CAM Birth Story: Ilka's Cesarean

This birth story, in honor of Cesarean Awareness Month (CAM), comes from Ilka Szilagyi. To have your birth story posted on this blog, email it to:

Well, my story is a tale of complicated things.

First of all, you have to know that midwifery in Hungary is borderline illegal, since there were no laws around it at all until now. (They are in the making though, thanks for all the protests and community efforts). There is one midwife who is also a doctor and has over 30 years of experience, Agi. Another who is her student, called also Agi, but here let’s call her Agnes. And 10 more who are mostly apprentices, they work with Agi and Agnes but barely ever independently from them, and a few doula. Since there is a lack of law, midwifes are not protected, so it is legal and it is one’s right to give birth at home or at a birth center, but doctors are not legal to help, midwifery is not a legal trade with licensing, only nurse midwifes are legal, who work at hospitals and seldom seen un-medicated, natural birth. So, because of this, homebirth midwifes can be and being arrested and prosecuted, without any law protecting them, as there is so many protecting doctors against malpractice suits.

SO, when I went into labor, I was as educated about birth and homebirth and my body as one can be. I deeply trusted Agi and we had a good connection. I wasn’t so comfortable with Agnes we were simply not a great match as personalities, but I understood that if Agi can’t come, Agnes will and I accepted that.

As my husband is American and doesn’t speak Hungarian and we were in Hungary to give birth, we asked another midwife, Moni to be there and translate when needed.

SO, I went into labor a little before midnight on the 21st of July. I started out with strong contractions, about 7 minutes apart, and there was no restful, comfortable part of it at all. We were hanging out for a couple of hours and then around 1.30am I called Agi. I just said I’m in labor. She said I’m coming. (Before, when I had Braxton hicks and was confused, she told me in the phone to eat and sleep. She could tell from my voice where I am in the process.) But, 5 minutes later she called and said she can’t come because she had a court date the next morning and wouldn’t want to leave me in the middle of birth. So, she sent Agnes. Even though I understood they have a system, and I should be fine with either of them, I felt deep in myself that this is not quite right for me, oh, shit.

When Agnes, Moni and a woman I have never met before arrived, I could hardly talk anymore. I was taken aback from seeing someone I don’t know but I wasn’t quite in the mood for communicating about it. I let it go. She was a doula and apprentice midwife, and was the most relentless back massager of all, I was quite glad she came!

In the next 12 or so hours I was in the bathtub, (too narrow) in the bed kneeling, on the floor kneeling, on a birthing stool, standing and hanging. The only way I felt that the contractions were bearable was on hands and knees. I have tendonitis in both hands, so pretty soon my arms were puffed up, over worked, painful and tired. Heck, I just wanted to lie down and sleep. I was thirsty, drinking water between every 5 then 3 minutes contractions. The 3 big women were awesome, massaging my back, hot compresses on my belly, giving me water, offering food to eat. My husband were trying to make sense of it all, being with me, supporting, witnessing. Daylight came and it bothered me even in the darkened room.

After a while Agnes checked me and said I still have a couple of centimeters left to go and I’m starting to look tired, how about she breaks my water? My first thought was, no way, that’s an intervention, the first domino. But then I wanted to speed things up, so I agreed. Things got more intense. I have been sounding for awhile now, and now my sounds became louder and more intense. I was desperate for resting my hands. We tried different lying positions to get the last of the cervix to disappear.

Then, the midwifes got quieter. I noticed their attention shifting. They were calling Agi for advice.

They said, I look tired, and let’s go to the hospital. I said no. No good can come from that. My chosen hospital was not a good one, I had it for plan B, heck, it was for plan Z, if everything fails. It didn’t feel like that. Baby was good and steady. I felt like I need to walk, need to hang from the hammock in the living room. But outside the bedroom was too bright, and standing was too painful. I just wanted to stay and kneel and rest my hand somehow. They kept getting worried. My husband got worried. I thought it’s foolish to resist the midwifes, they are here to help and they know if something is wrong.

The car ride was pure hell. In the hospital the doctor checked me and said I’m fully dilated. I though, good. then let’s go home. But I was already pushing, so we were taken into a birthing room. I hate hospitals, this looked dirty, old, green, dangerous. I tried to concentrate inward. Talked to my baby. I was at this point pushing, kneeling on the bed, and screaming from the top of my lungs. They didn’t let my midwifes in. My husband was scared.

