December 09, 2015

A Birth Story: Part III


This is Part III of a three part birth story. (Click here for Part I and Part II) It's taken me a long of time to come to terms with how our daughter, Holland, was brought into this world. Sadly, it was not the joyous occasion I desperately wanted. I know though, that we are incredibly blessed to both be healthy and safe and nothing I write is meant to dismiss that major blessing. Additionally, nothing is meant to discount the birth experience of other mothers. This is simply my account of Holland's arrival. 
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After the epidural and pitocin, I was able to hit 7 cm and I felt well on my way to becoming a mother. I had already gone through three shifts of nurses and the fourth shift of nurses who arrived that morning assured me that I'd have a baby by the time their shift ended that evening at 7 p.m. In fact, they all predicted that I would have the baby WELL before then. So did I. Adam and I started talking about having the baby before noon. As the morning progressed, I kept changing positions in bed and doing what I could to move the process along. At the next check however, I learned that I had not made any further progress. I was very disappointed. They turned up the pitocin and assured me that things would get moving again. By noon, I had progressed to 8 cm but they were a bit worried because I no longer felt 100% effaced. I wondered what that could possibly mean and they explained that my cervix was likely swelling a bit. As a result, I started to run a fever and they had to put me on IV antibiotics. 

As the afternoon progressed and I was continually checked, I was told that I was no longer dilating and that my cervix was continuing to swell. They decided the only thing they could do to help was to ice my cervix. Yup. ICE my cervix. Trust me, that process is about as fun as it sounds... in other words, it was incredibly awkward and strange. But, I tried to keep a positive attitude because I felt SO close to having this baby. By this time, I had been in labor for over 40 hours and had been bed ridden for 15 or so. As a result of being in the bed so much, my body was sore. I was in a LOT of pain, even with the epidural, and was once again feeling my contractions. As we waited for word of whether the "icing of my cervix" worked, I cried. I was so exhausted. I had been on a rollercoaster of emotions over the last two days and I was so ready to just meet our baby.

At the next check, it became apparent that I was still only 8 cm and my cervix was still swollen. My doctor came in and had a frank talk with me. She said she had never seen anyone with that much swelling deliver vaginally. She was willing to let me continue to labor for a few more hours, but by 7 p.m., my water would have been broken for 24 hours and she honestly believed that a c-section was going to be necessary. I cried. A lot. I called for my mom and she joined me in the labor and delivery suite and we cried together. Adam held me. Tia held me. My mom held me. It was so scary and I was more disappointed than I can convey. A c-section was my own "worst case scenario" and here it was... my only way out. After mourning the vaginal birth I wouldn't get, I told me doctor they could proceed with the c-section. Sadly, she wouldn't be able to perform the surgery herself and I got passed on to another doctor in her practice. The fourth shift of nurses I began the day with were also going to be out the door soon. It felt like everyone was leaving me behind. The doctor I got switched to was delivering another baby so I had to wait. Waiting made my nerves worst and I continued to cry. I waited...and waited. 
All pictures by the amazing Niki Zimmerman of Niki Zimmerman Images



At last around 7:30 p.m., they wheeled me away to the O.R. and I cried harder than I think I have in my entire life. I was so scared and so angry at how the entire process had happened. When I got to the O.R., the anesthesiologist began administering medicine to numb me further. Before I knew it, my fingers on one hand were numb. I told him this and he said that was an "abnormal" reaction. Soon, numb fingers turned into a numb arm... and a numb arm turned into a paralyzed neck and a paralyzed neck turned into slurred speech and labored breathing. By the time they let Adam in the O.R., I was panicked. I couldn't move my right arm, turn my head, and I was struggling to take every breath. I kept saying (or attempting to) "I can't breathe" but the anesthesiologist would just respond, "Your O2 stats are fine." 

There must have been panic in my eyes because I could see Adam panicking for me as well. He tried telling the anesthesiologist that I was having trouble breathing but he would only mutter "Her O2 stats are fine." They didn't feel "fine".... I honestly believed that the "abnormal" reaction I was having was going to kill me. Perhaps that's why, when they pulled our child out of me and into the world at 7:51 p.m., (nearly 47 hours after my labor began) I did not feel immediate joy. They announced that she was a girl and that she had hair and dimples....but I was still terrified. I was happy she was safe of course but I was worried she'd grow up without a mother. I still couldn't breathe normally. It felt like someone had a plastic bag over my head. My entire body began to shake uncontrollably. They tried to hand Holland to me to hold, but I couldn't hold her because I couldn't move my arm or head and I was shaking too hard. At last, they quit trying to balance her on my shaking body and they handed her to Adam. Adam held her with one arm and stroked my face with his other hand and assured me that things would be okay. 

