Oh the beauty and pain of birthdays. We are picking up with where we left off in the birth story with a quick recap of part 1.
Again this is a disclaimer. Today we are telling a story about birth, if it is not your style check back later this week for your regular scheduled programming.
I come from a line of strong women who in two generations have given birth to 21 beautiful babies, each via c-section. I was 2 weeks past my due date and my body had made absolutely no signs towards delivery. So we went in to the hospital to help my body along. After two rounds of a vaginal softener, cervadil, and 24 hours my body was 1cm dilated last we checked and I was having strong regular contractions.
At this point in the story, I had never felt this uncomfortable in my life. I am not sure if uncomfortable is even the right word, because it is not like I was expecting comfort, it was more the anguish that I was not expecting. Stuart thought I was progressing along, but I wouldn’t dare be that hopeful, out of fear I would be disappointed again. The last six times someone came in to check my status they would leave saying the same thing, “high and hard”.
While we were waiting for our physician to come and help with the next steps, I had gotten pretty nauseous from the pain and threw up my entire lunch. I guess the pregnancy was going to end the same way it began.
When the room was a tornado
So between the vomit, the really strong contractions, and the awful no-breathing technique I was using to get through the pain, both I and the room were a mess. I remember the room feeling like a tornado of pain and confusion, and I was almost certain I was going to puke again.
The kind nurse seeing the state I was in suggested a simple pain medicine and anti-nausea through an iv. It did not create a huge change in my state, but did help me catch my breath for a moment as the contractions were right on top of each other for the last 2 hours. The nurse also offered a small tissue to me with some peppermint oil on it, she said that if I was feeling nauseous again to take a whiff of the mint. I ended up clutching this in my hand all night and the smell of mint still takes me back.
When our physician arrived he found that I was 5.5 cm dilated and 80% effaced, it was such good news to find out that the painful contractions were helping me make progress toward delivery. Earlier that morning I was so doubtful that my body would ever get its act together and deliver a baby, but here I was 50% there!
After checking my vitals we found a couple of complications that were not as exciting as the progression. I had spiked a fever and there were also periods where the baby’s heart rate was slowing way down, causing concern. So they gave me Tylenol to control my fever, put me on oxygen, and flooded my veins with saline to support the baby.
I was so happy to know that progress was being made, but nervous to hear the baby might be distressed. Things began to get really hectic and overwhelming at this point. Lots of people were in and out of the room trying to be helpful and I was having lots of contractions, so of course nothing was helpful. Despite the unending pain, I felt well taken care of in the midst of the chaos and was glad to have the support of others. At one point someone knocked over an entire bottle of olive oil while coming in the room. The floor became very slippery which was a little like a scene out of an Abbott and Castello sketch with all the people coming in and out with a slippery floor.
The nurse that got stuck
I was ready for some relief at this point, have I mentioned yet that the contractions were really unbearable? Well they were, and I was doing a pretty awful job managing the pain. Despite my husband’s wonderful efforts to keep me calm, nothing was helping and I was concerned that my stress could harm the baby that was already in a sensitive state.
The whole experience was much more painful then I was ever expecting. I knew it would be hard, but there was no time at all in between contractions, and I was struggling. I knew my body had gotten far enough that I was not concerned about the an intervention causing me to stall, So after deciding with Stuart that an epidural was our best next step we let our kind nurse know we were ready for the anesthesiologist. Oh but waiting for the lady with the big needle felt like the longest wait of my life. I couldn’t help but scream for the epidural to get here. I had been in active labor for over 10 hours now.
When Sally, our nurse, checked me again she happily announced that I was even further dilated and my bags were bulging, alliteration makes everything better. Then suddenly my water broke while the nurse was in mid check. Our little girl’s head was so high, they were afraid that the cord might prolapse and fall out before the baby, so Sally had to keep her hand inside my cervix while someone grabbed the doctor.
Sally was such a trooper, she held her position admits the chaos. This was all occurring as the nurse shift change was happening, mind you. So the new nurse had just walked in to a big ol crazy mess. When the doctor arrived he switched his hand for Sally’s and she turned over care to the new nurse. Mad respect for nurses!
