If you follow me on twitter you might know that my intention from the beginning of my pregnancy was to have an at home water birth in a birthing tub. I was super excited about it and had visions of an amazing birth most of my pregnancy. I had two midwives that routinely checked baby and I alternatively. They were wonderful and I felt so confident in the both of them. They suggested to all their patients to meet their recommended back up doctor for emergencies. I met the backup doctor when I was around 32 weeks, we did an ultrasound and saw that baby was measuring at around 4 lbs, about a week ahead of her due date. I was so happy that she was healthy and growing in there, after a miscarriage..it’s of course all I wanted. That was my last ultrasound (midwives don’t do ultrasounds, they feel for baby with their hands and check the growth of your stomach). I anxiously waited for her to come. We set up this awesome birthing tub in our living room and I continued to prepare to make the experience as peaceful and pleasant as I had hoped for. Soon I had made it to 39 weeks.
I went to see one of my midwives for a routine checkup and let her know everything was fine but that day I had noticed a little less movement in my belly. We chalked it up to the baby getting bigger and having less room to move in there, but that I would keep an eye out. To be honest, I was panicked. I was used to her moving a certain amount every day and I was unsure of the decrease in movement. Something felt off to me. I went to sleep and woke up the next day to literally, no movement. I chugged multiple glasses of ice water, played music, took a shower…I did everything I could to get her to move but couldn’t get much. At this point I was terrified (but trying to keep the panic to myself because at this point in my pregnancy my husband, parents, and siblings seemed to think that I was some sort of hypochondriac). Everyone kept insisting to me that is was ‘fine’ and I just didn’t feel ‘fine’ at all. I called my midwife, she told me to do what I had already done for another 30 minutes and see. Nothing. I called her again and she said, “ok enough. you need to head to the backup doctor for an ultrasound so that we can see what’s happening.” My husband took me in for the ultrasound and we saw that baby was measuring small compared to our last ultrasound 7 weeks ago (she was only around 5.something lbs when at 32 weeks she was already 4 lbs). The doctor said that’s ok, some babies are just small but also maybe my placenta had stopped working. (Side story, I was definitely wanting to do placenta encapsulation but for some reason I kept having a weird feeling about consuming my placenta and had already decided to follow my gut and not consume it way prior to hearing that my placenta had maybe stopped functioning) From there he hooked me up to the fetal monitor where we would be able to see if she was moving or not.
For 40 minutes I sat there, panicking, not understanding what had or could go wrong…what I knew was that she was not moving. I was sick to my stomach and when the doctor came back in we looked at the graph for the third time. We could see I was having pretty big (but didn’t know or couldn’t feel it) contractions and that the baby was barely making movements (she was moving a little so we knew that she was alive, thank the universe). He told us to head straight to the hospital which was about five to ten minutes away and that he would call them and let them know that we were on the way and he’d meet us there. He wanted to let me try for a vaginal birth, but it wasn’t really up to him, it was up to Cedar Sinai doctors/staff and of course we both knew they’d push for me to have a c-section especially with the huge concern of baby not moving much. I barely had time to call my parents, I was able to get ahold of my sister and let her know that I was going in for an c-section and baby would be here soon. My husband and I got to the hospital and literally in 10-15 minutes I was being drugged up and shaved for an emergency c-section.
I was calm, but upset and scared. I had already prepared myself for worst case scenarios (this) and at this point, truly, all I cared about was getting my baby out safely. From this point to the next few days, was honestly a huge blur for me. I was exhausted and drugged and if it wasn’t for the photos on my phone taken by my husband and midwife (who they allowed to be in the surgery room) I really am not sure I would have remembered my daughter’s birth. I remember crying out of fear and shock but the Cedar Sinai staff was kind and reassuring. Before I knew it she was out, I heard a quick yelp, no cry and then all the commotion in the corner of my eye.
