Birth story: An unexpected c-section

Birth story: An unexpected c-section

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Labor begins

It started about 10 p.m., a week before my due date. I was watching TV when I began feeling a pressure on my bladder every so often. It didn't hurt, but when it was time for bed, it kept me awake. I found a contraction counter online and started counting. The pressure lasted about 30 seconds and came every five to seven minutes. At 2 a.m., I woke up my husband and told him, "I think it's happening!"

I took a shower and packed a few last-minute things, then we drove to the hospital. They checked me and said I was only 1 to 2 centimeters dilated, which is not enough to be admitted. So they sent me to walk around the floor of the hospital for an hour. When they checked me again I hadn't dilated any further, but the contractions started hurting more. Since I was strep B positive, they decided to admit me so they could start my IV antibiotics.

Making progress...

By morning, my labor hadn't progressed on its own, so a doctor came by to break my water and start me on Pitocin [a labor augmentation drug.] She asked my pain level on a scale of 1 to 10. I said 5 or 6. She said I could have the epidural any time. I had heard sometimes you had to wait an hour for the anesthesiologist, so I asked for the epidural right after they broke my water. The anesthesiologist came about a minute later.

After the epidural, everything was great. I didn't feel any pain until the afternoon, when the pain in my lower back returned. The baby was facing the wrong way, and it really hurt. They kept upping the medicine in my epidural, and my husband pushed on my lower back with really firm pressure, which helped. We had practiced massage during our childbirth class, but when the time came, I didn't really want it. Breathing through the contractions, though, did help.

Not long after they broke my water, they told me that the baby's heartbeat was dropping during my contractions, so they pumped water – saline, I think – into me to replace the amniotic fluid that had come out when they broke the water. At one point there were seven tubes in me: the IV for strep B antibiotics, the crochet hook used to break the water, the IV for Pitocin to get the labor going, the epidural, a catheter for urine after the epidural, and the instrument they used to flush me with water. I also had an external fetal monitor and, later, when they were flushing me with water, an internal fetal monitor.


Watch one mom's emergency c-section and learn how the surgery is done.

...and not progressing

By midafternoon, the contractions were coming one after the other, but I was only 3 or 4 centimeters dilated. The doctor told me I wasn't progressing: "We should think about a c-section." My first reaction was that I didn't want one. She told me she would let me go another ten hours, but I might not progress any more, and then I would still have to have a c-section. I hadn't read up on c-sections and I didn't know what to expect, but I trusted my doctor, so I said OK.

The c-section

My husband stayed with me during the operation. He was on my side of the partition, so he couldn't see what the doctors were doing. I was pretty relaxed and mentally present. The staff talked me through everything – told me exactly what I'd feel. I expected everything to be more rushed, like you see on TV, but the doctor was just chatting away. Right before she pulled the baby out, she gave a signal: "We're ready." Then they pulled the baby out. I could feel everything, but it wasn't painful. It was like having your teeth pulled.

The minute he was born, everyone was saying, "Wow! He's a big baby!" (He was 8 pounds, 4 ounces.) I had wanted my husband to cut the cord but they didn't even offer – it went too fast. It took them five minutes to clean the baby up and test him, and then they brought him to me. He had a real cone head, so I think he was wedged in the birth canal for a long time – I had thought my "childbearing hips" might help in delivery, but I guess not.

Post-op recovery

After the operation, I was really thirsty, but the nurses wouldn't let me drink – they were afraid I'd vomit. They let me put water in my mouth and spit it out. After about an hour they gave me some water to sip, and I threw up. Otherwise, the recovery wasn't bad. The hardest part was being hooked up to the IV and catheter for 24 hours after the delivery, per hospital policy.

I didn't have any headaches from the epidural. And after I was released, I didn't need any pain medication. I don't feel disappointed about delivering by c-section – it's not that big a deal. He was born healthy, and that's what matters. In fact, if given a choice next time, I'd opt for a scheduled c-section and not go through labor again.

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