Real Life Stories: Unexpected C-Section

No matter how much you plan for a natural childbirth, some things are out of your control. Three women share their stories about surprise C-sections.


When Induction Didn't Deliver

"Even though my birth didn't go as expected, I was still involved in the decision-making." Sara D'Amico, Williamson, N.Y.

I was planning on a natural, unmedicated birth. On my daughter's due date, I went to a scheduled doctor's appointment. My blood pressure was high, I was getting headaches and my ankles were swollen. The doctor felt that I was on the verge of preeclampsia, so I was admitted to the hospital to be induced. After three long days in the hospital, I was released for a "failed induction." I did everything I could to prepare for this birth—12 weeks of Bradley classes, prenatal exercises, reading numerous books and articles about interventions and natural childbirth—but it was all failing me. I felt broken and out of control.

My contractions started again the night I returned home. The next day, I saw my OB-GYN and discovered that I was 4 centimeters dilated and my water had broken, so I checked back into the hospital. I was determined to regain some part of what I had hoped my birth would be like, so I labored for eight hours on Pitocin without pain medication. By then it was the following morning, and my OB-GYN said I needed a Cesarean section. I was wheeled into the OR with a mix of relief and disappointment.

Having a C-section is an extremely courageous decision. My advice would be to stay vocal: Ask questions, make jokes and be excited that your baby is about to be born.

Pictured: Sara D'Amico and Mikayla, 19 months

Accepting a Change of Plans

"It's important to remember that you might not have the birth you want." Kristin Engle, South Burlington, Vt.

Right from the start, I knew I wanted my birth to be as natural as possible. I talked to my doctors about having a water birth, and I wanted minimal interventions.

My labor started with a day of inconsistent cramping and contractions, but my contractions were regular and getting very painful by that same evening. Early the next morning, we went to the hospital, where I alternated between walking, getting into a tub and sitting and bouncing on a birthing ball. At this point my back labor was intense; it was painful even between contractions. I was desperate to get some relief, so I gave in and asked for an epidural. After the epidural, they gave me Pitocin and broke my water, which had meconium in it. Then, I spiked a fever and had stopped progressing. My doctor came in and told me it was time for a C-section. I cried. I was scared, sad, frustrated and unprepared, but I had no choice but to have surgery.

My daughter was born healthy and I recovered well after the surgery, but I felt like I missed my own birth. I thought I was OK with having a C-section until a few months postpartum when I started to feel emotional pain from the surgery. My birth had felt chaotic, out of my control and scary, and it was hard to remember the small details.

Even if you think you won't have a C-section, educate yourself! When it was time for mine, I felt lost and clueless. Afterward, I would suggest talking to other women about how you feel about your birth. You're not a bad mom for having feelings of grief because you didn't get the birth you wanted. And remember: Just because you gave birth via C-section, you're not a failure at being a woman or giving birth, and you're not any less of a mom.

Brandi Angelloz and Nathaniel, 3 weeks.

Reframing What it Means to Have a Successful Birth

"I felt like I had failed by not having the natural birth that I wanted so badly." Brandi Angelloz, Baton Rouge, La.

I was planning for a natural water birth in a hospital setting. I had a midwife and a two-page, typed birth plan. I went into labor at 11:30 p.m. on my due date and labored at home until my contractions were about three to five minutes apart. At that point, we went to the hospital and the very first thing I asked about was getting in the tub, but I was told I had to wait until I dilated to 7 centimeters.

After 10 hours of labor, the midwife checked to see if I had progressed, and she decided to monitor the baby, "just to be safe." I was only 4 centimeters dilated and in a lot of pain. And even worse, my son was expe- riencing pain as well. His heart rate deceler- ated every time I had a contraction. At this point, I decided to have an epidural. But after 14 hours of labor, the epidural wore off: I was in pain again, my baby's heart rate was still decelerating with every contraction and I had only progressed to 6 centimeters.

When my midwife said it was too dangerous for me to attempt vaginal childbirth, I felt like I had failed myself and failed my son by not being able to deliver him the way I had been planning for months. I had a wonderful nurse who held me while I cried and tried to prepare myself for emergency surgery.

During the C-section, they discovered that my son's cord was wrapped around him six times, five times around his body and once around his neck. This had caused him to experience intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and he only weighed 5 pounds, 7 ounces. His first four days were spent in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Physically, my recovery was easier than I thought it would be. I got up and walked down to the NICU to see my son, Nathaniel, as soon as they allowed me to, because I knew how important both moving and seeing him would be for my recovery. Mentally, how- ever, I had many ups and downs. The best advice I can give to anyone who finds herself in my situation is, "Don't beat yourself up." I wouldn't choose an emergency C-section as my ideal birth, but it saved my and my son's lives, and for that, I'll be forever grateful.