Powerful Labor, Gentle Cesarean, Breastfed on Operating Table

On Tuesday Sept. 25th, after two weeks of prodromal labor, I awoke just before 6 am with my bleeding and cramping. At that point, my surges became much more intense and more regular. I called the birth center, and my midwife Cathy G. was thrilled for me and told me to check in when things got more intense. That night around 11 pm, the surges really took off, and I labored all night on my own, finally waking my husband Frank at 4 am when I really needed his support. I knew this was finally happening for real.

I called the birth center at 6 am to find that Cathy had slept there knowing I was “going to go”. She told me to come in at 8 am to get checked. When I arrived, it was Katie who was now on call, and she checked me. I was only 1 centimeter dilated. Of course, I was disappointed because the surges were so intense, and I was having back labor as well. I went home to continue laboring, and at Katie’s suggestion I spent a lot of time on hands and knees to get the baby out of a slightly posterior position.

At 4 pm we went to the birth center to be checked again, as Frank had to go to work that night. I was deflated when I found out that I was 2 cm. I was sent home again, and Frank went to work. Thankfully, my friend Nina (who is a Doula), was with me to support me that evening.

At around 10 pm, I decided to take a shower to see if I could relax and get some sleep. The hot water felt amazing on my back, but when I got out of the shower, it all broke loose. I was in full-blown, undeniable labor. I called Katie and told her I was coming in. Nina and I went to the birth center, and when Katie checked me, I was still at 2 cm. I begged her to not send me home, and she agreed that I should stay there, get some IV fluids and use the birth ball to get the baby in better position. Frank arrived at around 1 am, and I felt like everything got easier with him there to put counter-pressure on my back, and to remind me to relax my jaw and my shoulders with each surge. Just his presence made me feel more relaxed.

Around 3 am, Katie checked me and told me I was progressing, so I requested to get in the tub. I labored in the tub for quite awhile, and Katie and the nurse prepped for the baby’s arrival. As the sun was coming up, I started to feel something in the pit of my stomach. Something was wrong. The surges were spacing farther apart, and the baby was not coming down. The next midwife, Cathy P., came in to start her shift at 8 am, and I got on the bed to be checked. She broke the news to me that I was still only 4 cm. I was heartbroken and confused. How could I only be this far along when I had been laboring for two days? She then told me her honest opinion that she felt I needed to transfer to the hospital for Pitocin and an epidural so I could sleep and progress. We were over 50 hours into natural labor, and we weren’t getting anywhere. I trusted Cathy’s instincts and made the heart-wrenching decision to transfer. I remember sitting on the toilet, Frank sitting on the edge of the birthing tub, both of us crying because we knew how much I wanted the natural delivery which wasn’t going to happen.

The hardest part of my labor was actually between the time I left the birthing center at 10 am and when I received the epidural at around 11 am. This hour was excruciating because I had mentally given up on the natural birth, and I was beyond exhausted. Thankfully, I had Frank, Nina, Cathy, and a wonderful labor and delivery nurse named Alice to support me. Once the epidural was administered, I was immediately comfortable and able to rest while the Pitocin did its work. I labored this way from 11 am until 5 am the next morning, with Cathy coming in every 2 hours to check me, and my beautiful angel of a nurse Alice regularly bringing me chicken broth, lemon ices, and vitamin waters to give me strength.

At 5 am, Cathy told me I was finally 10 cm dilated and fully thinned, so she directed me to start pushing. I pushed and pushed and pushed while getting feeling back in my legs and pelvis. When Cathy and Frank told me they could both see the baby’s head, my energy and determination were renewed. After 2 hours of pushing, Cathy told me she didn’t think I was making enough progress, that the baby wasn’t clearing the pelvis, and my pushes were getting weak. I begged her to let me keep working, so she agreed since the baby’s heart rate was fine. At 8 am, Cathy G. came in for her shift, and I asked her to let me keep pushing. I pushed for a total of 5 hours, in every imaginable position.

