Discomfort vs. Pain

It has been about a month since I’ve sat down to write.
Everything’s out of balance as I’ve been working on the new business, continuing the non-profit work, and preparing for Baby Girl to arrive.

I have not been particularly emotional over the last eight months though all the books say my “hormones are probably all over the place” and I’m “probably crying over the smallest things” and yada yada yada.

The books also say my “Braxton Hicks contractions may be getting worse”. Haven’t had any of those.
And a number of other things that are common. I get it–The authors and doctors and experts are striving to cover bases so all the moms know what they are experiencing is not abnormal and they don’t panic.
I like not panicking, too.

Monday marked the start of Week 37. (Human babies usually take 40 weeks for those of you who don’t know, because I didn’t really know. I mean, yeah, 9 months, but that’s not 40 weeks, so….)

At week 28 we knew that Baby Girl was still breech (head up by my ribs, taking the world face-on).
We were told “that’s okay. We don’t worry about it until week 34 or so, and even then we can give you some exercises to do.”

At week 32 we were told she wasn’t breech, but then that midwife didn’t find her heartbeat where she thought she would if she were turned correctly, and it turns out that NO, she was NOT doing her headstand yet. Head up the whole time.

At week 34 we were told, yep, still breech for sure. And now you have two weeks to get her to flip or we need to do something about it because if she stays breech, you can’t birth at the Birth Center.

I started seeing a chiropractor every couple days, swimming when it was warm enough, doing lots of hands-and-knees exercises and trying to do inversions. The inversions are VERY difficult as reflux kicks in after about 10 seconds and at 30 seconds I have to stop to avoid losing anything that might still be in my guts at the moment.

None of that got Baby Girl to flip over.

We were advised to schedule an External Cephalic Version (ECV) where a doctor physically tries to get the baby to move. We were told this has a 76% rate of success and then she’d be in position and we could still birth at the Birth Center where we want to be, avoiding as many interventions and all their side effects as possible.
However, the ECV has to take place at the hospital because there is a small chance that Baby won’t like it, the heart rate could drop, and an emergency c-section could be necessary THAT DAY.

This is all reassuring (76%!) and terrifying (emergency c-section!).
We need a few more weeks to get ready for her to come.
I don’t want her to be traumatized or suffer any ill effects.

I asked if it would hurt.
“It’s uncomfortable,” was the answer.

So we scheduled the ECV (professional baby shoving) for the launch of Week 37–the preferred time to attempt. And we continued the efforts to get her to do some gymnastics on her own.

Here’s where the emotional part begins.
Though I do not think it has anything to do with hormones nor being “overly sensitive”.

I called the hospital to find out how much the procedure was going to cost because we are “self pay”.
The DISCOUNTED rate for “self pay” patients still qualifies as “thousands”. I cried on the phone. The young man working to answer my questions was very kind and trying to find ways to make it cheaper, but he’s just the kid answering the phone, not the top dog making policy.

I busted my ass all weekend, knocking out work things and trying to get more of the house ready for that Just-In-Case-Scenario where Baby Girl could make her entrance into the world three weeks early.

We drove two hours to the hospital.
We confirmed we do not have Covid, have not been around anyone with Covid, have not traveled anywhere, nor have any symptoms of Covid, and went up to the 4th floor where baby-things happen.
The woman at the desk there seemed surprised to see me and had to make a call to see if they were “expecting a Summer,” which was odd since I had an appointment and all.

The nurse and doctor knew we were coming though, so…I guess that’s good?

The nurse gave me the just-in-case IV tap (I don’t think it’s actually called a tap) TWICE because she missed the first time. I have two bruises from that process.

The nurse talked us through what would happen
–Doctor will come in. She won’t talk much. I’ll give you a shot in your arm to relax the uterus so it doesn’t contract. Doctor will get right to work. It won’t take long.–

“Will it hurt?” I asked.
“It’s uncomfortable. You need to try to just relax and sink into the bed.”

The doctor came in.
Brisk might be the word for her.
Short, perhaps.

The nurse gave me the shot right after saying, “it’ll burn for a minute.”


This was by far the most painful shot I’ve ever received–sent my body trying to crawl out of the bed (while my mind worked to keep us where we needed to be).
The doctor and nurse are saying things like “oh, sorry.” and “oh, you’re so mean, nurse.”

The doctor asked me if I was noticing my heart rate change–not yet, still focused on the pain of the shot.
She waited a minute and then began the ECV procedure.

The External Fetal Monitors were uncomfortable, squishing my guts and cramping Baby Girl’s style–she kicked the thing a number of times.
Lying in the hospital bed was uncomfortable: hard to adjust, a bit of pressure on my back.
Wearing the ill-fitted hospital-jester-costume of a robe was uncomfortable.
Wearing my mask the whole time was mildly uncomfortable.
Drinking water from a straw and styrofoam cup while lying down was mildly uncomfortable.
My swollen feet are uncomfortable.

The ECV was NOT uncomfortable.

