When I first found out I was pregnant, I knew immediately that I wanted a natural, drug free birthing experience. Months leading up to the birth, I was reading birthing books and articles, Mike (my husband) and I practiced labor positions and relaxation techniques and I felt like I could totally tackled this labor like it was nothing more than a tough yoga class. I was empowered by the idea of having a natural labor and delivery, as all of my family, friends and coworkers would tell you. I wrote a detailed birth plan that I read and re-read for weeks to make sure it covered everything I wanted. My OB and I had talked about alternative delivery positions, since we both agreed delivering while laying on my back would be too uncomfortable for me. (I have an “S” curve case of scoliosis, so we were avoiding being on my back for too long.) I knew it wouldn’t be easy and it would be painful, but I was ready. All that was left was to wait for “D” day.
Around 1:00 am on November 16th, 2014, I woke up for the 100th time to use the bathroom. I noticed a heavier discharge than normal. I couldn’t decide if it was that or if I had peed myself. I changed my bottoms and attempted to go back to sleep. After a couple of hours, I noticed I was still wetting myself and had gone through 2 pairs of underwear. I had just turned 37 weeks, so I started to suspect my water had broken and was slowly leaking. I woke Mike and told him I thought my water broke. He sat up with me for a few minutes, when I started feeling mild cramps. My heart sank…even though I was considered full term, my baby could still have issues and require treatment in the NICU. But, I knew there was no going back. I grabbed a quick shower while Mike finished packing my hospital bag, we grabbed my exercise ball and pillow and headed for the hospital. At 7:00 am it was confirmed that my water had broken…and so it began.
They gave me my initial exam to find that I wasn’t dilated at all…I wasn’t even fully effaced. Dr. Bent (my very patient OB) wanted to fulfil my wish of a drug free labor, so we waited to see if dilation would occur naturally. To make matters complicated, I wasn’t allowed to leave the bed. At all. There was a risk that I could get an infection or have a prolapsed cord, so I also had to labor in bed and use a bed pan. Awesome!
By noon, I still wasn’t fully effaced and I hadn’t dilated one centimeter. The clock was ticking since my water broke first, so they recommended Cytotec, which thins the cervix. I took two of those pills over seven hours and by the end was barely dilated 1 cm. The pill also gave me off the chart contractions every 90 seconds and my body just wasn’t responding. My OB said my water broke before my birth canal was ready, so my body was basically in shock. And because of this he said that the pain I was feeling during my contractions were four times worse than what the average woman feels during labor. Holy cow! By this point, I’d been in labor for 14 hours and was dilated 1 cm. I started to shake uncontrollably in between contractions, vomit, and my blood pressure was unstable, so I was given a sedative to relax my body. It was during this time I decided I needed an epidural.
The epidural was awesome. It didn’t hurt and I was able to relax and get some rest.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get rest for long…I had some serious complications just ahead of me. Shortly after my epidural, my long and severe contractions stopped completely. After trying to monitor my contractions for an hour, it was evident I needed an internal catheter to monitor them. Then all hell broke loose. As the nurse was trying to insert the catheter, I felt a huge, warm gush and the nurse jumped back and turned white. She shot a glance at Mike then looked back down. She told me to not move one inch until the doctor came in to examine me. Mike followed her out of the room to ask what the was going on and she explained to him that I was losing a lot of blood – way more than normal – plus I had a lot of bloody clots, which was concerning to them. She said the way it looked my placenta ruptured and if that was the case then I would need an emergency C section.
Dr. Bent came in and examined me, then watched the baby’s heartbeat for a few minutes. Her vitals were fine, so it could not be a ruptured placenta he said. I Probably just popped a vein in my cervex or placenta. They decided to put me on pitocin, much to my dismay, but I was getting desperate. I was only hooked up to it for three minutes. As soon as they started the pitocin, my baby’s heartbeat dropped dangerously low, so they took me off. After that, I felt the blood drain from my face. My blood pressure plummeted and my baby’s heartbeat was becoming irregular and eventually continued dropping with every small contraction I had. The nurse told me my baby would not be able to tolerate labor and since my blood pressure was so low a c-section was inevitable. I burst into tears. This labor was not at all what I had envisioned. I wanted to experience everything naturally and have a “normal” birth and now none of what I had planned will happen. I might as well have burned that birth plan as I entered the hospital doors. I felt like a failure.
My doctor was in the OR with another patient, so I was told I had an hour before my c-section (about 10:40PM). I was told to relax – easier said than done. My husband would later tell me that at this point, he thought only one of us was going to make it out alive as my baby’s heartbeat was growing slower and slower and I was on oxygen and becoming lethargic.
During this hour, I started feeling increased pressure in my lower back. No matter how hard Mike massaged, it would not go away. It progressively became worse. I finally told the nurse and she assured me the baby’s head probably dropped, so I shouldn’t be concerned. Then it became unbearable and I convinced her to check me. When she examined me, she was floored. I’d been barely 1 cm for well over 19 hours and now I was 5 cm. She called the doctor and he said since I’m progressing naturally to see how far I go before he’s out of the OR. By the time he came into the room, only 30 minutes later, I was at 8, almost 9 cm. It was time. The room was barely prepped for delivery and they had me pushing. She was coming fast and furious! I pushed six times and my sweet baby was here at 11:48 pm. (almost 21 hours of labor.) She was healthy and tolerated the delivery perfectly and as soon as I delivered her, my vitals all returned to normal. I was 30 minutes away from having a c-section when she decided she was finally ready to greet us. I was exhausted – physically and mentally. But all that mattered was she was here and healthy and I had made it through one of the toughest events in my life.
Two weeks passed and I started feeling guilty for getting the epidural and sedative, which I didn’t regret it at the time because I was exhausted and in an abnormal amount of pain. I felt weak for not pushing through the pain. I felt guilty because my body let me down, and more importantly, let my baby down. I was supposed to be the safe vessel for my child and the moment she needed me the most, my body shut down. I felt foolish for telling everyone I was going to have this grand, natural birth when in reality it was far from it.
In the two years since her birth, I’ve come to realize that I shouldn’t feel guilty about my labor experience. I did the best I could with the situation I was dealt. Things happen in life that are out of my control and I have to accept the fact that I had a somewhat complicated labor and I had to do what was right for my baby. In the end, my daughter is beautiful and healthy and that’s all that matters. My decision to have an epidural does not make me less of a mom or weak. Quite the contrary, because I’m a great mom, and I can endure more than I give myself credit for. Women are judged constantly for the decisions they make as moms. It doesn’t matter if I received an epidural and someone else had a natural birth. Just like it doesn’t matter is someone breastfeeds or formula feeds, or chooses to use a pacifier or not. We’re all in this journey together…not one parent gets every single thing right or perfect, but we all do the best we can with what we have. I mean, we brought life into this world and no matter how we chose to do it, the act is strong and beautiful and nothing to regret.
Submitted by Brandy B.