Cathy finally told me that her gut was telling her that it wasn’t his head coming down, but rather his head molding and creating the illusion of coming down. She broke the news to me that she thought a c-section was necessary now, and she earnestly said that she didn’t want to see an emergency situation. Again, I had to put my trust in the instincts of an experienced midwife. I grieved hard at this decision. I truly felt like my body let me down, and I felt like a failure. I would later learn that the baby was large (9 lbs 3 oz, 23 inches, and a 38 cm head) and also oblique, and his head had indeed been molding instead of coming down.

I tearfully told Cathy and Alice that I was mostly sad to not be getting the skin-to-skin contact with my baby with a c-section, to which Cathy said “Well, maybe you can”. She had a light in her eyes. She talked to the nurse, the attending OB, and the anesthesiologist and got them all on board with the plan that if the baby checked out okay, I could have skin-to-skin. Cathy told me to start calling for my baby once she gave me the ‘okay’ sign, explaining that she could not demand my baby be given to me. I had to do it.

Alice covered me with warm blankets, and I was wheeled into the icy operating room. I started laughing hysterically (or nervously) when suddenly there were, what seemed like, a dozen people fussing over me in the O.R., getting me hooked up and ready for surgery. Frank and Cathy then came in, and the operation started. I concentrated on relaxation breathing and Frank’s calming voice to combat the feeling of panic I could feel rising in my chest as they were cutting through the layers of my belly. I breathed slowly as I felt them pushing and pulling to get the baby out. When Franco cried loudly as they took him out of me, Frank and I both wailed in excitement and joy. It was done, and our baby was fine.

A few minutes later, Cathy told me the baby was ready. I started calling out “Where’s my baby?! Bring me my baby! I want my baby!” They brought him to me, and I will never forget the look of recognition when he was placed next to my face and I began talking to him. He was wide-awake and alert!

I threw the blankets off, and Frank and Cathy put Franco on my chest, skin-to-skin. With their help, Franco was held in place and latched on immediately. I was nursing him while my gut was filleted open with my organs outside my body during the repair part of the surgery! I found out later that this was the first time this has ever happened at our hospital.

After a bit, I started to get very woozy and felt I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. The labor and ensuing surgery were finally taking their toll. Frank took the baby (and had his own skin-to-skin time in the OR!), and all of us went to recovery together.

I was in and out of consciousness and shaking uncontrollably, but Cathy once again put Franco on my breast and helped him nurse. I recall her saying “Look at all that great colostrum!” as she squeezed my breast to prepare it for latching. In my fog, I was completely frustrated that I couldn’t participate in the experience the way I wanted to, but my heart was leaping for joy knowing I wasn’t going to be separated from my son and that he was getting what he needed at that moment. He was never taken to the nursery during the whole experience.

The recovery was difficult after over 75 hours of labor, 5 hours of pushing, and a c-section, and I have had to grieve the loss of the gentle birth I so wanted for my son, but I’ve learned that sometimes life hands you a difficult situation to teach you lessons about yourself. I am realizing that I didn’t let anyone down, and my body didn’t malfunction. It just happened this way. Cathy calls me a warrior after going through enough labor to birth 4 babies. In the end, I had to make a sacrifice to ensure the safe delivery of my son. I will always wish I could have had a different experience, and I have come to terms with that loss. And, of course, I have this beautiful, feisty, always-hungry baby boy to remind me that motherhood was the ultimate goal, no matter what twists and turns the path took.



  • Jackie

    What an incredibly beautiful experience. Mine were both rushed c-sections and both babies had to stay days in the NICU if I do have a third I want it to be like yours. I will request the baby stay by my side I think it would have made a difference. Congratulations!

  • Aela

    I’ve read this post three times today, and each time I’ve cried. It is so beautiful, and it gives me the hope that if I have to have a c-section, I won’t feel any less of a woman — or a mother. Thank you for this!

  • Kelly

    Wow, I cried reading that! I’ve had 2 c-sections which were not what I planned and while I grieved the birth experience I wanted, I could never be disappointed in the result – my 2 gorgeous boys.

  • Meghan

    Gallagher and Perisi? Love them!! That’s where I plan in delivering my third! Such wonderful and honest women. So glad she gave you the sign to demand your baby. I would have wanted the same. Congratulations to you and your family!

