I was instantly both scared and brave: this is about my emergency Cesarean section

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Ashley Kizer
By: isafmediaCC BY 2.0
"Are you kidding me? I'm in fucking labor!" I could have, and should have said those words many times the many, many hours that I was in labor with my son. But I didn't. "This is about the baby, and me, and getting through this." I would silently tell myself, focusing only on dealing with, and overcoming the physical pain, and listening to the heartbeat of my son inside of me coming out of the monitor.

No matter what anyone around me tried to make me think, the labor and delivery of my child was about ME. I was in labor. Sure, maybe you were at one point, maybe a billion women were at sometime, but in that moment — it was me going through this. So if I rolled my eyes a few times, if I seemed a little upset, it was because I was in excruciating pain, I was horribly uncomfortable, I was bleeding for hours and messy and I hadn't slept, eaten, or showered in days; I was dealing with a million different feelings, emotions, and messed-up hormones. Not to mention, I've had about two dozen different people shoving their hands around in my you-know-what. Oh and I'm about to squeeze out my baby. Excuse me if I'd rather no one else see me like this.

These are words I never spoke. This is the story of the birth of my son.

My husband was by my side the entire time. He was so excited! He was also very nervous as the hours dragged on and on. He brought a Star Wars book to the hospital; he wanted it to be the first book he was going to read and show to Rylan when he was born.

It was the Saturday morning before my due date when we went to the hospital for our regular Saturday morning Non-Stress Tests. My due date was the following day, Sunday, October 2, 2011. I was hugely pregnant at 40 weeks and very uncomfortable. It was a hot summer to be so pregnant. The tests showed a healthy baby with a strong heartbeat. I was not dilated at all and other than terrible back pain, I had no labor signs. The doctor wanted to do an ultrasound to check everything out inside and to do an estimated weight of the baby. The ultrasound showed that the baby was big, like 10 pounds big, and the doctor wanted to induce labor that very day.

Ummm… wait, wait, wait — what?

I knew that when I got pregnant I would eventually have to give birth. But when he said that to me, I was instantly panicking, nervous, not ready and scared shitless. But he's the doctor, right? He knows what he is doing? Sure.

I'll never know what would have happened if I had waited to go into labor naturally. I did a fair amount of research during my pregnancy. I watched The Business of Being Born until I was in tears, scared and my husband advised I turn it off and not worry myself to the point of crazy. I read several articles on Hypno-birthing and so-called "natural birth." I wanted to give birth vaginally and avoid a Cesarean section at all costs. So this is why I listened to my doctor and agreed to be induced. He assured me lots of women are induced and go on to having vaginal deliveries, including his own wife. He said if I waited to go into labor on my own, a c-section would be absolutely necessary.

I had a fetal monitor strapped around my huge belly. As the hours dragged on, this became horribly uncomfortable.

I was induced at 5:00 PM on that Saturday afternoon. They started with Cervidil, a pill-of-sorts, that was placed on my cervix that was going to ripen and dilate my cervix. I had a fetal monitor strapped around my huge belly. As the hours dragged on, this became horribly uncomfortable. Every time I moved just a teeny bit to try to make myself comfortable the monitor slipped a bit and the nurses couldn't "see" the baby. I couldn't get any sleep that night because every hour a nurse would be in adjusting the monitor to get a good heartbeat. I was of course worried each time when they came in to say they "lost him" once again.

I went through six "cervical-pills" and was only dilated to six centimeters — this was after several hours. Then the doctor ordered Pitocin. They started it very slowly at first and increased it gradually, but I still failed to progress. The Pitocin contractions were excruciating. I breathed in-an-out-in-and-out and held (or crushed) my husband's hand. He coached me and encouraged me through it all, bless him. I kept relatively quiet, never screaming like I wanted to, never telling people to shut up and to stop talking about how delicious the hospital food is (gag) when all I'm allowed is water and ice. I moaned to myself and pretended I was alone with my husband.

I was exhausted. I asked for the epidural. Once administered, I was finally able to get some kind of rest, and so was my support-team. The next few hours are kind of a blur of resting and waiting to dilate. I woke up to the beep-beep-beep of the fetal monitor, the monitor must have slipped again because they lost the heartbeat. I remember it was around four in the morning on Monday. Everything happened so fast. The nurses asked my mom and step-dad to leave the room and then there were 10 or maybe more people hovering over me, talking hospital talk that I didn't understand, but I got the gist: something was wrong.

Quickly I was introduced to the resident OB, a man I had never met before, and I heard a nurse say something and before I knew it I felt a weird stabbing pain and a gush or warmth. My water had just been popped and in a blink-of-an-eye an internal fetal monitor was placed on the baby's head. Then I heard the heartbeat again — the baby was fine. My husband was furious. I was confused but happy my baby was after all okay.

