My Real Labor Story
I first want to say that this is my individual and very personal story. I am in no way trying to scare, preach or convert. I am simply writing this as a part of my coping process because my labor and delivery were not the fairy tale I had dreamed of them being and there is still a hole in my heart because of this.
My Ideal Labor & Delivery
I had always dreamed of having a completely natural child birth. I pictured the big dramatic moment where I rushed to the hospital after my water broke. I would bounce on the birthing ball, walk the halls and use breathing techniques during the worst of the labor. I wanted the least amount of medical intervention as possible. I would scream and grunt, covered in sweat as I pushed my little princess out. The whole time, my husband would be massaging me, comforting me and encouraging me. Finally, my beautiful baby girl would be placed on my chest, where my husband and I would look down at her and fall in love instantly. In that moment, she would be ours and we would be hers. An instant connection.
I had dreamed of being fully aware of every moment of my labor and delivery. It was supposed to be the most amazing moment of my life. The happiest day of my life. Now, for the reality…
Learning About our Pregnancy
My husband and I had been married for exactly 16 days. We were both soldiers in the Army and were on orders to deploy to Iraq in about 7 months. I was thrilled to deploy since I was a Medic and I wanted to do my job. I hadn’t planned on having a child until I was a bit older and had all of my Army adventures out of my system.
The day we found out we were pregnant, we were packing to leave for a field exercise that would last 3 weeks. Of course, I still had to go. This led me to start thinking about the two of us being soldiers with a baby. We didn’t think it would be good for our family to continue a dual military lifestyle with a child. So, we made the decision for me to separate from the Army.
I had a very easy pregnancy a with no complications. I had the typical morning sickness, fatigue, etc. But, none of my symptoms were too awful or made me miserable. My little girl was perfectly healthy and in perfect position to deliver from week 20 and stayed that way the whole time. I was even dilated to 1 cm at 36 weeks.
The day I found out the gender of our baby, my husband wasn’t even in the same state. He was away at pre-deployment training for his upcoming tour to Iraq that I was supposed to be on as well. Then, when I was around 31 weeks pregnant, my husband left for Iraq.
At around 32 weeks, my birthing coach and I went to a child birth class at the hospital I planned to deliver at. We learned about all the different pain management techniques, where do go, when to come, what signs to look for, etc. But, there was absolutely no talk about breathing patterns or birthing positions to relieve pain for natural childbirth. I had to research these more on my own and did so and made sure my birthing partner knew my preferences and my goals for natural labor and delivery.
The Days Before Delivery
As soon as I hit 40 weeks, I started trying all the safe and natural labor inducing techniques I knew of. I finally went for a mile long walk and started have decently painful contractions. I decided to head to the hospital, hoping this was it. After waiting around and getting checked out, the contractions went away and I was still only 1 cm dilated. Disappointed, I went home.
The very next day I had my final prenatal doctors appointment. My doctor decided it had been long enough and wanted to encourage my labor to get started. He suggested that he strip my membranes. Having never even heard of this, I hadn’t had a chance to research it like I had everything else to do with my pregnancy. But, I was getting a little impatient to meet my little girl. I agreed to the procedure under the assumption that my doctor knew best.
The procedure only took a minute or two and was about as uncomfortable as a cervical check. I like the doctors office at around 11:30am and headed to the grocery store with my mother-in-law, who was with me at my appointment. Not even halfway through our shopping, I started having a cramping feeling. It was a little more uncomfortable than menstrual cramps that came and went.
I continued on with the rest of my day assuming that I was just cramping as a result of the membrane stripping. The cramping wasn’t too bad and seemed to come and go about every 20 minutes or so. By around 10:00pm the same day, the cramping feeling was a bit stronger. I had to actually breathe through each contraction. It was happening about every 7 minutes or so. Finally, at around 2:00am, my mother-in-law (birthing coach) and I headed to labor and delivery once my contractions become very painful and were 4-5 minutes apart.
Membrane Sweeping/Stripping Proceedure
The doctor or midwife places their fingers into the opening of the cervix and attempts to gently separate the amniotic sac from the uterus. This will signal to the body that labor has started and will encourage contractions to begin.
I arrived at the hospital and was pretty quickly checked into my room. We were originally told that the hospital room had an Internet connection so I could Skype my husband during it all. Long story short, that never happened. Just after I was settled into my room, a nurse can in with paperwork. She said that signing it was my consent to a Cesarean if it became necessary. I signed it, never thinking it would actually happen.
