My Birth Story: An Unexpected C-Section

by | Dec 13, 2022 | Motherhood, Pregnancy

In today’s post I’m sharing my birth story. Things did not go to plan, but in the end I believe she arrived the way she was meant to.

We welcomed our sweet Sadie Joy into the world on November 8th. A whirlwind of a birth it was. I am so grateful she is now here.

Despite my best efforts to achieve a birth I always dreamed of, things did not go to plan. I knew fundamentally that my plans could change but I didn’t think they actually would. But that’s just how things go sometimes. I learned a great lesson in releasing expectations.

This is the story of Sadie’s birth.

Preparing For Birth

For as long as I can remember I always wanted to have a natural, unmedicated birth. It was important to me that I have as few interventions as possible, if any. This is what I felt was best for me and my baby.

I’ve always been fascinated by birth and can recall flipping through the many childbirth books my mom had when I was a kid. In my twenties I even considered becoming a midwife or a doula as I had such a strong interest in the subject. I believe strongly in the power and wisdom of the female body and looked forward to having my own birth experience.

Once I got pregnant, my husband and I prepared ourselves with birth classes and I soaked up every bit of information I could on coping strategies for birthing without pain medication. I practiced exercises to help support baby’s positioning, worked with a pelvic floor therapist, and we hired a doula for additional support. I felt ready to take on this huge event. I knew that I was built for it.

I had a perfectly healthy, ordinary pregnancy and didn’t think anything could change my plans.

She’s Breech. Now What?

The first unexpected change to my birth plan was Sadie being breech. She had been breech since at least 28 weeks when I had a growth scan, although I didn’t expect her to remain that way. I was confident that she would flip. But at a 36 week scan to verify her position, she was still breech. Frank breech. I was distraught. I cried in front of the ultrasound technician. I cried even harder in the car. My baby being breech opened the doors to the likelihood of a caesarean; something I wanted to avoid at all costs.

Breech presentations account for roughly 3% of full-term babies. It’s not common. Where I live, delivering breech babies vaginally — particularly first-time moms — is not supported. My midwives couldn’t even assist breech deliveries. It’s a dying art so to speak and c-sections have become the standard. Because of this, I did not have much confidence in trying to pursue a breech delivery or locating a doctor that might be willing.

I tried every possible exercise and technique, including Spinning Babies and chiropractic adjustments, to get her to flip on her own. All to no avail.

After a lot of consideration, at 37 weeks and 2 days I decided to go ahead with a procedure called an External Cephalic Version (ECV) where a doctor tries to manually maneuver a breech baby into a head-down position from the outside of your belly. I was apprehensive as I’d heard it can be painful. I had fears that it might harm my baby. I struggled with knowing I’d be forcing her into a new position she didn’t intend to be in; that I was fiddling with fate in a way. But I went ahead with it, encouraged by my midwives and husband, knowing that the risks associated with a possible c-section were higher than that of an ECV.

To my surprise, the doctor successfully flipped our baby within a minute or less. It was uncomfortable in a deep pressure sort of way, but didn’t hurt. I was completely overjoyed. I couldn’t believe it. This meant I could resume my plans for the natural vaginal birth that I had always wanted.

False Labour & Going Overdue

I had Sadie at 41 weeks + 5 days, and let me tell you, going overdue is hard. It was a very emotional time for reasons beyond simply feeling ready to have our baby. I was so physically uncomfortable by this point, but I also began seeing others who were due around (or even after me) deliver their babies. I started to feel like something was wrong with my body. Why wasn’t I going into labour? What’s the hold up? I felt like I was letting others down every time a friend or family member would reach out. The giddy anticipation of going into labour came and went as I approached 42 weeks; it was no longer a fun and innocent wait, but a stressful and frustrating one. I was mad at my body and mad at others whose bodies seamlessly progressed.

The most frustrating part was that I’d been having mild contractions on and off for around two weeks. They felt like mild period cramps combined with a belly tightening like Braxton Hicks. Some days they could even be timed, and I’d excitedly input the data into a contraction timer app I downloaded on my phone, hoping they’d get closer and closer together. But the excitement quickly wore off as I realized these contractions never intensified and always tapered off. Day after day after day. It felt like my body was trying to go into labour but couldn’t quite get there.

