It’s probably pretty obvious at this point of the story that going to the hospital was not what I had wanted. I had decided to give birth at the birth center with a midwife because I wanted a natural labor and birth. I knew there was a chance I could end up at the hospital anyway—but I didn’t really believe it would happen as long as my baby wasn’t breech, premature, or beyond term. While I was in labor, dilating at the birth center, I didn’t think there was any chance that I would end up in the hospital.  Even when my labor went on and on, and my midwife worried that I might get tired, I never felt anything less than strong, even invincible.

I had some theoretical ideas about what I wanted to happen if I had to be transferred to the hospital, and even have a cesarean—I wrote them down in my birth plan. But I thought that I wasn’t really prepared to go to the hospital.

Surprisingly, though, I was prepared for it. I remember telling my sister that if I had complications and ended up in the hospital, I would take advantage of everything that could potentially help me give birth. I never thought I would have to live up to those words, but when I entered the hospital, I didn’t look back.  I knew that my body had already done everything it could to birth this baby without assistance, and it wasn’t enough. I felt strong enough to keep on going, looking forward. When my midwife showed up, I didn’t even really want her there, because I didn’t want to look back at all!

The first thing I did at the hospital was ask for an epidural. My birth plan requested that I not be offered pain medication unless I asked first, so that forced me to be active right from the very beginning. Because I had pushed for so long without progress, knowing the whole time that the pain wasn’t accomplishing anything, I had entered a place, mentally, where I was no longer trying to stay on top of the pain, but exit on the other side of it. I knew I had to get it together again in order to make any decisions. I also knew that an epidural could potentially help me relax enough to give birth vaginally. I wanted to do anything I could to avoid a c-section. Asking for an epidural made being at the hospital very real—but like I said, I wasn’t looking back.

But would they give me an epidural? Nope. The nurses and doctors told me that I was about to have the baby, and there was no time for an epidural! How I wished that were true! To give everyone credit, it was completely reasonable that they would come to this conclusion: anyone with eyes could see my baby’s head. The doctors didn’t know that I had felt his head in that same position for hours already. In fact, my nurse, thinking I wasn’t really aware of his position, placed a mirror so that I could also see my baby. I was surprised at the large caput that had formed on his head—the whole time I had thought it was an amniotic sac!

I was very frustrated with everyone for assuming the baby was about to come out on his own. Why would I be at the hospital then? Maybe the doctors thought I had gotten too tired at the birthing center, or that I hadn’t been pushing properly before. This was clearly faulty reasoning, as I had been just about as bad-ass as you can be during labor, and soon the doctors realized their mistake.  After observing the lack of baby’s descent after some good, strong contractions, the “this baby is coming now!” urgency went out the window and I was given the go-ahead for an epidural.

Of course, the anesthesiologist was tied up in surgery. While waiting, I accepted half a dose of Demerol, which spaced out my contractions. I didn’t really notice that effect (it seemed to be doing nothing) until it started to wear off! Thankfully, about 10 minutes after that, the anesthesiologist came in to give me my epidural. I was told to sit on the bed with my legs dangling off, but I felt it was physically impossible to do that! I was kneeling with my legs to one side, and asked “Can’t you just do it like this?” The anesthesiologist said “I’ve never seen that before, but okay.” After he placed the epidural in my spine, I panicked because I could still feel my painful contractions. I thought the epidural wasn’t working for me, as I knew was sometimes the case with back labor. The nurse reassured me that it took a few minutes to start working, and she was right. Feeling my contractions subside was blissful. At this point it was a little before noon, and you have to remember, this whole time (since 5:30), I had been pushing. I was physically unable to stop.

During my labor at the hospital, it seemed like there were a million people in my room. At some point there were two different nurses (both amazing), a nursing student who had never seen a birth before, an anesthesiologist and his student, one male doctor, at least four female doctors or residents, and another male doctor after the shift change. My midwife and Eric were also there.

