Welp. That didn’t go as planned.
Biggest understatement of the year.
As I’m writing this, I’m sitting at home trying to rest and heal while the latest addition to our family naps after a long round of cluster feeding.
The last couple of weeks have been a rollercoaster, with a lot of scares, but I’m glad he’s here and at home.
I guess I have to admit to myself that I wasn’t put on this earth for easy births. Or as my husband would say, “You can’t have it all.”
Except, between both of the births of my kids, it seems God may have wanted me to have every birthing experience available to women. Okay, that might be a bit of a slight exaggeration, but I promise it’s not far off.
However, both births have taught me a lesson in balancing being prepared and controlling the things you can while going with the flow of the circumstances you’re dealt in life.
So let’s get into it.
In this blog article, we’re covering my birth story for my daughter and lessons learned. Next week, we’ll cover my son’s birth story.
Birth Story #1 – My daughter
Lesson #1: A journey that’s mostly easy will inevitably have its rough spots … usually right before your destination.
Even though she was my rainbow baby, the pregnancy with my daughter – my firstborn – was relatively easy. Save a few pregnancy side effects that NO ONE warned me about (hello, pregnancy onset carpal tunnel!), I can safely say there wasn’t much to worry about for the 41 weeks my kiddo decided to reside in my womb.
I had nausea but never threw up. I didn’t have crazy food cravings – only aversions, which I guess helped me manage my weight. I wasn’t high risk. I passed the gestational diabetes test, and I was pretty active right up until the day I was admitted to the hospital.
But I should’ve known that my luck would run out.
My hospital bag had been packed and ready to go at 36 weeks, and my birthing playlist was set in order, so I was getting pretty impatient once the 41-week mark hit.
The plan was to call my doula once contractions set in then head to the hospital where she would meet me as we worked through the labor process.
I was set to give birth at a boutique hospital that catered to women. My hubby and I had toured the hospital, knew what my private room would look like, taken all the newborn CPR and parenting classes that were offered, and knew what resources were available to me. We should have had this in the bag.
Except…that’s not exactly what happened.
On the day I was admitted to the hospital, I hadn’t felt my daughter move as often as she normally did. Considering this little girl loved to host her very own private Olympics in my womb, where she used my ribs as the uneven bars, it was pretty concerning.
I mentioned it to my hubby, who told me to call my doctor. At this point in the pregnancy, my doctor instructed us to just head to the hospital for an ultrasound.
I’m all leg and virtually no torso, so even though I’m tall, my torso was probably meant to be on someone who is barely 5 feet tall. I figured Lil Bean just ran out of room and therefore couldn’t move as much as she used to. Especially since she was over-baking.
But when the ultrasound tech paused, pursed her lips, and said, “I’ll be right back,” I knew we weren’t leaving the hospital (good thing my bag was already packed and in the trunk of the car!)
They put us in one of the triage rooms to wait for the doctor, who eventually came in with the news:
My daughter was running out of amniotic fluid and I would have to be induced.
She told me I would need to eat because once the process began, I wouldn’t be allowed anything other than ice. Again, something no one warned me about!
So, naturally, I sent my husband off to get me pasta so I could carb load on what I thought would still be just a vaginal delivery.
Induction didn’t start until the evening, and for the most part, was uneventful. 4 am hit and I started to feel contractions. At first, these were manageable and I didn’t even realize they were contractions until they started to wake me up every 4 minutes.
I called my doula who confirmed, yup, that sounded like I was in labor. She’d be on her way, but not to worry, “first-time moms labor slowly.”
At first, I was managing the pain on my own. My hubby forgot my exercise ball in the car and didn’t want to make the trek to go get it because he was sleepy (#men), so I paced the room. It wasn’t until daylight when I signaled to the nurses that if an epidural was on the menu, I’d have one, please!
By early afternoon, I was fully dilated and ready to go.
The epidural was strange for me. With not being able to feel my lower half, I wasn’t at all sure whether I was in fact pushing. But I was. I pushed for 3 long hours.
I knew I was on the precipice. My doctor said my daughter crowned an hour ago. Why wasn’t I progressing?
I tried to gauge my hubby’s face because he gets a concentrated look whenever anything medically goes wrong – it’s just how his med school mind works. His face was a frown and he was biting his lips.
Soon after that, my doctor popped her head up with a sigh and said “We have to call it. I promised you I would give you every opportunity to push, but it’s been three hours. She’s stuck and losing fluid. Fast. We’re going to have to take her out now.”
Ugh. My worst-case scenario was happening. An emergency C-section.
