Mary's first birth shares about a traumatic cascade of interventions that may be difficult if you are in a sensitive place preparing for birth or with your own history. Please use your own discretion and skip ahead to her second birth if necessary.
Part 1 - Lincoln
On October 5th, 2018 (my estimated due date) my water partially broke while walking around the mall with my husband. I went to the hospital to confirm it was amniotic fluid and was told it was and that I would be induced right away. I declined, went home, and tried to get my labor started during the next couple days without success. I was hesitant to be induced but I was told the risk of infection was increasing every day that passed and was assured I would be fine.
On October 7th, I was induced with Pitocin and it immediately elevated my blood pressure. As Pitocin was continued, my blood pressure was monitored. After 16 hours of intense labor I was six cm dilated and completely exhausted. I got an epidural and that allowed me to sleep for an hour. When I woke up, I was 10 cm dilated but the epidural was no longer working, and I could feel every contraction. They were now nonstop with no break in between. The doctors and nurses didn’t believe that the epidural was not working and refused to check it. Even though I was fully dilated at this point, baby had not descended at all and was not in an optimal position. They decided I should begin pushing to try and get him to descend. Both my husband and I asked multiple times to change positions to help our baby turn. We were told no because of the epidural.
After pushing for three hours with no progress, they finally listened and checked my epidural. It had slipped out and was not working at all. While I was pushing my mom arrived and was encouraging me to be strong and keep going. She blessed me with holy water right before she left the room. At this point, I had no more strength and could not push any longer. I was told a caesarean was my best option and was reassured that I could always try for a vaginal birth during my next pregnancy. Hesitantly, I agreed. All the staff left the hospital room to prepare for my surgery. This left only me and my husband in the room.
My next memory is struggling to gain consciousness with a baby on my chest, an oxygen mask on my face, and my tearful husband telling me we had a beautiful baby boy (we waited to find out the gender). I had envisioned a very different moment meeting my baby for the first time. We named him Lincoln and he was perfect. He weighed 9 pounds, 4 ounces. I had been unconscious for the past hour while my baby was held by doctors and nurses, my mom, and my husband before he was finally placed on my chest. He immediately began to breastfeed even before I was fully aware.
I had no idea what had happened, or how and when my baby was born. When the anesthesia had worn off and I was responsive, I was told I had a seizure a few minutes after the staff left to prepare for my c-section. My husband had run into the hallway screaming for help. There was no time to stop the seizure so I was wheeled on the bed to the operating room, while having convulsions the entire time. It was truly a miracle that the anesthesiologist was already prepared and all the staff were prepped for surgery. The outcome could’ve been tragic had they not all been ready. An emergency caesarean was performed in a matter of minutes. This meant my husband could not be in the operating room and had no idea if our baby and I were going to make it.
While in recovery, the obstetrician who performed the surgery came and informed me that she had to act immediately. The incision she made on my uterus was above the optimal position where it is strongest. The edge of the incision tore a few inches down to my bladder. The technical term is called a midline extension. She told me this meant I would never be able to try a vaginal delivery, as the risk of uterine rupture was too great. I was devastated. I stayed in the hospital for five nights with elevated blood pressure. During those 5 days I was so swollen that my wedding ring and band had to be surgically cut off. I was on anti-seizure medication that made me extremely drowsy, as well as blood pressure medication. I was also unable to walk and required a catheter.
I remember crying that I didn’t even get to change his diaper for the first days of his life. Thankfully my husband took over his care and I was able to focus on recovering. My blood pressure remained elevated in the hospital but went back to normal as soon as I got home and I could stop taking the blood pressure medication.
In the following weeks I went to multiple appointments with neurologists, had an MRI of my brain, and had my driver’s license suspended for two months because of risk of another seizure. Nobody could tell me what happened. Their only guess was that I had an eclamptic seizure and the eclampsia somehow suddenly began in labor with no prior symptoms. I disagree with this diagnosis because my blood pressure was normal my entire pregnancy and only elevated once they began the constant administration of Pitocin and there were no other signs associated with eclampsia. It was confirmed by a neurologist that I did not have an eclamptic seizure based on my MRI results. Regardless, I was now labeled high risk for subsequent births.
For the next couple years I tried not to think about what had happened. I was busy taking care of a newborn and I pushed the trauma out of my mind and convinced myself that all that mattered was that Lincoln and I had survived. When Lincoln was about 2 years old, we decided to try for another baby. Month after month we were disappointed and heartbroken when I was not pregnant. For a year and a half, I prayed the Holy Rosary every night and pleaded with God to help me understand His plan for me and my family. I said novenas to Saint Padre Pio and Saint Gerard. I prayed for our Holy Mother’s intercession to ask God to bless me with another baby. I started attending weekday Mass. That time was the closest to God I have ever felt and the strongest I’ve ever been in my spiritual life. I truly trusted God and I’m thankful I had the opportunity to fully trust in God’s plan for me and surrender my life to Him.
Part 2- Rhodes
A year and a half later (May 2022) my prayers were answered, I was pregnant! I now believe God had waited to bless me with another baby so that my body had ample time to recover from the trauma.
