Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Gabriela Gallegos, Cambridge, England
When I learned that I was pregnant, I started to inform myself about absolutely everything so that I could have an « easy » pregnancy, a healthy pregnancy but above all I wished with all my heart and soul to give birth naturally, without any anesthetic.
I am a sportive woman, I almost never get sick and so I rarely take any medicine. Following this reasoning, the most natural and ideal thing to do would be to give birth naturally without any medicine involved. For 9 months I ate healthy and did lots of sports, as much as I could, at 8 months I was still going to checkups on my bicycle. It was an amazing pregnancy and I was delighted, people around me notice dit and told me how radiant I looked and how good I looked being pregnant. I felt like I was living a dream, those 9 months were really beautiful.
On June 3rd, almost on week 40th, I started bleeding a little bit, I wasn’t worried since I had read that it could be the mucus plug and to be quite honest I got really excited thinking that I was close to meeting my baby. Later on that day the bleeding became more intense so as a precaution, I decided to go to the hospital for a checkup. We arrived there at 7 pm, my mother was with me. After the checkup and the ecograph, we were told that there wasn’t enough amniotic fluid and I was asked if I hadn’t broken waters. I answered that I hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary apart from the bleeding. They monitored my baby for 2 hours and at 11 pm they told me that I could go back home to rest, but that I should go back so they could check on the amniotic fluid again. The day after (June 4th), we went back to the hospital. Again they did a full checkup and I was still losing amniotic fluid because of a fissure, and I had started dilating, I was at 1 cm. We were told to go eat and take a walk, and to go back at 4 pm for a new checkup. We went back and I was dilated at 2 cm so they decided to admit me for observation because I was still losing amniotic fluid and since dilation had started it was official that labor had started. That night, despite being given dinner, I couldn’t eat anything because I was worried about my baby. We spent the night at the hospital and contractions had started. They were not very frequent, they were happening every 7 or 8 minutes. Later on they were happening every 5 minutes and that went on like that all night, but I wasn’t dilating as expected. Contractions were painful but bearable, I thought I would make it : my dream natural birth.
The morning after (June 5th), we were told they would induce the birth. They informed us they would give me synthetic Oxycontin and an epidural so that everything would speed up painlessly. My dream birth faded away, but I accepted everything because they was still a chance for a vaginal delivery. Then real labor started, the epidural only worked on one side, so even if it was a lot less, I was still feeling pain. When I finally dilated at 10cm and contractions were frequent, they realized that my baby was facing down and so they would need to turn him the other way manually so he could come out easily. At least three people put their hands inside me trying to turn him. When they finally succeeded, I had to start pushing. I was so tired, I hadn’t slept anything and I was still in pain. They called the anesthesiologist to know why the epidural wasn’t working and he gave me another dose (the first one was over). I pushed and pushed, but my baby wasn’t coming out, he was even going back in. My husband was really worried and so was my mother because I started having fever and the second dose of anesthetic was making me tremble, as if I was really cold, but I wasn’t cold, I was just shaking. They called the obstetrician and he told me to keep on pushing. Since he didn’t see the baby crowning, they decided to perform a c-section. My husband was really angry, he didn’t understand why they had waited to long to decide on a c-section and he was angry he wouldn’t be allowed in the operating room.
I was given more anesthetic for the c-section and this time it knocked me out. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t open my eyes but I was aware of everything that was going on. In less than 5 minutes they took out my baby (it was June 6th at 2 :08 am), I couldn’t hear him cry, I didn’t know what was happening and my lips weren’t moving so I could ask what was going on. Normally they show you the baby once he’s out, regardless of the type of birth, before cleaning him and performing tests. But they didn’t show me my baby, I wanted to scream and demand to be explained what was going on, but I couldn’t ! They kept me there for a while, I suppose they were cleaning and suturing the wound and then I was moved to the recovery room. After a few hours, my husband came to see me, he had our baby with him. The baby was in an incubator, the kind where you can insert your hands with gloves. I couldn’t touch him, I could barely whisper a few words, but at least I knew he was all right.
When I finally woke up, and I was conscious, I was already in my room. My husband was waiting for me to wake up and my mother came a while later. A few hours later they brought me my baby and they asked me if I wanted to breastfeed him.
Of course I wanted to breastfeed him, but things didn’t work out as expected. My baby was still hospitalized in the intensive care unit so they could monitor his heart and his breathing. When being born he had issues for breathing and he swallowed amniiotid fluid with meconium. He was only brought to me every three hours for breastfeeding.
When I felt better and I could walk by myself to intensive care I was able to spend more time with him every time I would breastfeed him. The second day I was feeling better so they brought him to my room but we were still having problems to breastfeed, my nipples were too small and my baby couldn’t latch. A nurse suggested to try nipple shields and that is how we finally started breastfeeding.
To add one more issue to the mix, during the c-section they had put me a catheter and when they removed it they weren’t gentle and hurt me. As a result of that every time I would feel the urge to urinate, before being able to arrive to the toilet I had already peed on myself. My mother would help me wash because with the c-section wound, which was bigger than usual because the baby was already half-way, I couldn’t bend or wash myself correctly.
I confess to have felt a kind of rejection for my baby during those days. But how was that possible ? Wasn’t I supposed to be madly in love with my baby ? I used to think that because of my condition I couldn’t feel any feelings for him, because I was feeling so awful, my legs were swollen like Shrek the ogre and it was painful to walk. Oh God, I was the worst mother in the whole world, what was wrong with me??
After 5 days my milk finally came and we were both feeling better, we only had to wait a little bit until he would gain enough weight so we could be released from the hospital.
I think that I never imagined that giving birth would be so difficult. And that breastfeeding was so difficult. I was sure I had prepared myself enough, that my son’s birth would be natural and painless.
In any case, I realize that no matter how much you plan things, you can never know what will happen for real, maybe my husband would tell this story differently because he lived it from a different perspective, but in any case this is what the story was for me and the only thing I can be thankful of is the presence of my mother, who was there for me all the time to support me and to help me during that difficult moment.
Today I tell this story, because one of the things that helped me keep going and not fall in a postpartum depression was to read the testimonials of mothers published in the La Leche League pages. Those mothers have lived stories similar to mine and they had succeeded in breastfeeding. I started participating in breastfeeding support groups and I succeeded as well. Today my baby is 17 months old and when I look back I realize that even if I enjoy breastfeeding today, there were days in which I didn’t want to continue and I wanted to be free again, as I was before being pregnant. That is why I admire all mothers, whatever is their story. It is not easy to put your life in pause in order to give life to another human being.