Growing A Family: The Best Laid (Birth) Plans…

March 12, 2014

By Gabrielle. Baby Deer sculpture via Etsy.

Carly, like many moms, had it all planned out: an unmedicated birth, followed immediately with skin to skin contact and breastfeeding. It sounded lovely. But as we’ve all probably learned on far too many occasions, the best laid plans often go awry. Add in an unsupportive nurse, and even the most positive and excited woman among us might get a bit thrown off course. It happens.

But what Carly’s story reminds us is that it happens — yes, it happens — and then we go on, doing what we need to do for the ones who need us most, even if it’s a little later or a little differently than we had originally planned. That’s motherhood, isn’t it? Friends, I hope you enjoy Carly’s story about great expectations not coming true. (Spoiler alert: The actual ending, as it happened, is pretty great, too.) Welcome, Carly!

Before I get started, I have to tell you that this boy has the softest cheeks in the world. And he does this sleepy sunflower thing where he’ll move his head so that his face is always facing mine, no matter how I’m holding him. I’m telling you this because if you’re on the fence about having children, I don’t want you to read this birth story and decide that you’re better off with a goldfish. So when I get to the part where I thought I was actually going to not survive his delivery, remember the cheeks and the sunflower face thing.

Calvin’s delivery starts on the day that I didn’t have him – Kyle’s birthday. I didn’t go into labor on that day, obviously, but that was the start of the red alert phase of the pregnancy. Once you get to that point, every sentence finishes with “unless I have the baby”.

“We should get Taco Bell for dinner unless I have the baby.”

“I’ll call you back later unless I have the baby.”

“I’ll do the dishes after this episode is over unless I have the baby.”

We did that for more than a week, carting around our hospital bags, limiting outings to a fifteen-minute hospital radius, and backing out of countless social invitations because surely if we went I would end up having the baby right then and there. We had tickets to see Steve Martin in concert, you guys, and we didn’t go.

We did pop over to the hospital once in the hopes that things had gotten started only to find out that absolutely nothing was happening whatsoever. So I threw myself into recovering from bed rest and getting things done around the house. We even went out and bought a new car; we are officially a minivan family.

On the day that we bought the car, we spent about four hours at the dealership. I plopped down with my cankles up like I was sitting in my living room and got progressively hotter and more pregnant as the day went on. By the time we left with the car, my back hurt and it felt like the baby had gained another pound so we took the car down to my parents’ house to visit with some of my visiting family. They entertained Eva, my mom cooked dinner, and I collapsed on the couch and tried not to think about the phrases “pelvic pressure” and “water weight.” I was having some contractions, but that had been pretty common since April whenever I wasn’t lying down so I chalked it up to the excitement of car buying.

Three hours later, the contractions were bad enough to keep me from eating and it was becoming apparent that Calvin wasn’t waiting much longer. We ended up leaving Eva with my family (without pajamas or her bag or anything) because I knew that we were probably going to be headed to the hospital at some point. I slept in on the morning that Calvin was born and woke up with a backache. I had had it all night and had actually thought it might be a sign of something, but I didn’t have any other symptoms of labor. Kyle was at work so I rolled around in bed for a while, trying to get comfortable. I did notice that my back hurt worse no matter which position I was in, so I called Kyle to let him know how I was doing. He came home with breakfast from McDonald’s and we hung out for a while, relaxing because the house was toddler-free. I didn’t feel like I was in true labor, but when Kyle was getting ready to head back to work (taking our only car), I decided it would be worth it to have him run me by the hospital first to get checked out. I didn’t want to take the hospital bags, but Kyle thought it wouldn’t hurt to have them on hand since we didn’t take them to the hospital when I had Eva. Because, you know, I didn’t think I was in labor.

Fact: that whole “when it’s true labor, you’ll know it” business doesn’t apply to everyone. I have always had to have other people tell me when I’m in labor.

We got to the hospital and we were put into a very crowded triage room with two other laboring women. The nurse came in and frowned a bit when she found out that I was there with only a backache, but she put the monitors on me to start measuring contractions.

It was just about noon at this point and I have to admit that I don’t like being down in labor and delivery in the middle of the day. The night nurses are kind of flaky, but the day nurses always seem like they’re very distracted since there are three times as many people trying to have babies during the daytime, between all the scheduled inductions and the people coming from their doctor’s appointments. Personally, I’m all about going into labor in the evening. Quieter and the TV is better.

My contractions were fairly far apart, but it turned out that I was dilated to a five which is just about the difference between “go home and come back later” and “you are doing this thing.” We were excited when we found out that we were being admitted to have the baby – so different from when Eva came. Eva’s surprise arrival was all stress and chaos, but we felt like Calvin was long overdue and we were focused and ready to receive him. As we got settled into the delivery room, Kyle noted that by dinner time we’d probably have our baby. I clearly remember him saying that because we grinned at each other and that’s the last time I remember feeling happy until after the baby was born.

I knew that I was in for a natural labor and I had been uneasy about that for a while. Actually, let’s call it an “unmedicated birth” because natural labor makes it sound like I’m floating around in a tub in a dim room, humming while long-haired women rub my back. That would have been nice, but it wasn’t my birth plan. I was doing all of the hospital birth stuff, including the IV and the monitors and the laying on my back in the hospital bed, but I was doing it without any assistance from pain medication. Lots of women make this choice on purpose so they can experience birth fully for personal reasons. I did it because my epidural with Eva’s birth was so bad that I had pain in my back for more than a year. Did I want pain medication? Yes, very much. I was just afraid that it would hurt more to get it than to not have it.

