I let go of my self-righteousness and had a Cesarean delivery — and I'm thankful for it

May 2 | Guest post by Rachel Carter

We're celebrating all kinds of births this week, so we've dubbed it BIRTH WEEK. Today we'll be focusing on Cesarean deliveries.

We hope it goes without saying that we LOVE midwives and home birth on Offbeat Mama. That said, some home births don't go as planned and no health care practitioner is infallible, and we want Offbeat Mama to be a place for those truths, too…

Rachel and babe.
This is the story of a super-crunchy girl who just had to get over herself. As a minor, I had a few doctors take liberties with me, i.e. repeatedly poking me for blood when they couldn't find my vein in ten tries. I promised myself as a teen that, once I could govern my own body, doctors were OUT. Holistic medicine was in.

When I got pregnant last January I was stoked about the joyful, carefree unassisted birth I had always dreamed of. My husband and mom, though, were concerned about the safety of freebirths and so I compromised with them and hired a Certified Nurse-Midwife who only did home births. She was a mother of two who lives on a farm and works primarily with the Amish women in our area. When I caught her voicemail, I noticed she signed off with "Namaste." I thought: "Wow, this is going to be so great! She's just like me! I don't have to worry that she'll force me to have medicines or procedures done that I don't want."

Throughout my pregnancy I operated under what I considered to be the "natural" way. I didn't take prenatal vitamins or discontinue drinking alcohol (though I did limit it). I meditated and spent time connecting to the spirit of my baby. My midwife came once a month to check my blood pressure and let me hear the heartbeat, but that was the extent of the care (which is what I wanted). I had two ultrasounds, at 20 and 22 weeks, just to check the sex and make sure Baby was healthy. She was. My midwife and her assistant taught me about herbs and meditation techniques that would be of use to me in labor. They were extremely derisive about hospitals and obstetricians, but then, so was I. They understood.

Once October came, I was beyond excited about meeting my little girl. I went into labor in the wee hours of Saturday night and called my parents (who were driving four hours to come be with us for the birth). I had been told not to call my midwife until contractions were less than five minutes apart. That stage came pretty quickly, and I called her at 7 a.m. Sunday morning.

I don't want to go into the gory details of my labor, but I will say that it lasted 92 grueling hours. My mom and dad holed up in the spare bedroom, crying; my husband held me and the baby's godmother poured me wine and stroked my hair to try to help me sleep when I had been awake for the first 48 hours. My midwife kept coming and going; she would drive over and check my cervix, which dilated excruciatingly slowly. She would leave afterwards, telling me in none-too-caring tones that everything was "normal" and that every other woman in the room had gone through this, so there was no reason I shouldn't be able to handle it. I begged her to take me to the hospital, and she scoffed. "I know the doctors at that hospital," she said, "and they'll cut you open without asking any questions." I was terrified of a C-section, and she knew it.

At one point she felt my cervix and told me I had reached eight centimeters, and that she'd check me again in two hours. When the two hours were up, I asked if she would do it again. She said there was no need (she was knitting a scarf serenely on my floor). "Do you feel like you need to push? Then push." I did, but nothing happened.

Finally I worked up the courage and told my mother to help me into a dress because I was going to the hospital. The midwife's assistant railed at us and told me I "had no faith in the Divine." My husband all but pushed her out of the door while my parents helped me into the car; she stood outside our door looking bewildered and angry.

The anesthetist cradled my head as she held the gas over my face, and crooned to me in Afrikaans. Long story short: Rowan was born, and she was perfect.

Once at the hospital the nurses, anesthetists and doctors were more than kind. The head nurse held me close to her while I got the epidural I dreaded, and I was able to sleep for the first time in days. The obstetrician told me I would probably be able to have the baby vaginally, but that my midwife had lied to me — I'd never passed seven centimeters. The baby was "sunny side up," presenting the wrong part of her head downward. After a few hours it became imperative that I have a Cesarean section: I had a fever and Baby's heart was starting to race.

I was terrified. The anesthetist cradled my head as she held the gas over my face, and crooned to me in Afrikaans. Long story short: Rowan was born, and she was perfect.

