Doctors, Hospitals, Epidurals, C-Sections...A True Story

I don't want to make this post a big deal (even though it is long), but it's something I felt compelled to post about so I wanted to. It's under the cut.

A few of the blogs I follow lately have had a few interesting posts that got me thinking back over my birth experience. I never had a birth plan, other than to avoid an epidural or c-section at all costs, but ended up with both. And both of them, I'm really, really cool with.

There's a lot of talk out there about doctors wanting to do c-sections so that they can deliver on their own time and not while they're on vacation or in the middle of the night. I'm sure, in some places, that happens. But that's why I firmly believe you should, you know, get to know your OB and if you don't like him/her...move to another practice if you have that ability.

I am fortunate enough to have a PPO insurance plan which allows me to go to any hospital, doctor, or specialist that accepts my insurance without a referral. I realize many people don't have this option, and I can't speak for them. I'm only speaking for those who do have at least some level of choice in where they give birth and who they give birth with - be it at home, in a birth center, or in a hospital.

I'm getting sidetracked. I only want to post about my own experience - the reality of what I went through. I had a really hard time finding enough of a real life description of c-sections or epidurals (not medical jargon, actual real life experiences) when I was preparing for having Austin. I thought MAYBE this would be helpful for people to hear that these things really aren't so scary.

Doctors - My OBs were amazing. In full disclosure, one of the female doctors didn't give me the best first impression during a routine office visit (not that she wasn't nice as could be - just that that day she seemed to be rushing me) but she ended up doing my son's circumcision and did a beautiful job and was really friendly and took time with me in the hospital. So I can't really fault her for what may have been a busy day for her. Back to the practice though - I got to meet with every doctor at least once, so that I would be comfortable when delivering, because I would get whichever doctor was on call at the time. One doctor informed me early on that I had a low placenta (which COULD have led to Placenta Previa but didn't) and when I asked, worried, about a c-section he assured me I wouldn't need one. This same doctor performed my eventual c-section and specifically told me when he was stitching me up that he made sure to stitch me up so that next time (if I was going to have more children) I could have a VBAC. Not one doctor in that practice ever encouraged or pushed c-sections. In the end, it was me who actually made the final call (more on that later). I write this because people are very, very quick to stereotype all doctors together as c-section hungry, and that just isn't the case. Talk to your OB early on about their c-section rates, or their view on them. You should be very comfortable with your OB and if you aren't, then change practices (if you can).

Hospitals - there was a post on a blog I frequent about what the blog owner was packing in her hospital bag, and people were very, very quick to jump on her and tell her how it was going to go at her hospital and that her list was unreasonable. None of these people know her hospital/birth center's policies or what she has discussed with her OB. Every hospital has at least some differences in their procedures. Some are more strict with things than others. Here's my reality:

From what I recall, the only thing that was strict procedure with them that mattered to me was that you could only have 2 people in the labor room with you until you went to the maternity floor. They were very strict on that. When my mom and dad and stepmom came to visit me after delivery, they only let one of them in at a time. Other things they may be strict on, but I don't know, because I didn't need to ask. There are a lot of birth plans out there. I went in with an open mind. I knew what I didn't want (epidural, c-section) but everything else was ok with me if needed. However, during check in procedures, while getting my IV, the nurses asked me lots of questions, and gave me ample opportunity to speak up if I did/didn't feel strongly about something. The only thing I asked? That I didn't have Austin put on my chest until he was cleaned up. I even asked if that made me a terrible mother, and she told me that a LOT of women request that, actually. It made me feel very at ease. Again, in full disclosure, they WERE thrilled when I said he'd have formula, and that I allowed pacifiers. I truly believe this makes their lives easier, and I don't really blame them for being happy about my answers. I was actually really relieved, again, because I went into the hospital fully expecting a huge fight with the nurses about breastfeeding. My hospital has something like a 90% breastfeeding discharge rate, so I expected to get a lot of pressure to breastfeed. It was quite the opposite, and maybe that's because I made my choice clear to them - no one ever pressured me once to breastfeed. Other than this, I didn't really care what they did. It just wasn't important to me. I was glad to have a healthy baby, and that's all that really mattered.

