Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Life's Rollercoaster Ride- My daughter's birth story

WARNING: This is a semi-graphic post. There are not graphic pictures. If you are pregnant, please don't read this birth story because I don't want to scare you. There are plenty of pleasant birth stories for you to read. Read this after you have your baby.

I have wanted to have a baby ever since I was a little girl. I loved pretending that my dolls were my children, and when I was three and I saw my baby sister for the first time, I knew for certain that I wanted real babies of my own.

My husband and I spent two years establishing our marriage with God before bringing a baby into the family. During that two years, I started my research on cloth diapers, parenting, SIDS, you name it and I probably researched it. I wanted to be prepared.

41 weeks
We found out that we were pregnant in July of 2011. My husband is a Whitewater Rafting Guide and we should have suspected that something was amiss when I fell asleep rafting, which is very unusual to say the least. Pregnancy was a breeze. I never threw up and only occasionally felt queasy. My sense of smell was heightened and my face broke out a bit, but generally I felt great. I felt that it was the dream pregnancy. I just knew that our baby was going to be brilliant and beautiful and I was going to do an awesome job with my natural birth. After all, that is when I had put on my birthing plan: no medications, no episiotomies, and no inductions. We chose not to find out the baby's gender because we wanted it to be a surprise.

At our 20 week ultrasound, we found out that our baby was healthy and developmentally advanced. The baby breathed consistently like a champ throughout the entire ultrasound and size-wise everything looked great. I grew each week and put on a little more weight. For the first three months or so, I napped for about 4 hours each day. Before becoming pregnant, I was 136lbs. I stopped looking at the doctor's scales when I had gained 45lbs, so I don't know how much I gained all together. From the back, you really couldn't tell that I was pregnant because the baby was all in the front. I craved Cheese Danish and Arby's  (rare treats), oranges, and Ruffles Potato Chips (I rationed myself to three bags throughout the entire pregnancy). I couldn't stand the thought of cold cereal with milk because of the sogginess, so I ate toast and hot cereal instead. I was active and continued with life as usual - snowshoeing with my husband and playing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" nearly every day with kids at school.

At our 32 week appointment, the doctor measured the baby and predicted that he or she would likely be a large 8 or 9 pound baby. I was very disappointed. I wanted a little baby. I decided that day that I should probably have the baby early, so it wouldn't get too big (like I had ANY control over that!). I had started having Braxton Hicks contractions here and there at around 24 weeks, but I started having pretty consistent contractions at about 36 weeks. By 37 weeks, I had BH contractions every 5-10 minutes. I thought that this was it, so I started trying to induce myself or intensify the contractions by walking, eating pineapple and spicy foods, jumping and dancing, using a breast pump...everything I could think of. Some of the contractions were pretty intense, and we ended up driving to the hospital (2 hours away) with 2 false alarms. Both times we were told that I was definitely having regular contractions but that they weren't productive. I was 1.5 cm dilated and mostly effaced, but not in real labor yet. The second time at the hospital was actually our 40 week due date, April 25th 2012, and the doctors thought that I was too tired from the intense contractions to actually go into labor because my body knew I was too exhausted to handle it. I told them that I hadn't had a good night's sleep in weeks and after a few hours of napping in the tub, they admitted me to the hospital and gave me some morphine to help me sleep through the night, in hopes that I would be in labor in the morning. I had some crazy dreams that night but I slept well and when the doctor woke me up (I was there to get sleep and he woke me up at 8am!) my contractions had almost gone completely away and I was sent home, disappointed. Before I left, the doctor checked on the baby and he told me that the baby was at least 9 lbs. Great.

I had a major dilemma. I really wanted a natural birth. I didn't want any medications or Pitocin. I had watched "The Business of Being Born" several times on Netflix. Ideally, I wanted a home birth, but the nearest hospital that could deliver a baby was 2 hours away, so if anything went wrong we would likely die, so I settled for a hospital birth. I wasn't going to compromise the natural birth though. If my mother could give birth unmedicated for 6 babies, I could handle it too. However, if this baby wasn't induced, it might grow so big that I couldn't push it out. Above everything else, I DID NOT want a C-section. I was doing this myself. I figured that even if I had Pitocin, I would just deal with the extra pain and not have any other meds. I shared my worries with my doctor and she told me that it was a legitimate concern that the baby was large and that maybe I would need a C-section if the baby kept growing. That was not what I wanted to hear. It was decided that at 41 weeks, we would begin inducing labor, starting with the most natural ways first to hopefully encourage my own body to kick in.

