In this series we share birth stories of all kinds from mothers around the globe — with the hope that they inspire, educate and inform expecting mothers. Interested in sharing your birth story? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Read more birth stories here.
It took 48 hours, my best intentions and somehow it all ended in a c-section anyway. Let me start from the beginning. I loved being pregnant especially when my belly started to swell and the inner beauty of making a new life started to become apparent to the outside world. It was magical to be approached by other women and revered for this amazing thing that was happening to me. But I started to notice that as the date for delivery got closer, the conversation shifted from having a positive tone to an alarmingly ominous one. It struck me as strange that “Good Luck” was the inevitable words uttered by almost every single woman I encountered. I wondered what luck had to do with it. Wasn’t birth a beautiful thing that our bodies did naturally? Wouldn’t it all go smoothly and beautifully exactly how I was envisioning it? The birth story of our daughter Helen helped me understand exactly why the two words “Good Luck” are so commonplace.
I was almost 41 years old when Helen was born. In pregnancy, that’s ancient and so at 41 weeks exactly my lovely doctor suggested I have labor induced. There was lots of talk about risk and “because of my age” not wanting to go past 41 weeks. I never did understand exactly why, but since it was my first time, I believed that this was in the best interest of me and my unborn child. So we packed our bag and went along. We arrived at the hospital as scheduled, were escorted to our beautiful room with an amazing view of the Charles River and instructed to relax. Two hours later, I was hooked up to an IV and Pitocin began pumping through my veins. And then I waited…and waited…and waited. I should tell you that my birth plan didn’t include any of this. I had wanted to have an un-medicated birth. I imagined my story as a beautiful tale of strength, pain and love ending with the vaginal birth of my child. It was nothing like that.
Back to the Pitocin in ever increasing doses, the contractions finally started to come somewhere in the middle of that first night. I was elated! It was happening, perhaps slowly, but something was happening and we were on our way. Twelve hours of hopeful optimism later, I was crushed to learn that I was only 2 centimeters dilated. Let me repeat that, twelve hours to get to 2 centimeters. I, however, was not deterred. So a mechanical device was inserted into my cervix to move things along. It hurt like hell, but I did it and a few hours later it was deemed a success. We were at 4 centimeters! Hooray! More Pitocin, more contractions, more beautiful pain and suddenly a couple of hours later my water broke in spectacular fashion. At this point I was convinced my dream of a (mostly) un-medicated, vaginal delivery was still possible. The nurse reassured me I could do it and so I kept breathing through the strong, regular contractions and willing my body to keep going.
So, you might be thinking, “What went wrong?”. Well, nothing except that after about 32 hours of not sleeping or eating I was exhausted. I felt like a narcoleptic falling into sleep between contractions because I just couldn’t stay awake any longer. The next four hours were one’s I will never in my life forget. I wanted so much to keep going, to take the pain, to do it, but I just couldn’t. I had nothing left. 36 hours of labor is a very long time and the human body can only take so much. At least mine was telling me it couldn’t take much more. So after much deliberation I gave in and got an epidural. Somehow that felt like the last thread holding me to the possibility of my planned birth story. But, I confess, when those first waves of relief started to happen I remember thinking that all I wanted was to sleep, to rest my tired body and that it had been the only choice I could have made.
I won’t bore you with all the details of what happened for the next 12 hours. But after 48 total hours of labor I was at 8 centimeters and showing no more progress. I was crushed and tired. I had been given every drug, mechanical device and anything else they could throw at me and was still 2 centimeters away from the process even really starting. I asked my nurse if she thought there was any chance this baby was coming out the traditional way. Her exact words were, “Well, from my experience, you can probably get to 10 centimeters, then push for 3 hours and the likelihood you will have a c-section is still pretty high.” And I was done! Call in the surgery team I instructed. I just couldn’t do it. I had had enough and I wanted it to be over. It was happily over within 20 minutes of making the decision to have the c-section.
Our 8lb 7oz daughter emerged with a cry that shook the room. I saw her beautiful, puffy red face and her full head of dark hair and I started to cry. I couldn’t believe it was a girl (everyone had guessed boy). I put my head back on the operating table and took a deep, deep breath of relief. It was finally over. She was here. I look back on my story and try to imagine how it could have gone differently. No alternate story comes. It’s the only story I have and even being as difficult and unexpected as it was it’s still our story and I treasure it. Giving birth is a leap of faith. You dive in and have little control over how it goes. Everyone’s story is different and rarely is it textbook. But in the end we are all grateful that we made it and feel lucky to have had the experience at all. And at the end of it we get to finally hold our baby in our arms. Looking back, luck may actually have a lot to do with it. So to all my pregnant sisters out there reading this, I say, good luck! I wish you a beautiful ending to your birth story no matter what happens along the way.