My first daughter's birth: My c-section birth
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had the typical experience that most US women have. I had an OB to provide my prenatal care, I read What to Expect When You're Expecting, I took the hospital's childbirth and breastfeeding courses, and I was planning a typical hospital birth with an epidural. As one friend pointed out to me, "You don't get a trophy for having a natural delivery." Like your typical US woman, I have seen the birth shows on TV, and I was scared of the pain. I planned to have an epidural before I ever experienced my first contraction.
When I was approximately 28 weeks pregnant, I went in for my regular checkup and found that I had gained almost 10 pounds in one month. I was spilling protein, and my blood pressure was a bit on the high side. I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and I spent the remainder of my pregnancy on moderate bedrest at home. Thankfully, I was able to manage my blood pressure with just bedrest, and while I had to go to the doctor more frequently for monitoring, my pregnancy continued normally.
When I was 37 weeks and 6 days, I woke at 5am to the sensation of my water breaking. I could both feel and hear the 'pop.' I sent my husband to the bathroom for a towel and he called the doctor, who told us to head in, but not to hurry too much. I took a shower and my hands were shaking the entire time: this was IT. We were about to make the journey from a couple to a family, and we would meet our daughter soon. It was a big moment for us, but we were surprisingly calm. We finished packing our bag, got ready for the day, and headed to the hospital. Approximately one hour after my water broke I felt my first contraction in the car. Fortunately, the hospital was only about 5 minutes away. By the time we reached the hospital, labor was pretty much in full swing. The contractions were uncomfortable but manageable. We checked in through triage and were sent up to the maternity floor. I was already 5-6 centimeters, and we were given a room.
I labored on my side in bed. I had requested an epidural, so they hooked me up to an IV and were pushing fluids. The nurses were having a shift change meeting, so I had to wait until they were done before we really saw anyone. The first nurse to come in offered me stadol while I waited for the required fluids to finish. I was uncomfortable, but I accepted it - my first real intervention. It did nothing for the pain, and made me so sleepy I could barely keep my eyes open at times. Despite the fact that I wasn't in that much pain yet, I was afraid of the pain that was sure to come, and I still wanted my epidural (not that anyone asked if I had changed my mind). Soon the anesthesiologist arrived. When he inserted the epidural and they laid me down, I experienced pain so vivid it is difficult to explain. It felt as though every nerve in my body from the neck down was on fire. I felt like I was paralyzed. I couldn't move - all I could do was lie on the bed with huge tears streaming down my terrified face.
The anesthesiologist told me I was overreacting, that I couldn't possibly be in that much pain. The nurses used a sheet that was under me to roll me back and forth, until suddenly I felt a rush of cold in my veins, and the epidural was working as it should. It was now approximately 9am, and they decided to check my progress. I was now at 8cm, but the nurse then said something that would change my birth, and, to some extent, my life.
"I don't think that's a head."
Now, to scared new-parents-to-be, that is not the sort of statement you make without some type of follow up.
"What is it, then?" we wanted to know. She told us that the presenting part felt like a baby's bottom. She called in another nurse, who agreed that it seemed to be our daughter's bottom, and finally our OB arrived with an ultrasound machine and confirmed with a 10 second ultrasound that, yes, her head was up by my ribs. I burst into tears, and my OB told me there was no reason to be upset. After that, things changed quickly. A surprise breech baby this close to delivery left me with only one option in my OB's mind. I was brought in new paperwork to sign. A catheter was placed, and I was prepped for surgery.
I remember feeling very exposed as I was taken into the operating room. The surgery itself was somewhat frightening. I couldn't see what was happening because of the blue drape in front of my face, and the anesthesiologist, who happened to be by my head, pretended like my husband and I didn't exist and ignored our questions. Because of the stadol, I had trouble staying alert, and when my eyes would close I had to force them back open again. My body was moved forcefully and vigorously back and forth, and finally our daughter entered the world.
My OB brought her around to my head so we could meet our new daughter and said, "She looks just like her mother. She has the same double chin and everything!" Not exactly what a mother with pre-eclampsia and water retention likes to hear (or what any mother wants to hear).
My husband followed our baby girl and took pictures of her being weighed. She left the room to go to recovery, and I told him to go with her. My repairs took longer that I thought they would, but finally I was wheeled into recovery. My husband and daughter were waiting for me with a nurse, and when I was placed in the room with them, I felt very disconnected from the whole experience. I watched my husband and the nurse care for and swaddle her, and felt like I was watching them from a distance. Then the nurse turned to me and held out this tiny new person with whom I was supposed to feel an instant bond. "You're very quiet," the nurse told me. "Don't you have anything to say?"
"I don't know what to say," I replied as the nurse placed her in my arms. And I didn't. I didn't feel as though I had just had a baby, I felt as though I had just had major surgery, and now here was this tiny baby that I didn't know and was now expected to care for. My new baby fussed and squirmed - she was hungry, and it was time to feed her.
