Everyone loves a good birth story, for there is nothing more raw and primal than the journey to motherhood. First child or not, every pregnancy, birth, and delivery is a magical transcendence in to a new life and another version of self.
Though my first pregnancy and birth story (with my daughter) was pretty traumatic, I was certainly determined to be able to enjoy every aspect of this pregnancy. Not only because we knew it would most likely be our last, but even more so because this pregnancy began after a summer of suffering a miscarriage loss. This would be the rainbow after the storm.
However, that shiny and bright end of the tunnel was still far out of reach.
In the very first weeks, we didn’t know if the outcome would be joyous or not. Pregnancy tests showed both positive and negative (I know, right?!). The first ultrasounds were inconclusive, I had pelvic pain, and there were “areas of concern” within my uterus that were unidentifiable (Fibroids? Scar tissue? Molar pregnancy? …Another miscarriage?!). Seven weeks we waited, and then we saw that tiny flickering heartbeat, the best feeling ever.
The first trimester continued… and then the bleeding began. When the first incidence of this occurred, my heart entirely sunk. Rushing to the hospital I was inevitably preparing to receive the worst news.
To my great surprise though, our little miracle baby was still doing excellent (though a lower heart rate than my first, but I chalked it up to inevitably going to be a boy). The bleeding was considered common first trimester bleeding, I was told that it should go away, but this also had put me in a category of being even higher at-risk for another miscarriage.
So another week came and gone, more bleeding occurred. In total, I had 5 separate bleeding episodes throughout the first and second trimester. The source ended up being identified as a subchorionic hematoma in the area between the placenta and uterus.
Although this is seen in some healthy pregnancies, it further worried us because of the history with my first pregnancy. Having had HELLP Syndrome with my daughter, there were blood-clotting issues found within her placenta.
But all that could be done was to wait… and pray.
By the 15th week, we were celebrating that our little bubs was indeed a boy! The dreams that my husband and I had shared since the very day we married, were coming true – our beloved Bella & Niko, our girl and our boy!
Now to continue and pull through the rest of the pregnancy strong!
The second trimester was a blur; we traveled, we bought a house, we moved, then third trimester commenced with a bang.
Upper right quadrant pain began. This was so devastating to me because I was anxious that I would develop HELLP Syndrome again (right upper abdominal pain is a common symptom of that horrendous complication).
The first time that I visited the Labor & Delivery triage for this pain, a full work-up was done, including a liver ultrasound and blood work. All results returned normal and I was back home… only to visit again a few weeks later.
These frequent trips to the hospital continued for the remaining months of pregnancy. Amongst those visits (all of which were mostly occurring during the wee hours of the night), there were also my routine OB appointments, LOTS of blood work and other diagnostic testing, visits with a Maternal Fetal Specialist, and high-risk ultrasounds/growth scans.
Although there was continuously something to be worrying about and further being worked up, everything was always ultimately reported as “okay” or “inconclusive”. For example, each time my urine was tested, it came back positive for infection, although I had no physical symptoms. This was causing some concern because if there was indeed an infection and it progressed in to my kidneys, it could cause further pregnancy complications. Because of this, I was constantly on antibiotics. There was also an incident that really worried us because of its’ possible ability to cause harm or even death to unborn babies! The work-up for that (cholestasis) was a liver blood test that had to be sent out of state and took a week to gain results! That was an insanely stressful week of waiting, in which during so, baby had to be monitored closely… but results ultimately returned with good news (prayers answered!).
One thing that was for sure known though – baby boy was measuring very healthy and large in terms of growth (thankfully!).
By the time our bubs had finally flipped out of breech position, he was reportedly weighing 7 lbs. already (at around 8.5/9 months pregnant), which was also when prodromal/early labor began.
This can occur prior to the beginning of full active labor and is sometimes called “false-labor,” but doctors explain that these contractions are real and the only difference is that they start and stop. So essentially, I was in real labor in terms of pain and contractions, but the changes to my cervix were not as fast or prominent as active labor.
Over a month of this, combined with waking up every 30-45 minutes throughout each night (to pee), was beyond exhausting. Although I was tired, I was also immensely restless. I was cleaning our entire house (like from top to bottom, every tiny nook-and-cranny) each couple of days because I couldn’t rest. My mind was always racing; I was so ready for this long drawn out labor to be over. I was ready to begin the crazy (scary) birthing process to bring my baby boy earth side.
At 36 weeks I was 1 cm. dilated, 75% effaced, and baby’s head was engaged in my pelvis. I, along with my doctors, was certain that I wouldn’t last being pregnant much longer. I was also started on a regiment of steroids to hopefully boost my blood platelet level prior to delivery (my levels were steadily low the entire pregnancy due to gestational thrombocytopenia, but were decreasing a lot faster towards the end).
In spite of that, 38 weeks came and I was so desperate that I obliged to having my membranes stripped… and seeing as it didn’t induce labor, I regret going through that (having a doctor physically separate the amniotic sac from the uterus is quite intense – when done correctly).
