From water to bed: our water-turned-hospital birth story

Guest post by Lindsay Wilhelmi

Charting “Lindsay, sweetheart, you’re still at two centimeters. Your baby isn’t going to be born this way.”

Even with all the reading and research I had done regarding what “medicalized” birth might lead to, I never thought it would be me. Yes, I was two weeks late. Sure, I wasn’t dilating and my “big” baby wasn’t dropping. I had accepted that my planned water birth was swirling down the drain, and had altered my Hypnobabies practice to deal with an induced labor. But it simply could not end this way. Not for me. Not for my baby.

“This is not MY birth story,” I thought.

A sob escaped before the tears had a chance to start flowing in reaction to what my midwife was telling me. My wife, Kate, held my right hand and the nurse held my left while my midwife gave my leg a sympathetic squeeze. I cried bitter tears, agonizing over the hard work I’d done the past 26 hours — intense, induced, pain-med-free labor. As they streamed down my hot cheeks and onto the cool bed sheets, so fell my hopes for The Perfect Birth. The one I’d been envisioning since before the test screamed “Pregnant!” The one that ended with my slippery baby peacefully swimming out into the world and up onto my chest. In single moment, it was gone.

I continued to sob as my midwife expressed her concern that the baby was just so big, and my uterus stretched so much from the quantity of fluid it had contracted against yesterday before my water was broken. She gently told me what an incredible job I had done, that it was time to meet our precious baby girl.

I sighed with a shudder, simultaneously grieving and trying to accept what was about to happen. I trusted my midwife. I changed into a hospital gown, and Kate into scrubs. I donned my funny mesh hat and Kate her booties. When I was escorted into the Operating Room, I reminded myself that Kate would be by my side in no time. I sat on the table, rounding my back and giving the baby in my belly a final hug. A spinal block was administered, and it was time.

Lindsay's partner, Kate, and their daughter.
After what seemed like hours measured in minutes, Kate’s masked face appeared. Seeing her familiar bridge of nose, pair of eyes, and forehead calmed me. As the surgery began, Kate’s gaze never left mine; I tried to escape deep inside her eyes, away from what was happening. As long as I was swimming in those blue-gray pools of love and concern, I knew my head was still above water. There was slurping, suctioning and pressure. My body shook and rocked as gloved hands pressed on me, urging our daughter through her exit, taking my breath away.

Suddenly, the pressure released and an excited “Here she is!” was declared by voices beyond the curtain. We heard a hearty cry, and a sob escaped my throat for the second time that night. I cried right along with our baby, in new mama-daughter harmony. Cadence James — all ten pounds, nine ounces, and twenty-two inches of her — had finally arrived, at 8:43 on the evening of October 15.

Immediately following her delivery, I felt woozy and confused. The voices below the curtain took on a concerned tone, and I begged Kate not to leave me. She stayed by my side as blood splashed to the floor and the surgeon slapped and manually contracted my uterus, trying to stop the hemorrhaging.

Thinking maybe some Hypnobabies relaxation techniques might help calm me, I moaned “peace” and “relax” over and over.

Kate lovingly held my hand, assuring me I was okay as the surgical team began reassembling my insides. I started to feel pain. Thinking maybe some Hypnobabies relaxation techniques might help calm me, I moaned “peace” and “relax” over and over. As soon as she was convinced I was going to be okay (and after I received a sedative) Kate was called away to approve some medical interventions for our newborn Cady while I was stitched together again.

Lindsay and Cady.
All I could think about as I was cleaned up, stuck with a fresh IV, and receiving a blood transfusion was Cady. I needed to feed her, to bond with her, to get to know her. Finally, beautiful Kate — a proud new mommy still in her scrubs — walked our daughter in to meet her mama. As her wide and alert eyes locked with mine, we instantly knew each other. Although I was in pain, I held her.

I couldn’t possibly know if anyone else in the room fell as instantly and deeply in love as I did, but our parents, a dear friend, and the hospital staff marveled over Cady, exclaiming at her size and beauty and overall perfection. They told me what an amazing job I did, and how proud they were.

I didn’t realize it until it was all over, but it WAS The Perfect Birth. No longer MY story, but the story of Cadence; one that I will tell her, beaming, of The Happiest Day of my Life.

Comments on From water to bed: our water-turned-hospital birth story

  1. This reminds me of my sisters birth of her son! She had a home birth that was excruciating for her, and after she suffered about 14 hours of labor the midwife (finally!) had her go to the hospital. Turned out the cord was wrapped around the poor little guy’s neck three times, so he wasn’t able to descend! Lucky they both made it ok. Now he’s almost 2 and the sweetest little nephew ever!


    • Thank you!

      I’m glad things turned out well for your sister in the end. Cady’s cord was also wrapped around her neck, and the cord had begun to prolapse… two things that weren’t clear until during the c-section.

      It’s crazy how many different ways babies can be born into our world, but how they all are the perfect little souls, regardless. 🙂

  2. Your story is very similar to mine! Thank you for putting this experience into words. I loved when you said, “I didn’t realize it until it was all over, but it WAS The Perfect Birth. No longer MY story, but the story of Cadence; one that I will tell her, beaming, of The Happiest Day of my Life”. So much importance is placed on having the perfect birth experience, that sometimes, we forget that the baby is the best part!

