Nine months pregnant, and facing her biggest fear

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    Maggie Mitchell with Evelyn (5) and Leo who is 10 months old. (Paige Pfleger/WHYY)

    Maggie Mitchell with Evelyn (5) and Leo who is 10 months old. (Paige Pfleger/WHYY)

    Giving birth to a child for the first time is a big step into the unknown. You can prepare for it, do breathing exercises and take birthing classes – vow not to get an epidural – but then when the big moment comes, you’re basically going to have to go along for the ride.

    A few days past her due date with her first child, Maggie Mitchell from West Chester, Pennsylvania noticed the baby’s movements had decreased. She went to the hospital, and was induced to begin labor. But things didn’t progress over the course of a long day. Additionally, the baby’s heart rate was dropping after each contraction, which worried doctors. Somewhere around midnight, things got a lot more dramatic.

    “My OB came running in, it got very harried, and very scary,” said Mitchell. The doctor told Mitchell that she would have to have a c-section. Nurses were rushing around. Mitchell was being prepared for surgery. Her husband was first scrubbed in to be with Mitchell, then suddenly ushered out of the OR. Mitchell was put under general anesthesia. “I was not awake. I wasn’t moving, I had a c-section at 28 years old, with my first child, under general anesthesia.”

    Mitchell woke up completely groggy, and was told she had had a baby girl.

    “It was such an odd feeling. I didn’t feel like I had just had a child. I just had surgery, emergency surgery.”

    Mitchell felt bereft over what had happened. “I felt like I didn’t have her. She was born, but it wasn’t a mother and child thing, I missed her birth. I have a picture of the first time I held her, but I don’t remember this.”

    She was so upset, she told her parents and her husband she would not have another child.

    Over time, her attitude changed. She learned about the option of vaginal birth after c-section. And right before her daughter Evelyn’s fourth birthday, she got pregnant.

    “I hired a doula, I was going to have a vaginal birth after Cesarian,” said Mitchell of her plans.

    But during one of the last ultrasounds of her pregnancy, Mitchell, her doula and her doctor saw just how big her baby was. “Because I had never really labored with my daughter, the doula and the OB and I agreed that maybe a C-section would be safest and best,” she recalled.

    “I already had a child, it was a week before Christmas. I thought, ‘really what is my goal here? Is it to have a healthy baby, or to prove that I can do this?'”

    Mitchell decided that she wanted a healthy baby, and that she wanted to be healthy herself.

    “So, I scheduled a c-section, something I swore I would never do again.”

    She said the procedure went smoothly. And when she saw her beautiful baby boy Leo, she felt at peace, and happy. “It was the best thing I could ever do. A surgery that four years before had left me so empty and questioning so many things, and so angry, I did the same thing and it had the completely opposite effect.”

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