Monday, March 31, 2014

My birth journey, part 3 - my second home birth

And here, in its raw original form just as I wrote it about 12 hours after her birth, the story of the birth of our Baby Girl. My birth story comes full circle, from an unplanned c-section to an unplanned "unassisted" birth. What a powerful experience, to birth a baby with only ourselves in attendance! The Man said that it was sort of funny to be there with me as I went back and forth between "midwife mode" and "mother mode" as I barked out random things like "Skin to skin now" and "don't touch the cord!" Many people jokingly asked if we got a refund from the midwife, but I'll tell you what, the way she and her student came in and did all of the after-care and my postpartum followup care was worth every penny!


The changeover, from the prodromal labor I’d had for a couple of weeks to true early labor, started on Tuesday evening when I was 40 weeks 3 days. That was when I started having strong and sometimes-regular contractions, with increasing cramping and back pain. I started needing to use my meditations and did my breathing “techniques” through them when they got very strong. They usually weren’t regular, but they would become regular sometimes, and I only got them in the evening. I woke up a few times and walked through contractions during the night, but they weren’t incredibly strong and I was able to rest through most of them, and got a good stretch of sleep.

40 weeks 4 days, I had them much more strongly throughout the day, and I was getting excited thinking it might be that night. I had some signs that I was starting to dilate a little bit. I made it through the day though, and as the afternoon and evening went on I started to contract less and be more energetic and social. By the time The Man came home that night he could tell it wasn’t going to be the night, and I knew it too. I was thankful for a night of having the energy to hang out with my kids and read bedtime stories and just have a somewhat normal evening, though. I got super hungry and ate a LOT - fueling up for the marathon, I think. I slept well and didn’t wake up with any contractions during the night.

As soon as I stood up the next morning, on the day I was 40 weeks 5 days, I was hit with an intense and fairly long one. I had a couple more before I stood in the kitchen making breakfast and sobbing to The Man while he got ready for the day. I was a disaster, and for the rest of the day I had contractions and sobbing episodes pretty regularly. I tried my best to keep BooBoo entertained with busy work like drawing or play-doh, and he thankfully got busy with his toy kitchen and other toys in his room. He watched a couple of movies. I did what had to be done to get through the day. ;-) I did a bunch of chores around the house, washed all the sheets and blankets, swept all the floors, caught up on dishes. The contractions got more intense all day but it helped so much to walk around, so I kept busy. I can’t remember what made my husband decide to come home but he called to check on me a couple of times and I burst into tears each time, so I guess finally he decided it was time to head over. He got home and immediately took the kids out and I laid down and rested the best I was able to.

I wasn’t hungry for dinner that night, I ate lightly and was really starting to become irritated with things like noise and light. I remember getting annoyed because I kept turning off all the lights and it felt like everyone else was on a mission to walk behind me and turn them back on, every time I got “comfortable” some random light would turn on. Of course our house is very tiny so light would shine into my “space” no matter where in the house it was turned on. He got the kids bathed and put to bed and I kept walking and moving. It hurt to sit down so I stayed upright, and sometimes squatted while holding on to something like the counter or the couch arm. I was listening to music, and since I felt such a powerful need to stay upright and keep moving around, the music helped a lot as I would rock and sway to the tunes.

The contractions were much stronger than they’d been but I still didn’t believe that they were the real thing. My husband was quietly timing them while I did my thing, and he didn’t think I was in active labor either. They were coming irregularly the whole time. Around 11 they slowed down and then stopped. I sobbed for a while thinking of another day of stalled out labor. He made me a bowl of yogurt and strawberries when I realized I felt a little hungry, and I ate the whole bowl. He convinced me to try to sleep. I insisted that it felt better to stay upright, and he pointed out that I wouldn’t be able to use gravity to force labor to start if it wasn’t time. I washed up and laid down for bed, but couldn’t sleep and was moving around like crazy every time I had another contraction. The couch is right at the foot of our bed and I’d get up and lean over the back of it, which helped a lot with the pain.

