As a labor and delivery nurse, I think it’s natural that I love reading and hearing about other people’s birth stories. They are each so different and so beautiful.
I have thought for a long time about sharing Maxwell’s birth story. At first, it wasn’t one that I was proud to share as it wasn’t the birth I had hoped for. But over time I’ve learned that every story is different and truly it doesn’t matter whether you had your baby vaginally or by csection. Two years later and as I prepare to bring baby #2 into the world, I’m finally getting to it. (#procrastinatorsunite)
So here goes…
My birth story is not at all what I had envisioned when I first got pregnant. I had hopes of going into labor naturally on my own and seeing how far my body could go and what it could do. I dreamed of a delivery where I would work my butt off but it would all be worth it in the end when they placed my baby on my chest for my husband and I to marvel at this miracle we created. But that wasn’t the birth experience I was given.
At about 35 weeks pregnant, I started showing signs of preeclampsia. My legs were swollen, I was spilling protein in my urine and my blood pressure was elevated. I had mentioned it to one of the OB’s at my appointment and explained that my mom also had a history of preeclampsia and that I was concerned. The doctor pretty much brushed it off, told me to eat more protein and lay off the carbs. I left feeling like my concerns were not being heard, and deep down I knew to trust the voice in my head.
At my 36 week appointment I saw another OB in the group. My blood pressure was still elevated, and I still had protein in my urine so she decided to run further lab work. I went to the lab for my testing and they explained that since it was Friday, they wouldn’t have the results until Monday.
That weekend, I started having awful headaches and just felt like something was off. Monday morning came around and I logged into my online portal where patients could check the results of their labs and have access to all of their medical records. My lab work showed that my protein-creatinine ratio was 0.3 which was borderline. I called the office and left a message with the nurse that I wanted one of the OB’s to call me back to discuss my results.
The next day, Tuesday, I still hadn’t heard back from the doctor I had seen on Friday. I was working at the hospital that day and texted my favorite OB in my practice and told him I wanted to discuss some things with him. He happened to be on his way into the hospital and we agreed to talk when he got there. I explained my labs and my symptoms and he scheduled me to see him in the office the next morning. The next day at my appointment, my blood pressure was 150s/90s, my legs, arms and face were swollen. Overall, I felt like crap, and I kept getting headaches on and off. We decided that while everything looked fine with the baby on ultrasound, it would be safer to head into the hospital for induction.
I remember we were driving home to go pack my bags and get the dog to bring to my parents and I had this overwhelming sense of anxiety. I just felt like something was going to go wrong and I was upset that this was not happening the way I wanted it to.
So off to the hospital we went, it was Wednesday and I was 37 weeks and 2 days. My cervix was pretty thick and only a fingertip dilated so I spent the first night and the next day getting cervical ripening to help make my cervix favorable for pitocin. On Friday when my OB came in, my cervix was only 1 cm dilated and about 80% effaced. My OB wanted to break my water and start pitocin. I mentioned trying a foley balloon instead to which he said “he didn’t think that was a good idea” as I also didn’t want a prolonged induction. So they broke my water and started pitocin. In hindsight I wish I advocated for myself more but what’s that saying? “Shoulda, coulda, woulda”.
I’m not sure how long it was after that, but it didn’t feel like a long time, I soon started kicking into labor. My contractions felt like one was coming after another and I felt like I wasn’t getting a break. I got my epidural and shortly after, Maxwell’s heart rate had one prolonged decel that felt like an eternity. My OB came in to check me and I was only 5-6cms. We tried repositioning side to side but it wasn’t coming back up to baseline. I don’t know how long it lasted, but the next thing I knew we were going right back to the OR.
Once we were in the OR, it all happened very quickly. Next thing I knew, the baby was out and I heard my OB say “it’s a boy!” and he handed him off to the baby nurse. When they brought him over to me, I felt relieved that he was here and healthy but I was still in shock of how everything had happened.
Back in the recovery room, I started having feelings like I couldn’t breathe and just this overwhelming sense of doom. Anesthesia and my OB both came back to see me and agreed it was probably from the epidural and maybe my level was too high. Looking back now, I know that it was a panic attack.
I went home from the hospital with feelings of guilt from having a c-section and not being able to do it naturally. Should I just have kept quiet and let things happen naturally? But what if I ended up having a seizure or stroke? Did my OB jump the gun by going back to the OR? If we waited a little bit longer, would his heart rate have come back up and would I have ended up with the delivery I envisioned? My husband tried to help by saying “you have a healthy baby and you’re healthy, what more could you ask for?” But I wasn’t healthy mentally. I didn’t want to hold my baby, I would cry when I had to breastfeed him, and at night I would stare at him obsessively to make sure he was still breathing.
I was 10 months postpartum when all of my feelings came to a head. I literally wanted to run outside of my body and run away somewhere. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew it wasn’t right. I decided to go on anxiety medication and made a few appointments with a therapist. After a few sessions I realized my anxiety was due to feeling like I wasn’t in control of my own birth experience and feeling guilty for not being able to have a vaginal delivery and breastfeed.
Almost 2 and a half years later and I can say I still feel like that birth experience was robbed from me but in the long run does it matter? The answer is no. My son is the healthiest, happiest, most loving soul and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
However, this time around, I’ve changed OBGYN practices where I feel 110% supported and where I can play a more active role in my experience.