Wednesday, February 16, 2011

from home birth to c-section, part 2

...I remember the moment I finally gave in and admitted I needed help.  I was sitting on the toilet, with a pillow behind me, trying and trying to make this happen and I just knew (and to be honest, had known for hours) that I wasn’t going to be able to do it on my own.  I said to those with me, “Maybe if I went to the hospital, I could have some pain medication and then I could finish this off.” They called the small town hospital for me, which advised me to come in.  The doctor said he would be willing to help me.

So we took off for the hospital.  It just so happened that we were in a raging thunderstorm (I guess I was planning for the movie version later…needed more drama!).  The midwife climbed in the back seat of the car, and hubby drove.  I was in full on “I gotta push!” mode at that time.  So as we drove through the thunder and lightning and downpour of rain, I pushed and hubby wondered if we would be delivering this baby in the car.

The nurses got me right in, examined me, gave me pain medication (which helped some, but not enough), helped me to try to push with the medicine in me, and held the doctors at bay until I’d had a chance to try for myself and see that this baby would not be coming out without a c-section.  Those nurses were very wise.  I came to look at the c-section as a much needed operation for me, because I knew I had tried everything else first.  I will always be grateful to them for this small kindness when other nurses might have just given me a lecture (which I probably deserved).

So, I gave in.  I had the c-section.  I had come to the end of myself and had come to realize that I was far stronger than I thought I was.  I have rarely heard of a woman who has been in labor as long as I was (my labor started Sunday afternoon and Burrito was born early Tuesday morning).  And when women say, “I pushed so long!  I pushed for 3 hours!” I think, you wouldn’t believe how long I pushed!  I shouldn’t have, but I did.

Burrito was born under the cut of a knife, which was the last thing I wanted to have happen.  But I know now that it was unavoidable.

I also know that I am supremely blessed that nothing bad happened out of my stubbornness.  Though to my knowledge Burrito was never in distress, surely that would not have lasted forever.  I should have listened to my body and waited to push until I was ready.  And when I knew I was beyond my own strength and ability to deliver her, I should have laid down my pride and my control and given in sooner.  It is by the grace of God that Burrito is fine today. 

I learned some valuable lessons.  I learned that no matter how hard you try to control birth, it is one of those things that cannot be controlled.  The best possible circumstances can be set up, but things will still happen that are beyond your control.  This is humbling.  But ultimately birth is in God’s hands, just like death. 

If I had it to do over again, I would probably only choose a midwife that had emergency back-up.  Regrettably, we had no such midwife in our corner of North Dakota, so I probably would have had to go to a doctor.  I still believe that for the majority of women, as long as there is an emergency plan, home birth is a safe and reasonable option.  And I did have emergency back-up with the local small town doctor but the constant worry that my midwife would not be at my birth made the days before Burrito’s birth more scary than they needed to be.

I didn’t have a great option for her birth out of any of the options available, but the one thing I should have done was to go sooner to the hospital.  Waiting so long and refusing to give in, having such a fear of medications, and worse, having a fear of being a “wuss” who gave up…these things kept me from doing what I needed to do for too long.

I came to realize that I did not die by having to go through an exam with a male doctor, medication did not harm my child or me, and the hospital wasn’t such a horrible place.  I was treated kindly and compassionately.  I still wish I would have been able to deliver Burrito at home but it was not to be.  My next baby will definitely have to be born in the hospital because of a slightly increased risk of uterine rupture after a c-section, and I’m ok with that.  I am blessed to be in an area now that is much more friendly to natural birthing options, even within the hospital environment.  And I am blessed to live in an area where the larger hospital is only a short drive away.

I don’t want to scare anyone off from the idea of home birth.  It can be a beautiful thing, a natural thing that women have been doing for generations and generations.  Generally speaking, women (with the help of trusted women) know what to do to get a baby born.   And as I said, the first day of pain management went extremely well.  But if you pursue a home birth, plan for the fact that something can always go apart from “the plan.”  Yes, you need to think positively about birth and hear all the good, empowering stories and words you can, but you also need to make yourself feel secure by knowing that you have a plan if the tiny chance of something going wrong happens.

