My Labor Story–And Why I Want A C-Section

The Wee Hours of Early Labor With "The Balloon"

I don’t think a vagina is pretty. Okay, I’ve said it. I also don’t find anything particularly beautiful about childbirth. I mean, the act of having a baby—yes, beautiful, magnificent, blah blah–all the adjectives and clichés apply. But pushing one out of your vag, while you poop on a table? It’s just not appealing, at least to me.

Having said that, I went through my pregnancy ready, willing–and I thought–able to deliver a baby “down there.”  No women in my family or extended family had C-sections. I was in shape, had done all the yoga and breathing. I was ready.

My due date came and went. Two weeks later, I was induced. When we went to the hospital apparently I was having erratic contractions, even though I felt nothing. Because of that, the usual regiment of drugs for induction couldn’t be followed. Instead, I got the manual treatment.

Oh good, I thought. One less drug in my body. My yoga friends will be so proud!


“Manual” meant a deflated balloon goes up between your locked cervix. Problem was, I was effaced, so the doctor’s hands kept slipping (I don’t totally understand, but that’s what he said) and he had to keep pushing his hands in me, prying the cervix open enough to slip the balloon in.  He finally succeeded, then blew it up with saline (no, not his mouth) to manually force my cervix open. Phil held up pictures of Wayne Sanchez to distract me. All I could think is Wayne is having payback time. We cut off his penis and gave him a vagina. Now he is mocking me.

A string dangled out for the next 8 hours as the balloon did its thing. At 3 a.m. I was doubling over with cramps. The nurses assured me that meant it was working. Oh hooray!

She’d point to the monitor that showed contractions spiking like Kilimanjaro (which I climbed, and in retrospect was much easier than labor). They were all over the place. I remember having diarrhea too. And thinking,  “What the f–k is pretty about this?“

At 7 a.m. I was dilated to a 3 and the balloon was pulled out. Then came the Pitocin. At first I didn’t mind because at least it regulated the contractions. I knew when to brace for a bad one. But when I dilated to about a 5, the pain was simply unbearable. I caved to the epidural. I felt slightly defeated. I’ve run marathons. I know women far less “tough” than I. How can I not hack this? The answer would be revealed later.

Hands down the best part of my labor was the epidural. It was like magic; like being on vacation in a war zone. I urge everyone to use it.

Around 3 pm my water broke. On it’s own. My doc rushed in and said I was dilated to a 9. That we’d start pushing soon. NO WAY! Phil and I practically did jumping jacks together. “We’re going to have a baby!!!” we shouted. She’ll probably be here in an hour. We called our friends and family. We were giddy.

I was wheeled into the delivery room. I remember so many women telling me they felt this urge to push when the time came. I felt nothing. My doctor whispered something to the nurse, and then explained to me how to push. Nothing about this felt instinctual. I pushed but it was like I was pushing against air. After 45 minutes my doctor told me what we were up against:

My baby, while head down, was sunny side up, meaning face up. Which explains the horrific cramping earlier. Our spines were grinding against each other. She also hadn’t dropped. He said if we could get her down a bit, they could reach up and try to turn her. Most babies rotate naturally through the birth canal. But the biggest part of her head was stuck on my pelvic bone. She couldn’t get under it.

He asked if I had it in me to do some serious pushing. Hell yeah! I said. I grabbed my iPod and put on the playlist that got me through the Boston marathon. I went into endurance mode.

Over the next 90 minutes:

Hands reached into me.

Different doctors tried to turn her.

A nurse with small hands, known for turning babies, gave it a shot.

I was turned from side to side, then put on all fours.

They brought in a mirror so I could see how it looked when I was pushing correctly. (That was like a gruesome horror movie—and I had a wax the day before, mind you).

In the midst of all this, with Pitocin giving me off-the-chart contractions, I felt excruciating pain. I tried to explain, but no one was listening. Everyone was so focused on getting her to rotate.

It was Phil who looked down at the table when I was on all fours, and said, “Um, I think that needle is supposed to be in her back.” In all the commotion and shifting of my body, the epidural had fallen out. So, not by choice, I was doing this natural.

It was then they called it. My doctor said that in my 2+ hours of solid pushing, Fia hadn’t dropped even one millimeter; that he had to do a C-section. I wept. I was so exhausted and in so much pain. And now I faced surgery. He had the nurse put ice on my swollen, bruised vagina. For 48 hours I would have to ice it. One nurse gasped when she saw it. It was that bad.

I was pumped full of drugs that made my arms flap like a bird and my body feel frigid. I was wheeled into the OR.

Twenty minutes later, I heard a cry from behind the curtains and it was all over. Fia was here and she was safe. She had a mark on her forehead from bumping against my pelvic bone.  We both had war wounds. But she was perfect.

I know at the end of the day that’s all that matters. But physically, I felt like I had been through a train wreck. One friend who visited said it looked like I had been hit by a bus (she would have fainted had she seen my vag!). But even if I had had a regular birth, I’m not sure I’m the kind of person who would call this whole process “beautiful.” It is gruesome and gory; the end result is stunning.

Today I’m scheduling my C-section. I hear that when you are scheduled, the recovery is so much easier. It’s not like I’m looking forward to it, but I’ll take it over labor any day. But that’s just me. And my story.

Fia at 5 Days Old

Just for fun, my fellow blogger, Berit, who is pregnant with baby #2 and shares the same due date, had the opposite experience of me. Here’s her labor story. 

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  1. by Berit Thorkelson

    On November 15, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Oh, Jill, ouch! I don’t blame you at all for wanting to schedule a c-section this time around.

  2. [...] Why I want a c-section ( [...]

  3. by Heather Morgan Shott

    On November 16, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Jill — I had to have a scheduled C-Section due to a previous injury and it was delightful. Very calm and no bruised anything. I was out walking around within a week.

  4. by Brook

    On November 18, 2011 at 1:32 am

    I had a scheduled repeat c-section with my twins (1st baby was too big so unscheduled c-section) and it was sooo much more civilized!!! I walked into the operating room, chatted with Dr. layed back, and they did their thing. I had no shock reaction afterwards like I did with the first, my recovery was smoother, and my scar didn’t have the “ghost pains” for months afterwards as my first did. Good luck with your delivery, I hope it goes smoothly!

  5. [...] Home › Other › Why I Want a C-Section [...]

  6. [...] Why I want a C-section ( [...]

  7. by Cindy

    On December 30, 2011 at 9:28 am

    This is so similar to my birth story(except add several tornado warnings and evacuations). My water broke on its own and I went to the hosiptal where I was 4 cm. They gave me Pitocin bc I wasn’t having any contractions. The Pitocin HURT and I opted for an epidural 4 contractions in to that. My baby too was face up and never dropped and wouldn’t fit through my pelvis (after pushing for 1.5 hours). I had a C-section and my daughter had a cone head from my pushing. I was nervous about scheduling a C-section this time, but this blog makes me feel a lot better (esp. knowing that a lot of what I experienced wouldn’t happen again). Thanks for sharing!

  8. by Nakeli

    On May 3, 2012 at 11:39 am

    I just read this but this was my exact experience back in 2008, although I stalled at 5 cm which is why they gave me Pitocin. I had deep regret in myself for months afterward for not being able to deliver vaginally. But now I know that I did what was best for me and my baby. I’m pregnant again and definitely scheduling a c-section!

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