The Best Laid Plans: My Unexpected CSection

Adam, AJ and I after getting home from the hospital.

Adam, AJ and I after getting home from the hospital.

For months I imagined giving birth to my perfect baby boy. In fact, often times whenever I was in the bathroom, passing a relatively hefty meal, I would close my eyes and the bathroom became the delivery room. Every push got me closer and closer to motherhood until I would hear the sweet sound of my child crying and they would put him on my chest. I’d look down, smiling through tears of joy as I watched them clean him off and instantly, I would fall in love like I never had before.

Of course imaginations can run wild and sometimes that imagination running wildly can set you up for heartbreaking circumstances. For me, it was the birth of my son…

When I hit my 36th week of pregnancy, my doctor asked that I schedule an appointment after my due date, just in case I went past it. The purpose of this would be to determine whether continuing with the pregnancy would be advisable. I thought nothing of it at the time because I was convinced that I would go into labor naturally when the time was right, though I was definitely getting impatient the closer I got to my due date (February 9th).

The week I was due, I did everything I could think of to jump start labor; spicy food, sex, yoga ball, long walks, even using a breast pump for nipple stimulation. Nothing was working, but I was convinced that I was at least dilated more than I had been the last time I’d been checked by my OB. February 9th came and went and on the day of my appointment the following week, it snowed so much that the doctor’s office closed for the day.

At the time, I lived in the south; any time it snows there, the entire town shuts down since it rarely ever snows. The last “blizzard” they’d had in Tennessee was in ‘93, during which they had a record of 20 inches. This “blizzard,” wasn’t quite as bad, but it was enough to close everything in the city.

So my appointment was rescheduled for the next day, February 14th, during which they would do an ultrasound to measure the amniotic fluids in my uterus and put me on a Fetal Heart Monitor (FHM) to make sure the baby was still thriving inside me.

As it turned out, the baby’s heartbeat sounded great but my amniotic fluid was low, so my doctor decided it would be best to induce me. She wasn’t on call that day, so she assigned one of the midwives to take on my delivery. I was to go in that night to the hospital for admittance and the midwife would break my water in the morning.

Had I gone in on the 13th, as I was originally scheduled, A.J. would have been born on Valentine’s Day, which may have excited anyone else but honestly, I’d rather my son did NOT share a birthday with Saint Valentine.

I wasn’t crazy about being induced, but figured it was what was best for our baby boy and I just wanted him healthy.

The Adventure Begins…

I went in that night at 10 pm and was given Cervadil which was suppose to simply soften and ripen my cervix. I was given a sleeping pill and was told to get a good night’s rest because at 8 am the next morning, the midwife would come and break my water for me, thus putting me into active labor.

I fell asleep around 1 am and woke up at around 2:30 am with some mildly uncomfortable lower back pain. I figured it was just the bed that was making me uncomfortable, so I laid there for about two hours, trying to relive the pain unsuccessfully. On top of it, I was hooked up to an I.V. and a FHM, so every time I wanted to use the bathroom, I would have to wake up Adam, who was sleeping on the most uncomfortable couch on the planet, so that he could unplug the IV and the FHR monitor cords and help me to the bathroom so I could do my business. I woke him up a couple of times and peed, then finally, after two hours of dealing with the pain, I asked for a nurse to come in and give me something to help me sleep.

Whatever they gave me was amazing and I wish we could get some for the house. I don’t remember the name of it, all I can recall is that they injected it into my I.V. line and soon thereafter I started to feel sleepy. I could still feel the back pain, but I simply did not care even a little bit. Very good stuff. Anyway, I was convinced that this would allow me to sleep so that I would be prepared for labor the next day.

If only that had been the case…

My original birth plan included me avoiding any interventions, including but not limited to the use of an epidural and pitocin. I wanted a natural labor and Adam wanted to cut the cord. I hadn’t taken any birthing classes up to this point, but I’d read books and watched documentaries on natural childbirth and I wanted it more than anything. A C-Section had never even entered the equation.

About an hour and a half after I got the amazing “sleeping shot” that they’d put in my I.V, I woke up again with my back pain almost doubled. It was still somewhat manageable, but still very, very painful. Again, I tried to get through it without alerting any of the nurses. It was about six in the morning by now and I knew that the midwife would be in to break my water at 8:00.

Before I knew it, my new nurse was coming into my room, a happy smile on her face as she introduced herself and asked that I let her know if I needed anything at all.

“Meg will be here soon,” she said, referring to the midwife. “Did you get a good night’s sleep?”

“Not really,” I answered honestly. “I’ve been having this God-awful lower back pain. Nothing the other nurse gave me worked for very long.”

“Oh you’re already in labor?” she asked, slight surprise in her tone.

