April 4, 2016

Thomas Emil's Birth Story -or- C-Sections Are Weird

Baby Tee is three months old now and it's taken me that long to type up his birth story, mostly because I didn't know what the birth story really was. There was not water breaking. No timing contractions. No pushing and catching. Having a planned c-section meant everything was done to me and that was so weird for me that I didn't know what to tell. But, in the end, I want to have some sort of written record of all my kids' births so I'm including all the little things I can remember and piecing them together does make a story. You can read about his name and backstory here, and here goes the rest...

On Monday, December 21st I had an appointment with my midwife, a truly wonderful woman. While I was pregnant with Ben she was training with my homebirth midwife and cared for me at all my appointments. She delivered Resa and JP. She has supported me through homebirth, an unmedicated hospital birth, an induced and medicated hospital birth, and has listened to my fears associated with all of my births. I trust her a great deal. We'll call her Anne.

With Baby Tee's pregnancy I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes for the first time. I know what you're thinking, "Bonnie, you had three babies who weighed over ten pounds and two who weighed over eleven. How were you only diagnosed with GD once?" and I don't know. One doctor suggested that I maybe had late onset with would make sense because I tested a month later this time than I had with previous pregnancies.

Regardless, I had it and I pricked my finger and changed my diet and saw a high risk doctor because of it. I also had a lot more ultra sounds than usual and at 37 weeks the sonographer guessed the baby was weighing 9lbs 14oz. So on that Monday, at 38 weeks pregnant, my trusted midwife Anne asked me if the high risk doctor had a birth plan for me. He didn't. Anne and I were considering inducing on the afternoon of Christmas Day, 39 weeks exactly, but she told me to discuss it with the high risk doctor the next day, at my scheduled appointment.

So Tuesday I went to the high risk doctor. A different sonographer measured my baby and guessed he was weighing 10lbs 14oz. The doctor came in to see me and we began to discuss my birth history. Big babies. Three had gotten stuck with shoulder dystocia, though they had been freed with the suprapubic pressure trick. One had been stillborn.

He listened and asked me questions and I explained that I had had a bad experience with the epidural the last time and was really nervous about having another one. I would actually prefer to feel the pain and not have another epidural. After some more discussion he said, "I think we need to do a planned c-section. I think that's the safest and best bet." I explained that I was game for that as long as they could knock me out. I would much rather not be awake for it because I didn't want anyone putting anything in my spine. He said he didn't know about that and I'd need to talk to the anesthesiologist and my ob but it was a possibility. That was all I needed.

I was so glad to have someone else make that decision for me. I had spent months worrying about it and trying to decide what I should do, what kind of birth I should have. It was wonderful having someone say, "This is the best option; we will go with this." It was exactly what I needed.

The ob/gyn my midwife works with was scheduled to perform the c-section and December 29th was picked. I had a DQ Blizzard and had Travis set up the crib.

On the morning of the 29th I went to the hospital. I had my Boppy, an outfit for Tee to wear home, my laptop, and a change of clothes. My hips / SI joints hurt so much and I wore slippers on my feet.

And then it was just a series of people doing things to me. Putting in the IV, prepping me here and there, asking me questions, having me sign forms.

I was nervous. Really, really nervous. I made sure the nurse knew I wanted to be knocked out. She told the anesthesiologist who came in and, in a sorta cranky way, told me that wasn't a good option and I would have a spinal tap. In and out, not a lot of kindness from her, just facts. We'll call her Sue.

Next, my trusted midwife appeared. Anne had another patient in labor at the same hospital but would probably be able to be in the room with me during the c-section. She asked how I was doing and Travis and I explained about the anesthesiologist and my preference. "You know what, I trust Sue but she probably just doesn't understand everything you've gone through. She's great and she'll take care for you and there's honestly no one else I would want you with. I'll talk to her." Anne then stayed to explain how a spinal tap is different than an epidural and said she thought I would have a much better experience this time. She left to fine Sue and Travis and I felt better about the spinal tap option.