  • Jess

    “The hardest part of my labor was actually between the time I left the birthing center at 10 am and when I received the epidural at around 11 am. This hour was excruciating because I had mentally given up on the natural birth, and I was beyond exhausted.”

    these could have been words out of my mouth about my labor experience as well. (apart from the times – mine was from 7 to 9 while we waited to be prepped for surgery). My son also had a very large head (40cm).

    thank you for sharing!

  • Megan Casey

    Momma YOU ARE A WARRIOR!! WOW I cant imagine all that you went through. I hope you have made your peace because you truely truely DID ALL YOU COULD to give your son his peacful birth.
    And really from how Im reading it it was quite peacful. Had yo waited it would of been emergancy and he would of forcably been yanked from you in an extremly un peace like manner
    Congrats on your boy YOU DID IT

  • Andrea

    Mama, you are AMAZING! You gave 150% too that labor. I hope you find peace in that as you process your birth. But seriously, your baby has an awesome mama. Any woman who would do that for their child is just wonderful. I have similarities in my birth story, but on every level, you worked harder, went farther, sacrificed more, and made a difference on a bigger level. Happy Babymoon!

  • Sarah

    You are a warrior! I cannot even begin to imagine how you endured such a long and intense labor and pushing. But you did it. 😉 By sharing your birth story I know you’ll inspire others. They’ll get that precious skin-on-skin contact and be able to find their voice to demand they breastfeed immediately. Completely in awe of the amazing mother you are!

  • Audrey Egan

    Oh Mama, I know exactly how you felt/feel. I cried reading this as this is almost exactly what happened to me in January when my son, Emerson, was born! Thanks for sharing….reading your story gives me hope that maybe I am not “broken” after all :).

  • Bailey

    I love this story. If I do end up with a c-section, I would love for it to go this way. I want immediate skin to skin, immediate latching, and hopefully even delayed cord clamping.
    Of course I would rather have a vaginal delivery, but if for some reason I’m not able to, I hope this is the way it goes.
    I’m so sorry you didn’t get the birth you wanted, but you did an amazing job. 75 HOURS of labor. 75! You are a truly amazing woman, and I for one am very proud of you.

  • Fiona Aleksoska

    What a lovely story, you are a very strong woman for going on as long as you did and your right not to feel like a failour because you did the best you could and if you didn’t have a section things might of ended tragically for both you and your baby. Sometimes its nessesery.

    I had an emergancy section after 26 hours of labour with with first child. I was dissapointed as i wanted a natural birth but i got to 8 cm and didn’t progress at all for over 10 hours after they did everything they could to get me going again. I was still feeling painful contractions but they had become irregular and weaker and weren’t having any effect. Luckily in Scotland they don’t separate mother and baby unless they need medical attention so when she came out they held her up to show me then cleand her up and one of the midwifes helped hold her on my chest so i could see her. She was then given to my husband while they sorted me out and they wheeled me back with my husband carrying the baby into the recovary room. Once there she was put on my chest for skin to skin contact and to start breastfeeding. She stayed in a crib beside my bed the whole time and the midwifes were wonderful at helping me with breastfeeding.

    With my son i wanted a home birth to avoid another secerian and i bought my own birthing pool and everything, as i wasn’t able to use the pool at the hospital with my first so this way i would definetly get what i wanted. I laboured all day in the pool and was pushing for 2 hours but my waters hadn’t broken and i was pushing the amniotic sac down and could feel it comming out which was very distressing. It was getting too much for me and i wanted an epidural for the pain which ment transfering to hospital, but at that point i didn’t care i just wanted the pain to stop. The ambulance journey to hospital was horriffic! I thought, and so did the midwives, that he was going to be born in the ambulance! Luckily i made it, got examined and my waters broke and they gave me the epidural which was utter bliss! I was told to stop pushing for 20miin, which was nearly impossible to do, because he needed to turn a bit to get out. Then they doctor came back and i started to push again and they used the vontouse and helped pull him out in 2 pushes.This all happened within the hour of getting to the hospital. He was put right on my chest but i hemmoraged and lost a lot of blood, i felt all dizzy and they made me sign somthing and had to take me to the OR because my placenta was stuck. My husband was left pannicing to himself with the baby. They put the mask over my face to knock me out then i woke up next to my husband holding our son. I had to get a blood transfusion and they kept me in over night but once the transfusion was finnished i got up and had a shower and got dressed and demanded to go home. My son was breastfeeding well and we were both doing well so they let us go home. My labour with my son lasted 8 hours and even though it was a bit hairy for me after he came out, it was still a million times better than my first labour. I got to do it naturally, i felt such a relief of ‘yes, i did it!’. And hopfully the 3rd with be even better! 🙂