The door was open on my bare butt and people kept coming in and out. I felt overwhelmed, distracted, translating to my husband.

I felt that the baby was not moving down. I felt it pushing against my bones and not moving down.

I wanted to rest. I asked for an epidural. They didn’t even said no to that, they just simply ignored me.

Then, doctor after doctor they checked me (4 different ones) they concluded that the baby is coming with the forehead and it will never get out on it’s own and that I have a small vagina. (My thought was, that I know my vagina is just fine, but if the baby is trying to come with it’s head sideways, that is troubling) Doctors said it will be a Cesarean. My Husband was phoning the midwifes who were in the waiting room. They said if the baby is fine, there is no need for surgery. This info I knew, but at this point I felt helpless. I didn’t want to be there, didn’t want to do this. I realized that I’m saying “transition” stuff. SO I gave it another try, pushing, asking the baby to rotate. It was so intense. And then I just gave up. I wanted it to be over. Something was wrong. I wanted the baby out no matter how, but this suffering needs to end.

When I called on the doctors, I found myself in the operating room shaved and catheterized within 5 minutes. They were ready for me.

My husband couldn’t come in, he was watching through a little window. Looking terrified. Curling up for a spinal was the most intense pain ever. Then came the relief. I felt ecstatic from the pain being gone, but also my conscious mind was gone too. I was shocked I think, but there I just felt busy with my itching face. Hating the straps. A short 10 minutes later the baby was dangling next to me (oh, my god it’s a boy! poor thing is handled so roughly) I am handled roughly. The table is violently shaking as they are “cleaning up” down there. An eternity of stitching. The doctors being all cheerful and joking and talking about not winning the record of 25 minutes for c/s. then one of them cracking: this is what happens when you try giving birth at home. I wanted to argue but my mind wasn’t there. Then a little soap smelling bundle was laid next to my head. My baby. My beautiful breathing son. I kissed him and said hello. He was taken again. I wanted to cry. There was no me to cry from.

Finally in the recovery room, Scott could sit with me. We cried together. I was shaking like mad, being cold, under 3 blankets. Naked. Cut. Exposed.

We asked for our baby again and again. The nurse midwifes were too busy to get him, or just didn’t want to. 3 hours later they brought him to us. He was perfect. We looked at each other for a long time, then he nursed. Good strong sucking. He stared at the IV pole for a long time, which made me cry. There it goes my dream to a home lotus birth and to give him a peaceful and beautiful beginning. His first image is a freaking IV pole.

We called my Mom, she came and sat with us for awhile. More crying and admiring the new one.

The first night I couldn’t have him. They said I’m not strong enough even though they made me shower and walk.
The pain was a 10 on a 10 scale. The first 3 days in the hospital even more traumatic than the birth itself. In a room with 5 other C/S women, a couple traumatized ones, a few elected ones. (I just couldn’t bare the pain of seeing how casual they were with the whole thing. I thought it’s tragic how under educated they were about it all)

The pain of moving, peeing, pooping trying to get in and out of bed was as bad as any. But I’m ok with pain of the body. The emotional stress was worse.

After 3 days, finally home, just us and my friends. Exhale. Cry. Trying to breathe. Falling in love. Nursing. It took months to feel a little better.

My baby was 18 months when I went to a doula training to learn more about birth, and it triggered a whole transformation. I thought I was coping well before, and then after the training, I realized that I’m in denial. I have been deep in the throws of Post partum depression and post partum PTSD. It’s a whole other story. A hellish one at that. It was a hard and enlightening realization. I decided to get help, time for myself, heal. I got counseling, returned to yoga and dancing, and I have found a friend who does EFT. Emotional Freedom Techniques. A simple, amazingly effective method of processing while tapping on acupressure points. It brought me peace and healing within a few sessions. Saved my sanity. It helped me to realize my life’s purpose. I want to be a midwife. My life changed in an instant, and I mean that literally. I walked out of that session healed and whole, started my doula business that day and started researching midwifery schools. I feel at ease at last.

I now know that it was necessary for me to have an unnecessary Cesarean. I needed to go through, learn and grow out of hell to arrive to this place where I stand strong, know who I am and create happiness for myself and my family.

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