My Birthing Experience

Warning: This could be triggering.

It’s been 8 and a half months since I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl. It’s also been the most emotionally trying period of my entire life. Why? Because my birthing experience left me traumatized. (UPDATE: after actually writing this post I realized it’s so long that it will come in 2 parts. Below is the story about my birth, part 2 will be the after effects that I’m still struggling with)

This post has been brewing in my head ever since starting this website but I haven’t been able to write it. Our blogger Dena posted this amazing article yesterday called A Love Letter to C-Section Moms (That Everyone Should Read) and it really triggered my feelings about this topic. So here I am, emotional, sharing with all of you what my birthing experience was like. My intent is NOT to scare you but instead I want to help give voice to those of us who had unwanted c-sections and are struggling coming to terms with it.

When I was pregnant I knew I wanted a natural birth. I had watched the Business of Being Born (multiple times) and even made my husband watch it with me. I didn’t want unnecessary interventions and I knew I didn’t want to be induced. I actually switched OBGYN practices when I was 6 months pregnant because I wanted an office that had midwives and a more supportive attitude about things like doulas. Speaking of doulas, I hired one and really liked her. Our plan was that I’d give birth at Manchester Memorial Hospital with my husband, doula and doctor.

I went into labor naturally and labored at home for about 16 hours with the help of my doula and husband. I got to the point that I needed to go to the hospital because the pain was becoming severe and I didn’t know how far along I was (I don’t know about anyone else but I had excruciating pain in my butt, yes I said it, I literally couldn’t sit down). Things were going perfectly at this point, I was managing.

I checked in at the hospital and they said I was 5 centimeters dilated and so I was admitted. This is a very long story, which I’m trying to keep somewhat short for you, but once I was around 7 centimeters I asked for the epidural. I was in incredible pain. Once I got the epidural I was finally able to rest and felt much better, although part of me did feel like I failed (since I wanted to do it naturally).

I continued progressing well, although it was slower than the doctors/nurses wanted. After another 12-15 hours I had dilated to 9 centimeters. For some reason that last centimeter was just taking a long time. I tried pushing at one point and my epidural wore off (I didn’t even know that could happen). So I was in the worst pain of my entire life for what felt like hours until they were able to up my epidural dosage. I was screaming for someone to kill me. I know that sounds outrageous but I didn’t know how I was going to survive. I looked my doula in the eyes and said “I cannot go back to this level of pain again, I just can’t.” She told me she wouldn’t let that happen, that if it started to wear off again we’d do something about it right away.

Finally the epidural did it’s job again and I was more relaxed. At one point the doctor said to one of the nurses that he thought I was going to need a c-section but I just couldn’t understand that. I was almost fully dilated; they kept saying the baby was doing great. I was floored by the casual suggestion of a c-section.

I rested a bit more and then we decided to try a vacuum-assisted birth. As I was pushing I noticed I could start feeling my legs and I said to my doula “I think it’s wearing off again.” She just looked at me and didn’t do anything. I kept telling her I could feel things and she still did nothing until it had completely worn off and I was screaming on the top of my lungs. I remember looking at her and saying, “I told you I couldn’t do this again!” I was so angry, and still am.

At this point there was a nurse who I did not like at ALL. She talked to me like I was a two-year old and made me feel like she didn’t believe how much pain I was in. The doctor tried twice to use the vacuum assist to help the baby come out and on the second try I saw blood splatter over his glasses. At this point he said I needed an emergency c-section and I started to panic. I did not want a c-section. It was the last thing I wanted. I had set up all these support systems to help me birth how I wanted and now I had to have a c-section? I couldn’t understand, and honestly, I still don’t understand.

I haven’t even gotten to the most traumatic part. The c-section started out fine, but then I started to feel a struggle in my body. I kept asking what was going on and no one would tell me. What I realized was that because I had pushed so much, the baby had descended and she was too low for them to pull her out via c-section. So they had to put their hands in my vagina and push her back up. Even though I couldn’t feel pain I could feel this struggle.

