In honor of April being c-section awareness month, which until recently I didn’t even know was a thing, I decided to share my first birth story. It was intense and dramatic, less than ideal to say the least. I guess the courteous thing to do here now is post a trigger warning for others with less-than-ideal birth stories, traumatic deliveries or mamas-to-be that may just be a little anxious about giving birth. Okay, there you go.
My last few days of pregnancy
So, let’s go back to my good ol’ nurse complex. You know, the one that has everything under control and expects everything to go as planned? Well let me just say that the universe had other plans for me. Thirty-eight-ish weeks into my pregnancy, the signs of labor started to show. I passed my mucus plug (google it if you don’t know what that is!) on Mother’s Day, but I knew it could be a few more days or even weeks before labor really started. I went on with the day normally and did my best to get to sleep that night.
Two in the morning comes around and I am woken up by a tightening feeling in my stomach. I shake it off and lay back down. Five minutes later, another tightening feeling, and five minutes after that, another one, and then another one. You can see where this is headed.
As that morning continued I gritted through contractions coming and going every five to ten minutes. After a couple of phone calls to the labor and delivery department, at 7:00 pm we decided it was time to go to triage. I was, in fact, having real contractions, but I wasn’t dilating. On top of that, Scar managed to turn and face forward, so with each contraction, her head was pressing up against my spine. This is known as back labor. And it is SO NOT COOL.
I gritted through another couple hours of contractions but after I got checked, I still wasn’t dilated enough to be admitted. I got a shot of morphine and they sent us home.
The next morning started out with less intense contractions that were really spaced apart. We were told in triage that the pain medicine would slow labor for a bit. But by the afternoon the contractions came back in full force. Around 4:00 pm I felt what I can only describe as a gush of fluid, and I figured my water finally broke. The contractions were still far apart, so we waited a couple more hours until we called triage.
We ended up going in around 8:00 pm and confirmed that my water broke. By 11:30 pm, I was getting an IV and labs drawn and settled into a labor and delivery room. As I was getting settled in, the nurse asked if I was interested in any pain medications. We initially decided that I would try to do it without any pain medications, but after laboring for two days, I was done.
They placed the epidural in the early morning and warned me again that the pain medications slow labor down. I received a medication called Pitocin to help progress my labor, but I got a decent amount of sleep overnight and I wasn’t feeling any pain. All of Wednesday was pretty much monitoring contractions and occasionally checking if I was dilated. By 8:00 pm, I was fully dilated, but Scar was still sitting a little high, so they decided to wait for her to move down a bit more.
By 8:30 pm the nurse checked my vital signs and of course, I start to spike a fever. I remember her saying something along the lines of, I know we said to wait a little longer but you have to start pushing now since you are developing a fever. Fever meant infection and they couldn’t wait any longer. It must have been a very busy night since I swear all the doctors, nurses and midwives were on some sort of rotation as I was trying to push Scar out.
After a couple hours of pushing, we weren’t making as much progress as they hoped. We gave it another go for one more hour and only then was she where she was supposed to be BEFORE I started pushing.
The turning point
I’m exhausted at this point, oxygen mask on full blast and then the nurses notice Scar’s heart rate dropping. I hear the team whispering in the corner about what to do next and then another woman walks in. It was the on-call surgeon. She looks me and then at the team with a look that was probably saying something like nope, not gonna happen. Scar needed to come out. Now. Before we even finished signing all the consents, Josef was getting suited up and I was being prepped for an emergency c-section.
Everything happened so fast, it’s kind of hard to remember how it all happened. I remember the anesthesiologist giving me a dose of something in my epidural to numb me as they were rolling me to the OR. I remember bright lights, machines, monitors beeping, and surgical instruments all around me as the medical team was working fast to deliver Scar safely. At 12:49 am on May 14, 2015, Scar was born.
She let out a small yelp and that was it. Is she okay? What’s going on? Why isn’t she crying? Apparently not only did she have the cord wrapped around her neck, but she also aspirated some meconium. Double yikes. The NICU nurses in the OR with us quickly went to work to suction her airway and get her breathing. After a few minutes she let out the loudest of cries and I knew she was okay. By then I was absolutely exhausted and borderline delusional, so I asked the anesthesiologist to knock me out. Those my were exact words. She advised me against it since she said I may not remember the delivery, but I decided to tap out.
Luckily Josef was still in the OR and was able to take some pictures for me to look back on. I remember waking up in the recovery room around 1:30 am with THE DRIEST mouth and throat ever. I could barely swallow and I remember asking repeatedly for water. In and out of sleep as the sedation was wearing off, we eventually got a postpartum room around 5:30 am.
The next few days and weeks as a new mom were something like a roller coaster. I had to learn how to breastfeed, console an inconsolable newborn, figure out how to get up and move with a healing incision in my abdomen, all with little to no sleep. I don’t know if it was adrenaline or just pure will power, but the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months. Now she’s a big sister about to turn 4 years old!
Having an unplanned, emergency C-Section is very scary, but I’m thankful that everything worked out in the end. I was given the option to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section) when planning for Max’s delivery, but Josef and I made the decision to schedule a repeat C-Section. The second time around was much easier in terms of the delivery process and healing. But of course we endured other complications that I wrote about in a couple of my previous blog posts.
After doing a bit of research for this post, I learned that the United States has one of the highest rates of c-sections. There are a lot of opinions and views around this and the month of April is dedicated to increasing awareness. There are various reasons for women having c-sections and they are often life-saving. Though I was not able to experience a “normal” birth, I am amazed of what my body has accomplished. My scars are a daily reminder of my crazy journey to motherhood. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.