“Um…they gave me Cervadil…”

“It sounds like you’re having back labor,” she replied. “Cervadil shouldn’t do that though…strange.”

Strange indeed.

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The midwife came in around 8:30, broke my water for me and said that she would try to avoid using pitocin if she could.

“As long as you keep progressing on your own, I’ll let you go without the pitocin.”

This made me very happy since I wanted a natural labor with no drugs whatsoever. Most people, when they heard me say that, would say I was crazy and that I should go into it with an open mind, which I did. However, my goal was to have a natural labor and I was determined to get through it.

She check me and informed me that I was at three centimeters dilated. 7 more to go, I thought. The pain was pretty bad at this point, but I figured as long as I kept breathing and moving around, I would be okay.

A contraction would hit, sharp and intense in my lower back; unlike any other pain I have ever felt or will ever feel, and I would breathe through it. I decided to try being on my hands and knees on the bed, trying to take pressure off of my spine. It worked, but the pain moved to my lower abdomen, a pain I deal better with on my back. I then figured I would try sitting in the rocking chair that was in our room, but that only made me feel trapped.

I would breathe through a mind-blowing contraction and then because I was so exhausted from having gotten no sleep the night before, once the contraction passed, I would begin to nod off and two to four minutes later, would get woken up by another hard, intensely painful contraction. It was torture and I’m ashamed to say that I caved.

Looking up at Adam in desperation, I asked, “I don’t think I can do this, not like this. Not with no sleep. Would you be mad if I just went ahead and got the epidural?”

“No,” he replied. “I would get it too, probably.”

I felt defeated. I remember thinking I’d talked such a big game about wanting to go through labor naturally and avoiding, at all costs, pain medication and here I was, caving even though I said I wouldn’t, if it killed me. The only thing that made me feel a little bit better was the fact that everyone woman in my family and Adam’s had some type of pain medication.

At least I’m in good company, I thought to myself as the nurse came in to check my vitals.

“I think I’m ready for the epidural,” I managed to say between contractions.

The next few moments were a blur, but I remember the anesthesiologist coming in, a contraction hitting just as she told me to get from the rocking chair to the bed so she could administer the epidural and me somehow complying after the contraction subsided. Another wave hit me just as I got on the bed and she began to prep me for the needle.

Adam held my shoulders and talked to me while the anesthesiologist worked behind me. A pain in my back where the needle was and then on the left side of my spine and then…nothing. Bliss. Finally, no pain and I could breathe and think straight again.

It didn’t take long for the medication to take effect and I couldn’t feel the contraction that came almost immediately after the epidural had been put in. A sigh of relief and exhaustion passed through me as Adam and the nurses helped me lay back on the bed.

The nurse checked me and told me I was dilated six centimeters and in hindsight, had she checked me before I got the epidural…I may have fought to keep going without it.

With only four centimeters to go, I settled into bed and watched The Brady Bunch reruns on TV with Adam and his mom, who’d come from our house to keeps us company and take pictures during the labor.

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Around seven o’clock, there was a shift change and my nurse, Sam* was replaced by another, named Gloria*. I had not dilated much more, so they’d already started pitocin with hopes that it would keep things moving along. Gloria checked my vitals, checked my cervix and then got me a popsicle, promising to come back in a little while to check on me again.

So there I was, numb from the waist down, watching the Brady Bunch and talking with Adam and his mom, enjoying my tenth grape popsicle of the day when Gloria reemerged. She checked my vitals, as promised and told me that I had a little bit of a fever. 102.8 to be exact.

“I’ll call Meg to see what she wants to do. She’ll probably say to give you some tylenol and see if your fever goes down. If it doesn’t go down, we’ll have to start you on antibiotics,” she said as she pulled a rubber glove on and moved to the end of the bed to check my cervix.

“Okay,” I replied, hoping to hear that I’d dilated more.

“And you’re about seven and a half, almost eight,” she said.

I’d leaked some more mucus, so she changed the pad underneath me and left again. She came back a few minutes later with some tylenol and assured me that it should do the trick in getting my fever down.

“I’ll be back in an hour,” she said.

An hour passed and Gloria came back to take my temperature again.

“102.6…so we’ll start you on antibiotics and that should do the trick in bringing your fever down.”

I looked over at Adam, slight worry on my face as Gloria walked out to call the midwife and get the antibiotics. When she came back, I asked her, “Is the fever something we should be concerned about?”

“No, not at all. It’s common in labor, the antibiotics should bring it down,” she assured me.

I have to say, I was still pretty scared, but I felt fine and she checked me again and said I was at eight centimeters. I figured, Only two more centimeters to go. Hopefully it’ll go quickly and our baby boy will be here soon.

Gloria again said she would come back in an hour to see how I was doing and off she went once more, leaving me, Adam and my mother in law confused, worried and anxious.