Because active labor still hadn’t commenced, we were scheduled for induction the next week.
My parents flew in that following week to be there to support us and to watch our daughter while hubby and I were in the hospital.
During that time there was also some extreme spring weather occurring with daily torrential rain and nightly (crazy bad) storms.
The night before we were scheduled for induction, my husband slept like a baby (like usual). I couldn’t sleep; the storms started and were so severe that I had to bring our daughter in to our bed around 3am.
My alarm then went off at 4am. I got back up, woke my husband up, and we both got ready to head to the hospital. My parents were awake at that point to wish us good luck and send us off with love.
The last thing I did before leaving was kiss my daughter. She was still fast asleep and I couldn’t help but tear up thinking not only about the journey I was about to begin as a soon-to-be mom of two, but also my daughter’s journey of no longer being an only child and becoming a big sister. That was a very bittersweet and unreal moment with my (still sleeping) firstborn.
Although we only live 15 minutes from the hospital, it took us until 5am to arrive there because of the weather (I couldn’t help but perceive the symbolization of the weather with the happenings of this pregnancy).
The first thing done upon arrival was an ultrasound to ensure that baby was still head down and not breech.
The rest was a whirlwind and happened like this:
6am: Cervix check, dilated 3cm
7am: Husband’s lost wallet (when he went to grab coffee) was found and returned to us (yes that happened) ((eye roll))
7:30am: Started IV fluids & Pitocin
8am: Anesthesiologist meeting, bloodwork sent to check blood platelet level
8:30am: Platelets were at 82, I was informed that I wasn’t allowed an epidural/pain management because of the risk for bleeding
9am: Pain was tolerable at this point because I was used to having these (weaker) contractions for over a month prior
9:15am: My husband was having a great time telling me all about his new invention ideas (lol) …passing time
9:30am: His coffee had kicked in by then, but I was feeling tired from already being up most of the night before
9:45am: Burning pains along my stomach began – the contractions were all at the top of my uterus
11am: Husband was eating lunch and I was only allowed to consume…… Jell-o
12 noon: A midwife I had never met before checked my cervix for progression (most painful cervix check EVER) – still 3cm dilated
12:15: Ate popsicle
12:20: Felt a pop in my uterus
12:35: Amniotic fluid started leaking (realized that pop was my water breaking!)
12:50: Started bouncing/sitting on exercise ball to relieve intensifying lower back pain
1:15pm: Instructed to get off exercise ball because baby’s heart rate was dropping
1:30pm: Had to start wearing an oxygen mask to help regulate baby’s heart rate
1:45pm: WHEN EVERYTHING STARTED GOING DOWNHILL!
The contractions were now every 1 minute or so, they were VERY, VERRRRY STRONG, and I could no longer focus on anything other than the extreme pain. Although I delivered my firstborn without pain meds also, this time around felt a MILLION TIMES WORSE! I was a mess. Nothing was helping me. It was hard to focus on breathing regularly. With each contraction it was as if my body was holding me back from breathing, I was screaming out without any control. My body had literally taken control over my mind and I felt as if I could not control any aspect of myself. I started to feel panicked.
(I was later told) You could hear my cries and shrieks throughout the entire Labor & Delivery Ward. Every doctor that came in to “speak” to me (there were a lot of them), I shouted, asking for them to stop torturing me! At this point my body was telling me that something was wrong. I knew that it was not possible for me to push this baby out, even if I was fully dilated. I barely even had enough strength to breath!!
I was requesting a c-section.
Still though, numerous doctors were trying to persuade and coach me to, “keep going”, telling me that I was, “almost there” ….although I was only 7cm dilated!
It took over THREE HOURS for the situation to get dire enough for those doctors to all agree that I needed a c-section.
At 4:30pm they did a quick, bedside ultrasound and sure enough something was wrong, baby was facing up (instead of the optimal face-down position for birth).
This, along with his size we later found out, was why I was in such extreme pain and also why I felt that there was no way my body could push this baby out naturally or unassisted.
My platelets were then down to around 60, so there were additional risks with having a c-section, but we came to a point of having no other option.
Baby was essentially “stuck” in posterior position within my pelvis. Every contraction was a little bit closer to my pelvic bones BREAKING!
There was a point in which I thought I was dead or certainly about to die, a feeling that I was completely outside of my body. When emergency was officially declared, his heart rate was difficult to monitor & mine was in such extreme tachycardia that the doctors worried that I was on the way towards having a heart attack (seriously)!
With all of this happening, I STILL had more time to wait! Doctors had to consult with a specialist to decide whether or not it was safe for me to get a spinal for the c-section or if I had to be put completely under/to sleep.
It was a gamble…
There was a possibility that when they stuck the needle in for the spinal block, that I could have a bleed that could affect my spinal cord (scary stuff).
At the time though, I didn’t care what the concerns or risks were, I felt like I was on the verge of dying anyways!
