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Comments OffApril 20, 2014

Kristen’s Homebirth Cesarean Story: It’s Not About Me

We planned for a natural homebirth.

Homebirth Cesarean

Homebirth Cesarean

Around 4am I woke up with cramping. I think it had been going on for a while and I had slept through it. By 4:30 I realized that the cramps were mild contractions and that they were coming regularly, about 10 minutes apart. I got up to pee and then woke my husband Nate up and told him that I thought things were happening, but that it was just the beginning so we should try to relax. We marveled at the fact that this was the day before my due date.

After about an hour, I needed to move around so we got up. I felt the need to straighten things up and get organized. Nate went to work setting up the birth pool so it would be ready when we needed it. The midwife had specifically instructed me to stay out of the pool until she was there. She wanted to be sure I was far enough along in labor since getting in too early could relax the body too much and cause labor to stall.

A few hours later, we called our midwife. She got here around 1pm and could tell by looking at me that I had a long way to go. She checked me and I was at 4 cm. That really helped to give me some perspective so I knew where I was. We agreed that she would go do a few other appointments and we would call her when things progressed. Nate and I thought we would just try to distract ourselves and watch movies, but as soon as she left (around 2pm), things really picked up. Contractions started coming every 3 minutes and were much stronger, lasting about a minute. This marked the start of active labor for me as my contractions stayed steady at this pace for the rest of my labor, still gaining intensity as time rolled on.

Our midwife returned around 5 or 6pm, I think. Time started to get away from me at this point and it was hard to focus on anything but the contractions. In fact, I was amazed at how time was flying by. My only concept of time was how many times Nate had to stop and eat something. It seemed like he did that a lot, but each time I looked at the clock, I was so surprised at how much time had passed.

Things got more and more intense. At some point in the evening, our midwife was listening to the baby’s heart rate with the fetoscope. She told me she was going to have to switch to the Doppler to get a better listen. She said that the heart rate was a little slow during my contraction so she would be using the Doppler a lot to check on the baby as we went along. It seemed like she would listen every 3-4 contractions. I was unable to hear or process any of this. I was in such a zone that I didn’t really know there was a problem. Nate, however, did know and he was worried. He said at one point the baby’s heart rate slowed so much that he thought he was witnessing the death of our baby. But then it would be normal again. I never once had a feeling that anything was wrong.

Nate and I had visions of going through labor together, alone, for a good bit of it. At least that’s what we had hoped for. Unfortunately, because of the baby’s heart rate issue, our midwife had to stay close in order to monitor things. I felt like this took away from some of the whole experience. Of course, I understand it was necessary for the baby but I feel like we missed out on that a little.

At around 10pm, I’m guessing, our midwife said I could get into the pool and I thought that was the best news ever. I was really in a lot of pain by this point, with contractions still coming every 2 minutes and I craved the warmth of the water. I was also starting to feel back pain with my contractions and she said this was the baby moving down and my pelvic bones beginning to move and separate. I got in the water and although it felt wonderful, I wished it helped more with the pain. No matter what I did, I could not get my body to relax. My legs were stiff and I was fighting against the pain. I knew this was counterproductive but I couldn’t change it. All I had read, all of Ina May’s birth stories, had flown out the window. I couldn’t access any of the ‘tools’ I had stored in my brain.IMG_1775

I remember Nate saying “It’s 11:11, make a wish.” I couldn’t believe it was that late. Nate said that it looked like the baby was going to arrive on the due date after all. I continued laboring, resting against Nate. He held me through each contraction, rubbing my shoulders and pouring water over me to keep me warm. I squeezed his hand during contractions and dozed off in between, even if just for a minute. I started getting some urges to push. Ellen was really encouraging and I thought we were getting close. All the while, she continued to monitor with the Doppler. She started laying out all of her delivery supplies; oxygen, scale, etc. and I felt there was an end in sight. She asked me to get out of the pool so she could check me but I really didn’t want to get out. I knew I would be really cold but mostly, I was afraid of finding out that I wasn’t as far along as I wanted to be. At this point, with the pain, I needed to feel like I was almost there.

