Hi there. Remember me? I’m the girl that relauched this blog about a year ago before suddenly disappearing for 10-ish months. I was doing so good, too! Posting almost regularly, doing fun things with images. I even had affiliate links. Affiliate links, y’all!
I have a good reason for my hiatus:
We welcomed our son Killian into the world on June 29.
Pregnancy probably would have been an awesome thing to write about given the topic of this particular blog, but I felt very conflicted. Mommy blogs tend to be ground zero for the mommy wars and I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to deal with having my choices judged by strangers. I also wasn’t sure how much of my son’s life I wanted to broadcast to the public before he was even out of the womb.
I’d like to continue blogging as I have always enjoyed it and it offered me an outlet for my creativity while also providing me a way to learn some new things. If I do, I’m not sure in what capacity I will share my life as a mother.
While I figure it out and attempt to function on two to three hours of sleep a day, I did want to share my son’s birth story. It’s raw and personal, but thanks to some supportive words from some really wonderful women, I’ve decided to post it on a more public forum.
Make a Birth Plan. Then Light it on Fire.
When I talk to other women about birth plans, I always tell them to write down what they want or expect from their labor and delivery then take that piece of paper and light it on fire. I admit it’s an extreme statement and some may take it as though I don’t believe in birth plans or birth goals. That’s not true at all. I had two sets of birth plans. One for a natural labor and one for an induced labor. But I’m realistic and I understand that when it comes to babies, you must be flexible.
I knew my birth plans would change when gestational diabetes caused me to have a scheduled induction at 39 weeks. Even though constant monitoring would make things a little harder, my midwives assured me that I could still have a lot of control over my son’s birth. I could still get in the tub, walk around, attempt delivery without drugs, have immediate skin-to-skin, and begin breastfeeding right away. I felt as good as I could about it all.
I became scared and nervous and had a strong urge to say, “Fuck it,” and go home as if that would stop my son from eventually being born.
I was scheduled to head to the hospital at 7:30 Tuesday night. Because I wasn’t dilated and only a bit effaced, a foley bulb would be used to get my cervix to 3 or 4 centimeters before starting Pitocin early Wednesday morning. Tuesday happened to be a big night for babies as the hospital’s labor and delivery wing was absolutely full. We were told to come in Wednesday at 7:30am to start with the foley bulb.
I was mentally ready to head to the hospital Tuesday night so a delay threw me for a bit of a loop. I focused on the upside that I was able to spend the night in my own bed instead of at the hospital. I got a lot more sleep at home than I ever would have otherwise.
The morning drive to the hospital was surreal. I became scared and nervous and had a strong urge to say, “Fuck it,” and go home as if that would stop my son from eventually being born.
I felt a little more relaxed once we were checked in. My nurse had a sunny personality and that helped put me at ease. One of my practice’s seven midwives came to check on me and my cervix and it turned out I was 80-90 percent effaced and dilated just enough that she was able to manually open me to 3 centimeters. We could skip the foley bulb and go right to Pitocin. The induction process was moving a little more quickly than I had mentally prepared for, but I felt OK and ready.
The Pitocin was increased slowly over the course of a few hours. I could feel contractions but they were tolerable. After five months of Braxton Hicks, I was used to the discomfort. I planned on attempting labor and delivery without the use of pain medication, but was open to using it should I feel like it was more than I could handle. My tolerance for the first stage of labor helped build my confidence and I felt like I could really attempt my goal.
Then my water broke.
The Pain Sets In
I knew the real pain would start once my water broke, but I wasn’t expecting for it to break spontaneously. Chuck and I were watching Orange is the New Black on my iPad when the nurse told me that another midwife would be swinging by soon to check on my progress. If things were going well, she’d break my water to move everything along.
Not five minutes later — around 5:15pm — I felt a violent explosion in my uterus. I let out a cry, completely surprised by this sudden burst. The pain began to steadily increase and I called the nurse. She confirmed that my water broke and told me this was something to celebrate. It meant my body was getting ready for delivery and things would really get moving now.
