Time for the December Real Talk Real Moms post! Today we’re talking all about birth stories (it wasn’t an intentional thing to share about births in December, but I couldn’t help but wonder as I wrote this how on earth Mary delivered Jesus in a stable…surrounded by animals and straw and sand. So scary and incredible!). Beware: what you’re about to read is long 😉 But, it’s all part of the story…. I’d absolutely love to hear your birth stories (I’m obsessed), so please share!
It’s hard to believe that 3 1/2 years ago today, I was uncomfortably lounging in a hospitable bed wondering how I was possibly going to shower on my own, my baby just a few days old and stuck in the NICU. My mom was probably trying to rest on the small, plastic-lined couch and Joe was probably bottle feeding Zoe freshly pumped milk. Nothing (and I repeat, NOTHING) went according to our carefully thought out “plan” for Zoe’s birth. Our plan consisted of a relaxing stay at our birthing center, unassociated with any hospital. I had my birthing room all picked out. I was going to labor and possibly deliver in a luxurious tub. My midwives were going to be in charge. Soft music was going to be playing, and it was all going to be natural.
Instead, I was 12 days overdue (the plan was for Zoe to arrive fashionably early), I had a hospital birth, I didn’t have a water birth, I had a c-section, Zoe had to spend several days in the NICU and then had finish out the first week of life in pediatrics, and the list goes on. But in the end, I couldn’t be more thankful for the result: we had a healthy baby girl, the hospital staff was incredibly loving and caring, and I honestly wouldn’t change a thing!
On 40 weeks 11 days, I was getting desperate. I knew that at two weeks overdue, I would have to be induced, and this was certainly not part of our “birth plan.” The day before, I was 2 cm dilated, and my membranes had been stripped by my midwife with no result. So, under the direction of my midwives, I decided to chug castor oil (mixed with orange juice) and take a series of herbal tinctures, each timed at 15 minute intervals. Very soon after, the castor oil kicked in and worked its magic (if you know what I mean…). I felt a few contractions here and there (but wasn’t even sure) and I was bummed. Late that evening, one of my midwives stopped by to check my dilation. I was still only 3 cm, with vert mild contractions. So, I went to bed with high hopes that something would happen in the morning.
I woke up at 1 am, shivering cold (odd, because it was late June), with a high fever (around 102), and definitely in labor (contractions were around 4.5 minutes apart). I immediately texted my midwife. She was concerned, because I had tested GBS+, and the fever was possibly a sign of an infection. Ultimately, she wanted me to go to the hospital to be examined. If it were the GBS, I would probably need antibiotics and unfortunately, in Virginia, midwives are very limited and cannot offer antibiotics at their birthing centers. So around 5 am, after showering, timing contractions, drinking lots of water, and trying to get my fever lowered, we drove the 15 minutes to the hospital. It was a brutal drive of contraction-timing, telling Joe to slow down (and also hurry up and get me there). After about two hours of tests, monitoring, and contractions getting stronger and closer (all in the triage room), I was finally admitted to a laboring room, with no hope of being sent to my birthing center. The doctor was concerned by the presence of white blood cells, which meant my body was probably fighting off some sort of infection. My birth plan hopes were slowly dashing.
After settling into my room around 8 am, my mother-in-law arrived and began to help me breath through my contractions. I was around 4 cm dilated and at this point, the plan was to still deliver naturally. My mom and sister were on their way from NJ and at this point, things get a bit hazy. At some point, my midwife Kelly arrived. In Virginia, midwives cannot practice at hospitals, so her roll was more that of a doula, and I am so incredibly grateful for every single second of Kelly being at the hospital with us. She and Joe supported me over the next 3 hours. I had very bad back labor, and they helped me through every contraction and firmly applied pressure to my lower back. Kelly encouraged me to walk around the room (which was difficult, since I was hooked up to antibiotics) to speed up my labor. Around 12 pm, I was 7 cm. Sooo close.
But then, suddenly, the doctor became concerned about the baby’s heartbeat. The doctor was having a hard time monitoring it, and then was concerned about the decelerations near the end of my contractions. Ultimately, she decided that I needed an emergency c-section. When I heard that, I was just crushed. Not only was I at a hospital, but I was going to have major surgery?! And was going to have to somehow endure contractions while waiting for my epidural, without coaching from Kelly and Joe? I really didn’t think I was going to make it to the operating room without them.
Before I knew it, I was sitting on the operating table, squeezing my nurse’s hand, being told if I held still, I wouldn’t even feel the next contraction. And she was right, I didn’t…. Joe was allowed in the operating room at this point, and he sat up by my head and encouraged me and distracted me. Around 1:15 pm, little Zoe was delivered!
Unfortunately, because of my fever and the possibility of infection (which was never confirmed), the doctor wanted Zoe to be on antibiotics for at least a few days (and up to a week), so while I was in recovery, she was admitted to the NICU. I didn’t see her until a few fours after she was born. It was surreal and odd…and nothing like we’d planned. We had to scrub our hands and arms before entering, I was in a wheel chair, and she was hooked up to what seemed like a million monitors. I didn’t want to be ungrateful, especially since she was healthy and I could hold her, but it felt odd, like we were holding someone else’s baby.
Ultimately, the doctors wanted Zoe to be on antibiotics for a week to protect her against possible infection. So, after a few days in the NICU, she was discharged (thankfully…we were so tired of not sleeping in the same room as our baby, and having such limited access), and sent to pediatrics. We were able to spend the rest of that first week in the room with her, which was such a blessing. The pediatrics staff were kind and treated Zoe, Joe and I so very well. A few hours before she was discharged on day 7, she was unhooked from the antibiotics. I was finally able to snuggle my baby without fear of ripping out the tube and hurting her little hand. What a joy that was!
Those first few weeks were rough. I was recovering from the c-section, was having a very difficult time nursing/pumping and wanted to give up every single second, Joe had to go back to work, and we were desperately trying to keep this little human alive. Pretty sure we made a million mistakes, but ultimately, nursing was conquered (after lots of tears, prayers, and help from my mom and my midwife, Kelly), we managed to keep her alive week after week, and things began to get easier. Somehow, it’s 3 1/2 years late (and another baby…that birth story coming soon to a blog near you). We thank God for our little gift of life (Zoe means “life” in Greek) and know we’re blessed to be her parents!
Some lessons I learned throughout this whole “ordeal”…birth plans are great and all, but sometimes the situation doesn’t allow for them to be followed. I never could have anticipated waking up in the middle of the night, in labor, with a high fever. Most importantly, I learned that with birth plans, it helps to be flexible. I was bummed when I got admitted to the hospital, and yes, I was super bummed when I heard the doctor say “c-section”, but at that point, she had to do what she deemed best for mama and baby. Throughout it all, Joe was incredibly supportive and flexible. I still wrote a birth plan for Naomi, and guess what? It was followed almost 100%…and I had very little to do with that. That second time time it was written as more of a “this is what we’d like if the situation allows” type of plan, knowing that the people in charge will do their best to ensure the health of mom and baby! And looking at the bright side….one item was actually met from my birth plan with Zoe: I didn’t have an episiotomy. 😉
Don’t miss the other mamas sharing their birth stories today:
Photos by Anna Clair Photo for A Daily Something
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