Our delivery nurse was not a fan of the fact that I wasn’t having an epidural. She didn’t pressure me, but she made it clear that she thought it wasn’t the best decision and in all fairness she probably sees a lot of people walk in anti-epidural only to change their minds before it’s over. We explained that I had had a bad experience, but she wasn’t convinced. Unfortunately, I think that this contributed to Calvin’s delivery being worse than it needed to be. It’s funny how one nurse can make or break things like this, no matter how many months you’ve been preparing.

For my part, I had been reading up on pain management and natural birth. I had watched tons of videos of women rocking it out without epidurals. I had listened to mantras on iTunes telling me to focus on opening my body like a flower, to visualize holding my baby in my arms, to let the pain flow in and out like ocean waves. Blah blah blah. I even had a birth playlist on my iPod with a little Indigo Girls and a little Warren Zevon. Considering the fact that I knew it was all going to hurt quite a bit, I was feeling pretty calm and ready.

It started out okay. We found Friends on TBS and watched while the contractions began to pick up speed. After a while, I got the iPod out and listened to music while counting the seconds between contractions. I tried to imagine the whole thing as a lightning storm…that once they were on top of each other, it meant the storm was almost over and I’d have the baby. I felt peaceful and focused and steady. And then…

Transition is the part of labor that happens right before the stage where you actually have the baby. It’s well-known as the worst part of labor because it brings all the symptoms you don’t want. For me, it suddenly felt like the room was thirty degrees hotter, the gown was thirty pounds heavier, and I was going to be sicker than I had ever been in my life. The contractions picked up and I started to feel more like I couldn’t catch my breath. I told Kyle to tell the nurse that I was transitioning because I knew that it meant delivery wasn’t far off, but when she came in and did a quick check she said that I was only at a 7 and it would be a while. Then, right before she went out again, she dismissively reminded me that this was labor without medication and I could make the choice to be more comfortable if I’d just get the epidural.

That didn’t make me want an epidural, but it did make me feel very, very alone. I was sure that I was transitioning hard and I had a sense that there had to be something that could be done about the pain outside of an epidural, but nobody was helping me out. That feeling of flying solo made the contractions so much worse because I think I started to panic a little. She was just so sure that I was hours away from delivering and I wondered how I was going to be able to be in so much pain for that much longer. I knew Kyle was there, sitting quietly so that he didn’t distract me from my focus, but I also knew that there wasn’t anything he could do. I was just going to have to get through this and trust that my body knew what it was doing on its own.

It wasn’t long after this that I phased out. When I had Eva, shock and resistance kept all of the details crystal clear and I still remember almost every step of the delivery. With Calvin, everything gets really fuzzy. It could be the hormone that is supposed to help women forget the pain of delivery, but I think I actually maxed out and stopped being able to think. I know that it hurt bad enough that I wasn’t able to inhale. I know that I kept telling myself that making noise wouldn’t help anything, but I think I screamed out at least three or four times. I also know that I yanked out my IV at some point because the nurse was cross about it and she tried to get it back in, first in my hand and then in my arm, while I was having strong contractions only a few seconds apart.

I was dimly aware that Kyle was agitated, but I thought he was just worried about how much pain I was in. It turned out that he was really annoyed with our nurse who wouldn’t listen to him when he kept telling her that he thought I was progressing quickly and then he was mad at her when she was taking so long worrying about my IV. She, in turn, was mad that I wasn’t holding still enough and pointed out that I wasn’t going to get anything for the pain until I got an IV, which was the first time we had heard that there was a pain management alternative to the epidural. She did get that IV in, but by the time she had finished Kyle had already found a different nurse and brought her into the room to check me and all hell had broken loose.

I’m super unclear on these details because I had my hand over my eyes and didn’t move it until long after Calvin was born. I know that the new nurse came in to check me just as I was trying to tell Kyle that he needed to catch the baby. I knew that our original nurse was still messing with my arm and I thought that there was nobody else in the room, so I was afraid the baby was going to be delivered and fall promptly onto the floor with nobody to receive it. The new nurse checked me and then there was chaos, since I’m sure she was surprised to see Calvin right there.

Logic tells me that the NICU team must have been called down and they must have paged my doctor (who was waiting upstairs to be called to the delivery) and other nurses must have come in to help. I don’t remember any of that. What I do remember is that they pulled in some random guy from the hallway and he said, “If you need to push, then push” and I pushed and Calvin was born with a fat lip and two black eyes after slamming into my pelvic bone because nobody had been there to slowly guide him out. We had been in labor and delivery for just under four hours.

I had received a handout on skin-to-skin contact right after birth and how beneficial it is for the baby. I indicated that I wanted to do this and they wrote “skin-to-skin” and “immediate breastfeed” on the whiteboard in the room so that everyone would know that I was going to do all the hospital-recommended beneficial stuff. I also told Kyle that I wanted him to be the second person to hold Calvin and I wanted to have the moment of joy where I’d hold the new baby and Kyle would see him and we’d be ecstatic and blessed.

Didn’t happen.

I kept my eyes closed for about 45 minutes after Calvin was born. The random guy from the hallway (a hospitalist who isn’t a part of my OB’s practice) was quickly replaced by my doctor, who after performing heroic cerclage surgery and carefully monitoring me for eight months, arrived just in time to not deliver the baby she had worked so hard to save. She came over to say nice things to me and I know for a fact that I hit her when she touched my arm because I apologized for the next ten minutes, all with my eyes closed. I could hear Calvin and the NICU team sucking crap out of his lungs because he hadn’t been compressed enough during delivery. Kyle was telling me that he was okay and the nurses were standing around talking about how amazing the delivery had been and how crazy fast and how they couldn’t believe that I had just had an eight pound, one ounce baby when he was supposed to only be about five and a half pounds at 36 weeks. They asked if I wanted to see him.

