When my sister delivered her son she had a horrible time. She started out with a midwife and a lot of confidence in her ability to have her baby without drugs. Her labour lasted 2 1/2 days before they moved her to a hospital. There they tried a vacuum extractor. That failed. Then they used forceps to pull the baby out of her. They had to cut her up very badly and then she tore even more. Her baby wasn't in very good shape afterwards either. It hurt for her to sit and walk for a long time. She was so out of it she can't remember stretches of time and she walked around like a zombie for many, many months afterward. She still isn't the same person. She isn't the same confident person she once was. When she needs to have a bowel movement now she has to insert her finger into her vagina to hold her rectum in place. She had to have another operation when her son was three years old so she can control when she urinates. Her husband left her for another woman when her son was a year and a half. She was happy to see him go. I always wanted to have children but there is no way I wanted to suffer like she has. No one can predict what awful things can happen. I opted for a planned cesarean.
My mother's friend is a midwife (the same one my sister had) and she went ballistic when she found out I was planning on getting pregnant and having a cesarean. I wasn't natural - They operate without adequate anesthesia - Epidurals will paralyze you - The infection rate is terrible in hospitals - It will take so much longer to heal - Surgeons will cut you where they shouldn't. She terrified me. She sent me to an obstetrician who wanted to send me to a psychiatrist for wanting a cesarean. I left his office vowing never to have children.
But the desire to have children wouldn't go away. I wanted a baby so bad. I just found a new family doctor and I talked to her about everything. She was so wonderful and supportive. She told me obstetrical politics were vicious and recommended an obstetrician with an excellent record. I went to him. He said the hospital he worked in had quality staff and top notch infection control. He had never had an infection with a planned cesarean. He assured me I would feel no pain during or after the operation. The anesthesiologists he worked with were all highly trained and competent. He never started surgery without their permission and I would be awake and aware the whole time. And no - he had never cut anyone where he shouldn't and he had performed hundreds of cesareans. The surgery would take about 45 minutes and my baby would be born in the first 5 - 10 minutes of that. I would see and touch my baby as soon as the pediatric nurse finished her duties which wouldn't take very long. People would talk to me and let me know what was going on throughout surgery. I would have my baby with me in recovery if I wanted and the baby didn't need specialized care, which he assured me is highly unlikely.
So who do I believe? I was already 33 years old so I got pregnant and opted for the planned cesarean. I showed up at the hospital in the morning at the appointed time and I was very frightened. I admit being prepped for surgery wasn't a good time. I'd never had a urinary catheter, an epidural or an IV before. I really felt like changing my mind when they strapped my arms down and out to the side and all those people in masks and gowns were around but I kept thinking about my sister.
So how did things turn out? I have two beautiful children now. My daughter is 5 and my son is almost three. Everything my obstetrician promised was delivered. I was up walking in about six hours with both children. I was out of the hospital on the third day but with both of them I think the last day wasn't really necessary. I took oral pain killers for 3-4 days after I got home and I felt great. I did have a problem with hemorrhoids for about a month but I didn't ever - and still don't- have any urinary, bowel or pelvic prolapse problems. A planned cesarean may not be right for every woman but it was the right decision for me.
I am 9 months postpartum with my first (and probably last) child. I had a horrific and humiliating experience. When I was 7 months pregnant, I developed urgency-frequency incontinence and a hyper-tonic pelvic floor due to the weight of the baby and his position in my body. After seeing a urogynecologist, I was coldly told there was nothing she could do. At this point I could not work because I was having horrible bladder spasms, going to the restroom 40 times a day, and having at times severe pain and pressure. The OB kept telling me this was normal and not to worry. I knew enough to know this was not at all normal.
At my final OB appointment I felt water dripping down my leg. I asked my OB if my water broke. Without examining me, she said no, it would be a gush of water and I would know it. I later learned this was not true. My water had indeed broke at that moment. About 36 hours later, I felt something was wrong. Upon arriving at the hospital, I was told indeed I was in labor and would need to be induced to speed things along since my water had broke and there was the risk of infection. After 2 hours of pushing, a forceps delivery, my baby boy was born at last. He was immediately taken away and was ten floors below me for the duration of my stay. Thankfully, he was OK.
