The Birth Interview Project consists of 17 simple questions designed to help mothers process their birth story & share it with others. All mothers are invited to take part in this project. Born out of Joy’s desire to help women discover, process and express the feelings surrounding their birth experiences, The Birth Interview Project strives to offer a platform for mothers and readers alike to share and be heard, to search and to discover, to identify and to heal, and to exhort and remember. The views and opinions expressed here are unique to each woman who takes part in the Birth Interview Project and may not always reflect the values of the blog author.
I am 30 years old and have been married to my husband for 2 1/2 years. We own and operate a 24 hour coffee shop together in Austin, Texas. We enjoy our two dogs and getting out-of-town together. This was my first baby/birth.
What was your due date, and what was your baby’s birth date?
My due date was March 21st, 2012 and my baby’s birth date was exactly two weeks later on April 4th, 2012.
What was your baby’s name, weight and length?
Colin Augustus was 8 pounds, 11 ounces and 20 3/4 inches at birth.
Please give a brief synopsis of your birth.
We had chosen to have a natural childbirth at a wonderful birthing center in Austin. As we went further and further past our due date, we spent more and more time frantically trying to jump-start labor naturally.
I had many of the symptoms of pre-eclampsia and was visiting the birthing center daily for tests. In addition to the pre-eclampsia scare (I never tested positive), my baby was not dropping and I had low levels of amniotic fluid. No one could say for sure what position my baby was in but everyone agreed it was not ideal since he would not drop. We feared going past 42 weeks as our birthing center transfers to a physician at that point and we desperately wanted a natural birth. We also feared the pre-eclampsia becoming full-blown and having to transfer for that reason as well.
The last few days were spent from morning to evening trying everything we could think of to induce labor naturally and get the baby to drop. On Monday, April 2nd, I went to the chiropractor, then the birthing center where I pumped, had my membranes stripped for the fourth time, and took many herbs. This caused contractions to begin and I followed it up with my 3rd appointment at an acupuncturist to try to sustain the contractions. The acupuncturist suggested timing the contractions while we were there and we realized that they were pretty regular, at 8 minutes apart. We kept them up on the way home but then I took a bath to try to help with my blood pressure and water retention and the contractions stopped. We were able to restart them with some acupressure.
We went to bed because we knew the plan was to go to the birthing center the next day and stay there trying everything we could until either I had the baby or had to transfer because I was at 42 weeks. In the middle of the night the contractions got worse and closer together. We knew we were supposed to try to sleep, but we couldn’t. Around 8:00am we asked if we could come on in to the birthing center since we had planned to come there that morning anyway and the contractions were becoming more intense. They agreed it was a good idea since I was almost 42 weeks and my blood pressure needed to be monitored. I was also experiencing bloody show by this point. We called our doula to meet us at the birthing center.
When I arrived I was 4cm dilated and almost 100% effaced. For the next 19 hours, I labored at the birthing center. We tried literally EVERYTHING to birth naturally at the center. I pumped, I drank a castor oil milk shake (and promptly threw it up), I had my water broken (later my midwife said she didn’t tell me at the time, but it was the least amount of fluid she’d ever seen from a water breaking), I had IV fluids, I labored in the shower and tub, I took herbs every 15 minutes, and I even had an enema with tinctures in it since I was unable to keep them down orally. I was throwing everything up including the IV fluids.
My contractions were not getting closer together and were actually becoming more sporadic, so any position that seemed to cause me the most pain was what my doula and midwife wanted me to keep doing as I needed more intense contractions. I did a lot of moaning to get through the contractions. At one point I was becoming a little frantic so I was offered Nubaine and gladly took it. I think that helped my state of mind a lot at the time.
Anyway, in spite of everything we tried, I never progressed past 6 centimeters. I wasn’t being checked too often, but every time I was checked and learned that there had been no progression, it was so disappointing. There came a point around 2:00am when we knew we had tried everything and we were now on the clock since my water had been broken. My midwife explained before checking me that if I had still not progressed, we should consider a hospital transfer where maybe an epidural and some pitocin would help me still have a chance at a vaginal birth. I think we all thought I would have progressed as I’d been throwing up a lot more and my demeanor and actions seemed to indicate transition. Sadly I was still at 6cm.
My midwife called the hospital to determine if a vaginal birth friendly doctor was on call. We all left for the hospital which was very close by. At the hospital I was given an epidural and my pitocin was upped every half hour until 10 hours later I was at 30. I was thankfully able to sleep during a lot of this time although I continued to throw up IV fluids. Around noon the doctor explained to me that I was still at 7cm and my contractions were actually weakening as the uterus is a muscle that eventually gets tired. She said that level of pitocin is what they would give a woman to induce labor and the fact that I’d come in active labor and still not progressed at that level of pitocin meant I should consider a c-section.
