It was April 19, 2007 when I waddled into my third checkup in less than a week. At just under 39 weeks pregnant, my blood pressure was creeping up, and they wanted to keep an eye on it. I looked into the mirror and hardly recognized my pudgy cheeks and swollen eyes. Glancing down at my feet spilling out of a pair of Crocs, I pressed a thumb into my ankle, and there was no rebound.
The doctor took my blood pressure. It was high again. They had me lay down and rest to see if it would go down. It didn’t. This baby needed to come out. Now.
I drove across the street to the hospital and the induction began. After a few painful attempts, the IV was in, Pitocin began dripping, and then came 12 hours of not much happening. In the middle of the night, my water broke. I was only 1 cm dilated. Breathing through the pain of each contraction, I was sure my body would progress as it should. I had watched enough episodes of “A Baby Story” on TLC to know you can go from a 1 to a 10 in only a few minutes. (Or was that editing?) They checked me again a few hours later and I was almost at 2 cm. That’s where I stayed for the next 15 hours. I finally asked for an epidural so I could get some rest.
Phew. Some relief from the pain.
But then, I had what they call breakthrough pain – the epidural wasn’t working correctly. My blood pressure was skyrocketing. I developed a fever. The baby was at risk. The doctor called for an emergency c-section.
As they wheeled me into the operating room, I was exhausted and scared. The anesthesiologist added more medicine through the epidural and gave me a poke to see if I was numb.
They added more medicine to the drip and started cutting.
I screamed my head off.
I woke up an hour later. My baby had been born, and I had missed it. As I realized what was happening, the pain that was never adequately controlled in the first place came roaring out of my throat. It felt like someone had cut my stomach wide open without numbing me first.
Oh wait, that’s exactly what happened.
I couldn’t breathe. My body was on fire. And where was my baby? The nurses told me to calm down. My blood pressure was too high. They were going to give me Magnesium Sulfate to keep me from having a seizure. I begged them to wait. My friend had recently gone through that torment and I didn’t want any part of it.
They pumped me full of morphine and I calmed down. A little too much. As I breathed out, the machines started beeping. I wasn’t breathing back in. Every time I exhaled, the nurse had to remind me to inhale.
An hour later (??? maybe, I have no concept of time at this point), I finally held my baby. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I took in his sweet face and inhaled his newborn smell. I never wanted to let him go. Then they took him. His second APGAR test was low and I had a fever. They were afraid he might have an infection.
He spent the first three days of his life in the NICU. All I wanted was to go in there, to be with him, to hold him and feed him and kiss him. The nurses told me I could only go if I could get myself into a wheelchair. I tried. I tried so hard. The pain was unbearable. I couldn’t sit. My body crumpled in agony. I crawled back into bed and spent the night bawling my eyes out, no baby in my arms. What was this nightmare?
The next day, I was able to get into a wheelchair. I finally held him for more than a few seconds. We were ok, him and me. We were going to be ok.
I went on to have another c-section two years later. Turns out my body needs extra medication and extra time to become fully numb. Thankfully everything went smoothly the second time around (except for a spinal headache).
This is my birth story. MY birth story. Just because it was horrible and painful and traumatic doesn’t make it any better or worse than your birth story. I am no braver than you. You are no braver than me. Every mother is a champion, a brave warrior.
To every woman who has ever given birth: However you happened to get that baby out of your body, WELL DONE.
What if we stop comparing the merit of our birth stories and cheer each other on instead? What if we look each other in the eye and say, “Well done, brave woman!”
I asked you to share your birth stories on Facebook because I wanted us all to see how many different scenarios there are, how quickly plans can change, and how in the end, keeping mom and baby safe is the most important thing.
So far I have read over 100 birth stories. And you know what? Every one is unique. And 99.99% of them did not go according to plan. Some are simple, some are horrible, some are “What, NO WAY!” (Erika and Christina, I’m looking at you.)
Maybe you struggle with guilt because of a c-section. Maybe you thought childbirth was the best thing you’ve ever done. Maybe you think you did everything the “right way” (whatever that is).
I think it’s important to share our experiences and recognize that we each have a unique story to tell. And maybe we can learn from each other as we cheer each other on.
My friend Stephanie pushed a 9-pound baby out of her tiny 5’1″ frame this week with no drugs. WARRIOR!
My friend Ashley was induced, had an epidural and an easy delivery. (When I went to visit a few hours later, she declared childbirth to be “So much fun!”) CHAMPION!
My friend Christina delivered her 4th in the front seat of a car. HERO!
Read more stories by clicking here or on the screenshot below. Then share yours!
Whatever your story is, WELL DONE.