For the first six weeks thereafter, I was incontinent of bowel and bladder and had no control. I was told by my doctors to go home, change my own diapers, then change my baby's. I was also told it would go away. Although it has gotten better, it has not resolved. I never ever dreamed that this could happen to me otherwise totally healthy ** year-old. It has been the most degrading experience of my life. I realize one's body changes with pregnancy and delivery, but to the degree that one loses basic human functions? I felt crazy and helpless--as though I was in a terrible dream and couldn't wake up. I just wanted to sleep so I didn't have to deal with real life. I wanted to run away. I thought about killing myself. The worst part was people would say at least your baby didn't die, at least you don't have cancer, think about those poor souls. You are the lucky one. When someone dies, you have support of friends and family, you mourn, you bury the dead--I should know after losing two loved ones in my lifetime. With the loss of your womanhood, everything that makes you feel special and beautiful, the loss of the ability to control your bodily functions, no one mourns, no one cares. It is all about the baby now. You have created a legacy, move over, you don't count, you don't exist.
I want women who go through this to know that they are not alone or crazy. When you read magazines they never mention the long-term health ramifications like bowel and bladder dysfunction following pregnancy. They want you to believe that it is all gummy bears and rainbows. Don't get me wrong. My child is the love of my life, I just wish my OB had told me about the risks of forceps, prolonged pushing (especially in the traditional position), and induced labor.
The Birth Story of *******
How can I begin to write this? I sit here, hormones raging, body riddled with pain, wondering how do I tell this story without losing control, without breaking down? I can't. However, I know this story needs to be told. Armed with a cup of tea, a box of kleenex, and sitting on my donut pillow, I want to tell you the birth story of my sweet little baby girl.
My First Birth
This story actually begins with the birth of my first daughter, *******. When I was pregnant with her, I researched and planned for a natural, intervention-free and medication-free birth. My husband and I hired a doula and armed ourselves with the books and classes to help us through the process of labour and delivery. When the day arrived my daughter was OP (sunny side up) which resulted in long and difficult back labour. I ended up taking laughing gas for a few minutes (which I stopped after I realized how much it was annoying rather than helping me). I then agreed to a slight dose of pitocin to speed up labour. After three and a half hours of pushing, I agreed to an episiotomy and forceps delivery. ******* came out with the cord wrapped around her neck. It took a few brief moments for her to cry but she ended up being strong and healthy.
With this pregnancy, I wanted to plan again for a natural, intervention-free and medication-free birth. Once again, we obtained the services of a doula, read more books and took more classes. I was ready to have the liberating birth I had dreamed of. Naturally, I knew things could go differently as they did with ****** but I was putting my mind in a positive place and I just knew this birth would be special.
False Alarm or The Real Thing?
It started on the evening of the 12th. My husband and I were watching television when suddenly I started getting contractions. Now I had a lot of Braxton Hicks throughout my third trimester, so I wasn't going to get too excited. We timed the contractions and they were consistently seven minutes apart. I told my husband I didn't want to notify anyone until we were down to five minutes. After about three hours of contractions everything stopped. I was disappointed... again. When was this baby going to come?
On the 13th my day started as usual. My daughter and I ate breakfast and she was colouring at the kitchen table while I was busy making mini-meatloaves to freeze. At about 10:00 am my contractions started. Three minutes apart, about 45 seconds long. Well I wasn't falling for this trick again. I kept going about my business. However, the consistency and length of my contractions were making caring for my daughter challenging. I called my sister-in-law and asked her to come watch ******. I told her not to get too excited... this baby had a mind of it's own.
Upon speaking with my doula and my mother-in-law, I decided to call my husband and get him to come home so we could go to the hospital. My contractions were still 3 minutes apart.