The Man was lying in bed trying to sleep too, and every time I got up with another contraction I’d see him with the light from his phone. For some reason I thought he was texting with my midwife, but he was just timing them again. When I asked him about it the next day he said they still weren’t coming regularly. They’d be 3 minutes apart and then 8 - 10 minutes apart. I remember checking the clock in the kitchen every hour or so, and I distinctly remember looking at the clock around 1:30 in the morning and having another round of crying because it was so late and I was thinking how exhausted I’d be the next day after a night of laboring and no sleep. When I got back to bed I laid down one last time and tried to sleep.

With the next contraction I was back out of bed and honestly I can’t remember why my husband followed me that time. Until then he’d been trying to sleep in between all of my commotion, thinking that they’d peter out yet again and he’d have another day of work in the morning. Suddenly everything that had been taking days to get started, started happening VERY quickly. It wasn’t too long after that, that I started uncontrollably starting to bear down at the end of the contractions. I was definitely making a different range of sounds than I was earlier, and I was moving like crazy around the living room. I’d find one position for one contraction, but then would be totally uncomfortable and would find a different position for the next one. The Man had my midwife on the phone at this point and he was running around putting chux pads down, and I spread out a towel.  She told him to have me check myself to tell her how far up I could feel the baby’s head. She told me later that she could tell by my sounds over the phone that it was pretty close to baby time. The only thing I could answer was the classic transition in labor phrase, “I don’t know, I don’t know.” I was finally lost in labor-land and was focused only on breathing and moving through each moment of it.

The Man said that he knew things “got real” when I asked him to help me take off my pajama pants. Within a couple of minutes I felt like I had to pee, and I started to head towards the bathroom but didn’t get far before another big contraction, during which my water broke in a big gush. The only reason I know this is because my midwife told my husband to get a strip of the test paper to see what the fluid was, and it turned black which meant it was amniotic fluid. She was already grabbing her stuff to head our way, after we'd woken her in the middle of the night to tell her to COME QUICKLY! I was still on my hands and knees when the next contraction started, and he was in the kitchen washing his hands. I somehow managed to yell to him “Come help me” and he came running in just as I had another huge urge to bear down. He looked behind me and he realized about a second before I did that the baby was about to arrive. I don’t even know whether I actually had breaks between the pushing urges or if I was just making myself slow down every so often. I reached behind me and felt the head starting to crown, and I consciously told myself to slow down and stop pushing for a second because I didn’t want to tear like I did with BooBoo. The head rested there for a moment, I sort of held it in place with my hand and put pressure on myself to relieve the intense pressure from inside, which helped a lot. Very quickly I was ready to push again, the biggest part of the head was out and I felt the rest of the body slide out into my husbands hands.

He wrapped the baby immediately into a receiving blanket and put her on my chest, and helped me take off my shirt so we could have skin to skin contact right away. I piled a couple of other blankets and towels on top of us. I felt under the blanket and was shocked that I didn’t feel “boy parts” on her, which I was fully expecting. Since I couldn’t look at that angle to actually see, because of the umbilical cord and the way the towels and blankets were positioned, I asked him to look. He lifted up the blankets and with tears in his eyes he said to me “A girl. A girl!!” I cried, of course, like I cried about everything else in this labor. I told him I didn’t believe him and told him to look again, and he confirmed it. He called my midwife back and said “It’s a girl!” She gave him some quick tips about what to do with the placenta, not to touch the cord, and so on. She was already on her way to us.

The placenta took longer to deliver than it did after BooBoo’s birth, I’m not sure of the exact time but it was probably about 30 minutes. I remember that with BooBoo it just seemed to slide out, but this time I had a few strong contractions and then had to actually push a couple of times to deliver it. Once I delivered the placenta we put it into a bowl, and The Man laid down some pads on the bed and helped me over to lie down on it, while I held the baby who was attached to the placenta in a mixing bowl. I laid down in bed and drank my Vitalyte and nursed our little girl for the first time, until my midwife and her apprentice arrived.

