WARNING: I'm writing about my birth story very openly and honestly. This story is not meant to scare anyone and is merely meant to share my own experience with my own opinions. Some of the story may be graphic or triggering.
I would always see women posting about their birth story. At first I totally eye rolled at them thinking "who the hell wants to hear this?!" Then I got pregnant and started to go down a deep rabbit hole of all things birth and quickly realized that everyone had such a different experience.
My type A personality was upset at this. This meant I couldn't predict or control what was going to happen to me and that gave me some serious anxiety.
All I knew was that I wanted 2 things:
- A vaginal delivery
- To breastfeed my baby successfully
And guess what . . . neither of those things happened, but we'll start with the first one.
I contemplated whether I wanted to share my own birth story because I didn't want others eye rolling when I put it out into the world but you know what? I am a BADASS for going through what I did as all other women are, and if nothing else I want to remember the strength and perseverance it took for me to bring my son into the world, so here goes.
I'll start with the basics. I am 34 years at the time I'm writing this. I never really wanted kids because I just felt like I was a selfish person and not in a bad way. I was comfortable living in my own little bubble and doing whatever I wanted to do.
Of course, it took the right person to come along and change all of that. Shortly after Mike and I started dating I realized that I wanted to experience everything life had to offer with him and my heart grew three sizes that day, I knew I wanted to have at least one child with him.
We waited about 5 years to start trying. Our lives weren't typical. We lived in Hawaii and Mike was in the navy working on an active submarine which would leave for weeks or months at a time with barely any notice. We barely had any communication besides email sometimes. This environment didn't make for a great life for a child so we waited until we moved to Charleston SC a few years later.
Even then, we waited a bit. Adjusting to a normal life was harder than we thought. We took the time we needed to buy a house, get a dog and I even started another business being a personal chef and running this blog.
Time eventually started closing in fast. We realized we only had 2 years left of Mike being in the military and it was a smart idea for us for me to be pregnant and have our first child while we were covered by insurance and could count on a steady income.
At 34 years old I was scared I would have trouble getting pregnant. I know so many others that have had such hard struggles becoming pregnant and I feel for them. Sometimes it's the men that have problems when it comes down to the physical act, and something like sildenafil could help for a short period of time when trying to conceive, but greater medical intervention may be needed if the problem persists. Luckily, we only tried for 2 months before I got that incredibly faint line on Christmas Day 2018.
But this story is not about my pregnancy, it's about my birth story so let's fast forward about 9 months from that life changing Christmas Day.
38 Weeks Pregnant:
At my 38 week appointment, my stomach was measuring a few centimeters small. The doctor scheduled an ultrasound at my next visit just to check on the growth of our baby boy. Our baby was doing just fine, in fact he was measuring at 8lbs 14oz but our doctor was in disbelief. Obviously there was a margin of error that could go either way. He predicted the baby was likely around 7lbs or I was carrying him very well.
Those next few weeks were very painful and mentally exhausting. This boy was getting so big that he was causing so much pain from my ribs down to my pelvis. I had no energy to do anything and really wanted to go into labor.
41 Weeks + 3 Days
I somehow managed to make it a couple weeks longer and by this time I was SO OVER IT. Thankfully I had my induction scheduled the next day. The whole day had an extra layer of anxiety over it. I was in disbelief that we were going to be parents in 24 hours. I still managed to get my mandatory naps in and snack like my life depended on it.
Around 9pm, Mike came home from work early. He unfortunately fell down the stairs at work and sprained his ankle REALLY bad. In +etrospect he probably should have gone to the doctor or urgent care but we figured that ice, motrin and a good nights rest would clear everything up during the big day.
I randomly made a huge batch of french fries in the oven. It was weird but we ate them and continued to watch TV while I got up to pee every 30 minutes like I had been for months previously. Not sure why adding the part about the french fries was relevant to this story but I feel like it is . . .
After one of my bathroom trips, I felt wet again but I could have sworn I didn't push it out myself. I had a sneaking suspicion that my water broke but Mike had me convinced I peed myself. I mean, it wasn't out of the question and he was in pain so I just decided to lay back down on the couch for 30 minutes. If my water really did break then more would seep out.
30 minutes later, I got up and more just came out. Still, I didn't believe it could be my water breaking but maybe it was? At this point I stood in the hallway naked from the waist down showing Mike my soaked pad still unsure. As we were awkwardly chatting, water started leaking down my leg and just kept seeping out.
I called the hospital and they confirmed that my water broke and it was time to go to the hospital. We manically ran (Mike limped) around the house to get what we needed and headed to the hospital around midnight.
We made it to the hospital in disbelief that my water actually broke the night before my induction. We made it to our first room so they can ask me some questions and check my vitals. I was shocked to find out that my cervix was STILL completely closed and I hadn't dilated at all.
We were wheeled into our first room to officially start the induction process. I was hooked up to monitors and started getting pumped full of pitocin to start contractions as Mike asked the nurses for ice to help his ankle. We were a mess.
