Cesarean Birth Trauma and then VBAC {2 Stories}

by mamabearbri on May 15, 2014

My first birth C-section and disrespect.

I never doubted my body’s ability to give birth. I guess that is why I didn’t think I needed to research my birth options. My mother gave birth vaginally, her mother, my other grandmother had 10 children vaginally, all the way back to my great great grandmother who had six sets of twins vaginally on a Cherokee reservation. My first pregnancy was stressful but I had a great doctor who assured me all would be ok.

Unfortunately, circumstances beyond our control, we had to a move 5 hours away at 32 weeks. That’s where any “birth plan” I had went out the window.  The only doctor I found who would see me obviously had no faith in me. I honestly believe when I walked in the door he saw a very petite woman and thought C-SECTION! The day before my 40 week appointment I had an ultrasound done and everything looked great.

However at my appointment the next day my doctor started scaring me by saying my placenta was depleting and becoming less safe for my baby and I needed to be induced the next day. My cervix was still hard and I wasn’t dilated. I asked if we could wait at least a week and was made to feel like I had just asked the stupidest question on earth “but your placenta is DEPLETING!” I reluctantly agreed after he assured me that if the cervadil didn’t soften me enough we’d wait or try another round.

I went to the hospital that night and they started the cervadil.

6 am the next morning the Doctor came in to check me and said that I was “a little softer, but only dilated to a one”. He then proceeded to BREAK MY WATER. Pitocin was started at some point I can’t quite remember if that happened before or right after my water was broken. The next few hours were hell. The doctor had the largest hands I’ve ever seen on any human and he HURT me so bad every time he came in to “check me” I asked tearfully several times to let the nurses do it. After several hours of the pitocin being increased and increased I asked for some pain meds and eventually an epidural.

When I requested these I was again made to feel stupid and incompetent as my doctor asked “why did you wait? You just wanted to know what pain feels like?” The epidural was terrible. I couldn’t move from the chest down and started having panic attacks. I was also almost given phenergan twice, which I am severely allergic to. I am so lucky my husband was so vigilant and asked what they were giving me every time they came in to give me anything.

Almost twelve hours in my doctor came in and started pushing for a c-section. I said I didn’t want one and that’s when he pulled out all the stops telling me “your baby will go into distress”, “fine don’t do one now but I’ll just be back in an hour or so rushing you in for an emergency c-section” and the real kicker “I have been doing this a long time and I know when a woman isn’t meant to give birth, you’re just too small”.

Feeling beat down and like my body was betraying me I agreed. Strapped down and feeling broken I welcomed my beautiful daughter into the world. They brought her over to see me for a brief second and my husband was able to hold her and go with her to the nursery. Laying there being stitched up I cried. Not the beautiful happy cry it should have been. I felt terrible. My child was beautiful but I didn’t get to hold her and bond. I was not happy like I should be I was angry. I felt like a failure.

In the recovery room it only got worse. My nurse said something along the lines of, “I hope you didn’t want a big family” I asked what she meant and she said “well they will only allow you to have one or two more c-sections”.  I told her I would attempt a VBAC next time and she said, “not in this city you won’t”. Again I felt like a failure.

When I finally got to hold my baby several hours later I felt horrible because although she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen I didn’t feel any bond. She immediately wanted to breastfeed and was a total champ at it although my milk wasn’t completely in. Thankfully the bond came quickly over the next week and I thank breastfeeding and plenty of skin to skin time for that.

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My beautiful birth center VBAC and hospital stay

Within months of my first daughter’s birth I started doing my research on VBACs and birth choices. I knew what happened to me was wrong, but I wasn’t prepared for how common it was. I was told to check out “The Business of Being Born” and was shocked! How could the state of birth be so awful in OUR country? It was then that I decided my next birth would be with a midwife.

When we found out we were expecting our second baby we started the search for a midwife. One of my husband’s co-worker’s wife had recently had a VBAC with a midwife named, Joi, and only had wonderful things to say about her. When we met with Joi, I instantly knew she was the one for us. She shared our faith, spoke confidently, and put any fears we had at ease. I told her my birth story and she was as mad as I was and even got teary eyed with me. Immediately I had a sense of comfort and a new found confidence in myself.

Over the next few months I had my share of doubters and was even called selfish for wanting a better birth experience. I had to come to realize that those who were negative and rude, just didn’t know what I knew and so I started trying to educate others on the risks and benefits of each birth option. My confidence grew over these few months as well. I was more educated than ever and had wonderful support.

Thanks to a wonderful friend I was even able to attend the Birth Without Fear conference where I was encouraged and my spirit was strengthened. My team at the birth center was amazing as well. Joi and her backup midwife were wonderful as well as the student midwife Meghan who was the person I felt most comfortable texting with random questions.  I had no doubt that my team was there for me and believed in me.

