Birth Experience 2004

I’ve looked everywhere on my computer for a copy of my birth story. It would be interesting to reread my thoughts on my birthing experience and see how differently I feel now. For a while I was pretty positive about my child’s cesarean birth even though I went into L&D at the hospital with every expectation of delivering vaginally with no intervention. With time and anticipation of future births, I began to feel less certain about my experiences . . .

Every pregnant woman in the 9th month feels like she’s on the brink of spontaneous delivery. Friends say “it looks like the baby has dropped” or “are you getting excited/nervous” or “are you sure you don’t want an epidural” or “natural childbirth is nuts” and all sorts of (ahem) helpful things. These comments do nothing to soothe the first-time mother – well, not one built like me anyway. I’d go in to see my CNM and was disappointed that my DD wasn’t dropping or engaging into my pelvis and that my cervix was still high, tight, and closed.

Christmas came and I had a townfull of family. My due date came and went – siblings had to return home. The last group activity was a bet on when I’d have the baby.

Wednesday morning I had my regular appointment. My CNM confirmed that the baby was still high and that my cervix looked like it wasn’t interested in letting a baby out any time soon. I had only just passed my due date, so I was frustrated (because I wanted to meet my baby) but not concerned. After lunch with the extended family, my husband and I decided to go home and rest . . . ALONE. We were tired. I spent most of the afternoon on the couch dozing and watching movies. My husband spent most of the afternoon gaming on-line.

I started to feel sick later that day. It might have been as early as 6:30pm or as late as 8:30pm when I started getting sick. I was vomiting and having diarrhea, and since that was all happening at the same time, I was having a hard time NOT passing out! I know some women get sick when they are laboring, but I was NOT in labor when this started. I definitely had caught some sort of really nasty mean bug. So I was shuttling very frequently between the bed and the toilet and the bathroom floor, carrying the trashcan (aka barf can) with me everywhere.

My poor husband. He was such a trooper and took really good care of me.

At some point (fairly early on in the “process”, I think) I started contracting. They weren’t particularly regular, I recall. They weren’t particularly bothersome (because I was too busy being sick). But I was really getting dehydrated and couldn’t keep anything down. My husband called our midwife in the late evening (maybe around 10pm?) and told her what was going on. Of course she didn’t suspect that I was in labor because she had just seen me earlier that day. He called her back a couple of hours later to tell her that he was taking me to the hospital. We were both worried about the dehydration, and he was convinced that I was in labor.

So he started getting ready to go to the hospital. My bag was mostly packed, but he was scurrying about doing things for a while, and asked me to get up and ready to go. I remember wondering how in the world I was supposed to get from the bed to the door to the car (not a long path, at all). I was sure I was going to get sick in the car. I dawdled. I think we finally got out of the house around 1:30am on Thursday.

We arrive. I need a wheelchair – can’t even conceive of walking. The lady at the desk is taking her sweet time. My husband comes back in from parking the car, and soon we’re in the elevator on our way to the maternity ward. The maternity ward knew I was coming. They weren’t particularly concerned. I imagine my midwife told them that there was NO WAY I was in labor and that I would likely need to be treated for dehydration.

Things went from tortoise to hare mode as soon as the nurse did an exam. I was 9cm dilated! Quick, move her into a proper L&D room. Quick, call her midwife. Our CNM arrived looking a bit harried and sheepish. She thought things looked great, and that it was time to get the party started. Wahoo!

She told us that the sickness caused my amniotic sac to dilate my cervix to that size. She thought that breaking my water would cause my daughter to slide into place. I should have known better. I trusted that a CNM wasn’t like a doctor. Artificial rupture (AROM) wasn’t really intervention. She was trying to speed things along . . . for me.

Well, my daughter didn’t budge after AROM. It did make my contractions incredibly strong, nearly intolerable, actually. I don’t feel like I ever got a break from the contractions. And then it was time to push. So I pushed. I pushed for 2 hours and my daughter didn’t budge.

Time to call in the OB. So, I had to stop pushing – resist that overwhelming need to birth my baby. I think I requested an IV at this time in case I would need a cesarean section. Boy do I regret that now, the reason being that I was communicating to them that a cesarean was an acceptable means to achieve a certain outcome. I should have known better. The OB arrived an hour later. She was confident that she could get the baby out vaginally. We tried for another hour. Nothing.

