The stories of my children’s births are both my worst and best day ever. My son was born February 26, 2011. I had wanted a natural childbirth, unfortunately that did not come close to what I got. I was called by my midwife on the 23rd, stating that she had concerns regarding some of my blood work and said that I would need to be induced that day. This is a moment I think of often and wish so much I could have acted differently. I was close to 42 weeks and was ready to be done, and so I said “okay”. I knew I should have asked what other options were available, but I didn’t. When we got to hospital my birth plan fell apart immediately. They let me know that my platelets were low and I would be unable to have an epidural. This wasn’t a big deal to me; I didn’t want an epidural anyway. I was dilated to a one and nothing seemed to help, my body and my baby were not ready.
The first day they tried Cervidil which did nothing. The second day they tried Cytotec which gave me some mild contractions the entire day. I was still excited at this point and couldn’t wait to meet my baby. I was not scared of birth; I couldn’t wait to take part in this amazing journey. Even though I was contracting, I wasn’t dilating. The next morning they gave my Pitocin. This is when my world fell around me. Two hours after receiving the drug I was in agony. I was unable to get through a contraction without vocalizing and I felt completely lost. I was not prepared for this. After hours of intense contractions with no relief my pain transitioned into suffering. I was begging for help, but no one could do anything. At one point I looked around the room and saw our midwife, nurse and my husband simply staring at me totally helpless. No one could help me, I was entirely alone in this room full of people. I continued this way for almost an entire day. I got to nine centimeters dilated and stayed there for hours. My hope was gone, I had done enough. I was ready. They took me in for a cesarean. Every part of me that makes me “Meghann” was gone. When I got up to go into the surgery room I didn’t say goodbye to my husband, the only thought running through my head was that the pain would be over soon. I cried knowing I would not be awake at the birth of my child because of my platelet levels, but needed help.
When I woke from surgery the full impact of what just happened hit me. I was stuck on the table and could not get up. I did not know one person in the room. Tears instantly began streaming down my face. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. All of my physical pain had turned into emotional pain. One of the nurses came over when she saw I was crying and asked what hurt. I told her I wanted my baby. “In just a few minutes.” I heard them tell me that for almost an hour while I waited to meet my son. I asked “what color eyes he had?”, “what color was his hair?”, “how much does he weigh?”. They told me, “I don’t know”. How much longer until I could meet him?! It was the worst time of my life, waiting and searching for my baby while I knew he was doing the same for me.
Finally they took me into our recovery room where my husband and my son were waiting for me. I remember them wheeling me down the hall, still lying in a bed. I could not stop crying. I saw family of other women who were likely having beautiful births waiting to meet their newest family member. They saw the look on my face and they no doubt knew that child birth did not always go that way. Once I was in the room I hurriedly looked from side to side asking where he was. My husband pointed to the bassinet in front of the bed. It was strange, but I felt like I could not have him, like he wasn’t mine, as if it would be inappropriate to ask them to give him to me. It was as if the hospital had more rights to him than I did at that moment. My husband went over and picked him up and put him in my arms. While I have read about difficulty attaching after a cesarean, this was not what happened. I felt instantly bonded to him, and did not let him go. I felt that I needed to protect him and make amends to him for what we had just experienced.
I can’t tell you how painful Jackson’s birth was. He was our first child and I missed everything. I missed his first breath, his first cry. I missed my husband meeting his son for the first time. I didn’t know if someone had bathed Jackson or not. I couldn’t answer simple questions in our baby book such as “Dad’s first words to his son”. Jackson was introduced to me by others, others who knew my son first. I should have been the first. This was never going to happen to me again.
When Jackson was 15 months old we learned I was pregnant with Audrey. A dark shadow hung over my pregnancy as I was told that my platelets would likely drop again. I went back to my midwife and she told me not to worry, that it would be different. I wouldn’t have to labor, I would come in for a scheduled cesarean. She gave me a concerned look when I said that I was going to VBAC.
