Miles came into the world on 9/30, but really, his story starts weeks earlier, on 9/9. I was 36+5 and had my first lovely episode of prodromal labour – but unlike the prodromal labour with my daughter, it would fade after a few hours and in between contractions, I had a stabbing/burning pain near my incision from Lily’s birth, lower left side. It started during contractions and hurt worse than the contraction, then lingered and eventually faded between contractions – but took longer and longer to fade. I was debating L&D when the contractions stopped, and the pain itself eventually faded too.
Over the next two weeks I had two more episodes like that, until 9/22 I contracted consistently every 10 minutes the entire night – and eventually there was no break or fading of the stabbing pain. I was officially freaked out – was this a sign of poor scar integrity? Adhesions to other organs in my pelvis? I’d had bowel injury due to adhesions before I’d ever even been pregnant so I knew my body was prone to them anyway, and the possible ramifications scared the hell out of me. It was funny – I’d spent my entire pregnancy debating VBAC versus RCS, and rupture had never even made it onto my list of pros/cons because the possibility was so rare. But this pain was so, so wrong…and so, fearing the choice had been made for me, we went into L&D after talking to my doctor. We went in fully expecting to leave with a baby – and in all likelihood, a c-section.
To my shock, my doctor decided it was SPD. SPD? You’ve got to be kidding me. I –know- what that pain feels like – this was my second pregnancy with SPD. It does cause significant pain. It does not cause stabbing burning pain localized to one specific small area of my pelvis. We were sent home, after a shot of dilaudid (I blame the shot for not being able to advocate appropriately with my physician – I felt drunk and woozy, and had trouble articulating myself), and I was terrified. What if I went into real labour? I sincerely felt we were ignoring a dangerous sign, and we were far enough from the hospital that I was afraid. I knew how fast my labour began with my daughter – no slow start, contractions immediately long, hard, and close together. If that happened again and I was right, would I bleed out before we got to the hospital? Would I lose my son? These might sound like really dramatic concerns, but I can’t describe the intensity of the pain…or how /wrong/ it felt. I instinctively knew this pain was not normal.
The silver lining was that, in a real way, this really had made our decision clear. I was afraid to labour, which had previously been the only part of the process I’d looked forward to – I had always wanted my son to pick his birthday. I enjoyed laboring with my daughter, being supported by my husband. Yes, it hurt, but…it was the most peaceful part of my daughter’s birth. And I looked forward to it.
Now I dreaded it. And so we chose a date – 9/30, when I’d be 39+3. I became the first heavily pregnant woman praying not to go into labour. In a way, it was a blessing; we were able to fill the weekend with fun events for Lily, Octoberfest and special breakfasts and dinners and lots of time focused completely on her, including Mommy painting her toes and fingernails. (I painted my own toes too, and used a gift certificate from a friend to go get a no-chip manicure. Ah, the strange small advantages to planning the date of a birth…)
Sunday night I barely slept, and I cried some tears that my daughter’s time as my only focus was ending. She woke up hours early because she was afraid to not be able to say good-bye, as much as she was excited the baby was finally going to be born and excited she’d get to spend days with her grandma. This sparked more tears on my part, but finally it was time for my husband and I to leave – so we headed out to the hospital.
The c-section was for 9:30, and we had to be there at 7:30 to prep and be monitored. It was so strange – my doula came, and helped keep me calm, but volunteering to be cut open felt…so strange. It was my strongest fear with my daughter’s birth and was the reason we chose homebirth the first time…and now I wanted to be cut open? I can’t describe the complexity of the emotions that morning. Primarily excitement – my baby was coming, and safely. But odd bits of regret, trepidation, resentment that I felt like my body needed me to sign up for a more painful and difficult recovery, and also peaceful, because as much as there were some negative emotions, I finally felt confident I’d made the right call. Finally it was time for my husband to get into scrubs and my doula to head off for a few hours since she couldn’t be in the OR (I figured out later it’s because the OR was teeny! We couldn’t have fit her there!), and me to head to the OR.
Walking into the OR though…volunteering sitting at the table for the spinal…(which funny enough, they had to bring in a stool…I’m short enough I couldn’t get up there by myself, haha!)…so strange. A little scary. Exciting, but a little scary. I didn’t really remember prep for my first c-section – I was so sick and it was so fast, but this time…I had to actively participate in the prep for slicing my belly open. So odd. So very very odd. Once the spinal was in, my legs immediately felt warm and funny and heavy…I lay down and my husband came in, and after a bit they asked me if I could feel “this” – as I couldn’t, the surgery began.
I was shivering, badly – the anesthesiologist was amazing though. Unlike my first section, where the doc was an ass and ignored me even when I began vomiting all over myself, he was attentive. “Are you in pain? How do you feel?” He spoke to me a lot during the surgery and was great. He held an emesis basin for me the one time I did feel like I was going to be sick (I never was during the surgery this time – hazaa!) and told me how great I was doing. I was just cold, but I was freezing even with warm blankets. (I knew once I started shivering holding my son in the OR was going to be out – I was shivering too badly and wouldn’t have trusted myself, much less expected someone else to trust me when I couldn’t even hold my own arms!)
