I probably should’ve written and shared this story six years ago… But to be honest, it was such a traumatic experience (that I’ve relived over and over and over in my mind) it was always too hard to share without feeling anxiety, depression, resentment and wondering if I did too little or too much through it all. Wondering if things would’ve been different if X, Y, or Z would have happened…
Now that I’ve just delivered my son Sterling and experiencing first-hand that birth isn’t always a traumatic experience, I think I’m ready to open up and share both of their birth stories.
Let’s Start Here
Ever since finding out I was pregnant with Jade, (I mean, could it get any more glamorous than taking a pregnancy test in a Target bathroom?!) I was determined to learn as much as I could about birth, labor and delivery to make the best decision for myself. And to be honest, back then I was pretty ignorant and had my mind made up about a few things on what birth “should” be, and the “right” way to do it. The quote: “I was the perfect parent before I had kids.” comes to mind and honestly I feel a little sheepish admitting it now.
So here is is, my (former) thoughts on how EVERY woman “should” birth, that I called “My Birth Plan”: First I will deliver my baby naturally (no epidural) because my body was made to do it. I’ll easily breast-feed for at least one year, making sure my baby hits all of the growth markers, teaching them manners, obedience and unconditional patients/love all the time. Pretty freaking hilarious especially because it’s so unrealistic to think that a parent could have that much control on another human being and still be a happy functioning member of society.
I’m getting side tracked… But just to give you a reference of where I was coming from.
The Birth Plan
Like I mentioned earlier, my birth plan was to deliver her naturally, going into labor all on my own, without pitocin or an epidural. I took multiple hypnobirthing classes, met with a doula and practiced all of the breathing techniques and visualizations often. I also met with a midwife, and decided to have her deliver my baby. Throughout my pregnancy I collected these preferences and wrote up my birth plan (It had bullet points with “I plan to deliver naturally, I do not want to have an epidural, I’d like to labor in a tub, please do not ask me about my pain scale, please do not ask me if I want an epidural, I will tell you what I need, and if there are major complications please talk to my husband, who will talk to me…” At week 38, I packed my hospital bag, printed out my birth plan and purchased 2 pounds of See’s chocolates to take to the hospital, ready to go at any moment. Then I waited for my natural labor to begin.
Going Into Labor
At 39 weeks and 6 days, I had my first contraction and I was SO excited. I hadn’t had anything, not even a Braxton hick up to this point, so I excitedly called the midwife to meet me at the hospital. I was a little disappointed when she told me to call back once the contractions were strong enough that I couldn’t talk through them. I took her advice and I rested and labored at home for about 12 hours. Just like she said I finally couldn’t talk through the surges/contractions anymore and we drove to the hospital. I remember each bump being SO annoying and asking my husband to PLEASE drive more smoothly. Little did I know what real, realness was coming…
Once we got to the hospital and got checked in, a nurse checked me to see how dilated I was, and I was measuring at 4 centimeters. My water had not broken, and they wouldn’t officially admit me until I was dilated to 5 centimeters. Determined not to get sent home, we walked the halls because I was staying there and delivering my baby! About an hour later they checked me again and I was dilated to a 5, so around 10:30PM we were officially admitted!! I was so thrilled and called my midwife to meet me so we could get the show on the road.
This hospital had one room with a tub, ONE. As you can imagine, I was so happy to hear that room number seven (the one with a tub) was available! My birth plan was happening just as I had planned, this was going to be a breeze.
Because I had tested positive for group B strep during my pregnancy, I needed to start an IV and get in two doses of antibiotics. The nurse who started my IV was struggling to find a good vein on my left arm so she moved over to my right arm, about six tries later she moved back to my left arm, at this point I couldn’t look anymore, and I tried to just focus on breathing through the contractions while getting poked and prodded. Which was probably a good thing because once the nurse finally got my vein, she forgot to cap her needle and my blood started spilling everywhere… I can still remember Nick putting his hand on my head saying “Ummm, just keep your eyes closed and try to relax”. I found out the next day what had really happened.
Around this time a nurse popped her head into my room and asked “How are you doing with your pain? The Anesthesiologist is here would you like me to send him in?” I was SO annoyed.
Ummm, Did you even read my birth plan? Giving her the benefit of the doubt, (maybe she missed it?) I politely declined and went back to my breathing techniques and visualization.
Once that first dose of antibiotics went in they filled the tub and I was able to labor in it. That “weightless” feeling laboring in that tub made a world of difference on my lower back pain. I was able to just lay back and relax so much better. About an hour went by, and it felt like every nurse who came to check on me asked about my pain and I was asked a second time about the anesthesiologist and getting an epidural before he left for the night. I labored in the tub for about 2 hours and had been doing really great with my breathing techniques and managing my surges and contractions well.
Around 1 AM, I felt a VERY strong surge and things changed. I immediately sat up like: Get me out of this contraption, and felt like I had been possessed and I was having a hard time getting comfortable and focusing. I acted almost animalistic (would be the best way to describe it), and just wanted this thing inside of me to get out. I couldn’t get comfortable and for about 45 min kept switching positions and trying to get comfortable. My midwife checked me again and I was dilated to a 10! Which was really encouraging as I was losing steam mentally and contemplating all of my life choices up to that point. Around at 2:20ish I felt the urge to push but couldn’t get comfortable and my back labor was so intense and painful I had my midwife and Nick pushing on either side of my hips to relieve the discomfort. I remember thinking “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done”, AND “I am never doing this again” and I started feeling that “ring of fire” feeling and hoped I was close to the end.
My midwife encouraged me to go to whatever position felt “most comfortable” and I ended up delivering on my back with one leg on Nick’s shoulder and my midwife holding the other let up in the air… When it came time to push I felt like I was birthing with my bum straight in the air, but it was what felt the most comfortable at the time. I was told to hold my breath and start pushing… After the third push Little Miss Jade was born.