We reported to the maternity ward bright and early on Wednesday, May 2nd, to begin induction. My membranes were stripped and I was given misoprostol internally. We waited for an hour and then started walking up and down the stairs for a few hours. When they did another internal exam, nothing had changed enough yet, so we were sent home for the time being. We were to return in labor, or the next morning. The next morning we did the same routine again and again we was sent home. Friday morning started off the same, but when my body still didn't respond enough, we started Pitocin as well. Pitocin got contractions started, but I couldn't even feel them. They would ask me if I was contracting, and I would have to feel my belly before answering because I couldn't feel them without looking at the monitor, that is the only way I could tell. I didn't progress enough. They did a quick ultrasound and concluded that the baby had plenty of fluid and that it was safe to wait. The doctor predicted that the baby was around 9lbs, maybe a little more. The hospital wouldn't induce labor over the weekend, so we were told to return in labor or 7:30 on Monday morning. I walked miles and miles that weekend.

On Monday morning at around 5:30 on May 7th, I woke up with intense contractions. I got up and took a shower, and the contractions were very intense and not letting up. I ate a decent breakfast and drank plenty of fluids, just in case this was it. They had told me that when I was really in labor, I would know it. I didn't know if this was it or not, so I figured it wasn't. My husband and I reported to the hospital at 7:30 as planned. The doctor did an internal exam and told me that I was completely effaced and 3cm dilated and almost in labor. Having been "almost in labor" for over a month, we decided that more Pitocin was probably the way to go, until my body took over. I welcomed the pain, because that meant that the baby was finally coming. I labored in the tub for several hours, with towels around me to keep me from sliding. My husband and an off-duty OB nurse who is a dear friend of the family were there with me to help me through. They held my hand and put washcloths on my face and neck. The doctor broke my water. I ate graham crackers and peanut butter at around 2pm and labored all day, eventually getting out of the tub - I don't remember when. At midnight, I was 9cm dilated. I didn't have the urge to push yet and I was told that the baby was too high to dilate further. I tried walking and using a labor ball. My husband supported my body weight as I shifted my weight from one foot to the other "dancing" with him, with my arms around his neck and my head on his chest. We were doing great and we knew it. I had been fairly reasonable so far (my husband laughed when he was proofreading this...apparently he disagrees). I had impressed myself anyway. I had mentioned that I believed Eve was an idiot. At one point my husband was brought toast (he hadn't eaten yet) and it smelled so bad that I told him to get rid of it. When he went to eat it in the hallway I had another contraction and got mad that he was gone. They talked me through every contraction with encouragement and squeezed my hand tightly. My husband kept reminding me of the Lamaze breathing techniques but I disregarded. I breathed slowly, saying to myself  with each breath in and each breath out, "I can do this, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this..." until the contraction subsided. My husband and I had written encouraging Bible verses on recipe cards and had brought them to the hospital with us. He read them to me, over and over again. At 1am, the doctors started mentioning the possibility of a C-section. I cried. I didn't want a C-section but I was still 9 cm and the baby was still high. I refused it. I tried many different positions to try to get the baby to come down further. We tried acupressure points and increasing the Pitocin to the point that I got no relief at all between contractions, but nothing helped. At 2am I was crying and scared as they told me that they needed my permission to call in the anesthesiologist and surgical team to do a C-section. They told me that I could labor for a few more days but the baby was too big to drop lower, so it would be impossible for me to push the baby out myself. A few more days wouldn't make the baby smaller, so it would still result in a C-section. "Can I have my other babies naturally after a C-section?" I asked. The doctor assured me that I could. I reluctantly agreed to the C-section, hoping that I would push the baby out myself before they could get me to the operating room. I felt like I needed to use the bathroom continuously now, and with their blessing I tried pushing a little, but nothing helped.