I was heartbroken and plenty nervous. Part of me felt like a failure for not being able to push my baby all the way out. Simultaneously, the overly analytical part of me kept thinking about the statistics surrounding the high mortality rates for women of color during the birthing process and I just really didn’t want to be a statistic.
But just at that moment, the song “It Is Well” came up on my playlist and I relaxed a little. Since I’m a God girl, I took that as a sign that He was going to take over from here and He had this.
If you’ve never had a C-section before, the experience is pretty jarring to the system. The O.R. is cold, they strap you to the table in the most vulnerable positions, and you shake … constantly. At first, I thought that was a sign I was going into shock. But a nurse assured me that it was totally normal (again, no one warned me!).
They didn’t get the anesthesia right the first time because when my doctor poked me with a sharp, metal object, I flinched before she could ask whether I felt it. “Well, we’ll just adjust that,” she responded to my reaction.
Like, I’m glad you checked before you just sawed into me!
I was also surprised to find that I could feel when they reached the baby and took her out. There was a lot of tugging, some pressure, and then a massive release of pressure. At which point you hear the most beautiful thing as a new mom:
Baby’s first cry.
The O.R. nurses cleaned her up, let me see her for all of 30 seconds, and then whisked her away to perform all of the newborn tests.
Then I went black.
Lesson #2: You need a Support Person/Team Member Who Knows What They’re Doing To Help You Navigate Through Obstacles
Let’s recap: At this point, I reached 41 weeks. My baby lost a lot of fluid, I had to be induced, I was in labor for 24 hours, pushed for 3 hours to the point of crowning and baby getting stuck, and ended up with an emergency C-section. It really was like the worst of both worlds.
I woke up in a recovery room with my husband sitting in a chair beside me and no sign of baby. Naturally, my first question was:
“Where’s the baby?”
He told me she was in the nursery, but wanted to be with me when I woke up. I don’t know why I was mad that he wasn’t watching over her, and instead “wasting” time with me while I was out, but I was.
However, it’s a good thing he seemed to know better. Because not long after I woke up, I saw his eyes fixate on my monitors, and his face took on an increasingly concentrated look.
I knew something was wrong. I just didn’t know what because I felt completely fine.
Suddenly, he darts out of the makeshift room (which was really just a bunch of curtains surrounding me in a square), and storms back in with an entire team of medical staff on his heels.
My monitor was just outside my field of vision, so I wasn’t sure what was happening, but there was a whole hubbub of folks swarming frantically around, pressing buttons, pulling wires, and shouting different codes that meant nothing to me.
I was confused because, although there was a lot of talking, no one was talking to me. And I felt fine. Until I suddenly didn’t. And then I went black. Again.
I woke up 4 hours later in a postpartum room. In a bout of déjà vu, my husband was at my bedside and no baby in sight. It was dark outside and I was in a different room (a real one this time), so I knew a lot of time had passed.
Once my hubby confirmed that 4 hours had indeed gone by, I asked what happened.
It turns out I was postpartum preeclamptic and my heart rate skyrocketed. It took the medical staff hours to stabilize me. And if my hubby hadn’t caught the signs on the monitor, no one would’ve checked on me in time (remember his wordless mad dash out of the room? Yeah. It’s a good thing he did that).
Once he caught me up on the entire traumatic episode, I requested my daughter, who I had only glimpsed for a few seconds hours ago, be brought to me.
Lesson #3: You’re Stronger Than You Think
As you might probably guess, recovery and postpartum were rough. I had to use all the postpartum care for a vaginal delivery (her head did crown, after all) and have all the recovery needed for an emergency C-section.
The delay in meeting my little bub and the trauma endured beforehand (I believe) affected my milk supply, which made our nursing journey super difficult for months.
When I returned to work, my supply plummeted, I slept virtually zero hours and I was almost ready to call it quits.
But I didn’t.
I made one small change a day that would make the next day more tolerable than the day before. That’s all I could manage.
When I overdid it and my C-section incision re-opened – I went back on pain meds and dialed down my activity (a hard thing for a Type A productivity queen such as myself to do). When work overwhelmed me, I asked to be temporarily put on reduced hours. When I didn’t sleep during the week, I hired a babysitter for blocks at a time on the weekend, so all I could do was sleep while someone watched the baby.
I made small changes until I was in a place where I could say I was starting to feel like myself again.
Was this difficult?
I distinctly remember this period of my life as the “I will never have another kid for as long as I live” period. This coming from a person who originally thought her dream family size would be five kids (what was I thinking!).
But did it make me stronger? More efficient? Firmer in my boundaries? Kinder? More understanding? It sure did.
Most importantly, it gave me my daughter, and I wouldn’t trade her for anything in the world.