Birth and breastfeeding story, Part 1 and Part 2

[I started this post about a month ago. Time has been so limited. Thought it was more important to document the present. Gonna try to finish it now, but we’ll see what happens…]

Part One: 

Long story short: It was not, as the hypnobabies literature puts it, “my beautiful birthing experience.” It was hard, confusing, scary, physically and emotionally traumatic. With moments of beauty, joy, magic that have indeed taken over the darker stuff in my memory as time passes.

As I’ve written about, OB and MFM wanted induction. In the end, it was clear (to me) that ST (follow my lead with the ST good people) was thriving inside me, moving and gaining weight, and that belly-to-head ratio thing disappeared in two weeks (I’m convinced it was never really a problem). One MFM even admitted to me that all was looking fine and I had nothing to worry about. She gave  me the sense that she understood why I felt that induction was not necessary. But OB and other MFM was jittery about ST being in the tenth percentile for growth, despite his small-people genetics. (I’ve since learned that a friend of mine had a baby that was in the zero-th percentile–no induction for her, and the kid is fine.) But my OB explained that smaller babies don’t do as well if there is any distress during L&D, and the longer he was in there, the higher the chance of distress.

My OB said: “Last week, one of my patients had a demise during labor. Sometimes these things happen for inexplicable reasons.” That sealed it for me.

She kept saying, “You’ve been through so much,” and I wondered if her underlying message was: If you lose him, how will you possibly go on?

How indeed.

So DH and I made peace with the fact that we had decided to go with an OB & hospital for a reason, in the beginning of this pregnancy—because we had (at the time) wanted conservative, cautious care. As the pregnancy progressed and I felt more and more confident, I began to realize how much I wanted to give birth vaginally and go into labor on my own—not because of some earth-mama dream (although there was that) but because I did not want any iatrogenic, dominoe-effect problems to occur where there would otherwise be none. A dominoe-effect—which is exactly what did happen.

My ideal, if I had been younger, had not struggled with infertility, had not had losses, would have been a midwife and a birthing center birth, or even a home birth. I would have loved to have given birth in a bathtub. That would have been the best fit for me. But I am not young, and I have gone through IF, so we took this other path. It is what it is, it was what it was.

I know it’s a cliche, but I say this with sincerity: a month later [now two months], my complicated feelings about my birth story are fading and most of the time seem irrelevant. I realize that any story whatsoever that would lead me to ST, alive and healthy and in my arms, is the perfect story. I’m even coming to terms with not breastfeeding. I have to, because getting over it is what is best for him. At the same time, I don’t want to sugar-coat the reality of what did happen, and what I did feel, in this re-telling here. I think that sort of re-telling does a disservice to women who want to know, as much as is possible, what other women’s experiences are truly like. So I am going to try not to be revisionist.

So, a couple of days before 40 weeks, I went to the hospital at night and they put in cervadil…

And nothing, zero, happened. No contractions, no dilation.

The worst part of my whole birth story is this: because I was on a blood thinner as a precaution against Factor V Leiden clotting, and because I stopped taking it for the induction (because of hemorrhage risk) they put my legs in a  sequential compression device, or intermittent pneumatic compression device. Basically these are sleeves that go around the legs filled with air tubes, attached to an electric pump. The sleeves inflate and deflate, grabbing and squeezing the legs, to prevent blood clots…all night long. It is IMPOSSIBLE TO SLEEP. The damn things grabbed me every minute of the night. Am not exaggerating when I say it felt torturous. This was when I needed sleep and my wits about me more than ever…

Incredibly, they made me wear the damn things again after the C-section! So zero sleep the night of the day I’ve had major surgery! I found out later that they could have gotten me up and walked me around every two hours instead of using the compression device. That would have been so much better for me–obviously. At least then I would have gotten some sleep.

So the next day, totally sleep deprived, I am walking around the hallways, doing squats, trying to get something to happen. DH had gone home to sleep because he snores so loudly (but as it turns out it wouldn’t have mattered because I couldn’t sleep anyway). OB comes in, seeming annoyed that I haven’t dilated or had contractions. I wanted to punch her. She can be really gruff and almost seems to blame the patient for anything that doesn’t go according to plan. In the next moment she can seem like a pretty cool lady. It would be interesting to psychoanalyze her. DH did not like her—and he’s a very forgiving sort of person. Not a good match for us, but we realized it too late. Oh well!

