Monday, June 18, 2018

Every Birth is Beautiful: Mason's Birth Story

When I started thinking about Henry's birth story I realized that my experience would only resonate with a small handful of people. It was then I decided I had to find more women with different experiences to share their stories. I know some people think an all natural vaginal birth is the "real" way, some are team epidural, and there are people like me who are totally happy with a scheduled cesarean. No matter how your baby is brought into the world, you are still mama. Even if it doesn't go as planned, and you aren't modeling a beautiful floral robe and a smile three hours after delivery, you are no less a mama because every birth is beautiful.

For today's post I asked a dear friend to share her experience of an unplanned, non-emergency cesarean. I have known Jessica since freshman orientation at college where she thought I was a snob until I complimented the purple tips on her hair. We had no way of predicting the relationship that would follow, but I am so glad we found each other. She helped me survive college, and we have stayed in touch over many miles through marriage, babies, loss, and new beginnings. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Jessica.

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I am a planner - in my personal life and in my profession. Ironically, my pregnancy was not planned. And most people would also be shocked to know that there was not a detailed birth plan. We were winging it. The only things we really wanted were for the baby to come on his own terms (no induction) and no hard feelings if I chose to get an epidural, even though I really wanted to have at least a few minutes of the “natural” birth experience.


My entire pregnancy was blissful - no morning sickness, swelling, weird cravings, or strong aversions. Even my friends commented that “pregnant Jessica” was much happier than my typical neurotic self. I agreed. The only bump (pun intended) in our journey was a diagnosis of gestational diabetes. It devastated me. I was ashamed and frustrated, and for the first time in my life, I experienced “mom guilt.” I am lucky that it turned out to be a very mild issue that did not affect me or my baby.

Our stubborn little boy missed his due date, which causes concern for women with a GD diagnosis. At our final appointment, I was barely at a one and the baby was still very high. The doctor scheduled us to come back in three days to induce labor. Blah. Induction? Seriously? We plan and God laughs, right? Fine. I was disappointed, but at the same time I was just so excited to finally meet my son.


Fast forward about 14 hours. Around midnight, I woke up from a four hour nap and my water broke almost immediately. We were in shock but immediately loaded the car and made our five minute trek to the hospital. The next several hours were a blur - mostly because there just wasn’t much happening. Family and friends showed up. Time passed. And I became impatient. Was it really supposed to take this long?! I mean, my water broke, so what was the holdup? I honestly don’t remember when the first contractions started, but I knew something wasn’t quite right because all of the pain was in my back.

The “back labor” got progressively worse and was like nothing I ever imagined. What the heck?! The childbirth class didn’t mention anything about back labor. I followed all of the teacher’s instructions about best practices for getting the baby in an ideal position leading up to our due date. I told you, I’m a planner. Come to find out, our little guy was hiding out in my pelvis and he was laying at an angle. They brought in a specialized nurse to help my get the baby to turn. Did I mention that my son is stubborn? Yea, he didn’t budge.

At some point, I realized it was dark outside again. My family left to get dinner (curse them!), and I was on my third round of nurses and doctors. I was still only at a four, and yet, my brain still couldn’t conceptualize that anything might be wrong. The back pain was excruciating, and after 17 hours, I was mentally and physically exhausted. I finally decided to get the epidural. It was a breeze, and I was completely at peace with the decision. Finally something had gone my way!


Just over an hour later, the doctor came back in and said the last words I expected hear - “I think we need to do a Cesarean.” Um, excuse me? I guess I assumed that because the conception and pregnancy had been so easy that my body was just made to produce and birth babies. Not once did I considered that I would have problems with a “normal” delivery and would need a C-section. I was wrong.

“I just don’t like that he’s been in there so long after your water broke and you have had so little progress,” the doctor said. Wait, what? Something’s wrong? This isn’t supposed to happen. I did everything I was supposed to do. I did all the stretches and laid in the funny positions the nurse recommended. I talked to all of my friends about their experiences and advice. I bought all of the supplies to take care of my body AFTER a vaginal delivery.  I was patient and let my water broke on its own. I dealt with the excruciating back pain and had even made it through the epidural. And now I wasn’t progressing? My body had betrayed me. Thankfully, the doctor reassured me that it was not an emergency situation but that he wanted to act now before it became one.

Fast forward to the operating room. Laying on the table, unable to see what was happening, and shaking uncontrollably...or so I thought. Thanks, epidural. I am forever thankful for the sweet anesthesiologist who kept me calm and talked me through the entire operation. I was delirious from exhaustion but doing my best to stay present. I feel like I like laid on the operating table forever.

Despite my mental state, I recall the doctor instructing the nurses to begin the procedure. There was a lot of pressure but no real pain. The feeling of the doctor pulling out my baby is one I’ll never forget and yet I’ll never be able to accurately explain it to someone else. I vividly remember the nurses proclaiming “Happy Birthday” and the moment when the doctor FINALLY held up my baby so I could see my little boy’s face for the first time. I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath until I heard him cry for the first time. He had a great set of lungs!


After 18 hours, I desperately needed to snuggle my baby but couldn’t until the doctor finished taking care of me. Curse my body...again. While my doctor worked, he said something else that I’ll never forget because it helped me cope. He said, “You have an almost eight pound baby and a six inch pelvis. He wasn’t coming out easy, and not without the cord around his neck.” Hmmm…..maybe my body didn’t betray me after all?

I still occasionally struggle with the decision to have a cesarean. I may always wonder how things may have been different if I had insisted that the doctor wait a little while longer. I may always be a little envious of my friends who had “normal” births, whether they were quick and easy or long and difficult. I may always wonder if I missed something by not being able to have the special experience of a more natural birth. Is it because I had a vision in my head of a vaginal birth, and it didn’t pan out? Or do some women (like me) have a preconceived notion that they need a vaginal birth to be more connected to the overall experience? Either way, what it all comes down to is I have a very healthy, beautiful little boy who loves his mama and whose mama is completely and irrationally in love with him.


-Jessica

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