Writing about my birth story has been brewing in my mind since my first few weeks home. Once we were home with our girl, and my husband, Dan, went back to work a few days a week, I started reflecting on my experience.
Once I started reflecting, I realized I had a LOT of emotions. One of those emotions was fear. There were times I didn’t want to think about what I had just gone through. Reliving some of those moments was simply too overwhelming.
For me, writing is therapeutic. I wanted to write my story. I wanted to get my experience articulated so I could sort through my emotions. I wanted to relive it, so that I could eliminate the parts that made me fearful.
Now that I’ve sorted through my birth story, I feel empowered.
I want that for every one of us. If I was scared, so was someone else. I want all of us to feel brave enough to be scared.
Hopefully, telling my story will make the scary parts less scary. Maybe it won’t. But maybe someone else will say, “I was scared, too” and we can support each other.
So, here goes!
Dan and I got married in August 2018. We decided that once we were married, we were open to having a baby whenever it happened. We found out we were pregnant in the beginning of November 2018.
The first trimester was ROUGH. Morning sickness? Nope. Just nausea all.day.long. Conveniently, it was also flu season, and I ended up with a virus of some kind that turned into a sinus infection. The second and third trimesters went relatively well. I loved the rest of pregnancy, honestly.
Towards the end of the third trimester, I was ALL belly. With the summer months came swollen feet and ankles. I had a lot of discomfort sleeping, and Braxton Hicks almost every time I stood up.
She was due July 13 and my last day at work was going to be July 3. I planned to start maternity leave the week before her due date, to finish nesting and put my swollen feet up.
The Wednesday before my planned last day at work, my manager and I decided that I was going to take my maternity leave early. I was really uncomfortable during the day and at night was having Braxton Hicks so badly that I was barely sleeping.
That Friday, the “fake” contractions felt less fake and they were increasing in intensity and frequency. We went to the hospital that night to get checked and see if I was in early labor.
I stayed at the hospital to be monitored for a few hours and went from 1 centimeter to 1.5 centimeters. So, at 3 in the morning, we headed back home.
All day Saturday I had early labor contractions. None of which were close enough together or intense enough to warrant going back in. Until about 9:00 that night. We went back in to get checked and I was at 3 centimeters and after another few hours I was at 4.5 centimeters!
We were admitted around 11:45 pm on Saturday, June 29.
I remember one of my biggest concerns was what my water breaking would be like. At some point during labor, my midwife and I decided that she would break my water to speed things up. It felt like I peed my pants and was definitely not as exciting as I thought it would be.
At that point, the contractions were really uncomfortable, but tolerable. With the guidance of my midwife, I tried various positions, the tub, the ball, the shower… What was most comfortable was putting the ball on a chair in the shower and leaning forward onto the ball with the warm water on my back.
Around noon on Sunday (almost 12 hours after being admitted!) I was ready for some kind of pain management. What was “uncomfortable but tolerable” was no longer bearable. Mainly because my body was exhausted. I hadn’t slept, I had no appetite to eat.
This is the reason I didn’t have a specific birth plan. I wanted to know all my options and be able to decide what I needed, when I needed it.
I wanted to see how far my body could go without pain management. After 2 days of early labor, 12 hours of active labor… I found out exactly how far that was.
My midwife and I had discussed “therapeutic rest” as my first option. An IV medication that would allow my body to continue laboring, but would hopefully let me rest. I knew a lot of women who tried this, without great results, but I was willing to give it a go.
I was able to doze off for about 3 hours. I could still feel the contractions and they were still uncomfortable, but they were dulled. That wore off eventually and I still wasn’t fully dilated. So the labor continued.
A couple hours later, around 5:30 pm, I decided I was ready for the epidural. I had rallied a little bit, jumped back in the shower with the ball, but my body didn’t have much left.
The anesthesiologist came down to my room. We talked through the process, the big needle, what would happen after… I was ready. He put a big sticky sheet on my back and I had to sit on the edge of my bed with my back rounded, “like a shrimp” he told me and I had to be perfectly still.
You try being perfectly still, curled like a shrimp, while having contractions!
He gave me an injection so that my back was numb. It burned a little. I didn’t feel the epidural needle. And moments after, I couldn’t feel the lower half of my body. After the days and hours of labor, WHAT A RELIEF!
I kept asking the midwife if there was something I was supposed to be doing. After all the hard work I had just done, letting my body do the work while I just laid in the hospital bed made me feel like a slacker!
At this point, I was stuck at 9.5 centimeters. My cervix wasn’t dilating to 10 centimeters because of scar tissue. We talked about options, and my midwife thought that she could massage the scar tissue out of the way to get to 10.
We tried for awhile, and labor slowed down because of the epidural. So, they gave me pitocin and labor sped back up. We tried pushing when there was a contraction- my midwife told me when to push because I couldn’t feel the contractions.
At this point in the evening, the shifts changed and one of the other midwives was going to be coming on. I had met all of the midwives for appointments throughout the pregnancy and was so fortunate that I was comfortable with all of them.
Once they did rounds, and discussed what was going on, they both came in to discuss and evaluate what our best options were. The new midwife, also felt confident that we could get the scar tissue out of the way, but then, our girl changed positions.
She was now brow presentation. Instead of having her head tucked (chin to chest), she had lifted her chin, and was trying to come out forehead first.
The midwives explained that once a baby was in that position, it was very difficult to deliver vaginally. Sometimes, they could be rotated, but that was rare. Our best option was going to be a c-section.
Neither baby or mama was in any medical danger. Her heart rate was still great. She was cool as a cucumber. At this point, so was I.