I’d discussed induction with my midwives a few weeks prior, a casual conversation we had just so my preferences were noted. I did not want to be induced. I knew that one intervention often leads to another. But I also didn’t think I would even reach a point of considering induction. That said, I made the decision early on that 41+4 would be my personal limit for going overdue, if it came to that.

Getting Induced

My due date came and went. The 40th week crept by. I hit 41 weeks. 41 weeks and 1 day, 2 days, 3 days, and… 41 weeks 4 days. I had tried several “natural” induction methods that unfortunately didn’t work. I also requested a membrane sweep at 41 weeks but couldn’t have it done as I was not dilated enough. It’s during the 41st week where my fears started to creep in a lot more. All my false labour made me fearful that my baby was ready to come out but somehow wasn’t able to. I started to stress over the health of the placenta, even though two check-up scans proved it was functioning fine. I started taking horror stories of overdue women to heart.

On Monday November 7th I had an induction scheduled. I didn’t want it to have to come to this. I hated that it had, but by this point I felt open to trying to give my body a nudge. I hoped my body would kick into gear with just a little help, then do the rest on its own.

We were expecting a call around 7:30am to go into the hospital to get things started, but it wasn’t until 8pm that night that they told us to come in.

We arrived at 8pm and had to wait about four hours to see the OB. Finally, a little after midnight, Tuesday November 8th, I was checked and still barely 1cm dilated. The OB noted that baby was still not very low in my pelvis. She suggested we try a cervical prostaglandin gel to help soften my cervix, and around 12:30am, I received my first dose.

They told us that I may not notice anything, or perhaps a bit of cramping, but to just go home and try to get some sleep. But within minutes of the application, I unexpectedly began contracting strongly every two minutes lasting a minute or so. This continued for a couple hours as they monitored me and at 3am they assured us it was best to go home and try to sleep, to which both my husband and I thought was odd considering the frequency and intensity of my contractions.

We get home, get in bed, and I writhed in pain with back to back contractions until about 4:30am.

And then I feel a pop. My water breaks.

I tell my husband and I frantically get out of bed. I was absolutely hysterical. For some reason my water breaking really scared me as there was so much more liquid than I expected. The water was also slightly murky. After calling our midwife and doula in a frenzy (who told us it was probably meconium) we headed back to the hospital around 5am.

We were admitted right away and got moved into a birthing suite around 7am. Our doula Michelle (such an angel!) arrived around 10am. I was still having regular strong contractions and coping really well. I experimented with various positions, a birthing ball, and a TENS machine to help me find comfort.

Around 11am my midwife checked me. I had still not dilated at all; I was barely 1 cm and baby was still high. I was really disappointed because I’d been labouring for 9 hours or so by this point. This is when she suggested we get started on pitocin (synthetic oxytocin). I was bummed as I wanted to try to birth without an epidural and knew that pitocin can make things much stronger.

I coped really well for maybe two hours with pitocin until the contractions started becoming unbearable.I was reaching a point where I was unable to manage even the thought of another one coming. I started telling my team that I didn’t think I could do this anymore. I hoped that at the very least I’d dilated a good amount which would be encouraging. At this point, I had also not slept for close to 40 hours.

Failure to Progress

I continued to labour for a while longer which by this point was pure, searing agony. I knew the pitocin was responsible for these unmanageable contractions. My midwife finally checked me at 2:30pm. Still 1cm dilated. Baby is still high.

I couldn’t believe this. It didn’t seem right or fair that I could be in this much pain for this length of time with no progress. The news broke me and any tiny ounce of strength I had left. I was failing to progress.

I knew I absolutely could not do this anymore and I requested an epidural immediately. The anesthesiologist could not come fast enough. He arrived probably 15 minutes later and I got the epidural. It was such a relief. I cried to my midwife, doula and husband that I had tried my absolute hardest, to which they reassured me I was doing amazing. I was really proud of myself for how long I laboured. I truly gave it my all. The hope was that the epidural could also help me dilate because I could relax. I’d long since let go of my birth plan by this point.

Around 4pm my midwife checked me again. I was about 2cm dilated and baby was a little bit lower. We had a mini celebration! It was exciting to know I had made a little bit of progress.

