As much as we do to prepare for birth, there is always that x factor where were have no control over certain circumstances. If things don’t go the way we hope, we tend to blame ourselves afterwards and play the “what if I had only” game. When it comes to processing childbirth, I hear statements reflecting shame, grief, disappointment, anger, failure, guilt, self-judgement, self-doubt, and confusion. Don’t be afraid to face those feelings head on and deal with them. If you need help processing or have some emotional trauma, please contact us and we can refer you to various caring and supportive individuals or organizations. Below is a story from a friend of mine who had her babies (the cuties in the photo above) around the same time I had mine. It is real and honest and full of hope and healing. Have a read and feel free to share your experience by commenting.
My birth story is not the story I wanted, it is not the story I planned for, prepared for and dreamed for. I was so sure it was going to be perfect and it was very far from that. My birth story is a two part story.
During pregnancy with my first, I did everything I could think of to ensure a perfect, all natural smooth labour. I read Ina May’s books, I got a midwife instead of an OB, I joined natural birth and parenting Facebook groups, did stretches, practice birthing positions/techniques, prayed for wisdom and guidance and many other things. I was planing a medication free, peaceful, at home water birth with lots of skin to skin. I had my heart set on it and really believed it would happen.
My water broke at 11:30pm 2 days before my due date and labour started about 30 minutes later. By 1am my contractions were very intense and 3-5 minutes apart and I thought, “this is it! It’s really happening!!”. However after an hour or 2 they started spacing out to 5-8 minutes apart and then 8-10. My midwife told me to get some rest and that they would pick up again but I had back labour and the only thing that brought me even a little relief was to keep moving and dancing my way through the contractions. At 6:30am my midwife came to my home to check on me. I regrettably consented to a vaginal exam without knowing or being told that once they check you after your water is broken you’re put on a timeline due to the potential introduction of bacteria. She told me I was barely 2 cm, I was so disappointed. I had been picturing flowers opening, relaxing as much as I could, and doing everything I could think of to get things going and nothing was working.
My husband then made us breakfast and I continued on. Due to my back labour pain I couldn’t stop moving. I was bouncing on my ball, going up and down stairs, walking laps around the block and dancing. My contractions continued to get close and more intense and then space out again. At about 4pm my midwife came back and checked me, I was still only at 2cm. We decided to go to the hospital to have the babies heart checked and make sure she was OK. After confirming at the hospital that everything was fine I was given two options. Stay, be induced and hopefully have the baby in the next few hours, or go home continue the way I was and come back in the morning, be induced and run the risk of being to exhausted to continue and end up with a c-section.
We chose to stay and be induced. They told me that if I was induced I would need to spend the remainder of my labour on my back so they could monitor the baby. Due to my back labour and the fact that I couldn’t stay still for more than a minute or two without excruciating pain let alone lay down while having more intense contractions, I reluctantly agreed to an epidural. Shortly after they began the drip my babies heart rate dropped significantly and the OB leaned over me and told me I would need a c-section and quick. I looked over at my midwife for some guidance, a natural solution or anything so I wouldn’t have to go through with it. She offered nothing. No suggestions of “would you like to try sitting up or rolling to your side first and see if that will raise her heartbeat?” or ” would you like them to wait till the contraction is over to check and see if it goes back up?”‘. She gave me nothing other than “well, if the doctor thinks it’s best…”.
They made it seem like it was an emergency, they had my husband sign the papers and then they rushed me in to the OR. I remember laying there, freezing, alone, terrified and crying while the nurses went about their day chatting about their weekend. No one came to reassure me, or to talk to me and tell me everything was going to be okay I just lay there alone, freaking out. It felt like forever till my husband came in. Then the tent went up and it started. I was numb to the pain, but I still felt everything. I felt their hands inside me grabbing and removing my tiny baby. I remember her crying and my calls for “is she okay?” unresponded. They then brought her all wrapped up to my husband who was sitting next to me. I tried to reach over and touch her, but my arms wouldn’t move, they had strapped them down to the table. I felt completely helpless, scared and frustrated.
They stitched me up and wheeled me into recovery. It took all night for the epidural to start to wear off. I was numb from my neck down and it took 2 nurses to help her latch as I was mostly useless. In the morning around 7-8 it had finally wore off enough that I could sit up and hold her. But that was short lived. She was born on her due date but she was quite small weighing only 5lbs 10oz. They said her blood sugar was low, and she was jaundiced and they wanted to put her on antibiotics because my water had been broken for 27 hours. So she went off to the NICU, and I went to my room. Over the next four days I spent all my time in the NICU holding her and nursing her on demand. I felt like a complete failure, like I was broken, like I wasn’t a real woman and like somehow it was all my fault. I had done my research, I knew the potential health and emotional problems that could come from a c-section and beat myself up over not being able to give my daughter the best start. I developed PPD a few months after her birth and I continued to beat myself up and punish myself, without realizing it, for the next year and a half. I never, ever let her cry or even fuss, not even to go to the bathroom or quickly grab something to eat. I never let myself take a break or let anyone else hold her if she was even the littlest bit fussy. I never let my husband do anything because I felt like it was my responsibility, I messed up her birth so I needed to make sure everything else went perfect and smooth for her, I had excessively tied myself to her and I was draining myself but I didn’t see it, I didn’t even realize I was doing it.
