what was happening. She encouraged me to get out and walk and also to call the doctor and ask if we could start on some castor oil to get things moving (pun completely intended). The doctor vetoed the castor oil, but was strongly in favor of walking, so we put on tennis shoes and hit the pavement. We walked, and walked, and walked, and walked. A pretty wicked storm rolled through, but we walked through each break in the weather. By noon, we had walked several miles and my contractions were starting to look a little more consistent.
We called the doctor again and relayed everything that was happening. They suggested that we think about coming in because we were approaching the 12-hour mark, and they wanted to make sure everything was okay with the babe. We agreed to labor for a few more hours and then we’d head to the hospital. The weather got bad again, so DH and I played some Wii bowling, and alternated doing sets of stair climbing while the other person was bowling. DH beat me, but in my defense, I was a little distracted! I bounced on the birthball while we played Wii wakeboarding. Finally, I decided that the contractions were getting a little more noticeable and that I should probably get in the shower and think about leaving. The shower felt goooooooood. But, it also seemed to jumpstart the contractions, and once I got out, I was surprised to feel how much more intense they had gotten. I dried my hair pausing every five minutes or so to blow the hairdryer on my belly while a contraction rolled through.
By 4:30, we were ready to head nervously to the hospital. I used a heated rice sock in the car to ease the back pain I was having with each contraction, and took deep breaths and tried to relax every muscle in my body while they were happening. When we got to the hospital around 5:00, I refused to wheelchair that they offered me three times. It felt so much better to walk. And we headed to labor and delivery.
In labor and delivery they hooked me up to the fetal monitors and we watched our little man’s heartbeat and my contractions, which was pretty cool. He was tolerating everything very well, but my contractions had gone from being fairly consistent at every 4-5 minutes lasting about 40-60 seconds each, to being all over the map. I knew it was because I was scared. I was finally at the hospital, and everything was becoming very real, and suddenly I regretted our decision to come in. I wanted nothing more than to be at home, laboring with just DH. An internal exam revealed that I was only 3cm dilated, 70 percent effaced and the baby was at a -3 station. For the record, this is not a lot of progress; especially not a lot of progress considering that my water had broken 12 hours earlier and I was having contractions. Another not so good sign.
I opted for the Hep-lock, and several hours in triage, several IV sticks and two blown veins later, I was finally escorted to a birthing room. We walked the halls and rocked on the birthball for another hour or so, and finally the doctor came in to check my progress. And… nothing. I was still stuck at 3cm. It was time to start talking about interventions. After lots of tears on my part, and lots of negotiations on DH’s part, we came to the agreement that they would give me two more hours to try to get my contractions more regular, and after that, we needed to start Pitocin. We walked for a while, we rocked more on the birthball. With each contraction I tried my best to relax into the contraction and let it do its job. But with each contraction, we were getting closer and closer to that two hour alarm and I was getting more and more stressed that we weren’t going to be able to make it happen. Thinking the shower might relax me, we tried that. In between contractions I would jog in place in the shower and then stop everything and relax completely when a contraction would start. Even after all this work, the contractions still varied from 3-5 minutes and 30-90 seconds in length. Not the regular contractions the doctor wanted.
At 10:00 we started the pitocin at a level of 2, with the understanding that we would increase it by two increments every 45 minutes until my contractions were consistently three minutes apart. With the Pitocin IV in place, I was pretty limited with what I could do for pain relief. The shower was out, as was walking the halls. I could sit on the ball, and I could pace a five foot swath in front of the IV pole, but that was about it. I chose to sit the bed all the way upright and drop the bottom portion of the bed, so I was essentially sitting in a chair with my legs bent. This seemed to be the most comfortable way to tolerate the contractions that were getting stronger and stronger each time they happened. By 2:00 a.m. on Monday, my contractions were 2-3minutes apart and lasting about a minute each, and I was in a significant amount of discomfort. I had taken to making a low moaning sound through each contraction, because breathing was no longer cutting it for me. I also developed a lovely case of labor shakes, that made relaxing pretty difficult. My body would not stop convulsing when all I wanted it to do was relax through the contraction. I recall the nurse coming in numerous times over those couple hours, and I remember hearing her talk to DH, but I have no idea what was happening. The pain was so intense that I felt like I was slipping into unconsciousness between contractions. The doctor came back in to tell me that I had gotten to the point that she wanted me at, and that they weren’t going to bump the Pitocin up any more, and that they would just let me labor until I felt the urge to push. They wouldn’t do another internal exam because they were still worried about infection, which was frustrating, but I appreciated their concern for the baby. I asked the doctor how long she thought it would be, and she replied, “hard to say, but most likely another 8-10 hours.”
