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@FemmeCabal

Femme Cabal is based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Copyright 2018.
Images by Gladston Pereira.

  • Femme Cabal

Not-So-Natural Birth



I have been asked by a friend to share my first birth story. As a mom, we talk about the day quite often and I guess at some point you become sort of distant from the event. It is almost like the story is about someone else but you know every detail. It doesn’t seem important anymore. When I told my mom that I was going to share this with the public she said something along the lines- well, you have a healthy child. Why bother stirring the pot? Needless to say I was convinced.


My First Birth Experience


Just a quick intro: I had my first when I was 24 and that was six years ago. My husband and I decided to grow our family after I was faced with some medical issues that could have prevented me from having children later on in life. Many wondered why we “settled” so early but people question everything you do so why would this be any different? My pregnancy went very well, by the book as they say. I knew fairly early in my term that my OB/GYN wasn’t going to attend my labour unless I chose a C-section and that could only be scheduled on Wednesdays. I was gaining healthy weight, kept active, and attended pre-natal yoga and pre-natal classes offered at the hospital (that alone is different topic for discussion). All was good.


My water broke around noon on a beautiful Sunday in fall. I was two weeks early. After consulting a nurse from Labour and Delivery we decided to come in. I was 100% effaced and not dilated but because my contractions were 5 min apart I was asked to stay. The nurse inquired about my labour choice and also gave me few options that were available to me at this point. I had a clear vision of my labour being drug-free and that I was attempting to have a natural birth (I still don’t understand why it is called that, birth is a natural process anyway…). My dear husband rushed to the car to bring my supplies. I had a big yoga ball in the trunk and a CD with some relaxing music that I have been listening to at home. We got set-up, changed and started our “thing”. The nurses came in asking if I needed anything for pain management. At some point I think I said that will call them if I need anything and that my husband is here to support me with all of the in-between. I must admit, saying no to painkillers was not easy at that point.


I had a very short break in-between my contractions and they were 2-3 min apart. It was an unlikely situation for a first-time mom to be in such fast-progressing labour. But the two of us were doing really good (nurse’s comment). At 5 pm I was 8.5 cm dilated and got to transition too fast. The nurse notified me that I wasn’t dilating evenly – it was something like an oval rather than a circle. I was exhausted. My legs hurt from rocking on the yoga ball, my back was sore and on top of that I started getting early urges to push. She suggested to sweep the cervix. I really didn’t know much about that particular procedure and what the benefits/disadvantages were. But the nurse was an older lady and I felt like I could trust her. Well, that sweep did not feel good and did nothing good to my dilation situation.


After that I ended up in bed with a monitor belt on my stomach, laughing gas and some sugary drink on the bedside table. It was 7 pm. My young doctor came and notified me that he has 5 women labouring with one of them waiting for an unplanned C-section. We had to move things along to speed up my labour again otherwise I will have to have a C-section myself.


So that was it. My fight was lost.


I had no control over the situation or even an input. I think I was in a haze at that point, maybe from the gas that made me sick or the pain or despair. It was hard to tell. I remember looking at my husband and feeling so sorry for him. There was nothing he could do for me anymore and I knew he really wanted to. He looked so helpless. I signed the form for an epidural and an oxytocin drip.


I remember laying back down and one of the nurses yelled out – the baby is coming. It was hard to push since I really didn’t feel that much, except for tremendous pressure. The doctor wasn’t happy. He said the baby’s chin isn’t tucked in (which is ideal for birthing). He said he has to make an incision to make room for his hand to move baby’s head. About 15 more people rushed into the room. My poor husband was asked to step aside. First incision didn’t help. Then the monitor started beeping and the nurse said that the heart rate was dropping. I noticed the belt slipping off but nobody else seemed to care. I was too scared and intimidated to make a note. There was 20 people in the room. The doctor said “the baby has to come out now or we will be having a C-section” (another C-threat). He then attempted to use a vacuum to assist me with pushing. Another incision to fit the vacuum head. This is about 20 min into a pushing stage. That didn’t work either. His last resource was forceps. Third incision. Two sets of forceps (the first set ended up being too big).


Our girl was born. Big purple bruise on her tiny head, two c-shape bruises on both sides of her face but otherwise a healthy baby that scored 8 on APGAR chart. No heart rate or breathing issues. Latched on to nurse the second I had her on my chest.


The doctor stitched me up and moved on to a different patient. Meanwhile, one of those stitches came apart (oh lucky me!). I waited another hour and a bit to get another one put in. He had to use local anesthetic since my epidural wore off at that point. It must have been around 11 pm when I was put in the wheelchair and moved to a different room. I noticed the floor of that delivery room being only shades of red, considering major sweeping was done after the labour finished. What a scene. I remember hearing the nurses passing on my chart and noting the “high risk” sticker. But the baby was healthy. I stayed at the hospital for two days with that label.


"But the baby is healthy."


Although the labour was over I suffered silently for 5.5 months with an episiotomy complication. I couldn’t sit for a month. The driving was excruciating. I never had a physical exam two weeks after my labour. My OB/GYN didn’t want to deal with my heavy postpartum bleeding. I went to see my GP at 5 months postpartum hoping he could shed some light on my delicate situating. He announced that I will need a surgery to remove the flesh that is overgrowing one of my episiotomy stitches (that same stitch must have come apart again). I ended up having an emergency surgery to remove an IUD (put in by my OB/GYN) in the following two weeks and a nice doctor fixed my other issue as well. I was pain-free the next day. The IUD experience was an unlucky chance (what I have been told).


It was an awful experience.


I had one more child since then and the experience was completely different (different doctor, hospital and a lot more baggage from the past). I asked myself and others many questions about that beautiful Sunday. I got one common statement – the main thing is that the baby was healthy. Seriously?! How about the mom? Was there a place for my health? Was there a choice? What was different between my not-so-natural birth #1 and birth #2? How did that impact me? I know I am not the only one who wonders.