I was so cold and exhausted that it took them both to get me out of the pool and over to the couch. I lay down so she could check my cervix. This is where things changed dramatically for me. She said I was at 7cm and that with the baby’s heart rate dipping so much during contractions, it was out of her comfort zone. I was completely shocked. I really didn’t know how serious things had been all along. I asked her what she wanted to do and she said she thought we should go to the hospital. I had already researched all of the hospitals as far as distance and what services each one offered and had printed out directions. I had these, along with my ‘just in case’ Birth Plan in a file labeled ‘Baby’. Nate knew where the file was if we ever needed it. I had already told myself that if our midwife ever made the suggestion that we needed to go to the hospital, I would trust her and would not argue – and I didn’t. I said “Fuck. Ok, let’s go.” And I said it through tears. It was beginning to set in that I wasn’t going to have the homebirth that I dreamed of. I was scared for my baby though, and wanted to do what was best.

I was pretty educated about what can happen once you set foot in a hospital while in labor. I saw “The Business of Being Born.” It’s one of the main reasons I chose to have my baby at home. Though I thought I was prepared, what happened next could only be described as a runaway train.

Our midwife was grilled and questioned about my prenatal care. In their minds it was neglectful but in our minds it was just right. This was a perfect example of 2 paradigms clashing in one room and it was a crazy thing to witness, let alone be a part of. I felt bad for her but knew she must be used to this sort of treatment. Though she had no power once we set foot in the hospital, I still deferred to her and asked for her opinions. This pissed the staff off a little but it was never my intention to be there in the first place and somehow, they understood that.

Since I hadn’t had a Beta Strep test and since my water had broken so long ago, I was immediately put on antibiotics. Before I could even blink, I had an IV, a pulse meter, a blood pressure cuff and a heart monitor for baby. I had requested no IVs in my birth plan but understood their need for administering antibiotics. I didn’t agree with their reasons but knew I needed to save my energy and choose my battles. Nate was upset and concerned but I told him it was ok.

Here is where I wish things had been different or that I had been in a better place to understand what was happening. I was somehow under the impression that things were ‘stalled’ and that’s why I was stuck at 7 cm. But I wasn’t stalled or stuck at all. Aside from the heart rate, my labor was moving along just fine at home. I thought I had a long, long way to go and I was really in pain. I was afraid and worried for my baby. The OB checked my cervix and said that the head was really low and that she could feel it. She said that if I had an epidural, it would help to relax things, I would dilate fully and then I could push the baby right out. I looked at our midwife, and she agreed. At this point the staff was still feeling like I could take the time to deliver, or so they told me. They promised me that they would keep the epidural at a low dose and would turn it down when I asked them to. I had a really strong contraction and before I knew it, I was signing a form for an epidural. I could barely sign my own name. It was a terrifying experience but up until that point, I couldn’t relax the lower half of my body at all.

I got some relief and they left all three of us alone for a while. Nate and our midwife slept for what seemed like a half hour but must have been much longer. We had been up for almost 24 hours now. I tried to relax but I was scared. I had a bad feeling about what was to come. Being that I could no longer feel things, I wondered how I was going to be able to push this baby out. Everything felt so surreal. I just couldn’t believe where I was. Our midwife got up and checked the machine that was monitoring the baby and my contractions. She said that although the baby was doing well, the contractions had slowed and that the staff would most likely be suggesting Pitocin soon. I knew she was right, so Nate tried some nipple stimulation to try and get the contractions going again. Sure enough, it worked and I had a few really close together which caused the staff to come in and check things out. They were worried about the baby so we gave the nipples a rest.IMG_1775

They administered a small amount of Pitocin, enough to cause one contraction and had me try pushing. I was +1, the baby’s head was right there, so I pushed once, and the room got quiet. I knew that as soon as I delivered I wanted the baby to be placed directly on my chest so I could nurse right away. I asked if we could turn my gown around so we would be ready for this and no one answered me. They started putting in an internal fetal monitor and I reminded them that it was against my wishes but no one answered me. Something went wrong and they had to try putting the internal monitor again. Nate was pissed. I couldn’t understand what was happening. Why wasn’t anyone talking to us?  Finally someone explained that the baby’s heart rate had dropped dramatically during that first push and they were really concerned.

