Labor was one of those things that I was so terrified of I didn’t even dwell on it. I planned to push a healthy baby out, ideally without ripping or shitting myself. But it wasn’t the lack of a childbirth plan that unprepared for me the worst. It was a lack of knowledge, especially when childbirth goes wrong.
My preparation for childbirth consisted of antenatal classes, and that’s about it. In fact, due to late-term complications, I missed one of the five courses: the irony, the stages of labor, and delivery.
If you were to describe my personality, chill, or go with the flow, are traits that don’t exactly come to mind. So, my lack of a birthing plan should have come as a surprise to many. If anyone knew me, well enough, they would know my wing-it approach was a form of straight-up denial. But I could see why no one would want to question a calm and collected heavily pregnant Alexis.
When D-day finally arrived, my blase attitude crashed and burned before I made it out of the pregnancy assessment center. I instead found myself faced with having to make difficult decisions under circumstances in which I did not understand.
In this post, by telling my story, I am going to discuss what happens when childbirth goes wrong. What I wish I knew, and how to better prepare during delivery.
This article is not intended as medical advice. Please speak to your doctor if you have any concerns. Referred sources at the end of this post.
1. Failing To Progress
After speaking with my obstetrician, my assigned midwife hung up the phone, walked over, and announced it as if she was giving the special of the day at my favorite Mexican restaurant. “Things are moving relatively slow, so Dr. Megah would like to induce you,” she said. “No,” I said.
The truth is, I didn’t know why my mind had concluded so quickly. I didn’t even give myself a minute to think about it. But after some thought, I knew why. I knew nothing about being inducted. My midwife attempted to address my concerns and went on to explain that there are different types of inductions, and mine would be the “less painful kind” since my waters had already broken. I thought a human being hormonally forced though my birth canal “less painful.” Absolutely fucking not. No. My answer is still no.
So I did what any millennial would do. I pulled out my phone and immediately promoted myself from patient to Dr. Google in a matter of seconds.
It was at that moment I realized how unprepared I was. My blase attitude had come back to kick me straight up the vagina.
Induced labor is common
It wasn’t until I attended a postpartum class that I realized how frequently labor inductions occur, especially for first-time mothers. According to a study in 2017, the Australian Institute of Health found 43.1% of selected women who had given birth for the first time had induced labor.
Why would you need to be induced?
There are several reasons why your practitioner may want to induce labor.
- You are overdue if you are showing no sign of natural labor and more than 41 weeks.
- There is a health complication for yourself, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
- Your baby isn’t developing if tests are showing less movement than usual, lower heart rate, or slowing growth.
- You are giving birth to multiples.
- Or in my case, your waters have broken, but contractions haven’t naturally started.
2. When Complications Occur
Unfortunately, the induction intervention initiated by my doctor was interrupted by a small contraction, an abnormal fetal heart rate, and a scene straight out of Grays Anatomy. My husband stood dressed head to toe in scrubs, and I was the only one in the room blissfully unaware I was getting rolled into emergency surgery. Once my state of shock wore off, there was no hesitation, unlike the induction announcement. Before I knew it, I was demanding the credentials of my anesthetist and suddenly wanted immediate control over the Spotify playlist in the Theater. My daughter was born to “(I can’t get no) satisfaction.”
What is a cesarean?
If you are pregnant, to prepare for a possible cesarean, you should know what happens during surgery and what to expect. A cesarean (c-section) is a surgical procedure in which an incision is made in the mother’s abdomen and uterus to remove the baby. There are two types of cesareans: elective and emergency.
A planned elective cesarean is most likely the outcome of pregnancy complications or a previous cesarean. However, in most cases, especially for first-time moms, cesareans don’t become apparent until labor is well underway. In this case, it’s called an emergency cesarean.
What are the odds this will happen to you?
As a product of an emergency c-section myself, I never had a strong stance on how my baby would be delivered. But I also naively thought my labor would be textbook. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, around 32.7% of babies are born via cesarean. In the United States, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates in 2018, one in three pregnant women gave birth via cesarean. This rate is double than the 10-15% the World Health Organization recommends.
Tips for recovering after a cesarean
- Visitors don’t need to see your pee bag: The catheter placed in your bladder before the operation may remain in for a few hours to a few days. Wait until the catheter is taken out and shower before allowing any visitors.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for pain medication if you need it: After the operation, the pain medication will eventually wear off. Have your partner ask the staff what the protocols are for future pain management. The nurses gave me simple analgesics such as paracetamol and anti-inflammatory drugs. It took me two days of agonizing pain to realize I was taking fucking Advil.
- So, that’s why they recommend you take it easy after a cesarean: The risk of having a blood clot is four times more likely after having a c-section. But getting up afterward is HARD. Roll to your side and push with your arms. My hospital sent a physio to show the proper ways to manage movement without using abdominals.
3. A Baby’s Heart Rate Can Say A Lot
When my waters broke, I drove myself to the hospital and checked into the assessment center. After being monitored, my baby showed a slight heart rate deceleration. At the time, I had no idea what that meant or signified. I didn’t even blink an eye at the sight of two nurses and my doctor examining the CTG. But, from that moment on, my baby’s heart rate had to be continuously monitored.
Fetal Heart Rate (FHR) Monitoring
There are several factors to assess the wellbeing of your baby during labor. One of those is fetal heart rate monitoring. Aside from the doppler, you ordered from amazon; doctors can track your baby’s heart rate externally or internally. My circumstances resulted in being monitored in both ways.
External Fetal Heart Monitoring: The more common method and one you are already likely familiar with uses a device to record your baby’s heart rate through your abdomen. In this case, elastic bands hold sensors directly on your belly.
Internal Fetal Heart Monitoring: Internal monitoring is for some high-risk cases or if it is difficult to find the baby’s heart rate. In this situation, a thin wire runs through your cervix and is attached to your baby’s scalp. Internal monitoring can only be used if your cervix is open, and your amniotic sac has broken.
4. It’s Hard To Escape The Trama
The hospital sent us home with a book, detailing all my daughter’s birth details and records. From time to time, I open it to read the words
Postpartum Complications: non-reassuring FHR
Type of Delivery: Emergency LSCS
For me, these words are the only real indicators of what transpired the events of that day.
You might suffer from PTSD
For months I relived the moments leading up to my emergency c-section. A single decision deeply impacted me, one in which I convinced myself I was not a candidate for—induced labor.
This is one of the ways I experienced post-traumatic stress disorder.
But not all women who have difficult births will develop postnatal PTSD. According to Elizabeth Ford from Queen Mary University of London and Susan Ayers from the University of Sussex, a woman’s perception of the events they went through with their level of fear will determine if they will get PTSD.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, National Core Maternity Indicators, September 2019
- Queensland Health, Induction of Labour, March 2017
- Mayo Clinic, Labor, Delivery, Postpartum Care, June 2017
- Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, National Vital Statistics Report, November 2019
- Mayo Clinic, Tests & Procedures: C-Section, June 2018
- World Health Organization, WHO Statement on Caesarean Section Rates, June 2016
- City University of London, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Following Childbirth, 2012