This was a traumatic birth experience but this isn’t intended to scare anyone. This is intended to make you question the common practices in place in many hospitals. It’s intended to make you think about what a normal birth is and should be. How you can make choices to increase your chance of having a normal, successful birth. This is taken directly from my original blog post (on our old family blog). It’s what I wrote in the days after Dex’s birth when everything was new and fresh in my mind and still overwhelming. After the original birth story I’ll share what I learned in the weeks, months, and years later.
Dex’s Birth Story
April 21st 11:15 am Progress for Sure
After two weeks of no developments, we are sure things have started rockin’ and rollin’. Over the weekend signs of labor had increased so we went to our appointment with lots of excitement and anticipation. Once there however, it was quickly determined that I have not dilated or effaced further. The only change that did occur is that my blood pressure was pretty high. So Doctor O. is having me hooked up to the monitor for an hour to make sure the baby isn’t stressed.
1:00 pm Commiseratory Lunch
Because I am pretty depressed after our appointment we decided to go to the restaurant that cures ails and heightens good news. Mexico Viejo brought little more than instant chimichanga gratification.
Kai got ready to go to work to my dismay. I try not to show how upset I am but of course Kai knows. He offers to stay home but we both know that he needs to go. I am starting to feel pretty nauseous, tired and just pretty off but chalk it up to the little progress my body is making.
I get a surprise phone call from Kai, he’s headed home. I didn’t realize that I had sent him a text requesting him to do this. I was more concerned by the fact that I had actually asked him to come home than the fact that he actually came home. I’m still pretty upset so we decided to lie down and try to relax since my blood pressure had been pretty high earlier.
I woke up from relaxing feeling like crap. I’m irritable and nauseous but I know I should eat something. Since Kai is home it means that it is his responsibility to forage for dinner. I didn’t want anything we had at home so Kai went to the store to get some dinner makings.
8:30 pm Water… Breaks…??
My water broke but I wasn’t sure because it didn’t gush, trickle, or drip. It just wasn’t and then it was and then it wasn’t. To everyone who said I would know… I didn’t. You lied. I called Kai to explain what happened and see what he thought. We decided I should wait a little while to see if it kept happening. By the time he got home, I was almost convinced my water had indeed broke but called the hospital anyways to explain to them, just in case I was crazy. The nice nurse on the phone laughed really hard and said to come in and congrats, we’d have a baby soon!
9:00 pm Water… Broke…??
We get to the hospital and are taken to a Labor/Delivery/Recovery room to make sure my water balloon had actually burst. The test was false but in a weird way. They have a yellow strip that turns blue when in contact with amniotic fluid. My test turned green. They hadn’t seen that before so they thought maybe it was a problem with the strip. We waited a little while until Dr. O. came and did a painful pelvic exam and retested. Success! Blue means go. Dr. O. let us know that the labor was underway. Kai and I keep saying how surreal everything is now that’s its actually happening. I can tell Kai is really excited and doesn’t seem nervous about his role for the next several hours.
Dr. O. gets to the hospital and I am starting to have mild contractions. I’m examined and we find out I am still only 1 cm dilated and 50% effaced. Strange since my water broke. That usually doesn’t happen unless you are further along than that. I am bummed but Kai reminds me that it is really happening and I’ll start dilating soon. We joke with Dr. O. and the nursing staff about our stubborn baby. Always has to be his way. We start walking the halls waiting for things to get going for real.
April 22nd 12:30
Contractions seem to be coming 5-7 minutes apart and are increasing in intensity. I decide the whirlpool sounds pretty good at this point and jump in. Immediate relief. I start feeling pretty good about the whole natural childbirth thing and Kai and I keep joking about women complaining about nothing. Contractions keep increasing and Kai keeps me breathing through each one. I can’t believe how well both of us are doing. We talk about our friends from school who recently had a natural birth and how right they were- you just have to remember not to fight the contractions. Thanks for the advice by the way.
I have to get out of the whirlpool in order to do some paperwork and get hooked up to the monitors for the routine status check. I get out and immediately want to get back in. Hello real labor. After I’m on the monitor for 30 minutes I should be able to get back in the whirlpool. Contractions are about 4 minutes apart and getting stronger. Kai and I talk about how well I’m doing and how fast things are moving. We both hope I take after my sisters with fast labor and the nurses laugh at the thought of a first time labor going fast.