Finally, at 9:52, with no warning, we heard a strong cry. Miles was born! And surprisingly, I immediately began sobbing. When my daughter was born, I was so sick I got confused at her tiny wet gurgle. The only part I remember from her birth is asking my husband if that meant I was still pregnant or not. Confusion was my only response to her birth – but this time, I was so overwhelmingly happy I couldn’t control the tears. (“Are these happy tears or are you hurting?” “Happy!” “Good!” …I told you the anesthesiologist was awesome.)
Immediately, I heard them say he was “big” and my doctor brought him around quickly for me to see – wet, kinda purple because he was just born, covered in vernix…I got to see him, untouched by anyone except my OB. And he brought him to me and said, “Kiss him, Mommy!” I got to kiss my wet messy baby fresh from my body. I still cry thinking about it…I couldn’t hold him, but I was the first one to touch him, to kiss him. (Me kissing him while he was “dirty” apparently grossed my husband out, hah!) It was only a second because we didn’t want him to get hold, but it is a memory I will forever treasure. This was my OB’s way of compensating since it was clear I couldn’t hold him – and it was more precious than I can ever hope to explain.
My husband followed them around to where they dried Miles off (no bath and they didn’t wipe him down – just patted him dry and swaddled him so he wouldn’t be cold). The nurse brought Miles around for me to touch and kiss while they closed me up, and once my husband finished taking pictures, he held Miles for me to continue kissing and stroking and talking to. Towards the end the shivering got worse, but the surgery was over quickly and it was off to recovery, having never been separated from my son.
In recovery, Miles was weighed and found to be 8#6. (“Big!” Argh, my only regret…if I’d known that would be considered big…I’d been predicting 8#8 since July! Not big in my book!) Skin to skin and breastfeeding were immediately established – my husband went to hand me my son for the first time and got scolded by the nurse. “Blanket OFF!” Hah!
He was so, so beautiful. After getting him latched (oy, same bad latch as my daughter – my kids just can’t open their mouths wide enough when they’re teeny! Like her, it would take days to correct and by then my nipples would be cracked, again, but it was what it was.), I spent time just touching him, stroking him, talking to him, and rubbing any vernix in. Being able to do that was awesome – my daughter had been scrubbed “clean” – literally scrubbed, bleh – by the time I saw her hours after her birth. The staff was respectful – skipped the eye ointment with no problem, and even offered to do the oral vitamin K supplement instead of the shot! We were never hassled over no circ either, even though it’s not a common decision in our area.
n the end, a surgical birth – but an active one, where I really felt like I was a person, where my choices were respected and ironically, got more of my crunchy wishes than I did with my planned homebirth. It was so peaceful and yes, completely beautiful. I was cut open, but I chose to be, and this time, I do not regret it. Recovery sucks, but I’ve been praised for how well it’s going too – by Wednesday I opted out of narcotics and stuck to Motrin for pain. It was strange; I found that in one corner of my room, where the glider was, as I sat nursing my son, I could hear the woman in the next room. She was pushing. I wasn’t trying to overhear, but with where I was even the TV on couldn’t drown her out – everyone there was loud. I heard as her child crowned and as her baby was born. I heard the screams of joy, the “GREAT JOB, MAMA!” and the baby cry. And as I realized what was coming right before the baby was born, I had a moment of – crap, am I going to end up in tears? How am I going to feel when she gives birth and reminds me that that isn’t an experience I can have? But all I felt when it was over was…a slight bit of regret for an experience lost. No more grief, no “I wish it had been me.” More like, “Darn, I never got to go to Ireland.” My son’s birth was exactly what I wanted and needed.
And it was beautiful.
Heather also adds, “Thank you all so much! I am…relieved it was such a positive experience. I do feel it was the right decision, despite also knowing the statistics said that a vbac is safer. I still believe that most of the time vbac is a better choice – it just wasn’t the better choice for me, right now.
And also – I appreciate how positive the commentary is. I know that my choice isn’t necessarily a popular one here, and even knowing how amazing this community is about education versus judging I was a little nervous to share only because…this was such a positive experience to me and selfishly I didn’t want anyone to rain on it, yknow? I still hate that I had surgery. I hate that that was the choice that felt best for me. I believe in natural birth. I believe vbac is safer. It just wasn’t a choice I could make here and now… I know it is tough, don’t feel bad that it isn’t clear cut – for some people it really is. For some people they have to try to vbac. And really, vbac is safer, statistically. For most people it’s the better option. But no birth is right for everyone, so if in the end you decide RCS is a better choice for you, then own that choice and find a provider who will support your choices.”