Astraea's Birth Story
On Wednesday the 6th my son came home from camp with a cough. By Saturday my husband had gotten it but I seemed to have been spared.
Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday evenings I had contractions all night and couldn't sleep. Tuesday I had contractions all day as well, and I woke up that morning with the same "cold" the boys had.
Wednesday the 13th everything labor-like stopped. My prenatal that morning revealed I hadn't made any progress since the previous week's appointment ("almost 2cm, not effaced") and I was so severely bummed and exhausted that I sat in the bathtub when I got home and cried for two hours. I felt so done, I was so tired, and so uncomfortable, and just... like it needed to be over.
That afternoon I started feeling awful. Coughing uncontrollably to the point I was gagging and vomiting, having shakes and chills, running a fever, body aches, not being able to catch my breath, and rapid heartbeat.
My husband came home and decided I needed to go to the hospital. I argued with him about it but after another hour of worsening symptoms he basically forced me to get dressed to go.
As I was getting my shoes on strong contractions started but I was hardly excited about them because I'd had so many episodes in previous days... I tried again to stall and avoid the drive to the hospital which I just *knew* would be a waste.
My husband won the argument. We arrived at the labor & delivery floor just before 9pm.
I went to triage first, and it must have been even worse to look at me than it felt to BE me (which was already pretty awful) because all of the nurses were beside themselves. I had IVs and blood draws and monitors and breathing treatments and heart monitors and cooling blankets all flying around me in what I can now only remember as a fuzzy blur. At some point I started coughing and couldn't stop.
I coughed until my water broke at 10pm. It was green and slimy and I vaguely remembering hearing one nurse tell another that it didn't smell right as they left the triage room and paged the doctor.
Now that my water was broken the contractions were much stronger and only 4 minutes apart, and because I couldn't breathe through them without fits of coughing, I started throwing up on everything. After an hour of that they checked me and I was dilated to 3... I got admitted at that point.
Thinking of how long it took me to go from 3 to 10 when in labor with my son (19 hours), and knowing that I couldn't breathe, and that I was on day 4 with little to no sleep, my husband decided it was time to throw the natural birth plan out the window and told me to get an epidural.
He tried his best prior to that, but there was no "coaching me through" any of it... Being in labor is so intensely consuming on it's own, being in labor and being horribly sick at the same time was absolute hell and I was finding it impossible to be present the way I needed to work through labor. From when I started feeling sick Wednesday afternoon to when I got my epidural at 2am Thursday, was without a doubt the worst I have ever felt physically. And I think had he not told me to get an epidural I probably wouldn't have... miserable as I was, something in me needed that permission to "take the easy way".
After I got the epidural, and a breathing treatment, finally I slept from 3am-6am. I had no idea at the time that everyone around me was panicked. After three nebulizer treatments my breathing was better, but my fever was not breaking, and my pulse was in the 130's and 140's, and baby's heart rate was in the 240's (after delivery my nurse said she had never seen a baby's heart rate stay that high for so long - nearly 15 hours). I was later told that under normal circumstances they would have taken me for a c-section, but because of how sick I was they were afraid I wouldn't make it through surgery. Luckily, although it was high, the baby's heart rate didn't show any sudden drops or sudden peaks that would have signaled an emergency.
I was dilated to 7 by 8am and they decided to set a goal for noon delivery. They started Pitocin at that point and my husband called the doula. The Pit kicked up my contractions and the epidural wasn't strong enough to handle them and I started to have coughing fits again, so they added stronger pain meds that gave me horrible shakes.
I shook and shook for nearly an hour. My husband tried to help(laying across me to add warmth/pressure, which did calm the shaking some), but it didn't help enough... my teeth chattered so hard that I lost (and probably swallowed) a filling.
My doula arrived, turned on her music, put a warm therapy pillow on my eyes, waved some essential oil under my nose and rubbed my head. In about 2 minutes the shaking stopped. It was magic.
Everything from that point on got better. I took a nap, I drank juice, they had x-Ray and cardiology come in to look at my heart and lungs(to see if I was capable of pushing). By the time that was over I was feeling pressure. Dilated to 10 at 11:45.
11 minutes and 6 easy pushes later and she was out. She was born at 11:56. 8lbs 14oz on 8/14. 21-1/4 inches long. Twice as much hair as her brother. They immediately swept her away. I heard orders to page the NICU team.
They suctioned her lungs forever, and she started mewing like a newborn kitten, and I started sobbing. I could hear the nurses saying she was "tachy" and her temp was high, I was sure I wouldn't see her before they swept her away.
But they did bring her over. They put a mask on me and put her on my chest for about 10 minutes where she mewed and snuggled and blinked at me. And then they gave her to my husband for the remaining few minutes.
Then she disappeared to the NICU. Because of the infection in the fluid, and because they suspected I had the flu as well, I was in isolation and on IV antibiotics for two days. And so was she.
We were able to make several trips down to see her between my med doses, but it was so horribly painful to be there with her and not be able to hold her that it was easier to only have short trips. I couldn't even speak to her the first two days without sobbing...she looked so sad and sick, with wires and tubes everywhere, locked in a plastic box. Her heart rate was still fast, her chest x-ray at birth had shown lots of "junk" in her lungs, her breathing was too rapid, and she wasn't able to keep her temperature up on her own.
We weren't allowed to hold her right away, and we couldn't touch her without gloves and full isolation gear (masks & gowns) for the first 5 days of her life.
I can't even begin to say how horrible it was to leave the hospital while she was still there. The building has a sky bridge that crosses a street and takes you to the parking lot.
I could not force myself to cross that bridge. I kept thinking that she had always been with me, I couldn't be a building away from her... I couldn't have a whole street between us... I couldn't get in the car and drive to a different zip code.
My brain knew it was going to be okay, but every part of my body felt like it was so, so wrong. Somehow I did end up at home without her.
I was so mad those first few days... Mad at myself for getting cold/flu/whatever, mad at my uterus for having an infection when it was supposed to be keeping her safe, mad that she went a week overdue and was in that slimy green fluid getting sick while I had no signs of anything wrong on the outside until the last minute.
Looking back, I wonder if that sudden desperation I felt to have her born that last week of pregnancy wasn't intuition that something was wrong. I won't ever know but it was horrifying to realize she could have not made it at a number of points in all of this.
She did make it though. We're still waiting on results from the placenta biopsy to find out what exactly happened in utero to make both of us so sick, but the good news is she came home last week. We're still having some breathing/choking issues, but her heart is in good shape, her lungs are much better, and the infection (whatever it was) has totally cleared.
It wasn't the birth I had wanted... actually it was pretty much the exact opposite of everything I had envisioned, but once she was born that actually mattered very little. I can't stand how in love with her I am... I can sit and watch her sleep for hours and after the first week of not being able to "have" my baby, I can't seem to put her down or stop touching her.
I keep thinking "I made this" and I could not be more proud of this tiny person, who is already so incredibly strong... and, I think, incredibly beautiful.
Working Mama , married to college sweetheart | DS born 03/2005 | Early losses 05/2010, 04/2013 & 06/2013 | DD (finally!!) due 08/06/2014!