    • “The Happiest Day of my Life” is something I picked up from my own mama… and it’s so true. I can certainly recall happier environments, or physical sensations… but the love I felt when that sweet girl was finally on my chest where she belonged? Nothing can trump that, regardless of where I was or how much pain I was in.

      I agree that there is a lot of importance placed on the birth experience these days, and I feel that it places a little to much pressure and expectation on pregnant women. While it’s important to be educated and empowered, it’s also important to create a good headspace for welcoming that baby, no matter how he or she gets here. It’s hard to do that when you are dealing with feelings of failure immediately following a birth that turned out less than “ideal.”

  3. My birth story is very similar. We didn’t even get to try the water birth, and my actual labor was only 9 hours, but I got to 8 centimeters, we tried an epidural to relax my hips and let him out and he went back up. So, then in for the c-section. My guy was only 9lbs 2 oz, but he had (and has) a GINORMOUS head, and I am teeny with no hips, so there was just no way it was happening.

    Luckily, I’d an inkling he was big to begin with and had already had time to come to terms with the reality that I might just end up with a c-section (we’d had to get regular ultrasounds to keep an eye on a possible problem)

    Be wary, though- mine still doesn’t do anything except exactly what he wants WHEN he wants it and not a minute sooner! Stubborn little Aries, mine is. ^_-

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I am 37 weeks pregnant and a fellow hypnobirth mama and have had the “perfect” birth in my mind for years. However, my high blood pressure had other ideas and I am facing induction in 2 weeks. I have cried over this and have felt like an inferior woman. Thank you for sharing your story – it has sort of slapped me back to reality that while my birth may not be my “perfect” birth that has played in my mind for years, it will still be a perfect birth. Good luck to you, mama!

    • Haha, well. As a fellow preggo HB mama… what are you doing reading traumatic tales of birth?! Lol. I hope you had up your “bubble of peace” while reading. Oh wait… do they do that in Hypnobirthing, or is that just Hypnobabies?

      Regardless, I hope you have an amazing birth experience, mama! Relax, enjoy, and try to be open to the experience as it presents itself.

      For the record, the Cervidil part of my induction was the worst part. Pitocin was a walk in the park, comparatively. You can do this, even with an induction. You are powerful, your mind is powerful, and you’re going to be an amazing mama to that baby!

  5. how is it not your story? it is your story. you went through it. it is your story together. it doesn’t matter how you give birth, you still go through it. it still happens to you. i had a c-section because my twins were transverse. there was no other choice. i had no control over that. that is my birth story, and it isn’t diminished because i didn’t have it at home, pain free in a tub. yours isn’t either. it is YOUR birth story… your BABY’S together.

    • Thanks for this reminder. I wrote this quite awhile ago, and I didn’t consider this point of view… maybe as a coping mechanism? Maybe I had to remove myself from the story a bit to deal with my own trauma surrounding the birth?

      But, time heals nearly all wounds, I believe. And I think I’m just about ready to accept this as not only my daughter’s story, but mine as well. Thanks for another little nudge towards acceptance, Jessica! 🙂

  6. Honest to goodness just felt as though I was reading my own birth story of my sweet William. (1 year old last Saturday!)

    Planned water birth, 23 hours unmedicated labor, and ultimately resulted in c-section delivery. After meeting my 11 lbs. 11 oz. baby, it all made a little more sense…uff da.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • Wow! Very similar indeed! And, what a big healthy boy you grew, Mama!

      Once I saw I gave birth to a 3-month old, I began to put the pieces together… though a little part of me still wonders if I had refused the c-section and powered through just a little longer, if it would have made a difference. I’m pretty sure that things worked out exactly as they were meant to, though. 🙂

      … although that doesn’t mean I’m not going to do my damnedest to get a water VBAC with #2! Lol.

      Happy birthday to William!

  7. I really like how you expressed reconciling the “perfect birth” and your actual birth. My delivery three months ago wasn’t the perfect birth I had envisioned either but really I went home with the perfect baby. That’s all that matters end the end, a healthy mom and a healthy baby.

    • I’ll admit I’m in that camp where I’m not sure that’s “all that matters” when it comes to the birth experience… but, I do think it ranks pretty freaking high on the importance scale!

      … really, I think “all that matters” is that we can come to peace with our actual birth experiences. That we can accept the fact that we can’t always control our situations (especially an experience that has the potential to be as chaotic as giving birth… whether at home, in a hospital, or in the middle of the woods for crying out loud! Chaos knows no walls).

      It sounds like you have come to your own reconciliation yourself, mama. And I am so happy for you! Congratulations on the arrival of your little one.

  8. I cried when I read this. It was just like my birth. I have been writing my own birth story, and I couldn’t figure out how to express what had happened to us. You captured it so perfectly, thank you. We welcomed a beautiful, perfect little girl, Eleanor Sage, on 5/1/11. It wasn’t the perfect birth I had imagined, but it WAS perfect. Thank you.