My hospital allowed me to move around the room until I had my epidural. I could take a shower, walk around, use the rocking chair, whatever I wanted. All I really wanted to do was lie on my side and moan quietly, because the back labor was more pain than I could tolerate, but I did ask to move to the rocking chair at one point and was helped off my monitors and to the chair in minutes. No one pressured me to have an epidural, either. I made that choice, and I asked for it. And dilation didn't matter for when I could have it. They believed I was only 1cm dilated when I got mine. (They did a cervical check after I had it in, and I was 3-4, but the last check they had on record when I asked for it was 1cm). There was one nurse that I didn't like during the overnight in labor & delivery, but I'll give her credit - before that epidural, during the 3 hours I had those killer back labor contractions, she coached me. She told me I could do it, that i was strong, that I was handling things so well. She encouraged me to keep going. I made the call to have the epidural, not anyone else.

Epidural - Before you have one...all you can picture is this giant needle sticking into your spine, and it's scary as hell. I was dead set against it. Not that I didn't believe in them, I was just terrified of having one. That needle scared me more than almost anything. I thought I was so afraid of it, my stubbornness would get me through labor without having it. Once I started having back labor, I just couldn't do it. I managed three hours. Had I known I'd be ready to push in another 2 or 3, I might have tried to do it without...but at that point I thought I'd be looking at an 8-10 hour labor (I thought inductions went slowly) and I just didn't think I could make it. I'd been throwing up for 8 hours, and the pain, oh the pain, I just didn't think I had it in me. So I asked for that epidural. I asked to have it BEFORE my Pitocin. They gave me no resistance on having it before the Pitocin. An amazing anesthesiologist was called in, they sat me up with Brad in front of me, and I am telling you, one contraction and that thing was in and I barely felt it. I'm not lying. Maybe because the pain of the contractions was so bad, or because my anesthesiologist was so good, but I felt a teeny, tiny amount of heat (some describe it as a burning sensation - it was not even remotely like burning, just warmth) as the numbing meds went in and the rest I didn't feel. It was really easy (surprisingly easy) not to move while they were doing it (another thing I was worried about - what if I jerked with the contraction pain and paralyzed myself). I remember being so exhausted and hot from the contractions that all I wanted to do anyway was slump against Brad. He sat in front of me with his arms around me and held me as they put it in and it was over before I knew it. I remember even saying "that was IT?" because it went so quick and was so painless.

And then, oh the relief. I went totally numb from like, chest level down to my knees pretty quickly. They did a cervical check shortly after I lay back down and I didn't feel a thing. The previous cervical check had hurt so badly, I was in heaven when I couldn't feel them from that point forward. Also, I was finally able to get a little sleep (if for only a couple of hours). I hadn't slept all night.

I wrote this about the epidural because I just want to repeat what a lot of other people have said - you seriously cannot feel it if done properly. I suppose you have to trust your hospital staff.

C-Section - here's where there's room for interpretation. I have heard that being induced leads to Pitocin which leads to an epidural because supposedly the contractions are harder, and then that epidural leads to a stalled labor and a c-section. I don't really know what to say about that. Maybe that is true. And perhaps the induction and epidural had a hand in my c-section. I don't think you can know that for certain. What I can say is the facts about what happened. I had Cervadil at 4pm the evening prior. It started my labor about the middle of the night. I received a pain killer via shot and rested (but not slept) a bit. The Cervadil was removed at about 4:30 am, and I was told I had not dilated at all. At 5am, my water broke. So I believe the Cervadil did help kick start labor. I went into full active labor pretty much immediately when my water broke for the next 2-3 hours and then received my epidural. I can't honestly say how quickly my contractions were coming, but I remember not really feeling like I had any rest. There was no Pitocin at this point. I got Pitocin administered once I had the epidural. Two hours later, I was 8-9 centimeters dilated, and Austin's heart rate was dropping. I believe because things moved along very fast. This seems to be a direct contradiction to everyone that says epidurals stall labor. Not so in my case. They lost his heart beat on the external monitors (which scared us, having heard that heart beat all night long) and had to use internal monitors. I remember throwing up while they put the monitors on. He was experiencing decels. I was scared. I wanted him here, and healthy, and I was so tired, I didn't care how it was done. In fact I told my OB flat out "It is ok if you want to do a c-section, I just want him here." He replied that while they were prepping the OR, if I was ready to push when they got me down there, he would have me push. I told him that I didn't think I could push. This was where he told me that I was pushing really well while I was throwing up. So here is another point where I want to show that my OB even encouraged me pushing Austin out if possible. I was the one that made the call about just doing the c-section.