They were very careful with the amount of pitocin for the first few hours of the night just to make sure the baby's heart rate was ok. It was at that point but I wasn't dilating at all still which was really strange.
It was time to up the stakes. The pitocin increased and I actually dilated to ONE CENTIMETER. I felt like things were going to start happening until the contractions actually started. I was in so much pain. Each contraction jolted through me like the worst menstrual cramps in my life. I audibly wailed, cried and shook uncontrollably praying the next one wouldn't come.
At one centimeter I asked for an epidural. I remember actually feeling ashamed and weak. I asked the nurse why I felt the need to get one at one centimeter while I hear others wait until they are dilated at least 5 before getting one. She explained to me that I am NOT weak and that when your water breaks, there is no more liquid cushion for the baby's head so it is pressing really hard on the cervix without any protection and it causes a lot of pain.
I got my epidural as I was contracting which was not fun but nothing prepared me for how the epidural actually felt.
I HATED IT
Yes, I didn't feel contractions but half of my body was numb. Not having control over half my body freaked me out so much. I had to talk myself out of panic attacks the entire time because just knowing I couldn't get up and walk away really freaked me out. I hope I never have to get one ever again.
The next 24 hours were just constant pitocin adjustments. They would come in and increase it or decrease it based on the baby's heart rate. At one point mid day I started making it to 3 centimeters and there was a little bit of hope. The nurse told me that once I hit 5 centimeters things would start happening really quickly.
They didn't ...
The doctor on call inserted an extra monitor in me that was more precise at reading the contractions. The baby wasn't tolerating high amounts of pitocin so they wanted to make sure the readings were correct.
I was so over it. I hadn't slept, my body was numb and shaking and I told the nurse that I had a gut feeling that the baby just wasn't going to fit through the birth canal. She told me I had a very valid point but had to wait 3 hours while the other monitor was reading contractions and then they could make the decision.
I felt tons of fluid leaking from my body. I called the nurse in because I was sure that my catheter broke. It turns out that the last bit of fluid from around his head was finally leaving my body. Even though we pretty much decided on a c-section at that point, in a weird twist of events I dilated to 7 centimeters then quickly to 9.
I sat at 9 centimeters for a long time while they kept adjusting the pitocin. Baby still did not like it. The nurse said she had never seen someone get to 9 and not progress from there.
At this point I broke down to the nurses who were changing shift and begged for a c-section. It also happened that my OB was on call that morning and just happened to check in at that moment. He felt my pain immediately and said he would do my surgery within the next 2 hours.
I never had surgery in my life ever. I never really even go to doctors or hospitals. I've been lucky to be a mostly healthy individual thus far and here I was begging for a major surgery, whilst at the same time realizing that I would be spending several months recovering from this procedure. My friend even recommended that I should look at this comprehensive guide to long-term disability insurance as if this surgery meant that I would be out of work for three months or longer, I would be eligible to claim for this type of help (which is definitely something worth considering). But that was a thought for later. At that moment, I just had to wrap my head around the thought of undergoing high-risk surgery. I was so scared but really didn't have time to think about it in my brain. My body took over as it started shaking even more.
I was wheeled into the sterile operating room at first without Mike. I was then pumped with so many things that I couldn't keep track. More in the epidural, pain killers, saline . . . you name it! Mike was invited to the room and stood by me while the part of my body that could move shook uncontrollably as I cried.
The first thing I noticed was the smell of my flesh being burned open. Then I started to feel pressure as they dug around but thankfully no pain. Even though I was not in my own body, all my heart wanted to hear was the baby cry so I knew he was ok. A few minutes later I heard that cry.
Baby James was born at 10:19 AM via C-Section after 36 hours of labor beforehand.
The nurses took him to the station. I told Mike to go be with him and that I would be ok. He continued to cry while his initial exams were happening when the nurse called out that he was 10lbs 3oz and 22 inches long. A collective gasp came from the entire staff while I immediately felt a sense of peace.
My gut feeling was right and I made the right call to have the surgery. This is how it was meant to happen.
My peace was quickly replaced with the worst pain I've ever felt, even worse than the contractions the day before. The doctor started the process of contracting my uterus down. I had NO idea this was part of the surgery and it was INCREDIBLY painful and lasted about 15 minutes.
The sounds coming from me were nothing I thought I was capable of. I was in a mix of so much pain but also trying to look over at Mike and James and be happy and grateful. It was intense.
At that point they pumped me full of fentanyl to relieve some of the pain. It made me so tired as they stapled me back up and wheeled me into another room where they checked my vitals and brought James in and put him on my chest. Mike sat next to me as we tried to calm down from the whirlwind we just experienced while immediately falling into the new one.
And just like that, we were parents.
At the time of writing this I am 5 weeks postpartum. The whirlwind is still going on but in so many different ways. Women don't really have time to process their birth experience because they are thrown right into having a life completely dependent on them.
I can confidently say that women are amazing in a way I never knew possible. The physical and mental fortitude that's unfolds in difficult times like this makes you realize you're capable of truly amazing things.