I was in a severe daze but they said she was fine. I was trying so hard to be present through the drugs. My husband cut the cord and took some photos while they cleaned her up and then they brought her to me. My midwife helped me latch her and it was amazing. The latching was amazing. I was so thankful that my midwife was in the room with me, she made me feel safe and I knew she was watching everything they did and had my best interest. It made me feel good, because I was mentally not there at all.
In the midst of everything my blood pressure shot up and they told me I had preeclampsia (a dangerous abrupt rise in blood pressure). I was very swollen, I barely recognize myself in any of the labor room photos. I’ve stared at them a million times and decided not to share more, because they make me so uncomfortable.
For me what followed this was the most difficult part. They were monitoring me for the next 24 hours giving me magnesium sulfate to reduce the risk of seizures. I can barely remember my interactions with Naaz (which even now thinking about it hurts my heart) and I was in so much pain from the c-section. I wanted her with me, but I was so drowsy I didn’t think it was safe for me to hold her as much as I really wanted to. The nurses said that her temperature was low (common for low weight babies) and we tried skin to skin, it wasn’t working to help regulate her body temperature so they took her to the nursery to keep an eye on her. The next day she still wasn’t able to regulate her temperature so she was moved to NICU. I literally started to lose it. I didn’t understand why she wasn’t with me and I felt completely anxious and sick not knowing where she was or how she was. I was still in severe pain and my blood pressure was really high for the next few days so the nurses weren’t recommending me to leave my bed to be in the NICU as much as I felt I needed to. I pumped every two hours to do something for my baby. I was completely exhausted, but the pumping gave me so much happiness to be able to do something for her. My husband was able to spend a lot of time with her and go up and feed her for as many feedings as he could. (He was also exhausted which back then I couldn’t understand. I just wanted him to be there with her since I couldn’t be. I felt extremely guilty. I was also angry…at everyone.) I just spent 9 months growing this baby in me with all the love and care and now she was here (not in the way I had planned and hoped for AT ALL) and I couldn’t even be with her. We were all of a sudden apart and it hurt me extremely.
I spent 5 days in the hospital and the whole time Naaz was in the NICU. Those five days were by far the worst days of my life. I was super depressed, drugged, crying, didn’t want to sleep, but the drugs forced me to…and the nurses would wake me up every 2 hours to check on my blood pressure which wasn’t getting any better because I was totally distressed. I know that the pumping and colostrum was helping Naaz, because she was maintaining her birth weight and after the longest five days of my life she was allowed to go home and me as well with the help of blood pressure medication. I was so happy to have her but also afraid. At 5.7 lbs she was the tiniest human being I had ever held and I hadn’t even been with her the first five days of her life. Looking back I think I thought…does she know that I am her mom? Did she wonder why I wasn’t with her? Was she sad that she was alone? Those thoughts killed me and caused me so much postpartum depression and guilt. I was terrified of breast-feeding alone, it was so hard with such a small baby. My midwife helped me and suggest I get a postpartum doula and I did. It helped me and my anxiety tremendously but I’ll save the details for my next post.
I’m the type of person that goes to sleep each night with an entire plan for the next day. When those plans don’t go as planned, I’m completely thrown off. I was completely thrown off by the birth of my daughter. I was completely thrown off by my pregnancy. I was also thrown off by having a previous miscarriage. I always thought that getting pregnant and having a child would be so easy, because everyone does it. I never thought it would have so many challenges. Now I am in the process of healing and preparing myself for the next time I will do this. After Naaz I definitely know that I want more children. I am afraid of the process, but I refuse to let it stop me. I pray that I will be able to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section), but if I have to have another c-section then I will. The preeclamsia kind of shuts the door on a future home birth, but it is what it is. I didn’t get the dreamy birth that I imagined for years and now I am ok with that. It still hurts definitely, but I don’t feel that I failed or anything like that. It’s just life.
The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.
One last thing, please remember everyone’s pregnancy and birth experience is different. There is no need to be afraid by other people’s experiences. This is just for me to share my story for those who wanted to hear it. A book that helped me feel very confident in giving birth was Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Regardless of how you give birth, it’s a great read.