My platelets were indeed dropping. I did everything I could to keep them up. Took an array of vitamins, ate huge amounts of organic fruits and vegetables. I scoured the internet for anything I could find on lifting platelet levels. I had to be awake for this birth. I knew that my success did not just depend on me, it also depended on the people I chose to support me. My husband and I chose to birth in a hospital, which meant I would need to find an OB, which was a little concerning to me. It was at this point that I realized how much women come together to help one another when needed. There was hidden in society a network of women who understood the meaning of birth and would fight to help one another succeed in achieving their desired birth. I spoke to doulas, midwives, women who had beautiful and horrific experiences. Over and over the same names came up, doctors to definitely check out and doctors to definitely avoid. I began interviewing those doctors and was feeling a bit hopeless. Then I finally found a one that I intuitively felt I could trust. He listened to me and seemed to understand in a way you would not think a man could, how much Jackson’s birth hurt. He vowed to help me. I also hired a wonderful doula that listened to Jackson’s birth story and knew my desire to witness my child’s birth. She helped me establish a birth plan for every possibility and stood beside me throughout my pregnancy and birth.
I went into labor with Audrey the night before her due date. My contractions began at just under four minutes apart, but were easily handled. After about two hours of labor I woke my husband up to let him know. He urged me to call the doctor’s office. I got the doctor on call, not my doctor. She said that I needed to come in and that I shouldn’t worry, if I’m not dilating she’ll just start me on Pitocin. I got off the phone with her and felt like I could not leave my house. Was this battle starting already? I called my doula. I felt grounded when I heard her voice. I remembered that I have the right to refuse any procedure, but that I would need to be strong.
We drove the hour drive on ice covered roads. When I got into my room the doctor came to check on me. She immediately said that she wanted to feel my stomach so she could measure the baby. She said that if the baby was too big she would know later not to use a vacuum. What? Why were we already discussing vacuums and babies that are too big? I knew I had to tell her no. I then had a contraction and it hurt. I thought to myself, if I’m strong enough to get through this contraction then I can tell a doctor no, and I did.
I asked about my platelet levels right away, they were high enough that no matter cesarean or vaginal, I was going to be awake! They told me this, but it didn’t really sink in. I could only concentrate on the contractions, nothing else. I began vocalizing like I did when Jackson was born and I was ready for relief. I opted for an epidural. Once it began to work was when my doula looked at me and said “You’re going to be awake”. Tears fell, happy tears. I had worked so hard and everything I had worked for was being realized.
My doctor came on a few hours later. His first words to me I’ll never forget, “Goal one met, you’re going to be awake”. I had been clear with him that while I desperately wanted a vaginal birth, it was more important that I was awake, it was of primary importance.
He checked me about an hour after he came in and I was fully dilated! I began to push but wasn’t making a lot of progress. He told me that my little girl was sunny side up. I worked and worked, and the pain was excruciating. Even though I had an epidural, I could feel my doctor attempting to stretch me to make room for my baby to change positions. I screamed through many of the contractions. I worked for over three hours and then consented to allow a vacuum to help her out. Looking back, this wasn’t what I planned, but I trusted my doctor and felt that he would not recommend anything that was not necessary.
An intense and indescribable pain, the hardest push I could muster, and then I heard the words, “Meghann, reach down and grab your baby”, and I did. I pulled her onto my chest. I heard her cry, saw her first breath. I was the first to hold her. I kissed her and told her I loved her. I saw my husband meet her. Nothing happened to her without my consent. She did not leave my arms unless it was to go into my husband’s.
This picture that you see is not simply me meeting my daughter; it’s a moment I knew I could miss. It’s a moment I missed with her brother. It was the most precious moment of my life. It was something that is entirely indescribable. Since her birth I still feel as though oxytocin is cursing through my body. I feel so empowered, so strong. I am capable of anything! To be a woman is truly an unbelievable gift.