I started reading birth stories years before actually becoming pregnant. I was always drawn to home births, water births, and natural birth stories. After reading each one I would imagine writing my own birth story… so my ideal birth was created: natural, pain-medication free, empowering, and uplifting.
After a long road to getting pregnant, I finally found myself 12 weeks along with a little bean that seemed to want to stick around. I did my research and found a doctor in Ho Chi Minh City willing to try a natural birth (most doctors here push for c-sections) and ordered an array of natural birthing books. Over the next few months, I drilled Gavin on what to say when medical interventions were suggested, we practiced massage techniques, and pain mediation methods. Gavin claimed he was going to become the first male doula in Saigon, that’s just how prepared he felt!
We were excited and anxious to get the show on the road with our mystery baby (as we’d decided to keep the gender unknown) as we reached the 35th week. At a routine visit to the doctor, we were told that my very large bump was actually getting bigger due to elevated amniotic fluid levels. They wanted to keep an eye on it and asked us to come in weekly for check-ups. Each week my bump grew even bigger, and my fluid levels were growing rapidly.
At 38 weeks we were told we needed to get the baby out of there and encouraged to try natural induction methods. We created a rigorous routine of raspberry leaf tea, spicy food, (irregular) sex, and nipple stimulation to try and get things moving. No luck. Finally at 39 weeks and 5 days, my doctor said the baby had to get out, otherwise delivery wasn’t safe. I ran the risk of both a prolapsed umbilical cord and placental separation if my waters were to break at home. Plus with all the additional fluid, the baby was able to move around too freely, changing positions constantly and leaving the little one unable to engage into the correct birthing position.
After a cervical exam, it was apparent that there was very little chance I would even dilate on my own. I was massive, tired, and defeated. We scheduled an induction for the following day. My doctor warned me that while he was willing to give me two days worth of induction, it might not work.
Friday morning, April the 4th, we checked in and began 8 hours of a Pitocin drip. I moved from the bed to the birthing ball, Gavin rubbed my back, and we talked about the baby. Although I had contractions all day, my cervix never opened. We spent the night at the hospital in hopes that it might pick up in the night and I might go into labor after all of the medication. That night I awoke at midnight to sharp contractions. I finally woke up Gavin at 2am. We called the midwife to check me at 3. We honestly thought it had worked… but no dilation, no progress. I got up and walked the halls for a while, poking my head in the nursery to look at all the babies. By the time I got back into bed, the contractions had all but stopped.
We started the second day of induction at 6am. My doctor let us know that we had a C-section scheduled for 10am if no progress was made. That morning we didn’t even fight the nurses about the fetal monitoring, I didn’t even bother sitting on the ball, and I don’t even remember feeling a contraction.
I was partly terrified, partly cool and collected, as they shaved me and prepped me for surgery. I cried. Gavin, scrubbed up and dressed for the occasion, met me in the O.R. waiting-area. The doctor told us there was another major surgery going on, so it would be a bit of a wait. We laughed and talked… still arguing over little boy names!
Finally they wheeled me into the theater, separating Gavin and I while they prepared me for surgery. They gave me a spinal epidural. This was by far the scariest part for me. I cried on the nurses arm trying to stay as still as possible while it was administered. Once that started to take effect everything moved very quickly… a sheet went up in front of my head, blocking the view of my body. Sterile packages of tools were being open and things were being set up. I looked over at the warming bed where I knew the baby would be placed, realizing that would be a good place to focus my attention. They set out a pink hat on the table; confusing my addled and drug-fuzzed brain as I didn’t know the gender yet. I felt a little angry as I was totally convinced our baby was a boy. How could they dress a baby boy in PINK?
I felt like I was going to throw up and they placed a small cold sliver dish against my face. Suddenly Gavin was there. It really gets hazy at that point. Gavin said they had pretty much started the incision the moment he stepped into the operating theatre. He held my hand and lovingly stroked my head and was standing so he could see what was happening on the other side of the sheet.
There was a surprise when they started to pull the baby out as the little one had flipped breech at some point since our last scan on Thursday. That was exactly what one of the natural delivery fears had been in the first place. I would have had to have a c-section anyways due to her presentation - even if the induction had worked!
Our doctor pulled her out feet first and said in Vietnamese that she was in fact a girl! Gavin clarified in Vietnamese that it was a girl, but got his words mixed up and for a split second or two we remained in the dark until finally it was confirmed in English that we had had a little girl!
She was whisked over to the warming table and had some suction done. Gavin was right there, calling her by her name and greeting her. She made a few little cries. The nurse wrapped her up and brought her over to me so I could kiss her. I hardly remember that part of Lucy’s birth - which just kills me. Pretty soon, Gavin and Lucy were gone and I was alone in the theater for some time being stitched up and put back together. Then I was whisked off to a two-hour recovery room before I got to properly see my girl. I asked about her every minute for the two hours until they finally said it was time to go… undoubtedly the longest two hours of my life was spent in that room.
When they wheeled me out to the elevator, Gavin and Lucy were right there waiting for me. We were pushed up to our room where Lucy was immediately put on my chest for skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding. She took to it like a champ! There, in that sterile, whitewashed room, our little family of three got to know each other for the next few days.
Do I feel “robbed” of my natural birth? Sort of… Do I dwell on the events that transpired three weeks ago? Sometimes. Was it emotionally traumatic getting an unplanned c-section? Of course. Would I do it all over again for Lucy? In a heartbeat.
Although Lucy wasn't born the way I had originally expected or hoped, she came in to this world healthy and perfect - which is all that really matters in the end.