My plans for a painkiller-free birth went out the window once my contractions increased in strength and frequency. The pain radiated throughout my lower back, something I wasn’t expecting. The midwife on call confirmed that Killian was facing up, which is why I was having so much back pain. I was still only 3 centimeters dilated with Killian sitting at -3, but she said she was comfortable ordering an epidural should I need one since my water broke on its own. I gave her the go-ahead to put in the order and get the hour-long process started immediately.
Labor Takes a Turn
I don’t remember when I heard that Killian’s heart rate was crashing every time I had a contraction.
Laying on my side, I attempted to breathe through the pain, sometimes moaning and sometimes crying. At some point, I moved to a birthing ball, which helped take some of the pressure off my back, easing the pain a bit. Not long after, however, the nurse came in and told me that the midwife wanted to use internal monitors because they didn’t like the readings they were getting on the external probes.
This is when I started to feel like things weren’t right, but I was in so much pain, I didn’t have the energy or desire to really question any of it. The probes were inserted, along with a catheter that would be used to add back artificial amniotic fluid should I need it.
I don’t remember when I heard that Killian’s heart rate was crashing every time I had a contraction. I don’t remember who said it or when it was said. I don’t remember when they told me that maybe he was pushing up against his umbilical cord and changing my position and adding more fluid would help move him away from it.
I was asked to change my position several times: left side, right side, on my elbows and knees. They tried to explain to me that doing so may ease the stress on the baby. The artificial amniotic fluid was added back to my uterus to provide Killian with some cushion in hopes of relieving his stress.
All this time, the contractions are coming every two minutes and my pain relief is nowhere in sight. I was only 30 minutes into the epidural process, which starts with being given extra fluid.
While I labored on my arms and knees, I was given an air mask and told to breathe deeply. With each intervention, I became slightly more aware of how serious my situation had become, but I couldn’t focus on it because the pain was so great.
I heard the voice of the OB who had come in at some point during the process. I heard him tell Chuck they are one more try away from a C-section. I started to cry but quickly became distracted by the oncoming pain.
I was again moved onto my side. The nurse calmly told me they would have to remove my jewelry. Earlier in the day as she took my temperature she asked if my tongue ring could be removed. Knowing she was asking in case I’d have to go into surgery, I told her yes. About 10 hours later I was doing just that.
The Rush to Surgery
I heard a medical term — now forgotten — that caused me to believe my son’s heart had stopped beating.
Afterward, I was moved back onto all fours as it seemed to help alleviate some of the stress on Killian. I learned later the Pitocin was also turned off to ease my contractions. Again I heard the OB’s voice telling Chuck that the only option was a c-section. Suddenly the room felt busy. I don’t know how many there were but it felt like the room was full of people. I was being jostled, the bed moved into different positions and pulled away from the wall. I looked up and saw Chuck. I was scared and suddenly very aware I was being rushed into surgery. He yelled, “I love you,” and I yelled it back before watching the room disappear.
Because I was still facing the back of the bed, I saw everything moving away from me. I heard more voices and felt more rushed bodies as I whisked around corners.
Suddenly I was in another room. In my peripheral vision, I saw nurses and doctors putting on scrubs and getting ready for surgery. I heard a medical term — now forgotten — that caused me to believe my son’s heart had stopped beating. Another mask was placed over my face and I was told to breathe deeply. It was held so tightly that though I could breathe in, I felt like I couldn’t breathe out. I heard a heartbeat on the monitor. Something about it recovering. I’m being asked about allergies and medical history. I’m told they’re inserting a bladder catheter. I feel my stomach being shaved. Tubes are taped to my legs. Monitors are placed around my chest.
All this time, I’m still laboring. Contractions are still coming every few minutes. I want to cry. I want to be put to sleep. I just want the pain to stop.
