Our tiniest human is almost six months old, and not a day has gone by that I did not thank all the heavens and Earth for this sweet miracle child and his adoring siblings. Now that the postpartum hormones have settled, and my healing is coming to an end I can finally write down our story without getting too emotional. Most people don’t know what transpired that lead me to give birth the day A2 was born or why it ended with a c-section, (three weeks early). I believe it’s important to tell each baby’s birth story. I am so grateful I get to tell this story, and I am not complaining about anything. We made our own choices leading up to his birth, and we were smiling as we held our sweet babe within thirty minutes of his entrance to this world, but what happened right before it was not “unicorns licking kittens” (as our amazing birth instructor likes to phrase it– I love her!)
Prior to the birth, we prepared ourselves for any type of birth. While we wished for a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section), it would have been after two sections already. There is a very slim, but frightening risk of the uterus tearing at the scar site during labor and an even smaller risk of that seriously injuring the baby. This highly unlikely but life threatening risk is enough for some moms and many doctors to forego natural birth after one c-section. We weighed the risk of rupture against the other set of risk factors and statistics… Like the very real, but glossed over dangers of premature birth and hemorrhage risk to mom in major abdominal and uterine surgery. We factored this with the other normal stuff like age, health, and mindset of mom (excellent), and status of baby (perfect, thank you God). With two other small children to care for, it was important not only that I survive, but that I would be able to take care of them right away following birth. Anyone who’s been through a c-section knows you don’t jump right back in afterwards. It’s a long recovery. For us, VBAC made the most sense.
To further prepare, we took a [new to us] style of birth class called Hypnobirthing, which is based not on hypnosis but on relaxing the mind and body to handle anything. Hypnobirthing was actually quite effective in pain management, even for this uptight and skeptical mom. By the time we hit 36 weeks I was READY for labor, and I knew if all the right circumstances came into play, I would have a natural birth, and honestly we almost got there!
Yes I fought for that VBAC. Texas is not VBAC friendly. Most OBs have jumped in on the “surgery is easier” game.. What malarkey! I could go on forever about what a joke this system is for women, and how badly Texas needs a more women-centric health system for pregnancy and birth, but that’s not part of THIS story.
However, our OB did decide that he did not want to perform a VBAC even though I was in excellent health. He had just experienced a uterine rupture a few weeks prior, and was using every excuse in the book to schedule our c-section even though he knew we weren’t going to do that unless there was an emergency. He stressed me out so badly each week discussing his plans for my birth that I spiked a high blood pressure reading at the 34 week checkup in his office, and from then on he was on a path of convincing me that the only way was c-section– not only that but he wanted to deliver right away. We asked to take a pause and think about it over the week. There was no distress in baby, and no signs of Pre-eclampsia. I was in much better shape than the previous pregnancy which went to full term on bedrest, so I was not about to risk my baby’s health on a premature delivery just to ease my doctor’s mind, or reputation.
So, there I was a couple weeks later standing outside his office, having just been fired as a patient, asking “what now?”. We quickly made some plans…A, B, C, in preparation for whatever was about to happen. We sought second and third opinions, and switched care to our experienced midwife, who had already planned on helping us labor at home before going into the hospital. For a brief moment, things were looking up when suddenly an ultrasound showed an extreme amount of fluid in the amniotic sac. They called it polyhydramnios. A mild case is no reason for alarm, but mine was not mild. In addition to that, baby was measuring quite large even at 36 weeks, and he would not get in the downward position (also not alarming for 36 weeks, but he was not ready for the birth that needed to happen now with a new sense of urgency). All the yoga, lunges, essential oils, epson salts, supplements, and techniques in the world couldn’t get that baby to tilt upside down. I started to stress, and blood pressure went up…
We met with our midwife and doula to go over the issues. They told us that midwives cannot deliver polyhydramnios babies. Just being near the hospital wasn’t enough.. We’d have to be at the hospital to give birth naturally and even then the odds were scary. If he were head down and staying in that position, we could bet that he would plug the waters from pouring out if it broke before he was delivered, but he refused to move from his comfy sideways position. The problem with this position (called a Transverse Lie) is that if the water breaks, it all pours out and tends to take the umbilical cord with it, leaving baby lodged into a stuck position, which is nearly impossible to deliver.
We agreed to go into the hospital to do further testing that night after calling for parents to babysit. My bood pressure was going back to normal, so the hospitalists were not in a hurry to deliver, but they did want me to stay at the hospital. We asked our doula to wait and come in the next day, thinking we would like to have her in the OR if I had to have a c-section. However, the moment the doctor left the room, I had to run to the restroom. I had come down with a violent stomach virus. In the midst of the sudden illness, contractions began, and kept up so they admitted us to a delivery room to monitor baby while we wait out the virus.
All night I ran back and forth to the restroom, miserably hooked to lines and monitors, nearly yanking them out of the wall every 10-20 minutes. We were in total survival mode, and didn’t think to ask the nurse to use the wireless monitor that sat right by the bed the whole night. (It made us laugh the next day.)
As the contractions intensified over night, the doctor came in to let me know I was in active labor. She was surprised that I wasn’t complaining about the pain. They did more scans of the baby at that point and gave me some anti nausea medicine, which my body immediately rejected. I had a terrible reaction that made me twitch for hours, but it was just one more thing, and I tried to sleep it off. Once it wore off, the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, and he was still sideways. The doctor was very concerned with getting contractions to stop. She told us that if I continue to labor, my waters could break any minute, and I would be rushed to the OR. They tried some medication to slow down the contractions.
With each wave, I could feel my body relaxing and doing exactly what it was supposed to do (except move the baby). It was dark and warm in our room. It was easy to breathe and meditate through each contraction with my hypnobirthing mindset, and they did not slow down for a second.