My mother-in-law grew up with family in the medical field. Her father founded a family practice in their hometown and was a big name in medicine practice in general, so she has a good amount of knowledge when it comes to labor and delivery. That and the fact that she’s had two children herself makes her qualified to weigh in on these matters. So when she said that she found it odd that Gloria would say a fever is common in labor, I started to worry a little more.

When Gloria came back, she checked my vitals and my cervix again. She didn’t say anything more about the fever, so I assumed that the antibiotic was working.

“You’re about eight and a half,” she reported before she turned up the pitocin. An hour later, she came back and said I was at nine, the baby’s head was “right there” and that she was going to call the midwife, Meg to come and deliver my baby!

I looked over at Adam, face beaming with joy and excitement as she took her leave again. My mother-in-law also couldn’t help getting giddy at the thought of finally getting to meet her grandson.

Gloria came back. “Meg is on her way and I’m actually not feeling well. They’re sending me home, but Meg will be here very soon. I’m so sorry I won’t be here to meet your little guy,” she said, a vaguely sad expression on her face.

Now, I’m a pretty trusting person. So when she said this, I actually felt bad that she’d been taking care of me for the last five hours and wouldn’t get to see our baby being born. I also felt bad that she wasn’t feeling well, though I secretly wondered for a brief moment if I had caught my fever from her in the first place. Regardless, I was excited to finally meet my baby and that overpowered everything else.

The energy in the room was at an all time high. We were finally going to be parents! Soon we would be holding the little creature we’d been anticipating for the last ten months and all would be right in the world.

When I heard a knock on our door, my heart skipped a beat and I grinned at Meg as she came in.

“Let’s do this!” I exclaimed, but she didn’t look too enthused.

“We’ll see,” I heard her mumble. I thought nothing of it. Or maybe I just didn’t care.

She checked me and I expected her to say, “Okay, you’re at ten! Time to push!”

But it didn’t happen that way.

She looked up at me with a sympathetic look and sighed softly.

“I’m about to tell you something that is going to be very disappointing,” she began. “You’re not at a nine…you’re more like a seven and the baby’s head is not ‘right there.’ His head is swollen, that’s why it might have felt to Gloria like it was right there. I know this isn’t what you wanted and I’m not saying you have to do it. If you want to keep going, we can keep going. You’re fine, the baby’s fine, but at this point your fever hasn’t dropped enough and it’s concerning to me. I really think a C Section would be the best option for you.”

My heart sank. The entire world crumbled around me and I realized that everything I’d imagined about how my labor would go was dead. How could this happen? I’d asked Gloria if the fever was a concern and she’d looked at me in the eyes and, with a straight face, told me it wasn’t.

“I am so sorry,” Meg said, bringing me out of my trance. “I should’ve been here to check on you sooner.”

“No, I don’t blame you,” I managed to say.

“I’m not one to say to someone ‘You have to do this or that.’ Very rarely have I ever told a woman, ‘This is what’s happening,’ without giving her a choice in the matter. You have a choice. If you want to keep going and wait a little longer, we can,” she said again.

I couldn’t think and looked to Adam for answers.

“What do you think?” I asked him softly.

“I mean…it’s up to you, but I think we shouldn’t take any chances,” he answered. I nodded in agreement and looked at Meg.

“Let’s get him out. Let’s just do it.”

She nodded. “I think that’s the wise decision. So, I’m gonna go call in the surgeon and we’ll get this going.”

Again, the next few minutes were a blur. I remember the anesthesiologist coming back in and joking, “You just can’t get enough of me, can you?” That made me smile a little, but I was still processing the fact that I was about to have the mother of all interventions when I hadn’t even planned on having one. She must’ve noticed the dazed expression on my face because she began stroking my hair affectionately.

“I’m sorry. I know this is not what you want, but it’s the right decision. Soon you’re going to have your baby in your arms and you won’t remember any of this,” she told me, seeming very genuine.

That was my breaking point. Up until then, I had been holding in my tears but I couldn’t, not after she said that. I started to cry. Not because I was having a C Section, which was not what I wanted at all, but because I was so afraid for our baby. I was scared that something would be wrong. Scared he wouldn’t be okay…that’s all I wanted — for him to be okay. How he came into this Earth was important to me, but not so important that I was willing to risk his health.

I heard someone say that the first assist was an hour away and then the anesthesiologist chimed in.

“You know, insert other surgeon’s name here is here, he’ll first assist.”

Meg nodded and went to work making sure everything was starting to get prepped in the O.R.

The anesthesiologist gave me more drugs, I think it was morphine, and told me it would make me want to sleep and to not fight it.

“Just go to sleep,” she said. “Everything is going to be okay. Just rest.”