They explained that one the c-section plan was set in place, it would get overwhelming and seem like everyone was rushing but that was just how the team was trained to operate, and not to worry.
The doctor that would be doing the procedure, I had met before as well, so it was nice to see a familiar face. Again, I can’t speak highly enough of the team at the hospital we went to. More talking about what would happen, and what to expect.
I was excited and ready to meet our girl!
We were wheeled to surgery, and Dan was being instructed to scrub up. I don’t remember what was happening with me, I know they put a scrub cap over my hair, and I’m sure they were talking to me about what was about to happen. By this point I was in the middle of a full blown panic attack.
My midwife was on one side holding my hand, and my nurse, who was 37 weeks pregnant, was holding the other. They were doing their best to calm me down, and I was trying desperately to stop all the thoughts in my head.
I was laser focused on the nurse that was giving Dan instructions on scrubbing up. He was telling Dan where he would be through the procedure, telling him what would happen, did he want to cut the umbilical cord?
I was shaking. I remember feeling trapped and claustrophobic because I had so much in my head that I couldn’t focus on any one thought. Dan had to stay outside the operating room while they got me on the table, and then they would bring him in.
They wheeled me into the OR while the nurse was still giving Dan instructions. I was trembling, my teeth were chattering and tears were rolling down my face. My nurse and midwife both kept close to my head to talk to me and squeeze my hand.
Once I got into the OR, they put the curtain up and put the oxygen mask on me. I was still shaking and they put the heating pad on me, but I wasn’t shaking because I was cold.
I remember my nurse squeezing my hand at one point and winking at me. Telling me that I was doing an incredible job (she had been with me for hours of my labor) and she was proud of me and that our baby girl would be here so soon. I will never forget her kind words.
The anesthesiologist was the same from earlier, and again, I appreciated seeing a familiar face. He asked if I was okay, explained everything thoroughly, that the oxygen mask was only on until the baby was here, and then we could take it off, neither of us was in danger.
I asked him if there was any way we could adjust the mask and the drape to make me feel less claustrophobic. He immediately adjusted the mask a bit and tightened the drape so that it wasn’t hanging over my face.
Dan came into the OR and immediately grabbed my hand. He said that I would be okay, I was in good hands. I remember telling him I wasn’t worried about the procedure. When he asked what I was nervous about, I told him my fears.
What if I didn’t know how to hold her? Or put clothes on her? Or change her diaper? What if I wasn’t going to be a good mom?
He chuckled and assured me that, she was coming either way, and we would figure it all out together. No need to worry.
The anesthesiologist asked me, “Did you feel that?” When I asked “Feel what?” He explained they had made a test cut, and he nodded at the surgery team and we were ready to go.
10 minutes later, they lifted our girl up over the curtain. I don’t remember if she cried or yelled or what. But she was here! At 9:38 pm on Sunday, June 30 (exactly 2 weeks before her due date) she was here!
They said she was perfect and they were going to clean her up. They asked Dan if he wanted to come cut her umbilical cord. He cut the cord and came back over to me. I asked if she was okay, and he nodded.
When they brought her over, they asked if I wanted her on my chest, but I was still shaking and had one arm strapped to the table so I had Dan hold her. He sat next to my head with our sweet girl wrapped up in blankets.
She was so peaceful and calm. Slowly blinking and looking around. Though I was still shaking, I felt like I could finally relax. The one thing going through my mind, was relief and how much I was looking forward to sleeping.
I felt so guilty that I wanted to sleep. She was finally here! But my body was toast.
They sewed me up, and wheeled me into recovery. Dan was headed to a room next to recovery to do skin-to-skin with our girl until I regained feeling in my legs.
I regained feeling almost instantly, and within minutes, they were bringing her in to do skin-to-skin with me. As soon as they put her in my arms, I stopped shaking. Every fear, every worry, was gone. I immediately felt at ease.
We did skin-to-skin for awhile and the nurses helped her latch for the first time. They rolled us back down to our room, and the next couple days are a blur.
It was a flurry of nurses in and out to give me medications and check my vitals. Hours of staring at our perfect girl instead of sleeping. Worrying about how to swaddle her. Trying to absorb all the information that all the nurses, surgeon and pediatrician was giving us. Trying to drink enough water. Trying to eat when I didn’t have an appetite.
We got the hang of breastfeeding pretty quickly… at least on one side. Which we were told was normal, but was still frustrating. We tried all kinds of holds to get her to latch on the other side. Even today, it’s something we still struggle with.
Our immediate family came to visit briefly. I was up and walking quickly. More than anything I was tired. When we got discharged to leave on July 3rd, I was so elated to be home with our girl and our pets.
Of all the things I thought I would feel once becoming a mom, fear of my birth experience wasn’t something I was prepared for. I’m not afraid of parenting, or of whether I can clothe or change her diaper, despite my pre-surgery panic attack. But when I think back on getting her into the world, fear still bubbles up.
I wish I would have done more research into c-section recovery. I knew what the procedure would consist of, because I researched that beforehand. I didn’t think that would need to prepare for a c-section recovery. My incision has healed, but I still don’t have complete feeling back around the incision. I wish I would have known that.
Even more than that, I wish I would have known how hard breastfeeding was going to be. Especially while recovering from a c-section. Even once I was recovered, breastfeeding was still the hardest part of being a new mom.
I was not prepared for breastfeeding to be the hardest part of this journey. Even now, our girl is 10 weeks old, and breastfeeding is still the hardest part. We’ve gotten the hang of it now, but it’s still not easy.
I hope that sharing my story empowers other moms. I hope that someone out there can relate. I can’t wait to hear other stories, and talk about our fears and get through them together.
What are some fears you had, mama? Drop them in the comments!