We went with putting in another cervadil to see what would happen. If something moved along, only then would we move on to Pitocin—otherwise there is no point. If cervadil is doing zero, pitocin will do zero. My cervix is kind of difficult to reach, so exams hurt, and putting in the cervadil was painful. In it went. Once DH got there, we spent the day rather listlessly going from walking the hallways to doing some hypnobabies to watching television. I had my big collage up, the one with all of the images of various circles (dilation) and babies being born and earth mamas. I had electric tea candle lights going. But nothing was happening, and I found it hard to keep faith that anything ever would. It was all a bit depressing.

DH’s friend is an L & D nurse and she mentioned in a text that we might try a balloon catheter next. The inflated balloon hits the cervix, signaling to it to dilate. While my OB was willing to do it, she let us know that she’d never had any luck with balloon catheters…and she’s been doing this for twenty years. If by late evening nothing had progressed, we could either move on to that…or on to a scheduled C-section.

If I had had one sign that my body was going into labor, I would have done the balloon catheter. But nothing was happening. And so far, ST was doing great…but I was feeling really exhausted, and somewhat demoralized. What if the catheter caused distress for ST, by causing more distress for me? Was I forcing my body to do something it just wasn’t ready to do? I knew that many first-time pregnancies go to 41 or 42 weeks. I just had this strong feeling that my cervix was not going to budge at this point. And the nurse did warn me that because of my cervix position, administering the balloon catheter was going to hurt a lot…

I was so confused for a long time. I remember that at one point, I literally slapped my forehead like a cartoon character in distress and squeezed my eyes shut. We had this one angel of a nurse (God, some nurses have really found their calling) who was incredibly helpful, soothing, and born patient advocate. She had this conference she had to go to across the street, but she promised us that she would make a special trip back to be with us when we had to make the big decision.

And the decision we ultimately made was to skip the balloon catheter and go straight for the C.

I felt relief immediately upon making this decision. I was done doing what felt unnatural—putting things up inside me to try to get baby to come out. Done taking the risk of causing distress. ST was doing great, heart beating steadily, and he was moving around like a little fishie. I was doing fine. There would be no more what-ifs. There would be surgery, and then ST, full-term at 40 weeks on the nose, would enter the world.

My OB told me that I’d made the right decision. That everything was safe, now—I was safe, he was safe. She reminded me that I was in excellent health and would recover beautifully.

Then I had to face my next hurdle—my fear of the surgery. I was terrified.

I had not—and still have not—done research about C-sections. (I realize that this was pretty avoidant of me.) I knew vaguely that the cut is big and deep, that body parts are exposed and actually lifted up out of you, and so on. I went through a period of feeling scared that lasted maybe an hour. But, like everything else, I had to get over that quickly.

I surrendered, utterly and completely. I just totally let go. I welcomed the C. I started to look forward to meeting my little lovebug.

My OB and the nurse sneakily “forgot” to put those damn compressor sleeves on my legs that night (oh, thank the gods), and surgery was the next morning in the early a.m.

There was so much going on that night, by the way—nurses yelling down the hallway “Crash C! Crash C!” for another patient. And other various emergencies I couldn’t make out but I heard the noises, the voices, the yelling. How do they do it? The nurses and the doctors, day in, day out? How do they have the stamina to deal with these huge situations all the time? Performing major surgery sometimes two or three times a day or night, while also delivering babies, or helping women like me make colossal choices? All while trying to maintain some sort of sane schedule for staff? I admire them.

The next morning, DH was in his blue scrubs, grinning. I was in surrender mode. They walked me down to the surgery room at the end of the hallway, and I squinted as I entered the room so as not to see all of the glittery sharp equipment.

The anesthesiologist and I seemed to have good chemistry (ah, the pun)—he was a salty young dude who did not seem to get along with the other staff very well. But I liked him. There was a lot of lead-up to the pain of the needle I was about to feel, but when it came, I said, “Oh, that wasn’t bad at all,” and it really wasn’t.