In the recovery room I almost died; my blood pressure was half what it should have been and I shook uncontrollably for the better part of an hour. I really thought that my life was ending. I remember the nurse asking me if there was anything I needed, and I said "I'd give anything for a Coke." She replied, "I'll get you a Coke, honey, if I have to break eighty rules to do it."

After a few days I was fine. Rowan's six months old now, and she's the best baby I've ever known. A few weeks after she was born, a representative from the Commonwealth of Virginia showed up at my door. Turns out, my midwife had let her license expire a while ago, and that was why she disappeared when I wanted to go to the hospital. I never had to appear in court, but I was interviewed for the record.

I still see the obstetrician who performed the Cesarean section. We have a lot in common and I really like her. She wouldn't dream of making me have more prenatal procedures than I felt comfortable with, next time around. My self-righteousness has had to take a backseat to my gratitude to the medical community, and the newfound knowledge that Western medicine is a tool I can use.

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  1. This "midwife" sounds downright cruel, manipulative and bitter. I'm so glad you were so brave and had a healthy birth.

    Like every profession, there's good and bad. Sounds like you experienced that firsthand!

    32 agree
  2. I'm so glad you and baby are healthy. There are good things about both sides of the birthing coin. I'm sorry you had to find out that you had had a dishonest (and if I may, bad) midwife. I wasn't comfortable with a homebirth for my last two, but commuted to a birthing center that employed doctors and midwives, which allowed me a more homey feel with the safety net of the hospital, just in case. Thankfully you've found an OB who will listen to your wishes should you have more kids in the future. Mazal tov on your little bean. 🙂

    4 agree
  3. I'm so glad you found the strength to stand up for what you needed. That must've been hard. Like I always say, there are great people and awful people in every category of people: teachers, cops, writers, doctors, whatever. Congratulations on your little one and your success!

    6 agree
  4. That baby is as adorable as that "midwife" was horrible. Kudos to you for being a strong mama and doing what was right for you and the little lady on her way.

    Still gritting my teeth about that woman, smearing the good name of the many amazing, compassionate, knowledgeable midwives out there (including mine, who would have known BEFORE the birth she was sunny side up – like my daughter was – and helped get her into position before/during labor if needed). Rowan is so cute though, it's calming my blood pressure.

    11 agree
  5. Thank you so much for submitting this very honest piece and to OBM for publishing it. I sometimes feel judged for wanting a very medical birth (hospital, epidural, etc.) so it's very reassuring to hear something besides "Homebirth = good, wholesome, pure. Hospital birth = bad, cold, emotionless." OBM does a great job of posting happy hospital birth stories, but this is the first time anywhere I've read about a bad midwife. So glad you were able to have a healthy, supported birth.

    29 agree
    • I can tell you that my medicated hospital birth (which ended in a c-section) was absolutely wonderful. If I ever have any more kids, I am definitely going back to the hospital! Whatever is going to make you feel comfortable, supported and confident in your birthing is what you need to do.

      5 agree
      • Amen! I have a variety of health issues, and as awesome as a home birth sounds, I know I that a hospital birth was what was best for me and my baby. I'm lucky enough to live five minutes away from an awesome hospital that really encourages intervention free labor and births (water birthing suites! yay!), but I definitely never felt judged for choosing an epidural after 48 hours of total and exhausting labor. My nurse took turns with my husband massaging my back during back labor and holding my hand and rubbing my head when I got my epidural…I felt very cared for and supported.

        1 agrees
    • I'm glad to hear a good story about c-sections and hospitals. I also had a section (planned), and the calm, efficient, and totally pain-free experience was a lovely way to bring my son into the world. He was lifted gently from the womb, he didn't even cry, he was laid on my chest right away, and I had him beside me throughout the hospital stay. I was awake and alert the whole time, I was rested and calm, able to care for him and breastfeed right away without being exhausted by labouring, and I was up and walking around 24 hours later, and home a day after that. I'm actually really happy with the way he was brought into the world.
      [and my son's middle name is Rowan :)]

      5 agree
  6. I'm sorry that your first days (!!!) of labor were so excruciating. That sounds terrible. But I'm so, so glad that you and your baby are healthy!