She Was The Cutest Thing I’d Ever Seen
Her hair was long and so dark, her little eyes were so beautiful with long black eyelashes and bright red lips. She weighed 6 lbs. 6 oz. and measured 19 inches long and was just perfect. I went from feeling so tired, and exhausted with all of the emotions and discomfort, to feeling like I was riding on the highest high. I ended up needing stitches as I tore vaginally, and the stitches were done I medicated as I continued to ride that high.
Our First Hours Together
The first 15 hours together were blissful, she stayed in our room and we bonded and I learned how to nurse her. Honestly, I was feeling great and was ready to go leave the hospital with my baby. I asked about the discharge process and what felt like 15 minutes after my request, there were a handful of nurses who ran into my room, grabbed my baby and rushed her to the NICU. I was so confused, why all the rushing and limited explanations… But apparently because she was only given one dose of antibiotics while I labored, they really wanted to start an IV and give her the second dose to make sure she didn’t get a laundry list of potential future problems including: meningitis or another infection that could cause more issues.
I want to preface this next section with my feelings on healthcare providers in general. I know that a lot of them are doing a great job and genuinely want to care for mommy and baby as best as they can… My experience is just that, my experience and that is what I’m sharing here. I am grateful that my daughter was born without and serious medical conditions and we were in the position to have a good insurance cover the majority of her medical bills.
Okay, so she missed getting that second dose of antibiotics. I was fine with them giving her the needed dose, but once they saw what our insurance covered, they encouraged me to get “ALL of the tests” to make sure she didn’t have any other issues. I really didn’t want to do more than the needed dose of antibiotics, but Nick was nervous and felt like we should trust the doctors. I felt SO conflicted, because I obviously wanted the best for my baby but didn’t want to risk denying the opinions of medical professionals (and insurance) if things ended up getting worse.
Soon she had needles poking her drawing blood, an IV in her arm, breathing tubes and the suggested her getting a spinal tap! I pushed back and felt like it was quite intense (especially since it would be given as a preventative measure) as she wasn’t testing positive for anything life-threatening. After about two days of tests they had her hooked up to all kinds of monitors, chords and breathing contraptions it just broke my mommy heart.
When I asked when we would be able to leave, or even for a projection of when, no one would give me a straight answer… One nurse would say in about a week, the next would say at least two weeks… And the bedside manner was terrible. Things like “your baby is safer here than at your own home“, “Now you can go home and relax”, “This is way easier than taking your baby home, trust me”. And my personal favorite of the worst possible responses to say to a new mother, after asking if all of these tests were necessary, I asked about potential risks of not doing the next “test” and the response was, and I quote: “Your baby could die .” WOW, just wow. At this point I was so done with all of it and started referring to the NICU as “baby prison”.
Baby NICU Jail
Did you know you have to wash your hands for five minutes every time you go to the NICU? There is a timer that starts when you stand in front of the basin to wash and they give you a kit to wash your hands and clean under your nails. I spent approximately 115 minutes just washing my hands in the NICU.
Over the next two-and-a-half weeks, we would wake up every morning and head straight to the hospital. We spent around 8 to 10 hours sitting in the NICU as they ran test after test, holding her whenever possible, and feeling completely helpless. I was so frustrated with the inconsistent answers, the run-around of why we were there for so long, the travel and the emotional stress of feeling like none of this was life-threatening, or necessary was taking a toll. When I asked again, about when would we be able to take her home and got the answer “probably in another week” I was so done.
I decided to switch over care to our pediatrician for him to take over care and hopefully release her from baby jail once and for all. I was kind of surprised at how hard the hospital staff fought me about what a mistake it would be to switch healthcare providers. After all the argued, she was getting “the very best care with them”. I stood my ground and as you can imagine tons of comments like how unqualified he was, and I was denying my baby “the best care in the state“ but I didn’t care, I wanted to bring my baby home.
About 36 hours after switching care to my amazing pediatrician, baby was getting discharged from hospital and we finally on our way home… I felt So. Many. Emotions. and to FINALLY be leaving the hospital. Anger, anxiety, relief, and ready to finally take my baby home to get on with our lives. But we weren’t in the clear just yet.
To leave the NICU at this particular hospital, they make your baby take a breathing/stress test in their carseat/baby carrier. They have to sit in it for an hour and not dip below certain levels. It was the longest hour of my life. When we finally got her in the car and drove home, about a 20 minute drive, I remember her being so quiet back there I had to pull over to make sure she was still breathing, and she was.
I was so happy to finally have her home but all of the stress and emotions from the weeks that proceeded her homecoming, made me anxious, untrusting and fearful of letting anyone really near her. Because IF she got sick, she’d be headed right back to the hospital and that thought was beyond terrifying, unbearable really.
If you’ve followed my motherhood journey over the years, you already know how much I’ve struggled with motherhood and the feelings of inadequacy and always questioning my abilities to mother. Looking back at this experience in particular, I’ve learned that sometimes things are out of your control and that doesn’t mean you are a bad mom, it just means that things are out of your control.
It’s taken me a long time to feel up to bringing another baby into this world, and qualified enough and mentally/emotionally stable enough to raise another little human. But even as I write this, I realize none of us is truly ever “qualified enough” on every single level, it just comes down to realizing that you’re going to make a lot of mistakes and that this tiny human will love you unconditionally regardless of how satisfied you are with your efforts or abilities.
This story has a happy ending. While I have a continue to struggle with anxiety, and depresson, kids are incredibly resilient, forgiving and loving. I can’t believe that I’ve been blessed with two beautiful children who will continue to help me become the best mom for them.