Soon I started to feel bizarre. A numbness that I’ve never felt before. A curtain between me and the doctors and nurses. Lots of activity, but I couldn’t follow exactly what was happening. I know that they say you are totally clear in the head with a spinal, which is what I had, but I did not feel totally clear in the head. I felt a little dreamy. I know this is going to be hard to believe, but the feeling was quite pleasant.

I heard someone yell, “Get the husband!”

DH was soon beside me, his hair covered by that blue cap. He was smiling. His hand was warm. I felt some vague tugging on the other side of the curtain. It didn’t bother me.

“This baby is in here crooked!” my OB said. “He’s at an angle.”

“I’m going to count you down from five to one, okay?” DH said, using the hypnobabies trainings we learned to help me relax. “Five, four…”

“Do you want to see the baby?” someone asked.

Then we heard ST’s cries.

It happened that fast!

Suddenly, someone was holding baby ST up around the edge of the curtain! They were kind of dancing him back and forth, up and down, as if he were a puppet peeking out from around a blue stage curtain. His mouth was open wide and he was crying his first cries, breathing his first breaths! Whoever this person was (my OB?) put his little warm wet cheek right up against my cheek. I was so surprised that I don’t think I said anything for quite a while. I think my mouth was open and no sound was coming out. Then he was whisked away for a bit. Then he was in DH’s arms. Then I was touching his little cheek with my fingers, I was touching his tiny hands and fingers. He was red, he was crying, and his eyes were shut tight. He was so small, so pink, so warm, and I remember thinking how glad I was that nothing was wrong with his lungs. I have zero recollection of what I said. I do know I said some things eventually. I remember being absolutely fixated on him. I remember everything else fading away and all I could see was his little, crying face. I was so happy that he was okay, he was alive and well, and making such a hearty, life-affirming cry.

And then he was whisked away again, DH followed, and I felt that gentle, numb, tugging on my body the other side of the curtain. I was smiling. I was in a state of disbelief.

I heard the doctors and nurses talking about their kids’ college applications.

I heard my OB say that my ovaries were really beautiful. Interesting! “These are some gorgeous-looking ovaries,” she said. I realized she was looking at my insides laid bare. Surreal.

And something magical happened.

The anesthesiologist started humming. He was humming a song. The song was  Let ‘Em In, by Paul McCartney and Wings. (You can hear it here.)

Did I ever write about that song on this blog? I don’t recall…

When ST grew to the point, inside me, that he was kicking and knocking around in there, I would sing:

Someone’s knocking at the doorSomeone’s ringing the bell/ Someone’s knocking at the door/ Someone’s ringing the bell/ Do me a favor/ Open the door/ And let ’em in.

Because it felt like ST was knocking on my door. These are the lyrics to Let ‘Em In, by Paul McCartney and Wings.

Yeah. The anesthesiologist starts humming THIS SONG. A song RECORDED IN 1976. A song you don’t hear much these days. What are the chances of that? Right after ST’s birth…

I asked the anesthesiologist: “Why are you humming that song?”

And he goes: “Hmm, I really don’t know.”

I think I’ll break here.

Part Two

Okay, so I’m going to burn through the rest because it is my turn to go to the grocery store, and I have only a few minutes. I know if I don’t do it now, I might not ever do it.

In the recovery room, a doctor came to see me and tell me about ST’s birth defects. He seemed perplexed because they didn’t add up to any common picture having to do with syndromes, and he seemed to be reassuring me, without coming out making any statements, that our baby seemed “normal” and that the defects were physical, cosmetic. There was the ear and the hand, which I’ve written about. But also mild asymmetry in the face (which has since gone away pretty much—no one sees it but me). And a partial foreskin. In a few days time, we’d also find out from pediatrician that he was tongue-tied.

I’ve mentioned my theory—pressure in the womb, positioning in the womb—for hand and ear. But this theory was disspelled at the geneticist f/u the other day. This baby was active and moving around a lot (perfect NSTs) so my theory simply does not pan out. He would have to be really stuck in one position for it to result in small ear and hand. No one seems to think it has anything to do with blood-flow, either, because all of my blood-flow-to-the-placenta tests were perfect, too. I think we just have to accept that the ear and hand are a total mystery.