I didn’t. I wanted everyone to go away. Everyone. Including Kyle and the baby. I wanted silence and ice chips and people to not touch me ever again. Someone said “skin-to-skin” and I used a phrase that included swear words. Nobody handed me the baby.

There are a lot of things that could theoretically interrupt bonding with your new baby. You read about them when you are pregnant and you tell yourself that you won’t let any of them happen. Basically, you get scared out of your mind that someone might try to interfere with you holding your baby immediately and then, according to statistics, you’ll never have the same relationship with your child that you could have had. And he’ll probably do drugs. And make $50K less per year on average.

It’s crap.

I didn’t hold Calvin for an hour. The room quieted and people left and I opened my eyes and reoriented to the world. I saw him, swollen and bruised, and pronounced him to be awful looking. Then I took my time and got up to use the restroom and brushed my hair out a little and got settled into a clean gown and a wheelchair. Then I held him. And it was all just as lovely and pink and awesome as it was always going to be and I adored him immediately. So don’t be freaked out by all those studies. After eight months of pregnancy and all the trouble I went through to have him, nothing was going to stop me from bonding with that kid, even though I needed a little extra time to myself before we got started.

Our hospital stay was chaotic and underwhelming. They were busier than usual, so we rarely saw the nurses and it took longer to get assistance with the baby. The sleep I dreamed about getting while he was in the nursery didn’t happen because they brought him in to nurse every two hours and after it took me thirty minutes to feed him it usually took another hour before the nursery had time to stop by and pick him up, so I only slept in twenty minute blocks.

Still, it’s amazing to be in the hospital after you’ve had a healthy baby. He was all snuggles and snorgles and peeking at us from his bruised and swollen eyes. The fact that he didn’t have to go to the NICU was fantastic and when they let us take him home two days later it was the sweetest reward after such a tough pregnancy.

Of course, he didn’t exactly stay healthy and he’s had complications from his rough delivery, but that’s a whole different story. No worries, though. Today he’s home with me and he’s delicious.


Thank you, Carly! I love the perspective after the fact, don’t you?  ”Before I get started, I have to tell you that this boy has the softest cheeks in the world. And he does this sleepy sunflower thing where he’ll move his head so that his face is always facing mine, no matter how I’m holding him. I’m telling you this because if you’re on the fence about having children, I don’t want you to read this birth story and decide that you’re better off with a goldfish. So when I get to the part where I thought I was actually going to not survive his delivery, remember the cheeks and the sunflower face thing.” It’s funny how seemingly torturous moments don’t seem so awful when you’re able to take a few breaths and feel a burst of gratitude for making it through.

Friends, if you’d like to chime in, I’d love to hear about the last major plan you made. Did it all work out the way you dreamed it would? Better? Worse? (Oh, please say better!)

P.S. – Find all the stories in this series here. Do you have a story about birth, pregnancy, adoption or infertility? Send your story to me, will you please?

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{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lindsay March 12, 2014 at 11:16 am

As a post partum and NICU nurse who has assisted in numerous deliveries and had 5 of my own, I first have to say that your nurse sounds horrible. Attempting to deliver 3 of my babies unmedicated and succeeding twice, I have felt how a knowledgable supportive nurse and doctor for that matter makes all the difference. I went with a nurse midwife the last time around, and she didn’t even make it to the delivery because I was going so slow…until I wasn’t.

Having a midwife and or doula who does not have any other patients or responsibilities may have helped your labor. Nurses and doctors rarely give the kind of one on one during labor that I think you needed. Best of luck if another is in your plans. I have yet to have a labor go according to plan!


2 Carly March 12, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Yes, I think having someone’s full attention would have made a huge difference. I know that they were very busy on the day I had my son and we only saw our nurse in quick bursts. In fact, I remember that part of her irritation about the IV was that she was getting called to another mom and she kept telling her little radio headset thing that she was stuck dealing with me. That’s an awesome feeling when you’re having a baby…

In fairness though, I think it was also a personality issue. I delivered my first at the same hospital and all of those nurses were still wonderful, despite being busy. I just had bad luck.


3 Sara March 12, 2014 at 11:19 am

This story brings into perspective so much that is wrong with the US birthing industry. I wish all hospitals staffed doulas! The Facebook groups and evidence based birth both have lots of great information on trying to have a medically safe and emotionally satisfying birth.


4 Carly March 12, 2014 at 4:19 pm

I also wish all hospitals staffed doulas or at least some sort of aid to stay with you and be your go-to when the nurse/doctor can’t be there. A lot of our problems ultimately came from a communication breakdown between us and our doctor because our only link was that one nurse.


5 Jessica March 12, 2014 at 11:30 am

I don’t think this story is about the US birthing “industry.”

What I got out of this incredible story all came from this paragraph:

“Basically, you get scared out of your mind that someone might try to interfere with you holding your baby immediately and then, according to statistics, you’ll never have the same relationship with your child that you could have had. And he’ll probably do drugs. And make $50K less per year on average.”

Thank you, Carly, for showing the world that a less-than-perfect birth can STILL result in a sweet, happy, beautiful child who loves and is attached to his mother.


6 Carly March 12, 2014 at 4:19 pm

You’re welcome! And for anyone who is keeping track, he’s seven months old now and we’re obsessed with each other. He doesn’t hold those first 45 minutes against me at all. ;)


7 Julie March 12, 2014 at 11:31 am

I would like to counter with just because you have a doula doesn’t mean you will automatically have a wonderful experience. This is what my sister thought and it just wasn’t the case. At all.