After a few minutes Sue came back with Anne and this time she was much warmer. She explained in detail how she would do the spinal tap, asked me questions about my epidural, reassured me that this would be very different and brought Travis and I to a place where we both felt good about it, though I was still nervous.

My c-section had been planned for 1:30 but another delivery made the doctor, Dr. K, late so we waited a bit longer. I fidgeted and worried and prayed. We tried making small talk and I posted some pictures to Facebook and Instagram. And then just like that it was Go time.

I was wheeled to the surgery room. Travis was taken somewhere else to suit up. I sat on the edge of the table, holding a nurses shoulders while Sue gave me the spinal tap. She hit the same spot that had bothered me with the epidural and pain shot down into my right hip. Just as we had discussed, though, Sue pulled the needle out and found a different location. There was no pain this time, suddenly my legs felt incredibly heavy, and they swung me around and laid me down. My arms went out, a sheet went up, and Travis came in from behind to sit with me at my head.

Anne came in with her phone and asked if we wanted her to take pictures. "Yes."

Dr. K came in with a resident, Dr. M, and everyone was in a good mood.

I felt... weird. I was worried. I was anxious. I knew everything would be okay but at the same time I was - well I think I was dreading it all. The only surgery I had ever had before was getting my wisdom teeth removed and well, this was such a weird way to have a baby.

I don't remember a ton, probably because of all the drugs I was on, but this is what I do remember:

Tugging and jerking and me thinking, "If I can't feel anything but I can tell they are tugging at my body, how much force must they be using?"

Dr. K saying, "Look at those cheeks!" as he first laid eyes on baby Tee but before he was delivered.

Tee being held up for me to see as people guessed his weight as "at least ten pounds!" and taken to the cart at the side. Travis was invited over and I sort of watched as Tee was cleaned up and weighed.

His weight was announced - 10lbs 7oz - and I remember thinking, "I could have done that" - as in delivered him.

I next remember Dr. K saying to the resident, "This placenta is going to weigh 10lbs!" as they worked to finish the delivery and then, "This is a very big uterus." as they cleaned out all the extra... bits and bobs. The first comment was said lightheartedly and people chuckled. The second comment was part of a direction, I think. Either way, neither was insulting, though they could be read that way.

At some point they brought Tee over to lay on my chest and it was just as awkward as every picture has ever made it out to be. I'm glad I got to hold him and see him, but I still felt so strange that it wasn't a really tender moment. I was relieved when Travis and Tee were taken to the nursery while they finished stitching me up.

I don't remember any of the other details. I was all done and moved to the post-op room for monitoring and it was there that I really met my baby. Travis and Tee came in and I was able to hold him, nurse him, and look him over. I know I joked with Travis a bit and I wasn't in any pain.

From there they took me to my room where I was visited by my mom, JP, Travis, and my midwife Anne. I watched a lot of Netflix - The Great British Baking Show, Ken Burns' documentary on The Roosevelts - and celebrated my 9th anniversary by splitting the hospital's chicken strips and french fries with Travis. Amore.

Because of the diabetes there were issues with Tee's blood sugar and in the end we had to give him a few bottles and wake him up to nurse and feed on a schedule. Nursing wasn't always the smoothest but there was success to balance the frustration.

Travis spent the first night with me but I was alone the next couple nights. The second night there I was so uncomfortable. I hated the bed and Tee wouldn't sleep and nothing was right. My nurse offered to hold my baby while I showered and slept. She turned the water on and helped me in and - oh man! - that was probably the best shower of my life! She kept Tee while I slept for quite a few hours and when she finally brought him in to nurse I felt so much better.

I also chatted with Dr. M the resident every chance I got. I just loved her and I loved joking around with her. Once she came to check on the incision and commented on how nice it looked.
"Do you know who did that?" she asked with a big smile on her face.
"You should take a selfie with it."
She busted out laughing and said, "I'd be fired!"

