I was reminded of this blog post I made on my personal blog over a year ago – before I decided to go for my HBAC – and felt compelled to share it here. I know it is not evidence-based in the strictest sense, but I feel it does give insight in to where I come from and why I am so passionate about birth. Information is power!
May 1, 2011: Why What I Know Now Will Change Forever the Way I Feel About Birth
I apologize ahead of time for how long this post has become, but once I started I couldn’t stop.
Three months. Just three months until we welcome another new little one into this world. While I should be excited and happy and filled with joy at the prospect of this new arrival, instead I am filled with fear and quite frankly, dread.
I cannot WAIT to meet this new little person. I cannot wait for our other children to meet their new sibling and to watch our family open our hearts to another one of God’s blessings. What I am dreading is HOW this baby is going to enter the world.
All of my babies have been born via c-section. It is a bitter pill that for some reason, I cannot swallow even as the years pass. Maybe it’s because knowing what I know now, I look back and realize that I got robbed and coerced and completely misguided into thinking my c-sections were medical necessity. The only reason they became medical necessity is because of what the mainstream medical community did to my body.
With my first pregnancy, I was 2 days overdue when my water broke spontaneously on a Friday night at 10:30pm. We had just finished watching the news and I stood up from the couch to fold up the blanket I had been using and whoosh!! I remember shaking with excitement as I prodded Ryan and said “My water just broke!” My contractions started within 15 minutes of that and as we called the hospital to let them know, they said to come right in.
Mistake #1: Not staying home longer to let my body get through the first, slower part of labor.
As labor slowly got under way, the nurses were telling me that my body “just wasn’t getting into a predictable labor pattern” and they told me I needed some pitocin to get things moving.
Mistake #2: Letting them pump me full of a chemical to force my body along instead of just letting my body and baby work things out.
Of course, once the pitocin was started, that meant I needed continuous fetal monitoring. Which in turn meant my movement was from then on restricted by wires and IV lines. Which means I spent a lot of time on my back in the hospital bed.
Mistake #3: Spending too much time on my back.
And the pitocin was not a one time thing. They continued to increase the dose and increase the dose so much that I remember lying on the bed in so much pain, the nurse coming in and doing something over at the IV pump. I remember looking at her with tears in my eyes saying “No! Don’t increase my pitocin again!” But she just smiled and said that I needed to “keep things moving”.
Mistake #4: Not ripping that blasted IV out of my arm right then and there.
After enduring the pitocin-induced back labor for some hours, I finally caved and requested an epidural. I was exhausted, sore, panicky about not having any control over the process and I thought “I can’t do this anymore!” and got the epidural.
After that, things went downhill even further. For the rest of my labor, I laid on my back in pain (because apparently I am one of the lucky 2% of people that epidurals don’t work for) unable to go anywhere or do anything constructive for my body. They continued to poke my body 4 times in an attempt to get an epidural to “take” but none of them worked.
After 21 hours of my water breaking, they told me that the baby needed to come out because she was exhibiting “some signs of stress” and they feared that I was developing an infection in my uterus that could affect the baby. They told me a c-section was the safest way to get baby out. Even though I was 9cm with “just a little lip” and my body was already wanting to push, they told me “No, don’t push. You’re not ready yet.” I was so close and didn’t realize at the time that the next 20 minutes would change my life forever.
Mistake #5: Not knowing then that 24 hours is the “magic number” of the amount of time that most doctors like to let a woman go after her water breaks. Upon approaching that magic number, it seems that all babies are immediately in danger of an infection and must be extracted post haste. (insert sarcasm here)
Mistake #6: Not telling the doctors and nurses to keep their fingers out of my vagina since each vaginal exam has the opportunity to introduce bacteria! I don’t know how many times I was checked for dilation, but again, knowing what I know now, I would decline all vaginal exams.
Our little girl was born via c-section on Saturday night. While she came out with extremely low apgar scores (a score of 1 at 5 minutes and a score of 5 at 5 minutes) and looking more gray than pink, I believe this is due largely to the amount of pitocin that was causing my uterus to clamp down so hard that she was probably getting decreased oxygen. The cited fetal distress as the reason for this c-section, and I wholeheartedly agree: fetal distress caused by all the interventions that led up to it.