The only “complication” if you can even call it a complication, was that she basically flew out of the amniotic sac when my water broke, and left the sac behind, and it “suctioned” shut and got wedged up by my cervix. When my midwife examined me she found that the shriveled amniotic sac was stuck up there and needed some help to be delivered. Massage and gentle pushing from my end with gentle tugging from her end wasn’t enough to get it down, so I ended up getting a couple of doses of herbal tinctures to help with expelling any remaining pieces. The placenta itself was very healthy and intact but Heather was afraid of a piece of this sac being left behind and causing infection, so she wanted to be very careful to get all of it. She sat with me for quite a while, massaging my belly and helping me ease it out, and eventually the whole thing came down. I laid back fairly comfortably on the bed and snuggled the baby while she took care of me, and it didn’t feel like a scary complication at all.

Our baby, our beautiful daughter, was 8 pounds 4 ounces, and 21 inches long. Her head circumference was 13 inches. When I was pregnant with her, her hands were ALWAYS up by her face, and one concern we had was that she’d be born with her hand up there, with more of a risk of tearing me on her way out. Sure enough, she had a pretty good scratch under her chin and distinct red markings on her face, which line up perfectly with her little hand when it’s positioned there. I didn’t have any tears (yay!) but there was some bruising up by my cervix that my midwife said she’s seen when baby is coming out with a hand by the face, so she was definitely trying to get through my pelvis with the hand there. Fortunately she wasn’t actually born in that position but the positioning of the hand was enough to make labor pretty drawn out and painful, and I’m sure that’s why I needed to do so much moving around to help with positioning her and opening up my pelvis. My midwife’s theory was that as I started to push her out she pulled the hand down at kind of the last minute.

The whole experience was absolutely wild and primal and beautiful. When I look back at the pictures from her first few minutes of life, I’m almost overcome with emotion from it! This time around I had very strong and classic feelings during the transition stage. “I’m never doing this again” and “I don’t think I can do this” and all kinds of other doubting kinds of statements, all in the 15 minutes or so before she arrived. It was a very painful labor and I had to work hard with my breathing and positioning to get through the contractions, but it was incredible the way I really felt like she and I were working together through it. In between contractions and even in between pushing I’d feel her moving and I’d rub her through my belly and talk to her as we got ready for the next one. We worked very hard and then it all happened so fast in the end. I felt so in tune with her and with my body. It was just the most incredible experience and I’m still so in awe of this little girl every time I look at her.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My birth journey, part 2 - HBAC

This is, as I wrote it about 12 hours after the fact, the home birth after c-section (HBAC) of my second child.


