My Birth Story
Why I’m scared of going through it again and what I’d do differently next time
I feel that I chose the wrong doctor and hospital. I hope that next time around, if there is a next time for me, it’ll be a better experience.
When I gave birth to my first and (currently) only child, I left the hospital with a healthy and beautiful baby girl, but also with bitter feelings about the experience.
Pain is an inevitable part of childbirth. I don’t consider the pain I felt the reason for which my experience was negative. I feel that the negative experience comes from how I was treated by the doctor, how I was not informed on what was happening and being done to me, and how it felt very impersonal.
In this article, I describe my personal childbirth experience. I hope that from this article you can gain perspective on what can go wrong in an unplanned birth, and to start planning your own if you are expecting or trying for a child. At the end of the article I mention what I would have done differently, and would do differently for a future pregnancy, in order to have the best birth experience possible (within my control).
Weeks prior to being in labor, the obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) I was seeing noticed that my pain tolerance was low due to my reaction to the routine pelvic exam. He told me to consider getting a C-section instead of having a natural birth. I wasn’t going to do that. I had heard that it can add additional risk to the mother and child and that the recovery time afterward is longer than that of a natural delivery. Why would an OB-GYN suggest an elective C-Section? I should have taken that as a red flag, in regards to the doctor’s competency.
At about 39 weeks pregnant, I started getting contractions while I was watching the series “Once Upon a Time” with my husband. Eventually, the contractions became more painful and they were happening closer to each other, 5 minutes in between. We had read that this meant it was time to head to the hospital, so we did. In retrospect, we should have waited longer before going to the hospital, but at the time the pain was feeling strong. I thought it was birthing time.
We arrived at the hospital at 8 pm. Once there, a nurse checked the dilation of my cervix in order to check how my labor was progressing. I was 3 centimeters dilated, not close to giving birth just yet. When your cervix is dilated to 10cm, then it’s time for the baby to come out. I told the nurse that the pain of the contractions was feeling really bad so she put a shot in my butt, supposedly to help with the pain, but I felt no relief, and now my butt hurt too.
I wasn’t briefed on the medication at the time, but I suspect the medication I was administered was pethidine, which is an analgesic that can be injected into the muscle of the buttocks. The following is information about pethidine from the everymum website’s article titled “Pain Relief in Labour: Pethidine”:
The most commonly used injected analgesic during labour is the narcotic pethidine, which is similar to morphine. It works by dulling the sensation of pain, and also relaxes you and makes you feel sleepy/dreamy, which some women find helps to reduce pain. Pethidine can be injected into the muscle of your thighs or buttocks during first-stage labour (although not close to the second stage of labour as it can make the baby drowsy at birth, and can affect your ability to push your baby out). It usually takes effect within 20 minutes and lasts for two to four hours.
Throughout the pregnancy, I made an effort to not overthink the upcoming birthing process. It was something I had never experienced, and it’s globally known as being painful but worthwhile. So, why worry about it? I thought that the only time I should worry about it is when I’m actively pushing the baby out.
After getting the butt shot, I was moved to a room and hooked up to an IV. I was then connected to a cardiotocograph, a machine that checks fetal heartbeat and uterine contractions. My OB-GYN was missing in action at the time. The contractions got progressively worse and closer to each other. I was in what felt like unimaginable pain: like my uterus was being crumpled. I’m super glad that my husband could be in the hospital room with me, I can’t imagine going through that pain alone.
I was exhausted. I tried my best to sleep, but every 3 minutes another horribly painful contraction would wake me up. My husband also struggled to sleep, due to my cries of pain. I remember in one contraction waking up and telling him that I wanted to die (the pain was unbearable), and he teared up. I felt bad about hurting his feelings at that time. It felt that I unnecessarily worried him and that I should be toughing it out for his sake.
The next hours were a blur. Probably means that I got some sleep. I was told by my husband that I got multiple, likely unnecessary and redundant, pelvic exams through the night by med students (I’m unsure if they were students of my OB-GYN or of the hospital). I must have been super out of it to not notice that. I am pretty upset about that happening.
I remember at some point asking for water but being told I couldn’t drink any. My mouth was so dry. I’ve heard that at home births you can drink and eat whatever, whenever. Sounds nice.
