Birth Story

WARNING: This is a heavy post.  This is not my typical blog fodder.   This is my birth story and it's not a "feel good".  Please note that I am SO SO grateful that both my son and I came out of it all healthy and alive and I do not take that for granted for a single second.  This post has been sitting in my drafts for awhile and every time I consider posting it, I back out.  Finally time to get brave.  If it helps anyone to have a different experience, even one person, it's worth me putting it out there.

I'm a planner.  Keegan was planned and timed and we got lucky and God and nature and everything aligned and approved "our" plan.  Married 5 years by the time we were pregnant, Brandon and I were so excited to be expecting our first child, a little boy.

At 32 weeks, I went into pre-term labor.  I was kept in the hospital over night on strong medication that made me feel like I'd drank 50 cups of coffee.  It stopped me from continuing to dilate and I was sent home on bed rest.  At 34 weeks, the medication stopped working, and I was switched to a different medication and sent home after 2 days of contractions every 3-4 minutes.  It's confusing to have a hospital paper tell you to immediately return if you have contractions 5 minutes apart or less- but you're being sent home with the very same symptom.  Contractions slowed and I remained on bedrest until 37 weeks.  I was extremely uncomfortable.  I had been dilated to 3 cm for 4 weeks at this point and at a zero station for those of you familiar with the situation.  At 38 weeks and 2 days, my Dr. decided Keegan was big and developed enough to put me out of my misery and induce labor.  I was sent to the hospital and checked in at 5:30pm, given cervadil to try to push things along.  For me, it was very painful and I couldn't sleep because of it.  I was up all night.

At 7am, the Dr. came in to break my water, however, my body must have sensed it, and my water broke literally moments before he walked into the room.  Almost immediately full blown can't breath-can't think-can't-talk contractions began and were barely one minute apart.  I silently sat through them clinging to the edge of the bed for two and a half hours.  I never made it to any prenatal classes, as I'd been put on bedrest the week ours was scheduled.  I got through the best I could and waited for the epidural.  "There are seven c-sections this morning and one anesthesiologist- it doesn't look good" I was told.  Thankfully, our nurse for that day was a close family friend and she was able to get the anesthesiologist to come in.  The epidural worked well and quickly and I was able to relax for the first time in 14 hours. 

The day went on, contractions continued but I wasn't in pain.  By 2pm, I was 7 cm, 3pm 8 cm.  3:30, still 8.  4:00, still 8.  4:30 I was warned if I didn't progress, we needed to consider c-section.

C-section?

I'd mentally prepared for pain, endurance, discomfort, newness- but surgery?  I just hadn't prepared.

Panic set in.  I'd never had any type of surgery in my life, and since neither Keegan nor I were in medical danger, I was really caught off guard.

At 5:00pm, 8cm.  I begged for more time.

5:30, I was headed to the OR.

Once there, I was told to scoot to the operating table.  I was numb from the epidural, and it scared the heck out of me that they were unaware of this.  They said, "oh, she's had an epidural?"

Panic.

I was moved to the table.  They said, "we're going to expose you now".  They took my gown completely.  The room was freezing and then they strapped my arms down.  I have never felt so vulnerable.  I felt like I was being crucified, naked.  It was like one of those awful naked nightmares.

They pinched me with a tweezer on my stomach after adding to my epidural to numb me for surgery and asked "can you feel that?"  I answered "Yes!"  They insisted I just felt pressure not pain.  I disagreed, but not strongly enough I guess

Brandon was finally allowed in, they almost forgot to bring him in (they told him that).  They tossed him too small scrubs and he arrived just as they began to cut.

I felt it.  I felt everything they did.  I regretted ever having seen a c-section on the internet/TV because I knew EXACTLY what was happening and could feel it.  I begged for more epidural medicine to be numbed, but was told I couldn't have anymore until baby was out.  It was the most disturbing feeling and I desperately wished I'd pass out so I wouldn't be conscious. Awake surgery without enough anesthesia- now there's something I never expected to go through (and would never wish on my worst enemy).  Once I heard his cry and knew he was ok, I agreed to more medication because the pull of each stitch was too painful and too disturbing for me to handle.  I was asked "do you want me to snow you under now?" my typical fear of unknown medications/side effects, excessive intervention was gone, I agreed to whatever it was they were offering.  I was desperate to stop feeling everything.

In recovery I shook violently and felt as though I was freezing.  Turns out I'd lost a lot of blood (more than typical and was close to needing a transfusion- I was given two levels of clotting medication, but I didn't know this until much later).  I felt like I was floating somewhere.  My arms were numb my lower half was numb and I was freezing.  They packed me with warm blankets and immediately began to ask make me feel like a failure belittle guilt me about nursing Keegan.  "Don't you want to nurse him?"  "I thought you were a breastfeeding mom?"  "Should we just give him formula?" "Don't you want to hold him?" "You act as if you are scared of your own baby."  Guilt.

Guilt.

I was SO out of it I couldn't IMAGINE holding him without dropping him.  My arms were jello, I was still shaking terribly.