My husband and I both began crying together. The birthing center had made sure I had a midwife or birthing assistant there with me the entire time I was at the hospital and at one point I asked the midwife’s opinion. She agreed that it was time for a c-section. I never felt pressured by the hospital staff and they even let me continue to labor over a shift change. I’ve never even had a sip of alcohol during my lifetime and am very susceptible to drugs. I was so worn out and drugged up by this point, I had a lot of difficulty trying not to cry.
Once the decision was made, things moved very quickly. I tried to ask about things like delayed cord clamping, skin to skin time, and keeping my placenta, but every concern I expressed we met with the opposite of what I’d hoped to hear. I also learned that my husband would accompany my son to the nursery and I’d be alone for an hour which was very scary for me. They would not allow my midwife to stay with me.
Anyway, I was taken to surgery and given morphine and had horrible shakes as a side effect. My husband came in after a bit and I kept falling asleep during the surgery. At one point I woke up and told my husband I was going to throw up. It was horrible throwing up with my arms strapped down at my sides. All I could do was turn my head. I remember when they took the baby out everyone in the room was talking about how big he was and the doctor kept saying, “you never would have had him naturally.”
Later the doctor asked me at discharge if I “heard the suction sound” when she took him out. Apparently he was wedged as far as he could go in my pelvis which explained how practically no water came out when my waters were broken. I heard him cry across the room and thought he had a very beautiful cry but I also heard talk of meconium. My husband took a video of him on his phone and came back to show it to me. My husband says they showed me my son after that, but I was in and out of sleep and do not remember that.
The final reason given to me on why I needed a c-section was that my pelvis was too small to birth a baby my baby’s size. My midwife suggested that my contractions never got stronger/closer together because my body knew that nothing would push that baby out but I might have faced uterine rupture. My son came into this world at 1:11pm.
What did you do to prepare for your labor and birth? Did it help?
I did a lot of reading of books like “Birthing From Within” and Ina May’s books. I attended “Centering Classes” at my birthing center throughout my entire pregnancy. I went to weekly visits with the premier birth chiropractor in Austin to help open my pelvis up and as a back up plan in case the baby needed to be repositioned. I think those began around 4 months pregnant. I also hired one of the best doulas. She was even a doula trainer who had trained a couple of my doula friends. Towards the end I took a lot of herbs, evening primrose oil, and went to several sessions of acupuncture. Oh, I also went to a therapy session because I didn’t want to have any emotional issues blocking my labor. I don’t think I could have been any more prepared for a natural labor. Granted, nothing helped me to have a natural labor, however, the actions of the staff at my birthing center helped me cope with the c-section.
What did you like about your birth experience, if anything?
I liked the support I received from my birthing center. I loved how they always had someone with me at the hospital and when the decision was made to go ahead with the c-section, I didn’t feel like it was unnecessary. I liked how they stayed to help me initiate breastfeeding after the surgery. I also liked how they sent the head midwife to the hospital the next day. It was the first time someone was at the hospital to take care of me emotionally rather than just to see the cute new baby. The head midwife reminded me that she had warned me it might be a c-section just a few days before. This made me stop feeling like I’d somehow failed at labor since she had foreseen it before I even went into labor and she doesn’t predict that very often. She said in her opinion, 100 years ago I would have died in labor and all these things were reassuring. I like that I was able to go into labor naturally and did get to labor naturally for some time. I liked that I never felt pressured by the hospital staff. I like that when my husband ran home once I was sleeping at the hospital to get some clothes, he re-read the section in Birthing From Within on how to support me during a c-section. Finally, I like that breastfeeding came easy to my son and I and that he was very alert right from the start. A lot of the fears I had about having a cesarean birth just did not come to fruition.
What did you not like about your birth experience, if anything?
Obviously I did not like that I had to transfer to the hospital and have a c-section. I did not like throwing up so much. I did not like being in the hospital for three days afterwards. I didn’t like how hard the experience was on my husband. We both had to grieve the loss of our natural childbirth. Since that time, I’ve had the help of hormones to blur over what an awful experience the whole thing was, but he still describes it as the worst 48 hours of his life. He says it was like watching the person you love the most in the world being tortured for two days. It is going to be an uphill battle convincing him to have another child. Finally, the part that makes me the most sad is that I did not feel an instant connection with my child. For about a week and a half I felt like I was babysitting someone’s very cute baby. I still feel like I did not birth him, but rather that a baby just showed up in a room. Of course, I did fall head over heels in love with him, but it took about a week and a half and was gradual. I felt very cheated out of that moment people talk about with natural childbirth when your baby is put into your arms and you feel this amazing new love that is bigger than you ever could have imagined. I felt scared too that it would never come and it even took some time before I told my baby I loved him. We avoided having visitors other than family for some time until we had grieved our natural childbirth as no one seemed to understand our loss and rather thought we should just be happy over our new baby. I hate how much sadness surrounded such a happy occasion.