I nearly threw up when I realized this was real. I was going to be sliced open, naked on a table under bright lights and they were going to take the baby out of me through an opening in my stomach instead of the "real way". My hopes and dreams were absolutely shattered. I had secretly thought that C-sections were for people with physical abnormalities or wimps, but certainly not for normal, healthy me. How humbling. I was put into a hospital robe, I signed paperwork. I was told what would happen. It was surreal...just a blur of tears and pain and bright lights. As I was wheeled on the bed out the doors and toward the elevator, I saw my mother waiting in the waiting room and I looked away, crying. I couldn't bear the thought of letting her down, letting everyone down, by having a C-section. "It's okay, Heidi!" she said with a smile. It wasn't okay. None of it was going right. None of it was okay. I felt as though God had abandoned me, though I knew that wasn't true. A needle was stuck in my back to numb me, and I lost feeling from my chest down. The drape kept me from seeing what was happening, but the tears continued to stream down my face. My husband and Nurse-friend stayed near my head, giving me a pep-talk and reassuring me. My arms were useless, held out to my sides. I was so tired and so disappointed in myself. My body was numb, but I could feel tugging and I could see that I was being yanked from side to side. "Daddy, do you want to tell your wife the gender?" he was asked. He responded that he did.

In a matter of a few minutes, the tugging stopped, we heard a gurgley cry and suction sound, followed by more crying. It was 3am exactly. He was told to look over the drape. He did. It took him a few seconds to realize what he was looking at and to tell me that we had a daughter. I was  happy to hear that she was a girl. I had secretly hoped and thought that she was a girl for several months. They lifted her briefly so that I could see her before they cleaned her up. Her body was egg-shaped from being crammed into that shape in my uterus. She was purple and looked like she was covered in ricotta cheese with streaks of blood. She was HUGE, fat and huge. Of course this night would be followed up by having a baby that looked like that. Of course. I loved her, but I was concerned that she looked like that. My husband brought her to my face and I turned my head to kiss her cheeks and tell her that she is fearfully and wonderfully made. We told everyone what we had named her. My husband stayed with the baby as she was weighed and cleaned up on the warmer. The doctors told us that she was so big that it was hard to get her out through the incision- especially her mid-section. They had no idea that she was THAT big.

I heard someone say "11 pounds!" and I asked what was 11 pounds. "Your baby girl is 11 pounds!" they said. What? Is that possible? I realized that I had had a legitimate C-section. No one could argue with that. 11 pounds! How in the world did I end up with an 11 pound baby? To make matters worse, she would have happily stayed in there and continued growing for goodness knows how long, if she'd had the chance. "Don't worry, Heidi! She's getting cuter as they clean her up!" my husband encouraged me from across the room. I had had all of these grand ideals of skin-on-skin
time and breastfeeding as soon as she was born, but none of that was possible because of this stupid C-section. I was too tired to beat myself up about it anymore, and I started to sleep. I don't remember much more.

The next thing I remember is being in an elevator and then a room I didn't recognize. The lights weren't as bright there. My husband was holding the baby in the corner. I had tubes in my nose and they kept jostling me around on the bed, turning me from side to side. "Breathe, Heidi!" They kept being so bossy. I just wanted to sleep. I had just had a kid, for crying out loud. Leave me alone, I thought. "Heidi, can you cough for me?!" I tried, but it was a weak cough. "Again, Heidi, please cough again! We need you to breathe!" I tried, but it was hard. I was too tired. I was later told that my husband had held the baby to me and helped her breast-feed right there in the ICU, but I don't remember that.  Someone pushed hard on my belly. It didn't hurt but I could feel pressure. I was hemorrhaging tons of blood. He left with the baby and I stayed upstairs, unable to complain about it. I was shaking hard. I tried to hold still but I couldn't. I couldn't relax. I was so tired, but I couldn't stop shaking and sleep. The doctors and nurses were yelling at each other, hurrying around me. They kept yelling at me to breathe and relax and stop shaking. I couldn't do anything. "We need you to calm down, Heidi! What will help you relax?" they asked in my face. I said my husband's name over and over again until they understood what I was saying. I needed him. The idea that I had a baby now too was a distant thought. I needed my husband. Then he was there with me, laying next to me on the bed with his face near my face. "Where is she?" I asked. "Your mom has her. She's sleeping I think." Everything was okay for the time being. I am told that I calmed right down, my blood pressure regulated and I was breathing well on my own.


