Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Another birth story

As I approach the second birthday of my second-born, as well as the impending birth of our third baby, I have been thinking a ton about birthing. Plus, my fellow pregnant (not anymore) sister-in-law gave birth two days ago, and everyone in the world seems to be having babies, so it is all I think about. I've now had two very different experiences and am all too interested to see how this one turns out.

I thought maaaybe I would spare you a long, rambling pregnancy- and birth-related novela. But then I decided not to.

Therefore this will double as Bernadette's early birthday birth story, since I did the same for her sister, and I wouldn't want to induce undo jealousy (I just know they are logging the number of blog posts I do about each). And it'll also be a reflection on having a c-section versus having a completely natural birth.

YAY for birth stories!
Wee baby B during the first day of her life; and the only picture I have with me in it the days leading up to and following her birth. That is my arm that is holding her.


Everything was looking good regarding Benadette's arrival during my pregnancy with her, other than my crushing fears of doing another natural, epidural-free birth-- I was a bit traumatized from the pain of Naomi's birth, although I loved loved loved the recovery time of 5 minutes. I had taken a Bradley class when I was expecting Naomi and after learning all about the evils of epidurals, c-sections, and over-medicalized births, I was pretty stuck as to whether I should go all natural in a tub again and feel every single ounce of pain, or give myself a little break with some epidural action. Little did I know that in the end I would have no choice (cue overly-dramatic background music).

Around 34-ish weeks, I found out that Bernadette was breech. No biggy, right? Plenty of time to flip her, right? Sure, for lots of other women, but I have never seen a more stubborn still-gestating baby. We tried the external cephalic version at 35 weeks-- you know, where they basically attack your stomach with sheer arm force and smash and push on the baby until her heart rate starts to plummet and then they take a little break until it goes back up and then they smash and push some more. First one doctor tried, and then he had to call another doctor in to pull on one side of stomach while he pushed on the other side. Did I mention they gave me nothing for that pain? Well, they didn't, and it pretty much felt like they were going to rip my already stretched abdominal muscles in half during the procedure.

And then it didn't even work. One of the doctors, the less sensitive one, said something like "Well, sorry it didn't work. We need to schedule your c-section now." Then I started to weep, and she quickly realized that this was my one of my greatest fears when it comes to child birth, second only to dying of course. I am sure it was so routine to her that she had no idea why the thought of this would bring me to tears. The other doctor was much more sensitive and supportive of us "all-natural" types, so we decided not to schedule the c-section just yet, so I could try to flip the baby on my own using more natural, gentler methods.

Long story short (not really), none of those methods worked: frozen peas on the top of my belly while hanging upside down off the couch, standing on my head in the pool, chiropractor visits, pushing pressure points, swimming, laying on a blanket and having Mike lift the blanket at my waist and shake the heck out of it to "loosen the pelvic bones" or something. So ridiculous. That is how I spent the last few weeks of my pregnancy with Bernadette- all to no avail since she would. not. turn.

I talked to the more sensitive doctor about the option of trying to deliver her breech since he had been in practice for like 60 years and delivered breech babies successfully. Although it was definitely not allowed, he slyly told me that if I labored until I was 9 cm at home and came in ready to push, he would just go ahead and try to pull her out.  Something about this option sounded a little shaky to me, so I decided not to go that route. Then that doctor left the country anyways for a little Roman holiday, so I had to be with the other, less-than-sensitive-but-still-very-competent doctor.

So we scheduled a day for the doom that was the c-section and I cannot tell you how scared I was. I cried soooooo much. I called my good friend who had had one to see if she could put me at ease a bit, and that is just what she did. It was amazing. She said things like, "It's not that bad," "It's no big deal," and "You still have your baby in the end." And how right she was.

I was 39 weeks when we went to the hospital to have Bernadette, and it was a Sunday-- I guess they don't usually do c-sections, unless they are emergencies, on Sundays. However, the doctor who was previously insensitive happened to also be awesome and she moved her entire schedule around and called in a bunch of nurses just for me so that I could have Bernadette while my parents were both in town to take care of Naomi.

When I got to the hospital, all of the labor and delivery staff was waiting for me-- they were so sweet and continued to put me at ease about the surgery. They put in my IV, which I had previously been super scared of, with no glitches, and then Mike and I watched football on TV while we waited for the appointed hour. The anesthesiologist came in and was cracking jokes with me, and he was wearing a shnazzy doo rag, which was the very thing to calm me down. Then the doctor came and did one final ultrasound to make sure Bernadette hadn't flipped. I had grown very used to her head pressing on my ribs and her foot jabbing at my cervix, so I knew she hadn't, but they checked anyways. No change. In we went to get her out.

So, in addition to my fear of c-sections, I was also super scared of getting the spinal tap, but hey, there was nothing to it. It took all of 5 minutes, and then I could feel nothing at all from my neck down. And while it was weird that I was laying naked in a bright room filled with people listening to their favorite radio station and talking like I wasn't there, it was also comforting. They did this all the time: they saw naked ladies get cut open to get their babies out all the time. This was not out of the ordinary for them, and they were so good at it that they could do it while listening to music and talking. I liked that.

Once the doctor came in, Bernadette was out within 20 minutes, and I got to hold her immediately on my chest. Then they did their cleaning and weighing while they put me back together and moved me into recovery. I had Bernadette right away in recovery and the nurses were all super encouraging in terms of nursing. It was a little hard to do due to the drug-induced haze that I was in, but I still gave it a go, and in the end she was an even better nurser than Naomi.

