From Plans to Chaos to Beauty
To know me is to read through my planner. I am an organizer; I live with purpose. The birth of my first child was going to be no different. Now obviously I knew I couldn’t control childbirth, but you better believe I was going to be the most prepared laboring woman those doctors had ever seen. Not working gave me nothing but time to research, prepare, plan, and research some more.
Despite all the people around me discouraging me, I was dead set on delivering naturally. Why not? Women had been delivering children naturally since literally the dawn of creation. It’s what our bodies were made to do – they are built for it. Everything else I do is natural. Essential oils are my medicine, nothing stronger than vinegar cleans my home, and GMO’s are a no-go. So naturally (no pun intended) unmedicated childbirth was the plan for me. I got really good at ignoring the Negative Nancy’s telling me I wouldn’t be able to do it. I mean please. I am woman, hear me roar… in the delivery room because I will have this baby the way I was meant to, and I will endure the pain. It was my passage into motherhood and womanhood.
Fast forward 40 weeks. I’d been having very painful and frequent contractions for 4 days. I had already made one trip to the hospital with false labor, only for them to tell me, “not yet, head on back home.”. 40 weeks and 2 days and not one centimeter to show for it. This meant that even though I had been in severe pain for 4 days, there was no movement at all. Mister Atlas was taking his very sweet time. At least I had been told he was really low. All I needed was some dilation and he was ready to go.
I was getting nervous about the pain. The contractions I’d been having were no mere Braxton Hicks; they were the real deal. They were at least an 8 on the pain scale and 2 minutes apart for 4 days straight. It was brutal to say the least. Thank God my family was staying with us and they were able to help out around the house. My mom and sister got me walking and doing squats. Neighbors had the pleasure of watching me have contractions in the middle of the street; so that was a fun time.
After 4 days of constant repeating pain, I found myself awake at 3am just knowing I needed to go to the hospital. The pain had changed – it was more severe and just felt unexplainably different than before. All those people who annoyingly told me over and over that you “just know” were totally right after all.
I woke my husband up and navigated through his half-asleep questions and we finally headed to the hospital. I didn’t want another repeat of before only to be disappointingly sent home, so I didn’t bring the hospital bags this time. When we arrived they checked me, and sure enough I was 5 centimeters dilated and 75% effaced. It was finally time.
My husband went back home to get the bags while the nurses hooked me up to a million machines. I had my birth plan, I had my resolve, I had my prepared arsenal of natural go-to’s; I was ready to do this. I was prepared for whatever pain this baby could throw at me. I had Rebozo tools, yoga items, candles and salt lamps, music playlists, healthy snacks, massage and therapeutic items, bath items, and every essential oil known to mankind, including my own blends. I was the living, walking manifestation of Pinterest. I was totally good!
Then the real contractions started. The best way I can describe it is to take your worst menstrual cramps and combine them with your worst gas pains, then multiply it by 100. Then multiply that by 10. I had never known such pain, and the exhaustion didn’t help. Those 4 days of contractions kept me from getting any real sleep.
7am rolled around. At that point in time, if you take the brutal contractions that had started the afternoon before, I had been in true labor for 17 hours. Most women would have a baby in their arms right about then. I had learned a new definition of tired. The nurses and anesthesiologist were doing their very best to convince me to get an epidural, but I was standing my ground. I said I wanted to have my son the way God intended and that was what I planned to do.
When the nurses and my family responded the way they were responding to my readings, I knew I was having bad contractions; their faces validated my pain. My numbers were literally off the chart; I couldn’t breathe. They were coming consistently every 30 seconds and I was only 7 centimeters dilated. My muscles were failing. My body was physically quitting before my eyes. If I were to have to push right then, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I was beginning to doubt myself.
At that point, holding out on medication was more about pride than anything else. I had such strong resolve despite the negativity and discouragement from everyone around me. If I gave up now they would have been right about me and my abilities. I had to be stronger than that; I was stronger than that. For 10 months I had been preparing for this moment; I couldn’t give up. But dear Lord, I was in so much pain. I was getting frustrated at how slow the dilation was happening; I was frustrated with myself and my body. Every time they checked me, they commented on how low and ready he was. What was the problem?
