Ever since my husband and I decided we wanted to have children together, I dreamt of a beautiful natural unmedicated birth. One with low lighting where I was playing soft, soothing music in the background, holding my husband’s hands and peacefully bringing our child into the world, one contraction at a time. All throughout my pregnancy I held on to that dream… hard. I did everything I could to naturally invite a spontaneous labor, but at 41 weeks I was induced. Twenty four hours later, I had an emergency c-section and finally met my sweet baby boy. I’m writing this in hopes to share with you why in spite of my hopes for a vaginal unmedicated birth, I’m not disappointed in how my labor and birth occurred and why it evolved into an emergency c-section.
When my husband and I learned we were pregnant I immediately sought out a doula. I knew that if I was going to have an unmedicated birth, it would help to have someone present with the knowledge and experience of birthing who could guide me through one of the hardest things I was ever going to endure. I met with my amazing doula, Aimee Roberts very early on in my pregnancy. Aimee has five children and has experienced several types of births including one that ended in a cesarean, one that included the use of an epidural, and of course an unmedicated birth. At the end of our first meeting she kindly offered that if I wanted to meet with and interview other local doulas that she could refer me to a few and to take my time in getting back to her. I told her right then and there that it wouldn’t be necessary. I knew I wanted her to be at my birth.
Aimee and her business partner, Christi Jones, lead a six week birthing class here in Virginia Beach that my husband and I decided to attend. I highly recommend a class of this nature to anyone who is expecting and if you’re not local to Virginia Beach, Aimee and Christi offer their class online through their site Birthinsightva.com. During the six weeks we learned how the body changes during pregnancy, how labor comes on, how to recognize it, and what to do when it happens. We also learned what is happening with your body during labor, different body positions to progress labor and the variables that can affect your labor and birth outcome. Most importantly we were educated on the different interventions that are commonly used during birth and why they are necessary. This was the most vital part of the class to me because nearly every intervention we learned about was used during my birth and had I not had any knowledge of these I would have been absolutely terrified to use them.
The weeks leading up to my due date I was diligent about bringing on a spontaneous labor. I had a feeling my sweet boy was going to come when he was good and ready, but I was still willing to try anything that was suggested to me in order to have him on time. I drank several cups of raspberry leaf tea every day, went on hour long walks, bounced on an exercise ball and even inserted evening primrose oil vaginally every night in an attempt to soften my cervix. Every now and then I would feel a tightening in my belly, but it was just Braxton-Hicks contractions, never the real thing. When I met with my Obgyn at 40 weeks and 3 days, she suggested an ultrasound to see how big the baby was. It measured baby boy to be 8 pounds and 12 ounces, which was quite large and meant that he would only be larger the longer I was pregnant. My doctor scheduled me to be induced that following Monday.
I spent the weekend praying for that spontaneous labor, but it never came. Instead, a cold came on pretty hard. We are talking stuffy nose, chills, headache, and a complete lack of energy. I called the hospital I was to deliver at the night before my induction to see if I could delay it by one day because I could not imagine giving birth while already feeling so awful. They instructed me to come in on time and have a non-stress test done on the baby. If it went well, they would send me home to rest and have me come back the following day. We followed instructions and luckily, the baby was reading healthy on the test and I was able to rest and recover all that Monday.
Tuesday morning at 8:00 am my husband and I checked in at the hospital for the induction. To say I was terrified would be an absolute understatement. I was so nervous I could barely eat breakfast that morning, although I wish I had because little did I know I wouldn’t be eating solid food again for more than 48 hours. We had a wonderful nurse who kindly comforted me through the beginnings of my induction. She was gentle putting in my IV and encouraged me to get plenty of rest throughout the day as she predicted the induction would be a lengthy process and I would want to save my energy.
The first step to my induction was a cervix softener. My doctor prescribed Misoprostil, which is a pill that is inserted vaginally and dissolves right up against the cervix. My doctor had previously warned me that we may have to repeat this process twice more if my cervix wasn’t softening, but luckily when I was checked 5 hours later, I had effaced a bit - from 30% to 80% and I was put on Pitocin at that time. The Pitocin dosage started out very low and I didn’t feel any of my contractions for quite some time. I tried to nap throughout the day, but it was nearly impossible as I was waiting for something to happen, to feel something, anything.
Slowly throughout the day as my contractions were being monitored, my nurse was raising my dose. By about 7:00 pm I was starting to feel my contractions and I decided to get out of bed and get on an exercise ball. I spoke with my doula over the phone and she agreed this was a great idea, that I should start laboring there to encourage the baby to move down into my pelvis, and to call her if things progressed. Within the next few hours, things progressed pretty slowly, the contractions steadily getting stronger and I was starting to moan and groan very low through them.