The OB and the CNM consult outside. The OB returns and asks me if I’m ready for a c-section. OF COURSE! Make it stop hurting so bad! Get me my baby!! I don’t really fault the OB – maybe I should, I don’t know. I had only met her once before, so she didn’t know how strongly I felt about avoiding a c-section. When she arrived at the hospital I was already prepping for intervention. My child was stuck. I hadn’t been laboring in different positions since I was weak from being sick and felt inhibited to try different positions while having diarrhea all over the place. My daughter wasn’t going to move, so the OB “had” to perform a section on me.

The means don’t always justify the end. Remember that. You may be ok today with a cesarean, but it can really complicate things down the road if and when you get pregnant again. Do your research. Your OB, CNM, CPM, DEM, etc. should earn your trust not demand it. You should ask lots of questions.

Hindsight isn’t always 20-20, especially not when you’re talking about the human body. But here is my list of “what went wrong”:

  1. Sickness necessitated my hospital visit, but I think that had I hired a doula, perhaps I wouldn’t have needed to go to the hospital for being sick. Just delaying my admit might have made a difference.
  2. AROM. Don’t let people mess with your membranes. They will burst on their own and don’t need any help from anyone. There was an expected outcome with breaking my water. That outcome was never achieved.
  3. Not changing positions. I labored on my left side which is supposed to be the most productive position. It hurt like hell. Laboring sitting up felt better to me, but the baby evidently didn’t like it. Don’t let inhibitions or pride keep you from doing what is necessary to achieve your goals.
  4. Giving up when there was no sign of distress. I was exhausted and sick but still found the strength to push and push and push. I broke a ton of blood vessels in my eyes. But women are designed to withstand the stress of labor. The baby wasn’t in distress – stuck – but not distressed. I should have kept going.
  5. Requesting the IV. By requesting the IV, I was letting everyone around me know that it was ok to intervene.

Stick to your guns. If you have strong feelings about your impending birthing experience – and you SHOULD have strong feelings about it – then you need to communicate them to your caregivers. You (and your partner, if applicable) need to stick to it – not that I’m recommending that you refuse intervention when it is very clearly medically indicated. Have confidence that your birth philosophy is valid. Have confidence that your body is designed to birth a child. Remember that your caregiver is providing you with a service. Research research research. Question everything!

26 thoughts on “Birth Experience 2004

  1. Hi, sorry to hear about your birth experience. I too regret a lot of the interventions etc I allowed in my daughter’s birth (and the ones they did even though I’d said not too!) and although it didn’t end in CS, it wasn’t what I’d hoped for so I’m currently doing loads of research so I can be fully prepared and have a thourough birth plan next time.

  2. Thanks for your story but could you refrain from the “you SHOULD’s”. The natural birthing movement is peppered with phrases like that and with direct comments or allusions to notions that “you’re not a real woman if you don’t go natural”, “you’re silly and selfish if you want to avoid pain”, “you just want it to be convenient” and “its the way its meant to be”. This trivialises the debate. These allusions and this prescription (the “you SHOULDs”) lend nothing to your argument, they just make those considering the issue angry with you and the movement and they get people thinking “who is this person to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do”. Isn’t that half the point of your article, that you SHOULDN’T let other people tell you what you SHOULD do.
    The facts will speak for themselves
    Anyway the experience was interesting and informative

    • Sam,
      I don’t know you, and I don’t know if you will ever read this again, but I already feel as if you didn’t really listen to her experience. I am saying this because she only used the phrase “you should” at the end of her information, where she said you should as a women have as strong feelings about your birth experiance. There is no discrepency there, and I don’t think any woman, part of a movement or not, would disagree with that statement becasue they think someone is telling them what to do. I personally can not fathom hearing a woman say “who is this person to tell me that I should care about my birth experience, so I’ll show them and I wont care at all.” Thats what your comment about her story sounds like to me, both an activist, and a woman, and a nurse.

  3. Sam,

    If you actually read my birth story (and I’m entitled to express MY birth story in any manner I see fit), you will notice that the only mandate I give in the “SHOULD” category is – have strong feelings about your birth experience. There is nothing otherwise in the “you should or shouldn’t” category. I would never tell a woman that she’s “not a real woman if you don’t go natural” or the other things of which you accuse me. My reflection (this is simply a retelling of my story, not an article as you have inferred) on my own personal birth story comes from experience, extensive research, and support through groups such as ICAN, Childbirth Connection, and other evidence-based networks. Absolutely, the facts speak for themselves.

    ~ Kimberly

  4. “they just make those considering the issue angry with you ”

    No one is responsible for another’s response to our own personal honesty. When we behave in a way that causes us to fear other’s response to us, we are unable to be ourselves, and live as victims of others.

    “could you refrain from the “you SHOULD’s” ”

    Could you refrain from should’ing all over Kimberly? This is bullying.

