Just Us Girls

Just Us Girls

...one SMC's adventures in single motherhood.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Birth story

Wow, so where do I start? It's been a weird and wonderful ride, and I'm still processing all that went on this past Tuesday, March second, when I went into the hospital to be induced. First, the basics: my amazing miracle daughter, Kiernan Sienna, was born at 6:34 am on Tuesday, March 2nd, weighing six pounds, twelve ounces, and she was 19 3/4 inches long. I always have heard about how boundlessly you find yourself loving your child, but it's the kind of thing you can't truly understand until you get to experience it for yourself. I never imagined how much I could love this tiny, perfect human being, and I feel so incredibly blessed to get this chance. Every day is a new discovery, and I keep feeling like it's all this amazing, incredible dream that I don't ever want to wake up from.

But when I say that I really need to process all that went on this past Tuesday, I'm not kidding. There is definitely some grief involved...it was a very traumatic delivery for several reasons, and I still can't think about it without reliving a lot of the fear and sadness I experienced. I still cry when I think about it, and it's not all due to hormones. I'll admit, a lot of it probably is, but I have to let a few things go, and hopefully in time I will.

I guess I'll start at the beginning. I'm hoping that writing about it will help me to process it, so please, bear with me. I went in for my usual Monday morning monitoring appointment, and overall things went okay. The biophysical profile was fine, and I met with my ob. But he was surprisingly concerned about what he perceived to be a lack of movement during the biophysical profile (I'm still convinced that my baby girl was just sleepy, especially considering the fact that I rushed out of the house without eating breakfast, and she typically becomes much more active once I've eaten.) He informed me that he wanted me to check into the hospital that night instead of Tuesday night, just to play it safe. He was concerned about possible "decreased fetal movement", and I didn't mind being cautious, even though it made that day much more stressful because I still had so much to do before heading to the hospital! But okay, I knew I'd go with whatever he thought was best. They put me on the monitor, and everything was fine...she was moving around a TON, her heart tones were great, and there were really no concerns at that point. So I got a LOT done throughout the rest of the day, with my mom's help, and I'm still proud of all that we accomplished! I was panicking a bit, though, because I was planning on finishing up my sub plans that night, which I now wouldn't get to do, and I had to figure out what to do regarding getting ready for my sub for the next seven weeks. I went over to school to figure it out, and to make a longer story a bit shorter, it all worked out just fine.

So that afternoon, I packed up my hospital bag and headed over to the hospital with Mom around 6:45 pm. I was excited and nervous all at the same time, and as luck would have it, we toured the birth center just the night before as part of the last childbirth class, so I knew exactly where I'd be spending the next day or two. That was really reassuring. Once I got settled in my L & D room, they had me change into my hospital gown, put me on the monitors, checked what was happening, and everything looked good. I even got to take the best jacuzzi tub bath of my life before they started the Cytotec and my IV around 9 pm. Much to my surprise, the Cytotec was very good to me. I had read all about the nightmare stories about the off-label use of this drug, did a lot of research, talked to a lot of people, and decided to trust my ob who has been using it for the past ten years with not a single problem to speak of. They only used one dose, and it started my labor in a very gentle way, if that makes any sense. I started to feel contractions, but they were totally manageable, and I was able to breathe through them the way we had been taught in childbirth class. Mom and I tried to get some sleep before things really began to happen.

Around 1:30 am, though, the contractions got a lot stronger, and I realized that I was barely able to breathe through them and stay on top of them mentally, which would only get worse. So I called the nurse and asked about an epidural, and she sent the anesthesiologist over. As the two nurses were getting me situated on the very edge of the bed, towards the top--where I'd have to sit in order to receive the epidural--much to my surprise, my water broke! Now that's a weird sensation! I was so surprised that putting in the epidural took a full 25 minutes...I don't know why, but I've always assumed it was a fairly quick procedure. Um, no. You have to sit basically curled over into a ball and endure some pretty painful moments, all the while still finding a way to get through many strong contractions. Not easy, let me tell you. I wouldn't relive that experience for anything, but the anesthesiologist was very patient and encouraging, as were my nurses. (He was even nice enough to visit me later in my hospital room, which I'll say more about later.) And the epidural did make a huge difference, which I really appreciated at the time. It took effect very quickly, and they asked me to try to get some more sleep until I was more dilated. I was surprised to discover that even though I didn't feel the contractions as much as I was before, an epidural does nothing to relieve the pressure of the baby against your cervix and in truth, your entire pelvic floor. So the pressure (contractions) still continued to get more and more painful, and I had to use all those breathing techniques I learned in childbirth class. I went from a 4 (dilation) to a 6 to a 9 in what felt like no time at all, and then finally, I was a 10, and it was almost time to push! The nursing staff was trying to hold off, though, until at least 5 am so my ob could be there to deliver the baby. They had been talking to him several times throughout the night, but he was trying to hold off coming in until at least 5 am. If the baby decided to make an appearance earlier, they would have had the on-staff ob deliver, but my ob really wanted to be there himself. My ob did finally arrive, and they had me push for I think about half an hour. (Such a strange feeling to not be able to move my legs very well due to the epidural, and to feel pretty helpless as a result!) Baby Girl was only at a zero station, and she wasn't budging much at all. The nurses put an oxygen mask on my face. What I wasn't fully aware of at the time, though, was her drop in heart rate during every contraction and push. At this point, things started to happen very, very fast.

