The birth of my daughter (and only child) was the happiest and worst day of my life all rolled into one. She was a week to the day overdue. So, naturally I was beyond ready to just get this baby out! I was huge and uncomfortable and you always hear that babies gain the most wait in utero during the last few weeks, so I was terrified that I was about to deliver a 12 pound baby. Plus, it was August in Kentucky. It couldn’t get much hotter than what it was. While pregnancy is great and beautiful and special and blah, blah, blah, I was just ready to get it over with at that point. I was ready to meet my baby and see my feet again for the first time in 6 months.
So, when I finally went into hard labor at twenty after midnight I was ready to roll. Bags packed and car seat already installed. My poor husband had worked until 11 that night and was running on less than an hour of sleep but he geared up and was just as ready as I was. We loaded in the car and made it to the hospital, over an hour away, in record breaking time. I walked into labor and delivery and things started off fairly normally. I was slightly irritated because my doctor was supposed to be on-call, yet she told the nurses to hold me off until she took her kids to school that morning. It was frustrating, but I didn’t worry about it too much. This was a hospital; surely there was some doctor to deliver this baby if she came before mine got there.
I got into my gown; all hooked up to the various monitors and beepers and received my complimentary cup of ice chips. It was baby time. My contractions were hard and close together, but I powered through them for the first several hours. They continued to check me and after they broke my water at 6 cm I asked for the epidural. I had planned to get one the entire time, I’d just heard the horror stories of getting them early and wanted to wait as long as I could so it didn’t wear off. This is where the horror story starts.
I had been nice through labor. I never yelled at anyone, even my husband. I’m the type that really has to focus through pain, so I was mostly quiet trying to think my way through the contractions. I got the epidural and an hour or say later things weren’t feeling any better. It hurt. So, I called the nurse in and explained to her that I didn’t feel like the epidural was working. Nothing had changed. The nurse gave me some half-baked excuse saying, “You’re feeling pressure, not pain. The epidural doesn’t help with the pressure. You’ll be fine.” This happened 3 more times until I finally lost it.
I was hurting in unimaginable ways at this point and I was quite finished with her attitude. I, not so calmly and with a few colorful words, explained to her that I was a grown adult with a perfectly functioning brain and I knew the difference between pressure and pain; this was pain. After a good yelling she checked me again and called the anesthesiologist to come check the epidural. Since she had wasted all this time it was too late, I was 10cm and she was crowning. The anesthesiologist came in to check my epidural and it turned out that they had punctured the sack around my spinal fluid so badly that my spinal fluid was going back into the epidural instead of the other way around. They took it out completely and I was left to my own devices; a completely natural birth that I certainly hadn’t planned on.
Now, I have a heart condition that my OB was already fully aware of. It was something that she’d been monitoring through my entire pregnancy and had told me several times that it may end up causing me to need a C-section, simply because the contractions would most likely raise my heart rate significantly. And they did. But, she wouldn’t have known that they were because she didn’t show up until 15 minutes before I started pushing. I ended up actively pushing for over two hours. She was stuck.
It turned out that, while I dilated normally, my pelvic bones never separated the way they were supposed to throughout my pregnancy; something that should’ve been caught through all the ultrasound and pelvic exams and shouldn’t meant an automatic scheduled C-section. But instead, my child’s head got lodged and wouldn’t budge. My heart rate is getting progressively worse and the baby is starting to feel some distress. My OB starts panicking like a school child and tries to physically push my daughter back in to do an emergency C-section. That wasn’t going to work either. They tried the suction cup on her head a total of 7 times, until my doctor so kindly looks at my husband and says, “I’m only doing this one more time or I could pop your baby’s head off.”
I have passed out 3 times at this point and I’m beginning to feel like I don’t have anything left. I was too exhausted to push. I just wanted to sleep. My heart rate was well in to the 200’s and my daughter’s was dropping to 7. My OB looks at me, straight in the face and say, “If you don’t get this baby out you’re both going to die.” She proceeds to physically force my pelvic bones apart with her own two hands and I pushed with everything I had in me. FINALLY, she came out, with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck a total of 3 times. She was a pale shade of blue.
I died a thousand deaths lying on that table waiting to hear if my child was going to cry. It took what seemed like forever but I finally heard it. Ever so slightly in the corner, she sounded just like a tiny, little kitten meowing. And then I passed out again.
I woke up only to discover that I’d required 87 stitches due to her unconventional entrance, I’d hemorrhaged terribly and required 3 units of blood, and the botched epidural left me with a CSF leak and a horrendous spinal headache that required the blood patches on my spine and I had to lay flat on my back for nearly two weeks.
Thankfully, I and my daughter made it out okay. She’s not suffering any permanent problems and I’m left with nerve damage in my back, but I’m grateful that it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. But, not everyone is as lucky as me. Between 25-34% of women report that their births were traumatic in some way. Approximately 6-8 out of every 1000 babies born are born with a preventable birth injury. Many women, including myself, will suffer from at least some degree of PTSD as a result of their birthing experience. It can contribute to postpartum depression and alter a woman’s decision to ever have more children.
We generally assume that since we’re in a hospital, things will be okay. There are doctors and nurses and gobs of medical equipment. That’s simply not always the case. All of the equipment and personnel in the world are useless if the situation isn’t handled properly.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told to “get over it”. We survived, so we should quite complaining. But, if you take an apple and hack the seeds out of it without cutting the apple open properly; the apple will still be intact, but it’s no longer the same. It’s still suffered bruising and trauma and will still carry scars. The same goes for women like me. Yes, I survived. Yes, we’re okay and my daughter is healthy overall. But, that doesn’t take away from the fact that my birthing experience was made into something of a horror story.
A day that was supposed to have been the best day of my life is now riddled with memories of nearly losing my child’s life and my own. I still have scars, I have nerve damage and it has permanently effected my decision to never have another child. We’re fine, but I’m not the same. Just because we “made it” doesn’t mean our experience shouldn’t matter. It’s time that birth trauma is recognized as a problem. It’s time for personnel to realize these statistics and work towards bettering them. It’s time we stopped getting shamed for complaining about a less-than-perfect experience. We don’t expect birth to be perfect. Things happen and things go wrong. But, we do expect the people we’re paying thousands too to take our lives into consideration and do their very best to make sure that we and our children are safe.