    “allusions to notions that “you’re not a real woman if you don’t go natural” ”

    I saw no such allusions. We each bring our own gifts, heart, abilities, personality & experiences to everything, and if you saw allusions that you are less than a woman, is it perhaps because that is your experience?

  5. It’s always interesting to me when someone comes onto a blog discussing a personal experience then proceeds to extrapolate it to apply to them. Frankly, childbirth does not require medication unless it becomes a medical event including surgery or other means. However, women are supposed to be given informed consent (they are not given it at this time though) and be able to make decisions regarding their options, including putting medications into themselves and their infants. To read someone else’s events of a personal nature, then turn the knife into them telling them they are making “you feel” a certain way just ignores the lessons of the whole experience and that is that YOU HAVE TO OWN YOUR OWN DECISIONS. If reading someone else’s makes you feel less, or judged, or other things…you have to know that you made the right decisions for you and that they are sound decisions. There is a weird underlying thing in American culture that we KNOW we are capable, we KNOW we can, we are terrified of doing childbirth without medication and when we give in, WE FEEL LESS because we know we could do it but we simply don’t know how. Women aren’t less because they choose medications or use them. They feel “less” because they wake up one morning, see other women doing it or saying they could do it and they cannot apply that to themselves.

  6. You prefaced your “shoulds” by saying this is what where you felt you made a mistake. I think somebody missed that. I think alot of women also have considered teh same sort of things with their birth experiences. i know IO have.

    Personally, I I especially relate to the point of not letting your inhibitions or pride control or limit your actions. I know I felt like getting on hands and knees with my son’s labor (my c-section baby) but I was embarassed with too many people in the room with me to get do it with that silly hospital gown on. Maybe it would haave made a difference. Maybe not, but I wish I’d done it. (extrapolating on Kimberly’s blog because it did apply to me.)

    I don’t think that you or any of us have said that a woman is not a real woman or anything of that nature. I know that’s how I felt though and it wasn’t because anything anyone said.

  7. Dear Sam…
    Perhaps you should consider not commenting on personal blogs/journals what have you until you are sure you know this person quite well.
    Should you decide to do so. Pehaps you should employ a smidgen of respect and tolerance for the person who has taken the time to share their story/feelings/pain/sorrow/joy… with the world.
    In essense, you should have known better and used some common sense and tact.

    K. the doula
    who has had a ‘natural labour’ go awry and ended in a very unwanted, yet warranted c/s.
    a miscarriage.
    and two homebirths…
    I should not still have strong feelings for my first childs ‘birth’ but I do.
    Shame on me huh?
    And yes, I do harrangue ob blogs right left and centre… because of those feelings!

  8. I completely understand the feelings of acceptance you experience immediately after the cesarean and how they eventually change to questioning the necessity of the cesarean. Immediately after my son’s cesarean delivery I felt like I had made the best choice possible and it was unfortunate that I had needed a cesarean. Now I look back and question every single decision I made to get to that point and what could have been different.

    (who had a vag. birth, then a homebirth-turned-cesarean, followed by a HBAC with twins)

  9. Thanks for the comment. I’ll have a look at your site – the homepage looks great! Yes, I’ll be having a vaginal birth at home! 🙂 Unless I am “risked out” of homebirth for unforseen reasons.

  10. Even though by most accounts the birth of my first child in the hospital would be considered a “good” birth, I can identify with the initial feelings of acceptance of everything that happened, and then the later questioning of those same events. I think that birth takes a long time to process, that it usually takes years to access our true feelings about the decisions we made and how other people treated us. I look back from a vantage point of two years, and I feel lucky that the tide didn’t turn on me so I ended up with a C-section, because even though I wanted an all natural birth my prenatal classes had “prepared” me for a C-section, and I hadn’t done a lot of research into what actually makes a C-section medically necessary. I also remember how vulnerable I felt when I was in labour – I hadn’t anticipated feeling so vulnerable. I didn’t particularly like my doctor, but I was in a position where all my energy was focused on the hard work of the birth, which was uncharted territory, and I felt I had to put my trust in those around me. I will never darken the doors of a hospital for a birth again, unless my midwife (who I trust and have discussed in detail in what situations she would consider transferring for a C-section medically necessary) tells me that there is no way this baby is being born vaginally. I am so glad that I have the opportunity to give birth again, with what I know now about myself and what the birthing process is like for me. But it can be difficult to know how to reframe that first birth experience. Is life perfect? No. Do I always make good decisions? No. When I’m tired and in pain do I have less resources than usual? Yes. Perhaps a way to come to terms with our birth experiences, without feeling like victims, is to accept that we are not perfect people, not able to anticipate all circumstances, and that we do not live in a perfect world. Perhaps the answer is grace for ourselves, for our vulnerability and our lack of ability to be all knowing. I’m still working through this – I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts.

