Monday, June 4, 2012

But I Don't Know if I Can...

Emmy’s birth was a far cry from the one I had imagined. In the days leading up to the projected date of my daughter’s birth, I daydreamed about what the experience was going to be like. I envisioned a semi-panicked, middle-of-the-night ride to the hospital in the back seat of my husband’s car. I envisioned sitting on a birthing ball, begging for ice chips and cold washcloths to cool my forehead, and singing very loudly through my contractions as they got closer and closer together. I envisioned groaning and moaning, and walking and squatting, and burning sensations and maybe a lot of screaming. I envisioned squeezing my husband’s hand with all my might as I clenched down and used all my emotional and physical strength to push Emmy out into the world.
None of that really happened. Instead, Em stayed inside my uterus ten days past my due date, and after a not-so-spiffy non-stress test, I was admitted to our birthing center and administered cervidil. Though I started to experience something that seemed akin to normal contractions on the cervidil, it wasn’t long before I was put on pitocin, and contractions were forced mightily upon my body.
Now, I have heard plenty of women try to describe what their natural contractions have felt like, and what I felt was NOTHING like their descriptions. I found out the hard way that induced contractions, coupled with back labor, feel like whopping electrical shocks sent right through the spine. Every contraction felt like a burst of lightning had hit my body. And the pitocin drip made sure it happened every few minutes for hours and hours on end, leaving little time for recuperation or rest.  
I have had my share of broken limbs, teeth terrors, and other physical pains in my life. I think for the most part I have dealt rather well with pain. But I could NOT deal with pitocin/back labor contractions. It was too much for my body to take. After 16 hours of crying hysterically and feeling like my body was being ripped into two pieces every few minutes, I gave in and ordered an epidural. And the next morning I had a c-section.
The afternoon following Emmy’s birth, the operating doctor came over to me and explained that I had a very unusual septate uterus that had prevented Emmy from getting into proper position for birth. She also told me that she wasn’t sure I would be able to have a VBAC delivery if I was to have a second baby, and she told me I should see a uterine specialist to further investigate the issue.
I was somewhat relieved to hear that there was apparently nothing more I could have done to try and birth Emmy the natural way. I had wanted a med-free, operation-free birth for my daughter, but that just hadn’t been in the cards for us, thanks to my body’s apparent oddity.
Since Emmy’s birth, I have had two ultrasounds examining my uterus, and no one has been able to find the septum that apparently is hiding somewhere. It’s a complete mystery. I am sure the operating doctor wouldn’t have LIED to me about my crazy septum, but no other doctor has been able to find it.
Now, being pregnant with my second child, I have become semi-obsessed with figuring out what is going on inside my uterus. I want to know if, because of this mysterious and ellusive septum, I should not even be getting my hopes up for a VBAC birth. It would be pretty horrible to get  myself all mentally and emotionally prepared for a natural birth again, just to find out it simply isn’t a possibility.
But what if the septum WAS a fluke? What if the doctor THOUGHT she saw something, but it wasn’t really there? What if I AM capable of having a VBAC?
I have asked my midwives to get their hands on the detailed medical reports from the birthing center Emmy was born in (which is no longer in existence). I have asked them to speak with the operating doctor to see if they can jog her memory and find out more about what she saw. I am determined to find out as much as I can, because I want to know if my body is capable of birthing without medical intervention. I need to know.
When I talk to my co-workers about my VBAC dreams and my desire to feel my body naturally go into labor, they look at me like I am crazy. The most common response is, “why don’t you just schedule a c-section and get it over with?”
But if I have a choice in the matter, I don’t just want to “get it over with.” I want to experience contractions. I want to LABOR. I want to have the same “holy crap I can’t believe my body just did that” experience that so many other women have felt.
I just don’t know if it will even be possible.


  1. HUGS. See what happens, roll with it, I'm here for you no matter how that baby gets here.

    I know how very much you wanted a different experience for Em and hope that you can have that for Monkey.

    1. Thanks, doll. I WILL roll with it, fer sure. I just kinda wish I knew if I would be rolling UPHILL or DOWNHILL, y'know? :)

    2. Yeah, that would be helpful...but you know my offer still stands to get naked in the tub with you! (Or I'll bring my suit again.)

