This post may get a little graphic as I'll be discussing my birth experience with Ashton (which was quite scary and not ideal in any sense). If you get a little queasy or dislike reading about surgery and birth… this may not be the post for you (it's also quite long)!
It has taken me a long time to decide if I want to share all the details here. It's a very personal and very difficult situation to talk about so openly, and there are many aspects of our story that I sort of glazed over. But - it's important to me that I share even though it certainly wasn't a perfect/beautiful/fulfilling birth experience.
It's been over a year since we welcomed our boy Ashton. I talked about my birth experience a bit before, but it was limited to close family and friends. As time has passed, I've been more open and comfortable talking about it (and it's even been helping me deal with all the emotions surrounding it).
As I approach a scheduled cesarean with baby #2, I figured it's time to write it out and get it all out there. This will be a little confusing and details will fill in as we go - a lot of things happened that even I was not fully aware of until later.
My OBGYN scheduled an induction date when I saw him on my due date, and I welcomed the idea and hoped I would go into labour on my own, but if not, took comfort knowing in one week we would be able to get the wheels in motion. One week passed… I was one week overdue - common, normal, but a very uncomfortable place to be while awaiting your first child’s arrival. I waited for the call to come that morning to tell me to make my way to the hospital for induction.
I was to be at the hospital by 9am and after check in, getting “robed up” and IV in, they started my induction with an oxytocin drip around 10:30am after Brandon brought me some toast! Nothing was really happening by the time my OB came to check in at around 1:00pm - so he artificially broke my water (don't remember it being very painful, just a very uncomfortable sensation of all of the fluid gushing out for what felt like a long time).
By 2:00pm I was in active labour. Contractions were big, intense, very uncomfortable, and all in my back (back labour is rumoured to be the worst). I very quickly felt quite defeated. The next little while gets very “blurry.” I didn't write everything down and being in an extreme amount of pain and then on various drugs really doesn't help my memory. I have no concept of time here so I'm not sure how much time passed between various events but I'm doing my best to recall.
At about 4cm dilated, I tried gas to help with the pain. No relief came. I sat at that for a while, and then very very quickly got to about 7cm. In that time, I was in so much agony I had to request an epidural (yes, I was one of those screaming women - I still cannot explain the pain in my back to this day). People ask me what the epidural was like and all I remember is the pain of the contractions and trying not to move while they placed it.
The epidural really helped, but not how I thought it would. I was still in some pain, but could feel the contractions coming and the pain was no longer unbearable. I kept gaining sensation back on my right side but couldn't feel or move my legs at all. Finally, it was time to push at around 10:00pm. Long story short, I pushed for about 2 hours. Ashton went from originally being in “optimal birthing position” to being “sunny side up.” The OB had to reach in and reposition Ashton's head (seriously) then I was asked to push to help it stay in place… but he was still stuck (shoulder dystocia). Meconium was present, Ashton's heart rate was all over the place, I was exhausted… and then I was presented with a decision.
“We can attempt forceps delivery, and if that doesn't work, go into an emergency cesarean or we can go straight into cesarean.”
Why were these my only options? Why did it feel like I only REALLY had one option at this point? I had maybe a minute to cry and look at Brandon and say how much I didn't want a cesarean but that that's what I needed to do.
I knew if I attempted forceps delivery that I was wasting time and potentially risking my baby's life even more if that failed and that it was more important to get started on the cesarean NOW. (Also, finding out after that he weighed 9lbs 7oz and was 21” long… told me I made the right choice).
I don't remember much of what happened next, just that Brandon was sent to change, I was given something to drink that made me vomit as they rushed me to the OR and my poor parents sitting in the waiting room had no idea what was going on.
They topped up my epidural, told me I would experience some tugging sensations and pressure but shouldn't feel any pain. It seemed like there was about 20 people in the OR (there were a lot). They got started with the surgery.
Immediately I was feeling pain. Tears were streaming down my face, I was exhausted. I didn't know if it was normal, I was pretty loopy, and all I could get out was “ow ow ow.” Brandon rubbed my head, all I could focus on was the pain. Someone asked me if I was feeling pain or pressure and I said I was in pain. At some point I was asking them to stop. After what felt like a long time, someone told me they were going to put me to sleep to finish the operation so I wouldn't be in pain and told me I had it before (for a past surgery). They put the mask on my face and I panicked a bit as it felt like it took SO long for me to fall asleep and the pain to stop.
Right before I fell asleep I heard Brandon say, “he's okay, he's here. It's okay.” Ashton was born at 1:10am.
I remember listening for Ashton's cry, hoping to hear him before I fell asleep but didn't hear it. I have no idea how long I was “out” for. I don't remember when Ashton was first handed to me once I was awake. But I do remember shortly after when Brandon and I got a few pictures of the three of us.
The OB who delivered Ashton, head of Anesthesiology and head of labour and delivery came to speak with me the next day. The OB was in tears because she felt so terribly about how my cesarean went (none of which was her fault - she can't control/have anything to do with the anesthesia etc.), and the others came to tell me that a formal investigation was happening and asked me some questions.
I found out later that there was a long period between when I was feeling pain and when I was put out - it should have been put in motion immediately as soon as someone confirmed that I was in pain. I also hemorrhaged during the operation before they could get me closed up (which I didn't know about until weeks after?)
Three full days later, we were able to bring our big, healthy, baby boy home.
Thank you for reading my story and thank you to everyone who supported us during that time and always.
We decided quickly this time around not to attempt a VBAC and... That's okay. If this is how I can get my babies here safely then that is what matters. And if I don't have to endure the struggle and panic of an emergency c section when it can be planned, then that is going to be my choice, hands down. In order to reduce anxiety and ensure baby gets here safely (and with their births being just shy of the 18 month mark apart) we will be having a planned c section in just a couple short weeks!
If you're an expectant mama please don't let this scare you - it happened to me and it would never deter me from having more children. This is simply me sharing my personal experience - in support of other mamas who did not have their ideal birth experience or who had a scary one. Motherhood and birthing is an incredible experience and people don't talk about the “tough stuff" enough.
- Xo Ashlee