We got to the hospital and I was assessed at 3 cm dilated (which was my dilation a week prior). I was disappointed but I knew we could help this process along. My husband and I walked laps around the labour and delivery ward. Round and round we went. Nurses commented on what good time we were making. We talked, we kissed, we laughed and we joked around. At one point I reminded my husband that this was our last baby. He needed to go get snipped once this baby was born! He jested that he thought they did that down the hall and that he would be back in a few minutes. It was a pleasurable time that we spent together. About three hours later I was assessed at a dilation of 6 cm. I was really in labour! This baby was coming!
I realized now was the time to switch gears and have the labour I envisioned. We dimmed the lights. We put on meditative music and I slow danced, squatted, lunged and laboured on all fours. Within a few hours I was fully dilated and ready to push.
I was able to have the "ultimate labour" that I had been dreaming of for all these months. It was a peaceful, all natural, medication-free and intervention-free birth. When it was time to push, I was amazed at how my body took over. I smoothly expelled the baby. My body bore down naturally... I could not slow it or stop it. My body was doing all of the work! I was excited when I heard that the baby was crowning. Then it happened.... I heard the OB-GYN declare that there was a situation, the baby had shoulder dystocia. I heard of this before. It is when the baby's shoulder gets trapped behind the mother's pubic bone and with every passing moment, asphyxiation becomes a reality. All my reading and preparation told me that this was a medical emergency but I wasn't panicked, everything was going to be okay. I just had to stay focused and continue to push this baby out.
However, as fate has it, my peaceful delivery turned into a frenzy. An alarm bell went off and within seconds the whole delivery room was filled with medical staff who were shouting orders at each other, at me, and at least eight of the eleven people in the room were on top of me pushing on my pelvis, my abdomen and thrusting my legs behind my ears. There was a moment when I froze in terror. I thought, "Oh God, my baby is going to die and I'm going to die with it." Then I heard my husband's reassuring voice through all the commotion, calmly telling me that I was doing a great job and that in a few moments we were going to meet our baby. I pushed along with everyone pushing down on my body and she was out. For a few moments everything was silent and then my beautiful babe let out that wonderful, lusty, huge cry. A feeling of relief spread through the delivery room as everyone burst into laughter, cheers and tears of joy.
That night I couldn't sleep - I was overjoyed. I counted her fingers and toes over and over. I marvelled at her thick black hair, her little nose, her beautiful rolls. All 9 lbs and 6 oz of beauty filled me with a love that only a mother could have. That deep primal love that is unlike any other love.
The following night I was exhausted. I got ready for bed at 9 pm but I couldn't sleep because every time I closed my eyes I was thrust back into that nightmarish scene in the delivery room. I felt the fear over and over again and was stuck in the cycle of reliving the nightmarish part of her delivery. The next day, the doctor and a psychiatry team intervened and diagnosed me with acute stress. The experience of complete peace and bliss quickly turning into a life-threatening situation had rattled me.
It's a delicate time and I've been told by my doctor and psychiatrist to tell my "story" as much as possible so I can relay and relive the happy ending, when my daughter came into the world and the whole delivery room was filled with joy. Almost a week later, my body is still wracked with excruciating pain but my long-awaited and anticipated baby is here.
We went into this labour with two possible girl's names in mind. After the experience we had, her name could be none other than ******.
Before my birth I did a lot of research on pregnancy and childbirth. I wanted a natural delivery. No pain medications and no intervention, if possible. I understood the need for some interventions in certain situations and was comfortable with the thought that I would be duly informed and could share my opinion and feelings about any intervention the doctor felt was necessary.