Have been on the monitors long enough to establish contractions coming 3 minutes apart, my heart rate is a little high, and my blood pressure is going up and down. Baby has a high heart rate but that’s pretty normal at this stage. They decide I need to stay hooked up to the monitors for a while longer to make sure our levels don’t get worse. Kai keeps me laughing and breathing through each contraction.
Contractions are 1-2 minutes apart and very intense. Both our heart rates keep maxing out on the machine setting off the alarms. My blood pressure rocks back and forth between too high and too low. I start thinking seriously that this isn’t going to happen without some kind of intervention and talk to Kai about our options. Kai is so supportive but encourages me to do what feels right. Dr. O. comes in and explains the baby is head down but is face up which means bad back labor. Even knowing it will be even more painful than I thought, I decide to try to keep going as long as we aren’t putting either of us at risk.
I decide it’s not going to happen. I can barely tell Kai that I want the epidural even though we discussed it earlier. I know he won’t be disappointed but I worry he’ll push for me to work through another contraction. Then another. I know I can’t take it anymore. Contractions are coming so fast now and I’m scared because the alarms on the monitor keeps going off constantly. I can’t move or they lose the baby’s heart rate. I’m getting really scared. Kai and I talk and decide it’s our best option at that point. Kai reassures me and comforts me. We both know it’s better this way. Our stats continue to be alarming. We know it will be at least an hour before I can get the epidural because they have to give a certain amount of fluid before. I’m hooked up to the IV and wonder if the baby and I will make it through the hour. Kai keeps my mind off things by talking about what the baby will be like. I know it must be hard for him to keep so calm.
Anesthesiologist arrives and begins explaining the process. I listen carefully to his instructions because I don’t want a botched job. Kai comforts me as I breathe through several contractions during the epidural process. The epidural goes great and I start feeling relief immediately. Our stats begin to even out, although they stay a little on the high side. Dr. O. explains that my contractions may slow down a bit but knows we want to stay away from Pitocin.
Kai and I try to rest as we wait for the contractions to do their job. They are now 30 seconds to 1 minute apart. Things have stayed on course and there is no need for Pitocin. Thanks to the epidural I get a good nap in while Kai tries to rest but can’t quite calm down enough. Dr. O. checks me out and I’m 8 cm and 100% effaced. It won’t be long now. We joke around with the nurses and Dr. O. They can’t believe the crazy funny things that come out of our mouths.
Dr. O. checks me out and decides it’s time to push. Kai and I are so happy that the epidural didn’t slow down labor at all. That had been our big worry and the major reason we had decided to try a natural childbirth. The baby hasn’t moved all the way down yet but that’s pretty common. Our stats have been going up again but it’s probably just because things are moving along now. I can’t feel anything and rely on Dr. O. to tell me when to push. Kai and I crack jokes and banter back and forth. We are both worried about the alarms going off on the monitors but try to comfort each other through our quirky sense of humor.
Contractions are no longer showing up on the monitors. Baby’s heart rate keeps maxing out the monitor and my blood pressure rockets between high and low. The nurse tries to determine contractions by feeling my abdomen and we go with what she says. I push when I’m told and breathe when I’m told and worry that it’s not good enough. Kai looks scared but keeps praising my efforts. Our cell phones keep ringing with family members wondering if the baby is here yet. Dr. O. decides to start Pitocin to try to get the contractions back on the monitor. We had discussed in our appointments that we wanted to avoid Pitocin but Dr. O. says we have no choice now. They keep increasing the dose while I keep pushing each time the nurse feels a contraction coming. Dr. O. starts talking to us about decreasing the strength of the epidural to help me push. The baby still hasn’t moved down and both of our stats are high. I don’t even look at Kai, we both are thinking the same thing. Whatever it takes, the feeling in the room is we just need to get the baby out as soon as possible. The nurse turns down the epidural and we wait for a contraction to come. I can’t feel anything still, that is one good epidural. Still no contractions on the monitor. The nurse keeps turning it down and another nurse keeps up-ing the Pitocin. Our stats are maxing out the monitors which makes the alarm go off constantly. I keep hoping they will just turn the sound off since a nurse is watching it anyways. Dr. O. suggests turning off the epidural because it isn’t wearing off fast enough. Kai keeps me focused and I keep pushing and breathing when told. I throw up all over myself and have to have my gown changed. I’m feeling pretty crappy what with the pain and now there’s a substantial amount of puke in my hair. I start feeling a lot of pressure and Dr. O. looks relieved. A nurse comes in and asks Dr. Olson to step into the other room. Apparently, another woman is in labor and has decided it’s time to push. Dr. O. moves between our rooms and I hope one of us has a baby soon. I start feeling the contractions again, the epidural is wearing off.