Up until now they had all agreed that we should try anything to avoid a c-section. And I guess I sort of believed them. They said they had called in an OB and that he was on his way. He was coming to determine the best course of action considering the baby’s situation. They said he was pulling into the parking lot and a nurse handed Nate scrubs and said that just in case we have to go into surgery quickly, this is what he’ll wear. Then they shaved the lower part of my belly just in case, and I knew. I knew it was coming. So far, I had predicted the events every step of the way. Just like the movies we’d watched. I told Nate that we needed to be prepared for what might happen and that either way, it would be ok. We would have our baby soon. He was in a daze.

The OB came in and looked everything over. He said they didn’t know what was causing the heart rate issue. He thought that maybe it was a problem with the cord but he expected the baby to be born healthy but they needed to deliver it safely very soon. Our midwife tried to convince them to let me try pushing again. But before I knew it, I was signing another form and being prepped for surgery.

This was the most terrifying moment in my entire life. I was shaking uncontrollably from fear, from the IV and from being so cold. I was so sad and we couldn’t believe this was happening to us. All of the research and the planning to avoid all of this. And here we were. It was devastating, yet I felt as though I was watching it all from outside of my body.

I’ve never seen Nate so concerned. I looked at him with tears in my eyes and told him I was sorry and he asked me not to apologize. I knew it wasn’t my fault but I felt so defeated. At 6:30am they wheeled me into the operating room with Nate following behind.

Once in the operating room, I started to worry about Nate. He hadn’t really slept or eaten much and things had been so scary and happened so fast, I was afraid he might not hold up very well in there. I even asked the staff to keep an eye on him, but he did great. I was awake the whole time and honestly felt nothing. I didn’t even know they had already started. Nate sat up by my head. So much had happened so fast that all of a sudden I realized that we were about to meet our baby. We still didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl. One of the doctors had found out that we were farmers so all of us had a nice lighthearted conversation about chickens and farming. It really helped to shift the energy in the room. Before that, it seemed like it was us against them.

At 6:58am I heard our baby cry. They dropped the sheet and held the baby up. I looked at the baby and then at Nate. I couldn’t see what the baby was and Nate said “It’s a boy!” He was perfect and healthy. The OB said that his cord was extra long and was draped in a way that it was pinched during contractions.

Nate went with our son to get him weighed and measured and then he brought him over to me while they finished putting me back together. There are two moments that will forever stay with me for as long as I live. The look on Nate’s face when he first saw our son and me watching him walk towards me with our baby wrapped up in his arms.

Nate held him up by my face so I could kiss him. He was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I felt like I’d waited my whole life to meet him yet it felt like I’ve known him forever. He looked right into my eyes and all of a sudden the previous 26 hours, all of the pain, the stress, the fear and anger melted away and meant nothing. We had our son, and it didn’t matter anymore how we got him. He was here.

They untied one of my arms so I could touch him. He wrapped his tiny little hand around my finger. He was rooting for my breast and I wanted nothing more than to scoop him up and let him nurse but we had to wait for them to finish closing me up. Finally, they handed me my son and wheeled me back to our room where he latched on and nursed right away. Our midwife was there waiting and was happy to see that all was well. I spent the next 2 hours with him on my chest, skin to skin, like I’d always dreamed. Nate by my side. Our new little perfect family. It was beautiful.

baby5I have spent a lot of time going over these events in my head. I will never know if things were as serious as they said, or if I could’ve taken the time to deliver my baby. I am sad, disappointed and feel like I failed my son, but honestly, I could be writing this story about how I lost my baby. Really, he’s all that matters. Perhaps someday I’ll have a chance to do it all again differently. Now, 28 months later, I’m still scarred and a little hurt by it all, but I’m a stronger person because of it. I’m forever changed. I’m a mother.

Bio: Kristen lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, Nate, and their 2 year-old son, Zander. Zander is a spirited old soul who has proven from day one that he’s in charge of his own destiny.