And I wasn’t able to hold my oldest son for 5 days due to complications during his birth and we bonded just fine! We are super close.

Mothers and mothers-to-be are guilted into so much. Let’s not add to it. Do the best for yourself and your child and your family. And don’t apologize for it.


8 Carly March 12, 2014 at 4:21 pm

It’s so true! Breastfeeding, sleep patterns, organic foods, natural teething toys…I can’t even list all the things I felt guilty about with both of my babies. And then they were fine and I realized I needed to step away from the parenting magazines. (Although, I admit, I still find new things to obsess over and feel guilty about.)


9 rachael March 12, 2014 at 11:38 am

wow. just wow.
I had a crappy nurse for my first baby and 2 wonderful nurses for my 2nd, and it really makes all the difference. next time i want a midwife and a doula.


10 Carly March 12, 2014 at 4:22 pm

We do plan on having another and I think I’ll at least bring a nurse-friend with me. Or maybe my mom, because she can be pretty scary. I think my husband was a little out of his league fighting with our nurse.


11 Rachael March 12, 2014 at 12:09 pm

So sorry to hear about your experience–what a frustrating nurse! I had something very similar with my fifth baby…the midwife was very upset with me and one of the nurses was literally screaming at me to push during delivery. I ended up with a baby who completely rotated 180 degrees after his head had been delivered (and I thought labor was bad!! that rotation hurt SO MUCH), then got stuck, and ended up having burst blood vessels in his eyes for the next 3 months (which completely terrified my two-year-old who wouldn’t go near the baby because of his “evil red eyes”). We’ve also experienced a number of difficulties with both him & with me in the ensuing 11 months, all of which can be chalked up to that delivery. Rough stuff–I hope you are able to put this behind you and focus on your sweet baby!


12 Carly March 12, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Oh, I’m so sorry – that’s terrible! We had some complications, but they were all cleared up about a month later. And I can’t even imagine the rotation…it’s bad enough when they come out like little arrows!


13 Kendra March 12, 2014 at 12:51 pm

In response to Sarah and Jessica, I think the story is about the US birthing industry, at least a little. You should be able to walk into a hospital and say, “I want a natural delivery,” or “I want an epidural” and find the support you need either way. It’s crazy-making to think a nurse would try to push a particular agenda, especially when you’re already in such a vulnerable state. You were one courageous mama, Carly!


14 Lindsay March 12, 2014 at 1:16 pm

With rising medical costs and sue happy Americans, hospitals are scared to death to not place all safety nets in place (IV’s- which a lot if women don’t want). Also, if a patient has an epidural, the nurse can carry a larger patient load. Saves the hospital money. There are staffing protocols in place in hospitals, and guaranteed your nurse is probably running her entire shift.

Hospitals cater to their largest population, and depending on your location, that might mean elective early inductions with and epidural. When a nurse only helps women labor naturally every few weeks, they won’t be as practiced, and they will realize that a woman with an epidural is just easier.

It would be great to be able to go to a hospital because of what they offer us instead of what insurance we carry. Until we can do that, nothing will change. Horrible nurses who can handle large loads will continue to be our nurses.


15 Kendra March 12, 2014 at 2:52 pm

That’s unfortunately so true, and why so many mamas wishing for natural births (and can afford it) end up birthing elsewhere (birthing centers, at home etc.). Gosh, what a depressing system. And what’s even more stunning is that in spite of all these hospital protocols the US still has such a dismal infant mortality rate when compared to other industrialized countries.

But all of that aside, I think Carly’s experience of tunneling into herself and everything going “hazy” is pretty typical for an unmedicated birth. And needing time to collect yourself afterwards, too, makes complete sense. Bonding with a babe is a process, not a single event.


16 Carly March 12, 2014 at 4:30 pm

I do wonder if that hazy feeling will happen again if we have another baby. I have to admit that I’m a little sad that I don’t remember more of the process, even with all the pain. I don’t think I was able to focus on the joy of the moment until much later. I mostly just remember feeling intensely distressed and hopeless. I suppose that is one vote for epidurals.


17 Kace March 12, 2014 at 4:54 pm

I totally get the hazy recall thing. I had an unmedicated birth with a doula and it was great (no complications). But, I still felt a bit like I’d been in a car accident–for the next two days, I kept asking my husband and our doula (who kept notes of the whole experience) what happened and at what time! My sense of time was completely gone because I could only concentrate on how my body felt at that moment. So, I was reconstructing the event afterwards (“Oh, that must’ve been the point at which X happened…and so on”).

Beautiful story–I love the sunflower metaphor. So sweet!

18 Emily March 13, 2014 at 2:29 am

I think the hazy recall thing is quite common with unmedicated birth, I have had 3 unmedicated births here in New Zealand and near the end, time just seems to disappear and you kinda go into a zone where you are unaware of what is going on around you, probably the body’s way of surviving the pain. I found it helpful to have a family member basically in my ear keeping me calm and explaining what’s going on. Although I have never given birth in the US, I an american ex-pat living in New Zealand and I am so proud of the midwife system here. Having the same person for every pregnancy appointment right through to the birth is great…as long as you like your midwife that is!

19 Emily March 13, 2014 at 2:32 am

Oh and I just need to brag/boast about one more thing with the NZ birthing process, you midwife comes to your house every day for the first week after birth and then once a week for 6 weeks where the government well child care takes over.