a more accurate representation of her size
I was brought down to my real room soon after that, and I woke up there. My mother was holding the baby and telling me that she was hungry. I like this picture of us becoming acquainted with each other because the angle of the camera makes her look much smaller than she really was. Notice that she is holding her head up even though she was just born. She held her own head in the operating room, I am told, and looked around at the people and lights. It took a long time to learn how to breastfeed, but that is a topic for another post. It's weird, but even though I loved her so much, I wanted to have a do-over in terms of birthing her, so I could do it my way. I felt like somehow it was her fault that she was so big and that I couldn't push her out myself. This huge battle inside of me was just beginning, and I was too tired and too emotional to deal with it. Between nursing her and staring at her, I mostly slept and cried. I never thought that I would love having a catheter, but as feeling returned, so did pain. Moving was painful. Holding her on me was painful. Sitting up was painful. Any kind of pressure was painful. I had lost a lot of blood and was very pale and very weak. A blood transfusion was discussed, but I was stubbornly refusing it, so they didn't give me one. We were in the hospital for a week before I was strong enough to go home. Our baby girl was amazing - so strong, smart and healthy. I talked my husband through changing a diaper, teaching him how to do it from my bed. I had thought that I would be the one doing the diapers and the baths. He was a trooper. He was my hands when I was incapable. My family and friends surrounded me with love and support. They would tell me that I had done a great job, but I felt like it was all lies. I hadn't done anything well - I had a C-section. I would fall asleep mid-sentence with visitors in the room and wake up moments later, crying. Talk about mixed emotions. I knew intellectually that I could have died. I know, even now, that she was too big for my body to birth naturally, but part of me wonders if I could have done it if I had refused induction. If I hadn't tried to induce my labor at all, would she have come on her own?

It took months before I could talk about her birth story without crying or getting angry. I felt like the entire situation just wasn't fair. I guess God had different plans for me. I couldn't have picked a more wonderful daughter. She is beautiful and I love her more than I knew was possible. I struggled with
too big for newborn diapers and clothes
what I now believe was post-pardum depression for a while, even after we went home. It was hard for me to cope when my other pregnant friends had healthy natural births. It has been a process learning to make peace with my own story and to give God the glory. God brought me through every part of the process and through it I am learning to surrender my own plans and trust in His. I do hope that I can have future births naturally, but if I can't, God will get me through that too! I learned in a Beth Moore Bible study that God can deliver you from the fire, through the fire, or by the fire. In my case, I feel that He brought me through the fire with my daughter's birth and I still bear the scars from it, physically and emotionally.


heading home


  1. Oh Heidi. You brought tears to my eyes several times. I can so relate. Have a c-section with Joseph, and then having four. Looking back, i would like to think i would have done things differently, like I didn't experience a 'real birth.' Thinking about it and talking to different people, we still brought those babies into the world. Thank you for sharing your story. It's beautiful and wonderful. God is good!

  2. I loved reading your story, Heidi. That was beautiful. My first baby, Savannah, was a similar story except she managed to make her way out. but she was a 32 hour labor. We started out as a home-birth but had to transfer to the hospital because she was basically stuck. C-section was my biggest fear. we did everything but. thanks for sharing all your feelings as well. So many new moms think you are supposed to just fall in love with your baby and that's all there is to it. But it's so hard becoming a mom! My drama with Savannah came after. I was never able to make enough milk for her and THAT made me feel like such a failure. That's been the hardest thing so far. You write beautifully, by the way. Thanks again for sharing! I just love reading your blog! :) Rebecca