Baby, There Ain’t No Easy Way Out

That’s right, Tom Petty, there ain’t no easy way out. A birth story guest post from Liz at A Mothership Down.


That’s right, Tom Petty, there ain’t no easy way out. There will come that fateful moment when your fetus needs to be evicted from your body’s cozy B&B, and when that moment arrives there are only two routes out. Neither is pleasant, although one is more scenic. And yes, while it’s true that you have probably been waiting for this day with anticipatory joy, that’s only because mother nature has provided you with self-delusional hormones in epic quantities.

I really, really wanted to have a natural birth. And by that I mean a vaginal birth with lots of drugs in a sterile and impersonal hospital setting, with no less than four medical professionals at my bedside and a vacuum, extra forceps, and a SWAT team on standby.

I realized that I was not going to get my wish sometime around the 8th month of my pregnancy, when it became apparent that the bulge jutting out of my side was not, as I had hoped, a giant misplaced goiter, but was instead my baby’s head. Nolan, it turns out, was in the transverse position, meaning he was horizontal in my stomach. This is fairly rare, and so I felt pretty badass about it. I was all, yeah, no big deal, my baby isn’t interested in the normal positions. He’s his own man. He’s basically saying, “what up breech babies, that’s all you got?!”

Nolan’s position would have been really awesome if he was competing in the high jump. Turns out it was less awesome for childbirth due to the fact that my vaginal opening is not as wide as the state of Kansas.  Nothing against my vaginal opening, yours isn’t that wide either. If it is I would like to hear from you.

The reason I wanted to deliver vaginally, I realized, was a little bit different than the reasons other moms cited for wanting this. After reading many online forums, I learned that women often feel strongly about wanting to push their little bundle out the southern exit because they want the experience of childbirth and they do NOT want to feel cheated out of this. I can understand that, although this experience sounds downright horrific based on every friend of mine who has ever delivered vaginally. Women, it seems, want to feel this primal connection to their child and, moreover, to the act of birthing. For some reason pregnancy brings out a very “we are mammals” sentiment in the masses, and people who would never consider wanting to feel, say, a root canal, suddenly want to feel something much, much worse. It’s a strange but common phenomenon.

I had friends say to me, when it was clear that the Nolan train wasn’t leaving the station via the preferred exit, “It’s ok, Liz, having a c-section won’t make you any less of a mother.” Huh. That thought never even occurred to me! I wanted to give actual birth because I am competitive and like to pretend I’m tough! Not because I thought it would make me a better mother. I just like overzealous challenges that I can later brag about. My upset over not getting to “compete” in the labor and delivery unit was real, but it was a little like the time I went skydiving – I had no interest in actually jumping from a plane, I just wanted to be able to say I did it after the fact.

Also, I had trained. I had taken the prenatal classes. I had paid actual money for them. And I had practiced my breathing techniques! Techniques that did not appear would ease much more pain than that of a bee sting, but still. I had practiced swaying on a giant ball to coax my baby out with my rhythmic bounces and periodic hip swivels. I had even bought a tub of olive oil, ready to slather it onto my nether regions! (For those of you who have not prepared for birth, this nifty little trick is called a perineal massage. It helps reduce the risk of tearing during delivery, and as a side bonus you can use the surplus olive oil for many tasty Italian dishes).

All of this intense training was for naught. A c-section was our only viable option, and so c-section it was. Yes, I would not experience the birth of my first child the way I had hoped, but we are lucky to live in a place where safe alternatives exist. Also, and this is no small thing, a c-section meant an automatic five day stay at the hospital. As we all know hospitals are like hotels but with catheters and adult diapers readily available. So better! And also I LOVE hospital food! The hospital where I delivered Nolan makes an excellent Coq Au Vin. Things were looking up.

Photo credit: Christina McPherson Photography Photo credit: Christina McPherson Photography

The big day eventually arrived and things started out smoothly. Brian was asked to wait outside while I was “prepped.” He was excited and anxious, dressed in scrubs, hat, and booties, like an extra from Grey’s Anatomy. I was busy having my spinal block administered, and quickly felt the lower half of my body go pleasantly numb. The plan was for me to be awake during the surgery, but totally numb from the waist down. I remembered a good friend saying she found her c-section to be “a very civilized way to have a baby.” This is civilized, I thought.

