May 17th, 9pm- I checked into the hospital. I was 39 weeks pregnant, barely 1cm dilated and 60+ lbs over my pre-baby weight. Never had I felt so miserable.
I hadn’t slept more than 2hrs straight in weeks. My size 8 feet barely fit in a size 10 flip-flop. There were no ankles or knees to be seen, only trunks. I looked at my doctor earlier that week and cried when she said it could be another 2 weeks before I went into labor. I asked, “Can we PLEASE do something?”
We induced the next day.
I thought it would be my redemption story. I thought my body would reward me for the 21+ weeks of vomitting and the misery I had endured. I thought the natural process would kick-in. Surely, the longest 10 months of my life would end in happiness.
Hours and hours of hoping, wishing… praying. Nothing happened.
They tried medication to dilate me. They manually broke my water. They started pitocin.
And we waited….
My sweet baby girl’s heart fluttered on the monitor as my abdomen gripped me tighter and tighter. The contractions just piled on top of each other without relief.
Hours later, at just 3cm dilated, I was forced into an epidural. They hoped the anesthesia would trigger the uterus and pitocin into effective contraction patterns.
We waited more…
It became a game of adjusting the pitocin and anesthesia, trying to find the happy median. Hours and hours of balancing, without effect.
28 hours after we started the induction, I was wheeled into an emergency c-section. We had worn my sweet baby girl out. Her heart rate plummeted, the monitors screamed and as they strapped me to the surgery table, I wept.
I was scared. So scared.
This week I gathered the stamina to watch The Business of Being Born, a documentary about birth in the United States. As I watched, the tears I cried over 4 years ago, erupted again.
I watched as women embraced their maternal fate. They struggled through the end of pregnancy and gathered their reserve on the day of delivery. They sat between that “rock and a hard place” and looked fate in the eye. They took its challenge. The women were brave and womanly. They were everything I imagined I was supposed to be at delivery.
They were strong. They were maternal. They were amazing.
I wish I had been given the opportunity to be those things.
My heart mourns for the lost experience.
I’ve read stories, prayed for strength and even written my own blog about Wearing The Scar Proud. But, when I look birth in the face, I see my own brokenness. I see the opportunity I missed and feel the anger with my body again.
I wish I had had more knowledge about birth. I wish my doctor would have been my advocate, remembering that when I first bounced into her office, I had said I wanted as natural of a birth as possible. I wish I was not a statistic of our system.
If I could sit with my 24 year old self, I would be bold. I would tell her to be strong, to relax, to stop comparing herself to her stick-figure friends. I would tell her to ignore the sleepless nights and the growing stretch marks. They would go away. I would tell her to embrace her changing fate and to rest. Motherhood was going to be the most wonderful adventure she had ever been on!
The Business of Being Born explains that birthing is natural- something your female body was created to do. You have power in your birth experience and whether you want to birth at home or in a hospital, you can follow the natural ebb and flow of labor.
I wish I had known I had that power.
I would have waited for natural contractions. I would have told them to let me go home when the dilation medication didn’t work. I would have been up and walking the halls. I would have declined the pitocin. I would have never been unnecessarily induced.
5hrs later. I remember her face. The softness of her cheeks and tuck of her nose. The oxytocin shot through my veins, changing me in that single moment. I wanted her. I wanted her close and near. I wanted to protect and cherish and love.
My husband jumped off the couch and in the 4am silence we sat, finally holding our prize. Our precious baby girl was in our arms.
The next days and weeks were spent in recovering. I had been put under general anesthesia for my surgery, after having had an epidural for far too long. Nursing was hard and walking was harder. My stomach had been ripped into, in a heroic effort to save my daughter, and daily tasks were nearly impossible.
I spent months crying over my experience. Everyone told me to just be thankful that we were both okay. I cried more.
I mourned the expectations I had about becoming a Mommy. I missed my baby’s first cry. I don’t remember the first time I held her. I never even saw my husband’s reaction to becoming a father.
I was a product of the system. A very broken system.
Birth IS a natural process. It is sometimes fast and sometimes slow. It is painful, but expected. Being able to move and moan would support a natural delivery of the baby. The involuntary process of life would gain momentum. Some women pull their babies from their bodies in a process as natural as breathing and while I may not be that strong or brave, I do wish I had been given the chance to embrace my female structure. I was designed to birth.
If you are considering induction for non-emergency purposes, please reconsider. The discomfort is so short-lived, compared to the opportunity that could be missed. Read about birth, about the process your body goes through. Know your options and do your best to allow your body to progress naturally.
I am SO very thankful that medical technology saved my baby. She entered the world healthy and she quickly let us know she was full of life! The only evidence I have left of our experience is the small slit across my stomach, something that I HAVE had the power to embrace. An emergency c-section is our birth story, yet I will always wonder what it could have been…