I can’t believe our sweet Benjamin is already a month old! I wanted to write down his birth story not only to share, but also because I want to be able to remember the special details. I’ve always enjoyed reading other women’s birth experiences, but I especially enjoyed reading these stories while I was pregnant.
From all the stories I read, heard from friends, and been told by other moms (the good, the bad, and the ugly), I felt like I had a pretty good idea of all the great and awful things that can happen during labor, and I was pretty confident I couldn’t be sure of anything going into my own labor. Women’s bodies are amazing. It’s incredible how different each woman, each pregnancy, and each birth is.
This blog post is super long. I wanted to remember the day our baby was born, but also the events leading up to our c-section because really it’s all part of the same story. I tried to include some detail about the actual c-section. I didn’t have the opportunity to read many c-section experiences, and as a result there were a few things which surprised me because I didn’t fully know what to expect. Hopefully this story might help another mama prepare for a c-section.
My Original Plan
In preparing to have a baby, there were a few things I knew I wanted and some things I was pretty sure I didn’t want. From the start, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to have an epidural. You can roll your eyes, or think what you want, but it’s true. Ever since I learned what an epidural was, it sounded like something I wanted to avoid at all cost. Honestly, the idea of a needle in my back is more intimidating to me than natural birth without medication.
So, from the start I at least wanted to give natural birth a try. To give myself a good chance, I choose to see a midwife (instead of an OB) and also signed up for a natural labor class (we chose GentleBirth, which is fairly new in our area but something that is gaining popularity around the globe). I read books about natural birth and did research. I practiced mindfulness and self hypnosis. My plan was to labor at home for as long as possible, use a natural labor suite at the hospital, and give birth with as few interventions as possible. I was feeling pretty confident about our plan going into the end of my third trimester.
37 Week Appointment Surprise
I was pretty excited for our 37 week appointment. The baby was pretty active throughout my pregnancy, but he had sort of settled into a favorite position over the past weeks and I was anxious for an ultrasound to learn what little body parts I had been feeling. The midwives at my office had felt my belly at my last several appointments and were pretty sure baby boy was head down. I kept feeling specific body parts wiggle around, but always sort of settle back to the same place. I was pretty sure I felt his foot underneath my rib cage on my right side.
Mathew came with me to this appointment and I’m so glad he did. I was not expecting the midwife to scan my stomach with the ultrasound and tell us that our little man was breech.
In Michigan, as in most other states in the US, hospitals will not deliver a baby in the breech position if it’s a mother’s first child. There is a risk of the body being delivered and the head getting stuck, so a breech baby means automatic Cesarean.
I was pretty devastated. I knew immediately that it wasn’t a big deal. It’s not like I was told that there was anything wrong with our baby. But it was so disappointing to prepare for natural labor, then have everything change all at once to a c-section- pretty much the opposite of natural birth!
Our Failed ECV
In hopes of encouraging our baby boy to flip, we scheduled an External Cephalic Version with an OB from our office for when I was 37 weeks and 5 days pregnant. If you’re not familiar with the procedure, it’s where two doctors try to manually flip the baby from the outside of the mother’s stomach. It’s about as fun as it sounds. 🙂
We went into the hospital on October 31st for our ECV. Mathew came with me. My doctor doesn’t offer an epidural (which was fine with me since that’s what I was hoping to avoid in the first place) or anything else for pain. All my GentleBirth preparation for a natural labor really paid off during the ECV procedure. It was 15 minutes of 4 strong hands on my stomach trying to turn my baby.
The ECV was not successful in turning the baby, but I’m so glad we tried it. I also tried going to the chiropractor (who I’d been seeing throughout my pregnancy), inversions and anything from spinning babies, and also putting peppermint oil on the top of my stomach. He wasn’t budging!
So, after the ECV, we scheduled a c-section for November 9 (39 weeks exactly).
The Weekend Before our C-section
The nice thing about scheduling a c-section was that we knew when he was coming. We knew he’d be here before Thanksgiving, and I knew I wouldn’t have to suffer going past my due date. Even though it wasn’t what I envisioned, I was feeling at peace about our scheduled deliver date.
Since the ECV earlier that week, I’d been having some contractions, but I just chalked it up to Braxton Hicks and went along business as usual.
I had a lot planned for that last weekend. I needed to clean the house, finish up some blog work, get some granny undies that would come up over my incision, pack our hospital bags, etc.
I spent all of Saturday cleaning the house, figuring I’d give everything one last scrub down before my surgery. I went for a brisk mile walk with my neighbor that afternoon. Mathew and I even went to church that evening. I still had more to do on Sunday, but I’d gotten most everything finished up that day.