So after finally getting my bed wheeled in to the operating room, there was another wait (10 minutes maybe, but surely felt like FORREEVVERRR), a time in which I was praying, out loud, for God to take away the pain and to “save us”.
The biggest feat thus far at that point, was having to sit up on the operating table, with a hunched over back, and REMAIN COMPLETELY STILL while they tried to get the needle in correctly for the spinal block…… doing this while still having those out-of-this-world INSANE contractions, pain in my pelvis/back, and NO PAIN CONTROL. Only by the strength of God was I able to do so.
Once that part was complete, the sense of relief that I felt was unlike anything of this world, I’m sure of it.
The anesthesiologists tested to ensure that I couldn’t feel anything from my belly down (I sure couldn’t). Then they set up that big blue drape so I couldn’t see the surgery, and brought my husband back in to the room.
I didn’t feel the actual cutting, but the pushing on top of my uterus/stomach was the weirdest pressure I ever felt in my life.
Then I heard them talking about which organ they were moving or encountering & that caused me to start hyperventilating – hearing that they were moving my bladder (something along those lines) was unsettling and the oxygen mask was my best friend by that point.
After about four or five minutes, baby Niko was no longer a resident of my body (5:39 pm).
We instantly heard his screams – – Hallelujah, thank you sweet Jesus.
Unlike with our daughter’s birth, this boy, this boy let everyone know that he had arrived, and we couldn’t be more relieved. He screamed for a good 5 minutes straight, and he also peed on the pediatric nurses, twice!
My husband left my side to go cut the umbilical cord (and officially welcome Niko in to our ohana) while the doctors took more time operating on me, removing the placenta, cleaning out my uterus, moving “things”, and stitching me up.
Because Niko was born via c-section, he had some residual amniotic fluid in his lungs that had to be coughed up. Once the pediatric doctors could declare that he didn’t need any breathing assistance, my husband brought our sweet boy over to me and at face level I looked at his little face and fell harder in love than I ever knew was possible.
I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 1 Samuel 1:27
My boy was here; he was safe and healthy, and HUGE! My gosh, this boy weighed 8 pounds, 14 ounces… YES, almost 9 pounds!!!! The look on the doctors’ faces when they realized how big this baby was, knowing that they once were trying to convince me to ‘keep pushing’… was priceless. << But, none of the pain mattered anymore, it was over, and it was time to nurse my baby and begin healing.
Afterwards, we were taken back to our L&D room; my body was still in shock though and I was uncontrollably shaking for well over 12 hrs post-surgery.
Moving from the labor ward to our postpartum Mother & Baby Room was well in to the night. By then we were all exhausted, but the nurses and my new team of doctors introduced themselves and explained what the routine was to be during our stay there and what to expect.
They set up a bed for my husband (in which he quickly knocked out in), and helped to get me as comfortable as possible.
We stayed two days there, one of which our sweet Bella was able to come visit and meet her baby brother (the most precious story – for another time).
The remainder of our stay was for resting and getting acquainted with the newest member of our ohana – the completing piece to our little family.
Medically though, we weren’t out of the woods just yet.
There was a time during that stay in which I started feeling upper right quadrant pain that radiated in to my shoulder. It snuck up slowly, then the pain became unbearable and I started to hyperventilate again because I was sure that it was directly correlated to the blood I lost during surgery, my platelet level, and my liver. I feared the worst, and I feared that I was going to need a transfusion.
After a few nurses and doctors did a full work-up, everything was steadily rising in regards to my blood, and the rest looked “fine”. This pain… was GAS.
Really…. Who knew that GAS could HURT THAT BAD?!?!
I was told that this was a common occurrence with such surgeries, that air pockets were lodged in under my ribs and wherever else. The only way to find relief was to get up and get moving (walking….slowly….), which sounded horrible to me seeing that I couldn’t even get out of bed myself and my incision felt like I was being stabbed, stretched, cut, and burned all at the same time.
Besides the physical pain I was feeling, I was also enduring some post-traumatic stress effects due to the entire ordeal. I was replaying those few hours of sure-death feelings, along with thinking about the pain and the fear, it was all just overwhelming.
The positive side of that time though was that our boy was perfectly healthy and my body was doing a great job at supplying him with the nutrients he needed.
We were home with baby a few days after being induced. We had help for a week and then it was time for our little family of four to get acquainted to our new way of life together.
That wasn’t an easy feat.
The first two weeks were hard. Utterly difficult.
Within that time I dealt with sore, bleeding nipples (breastfeeding is not easy – at least in the beginning its surely not!). I developed mastitis, which sent me to the emergency room one night and another round of (rough) antibiotics.
Baby boy also visited the emergency room twice during those weeks. (He had breathing retractions that freaked us out!)
…..Oh and let’s not forget that we were also deeply entangled with potty-training our two-year-old!
But here we are, 2 months later, and my heart has never felt this amount of joy, love, and fulfillment; Niko truly is the piece that completed my heart and our beautiful ohana. Cheers to that!