For years I have been adamant about home-birthing. I sincerely believe that having a home birth or birthing in a Birth Center is a beautiful, safe process for both mom and baby, when their risks are low. Hospitals are places for the sick and healing, not for bringing in life. However, there are special circumstances that call for a baby to be brought into the world in a hospital. Our daughter, Evelynn, was one of those special cases. On Sunday, November 17th, I had some moderately painful contractions for several hours, but I was able to stop them on my own with hydration and position changes. I didn’t feel quite right for the next few days and on Wednesday I called my midwife, who made a home visit to check to see if I was dilating. I wasn’t, but she wanted to run some labs to make sure the contractions and still present pain weren’t anything else. The next day I went to a lab but had issues and wasn’t able to submit a sample. By that evening I was in so much pain I made a trip the ER. They said I had an infection, gave me a prescription and sent me home. I took antibiotics for almost 48 hours while my symptoms got worse and finally I had more complications and ended up in the ER again on Saturday. This was the same hospital I was in two days before, yet they weren’t able to do much for me while they waited for results from more tests. Since I was a bit more dilated than before, they admitted me to Labor and Delivery and gave me rounds of IV antibiotics and fluids. However, they refused to give me tylenol because they wanted to “keep an eye” on my fever (which reached 103 F during my stay) and several nurses decided this was the perfect time to talk to me about the dangers of having a midwife, how my infection could hurt the baby, etc. The next day I was still not feeling much better than when I had been admitted and was experiencing what I could only describe as gas-cramps that would not go away. There was no pressure, no contractions… just these nonstop cramps. I told the nurse and she suggested that I be checked for any cervix changes or dilation. I was another centimeter dilated (now around 3) and since there was no sign of slowing I had to make some decisions about what to do next. I agreed to a steroid shot to prepare the baby’s lung in case of delivery and I was put on my left side to get the shot in my hip. I was still on my side when the fetal monitor showed a deceleration in the baby’s heart rate and even though it was normal for the monitor to lose the baby’s heartbeat or even pick up mine, especially after changing positions, the nurse panicked. Before I could turn back over she had called in several other nurses into my room who all immediately began to move me around, touch me and put me on oxygen. One nurse, without saying a word to me, grabbed my arm to adjust it for the IV and I had to pull my arm away from her and tell her to please not touch me. Another nurse started to put an oxygen mask on my face, another was adjusting the heart rate monitor and several other nurses were making their way into my room to stand around and watch the commotion! I had become their main attraction. The baby’s heartbeat was found seconds later after I had moved back to my original position and my husband had to make it clear that communication was absolutely necessary and that they could not just touch me without consent. I was livid about what had just happened. This is when they decided to offer transferring me to another hospital. I gladly consented, especially since I was being taken to the hospital where my mother worked in Maternal and Fetal care and because I was absolutely done with the staff at the current hospital.
A Doctor did an ultrasound to check the baby’s head position and cord to make sure she was in a good position for possible delivery and I signed the paperwork to be transferred. The nurse decided to warn us again about the decel from earlier, but her words meant nothing at this point as she had been flip-flopping on the validity of the monitors during her entire shift (telling us the dips and spikes in the fetal monitor were good signs, then telling us the monitor didn’t always pick up contractions, that the machine was “archaic” and not always reliable, then worrying again about the fetal decels). I know the staff meant well in their own way, but their attempts at “educating” me came off as rude and pretentious. After the heart rate incident I had called my mother to come to the hospital because I needed additional support. My sister, husband and children were there for a visit but it was extremely late and my kids had to go to bed (which meant Daddy had to go home for awhile too). They went home after my mother arrived and transfer to the hospital came pretty quickly after that.
I had a quick but bumpy ambulance ride and they got me into a room and hooked up to monitors immediately. The baby’s heart rate decelerated when we got there (but went back up again) and a Doctor had come in to explain the possibility of a c-section. My stomach turned. Then a second Doctor came in to explain the risks and while she did the baby’s heart rate dropped again…. and didn’t come back up. They got an ultrasound to count the rate visually and she asked if it didn’t go back up soon would I consent to a c-section. Yes. I nodded my head. And then I was whisked off down the hallway, balling my eyes out and holding an oxygen mask to my face. My husband wasn’t there yet and I was terrified. I closed my eyes and then I was in the operating room with blinding bright lights. I moved to the table and laid down where they put my arms out the side and shoved an IV into my left hand. A Doctor put a larger mask on my face, told me that I would have to go to sleep for this and to breathe. I felt them scrub my torso and thighs. They put up a blue curtain. And the Doctor told me to take deep breaths.