As for the c-section itself. I was very worried I would throw up during it. They pumped up my Zofran and all my nausea vanished. They also boosted my epidural so that everything from my arms down was numb. I do remember feeling my feet and insisting that they fix my socks, which had started to fall off. I was wheeled down on the gurney, transferred to the table, and prepped. They put these things on my legs that kept filling up with air, I guess to maintain circulation in them. I didn't really "feel" this as much as knowing that something was vibrating a bit near my feet. Brad was allowed to come in (there was a slight question on this - if it were a drop dead true emergency, he would not have been allowed and would have had to wait in the nursery). He stayed right next to my head, not wanting to see anything, and talked to me the whole time. The nurse that I liked from the morning shift was with me, and another amazing anesthesiologist was right by my head too. He's the one that ended up talking with me while I was stitched up. He made me feel very, very at ease. I'd been terrified of being left alone in the OR but I barely noticed because he was so great. I didn't feel a single thing during my c-section. Even when they said that I'd feel pressure, I didn't. The one thing I do remember is as I was being stitched up, it felt like I had an elephant sitting on my chest, I was having trouble breathing, but I told this to the doctors and they assured me it was normal and I'd be propped up shortly. In full honestly, I found the whole procedure very relaxing. Yes, relaxing. I didn't feel anything, so I was just lying there, waiting to hear my baby cry, seeing him for the first time, and it wasn't scary (to me - hubby was really upset). I actually felt relieved and relaxed.

As soon as Austin came out they wrapped him up and brought him to us for a picture, and so I could see him myself. Brad went with Austin while they checked him over and cleaned him up and I got stitched up, and then I met them in my labor room afterwards. I shivered a lot for awhile after the c-section so I didn't want to hold Austin right away. It wasn't until maybe 7 hours after my c-section that I held him for the first time. I was afraid to drop him. I thought I was too tired, too weak. Shannon's mom helped me hold him for the first time. I'm ok with this. I am happy I waited until I was comfortable holding him. I didn't have any baby experience prior to Austin, so I was a very nervous mom the first few days. I slept off and on the first few hours out of the c-section because I was just so tired. Brad even fell asleep while my mom held Austin.

I have one regret here - I do wish that I had not had visitors until I hit maternity. I wish I'd taken that recovery time to spend with just Brad and Austin. But that's hindsight, everything went just fine, and it's not something to lose sleep over.

While I'm on the subject, I will post a little bit about after the birth/recovery.

Immediately after returning to labor and delivery and for several hours, they have to check your fundus, and it's pretty painful, not gonna lie. They press around your belly and belly button to make sure your uterus is contracting properly and it sucks. It only takes a few seconds but it isn't fun. And you are in bed until the next morning, typically. With a catheter. Which also sucks being taken out. Not that it hurts, but it's like this intense urge to pee for a second and it really is VERY intense. I've had catheters twice and both times, same deal. They suck. Those were really the two sucky parts about my c-section.