According to the whattoexpect website’s article titled “Can You Eat or Drink During Labor?”, the reason why some practitioners recommend not eating or drinking during labor is due to “the long-held theory that food or acid in the digestive tract might be aspirated if you need emergency anesthesia.” According to the same article, this belief is outdated, and eating something to keep your blood sugar stable can be beneficial for labor:
Why the eating ban in the first place? It was based on the long-held theory that food or acid in the digestive tract might be aspirated if you need emergency anesthesia. But not only are you unlikely to need such anesthesia, which is no longer used for Cesareans, studies have shown the aspiration rate to be minuscule. Another reason why many practitioners are more likely to send their patients snacking during labor: Some research has shown that labor is shorter — an average of 16 minutes shorter — in women who are allowed eating privileges. After all, labor lives up to its name — it’s hard work, and hard work requires fuel. Laboring on empty can make it tough to summon up the strength for those last pushes.
Eventually, I saw my OB-GYN. There were a few people in the room. I was pretty confused and out of it. The doctor told me to start pushing, but I felt no energy or desire to push. I remember that the doctor then inserted an instrument in my vagina and POP, it was like a water balloon broke in my uterus. He broke my water (the amniotic sac). The amniotic sac is the fluid-filled sac that contains and protects a fetus in the womb.
According to verywellfamily website’s article titled “Breaking the Water to Induce or Augment Labor”, breaking the amniotic sac is a procedure called amniotomy, or artificial rupture of membranes (AROM), which is used for inducing or speeding up labor.
According to Lamaze website’s article titled “Artificially Breaking Your Water in Labor is Overrated — Here’s Why”, “artificially breaking water is often done routinely during labor in the United States, whether or not speeding up labor is a concern.” The article mentions the risks and benefits of an amniotomy, and it mentions the following important note:
If your provider fails to inform you, get your consent, or tells you there are no risks, you’re not getting trustworthy care!
Once my water broke, I had an intense sensation of having to push (like I had to empty my bladder). I started trying my hardest to push but seems I was too dang tired to do it with enough strength. Then the doctor placed his arms on my chest and applied a lot of pressure on my ribs. It felt like he was going to kill me.
To my surprise, this is actually an obstetric technique called “fundal pressure”. According to Birth Injury Help Center’s website’s article titled “Fundal Pressure During Labor”:
Fundal pressure is a simple obstetric technique that doctors, midwives, and nurses frequently utilize during the second phase of labor. The “fundal pressure” technique is performed by manually pushing or applying constant downward pressure with the hands at the top of the woman’s uterus. Although fundal pressure is commonly used in delivery rooms it is a controversial method. There has never been any reliable evidence to show that the technique actually works. Moreover, that the use of fundal pressure in certain situations can actually cause complications and injury to the baby.
When the doctor applied fundal pressure, he pushed the air out of my lungs, so I pushed him off. He then told my husband to put pressure on my chest. Seems the intention was to squeeze my child out of my body as if I were a bottle of toothpaste. My husband put pressure on my chest but I was fine with it: he didn’t put as much pressure as the doctor. I was dying to get this done with. I needed a freaking break, I was exhausted. I remember feeling the sensation of my pelvis opening up as my daughter’s head crowned. God was that strange.
Finally, my daughter was born. They put her on my chest but I didn’t know what to do with her. She laid on my chest and I didn’t feel happiness, love, or excitement. I was tired and in pain. My husband took photos and then the doctor took her back and passed her around between family members. I then asked for her to be given back to me, and I held her again, thinking that the mom feelings would come up this time around, but they didn’t.
I thought the pushing was over with now that my child was born, but it turns out that you need to push out the placenta as well (third and last stage of labor). I really needed this experience to be over. I pushed out the placenta and now we were done, right?
Nope, we weren’t done yet. Now the doctor needs to suture my vagina because he performed an episiotomy (unbeknownst to me). According to the Mayo Clinic website’s article titled “Episiotomy: When it’s needed, when it’s not”:
An episiotomy is an incision made in the perineum — the tissue between the vaginal opening and the anus — during childbirth. Although the procedure was once a routine part of childbirth, that’s no longer the case.
For years, an episiotomy was thought to help prevent more extensive vaginal tears during childbirth — and heal better than a natural tear. The procedure was also thought to help preserve the muscular and connective tissue support of the pelvic floor. Today, however, research suggests that routine episiotomies don’t prevent these problems after all.
So many things were happening in labor that I had not felt the doctor slice from my vagina to my anus. He injected anesthetic (I felt the needle down there, I tried my best not to panic) and started stitching. I could feel the procedure, but I tried to keep my mind off of it.
I don’t remember what happened right after. I probably fell asleep. I was told my daughter was born at 10 am, the day after I had arrived at the hospital.
I remember being woken up by nurses and offered some food and milk, the first I’d be eating and drinking since arriving at the hospital the night before. The only beverage provided was plain milk, which I hate the taste of. I asked for water but they didn’t give me any. They told me I had to drink the milk. I felt upset that they wouldn’t give me water, I was parched. I didn’t know where my husband was and I didn’t know how to contact him, not sure if it was because I didn’t have my phone with me or some other reason. I ate as much of the meal as I could manage, I wasn’t feeling hungry.
