"For as long as I can remember I wanted and envisioned a certain birth scenario for my family, but we did not get it. Nonetheless, I want to document what happened. My son Xander’s birth on April 1, 2015 ended up being very traumatic. It’s hard for me to go through and relive that time, but I am hoping to prevent similar episodes for other people.
From the time I ever thought about having a baby I wanted to have a home birth. Many years ago after moving to Cleveland, I started my search for a home birth midwife because we wanted to establish a relationship long before even getting pregnant. That search was successful and we put a plan in place for Xander’s delivery.
About halfway through my pregnancy, I found out I had thrombocytopenia meaning I had a low blood platelet count. I knew this could mean or be a result of many things. It was mostly from the extra fluid that I was carrying. But it led me to ultimately decide that I didn’t want to risk a home birth with this condition. As a result, I asked my home birth midwife if we could establish a different plan. Ultimately, we decided that I would labor at home until ‘transition’ time, at which point I would go to the hospital. Yes it would be hard, but she agreed to assist me and then accompany me to the hospital. I felt confident in that plan.
So other than the low platelet count, I had a normal pregnancy although Xander never "dropped", as they say. I had a feeling something perhaps wasn’t right, but chalked it up to somewhat normal paranoia. He was also in a posterior position and we tried many things to get him to turn. I felt that something else might be wrong, and we stopped trying to turn him.
My due date of March 16 came and went. I underwent acupuncture and had many isolated bouts of contractions for almost two weeks. In talking to doctors at the hospital, I felt pressured to be admitted for a birth induction, which was very much not part of my birth plan.
My water broke at home 12 days after my due date. Our home birth midwife assured me that we could stick to my plan, despite the hospital’s pressure for me to be admitted immediately. I took precautions to guard against infection after my water broke and stayed home. I became very anxious, as two full days went by. I was torn about what to do and whose advice to take. I could not sleep for two nights and kept wondering if something was wrong. I very much wanted to stick to a natural way of delivery. I was committed, but things were not progressing as maybe they were supposed to.
Two days after my water broke, it became apparent to me that I needed to be in the hospital. I had to beg the hospital to take me. They were afraid that I could have an infection and they did not want to take on that responsibility. But there was a doctor who agreed to take my case, and he assured me that he was aware that I wanted the least intervention as possible. He claimed that he was equipped to help someone like me who all along had wanted a home birth.
I arrived at the hospital at 8:00PM crying. This course of events was so totally different from what I wanted, envisioned and planned! Now another doctor was on duty and my cervix was not dilating. He convinced me that I needed Pitocin to move the process along, and I finally agreed. I also agreed to taking antibiotics, another thing that I really had wanted to avoid. My nurses were supportive throughout, thank goodness. In the hospital room with me, was my husband, my mom, my doula, and my home birth midwife who was helping by giving me massages and overall being supportive, as well as a friend who was there to take pictures to document a birth that I thought was going to be very calm.
A Pitocin drip was started around midnight and was increased at a fast rate throughout the night. This left me unable to catch up with the pain of the contractions. By 4:00 AM, the contractions became so strong that I could not bear the pain, and all the while my cervix was dilating so very slowly. I started to come to the realization that in order to have the chance of progressing in labor, I needed an epidural to control the pain. I had to make a quick decision because I learned that the anesthesiologist coming on duty was unhappy that I had been admitted to this hospital, as my condition was risky due to the low blood platelet count and the lack of an epidural at this point. So, before their change of shift, a very nice doctor came and put my epidural in. It wasn’t nearly as painful or uncomfortable as I had envisioned. But, the epidural made me very sick. I had every terrible side effect possible, including incredibly heavy legs, nausea and vomiting, pocket contractions, to name a few. I could not independently move my right leg. This was scary, and I was going on four days with no sleep, so I was truly exhausted.
The doctor who had been so reassuring on the phone, was back the next day. He was agreeable and pleasant all day long as I labored. He would enter my room and cheerily exclaim, “Happy Birthday, we’re going to have a new baby by 5:00PM!” We thought he was a little strange but he was nice all day long.
I spent that whole day trying to sleep and vomiting when I wasn’t. I was pretty miserable.
By 5:00PM, I had undergone many manual exams and ultrasounds - more interventions I had wanted to avoid - but I relented. We knew that Xander was still in a posterior position and it was getting closer to pushing time.
Around 8:00PM I started pushing. I tried all kinds of positions: on all fours, squatting, people holding me up. I was also vomiting from the epidural, and really failing to make progress. This situation was getting very stressful and difficult. Not too long after I started pushing, the formerly cheerful doctor started hinting at a possible Caesarean section. Upon hearing this surgical possibility being mentioned, I begged him for more time. I was working really hard, following all of their directions. I just wanted a little more time to push before rushing to the OR. Plus, there were discrepancies about how far down Xander was. The doctor would say one thing, but the nurse would tell me he was actually further down.