Adam was seated behind me and since I couldn't turn my head, I couldn't see him or her. So, as he held her, he told me what she looked like. He told me that she had my dimples and dark hair. He told me that she was beautiful and that everything would be okay. I continued to shake uncontrollably from the medicine and the anesthesiologist threatened to put me under entirely so that they could finish the surgery and sew me up. Our doula, Tia, heard his threat and rose from her allotted chair and threw her body over mine in an attempt to warm me up. Her body heat must have helped because the anesthesiologist didn't follow through with his threat. They finished the surgery without further complications. As they moved me to the gurney to be taken back out of the E.R., my ability to breathe easily again slowly returned. I still couldn't move my arm or my head so they had to help me "hold" Holland as they wheeled me back to my room. They laid her on my chest and for the first time since she was born, nearly an hour before, I got to look into my beautiful daughter's eyes.

Back in our room, I slowly began to regain feeling and movement in my neck and arm. After about an hour, I had a full range of motion again and could properly hold Holland. It felt fantastic. We did some skin to skin and started breastfeeding. Family came into visit and my heart was full.
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I did not get a medication free birth. I did not get to do immediate skin to skin with my child. I did not get delayed cord clamping. I did not get to cry happy tears and see her emerge into this world. In the weeks after Holland was born, I recalled her birth with a sense of fear and failure. Since that time, I've learned there were likely some problems with my placenta and her umbilical cord that caused her prolonged labor and eventual c-section. A vaginal birth would have likely ended with severe trauma to her, including a possibility of death or brain damage. Knowing these facts helps me accept what happened a little better and feel "proud" that my body protected her from that fate. But I must admit that I still struggle to say that I "gave birth" to her. I don't feel like I did... I feel like she was ripped from me instead in a moment where I believed my life was in danger. I know that not all c-section mommies have that experience or feel that way but I do. I hope that with time, and further reflection of how traumatic a vaginal birth might have been for us both, I'll feel differently. For now though, I take solace in knowing that without modern medicine, Holland and I would probably not be here. I still mourn for the birth I wanted, but I joyously celebrate the healthy, happy child I received. 

18 comments :

  1. Thanks for sharing with us, and I'm sorry it didn't go as planned. A friend of mine was really traumatized from her birth as well and she ended up going to therapy and really working through it. She had a trauma experience with it, similar to what you're describing! I'm so happy for yours and Hollands safety!

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  2. Um, so that anethesiologist honestly sounds like kind of a jerk! Why would they not try to help with your shaking instead of threatening you about it? I'm so sorry you didn't have the birth you wanted, but you're right: a healthy baby is really what counts in the end, and you absolutely did give birth! Good job :)

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can't imagine how tough this must have been to write. I admit I teared up and felt pain for you. Your anesthesiologist was a jerk in my eyes and I would love to stab in the jugular with a pen right now. I am so glad you have found peace with this event and that you two are both healthy together.

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  4. OK - I'll start with the consensus of the JERK WAD Anesthesiologist! Mercy - how some people work in their fields, I dont know.
    Oh sweet momma - you DID birth that baby..its not what happens in a moment or a day, its what happened over 9 months - or in your case 9 PLUS months! YOU ALONE did all that! Your body was amazing & like you said, it protected both of you! I know we set ourselves up with visions of what we want or expect, but nature has a way of taking over - for the best sometimes... I pray you find some peace in that soon.

    My step daughter had a horrible experience with her first birth - & even 2nd... both at the same hospital. Her 3rd, she moved to Nashville & found a new team that did things so different - the whole experience, she said, was "exactly how she imagined it would be"... so I hope you get to fulfill your dreams one day. If not, I know you'll look into your daughters eyes every day & know that in the end, it all is OK <3 Hugs to you all!

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  5. I am so sorry that everything went completely against your plans, but I am so happy that she got here safely and that you are both ok!!! As I was reading this part, I thought you might find comfort/relate to Lisa from The Two Martinis. Her birth plan was shot to bits just like yours and she had a similar situation with her first moments with her daughter. If you're interested in her post, it's here: http://thebenroecks.com/post/2014/08/13/ld/.
    You're amazing Kate!!!!

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  6. I had a jerk anesthesiologist as well, I think they all are. Do not feel like a failure, as others have said its more than the actual birth. So glad you and Holland are doing well.

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  7. Sorry everything went against what you thought would happen, but in the end you have a gorgeous baby and your body did protect you and her from harm. I know it's hard now, but hopefully with time and reflection like you said you will come to terms. Just think, 100 years ago, C-sections were an option and you might have ended up in a worse situation. Sometimes modern medicine is great, even if it's not what we wanted. Congrats, enjoy the cute newborn phase!