After finding out I was pregnant I had to decide where and how I was going to birth my baby. The obstetrician I had with Lincoln had very different values than mine and I decided not to go back to her. I was recommended to a couple other doctors by people I knew but every one of them immediately suggested a scheduled caesarean based on my history. I applied to a midwife group but I was labeled too high risk and they declined to take me in their care. I was feeling very discouraged because I knew in my heart I wanted to try for a vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC), but I wanted the support of an obstetrician or a midwife. I was running out of time; I was already 6 months pregnant with no provider.
By the grace of God my sister-in-law was given the number of a midwife from a friend at church. This midwife was highly recommended by multiple people and had very similar values to mine. I met with her and told her everything that had happened with Lincoln. I cried as I retold my story, and we immediately had a deep connection. She agreed to help me in whatever way she could, but my case was extremely unique because of the tear on my uterus. There was no way of knowing how well it had healed or how strong the scar was. My risk of uterine rupture was increased because of the tear and the placement of the previous incision.
I scoured the internet for any similar stories but I could not find any. My midwife wanted the opinion of an obstetrician she trusted and believed would give us an honest answer regarding the risk of me going through a trial of labor and vaginal delivery. After meeting with the obstetrician, she reassured me that a TOLAC (trial of labor after cesarean) would be a viable option for me and estimated a risk of uterine rupture being around 4%. I was overjoyed that I now had support from both an obstetrician and a midwife! The plan was to be under the care of both them and to birth in a hospital.
As the weeks went by, I researched more and more about hospital births and all the unnecessary interventions. I felt that my risk of repeat caesarean was going to be extremely high if I went into the hospital to give birth. There also was no guarantee that my obstetrician would be on call when I went into labor. I was not comfortable with the idea of giving birth in a hospital and began praying about my decision. I surrendered my fears and doubts and put it all in God’s hands. I said a beautiful novena to St. Padre Pio and was also asking for the intercession of St. Gerard. Every night I prayed about what I should do and I kept feeling a push to try a home birth.
I felt so at peace with my decision and the closer I got to my due date, the more confident I felt that my body was ready. I knew deep down my body had healed and I was prepared. I asked God to take care of me and my baby and He did. I decided not to tell any of my family and friends about my decision, as I didn’t want any negative opinions or doubt. I only told my sister because I knew she would support my decision. I also decided to stop going to the obstetrician and have my midwife solely care for me. My pregnancy was going great; I was working out and I had energy and felt healthy.
My due date came and went but I trusted my baby’s timing and knew he would come out when he was ready. I was also not going to be induced again so there was nothing we could do but wait. I went 11 days past my estimated due date and was never worried about it.
On February 8th (41 weeks) at 10:30 p.m. I had my first contraction. I had mild contractions every 20 minutes throughout the whole night. They had all stopped when I woke up in the morning. The following day, Feb 9, they started up again in the evening around 6 p.m. I went to evening Mass with my parents and had contractions the whole time. This time they were consistently 10 minutes apart. Once again, the labor stopped completely at some point in the night. When I woke up on the morning of the 10th, I was having irregular contractions. At about 1 p.m. they were fairly strong and 10 minutes apart. This continued all day and at 11:30 p.m. I lost my mucus plug after an especially strong contraction. The contractions became more intense and closer together from then on.
At 3:30 a.m. I was shaking so intensely that I got in a warm bath to try and stop the shaking. My
husband then called the midwife and told her my contractions were a minute long and five
minutes apart. She arrived and monitored baby’s heart rate intermittently. At 7 a.m. I was exhausted and felt like giving up. I allowed my midwife to check my cervix and she told me I was 8 cm and his head was extremely low. This gave me the strength and burst of energy to keep going, knowing that I would meet my baby soon.
My husband and I prayed the Rosary while I leaned on him for support. He was the most incredible support throughout my labor. I physically hung onto him during each contraction, focusing on relaxing my whole body and any tension, while he held my weight. He is an incredible husband and father and I’m so grateful we had this beautiful experience together. My entire labour was intense but very peaceful.
At around 10 a.m. on February 11th, I felt the urge to push. I first started pushing on my hands and knees and then moved onto my back on my bed. After about an hour of intense pushing I finally pushed out my perfect, healthy, beautiful baby boy. It was the most incredible moment of my life.
I will never forget that feeling when he laid on my chest for the first time. My husband and I cried tears of joy. I did it. God had entrusted us with another perfect soul to take care of. We named him Rhodes and he weighed 8 pounds, 12 ounces.
My second birth story is the complete opposite of my first one. It allowed me to heal from my birth trauma and it also made me grow stronger in my faith. I grew nearer to God and surrendered my life and birth to Him. I hope my stories can encourage other women to experience pregnancy and birth fully trusting in God and surrendering to Him throughout all of it.
Mary is a Catholic mom to two amazing little boys and a lifelong native of Alberta, Canada. She holds a Masters degree in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and after previously working in cancer research, she is now a full time stay at home mom.