I was strapped to a monitor that would track my contractions, which were getting very strong. However, I was still determined to go through it all naturally. The doctor finally came in and did my cervical check only to tell me I was still only 1 cm dilated. These contractions weren’t doing anything! It was so discouraging.
After a few hours I was in a lot of pain. I could feel the contractions through my belly, hips, sides and back. I hurt my back when I was younger so the back labor was by far the worst for me. It felt like a knife digging into my lower back. I started to not be able to think very clearly through the pain.
When the doctor finally came back in to check on me, I was still only 1 cm dilated. He told me I was fighting my contractions too much and it was keeping them from doing their job. The nurses started to strongly suggest that I get an epidural. I told them no. Eventually, they convinced me that breaking my water would help me progress. I agreed. I barely even noticed the nurse doing the procedure until I was laying in all the blood and fluids.
The nurse came back a whole later to see why was going on, still no progress. Now, they try again to get my to agree to some kind of pain management so that the contractions would be more successful. At this point, I was getting so upset that I was in so much pain and could see no light at the end of the tunnel. I agreed to some IV fluids just in case I decided on an epidural. I also finally consented to something called Stadol. The nurse told me it would make the pain more manageable but I could still get up and move around.
The truth about Stadol was that I felt drunk and high all at once. I still felt the contractions but I barely noticed them. I was too busy making a fool out of myself, acting like a drunken sailor from what I was told. However, the Stadol did as promised. It relaxed me enough for the contractions to do their job. I quickly dilated to 4 cm.
Once the Stadol had almost wore off, I decided to sit up on the edge of the bed and grab onto my mother-in-law to go back to breathing for pain relief. I got into a zone and was doing good. The pain was the worst it had been but I was coping a little better. I was soon 9 cm dilated. I could finally see the end coming.
At this point in my labor, I was exhausted and a little delirious. I was so tired of laboring through this. We had arrived at the hospital around 2:00am and it was now around 11:00am. So, I had been having some form or contractions for 24 hours. I caved and asked for the epidural. After the doctor shooed my loan or coach out of the room, they began digging around in my spinal column. It was horrible. I felt the needle go into my back at least 4 times. I screamed at the to stop. My mother-in-law came back in and I sat on the edge of the bed and labored holding onto her. I refused every other intervention now because I quite frankly did not trust my doctor anymore.
As I was sitting on the bed, in my own little world, rocking back and forth I hear talk of my baby’s heart rate dropping during each contraction. I’m told to lay down on my side so that the baby is in a different position. The next thing I remember is seeing a name tag on a new nurse that said OR tech. I was confused and disoriented. Everything from this point on was all a rush and hectic. I had now clue what was going on and no one was talking to me.
I was lifted up and put on another bed. They wheeled me into another room that was so cloud I was shaking. I was again lifted, put on a hard, cold table an my arms strapped down. I was terrified. The last thing I remembered before waking up was being told to breath deeply while some mask was placed over my face.
I woke up groggily a few hours later. I was covered with a heavy blanket and no one was around. My mother-in-law came in and explained to me what had happened. I asked her where my baby was and she went and got her from the nursery.
My Emotions After it All
It took me a long time before I really felt connected with my daughter. In reality, she could have been anyone’s baby. I never saw her come out of me. I was so angry for feeling like I missed out on so many of the rights of passage of childbirth. I felt like my childbirth experience was tainted since it wasn’t the way I wanted it to be. I was anger at the doctors, nurses, myself and even my husband for not being their for the birth and my mother-in-law for getting to hold my little girl before I could. That is my right as the mother. Now that I have been able to spend the last year with her, I am connected and closer than ever. But the first few weeks, she felt like a stranger. Now, every time I look at my stomach and see my scar, I am reminded of my horrible emergency c-section experience.
Tips to Prepare for a Natural Birth
- Discuss your labor and delivery intentions and wishes with your doctor.
- Discuss your ideal childbirth situation with your spouse or birthing partner.
- Put everything you want down in writing so there is something to show the people involved.
- Remember that it is your childbirth and your body and it should go according to your wishes.
- If you are dead set on avoiding a c-section, do not sign the consent form ahead of time. If you do, they can decide at any time to take the baby via cesarean without even letting you know what’s going on.
- Do not agree to any form of medical intervention unless it is absolutely necessary. One usually leads to another.
- Choose a midwife for your delivery and plan a home birth. These are just as safe and much less likely to end in a c-section or any other medical intervention.