Only later did I get the full picture. Though my cervix had dilated to 9 cm, Lucas hadn’t moved down. Ros had explained that every time the doctor did an internal exam during labor, they were checking not just cervical dilation, but also the baby’s station:
“The “station” refers to the position of your baby’s head in relation to your pelvis. This is recorded as a number between -5 and +5. Zero station means the head is “engaged” and has entered the vaginal canal within the pelvic bones. A negative number (-5 to 0) means that the head isn’t engaged in the pelvis. A positive number (0 to +4) means that your baby’s head is moving down the pelvis and +5 means your baby is crowning (being born). Ideally, you should not push until the head is engaged in the pelvis, even if you’re fully dilated.” (Source)
Dr. Jayjay said there were three factors they were looking at: cervical dilation, the size and shape of my pelvis, and the baby’s station. My pelvis was fine. Cervical dilation was fine. But even at 9 cm cervical dilation, Lucas was still at -1, if I remember correctly. Something was keeping him from moving down my pelvis. When Dr. Jayjay and her team went in, they saw why.
His head was positioned awkwardly, with his chin tilted up rather than tucked. (Read about baby positions for birth here) The other problem was that the umbilical cord was coiled around his middle and his shoulder. Fortunately, he was never in distress. Every time his heart rate was monitored, it was quite stable. Still, he would have had a hard time if we had tried for a vaginal birth, and Dr. Jayjay said they would have had to go in anyway.
There was another problem. After Dr. Jayjay delivered Lucas, she saw that my uterine walls were very thin. She explained afterwards that if we had pushed through with vaginal birth, the walls could have ruptured. I would have bled, a lot, and they might not have pinpointed the cause, attributing it instead to the birth.
Because we had decided on caesarian delivery instead, Dr. Jayjay saw the damage. Oneal told me later on that after Lucas was out, Dr. Jayjay took my uterus out, and it was resting on my torso as she stitched the walls to reinforce them. So that’s what they were doing after the baby was out!
Dr. Jayjay told me it was very unusual for a first pregnancy, and that she’d never seen anything like it before. It’s like you gave birth twice, she said.
Apparently this sort of thing–thin uterus walls, uterine rupture–is more likely to happen during a fourth or fifth pregnancy or if a woman is trying for vaginal birth after a prior C-section.
Though we had really wanted a vaginal, drug-free birth, caesarian turned out to be much safer, for both me and Lucas.
As Dr. Jayjay was sewing me up, another doctor suctioned Lucas’s nose, mouth and throat. Oneal said he was gray and limp when they pulled him out of me, so they had to check to make sure everything was okay.
At 6.4 lbs, Lucas’ fingers and toes were complete, he was breathing normally, and everything really was okay. Three days later, Oneal and I brought home a healthy baby boy.
Of course, that’s when the real adventure begins. But that’s another story.