Scene: I am NINE days late, at my OB’s for the weekly check-up and faced with (what I realized now almost four years later) is the first of many hard decisions I will make as a mom. Do I induce (what we have been preparing to avoid for the last 10 weeks) or wait it out and hope to go into labor on my own (knowing my OB leaves in three days and my husband in a week and a half)?
Thankfully I have the world’s best OB. He sweet talked them into getting us in that afternoon and graciously forgave me for shoving my face with a pumpkin bagel & pumpkin cream cheese on my drive there.
Background story: Christopher and I took a 10-week Birth Bootcamp class to fill our birthing toolbox with the tools needed to successfully have a natural labor and delivery. Once again (in hindsight) I see myself learning yet another VERY important mom lesson: It doesn’t always go as you planned.
We got to the hospital, checked in, and I got hooked up to the telemetry monitor (a mobile monitor so I could move and groove through the baby-having party). IVs were put in after many attempts, and Baby J continued to show his stubbornness by avoiding being monitored for very long. I had a birth plan: a very detailed, printed in black-and-white birth plan.
On we go over the next 24 hours: Dr. J breaks my water (which I learned is not a gush and more a slow, torturous trickle), we watch Monday Night Football (49ers vs. Rams), and the NOLA krewe rolls in around midnight, right as I finally feel a contraction (the nurses kept waiting for this as my little screen kept showing some pretty intense things happening internally).
Into the night and our first 24 hours of no sleep we go. Around 2am, things get really intense, I get sick, I labor all over the room: the ball, the toilet, the ground; I want to be anywhere but the bed. Nothing good came from laboring there. At 2:45am, I was only 3cm dilated, 95% effaced and still -1 station. To say I felt defeated was an understatement. I was in awful pain. Pain that was not natural and came at the result of drugs. Drugs I did not want and never planned to have. I cried. Christopher and I were both emotional at this point. I felt like I was moving in slow motion and the finish line was miles away. The only reason I was surviving was because of the handsome green eyed boy I fell in love with when I was 16 years old. He worked with me through every contraction. He was using counter-pressure with tennis balls. I would not, could not, no way have made it through a second of any laboring without him. Everyone says that labor brings you closer and lets you learn more about each other.
Around 5:30am, Christopher’s work alarm goes off and gave us a deliriously fun little chuckle and I almost instantly felt the need to push. After shift changes and being checked, I FINALLY am told I am at a 9 and that it was time to get Dr. J there. Those were beautiful words that I honestly never thought I’d hear.
Dr. J shows up at 7:35 straight from the gym, sweaty clothes and all, it made me love him even more! So for two hours I push and push. I push in every position I can. Baby J’s head is right there but keeps going right back in. Everyone keeps saying, “You’re doing amazing and couldn’t be better at pushing.” But all I want to hear is, “He is here!”
I will always remember hearing Dr. J say, “Something is keeping him from coming out.” At this point he doesn’t know if it is the baby’s head, my surgically repaired hip, or the way the baby is positioned. I have a feeling it is not his position because he has been in perfect position. Dr. J can’t check the position without an epidural because it would be too painful, and the baby’s head is too swollen to see his ears and tell if his chin is down or up.
Dr. J mentions an epidural. So once again we are faced with another thing we did not want in our labor and delivery and something we did not plan for. Christopher says looking back he is pretty sure Dr. J knew that I would need a C-section, but he also knew how strong willed I was and that I wasn’t going to willingly consent until I had gotten to try everything possible! I am again eternally grateful to him for the constant support.
Before they get the epidural going, I ask if I can brush my teeth and wash my face. After being checked, we learn that everything is perfect and the baby has been in the optimal position the whole time. It is in fact my pelvis that is keeping him from coming out… My body. My amazing body that grew this incredible tiny human is what is not allowing my sweet baby boy out. I could have chosen to feel betrayed, but I decided that would do nothing good. So we pushed for another 40 minutes, and nothing changed. I had to have oxygen and sit out a few contractions because his oxygen was not as good as they wanted. He was never actually in distress, just getting pretty exhausted.
So the dreaded end game that we all knew was a possibility is thrown on the table: a C-section. Everyone could not be more amazing, they kept reminding me that this is not a failure. I have been strong, I have done everything I could. And I need to be okay with this (another lesson I learn in hindsight). Chris and I both cry, then I enter a stage of surrealness – numbness even. I knew that at the end of this, I would have my baby and he would be okay. I knew that I really did do everything I could, I knew that my doctor and nurses were incredible, and I knew I had the most wonderful support system in my husband and our family. But I couldn’t help myself, I still went into a state of this is what I didn’t want, but I need to be okay with it. I need to be okay with it. I wish it was as easy as saying those seven words. I was going to do it, but I was not okay with it.
Off to the OR we went. I was shaking; they said it was the epidural. My teeth were clattering. Christopher had to spend the whole time massaging my jaw because it hurt so badly.
To say that the whole process of having a C-section was wild; well…it was wild. I could never really communicate how I felt lying there being cut into, then hearing my baby cry. I couldn’t see him, but I could hear him. I couldn’t feel him come out of my body, but I knew it happened (in seven short minutes). It was not the birth that I imagined. All I could think was I din’t want him to be alone. I wanted Chris to stay with him the whole time.
Chris came back to me to show me pictures he had taken on his phone. I couldn’t look, I just wanted him to be with Harrison, to make sure that Harrison knew he was safe. That I was so sorry they were sticking things down his throat and up his nose. That is no way to come into this world. I was so grateful that he wouldn’t have any memories of his first days because they were traumatic to say the least.
So I lay there, still shaking. I knew I had a baby, but I didn’t feel like I had a baby. That may or may not make sense. I think because we had been planning for this natural birth with no medicine, it felt more dreamlike to have all the medicine flowing through me. We did do what we knew was best with a C-section – double suture for future vaginal success, and having Harrison brought to me as soon as possible. Fortunately, he never had to leave the room. So as far as a C-section goes everything went great.
However, Dr. J did inform me afterwards that he did double suture as I requested, but that the chances of me being able to have future vaginal births was slim. I had pushed so hard and so long that I ended up with two tears in my uterus. He repaired them both but if I were to try and push for future births, there was a very large chance my uterus would rupture. He also said he was pretty positive my pelvis was not going to allow for a vaginal birth. It happens, not often, but every once in a while a body comes along that just can’t accommodate having a baby vaginally. I just didn’t think it would be my body.
I am fortunate to say that my L & D with Harrison was the first hard-hitting mom lesson I learned. It took me weeks of having a dark cloud over my head to accept this lesson. But I am forever thankful I did. Being a mom is hard work and it almost never goes the way you want, BUT if you are able to step back and enjoy what is actually happening and not try to fight it, the ride is much more enjoyable. I could not appreciate those first weeks as a new mom because I was feeling so wronged by my birth story.
Until one day I held by baby and cried while my husband held me and cried and I realized that I needed to let go of this picture-perfect birth I wanted, because if I didn’t it would shape who I was as a mom and follow me through the years. I am so grateful that lesson settled on my heart because as a result of it I have three beautiful babies all born via C-section, and I am so thankful of each minute of their stories, including their births.