(the snow fell beautifully until 9″ had piled up. We spent the day lounging. It was wonderful. )
(the snow fell beautifully until 9″ had piled up. We spent the day lounging. It was wonderful. )
I’m sorry it took so long for me to post this here. I posted it in my Reddit birth forum and got a lot of support which I needed, and then put it away for awhile so I could try to forget parts of it.
Also, I have not gotten all of my birth photos yet. I will likely edit this post once I get them, or I’ll make a separate post. Not sure, it depends on how I feel once I see them. My photographer and I agreed that I needed time before she sent them to me.
This story is not positive, but it ends positively because me and Jack made it through. My birth went NOTHING like I hoped. Almost everything went wrong, and the only thing that went right (besides us making it out alive) was that I didn’t have a c-section. And I’m so fucking thankful for that because it got really close.
I’m really angry about my birth right now, but most of my anger lies in the people who told me for 9 months that if any of the stuff that happened to me in the story below happened, it was because I didn’t try hard enough. The whole crunchy birth movement is amazing but when things go wrong, there’s no support for how to try and salvage anything. I want to write more about this.
Anyway, if you haven’t already seen my birth story, here it is.
At around 34 weeks, my OB decided that my blood pressure, which had been a bit of an issue the entire pregnancy, needed to be further monitored. It was labile, meaning, it’d be high sometimes, then it’d be normal. I had all the tests, including the 24 hour urine around that time, and I passed everything with flying colors. The consensus was that it was plain old chronic hypertension, unrelated to my pregnancy, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t cause problems. I started 2x weekly NSTs then that would continue for the duration of the pregnancy. We discussed an early induction, but my Dr. said we’d “see how things went”. I was set to labor at a Kaiser facility with midwives instead of doctors, and sticking with the midwives meant keeping my blood pressure good without medication.
I passed every single NST with flying colors, and every blood test, too. As the weeks went by there was no further talk of early induction, to my pleasure. I wanted a natural birth, more than anything, and induction makes that very difficult. My husband and I had hired an amazing doula (who was also a board-certified lactation consultant) and we studied Hypnobabies as our preferred labor method. I knew “everything” about why I didn’t want to be medicated. I felt very strongly about it and did my best to prepare for a natural birth.
At my 39 week appointment, my cervix was high and closed. My doctor recommended, because of the blood pressure, that I be induced later that week, before I hit 40 weeks. All of my reading on birth really went against this, saying, if all things were good, avoid induction. My BP was stable, good NSTs, good blood tests. I asked her if we could wait until 40 weeks, and she agreed that if by our next appointment I was not in labor, we’d schedule the induction for week 40.
Week 40 came and labor did not. At my appointment, my husband and I spent a good 30 minutes discussing why we didn’t want an induction and quizzing her on the possible outcomes. Can pitocin be stopped if the body kicks in to gear? What are the real chances of c-section? This baby was not cooperating, and she warned that the longer I go, the more likely it was that my blood pressure would cause problems during labor. We left that day with a scheduled induction for Friday, and I was devastated.
Friday morning, I lost my mucus plug. Excited that this might mean I’d go into labor, I went in for my scheduled NST hoping they’d see some contractions. Though the tests went perfectly, including a nice BP reading of 120/69, NO contractions. Ugh. The NST nurses joked about seeing me again. At the end, they called up to labor and delivery for me to see what time I should come in, but the department was very busy (so many babies being born!). They said I should call back after 7pm that night. At that point I was hoping to get a couple of more days, seeing as though things had progressed somewhat and my tests were excellent. I still had this dream that I might get to go into labor on my own – I wanted that so much. When I called that evening, they asked me to come in for tests – if those went well, we could have a day or two.