And there would be a couple of days in the hospital before our selected pediatrician showed up during which no one caught that he was tongue-tied. And they would be forcing, with aggression I hate to recall, this teeny-tiny five and half pound baby to latch onto my breast, at a time when he wasn’t physically capable of doing so. Horrible. Screaming crying itty-bitty baby. I knew it did not feel right. But they kept saying, “Oh, he’ll latch, you just have to do XYZ, you just have to keep trying and trying and trying,” but I knew something was up. Oh, how I wish I could go back in time and not put my little baby through that. It was so stressful and—now I know—totally unnecessary and fruitless. His tongue was tightly tied to the bottom of his mouth. A week and a half or so later (now I forget how much time later), we had his frenulum snipped by a great ENT, but by that time, my milk supply had dwindled.

By the way, holding my newborn while they snipped his tongue, blood going everywhere, putting him to my breast immediately afterward to soothe him, blood on both of us, both of us crying—what a crazy experience. But no time to describe in detail.

The nurses at the hospital told me, “pump, pump, pump!” I was to pump every two hours, and feed him on demand ( every less-than-two hours). I was in a lot of pain post C-section and I was also just learning how to take care of a newborn. I was having trouble lifting things. I was more exhausted than I’d ever been. I was on percoset and mass doses of advil. I didn’t, couldn’t, have a bowel movement for NINE DAYS after birth….

We almost had to go to the emergency room, I was in so much pain with constipation. Eventually DH made a 3 a.m. run to a faraway drugstore to get me an enema. Me on all fours in the bathtub. DH inserting the enema. And then—WHOOSH—me standing up and a huge burrito-sized poo coming out in the tub. And then another burrito. And another. It was absolutely awe-striking. I stood. I stared. I pointed. “I gave birth anally,” I said, and for the first time in what felt like ages, DH and I laughed, laughed, laughed.

We came up with schedules for the pumping and feeding and cleaning the equipment that were impossible to follow. I felt so sad and defeated. I felt like every single GI problem he had was due to my not breastfeeding. When I did pump, I got less and less, was able to give him less and less. We tried renting a hospital-grade pump. We tried…I can’t even begin to describe all the things that we tried, I’ll just skip that. But what it came down to was a misalignment, in terms of time. My boobs got hard and my milk would have really come in if ST had been able to nurse at that time. But because he couldn’t latch on, and because I couldn’t keep up with the pumping schedule, by the time he might have been ready, post frenulum-snip, there wasn’t enough coming out. A friend recommended domperidone, but it is not made here, and doctors were discouraging me. I could have ordered it from Canada online, but I read that it affects dopamine, and I just didn’t want to mess with my dopamine in any way, when so much was happening in my body.

Other things that were happening: Deep, deep chills that I could not get to go away, no matter how I tried to warm myself. The chills sort of scared me, actually. Common thing, due to hormone changes, that felt rather brutal to me. Combined with a consistent nightly sweating that had me waking up with pajamas so wet it seemed I’d jumped in swimming pool. So crazy. That lasted for a month.

All along the way, baby ST having feeding problems, and me thinking that if only I had breastfed, he would be happier, more content, more able to spend his time connecting to us and the world. I still have blips of those feelings, but I had to do a lot of work to get over them as much as possible, because it’s what’s best for ST if I’m not sad about it, but accepting of the situation. To connect with him during feedings, I developed a habit of singing to him sweetly, stroking his little cheek, and in the early days, I’d give him a snooze on my bare breasts, using my boobs as pillows for his little munchkin-head.

So—this is a taste of the hard stuff. DH went back to work after two weeks, which was just not enough time for me to have a helper. It was fucking extremely difficult. My baby boy needed appointments at pediatricians, ENTs, geneticists, urologist, cardiologist, and follow-ups for all, on top of my frequent OB appointments after my C-section wound became infected. So I was left to lug my baby up and down our super-steep stairs in his heavy carseat, when I wasn’t supposed to be lifting anything heavier than him. I was left to take care of him and the house, and keeping track of all of his issues, researching his issues, learning our products, reading baby books, trying different formulas, and on and on, pretty much all on my own. I mean, DH of course helped as much as he could, but what it came down to (and comes down to still) is just a brief-ish break in the evening for me, and a weekend afternoon break.