By the time Brian was let into the operating room the surgery was already in full swing. He had barely gotten seated when the obstetrician exclaimed, “I see the baby’s butt!” This was jarringly fast for Brian, who had anticipated more of a build-up to the main event. It was like going to a movie with no coming attractions. It throws a viewer off.

And with that, Nolan was out, via the express train. It was kind of amazing and kind of gross.

And then shit got real. Just as Nolan made his big debut – at the very height of emotion at this whole disgusting miracle – I started to feel stuff. Like, a lot of stuff. My spinal block wasn’t so much “blocking” anymore. Well, damn. What’s the good of a spinal block without the block? Very, very little, that’s what. This was rapidly devolving into something decidedly uncivilized. Remember, getting the baby out is only the first part. After you evict your tenant you still need to close up the apartment, you see. Lock the doors behind you and all.

I can feel this!” I was trying to keep the panic down in my voice. Perhaps I sounded too un-panicked, because the anesthesiologist was surprisingly nonchalant.

“Like tugging and pulling?” he asked.

“No, like I can REALLY FEEL this surgery!” I could feel tugging 5 minutes ago. I felt SURGERY HAPPENING now. If I’m not being clear, those two feelings are different.

“Oh, you do? Hmm….Looks like you metabolized the medication too quickly!” His tone was breezy. “Next time you have a surgery you should make sure to tell them that your body seems to metabolize meds too fast.”

Um, yes, noted. Next time I’m having major abdominal surgery I’ll be sure to tell them. Too bad I’m in surgery RIGHT NOW.

Brian could see the panic in my eyes. Oh, did I mention that I was tied down to the table? I was tied down to the table. I had kind of forgotten I was tied down to the table until the part of the story where the spinal block stopped working and I panicked and tried to free myself. Good thing I was tied down, actually.

Brian was in his own type of bind. Unbeknownst to me, he had just been told that he needed to leave the surgery area to accompany Nolan to another room, where I presume they make sure he has all of his most important bits. Nolan, not Brian. Brian’s bits were already accounted for.

Not wanting to cause more panic, but clearly seeing that I was losing my shit, Brian approached me cautiously, the way one might approach a skittish but rapidly angering beaver.

“Ok, I’m gonna go now…” His voice was soft. He was trying to appear calm so that I may be calmed. Which is not possible when you are actively being operated on with very, very little medication.

Uh, ok. That’s cool. I’ll just stay here and fight off my captors alone. My eyes pleaded with him but he was quickly led away.

After about five minutes Brian was sent away from Nolan’s room, too. Poor guy. He ended up wandering through the halls, full scrubs, without either his wife or baby. He was hoping, I think, to be with at least one of us during this most critical time. But then I was hoping to not feel my surgery, so that made two of us who didn’t get what we wanted.

And that is pretty much how it went down. Yes, I had “missed out” on the chance to be tough by laboring with my baby, but I was fortunate enough to get the chance to be tough by having abdominal surgery with meds that ran out part way through the operation. Silver linings!

This is my first photo with Nolan. I do not even remotely remember this moment. And I had read that I would “never forget the first time I held my baby in my arms.” I couldn’t remember it 5 minutes later. Based on this picture it was beautiful. And hairy. And heavily medicated with post-operative tranquilizers. This is my first photo with Nolan. I do not even remotely remember this moment. And I had read that I would “never forget the first time I held my baby in my arms.” I couldn’t remember it 5 minutes later. Based on this picture it was beautiful. And hairy. And heavily medicated with post-operative tranquilizers.

Which would you prefer, c-section or natural childbirth? How was your labor and delivery? Let’s hear it. Be descriptive. I want to picture your baby crowning.

