Keith’s Arrival

Keith’s Arrival

Mama: Christina D.

Type of Birth: Vaginal

Birth Location: Hospital

Primary Care: Obstetrician

When discussing birth experiences, has anyone ever told you that “all that really matters is that you have a healthy baby?”

Well, that’s almost true. Having a healthy baby is really important, and it makes anything that you went through during the birth seem totally worth it. When I look at my son’s smiling face, I don’t care what I had to go through to deliver him into this world. He’s my son for the rest of my life and nothing can take that away from me.

But my birth did not go the way I wanted it to, and some parts of it were downright traumatic, and that matters to me. It matters because it will affect my future decisions regarding pregnancy, childbirth and healthcare. It matters because it had lasting effects on my body. And it matters because it left me with a lot of questions, and I’m not sure I will ever know the answers to some of them.

When I gave birth to my first, I had a very long labor that just about stalled out after I hit transition. At that point, my dream of having an un-medicated birth had faded into a blur of exhaustion, and I requested an epidural— a decision I do not regret. The rest of my experience was relatively uncomplicated, and I was certain that the second time around, better preparation would enable me to have that un-medicated birth I wanted the first time around. Odds were still stacked against me the second time, but I was confident that I could overcome them.

It was 8:30 in the evening on my due date when I went into the military hospital where my son would be born. I had felt a popping sensation about an hour and a half earlier when I squatted down to retrieve something from the floor, and suspected that my water might have broken and be very slowly trickling out. I was not having strong contractions and was sure that even if my water had broken, the hospital staff would send me home to continue laboring until my contractions were really going somewhere. They took a sample to check for amniotic fluid and hooked me up to monitors to see if I was having contractions and how the baby was handling them. I waited dutifully, suspecting nothing. The heartbeat on the monitor seemed fine at first, but then it dropped. Then picked back up. Then dropped. Then picked back up again. I started to see looks of concern. Before I knew it, I was flat on my back with an oxygen mask over my face and an IV jammed into my arm to deliver fluids to me and the baby. The OB on call came into the room and explained to me that my water had broken, and that the baby’s heart rate was fluctuating in a way that really concerned them. She thought I should stay in the hospital and have the baby as soon as possible. I asked for my phone to contact my husband, who was at home with our sleeping daughter.

The next couple hours are a complete blur in my memory. The doctor feared that a lot of my amniotic fluid had been lost, and that my baby’s weight was periodically falling onto the umbilical cord, cutting off his oxygen supply and causing his heart rate to dip precipitously. So they kept me in a hospital bed strapped to the monitors, and every time my baby’s heart rate dipped, the nurses ordered me to turn this way and that way or get up on my hands and knees until the heart rate stabilized again. It was stressful, frightening and uncomfortable. The doctor told me that they would do everything they could to ensure that I had a vaginal birth, but that if they needed to do an emergency C-section, I would have to be unconscious unless I had already had an epidural placed.

I was afraid, both of the very real possibility of needing a C-section, and that I wouldn’t be able to cope with the pain of labor under my stressful circumstances. So I went ahead and said yes to an epidural. Before they could place it, the baby’s heart rate dropped again, and in the middle of all the flurry of activity, the OB placed an intrauterine monitor on my baby’s head. That was literally the most painful part of my entire birth experience.  However, from then on the baby seemed to have a relatively steady heart rate. I will never know if the external monitors were faulty and led me to have an unnecessary epidural, or if I simply managed to get the cord out of the baby’s way that time and it stayed out of the way.

My next big scare came after they placed the epidural. Suddenly I felt strange, and I told the doctor that I felt like I was going to faint and that it seemed like there was a heavy weight on my chest. My blood pressure and heart rate had both dropped suddenly, and they had to give me medicines to get them back up.

Once I was stable, the doctor checked me and told me that I was dilated to 4 cm, which came as a surprise, since I had barely been feeling my contractions. She said they would give me a couple of hours to let labor start on its own before giving me any pitocin to kick it into gear, but those hours passed and my dilation had not changed. So they gradually started to push pitocin until my labor started progressing. Like my first epidural, this one was not fully effective and I could still feel my contractions. At first it didn’t seem like that big of a deal, but by the time I hit transition, I knew I was there because I was crying and shaking and telling my husband I couldn’t do this. I was stuck in bed unable to move around and use comfort measures, but I could feel my contractions on one side of my body as if I had not had an epidural. The nurses finally called the anesthesiologist to adjust things, which made my pain manageable just in time for the OB to tell me I was close to 10 cm.

I was feeling the urge to push so we went ahead and tried it. Three pushes later, my son came right out! He weighed more than a pound more than my daughter had, but I had no tearing at all. They put him right up on my chest and let me hold him and nurse him right away.

My placenta came out intact and I barely noticed. However, I was hemorrhaging heavily and the doctor gave me more Pitocin as well as another drug to stop the bleeding.

After my birth, I desperately wished that I had had a doula to help me. My husband stayed with our son, and all the attention immediately turned to him. He had pooped and peed all over me, and no one even helped me clean up until over two hours after his birth, when I finally managed to ask someone for help. Nobody asked me what I needed once the baby was out, and after 21 hours of labor, I was too worn out to demand the attention I needed.

My recovery was much harder this time than it was after my first birth. I suspect that all the extra drugs in my system caused my symptoms. I had several episodes of uncontrollable shaking, the first one lasting more than an hour. The last one occurred weeks after I had given birth! For the first three days after my son was born, I couldn’t sleep. I was exhausted, but every time I laid down and closed my eyes, I felt nauseated, dizzy, and like I couldn’t breathe. It was so frustrating, and it made recovery that much harder! It took me weeks to feel like my strength was returning.

I am head-over-heels in love with my son. He’s a cheerful, sunny little boy who’s growing faster than I can believe. Having him in my family is worth everything I went through, without a doubt. But I will always wonder if things could have been different. If I had given birth at home with a midwife, or in a birthing center, would they have insisted on monitoring? Would they have given me fewer drugs? Would I not have been scared into getting an epidural, and had the un-medicated birth I wanted? Or would my son have been brain damaged or even died from lack of oxygen? Maybe the hospital saved both of our lives, and a home-birth would have had a tragic outcome. Was all of this just a series of unfortunate events that couldn’t be helped, or did I get thrown down the rabbit hole of unnecessary medical interventions?

I’m so thankful that no matter what the answer to those questions may be, I have a healthy baby boy and both of us survived his birth. Because in the end, that really is what matters most.

2 Responses to Keith’s Arrival

  1. Pingback: Third Time's the Charm: Judah's Birth Story Mama Say What?! | Mama Say What?!

  2. Pingback: Faith, Hope, and Love: My Breastfeeding Journey Mama Say What?! | Mama Say What?!

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