Setting the Stage:
This pregnancy was, by all intensive purposes, pretty easy. We never had any major complications, and sure, while some of the side effects that go along with pregnancy aren’t very comfortable or particularly pleasant, I enjoyed being pregnant very much.
When we got along in our pregnancy enough to discuss birthing methods, we decided that natural was the way to go for us. We hired a doula to help us in the hospital (the best decision we ever could have made) and took Bradley classes to help arm ourselves with the knowledge for a natural birth. We prepared a natural birth plan and specifically requested nurses and doctors who support natural childbirth.
Of course, things don’t always go as you planned…About a month before my due date I started experiencing swelling. Everyone swells during pregnancy so I wasn’t too concerned about it. Unfortunately, I gained about 10 pounds in 2 weeks from water retention and developed carpal tunnel in my right hand due to the swelling. We monitored these symptoms but they never really caused us to raise any flags. About a week before my due date my blood pressure started to increase, enough that my doctors were concerned, and I also started having intense headaches. Still, I really didn’t think much about it until the Sunday before my due date the headaches were so bad that we went to the hospital to make sure everything was okay. The baby’s movement also decreased for a few hours so I got really paranoid that something was wrong (he was sleeping). On the Tuesday night before my due date I started having some cramps. We didn’t think much of them, however they were recurring and intense enough to make me slow down so Thad started keeping track of them just in case. They lasted for about 3.5 hours and then stopped totally. My doctors told me to keep my regularly scheduled Wednesday morning appointment. Little did I know that that appointment would move things along considerably.
At my appointment not only was my blood pressure high but there was protein in my urine. Between the protein, swelling, headaches, and blood pressure, my doctor advised a scheduled induction on Thursday morning because he didn’t want my pre-eclamptic symptoms to go any further. I was already 2 cm dilated at this point and about 50% effaced so my doctor felt that inducing labor by artificially rupturing my bag of waters would jump start my delivery. After a lot of discussion, Thad and I decided to go with the induction. I had carried the baby for 39 weeks and 6 days at this point. Sure, it’s not a spontaneous start of labor but when the concern is over symptoms that can get worse in an unpredictable manner we decided not to tempt fate and risk harm to me or the baby.Birth Story:
We arrived at
After about 10 minutes of pushing (learning curve!), the epidural wore off, and while the pain was more intense, I also had a much better sense of where and how I should push, and the nurse was more excited about the movement of the baby, or at least what we thought was progress. As we continued pushing, a number of things became apparent: the baby was not moving as much as he should, my temperature (approaching 102 degrees), pulse (150 sustained) and blood pressure (180/110) were all worrisome, and the baby’s heart rate was sustained around 190-200 during contractions, signaling distress. After 75 minutes of pushing, the baby had still not moved past the unretracted lip, and the doctor and nurse both recommended we move to an emergency c-section in light of both my and the baby’s deteriorating condition. At this point, the water had been broken for 30 hours, I was already on IV antibiotics to protect against infection, and it was clear that a vaginal delivery was not in the cards.
After being prepped with a chest-down epidural, I was moved to the OR. I fell asleep almost immediately (I have never been so tired in my life), and actually was next awakened by Thad to see our wonderful son as he was moved to the triage station. It was 1714, and we had an 8lb. 13 oz. baby boy. We also received a couple pieces of information that would have been helpful the day before – he was sunny side up, his head position was asynclitic, and the cord was wrapped around his neck twice, preventing his proper descent!
After the doctors sewed me up, I was moved to transition, where the nurses were wonderful – as soon as his breathing was steady enough, they gave us 30 minutes for skin to skin contact, and he snuggled right into me – it was amazing! Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to keep his oxygen numbers high enough on his own and was showing other symptoms of respiratory distress, so he was moved to the NICU for additional oxygen and monitoring. He ended up staying there for five days, working through the TTN (http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/lungs/ttn.html) and then jaundice (caused by the difficult labor and delivery). We finally were able to bring him home almost a week after his birth, on Wednesday June 4th.Thad’s input:
Obviously things didn’t go as we had planned. It was the most difficult and challenging 24 hours of my life, without a doubt. I’ve never been through anything like it, and doubt I will ever see its like.
As Pamela covered all the details, I won’t go into that, suffice it to say that the doula and I were both physically and mentally exhausted, so I can’t even imagine what place Pamela went to that allowed her to continue when we were both so close to collapse.
I will mention a couple of things, though, and they’re both Bradley related. Even though we weren’t able to deliver Julian vaginally, we still feel that we did the best we could have under the circumstances. There were so many times when we had a decision in front of us, and after discussion, we first tried things the natural way, and when that failed, we were forced to turn to the medicinal path to make progress. I can’t even count the natural things we tried – walking, squatting, raspberry tea, primrose oil, nipple stimulation, both blue and black cohosh, special positions with the doula’s riboso… the list went on and on. Unfortunately, they just weren’t enough. I believe that the baby wasn’t quite ready to come out, but due to the worsening pre-eclampsia and the meconium in the water, it is also clear that we didn’t have the luxury of time to wait, so we made the best of it.
Our doula was an absolute wonder. We are forever in her debt for the effort and comfort she provided during such a trying experience. She was a pillar of strength and also provided calm, sound advice during each of our decisions. I don’t know how we would have done it without her.
I don't know if I'll ever be able to look back at the labor and delivery and not get emotional. It was the hardest single thing I've ever had to do in my life and I suspect that it will never be topped. The whole experience pushed me into a new place as well as pushed my relationship with Thad to a new place as well. Looking back, though, despite the difficult recovery and series of unexpected events, I would not change a thing. Bringing Julian into this world required a lot of determination, patience, and ultimately a lot of love between me, Thad, and our doula and I will never be the same because of it. Now we have a beautiful, healthy baby boy and I am slowly on the mend. How can I be disappointed about anything that happened when the outcome was so wonderful?
I'll never be able to thank Thad and Mary Beth for everything they did for me. The doctors and nurses were wonderfully supportive and I am in their debt as well. Sure, it wasn't the delivery we were hoping but we are so lucky to be where we are today. Julian is the most wonderful thing to ever happen to me and I am so grateful for him each and every day. 'Nuff said.