9:00 am – 12:00 pm
I can now feel everything. I vaguely notice nurses coming and going. Each time they come back they have some kind of machine or device with them. I feel like I’m screaming and swearing but everyone keeps saying how well I’m doing and how focused I am. Kai is the only reason I’m still breathing and pushing. I tune everyone else out and just listen to him comfort me. I can tell he’s scared but he’s holding it together. He gets yet more phone calls from our family wondering if the baby has arrived. I wish we had thought to turn our phones off. The contractions seem constant and last forever. I joke with Dr. O. that I’d like that c-section now. She laughs but I’m pretty sure we all are thinking this isn’t going to end well without surgery. When I began pushing, the rate was 3 – 10 count pushes per contraction. Now the contractions last so long the rate is 6 – 10 count pushes with enough time to get 2 deep breaths before the next one. They suggest I move into a different position to help the baby come down. He still hasn’t moved down an inch. I tune out the alarms and struggle to move to a new position. Much worse. I don’t want to do this anymore and tell the nurse. She thinks I mean the position. I beg for them to get the baby out. I throw up again. I can’t listen to the alarms anymore. I can’t keep pushing. We aren’t getting anywhere. Dr. O. comes back from the other labor room and I am sobbing and screaming (Kai tells me later that I was actually scary quiet). She agrees that it’s time to call the surgeon for a c-section. She has the nurse turn the epidural back on. We are all relieved that it’s almost over. We will have to wait a while for the c-section because there are surgeries already underway.
I can’t feel the epidural working. I keep screaming that something is wrong but everyone keeps telling me I will feel better soon. I keep telling them it’s not working, it’s all wrong but they aren’t listening. The nurses are exchanges looks and I can’t tell whats going on. Kai keeps me breathing. I can’t do anything else but tell them it’s still not working. I’m terrified the placenta is going to rupture or I’m going to have an aneurysm or the baby is in too much distress from the intense contractions and long labor. I keep praying that they will figure out that something is wrong with the epidural and that the surgery will happen soon. Someone finally gets the epidural turned back on. The nurse who was in charge of it wasn’t familiar with the new system and had been pushing the delay button instead of the dose button so I obviously hadn’t received any relief yet. I throw up again, just in time to talk to the anesthesiologist again. It finally kicked in just in time for the surgery room to be released. The other woman in labor apparently was in distress as well and Dr. Olson was trying to establish who needed the c-section first. The other woman ended up pushing her baby out just when it was decided that we needed the surgery room now.
I’m wheeled to the surgery room for prep while Kai gets gowned up. I’m terrified. I overhear so many things about what is going wrong with me and the baby at this point, I just want to shut down. I meet Dr. E. who will perform the surgery. The anesthesiologist banters with Dr. E. and I joke with them to keep from losing it. I suddenly feel sick and black out. They have to stabilize me and I feel like I’m not going to make it. Finally they let Kai in and he looks like he’s thinking the same thing. We try to joke but I’m so out of it I know I’m not up to my usual level of wit. They start the surgery and I hear Dr. E. say they may have to cut the other way because of the way the baby is wedged in there. Since they had already made the normal bikini line cut, I got very freaked out and threw up all over myself yet again. Kai saw more than he wanted to because the curtain didn’t go high enough to keep it from him.
2:40 pm Dex Noah is born. 7 pounds 8 ounces. 20 inches long.
It took several nurses and interns to get the baby out because of his position. I hear him cry but everything goes black. I keep hearing people talking and try to tell Kai to go with the baby. I wonder if this is it and am just glad the baby is crying. I feel a burning in my arm and open my eyes and see Kai with our baby watching him get poked and prodded. Something is wrong and I’m bleeding more than usual. Kai brings the baby over and I get to see him and I try to talk but can’t quite get the words out. I get to kiss his little head before they take him away. The nurses grab Kai and pull him from the room. He doesn’t want to go but we had talked about possible situations before and he knew I wanted him to stay with the baby. I black out again and when I come to they have the bleeding under control and I hear Dr. E. telling the interns about my ‘remarkable ovaries’. Apparently I have beautiful internal lady parts. I get more shots and more drugs in my IV before they finally take me to the LDR room we started in. I see Kai’s parents there and see them smiling and talking to me but I don’t recognize them. I tell the nurse I think they are in the wrong room. Sorry Mike and Jacquie. I think I was a little out of it. They hook me up to more monitors and wait until I’m stable before letting me hold the baby. I barely remember them setting the baby next to me in the bed but I will never forget my first real look at the baby. He was wide awake and looked perfect. I was pretty sure they had taken me to the wrong room. Our baby shouldn’t have a full head of brown hair and be so beautiful. They took him away too soon but Kai got to hold him for a long time and sit next to me.
