My (Unexpected) Birth Plan & Delivery
My birth story with Scarlett is…interesting.
Despite taking classes and reading tons of literature my entire pregnancy, my required cesarean section (c-section) thwarted all of my careful preparation towards an all-natural (but in-hospital) birth.
I had a solid birth plan. I’d read up on various methods of channeling and riding out the pain, of working with my body, et cetera. No pain medications. Immediate skin-to-skin. Immediate breastfeeding. I had as little medical intervention as possible listed on my birth plan, in fact.
It was funny and more than ironic, then, when Scarlett turned up solidly breech a month before her due date.
I opted to wait her out, hoping she’d flip before scheduling the surgery as the doctor advised. (She had a week to flip on her own when we left the hospital that day.) My doctors advised me that external cephalic versions (ECV) only work 50% of the time and often cause severe stress to the baby and discomfort for the mom. Those weren’t “worth it” odds to me. Delivering breech vaginally was considered too dangerous. She didn’t flip in time, of course. They set the date for exactly one week before her due date.
The thing no one really prepares you for with a c-section is how you might mourn what you missed afterwards from not experiencing a vaginal birth.
Instead of fanfare and hoopla and a whole process of bringing baby into the world, you go into a room and leave an hour or so later with a baby in your arms and no pain in between. It’s like walking into a store and leaving with something you’ve purchased. It makes things…confusing. Or, at least it did for me.
I mean, I’d planned to work for this birth. For months, I’d taken classes and poured over resources about healthy, natural births. I’d planned every scenario possible – who to call first when my water broke, what would happen when, extreme measures, and so on. When my c-section was scheduled, I realized that I really couldn’t have less control or a more medicated birth than this. It was seriously on the opposite spectrum from what I was planning. Ha! All the excitement broke down to two underwhelming phone calls. We simply told family about the date, and they planned to visit later in the day after the surgery. I did no research. I stopped planning anything.
So, the morning arrived.
No fanfare, no breathless calls, no family rushing in from out of town to be here for the birth.
We’d packed everything the night before, so as soon as we got ready, we drove to the hospital early, even before the sun came up, as instructed for prep. We hardly spoke; we just drove through the darkness. We quietly walked into the ward, excited but nervous, phoned the nurse to let us back, and preparation began.
They double-checked to confirm that Scarlett hadn’t flipped. (Of course not – she’d made up her mind weeks ago, apparently!) Everyone spoke quietly and smiled a lot. It was extremely calm – so different from the flurry I was expecting as I originally planned for Scarlett’s birth. Nursing students attempted to run my central line numerous times and failed – which sucked – until an older, more experienced nurse stepped in. Then, it was go time.
They wheeled me into the OR, gave me the spinal, settled me on the table, ran the catheter, lifted the curtain, and surgery began!
It felt like just a few minutes until Scarlett was born.
And guess what?
She came out like an angry little queen bee, ready and willing to take out her rage at being torn from her warm place of rest on anyone in her path. And boy, did she ever.
The first three months were straight out of a horror film. But more on that in the next section!
What took the longest was sewing me back up. Ugh! That took forever. It took the majority of the surgery time, actually. Meanwhile, we tried to take pics with Scarlett. She was so mad that the pics are slightly hilarious.
I felt so odd. No warm fuzzies. I actually just felt like I was meeting a complete stranger. I felt…well, nothing for her. None of this overwhelming love that other moms claim to have felt. (That’s normal for some of us, mind you. The emotional attachment comes eventually!) She looked super puffy and nothing at all like Andy or me…which was disconcerting, too!
The next few days in the hospital were pretty great, although a blur. Then…things took a turn for the worse.
My nurses were rock stars. My lactation consultant was amazing. The doctors were nice. But…the great mood didn’t last. Despite months of obsessing over all-things-breast-milk with courses and books, my medical issues further impeded another plan of mine: to breastfeed exclusively. I didn’t know any of this, though. I thought I was giving her what she needed every two hours, like clockwork, after she arrived. It wasn’t enough, though.
The docs in the hospital all but seized her and her feeding log on our last day there, convinced that I was intentionally starving her and traumatizing us for hours by saying they legally couldn’t release her to us – we couldn’t leave with her – and threatening to take her to the NICU if her sodium levels didn’t go down soon. (Our pediatrician later voiced her extreme disagreement with their decisions – or, as she stated, “severe overreactions.”)
In short…I felt like I’d failed.
I couldn’t give my baby a natural birth. I couldn’t give my baby the best thing for her – a natural food.
I’d failed – especially at something as basic as keeping my daughter alive.
That day was the single worst day of my life thus far.
All of our family was back home, hours away. It was just Andy and me and our tiny crisis. A flurry of lactation consultants came in every 30 minutes, watching me try to feed, poking and prodding my breasts. The nurse that last day was not pro-breastfeeding. She was older, pushy, and not empathetic at all. She stuck a pacifier in Scarlett’s mouth to stop her from screaming, even as I screamed through tears for her to not do that since the breastfeeding classes said it could hurt her latch. A phlebotomist came in three times to draw vials of blood from Scarlett – one too many times, actually. They had gotten their wires crossed and sent him in again after the initial draw…luckily, Andy said something. So then, we stopped trusting the docs at all too. You can’t just draw a ton of blood from an already-dehydrated baby!!
I started feeding her supplement since she wasn’t getting anything from me. I felt like such a failure. I was desperate for her to be well again, and I obviously couldn’t do that for her.
Her sodium came down enough by the end of the day for us to finally go home.
Making it home felt like being released from a torture chamber in a prison.
I was thoroughly traumatized and began a severe period of depression that lasted for at least three months. I didn’t want to go anywhere or see anyone. I could hardly hold my baby without trembling to the point of my teeth chattering. (That actually lasted until I made the hard, angst-filling decision to stop trying to breastfeed…since it wasn’t happening anyway.) Andy alone had to take care of me and the baby during that time. He returned back to work a week later, and I was – officially – alone, and terrified, with Scarlett. I barely even knew how to change her diaper!
Keep reading — just one more section to go!
She’s not eating, we’re not sleeping, I’m hardly breathing, everyone’s crying…but I found the light at the end of the tunnel eventually. Although depression weighed heavily, everything started looking up with the acceptance that Fed Is Best. Yes, ma’am, it is! Here’s proof that it worked for my little family.