To give fair warning, this will be long and mostly unpleasant, but has a happy ending. I'm going to do two posts: first, the pregnancy and birth; second, everything that happened after, because it's deserving of mention. I'll try not to be too too long.
At about 20 weeks pregnant I had an "anatomy scan" ultrasound, which revealed what the doctor initially thought were amniotic bands. This is a really serious condition, which results in the loss of limbs or digits, disfigurement, and requires a very early delivery. A visit with a perinatologist and subsequent 25-week ultrasound revealed that what they were seeing was actually a uterine band, not an amniotic bands, and that it shouldn't have any impact on the baby or my delivery. This was sort of a surprise, because uterine bands a.k.a. Asherman's Syndrome, are most commonly found in women with a history of prior uterine surgery or D&C, and I had neither. The band was essentially the width of two fingers, and stretched from one end of the placenta (which was top/right/posterior) to the opposite top side of my uterus. My pregnancy progressed normally, and I worked full time at my desk job until I reached 39 weeks. Because I was working, we ate out a lot and I ended up gaining nearly 50 lbs (reaching almost 190 at 5'6'').
A few days before my due date, I went in to have my membranes swept. I was almost 2 cm, but the sweep did nothing. I had begun taking blue and black cohoshes, because I was absolutely tired of being pregnant, and I didn't want to deliver on the weekend, when I would have only the on-call OB instead of my midwives. At the time, we were living on a sort of remote island, so this was my only option to have a midwife at all--otherwise it would have been an OB group or a UC. I lost my mucus plug on February 11th, and I was thrilled--everyone in my DDC told me my baby would be here very soon! Interestingly, I never once felt a Braxton Hicks contraction, so I was anxious to see what labor would be like. My mother (at 5'2 and barely 110 lbs.), birthed two nearly nine pound babies, so I had no reason to think it would be difficult for me.
My due date came on Thursday, February 12, 2009, and DH was kind enough to drive me over every speed bump and pothole on the island. Then we went and ate a ton of hot wings--like I said, I was willing to try anything to get labor started. While we were eating, I had some back pain, but no sensation in my stomach anywhere, which I what I was waiting to call a contraction. We headed home, and I laid down to get some rest. DH left around 8 p.m. to go to work for a few hours and finish things up, in case this was actually labor. I was too excited and uncomfortable to sleep, so I laid in bed for a couple of hours, and then decided to get in our big tub. About this time I realized that I was actually in labor, so I called DH and told him to stay at work as long as he needed to get things done and to remind him to put his out of office message on.
I went between laying in the tub and laying on the couch until about 3 a.m., at which time I started throwing up. I still had no pain in my abdomen at all; just a constant crushing feeling enveloping my hips and lower back. I don't know if it was the pain or the fear, or what, but I threw up or dry heaved about every 10 minutes for the next four hours. At this point I felt pretty betrayed by the natural childbirth community. No one told me that the pain could be constant and crippling so early. No one mentioned the vomiting. I was waiting for manageable waves of AF-like abdominal cramps, and I never had one. Just excruciating back labor. I felt so defeated and I was just getting started.
When DH got home around 7 a.m. on Friday, I called the midwife and asked what I could do about the vomiting. They basically said that I could go to the hospital or wait until they opened at 8:30 and go get checked at their office. I should have waited. Instead, we went to the hospital, where I asked for something to make me stop vomiting. That's all I wanted, but they had to hook me up to everything to "evaluate" me before they would give me anything. I didn't care. I just wanted to stop puking. They ended up giving me phenergan (sp?) and morphine. Second mistake. I let them check me--only 3 cm. Third mistake. What I didn't realize was that once they start giving you something, they don't have to tell you every time they give you another dose. They just kept doping me up, and I did rest. Finally around 2 p.m. on Friday, still at only 4 cm and feeling better, I asked to be discharged. While they were doing the paperwork and I was talking to my dad on the phone, my water broke all by itself. Yay! I hoped this would mean progress. Because the afternoon nurse was sweet and I was standing in a pool of water, goo, and blood, I decided to go to the bathroom to cry about ruining the beautiful bamboo floors and think about what to do next. While I'm sitting on the toilet, the meds are wearing off and the truck is driving over my back again and again. I'm vomiting everywhere, and I decide to just give up and die. This is not what I had planned at all.
Around 4 p.m., they tell me the anesthesiologist is leaving for the day, and I need to decide whether I want an epidural or not. No, I do not. Two long hours go by, and I have him called back to give me the epi. By this time it has been 24 hours since labor began, and I really am done. The first epi misses. The second is a hit, and he turns it up so high that I can't even move my knees, but oh, the relief. Emotionally, I'm gone at this point. No sleep, and I've given in to every intervention under the sun, despite my big plans for a natural birth. Around then my midwife shows up, even though she's not supposed to be working. She stays for me--she has been delivering babies longer than I've been alive, and I trusted her completely. Its like she knew how much I needed her there.
Around 9:30 p.m. I reach 10 cm, and my midwife suggests turning off the epidural so that I can feel and maybe push. From about 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. I push, with zero feeling in my lower body; my DH and useless doula holding my legs. My midwife moves me all over the place. At one point, DH says she has both of her hands inside of me up to her wrists. The monitors are beeping, but my midwife is working. Turning me, doing God-knows-what inside of me. The baby's heart rate is fluctuating between 180 and 200+ bpm. The nurses are getting worried; the on-call OB and anesthesiologist are called in. They tell me to stop pushing and roll me on my left side. They give me oxygen. My midwife is crying and tells me she thinks its time to talk to the OB. I don't want to talk to the OB; I trust her completely and know that she wouldn't send me for a section if it wasn't right.
