Note: In this series of posts I’ll explain my experience with the current maternity system and the reasons I personally believe that giving birth naturally is better for mothers and babies, medically, emotionally and spiritually. I am in no way looking down on mothers who choose to give birth using medication and medical interventions, nor do I claim that my experiences make me an undisputed authority on the subject. I hope that my story and realizations give others insight on what I see as the often unhealthy and unnecessary trend of medicating births in this country. If you’re preggers, definitely decide for yourself how you’d like to approach birth, but above all, educate yourself! Over and out.
Part I: Maggie’s Birth
My initial desire for Maggie’s birth was to do everything naturally. Vin and I did a lot of reading, relying especially on Dr. Bradley’s Husband Coached Childbirth for our training on how to get through labor. We also took a class at the hospital in which the nurse described labor as feeling like, “when you gotta take a huge poo.” Professionalism at its best. With that kind of education, we felt pretty prepared.
However, when the little darling was coming up on being a week late and our OB offered to induce, we decided to take matters into our own hands. We were so incredibly anxious to meet our little girl and, due to lack of research and lack of information supplied to us, thought that a medically induced labor would be just like natural labor. We saw no point in waiting any longer.
When we checked into the hospital on the night of the scheduled induction with our best friends, Jeff and Jen, by our sides, a “just in case” ultrasound revealed that our little girl, who had been head down for about a zilliondy weeks had, in fact, turned breech. So, we checked back out and did what any normal people would do…headed straight for our favorite restaurant to drown our sorrows in appetizers and molten cookies before heading home to attempt to sleep before going back to the hospital for a C-section the next morning.
We didn’t sleep much that night. Instead, we laid in bed at our apartment and imagined what a C-section must be like for a baby. We theorized that it’d be exactly like having the roof ripped off of our building and having a pair of giant hands grab us out of our nice warm bed then violently thrust us into a blindingly bright, cold, loud alien planet. Suffice it to say, I had weird dreams that night.
The next morning, we were whisked in to be prepped for the C-section. The word on the street on the L&D floor was that one of the residents was having some miraculous luck in turning breech babies around in utero, so we decided to prep for the surgery and then try to turn the baby since it’s a lot easier to get them to turn if mama’s can’t feel it.
While Vin was donning his hazmat suit, I was taken back to the operating room to get the epidural. This was, by far, one of the worst parts of the experience. I wasn’t allowed to have my husband with me and it took the anesthesiologist three attempts to get the epidural inserted correctly. Apparently my vertibrae are very close together. Also, one of the needles malfunctioned and, though it was inserted correctly, had no holes in it for the medicine to pass through. Just my luck. I kind of had an anxiety attack, but was very grateful to the sweetest, most wonderfully stereotypical Southern Baptist-y nurse who kept praying over me and assuring me that, “Praise God, we gonna have a blessed baby today!” She was so wonderful, as were her unsolicited prayers.
Once the epidural set in and my entire body was numb from the chest down, my OB and the good luck resident stood on either side of me and manually turned my baby around in my womb. Weirdest. Biz. Ever. I cannot imagine what that would feel like without an epidural but it pretty much resembled a scene from Alien or some such. Really, really, weird, yet successful, so there you go. After Mags was turned to the right position, we headed to a room to get the show on the road. That was approximately noon on March 26th.
When we got to the room, they started the Pitocin and we commenced to waiting. And waiting. And watching lame dog shows on Animal Planet. And talking. And my best friend, Britt, got there. And then she waited with us. And then my mom went to the Wal-Mart and bought me a house dress. And I pretended like I would wear it. (Sorry, Mama! It was very thoughtful…but it was also a house dress…)
And my legs kept falling off the bed and Vin had to manually put them back on the bed because I couldn’t move them myself. To this day he describes it as, “moving railroad ties.” Nice.
And then everybody had to go home for the night. Vin was forced to “sleep” on a “bed” while I tried to sleep. However, he kept falling off of said “bed” and I just ended up watching The Proposal, which I enjoyed far more than anticipated.
And then it was the morning of the 27th and we waited some more. And Jen was there hanging out. And then all of the waiting got to my mom and she started hypothesizing as to where she would hide in the room if an occasion arose in which she’d need to hide. And then we all silently thought about Anne Frank.
And then they broke my water while checking me for any signs of dilation, of which there were few, and discovered meconium n the fluid (Basically, Mags pooped in utero. How rude.) which meant that the NICU team would need to attend the birth just in case there were problems, which freaked me out a bit. And then we waited.
And then the epidural was wearing off so I felt like my entire body was in that stage of tingling like when your foot is just barely coming out of being asleep. And then my mom had to massage my butt because it hurt so bad.