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  • I’ve had two csections. With my first, I had a bad induction at 39 weeks because of potential for bp issues, and ending in fetal distress. The surgery itself was ok. Recovery was harder than necessary because the hospital didn’t give me any post care info beyond not lifting the car seat. With my second I was hoping to VBAC but correctly predicted it wouldn’t happen: miss flipped to transverse at 37 weeks and stayed that way. Again, ok procedure. Knew more so recovery is going better. Really annoyed by people saying I took the easy way, when what I did was take the way to keep us alive.

  • [email protected] says:

    I wanted a natural birth so badly with my first, not because I wanted to feel powerful, but because I wanted to do every thing I could to make sure he was healthy. And I had read horror stories of complications from epidurals and inductions etc, I got a doula I went to natural birthing classes, I learned the breathing, the focusing, the positions to alleviate pain, I had a birth plan. And then I walked into my 39 week appointment got my blood pressure taken and they walked me to delivery.

    My blood pressure was soaring (almost seizure level) and they said we need to induce you. I still tried for natural labor I refused drugs for the first 4 hours or so, I was not allowed to move off my left side unless I had to pee. They ended up having to do internal monitoring and omg that hurt so bad, and my son kept dislodging it, what a stubborn kid, so they had to keep stabbing that thing in there, he came out with so many marks on his head.

    I think the pain in my hip was worse than most of the contractions, finally I couldn’t take it any more, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do any of the pain relief techniques other than breathe and I was only 4 cm dilated. the pitocin crazed contractions were awful, they actually ended up turning down the pit, I got the epidural, it was so much better, my pain in my hip stopped it was wonderful, until I finally dilated, he wasn’t budging, he was at -3 for at least an hour and then they told me to try and push to bring him down.

    I pushed for about 45 minutes with no movement from him, he was still at -3 before they suggested the c section (later they tell me his head was stuck in my hip bone, basically presenting forehead).

    At this point I cried for my plans, I cried because the pain was back and it hurt like hell to push and I was just done so I said yeah, they gave me a bit more epidural and then off to the races. After they took the baby and were stitching me up I started to feel a bit more than I think I should, so I was like — Am I supposed to feel this, like there is a stitch, there is one, there is one. They gave me some gas. But I wasn’t all the way out. The nurse who was like I need ot push on your stomach now, I wanted to strangle her.

    Also, I ended up with a massive infection and abscess. I had to have a second surgery to clean the wound and was in the hospital for another week on intravenous antibiotics of all types. I had a wound vac installed and had to have a nurse come daily to change my wound vac dressing for about 2 months before I healed up. The only thing that did go to plan was that I was able to breast feed.

    Fast forward to my daughter’s birth, Everyone tells me a planned c section is so much easier…I changed doctors and hospitals, They gave me the option of a vbac, but I was scared by the fact of my healing on the last one and did not want to chance a rupture. So Planned c section at 39 weeks. This time I made it without any blood pressure drama. Came in early got vitals done, they cleaned me and we waited, they sent my husband to get scrubs while I would get the spinal.
    Sooooo 1 student anesthesiologist, and 2 experienced anesthesiologist later and about a thousand tries to dig into my spine (after I was black & blue up & down my spine for a good 6 inch length) a point where they hit a couple nerves and my leg was like “aahhh” , uncontrollable crying (I do not cry, I usually have a pretty high pain tolerance) and what seems like forever, they decide that I will be put under, by this point I am hyperventilating and my nose is full of snot so I have to blow and blow my nose and try to calm down before they can put the stuff on my face.

    The doctors are discussing the surgery as the gas is flowing and the last thing I hear is we should probably not close up the site and do a wound vac (I have a roll over the normal spot – I am fat and had a previous infection). So I wake up and in recovery, luckily I think the pushing on my uterus thing was done while I was still semi out. The first thing I ask is NOT where is the baby, its let me see let me see is it open?? hysterical crying —

    No I did not get a lovely wound vac instead they cut me above my roll meaning I have a incision scar about 2 inches south of my belly button that looks like a huge sad face. Later in the evening the nurses watching me notice that my stomach is purply black from my belly button down. After the doctor, comes in and basically insults me — says blah blah blah fat blah blah. Not even worth talking about, he says I probably lost more blood than they calculated based on BP too. So they give me blood. The first bag went fine.