The doctor put one hand at the top of my giant watermelon belly and one at the base, then shoved her hands deep into my soft tissue with a good deal of her body weight behind it, and attempted to turn my belly like a giant dial.

This was instantly an 8+ on a 10-point pain scale.
I cried out (I wouldn’t say screamed) and was instantly crying.

The doctor looked at the nurse and flatly said, “Well, I can’t do it if she’s crying.”
Matt was in my ear working with me to calm me down.
We were able to calm down enough to try again.


“She can’t handle it,” says the doctor.
Now I am heaving sobs over my failure, the cost, the time, AND the pain.

We tried three times.
“Well, at least you tried,” says the doctor. “Some people don’t even try.”

The doctor left.
After I’d had time to recover and baby monitoring continued just in case, the nurse came back.
I told her that “the shot was easily the most painful shot I’ve ever had.”
She went on to tell us that it was originally for emergency asthma attacks because it’ll relax the lungs, and when kids would come in having major asthma attacks, they’d start crying when they saw the alcohol wipe because they knew the shot would hurt so much.
So she knew.

Baby Girl handled it all like a champ.
She’s just fine. Nothing popped on her monitors at all. Praise God.

We got to go home.
No emergency c-section.
But also no progress.

And then I got mad.
You all KNEW the shot was really painful–so why not tell me?
You all KNEW this procedure was painful–so why not tell me?

What is the benefit of underselling it?
What could possibly be the benefit of lowering my expectation?
I was prepared for discomfort.

Tell me it’s going to hurt like hell.
Tell me, “This shot is really painful, but it’ll only last for a minute.”
Tell me, “The ECV is really painful because we’re going to put a great deal of pressure on your soft tissue, so be prepared with some coping mechanisms.”
Tell me, “If you cry though, it’ll contract all these muscles and we won’t be able to continue, so you need to be ready to have other ways to respond to the pain.”

Tell me all this before we schedule it so we can make a more informed decision.
Tell me all this before we begin.
Tell me.

Tell me about the exercises and natural options to get Baby to turn at week 28 when we already know she’s breech–You can still tell me you’re not worried about it, but WHY NOT TELL ME?

This is my first rodeo. I don’t know what to ask.

I keep reliving it.
I keep hearing the doctor’s flat voice: “I can’t do it if she’s crying.” “She can’t handle it.”
I know it’ll be better when I forgive them all for all their mis-truths and half-truths and omissions.

We will continue efforts to get her to turn on her own so we can birth at the Birth Center and avoid as many interventions as possible.
We may not get that.
But we will try.

First Portrait: November 2019

Baby girl is fine.
Her head is still under my ribs.
She is going to be one to look you in the eye, World.
Watch out.
‘Cause she’s coming.

4 thoughts on “Discomfort vs. Pain

  1. Wow. 😳 Whoa. 😬 Inexcusable for them to not be completely honest. 😣 I’m worn out reading this and feel so badly for YOU! I hope your explanation, written in a way that made me want to keep reading, will help someone else avoid this situation. It won’t be me, since I’m over 65. 😉 I’m so sorry and I hope Baby Girl turns to get another view before she comes to join you in the flesh. Susan 💖


  2. My dear Summer, if baby girl doesn’t turn (down on her head) I have had 4 C-sections, hard labor of 36 hours with the first one, still a c-section. No labor with the other three, just a date for their c-sections. Frankly normal birthing is probably great….but c-sections were not that bad, I was kept comfortable, and one nice thing about it all, c-section babies are the most beautiful baby, you have ever seen!! And that little girl with be worth every dollar you have to spend! (You continue to be in my prayers.)


  3. C sections are that bad. I have had two complication free sections as well as two vaginal deliveries. My first section was excruciating. I couldnt stand up straight. I couldnt lift my arms to wash my own hair in the shower. I couldnt bend to wash my own legs and feet. I slept in the recliner in the living room for the first 5 weeks because I couldnt get in my bed, much less lay flat. I couldnt get out of the recliner on my own. Trying to be independent and get up on my own ended in a few accidents..
    My second section was a breeze compared to my first. I slept in my bed as soon as we got home from the hospital and I did need some help getting out of the recliner a few times, but overall it was 3/10 painful recovery and that only lasted about a week.
    Get a wedge pillow from amazon. It helps with sleeping in bed that first week or two. And adult diapers because you wont want underwear pressing on your incision. Bend forward and hold a pillow to your incision when coughing, sneezing, or laughing! Good luck! I hope baby girl turns.


    1. As a member of healthcare and your family, the description of what you where met with has left me in tears. I am deeply sorry for your experience. Mothering/parenting and getting ready for same should be a time of life filled with such joy and wonder. As a member of the health care team, I am humbled to occasionally be able to be at the side of parents during this incredible journey.

      I hope that your birth plan goes as you envisioned it. But, know that not all providers are as you just encountered. Many are kind and caring. Patient centered care is a real thing and you can really ask for your ideal plan in a hospital setting. It just is in a different house. Perhaps thinking of it like plan b for birth of baby girl. That way you are in control of the narrative.


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