    I also had a c-section, and, like you, am grateful for the care and kindness of the nurses and hospital staff that attended me. Especially the really, really tall, extremely burly African-American man anesthesiologist who witnessed a total emotional meltdown as he tried to tell me about prepping my epidural for my unplanned c-section. He was so kind, and I will NEVER forget that.

    It's hard, to get "over ourselves" in situations like that. But it sounds like you're in a good place about it, and that's really important.

    2 agree
  7. Wow, and I thought my 59 hours of labor was impressive! Your story was a lot like mine in the beginning, the crucial difference is my midwife was with me the whole time and supported my decision to go to the hospital (after we thoroughly talked about what it might mean – good and bad potentials). I'm so glad you did exactly what a birthing mama is supposed to – listen to your body! You knew something was off and you needed assistance, despite your horrible midwife saying otherwise. What a journey! Congrats on your beautiful baby girl!

    3 agree
  8. I'm so happy you listened to your body and did what you thought was right! Its awful that you had to deal with the midwife that you did, but you have found peace in it all and that's what matters. (Plus you have an adorable daughter, that helps!).

    I started out with a midwife as you did (but had to be in a hospital, you need 2 midwives to do a homebirth). She ended up giving me syntocin instead of breaking my membranes. After 8 hours of that, my daughters heartrate dropped and didn't come back up. We ended up in emergency c-section too (I was 9cm..boo!) , it took me a long time to come to terms with it all (I think I still am), but I have a phenomenal little girl and that is what is important! I found a lot of faith in the medical team too, amazing nurses and an incredible OB who I was introduced to an hour before my surgery. I also let go of my hesitation and distrust in Western medicine, it actually was profoundly healing for me in a lot of ways, and I'm glad you were able to find the same silver lining!

  9. Bless you! So glad you had the wherewithitall to know you needed more medical attention. I completely respect your approach and I'm glad the hospital staff was supportive. LOVE the baby's name also!

  10. DAMN IT. This is the first birth story that's ever made me cry like this. The message of how sometimes (often) we have to learn to get over our damn selves, and let the people we least expect to take care of us, and learn something new and life changing just slays me.

    And I want to kiss that nurse who got you a coke on the lips.

    10 agree
  11. I'm so glad your story had a happy ending. Like you, before my baby's birth, I had lots of ideas about "normal" doctors, etc., and wanted to avoid all that — Certified Nurse Midwives were a compromise for me and my husband. But when things quickly took a turn for the worse two days before my baby was born, I learned that there really are wonderful, competent, and caring people in the "normal" medical field as well — and it's also good to be reminded that just because somebody is into an alternative or more unusual field does *not* mean that they are automatically wonderful, competent and caring, either – people are all individuals.

    6 agree
  12. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I work in Labor & Delivery and in the Neonatal ICU, and see a LOT of deliveries and help make lots of babies better. I feel the same way you do about keeping the experience as wonderful and as natural as possible, even in a hospital! Congratulations on Rowan 🙂

  13. I am so completely impressed at your ability to stand up, days into labor, and say, "No. I need to do something else." Firing a care provider is difficult; I can't imagine having to do it in the middle of such an exhausting and emotional situation. Congratulations on your healthy baby and your smooth recovery. What an amazing story!

    5 agree
  14. I am so sorry that the birth of your daughter had to be marred by an experience like this.

    I don't know about in other jurisdictions, but where I am in Ontario, the College of Midwives, which is the governing body for Midwives, lets the public check the registration history and qualifications of any licensed Midwife in the province. (We have similar registries for a number of professions including Doctors, Nurses, and Teachers.).

    http://www.cmo.on.ca/about_college.php

    When shopping for a Midwife or OB/GYN it might be a good idea for parents to be to find out if a similar registry is available where they live, and check them out beforehand. I know that Rachel's experience is highly unusual, but it never hurts to get enough information as you can before making a decision.

