Monday, September 29, 2014

our labor of love {rowan's birth story}

When I was pregnant with Rowan I obsessively read blogger birth stories. Even though I knew our birth experience would be fairly traditional(in a hospital and attended by my OBGYN) because my age and gestational diabetes placed in a high risk category I was endlessly fascinated by all of the options that are available. And so, I devoured birth stories of some my favorite bloggers. Sometimes moved to tears as I read about those sweet moments that marked the start of a new season in their lives.

I had hopes of writing our own story and sharing sweet photos as we welcomed our new little blessing into the the world and our family. However, Rowan's entrance into the world was quite a bit different from the one we had planned.

I researched a lot during this pregnancy. At some point I think Doug even suggested that I stepping away from the internet might be really good for my mental health! I obviously came across many birth plans-what to include and what to leave off, how long they should be, etc. So going into this we decided to forgo an official "plan" and put together more of an outline. It was pretty basic. We were taking birthing classes so I was interested in trying to have an unmedicated labor, but I gave myself permission to ask for an epidural if I thought the pain was really intense or if I became super anxious and freaked out. I only wanted my husband and necessary medical staff in the room. We would wait an hour or so to call friends and family so that we could bond with him first. And, finally, trust my doctor. I love my doctors and received great prenatal care. Giving birth was not the time for me to act like I know everything about everything.

*warning things get a little TMI-ish from here*

My due date was May 3. To be perfectly honest my pregnancy was a rough one. I had morning sickness for four months which ushered in a few months of the most vicious heart burn I've ever had. I also had insomnia and would go 24-30 hours without sleep. And, then I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes which required medication to control. I felt like I was failing my baby. I was supposed to provide him with a safe and secure place to grow and I was a mess. So when I woke up on March 24 feeling sick I wasn't that concerned. I had an upset stomach and a headache. I forced myself to eat so that I could take my medicine and then spent most of the morning in bed.

Sometime after noon I decided to take a shower and get dressed so that I could run to the grocery store. I went to the bathroom, took a shower and started to get dressed. At this point I felt some discharge. I checked things out and it was clear, like water.  Because pregnancy is weird I kind of dismissed it. But, as I was getting ready there was more of it. It had been 15 minutes since the last time I checked and my underwear was completely soaked. I think this is when it dawned on me that my it might be my water breaking. Yes, I've had four babies before this but I never had my water break. I've always had to have the doctor break it once labor started. So, I was under the notion that it would be a big gush. However, it was more like a slow leak. I called Doug at work to tell him my suspicions. Then I called my doctor. Even while I was on hold I still didn't really believe I was in labor. It was too soon! We weren't even close to being ready. My shower had been two weeks earlier but there was still so much stuff that needed to be done. The office told me to head over to labor and delivery. This was it! I didn't even have a bagged packed. I had scheduled it on my calender to do the following week. So, I tossed a pair of socks, some lip balm and my bronzer into my purse(because priorities!) and waited for my husband to pick me up and drive me to the hospital.

Once we were checked in and I was examined the nurse informed us that I was indeed in labor and we would be meeting our baby in 24 hours or less. This is when I cried! We were going to have our baby almost 7 weeks early. This is also when I started freaking out about the actual giving birth portion of events!!

We made calls to our family and a few close friends to let them know this little nugget was indeed on his way. We called him to let my son and daughter know that we were at the hospital and being admitted. I also had my daughter pack some of stuff-toiletries,makeup,camera,charger and ipad-in a bag. Our wonderful neighbors had volunteered to bring whatever we needed to the hospital as well as keep an eye on the kids for us. My brother-in-law stopped by to see how we were holding up and to bring phone chargers. Once I was settled in and we knew it would be awhile before I would transition into active labor I sent the two of them off to get a few things that were still missing from my hospital bag. We had short visits from our neighbors and my mother and father-in-law. There were also calls and text messages to other family members assuring them we were fine and everything was proceeding normally just a little earlier than planned.

We checked in around 3:30 and after several hours I was progressing but very slowly. The doctors ordered pitocin. This was my first indication that maybe things weren't going to go the way I'd imagined. I was concerned that the pitocin would make the contractions unbearable and I would wind up needing an epidural. Thankfully, Doug was there to talk me down. Reassuring me that the important thing was our baby. He wasn't going to care if I had an epidural and giving birth isn't a contest. A few hours later I was at 4 cm, the pain was becoming more intense and I was having an anxiety  attack. I decided to consent to the epidural.

My doctor came in and checked me. Things were progressing nicely and our baby would be arriving some time during the middle of the night. We decided to try to rest before it was push time. We dimmed the lights and listened to some music. At some point I fell asleep.

