Eight years ago my first son was born. It was the single most life-altering event in my life: I became a mother, but I also became scarred and took the first step on my journey toward birth activism. I almost never share my c-section birth story. It is incomplete, it makes me cry (not in a good way), it doesn't even get to the good part: hearing my son's first cry and hearing the OB announce that he is a boy. But here it is:
Little Vincente, you are everything I could have asked for. My love for you is total and complete, and I know without a doubt I would lay down my life for you. Your every breath, every yawn, every cry, is a joy to me. When I see you smile, my heart could burst from the love I feel for you. This is your birth story.
I found out I was pregnant on December 1, 2001. Your dad was out picking up wings at Woody’s when I took the pregnancy test, and when I saw that it was positive, I was so happy I jumped around the bedroom for a while. I think your dad was a little surprised, but he was happy, too. The pregnancy was easy. I didn’t have morning sickness, didn’t have weird cravings, didn’t gain too much weight (even though I did get HUGE). Feeling you kicking and squirming inside me was one of the most incredible sensations I’ve ever had. I remember the first time you got the hiccups, and also how when you’d get them right before you were born I could watch my belly jump a little with each one. Toward the end we realized you were going to be a big baby, and also that you were stubborn and didn’t want to come out. Induction was scheduled for August 15, a week past your due date.
Your father and I had gone to birth classes and were planning on having a natural, intervention-free birth. Since I didn’t go into labor naturally, we knew we were going to have to modify that plan somewhat, but were still hoping to have an essentially natural birth. The night of the 15th, we went to the hospital and checked ourselves in. The nurses started cervical ripening at about 11 p.m., and within a couple hours I was starting to feel some mild contractions. Labor! I thought. By the morning of the 16th, I was established in a pretty good contraction pattern, and my doctor broke my water. That picked the contractions up even more, and the labor nurse said we might not have to start pitocin as long as I was making progress. My mom showed up with Gary, and both of them came into the labor room—this was after I had said I didn’t want anyone in the labor room except your father and my mom. The labor nurse helped out by having me get into the Jacuzzi for a while, and wow was that wonderful. Unfortunately it also seemed to slow down my contractions, and when I got back to the room we had to start pitocin. Once the drip was started, I had to be hooked up to the monitors all the time, so I was restricted to the area right around my bed. That wasn’t too bad at first. Contractions were just starting to get painful, but since I could still change position and move around I was able to deal with it pretty well. Then the downward spiral began. Your heart rate started dropping after contractions, which concerned the hospital staff (and us, too). I had stopped making progress, so the pitocin had to be increased, which made your heart rate drop even more. By about 2:00 Saturday afternoon, the only position you would tolerate was me lying on my left side. Since I was stuck in bed, I couldn’t do anything for myself to help control the pain. I was tired and scared and frustrated and hurting, and I felt kind of alone. The birth wasn’t going like I had hoped, and I still wasn’t any closer to actually giving birth. It seemed like an awful lot of pain for no progress, and I was questioning my resolve to go drug-free. At some point your dad’s mom and your uncle Carlos came into the room, and I found myself thinking “Good lord, could you just keep everybody the f*** out of here???” My mom and Gary left to get lunch, and it was shortly after that I hit the lowest point in my labor. Your father was watching football, eating potato chips, while I lay in bed behind him, hurting and wishing he would come hold my hand or touch my face or just look at me and tell me I was doing good (even though I felt like I was a total failure at that point). Of course I didn’t say anything. Then mom and Gary got back with lunch, and your dad got up and walked out of the room without so much as a backward glance in my direction. After about 30 seconds in the room, alone, I started crying and totally lost the last of my ability to deal with the pain of the contractions. My mom came back to sit with me while your dad ate his lunch (I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink through this whole ordeal), and she and the nurses both kept asking me why I was crying. I couldn’t tell them it was because I wanted my husband to comfort me. I don’t know why I couldn’t tell them that, but I just couldn’t. So I said it was part pain, part concern for the baby, and part disappointment that the labor was going so horribly. All of that was true, but all of it still wouldn’t have been as bad if I had had the support I wanted….. Anyway, sometime after lunch your dad and I kicked his mom out of the room so we could talk about whether I should get an epidural. We decided that since I couldn’t get out of bed or change positions to try to deal with the pain and help the labor along, it didn’t make sense for me to be in so much pain. The next time the nurse came in, I asked for the consent form, and after going to the bathroom one last time I signed it. After that, my contractions intensified again. I was still crying, and now I started puking my guts out, too. God, it was horrible. Mom and Tomas held the stupid kidney bowls for me, and I fruitlessly clutched the side rails of the bed, trying so hard not to lose the last little bit of control I had over myself. Oh, how I hated it. The anesthesiologist finally got to me, and your dad held me as the needle went into my back. Within minutes, there was no more pain and I felt like a different person. As much as I had wanted to avoid the epidural, I was so glad to have it. Your heart rate was still dropping, though, and now I had developed a fever, too. We had internal monitors, IV antibiotics, constant checks, catheter…. Pretty near every possible intervention. And still, I was no closer to giving birth.
It has been almost 8 years since I failed to finish Vince’s birth story, and in many ways I have forgotten how painful the experience was. Over the course of the night, my labor complications continued. Though I was at least somewhat able to rest after getting the epidural, my fever continued to be nonresponsive, Vince’s heart rate continued to be problematic, and I never dilated fully. After reaching a point where there was “just a lip” of cervix left, I swelled back down to 9 cm and at that point my OB said we should go in for a c-section. Vince was born at quarter to three on Saturday morning, big and healthy. I remember hearing his first cry, and crying myself. After the c-section, I spent the better part of a year unable to forgive myself for “failing” at labor and delivery.