Katie's birth story is not one that's too uncommon in the birth world, unfortunately. An array of interventions and days on end of slowly progressing labor. Add in a low platelet count that denied her an epidural and things get hard and exhausting quick! So many factors of her birth could have been prevented if the lines of communication between her and her provider were more open. She felt so removed from her own body and that made this whole experience even harder. Her message is important. We need to ask questions. We need to know our options. Katie ended up asking for her medical records after this whole experience and she recommends you do the same if you have any questions at all. Thank you for sharing your story with us Katie, I hope that it can help us pave the way for more empowered and informed births.
When I found out I was pregnant, my husband Luke and I decided not to find out the gender. This is still one of my favorite parts of the whole thing. We were cautiously excited to share the news of the pregnancy with family and friends, still recovering from an early miscarriage the month before. My pregnancy was smooth. I was under the care of an OB, and decided to switch to a small practice in my area in hopes of more personalized care. We had our monthly, then bi-monthly, then weekly checkups as everything progressed!
Although I was under the care of an OB, I was focused on having an intervention-free, unmedicated birth. An acquaintance of mine told me of her success using the Hypnobabies techniques years before I became pregnant, and I decided that this was definitely something I wanted to try. I also took prenatal yoga and a natural-focused birth class led by a doula. During my pregnancy, I switched to a vegan diet from vegetarian.
My husband was super supportive of my approach to the pregnancy. He picked up extra chores around the house so that I could fit in Hypnobabies or prenatal yoga during the evenings. I poured over books and blogs and websites about childbirth, especially unmedicated childbirths, successful birth stories, really anything I could get my hands on! I could not get enough of learning about how amazing our bodies are throughout this entire process. During the childbirth class, we covered all aspects of labor, delivery, and breastfeeding. While interventions and cesareans were covered, I was so incredibly confident that my birth would go according to my plan, I just didn’t pay too much attention to those parts.
As my due date drew closer, my doctor began discussing an induction. Still, I was completely convinced I would go into labor on my own. Finally, at 41 weeks and 2 days, I scheduled my induction at the hospital. My husband and I switched our thinking as quickly as we could, trying to make the best out of this new situation. We downloaded “The Walking Dead” to watch in the hospital, decided an epidural would be the best route, and started planning. My husband was working out of state at the time, so part of our decision was knowing that if we didn’t do this now, the chances of him being out of town if/when I went into labor would continue to increase. We were scheduled to go into the hospital on a Thursday night, and we were as ready as we could be! Then, ONE HOUR before we were scheduled to arrive, the hospital called and said they were full. We were shocked, no one said this was even a possibility! Our options were to have the hospital call when they had a bed open that night, or go to bed and try again the next day. We chose the later. The next morning, we touched base with the nurses and were told that we’d get a call at some point that day. At this point, I was really starting to doubt the decision to go with an induction. If this was so necessary to a safe delivery, then why could it be pushed back and rescheduled? However, I knew that everyone was ready to get this baby out, and we decided to just keep with the original plan. Around 11:30 the following morning, the hospital called and we were all set to go in. The hospital is about 15 minutes away, and our bags had been packed, so we arrived around 12:30 in the afternoon.
This is when everything really gets turned upside down. My husband and I got into a room, I changed into a gown, and the nurse drew blood and I was hooked up to a monitor. I will never forget this next moment… our nurse walked into the room with a very disheartened look on her face and said that my platelets were too low to have an epidural, and we would have to continue with the induction without one. I was very surprised and disappointed that my doctor had not come in to discuss this or any of my options moving forward. There is an increased risk with bleeding if you get an epidural with low platelets, and my platelet count was below the threshold that the anesthesiologist was comfortable with. This is something we were not prepared for. I have since requested copies of my medical records from my pregnancy and delivery (something I highly recommend!!!), and low platelets were noted in my records, but never shared with me during any prenatal visit. This is a condition called gestational thrombocytopenia that can occur during pregnancy. All I knew about pitocin at the time was that the contractions were strong, close together, and your body was not able to “deal” with the pain in the same way as it can with naturally occurring contractions. I was terrified. My nurse hooked me up to the pitocin, started at a low dose that increased throughout the afternoon, and we were on our way to meeting our baby. I was not even 1cm when I was induced, and due to the induction being pushed back, my OB decided to skip any other induction medications and go straight to the pitocin. Maybe 30 minutes later, an anesthesiologist came in looking very somber. He shared that I had signs of preeclampsia and would need to have an emergency cesarean under general anesthesia because of the low platelets. Ok, now even more terrifying! Luke and I decided to just go through with the emergency cesarean and tell our families after the fact as to not add additional stress. We then called our nurse, and she came in looking very confused. The doctor had the wrong patient. Apparently there was another person with the same first name who had this situation occurring. After that we got a slew of apologies from the nurse and the charge nurse, but never from the anesthesiologist.