In the morning the Pitocin was increased greatly. Neither the baby nor I responded well to this. I developed a fever, and the baby's heart rate was dropping. A new doctor was there on-call. She asked me why I had wanted to be induced and not waited for labor. I was taken-back, I told her it was his (the previous doctor's decision). She looked upset by this news but controlled herself. I knew it before she could tell me: I was to deliver by emergency Cesarean section.

I was scared but also instantly brave. This was just how it was going to be and it had to be done.

I was scared but also instantly brave. This was just how it was going to be and it had to be done. Pretty soon I was to meet my son for the first time. They wheeled me to a bright, clean, white room and prepared me for surgery. When they let my husband in the room, he was so worried he patted my belly and the doctor screamed at him! I had to be re-prepped as now, since he touched me, I was no longer sterile. My poor, silly, nervous husband. In my experience, it was a very horrible sensation feeling the c-section. I didn't feel pain, but I felt pulling and yanking and my body and head were moving along with the pulling. I heard lots of eerie scrapping of metal and the doctor sternly demanding for things to be handed to her and nurses talking and my husband telling me it was going to be alright. I just remember feeling frozen and like I was gone from it all, gone from everything.

Rylan Hawk was born at 6:39 PM on October 3rd; 8 pounds and 4 ounces and 22 1/2 inches long. After what felt like a very long time, my husband told me the baby was out. I remember saying "why isn't he crying" and then I heard a small cry. I was expecting a huge wail, but the baby just cried little cries. I heard nurses counting and my husband say to me, "You did it babe." I asked him what he looked like and he said, "He's beautiful, Ash, he is so beautiful." When they brought him to me, I just stared at him in amazement and shock. I remember thinking that I couldn't believe I was really looking at my baby boy. I was trying to soak in every detail of his little face, he was so perfect, wide-eyed and silent — just staring back at me, as if equally amazed by me. I tried to speak, but I couldn't find the words. I said "I'm your mommy, baby." I wanted to hold him so badly.

In what felt like seconds, a pediatric doctor and nurse was introduced to me while I was still being stitched-and-stapeled-up. They were taking my newborn son to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) to evaluate him. We both were given antibiotics, but the baby needed three days worth. How horrible it was to be away from my son, who I held so safely inside me for 9 months. I missed him desperately.

I was wheeled in my hospital bed to his little nook in the NICU so I could hold him for the first time. He was perfect, a sleeping beauty. He had a little IV in his arm, which broke my heart but I just held him and kissed him. I never wanted to let go.

Any woman who's had a cesarean knows how painful the healing process is. How when they ask you to sit up the next day how your body feels like it's literally going to split in two fiery pieces. My feet and legs were so severely swollen from the days of IV fluids I'd received I didn't even recognize them. But when the nurse told me to sit up, I was determined to so I could go see my baby. And when I was told the day after that, to stand and begin to walk, the pain would not hold me down. I needed every moment I could to go see my son.

I was in the hospital for four days after giving birth, slowly feeling a little stronger every day. Determined to breastfeed my son (who at this point was not allowed to eat because of a possible bowel obstruction), I spent as many hours by his side in the NICU breast-pumping. I held him skin-to-skin and breathed in his scent. I sang him songs and prayed to a God I never prayed to help my son get better so I could take him home. On his second day after birth, he threw up bile so he now had a tube down to his stomach sucking out any bile. It was so hard to see my baby with tubes and wires and needles in him. The doctors weren't sure what was wrong; some nurses assured me he was going to be ok, some nurses were cold and offered no encouragement.

On the day I was released from the hospital I cried leaving because my son was still there. I woke up every morning early to go be with him the entire 7 days he was in the NICU. He had several x-rays, showing a possible twist in his intestines, another possibility was a clog or meconium plug. After several tests and exams and repeat x-rays, the obstruction was gone and he was finally allowed to nurse, the tubes were removed and things were looking up. A miracle.

The days he was in the NICU were the hardest days of my life and my marriage. I was in such excruciating physical and emotional pain, with out-of-control hormones and severe lack of sleep. We, my husband and I, were so angry and confused about the whole situation. To say no more, it was a very very very hard time for us all.

The hospital would only release my son when he successfully ate and passed his food. I nursed him every four hours (which was all that was allowed) and we literally prayed for poop. Sure enough, he did it! I had never in my life been so happy to see poo! We were ALL finally going home. My son was healthy and with me always as he should be.