The beauty in laboring all night is that I proved to myself that I could do it– That I am capable of a natural birth, and my body is not broken or inadequate. It was a blessing, and mentally very healing to go through this because with my first baby I labored painfully for 53 hours in the correct position, and did not dilate past 6cm. With the second baby, my body wasn’t even given a chance to labor because I had Pre-eclampsia, so I didn’t even know if I could do it. At a primal level, a mom wants to be able to do what her body is intended to do. The fact that it was doing exactly what it was supposed to do was magical.
I was still getting sick in between contractions, so we pleaded with the doctor to wait on delivering until they stopped so I wouldn’t pull out stitches if I get sick again. My body was desperately trying to deliver a baby, but it was getting more and more dangerous for him, my comfy sideways guy! Finally around 6am, the stomach virus subsided, and a new doctor checked in with us to say it was almost go-time. He congratulated me on laboring without pain meds, and assured me I did everything possible to deliver baby naturally, and it was time to get him out as safely as possible. All the while it was still my choice, but we were completely on board with the idea since he was still sideways.
We waited a couple of hours for shift changes and surgery prep, and then they wheeled me into the OR. The contractions were coming about every 1 minute at that point, so the nurses paused prepping me during each wave, respectful of my pain level.
Once on the table we were surrounded by a large and warm group of nicu and OB nurses, and an anesthesiologist and his nurse, whose sole job was to make sure I was comfortable. The nicu nurses were ready to take baby immediately to the nicu if there were any issues. The OB had to cut from hip to hip in order to get my large, sideways baby out. He quickly lifted him over the drape for me to say hello, and then he was whisked over to the nurse team. A hip muscle was cut by accident and stitches pulled through a nerve, but the attention was on baby who wasn’t responding right. I had no idea. Everyone worked silently, communicating with the eyes which made me very nervous. At some point Brian quietly left my side.
I began to wonder why I hadn’t heard a big cry yet, and started scanning the room for him. I caught eyes with a nicu nurse who looked stressed out. She said, “he will be okay”. That was the first moment I realized he wasn’t doing well. I couldn’t see anything they were doing, but I could hear slapping and sucking noises. She tried to reassure me once more, but I thought, “WHY are you telling me that?!” Then someone moved, and I saw the situation unfolding.
The nurses were rubbing his face and tapping on his back and then flipping him over and sucking fluid out with a pump, over and over again. They put a pulse oxometer on him, while he sleepily went from pink to blue to purple to pink to blue to pink, and took a few cries here and there. I could hear Brian’s optimistic coaching from his side. At one point a nurse whispered, “Come on baby, come on… You can do it!” It was so kind and loving, and there was no yelling or loud voices. They were just hovering over him with calm but determined energy. I will never forget it. They just went from one thing to the next, trying this and that. Then there was a little quiet cheering from the small crowd and someone said, “His oxygen is coming up! What’s his Apgar now?” In that moment, I knew he would be fine.
About that time Brian came over to tell me that Baby A swallowed a lot of fluid, but they were getting it out. I just tried to relax and not look at the badly placed metal plate on the ceiling that reflected by bloody, gaping open body. The hole was huge.
The doctor said everything looked good. He joked about putting everything back together properly so I could have more babies if I’d like…I didn’t want him to regret spending the extra time on my sutures, so I bit my tongue.
The OB was a Godsend. He was experienced and calm. He said he would have assisted me with a VBAC if baby were head down, which meant a lot to me to know that I was supported, and that I was not wrong in wanting to try.
Meanwhile I noticed the nurses were excited again, and the head nurse looked over smiling, and said “he’s almost ready for a kiss mama”.
A few minutes later a nurse brought him over and held him on my chest for me to kiss his face. She held her hand firmly on his back so he couldn’t fall because they were still working on me.
A few minutes later I was able to hold him with my own arms while they wheeled us to the recovery room. I remember thinking “I can’t believe they are just letting me hold him like this-“. My arms were a little numb, but I wasn’t about to let him fall! He was breathing funny, but oxygen levels stayed high. The nicu doctor and nurses ran a number of tests through the day in our room, and everything was normal. We had a rough night sleeping though, or actually not sleeping because his lungs were making a lot of noise (and continued to for weeks), but the doctors assured us he was fine, and it’s part of the healing process. They never took him to the nicu, and it was such a great experience to have him with me every day, all day. My other babies were both in the nicu immediately following birth, so we missed that precious bonding time (which they have more than made up for by piling up in bed with us nearly every night since)!
While looking for photos for this post I came across a video Brian took with my phone of the birth and the efforts to get him breathing on his own. I don’t think it’s appropriate for the internet, with a lot of blood and medical stuff, but I forced myself to watch it to make sure my memories are correct. Sometimes the spinal meds can make recall a little fuzzy. It was difficult to watch as a Mom, but I’m glad he thought to document it. It just makes me even more thankful for the hospital and modern medicine. With a hip muscle/nerve issue, my recovery was pretty slow. I couldn’t walk while the sutures were healing because flexing the hip muscle pulled the sutures and the nerve. At one point I thought I might never heal, but that was just the edge of the pain and a few days later I was walking again. The extra long incision got infected, and I had some side effects of an antibiotic that I’m still fighting, but getting better every week. I haven’t let that stop me from organizing the whole house, or restarting my photography biz, and getting back to being a busy type A Mom– my favorite job.
“Tiny Man” as we call him (who has never actually been tiny) is doing well now. He rarely makes funny noises while sleeping anymore, and he is just starting to crawl and sit up. He is a healthy and happy baby, currently teething and soaking his onesies with drool…