I wanted to start where our tiny human house began. The day our son was born. I wrote this originally on Apr 18, 2016 @ 12:24, but have edited it a tiny bit, and added a few more details along the way.
Throughout my pregnancy, I had been planning for a home birth. Home is where I feel safe and comfortable, so I thought it would be a great place to have our baby – and I was low risk and had a very easy pregnancy, so I was an ideal candidate for a home birth too. (Foreshadowing: let’s just say this didn’t happen.)
I had so many books, I read all the stories I could find (good and bad), I watched videos, and we even got a birth pool. I wasn’t afraid, I was greatly looking forward to the challenge and the experience of a professional midwife attended birth at home. I pictured what it might look like, we took prenatal classes to work on pain management and the stages of labour. JC learned more about how to be a supportive partner during labour. I knew he’d be great.
And then my “due date” came and went. I wasn’t in a rush though, I felt patient. I believed in the process. I was certain my body would get things going when our little bundle was ready to come into the world. I went to my chiropractor, I got massages, I walked as much as possible, I danced, I ate spicy food, I started using a manual breast pump – I ticked off as many natural induction methods I could in hopes of encouraging labour (wink wink.) Nothing. No sign of anything really.
40 weeks rolled around – I went to my midwife appointment and everything was looking good, but we scheduled three follow up ultrasounds to check on how the soon-baby was doing. First one was on the following Saturday, and I walked over to the hospital that afternoon.
The hospital has a really terrible ultrasound policy, so that is always stressful and you don’t get to have those cute “watch the baby on the monitor” moments that some people seem to do. And you don’t to have anyone come in with you. The tech that day wouldn’t let my partner in with me, even though I was nervous and crying.
And of course, they have you between a rock and a hard place, because you want to make sure everything is okay, and you don’t have any alternatives and they have all the power. So I was led into the room alone, nervous and upset without a support person with me (the technicians call) while I waited to find out if I was going to be sent upstairs to labour and delivery for an induction (which I definitely did not want – but was mentally prepared for in case our babe was in distress or danger.)
The ultrasound tech eventually let JC into the room with me and told us that the amniotic fluid was low (also known as oligohydramnios) and in the surprise of the day – that the baby was also breech, which in this case meant he was presenting butt first. I was afraid of the low amniotic fluid result, because the midwives had already told me it would be the primary reason I’d be scheduled for an induction that day - depending on the severity of it.
But the breech information changed the equation entirely, and I knew what direction we were heading. And I cried again, knowing that it was time to shift my perspective – because everything was about to change pretty dramatically.
Unfortunately, the art and technique of vaginal breech delivery has been mostly lost, and very few local hospitals on staff have OB’s that are comfortable or trained to attend or assist with such a birth (Mount Sinai is one of the hospitals in the city that is working to bring it back, but it’s a slow process to give people more opportunities for training.)
We called our midwife, Anne. She – who was conveniently attending another birth at the same hospital – took a look at what was going on and came and talked to us. We were taken into a room and they attached a fetal heart rate monitor and a contraction monitor to my belly to see how the kid was doing. They took my blood (repeatedly) and blood pressure. Other than extremely low blood pressure (me) and a variable, although mostly elevated, heart rate (the babe) both of us seemed reasonably okay.
Anne let us know that the amniotic fluid was significantly low - beyond the point where we could try a few things to see if it would help. Below the 5th percentile she said. She also shared in our surprise at the breech presentation. We wondered if it was a recent flip or something that had been happening long term – either way it was a total surprise, and because of the pairing of significantly low amniotic fluid and breech presentation - I wasn’t even a good candidate for an external cephalic version (which is where they attempt to adjust the baby’s position externally to head first, to encourage a vaginal delivery.)
Since I was keen on learning about birth related things (from before I was even thinking about being pregnant), I had been reading a lot of midwifery textbooks, and about various situations related to birth – including the less than ideal stuff. I knew what she would recommend, and I knew my options were limited for delivery. I went from planning a home birth to a necessary cesarean section.
Despite feeling a bit heartbroken about the unexpected change of plans, at some point in the room JC realized that TODAY WOULD BE THE DAY we’d be meeting our little human, and we shared a good happy cry over it. After 41 weeks growing inside of me, we were looking forward to meeting whoever they were on the outside.
I was scheduled for a C-Section in a few hours, it was a weekend, so we were waiting on an anesthesiologist. Time has a weird way of both flying and crawling while waiting for surgery, JC and I joked in the monitoring room, and then I cried, and then we chatted, and then I cried some more. I didn’t feel nervous about surgery, but I did feel a blend of sadness, excitement, and anticipation.
My surgeon came in and talked to me about the procedure, I asked her a few questions about my options, and felt like I was in good and friendly hands.
