Part III; The Axe Forgets, the Tree Remembers
After all the preparation, the classes, the research. None of it mattered. My body didn’t respond to any of the induction tactics, and I was going to have to have a cesarean. At that moment in time, I was crushed. Every one from the hospital was being positive and reminding me that soon I was going to meet my baby and how exciting that was, so I played along. I put on a smile and agreed.
There was a level of relief. I was so tired, I was so hungry (little did I know I still wouldn’t be allowed to eat after the cesarean. My last real meal was Wednesday evening, and I didn’t get food again until Sunday morning). The baby was fine, so I was slated into the last OR slot of the evening before the shift change. Since it wasn’t an emergency I was able to get in the shower and wash up.
Hubby was shuffled off with our things to the room we would occupy after the surgery. He would join me later after I was prepped. The nurse came in and put on the compression socks and we walked down to the OR. I sat on the table while the anesthesiologist administered the spinal tap. His first injection didn’t go too well for me; I felt an electric shock jolt the entire left side of my body. He was basically like “yeah, that can happen, and it could happen on the right side too”. WTF. Luckily it didn’t, it was actually more painful than the contractions were.
The next part is probably what upset me the most in that moment. When I was laid down on the operating table, they made me put my arms out to be strapped down. It’s standard procedure, and maybe if I had paid more attention to the cesarean portion of class I would have been aware of this. I was being tied down. I had been half naked for the last day and half, but I felt extremely exposed in that moment. Here are all these people that I’ve never met before, all hanging out on the other side of this curtain, while I’m strapped to a table with my arms out. When my baby was born, I wouldn’t be able to hold him myself.
The surgery itself wasn’t complicated. Baby came out quickly, was perfectly healthy, and after they cleaned him a bit, he was placed on my chest. I wasn’t able to hold him there myself, because of the whole arms thing, but there was our little man, all 10lbs 7oz of him. Our midwife took our first family photo, the baby was taken away and I was sewn back together again.
Those hours after the birth are foggy. I remember that I lay in recovery for hours, with my baby swaddled and lying at the end of my bed. Not quite the bonding time I had imagined. I can remember slowly gaining the feeling back in my legs and realizing the compression socks that had been put on had a wrinkle in them. The compression device that was keeping me from getting blood clots was compressing this wrinkle into my skin and creating a laceration. I was in too much pain from the surgery to care. I remember being so exhausted, and my baby screaming, but I still couldn’t use my legs and didn’t have any idea where the nurse call button was. I remember feeling helpless and alone.
The days following didn’t get much better. There was a lot of crying, from both myself and the baby. There was a lot of pain from where I was cut open, I could barely move. I couldn’t properly take of my baby.
Breastfeeding was going horribly; I had to cut my pain meds, I had raw nipples, and I had a low supply thanks to a past breast reduction, and I believe the cesarean. After working really hard at it, we got it down, but the challenge compounded the feelings of failure.
When I could manage to get myself into the shower, I would usually spend my time there crying. I hated what had happened. I hated my body for failing me. I had so many questions that couldn’t be answered.
Why did this happen? Was it because he was too big? Was it because I was induced when my baby wasn’t ready yet? Was it because it was 5pm on a Friday? Was it because of my fears? Was it my fault? Was I broken?
I felt this grand sense of loss. I had my baby, and we all walked away healthy, but my soul was sad. I was different. I could only see myself as broken. Broken and foolish for being so vocal about the great birth I was going to have, that just ended up being the textbook example of what most women’s births look like these days.
For some women, they don’t really care about how they birth, just as long as they have a healthy baby at the end of it. That wasn’t me. I wanted my birth experience to be something powerful and beautiful. My birth wasn’t powerful, or beautiful, or even joyful. My experience was painful and sad. I still till this day have a hard time considering it “birth”. I was cut open and my baby was pulled out. My little boy was born that day, but I didn’t feel like it was something I did, I felt like it was something that happened to me. I knew I’d eventually heal physically, but I had no idea if I’d heal emotionally.
Knowing what I know now, more than 3 years later, I feel less like my body failed me and more like my provider did. I actually really liked the midwives, and I know they did their best. I also know that they must abide by the guidelines of the OB practice that backs them, allowing them to practice and attend hospital births. The 42 week cutoff date I was given, along with the fears of how my big baby would ever fit through my vagina, filled me with anxiety and resentment.
Their timeline for when my child should be born had nothing to do with me or my child. I was healthy, my baby was healthy. There was no indication either of us needed the pregnancy to be over, except for a date on a calendar. Sure my baby was big, but women birth big babies every day. I birthed a 9lbs 10oz baby vaginally just 6 months ago.
My body was cut open, because of a date. A date that could be wrong. A date that means very little to my health or the health of my baby. I may have been given the chance to labor, but the moment I walked into that hospital for an induction, was my first step to that OR.
One thing that I remember thinking about while I was lying on that operating table, was that I would never be there again. I didn’t want to step foot in the hospital to birth a baby again. The day my son was born, so was my mission to HBAC (Home Birth After Cesarean), but that’s a different story for a different day….