Location: Seattle, WA
How pregnant: 39 weeks, 1 day
First baby: Yes
Hours in labor: 33
Delivery type: Vaginal that progressed to C-section
Did you have a birth plan?
Since I work in health care and am friends with a lot of docs, I trusted them on the medical decisions but wanted to be really clear about my preferences. My birth plan was intentionally non-medical and focused on how to make me comfortable in a difficult situation and if we needed to switch course. I shared that I'd heard my fair share of hospital horror stories and that I'd do better with more information than less. I asked them to make sure to walk me through both sides of a decision and the medical literature on any big decisions.
When did you know you were in labor?
I was writing my last work email and my water broke within a minute of sending it.
What happened before you went to the hospital?
Called my husband, got the dog a sitter, and ate dinner. We were pretty relaxed since I wasn't having any contractions yet.
What happened first when you got to the hospital?
I'd done a tour of the hospital's L&D unit, so we knew exactly where to go. We started off in a triage room, where a resident checked how far along I was. I was only a centimeter dilated, but since my water had broke they wanted to start labor sooner than later. They admitted me and started Pitocin.
What did contractions feel like?
Our baby was what's fondly called "sunny side up" meaning she was head down, but face up (toward your stomach and the sky). It's not an ideal position because it leads to what they call back labor. I felt like I was having an intense migraine in my spine with each contraction.
If you had no pain medication, how did you manage contractions? Was it what you expected?
I labored without pain medication for about 8 hours using a combination of breathing and counter pressure (I'd bought my husband a doula book so he'd read all about various coping techniques). My preference had been to labor naturally, but after 8 hours, I was only 2.5 centimeters dilated and had moved from "coping" to "suffering" given the back pain, so we went for the epidural.
If you got an epidural, how did that work? Was it what you expected?
The docs came in, on my request, and explained the procedure. They worked in between contractions, and I was surprised by how quickly they were able to get the epidural in.
Honestly, the experience of laboring with the epidural was hugely surprising for me. Your body is still doing everything you would be without the medication. I didn't feel contractions or even pressure, but I was exhausted and nauseous.
The pain meds helped me cope tremendously, but it was hard to push when the time came since I had no physical sense of what was going on. Luckily, I had a really great nurse who instructed me through the pushing phase.
If your labor had an unexpected intervention (i.e. emergency C-section or forceps) how and why did that happen?
After pushing for about 2.5 hours of pushing (and 26 hours of labor), we hadn't made any progress. I was starting to lose my mental game and asked the care team to get together so we could come up with a plan.
Because of the epidural, there was some question of whether I was just not pushing efficiently (since I couldn't feel anything) or if the baby was stuck. The doctors didn't all agree. We talked it out between contractions, and the majority seemed to think that the baby was stuck because her head was starting to swell and that more pushing was futile.
We went for the C-Section. The surgeon told me later there was really no way the baby could have been born naturally without damage to me.
What happened immediately after your baby was born?
I have only flashes of memory from the period right after the C-section. My husband tells me our baby wasn't breathing when she came out. I was too out of it to process this, but it was pretty scary for my husband and he was lucky to have a doc take him aside to explain what was going on and that it was pretty normal.
After she was doing better, they brought her over to me to hold her and wheeled us both back to the room to recover. We started breastfeeding right away. I'd wanted a natural labor and had ended up with an extremely medical experience, so being able to stick to the breast feeding plan was a relief.
Anything else you want to add?
Finding a great OB/GYN was the single best decision that we made through the process. When there was disagreement about how my labor was progressing, having someone who knew me well made a huge difference.
She knew my preference for a vaginal delivery, and I really trusted that she had my best interests at heart when she said she thought it wasn't possible. We'd talked about it a couple weeks prior and she had raised the possibility of it, which I didn't like at the time, but had allowed me to process my feelings about it in advance. When we had some complications following the labor, she visited every day to give up updates and went out of her way to coordinate the care team.
I didn't anticipate how difficult C-section recovery would be. You feel incredibly vulnerable laying in the hospital bed hardly being able to move and needing to rely on other people to bring your baby over if she cries.
Having help at home that first week was a life saver since seeming small things, like sitting up, were a huge challenge. My husband was home for four weeks and that was about the period that it took for me to recover enough to feel ready to go solo.
Final question: How would you describe this delivery in one sentence?
Three for the price of one (natural, medicated, c-section): we got them all!
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