Recovering from the c-section was tough for only a few days. I'd say day 3-6. (to my surprise, I was able to walk around easily the day after the c-section). Those days, as the cut starts to heal, there's a very tight sharp stretching pain that you can get if you move too quickly (I only got this when getting up or getting down, never when lying down or walking around), and it can be scary. You won't have pulled out a stitch, even though I swore I did like, 10 times. The nurses and your doctor will be constantly looking at your incision and they'll alert you if anything is wrong. Other than this pain, recovery was easy. Within 2 weeks I was told I could resume sexual activity again if I desired (and once my bleeding had stopped). I didn't want to, but it was interesting that we were told we could. No 6 week wait period like with a vaginal birth. I could wipe when going to the bathroom. It didn't hurt to go to the bathroom. It was a breeze. 10 months afterwards, I have a very, very light pink scar at my bikini line. It's barely noticeable now (surprisingly so!). My OB did a wonderful job stitching me up. Bleeding was minimal after the first day, maybe because of the c-section. I didn't bleed like a stuck pig as some people describe. (That came with my first period!)

And some other points -

Cervadil - it's like a sandpapery tampon they put up behind your cervix the night before the actual induction. It doesn't hurt much if you relax and prop your pelvis up on your fist (sit on your fist!), but it is uncomfortable. It hurt WAY worse being taken out. I had to lie down for two hours after getting it to make sure it didn't fall out right away, but after that I could move around and eat what I wanted. I ended up with blood pressure issues which changed that for me a bit, but if I hadn't had those issues, I could have been doing whatever I wanted.

Water breaking - people who say they feel and hear a pop aren't lying. That is exactly what happened. I was lying down, and felt what I described as a swift punch in my lower stomach, heard a noise, and immediately afterwards had a huge (my first painful) contraction. I went to the bathroom and gushed water and blood and mucus into the collection pan. I was glad they didn't have to break it for me, that I got to experience what that felt like. After that it was gush gush gush during every contraction. Laughable the amount of fluid coming out. :)

I think I wrote everything I wanted to but if anyone has any specific questions, feel free to ask (respectfully, please - I won't answer and will delete any comments that question my choices or my birth. My blog, my rules).


  1. Thank you so much for this, Melissa. :) We obviously have different views on birth and all that, but at the same time, I've been waiting to read an experience like yours without, like you said, all the medical jargon. This post is open, insightful, and honest.

    I admittedly had to skim some things because of my own hangups (eurgh, needles and checking the fundus!), but I did read the whole thing otherwise. I completely agree that it's up to each woman to decide what she wants and what she needs during labor and delivery, and to be open to the idea that it may change at any moment. (To that extent, have an excellent birth partner with you! It sounds like Brad absolutely was. :))

    Oh, and THIS SO HARD:

    "Talk to your OB early on about their c-section rates, or their view on them."

    Important with any doctor: Interview the hell out of 'em! See what you're getting into, what they're cool with and what they'll abhor, and see if their thoughts align with yours.

    H'okay, I'm done... loved this post. :)

  2. Thanks :) And fully agreed - I picked my OB's because they worked with the hospital I wanted to deliver at, and I was recommended to them by a friend. It IS ok to change doctors!

  3. It was very interesting to read your birthday story. I guess what it I've learned from reading all of the various ones I've found online is that one you never know how it's going to go for you. And two as long as you have a healthy baby at the end I think most of us would go through just about anything. I have had two C sections, both planned for medical reasons. I had a lot of complications going into the birth. The first time everything went beautifully. I was up and back to "normal" within a week tops. The second, just last summmer not so much. I had complications afterward that took upward of six weeks to deal with. They were actually normal complications but it's not normal when it's you. But all in all if I had to go through both ordeals to have both of my beautiful children, it's all worth it and more.

  4. I agree. The most important thing is a healthy baby :) I think it's very important to have an open mind when you give birth. It's totally ok to have an idea of what you want, but allow for the unexpected. :)

  5. Thank you for writing up such a detailed description of your birthing experience! I loved reading about how, even though things didn't go as you originally planned, everything turned out okay and you are ultimately happy with what happened. :-)

    When my bro and SIL had their baby last May, I was in the room while the doctor broke her water. I had always heard/seen in movies that's a giant gush of water, but I assumed it was exaggerated. Nope! It really is a gush of water!