On March 6 I woke up appearing to be leaking amniotic fluid. After a couple of hours we called my midwives to let them know. They had me start taking regular doses of Vitamin C to boost my immune system in case there was a small tear in the sack. I did labor throughout the day, with the contraction coming very regularly and sometimes very, very strong. Eventually everything slowed down though. My midwives stayed the night while I tried to get some sleep. I did get some sleep, but woke up with strong contractions throughout the night. The next morning they tested my vaginal secretions and found that there was no indication of amniotic fluid, so our thought was that there had been a small tear that ended up healing itself. They went home, and I tried to get some rest.
I labored slowly throughout the day on March 7. My mom, her partner, two of my sisters, and my sisters husband all helped us out, especially by taking care of Little Man. I napped in the afternoon, as well as I could between contractions, and had a pretty laid back rest of the day. Around 8 in the evening I was pretty tired and ready for bed. My husband lit some candles in our room and helped me get comfortable. I plugged myself in to my iPod and propped myself up on a huge pile of pillows, and tried to get some sleep. I was contracting pretty hard at that point, and I think that "sleep" was more equivalent to deep relaxation between contractions. I did well breathing myself through them, and being able to relax and listen to calming music was very helpful. I now realize that this calm, quiet time was when I was truly going through active labor and I'm thankful that I had the sense to rest and conserve my energy!
Eventually, towards midnight, my husband came upstairs and lay down with me. I had been resting and meditating this whole time, but I was so tired I just wanted to lie down and sleep. Lying down made the contractions come HARD. It wasn't too long before an incredibly intense one literally sent me springing out of bed, moaning and groaning at the top of my lungs. My husband leaped out of bed and instantly turned on the light. I can't imagine what he thought was happening! He was incredibly supportive for me from then on out, as he coached me through my deep, slow breathing - reminding me to "breathe up" and breathing deeply with me through the strong contractions. This must have been the time when I was hitting transition, the period of labor where the cervix finishes dilating the last couple of centimeters.
I became very "out of my head." The only response I could come up with when people asked me anything was "I don't know." My mom and husband were enormously supportive. My mom had learned a helpful technique that she used on me. During my strongest contractions she pressed her hands firmly against my forehead and the back of my head, while speaking softly to me about how my tissues were soft and flexible, my cervix was opening properly, and so on. My husband, as I said - he was amazing, and I couldn't have done it without him. He seemed to instinctively know what I needed to help me, and he was amazing at keeping my breathing calm and steady as I had practiced throughout my pregnancy. He and mom both kept me well hydrated between contractions, which I know was extremely helpful.
At some point he went to call the midwives. I loudly insisted that nobody was allowed into the room and nobody was allowed to "tell me how to do things." This was my obstinate point during labor I guess! He went and called them and when he came back upstairs, he told me that he had spoken to them but that they weren't going to come until I decided that I needed them there. I was laboring really hard at this point and this barely registered to me. I realized later that he had actually called and told them to come out because things were moving along pretty quickly!
I had lost all track of time by now and I have absolutely no idea how long everything took at this point. I know that eventually I felt the overwhelming need to kneel on the floor by the end of our bed, and then my body pretty quickly started pushing. When you hear that your body will push all by itself, that is completely true, and I can't even describe the feeling of it. I felt primal while this was happening. I was still listening to music, and my husband still coached my breathing, although when he realized I was pushing he would remind me to breathe down, to start breathing the baby down the birth canal.
After a little while of pushing, I had this feeling that I should reach down and check. I felt something emerging from me, and it was all I could do to moan "I feel his head, somebody catch him!" Everyone in the room sprang into action. Somebody ushered in the midwives, who had barely just arrived. It turned out that what I felt coming out was the sack that had contained him in the womb! It was so strange and neat. There was no gush of waters breaking during my labor because all the fluid was still contained in the sack.
It felt like I pushed forever at that point. At one point I lamented "When will the sack end and my baby come out??" Everyone just kept encouraging me to keep going, as the sack kept coming out more and more. I know that a few times I stopped and wailed, between contractions, that it hurt too much and I couldn't keep doing it. My husband pointed out to me that I WAS doing it and I was almost done. 
Suddenly the sack that had been coming out so slowly just fell out of me. One of my midwives told me when this happened. His head was literally right behind it, and they had me reach down and touch his head. It was the strangest feeling. It didn't feel like a human head at all, it just felt soft and slimy. It was really, really hard work to make his head come down. Later on his head measured at 37 centimeters around, so he had a good sized head that took a fair amount of molding to fit through the birth canal. My pushing urges became enormous and very primal. I feel like I groaned and screamed like a wild animal, but my husband later told me it wasn't that bad at all. Finally after what seemed like forever, his head started actually coming through. I could feel myself stretching around him like I had never even imagined I could stretch before.
The big moment came as his head made its final push through. I had one fierce, long contraction that pushed his head all the way out, and then continued to push him out. He literally came sliding out of me with the force of only one, strong contraction! My midwives later said "Head to toes in just one contraction!" It was absolutely amazing. I realized during that last contraction that all of him was coming out at once, but I obviously couldn't find the words to let anyone else know. I was kneeling over a pile of towels at that point, and he basically flew out of me and landed on them. Instantly he started crying, but it wasn't an upset cry at all. It almost seemed like it was just reflexive. He did this soft, repetitive cry enough to clear out his lungs and his airways, and then he quieted down. We had an absolutely amazing period of eye contact and bonding while I sat on the floor holding him. I was the first person to hold him, which was also amazing!
Once he stopped crying after he was born, he spent several minutes staring intensely into my eyes and talking to me, in that wonderful language that only newborn babies can talk in. My mom was particularly amazed by this. It was like he was telling me a very important story, complete with hand gestures and hilarious facial expressions.
My placenta came very quickly and easily afterwards, and it was in perfect condition. It was amazing to look at it, and my sister took some pictures of it.
Our labor was long and sometimes really hard. I'm very glad that I read, re-read, and read again "Hypnobirthing" while I was pregnant, because those techniques really got me through it. It was totally and 100% worth every moment of every discomfort during my pregnancy and labor though, because at the end I got this perfect experience of bonding with my baby while we were both clear-headed and not under the influence of any drugs, in contrast to Little Man's c-section birth. Boo Boo started nursing perfectly within an hour after he was born, and he's really good at it. He's been nursing often, and he even gifted us with a soaking wet diaper just a little while ago.
The details are, he was born at 3:50 am on March 8. He was 8 pounds 6 ounces, and 21 inches long.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