With our second pregnancy, I vowed that I was going to have a better birth experience. My doctor agreed that a VBAC was safe with one caveat: I would need to be induced 1 week prior to my due date so baby would not “get too big”. (I won’t even get into how ridiculous that reasoning is.)
Mistake #7: Allowing the doctor to induce me. Statistics prove that induction raises the c-section rate significantly. But of course, at that point, I still trusted that the doctors knew what was best.
So, on Friday, May 13th, we went to the hospital at 6:30 in the morning all excited to bring another baby into the world. They broke my water around 8:00am and after that we walked and walked and walked up and down those halls trying to get contractions to start. Finally by 10:00, I started to feel that contractions were coming and once again, I vowed to have a different birth experience. I was NOT getting in that bed, I was NOT letting them give me pitocin, I was going to DO THIS!
So we walked and walked until the contractions started to get a little more intense and I asked to go into the tub. I laid in that tub and was actually able to get a good handle on the contractions for a while. Suddenly though, I just felt this incredible urge that I needed to get out. I was getting panicky and I know now that I was entering transition. I got out of the tub and my body was wanting to push so the nurse checked me and said that I was 7cm. I panicked. Labor was moving so fast this time (for me!) and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it without drugs. I told them I wanted an epidural. (Knowing full well that it wasn’t going to work again, but in my transition-state of mind, I wasn’t thinking straight.)
Of course the epidural didn’t work. All it did was make them continuously monitor me again and keep me on my back in that hospital bed. After a while, our baby’s heartbeat started dropping (I still don’t know exactly what they meant by that… how deep and when exactly the decels were occurring) and after some careful monitoring by the doctors, they decided an emergency c-section was necessary, fearing a uterine rupture.
Mistake #8: Getting that epidural. When baby’s heartbeat started to dip after that, the doctor automatically assumed uterine rupture. Never mind that babies’ heartbeats normally dip during a contraction and that an epidural can cause even more decelerations. Because I was a VBAC, uterine rupture HAD to be the default scenario.
Our second little girl was born Saturday afternoon, only 7lbs 9oz (remember how concerned they were with her getting “too big?”) and healthy as can be. My uterus was fine. Although, I wasn’t aware of any of this until some time later as I was completely put to sleep for her delivery and had to spend time “waking up” in the recovery room.
When we got pregnant with baby #3, my doctor recommended a scheduled c-section due to the “risk” of uterine rupture after having 2 previous c-sections. He sang the praises of having a scheduled c-section such as being able to pick the baby’s birthday, coming in and having a baby a few hours later, and an “easier” recovery from my last birth which he said was ‘a horrible disaster’. Babies #3 and #4 were both born via scheduled c-section, each c-section dragging me further and further away from ever giving birth the way our bodies were designed to birth.
Which brings me to today. I have 3 months to gear up for yet another c-section. I’m not sure I will be able to willingly sign that consent form that day that states that I understand the risks involved of what I am about to do. I feel like I am signing my life away. I have a 3.5% chance of needing an emergency hysterectomy on the operating table. In talking with my doctor, a hysterectomy during a c-section is a very risky procedure. Not only do you have the blood loss from the c-section, now you have blood loss from multiple arteries that are enlarged 10 times in size due to the enlargement of the uterus from pregnancy. Controlling bleeding during this operation is not easy and most women require blood transfusions. Some die.
How can I gamble with a 3.5% chance of having this happen to me when my chance for uterine rupture during a VBAC ranges from only .07% – 2%? Not to mention that only 6% of those ruptures result in infant death. Statistically, it seems like a no-brainer to me. While neither option is completely without risk (what in life is?), doesn’t the 98% chance of having everything go well sound better than the 96.5% chance? And yet, the medical community still says that a c-section is safer.
Safer for whom?? THE DOCTORS? Because then they can’t get sued that things went wrong because I signed a waiver saying I understood the risks?
My birth experiences are not anything I can change at this point. My only hope is that other woman out there are better educated than I was and that they have the faith in their bodies that I lacked.