With my first pregnancy, I went the socially acceptable route. I got an OBGYN, went to appointments in rooms with white walls and hundreds of handouts on pregnancy, birth, and postnatal care, and I gave birth in a hospital with nurses whose names I did not know, and sheets so starched that I could feel the fold lines when I laid down. I still look back at that supposed to be glorious day with tears of sadness and regret. I feel I made a mistake, but I refuse to take all of the blame.
It was mid-December, and in the northwest the interstate was covered with ice and blowing snow. The sun had already gone down, and I was packing my bag to head off to the hospital thirty miles away. I was scheduled to be induced that night. Terror and excitement flooded my body. I had been planning to become a mommy for nine months, and the time had finally come to give birth to my baby girl.
It only took a couple hours to get everything set up and get the Pitocin coursing through my body. I slept pretty well that night, but the contractions came on full force the next morning. I walked around, bounced on a ball, took a bath and did everything I could to put off the epidural as long as possible.
Nurses came in every few hours to check my cervix and crank up the Pitocin, reassuring me that everything was fine and looking good. Chris watched every movie in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. My family came and went as the day stretched on, and I finally swept the last tears from beneath my eyes as I begged for the epidural.
By early evening I was beginning to lose hope. I had been on this IV for 24 hours and I had only dilated to two centimeters. Shortly after those 24 excruciating hours had passed, my doctor came in and told me she was going to break my water to speed up the labor. Her face was as smooth as porcelain and she didn’t appear to be the slightest bit concerned. She even recommended that I try and get some sleep that evening. And I did, or at least tried.
The nurses made their presence more visible that night. They came in every hour, on the hour, checking vitals, feeling my cervix, and readjusting the monitor on my stomach. The signs were more apparent. My induction wasn’t going as planned.
The next morning at 6am, medical staff bombarded my room. My doctor, a man dressed in green surgical scrubs, shoe covers, and mask, and a few nurses stood at my bedside. “Erin, your baby’s heart rate is dropping and we are going to have to do an Emergency C-Section.” My heart dropped and I began blubbering like a child. With wide, helpless eyes I looked at my mom and Chris for answers. I was terrified.
The staff loaded me onto a stretcher as I watched Chris pull on a blue jumper and mask. “It’ll be okay, honey,” my mom whispered with tear filled eyes. The stark contrast between the horror in my family’s faces and the calmness in those of the medical staff appalled me.
I was rushed down hallways of fluorescent lights and through swinging doors, before coming to stop in a room I had only seen the movies. Chris sat at my side, reassuring me that everything would be alright.
There wasn’t any pain. I occasionally felt pressure in my lower abdomen, but I couldn’t feel the incision or the blood pooling beneath my body. Within moments I heard a tiny cry. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. And then I saw her for no more than five seconds before she was taken away to the nursery. And it wasn’t much longer before Chris was gone too.
I thought it was over, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. After leaving the recovery room, the pain was unbearable. I screamed at a nurse to get me pain medicine and even refused to my feed my newborn daughter because I couldn’t tolerate the pain. I refused to feed my daughter; that will stick with me forever. After three or four pain pills I fell asleep. I missed the first four hours of my daughter’s life.
To my former doctor: I’m still angry with you, and perhaps that’s unfair. I still wonder why you agreed without hesitation to induce me with no medical cause. I remember asking you if there was a chance it would result in a cesarean. You never gave me a clear answer, but I was being optimistic, so I take the blame for denying the risks.
I wonder if you know how much anguish it caused me in the months afterward, or if you know that I didn’t feel attached to child for weeks. I wonder if you know how much of a failure I felt like. I wonder if you even cared, or if the thirty thousand dollars and convenience of an induction took the place of your compassion. Again, this probably seems unfair, but I’ve been angry for a long time.
I wonder what my first labor and delivery would have been like if you would have told me it was okay to wait until 40 weeks.
I can’t change the past, and I will never know the answers to those questions, but this time around I’m taking a less widely accepted approach. I’m seeing a midwife. I can’t know that it will go smoothly, but I can have faith that my care provider during this pregnancy has the best intentions for my unborn child and I. I can confidently say that she will encourage me to take the most natural route possible.
The birth of your child should be the happiest day of your life, not one to look back on with pain and sadness.
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