Its a head? a chord? its her lips!
Our physician thought we might be able to help the baby move down in station, if we emptied my full bladder, so they put a catheter in to drain out my bladder. I didn’t really want to do this before the epidural, but it was less uncomfortable then I was expecting. I mean I barely noticed anything when the contractions were taking over.
I was still contracting every minute with little break time in between so as the craziness continued and I screamed, “where are the meds?”, the wonderful amazing anesthesiologist walked in and finally gave me the epidural. At that point seeing the anesthesiologist face was almost as good as seeing my baby girl’s face.
After the epidural, I was feeling so much better and even able to make jokes. The awful and unbearable edge was taken off all of the contractions. Unfortunately the baby’s heart rate was still falling for short periods, so I continued to stay on oxygen and fluids.
The nurse checked me again and felt that I was still relatively high, but progressing and widening. She felt only head, while another nurse checked and thought she felt cord first. Not sure if the cord has prolapsed, the nurse ran to go grab our physician again. When he arrived and checked me, he was able to verify that it was not the chord the nurse had felt between her fingers, but the face of our little girl, specifically her lips presenting first. He was able to feel her eyes, nose, and lips.
Now baby’s typically come out with the crown, that is, the top of their head, first, but our little one had somehow turned her head upward and was being sucked out face first. The presentation is called mentum posterior and supposedly it is a relatively uncommon labor presentation (only about .4 percent of births). It is when the baby is head down but its neck is extended, as if looking down the birth canal, rather than with its chin tucked into it’s chest. Poor girl.
Interestingly she still loves to bend backward. Here she is at 5 months bending backward, just like the day she was born.
Like mother, like daughter, like aunt, like cousin -all superheroes
After checking to make sure this was not a presentation that could be delivered vaginally, they began to descend on me to prepare everything for an emergency c-section. It looks like I was not going to be the family member to avoid surgery. Although there was some disappointment because my body was moving quickly on its own, there was also much satisfaction in knowing that the end was near.
I remember asking, “so are we going to do this in the morning or what?” Luckily my sweet mama who was in the room, and she quickly let me know that everything was going to move very fast now, and it was of the utmost importance that we get our little one out, and she was correct. The next 15 minutes were the fastest of my life. We worried that with a face first presentation that our baby’s throat was being compressed in my cervix, which was causing distress for the baby.
At the decisive words of the physician everything started to move really fast. Before our doctor left to prep for surgery he told me I was a superhero for my baby, going above and beyond what was natural in order to bring her life. A superhero, I like the sound of that.
They up-ed my epidural dosage and continued me on oxygen to help with baby’s heart rate. We trusted our medical team and were just too excited to meet this little one to be scared about any possible complications. Stuart was taken away to suit up. This was one of the hardest moment of this whole process. Stuart was no longer by my side. There were many many people in the room and there was a lot of commotion. The entire time people were coming and going you could hear the warnings from the nurse, “watch out the floor is slippery!”
They started wheeling me toward the surgical room at 8:00pm. I kept asking where Stuart was, the nurse anesthetist was very helpful and patiently explained what was going on. Soon Stuart was right at my side which provided a lot of peace. After a few minutes and his encouraging words, they whisked him away to wash up for the surgical room. Today, as I wrote this, I asked him for the first time what was happening while he was gone. He filled me in that our doctor said a prayer with him as they scrubbed in. It brightened my heart to learn this new detail of our story.
I met back up with Stuart in the surgical room and was so happy to see him. Soon after they began the surgery, it seemed that she was really twisted up inside and squirming around. She wasn’t making an easy exit, and ended up with some trauma from the whole experience. They finally pulled her out of the incision bum first. I didn’t quite understand what was going on, because nothing was said during all of this, when she was finally out all I heard was the time muttered in a normal voice, 8:25pm.
“She’s big! She’s pink!”
