For the past two years I have tried to reconcile my thoughts and feelings over Fisher's much needed c-section with my desire for a natural birth. It is not unusual for women to have a c-section and then regret it. Or to do research and question if a c-section was ever needed in the first place. I don't fall into that camp. I wish I would have had a c-section earlier on. Go ahead and gasp if you are a natural birth advocate, but please read on....
Prior to having my son I did a ton of research on "unnecesareans" and I really felt like if I could go into labor naturally that I would have a vaginal birth. I was super excited for labor and was ready to let my amazing body do what it was meant to do. I knew prior to having my son that coming into the world naturally would be the best start for him and for me as his new mother. I knew that from all the research I had done but I also knew it inside. It just seemed right to me. I also knew that in the area I lived in this was very,very unusual. But I wasn't worried because I had a plan. My plan was to go into labor naturally and go to the hospital and put up with some BS but by avoiding the induction I would ensure myself at least a vaginal delivery.
Things didn't end up that way though I did go into labor naturally. I had been in prodromal labor for a couple of days and when my water broke I went to the hospital like my doctor instructed. I was happy and felt so excited because I felt like I had won the battle. I went into labor naturally and thus I was going to avoid major abdominal surgery (inductions increase your c-section chances by 50%)! I was going to have skin to skin contact immediately after my son was born, get to hold him, look into his eyes, and introduce myself to him. I was going to breastfeed him and cover him with kisses. And oh yeah - I was also going to have an easy recovery and get back on my feet quickly because that is what I do.
Things didn't end up that way either. I get to the hospital with my water broken and in labor and the nurses pretty much freaked out. The on call doc came in and introduced himself to me and I didn't see him again for about 18 hours and after I had been pushing for over an hour. During that 18 hour time period where I didn't see him in person - he was ordering all sorts of things to "fix" my labor. Pitocin, more pitocin, and more pitocin. At first I declined because I knew that labors can stall out - but after a little longer I agreed to some pitocin. I thought it would be just enough to send me over the edge and let me push that baby out and move on to the next stage! Ah, but the pitocin wasn't working and Fisher's heartbeat was decelerating. So the pitocin was stopped for a while and tried again - he seemed to tolerate it better though I still was not dilating. So more and more pitocin was ordered. I was very uncomfortable with it, but I was afraid to say anything, because I am not medically trained. Just some crunchy wildlife biologist who thinks that she is a mammal or something. During this time I was never examined by the doctor. He somehow knew what was going on in my stomach from afar. After all, it was Sunday.
So after hours and hours of pitocin hell I finally get to 10 cm and I get to start pushing. It was elated! I freaking did it - I put up with all the pitocin and not moving but I was going to push my son out and hold him and that would make it all worth it. Just give me my baby!
Only it didn't happen that way. I pushed and pushed and pushed. I worked harder than I knew I could. The doctor came in after a while and I pushed and pushed some more. He said he needed to use a vacuum. I was just ready to be done. The vacuum seemed to go on forever. I knew that pushing a baby out could be hard work and take some time, but I started to get the feeling that something wasn't right. And then the doctor said he thought something was wrong and I needed a c-section. At this point I KNEW I needed a c-section. It didn't make sense to me, I had no idea why in the world Fisher wasn't coming out, I knew it wasn't for lack of trying, but I knew that something wasn't right. So I went to the OR completely exhausted but not deflated. I had done everything I could do and I knew it. I was going to finally meet my son.
And then my son was born. He was born beaten up, bruised, swollen, and was whisked away to the NICU. The OB explained that he had been brow presentation which is why he wouldn't come down the birth canal - it was geometrically impossible. And that geometric anomaly caused lots of problems. Fisher had major facial trauma from his face being crushed against my pelvis with every contraction. See, I wasn't dilating for a reason. I wasn't dilating because my son wasn't positioned properly to make a decent down the birth canal. My body IS pretty awesome. It didn't fail me at all. It knew that Fisher couldn't come out the way he was positioned so it didn't dilate past 5 or 6 cm. But what my body and Fisher wasn't prepared for was the onslaught of fake contractions. Pitocin induced contractions that after hours and hours, finally pushed his forehead down hard enough to dilate my cervix to 10 while crushing his face. And the vacuum - the vacuum continued the assault on my son's head. Pitocin and vacuums are contraindicated for brow presentation babies because it can cause these injuries. And they can also break a baby's back. Thank God that didn't happen.
So basically, I am in this weird gray area. I am a very natural birth friendly mama that wishes I wouldn't
have even attempted to vaginally deliver my son. He would have been so much better off. My son needed to be born via c-section as soon as I came into the hospital with my water broken. Brow presentations can convert to full face or to vertex but if they don't convert they can't be delivered vaginally 99.9% of the time (a lot of medical literature say 100% of the time, but I have found one or two stories in which a brow presentation was delivered vaginally. Regardless, it is pretty much impossible). Because of this most OBs recommend a c-section immediately upon diagnosing a brow presentation. However, that didn't happen because the OB didn't realize my son was malpositioned.
So where does that leave me? It leaves me at a place where I feel like the system failed me. Many women have a realization after a c-section that the system failed them and they maybe could have avoided the c-section. I am on the other end of the spectrum. The last thing I wanted was a c-section, but under the circumstances that was the one thing I needed more than anything else. Does that make me pro c-section now? Kind of - I am very pro c-section in certain circumstances. But what I learned from my son's experience is that what was was lacking was the one-on-one care, concern, and attention by a skilled provider. See, I had convinced myself that I didn't need a provider that really took time to know me and one that I trusted because I was the one having the baby. The OB was just there to "catch" it. Most of the time I think women's bodies are amazing and will do exactly what they need to do to birth a baby. But there is always those exceptions and THAT is why we pay people to be there for us. To notice signs that something might not be right. Not to search for problems that don't exist or to start throwing interventions and drugs at women to have them labor according to a schedule.
The bottom line is I really don't want any other women to experience what I did. I don't want any babies to be hurt like my son was. What I want is for women to allow their bodies to do what they were made to do but when an intervention is needed I want it to be noticed and explained. I want women to be able to trust their caregivers and know that they are being given information about what is best for them and their baby. There is obviously a time and place for c-sections. But there is no time or place to assume that all laboring mothers fit a mold and can be "managed" a certain way. Nine times out of ten it might work, but for that tenth mother and baby it can be life changing.