Friday, December 7, 2007

How I Got Here

This will get a little long, so if you're interested enough to read, you may want to grab a cup of tea and get comfy.

This is not intended to be a "pity party". Simply a little explanation of where I'm coming from, for those of you who've been asking hard questions of me.

In 2004 I was 23 and became pregnant with my first child, a little girl. Everything was fine for the first 5 weeks, then the 6th week, my world fell apart.

I began to have what I thought was morning sickness. It began when I woke in the morning and lasted all day. Often I couldn't even sleep because my head was hanging over the toilet. Those were the good days, the ones where I could camp out in the bathroom with my head on the cool toilet. On the bad days, I couldn't make it off the living room floor and had to simply turn my head to vomit. Eventually though, even the vomiting wasn't that bad because there was no food in my stomach to come up, it was just a yellowish, acidic bile.

I saw several different OBs, but none of them diagnosed my problem. Even though by my 12th week I had lost 30lbs. One OB said it was just morning sickness, another said to suck on a lemon. I bought 6 lbs of lemons and pierced them, one by one, with a fork and sucked...sucked...sucked faithfully.

All during this time, my husband was away on business. When he came home he found me on the living room floor, barely able to lift my head with a towel soaked with bile next to me. He called my OB, who asked when last ate (3 days ago), drank (yesterday), and urinated (couldn't remember). The OB told my husband to take me to the emergency room.

The ER doctor FINALLY diagnosed my problem, hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). It's a pregnancy disease. You can read more about it at I was given a drug called Zofran in my iv at the ER, and was able to actually eat before I even left the hospital. It's a VERY expensive drug, but our insurance was wonderful and we only had a small co-pay.
Here is the poem I wrote about my HG experience:
I am an HG survivor

I’m getting it out I’m getting it out
Rage, scream, cry, tear, punch, shout
I need you to see
Oh, just need you to see
This isn’t the way it was supposed to be
the way—
I wanted
to be
The howls, my bowels the vomit and pain
My face in the toilet again and again
Food in and food out and when it was through
Up came my insides, and—
nobody knew
Locked in my house, crushed on the floor
Still up, up it came more—more!
Why didn’t they come
there was no rescue
there was just me and the floor and the bile
and yet you
did nothing
my misery, my torture I—
broken, weak helpless
No one could have cared—
And then they cut me
Even taking the Zofran several times a day, I was getting sick 4 or 5 times a day, until my baby was "born". Shortly after I began taking the Zofran, I began smelling a stench in my house. Nobody else smelled it, but it was so strong that it made me vomit. I literally could not step foot inside my house. My husband and I spent the month of July at his grandmother's beach cottage, then he moved back to our house while I stayed with my grandmother for the month of August. At the end of August my husband borrowed an ozone machine and used it in our house, then I was able to tolerate being inside of it. Then in September we were hit with a devastating hurricane, hurricane Ivan. It was a strong category three and left our city shell-shocked. We were without power for 6 days and had to stand in line for food and water. The national guard patrolled the streets in armored vehicles at night. I was 6 months pregnant.

At the end of October, my baby was diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). She wasn't growing very well. My husband and I had been planning and preparing for an unmedicated hospital birth.

However, that changed on the night of January 12, 2005. I had a regular prenatal appointment scheduled for 8 pm. My doula met me there because we had planned to go over my birth plan with the OB that night. I had the little pink and blue belts on my belly, monitoring the baby for 20 minutes, like they did at every appointment since being diagnosed with IURG. Something didn't sound right, and the OB said I should go straight to the hospital. I looked at my doula, and she said we probably should. My doula drove me to the hospital and my husband met us there. After some monitoring at the hospital, it was decided that I should have a c-section because my baby's heart rate was showing no "variability", and the mild braxton hicks contractions I was experiencing, but not feeling, were causing her some amount of stress. I think the big concern was all this coupled with the fact that she was so small.

So, that night at 8pm I was in my OBs office for a simple prenatal appointment, and at 10:27 p.m., my baby was cut from my abdomen. It was very fast. I had no time to think, no time to prepare. She was 3lbs, 10oz at 37 weeks, 1 day. She was perfectly healthy and like every other newborn in every way except she was just tiny. We both stayed in the hospital for 5 days, then we were discharged and I was sent home with a 3lb, 10oz baby to care for.

Once home, few people visited me. No one cared for me. My husband was gone all day at work. I was in extraordinary pain from the c-section. I was very depressed. I cried constantly. Still, no one cared. Breastfeeding was a disaster, but I pumped my milk for a year.