My ob made the decision that an emergency c-section was needed because the baby's vitals began dropping, and Mom recalled that as soon as he made the decision to go with an emergency c-section, he was out of the room like a shot to arrange for an operating room to be set up. Everything seemed to go into hyper-speed, and the nurses explained that I'd be brought into the operating room right on the same bed I'd been laboring on for the past several hours. It was that quick. The anesthesiologist proceeded to tell me that there wasn't even time to give me a stronger epidural, a spinal block, anything resembling the way I'd seen c-sections happen on TV. I was going to be completely put under, under general anesthesia. It was NOT supposed to happen that way. All I could do was lie there on that bed as it was being rushed down the hall, feeling absolutely paralyzed in fear--I will never forget how it felt to not be able to move because I was so terrified. I have never been so scared in my entire life. I didn't know if my baby would survive, I didn't even know if I would survive the surgery. All I could do was start to pray, and I prayed the hardest I ever have in my entire life, not knowing if it would even make a difference. They got me into the operating room (I think I now have a phobia of operating rooms) and pressed this hard plastic mask over my nose and mouth. I couldn't breathe well, and it felt like they were trying to suffocate me. They kept asking me how I was doing, if I was okay, and I was so upset that I was still conscious. I just kept saying from behind the mask, "I'm still awake!" I think I must have told them that at least four times in response to their "How are you doing?" questions. If I had to be put out, I wanted to be put out sooner rather than later, and it felt like it took forever. I have a vague memory of the betadyne stuff being squirted all over my front (they referred to this kind of operation, if I recall correctly, as "splash" or "splash and dash" or something equally as horrifying.) and I was still! conscious! I finally smelled the anesthesia gas coming through the mask, and that was the last thing that I remember before coming to about a half an hour later.

Coming to was like discovering that what I thought was just a dream was actually happening after all. It felt like someone had just given me a second chance, that I'd get to have the baby after all. The first thing they told me was that my baby was just fine, but I don't think it fully registered at that point. I just started to sob, saying, "I've never been so scared!" I couldn't stop crying. They told me that my mom was with the baby, and that she was doing great. I was still in such a fog that things weren't really registering, but they were starting to. They wheeled my hospital bed out of the OR and down the hall past the nursery, where I could see (barely, as though in soft focus) a nurse holding up a beautifully pink baby...I don't think I'll ever forget that sight, even though I don't really have a crystal-clear memory of it, only a rather vague one. They brought my bed into another hospital room, and I discovered with a start that it was the same one I had been laboring in. And at that point, I think they put my baby girl, who by this time was dressed in a little shirt and hat and wrapped in a blanket, into my arms. I hate the fact that I can't really recall the specifics of that moment, only that I started sobbing all over again once I really realized that she was just fine. I also hate the fact that I never got to have that moment of the nurses putting the baby on my stomach or into my arms right after she was born...I had to wait a half hour or so just to find out she was going to be okay. I won't ever be able to get that moment back, and it breaks my heart. I'll get over it, but right now it still makes me incredibly sad.

But I think what has affected me the most has been discovering that the reason behind my baby girl's decreased heart rate during all that pushing was a placental abruption. My ob had suspected it, had made the decision to rush me into an emergency c-section, and had discovered that his hunch was correct. He was the one who performed the c-section as well. My baby girl almost didn't make it at all. Someone mentioned later (can't remember who it was) that during the surgery, they ended up removing my placenta in pieces, something I'm trying so hard not to picture in my head. I've decided to write my ob a thank-you card of sorts, which is the least I can do, considering all that has happened. Will someone please tell me how you thank someone for saving your child's life?! I am honestly not sure how to even put into words the gratitude I feel. But I know I have to try.