The nurse then tried to get me off the hospital bed. They got me on my feet and then I fell to the ground. Thankfully a nurse caught my head before I could hit it on the floor. One of the nurses asked me who the current governor was and I answered correctly (I wonder what would have happened if I didn’t know the answer to that), and then they asked me something else which I answered correctly. Then one of them told me that I fainted. I thought that was unlikely, and I told them I was quite sure I just fell asleep for a second. I was still feeling tired. I was told that that’s called fainting. Huh, the more you learn. I had never fainted in my life. I was told I’d need to stay in the room for longer before going to see my daughter and husband. That sucked. I felt that I had delayed starting motherhood and seeing my husband because I couldn’t keep my consciousness active for long enough. If I had known the nurses were going to pull that crap on me, then I wouldn’t have fallen asleep (fainted) like that. I was not thinking rationally.
I slept some more. Eventually, they took me in a wheelchair to the room I’d be staying in with my husband and daughter. Finally! The space between my vagina and anus hurt a lot. It was hard to stand, sit, and walk. I laid in bed for a long while in the hospital room with my husband and we talked for a bit. I hadn’t actively or consciously peed or pooped since arriving at the hospital with the contractions. I never felt the need to do so. I must have been too busy with all the other stuff that was happening. When I finally stood up, a huge sensation of having to pee came around, and I couldn’t hold it. I peed in my adult diaper and I left reindeer poops on the floor. I went to the bathroom and, to my surprise, there was a lot of blood. The blood smelled disgusting, like canned ham.
Eventually, they brought my daughter to our room. I tried to breastfeed her but I was very confused (it hurt). A nurse eventually came in to teach me how to breastfeed, and it was just “Put the child to your breast. She took the nipple, perfect, you’re doing it, lesson complete.” I’d later learn that it was much more complicated than that. If I remember correctly, I only got to breastfeed her once at the hospital. The rest of her meals were formula. I was still so tired and feeling hurt from giving birth that I didn’t have the strength or desire to ask them to bring my daughter for every feeding. I may have sabotaged my breastfeeding journey by doing this. Since then I’ve read that to get a strong start on breastfeeding you should start from the moment the baby is born. I didn’t take any breastfeeding classes when I was pregnant, nor did I do any research on it, because I thought it would come naturally to me since breastfeeding is natural.
Later on, I was finally discharged. I was told by family (not the doctors or nurses) that I bled a lot during labor and that I became anemic (supposedly my hemoglobin levels got down to 7). That would explain why I fainted. On discharge, I was simply given some iron pills to take at home. I still think that it was irresponsible to discharge me without properly explaining what happened and how to handle my anemia, especially when I was a brand new mother who had desires to breastfeed and would already have a hard time eating and sleeping enough.
Despite it all, I was happy to return home with my loving husband and a healthy, beautiful baby girl.
I feel that I was robbed of the exciting and heartwarming experience of becoming a first-time mother. My predominant memories are of pain, confusion, and lack of control. The pain was inevitable, but maybe if I had been informed of what was happening, if I felt understood and in control of the process, then I would have left with a more positive memory of the experience.
Sadly, my experience is not unique. There are many women who have negative experiences with childbirth, as shown in this article in HuffPost titled “Women Open Up About Negative Birth Experiences In Emotional Photo Series”. Many of these negative experiences are due to negligent or apathetic doctors and hospital staff. The process of labor is difficult enough. We need doctors and nurses to treat us with compassion and respect.
In Lamaze website’s article titled “Artificially Breaking Your Water in Labor is Overrated — Here’s Why”, it says the following:
It’s important to go into labor and birth with a care provider you can trust to give you the best, evidence-based care.
I assumed that any doctor would do, because if you’re a doctor then that must mean you are competent (meaning that you know how to care for patients and you work ethically), but that’s not the case. Not every doctor fits the bill.
If I choose to have a second child, I will do the following differently:
- Find an OB-GYN that’s right for me before becoming pregnant. Particularly, an OB-GYN that will keep me informed, respect me, be responsible, understanding, is up-to-date with current obstetrics techniques and delivers babies in a reputable hospital.
- Be better informed on pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, and breastfeeding, so it won’t catch me by surprise.
- Prepare a document detailing my birth plan. According to WhatToExpect’s article “Tips on Writing a Birth Plan”, a birth plan is “a plan that communicates your wishes and goals for before, during and after labor and delivery”.
- Ask my husband to enforce my birth plan, unless there is a complication or emergency that would require deviating from the plan.
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