    If/when I become pregnant, I know that after this story I will be running the registration of any Midwife I might talk to about performing the birth. Now in my case, I plan on having a hospital birth, but given that there have been some recent cases of hospitals in Ontario failing to catch people who had faked their nursing credentials, it would be with worth checking.

    5 agree
    • Living in eastern Ontario I have a wide variety of practices to choose from – I'm so glad I live here! We're lucky to live in a province that integrates midwifery and hospital care so well, along with having the ability to choose where to give birth (home/hospital) and who our practitioners will be. Thanks for the reminding me of the link. I spontaneously chose a practice close to home without researching the CMO site, but so far so good!

    • I'm in the US, where I believe the licensing is done on a state level, but we were able to pretty easily look up our midwife's credentials online at the state website.

  15. Thank you so much for sharing this. What a tumultuous few days – and yet ultimately, you had the courage and wisdom to listen to your body when you felt things weren't going right, and now you have a (absolutely beautiful!) baby girl. I am so glad you are both healthy, even if the experience wasn't what you had planned, and that you did find the help you needed in the end. I am amazed by the anesthesiologist singing to you; I want to meet this person!

    I also want to say THANK YOU, and yes it requires all caps, to you and to all the posters who have replied. I am a Certified Nurse-Midwife, and I am so grateful that no one has commenced midwife-bashing. So many have said it before me, there are good and bad folk in every profession. I am so very glad that you DID find an OB who you like and who can provide the safe, compassionate care you deserve!

    4 agree
  16. Wow, the compassion the hospital staff showed towards you definitely brought tears to my eyes. So happy you got to meet your little one in a wonderful setting!

    1 agrees
  17. From what I have seen, the difference between a good delivery and a bad delivery is not related to the mechanism (e.g. home birth, hospital birth, etc.) but where the focus of the birth support team is.

    You had a caring, supportive hospital experience with professionals who were focused on your needs, not their own.

    This is the very reason I spent MONTHS looking for the right ob/gyn pre-natal care and birth support team. (A team of midwives working in conjunction with a doctor at a local hospital.)

    My feeling is that if you work with caring, supportive professionals who understand that YOU are having the baby and making medical decisions for you and child (as opposed to acting like mom is in the way and a burden), then you can trust them and their medical recommendations. If that's a c-section, then it is a c-section; if it's all-out natural birth or birth with some medical intervention, then it is those things.

    Our status as women should have nothing to do with whether we choose to have children and, if so, how we choose to have those children.

    8 agree
  18. I'm happy that you had a good outcome and that you and baby are doing great. I had an emergency c-section when my son was crashing (we later learned he had two serious heart defects that required open heart surgery) and I would never trade him for an idealized vision of a birth experience. So I am very grateful that there were resources available to help me have a healthy child.

    1 agrees
  19. Thank you so much for sharing your story. i had a similar experience just a week ago (except thankfully my midwife team was amazing and supportive) and i am struggling every day wondering what i could have done to avoid the c-section (my daughter was sunny side up as well, but i keep wondering if i could have tried harder, moved more, etc.). people continually comment that i shouldn't be upset, because "at least i have a beautiful, healthy baby", which is totally true…BUT…i didnt spend over 9 months preparing for her unmedicated homebirth and peaceful entrance into this world for nothing! i know i will come to terms with my daughter's birth eventually, but im so glad to see there are others who faced this struggle. you have a beautiful baby and thank you again for sharing your experience.

  20. Congratulations on the arrival of your beautiful daughter. My heart breaks that so many women feel so much pressure to have to perfect award whining delivery…

    1 agrees
  21. I learned from my two sister-in-laws the importance of researching hospitals even if you plan a natural birth. We're big on home birth in my family (my dad was trained as a firefighter to deliver babies so he helped mom with all seven at home!) and my sis-in-laws were both looking forward to their own home births. They did a lot of research on midwives, doulas, birthing centers, etc. but they also looked at hospitals to be thorough. Two months apart they both had separate emergencies that called for c-sections and they were so grateful that they knew which hospital they wanted to go to.

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