I was laboring for a few hours on the pitocin and handling the contractions well. I tried using Hypnobabies, but honestly at that point everything had just been turned around and changed up so many times I could not concentrate enough for anything to be effective. My husband and I were halfway through a Walking Dead episode when I felt my water break around 5pm. We were very excited that labor was moving along! However at that point, the contractions intensified immensely. This is definitely when things start getting very fuzzy in my memory. I have very few memories of the entire night as I labored. My husband was amazing, and only left my side to get refills on my ginger ale. When Luke would walk down the hallway to get me a refill, he said the nurses kept their heads down and didn’t look him in the eye. At that point they had been hearing me throughout the night. I remember the only way I could get through a contraction was to “catch” it as it was beginning. I developed a breathing pattern that worked as well as it could. If I didn’t get ahead of the contraction, I would just bear down and scream through it. Due to the pitocin, the contractions would come a few at a time, and I do remember watching the monitor and seeing a new contraction starting and just feeling completely defeated. As the pain and intensity of the contractions increased, the nurse offered a pain medicine called Stadol. She said that this would help take the edge off of the contractions, but I could only get 2 doses so I had to really wait until I was ready to use it. I was progressing, and at 4cm at about 7pm. Luke was so fantastic supporting me during this time, I honestly don’t remember most of it. I did decide to go ahead with the Stadol at some point, and Luke said I would be very out of it in between contractions, and then wake up and begin working and breathing through them. At around 9pm I was at 6cm. Things continued on, I was at 7cm at 12:30am, and at 9cm at 2:30am. The nurses were fantastic, but Luke did so much work. I was bleeding and passing clots throughout labor, and he changed countless chuck pads. He helped me walk to the bathroom, we very quickly learned how to unstrap and restrap on the fetal monitor. I stayed at 9cm for hours and hours, and my OB decided to turn off the pitocin around 8am to just take a break and see what was happening. I had been stuck at 9cm for about 6 hours still having intense contractions. At that point, Luke and I were both exhausted, I was in so much pain and the contractions were so non-stop, I couldn’t even talk or form a thought until the pitocin wore off. In between contractions, the pressure from the baby’s head in my pelvis was so intense, it hurt just as much as the contractions did. My OB decided to take my blood one more time to run the platelet count to see if there was a change. This time, they had gone up slightly and there was an anesthesiologist willing to do the epidural. Our amazing nurse waited outside of the OR to grab him as soon as he was out to come to us. I will never forget him walking in and saying “Normally I’d have the patient just tough it out at this point”. Wow. So I got an epidural around 9:30am, and my OB decided to let me rest for a few hours and then come back and check for progress. Luke and I slept for 4 hours and it was one of the highlights of the whole experience. At 3:00pm, I was finally at 10cm and ready to push.
I remember being so excited and determined when it was time to push. Our nurse was great and coached me through how and when to push. At that point, I was loving the epidural and didn’t want to feel anything so I was relying completely on the nurse and monitor to tell me when to push. The machine that gives the epidural stopped working at some point, but was fixed quickly. So one hour passed, still pushing, then two hours, then three hours. At 3 hours, the OB came in (she had been checking in periodically) and gave me 30 more minutes to get this baby out. In retrospect, I think she knew he wasn’t coming. Due to the epidural, I was on my back in the hospital bed and did not try any other positions to push. After 3.5 hours of pushing, the OB called it and said it was time for a cesarean. Luke texted our family, who had been in the waiting room since I started pushing. There was an emergency cesarean who had to go in before us, so we were pushed back a little bit. We were well known in the L&D unit at this point since everyone on the floor had heard me screaming for the past 24 hours. A few nurses on the floor came in to say hi and check in while I was being prepped for surgery. We went through our third and final shift change, which made for our 4th nurse, and then it was time to go to the OR. The cesarean went fine, and our sweet baby BOY was born at 9:10pm. He was 9lb. 1oz. Luke texted pictures to our family, but waited to tell them the gender until he went down in person. Our baby boy, Cole, had aspirated some meconium so he went to the NICU for an hour for monitoring. We are incredibly grateful that Cole was so healthy after such a long, traumatic labor and birth. Luke split the next hour between Cole, our family in the waiting room, and me in recovery. After about an hour, the nurse brought Cole to me and the three of us made our way to the recovery room. It breaks my heart that Cole spent the first hour of his life away from me and Luke. I still look back on Cole’s birth and just feel sad that I don’t remember most of it. I don’t remember him coming out, or his first cry, or who said, “It’s a boy”. I was so looking forward to skin to skin, and breastfeeding for the first time, and those other precious first moments, and I didn’t get them. Luke remembers, so I still ask him questions about what happened from time to time.