Then, she was out. And I heard nothing. No crying, no baby noises. Nothing. It was like a moment in a movie really. I kept saying, “I don’t hear anything! Why isn’t she crying?” and still no one would really say anything. Turns out she was a 1 on the apgar test but fortunately within 5 minutes she was a 9. Because of her struggle, the doctors had to whisk her away and out of the room. My husband had to decide between staying with me for the rest of my surgery or going with the baby. I will never forget this. He looked at me with these huge eyes, having no idea what to do, completely torn. I said to him “go with the baby.” And he did. (I found out later they told him he could come back and then refused to let him)

And I laid on that table alone for another 40 minutes or so, traumatized by everything that had happened. I had never had major surgery before and at points I felt like vomiting. The worst thing was that I didn’t get to touch my baby, kiss my baby or hold her after she was born. I didn’t know what was happening and I didn’t know if she was OK.

I think it was about an hour and a half until I was able to hold her and start breast-feeding. Little did I know my emotional journey had just begun.

Things that have stuck with me:

  • The doctor who delivered my baby never, ever introduced himself to me. He barely looked me in the eyes.
  • I feel like my doula failed me. She should have been advocating for me, she should have been comforting my husband who was horrified watching me in so much pain. She should have taken my cries of pain seriously and she should have listened when I said the epidural was wearing off. She should have asked the doctor/nurses why I needed a c-section and she should have comforted me about it afterwards.
  • I wish that there was more communication during the c-section about what was happening and I wish I had the foresight to ask one of my closest friends to be there for the birth so she could have stayed with me during the c-section instead of being completely alone.

Check back for Part 2.

34 thoughts on “My Birthing Experience

  1. Isn’t it true that after a certain point you cannot administer more epidurals? That may have been why the doula could not respond and make them do what you wanted.

  2. I experience much the same as you, but by the time anyone realized we needed a c-section it was too late and our baby died. Thanks for sharing your story, as I feel a little less alone after reading it.

    I am mostly healing, but sometimes I experience really painful flashbacks to the point that PTSD makes sense.

    To add to things, I made the hard choice to be out of the country for the birth, as my husband’s immigration status was not yet in place. So I was very much alone when it happened, even though he and his family supported me so much.

    1. Oh gosh, Rachel, I can’t even imagine the pain of losing your baby. I’m sending you GREAT BIG HUGS and wishing you peace as you go through this. Much love to you and your family….

    2. Rachel I’m so sorry to hear about your experience and your loss. Like Kate, I’m sending you hugs. I’m glad that this post was able to make you feel a little less alone. xoxo

  3. Don’t know if anyone else saw the NBC news special the other day about c sections and how doctors are trying to now push the trent away from them unless there is an emergency. It stated studies that show how unless there is an emergency they found it could lead to many more problems down the road.
    We all need to push for this.

  4. Michelle- i love that you brought to us in this open and completely honest way, your birth experience. Never would i ever have thought i could be so strong and well, be a survivor, for lack of a better word, until i gave birth to Jake. i admire your courage and honesty in this post, and don’t you ever think for a minute that you failed. You gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, you are both healthy, and you left the hospital as a family- not a failure. and i love you for doing this!!

  5. Thanks for sharing Michelle. Your story, as well as many others I’ve read about while doing research during my own pregnancy, is the reason I’m pursing a Master in Public Health. I want to educate women who think they have no other birthing options during their pregnancy (I know you did your research!!!) and to help make policies to prevent the medical system from failing women. YOU DID NO FAIL. The medical system failed you. Sure caesarians are sometimes needed for emergencies, but this is rather uncommon. The system instead creates emergencies and doctors cover their asses and do c-sections. And while people say “at least the baby is healthy” and yes, I agree…what about the women who are left with birth trauma???? I find it brave that you’re sharing your story, women need to hear it. Imagine if we had women-centric birthing units!!!??? Let’s start a revolution.

  6. Michelle, my heart goes out to you. No woman should have to go threw something like that during one of the most beautiful times of their lives. But remember that you didn’t fail, they failed you.
    I had fears of something like this happening to me. I have a heart condition that can cause me to get shortness of breath and irregular heart beats and feared that would triger a c section. If it was needed, I was OK with that because whatever is best for me and the baby I was open too. But before even becoming pregent, I “shopped around” for OBGYNs. I wanted a practice I knew would deliver my baby, not whoever was on call, one open to what I wanted but also what was best and one who understood my health conditions. And i think I found the best i could. There are 3 docs in the practice and are guaranteed 1 of the 3 will be there on delivery day.
    During the pregnancy everything was great until the last week I started to show signs of preclampsia and was put on bed rest. It helped but after a few days was given the options of induction. Now in the begining of pregnancy I didn’t want anything to do with induction, but now knew it was best. We had everything explained to us in great details during the entire time, doc and nurses couldn’t have been nicer, and i don’t think I could have asked for anything more. In the end i was so happy I did all my research I did and don’t think I would have had as good of an experience if i was with another practice or another hospital.
    I agree we need to get stories like yours out there. Hospitals and doctors who allow things like this to happen need to realize its not right and need to change.
    Stay strong and give your angel an extra hug and kiss from all of us.

