Before my son was born, I had a lot of ideas on how I thought it would go, and felt prepared for how it might go.
NOTHING went as I expected.
I was having contractions for two or more hours at a time for days before my water broke. When it did break, there hadn't been any contractions in over 24 hours. It was 2 am, and I was only 1 cm dilated. Rather than let the staff start petosin right away or start marching the halls to get contractions started, in my exaustion I asked to sleep a few hours and start at 6 am. This is the point where all my regretful "what-if's"begin.
Come 6 am, I was still only 1 cm and not contracting, so the doctor ordered petosin. Shortly after I agreed to having a balloon inserted to help me dilate and eface. This was a very painful choice that I regretted immediately and for hours to follow. I was told it would fall out once I reached 5 cm, but hours later, I was in a lot of pain from the device and the nurse was reluctant to call the doctor for an exam to see how I was progressing because the progress had been so slow thus far. Only when I finally snapped, sobbing, did she get the doctor, and we discovered I was 6 cm and the device had got hung up and was unable to fall out naturally as intended.
After sixteen hours of laboring on my feet and on a birthing ball, after the balloon and the nurse not listening, I asked for staydol to take the edge off. That was a total load of crap. I had been told it took the edge off the pain for an hour so you could rest. All it did was knock me out between contractions, causing me to become disoriented and upset. My family found it funny at first how I would fall asleep in the middle of a sentance or question and wake up where I left off when the next contraction hit.
I asked for an epidural. I had not wanted to, but I had never promised myself I would never do it either. Finally I could rest as the pain eased. I thought to myself at that point, "I wanted to labor in the jetted tub. I wanted to walk and do this naturally. But without any natural contactions or dilation happening, I couldn't. I hate it, but I couldn't. My body betrayed me, after a week of good practice contractions, a healthy pregnancy, now in the time I need my body to cooperate it suddenly does nothing it was made to do. I can forgive myself all that, though. I just want to have a vaginal birth and a healthy baby. I want to see my baby lifted onto my chest and to hold him in my arms."
Then everything went wrong.
About a half hour, maybe an hour after the epidural, during which the anesthesiologist looked at me like I was complaining too much for a woman 8 cm dilated after 17 hours in labor, I suddenly felt cold. Laying in my hospital bed with my husband, parents, sister, cousins and in-laws all around, I began to ask for blankets, even for my husband's coat when there were no more blankets in the room to be had. My mother and husband were the first to say this was wrong. I called for the nurse and she took my temperature.
18 hours into my labor, I had spiked a fever of 102 and suddenly an alarm went off. The baby's heart rate was climbing dangerous. I was not fully coherent anymore. I was not able to understand what was being said around me until the delivery doctor on call leaned over me. "Hannah," she said, "You're sick. The baby needs to come out now to be safe."
"Do the c-section." I said. I knew. I couldn't understand anything but what she had just told me, but I knew what had to be done. It was the one thing I had prayed not to have to do. Contractions or petosin, pain or epidural, natural or medicated, but please, merciful God, not a c-section. I had been afraid of what the recovery would be like on top of having a new born to care for. I didn't want to perminantly change my body through surgery unless there was no other option. And there was no other option.
I remember being embarrassed as the nurses lifted me onto the oporating table because I was so weak with fever and numb from the epidural I could barely help turn myself as they needed. Then my husband was there, crying. I didn't know why, so I asked. "The nurse said," he choked, stopped, "The baby's heartrate is so high. If they don't get him out now his heart might give out. He might die."
I laid back, I held his hand. I asked no questions and tried to focus when I was asked questions. I was so foggy, so cold. but I did the best I could to stay with it, to help the doctors when they needed me to say something. I remember having to concentrate on the light above me, almost counting the tiny hexagons in the glass of the bulb to stay awake. I don't know if it was the drugs or the fever, but I had to fight and to pray not to fall asleep before I heard that first cry.
There it was. I sobbed. He breathed deep. My son was crying, a wet, desperate, frightened, angry sound. They showed him over the curtain, and he was wet and desperate and frightened and angry, but he was alive and vibrant and fighting. I told my husband to go to him while he was cleaned up. He returned a moment later, or maybe it was several minutes, I couldn't tell. "He's beautiful, Hannah, and healthy! You did so good, baby! You're beautiful."
A nurse brought my son over once he was bundled up. "Touch him!" She urged. But I was weak, and my whole body was numb from anesthesia. I was suddenly scared when I told her this, but she brought him in close and I kissed his soft little cheek.
My husband went with him to the NICU after that. I went in and out of wakefulness until I was taken back to my room.
After 4 days in the hospital, my own OB/GYN visited me and told me, very frankly, that my infection was a special kind of rare, and I was a special kind of lucky. I had recieved the Strep B shot, but had gotten Strep strain G during the long labor. The infection had crossed over through the placenta and I had blood poisoning. It took two weeks of anibiotics to clear, and I retained so much fluid my feet were club-like for nearly a week. My DH, LO and I had to move in with my parents for 5 weeks before I was functioning close to normally.
Despite a difficult recovery and a slow start to my milk coming in, my son and I were thriving before too long. Now he is a happy, healthy three month old who is eager to do all his big firsts just as quickly as his devolopement allows. I want to get past my disappointments in how this birth went and just move on, enjoying my baby without looking back. But it's been hard. I think ahead to the future when we hope to have another LO in a few years and I'm scared. I'll have to go to a bigger hospital and to a new OB/GYN because mine doesn't do v-backs, and I really, really want to do that rather than another c-section.
I didn't realize it until I was pregnant, but I want to have a vaginal birth badly. Without it, I feel incomplete somehow, like part of the joy of childbirth is missing for me. Of course this is just me, this is the feeling I have in my body. But now that everything is different physically, from breast-feeding boobs to the c-section scar and abs not stretching quite like they did, to wondering when or if my personal bits will ever behave the same again, I feel like if I had been in control of the birth at all I wouldn't feel so helplessly out of control of my post-baby body sometimes.
I hope that in time I get over this feeling and I can just consider this knowledge I can put toward my next pregnancy and birth. But if anyone out there has ever felt this way about their birth experience, I'd like to hear from you. Is it normal to feel jealous of moms who I haven't heard complain about the circumstances of their birth experiences? Not that I'm not happy for them, I just wish I could look back without so many mixed feelings.