I’m sharing V’s birth story so that I don’t forget it. At 9 months postpartum, the details are already hazy! It’s not exactly a happy story, and I’m not thrilled with my birth experience. However, I would like to highlight that I truly believe in God’s perfect plan. V’s birth did not go how I wanted it to go, but it did happen the way that God intended for it to happen.
I hoped for a birth without interventions - drug free, in the water, intermittent monitoring, no IV, freedom to move and eat - the whole hippie shebang. I prepared myself for this kind of birth experience and felt confident in early labor. My contractions did not follow the expected progression. As soon as my body kicked into labor, my contractions were 2.5 minutes apart and painful. My discomfort levels only mildly increased as labor progressed, perhaps because of the intensity of early labor. Contraction pain began and remained severe, but manageable, with the help of counter pressure. I could not really tell how my labor was progressing because of the nature of the contractions, so I opted to head to the hospital after only a couple of hours laboring at home.
My water ruptured spontaneously during my initial exam. Despite wanting intermittent monitoring, I was hooked up to heart rate and contraction monitors and left to labor near my bed. I kept thinking, “I’ll just get through this time on the monitors and then they will let me labor in the water. If I can make it to the tub, I’ll be okay.” At one point, V’s heart rate dropped more than a nurse was comfortable with during a contraction. She rushed in to check me, and, frankly, she scared the crap out of me. I knew that this was not a good sign. She said something along the lines of, “You’re only at a 6, and your baby seems to not be tolerating labor very well. We are going to have to keep you on the monitors.” I knew that my care team would have to put me under general anesthesia if I needed a cesarean and did not already have an epidural, so I asked for the epidural ‘just in case’.
I continued to labor for a couple of hours before my epidural was placed, and my body progressed relatively quickly. I was measuring at an 8.5 - 9 immediately after the epidural took effect. V’s heart rate continued to drop with contractions. I was moved to my left side and told to wait until I felt pressure to push. The epidural completely slowed down my labor, and I never actually felt pressure to push. I was told to try pushing after several hours because my cervix had been fully dilated for some time. I did ask to wait until I felt the pressure, but was encouraged to push anyway. So we tried. 3 hours later, with little to no progress, I was taken back for a cesarean.
I want to highlight that I was always treated with respect and care. I never felt steam-rolled, forgotten, or ignored. I did not always feel that my wishes were completely respected, but I hold no bitterness over that.
In the operating room, all of the staff were incredibly kind. The OB and anesthesiologist allowed both my husband and my birth photographer in the room (YESSSSS). My epidural was re-administered, and I was given tons of meds to try to fight off the insane nausea that I was experiencing. The meds did not help, by the way. I still vomited over and over and over while on the table. That was miserable, but the staff were so good to me.
V was born blue and unresponsive. He had to be resuscitated and taken for observation. As it turns out, V had his cord wrapped around his body in such a way that prevented him from turning into the optimal birth position, and he also had an elbow wedged in the birth canal by his face. Either of these things could have prevented V from being born vaginally, but the combination made vaginal birth extremely unlikely. My husband, Will, was allowed to hold V for a brief time before he was taken for observation, and then Will was allowed to hold him intermittently over the next few hours.
I was taken to recovery before transferring to my mother/baby room and did not get to hold V until 4 hours after his birth. In an effort to clear his lungs, V's doctors wanted to allow him to cry for quite some time. It worked, and his breathing was clear when we did finally reunite! However, the boy was hungry, and I had not been given the opportunity to establish a milk supply.
Breastfeeding went very poorly. V’s blood glucose levels dropped dangerously. I had no trained lactation support for 4 days. Out of desperation, we finally gave V formula after breastfeeding sessions, and I would pump after feedings. My own hemoglobin levels dropped severely because of the cesarean and I started to feel some difficulty breathing and chest tightening while in the hospital. I was given a blood transfusion and immediately felt better! However, these complications were no help to my breast milk supply.
Once we were finally released from the hospital, I continued to attempt breastfeeding, pumping afterwards, and supplementing with formula. I was able to work with an IBCLC to increase my breastmilk supply to cover V’s needs, and finally got him to eat from the breast full time when he was 13 weeks old. Exclusively pumping is no joke, guys. The workload is taxing. However, I really am glad that I did not throw in the towel because our breastfeeding relationship is still thriving at 9 months!
In terms of cesarean recovery, I had no complications. The first day was very painful, but I am under the impression that the first day after giving birth is always painful! I experienced drastic improvements in pain levels every day. By the time we went home from the hospital, I felt strong and capable enough to perform most tasks without pain. I have my OB to thank for that! She was very gentle! One thing that I did not expect after a cesarean is the numbness around my incision site. I had no idea that the incision would be numb and tingly for months (or maybe years? Or forever?). Who knew?!
I really am grateful for medicine. I am grateful for the care that V received in his most vulnerable moments, and I am grateful for the team that saved his life. My preferences were not honored in every moment, and I honestly did not receive some of the care that I needed during my stay in the mother/baby unit. I want to do myself justice by acknowledging the pain that came from my experience. However, I am happy to say that I do not feel traumatized as many women do after this kind of experience, and I am grateful for that.
Thanks for reading, friends! All images below are provided by the talented Lyndsey Murphy Photography.