At Triage, they hooked me up to monitors and saw my BP was high, but in my normal range (135/92). They took blood and urine tests which were all excellent, but my BP did not even out. Three doctors asked me to stay and be induced as planned. I knew this was the end for me, and that induction was going to happen one way or the other, but I felt so depressed and upset that I wanted some time to collect myself. I asked if we could go home and sleep, shower, gather our things, and come back in the morning. They agreed to this, and so that’s what we did. That night was so important. I cried, I mourned, I snuggled my husband and we had one last night together to prepare for this change of plans. Though my story doesn’t end how I wish it did, I am so grateful that I had this night. Things went badly, but had we not had that night, I truly believe things would have been much worse. Anyway, on with it…
Saturday morning, we went in to L&D and were given a room straight away, no triage. It was a beautiful day, and from the get-go our nurses were amazingly supportive of our birth plan which was still to follow Hypnobabies and try to stay med-free. I was started on Misoprostil to get my cervix moving (since I was at 2.5cm and -3 station still). We settled in with our iPad and Parks and Recreation on Netflix to pass what we knew may be a very long time. The first dose of Miso started contractions (7 min apart), and about an hour after the second dose, I felt and heard a strange gurgle in my lower abdomen. A few seconds later, liquid started to dribble out of me, and when I sat up, it gushed a bit. I called the nurse to check if it was my water, knowing full well it was. When I stood up, it gushed like crazy and was tinged light brown.
Within 20 minutes, I was feeling contractions, which for me never felt like a tightening, just strong menstrual cramps. Within an hour I was contracting every 30-45 seconds. It was brutal. They didn’t need to give me pitocin because my body did kick into gear. However, the contractions were so painful and so close together, it was difficult to feel like I was able to cope. Hypnobabies was the only thing that kept me going without medication as long as I did – 8 hours – and though it wasn’t a true hypnobirth, I was able to use the methods to keep myself going. My doula and husband kept me moving as much as they could, though I have to say much of the 8 hours I spent laboring unmedicated is a blur (thankfully). I know I used the birth ball and the shower, sometimes I laid in bed. I did all of this completely naked, as the gown seemed like horror to put on my skin during the pain. Oh, labor…body issues go right out the window! My doula and the nurses kept asking me to give a urine sample during this time, and I never had to pee. It didn’t seem like an issue to me, but apparently it would be as we found out later.
I finally broke down when I’d been stuck at 6 centimeters for a few hours, and every contraction was causing me to push involuntarily. It was crazy – I couldn’t stop it. My cervix was swelling with my pushing and I halted progress. My doula tried to work me through NOT pushing, but I just got hysterical. I wasn’t laboring anymore, I was suffering. Finally, I asked for the epidural. My body had had it and the need to push was so extreme I couldn’t fight it. I was so thankful when the anesthesiologist came in – he was QUICK – and the procedure didn’t hurt at all. In fact, I don’t remember feeling a thing – all the worry I had about getting that needle in my back went away when I got to that point. He knew I was in a hard way and gave me a dose of fentanyl on top to work before the epidural kicked in.
Post-epidural labor was so different. I relaxed and we all slept. When we woke a few hours later, I was at 9.5cm and -2 (dangit, baby!). I had a cervical lip that was just not cooperating. The midwife put me on my side to try and use pressure to open it up. My doula and I had a great conversation and my birth photographer arrived during this time. I let the epidural wear down so that I could move my legs (though I couldn’t feel them) so that when pushing time came, I’d be able to be a more active participant. I am thankful I did this. However, it was around this time all shit hit the fan. I had been cathetered with my epidural, and between 3 am and 7am, I hadn’t made more than a few drips of urine. Bad. The nurses called the doctor, who ordered blood tests, and within an hour we knew my kidneys were shutting down, and once the drips of urine were tested, we knew I was spilling lots and lots of protein. Preeclampsia had caught me, after all. He started preparing to give me magnesium, and explained that he’d wait a little longer to see if we could deliver baby before starting the dose.
But not only that. My temperature was rising steadily. The nurses said that an epidural can cause “epidural fever”, but that they needed to take my blood again to check my white count because it could be an infection starting. Voila, my white cell count was off the charts. Chorioamnionitis. Immediately, the doctors came back and said they needed to start antibiotics, immediately. I was again devastated as I didn’t want antibiotics (and was negative for group b strep) but my doula advised as well that this condition was very serious. If I didn’t get the treatment, both Jack and I could be in grave danger.