Another time she came in as I was wincing and shuffling my way to the bathroom.
"Are you okay?!" she asked after I cried out a little in pain.
"Well," I said as I grabbed her arm, "I did just have major abdominal surgery."
Laughing she said, "Yes. Yes, you did."

Gosh, I'd like to pop in to take her lunch and visit with baby Tee.

When I was finally able to come home it was heavenly to be in my own bed again. For the first several days I spent much of my time napping, watching more Netflix, and spending time with Tee. The bottles we had had to give him made nursing more difficult and so much time was spent doing skin to skin and coaxing him to only nurse. In the midst of it all it felt like an epic battle and I'm so glad Travis gently reminded me that we'd had similar problems before and I could do it. (Although to this day Tee rarely nurses on my right side.)

 My mom moved in with us for a couple of weeks and she would get up with the baby, change him, wake me, sleep on the sofa while I nursed him in the recliner, send me back to bed, burp him, and get him back to sleep. For the first couple weeks I spent most of my night sleeping and Mom spent much of the day napping. It worked out remarkably well and my healing went very smoothly.

But c-sections are funny things. I don't really feel like I gave birth to my son; it seems much more that something was done to me. The process of giving birth - of pushing a baby out and feeling all the contractions and pressure and pain - that was so very different than Tee's delivery, where all I did was lie on a table and worry. It's not that the other births feel more victorious.  I don't know. I can't explain it really except to say it was weird.

The soundtrack to Thomas Emil's pregnancy and early days:


  1. "This is a very big uterus."
    Dude, where do you think babies live for nine months?? Haha, I don't want to know how big mine is. It's a nice cozy homes for babies, it should probably be on the large side.
    I'm just so proud of you, Bonnie. This was a really big deal, and I think you did so great! You should be so proud of your beautiful boy and how much you did for him. xx

  2. Thank you for writing your c-section story, Bonnie. I feel like I've met so many women with horror stories about c-section births, and it doesn't always have to be awful. Maybe I'll write my c-section story one day!

  3. In the end only God knows how they are coming out :) I try to remind myself of that through the pregnancy, that it can go any way possible. I think your birth story sounded very nice, not traumatic, and Tee was big so hopefully you feel like it was the best decision! The way you said the birth was like something being done to you - I feel that way the most through my natural labors. It feels like I can't control anything and it's all just happening to me and I hate it. It's funny that two very different labors can lead two women to feeling the same way. I'm glad everybody was healthy and happy in the end, and happy belated anniversary!

    1. That IS so funny! In labor there was so much I could do to (different positions, taking pain meds, etc) so I felt like I was in control. Gosh, it probably seems silly but I am still processing all of it and hadn't made that connection! Thank you!

      But yes, it wasn't traumatic and I do feel a lot of peace. This has, hands down, been the best recovery I've ever had because I am so well rested! Physically the recovery has been similar to my natural births, just the pain was in a different place.

    2. My c-section had a very similar feeling - it was the end of a very long and hard road and I felt in control by giving the control to someone else. If that makes sense?

  4. I've had the different types of births like you and wanted to hear what you thought of the c-section --- and I would probably summarize it with the same word --- weird. I recently had my first VBAC with number seven and the recovery....so much easier than the c-section. I'm glad no one has ever commented on the size of my uterus; I'm pretty sure it's on the plus-size like the rest of me, lol. I'm glad your recovery went well -- hugs to you and Tee!

  5. Bonnie, thank you for sharing this story and experience! I'm a first time mom, and I'm hoping and planning for an unmedicated vaginal birth, but I know that unexpected things can happen, and that I could always wind up having a c-section. But, the thought of having a c-section has always freaked me out, especially after watching a video of a woman having one! Hearing about your experience really helps put me at ease in case I have to have one of these at some point :) Thanks!

