Brittany and I met in college through church; and ironically, my family seemed to follow suit to what her family did. She got married – then I got married. Her and her husband, Marshall, moved to Cheyenne – then JD and I moved to Cheyenne. She had her first baby – then I had my first baby. And so it has gone.
I felt lucky enough to come with her to one of her first prenatals, and she came with me to mine. We’ve stayed in touch here-and-there since my family moved away, and recently I contacted her asking if she would share her birth stories. Both her babies were born via c-section, and yet they were radically different. I think her children’s births show the importance and value in treating each birth as special, and making sure the mother is as involved in the birth as possible. Her second birth, a family-centered cesarean, really highlights how this mother-friendly care can impact the immediate and distant implications of the birth… physically, emotionally, and mentally.
When asked what she wanted to title her birth story, she said, “An Imperfectly Beautiful Birth Story…. No births are ‘perfect’ and go exactly as planned, but they are each beautiful all the same – that’s what I want to portray.”
Here is Brittany’s story.
When I had my first child, nothing went as “planned,” as it rarely does.
I went to the hospital two days before my due date with a purple, swollen leg. The triage nurse reluctantly sent me for ultrasounds in a tiny room with no seating for my husband, who was trying to keep me calm.
After about an hour, I was told I had severe Deep Vein Thrombosis in both legs.
I was immediately admitted, started on blood thinners, and told what would happen throughout the course of the next week. I underwent multiple procedures leading up to the day she was born, all to keep us both alive and prepare me for the delivery. Three days later, my doctor told me he was not comfortable with the idea of an induction, considering my blood had been thinning for multiple days.
He told me a cesarean would be my best bet, so I complied.
I have absolutely no qualms with that decision, as my husband and I felt it was the best route for my daughter and me.
What I have issue with is my lack of memory of her birth and how I felt I had no control over what was happening to me.
I remember being wheeled to the operating room early in the morning, very high on medications since the blood clots and procedures left me very tender and sore. I remember it being extremely bright and cold as they were moving me to the operating table. They told to bend forward, and then I felt super-intense pain in my lower back. I didn’t know until later that it was the spinal they had administered causing the pain, since no one informed me they were starting it.
After that, I don’t have much recollection.
I remember asking my husband if they had started the incision yet, and his face told me they had. I immediately broke down. My blood pressure soared, so they upped the sedative. As soon as I heard her cry, I wanted so badly to sit up and hold her, but it was then that I realized my arms were strapped to the table. The nurse brought her to my head and I was able to kiss her, but then they immediately took her away to check her condition, considering the plethora of medications we’d been receiving.
I was not able to hold her, smell her, even get a glimpse of her tiny blue eyes… I felt as though I wasn’t even present at my baby’s birth.
I was sobbing uncontrollably so they put me completely under while they sewed me up. When I got to the recovery room, they still wouldn’t let me hold her until I could move my feet, which took what seemed FOREVER. My husband sat next to me with her for the hour it took until they cleared me to actually meet my daughter.
By the time I was allowed to hold her, everyone else in our families already had….
The “trauma” surrounding her birth led to postpartum issues and difficultly bonding with her. This, coupled with the medications I still had to take, led me to not being able to breastfeed. All of this still breaks my heart to this day.
Enter my second pregnancy.
I was on blood thinners from week three to avoid a situation similar to the first and had chosen a different hospital. I was determined to have a VBAC and prepared as much as I could, but my body was not complying.
I opted for a second cesarean and called the hospital to set it up.
After hanging up the phone, the flood of emotions I felt was overwhelming. I broke down immediately, terrified that the situation would be the same. When my husband got home from work and found me so upset, he reminded me of the list we had once discussed about what I would have changed, had I felt I had the choice.
So I grabbed a sticky note and started jotting them down.
I wanted a clear drape. I wanted skin-to-skin for as long as I requested. I wanted my arms free. I wanted the very minimum in medications and to know what was going on every step of the way. I wanted to see my baby, smell him, kiss him, caress him…
My doctors were very willing to comply with every bit of this.
They had one clear drape, sent to them as a sample, and were very excited that someone wanted to use it. I remember walking into the operating room feeling so at ease; not cold, not scared, not anxious. I felt present in the room and just so eager to meet my son.
I remember reminiscing with Marshall and laughing with the surgeons.
I attribute this to the doctors walking me through everything, step-by-step, as they were doing it. They let me know when they were making the first incisions and explained that it may take longer than I expected, considering they were dealing with scar tissue. They held my ovaries for me to see through the drape, at my request. They told me when they were entering the uterus and commented on the amount of hair they had encountered on his head.
They warned me of the pressure I would feel as they pulled him from me, but that pressure was quickly forgotten when I lifted my head to see his birth and heard his tiny cries.
They passed him to a nurse who opened my gown and immediately put my baby to my chest, still wet. I took in that “newborn smell” and ran my fingers through his thick, dark hair. I held and kissed that sweet little boy for almost half an hour while they began the sutures, and I finally allowed them take him only once I became nauseous. After that, I asked to be put under.
When I woke up, I was able to hold him immediately and begin breastfeeding. It was absolutely incredible.
When the nurse came to check on me, I told her that I was so impressed with how they acknowledged me and how respected I felt. She asked if there was anything else they could do for me, and I remembered something very silly. With my first birth, I never got to see my placenta, so I asked her if I could see this one. She happily collected it from the operating room and brought it to me in a pan; we all had a laugh when I couldn’t resist poking it to see what it felt like.
I’m not sure there was anything they wouldn’t have done to make me more comfortable.
I had no postpartum issues with my son and was able to breastfeed for much longer. I attribute both of these facts to the amazing second birth I had.
I am very thankful for the outcomes of my births and harbor no hard feelings towards my initial doctors.
I fully credit their knowledge to my daughter’s and my health. I’m simply disappointed in myself for not being prepared for the possibility of a more “non-traditional” path in a world where the focus is usually placed on unmedicated births.
I wish I had known I had options and a voice that needed to be heard.
But no matter the circumstances of their entrance, my body birthed my babies. I feel no shame knowing it happened in an operating room, and I would never want another woman to feel badly about the same. All of our babies are precious and beautiful little miracles.