Happy C- Section Awareness Month! This week I am Sharing a good friend of mine, Stephanie, Her Second C-section birth with you!
Some women grow up dreaming of the perfect wedding. I was honestly not one of those girls, but at 24, when I first started attending births as a birth doula, I was given the dream of the perfect birth. Three years (and 15 attended births) later, with my first child, I attempted a planned homebirth that ended in a hospital transfer and later a c section. Though traumatic in many ways, it was also very empowering because every decision was in my hand the entire 56 hours. (I also did some craniosacral therapy with my son as well as some SOZO to heal and prepare to be in the best place emotionally for future births) So once I became pregnant with my second son, I felt completely confident I could try again, and fully confident that dream birth could be obtained.
Trying for a VBAC in Los Angeles is actually much harder than one may think. But once I finally found a doctor who supported my wants (and took my insurance!) we were on the right path. He was laid back and reminded me of my homebirth midwife from Brooklyn. The hospital was so small it didn’t even have a parking garage, just a side parking lot, reminding me a lot of a stand alone birth center. I exercised 4-5 times a week throughout my whole pregnancy, mediated on both spiritual declerations and birth declerations and even dabbled in some hypnobirthing. I also felt blessed to be given and supported in another chance for a vaginal birth.
By the time I started feeling contractions at 41 weeks, I felt so excited to be heading into labor once again. The contractions came flirting with me, coming on and off for a whole day. By the morning of day two, while at the playground with Tim and my son, they came on stronger. I needed to be home. Just after a few hours of laboring at home my contractions were consistently 12 minutes a part. Then quickly 10, lasting 30 seconds to 1 minute. I told my husband he needed to drop our son off at our friend’s house who he was staying at while we would be gone at the birth. In just the 25 minutes he was gone my contractions picked up to 7 minutes a part, lasting 1 minute long. My doula was on her way. Things were actually progressing! As soon as my doula arrived we started timing. 5 minutes a part. 1-1.5 minutes a part. For a whole hour.
Being 4pm in central Los Angeles, we needed to GO. The hospital was 17 miles away and traffic is in full force. So as you can imagine, the car ride was brutal. I labored on my hands and knees on the back seat for the whole hour in traffic on the Hollywood 101 expressway. Once we parked my contractions were coming every 30 seconds lasting at least a minute long. As intense as all this was, we (my husband, doula and I) were extremely excited that this labor could be in full force and we could be meeting our baby soon!
I checked into triage and they checked me right away. Are you ready for this?
I cussed. I was so embarrassed! I was extremely disappointed. We had to go! I was not going to stay. But I was not going to make that drive again. We decided to check into a hotel five minutes away and labor there until we were confident I was in active labor. My doula picked up some food for us and we ate some dinner, trying to get our head back in the game.
The triage nurse informed us Baby was sitting very high, so we decided to work on bringing baby down. Spinning babies suggests the Abdominal Lift (https://spinningbabies.com/learn-more/techniques/other-techniques/abdominal-lift/ ) and Tuck to help baby engage in the pelvis. This felt like it was helping, as my contractions became more intense every 10 minutes. But this was also VERY uncomfortable! But alas, I was willing to do anything. After some success and intense, consistant contractions we then spent some time with A rebozo (A Mexican shawl used traditionally by midwives during labor.) This helped with my labor pain with my first labor, so we had hope this time around. After an hour my labor picked up significantly, so at 10pm we decided to go back to the hospital.
Ok, second time in triage, totally ready. Are you ready?
More cussing. More disappointment.
I decided I wanted to stay. My head was already in the game. SO we sent my doula home and would contact her once things picked up.
I was able to spend some time in the shower (thanks to telemetry units!). I sat on the birth ball and let the water hit my back. I just love water in labor. (The birth tub is a best friend in labor!) After 20 minutes or so something in me broke. Doubt flooded my head and I began to wonder if this birth would be 56 long hours of pain too. And I started thinking about how hard recovery was the first time around after pushing my body so hard for so long, loosing so much blood and not eating and sleeping for so long. I shut down and I just did not want to chance it any more. I wanted to be able to relax. My theory was if I could relax, labor would pick up.
So around midnight an epidural was administered. But I was still determined. I had the epidural turned down enough to where I could labor in bed, move around and still feel like an ‘active participant’. I used the birth ballin bed. Labored on my hands and knees. Used an oblong shape yoga ball, titled the ‘Peanut ball’ put in between my legs as I lay on my side to keep everything open. As time went on the contractions were becoming more intense, even with the epidural.
I began having them turn up the dosage until it was at it’s highest. As I would drift off to sleep, I would be awakened by another contraction. Later having to sit up and breathe through each one. As you can imagine, this became exhausting. And disappointing. Wasn’t the epidural supposed to take the pain away?