    • I’m glad that my story reached you in that way. Big congratulations on Eleanor’s arrival (what a lovely name!). Once they’re in your arms, everything changes… at least, that was my experience.

      P.S. Yay for Taureans! (My bday is May 14. 🙂

  9. Congrats to all three of you! I had a Hypnobabies-turned-cesarean as well. All my reading and planning and visualizing did not foresee her presenting ear first, unable to come out. My labor was excruciating, the OR birth environment was unexpected, but the moment of her birth is still one of my life’s top moments. (One of, because she has a sister now. 😉 ) Welcome to the world, Cady!

    • Owie! Nope, I can’t imagine that any amount of visualization was going to help change that situation (but hopefully, it did help you cope with things!). I found that Hypnobabies was still invaluable during my labor, and in the OR.

      And yes, I imagine that – should we be blessed enough to give Cady a sibling – she’ll have to share the space in my heart for what is currently my “top moment.” 🙂

  10. Oh my goodness, what a lovely baby girl. And a big ‘un, too! Congratulations on her birth, and congratulations on letting go of and making peace with your previous expectations. That will certainly serve you well through the rest of the parenting journey!

    • Thanks, Casey! She’s still a big ‘un, too! Seven months, and already over 20 lbs. Sometimes I wonder when she’ll slow down. 🙂

      I have definitely found letting go to be key in this crazy parenting journey, for sure. It’s the only way to not go completely crazy! Lol.

  11. omg… you made me cry. I want what you wanted so bad but sadly my insurance only covered hospital birth. I’ll try again later in the future but in all honesty this story was awesome and you’re a very strong woman!

    • I actually was in a hospital birth center the whole time… We were lucky to live close to one that does waterbirth, so that was the plan… but the “plan” kept changing at every turn, starting with my two weeks overdue baby not dropping, and “needing” to be induced. 🙂

      Thanks for your kind words about my story, and strength. All mamas deserve props for nurturing and bringing their babes into this world… whichever way they make their grand entrance!

  12. ((Hugs)) Your daughter is gorgeous!

    Your story is very similar to mine – it didn’t end in C-section, but after 36 hours of labour (35 of which were at home, in & out of our birth pool) – including over 12 hours of transition & over 8 hours of pushing, my son was born in hospital, in the lithotomy position, with the (very minimal) aid of the ventouse (it was exactly like one of those “scary birth” scenes in every movie & tv show!). He was evidently trying to come out looking up & to the side (whenever anyone asks what his presentation was, my mum says “right eyebrow”) & needed his head to be manually moved & then held in place so that it was actually possible to push him out (which could have been done at home, but at the time we thought a transfer would be safer).

    I’ve come to terms with his birth (as everyone around me insisted, I “did everything right”), but I still haven’t come to terms with how badly the hospital staff treated both of us after the birth. My mum & I suspect it was to try & scare me out of having another homebirth… if that was their plan, it backfired BIG TIME! Nothing in this world could ever convince me to choose a hospital birth after that experience!

    • Thanks, Jewels!

      I’m sorry to read that you had a rather traumatic experience. I was very lucky to have amazing nurses and midwives taking care of Cady and I after her birth; I imagine it would have been much more difficult to accept my experience and come to terms with our birth story had I not received so much nurturing after the fact from the hospital staff. The people who cared for you (or didn’t, as the case appears to be) should be ashamed of themselves.

      I hope you have a peaceful and “perfect” (whatever that means to you!) experience with your next child.

      Hugs back atcha!

  13. I don’t remember all the details of my babys birth because I was in labor for 46 hours and literally delirious by the end. Every now and then I remember a detail and it makes me so happy! Thanks for telling your story, it has helped me remember bits of mine. 🙂

  14. This is so similar to my experience with my daughter Charlotte’s birth! Thank you for telling your story. My own birth story made me gain oodles of perspective, and since then, after having friends who have lost babies, even more appreciation for ending up with a beautiful, healthy baby…even if the hypnobirthing training didn’t end in a drug-free vaginal birth.

  15. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    “No longer MY story, but the story of Cadence”

    I like this phrasing, because ultimately that is what the birth turns into. I am not of the “healthy mom, healthy baby” is all that matters camp. I do think there is more to the birth experience and that how we birth our babies matters. Our son was born on the 16th of April, two and a half weeks after his due date, via c-section. We had planned a home waterbirth. I don’t yet have the level of acceptance around the ways in which it changed that you have, but I am trying to move to that place. I think part of what makes it harder for me is that I didn’t feel that instant love when he was placed on my chest. I was so groggy from 24 hours of induced labor (I also had Cervidil and then Pitocin) and then 2.5 hours of pushing and then the drugs for the c-section, that I could hardly keep my eyes open. He was removed from me and brought to the nursery and when we were reunited over an hour later after I “came to”, I could still hardly keep my eyes open. Needless to say, it was not the initial bonding experience in the birth tub or our family bed that I had envisioned for long before I ever got pregnant. But I am coming to terms with it slowly, and I think it helps to realize that while I could have stubbornly insisted on staying home, I may not have the beautiful son we have today. So, it is true that the birth was longer MY story, but the story of how our son entered the world.

    Thank you, again.

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