It’s taken me over a year to write this post because it’s taken me that long to put my thoughts into words.
I never envisioned having a 4th c-section, especially after planning for a VBAC.
Penelope’s birth story was not one I had imagined for myself. Even though she was born healthy (and little) it was filled with lots of disappointment.
I found out I was pregnant when I was almost in the 2nd trimester.
That’s almost unheard of when you’ve been pregnant 5 times before(I had 1 miscarriage). After I got over the shock (I was 38 and mentally done having children), I started preparing to have the most natural, healthy pregnancy. I decided that this pregnancy would be redemption.
An opportunity to get it right. To birth in the most natural, primal way.
To be in control of my birthing space. To tell doctors how I wanted it done.
But that was not my story. Instead, I had a 4th c-section..
Then when I got over those feelings, my life was moving at full steam ahead with 4 children.
Now that I’ve adjusted, I’m ready to tell my story….
My due date was 1/21/22 and my doctors were adamantly against a VBAC, so they had me scheduled for a c-section on 1/14/21. I didn’t want to hear any more conversations about the risks, so I had planned to try and induce labor on my own.
My last doctor’s appointment was on Monday, January 10th. During the last routine check, the doctor mentioned that my blood pressure was elevated and that I could be at risk for pre-eclampsia. She ordered an ultrasound and advised me to have the baby that day. The baby looked fine inside, so I opted to go home. She had a few conversations with me after putting me on the fetal monitor. I felt okay and felt like the swelling I had experienced was normal. I was tired, but who wasn’t tired at 38 weeks pregnant?
I went home feeling discouraged. I decided to start my maternity leave early and monitor my blood pressure at home. I knew it was time to start trying to induce my labor. My mother-in-law so kindly took my 3 kids to her house to spend the night, and I was able to get a good night’s sleep. Except I couldn’t sleep. My mind was racing. I woke at my normal time for work, 5:30, and I took my blood pressure. Even after a good night’s rest, it was 150/99. I checked it off and on throughout the day and it was inconsistent but consistently high. I started drinking castor oil, I took walks around the farm, and long naps. Contractions started around lunchtime, so prepared a bath and started using Clary Sage oil.
Contractions got intense for a while. I got excited thinking this was it. I was going to get the birth I envisioned. I was messaging my doula all day giving her updates.
Then they just stopped.
I was checking my blood pressure just about every hour. I bounced on my birthing ball. I tried to take a walk (it was too painful). I took a 2.5 hour nap.
Nothing I did lowered my blood pressure. It continued to spike. 150/90, 165/100.
I’m no medical professional, but I knew that rising blood pressure is nothing to play with. I didn’t have any side effects, but my anxiety was rising simply because I was out of control and I didn’t know what was going on.
My husband got on his knees and pleaded with me to go to the hospital. He worried about problems arising from my blood pressure. He knew how much I wanted to wait things out at home and then go to the hospital in active labor, but at this point was more concerned for my safety and our unborn child.
I cried, ate a light meal, and prepared my things for the hospital.
The ride there was a somber one. I cried the entire way. In my heart of hearts, I knew that a c-section was coming. As much as I fought and tried to hold out hope, I knew what the doctors were going to say.
It took about an hour for me to be admitted, and then a nurse came to wheel me up to labor and delivery. She was just what I needed. Sweet. Caring.
And she listened.
She encouraged me to advocate for what I wanted. So I did just that. I talked to the doctor on call. At this point, my blood pressure was now 170/100. They started me on a magnesium drip to lower it. The nurse eased my nerves. She talked to me about other patients she encountered with preeclampsia. She assured me that I had done nothing wrong.
The next few hours were a blur. My doula was on standby. She never pressured me to make any decisions. She encouraged me to do what I felt in my heart was best. She consulted with another doula about blood pressure and shared her concerns and suggestions.
After talking it over with my husband, we decided to take the safest route and deliver her via c-section. Another mom had an emergency that required delivery immediately, so we didn’t make it back to the delivery room until after midnight. Since we had made the decision to have a section, I couldn’t have my doula with me, so she waited in the car. She was prepared to take birth photography.
As they wheeled me into the surgical/delivery room, I started crying. The nurse rubbed my back and asked me if I felt okay. I told her that I just didn’t want to get cut again.
But honestly, of my 4 births, this one was the best. There were several black doctors/nurses on staff. Everyone was kind and polite. And the baby never left the room. I also decided to tie my tubes.
Even though I didn’t get to birth in a birthing tub, at home, or have the vaginal birth I envisioned, her birth was still beautiful. I had a clear drape, so I got to watch her coming out. And the doctor put her hand on the curtain so I could touch her first.
I also got to experience skin-to-skin while they stitched me up.
When they lifted her out and I laid eyes on her for the first time, I remember thinking, wow, she’s so tiny! She looked like a baby doll!
She was 5lbs 12 oz and by the time we left the hospital, she was 5lbs 2 oz.
We were also able to bring our phones into the delivery room, so even though it wasn’t the birth photography that I had planned, we had pictures and videos to share with family and friends.
After the cesarean delivery, I was wheeled into the recovery area and my doula took pictures.
I will treasure these forever.
I was in such a fog because I was still on heavy medication. I remember apologizing to her for having to wait in her car for so long. I encapsulated my placenta, so I called the lady who was doing it and she picked it up in the cooler we brought.
I left the hospital with my placenta in pill form.
With all my children I experienced some level of postpartum depression. With this 4th c-section experience, the hormonal crash wasn’t as bad as the others, and I think that’s largely due to ingesting my placenta and the bed rest.
I didn’t start mourning my birthing experience until after I came home. I had good days and bad days. I lashed out at my husband and spent some moments crying. I was angry about the c-section pain and felt like my body had failed me.
But Penelope was here and beat all the odds. During the 3rd trimester, I had to get an MRI because at one point they thought there was a hole in her head. They worried about my blood pressure and her small size, but she was great! She latched quickly and easily and my milk supply was enough for her and enough to store away (I even donated to a sweet local mama).
Having the support of my doula (and new friend), my mom and mother-in-law, my husband, and friends was just what I needed to slowly get back on my feet.
When I look back on that day, my heart still hearts little to know that I never got to experience pushing my baby out, and birth without major surgery, but my little fierce baby reminds me that my body did not fail me. She and I are okay.