At one point my nurse was called away. I knew I was her only patient and surely she was conferring with the doctor about me. She told me that the doctor had called the anesthesiologist and instructed him to prepare the OR. He was planning on taking me to the OR to try to deliver Xander using forceps, and if that attempt was unsuccessful, a C-section would have to be performed. All of this preparation was underway unbeknownst to me or my husband.
This development was very alarming. Because of the risk of the baby’s possible low platelet count, precautions had to be taken! My Hematologist had stated that under no circumstances should forceps or a vacuum be considered during this delivery, which was definitely stated in my chart. Such a procedure could undoubtedly put Xander at risk for a brain bleed.
Meanwhile, I kept pushing, and the doctor kept mentioning a C-section. I asked him why he was thinking a C-section might be necessary but he never really answered my questions. We were looking for an explanation, as Xander had shown zero signs of distress the entire time. No heart rate irregularities were detected in him whatsoever. His demeanor had really changed from the nice guy that he had been earlier.
I decided to take a little sleep break on the nurse’s recommendation, then we could all reconvene in a half hour. When the doctor learned that I had been resting he exclaimed, “What do you mean you took a nap? You’re not going to get anywhere or make any progress if you take a nap!” He had a very nasty tone. I couldn’t believe it.
I asked to be transferred to another hospital, which truthfully was impractical and not feasible. I was in no condition to be transported anywhere. But I was desperate to be cared for by another doctor and I was so heavily medicated I could not think straight. The doctor did not explain to me rationally that this would not be a possibility. Instead, he quipped that another hospital would laugh at a "crazy home-birther" like me, and they would make fun of me. By now, every nurse on the floor was in my room listening to our conversation.
This doctor would essentially only address my husband, not me. Mike was so calm, despite being understandably very angry. I asked, “I’m the patient, can you please look at me and talk to me? Can you please explain to me the reasons you think I need a C-Section?” He then practically threw a chair across the room in response. He was very disrespectful and never fully enumerated reasons why we needed to consider a C-section.
He continued to insult us. He called me a "crazy home-birther" and told me I was "lucky he wasn’t making fun of me". He claimed to be "the best doctor in northeast Ohio to do a surgery on a home-birther like me". This phrase has stuck in my mind ever since. He informed me that Xander and I could "die". He told Mike and I that we should be "thanking him for taking care of me". We knew however, that nobody’s life was in jeopardy here! We were really being pressured and insulted.
We asked the doctor to leave and I totally broke down. Everyone tried to calm me down. Around midnight, Mike informed the doctor that he was dismissed from our case. The nurses worked on getting me another doctor. The doctor kept barging into my room, telling us he was the right person to perform this birth. He was backpedaling and apologizing, but it was too late. He was not delivering this baby. He said that if I were to call in a different doctor at this late stage, they would just "slash away at me in the OR" for calling them in the middle of the night.
I asked him to not come in again, but he ignored my requests and kept on entering. We kept telling him that he would NOT be delivering this baby. He ignored us and pushed passed my doula into the room.
I was scared of this doctor, but the nurses were on my side trying to protect me. I literally had nurses sitting at my door to make sure he didn’t come in
Eventually his boss, who was working in Abu Dhabi at the time, arranged for another doctor to come in and take care of us. A well-known and respected obstetrician, and for us an angel of God, arrived and cared for me. He sat on my bed and calmly explained several reasons why a C- section delivery was the safest and best route for me and my baby:
- Xander was in a posterior and possibly an asynclitic position
- I had been pushing for so long with little progress
- My water had been broken for so long, which has its own set of risks
And the list went on. So, I agreed. All I had wanted was a reasonable explanation, just a conversation about why, out of nowhere, I needed to deliver Xander via C-section...which was such a dramatic departure from my birth plan and what the doctor had been telling me all day.
My family was under an incredible amount of stress. Because Mike tends to have stress-induced fainting related to medical discussions and graphic procedures, he and my mom had decided (during a very emotional conversation) that he would need to forego presence at his son’s birth in the OR and let my mom stand in temporarily. Mike explained this to me with tears streaming down his face. It was heartbreaking for both of us. Additionally, since the doctor had indicated that there was so much going wrong medically, my husband and my mom had to have a very difficult conversation, as they were contemplating worst case scenarios in the OR. They feared that Xander’s and my life were at risk. Mike was compelled to tell the surgeon, “If you have to make the choice between the two of them, choose Camille.” I, of course, learned this later. So heartbreaking.