We ended up waiting in the hospital about 6 hours all together - from the ultrasound, to monitoring, to getting the surgical staff together, a nursing shift change, the anesthesiologists schedule, and having to wait for my breakfast to digest all drew it out. Who knew some veggie dogs at 11am would be a big deal?
When it was time for surgery, I waddled down the hall in Labour and Delivery with my midwife, and went into the OR. There was a small metal table in the middle of the room, I hoisted myself on top of it, and then it was time to wait for the flurry of activity to begin. Anne was with me the whole time.
I watched a surgical tech prepare the equipment, count the cloths and sponges out loud, unwrap all the tools the surgeon would need for their work on me, it was all very slow and methodical. The process, the repetition, the routine. Everyone had their task. Mine was to sit there and wait.
Eventually, the anesthesiologist came in, introduced himself, and started preparing me for a spinal block. He sterilized the area in my back, and I had to lean forward while he injected lidocaine to numb everything (which hurts a little and felt really uncomfortable) followed by a one time spinal injection that quickly numbed my legs and lower body, which felt really gross, but not painful. I was glad to have my midwife’s hands to hold on to to keep me steady and grounded during this procedure.
Anne had a solid calming presence, she had done this before, and she would do it again. She occasionally gave me a bit of extra context for what was going on. The anesthesiologist (or at least this one) runs the show in the OR during the surgery – despite not actually doing it – so she made sure to ask him about skin-to-skin contact after the birth and he said of course.
JC was sitting outside all dressed in a surgical gown, cap and booties, waiting for his chance to join me. He sat outside watching as much of the action he could see, each time sneaking a peak when the door opened a crack for a new team member, or a hand washing. He had to wait until things were well underway to join, probably to keep his clumsy self (he wrote that part himself) out of harm’s way.
A nurse and my midwife helped me lay down on the metal table as the anesthetic had already started to take effect and I quickly lost most sensation on the lower half of my body. The weird thing about this anesthetic is that while I didn’t feel pain or pokes - I could still feel pressure and movement during the surgery. So I could feel them pull our baby out of my body, it just didn’t hurt.
At some point after they had set everything up, JC joined me in the OR, all gowned up, also ready to meet our new little human. So much energy in the room. So much going on.
And all of a sudden, our baby was presented to me and placed on my chest and it was such an indescribably incredible and surreal moment. There was no one else in the room, but this wonderful screaming crying squishy soft creature, that we had created together our of love and I had built inside of me for the last 9+ months. We’d asked that no one announce the sex of the baby, but pronouns got in the way of that (JC says the OB said “You have a brand new baby b-mmm” - but I didn’t hear that part.) My midwife spilled the beans with a “he.” He was finally here. My son. Our son. Phew.
I wasn’t sure if I would feel a bond with him immediately, because I know that doesn’t always happen, but the moment he was there I knew my heart would never ever be the same again. After what seemed like not enough time and so much time with my babe crying and squirming on my chest, as I tried to touch him, despite an IV in one arm, a blood pressure monitor on the other, and anaesthetic related shakes.
I kept pulling my arm over to touch him between rounds on the BP cuff, getting a few moments in before it pulsed again. I just never wanted to let him go again.
They asked me if I would be okay if JC left me for a bit and went with our babe to go to the warming bin and weigh station to get checked out, and that he would then be taken to recovery for some skin-to-skin time with JC while they closed me up post surgery. Eventually they wheeled me into recovery where JC was snuggling with our newest family member. Tiny new human against his furry chest.
The anaesthetic dissipated quickly from my legs and I just wanted to get up and get out, but I still was tethered to the bed with a catheter until the afternoon of the next day. I was released from the hospital within 24hrs of surgery, with the explicit instruction that I should try and take it easy and stay off the stairs as much as possible.
I was so happy to have my son, but in the days after I kept running through all the what ifs, and what could I have done. What could I have done better? What should I have done better? I dealt with a lot of feelings of failure and shame - I wondered why my body had failed me. And those feelings wouldn’t stop for a while because there was more unanticipated challenges to come, but I’ll save that for another post.
I felt an odd sense of mourning for an experience I don’t think I’ll have the opportunity to have again. This isn’t to say I’m not grateful for my beautiful healthy baby, it just wasn’t what I would have chosen if I had alternatives. Despite that, I know it was the right choice for the circumstances. I also appreciate the effort my midwife took to make the experience as positive and gentle as possible on me.
We had an incredible team of nurses, doctors, midwives, and I appreciate their skill and support in getting our little one into the world. I feel like I experienced nearly everyone at their best. I have a permanent reminder on my body that sometimes things don’t work out quite how you expect, but that it can be okay and it can be beautiful anyway.
And best of all:
Here is our family :)