  7. Michelle, Thank you for writing about your birthing experience. You are one amazing woman and your baby is lucky to have such an amazing, strong mom. Hugs all around.

  8. Oh my gosh Michelle, I am so sorry and thanks so much for sharing this as I know it must be hard to think about such a traumatic experience. Reading this made me realize how my one “bad” birth experience really was nothing to complain about by comparison. Your comment about how the doctor didn’t introduce himself stuck with me because in a perfect world, only compassionate people would be allowed to be doctors and they would have to take an oath to not let the fact that this is their everyday job cloud their ability to be compassionate as people deal with serious health issues and major events such as childbirth. While this is business as usual for the doctor, I think it makes things so much better for the patient when the doctor recognizes how big of a deal it is for them and ackknowledges that. I hate poor bedside manner! Also, I am furious with your doula.

  9. Sarah, our comments just crossed and we were commenting about the same thing! I just wanted to add, after I read yours, that I also want to do the research on posterior positioning and unnecessary c-sections! I was stuck too … we dealt with it in some interesting ways that I don’t want to go through again. Have you heard about pelvic tilts or “cat-cows”? They are one exercise to do during pregnancy that is supposed to help prevent posterior positioning. Um … I didn’t do them … lol. The Spinning Babies website ( also has some info about this position and how to prevent it, although it seems geared more toward practitioners than pregnant women – I personally find it a bit hard to follow.

  10. @ Kate Andrew- You and I think someone else above referred to posterior positioning. I also believe that could have been what was happening to Michelle. I had a posterior labor during my homebirth – it was prolonged and horribly painful, but fortunately not traumatic. For those of you who don’t know, what makes it so difficult is that it not only tends to prolong labor (contractions without dilation), but causes a constant backache that is not relieved in between contractions. There are ways to try to avoid it, but it’s not always possible, and in some cases like mine, baby is born sunny-side-up! When I hit transition, I started to ask about going to the hospital. I don’t want to take up space here discussing it, but those of you who are my friends on FB (feel free to friend me if not) can read the story in my notes [although it may be triggering, so be forewarned: it is a positive story, but very descriptive]. A c-section tends to be the knee-jerk reaction to posterior positioning, I think because doctors are taught to “get things done” within a certain timeframe, and aren’t well-trained in how to support a woman laboring with this extremely painful presentation.

    1. Miles was a sunny side up baby, which is why I had such horrible back labor (i could handle the contractions, but the back pain was awful!) Apparently, Ava was too, but I was laboring so well we didn’t really know until my water broke. I think she came down so fast at the same time as turning that she just got stuck and wedged in my pelvis. She was going no where as every time I pushed I could feel bone on bone.

  11. Thank you for sharing your story Michelle.

    I also had a difficult and confusing birthing experience. My daughter presented in a posterior position, and after 24 hours of labor and 4 hours of pushing (in every position imaginable), I ended up with an emergency C-section. However, my Drs were very supportive and talked me through the entire process.

    I’m now curious about finding out more information about unnecessary C-sections when the baby presents in a posterior position. I literally was able to move my body around and get into every position under the moon, but my daughter wouldn’t budge. I’m not really sure what else I could have done, or the Drs could have done for me.

    I can clearly relate to one piece of your story and you summarize it well. When I was fully dilated they turned down my epidural and it was the most horrible and blinding pain imaginable.

    I hope that this community and your story, specifically, helps Moms understand how crazy things can get during a delivery. It’s important for every woman to be her and her baby’s own advocate.

  12. Michelle, please consider changing doctors. I have some recommendations and can send you a message if you are interested. Lilly definitely had a traumatic birth and that is why her Apgar scores were so low. She is a much a trouper as you are and came through so well. Hug her and kiss her and love her unconditionally. By all means, don’t let that experience cloud your decision to have another child. You are both tremendous parents and I’m sure she’d love a sibling.