So I wanted to be honest about the hard stuff, but must mention that in the midst of all this, of course, there were the heartachingly beautiful times. One of our recovery days at the hospital was spent in a state of bliss I will never forget. DH and I had the electric tea lights on and our shirts off, so we could do skin-to-skin as much as we possibly could. We made up songs and sang to him all day long, the three of us snuggling in that narrow hospital bed. We turned nurses away and fielded no calls. The intimacy was so lovely, and I still think of that day as the first day that DH and I solidified the bond with our boy in an unshakeable, life-long way. Gah! What a beautiful memory.

He was so small. So defenseless. So entirely dependent upon us, entirely ours. We didn’t know how to change a diaper, but we knew how to love him. And I learned early on that that truly is all that matters—the technical stuff, it follows naturally.

We couldn’t believe his beauty. We stared at him endlessly and he looked up at us with his quiet eyes and baby-bird mouth.

We ached. We felt new feelings of vulnerability and a love that hurt.

But I’ve already written about that.

Now—I must eat lunch and go to the grocery store. Gone are the days when I could go back over my posts with an editor’s eye. Still, I wanted to share all of this, finally, with you.

Leave a comment


  1. Your birth experience is very similar to mine except that my MFM wanted me to continue with induction after 42 hours of nothing!! I’m still so angry and haven’t been able to write about it. I had a terrible reactio to cervadil where my lady parts all swelled up. They tried misoprostol but that did nothing. I did get the foley balloon (not fun) and it did nothing either. I had a low dose of pitocin with the balloon and it collapsed the veins in both hands. Still not more than a fingertip dilated, a transverse twin and yet Dr Torture still claimed this was normal for a FTM and to keep going. I pulled the plug after 42 hours thanks to wonderful female OB attendings and went for the c/s. As I told everyone around me, I went thru hell to get these girls and I don’t need to lose them at birth. Cut me open and let’s move on.

  2. California mom

     /  February 9, 2015

    Wow that’s a lot to go through! Like having a baby and caring for a newborn isn’t enough! I’m just so glad you and S are fine now. Btw, what does that mean that he was crooked/at an angle? Is that sort of half breech? Good thing you had the c/s.

  3. Thanks for sharing this! I would find it pretty overwhelming and tough to write about my birth experience so I’m impressed. It’s good that you’re making peace with the disappointing parts. I’m probably only just starting to feel a bit better about that stuff. I knew I’d have a C section pretty early on and I was fine with that (or so I thought anyway), the part I still struggle with is that I never got that really cool moment of holding my babies right when the were born. I went into a kind of disassociated state heading into my section because I was so freaked out and I honestly don’t think I came out of that for a few weeks. I don’t know many women who don’t have things go pretty sideways at some point during their birth experience.

  4. I’m sorry so much of your birth experience didn’t go the way you wanted, and yet you seem to be dealing with it so well. At the end of the day, you have Simon with you and you did the best you could with what you had at the time. So many women agonize over this…I’m happy you’re not!

  5. This made me laugh (giving birth anally to three burritos! LOL!) and cry for you (so many parts). You have been through so, so much. You fought right to the bitter end to get this precious little man into this world. I’m so glad he’s here.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I always appreciate people who tell the whole story, and not just the parts that are all sunshine and lollipops.

  6. Thank you for sharing this story with us. You have been through so much. I can’t believe they didn’t correct his tongue tied mouth when he was born. Let me be angry for you. That is insane. How can this happen in 2015? This whole story would have been a lot easier for all of you if someone had stepped up as soon as your son was born.

    You are fantastic parents. Good luck to you!

  7. Oh, wow. That is one hell of a way to be introduced to birth and new motherhood… I am glad that you had moments of beauty in the midst of all the complications and trauma over breastfeeding. Poor little guy! And poor mama…that can’t have been easy. Thank you so much for sharing this story.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your story.


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