Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Frassati's Birth Story

**WARNING**  If you are squeamish about medical things or female things, do yourself a favor and go read the drudge report--not this.  Alright, you were warned.

Frassati was making no movements toward birth at 41 weeks.  I couldn't go 42 because of Leiden Factor V, a hypercoagulability in my genes--i.e., genetically I'm prone to blood clots but thankfully have never had any.  Medically, most would agree that it was risky to pass the due date.  The doc and I made a compromise:  he wouldn't induce at 40 weeks, and I wouldn't push him past 41.

I tried everything.  All the teas, all the exercises, the walking, acupuncture--twice--, raspberries.  But Little Man was not moving.  At my 41 week appointment, the doctor came in to strip my membranes but he couldn't.  You see, if we used our imaginations, I was dilated half a centimeter and baby was at station -3.  Upon feeling the baby through my abdomen, the doc realized that the baby's head was at a 60 degree angle on my pubic bone.  My abdomen wall was not strong enough to hold baby vertically, so in order for him to descend, somehow he would have to move back up, then down into my cervix.  Doc gave me a generous 30% chance of delivering him vaginally.

I felt like I had been blessed with so many miracles already:  I was pregnant (our love made a BABY!!!), I did not miscarry (I was the first lady in my family not to miscarry because of that clotting issue), I did not even have to be on blood thinning medicine during pregnancy (like the rest of my family had)... I was sure that I would be able to have this baby naturally.

Our original plan was a natural birth.  No medicine.  Bradley method.  Now the choice was c-section or induction.  The blood-clotting risk was now secondary to the concern of the position of the baby.  The doc was incredibly gentle in delivering this news and gave us time to digest and decide.

I couldn't imagine not trying to deliver our boy vaginally, so I went to be induced that evening.

Because in the Bradley classes and in all of the natural birth school that your body was made to give birth.  You can do it.  Without help from doctors.  YOU can do it.  You are the one that delivers your baby, not the doctor.  You do all of the work.  And you can!  For millennia women have given birth naturally and without doctors.  And of course you learn about the risks of all the medicine doctors use.  And the cascade of drugs.

I didn't want that--the drugs, and the possible side-effects.  And since medicine was a requirement now, I felt like I'd failed baby F.  Why wasn't my body working right?  Is this a sign that I'm already a bad mother?  I fought those feelings of being a failure all afternoon and evening.  It was a rough day.

When we arrived at the hospital, the doc was deciding how to begin softening my cervix and realized I was already contracting.  (I had been having contractions at night, but then they'd go away during the day.)  So, they injected cervadil and said hopefully that was all I needed.

A dear friend sent over a doulah with years of experience.  She brought a riboso (a long piece of woven fabric that Latin Americans use to wrap their babies onto themselves) to try to wrap my abdomen and lift the baby up.  We used that during every contraction, hoping the contractions would squeeze our little man back up, so he could come down to the right spot.

But the next morning the contractions were gone.  The Pitocin drip began at 7:00.  And the induced contractions started.  I labored without pain medicine until about 4:00 in the afternoon.  At that point, the doc was insisting they have a more accurate measure of the contractions.  In order to have that, they had to measure internally, which meant I'd have to stay in the bed.  Up until now, I had been laboring in all kinds of positions.  I'd get sick of one and move around.  The most comfortable for me was on a birth ball.

Mr. F. and my sweet doulah friend Kaitrin were my amazing graces.  Kaitrin just rubbed my back all day and Mr. F. held me up nonstop.  Our theme song for the day should have been "Lean on Me."  I surely did lean on both of them.  We listened to my favorites of The Moth podcast and as I remember, it was a fun day with two of the best people I know.

Here's the thing about Pitocin, which I'm sure you already know if you listen to Riki Lake or her documentaries, the chemical that induces contractions skips your brain.  Since your body isn't producing it, the chemical goes right to work on your uterus, failing to communicate to your brain.  So, your brain does not release more adrenaline to deal with the pain you are experiencing.  Oh and btw: the contractions from Pitocin can become harder, faster, stronger than natural contractions because the dosage can be upped beyond normal labor limits.

My labor was bearable as long as I wasn't in bed.  It really is true what they say:  on your back in bed is the most painful way to labor.  Since I had to lay in bed, I didn't know if I could handle these contractions on my own.  I was so resistant to the idea of an epidural.  But dear Kaitrin basically helped me realize we were outside the natural realm.  These contractions (which were still getting stronger) were too much.  Finally, I acquiesced to an epidural, and they gave me as much Pitocin as is allowed.

It was too much.  The baby's heart crashed to around 40--normal is 130-150ish.  And his heart rate stayed low for several minutes.  It was scary.  Really scary.  They stopped all medicine and gave me oxygen to help him stabilize.  And we all stared at the monitors praying that this baby would be healthy.