If you have a home birth, you definitely need a midwife who has a back-up midwife.  You definitely need a doctor on call in case you or the baby go into distress, a doctor who is 10-15 minutes away from you.  And you definitely need to listen to your body, no matter what anybody tells you and no matter how much you want your labor to just be done.  Unfortunately, the process cannot be rushed.  And finally, there is no shame in having to go to the hospital.  Hospitals are there for people who need them.  Most births can be accomplished safely at home, but we want to have hospitals for the people who cannot make this happen.  It has nothing to do with our virtue or lack to need the hospital.  It is just the bodies we and our babies are given and the unique circumstances of their births.  The most important thing is that the mother and baby end up happy and healthy by the end of the birth.

I’ll write another day about the challenges Burrito and I faced after the birth.  Those early days were certainly tough.  But one thing I have learned is this: when we live through such difficult days, we come to realize that we have a strength we didn’t know we had.


  1. Okay, I'll admit I'm curious how long you pushed. I was in labor for 19 hours and pushed for 3...So, you are amazing or crazy, I'm not sure which, either way, it's a compliment.
    My water sac ruptured early, barely anything, but it had to happen after that. I wasn't dilated, nothing. I had to start with pitosin (or Satan's medicine, as it was with Ian). My body fought against me, every step of the way. I had a terrible episiotomy that caused me months of pain. And my OBGYN was out of town. (Met the new doc the morning after I was admited into the hospital) Ended up loving her and had her for Ella too.
    I shouldn't have been pushing, similar to you, I did't feel like it, but I was told to.
    With Ella, I had a college friend for my nurse. She said, "We're going to let your body labor until it's ready to push, you let me know when." I still was in labor for 15 hours, but because I didn't push until my body said so, I got Ella out in two easy pushes.
    I had epidurals for both, perfect ones, I felt all the pressure and urges, none of the pain. PERFECT! It allowed me to rest during the labor.
    I never would have made it through Ian's labor without Dustin and my friend Kris and a great nurse. Dustin and my even better nurse, Karen, made Ella's a dream. I was up and walking around and taking a shower just hours later, after we were sure pain meds were wore off.
    You are right. Choices make all the difference. The best part. The second time, you are in control because you know what to expect and what your body will do.

  2. Rebecca--

    Our thanks to God that he delivered you and your "Burrito" safely into the arms of your husband and family.

    Dale and I strongly identify with your story. For our first child in 1980 and our second in 1990 we planned natural births attended by birth coaches or mid-wives. We, too, lived in rural North Dakota. Both births progressed for more than 24 hours and then required C-section deliveries: our son (24 inches in length at birth) was too "coiled up" in the uterus to properly engage the birth canal, no amount of pushing would have advanced delivery; our daughter's birth just stopped making progress and the C-section revealed the cord wrapped around her neck, passage through the birth canal would have blocked the cord and maybe even torn it loose.

    Both times we had read and studied, taken Lamaze classes, joined LaLeche League, consulted with friends... Yet for all our preparation, I stood by my wife's bed, her hand in mine, and we were helpless before the onslaught of the natural process gone awry (because the world is broken by sin). As we've talked about it since, it wasn't just our baby being delivered in those moments but we--husband and wife, father and mother--were being delivered from our human helplessness by a merciful and gracious God. This God answered our prayers by sending neighbors--the doctors and nurses, etc.--whose hands wrought the equivalent of a miracle as they "overcame" the broken natural process and placed in our arms beautiful babies--miracle babies.

    Your comments on preparation are spot on! Being prepared means have a plan for "neighbors" to be God's answer to prayer.

    Thank you, Rebecca, for sharing your story and the insights delivered unto you!

    Tim (and Dale)

  3. Wow, Tim and Dale, that's actually pretty incredible that you had such similar experiences! Thank you for sharing your story.

    I had a really hard time with the birth not going according to "plan," for a while. But I've come to accept the reality that we can't control these things, no matter how hard we try to. I've just come to be so grateful for how God worked through it all (even in my stubborn unwillingness to give up control) and brought me the greatest gift I've ever been given: my daughter.

    I'm curious...once labor did not progress, how far did you have to drive to get a c-section?

  4. Lucinda, thanks for sharing. I did not know that one could have a epidural where you could still feel the urges to push, etc. I thought it took away all the ability to feel. Were you able to move around during the labor? Did you notice any issues with the babies not wanting to nurse after the labor?

    I've come to think epidurals are not evil, though I once thought they were.:-) It was interesting to hear more experiences from someone who has actually had one...thank you...


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