It was difficult for me to share “The Start of a Movement: Baby A’s Birth Story Part I.” It has been an even bigger challenge to muster the courage to share Part II. Thank you for joining in on my healing journey. Recovering physically and emotionally from a less than desirable birth experience has been harder than I imagined. Very special recognition goes out to all of you who have sent forth your support, prayers, positive thoughts, healing words, stellar advice and wonderful advocacy. I love each of you in the most sincere form and from a place of ultimate gratitude.
The Start of a Movement: Baby A’s Birth Story Part II:
After moving to that new room; 14 hours of hard, drug free, active labor; attempting every single birthing technique we could possibly remember; and fighting for the birthing experience we expected; I never dilated past a 5 from noon until 11:30PM. After 12 hours and using the shower, walking, dancing, squatting, laying, rolling and repeating, I was “sticking” at a 5. This pushed my doctor past his limit of patience. This saddens me deeply because I now realize that my cervix’s “failure to progress” was truly a “failure to wait” on behalf of my medical team. Our baby had normal vitals and I was laboring away but during this time it was discovered that our baby was turned face up and most likely “hung up.” My doctor attempted to “reach in” and turn the baby so that he could “re-thread” into my birth canal. I remember this as one of the most painful parts of my labor. I was so swollen by that point that he couldn’t get through my half way dilated cervix to re-position the baby. I later learned that our son’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and his head was acting as a cork, blocking and trapping all of the fluids that had traveled to the extremities of my birthing area.
During my experience as a laboring woman I lost my voice and ability to advocate for myself. I remember almost all of my birth experience but while working through labor my words were absent, even when I was asked direct and simple questions. My doctor was unwilling to “wait” for me to labor further and he kept reminding me that he had “let” me labor for far longer than he normally would “allow” a patient. In conversations with my nurse and husband outside of the room, he shared that it was time to “take the baby” before our situation turned dangerous. He convinced my mom that this process had gone on long enough. Everyone was overwhelmed, tired and concerned. Even though I was screaming, “No! No! No C-Section!” on the inside; I simply laid in my hospital bed as the doctor eventually suggested an “emergency C-Section.” My mom backed him and my husband left the decision making up to me. It felt like my two biggest advocates and supporters had given up on my ability to deliver my own baby. Because I didn’t know better, I also believed that my body had betrayed me through “failure to progress” and felt the two people who know me better than anyone were no longer trusting of our birth experience. When I came to my conclusion that they didn’t believe in my ability to birth, I couldn’t either.
I felt exhausted, defeated, and hopeless.
Although I mustered the voice to ask for an epidural for a little break in my labor in order to sustain however many more hours it would take, my labor and delivery nurse wouldn’t honor my request. It seems that she was unwilling to “bother” an anesthesiologist in the late hours of a holiday for an epidural. If she was calling him in, it was going to be for something major like a surgery. The next thing I knew I was signing papers to consent to a C-Section in the early hours of July 5th. There were no signs of fetal distress and no issues with my health. My labor had simply “stalled” and instead of starting antibiotics and “allowing” an epidural, I was slapped in the face with a surgical birth. This wrecked my psyche and I laid in my bed, hardly reacting to contractions, as I was wheeled down a long hallway to the operating room.
Because I was aware of the outdated VBAC policies at Wyoming Medical Center, it was in that exact moment of scribbling my signature that I knew I was signing away my right to have a vaginal delivery at that hospital ever again. I remember my mom asking me what I was most afraid of. I couldn’t speak out to answer her and during my utter laboring weakness I didn’t try. Coming to the devastating realization of what was about to happen was one thing, but I had no way to truly prepare myself for the following surgical birth of our baby.
Upon arrival in the operating room, I was alone. My husband had to wait to join me and my mom wasn’t ever allowed in. We were sternly instructed not to take pictures or videos in the cold and sterile environment. When the initial anesthesia was administered to prepare me for my C-Section, I experienced a brief moment of relief as my OB held my hand and told me that everything would be okay. My pain was gone, I could breathe again, and there was no more anticipation of the next contraction. This only lasted for a short while until the fear and confusion took back over. I had been separated from my husband and, with the exception of my doctor, I was in a cold room of strangers. This was not the birth I had been dreaming of. I couldn’t wrap my head around the events that led up to this point and I was already regretting my situation. My body was flailing like a banked fish even though my arms were strapped to a cross shaped table.