20 Jenni March 14, 2014 at 12:04 am

Three natural births – my mind left my body around transition all three times. Many foggy details.
My husband was a rock star advocate all three times. Esp with our first when he insisted they check my cervix again because he knew I was showing all signs of transition. He was right and they nearly left me to deliver in my own as well because I was at a ten when they thought I was still at a seven.
Anyway, natural unmedicated is not for everyone. I’ve been blessed with short labors. Had mine been long who knows what I would have done? But use those hubbies if you can!

21 Carly March 12, 2014 at 4:28 pm

I’m sure our nurse has had terrible natural birth experiences with patients and the bad thing is that she took all of that baggage (which had nothing to do with us) and used it against us. Like you said, I’m sure she works hard for her paycheck but there really should be a way to take the pressure off nurses so it doesn’t end up being put on the patients at the same time.


22 Carly March 12, 2014 at 4:25 pm

I do agree with this and it was crazy-making in retrospect when I was able to really appreciate how much she let our decision affect her treatment. I did file a complaint and the hospital panel was as appalled and apologetic as you would hope, so that’s a good thing. I feel like there’s really a movement to support the parents’ choices as much as possible and for some reason this woman just missed the memo.


23 Kendra March 13, 2014 at 10:48 am

Good for you filing a petition, Carly! That’s at least the first step toward standing up for womens’ birthing rights. Emily – the NZ experience sounds *amazing* – I’m so jealous. I had a pretty good hospital birth experience (midwife, unmedicated waterbirth), but there were still a lot of things that could have/should have been done differently. And the aftercare you receive sounds like it would make a huge difference just in terms of a new mom’s sanity of, “Am I doing this right?”

Carly I have a feeling that if you had another unmedicated birth it’d be a completely different experience for a lot of reasons. Next time you might choose to have a doula/advocate in the room with you, for instance, which is sort of like picking your primary nurse ahead of time. You also mentioned that you thought you’d have a “traditional” hospital birth (IV, on your back in the bed) only without drugs, and that sounds kind of awful to me in the sense that one way to take your mind off natural labor is to just keep moving, changing positions etc. It also helps later in terms of memory recall to have your labor defined by movement: kneeling, in the tub, on all fours, in the tub again. It keeps it from being just one long block of confusion/intensity and it helped me feel a lot more in control.

It’s incredibly sad to me that what you remember is feeling so distressed and hopeless. It’s not at all surprising given your experience, but still. It doesn’t have to be that way! I think you could totally go unmedicated with (hypothetical) baby #3 and have a great experience!


24 marian March 12, 2014 at 2:01 pm

I have 6 kids so I’ve had a few nurses and all were great but two. I agree that the worst thing a nurse can do is try to change your plan for you. I had one nurse inform me that although I was on induction drugs she did not think an epidural (my plan) was a good idea. Thankfully the shift soon changed and we ended up with what I found to be the typical OB nurse, cheerful, knowledgeable, helpful, and KIND.


25 Carly March 12, 2014 at 4:32 pm

First, 6 kids! That’s wonderful! Second, I do think it’s probably a bit of a roulette wheel as far as nurses go. I probably got the worst one my hospital had to offer…maybe that means the universe is bringing me a great one for possible Baby #3!


26 Ann March 12, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Thank you for sharing your story. There is comfort in knowing others have experiences similar to my own.


27 Carly March 12, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Thank you for reading it!


28 Katy March 12, 2014 at 2:06 pm

I love the sunflower metaphor in the beginning. So perfect. And I think that – your terrible nurse aside (why oh why did you need an iv?!) – that emotional state describes the way I felt during transition with my 3 kids as well. Just I remember feeling like, for a brief period of time, I was in a pretty dark place and needed to block out the somewhat overstimulating room and felt “alone.” This isn’t necessarily a bad thing or to say that I had unsupportive birth helpers, but it was my experience as well!


29 Carly March 12, 2014 at 4:39 pm

I actually had the “why do I need an IV” conversation with the nurse and she told me a story about a baby who died because the mom went into distress and they couldn’t get the IV in to do an emergency c-section. I don’t think she made that up, but she told me that story IN the delivery room two hours before our son was born. It’s a good thing that I was so out of it with pain when my IV came out or I would have been panicking trying to get that thing in myself.

I don’t think they ever used it for anything, though. I guess it was good that I had it, but you should have seem my arm after the delivery. Bruises for miles.


30 Sally from Little Hiccups March 12, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Sorry to hear that you had such a terrible nurse looking after you Carly, but I’m glad that all is well with you and your little boy now.
The attitude and demeanor of medical staff can have such an impact, for the better or worse, on mothers in such a vulnerable state (or anyone in hospital, really). I understand that nurses in particular are quite often overworked and tired due to hospital cuts and understaffing, however a pleasant bedside manner and a little respect for the mother’s wishes goes a long way.
I had a bad experience with a perinatologist last year when I was admitted to hospital expecting to deliver a very sick baby at just 24 weeks. The nursing staff and on duty obstetrician were wonderful, caring and very supportive of my situation. The on duty perinatologist however had the worst bedside manner I have ever experienced and made what was already a terrible situation so much worse – and not just for me. I’m sure that he upset every other woman in triage when he started arguing loudly with the other staff that there was no point giving me the planned steroid shots (to help the baby’s lungs) because the baby was going to die anyway. He may have been correct but a little respect and compassion would’ve gone a long way.
I am now 6 weeks out from my due date with a (fingers crossed) healthy baby and one of my biggest fears is that this particular perinatologist will be on duty when I deliver. I have so far successfully managed to avoid him throughout this pregnancy despite regular appointments with one of his colleagues, however if he happens to be on duty when I deliver and there are complications I may just be stuck with him again. I really don’t need that.
And Carly, I really hope you don’t have to deal with that nurse again either!


