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Pushed to the Limit. Betrayed by my Body.

When I was pregnant for the first time, right through most of the pregnancy I had planned on delivering at the hospital with an epidural; that was the plan.  I didn’t need to be a hero.  There was no need to suffer.

At some point I started leaning toward a homebirth.  I think initially the idea of being in my own home with my own things was my motivation.  Then I had to wrap my head around the idea of a drug-free birth.  That part was a bit more difficult but somewhere along the way I started to trust my body; trust that Mother Nature knew what she was doing and just somehow knew that I could do it.  By the end of my pregnancy I felt so confident in my body and my baby.

My water broke two weeks before my due date; labour started several hours later.  The midwife arrived, labour progressed.  Everything was as it should be, my body doing its job.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  How about the shower?  Well okay, in the shower for a while but I wanted to sleep.  All I wanted was to sleep.  This is my body coping with labour.  I’m listening to my body, it knows what to do.  I want to sleep.  In between contractions I fell into what felt like the deepest sleep, only to be awakened a few minutes later for a contraction, then back to sleep.

I started feeling the urge to push and I could feel the excitement in the room.  The midwife was letting the second midwife know what was going on, equipment was being brought out, I could hear my midwife quietly give her student instructions; we all thought baby’s arrival was imminent.  The midwife checked me one last time.

Three to four centimetres.  Silence.  What?  Three to four centimetres.  Don’t push.  What?  Don’t push.  How do you stop?  It’s like trying not to sneeze, your body takes over and your body does it anyway.  Okay, I’ll try not to push.  Back in the shower, downstairs, hands and knees, don’t push (push); I protested it all but did it because my midwife wanted me to; don’t push (push).  Sleep, when can I go back to sleep?  When can I go lie down?  Don’t push (push).  How about a bath?  I am reluctant, I go in the bath anyway; don’t push; I’m trying not to push (push).

In the bathtub I am sleeping between contractions; I feel only slightly aware of what is going on around me, trying not to push (push).  I am dreading that urge, dreading each contraction not because of the pain, because of the urge.  A contraction, don’t push, I’m trying so hard (push).  I’m fighting my body, don’t, don’t, breathe, blow out birthday candles, my body takes over (push…gush).  My husband called the midwife, all of a sudden there was a sense of urgency.  There was blood, more than there should have been.  Hurry, get dressed; get the car; call the hospital tell them we’re on our way.  Don’t push (push).  The blood has stopped but everyone is scared.

At the hospital my midwife consults with the OB.  There has been no more blood, the baby is fine.  At this point it has been 16 hours of active labour, still three to four centimetres.  I had an epidural, contractions continued; I never progressed further.  Eventually, I was given pitocin.  The baby didn’t tolerate it.  After 26 hours of active labour I had a cesarean.

A few months later I read Home Safe Home: A VBAC – My Way in the January/February 2002 issue of Mothering Magazine.  And I knew, like I know my name, that I would have a VBAC.

I read and read; books, websites, whatever I could get my hands on; anything to do with natural birth, VBAC and c-section prevention.  The next time was going to be different.

When I found out I was pregnant with my second I found a doula, midwife, naturopath and chiropractor to support me.  My husband was behind me 100%.  We planned a HBAC and we did everything right.  We did everything we possibly could during the pregnancy to ensure proper positioning and to get my body ready for labour.

Labour started, things progressed.  I was upright, on hands and knees, up and down the stairs sideways, in the birth pool, in the shower, on the birthing stool, standing swaying; I did it all.  I wanted to sleep so desperately, and I did sleep at times but I was so determined for this labour to be different.  I was fine, baby was fine.

The sun was coming up and I started feeling the urge to push.  I heard someone say we’d see the baby by morning.  The midwife was getting ready.  Labour continued, time passed, the urge to push got stronger.  The midwife checked me.  Four centimetres.  What?  Four centimetres.  But wait, this was supposed to be different.  I did everything right.  Don’t push.  What?  Don’t push.  No, no, no, not again.

We’re not going to the hospital.  We all know what will happen if we go to the hospital; don’t push (push).  More moving around, every position possible, chiropractic, homeopathic remedies, and acupuncture; don’t push (push).  Another midwife came to consult.  Hours passed, blurred conversations; don’t push (push).  I’m fine, baby’s fine.  Don’t push (push).

Forty hours of active labour.  Four centimetres dilated; don’t push (push).  Every contraction is a battle with my body; don’t push (push).  Why is my body doing this?  This isn’t right, it’s not the way.  My body is NOT doing was it is supposed to do.  Why has my body betrayed me?