My birth journey, part 1 - unplanned c-section

My first child, who is now getting pretty close to 8 years old, was born at a hospital by unplanned c-section after a failed induction. I'd planned on having a natural, vaginal, unmedicated birth but ended up having the complete opposite. Since then I have learned an incredible amount of information about pregnancy and childbirth, and continue to be passionate about it and to learn more every day.

His birth experience was so traumatic for me that it was over two years before I was able to come to terms with it enough to even write it down. And I remember writing it down and dealing with the panic attacks and honest to goodness physical sickness that I experienced while writing it. Cold sweats, racing heart, choking up, crying jags, even hyperventilating. The title I originally published it under was "Birth Rape: my experience." Birth rape is a known term in the birth support community, look it up. I did, when I first heard it, and it was the first step in my journey towards healing. Many scoff at what a dramatic term it is. But think about it - restraining a woman, performing medical procedures and administering medication without consent or even while the woman is saying NO, mocking her for refusing to give consent, forcefully inserting fingers or objects into her vagina, again without asking for consent or even while she is saying NO - these kinds of things are against the law, except in the delivery room. Even now nearly 8 years later, as I sit here reflecting on how much I've healed and how at peace I am with the experience, at this very moment my heart is pounding and my hands are shaking and my head is throbbing as I'm reminding myself to breathe deeply and let go.

I'm not up for editing it or adding revisions right now, although I probably will at some point in a future post. But here, in its entirety, is the story of my first birth, written two years afterward.

Edited to add: Re-reading this, I realize this doesn't even touch on certain things, like forceful vaginal exams every hour or so to see "how things are progressing." The best analogy I've heard about this one is, have you ever tried to have a bowel movement while someone shoves their fingers up your ass?

Please check out the International Cesarean Awareness Network for more information about c-section awareness and VBAC.