31 Carly March 12, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Good luck with your delivery! I’ll cross my fingers for your sake that you don’t run into that person, but you should also think about filing a complaint. I was very nervous to file a complaint about my delivery nurse but after I did I was overwhelmed with how supportive the hospital was and how much they seemed to appreciate that I had told them. He might have no idea that he’s awful. If I was awful, I’d actually like to know!


32 Juliette March 12, 2014 at 3:49 pm

I had a difficult delivery and a very unsympathetic doctor, but the BEST delivery nurse, and that made all the difference… I can not imagine going through all this with your awful nurse. Thank you for your honesty Carly, and for sharing your experience.


33 Carly March 12, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Thank you for reading!


34 Megan M. March 12, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Oh, I am so sorry about that nurse. She sounds AWFUL. I’ve had bad experiences with nurses, but thankfully not really during my labors. I, too, have to be told when I’m in labor because I honestly feel nothing until my water breaks, and it breaks very late in the game. The first time I got to the hospital at 7 cms and I’d only felt contractions for an hour. The second time they told me at my appointment that I was 5 cms. I had no idea. Hadn’t felt a thing. I also refused epidurals because I’ve heard that women can have serious back problems from having them, but I’ve never encountered that kind of resistance!

Going it epidural-free is TOUGH, even if you get the IV meds. Be proud of yourself for making it through! I’m pregnant with my third and I am not looking forward to another unmedicated childbirth! LOL


35 Carly March 14, 2014 at 9:05 am

Yes, the serious back problems thing is no joke. My daughter just turned 3 last week and I still have pain at the site of the epidural from her delivery. It was a terrible experience and one that I didn’t hesitate to sign up for because I hadn’t done any research and didn’t know better. I know lots of people love them but they are definitely not for everybody.


36 cal March 12, 2014 at 7:40 pm

I am currently at 41 weeks and my dr. is not supportive of me waiting it out, but thanks for this story, hoping if I get a nurse like that my doula will kick her out. Maybe because I am a nurse I appreciate all the nurse commentary…makes a big difference. I like your comment that the night nurses are flaky, but day nurses are distracted, perfect way to describe it, that’s why I like working weekends, they are just calmer. Thanks again for the encouragement that it doesn’t spoil a whole life if the birth isn’t perfect.


37 cal March 12, 2014 at 7:54 pm

I work on a general med-surg floor btw, so I have almost no knowledge of what goes on in l&d


38 Carly March 14, 2014 at 9:05 am

Hopefully the fact that you’re a nurse makes a difference too. I feel like I might have gotten some more respect if our nurse had felt like I knew anything about what was going on. Good luck!!!


39 Micah March 12, 2014 at 8:24 pm

I totally agree that communication and a good nurse makes all the difference! I had planned on an unmedicated birth with my first and it ended with an epidural and c-section after 30+ hours. My second was an unmedicated VBAC but with a nurse who didn’t listen at all. We learned a lot from that experience. So much so that my husband made sure that the midwife and nurses all really listened to me during the third birth – another unmedicated VBAC but with the baby rotating throughout the birth. As hard as that last birth was, it was my shortest and best in the sense that I felt like I had a team cheering me on through the 2 hours of pushing and everyone worked to support me. I hope you do go for a third birth with lots of support and everything you were hoping for. And congratulations on a healthy boy.


40 Carly March 14, 2014 at 9:08 am

Thank you! My sister had a c-section after 30+ hours and with her second I know that she was advised not to even consider a VBAC. I think she was a little disappointed so good for you for having the birth you wanted and for getting that good birth experience with the third. (Gives me hope!)


41 Tina March 12, 2014 at 8:38 pm

Sorry you had such a crappy nurse!!! This is exactly why I hired a doula, it makes all the difference to have someone advocating on your behalf and supporting you throughout the whole process start to finish. There was one crappy nurse during our delivery and if I didn’t have the strength of my doula to keep her away from me I could have easily had the same experience. Crazy how one person can ruin the whole thing. She too gave me the whole, “oh your gonna do it natural, yeah right” attitude. It felt so good to prove her wrong:-)


42 Carly March 14, 2014 at 9:10 am

I’m definitely taking an advocate with me next time, whether she’s a doula or a nurse-friend or a feisty relative. It’s a little bit of a bummer to count on the fact that I’ll get resistance, but I guess it’s better to be prepared and then I’ll have at least one more person on my team in the delivery room!


43 Felicity March 12, 2014 at 9:48 pm

I’m sorry you had such a bad experience and a nurse you disliked. I’m a bit confused though. Why you blame her for your son having a bruised lip and black eyes? How could that be prevented? I didn’t have a nurse there for my whole labour, she just popped back in to check on me and how I was going a few times. I was up walking around (to manage the pain) and only got on the bed to push when I said I felt like I needed to. I completely agree that she should have listened to you and read you better, especially as you were actually very close to delivering. And she should have known it was your second birth and that usually the pushing stage for second births is much shorter.

Maybe it’s different here in Australia but even if you give birth in a private hospital, you still have to specifically request an epidural, it’s not a given that everyone will automatically have one. And it’s also not an automatic thing that everyone has an IV put it, only if and when there is a problem. Nor monitors either, they will only attach them if there is a problem and usually just to check for a short period of time.

I wonder if the fogginess is common with unmediated births, because I remember (or don’t remember) feeling the same about the end stage and first hour post birth.


