A close friend of mine delivered her 9lb 11oz son yesterday via a planned cesarean (her second c/s). She was in the same hopsital where I had my unplanned c/s 5 months ago and visiting her...even though she seemed so happy...was really rough for me. Just being back on the labor/delivery ward brought back so many negative emotions it was hard to be cheerful and upbeat even though I really was thrilled for her!
So, I'm gonna take the advice of some of you all here and run through my own c/s experience to see if talking about it can help me over this emotional bump. I'd already planned on asking my doc about a post-partum counselor when I see her next (my dd and I have the same family doctor) but...I apologize for what will be a long post...at least in an online forum you can always just skip to the end!
This was my first pregnancy and while I LOVED being pregnant I did have a number of problems over the months...borderline high blood pressure and some bleeding or spotting almost every day for the first 5 months, and occassional bleeding every few weeks after that. Nerve wracking, and I wound up having three ultrasound scans to rule out previa and to monitor dd's condition, but it wound up being nothing to worry about.
I walked a mile or two each day, shifted my daily yoga practice to focus on the pregnancy, and practically lived on a birth ball for nine months. I've studied middle eastern dance for years and I continued to dance while pregnant, expecting to dance the baby out when the time came. I meditated, journaled, and researched everything I could get my hands on (and as a reference librarian, I could get my hands on a LOT). My doctor (a family practitioner) was and is a wonderful physician who is far more comfortable with "alternative" therapies/treatments than not, and her c/s rate is almost non-existant. The hospital I chose (my insurance only covered hospital births) has one of the lowest c/s rates in NY (and one of the highest VBAC rates) and is very baby friendly as well. They don't even have a formal nursery...the babies are expected to room in and they really push breastfeeding. I interviewed a half dozen doulas and chose a wonderful woman who met with my dh and I several times.
I attended independent birthing classes (a mix of bradley, lamaze, and kitzinger's methodologies so that participants would have plenty of options), and a birthing discussion group. And in a truly ironic twist I watched all those TV birth shows and thought "gee...if only those women could get up and move around, they wouldn't be needing all those c-sections".
I went 15 days past date before my water broke while I was eating breakfast. My dh and I were so excited! I called my doctor and my doula to let them know things were finally starting to happen! I stayed home for the first 13 hours, watching a Law & Order marathon while walking around the house, sitting on my birth ball, and generally feeling pretty good about life. I even went for a walk around town just to enjoy the sunny weather (Ithaca is not known for it's sun and I wasn't going to stay inside just because I was in labor!).
That evening I decided things were becoming a bit too intense for me to stay home...I was throwing up, shaking, and was pretty sure I was no longer amused by the process. The hospital I chose doesn't have any "routine" practices in regards to birth with the single exception of a 20 minute fetal monitor trace on admission. No IV, no continuous monitoring, no required positions, and no offer of medication (you have to ask, they don't offer it automatically)...in fact, most of the labor/delivery nurses have had un-medicated births as well and are VERY supportive.
Anyway, the ward was empty when I arrived and while I was getting my 20 minute trace one of the nurses filled the birthing jacuzzi for me...a quick check (I told them my water was broken so they were very hesitant to do internal checks, but they also wanted to make sure I was far enough along to benefit the most from the tub) showed I was 6.5cm dilated. 15 hours of back labor later (contractions were near constant for several hours...who said you get a break between them?), after being in and out of the tub, on and off the birth ball and stool, up and down the hallways, I was only 7cm and I was beyond exhausted.
Everything I tried to eat I threw up and even the juice I was drinking only stayed down half the time. My doctor suggested an interthecal (so called walking spinal) to allow me to nap and to see if perhaps the pain relief would allow my body to relax and dilate more effectively. The injection itself was less than fun, but I was still able to walk and squat with the help of my dh and doula and my doctor reassured me that she was expecting to catch the baby in just a few hours.
Then everything went all icky...to get the interthecal I had to have an IV (the fact that I hadn't been able to keep much fluid down for more than 24 hours was another concern considering my blood pressure) and after the spinal injection they added some pit to the IV to see if that would kick up the contractions. This meant that I had to had a monitor on (though I could still walk around) to track my response to the medication. Apparently the contractions were pretty massive, but when the interthecal began to wear off three hours later I was still at 7cm.
A surgeon I'd never seen before showed up (after the spinal had worn off and I was suddenly back in the land of massive contractions with no real warning) and said "Yup...no real progress here, are you ready for your cesarean?". I must have looked shocked or something because he then went on to explain something about failure to dilate even with the drugs and the fact that my water had been broken for well over 24 hours and if I wasn't pushing in an hour I was going to be having a cesarean.
My dh tells me the surgeon was actually pretty compassionate, but I honestly don't recall anything but a feeling of total despair. I saw that same surgeon in the hall two days after the surgery and I actually cringed.
Needless to say, an hour later I was being wheeled down the hall to the OR, still at 7cm...
My dd was delivered a few minutes later (9lbs 5oz, perfectly healthy) so the grand total from water breakage to dd's birth was 32 hours: 13 at home, 15 unmedicated in the birthing suite, 3 with a spinal interthecal and pit, and 1 with pit and no pain med.
I spent the first month sobbing every time I thought about the delivery/surgery...what did I do wrong? Should I have turned down the interthecal? Should I have had it sooner so I wasn't as worn down? I checked the hospital records and technically the c/s was my dd's fault...her head was twisted to the side and tilted back (the molding on her temple made her look like she had horns when you looked at her right profile) but...well...I still felt like something must be my fault.
Sadly, my doula added to this feeling when she visited me at home a few days later. She was surprised that the c/s upset me, saying something like "well, you must have been okay with having a cesarean on some level because you let them do it, right?". And then when I attended the "graduates" class of my birthing group the leader congratulated the women who'd had vaginal births and told me "well, you can always try for a VBAC...it's too bad you were the victim of medical intervention" (and was honestly surprised that her calling me a victim didn't make me "feel better") To be honest, it's a sentiment I see on some of the threads around MDC. That somehow if I'd avoided the interthecal, or been more "natural", or birthed at home, then everything would have been all right. That obviously if I'd been better informed I would have made better decisions and this would have prevented my cesarean. I know that my dd's positioning meant I probably would not have had a vaginal birth no matter how long I waited, that the longer I went with my water broken the better the chance got that I and my dd could have been negatively affected by an infection, and that at least my c/s was done in a non-crisis mode.
But somehow that doesn't make me feel any better. And spending a few hours back on the labor/delivery ward yesterday brought it all back...my brain is stuck in a "what if?" loop and I just can't seem to break out of it this time. Hopefully my doctor will be able to recommend someone I can meet with...I want more children, and I want a VBAC, and I know that it's better to deal with this sort of thing sooner rather than later, but right now I'm feeling pretty low.
Sorry for such a long (and depressing!) message...but my friends here either are thrilled with their c/s experiences or have never had a c/s". Thanks for listening!