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  8. Kate, I know I've said it a few times the past couple of days, but you are an amazing woman with an amazing voice. I'm sorry that nothing went as planned, but beyond happy that you and your beautiful Holland are safe. Such a blessing, even if it didn't feel like it at the time. I'm a few years from ready to have kids, but reading real accounts like this makes me feel better prepared. Thank you for sharing with us!

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  9. I felt scared reading this which I realize is only a hint of what it was like to live through it... But your last line is perfect: "Family came into visit and my heart was full."

    You are the epitome of that sentence and the way you've come to embrace your new role as Mama makes that truth all the more bold. I'm so proud of you for all that you did and are going to do in making Holland the world's most beautiful soul. :)

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    1. This comment. So beautiful and so important. Completely agree.

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  10. you did such a great job! your job as a mama is to protect that babe, and you did just that. my mom had a physical inability to deliver vaginally, and both my brother and I were emergency C-sections, one year apart, and my sisters were all C-sections as well. and my mom has always said that it doesn't matter how we got here, because she did her job and we are all here and healthy, and she's so proud of that. now, it may have taken her awhile to get to that place, like I'm sure it will for you, but just know that you are amazing and such a superhero.

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  11. THank you for sharing your story! My friend NEVER dilated with her son and was two weeks late and then had a kind of similar experience... where they gave her meds to get her going and it just never worked and she ended up having to have a c-section. Cash will be three this January. She just called last week to say she went in to the doctors to see about new birth control, and the doctor checked her cervix to see about the one (IUD?). Well, turns out, her cervix is abnormally thin. After talking, they realized together this was due to a surgery she had in college (20 years ago) to remove cancerous cells. It left scar tissue, meaning she probably would have never dilated on her own or fully. She was pretty mad when she called me - basically if someone had talked to her and caught that BEFORE labor, she could have just scheduled a c-section around his due date. Ugh.

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  12. I'm so sad your birth experience was so similar to mine! I didn't get the skin on skin, delayed cord clamping, placenta encapsulation, natural birth, etc etc that I wanted. I actually felt like I didn't have any 'wins' at all and it took me a long while to process that! And then just recently I learned that Clara was born in super critical condition (how did I not know that before?!) which made me feel even worse about the whole experience. However, I have faith that this next time will be better and I'm hoping it becomes this super liberating and redeeming experience. I really hope that time heals your wounds (both physical and emotional) and that you're able to feel better about the whole thing. No matter what, you did a great job bringing Holland into the world and even if it wasn't how you expected, you're one tough mama and you should feel awesome for growing a life and bringing her into this world!

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  13. Oh goodness. I'm sorry your plan didn't go anything like you imagine. I can relate a little bit. My first came by cesarean too (different story than yours) but it was definitely scary. Any surgery is, but when it includes the life of your new babe, well! You're not any less of a woman or mother or person, and don't let anyone tell you other wise. I hope if/when you decide to have baby #2, the birth goes smoother for you. I just had #2, and I had the vaginal delivery I dreamed of, so hope it goes the same for you. You're awesome, mama!

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  14. Kate. Oh. My. Goodness. I know you said traumatic and didn't follow your plan but wow, this was heart breaking to read. I'm glad I knew the ending was the smiling baby you posted on IG yesterday because it could have ended so differently. I'm so proud of you for posting this and happy you are all healthy!! Again, these photos are amazing and congrats to you and Adam xo

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  15. Beautiful woman. I am so sorry that you didn't get the birth you wanted, and it is so important to acknowledge that and make the time to mourn it. (imo.) It's your story, and that ache is a part of it. Validating it is an important part of releasing negative feelings you may associate with it. For what it's worth, I'm also super proud of you. It takes so much courage to progress the way you did, continue to try to have the birth you wished and planned for and then to move forward when that didn't work. Thank you for sharing this. That's the other important part. Birth stories, every single one of them, are so important and all need time in the sunshine. I've learned a lot from you and that is invaluable to me and I appreciate it, and you, so much.

    I hope things are wonderful. All the best to you and yours! <3

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  16. Oh dear girl! I'm so happy for you and Adam for your precious little girl!!!! How you feel about your birth is heartbreaking but I totally get it! You are wonder woman and you absolutely did amazing in bringing your precious girl into the world! I truly hope the pain your feeling becomes healed! Don't ever be ashamed to admit your feelings or to get help if needed! <3<3<3

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  17. What you went through can only be described as traumatic! Based off of what I read, your doctors failed you, your nurses didn't advocate properly for you, and the anesthesist was an ass. I feel like a lot of what you went through could have been avoided. I'm so sorry you had such a horrific experience! The good news is you have a healthy baby and that your body did everything it could to protect your little one!

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