I was in hour 19 when I finally agreed to get an epidural. The nurses, anesthesiologist, my husband, and my mom all rejoiced with relief after hours of trying to convince me. I know they all meant well; they didn’t like to see me in pain and I couldn’t blame them for that. After about 20 minutes of heartbroken and self-disappointed tears, I finally gave the anesthesiologist permission and signed the waivers. With that signature I felt I was signing away all of my plans, preparation, resolve, personal beliefs, and desire of a natural birth for my child as modern medicine prevailed and took over. I was devastated that I couldn’t hold out. Everyone thanked me as the old, kind woman stuck me with the needle and I felt the strange numbing sensation enter my body. With it came the unwanted but much needed relief from the unbearable pain. She attempted to console me by saying, “there’s no award for suffering, sweetheart”. It didn’t help.
I know it was for the best and I tried so hard to keep telling myself that. The pain slowly began to subside. My legs disappeared from below me, like when you fall asleep with your arm above your head. I had to move them with my hands like they were someone else’s; it was strange. The medication only fully took on my left side, so I still felt a tiny bit of pain on my right side, but nowhere near what I experienced before. I sighed a heavy sigh of relief after the first few unnoticed contractions. My contractions were measuring well above 200 and I had no idea other than my family gasping in shock. It was then that I began to truly appreciate the epidural. When the nurse notified me it was time to start pushing and turn off the medicine, everyone was surprised and quite amused at my response of, “wait, don’t; I like the epidural…”.
By the time the doctor had arrived I was half numb, half drowsy, and half delirious from exhaustion. I believe it was around 10am at that point. They propped my feet up and began having me push with that first contraction; it all happened so fast. Pushing felt like trying to pass a bowel movement but without the pain or cramps. I pushed for about an hour, trying multiple positions, when the doctor started making comments about something not being right. He mentioned the baby’s head not being able to pass my pelvic bone. We tried more positions for another hour, but nothing was happening. I began to get scared.
After those two hours of pushing, the doctor determined the baby was under too much stress and I would have to be rushed to emergency surgery to have him removed via cesarean section. My heart never dropped so low as it did in that moment. I was in hour 22 of medicated labor and pushing only to be told I would have to have Atlas surgically removed. The amount of heartbreak and terror was unmeasurable.
My anxiety levels rose quickly, and I looked to my husband and mom with tears in my eyes and panic in my voice. My mom walked over to me calmly, got close to my face, and said quietly, “Listen, Kayla. Right now, this moment is about your son. His heart rate is rising, he is under stress, and your job is to bring him into this world. You have to forget about all of your fear and think about your son. It’s all about him right now.”. That was all I needed. I snapped out of my moment of fear and sadness and looked at the doctor and said, “okay, let’s go.”.
The C-Section was nasty. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say my epidural somehow blocked the ability to be affected by the 5 other narcotic pain killers they put me on, so I felt every ounce of pain during the surgery. During my labor before, Atlas entered into the birth canal and was inches away from being delivered when he got stuck. So when they opened me up they actually had to pull him back out. It was so bad that I was screaming bloody murder and drifting in and out of consciousness during the whole thing. But I think the hardest part of it turning into a C-Section was that I wasn’t the first person to hold Atlas. I didn’t get that immediate satisfaction of bonding with and holding my son. I didn’t get to breastfeed right away. I still struggle with that. But I keep reminding myself the important thing is he was healthy. But man was that kid big. I mean, no wonder he wouldn’t come out before. All the nurses and doctors in the ER gasped when he made his entrance. They couldn’t believe a woman with a pre-pregnancy weight of 96 pounds could deliver an 8 pound 4 ounce baby.
I don’t remember much from that evening. The drugs took a while to leave my system. I do remember doctors and nurses coming in to see the 8 pound baby that came out of tiny little me. He was beautiful; everyone around us was obsessed. Suddenly I was a mom and none of the other stuff mattered anymore. My plan didn’t work out, and I had to be okay with that. This incredible fragile human being was all mine and it was my job to care for him. That reality hit me hard that evening. All of the dreams of being a mom that I’ve had for many years were real and I was so in love with my son. I never knew that I could feel a love like that.
Even now, a month later, as I sit here with a screaming baby behind me, dried spit up on my sleeve, and an extreme lack of sleep that has me on the brink of delirium, I could not be any happier. I was made to be a mom and I take my job very seriously. Once that tiny human is in your arms, literally nothing else matters. That child becomes your priority, your focus, and your pride as a woman.
My experience wasn’t what I planned. Honestly it was downright horrible. But it gave me Atlas exactly as he is, and I would not trade that for anything in the entire world. So remember, that baby is the only thing that matters. Not your birth plan. Not your desires for labor and delivery. Not your preferences for natural versus medicated. Just that baby. Remember, whatever has to happen for your child to be happy and healthy will become your priority in that moment without you even thinking about it. So take heart in what’s to come despite your plans; that’s my encouragement for you today.