    3. Correction. During labor. I don' want the boys to get TOO excited about that one.

  2. Atticus's birth and subsequent month at the NICU were not at all what I planned either. I felt cheated of my last six weeks of pregnancy - and given my emergency c-section, the birth experience I had hoped for our family. And in those early weeks, I felt at once so resentful of and yet so grateful for the machines that could do for him what my body could not. Though I still struggle with how to describe the night of his birth for his baby book (since a scene from "Carrie" seems, while accurate, not well suited for a birth story), now ten months out, I marvel in the awesomeness of birth AND technology, because had the later not been available, either would he or I. As time passes, I feel less and less cheated of the experience I missed, and more grateful for the experience I've had. I'm not sure if we'll try again for another little one - but if we do, I'll be ready for anything. And so too will you, dear sister. So too will you!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, Lori Ann. It sounds like we've dealt with a lot of similar emotions and experiences in our childrens' births. I think it is great that you've been able to turn around your own experience and feel grateful for the path Atticus's birth took.
      I think and feel very similar to you.. though there is much about Em's birth that I still question and wonder about and wish could have happened in a different way, I have also been incredibly thankful for the fact that I was ABLE to give birth to my girl at all. I've often wondered what would have happened to the birth and to my daughter had the technology NOT been there to assist us. I do very much wish my body was capable of birthing naturally, and I hope that I will have the opportunity to try and do so with this second baby. But having a c-section birth with Em took nothing away from our bonding, our closeness, and our mama/daughter dynamic. I know that if push comes to shove (heh heh.. ironic wording) and I have to have a c-section with the second baby, it will still be an incredible experience that will bring me a beautiful, treasured baby.
      And I do feel (as you do) that having to "roll with it" during Em's birth has definitely made me feel more prepared for any unforeseen events that might come up with this birth.
      Much love and hugs. I would love to talk to you one day very soon!

  3. FWIW, my induced labor SUCKED. As soon as I started the cervidil I had horribly painful contractions. Never needed the pitocin. The next 2 were not induced and although I did get the epidural with them too, it wasn't as painful as the first. So, if you can do a VBAC it might be better than the first time!

    I understand too. There was talk about doing a C-sec when this baby was sideways, and while ultimately I want to just get this baby OUT, I really just don't want to do a C-sec unless I absolutely have to.

    I hope you get the answers you're looking for! Whatever happens, happens. In the end you still have a baby. :-)

    1. Thanks so much! I am sorry to hear your induced labor sucked (too)! I am keeping hopeful that I may be able to have a VBAC until I am told otherwise, but I would like to get that information sooner rather than later if possible...
      I absolutely agree that the important thing is that in the end, no matter what the process, the result is a delicious baby, and that alone is much to celebrate!
      Wishing you much happiness with your own pregnancy and labor!

  4. I had an unplanned emergency (real emergency, I was put under and woke up not knowing if I had a baby or not) c-section. My understanding is that Gideon and I each had a 50/50 shot of surviving; I required a blood transfusion after he was born. It was hard letting go of the birth that I anticipated, this magical thing that I thought would happen to me that I completely missed. With the twins, I had a hard time deciding what road to take. My doctors were willing to let me attempt to VBAC, but based on "twin b"'s position, they said that the likely conclusion would be twin a vaginally and twin b by c-section, unless they could get him to flip. I actually have a friend who just had that birth experience. But actually scheduling a c-section, for me, was just so heartbreaking and such a tough call because I really felt like a failure as a woman and a mother for having never gone through labor, let alone not having this amazing "natural" child birth story. The c was going to be at 38 weeks, due to the timing with twins, and given that Gideon was not born until 41.5 weeks and I was not in labor when he was born, I was not optimistic that I would go into labor at 38 weeks, I was right, I did not. But there was just so much pressure and I was blinded, I think, by wanting that magical birth story. I never got it, I went with the planned c-section. And I do not think I am any less of a mother because of it.

    1. Wow, Rachel. I can't even imagine what your experience with Gideon's birth must have been like - for you, for your husband, for everyone. I honestly think if I had been through the experience you went through with Gideon, and then found out I was having twins, I would have been incredibly scared and nervous about the birth, no matter what path it took (were you?)
      And I know what that feeling of disappointment is like in getting a c-section when you have your heart set on a natural birth (I was crying hysterically in the moments leading up to the operation), and that letting go of the imagined and anticipated birth story. I know that if I find out I do indeed have a septate uterus, which may prevent me from having a successful natural birth, I will have to make a difficult decision like you did. It's a very tough thing to have to do.
      I agree wholeheartedly that a c-section makes a woman no less of a mom whatsoever. It just makes you a mom with maybe a smiley face scar. :)

      Thanks so much for sharing.