When my first child was born, I wanted a natural labour and birth. For most of the labour, I did get my wish. Then towards the end, the baby began showing signs of distress, so I was flipped from side to side, but the baby’s heartbeat kept showing signs of distress, so I was taken for an emergency c-section. I requested a spinal block instead of epidural, which meant that I was numb from the waist down for about 18 hours, well into the next day. But during the first night, I had a bad reaction to the medication (not allergic reaction, just… I began hallucinating and pressed the buzzer button for the nurse to request a medication change, after which the hallucinations went away).
As it turned out, the reason my first child was showing distress was because the umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck several times and wasn’t loose enough to permit him to descend through the cervix. My first child had actually begun to descend through my cervix when they pulled him out – up and sideways, because his head had already begun to go through the cervix, and when they checked me post-delivery, they discovered that I was at 10 CM dilated. That’s why his heartrate was erratic – because the umbilical cord was strangling him while he was descending through my cervix. He wasn’t breathing air yet, but the umbilical cord was also being compressed between him and the neck of the cervix, and was cutting off the blood supply to baby, so he wasn’t able to get oxygen as efficiently.
Then with my second pregnancy, I didn’t want to repeat the bad reaction to the meds, so I wanted an all-natural labour and delivery, and this time, I was able to have that. The labour took 49 hours, and yes, it was exhausting, but the pain of labour was bearable because I knew that the end result would be worth it. Between contractions, the pain does go away, and you do get a few seconds/minutes of rest to regroup before the next contraction begins. I also tried a few things that some expectant mothers may not have tried, so those might have helped. I wanted to try the jacuzzi, so I did get in, and while that did help the discomfort of the contractions, it also made baby too comfortable and my contractions slowed, so I got out. Instead of simply laying in the bed labouring away, I stood, walked the halls, and during contractions, I would stop, lean on the wall, sway my hips, until the contraction passed, then continued walking. Even when I was in my labouring room, I just stood, and didn’t lay on the bed. Gravity does help. When it finally was time to begin pushing, my baby was very small, and I also was in a kneeling position, on the bed, with my knees and elbows on the mattress, and I gave birth that way. The movies usually show mothers laying on their back and pushing. That position is easier for the doctor, but as someone else commented (maybe not on this string, but on one of the related strings), the birth canal has curves, and the laying-on-her-back position usually shown in movies is actually counter-productive because the vagina dips upwards, which means that the baby has to turn up, which makes it more difficult because of gravity. It’s the same principle as to why women need to insert their tampons towards their lower backs instead of straight up when inserting tampons during their menstrual periods – the same part of the anatomy is at play here. So for those who, like I did, are on all fours – knees and elbows – while giving birth, that helps gravity do its job and the baby drops downward a lot easier, instead of fighting gravity to go upwards.
My second baby was born within only a few minutes of pushing – I found the pushing part so much easier than the labouring part. The doctor had stepped out of the room for a few minutes because my room was all out of gloves, so he went to another room to get another set of gloves, and by the time he returned, my baby had already been born, and he was quite surprised by that. I did yelp a bit when the baby’s shoulders popped out (the widest part of the baby), but then the baby slipped out right after that and all the pain was over. I actually didn’t feel any more pain at all. I needed some stitches, so they gave me a local numbing agent (with a needle – that hurt worse than the giving birth part) before beginning to stitch me up. After the adrenaline wore off, exhaustion hit and all I wanted to do was sleep, sleep, and sleep. I was able to leave hospital with Baby #2 about 25 hours after the birth, and I was amazed at how much better I felt compared to my first birth. After the c-section with Baby #1, I didn’t want to go anywhere for about 3 weeks, while after the natural birth of Baby #2, I felt well enough to begin going somewhere by Day 3 post-delivery.
Also, Baby #2 took to breastfeeding very naturally, while Baby #1 was a very fussy feeder. Later, I discovered (through La Leche League) that in some cases, having a c-section can affect breastfeeding because it is the baby passing through the pelvic bones of the mother that triggers the mother’s brain to send signals to the body to begin producing milk, and without that, it can take a while for the body to recognize that the baby has arrived, so it is almost like the body “thinks” that Mom is still pregnant for a day or so. I had to go on some natural supplements to be able to begin to produce milk for Baby #1, while the natural supplements were not needed at all with Baby #2. I realize that part of that is, I was a first-time mother and had no idea of what I was doing, while I had breastfeeding experience under my belt with Baby #2, I do realize that is part of the package there, but the difference between how challenging it was to begin breastfeeding with Baby #1, and how easy and natural it was with Baby #2 was truly remarkable.
My sister and sister-in-law had different experiences… my sister has had 3 natural deliveries, the first one – the birth itself was fine and without complications, but her placenta wouldn’t detach, so she had to be taken into the surgical room and the doctor had to reach inside her and maneuver the placenta loose. She didn’t tear during the delivery itself, but when the placenta had to be internally maneuvered loose, she tore. The second delivery was much smoother, it sounds like it was her best delivery experience of the three, and the third, she said she had so much terrible pain. My sister-in-law had two c-sections, although she also really wanted natural deliveries. Her first c-section was for the same reason as my first child – umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck. Her second baby was very big, 12 pounds, so a c-section was automatically scheduled, and the baby was difficult to deliver even via c-section, as he got stuck, and the doctor had to pull on baby while nurses were pushing down on her abdomen from above the c-section site. That was the only way they finally got my 12-pound nephew out.
There are different situations, and nobody can say that other labouring mothers are not doing it right. As someone commented, different people have different pain thresholds, or the way their bodies work are different from others, there’s no right or wrong way to give birth. The main thing is that the baby arrives safely. Having experienced both a c-section and a natural delivery, I am glad both my children were born safely, and I would rather my firstborn be born safely via c-section than to attempt to deliver that child naturally and end up having the umbilical cord deprive that baby of oxygen or worse. In that regard, I am thankful we both came out of it okay. That being said, I did not react well to the medications used as a result of the c-section, so I wanted to avoid having a c-section again if at all possible, and my second baby’s delivery had no adverse reactions for me. So for me, I would much rather have natural birth over a c-section. BUT I do recognize that c-sections can be truly life-saving in some cases, such as my firstborn.
C-section just didn’t agree with me in more than one way, so I hope I never have to experience it again. My c-section incision gets extremely itchy at times, especially during humid summer weather and cold winter weather, so it can be very uncomfortable when it begins to itch, because sometimes the itch is from the inside, not the outside, so I can’t exactly relieve internal itching. I never had post-surgery complications with it; the doctor told me that as far as c-sections go, I had a textbook perfect c-section, without infections or serious complications. For that, I am grateful, but the reaction to the meds, and the itching ever since has been driving me crazy, so I don’t really care to experience it again.