Birth Stories: My Surprise C-Section

Labor with my second child was going great. I dilated to seven centimeters on my own, at home, without drugs, doing my Bradley breathing. When the pain got too intense, we drove to the hospital, where I braved more contractions in a warm birthing pool. “I feel like I’m ready to push!” I told the midwife. “So push,” she said. I did. I pushed hard. When the midwife checked me, she frowned. “You’re less effaced than you were an hour ago,” she said. “Your cervix is swelling. I think you need a break.”

That break turned into an epidural, and hours later, a C-section, which is the removal of the baby through an incision in the abdomen and uterine wall. I remember signing a consent form (sloppily, deliriously, hesitantly), and being wheeled into the operating room. A friend had warned me that should I have a C-section, my hands would be tied down during the procedure to prevent accidental contamination of the sterile field. Or accidental slugging of the anesthesiologist when the pain meds didn’t kick in fast enough, since the contractions were still coming hard and fast. I’m so glad I knew about the tying down in advance, so it didn’t freak me out (quite as much). A thousand hours later -- at least it felt that way -- my body was numb from the waist down, and the obstetric surgeons went to work. In less than an hour, I was holding my beautiful little girl in my arms.  

I don’t fault my daughter for having a giant head that wouldn’t fit through the regular channels, but surgery after 13 hours of labor wasn’t the fantasy birth I had in mind. Which brings me to my most important message to you: Abandon fantasy birth story scenarios all ye who enter the labor and delivery ward. Stuff happens -- your cervix may suddenly stop dilating, your baby’s heart rate may get slow, your placenta may start to separate from the uterine wall -- and all these things are completely within the range of normal birth story scenarios! Nothing your doctor or midwife hasn’t seen before.

Whether or not a C-section is part of your birth plan, rest assured that the birthing staff is acting in the best interests of you and your baby at all times. If you wake up on your delivery day with that in mind, your birth experience will not disappoint.

by Aviva Patz