Expect the Unexpected

In honor of the most empowering and humbling day(s) of my life and my son’s 6 month birthday I wanted to take a moment to share the story of my 39 hour labor. I recently had a discussion with a fellow mama whose story is very similar to mine. What we really found comfort in with each other is the fact that we were not alone in what we were going through. We each had plans to labor naturally and were wheeled out of the hospital with large incisions in our abdomens as a result of an “unplanned c-section.”

Why, I asked myself, did it not occur to me that this was even a possibility? What could I have done to prevent this? Should I have hired a midwife or doula? Would they have seen what was happening and been able to give me exercises to help move things along?

The 1st days after giving birth were so surreal that all of the questions faded for a while as I soaked up my new role as a mother. But when 2 weeks later I still couldn’t bend over to pick anything up and I was just barely able to get out of bed in the morning, using my arms to push myself out,  I realized that the recovery process was going to be just that…a process.

Here I am, 6 months later and I’m still struggling to get my core muscles back. I am finally able do a full squat while holding my child in my arms to pick something up off of the floor! I grunt on my way up, but it feels good to be able to find some normalcy.

One possible reason I didn’t see this coming is that it wasn’t really talked about. Not in the birthing classes that I took…not even my OB/GYN really talked about it.

On the first day of Lamaze class my husband and I were given a thick booklet with a great deal of information on the “how to” of labor. I recall there being a section on the vbac  (vagina birth after c-section) but I can’t recall if there was a section on the c-section. If there was, I’m sure I either skimmed it or skipped it completely because there was no way I would need to have one. 🙂

My pregnancy had been completely healthy from day one. I was taking prenatal yoga classes every week and teaching spin classes 2 times a week. So I knew my endurance and flexibility wouldn’t be a problem for the most exhausting thing my body would ever have to endure. And breech wasn’t an issue either, as our baby boy flipped pretty early on in those last few weeks. So why would I need a c-section?!

Our birthing classes gave us a TON of information on how to ease our way through each contraction (which I quickly forgot once I was in the room). We were given information on the possible positions to get into to avoid “back labor” or tearing during the final push. We were told the proper questions to ask to decide if a certain intervention was necessary. But one thing I never remember talking about (or at least not in detail) is the c-section. Not even when we discussed the exercises you could do to help your body post partum.

So my husband and I went into the hospital with our birth plan, although we knew it would be more likely a birth “preference” and to expect the unexpected. What was to come, however, was something I NEVER could have foreseen.

After taking about 14 hours from the 1st contraction to dilate to 4cm to even be admitted to the hospital, I labored sans ANY intervention (au naturale) in the birthing room for another 12 hours and hadn’t dilated any further. At that point my contractions were LONG (some were more than 10 mins) with about a minute between each so it was clear that we were going to need some help. Pitocin was administered to help me progress and stadol, a narcotic, to “take the edge off.”

The stadol was AWFUL! I was still able to feel every bit of each contraction but, in addition, I felt drunk! I then became emotional because I felt so out of control. Once my water broke the pain was almost unbearable and I was so exhausted from over 24 hours of labor without any food or water – ONLY ICE CHIPS. When the stadol wore off I felt an epidural was absolutely necessary to deal with the pain I was feeling. I won’t go into the details of trying to remain still while a large needle is being put into your spine and at the same time trying to cope with each passing contraction (let’s just say some prayer was involved, followed by some expletives).

The following hours were spent lying on my back, feeling the pressure of our little guy trying to come out,  and waiting…lots of waiting. I got a fever after my water broke so they administered an antibiotic and watched me closely to make sure that I was getting better. The longer I labored the bigger the risk of our son getting an infection as well. When 12 hours later I still had only progressed to 6cm (10cm is push time), the doctor came in and informed us that it was best for the safety of both me and our child to have a c-section. I didn’t disagree and at that point I really just wanted to meet our son!

The c-section itself took less than 3 minutes to cut and suture me up. The prep time took the longest. Our son was/is perfect and healthy. My husband cut the umbilical cord and held him while they closed me up. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to hold my child when he first came out…that was such a beautiful moment I felt cheated out of. But what was the hardest thing for me was the thought of what could have happened to me or my child if we lived in a place that didn’t have this kind of modern medicine or if we couldn’t have afforded it. I am so grateful when I realize how lucky we are to be alive…I know how dramatic that sounds but it’s true.

All of this came out of nowhere! My doctor didn’t even see it coming! As it turns out, our little guy was “sunny side up” and needed to turn 180 degrees in order to help my cervix dilate. That’s the impetus for sharing my story; I didn’t educate myself on c-sections because that wasn’t in my “plan” but there are a plethora of unforeseen circumstances that can happen in the delivery room. In the end I almost had to figure out how to care for a newborn that I could barely pick up when Toe Knee went back to work because I just had a major surgery! Thankfully my mother-in-law was able to stick around for a while to help out!

For those mamas out there who have gone through something similar…find comfort in our solidarity. We may not have pushed our babies out but what our bodies went through to bring our babies into the world was no joke! Share your story with other mamas and be proud of the scar that you bear.