What surprised you about your contractions/labor?
I was surprised that they weren’t accomplishing anything. They were so painful. I guess since my baby was wedged into my pelvis so hard, they were pretty painful in spite of never becoming regular. Also, I was surprised that we needed the c-section. I never dreamed that this would happen to us.
In reflection, would you do anything differently, either before the birth, during or after?
I wouldn’t do too much differently. There were benefits to my baby as a result of my laboring, so that was good. Also, I can feel confident that I really tried everything both before and during labor. I don’t have any “what ifs.” I do wish I’d held my baby more in the hospital rather than trying to be diplomatic and give all the people there who came to see him time. It was really in the hours spent holding him on my chest at home that we finally bonded. The only other thing I’d wish I’d done but I know was not possible, is that I wish I’d been more open to the possibility of the natural birth not working out. I wish that this had not been so devastating.
What do you remember the most about your birth?
One really sweet moment that always stands out of the drug haze of my birth is when a new shift from the birthing center arrived at the hospital. She was a birthing assistant that I actually knew casually as a customer at my coffee shop. As soon as she saw me, she asked me if I had a hair band. My hair is naturally curly and was super crazy from laboring for so long and in and out of the tub and shower. I remember feeling amazed to find that yes, I did have a hair band on my wrist. She took it and put my hair up for me and it was a very tender moment of being taken care of in a very special way that still stands out to me.
How was your birth experience different from what you imagined it to be?
It was different in almost every way.
What were your immediate emotions about yourself and or your birth experience after the birth?
Immediately after, I felt like a failure. The head midwife helped me to get over that by the next day. I felt the birth was desperate, painful, and sad. I felt there was nothing beautiful about it. I did feel even closer to my husband though as we’d gone through it together and only the two of us could understand our loss.
How would you describe your recovery?
I hated being at the hospital and was ready to check us out against medical advice on the third day. Luckily we were released and that didn’t have to happen. Otherwise my physical recovery went very smoothly all things considered. The only exception was a postpartum pre-eclampsia scare when I went back to the hospital a week later for my incision check. My blood pressure was still very high so I had to hang out and have several test done at the hospital. The tests were negative so they allowed me to leave and by my two-week check up at the birthing center my blood pressure was back to normal. In between I was basically on bed rest though.
How has your perspective of your birth experience changed in the last three months since the first week of having Colin?
We were truly blessed with a very easy baby. I have a way of thinking about life that isn’t logical but it helped in this experience. I always feel like things have to even out. No one gets all good experiences and no one gets all bad experiences. After about two weeks, we knew we had a super easy baby on our hands We were so grateful and I decided to look at it like a trade-off. I had a horrible birth, but an awesome baby. If I could have had my dream birth, even gone into labor on time, but a different baby, no way would I trade. Of course this isn’t logical, but it immediately put an end to the intense stage of our grieving.
Did you learn anything about yourself through this experience?
I’m pretty all or nothing. Once I bought into the natural birth ideology, there were no other options in my mind. I was dismissive of stories like mine thinking that they still could have happened naturally somehow. The fact that sometimes c-sections are medically necessary and women did indeed die in childbirth completely went out the window. I realized the hard way that I should be more open-minded and less all or nothing.
If you could recommend a certain type of childbirth experience, based on your own experiences, what would you recommend to other women and why?
I would highly recommend my birthing center, however, I learned through this experience that the hospital setting isn’t exactly as evil as I had come to believe either. I never felt pressured or disrespected at the hospital and in the end, I’m glad they were there. In the future, I’ll definitely still get my prenatal care from my birthing center and hope to go into labor earlier to maybe have a smaller baby that I can birth vaginally. I will keep an open mind though and remember that all the scary things I was told about hospital birth/c-section don’t have to be the case.
Any further thoughts, comments or advice you would like to share?
On one hand, I understand that the natural birth community is a small voice up against the giant of the hospital system. However, I think that sometimes this results in extreme viewpoints coming out of that community. After my C-section, the line from Business of Being Born about the monkeys not taking care of their young when they were born by c-section was seared into my memory. It was hurtful. I also feel overly like I need to prove to people that my c-section was medically necessary. I wish it wasn’t like this. Finally, despite my initial troubles, I am head over heels in love with my son. During my pregnancy, someone described the love you feel for your child as “the opposite of grief.” I think this is exactly how it feels.
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