Emma's Story

TRIGGER: This is Taylor’s birth story. If you’re pregnant and reading this, you might not want to… or you might. If you were my provider, this is in no way intended to blame you or make you feel bad, I think you are all awesome doctors and I hope reading how things felt from my perspective only makes you better. They say as many as 1 in 3 mothers describe a birth experience as traumatic. I’m sure that has a lot to do with the fact that giving birth is such an emotional process with 9 months of buildup. But nobody talks about it, we don’t want to scare our pregnant friends. So we struggle in silence… or we can choose to speak out.

((Spoiler alert: We are both physically fine and she is the cutest frikken baby ever. 😊))

 

My sons birth, while I wouldn’t dare call it easy, went pretty smooth. My water broke at 36+2, I wasn’t expecting it, didn’t really have time to make a plan – I was in denial and already 4-5cm when I got to the doctors office.  My dad drove me to the hospital and I met Russ there (of course he was working 🚒), got my epidural – which I knew I wanted – and pushed him out a few hours later. They threw him up on my stomach where he immediately shit on me and it was AH-MAZING. 💩.

Somehow, I just knew this chick was gonna cause some trouble. Before I knew she was breech, I was having dreams of pushing her out in the bathtub by myself, or in the back of the local volunteer ambulance. When I found out she was breech, I thought that was the curveball. I scheduled a version, but somehow I just had a feeling I would end up with a c-section, which I wasn’t thrilled about but I was okay with it. I joked with my husband that if I could be my own nurse I’d be fine with a section ((control freak… but it’s like I was seeing the future 🔮 right?!)) Sure enough, 7am Sunday morning, at 36+3, the day before my scheduled version, my water broke. ((My body apparently doesn’t grow babies longer than 36weeks but they’ve both been born healthy🙌🏻. My water also only breaks when my husband is at work ))

Hubs was on his way home from work, in-laws on the way for Mason, I called my doctors office, and then immediately work… “Who’s on for OB anesthesia today??”… few seconds of checking, and I was stoked — the A-team I really liked working with these people as coworkers, and also felt like they were strong clinicians. I had worried — ((What if it was a resident who I wasn’t really comfortable with? Would they be offended if I asked the attending to do the spinal? Great it’s a fucking Sunday I’m stuck with whoever’s there)) — but I didn’t have to worry about it, they were awesome. 

We got to the hospital, checked in, IV, consents… I’ve worked here almost 10 years, this place is my comfort zone, I knew where I was going and what to expect, was nervous but comfortable running through the formalities and ready to go.  They call in my OB — of course it’s a doctor I’ve never seen before, two pregnancies with the same practice but she was mostly in an office I didn’t go to often… I knew who she was but she didn’t know me from a hole in the wall. Whatever, they do so many c-sections these days, I was honestly more worried about anesthesia (again with seeing the future, maybe I should be a psychic 🔮). The surgeon gets there, OR is ready, they walk us down the hall and we drop Russ off in a room where he’s going to put on his bunny suit for the OR. I give him a quick kiss and say “love you, see you in a few”… they’ll bring him in once I’m prepped.

Time for the spinal. It didn’t feel much different than when I got my epidural for Mason in terms of a big needle in my back. I did get a shock down my left leg when they were positioning it, I kind of flinched a little, but the nurse in front of me just said that’s normal, stay still, they were still positioning it anyway… I wasn’t worried. They finish, I lay back on the table and they quickly start positioning me and putting up the drapes. The resident is brushing an alcohol swab over my stomach and chest — feels the same.. feels the same… feels the same… feels the same…. — at some point I could hear the “oh shit” in his voice. I knew it should feel different… but it didn’t.

The back of my left leg still felt a little funny so I kept kind of rolling my ankles. I think it was the nurse who said “She’s still moving… she’s still moving guys”, and they explained that sometimes people can still move but they’re numb… “Remember you will still feel touching and pressure but not pinching pain, do you want them to start and see how it feels?” In my head I’m trying to convince myself that the tingling in the back of my leg is the spinal starting and it’s going to work. 🤔💭 Either way I can just lay there and fucking take it because I’m not going to sleep… Then they put clamps on my skin and it was more like “NNOPPPEE… if you’re not cutting then don’t start because I can feel all of that”.

This is where it all spiraled.