I really can’t recall that next day and night through labor. I remembering skyping with my son because I missed him so much. I remember some wonderful nurses who helped me and encouraged me tremendously (and of course, that one surley night nurse, but thankfully she was replaced by another splendid nurse.) I remember I stalled at 5 cm, just like my first labor three years before. Then I stalled again at 8 cm, just like my first birth three years before.
That second night, at 1a.m. we gave in. I agreed to another cesarean. It was devesating. My husband and I were full of confusion. We were hurt. We were crying. We tried so hard. We set up everything the best we could. And yet, we had to walk through this pain AGAIN?
My husband sat at my head in surgery. Just like the epidural not working so well during labor, it was not working as well during the surgery either. I was feeling way too much (as I remember being completely numb with my first birth). I was too scared to speak up because I wasn’t sure if they would knock me out completely if I was in too much pain. My husband could see I was in pain and said something. The anastesiologist finally turned up the medicine. The surgery was not, and still isn’t a favorite of mine.
Once it was time for baby to be born, my doctor dropped the drape so we could see my son emerge into this side of the world. I can just remember peering down and seeing those feet! Soon after my husband was able to put him on my chest and we finally could meet each other eye to eye. A nurse helped latch my baby on and we got to spend a lot of his first 20 minutes together.
My husband got to be with Jonah and take him into the recovery room while they finished up my surgery. As they wheeled me into the recovery room it was such a sight to see my husband hold him skin to skin. I too was given a good 2-3 hours of skin to skin time post surgery! I’m so thankful for that time. Especially since pediatrics noticed Jonah’s breathing was off and he was rushed to the NICU.
The next three days was really intense and almost a nightmare for me. I was able to see Jonah once in the NICU when they then quarantined me to my room as I was suspect for CDIFF. I wasn’t allowed into the NICU to visit Jonah until the lab results came back and I was cleared. Anyone coming into my room was required to put scrubs and gloves on. I felt as if I was in a prison.
We don’t have any family here in LA, so Tim would come to the hospital in the morning with Eben and stay all day. He would drop Eben off into my room with toys and a movie and go to the NICU to spend time with Jonah. This now sounds crazy to me as a I write this. Here I am, post surgery in this small postpartum hospital room, with my three year old who has to keep latex gloves on his hands the entire time! But you know what? He was my shining light. Spending that time with Eben playing hotwheels on the hospital bed, cuddling and watching movies and napping beside him was a life savor for me. And knowing Jonah had his dad beside him and he wasn’t alone was so comforting. I was dealing with crazy post birth blues, recovering from another traumatic birth experience and I couldn’t hold my new baby boy. But Eben being in the room with me was my saving grace.
I had been in the hospital 4 days and was so ready to be home. I had not been home with Eben in a whole week now and missed him dearly. But Jonah was still not allowed out of the NICU. It was a very hard decision, but I decided to check out, even though my new baby had to stay. That was the strangest feeling, leaving the hospital without your new baby. Those first few weeks are still such a blur to me.
Tim would go up to the hospital every morning before work and every night around 10pm to spend time with Jonah. I felt there was a huge chasm between me and Jonah. We live on the second floor of a walk up, so getting out post surgery is a huge feat. So I would pump my milk and send it with Tim. And that what we did for a few days. Finally on the sixth morning Tim helped me out of the house and he was determined to bring Jonah home that day. The Nicu nurses were great, but if you’re familiar with the NICU, it’s impossible to leave as they ALWAYS find something new that is alarming enough to keep your baby one more day. Tim had spent enough time at Jonah’s side to know he was doing so much better, his breathing was great, and he knew what nurses were familiar with Jonah and his case. Tim had to be at work so we spent time in the morning in the nicu and I decided to stay while Tim went to work. (did I mention my best friend from KY flew in to help us with Eben? She is a miracle!)
Push comes to shove and at 8a.m. they gave permission to start the process to bring Jonah home! By 4pm I was finally loading Jonah up in the car that Brianne drove with Eben to pick me and Jonah up. It was honestly disappointing. Eben is finally able to meet his brother, and Tim is missing it. He meets him as he’s being put into the back seat of the car. Not our ideal ‘let’s meet your new little brother for the first time moment that has been building up for the entire week since your brother has been born’. But we had to get out of there. This baby had been there for way too long and needed to be home with his mama, and his family!
It’s been 8 months since Jonah has been born. It’s difficult sorting through all the layers of emotion that lie throughout this story. Tears and disappointment weaved all the way through. And it’s covered in the deep love I have for this little baby. This love that just grows so deep even every time I look into this boys eyes. Love that grows for my Eben as he is constantly looking out and loving on and playing with his brother. This whole story seems so much in the distance for me, and so much good has come since. But it’s still tough.
I don’t give it much thought these days. But when I do emotions come flooding. Its been good to sort through as I write. And I want to encourage anyone reading this that has also experienced trauma and disappointment in a birth that healing is there. But it’s only there if you seek it.