My name is Chelse and I consider myself to be a C-Section “Survivor.” I use this term seriously, as it took until my son’s 10th month of life to be able to speak about my birth experience without having a meltdown. While I may have “played it off,” my close friends and family will corroborate that I was psychologically and physically devastated.
After becoming pregnant, I spent hours educating myself about childbirth through endless hours of reading, attending classes, and interviewing healthcare professionals and other moms. I felt prepared to advocate for the birth experience I had dreamed about all my life. (Yes, I am one of “those” ladies who had spent years musing about becoming a mommy.) I loved every second of being pregnant and as my due date approached I actually started grieving the loss of my pregnancy experience. Little did I know that the birth of my first born child would unfold into a story that would lead me to drive a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) movement in my hometown!
I slept through the first part of my labor when I went to bed on July 3rd. After joining my husband on our back patio for breakfast at 8 AM on July 4th, my water broke. I was in a state of confusion as I rushed up our back stairs and into the bathroom. I honestly wasn’t sure if I had just experienced a bigger than normal “little accident” or if it was amniotic fluid streaming down my leg. I was so very scared and excited. When the first “real” contraction hit moments later I became nauseous. It was overwhelmingly painful and there was no question that our baby had started the birth journey. We labored at home for as long as we felt comfortable. I took a shower and fixed my hair and makeup then I walked and drank water as my husband prepared our car for departure. I was calm and steady but petrified! When our contractions were five minutes apart we proceeded to the Wyoming Medical Center to get checked in. We had shared anxiety as an expecting couple about who to involve in our delivery. On the way to the hospital we had decided we would call the people we felt we needed as the time became right. This decision resulted in one phone call to my mom.
In retrospect, I do wish I had stuck with my original plan of having a birth assistant present at the hospital. We had previously made arrangements to have someone serve in this role for us. A layer of emotion and history overshadowed our comfort with follow through and, quite frankly, I was extremely worried about the feelings of others. I didn’t want to upset my doctor, make my mom feel like I needed womanly wisdom outside of hers and I didn’t want my husband to worry that he wasn’t “enough.” Had I invited an outside advocate, no one would have loved me any less. I let myself down by not executing our well planned birth process and honoring my own desires. I learned a powerful lesson which I will not repeat. All of my future births will take place in the presence of those I most need.
Upon check-in, our admitting nurse scoffed when I told her my plans to forgo an epidural and my desire to experience a natural birth. Having learned evidence based research doesn’t support constant monitoring and non-essential medicine, part of my birth plan included remaining free from an IV, adhering to intermittent monitoring; having the ability to stand and move; and possessing the ability to drink and eat. Regardless, I was constantly nagged to hold still for monitoring and chastised for refusing an IV. I drank frequently to stay hydrated and spent almost my entire labor on my feet and alone in the dark, private, and quiet bathroom. Even though it was harder than I imagined, I enjoyed my labor and stayed focused while trusting in and working with my body doing squats, lunges, and “dances.” I also took a shower with the help of my husband and it felt like pure heaven. I learned that I need peace, quiet, and dark to feel comfortable laboring. At times, I was extremely vocal and resistant to directions but never abrasive or out of control. That young nurse who admitted me was a believer by the end of her shift and she began to cheer me on as she watched a woman experience and work through an unmedicated birth process. (This is a small victory that I am proud to claim.)
The summer day slowly faded into evening and that same nurse came into my laboring place to check me. Each time she visited, she got on her knees to measure my dilation and she became less hesitant to let me do my work. Around 6 PM, and shortly before she was scheduled for a break, she came in to our delivery room, checked me, told me I was dilated to a 6, promptly dropped the table, started to prepare everything for the final stage of delivery, and went to get the doctor as she had been instructed. Since everything had been progressing so quickly, they expected my transition phase would be brief. It was time to get serious and start pushing this baby out! Finally! Right before she came in, I remember thinking how grateful I was that I never had to labor again if I didn’t want to! (This thought makes me smile, now, because I cannot wait to go through this process, again.) I also couldn’t believe how quickly my labor had gone and that it really was time to start the hard work! My doctor came dressed in full scrubs with another nurse, ready for delivery.
I climbed onto the table and rolled to my back, breathing hard through my contractions. Having trouble focusing and feeling like I was floating in and out of my own head, I worked my way into a squatting position with the back of the bed raised. My doctor took a few seconds to examine me and realized that I had become extremely swollen. Our baby was “sunny side up” and had not threaded through my birth canal. He could barely get his hand through the outer parts of my bloated body to reach the baby’s head and he learned my water hadn’t completely broken or drained. He moved forward with rupturing my bag completely, fully expecting quick progression to follow. The release of pressure and rush of fluid onto the bed felt good. He then waited for a few moments to see if there were any changes. During this time, he mentioned that the delivering woman next door had received an epidural and delivered her baby within the hour. I clearly heard him but did not respond, still adamant about my unmediated birth decision. He then suggested a few additional positions for me to try in order to get the baby to drop. Then, he left because I wasn’t dilated to a six as the nurse had originally reported. Still at a five and not close to transition, I was not ready to deliver. This was hard news to process because I knew that meeting our new baby wasn’t as close as I had thought just minutes earlier.
As I continued my journey with my husband and mom at my side, we broke the air conditioner in the labor and delivery room and had to move to another room so it could be fixed. (I was freezing them out because I was so hot. Unbeknown to me, my mom kept putting pillows on the vents!) I was embarrassed to walk down the hall in such agony and pain but there wasn’t a person in sight. We had the place to ourselves because our community’s fireworks show was starting to get underway! The way labor had initially progressed, I had planned to be holding my new baby while I enjoyed the show and here I was switching rooms for more laboring. Leaving me in the care of a seasoned nurse who had come on for her night shift, my doctor also left the hospital to enjoy the fireworks with his family. She, too, sent the new nurses in to watch and listen to our unmediated birth process.
We were in for an experience we never imagined. The changing of the guard with that new room and new nurse is where our story takes a turn that I still can’t fully understand. I look forward to sharing the next part of our birth experience in “The Start of a Movement: Baby A’s Birth Story Part II.”
All professional maternity photos taken by the talented Sommer Grogan at BOKA Images.
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