Once Luke, Cole, and I had settled into the recovery room, our families visited for a few minutes around midnight. I remember asking repeatedly when I could nurse Cole, it had been 4+ hours since he was born, and the nurse kept saying his sugars were too high or low (I can’t remember), so he kept getting heel pricks until they were stable. Then I could finally nurse, which I also don’t remember. Another nurse came in a few times throughout the night, and would wake me up to ask when she could take Cole for a bath. At some point I just said to take him. None of those first hours with him went like I had imagined or hoped.
Recovering emotionally from my birth has been a process that I am continuing to work through. I feel like so many things were taken away from me during my birth, and with information from the medical records, I also feel like I wasn’t given all of the information necessary for me to make a completely informed decision regarding the induction. Once I was in the hospital and in labor, I was unable to have any sort of conversation with my OB regarding interventions being used or any questions or concerns that arose due to the pain. There is so much that I wish I did differently looking back, but I am getting to the point of feeling that we made the best decisions we could with the information we had, and after going through so many interventions. The night following Cole’s birth is a complete blur, I remember so little of his actual birth and the first few hours of his life. I was so physically and mentally exhausted that I just wanted to eat and sleep. Requesting my medical records is something that I really recommend for anyone who has similar feelings. I requested records from the hospital, and my prenatal records from the OB office.
I recently read an article in support of women whose births did not go as planned. She drew the comparison to a graduation ceremony. No one would ever tell a recent graduate who missed graduation that it didn’t matter because they still graduated. It is acknowledged that the act of walking across the stage is a hugely significant, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Even though you still have a degree, you still missed that moment in time that you can never get back or recreate. That is how I feel, that the birth I wanted and the first hours of my son’s life were taken from me.
I am able to look back and think of some of the things that went well. Even though I disagree with a lot of the decisions our OB made during the whole process, I do remember her putting my hair in a ponytail, which was nice. The nurse that was with us during the cesarean asked me what Pandora station I wanted to listen to during Cole’s birth. This is one of my favorite memories. He was born when one of my absolute favorite songs was playing - “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show (originally by Bob Dylan - fun fact). Our nurse that was with us while I was pushing came and visited a few days later when we were recovering. This quote has also helped me process through many of my feelings regarding my birth experience and how I am moving forward. “Perhaps this is the moment for which you were created” Esther 4:14. I am in the process of starting an ICAN chapter in my area, and look forward to connecting with other mothers who are also recovering from their birth experiences. So while everything did not go as planned, and there are moments that I regret and moments I will never get back, I continue to focus on healing from the experience, being proactive in planning for future births, and growing a community of support in my area. My goal in writing this is so that other mothers going through a similar experience feel supported and understood. It’s so frustrating to hear repeatedly that a healthy baby is all that matters. While this is true to a degree, what happens to a mother during birth is also an important, life altering experience that should be respected.
I'm Katie! I live near Annapolis, MD with my husband (Luke), son (Cole, 1.5), dog (Patrick), and 6 chickens. I was a special education teacher for 8 years, and am now a behavior specialist for a local school system. I'm also a vegan and all about that lifestyle, while my husband is an avid hunter and fisher. When Cole goes to bed, I enjoy crocheting, drinking wine, and watching "The Office". Instagram: @theherbivoreathome Facebook: Katie Peternel
Katie had two vaginal births and had no reason to expect anything different with the birth of her most recent daughter. But the funny thing about birth is that it's always unpredictable, even if you've done it 12 times before. So when her labor failed to progress at the speed of her OBs liking, she was told that her baby would need to be delivered via cesarean. An unplanned cesarean mixed with an unexpected NICU stay makes for an emotional postpartum healing process.
