Reflections on My (Unplanned) C-Section

Originally posted on February 9, 2015

I have been going back and forth between whether or not I wanted to share this story because the memory is a very overwhelming one for me. Part of me wants to connect and talk to others about what I went through, while another part of me feels like it was such a vulnerable time that I would rather keep private. My emotions dance between joy and disappointment, amazement and fear, and I do not think it is easy to open up about a birth experience that was anything other than “the best day of your life.” This, however, is what made me decide that sharing our story was the best thing to do, because if anyone else struggled with their experience the way I did, it might be nice to know that you weren’t alone in that struggle.

I had been planning on a natural delivery since, well, always. Doug and I chose a midwife-run birth center over an hour away from our house specifically because we wanted to pursue a natural, holistic pregnancy and birth. When my water broke at 5:30 on a Sunday morning in January, both of us were filled with excitement and anticipation – our baby was finally coming! Contractions came on slowly about an hour later and I felt a feeling of relief that everything was happening as it was meant to. As instructed, we called the midwife center to tell them the news and set the plan for the day, since I would need to be in advanced labor within 24 hours because my membranes had ruptured. We decided to head up to the birth center a few hours later and my contractions gradually increased in intensity and duration. Despite the advancements, I was stuck in the early stages of active labor and the midwife had me doing stairs and taking a few herbs to help things progress. While Doug and I had rested, chatted, and eaten a few snacks during early labor, by mid-evening I was experiencing more severe contractions and had trouble focusing on anything besides what was happening with my body. None of this worried me, since we had taken several childbirth classes and knew the “basics” of what to expect; I embraced the challenge and did what I could to stay positive through the discomfort.

By the middle of the night, however, a switch was flipped. I was making extremely little progress and was overtaken with nausea; I remember grappling with a contraction one minute and throwing up in a bucket the next. I was becoming dehydrated and was losing stamina. After a full day of labor, I was stuck at 8 centimeters dilated and baby was still very high up in my belly. While I had been able to fight my way through strong contractions with determination a few hours earlier, I now found myself dreading and struggling against each one. I did my best to power through into the wee hours of the night but with the midwife’s news that Everest’s head was wedged in my pelvis and beginning to swell, we decided the best course of action was to head to the hospital for an epidural so that mama and baby could both rest up and regain some energy for the final pushes. This was a very emotionally-charged decision for me. After 40 weeks of researching how we wanted to bring our baby into the world and building relationships with the midwives at the birth center, and after 24 hours of powering through labor without interventions, I now felt like I was giving up. At that point, though, I just did not feel like I could take any more.

While on the epidural, I did what I could to rest and waited for updates from the nurses. After making no further progress, the doctor gave me some pitocin to get me to 10 centimeters and prepare to push. A short while later I was fully dilated and effaced so we began pushing, but even after 2 hours Everest had not budged. I remember the doctor shaking his head at me and saying it was time to move toward surgery. I begged them to give me more time and to let me try different positions, which was difficult with the epidural. They reluctantly agreed but my efforts still produced no results. The nurse decided to give Doug and I a few minutes to ourselves. We called the midwife center to ask if they thought surgery was the right choice; they assured us that if our particular doctor, whom they have worked with before, was pushing for surgery then it was the necessary course of action. At that point we just cried together. After a grueling and emotional 32 hours, and with the baby’s heart rate dropping slightly, we starting prepping for the c-section. It was a very overwhelming decision to make, on one hand being disappointed and sad but on the other being exhausted and scared for our baby’s safety. After a few hours of pushing with all of my strength and a few desperate prayers, we decided it was time to just submit and accept that this was not going to happen the way we had wanted.

Once we agreed to the c-section, things happened very quickly. I was numbed and made ready for surgery and before I knew it, Douglas was telling me we had a son. After the baby was cleaned the two of them were rushed off to get the skin to skin we had planned on. Once I was sewn up and a bit more conscious, they took me to recovery to be with Doug and our baby, a 9 pound bundle of love and joy. It turned out that Everest, who was plump to begin with, also had his head and body tilted in a very difficult position, which had essentially gotten him “stuck” in my pelvis. Having a caesarean section was definitely not what we had hoped for and was a scary and overwhelming process, but I think we were mostly relieved to have Everest in our arms, safe and healthy. I am absolutely in love with our son and holding him in my arms for the first time is a memory I will cherish forever, but his birth is still a difficult one for me. While I wish I could say that I had been emotionally prepared for a change in our birth plan, since they happen so often, in reality I was not. I had never felt so broken and defeated as I did when we transferred to the hospital. I do not believe that a medicated birth or a surgery is in any way less of a birth than a natural delivery, but with all of our emotions and energy and expectations invested in one direction, it definitely felt like a loss. Looking back, I have slowly been able to embrace our story as a triumphant battle, as something that needed to happen to ensure the safety of our darling baby, but in those first few weeks following Everest’s arrival, it was impossible for me not to mourn the birth we had planned, to have been the first one to hold him or to have been able to kiss him with lips that weren’t numb or to have had those first few moments to savor with him rather than having him carted off while I was glued to an operating table. I know that eventually I will have nothing but a smile for the day our son came into the world but for now that is a work in progress, for now I am just focused on the joy and wonder that comes every time I look at Everest now that he is here.

Jenna is a writer, educator, wife, and mama living in Colorado with her husband and two children. She founded American Ingenue as a personal blog in 2008 after losing her mother to breast cancer, using the forum as a reminder to live life to the fullest. Jenna loves cooking, dreaming, and adventuring with her family. She has been inspired to share her experiences with others as she navigates this crazy life and strives to have "it all."