We finally go to the hospital and I get an epidural.  Maybe if I don’t push, the swelling in my cervix will go down and I will dilate.  Maybe if I just get some sleep.  Then the decelerations started.  Deep decelerations that were not quick to recover.

The OB is paged and comes in.  No introductions, no pleasantries.  “We have to get this baby out.  Now.”  Can we talk about it?  “You talk about it; I’m going to get the OR ready.”  I look around at my team, I can see the devastation in their faces, I can see their pity, I know they are worried about me.  It’s okay.  I’m okay.

I am rushed down the hall on a bed.  I sign the consent lying on my back on the operating table.  The baby is born, a boy, I get a kiss then he is gone.  I tell, no, I insist that my husband goes with the baby.  They go to the special care nursery as a precaution because the baby seemed to be working hard to breathe.

After observation, formula and eye gel which made my baby’s eyes swell, my husband brings my baby to me.  I still hadn’t slept; I was awake in my room waiting.  In they came, the baby was immediately in my arms and he nursed like a champ right away.  The next day I have no memory of holding my baby for the first time.  I have no memory of nursing my baby for the first time.  I feel completely robbed.

When we leave the hospital I can’t stop crying.  We’re on our way home in the car and I can’t stop crying.  It’s NOT okay.  I am NOT okay.

With my third pregnancy we’re not sure what to do.  We’ve tried it all.  I am convinced that if I get an epidural early – as soon as I get the premature urge to push – that my cervix won’t swell and I’ll dilate and have a VBA2C.  But then…no hospital in the city of Toronto will agree to let me labour after two cesareans.  What?  It’s my body.  It’s my baby.  Still, nobody will agree.

It was a very stressful pregnancy, I have my midwife and the same team as before but otherwise nobody will support my VBA2C.  I cried a lot.  I tried to figure out my best chances of a sucessful vaginal birth.  I finally changed OBs in my third trimester; she and my midwife shared care.  The OB doesn’t agree with me but is nice, calm and respectful and most importantly she knows she can’t make me do anything.  My OB discussed my case with the other 17 OBs at the hospital.  She and one other OB think I should be able to decide if I labour or not.  Nice.

I went into labour on Christmas Eve.  I had a shower and cried and cried.  Thank you baby for starting labour before my scheduled c-section on my due date (which I didn’t plan on showing up for, agreeing to book it was strategic.  It made it easier for my OB to answer to her superiors if I had a c-section booked even though we both knew that I’d go into labour before, just like my other pregnancies).  This is the day my baby was meant to be born.

Labour was much the same.  It wasn’t long before I started to feel that urge.  “Do you feel pushy?” my husband asks.  “No!” I answer a little too quickly and a little too loudly.  They knew.  We all knew.  My body was betraying me again.

We went to the hospital; we called on the way to tell them we were coming.  It was Christmas Eve.  I would learn later that I was the only woman in the hospital in labour on Christmas Eve.  We arrive at the hospital and I am offered a wheelchair.  No, I want to walk.  We get off the elevators and step on to the L & D floor.  A nurse walking down the hall took one look at me and said, “We’re going to section you right away.”  Umm, no you’re not.

Another nurse met us down the hall and led me into triage.  I said to her, “I know you all think I’m here for a c-section but I’m not.”  She says, “Okay, I’ll get the OB and then you won’t have to explain things twice.”  I’m shocked.  The OB is not my OB, his name is Dr. B.  I explain my wishes: I know the risks (I cite VBAC and VBA2C statistics off the top of my head) I have the premature urge to push, I want an epidural and I want to labour for a few hours to see if there is any progress.  Dr. B listens patiently.  He calmly explains the risks (and also explains that even though I know the risks he still has to explain them to me).  He says “okay”.  Pause.  What?  We’re all shocked.  I realize that Dr. B is the only other OB that thinks I should be able to decide whether or not I should be ‘allowed’ to labour and I realize that someone is watching over me that day.

The hospital respected my wishes and the OB discussed everything with me, my husband and my midwife.  After labouring for several hours and seeing no progress I was satisfied.  I really had tried everything and all my “what ifs” were answered.  The OB agreed to all my wishes before I signed the consent for the c-section.

In the operating room my husband, my midwife and my doula were with me.  When the baby was born he was lifted up above the curtain.  The room was silent and I got to announce the gender.  I don’t know why this was so important to me, but it was, and it was a moment I will never forget as long as I live.  “It’s a boy” I said.

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My husband did skin-to-skin with the baby in the OR.  The baby tried to latch on to my husband.  There was no eye gel, no formula and we were never separated.  The baby latched on in the recovery room and nursed contently.  I remembered everything the next day.  I felt okay.  I felt at peace.