  6. That's so great that you were able to rest so much with your recovery! My mom comes to help but she can't stay all that long and she wouldn't be able to do nights with the baby anyway. But you have to take it easy with a c-section recovery. Well, I think you have to take it easy no matter what type of birth you have, but it seems like some ladies can just bounce back like rubber bands! Not me. :)

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I hate this about myself, but I still feel rather defensive about my c-sections since they're so unpopular amongst Catholic moms, so it smarts a little that you said they're weird. But at the same time, I understand. I've never had vaginal births so I wouldn't know what that's like, but I do know the whole process of going in for a scheduled c-section is surreal. That said, I'm grateful they're an option. :)

    1. Sorry it smarts. It just was so weird, such an odd, odd experience. I tried thinking of a different word but in the end that was my experience. And to be fair, I've been honest about how uncomfortable it makes me to think about how I pushed out an 11 pound baby and didn't need stitches. Both sides have their awkwardness for me! Maybe it's me that's weird! lol

      And I'm sorry you have that opinion that they are unpopular amongst Catholic moms. I know many Catholic moms who have had c-sections, bloggers and neighbors both. You have to do what's best for you and baby!

    2. Oh, that's why I said I hate that about myself! I need to have confidence and peace in my decision. I know I did the right thing, it's just hard to feel that way when among my family and friends, the vast majority of whom have experienced birth the old fashioned way. It's hard being the quiet one in a group of women talking about their amazing birth stories. Anyway, I'm just overly sensitive, that's all! But like I said, I do understand what you meant and I'm sure I'd understand even more if I had experienced vaginal births as well.

    3. Ellen- I'm not sure it's over sensitivity. I have def. felt a sense among other moms, especially via the blogs...that having a child via c-section is somehow 'less than' or even 'less holy' (which makes me L-O-L). The 'weird' didn't send off my offended sensors because I think all births are super weird. The whole darn thing about growing children in our bodies is weird, in the most awesome way.

    4. One out of my seven births was a c-section and "weird" really does describe it (and that includes a car birth!). I think because your body is so numb but you can feel all of the tugging and then suddenly there's a baby! Not meant in a mean way...but it's very different feeling.

      After going through medicated/unmedicated, hospital/homebirth, and vaginal/c-section/VBAC births, I admire the moms who willingly go through multiple c-sections the most. You have to be pretty darn tough to go through those recoveries repeatedly!

    5. This is probably a silly literary reference given the topic. The comment about birthing the old fashioned way made me think of macbeth, killed by macduff, who was born by c section. I've always thought it was cool that the plot turned on such a miracle of what is usually considered modern medicine.

  7. Thank you for sharing this, Bonnie. You wrote it beautifully, simply, honestly, lovingly. You're an amazing mom and woman and your children are blessed to have you. Regardless of the details of the birth, it was a gift of love from you to your baby and it sounds like you were treated with dignity and care. Thanks be to God!

  8. I love Baby Tee's birth story. I'm so proud of you, Burn. Love you!

  9. What a journey you had throughout this pregnancy. He is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your honest experience. It's so helpful for many moms who've experienced anxiety over planned C's. Love you both!!

  10. I'm so glad you shared his birth story, Bonnie! I think more than anything, what I'm taking away from it is how important it is for women to have care providers who we trust completely; who know our histories and always keep them in mind, who put our own unique circumstances above any specific ideology of birth, and who advocate for us as real people and not as "patients". I'm so inspired by your relationship with Ann, and thank God for Thomas' precious life!

  11. Bonnie- I feel you on the anxiety portion. I always hate the hour or two before waiting for my c-sections. I pray through the whole things for a sense of calm, and have asked my doctor every time if I could be knocked out (the answer is always no because it's less safe). The tugging is so weird. With my last one, she got stuck coming out, so at one point a doctor had to almost climb on the table to position herself to pull. At that point, I started crying and asking Aaron to pray outloud with me. Geez, I wish they could knock me out... :)

  12. I've had 3 unmedicated vaginal deliveries. For two, the epidurals didn't work. The other was born in 40 minutes, so no time for meds. We barely made it to the hospital before he was born.