I knew from the moment I found out I was pregnant that I wanted to breastfeed, and thankfully she was able to latch on and nurse well, showing no ill side effects of the medications that were in my body for her labor and birth, or the narcotics that were bring used to control my pain. (Her delivery had no effect on our nursing relationship, and I went on to nurse her for 18 months). This was one part of our new relationship that came relatively easily.
But meanwhile, as I was learning to care for this new person, I still had to struggle with recovery from major abdominal surgery. My mom and my husband were the first ones to change her diaper and the first ones to dress her while I watched from my bed. Just getting out of bed was a struggle. My husband would help me and we would slowly shuffle our way around the hospital halls, with me hunched over, clutching the rolling bassinet containing our daughter - the only thing keeping me upright at times. I was still having excruciating back pain at the site of my epidural - even through the narcotic pain medications.
That night, our daughter woke in the bassinet beside me, and I woke with her. My husband wasn't yet tuned in to the cries of a newborn, and was sound asleep on the pull out couch/bed in our room. Unable to get out of bed, I tried calling his name. He didn't hear me. Finally, I had to resort to throwing the pillows from my bed to get him to wake up. Luckily my aim was good enough, and I was able to get his attention so he could bring her to me.
After 4 nights in the hospital, they told us we could go home. We brought up our carseat, packed up our stuff, and a nurse wheeled us down to the lobby. My husband brought the car around, and we attached her seat to the base, and he helped me climb in beside her. Then we headed home - now the three of us.
My c-section taught me everything that I did not want in a birth, and even before we were ready to discuss having another baby, I was researching VBAC.
The Birth of my Second Daughter: VBAC on the highway.
For this birth, I was seeing a practice that had about 6 OBs and 5 or 6 midwives, that had privileges at a hospital about an hour away from our house.
On Thursday, September 23 I had my 37 week check up. My blood pressure was slightly elevated, and because of my history with pre-eclampsia my OB/midwife practice decided to be a bit more proactive and do a 24 hour urine analysis. On Friday I turned it in and saw the doctor for another blood pressure check. It was 144/96 and he wanted me on blood pressure medication. I asked to do light bed rest for the weekend and reevaluate on Monday.
Friday night (37 weeks and 2 days) we went for an evening walk and I went to bed at 11:30pm. At 1:30am I woke up with some stomach cramps. I laid in bed until 1:50 and thought they were mild contractions but they were happening approximately every 2 minutes. I got up and went to the bathroom and warned my husband that I thought some contractions might be starting (he does not remember this). I went downstairs and sat at the computer. The pains kept coming, and I thought I might be getting a stomach bug. I found an online contraction counter and started tracking contractions. They were coming every minute and a half to two minutes, but only lasting 30-45 seconds, so I thought I was in early labor. The contractions felt like a tightening bearing down on the top of my uterus. It was intense and uncomfortable, but not exactly painful. I timed contractions for about 10 minutes, and had 5 contractions during that time. By 2:20am I was leaning on the couch swaying my hips through the contractions. I was pretty sure I was in labor but still thought it was early, since I expected to be in more pain, and thought the contractions weren’t lasting long enough.
At this point I decided to wake my husband and pack. He called our doula because I was afraid of going to the hospital too soon. She suggested lying down and drinking a glass of water. I worked on the water but was unable to lay down, so he called the midwife who suggested we head in. We also called my mom to come stay with our daughter. I worked on packing between contractions, leaning on the bed or countertop and swaying. I did things like pack the toothbrushes but not the toothpaste, and the camera and video camera cord but not the video camera (the camera and video camera were right next to each other; the cord was in the closet). Luckily I had a list to work from and got almost everything packed. At some point my mom arrived and our daughter woke up. I began to realize things were moving a little more quickly than I thought when I went down to the kitchen, leaned on the counter through a contraction, walked around the counter and had another contraction leaning against the other side. They were now coming one right after another. Around about 3:15 am we were packed, the car was loaded and we were ready to go. I put towels down on the car seat but when I tried to sit down I was in excruciating pain and sitting down was impossible. My husband and I weren't sure at that point how we were going to leave the house. My husband offered to call the squad but they would have taken me to the nearest hospital which was not VBAC-friendly and I declined. He called our doula and she suggested sitting on my knees facing the back of the car and leaning against the seat back. I was able to recline the seat at an angle and rode clutching the headrest. We almost stopped and turned around, but I knew at this point we just had to go. The VBAC-friendly hospital we were trying to reach was 45 - 60 minutes away from our house.