This is where things get frantic. I don't remember falling asleep and I only vaguely recall waking up. I felt light headed. I had only had a yogurt and some turkey bacon for breakfast so I assumed the dizziness was due to the gestational diabetes and that my blood sugar had dropped. I know at this time I heard beeping. In my foggy brain i assumed it was the fetal heart monitor. He was moving around so much that it was hard for them to get a continuous heartbeat. I pressed the nurses button. I heard them discussing putting an internal monitor in so that they could get a better reading. From her on out I don't have an clear recollection. The nurses turned the lights on, rolled me from my side to my back and pulled back the blankets. It was at this moment that my blood pressure dropped dangerously low-68/32-and they saw that I was hemorrhaging. There was blood and tissue everywhere. I heard someone shouting to get the doctor and something about heading to surgery. I know they put an oxygen mask on me. I was in and out of consciousness. I wasn't sure what was happening but I knew it was bad. I thought I was going to die and if somehow I managed to survive I was sure my baby wouldn't. The nurse told me they were taking me to the OR and they had to get my baby out immediately. She asked me if they had permission to operate and I nodded weakly. As we made it through the doors of the operating room I said to her "I don't care what happens to me but please save my baby!"

There was lots of activity around me. I didn't know what was happening and I think because they were not yet sure if either of us would survive Doug was not allowed into surgery with me. The anesthesiologist, Jack, was so kind. He held my hand and tried to keep me calm. Then I heard a tiny cry. He was here! On Tuesday March 25 at 1:32 am Rowan Joseph made a dramatic entrance into the world. I don't know when Doug was allowed into the room but he was there reassuring me we were going okay. I asked him to check on the baby and make sure he looked good. He was small 4 lbs 11 oz but he seemed healthy. A nurse brought him over so that I could give him a kiss and then he was taken to the NICU. I was in surgery a bit longer and once I was stitched up they moved me into recovery.

For the next few hours I was pretty out of it. When things started to look bad Doug called his mom. I'm so happy that he had someone there with him to help him stay calm. Around 7 am I felt lucid enough to call my mom and tell her that the baby had been born. The first day of my son's life I only saw him for two very brief moments. In the OR right after he was born and around 2 they decided to move to a room so they wheeled my bed into the NICU so I could see him before they transferred me. I was in and out of it. Only lucid for very short periods of time. I was in a lot of pain. The next morning Doug wheeled me down to see the baby. He was so tiny. I was afraid to hold him. I sobbed because I felt like I had failed him. I'm his mom and from the minute I knew he existed it was my job to protect him and give them the best start to life. This, hooked up to wires and monitors. This was not it. My body had failed to nourish him and had almost killed him. It felt like he had bonded with his dad and even the nurses in my absence. So, I just sat next to him and held his tiny hand and whispered a thousand apologies and told him I loved him over and over.

Back in my room the doctor stopped to tell us what had happened. I suffered a placental abruption. Essentially the placenta pulls away from the wall of the uterus. Some women suffer partial abruptions but mine was a complete one. If we had not already been at the hospital I would have most certainly lost the baby. I lost a lot of blood and had to have a blood transfusion on day 2. I wasn't well enough to see Rowan until his 10 o'clock feeding that night.

After the transfusion I started feeling better. I was still in pain from the c-section but I wanted to be with my baby as much as I could. Doug was back and forth between home(checking on the kids and the dog) and the hospital. I would shuffle slowly to the NICU to feed Rowan and hold him when I could. We were warned that they would most likely send us home without him. I didn't want to think about it. We settled in to a routine. Doug would get to the hospital around 8:30 in time for us to head down for the 9 am feeding.  We would spend some time with our baby and then head back to the room so that I could rest. He would stay until I fell asleep and then he would off to check things off the giant to do list! This is how I know I married a keeper!! Not only was he taking care of me and our sweet little one, he was running around town trying to buy everything we needed to make sure our transition from hospital to home was as smooth as possible.

On Friday we were given the news that we would be able to take Rowan home the next day! The doctors and nurses were astonished at well he was doing. He was only on an IV for two days. He was feeding and even nursing like a champ and his lungs were strong. They never had to give him oxygen which is amazing for a preemie! And on a rainy and cold Saturday morning we brought our little guy home!

And so, our birth story is not filled with tender moments,congratulations, and smiling photos. Even though I didn't have a plan, I guess I had a general idea of how things were supposed to happen and there's a part of me that feels cheated out of that experience. I've grieved the "ideal birth story" whatever that is. I've had to make peace with the fact that I was so terrified of losing my son or dying that I couldn't allowed myself to fully form a connection with him. It took me months to be able to think about our time in the hospital without crying. I still don't believe that I've fully processed everything. I will occasionally ask Doug questions about what happened or what he remembers. I'm working through some PTSD/anxiety issues and postpartum depression.

I've attempted to write this post dozens of times and this is the first time I've managed to get through more than a paragraph. It's long and rambling but it felt important for me to share. There is so much judgement and pressure for women to have this perfect "natural" birth. I think that those of us that don't have can feel some shame-we didn't really labor. Our bodies didn't perform the way they were meant to perform.

In the blogosphere there is a tendency to present life as a pretty picture. But, life is messy and complicated and sometimes ugly.            

This face. This sweet boy has changed our lives so much already. I'm so lucky that I was chosen to be his mom!

1 comment:

  1. So I cried....I love your story. Thank you for sharing! Now, I have to figure out how to stop crying, lol!