When my husband and I found out we were pregnant, we were excited; we were happy. When we found out it was a girl, things started feeling a little more real and exciting. We could finally stop saying “it” and start saying “she.” We decided to name her Olivia. I bought some girly clothes and had fun decorating the nursery. I began to read and talk to others about their birth experiences and after I had read the books, taken the hospital classes, and discussed things with my doctor, I wrote out a birth plan that included having as natural and drug free labor as possible in a hospital setting. I knew things could go wrong, but I also knew that doctors always want to err on the cautious side, that c-section rates are at an all time high, and I wanted to avoid that as much as possible. We hired a doula and discussed our natural birth wishes with her and our doctor in the event that my and the baby’s health was fine. My due date came and went and with it came all those annoying comments – “you haven’t had that baby YET?!” I firmly believe she wasn’t ready to come even though I anxiously awaited some kind of contraction or water-breaking moment.
I went for a general stress test a week after my due date without packing a bag or even thinking that I wouldn’t be returning home. During the test, my doctor had a frown upon her face and said she wanted to redo the test. When she came back in after leaving the monitor on my belly, she showed me the readings and said she did not feel comfortable letting me leave the hospital because my baby’s heart beat was decelerating at times. She said I needed to have a c-section immediately and when I asked if we could wait until my husband could get there, she didn’t even sound certain about that. I immediately began shaking and crying. I wasn’t even allowed to walk to the labor wing, they put me in a wheelchair and whisked me over and somehow put a gown on me and an IV in before I was even comprehending what was happening.
Once I was hooked up to a monitor in my room, my baby’s heartbeat seemed to be fine, so the doctor said we could hold off on the c-section but we needed to start pitocin. Thankfully, my husband had left work immediately, grabbed our bags, and came to my side. We called the doula who said she’d come when I started progressing more. After a few hours on pitocin, they kept checking me but I wasn’t dilating at all. I felt no contractions whatsoever. We watched TV and played Skip-bo and I kept waiting for those horrible contractions that I heard pitocin brought on. Nothing. My doctor wanted to break my water, but hours had gone by and my daughter’s heart beat had shown no more distress so I asked if I could leave in the hopes that labor would start on it’s own within a day or so. My doctor said I could, but it would be against her orders, I would have to sign a bunch of paper work, and if I came back with a dead baby inside of me, I would feel like the worst mother in the world. Wow. No one said anything. No one knew what to say to that.
We asked for some minutes to think about it and ultimately decided to stay but to hold off on the water breaking. We eventually gave in to that too after a few more “dead baby” comments. Olivia’s head was so low in my pelvis though that no fluid even leaked out! The monitor showed contractions but I still did not feel them, I was not dilating, my daughter’s heart beat was fine, and the pitocin was as high as it would go. Over twelve hours later, I began to feel contractions. I was so tired at that point and feeling defeated….why won’t you dilate stupid cervix?! I asked for an epidural so maybe I could rest. With the epidural in I started dilating 1 cm every hour. I could barely sleep though, the weight of my dead legs was driving me nuts and I was still reeling from my doctor’s bedside manner.
24 hours later from when this all began I was finally ready to push. I couldn’t feel anything and the nurse showed me how to bare down. I began to get excited. The moment was finally here! I pushed one time and then nurses started filling the room. I didn’t know what was going on and no one would talk to me. They were unhooking my bed and I looked for answers in my husband’s eyes. He just kept saying “it’s gonna be okay.” As they ran me down the hall I heard one nurse say there is no heartbeat and the feeling came……my doctor was right…..I was the worst mother in the world and now it was all my fault.
I was shaking uncontrollably and was afraid I’d be able to feel it when they started cutting me. They finally let my husband in the room and he calmed me down some by saying “Just pretend you are on Grey’s Anatomy.” She was out in a matter of minutes. 24 hours of labor and she was out in like five minutes of cutting and pulling and tugging. They held up her chubby cheeks over the curtain and I couldn’t believe how beautiful she was. She didn’t cry, her eyes were wide open, and although they considered taking her to the NICU to monitor her, she perked up fast and was totally fine. I was so drugged I don’t remember much of those first few hours, but I held her and I loved her and I was so thankful she was alive.
I have written out my birth story before but reflecting on it again over four years later brings some new perspective. I still cry when I tell the story…I even cried typing this. It was the most beautiful day of my life, but also one of the hardest. It’s not that I’m not thankful for the perfect and precious gift that my daughter is, please don’t get me wrong. I am thankful I carried her, I am thankful she was healthy, I am thankful for the doctor and nurses who delivered her safely into my arms, but the way I was treated was unnecessary, rude, and did my spirit a lot of damage. Maybe I should have stood up for myself and confronted the doctor later, but I was so ashamed I never could (she is definitely no longer my doctor). I truly believe the way the situation was handled affected my first postpartum days and not in a good way. I can think of so many other things the doctor could have said to me if she was really that concerned about my daughter’s well-being besides shameful tactics and fear inducing words. Four years later I still struggle to forgive her. Maybe she had a bad day, maybe I came across as a know-it-all, maybe she felt threatened by a patient’s knowledge or insistence on sticking to a more natural birth plan. Maybe she was right and my daughter’s life was in danger or maybe I was right and all those induction techniques put her life in danger. I will never know.
In the tough days that followed I found comfort and strength through other new mothers. I went to a few support groups and heard other birth stories. We shared struggles and nursing tips and ooh’d and ahh’d over our little ones. I think it’s important to share birth stories with others: if they went according to plan, if they didn’t go according to plan, if there was no plan! They are each unique and beautiful. My daughter’s birth story is beautiful, because I’m not the worst mother, I’m a strong mother, I’m a brave mother, I carried her, I fought for her safety, and I learned to love her something fierce. Her entrance into this world changed me forever and I thank God for her daily!