I really really wanted a picture perfect birth. I wanted to experience what women have experienced for hundreds of years. I know it sounds weird, but I wanted to feel the pain. I thought it would make me feel alive. I wanted to hold my baby right afterwards and share in that amazing moment when he came into this world. Since I didn’t have much to do with the whole getting pregnant process, this would be my way to feel like a woman. This is what women are made to do and I can do it. I didn’t want medicine to interfere anymore. Medicine did its part, now I wanted to do mine.
My pregnancy was great (besides the reoccurring claustrophobia). I felt beautiful. Womanly. I was energized, eating healthy and exercising. Joey and I would go on walks every night and talk about the future with our little boy. It was a dream come true. I felt so good that in the middle of my pregnancy, I convinced myself that I could give birth without drugs. I switched from my doctor to a midwifery, I hired a doula and we came up with a birth plan (for all of you nay-sayers about birth plans, if you want to deliver naturally, I am convinced there is no way you can do it without a plan, you have to be prepared). Joey and I took classes, we practiced, we were prepared, or as prepared as one can be. I even came up with a lyric that I would chant over and over, “Everything that kills me, makes me feel alive”. Not yet knowing this was a true glimpse into my future.
In midwifery practices, they use as little intervention as possible, which at the time, I loved. There are no ultrasounds, no cervix checks, just heartbeat and overall wellness checks. And I was their perfect patient. No red flags for this mama. They would ask me how I was feeling, and I’d always say “great”. My due date came and went and my belly had dropped. My mom said it was at my knees. At week 41 they start getting a little more serious about the checkups and start ultrasounds. Our appointment was at 4pm and at that point the ultrasounds tech had already gone home so, they did their normal heartbeat check, etc. They asked if I wanted a cervix check and I said yes. First red flag…my cervix is to the side, not straight down, so they can’t feel anything. And this shit is painful. Whoa. They send me home and tell me that I’m not yet dilated. Joey and I go out for sushi, not knowing that this would be our last meal as husband and wife, not mom and dad. I get a call from the midwifery and they want me to go to the hospital to get an amniotic fluid check. Yup, I know how this works…we pack our bags, full knowing that we won’t be coming home without a baby.
We are at the hospital on Tuesday night. The ultrasound tech comes in to check my fluids and…THERE IS NONE! No fluid, nada, zilch. What! How did this happen? My water never broke. I haven’t been leaking. OMG, is the baby okay? How long has he been without fluid? They tell me that we need to induce. But since his heartbeat is good and he doesn’t seem to be in distress, we start with “natural” drugs. And more cervix checks, which is the most painful thing I have ever experienced since the cervix is to the side and they damn near have to put their arm half way up to feel it (Sorry to be graphic, but there is no other way to describe the pain. Joey and a nurse had to hold my arms down to do this. It was toe curling, excruciating pain.). This drug has to be in my system for 8 hours and then they will do another cervix check. So we wait.
Wednesday morning comes and they do another check. I’m crossing my fingers and toes that we’ve progressed. I hold my breath with anticipation only to find that the cervix hasn’t moved and I’m not dilated. Now, I’m starting to get a little worried. They want to try this drug one more time to see if they can’t move things along. We agree and we wait.
It’s Wednesday night and I’m having more contractions. They are coming often and are intense. I move around, sit on a ball, walk, trying to ease the pain. I’m still thinking that I can do this naturally. We’ve been here for 24 hours and I’m sure at this point the nurses are mocking me, they see my birth plan and I’m convinced they’re laughing behind my back. I start realizing that this may not end up the way I had hoped. They come to do the cervix check and it’s much more painful this time and it’s still to the side and I’m still NOT dilated. WTF! They want to do more intervention, but it has to be done vaginally and to get something to my cervix would unintentionally cause me to punch someone in the face. So they give me Pitocin (more drugs) and we wait. I can’t sleep. I haven’t slept in 24 hours. I haven’t eaten and the contractions are coming on stronger. They decide to give me a sedative to help me relax and sleep. It does the opposite. As soon as they put it in my IV, I freak out. I ask Joey what’s happening to me. I can’t see straight and I start to panic. I jump up out of bed and start looking around to see how the hell I can detach myself from the machines and get outside. I’m having one of my claustrophobic attacks. I start crying. I feel like I’m going to die. Joey flicks on all of the lights and tries to assure me everything will be okay. He gets the nurse. I know she thinks I’m crazy and she decides to give me Ambien. (Did I say I didn’t want drugs? Oh ya, well I’ve now been on multiple drugs for the past 28 hours.) The Ambien calms my ass down and I sleep for a hot minute. The nurses start coming in more regularly, I’m now on oxygen and the baby’s heart rate is fluctuating. This is going downhill fast.
Sometime in the middle of the night, my midwife comes in and explains to me that things are not going as planned (no shit) and they need to do more intervention. I cry, she gives me a big hug and says that it will all be okay. In order to do more intervention, I’m going to need an epidural because they can’t shove their arm up far enough for the medicine without me wanting to kill them.