    Its now the middle of the night, my husband has gone home to our son. By about 15-20 minutes into the second I tell the nurse I am very itchy. Did you know who can be allergic to blood that is your right blood type? I did not know this!

    She tells the doctor and (he doesn’t even bother coming in) and just says keep going and let him know if anything changes. So now its about 30 minutes and I am scratching like crazy and breathing funny and the nurse turns on the light to do vitals and she is like oh goodness, I’m covered in hives and she is just like crap, good thing she came in when she did because I started having trouble breathing and I have never seen so many nurses swarm into a room and move so fast, I got a shot of benedryl and oxygen. I called my husband to come back the next morning (he had work – yay crappy jobs) I wasn’t as bad but needed help with the baby moreso even.

    My belly was so black and blue even 4 weeks later and I started feeling a lump so I called in, they felt around and lo and behold I they want me to go get a scan to see whats going on. I go into doctor to get results and they want me to go back to hospital.

    I have a pocket of some type of fluid collection, pretty large, and apparently an abdominal hernia. in the spot of my last c section. They drain me and a spend a few days in hospital again. but luckily no wound vac and the fluid was not infectious, just apparently collecting. They can not fix the hernia for another 2 years, unless it becomes an emergency, so I heal before another abdominal surgery. My stomach has terrible scar tissue and if I over do it there is pain — my daughter is 9 months old, Dr says completely normal.

    I love my kids and would do it over again, but my husband and I have decided thats it, giving birth tries to kill me too much. I definitely think I got my stripes.

  • Birth however you need to birth. That’s what I’ve learned after 4 of them.

    For me, I realized that skin to skin contact right away was super important to me. I haven’t had a c-section, but ironically, the one time I went "all natural" with a midwife, was rather traumatic. Painful? Yes, definitely. Upside is there was very little pain after it was all over. Not much needed to heal. But she was whisked off to NICU right away, and I didn’t get to hold her and bond. And that affected me. It messed up my mothering…ness. I don’t know how else to describe it. Not everyone is like that, but the stress of the situation seriously compromised my identity of a mother, and it took this last pregnancy to get it back in its fullness.

    We didn’t plan on having a fourth, but I realized quickly why God had helped us along with a fourth child. She was a bit of a healing experience for me. I had an epidural, it was not "natural" as they say, but the hospital had a policy of one hour skin to skin right after birth. She didn’t leave my arms at all for hours, and it was glorious. I felt refreshed, renewed with vigor, and most importantly, very attached to baby Luna. (I’m very attached to all my kids of course! But there was a sort of instinct ignited with her that I didn’t know I had been without for a while. And that has made me better as a person and a mother to all four. Which I need…because there’s four of them and that’s bat crap crazy.)

    I didn’t even know I was missing that, but I was. And I’m glad I had it. So for me, vaginal birth was beautiful. It really was. But I love your perspective, and totally salute every mother in their journey. We’re all different. We all need different things.

  • I read so many wonderful tales of ‘natural’ chidbirth, and was extremely optimistic, especially about all the wonderful loving feelings that would explode out of me as angels sang and I held my new baby for the first time. Actually, it was shitty and traumatic. I am a competitive distance runner, and to the person who said ‘labor is no harder than an interval workout,’ um, NOT true. Such happy tales are exactly what led me to feel so betrayed and traumatized by my unmedicated vaginal birth. Dilation was just awful for me, and then I pushed for three hours, literally begging for someone to just rip me open. When I finally had my son in my arms, all I could think about was the fact that I was feeling all my stitches, the uterine ‘massage’ may possibly kill me, and why wouldn’t he stop screaming and snuggle up at my breast like all the natural birthies said he would??!! Where were all the loving feelings I was promised? I felt like I’d just been in a war. I had thought my way of birthing was the superior way, but truly, there is no good way out. That being said…I will probably do it again unmedicated, lol. Having a newborn is hard enough without recovering from abdominal surgery – C-section mammas are amazing, tough women who don’t get the admiration they deserve. Thrn again….what mamma does? 😉

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