I planned on getting pretty good sleep Saturday night after such a busy day. I woke up around 4:30 am, unable to sleep- which was not unusual for me in my third trimester. I laid in bed for some time, then decided to get up to use the bathroom a little after 5. I got back in bed, hoping to fall asleep. After just a few minutes, I felt a little leak. I didn’t think much of it at first (third trimester probs) but then I felt a little bigger leak.
I immediately hopped out of bed and scooted back to the bathroom. I thought I was starting to pee my pants. As soon as I sat down on the toilet, a gush of fluid came out.
Part of me knew when I was laying in bed and felt that second little rush of fluid that it was my waters breaking, but the other part of me didn’t want to believe it. I was in denial. My c-section wasn’t for another couple days. I didn’t know if my doctor was available to deliver my baby on a Sunday morning. My hospital bag wasn’t packed. I still needed to mop the kitchen floor. I hadn’t made it to Target to buy my special underwear yet!
I called Mathew into the bathroom and made him look in the toilet and give me his professional opinion as to weather or not he thought that my water broke.
Yup. Seriously. I’m pretty sure he thought I was crazy.
I knew that if my water did break, it will probably continue to leak, so I put on a pad and went to my phone to page the midwife. I explained to her that I thought my water broke, and she confirmed that we should head to the hospital. I asked her how much time we had, since I hadn’t packed a bag yet.
Even though I hadn’t packed, I had done laundry the day before, so I was shuffling through the clean laundry pile and throwing things into a bag. I had a list of what I wanted to bring in my head, and I had a few emergency things set aside from earlier that week (in case something went wrong at our ECV and we ended up having a c-section on that day).
My water broke around 5:30 am and we got to the hospital right around 7 am.
At the Hospital
In a twist of events, one of the two OB’s at my office was available to do the c-section, and I was so thankful I didn’t have to have the first surgery of my life at the hands of someone I’d never met or heard of before. We got to the hospital around 7 and checked into OB triage. They confirmed that my waters broke, and even though I wasn’t really feeling any contractions, I was already dilated to 3 cm.
We were only in triage for a little while before we were admitted to labor and delivery. We were told that our doctor would do the c-section at 9 am. We decided to wait a while before letting our parents know. Mathew and I were excited, and letting it sink in that we were actually going to meet our baby today! We were pretty relaxed in our room, even though people were in and out asking questions, bringing paperwork, and taking blood for labs, etc.
I was officially in early labor. I started to feel the contractions a bit, and some were fairly strong. None felt painful to me, but it was interesting to watch the contractions on the monitor. They looked stronger than they felt.
We texted our parents that the baby was coming that day sometime in the 8 o’clock hour, still expecting our c-section to happen at 9 am. Mathew and I chatted and watched Frasier episodes on his phone in between hospital staff interruptions. Our c-section got delayed quite a bit- we didn’t end up going in until 10:15 am.
When it was time to go to the OR, I got into a wheelchair and a nurse took me down the hall to the room where the surgery would take place. I had seen an OR before, but there’s something sort of eerie and surreal about walking into your own operating room. There were tons of hospital staff in the room. My OB, a resident, a random staff member who was there to observe for some reason or another I can’t recall, a nurse for me, a nurse for the baby, the anesthesiologist, the nurse anesthetist.
The anesthesiologist (who had the best bedside manner of any doctor I’ve ever met) asked us before hand what music we had on the radio in our car that morning- and when we told him we’d been listening to Christmas music he promised to have some playing in the OR during the surgery. Sure enough, there was Christmas music playing softly in the background in the operating room.
I sat on the edge of the operating table while the anesthesiologist did the spinal block, then they helped me lay down. It’s incredible how quickly it started working. The spinal numbed everything from about my rib cage down. I was able to feel movement, but no pain or other sensations.
After I was numb and the sterile field (that sheet you always see in movies and c-section photos) was set up, someone brought Mathew into the room to sit next to me.
From there, they made pretty quick work of getting the baby out. Our anesthesiologist borrowed Mathew’s phone and started snapping photos over the sheet. Mathew leaned in and whispered to me, asking if he was really taking photos of what we thought he was taking photos of. Yup. We’ve got pictures on his phone of the actual surgery.
When they pulled our little breech baby out, bum first, the doctor said, “Yup, he’s definitely a boy!”
The next several minutes were so surreal.
I had pictured my labor so many times during my pregnancy. I pictured my baby being born, and being able to see him right away. I imagined immediate skin-to-skin and gazing into his little eyes, studying his face. The c-section had really thrown me.
