I was unbelievably excited when I found out I was pregnant. After being married for only six months I somehow convinced my husband, who was set on waiting at least a year, to try for a baby. “It’s not like we’ll get pregnant right away” Ha! The next month I was staring at three positive tests.
Like many newly pregnant women, I started reading. I researched and read blog after blog about pregnancy and natural birth. But from our first ultrasound, our doctor was predicting a ‘big baby’. This terrified me because, though I had been born a normal eight pounds, my husband entered the world at a whopping eleven pounds. Knowing that my sister ended up having a cesarean with her first baby because of her baby’s size made me realize that this was a real possibility for my birth.
I wish now that I had known what to research in this instance – things that would help alleviate my fears, like: ultrasound can be off on baby’s measurements by up to a pound in either direction, that cephalo-pelvic disproportion (the technical name for ‘too big baby’ is impossible to diagnose until a woman is in labor, that certain positions, like squatting, or on hands and knees, open your pelvis wider to allow baby to come out, and other positions, like the traditional supine with legs in the air, constrict the pelvic opening, making birth more difficult.
But since I didn’t have that information at the time, I tried to make peace with the idea of a c-section. I started looking for stories about moms who’d planned on having a natural birth, but ended up with a c-section, and how they came to terms with the change in plans, but didn’t find many. I tried to adjust. I told myself that I was okay if this happened and figured that because I was mentally prepared at the idea of having one that I would be fine.
Fast forward to two days past my due date and I’m still measuring at just a one. My body had not even begun to prepare for labor and I was absolutely miserable. My doctor came in and told me that she wanted to induce. Without knowing what my options were, and being tired and worried, I agreed because I was sure that I wouldn’t be able to walk on my poor swollen legs by the next week. Looking back, I wish I’d had someone with me who was not emotionally involved in my pregnancy. All I needed at that moment was someone to tell me that I could have made it one more week; that my body knew what it was doing and that this baby would come when it was ready. My poor husband hated seeing me so miserable and was going to go along with whatever decision I made. What I needed was a doula, a professional support person, attending me during my labor. A doula’s job is to support the laboring mother, and to help the mother’s partner and family support her as well.
But hindsight is 20/20, as they say, so what ended up happening was that, as my doctor recommended, we arrived at the hospital as scheduled for my induction. Again, I wish I’d asked more questions. I’d assumed that they’d start the pitocin drip, and then I’d be allowed to let me body labor for a while. But before they started the pitocin drip, my doctor decided to break my water. I was shocked! I knew that once your water breaks that there is a time limit on how long they’ll let you labor before they start talking about bringing you into surgery. Luckily, she was unable to break my amniotic sac, and it eventually ruptured on its own. I loved being able to at least experience that. By mid-day I was maxed out on pitocin, but they put a monitor on babies head and cranked it up again.
Fifteen hours after we started this process, I was still not dilated past a one. After being forced to stay in the hospital bed while enduring very painful contractions, I was told that my doctor ‘felt that I needed a c-section’. What I didn’t know was that there was an option for us to turn off the pitocin, let me rest through the night and start it again in the morning. Again, having a doula would have been invaluable at this stage. But I was exhausted at this point and thought I was out of options, so I agreed to the c-section.
I am so thankful that despite my birth veering dramatically from what I’d planned it resulted in a beautiful healthy baby girl. My biggest regret is, not that I had to have a c-section, but in not educating myself enough. It’s unbelievable how high the cesarean rates are here in SETX, and I believe that if we are taught to listen to our bodies more, educate ourselves during pregnancy in order to know what is normal and what is unnecessary, and not be afraid to ask questions or ask for options or alternatives, then in some situations, like my own, these can be avoided.
I won’t devalue the birth experiences of mothers who ended up with unplanned c-sections by saying that ‘a healthy baby is all that matters’, because it’s not. Though I have come to terms with the unexpected circumstances of my birth now, the first couple weeks after my baby was born, I dealt with a lot of postpartum anxiety. I was put on medicine to help alleviate my symptoms.
Unfortunately, this led to me giving up breastfeeding so my baby wouldn’t be exposed to the medicine. As you can see, one unforseen event has had a domino effect on the things I’d planned to do with and for my baby. There are many mothers whose unplanned c-sections cause this type of cascade of effects that has farther-reaching consequences; even things like PTSD. Unplanned c-sections are a leading cause of post-partum depression and other post-partum mental health issues, and that’s a topic that one of the other WMC Bloggers will be tackling soon. Stay tuned!
Whitney is a first-time mother to 4-month-old Emma, and wife of almost 2 years to her husband, Josh. She enjoys finding natural ways to keep her family happy and healthy and dressing up her sweet baby girl.