I became pregnant with our second when my first was only 10 months. I was excited but refused to think about or discuss the birth. It was to hard. I had essentially given up and decided to just get it over with and have another c-section. The topic of birth made me depressed and infuriated at the same time. It wasn’t till two months before my due date that I let myself really think about or consider it. I had also come to realize some things that had happened the first time that were preventable and I joined a VBAC group on Facebook loaded with encouragement and wise advice. I decided I was going to do everything I could to ensure a successful VBAC. I hired a doula and began preparing myself. We had moved to a small remote town with no midwives and only one OB at the hospital in the nearest town. But thankfully he supported my decision to do a VBAC.
After three days of prodromal labour I started having real contractions at about 1am Sunday morning. They got pretty intense and we’re 4-5 min apart for 3 hours mid morning. Then they all of a sudden spaced out to about 10 minutes apart again. Just like my first labour. I ate some food and tried to rest between contactions.
The whole time I was trying everything to get things going and to make sure baby was in the right position. I did lots of spinning babies techniques, drinking and eating, walking, bouncing on my ball, going up and down the stairs, accupressure points, took some baths, sex, reflexology, massage, praying, sleeping etc.
Around 1am Monday morning my contracrions got extra intense and I felt so much pressure with each one. I continued all night and then decided to go to the hospital to get some morphine and gas so I could at least get a little sleep so I’d be rested enough to continue. At this point I was an emotional wreck, extreeeeemly tiered and just couldn’t go on without some sleep. So my husband, doula and I headed there at 6am at this point I had already been in labour for 30 hours.
The nurse that was on was clearly against my decision to VBAC and was pretty rude, but I didn’t let it get to me and thankfully her shift ended like 20 minutes later. In order to receive any meds they had to check me first. I reluctantly agreed and was super discouraged to find out that after all that I hadn’t dilated at all! So, I had another emotional melt down. I was extremely frusterated and discouraged, I thought for sure I was was broken or something was wrong with me. I never got passed 3cm in the whole 27 hours of my first labour and now I was 30 hours in with my second and not dilating at all.
They then gave me some morphine and gas and I managed to sleep off and on every 10 minutes between contractions for the next 2-3 hours. I decided to continue to labour at the hospital because they had laughing gas and it took the edge off just enough to help me keep going.
At 2pm on Monday my doctor came to see me and told me I could continue labouring if I wanted, or go on the drip or call it a day and go for a c-section. But he advised one of the first two options. I decided to be induced since they told me I could continue walking and moving as long as they could still get a reading of baby’s heart rate. I was also exhausted and couldn’t imagine going on and off again any longer. I was starting to wonder if I just don’t dilate, or if there’s something wrong with me that my babies never drop or what the deal was and why my body couldn’t seem to regulate my contractions.
At 5pm they induced me and by 6 my contactions were about 5 minutes apart. By about 6:30 they were extremely intense and 3 minutes apart. At 7:30 they were 1 minute apart. At 8:30 I was begging for an epidural and they checked me and I was only 2 cm! I was super pissed and kept asking for an epidural but my doula and husband kept reminding me that’s not what I wanted and I’m glad now that I didn’t get one. I continued labouring with just laughing gas and was groaning/screaming through the contractions, apparently I was hilarious and quite entertaining as I was saying everything that popped into my head.
At 9:30 I had only made it to 4cm but my cervix had completely thinned. Contracrions were back to back and I had to just sit and breathe through them and focus on not begging for another c-section. They were so incredibly painful. At 10:30 my body started pushing on its own, so they checked me and I was at 8cm, and told me not to push yet…it’s not like I was choosing to.
By 11pm I was fully dilated and my doctor arrived and I pushed for 15 minutes and she was out! Her cord had been around her neck and my doctor unwound it as soon as her head was through. After she was out they immediately placed her on me but she was blueish and not breathing properly so they had to cut the cord right away and began suctioning and giving her oxygen for about 20 minutes. When she was fine they gave her to me and then I delivered the placenta.
Then my doctor checked me and discovered I had 2, 3rd degree internal tears but none externally. So I was taken to the OR, given a spinal and sewn back up. I also found out later that I had lost so much blood during those 20 minutes that they were planning to give me a blood transfusion. In total I had been in labour for 27 hours with my first and not counting prodromal labour 42 hours with my second.
It wasn’t till after my second was born that I realized just how much my first daughters birth had affected me, and how much I had been punishing myself because of it. I was sitting in the bath at the hospital praying and I heard my daughter start crying while the nurses were weighing her. I remember having a peace come over me as I thought, “she’s okay, they’re just weighing her, I’ll be there in a couple minutes”. This peace and thought shocked me. Had it of been my first daughter after she was born, I would have jumped out and ran to her immediately. It was in that moment that God opened my eyes and revealed to me that I was letting my past and my guilt rule my life and weigh me down. Through my VBAC God brought me emotional healing and I was finally able to forgive myself for the way my first daughters birth went and begin to move on guilt free.
My VBAC took a lot longer for me to recover from physically but it brought me so much healing emotionally. It was long and exhausting but so very worth it in every way