Slowly I realized that this calling of the time was the declaration of time of birth. So I realized my daughter was born, but also that no crying could be heard. I was shaking a lot because of the epidural and getting really really tense. I kept asking over and over “what is happening?”, “where’s the baby?”, I was worried about our little girl. The only response I got was the staff team stating the positive news, and avoiding any negative details. I remember the nurse anesthetist repeating, “she’s so big and has great color.” But I knew the lack of crying was a bad sign.
Little did I know, Stuart could see them resuscitating her. Although she was pink, I found out later on that she was limp and not breathing on her own when she made her entrance into the world. They had to do some deep suctioning, because she had swallowed a good amount of amniotic fluid, and they also had to breathe for her with a bag valve mask.
My mom being the proud veteran superhero of three c-sections knew that the baby’s arrival is typically very quick once the surgery has started. The grandparents and aunts and uncles were told to wait in a certain area and would be notified when the baby was born. After 30 minutes not having heard any news, my mom found a nurse to make sure everything was okay. The nurse came and asked me if they could let my family know what was going on, I of course said yes, but wasn’t sure myself what was happening.
Stuart tells me that after about a minute or two of breathing for her and suctioning, our little one was breathing on her own! Felt like much longer to me. Despite her independent breathing, they said that she needed to be wheeled up to the NICU as a precaution. I still didn’t quite understand why, because all I continued to hear was that she was big and pink. Luckily before they whisked her away they let her lay on my chest and we had our first moment face to face as a family.
She was the most beautiful amazing thing I had ever seen. Her face was all swollen from being stuck face first against all that pressure in my pelvis, but she was beautiful. I told Stuart he should stay with Anna, so she wouldn’t be alone. So Stuart and Anna were en route to the NICU and I felt like it took forever for them to finish the surgery. I was incredibly ready to go see my baby and I continued to dislike the shaking sensation. The nurse anesthetist was so kind and talked me through everything that was going on and placed warm packs on my arms to ease the shaking.
Another sleepless night
Once I got back to the labor and delivery room our families came to visit and Stuart was back down to meet with us. I told Stuart to take the grandparents to see our little Anna, as I was not allowed to move from my bed until I was at least in the recovery room. I was really disappointed to not be able to feed and cuddle her right after she was born, but Aunt Christine stayed with me for company.
I had to wait what felt like a long time to be transferred to a recovery room. As it was getting close to midnight, Stuart came back to be with me and all of our visitors went home for the night. By 1:00am I was transferred to the recovery room and I was so very anxious to hold my baby. The recovery nurse informed me that it is protpcol to wait 6 hours after surgery before moving out of bed, so there was more waiting in store. It was then we knew there was no chance of sleep tonight.
After some good ol fashioned begging, the nurse allowed my to start heading to the NICU around 2:30am. I was surprised how incredibly difficult it was to get out of that bed, but had motivation enough. I was wheeled up, with my iv, pee bag, and all, from the 2nd floor to the 8th to visit our baby. After a thorough washing of our hands, I was finally able to gaze at our little lady. I was able to hold her with some help, and we tried a little breast feeding.
I couldn’t help let the tears run down my face as I saw the perfection that she was. Her lips and eyes were really swollen from all the trauma and she was wearing an oxygen hose, had an iv in her head, and a 3 lead monitoring her heart. There were lots of cords! We stayed up there until almost 4am and the lot of us were just a tired bunch. There is nothing quite like the first time you hold your child.
The next few days were a series of no sleep/me begging nurses to take me to the NICU over and over, it was difficult to be away from the little girl I had spent the last 9.5 months conjoined with. After a couple of nights in the NICU sweet Anna came to our room to stay late Sunday morning. It was the best Easter present ever. We spent one last day at the hospital together before going home on a rainy April 21st. What happens next is just a whole other story (it involves a lack of sleep as well).
Thanks for journeying along with us as we reminisced on our sweet daughter’s birth day. Hope that you were able to see some of the beauty and excitement we see when we look back over these crazy events. This one goes out to all of the superhero mamas out there.