Each parent goes through a gamut of emotions from the time of planning a child, conceiving, going through 9 months of pregnancy, and finally the d-day. No parent forgets the day their child was born even if it was an easy 3-hour labour or a more complicated one. And most often the underlying theme is that of not being prepared or expecting one step or the other on the way. Here is Rajeshwari Nagarajan, narrating her story of her labour that ultimately resulted in a uterine rupture.
My firstborn, a daughter, was born 11 and a half years ahead of her brother. That pregnancy, unplanned at the age of 23, resulted in a C-section.
I wanted a natural birth. I was always reading, keeping myself abreast of what to expect at the moment of "Labour and Delivery" - the exam I so wanted to pass with flying colours. I was young too, so it should have been a breeze like they show in the movies.. but no, it was not to be!
I have never known a more mysterious event, since human evolution, than labour and childbirth! So many stories (experience), so much advancement in science and technology, and yet there remains innumerable questions about a woman's body, the hormones at play, the muscles engaged, the sweet baby inside the elastic sac.
It bewilders me, saddens me, and at the same time humbles me, for no education prepares one to what truly lies at the end of the tunnel called pregnancy.
Back to 11 and a half years ago.. so, I never felt those excruciating pains I had read so much about, even after 41 weeks of pregnancy. Finally, I had to resort to surgery to meet my 3.75kg, cherubic little daughter.
Since I had clearly ‘failed’ the exam, I started retrospecting about what went wrong, what I did wrong. I decided that my failure was attributed to my anxiety in the last trimester leading to high Blood Pressure and a lot of pampering from everyone around. Of course, there were also fellow women who would mock me saying I did not try hard enough to make it a normal delivery. As a result, I convinced myself that my daughter did not force her way out because I happily ate and slept.
Due to this thought, though my husband and I wanted a second baby, we somehow put it away for as long as we could, citing financial stability, my health, his health yada yada.. and before we knew it 10 years had passed by. When we started approaching the subject of the second baby, anxiety crawled in, and again I desperately wanted to pass the exam. I should feel the contractions this time around, was my only thought. So, exercise, physical fitness, and not satisfying my gluttonous appetite became an objective. So what happened? A miscarriage at almost 8 weeks. Oh yes, I did achieve part of the aim - painful contractions!
Again, we put this whole 'another baby' idea off until I could mentally prepare myself again. And behold!
Just a month after the miscarriage, when I least expected it, I found myself in the pudding club.
"How did that happen!" was replaced by "Dear Oh dear, I am not prepared". When I came to terms with it, I was already deep in first-trimester nausea. I did not puke, no, not once. I was constantly running to the toilet to throw up during my first pregnancy. Though I felt nauseated by the weird smells, tastes, and sensitivities, this technically third pregnancy was so different yet similar!
I continued working till the 36th week. I felt good, in general, after the initial ice-breaking with the developing embryo. This pregnancy more or less felt the same as my first, except that I rigorously worked and taxed my body more and more. I could duck-walk in the 38th week and felt so proud of that. I had gained exactly the number of pounds that textbooks recognized as ideal.
Nothing could go wrong this time, I was going to give birth the natural way!!
Did I mention that I had contractions since the 15th week? I did not know that then. I mistook them for my baby's movements and just rejoiced in that magical moment. My lower abdomen, where this wonderful muscle that held my growing foetus resides, would harden. This kept happening, slowly becoming more and more painful in the last trimester. My gynecologist did not think it was unusual. Everything looked and felt great. So, we did not expect anything otherwise. Who knew I was in prodromal labour all along! Well, the 38th week was quite unbearable! I kept having the pains on and off and was not even sure if I was in active labour. I hand washed and dried all the newborn-sized tiny clothes that my folks had sent. I was active, walking up and down to the temple nearby. I religiously followed breathing exercises I learned from a good soul and kept waiting..
A day before my son's birth, I washed my hair, even cut my toenails (not so easy with a bulging stomach), and remember telling my husband that I wanted my little one to see a beautiful me! That evening, the pain intensified but I was still unsure. Though this was my second childbirth, it was technically my first labour. Oh, not to forget, that year was when COVID-19 reared its ugly head, so neither my mom nor my mom-in-law were in close quarters to guide me.
Well, by around 8 pm, my husband and I rushed to the hospital, on the way, dropping our little girl at a friend's, only to be asked to go back home, as the dilation-effacement had just begun. 'No no no', was all I heard in my brain. How it could have just begun when I have been in pain for more than a week, was beyond me! A little after midnight, we again rushed to the hospital. Thankfully, the mid-wife who examined me, acknowledged that I was in active labour and we were shown the labour ward. Oh the pain, the tiredness was almost blinding me. How much my husband and I had debated about epidural and how much I had practiced coping with pain lay all forgotten in that blinding pain and I asked for an epidural. Again, contrary to what I had wanted to do, I slept through the first half of the active labour. I had underestimated the exhaustion. I did not have the urge to push but the effects of the epidural were wearing off and I could feel the pain again when the mid-wife asked me to push.
I started feeling a new pain in my back and asked my husband to gently hold his fist against my back, as the pain was different and I had to push.
The amniotic sac was manually broken and my son's head could be seen. The gush of clear liquid where my little boy swam through for 39 weeks, did not help him make his way out of the birth canal. Some distant well-wishing star shone its grace on me that day by sending a doctor at that precise minute to announce that I should stop pushing because the pain I was experiencing in the back was abnormal. It was occurring even when there was no contraction and that I should be taken to the OR asap.
What with the cold room, my BP going extremely low, plenty of blood loss, my pretty but tiny son in my husband's arms near my head, needles poking everywhere, me vomiting during the surgery, my husband's panic, and being asked to leave the theatre with our newborn and all the drama in the OR..
I learned later that I had had a uterine rupture, quite rare yet common for VBAC cases.
It was not at the site of the c-section scar, which is usually the case. Mine was at the back of the uterus. My uterus had to be taken out and examined to understand why I was bleeding. This caused me to retch during the surgery. Fortunately, the expert hands placed the uterus back in and did a neat job stitching me up.
Though a part of me felt defeated, defeated by the unknowns, another strong part only focused on recovery and my boy. Something had changed. I realized so many things during those few hours in surgery. I went through so many emotions.
Postpartum recovery physically was good, by God's grace. But mentally, I struggled. Family and friends have been supportive, yet my mind was hallucinating a bit because of my failure to naturally give birth twice. There were no complications during pregnancy. Yet the uterus tore. It took time for me to understand that she had been working hard and nourishing and carrying my little guy... I wanted contractions and I got them, only that it was way too early on!!
Nevertheless, this has made me stronger, more connected to my body and yes, I am eternally grateful for the 2 precious beings I have birthed.
I started viewing women, mother or not, in a new light. Two pregnancies, the same womb, so similar and yet so different.
The never-ending array of hows, whys, and whats will remain unresolved. COVID-19 has proven that as humans discover a new way of a better life, an old way of good life dies; as new species evolve, an entire phylum vanishes. No, we are not advancing.. we learn something new and forget something old but golden. So I started counting the blessings instead of overthinking something that was never under my control. It was not an exam. It was not a failure.
Each pregnancy, labour, and delivery is as unique as the final product's fingerprint. (Thus making it infinitely complex in case of multiples.) Remember, all things bright and beautiful, the Lord God made them all :)
Gravida 3, para 2 - no life lesson is more epiphanic!
Rajeshwari Nagarajan is just another Miyara woman, trying to do justice to the roles of a mother, wife, daughter, and software engineer.
Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions regarding a medical condition.