1 week old, the first time I held her
I finally decided to write this. To put pen to paper so to speak and make sense of it all. Luckily I wrote down most of the details in the days we spent in the hospital following her birth, as most of what happened is quite hazy these days. Recently I requested both of our medical records to try to help clear up those muddled memories and bring peace to the experience. So here it is, my long and crazy birth story.
On Monday September 17th, I was 42 weeks pregnant. 2 weeks late. Most people in the medical field would have induced earlier. I was trying to go into labor naturally and have an out of hospital birth at a birth center, doing what I believed was best for my baby. On monday afternoon we had an ultrasound to check my amniotic fluid. During the ultrasound I wasn’t worried at all and asked the tech if she could see if the baby was still a girl, something I find so trivial now. We drove over to the birth center afterwards to discuss our results. Our midwife, AnnMarie, shared the news with us, we needed to transfer to the hospital to be induced, my fluid levels were too low. It was our worst fear(or so we thought). After some tears and discussion, we headed back home to pack up. Once home, AnnMarie called us, saying another option was to try and induce with a homeopathic regimind and have another ultrasound first thing in the morning. Being terrified of hospitals I choose the later. It gave me more time to prepare myself. We went home that night, had a good spicy meal, relaxed and spent our last night at home as a couple.
We woke up bright and early the next morning to start the herbal induction. First there was breakfast, then a castor oil milkshake and then numerous homeopathics and herbs. At 9:00 we went to have our ultrasound. It was clear pretty quick that she had even less fluid and it was time to get her out. I was admitted to labor and delivery around 10:00 and we started talking induction. I told them I was having cramps and felt like maybe I was finally going into labor. They checked my cervix and I was finally dilated, just 1 cm. This meant I could start induction using a cooks catheter rather then cervidil or cytotec. I was ecstatic. The unmedicated birth I wanted still seemed to be in my sight. A cooks catheter is a system of 2 balloons, 1 which goes right inside the cervix and 1 that sits outside. They are progressively filled with water in order to manually dilate the cervix. This process was not pleasant and resulted in me feeling I had to pee constantly.
Throughout the night my blood pressure was elevated and eventually they decided I needed iv fluids and to check my blood as it seemed I may be becoming somewhat pre-eclamptic. My contractions were becoming extremely painful at this point and shooting across to an old hip injury I had. It was indescribable and nothing was helping the pain. I was in and out of the tub, on birthing ball, in the rocker, in bed, swaying with my husband, nothing was working. At one point I projectile vomited, covering both myself and my husband. I thought ok this is it were really in it. Finally after hours and hours I was dilated enough that the catheter came out. When it came out I went to the bathroom and they quickly asked me to come back out as her heart rate had plummeted and we needed to make sure she was ok. After having me rotate positions a few times her heart rate came back up. At this point they told me if it happened again I would probably need an emergency c section, and since there wouldn’t be time to place an epidural line, I would be sedated. That was the point where I got scared. It was also the point where I decided I desperately needed some sleep. I asked about unisom and was told it might stall out my labor and wouldn’t really help the pain anyway, so I should consider morpheine. I was so lost in the pain, especially in my hip that I eventually caved in. I was also frightened at this point and in the back of my mind considering the epidural just in case I needed a c section. I did not want to be unconscious when my baby was born.
After the morpheine I tried to rest. It made me quite high and helped the pain. I was able to lay down and breathe through the contractions for about 2 hours and let my amazing husband get some desperately needed sleep. My contractions stalled out anyway at this point and they decided I needed pitocin. They said it wouldn’t make my labor harder or more intense, but they were wrong. When it seemed like the pain was back in full force I got another dose of morpheine which did nothing to touch the pain. I was in the tub and started asking questions about the epidural. I have to admit at this point I had absolutely no idea what was going on. The midwife on duty probably made the decision more then I. I woke up my husband to discuss it with him. I simply couldn’t cope with the hip pain I was experiencing, and the contractions felt unbearable. I felt awful because this was not my plan but I just didn’t know how to cope any longer. They were upping the pitocin periodically and it was too much for me. My husband tried to remind me of what I wanted and my unmedicated plan but I was just lost. I caved into the epidural. I remember asking him if he was mad at me or disappointed in me, and him reassuring me he wasn’t.
