In March of 2017, we welcomed our sweet baby boy, Caelan, earth-side. If you enjoy birth stories, keep reading to hear the details of my labor and emergency c section.
There are much more dramatic c section stories out there. Relatively speaking, mine seems slightly uneventful.
But I guess that’s where the humor comes in. Imagine 24 hour of labor with nothing happening…
Though I struggled initially with “failed” labor and didn’t have the birth I envisioned, I had a healthy and happy baby. I’m fortunate and grateful, and his health is all that matters.
I’m sharing the details of my unplanned c section, because I want to remember it. And because we should talk about how birth doesn’t always go according to plan and the emotions that come with that.
Disclosure: This site contains affiliate links for products and services I recommend. When you make a purchase through an affiliate link, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. Read our full disclosure here.
Caelan’s Birth Story
My Pregnancy and Initial Birth Plan
I found out I was pregnant in August of 2016, after getting home from a road trip to New Orleans. We were overjoyed and of course, overwhelmed.
But I had a healthy and typically uneventful pregnancy. Apart from experiencing pelvic symphysis dysfunction in the second half, the pregnancy was mild. I gained a healthy amount of weight and both myself and baby remained healthy throughout.
There was no reason I should have anticipated a c section.
My natural birth plan was all in order: delayed cord clamping, immediate skin-to-skin, nursing, and minimal intervention. I had taken child-birth classes, prenatal yoga, and – since I teach yoga myself – felt confident in my ability to breathe and feel connected to my body.
It’s okay if you’re laughing at me. I laugh at myself, too, after experiencing real labor. But I do genuinely believe that my intuition and breath work helped during labor.
My labor didn’t stall because I was unprepared. The reason I ended up with a c section was completely out of my control and unavoidable.
While I didn’t have the most dramatic labor and delivery, I can promise you that there aren’t any other birth stories on the internet – natural or c section – where someone literally went to the hospital three times in twelve hours.
I can also promise you that I don’t know anyone else who got sent home from the hospital after being told there’s no way you’re going into labor anytime soon only to end up back at the hospital – in labor – eight hours later.
Hospital Trip Number One
When a due date passes, it’s often protocol to do an in-office stress test to make sure the baby is okay.
It’s usually not protocol, though, for your husband to poke the baby during the test and screw up the readings.
Did you know then when there are anomalies on the stress test, the next stop is the hospital? For a longer, more intense test and more (often painful) cervical exams to test for actual labor.
Of course when they checked for any signs of labor, despite contractions on the machine, it was a big hard no.
I was stressed out, tired of being pregnant, and suuuper annoyed at my husband for honestly just existing at this point. So I made him buy me pizza and then I went home to take a nap.
Oh yeah, we also got a parking ticket outside the hospital.
Hospital Trip Number Two
I woke up two hours later, around 6pm, with horrible back labor.
It didn’t feel real – because I was literally told that I’d be pregnant for what seemed like an eternity – but within an hour I was sure it was the real deal. If you’ve ever experienced back labor, you know that it’s no where near false labor.
By 10:30, my contractions were a couple minutes apart, so we called the OB. I took a hot shower and did the most practical thing – straighten my hair.
Around midnight, we finished packing the hospital bag and headed to the hospital. And I was sent home AGAIN.
Though the hospital staff sent me home, I was, in fact, in labor. Even though I was a first time mom who obviously hadn’t experienced labor before, I was shocked when I was told I was only 1cm dilated.
Part of my birth plan was to stay home and labor comfortably, without intervention, for as long as possible. After feeling like I did what I could on my own, 1cm was defeating.
Hospital Trip Number Three
We went home. I took a hot bath. I took walks around my block at 2am. But guys, don’t worry, my husband got to nap.
At 4am I decided it was time to go back to the hospital. Again. For the third time.
This time, they finally admitted me. But ten hours in to labor, I was only 2cm.
After checking in and finally getting settled into my labor and delivery “suite,” I finally got to see my own doctor.
She listened to my concerns about feeling like I reached what (in my inexperienced mind) I thought could be transitional labor without making any progress.