I planned on a natural birth (no pain medication) for my son. He was due on June 29, 2006. I took for granted that I would have a natural birth. When I was pregnant there were no childbirth classes in our area so I read lots about different birthing methods, I practiced my breathing, and my husband and I wrote out a birth plan that we gave to our doctor and the OB nurses at the hospital.
However, I now realize that everything started to go wrong 3 weeks before he was due. During my weekly exam to check whether I was effacing and dilating (by the way, I now know that unless you have a medical problem, there's no need for weekly internal exams as your due date approaches!) my doctor stripped my membranes - to start things "moving along", she said. Stripping your membranes is a very painful procedure in which the doctor inserts a finger inside your cervix, and manually separates the bag of waters that the baby is in. This is performed to irritate the cervix and cause it to begin dilating. She told me that some women go into labor within 24 hours of having their membranes stripped.
This encounter with my doctor triggered some kind of pre-birth mania in my brain. I became obsessed with trying to find a way to get the baby out. Now, I realize, that there was no need to get him out of there. I wasn't going into labor on my own because it was three weeks before his due date, and he simply wasn't ready to come out yet! I now know that everything I tried to cause myself to go into labor was just more stress on him, as he was trying to finish all the development he needed to do before being born. I was trying every home remedy out there - the nipple stimulation, the raspberry leaf tea, sex, squatting, you name it. Every week we'd go back to the doctor and gloomily report that there was no new activity, she would check me internally, and then she would strip my membranes again. Then she'd suggest some other home remedies to try.
Two days before his due date, I went for my weekly exam. My husband made sure to come with me that day. I'd made up my mind that morning that I was sick and tired of stressing out about getting labor started, and I just wanted to go to the hospital and get induced. Now I realize that, considering how much trouble it was turning out to be to GET labor started, getting induced was the worst decision I could possibly have made. However I was so tired of all the hard work I was doing to make myself go into labor. I was having almost constant Braxton-Hicks contractions (no doubt because of the stress my body and my baby were under!) I just wanted this miserable experience to be over with, and I had the full support of everyone else in my life - my doctor, my husband, my family who was calling every day to find out if I was in labor yet. 
My blood pressure was SLIGHTLY high at that appointment, and amniotic fluid was SLIGHTLY low. (Both, again, perfectly normal considering that the temperature was 100 degrees! But I didn't know that then - I trusted my doctor to know what to do.) Neither one was actually very concerning. What WAS concerning to my doctor, however, was the fact that the 4th of July weekend was coming up very soon. The 4th was going to be on a Thursday, so there would be a four day weekend. If, she told me, my blood pressure happened to go up more - say, during the holiday weekend - it would be "more difficult" to get everyone to the hospital on time, especially of course, if something were to go wrong - and we wouldn't want anything to go wrong, would we?
I realize now, of course, that it was ridiculous to say something like that. I was going to give birth at the hospital, there are staff at the hospital who are perfectly qualified to birth babies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even during the 4th of July weekend. However the thought of having a blood pressure emergency during the holiday weekend was terrifying to me. What if something DID go wrong, and I could have prevented it by simply getting the induction? At this point I started begging her to send me for an induction.
We quickly made the appointment to go to the OB department at the hospital at 5:00 the following evening to start the induction. That night I felt more relaxed and calm than I had felt in the past month. I wasn't trying any of my labor remedies. It was probably the calmest and healthiest that my son had been in the past month, too.
I went to the hospital the next night and they inserted the Cervadil pill inside my vagina. I watched some TV while I was sitting there in the bed, hooked up to various machines and monitors, and pretty soon I was ready for bed. The next morning I woke up around 6:30 and they took the pill out at 7. I started having intense contractions almost immediately. I called my husband to tell him to come down because these contractions were different than the ones I'd been having for the past 3 weeks. The response at the hospital was for me to hurry up and use the bathroom, then get back in bed so they could hook me up to the Pitocin drip.
Now I realize, there was no need to hook me up to Pitocin! I was contracting perfectly well after just having the Cervadil. What I should have done was gotten up and walked around, maybe taken a hot shower, eaten a small snack. I hadn't eaten anything since the night before. It was the policy at OB that patients being induced or who are in labor are not allowed to eat - in case they need a c-section. However I did as I was told, rushed back to lie back down in bed, and they hooked me up to the IV.
Immediately the contractions started slamming through me, each one worse than the one before. The nurse who was in charge of my induction told me that soon I could have my pain medication. "I don't want pain medication," I said. She said "Of course you want the pain medication." I said that I didn't want it several more times, but was completely ignored. When my doctor came to check me out she spoke briefly to me, and then spent several minutes analyzing charts that showed my contractions and the baby's heartbeat. She looked at the clock and commented that I could get my pain meds started now if I wanted to. By then I was in agony, I was not allowed to get up and move around or even to change positions on the bed. All I could do was lie there and let these monstrous Pitocin contractions rip through me, over and over again. I resigned myself to the pain medication and they gave me an IV of Torridol.