********

An addition to the original post: My fourth and last pregnancy was a scheduled c-section.  When my OB asked me to choose my baby’s birthday I refused.  I told him to choose.  I hated that my baby wasn’t going to be born on the day she was meant to be.  My OB chose October 24.  It wasn’t until I got home from my OB appointment that I realized the significance of that date.  My children were all born on a ‘four’.  December 14, March 4, December 24.  Somehow it was easier for me to accept the chosen date of October 24.  Maybe she was meant to be born on that day after all….

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18 thoughts on “Pushed to the Limit. Betrayed by my Body.

  1. Pingback: Mothers of Multiples Guide

  2. Jessica

    While I had entirely different labour and deliverys, I fully understand the feeling that your body failed you. I had natural births for both my boys because my body delivers them to quickly for intervention. My body kicked both my boys out too early, too quickly, too small. We always from the first time we talked kids, talked about 3 together, 4 including my step-daughter. Thats what we alway wanted, planned.

    We’ve stopped at two because it would (we feel) be careless to go for that last one. I would high-risk, I would be on bedrest, I would be seeing a nurtionist, extra bloodwork, etc.. My OB feels that with my history, there is an extremly high chance of a next baby would be born somewhere between 30-32 weeks.

    We’ve accepted that what we have now is all we’re having. We tell everyone that we’re ok with it. When we’re together sometimes we talk about how it would be with the third. So while there are times I feel that my body has failed me in not really allowing my dreams to fully come forth, I still comend it for carrying my children as long as it did, for feeding them, for going through the crazy nights, the extra weight of holding a sick toddler all day. Thought I’m not at peace about it quite like you are but I’m getting there.

  3. BarbaraH

    Hugs to you Sweet Sweet Friend. You brought 4 of the most special human beings into this world. Thank you.

  4. mamacrow

    oh my gosh, huge (((HUGS)))
    (um, hi, I guess I should introduce myself – I’ve been lurking for a little while 🙂

    I sort of want to say – hey, 3 succesfully births – live mummy and live baby! But it’s not that simple, and besides, I’m so not qualified to say (lucky enough to have 5 natural births, four of them at home in the bath).

    I’m glad glad glad that the third birth was positive, in it’s way, despite the c-section outcome.

  5. D

    Thanks for posting this story and for saying “out loud” what I’ve felt for my c-section experience.
    That feeling of betrayal and hurt are bang on but in the end I had to come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t only MY experience but that of my son who may have chosen to enter the world in this way.
    If I’m to have another child I hope that I can have a VBAC/HBAC experience but if it’s not meant to be then I will have to somehow let the dream go and accept what is instead of fighting with myself. I still live in hope though so I’ll just have to see how it goes.

  6. Steph

    Oh Amanda, where to start.
    Thank you, again, for continuing to be honest. It was honesty like your that brought me out of my c-section shame closet all those years ago. I wish I could say everyday we get better, but I find its a roller coaster. Days I’m really good and ok with it all, and other days that I want to slap someone, anyone, who gets too close to me because my anger is raw. So help me, if another person says, “Well, at least you had a healthy baby.” I will taser them.
    I hope that your post finds its way to another Mama who has been betrayed by either her body or her care providers and it offers her the opportunity to stand up and say, “I need someone to listen to me. Here is my story…..” What a legacy you are creating with your honest blog A. PLease please please, keep sharing when you need to. You are making a difference, you are the pebble in pond, starting a beautiful ripple effect.

    Your buddy
    Steph

  7. familynature

    Well, I’m not at peace with it entirely — I don’t know that I ever will be — but my third birth was healing and it has helped me find some peace amid the grief.

    We too thought we’d have more kids. We’ve accepted it as well. Thanks for sharing your story.

  8. familynature

    Thanks for your comments (and welcome!)

    I actually had four c-sections (I made a little addition to the post at the end). I always say that my third birth was a c-section, my way. Being in control and having your wishes respected goes a long way.

    Thanks for reading.

  9. familynature

    The sucess rate for VBACs is very high, it a very realistic dream.

    For me, I found that I was very alone. It seems to me that there are two groups of women when it comes to c-section: those who have them and don’t care (oh, how I wish that was me) and those who have a sucessful VBAC. I just didn’t know what to do when my first VBAC attempt didn’t work. I’m sure there are other women like me, I’ve just never heard from one.

  10. familynature

    “So help me, if another person says, “Well, at least you had a healthy baby.” I will taser them.” LOL Steph!

    Thanks. It feels good writing about it. xo

  11. Brie

    I was rivited reading your story. I feel for you that you weren’t able to have the births you wanted but am so glad that everyone came out of it all okay.