The next few days were not easy-- I would say the first week out was the hardest-- but as long as I kept up with my pain meds, I was ok. And I had my baby.

As I get closer to birthing this new baby, I've gone back and forth between being really scared of having another c-section (since I'm totally convinced that this baby, too, is breech and probably won't turn just like her sister), and then not caring, since, at this point, I know I can get through either method of birthing.

I love sitting in on conversations where mothers are discussing ideal birthing situations: totally natural with focused breathing, offering up the pain, immediate nursing and skin-to-skin contact, the baby sleeping in the room with you the whole time you're in the hospital and how all these things contribute to bonding well with your baby-- and they really do, I agree. But I know that a mother who gives birth in a totally opposite, completely medicated way is no less a mother and has sacrificed no less than the natural-birthing mother to get that baby into the world healthily.

I'd say that now the most ideal situation for a birth is a healthy baby and a healthy mother. The end.

Gratuitous epilogue: In case you were wondering, after Bernadette came out the doctor immediately looked at her legs and told us that there was no way she could have flipped, much less come out naturally. One of her legs was completely wedged in my pelvis and had a little bruise on it for at least a week to prove it. I would have been jeopardizing her life little life if I had stuck to my Bradley-principled guns and tried for the natural birth. After that I was more grateful than ever for the option of a c-section.

Of course, I am still hoping to avoid a c-section this time around, since it is a major abdominal surgery and makes the recovery time 10 thousand times longer. But if I have a c-section, I'm sure the world will still be spinning, and spinning one newborn baby richer.


  1. I like your take! I mean...who doesn't want a natural and "perfect" birth scenario? But in reality, it's a lot more complicated than just making it happen the way you want it to and it's better to have everyone healthy! I mean, I'm all for having choices and preferences but..let's face it, sometimes in life we have to be willing to let a little of that control go (I feel like I learn this anew every single day!)Thanks for sharing, as I have been turning this stuff around in my head a lot lately too!

  2. Thanks for that! You don't often see c-section birth stories and as a result I still feel guilty for my 36 hour labor that resulted in c-section. It's not fair to the Mama, baby or the doctors/nurses/midwives to buy into the mentality that c-section < natural vaginal birth and you're a failure if it comes to that. So, again, thank you for sharing your story :)

  3. Awww, I love a good labor and delivery. You are totally right...a healthy and happy mom and baby are the goal. No matter how. After 3 epidural births and then 2 natural births, I am so conflicted on what to do for the next one...and I'm not even pregnant! I'm leaning towards epidural which basically makes me a hypocrite with all my natural-touting birth advice I have handed out since having two that way. The fear of the pain just really scares me now. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, and I hope you have some peace in your impending labor :)

  4. Beautiful birth story! Can't wait for part 3! :)

  5. Love this! You know what I would find truly awesome? If I could have a midwife at home WITH and epidural. Is there somewhere I can put in a request for such a thing? ;)

  6. Love the post :) Still remember meeting her at the hospital. Remind me to have you give me this pep talk before I deliver ok? ;)

  7. LOVE it. My sister has had three c-sections and will be having her fourth this November. Honestly, I think that if God gives us the chance to have a birth that we want, that's awesome. But if He gives us the opportunity to want what HE wants--well, that's pretty darn incredible too.

    And yes, you'll have a darling little girl soon!

  8. PS: I should say that my sister has had to have so many c's because her third baby was an emergency c: so that means that every baby after that HAD to be a c-section. So--lol. Don't be scared.

  9. Ana -- great story. and you put it exactly right. The important thing is the end result - healthy baby and healthy Mom. I think so many people are so stuck on the "way" they want to have their baby that they end up being disappointed when it doesn't go exactly the way they had planned. And then you miss out on the wonder that is your new baby. My sister had to have a c-section with her first (VERY short cord - also no way she could have been born safely), but was able to have two vaginal deliveries after. She "planned" to go natural for both the 2nd and 3rd, but she has a hard time progressing past about 4 centimeters. With both she got the epidural and it helped her muscles relax enough to speed up the progress of labor. I had an epdidural with my first because he was posterior and I had horrible back labor. With my 2nd I asked for it, but I waited too long. with the 3rd and 4th, I chose to not hav anything, because by then I knew my labors were quick. but I certainly would have changed my mind if circumstances warranted. Your sweet baby will be here soon, by whatever method she arrives! And she will be precious like your other two.

  10. Ok, that picture of her in her carseat is so precious!

  11. Thanks for sharing your perspective on this, Ana! My daughter was born via emergency c-section. Three of my friends were pregnant at the same time (we were all part of the get married immediately after graduation club) and they each had the babies naturally. It really hurt to hear them tell their birth stories and how their labors all went according to plan. But, you are so right, I am no less of a mom because I have no idea what a contraction feels like!

  12. Hmmm, how did I find you? I don't know, but I have to share that I just recovered from my fifth (!) c-section. I know it's not what you want but just know, liek you obviously do, that you'll survive. I also wanted to share this link with you:
    A prayerful Carmelite mother who had her fifth c-section. She shares some spiritual ways to offer it up/survive. I'll pray for you. And I'm crazy, but I kinda like having c-sections. God bless you on your upcoming birth!

  13. The hospital allows VBACs but not breech births? Odd.