Monday, 23 May 2011

My Cesarean Story - Uncut

I had a very traumatic cesarean birth experience with my son, and I have never felt that I have met anyone who could really understand why it was so hard for me, or why I have felt like I failed. In my birth I feel like I didn't trust God and everyone responds to that by saying that "Drs know best" etc. etc. Those answers have never solved anything in my mind.

My son is 16 months now and even as I write this, I am struggling to keep from breaking down. I love my son and am so thankful for him, I don't have depression or anything going on that someone would notice, but I definitely still carry this with me. So here it goes, I thank you in advance for taking the time to read this.

I think God was preparing me for this test since I was born. I was born a month late. My parents were told that my mom was going to die, I was going to die etc. if they did not do a cesarean right then, no indication, I was just "late". My parents trusted God and left the hospital, I was born just fine with no interventions or pain medication. This was the story I have heard since I was a little girl. I had always hoped that I would have the courage to make the same decisions in a similar situation.

The day I found out I was pregnant, I called the local Midwives and tried to get in. I was due, according to my calculations, Dec 31. They couldn't get me in for December so they moved my due date to Jan and booked me in. They knew I was pregnant before my husband! For years I knew that I wanted a home water birth, I had no desire to go anywhere near a hospital. My pregnancy was uncomplicated and I felt quite good, other than heart burn and hip and shoulder issues.

The only medical concern at any point was that the Midwives weren't sure if my baby was head down, and for a home birth, they wanted to know that it was. They scheduled me for an ultrasound at 36 weeks to check. The week before this, my Mom had been ill and we had asked a few of the elders at our church to come and pray for healing for my Mom. While they were there, we also asked for prayer and laying on of hands for the baby to be head down. Within about 20mins of them leaving, the baby turned! It was amazing, I know for sure that God answers prayers, some times with a "No", but not in this case.

At my 36 week checkup I was asked if I was going to have a Doula, I asked what that was and my Midwife told me. As soon as I found out, I said "Why am I not a Doula?" That was the beginning of my Doula journey. I had always had a passion for natural childbirth and breastfeeding and thought "What could be a better job?" I had considered Midwifery but I don't think I would want that much responsibility, or medical school. I found out that a lot of the reading I was doing as a pregnant mom, was the same reading I would have to do for certification as a Doula. It was also about this time that the Midwife said the baby was engaged and ready to go.

As I got closer to my EDD, no braxton hicks, no nesting, no signs of labour at all. I started thinking that God was going to test me with this. I even remember saying this to a close Christian friend who was in school for RMT and was giving me free pregnancy massages once a week. I told her I thought God was going to test me, and I was willing, but with anything but my child. Maybe that was the wrong answer... I guess I know it was.

Our Midwives are paid by the government, which makes them totally accessible, but also means they have to adhere to a certain SOP. I have found out since, that this particular practice, has a very medicalized SOP as they were one of the first in the province. Not only that, but the 2 Midwives I had were the most medicalized within the practice. I think this may have played a role.

When I was 8 days over my EDD, they asked me to have an ultrasound to check the biophysical profile. It was scheduled for a couple of days later and came back with a 5 out of 8. Then they rushed me over to the hospital for a non-stress test. They said it was ok but not great. The OB on call also freaked out at my Midwives on the other side of the curtain. The OB took over and said that they wanted me back in for an induction the next morning. All plans for a home birth vanished in an instant.

That night was the worst in my life. I was terrified, all my hopes of a natural home birth were ripped away from me and my worst fears were materializing. I went from 2 cm dilated to 0 cm by the next morning. I truly believe that I retreated into a deep depression at that point. All I could do was cry uncontrollably and when my husband tried to console me, I would say "Where is your God now??" I have always believed that God's design for birth was His desire for birth. I couldn't believe that it was His will for things to be any different. I felt He abandoned me. The whole time, feeling bad that my baby was sharing in these feelings I was having.

By morning, I had not slept and was starting to feel like a sheep being lead to the slaughter. I felt I had no control over these things that were going to happen. I knew enough about labour at that point to know that if the baby truly was not doing great on a non-stress test, they would suggest induction, but in all likelihood would recommend a cesarean in the first place or during the labour. What had not come to mind at that point, was that my fear could cause poor results on a NST and ultrasounds can be very wrong.

When I got to the hospital, they checked me again. I was not dilated enough to even break the water, the NST was not the greatest, ok but not great, and my Midwives were there, but I was not under their care. I was under the care of a cesarean happy OB. I felt so out of control, I never even thought of my baby or to caress my pregnant belly in the time I had left. The OB said what I had known he would. He said he could induce me into a long hard labour that would likely end in an emergency cesarean or he could do the cesarean now. I never asked for a second opinion, I never asked if I could go home and think about it, I never prayed about it, and I had never felt that anything had been wrong with my baby in the first place. As they pressed me for a decision, seeing that I clearly did not want to make one. I finally said "Fine, butcher me." No one even asked how I felt or what I wanted, at least if they did, I don't remember feeling like it mattered. I love my husband dearly, as I do the two friends I had with me, but no one stood up. This was a godless decision. I was already feeling like it was the test and I had just failed.