My heart sank. I looked at DH with tears in my eyes and shook my head. There was no way I could handle these contractions for another eight hours and still have energy left to push the baby out. I had been in labor for 22 hours, and was only working on about four hours of sleep prior to that. My body wasn’t going to be able to maintain this pace and then have the oomph left to push. Looking back, I was just glad that I summoned up the strength to even tell them I wasn’t going to make it.
The nurse and DH talked over different pain management options. I was open to IV meds, but concerned that they may transfer through to the baby, and that they may not offer me enough relief to sleep, which was what I really needed to do. The only option left was the epidural. Cue more tears from me. I felt like this was everything I didn’t want.
The doctor left us alone for a few minutes to talk it over. DH and I weighed all the pros and cons, and when it came down to it, we knew that we needed to go with the epidural. I was exhausted, and while I was making it through the contractions, I was more worried about my energy level. My tank felt empty. DH assured me that I was doing an amazing job, and that if I needed the epidural, it was in no way a failure, but instead making the best decision given the situation we were faced with.
The epidural was a piece of cake. The worst part was that it took a couple of minutes to do it, and I had two contractions during the process. To my shock, the epidural took, but still left me with complete use of my legs. I felt as though God had answered every prayer and I was on cloud nine. My biggest fear with the epidural was that I would be completely numb and confined to the bed on my back, which I really didn’t want and knew wasn’t good for the baby. I was beyond thankful that I could still move my legs and support weight on them. I could even still feel contractions, but the pain was mostly gone. Perhaps someone else might have considered this to be a failed epidural, but I was ecstatic!
From 2:30 until about 7:00 we slept. I woke up occasionally with contractions, but wasn’t in any significant pain. At 7:00 the doctor checked me, said I was about 8.5cm dilated and completely effaced except for a little lip on the right side of my cervix. I had been sleeping on my left side, so she recommend I switch to my right, relax for a short while and that I’d probably be ready to push in about 30 minutes. (!!!)
The doctors change shifts at 7:30, and there were several other women in labor at the same time, so things got hectic, and it wasn’t until 9:30 before someone came back in to check on me and discovered that I was 10cm, fully effaced and the baby was at a +3 station. No wonder I was feeling the incredible pressure I was! The epidural had taken the edge off enough that I wasn’t dying to push, but I was feeling a LOT of pressure and knew that I was close. The nurse paged the doctor, and by 10:00, I started pushing.
With the first couple of pushes the doctor noticed that the baby was posterior. Another roadblock. While it is possible to push a baby out that is facing the wrong way, it is significantly harder to do. I started to panic that we were headed down the road to a c-section and that everything was out of my control.
The doctor and nurse reassured us that not only could I push the baby out facing the wrong way, but that there was still a possibility he could turn. At this point, it was incredibly fortunate that I had control of my legs, because we were able to try many different positions for pushing in an attempt to get him to turn. I pushed sitting up, I pushed reclined, I pushed on my hands and knees, rocking in between contractions, I pushed on my side. THey brought a mirror so I could watch my progress. I asked for them to turn the epidural off so I could feel more of the pressure (that sure got some crazy looks!), which they did and it helped considerably. He was making progress, but it was slow going. I still felt strong and energized, but there was a lingering worry in the back of my head that I might not be able to get him out.
About the time the doubt was starting to overtake me, the doctor said she felt like she might be able to turn him manually. With the next contraction, I pushed as the doctor reached in and turned my baby into the right position. What a weird feeling! I felt him shift inside me and settle into position. She also pushed his little hand back in past his head. The stinker was trying to come out hand first.
Once he was in position, my pushes brought him down very quickly, and within a handful of contractions, he was ready to make his entrance.
The most amazing part of the delivery was that DH got to help deliver him. Once his head was out, the doctor delivered the first shoulder and then DH helped catch his body as he slid out and then placed him on my chest. Those last couple of pushes were so intense with the pressure that I was feeling. I closed my eyes and relied on DH’s coaching and play-by-play to know that I was close and that it was only a matter of moments. I pushed with everything I had, and when I opened my eyes, all I saw was DH staring at the baby and then putting him on my chest with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. I looked down at this amazing little being on my chest and just stared in disbelief. Two little eyes were staring back at me, looking about as shocked as I’m sure I did. I was completely speechless.
And the bliss washed over me. Never in my life has everything felt so perfect and right.
Sadly, here I am eight months postpartum, and I’m still struggling with my delivery. I’m so, so thankful that my son is here safely, and ultimately that is all that matters, but I cannot help but mourn the loss of the birth I wanted, planned for and worked so hard for. Since then, I’ve met two others who have had “failed” Bradley births, and both have said that they wouldn’t try for a natural childbirth again. I undoubtedly would. At this point, I’m just afraid that I have so much self-doubt that I’d have another “failed” experience. It’s frustrating to have such a wonderful, powerful event clouded by nagging resentment.