As a type A super organizer and planner, of course I had my entire birth mapped out. I was passionate about having a natural birth. I had a great pregnancy and was completely prepared for a birth as free from interventions as possible. We took Bradley classes and had a great support system in place. We had a birth plan in place that sought to avoid any unnecessary procedures and tried to give us the experience that I wanted. I was a little scared of the upcoming labor but I was excited for things to start happening!
The week before my due date, I went in for my 39 week appointment and after checking me, it was determined that I was already 80% effaced and about 2.5 centimeters dilated. I was told that I was close, and may even go into labor that weekend. My husband and I were nervous and excited and looking forward to getting to meet our little man. I stayed up late that night trying to wrap up loose ends for work and getting a few things finished around the house before finally laying down. I did kick counts but they were pretty sluggish. I didn’t think much about it since it was so late and he had been very active that day. The next morning I got up to start getting ready for work and noticed that he wasn’t moving. I immediately got worried. We had gotten to the point that mornings were uncomfortable because he would move around so much and this was very unusual compared to what we had been experiencing. I finished getting ready at record speed and then stopped by my practitioner’s office to have them check me out. One of the assistants took me back and we listened to the heartbeat. By this point I was such a nervous wreck that when we heard the heartbeat I actually started crying. His heart sounded strong and they advised me to go ahead and go to work and keep up with kick counts throughout the day.
I taught class like normal, my students actually planned a surprise shower for me that morning so I loaded up on some sugar hoping to get the little guy moving. After class I still couldn’t feel him so I grabbed some lunch and a coke and laid on my office floor. Still nothing. A little frantic now, I called my practitioner back and they wanted me to come in immediately. I called my husband and asked him to meet me at the office and as soon as he got there they took me in the back for an ultrasound. The ultrasound tech found the heartbeat and noticed some small facial movements but after poking and prodding she still couldn’t get him to move. After a few minutes she went to notify the midwives and it was decided that I needed to immediately go to the hospital. The midwife that I had seen the day before was already at the hospital and would be waiting for us. She was one of my favorite midwives in the practice and I remember being really relieved that she would be waiting for us.
The next few hours were a little bit of a blur. It was about At 2:30 or so when my husband left his car at the office and we headed to the hospital. We were both getting scared, though he was keeping his cool and trying to make sure I was ok. They sent me right up to labor and delivery and immediately got me into and room and on monitors. My midwife came in and suddenly the room was filled with nurses hooking me up to IV’s asking questions and checking my vitals. At first, we were just going to be monitored, but after 45 minutes they started to get nervous. He still wasn’t moving and the heartbeat was starting to show irregularities. The midwife sat down with me and explained that it was very likely that he would not be able to make it through a vaginal birth. Because he was already stressed and not moving, the stress of the birth could mean that we could lose him. They were looking at scheduling a c-section for a few hours later and then they went to attach a lead that would puncture my bag of water and attach to his head to monitor him more effectively. When they broke the water, there was heavy meconium and at this point they decided that we were going back immediately for a c-section. My husband asked them if we could have a minute and we talked about what was happening. We trusted our practitioner; they are a great practice that are very supportive of natural birthing methods. My midwife knew how important that was to me so when she told us her concerns we agreed that this was not something that she said lightly. We agreed that it was something we had to do to and we started signing the forms.
At one point my husband asked how much time we had and I remember the midwife looking at him and telling him “until we get scrubbed in” so he made some quick phone calls to let people know what was going on and then the anesthesiologist came in to meet with me. After that I was prepped and wheeled into the OR. I remember starting to panic at this point. I was trying to stay calm and breathe but this was definitely not what we anticipated, this was quite a bit different then our calm natural birth I had been expecting. My husband had to wait outside while they prepped me and my midwife sat with me and assisted and held my hands and talked me through everything as the doctor from my practice showed up and started scrubbing in.
Once they let my husband in the room, it was apparently a record time for a caesarean. 2 minutes later at 4:14pm they had him out and our little boy was born. I remember how weird the procedure felt. Even though I knew otherwise it still surprised me that I could feel the pressure and movement. It was such a strange feeling. After they announced that he was out I remember listening intently for him to cry. They had warned us that he wouldn’t be allowed to cry immediately until they could evaluate how much meconium was in his lungs. My husband and the anesthesiologist both were talking to me trying to help distract me from the wait while we tried to hear what was happening to him. The drugs were pretty heavy by then and I remember fading in and out a little while we were waiting. Finally they wheeled him by me and I got to see him for a few brief minutes before they rushed him away. I sent my husband with him and they finished me up and sent me to recovery. I found out later that they had to intubate my baby to get him breathing and that he was not doing well when they first took him back to special care.
In the recovery room I was having a hard time with the pain medicine, mostly uncontrollable itching that no amount of Benadryl could even touch. Between the pain meds and the Benadryl I don’t remember much from that afternoon and night. My husband was able to go back with him and check on him. After a few hours he started really doing better and they were able to remove the intubation tube and he was just on oxygen. He was bouncing back really quickly and doing better than anyone expected.
It was so hard seeing him in the Special Care Unit. Those first few days we could just look at him and touch him but we couldn’t get very close. The second day I got to give him a kiss but even then I didn’t quite feel like he was mine. I cared for him and I was so sad that he was in the unit but I didn’t really feel that bond. The third day once some of the tubes were out we finally got to hold him. That was when I began to really feel close to him. There was something about holding him in my arms that finally made me feel like a mommy.
Over the next 3 days he got almost all of the leads and tubes removed. He was eating well and nursing like a pro. My husband and I would take turns going to the NICU once I was discharged so we could feed him. I know that the nurses were doing a great job but we wanted to have one of us there for him as much as we could. So I took mornings and Sean took nights. I think this was probably the longest week of my life. Like any new mom it was hard dealing with the emotions the hormones and the lack of sleep but I think it’s especially hard when you can’t have your baby with you for whatever reason. We also had to wait for an MRI. One of the nurses let us know rather bluntly that they were concerned that he might have “taken a hit” (Yes, she used those exact words) because of the stress he was under. This floored us. We hadn’t even been thinking about neurological damage. Thankfully, after 2 days of waiting we got the MRI and it was pronounced normal. I think that was the first night that I actually slept. BY day 5 we were able to take him off of the monitors and nurse him in the private nursing room which was amazing!!! I remember that it was the first time that spending time with him felt “normal”. We could sit on a couch and relax and he could nurse without screens and weird chairs and other NICU things going on around us. Finally, we were just waiting for him to finish his antibiotics and then we would be allowed to take him home.
On April 12th (his due date) we got to come home from the hospital. Thankfully the transition was easy for us. He slept well and still eats like someone is going to take it away from him. I am often asked if I have regrets about the birth. Sometimes it’s hard to think about that day. It was surprising hard writing this, I didn’t think it would be. It is also hard to read natural birth stories when I get to the part about taking the baby and placing them directly on their mother’s chest and having that nursing and bonding time. In some ways, I do feel like that part was taken from both of us and I hate that it wasn’t the beginning that he got to have. I think that is the hardest part of our story for me.
I am grateful that we had the options available to us that we did. I am pretty against interventions. I never would have agreed to a “routine” caesarean. I would not have allowed them to induce me or use drugs or break my water to “speed things up”, but I was grateful that there were options that allowed us to bring out little boy home. I was also very thankful that I had gotten care from a practice that I trusted. I have heard many women who felt uncomfortable with their doctors or didn’t trust them. I felt comfortable with the choices that we made because of the support we had. The birth was not what we expected and not what I had planned but in the end we now have a healthy happy baby boy.