With so many cooks in the kitchen, or doctors in the delivery room, things got pretty confusing at times. First, nobody could agree on the baby’s position. Because of my back labor, the nurse thought my baby was sunny-side-up, so she put me in an exaggerated side-lying position (Simm’s position) to try and get him to turn. She said “I wish Dr. So-and-so were here. She would try and turn your baby.” I wished that too, but at the time, I tried not to focus on what-if’s.

As soon as my epidural was placed, having a C-section was brought up. When I first got to the hospital, I had refused to sign the C-section consent form, telling the doctor “I’m not ready for that.” I was polite, but I inwardly felt very agitated when it was brought up again about 5 minutes after my epidural. I hadn’t even had the chance to see if the epidural would do anything! Eventually that doctor went away for a little while when I kept repeating myself.

Another doctor came in and talked about the possibility of a vacuum assisted delivery, which I was willing to consider over a C-section, though I still wanted to wait a little. He left, saying that I probably would have the baby in my arms in an hour or two, without either of those interventions.

My nurse coached me in pushing through some contractions, which was extremely weird. I couldn’t feel them anymore, so I had to rely on her telling me. If I hadn’t felt my body bearing down without the epidural, I would not really have known what to do. Having felt them, however, I was able to try and use those same muscles now. All the nurses and doctors told me that I was a really good pusher, but it still wasn’t working. One doctor gave me a sheet and we did “tug of war” with it, to try and give me as much traction as possible. Again, I was told how strong I was, but it still wasn’t working.

The epidural had relaxed me, slowing my contractions down. It was really frustrating, and the nurse suggested we could strengthen them with Pitocin. I said “let’s do it!” when the nurse promised we would shut the Pitocin off if my baby showed any signs of distress.

Right after we started the Pitocin, the pro C-section doctors came in and tried to convince me again. I was annoyed because I felt like I was wasting time now. I didn’t want to repeatedly say “not yet” while I could be working with the Pitocin! Eventually I convinced the doctors to leave me to try and labor in different positions. I told Dr. E., who stayed with me most of the time, “I didn’t put these drugs in my body for no reason. I want to see if it does anything.” She said “fair enough,” and helped me with the next part of my labor.

According to one doctor, it wasn’t “safe” for me to labor off of the bed with an epidural, but I could move around as long as I stayed on the bed. I took her literally. The nurse and Dr. E. put up the squat bar and I tried to squat with it—but that wasn’t comfortable. So, I stood up. On the bed. With an epidural. I held onto the squat bar and moved my hips, trying to wiggle that baby down. I pushed with each contraction. I knew I looked ridiculous, but it brought a levity and energy to the labor that I really needed. The nurse told her student “You’re never going to see this again. Most women don’t stand with an epidural.”

After a while I tired and sat back down. I pushed for a few more contractions. The nurse checked me, found the baby to be in the same position, and said “this isn’t working.” When I heard that, I felt deflated, but I knew she was right. It was about 2:30. I had first started pushing 9 hours ago, and at least 7 or 8 of those hours I was actively pushing. I had done everything I could do.

The pro C-section doctors came back in, ready for the kill. When I asked about a vacuum-assisted delivery, they said, “We wouldn’t have necessarily offered that to you.” They explained that it was mainly used when more assistance is needed on the woman’s part—the woman tires and can’t push. But I was too good of a pusher, I wasn’t tired, and they felt that something on the baby’s part was preventing him from coming down. They went to talk with the doctor who had offered it some hours ago, and came back with a “no” from him. Since I hadn’t progressed, he wasn’t comfortable doing it.

That’s when I started to cry, because I knew I was having a C-section. I hadn’t even wanted an epidural, and here I was, ending up with a C-section! After a little while, everyone left so Eric and I could have some privacy. We cried together for a little while, and then I tried to reassure him. “It’s okay.” I said. “We’re having our baby. We’re going to become parents.”


