- From Natural to Medicalized: My Experience Moving From an Unmedicated Labor to a C–Section Delivery under General Anesthesia
I planned on giving birth to my daughter naturally: vaginally, unmedicated, but in a major, reputable research hospital. After a beautiful labor, I was ready to push. Then, I ended up in the OR. I had an emergency C–section under general anesthesia. Neither my husband nor I were present for my daughter’s birth.
I woke from the anesthesia about an hour after my child entered this world. She was perfectly healthy. Yet before truly celebrating her arrival, I faced three days of hospital staff urging me to chart my daughter’s poops and pees every two hours as if something could at any moment go wrong. Hospital staff woke and weighed and poked and prodded both her and I around the clock. I was told to feed her formula and starting pumping if I wanted to breastfeed after discharge. I was also told to rest and relax. Rest, as the medication from my procedure wore off and I remained hooked up to a morphine drip, an IV, and a catheter. Relax, as my throat throbbed from intubation, my body from laboring, and my stomach from surgery. I was then discharged from the hospital with 120 pain pills and no guidance on when or how to wean off them.
How did my and my daughter’s birth experience change so drastically from the natural “plan” I had to the heavily medicalized outcome we experienced?
Let me back track briefly. I opted for an OBGYN rather than a midwife once I found out I was pregnant. This was in part due to my husband’s leaning, and it was also because I poorly understood the real differences in OBGYN and midwifery care. I also believed that I was in control of my birth and that regardless of my provider the outcome would be what I wanted: I had a clear plan, my provider and husband knew what it was . . . what could possibly go wrong? To be certain, I also hired a doula. My thinking here was that the doula would ensure the ‘natural’ experience I wanted while the OBGYN would guarantee the medical ‘back–up’ that provided my husband and I with added piece of mind.
Fast forward to 7am on a cloudy Saturday morning when I woke to wet sheets. I was fortunate to be a healthy 39 weeks at this point. A large thunderstorm had rolled through, and the change in barometric pressure caused my water to break. I had no contractions, so I started vacuuming the house. Totally normal, right? The doula suggested I move around, and I figured this could be my last chance to vacuum for a while. Plus, it would be nice [End Page 182] to come home from the hospital with my daughter to a clean house.
My husband works night shifts, and he arrived home around 8:30am that morning. I finished vacuuming, and we went for a walk. My contractions were slowly increasing, and it seemed a good time to head to the hospital: I was B–strep positive, and my provider encouraged me to come early because of it. Was this already a sign of unnecessary medicalization?
When we arrived at the hospital, I was 4cm dilated. A nurse briefly monitored my contractions. The monitor showed my daughter suffering from what the staff communicated to me as modest bradycardia. This would mean I would need constant electronic fetal heart monitoring, the nurse informed me. “Does this mean I may end up having a C–section?,” I asked. The nurse responded, “don’t worry about that now. We are at step 4, and that is, like, step 21. Let’s worry about step 21 when we get there.” I thus assumed this was no big deal, and I did not give the bradycardia much thought after that.
Yet that nurse’s response to my question about a potential C–section reflects, in a nutshell, what much of my remaining labor and delivery experience consisted of. I was no longer in control. The hospital staff knew better, and I would be...