  11. Thank you for sharing your story. The naysayer has been thoroughly thrashed but I just want to say “PPPPPPLLLLLLLLL” to him anyway.

    I admire your honesty as you’ve shared what you feel are mistakes you made. I, too, had a planned homebirth that ended up in the hospital. Luckily it didn’t end in a cesarean but only because I’d labored so long at home (over 40 hours). I did allow them to break my membranes and in hind sight, I wish I’d stuck to the game plan and said no.

    Hopefully the next, if we get a next, will be started and completed at home. Again, thanks for sharing and I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  12. Oh hugs!

    It really sounds to me like you might have benefited from having the IV put in immediately upon getting to the hospital. Dehydration–which you most likely had–can make contractions much more painful. So please, don’t beat yourself up about asking for that IV.

    I’d be more upset with the midwife for not encouraging you to move around more. That’s supposed to be what a midwife does. But honestly, as a doula, I see more midwives that function as OB’s than I care to admit. 😦

    I wish you the best for a future pregnancy! You might want to consider a natural progesterone cream (like one from Arbonne–they make 2, one is safe for pregnancy, the other isn’t) for the progesterone deficiency rather than Clomid. I hear that Clomid has some really nasty side effects. Hugs!

  13. I really enjoyed your birth story. I feel like I can relate in so many ways. My first was a planned home birth that ended in a CS. I still feel right about the decisions, my midwife, Mother (of five, four homebirths), and husband were all in agreement that my son was stuck and would not come out. However, I continue to struggle with the fact that I will always be treated differently by the medical community because of the CS. My second son was a successful VBAC in the hospital, all natural. I was not happy about the birth experience, even though it resulted in a healthy boy. I am now searching for ways to have a homebirth, but unfortunately midwives are few and far between in my area. Thank you for you story!!

  14. Emma,
    Thank you so much for your comment. It gives me hope for my future! I am not so jazzed about a hospital VBAC and hope I’ll be a good candidate still for homebirth. Many women who desire homebirth DO travel to see the “right” midwife. I encourage you to see if your local ICAN chapter might have recommendations for you. If you don’t have a chapter locally, I’d be happy to ask around on your behalf.
    Best wishes to you. I hope that awesome birth experience is still ahead for you!!
    ~ Kimberly

  15. Thank you for putting your story out there. I found it whilst looking generally for WHO guidelines and was interested because I am from Montana, far from it, and have seen several cousins there heading down the C-birth and repeat C-birth route while I had the great experience of a home water VBAC supported by midwives and paid for by my taxes here in the UK. If and when the time comes, don’t let yourself be risked out of that great, great experience!

  16. Megan, thank you for your response. I’m thrilled to hear that you achieved the birth experience and you and your baby deserved. I am sad to hear that your cousins in Montana are not being encouraged to consider a VBAC. Perhaps they would be interested in helping to change the birth culture in Montana? They can support midwifery and evidence-based medical practitioners in their towns. They can start a chapter of ICAN or attend a meeting in Missoula Change can be slow, but every stride counts!

  17. It is so nice to read I’m not the only one who is suddenly unhappy about what I thought were reasonable decisions at the time. I’m working hard not to beat myself up about agreeing to an epidural although I absolutely did not want one. With epidural, I could no longer move around, and baby, who was moving from posterior to anterior (hence the overwhelming hip pain), got stuck half way around, and ultimately was born via CS. He’s amazing, my life is amazing, etc. and the past is the past, but suddenly the cascade of events leading to my CS are so clear, and I find myself questioning either my own resolve or my midwife’s support or something. Thanks again for sharing.

  18. Pingback: A Note to My Friend « The Trial of Labor

  19. Asheya said: “I also remember how vulnerable I felt when I was in labour – I hadn’t anticipated feeling so vulnerable.”

    I think that may be one of the keys of preparation for labor. You suggest “Sticking to your guns”, but I’ve found that to be really difficult in the midst of labor. Twice now, I’ve had births (one hospital birthing center, one homebirth), where things happened that were obviously not my originally intended wishes, but in the midst of labor I had a hard time making my feelings known. Even when things were happening that were giving me bad feelings, I simply had a hard time speaking out loud what the voices in my head were saying. And this coming from a normally very assertive and outspoken person. I think, perhaps, that having a doula that is really proactive, and that understands you, is the key.