Have I mentioned she’s absolutely wonderful? She’s absolutely wonderful.
And then Jeff showed up with Bush’s Chicken and I was really jealous because I wasn’t allowed to eat and he also had fried okra, which is pretty much the most delicious food on the planet.
At that point, things were getting pretty serious. I was slowly progressing but the epidural was quickly wearing off because it had been in so long so I was in a LOT of pain. After being checked and being told I was at a six or seven, I was really overwhelmed and asked everyone to leave. Unfortunately for my friends and family, they were already in the hallway in order to give me privacy and never got to come back into the room. Therefore, they had no phones and, more importantly, no Bush’s Chicken or fried okra. Mwuahahahaha! Suckers!!
Let me take this moment to tell you that Pitocin contractions are endless. They are strong. Very, very strong. They are unstoppable, coming one right on top of another unlike natural contractions which have a definite beginning, middle and end. Pitocin contractions just go and go and go. At this point, I still couldn’t completely move my legs so I was forced to lay on my back hour after hour enduring incredibly intense pain.
During this time the only thing that gave me much comfort was a wet washcloth on my eyes and being left the hell alone. It took everything in my power to remove that cloth to talk to the medical staff when they came to check on me. My poor sweet husband tried to do everything in his power to comfort me, everything we had practiced, everything a great labor coach would do. Unfortunately for him, I couldn’t stand to be touched. Apparently, I also couldn’t stand to have sweet things said to me, either. After giving me his best attempt at a nice thought to get me through labor and enduring my reply of, “Just shut the eff up!!!” in which I didn’t actually say, “eff,” he retreated to watching March Madness playoffs on TV which suited me just fine. (For the record, I legitimately didn’t think that I actually said that out loud. I seriously thought I only said it in my mind and it wasn’t until Maggie was about two weeks old that I found out the truth. Whoopsie!)
Eventually, what felt like an endless hell of a process finally progressed to pushing time. The masses assembled to attend the birth that I was a hundred percent certain was never going to happen. Not only did we have our OB, an observing resident, and a couple of nurses to assist, but remember that we had the NICU team hanging out as well, which made for a very crowded room. This was contrary to everything I’d read about keeping birth as private as possible in order to avoid stress to the mother, which can slow labor down. However, at that juncture, I would’ve welcomed any number of strangers into my vulnerable state if it meant that the whole ordeal would be over.
At this point we discovered that Maggie was not face down as babies are meant to be born, but rather face up. A nurse then explained to me that this was probably why I felt such terrible pain in my back. Thanks, Mags. We finally started pushing and, after going for an hour, which really isn’t all that bad in the big scheme of labors, I stopped feeling contractions and basically just kept pushing on my own until Margaret Rose came into the world around 8 pm on the 27th looking right at her daddy.
Oh, my stars, she was so incredibly worth every hour.
The final cherry on top of this experience was that the placenta didn’t detach from my uterus as it should have and instead ripped when I delivered it. My OB was forced to remove the remaining parts by hand and I’ll just leave it at that except to say that it was the Worst. Pain. Ever.
Meanwhile, Mags was checked out by the NICU team and was pronounced perfect. I do believe I heard the phrases, “clearly brilliant,” “obviously gifted,” and “by George, this is the most perfect baby we’ve ever seen!!” I’m fairly certain that wasn’t the drugs talking. While I was definitely excited to finally meet my daughter, I was surprised to find that I didn’t feel like crying or laughing or really displaying much emotion at all. Don’t get me wrong, I was incredibly happy that she was born, but what I didn’t know at the time was that Pitocin inhibits the body’s ability to produce oxytocin at the time of birth, the hormone that triggers all of those feelings of love and bonding.
I think that the lack of oxytocin and other important “love hormones” combined with the bone tiring length of the ordeal truly left me with very mixed emotions about my first birth experience. I was overjoyed to have my daughter in my arms and I was incredibly grateful to my husband for putting up with me. However, part of me was made to feel as if I should be incredibly grateful to have been in an environment where I could be “rescued” by the medical interventions that “got me through” labor. Another part of me was hung up on the gut feeling that things weren’t really supposed to go that way. While I have very little faith birth plans, I was desperately disappointed that things had turned out the way they did. I understood that Mags had been breech and even if we hadn’t induced, we might have ended up with a C-section. Obviously there’s no way to know what would’ve happened if we had decided against the induction, but I was always nagged by the thought that forcing nature’s hand just wasn’t the smartest thing to do.
When I found out I was pregnant with Lily, I was determined not to be tempted by the magic fixes offered by the maternity system and to wait for nature to take its course. Which is exactly what we did.
To be continued…