After all the contracting, I had dilated a few centimeters; and the baby was still stationed at -2.5 or -3.  A section was required.  Everyone got prepped for surgery.

just kidding.  here's the real prepped people:

All I'll say about the surgery itself is that it's... yanky.  They do not gently lift out the baby.  It was traumatic to me.  I don't understand why people elect to have that procedure.  I'm so thankful Mr. F. was there.  He held my hand and looked into my eyes, pouring love so I didn't have to stare at white ceiling tiles and feel like a corpse.

Frassati Hugo was born on 3/23 at 23:23.  The nurse said she was playing those numbers in the lotto that night.  As Frassati was born, everyone in the operating room gasped and I wondered if he was alive.  Then he cried.  They cleaned him up and put him near my face so I could kiss him.

Then they weighed him.  It was like The Biggest Loser.  The scale flashed "calculating....calculating...calculating" and then the weight came up in grams - which meant nothing to me but everyone started hollering.  When the English measurement appeared on the screen, the gasps and hollering made sense.  11 lbs. 3 oz.  Whoa, baby.

Then I lay there as they stitched me up.  Mr. F. and baby went to another room.

After about 30 minutes, they took me to be with the rest of my family.  And there we were--the three of us. I was so thankful for this baby in my arms.  So thankful for a man who loves me enough to make a baby and support me through all the hormone swings of pregnancy and banality of giving birth.  So thankful for modern medicine that enabled me to be holding baby F. alive and healthy.

And at the same time so sad that I had surgery, so disappointed things weren't the way I'd wished.

It took a while for me to grieve the surgery and deal with the thwarted expectation of a natural birth.  Maybe I still am in that process.  And it aggravates me when people say, All that matters is that you have a healthy baby.  Because that's not all that mattered to me.  I wrestle my way back to pin my thoughts to "All things work together for good."  But it's a process, not a switch.  And in the process I learn over and over to rest in the goodness of my God who created this beautiful boy I get to hold 23 hours a day.  And over and over I come back to a place of thanksgiving.


  1. anna, i'm so glad you shared your story! i have tears in my eyes. as a fellow natural-birth person, i understand exactly. although i've never had a c-section, i know how i would feel if i ever end up having one. i came extremely close to having one with my oldest. we prepare for natural, vaginal birth, and when that's taken away, we're disappointed. yes, we want a healthy baby, but we also want to do it the way WE want to do it. rest assured that you had a very wise doctor and a very supportive doula and husband who had you and frassati's health in mind. you should be proud of being able to hold out as long as you did (i've heard pitocin contractions are the worst. can't believe you waited so long for the epidural!). and HOLY COW!!!! 11 pounds! you are an amazing wonder woman, just to be able to carry him around in your belly!! great job, mama...great job. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing your story! Love and kisses to you, Nik and Baby Frassati.

  3. brought tears to my eyes, lovey story. Very much like our own almost 33 years ago...had to deliver Jimmy by c-section as he was 10 pounds 2 oz. I love to read your writings. God Bless.

  4. Anna, I LOVE your pictures here. So precious! It is amazing how no one tells you HOW MUCH your baby's birth affects you. My first two births didn't go as planned at all, and it defiantly takes time to heal. Your beautiful heart will be in my prayers. I love your big baby so much and hope our boys will be able to meet, play, and love God in great friendship. Jason and I talk all the time about how much we would like to live close to you guys. Until then I will continue to stalk, I mean follow, your blog. :)

  5. Just found your blog. Your birth story is much like mine. Went 42 weeks, had a supportive midwife, started labor on my own. It stopped completely after 20 hours. Pitocin. No pain meds for 6 hours. 1/2 cm progress through those hours! !!!!! Got epidural, did 12 more hours, baby heart rate bad, never got past 6cm, born via c-section. I play it over and over in my head and wonder what I/my husband/my midwife could have done differently. She later told me that I was a woman who would have died in childbirth 100 years ago. That baby was not coming out any other way.

    I try to make peace with it. But even 2 years later, it is hard. Be patient. Let your body heal, and then heal some more. Let your heart heal. Allow yourself to grieve that birth, while rejoicing in your son. I was told, "When you feel like you are back to your old self, give it 2 more weeks of staying off your feet, no heavy lifting, etc." Don't jump the gun. 6 months later, I STILL felt twinges. Today, I have numbness. It is so, so hard.

    It is made harder, I think, by the women who were just like me prior to my birth, who had very strong opinions: C-section rates are too high. Most births will go better without intervention. I believe it. But it causes such heartache when people imply that there was something else I could have done to prevent my c-section. Remember, childbirth was the #1 killer of women as recently as 100 years ago. Though ideally it is peaceful and safe, it can also be dangerous for mama and baby. Thank the good Lord for modern medicine.


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