I woke up to someone calling my name but I couldn’t tell who it was. I couldn’t tell if I was still in the operating room or not. Then I realized my husband was next to me and my sister and mother were there. The next hour or so is pretty hazy. I remember my husband telling me as soon as I opened my eyes that the baby was in the NICU but was doing really well. It turns out she had a nuchal cord x 2 (the cord was wrapped around her neck twice) and a true knot (a knot in the cord). I asked a few questions and my sister showed me pictures she took (she was our designated photographer, as she usually is for family events). I don’t remember much following that except that they were concerned about my breathing. They took me down for x-rays and had me practice breathing into a spirometer. I found out later that I was in the recovery room for almost 12 hours!
I was finally moved to a room in the Family Birthplace and on the way they wheeled me into the NICU so I could see and hold my daughter for the first time. She was tiny and fragile and beautiful. The next two days were filled with lots of recovering, for me and Evelynn. I was put back on antibiotics to treat my sepsis (a blood infection as a result of the illness I had originally been in the ER for) and lots of IV fluids. I was stuck with so many needles that both of my arms are now covered in bruises and sticky tape residue from my elbow to my hands. I even had a panic attack as my nurse was trying to insert an IV into the side of my arm on Tuesday evening and I had to sign paperwork that said I was refusing my IV after a different nurse had come in with her “vein finder” and said she was going to do my IV in the dark. I immediately tried to explain that it was anxiety (which was noted in my medical history) and that I just needed some time, but it seemed like no one heard me. A Doctor later came in to explain that I HAD to allow them to put the IV in (because there were no oral alternatives to the medicine) and the nurse with the “vein finder” came in to interrogate me about why I wouldn’t let them do the IV because they were all very qualified (she was obviously personally offended, but it had nothing to do with her or anyone else). I was trying my best to calm down, but that is extremely hard to do when the people around don’t understand and aren’t used to dealing with panic attacks and anxiety. They seriously thought I was just refusing my IV (which I had been on for over 36 hours at this point). It took a phone call to my husband to calm me down until I was rational enough to call my nurse back, apologize and request the new IV. They gave me a sleeping pill as well since I had only gotten 3 hours of sleep the previous night and a very sweet, younger nurse from Labor and Delivery was able to quickly put a new IV into my hand with ease. Of course, the next morning my antibiotics were stopped and the IV was removed.
The morning Doctor came in to check on me and said that it was possible for me to go home that day! I was so excited to go home to my husband, my three older kids and my normal environment. Not having control over what I was able to do and when I was going to do it was driving me crazy. The nurse kept me up to date and I spent as much time with baby Evelynn in the NICU as I could that day. I left the hospital Wednesday evening after one last trip to the NICU with my mother. I got settled at home and surprised my husband, who didn’t know I has been discharged, by picking him up from work .
When I got home I cried. My birth was nothing like I had planned it to be. I had imagined laboring slowly at home with my family to support me and giving birth at the gorgeous birth center I had been going to for my prenatal appointments. Since this was our last baby I was never going to have the home birth I felt I deserved or knew that I could have. My baby did not come home with me. My children do not get to love on their little sister for several more weeks. I am struggling to get my milk to come in and maintain a pumping schedule. My cesarean incision and the staples are extremely uncomfortable and I’m living in the only pair of pants that aren’t too tight and don’t rub against my belly. My legs and feet are so swollen I can barely walk. My family is bugging me to “relax” but I cannot make myself constantly lie around. I felt useless and disgusting my first night home. My husband held me and told me how hard it was for him to hear me call myself disgusting. That he loved me and thought I was beautiful because of who I was and what I was capable of. And that he was thankful that I was healthy and our daughter was too. I knew all this, but it still hurt.
I woke up this morning, Thanksgiving, to the smell of french toast my sister was making for brunch. I followed the aroma to the kitchen and went to get a cup of coffee but when I reached in the cabinet my “Because I’m Pregnant, That’s Why” coffee cup was sitting proudly in front. Suddenly I was angry and started to cry. I should still be pregnant. I shouldn’t be guarding my belly because of my incision, I should be guarding my belly because I was pregnant. I tossed the cup aside and used a different cup, leaving the other discarded on the counter as I wiped away my tears. Today was a hard, but rewarding day. I was able to take care of the kids successfully while my husband was at work, I called the NICU to check on her and make feeding arrangements, I was able to pump milk and I read through the NICU informational binder as well. Then I cleaned and organized our bathroom and also wrapped the kids’ Christmas presents before picking up my husband from work. When we were home he put together leftovers for dinner and got the kids ready for bed. It was a calm but also busy day. Hopefully there will be many more days like that. To read about Evelynn’s progress click here.
Photo by Eternity Shaina
Read my PostPartum Recap Here