At 7:05 my son is born, but I don’t know it. I don’t get to see him. He was never placed on my chest. We never got a few moments of skin-to-skin. He was wiped cleaned, weighed, measured and wrapped before being wheeled to Chuck who had been watching through a window. Together they walked back to our room, where a nurse placed Killian in his arms. Together they spent the first hour of our son’s life.
As quickly as I was put to sleep, I was waking up. It felt like a drugged up shock. I was in a haze and I didn’t know where I was. I remember a nurse pressing down on my stomach. The pain caused me to yell as I started to cry.
The back of the bed is lifted, and I’m being wheeled into our room, an oxygen mask still on my face. In the haze I see Chuck holding a bundle. I’m asked if I’m ready to meet my son. I’m told he’s 20 inches long and 6 pounds 12 ounces — far smaller than I expected given my diabetes. The next moments are blurry. Killian is placed on my chest and I have a hard time processing that he’s there. Nothing feels real, but the cloud slowly starts to lift.
I tell Chuck to take some pictures and I ask the nurse if I could breastfeed him. We try. It’s awkward as we’re both woozy from being under general anesthesia.
It takes some time for me to really feel an overwhelming sense of love for him. I’m physically exhausted, in pain, and still feeling cloudy. I had a hard time processing what just happened to my body and how this little person came into the world.
I would learn from Chuck and — a few days later — my midwife, the reasons for my emergency c-section. Killian’s umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck causing his heart rate to crash every time I had a contraction.
The added stress came from his station. My body was ready for labor, as seen from my water breaking on its own. While it’s uncommon for waters to spontaneously break during an induction, my midwife said that normally that would be seen as a great sign. It says my body is ready to have a baby. My baby, however, had other plans. Had he been lower than -3, Heather believed that he would have undergone much less stress. After working so well together for nine long months, my body and my baby weren’t cooperating.
In spite of my gestational diabetes, I had a textbook pregnancy. No major problems, no complications. Until my water broke, everything about his life inside me was perfect.
Mourning the Birth I Wanted
My son is perfect. He’s alive and he’s healthy. This is not how I would have chosen to bring him into this world, but I would do every moment again if I had to.
When I was very young, my mother explained that babies lived in their mommy’s belly. I remember looking at her stomach and wondering why she didn’t have a scar. Obviously, that’s how babies must be born if they live in their mommy’s belly. Decades later, I couldn’t look at my taped incision until I got home from the hospital. A week later I still look at it with a sense of disbelief. I have so much love for c-section moms. I always knew theirs was rough recovery, both mentally and physically. I never thought I’d become a member of their tribe.
The important thing is that my son and I are safe. I am in pain and my body altered, but I am safe. We are both here and we are both healthy. I do, however, struggle with my son’s birth story.
I was flexible and prepared to change my plans if I had to, but I still mourn the birth that I had hoped for. I’m sad for missing the moments I wanted most. I’m sad I didn’t get to see him emerge from my body. I’m sad I couldn’t look into his eyes those first few moments of his life while he lay on my chest. I’m sad Chuck didn’t cut his cord. I’m sad Chuck had to watch me from a window rather than be by my side. I’m sad I couldn’t really comprehend the weight of his presence when he was finally brought to me. I’m sad it took me some time to fall in love with him.
Once the pain finally goes away, my hormones regulate and I’m back to my old self, I know I will be able to focus on the wonderful outcome of Killian’s birth story: I write this as he lays peacefully on my chest, close enough for me to feel his soft head on my lips. He whimpers every few moments, letting me know he’ll be up soon and looking for nourishment from my body that I’m thankfully able to provide with only mild challenges.
Despite the fear, the sadness, the pain, and the scars, this moment is all that really matters.
Many thanks to the midwives and obstetricians at Triangle Physicians for Women (Cary, NC) and the amazing medical team at WakeMed Cary for helping my son safely enter this world and taking care of us during his first few days.