So I had to stay in the hospital from Monday night all the way until Friday morning. Recovery has been difficult, as any woman who has gone through a c-section knows. I had a "pain ball" attached to my incision (a grenade-shaped plastic ball of pain medication connected to the incision itself) for the rest of the week, which was great, I guess, except for the fact that I had to be tethered to it 24-7. It was also very upsetting to have every kind of hospital personnel come into my room and preface their remarks with "I know you've just been through a very difficult/traumatic/upsetting (pick one) delivery..." yet no one really came to talk to me about exactly what had happened during delivery. As my mom put it, it felt like everyone was invited to my party except for me. The anesthesiologist did come back later to visit, and he told me that in non-emergency c-section situations, it takes fifteen minutes for the spinal block etc. to take effect, whereas my doctors had only minutes to get my baby girl out. I've basically been putting together the pieces of the puzzle all last week during my hospital stay. Needless to say, my mom was just as panicked and scared as I was while I was in surgery, and she spent the duration of the surgery basically pacing the floor. She described to me later--in tears--the way at the moment they came to tell her that both the baby and I were okay, dawn was breaking, and it was an absolutely beautiful sight. I don't regret the c-section at all...it was necessary to save my daughter's life, and I couldn't possibly be more thankful that she's now here to continue the journey with me.

I know that I might very well have more to add to this birth story, but for now, it's a start. I think she is absolutely perfect and beautiful in every way, and I swear she gets cuter by the day! I'm not sure what I would have done if she hadn't made it out of surgery. That's a question I will gladly leave unanswered. I'm just so happy to enjoy her presence every day...she's truly amazing.


  1. Your daughter is beautiful and looks like you! I am so glad you are on your road to recovery after the traumatic turn of events. What a wonderful ob. I have been praying for you and Kiernan. Jennifer (who you have inspired South of Pueblo)

  2. Here's hoping that you have a speedy, peaceful rebound! Congrats on your daughter--she's gorgeous! :)

  3. She is beautiful :-).
    Sorry you had such a traumatic brith. Glad all ended well.

  4. Heather,
    first of all, Kiernan is GORGEOUS!!! From what I can tell, she really looks like you! She is so bouncy and healthy and pink! Many, many congratulations!!

    I am so sorry, and feeling something like grief for you and your birth story. I am so glad that you had good medical care, and that the result was a beautiful healthy baby girl. I can only imagine what the trauma of that experience must feel like. I hope you take time to piece it together with your mom and also to pleases talk to someone professionally who may be able to better process the experience with you. Please do that for yourself. For now, be very very good to yourself and enjoy that gorgeous baby and feel that "greatest love", as I have been calling it, since last Wednesday when my son was born.

  5. Oh my goodness, what a traumatic turn of events! I'm so happy to hear Kiernan is doing well and that you are recovering.

    While I haven't been through childbirth I can really relate to the details you've shared about going under, etc. I've had a few surgeries and one time in particular I was suddenly terrified to be put under and the anesthesiologist ended up having a nice, long chat with me explaining that the state you are in when you go under is often how you will come out of it...and he was right. It's not surprising you were scared, confused and sobbing when you finally held your daughter...the whole things sounds terrifying.

    I hope that in time you'll be able to recover from the trauma and know that it was the best thing for your baby. She is absolutely adorable and I agree with Jennifer, she does look like you!!


  6. Congratulations! She is so beautiful.

    Sorry that the birth was so scary, but glad that everyone is doing alright.

  7. Amazing baby and amazing story! Congratulations!! Sorry for the scary parts. So happy you are doing okay and so is your little one.

  8. She is beautiful!
    I totally understand wanting to thank the doctor who saved your baby's life. I sent a heartfelt thank-you letter to the pediatrician who diagnosed and got my son treated for his life threatening intestinal problem, and I send him a Christmas card with a pic.
    Enjoy your little miracle!

  9. I don't have a clue who you are, but I just want to wrap my arms around you and hug you. I am so glad that everything worked out in the end.

  10. Oh, she's gorgeous! It is if she's looking right at you and saying 'Now, *we* are going to have some fun!"

    I'm sorry things didn't go the way you had hoped or expected. It's worth reading this: http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2010/02/17/ptsd_in_childbirth

    My suggestion, since you missed the initial naked holding of baby, is to spend a ton of time doing 'kangaroo care'. When The Mook was wee, the only way I could get a decent amount of sleep out of her for napping was to lay on my back with her on my chest (chest to chest) so we could both sleep.

    She still ADORES to climb into bed with me, half-naked, to sleep. Great for those weekend mornings when I'm not ready to get up. She crawls in and falls back asleep, then when we do wake up, we'll spend time talking and giggling in bed.

    Thinking of you! Shoot me an e-mail if you still have questions about PPD!

  11. I am so glad she is here, safe and sound. And that you are Ok too. sounds like a lot to process in terms of her getting here, though. take your time with putting those pieces together. And enjoy your new daughter -she is so precious! congratulations!!!