But this excitement rapidly wore off as I was informed that baby had been having heart decelerations over an extended period of time after I would contract. This indicated that she was not coping well with the labour process. They had me changing positions every few minutes to see if that helped in the event that her umbilical cord was being pinched, reducing placental blood flow.

Nothing was helping. The pitocin was turned off. My midwife came to my bedside and gently expressed her and the healthcare teams concerns. She told me that a c-section was recommended and likely where this was headed.

This is where I mentally started to detach, partly because I was sleep deprived beyond measure, but also as a coping mechanism. I felt numb. Defeated. Emotionless. Probably in shock. My husband asked many questions to try to understand what was happening.

The OB came into the room along with a handful of nurses and started explaining what was happening and what to expect. She gave us the option of turning pitocin up again to see if baby improved. But intuitively, I knew that wasn’t the right thing to do. I knew in my heart that my baby was going to arrive by c-section. I knew that’s what she needed.

I finally broke down and cried under the weight of the situation.

The C-Section

Sometime after 5pm I was prepped to go to the OR and it all happened so fast. They ramped up my epidural so I was ultra numb and pumped me with all kinds of drugs that made me feel loopy and dizzy. My husband entered in his scrubs. They began the surgery. I breathed as slowly as I could to try to control my racing anxiety. I informed the doctors that I was going to pass out. I was injected with a drug to wake me up.

After a few minutes I hear the OB say “happy birthday!” My baby cries out. It was perhaps the most surreal moment of my life. I couldn’t believe a baby just came out of me. I burst into tears.

I see them take her over to a checkup table (she looked and sounded great thankfully) and I cried “it’s a baby! It’s a baby! I want to see her!” I couldn’t believe this little person was here.

I held her for a few moments with support from my midwife and husband (because I was so weak) before being wheeled into the birthing suite we were previously in. I don’t recall this happening. In this room I nursed Sadie for the first time which I couldn’t feel because I was numb all the way up my chest from the epidural. This upset me. But, Sadie nursed wonderfully from the start and we never had any breastfeeding challenges. I requested to see my placenta and they brought it over to show me. I marvelled at it.

We were later moved into a shared recovery ward that was truly quite awful while waiting until the next day for a private room. I lay on a bed. Our walls were drapes. Dozens of other parents with new babies surrounded us. My husband slept on the floor. Sadie lay on a bassinet beside me. She was handed to me for feeds and snuggles as I was immobile from my surgery. We barely slept; any chance we got was disrupted constantly by noises, nurses checking on my incision, taking my blood pressure, giving me pain medication, encouraging me to try walking and going to the bathroom, and assessing Sadie. My memories of this are not positive, though I do recall feeling grateful to the nurses who cared for me.

We were finally moved into a private room the next day, and then went home the day after. The first week or so postpartum was really rough.

My Thoughts on My Birth

My birth experience was the opposite of what I hoped for, in every way. It was a combination of scary and surreal and intense and honestly a hazy sort of dream. We found out that the cord was wrapped tightly around her neck and is what may have caused the heart decelerations (as I’d contract, the cord would tighten). It may have also contributed to her inability to engage properly in my pelvis and descend. But really, I’ll never know why things happened the way they did. I can question things. And I have. Should I have waited longer? Should I not have induced? I don’t have the answers. There’s no way of knowing what kind of outcome there would have been with a different set of decisions made. A better outcome, or a much worse outcome. What I do know is that I made decisions based on the circumstances I was under that felt right for myself and my baby.

I didn’t get to have the dreamy natural birth I always envisioned. But I can be grateful that I’ve had so many other good things: conceiving quickly and easily, a healthy pregnancy, a seamless breastfeeding experience, and a perfectly healthy daughter.

I did everything I could to avoid a c-section, including a successful ECV. But it came full circle and I know that our Sadie was destined to be born via caesarean. It’s our own special story.

by Meghan Livingstone

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1 Comment

  1. Buket

    congratulations meghan .you are so strong

    Reply

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Meghan Livingstone, CNP

Hi, I’m Meghan. I’m a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, blogger, and YouTuber with a passion for healthy, simple living. I’m here to inspire you to listen to your body, eat wholesomely, and create a fulfilling life.