The epidural meant I had to lay on my side and flip periodically. I couldn’t feel my contractions for a while. They checked me occasionally and I hadn’t progressed at all since I stalled the night before. My water had broken earlier and since she had so little fluid already I was given a 2 hour window to make progress or have a c section. I sat down and talked to my baby and told her we were going to do this. My husband called AnnMarie and asked her to come since I wanted her there when she was born no matter what. She agreed to be there in an hour. A little while after I began to feel intense pressure and the urge to poop(sorry, it’s a birth story after all, and well, birth is messy). I told my husband to call the midwife we were working with in and she said I was finally dilated and the baby’s head was right there. Next time I had a contraction I should go ahead and push. At this exact moment AnnMarie walked in. Relief flooded over me.
When I started to push I didn’t quite realize how to do it. I knew it meant pushing like I had to poop but I didn’t realize it was sooooo much more then that. I began to feel like I couldn’t do it. Each time I would push I felt like I couldn’t give enough. Everyone was saying I was almost there, and showed me a mirror to look at her head and I just kept thinking “that’s it?!!”. It still looked so far away. Eventually they realized there was meconium in her fluid and they called the nicu to be in the room when I delivered. I saw everyone getting out more and more instruments and realized I must be really close. I pushed harder then I thought possible and felt her head crown. I knew on my next contraction I needed her out, it felt like people were worried so I pushed with everything I had and finally she was out.
She came out in a sea of meconium. She was limp and not breathing.
They immediately cut the cord, whisked her away and started working. Josh went next to her while I waited for the placenta. They were trying to get a tube placed to get her to breathe and it was taking some time. I finally heard a little cry and it made my heart soar. After reading her medical records we realized it was a full 4 minutes before she breathed, and her pulse was half of what it should have been. Something was still wrong and they needed to get her up to the nicu. Josh went with her while I was stitched up and recovered. I wasn’t allowed to go up there until I could stand(at least an hour after the epidural was removed) and had peed. Josh’s mother and brother and my parents came in to see me sometime in here. I don’t remember it well. My parents tell me I was weepy. I have a foggy memory of them sitting on the couch in my room, but that’s it.The first photo taken of her, taken by my husband in the nicu while I desperately waited to see her
When they finally let me shower and pee I was ready to go. Only I became extremely woozy and almost passed out. So I had to keep waiting. Finally I got to go up to see her. I had barely even touched her and definitely didn’t know what her face looked like yet. When I saw her she looked so much like Josh. She was perfect. She was hooked up to a million machines and on a ventilator. I had no idea what was happening at this point. I was in a haze, flooded with hormones to bond with a baby I wasn’t allowed to touch. Months later my husband told me he could tell I was really out of it because I was talking so strangely, and overly happy. They only let me stay for a few minutes at first because they were worried about me passing out. I went back down to my room with my husband and tried to settle in.
Eventually a doctor came in to see us. He was a cardiologist and told us she had a heart defect called Ebsteins anomaly. It meant her heart wasn’t getting blood to her lungs properly. They didn’t know exactly how serious it was yet but they were looking into it. He told us she may need surgery, possibly now or later in life. I almost don’t remember that discussion. I remember worst case scenario of a transplant was mentioned. I can’t picture who was in the room. I don’t know what we did next or how the night ended. I remember crying in my husbands arms at some point once everyone else left. I remember the nurse giving me some ambien and falling asleep. And then I remember waking up the next morning, realizing I was no longer pregnant, and my sweet baby was not with me. That’s when the reality of the nightmare that had started really set in.
I know that I’ve left some things out, like how the neonatologist explained everything he was doing while he literally saved my child’s life. How surprised I was when they told me to feel the top of her head and it was so soft and squishy. How our student midwife sat with us for hours that day. I’m certain there are some details lost which I will never remember.Home for good, just in time for my birthday
It would be October 25th before we would be home for good. Our birth story leaves off where her hospital stay begins. She proved doctors and nurses wrong, took one step forward, and 3 steps back until she made it home. It was no where near the birth I had planned. Thankfully this little baby knew better and ensured her own safe arrival into the world. I’ve come to terms with her birth more so these days. I’m beginning to own the experience rather then feeling cheated and sad. It may not have been what I pictured or hoped for, but that struggle brought me my perfect daughter and I wouldn’t change that for anything.