44 Carly March 14, 2014 at 9:12 am

I’m not actually sure how the bruising could have been prevented. My blame comes from my doctor who said that if the nurse had handled things better that shouldn’t have happened. (I’m not even totally clear on why it did happen, but that’s my own ignorance about the birth process. I would have thought my bones would be plenty out of the way!)

I’ve heard that the birth experience is better in Australia. I do wish I could have gotten up and moved around, but for some reason that just isn’t a given here and the hospital staff (including my doctor) was very uncomfortable with that idea. I need to do more research next time.


45 Felicity March 18, 2014 at 3:56 am

Carly – thank you so much for your reply. I really appreciate it. I’m fascinated hearing about the differences in birthing in America and Australia. Some of the we stories sound terrible. I can’t believe they make you stay on the bed for your whole labour. I always wondered about people eating ice chips in movies, do they not let you eat and drink? You can eat and drink what ever you want in labour here, they even bring you and your husband meals while you are in the birthing suite, in case you are hungry. Thanks again for sharing your story.


46 JananW March 12, 2014 at 11:43 pm

I have 4 kids. I was unmedicated for my 3rd and I found it miserable. Traumatic for my mind and body. When medicated I actually enjoyed giving birth and the baby right after:)


47 Carly March 14, 2014 at 9:13 am

I think I’m going to try some alternative pain meds next time. I don’t want an epidural, but I also didn’t feel like I got any great satisfaction from knowing I did it without meds.


48 Mrs. A March 13, 2014 at 12:48 am

Hello Carly! Thank you so much for sharing this story.

I’m so sorry you had a nurse who was busy/distracted/unlistening or whatever. I think having another person on your team – a nurse or doula – would have helped some. Your birth story sounds like mine, but I had supportive hospital staff and that made it much more bearable.

I was fortunate to give birth at my local medical center – which houses my GP, my GYN, and a wonderful team of midwives. I also had a doula and made arrangments for a warm water tub for labor. However, all these people and supports could not prevent me from experiencing the longest, most excruciating labor I could ever imagine. The nurses ended up clocking me at laboring for 80 total hours – a record for a first birth at the hospital.

Like you I planned a “natural” delivery, and just fuzzed out after the pain became too intense (around 20 hours of labor). I was thereafter given a light epidural and pain medication, but by then was so exhausted that I had to sleep in 30 minute shifts through contractions so I could marshall strength for the delivery. My son got caught on my pelvic bone and wedged, and the nurses and midwives began discussing a C-section. However, my GYN was called and showed me that she could see his lovely, curly brown hair. :) So, I brought what I had left of my strength and pushed through.

There were about 12 nurses, doctors and staff in the room when my son was born. Neither I nor my husband were able to hold my son, as he immediately had to be suctioned. I remember the room being very quiet. Then, a few minutes later he made sweet noises and I was offered the chance to hold him. I was so exhausted I thought I would drop him – and I immediately noticed the huge blister on the back of his head and the dent across his face from being wedged so long. But, when he opened his eyes and looked at me – oh, my those lovely blue eyes!!

We stayed in the hospital for 5 days due to the complications, and we were visited by everyone there, given time to sleep, brought food, and visited by lactation specialists (and my GP, who is now my son’s doctor). After such a hard experience, it was a nice way to begin our parenthood.

My birth was entirely not what I planned, but I still feel positively about it after all these years (my son is now 6 1/2). I think what made the difference between your experience and mine was that I was in a loving place. Nothing went as I expected, but I was still cared for and loved by everyone who came into the room. Every pregnant mom deserves that in the delivery room, and I wished you would have had that.


49 Carly March 14, 2014 at 1:35 pm

I can’t believe you labored for 80 hours! Good for you and good for the hospital trusting that you could do it. I think our hospital’s policy was that there was a set amount of time a person could labor (I want to say 24 hours) and then either the mom had to be discharged or there had to be a c-section.


50 Cath March 13, 2014 at 6:21 am

I don’t think it’s just an American problem. I had my first baby in Italy with quite possibly the only midwife in the country who hates babies. I was on my own for almost all of the time and the only time she did come in to see me was to tell me that I was making too much noise, “had a face that looked as if I couldn’t cope with pain” (no pain relief was available because, wait for it, it was the weekend…) and was going to be in labour for hours and hours (she was wrong!) For a long time I felt very sad about my labour experience. I hadn’t expected everything to necessarily go to plan but I had never bargained on meeting such a grumpy (and as it turned out, incompetent) midwife!


51 Megan M. March 13, 2014 at 8:38 am

Oh no! You poor thing. I hope you never have to go through that again.


52 Carly March 14, 2014 at 1:35 pm

That’s terrible. I’m so sorry. :(


53 kassandra March 13, 2014 at 8:07 am

it is so terrible that this story is so common! on nasty person intentionally traumatizes a woman in a vulnerable state to make her life easier. there is a woman named crystal who i can’t stand. and i know hate that name and snotty little blond 25 year olds. she was the nurse in my delivery. because of her i have told my entire support team they are to yell, scream, and do whatever necessary to demand a different nurse if anyone even remotely likes here comes near me in a delivery scenario again. i have to give birth in hospitals due to risks and i have no pity for their overworked status. we never called her or asked anything extra of her and treated her with respect and she treated us like dirt. it was all her problem and if i wasn’t in so much pain from their incompetence i would have called her out the next day. if they (the nurses) can’t deal with it they need to get out. it won’t kill them to change their attitude. i’m trying hard to forgive her but even 5 years later there is something inside of me that really wants to kick her in the teeth. just being honest. the last thing i want to remember about an extraordinary experience is a nasty girl name crystal.