7 months later, he is a thriving, extremely happy, 19 pound-29 inches, breastfed, strong and healthy, loving baby who I can't seem to ever put down. After-all I went through to bring him into this world I am just so grateful and blessed that he is alive and well. My world would cease to exist without my Rylan Hawk, my baby boy.

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm five months pregnant with my first, and The Business of Being Born has me terrified of my impending hospital delivery. I have literally teared up just looking at my hospital's webpage, even though I like and trust my doctor and it's actually a very nice hospital with lots of mother-friendly policies and supports. Your story is very powerful and it is comforting to me to hear how you came through this experience when so many of the things that I fear happening happened to you.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story- so glad you have a happy and healthy kiddo! I too, had a my son in October 2011 (and agreed, such a hot summer!!!) and had an eerily similar story, though I narrowly escaped the c-section. I was almost two weeks late when I was induced, and it was a rough time. You really do just do whatever you need to do for that little bundle inside you, and that's all any of us can do.

  3. Your post made me cry…twice. Thank you so much for sharing.

    While my labor was very different (I was very very early), it was much the same (I was hooked up to wires and give medications). Once we got to the point where it stopped being about stopping my labor and making me comfortable and starting being about my babies safety and life a switch flipped. Like you described I remember that moment where I was really scared but knew what had to happen. I have extreme white coat syndrome and a phobia of all things medical but this line, " I was scared but also instantly brave. This was just how it was going to be and it had to be done." rang so true.

    Also, I nearly started cry-clapping when you described how your son pooped for the first time. We spent a long time in the NICU and at one point were told my daughter had a 50/50 chance at survival due to a horrible infection of her bowls and all we could do was pray she pooped. What new parent pleads for a messy diaper? We do I guess.

  4. It's so hard when you are expecting one birth and you get something very different. Thanks for sharing your story. I wasn't induced, but had planned an unmediated birth center birth that turned into an emergency c-section when we found that baby boy couldn't tolerate even early labor (though after 20 hours, it's a punch in the face to call it early labor just because I didn't make it past 4cm). I had a quick cry on the way to the hospital, but then, like you, just figured that was the way it was going to be done and at least I was going to meet my baby soon even if it wasn't the way I had planned.

    • Oh how I feel you re: punch in the face. I made it to 5cm, after days of labour and then 14 hours of pitocen. Damn inco-ordinate uterine action made contractions excessively painful, and totally useless. I had an epidural just 2 hours before my emergency c-section and at the request of my husband as I was too far past coherent communication to do anything. I did the hard yards of labour dammit!

  5. I'm sorry what your doctor told you wasn't evidence-based 🙁

    That said, I'm glad you and your son are happy and healthy today, he sounds gorgeous!

  6. Your story is strong and beautifully told. Much of it resonated with my own experience, only I didn't have the excitement about being a mom to balance the pain and confusion of the experience. I am not saying I didn't love my son, but it took a while for me. It wasn't love at first sight. I felt overwhelmed by my own physical state, and even more overwhelmed that I was the one responsible for his. He is now nearly two, and I love him to bits, and I hope we can have another so I realize, from the beginning, that the little unresponsive blob turns into a person.

  7. Reading your story, Ashley echoed my own. My son was also born on October 3!! I had an emergency C-section at 28 weeks. That pain afterward..oh, there is nothing like it to compare it with. My son had to spend 2 months at the NICU since he was a preemie..it was so hard as you know to see my him hooked up on tubes.
    My son is now doing awesome. He is 16 months, walking, full of life. I'm grateful that he is fine and that your son, Rylan is doing awesome too.
    Much love to you and all my fellow C-section mamas out there.

  8. Thank you for your powerful story. As a soon-to-be first time mom, please re-clarify some points for me. I didn't quite follow what went wrong? The induction was a mistake? You should have kept laboring naturally and only opted for C-section as a last resort? Everything the first doctor did was unnecessary? Please explain to me what should have happened…what would have been the best thing in your situation. Thanks!

  9. I am sorry, i could have written this… almost word for word. I was able to stay in hospital with my bub so i was in there for an extra two days but everything else is so close to my own experience.

  10. My daughter was born by emergency c-section on Oct 8th. I remember that hot summer before hand, while I was in the last months of pregnancy! I was not induced. I went into labor on my own, but after a day of early labor, her heart beat was increasing at too rapid a pace, and I was barely at 1 cm dilated. (It turned out there was at least one knot in the cord, being pulled tightly as labor progressed.) Recovery certainly was painful! I was also in the hospital for four days before allowed to leave. Luckily, she was born healthy, but it was hard waiting for her to join me in the room there! I still don't know how long it was before they brought her to me – maybe one hour. Any way, your story resonated with me! Written clearly and strongly.

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