  13. Rock on, Michelle. I hope that writing this has been therapeutic for you, because I know that by sharing you are helping other parents or future parents prepare for or cope with their experiences. I’m still so, so sorry that you had to live through it. Your’s is a story of a woman’s strength, the support we need and are able to give each other, and the major systemic problems that are occurring in delivery rooms. These are our bodies and our choices! Thank you for making all of us feel outrage – sometimes its the only way to create change.

  14. Michelle,
    I wanted to start by saying you are one strong Mama, and your strength in baring your trauma for everyone to read is proof of that.

    I also hope that my post yesterday about easily coming to terms with my own birth experiences in no way made you or others feel as if they should not feel angry, sad or otherwise for having a “not-so-natural” birth experience.

    I really believe that the only reason I was able to look at my experience and so easily accept that I was not a failure, and that the outcome of a healthy baby was ultimately what mattered most was because I was so supported by my practitioners.

    My midwives (total plug for Woodland Midwifery out of St. Francis Hospital) were the key to my being able to cope with this, and I realize it more and more as I read and hear stories like yours.

    I saw all three of the midwives throughout my pregnancies and knew that one of them would be the face I was looking at during delivery (well top of their head mostly, but you get the point). They treated me like a human, a person, and a mother before my babies took their first breaths and I am forever grateful to them for that. THEY allowed me to have a not -so natural birth experience that I could look back on and not regret or feel traumatized by.

    They were with me while I labored the entire time (often more than the nurses on duty).

    When I had an unpleasant nurse on one shift, they had her moved before I even uttered the words “get that woman out of here.”

    When hospital policy insisted that Phil leave the room for my epidurals they were there to hold my hand and advocate for me.

    When Miles came out quietly, and was whisked away to be suctioned, my midwife calmly tended to my afterbirth and incision dictating everything that was going on, without even looking up, but totally putting me at ease.

    While I was blaming myself for having to have a c-section, they were there wiping the tears, telling me I was not a failure.

    They called in the best OB to do my surgery, not because I was some VIP, but because that is who they would have wanted working on them or any of their loved ones.

    And while I lay there strapped to the table, they were there holding my camera, ready to snap our first family picture, while telling us everything that was going on on the other side of that curtain.

    Honestly, Michelle, you did not fail, your practitioners failed you…

    The silver lining to any of this is that if there is a next time (and for my 2 cents you make adorable babies) you will be that much more aware of what and who you need with you. In my post I wanted to be that woman birthing behind the tree, but what I hadn’t realized was that also behind that tree was a woman holding her upright, one waiting to catch the baby, and one wiping her brow all as her support to do so. Whether you birth naturally, with drugs, via c-section, there should be someone holding you up.

  15. Michelle, thank you for posting this story, even though it was difficult for you to share. and Kate Street – thank you for your comments, I completely agree. Birth should NOT be traumatic, regardless of vaginal/c-section/natural/epidural, and it is horrible the way our medical system treats birthing mamas. It is not until we take a stand against the system that things will change – and sharing stories is an important step.

    I wonder if your pain was due to the presentation of your daughter – I know my midwife was in so much pain during her first birth due to a posterior presentation (baby’s head facing toward the back) that she was transferred to the hospital to get an epidural (she is a home birth midwife – so going to the hospital was a HUGE deal, which shows just how much pain she was in!). Many posterior presentations lead to unnecessary c-sections.

    The ultimate goal of course is a healthy baby, but it is just as important to support and empower women during birth. I’m especially angry at the way your doula handled the situation – she should have been your advocate and she failed you by ignoring and minimizing your pain.

    I’m really interested in reading Part 2 of your story. I agree that there should be more local support for mother’s who have been through a traumatic birth. I know there is a workshop in Boston, but nothing in the area that I have found either.

    Thank you again for sharing. You are so strong and you are helping so many other women by sharing your story.

  16. Michelle – Thank you for writing this. You are such a strong and beautiful woman. I wish you could somehow send this to the doctors who handled your birth. Perhaps they need a dose of reality. I love you, lady!

