I feel so privileged to share a beautiful birth story and some Just Born pictures. Did you know that when I am there as your doula, I can document the time just after baby is born, rather than your entire birth story? Here is a story of someone having the courage to change their plans when needed, the strength to get through the changes, and the confidence to know that everything will turn out right. I mention this in every class series, but I want to mention it here too; cesarean mamas are incredibly brave. They are incredibly brave to say 'put me on the table and cut me open so that my baby will be safe.' That's exactly what this mom and dad did. Congrats on their little beautiful baby boy! You might remember some gorgeous maternity pictures found here.
AND now I have a wonderful treat for you! Mama's birth story in her own words-enjoy!
Ever since I was in nursing school, I knew how I wanted my birth to go. I wanted a natural childbirth, attended by a midwife and Doula and partner. I wanted to deliver at a birth center or, failing that, labor at home as long as possible. When my husband and I decided to have a baby, we looked into local midwifery departments and birth centers. Because I have a history of high blood pressure (though was not in any medication and was controlled with diet and exercise) I was not a good candidate for our local birth center, but they directed me to the GW midwifery program which took slightly higher risk patients and delivered at the hospital. I started seeing them, and, while my blood pressure was slightly high, everything was going well. At around 30 weeks I was anticipating my imagined birth when I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a condition in pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. It can quickly become very dangerous if it develops into eclampsia or HELLP syndrome.
Of course, I was very scared. I was moved off the midwifery services to the OB side, and was told that it was unlikely I would be able to continue my pregnancy past 37 weeks for safety reasons. My whole conception of what I wanted my birth to be (laboring at home, minimal intervention) had to change very fast, while at the time same time I was worried about myself and the baby. I was placed on bed rest at home and had to stop working, and went for weekly ultrasounds and nonstress tests, as well as appointments with the maternal fetal medicine specialist. Luckily, I liked my new doctor very much, and he was very straightforward but supportive about my condition. He stressed that there was a lot of risk involved in my pregnant now, but said he would make very effort to give me the birth I wanted.
Things continued this way until I hit 36 weeks. At a regular office visit, my blood pressure spiked very high, and my doctor sent me back over to the hospital for more testing and to watch my blood pressures. The next morning, my doctor came to see me and said that my blood work showed that my preeclampsia was worsening. My platelets were very low, so by blood did not clot very well, and if it went any lower it would be dangerous for me to deliver or have any local anesthesia if I needed a c-section. I was very afraid of being unconscious during my birth and not being able to see my baby for the first time when it was born, so I agreed with the doctor that we would start the induction. I called my husband (Jake), parents and Amber, to let them know what was happening, and then set in to wait.
Because my preeclampsia was worse, I would have to be placed on an IV medication called magnesium sulfate, while would prevent my having a seizure but would also make me feel "weak and tired" (the nurses were more straightforward: "It makes you feel like crap", they told me). While on this medication, I could not eat or get out of bed. I would have my blood pressure checked every 15 minutes and be given IV fluids. I was very upset, because one of things I had wanted most was to be able to get up and move around and use what I had been learning in yoga and practicing from the Bradley book to help cope with labor. Now, I was looking at long hours in bed with no food. It seemed really daunting and unfair, but I knew that if I were to have a seizure or stoke it could kill me, and no part of a birth plan was worth dying over.
After they hooked up the mag, all thoughts of moving went out the window. I felt sick, my head was pounding, and I was tired and shaky as if I had the flu. The medication they gave me at first didn't work, so I had to use a bulb to try to get my cervix open. This actually gave me a few contractions, and I tried to relax as they came. My husband, who was otherwise regulated to sitting quietly in the dark due to my headache, held my hand and helped with the breathing. After the bulb opened my cervix, they stated the medication to start contractions. Amber was there, and I confessed what I was afraid of: that even if the medication started my contractions, I was so sick and miserable from the medication I was not sure I would be able to go through labor. The medication started and we waited.
For hours, they raised the dose on the medication while Amber and Jake and I sat in the dark, Amber bringing my ice chips and helping me to turn in the bed when it got too unconformable to stay in one position. The nurses brought me Tylenol in ever increasing dosages for my headaches, but it would only touch it for a few minutes before it returned. I threw up a few times, though without anything in my stomach the vomiting gave way to simple nausea. Sometime in the night, Amber went to go check on her children as it was clear nothing was happening at that time. Jake was charged with calling if anything changed.
By 8 am, I was on the highest dose of medication that they could give and had had fewer contractions then when I had the bulb inside. One of the OB doctors who I had met before came in early and said that, in his opinion, they were out of options to really start labor. The baby was still at -3 station, very high in my pelvis, and without being able to walk or get out of bed safely there was no way to get it down. He recommended a c-section. He left us to talk it over.
At some level, I didn't want to "give up"...it felt like I was admitting defeat or like the past 30 hours had been a waste. On a really superficial note, it was now January 2nd, and I was bummed that the baby hadn't been born on the first...it seemed that that would have been a cool birthday with fireworks and a guaranteed day off work when he was older. It would have been no issue if I had needed that time to start labor, but now that I was back at square one I felt like I should have just had a c-section two days ago and skipped all the horrible feelings. In any case, this was where we were now, and both my husband and I were ready to meet our baby.