I laid in the bed, totally defeated and detached from what was going on around me. The only thing I felt was fear. They eventually took me to the OR. I had to wait for everyone to get ready and do the epidural. In 24 hours my world had been turned upside down. My fear peaked as I sat on the table, one of my Midwives held me, that was the only time that I remember anyone really showing me any compassion. They continued with the spinal block then strapped me to the table. I remember that I wanted my arms free so I would be able to hold my baby, I promised I wouldn't move before then, but I was tied down anyway. The anesthesiologist was talking to me and at one point said they had already cut into me. I started feeling ripping, tugging and hearing tearing sounds from inside. I felt the hard knock of metal on bone. Having been a victim of sexual assault, I truly felt like I was being raped and having my baby stolen at the same time.

When my son had been removed, they brought him over to the side where I could see then quickly whisked him away. Then they started to make him scream, and scream and scream. At that moment I couldn't are less what they were doing to me, I just wanted to know what they were doing to him, and hit the person that was doing it. I had wanted a gentle birth... I was drugged, though, and could only keep saying "What are they doing to my baby?" I think the sedation started kicking in soon after that as I remember I had to fight to stay awake and my eyes were so heavy it was a struggle to open them, I soon stopped caring what was going on the room and felt like I was in a haze. Ironically enough, it was the first time I had felt calm since the whole ordeal started.

They brought me a baby in the recovery room, I had asked to start breastfeeding him there. They don't normally allow that, but the Midwives had advocated for me. He was born, but I had not given birth, they had presented me with a child, but it could have been anyone's. I did not cry for joy, I wished that I would, but it did not come. As I unwrapped him, started looking at him, saw that he looked so much like his daddy, but like me too, I started to nurse him. I was happy that I had at least been given this, the opportunity to nurse him, skin-to-skin. I immediately started separating this child from my experience the last few days. His birth was supposed to be connected to a joyful, loving, natural, spiritual event. I could not tie him to the the event that it actually was. At least now I could protect him from my sadness. It was over, I could lock it up and, maybe, deal with it later.

As it turned out, of all the things they thought were wrong, the only thing that actually may have been, was low amniotic fluid. There is research to show that this, alone and late in pregnancy, is likely not even a problem.

The Midwives and my husband had been concerned that I would be detached from the baby after it was born, as they could see how I had been. I wasn't going to let that happen. I felt like I could finally do something for my baby, and I was going to do everything I could. I can honestly say that I think I handled the hours and days after birth, coming out of the depression, as best as possible. I knew that I would have many things to deal with, but I was going to make the best of what I had now - a beautiful little son! As I got to know him, even in the hospital, my love and joy in him grew. I spent the 2 days in the hospital skin-to-skin with him, feeding when he wished, never separated, even to sleep. He never even wore any clothes until it was time to go home.

For months, when asked about my experience or how I felt about it, I had to fight back the immediate tears that threatened to flow. I didn't dare let them out, as I didn't think I would be able to stop them if I did. I was so happy with my son and new family but I was sad about my birth, disappointed in myself and mad at God. A few months later, I tried talking to a couple of elders at our church about it. I wanted to know what they thought. I told them that I thought saying "It was God's plan for you to have a cesarean" was akin to saying "It was God's plan for so in so to get divorced." It just doesn't compute in my head. This leaves me with one other option. It was a test, I failed. God wanted me to trust Him, more than the Drs, and I didn't. This has effected my spiritual life more than anything else. It was a good 3 or 4 months before I even felt like I could pray. I waffled between being mad and feeling totally unworthy. Either way, I didn't want to talk to God.

I still have not come to terms with this, and there is much more to my story and my Doula journey. I attend a birth this week that started out with very similar circumstances to mine, she chose the induction. As I helped her labour, I couldn't help but reflect on my decision, cesarean or induction, I don't think either one was right. I think there was a third option which no one ever mentioned. I will never know for sure, but I think that I should have gone home, calmed down, prayed and maybe gone back when I was in labour.

We plan to have more children, and soon. When I was pregnant I always though unassisted birthers were a little bit crazy. As time goes on and I get deeper into the birthing world, I lean more and more in that direction... I completely understand where they are coming from.

The one good thing I think I can say that came out of my experience is humility and compassion for other moms. I think that if I had be able to have the birth I wanted, I may have looked down on the moms who didn't or couldn't do things that way I thought they should?

This is the first time that I have put this all into words. Really told my story, other than bits and pieces. I think I just wanted to put it out there and hope that someone who would understand and not say silly lines like "Well, you should be grateful you have a health baby, that's all that matters." or  "What's the big deal? People have cesareans all the time." or "That's why you shouldn't plan anything." or even "God made Drs for a reason." Some how these never quite cut it.


1 comment:

  1. I really wanted to tell you I can relate to the feeling of being at a birth and it reminding you of your own. Its so hard to separate our own feelings of our births from that with our clients. It takes time, and a few births, and a lot of soul searching before you get there, but you will. And then it'll happen again. For me, it took a beautiful HBAC and a good long string of positive doula births to bump me out of the pattern of thinking. I'd love to chat more with you about this and your next pregnancies. I thought about UC myself as well (and now that I'm in school I wrote a 20 page paper on it!). I would'nt say its the best answer but its an understandable thought to resort to when we feel like we can't trust anyone to support us as we want to be. On a side note, if you're within their catchment area, Midwives Nottawasaga are the most VBAC friendly midwives I know (and are just plain lovely anyway).