  12. Crystal

    Great Birth Story!! I really respect your honesty and this is a story that needs to be told, because sometimes despite “doing everything right” a natural and/or vaginal birth is just not in the cards. I too would love to have 4 children, and I would be devastated to have to undergo 4 surgeries and painful recoveries to get them. But sometimes surgery is absolutely warranted, and if a Midwife/Doula-supported woman labors naturally 40+ hrs and still only diated to 3-4cm, then how could anyone fault her for opting for surgical delivery? You did EVERYTHING right, and had I been in your shoes I’d have opted for the surgery as well.

    My firstborn arrived last summer via surgical extraction, and I am 110% VBAC focused, yet I find that “The VBAC Choir” on the internet often hyper-analyzes other women’s birth stories to point out how every single choice the laboring woman made (or didn’t make) that led to C-section was in some way flawed. In my case I DID hire a Doula and Midwife, I labored at home as long as I could (5hrs) and showed up at the Independent Midwife-Owned Birth Center almost fully dilated (couldn’t afford $3000 for Home Birth but insurance would cover the Birth Center). At the pushing stage the baby’s heart rate began to crash, and my CNM with 30 years experience could not get it back up despite administering oxygen and doing position changes. She called 911 and we transported to the hospital, and they couldn’t pick up a heart beat. They screwed in an internal scalp monitor and baby’s heart beat was in 50/60s (half what it should have been), so we all feared serious brain damage or stillbirth. Even in the face of all this I was STILL extremely hesitant to consent to surgery and first discussed with my husband and Midwife who urged us to give the go ahead. She had NO financial incentives, she really only wanted what was best for me, and after a year of 2nd guessing whether or not I made the right decision and having feelings of being BETRAYED, I have accepted what happened and made peace with the events of that day.

    I am rabidly VBAC yet other women still try to guilt-trip me into believing that the 1st c-section was unnecessary, and truth is I WILL NEVER KNOW and I have to accept that. Perhaps with another 2 more hours of pushing as baby’s heart rate remained in 50s could have been OK, but I feared he’d be cognitively challenged and as my husband has a Ph.D. in Physics and we highly value education, I did not want a baby with learning disabilities and that FEAR drove my decision in light of all the facts being presented before me. Had I not dilated all the way as happened in all of your labors, I would have had no qualms about the c-section as to me that is a clearcut scenario of when a surgery is warranted. Yes, many women don’t dilate due to epidural/lithotomy position/inductions before baby is ready, etc., but you were one of the rare people who actually avoided all interventions and gave your body the TIME to work, and you followed the Midwifery Model of Childbirth through and through and it just didn’t work out for you. Please don’t hold it against yourself, sometimes it’s just not in the cards.

  13. Chris

    Hey sis. I have started reading this post four or five times now and just wasn’t able to get through it. Well, I finally have and I am sitting here bawling (even though I already knew your story!) Your strength amazes me. All of the research, thought and planning you put into your births is astounding. Your children are blessed to have you and S as parents.

    Though not nearly as devastating as a c-section would have been, I cried and cried when told that I needed an induction for baby A. It just throws you off when things don’t go as you envisioned them.

    I hope that writing and talking about this helps you continue to heal. Hugs to you!!

  14. Kimberly

    I clicked through from your latest post.
    Wow.
    I had a planned C with my first: a stubborn footling breech that never turned. But there was NO reason he was breech. No cord around the neck, nothing.
    I tried a VBAC with my second; with the only doctor in our area that is really gung-ho. I had your EXACT experience. Water breaks, 24 hours nonmedicated active labor; doula/midwife thinking I am transitioning; only 4 cm. Epidural then does nothing. Csection at 3 am. Again, a vertex baby, but somehow hung up at a bad angle, trying desperately to get out, but the malposition never sorted itself out, no matter what we did.
    We are done having kids (nod to your current post) but if I do get preggo again, I am going to schedule that C.
    Phooey. I understand your feelings. I feel very similarly.

  15. Carrie

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I had one much the same. I fully intended on a natural birth.
    I labored at home until I felt the urge to push. When the nurse examined me I was 7-8 cm. Once my water broke, I was back to 6 cm and no progress. The urge to push was so much stronger. Not being able to push definitely made the situation more difficult. I thought that everything was going as it should until the point where I could not allow my body to do the very thing it was trying to do.
    With no progress, I opted for the epidural and I was so disappointed.
    Hours later….the c- section became the next step. And there went the rest of my birth plan…

    With the help of our dula, we were able to make some new decisions for our birth.
    Daddy got the skin to skin contact, announce the gender, and I was able to allow my baby to latch on his own in the recovery room.

    While I am still sad to have lost the opportunity to birth my baby naturally, the ways we were able to maintain a certain level of empowerment on how the rest of the story went made things a little easier to handle.

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