They wheel me down to the OR with the oxygen and monitors and crap, and in a way I'm relieved. I get my 3rd epidural because the hospital doesn't have the kind you turn on and off--once its off, you have to have a new one. Aubrey Ruth is born at 3:01 a.m. via c-section. She was left occupit posterior, with the cord wrapped once around her torso and once around her neck. She was pretty blue and needed oxygen, but seemed okay. 6 lb. 13 oz.; 18 3/4 inches. The anesthesiologist let me keep one arm free during the surgery, and DH stayed with her from the moment she came out. They made me stay in the recovery area for what seemed like hours (until I could wiggle my toes), until I became hysterical, demanding my baby. They finally took me back up to a recovery room in L&D, where I rested with DD while DH stood watch over us.
They're not in order, but the first photo is the first time I held DD. The second is the OB pulling her out of me. In the third photo you can see how cone-headed she was from me pushing on her for three hours. In the fourth, she still has as much cord attached as they could leave, which made me happy.
As soon as I was awake enough to hold her, we tried to nurse. DD would not wake up enough to latch. She just wanted to sleep. We tried constantly. Friends and my brother came and visited, but I saw nothing but my baby that wouldn't eat. After about 20 hours, she still hadn't peed, so they did a catheter and found "suspicious" bacteria that got everyone very concerned. At this hospital, there was no children's ward or NICU, so they gave her some IV fluids and put her under the bili lamp. The pedi was called. She still wouldn't nurse. She wouldn't take a bottle. She wouldn't pee. TBH, if this had been a home birth, we would have snuggled in and slept for a day--but that doesn't happen in the hospital.
Around 4 a.m. on Sunday, they concluded that she needed to go to a NICU, so she was taken by air ambulance to Miami Children's Hospital. Because I was less than 48 hours post-op, I couldn't go with her. I was in no shape to drive 4.5 hours to Miami alone, so she went alone in the helicopter and DH drove me there. A kind nurse slipped some pain pills into DH's hand for me to take along the way. I cry in DH's arms. We go to Miami. I pass clots the size of softballs, but I don't feel any pain from my incision. For the next three weeks, DD stays in the NICU at Miami Children's Hospital, refusing to eat, pee, or poop. They run tons of tests, xrays, MRIs. They tell us that she may have necrotizing endocolitis and that if we take her out of the hospital against medical advice she could die. They tell us child protective services will be called, and that we will have to pay for the entire hospital stay and helicopter flight. They tell us if she just drinks 60 ml for three consecutive feeds, she can go home--and it takes her days to do it. From traveling between the hotel and hospital, I pull out four stitches. A NICU nurse checks it out and says it seems to be just the outside layer, so I should just take it easy.
Every night I cry for my baby. DH gets us a hotel room near the hospital and a breast pump for me, and I pump around the clock. DH is military, and his command gave him permissive orders to accompany DD to the hospital so that he didn't have to take paid leave, and also picked up the hotel room bill. They were amazing. Finally, we convince a resident to convince a doctor to release DD, and she goes home with us on March 6th. Now three weeks old, she has never breastfed, but within two days she is being exclusively breast fed, and all of the milk I pumped goes in a deep freezer. My baby is small, but fine. She does have some sensory issues that I attribute to her NICU stay, but she is perfect, and was breastfed for 18 months. I had flashbacks of the section and NICU stay for a long time, but I feel like I've come to terms with it all now--I know my frustration will come through in my writing, but I wanted to share a story that didn't go as planned.
I'm now 10 weeks pg with baby #2, and there is so much I will do differently, and so much I have learned. I'm planning a VBAC, and I'm through with Monday-morning QBing it all. Thanks to anyone who reads this far!
Photos of: my freezer stash while DD was in the NICU, DD with daddy before the feeding tube was removed, and DD today.
Thanks for sharing - it sounds very scary but I'm glad everything finally turned out. Best of luck with your pregnancy - hope it goes completely different!
SAHM to Abraham (9) Gillian (5) Adrienne (3) and baby boy coming in October!
Always missing our Gianna, lost during fullterm labor (8/23/04)
Sticking together through the good and the bad with dh of 10 yrs!
Thank you for sharing. I liked your comment about being done with being the Monday morning QB. At some point we just have to decide we did the best we could at the time in the situation with information we had available to us.
My first was born via a c/s I didn't want that was proceeded by an intervention filled induction I didn't want. He was with me for a few days in the hospital, but was taken to the NICU the day we were supposed to come home for low-grade fever to receive IV antibiotics. He did not have a single fever once they took him through the NICU doors, but still they kept him for 3 days. I had to work through much of this for my daughter's homebirth 2 years ago. That was such a healing experience.
I am so excited to be in a DDC and see the beautiful outcome of your next birth!
what an amazing journey. loved all the photos. are you having a vbac this time?
my youngest dd is aubrey rose
go on youtube and search aubrey bread
living with alopecia universalis (google it), learning alongside my children DD 2003 DS 2007DD 2011
Thanks for sharing your story, and congrats on #2! Looks like a very happy and healthy girl you've got there :)
Married to my sweetie and enjoying life with our fabulous dog. Expecting #1 in August 2012!!!!