Xander was very stuck in the birth canal because I had been in labor for so long, and was so incredibly swollen. Consequently, I needed a vertical incision in my abdomen. When Xander was delivered, his little body was wrapped up in the umbilical cord. In addition, he was very stuck in the birth canal. I never would have been able to push him out with this cord complication and he never could have helped with how stuck he was. I have subsequently learned that this was the surgeon’s most difficult delivery in his entire career. Fortunately, our son was delivered with a healthy bright red glow, even flexing an arm, weighing in at over 8 pounds! I was basically sleeping during the delivery, and my mom was with me. I awoke briefly and have a memory of Xander crying. My mom held him first but was able to get him to Mike immediately, who was able to do skin-to-skin with him.
My nurses made sure we would not have to see the first doctor again during the remainder of my hospital stay, thankfully. I was in the hospital a total of 6 days. It was difficult to heal from the surgery due to the vertical incision. It was hard to walk, pick up Xander, and use the stairs.
I was physically healthy after Xander’s birth. My blood platelet count returned to a normal level. My milk took so long to come in due to the Pitocin that I was given, which was so stressful and devastating however, I was determined to breastfeed. Xander had some trouble latching on at first, due to his asynclitic head positioning in utero. As a result, he lost one pound or more and the medical staff was extremely concerned. My husband told me to relax, be a mother, and let him eat. We had a chiropractor do an adjustment and we never had any subsequent problems. I was diligent with the breastfeeding and will continue to do so for as long as possible. It seems like the only thing that worked out naturally.
After Xander was born, I felt absolutely horrible psychologically. Some of this emotion was due to normal post-partum hormones, but most resulted from the trauma. I had been scared to death. I experienced tremendous anxiety at home after the birth. I thought, “I cannot do this. I can’t take care of this child.” I had extreme paranoia, even imagining the awful doctor seeking revenge on us because we filed reports on him for how our event was handled. I was suspicious of strangers and had constant fear. Anxiety around hospitals and doctors’ offices is permanent, I’m afraid.
The unprofessional and needless actions of that insensitive doctor were wrong and I am haunted by the memories of how he treated us. I am resentful of the threats of being "slashed away at in the operating room", and being told that "my baby and I might die" go through my mind quite often as well as the chair being tossed across the room in response to my asking for more information regarding my care.
All of my planning and intentions were taken away from me, and for that I am sad. I am proud that we stood up for ourselves and understand now that the C-section was inevitable, but what we went through to get to that point and the damage that was done was totally unnecessary. The repercussions that have lasted right up until today are irreversible. No one can change what happened.
I had, and still have, a heavy sense of guilt for exposing and subjecting my husband, my mom, my friends, and my doula to such a traumatic event. I feel like I put them through so much. I felt horrible about so many aspects of the situation. I cannot process the doctor’s cruelty, and I feel tremendous guilt that all of the people who accompanied me in the birth were witnesses to the abusive treatment. At the same time, I also feel like God put the exact people at the hospital with me for a reason. I feel like if just one of the nurses or people in the room with me weren’t there, the outcome could have been completely different. Everyone that was there had a place in making this terrible situation better.
A C-section is most likely up next for me because at this point I don’t think I could get my mind to the point that it needs to be to have a VBAC at home. I have found a new doctor who is willing to help me through all the stages in my next birth experience. I had a consultation with her a few months before becoming pregnant again. I had incredible anxiety upon arriving at her office and interviewing her however, she had researched my case and had spoken to the doctor who delivered Xander. I felt a sense of peace as a result of her caring, her confidence, and her attention to my particular case. I felt comfortable with her and really appreciated her due diligence. What a different a care provider makes in your pregnancy and birth!
Xander is healthy. I am healthy. For this, I am thankful beyond words. I am thankful that a safe C- section was performed, even though it was unplanned and unwanted. I recognize, without a doubt, that it was necessary. Mothers have a right in any situation to ask questions and stand up for themselves throughout the delivery experience. Everyone deserves informed consent, which is not necessarily the standard these days.
I met with a writer to have this written because I could never bring myself to relive these memories enough to write them down. Coincidentally, right before our appointment time I took a pregnancy test and found out I was pregnant. Throughout this pregnancy, I have learned even more things about Xander’s labor and delivery. I spoke to a high risk OBGYN who explained to me that because of how stuck Xander was, if he was not delivered the right way he could have had neurological damage and the lower segment of my uterus could have been ruined. This possibly would have left me with inability to have other children. The doctor that delivered Xander explained to my doctor now that he cut me vertically because of how swollen I was (from Pitocin and IV fluids for so long). He was worried about cutting my arteries and/or ureters. Learning all of this has helped to give me a lot of peace about why decisions were made the way they were. The other thing I have realized is that I have no doubt that God was watching over us and that his hand was in this whole situation. I still don’t know why we had to go through what we went through with the original doctor. But, what I do know is I don’t think he had the knowledge to deliver Xander the way that he needed to be delivered. I believe to this day that if he had delivered Xander, the outcome would have been completely different for both of us and I have no other choice but to thank God and be okay with my vertical incision and decision to have a C-section with Eliana."