By about 10:30 pm, the contractions were coming in heavy sets with very little rest between, maybe 30 seconds. I was still laboring on the ball, but it wasn’t providing much comfort at this point. I couldn’t talk well and could barely catch my breath, and my nurse asked me several times if I was considering an epidural as things would not be improving for me at this point. I had my husband call my doula to see what her thoughts were. Because I was group beta strep positive, my nurses were advised not to check my dilation very often so I had no idea how much I had progressed at this point. But my doula agreed, an epidural would be wise.
Waiting for the epidural was one of the worst parts of my labor. I got back into bed and rode the waves of pain, which was all I could do. An epidural was not something I wanted, but I also could not continue to labor at this rate for hours upon hours. As soon as I received the epidural, I felt a ton of relief. Coincidentally my nurse checked my cervix a few minutes after and I had made it 8 cm. That made me feel accomplished.
My doctor called to speak with me at some point throughout the night to let me know she would definitely be present to deliver my baby but that the baby probably would not come before 7 am based on how I was progressing. At about 4:30 am my doctor arrived and decided to break my water. This was also the time I decided we should call my doula and let her know things would be progressing and it would be a good time for her to come. I was scared that breaking my water would hurt quite a bit as she explained to me that the process involved using a long hook, but it was actually the least painful thing of all. About 30 minutes later I got the incredible urge to push and I let my nurse know. She told me that it was probably just a bowel movement, but something told me different. The urge grew with each contraction to a point that I had no actual choice but to push, it was simply a natural impulse. A few minutes later my doctor appeared and checked my cervix. I was at 10 cm and was given the go ahead to push.
Right on cue, my doula, Aimee, appeared and immediately I was relieved to have her there. My husband held one leg while she held the other, and with each push she encouraged me in a way that no doctor or nurse could. Not even my husband. Her words were so motivating, yet so soft and comforting. She gently reminded me I was going to meet my baby, to push to meet my baby. It was exactly what I needed to hear at such a crucial time.
For the next two hours I continued to push. With each push I waited to hear things like “I can see his head!” or “You’re almost there!” But no one was saying anything of the sort and I was getting a little worried. I noticed my doctor and nurse were exchanging glances. My doctor had checked me to make sure I was using the right amount of pressure and pushing in the right place, and I was reassured that I was, but things were not progressing. I pushed a few more times, but my doctor said my baby’s head was coning and that she was worried about shoulder dystocia, which is what happens when the head makes it through, but one or both of the shoulders are stuck behind the pelvic bone. It was her recommendation that at this time we perform a c-section. I turned to Aimee to request her opinion and she agreed.
The next thirty or so minutes were the hardest times of my birth. I still had the incredible, if not more intense than ever, urge to push except this time I was told not to and that has got to be one of the hardest things for any human to do. Aimee held my hand while we waited for surgery and reminded me that I was going to be okay, to breathe through each contraction, and that I would meet my baby soon.
After I was wheeled into the operating room I was administered a spinal block and that’s when time sped up. I was told that if I felt like I was going to pass out or if I had any tingling in my hands to speak up. I think either being told these things when you’re already nervous about being cut open makes you imagine that you are actually feeling them, or I was actually feeling them! I mentioned this to the anesthesiologist and she checked my vitals and let me know that I was fine, to just breathe. I felt the pressure of each layer being cut open, but I didn't feel any pain. Lots of tugging, lots of pressure, but no actual pain. I was still having contractions and my baby’s head was pretty far down in my pelvis at this point, so they had a little trouble getting him out, but before I knew it they lowered the curtain in front of me and held up my sweet baby boy. My husband was in tears immediately, but I was just in shock. In shock that he was here, in shock that it had been such a long journey of a night to finally meet him, and also completely shocked that he looked just like me!
They immediately took him away to clean him up since he had swallowed a bit of maconium, which is a baby’s first bowel movement. He was a healthy baby boy who peed everywhere when they were weighing him, so he probably would have been a full 9 pounds, but because of that he weighed in at 8 pounds and 15 ounces. After he was clean and wrapped up, they put him on my chest for skin to skin and it was the most profound moment of my life.
It was not the labor I dreamt of and it was not the birth I imagined, but it brought my sweet boy into this world safely. I cannot imagine what would have happened had I been delivering in a third world country, or at a time before modern medicine existed. I feel so grateful to have had the tools and interventions used at my birth available. Without them I’m not sure that both myself and my sweet boy would be here today.