"He's a big baby, he's going to need to get his blood sugar up.  We're going to give him glucose water in a cup if you can't nurse then." (For the medical types reading this he was not diabetic, and he was 8 lbs 6 oz)

Can't.  Fail.  Right out the gate.  FRESH out of surgery.  Can't.

Family surrounded me- 6 people plus Keegan and myself in surgical recovery.  (Why were so many people allowed in in the post op recovery room?)  Overwhelming.  I don't remember much, but there's a brief video somewhere where I say, "No, it's ok, you guys can keep holding him."  Cause I knew I couldn't and I wanted him held.

Postpartum room.  I'm shared with another new mom. Which meant no one could stay with me from my family during the night.  Fresh out of my only ever surgery with my first ever child as a brand new mom- and entirely alone.  The hospital was packed.  The nurses were so busy.  No one stopped to teach me anything.  Show me anything, make sure I had the hang of anything.  They checked vitals, pushed the bassinet into the room with Keegan and left.

The nursery was full, which meant I'd needed to care for Keegan, not sleep that night.  I was so tired and still shaking violently.  The IV pain meds had a button which had to be pushed every ten minutes so that I could "keep on top of the pain".  If I didn't push it right at that point, the pain was unbearable (I'm not being a show off here, but I have a fairly high pain tolerance, but the post op pain was beyond anything I've ever felt).  Not an ounce of numbness left.  At the 30 minute mark with the push button meds, I stopped hearing the chirp sound that meant it'd worked.  I was terrified because I knew the pain was about to completely take over.  I paged a nurse and was told my machine was loaded with a shorter acting dose, that I should have had one for several hours (she even chuckled about it and said "whoopsie!"), but "we'll go ahead and switch to oral pain meds now anyway".  Almost an hour later, I was given meds and told they'd kick in in 20 minutes.  That was the LONGEST 1 hour and 20 minutes of my life.  I held Keegan as best I could, shook and cried.  Alone.  My family had been sent home since I was sharing a room.  Meds slowly kicked in, pain became just tolerable enough to stop crying.  And the rest of the night was pretty much me attempting to nurse alone and keep Keegan from crying and waking my roommate.

By the next night, I'd still not slept.  Excited visitors came in throughout the day in a steady stream.  Excited, happy, boisterous.  And I felt like the living dead.  Desperate for sleep.  Exhausted to the point of stupor.  When visiting hours ended, Keegan was left with me and he began to cry.  A loud continuous cry and I realized he'd pooped.  He was in the bassinet at the foot of the bed.  And I in the bed.  It took me nearly 20 minutes to carefully move through the incision pain and get up without help and get to him.  I'd called for help, I was overdue for pain meds, but was told to wait, someone would come when they could.  I tried to change him, but there were no wipes.  Just diapers.  Suddenly, I had to use the restroom.  After a c-section, you can't tell until you REALLY need to go and you're so close to your bladder exploding that you have to go RIGHT THAT SECOND.  I got on the pager intercom again and said, I need someone to come her NOW.  I have to use the restroom and I can't leave my baby alone on the bed.  They finally came.  I explained the wipes situation, the crying and went to the restroom.  When I came out, I told the nurse he HAD to go to the nursery that night because I hadn't slept in DAYS and I was desperate for sleep.  She took Keegan, gave me an Ambien and said to rest.  I was so relieved, I think I cried and had a stupid grin on my face.  I slept.

For 35 minutes.

Then, then nurse brought him back.  "He's too fussy.  He's been crying.  You'll just have to keep him.  He probably wants to nurse."

More crying, this time my own from exhaustion, exacerbated by Ambien.

Come morning my Dr. came to check on me.  I finally grew a spine.  I told him I HAD to go home.  It was Thursday morning, I'd had Keegan via c-section Tuesday evening, and was supposed to stay in the hospital until Saturday.  He allowed it as I would be able to have family around to help me more continuously at home and I was strictly ordered to rest.  HOME.  Thank you God.  HOME. 

I was given no assistance in the hospital with getting up, instructions for showering the first time or incision care.  I bent down to pick up the soap when it dropped and the corner of my incision tore.  My bed was never changed the entire time I was in the recovery/post-partum room- I lay soaked in blood.  As I was being checked out, a nurse and another woman (who was she? no clue, seemed like people rarely introduced themselves) had a small chuckle over the fact that no one had actually turned on the ankle security band (the one that keeps someone from stealing a baby from the maternity wing).  When the lactation consultant did come to "consult" with me, she lifted up my gown (without introducing herself or explaining why) and said, ok, now latch him on.  I did (or so I thought I did) she said, "looks fine" and walked out.  That was my consultation.  Turns out we weren't fine, as things went so badly once home, Keegan essentially starved for the first 11 days and I had no idea why all he did was cry and why he was rapidly losing weight.  It was terrifying.  We had major nursing issues and I had to fight low supply for the entire first year because of it.

So, yeah.  That's pretty much my story.  It's not pretty, or heartwarming.  It's just what it is.  I'm still working on dealing with it all.  Shortly after the whole experience I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I did see a therapist to deal with it, and I'm a lot better than I used to be, but I still struggle.  I'm not sure I'll be able to step foot in the same hospital again- we'll have to see if/when the need arises.