The birth of my third child 6 weeks ago was a complete 180 experience and emotional roller coaster compared to my first and second births in 2009 & 2011. With my first two children, I ADORED my obgyn, trusted her 100%. Both pregnancies were essentially perfect with zero complications (not even a moment of morning sickness) and both births were full-term hospital inductions with pitocin, vaginal deliveries, about 12-14 hours start to finish with zero complaints or complications. I was younger, and didn't know a ton about birth, but I have no regrets with either of them. All I knew back then was that I did not want a C-Section.
Late July of 2016, the day before I was starting a new position with the bank I worked for, we discovered we were pregnant with our third child (funny thing about my pregnancies- I have always found out the day before an 'event'. With my first, it was thanksgiving, and my second, it was Valentine's Day). We were a bit surprised because we weren't actively trying, we were taking precautions at the time, but we were happy and excited to finalize our family (3 was always our 'number'). I am older now so I started to do a bit of research on birth options, I watched 'The Business of Being Born', and listened to pregnancy podcasts galore. I was beyond inspired about the possibilities of this birth. Honestly, I knew that a completely pain-free birth wasn't for me, so I decided my goals were to go into labor on my own, avoid an epidural until 6cm, have a quiet, low lit, emotionally supported birth, and have immediate skin-to-skin with delayed chord clamping (this was a HUGE want of mine), and of course a perfectly healthy baby girl.
Out of 8 birth goals, I got 1. It's still difficult to emotionally process.
Aside from being borderline GD, my pregnancy was easy. My previous dr moved away after my second was born and although I didn't dislike my new doctor, I certainly didn't feel the same connection, and sometimes my appointments felt like a long wait for 5 minutes of time, but it didn't weigh on me too much during pregnancy. At 36 weeks, I was checked and was about 1 cm, and the baby was low. I was excited at the thought that things were getting started and maybe I would go into labor on my own close to my due date. I was walking a ton at work, and was planning to begin red raspberry tea at 38 weeks. At 37 weeks, I was still 1 cm but baby's head couldn't be felt. I had a suspicion that my daughter was posterior, based on the movement I was feeling, and asked how that affects L&D. My dr told me it can stall labor or make it more difficult to push the baby out, but she mentioned we would do an ultrasound at 39 weeks to see where she was at. That Saturday night (37+3) I realized I was beginning to lose my mucous plug, but I didn't think anything of it because I knew that losing it doesn't determine that labor is beginning. I didn't know it at the time, but I was having contractions occasionally up in my ribs, I just thought that I was being kicked or that her foot was sort of 'jammed' in my rib cage. The next morning, around 11 AM, I started to notice very small trickles when I would walk around as I cleaned the house, but I assumed it was still my plug. Turns out, my water had broken!!! At 11:30am, I called my mom and said "so, please tell me that I haven't been peeing on myself for the past 30 minutes. That's not possible, right?" Because I was in disbelief that my water was breaking. I called L&D and they told me to come in. We told our older kids what was happening and started getting things ready. They were so excited, and It was crazy timing because I had taken the next week off of work for my kids spring break to spend extra time with them, while giving my MIL her own week 'off' from the big kids before the craziness of a new baby began. By the time we headed to the hospital, I had soaked through 2 pads, so I KNEW this was real and I had gone into labor at home (that's my 1 that I got). I never felt anymore contractions or discomfort other than the leaking of my water.
We arrived around 1pm and we were checked and in a room by about 2. I was 3cm at that point. I was told that the on call dr would be notified, and I didn't love that at all but understood the reality of it. The on call dr was a male which I was also not used too, but didn't mind much. I just hoped he would be kind, patient, and not make me feel like I was interrupting his weekend lol. Although my nurses were awesome, they were definitely ready to get the pitocin going and get this baby out!! I was on board with that as well because I haven't experienced any issues with that course of action during my previous births, and I was excited to meet my baby girl! Things were progressing slowly and I got my epidural around 6pm. By 7pm, I was only at 4.5 and we were trying different positions, including using the peanut to try and help open the cervix. We couldn't attempt it for very long because baby girl did not like it, and her heart rate would drop. By 9 pm I was only 5cm dilated and her heart rate would drop from time to time, but nothing seemed to be a problem. At 10pm, the doctor came in and said "well, things aren't progressing, and with her heart rate dropping, I don't think it's going to happen....we're going to need to do a C-section". Two things I noticed in that moment.
I had thought about the possibility of a C-section because I thought she was posterior, but I hadn't actually prepared myself (is it even possible too?). I was TERRIFIED of the recovery while having a newborn and two older kids at home. I've never had a surgery prior to this and had no idea what to expect. My husband and mother were at the hospital of course so I immediately wanted my mom while I CRIED about what was about to happen. 3 more nurses came in the room at once, one to shave me, one to give me the nastiest thing I've ever consumed, and another to do whatever she was doing. My assigned nurse was amazing to me through all of this and she did her best to comfort me.
