This is my first time writing in a forum...ever. So, bear with me (especially with the abbreviations). I know the birth experience I had 10 months ago will seem not as traumatizing as others, but it is my only experience, and I think it will help me to heal by sharing it with others. Sorry this is so long!
When I was pregnant, my DH and I took Bradley Method classes, and we discovered that we wanted to give birth at home. We found a Certified Nurse Midwife who does home births, and prepared for this wonderful opportunity. Of course, everyone in our families and circle of friends thought we were nuts to do this. We both held firm beliefs that there are way too many interventions at hospitals. I faithfully exercised and watched what I ate for a healthy pregnancy, healthy baby, and natural birth. DH practiced relaxing me and coaching me. Since we were new to pregnancy/birth, we read books, we watched birth videos, and tried to be ready for anything.
My due date came and went, but I felt no anxiety. I didn't mind if the baby was late; I felt like he/she would come when he/she was ready to come (we didn't know the gender of the baby). At 41 weeks, we were required to get an ultrasound to check the baby's health--everything was good. The technician indicated that the baby weighed 9 or 10 lbs. The midwife thought the baby was around 7 and a half lbs., which I agreed with because I didn't feel too huge. At 42 weeks, we had to go into the hospital to check the baby's heartbeat variances--which the baby passed with flying colors.
That same day, the midwife gave us discouraging news: I would have to be induced due to the regulations of the doctor she is connected with. We were heartbroken, but decided to make the best of it. We packed up for the hospital. The midwife called and said we would go in the next afternoon. I began trying to do anything I could to induce labor on my own.
I finally got contractions to start by walking fast and far the next morning (Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.). I called DH and midwife, excited that I would not be induced and that we could proceed with home birth. We unpacked all of our hospital bags. DH labored with me at home. I was having strange, intense contractions that would last for five minutes and convulse my entire body.
The midwife came to the house and observed for a while in the evening. She was concerned by the time pattern of the contractions, noting that she had never seen anything like it (and she has delivered over 1,000 babies), but she felt that as long as they were effective, that was okay. The contractions wore me out, but they were not painful. This should have been a clue to me. We tried to rest that night, but I would wake up with each contraction.
The midwife came back and forth to check the baby's heartbeat and to see how I was doing. She delivered three other babies during the length of my long labor. On Wednesday morning, she finally did an internal check to see how much I had dilated. Only 4 cm. We were all discouraged, but DH kept feeding me snacks and we tried different positions. I labored all day that day, which happened to be my birthday. Friends and family kept trying to call to wish me a happy birthday. If they had only known how I was spending it! Baby's heartbeat was still strong. Around 11:30 p.m. that night, midwife did another internal check. Still only 4 cm. We couldn't believe it! I felt worn out. At this point, the words “failure to progress” kept playing in my head. The midwife announced that she felt we needed to go to the hospital at this point to keep a monitor on the baby and chart my contractions.
DH hurriedly repacked our hospital bags (leaving many items behind), and we rushed off to the hospital—a 30 minute drive. I still felt positive for some odd reason. I was glad that the baby wasn't born on my birthday, and the he/she would have his/her own special day. The midwife felt confident that the baby would come in 3-4 hours (this comment was made several times throughout the next day, to the point that I stopped believing it).
After a couple hours of monitoring my weird convulsing contractions (which barely registered on the monitor), we made a joint decision to start pitocin. We also opted to have an epidural as I was so exhausted from laboring for almost two full days, with little rest or little food. The epidural gave me (and a tired DH and midwife) a precious 3 hour rest. I don't think I slept very long, but it was so nice to feel relaxed. I didn't realize how tense I was until the drug kicked in. All of our relaxation techniques had not been working. When I awoke, I was mostly dilated.
The next six hours were sort of a blur—I remember laboring on the hospital bed, standing up on the bed with all of the wires/tubes connected to me trying to squat with the bar. One side of my cervix lip was still gripping the baby's head, so the midwife had to stick her finger in and hold back the lip while I pushed with the contractions. This was very painful, and I couldn't relax, even on the epidural. This went on for hours, until finally the head was free. I am thankful that my cervix was not damaged during this process due to my midwife's determination. I also remember a group of interns who asked to watch a vaginal birth. Apparently, it is quite uncommon. The lady in charge of them was more interested in coaching me than just watching, so the nurse made them leave, thank goodness. I am all for education, but not when it is adding to the chaos.