A little bit after 9am, the midwife checked my progress and said that the cervical lip wasn’t moving. She was concerned at this point that it may not move and a c-section would be in order. She realized however, that when she pushed it, she could move it aside. She asked me to do a practice push to see if the lip would disappear when I started moving the baby. Alas, it did…though she had to keep her hand inside the birth canal to make sure.
Since I had let the epidural wear down, I could feel most of the pushing. We had music playing, and several times during the two and a half hours of pushing, the women in the room would break out singing – it was one of my favorite memories of the birth. Finally, with a big push, I got his head out, and the amazing women around me were beaming with happiness and light as the midwife proclaimed he was almost out, one more push! Then, shit hit the fan again. That one more push did not produce my son – he was stopped in the birth canal because his shoulders were larger than his head, and he was stuck. Shoulder dystocia. The mood in the room had been beautiful and in seconds, it turned grave – the midwife stood and used her walkie talkie to yell “Code Shoulder, Code Shoulder!” Everyone in the room mobilized, and in seconds, more nurses flooded through the door. Two jumped on to the bed, pushing my husband away, to place pressure on my abdomen. The midwife yelled to push on her command and I did amidst the commotion. Quickly, within 30 seconds, they were able to dislodge him and he was born finally, coughing and trying to cry, at 12:17 on Sunday, May 31st. They immediately cut his cord because his breathing was erratic, and placed him on my chest to see if he’d regulate. He coughed and made noise, but didn’t cry. The nurse then took him to the baby station where the pediatrician tried to get him breathing normally. While this was happening, my placenta was delivered, and then the midwife started yelling, “what is her blood type?” and asking for tools. Everything was a mess, and I was not sure to be worried more about myself or my son, who was now being whisked off to the NICU. I bawled, dismayed and scared; my doula stayed beside me while my husband went with our son. Later, my husband told me that our son weighed 9lbs, 10oz and was 24” long. No wonder he was stuck!
The midwife stitched me for 2.5 hours, a second degree tear, and doctors came and went during this time to tell me about my treatments for both the preeclampsia and chorioamnionitis. I laid there helpless, and all I could think about was that everything had gone wrong.
Hours later, in a fog of magnesium (that shit is awful. AWFUL) I was wheeled to the NICU to see my son, and was allowed to touch him through the hole of the plastic baby bed. He was OK, but needed 48 hour observation due to the chorioamnionitis, which may have caused the breathing issues. They’d keep him on oxygen until he stabilized. I could barely see straight. There was nothing I could do anyway, so they took me to my recovery room where I pumped my breasts every three hours to try and stimulate my milk to come in. My husband suctioned colostrum off my nipples, which was taken down to the NICU to give to baby once he was able.
The magnesium fog got a little better after the initial, high dose; I started to produce urine and could move on my own again, albeit with the IV rack for that and my antibiotics. I kept pumping and was visited by lactation who said they’d come with me to the NICU when my son was ready to try breastfeeding. It was 24 hours before I was finally able to hold my son and attempt to feed him; he screamed incessantly and refused the breast as if it were poisoned. Nurses and LCs shoved and pushed and worked him, nothing. This continued for 2 days, nurse after nurse, LC after LC. “The magnesium will make this more difficult until you can get rid of the extra fluids”. I was so traumatized, I just cried and started to fear holding him. “He’ll need to eat before we can take him off his IV and let him go home” the NICU nurses said; I was stuck in limbo. He couldn’t leave the NICU but breastfeeding wasn’t working and I knew the only chance we had was if I could get him home.
I cried so much, I felt so broken. The NICU is a horrible place to try and fix what went wrong at birth. Finally, after yelling at almost everyone, a nurse told me we could get him out of the NICU by supplementing with formula. I had no desire to feed formula if we didn’t have to, but I knew absolutely nothing would change until we got the hell out of that place. So, we agreed. We gave him formula in little bottles with the colostrum I pumped; they allowed us to take him home after a night of good feedings.
It took two weeks of hearbreak, blood, sweat, tears, and lactation consultants but he eventually started breastfeeding. I’ll tell that story another day.