 

“We are going to have to put you to sleep” — “I don’t want to” — “I know but we have to”.  No further explanation that I can remember… no discussion of options… I don’t even remember them repositioning me to try to get the level to rise. A million things start running through my head. — I don’t want to debate the risks of repeating a spinal… a lot of people say no way… some people say it’s “attending dependent”… some people say the risks are so rare… I don’t know, I don’t do spinals. I honestly had no idea they wouldn’t just try again. But either way, she looks up at the surgeon and says “We have to convert to general.”

The surgeon starts yelling… “Call the senior OB resident we’re gonna need more hands!!!” ((I still don’t know who came in and I probably take report from them on the reg, hopefully they don’t know it was me either?)) “Call Peds, tell them it’s gonna to be fast!!!”

She didn’t bother to look over the drape or say anything to me. The anesthesiologist said we are just waiting for everyone to come so they can work quickly once we put you to sleep or something along those lines. I think it was the nurse saying “Where’s her husband?! Where did you put the husband??!” ((I heard you boo, thanks for trying😉)). And someone responded “He can’t come in!!” They said okay we’re ready, and I felt the Prop.

The anesthesiologist was holding my hand and rubbing above the IV trying to distract me from the Propofol. The resident put a mask over my face and was telling me to take deep breaths. It was all happening so fast. I can’t even describe the level of panic I felt in that moment.  My last thought was, “THIS IS REALLY FUCKING HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. I BETTER JUST LISTEN TO HIM”. So I did. ((Not like I had much of a choice at that point)). 😴😴

I woke up a couple hours later in recovery, although it’s all really hazy. I kind of remember holding Taylor for a picture… I look at that picture all the time, time stamped over 2hrs after her birth… but I don’t really remember first meeting her. I remember when they were saying they had my baby I grabbed for my big belly and I didn’t really believe it. Obviously I know they were giving me my baby, but I felt like they had taken her from me. Are you sure she’s mine?? ((What terrible fucking thoughts to have upon meeting your daughter!! 😭😭))

I remember the anesthesiologist coming in and explaining that the spinal seemed textbook and she wouldn’t have had the resident do it if she wasn’t totally confident in his clinical skills… maybe it was the Bupi, they had another case like this last week so they sent it all back to pharmacy… blah blah blah.  I don’t remember her mentioning why she couldn’t try it again, or if there may have been other options, or why it was so rushed… things I will always wonder.  She definitely didn’t say anything about Taylor’s actual birth, if that makes sense.  But, I really didn’t even remember talking to her until Russ reminded me… thanks, propofol 

I was sitting in my hospital bed a day or two after ((idk if it was the anesthesia or the Dilauded but damn, I was high! Things are so blurred!!))… I kept thinking that I was surprised that no one from anesthesia had come to talk to me. Russ said, “What do you want a play-by-play??” … 🤔 FUCK YA I DO! This was not only our daughters birth… and my first time having anesthesia or surgery… but these were my coworkers!! I felt like they ghosted me.

Before discharge, at my post op appointment, when I got back to work and ran into the residents in the halls, I asked everyone — Was I unstable? Was something happening with the baby? Was there something I didn’t know was going on? And everyone said no. You were stable the whole time. There was never any danger to you or the baby. The spinal just didn’t work so they needed to use general. “It was just a fluke thing we had to deal with.” 😳😳😳

THEN WHY THE FUCK DID IT HAVE TO BE LIKE THAT?! 😡Why the clusterfuck and the yelling and the rush?! Why couldn’t I have seen Russ again!? Explain it to both of us. Maybe let someone who isn’t strapped to a table, naked & draped, with a visual of only like two people in the room use their brain. Give us a minute to process?!

I remember them saying “We need to put you to sleep”… and that’s where my thoughts were in that moment… but I wish someone brought me past that moment and said “You’re not going to remember your daughters birth.”

Why couldn’t it have been like, “Hey time out, you’re stable but things are changing, we need to make a new plan. Let’s bring your husband in real quick. You aren’t going to remember her birth and he can’t be in here, is there anything you want or don’t want done?”

These are my coworkers for crying out loud!! I thought they had my back. The opportunity was there to allow us to process as a couple and hey… maybe even pass someone my phone so we could have still had some of the pictures and memories that I’m longing for. ((That may seem like a small thing, but having a picture to look at and see that she was okay while I was out cold… would have made SUCH a difference.))

