Donna's Hospital Birth Story

Believe me, a hospital cesarean wasn't my plan. For many years I had been reading every book I could find about midwivery and home birth, and I was (and am!) a strong advocate of both. But by the time it became a real decision and not just an abstract thought, I was living in a town with very few midwives, and none willing to take on a 36-year-old. (Unassisted was out of the question for me--I knew that I needed the presence of someone who had been through the process before and could help me interpret what was going on.)

After coming to terms with losing the option of home birth, I found truly wonderful doctor--an osteopathic physician in family practice--who was unfailingly respectful and kind. We did one ultrasound and a few tests, but skipped many others as neither of us believed much in interventions. My pregnancy went well without the slightest sign of trouble, and along with my husband I did lots of reading and learning in preparation for the upcoming birth at a little hospital in a nearby town.

When labor began I remained at home until contractions were pretty close and intense, about 4 am. At the hospital I was monitored only occasionally and was encouraged to walk around between contractions (no IV)--we were pretty much left alone to enjoy this amazing time unless we asked for something, and I was also encouraged in remaining drug free through the birth.

Just as I started to go into what I think was transition, things started to go wrong. My waters, which had stayed intact until then, broke with one strong contraction and had quite a bit of meconium. There was a time of "wait and see" with constant monitoring--the contractions had become so huge that I was pretty oblivious to time and the outside world--and then the baby's heart rate began to plummet. "I think we need to do a section," said my doctor, and I remember nodding and saying "OK."

The problem was a placental abruption, and my son was born the color of a plum, not moving or breathing--his one-minute Apgar score, I learned later, was 1. A part of me is still sad at his entry into the world and his first day, spent not in my arms but in NICU--but that grief is very small compared to the one I glimpsed when I thought he had been born still. And every day since has been the slow revelation of a miracle.

The experience went against the grain of everything I believed about childbirth, but I can't disregard it any more than I can disregard the experience of those who have suffered horribly, and unnecessarily, in hospitals. Terrible stories and cautionary tales have their place in helping us understand what birth should be. But I hope that stories like mine have a place, too. I hope that it can help show other women faced--for whatever reason--with a hospital birth that with careful choices, good preparation, and a calm, open spirit it is possible to have a good birth even in a hospital, even with terrifying complications, even with a cesarean.




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