In That Moment, My World Fell Apart: Part Four of My VBAC Journey
Up until the moment I needed her — like really needed her — I felt sort of uncomfortable with having a doula. But in that moment of desperation, Chrystin became the best decision I had ever made. My panic was once again replaced with hope, and the fear that had nearly consumed me turned to strength. I was ready to fight again, and the first battle was getting labor started.
We tried everything: walking, squatting, massaging. We even tried using a breast pump. Apparently, nipple stimulation is a big help for some people.
But for me, nothing happened. Literally nothing. Not a single contraction, twinge, or tightening of the stomach. And when everything failed and we'd been at it for a while, we would rest a bit and then start again. We kept this up for hours. When we were tired of one strategy, we would simply switch to the next. My husband and Chrystin were my own personal cheerleaders. Negativity wasn't an option for them. They tirelessly encouraged me, making me believe I could do anything.
And they were right.
I started to feel contractions nearly 12 hours after we had begun. It was the middle of the night. They were mild in intensity, but it felt like a win. It was clear something was happening, and by dinner the next day, I was 4 cm and 80% effaced.
We were making progress, but it was still too slow. It had been two days since my water broke, and I was just now entering early labor with no sign that things were speeding up.
When the Pitocin was first offered, I refused it, believing it would ultimately lead to a repeat c-section. But after a lengthy conversation with the doctor, I was convinced otherwise.
I was given the Pitocin in very small doses that were slowly increased over 12 hours. The contractions I already had grew from mild to moderate and then intense. The hours ticked happily by. We were all glad to have made it that far.
But as the contractions got longer and more painful, I started to do less smiling and more moaning. I called out for my husband's hand as soon as I felt them coming on. I began to fear their arrival. It had been eight hours since we started the induction, and I was losing focus of the big picture. It took all of my might to make it through each contraction. The pain was intense, and it was wearing me down.
Chrystin noticed the change in me and encouraged me to hang on, reminding me that the most painful contractions brought about the most progress. The OB came in to check me soon after. Her facial expression told me the news wasn't good.
Nine hours of painful contractions, and I was still 4 cm.
They wanted me to get an epidural, arguing that the pain of the contractions was keeping my body from relaxing and opening up. But I refused. I labored for two more hours, and when I was checked again, I found I had made no progress at all.
No one offered the epidural a second time, but after 14 hours on Pitocin, I begged for one. I was in so much pain that it took every ounce of self-control I had to keep myself from leaping off the hospital bed while the needle and tube were being inserted into my back.
Relief came quickly, however, and four hours later, the OB returned to check my progress.
The midwife threw her fist in the air, “You are going to have this baby before midnight! You are 10 cm!”
Tears streamed down my face, and when I looked around the room, I saw that my joy was shared by everyone. We had done what seemed impossible. The underdogs were victorious.
At 11 p.m. on the 28th of March, I started pushing, with my husband and Chrystin by my side. But after nearly four hours, I still hadn't given birth. No one seemed to understand what was going on or why we weren't making any progress. The midwife wanted a second opinion and left to get the attending OB, Dr. Connery.
After the exam, I got some crippling news.
“The baby's station is -1. I would expect a woman in early labor to be at -1 — it is like you never started pushing. We may have to … consider other options.”
I had come way too far to give up now.
With the help of my doula and husband, I got on all fours and pulled myself up to a squatting position. There was no way in hell this was going to slip through my fingers. I pushed for another hour in as many positions as I could manage without the full use of my legs. I pushed the limits of my body and mind. I gave it everything I had.
Everyone humored me, but I could tell that they no longer believed it would do any good.
I collapsed on the bed, exhausted. “What do you guys think I should do?”
No one wanted to see me fail, much less be the one to tell me I had. Finally, Dr. Connery spoke up.
“Hear me when I tell you that you did everything anyone could have asked of you and more. You gave this your everything. You should be proud.”
“But my concern is that if we continue pushing, your baby is going to get stuck.”
I shot my husband a look, ready to fight again. To do something, anything, to keep the surgery from happening. I wanted to push longer and disconnect the epidural.
My husband, who had been my #1 champion over the past three days, never doubting me, took my hands and looked me straight in the eyes. There were tears running down his cheeks.
“Samantha, sometimes the bravest thing you can do is give up.”
And so I did.
But it didn't feel brave. It felt like failing. In that moment, my world fell apart. They prepared me for surgery while I just lay there, motionless, silent. Tears soaked my pillow. I shut everyone out — it was the only way I knew how to cope.
An hour later, I felt them pull my son out of me. My entire body was shaking, bouncing off the operating table. A wave of nausea came over me. I heard him cry for the first time. I felt the nurse hold him against my cheek. He was perfect, beautiful. They took him to be weighed.
I threw up on myself. I began to get confused. I could sense something was very wrong. I called out for help. I felt a strange hand brush against my forehead, telling me I was going to be all right. I started panicking. I wanted my son.
A doctor yelled. “Get everyone out!”
And then it went dark, and the peace came.
A warmth worked it's way up from toes and washed over me. My body was no longer shaking. I thought I might be dying. The pain and fear that were consuming me moments earlier were gone. It was quiet. I was at peace with everything that had happened. I felt happy.
I woke up to my son on my chest, my doula helping him to nurse. I was disoriented, still heavily drugged. Every word took effort to form; every movement was a feat.
Our nurses came to visit us. One of them had stayed past her shift to make sure that the baby and I were OK. She said that people like the ones in my family were the reason she did this job. I told her I loved her before passing out again.
When I woke up, we were in our recovery room. My husband was sitting on the bed to my left, sobbing. He looked over at me, “You don't know what happened, do you?”
I shook my head.
His eyes were bloodshot; he'd been crying a while. “You nearly died.” He had to be exaggerating. Surely, I would remember almost dying. But Dr. Connery confirmed his story a couple of hours later, saying only that “it was close. Very close.”
Apparently, nine units of blood and three surgeons saved my life. My uterus had ruptured twice while they were trying to deliver my son, who had in fact been stuck. I later learned that Chrystin had stayed by my husband's side through the whole ordeal and that it had made all the difference in the world for him, not having to be alone.
I also learned that two ER doctors were brought in to assist and that they wanted to remove my uterus to stop the bleeding. But my OB refused, and they were able to save it.
When Dr. Connery came to check on me, she told me that the anesthesiologist had ordered blood preemptively — before there was any need. She explained that she had questioned his decision, arguing that she hadn't needed blood during a caesarean in over six years. He felt strong about it and ordered the blood anyway. She told me it likely saved my life.
In the days following the surgery, everyone who had been a part of Oliver's birth either came to visit or called. I found out that Dr. Palmer had even followed my story, calling every few hours to see how I was doing. I was told 1,000 times how strong I was, how hard I tried. I didn't believe a word of it, I but hoped in time I would.
Oliver was born a healthy 9 pounds and 3 ounces. He was 21 inches long and absolutely beautiful. Giving birth to him changed me forever. It was the best experience of my life.
Hear me when I say that if I could go back in time and make different decisions, I wouldn't. I have never felt so incredibly strong, so unconditionally supported or so full of love in all my life. So, yeah, I wouldn't change a thing.
Missed the beginning of this story? Start here.