  20. Wow – what a birth story! That bit about hindsight is so true. I don’t think I could have made it through my labor with the outcome I wanted (natural childbirth) without my husband. He was trained as a doula through the Bradley Method, and he helped me immensely. Like you, I had trouble pushing, however I was able to switch from classic position to sidelying position, which helped immensely. Thank you very much for sharing your birth story!

  21. Thanks, Kimberly for sharing your story. This looks like a cool blog. I am looking forward to reading more of your posts. My better half, Abbie, is a few days over due to have our third. We are posting about it.

    The comments were cool to read. Finding the right voice to communicate these topics can be a challenge. I am not sure we have quite found it yet. When Abbie posted her first birth story ten years ago, she got lots of good feed back but also cranked some people up. The story is still up unedited from 1999, but when we read it now it is tempting to smooth out a few edges. Maybe we will.

    Ina May Gaskin and Laura Shanley are the resources we return to most often.

    Your post is an inspiration to me to strive to articulate meaningful information based on our first hand experience.

    Happy New Year to You and yours!


  22. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your birth. I do hope your upcoming one is joy-filled and satisfying, no matter what ensues!

    One thing I noticed that you mentioned I thought might help to know (I am not criticizing, just making an observation–perhaps it will help w/pushing baby 2 out) that burst capilaries in the eyes is a definite sign of pushing too much in the upper half of the body, instead of a downward, bottom-only pushing. With good control, really effective pushing should not show so much in the face as in the bottom (though I have seen a woman who looked like she was doing both, so I’m not saying it can’t be done). Again, I do not mean this to be a criticism, just an observation that you may want to consider. It may be a small consolation that the pushing you did in your last labor *may* not have been effective because the pressure was focused in your head–not your bottom. But I don’t have the details of your birth, so there may have been other things (like the station of the baby’s head) that contributed to several hours of pushing with no baby to show for it.

    God bless your upcoming birth! You sound like you’ve done some good preparation and research, and your last birth experience is invaluable to your resolve!

  23. Ok, I have already left on comment, so here is another. I realize this blog is old, but I hope people still see it, I know I did. I am an L&D nurse, and I wish everyone luck on their next birth. I would also like to say that I wish no woman would be upset with themselves because of decisions made during labor. Just as I have seen several ladies say already, it is a very vulnerable time for a woman and it is hard to make decisions. Which is why it is truly the medical staffs responsiblity to be patient advocates for you. They should be informing you every step of the way; what is going on, why, how it happens, what are the best solutions. You should be able to trust them. Sadly, even I know this is not always the case; in fact it usually isn’t this way. I personally am so happy to see women who choose to have doulas come to the hospital with them, they help you stay strong, they are so supportive. My advice is, make sure you carry your plan with you, make sure your loved ones know and understand your plans. Make sure your support persons are going to advocate for you when you are feeling vulnerable. Question everything; if you don’t know why they are doing something to you, you should ask. Pitocin is not the same as oxytocin, don’t let people tell you different; pitocin is only responisble for contraction and does not produce dilation on its own. Breaking bag of waters is inconclusive when it comes to evidence of it speeding the labor process, and is medically unnecessary (most mammals delivery thier offspring in sac). Cytotec is contraindicated for use on pregnant women; let me say again, cytotec is not approved for use in pregnant women (check the FDA website). American College of OB/GYN (ACOG), which is supposed to set the standard for OB/GYNs in the US most recent recommendations are that elective c-sections are not recommended for women who plan to have more than one child due mainly to maternal risks, and some infant risks. ACOG states C-sections are only recommended for medical neccessity. ACOG also recommends VBAC for many women (women who have had twins, two or less lower transverse c-sections are cannidates for VBAC). Please look up ACOG’s website. Also when pushing, push like you have a really big poop; many women feel embarassed, but this is the best way, but sometimes it is hard to do. Many studies have suggested that the best pushing position is actually on the hands and knees.

    Nurses and doctors in many places are going to tell you the same things. “Oh don’t worry about that,” “trust me, I’ve been doing this for a long time and I know what I’m talking about,” “we have been doing it like this for years, and this is the best way,” and my favorite is “but I don’t like doing it those ways because….” All of those statements say much more about that medical personal than the the birthing process. Just remember, we work for you, not the other way around.

    • Dear Christy,
      Thank you for your comments. I wish I was keeping up momentum on this blog, but I’m raising 4 children and working a full-time job!

      I’ll be posting my 2011 birth story hopefully very soon. It was a VBA2C and quite quite different from my previous experiences. It taught me a LOT.


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