It’s Thursday in the wee morning hours and the anesthesiologist comes in and says, “Are you sure you want an epidural? You aren’t dilated and I can’t guarantee that it will last through birth.” You’re kidding right? I didn’t want any medication, I’ve been pumped full of shit for 30+ hours and now I might not be able to utilize it during delivery? Are you insane? I have no other option, but to take it and pray that it lasts for the long haul. I get the epidural, they do more intervention and we wait.
The sun is up and they come to check on me. I’m definitely worried. My baby has been without fluid for god knows how long, his heart rate is fluctuating, I’m pumped full of drugs, haven’t slept, haven’t eaten and have been enduring contractions for over 30 hours. I’m on the verge of losing it. I start to tell the nurse that if I’m not dilated I’m…she interrupts me and tells me to shush. She says I’m dilated to a 9. She says he should be here in the next hour. The moment I’ve been waiting for for so long is almost here! I can’t believe it! We see a glimmer of hope and the adrenaline kicks in.
We call my mom, who lives down the street and sure enough 20 minutes later I tell them that I need to push. And wouldn’t you freaking know it…the epidural machine starts beeping that it’s out of medicine. They tell me that the effects of the medicine will last awhile and they’ll get the anesthesiologist in here when they can, but he’s currently in a surgery. Go figure. I start pushing and within 15 minutes you can see his little head. Everyone in the room is excited. He’s going to make an appearance any minute!
Fast forward two hours. I’m still pushing. I’m throwing up. Joey said my lips are turning blue. I’m exhausted. The baby is stuck on my pelvis. No matter how hard I push, he’s not coming. I want to curl up and die. The doctor comes in and suggests a vacuum assist. He says that they can only try three times with the vacuum. We say yes because we don’t know what else to do at this point and they get prepared. There are a ton of nurses, the doctor, Joey and my mom in the room. The doc puts the vacuum on his little head and pulls…POP! The loudest pop you have ever heard. I’m looking around thinking the baby is out. Joey’s scared shitless thinking the baby's head popped off. And my mom is in the closet rocking back and forth praying to the Gods and crying. It’s a scene out of a horror movie. The doc puts the vacuum back on and POP! Third time is a charm, right? He puts it on his little head and POP! All I hear is the doctor say “FUCK” and I knew exactly what that meant. It didn’t work. The only option is C-section. I’m defeated. They prepare my mostly lifeless body and wheel me in. I just close my eyes and leave it up to the powers that be. Tears are slowly streaming down my face; I can’t wipe them because my arms are tied down. Joey comes to my side and I tell him not to talk. I knew that if he said anything, even a little line of motivation or condolence, I would sob uncontrollably. The past 2.5 days were hell and I still didn’t know how this was going to end. For all I knew, our baby was not going to come out okay. How could he be okay through all of this?
They cut me open and have to pull our little boy out the opposite way he was already headed/already stuck. They had to use force, something I will never forget. They pull him out and he begins to cry. He’s covered in meconium. They again tell us there is no fluid and since I was overdue the placenta is old (it used up the fluid). They have to take him to the NICU. I’m numb at this point. There is no smile, no joy, no nothing. I just wanted the day to be over. I wanted to start over. I already wanted to forget it ever happened.
I was wheeled back to the room and Jace had to stay in the NICU for a couple hours. After all that had happened, I still hadn’t held him. It felt like an eternity. Those hours were so surreal. I wasn’t pregnant, I didn’t have a baby and I just sat in my room replaying what the hell just happened and how I would have done it differently if I had known.
Jace was released and I met him, held him, and loved on him. It was not what I had envisioned. I was so drugged up and so exhausted. I wasn’t functioning properly. I was so swollen Joey could hardly recognize me. I really just wanted to sleep and forget.
Jace ended up being healthy, thank God. He was small for being overdue and he had torticollis (Google it) from being in my uterus without fluid, not floating he just sank to the bottom for who knows how long. He had to go to PT for months after he was born and each dreaded appointment reminded me of the decisions I had made.
If only I would have stayed with my doctor.
If only I would have had conventional care with ultrasounds.
If only I would have not questioned modern medicine.
If only I was okay with drugs.
If only I didn’t fight it.
If only I would have just told them to do a C-section when I came into the hospital.
Things could have been so different.
The guilt is ever so strong when you’re dealing with someone else’s life. Someone that you worked so hard to get. Someone you love so much that you can’t stand it. The guilt will never go away. No matter how many times people remind me that I didn’t know and I did the best I could with the best intentions. For months afterward it was all I could think about. Not to mention, I couldn’t not think about it because healing at both ends took weeks. I still can’t tell the story without crying. I doubt if I ever will. I’m so sad that what was supposed to be the happiest day of my life ended up being a day I’d rather forget. I’m so grateful that through all of my decisions I ended up with a healthy baby. It could have been worse, like if I actually decided to do a home birth.
No other mommy guilt will trump this one. Like breastfeeding vs. formula or crib vs. swing. I’m just grateful we both made it out alive. I now have a huge appreciation for modern medicine. It works. It worked to get pregnant and it worked to bring my beautiful baby into this world. Why did I have to fight it so hard? I sometimes think that my body was punishing me saying “I told you you weren’t supposed to get pregnant”. But then I look at my sweet boy and smirk and say “Oh yes I was”.