April 23rd – April 25th
Lots more drama for me. I have nightmares about the delivery and can’t sleep most nights while we are at the hospital. I am too tired from the long labor and blood loss to talk to anyone. I have a lot of fluid retention because of all they had to give me before, during, and after the surgery. Kai is the go between for all family members. Some of the nurses make me feel like I am doing everything wrong. I hate the night because that’s when those nurses work. The day nurses are all great and supportive and watch our stats carefully. They answer our questions and don’t make us feel stupid for asking.
April 25th – June 23rd
Dex is jaundice so we get sent home with a BiliBlanket for a week. By his next checkup he’s ok. We have several appointments that first week for both myself and Dex. We moved. I graduated. Kai got burned on a job. Dex got blessed at church. I started work at NMC. I quit job at NMC after one week. We both go to interviews. I get a job at HFS. I’m not sure it will work out but I’m trying. I’m having a hard time dealing with everything that’s happened in the past 2 months and don’t want to be away from Dex. Dex is diagnosed with Milk Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI). First step cut out milk proteins from my diet so they won’t be passed through the breastmilk. He’s still a little fussy/screamy after every feeding so next step is to cut out soy proteins. If that doesn’t work we go to a Pediatric GI specialist to have tests run. Possibly start formula. It’s all worth it.
What I learned later about certain aspects of my labor and delivery is still raw 5 years later. I have tried writing this down several times but I still just can’t get it out quite right. I’ll also share some pertinent links with evidence based information.
Some Things I Wish I’d Known/What I Learned Later:
- Dilation and effacement aren’t the only signs of labor that are important. A combination of position, consistency, effacement, dilation, and fetal station all combine to show your progress. And 40 weeks is your estimated due date. anywhere between 37-42 weeks is full term.
- My water hadn’t really broke. I had a forebag which had a leak (this actually also happened with Gus with my forebag rupturing on Monday and my water breaking on Friday and Gus being born on Sunday). When Dr. O. gave me a pelvic exam and retested the strip I wasn’t aware that she broke my water without my consent. In a meeting later she admitted that she didn’t think to ask because we were 39 weeks and at the hospital already thinking I was in labor. She didn’t think we’d mind. We had discussed not wanting induction several times throughout the pregnancy. If we had known it was just my forebag we would have gone home to wait for labor to actually begin.
- I thought I was ready for labor. I thought just knowing that countless women give birth naturally and just wanting to would be enough preparation for a natural birth. I didn’t realize how much fear and blind trust would interfere with my labor. I didn’t realize that child-birth really is a business and that sometimes there are common practices in place that are not in the best interest of mothers and babies.
- I didn’t know how long a normal labor lasts. I thought I had a really long labor but it was actually pretty short. We had taken the birth class offered at the hospital and were told that anything over 12 hours is considered failure to progress and if I didn’t have the baby by the 24 hour mark then I would most likely have a c-section to be sure baby and I both survived. I remember the nurses telling me how lucky I was the Dr. O. was willing to let me go past that 12 hour point. Please see this Evidence Based Birth information for “Failure to Progress.”
- The early stage of labor can last a really long time. It’s best to do this stage at home where you can eat and drink and move around freely and without the stress being in the hospital can bring. I went in and had my water broke without my consent and started labor from scratch. I hadn’t eaten since lunchtime and I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything after we were checked into the hospital. I went more than 24 hours without eating or drinking, doing the hardest work I’ve ever had to do. Not brilliant. More evidence based info on eating and drinking during labor. Typically doctors will tell you to come to the hospital when your contractions are 5 minutes apart, each lasting for 1 minute, for 1 hour (5-1-1). Our birth class with Gus suggested waiting until closer to 3-1-1 or 4-1-1 so we didn’t arrive at the hospital waaay too early.
- Being in water can really help with labor pains which is why I was so excited to be granted permission to get in the tub when I was having contractions 5 minutes apart. But I had to get out in order to be hooked up to the fetal monitor instead of them coming to me in the tub and doing intermittent fetal monitoring where I was most comfortable.