    Because of my history with fast labors and big babies, we did a scheduled induction with my 3rd. That was the weirdest part to me. Scheduling your delivery. That's what I thought of when you were talking about having DQ Blizzard and packing up your laptop and stuff. It's the scheduling of the birth that seems the weirdest to me. C-section, induction - however it happens, I feel like it's weird to pick your baby's birthday....

    It all worked out beautifully for our family. We scheduled the induction for a Saturday morning. Grandparents showed up Friday night to pick up the older kids. Husband and I had a lovely date night. We went to the hospital at 8 am on Saturday. Dr broke my water and a few hours later we had a baby girl.

    You're not the only one who thinks some aspects of labor and giving birth are weird :) We all have something that just doesn't go according to our plan.

    Baby Tee is adorable :)

  13. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Bonnie! Thomas is just so beautiful and I'm so glad you were treated with respect and love during his birth! And wow, I think a whole lot of us are in awe of the generosity of your mom! What a gift!

  14. C-Sections ARE weird. I had two. I still don't understand how I can remember EVERY detail from the spinal block to them stitching me up, but I can't remember a darn thing in post-op. It's absolutely crazy to me. Thanks for sharing your stories! :)

  15. Oh, and let's not forget that period of time when the feeling in your legs/torso start coming back. I just wanted to wiggle my toes, dang it!

  16. The way you describe "people doing things to me" is probably why my c-section was not a good experience for me. Going into my first birth, I thought I was going to be the one doing the work of labor and childbirth, and it then turned into doctors and nurses doing the things I "couldn't." I think this is a common feeling of helplessness and failure that c-section moms have, especially when it is unexpected. I think now if I were to go in for a planned c-section I would have more peace with it. Now I just how much work lies ahead of me in the feeding, diapering, putting to sleep, and all the other care that goes into the next 18 years! At the time of my first birth it just felt weird to not get to do the task I thought was mine to do. Now I know that was only the very beginning of the work. :)

  17. Thank you for sharing! I have looked forward to Tee's birth story. I have done a variety of births, including inductions, unplanned (though not emergency) c-section, VBAC, and planned c-section, and I can say that the planned c-section was my least favorite. I still felt like I had "given birth", but the prep has a surreal feeling to it, and my recovery was the least pleasant (though the nurses said I recovered well). But, it ended up with a healthy mom and baby, which is the point. Now that I've had two c-sections, though, as far as I know in my area I have to have c-sections in the future, which makes me a little sad. My favorite birth experience was my VBAC, so if you ever have another baby that may be an option. :-)

  18. Thanks so much for writing Thomas' birth story, Bonnie! I had an emergency c-section with my son, 21 months ago, and am now 26 weeks pregnant, hoping for a VBAC but prepared for the possibility of another c-section. Your story has helped me process parts of my son's birth that I hadn't quite dealt with yet.

    Since my c-section was emergent, the doctors did knock me out completely and my husband wasn't allowed in the operating room with me. I woke up a couple hours later and saw pictures of my son before he was brought to me; he had been monitored in the NICU for a little while because there had been tons of meconium in the amniotic fluid. It did really feel like the birth had been done to me; I woke up and had a new baby and had literally no memories of how that had happened. It was incredibly surreal and still is. If I end up having another c-section, I'm really looking forward to being more fully present and aware of what's happening and getting to meet my baby right away. I had a pretty easy recovery from my c-section, in some ways much easier than the vaginal delivery I had with my daughter, so I'm at peace with that part of the process at least.

  19. Oh he is beautiful!!! Good job mama! I have had GD twice (and likely late set on 2 other pregnancies), it can be such a challenge and very stressful. You should be so proud! God bless you and your beautiful family!

  20. Haha, big uterus, nice...I had pelvic measurements done with my first big baby. The midwife was feeling around for my pelvic bones and she was like,"Oh yeah...you could pass a 12 pounder through here..." Um...thanks?