  17. Michelle – Thanks again for being willing to post this. I believe it may help a woman who has been through something similar and happens to stumble upon it – to know she’s not alone. It was only when I became pregnant myself and did my own research that I learned how common birth trauma is. I hope the issue gets pushed to the mainstream of public awareness eventually. Since we are CT Working Moms, I was wondering if there are any local birth trauma survivors’ groups in the area … so far I haven’t found anything, at least nothing obvious. I’m thinking of going for Lamaze certification and wondering if that would be a good channel to also start up a support group for local moms. Oh … I must also second the idea that Katie start attending births … those of you who know her personally are aware that she has no problem getting in people’s faces, to put it mildly!

  18. I’ve always known you’re a strong woman, but sharing your experience and having lived through it just reaffirms that. The system does seem to have failed you. I don’t understand why they went the c-section route after Lills had made it so far down? Seems like years ago that wouldn’t have even been an option. I can relate to your experience of being in surgery…I too was traumatized having never had surgery before. Thank god though, my son cried and gave me the instantaneous relief that I needed so badly at that moment. I am so sorry that you didn’t get that relief and that you were left, alone, to have such a violating surgery finished. I remember seeing you and Dan after your birth, and I know it was hard on both of you. Remember though…you didn’t fail. You gave life to a beautiful and healthy baby girl. You are quite a success. Love you.

  19. Geesh (even though I want to swear instead)…I’M traumatized by your birth story…and SO ANGRY!! Michelle, your anger is absolutely justified….the system failed you, the doula failed you and your a**hole doctor failed you. What happened to you is unconscionable! THEY PUSHED HER BACK UP????!!!!! *big deep breath*…as someone who has read many, many books about birth and how the system can f*ck it up…I feel you got screwed royally. (I really don’t know if my anger about this is helping you…sorry if it’s not!)

    I would like to find someone, an expert, who is birth-progressive and have them read this story and get their take on it. And since we were talking about writing letters, a letter should be written about this and sent to the doctors AND doula who were supposed to “assist” you.
    This CAN NOT HAPPEN ANYMORE!! Just to clarify, this is NOT an attack on C-sections, as I explored the option my last birth when I was having massive migraines, and fully believe they have their place in emergencies. I feel an emergency was CREATED for you and had NOTHING to do with you! (Were you, for instance, allowed to move around as you needed? I can’t help but think your extreme pain was due to the fact that your body was in a position that was not conducive to getting that baby out. Just a thought…)

    Michelle, a silver lining that can come out of this…is helping to make sure it doesn’t keep happening to other women. Birth should NOT be traumatic, no matter how it happens. I truly believe even C-sections can be spiritual and beautiful if the space is created around it to support the mama and baby.

    I’m on your side here, Michelle, and I will assist in any way I can….to bring a stop to this SHIT! (Can I swear on this site? I can’t help myself!)

    Okay, anger aside, I need to give you some HUGE, LOVING hugs for all you’ve gone through. What a strong mama and a smart baby. I fully believe that babies choose how they will come into this plane…and perhaps Lills chose this to show the strength of her Mama. A Mama she knows makes a difference and is changing the world just by sharing this. I’ll be looking forward to part 2…and I’ll try to be more reserved….maybe…

    I love you, Michelle.

  20. Thank you for sharing. You’ll certainly help someone in a similar situation by being so honest. I understand that it was really important to you to give birth naturally, but think about it this way…Lillian will never know the difference. She’s not going to be 16 and throw it back in your face that her life would be so much better if you had delivered her vaginally (I’m sure it’s more likely to be about a pair of jeans or the latest technology). At some point I hope you can come to peace with that and please let me know if there is anything I can do to help with that process.

  21. I know it wasn’t easy to share this, but I’m proud of you for doing it! I imagine that many women, unfortunately, will be able to relate to parts of this with their own birth stories. Thank you for posting such a deeply personal experience.

  22. Oh baby, I would be pissed too! It sounds like the doula didn’t do her job and the doctor and nurses sucked! If you ever have another gorgeous child have me there! You know I am loud and in the doctors face and will not let them not explain! Thank god all of that traumatic situation had an amazing daughter who was healthy! But I would never go back to that hospital ever again!

  23. Oh my goodness!!! I’m so sorry it was so awful. Thank you for sharing it with us. I cannot even imagine being totally alone like that…I would have been an absolute MESS.

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