About 8-10 minutes down the road, I felt my body push for the first time. During contractions I would tell my husband we weren’t going to make it to the hospital; between contractions I would tell him to DRIVE. At this point with each contraction my body was pushing at the end, and it was completely out of my control. Finally with a contraction I felt the baby really move down and I told my husband it was time to stop, the baby was coming. He called 911 and they told him to pull over and put on his flashers. He tried taking out the child car seats in the back because he thought I might want to lie down (I didn’t – there was no way I was moving from the front seat! But I think he needed to be doing something). He asked the operator how soon they would be there because I was pushing and I could feel the baby moving down with each contraction. She said a trooper would be there shortly and he said, “I don’t need a trooper, I need a medic!” A deputy arrived about a minute before the baby crowned. With a big contraction my water broke all over the front seat and floor of my car, and the baby moved all the way down. My husband was standing a few feet away talking to the deputy, and I yelled at him to come over and check to see if there was a head. First he said no, and then with the next contraction he said yes. My husband caught the baby's head and then with the next contraction the body was out. The ambulance arrived just as he caught the baby. We didn’t know the gender ahead of time, so I looked over my shoulder as he was holding our new baby and said, “It’s a girl,” and someone said “Yes, it’s a girl.” My husband handed her to an EMS worker holding a towel, and we heard her cry. They clamped the cord and gave my husband a scalpel and he cut it. They took the baby to the ambulance and worked on getting me out of the car and onto a stretcher. I went into the ambulance and my husband followed in the car. My labor was approximately 2 hours long, from the first “is that a contraction?” to delivery – and I definitely got my natural medication free VBAC! It was meant to be – it would not have happened any other way!
I was able to nurse my little girl for the first time in the ER, and held her skin to skin to warm her tiny body. I was then moved up to Labor and Delivery for tears that needed repaired.
Our doula had arrived while we were in the ER, and thankfully I had her with me during what was ironically the hardest part of the birth – the repairs. The placenta had not delivered, and now almost an hour after the birth, it needed to come out. With some traction it was removed, and then the repairs had to be made. The stitching for my 3rd degree tear took a long time and was very painful, even with the numbing injections. My husband held our baby and bonded with her, and I had the chance to nurse her again. I was completely fine, and our 6 pound 13 ounce baby girl was absolutely perfect and healthy.
Even though I would not choose to give birth in a car, I am grateful that I had the chance to have a completely all natural VBAC birth. Every time I drive past that spot on the highway, I always think of her birth. And I am thankful that it happened at 3:40 in the morning, and not 3:40 in the afternoon
I still love you're DD2's birth story. I think this is the first time I've read anything about DD1's birth story. The bonding difference between a c/s and a vaginal birth were night and day for me.
~Jackie, mommy to Aiden (11/2/10) and Zoe (VBAC 11/27/12)
Kristi! I'm way late to this party... but welcome! I also love that you and your DH are high school sweethearts. Boo for a terrible first birth, but way to make up for it with #2! Wow! What a story. I'd heard people mention your car birth before, but I hadn't actually read the story. Crazy. So, the plans this time are for a home birth? How have you been this pregnancy? Any pre-e type issues?
Mara & Joel, 2009
Yes, plans this time are for a home birth. I am seeing a practice of midwives where all they do is home birth. I have a team of two midwives, and the plan is to call them the second I suspect I'm in labor. We have a decent sized tub, so it will likely be a water birth. DH wants to catch, and DD1 (5) says she wants to cut the cord.
BP is always a bit of an issue for me. It started going up right before DD2's birth. It's been a bit up and down this pregnancy, but the midwives have me taking a calcium/magnesium supplement that seems to be helping. I did notice a couple nights ago that my BP is trying to sneak up again, which I'm guessing means that I am getting close to birthing time again. However, the midwives do have a threshold for BP that could potentially risk me out of home birth if it gets too high. The limit isn't that high, either. It's either 130/90 or 140/90, I forget which.
Wow, those are some wild birth stories. That first one is exactly the reason I don't want an epidural. My body responds badly to anesthesia and I can't believe the anesthesiologist didn't believe you. Awful. And then the breech situation, that must have been scary. DD#2's story is like a movie! That one will be fun to share with her when she is older.
How fun that your DD wants to cut the cord this time
I think I am the only one that thinks it is a good idea to have the kids at home during the birth. Originally we had worked it out that mom will come over and be with the kids (downstairs) so the kids can come up and down as they want to, or if they want to leave she can take them to her house. Now she is hinting that she thinks it would be better for them to just go to her house, and DH kind of agrees with her. I know DD1 (5yo) really wants to cut the cord and is very curious about the birth, I'd hate for her to miss that if it is what she really wants. Of course, if she is uncomfortable and would rather go to Grammy's I'm fine with that, but if SHE wants to be there I'd like her to have that experience.
DH is weirded out by her watching me give birth (which I honestly don't think she would anyway, but I don't care if she does) and my mom thinks she will be traumatized by the sounds and not want to have kids herself someday. I think they're both silly.
I think you should go with your gut on this one, Kristi. My DD was at home when I birthed Zintis. She came and went. She asked questions. She got bored watching and would go back outside to play. When I got really close to the end, my mom brought her back up and they stayed sort of in the hallway, but where they could see me, and the sweet little thing grunted and moaned with me. My mom did a great job of course of explaining to her what was going on, etc. Will your mom be comfortable with your birth? My mom was cool with it all, which is why she was cool with being there for my daughter. I think kids will totally be like, "wow, this is cool and normal" as long as that is how the adults treat it. If the adults are freaking out, the kids will follow suit.
Mara & Joel, 2009