Again, we hit another “lack of progression.” The baby's head was not progressing down. The midwife realized that I had a hard time connecting with the contractions, so she stopped the epidural. Pain and more pain. The pitocin was giving me contractions so close together, I didn't have time to relax. At this point, it was 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Again, everyone said “just 3-4 more hours.” I pushed and pushed and pushed.
I tried a birthing stool; it was an awful experience! The back pain was intense as the head moved further down. Finally, the midwife broke the bag of waters. Loads of meconium. The front pubic bones were on fire. I kept pressing a cold pack to them, but it didn't help. I begged for mercy. I begged for drugs. I begged for a C-Section even, and I meant it. I wanted that baby out. I was exhausted. Of course, the baby's heartbeat was just fine the entire time, no cause for such an emergency surgery. The midwife spoke to me at this point and said that we were near the end, and that I wanted a natural birth and she was going to do her best to help me achieve it. I asked for help, and everyone around me, even DH, ganged up on me.
Looking at it from their perspective, I know they probably thought the labor was almost finished. It was probably too late to even consider other measures. But, I felt utterly alone. Everyone around was exhausted from my long labor. No one was offering any other suggestions but to push, to dig deep into my “well” of womanhood and find the strength.
When the baby's head could be seen through the vagina, everyone was excited. Everyone, that is, except for me. [It was now 10 p.m.] They brought a mirror out so I could see, so that I would be encouraged. But seeing my baby's head had the opposite effect on me as I pushed and the head retracted again and again. I knew from the birth videos that I had another three-four hours because it takes a while for the head to crown and the vagina to stretch to accommodate. I started crying, horrified that the labor would go on for that much longer. They took away the mirror, and continued to encourage me to push. I felt like I had a raging fever, like I couldn't control my body. DH kept feeding me ice chips and trying to get me to relax between contractions.
Finally at 11:45 pm, the doctor who is connected to the midwife suggested an episiotomy, something I would have scoffed at pre-labor. I said “please!” Anything to make this ordeal stop. While she performed the episiotomy, the nurse told me that the baby would be out in the next push. I didn't believe her, of course, because everyone had been getting my hopes up all day. But, he was out in two pushes. A 9 lb. 4.5 oz. Baby boy, whose head was as round as a bowling ball—not having molded at all. I was so relieved to have the baby out, that I didn't even care what gender he was or if he was healthy.
This is difficult to write without tears because I wanted this birth moment to be so special. I wanted him to come right to my breast. But, since there was so much meconium, they had to suction out his lungs. The cord was cut right away. And I didn't see him for what seemed like an eternity.
The episiotomy tore despite the generous cut, so I had a 4th degree tear. I am not upset about the episiotomy or the tear at all. It healed just fine, even though I had as much trouble recooperating as some C-section new moms do.
I am upset that my body couldn't produce the contractions necessary to open the cervix. I have always wanted to be the kind of mom who gives birth and walks away from the delivery. I wanted to be “good” at it. I feel upset at the animosity I had towards my unborn child, like he was an alien that needed to be expelled. He is a healthy, happy boy, and I love him tenderly, so much so that I feel upset by these birth memories.
I had a great experience at the hospital—no one pushed me to do anything I didn't want to do. I am grateful that I am alive, that my son is alive, and that we made it through without much trauma. But I ask myself all the time why my story turned out the way it did, when all the new moms I know have their babies in 10 hours' time or so, and mine took 64 hours. I know a lot of the pain I experienced was due to pitocin, but thank God for pitocin since my contractions were too wacky to get the baby out. Had I been born in a pre-hospital time, I wonder if I would have survived or if the baby would have survived.
I do want to have more children, but I do not want to revisit the dark, lonely, frightening place I was in during those last 6 hours when I felt like everyone was against me and tired. I know deep down that I am glad I didn't get a C-section, but I feel conflicted about it now. I was so against drugs, interventions, C-sections, hospitals, etc. before all of this, but now I feel differently.
When I talked with a LLL leader afterwards about my birth experience, she told me a birth story very similar to mine that had a tragic ending. The same midwife I had attended a home birth two weeks previously of a woman who was also 42 weeks. The baby was monitored occasionally like mine was, but the baby died right before birth. I then understood why midwife directed me to be induced and then later to go to the hospital to be monitored constantly. Although she couldn't have told me this sad cautionary tale, I am glad that our little boy is alive, even though he wasn't born at home. Thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments.