-A guest post by the inimitable Liz Faria of A Mothership Down . . .
That’s right, Tom Petty, there ain’t no easy way out. There will come that fateful moment when your fetus needs to be evicted from your body’s cozy B&B, and when that moment arrives there are only two routes out. Neither is pleasant, although one is more scenic. And yes, while it’s true that you have probably been waiting for this day with anticipatory joy, that’s only because mother nature has provided you with self-delusional hormones in epic quantities.
I really, really wanted to have a natural birth. And by that I mean a vaginal birth with lots of drugs in a sterile and impersonal hospital setting, with no less than four medical professionals at my bedside and a vacuum, extra forceps, and a SWAT team on standby.
I realized that I was not going to get my wish sometime around the 8th month of my pregnancy, when it became apparent that the bulge jutting out of my side was not, as I had hoped, a giant misplaced goiter, but was instead my baby’s head. Nolan, it turns out, was in the transverse position, meaning he was horizontal in my stomach. This is fairly rare, and so I felt pretty badass about it. I was all, yeah, no big deal, my baby isn’t interested in the normal positions. He’s his own man. He’s basically saying, “what up breech babies, that’s all you got?!”
Nolan’s position would have been really awesome if he was competing in the high jump. Turns out it was less awesome for childbirth due to the fact that my vaginal opening is not as wide as the state of Kansas. Nothing against my vaginal opening, yours isn’t that wide either. If it is I would like to hear from you.
The reason I wanted to deliver vaginally, I realized, was a little bit different than the reasons other moms cited for wanting this. After reading many online forums, I learned that women often feel strongly about wanting to push their little bundle out the southern exit because they want the experience of childbirth and they do NOT want to feel cheated out of this. I can understand that, although this experience sounds downright horrific based on every friend of mine who has ever delivered vaginally. Women, it seems, want to feel this primal connection to their child and, moreover, to the act of birthing. For some reason pregnancy brings out a very “we are mammals” sentiment in the masses, and people who would never consider wanting to feel, say, a root canal, suddenly want to feel something much, much worse. It’s a strange but common phenomenon.
I had friends say to me, when it was clear that the Nolan train wasn’t leaving the station via the preferred exit, “It’s ok, Liz, having a c-section won’t make you any less of a mother.” Huh. That thought never even occurred to me! I wanted to give actual birth because I am competitive and like to pretend I’m tough! Not because I thought it would make me a better mother. I just like overzealous challenges that I can later brag about. My upset over not getting to “compete” in the labor and delivery unit was real, but it was a little like the time I went skydiving – I had no interest in actually jumping from a plane, I just wanted to be able to say I did it after the fact.
Also, I had trained. I had taken the prenatal classes. I had paid actual money for them. And I had practiced my breathing techniques! Techniques that did not appear would ease much more pain than that of a bee sting, but still. I had practiced swaying on a giant ball to coax my baby out with my rhythmic bounces and periodic hip swivels. I had even bought a tub of olive oil, ready to slather it onto my nether regions! (For those of you who have not prepared for birth, this nifty little trick is called a perineal massage. It helps reduce the risk of tearing during delivery, and as a side bonus you can use the surplus olive oil for many tasty Italian dishes).
All of this intense training was for naught. A c-section was our only viable option, and so c-section it was. Yes, I would not experience the birth of my first child the way I had hoped, but we are lucky to live in a place where safe alternatives exist. Also, and this is no small thing, a c-section meant an automatic five day stay at the hospital. As we all know hospitals are like hotels but with catheters and adult diapers readily available. So better! And also I LOVE hospital food! The hospital where I delivered Nolan makes an excellent Coq Au Vin. Things were looking up.
The big day eventually arrived and things started out smoothly. Brian was asked to wait outside while I was “prepped.” He was excited and anxious, dressed in scrubs, hat, and booties, like an extra from Grey’s Anatomy. I was busy having my spinal block administered, and quickly felt the lower half of my body go pleasantly numb. The plan was for me to be awake during the surgery, but totally numb from the waist down. I remembered a good friend saying she found her c-section to be “a very civilized way to have a baby.” This is civilized, I thought.
By the time Brian was let into the operating room the surgery was already in full swing. He had barely gotten seated when the obstetrician exclaimed, “I see the baby’s butt!” This was jarringly fast for Brian, who had anticipated more of a build-up to the main event. It was like going to a movie with no coming attractions. It throws a viewer off.
And with that, Nolan was out, via the express train. It was kind of amazing and kind of gross.
And then shit got real. Just as Nolan made his big debut – at the very height of emotion at this whole disgusting miracle – I started to feel stuff. Like, a lot of stuff. My spinal block wasn’t so much “blocking” anymore. Well, damn. What’s the good of a spinal block without the block? Very, very little, that’s what. This was rapidly devolving into something decidedly uncivilized. Remember, getting the baby out is only the first part. After you evict your tenant you still need to close up the apartment, you see. Lock the doors behind you and all.
“I can feel this!” I was trying to keep the panic down in my voice. Perhaps I sounded too un-panicked, because the anesthesiologist was surprisingly nonchalant.
“Like tugging and pulling?” he asked.
“No, like I can REALLY FEEL this surgery!” I could feel tugging 5 minutes ago. I felt SURGERY HAPPENING now. If I’m not being clear, those two feelings are different.
“Oh, you do? Hmm….Looks like you metabolized the medication too quickly!” His tone was breezy. “Next time you have a surgery you should make sure to tell them that your body seems to metabolize meds too fast.”
Um, yes, noted. Next time I’m having major abdominal surgery I’ll be sure to tell them. Too bad I’m in surgery RIGHT NOW.
Brian could see the panic in my eyes. Oh, did I mention that I was tied down to the table? I was tied down to the table. I had kind of forgotten I was tied down to the table until the part of the story where the spinal block stopped working and I panicked and tried to free myself. Good thing I was tied down, actually.
Brian was in his own type of bind. Unbeknownst to me, he had just been told that he needed to leave the surgery area to accompany Nolan to another room, where I presume they make sure he has all of his most important bits. Nolan, not Brian. Brian’s bits were already accounted for.
Not wanting to cause more panic, but clearly seeing that I was losing my shit, Brian approached me cautiously, the way one might approach a skittish but rapidly angering beaver.
“Ok, I’m gonna go now…” His voice was soft. He was trying to appear calm so that I may be calmed. Which is not possible when you are actively being operated on with very, very little medication.
Uh, ok. That’s cool. I’ll just stay here and fight off my captors alone. My eyes pleaded with him but he was quickly led away.
After about five minutes Brian was sent away from Nolan’s room, too. Poor guy. He ended up wandering through the halls, full scrubs, without either his wife or baby. He was hoping, I think, to be with at least one of us during this most critical time. But then I was hoping to not feel my surgery, so that made two of us who didn’t get what we wanted.
And that is pretty much how it went down. Yes, I had “missed out” on the chance to be tough by laboring with my baby, but I was fortunate enough to get the chance to be tough by having abdominal surgery with meds that ran out part way through the operation. Silver linings!
Which would you prefer, c-section or natural childbirth? How was your labor and delivery? Let’s hear it. Be descriptive. I want to picture your baby crowning.
How hilarious is this woman??? I adore her way of turning the everyday into the extraordinary (well except for that “all of a sudden feeling someone slicing you open” nonsense. That was actually super crazy and not normal at all. Glad you’re okay, Liz!). For more from Liz, be sure to follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Nolan wanted me to say that he found his birth experience to be entirely pleasing – euphoric even! He doesn’t know what the big deal is about the whole “meds not working” thing. He was very comfortable. Well, okay, Nolan.
LIZ! I have no idea how you are able to make me laugh while reading about such a horrible ordeal but you’ve done it! My birth story was also horrific (are there any actual “great” ones or are all of those women just lying?) but there is zero chanceI’d be able to describe it in a way that could by any means be considered entertaining so I won’t even try. Kudos to you for living through it… I sure as hell congratulate myself for it on a daily basis! Go us! PS: After reading the line: “Nothing against my vaginal opening, yours isn’t that wide either. If it is I would like to hear from you.” I had to stop reading and go pee since, thanks to, you know, childbirth, I am much less able to keep from peeing my pants while laughing when my bladder is even “kinda” full…
Mer, I would love to hear your story sometime. I mean, if it resulted in incontinence, I’m sure it’s a good one.
holy crap that is absolutely terrifying! the baby is awesome though!! my two c-sections went pretty well (amazingly well compared with yours!). They were both unplanned so it was a little scary, but I would have a c-section again. This is a story very funnily told- but omg, sorry your delivery was so brutal!
Thanks Wendy! Yeah it really wasn’t pleasant. Although many of my friends have had situations that sound at least as unpleasant, and they didn’t get the nice hospital food for 5 days, so I won’t complain too much 🙂
Well, given that my one and only birth experience was a vaginal birth and my epidural ran out almost as soon as I started pushing, I’m STILL gonna go with vaginal birth as a preference after reading this. I mean if my epidural ran out early, what would the odds be that I might metabolize the meds too quickly during a C-section?! No thanks!! You’re obviously a trooper!!
As far as metabolizing the meds to quickly – I wanted to say to the anesthesiologist, “buddy, maybe build in a little cushion there!” I mean, you add extra time to your DVR for a football game, for goodness sake!
I can completely empathize. I have an 8 week old baby and he was born via C-section after a 5 day failed induction, and if that wasn’t traumatizing enough, the anesthesia also wore off in the delivery room and literally 2 minutes after I saw them pull him out, I could feel everything…so they had to put me under general anesthesia. My boyfriend also got sent to the hallway without me or our son (who ended up with an 11 day stay in the NICU but is just perfect now). Definitely not how I planned my birth experience to be either!
You had a FIVE DAY failed induction?!?! What in the?!
That was spectacular. I mean, not the transverse position, failed spinal block, and all that pain and shit. But you made an spectacular story. I had a a shirt made up for the hospital that said, “Can I have my epidural now?” on the front and “How about now?” on the back. Some people tried to convince that natural childbirth is the way to go–that that’s how it’s always been done. I’d usually reply that they used to take teeth out unmedicated too. And do amputations after a bottle of whiskey. So it’s a bottle of whiskey or an epidural–you pick.
Oh man you could seriously sell those shirts! I would buy one. I’d wear it my entire 3rd trimester, just in case.
This is quite the delivery story, Liz. You were a superwoman, which must be why they tied you to the table… So you didn’t take flight during the surgery. And Nolan is seriously one of the most gorgeous little guys ever. Great post.
Thanks Shannon! Yeah, I’m pretty sure they tied me down because they realized that I would be a fighter.
This is hilarious!! I am dying over here. I too had unwanted c-sections, but such is life. I too wanted regular delivery for the reasons you listed. Loved this!
I’m glad we’re on the same page with our birthing aspirations Susan 🙂
You ARE badass. My kids both tore my vajayjay from end to end. You didn’t miss much 😛
That sounds LOVELY Mary!
I’ve had three vaginal births, (though only one baby is mine), and I’ve discovered that epidurals work with increasingly *less* frequency for me.
My daughter’s birth was uneventful in itself, except she waited for that blizzard that hit DC in ’09, and mommy and daddy hadn’t thought they’d need a 4 wheel drive car. Silly us. Started contractions Friday right around when the snow started falling. Saturday we went in and, yay, military healthcare, they told us to get lost I wasn’t progressed enough. So back through the blizzard to the house, then back to the hospital on Sunday evening. At this point neither of us had gotten any sleep. Me, because of contractions, and my husband because I was having contractions and I let him know, very vocally. Thankfully one of the gentlemen in our apartment complex was able to tow us out of the parking lot with his extra-large truck, though he didn’t really speak English. My husband used hand gestures to point at me, mimic being pregnant, pointing at his watch, and then signalling toward the road like an over-enthusiastic marshaller. We made it to the hospital…”Well, you’re still only at a 3…” My husband’s response? “Then we’re going to sit in your waiting room, because if I have to listen to her, so do you.” Not long after I was escorted to my room, given an epidural that worked perfectly, and my daughter was born a little before 6 in the morning on Monday. The kicker? I was the *only* vaginal birth that entire weekend, and they’d had 4 rooms, (including mine) available the entire weekend. As in, when I came in the first time through the blizzard.
The second and third births were surrogacy births, and they both pretty much happened the same way with only a slight difference. We decided on induction at 39 weeks for both, (same intended parents for both journeys) and the induction medication worked spectacularly both times. I had enough time for the epidurals, but with O’s birth it only worked halfway, and with S’s birth it didn’t work at all. So in effect I got to experience natural childbirth even though it wasn’t my goal, huzzah! For this next one I’m going to have to research natural birthing methods, because it seems like drugs are not meant to be in my future births.
That should have been increasingly less efficacy.
I’ve given birth twice, and my stories are pretty unexciting (except for me, of course). Both were vaginal, unmedicated births in a hospital–the same hospital!–that came on their own. It’s funny, they always say you know better whether you’re in labor after the first kid, but her labor was really obvious. My labors kind of mirror my kids’ personalities. With her, it was 1:40 a.m. two days before her due date, and I was already “almost” 4 cm at my last checkup a couple of days before. I had one contraction that felt serious (I hadn’t felt any of my Braxton-Hicks contractions). I couldn’t go back to sleep wondering if this was labor, and it was like that one contraction was my body’s only practice one. 20 minutes later, I had my second one, and they already started coming 5 minutes apart. I was going to labor at home for a bit, but one hour later, my water broke, so we all headed in: me, my husband, my mom, and my doula, with my OB being kept in the loop. Oh, and in triage, they didn’t believe me that my water had broken, so I told them to re-test and sure enough, it had. I might’ve been a first-time mom, but I was pretty sure about that. The hospital’s maternity ward is super nice, so I was pretty comfy all day, considering that I was in labor. We watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended cut). I stopped progressing a bit so they gave me Pitocin, and after a while… well, she was born. Pretty much the way it goes. And I have to say that “impatient to get to the next thing, determined to do things her own way, and somewhat not unlike an orc with a battleax” is a pretty good description of the impression she leaves. She’s basically too awesome for words.
With my son, his contractions started late on his due date (Sunday), and they were very inconsistent. On Tuesday morning, I had a checkup with my OB, where I was still like 2 cm, and she said she was pretty sure I’d have him at least by Thursday. I’d had a feeling that was the day, so we’d taken off work. We spent the rest of the day walking around the park, eating sushi, just having a nice, relaxed day. We wandered in when the contractions got to be strong enough that I felt like they were real labor. I really didn’t want to be turned away. I’d been timing them, and they would get closer and closer together, like 2 minutes, and then after doing a few of those, they’d go back to 7 minutes apart but stronger. They did that probably 4 or 5 times before I got to the hospital. When I walked in, it was so different from the first time. I mean, the hospital was still super nice and everything. We weren’t all abuzz, and there wasn’t even a chirpy receptionist to greet us–they were doing construction, so we had to walk into L&D through the postpartum maze, and it was just the two of us. I didn’t even have my bag with me. The nurses just asked, “first-time mom?” and I said, “Nope.” so she said, “Okay, so you know what’s up. We’re not busy, so just go ahead into that room behind you and get into a gown.” My doula showed up, my mom and my daughter brought the bag to us and then went back home, and we watched Harry Potter this time. I think I just progress slowly, because I didn’t stall but everybody kept expecting him to arrive before midnight, and instead, he arrived at 1:25 a.m. He’s much more laid back, although not entirely without his sister’s determination, but he was a much more contented baby. He thoroughly charms everybody he comes across, not for lack of trying. He smiles at everybody like he’s missed them all day, and I think he may be personally responsible for at least a couple little siblings, when moms hold him and he grins and cuddles them and they just melt and say, “Well, we hadn’t ruled out another baby…”
Incidentally, I hate how, when you say you do/did or don’t/didn’t want an epidural, you always feel like you have to explain yourself, because so many people jump on your choice as, like, this big statement, but I’ll give mine, since you were talking about reasons. I’m not really someone who takes pain medication that much. When I’m supposed to take it after a procedure or something, I’ll generally wait until I notice that I’m becoming distracted by the pain. I take it if the pain is going to keep me from sleeping, or I don’t have the energy to deal with it, or if I have an injury that I’m trying to help heal, or if it’s teeth. Eff that noise. I’d rather vaginally deliver a transverse baby than have tooth pain. Anyway, I’m also super weirded out by needles and especially having a shunt. Also being numb, and on that point I was informed that, at least where we are, they don’t do “walking epidurals”. Finally, I know it’s fine for the baby and the side effects to the mom are generally incredibly rare, but they sounded awful. I realize I’m saying I’d rather feel childbirth than get a headache (with an associated risk as low as 1 in 500) and, well, I guess that’s true. I’d also visited women who had unmedicated birth afterwards and heard stories from friends, and they generally said they were happy with the choice and would do it again. I also felt like I was going to be preparing to feel the pain anyway, since I was planning on laboring a bit at home, and I thought it sounded depressing to expect pain relief and then have the epidural not arrive in time or not take or something. Hey, I’m not saying any of this is really a great reason. But after doing it the first time, the endorphin rush and the super fast recovery pretty much sold me on doing it again the second time. And now we’re done, so I don’t even have to think about it again. :.)
Holy crap you made my second-worst nightmare funny. (My first, after anesthetic running out during abdominal surgery, is being buried alive.) I was the same way about my c-section. I wasn’t quite on board with the I-am- woman-hear-me-roar thing, though I kinda got it; it was more the see, I did it, crossing it off a list thing. This is one of the best childbirth stories I’ve ever heard!
I did 24 hours of labor before my first c-section. Best of both worlds. I got to feel connected to the whole birth process – and my lady bits are all where they’re supposed to be.
I had an induced labor at one day shy of 42 weeks, due to a drop in fetal heartbeat on our last non-stress test, but besides the Pitocin the birth was unmedicated. I spent the first half hour of induction in bed, attached to the monitors (agonizing) and then was allowed to move to the tub to see if it would help. I sent everyone away, put Pandora on, and pretended like I was listening to my “soothing music” in the darkened bathroom. After an hour and fifteen minutes in the tub, and increasing thoughts of “I can’t take this for another 18 hours, maybe I do need that epidural” ( They had told me since it was my first child the induction would probably take at least 18 hours) my water broke and I immediately felt the urge to push. My poor nurse and partner who were waiting out in the room finally heard me calling for help on the second push, evidently I wasn’t as articulate as I thought, and my midwife was paged 911–she wasn’t even back to the hospital yet! By the time they got me out of the tub, my midwife had arrived, and after reassuring me a million times that I really didn’t need to use the bathroom before I delivered (silly me, I really was convinced that that was the issue) they got me on the bed, and two pushes later, with a pause (I almost kicked my midwife in the face when she asked me to stop pushing half way through a contraction) to prevent tearing, my son was on my chest fifteen minutes after my water broke. INSANITY. Needless to say, I know I am one of the lucky ones and reading all of your stories only fills me with gratitude for my complication free delivery, and absolute awe at how brave and strong all of you are. Thanks for letting me share 🙂
I have to admit I’m laughing a little bit at you calling out from the bathtub–only, of course, since everything turned out fine and they heard you the second time. :.) And also about the kicking-in-the-face. They love to tell you when to push, don’t they? I understand about trying to prevent tearing, but still. So with my son (second birth), everything had been straightforward and was going well, but I had a serious case of fuck-this-noise-let’s-get-it-over-with, and I remember actually being impatient for transition to hit so that it would be closer to being over. I actually felt a little like this the whole pregnancy, since we knew we were planning to stop at two and this was going to be the last time I went through any of it. Not that I’m ungrateful–I have been in the infertility trenches, and I have nothing to complain about. I’ve just never been sentimental for the end of any of the kids’ developmental phases, no matter how hard I try to cherish it because it’s the last time. Anyway. Once I was in transition, of course, all I could think was “I’ll be pushing soon I’ll be pushing soon I’ll be pushing soon”, but things were still going a little slowly, so the instant I started feeling the beginning whispers of the urge to push, I was like, “Fuck it! I’m pushing!” I told them I needed to push (which might have been a little exaggerated) and the nurses panicked a bit because–well, let me set the scene. Just after midnight, New Year’s Day. Three women on the ward. All of us had been in different stages of laboring all evening, so I had come in first but I go a little slow; the second was a ways behind me but tended to go fast; the third was somewhere in between. Well, the third woman turned into an emergent C-section, which is where the OB was when I started pushing. The second… had also just started pushing. At midnight, when there are only three women laboring, they only had the one OB. So they were yelling, “Oh god, don’t push! Don’t push!” By this time, the urge to push was real and total, and I was unmedicated, and then it feels like, “How about you don’t push and I’ll do the yelling?” Anyway, the OB quick washed up from the C-section, ran to the other woman who was in the room next to mine, caught the baby and handed it over, and ran into my room just in time to catch my son. I know the nurses were relieved because I guess they have to do a ton of paperwork if they end up delivering a baby.
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