I imagined a crucifixion and, emotionally, it felt like one.
Between my adrelenine, hormones, and medicated body, I felt very little in the physical sense. I could feel slight pressure and some tugging but I was more concerned about my flopping arms and I strained to wiggle my toes while I waited to be informed. Both doctors present were talking me through my “new” birth journey in a calm and calculated way while I wished each moment away. I was able to experience relief and joy again, briefly, when my husband was allowed in.
I worked hard to understand what was happening to my body through his face and reactions because I was no longer a part of the birth of our son.
He was also in shock from the moment he was allowed to rejoin me and through the entire surgery. When our baby was pulled from my abdomen, his cry was the most marvelous thing I had ever heard; and although I can picture it perfectly, I cannot explain the emotion on my husband’s face when he set his eyes on our newborn for the first time.
Then, my doctor announced, “well, guys, you have a boy!” and one of the nurses asked me his name. I was overcome with anticipation and pride, breathing each moment in. I couldn’t lay my eyes on him fast enough. I was “allowed” to spend only moments with our baby and my arms were never unstrapped. I gave him a quick kiss on his dark hair covered head before he was taken from me, crying in a swaddle. My husband went with the baby, as we agreed, and he had to aggressively demand that our son be brought back to me in recovery for nursing. (We know, now, to insist on skin to skin contact immediately following birth despite the form of delivery.)
When he was finally brought to me, I was still not “allowed” to hold my son because I was “recovering” from my surgery. However, he was held up to me and latched on to my left breast almost immediately. There was something beautiful in that moment as a small sense of peace was restored to me. I knew that I would be able to do something according to plan. Just as had happened while he was growing inside of me, I could nourish his body. I could sustain his life outside of my womb and provide for him in a way that no one else could.
I found hope in each suck and thanked my god for our beautiful new baby.
I have since read many stories written by C-Section mommies that I can clearly identify with. It is hard to explain the sense of failure that I felt over my first birthing experience. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t do the one thing I was designed to do. I started to wonder if I was even capable of being a mom when I couldn’t even deliver my first child “correctly.” I felt I had let him down in the most initial and significant way. I hated my body and it’s inability to dilate “properly.” I was upset with my loved ones for not protecting me when I was most vulnerable and I was ultimately disappointed in my doctor for his rush to our surgical birth. I was completely repulsed by the deep scar on my lower abdomen that would forever serve as proof that there was something wrong with my vagina. I was in a full grieving process while trying to celebrate one of the happiest times in my life. I lived in a place of isolation and utter disgrace for months.
I am more grateful for my healthy son than I can describe in words. I love him the way any other mother loves their child, without limits. I will never forget the moment the doctor announced that we had a healthy baby boy. I certainly wouldn’t trade our son or my own life for any experience. I know now, however, that neither of us were ever in danger and he deserved a vaginal birth as much as I did.
The more I become educated on VBACs the more I realize that I have just as much reason to hope for a healthy successful vaginal birth as the next non-VBAC woman. A first time mom has a .07% chance of uterine rupture and a VBAC mom has a .09% chance. Very few of those ruptures end in catastrophic outcomes and there are more dangers to me and my baby in a repeat C-Section. I am no less than any other delivering woman and should be entitled to all the rights and privileges of any other patient at our community hospital.
Despite the way the Wyoming Medical Center tries to dictate my future birth experiences based on outdated policies, I will not be bullied into unnecessary surgery; controlled by outdated medical practice; or forgo my childbearing rights for the greed of money.
I have been on a beautiful healing journey and have since spoken with my doctor about my birth experience. I was able to tell him of my devastation and terrible, depression filled recovery. I learned more about my C-Section and although I feel cheated, I look forward to the day when I will get my “second chance” to deliver as I wish. My family now has a better understanding of my experience and they have also come to terms with the events surrounding Baby A’s birthday. They love and support me in a way I never take for granted and Baby A is one of our most cherished blessings.
I have gained more knowledge through this experience than I ever expected to. I believe in the healing power and safety of VBAC; and I will fight the VBAC ban at my local hospital until there is nothing more I can do. These concepts fill my soul with hope and strength.