Being wheeled into a surgical room-alone-for the birth of my child, was surprisingly one of the scariest moments of my life and I didn't expect that feeling. From the moment I was in that room, any ounce of excitement or joy for this birth completely left my body and i was filled with fear and discomfort. It was just a bright, cold, metal room. I had the shakes from meds, I was freezing cold, and I simply felt like I had so much happening around me and to me, yet I wasn't even there. I was given more meds to further numb my stomach, and I remember crying when they laid my arms away from my body. It all felt SO out of my control and I couldn't do anything about it. After I was 'situated' I started coughing a little and because I was numb up to my chest, I couldn't get any power behind my cough, which was maddening. I then began to throw up about 5 times. The doctor confirmed her posterior position to me while delivering her and At 10:50pm March 12th, my daughter was born. I heard her cry, and I cried. That moment was a mixture of joy and sorrow for what was happening to me. The loss of almost everything I wanted for myself and her birth hit me in that moment. My husband was of course by my side but wouldn't have been able to stomach watching a c-section, and I didn't think to ask anyone to record, so I have no images of the actual birth. The first picture we have was once she was being cleaned up by nurses and my husband was with her. He brought her over and I was able to kiss her and calm her down. I was so upset that I wasn't the first person to hold her, and have those first few minutes of skin to skin. We got back to the room, my mom was able to see her and then she left shortly after because it was so late. My epidural had been removed, I was a bit groggy and so uncomfortable. Within 15 minutes of being in my room, my uterus was massaged (SO painful), I was asked a handful of questions about my pain and General status, and I was attempting to breastfeed which was a bit of a struggle. I was beyond tired and the nurse wanted me to football hold, and I don't do football holds. They don't work for me. The next 24 hours was essentially typical, breastfeeding, diaper changing, the family and sibling meeting the baby, and I also learned about using a binder around my stomach-that thing is a god-send! At 11pm that Monday, my night nurse came to take my daughter for her newborn screening. Thankfully for my nurse (Liz), she noticed that my daughter was making what the dr referred to as a grunting noise, and she took her straight to the NICU. I was woken up shortly after to be told that she had brought her there just to be checked out, and by 5am, the nicu dr (who I loved) came in and let us know that our daughter had a tension pneumothorax in her left lung and they had to give her a chest catheter to relieve the air and pressure in her chest. The first 48 hours in the nicu were a bit rough for her and we weren't able to interact too much with our daughter, but the nicu staff was amazing and they took great care of her (and us)! Knowing she was in the best hands made it a bit easier to go home without her. I was excited to see big sister and brother again, took advantage of the extra rest when I wasn't at the hospital with her, and I pumped around the clock to bring milk for her when she was able to eat again. The catheter was removed after 4 days, we held her again the following day, and she came home on march 22nd.
We are now 6 weeks PP. Life with 3 kiddos is currently crazy, but I'm thankful that the big kids have school, which give me more time to bond with Ellie and rest! Physically, I have healed quickly and well (although I really hate the numbness above my incision and I'm wondering if I'll ever wear anything but maternity pants again). The emotions surrounding my birth experience are still a bit all over the place, but I feel that I'm navigating them well. Our breastfeeding journey luckily was not too rough after going 8 days unable to breastfeed. I used a nipple shield for a few days when needed, and supplemented with breastmilk in a bottle when I was unsure about how much she was eating. When my husband went back to work, I was convinced I couldn't do it all and I thought I would do half formula, half breast milk and begin bottle feeding, but I realized I wasn't emotionally ready to stop breastfeeding her. We both quickly got back on track and we are exclusive breastfeeding successfully now! Ellie healed up beautifully while in NICU and doesn't require any follow ups in regards to her lung issue at birth.
Hey there! I'm Katie, 29, I am myself, an IVF triplet born via c-section at 31 weeks and a nicu grad. I am a mom to 3 awesome kiddos (7yrs, 5yrs, & 6weeks old). My husband and I have been together for 10 years this coming September. We live about an hour north of Houston TX and we both grew up here. I've worked in banking for the past 9 years, but now I am embarking on the crazy/awesome stay at home life, while working my home business (thank you baby#3 )!
Facebook: Katie Hertsenberg
A collection of posts from different humans all over the world, sharing their stories about the struggles they have faced in their individual journeys to motherhood.