- According to the inquiry later, the fetal monitor they were using was defective and was giving incorrect readings when it would pick up anything at all. That’s why they kept me in bed longer than the 30 minutes we were told and why alarms kept going off. It would have been simple to swap it out for a working one but no one thought to check until after I was out of surgery. I was strapped to a bed and told not to move during the worst part of labor. Having now been through this stage of labor with Gus I can’t believe how long I held out before having the epidural. It was torture and made the pain of labor so much worse than it should have been. Here is some information about continuous fetal monitoring. It is not an evidence based practice regardless of the fact that the monitor used for me was defective.
- Dex was head down but ‘sunny-side up’ which can mean intense back labor. Laboring in bed instead of being able to move around and listen to my body most likely prevented him from ever being able to move into a better position. Because of the position I had to maintain for most of labor Dex ended up stuck and unable to move down. Because of the later use of Pitocin he became very stressed and we did indeed need an emergency cesarean.
- I got the epidural before I was in active labor which increases the risk of having a cesarean. New ACOG guidelines set active labor at 6 cm dilated instead of the 4 cm previously considered active labor. They also suggest letting labor progress longer without interventions and to allow for longer pushing stage.
- Having an epidural obviously can make pushing more difficult since you can’t feel anything. My pushing was ineffective due to the epidural, the defective monitor, and it can take a little while to get the hang of it.
- I already knew I wanted to avoid Pitocin but our doctor said we didn’t have a choice if we wanted to have a healthy baby. When I received my medical records and had our new doctor review them we learned that I was given far more Pitocin than was safe. We also learned that the added stress is what most likely caused me to code on the surgery table (which was why Kai was rushed from the room right before I ‘blacked out’).
- One of the nurses was new and didn’t know how to turn the epidural back on. I was left in the care of the intern while Dr. O. was with the other laboring mother. I was having intense Pitocin induced contractions for almost 2 hours before someone else figured out that the epidural was never turned back on.
- I was given extra fluid because of the blood loss (it was so much they debated doing a hysterectomy but were able to stop the bleeding) but it was double what I should have received which caused more problems.
- I passed several softball sized clots in the days after the surgery but was told by nurses that it was normal and I shouldn’t come back in. When I mentioned it at our week check up for Dex we were rushed to ultrasound to make sure I wasn’t hemorrhaging.
- Dex was jaundice after birth and this is pretty typical for labors involving Pitocin.
- It’s been 5 years and I still have nightmares. I had Veda 15 months after Dex was born and that repeat c-section caused even more trauma and emotional distress.
I wish I had read normal birth stories. I wish I had stayed away from shows like Birth Story. I wish there had been more than 1 person in my life who had had a normal birth. I wish I had researched labor and birth as much as I did every rare and far-fetched thing that could go wrong in pregnancy. I wish my doctor had used evidence based practices. I wish Kai didn’t have to wonder if he would lose me on what should have been the happiest day of our lives. I wish I didn’t feel like I was robbed of precious moments. I wish this wasn’t how I remembered becoming a mother. I wish I didn’t resent my in-laws for being able to hold Dex before I got to. I wish I had been empowered and treated with respect.
My story isn’t uncommon. In fact it’s pretty typical for birth in this country. When I confronted the hospital about some of the things we had learned the representative told me that aside from a few mistakes and malfunctioning equipment Dex’s birth was considered normal. A labor induced without consent, practices that are not evidence based, interventions leading to an emergency situation that very nearly killed 2 people… normal.
I’m thankful I learned the truth. I’m thankful I learned a lot about myself and my own strength. I’m thankful for the health of my two cesarean birth babies and being alive to see them grow. The knowledge that Dex’s cesarean birth was an entirely preventable emergency. That Veda’s cesarean birth could have been a VBAC. That you have to stand up for yourself and be your own advocate. That you have to ask questions and be prepared to make informed choices. That my body wasn’t broken. That I could bring life safely into this world by trusting my body and surrounding myself with professionals who I could trust, who used evidence based practices to ensure my success. I’m thankful for my husband. I’m thankful he kept us going in the dark months after Dex was born and the years it has taken us to recover from those traumas. I’m thankful he trusted me and encouraged me and empowered me everyday. I’m thankful that because of the example of others I can share my story and encourage other women to become informed. To empower themselves. To stand up and improve birth for our generation and our future generations.
Please contact me if you need resources to find the best evidence based care options for you, information on how I prepared for my natural vaginal birth after 2 cesareans (VBA2C), or if you’d like to help improve birth for other women.