Why My Labor Stalled
Knowing me and my medical history, my actual doctor had more insight than the hospital doctors/staff. She explained that a LEEP procedure I had years ago left a lot of cervical scarring. There’s no way to know if scarring is present in a way that can effect labor until you’re actually in labor. But heavy scarring can prevent dilation.
This was also likely the reason why my cervical exams always showed absolutely zero signs of labor.
Validation settled in when I realized I actually was experiencing stronger, transitional labor, without anything actually happening.
(Obviously I’m not a healthcare professional – this is just my personal experience. Medical advice can be sought through your healthcare provider.)
My amazing OB did everything she could to avoid the “cascade of interventions.”
She managed to massage out some of the scar tissue and get me to 4cm.
At this point, I was exhausted, defeated, and ready for an epidural. Looking back, I wish I held off.
We also reluctantly agreed to try a small dose of pitocin in an attempt to see if stronger contractions would help speed up the process. Unfortunately my body did not react well to the drug and my oxygen dropped.
Ultimately, while medical interventions can be necessary, they can have an effect on the mother’s and baby’s vitals. For my entire life I will wonder if this contributed to further stalled labor.
Deciding To Have A C Section
My c section can be added to a long list of birth stories about mothers who wanted a different narrative, but would do it again to ensure their babies stay healthy.
Eighteen hours of labor later, I was still at 4cm. Shift change brought in a new doctor.
After so many hours, and so many failed attempts, my baby was losing oxygen. We all (me, hubby, and the medical team) agreed to call the c-section.
Ending up with a cesarean felt weird, despite my baby being healthy.
Did pitocin and the epidural contribute to my son’s lack of oxygen? If I labored longer at home could I have avoided intervention, drugs, or surgery?
At the same time, I don’t wish to have been on my own, without a doctor monitoring my son. Seeing the doctor rush into my room when his vitals dropped significantly gave me a glimpse into a world I don’t wish to know.
Thinking about that moment, I know I’d make the same decision over and over again.
My C Section Recovery
Recovering from major surgery is never easy or fun. Recovering from major surgery while attempting to hold, nurse, and bond with a tiny new person who literally needs you for everything is next to impossible.
But I learned just how strong I could be when I had no other choice.
Within twelve hours, I was walking. Thanks to my husband, my family, and the staff at the hospital, we were both well taken care of. Despite some initial struggles, I started to get the hang of nursing.
I finally was able to eat over 36 hours after I had that slice of pizza. My mom brought my favorite White Bordeaux to my hospital room to celebrate. One awesome nurse gave me an empty coffee cup so I could enjoy my glass of wine without anyone questioning my judgement.
Most importantly, I held my sweet, healthy baby boy in my arms. He came home with us a few days later life as a family of three began.
Still, Changing Your Birth Plan is an Emotional Experience
You guys know I’m a planner. I had a birth plan. It was supposed to work.
Nowhere in my well curated plan did I pencil in shake on the operating table while your husband looks at your organs outside of your body.
I never considered recovering from surgery or needing drugs to numb the pain from the incision.
Since my son lived inside *my body* for nine months, I always thought I’d be the first to hold him. I’ll always remember, though, seeing my son against my husband’s chest, and the tears in our eyes when we got to become parents.
Ending up with a c section changed both of our stories. It was hard for me, but my husband got to hold his son instantly and create a bond that’s also important. The memory is etched into my mind forever.
So is driving in the rain, on the way to the hospital, while while no one else was on the road. And the wonderful l&d nurse who saved momentos for my baby book and the nurse who managed to make my first photo holding my soon look less surgical.
I could never have planned for those amazing moments, either.
I realize all of this sounds dramatic for someone who gave birth to a healthy, full term baby. C sections happen every day – sometimes more frequently than natural births.
This isn’t written to downplay more serious birth trauma or imply anything negative about the medical field. Simply put, I wanted to pen my own story – because I like birth stories – and talk about what I struggled with in regards to ending up with a c section.