It has taken me a long time to actually sit down and reflect on my (until now only) birth experience with my son, because it was pretty traumatic for me. Here goes:
I had a horrible first birth experience, which put me off the idea of getting pregnant again for over 3 years. Actually, it was not so much the birth itself but the recovery and discovery of what had actually happened to me.
I was diagnosed during pregnancy with a heart-shaped (bicornuate) uterus, and the baby was breech throughout the pregnancy. My doctor encouraged me to have a hospital birth, since the pregnancy was high-risk, and it was probable that I would need a c-section (according to doc). During the last weeks of my pregnancy, I felt my son turning many times, and during my weekly end-of-pregnancy checkups, he was head-down one time, then breech again another time, then foot-down yet another time. I was scheduled for a c-section on a Monday (after the foot-down checkup), and on the weekend before that, I started having very slight contractions. I was advised to go directly to the hospital, where they found my son again head-down! I opted for a vaginal delivery, and agreed to an epidural, because I was afraid of needing an emergency c-section and having to be knocked out and miss the entire birth.
Anyway, I admit I was very ignorant about what to expect during a natural birth. It was pretty clear to me from the 5th month onwards that I would be having a c-section, so I stupidly did not spend enough time educating myself on what is supposed to happen during a natural birth. Once I got to the hospital, I was given an enema and started getting strong contractions. At the first contraction, I got a ringing in my ears, broke a sweat and my eyes went black for several seconds- I nearly fainted. I must say I was relieved when the epidural was placed.
I was in the hospital bed at around 2:30 PM and felt no pain. I felt no contractions, and at one point I felt like the numbness from the epidural was climbing up into my chest and called the anesthesiologist. She asked how many times I had pressed the self-dose button (apparently you can give yourself an extra dose of painkiller every 20 minutes by pressing a button attached to the IV machine). I had no idea that I could have even done that- apparently the meds were too strong for me.
Basically, I just waited around for the next 6 hours until my water broke and the doctor came in to check on me. It was around 9:30PM and she said in a kind of bragging/hopeful tone "this baby's gonna be out before 10:00", which, I found out later, was shift-change time at the hospital. I remember looking at the IV drip and seeing the number 25 on it, and seeing the doctor then turn it up to 65. I remember thinking "wow, that's a pretty drastic increase" but I thought "they know what they're doing" and I wasn't even really sure what was in the IV drip anyway at that point. There was never any mention of pitocin during labor, but I found out later that I was given pitocin.
Anyway, at around 9:40 I was told it was about time to start pushing. I did feel some pressure down below but no pain, and no urge to push. I pushed once, and was told to take a deep breath and push again right afterwards. On the second push, everyone was saying "yes yes yes, push push push!" and out came my son, happy and healthy, at 9:44 PM, 7 pounds even. Then a while later the placenta. Then more blood, and more blood, and more blood.
The attending doctor started to look stressed out, and got very tense and short with the nurses. We had to turn off the radio that was on so that she could concentrate. The blood didn't stop and the head doctor was called in. They couldn't figure out where all the blood was coming from. At this point, I was still very relaxed and euphoric about my son. I just thought this was part of normal sewing-up-a-tear protocol. After a while, I started to go into shock, shaking violently and was freezing cold. The transfusion people were notified, but finally the head doc seemed to figure out that I had a torn artery. After dealing with that, I was sewn up for another 2 hours. At the end of that, the doctor said to me "Next time, C-section." All that time, nothing was explained to me, but for some reason, I was not worried at all, I was just giddy. I spent some time with my son and was then wheeled into a room to sleep.
The next morning I woke up with the worst pain I had ever felt and asked the nurse to put the epidural back in. She came back with some extra-strength ibuprofen or something, and I said the pain was worse than that. Just then, the attending doctor came by to check on me and said to the nurse "no, she needs something stronger, look:" and lifted the sheet to show her my injuries. This was when I really understood that something had gone terribly wrong- by the look on the nurse's face. Later that day, a team of doctors-in-training were brought by to get a look at what had happened to me... more grave looks. What a humiliating experience that was.
I was in a 3-bed room with no curtains between the beds and no privacy. Visitors for my roommates were coming and going and I couldn't imagine having any visitors myself, I was in so much pain. I had lost a liter and a half of blood and could not even sit up on the edge of my bed by myself for 3 days. When my mother called me to ask how things had gone, I could not speak, a huge frog was stuck in my throat and I just could not get any words out. I struggled to stay awake under all the painkillers I was taking, and I was totally overwhelmed by having to breastfeed in front of all these strangers who were visiting, all the time unable to even sit up because I could not tolerate even the slightest pressure.
All this time, I still wasn't fully aware of what had happened to me. I was told that the pain was mainly coming from a huge hematoma (sp?). I had torn a labia and was just totally swollen. I could not urinate at all and was given acupuncture to relieve pain. After 6 days in the hospital, I begged for them to release me, because the 3-bed rooom situation was stressing me out, and my mother had arrived from the US, so I was sure I would recover more quickly at home than in that hospital environment. I signed the releases and was let go under the condition that I returned every day for a checkup until further notice.
Only when I read my hospital release form did I see everything that had happened:
-3rd degree tear
-torn vaginal wall on left side
-torn vaginal wall on right side
-torn labia on right side
-hematoma of perineum and vulva
I was not right for about 2 years after that. My ob/gyn said I had enough catgut in me to fill a delivery truck. I had grooves and turns where there were none before, and the scar tissue was sore for a very, very long time.
Now 3.5 years have passed. I have frequent urinary tract infections, particularly just before my period and just before ovulation. Things have healed up OK and we are thinking about another baby, but the thought of going through that again is scary. I am still coming to terms with what happened, still trying to find out why it happened. I was told that since I am a redhead, I have less elastic tissue and this is probably why I tore so much. I still have my suspicion that it was the pitocin/epidural.
Anyway, that's it. I'm glad I got that off my chest, finally!!!