Six months after that horrifying night, I wrote this poem about my experience:


To think of myself as an animal
Led to the slaughter
Not really choosing
They stripped me
They shaved me
They shot me
Full of fear
So I'd be losing
All the feeling
But the feeling never goes
I heard 'oh you won't feel anything'
When I couldn't move my toes
First the needle
Then the knife
And they say that it's all right
They say I'll feel some tugging
But I don't, I just feel nothing
I was screened from my body
It's bloody
The baby, where's my baby
There's the baby
Could be anybody's baby
They take it away
And I'm left on the table
I want to be happy
But right now I'm not able
To see past the blood and the light
And the screen
Strapped to a table
The end of the dream
Gutted and cold
In pain and alone
Unable to speak, or to cry or
To moan
But the hate
And the anger
And the pain
Will subside
After I've grieved

I won't have the nightmares
Or wake with such fright
I'll think back and smile
On that terrible night
My wonderful baby
So tiny and pink
At that moment all I could
Of was my pain and my fear
But what about you?
So cold and so scared
So little, so new
I look in your eyes
And I know what to do
I'll weep and I'll mourn
Then I'll tuck it away
Doesn't mean it's not there
But I'll keep it at bay

So now when I think about how
My baby came into this world
I choose to think of myself as an oyster
And my beautiful baby,
the pearl.

Amazingly, around my baby's first birthday my husband and I decided we'd like another child. I became pregnant when my c-section baby was 13 months old. We found a midwife and planned a home waterbirth.

My labor began very gradually, very uneventfully. I didn't even realize it was "labor" at first, I just remember waking that first night thinking "why am I cramping so much??" and then I'd go back to sleep. This is about a week after my due date. By Wednesday, November 22nd (2006), I had my midwife, doula, the two assistants, my mother, MIL, daughter, a few sisters (I have 5) at my home, all preparing to witness this beautiful birth. I was 7 cm at 7am, and everyone "predictions" were that my baby boy would be born before dinner that night.

But my sweet little boy would not be born in the comfort of his own home. After over 50 hours of labor, 10 of those hours spent at 7 cm, the decision was made to transfer to the hospital. My baby was in a bad position. My midwife tried several things to try to help him reposition, she even tried manually pushing his head back up to he could reposition it (most PAINFUL thing I've ever experienced, and I'm speaking as a woman who's had a cesarean!). She said we could try breaking my water and doing a honey enema. I was uncomfortable having my water broken because baby's head was still so high and I was concerned about a cord prolapse, but I agreed to the honey enema. It did make the contractions get a little closer and stronger, but still no more dialation.

So my doula and I were racing around my bedroom trying to pack a bag for the hospital, so we could get there before my midwife's back up doc left. He's a great doctor and surgeon, and I know that we all felt I was going to the hospital for a repeat c-section. I was heartbroken, yelling at my uterus all the way to the hospital, telling it to just quit contracting because it was getting cut again.

By the time we got to the hospital though, I was found to be 9 cm. FINALLY! So, I labored for a bit longer, and pushed my posterior, asynclitic, nunchal handed and nunchal corded baby boy out in 45 minutes. He came very fast, the doctor wasn't even prepared. He lay on the bed between my legs and he was a whitish-gray color. I thought he was dead. The doctor rubbed his back vigorously and he had to be deep suctioned. He was fine though. Apgars were 2 and 9. I had a nasty 2nd degree tear, BUT... I'd take that over the c-section ANY day.

After the euphoria of my vbac wore off, I was depressed again. I had another small baby, at just 5lbs, 2oz at 41 weeks. Plus, his birth was so similar to my daughter's. Someone else's hands were the first to touch my baby. I didn't get to hold him right away, and he was already wiped and wrapped when i did get to see him. I didn't feel him come out. I was in a hospital and had tubes in my arms. I was pretty sad. However, he was born the evening before thanksgiving, and I was VERY thankful for my little guy!

To learn more about cesarean prevention, please visit


LaborNurse said...

I have read every single post on your site, and I applaud your choices of articles, based solidly in evidence and journalistic integrity. I applaud your poetry, which is wraught with raw emotion and seems that it could be ver cathartic for not only you, but also for other women on the site. My concern is with the one-sided view you present. Many women had very painful vaginal births, including me, that resulted in sexual dysfunction and pain for years. Many women have had "seamless" c-sections, with minimal pain and family centered care. Your view implies that your baby was "ripped" from your abdomen without your permission. I hope this is simply wordplay to describe emotion and not how feel things really occurred. you have a choice...we all have choices. You drove yourself to the hospital and allowed yourself to have a c-section. The doctor isn't the "bad guy" here. He/she made a recommendation that you chose to take. Thankfully, you have a healthy baby as evidence that the choice was not in vain. I'm sure you've heard this all before. However, I can tell you something you may not have heard...I witnessed a fetal demise recently. Via fetal monitoring (which we all know does not increase outcomes but does increase c-section rate) I watched a minimally reactive strip with decelerations like you describe go from bad, to worse, to no heartbeat at all...all for the sake of avoiding a c-section at the request of the patient and support of the MD. I hope that your site empowers women who to make informed choices (such as you deciding on a VBAC! Yea!), but also that it helps you to heal the wounds of a choice that you made where it seems that no other choice would have ended with the same outcome...