Amanda and I have asked for permission to share some of our friends’ birth stories. From home births to emergency C-sections, and everything in between. Each of these women have done something incredible (that no man could ever do! wink wink ;)) When we both were pregnant we weren’t sure what to expect. Reading other women’s stories prepared us to go with the flow if (and many times when) the unexpected occured. We hope you enjoy reading these stories from super mamas as much as we did!
By Nadia Mudder
Part 1: An Unexpected Emergency C-section
My first pregnancy was so nice. I had morning sickness on and off in the first trimester, but after that, I had glowing, clear skin and shiny hair consistently for the first time in my life, and a growing bump that I loved. I craved pizzas with thick crusts and could eat mac n’ cheese at any time, day or night. In my last trimester, would leave supplies out to heat or make those gooey noodles at 1am when the craving hit! I did this more than I wish to remember (note: this was delicious during pregnancy, but not amazing when trying to lose the baby weight. I gained 36 lbs throughout this pregnancy.) I slept when I got home after a long day of teaching, and towards the end, occasionally used my planning period to squeeze in a quick nap in the nurses office between classes. You gotta do what you gotta do!
I should mention here that Jan (my husband), and I were teaching and living overseas in Kazakhstan, so my prenatal care was mostly done by Western-trained, local ob/gyns. The standard practices and care is strikingly different than in the US. My pregnancy progressed normally, so I wasn’t offered amnio testing, glucose testing, or any other more typical procedures that come standard, stateside. I went in, peed in a cup, listened to my baby’s heartbeat (A BOY!), got weighed and measured, asked some questions, and was sent on my way.
I flew back to the USA at 32 weeks (I do not recommend long flights in the last trimester, try and avoid it!) I wore very glamorous thigh-high compression stockings under a maxi dress and had to go to the bathroom about every half an hour. I know I scared a flight attendant when I got up to use the restroom about 10 minutes before we landed in Chicago. I’m pretty sure she thought I was going into labor by the look of terror I saw when we met eyes.
Back on US soil, I dove into birthing and breastfeeding books. My aunt, who is a RN specializing in lactation, sent me The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and a hand-held breast pump. I was sure I wanted to have a natural birth, so I read Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way and thought I was all set. How naïve of me! The day before I went into labor I spent a day at a water park with my husband’s extended family. At 40 weeks pregnant, I wore a bikini with a long, teal maternity tank overtop and resembled a beached whale floating down the lazy river in my inner tube. It felt great to be in the water; the effortless movement was a welcome change to waddling around everywhere.
The next day I went in for my routine 40 week exam. I had some slight tightening feelings in my abdomen about 10 minutes apart, but nothing painful. My Ob was surprised to find that I was dilated to 3.5cm and had low amniotic fluid. I didn’t realize my waters had been leaking overnight, it was so gradual. So instead of going out for one last baby-free lunch with my husband, I checked into the hospital at 3pm and was given some dry toast and orange juice. We texted family and friends and were thrilled to be so close to meeting our little guy.
During labor, I thought I was breathing and managing the contractions well. All of the pain was in my lower back, and I found that bouncing on a ball and rocking my hips helped. However, I had only dilated 1cm more in 2 hours, bringing me to almost 5cm, and there was some concern about my baby’s health because of the low amniotic fluid. The nursing team suggested AROM (artificial rupture of membranes, or breaking my bag of waters) to speed up the contractions. The waters were clear, and baby was doing OK, so I was left to labor. Over the next hour, my contractions intensified to the point where I could not cope with them any longer. It felt like someone was taking a hammer to the bones in my lower back and pelvis from the inside. I demanded an epidural.
My idea for a natural childbirth went out the window, and after the epidural kicked in, I lay happily in the bed. I finished reading the rest of The Good Earth, watched some episodes of Law and Order, and held Jan’s hand. Baby’s heart rate dipped so they put me on my left side and gave me oxygen. They also put a scalp monitor on the baby’s head so they could get a more accurate reading of his heartbeat and how he was tolerating the contractions.
It was after midnight, and because I was able to relax, I was progressing more quickly, and was labeled “a stretchy 9 cm”. The baby was still high in my pelvis, but the delivery team had their cart ready. Around 1am, all the monitors suddenly started beeping. My OB and her nurses came in to examine me and the fetal monitoring chart, explaining that my baby was in distress: one more dip in his heart rate that did not immediately bounce back to normal and I would need to prepare for a C-section. I was discouraged, and argued with my Ob, but she thought there may be a reason why he hadn’t descended into the birth canal and did not want to risk the vaginal birth if he could not tolerate the contractions. I tried to breathe deeply and remain calm, but a little while later the machines went off again and there was no heartbeat. Jan told me later that the numbers swung down to zero and stayed there. A huge team of people burst in and wheeled me into the OR for an emergency C-section. They were lightning fast. When I checked my medical records afterwards, my monitors went off at 1:34am, I was in the OR and going under at 1:36, and Jeremiah Joseph was delivered at 1:38 am.
My husband tells me our healthy baby boy came out a blueish color but cried and turned pink quickly. He was 8lbs even, 21.5 inches long with a full head of dark hair. He didn’t want to be suctioned and swatted at the nursing team who tried to clear his nose and mouth. Jan held him first, because I was still under and being stitched up. When I regained consciousness I was shaking so badly I couldn’t hold him immediately. I regret missing out on those first moments with him.
I felt really depressed and disconnected after the birth, in part because I thought I would just go in and deliver naturally, like my mother did with all 3 of her children, and partially because my C-section was so urgent that they did a vertical outside incision that stopped just under my belly button and then a horizontal inner incision. I was in a lot of pain physically and emotionally; my belly looked like Frankenstein’s forehead. Before I went into labor I had no stretch marks on my belly, and was so excited about it, but the stitches and staples were now glaring and huge. My parents flew in and together with Jan’s parents, they adored their new grandbaby. Jan’s family, his brothers’ and sister’s families all came by to visit and meet their new cousin. It was surreal. It was as though I was looking over at some other family’s joy over the birth of a new baby but I was unable to enter in and participate in it. It took several days before I felt like I could call this beautiful little boy my own. Initially, breastfeeding was also painful, because Jeremiah had a poor latch. However, I am happy to say after about 2 weeks of painful nursing, I went to a lactation consultant and we figured it out together. I nursed Jeremiah pain-free until he weaned at 14 months.
After feeling depressed about my delivery, anger set in. I questioned the validity of the C-section for many months afterwards, and spoke with many Ob/Gyns, midwives, and my own Dr. about what had happened. It turns out that my baby boy had an abnormally short umbilical cord that had been wrapped around him twice. He could not descend into the birth canal. It was nobody’s “fault” and the section was necessary to bring him into the world without major health issues. But I just wanted to blame someone for this birth gone wrong. It took over a year to make my peace with this procedure and its aftermath. Healing from the surgery was a long and slow process. The baby weight took a full year to lose, and I was left with this giant, dark scar on my belly (which, thankfully, has lightened over the years). I was angry at my body for making a short cord and failing the two of us. I took it out on my husband. I walked myself through every “what if I…” scenario…what if I had stayed in the US for my prenatal, would they have found the short chord? Could they have done something about it? I grieved over missing out on those first intimate moments with my firstborn. When I found out we were expecting baby #2, I knew I wanted a different experience.
To be continued. (Check out Nadia’s second story here!)