We had everything planned out so well. My husband was going to get a bonus at just the right time to help us pay off the midwife, my best friend who does photography was going to come and photograph the birth, and my mom was going to be there to watch my daughter. However in the last few weeks of my pregnancy everything seemed to fall apart. Three weeks before my due date (and six weeks before Christmas) my husband not only didn’t get his bonus, but also had to take a 30% salary cut. My best friend wouldn’t be able to make it and my mother had to go out of town. I was very upset and stressed out, but Joi held my hand and assured me that it was in God’s hands and that whoever was meant to be at my birth would be there.

At 40 weeks 6 days I started having regular contractions. They would start out ten minutes apart and get closer to 3-5 minutes apart, but then they would stop for several hours. This went on for two days before I asked Joi if I could come in and be checked. I went in Thursday afternoon December 12th and I was dilated to a 3 and about 80% effaced. After my first birth experience I was so overcome with emotion when I found out how beautifully my body had progressed on it’s own.

I felt confident in my body, but I asked to have my membranes stripped at this point. It was an “intervention” I felt confident in having as it was my choice on my terms. My husband and I must’ve walked five miles that afternoon stopping every five minutes to breath through a contraction. The contractions continued to get closer together and stronger. Around 9:30 I called Meghan and told her that I thought this was it and was ready to come in. We agreed to meet at the birth center in an hour.

When we got to the birth center I was checked, and I was somewhere between a 4 and 5 and still 80% effaced. I had the option of going home to labor a little longer but decided to stay and get in the tub for a little while. My contractions were strong and I did low moans through them. As I labored it was just my husband Ryan and I.

I couldn’t have asked for a better support than my husband was. I didn’t want to be touched or coddled I just wanted him to hold my hand through the contractions. It was such an intimate experience and I was glad that it was just us, no cameras, no nurses, just us. About 1:30am I was checked again this time I was 5cm and 90% effaced. I decided to get in the bed and try to rest some. Joi told me to try just breathing through the contractions and not moaning. My husband got in the bed with me and held my hand with each wave.

After a while of being in the bed I could feel a change during the contractions.  The only way I can describe it is it felt like my water was trying to break. I kept saying to myself “these contractions are not stronger than me because they ARE me.” I decided to get on the birthing ball for a little while. The contractions were more intense now and I had lots of pressure on my lower back. Joi came in and showed Ryan how to apply counter pressure. I kept thinking this hurts but not too bad, but it’s going to get worse.

About 30 minutes after I got on the birth ball Joi came in to check me again. She looked at me after a minute and said, “sweetie I think you’re complete.”  I thought she meant completely effaced and my thought was “ok big deal,” but then I looked at Meghan’s face and she was smiling and excited. I looked at her puzzled and said, “wait, completely what?”  “Completely DILATED,” she said excited. I realized that sensation I was feeling during contractions was the urge to push. With the next strong contraction I started pushing.

A few pushes in I moved from the bed to a birthing stool which made pushing so much easier and more productive. Having both Joi and Meghan there pushing me and encouraging me was amazing. My husband sat behind me and gave me strength by just holding me. My water finally broke but there wasn’t the huge gush of fluid I had expected. Shortly after my water broke, Joi told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head. It suddenly became so real, I’m DOING this. I am pushing a baby out! I felt a rush of strength and with the next two pushes my baby was born at 4:38 am, Friday December 13, and immediately placed on my chest.

All the pain and anger from my oldest daughter’s birth was forgotten and healed in an instant. I couldn’t believe how smoothly it went, I never had a moment where I felt it was too much or I couldn’t do it.  I was on cloud nine. I did it! At some point I looked up and said something to the effect of, “suck on that, Dr. O.” I can’t describe how amazing I felt in those moments after she was born. I proved to my doubters, and more importantly to myself, that I could do it. Joi cried tears of joy with me and Ryan. She thanked ME for letting her be a part of my birth. That amazed me. What a difference in care. What a blessing.

Unfortunately a few days later I got very ill. I went to the ER with 103.5 temperature, and when I got there my heart rate was 150. We eventually found out I had a rare blood infection group a strep. There was no way of knowing how or when I got it and I was told I most likely was a carrier of it on my skin and it entered through an open wound during delivery. I could write a book on my terrifying hospital stay, but what is important is my husband and I were informed.

We asked questions. We made the doctors take their time to explain things and refused unnecessary procedures. They tried to tell us to send my baby home, but when pressed for why we should they couldn’t give us an answer so she stayed. They tried to tell me I should never give birth outside the hospital again, but when asked if they could have prevented this or caught it earlier they said no. They tried to tell me I put myself at a “great risk” for uterine rupture by having a VBAC, but backed down when I threw actual statistics their way. I stood up for myself and I believe I showed my strength.

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