  • Rachel

    I loved reading your story! It hit very close to home to me. With my first I had a 50+ labor too, that also ended in c-section. I gave birth overseas in Taiwan where I was living at the time. When they pulled my baby out, I also demanded to have skin-to-skin immediately. I was shouting, “I want him now!” The staff was SHOCKED. I really don’t think that had ever happened before. When they promised me before the surgery that I could have him right away, they actually meant that they would wheel over the pram and allow me to touch his hand. Obviously to me that was not “having him”. Well, I kept demanding until they put him on my chest, which they finally did in a state of confusion. 🙂 Breastfeeding while being stitched up was a blessing because it took all the pain away! Congrats to you mama!

  • Erin I

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. As I am preparing for my first baby I keep hearing so many scary stories of c-sections and why they are bad. I want to go in planning for a natural birth, but I don’t want to be scared of anything that could happen that day. Thank you for sharing how you got skin-to-skin time. You are an amazing, strong mother!

  • Melissa @ Bless This Mess

    LOVE this story. My first was a c-section and this brought back all that fear, pain, and cold. I’m so sorry you weren’t able to birth the way you planned, but thank heavens you have a healthy little man in the end. I’ve VBACed twice now though, so there is still hope 🙂 And you’ll always have your warrior scar too. I love mine…

  • Jill

    Wow, I have tears for your strength. What a wonderful story. C- secs are not always what we fear them to be. Such a wonderful team you had. So happy that you have your happy healthy boy.

  • Jean Taylor

    I am sitting here crying as I read your story of determination. I don’t know you, but I am so proud of you. All the best to you and your family.

  • Lauren

    Thank you so much for sharing. This sounds almost exactly like my labor and birth of my daughter…except we did not get skin to skin immediately. I was in such a haze I didn’t even think to ask 🙁 We had hoped for a home birth and ended up with a cesarean. I struggle a lot with feeling like I failed somehow. Reading your birth story reminds me of how hard I did work to bring my daughter into the world. We ARE warriors 🙂

  • Janet

    Thank-you so much for writing this story down. The story of the long labour, posterior baby, hours of pushing and then eventual section are uncanilly similar to the birth of my second son just over a year ago. I LOVE that we are warriors (us and our brave, stubborn little ones who withstood all that and STILL did not turn!!), not cowards, not unable to birth “properly”, not dismepowered, not any of the other things I have felf over the past year but WARRIORS. Thank-you.

  • Alana

    What an effort!!!! Wow! Thank you for sharing and letting others know that not birthing ‘naturally’ is not a failure or a weakness. My first baby stopped moving into the pelvis at about 4-6 weeks before his due date. My body tried to start labour many times but couldn’t. I was induced with the gel and then water broken. My labour progressed quite quickly and manageable, but once fully dialted and ready to push my baby never moved down into the birth canal becasuse he was stuck. He was an anatomically big baby. My doctor and midwives avoided the c-section but my son was born with forceps. And they call them ‘forceps’ for a reason!!! He was so stuck and high that the Dr had sore arms/shoulders the next day from pulling so hard, not to mention the massive bruising, stitching and blood loss I experienced. There is no way I could have pushed him out on my own and they concluded it probably should have been a c-section. I get cross at people who parade their amazing resilience at persevering to birth naturally and put intervention down. Try pushing my baby out and you might change your mind. It took me months to get over that because of the blood loss and tissue damage, when a friend of mine who had a c-section was over it in 4 weeks. I have since had 3 very different labours and natural deliveries. Well done and maybe next time will be different for you. I always say that the hard work begins after birth, and that labour and delivery are only a day (or a few days in your case) out of your whole life with your child. Many women and their babies in centuries past would have died in your situation and they still do in other cultures. A lot of African women squat under trees and give birth on their own but a lot of them also die alone under those same trees- natural yes, but also avoidable. ‘Natural’ – what ever you define that as, is not always the best. Nature is not always nice.