54 Carly March 14, 2014 at 1:36 pm

It is awful that she’s your outstanding memory. If only she knew what a bad effect she’d had.


55 ann March 13, 2014 at 10:02 am

Oh Carly

I love how you tell the story.

I had a child in the hospital with several life threatening surgeries and years of rehabilitation starting at the age of 3.

Your story and narrative and the way you tell it….help heal my soul. Keep on writing. You have a gift.

“Of course, he didn’t exactly stay healthy and he’s had complications from his rough delivery, but that’s a whole different story. No worries, though. Today he’s home with me and he’s delicious.”

Not all of us can write effectively to put our emotion adequately on paper…but when I run into words like yours….oh my. Thank you….a couple more stitches were made in healing my heart, soul and body from our family’s ordeal…in reading your words.

Onward –



56 Carly March 14, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Thank you, Ann! I’m sorry for your family’s troubles but I’m glad that you’re on a healing path.


57 Heidi March 14, 2014 at 12:31 am

I”m so sorry that you had an unkind nurse. Delivery nurses should be kind above all else. Well, they should be competent, so I’ll say competent and kind.

I had my children in Austria, where they have midwives in the delivery rooms and everything was completely natural and although it wasn’t always easy, I’m glad that I could do that. They use a lot of homeopathic medications and I used coffee to avoid tearing. But they have a whole different attitude towards birthing. I don’t think I could have gotten an epidural if I had begged for one!

But always thought that the point of giving birth was to have a baby, not to have a wonderful experience with music, etc. and as long as both mom and babe were healthy at the end, then it was mission accomplished.

And as for the bonding, I think that it is highly exaggerated that you need to touch your baby immediately after birth. You’ve got the next 20 years and the first hour or two isn’t going to make a difference. Plus, there are other people who can hold the baby while you recover from that experience. Please don’t be hard on yourself.

My youngest is now 10 and my oldest is graduating. Although I have 5 children, if I wasn’t so old, I’d have another one in an instant. Enjoy your precious babe. I think I even read it on this blog..the days are long but the years are short


58 Carly March 14, 2014 at 1:37 pm

I love that last sentence so much I just jotted it down on a post-it. I’m definitely fighting a bit of “overwhelm” with two kids in the house (especially today for some reason!) so I’m doing everything I can to remind myself that this is oh so temporary.


59 Sarah March 14, 2014 at 3:01 am


I am on my 37th week and I would like an unmedicated birth too… I am in France and 80% of women get epidurals, 15% have to go to a C-section and only 5% don’t get epidurals – for lack of time or choice.
I am hoping to have a nice nurse around, because I think labour without epidural requires some support and confidence… and we know that nobody knows what’s going to happen. I am not against epidurals (although I think the medical staff doesn’t tell us enough of the problems linked to it). I don’t want it because I would like to avoid giving birth laying down… If we are sitted, in squat position or on our knees the pelvic outlet widens 30% more – which generally avoids episiotomy and the use of forceps. And After meeting with the anesthesist, I discovvered that an epidural wouldn’t be great for me because of other health conditions I have… But I hope I won’t have such a horrid nurse….
Tell me, if you want to, how do you get through the transition? I mean mentally?
Thank you for sharing your story and knowing that whatever happens, it can have a happy ending! : )


60 Carly March 14, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Good luck with your upcoming delivery! As far as transition, I don’t have any sage advice or secrets other than the fact that I was very focused on the millions of women who have done this before me. I also kept telling myself that the worse it was, the closer I must be to holding that baby. (Which was true, ultimately, but that’s part of the reason that it was so hard when the nurse said I had hours to go.) Just don’t panic – I feel like I panicked a little and it did nothing but make it harder. You’ll be fine and then…baby!


61 Sarah March 21, 2014 at 2:39 am

Thank you so much, Carly! I’ll try not to panic! ANd keep the baby in mind!!!! : )
My husband also read your piece and would like to thank you for sharing!!!


62 stacy March 15, 2014 at 9:11 am

Sarah where in france are you? I have lived here for twenty years and delivered children here w:out. If you have chosen your hospital well you will surely have excellent sage femme! and in my experience you will have many options for labouring:balls, tubs, walking or whatever…. It was totally a non issue for me. We are super lucky in France EVERY birth is assisted by uber qualified midwives, and in my experience it was also a non issue to do skin to skin. I think my babies were not taken to be weighed and all that jazz until maybe an hour or so after the birth. Make sure to bring a nice soft large cotton blanket to cover yourself and your babe with while you snuggle afterwards. The statistiques world health organisation sites for epidurals in france are actually a bit lower than eighty percent more like 65%. Certain establishments have much higher rates, but it should be quite easy to choose the clinique/ hospital where you deliver!!


63 Sarah March 21, 2014 at 2:44 am

Hi Stacy,

Yes, there are great midwives here, indeed! I am in Vendée… I will most likely give birth at La Roche Sur Yon CHD…
It’s just that the midwives that have been following me through the pregnancy and who know me quite well, won’t be there at delivery day…. So, it’s kind of scary to be with someone unknown… and they say that there are some midwives that are less “open minded”…. Like 3 out of 40! So, I just have to be lucky enough to not be with those ones! Thank you for the tip on a cotton blanket for the snuggling! I am putting it right now on my maternity bag!!! : )


64 Kate the Great March 16, 2014 at 11:33 pm

Whoa. What a wild ride. I ended up laughing and groaning out loud to many parts of your birth story. And reading parts aloud. Carly, that was really well-written.


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