For the moms-to-be who've stumbled upon this post, please, if there's one thing you take from my experience, let it be this- do not try to be the "perfect patient".  If you need something (notice I said need, not want- we're not talking crushed ice instead of cubed here) speak up.  If you don't get help, speak up again.  Do your research ahead of time and ask for explanations of procedures.  Ask "is that truly necessary?".  Be respectful, but not a push over.  No one knows how/what you're feeling like you do.  Be your own best advocate and help your love ones advocate for you.

Thanks for reading and letting me finally get this out.  I promise to return to my regular more upbeat postings tomorrow ;-)

13 comments:

  1. *like*
    (not the experience of course, but your determination. Your ability to post something that has been so terrible.You rock Natali. ;) )

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  2. I too had a horrible birth experience with my first child. I will never go back to that hospital again because of it. Thank you for sharing your story - It will help a lot of moms out there and by being able to express yourself, it will help you too!!

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  3. Wow! NATALIE I feel for you and all you went through. I like you went into pre term labor around 30 weeks with all three of my children. In and out of the hospital( but the first child was the most). He came three weeks early and I also stopped progressing and had to have a c-section . I did not have the same surgery experience(I can't even begin to understand how you felt) I did experience the whole shaking and trembling. They wouldn't let me see my baby until I stopped shaking. I will tell you that each birth is a different experience each time. If I had it to do all over again I would really have pushed for the v-bac, but I did enjoy delivering at the hospital I did and would have had to change that along with the doctors. I my self suffered From postpartum depression and refused ever to get help and still struggle to this day with my youngest being 2 yrs old. I also feel robbed from birthing my own child and missing out on the first three hours of their lives. It is something very hard to explain and have others understand you. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. Thanks for sharing your story Natali... shame on all those people who just brushed you aside and did not take the time to help you. I can't imagine all those emotions you went through, and coming from the other side I'm ashamed those people call themselves nurses/health care workers! Hope you continue to find the strength and support you need to deal with the stress this situation put you in. **HUGS**

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  5. Holy crap. I'm crying at the thought of your lonely, horrific experience. Especially when you go into birth with such idealistic dreams! I'm so very sorry there was no one to serve at your advocate at the hospital. Shame on them. Good for you for seeking help to deal with experience after the fact - and for putting your experience in writting for others to "learn" from. I only hope that you've also communicated this all to the hospital administrations - so that (hopefully) other mothers will not share the same fate!

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  6. Natali, I'm so sorry you had to go through this. I've heard so many horrible birth stories and this is just about the worst. I am sickened by what a failure our hospitals are to us. Thank you so much for sharing this.

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  7. That is truly the most horrifying birth story I've read. I've known 2 people now who could feel the entire c-section. So terrifying.

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  8. Nat, you know I always come to tears whenever we share our birth stories. It's horrible but I'm so proud of you for posting this. It takes a lot of courage to come forward and really admit the truth to what happened that day (instead of sugar-coating the experience, which I find pretty common too). I hope that over time, our wounds will heal and we will become stronger people (mothers) because of this.

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  9. Thanks for being so brave and posting your story. Too many women are so silent about their experiences. I bet you helped a lot of women become their own advocates and not just be that "polite" patient. THANK YOU!

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  10. Oh my word, Natali. I just cannot imagine anyone having to go through such a horrible experience, especially when the birth of your first child should be one of your best memories. I'm so sorry you had to endure this--you are an amazingly strong woman!! Thanks for sharing your story! I'm sure it will encourage many women to advocate for themselves!

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  11. My eyes are full of tears. I thought I knew your story, but there are details here that I was unaware of or only partially aware. I apologize for being "out of it" on observing some of these events at the time. I know the first night in the hospital was spent with your contractions and discomfort causing you and I to be awake all night, you would get up every 15-20 minutes to walk to the bathroom,. There was no peace for you from the beginning of your hosp. stay. After trying measures--everything to avoid the C-section, you were taken away. I didn't see you again until long after seeing Keegan in the nursery with Bran, etc. No Natali. Not the three of you, together. When we finally did see you, you were so quiet; I had no idea it was from losing so much blood, and the meds. Dumb, I know. And how I wish I had refused to leave later, and stayed. Brandon or I would've helped you. May it comfort you to know that I am SO PROUD of the mommy that you are, and of Bran's wonderful "daddyness". May you find peace that passes understanding about all this, and continue to see what God will do to turn this singular chapter in your lives into something great-- which is already obviously starting to be of comfort to some here. I love you, Sunshine, with all "my beating heart".

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  12. This makes me go all mama bear! And with a tomboy that means I want to punch someone in the face;). There is no reason for any of this to have happened to you! I have heard bad stories coming out of that hospital for the past few years. I am so sorry this happened to you.

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  13. I'm probably the only dude who read this, but, holy cow that was a crazy couple days for you guys! I was just telling someone the other day how big of a life-event birth is for us, but there is literally a child born every minute around the world. It's a super common thing that is extremely personal to each of us. Sometimes I think the hospital crew forgets that it isn't part of our daily routine.

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