So I did. I closed my eyes after trying to keep them open for a while and I rested. I’m sure everyone thought I was sleeping. I could hear what they were saying, but I was in my own world. Then they started wheeling me down to the O.R. My eyes were still closed, but I could see the light from the big, bright lamps on the ceiling through my eyelids.

There was no turning back now. I was going to have an emergency C Section. I had never had surgery of any kind before and I was petrified. I remember saying a quick, silent prayer and then I opened my eyes and I was in the operating room.

Adam was nowhere to be seen and I was starting to get nervous. In just a few moments, they would be cutting me open and I felt completely alone. They put me on the operating table and my eyes darted around again, trying to find Adam…and then he appeared, dressed in scrubs.

“You okay?” he asked. I nodded as best I could, but I was still completely out of my body. I had no idea what was happening and knew exactly what was happening all at once.

I remember feeling pressure in my vagina and later found out it was because they had to push the baby back in because his head was stuck and he was face up. Some more pressure and I heard them say to Adam, “Dad, get your camera ready!”

He looked over the sheet they had up in front of me, and stood up with his phone, taking picture after picture as they pulled our son from my body. Then I heard a loud cry and Adam looked down at me, smiling as he sat down beside me again.

“You hear him crying?” he asked, tears in his eyes. I smiled, nodding my head and closing my eyes briefly, taking in the sound of my son yelling at the doctor for pulling him out of his warm place in my belly.

Adam looked down at me and said he’d be right back and went with the nurses to take more pictures of our son. I tried to look over, trying to see what they were doing, but he was too far away and nurses were blocking my view. So I just looked up at the ceiling as they began to sew me back up.

The next thing I knew, Adam was beside me again…with our son, Adam Jr (A.J.) He was right next to my face, but I couldn’t bend my arm right so I could touch him. I was at a complete loss for words. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

You know how when a woman tells you about the birth of her first child, she usually says that the moment she saw her baby, she had this overwhelming feeling of love? The kind of love she never thought she could have for another human being?

I thought I would have that. I was looking forward to having that…but when I saw my son, I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel anything and I couldn’t understand why. I wanted to have that feeling more than anything and I didn’t. I felt like the worst mom in the world, with no emotional connection to her baby. I was shaking uncontrollably and wanted to cry tears of joy, but I couldn’t do that either. I felt so disconnected from my baby and I felt like the crappiest person alive.

They took him away to the NICU because they weren’t sure if there was an infection in the uterus from my fever. Then they wheeled me into recovery, which looked more like just a corner of a hallway with some computers and monitors. Adam came with me and about forty five minutes into the two hour recovery, one of the NICU nurses came to give us an update on A.J.

I heard what she was saying, but none of it was sinking in. I just wanted to know that he was okay. So, when she finished talking, I asked, “Is he okay?”

“He’s okay,” she answered. That was all I needed for the moment. After the recovery, they took us back into our room. Adam and his mom went to the NICU to see the baby and I stayed in the room, nurses coming and going while I laid there wondering why I didn’t feel anything for my own baby boy.

Adam and his mom came back after a while, told me that A.J. was perfect and that he was lapping up all the attention from the nurses in the NICU. I smiled again.

The Bonding Process

The next day I woke up at around seven in the morning, unable to sleep much. I texted my mom, who lives 5,000 miles away, and confided in her that I didn’t feel anything for my son. I felt terrible about it. I needed to know if I would ever feel something for him.

She assured me that I would once I saw him again and got to hold him…but I still wasn’t so sure. I just really wanted to see him.

The nurses came and got me, helped me to the bathroom to clean me up. I remember thinking, Holy shit, this is the worst pain ever. Every time I stood up, a burning sting would remind me that everything I’d imagined had gone to shit and now all I wanted was to see my boy.

They rolled me in a wheelchair to the NICU and my heart broke again when I saw him, an I.V. in his little head and more monitors attached to him.

“Let’s try some skin to skin time,” the nurse suggested, picking him up and waiting until I sat down in the recliner chair they had by his bed. I took off my gown and she handed him to me. As I pulled him to my chest and his warm, bare skin touched mine, my heart melted and I closed my eyes, finally feeling the rush of love that everyone always talks about.

From that moment, everything that had happened, everything that I’d gone through the night before kind of disappeared into thin air and all I was left with was a feeling of completeness. Somehow, despite everything else in the world that seemed to work against us, we had found something special.

We had a son.

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*Names have been changed to protect identities.

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2 comments

  1. So many similarities to my first born. From the long labor, to the as natural as possible delivery, all ending with an epideral and then a c-section. I remember the disappointment all too well. Such a beautiful little guy-makes it all worth it!

    1. Thanks Tarynn 🙂 It took me a while to really be at peace with everything that went down. But it definitely helps to know that I’m not alone 🙂 Thanks so much for reading my birth story and feel free to stop by my blog again any time 🙂

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