I’ve seen and heard some rigorous debates about the different methods of childbirth. Although it wasn’t my intention, I’ve done some very “hands-on” research on the subject. The first thing I realized with my experiences is that you don’t always get to choose! Things didn’t always go as planned or how I might have hoped, but in the end I had three very different deliveries that resulted in 4 healthy babies and a healthy mom. Let me tell you my story of hitting the childbirth trifecta…an induction, a home birth and a cesarean section.
I was just over 38 weeks pregnant with my first child when my water broke. I was not having any significant contractions yet, so upon arriving and settling in at the hospital, a drip of pitocin was started to induce labor. Because my water had already broken, it was important to have the baby within 24 hours if possible or there would be increased risks of infection for both of us.
Although I saw them on the monitor, I could barely feel the contractions. I thought this might be easier than I anticipated until the nurse kept turning up the drip. I was about 6-8 hours in to the induction process when I changed my mind. I was having massive contractions about every 1 1/2 minutes, and they lasted about a minute and 20 seconds each. I could barely take a breath in between them. I had endured a few hours of this almost constant contracting when my doctor came in, instructed the nurse to turn down the pitocin drip, and called for the epidural. By that time my entire body was so tense I don’t think I could have even gotten in position to push! Once the epidural kicked in, I was able to relax for a few hours while my cervix dilated. Before I knew it, I was ready to push. I pushed for about 30 minutes and out came Marissa. She was perfect! Other than needing some stitches and recovery from the epidural, Momma was in good shape too.
About 2 1/2 years later, I was 39+ weeks into my second pregnancy. I woke up one morning with intense contractions and had my bloody show. I was expecting my husband take me to labor and delivery, but he was heading to work and for some reason didn’t believe I was in labor. As a family practice physician, I mistakenly trusted his “medical opinion” instead of my own instincts. This was the beginning of a comedy of errors!
After he left, I was alone trying to do last minute nesting in the midst of some serious contractions. Looking back on that day, I believe I was hoping my husband was right because it was September 11 and I didn’t really want that to be her birthday. I was also waiting for my water to break like it did with my first pregnancy. After a few hours, the contractions got closer and I knew the baby was coming soon. I put my packed bag in the car, had the keys in the ignition, and went to let my dogs in the house. Luckily I took my phone, and my husband called to tell me he was in the middle of something but would send his medical assistant (and our friend) to bring me to the hospital. As I was bringing the dogs in, I had a contraction and held my knees together tightly because I felt like the baby was coming right then! I managed to get the dogs inside and to the bottom of a flight of stairs I had to climb, but I knew I wasn’t going to make it. I called 911; finally help was on the way. My water broke and Tina, who was supposed to be my ride, arrived a few minutes into the 911 call. I knew the baby was coming. I got into position and gave birth to Sierra right at the bottom of the steps. It was only a few minutes more until the troops arrived. Sierra didn’t seem to be crying or making much noise, but Tina showed her to me and she was beautiful!
The firefighters and paramedics swooped upon us, got us stabilized and ready to transport. It was excruciatingly painful because I was still having contractions to deliver the placenta. The ambulance ride was only about 6 miles, but it seemed like the ride was 50 miles! Once at the hospital, we were given a clean bill of health and were somewhat settled when my husband finally got there. He looked at me, looked at Sierra next to me, and I could see the shock on his face. Despite the circumstances surrounding her birth, we were both safe and healthy. I even thought if I were to have another baby, I’d try to go the “natural” route if possible–only in a hospital and on purpose 🙂
Fast forward two years. I was 37 weeks pregnant with twins and getting ready for another delivery. Unfortunately, the natural route was not going to be an option this time. My boys were both breech and there was a roadblock…somewhat literally. I had known since early in my pregnancy that I had a cyst on my ovary. It was about 8 cm and the plan was just to “watch and wait”. However as my pregnancy progressed, the cyst grew to over 20 cm. Not only was it huge, but there was mild suspicion it could be malignant. I was followed by a gynecological oncologist with a plan to remove the cyst, ovary, and fallopian tube at the same time as the cesarean section for my twin boys.
The day finally arrived for this blessed event. It was just me, my husband, and what seemed like 50 doctors, nurses, techs, etc. in the OR. I had been able to keep such a positive attitude throughout the pregnancy; I was ready. That all changed when I was in the OR getting my epidural. I was in a teaching hospital and the doctor doing the epidural (a resident, I believe) was getting instruction throughout the procedure from the attending anesthesiologist. The first attempt at advancing the catheter did not result in success. At that point, I realized there was no easy way out of this. My calm demeanor quickly switched over to almost full-on freak-out mode! I was much better once my husband was able to come back in to the OR, and the meds they were giving me surely helped too.
I was finally prepped and ready for the cesarean. In order to do the cesarean and remove the ovarian cyst, a vertical incision starting at my belly button was made. Again, being at a teaching hospital, I could hear the attending physician guiding the resident through the procedure. The first thing I heard was “ascites” and “mets”. I quietly freaked out because as a former oncology nurse, I knew these were terms indicative of cancer. Looking back, it must have been a question like “what might you see if…”, but I didn’t hear that part. Then came the babies!!! First was Ryan at 8:30 am and then Owen at 8:31 am. They didn’t make much noise. The doctors didn’t even show them to me. They just got whisked away and I had no idea what was going on. My husband left for a while to be with them.
I was awake during the remainder of the surgery, but in a daze from meds and overwhelming emotions. I thought I had cancer, I didn’t know what condition my babies were in, and I was undergoing an unknown amount of additional surgery. My husband returned and explained that my boys were having some problems breathing; a condition known as transient tachypnea of the newborn. They were getting oxygen, but if they didn’t improve they may have to be intubated. I think that emotionally and physically I couldn’t even process that, but at least I knew they were alive. As the surgery progressed, a gynecological oncologist removed my cyst, ovary and fallopian tube. I remember hearing the report back from pathology that the cyst was not cancerous. After 3 hours, 2 babies, one cyst, half my reproductive system removed and 1400 cc of blood loss, the surgery was finally over.
At about 5 pm that night I was wheeled from my room to see by twin boys in the NICU. Even though they had oxygen, suction, and IVs, they were simply beautiful. They were recovering nicely and didn’t have to be intubated. I got to hug and hold my precious little boys for the first time. They weighed in at 6 lbs 9 oz and 6 lbs 14 oz for a total of almost 13 1/2 lbs of baby!!! The boys and I both recovered after a few days. On the 5th day we were all able to go home.
I am beyond blessed with the gifts of my children. Whether delivered by induction of labor, natural labor and home birth, or cesarean, it didn’t matter. Each experience was painful, scary, and largely out of my control. In fact, just writing of my experiences induced painful memories and flashbacks. I imagine every expectant mother wants to plan and know exactly what will happen when it is time to deliver the precious baby she’s been carrying. Sometimes it works out, but many of us have to do whatever is necessary to ensure that we get our babies and ourselves through delivery safely. Other times we have to rely on luck, divine intervention, or whatever force was responsible for getting Sierra and I through our home birth experience unscathed. Knowing what I know now, I simply cannot understand why some women judge or shame other women for their birthing experiences. We all want the same end result: a healthy baby (or babies) and healthy mom. I don’t think any particular method is easy, but I know in my case I can easily say it was all worth it!
Caran’s beautiful babies!