  • Crystal

    I just wanted you to know how much this story has touched my heart! I had a very difficult labor as well that ended up in a csection and was mostly disappointed in not being able to have skin to skin. I have been so scared for our next pregnancy/labor just because of all the unknowns. This site and your story has given me a large amount of peace somehow. Thank you!

  • Mari

    This was exactly what I needed to read right now. 7 days ago I gave birth to my 3rd (and last) baby. I had planned for a home birth, but ended up in the hospital due to a placental abruption. I also had a placental abruption with my 2nd child. This last week I have been torn between being grateful for a healthy baby and grief over, yet another, “less than ideal” labor/birth. It’s a strange mix of emotions, this joy mixed with mourning, but I am thrilled to see that I am not alone, and that it is okay to feel this way.

  • Yanya

    This is a beautiful story, certainly one of my favorites. Despite you not having 100% the birth you wanted, you turned it positive and made the right choices for your son.

  • Rebekah

    I needed to read this. I have felt so saddened and isolated after my c-section, I needed to hear that it is ok to grieve for the loss of the natural birth I had hoped for and revel in the joy of my baby girl.

  • Trina O

    Your labor sounds like my first one, in the pushing stage mainly. I pushed for four hours and my oldest did NOT budge for ANYTHING, little stinker.

    Do NOT let anyone tell you that you’re not amazing. You gave it everything you had and more. Thank you for sharing!

  • Melissa

    I am one week postpartum and I cried reading this story. It is identical to what I went through last week. The only difference is that due to a hemorrhage, I was unable to hold my little one immediately. The last thing I remember is telling my husband to stay with her so she wouldn’t be alone. After that, I woke up in my room and this beautiful baby was at the foot of my bed. I got skin to skin quickly after that and she latched right on.

    I can’t tell you how much of a failure I felt when I was told it would be a cesarean birth. I grieved at that moment, and still do, to know my body was not capable of birthing her naturally. I am coming to terms with it each day though, and reading your story reinforces that it is ok it did not happen as planned. Thank you so much for sharing. As one to another, you are incredibly strong for enduring it.

  • Nici

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story with us all. I am feeling a lot better about the possibilities that could unfold with my upcoming third, and final, birthing experience that has been clouded by gestational diabetes and sleep apnea as well as “advanced maternal age” after reading of your experience with Franco. Lots of love- Nici

  • Courtney

    I unfortunately also had a C-section almost 3 months ago due to my little one being breech and going into natural labor soon after learning she was breech. I also requested skin to skin after birth and without question they allowed me to “hold” my baby on my chest in the OR for about 20 minutes. I was not able to breastfeed at that moment, but with the help of my mom (my husband missed the birth it was so fast and he was out of town) she lay on my chest and we were able to look into each others eyes. It was difficult at times because my arms were semi-numb and is it an odd thing to hold a baby when you are flat on your back, but it was a priceless moment I will treasure forever! Congrats on your little and good job demanding your baby immediately!

  • Dene Harris

    Thank you for sharing your amazing experience. You are a very brave woman and it sounds like you hag an amazing team with you through this. Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful son, and we’ll done

  • Marietta Sperry, BSN, RNC-MNN

    Dear January,
    I am a nurse trying to educate other healthcare providers about the benefits of breastfeeding in the operating room. I was pleasantly surprised to find your blog and would like permission to share your photos with other professionals to help them understand it is possible. I have supporting research that hospitals and researchers have done. Your pictures help to support the story and show other professionals how it is possible.
    Marietta Sperry,BSN, RNC-MNN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Registered Nurse Certified Maternal Newborn Nursing.

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