My labour was induced at 11pm, with prostoglandin gel, due to rising high blood pressure and right away I started to feel very light cramping. I was induced at 2cm dilated. My husband and I went home to see how things would progress and to try and get some sleep. I couldn't fall asleep, but he was out like a light! I laboured, on my own, till about 3am and then woke up my husband because I couldn't take it anymore! The contractions had been coming hard and fast every 2 minutes since midnight! We weren't sure when to go to the hospital because normally you go when contractions are between 3-5 minutes apart and my contractions were never that far apart, and we assumed that I still had many, many more hours to go since this was my first birth! I laboured at home for another 2.5 hours and then my husband suggested we go to the hospital. We went through triage where they found I had only dilated 1cm. It was very discouraging and I was starting to question my decision about no pain meds! I had a great nurse who brought me to my private room and put me in the shower, told me to take deep breaths, and gave me some laughing gas (which was fantastic). 15 min later I felt a slight urge to push. I told the nurse and she had me come out of the shower to check me. I had dilated 4 cm in 15 minutes and was now 7cm and the baby was coming down fast! I felt so strong and excited! My husband gave the nurse my birth plan and explained some things in it and said that I wanted to labour and give birth in an upright position. For some reason the nurse said that it wasn't possible. I assume it was because the doctors don't like being inconvenienced by it. I was put in the lithotomy position (flat on my back). It is the worst position to give birth in for many medical reasons. That was the start of the trauma.
The doctor came in 10 minutes later when I was 9-10cm dilated and I was finally able to succumb to the pressure of pushing. I loved pushing and I felt strong and powerful! Then I felt my skin being cut. I stopped what I was doing, looked down at the doctor and asked, "What was that"? The nurses and the doctors in the room all stopped and stared and no one said anything until my husband finally said, "The doctor just performed an episiotomy on you". I was shocked and horrified! Everything was going so well, why was it necessary to mutilate me? (I found out later that my husband noticed the scissors in the doctors hand and asked what she was doing with them because I had verbally requested no episiotomy. The doctor just looked at my husband and cut). The doctor then informed me that I had 1 more contraction to push my baby out because her heart rate was dropping. She didn't tell me why or what she would do if my baby wasn't out by then. I continued pushing as before, because I didn't understand that she was threatening me with forceps. After the 1 contraction she cut the umbilical cord while my daughter was still inside, because the cord was wrapped around her neck twice (I found out much later), which then necessitated the quick removal my baby, of course, because my daughter had no way of getting any oxygen through the severed cord or through breathing because the doctor had cut off any air supply. However, I don't believe that my daughter was in distress and that all of the actions of my doctor were not wise or educated and caused much more harm than good. After my daughter was born at 7:09am my doctor proceeded to pull out the placenta by the umbilical cord, which is very dangerous for the mother. And then she got a long piece of metal (like really long tweezers) and attached cotton on the end of it and proceeded to clean/scrape the inside of my uterus. It hurt so bad I was almost screaming. It hurt more than any contraction. I was begging her to tell me what she was doing. She only said, "I'm almost done". Then she left the room without saying a word about ******** or the birth and I didn't see her again until 4 days later. It turns out her shift was over and she went home. I believe she did all of the interventions because she wanted it all over quickly so she could leave. Then, when I saw her again, she criticized my parenting! I refused to see her again at the 6 week check-up; I couldn't look at her. Every time I think of her I get this shameful, hopeless feeling and I want to cry and then when I keep thinking about it I get this uncontrollable rage and frustration. Almost everyday I re-live the birth. I can't get it out of my mind.
I feel so violated. Did she think I was an uneducated little girl who didn't know anything about birth and its possible accompanying procedures? I know better. One of the reasons why I was comfortable giving birth in the hospital with a doctor (I wanted a midwife) was because I knew that I could say yes or no to any intervention and that they had to get my consent to any procedure. I had that right taken away from me. It has been 16 months to the day and I have only just started to recover, emotionally. It took quite the toll on me and also on my marriage. I requested my file from the hospital to see in detail what happened and what the doctor had to say about it, but the doctor wrote falsehoods and didn't even mention most of the procedures that she did. I have always wanted a large family, but due to the emotional trauma I went through I don't know if I can have anymore. I am also not sure if I can have any more biological children due to the uterine scarring that the doctor caused with her scraping of the uterus.
I hope nobody has to ever go through what I did. I want to help women make sure they have their rights respected. I want doctors, nurses and midwives educated about natural birth and I want them to respect the human body and its natural functions.