Two weeks ago today I underwent major surgery . . . for a tummy tuck and a boob job. Okay, not exactly, but it kind of looks like it 😉 Here’s what really happened.
On Friday, July 8th, I was looking forward to a weekend full of events. I started the day with a short bike ride to run a couple of errands. Later that day, we had some pool time with my mother-in-law, followed by our usual monthly vegetarian potluck.
Saturday, we headed out to a family birthday party/reunion with Matthew’s family. We returned home in the afternoon to cool off and relax. And then it happened — around 6pm my water broke.
I spent over 18 hours in relatively easy labor at home. I didn’t really sleep that night, but I rested. On Sunday morning, we worked on several labor projects, including making yogurt and hanging our onions to dry in the basement. I double checked all of our birth supplies, and made sure they were easily accessible. I ate, drank, and rested — all the right things.
Early afternoon on Sunday, Linsey stopped by to check on us, and everything changed. Baby’s heart, which sounded fine when Linsey stopped by right after my water broke (and sounded fine at all the prenatal visits), now had a clear arrhythmia: beat, beat, beat, pause, beat, beat, beat, pause. Regularly irregular.
After more listening, discussion, and consulting with other midwives, we made the hard decision to move to the hospital. We didn’t know what was going on with baby’s heart, and just in case it needed immediate attention, the hospital just made sense.
(Matthew drove us to the hospital in our own car and went to the women’s outpatient clinic, no ambulance, no ER, nothing dramatic.)
When we arrived at the hospital, they hooked up the EFM and brought in the machine to do an ultrasound . . . and we discovered that baby was breech. We had not had an ultrasound during the pregnancy, and in retrospect, this is the one thing we would change. (If we had gotten a late-pregnancy ultrasound and discovered the breech presentation earlier, we could have tried things to get baby head down.)
The hospital did not want to touch a vaginal breech delivery (many OBs these days have never assisted in, or even seen, a vaginal breech delivery, although they are by no means impossible), especially on an “unproven pelvis” (i.e., a woman who has never delivered vaginally). With the heart arrhythmia, we were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Staying at the hospital was really our only option, even knowing that support for a natural birth would be minimal.
Support for a natural birth turned out to be less than minimal, and after several hours with labor not really going anywhere, and increasing pressure for a Cesarean, including threats that attempting a vaginal delivery would most likely end in an emergency C-section, we made another hard decision — an “elective” C-section. (Given the situation, it didn’t really feel like we were “choosing” a C-section, just making the best of a non-ideal situation.)
Fortunately, I didn’t have much time to think or worry about the surgery, and before I knew it, I was in the OR, first getting an injection in my spine (I had a spinal block), and then flat on my back with my legs getting tingly. After everything was prepped, Matthew came in to sit with me during the surgery. Although there was technically, no pain, I could FEEL everything they did.
In my head, I thought they would make a big cut, pull baby out, staple me up, and that would be that. In reality, it took FORever, as they slowly cut through various layers of tissue to get to the uterus, then stretched and pulled and tugged for ages to get my big baby out of there.* Finally, I heard a few little coughs, and Matthew looked over the sheet and announced that we had a baby boy.
The putting me back together was just as time consuming as the cutting me open, with the fun addition of the scent of my own flesh cooking when they cauterized. I just wanted them to be done already, when Matthew brought a very welcome distraction in the form of our beautiful baby boy to lie on my chest for a few precious moments.
Despite some people’s casual attitude toward Cesarean delivery, and the convenience of “scheduling” your baby’s arrival, this is major abdominal surgery. I am recovering nicely, but this wasn’t just a little “procedure” that I went through. Though there are some cases where C-sections are truly medically necessary (i.e., in times past, mother and/or baby would have died), and MAYBE this was one of those cases, there is really no excuse for 1/3 of babies in our country being born surgically.
*One of their big threats with a vaginal breech delivery was the risk of baby’s head getting entrapped. Turns out head entrapment is also a risk with Cesarean delivery — funny how they failed to mention that.
I agree with everything you said about elective c-sections and scheduling due dates, I don’t know why this isn’t something that’s discussed more and why more medical professionals don’t tell women the reasons for why c-sections should be for emergencies, not the routine way to go.
But with that said, in your situation, it sounds like it was a must. I’m sure it was disappointing to have a c-section after preparing so well for a natural birth but all that matters is that you and baby are alright. I’m so happy to hear that your son was born and he’s healthy despite the heart beat scare. A friend of mine just experienced a similar situation this month and she also had to abandon her home birth to be rushed to the hospital but her story didn’t end as well. We’re all still waiting and hoping or her baby to get better and to be allowed home soon.
As I’m preparing for my own labor, I know that I want a natural and med-free/intervention free birth (although I’m having it at the hospital as midwives are allowed to practice in hospitals here, something I know is not the case in your state). But I’m also telling myself that it’s ok to let go and just have the birth go as it needs to with the end goal of a healthy baby.
I’m enjoying reading your post-baby updates!
I am clearly way, way behind in offering you congratulations on the birth of your beautiful baby boy. Your recent comment on my blog led me back here and made me realize that I had fallen completely behind in reading. So, I spent today catching up. I not only want to say congratulations, but also to say that I am so amazed by your strength and grace. Having the birth go so completely differently from what you planned must have been so incredibly hard. Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are one tough/beautiful/wonderful mama!
Thank you for the kind words. There’s a lot I’m still coming to terms with regarding the birth, but I have a pretty wonderful support system here, and I finally made the wise decision to get some professional help as well. I may be processing/dealing with the emotional aftermath for awhile, but things are looking up.
Birth and parenting is one of life’s best lessons in “the illusion of control”,