It took a long time for the C-section to actually be performed after we made the decision. Eric and I both tried to doze a little, but I think I just floated off into space a little bit. The nurse came back in and gave us caps to wear, and a paper outfit for Eric. Since I had previously refused to sign the C-section consent form, another doctor came in to talk with me about that. I didn’t like some of the things on it—I wanted to keep my placenta, and didn’t want photos or videos, except on my own camera, so we crossed those things off of the form, and I initialed them. (Me: I want to keep my placenta. How do you usually make that happen with a C-section?” Dr: “I don’t know. I’ve never done that before.)  I also asked if they could delay the cord cutting, and the doctor said it depended on the baby’s health. She did agree that Eric could be the one to announce the baby’s sex.

I was wheeled to the operating room, and Eric was allowed in after they had prepped me. I held onto Eric with one hand, and the anesthesiologist with the other hand. I remember looking at the anesthesiologist more than I did Eric—trying to gauge by his face if everything was going well. I asked him to tell me what was happening, and he said, “Oh, they’re already working on you. The baby’s almost out.” The nurse had explained that during the operation, I would feel pressure in my vagina. She was going to have to use her hand to push the baby back up the birth canal, and she didn’t want me to think that it was the baby finally descending! Truthfully, I hardly felt anything until they were stitching me up.


Eric was finally able to stand up and see what was going on when the baby was delivered. The baby cried out, and Eric said “It’s a boy!” They were the three most beautiful words I had ever heard.

Seeing and hearing the baby was unbelievable. I was worried that, because I was having a C-section, I wouldn’t bond with the baby right away. But even though I had an unnatural birth, I did experience a natural labor—and all those important bonding hormones had been released in my body. I cried, “He’s perfect!” the minute I saw his bright pink little self. “He’s perfect!”

I was wild to hold my baby, blood and all, and I couldn’t, because they were still operating on me! Well, if I couldn’t hold my baby, then I wanted Eric to. “Give the baby to Eric!” I said. But instead, they just kept on cleaning him up and weighing him. I must have told them to “give the baby to Eric” a dozen times, and nobody ever responded, except for Eric, who kept telling me everything was okay. Finally, I shouted “Why is everybody ignoring me?” What was the response? Nothing. They ignored me some more. I was even angrier when I heard Eric ask if they had delayed cutting the cord. No, they hadn’t. Why? They forgot.

When the baby nurse started to put on his diaper and wrap him in a blanket to give him to Eric, I shouted “No diaper!” It’s not that I didn’t want a diaper on him, but putting a diaper on him made it just that much longer until Eric could hold him. The baby nurse looked at me, said “No diaper? Okay.” It was like I hadn’t been saying anything up until then! She swaddled him and handed him to Eric.

When they handed Eric the baby, it was as if I was holding him too. I immediately relaxed, no longer fighting the intense fatigue that had come over my body as soon as the baby was born. I also became more aware of what else was going on around me. I was able to feel the doctors stitching me up, and as I focused on that, I listened to their conversation. It soon became apparent that one was instructing the other, and I kept saying “be careful!” when I heard things like “No, not like that. Go under,” coming from the other side of the paper barrier.

As soon as they were done, I was quickly wheeled to the recovering room, Eric and the baby following. The anesthesiologist asked how much blood I had lost, and I had him repeat the answer when I didn’t catch it. 500 cc’s. “That’s not bad,” I said. Of course, it was still enough to make me anemic.

In the recovery room, I looked over to see Eric holding the baby. Eric still had his gloves on, and the baby was sucking on one of his fingers. It was very cute. Then I was handed the baby, and I helped him latch on. He began nursing right away. It was so sweet to have him in my arms and sing “Happy Birthday” to him then. Of course, it was only minutes until he pooped everywhere! I found that funny—what a way to enter the world!

What a way to enter the world, Heron.


Reflections can be read here.