But it didn’t happen that way. 😢

I know they didn’t intend to turn me into a psych case. They did what they felt was best for us medically and I trust that… they took good care of us in that sense, and if I had planned a general anesthesia surgery I would have been happy with their care. But this wasn’t SURGERY, this was our daughters BIRTH… one of the most important days of our lives!!! And I can’t help as their coworker to feel angry… like they stole something from me… like they could have done things differently, allowed me to maintain some control… and like I would have done things differently had I been taking care of them.  ((Sorry guys 😕))

I came across what I found out was her first picture a couple weeks after her birth. Time stamped 11:26. She was born at 10:33. I asked Russ, was this right away? He said ya… he was holding my phone when the nurse brought her in and she offered to take the picture when she handed her to him. ((I do love that picture. 💕 they fell in love immediately and his hand is the size of her body. 😍)

A little more grilling…. turns out, he was alone in that room where he was put to change real quick. Someone came in and said something along the lines of – “you can get undressed, you’re not going to be able to go in, they had to put her to sleep, the babies already out, she’s doing great, peds is with her now.” 🕜🕖🕚 A little while goes by and they came back out… “her sugar was a little low is it okay if we give her some formula? Can we give her the hepB vaccine and the erythro? It shouldn’t be much longer, they’re still closing.” 🕖🕘🕜

((ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?! All that shit can wait and my husband is more than capable of holding a bottle!! Are you really asking about VACCINES before anyone’s even SEEN her?!))

I can’t remember who said it in recovery but it stuck with me… “Ooohhh she was screaming when she came out!” ((Thanks, we will never be able to hear her first cries. And I will continue to hold my baby daily and tell her I’m so sorry I wasn’t there to comfort her)) “Her APGARs were 9&9!!” ((Then what the fuck took you almost an hour to bring her to her Dad?!?)).

Then the guilt… I should have said something. ((My therapist hates the word “should”. Sorry Martha 😉)) Why didn’t I say “stop I don’t like how this is going, do we have any other options? Can I see Russ real quick?” As a nurse I’m not afraid to speak up for my patients, why didn’t I speak up for myself?

I am traumatized by the memories I have… but I am tortured by the memories I don’t have, and can never have. I’m so sad that a day that should be full of happy memories is filled with fear, sadness, anger, and regret… and then I feel guilty for that too… because I have a beautiful baby girl and I should remember her birthday fondly regardless of how it happened.

I still cry about it almost every day. I still hug her close and tell her I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for her when she was born… that she was alone. ((Yes, I know, she’ll never know the difference.)) I put on my nurse hat and say “it really wasn’t that bad. You were both fine. It could have been so much worse”… but I know that’s not helpful. Because ya, of course it could have been worse. But I’m still traumatized by the way it was. And I wasn’t a nurse that day, I was a patient, and a mom. And yes, “you have a healthy baby you should be happy”.  And I am super happy for that… But I’m learning that being happy and grateful for Taylor, and being sad about her delivery, are two completely different things.

It doesn’t help that she will be our last child, that those awful memories and non-memories will never fade behind the memories from my next delivery.  It doesn’t help that I work there, that I walk by these people and take report from them every shift. I’m always wondering when, and if, the conversations that I have with them in my head will ever happen in real life. And what good will it be if they do? It’s not like anyone can go back and change it. I go into work in a full sweat and clench my teeth trying not to burst into tears. The flashbacks are in full effect. I smile and say “I’m good, how are you?” But I’m not. But I will be. 💪🏻

And there it is… Taylor’s birth story. And it’s aftermath. 

 

Hopefully writing it helps me heal. And hopefully reading it encourages someone to be an advocate, whether for themselves, or their patient. Or it encourages someone to share their own story, and invest in their own healing, and realize that these fucked up feelings are okay, and all too common. Or you just get from it whatever you may be looking for. ❤️

Our birth story was more of a mindfuck than anything else. We were both luckily physically fine. But many women’s traumatic birth experience also involves significant physical trauma leading to life long health complications. I think that adds a whole different complexity to the healing process that I can’t really speak to… but the more I have invested into the healing process, the more I have realized how common and how REAL birth trauma really is.