After the doctor delivered the baby, he held him up a little for Mathew to see over the sheet. Even though Mathew could see, I could not. I remembered asking Mathew, “Is he cute?” I was so curious to know what our little boy looked like.
Next, the nurses took the baby off to the side to clean him up and let Mathew finish cutting the cord. “Is he cute?” I asked again. I think Mathew was also feeling overwhelmed at how quickly everything was happening because he didn’t really give an answer.
Then the baby was wrapped up in a blanket and a hat. Since the sterile field (the sheet) started at my chest, the only skin to skin option was really more of a cheek to cheek experience with the baby’s face sort of at my neck. I could feel him there, but couldn’t even crane my neck to see him. I could feel him as he started sucking on my neck. “Is he cute?” I remembered asking again.
The anesthesiologist continued snapping photos on Mathew’s phone and he took our first family photo of the three of us together.
We got to the OR around 10:15 am. Benjamin Allen Crawley was born at 10:37 am. He was 7 pounds 13oz and 20.5 inches long.
We spent a little longer in the OR while the doctors put everything back together. I mostly tried to focus on the fact that we just had a baby instead of whatever was happening on the other side of the curtain.
I feel like I didn’t really get to look at my baby until we got to the recovery room. That was something I wasn’t expecting with a c-section. We were in the recovery room for maybe two hours. I was able to nurse and snuggle our baby boy. The nurses gave him a mini sponge bath to clean him up before we were transferred to the mother baby floor.
We still hadn’t given our families the ‘ok’ to come visit yet. I really wanted to feel a bit settled before we started accepting visitors. We probably got to our room around 1 pm and my mom was our first visitor around 2 pm.
It was several hours before I could stand up after the spinal. My feet were so heavy still. I felt like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill trying to wiggle my toes. With a c-section they put in a catheter so you don’t have to get up to go to the bathroom for a while.
I was really nervous about getting sick after the surgery. Once we were in our room I only ate ice chips and jello, even though I was pretty hungry. I didn’t eat real food until about 6 pm that night.
Our hospital has a “baby friendly” designation and doesn’t have a nursery, but encourages rooming in. Benjamin stayed with us in our room. Our nurses were amazing and it was so great to get support for breastfeeding from our nurses and the lactation consultants while we were in the hospital. On the second night he did the whole cluster feed thing to encourage my milk to come in. That was a bit rough. I don’t think I slept at all that night.
Insurance covers 3 nights in the hospital after a c-section, but we decided to stay only two nights. I’m so glad we left early. I was feeling okay after my surgery at that point, and Mathew and I just both really wanted to be in our own bed.
It might sound silly, but I felt so far away from him in the hospital. Mathew slept on a pull out sofa/cot at the hospital while I slept in the hospital bed. The baby’s bassinet was usually between us. It was such a relief to be within arm’s reach once we were at home in our own bed.
We came home on Tuesday evening, and my mom met us at home to help us settle in. My sister-in-law had come over earlier to drop off a meal my mother-in-law had made, and she also vacuumed and helped pick up a few things around the house which I had intended to do the Sunday Benjamin was born.
We were slightly nervous leaving the hospital a little early, but once we got home we knew we had made the right choice. It was better than coming home from a long trip. I had never missed my bed more. We were super relieved to be home.
Mathew’s employer offers two weeks of paternity leave, and with the holiday Mathew decided to take three extra days off of work and go back after Thanksgiving. It was so nice to have him home.
Recovering from a major abdominal surgery, trying to figure out breastfeeding, and keeping a newborn alive is no joke. I just took ibuprofen and Tylenol for pain management, but my incision hurt and my abdomen was swollen and sore. If I thought things like getting out of bed and picking something up off the floor were difficult when I was eight months pregnant, I had no idea compared to after having a c-section. Standing up from a seated position was a chore.
We were so blessed with great family and friends who brought us food for the first several days at home. We made freezer meals, but didn’t have to break into those until we’d been home for some time.
Now, Benjamin is a month old. Mathew is back at work, and we’re starting to get a routine down. Nursing is going well. Ben is gaining weight- it was bittersweet to transition him to size 1 diapers and 0-3 month clothing. Last week we tried a bottle for the first time.
We’re finding all the parenting cliches to be true. He’s growing up so fast.
Thanks to all of you who have sent congratulations and encouragement. ♥ Let me know if there’s anything more you’d like me to share about my c-section, the recovery, trying to flip a breech baby, GentleBirth, midwifery, etc. I’m happy to share more.
Thank you for reading!