I became completely disoriented and dizzy from the Torridol. I laid there with my eyes closed feeling like my head was spinning around and around. I kept thinking about how I was failing my baby, how I was supposed to be actively involved in giving birth to him but I was just lying there while these terrible things kept happening to me. I heard someone comment about how peacefully I was sleeping, and how it was good for me to get the rest. I couldn't compose myself enough to say anything, and it was emotionally easier for me to remain shut down in my own dark little world.
I got several more doses of various pain medications over the next few hours. I had quite a cocktail of drugs coursing through my body - and, I realize now, through the tiny body inside of mine. My doctor broke my water at 3 pm - to move things along, of course - and a torrent of dark green water poured out of me. The baby had his first bowel movement inside of me. I stared at it in horror. The doctor told us that it was a good thing we decided to induce today, because he could get really sick from staying in that water. I realize now, that the reason he had a bowel movement in me was because of the horrible stress of the induction - the drugs, the artificially strong contractions, the internal exams, the fact that I was not allowed to eat or move.
At one point, I needed to pee. I told the nurse, and she said "Okay, go ahead." She, in all seriousness, expected me to simply urinate on my bed, on my gown. Nevermind that everything was already wet from all the fluids of the induction. I felt like I was an animal being told to potty on some paper. I told her that I needed a bedpan if I wasn't allowed to get up, and I wanted her to leave while my husband helped me use it. 
They hooked me up to a hose of saline solution that flowed up my vagina to clean the baby off and keep clean fluid on him. The fact that my water had been broken meant that now there was a time limit on my labor. The clock was ticking until the time I'd be sent for a cesaerean section. By this point I couldn't stop crying, and I was going into shock. I needed to wear an oxygen mask several times, and at one point I was uncontrollably shaking. They gave me more pain medication - this time, an epidural. The anasthesiologist came to meet me, and he was the most decent, respectful person I dealt with during this whole ordeal. He spoke to me by name and treated me with as much dignity as someone could in that kind of situation. He gave me the epidural, and he left. Within moments, my contractions completely stopped.
They started the Pitocin again, but it was to no avail. My contractions never became strong enough to feel over the epidural, and they were coming very irregularly. Eventually they made the decision to stop the labor (another drug through the IV) and send me for a c-section.
I was a wreck. I have never been such a mess in my life. I was hysterically crying. When they kept my husband away while I was first wheeled in, I nearly screamed. At one point I just went numb. I just let it happen to me. I just laid there numb while they cut open my body. I felt like I was detached and I was floating around somewhere else. I could hear them saying what they were doing. Sometimes I tried to be a "good little mama" and respond to their comments. Sometimes I made a joke. I feel sick about that now. I needed TWO spinals before I stopped having feeling in my abdomen. I felt them tug and push and pull, and then pull my baby right out of my body. I heard him grunting. I said, "Is it him?" and my husband, with tears in his eyes, nodded yes. 
I was aching to see my baby, to hold him, kiss him, put him to my breast. After the pediatrician took care of him on the examining table, he carried him to me and I looked at him and gave him a kiss on the cheek. I remember the pediatrician saying that he wanted me to do that. I am so thankful for him being there now, and having the decency to give me that moment with my son. Then my husband and our son left the room along with the pediatrician and one of the nurses, and the rest of them stitched me up. After my son was gone, the anasthesiologist was the only person who interacted with me. I told him I was going to be sick, and he gave me a pan to throw up in. He stroked my hair and told me that it was normal and I was going to be okay.
Then I was wheeled to recovery. I kept saying that I wanted to see my baby, where was my baby? They told me that he was fine, and that I just needed to do this first. The nurse in recovery was very nice. He told me about his three sons that were all born by c-section. He said that the wonderful thing about c-section babies is that their heads are beautiful and round, right from the start. I spent 2 hours in recovery. 2 long hours in which I tried desperately to think of a way that I could get to my son. Eventually I lied to the nurse. I told him that I could feel him touching my feet. He told me that I was moving my feet, too. I pretended that I knew I was doing that. He told me that I could go see my son now, and he wheeled me to OB and into my room.
My husband came in with a nurse, and they were wheeling the baby in a bassinette.  I felt so strange, like I was being given this random baby to take care of. I hadn't seen him until he was 2 hours old, so it just didn't feel natural to me. And I still had so many drugs coursing through my body. I got my first breastfeeding lesson, and my mom and some of my sisters came in to visit for a few minutes. They wanted to hold him too. I didn't care anymore. I didn't feel like I had any right to claim him over anyone else. I'd only spent five minutes with him since he'd been born, anyway. I fell in love with him right away but it took longer to feel like he was MINE. 
My sweet boy who is now two years old is awake from his nap now, so I have to end this. But I hope that this story will not scare anyone, or make anyone be frightened of their labor and delivery, but rather to make you think. This is supposed to be one of the most important days of your life. Don't let your special day be hijacked by well-meaning doctors and nurses and their many interventions. Trust your body that it will do what you need it to do. After all, women's bodies are almost magical and have been doing this great work for millions of years. Take an active role in your birth. Don't assume that your caregivers always know what is best - do your own research and be strict about your own rules. Birth is NOT an illness, trust your body to take care of you and your sweet baby.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.