I am so traumatized from the birth, it will take time to recover. I feel angry that in all of the reading I did for a natural birth, so little of it prepared me for what happens when everything goes wrong. Almost everything that happened was something that is vehemently not recommended, from induction, to epidural, to antibiotics, to formula feeding. I wasn’t prepared for what happens when things go wrong – but I was prepared to agonize and terrorize myself over the miscues as if I’d failed at everything. I’m angry about this – very angry. I knew that birth plans can change, but I wasn’t prepared for the guilt and pain that follows.
I don’t have that photo – you know the one. Where mama is in her hospital gown and is holding a tightly-swaddled babe in hospital blankets. I don’t have the photos of his papa meeting him for the first time. Every time I see someone post their photo like those I cry. I know it’s because it symbolizes something that was taken away from me and I’m too angry and sad still to get over it.
I know I will eventually.
My pregnancy lasted 41 weeks and 1 day.
Jack William made his entrance in to the world on May 31st, 2015, a week and a day over his due date.
I’ll write his birth story here soon but I want to write a little about pregnancy now that I’m back alone in my body.
On the day before I was induced, my sister in law, David and I trudged across the sand at Rodeo beach, hoping to bring on labor . We took the last pregnancy photo, which I love because you can see just how swollen I had gotten at the end.
I remember how the air felt different that day, knowing it was literally the last day I’d be pregnant, the last day I’d ever NOT be a mother. You prepare yourself for months, but the inevitable change isn’t really anything you can really prepare for. I can remember knowing that, at least, however I could have known it.
41 Weeks is a long time to do anything that’s temporary. I had a rough start, and a rough end, but overall, pregnancy was an experience I am truly thankful for.
My pregnancy changed my marriage, too – it strengthened it. I always knew David would be a wonderful caregiver, but the love and endless support he gave me, during all the stages of need, was just unparalleled. I think he believed he owed me, in part, because I took care of him while he was recovering from the accident, but even if that hadn’t happened I know he would have been amazing. I am not good at being in need. I like to take care of myself. He knows that and did everything to ease the transition.
Once late in pregnancy, I had a day where I just had had it. I was sore, my hip hurt, I was tired but couldn’t sleep, hungry but didn’t want any food, uncomfortable and being punched in the bladder repeatedly. He said, “get up and go in to the bedroom.”. He got the laptop, some popcorn, and the dog, and told me to lay down and relax. We laid there for a couple of hours, relaxing, cuddling, and watching something we’d undoubtably watched before a million times that’d make me happy. He worked so hard to keep the happiness and love flowing in our house in the months before Jack arrived. I can’t imagine what some women, who don’t have that support, go through. I am so thankful.
Now that it’s over, I think back on most of the experience with happiness. So many milestones over 9 months that I hope I never forget. Hearing his heartbeat for the first time, seeing him move on the ultrasound, feeling him move and then feeling those movements grow and change…having David feel him for the first time…watching my body change…shopping in a section I’ll never shop in again…making a baby registry (which was so hard at the time!) and basking in the AMAZING generosity of my friends and family who really spoiled us as we prepared for Jack’s arrival. Telling our family and our friends was joyful, and I got reactions that I never anticipated from people who were truly happy to hear that we were expecting.
Now that he’s out in the world, I look back on my pregnancy pretty fondly. I know that’s what happens, so we keep procreating. We forget the hard stuff and remember how amazing it was to grow a little person.
Once the final month rolled around, I knew I’d have to run two full-day photoshoots to keep my team in good shape while I am out on maternity leave.
Without being pregnant, full-day shoots are totally exhausting…awesome, but just completely exhausting! We have a small crew (usually just three of us; me, photo assistant and art director) so everyone is working very hard. I knew I’d have to really relax myself a bit on these last two since I can’t do everything anymore, but it’s hard to sit while the others are working.
We finished both shoots and both were a great success. I feel good knowing they’re in the books and I don’t have to worry while I’m gone. I’m very nervous about maternity leave, partially because I love working, partially because I know some things will happen while I’m gone and there’s nothing I can do about it.
My boss instagrammed this hilarious photo of me mid-shoot…