When the doctor came back, we said that we would have the c-section. The nurses had said it would probably be in the afternoon, so we were just getting ready to call Amber when the doctor said, "Great! You'll be the first one today".
Suddenly, things were happening so fast I can't remember everything. I know there were consent forms to sign, the nurses came in and washed me with an antibiotic solution to prevent infection and shaved a little of my bikini line. The anesthesia team came in to get my consent for a spinal block. I remember they seemed surprised I didn't have an epidural already in place. Jake was calling Amber to let her know what was happening. I was really nervous, because everything was moving quickly toward surgery and I wanted her there, both for support and (I will confess) pictures. It seemed like she probably would not make it in time. They brought Jake a gown to wear during the procedure, and whisked me away to the OR.
I remember the OR was very bright after my dark room, and freezing cold. The team of doctors and anesthesia people were there, and they were very supportive and let me know what was happening and what I had to do. I was told to sit up and lean forward so that they could put the medication in my spine. I felt a pinch from the numbing medicine, then nothing as they injected the other medications. After I laid down again, my legs started to feel warm. After a moment, I couldn't move my toes, and while I tried to get myself to stop trying to move them (cause it was scary to be asking your body to do something and be unable to do it), I couldn't help but keep trying.
They washed my belly with more cleaning solution, then set up the drape that would block my view of the surgery. It was much closer to my face than I would have thought! Right around then, Jake came in with Amber. She had made it just in time! The two of them sat back with me behind the drape. I was really nervous that I would be able to feel them cut me, but Chris (my new friend the anesthesiologist) assured me that they pinched me really hard and I hadn't felt a thing. "They just made the first incision...did you feel it?" He said. I was shocked that someone could cut into me and I could feel nothing.
Jake held my hand and we chatted to keep me from listening to what was being said on the other side of the drape. Jake reminded me of the Monty Python sketch about birth, where doctors and nurses and other staff keep coming into the room and bringing more and more stuff with them until the mother is pushed out into the hallway. I remember laughing that this room felt almost that crowded!
Suddenly, they were almost ready to deliver the baby. They offered to have Jake look over the drape at the baby coming, but he doesn't like blood or guts and managed to avoid looking. As he already knew the sex (I didn't) the team called on him to tell me as soon as the baby came out. Honestly, I don't remember hearing him cry for the first time, but I remember Jake saying "It's a boy" and the team making happy sounds. The nurses took the baby over to the table to make sure he was ok, and Jake went with him. Amber sat with me, holding my hand as they stitched me up.
Then, they brought him over to see me. I remember thinking he was so small, and I know I asked if I could touch him (I remembered from when I was in school getting in trouble for touching the NICU babies). They said yes, and I put my hand on his little foot. It was so soft, and he looked just like a slightly pinker version of his ultrasounds. Then, they brought him back over to the table. I felt so much better that Jake was able to stay with him and hold his hand.
The rest is kind of a blur. I know I went back to my room, and the activity there was just as overwhelming as in the OR. They gave me Alex to hold, but I can't remember if we tried to breast feed or not. I just remember having him on my chest and looking at his little face. My parents came in after a bit, and I remember my mother crying when she saw him. My dad (also not the best in medication situations) looked a little green about the gills on seeing me with IVs and catheters hooked up...but I know he was happy. Then, it seemed all of a sudden, the nurse were gone, Amber went home, my parents went back to the hotel, and Jake and Alex and I were on our own.
I will confess to having mixed feelings about my birth experience. On the one hand, every staff member was kind and supportive, and I felt well cared for. Alex and I were both safe and sound, which was my main goal in the end. But, I still can't help but feel sad that I didn't get to experience birth the way I planned. There is some guilt involved, high blood pressure is a risk factor for preeclampsia, and I can't help but think if i had been on medication or done more to manage my blood pressure maybe I would not have developed these problems. There are some mercantile aspects to it: if I knew I was having a c-section, maybe I would not have taken a birth class or would have asked to do it on the 31st to get the tax break (I know, I know...but I am kind of a cheapskate and these are thoughts I have had). But I try to counter those thoughts with what I know are good answers: My blood pressure was fine and my doctor had taken me off medication, I didn't just decide to stop. Preeclampsia can happen with no risk factors at all, and I worked very hard to stay healthy both before and during my pregnancy. If there is a next time, the birth class may still come in handy (my mother had a VBAC after I was a c-section for breech position, I might too). And, while having your birthday be New Years Eve or Day would be nice, every day Alex stayed inside, even those last two, made him stronger and better able to manage out in the world on his own. The fact he stayed with us, did not go to the NICU, and came home on time are all reasons to celebrate those two extra days...even if they did kind of suck for me.
Alex is doing well at home, he is still having trouble with breast feeding but I am pumping enough milk for him to take most of his food from breast milk with only a very little formula and he is getting better at latching every day. Jake and I are quite besotted with him. And, even if he came a little early and not quite how we expected, it is amazing to be able to look at him and know this is the same little creature that was kicking me from the inside just a bit over a week ago. Every day, I can't wait to see what he will do next.
When Jake and I got married we went to a lawyers office over a Chiptole on a Tuesday afternoon. As my mother said "You wanted a marriage, not a wedding". I sometimes think of my experience delivering Alex in the same way. We got the baby we wanted, though maybe not the birth.